By ELISABETH INGLIS-JONES
Part I, National Library of Wales Journal, 1971, Winter. Volume XVII/2
Copied on to the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales
This is a complete extract of this article contributed by Jonathan Pike, Feb 2002
SINCE the sixteenth century when a John Allen migrated there from Ireland, many branches of his descendants had inhabited Pembrokeshire. The men as a rule married neighbours' daughters and begot sons who whatever their calling the services, the Church or the Law - seldom allowed it to keep them indefinitely from their native county. In 1728 John Allen of Goodhooke raised his standing by his marriage with Joan Bartlett, heiress of Cresselly, a fine estate with an ancient house standing on a coal-bearing headland above a tidal river and overlooking the far shores of Milford Haven. When seventeen years later having borne him many sons and daughters Joan Allen died, 'She was sweet and beautiful' her widower wrote sorrowfully, 'but above all a most prudent, Discreet, Sensible, Virtuous, Religious and good woman'. Of himself it was recorded that he was 'a truly Honest, Sincere and Religious man, affectionate and Kind'.
Unfortunately these good qualities did not descend to their eldest son, that moody, ill-tempered man John Bartlett Allen who succeeded his father when he was nineteen and left Westminster school to come home and look after his property. Five years later he bought a commission in the First Foot Guards and fought with his regiment in Germany during the Seven Years War. After four years of military life he was back once more at Cresselly, there to remain, a captain on half-pay, for the rest of his life. In April 1763 he married Elizabeth, the only daughter and heiress of John Hensleigh of Panteague, a successful attorney and a Burgess of Carmarthen, whose progenitor Henry Hensleigh of Spaxton in Somerset had acquired the Panteague estate from Sir John Stepney.1
The coal-mines that were practically at Captain Allen's front door were an important source of income to him as they were to other land-owners along the coast. As Pembrokeshire coal was remarkably free from smoke it was always in great demand. Many miners were kept hard at work in the pits assisted underground by their womenfolk and children who lugged up the heavy baskets of coal into the open when it was raised by means of hand winches and carried down to the creek by teams of horses and oxen.
Though John Allen pulled down his old house to rebuild it on higher (ground, years later Cresselly was described by the topographer Richard Fenton as 'in the midst of a colliery' though 'judiciously planted woods skreened those dingy volcanoes' from its windows. The views from the principal rooms in his spacious uncompromisingly plain grey stone house were beautiful, looking down to Creswell river and away towards Milford Haven, a busy traffic of small craft coming and going on the water and the woods of Lawrenny sloping down to the cliffs. In Lawrenny harbour ships lay waiting to carry the cargoes of coal which were trans-ported from Creswell Quay in flat-bottomed boats to London or over to Ireland.
Here John Bartlett Allen, dark and domineering, whose physical strength and violent temper became legendary, led the life of a busy squire, looking after his mining interests and estates and expending his energies on field-sports and in disciplining his unfortunate children. Of his wife who bore him two sons and nine daughters the only faint echo that remains is in the will her husband made many years after her death wherein he remembers one Jenny Howells 'the woman of my dear Elizabeth'. No doubt it was to her and not their hectoring father that her daughters owed their good upbringing and delightful dispositions. She died in 1790 and within two years her widower found consolation in the arms of Mary Rees, the daughter of one of his colliers, whom he married and installed in a little house at Creswell Quay, having solemnly promised his daughters that never on any account should she be brought to Cresselly.
As their father was extremely unpopular in the county and at logger-heads with most of his neighbours very few people came there and the future prospects of the Miss Aliens looked far from promising. Never-theless during this August of 1792 deliverance was at hand in the handsome person of young Josiah Wedgwood, the younger son of the great Staffordshire potter, who arrived at Cresselly with his sister to stay for the balls and races which always took place during the summer assizes at Haverfordwest. Lovely, auburn-haired Bessy Allen with her soft brown eyes and radiant smile was the eldest of the family and now twenty-eight, the same age as her friend Susannah Wedgwood.
Though 'Jos' as he was called was five years younger he was old for his age, a grave, somewhat silent young man who would much sooner have been born a country gentleman thin a manufacturer. He was now a junior partner in the world famous firm of Wedgwood which that versatile genius his father despite a formidable array of physical and material drawbacks had built up from the humblest beginnings. his business was already flourishing exceedingly before his three sons were born. So overwhelming indeed were the demands for his china that he had moved his pottery from Burslem to much larger premises nearer Stoke-on-Trent which he built and named Etruria. Close by he built his house, Etruria Hall, standing four-square among lawns and trees and over-looking the Grand Trunk Canal, another of his great enter-prises. In this imposing setting, typical of the growing importance of the rich industrialists, Jos and his brothers were born and later educated at the little home-school their self-taught father arranged for them. He spared no pains to see that his boys received a good practical education to fit them for business careers which was afterwards completed by a few terms at Edinburgh. High-minded and estimable as they were not one of them inherited old Josiah's potent personality and astonishingly diverse talents. Only Tom, the youngest, was illumined by a spark of genius which in his case took a scientific and metaphysical bent though its development was constantly impeded by ill-health.
Jos's dissatisfaction with his lot may have increased when at twenty-one he was sent off on a tour abroad with his cousin Tom Byerley for the purpose of exhibiting his father's masterpiece, his wonderful reproduction of the Portland Vase, at the royal courts in Holland and Germany. His good looks and elegant manners created a very favourable impression and in the flattering light diffused by the exalted circles he mixed with a manufacturer's life may have seemed more repugnant than ever, to say nothing of the galling distinction his father never tired of stressing between 'men engaged in business and gentlemen'. But anxious though he was to raise his social status, Jos was neither indolent nor a snob. He was a man of strong character and high ideals with an innate wisdom that made a great impression on many of his contemporaries. On this memorable afternoon driving through Pembrokeshire, the Potteries with their provoking reminders of trade lay a long way behind them when at last Jos Wedgwood, a young gentleman at large travelling with his fashionably dressed sister, turned in at the gates of Cresselly. Indoors nine expectant young ladies listened as the sound of crunching wheels and clip-clopping hoof-beats drew nearer and nearer.
It was a large family party to which the Wedgwoods were introduced, John the elder son who was twenty-three from Trinity College, Cambridge; Baugh aged eighteen from Westminster School; and the sisters, Bessy, Kitty, Caroline, Jenny, Harriet, Jessie, Octavia, Emma and Fanny -as attractive a group of pretty, unsophisticated girls as you could see. Their father whose talk of sport and farming was interlarded with reminiscences of the Seven Years War was always much better humoured when there was company to divert him. Not a vestige of unpleasantness can have marred the Wedgwoods' enjoyment judging by Jos's letter to his father written from Tenby on August 20.
'You will have heard from a letter of mine to Tom that we have had a very gay week at Haverfordwest Assizes. I have not been at Cresselly since but as I left them all very well I hope to find them so tomorrow. The Family at Cresselly is altogether the most charming one I have ever been introduced to, and their society makes no small addition to the pleasure I have received from this excursion. I am very happy to perceive that their spirits are not much affected by their father's marriage.
You are so kind as to say that you shall be glad to see me and my sister, but I hope you have no objection to me staying a little longer, as much on my sister's account as my own, for I am afraid she has little chance of bringing Miss Allen back with her.'
'Miss Allen' of course was Bessy whose radiant beauty which shines forth from Romney's portrait of her had cast its spell then and for ever over Jos. As matters turned out she did go back with them to Stafford-shire to be introduced to his parents as his future wife. And three months later they were married at Jeffreyston Church one December morning before setting off on their wedding trip to London and thence on to their new home at Little Etruria, close to Etruria Hall.
When as old women Jessie, Emma and Fanny talked over those old times they always agreed that it was Jos whose standards were 'so high and pure and true' who saved them from succumbing to the mental and moral stagnation then prevalent in Pembrokeshire. Though Bessy was always the best of sisters her warm-hearted good-nature was enhanced by her husband's unwavering kindness and generosity, true to the Wedgwoods' principle that riches are a trust to be wisely and thought-fully used for the general good. Thus Little Etruria became a second home to them. There in turn the sisters paid long visits and formed life-long friendships with all the Wedgwoods and their circle. At the Hall the old potter enjoyed entertaining his friends and chief among them was the famous Dr. Erasmus Darwin of Derby whose son Robert was to marry Susannah Wedgwood. Others like himself were members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham; scientists and inventors like James Watt, Matthew Bolton and Richard Lovell Edgeworth, and these old friendships were being carried on by the next generation. An entirely new world with a new set of people was thus thrown open to the Aliens who adapted themselves to it with the greatest of ease and three weddings which took place in the course of the next few years were the outcome.
In 1793 when Caroline Allen married Edward Drewe, a well-born but poorly paid Devonshire parson, their circumstances were made more comfortable thanks to Jos's generosity. In 1794 Allens and Wedgwoods were drawn still closer when Jenny who was always considered the beauty of the family married Jos's elder brother John. It was while staying with the John Wedgwoods at their home, Cote House near Bristol, during the winter of 1798/9 that handsome, black-eyed Kitty met James Mackintosh, a dark-haired Highlander of academic mien, the friend of Fox, Sheridan and all the leading Whigs, who had sprung from obscurity into the limelight seven years earlier when he published his pamphlet Vindiciae Gallicae defending the French Revolution and the republican opinions proclaimed by Charles Fox and his friends.
The son of a poor Scottish landowner who spent most of his life serving abroad with his regiment, Mackintosh had been brought up at his maternal grandmother's, a household of women in the wilds of Inverness-shire; a child whose precocious taste in books and astonishing memory made him famous as a prodigy of learning all over the countryside. His early evinced passion for politics and desire to shine as a leader even in his school-days had warred with his love of metaphysics and longing to lead a life of studious reflection. It was a struggle between that which he desired to be and that for which he was best fitted which was perpetually to undermine his path. At Edinburgh he made political speeches and wrote a lot of poetry when he ought to have been studying medicine and when later he went to London to seek his fortune as a doctor he was swept off his feet by the emotional ferment the revolt of the American Colonies and the revolutionary spirit in France had let loose. He was very soon actively associated with the new debating societies, finding it far more exciting declaiming his political opinions before admiring audiences than the wearisome drudgery promised by a medical career. Lie further complicated his future by falling in love with and marrying a sensible, level-headed Scottish girl who was as poor as he was but who through all the fluctuations of his fortunes would be his strength and stay. After failing to establish himself as a doctor be eventually decided to study for the Bar and was living quietly outside London supplementing his small income from his property in' Scotland by writing articles for various journals when in the heat of excitement be dashed off his Vindicae Gallicae in reply to Burke's warning Reflections on the French Revolution.
Its success was instantaneous. Fox praised him in Parliament; the Reform Association known as The Friends of the People made him their honorary secretary; he was lauded and courted by the great who found him a delightful companion. Thus it had gone on ever since, his wife doing her best to curb his extravagance and make him attend to his work instead of wasting time in the pleasures of good talk and good company. As soon as he was called to the Bar he had taken a small house in Serle Street, Lincoln's Inn and there in the spring of 1797 his wife unexpectedly died, leaving him desolate and with three small daughters. Bereft of her steadying influence and their happy domestic life he was all at sea, not knowing where to turn. In this state of mind he arrived at Cote 'louse that winter where he found besides Kittv Allen. the poet Coleridge. Before long he and Coleridge were involved in long metaphysical discussions, Mackintosh's superior eloquence and logic enabling him 'to talk the poet right Out of the house'. At the same tune he fell passionately in love with handsome, high-spirited Kitty. Though her feelings for him were decidedly more temperate she did not hesitate to accept him and on April 10, 1798, they were married.
Now that the four elder sisters were married and two of the younger ones generally away visiting them, a very small party was left at Cresselly to bear the brunt of Captain Allen's black moods and bad temper which got worse as time went on and a bad leg kept him tied to his chair for days on end, dependent on his daughters for company. At dinner if they were silent the heavy mahogany would shudder, glass and silver rattling and jumping, as he banged down his fist and ordered them to talk to him, to amuse him with agreeable conversation. Dr. Robert Darwin always declared that it was this harsh training in the art of making conversation which made all the sisters such good talkers. In the eventless, lonely lives they led they must often have been hard put to it to find anything new to tell and few indeed were the pleasures that came their way. On the rare occasions they were asked to a party it was quite on the cards that at the very last moment, as they stood in the hall preparing to depart, he might come storming out of his room ordering the carriage back to the stables and his daughters upstairs to take off their finery. And always in the background and often a cause of friction was 'the woman at the Quay' and her children.
Trouble and strife were rife all over the country with prices so high that the poor were in terrible straits for food, and after the occasion when a crowd of hungry miners marched on Haverfordwest to seize a sloop from Bristol laden with butter and were driven hack by the militia at the barrel-end of their muskets, the yeomanry aud fencibles were always to be seen parading the streets on market-days to quell any threats of rioting. Early in the year preceeding Kitty's marriage on a February evening in 1797, the war against France had irrupted suddenly on the north coast of Pembrokeshire when fourteen hundred French soldiers of the Légion Noire landed on a lonely headland near Fishguard with the intention of creating a second front by inciting the discontented peasants to rise en masse against the Government. The panic which spread through the countryside quickly abated for instead of rallying the people to join the tricolour the famished and undisciplined Frenchmen applied themselves to plundering the farms and cottages and soon were in no state to do anything worse than wander aimlessly about the country, drunk with the liquor they had found even in the poorest homes, as a smuggling vessel had lately been wrecked on the coast. There is nothing that throws any light on the doings at Cresselly during these eventful days when several of their neighbours such as Thomas Knox of Llanstinan who commanded the regiment of fencibles his father had raised and paid for and Lord Cawdor of Stackpole Court to whom the French troops surrendered on Goodwick Sands, played prominent parts. One result of the invasion however made its mark there later on when Captain Allen's niece, the thirty-five year old daughter of his brother Roger of Freestone, fell in love with and married one Collos, a French officer released on parole who was earning his living as a music-master in Tenby. But peace was by no means restored in the county, the local gentry quarrelling bitterly among themselves at the part some of them had played during the invasion. A witchhunt for spies and traitors, treason-trials at Haverfordwest and outbreaks of rioting kept Pembrokeshire on the boil and Collos was soon rearrested and locked up in prison. Captain Allen who doubtless disapproved of his niece's marriage quarreled with his brother and forbade his daughters to go to Freestone as Harriet wrote and told Bessy. 'We however met Mrs Collos at church yesterday and I never saw any person look worse. I don't know which was more green, her face or her handkerchief, she is also grown very thin and if her husband is not liberated soon his confinement will kill her.' Harriet's forebodings fortunately were groundless. Collos at some unspecified date was set free and took his wife back to France, the romance which began with the strains of music continuing over the fish-shop which he opened in a Paris back street.
This summer of 1798 was fraught with dissensions. Captain Allen was on very bad terms with the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Milford2 of Picton Castle, who had fled to his town house in Piccadilly for fear of the colliers who were threatening to burn down his castle. 'My Father' wrote Octavia, 'some little time since wrote to Lord Milford to do something for the poor and concluded by telling him that he was not liked by them. Lord Milford returned a short, indignant reply refusing to open a subscription for the poor. My father then advised the colliers to the number of thirty to go to Picton to petition Lord Milford. After this (in my opinion) bad precedent of my Father's, they agreed among themselves to go four hundred of them. I much fear in this Country where my Father is so generally disliked, that he will have the character of inciting the Colliers to riot.'
An unexpected feature of his harsh, unbalanced nature was his love of little children and now this too was giving rise to many painful scenes. He was planning to bring the eldest of their three little step-sisters to be brought up at Cresselly, a proposition which Emma and Fanny opposed with such vehemence that he finally ref used to speak to either of them. When at the end of three weeks' silence a reconciliation took place, seventeen-year-old Fanny told Bessy: 'We have heard nothing lately of the child coming here. The woman herself is I hear much against her coming and is really unhappy about it. Setting aside then any claim we might have for her not being brought here, a claim founded on a promise he himself made us, and which I think cannot in justice be broke, ought he then to take the child from the mother who has I think a greater right over it than its father and who also knows that all her children are to be taken from her by degrees. Can you my dear Bessy think it right to make the mother and children unhappy to gratify his selfish motives? As he is suited with a nice horse and his leg well he can see them every day if he chose. I am not a little surprised at the taste of my father in his way of life.' A few days later Harriet was writing that though her father 'talks to both Emma and Fanny he is surly and always more grave towards us after a visit to the Quay. We have heard nothing more of his child nor has he ever mentioned the order he gave me of informing all of you of the uncomfortable business that passed here. Some way I do not care much now.
For she would not be there much longer. Harriet who has been described as 'very small and very pretty' had decided to escape from her unhappy home by marrying the Reverend Matthew Surtees, the Rector of North Cerney in Gloucestershire, who was twenty years older than she was and of so unpleasant a disposition that her sisters were horrified. But though Harriet neither cared for him nor troubled to hide her feelings anything seemed to her better than living at Cresselly, and so with what Jessie described as 'an almost culpable want of affection' she was preparing to embark upon matrimony. Jessie and Octavia were spending the summer with Jos and Bessy who after his father's death had moved awav from Etruria and were living at Stoke d'Abernon in Surrey. Bessy took them with her to London when she went to buy 'Harriet's wedding things', making some of her purchases at the drapery shop in Cheapside which had lately been opened by her Uncle Roger Allen's son James. She thought the situation very good and was pleased to see that her cousin seemed careful.
When Harriet's needs had been provided for the three sisters went off to Broadstairs to meet the Mackintoshes who were there with his three children to whom Kitty was proving a very kind and attentive stepmother. It was the first time these four sisters had been together since Kitty's marriage in the spring and they spent a very happy week. 'We found Kitty verv well and in good spirits as usual', wrote Bessy to the family at Cresselly. 'Mr. M still continues the fondest and best humoured husband I ever saw. Jessie and I have a snug little lodging twenty yards from theirs, we board with Kitty and Ocky sleeps in the house with her to avoid the inconvenience of going out of nights.' The two balls they went to were by no means unalloyed pleasure as the one at Margate turned out to be 'infinitely vulgar' and though the other at Ramsgate was 'very genteel' as a ball it rather missed its point. When the Master of Ceremonies asked all the ladies to dance, Octavia's love of dancing overcame her finer feelings and she took to the floor with the partner who was brought up and presented to her but 'Jessie and I' said Bessy, 'were too delicate or too proud to like to commission him to solicit the hand of anybody and chose to sit still'.
Harriet's wedding which took place from Cresselly that autumn was a thoroughly depressing affair. Emma and Fanny had always opposed it and when on top of their gloomy prognostications Jenny Wedgwood, as a rule so sweet and smiling, arrived looking gravely disapproving and clearly showing how much she disliked the whole thing, the poor bride's thoughtless confidence was badly shaken. Any happy expectations she may still have cherished were all too soon dispelled. The knot was scarcely tied than Mr. Surtees made it plain that he was standing no nonsense and within a few weeks had reduced her to a meek and timid shadow of her former self, an obedient, dutiful wife, her husband's slave and prisoner in his pretty rectory at North Cerney for nearly thirty years.
It was not until the following June that Jessie Allen who had been away for more than a year got back to Cresselly, her heart growing heavier and more fearful the nearer to it she drew. There had been nothing but melancholy reports, her father's moods worse than ever since the illness and death of 'the woman at the Quav' which had taken place early in the year.3 Jessie who was now twenty-two and who with a cloud of dark hair, big grey eves and a fine complexion had her share of the family good looks, tried hard to console herself by remembering that her sisters were longing to see her, though even this did not still her qualms which became so acute that within a mile or two of her home, as the carriage brought her in sight of a cottage where her mother's old maid was living, she told the coachman to put her down there. She wanted to find out how things were at Cresselly, but if she was hoping for reassurance she hoped in vain. Jenny Howells had nothing but bad news to impart and with gloomv relish made the most of it. Two of her father's children had just died of consumption within a few days of each other and the old Captain was in a terrible state and quite broken down by it. 'It completely overset me' she wrote on the following day. 'Going up that horrible hill from Bishopsbridge a thousand disagreeable fears assailed me.' Yet to her amazement and relief they were groundless after all. When shaking with fear she entered the house she found the whole party at tea and her father looking well and in very good spirits. 'Mv Father bears his loss very well, he has not yet said anything about them or little Sophy, the last remaining, who I was happy to find in high health. She is I think uncommonly pretty, a quiet, nice little child that I foresee I shall be very fond of. My Father doats on her and is softened by his fondness.'
A month later she was writing: 'We now see fewer people than ever. Little Sophy is a great amusement and comfort to my Father, but he pursues the same system of education he followed with us, setting aside the severity, teaching her greediness by giving her things and snatching them away from her on frivolous pretences, lying by questioning her repeatedly on the same subject in a strict manner, and showing her he suspects her of falsehood. She learns to read of us.'
Misfortunes continued to dog these unfortunate sisters and Octavia's long illness which ended in her death in April, 1800, made their lot even harder to bear. That July when Bessy Wedgwood came there she was shocked by their altered looks. 'It is a wearisome life they lead' she told Jos. 'I think them more to be pitied than any girls I ever saw. Ten times more than we were; for in our time there was hunting or shooting every day in the week and we were a large society among ourselves. Now there is nothing to amuse my father and they sit with him from dinner to near eight o'clock unless there happens to be some man there and that does not occur more than about once in three weeks.'
The usual summer gaieties were coming round again and their friend Letitia Knox was arriving to stay with them. This fashionable young lady was the daughter of William Knox of Llanstinan, an Irishman and distinguished Government official who had bought large estates in Pembrokeshire and for many years was extremely active in introducing. all kinds of improvements in the county. Like many other well-intentioned reformers he made himself very unpopular, was despised as a parvenu by the local big-wigs and in the quarrels which followed the French invasion the part played by his son, the inexperienced young Colonel who commanded his father's regiment of fencibles, had been loudly and somewhat unjustly criticised. The climax had been reached when Lord Milford in the name of the King ordered Thomas Knox to resign his commission, whereupon his father in a fury shook the Pembrokeshire dust off his feet and never went back there though this did not prevent his daughter from returning occasionally to see her old friends.
'Letitia Knox is now at Mr. Foley's'4 Bessy went on, 'but comes here on Tuesday to prepare for the races where I suppose she means to occasion a sensation as Mr. Foley told us he had been twice to enquire for a box from Mrs. Hanchester. I don't think Letitia is in any danger of becoming our Mother as she is too great a fault finder to be in very high odour; however Jessie told her she would certainly get fairly out of favour if she did not fall in, and she has profited by the advice.'
The rich and lovely Mrs. Jos Wedgwood received quite an ovation from all her old friends when she and her sisters appeared at the Haverfordwest festivities but poor Jessie was so overwrought by all she had been through that as Bessy said 'it will take time to compose her into the enjoyment of pleasure. She stood up for the first dance, but was unable either from want of spirits, heat or nervousness to go over more than three couple and was obliged to sit down.' They were vastly amused by the wives of two local attorneys, Mrs. Foley and Mrs. Mathias, who fell over themselves in their efforts to please the great ladies, Lady Milford5 and Lady Kensington,6 both of whom were more than gracious to Bessy. 'Indeed we had great reason to be satisfied with the civility we met with from all. We were heartily tired by Friday and resolutely rejected invitations from Lady Milford and Lady Kensington. The Mathias's seemed upon the alert to provide everything that was good for their noble guests which Lady M seemed to return by huffing the poor little woman at every opportunity. I think plain truth is very much the fashion in Pembrokeshire. Mr. Mathias drank his wife's health with the flattering addition of 'to Kitty neither beautiful nor young' and some compliments I received myself, convinced me in Pembrokeshire sincerity is the order of the day. Lady Kensington constantly addressed me as if she thought we were contemporaries and we talked a great deal about how things were done in our time and one lady asked me if I ever danced. I had some thought of making my appearance with a stick in my hand as a much properer appendage than a fan.'
Bessy continued to find her father's lowering melancholy almost insupportable. 'He is dreadfully gloomy. I don't know whether he is ill or not but the effect is very powerful indeed upon my feelings and I cannot help reproaching myself for not being able to bear for so short a time what my sisters do for their whole lives. Their situation is absolute stagnation. With Emma and Jessie it is a state of quiescent tranquillity but Fanny is not so well reconciled to it.'
Reconciliation to uncongenial places and people would never come easily to 'sharp little Fan' as Bessy sometimes called her. But when Mackintosh presently arrived to join their family party, fresh from his triumphs in the Norfolk circuit when as Kitty reported he had 'pleased the Attorneys so much in his conduct in a case against Mr. Thelluson that they broke into his bedroom at one o'clock in the morning to give him a general retainer', for Fanny the whole dreary scene was transformed, as though her prison doors were flung open letting in air and light. She revelled in his company and entertaining and delightful talk, richly flavoured with political and literary gossip and with flashes of the wisdom that all too seldom regulated his actions. 'Mackintosh's money is burning in his pocket' wrote Bessy, 'for a horse which I dare say he will buy in this country, be cheated and never ride when he goes to Town'.
If his thoughtless extravagance shocked prudent Bessy it mattered not to Fanny. When Fanny loved someone she was blind to their failings and Mackintosh ranked higher in her eyes than anyone she knew. She would never forget his kindness earlier in the year when she had stayed with them in Serle Street, what pains he had taken to see that she enjoyed herself when his friends came to dinner or dropped in of an evening to join the family at the fireside. Sitting listening to these ardent reformers, an altruistic minority who were waging a losing war against the reactionary principles of the powerful Tories and the barbarities and injustices of the Law as it was then administered, she absorbed the radical beliefs that were to be hers all her life. It was a set of remarkable men who cared little for their own advancement as they attacked the despotism of privilege and dreamed of some day establishing a better order of society. There was the learned Dr. Parr who puffed away at his pipe as he rolled Out his weighty pronouncements; Rogers the banker-poet corpse-like in appearance, slow and measured in his utterances; his friend Richard Sharp the loquacious merchant-critic-politician known affectionately as 'Conversation' Sharp; James Scarlett arrogant, handsome and a future Lord Chancellor, and many others. Mackintosh was no longer the violent democrat he once was, his opinions having toned down considerably after three days he spent with Burke at his house near Beaconsfield a few months before the great statesman's death. He always declared that within half an hour Burke had over-turned his reflections of a lifetime and since then he had acknowledged that law and order are essential if society is to be kept together. He was expounding his modified views in a series of lectures on Public Law, delivered before crowded audiences in the Hall of Lincoln's Inn. Fanny who attended one of them was spellbound, not finding the subject at all dry and only sorry when it was over. His faculty for making what he said interesting to everyone whether he was lecturing or just sitting quietly at home with his family, made it impossible not to feel at ease with him. Going back to Pembrokeshire after those exhilarating weeks was like being driven into the wilderness.
Mackintosh always enjoyed Cresselly and the soothing monotony of country house life in the congenial society of his in-laws; John Hensleigh Allen was one of his best friends and an original member of The King of Clubs, the dining-club lately founded by Mackintosh's intimate circle. He was in a particularly cheerful mood this summer as his prospects had never looked more promising; since his lectures his professional reputation had soared and his services were in great demand. It was roses all the way for him and his buoyant spirits and amiability delighted all the neighbours who came to Cresselly eager to make his acquaintance. Fanny was always his favourite and he devoted his mornings to her and Emma, riding, walking and reading French with them; nothing pleased him better than instructing the young and he often said he should have been a professor. The six weeks he spent there never lost their lustre in Fanny's recollection just as she never forgot 'the desolate look of the house the morning he departed to return to town'.
A fewv days later he wrote to Jos Wedgwood: 'We left the 2 maidens all forlorn at the House that Jack built in tolerable good spirits considering the gloomy solitude to which they are condemned. We have heard from good little Emma (she really is the best girl in the world) and are happy to hear that the Squire has been pleased to be infinitely more gracious to his poor prisoners than he ever was before, so that bating an absolute want of amusement and a perpetual constraint in conversation they may be pretty comfortable. Madame de Maintenon complains of her situation with Louis XIV, 'Quelle triste occupation de ranimer une âme éteinte, et d'amuser un homme qui n'est plus amusable'.
Two and a half years of captivity still lay ahead and desolate and bleak the house must have seemed to poor Fanny that blustery winter when little Sophy, the child her father 'doated on', sickened and died, the last flicker of light in his murky horizon extinguished. Through the haze that obscures these years only one bright interlude emerges. In November 1802 Tom Wedgwood and his friend Coleridge spent a month at Cresselly in the course of an excursion to South Wales.
Tom Wedgwood who made the first experiments in photography and whose talents were steadily eroded by a mysterious malady from which three years later he died found the poet's company wonderfully compatible; they were about the same age and shared many of the same tastes and philosophical speculations. From the time they first met at Nether Stowey in Somerset at the house of another remarkable man, Tom Poole a philanthropical tanner, Coleridge had owed much to the Wedgwoods' hospitality and kindness. Tom's admiration of his genius had influenced Jos and between them they made him an allowance of £150 a year, equal to the pay he would have got if he had carried out his half-formed intention of becoming a Unitarian minister. He had been desperate to devise some means of supporting his wife and children, having been pushed into marrying Sara Fricker, a worthy but penniless girl, in 1798. His highly strung temperament and dislike of being tied were not conducive to happy domesticity and he had been glad enough to accept Tom Wedgwood's invitation.
Tom Wedgwood wrote 'I am now on my way to Cote House where Coleridge who is like another comforting spirit to me gives me the meeting from Bath. We then proceed to South Wales where I shall shoot for a fortnight or so having sent a man and seven dogs before me.' On November 13 they left Bristol by the New Passage and arrived at St Clears on the evening of the 15th having slept at Abergavenny and Llandovery on the way. Though Coleridge reported that 'The inn, the Blue Boar, is the most comfortable little public-house I was ever in, the country immediately round is exceedingly bleak and dreary. T. Wedgwood has gone out cock-shooting in high glee and spirits, He will be out all the morning. The evenings we chat or discuss, or I read to him. To me he is a delightful and instructive companion. He possesses the finest, the subtlest mind and taste I have ever yet met.'
Outwardly no two men were ever less alike, Tom Wedgwood tall, thin, etiolated-looking, with finely cut, aquiline features and nobly-shaped head; the poet awkward and flabby, his thick, loose lips and receding chin only partially redeemed by a fine brow and expressive eyes. A few days later they reached Cresselly, arriving just as the family were sitting down to dinner. When they were in their places Captain Allen who was now a great invalid slowly and painfully entered the room and Fanny always remembered the 'beauty of Tom's manner' as he rose and took his host's hand with an air of such respect and feeling that the old gentleman was much affected and afterwards declared he had never seen so fine a manner.
Coleridge settled down very contentedly for as he informed Tom Poole there was 'plenty of music and plenty of cream. For at Cresselly (I mention it as a remarkable circumstance, it being the only place I was ever in which it was not otherwise) though they have a dairy, and though they have plenty of milk, they are not at all stingy of it - in all other houses where cows are kept, you may drink six shillings worth of wine, but use three pennyworth of cream, and O Lord! the feelings of the household' - a thrust at Poole's dairymaid who always grumbled that Coleridge gobbled up all her clotted cream.
To Fanny and to many others Tom Wedgwood was unique, his air of other-worldliness setting him apart from the common run, the light within so bright that it seemed to shine forth through his frail flesh. Though he said very little he missed nothing that went on and when he spoke what he said was always fraught with great sensibility and consideration for the feelings of others. Once when Coleridge was beginning to say something about the Ten Commandments which Tom feared might shock their host, he tapped him on the shoulder and took him out of the room to warn him to he more careful in future, and Fanny would have got into terrible trouble one day if he had not intervened and saved her. Coleridge who had with him a collection of Wordsworth's poems in manuscript was fond of reading them aloud. One day he asked Fanny whether she cared for poetry. When she said she did he came and sat beside her on the sofa, a hush falling on the rest of the party as they composed themselves to listen while he read The Leech-gatherer. When he came to some lines describing how the poor man's skin was so old and dry that the leeches dropped off him, it struck Fanny as so comical that in spite of herself she began to laugh. Then realizing what she had done she became so terrified that she lost all control, going off into fits of convulsive mirth while Coleridge beside her looked very upset and angry. He laid down the manuscript and said he must ask her pardon, 'for perhaps to a person who had not genius the poem might seem absurd'. Overcome by shame, her predicament was awful and everyone was staring at her. As she waited, trembling lest her father should order her out of the room, Tom Wedgwood came to her rescue. 'Well Coleridge' said he, 'one must confess that it is not quite a subject for a poem'. After that all was smooth again though for some days if Coleridge happened to be reading aloud and Fanny came in he would embarrass her by immediately breaking off and ostentatiously closing the book. In the end however he forgave her and they became good friends. She always remembered how one day when he was telling her the story of his life, when he came to his friendship with Southey and how they were together at Bristol, he took her breath away by saying 'And there I had the misfortune to meet my wife'.
But throughout his stay Tom Wedgwood's sick body and frayed nerves played havoc with him and to Jos he wrote in despair: 'God knows what I can do. Coleridge is all kindness to me and in prodigious favour here. He takes great pains to make himself pleasant.' To this Tom's sister Kitty who preferred men of 'a sturdy and independent spirit' and had no patience with a wayward genius who neglected his wife and children, retorted: 'I think it would have been very strange if he had not been very civil and obliging at Cresselly where he was so hospitably received I question whether Emma will celebrate his politeness
Though there is nothing to explain the innuendo, Emma who once wrote of 'my half-formed face' was the only plain one of the sisters and more domestic than intellectual in her tastes. But as Mackintosh said she was an excellent girl and now in the last months of her father's life her kindness and care of him touched even his cross-grained heart. When he remade his will in January 1803 he left her £200 over and above the £1,800 which was the portion of each unmarried daughter, 'in gratitude for her marked attentions to me'. He died in the early part of May and when Mackintosh heard the news he wrote off at once to Jessie: 'Both Kitty and I are very anxious that you and Emma and Fanny should quit your present gloomy residence as soon as propriety will permit. One may go to Bessy, one to Jenny and one may come to Kitty. All of you are so perfectly acceptable to us and so sure of being so to Bessy and Jenny that you may distribute yourselves as you please. We will make no choice. John can carry you away with him. It will take some time before Cresselly can again become a cheerful residence to you and it is very unnecessary that you should encrease or even prolong your melancholy by continuing there at present.'
John Hensleigh Allen who inherited Cresselly and whose plump, genial countenance radiated his amiable qualities, apart from his dark colouring was as unlike his father as could be; a busy, sociable man, popular in Pembrokeshire and in London, who intended henceforth to combine his profession as a barrister on the Oxford and South Wales Circuits with his duties as a landed proprietor. His sisters were devoted to him. Jenny Wedgwood once declared that she could not conceive of anyone who lived with him being other than happy, and this was to be the lot of his three unmarried sisters, Jessie, Emma and Fanny, who he insisted must look upon his house as their home until such time as he married.
By the autumn the family was gathered there in force, all anxious to see as much as possible of Sir James and Lady Mackintosh who were staying at Tenby with their five little girls, filling in time before they sailed for India at the end of the year. For a long while Mackintosh had been tempted by the many advantages offered by some highly-paid post abroad which would make him financially secure for the rest of his life. Money ran through his fingers like water and his only capital asset, his little property in Inverness-shire, had long since gone with the wind. Though he was doing well at the Bar any long sustained effort was too much for him, his gregarious, idle nature (as he was the first to admit) shrinking from the prospect of toiling unrelentingly, year after year, which was what a successful legal career would involve. Only a few months earlier, in February, he had given his finest performance when 'with unparalleled eloquence' he defended a French refugee charged with libel; among those whose praises had resounded in his ears were Perceval7 the Attorney-General who was prosecuting and the great advocate Thomas Erskine.8 Yet before the applause had died down he had turned from his course and accepted Prime Minister Addington's offer of the Recordership of Bombay, a post that brought with it a knighthood. Although many of his friends tried to dissuade him from throwing over his promising career in mid-stream, his Indian prospects looked much too golden to be relinquished. He resigned from the Bar and while he prepared for his long exile by collecting a large library of books to take with him and seeing a great deal of his friends who now they were to lose him could not make enough of him at the breakfasts and dinners they gave in his honour, he dreamed of living magnificently at Bombay on half his huge salary and building up a comfortable little fortune which with the pension he would be entitled to at the end of five years would enable him to lead a life of studious leisure.
Nor was the prospect of being the first lady of Bombay at all disagreeable to Kitty who in some ways was as heedless as her husband. Since her marriage her life had been rich in excitement and brilliant occasions, in Paris as well as London. They had spent a month there after the short-lived treaty of Amiens in the autumn of 1802, dining with Talleyrand and all the other ministers at their houses and meeting everyone and seeing everything of interest. If money was sometimes uncomfortably short her worries on that score were now over. There was nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of these months spent between Cresselly and Tenby surrounded by a throng of affectionate relations. In a little memorandum of Mackintosh's which Fanny saw years later he described it as one of the happiest times in his life. 'He made the delight and joy of our circle; his spirits were gay; no care oppressed him, and his anticipations of the future had all the brightness of early hope.' The sun shone and the sea sparkled as they played with the children on the beach, building sand castles and gathering shells and seaweed while along the road above the cliffs the volunteers marched to the sound of fife and drum. There was great military activity all over the country as a French invasion seemed inevitable. Patriotic gentlemen were raising and training volunteer units at their own expense; at Cresselly John Allen was busy 'coloneling' and attending to his troops. Jessie, for whom, now that it belonged to her dearly-loved brother, Cresselly had become the place she loved best in the world, took charge of the household and acted as hostess to his friends. The house was never livelier nor more crowded than it was this autumn and no one enjoyed it more than Fanny. And at last when the evenings began to draw in and the Mackintoshes packed up and prepared to depart Fanny packed up too as she was going with them to stay at their house in Guildford Street until they sailed for India.
If these months were the happiest in Mackintosh's life they were also as she realized when she looked back at them, the happiest in hers. She was twenty-two. No doubts assailed them and her brother-in-law's cheerful spirits were infectious as they rumbled along towards London and his big house in Guildford Street which had been another of his thoughtless extravagances. And when they got there what a trail of unforgettable experiences and vivid memories this winter left behind for her to relive again and again during the long, uneventful days at home. Twice a week there was a small evening party of his best friends -Rogers, Scarlett, 'Conversation' Sharp, a Colonel Sloper and his daughter, the fashionable painters Lawrence and Hoppner, and the Reverend Sydney Smith, the versatile parson whose 'most unclerical wit'9 kept them all in fits of laughter; at this time he was earning a precarious living by writing for the Edinburgh Review and preaching at the Foundling Hospital. Another evening was usually spent at the Smiths' modest house in Doughty Street, the glowing warmth of their host's welcome a striking contrast to the chilly, impersonal manner in which Mackintosh received his friends. Temperamentally these two were poles apart. 'What a man that would be' once exclaimed the practical, energetic Sydney when Mackintosh was mentioned, 'had he a particle of gall or the least knowledge of the value of red tape'.
Writing to Bessy Fanny described 'a very grand dinner at Erskine's. What I did not expect I found it very pleasant. The whole house of Kemble was there (with the exception of John Kemble), Nat Bond, a Mr. Morrice, Lawrence, Sharp, Boddington and ourselves. Erskine was not as lively as he was the day he dined here; he was quite absorbed in Mrs. Siddons and to my mind much in love with her. She looked uncommonly handsome but was much too dignified to he pleasant in conversation. I was very much gratified by seeing her and hearing her talk of acting which she did very unaffectedly. I must not forget to tell you she admired my gown exceedingly. She said she thought it one of the prettiest dresses she ever saw.'
A few days later Kitty gave a party which, said Fanny, was one of the pleasantest, merriest days I have passed for a long time. Sydney Smith was in the highest spirits, and pleased me particularly by talking of my sisters in the way I wish to hear them talked of as the very first of women. 'I cannot tell you' he told me, 'how much I admire and like all your sisters, they have a warmth and friendliness of manner that is delightful, hut I think that Mrs. Jos Wedgwood surpasses you all'. I think I have answered all your questions with the exception of the one about our friend B which I really don't know how to answer. I think we are just in the same state as when you left us, not advanced and I don't think gone back, but most probably in the same place as we shall ever be. He goes with us I believe to the play on Friday to see Mrs. Siddons as Desdemona.
Whoever B may have been and whatever her feelings were, neither then nor thereafter was Fanny, a clear-sighted realist, prone to be carried away by romantic imaginings on her own account. 'I am glad' Bessy replied, 'you were too honest a girl to coquet or disqualify about B and I depend upon you telling me the whole truth and nothing but the truth.'
One evening after dining with the Slopers they 'went on to the La Rue's where we met a very splendid party of all the French noblesse with the Duc de Bourbon at their head. We had a play acted by children incomparably well. Madame La Rue sang and another Frenchman made a terrible noise singing and playing at the Piano Forte and afterwards we had a very grand ball of about 20 couple. I walked rather than danced down one dance with Boddington who we brought with us as well as Horner10 and the Slopers. We returned a little after 12 very much amused at our evening's entertainment. I had never seen anything so splendid before. We met the Knoxes there looking extremely smart and well, notwithstanding which Letitia told me she was going in to the country for a change of air.' And she feared Letitia would never forgive her for refusing to dance with her brother, young William Knox, who for reasons unknown evidently did not find favour in the critical eyes of the AlIens.
Fanny saw a great deal of Tom Wedgwood who was in London, more cheerful than usual and enjoying going about with them. His ethereal mien and courteous manner made a great impression on Mackintosh's friends and Sydney Smith, himself so rubicund, rotund and overflowing with high spirits, was almost awed by him. At one of the evening gatherings at Guildford Street when everyone was lost in admiration gazing at a head of Our Lord by Leonardo, the philosopher Dugald Stewart murmured to Kitty that for his part he could not take his eyes off Tom Wedgwood's. Unfortunately this pleasant interlude in poor Tom's harassed existence was rudely terminated by his servant who committed suicide. Quite broken down by the shock he retired forthwith to the country.
As the date of departure started looming too uncomfortably close to be any longer ignored, the long years of exile and separation from the friends and interests that were so essential to his happiness, suddenly overwhelmed Mackintosh with all their sombre implications - the fifteen thousand miles of ocean that henceforth would roll between them in that distant land where the oriental splendours of the courts were offset by reports he had hitherto shrugged off of fevers and obscure ailments that too often played havoc with Indian travellers. A welcome diversion was provided by the fuss and excitement of Kitty's presentation at Court. No expense was spared; her gown had been made by the Misses Stewart, the fashionable dressmakers in Albemarle Street, and the event went off with great eclat. 'Miss Stewart drest her uncommonly well and prettily and she cut an exceeding good figure; the Queen talked very graciously to her and she met with very great civility from a great many people on the occasion ... On the whole I was very glad Kitty went to Court. It was something for her to think of, and above all there is nothing like a little vanity to buoy up the spirits'.
From Gunville in Dorset where the Wedgwoods were now living Bessy wrote that 'looking over the account of the birthday the first person who struck my eyes was Lady Mackintosh. I take for granted you were in the presence chamber with Miss Stewart, a parcel of shabby plebeians looking on the honours that had fallen on the family.' And she went on to say that Harriet Surtees and her husband were staying with them. 'We are going on very harmoniously. Surtees is in high good humour but so fidgetty that I don't wonder Harriet looks so thin; she looks very well but I think she is flat.' However she seemed to be looking forward to the ball at Blandford and Fanny must not forget to send off her clothes in time.
There was a last Sunday dinner at Sydney Smith's 'and I have scarcely ever passed a pleasanter or merrier day. The company as usual was Sharp, Rogers, Homer and Boddington. We remained there till twelve and you will accuse me I suppose of gross flattery if I were to tell you you were again the subject of a very warm eulogium from more of the gentlemen than Sydney Smith. It was a very humourous dispute and amused me very much. I will not detail it you because of your unbelief. But Sydney put an end to that part of it which treated of the different degrees of dependence they could place in you and my other sisters in case of any emergency, by declaring that he would rely on your kindness to nurse him during a fever and Jenny's only in a tooth ache - this was unanswerable and unanswered'.
Fanny was writing on January 28, 1804. 'Kitty and Mackintosh left town this morning and have left me with one of' the heaviest hearts I have ever had. I can scarcely bear to think on their kindness to me at present. The whole week has been uncommonly painful, what with the hurry of packing and the uncertainty and expectation of going every day. It was some comfort to me to see that Kitty's spirits kept up very tolerably to the last. I did not see her this morning but I hear she was pretty cheerful. Mackintosh was rather low but I trust they will both feel the quitting England but trifling. I should not be much surprised if they were detained a week at Ryde; in that case Sharp, Horner and perhaps Sydney Smith will go down and pass the time with them. That will be very desirable for them, and I cannot but say I should envy them very much - that is to sav the visitors
Fortunately for Fanny her knack of attracting new friends prevented her from feeling totally bereft. The Sydney Smiths had invited her to spend a few days at Doughty Street and while she sat writing she was expecting him almost every minute to fix the day. I am happy to have it in my power to cultivate a friendship with them both. I have met with no people in London I like so much as I do them, or who have showed me more unremitting kindness'.
Perhaps after all Fanny was one of the little group who late one February afternoon stood on the shore at Ryde watching while out at sea the sailing ship Winchelsea weighed anchor and with a fair wind behind her bore the Mackintoshes away to Eldorado and out of her life for many a year to come. Twelve months later from his splendid establishment at Parell House, Bombay, Mackintosh, sadly disillusioned, was writing nostalgically to John Allen: 'A year and ten days are now past since I shook hands, on the beach at Ryde, with your three excellent, and, to me, dear sisters. I shall not tell you how often I have thought of you all since; and how little I ever expect to find a set of friends to replace you.' Not only was the climate wretchedly enervating, he was finding the company of traders, cadets and colonists almost as trying - a poor exchange indeed for the best society in London. In spite of having started a literary society and giving dinners of thirty or more at Parell, such evenings he complained 'are not quite as good as The King of Clubs, to which I hope you continue faithful; and you may tell la chère Fanny that they are not even equal to booksellers' parties'.
While in India Sir James exerted his mild judicial sway ('I intend, if possible, to return to England with a bloodless ermine') or reposing on his library sofa, read and meditated on the books he intended to write but was prevented by the lack of any political or literary stimulus from even beginning, life at Cresselly for John Allen and his unmarried sisters was pursuing the course it was to follow for the next eight years.
Happy and settled as these years seemed there was always the lurking feeling of uncertainty, impermanence. As soon as John Allen fixed on a wife for himself his sisters knew they would have to go. That such an eligible and popular bachelor should be long about it at first had seemed unlikely, yet year after year went by without any sign of an impending sister-in-law. Jessie, Emma and Fanny of course knew the reason. On the road to London, about four miles from Abergavenny, in the midst of a wooded valley stood an old-fashioned country house called Llanover belonging to an elderly eccentric, Benjamin Waddington, with whose very good-looking and much younger wife their brother for years was hopelessly in love
An aroma of past splendour and tragic frustration surrounded this dark, handsome woman with classical features and heavy-lidded eves. She was born Georgina Port, the cherished great-niece and adopted daughter of Mrs. Delany (Queen Charlotte's dearest Mrs. Delany) who had brought her up in the way she herself had been reared in the days of good Queen Anne. At Mrs. Delany's house in St James's Place, at Bulstrode with the Duchess of Portland, at Windsor where the princes and princesses were her playmates, Georgina's young life had been very happy. As she grew up the pretty, flirtatious girl living within a stone's throw of Windsor Castle proved a great attraction to the gentlemen of the King's dull court, and with one of the equerries, Colonel Goldsworthy, an elderly and apoplectic dragoon, she fell passionately in love. Flattered, he led her on but when her old aunt suddenly expired and the seventeen-year-old girl was left in charge of an uncle who threatened to carry her off to his house in the wilds of Derbyshire, Colonel Goldsworthy made no attempt to detain her. Broken-hearted and drenched in tears poor Miss Port had no choice than to share her uncle's gloomy home, made gloomier still by his evident dislike of her. After many dreary months some more kindly disposed relations took her with them to Bath where her youthful beauty had such a disturbing effect on the usually apathetic emotions of a rich Mr. Waddington who was twenty years older than she was, that he immediately asked for her hand. Still yearning though she was for her faithless Colonel, she insisted on accepting Mr. Waddington since nobody else seemed to want her. She had married at eighteen since when she had lived at Llanover cut off from all she had known in the palmy days when she danced with the youthful scions of Mrs. Delany's grand friends and went to the Royal Birthday Parties. She had nothing whatsoever in common with her dull, very difficult husband who spent most of his time steeped in silence reading for hours on end any book that came to hand. Only at long, long intervals did her craving for society and intellectual conversation find an outlet in a visit to Bath or London. She made the best of her lot, devoting herself to educating her three daughters and looking after her husband's tenants, for company having to make do with such acquaintances who happened to pass that way. And among these were the Allens, John and Baugh and any of the sisters who might be travelling with them. As Mrs. Waddington was an exceedingly high-principled and religious woman, anything more intimate than friendship between herself and John Allen was quite out of the question. His devoted attentions and the gossip he brought from town were nevertheless a great solace and exerting what wiles we know not she kept him at her feet for years. He loved her dearly. 'Thinking of her as I do I should be mad not to marry her supposing I had it in my power' he once confided to Bessy, but old Mr. Waddington firmly established in his corner, poring over his book, was a quite unsurmountable barrier.
However by 1810 the scene was changing and John Allen's attentions seemed to he engaged in a different direction; a state of affairs that filled the hearts of his sisters with chilly forebodings. They had lived with him now for so long and loved him so dearly that they dreaded to think that soon it might come to an end. For at forty-one he seemed seriously to be contemplating matrimony. The lady they suspected he was courting was the handsome, dark-eyed daughter of a distant neighbour, Lord Robert Seymour of Taliaris across the border in Cardiganshire. Many years previously Lord Robert, a younger brother of the second Marquess of Hertford, when he visited the Vaughans at Golden Grove was so much struck by the beautiful countryside where the rivers swarmed with fish and the hills with game that there and then he decided to settle there and bought the Taliaris estate. Since then he had divided his time between the country and his house in Portland Place, travelling to and from town in his coach with four horses and outriders. His son Henry was now Sergeant-at-Arms at the House of Commons; his eldest daughter had married successively two Welsh landowners - William Davies of Penylan and after his death Herbert Evans of Highmead; another daughter was Lady Southampton and now it looked as though Gertrude, the youngest, who was in her late twenties, Would shortly become Mrs. Allen.
Though Fanny Was the only one of the three who had no regrets at the prospect of leaving Cresselly, she was not at all happy on John's account. She and Emma agreed that Miss Seymour was uncommonly dull and gloomy, imbued as she was with the strict Evangelicism favoured by Lord Robert, and they were sure she was making a set at their kind, good-natured brother. Even after one of their neighbours attempted to set her fears at rest, she still felt doubtful: 'Mr. Brigstocke told me he was intimately acquainted with la Seymour, that he thought she was a perfectly amiable woman, very quiet and averse to show and dissipation and that John could not have made a better choice'.
The affair progressed but slowly and during the two years that elapsed before the marriage took place the sisters' first impressions of the lady did not alter. The wrench of parting from their brother and their home was so painful that Emma declared she could never live through such a dreadful time again. Had it not been for Jos and Bessy's kindness in inviting them to come straight to them for as long as they chose to stay, she and Jessie would hardly have known what to do with themselves.
Jos and his family were now living at Maer Hall in Staffordshire. To the whole clan of Wedgwoods, Allens and Darwins no place was ever to equal this rambling old house with its delightful gardens, woodland walks and the pond that was always a joy to children; the whole atmosphere pervaded by Bessy and her husband's benevolence. This was to be his home for the rest of his life and here Jos was at his happiest While taking a more active part than formerly in the management Of the potteries he could combine it with the life he loved, farming, building schools and looking after his tenants and everyone else within his orbit, bringing up his large family to follow the same unselfish principles. His four sons and five daughters were all very good-natured, intelligent young people; altogether an exemplary family and the best possible nephews and nieces to their aunts. Later on when John Allen, as the father of a very spoilt little family sighed one day to Jos and expressed the humble wish that his children 'were but like the worst of his' instead of appearing pleased by the compliment Mr. Wedgwood drew himself up and sternly desired his brother-in-law to tell him which these were.
In 1810 for the sake of her children's health Lady Mackintosh had come back to England and now two years later Sir James arrived, returning as his friend Ward11 said 'with the diseases but without the wealth of the East'. Although in a particularly difficult period in India when the old order was changing and the East India Company's former servants were becoming the dominant class, Sir James had carried out his duties with a justice and humanity that laid the foundations of a more enlightened rule, he came back feeling wretchedly ill and thoroughly dejected by his failure to perform that which he had set out to do. The books he intended to write in his leisure hours were still unwritten and financially he was very little better off than when he left England. During his long absence other men had risen up to fill the places that might have been his had he not been lured away by golden dreams. As he was often henceforth to exclaim, 'I can no more play the game of life than that of whist'.
Nevertheless he was scarcely back in London before he received several gratifying proofs that he was still remembered in high places. The Tory Prime Minister, his old legal adversary Perceval, sent for him and offered him a seat in Parliament, with a very strong hint that he would be appointed to the important and lucrative office of President of the India Board. Before he left England Mackintosh's politics had changed to very near Tory but the Government's opposition to Catholic Emancipation now turned him back to the Whigs. Before his letter of refusal was posted he had accepted Lord Cawdor's offer of a seat in Nairnshire at the forthcoming election, and that same evening Perceval was shot dead by a lunatic as he was entering the House. In the proposed new administration under Lord Wellesley which was to comprise members of both parties it was agreed that Sir James should be in charge of Indian affairs. However after many delays, as neither Lord Grey nor Lord Grenville would agree to take office, the old ministry was returned to power with Lord Liverpool at its head. The best that could now be found for him was a seat on the Board he was to have presided over. Once again he bungled his chances of future promotion by refusing it and still feeling very unwell he set forth to take the waters at Cheltenham before he and Kitty journeyed northwards with Cawdor Castle and his new constituency as their objectives.
It was winter before they travelled south again after a long and varied tour, a succession of visits to castles, great houses and Edinburgh pundits. Ailing and anxious of heart as he was a few days spent at Maer Hall proved very consoling as he wrote to his married daughters in India. 'From Sydney Smith's parsonage12 we went to Wedgwood's at Maer where we found the two Mrs. W's and three Miss Allens. These had just left their pleasant residence at Cresselly; they had not fixed on their home; they are my prime favourites and they gave me five delightful days; indeed the only five of that sort that I have enjoyed during my second European existence. For though, as I write an account of our tour, it seems as if it must have been very agreeable, yet health and consequently the capacity for enjoyment, were wanting.'
1. Information kindly supplied by Major Francis Jones, T.D.
2. Sir Richard Philipps of Picton, 7th baronet, 1742-1823 - Lord Lieutenant of Haverfordwest. Created Lord Milford, 1776.
3. 1799 Jan. 27 Mary Allen. Jeffreyston burial records. NLW.
4. Richard Foley, a Haverfordwest attorney.
5. Née Mary Philipps of Pentypark. Married her cousin Lord Milford, 1764.
6. Elizabeth, daughter of William Warren of Longridge, Pembrokeshire. Married 1762 William Edwards, 1st Baron Kensington.
7. Hon. Spencer Perceval (762-1812) lawyer and statesman.
8. Thomas Erskine (1750- 1823) Lord Chancellor and 1st Baron Erskine.
9. T. B. Macaulay.
10. Francis Horner, 1778-1817, Whig politician.
11. John William Ward, 4th Viscount and 1st Earl of Dudley, 1781-1833, politician, writer and eccentric.
12. At Foston-le-Clay, Yorkshire.