Abstract

'131 Cheapside: The Longman Connection'

Recently identified court documents relating to a case brought in the Court of Chancery in 1806 by William Shaw and John Jeyes against John Longman and Frances Loftis (alias St. John), the long-term mistress and executrix of the music and musical instrument seller James Longman (1740–1803), reveal more of the increasingly desperate and unscrupulous behaviour to which the latter resorted in 1801, before his second incarceration in the Fleet Prison for debt. The evidence that emerges from these documents lends weight to the claims of Muzio Clementi and his partners that James Longman was guilty of double dealing, as previously described by George Bozarth and myself in our paper ‘Piano Wars: the Legal Machinations of London Pianoforte Makers, 1795–1806’, 2009 (hereafter referred to as Piano Wars). The testimony of the Defendant, John Longman, of 131, Cheapside, a relative of James Longman and his brother John, chronicles a sorry saga of deception and betrayal of trust. John relates how early in the year 1801 he had been persuaded to assign a one third share of his new barrel organ patent to his kinsman for a pittance on the basis of James’ grandiose promises that he would go into business with him and make his fortune. James, he says, had claimed that the new business would then garner most of the trade of Muzio Clementi and Co.—this at the time when he [James] was still employed by them. James had later re-assigned this promised third share of the patent rights to William Shaw as surety for a debt. As we shall see, the 1806 case in question centres around the dispute that arose in consequence of this transaction, some three years after James Longman’s death in 1803. The picture that emerges of James Longman is of a flawed character—charming, gifted and persuasive undoubtedly, but beneath this facade a calculating, manipulative and self-serving persona. Here was a man prepared to abuse the trust of colleagues, friends, and even members of his close family without compunction.

© Copyright Margaret Debenham 2011. All rights reserved.

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