A. Charles, attr.
Portrait of Hannah Dorothea Drury
Silhouette with gold ink applied to the features
Set within the original black round frame
10 cm in diameter
Hannah Dorothea Hollamby (called “Anna” by her closest friends and relatives) was the daughter of a West Indian planter. She was born into the ruling class that owned and ran slave-based plantations in what is now the Caribbean. However, Anna’s parents died when she was still young and she went to live with her uncle William’s family in London. As a child she was surrounded by books, as her uncle was a librarian and book dealer working for Messrs. Pearce and Son of St. Swithin’s Lane. Considering this upbringing, it is not surprising that she decided to marry into a liberally-minded and academically-oriented family.
On 1 August 1807 her marriage was announced in the Saint James’s Chronicle:
“July 30, at Queen-square chapel, Benjamin Heath Drury, Esq. of Eaton, to Miss H.D. Hollamby, niece to Wm. Lane, Esq. of Leadenhall-street.”
Benjamin was the son of Joseph Heath (1750-1834), Head Master of Harrow School from 1785 until 1805 and brother-in-law of George Heath, Head Master of Eton College. Benjamin’s brother Henry also became a master at Harrow, where he was tutor to Lord Byron, with whom he later became a friend and a correspondent.
Benjamin Heath Drury himself became an assistant-master at Eton – where he lived together with Anna – and became a distinguished scholar and author. Anna bore him three children: Henry John Drury (1808-1870), Anna Louisa Drury (1809-1871) and Harriet Drury (later Walpole, 1816-1881).
However, Anna’s life was cut short and – like her parents – died while still young. A mural tablet in St Laurence’s Church in Upton-cum-Chalvey reads:
“Near this place are deposited the Remains of Anna Dorothea, Wife of B.H. Drury, of Eton, who died June 2nd 1817, aged 30 years. The genuine though unavailing sorrow of those to whom in sickness and in want she extended the ever-ready hand of Charity, will prove a better memorial of her worth and the greatness of her loss, than any epitaph commemorative of her many excellent qualities. The affectionate remembrance of a Friend, the last sad tribute of an afflicted Husband.”
Har grave is indicated by a slab in the floor that reads “H.S.E. Anna Dorothea Drury ob. 2 June 1817″.
This very fine silhouette – with its delicately drawn and crisp lines of gold ink – is the only known extant portrait of this dearly beloved, but much too early departed, woman.
George Liscomb / The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham, Vol. 4, 1847 (576)
Anna Dorothea Drury (1785-1817), and thence passed down to relatives of her descendants living in Bristol;
Lot 1164, East Bristol Auction House, 2 September 2021, mistakenly identified as “Anna Dorothea Grey”.