STRANGE, James Charles Stuart (1753-1840), of Hertford Street, Mayfair, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1796 - 1802
1802 - Apr. 1804

Family and Education

b. 8 Aug.1 1753, 1st s. of Sir Robert Strange, engraver, of Covent Garden by Isabella, da. of William Lumisden, WS, of Edinburgh. educ. Coll. of Navarre, Paris 1770. m. (1) 18 Feb. 1785, Margaret (d. 15 Jan, 1791), da. of James Durham of Largo, Fife, 1da.; (2) 18 Dec. 1798, Hon. Anne Dundas, da. of Henry Dundas*, 1st Viscount Melville, wid. of Henry Drummond* of Albury, Suss., 2da. surv. suc. fa. 1792.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I.Co. (Madras) 1772, factor 1778, jun. merchant 1782, sen. merchant 1790; collector and paymaster, Tanjore 1795; ret. 1795; magistrate collector, Pondichery 1806; judge of ct. of appeal 1807; postmaster gen. and sen. member of Board of Trade 1813-15; ret. 1816.

Biography

Strange’s father, the celebrated engraver, was a former Jacobite from Orkney and Strange himself was named after his godfather the titular James III. His maternal grandmother was related to Sir Lawrence Dundas, 1st Bt., through whom he obtained a writership in Madras. He came home with a fortune in 1780, returning to India with his bride in 1785. A year later he managed an unsuccessful expedition to establish a fur trade between the northwest coast of America and China. He left a narrative of the venture, which was supposed to have lost him £10,000. In 1795 he retired from the Company and became a sleeping partner in the bank of Strange, Dashwood & Co. of New Bond Street, London. In 1796 he entered Parliament as a guest of the 3rd Duke of Dorset, a silent supporter of Pitt’s administration.2

Strange’s marriage to Henry Dundas’s widowed daughter Mrs Drummond in December 1798 raised eyebrows. Lord Minto wrote, ‘he is not young, far from handsome or desirable in any way except money, and people rather seem to wonder at her attachment ... it seems as if the breeches pocket had considerable attraction for her’. In 1802 his father-in-law and Castlereagh supported his unsuccessful bid for election to the directorate of the East India Company. That year he came in for Okehampton, surviving a petition against his return, having been recommended to the patron Henry Holland by Dundas. He remained an inconspicuous Member, speaking only once, against severity towards James Trotter, an election offender at Queensferry, 25 Mar. 1803. Soon afterwards Strange’s bank failed. He admitted that he had placed too much confidence in the active partners, one of whom was John Agnew*. His wife had her marriage settlement of £40,000, but he was left penniless.3 To save the situation he returned to India, where his brother Sir Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange4 was as ready to help him as his father-in-law at home. Henry Holland wrote, 18 Feb. 1804, ‘I understand he has left an authority with Mr W[illiam] Dundas* to vacate the seat when he pleases’.5 A scramble for it ensued, but it was vacated in April.

Strange recouped his fortune in India, pausing on his return in 1816 at St. Helena to win a game of piquet from the exiled Buonaparte. He died in Scotland, 6 Oct. 1840. His niece wrote:

My uncle was short, fair—in his youth must have been very good-looking, being very like his lovely mother. Some time before I ever knew him he had an accident, breaking his collar bone, dislocating his shoulder, and injuring his spine, which, in fact, made him crooked, and still further took from his stature; but his activity and lightness of step were unimpaired. Even as an old man he always came down stairs two steps at a time.

From her we also learn that he was ‘always ready for a trip or a journey’, fond of smuggling ‘for the fun of the thing’ and had ‘a great love for pictures’.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: P. A. Symonds / R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. Louisa Mure, Recollections of By-Gone Days (privately printed 1883), 73.
  • 2. DNB; J. Dennistoun, Mems. Sir Robert Strange, 249; Mure, 73, 74-77; C. E. Buckland, Dict. Indian Biog. 470; Hilton Price, London Bankers, 160.
  • 3. NLS mss 11052, f. 124; 11055, f. 167; C. H. Philips, E.I.Co. 314, 317; Scott Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxxv-lxxvi), 273, 411; Mure, 77.
  • 4. DNB .
  • 5. Spencer mss, Holland to Spencer, 18 Mar. 1804.