Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fonnereau, Thomas George

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FONNEREAU, THOMAS GEORGE (1789–1850), author and artist, was the second and posthumous son of Thomas Fonnereau (son of Z. P. Fonnereau, the descendant of an ancient family from the neighbourhood of Rochelle, which settled in England at the edict of Nantes and realised a fortune in the linen trade), who married on 19 Oct. 1786 Harriet, daughter of John Hanson of Reading. His father died at Topsham, Devonshire, on 26 Dec. 1788; his mother survived until 2 Feb. 1832. He himself was born at Reading on 25 Aug. 1789, and his elder brother, John Zachary, who married Caroline Sewell, died without issue at Douai in 1822. After practising as an attorney in partnership with John Gregson at 8 Angel Court, Throgmorton Street, from 1816 to 1834, he succeeded, by the death of a relation, to a good property, and devoted himself for the rest of his life to his books and his friends. His political opinions leaned to conservatism, and he published in 1831 a ‘Practical View of the Question of Parliamentary Reform,’ which, unlike most of the swarm of pamphlets issued at that crisis, passed through two editions. It was written mainly to prove that a purely democratic government is inapplicable to the circumstances of England, and that the existing system was ‘founded on a concentration of the various interests of the country in the House of Commons.’ While still a lawyer he occupied chambers in the Albany, and as a ‘great lover and liberal patron of art’ entertained a distinguished set of artists and wits at ‘choice little dinners,’ which are commemorated in the pages of Planché's ‘Recollections.’ With one of these friends he travelled in Italy about 1840, and on his return there were printed for private distribution, at the expense of D. Colnaghi, a few copies of ‘Mems. of a Tour in Italy, from Sketches by T. G. F., inspired by his friend and fellow-traveller, C. S., esq., R.A.’ (probably Clarkson Stanfield), containing thirteen sketches of scenery. On inheriting his fortune he gratified an inclination which had long possessed him by building, with the assistance of his friend, Decimus Burton, ‘a bachelor's kennel,’ his own depreciatory designation of ‘an Italian villa with colonnade and campanile,’ which arose at Haydon Hill, near Bushey in Hertfordshire. There he died on 13 Nov. 1850, and was buried in a vault in Aldenham churchyard, with many members of the family of Hibbert, his nearest relatives. His name would by this time have perished had he not printed for private circulation in 1849 a few copies of ‘The Diary of a Dutiful Son, by H. E. O.,’ the second letters of his three names. A copy fell accidentally into the hands of Lockhart, who inserted numerous extracts from its pages into the ‘Quarterly Review,’ lxxxvi. 449–63 (1850). The introduction to the volume sets out that his father urged him to keep a diary of the remarks which he heard in the house of a distant relation, ‘a literary man in affluent circumstances,’ and that some little time afterwards he showed the diary as a proof that he had adopted the suggestion A concluding paragraph reveals that this was an imposition, as the conversations were the product of his own inventive powers. They contained many original and acute observations, from a thinker not dissatisfied with the world, and not anxious for much change, on poetry, philosophy, and political economy, and they present in style and substance an accurate representation of his talk. Lockhart suggested its publication to the world, and a copy, evidently prepared for the press, was found among Fonnereau's papers after his death. This was published by John Murray in 1864.

[Gent. Mag. 1786 pt. ii. 907, 1788 pt. ii. 1183, 1851 p. 107; Cussans's Hertfordshire, iii. pt. i. 268, pt. ii. 179; Planché's Recollections, i. 233; Preface to 1864 ed. of Diary of a Dutiful Son; Agnew's Protestant Exiles, iii. 234.]

W. P. C.