Eight Friends of the Great/2
A FRIEND OF Dr. JOHNSON AND SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS
The name of Philip Metcalfe is associated with the lives of the leading man of letters and the chief artist during the early years of the third George's reign. He gladdened Dr. Johnson's declining days with his society at Brighton and in London. He accompanied sir Joshua Reynolds on his travels abroad and was a welcome guest at his social entertainments in Leicester Square. His name flits across many a memoir of the personages of that period but these were his two especial friends and no man could desire better.
The family was for many generations connected with Yorkshire and remained in obedience to the Church of Rome. Their means enabled them to acquire from Sir Richard Le Scrope about 1416 the estate of Nappa in Wensleydale. The ancient house, a hall facing south between two embattled towers, was built by them about 1459. A view of it "half a century ago" is in Speight's volume on "romantic Richmondshire" (1897).
The more immediate ancestors of Philip Metcalfe settled at the hamlet of Tanton in the large parish of Stokesley-in-Cleveland. His grandfather, Gilbert Metcalfe of that place, had two sons, the younger one, Roger Metcalfe [born 1680, died 5 Jany 1744-5] settling as a surgeon in Brownlow Street, now Betterton Street, Drury Lane, London. He is supposed to have been educated at St. Omer, then and for many years later one of the chief training places of the English members of the Roman Church. He was apprenticed to his uncle a member of the company of Barber surgeons in May 1698 but was not admitted until 25 May 1710. His date of entry into the livery of the company was the 29 August 1719. Many of the members of his faith had settled in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane and Roger Metcalfe, first as apothecary and then as "collegiate physician" practised among them during the whole of his life-time. He was an intimate friend of Dryden and when James Radcliffe, third earl of Derwentwater was executed at Tower Hill for his share in the rebellion of 1715, the body wrapped in black baize was conveyed by his friends to Metcalfe's house and embalmed by him. Late in life, it was in 1731, when he was 51 years old, he married Jemima, the elder daughter of sir Philip Astley, of Melton Constable, baronet, a lady 23 years younger than himself. They had three sons, Christopher, Philip and Roger.
Christopher the eldest son, was born in 1732 and died at Hawstead near Bury St. Edmunds on 24 June 1794. This estate, which originally consisted of a house known as the "Walnut Tree" adjoining Fillet's manor on the parish green and some lands, came to him through his marriage with Ellen, the only child of Christopher Barton of West Ham and Bromley St. Leonard, who had purchased it from Mr. Pytches and other small owners in the parish. He greatly improved, almost rebuilding in 1783 with the white-brick made at Woolpit in Suffolk, the old house to which he gave the new name of "Hawstead farm" and he also added to the landed property. His wife died on the 6th March 1775, aged 41 on which day her newly-born son, Philip was christened (he died 1809), but her mother, Margaret Barton, survived until 19 June 1780 aged 88. Four of the daughters of Christopher Metcalfe died before him; another Frederica Sophia, baptised 20 Nov. 1763 married James Mure of Great Saxham, Suffolk on 8 Nov. 1790. His eldest son, Christopher Barton Metcalfe, distiller at West Ham, died on 15 August aged 42, having devised the estate to his wife who in 1809 sold it to her husband's uncle, Philip Metcalfe. He in his turn bought more land and gave the house the higher-sounding appellation of "Hawstead House." At his death the estate consisted of nearly 600 acres. Views of this house and of the almshouses which he established in the parish are in H. R. Barker's illustrated volume on West Suffolk.
This Philip Metcalfe, the second son of Roger Metcalfe, and the younger brother of Christopher, was born on 29 August 1733, at six o'clock in the afternoon, probably in Brownlow Street, christened the same day and named Philip after his grandfather Philip Astley. Like many another younger son he went into trade and in May 1756 was described as merchant in the city of London. In 1763 he and his younger brother, Roger, became partners for a term of 14 years in the old established firm of Bisson and Son, malt distillers of West Ham. About 1773 Roger retired from the firm which was then known as Bissons and Metcalfe and Philip ultimately became the sole owner of the business, carrying it on with great pecuniary advantage until his death. Jeremy Bentham used to repeat the dictum by Metcalfe that "the profit of distillation was only in the distilling duties." It was probably through the association of the Metcalfes of Hawstead with the family of Bisson that the clerical antiquary, sir John Cullum, the historian of Hawstead, became known to, and married at West Ham on the 11th July 1765, Peggy the only daughter of Daniel Bisson of that place.
With this great accession of means Philip Metcalfe became a prominent figure in the social life of London, and of London-upon-sea. His town house was at first in Savile Row; about 1798 he acquired a long lease of 32, afterwards 15, Hill Street and moved into that house. At Brighton he lived at the Old Steyne, in a house not numbered in his day but afterwards known as No. 3. At both places he delighted in company and in entertaining his friends. His name first appears in connection with Dr. Johnson in 1776. A distinguished company of men, all described with the single exception of Sir William Forbes, as "friends and acquaintances of Dr. Goldsmith" met at dinner at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Latin epitaph which Johnson had written for poor Goldsmith was the subject of their conversation. General regret was expressed that it was in Latin and some expressions in it were said to be "not delineated with all the exactness" which the author was capable of expressing. As no one dared to appear as the leader of the opposition, the remonstrance was drawn up as is well-known in the form of a round-robin and among the signatures was that of P. Metcalfe, placed between those of R. B. Sheridan and E. Gibbon. On one or two of the names such as Joseph Warton and Edmund Burke, the doctor made a severe comment. But that of Metcalfe passed without observation. At that date he was not prominent enough in Johnson's estimate for a growl.
Johnson and the Thrales were at Brighton in the autumn of 1782 and much with Metcalfe, who had taken, says Miss Burney "an unaccountable dislike to Mrs. Thrale, to whom he never speaks." He declared "aloud and around his aversion to literary ladies" but as he was dry and Fanny was shy "very little has passed between us though he showed a keen desire to converse with me." Fanny ronounced him "a shrewd, sensible, keen and very clever man." Johnson was pleased, to use the words of Boswell, with Metcalfe's "excellent table and animated conversation." Mutual civilities passed between them. One offered the use of his carriage whenever the other liked. The other replied in courtier-like phrase that he had no desire to use it "except when he can have the pleasure of Mr. Metcalfe's company." Metcalfe often took Johnson out for an airing, indeed he was after "single speech" Hamilton had left, "the only person out of the Thrale's house that voluntarily communicates with him." The gruff old doctor, who was more than ordinarily out of humour at this time, liked Metcalfe, and Miss Burney adds the observation that Metcalfe is "very clever and entertaining when he pleases."
Johnson asked him for his company in a trip to Chichester to see the cathedral and they also visited Petworth and Cowdray "the venerable seat of the lords Montacute. Sir, said Dr. Johnson to him, I should like to stay here four and twenty hours. We see here how our ancestors lived." Metcalfe found so many places of curiosity in the district that Johnson was detained in the country longer than he anticipated and had to write a letter of apology to Mrs. Thrale for his delay in finding his way back to London. It was during this visit to Brighton that Johnson repeated to him the verses from the collection entitled Pope's Miscellany (II., 1727, p. 237) which contained a prophetic anticipation of the changes in religion of Gibbon as "now Protestant and Papist now," and then "infidel or atheist." It was probably through the closer intimacy brought about by this prolonged stay "at Brighthelmstone" that Johnson was encouraged to ask him not infrequently for money for the relief of those in distress. When Metcalfe offered what Johnson thought was too much the comment on taking less than was proffered was the phrase "no, no, sir, we must not pamper them."
Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale in October of the following year that Metcalfe had taken him out for an airing and in April 1784 that two of their friends Metcalfe and Crutchley "without knowing each other are both members of parliament for Horsham." He was one of the mourners who attended Johnson's funeral at Westminster Abbey on 20 December 1784 and his name has been suggested as that of the friend who filled up the blanks of the doctor's will. Mr. Walter C. Metcalfe, his great grand-nephew possessed a copy of an old edition of South's sermons with the following note on the fly-leaf:
"The gift of Dr. Samuel Johnson as a kind token of affection and remembrance eight and forty hours before he died, Sat. 11th Xber, 1784, when we tog. executed the deed making me his trustee for an annuity to his servt. Fran. Barber of 70 l. per annum. P. Metcalfe."
The annuity was secured by a deed of that date, between Bennet Langton and Philip Metcalfe of Savile Row, with George Stubbs of Suffolk Street Charing Cross, solicitor. Langton received £757 10 o as the consideration money and payment of the annuity was secured, by a deed of even date on certain profits arising from the navigation of the river Wey, in Surrey.
Metcalfe was one of the company which met at dinner at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds on the evening of Johnson's funeral. Burke and Windham were among the guests and it was no doubt at this entertainment that the proposal for a statue to the memory of their departed friend was first mooted. A committee of six, Metcalfe being a member of it, was appointed to collect subscriptions and to make the necessary arrangements for the statue. Four days later Windham met him at dinner in the hallowed rooms of the Mitre, when some distinguished men of science, such as bishop Horsley and Maskelyne, were present. Nearly five years passed away and Windham records in his diary that most of Johnson's chief friends and Metcalfe among them met at dinner at Malone's (29 Nov. 1789) to discuss the proposed monument. In the same month Boswell describes a dinner at sir Joshua's house, with Metcalfe among the guests, to "settle as to effectual measures" about it. A whole-length statue by Bacon would cost £600. Sir Joshua and sir Wm. Scott the executors of their departed friend were to send out circular letters. "Several of us" writes Boswell "subscribed five guineas each; Sir Joshua and Metcalfe ten guineas each; Courtenay and young Burke two guineas each. Will you not be one of us, were it but for one guinea" is his plaintive appeal to Temple. The delay in its erection had become a scandal. Subscriptions had not poured in on a flood tide and the members of the committee were split into two factions over the selection of the ecclesiastical edifice in which it should be placed.
Further particulars are set out in an article, based on the papers of sir Joseph Banks, now at Sydney, by Prof. Edward E. Morris in Longman's Magazine for May 1900, and in the balance sheet of Metcalfe which was kindly communicated to me by the late Mr. R. J. Mure of Lincoln's Inn. A meeting of Johnson's friends was held at Thomas's hotel, then in Dover Street, on 5 January 1790 and it was resolved to continue with the scheme for erecting a monument in Westminster Abbey to his memory. Six hundred pounds were necessary but only a third had been subscribed. The surviving executors, with Banks, Windham, Burke, Malone, Metcalfe and Boswell were appointed a committee to collect the funds.
The committee met twice in March 1791 and a fierce warfare took place between the rival merits of the Abbey and St. Paul's. Burke and Sir Joshua were for St. Paul's and Windham, although originally against it, wrote that on reconsideration he did not see why that building should not be selected. Metcalfe was in favour of the Abbey and Banks vehemently argued for its selection. Malone was asked by letter for his opinion. Next month the committee met again. Reynolds, who for years had been in favour of ornamenting St. Paul's with statues to the illustrious dead, undertook, if sufficient money was not subscribed to defray the increased expense of erecting a monument in St. Paul's, to provide the balance and Bacon was content to erect it on the faith of this promise. This settled the question. The statue was placed in St. Paul's, near one of the central pillars under the dome.
The total amount received was £957 13 o. The balance sheet begins on 16 April 1790 with "cash received from sundries £569 13 o." Through the influence of Reynolds a contribution of £100 was voted by the council of the Royal Academy on 25 June 1791 towards the erection of the monument but the vote was subsequently disallowed by George III. The actual subscriptions in 1791 included £42 through Samuel Whitbread, £5 5 o from lord Eliot, £100 from Cadell the publisher, £5 5 o from Barnard the bishop of Killaloe, £21 through sir W. Scott and ten guineas from Adey, a relative no doubt of Johnson's women-friends at Lichfield. A subscription of £5 5 o was paid by sir William Forbes through Boswell in 1792 & £10 10 o apiece came from Percy, the bishop of Dromore, and George Steevens. In 1796 Whitbread paid in a further sum of £50 & so did the Thrale girls. The sum of £5 5 o was contributed by Mrs. Burke in 1798 and Bacon himself gave four subscriptions, amounting to £35 15 o in 1799.
The payments to Bacon amounted in all to £927 13 o and £30 was swallowed up in expenses and in the deduction of two subscriptions of £2 2 o each, one twice entered, the other marked as returned. The whole story shows the difficulties and differences which may be connected with the erection of a memorial to the illustrious dead if the matter is not pushed to a conclusion at the moment of his death.
For 38 years Metcalfe and Reynolds were on terms of the closest friendship. They dined together at home and elsewhere and Metcalfe used to be one of the guests of sir Joshua, as the president, at the dinners of the royal academy. He was a friend to men of letters and a liberal patron of the arts and it was through the advice of Reynolds that he bought many of the pictures which formed his collection.
The two friends went for an art tour on the continent in the summer of 1781. Their movements are chronicled by many hands. They left London for Margate in a post chaise at 8 o'clock on the morning of Tuesday 24 July, shipped for Ostend at 4 p.m. on Thursday, and after visiting Ghent arrived at Brussels at 12 on the night of 29 July. Two days later they dined at Mr. Fitzherbert's "with the duke of Richmond and Mr. Lennox and we all behaved very well" but Reynolds left that city with the impression that their host could have done more for them. They supped at lady Torrington's on Wednesday, August 1st and next day they left for Malines; after one night the two went to Antwerp, where they passed several days. Metcalfe informed Malone that Sir Joshua spent several hours in the churches at Antwerp in seeing and examining the works of Rubens, "returning to them again and again."
On parting from those attractive pictures they visited Dordrecht, Rotterdam, the Hague, Leyden and Amsterdam, where they saw many collections, and entered Germany by crossing the Rhine near Dusseldorf. In its gallery, then probably the best collection in Europe, John Thomas Stanley the future baron Stanley of Alderley, a boy of about 15 years old travelling with a tutor, caught a glimpse of them together and recorded the fact for posterity, "Sir Joshua Reynolds being with Mr. Metcalfe, a friend of my father's, and sir Joshua sitting close to a window, pointing out a picture for Mr. Metcalfe to look at." To this gallery they paid frequent visits and Reynolds bears printed testimony to the services rendered by Lambert Kraye, the president of the academy, to the students copying in its rooms. The other places which they visited were Cologne, Aix la Chapelle, Spa and Liege, and they returned by the same route to England passing through Brussels, Ostend, and Margate and arriving at London at 7 o'clock on the evening of Sunday the 16th September. A little touch at Brussels on the return journey showed Metcalfe's keen observation and sarcastic humour. He remarked that M. Orion was "almost the only gentleman who showed his own pictures, who did not pester us by prating about their merit." From this connoisseur sir Joshua bought Rubens's sketches for the ends of the ceiling of the Whitehall banqueting-house.
Reynolds told his friend on their return that "his own pieces seemed to him to want force." His account of this visit is published in his works. "It contains very valuable remarks on the pictures preserved in the various churches and cabinets which he visited, together with a masterly character of Rubens." It was intended for separate publication, and was to have been dedicated to Metcalfe but this intention was never carried into effect. A portion of the dedication was found by Malone among the papers of sir Joshua, and shall in part be reproduced. "I present [these notes] to you as properly your due: for if I had been accompanied by a person of less taste and less politeness they probably would not have been made . . . To whichever of your good qualities I am to attribute your long and patient attendance while I was employed in examining the various works which we saw, it merits my warmest acknowledgments. Nor is it an inconsiderable advantage to see such works in company with one who has a general rectitude of taste and is not a professor of the art. We are too apt to forget that the art is not intended solely for the pleasure of professors. The opinions of others are certainly not to be neglected, for painters, being educated in the same manner, are likely to judge from the same principles and are liable to the same prejudices." Sir Joshua wrote several letters to Burke while on this expedition. Of the collection at Dusseldorf he wrote enthusiastically that "Rubens reigns here and revels." He went abroad for another tour in 1783 or 1785. His object then was two-fold. He wished to examine more closely the works of Rubens and to purchase some of the pictures which the ecclesiastical measures of Joseph II. of Austria against the religious and monastic institutions of the Netherlands were forcing into the market. This second investigation of the works of Rubens drove him to the conviction that he had over-estimated their brilliancy. The pictures which passed under the hammer at Brussels tempted him into an expenditure of over £1000. I know not whether Metcalfe accompanied him on this second jaunt; probably he did. The pocket-books of sir Joshua for this tour are missing.
The two friends kept on dining together until the end. They met at dinner at 5 o'clock on Sunday 7 Jany, 1787, when Sir Joshua was due at the reception of Mrs. Vesey at 8, and at the same hour in the evening on Sunday 6 Sept. 1789. Among the guests at the last dinner-party recorded by Leslie and Taylor in their life of Reynolds was Metcalfe. Reynolds died on 23 Feby, 1792, and appointed his three friends, Burke, Metcalfe and Malone, as his executors. To Malone and Metcalfe, with the addition of Boswell and sir William Scott he left "£200 each, to be laid out, if they should think proper, in the purchase of some picture at the sale of his collection, to be kept for his sake." On 17 Jany 1793 his executors forwarded a communication to the empress of Russia requesting her to settle the price of the chef d'œuvre which Reynolds had painted for her and offering her the pictures and drawings which he had collected during the previous thirty-five years. The draught of this document is among the manuscripts of Malone which were purchased for the Bodleian library in 1878, and as it has never been printed before and everything relating to sir Joshua's life and works never fails to arouse interest, I have inserted it in full.
Daignez permettre que Nous (les executeurs testamentaires du Chevalier Reynolds) prenions humblement la liberté de nous adresser à Votre Majesté Impériale.
Il n'est pas possible Madame, en descendant même jusqu'aux actions les plus minutieuses de Votre Majesté Imperiale, (si pourtant il en est qu'on puisse appeller telles,) de lui en rappeller aucune qui ne porte quelques traits de sa propre gloire, et qui dans son ordre ne fasse naître l'admiration et la reconnaissance du genre humain.
Votre Majesté impériale a fait à la fois, le plus grand honneur à la peinture et à notre pays, en accordant celui de sa protection au feu Chevalier Reynolds qui, de son cote", a fait avec zèle, les plus grands efforts pour rendre digne de son auguste Protectrice, et de sa propre réputation, le tableau qu'il fut chargé de peindre pour V : M : imp : C'est sans contrédit le plus grand de ses ouvrages, et son Chef d'œceuvre, au gré denos Connoisseurs; comme aussi celui qui jusqu' à. ce jour, aît donné le plus de lustre à l'écôle angloise.
Quant au prix, Madame; loin d'en fixer aucun, nous préférerions de le laisser absolument à la generosity de Votre Majesté impériale, quoique nous sachions que le Chevalier eut demandé quinze cent guineés de ce tableau, si n'ayant pas eu la bonheur d'employer son pinçeau au Service de V : M : imp : il l'eut peint pour le Cabinet de quelque Seigneur anglois.
Nous supplions V : M : imp : de vouloir bien pardonner tant de liberté, de notre part; mais le devoir sacré que nous impose la confiance que le Chevalier Reynolds a reposée en nous, a semblé nous y authoriser.
Nous nous croyons également obligés, Madame, d' informer V : M : imp : que ce grand homme a laissé une collection considerable de tableaux et de dessins, fruits de ses recherches pendant trente-cinq ans, dont ses héritiers veuillent disposer. Comme nous présumons d'après le gout exquis et les connaissances profondes d'un artiste aussi célèbre, que cet assemblage formé à grands fraix, mérite place dans la riche et superbe galerie de V : M : imp : nous lui en faisons humblement la première offre; Si done elle juge à propos d'en faire l'achat, nous serons prêts d'obéir aux ordres qu'il lui plaira de nous envoÿer à ce sujet.
Souffrez, Madame, que nous ayons l'honneur d'offrir nos hommage les plus humbles à V : M : imp : et celui de l'assurer que nous sommes avec le plus profond respect,
de Votre Majesté Impériale,
lles très humbles
et très obéissants Serviteurs
Phelipe (sic) Metcalfe.
Londres, ce 17me Janvier, 1793.
The empress did not avail herself of this offer and Sir Joshua's collection of 411 pictures was sold by Christie in March 1795, when an interesting preface, signed by Burke, Malone and Metcalfe, was prefixed.
It set out that
"The Public has here a Collection, of great Extent and great Variety, of the Pictures of the most eminent Artists of former Ages, made by the most eminent Artist of the present Time. He chose these Pictures as Objects at once of Study and of Rivalship. No Person could do more than the great Man we have lately lost from the Funds of his own Genius; no Person ever endeavoured more to take Advantage of the Labours of others. He considered great Collections of the Works of Art in the Light of great Libraries; with this. Difference in favour of the former, that whilst they instruct they decorate. Indeed all his Passions, all his Tastes, all his Ideas of Employment, or of Relaxation from Employment, almost all his Accumulation, and all his Expenditure, had a Relation to his Art. In this Collection was vested a large, if not the largest Part of his Fortune; and he was not likely from Ignorance, Inattention, or want of practical or speculative Judgment, to make great Expences for Things of small or of uncertain Value.
The Whole of the within Collection were the entire Property of the late Sir Joshua Reynolds, as witness our Hands,
When sir Joshua's collection "of ancient drawings, scarce prints and books of prints," were sold by H. Phillips in March 1798, the two surviving executors issued the following:—
"Declaration of the Executors of Sir Joshua Reynolds, deceased.
Concerning the very rare and valable Collection of Drawings and Prints, now offered to the Public; it is unnecessary to say more than that it was formed during a long Series of Years, at a very great Expence, with infinite Care, Taste, and Judgment, by that great Master, as well as Judge, of Art, the late much-lamented Sir Joshua Reynolds. His Executors, however, think it their Duty to add, that the Public may be assured that the Whole of the Collection was his intire Property.
There is no record or tradition in the family as to the picture which Metcalfe bought with his legacy. Three pictures by sir Joshua were in his collection and the chief of them was the half-length portrait of a boy, familiarly known as "the studious boy," in a red dress leaning forward on a green cushion and holding a pen. This is said to have been exhibited by him at the British Institution in 1813. It was sold at Christie's at the dispersal of the Metcalfe collection on 15 June, 1850, for 162 guineas to James Lenox of New York, and is now a prominent picture in the Lenox gallery.
The arrangements for the funeral of sir Joshua gave much trouble. The executors wished that the body should be conveyed to the rooms of the Royal Academy in Somerset House on the evening before the interment and that his friends should proceed to the grave from that place. The council agreed at once but Sir William Chambers, then as before a mar-plot in its deliberations, interposed with the objection that such a proceeding was outside the terms of their tenure of the rooms. Through the intervention of Benjamin West this difficulty was surmounted by the direct order of the King and the procession passed on the 3rd of March 1792 from Somerset House to St. Paul's Cathedral in great state and amid general lamentation.
Metcalfe had asked Bartolozzi to design a card invitation to the ceremony but there was not sufficient time for its preparation. There were 10 pall bearers and 65 armozeen [stout plain silk] black silk scarves, hat bands & silk gloves were provided for the noblemen and other friends. The sum of £67. 9. o was spent in hat bands and leather gloves for the servants. There was an allowance of 1s. per head for liquor to 27 coachmen and 6d. each to 87 tenants. The burial fees at St. Paul's amounted to £44. 7. 5 and the total bill came to £588. 14. 6.
When Burke received from Malone a copy of the first edition of his work on the life and works of sir Joshua, the dying man sent from Bath on 4 May 1797 in reply a long letter, in which he expressed his earnest desire that a monument should be erected to the memory of his friend in the cathedral. This part of his epistle concluded with the remark "You will speak to Mr. Metcalfe about it of course." Many years passed away before these hopes passed into fruition. It was not until 1813 that the monument by Flaxman was erected.
Metcalfe sat to Reynolds for his portrait in July 1780, Feb. 1781 and Feb. 1782. The picture of him which was put up for sale at the dispersal of his pictures on 15 June 1850, was wrongly attributed in the catalogue to Reynolds. It was painted by Battoni at Rome and represents him as a young man in a redcoat, with gold embroidery and a white lace cravat. At the sale it was bought in and is now with many other portraits of the family at Hawstead House. They are described in Farrer's volume of "portraits in Suffolk houses, west" 1908.
Some lines said to be the composition of Boswell, were inserted in Notes and Queries for 1860. They set out the disgust of several discontented suitors at the marriage of the opulent Palmeria, sir Joshua's niece, to an Irish peer, Lord Inchiquin. Metcalfe winds up the effusion with a consolation prize:—
"Ye boobies, cries Metty, pray what do you mean,
Han't you eyes, can't a Star and a Ribbon be seen?
Call on me any morning, and each take a Niece,
Fine pleasant good girls and ten thousand a piece."
Metcalfe's wealth and tastes justified his admission into the ranks of several of the learned societies. At his election as F.R.S. on 4 Nov. 1790 he was described as "conversant in various parts of literature" and his nomination-form was signed by sir Joshua Reynolds, Michael Lort, John Topham, T. G. Cullum and others. When he became a member of the Society of Dilettanti on 5 March 1786 his qualifications for the honour were "amateur and scholar." He was appointed in Jan. 1794 as Secretary to assist sir Joseph Banks, its lord high treasurer "in keeping accounts of forfeitures, dinner-money, etc.," and he held office until Jan. 1808. The society's funds then amounted to £10,000 in reduced three per cent, annuities and £46. 9. 9 in cash. In June 1810 he was one of the members instructed with the duty of examining, and arranging for the restoration of, the society's pictures. On some date between 23 April 1793 and the same day in 1794 he was elected F.S.A.
Metcalfe was returned to parliament in 1784 for the borough of Horsham. The Duke of Norfolk was the patron and the right of election was vested in the burgage-holders. In the next house (1790 — 96) he sat for the constituency of Plympton. It was the birthplace of Reynolds and it was probably through his medium that Metcalfe was nominated by its ruler, Lord Mount Edgcumbe. At a bye-election on 22 Nov. 1796 he re-entered the house of commons as member for Malmesbury. A petition was presented against his return as there had been against the members returned in the previous May, but the right of election was declared to be vested in the aldermen and twelve capital burgesses, and Metcalfe was reported as duly elected. The patron of this borough was an apothecary called Edmund Wilkins who paid each capital burgess the retaining fee of £30 per annum. In the parliament of 1802 — 1806 Metcalfe again represented Plympton. His political career was inglorious. Once, and once only, do I find his name. This is in the diaries and letters of old George Rose, Pitt's right-hand man in corruption. The statesman reports to the place-giver that Metcalfe had brought him a letter from sir J. Honywood "applying for the receivership of Kent either for himself or for his son a child of five years old." Pitt's reflection was "the latter request is ridiculous. I told Mr. Metcalfe I could say nothing at present to the first."
Fanny Burney met him at the house of Miss Monckton, afterwards lady Cork, in Charles street, Berkeley square, in December, 1782. He kept chattering with her "with much satire but much entertainment" until Dr. Johnson found her out and ordered him away. The journal of the life in France from 1783 to 1786 of Madame Cradock, the wife of Joseph Cradock, the Leicestershire squire who fluttered in London Society for some years, was printed in 1896. They were in Paris in the winter of 1785-86 & among their friends were "M. Metcalf and les dames Lascels chez M. Pattle's." One day he called on madame with "un petit pot de beurre de Bretagne, véritable friandise très renommée à Paris"; on another he came with lord and lady Sussex and young Keppel Craven to take tea with her and stayed, playing cards dancing and singing until 11 o'clock. The Cradocks left for Holland in April 1786 when Metcalfe, an experienced observer of foreign life "who had travelled with Mr. Wraxall afterwards well-known as Sir Nathaniel Wraxall" informed them that they would "save five pounds in the hundred in Holland by carrying dollars instead of the depreciated gold coin of France." They followed his advice and on their arrival at Amsterdam found it to be true.
Windham rode with him and Mrs Lukin round by Cromer in the autumn of 1790 and called on him at Wisbeach on 9 May 1807. Metcalfe's house at Brighton provided many of his literary friends in London with the opportunity of an agreeable sojourn by the seaside. Malone one year stayed with him for three weeks and he brought into the circle some of his Irish acquaintances. One of them praised "la cuisine douce" of the establishment and drew an amusing simile from the vehicles in use in his country, by comparing a fellow-guest with his host "as a well-hung double-springed coach to the wheel part of a jaunting car without springs." Metcalfe generally went to lady Jersey's to whist, making a fourth in the rubber "with Mrs. Stratford and lady Heron her only companions." He and Malone dined one day with "some fine folks" —nowadays it would be with "a smart set" — in the house of Sir Godfrey Webster "who is not a bit depressed by the loss of his wife" from whom he had been divorced some months before and who had now become lady Holland. Nor is his gaiety to be wondered at when we remember the differences of temperament and the large sums of money which he had extracted from his separated spouse. Metcalfe's house at No. 3 South Parade was one of those at which the hon. William Hervey records in his voluminous journals that he rested for some days in 1802. The first public breakfast in the new gardens at Brighton took place on Saturday 13 July 1793, tickets being priced half a guinea each. It was given in the "promenade grove" between Church Street and North street and Metcalfe was one of the fashionable crowd that attended the festivities. He was present also on the birthday 12 August 1794, of the Prince of Wales, when the gardens were illuminated. Jeremy Bentham met many men prominent in public life, at the dinner parties in Metcalfe's house in London and corresponded with him on public affairs. In response to an enquiry from Brighton on the subject of the Panopticon Jeremy sent a doleful answer. It "stands stock still." He had spent £6000 on it and had received less than £2000. "It costs at the rate of more than £2000 a year merely to keep the men together" but some had been discharged and more would follow. Still, "prosperous or unprosperous, sick or well, weeping or exulting, I am dear Phil, ever yours" were the concluding words of the serene philosopher. Jeremy was wont, when Metcalfe was M.P., to make use of him to frank documents to Dr. Parr at Hatton.
Metcalfe, with Burke and John Wilmot, concerted in 1792 a plan for the relief of the distressed clergy exiled from France. The address was drawn up by Burke and inserted in all the newspapers. On 20 Sept. 1792 a committee for their relief held its first meeting at the Freemasons' hall. Wilmot, then M.P. for Coventry, was the chairman and on it were five lay peers, two bishops, thirteen members of parliament, including Metcalfe and Burke, and such prominent men as sir William Scott and Henry Thornton. Charles Butler, a roman catholic, was a member with Wilberforce, an ardent evangelical, and differences of religious opinion did not prevent them from uniting in furthering the interests of the refugees. Before Christmas temporary shelter and food had been provided for nearly 4000 of the ecclesiastics. In two years about £70,000 was collected through this committee. Metcalfe, with two of his colleagues, had several interviews with Pitt and Dundas and during the following years nearly two millions of money were voted by government for the relief of the exiles. Further information on this point is contained in an interesting article in the National Review for November 1888. Towards the close of life the thoughts of Metcalfe reverted to the poor of the parish of Hawstead. In 1811 he built, near its church, six almshouses, "after the design of those in the Lewes road, Brighton," which must often have attracted his attention, "as an asylum and for the perpetual maintenance of six persons who having spent an honest and industrious youth and supported themselves, without assistance from others, should have become through age incapable of continuing in the same course. Thus insuring "says the mural tablet to his memory in the church" to the latest posterity a repetition of acts of rational and useful beneficence, which through life it had been his study to promote." He endowed the institution with £5000 in 3 per cent, consols and printed some rules and regulations for the conduct of its inmates. Each of the six persons dwelling within its walls was to receive £15 a year in money and £5 in firing and clothing, the residue of the income being accumulated to increase the allowances. No one was to sleep away or to omit attending divine Service at the parish church each Sunday, Christmas day and Good Friday, unless ill or excused "by the occupier of the mansion-house of Philip Metcalfe at Hawstead."
About 1806 Metcalfe's eyesight began to fail and for some years before his death he was totally blind. Full of years and honours he died at Brighton on 18 August 1818, and was buried in the north aisle of the parish church of St Nicholas. The marble tablet to his memory was removed and placed with many others, on the west wall of the tower. Another tablet by Bacon, which was placed on the north side of Hawstead church records his name and his munificent gift to the poor of the parish. A chalk sketch of him at the age of 68 was made in 1801 by Edmund Scott, a pupil of Bartolozzi and engraved by William Evans. A copy of his book plate is in the Franks collection at the British Museum. Above his name is the family's armorial shield of three calves surmounted by a dog. His personalty was sworn as under £400,000, a vast total in those days and his estate at Hawstead was leased in strict settlement upon his great-nephew, Henry Metcalfe. The names of many of his relatives were commemorated on inscriptions in the church of that parish.