Bingham, Margaret, Countess of Lucan d. 1814, amateur painter—a lady who, according to Horace Walpole, arrived at copying the most exquisite works of Isaac and Peter Oliver, Hoskins, and Cooper, with a genius that almost depreciates those masters when we consider that they spent their lives in attaining perfection; and who, soaring above their modest timidity, has transferred the vigour of Raphael to her copies in water colours—was the daughter and coheir of James Smyth. In 1760 she married Sir Charles Bingham, bart. (1735-1799), created (1776) Baron Lucan of Castlebar, county Mayo, and in 1795 Earl of Lucan. There are frequent allusions to her in Walpole's letters, and in the memoirs of Mrs. Delany. Mrs. Delany used to admire and wonder at her talent for painting, and yet her want of eye for drawing, as she would often totally mistake the distance between one feature and another (till it was pointed out to her) and yet imitate colouring and finish to perfection. Horace Walpole becomes somewhat silly upon the subject of her perfections, and is laughed at therefore by Peter Pindar. In one place he writes: Lady Bingham is, I assure you, another miracle; in another: They are so amazed and charmed at Paris with Lady Bingham's miniatures, that the Duke of Orleans has given her a room at the Palais Royal to copy which of his pictures she pleases. She seems, indeed, to have been a clever amateur, but of little originality, and not careful, as the above-quoted criticism would show, to be exact in her drawing. She spent much time upon a great work, the embellishment of Shakespeare's historical plays. Of this monumental labour an account is preserved in Dibdin's Ædes Althorpianæ (i. 200): During sixteen years this accomplished lady pursued the pleasurable toil of illustration, having commenced in her fiftieth and finished in her sixty-sixth year. Whatever of taste, beauty, and judgment in decoration, by means of portraits, landscapes, houses and tombs, flowers, birds, insects, heraldic ornaments and devices, could dress our immortal bard in a yet more fascinating form, has been accomplished by a noble hand which undertook a Herculean task, and with a truth, delicacy, and finish of execution which have been very rarely imitated. The work was completed in five volumes. The binding was by Herring, and was considered his best work. The colophon of the last volume has a portrait of Lady Lucan, with attendant virtues, drawn by her daughter, Lady Lavinia Spencer. This work is preserved in the library of Althorp. She died on 27 Feb. 1814, leaving five children: Lavinia, who married the second Earl Spencer in 1781; Eleanor Margaret, married Thomas Lindsay, Esq.; Louisa and Anne, both died unmarried; and Richard, second Earl Lucan, an only son and heir.
Walpole's Letters, v., Gen. Index
Anecdotes of Painting, i., Introduction, pp. xviii, xix
Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. Delany, v., Gen. Index, vol. vi.
Lodge's Genealogy of the Peerage, 1859
Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of English School
Gent. Mag. lxxxiv (i.) 301, lxxxv. (i.) 280
Foster's Peerage, s.v. Lucan.
Contributor: E. R. [Ernest Radford]