Richard Sankey and Celia Gowlland correspondence.
Letters of 1877 - 1885 (Extracts) between Richard Sankey Gowlland (1845 - 1886) and Celia Gowlland (1851 - 1921), both children of Thomas Sankey Gowlland (1805 - 1872). The letters from 1877 to 1881 concern the family of Henry Joscelyne and Mary Louisa née Gowlland, and the letter from 1885 concerns Richard's own family. The complete series of Richard/Celia letters from 1874 to 1883 is being published to this website - click here for index.
Richard to Celia - 12th December 1877
. . . . . . . . . . Lily Joscelyne (Mary Louisa’s eldest child) has been spending ten days with us. She has just gone. I am afraid she is very delicate. She is the sort of girl who would never be strong. She is very like Louisa in all things except her flow of conversation! They differ much in this particular for whereas Louisa has always something to say, Lily never opens her mouth. She seems to be quite content to sit still and smile at anything said to her. She takes a cheerful view of life I think and like the rest of the family possesses a firm belief in something shortly turning up. I have never met a family so suggestive of the Micawber philosophy. They seem to be always mentally planning positions to turn up for them and their attitude is always that of preparing for a spring – but it must be society and not themselves which must give the final impetus. Society is invited to step forward and redress their grievances. In the meantime they sit and wonder that such undeniably superior people should so long be left out in the cold. Harry is nearly 19 and still at school. He is not bright I think altho’ I think his father does. The whole family is quite offended if one suggests he might be getting his living instead of consuming the greater part of the family income. I can’t say I have much patience with them all. I don’t think Lily liked Jessie [Richard's wife] very much. Jessie is, I am happy to say, an exceedingly practical work-a-day person and I think she told Lily some rather rough truths apropos their view of life. But it would take a long time to persuade Louisa and her daughter that it is not necessarily the mission of the Miss Joscelynes to make calls, pay rounds of visits and practice all the latest songs and dress charmingly. Jessie would say I exaggerate – but it is necessary to do so to make you understand the ludicrous aspect of the situation. I am afraid I am a dreadfully uncharitable fellow.
Richard to Celia - 28th March 1879
. . . . . . . . . . Louisa paid us a flying visit the other day. She came to spend all the ready money they had on carpets etc. for their new house 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 disturb them in the least. I believe they will send Harry to Oxford after all. It is wonderful how remarkably people can get on in the world on nothing a year. We are going there at midsummer.
Richard to Celia - 8th May 1879
. . . . . . . . . . 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 have 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, 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.’
Richard to Celia - 4th November 1881
. . . . . . . . . . I spent a week at Ibstone with the Joscelynes. I was extremely pleased with them – a more happy and united family it would be quite impossible to meet at all. Very badly off as usual of course; cela va sans dire. Joscelyne has a pupil at present but he leaves at Xmas. You might have a chance of recommending him a pupil. Australians coming here for education seem continually on the increase. Henry is a capital coach – a most conscientious old fellow, which private coaches frequently are not. Herbert, the boy who is going to be a missionary, is a most charming fellow. He is just 17. The most clever boy is the next below him - Arthur – who seems to be a case of old head on young shoulders. He is always setting the rest of the family right, possessing on occasions superior information! Alice I liked very much too. Poor Mary is a hopeless invalid, I’m afraid. Dr. Mackenzie who came to see her said she must be carried upstairs for the next year or so. Louisa seems better than ever and is usually the life and soul of the family.
Richard to Celia - 7th September 1885
. . . . . . . . . . We have had another son added to our flock. He is a perfect beauty and we have never felt so proud of any of our infants before. Jessie looks five years younger only from laughing at him and he is altogether the greatest joy of the house. If we were not in a chronic state of impecuniosity we should get his photograph taken in order that you might rejoice over his big blue eyes and frank open face and broad shoulders and fat legs!
The other infants are and have been very well.
Mildred Mary, known to us by her own rendering of that name as Doody Dary, the next youngest is 3 and very delightful in her baby prattle. None of our former children have talked such beautiful baby talk. She has the happiest way of twisting hard words into the compass of her own powers of pronunciation. And her words are so pretty while she speaks, that I am afraid that the whole household adopts her rendering in preference to the vernacular; and if you could drop out of the sky to listen to our talk in the nursery you would think we are all as mad as march hares! I consider she is growing a very nice-looking child in spite of her early promise to be an ugly duckling.
The next eldest is Josephine Miriam “Effie” and she and Kitty are both now losing their baby plumpness and roundness and are thinner and paler. Kitty is the angel of the house who composes differences and “gives up”. Effie asserts her rights through thick and thin and is always prepared to claw anyone who attempts to defraud her of them. She is therefore at the present moment the chief concern of the nursery and spends much of her time “in Coventry”.
Edward’s character is much the same as hers. He is also very pale and thin and his delicate appearance excites much sympathy. He is in fact always well and contrives to get through an immense quantity of physical exercise without breaking down. He will be nine when you get this – or soon after – 14 December. I am not satisfied with his school and shall send him elsewhere after Xmas. I am anxious that he should be worked up to go to St Paul’s School when he is twelve. He would go as a day boy every day. I sh’d prefer sending him away, but I see no prospect of being able to afford it. He went with me to spend 10 days with Cooper at Brighton last month. We bathed in the sea 8 days out of 10 and I contrived to teach him to swim that is to say he was able to swim out of his depth and keep afloat a reasonable time but I don’t say I w’d like to see him pitched into deep water just yet. He would swim perfectly well in a week. It was very amusing to see his little head rising above the waves when he was out of his depth puffing and blowing and struggling in the water like a young puppy. He has often been on the river with me this summer and rows now fairly well. We often make expeditions to the Thames touching the river at various places where the Great Western has stations and coming back in the evening.
This year owing to the change of Government and the illness of my Secretary I have been able to take only 18 instead of 40 days leave and feel entitled to consider myself a martyr in consequence. I am however so remarkably well that I do not much lament the missing days. I have played tennis every day so long as the light lasted since the early part of May and the exercise has done me no end of good and although I am getting to look desperately old I am feeling younger and stronger than I ever did in my whole life. Indeed it is quite an effort to realize that I am on the verge of 40. I seem to have no sympathy with the men of 40 and find myself at tennis and elsewhere invariably consorting with young men who when they see my bald head and almost white hair must think they are cracking jokes with a grandfather. Jessie is always reproving me for my childish antics.
She is solemnity itself compared to me! I am most thankful to say that she was never better and has taken moreover to have an appetite which is quite a novelty in our married experience. I am sorry that she has not been away for a change this year but she has preferred to stay at home with the baby and we both very much doubt the wisdom of taking children into seaside lodgings.’
Richard Sankey Gowlland died of throat cancer fewer than 5 months later.
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