Samuel Linley (1760-1778) although musically gifted in singing and the oboe, opted to join the Royal Navy in 1778 as a midshipman. He was invited by one of his father’s friends, the Honourable Captain Walsingham onboard the HMS Thunderer.
Gainsborough has depicted Samuel in his midshipman’s uniform just before he set sail in 1778, at eighteen years of age. It is reported that this portrait took forty eight minutes to paint, which explains the rapid brushwork and extra economy in execution.
Samuel contracted a fever on his first voyage and when the boat pulled into Portsmouth to off-load the sick, his father Thomas Linley was there to collect him and bring him back to the London family home. He is allegedly said to have been nursed by Emma Hart, a servant in the Linley household, who would later become mistress of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Samuel’s fever was fatal and his funeral was held on the 6th December 1778.