Vane, Frances Anne (DNB00)

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VANE, FRANCES ANNE, Viscountess Vane (1713–1788), daughter of Francis Hawes of Purley Hall, near Reading, one of the South Sea directors, was born at Purley in 1713. Her father's finances were disorganised in 1721 (when the estates of the South Sea directors were sold), and she had little or no dowry, but her striking beauty won her a titled suitor, and she married, when nineteen, Lord William, second son, by his second wife, of James Douglas, fourth duke of Hamilton and first duke of Brandon [q. v.] The bridegroom had no ostensible means of supporting his wife, and Queen Caroline named the pair the ‘handsome beggars.’ Two years later, Lord William, who had recently been appointed M.P. for Lanarkshire, died at his house in Pall Mall (11 July 1734). After an interval of ten months Lady Anne took as her second husband, in May 1735, William Vane, second Viscount Vane (1714–1789), for whom she always expressed an exaggerated abhorrence. Lord Vane, who inherited a large fortune (largely out of the Newcastle estates), was the third but eldest surviving son of William Vane, created Viscount Vane by patent dated Dublin, 13 Oct. 1720. The second viscount, who upon his marriage had but recently succeeded to the title, was thus a great-grandson of Sir Henry Vane (1613–1662) [q. v.], the regicide. He was distinguished through life by his sensitive uprightness in politics, and by a doting fondness for his wife which led him to ignore her most flagrant peccadilloes. Lady Vane, or ‘Lady Fanny’ as she was now called, was the finest minuet dancer in England, and as extravagant as the most capricious of danseuses. As early as January 1737 his lordship had occasion to advertise in the papers for the recovery of his wife, and for the next thirty years her escapades were both frequent and costly. She entertained large parties at the family seat of Fairlawn in Kent, where she diverted her guests by ridiculing her husband. At Bath, where she frequently led the balls, at Tunbridge Wells, and at other resorts, she set up temporary establishments, her tenure of which was generally terminated by the sale of the furniture to pay her gambling debts. Her husband for a time, in order to escape from the importunity of her creditors, was compelled to reside within the rules of the king's bench. Her name had already become conspicuous in the annals of gallantry when in 1751 she caused a sensation by paying Smollett to insert, as chapter eighty-one, in his novel ‘Peregrine Pickle,’ her ‘Memoirs of a Lady of Quality.’ This most impudent and repulsive narrative, by the side of which Smollett's sins against good taste appear venial, was compiled by Lady Vane from materials afforded by her own experience with the aid, it is said, of Dr. John Shebbeare [q. v.] She is stated to have given the work to her husband to read. The viscount steadily refused to sue for a divorce. Fortunately for him the lady was incapacitated by disease before his ruin was complete. She spent the last twenty years of her life in bed, studying the philosophy of Lord Chesterfield, died in Curzon Street, where she had an establishment for many years apart from her husband, on 31 March 1788, and was buried in the family vault of the Vanes at Shipborne in Kent. Her charms were best known, wrote an acquaintance, ‘to a race of men departed long since; the Duke of Leeds and Lord Kilmorey are almost the only survivors of her fame and beauty.’ The testimony to her beauty is as strong as to the fact that she remained to the last a stranger to the veriest rudiments of good feeling. With the death of her husband, the second Lord Vane, in 1789 the title became extinct. The British Museum print-room has a ‘watch paper’ portrait (one and three-quarter inches in diameter) of ‘Lady Vane’ in winter dress, engraved in 1787.

Dr. Johnson's verse (in the Vanity of Human Wishes), ‘Yet Vane could tell what ills from beauty spring,’ referred not to her, but to her distant connection, Anne Vane (1705–1736), maid of honour to Queen Caroline and mistress to Frederick, prince of Wales. Anne Vane, known as ‘the Hon. Mrs. Vane,’ was the eldest daughter of Gilbert Vane, second lord Barnard, and was sister of the Earl of Darlington. Her mother, Mary, daughter of Alderman Morgan Randyll, left a bad reputation upon her death, 4 Aug. 1728. In 1732 Anne Vane had a son, who was publicly christened Cornwell Fitz-Frederick Vane. She lay in with little mystery in St. James's Palace, yet it was doubted whether the prince was the parent, and Horace Walpole states that ‘Fred,’ Lord Hervey, and the first Lord Harrington each confided to Sir Robert Walpole that he was the father of the child. The infant died on 26 Feb. 1735–6, and the unhappy mother, at Bath, a few weeks later, on 27 March (see letter of Miss Vane to Mrs. Howard in Suffolk Correspondence, i. 407 sq., and Croker's note; cf. Addit. MS. 22629, f. 28; Chester, Westm. Abbey Reg. p. 345; Hervey, Memoirs, passim; Gent. Mag. 1736, p. 168; and art. Frederick Louis). Some of her experiences are lightly touched in ‘The Secret History of Vanella’ (1732). There is an engraving of Mrs. Vane by Faber after Vanderbank, and she was the model for Hogarth's Anne Boleyn in the picture of 1729. She seems to have answered Horace Walpole's description of ‘My Lady Vane’ as a ‘living academy of lovelore’ almost as well as the original.

[A Letter to the Rt. Hon. the Lady V—ss V. Occasioned by the Publication of her Memoirs in the Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, London, 1751, 8vo, a well-earned remonstrance; Gent. Mag. 1788 i. 368, 461, 1789 i. 575, 403; Burke's Extinct Peerage; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, 1812, i. 547, iv. 524; Chambers's Memoir of Smollett, pp. 58 sq.; Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. Hill, v. 49; Walpole's Corresp. ed. Cunningham, i. 91, 177, ii. 242, 391, v. 14, 15; Jesse's Court of Hanover; Warburton's Horace Walpole and his Contemporaries, 1851, i. 234; J. Chaloner Smith's Cat. of British Mezzotinto Portraits, p. 435.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.269
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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112 ii 25 Vane, Frances A., Viscountess Vane: for Shipbourne read Shipborne