Walter Long (of South Wraxall)

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Walter Long of South Wraxall, near Bradford-on-Avon, (c 1712–1807), the great-great-great grandson of Sir Walter Long of South Wraxall and Draycot was born in Wiltshire, and had inherited along with other family estates, the 15th Century South Wraxall Manor. (This manor eventually devolved onto Walter, the 1st Viscount Long and having been finally sold by the Long family in the 1960s, after several hundred years of continuous ownership, was in 2004 purchased by John Taylor (bass guitarist) of the band Duran Duran.) His ancestors made their wealth initially as clothiers. He served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire for 1764.

He lived till at least 93 years of age, dying at Bath in 1807, bequeathing the bulk of his fortune to the sons of his cousin, Richard Long of Rood Ashton, Wiltshire.

Marriage controversy[edit]

At the age of about 60, and never previously married, Long became engaged to Elizabeth Linley, a celebrated icon of the town of Bath, a gifted singer and great beauty. She was about 16 years old. The engagement was arranged by her father Thomas Linley, an impoverished composer, who had his eyes on Long's great wealth. The marriage did not take place however, Walter Long is said to have dissolved the contract, after Elizabeth secretly told him she would never be happy as his wife, taking on himself the entire blame for breaking off the alliance. He reputedly paid her father, who was proceeding to bring the transaction into court, a settlement of ₤3000. Elizabeth was allowed to keep the jewels and other gifts Long had showered upon her during their engagement.

Walter Long knew that Elizabeth was in love with a young playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (with whom she later eloped in 1772). The whole business was well publicised at the time, and soon became the subject of a satirical play The Maid of Bath written by Samuel Foote, which opened in 1771 at the Haymarket Theatre in London. Sheridan was one of Foote's favourite targets. Long's character, played by Foote himself, was named Solomon Flint, described as a "fat, fusty, shabby, shuffling, money loving, water drinking, mirth-marring, amorous old huncks", who "owns half the farms in the country", being 60 at least and "a filthy old goat! He supposedly has a rumbling old family coach and a moated haunted old house in the country.."

Foote was frequently threatened with libel suits. Walter Long heard about the play before it was produced and tried unsuccessfully to persuade Foote to abandon the whole thing, even threatening violence against him. He commenced an action for damages against Foote, but the affair seems to have ended there.

Further reading[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • The Maid of Bath, by Samuel Foote 1771
  • Memoirs of the Life of Right Honorable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Vol 1 by Thomas Moore
  • Love Romances of The Aristocracy By Thornton Hall, F.S.A.
  • A Nest of Linnets by Frankfort Moore 1901
  • The Invisible Woman: aspects of women's work in eighteenth-century Britain By Isabelle Baudino ISBN 0-7546-3572-4