Peter Monamy



Apart from a fleeting mention, possibly by Smollett, in the Critical Review of March 5th, 1758, almost nothing that appeared in print about Peter Monamy before 1981 was of any critical merit, accuracy, comprehension or interest. I except the anecdotal and incidental information supplied by W.H.Pyne in 1823 and J.T.Smith in 1828, and one or two perceptive and original comments by writers such as Marcel Brion, who mentions “the sensitive and agitated seascapes of Peter Monamy” in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Renaissance & Baroque Art, 1964. Oliver Warner, in British Marine Painting, 1948, and Fighting Sail, 1979, shows some discernment. John Wood, in an article entitledSeascapes Worthy of Greater Fame, which appeared in Country Life, 28th May 1959, took the trouble to respect the works, but both he and Warner are still overwhelmed by the body of misleading literature. There is some factual detail, minimal but valuable, in Treasures of the Foundling Hospital, by Benedict Nicolson, OUP 1972, and William and John Linnell, by Hayward & Kirkham, Studio Vista/Christie’s 1980, and in one or two other publications. But otherwise, all “professional” academic literature purporting directly to address the Monamy oeuvre, and to offer some critical or art-historical guidance, consists of tired remarks, almost entirely recycled from earlier commentators, themselves dull, uninformed or prejudiced.

This website addresses the work of Peter Monamy by standing traditional English art history on its head. It is based on the premise that it is of less interest to indicate the influences on an artist’s oeuvre than to try to appreciate what is original, new and different about his paintings; in essence, what he brought to his art, rather than what use he made of the past. Discrimination is a matter of defining differences, not similarities. These pages present Monamy’s life and works as they deserve to be remembered: not as the imitations of a Dutch genre which had passed its peak, but as original productions of tireless invention and resource, by a man who, with unceasing industry and fierce loyalty to his peers, almost single-handedly hauled English painting up from its native roots and pointed the way to the mastery of Turner. But I am biased, and those who discount the truth of what I say, for that reason, are welcome to ignore the evidence I shall produce before their eyes. The proliferating text is strictly work in progress, and subject to constant review, correction, and I hope improvement. The site is 100% non-profit, and the only gain sought is the small personal satisfaction of, in passing, arraigning a few successful crimes, and restoring credit where it is due.

Monamy’s oeuvre, and the claim here made for him as the founder of the English School of Painting, will always remain unvalued and belittled by those who cannot recognize that his life and work, in the spirit of his time and place, represent unswerving commitment to the cause of

click for glory

an outmoded commodity, now reduced to matchbox proportions

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre
Rudyard Kipling 1897

click for sunset

patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
Samuel Johnson, 1775

One gets more real truth out of one avowed partisan
than out of a dozen of your sham impartialists —–
simpering honesty as they suppress documents.

Robert Louis Stevenson, letter to Mrs Churchill Babington, Summer 1871

Art history, as you probably know, is a nasty, vicious profession
Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair, 1990, Chap 2

A Conference Paper: January 2004
summarising the contents of this website, at that date

A Conference Paper: January 2005
Reputation & Reality

article by john wood, 1959
fantasy by harry parker, 1911
fantasy by m.w.knott, 1936

article 1981       article 1983
family background
artistic range
monamy website index
title page


These pages on the Eddystone lighthouses revise and replace those previously posted during 2003. They are greatly indebted to the generous advice, recommendations and co-operative interest of Maureen Attrill, Alison Barnes, Nigel Overton, Roger Quarm, Janet Tamblin, and Ken Trethewey. The errors contained in these pages, and the more contentious opinions aired below, are not necessarily theirs, but entirely mine.

From Chambers’ Book of Days, Vol II, 1864. With special thanks to Alison Barnes

Above is an imaginative Victorian engraving illustrating the destruction of Winstanley’s lighthouse, including its keepers and the architect himself, in 1703. Narrative history pictures are not, in normal circumstances, painted immediately after the events they portray. All that can be said with certainty is that they were not painted before. They could, however, be painted at any time at all, even centuries, after the event. Marine art-history seems bedevilled by failure to recognize this simple truth.

English marine painters in the early C18th were illustrators, not eye-witness reporters like the van de Veldes. Not one of the English painters, Sailmaker, Vale, Monamy, Scott, had any opportunity of watching a naval battle or other single-ship encounter at first-hand. Of the earlier names, Hollar had the remarkable fortune of being present at the battle of the Mary Rose against the Algerine pirates in 1669; but no native painter practising in England was favoured by the king with his personal galliot to attend and record a major sea-battle for posterity, as the van de Veldes were.

Humphrey Vale depicted the Relief of Barcelona, 1706, on a canvas dated 1713, seven years after the event. Monamy’s painting of the same action is dated 1725, nineteen years after the event. Scott’s painting of Wager’s Action off Carthagena, 1708 was executed probably in about 1745 or ’46, or approximately thirty-eight years after the event. I well recall attending a splendid exhibition of dramatic combat paintings in about 1990. These pictures recorded the stirring aerial duels of the Battle of Britain: a full fifty years after the events they were commemorating.


The line between illustration and other kinds of painting in oils was, it may be assumed, not strongly drawn at the beginning of the 18th century. Like any modern illustrator, who sifts through historic photographs and echoes classic compositions, these painters used a variety of aids to their trade, including prints and drawings by earlier practitioners. It is imperative to bear this in mind when attempting to understand their works; as well as to realise that the interpretation and recording of history can never accord precisely with wie es eigentlich gewesen, as von Ranke once put it. Nevertheless, some accounts of historical fact are decidedly nearer the truth than others.

The following three paintings by Monamy of the lighthouses on the Eddystone rock provide a remarkable insight into the way he went to work, as well as his progress over what I believe to be a ten or fifteen year period. Although complemented by his first-hand observation of water and sky, they do not depict these constructions as they ever actually appeared. In fact, they are idealised representations, and achieve their effect by Monamy’s heightened sense of occasion, and the strength of his appreciation of the unique achievement of their inventors, in particular the vision and indomitable spirit of Henry Winstanley, 1644-1703.

The pictures are displayed below in the order in which I believe them to have been painted, the last being finished anything up to 15 years after the first.. In the following pages I will refer to them as M1, M2 and M3. M1 and M3 portray Winstanley’s first lighthouse, 1696-1698. No painting by Monamy of Winstanley’s second construction, 1699-1703, is so far known.

Monamy 1. 37 x 53. Plymouth City Art Gallery. This painting is currently being cleaned.

Monamy 2. 30 x 57. Auctioned by Sotheby; 1/11/95.

Monamy 3. 24 x 54;. Yale Center for British Art.

Monamy 3. Available colour added.

From The University of Leeds Review, Vol III, Number 4, December 1953.

The considerable differences between Winstanley’s first and second lighthouses are not often fully appreciated, and sometimes not even recognized. Comparison of the two drawings below, by Ken Trethewey, brings out the contrast, and emphasizes the fragility of the first, completed in 1698, against the robustness of the second, completed in 1699, after Winstanley’s heroic efforts to strengthen the construction. He could not have anticipated the phenomenal force, four years later, of the fiercest storm ever recorded.

These drawings are based on reproductions in Majdalany’s The Red Rocks of Eddystone
With acknowledgements and many thanks to Ken Trethewey. See his website: here.

See also here:

An idea of the relative sizes of Winstanley’s two structures is provided by the sketches at right, which demonstrate just how radical his alterations were.

The complicated relationships of Monamy’s three paintings to the many earlier and contemporary graphic depictions of the first three structures, as well as their illustration of Monamy’s painting style and development, are examined in succeeding pages.

After the death of Winstanley and the destruction of his final lighthouse in the early hours of November 27, 1703, the great value of his pioneering work was even more widely appreciated, and John Rudyerd’s project for a new lighthouse attracted enthusiastic support. See here for the Lighthouse Act of 1705. Rudyerd’s construction was completed in 1709, surviving until it was destroyed by fire in 1755. It was followed by Smeaton’s meticulously planned stone structure, which lasted until 1882.

winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M1
winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M3
winstanley’s lighthouse 2
rudyerd’s lighthouse: M2
smeaton’s lighthouse

lighthouse paintings composition
miscellaneous lighthouses
monamy website index

Visit the Eddystone lighthouse of today by clicking here.

A Lighthouse Medley

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2004
all rights reserved


When the Sword glitters ore the Judges head,
And fear has Coward Churchmen silenced
Then is the Poets time, ’tis then he drawes
And single fights forsaken Vertues cause.
He, when the wheel of Empire whirleth back,
And though the World’s disjointed Axel crack,
Sings still of ancient Rights and better Times
Seeks wretched good, arraigns successful Crimes.

Tom May’s Death   [Author? Date?]


The Forward Youth



Courage my Soul, now learn to wield
The weight of thine immortal Shield.
Close on thy Head thy Helmet bright.
Ballance thy Sword against the Fight.
A Dialogue, between The Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure

The earlier he gets hooked on Marvell, the longer the reader’s life of literary delight. Marvell resides at the very epicentre of the English experience, literary, moral and political, and no one who does not know his works can fully understand the last 500 years of our history. His balance between the two parties of fury is matchless; apart from which his mastery of the English language is miraculous and, yes, I’ll say it, marvellous.

On the Victory obtained by Blake over the Spaniards,
in the Bay of Sanctacruze, in the Island of Teneriff. 1657
For Sanctacruze the glad Fleet takes its way
And safely there casts Anchor in the Bay. ….
Deluded Men! Fate did with you but sport,
You scap’t the Sea, to perish in your Port.
‘Twas more for Englands fame you should dye there,
Where you had most of strength, and least of fear. ….
That they with joy their boasting General heard,
Wish then for that assault he lately fear’d.
His wish he has, for now undaunted Blake,
With winged speed, for Sanctacruze does make. …
Fate these two Fleets, between both Worlds had brought
Who fight, as if for both those Worlds they fought. …
And neither have, or power, or will to fly,
There one must Conquer, or there both must dye. …
Our Cannon now tears every Ship and Sconce
And o’re two Elements Triumphs at once.
Their Gallions sunk, their wealth the Sea does fill,
The only place where it can cause no Ill.
Ah would those Treasures which both Indies have,
Were buryed in as large, and deep a grave,
Wars chief support with them would buried be,
And the Land owe her peace unto the Sea.

Published 1674, 1678 & 1681: selected lines


A Poem upon the Death of O.C.

As long as rivers to the seas shall runne,
As long as Cynthia shall relieve the sunne,
While staggs shall fly unto the forests thick,
While sheep delight the grassy downs to pick,
As long as future time succeeds the past,
Always thy honour, praise and name, shall last.

Published 1681; withdrawn, then not until 1776


On Blake. From Lives of the Admirals Vol II, p.222; published 1742;
by Dr John Campbell:   “I will add a short Encomium in Verse”
While the Dutch fish, the Spaniard vaunts his Mines,
To stealing Conquests while proud
France inclines
While Seas still roar, while Ships divide their waves,
While Death, for Fame, each gallant Sailor braves,
Thy Praise shall live: and future Heroes take,
Cæsar’s once, —- the nobler name of BLAKE
Letter from Peter Monamy Cornwall, November 1st, 1767, to
“His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, at Claremont, near Esher, Surrey”
I conclude with the Lines which I heard you repeat with so much cheerfulness and Satisfaction in our Senate House,Dum memor ipse mei; dum Spiritus hos regit artus
Semper Honos, Nomenque Tuum, Laudesque manebunt

To This, my Lord, permit me to subscribe myself your most Dutiful and Obedient Servant,
Peter Monamy Cornwall”.

Bludius et Corona
Bludius, ut ruris damnum repararet aviti,
Addicit fisco dum Diadem suo:
Egregium Sacro facinus velavit Amictu:
(Larva solet Reges fallere nulla magis).
Excidit ast ausis tactus pietate prophana,
Custodem ut servet, maluit ipse capi.
Si modo Saevitiam texisset Pontificalem,
Veste Sacerdotis, rapta corona foret.
When daring Blood to have his rents regain’d
Upon the English Diadem distrained,
Hee chose the Cassock Circingle and Gown,
The fittest Mask for one that Robs a Crown.
But his Lay pitty underneath prevailed.
And while hee spared the keepers life hee fail’d
With the preists vestments had hee but put on
A Bishops Cruelty, the Crown had gone.

“1673-4: Marvell (code name ‘Mr Thomas’) operating with fifth column promoting Dutch interests in England, in touch with Dutch secret agents. (Winter).” From John Carey, Andrew Marvell, 1969, Table of Dates. “1674: (summer) Mentioned by Government spies as member of a Dutch fifth-column in England”. From Hilton Kelliher, 1978, Table of Dates. “1672-74 War with France as ally against Holland. Marvell as ‘Mr Thomas’ active in Dutch-based, anti-French, anti-Catholic fifth column.” From George deF. Lord (ed.); Andrew Marvell, 1968, Chronology of Important Dates. Nicholas Murray has this to say in his biography of Marvell: “….. there existed at this time a fifth column, described by its historian as ‘a strange story of spies and secret agents, smugglers and conspirators, which at times reads more like historical fiction than sober fact'”. From World Enough and Time, 1999, p.208.

The historian is K.D.H.Haley, whose book is entitled William of Orange and the English Opposition 1672-4, published 1953. His study contains much fascinating information about the roles of Blood and Marvell during these two years. It is a pity that the book ends in 1674, just about the time that Pierre Monamy appears on the scene. Haley suggests (p.65) that Blood’s release from custody by Charles II was because “Blood could and did supply valuable information to the government about the activities of the political and religious ‘underground’ of the time.” It seems not unlikely that Blood’s enjoyment of the treacherous monarch’s favour allowed him to continue his career, but now as a double agent, supplying both sides with selected inside information. Alan Marshall’s comment is interesting. He remarks in Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II, p 205, that “Blood was working for the greater ends, for a ’cause’ ….. stealing the king’s crown thus becomes the worthy act of a true commonwealth-man.”

It seems to me remarkable that Pierre Monamy, towards the end of September 1676 actually wrote to King Charles with a “Petition for release on bail, having been committed, 28 July last, on suspicion of complicity in counterfeiting the Sign Manual and the handwriting of the Earl of Arlington to warrants for freeing foreign-built ships, being innocent and so ill that he can only last a short time.” If de la Marche is to be believed, Monamy had turned over about £3,300 in his forged warrant business, and according to a website (here) that sum would have the purchasing power of about £310,000 in UK currency in 2001. His illness, and claim to be innocent, can be taken with a large dose of salt. As he was quite clearly released and not subsequently prosecuted, it appears to me that we have here a carbon-copy of the resourceful Blood. Both Blood and Monamy might, of course, in certain quarters, be regarded as “a knight-errant of civil and religious liberty” to quote G.L.Turner, whose opinion of Blood is cited by Haley. This certainly goes for Marvell, also deeply involved in spying, smuggling, and the production of widely circulated anti-Stuart propaganda.

“bold, and yet sober”

An informer’s report to Williamson, 21/9/1671. “It tends to prove that Bl[ood] and Marvell were in touch as being both agents ‘from Bucks’; ie the Duke of Buckingham.” From Margoliouth’s Andrew Marvell, Vol I, p 379. Hilton Kelliher expands this note slightly, p.103. In 1674 Buckingham impeached the Earl of Arlington. Williamson got his job.

Pierre Monamy’s name occurs in context with Blood’s in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic. A Mr Blood makes his appearance in the pages of the Papers in 1678, conversing with de la Marche, an informer against Monamy. It seems Blood was in the Gatehouse in 1678 (DNB), perhaps in company with de la Marche. Payne is also a name that re-appears.


Andrew Marvell died on 16th August 1678. It was strongly suspected that he had “suffered under the effect of poison” (Dove, p.65). Perish the thought; which was nevertheless no doubt firmly believed for at least the next 150 years by all those who saw him as the British Aristides.



If Marvell’s features ever resembled those of the youth above, the liberal refreshments imbibed by his muse had taken effect by the time the likeness to the left was painted, c. 1658. Blake was perhaps not as handsome as shown on a recent stamp; but that he was ever quite as ugly as the print on the right may also be doubted.


William Popple’s epitaph of 1764 claims that Andrew Marvell, like Robin Hood, was “Belov’d by Good Men, fear’d by Bad.” The same might be said of Robert Blake, which is why in 1661 his body was dug up and removed to “a pit in St Margaret’s churchyard”.

To the left is the miniature of Robert Blake, General-at-Sea, c.1645, on which the stamp portrayal appears to be based. The engraving above right looks as if it could have been produced by one of Horace Walpole’s hack engravers. But it’s a bit too early for that.


ancient Rights: “pace Wilson, these rights are those of the ancient monarchy, in which Cromwell has no part.” Margoliouth: p.299, comment on An Horatian Ode. By about 1674 Marvell had firmly concluded that there were other rights, when Adam delved and Eve span, even more ancient than those of a hereditary sacred monarchy.
cause no Ill: Marvell was not to know that the gold had been off-loaded, and was on shore.
Caesar: ‘Marvell’s Cromwell perhaps doubles the parts of Lucan’s Caesar and Pompey’. (Syfret). Margoliouth; p.301. Campbell is saying that Blake was nobler than Cromwell.
Semper Honos etc: “Always thy honour, praise and name shall last.” The passages culminating in these words have, I believe, their ultimate origin in Virgil. Their repetition by young P.M.Cornwall may be purely coincidental, but the suspicion that they are in fact a hopeful and semi-coded message to Newcastle is not allayed.

Portrait of Blake, Wadham College, Oxford.
The engraved monstrosity, above,
must derive from it.

He hangs in shades the Orange bright,
Like golden Lamps in a green Night.



marvell: comment & reading list
article 1981: arlington
chronology & authenticity
monamy website index
artistic range


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005
all rights reserved

Is this piece what it seems, or does it want deciphering?


Essays and Papers


Some of these essays were originally prepared for different publications set in other contexts, so there is occasional repetition of content. Some are frivolous, others less so.


Anfloga, Wearn, (H)wælweg
Anglo-Saxon Verse: W.J.Sedgefield
Biblical Echoes
Bird, Ship, Sun, Sea
The Central Crux of The Seafarer
The Cambridge Old English Reader
Empress of Hel, Part 1
Empress of Hel, Part 2
Housman, Masefield, Burns, Drayton
Hugr, Hyge, Håg
Journey’s Jargon
The Meaning of Fer(h)ð
Old English Grammar: A.Campbell
R.I.Page and the DOE
Pound Note 1
Pound Note 2
Pound Note 3
The Prefix Un-
Psalm 46
Re unwearnum: A Digression 1
Re unwearnum: A Digression 2
Re unwearnum: A Digression 3
Seafarer Fidelity
G.V.Smithers One
G.V.Smithers Two
The Structure of The Seafarer 1
The Structure of The Seafarer 2
The Structure of The Seafarer 3
Swedish Sprachgefühl for Anglo-Saxon
Tower of Babel
Translation Two


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