Mann, Horace (DNB00)

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MANN, Sir HORACE (1701–1786), British envoy at Florence, born in 1701, was the second son of Robert Mann, a successful London merchant, who bought an estate at Linton in Kent, built 'a small but elegant seat on the site of the old mansion of Capell's Court,' and died a fully qualified country squire on 9 Sept. 1761. His mother was Eleanor, daughter and heiress of Christopher Guise of Abbot's Court, Gloucestershire. An elder brother, Edward Louisa, died in 1755, while of Horace's sisters, Catharine was married to the Hon. and Rev. James Cornwallis [q. v.], bishop of Lichfield, and Eleanor to Sir John Torriano, son of Nathaniel Torriano, a noted London merchant, and contributor to the 'British Merchant' [see King, Charles, fl. 1721], A first cousin was Cornelius Mann of Plumstead, father of Gother Mann [q. v.] The kinship with Horace Walpole which has frequently been claimed for Mann has no existence. He was, however, and associate of Walpole as a young man, and it was entirely owing to this intimacy that he was in 1737 offered by Sir Robert Walpole the post of assistant to 'Mr. Fane,' envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at the court of Florence. The grand dukedom of Tuscany had just passed to Francis of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa, who in 1745 was elected emperor (Francis I), but the actual administration was in the hands of the Prince of Craon, Francis's quondam tutor, who had married a discarded mistress of his father, Duke Leopold. Croon and his wife are consequently 'the prince' and 'princess' to whom such frequent reference is made in Mann's letters of 1738–40, During this period he assiduously did the work of Fane, an indolent but most particular person, who is described by Walpole as taking to his bed for six weeks in consequence of the Duke of Newcastle's omitting on one occasion the usual prefix 'very' to 'your humble servant' in signing one of his letters. In 1740 Mann was rewarded by being formally appointed Fane's successor, and in the same year Horace Walpole visited him at Florence, at the 'Casa Mannetti, by the Ponte de Trinità.' The poet Gray had visited him a short while previously; he describes Mann as the best and most obliging person in the world, was delighted with his house, from the windows of which, he says, 'we can fish in the Arno,' and in 1745 despatched his 'good dear Mr. Mann' a heavy box of books.

The envoy's chief business seems to have been to watch over the doings of the Pretender and his family in Italy. He certainly retails much gossip that is damaging to the character of the last Stuarts. On the death of the Old Pretender in 1766 Mann succeeded in bullying the pope into suppressing the titles of his successor at Rome. Count Albani, the Young Pretender, whose habitual drunkenness neutralised any political importance that he might have had, came to reside at Florence in 1776, from which date onwards the British envoy's letters are full of disagreeable descriptions of his complicated disorders. In 1783 the Chevalier, who was dining at the table of the king of Sweden, then a visitor in Florence, gave Sir Horace a start by narrating the circumstances of his visit to London in September 1750, of which an independent and less authentic account was subsequently given by Dr. William King [q.v.] of St. Mary Hall (Anecdotes, p. 126). The despatch containing the account of the adventure as it came from the Chevalier's own lips, dated 6 Dec. 1783, is preserved with the other Tuscan State Papers at the Record Office (cf. Mahon, Hist. of England, iv. 11). In corresponding on these topics the envoy used a kind of cipher, in which 202 stood for Mann, 55 for Hanover, 77 for Rome, and 11 for the Old Chevalier. Minor duties were to receive and conciliate English visitors of distinction, among whom are specially noted the Duke of York, Lord Bute, and Garrick (1764), John Wilkes (1765), Smollett (1770), the Duke of Gloucester (1771), Zoffany, who put his portrait in the picture of the ‘Tribuna,’ which he executed for the king (1773), and the Duchess of Kingston (1774). Besides these distinguished persons were numerous ‘travelling boys’ belonging to the English aristocracy, whose aptitude to forget the deference due to the ‘petty Italian Transparencies’ often caused him much anxiety. Mann's salary is given in the Townshend MSS., under date 1742, as fixed at 3l. per diem, with allowance of 300l. or 400l. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. iv. 126).

In 1755 he succeeded his elder brother in the estate at Linton, and on 3 March in the same year he was created a baronet. His receipt of the decoration of K.B. on 25 Oct. 1768, through the medium of Sir John Dick, British consul at Genoa, was the occasion of a succession of brilliant fêtes, described in much detail in his letters to Horace Walpole.

The correspondence by which Mann is chiefly remembered commenced with his appointment. Walpole left Florence, not to return, in May 1741, and never again saw his friend, while Mann spent the remainder of his life exclusively in Italy; but during the following forty-four years they corresponded on a scale quite phenomenal, and, as Walpole remarked, ‘not to be paralleled in the history of the post-office.’ The letters on both sides were avowedly written for publication, both parties making a point of the return of each other's despatches. The strain of such an artificial correspondence led to much melancholy posturing, but the letters, on Walpole's side at least, are among the best in the language. Their publication by Lord Dover in 1833 gave Macaulay his well-used opportunity of ‘dusting the jacket,’ as he expresses it, of the most consummate of virtuosos (Edinb. Rev. October 1833). Lord Dover describes the letters on Mann's side as ‘voluminous, but particularly devoid of interest, as they are written in a dry, heavy style, and consist almost entirely of trifling details of forgotten Florentine society.’ Cunningham dismisses them as ‘utterly unreadable.’ Their contents are summarised in two volumes published by Dr. Doran (from the originals at Strawberry Hill), under the title of ‘Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence,’ in 1876. They certainly lose much from a too anxious adaptation to Walpole's prejudices and affectations, but they are often diverting, and are valuable as illustrations of Florentine society (cf. Glimpses of Italian Society in the 18th Century, from the Journey of Mrs. Piozzi, 1892). They abound in accounts of serenades, fêtes, masquerades, court ceremonial, and Italian eccentricities, including an elaborate exposition of the history and nature of cicisbeism, and many circumstances relating to the alleged poisoning of Clement XIV (Ganganelli) in 1774. There are also many interesting particulars concerning the eminent Dr. Antonio Cocchi, a savant ‘much prejudiced in favour of the English, though he resided some years among us.’ Writing from Florence in November 1754 the Earl of Cork describes Mann as living in Cocchi's ‘friendship, skill, and care,’ and adds: ‘Could I live with these two gentlemen only, and converse with few or none others, I should scarce desire to return to England for many years’ (Nchols, Lit. Anecd. i. 347). Madame Piozzi visited Mann when she was in Florence, about 1784, when the British envoy was ‘sick and old,’ but maintained a ‘weekly conversation’ on Saturday evenings (Autobiog. 1861, i. 334).

Mann's last letter to Walpole (‘of a series amounting to thousands’) is dated 5 Sept. 1786. He died at Florence on 6 Nov. 1786, and was succeeded as envoy in August 1787 by John Augustus, lord Hervey. He had been forty-six years minister. His body was removed to England, and buried at Linton. The estate and baronetcy passed to his nephew Horatio (son of his younger brother Galfridus), who, with his wife, ‘the fair and fragile’ Lady Lucy (Noel), had visited Mann at Florence in 1775, the pair being frequently mentioned with much tenderness and affection in his letters. Sir Horatio was M.P. for Sandwich in 1790, became a local magnate, and was a staunch patron of the Hambledonian cricketers (cf. Hasted, Kent; Nyren, Young Cricketer's Tutor, ed. Whibley, pp. xi, xxii, 94). He died in 1814, when the baronetcy became extinct.

In his will Mann, who had previously bought several pictures on commission for the Houghton and Strawberry Hill galleries, left five pictures by Poussin to his friend Walpole, to whom his letters were also transmitted. He had sent Walpole his portrait by Astley in 1752; this was engraved by Greatbatch, and included by Cunningham in his edition of Walpole's correspondence.

[Hasted's Kent, ii. 142; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 337; Doran's Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence; Elwin's Pope, passim; Gray's Works, ed. Gosse, ii. 52, 86, 128, 132; Austin Dobson's Horace Walpole, a Memoir, p. 295; Letters of Walpole, ed. Cunningham, vol. ix. Pref. pp. xv, xxiii; Walpole's George III, 1859, ii. 482; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. vol. vi.; Gent. Mag. 1786 ii. 907, 1834 i. 122; Haydn's Book of Dignities, ed. Ockerby, pp. 115, 765; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. pt. ii. p. 382, 10th Rep. App. pp. 378, 381, 12th Rep. App. pt. x. pp. 196, 225; Stephens's Cat. of Satirical Prints, vol. iii. No. 3088. Numerous single letters from Mann to various friends are among the Addit. MSS. in the Brit. Mus.]

T. S.