Lives of the Principal Chadwicks

Torrent Chadwick, exemplary dandy and tireless tiny producer of paintings and drawings—in his youth the fiercest épateur of the bourgeoisie, in latter years the mildest of beprammed-baby adorers—was born into the English Aristocracy in London. His father, Admiral Chadwick, was the second son of a Northumberland baronet; his mother, Lady Jane, daughter of an Earl. His growth was stunted except for his huge hydrocephalic head, made the more prominent by his great mass of bright carroty hair. At Eton this little elf sported the school’s largest size hat, read everything (especially the Marquis de Sade and Restif de la Bretonne), started collecting rare editions of libertine literature, and acquired a taste for bare bottom floggings with a pony whip. His mother got his first sketches into Frazer’s Magazine (the Admiral would fund his son’s first ventures in illustrating deluxe editions of libertine novels). He left Eton under some cloud; was prepared privately for Oxford; went up to Balliol College, where he fell in with the powerful circle of taste-making literati whose judgments he, together with his classmate and relative Chadwick Dalton, would gradually control. Drawing hard through his stay at the college, Torrent Chadwick left Oxford however without a degree, and took lodging opposite Chadwick Dalton in London—a city whose readily accessible vices were to speed Torrent’s decline, first through his disastrous introduction to brandy, later through his evenings at Verbena Lodge in St John’s Wood, a brothel for flagellants. His reputation flourished as a daemonically unstoppable talker with an awing memory, a dazzling wit, an inspired caricaturist and painter, but also a foul-mouthed satirist, blasphemer and drunk. He was obviously in a bad way. His hands shook uncontrollably, he was subject to fits, he drank himself into stupors. At the same time his early illustrated novels, when not banned, struck a chord not merely with the masses of aspiring London dandies, but with those Victorians who, aided by opium, hookahs, or the poppy, found themselves gripped by fantasies of escape to the shores of Lethe, or to any number of Byzantine mental palaces (while having to make due with London’s many stuccoed harems). Drawn into Soho’s circle of bohemian painters, Chadwick would swoon over the dangerous females then the fashion to depict. He loved contemplating the potential of female teeth for drawing blood—the “sharp indenture” of the kiss. When his friends arranged for the American circus horse-rider Adah Mencken to help him lose his virginity (his first love, his cousin Tippie Gordon, having preferred a big one-armed hero of the Indian Mutiny to “little carrots”), she couldn’t make him understand “that biting’s no use.” After Torrent’s famous collapse into the rose bush arbors flanking the Watier’s Club, he was removed by Lady Jane to the Pines at Putney, where, under the care of a poetic lawyer friend, he was cured of his cuts and contusions, nearly weaned off brandy, and set in front of his tangle of unfinished drawings and canvases. But there he was drawn rather to strolls among the region’s mossy ponds.

The critical influence of Chadwick Dalton—poet, art critic, amateur historian, private clothing designer and sartorial theorist—has persisted throughout the twentieth century. His is a key voice for a stern and recidivistic aestheticism: his beatific vision of the artist and reader as agonized solipsists is a main force of modernism. He was born in a proletarian region of East London’s dockland to Maria Hill Dalton and Richard Glade Dalton, initially a struggling medic to the poor, whose vaccine tests on unconscious patients (often recovering from drinking bouts or industrial accidents) allowed him to experiment with dangerous dosage levels with no inquiries into his astronomic fatality rates. This allowed Glade-Dalton to establish early and extremely lucrative patents on typhus and cholera vaccines. Dalton himself however developed a strong reaction to the laboratory smells—“the fetid excrement of the beaker” as he called it—and after the age of 9 was both averse to scientific inquiry and subject to a delicate constitution. The bookish child would projectile vomit, for instance, if his cook or butler so much as handled one of his father’s chlorine or sulfur canisters. There was little familial intimacy; and after Dalton’s parents were killed in the explosion of Glade-Dalton’s home laboratory (leaving Dalton as sole heir) parental references are almost non-existent in his corpus. At thirteen Dalton had mastered Latin and Greek and was, together with his retinue of two horn players, four personal scribes, a dentist and two tailors, sent up to Balliol College, Oxford, where he began his extensive fabric and fashion print collections and took up sewing privately beyond the watch of his tailors. At Oxford Dalton became infamous for his impromptu and scathing critiques of his classmates’ canes and top hats, turning his venom, upon his move to London, to the paintings hanging in Soho studios and galleries. Torrent Chadwick reports Dalton’s reaction to the artist’s painstaking series of Jeromes: “back to the grotto with these cretinous hermits, Torrent; and with a hungry lion this time.” Always scandalized at what he referred to as the “greasy and threadbare” sartorial holdings of the Bodleian library, Dalton began, in London, to gather materials for his now famous history of velvet. He also took over editorship of The Hatchet, where (when his testy digestion and laudanum addiction allowed) he focused and mercilessly drove a group of aesthetes including a reluctant Torrent Chadwick. His best-known treatises and books of poems—Cane Tips, Death and Domestic Fabric, Picturesque Tours of Restricted Districts—followed in the next years. While his later work has often been charged with repetitions, glaring factual errors and large tracks of plagiarism, his defenses of these works have themselves become major contributions both to rhetoric and to psychoanalytic theory. Aside from his voyage to New York, Dalton refused to visit the cities and sublime landscapes so ceaselessly referenced in his writings.
      A good deal of mythology and misinformation surround Chadwick Dalton and Torrent Chadwick’s now famous sojourn to New York City, “Errant Walker.” It was, of course, presented by the dandies as a matter of honor and legal necessity: alleging that the Johnnie Walker Whisky Company had lifted William Beckford’s sketch of Dalton for their “Striding Man,” the two framed their trip as a solemn journey of vindication; they would sail to New York, sue the Walker Company successfully, and return to London with their identities cleared of association with what they no doubt took to be the crass image of dandydom popularized by the striding man. But the reality is far more complex, and sordid. It was for many years a matter of debate, first off, whether the Chadwicks actually knew that Johnnie Walker was an English, and not an American, company. Certainly they affected a deep disdain for such mundane “practicalities.” And certainly they associated the international proliferation of the image with America, not England. That they did know the nationality of the company is, however, now established, in part by the company’s own archives, which show that Torrent’s cousin, William Breese (who was an ad man at Johnnie Walker) mentioned the fact that the company was researching dandies for their new ad campaign. This discussion led to Chadwick Dalton’s offering the Johnnie Walker Company his own image by Beckford for an outrageous sum (apparently to resolve the most pressing of his ever-mounting debts). But internal correspondence suggests that company executives found Dalton’s public image distasteful and chose instead to base their striding man on the safe, because fictional, drawings made by an anonymous hack illustrator for Bulwer-Lytton’s famous dandy novel, Pelham. Nor is there any evidence that the Chadwicks ever actually brought suite against the Johnnie Walker Company on their trip to New York. They seem, rather, to have been concerned, even obsessed, with the specifics of their own lodgings, with Manhattan’s high-end tailors and lounges, and with long strolls around the fashionable neighborhoods of downtown New York.

     That they should have let Smithson, their manservant, record their dialog on one such stroll was a stroke of good luck for posterity. Indeed historians have long studied the text as a record of the radical fin-de-siècle transformation of Greenwich Village from a neighborhood of brownstones and freestanding houses to one of luxury condominiums. None of this social drama seems to have dawned on the Chadwicks, however, who (at least according to their detractors) understood this transformation, rather, as an opportunity to acquire larger and more “neutral” apartment spaces. These shells could then be decked out in the elaborate and eclectic period guises that the dandies used to present themselves as the most refined metropolitan heirs to imperial history. And yet we must admit that any comprehensive view of the Chadwicks in New York is impossible. Not merely because of their private, allusive and often incoherent manner of speaking—not to mention their incessant and childish banter, and their drunkenness. But also because of the incompleteness of the actual text of their walk, since when Smithson presented the transcript to the dandies they seem to have charcoaled the offending sections of it with their hookah—before directing Smithson to “file the document carefully in our new Venetian fireplace.” As with many previous transcriptions, the Chadwicks had apparently intended this one as a temporary, private amusement—one that should certainly never meet the eyes of an exterior solicitor. Perhaps annoyed at their incessant pattern of demanding and then effacing intricate labor, and thus eager to see his employers exposed, Smithson however preserved the manuscript in secret, and seems to have added the title himself.

Hieronymus Chadwick "Bartram" was born in Philadelphia in 1807. Obsessed with the international fame, financial success and scientific authority of the Bartram family since his elementary school botany class visited the grounds in 1814, he began courting Elizabeth Bartram (William's twin sister, born in 1739) around 1824, when she was in her mid 80s and he was in his late teens. Because of Elizabeth's senility Hieronymus’s argument that the two were married may in fact have been true. In any case it was the basis of his adopting the Bartram’s last name (in a much frowned upon reversal of the period’s practice) and attempting to enter the family seed business. A constant nuisance to the surviving Bartrams from the 1820s until they sold the property, H. C. routinely shipped faulty seeds under the family's imprimatur (including painted wooden pellets and pebbles), printed his highly fanciful and inaccurate editions of the Bartram plant catalog, and offered impressionistic tours of the grounds for fee at all hours of the day and night—severely testing the Quaker family’s policy against violence.
     H. C. Bartram's real conflicts emerged, however, after Andrew Eastwick purchased the Bartram Garden in 1850. It was then that “Chadwick,” as Eastwick and others insisted upon called him, claimed the “ancestral rights” not only of selling the family seeds but also of living on the family's grounds. Though it remains a mystery why H. C. was not forcibly removed from the grounds, we may cite either Eastwick’s strong desire to preserve the Bartram’s estate exactly “as he found it” or his simple annoyance at the access holes Hieronymus regularly bore in the surrounding fences. In any case H. C. Bartram was allowed to construct a kind of shanty in the swampy far corner of the grounds close to the gypsum factory on the Schuylkill (a site of current archaeological interest). Whether Hieronymus was unpleased with his lot, or whether he became deranged late in life, he has often been linked to the (otherwise) unexplained fire that soon after engulfed Eastwick’s grand house, Bartram Hall, on the current position of the gazebo.

Cotton Chadwick: colonial theologian and man of letters operating along the eastern seaboard—18th century. Known to have visited the Perth Amboy, New Jersey studio of the painter John Watson, who painted a portrait of Chadwick (whereabouts now unknown). This painting was preserved in a substance very similar to Vaseline, which was produced, apparently, when the revolutionary army (under the direction of General Mercer) had burned a mine on Watson’s property in which were hidden elements of Watson’s art collection. What Mercer’s colonials hadn’t counted on was the lubricating effect of the petroleum jelly that had leeched into the excavation area, coating and preserving the paintings in the smoldering mine. Blachly and Shaw were able to recover a wooden sculpture of Cotton Chadwick on their dive into the Vaseline springs in Perth Amboy. Unfortunately this sculpture too is now lost, having decomposed after cleaning.

Franklin Hope Chadwick: colonial-era inventor and amateur historian—designer of eyepieces very similar to those discovered in the Perth Amboy Vaseline spring.

Ebenezer Chadwick: colonial administrator in Princeton, unyielding supporter of the British government, perceived in his day as an oppressor. Porcelain figurines of Ebenezer were used by the Revolutionary Army for target practice. Fragments of these figurines were discovered in the Perth Amboy Vaseline spring.

Chelmsford Chadwick: mid-20th century—Manhattan-based international real-estate magnate (uncle to Torrent Chadwick III). Chelmsford Chadwick’s collection of previously unseen Gordon Matta-Clark drawings, sculptures and study-models related to “Fake Estates” form the basis of the Chadwicks’ intervention in art historical debates about Matta-Clark, detailed in “Wandering Plots.”

Chelmsford owned the Parisian apartment block in which Gordon Matta-Clark’s father, Roberto Matta, maintained his studio, and coincidentally, both the West Village townhouse in New York City where Matta’s wife Anne raised their children Gordon and Batan, and the Soho loft where Gordon made his first work and installed his alchemical experiments, his family members, or at least Torrent’s uncle Chelmsford Chadwick and a series of his building managers, have had long interactions with the Mattas and Matta-Clarks, who were both, despite their considerable physical beauty, wealth, charm and generosity, routinely late on their rent payments, not to mention their disrespect for walls, partitions, concrete floors and subbasements. It was during one of these delinquent rent periods that Torrent’s uncle, Chelmsford, directed his superintendent to impound several boxes of Matta-Clark’s archive as collateral. When, to Chelmsford’s surprise, Gordon showed either no awareness of their absence or no interest in retrieving these items, Chelmsford, after carefully researching Gordon’s recent auction prices and gallery sales, began an extensive custodial relationship with Gordon’s work, each new folder of drawings or plastic container of small sculptures prompted by what Chelmsford referred to, in the Vietnam lexicon of the time, as a defensive reactionary strike—carried out after the delay or failure of more traditional modes of exchange.

Cornelius van der Chadwijk: seventeenth-century Dutch citizen, emigrated to New Amsterdam, architect of New Amsterdam’s misunderstood and maligned first fort, which its critics dismissed because its ramparts wobbled slightly and its masses of leaning timbers lent the work an unfinished appearance. Far from accidents or oversights, these aspects of Chadwijk’s design were in fact based on his inquiry into “nature’s pelted builder”—the phrase he used to refer to the beaver. That Manhattan’s first large-scale public building should have been a revolutionary site-specific interpretation of the animal that gave rise to the settlement was, the Chadwicks have long felt, worthy of public recognition. For some time, too, the city was persuaded of the family’s opinion: the monument was to have been formally installed on May 5th, 2007 on Hanover Square in the heart of Dutch New York. That it was ultimately not so installed (apparently because its materials did not meet the standards only vaguely outlined in the contract) presented an extreme public embarrassment for the Chadwicks, since Torrent Chadwick III and Chadwick Dalton IV had themselves led a large public tour of their ancestors’ architectural sites that was to have culminated at the vitrine location.
     Van der Chadwijck was a gentleman raised and educated in Rotterdam, first a hydraulic engineer on the Zuider Zee, and later, after some unfortunate dyke accidents, an immigrant to New Amsterdam. Chadwijk’s architectural contributions to New Amsterdam have been almost uniformly misunderstood. Consider the following passage on New Amsterdam’s first fort from Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World. 

The original plan was for a vast structure in which all the colonists would live, safe from the savages of the country. But the savages didn’t seem so savage, and anyway it was clearly impossible, given the manpower, to do anything very grand. [The Governor] ordered a redesign. The man who had been sent over to build the fort was apparently uniquely unskilled for a Dutch engineer: the original structure was comprised mostly of heaped earth; it began to crumble even before it was finished. It would be torn down and rebuilt over the next several years; indeed, the ramshackle state of Fort Amsterdam would be an issue right up until the moment when Peter Stuyvesant, standing on one of its unsteady ramparts, would agree to surrender it to the English.

However wrongheaded such judgments may be, there is considerable difficulty in correcting them, since primary documents about Cornelius are spotty. However, one crucial source of information is a literary work by Walter Chadwick (an amateur historian and expert model ship builder who preferred to be known by the Dutch version of his first name, Wouter) titled A Fluid Fortress of Verse: An Epic Poem upon the Remarkable Life of Cornelius van der Chadwijk. Wouter glosses Van der Chadwijk’s move to New Amsterdam and inspiration for the fort structure as follows.

Woe befell Cornelius with the breaking of his dyke
For Dutch soldiers now chased him with halberds and pikes
His native lands became to him but barren wastes
And he was forced to stow-away post haste
Fastened obsequiously to an architect for the navigation
He was a credentialed builder on the man’s expiration
But lacking commissions upon the lad’s arrival
He was forced to trap beavers for his survival
Where follow demented passages in Cornelius’ private book
Staring, perhaps, too closely at the pelted builder’s work
So close his countrymen’s aqueous manipulation
Neat feeding ponds to their draining of inundation
Dutchmen beavers; beavers Dutch
Killing a furry countryman now rankled him such
That upon his mind a monument swum
Like logs floating among pond scum

When Van der Chadwijk returned to New Amsterdam after his trapping period he constructed a shanty which, according to neighbors, had the jagged appearance of a beaver dam.  Here Cornelius lived with his wife Hetty Wessels. He worked as a bargeman on the canal in front, moving pelts between the collection station at the end of the fort and the harbor at the end of the canal, while practicing his novel nautical songs. As Holland began its Tulip Mania in 1634—in which, eventually, one rare bulb would be sold for more than the value of a house—so Cornelius began what we may term his beaver mania. Interested not only in their status as architects, but in the fact that, like productive colonies, beavers continue to grow throughout their lives, Cornelius filled several sketchbooks with then current natural historical knowledge about the animal, as well as sketches of beaver dams and beaver memorials, the ink for these drawings itself mixed with beaver gland secretions, creating certain archival problems for later Chadwicks.
     At about this period Cornelius began attending sessions at the Stadt Huis and impressed colonial administrators with his engineering skills--first with the construction of an almost indestructible pipe.  Cornelius discovered that by leavening his clay with gypsum and beaver-pelt fragments converted into fine felt he could create a stem firm enough to withstand the burning tobacco within and yet flexible enough to survive drops on tile or wooden floors. Once Cornelius had the attention of the burgomasters, however, he quickly proposed himself as the architect for the fort expansion he knew was under discussion; apparently convincing the burgomasters that he was, in fact, the missing engineer who had been sent over for the task of constructing the fort.

Walter (Wouter) Chadwick: amateur historian and expert model ship builder who preferred to be known by the Dutch version of his first name, Wouter.  Champion of his ancestor Cornelius van der Chadwijk. Author of A Fluid Fortress of Verse: An Epic Poem upon the Remarkable Life of Cornelius van der Chadwijk.

Torrent Chadwick III: among the last living descendants of the Chadwick Family, still residing at Chadwick Manor. Decayed dandy—appears only occasionally in public. Documented sitings include “Wandering Plots” and “Fort Chadwijk.” His most infamous appearance was his disruption of a lecture by his relative, Chadwick Dalton IV, at Wave Hill in the Bronx. Torrent (who had been detained at Sing Sing for breaking into the Wave Hill grounds to perform unauthorized excavations) burst through a second story balcony in the lecture hall where Dalton, clad in armor, was delivering a discourse on the life and work of the Chadwicks’ neighbor, Bashford Dean. Torrent challenged Dalton to a duel for slandering his branch of the family. After this the lecture devolved into a jousting match; the process is documented in “Bashford’s Grotto.” Torrent also seems to have posed as his nineteenth-century ancestor in the 2004 event, “Errant Walker.” Torrent is described by art historian Frances Richard as “damp.”

Chadwick Dalton IV: also among the last living descendants of the Chadwick Family, still residing at Chadwick Manor. His public appearances are as rare as Torrent’s; the two usually appear together, and seem to have repaired their relationship after the fiasco of “Bashford’s Grotto.” Of the two, Dalton is more prone to hold forth: he narrated the bus tour on “Wandering Plots,” most of “Fort Chadwijk” and all of “Bashford’s Grotto” (before it became a swordfight). Dalton’s eccentric scholarship has been the subject of some critical debate, including a scathing review by the German art historian “Maiken Umbach.”

Real Admiral Chadwick (French Ensor Chadwick): early 20th-century naval officer. Active in WW1, about which he also coauthored a major history. Close friend of Bashford Dean.

Charles Chadwick Riggs: early 20th century art collector, especially interested in medieval armor.  Lived in Riverdale, NY.  Neighbor of Bashford Dean. On the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

A Time-Line of Chadwicks

17th and 18th Century

Cornelius Van der Chadwijk

Walter (Wouter) Chadwijk

Cotton Chadwick

Ebenezer Chadwick

Franklin Hope Chadwick

19th Century

Torrent Chadwick 

Chadwick Dalton 

Hieronymus Chadwick "Bartram"

20th and 21st Century

Chelmsford Chadwick

Real Admiral Chadwick (French Ensor Chadwick)

C. Chadwick Rigg

Torrent Chadwick III

Chadwick Dalton IV