The New International Encyclopædia/Nash, Richard

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NASH, Richard (1674-1762). An English society leader, better known as ‘Beau Nash;’ born at Swansea. In 1692 he entered Jesus College, Oxford, but he left before finishing his course, and after a very brief career in the army, entered as a student of law at the Inner Temple in 1693. There he quickly became conspicuous for his good manners, his taste in dress, and his high living. His income being insufficient to meet his demands, he eked it out by gambling and by performing for large wagers such risqué exploits as riding naked through a village on a cow. It was the former occupation that in 1705 took him to Bath, then newly become a fashionable watering place. Here was his opportunity. Bath was then a rude little village filled to overflowing with fashionable people who were compelled to pay extravagant rates for miserable lodgings, whose only dancing place was the bowling green, and whose card and tea rooms were canvas tents. Nash set himself to change all this, and in a short time he had succeeded not only in building an assembly house, in procuring decent lodgings, and in reducing the insolent sedan-chair men to humility, but also in making himself the social autocrat of the place. He drew up a set of rules which were enforced on high and low; he practically abolished dueling, and he even assumed the duty of improving the country roads in the neighborhood. During these years his income, principally derived from his partnership in gambling houses and his own skill as a gamester, was large, and he lived in a style befitting ‘the King of Bath.’ But in 1740 gambling came under the ban of the law, and though Nash managed for a time to evade yielding obedience, new regulations in 1715 left him practically without resources. In this plight, the town, which owed so much to him, came to his rescue with a pension of £10 a month, and on this he lived until his death. Nash owed but little of his popularity to physical attraction, for, according to Goldsmith, he was large and clumsy, and his features were “harsh, strong, and peculiarly irregular.” But he did have “assiduity, flattery, fine clothes, and as much wit as the ladies he addressed.” Consult Goldsmith, Life of Richard Nash (London, 1762).