Mr Dunn BL in Love Again, 1838

Angela Burdett-Coutts, Mr Dunn’s second love

From an unnamed London journal, as recounted in the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, 25 September 1838, this update on the continued romantic endeavours of Irish barrister Richard Dunn, last heard of on the way to Kilmainham Gaol two years earlier, after an unsuccessful attempt to win the hand of the Honourable Anne Burgh:

“Some months back a well-known Irish barrister, Mr Richard Dunn, was making a pedestrian tour of Hyde-park, when, on passing the carriage of Miss Burdett-Coutts, he thought he recognised a smile from the lady, which was confirmed on observing her drop her glove – whether by accident or design we know not, from the carriage window, which the enraptured gentleman hastened to pick up, and which he still retains as a memento of the lady’s affection! 

Of course, with such a recognition of favour, Mr Dunn lost no opportunity of placing himself in Miss Coutts’ path, and looking as amiable as it was possible for one born and bred in the Emerald Isle to look.  There was no return, however, to his ardent signs of love – no exchange of salute; in short, nothing more than an expression of wonderment that he should presume to look so agreeable in her presence; but then he had the glove, and she threw it to him from her carriage – at least this was the interpretation he put upon it!  

The affair in Hyde Park occurred some time before the Coronation, which ceremony externally Mr Dunn attended – he tracked the carriage of his fair one, and after she alighted got into conversation with her coachman – offering him refreshment, which he declined, but accepted the fee to tell the secret of Miss Coutts’ movements.  It was from him that he learnt the lady’s intention to go to Harrowgate, whither Mr Dunn followed her.  

Hyde Park, around the time of these events. The lady driving her own carriage bears a certain resemblance to Miss Burdett-Coutts.

The lady took a suite of apartments in the Queen’s Hotel. It happened that a single room on the same floor was not required – of it our hero was so fortunate as to possess himself; it was immediately opposite the bed-chamber of the rich lady, and there he sat, day after day, hour after hour – his door wide open awaiting the passing and re-passing of Miss Coutts.  He wrote billet-doux by dozens, and verses by scores, expressive of his ardent attachment – but all without effect.    At length he determined on being heard, for he one fine morning walked leisurely into her chamber, and concealing himself behind her bed curtain waited with untiring patience until she awoke, when, falling on his knees, he confessed his passion, and prayed for a return.  She did re-turn it, for she rang the bell violently, and with becoming firmness ordered Mr Dunn to be turned out of the room; he was turned out, and the lady left the hotel and went into private apartments. 

 Miss Coutts, indignant at the insult, wrote off immediately to her solicitor Mr Majoribanks, who posted down to Harrowgate, and obtained an interview with Mr D, representing to him the impropriety of his conduct, and begging of him to desist all further annoyance.  To this, however, Mr Dunn refused to pledge himself.  An application was then made to the Magistrates for a peace warrant… a summons was sent for Mr Dunn privately to attend; this he declined to do before a full bench and in public court.   

The next step to intimidate Mr Dunn was, to cause him to be publicly advertised by the town-crier as an Irish adventurer by no means reputably connected.  This had no effect upon the gallant Lothario, besides that of bribing the crier to give up the manuscript of the placard which was printed and cried about, and this proving to be in the hand writing of Mr Majoribanks, Mr Dunn means to bring an action upon it, in the hope that a jury may place the same estimate on his character that he does himself.  The lady, finding herself thus persecuted, was advised to leave Harrowgate, which she did, and proceed to Scarborough, to which place she was followed by the invincible Irish barrister.  

We have omitted, in the above paragraph, to state that the lady, if she did ‘smile’ at Mr Dunn, did so from a belief that she knew him.  The dropping of the glove from the carriage window was mere matter of accident – not so, however, the use which the lady permitted him to make of her prayer-book in the Church of Harrowgate; that circumstance Mr Dunn tortures into a proof of the return she made of his attentions.  On the first Sunday after Miss Coutts’ arrival at Harrowgate she attended divine worship, and, observing, in a pew contiguous to her own, a gentleman unencumbered with a prayer book, she politely tendered him the use of part of hers.  This amounted, an Irishman would say, to a declaration at once on the part of the lady – and on this circumstances, conjoined with that of the ‘glove’ and the ‘smile’, Mr Dunn builds up his hopes of future happiness!

Christ Church, Harrogate, the scene of the prayer-book incident, as it would have looked at the time.

Miss Burdett-Coutts, daughter of a baronet, was extremely well-connected; her family owned the banking firm of Coutts & Co.   She was also outstandingly rich in her own right.   Reports of her prospective suitors featured regularly in the press, with the Belfast Chronicle of February 1838 carrying a formal denial of her engagement to another Irish barrister, Nicholas Purcell O’Gorman QC.  If the Chronicle is to be believed, Mr O’Gorman was instead on the verge of becoming engaged to Baroness Lehzen, late governess to Queen Victoria, in a match negotiated by none other than the Prime Minister.  Irish barristers over for the Coronation were certainly making an impression on London society!

Miss Burdett-Coutts’ portrait above demonstrates that she and Mr Dunn’s first love Anne Burgh shared a classical albeit slightly moist beauty. Two young ladies less likely to succumb to the blandishments of an importunate Irish adventurer can hardly be imagined. But life can be full of surprises, and it was still too early to absolutely rule out the possibility that Angela Burdett-Coutts might relent and consent to share her fortune with the ardent Mr Dunn. What would happen in Scarborough?

For those coming late to the romantic party, details of Mr Dunn’s earlier unsuccessful pursuit of Miss Burgh can be found here.

More, much more, to come – read the next instalment here!

Image Credits: (top) (middle) (bottom)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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