What the 18th Century Man Wanted

What the 18th Century Man Wanted

Today wanting marriage is considered a very female desire. From Rom-coms to slimming magazines the ideal is always to get the right man down the aisle. Bachelors are seen as reluctant, fun loving and free and it is hard to imagine a time when marriage represented the summit of a young man’s hopes.

Since the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s women have had control of their reproductive ability but until then sexual fulfilment for most women only came with marriage. The same was true for men although their options were wider; paying for sex was the norm for those who could afford it. For the middle class sexual indiscretion and becoming ill with the pox meant additional expense, disability and being unable to work.

For the professional middle class, who relied on their labour and not their estates for their income, sexual continence was the desired state and a good marriage to an attractive and capable woman offered the prospect of not only physical excitement, care and affection but good household management.

Until almost the end of the last century marriage was the only acceptable framework for children. In the 18th century children were a man’s property and it was through his sons that he laid claim on the future, but his ability to father children also confirmed his potency.  Virility was one of the most celebrated masculine qualities in the 18th century.  The father who led a handsome family into church radiated both an air of commanding respectability and a glow of unmistakable sexual success.

Historian Amanda Vickery says that, ” Two days before his marriage in January 1754, 33 year old Josiah Wedgwood positively frothed with anticipation of ‘the blissful day! When she will reward all my faithful services and take me to her arms! To her Nuptial bed! To – Pleasures which I am yet ignorant of’. He took the precaution of working over-time the week before his wedding to clear time to enjoy his bride uninterrupted.

In the 17th and 18th century, bachelorhood was a temporary and unprestigious state. The Bachelor’s Directory of 1694 was unequivocal –  ‘Matrimony – what can better agree with man and more exactly relate to his necessities?’  Even men who felt no attraction to the opposite sex had to marry to gain the full benefits of adulthood.

Vickery says, “There were even proposals to levy a tax on mature bachelors as a deterrent and a punishment for their evasion of the burden of domestic government and social provision. Perpetual bachelors were the ‘vermin of the State’ pronounced the Women’s Advocate stonily.  ‘They enjoy the benefit of society, but Contribute not to its Charge and Spunge upon the publick, without making the least return’.”

However, not all men were in a position to marry, even if they wanted a nice wife, because in Britain, marriage meant setting up your own home. Being a reader of English you might take this for granted, but it was highly unusual compared with the rest of world. In Southern Europe or China, a married couple was simply absorbed within the parental unit, and young brides were ruled by their mother-in-law. In Eastern Europe, multiple families tended to live together, but sharing a hearth was anathema to the British idea of marriage. No respectable Anglo-Saxon marriage could go forward without an independent establishment. As a result, there was always a sizeable majority of people who simply could not afford to wed; no home meant no wedding bells. So, British couples only married when they had saved sufficient capital or felt confident enough about cash flow to set up an independent home, and therefore the average bride and groom are much older than you might expect – over 27 for men, and 25 for women, before 1750.

We associate the history of home and private life with women, but what did house and domesticity mean to men?  More than you might think argues Professor Amanda Vickery. 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Marriage a la mode

Marriage a la mode

Marital ethics were the topic of much debate in 18th-century Britain. The many marriages of convenience and their attendant unhappiness came in for particular criticism, with a variety of authors taking the view that love was a much sounder basis for marriage than money. Hogarth for one felt the disquiet in British society sufficient to satirise it in a series of paintings called Marriage a la mode.

In the first of the series, The Marriage Settlement Hogarth shows an arranged marriage between the son of bankrupt Earl Squanderfield and the daughter of a wealthy but miserly city merchant. The construction on the Earl’s new mansion, visible through the window, has stopped as a usurer negotiates payment for further work at the centre table. The gouty Earl proudly points to a picture of his family tree. The son views himself in the mirror, showing where his interests in the matter lie. The distraught merchant’s daughter is consoled by the lawyer Silvertongue while polishing her wedding ring. Even the faces on the walls appear to have misgivings. Two dogs chained to each other in the corner mirror the situation of the young couple.

The pressure put on many young people to marry the ‘right’ person led to many secret marriages with the right people for them. This was possible because until the middle of the 18th century marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. Of course, this also left a lot of scope for bigamy and marriages to girls who were under age.

The trade in these irregular marriages had grown enormously in London by the 1740s and led to the introduction of the Marriage Act 1753, popularly known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. This Act was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. The Act came into force on 25 March 1754 making the reading of banns, registration of a marriage and need for the marriage to be witnessed compulsory for the first time.

No marriage of a person under the age of 21 was valid without the consent of parents or guardians. Clergymen who disobeyed the law were liable for 14 years transportation. Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, but it required other religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches.

The idea of secret marriage was taken up in the 1766 play, The Clandestine Marriage by George Colman the Elder and David Garrick. The play is a comedy and was first performed in 1766 at Drury Lane. The plot concerns a merchant, Mr Sterling, who wants to marry off his elder daughter to Sir John Melvil, who is in love with his younger daughter, Fanny. Fanny, however, is in love with a humble clerk, Lovewell, whom she has secretly married. Her attempts to extricate herself from the arrangement with Melvil lead to her being offered as a bride to Melvil’s elderly uncle, Lord Ogleby. But the truth comes out and she is saved from the awful fate of having to marry a man many years her senior whom she does not love and she and Lovewell are forgiven. In 1999, the play was made into a film directed by Christopher Miles and starring Nigel Hawthorne, Joan Collins, Timothy Spall, Emma Chambers and Tom Hollander.

Paul Nicholls and Natasha Little as the lovers in The Clandestine Marriage, 2000.

The Act did not change the position of a wife in law. On marriage, a woman became the property of her husband as soon as she said. “I do.” Clandestine and illegal marriages were not the exclusive domain of the wealthy. Many poor women where duped by unscrupulous, indecisive and inconstant men. Perhaps the most famous woman to be duped in this was Maria Fitzherbert (26 July 1756 – 27 March 1837) the secret wife of George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV.

In 1783 George, Prince of Wales became infatuated with her, wanting her to become his mistress but Maria’s devout Catholic beliefs would not allow it. So on 15 December 1785 they were married in a secret ceremony conducted by Robert Burt, an impoverished curate who set aside his scruples for the £500 fee. The marriage of course was not legal. It not only contravened the 1753 Marriage Act it was also in breach of the Act of Settlement of 1701, preventing a Roman Catholic from ascending the British throne and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772.

George and Maria spent much of their time in Brighton where Mrs Fitzherbert was treated as queen although George must have known that she never would be. Whether she was ignorant or deluded concerning her position is unknown. The couple separated when George’s affections turned to Frances, Countess of Jersey in 1794 and Maria’s position was finally put asunder when George married his cousin Caroline of Brunswick in 1795 with the benefit of law.

Illustration: Hogarth, Marriage a la mode – The marriage settlement.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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The Princess Who Married The Hunchback Prince

The Princess Who Married The Hunchback Prince

Anne, The Princess Royal, married the hunchback William of Orange in 1734.

Princess Anne, or the Princess Royal as she was known, was the eldest daughter of George II. The title Princess Royal is a substantive title customarily (but not automatically) awarded by a British monarch to his or her eldest daughter. There have been seven Princesses Royals. The daughter of Queen Elizabeth II is currently holds the title. The title Princess Royal came into existence when Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), daughter of Henry IV, King of France, and wife of King Charles I (1600–1649), wanted to imitate the way the eldest daughter of the King of France was styled “Madame Royale”. Thus Princess Mary (born 1631), the daughter of Henrietta Maria and Charles, became the first Princess Royal in 1642. Anne,the daughter of George II was the second Princess Royal.

Dysfunctional Family

Anne was born into what we would call an extremely dysfunctional family in May 1709. George II was the only son of the German prince George Louis, elector of Hanover (King George I of Great Britain from 1714 to 1727), and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. George, I had divorced and locked Sophia Dorothea in a castle in Celle for her adultery with a Swedish cavalry officer and taken their children, which include the boy who would become George II away from her. George II had, of course, never forgiven his father for his cruel treatment of his mother.

George II’s daughter Anne was a remarkable woman in many ways. She was criticised and praised in equal measure by contemporary chroniclers. Some said she was arrogant others that she was accomplished.

Early Life

Although Anne was an English princess, she was born at Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover. Her mother was Caroline of Ansbach. According to a recent biography of Caroline, The First Iron Lady: A Life of Caroline of Ansbach By Matthew Dennison, she was the real power behind George II. When she arrived in England in 1714, she became the first Princess of Wales since Prince Henry married Catherine of Aragon in 1509. She was blonde, buxom and above all, intelligent. Anne was one of the couple’s four children.

Her parents’ relationship with King George I was a troubled one. Her mother, Caroline of Ansbach, had been brought up in the Prussian Court where she had been treated as a surrogate daughter to the Prussian King and had been well educated.

When she married, she joined the Hanoverian Court, which was by comparison boorish. How much that experience influenced her opposition to George I in England we do not know, but the two did not get on. One wonders if Caroline suspected her father-in-law of having her mother-in-law’s lover killed? There were always rumours surrounding the disappearance of her Swedish lover.

Political differences between George I and his son the Prince of Wales led to factions in the court. The family dispute came to a head following the birth of George and Caroline’s second son, Prince George William in 1717. At the baby’s christening, the Prince of Wales publicly insulted the Duke of Newcastle one of his father’s allies. This so infuriated George I he banished his son and daughter-in-law from St James’s Palace, but he kept their children, including Anne under his guardianship at Leicester House.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were sent packing without their children. George, I kept them separated until 1720 when Anne’s brothers were returned to the care of her parents, but the girls remained the wards of the King.

Smallpox and Variolation

In that year, Anne’s body was ravaged by smallpox; she was 11 years old. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans a year during the closing years of the 18th century.

Smallpox had no respect for wealth or rank, anyone could catch it. Her own father had suffered from the disease in the first year of his marriage. Her personal near-death experience and the experience and her father led the family to support the introduction of variolation (an early type of immunisation against smallpox), which had been witnessed by Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Charles Maitland in Constantinople.

Variolation or inoculation was the method first used to immunise an individual against smallpox (Variola) with material taken from a patient or a recently variolated individual in the hope that a mild, but the protective infection would result. The procedure was most commonly carried out by inserting/rubbing powdered smallpox scabs or fluid from pustules into superficial scratches made in the skin. The patient would develop pustules identical to those caused by naturally occurring smallpox, usually producing a less severe disease than naturally acquired smallpox. Eventually, after about two to four weeks, these symptoms would subside, indicating successful recovery and immunity.

To test the process, Caroline ordered six prisoners who had been condemned to death to take part in the trial. They were offered the chance to undergo variolation instead of execution. They all agreed, and they all survived, as did the six orphan children who were also part of the test. (There were no medical ethics committees then). The tests convinced Caroline of variolation’s safety, and the Queen had her two younger daughters, Amelia and Caroline, inoculated. Royal patronage of the process was a boon to the doctors who were prescribing the process, and variolation began to spread amongst the upper classes.

On 22 June 1727, George I died making Anne’s father king. The following year, her elder brother, Frederick, who had been educated in Germany, was brought to England to join the court. Father and son had not seen one other in 14 years, and when they did, the fireworks began. Their relationship was even more tempestuous than the one between George I and George II especially after 1733 when Frederick purchased Carlton House and set up what George II considered to be a rival court.

Marriage

As a daughter of the future British King Anne’s marriage was always going to be a dynastic one. But, as a princess requiring a protestant marriage, her options were limited, most of the continent was ruled by Catholic princes. The government hit on the idea of a union with the rather lowly William, Prince of Orange-Nassau to sure up their anti-French alliance.

George II was not enamoured with the proposal, and Anne was concerned herself. The Dutch Prince William had a well-known physical deformity. Anne wanted to know more about his deformity before she agreed to see him, so she dispatched Lord Hervey, a close confidant, to report on its extent. Hervey said that William was no Adonis. William suffered from a pronounced curvature of the spine, which was probably the result of sclerosis, the same condition suffered by the English King Richard III. or Kyphosis the hunchback disease.

William’s Deformity

A normal thoracic spine extends from the 1st to the 12th vertebra and should have a slight kyphotic angle, ranging from 20° to 45°. When the “roundness” of the upper spine increases past 45° it is called kyphosis or “hyperkyphosis”. Scheuermann’s kyphosis is the most classic form of hyperkyphosis and is the result of wedged vertebrae that develop during adolescence. The cause is not currently known and the condition appears to be multifactorial and is seen more frequently in males than females. The condition must have made life very hard for William who apart from the problem with his spine was considered an attractive, educated, and accomplished Prince.

Having taken Hervey’s report into consideration and the inferiority of William’s territory, Anne decided she would take him. She was 25 years old, and it seems she did not want to end up an old maid surrounded by her warring relatives. When they married in 1734, her mother and sisters wept through the ceremony, and Lord Hervey described the marriage as more sacrifice than celebration.

As an outsider and British, Anne was not popular in the Netherlands. Her life must have been a lonely one because she did not get along with her mother-in-law, and her husband was frequently on campaign. France was an ever-present threat to William’s protestant country and his power base dependent on his ability to protect the states of the Dutch Republic from its enemies.

In these lonely years, Anne concentrated her efforts on literature and playing the harpsichord; she was an accomplished, artist, musician, and lifelong friend of her music teacher Handel.

Producing the required heir was problematic too. In 1736, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter and another in 1739. Her first live birth came in 1743 with the arrival of Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau who was followed by another daughter, Princess Anna two years later. Her only son arrived in 1748 when she was 39 years old.

Regent

Anne became a widow in 1751 at the age of 40 and was appointed as Regent for her 3-year-old son, Prince William V. She was given all prerogatives usually given a hereditary Stadtholder of the Netherlands, except for the military duties of the office, which were entrusted to Duke Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg. To say that she took to the role like a duck to water would not be an exaggeration. Finally free to exercise some power of the own, in true Hanoverian style, Anne used her wit and her determination to secure her personal power base and with it the dominance of her family and the Orange dynasty.

As Regent she was hard-working, but she remained unpopular. The commercial rivalry between the Dutch and the British East India Companies was part of the cause, her Dutch subjects were never entirely sure she was on their side because she pursued a foreign policy, that favoured the British-German alliance over alliance with the French. Another reason was the constitution of the United Provinces. But what made her most unpopular was that she seized the opportunity to centralise power in the office of the hereditary Stadtholder over the traditional rights of the Dutch states, particularly the State of Haarlem.

Ultimately, as a woman, she was reliant on the men around her, and it is fair to say that her husband and her son were fighting a losing battle against the tide of history at the end of the 18th century. Even Anne, with all her skills, could not realise the ambitions of the House of Orange on her own. She ruled the Netherlands for eight years. She died of dropsy (an accumulation of fluid in the body that leads to heart failure) in 1759. Her son was twelve and still too young to take the reins of power.

Anne was replaced as Regent by her mother-in-law, Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel and when she died in 1765, Anne’s daughter, Carolina, was made Regent until her younger brother William V turned 18 in 1766.

Legacy

Anne was a remarkable woman in many ways. Her beauty was shredded by smallpox, but she took on the world and won. (I am sure she took the opportunity to show herself in the best light in her self-portrait above.) She accepted and made a success of her marriage, which on the face of it held little prospect for personal happiness. She was an intelligent if haughty woman who endured years of loneliness, the pain of giving birth to two stillborn children and then she was widowed. Anne exercised the role of Stadholder (chief executive of the Dutch Republic) as effectively as any man and the centralisation of power she created laid the foundations of the Dutch state and its royal family. Her grandson, William I became the first king of the Netherlands in 1815.

Picture: Self Portrait

Sources:

George II: King and Elector By Andrew C. Thompson, 2011, Yale University Press

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne,_Princess_Royal_and_Princess_of_Orange

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and on Kindle.

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

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Princess Sophia Dorothea the Uncrowned Queen of Britain

A Labour in Vain – The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte Augusta

History of Women in Science: Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Physicist

History of Women in Science: Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Physicist

Astronomy, mathematics and physics were popular fields of study for many of the brightest 18th-century women with access to money and books. Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil was one such woman. She was the daughter of the French court’s chief of protocol and her father rather unusually for the time encouraged her education. By the time she was twelve she was fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek and German.

Gabrielle-Emilie was a precocious teenager as well as a child genius; she liked to dance, was a passable performer on the harpsichord, sang opera, and was an amateur actress. Being short of money for books, she used her mathematical skills to devise highly successful strategies for gambling. Her mother Gabrielle-Anne was horrified tried to have her clever daughter sent to a convent.

In 1725 Gabrielle-Emilie married the Marquis du Chatelet at the age of 19 and lived the life of a courtier at the French court. She bore her husband three children, but at age 27 she began studying mathematics seriously and then branched into physics. This interest intensified when she started an affair with the philosopher Voltaire. Their friendship, if not their relationship, was lifelong and one of mutual respect and admiration.

Her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique or Foundations of Physics, was published in 1740 when she was 34. It was an immediate success, circulated widely, and republished and translated into several other languages within two years of its publication. With a growing reputation in the world of men, she participated in the famous vis viva debate concerning the calculation of the motion of orbiting bodies – the planets. However, Du Chatelet’s most lasting contribution to science was her French translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia, which is still in use today.

At age 43, she fell in love with a young military officer and became pregnant; she died following complications during the birth of their child. Posthumously, her ideas were included in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Wikipedia, Illustration: The Granger Collection, New York.

Iona McNeal, is a character in my new novel, Sinclair. Iona is a bright young woman, the daughter of the head of Edinburgh’s medical school. She studies mathematics, physics and astronomy at home. You can find out what happens to her in my latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and on Kindle

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From Housemaid to Commit Catcher – Caroline Herschel

Witch or Saint ? Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Nursing by Numbers

Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 she is one of the world’s first feminist writers.

Wollstonecraft decided to become a writer in 1787, 230 years ago, when she moved to 45 George Street, in Southwark, now called Dolben Street. It was from Dolben Street[1]  that she launched her career, with the publication of her novel, Mary: A Fiction or Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman is a philosophical and gothic novel that revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. The story focuses on the societal rather than the individual “wrongs of woman” and criticises what Wollstonecraft viewed as the patriarchal institution of marriage in eighteenth-century Britain and the legal system that protected it. However, the heroine’s inability to relinquish her romantic fantasies also reveals women’s collusion in their oppression through false and damaging sentimentalism. The novel pioneered the celebration of female sexuality and cross-class identification between women. Such themes, coupled with the publication of Godwin’s scandalous Memoirs of Wollstonecraft’s life, made the novel unpopular at the time it was published.

Two friendships shaped Wollstonecraft’s early life. The first was with Jane Arden. At the age of nine Wollstonecraft was taken to a farm near Beverley in Yorkshire with her brothers and sisters. They lived a wild life, roaming around the flat land of the Humber estuary until her father took a house in the town opposite the Minster. It was in Beverley she met Jane Arden. Life in Beverley was remarkably civilised, there was a theatre, dances at the Assembly Rooms and a race course with a spring meeting that co-inside with the Spring Fair. Part of my own novel Sinclair is set in Beverley.

Image result for Beverley yorkshire creative commons

Beverley, Yorkshire

The girls frequently read books together and attended lectures presented by Arden’s father, a self-styled philosopher and scientist. John Arden was the descendant of the playwright Arden of Faversham but was disinherited by his family, and forced to set himself up as a roving teacher of practical mathematics and experimental philosophy. After a spell in Germany, he settled in Bath for a while where he became a founder member of the Bath Philosophical Society. Then moved onto Derby where he made friends with the artist Joseph Wright. Wright painted him as the Philosopher in his work entitled: A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, or the full title, A Philosopher giving a Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in the place of the sun, in 1766.

 

Image result for The Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery

The Orrery, Joseph Wright of Derby – Derby Museum and Art Gallery

The Orrery, which now hangs in the Derby Museum, caused a sensation at the time because it replaced a classical motif with a scientific one. In this picture, Wright replaces the awe inspired by God with the wonder of science.  [John Arden – The Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, iOpening Books 2016.]

 

 

 

At fourteen Wollstonecraft revelled in the intellectual atmosphere of the Arden household and valued her friendship with Jane Arden greatly, sometimes to the point of being emotionally possessive. Wollstonecraft wrote to her: “I have formed romantic notions of friendship … I am a little singular in my thoughts of love and friendship; I must have the first place or none.” In some of Wollstonecraft’s letters to Arden, she reveals the volatile and depressive emotions that would haunt her throughout her life. Mary’s crush for Jane ended badly, in quarrel spiked with jealousy and rage.

Her second and more important friendship was with Fanny (Frances) Blood, who was introduced to Wollstonecraft by the Clares, an elderly couple from Hoxton who became parental figures to her. Mr Clare was a retired clergyman with a taste for poetry, and Mrs Clare encouraged Mary’s reading, providing her with copies of Milton, Shakespeare, Pope and Johnson. Like Fanny, Mary learned the accomplishments expected of a middle-class woman from Mrs Clare – sewing, drawing and letter writing. Above all, she learned to be feminine and neat.

Unhappy with her home life, Wollstonecraft struck out on her own in 1778 and accepted a job as a lady’s companion to Sarah Dawson, a widow living in Bath. However, Wollstonecraft had trouble getting along with the irascible woman (an experience she drew on when describing the drawbacks of such a position in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, 1787).

In 1780 she returned home because she was called back to care for her dying mother. Rather than return to Mrs Dawson’s employ after the death of her mother, Wollstonecraft moved in with the Bloods.

Fanny Blood was paid by the botanist William Curtis to paint wildflowers for his book Flora Londinensis. When Mary was living with the Bloods Fanny became engaged to Hugh Skeys, but the pair could not marry immediately and Skeys was forced to go the sea to finance the marriage. Fanny’s brother Lieutenant George Blood (1762–1844), became good friends with Mary so much so that William Godwin, Mary’s husband wrote that Mary had “contracted a friendship so fervent, as for years to have constituted the ruling passion of her mind”.

Blood, together with Mary Wollstonecraft and Wollstonecraft’s sisters, Eliza and Everina, opened a school first in Islington, which soon failed, and then in Newington Green. The school was combined with a boarding house for women and their children.

On February 24, 1785, Fanny Blood married Hugh Skeys who had made himself into a successful wine merchant based in Dublin. When Blood married and left the school, Wollstonecraft left too, and so their other school failed.

Fanny died in childbirth in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 29, 1785. Wollstonecraft was deeply affected by Blood’s death and in part inspired her first novel, Mary: A Fiction in 1788. She also named her own daughter, Fanny Imlay (1794–1816), after her friend.Frances “Fanny” Imlay was Mary’s daughter by the American commercial speculator and diplomat Gilbert Imlay. The pair never married and when Mary died Fanny remained part of the family of the man her mother had married, William Godwin. She was born in Le Havre in 1794 as the French Revolution took hold. Her half-sister Claire Clairmont would become Byron’s lover and her sister by Godwin would elope with the poet Shelley and write the gothic novel Frankenstein.

In later years, Mary realised during the two years she spent with the Blood family she had idealised Fanny as a woman like herself, fiercely independent and intellectual but Fanny was not like Mary, she wanted to be a wife and a mother more than a revolutionary. Nevertheless, Mary loved the Bloods and remained dedicated to them throughout her life. Wollstonecraft had envisioned living in a female utopia with Blood; they made plans to rent rooms together and to support each other emotionally and financially, but this dream come to nothing. The weight of economic reality and social conformity as well as  being women in what was to all intents and purposes a world designed and run by men for men made their dream impossible to fulfil.

Mary followed the publication of Mary: A Fiction, with works on the education of children. Her own experience of motherhood forcing her to reconsider her views on women and children.

Through her association with her friend and publisher Joseph Johnson, she met Thomas Paine, the writer of The Rights of Man. Paine who would become one of the great influencers of the both the French Revolution and the development of the American state opposed the idea of hereditary government and the belief that dictatorial government is necessary, because of man’s corrupt nature. She also met her future husband and one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement William Godwin through Johnson. The first time Godwin and Wollstonecraft met, they were both disappointed in each other. Godwin had come to hear Paine, but Wollstonecraft assailed him all night long, disagreeing with him on nearly every subject.

It was after she left Dolben Street in 1791 that she published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). There is no doubt that her time at Dolben Street, Southwark was the furnace of her intellectual development, and was the site of her most intensely creative years.

For more information on Wollstonecraft see: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/keywords/mary-wollstonecraft

 

Notes:

[1] George Street was formed circa 1776 and the houses on either side were completed and tenanted by 1780 when the street name first occurs in the sewer rate books. It was built across the open fields shown as “tenter grounds” on Rocque’s maps, on part of what became known as Brown’s Estate. The formation of George Street was part of the rapid development of the area which followed the erection of Blackfriars Bridge. The street was renamed Dolben Street in 1911 in honour of John Dolben (1625–86), Archbishop of York, who in 1671, when Bishop of Rochester, officiated at the consecration of Christ Church. Throughout the period that these houses are shown in the rate books and directories they have been occupied by small tradesmen, chandlers, bakers, etc., and by artisans. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol22/pp127-128

Southwark was the location of several London prisons, including those of the Crown or Prerogative Courts, the Marshalsea and King’s Bench prisons, those of the local manors’ courts, e.g., Borough Compter, The Clink and the Surrey county gaol originally housed at the White Lion Inn (also informally called the Borough Gaol) and eventually at Horsemonger Lane Gaol.

One local family of note, was the Harvards. John Harvard went to the local parish free school of St Saviour’s and on to Cambridge University. He migrated to the Massachusetts Colony and left his library and the residue of his will to the new college there, named after him as its first benefactor. Harvard University maintains a link, having paid for a memorial chapel within Southwark Cathedral (his family’s parish church).

Sources:The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft By Claire Tomalin, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination by Barbara Taylor,  & Wikipedia

My own novel, Sinclair takes place in Southwark and Beverley.

Julia Herdman is a novelist. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 on Kindle

Also available on:

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Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters

Madame Staël – A woman who abored all that was tyrannical, cynical, or passionless

The Leadams of Tooley Street

The Leadams of Tooley Street

Tooley Street in Southwark is the location of my new novel Sinclair. Today is it’s one of London’s best known streets, home to London Bridge Station and the London Dungeon, and is close to the London Shard and City Hall.

Running parallel to the Thames on the south side Tooley Street is one of the oldest streets in London. Its name is said to be a strange corruption of its former name, St. Olave’s Street, which is hard to believe but I suppose we’ll just have to accept what the local experts tell us on that one.

It’s a thriving place today with state of the art offices, clean and tidy streets and modern communications and although it was no less thriving in the past it was a very different place then. Here are some of the residents and trades listed as living and operating in the area in the 18th and 19th century:

Wharfingers (warehouse owners), merchants, instrument makers, factors, and agents; outfitters, biscuit-bakers, store-shippers, ship-chandlers, slop-sellers, block-makers, rope-makers, engineers, and then there were the surgeons who worked at the great charitable hospitals: Guy’s, St Thomas’ and the London.

My novel is set in eighteenth century Tooley Street in a house inhabited by my family’s ancestors for three generations. They owned an apothecary shop at No. 65 and worked as surgeons at Guy’s Hospital just a stone’s throw away. Members of the Leadam family pop in and out of the historical record; appearing in trade directories, hospital correspondence, or as witnesses in Old Bailey cases or giving evidence to Government enquiries on issues such as public health.Some members of the family are mentioned in magazine and newspaper articles of the day and some have published obituaries and their own publications.

In my story which is a fiction not a family history, a Scottish doctor down on his luck comes to live at No 65 Tooley Street after the unexpected death of Christopher Leadam who is based on the real Christopher Leadam who was born in Yorkshire and worked at Guy’s hospital as a surgeon and was secretary to one of its weekly committees. He died young leaving a widow, whom I have called Charlotte Leadam in the book and a teenage son. My story focuses on his widow’s struggle to keep the apothecary shop open and get her son, John, trained as a surgeon.

Illustration: Guy’s Hospital, London, opened 1725.

You can read my fictionalised account of life at No. 65 Tooley Street in Sinclair.

Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

Amazon New Zealand

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