Ten days ago, while driving back to Dublin from the Hook Peninsula in Co. Wexford we followed a sign for antiques, salvage and bric-à-brac down a side road, onto an even smaller road and finally up a leafy country lane to a farm where a wealth of curiosities were displayed higgledy-piggledy in the downstairs rooms and the yard. That is where I found the drawing above—a very speaking likeness of a Georgian gentleman. Turning it over, I found this inscription written in what looked like chalk on a blackboard.
So who was 'my' Arnold Nesbit? Did he ever exist? In 1898, one Arnold Harris Mathew arrived on the scene, claiming he was the fourth ‘de jure Earl of Landaff’, as the grandson of Arnold Nesbit who, he said, was the son of Francis and Elisha, born a skimpy five and a half months after their wedding. According to Arnold Harris, Arnold Nesbit's birth was concealed due to these shameful circumstances. He was raised by a maternal uncle of his father and later went to India and died there. Arnold Harris gives the place of death as Chandernagore and the place of burial as Chinsurah.
Doubly intrigued, I carefully removed the blackboard back of the picture to reveal this, clearly the source of the blackboard inscription and the reason for the misspellings in it.