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Thursday, 14 May 2020

How would you treat sprains and bruises in the Regency?

Winter Amusements - A Scene in France (1803)  Published by Laurie & Whittle © The Trustees of the British Museum  Used under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Winter Amusements - A Scene in France (1803)
Published by Laurie & Whittle © The Trustees of the British Museum
Used under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)  
How would a Regency lady treat a sprained ankle?

There is a skating scene in Georgiana* where my heroine’s sister Eliza falls and badly sprains her ankle. I researched what would have been done and how long such an injury would keep her out of action. I wanted to know whether it would be reasonable for her accident to make her miss the season.

Of course, one of the best types of research is a re-enactment. This was not a piece of research I intended to do! No, I wasn’t skating. I merely missed my footing as I stepped outside my front door for my daily exercise during lockdown. Four weeks later, I can walk again, but my leg is still sore, and my ankle a bit swollen and aches if I do too much. I certainly won’t be up for a ball anytime soon and have every sympathy with Eliza who was forced to miss the whole season as a result of her accident.

The danger of sprains and strains

In his 1790 book Domestic Medicine, William Buchan wrote:
Strains are often attended with worse consequences than broken bones. The reason is obvious; they are generally neglected. When a bone is broken, the patient is obliged to keep the member easy, because he cannot make use of it; but when a joint is only strained, the person, finding he can still make a shift to move it, is sorry to lose his time for so trifling an ailment. In this way he deceives himself, and converts into an incurable malady what might have been removed by only keeping the part easy for a few days.1
Front page of William Buchan's Domestic Medicine 1790

Remedies for sprains

1. Immerse in cold water
Country people generally immerse a strained limb in cold water. This is very proper, provided it be done immediately, and not kept in too long.2
2. Bandage the sprained limb
Wrapping a garter, or some other bandage, pretty tight about the strained part, is likewise of use. It helps to restore the proper tone of the vessels and prevents the action of the parts from increasing the disease. It should not however be applied too tight.3
3. Bleeding

The treatment of almost every ailment in Georgian times seemed to involve bloodletting or bleeding!
I have frequently known bleeding near the affected part have a very good effect.4
4. Rest
What we would recommend above all is ease. It is more to be depended on than any medicine, and seldom fails to remove the complaint.5
5. Poultices
A great many external applications are recommended for sprains, some of which do good, and others hurt. The following are such as may be used with the greatest safety, viz. poultices made of stale beer or vinegar and oatmeal, camphorated spirits of wine, Mindererus’s spirit, volatile liniment, volatile aromatic spirit diluted with a double quantity of water, and the common fomentation, with the addition of brandy or spirit of wine.6
If you are interested, I discovered that Mindererus’s spirit is an aqueous solution of acetate of ammonium named after a Augsburg physician called Minderer (but I confess that doesn’t actually make me any the wiser as I’m not at all medically minded!)

Treatment of bruises

Dr Buchan believed bruises were as much a problem as sprains:
Bruises are generally productive of worse consequences than wounds. The danger from them does not appear immediately, by which means it often happens that they are neglected.7
Remedies for bruises

1. Bathing in warm vinegar
In slight bruises it will be sufficient to bathe the part with warm vinegar, to which a little brandy or rum may occasionally be added, and to keep cloths wet with this mixture constantly applied to it. This is more proper than rubbing it with brandy, spirits of wine, or other ardent spirits, which are commonly used in such cases.8
2. Cow-dung poultice
In some parts of the country the peasants apply to a recent bruise a cataplasm of fresh cow-dung. I have often seen this cataplasm applied to violent contusions occasioned by blows, falls, bruises, and such like, and never knew it fail to have a good effect.9
A cataplasm is a poultice or plaster. This sounds like a particularly smelly and unpleasant remedy!

3. Bleeding
When a bruise is very violent, the patient ought immediately to be bled.10
4. Light food and weak drink
His food should be light and cool, and his drink weak, and of an opening nature; as whey sweetened with honey, decoctions of tamarinds, barley, cream-tartar-whey, and such like.11
I didn’t know what a tamarind was, let alone a decoction of tamarinds! According to the BBC website, it is a tart fruit from the tamarind tree which tastes like a sour date. The fruit is shaped like a long bean which contains a sour pulp of seeds which can be made into a paste. It is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.12

I found a recipe for a decoction of tamarinds in Thomas Fuller’s Pharmacopoeia Extemporanea (1719):
A Decoction of tamarinds
Take tamarinds 2 ounces; raisins stoned 4 ounces; boil in fair water 3 pints to 1 quart which strain.
It restrains the Flame of the Blood, allayeth unquenchable Thirst, humects, loosens, and is proper for constant Drink, in those Fevers that bring with them Costiveness, Drought, and parching Heat.13
5. Vinegary poultice
The bruised part must be bathed with vinegar and water, as directed above; and a poultice made by boiling crumb of bread, elder-flowers, and camomile-flowers, in equal quantities of vinegar and water, applied to it. This poultice is peculiarly proper when a wound is joined to the bruise. It may be renewed two or three times a-day.14
Mr Parker’s sprained ankle15

A Calm by James Gillray - published by H Humphrey 16 May 1810  © The Trustees of the British Museum  Used under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
A Calm by James Gillray - published by H Humphrey 16 May 1810
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Used under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)  
Mr Parker sprains his ankle at the beginning of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon:
In a most friendly manner Mr. Heywood here interposed, entreating them not to think of proceeding till the ankle had been examined and some refreshment taken, and very cordially pressing them to make use of his house for both purposes.
‘We are always well stocked,’ said he, ‘with all the common remedies for sprains and bruises.’16
Unfortunately, Jane Austen didn’t tell us what these remedies were.

Later, Mr Parker’s sister Diana hears about his accident and writes to him:
If indeed a simple sprain, as you denominate it, nothing would have been so judicious as friction, friction by the hand alone, supposing it could be applied instantly. Two years ago I happened to be calling on Mrs. Sheldon when her coachman sprained his foot as he was cleaning the carriage and could hardly limp into the house, but by the immediate use of friction alone steadily persevered in (and I rubbed his ankle with my own hand for six hours without intermission) he was well in three days.17
I’m glad Diana didn’t get her hands on my ankle – it sounds very painful!

My treatment

I suppose immersing in cold water is a similar idea to ice treatment – I got my frozen peas on my swollen ankle promptly. I used witch hazel gel and later arnica for the swelling and bruises – no bloodletting or cow dung poultices, I hasten to add. I used an elasticated bandage for support but above all, plenty of rest, as recommended by Buchan.

Notes
* Georgiana is the working title of the next book in the Merry series of Regency romances.
1. Buchan, William, Domestic Medicine: or, a treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases (1790, 11th edition)
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
13. Fuller, Thomas, Pharmacopoeia Extemporanea or a body of medicines (1719)
14. Buchan op cit.
15. Thanks to Gordon Le Pard for reminding me of Mr Parker’s sprained ankle. I added this Sanditon section on 16 May 2020.
16. Austen, Jane, Sanditon (1817).
17. Ibid.

Sources used include:
BBC website
Buchan, William, Domestic Medicine: or, a treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases (1790, 11th edition)
Fuller, Thomas, Pharmacopoeia Extemporanea or a body of medicines (1719)

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Fanny Boscawen, bluestocking hostess (1719-1805)

Fanny Boscawen by Allan Ramsay (1749)  © Croome Park NT/Lionel Matthews
Fanny Boscawen by Allan Ramsay (1749)
© Croome Park NT/Lionel Matthews
Fanny Boscawen (23 July 1719 – 26 February 1805) was a bluestocking hostess and writer. Her husband Edward commissioned Robert Adam to design the interiors for their home, Hatchlands Park, Surrey.

Early years

Frances Evelyn Glanville was born on 23 July 1719 at St Clere, near Wrotham, Kent. Frances, known as Fanny, was the only daughter of William Evelyn and his wife Frances Glanville, a great niece of the diarist John Evelyn. Her father took her mother’s name on their marriage by Act of Parliament, at the same time as inheriting her fortune.

Fanny’s mother died in childbirth and her father remarried a few years later. Fanny spent much of her childhood staying with relatives - an aunt, Mrs Gore, who lived at Boxley near Maidstone; at Wotton in Surrey with Sir John Evelyn, the grandson of the diarist, and his wife Anne Boscawen; and with Sir John’s son John and his wife Mary Boscawen, his first cousin, a daughter of Hugh Boscawen, 1st Viscount Falmouth.

Marriage

Admiral Edward Boscawen from the painting  by Sir Joshua Reynolds from An Historical   Journal of the Campaigns in North America  by Captain John Knox (1914)
Admiral Edward Boscawen from the painting
by Sir Joshua Reynolds from An Historical
 Journal of the Campaigns in North America
by Captain John Knox (1914)
It was at the home of John and Mary Evelyn that Fanny first met Edward Boscawen (1711-1761), Mary’s brother, in 1738. Edward was a captain in the navy. Fanny later wrote a letter that alluded to these ‘when you and I loved one another and told it only by our eyes.’1

When Edward returned after three years active service in the war against Spain, he became MP for Truro and was made captain of the Dreadnought. He resumed his courtship of Fanny and they were married on 11 December 1742. They lived in George Street, Hanover Square, London.

Edward and Fanny were very happy together and had five children: Edward Hugh (1744), Frances (1746), Elizabeth (1747), William Glanville (1749) and George (1758).

Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park © A Knowles (2014)
Hatchlands Park © A Knowles (2014)
In 1746, Fanny rented a small house in the country, in Beddington, Surrey, and in 1747, Edward and Fanny moved to a new London address, 14 South Audley Street.

In 1749, Edward and Fanny bought Hatchlands Park, near Guildford, in Surrey. It was an estate that Fanny had set her heart on some time before. Fanny wrote in her journal on 10th August 1748 that she had ‘made no enquiries, my heart still fixed at Hatchlands.’2

Again, on 23rd November 1748 Fanny wrote:
I shall wait for the charming summons at Englefield Green, where I propose to reside again this summer, Hatchland (which I still think of) being neither sold nor saleable.3
Edward and Fanny spent four happy years at Hatchlands together before Edward was once more called away on active service.

In 1757, they commissioned a new house at Hatchlands with interiors designed by Robert Adam.

Adam fireplace in the Drawing Room, Hatchlands from The architecture of Robert and James Adam by AT Bolton (1922)
Adam fireplace in the Drawing Room, Hatchlands
from The architecture of Robert and James Adam by AT Bolton (1922)
A successful naval career

Edward’s naval career meant that both during their courtship and after their marriage, Edward and Fanny spent many months apart. Fanny kept a journal to keep Edward in touch with what was happening at home.

Edward proved himself to be a very able naval commander. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral of the Blue in 1747 and appointed Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty in 1751. (Admiral’s wife p146) He rose to Vice Admiral in 1755 and Admiral in 1758. Edward is particularly remembered for his successes in the Siege of Louisburg (1758) and the Battle of Lagos (1759).

Widowhood

Edward died at Hatchlands on 10 January 1761 after an acute attack of typhoid fever. Fanny was distraught. Edward was buried at St Michael Penkevil in Cornwall, in a tomb designed by Robert Adam, and with an inscription written by Fanny herself and ending with the words:
His once happy wife inscribes this marble – an unequal testimony of his worth and of her affection.4
Hre friend Elizabeth Montagu wrote to her husband a week after Edward’s death:
I thank God her mind is very calm and settled; she endeavours all she can to bring herself to submit to this dire misfortune. I know time must be her best comforter, so that I oppose her lamentations rarely and gently, but when they continue long, I set before her the merit of her five children, the want they will have of her, and the comfort she may derive from them.5
Blue-stocking hostess

Edward left his entire fortune to Fanny. She sold Hatchlands and moved back to London, to 14 South Audley Street, where she gained a reputation as an excellent letter writer and conversationalist and became famous for her bluestocking assemblies. Her guests included Elizabeth Montagu, Dr Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Carter and Hannah More.

You can read more about the bluestocking circle on my earlier blog here.

Elizabeth Montagu wrote:
I look upon it as a fortunate omen to begin my New Year in Mrs Boscawen’s company. She is in her conversation everything that can make the hours pass agreeably. I must be happier, and I should be better for her friendship.6
Elizabeth Montagu from a print on display in Dr Johnson's House Museum
Elizabeth Montagu from a print on display
in Dr Johnson's House Museum
What was Fanny Boscawen like?

In Admiral’s Wife, Cecil Aspinall-Oglander wrote:
Though even Fanny’s dearest friends can never have called her beautiful, her vivacious little face and attractive figure, her level brow and restful wide-apart eyes, her ready wit and subtle understanding, her captivating manner and complete lack of self-consciousness were utterly irresistible.7
Fellow bluestocking Mrs Montagu described Fanny in a letter dated 1757:
She is in very good spirits, and sensible of her many felicities, which I pray God to preserve to her; but her cup is so full of good, I am always afraid it will spill. She is one of the few whom an unbounded prosperity could not spoil. I think there is not a grain of evil in her composition. She is humble, charitable, pious, of gentle temper, with the firmest principles and with a great deal of discretion, void of any degree of art, warm and constant in her affections, mild towards offenders, but rigorous towards offence.8
Hannah More referred to Fanny in this excerpt from her poem, The Bas Bleu; or, Conversation:
Long was society o’er-run
By whist, that desolating Hun;
Long did quadrille despotic sit,
That Vandal of colloquial wit;
And conversation’s setting light
Lay half-obscured in Gothic night.
At length the mental shades decline,
Colloquial wit begins to shine;
Genius prevails, and conversation
Emerges into reformation.
The vanquish'd triple crown to you,
Boscawen sage, bright Montagu,
Divided, fell; - your cares in haste
Rescued the ravag'd realms of Taste.9
Hannah More from Memoirs of the life and correspondence  of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
Hannah More
from Memoirs of the life and correspondence 
of Mrs Hannah More by William Roberts (1835)
Family sadness

Losing her beloved husband was not the only loss that Fanny had to bear. Three of her five children died before her: William was drowned in 1769, Edward died in 1774, and Frances Leveson-Gower, to whom she was particularly close, died in 1801. In 1803, her daughter Elizabeth’s husband, Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, also died.

Fanny had a close friendship with her cousin Julia Sayer (née Evelyn) with whom she corresponded regularly until Julia’s death in 1777. Fanny continued to correspond with Julia’s daughter, her god-daughter Frances Sayer, who became her closest companion in the latter years of her life. It was Frances Sayer who collected and saved Fanny’s letters.

Death

Fanny died on 26 February 1805 at her home in South Audley Street, London. She was buried in her husband’s tomb in Cornwall.

The inscription on her grave reads:
Here lie the remains of the Honourable Frances Boscawen, daughter of William Evelyn Glanville Esq of St Clere in the County of Kent and relict of the right Hon Admiral Boscawen to whom she was a faithful and affectionate wife for eighteen years and by whom she had five children, whom she most carefully and tenderly educated: Viz Edward Hugh Boscawen, member of parliament for Truro who died at the spa in Germany July 17th 1774 aged 29 years. Frances, the wife of Rear Admiral the Hon John Leveson Gower who died July 14th 1801 aged 55 years, Elizabeth, married to Henry, 5th Duke of Beaufort who survived her. William Glanville Boscawen who was unhappily drowned at Jamaica 21st April 1769 aged 17 years: A Lieutenant in the Navy and George Evelyn Boscawen third Viscount Falmouth who survived her. Her long and well spent life in the observance of the purest and most exemplary piety and in the practice of every Christian virtue was terminated on the 26th day of February 1805 in London in the 86th year of her age. She was endowed with an uncommon and remarkable strength of understanding and in society, she is thus most truly described by a contemporary author: ‘Her manners are the most agreeable and her conversation the best of any Lady with whom I ever had the happiness to be acquainted.’10
Notes
1. Aspinall-Oglander, Cecil, Admiral's Wife, Being the life and letters of The Hon Mrs Edward Boscawen from 1719-1761 (1940)
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Ibid
5. Ibid
6. Ibid
7. Ibid
8. Climenson, Emily J, Elizabeth Montagu, The Queen of the Blue-Stockings Volume 2 (1906)
9. More, Hannah, The Works of Hannah More Volume 5 (1835)
10. Findagrave website - entry for Frances Evelyn Glanville Boscawen

Sources used include:
Aspinall-Oglander, Cecil, Admiral's Wife, Being the life and letters of The Hon Mrs Edward Boscawen from 1719-1761 (1940)
Climenson, Emily J, Elizabeth Montagu, The Queen of the Blue-Stockings Volume 2 (1906)
Eger, Elizabeth, Boscawen (née Glanville), Frances Evelyn (Fanny) (1719-1805), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, online edn 23 Sept 2004)
Knox, Captain John, An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America Volume 1 (1914)

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Could a Regency widower marry his wife's sister?

A fashionable wedding at St George's Hanover Square in 1841 from Life In Regency and Early  Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
A fashionable wedding at St George's Hanover Square
in 1841 from Life In Regency and Early 
Victorian Times by EB Chancellor (1926)
I started investigating this question because I came across a blog post saying it was illegal for a man to marry his dead wife’s sister. Yet I knew from my research for What Regency Women Did For Us that Maria Edgeworth’s father had married his wife’s sister after his wife had died. Had the marriage been illegal or was I missing something?

The short answer

During the Regency period, the marriage between a widower and his wife’s sister, or between a widow and her husband’s brother, was valid but voidable. It was forbidden under ecclesiastical law but not illegal until the passing of the Marriage Act in 1835. It could be voided or annulled if successfully challenged by any interested party, at any time during the marriage, provided both husband and wife were still alive. 

The long answer

Forbidden Marriages

According to ecclesiastical law, a widower could not marry his wife’s sister and a widow could not marry her husband’s brother as these marriages were ‘within the prohibited degrees.’

These ‘marriages within the prohibited degrees’ were based on those marriages forbidden in the Bible and were laid out in A Table of Kindred and Affinity in The Book of Common Prayer (1662).1

A man may not marry his:
1. Grandmother
2. Grandfather’s wife
3. Wife’s grandmother
4. Father’s sister
5. Mother’s sister
6. Father’s brother’s wife
7. Mother’s brother’s wife
8. Wife’s father’s sister
9. Wife’s mother’s sister
10. Mother
11. Stepmother
12. Wife’s mother
13. Daughter
14. Wife’s daughter
15. Son’s wife
16. Sister
17. Wife’s sister
18. Brother’s wife
19. Son’s daughter
20. Daughter’s daughter
21. Son’s son’s wife
22. Daughter’s son’s wife
23. Wife’s son’s daughter
24. Wife’s daughter’s daughter
25. Brother’s daughter
26. Sister’s daughter
27. Brother’s son’s wife
28. Sister’s son’s wife
29. Wife’s brother’s daughter
30. Wife’s sister’s daughter
A woman may not marry her:
1. Grandfather
2. Grandmother’s husband
3. Husband’s grandfather
4. Father’s brother
5. Mother’s brother
6. Father’s sister’s husband
7. Mother’s sister’s husband
8. Husband’s father’s brother
9. Husband’s mother’s brother
10. Father
11. Stepfather
12. Husband’s father
13. Son
14. Husband’s son
15. Daughter’s husband
16. Brother
17. Husband’s brother
18. Sister’s husband
19. Son’s son
20. Daughter’s son
21. Son’s daughter’s husband
22. Daughter’s daughter’s husband
23. Husband’s son’s son
24. Husband’s daughter’s son
25. Brother’s son
26. Sister’s son
27. Brother’s daughter’s husband
28. Sister’s daughter’s husband
29. Husband’s brother’s son
30. Husband’s sister’s son
This is hard work to digest! Put simply, there were three groups of people a man could not marry:
1. Close blood relations: grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, daughter, niece, granddaughter.
2. The wife of the male equivalents of these relations: grandfather’s wife, father’s wife, uncle’s wife, brother’s wife, son’s wife, nephew’s wife, grandson’s wife.
3. Close blood relations (as in 1 above) of your wife.

Similarly, a woman could not marry:
1. Close blood relations: grandfather, father, uncle, brother, son, nephew, grandson.
2. The husband of the female equivalents of these relations: grandmother’s husband, mother’s husband, aunt’s husband, sister’s husband, daughter’s husband, niece’s husband, granddaughter’s husband.
3. Close blood relations (as in 1 above) of your husband.

Mourning full or opera dress  from La Belle Assemblée (1806)
Mourning full or opera dress
from La Belle Assemblée (1806)
The problem of not being able to marry your dead wife’s sister

The problem was that the sister of a deceased wife was often the most suitable person to help look after the widower’s children, but she could not live as a single woman in her brother-in-law’s house without risk of scandal and she could not marry him because ecclesiastical law forbade it.

Not everyone thought that this restriction was right. John Fry argued that marriage with a deceased wife’s sister was both fit and convenient in The Case of Marriage between Near Kindred (1756).

It was a problem that only affected the upper classes of society. In a debate on the law of marriage – prohibited degrees - in the House of Commons in 1847, Stuart Wortley stated:
As to the lower orders of society, they are quite incapable of comprehending the considerations of refined delicacy on which the law has been defended; and during an inquiry which lasted for more than two months I did not meet with one man or woman in humble life who considered marriage with a deceased wife's sister improper.2
Valid but voidable

Though forbidden by ecclesiastical law, if a marriage within the prohibited degrees took place – assuming a member of the clergy was willing to marry them – it was valid unless successfully challenged by an interested party while both marriage partners were alive.

In the debate in the House of Commons in 1847, it was recorded:
It was well known that, before the Act of 1835, marriages within the prohibited degrees, and among them marriages of men with sisters of their deceased wives, were not actually void, but merely voidable.3
Before the 1835 Marriage Act, marriages within the prohibited degrees were constantly at risk of being voided. This was obviously a big deal where children were concerned as if the marriage were voided, it made them illegitimate and could rob them of their inheritance. The only time limit on such a challenge seemed to be that both parties were still alive. 

Examples of voidable marriages that were valid

Richard Lovell Edgeworth, author (1744-1817)

Richard Lovell Edgeworth  from Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1821)
Richard Lovell Edgeworth
from Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1821)
The author, Maria Edgeworth, had three stepmothers and two of them were sisters. Her own mother died in 1773 when Maria was five and her father remarried, in the same year, to Honora Sneyd. When Honora died in 1780, Richard Lovell Edgeworth very promptly married Honora’s sister Elizabeth. The marriage took place after banns and went unchallenged. Elizabeth died in 1797 and Maria’s father promptly took a fourth wife, Frances Beaufort (who was younger than Maria).

Matthew Boulton, manufacturer and entrepreneur (1728-1809)

Matthew Boulton from The Making of Birmingham by RK Dent (1894)
Matthew Boulton from The Making of
Birmingham
by RK Dent (1894)
Birmingham manufacturer Matthew Boulton married Mary Robinson, a distant cousin, around 1756. Mary died, childless, within a few years of their marriage. About ten years later, Matthew married Mary’s younger sister Anne, although Anne’s brother was against the match.

Rear Admiral Charles Austen (1779-1852)

Jane Austen’s brother Charles married Frances Palmer in 1807. He married Frances’s sister Harriet in 1820, after Frances’s death.

The 1835 Marriage Act

The 1835 Marriage Act sought to remove the uncertainty over whether a voidable marriage would at some point become void. I was fascinated to read that the original intention of the Bill had simply been just that – to set a time limit on challenging a marriage within the prohibited degrees so that the children did not live in fear of their parents’ marriage being overturned.

What was proposed was that all existing marriages of people within the prohibited degrees should be questioned within six months of the Act and new marriages within two years of the date of the marriage.4

At some point during the debate, the terms were changed making all the existing marriages legal and all subsequent marriages void.

Marriage abroad

After the 1835 Act had been passed, the only legal way for a widower to marry his wife’s sister was to go abroad. It was generally believed this would be valid, although such marriages were still frowned upon by many.
The law of this country recognised a marriage as valid if solemnized according to the law of the place where it occurred; and, consequently, unless the Statute of 1835 constituted a personal incapacity-—as some contended, but as, he thought, it did not —a marriage solemnized abroad might effectually evade the law.5
A long battle for a change in the law

The Marriage to a Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill was first introduced in 1842 and was repeatedly raised in Parliament during the Victorian period, but it was not until 1907 that a man could marry his deceased wife’s sister. It was not until 1921 that the female equivalent was allowed, in the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act.

Notes
1. The list appears on the last page of John Baskerville’s 1762 reprint of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
2. Law of marriage – prohibited degrees Hansard 13 May 1847 Commons Sitting
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.

Sources used include:
Bailey, Martha, The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World, JASNA Volume 36, 1 Winter 2015
Book of Common Prayer (1662) republished 1762
Family Search website, Staffordshire Church Records
Knowles, Rachel, What Regency Women Did For Us (2017)
Tann, Jennifer, Boulton, Matthew (1728-1809) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2007, accessed 5 Oct 2012)

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Drury Lane Theatre burns down 24 February 1809

Drury lane Theatre on fire from Shakspere to Sheridan - a book about   the theatre of yesterday and today by A Thaler (1922)
Drury lane Theatre on fire from Shakspere to Sheridan - a book about 
the theatre of yesterday and today by A Thaler (1922)
Fire was a constant threat to Georgian buildings, especially theatres. Covent Garden theatre burnt down on 20 September 1808 and less than six months later, its rival, Drury Lane Theatre, suffered the same fate.

When did Drury Lane Theatre burn down?

Feltham’s The Picture of London for 1818 said:
On the twenty-fourth of February [1809], about eleven o'clock at night, the superb theatre of Drury Lane was discovered to be on fire, and though such a vast building, it was entirely consumed by four o'clock on the following morning.1
How did Drury Lane Theatre burn down?

According to Mrs Cornwell Baron Wilson’s Memoirs of Miss Mellon:
A fire had been left in the upper coffee-room at four in the afternoon, and there being no performance, all the servants were out of that part of the theatre; it is supposed that it ignited and caught the wood-work.2
The Picture of London for 1810 stated:
At a quarter after 11 o’clock at night, Feb 24, 1809, this splendid Theatre, the most magnificent perhaps in Europe, was enveloped in flames, and in less than one hour and an half the whole was an immense heap of ruins … In less than a quarter of an hour from the first discovery of it, the fire spread in one unbroken flame over the whole of the immense building, extending from Brydges-street to Drury-lane, and displaying a pillar of fire not less than 450 feet in breadth. The rapidity of the flames was such, that before twelve o'clock the whole of the interior from the extremity of the boxes in Brydges-street to the back of the stage, including a newly-erected building for the scenes, was in one tremendous blaze. Neither the burning of the Opera House, nor of Covent-garden, nor the late fire at St James’s, can be compared in terrific grandeur with this dreadful conflagration.3
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
Was it arson?

Some questioned whether the fire was an accident, judging it unlikely that rival theatres should have burnt down in such a short space of time. Boaden wrote in his Memoirs of Mrs Siddons (1827):
So speedy a coincidence, as it defied the doctrine of chances, and the probabilities of life, so in the breasts of persons suffering by the system of irregularity at that house, it begot a suspicion that the destruction of Drury Lane Theatre was wilful. One person was frequently named as the contriver of the whole mischief, and he, certainly, was a man who possessed the entire means in himself; but his very accusers could assign no motive to such an action.4
The Picture of London for 1810 said:
It has been fully ascertained that this melancholy catastrophe was occasioned by accident.5
How much was lost?

Wilson wrote:
In that short space of time, a theatre that had cost £129,000, and was not then completed, was reduced to one huge mass of ashes and rubbish.6
The Picture of London for 1810 valued the loss at rather more:
The building of this Theatre cost 200,000l; and the immense property of all sorts, in scenery, machinery, dresses, decorations, music, instruments, plays, &c of which nothing was saved, nearly amounted to the same sum. The wardrobe alone was valued at 40,000l. The whole insurance did not exceed 45,000l.7
Boaden wrote:
Some of the performers, among whom was my friend Charles Matthews, at a personal risk sufficiently alarming, thridded the suffocating maze of passages, and bore away their personal property. Mrs Jordan found some kind help in this disaster, and lost, I think, little or nothing.8
Financial disaster for Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron
with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
The fire was a disaster, not least for theatre owner and manager, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He had borrowed extensively to finance the new, bigger theatre building – a building that was still unfinished when it was burnt to the ground. 

Ironically, the new theatre had boasted improved fire precautions. The Microcosm of London said:
In the roof of the theatre is contained, besides the barrel-loft, ample room for scene-painters, and four very large reservoirs, from which water is distributed over every part of the house, for the purpose of instantly extinguishing fire in any part where such accident is possible.9
The theatre was under-insured, and Sheridan faced financial ruin. Boaden wrote:
Sheridan had used his theatre as a store to deposit the spoils of office; and by this fire was destroyed the furniture, which adorned his house in Somerset Buildings, when he was for a short time Treasurer of the Navy. He was himself in the House of Commons when he received the disastrous intelligence; and he behaved with his accustomed fortitude. The sympathy of the House would have led the members to adjourn, but he refused such a personal compliment to his feelings; and only at the proper time could be prevailed on himself to repair to the neighbourhood of his ruin, where he sat out the last appearances of conflagration.
When the reader reflects upon the state of this great man's finances, the little hope he could entertain of his theatre's being rebuilt at all, or of its ever yielding an income to him again, if it were — and is told that neither his fortitude nor his pleasantry abandoned him, he may suspect that wit has a buckler more impassive than adamant, and think him an object of envy in every condition of his fortune.10
Old and New London’s account of the fire, published in 1878, wrote that the House of Commons did adjourn, despite Sheridan’s protests. It said:
He [Sheridan] went thither, however, in all haste, and whilst seeing his own property in flames, sat down with his friend Barry in a coffee-house opposite to a bottle of port, coolly remarking, in answer to some friendly expostulation, that it was ‘hard if a man could not drink a glass of wine by his own fire!’11
I wonder whether Sheridan was truly calm enough, in the face of financial ruin, to be so witty, or whether this story is apocryphal. It’s hard to tell, but I think it sounds like his wit, and it gives a light-hearted touch to an otherwise miserable story of ruin.

You can read more of Sheridan's wit here.

The disaster commemorated in verse

When Drury Lane Theatre was rebuilt, a competition was held for an address to be given on its reopening. One hundred and twelve addresses were submitted, of which only one could be successful. Horace and James Smith were inspired to write the extremely successful Rejected Addresses, twenty-one imaginary entries, parodying some of the greatest writers of the day, including Lord Byron, Dr Johnson and Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis.

The story of the fire at Drury Lane, by Horace, in the style of Sir Walter Scott, was judged to be the best imitation. You can read the full poem, and all the other imaginary entries, on Project Gutenberg. Here are three excerpts:
Rest there awhile, my bearded lance,
While from green curtain I advance
To yon foot-lights—no trivial dance,
And tell the town what sad mischance
Did Drury Lane befall.
As Chaos, which, by heavenly doom,
Had slept in everlasting gloom,
Started with terror and surprise
When light first flash’d upon her eyes—
So London’s sons in nightcap woke,
In bed-gown woke her dames;
For shouts were heard ’mid fire and smoke,
And twice ten hundred voices spoke—
‘The playhouse is in flames!’
E’en Higginbottom now was posed,
For sadder scene was ne’er disclosed
Without, within, in hideous show,
Devouring flames resistless glow,
And blazing rafters downward go,
And never halloo ‘Heads below!’
Nor notice give at all.
The firemen terrified are slow
To bid the pumping torrent flow,
For fear the roof should fall.12
Notes
1. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818).
2. Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886).
3. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
4. Boaden, James, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons: interspersed with anecdotes of authors and actors (1827).
5. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
6. Wilson op cit.
7. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
8. Boaden op cit.
9. Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
10. Boaden op cit.
11. Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 3.
12. Smith, James and Horace, Rejected Addresses; or, The New Theatrum Poetarum (1879 - originally printed 1812).

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Boaden, James, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons: interspersed with anecdotes of authors and actors (1827)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
Smith, James and Horace, Rejected Addresses; or, The New Theatrum Poetarum (1879 - originally printed 1812)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 3
Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886)

Friday, 31 January 2020

Frederica, Duchess of York (1767-1820)

Frederica, Duchess of York from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany  by John Watkins (1827)
Frederica, Duchess of York from A Biographical
Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany

by John Watkins (1827)
Who was Frederica, Duchess of York?

Frederica, Duchess of York (7 May 1767 – 6 August 1820), was a Prussian princess who married Frederick, Duke of York, George IV’s brother. She was known for her love of animals and for the large number of dogs she kept at Oatlands, the Duke of York’s residence in Weybridge, Surrey.

Family background

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Princess Frederica of Prussia, was born on 7 May 1767, the eldest daughter of Frederick William II, King of Prussia, by his first wife, Elizabeth of Brunswick. According to La Belle Assemblée, Frederica was
… educated under the eye of her mother, in those strict principles of the Protestant faith which govern the Ecclesiastical Constitution of Prussia.1
Marriage to the Duke of York

On 29 September 1791, Princess Frederica married Frederick, Duke of York, the second son of George III, in Berlin. In order to fulfil the requirements of the Royal Marriage Act (1772), the ceremony had to be repeated in England so that the King’s consent could ‘be set out in the licence and register of marriage.’2

This second ceremony took place on 23 November 1791 at the Queen’s House, later Buckingham Palace. I confess, I do not know which is the official date of marriage, though I guess it is probably the second one, as in the eyes of English law, it was this ceremony that made the union legal.

According to La Belle Assemblée, Princess Frederica
… had been seen by the Duke of York in an excursion which he made abroad some four years previous to their union. His Royal Highness, in his German tour, had paid a visit to the Court of Berlin, and had there imbibed those elements of military knowledge which prevail in the school of the Great Frederick. He had, at that period, formed an attachment for the Princess Royal of Prussia, who then shone in the full splendour of her beauty, and whose numerous accomplishments, and many mild and amiable virtues, were the common theme of admiration.3
Despite this rosy account of the Duke’s affection, it was an arranged marriage, and not particularly successful. There were no children from the union and the royal couple lived separate lives, though from all that I have read, their relationship was amicable.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
 The diarist Charles Greville wrote:
The Duke and the Duchess live upon the best terms; their manner to one another is cordial, and while full of mutual respect and attention, they follow separately their own occupations and amusements without interfering with one another. Their friends are common to both, and those who are most attached to the Duke are equally so to the Duchess.4
What did the Duchess look like?

La Belle Assemblée (1806) described the Duchess of York:
Her Royal Highness’s stature is somewhat below the common height, and her figure elegantly formed in proportionate delicacy and slightness. Her countenance has so far the best beauty, that it is made to win tenderness, esteem and affection. Her complexion is exquisitely fair, and the bloom with which it is enlivened is rather a tint appearing through her skin, than that sort of colour which seems to exist in it. Her hair is light, and her eye-lashes are long and nearly white, resembling those of our Royal Family, to whom, indeed, she is not much unlike in features. Her eyes are blue, and of uncommon brilliancy.5
The Duchess of York by John Hoppner  from John Hoppner RA  by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
The Duchess of York by John Hoppner
from John Hoppner RA
by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
Amiable and intelligent

In Greville’s opinion, the Duchess was rather more intelligent than her royal husband and liked to entertain clever men. He wrote:
The Duchess likes the society of men of wit and letters; more, I think, from the variety of having them around her than from any pleasure she takes in their conversation. Lord Alvanley is the man in whom she takes the greatest delight.6
Greville also suggested that the Duchess was quite at home with conversation that might have been deemed by others as unfit for female ears:
Her mind is not perhaps the most delicate; she shows no dislike to coarseness of sentiment or language, and I have seen her very much amused with jokes, stories, and allusions which would shock a very nice person. But her own conversation is never polluted with anything the least indelicate or unbecoming. She is very sensible to little attentions, and is annoyed if anybody appears to keep aloof from her or to shun conversing with her.7
Charitable nature

The Duchess was known for her generosity towards the poor and, perhaps because childless herself, many of the charitable works she carried out were for the benefit of children. La Belle Assemblée wrote that she
… established many charity schools at Oatlands and in the neighbourhood, and her humanity and tenderness to the poor are the theme of all who approach her.8
The Duke of York’s biographer, John Watkins, enlarged upon this:
The children of the whole neighbourhood, at least all who stood in need of assistance, were considered by the Duchess as belonging to her household. They were accordingly clothed and educated under her own immediate inspection, and entirely at her expense. Every Saturday whole troops of these infants were to be seen crossing the park in their simple clean attire, to the mansion of their royal benefactress, from whose hand they frequently received cake and wine.
As they grew up, the patronage of her royal highness was still continued; the girls being either put out to service, or provided for with suitable employment, while the boys were apprenticed at the charge of the Duchess, who also gave marriage portions to the deserving, and extended her benevolence to their rising families.9
Besides this, she had a long list of infirm pensioners, of both sexes, in London, who received regular allowances.

Love of animals

The Duchess was passionately fond of animals, particularly dogs. She kept a huge number of them at Oatlands and created a cemetery in the park in which to bury them after they had died. She also kept monkeys and parrots.

Greville wrote:
Her dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has a vast number; it is impossible to offend her or annoy her more than by ill-using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it.10
Watkins wrote:
To the canine species the Duchess was remarkably attached; and it was no uncommon thing to see her in the park surrounded by thirty or forty of these animals of various sorts, as English lapdogs, Dutch pugs, and French barbettes. Their respective litters were taken great care of, and the young ones not unfrequently boarded out, under the superintendence of the cottagers. Nor was this tenderness confined to them while living, for a cemetery was actually formed in the park to receive their remains.11
Writing in 1828, after Oatlands had passed out of royal hands, Prosser described where the cemetery was: 
Before the grotto, which is entwined with ivy and other creeping plants, was a gold and silver fish pond and a small cascade, now in a neglected and ruinous state. Near are numerous small stone tablets, bearing the names of nearly seventy of her late Royal Highness's favorite dogs that lie buried here.12
The Duchess’s other interests
Among the other amusements of the Duchess, gardening constituted one of the most favourite; and she also took great delight in collecting shells, with which she formed one of the finest grottoes ever seen in this kingdom, expending thereon, it is said, near twelve thousand pounds.13
Watkins’ estimate of the cost of the grotto, though expensive, was quite conservative. La Belle Assemblée stated that it had cost at least £50,000!
The Grotto, which has grown to its present elegance chiefly under her Royal Highness’s hands, is reckoned one of the principal curiosities of this kingdom, and perhaps in any part of the world.
Her Royal Highness has very condescendingly opened it for public inspection, every Sunday evening during the summer season. It is shown, free of all expense, to the visitants.14
Friends and family

The Duchess was very close to Princess Charlotte and friendly towards her mother Caroline, Princess of Wales. According to Greville, the Duchess
… always lived on good terms with the Royal Family, but is intimate with none of them, and goes as little as possible to Court. The Regent dislikes her, and she him. With the Princess Charlotte she was latterly very intimate, spent a great deal of time at Claremont, and felt her death very severely.15
Ian Kelly, in his biography of Beau Brummell, wrote that the Duchess and the Prince Regent were on friendly terms - rather better than Watkins suggested.

Kelly also wrote of the Duchess’s close friendship with Beau Brummell. She helped him financially after he fled to France to escape his debts in 1816 and it was for her sake that he agreed not to publish his memoirs whilst the Regent or any of his brothers were alive.

George Brummell from The History of White's  by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
George Brummell from The History of White's
 by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
A private person

The Duchess of York did not like being in the public eye and preferred to live at Oatlands when she could. Greville wrote:
The Duchess has no taste for splendour or magnificence, and likes to live the life of a private individual as much as possible.16
In Watkins’ opinion:
The life of the Duchess was marked by scarcely any circumstances calculated to bring her prominently under public observation. She mixed very little in the gaieties of fashionable life.17
Oatlands from Select illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Oatlands
from Select illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
The worst hostess?

Whilst the Duchess loved entertaining, and regularly gave parties at Oatlands, she was not a very attentive hostess. Greville recorded his observations on the Duchess’s eccentricity and the haphazard style of living that existed there:
Oatlands is the worst managed establishment in England; there are a great many servants, and nobody waits on you; a vast number of horses, and none to ride or drive.18
On another occasion he wrote:
The Duchess seldom goes to bed, or, if she does, only for an hour or two; she sleeps dressed upon a couch, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. She frequently walks out very late at night, or rather early in the morning, and she always sleeps with open windows. She dresses and breakfasts at three o’clock, afterwards walks out with all her dogs, and seldom appears before dinner-time. At night, when she cannot sleep, she has women to read to her. 19
A brush with death

On 6 June 1794, there was a dreadful fire at Oatlands. Fortunately, the Duchess was not harmed.
Watkins wrote:
The Duchess beheld the dreadful conflagration from her sleeping room, which was in the centre of the mansion, and from which the flames were kept by pulling down a gateway, over which the wing joined the house. His Majesty, on hearing of the misfortune, went to Oatlands early the next morning, and gave the necessary orders for clearing the ruins, and rebuilding the wing which had been destroyed, at his own expense.20
Illness and death

Princess Frederica died of consumption on Sunday 6 August 1820. Greville described the cause as water on her chest. She was buried, at her own request, in Weybridge Church, on 14 August.

Watkins wrote that:
The Duke, when consulted upon the subject of the funeral, at once determined that the wish of his lamented consort should be complied with; and directions were accordingly given that the obsequies should be performed as she had requested, and that with as little ostentation as possible.21
Greville wrote:
She is deeply regretted by her husband, her friends, and her servants. Probably no person in such a situation was ever more really liked. She has left 12,000ℓ. to her servants and some children whom she had caused to be educated. She had arranged all her affairs with the greatest exactitude, and left nothing undone.22
Notes
1. Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (1806).
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville, Charles, A journal of the reigns of King George IV and King William IV, edited by Henry Reeve (Longmans, 1874) Volume 1.
5. Bell op cit.
6. Entry for 24 December 1819, Greville op cit.
7. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
8. Bell op cit.
9. Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827)
10. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
11. Watkins op cit.
12. Prosser, George Frederick, Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey (1828).
13. Watkins op cit.
14. Bell op cit.
15. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
16. Ibid.
17. Watkins op cit.
18. Entry for 4 August 1818, Greville op cit.
19. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
20. Watkins op cit.
21. Watkins op cit.
22. Entry August 1820, Greville op cit.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (John Bell, 1806, London)
Greville, Charles, A journal of the reigns of King George IV and King William IV, edited by Henry Reeve (Longmans, 1874) Volume 1
Kelly, Ian, Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Dandy (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)
Prosser, George Frederick, Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey (1828)
Stephens, HM, revised by Van der Kiste, John, Frederick, Prince, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004, updated 2007)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)