Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, “They Asked For A Paper,” highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.
By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library
The Armstrong Browning Library owns three letters from English novelist Charlotte Yonge. The first is from Yonge to Anna Butler, written from Otterbourne, September 19, .
My dear Miss Butler
Your note came as I was meditating enquiries of Glympton on your whereabouts, and just in time for the enclosed, which I hope you will be able to send on to Derby at once as we
are rather behindhand this month. I am glad your trip was successful, we have made a little one to Sidmouth, a grand affair for us. There was a lame grey haired lady with two foreign looking young ones whom we always called Mde Bronevska and her grand daughters
making their English visit
Charlotte Mitchell, Senior Honorary Lecturer at University College London and editor of The Letters of Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901), points out that the letter, although undated, is likely from 1856. The lame woman mentioned in the letter, Madame de Bronevska, and her granddaughters are characters in Butler’s story called “Likes and Dislikes,” serialized in Monthly Packet, of which Charlotte Yonge was the first editor, July 1855-Nov 1856. They first appear in the issue of September 1856. Mitchell also points out that Anna Butler’s brother, the Very Rev. William John Butler, was Vicar of Wantage and Dean of Lincoln, quite a well-known Victorian Tractarian clergyman & founder of the Anglican nunnery at Wantage.
A second letter, written on April 5, 1876, has an unknown recipient.
I am afraid I cannot boast of much if any fact for the foundation of the Heir of Redclyffe. I had the scenery of Clovelly in my eye when describing Redclyffe bay
and Malvern with St. Mildred’s, but all the rest is imaginary. The print is Albert Durer’s Knight of Death — There are many photographs of it — and “Sintram” translated from the German is published both
by Master’s & Warne.
In this letter Yonge answers questions about the “foundation” of her novel The Heir of Redclyffe and the origin of a print in the book. The letter is part of an album of letters collected by John Rooker, possibly the vicar of Coldharbour, Surrey.
A third undated letter is written to Miss Fitzgerald, probably Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald, from Elderfield. Yonge lived at Elderfield from 1862 until her death in 1897.
My dear Miss Fitzgerald
I know of plenty of dialogues for boys, but those for girls are more uncommon. –
One that would do with a little adapting is the story of the geese that ate the brandy cherries, seemed to die, were plucked
and came to life again
It is in the G F S book Stories for Our Girls but is told in narrative and would require arranging
Miss Morshead is coming to spend the day with me tomorrow and if she knows of anything better, I will write –
We had some [wax] [works] last
night, which did famously with a clever exhibition.
In this letter Yonge suggests some “dialogues for girls” and mentions a wax works exhibition that they had attended.
The Armstrong Browning Library has an 1857 copy of Yonge’s The Heir of Redclyffe with this inscription: “Mary Fitzgerald on her 16th birthday / from her Mother/ 17 July 1859 / London,” possibly in the hand of Elizabeth Purefoy Fitzgerald.
The book also contains a latter inscription: “Never to be/lent or taken/M.P.FG.”
It is very likely that the inscription above belongs to Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald.
These letters pose a number of questions: Who was the recipient of the second letter? Does this information about The Heir of Redclyffe offer any new perspectives? Why was Albert Durer’s print chosen? What is the date of the third letter? Is the recipient of the third letter really Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald? What is the story of the geese that ate the brandied cherries? Who is Miss Morshead? What became of the “dialogues for girls”? What was the wax works exhibition? Is “Mary Fitzgerald” in the inscription Mabel’s sister? If so, was she born on January 17, 1843, and is the inscription in her mother’s hand or her grandmother’s hand?