ASSESSMENT OF CORTíS CHARACTER
Evidence from others
Cort is named as executor in at least six wills: Valentine Nevill calls him his "trusty friend".† He is agent for over a hundred navy clients, including the King's brother.† Someone that other people like and trust.† Someone with clerical and financial skills.† And the enterprise to find and promote new processes.
Generous, too.† Take his close relationship with Coningsby Norbury, who continues as client when others have passed on, and allows Cort to draw on his account.
Mr Cort was sent for from Gosport and paid the Doctor and told him he would see him paid for further Attendance† He has had no Coat on since but some Cloak or Gown that Mr Cort gave him.
From Robert Penrice's complaint about the new will made by Coningsby Norbury in December 1786.
Two other pointers to his character.† First, the preponderance of religious books in the 1789 inventory taken of his house in Catisfield, near Fareham: he takes his religion seriously.† Second, the occasional reference to illness - gout in particular - in his correspondence with Richard Crawshay.† A bon viveur, perhaps.
There is also evidence of a secretive streak in Cort's nature.† Only two hints of his origins come down to posterity via his family: birth at Ellell near Lancaster, father "a builder".† Is that all his children know about his early life?† Nothing about his first marriage?
Maybe there are episodes he prefers to keep to himself.
Ignore Hulme's theory about "the stages in the decay of the inventor's mentality", based on false inferences.† Hulme would be on firmer ground if he cited "agitation" observed by Crawshay.† Or if he knew about the younger Henry's bout of paranoia.
Other people trust Henry Cort.† Does he trust them?
I took a great liking to him because he was ingenious & ingenuous.
† From letter of Sir John Dalrymple to Lord Sheffield, circa April 1785.
He seems a simple good-natured man but not very knowing.
† From letter of James Watt to Matthew Boulton, 14 December 1782.
"Ingenuous" says Dalrymple.† "Not very knowing" says Watt.† At first glance it seems that Cort trusts other people too much.
But where is the origin of tales of Cort's "illiberal treatment" by the iron trade, of conspiracy by the hoop manufacturers, of suspicions that his inventions are being pirated?† Where if not from Cort himself?
He seems like a snail repeatedly creeping out of its shell, then retreating back into it.† Alternating between excessive trust and excessive suspicion.
There is an explanation for this erratic behaviour.† Not conclusive, but it does explain other things, such as erratic behaviour sometimes observed in his children.
Henry Cort is indeed a trusting sort of person.† But he has a companion of a suspicious disposition.† She worries that he is too trusting, and periodically nudges him into acting on her suspicions.
And she inculcates this feeling of suspicion in her family.† Where do notions of conspiracy and persecution come from?† From the children.† And see the effect they have on young Henry and Frederick.
He appeared to me to be very much deranged and was very violent.
† Evidence of Thomas Dowell, March 1802, concerning Cort's son Henry four years earlier.
I believe Mr Cort to be a very honourable man, but he is hot tempered, frivolous, and jealous.
† Robertson Gladstone's opinion of Cort's son Frederick, January 1829.
Elizabeth Cort is a grandchild of John Attwick.† Is suspicion of others an Attwick family characteristic?
She suspects that she and her sister Ann have been robbed of part of their inheritance by the machinations of her uncle, Samuel Dawson.† Reading through other Attwick lawsuits, you can see further evidence of their suspicious nature.† Another of John Attwick's grandchildren, Thomas Burges, reacts to defeat in a byelection in 1796 (to fill the seat left vacant when his brother-in-law, Sir James Watson, is appointed to the Bengal judiciary) by accusing his successful opponent of "bribery and corruption and other illegal Practices".
Not conclusive, but...