Richard Gowlland and Celia Oliver nιe Gowlland correspondence.


Letters from 1878 to 1883 from Richard Gowlland (1845 - 1886) to his sister Eliza Celia Oliver nιe Gowlland (1851 - 1921), both children of Thomas Sankey Gowlland (1805 - 1872)



The 1878 letters


! January 1878                                                2 The Cedars, Thornton Heath,   Surrey SE.


My dearest Birdie,

            Jessie and I wish you and Oliver and your dear babies a very happy and prosperous New Year.

We read with much pleasure your letter to Jessie which arrived just before Xmas day telling us that you were a grass widow and that Oliver had committed himself to the deep. I hope he returned well from his expedition.

            How I sh’d enjoy to go out for a few days with him. I can imagine what yarns we sh’d tell each other. Your little daughter seems wonderfully to sustain her character of the best baby in the world – I cannot help casting angry looks at our offspring when I hear that she is even cutting her teeth with serene composure. As for my godson, I am sure I sh’d like him very much indeed. From your description of him, he is quite the boy after my own heart. Kiss them both for us.

            Our boy is away at Gravesend. We came home today after spending a week there. The Tots is taking powders and cannot be allowed to return until the end of the week. The family was delighted with him. In the first 48 hours, however, he shrieked if Jessie or myself left him for a moment. He would not understand being left to the mercy of his aunts and the strange nurse. His own did not accompany us. But he soon became accustomed to the many new faces, showing a preference, however, for all the fair members of the family whose faces he patted with much complacency.

            There was a great deal of rivalry and ill feeling between himself and his uncle aged 18 months. The uncle was discovered to pinch his nephew whenever he could be reached. The uncle would also rush across the nursery and push Tots over whenever he succeeded with much puffing and blowing in raising himself to his feet with the aid of a chair or somebody’s dress. The Tots looked as if he was not without hopes that he would some day be in a position to punch his uncle’s head – and indeed he has such a fine broad chest and such tough little arms and legs that I should not be afraid to back him to exact vengeance on his uncle in the course of a year or two. We quite cut out the uncle on Xmas day. The Tots was superb and sat through dessert helping himself to everything that came within his reach and dealing sturdy blows all round him with the largest spoon he could reach.

            The Lakes were exceedingly genial and kind and seemed genuinely glad to have us with them. We dined one night at Wm. Lake’s and another at the Grants at Aylesford. Today I spent at Malling with the Busbridges. They too were very glad to see me. Laura seems to be very happy and proud of her baby who seems to be a fine little girl.

            Trot writes that she is much better. She had a week of bad sore throat just before Xmas which kept her in bed nearly a week and weakened her very much. I saw as much of the boys as I could – Harry, I hope, is coming here to spend a few days before his holidays end. Percy is going to spend some time with the Busbridges at Malling, and Arthur is staying with the Mackenzies in Harley Street until next week. Whitcombe has a sister staying with him. She is kind to the boys and appears to be less objectionable than the rest of the Whitcombe family.

            Annie, I am thankful to say, has found something to do.   She is living at Windsor with a Mrs. Layard as companion to her daughter, a child of 13, who is very delicate in health and requires someone to be constantly with her.   A nurse is with her in the evening and at night and Annie, as I understand it, is expected to walk with her and read to her and be generally useful during the day.   The family consists of Captain & Mrs. Layard and one son.   Mrs. Layard is sister to the Rector of  Clewer, T.J. Larter, through whom Annie heard of the situation.   It is just the sort of work she is able to do, I sh’d think; so I trust there is a good prospect of her remaining there.

            We have been very much amused at your descriptions of the grandeur of Mrs. Living since her return from Europe.   They are so precisely the counterpoint of what we were indulged in when she was here.   Here she played off the grandeur of Sydney & Australia and her house at home against the narrow meanness of things to be seen here and the wretched lodgings she had to put up with in this uncivilized country.   I liked Living very much; but I don’t think I can feel the highest respect for a man who can sit and listen to his wife’s follies unmoved.   One w’d think it would be intolerable to any man of common honesty to hear without protest the sort of lying nonsense which he must be forever listening to.

Jessie is gone to bed with a cold and I must not sit up any longer or I shall invite her grave displeasure and be regaled with a certain lecture.

            Wonder of wonders we received today an invitation to go to a party on the 8th at 34 Finsbury Square!   We shall go and I must try to remember in my next letter to tell you about it.

Our best love to you & Oliver  - kisses to the Babies – Ever your affec. Brother

                                                                                                                      R.S. Gowlland

            Very many thanks for your proposal to give our boy a mug.   It is exceedingly kind of you but I won’t hear of your going in for such an extravagance.   You must send him a keepsake one of these days when someone is coming from Sydney.   I can’t tell you how dull we feel without our little Treasure.   We are longing for his return.   At Gravesend they call him the little Conductor because whenever he hears music or singing or even a bell ringing he proceeds to beat time!    He has always been very fond of music from 3 months old!   It was most amusing the other day.   He was being soaped (preparatory to being dipped in his bath) a process he frankly objects to.   He was bawling at the top of his voice when the dinner bell rang.   He stopped crying instantly and gravely began to beat time.   It was most ludicrous.

            There is no other news.   Goodbye and a happy 1878 to you all.


15 March 78                                2, The Cedars,Thornton Heath, Surrey, S.E.                                                                                           

My dearest Birdie,

            Many thanks for all the nice long letters I have rec’d. from you since I last wrote. There has been quite a fatality about my missing mails. It has quite put me out to think how long it is since I last wrote you a letter.

It is tremendously kind of Oliver to send Trot £10 and kinder still that you sh’d  propose her coming to Australia.  She will no doubt write to you about it. I sent her your letter and rec’d in the same mail £15 from Fred, £5 from himself and £10 for you. He recently sent me a draft of £5 for Trot. It will be a great relief to her to be able to stay on at Torquay as long as the cold weather lasts and we are just now entering upon our bitter east winds. Today it is actually snowing! Trot is not so bad, I hope, as you seem to think. Dr. Mackenzie told me that there was no reason why with care she sh’d not make a perfect recovery since as he said there was no organic disease. But that she is very delicate and weak there can be no doubt. She is naturally such an energetic woman that it is not a trifle which could keep her tied to the house. I have good hope from the tone of her letters that she is really much better. But it is an idiosyncrasy of hers I think not to take the brightest view of her own health. She has been in delicate health for so long that I suspect she can hardly believe in getting quite strong.

            At 9 o’clock on Monday (today is Friday) when we were cosily sitting by the fire drinking our tea, a rat tat tat came to the door and Annie walked in with all her bag and baggage. That morning at Windsor her small charge was taken ill and at 5 o’clock the Dr. pronounced the sickness to be scarlet fever. Annie at once packed up and came off to see us. I only hope and trust that she hasn’t brought us any infection for the fever must be of a very virulent kind as the child died on Wednesday night! So Annie is suddenly “without a home” as she expressed it much to Jessie’s disgust! She will stay with us until something turns up. I asked her to write to you but she says you owe her shoals of letters.

            The only two episodes since I wrote to you are my making 2 speeches. One proposing the adoption of the report of the Report at the General Meeting of the subscribers of the Throat Hospital and another at a special meeting got up by certain enemies of Marker given to injure his reputation. He was so pleased with my remarks at the first meeting that he sent for me to take up the question to be considered at the Board. I got all the papers and correspondence to master the subject and I think my speech was a great success. I would send you a copy of the (report) containing it if I can get it. But when I applied to the office for a spare copy it had been sold out. This is quite a new character isn’t it? Dr. M. was quite profuse in his thanks, and I was exceedingly pleased to be able to be of some help to him. Certainly the result of my going into the question was to call attention to some important points in his favour which all the other speakers on his side quite overlooked.

            Speaking to a lot of people has a curious effect on me. I get so excited that I can hardly speak at first, but when I am started, I rattle off with a vehemence and an earnestness which amuses me more than anything. You would think my life depended upon the issue! I am quite sure I wouldn’t make a speech on any subject without my getting “worked up” in this way. I noticed that that manner was very telling. Certainly none of the speeches were applauded more than mine was.

            I am always delighted with all you tell me about your sweet children. I am sure I couldn’t……



Fragment (page 2) of a letter written about Easter 1878

             . . . . . . all that time and it hadn’t even cut his skin. When he wakes in the morning the first half hours amusement consists in turning over his picture books. He kisses all his favourite animals. But he always shows a preference for a baby and if it is in a cradle he always puts his head down and says “bye bye.”

            Annie is here still and makes herself very useful to Jessie. She is an industrious needlewoman: the two sewing machines never seem to leave off. I think it must be like a factory. It is always a mystery to me that there can be so much needlework to be done for 3 people. Jessie is availing herself of Annie’s help to replenish our linen stores I suppose! A has been up to London today to see Mr White. He comes up before the great festivals to dispense spiritual advice to some of his old flock. But Annie is going to write to you and will tell you all about him. The new Vicar of St Barnabas, Bagshawe seems to be a great deal more advanced than the Nuns approve of. Annie tells me that there is a commotion among them today that the palms for next Sunday are to be blessed with the help of Holy Water! I suppose this is another Roman Ceremony they have imported.

            I must say the “Church has quite gone away from me. I suppose I am not so devout as I was or perhaps that w’d not be the case; but the fact is that I like a quiet service with as little Ritual as possible. It disturbs me, and in fact I never can get over the ludicrous aspect of it. It may be a strain of Protestantism which I have inherited but I cannot for the life of me enter into the feelings of people who attach such vast importance to small details. I cannot bring myself to believe that it matters one iota whether the priest stands in front of at the side of or behind the altar, whether candles are lighted or not, whether the priest is in a chasuble or in his shirt sleeves - and I am always regretting that for the sake of such matters good men sacrifice every day their chances of doing infinite good. I am quite prepared to find out some of these days that I was wrong but that is my personal feeling.

            . . . . . . I like very much the Parson of the church where I sing in the choir. The Vicar recently lost his wife and the congregation have decided to begin a permanent church as a memorial to her. The present church is a temporary iron one. The parish has only just been created: it is a District of Norwood and Croydon. I am sorry that it is a little too far off for Jessie to walk there very often.

            I had a very nice letter from Fred two days ago. He tells me that he had seen you at Sydney just before he wrote. He says that he has just sold his “Buggy” (what a barbarous word that is, worse than Wagga Wagga!) and horse and is going in for economy. He also tells me of the birth of his daughter on the 10th of Feb. He complains of having a cough very often. I am afraid he is not constitutionally stronger than the rest of us.

            . . . . . . other day but I was not there. He had just come back from ?Inalvarne.

            Jessie sends her best love to you all. My love to Oliver and kisses to the dear children. Ever your very affectionate


            I w’d never venture to send such an ill-written letter to anyone but you. But I think you w’d make out an even worse griffonnage* from me. I send you some photos of Oxford by this mail. They are small but they are the best I could get here. I strongly recommend you to have them framed two to a frame with a margin.

             I have a distinct idea of your house and garden…..your house.  I am always longing forward to getting the photographs of….



11 April 78.                        2, The Cedars, Thornton Heath, SE

My dearest Birdie,

            Your letter to Jessie enclosing a letter for Trot reached us some time ago. We were delighted to hear good news of you all and to read your charming accounts of your babies. So many things you say apply to our Tots. He likes nothing better than a spoon. He will walk about all day with one in his hand and the bigger the better he likes it. I expect he will take one to church with him when he goes. He surprises me by saying little new words every day almost. But he has been ill with the mumps since I wrote to you last. He was very ill for three or four days and he and we got very little sleep. At the best of times I don’t think Jessie gets enough sleep for the Boy wakes at half past five and has no rest after that. We unfortunately have got into the habit of going to bed late – the result of a visitor (Annie) in the house – we always find that makes us later. There is so much more packing up before we can get off – Jessie is looking very seedy just now and is not so well as she ought to be. We have just settled down again in the matter of domestics. We have two rough creatures who as anyone . . . . .  (? by honest teaching). But they seem to require an immense amount of looking after and that is Jessie’s business. She never appears to get . . . . .

            . . . . . . rocks to view before me that I could draw them at the moment. Of course the photographs will dispel my illusion. But most often I like to stand in your garden and look across the bay and see the waves gently lapping the rocks and your boats riding at anchorage. I won’t say that I always quit the spot without regretting that I have . . . . . .initially what . . . . . (?seeming) always the better I …..



1 August 78                            The Cedars, Thornton Heath, Surrey S.E.                                                                                                                 

My dearest Birdie,

            Annie has written you a very long letter and Jessie another which, I enclose herewith and I only hope the postage stamps will carry ‘em.

I am ashamed not to have written to you for such a long time.   I am sensible of being a brute.   It must be 6 weeks ago since my last letter to you.   It so happened I got into a bad draught when the mail was on the eve of departure – caught a bad cold and was laid up for a week or more at home quite without courage to do anything beyond the study of the manners of the Micawber family as set forth in David Copperfield.   I don’t know what I sh’d do without the Micawbers when my wife and my offspring fail to raise or interest me but Mr and Mrs Wilkins and the twins come to my rescue (the twins you will remember because one or other of them (was) always taking refreshment!!)

To begin at my latest occupation – yesterday I went to Epsom to see the prizes given away by Sir James Paget.   Percy did not get one but Willie did.   Willie is a quiet delicate little boy.   Percy however carried off what most boys prize beyond books the bat for the highest average score made by any boy during the term.   He was here just now displaying it to me with a silver shield and inscription upon it.   Sir James Paget, a nice old man, made an excellent speech.   Trot was well to the fore with Arthur in a white sailor suit looking the greatest swell on the premises and the two eldest sons of Dr. Mackenzie boys of 10 and 12 who had come down to see the fun..   It seemed rather hard that Percy had no prizes to take – I shouldn’t wonder if the cricket had something to do with it!   It is rather unfortunate that he has just failed for the second time in the Preliminary Scientific Examination at the University of London.   He won’t be able to go in for that again for another year which is a great drawback.   This is his last term at school – I don’t know what his father’s programme is for him.   At any rate he has given him an excellent groundwork for more practical knowledge.

 I thought by this time I sh’d have been able to tell you something of our new  fils or fille.   But it is not yet to be.   I am afraid now we shall be completely cheated out of any holiday this year - for it will hardly be worth going away late in September and in the best event we can hardly get away in the early part of the month.   Annie has been here for months and months awaiting this event and has made herself very useful.   She is a quiet old thing whom after a time one does not notice in the house at all.   Louisa now and Trot are always talking and prevent one’s reading which irritates me in the long run.   But Annie’s silence is a great virtue and advantage.   Trot is surprisingly well and strong I think.   She can certainly do a great deal more than either Jessie or Annie can do in the best of times.   Yesterday after the speeches at Epsom we had only 20 minutes to walk 1 mile (?very) quickly to the station.   The day was hot the road dusty but Trot did it easily.   She had come up from Gravesend that morning (having only the previous day returned from staying with the Hewitts at the Isle of Wight) went to Harley Street thence to Waterloo and Epsom, walked 1 Ό miles to the college and as I said walked back.   I think we may consider her invalid period over.

Of our own amusements and proceedings I can tell you nothing since we never move and we never proceed.   The Boy is our joy and pride and only amusement.   We note his little pranks and advances in intelligence with the keenest interest and pleasure.   He is a pale little fellow and I often think that other people would probably hold up their hands in amazement at our giving up so much time and thought to such an insignificant little mite.   He talks wonderfully for his age - can say all sorts of things now and practically understands all that he is told.   His great weakness is dabbling in water with soap and sweeping the carpets and the garden path with my hand brush.   He also is very fond of digging with any little stick and trowel he can find.   He delights chiefly in Jessie and my society but he is also much attached to “Anna” who has him to sleep in her room.   I am happy to say he sleeps very well now.   He usually looks out for my return home in the evening and will run down the road to meet me with his two little hands up and on his face a broad grin of delight.   As soon as he reaches me however he becomes engrossed in something else – a stone or a weed or a dog passing and usually declines to go back with me but expresses a desire to continue his promenade with me if possible but alone if I decline to accompany him.   He inherits his mother’s dislike of food: it is seldom he eats what would appear to be necessary for him.  

 Of Louisa we hear nothing except that all her children are at home for the holidays and that they go out to a great many parties.

 I have found a cricket club and play occasionally but it is needless to say I never make long scores or otherwise distinguish myself.   I still sing in my Choir at Norwood but I am afraid I shall have to give it up.   It is conducted so badly and there is such a provoking waste of time at practices.   Jessie always laughs when I talk of giving things up.   She is of the opinion that I tire of everything after a short time - I am afraid I don’t possess the sticking power of some people – of people especially I find this the case.  I wear them out - very quickly.   But I remember I told you all this ever so often before.   There is nothing like having a critical wife at one’s elbow to lay out one’s own weaknesses.   Well, Goodbye, I hope you and Oliver and the bairns are quite well.   I think I shall call the new infant if a boy Oliver.   I have a great weakness for the first Protector and then it is your name.   Love to Oliver and kisses to the Bairns.   Ever yr. afft. R.S.G.  

            Jessie has written her letter upon such very thick paper.   I’m tremulous of sending it under a fortune for postage.  She must write to you again soon. I (? believe that the most part of the) letter was about “Ebbard” as he calls himself and contained a drawing by him.   Annie (?reserves)  her letter to you until there is some important news to communicate.   What do you think of the Peace, in Australia?  There is a great deal of throwing up of caps here*.

*The Congress of Berlin in which Bismark mediated an elaborate compromise between the Russian and Austrian interests in the Balkans and probably averted a European war. Britain got Cyprus as part of the deal.



15 August 78                                    2, The Cedars, Thornton Heath, Surrey S.E.                                                                 


My dearest Birdie,

            Thanks for your two letters, one en miniature enclosing a letter for Trot the other a long account of your friends the Moriartys, the Nivisons and the Bennetts. I have not yet seen Mrs. Bennett. She is at Cheltenham but comes up to Town next week when I will call upon her. Jessie remarks with regret that your letter contains no mention whatever of your infants and since you abused me a long time ago for giving my impression of Mrs.Living so now I beg to administer a reprimand to you for devoting the whole of your letter to those excellent people whose acquaintance I am to make. Jessie remarks that she thinks you are becoming a "woman of the world". I don’t quite know what she means by that; perhaps it will convey some sense to you but as Jessie said it regretfully I assume she prefers people who are not of this world. This comes I suppose of being not of this world as we do in Thornton Heath.

            The long expected event came off on Thursday the last 8th Inst. Jessie came down to breakfast that morning feeling just the thing. I went off to my office as usual but came back at 12 feeling anxious about my little wife. I found the little daughter had arrived an hour after I left home. Jessie has made good progress. She is only troubled a good deal with neuralgia. She is told to eat and drink quantities and it is fortunate that her appetite is better than when she is up and about. The little girl is a nice baby with quite a woman’s face and a peculiarly soft sweet little mouth.

            While I think of it will you please send a drawing of the stocking you want. It is not enough to have an old one. Send measurements on a drawing of the leg and I will put it in the hands of my stocking maker. The measurement from the heel round the instep sh’d be given. I am afraid, however, that the heat of the tropics will be likely to injure the elastic. If it does not there is no reason why the stockings sh’d not be sent by post.  We shall see. I will not forget the card case which you want. I am glad the Oxford photographs reached you safely. I will try again to get one of the Chapel of Exeter.

            I am glad to hear that Aleck’s appointment to the new post of Parliamentary Draughtsman had been made. I wish he could exchange with some one here who wants a change of air. What a jolly little Colony we would make at some quiet suburban village. I am sure you would be delighted with my dear old Tots. He grows more charming every day and learns new tricks. It is beautiful to see him bow when he wishes anyone good morning. He has never been so delighted at anything as the new baby. He rolls about with laughter when he sees her and screams till she is put in his arms and he can put his little head against the other very much smaller head and coo himself with rapture!!!

            Of Trot and Louisa I can tell you no news. They are both as far as we know quite well together with their Gefolge*. Mary Joscelyne spent a few hours with us on the way to school at Berlin. She appears to be a very sensible pleasant girl and is decidedly pretty. Best love to Oliver and kisses to Marcius and Dorothy. I am going to make you the Godmother to my girl. She is to be called Katherine Mary. I am going to ask the Sister Superior to be the other Godmother. Ever yr. afft. R.S.G.



8 Oct. 78                                                    Brighton                                                                                   

My dearest Birdie,

            I wrote to Oliver by the last mail about the books. I meant to have sent a separate letter to you but somehow didn’t. This will go by the Frisco mail which leaves London on Thursday. I enclose a receipt which Oliver will have to present to get a second parcel of books which I sent by the next outgoing P & O mail. The parcel contains Sir James (? Fitzstephen’s ?) Bill for the reform of the Criminal Code and the Report of the Royal Commission on Friendly Societies. Also the cards you ordered and four Photographs of Exeter Coll: Chapel – the best and largest I could find in London.

            We came down here a fortnight ago at least Jessie and the babies did – I followed a fortnight later. We have had very good weather so far; it has been wonderfully warm for the time of the year so that the infants have been able to spend the whole day on the beach. We found very fair lodgings close to the sea where, barring the fleas which eat-up poor old Peeps, we are very comfortable. Jessie is remarkably well and her little daughter is a model. She sleeps the whole night and when she wakes patiently waits till it is convenient to give her refreshment. Her behaviour reminds one of what you told us of Dorothy at the same age. We used to be filled with wonder and envy at your accounts of her goodness. Now our little one is just as good. It is a great blessing. I don’t know what would have become of us if we had had another edition of the Peeps. He is very little trouble now, however, provided that care be taken to remove from view whatever suggests certain wants. If a pen or paper or a bottle of ink or pencil is visible he will not rest until he can engage someone to draw a “gee-gee”. He gravely overlooks the performance as it is proceeding and immediately corrects any omissions – “Tail too” “ Bip too” “Man too” are his remarks if any of these are left out. He is a quaint little man – very old fashioned I sh’d say. He will amuse himself quite alone for a long time. On the beach and sand with a shovel and bucket we have not yet exhausted his powers of amusing himself. He makes himself thoroughly wet and dirty it is needless to say. Jessie couldn’t get to church the Sunday before I came down without taking the Peeps too. Accordingly they went up to St. Paul’s. He behaved very well for a time but just before the beginning of the service as he was getting fidgety Jessie gave him her prayer book. This he at once put on the top of his head, as he had seen men in the streets carry their baskets, and shouted at the top of his voice and in clear unmistakeable tone three or four times “Any old rags or bones”. Once set off there was no stopping him. He had to be carried forthwith out of the church.

            We have just had bad news of Annie. Sister wrote to tell me that she had been to see the Physician who had been prescribing for Annie for some time past. She had been suffering violent pain from indigestion during her stay with us but the pain grew worse after she went to Pimlico and she went to consult a Physician. His remedies did not appear to improve matters much and to her symptoms were added a great deal of oppression in the region of the heart. The Physician told Sister that her heart was seriously affected and that she must take great care of herself. She is come down to Preston to stay with the Goulds and I am just going over to see her. If you should be writing to her you should be careful not to mention that you have heard she has disease of the heart. The Doctors say nothing does people more harm suffering from it than to know that they have it. They are perpetually worrying about it and it is just worry which aggravates the disease. Trot was to have taken Annie to see Dr. Mackenzie on Monday and I hope to hear from her that Mackenzie thinks the other Dr. has exaggerated the matter. In any case it is very serious. I have just heard from Trot. Mackenzie unfortunately confirms the other Dr.’s opinion. Poor dear old Annie. I am exceedingly sorry. She will come and live with us now. She is quite unfit for any work at present. Either rest and great care may so far restore her health as to remove the actual pain from which she has been suffering – but the disease itself I am afraid is incurable. I saw her yesterday at Preston. She was still suffering from want of sleep. She will come here in a day or two.

I went to see the Nivisons before leaving Town. I was surprised to find that they had been everywhere and seen everything and were quite used up. They had been 5 weeks in London. My advice to Australians (?thinking of) taking a voyage to England is “Don’t”. Sydney they all tell me is so much finer in every respect than anything we have here that it is an obvious waste of money to leave Australia. Miss Nivison is no exception. The shops, the streets and buildings, the hotels, the private houses, the Society are all superior at Sydney. I remained about two hours with them and this was the only burden of their song! One finds it rather monotonous. It appears to be the only topic of conversation the Australians I have met take any interest in. I am afraid it is a cardinal colonial defect. It’s American swagger in its infancy. Miss Nivison also tells me that everything is infinitely cheaper in Sydney from jewellery to shoelaces. She is much impressed by the want of civility of people in English shops. In this matter especially Sydney again is far ahead of us.

Adieu. Best love to Oliver and kisses to the dear children. Many thanks for the photographs – I was charmed with them and so is everyone who sees them. The superiority of the Sydney infant I sh’d be quite prepared to admit! Ever your afft. R.S.G.

The Moriartys haven’t turned up yet.


Oct. 8 1878                                                          Brighton

My dearest Celia,

            You must be thinking very badly of me, it is such an age since you have heard from me. I wrote you a long letter a few days before the birth of our dear wee daughter, but Richard, finding that his letter was an improved version of mine, and that mine would make it overweight, did not send it. It is curious that we should both have a son first and then a daughter; although we should have, or fancied we should have, been better pleased had little Katherine Mary been a 2nd son.

            We are so proud of the little pair and could not possibly love our little girlie more than we do, she is a perfect little thing and gives us no trouble at all; not nearly as much as the old Peeps who is getting so sharp and adventurous that he requires constant attendance; he is a most original little man and always causes quite an excitement wherever he goes; he talks beautifully and can even deliver messages most satisfactorily.

            I know you will be glad to hear I am feeling and looking stronger than I have done for a very long time, in fact everyone is astonished at my improved appearance; little baby too depends upon me entirely for sustenance and her little fat cheeks and firm hands betoken that she fares very well.

            We have been adventurous enough to attempt Brighton again this year and we are now enjoying the most charming weather, it is so warm that we can sit on the beach all day. I quite dread going home again for it was very cold at Thornton Heath when we left, so our little trip will make our winter delightfully short.

            I find I have quite as much as I can manage with the two babies, and only a young nurse girl: if the wee darling had been as delicate as the Peeps was I don’t know what I should have done. We have nice lodgings and contrive to be out nearly all day.

            Richard spent a week of his leave at Fewcott and enjoyed his visit very much indeed; he always finds out the warm corner of everyone’s heart and is a favourite wherever he goes. I feel I can never be thankful enough for such a dear husband and my darling babies - Louisa is continually laughing when Richard is with her and I think he makes her feel ten years younger.

            You will be sorry to hear that poor Annie has been very far from well lately and still more sorry and distressed to hear that the doctors pronounced her to be in an extremely delicate state. She has been to Dr. Mackenzie and another good doctor and they both say her heart is much affected. She is not to know herself; they have told her it is weak only, so you must be careful in writing to her. We hope to take us back with us to Thornton Heath to live with us, and she is such a dear good-tempered creature that it is a real pleasure and a privilege to be able to offer her a home and she is so devoted to Richard and the babies that I hope she will be happy with us. She is now staying at Preston with some friends of hers, the Goulds, so she is close to us and will accompany us home.

            Richard says he has only room for one sheet from me so I must say goodbye and goodnight; like you it is generally bedtime when I write my letters. I do not know when to expect news of you but, dear Celia, you have my warmest sympathy and very best wishes for you and those dear darlings of yours. Very best love to you all, your loving sister, Jessie K.Gowlland. 


24 Oct. 78                                         The Cedars, Thornton Heath, Surrey                                          


My dearest Birdie,

                 We have just got back from Brighton. We had wonderful weather there and sunny almost every day. I was able to bathe up to the 18th of the month. Jessie and both babies are much better for the change – Jessie has never been better and the new girl is as fat and cheerful as possible. I had them all photographed at Brighton and (I’ll) send you copies. The boy is the failure. He was taken 6 times, but he always moved and when he didn’t move as in the copy he frowned horridly so that everyone who sees the Photograph exclaims with horror that it is a shame and a scandal that he should be handed down to prosperity so ill-looking. It is quite clear that he must be either extremely interesting-looking or else pretty for we find everyone raves about him. Now you are not going to (?wince) over the portrait less it is not a good one.

            Annie we left at Preston where she proposes to spend a couple of weeks more with the Goulds. She seems a trifle better. Her looks are not much improved however but she admits her heart is less troublesome and that she gets more sleep – but the violent indigestion cannot be got rid of although she has taken a variety of remedies to cure it. She will come to us when she leaves the Goulds. The Sisters are anxious that she should go back to them but it won’t do. They don’t the least spare an invalid I notice – or rather they don’t admit invalidishness for any length of time. Poor old Hukie’s lethargy for some time past is now well accounted for. It appears her heart must have been affected for a long time. I wonder if we all carry about with us the inherited weak heart. You know it is what killed our mother. It is curious that Annie sh’d be suffering acutely at her age from both the diseases which were fatal to our father and mother. He you know really died of indigestion.

            Percy Whitcombe called to see me yesterday. You will have heard of his gaining the 1st. Scholarship at St. Mary’s Hospital. Trot is as happy as a Queen about it. It is most creditable to Percy. He had only good men against him it seems. It is a curious change of life for him from his quiet of school to be working all day long in the heart of London with exciting work too. The day he called to see me he had been whittling away at dissecting a gentleman’s leg all morning, assisting at an operation in the afternoon and  (?that is not to) mention lectures. Louisa has just taken her third boy Arthur to a school at Eastbourne. He is in a choir there and is therefore educated at a very low figure at a good school in the town. Nothing further has turned up for Harry who is at home working for the Hertford Scholarship at Oxford. The examination is to be held early next month. If he doesn’t get it I expect he will go to Ceylon coffee planting. He knows some people who have friends there who recommend him to go. I suppose there is no opening for him in Australia?

            The Moriartys haven’t turned up at my office during my absence. I have had to give up Mrs. Bennett since I can’t follow her to Cheltenham. The Nivisons I must look up again. When I saw them last they were expecting to go to Brighton but they didn’t turn up there. Do you know that your Australians are extremely heavy people!!! They have talk of nothing but Sydney! They appear to me to be much more foreign than either Germans or Frenchmen are to us here – and have no sympathy with our doings at all and treat us always with a good-natured contempt I notice – even the best of them such as these Nivisons do it. Living didn’t because he was (an) Englishman but his wife did to an insufferable degree. Goodbye and best love to Oliver. How thankful I am that he is an Englishman! Best love from Jessie to you and kisses to the babies. Ever yr. aff. R.S.G.

So you have a train all the way to Wagga Wagga now I see – you will be deserting your Lord and master and your off spring to go and spoon with Fred!!!! He sends me a newspaper from time to time just to remind me that he still exists.




18 Nov 78  Monday                                                  Thornton Heath SE

My dearest Birdie,

             I have just received the joyful news of the birth of your second little daughter.   Jessie and I are delighted to hear that you and the baby were so well when Oliver wrote.  Many thanks to him for his letter.   I received it that day seven weeks and the San Frisco mail, which he mentioned as having arrived while he wrote and as having been put in quarantine, contained a letter I expect telling you of the birth of our little daughter who was born on the 8th of August.   There is just seven weeks and three days between the cousins – a “Mail” between us and when we write to tell you of our Katherine Mary’s tricks, the letter will reach you just when your baby has attained the same age.   Well, there is not much to relate of the young person here.   Happy is the country and also the baby that has no history.   More specially happy in room (NB what a gorgeous room, how I envy you it, a bedroom can’t be too big.   We have no room 19 x 30 x 22 so that this is perhaps not so wonderful as would at first sight appear).   She seems to know the Peeps and is specially cheerful and laughing when he deigns to play with her.   He is genuinely fond of her and kisses her with effusion whenever he is permitted to fondle her.   It is charming to see them together.   I sent you her photograph last mail so you will be able to see what she is like.   Her hair, which was thick when she was born, came off and is now growing again.   Her eyes, which are fine, are blue.

Annie is settled here now for the winter.   She is decidedly better but then Dr. Mackenzie insists on her coming to him every fortnight.   He evidently thinks she requires watching.   Her heart is much quieter but she still has a bad hour or so at night.   It takes the form of shivering fits.   She has then to take hot brandy and water – cold is no good.   So she sleeps with a spirit lamp beside her so as to be prepared.   We never let her go upstairs more than once or twice a day.   So she sits and knits or works all day long; she is very quiet and seems to be thoroughly happy here.   She is immensely fond of the babies and cannot see enough of them.   The old Peeps generally goes up to play in her bedroom while she is dressing in the morning.

We had bad news today from Fewcott.   Louisa is laid up.   They were afraid she was really very seriously ill.   The Doctor had to be summoned in the middle of the night.   Lilly, too, is in bed.   Have you heard that a living has been offered to them at last; Fingest-cum-Ibstone 6 miles N. of Henley on Thames.   Merton College gave it to them.   They go there in the spring.   There is a fine house and £300 a year but for the present the old Rector takes a third of that enormous income.   When he dies they will have the whole sum.   There are two churches situated two miles apart.   It will therefore be absolutely necessary to keep a pony or a curate.   The former being the cheaper and more generally useful animal will be preferred, I expect.

 I can’t help agreeing in what you say about the unsatisfactoriness of letter-writing as an only means of communication. There is necessarily something forced about it.   But so there is often about conversation.   The advantage of talk is that it suggests topics and is less solemn than writing.   It is far easier to keep up a warm interchange of thought with people only received a day’s post from one.   In writing to Australia one is rather oppressed by the feeling that one’s words are going to exist for two whole months. One necessarily approaches the operation with some gravity.   But as you say, “Quoi faire” – we must make the best of it.   After all it is astonishing how little pleasant talk one ever gets with anyone.   The element of nonsense and badinage is necessarily eliminated from letters, which is to be lamented – one can’t laugh much.

I don’t believe one could ever get to form even a decently correct opinion of anyone by post.   I always feel rather on stilts with a pen in my hand (women don’t feel this as much as men but they are not free from it).   Jessie, for instance, is much more stilted in letters than in reality, and this quite unconsciously for she is the most natural soul alive with not the tiniest grain of humbug in her composition.   I don’t know a single person so free from it.   So one must conclude that it is a natural and unavoidable infirmity this unreality in letter writing.   Your letters are far the best and most natural that I ever read, so consider yourself quite excluded from the view of these sweeping assertions.

            Australia will always remain a puzzle to me.   You say fruit is dear and less good than in England.   Every single Australian I have seen grumbles and growls at the scarcity and nastiness of everything here, fruit included.   I shall tell them all in future that distance lends enchantment to the view.

            Trot sent me to read a long letter she had received from ?Jager Nichols.   He writes very well.   Gave a very good description of Sydney and your house and neighbourhood.   Most of the letter was devoted to the praise of Jennie who appears to have quite won his heart, which I didn’t consider any great certificate to the soundness of his judgement.   Of course, Jennie’s coming to England is a mere joke,.   Pray explain to her, if the project is seriously entertained, that I cannot even offer her a bed if she turned up here.   As to helping her with money that would be quite out of the question in as much as I simply haven’t enough to do more than pay my own bills.   She would be the most miserable of creatures here.   The monotony of the sort of life we lead, not a soul coming to the house for months at a time, w’d drive her to despair.   It is most distressing to hear that her boys are so unruly.   Is there no brother of hers who would at any rate break the pipes which you mention as being indispensable to their existence?   Why doesn’t she settle at Wagga and let Fred see what he could do with them.   I don’t know anything of the Wellmans but what you have seen and heard of the Lords convinces me that I entirely agree with Oliver in his appreciation of them.  

Both our infants sleep in our room.   The cradle is on Jessie’s side and the cot on mine.   The baby doesn’t wake at night.  The boy rouses at about half past three pretty regularly and is taken in to the “big bed”.   I had a long fight with him the other night to see if he couldn’t be broken of this bad habit.   He screamed and sobbed for half an hour lying quite still in his cot – it was too distressing – to all my soothing talk he only said between his sobs over and over again “please Faver dear take me over”.   He won at last of course.   I suppose we shall have another battle royal again very shortly.   I am told it is very weak to give way: having a real baby makes me regard the Peeps as quite amenable to reason.   But of course he is quite a baby, only a year and 11 months now.   We are going to have a flare up on his 2nd birthday – a Christmas tree and 3 infants (all we know) to tea!   We were talking just now of your picnic on Marcius’s second birthday – I hope the Peeps will be more amiable – but all his guests will be just his own age about.   He is always delighted to have children to play with.   He is a little jealous of the baby.   He often says “Take it away” when he wants to sit in his old place on his ‘mummy’s’ lap.   He is extremely sharp – passing a gate where Jessie had called with him some days before, he stopped and said “wants to see the Ady (Lady)”. 

Goodbye my dearest Birdie – our best love to Oliver and kisses to the babies.   Ever yr. afft. RSG


 2 January 1879.                            2 The Cedars, Thornton Heath.                                                                                  

My dearest Birdie,

            I wish you and Oliver and your dear Chicks a very happy New Year.

            How is Katherine behaving? Our Kate kept remarkably well until Christmas day when Jessie went skating all the afternoon and enjoyed herself so much that the excitement affected the infants’ refreshment and she has since been ailing and taking powders. She keeps up her spirits however and declines altogether to be considered an invalid. She laughs and takes a great deal of notice. She evidently knows her mammy and is said to weep when she leaves the house, but of this latter detail I have my doubts. She is a sweet little being, possessing an exceedingly placid temper. She will submit to all kinds of neglect without murmuring. I am very fond of her indeed – perhaps the more because she is so much like you. It must be so, for everyone who knows you both remarks it. She recalls to me what you were as a little girl in pinafores most especially, but she also has your later look. She still sleeps almost all the night, I am glad to say.

            The dear old Peeps sleeps on my side in his cot; about seven every morning he shouts for me. I generally find that before he has succeeded in waking me (he) has poised himself on the rail of the cot in such a position that he can neither move backwards or forwards his head being out and his legs in. He is always being most charming. We keep up our romps from 5 to 6 and indeed his father is so fond of him that after his bath he generally comes down to the dining room to witness the eating of pudding and to be made much of. Then he lights my pipe and sits on my knee until the inexorable nurse arrives: she is always greeted with howls. “No I don’t “ike it” is often repeated on the stairs and occasionally he bites and pulls the young person’s hair down. For offences of this magnitude, however, I understand he is whipped. He is always very penitent Jessie says and bears no malice. We have got this charming book of songs given to us, and these I sing to him a good deal. He is always wrapped in delight and however long the songs are he wishes for more.

            I intended to write a long letter but have got instructions to go over to the Customs House which is at the other end of old London and I must be off without delay as it is late in the afternoon.

            Annie is much better. She is staying in London for a week with the Sisters. The Sister Superior is the Godmother to our Kate as you know. She is always sending the infants things. She is more especially in love with the Peeps who comes up to see her occasionally with Jessie. There seems to be no prospect of Annie’s ever being well enough to do anything again, so that we look upon her as a permanent inmate of our house. She sits knitting or writing all day long in the same chair. Jessie tells me that she never moves from morning to night. Trot and the boys have been spending Xmas with the Hewitts and have enjoyed themselves very much. We had a very happy Christmas at the Cedars and a splendid afternoon skating. Jessie got on very well. Louisa still continues poorly and weak. Mary leaves Berlin this week and is going to school at the Queens College. Harry Joscelyne still unoccupied. I understand they are about to spend about £100 in doing up their new home in Ibstone. They move  in March.

            Goodbye, I must be off. My love and best wishes for the New Year to you both and kisses for the bairns. Yours Aff. R.S.G.

            We are going to a party at Peter Gowlland’s on the 15th. Private theatricals.


 30 January 1879.                            2 The Cedars, Thornton Heath,    Surrey SE


 N.B. only foreign paper I possess in London.                                                                                                

My dearest Birdie,

            Thanks for your letter just rec’d. We are all very sorry to hear that Oliver is still confined to the house. Has he tried a bronchitis kettle? Do you know what it is, I wonder. An ordinary tin closed vessel with an ordinary spout some two yards long by which the steam generated is poured continually into the room. It softens the air and cures bronchitis very often when every thing else fails. I hope there is no need for remedies when this reaches you but if you ever get the same ailment in the house again pray try the kettle.

            It is very kind of Oliver to wish to help us to keep Annie going. But really I must protest against it very strongly. You don’t know when you may have some unexpected burden placed on your shoulders. You have no business to cripple your resources (as of course every “little” goes to make a “muckle”) in this way. We are very happy and I think we shall be able to bear the little additional strain in our finances. I am sure you won’t be offended at my saying so much. But this is a case which is pre-eminently our own affair. If Fred were able of course he would bear his share of the burden but I doubt his being better off than we are. The person who is least concerned about the matter I need hardly say is the object of it all. She seems very happy with us and is decidedly better. She sleeps and eats remarkably well and if she keeps quiet all day does not complain of any pains or aches. It is difficult to make people believe that she is an invalid. She goes up once a fortnight to see Dr. Mackenzie and sometimes spends a night with the Sisters or at Mrs. Whitmore’s. With these exceptions she is always at the chimney corner knitting from morning to night. An additional adult in the house makes it appear very much smaller and we talk more than ever of moving but I have my doubts whether it will come off just yet. Trot’s friends the Hewitts (who improve on better acquaintance) seem anxious that we sh’d go and live near them. The houses are not outrageously dear and I believe we sh’d save the difference between the higher rent we sh’d have to pay and our present rent by the cheaper living. The suburbs are in all respects dearer than London.

            You will feel envious when I tell you that we have had some skating again. Jessie gets on very nicely. She always accompanies me and if the ice would only keep on a little longer I think she w’d advance to the outside edge. I always associate your skating with that pretty lake which I saw in the summer at New Brandenburgh. You must have enjoyed yourself very much that winter at N.B. The days of our youth are only pleasant to look back upon. One doesn’t sufficiently realise at the time how happy they are. But it is different now. I shall never need to be reminded in the future how happy I was at this present period of my life. I don’t think there can be any little family so thoroughly and completely happy and contented as we are; or more constantly conscious that they are enjoying their lives so completely. The Boy and Girl make good progress. She delights in him and seems specially interested and sharp when he talks to and plays with her. She puts her little head to him and grins and gurgles continually. He has a wonderful memory and picks up all kinds of odd words instantly.

            We went to Peter to a party the other day. They invite us once a year to their theatricals. The rest of the year we see and know nothing of them. It seems rather a hollow and unnatural relationship. I shan’t go another year. It is better not to know one’s relations at all than to know them on such terms. Their friends are about the most sleepy humdrum set of people I ever met. All professional I suppose. They gaze silently at each other as if each were making a mental diagnosis of the others’ case. Of Peter, his son and daughter off the stage we saw nothing, for the moment the performance was over we had to dash off to catch the last (train).



28 Feb 79 

My dearest Birdie,

            I stupidly missed the San Frisco mail, which went yesterday. This will go via Brisbane. I w’d be glad to know how much behind the Frisco mail this will reach you.

            Your last letter, a short one enclosed in a longer one of Annie’s was dated the 2nd of January. We were anxious to hear your news because in the previous letter you mentioned that Oliver had been laid up with bronchitis. The January letter makes no mention of him so we are happy to conclude that his health is no longer a subject of conversation.

            I am amazed to think you did not receive the photographs. They were included in the parcel. I placed them between the leaves of one of the Parliamentary papers I sent you. There is no doubt whatsoever that I sent them. I am still in hopes that they have turned up. Probably when you wrote the books hadn’t been looked through. You don’t mention if the elastic stocking arrived in good condition. I am afraid that the tropics might injure the india rubber. Also does it fit? About the card case; if you will look at my letter you will see that I had to send off the parcel in a great hurry and had no time to buy the card case. I can’t believe, however, for all I hear of Sydney, but that articles of that kind are just as good and as cheap here as there. However I suppose you feel like a Frenchman about Sheffield cutlery – however bad the steel it comes from Sheffield which covers every defect.

            I am very much obliged to you for the Emu eggs you sent me and which Trot received recently. I shall have ‘em mounted for our new house when we get into it. For we are seriously thinking of moving at midsummer. We haven’t found a house yet but we hope to make up our mind on the subject soon. I propose to buy a house: Cooper’s eldest brother offered to lend me the money for the purpose at 4 per cent. This is really an offer not to be refused. It is cheaper than borrowing money from a building society. Their terms are really a little over 5 per cent. I shall try to get a house for 800. In or out of Town – I don’t care much which. Sister’s old house at Balham is for sale but she has a tenant for 3 years which makes it impossible to think of that purchase.

            Annie is much better. Dr Mackenzie has cut off all her medicines now. She can’t get on though without brandy at night and sometimes in the day too. She is going up to stay 6 weeks with Sister. She will do no more than sit through music lessons and that kind of thing. She has just been for a visit to Trot. They both spent a couple of days at Malling. Mrs Busbridge still grouses in her sleeve because I am not her son-in-law. They all seem to like Mr Woodgate, nevertheless.

            Did I tell you that Captain and Mrs Lucas came down to see us? They spent an hour at our house. I wish it had been longer but they were very much pressed for time – only having a week in London on their way to Dublin. They are charming people and a handsome “Ehepaar.”* He is a particularly fine-looking specimen of the Erse. I see some of his new regiment have gone to Zululand - but I did not see his name among them.

            Jessie and the babies are well. She has suffered indeed a good deal lately from neuralgia in the head and chest. We have had an exceptionally severe winter with a quite unusual amount of snow and frost. As tomorrow we shall be in March I suppose we may begin to hope that the warmer weather is not far off. Katherine Mary is very sharp and ?still convalesced. She is a charmingly pretty baby, that everyone says. She is always being accosted on her walks to be talked to and admired. She doesn’t make any sign of make any sign of producing a tooth as yet but we have had a few restless nights lately, which I suppose means teeth. The dear old boy goes on well. He has a wonderful memory for so small an infant – remembers words he hasn’t heard for a whole month and then only heard once!

Continuation of letter of 28 February.

             I have received Oliver’s book for which many thanks. I confess I haven’t had time to more than glance at it and I suspect it will never be thoroughly gone into by me. We regard it as a work reflecting some slight honour as being performed by a member of the family and as such I see on Jessie’s part a tendency to trot it out apropos de bottes!**.   Annie put on her spectacles and sat seriously down to read it the other day and was obliged to admit that it was extremely dull reading! She knits and reads by the way at the same time. Her sight is bad though and in the evening she has to be provided with her own private candle as well as the common lamp which illuminates the room enough for anyone else.

            We hear that the Joscelynes have spent £100 upon their house or rather incurred a debt to the Builder to that amount. There is a subscription set on foot to give him a testimonial upon their leaving the Parish. They counted upon this. I hope it will be enough to pay the bills and will not take the form of a teapot and urn!! *** Harry is still unemployed. You won’t forget to tell me what chances there would be for him in Sydney. Young Harry Livett who dined with us last night did not think there was much opening for him in Australia. Livett is a nice manly fellow. He is now 1st mate of the Carlisle Castle. He is 25 and has therefore got on remarkably well. He told me he had heard from you but had not been able to get up to Sydney. His sister Annie has 3 children. Her Husband who is in the Inland Revenue has just been moved from Kingston on Thames, where they have been 3 years to Clifton.

            I think I have quite exhausted my bag of news – goodbye. Jessie sends best love to you all – my best love to Oliver and kisses to the Babies. Your two children are immensely admired. I find everyone thinks our boy has a cap on in his photographs. It is of course his hair cut short in a little fringe over his forehead. I hope you received those photos by the way.

            Ever yr. aft. R.S.G.          

            *married couple                      

            *with regard to something quite irrelevant.

            **the Joscelynes were given a tea and coffee service and a purse of sovereigns.


26 March 79


My dearest Birdie,

            I intended to have sent you a letter today but I have only time left for a mere note. It is the end of our financial year and there has been a drive all day, which has left me no time to write to you but I enclose a line from Trot who is staying with us. She is far from well. Every evening about the same time she has a kind of fainting fit which numbs her hands and feet. She is taking a strong dose of quinine three times a day. She has had a great deal of anxiety lately about her bills for clothing. Whitcombe has paid nothing for five years and will not pay now and so there is a deadlock. She can’t get any more credit or get the tradespeople to prosecute Whitcombe for what is owing.

            Jessie and the children are well. The latter have been indeed not quite the thing lately. Baby has just cut her first tooth or rather did so 14 days ago and the boy has had a little eruption on his face for which he is taking medicinal arsenic. But he seems otherwise in the best of health. The baby grows more like you every day and I shall begin soon to call her “Birdie” by mistake. She is the most charming baby you can imagine. She laughs and gurgles all day to herself; she is immensely pleased with Edward who is never tired of showing off before her and playing with her. She is not yet weaned and consequently looks in imperfect condition.

            Annie is still in London with Sister. She seems to keep about the same. Louisa paid us a flying visit the other day. She came up to spend all the ready money they had on carpets etc. for their new home which they have I believe moved into today. They want to borrow £100 to furnish with. They owe £100 for doing up the house but that does not seem to concern them in the least. I believe they will send Harry to Oxford after all. It is wonderful how remarkably well people can get on in this world on nothing a year. We are going there at midsummer. We have given notice to quit then, so a house must be found.

            Best love to Oliver and kisses to you and the children from Jessie and me,

                                    Ever yr. aft. R.S.G.



April 1879.

             Jessie begs me to tell you that Katherine Mary cut her first tooth on the 22nd of March “also” as the Germans say at the age of seven months and 14 days. The first tooth looks so queer I always think. There is a solitary appearance about it and a want of proper balance. The 2nd tooth came on the 8th inst. at exactly 8 months. Now how about your baby’s tooth? We shall feel hurt and humiliated if you have more teeth than we have!!  I could rave to you for six sheets about the virtues and beauty of Katherine Mary, but enough of that. She can roll herself into any position she desires to occupy on the floor with astonishing rapidity. She is more fond of the cat than of either of her parents. Next to the cat she loves the boy. She makes furious efforts to be attractive to him and to keep him at her side – but she too (insistently) demonstrates her affection by pulling his hair to render him very anxious to play with her. She continues to be the best baby on record – sleeps all night and is good all day. The dear old Boy who is still as charming and loveable as ever, has been banished from our room to the Night nursery where he sleeps much better for if he wakes up there in the night his nurse gets him off again quickly whereas with me he always insisted on sitting up and holding a long conversation.

            I find I haven’t time to write any more – a man has been in, an old neighbour at Thornton Heath, and has taken up the half hour I meant to write to you in.

            Goodbye. My best love to Oliver and kisses to the bairns. I trust they are well and the nurse crisis is overpast.

            Ever yr. aft. R.S.G.



9 May 79.

My dearest Birdie,

            What a charming boy yours must be and how I would like him to stay with me. I think he is a splendid fellow and I am glad you have resolved it is no good trying to thrash him into submission. I sometimes think that I am much more likely to see him than to see you again. For I suppose if he sh’d develop any striking talent you will want to send him over here to try his hand against the young prodigies at our schools and universities. It seems to me always uncommonly hard that we are never to see you – for that is what it amounts to. I always regard with wonderful calmness any rumours of the impending dissolution of this branch of H.M. Service (not that there is any at the present moment) because it would secure me the pleasure of seeing you again. That is the only chance now – that the P.W.D. sh’d dispense with my services.

            There is no news whatever. Annie I see was writing to you all yesterday evening and has probably remembered all the incidents better than I could. It is a great bore to hate letter writing as much as I do. In other words it is a great bore to have no imagination – but added to that it wearies me to see my bad writing! The mechanical effort of writing is a nuisance – some people even like that. Annie must I am sure for she always had a prim self-satisfied expression on her face when she is writing as if she were engaged in something eminently virtuous. She always writes in such a stilted manner too, quite different from her talk. I suppose the self-complacency in that case arises from a sense of turning out a very fine composition!

            Louisa spent an evening with us recently. She is as merry as ever although she tells you she is crushed at the thought of all the bills they owe and cannot pay. But that is not the fact. This morning for instance she wrote to me that they had just got in the bill for doing up the house £120 and a lot of others she mentioned: they have no prospect of paying any of them and she was depressed she said about it - but - she added at the end of her letter, this is so characteristic that I send it to you - “ but what vexes and troubles me most of all is that I can’t match the cord for my new drawing room curtains which I bought when I was in London.”

            Jessie and the babies have been spending a week at Gravesend. I have escaped going down happily on one pretext or another. I cannot stand the people at all. However they seem to be very civil to Jessie and the infants. The dear old Peeps seems to be homesick however; I shall be extremely glad to have him back again.

            We still haven’t found a house. I don’t know what will be done. I cannot find any house sufficiently good for the outside rent we can pay or price we could pay in which I can think we sh’d care to spend all our days.

            I will send out y’r chairs as soon as I hear when the Paramatta is about to start. I will try and find out but I am not sure I shall succeed.

            My best love to Oliver and kisses to the dear chicks.

                                    Ever y’r loving R.S.G.



4 August 1879


My dearest Birdie,

Many thanks for your letter of the 10th May.   We were most grieved to hear that you had had so much illness in the house.   I am afraid your boy must be growing too fast.   Tonsillitis does not seem to be well known here at any rate.   I suppose it arises from cold getting on a weak constitution.   I had something very like what you describe when I was 15.   I never got well till my tonsils had been removed.   I have had hardly any trouble with my throat since that operation, which however I could not recommend anyone to submit to unless performed by an operating surgeon and under anaesthetic.

However I trust Marcius will have recovered without any such violent remedies.   It is most painful to have children ill.   If the least thing ails either of my pets I am quite ill too with anxiety – just as if a cloud were always hanging over me.   Happily we have small cause for anxiety.   The little one underwent a slight crisis when her food was recently changed from condensed milk to cow’s milk – she became quite weak and an invalid in 24 hours from sickness.   But she soon picked up again and is very strong now.   She is apparently bright and intelligent – is devoted to her mother and will only “fly to” anyone else when there is a prospect of going for a walk for which she has a passion if for anything at all.   The dear Peeps too is quite well.   He and I are greater friends than ever and I never can have enough of his society.   We are always romping when I am at home and he is not in bed.   He comes in to spoon in my bed in the morning after he has had his bath.   He is most easily amused.   At present we are engaged in pursuing an imaginary mouse which is extracted from my neck and I from his with roars of laughter!!   Is this one of your favourites – we have rather checked his learning things.   He became too knowing and thought too much.   Picture books are his delight when he is too tired to romp.   He knows animals and fishes and birds now.   I think he mixes them purposely sometimes when he is being shown off – so that his wisdom suffers from his insisting on calling a hippopotamus a peacock on field days.

Many thanks to you both for the £10 which I duly received.   As I said before you have no business to send it – but it  nevertheless is most acceptable and will be most useful.   We certainly are beginning to find it difficult to make both ends meet.   All the same we are going to take a holiday again this year in our old lodgings at Brighton.   I am going the first 10 days of my leave to make a walking tour with a Mr Fox whom you have heard of from us.   We propose to go along the N coast of Devonshire and Cornwall starting on the 25th Inst.   I hope it won’t be very hot weather.   We are going to carry knapsacks.   Jessie will be during that time at Brighton where I shall join her after I return from the west.

Annie is gone to Ibstone to the Joscelynes; she does not appear to be so well there as with us.   She never sleeps well away from us and appears to be quite homesick whenever she is long absent.

Alice Joscelyne aged 15 is staying with us for 3 weeks.   A quiet child rather heavy but persevering and slow at learning.   I am teaching her French in the evening.   I thought I sh’d have had a fit when I heard her pronunciation.   All she knows she has learnt from her father and I can answer for it that his Reverence w’d not make himself understood over the water.

There is no further news of any interest to you.   Singularly little happens to disturb the even tenor of our way.   And so it is best of course for we are then as happy as the days are long.

I am in charge here at the present moment and am deluged with work so that I have had to write to you in the intervals of it at snatches.

My best love to Oliver and kisses to the chicks.   I trust when this reaches you they will be all well and indeed that they were so long since.

 Ever y’r afft   R.S.G

             I don’t think any of us are tempted seriously to read through Oliver’s Legal Work.   I read the preface as soon as I received it and I was sorry that there was not more of the same kind of reading.   How much I wish you could get something over here.   It seems unnatural that we sh’d never see you.   We must keep up our correspondence regularly.




Lakeside, Churchfield Road, Ealing, in 2006


Lakeside, Churchfield Road, Ealing, in 2006

Lakeside, Churchfield Road, Ealing, in 2006




30 October 79                                                Lakeside, Churchfield Road, Ealing W.


My dearest Birdie,

            Many thanks for y’r long letter dated 31st. August. I am very ashamed of my poor little letters when I read your long ones. The £5 also came safe to hand and I have already expended £2:2: of it according to your instructions in paper. It does not go so far as you expected however – the stamping is rather expensive in colour as you will see from the enclosed bill – the die had of course to be engraved for the address. Your old crest I had not lost and your envelopes will accordingly be stamped with the crest. If there is any money over after the latter costs have been paid for I will spend the balance on paper. They don’t keep at the stores the small fancy paper and envelope combined which you ask me to get.

 Pages two and three of this letter are missing.

              . . . . . a year so we have very little fear of damp; on wet evenings a little moisture appears on some of the walls but otherwise the place is very dry. The soil is gravel with a stratum of sand beneath. Rain of which we have so much here in England therefore disappears as soon as it falls. These are all advantages. The drawbacks are that the house is not very solidly built – speculator Builder’s work in fact – and one’s mind cannot be quite at rest as to its stability. Everybody tells me however it will last my time. I therefore try to forget possible Builder’s Bills in the future and murmur to myself apres moi le deluge. We have 90 years lease and 10£ ground rent the interest of purchase money £34 a year. Rates and Taxes about double what we paid before. It will be a tight fit to make £400 a year meet all the expenses. Having an unfortunate prejudice for paying my bills I am not without some apprehension that there may be a difficulty in keeping up this practice. But we have burnt our bridges now and it is no good repining. If we don’t get along we shall have to get in a lodger and indeed have had a good deal of thought of taking in Percy Whitcombe and another hospital student to get some money! This is not a cheerful prospect but que voulez vous one can’t have everything and the man who is rash enough to marry on a small income must be prepared to put up with some inconvenience to enjoy the luxury of a little wife and little Bairns. You see with the selfishness for which men are proverbial I don’t mention what that little wife may have to put up with if the said students shall invade us.

            Trot has been spending 14 days with us. She left today to stay with the Hewitts. She seems very well again now - works a great deal too hard and makes herself quite tired every evening. She is a charming person and as good and generous as it is possible to be. One of the most unselfish of women I sh’d say – always bright and cheerful. If only her husband were bearable she w’d have every reason to be so for her children are perfection. Percy whom we see a good deal of is a charming young fellow. He has just taken another laurel at his hospital. He has been selected after examination of all the second year students to the post of Prosector, which carries a small payment and is considered a great distinction being given to the best student and most promising surgeon among the students.

            I have a severe cold and headache this evening, which will excuse my incoherence in this letter. We have had very little sleep again lately. The dear old Peeps has had an attack of croup and still has a bad cough. We only had about 3 hours sleep last night; for 4 hours he was coughing almost incessantly. He has not been out for a fortnight and looks very white indeed. The little Bobs as we call her had a bad cold too but she is so strong that it doesn’t seem to affect her very much. She still can’t talk at all but she understands all she is told I think. She is very fond of the Peeps and he of her. He pushes her over rather unceremoniously but flies into a violent passion if any one else ventures to reprove her. She never complains or cries at his rough treatment but if he is in trouble she begins to whimper at once. She is not fond of being kissed and will only hold up her face when I have my hat on to go away to London. The boy is most affectionate and is genuinely delighted to romp with me. He adopts all Jessie’s pet expressions. This evening he said when we were sitting alone here together “Let me sit on your lap you dear old man and look at some pictures”. He is very proud of his cough and when the Bobs was being held up to him as the pattern of good behaviour the other day he said “Ah! But she can’t cough” !!

            I am sorry to hear what you report of Mrs. Fred. But I am hardly surprised at anything of that kind that I hear now. One is always hearing of scandals nowadays – I suppose the world has always been much the same; but from the little I have seen of men and women I sh’d say that Society is much worse than it used to be. People relate to you nowadays all sorts of scandals and intrigues as a matter of course, which would have been spoken of in a whisper or not mentioned at all a few years ago. Anyone reading the so-called Society Journals must notice this. All the same a good wide margin must be allowed for exaggeration in all such matters. People are too prone to put the worst construction on anything which would offend ones friends and so very innocent flirtations are magnified into serious scandals if married women are concerned in them. It is safe to believe only half one hears in such matters.

            The Joscelynes have had a little luck. The old Rector of Ibstone who retired taking 1/5 of the stipend as R. died the other day and so Henry gets all the salary attached to the cure at £395 a year. He has one pupil who pays him £100 a year.

            Mary Joscelyne has been very dangerously ill. Heart disease apparently – an attack brought on by hard reading for the Cambridge Local Examinations. She is at home and will be obliged to remain there for a long time apparently. Harry Joscelyne is still at his post in Scotland (at Perth) where he is tutor in a school.

            Annie keeps pretty well. She is up at the Refuge Pimlico taking the place of someone who is away for 3 weeks holiday. She came down for my birthday the 26th. I am just turned 34 and am feeling much older than I used to think men of that age ought to feel. However I have everything about me to keep me young. Jessie is quite well and sends her love to you both. Kiss all the dear children for us. With best love to Alick, believe me your most affectionate R.S.G.