Birth: 14 May 1811

Place or Registered Place of Birth: Humberstone, Leicestershire

Baptism: Not Known

Place of Baptism: Not Known

Death: 28 May 1898

Place or Registered Place of Death: The Boltons, West Brompton, South Kensington, Middlesex

Father: Thomas Paget

Mother: Anne Pares

Spouse(s): Elizabeth Rathbone

Date of Marriage: 1 March 1839

Place or Registered Place of Marriage: Liverpool, Lancashire


Mary Rosalind Paget (1855-1948)
Elizabeth Anne Paget
Thomas Guy Paget


John Paget was a Whig.

John Paget qualified as a barrister at Middle Temple the year before their marriage. He was secretary to Lord Chancellors Truro and Cranworth in the 1850s, and served as a Metropolitan Police magistrate from 1864-1889. He was also a writer, publishing legal, historical and literary essays; his published works include The New Examen and Paradoxes and Puzzles.

The National Archives:

The Pagets originated near Barwell and Ibstock. Though successful farmers, being associates of Robert Bakewell, the family began to prosper when Thomas Paget (1778-1862) turned to banking and politics. The family moved to Humberstone Hall and then to Lubenham, where they had acquired the manor in 1843.

There are five deposits that make up this collection. This particular deposit mainly consists of autographs, letters, cuttings and ephemera connected with famous politicians and social figures.

The principal items in this collection are two scrapbooks of autographs containing letters, envelopes, signatures, cuttings from biographical dictionaries and portraits of various kinds. One volume contains autographs of famous statesmen and historical figures; the other is devoted principally to artists, writers, actors etc. and to famous soldiers and sailors. Among the letters are examples from such political figures as O'Connell, Wilberforce, Cobden, Hume, Peel and Russell. There are also a number of letters written to Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe when he was ambassador at Constantinople during the Crimean War.

There are also a number of loose letters in the collection. Most of these are of the same sort as those in the volumes, but there are also eleven letters of the earlier eighteenth century, between members of the Tylson family of Chester, (nos. 46 - 56).

These autographs were apparently collected by Elizabeth, wife of John Paget (married 1839; he died 1898). This couple moved in artistic circles, and many of the letters from artists were actually written to them. Elizabeth's father was William Rathbone (1787 - 1868) a Liverpool philanthropist of merchant stock whose son became an M.P., and letters to the Rathbone family from another sizeable proportion of the collection.

Thomas Guy Paget, son of John and Elizabeth and heir to his childless uncle Thomas, married in 1873 Frances E. Nugent Vaughan, daughter of Frances, Viscountess Forbes, who supplied further letters. Others were acquired from friends, and it would seem that some were bought.

The index of names covers only the actual letters, not the envelopes or signatures. Names not easily legible have been omitted. References to the Paget family have not been included, but at the end of the index is a note of all letters to the Pagets dealing with political matters.

The Times - May 30, 1898
Paget. - On the 28th inst., at 23, Boltons, S.W., John Paget, only surviving son of the late Thomas Paget, of Humberstone, Leicestershire, aged 67.

John qualified as a barrister at Middle Temple in 1838. He was secretary to Lord Chancellors Truro and Cranworth in the 1850s, and served as a Metropolitan Police magistrate from 1864-1889. He was also a writer, publishing legal, historical and literary essays: published works include The New Examen and Paradoxes and Puzzles .

Paget, John (1811-1898), police magistrate and (Whig) author, was born in Humberstone, Leicestershire, on 14 May 1811, the second son of Thomas Paget, a Leicester banker and a man of some wealth. John Paget was involved in a bitter feud with his brother, Thomas Tertius Paget, over their father's substantial estate. The family was of Huguenot origin, descended from Valerian Paget who fled to England after the massacre of St Bartholomew. John Paget was educated entirely at home and for some years he was an assistant in his father's bank. He entered the Middle Temple on 16 October 1835, and was called to the bar on 2 November 1838.

On 1 March 1839 Paget married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of William Rathbone (1787-1868) [see under Rathbone, William (1757-1809)] of Greenbank, Liverpool, and his wife, Elizabeth, nee Greg (d. 1882). Her Unitarian family had long been associated with social reform. Her brother William Rathbone (1819-1902) was an MP and philanthropist, as was his daughter, Eleanor Florence Rathbone (1872-1946). They had a son and two daughters, one of whom, Mary Rosalind Paget (1855-1948), became an influential nurse and reformer of midwifery.

From 1850 until 1855 Paget was secretary first to Lord Chancellor Truro and secondly to Lord Chancellor Cranworth. In 1864 he was appointed a magistrate at the Thames police court-, he was transferred from this to the Hammersmith and Wandsworth courts, and on their separation he presided over the court at west London until his resignation in 1889.

Paget gave his leisure to writing. He was a contributor to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine between 1860 and 1888. His papers criticizing Macaulay's views of Marlborough, the massacre of Glencoe, the highlands of Scotland, Claverhouse, and William Penn, were reprinted in 1861 as The New Examen. Other articles on a wide range of topics, including Nelson, Byron, well-known legal cases, and art, were published in 1874 as Paradoxes and Puzzles: Historical, Judicial, and Literary.

Paget was also a skilful draughtsman, and his illustrations to Bits and Bearing-Reins (1875) by Edward Fordham Flower helped to make the reader understand the cruelty caused to horses by the method of harnessing against which Flower protested. In early days Paget was an ardent whig, and enrolled himself among those who were prepared to fight for the Reform Bill. He joined the Reform Club when it was founded in 1836, and was a member of its library committee for twenty-four years and chairman from 1861 to 1865. He died on 28 May 1898 at his residence, 28 The Boltons, West Brompton, London. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.

John Paget, letter to his son Guy, 3 Sept. 1867.

(Preserved in Leicestershire Record Office)

46 Euston Sq. N.W. 3rd Sept 1867

My dear Guy,

[the letter begins by warning Guy against a certain George Melly] . . . impulsive, hasty, inaccurate, mere wax in the hands of such a man as your uncle Tertius & his judgment is, in no degree, to be relied upon. His account of Grandmother may have some foundation in fact (because of her age). As to your Aunt Geraldine she has played for £20,000 a year, she has got it & may possibly now find how very little mere money may do. Let us look back at the facts. Your Grandfather promised me an equal share in his property with your uncle. Your grandmother, your Uncle and your aunt Geraldine practising on his fears and his enfeebled intellect induced him to leave almost the whole of his property to your Uncle Tertius and that made his latter years miserable with remorse for the injustice he had inflicted on me, on your mother, your sister and yourself.

Finding himself compelled to devise some excuse for thus appropriating my property to himself your Uncle invented the most abominable slander on my conduct & character & though repeatedly challenged either to prove their truth or to admit their falsehood he does neither. Is it possible for you with a fitting regard to the respect due to me & to yourself to take any step towards the renewal of intercourse with such a man?

By your Grandmother's desire I went to Hastings in April (last year) & had a long interview with her. She feels no interest in me, in your mother, your sister or yourself. Every feeling is centred on your Uncle Tertius and she desires a renewal of intercourse because she feels that whilst we stand aloof her great wealth is no protection against the contempt of the world.

The great desire of your Uncle has been to create dissension amongst us. Hitherto he has failed. I hope he will continue to do so. I cannot conceal from you that if you were to go to Humberstone it would place me in a position of great difficulty & discomfort. You & I should then be pursuing antagonistic lines of conduct. Your Uncle Tertius would immediately say - 'You see as soon as Guy is a free man he takes the first opportunity of repudiating his father & marking his disapproval of his conduct'. Others would impute to (falsely I know) a desire to make up with your Uncle for the sake of his wealth. When I talked these matters fully over with Sir John McNeill & asked him if he would give me any advice or suggestion he said 'The only advice I can give you is to do nothing that shall fetter the future action either of yourself or of Guy. It is impossible to foresee what may occur. DO nothing'. Upon this I have acted, & I have felt the wisdom of the advice. If you were to take the step you suggest you would greatly fetter my future actions.

My very earnest advice is that you should not go to Humberstone.

If after reading this letter & reconsidering the matter you do not agree with me at any rate do nothing until you have seen me. On a matter of so much importance you might possibly ask for leave of absence for a day & as one that concerns me so it is not unreasonable that I should be fully consulted before you act.

I sit at the Thames Thursday, Friday & Saturday in this week.

I have very good accounts of your Mother.

Let me hear from you.

Believe me, always my dear Guy, most affectly. yrs.


This letter was written by John Paget who was born in 1811, the second son of Thomas Paget of Humberstone, then a village on the outskirts of Leicester. He had much in common with William Biggs. Both the families were wealthy, among the elite of Leicester, both were connected with the Leicester Unitarian congregation, the Great Meeting, which contributed substantially to that elite, and both took an active part in politics.

John Paget's father had been the acknowledged leader of the Reformers in their struggle against the old Corporation, then served as the first Mayor of the reformed Corporation and until his death remained a respected figure among the Liberals of Leicester. However, when the divisions in their ranks deepened, Thomas Paget's sympathies lay with John Biggs's opponents.

There was also some difference in the social standing of the families. The wealth of the Biggs brothers was very obviously new wealth. Their hosier father had taken the first steps but the brothers were, to a large extent, self-made men, who had known physical labour. Thomas Paget's would not have been considered so tainted. He was a banker; and although the bank was relatively recent, having been founded by his father, it had developed out of the older and respectable Pares Bank, and Paget had married into the Pares family. Further, the Pagets were not exactly 'new men'. They could trace their origins back to the sixteenth century and had a wide connection in the county. They not only possessed a manor-house in Humberstone but a family vault in Ibstock, which provided the family with its territorial marker.

This brings us back to the letter. The differences between Biggs's hurried little note and Paget's calculated missive are obvious at the first reading. Much, of course, can be explained simply by the differing circumstances and purpose; but one might reasonably doubt whether William, in Paget's place, could have penned so sophisticated and literary a piece. It reads like a passage extracted from some lost novel by Anthony Trollope. Apart from its rhetorical flourishes and rhythms it pursues a cunningly contrived argument intended to put the unfortunate Guy in the position of having to choose between loyalty and treachery. The reader will not be surprised to learn that John Paget was a lawyer.

As a young man John had served for a few years in Paget's Bank, but in 1835, having either found banking unpalatable or discovered that the rewards were to be reserved for his elder brother Tertius, he decided to take up the Law. On becoming a barrister he moved to London; and having married (his wife being a Rathbone, one of the most eminent Unitarian families of Liverpool) and apparently in need of a steady income, became secretary to two Lord Chancellors in succession. When he reached his fifties he settled down as a stipendiary magistrate in various London Police Courts (among them the Thames) which he served until his retirement.

This amounted to a sound but hardly brilliant career. What makes John Paget one of the most interesting figures to come out of Victorian Leicester is the literary activity that occupied his leisure hours. For some twenty-five years he produced a flow of essays and articles over a wide range of subjects, judicial, literary, historical and even artistic. What distinguished them was his originality, his readiness to take a fresh look at problems, and the sharp critical edge which did not spare established reputations. The papers published in his Paradoxes and Puzzles best display his versatility, but historians are most likely to remember him for The New Examen in which he savaged that hero of Victorian historiography, Lord Macaulay.

So much for the writer of this letter. Let us now turn to the letter itself. Though its general character is clear enough some explanation is required. The letter is of course addressed to John's only son, Thomas Guy Paget, then aged 24. A note attached to it at a later date by John's great-grandson, Reginald, Lord Paget, explains that the letter was prompted by Guy's proposal 'to visit Humberstone on excuse of seeing his grandmother, who was growing old'. Guy's grandmother was the widow of Thomas Paget the banker, who had died five years before this. To visit her might seem innocent enough; but John suspected that this was merely a cover for Guy to meet Thomas Tertius Paget and his wife Geraldine8, and perhaps even to try to end the rift between the Paget brothers. This prospect was clearly intolerable. A reconciliation would merely legitimize the injustice which John considered he had suffered.

We are left in no doubt about the depth of John Paget's feelings on this subject. He is clearly obsessed with it. No one is to be trusted. Melly, who is perhaps an agent, is a mere tool. John's own mother is besotted with Tertius and only wants a reconciliation for the sake of her reputation. Tertius and Geraldine are scheming villains who took advantage of Thomas Paget's senility to rob John of his promised share of the property and now hope to drive a wedge between Guy and his father. The only person accorded any respect is Sir John McNeill, who tells John what he wishes to hear.

It is difficult to know what truth there is in John's accusations. Certainly John did not become rich. He had to continue working for his living. Certainly Tertius took over the bank; and when he died in 1892 he left £589,000, a very large sum indeed in those days. But that does not make him a villain. He seems to have been a conscientious politician who fought hard to win and keep his parliamentary seat in South Leicestershire. The only really adverse account of him is provided by Penn Lloyd in his Anecdotes of Bygone Leicestershire. There he states categorically that Tertius was a mean man, hated by everyone; and that at his death, when the funeral cortege had to pass through Leicester on the way from Humberstone to the family vault at Ibstock, people could only be got to line the streets by the promise of good ale. Unfortunately the book, while rich in good stories, is poor in documentation and can hardly be relied upon.

Even if John was deprived of his promised share of the inheritance it might not have been as a consequence of Tertius's machinations. It could be that at some point he had brought his troubles on himself by offending his father. There were two occasions when he might have appeared to push himself rather brashly into the political scene. The first was in the general election of 1852 when the Moderates were trying to recover from the gains the Radicals had made in the previous election. Though now based in London, John had sprung into action and quickly conjured up a candidate. It happened that the Lord Chancellor to whom he was secretary, Lord Truro, had a nephew, James Wild, who was not only appropriately moderate in his politics, but tolerably happy to be nominated. This was useful but it was also brash and one wonders how well his act of electoral prestidigitation was really received by John's elders, especially as Wild was singularly unsuccessful.

The next occasion, in the by-election of 1856, provided an opportunity for an even brasher initiative, which this time involved John in pushing himself to the front of the stage. In spite of being egged on by a chorus of Dissenting ministers calling for a crusade against the godless Radicals, whose proposal to open the Museum on Sunday afternoons would give the English Sabbath its death-blow, the Moderates remained strangely hesitant to act. As if reproving their supineness John threw himself into the breach and offered himself as a candidate. However, he found himself a general without any troops. When Nomination day arrived he abandoned the field to the enemy without so much as calling for a show of hands. It is difficult to believe that this episode did much for John's reputation. He had failed to rally the Moderates behind him and had exposed their weakness. Perhaps his action did more than that. It may have flouted the decisions of the Moderate leaders who seem to have resolved to save their ammunition for the next General Election rather than waste it on an impregnable opponent like John Biggs, whom John had tried to challenge. If so, John's judgment and his own respect for parental authority might have been put in doubt. These efforts might also have created or intensified ill-feeling between the brothers. In view of Tertius's own political ambitions John's interventions might have appeared threatening and even offensive. This brings us back to the theme of fathers, sons and brothers.

If we compare the two families the contrast between them is striking. The Biggs brothers made an effective partnership; and their loyalty to one another was well demonstrated when William agreed to resign his parliamentary seat and give his full time to the management of the business, in order to give John his turn in Parliament. It is difficult to imagine either of the Paget brothers making a similar sacrifice. Similarly the easy relationship that appears to have existed between William Biggs and his children contrasts strongly with the heavy-handed tone adopted by John Paget towards Guy and with the harsh treatment that John himself seems to have suffered at the hands of his father. Perhaps we should not be too ready to generalize about Victorian family relationships or about the rules for successful 'dynasty-building'. William Biggs raised a family which was bonded well together, well-educated, and trained to continue the business, but appears to have over-extended his resources in his attempts to provide a place for his sons. By contrast, Thomas Paget seemed likely to have provided more wisely for his bank by respecting the rule of primogeniture and concentrating the bank's capital in the hands of his elder son, especially since Tertius proved-to be a capable man of business. Yet this exercise in 'dynasty-building' also failed. Tertius had no son and the business was eventually incorporated into Lloyds Bank. John Paget might have p roved a better bet.

To return to the letter by way of conclusion: what was Guy's response to his father's letter? A note by Reginald Paget attached to the letter provides the answer. Guy did not go to Humberstone. So did the letter achieve its purpose? The answer is, not completely. Reginald Paget goes on to note that instead of going to see his aunt and uncle he wrote to Geraldine to congratulate Tertius on his recent electoral success - 'a most foolish action on Guy's pan,' Reginald comments, 'which he did not communicate with (sic) his father'.


1841 Census:

28 The Boltons, Middlesex
John Paget - 30 - Barrister
Eliza Paget - 25
Elizabeth Anne Paget - Daughter - 40 - Unmarried - Tintith Park, Lancashire
Thomas P. Paget - 30 - Banker

1851 Census:

7, Gordon Place, Saint Pancras, Marylebone, Middlesex
John Paget - Head - Married - 39 - 1812 - Barrister at Law - Leicestershire

1861 Census:

46 Euston Square, St. Pancras, Middlesex
John Paget - Head - Married - 49 - 1812 - Barrister in Practice - Leicester

1871 Census:

Euston Square, St Pancras, Middlesex
John Paget - Head - Married - 59 - Barrister, Police Magistrate, Landowner - Leicester
Elizabeth Paget - Wife - 57 - Liverpool
Elizabeth Ann Paget - Daughter - Unmarried - 30 - Malitt Parish, Lancashire

1881 Census:

28, The Boltons, Kensington, Middlesex
John Paget - Head - Married - 69 - Leicester
Elizabeth Paget - Wife - 68 - Liverpool, Lancashire
Elizabeth Ann Paget - Daughter - Single - 40 - Tintith Park, Lancashire

1891 Census:

28, The Bolton, Kensington, Middlesex
Rosalind's father, John was ill at this time, and this is when she resigned as Director or Nursing to care for him.
John Paget - Head - Married - 79 - 1812 - Retired Police Magistrate - Leicestershire
Elizabeth Paget - Wife - 78 - 1813 - Lancashire
Elizabeth A. Paget - Daughter - Single - 50 - 1841 - Lancashire
Mary Rosalind Paget - Daughter - Single - 36 - 1855 - Certified Midwife and Nurse - Lancashire

Children were:

Mary Rosalind Paget
Elizabeth Anne (Nina) Paget
Thomas Guy Paget

However, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda J. Lear mentions the following:
"The John Paget family lived across the Old Brompton Road, at 28 The Boltons, a slightly older enclave of prosperous families. Mrs. Paget and her three daughters...........

Who was the third daughter???

John Paget