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Matthew Robinson Boulton (1770 to 1842)

In 1800 Matthew Boulton and James Watt retired from their business, passing the running to their two sons. Ten years earlier Matthew Boulton had written to his son, Matthew Robinson Boulton:

At present I am desireous that you should return home, for various reasons: first, I think you and I have not lived together enough for you to become my very son in principles and disposition, and I am desireous we should be better acquainted, as well as haveing the pleasure of your company before I retire… I am therefore desireous that you should seriously turn your thoughts to actual business, and [be] established in it before I die. [Letter. Matthew Boulton (Soho) to Matthew Robinson Boulton (Bad Langensalza). 8 March 1790. MS 3872/13/36/43]

Matthew Robinson Boulton had left for Europe in 1786 to finish his education, first studying in Paris and then Versailles. His father kept in regular written contact, often imploring him to write back.

In 1787 Matthew Boulton wrote a letter that just a few years later would have particular resonance with his son:

“…above all I must insist upon it that you do not form any improper acquaintance, or keep any improper company; particularly I desire you will avoid the company of young English puppys, fops, bucks, rakes, &c.” [Letter. Matthew Boulton (London) to Matthew Robinson Boulton [Versailles] 2 Nov. 1787. MS 3782/13/36/13]

With his move to the German village of Stedtfeld Matthew Robinson Boulton started a passionate affair with the Baroness Wangenheim. His father’s letters in 1789 made his opinion quite clear:

Fly instantly; fly without a pause from Calypso and all her enchantments; dread her more than rocks and storms. You see not your own danger.” [Letter. Matthew Boulton (London) to Matthew Robinson Boulton (Stedtfeld) 26 Jun. 1789. MS 3782/13/36/30]

Fortunately for his father the affair was over by October 1789 when Matthew Robinson Boulton moved to Bad Langensalza to study Chemistry under Johann Wiegleb. He was called back home by his father the following year. From 1795 extensive notebooks covering the business at Soho were kept by Matthew Robinson Boulton, just like his father had done previously. [MS 3782/13/151]

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