"Lord Sydney"

1st Viscount of Sydney

Thomas Townshend at an early age, click for larger picture (25k)
Thomas Townshend not more than 40 years older, click for larger picture (39k)
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, an American, whose portraits of George Washington are the accepted likenesses of Washington

Sydney is Named for Him
First Authentic Portrait

[from a photo-copy of what appears to be the Herald Magazine
Section of the Australian newspaper (S.M.H.) dated May 29 1954]

By M. J. Kenny

Australia now has an indisputable authentic portrait of Lord Sydney, for whom Governor Phillip named Sydney Cove in 1788 when he established the first settlement.

As Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord Sydney was the minister responsible for recommending the adoption of a plan for a settlement in Australia. The Public Library of New South Wales acquired this portrait from a New York collection for 4 000 dollars, for the collection established by Sir William Dixson. The painter of the portrait was Gilbert Stuart, an American, whose portraits of George Washington are the accepted likenesses of Washington. The library will soon hang the portrait in its Dixson Gallery - one of the world's notable treasuries of historical paintings. [The Dixson gallery is in the Dixson wing, which was added to the Public Library in 1929 to house gifts by the late Sir William Dixson of more than 360 historical pictures of Australian and Pacific interest. Sir William died two years ago, and bequeathed £114 000 to establish the Dixson Foundation for adding to the library's historical collection and extending the use of it.]

THE condition of the Sydney portrait is excellent and comparable with that of the portraits in the dixson gallery of other founders of Australia - Captain Cook, Sir Joseph Banks, and Governor Arthur Phillip. Because the complete history of this portrait is known, it fills a gap in Australia's collections of authentic historical portraits, but leaves unsolved a mystery associated with the only other portrait of Lord Sydney in Australia. Until a few years ago no one doubted the authenticity of a fine portrait in the Dixson gallery labelled "Thomas Townshend, 1733-1800; Viscount Sydney, 1789; Secretary of State for War and Colonies, 1783-1789. From the Sydney Collection. By Gilbert Stuart." Then the late Percival Serle, editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, compared the late apparent age of the of the subject of the portrait - no more than 40 years younger - with the age of the artist. He pointed out that Stuart was not in England until he was 20, when Lord Sydney would have been 42, and suggested a check of the history of the picture.

LIBRARY OFFICERS could not find a signature on the portraits. Sir William Dixson, the donor of the portrait, said he bought it from a reputable dealer and was satisfied that it was Lord Sydney, painted by Stuart. The library will seek more information in Sir William's papers. Sir William had an engraved copy of the portrait, now accepted as authentic, and library officers, who compared the engraving and the doubtful portrait, concluded that there was little doubt that the subject was Lord Sydney. But they catalogued the earlier portrait as "attributed to Stuart." Experts will examine both portraits to determine whether Stuart also painted the earlier portrait. Stuart went tp England in 1775, a year before the American Declaration of Independence, and stayed there in Europe for 18 years. When he painted the authenticated portrait about 1785, he was 30 and Lord Sydney 52. He did not sign it. In that year Lord Sydney received a detailed plan for a settlement in New South Wales, which he ultimately recommended to the Government for adoption. Stuart astutely avoided entanglements in the rivalries arising from the revolution. He painted monarchs in Europe - George II, the future George IV and Louis XVI - and on his return to America contrived to have himself accepted as a fashionable painter of republicans - Washington and seven later American presidents A Stuart legend records that Washington was the only person in whose presence he felt embarassed.

THE authenticated portrait of Lord Sydney remained with the Townshend family until the third viscount died without issue in 1890 and the title became extinct. It passed with the estates to his cousin, the Hon. Robert Marsham (1834-1915), who assumed the additional surname and arms of Townshend. A London dealer bought the portrait at auction soon after Marsham-Townshend's death, and sold it to Herbert Lee Pratt, of the Standard Oil Co., New York. Pratt kept the portrait only a year, selling it through a dealer in 1916 to Walter Jennings, of New York. The portrait was on loan to the Hecker Memorial Art Gallery, Long Island, New York, where it bore the label: "Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for George III." This linked Lord Sydney with the Americans' arch-villain of the revolution and American history. Actually, Lord Sydney was in Opposition in the House of Commons before and during the revolutionary war and was Secretary of State for War and later Home Secretary in the Government which made peace with the American colonies. A speech he made in defence of this peace earned him his peerage. Walter Jennings died in 1932 and his wife in 1949. Their son, Oliver B. Jennings, wrote to the Public Library on November 19, 1952, offering to sell the portrait for 4 000 dollars (£1 786) - 1000 dollars (£447) below its valuation. The trustees of the Public Library accepted the offer, and the Principle Librarian, Mr. J. Metcalfe, and the Mitchell Librarian, Miss P. Mander-Jones, verified the claims made for the portrait. When the library had completed inquiries and negotiations it received this note from the Mr. Jennings: "I hope the picture comes up to your expectations and looks well in its new home, where, after all, it should be."

THOMAS TOWNSHEND (1733-1800) took his title of baron Sydney of Chislehurst (Kent) from the family of his great-great-grandmother, Lady Lucy Sydney, daughter of Robert Sydney, second Earl of Leicester (1627-1677), who traced his descent from a Surrey Yeoman, John de Sydenie, a farmer at Alfold, in the reign of Edward I. The Sydney farm at Alfold today is probably the same as John de Sydenie's. Townshend entered the house of Commons when he was barely of age - 51 days after he was 21 - and stayed there 29 years until elevated to the peerage in 1783. Six years later he became a viscount. He was the subject of Goldsmith's line where he speaks of Bourke:
"Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat [??????]"
"To persuade Tommy Townshend to lend him a vote."
A contemporary appreciation of him was: In the Commons "his abilities, though respectable, scarcely rose above mediocrity"; in the Lords "he seemed to have sunk into an ordinary man."

The long standing reputation of Lord Sydney, as mentioned above, is being reassessed by Andrew Tink. Mr Tink will show that this reputation was not only unfounded but was caused by incident 10 years before Lord Sydney even took office. Click here to View Andrew Tink's article.

Thomas Townshend, click for larger picture (39k)
The Lord Sydney portraits in the Dixson gallery. In the authenticated (left), which the Mitchell Library has just acquired, Lord Sydney is shown life-size, half -length, seated in an armchair upholstered in red and studded with small brass-headed nails. He wears a dark green coat with a collar of black velvet, his coat being buttoned across his chest, but open below, showing a brownish-grey waistcoat. His shirt ruffles are of white muslin, and his wig hair is powdered.

His eyes are dark brown and his complexion "beefy", expressing mental and physical activity with a look of hautaur. He sits beside a table covered covered with a variety coloured cloth, on which is pen inkstand, two quill pens, a tray with a piece of red sealing wax, and a packet of letters, with one unfolded. The word London is on the letter.

Thomas Townshend at an earlier age, click for larger picture (25k)
His left arm rests upon the chair arm and the left hand, partially closed, is shown, but the right hand is concealed by the table.

The portrait attributed to Stuart (right) has much less detail. Lord Sydney is youthful, almost boyish, with a sensative face, regular features and brown eyes. He stands alongside a table in a dark blue coat,with red velvet collar.

A glove right hand on hip holds back the coat and reveals a cream, braided waistcoat, buttoned top and bottom but unbuttoned in a slightly portly middle. His ruffles are of a white muslin. His hair is brownish. The words "Thos., 1st Visit Sydney" are in the top right hand corner of the painting.

Thomas Townshend (1733 - 1800), 1st Viscount of Sydney
son of Thomas Townshend (1701 - 1780),
grandson of Charles Townshend (1674 - 1738).

He married in 1760 to Elizabeth Powys (b.???? - 1826) had children

  • John Townshend (1764 - ????), 2nd Viscount of Sydney
  • William Townshend (1776 - 1816)
  • Sir Horatio Townshend (1780 - 1843)

The first of the three arms in Sydney's old and new coat-of arms and it's FLAG is the Townshend arms. The other two arms are from Captain James Cook and Thomas Hughes, first Lord Mayor of Sydney