Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brett, Henry

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BRETT, HENRY (d. 1724), colonel, of Sandywell Park, Gloucestershire, the associate of Addison and Steele, was eldest son of Henry Brett of Cowley, Gloucestershire, the descendant of the old Warwickshire family of Brett of Brett's Hall (see Atkyns's Gloucestershire, p. 400; Dugdale's Warwickshire, ii. 1039). Colley Cibber, who was intimate with him, says that young Brett was sent to Oxford and entered at the Temple, but was an idler about town in 1700, when he married Ann, the divorced wife of Charles Gerard, second earl of Macclesfield, who succeeded to the title in 1693. She was daughter of a Sir Richard Mason, knight, of Sutton, Surrey, and married the Earl of Macclesfield, then Lord Brandon, in 1683, but separated from him soon after. She had afterwards two illegitimate children, one of whom, by Richard Savage, fourth and last earl Rivers, was popularly identified with the unfortunate poet, Richard Savage (see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 361 et seq.) The countess was divorced in 1698, when her fortune of 12,000l. (or, as some accounts have it, 25,000l.) was returned to her, and two years later she married Henry Brett. He was a very handsome young fellow, and the lady's sympathy is said to have been evoked by an assault committed upon him by bailiffs opposite her windows. After his marriage Henry Brett was for a short time member for the borough of Bishop's Castle, Salop. He also obtained in 1705 the lieutenant-colonelcy of a regiment of foot newly raised by Sir Charles Hotham, but parted with it soon after. Brett was a well-known member of the little circle of which Addison was the head, and which held its social gatherings at Will's and afterwards at Button's. He is supposed to be the Colonel Rambler of the 'Tatler' (No. 7). He rebuilt Sandywell Park, which he sold to Lord Conway, and at one time had a share in the patent of Drury Lane Theatre (Cibber, Apology, p. 212). He survived his friend Addison, and died, rather suddenly, in 1724. His will, wherein he is simply described as Henry Brett, and bequeaths all his real and personal property to his loving spouse Ann Brett, except his lottery tickets, half the proceeds of which, in the event of their drawing prizes, are to go to his sister Miller, was dated 14 Sept. 1724, and proved by his widow two days later. After her father's death, his daughter, Anna Margharetta Brett, who appears to have been the sole issue of the marriage, and who is described as a dark, Spanish-looking beauty, became the recognised mistress - the first English one - of King George I, then in his sixty-fifth year, by whom she is believed to have had no children. The young lady's ambition and prospects of a coronet were disappointed through the death of the king in 1727, and she subsequently married Sir William Leman second baronet, of Northaw or Northall, Hertfordshire, and died without issue in 1743, Mrs. Brett lived to the age of eighty. She died at her residence in Old Bond Street, London, on 11 Oct. 1753. She is said to have been a woman of literary tastes, and Colley Cibber is stated to have esteemed her judgment so highly as to have submitted to her revision the manuscript of his best play, the 'Careless Husband,' which was first put on the boards in 1704.

Colonel Arthur Brett (whose daughter married Thomas Carte, the historian) is sometimes confounded with Henry Brett.

[Collins's Peerage (1812), ix. 400, 404; Collins's Baronetage, iii. (ii.) 461, iv. 406; Walpole's Letters, i. p. cv; Apology for Life of Colley Cibber (1740, 4to), pp. 212, 214; Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, clxxxvi. (March 1881), dccxcvii. (July 1882), where some of the details given are incorrect; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 361 et seq., 5th ser. xi. 295, xii. 196; Gent. Mag. xxiii. 541.]

H. M. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.36
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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282 i 32 Brett, Henry: for was for a short time member read was in three parliaments— from 1701-8—the tory member