Richard Nash - Encyclopedia

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RICHARD NASH (1674-1762), English dandy, better known as "Beau Nash," was born at Swansea on the 18th of October 1674. He was descended from an old family of good position, but his father from straitened means had become partner in a glass business. Young Nash was educated at Carmarthen grammar school and at Jesus College, Oxford. He obtained a commission in the army, which, however, he soon exchanged for the study of law at the Temple. Here among "wits and men of pleasure" he came to be accepted as an authority irk regard to dress, manners and style. When the members of the Inns of Court entertained William III. after his accession, Nash was chosen to conduct the pageant at the Middle Temple. This duty he performed so much to the satisfaction of the king that he was offered knighthood, but he declined the honour, unless accompanied by a pension. As the king did not take the hint, Nash found it necessary to turn gamester. The pursuit of his calling led him in 1705 to Bath, where he had the good fortune almost immediately to succeed Captain Webster as master of the ceremonies. His qualifications for such a position were unique, and under his authority reforms were introduced which rapidly secured to Bath a leading position as a fashionable watering-place. He drew up a new code of rules for the regulation of balls and assemblies, abolished the habit of wearing swords in places of public amusement and brought duelling into disrepute, induced gentlemen to adopt shoes and stockings in parades and assemblies instead of boots, reduced refractory chairmen to submission and civility, and introduced a tariff for lodgings. Through his exertions a handsome assembly-room was also erected, and the streets and public buildings were greatly improved. Nash adopted an outward state corresponding to his nominal dignity. He wore an immense white hat as a sign of office, and a dress adorned with rich embroidery, and drove in a chariot with six greys, laced lackeys and French horns. When the act of parliament against gambling was passed in 1745, he was deprived of an easy though uncertain means of subsistence, but the corporation afterwards granted him a pension of six score guineas a year, which, with the sale of his snuff-boxes and other trinkets, enabled him to support a certain faded splendour till his death on the 3rd of February 1762. He was honoured with a public funeral at the expense of the town. Notwithstanding his vanity and impertinence, the tact, energy and superficial cleverness of Nash won him the patronage and notice of the great, while the success of his ceremonial rule, as shown in the increasing prosperity of the town, secured him the gratitude of the corporation and the people generally. He was a man of strong personality, and considerably more able than Beau Brummell, whose prototype he was.

See Lewis Melville, Bath under Beau Nash (1908), with full list of authorities; Oliver Goldsmith, Life of Richard Nash (1762). See also Gentleman's Magazine (1762); London Magazine, vol. xxxi.; "The Monarch of Bath" in Blackwood's Magazine, vol. xlviii.

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