Topham Beauclerk

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Topham Beauclerk (pronounced bo-CLAIR; 22 December 1739 – 11 March 1780) was a celebrated wit and a friend of Dr Johnson and Horace Walpole.


Topham Beauclerk was born on 22 December 1739, the only son of Lord Sidney Beauclerk and a great-grandson of King Charles II. He was christened on 19 January 1740 in St James', Westminster. He attended Oxford University (Trinity College).

In 1763 he was in Italy with John Fitzpatrick. In 1774 he lived in Muswell Hill, north London.

On 12 March 1768 he married Diana, the daughter of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough and they had four children together:

Topham Beauclerk entertained Dr Johnson at his home in Old Windsor for a number of weeks. He appears several times in Boswell's Life of Johnson. As Bennet Langton records: 'His affection for Topham Beauclerk was so great, that when Beauclerk was labouring under that severe illness which at last occasioned his death, Johnson said (with a voice faultering with emotion), "Sir, I would walk to the extent of the diameter of the earth to save Beauclerk".' (Boswell 1672).

He was an intimate friend also of Horace Walpole, Lord Orford. The artist Joseph Farington in his famous diary records Walpole's description of him:

"Lord Orford mentioned many particulars relative to the late Mr. Topham Beauclerc [the celebrated wit]. He said He was the worst tempered man He ever knew. Lady Di passed a most miserable life with him. Lord O, out of regard to her invited them occasionally to pass a few days at Strawberry Hill. They slept in separate beds. Beauclerc was remarkably filthy in his person which generated vermin. He took Laudanum regularly in vast quantities. He seldom rose before one or two o'clock. His principal delight was in disputing on subjects that occurred, this He did accutely. Before He died He asked pardon of Lady Di, for his ill usage of her. He had one son and two daughters by Lady Di. One married Lord Herbert, the second went abroad with her Brother, Lord Bolingbroke."

Plaque, Great Russel Street.jpg

Beauclerk died at his house in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury on 11 March 1780. Lady Diana later sold the house to retire in reduced circumstances to Richmond. The house at Great Russell Street, which was partly demolished in 1788, housed a library designed by renowned architect Robert Adam.


  • Boswell, James. Life of Johnson, ed. R. W. Chapman, intro. Pat Rogers. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998.
  • Farington, Joseph. The Farington Diary by Joseph Farington, R.A., edited by James Grieg.
  • Adamson, Donald and Beauclerk Dewar, Peter, The House of Nell Gwyn. The Fortunes of the Beauclerk Family, 1670-1974, London: William Kimber, 1974, pp. 67–77.

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