Friday, July 1st, 2016...9:00 am

William King Richardson, Part III: Mischievous Billy Richardson

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It is good to see good work being done by colleagues on a great collection.  But let’s not be too solemn about the collector and the collected, no matter his degrees and trophies.  After all, he wasn’t. “Billy” traveled in certain social circles and had a lot of fun in doing so.  Edith Wharton, the important American novelist and an authority on interior decoration across all periods, was part of his world.  In fact, WKR is the source (take that word as you will) of an amusing anecdote about EW, one that makes us like them both the more.

From R.W.B. Lewis’s Edith Wharton: A Biography (1975), p. 148:

And [among frequent guests to EW’s palatial summer “cottage” in the Berkshires, The Mount] there was William King (“Billy”) Richardson, a Boston lawyer specializing in patents and trademarks; something of a dandy, with a handlebar moustache and deep mournful eyes. Though he was well traveled, his literary qualifications were nonexistent; but his appeal to Edith is suggested by one of the apocryphal stories he mischievously spread about her.  An opulent woman in the Berkshires neighborhood, while showing Edith through her house, remarked at one point (so Richardson claimed):  “And this I call my Louis Quinze room.”  To this Edith, staring about through her lorgnette, replied, “Why, my dear?”

Our Billy collected more than books and manuscripts, and he was the cause of collecting in others.  Visit the Dutch Collection at the MFA and see two full-length portraits by Rembrandt of Rev. and Mrs. Seven deTeenth Century Gotbux.  The modest, almost miniature, labels beside them tell us, “William King Richardson Fund.”


Dennis C. Marnon, Administrative Officer, contributed this post. It is the third in a series on William King Richardson. For earlier posts, click on the “Early” category below.

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