Online Encyclopedia

RICHARD SHARP (1759-1835)

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 811 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RICHARD SHARP (1759-1835), known as " Conversation Sharp," was born in Newfoundland in 1759, the son of a British officer in garrison there. He was for many years in business in London, and amassed a large fortune. He was the host of leading literary and political men at his houses in Park Lane and near Dorking. Johnson, Burke, Rogers, Hallam, Grattan, Sydney Smith, James Mill, Wordsworth and Coleridge were among his many friends. From r8o6 to 1812 he was M.P. for Castle Rising, and subsequently he represented Portarlingtonand Ilchester. He was the author of a volume of Letters and Essays in Prose and Verse (1834), which the Quarterly Review declared to be remarkable for " wisdom, wit, knowledge of the world and sound ctiticism." Sharp died at Dorchester on the 3oth of March 1835.
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Additional information and Comments

Sharp was descended from the Sharps of Romsey, Hampshire. He was once described as becoming possibly the most popular man in London of his time, having started life humbly as a hatter on Fish St Hill. Apart from succeeding conspicuously in business and serving as a Whig MP, he became warden of the Fishmongers Company, a Fellow of the Royal Society and he belonged to countless London Clubs. He was an ardent Dissenter and played an important role as one of London's 'Deputies'. He was the driving force behind the founding of the London Institution - a forerunner of London University. He never married but the biography of his adoptive daughter, Maria Kinnaird, was written by Kegan Paul (Maria Drummond - A Sketch). A copy of Sharp's rare biography (Conversation Sharp, the Biography of a London Gentleman, 1759-1835, in Letters Prose and Verse)is held at the British and London Libraries.
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