May 20th, 2008


Our final stop on the way home was at Beningbrough- an early 18th century country house 17 miles north of York- now owned by the National Trust and containing a collection of  Augustan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. 

When you've seen one picture of a man in an early 18th century periwig you've seen 'em all. Sir Godfrey Kneller's set of matching portraits of the members of the Kit-Kat club is a tour de force in its way, but I've never seen such a bunch of fat-faced, arrogant tossers.  Take them out of period fancy dress and put them in braces and they could be modern day city traders. The Kit-Kats were Whigs- supporters of the bran-new Hanoverian monarchy and masters of the universe. Some say the club got its name from a type of pie its members ate a lot of- others that it was all down to their (ahem) enthusiam for pussy.  The more famous Kit Kats- Vanbrugh for example- have stayed in London and Beningbrough has the also-rans, including the notorious Hooray Henry, Lord Mohun- who killed his first man at 15 and carried on in the same style for another 20 years until the Duke of Hamilton (who he nevertheless managed to kill) cut him to ribbons in a duel. He was carried home to die and his wife objected to him bleeding all over the bed clothes.*

Beningbrough is a fine house of its type, if you like that sort of thing- which I do-  though in a measured and judicious fashion- and not enough to write poems about it. The gardens and parkland are lovely. There's a very good farm shop on the estate where we bought all sorts of good things- most notably a wedge of Yorkshire blue cheese.

*Thackeray in Henry Esmond (he'd presumably done the research and should know) treats the Mohun/Hamilton duel as a political assassination, with Mohun the psycho thug nominated by his party to take out a dangerous political adversary. 

Is Mohun pronounced Moon? I can't find out- but I hope it is. Lord Moon, the psycho-killer; it has such a ring to it!




I dug for the bones

And boiled em up with herbs

And said the proper words

Till the ghost came flitting,

Loose jointed, weak:

I showed him I meant business.

You fetchee and you carry

I said to him with signs.


Go to my Lord

Let him not lie easy

Go to my Lady

Poison all she eats

Let the flesh fall from her

Let her daily weaken

Let her lose her baby- and

Be frighted by her glass.


No harm, no harm

It’s only crazy Mary

Who lives among the ruins

And was pretty once,

Who buried her poor baby.

Alms pretty lady

(Or you know what might occur)

All for sweet Jesu’s sake.