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Anthony Morris Storer (1746-1799)
Born: 12th March 1746
Collector & Man of Fashion
Died: 28th June 1799 at Bristol, Gloucestershire

Anthony Morris Storer was a famous 18th century collector and man of fashion. He was born on 12th March 1746, the elder son of Thomas Storer of Westmorland, Jamaica (who died in Golden Square, London, on 21st July 1793, aged 76) and Helen, the daughter of Colonel Guthrie. Anthony was at Eton from about 1760 to 1764 with OJ Fox and Earl FitzWilliam, and some sets of Latin verse by him are given in the 'Musae Etonenses.' His "sense and good nature" while at school are lauded by the fifth Earl of Carlisle in 'Verses on his School-fellows' (1762). About 1765, Storer proceeded to Cambridge, probably to Corpus Christi College, and was a close friend there, and at Eton, of Lord Carlisle, but left without taking a degree.

Subsequently, Storer blossomed in the party atmosphere of London, becoming conspicuous as the best dancer and skater of his time, and beating all his competitors at gymnastics. He excelled, too, as a musician and a conversationalist. Like most of his school friends, he was both a man of fashion and a whig in politics. During 1778 and 1779, he was in America with Lord Carlisle and William Eden (afterwards first Lord Auckland). He visited Carlisle when Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1781 and, through his interest, succeeded Benjamin L'Anglois as a Commissioner of the Board of Trade on 26th July 1781. Meanwhile, he sat in the House of Commons as MP for Carlisle from 1774 to 1780 and, subsequently, from 1780 to 1784, for Morpeth. Much of his time was passed with the family of Lord North and, in August 1782, he was a medium of communication between that nobleman and Fox. He enlisted under the 'coalition' and, in September 1783, was sent by Fox to Paris as Secretary of the Legation. This was greatly to the indignation of Gibbon who was also an aspirant to the office. On 13th December 1783, when the ambassador, the Duke of Manchester, came home, he was nominated as Minister Plenipotentiary but, six days later, his friends were ejected from office. His connection with politics then ceased. He had, by that time, quarrelled with Carlisle, to whom, he revoked a bequest of all his property, and did not seek re-election for Carlisle's borough of Morpeth after the dissolution of 1784.

In September 1781, according to Horace Walpole's testimony, Storer was seized with a passion for collecting books and prints. These expensive tastes and the love of cards kept him in comparative poverty until his father's death. In 1786, he was reading the Latin and Greek writers half the day with Dr. Edward Harwood, whose 'View of the Classics' was greatly improved, in its fourth edition, from Storer's library. He was desirous, in December 1787, of entering the diplomatic service and, in April 1793, he languished for employment. However, his father's death, in the last year, brought him an ample fortune. He purchased Purley Park, between Pangbourne and Reading in Berkshire, and, with the advice of Humphrey Repton, expended a considerable sum in improving and ornamenting the grounds. His health was bad. He had been very ill in the winter of 1787-8, and he did not live to complete the house for the estate. However, the sum of 20,000 was set aside by his executors for that purpose, and the present mansion, "a large square stone building," was erected from the designs of Wyatt. He died "of a deep decline" at Bristol Hotwells on 28th June 1799 and was buried at Purley. A monument by Nollekens, with a Latin inscription, was erected to his memory in Purley Church. His fortune was left to his nephew, Anthony Gilbert, the only son of his brother, Thomas James, who had married the Hon. Elizabeth Proby, daughter of the first Lord Carysfort. The only other legacy was the sum of 1,000 to James Hare.

Storer was elected FSA on 11th December 1777 and became a member of the Dilettanti Society on 18th April 1790. His library was rich in old classics, rare books of history and travels, and antique bindings, and it contained two undoubted Caxtons and 'Lea fais du Jason'. Many of his books were illustrated with prints by himself and drawings by various artists. His copy of Granger was amplified into many large folio volumes. He left his complete library, with the exception of such works as they already possessed, to Eton College, and he also gave the college his beautiful collection of prints. Many sprightly letters by Storer are printed in Jesse's 'George Selwyn' and in the 'Correspondence of William Eden, Lord Auckland.' Mathias, among others, praises his literary attainments.

Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1898).

 

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