This political novel by George Meredith, first published in book form in 1876, is grounded in the 1868 general election in Southampton. The eponymous hero, Nevil Beauchamp, is based on Frederick Augustus Maxse. A close friend of Meredith, Captain Maxse was the unsuccessful Radical candidate at the election. Meredith had helped on Maxse's canvass: not, according to a letter to his son Arthur dated 8 February 1868, very successfully. “My two months down with Captain Maxse was a dead loss of time to me. I never regret anything I am able to help him in, as you will believe, but that's another matter. We were badly beaten at Southampton, but I think it will be proved that bribery was done there…. It is a very corrupt place…. I fancy Captain Maxse had to pay about £2000 for the attempt”. (Letters of George Meredith collected and edited by his son, vol. 1, 1912 (2nd ed), 1912, pages 193-4). Meredith and his second wife had in 1864 spent part of their honeymoon at Ploversfield, a property in Bursledon (Urplesdon in Beauchamp's Career) owned by Maxse. Southampton is represented in the novel as Bevisham (?the town of Sir Bevis): “mud-begirt Bevisham”. Several of the dramatis personae were based on actual people (identified in a manuscript note by George Meredith printed after his death in the Times Literary Supplement, 17 October 1912). Dr Shrapnel was Dr Edwin Hearn, a medical doctor with a radical background. He nominated Maxse at the 1868 election. Timothy Turbot was Timothy Falvey, editor of the Liberal newspaper the Hampshire Independent (itself represented as the Bevisham Gazette). Meredith thought Turbot to be “an inimitable copy” of Falvey, as his “countenance was rather turbot-like”. Mr Oggler was Alfred Pegler, watchmaker and jeweller. Samuel Killick was George Kill, bootmaker. Cougham was George Moffatt, MP for Southampton since 1865 and Maxse's running mate. Seymour Austin was Russell Gurney, Conservative MP for Southampton 1865-78.


See also


Further reading:
‘The Topicality of Beauchamp's Career’, by Margaret Harris, in Real: the yearbook of research in English and American literature, vol. 4, 1986
‘Admiral Maxse’, by John Edgar Mann, in Hampshire, Vol. 40, No. 7, May 2000, pages 48-9. (H/y)


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