Ariane Bankes

A power for good: the Sharp family were a model of vision and humanitarianism

Hester Grant describes how the remarkable 18th-century siblings combined a sense of fun with radical reforms of the law, industry and medicine

Making music: the Sharp family on their pleasure barge, by Johann Zoffany. Alamy

Who would imagine that Johann Zoffany’s celebrated 1780 depiction of the extensive Sharp family happily making music on their pleasure barge could be parsed so deftly into a portrait of an age? Or that Hester Grant, embarking upon her research, could have foreseen how topical Granville Sharp’s determined champaign against slavery would seem at the present moment? Or that his surgeon brother William’s new-fangled passion for ‘variolation’ or vaccination (against smallpox in those days) should strike such a chord today? What a family, and what an age: the seven Sharp siblings not only helped refashion the 18th-century world around them,...

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in