Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Esdaile, William

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ESDAILE, WILLIAM (1758–1837), banker and print collector, fourth son of Sir James Esdaile, knight, of Great Gains, Essex, and lord mayor of London, by his second wife, Mary Mayor, was born 6 Feb. 1758. He received a commercial education, and was placed as a clerk in the banking-house of Ladbrooke & Co. In or about 1780 Sir James Esdaile was induced by his son-in-law, Sir Benjamin Hammet, to found with him a new banking business, and on its formation William Esdaile transferred his services to the house of Esdaile, Hammet, & Co., 21 Lombard Street. His son thus describes him in a private journal: ‘Last but not least in the welfare of the concern came W. Esdaile, the man of business; perched on a high stool he was to be seen intent on the movements of the machine; hardly regarding those who came into the partners' office he was absorbed in his task. He had neither talent nor inclination for conversation on general subjects, and he knew little or nothing of what was passing out of banking hours.’ The business prospered under his care, and, finding money at his command, Esdaile widened the scope of his tastes, and began to frequent sales of prints. His earlier purchases were sparing and cheap, but, distrusting his own judgment, he engaged a professional assistant, accompanied by whom he attended all the great auctions in London. Though prints formed the bulk of his collection, he also largely purchased, as opportunity offered, coins, china, books, and the general miscellanea of the sale-room. Towards the last few years of his life, when his mind was breaking up, he abandoned his usual caution, and spent on a large and sometimes reckless scale, greatly to the advantage of his collection, which was considered one of the most valuable in England. It was sold after his death, the sale extending over sixteen days. The chief attractions were the very complete set of Rembrandt etchings and Claude drawings, which Esdaile had bought on the dispersal of Sir Thomas Lawrence's collection, and a large selection from the best work of the early Italian engravers. In 1825, being then sixty-eight, Esdaile took his first trip abroad, visiting Italy, and was so pleased with the experiment that he repeated it two years later. In 1832, on returning to his residence at Clapham from Dover, he was seized with a dangerous malarial fever, but, though he recovered his health, he was never again able to attend to business or to manage his property. He neither read nor wrote, and spent the whole day in overlooking his collection of prints. He passed the winter of 1835-6 at Rome and Naples, but after his return his constitution began to gradually break up. He was confined to his bed for nine months, and, dying at Clapham, 2 Oct. 1837, was buried in Bunhill Fields. The banking-house of Esdaile & Hammet had ceased to exist from the beginning of the year. Esdaile's portrait was painted by both Wilkie and Lawrence, and from another picture by Sharples an engraving was made. He married Elizabeth, the only child of Edward Jeffries, treasurer of St. Thomas's Hospital, by whom he had two sons and four daughters. Their grandson, William Jeffries Esdaile, married, 27 Sept. 1837, Ianthe Eliza, the daughter of P. B. Shelley and Harriet Westbrook.

[Private information; Gent. Mag. 1840, new ser. xiv. 180; Evans's Catalogue of Portraits.]

A. V.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.119
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
3 ii 24-25 Esdaile, William: for picture read drawing