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Sharp, Richard


Richard Sharp was once described as being possibly the most popular man living in Regency London. He rose from the ranks of being a humble hatter to becoming a prosperous merchant, poet, critic and a ‘force for change’. He achieved dizzying success in numerous areas of his life and counted among his personal friends most politicians, artists, poets, philosophers and literary figures of the day. A full account of Richard Sharp’s life, ‘Conversation Sharp’ – the biography of a London Gentleman, Richard Sharp 1759-1835, in Letters, Prose and Verse, has only recently (2004) been written by David Knapman (see British Library)


1759    Born St John’s, Newfoundland. First son of Lt. Richard Sharp and Elizabeth.


1763    The family return to London at the end of the ‘Seven Year War’ against the French and live at 6 Fish Street    Hill, from where the family’s traditional hatters business was conducted. (The young Richard Sharp eventually rescued the family business from financial ruin.)


1768    Sharp is boarded with Rev John Fell at Thaxted, Essex, for 4 years of education.


1773    Begins a 7-year apprenticeship to become a master hatter.


1787    Becomes a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and establishes a friendship with John Adams, future President.


1788    Joins the Society for Constitutional Information and begins friendship with James Mackintosh.


1789    Becomes one of London’s Dissenter ‘Deputies’.


1790    Delivers his historic ‘Letter’ against the Test and Corporation Acts (see British Library).

           Becomes a member of the Court of the Fishmongers’ Company.


1792    Helps in the establishment of the Friends of the People Society.


1798    Sharp joins Samuel Boddington as a West India merchant in Mark Lane.

           Establishes, with Rogers, Scarlett, Allen and Robert Smith, the ‘King of Clubs’ conversation club.


1801    Sharp and Samuel Rogers visit Wordsworth, and establishes a lifelong friendship.


1802    Admitted to Holland House and becomes acquainted with Coleridge, helping to arrange the latter’s embarkation to Malta.


1805    Develops the idea of a London Institution.


1806    Becomes MP for Castle Rising. Joins the Literary Society.


1808    Delivers his ‘Copenhagen Speech’ to the House of Commons. Gives support to Coleridge.


1810    Elected Prime Warden of the Fishmongers’ Company.


1812    Seeks to play a therapeutic role to reconcile Wordsworth and Coleridge after their rift.

At about this time Sharp, his brother and sister-in-law, adopt the orphaned infant, Maria Kinnaird. She later becomes the wife of Thomas Drummond, Undersecretary for Ireland 1835-40. (see Wikipedia entry).


1813    Becomes a Director of the Hand-in-Hand Fire Office.


1814    Now having regular dinners with such company as Ward, Byron, Windham,Bentham, Romilly, Rogers, Sydney Smith, Mackintosh, Sheridan.


1816    Becomes MP for Portarlington in Ireland. Embarks on a Grand Tour. Entertains Grattan.


1819    Gives up his seat in Parliament for his friend, David Ricardo.


1835    Death of Richard Sharp at Dorchester while returning to London from Torquay.

          Buried in the Dissenters’ cemetery, Bunhill Fields, London.