Bosville, William (DNB00)

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BOSVILLE, WILLIAM (1745–1813), a celebrated bon vivant, was the eldest son of Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite, and Diana his wife, the eldest daughter of Sir William Wentworth, of West Bretton, bart. He was born on 21 July 1745. After being educated at Harrow he obtained a commission in the Coldstream guards on 24 Dec. 1761. He was praised to the rank of lieutenant on 11 Jan. 1769, and served with his regiment through part of the American war. He retired from the army in June 1777. Upon his return train America he travelled in France, Italy, and Morocco, he was an intimate friend of John Horne Tooke. to whose house at Wimbledon Bosville used to drive down in a coach and four to dinner every Sunday during the spring and autumn for a great number of years. Mention will he found of his name in the ‘Diversions of Purley' (1805), pt. ii. p. 490. Possessed of at large fortune he was exceedingly generous with his money, and was unbounded in his hospitality. Every weekday he used to receive some of his friends at dinner at his house in Welbeck Street. The party never exceeded twelve in number, and the dinner hour was always five o’clock punctually. A slate was kept in the hall, in which any of his intimate friends might write his name as a guest for the day, Besides Horne Tooke, Sir Francis Burdett, Lords Hutchinson and Oxford, Parson Este, and others, often availed themselves of this privilege. The first stroke of five was the signal for going downstairs, and the host made a point of never waiting for any of his guests. In accordance with his favourite maxim, viz. ‘Some say better late than never; I say better never than late,’ an old friend who arrived one day four minutes late was refused admittance by the servant, who said that his master was ‘busy dining.' Though his health declined and his convivial powers failed, he still continued his dinner parties to the last. Even when compelled to remain in his bedroom, the slate was hung in the hall as usual, and on the very morning of his death he gave his orders for the dinner at the usual hour. After he had settled down in England he hardly ever left London for more than a day, as he used to say that it was the best residence in winter and that he knew no place like it in summer. Once when in Yorkshire, it is said that he made a point of not visiting his property, which was of considerable extent in that county, lest he should be involved in the troubles of a landed proprietor. In politics he was an ardent Whig. When his friend Cobbett was in Newgate, Bosville went in his coach and four to visit him, and afterwards gave him a cheque for l,000l., as a token of sympathy with him in his persecutions. In appearance he was almost as eccentric as in is manners. He used always to dress in the style of a courtier of George II, and wore a single-breasted coat, powdered hair and queue. Though he never attained any higher rank in the guards than that of lieutenant, he was generally known as Colonel Bosville. He died at his house in Welbeck Street on 10 Dec. 1813 in his sixty-ninth year, and was buried on the 21th of the same month in the chancel of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. He was the last known male descendant of Richard Bosville, on whom the manor of Gunthwaite was settled in the reign of Henry YI, Bosville never married, and by his will left nearly the whole of his fortune and estates to his nephew, the Hon. Godfrey Macdonald, afterwards third Baron Mcdonald.

[Stephens's Memoirs of J. H. Tooke (18l3), ii. 161, 293, 308-14, 350, 449; Archdeacon Sinclair's Memoirs of the Right Hon. Sir John Sinclair, Bt. (1837), i. 183–8; Gent. Mag. (1813), lxxxiii. pt. ii. 630, 704; Ann. Reg. (1813), Chron. p. 123; European Mag. (1813), lxiv. 562–3; Scots Mag. (1814), p. 168; Hunter's South Yorkshire (1831), ii. 343–60; Chambers's Book of Days (1869). ii. 705–6.]

G. F. R. B.