BEAU NASH (18 October 1674 – 3 February 1761), born RICHARD NASH,
was a celebrated dandy and leader of fashion in 18th-century Britain.
He is best remembered as the
Master of Ceremonies
Master of Ceremonies at the spa town of
* 1 Biography
* 2 Nash and Wesley
Beau Nash and
* 4 Later use of name
* 5 References
* 6 External links and sources
Nash was born in Goat Street,
Swansea in 1674. He attended Jesus
College, Oxford , served as an army officer, and was then called to
the bar as a barrister , but made little of either career.
In 1704, he became
Master of Ceremonies
Master of Ceremonies at the rising spa town of
Bath , a position he retained until he died. He lived in a house on
Saw Close (now at the main entrance to the Theatre Royal), and kept a
string of mistresses. He played a leading role in making Bath the most
fashionable resort in 18th-century England.
His position was unofficial, but nevertheless he had extensive
influence in the city until early 1761. He would meet new arrivals to
Bath and judge whether they were suitable to join the select "Company'
of 500 to 600 people who had pre-booked tables, match ladies with
appropriate dancing partners at each ball, pay the musicians at such
events, broker marriages, escort unaccompanied wives and regulate
gambling (by restraining compulsive gamblers or warning players
against risky games or cardsharps ). He was notable for encouraging a
new informality in manners, breaking down the rigid barriers which had
previously divided the nobility from the middle-class patrons of Bath,
and even from the gentry .
Although the Corporation of the city funded an elaborate funeral for
Nash, he was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. There is a memorial
to him at
Bath Abbey church in Bath.
His death caused quite a stir at the time, with the celebrated author
Oliver Goldsmith being moved to write The Life of Richard Nash as
early as 1762.
Nash was a notorious gambler who was forced to move in with his
mistress, Juliana Popjoy, due to his debts. Upon his death, Popjoy was
so distraught, she spent the majority of her remaining days living in
a large hollowed-out tree. Near her death, she moved out of the tree
and back to her birth home where she died.
NASH AND WESLEY
In his journal and letters,
John Wesley , preacher and founder of
Methodism , tells of a confrontation with Nash in Bath in 1739.
Wesley's journey to Bath had been expected for some time, and Nash had
made public his determination to confront him. Wesley proceeded to
Bath, even though some people, afraid of the outcome, tried to talk
him out of it. When Wesley began his preaching, there was "a much
larger audience, among whom were many of the rich and great."
Facing Wesley, Nash questioned his authority, comparing the gathering
to a conventicle , which was banned by
Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament . Wesley
answered that he had the authority of
Jesus Christ and the Archbishop
of Canterbury and that the gathering was not seditious and therefore
did not contravene the Act. Nash complained that Wesley was scaring
people out of their wits, but then admitted that he had never actually
heard Wesley preach and was just relying on "common report". Wesley
rejected this argument, stating that he did not judge Nash "by common
report... it is not enough to judge by." When Nash asked why people
were coming to the meeting at all, an old woman in the crowd asked
Wesley to allow her to answer. She then told Nash that, while he took
care of his body, she and others were present in order to take care of
their souls. Nash left. Wesley wrote that, after his departure, "We
immediately began praying for him, and then for all the despisers. As
we returned, they hollowed and hissed us along the streets; but when
any of them asked, 'Which is he' and I answered, 'I am he,' they were
BEAU NASH AND TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Beau Nash young (illustration, 1886)
In 1735, Nash appointed himself
Master of Ceremonies
Master of Ceremonies in Tunbridge
Wells and retained control of the entertainments provided for visitors
until his death in 1761. Bath, it was said, was his kingdom, and
Tunbridge Wells a colony of that kingdom. Nash had been interested in
taking control at
Tunbridge Wells for some years, but had been
excluded by the formidable Bell Causey , who "presided as absolute
governess" until her death in 1734. As well as organizing
entertainments, Nash established strict rules for correct behaviour.
In order to ensure that visitors paid subscriptions for services
provided, he introduced Sarah Porter , "Queen of the Touters", who
eagerly pursued defaulters. Under Nash,
Tunbridge Wells attained the
height of its fame as a fashionable resort, patronised by royalty,
nobility, and the most famous names in the country. It is notable that
there is a pub in
Tunbridge Wells named after
Beau Nash himself,
whilst The Ragged Trousers exhibits a plaque on the exterior of the
building in Nash's honour.
LATER USE OF NAME
A cinema was erected in Westgate Street in Bath in 1920 and named the
Beau Nash Picture House in memory of Nash. The building, now Grade II
listed, is currently known as the Komedia.
* ^ Williams, Idris (1926). "
Beau Nash : King of Bath". Welsh
Outlook. 13 (8): 213.
* ^ Journal of
John Wesley at the Christian Classics Ethereal
* ^ The Letters of John Wesley, 1739, at the Wesley Center Online
* ^ "Old \'Beau Nash\' reopens tonight". Bath Chronicle. July 12,
2012. Retrieved February 1, 2016.