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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.


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Patrick Matthew and the Earl of Mansfield

Apr. 24, 2015 7:00 am

Trumpet from the Palace rooftops!Public Domain

Dido Bell, mixed heritage niece of the 1st Earl of Mansfield. This picture now hangs in Scone Palace. Patrick Matthew was born on a farm in what are now the extended Palace gardens - following the plans of John Loudon - who reviewed Matthew's book in 1832 - noting its possible originality on "the origin of species' no less.


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Patrick Matthew: The Biological Father of the Theory of Natural Selection

When Patrick Matthew was a boy, the Matthew family lived on a farm called Rome in the grounds of the ancient and famous Scone Palace, which once held the famous "Stone of Destiny" in the nearby "Hole of Scone".

Matthew was born three years before the death of William Murray (Lord Mansfield), the 1st Earl of Mansfield (2 March 1705 – 20 March 1793), who was educated at Perth Grammar School before moving to London aged 13 to attend Westminster School.

Murray was born in Scone Palace. He is famous as the Lord Chief Justice who passed some landmark judgements that led to the reform of the law to enable the abolition of slavery. The film "Belle" depicts that part of his story with some degree of artisitic licence. The picture of his mixed heritage niece, Dido Elizabeth Bell,- Britain's first Black aristocrat, who was the illegitimate, yet recognized, daughter of an Admiral of the Royal Navy, hangs today in Scone Palace. The painting is remarkable because it defied racist conventions of the day - Dido being positively depicted as the equal of her white relative.



The site of Rome Farm is now the parklands of Scone Palace - from where the English famously stole the Stone of Scone.

Notably, Matthew was very much against slavery and condemned it in his book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture (1831). Two years before the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 he wrote for reform. Perhaps such an act would not have endeared his book to Darwin's best friends William and Joseph Hooker of Kew, since both were salaried by the rapacious East India Company, which was allowed to continue to profit through slavery until 1843 (see Sutton 2014).


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Nullius in Verba

Matthew's father and uncles subscribed to a critical publication on "The Errors of Thomas Pain" (Robert Thomas 1797). Matthew was just seven years old at the time (Sutton 2014), but the presence and discussion of such literature in the family no doubt played a large part in shaping his radical politics that would one day lead him to be a Scottish regional representative of the Chartists - so famously despised by the wealthy Charles Darwin and his landed gentry cronies.( See Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret for the detailed facts.)

The critical work on the ideas of Pain was dedicated to the author's patron - The Earl of Mansfield - who was, presumably, either the 1st, 2nd or even the 3rd Earl; since by 1797 the 1st Earl had been two years dead and his nephew, the 2nd Earl of Mansfield (9 October 1727 – 1 September 1796) was also known as Viscount Stormont died the year before. The 3rd Earl of Mansfield was born on 7 March 1777 and died 18 February 1840.

This information is taken from the "social circles" page of my website

The story of Dido has it that she was loved by the Murray family, but that at formal dinners she was kept away so as not to offend the guests. The painting appears to me to depict Dido attempting to leave the portrait by getting up from the wooden bench. Her finger held to her cheek reveals her thoughts that perhaps it is unseemly yet rightly mischievous for her to be painted as a social equal. Almost as though it were a photographic snapshot, her white relative - and close childhood companion - holds her back to keep her honorably in the social and family frame. Or else, she is pushing her away. The artist is teasing us.


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