DANCE (afterwards HOLLAND), Nathaniel (1735-1811), of Cranbury Park, Hants and Rollestone, nr. Salisbury, Wilts.

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



1790 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1807 - 15 Oct. 1811

Family and Education

b. 18 May 1735, 3rd s. of George Dance, architect and clerk of works to city of London, by w. Elizabeth née Gould. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1743-8; Rome 1754. m. 17 July 1783, Harriet, da. of Sir Cecil Bisshopp, 6th Bt., of Parham, Suss., wid. of Thomas Dummer of Cranbury Park, s.p. Took name of Holland after his wife’s cousin Charlotte Holland by royal lic. 4 July 1800; cr. Bt. 27 Nov. 1800.

Offices Held


Dance’s father and youngest brother were architects. His eldest brother was a comedian. He was apprenticed to the artist Francis Hayman and went on to study painting at Rome. On his return he became a fashionable portrait painter, to whom the King and Queen sat. He also executed historical themes. A foundation member of the Royal Academy, he achieved financial independence by 1776 and thereafter painted few portraits, amusing himself by comic drawings. In any case, ‘the wealthy Mrs Dummer whom he married objected to his career as an artist which she considered infra dig’. Angelica Kauffman, who had rejected his suit, would scarcely have made such a stipulation; but she was not possessed of £18,000 p.a. for life. In 1790 he resigned from the Academy. Joseph Farington, Dance’s envious colleague, reported that he gave £30,000 for an estate near Dorchester and £12,000 for another in Wiltshire.1 He also invested in East India Company stock.

To cap it all, Dance bought his way into Parliament. He was the 3rd Duke of Dorset’s guest. The duchess was his wife’s cousin but he paid, in 1796, £4,000 plus £50 to treat the electors of East Grinstead. Farington asked him

how he would be circumstanced if a new Parliament should be called in a year or two. He said he had no agreement, it was all upon honour; but he should think himself very ill used if required to pay again at the end of so short a time.2

The only outward sign of Dance’s support of Pitt’s ministry that survives was a pair with the majority on foreign policy, 12 Apr. 1791, and his being listed hostile, the same month, to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland, but in 1800 he became a baronet, completing his transformation under a new name.

Holland was Lord Ailesbury’s Member for Bedwyn in the Parliament of 1802. His sister-in-law had married into that family and his wife had made Lord Cardigan her heir. He was well disposed to Addington, listed ‘doubtful’ by Pitt’s calculators on his return to power in May 1804 and voted against Pitt on the additional force bill in June. His brother George Dance informed Farington that

he did not feel so much as formerly inclined to Mr Pitt. He said Sir Nathaniel had voted against him, and had mentioned the difference of Mr Pitt’s manner compared with that of Mr Addington. The former would scarcely acknowledge a bow, the latter was all civility.3

In September 1804 he was listed first ‘Addington’, then among ‘Addington’s friends on whom some impression might be made’ and finally ‘doubtful Addington’. After voting for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, he was listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’ in July. He was a member of the select committee on the British Museum appointed on 5 June 1805. He voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and was in none of the known minorities against them.

Holland was not in the Parliament of 1806, but a year later resumed his seat for East Grinstead as a guest of the dowager Duchess of Dorset. His only known votes were with ministers on the Scheldt expedition, 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, the Whigs listing him ‘doubtful’ from their point of view that month, and on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. In July 1811 George Rose wrote of him as being still in town and available for a ministerial muster. Farington had reported him as saying, 31 May 1810,

that he believed it to be necessary that the Parliament should be operated upon in some degree by the influence of the crown, as were it otherwise, and the Parliament (the Commons) to be wholly independent of all government influence, the House of Commons would soon begin to manifest a desire of power which should raise it above the crown and the Lords.4

Holland died 15 Oct. 1811, ‘considered a singular man in his manner’, but ‘on the whole very well liked by the neighbouring gentry’, according to Farington, who commended his prudence in ‘not expending more than £5,000 a year’. In 1807 he was obliged to build a house in Piccadilly for his wife, ‘who has great pleasure in associating with her friends who are in high situations’, but he himself was thrifty and ‘never in his life was intoxicated’, though ‘to tea he had no objection’.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. DNB; Farington, i. 6, 56, 69, 189; iv. 257.
  • 2. Farington, i. 149, 161.
  • 3. Ibid. i. 6, 162; ii. 259.
  • 4. NLS mss 3796, f. 3; Farington Diary (Yale ed.), x. 3661.
  • 5. Farington, iv. 146, 148, 206; vi. 204; vii. 64.