The death of Mary Saumarez, October 1812

A letter from the Library's Mann-Dobrée collection, edited by Julia de L. Mann: Anne Dobrée to Henry Routh, October 8, 1812. Nineteen-year-old Mary Dobrée Saumarez was the eldest daughter of Admiral James Saumarez and his wife, Martha Le Marchant; Anne was her cousin. Henry 'Harry' Le Mesurier, son of Havilland, had just lost his arm at the Battle of Salamanca.


Friday we proceeded on our journey [from Bath], slept at Dorchester and came to Weymouth in time for breakfast. It blowing then a fine north-west, there was every appearance of our being wafted over in a few hours, but before the evening it died away and we embarked with a light westerly breeze which when we came to the Channel changed to the South; the sea was so rough that all the passengers, and they were chiefly military men who had been abroad, felt the effects of it. I am a very sad sailor and when on deck the exhilarating breeze and the sight of dear Guernsey were not sufficient to reanimate my spirits and make me forget that dreadful sickness, nor was it till I drew so near the pier as to distinguish faces, that I could venture to look about me. Then did I, amid a concourse of people, seek my brother and sisters’ smiling faces who were always the first to welcome my return, but Isaac was the only one and I was shocked at the dejection of his countenance. Little suspecting the cause, he went on with Mrs Lawson and my attentive Tom Mac[Culloch] whose serious manner much struck me, together with Mrs Chepmell, escorted me home. We had a silent walk, I having been affected at now unexpectedly seeing our dear Harry1 whose arrival on the island I had no suspicion of. As I drew towards the house I expressed my surprise at not seeing my sisters, and the moment I entered was informed of the melancholy cause. My Uncle James’ eldest daughter² had the evening before very suddenly expired.

Three days before she rode to town looking remarkably well and in high spirits; on the Friday evening she complained of a pain in her chest which, however, did not continue long. She slept well and rose in the morning soon after breakfast. She was very cheerful during the day and her family had not the most distant idea of her being in danger. She had laid down towards evening and soon after six raising herself on the bed reclined her head on her mother’s neck and went to sleep, never to wake in this world; so sweetly tranquil was her death that my aunt who held her hand also did not feel her last breath, and on finding that she did not move thought that she had fainted.

I called at Saumarez on Monday and was much edified by my visit, my aunt is indeed worthy of admiration, you can perceive maternal tenderness struggling with Christianity, but the latter predominates and she bears her misfortune with that mild resignation which plainly tells us from whence she derives consolation. She never appeared to so much advantage as now. I have ever thought her a very superior woman, but now I think I have never seen her equal. She was buried in the Câtel churchyard last Saturday.

A mail arrived last week from Malta and brought a letter from Edward [Chepmell] written in good spirits. Harry astonishes all his friends by his good looks. I never knew him better, he is grown both tall and stout and the loss of his arm gives him a most interesting appearance. His spirits are as good as ever. Having been advised to apply to the Duke of York for a lieutenancy, without loss of time, he has determined to go by this day’s packet. Harry will be back in a few weeks and will stay here till he returns to Portugal, which I fear will be before Christmas. There are letters from Havilland who continues at Almeida. On my arrival I found Harriet [her sister] was in Jersey, she returned last Sunday much pleased with the attentions she received. She breakfasted with your friend the Duke, who was particularly kind to her party (my Aunt Lihou and daughter), she is enchanted with Bagatelle of which she has given a delightful account. It has been quite fashionable for the Guernsey ladies to go over this summer which has made the island quite gay, the natives being anxious to pay them every attention. W. Brock³ was married last week, he is gone with his bride to England.

My cousin died of water on the chest.

Le Publiciste, 3 October 1812

Miss Mary De Saumarez, eldest daughter of Sir J Saumarez, has just passed away. This young lady, as good-natured as she was beautiful, had hardly entered the springtime of youth, before the cruel scythe of the Grim Reaper mowed her down.

Helas! elle a vecu ce que vivent les roses,
L'espace d'un matin;
Mais au monde, l'on voit que les plus belles choses,
Ont souvent pis destin.

Her funeral will take place today at the Castel Church at exactly 11 o'clock. [From the French.]

Another poem, An elegy on the death of Miss Saumarez, by G L., can be found in Le Publiciste of 9 January, 1813.

1 Henry Le Mesurier was born on November 17 1791, the son of Havilland Le Mesurier and Elizabeth Dobrée. Having lost his right arm at Salamanca at the age of 20, he served in the Commissariat like his father, being posted to Canada in 1814 and there marrying Julia Guérout of Quebec, daughter of Pierre-Guillaume Guérout, a wealthy politician and merchant born in Rouen; both he and his family enjoyed much success in Canada.

Anne Dobrée to H L Routh, September 20, 1812.

You will long before this have been informed of Harry's misfortune; it was a dreadful stroke to us all, from what Havilland says I rather think we have felt it more than he has; in a letter received last week he mentions that Harry is nearly well and that since the loss of his arm he has not for one moment been low-spirited; he already writes with a very legible hand having given a [?] of it in Guernsey. We are looking out daily for him, having been ordered to change air. He intends spending only a few days in town and will spend the winter in his native Isle. This circumstance has made all the cousins truly happy, being a great favourite with them and deservedly so, he has one of the most affectionate natures I ever knew.

Mrs Dobrée to Martha Mann, 4 September 1815.

Dear Harry is going to be married to an American lady, a pretty brunette of a large fortune, but unfortunately the property consists of land which is not at her disposal, so that she must ever reside on her estate. I trust she is amiable, indeed she must be very much so for Harry thus to give up his relations and earliest friends, he may revisit Europe once or twice but never again can be one of us. I grieve at this emigration and cannot bear to think how that once promising family is dispersed.

2 Mary Dobrée Saumarez, born December 7 1792. Her sister Amelia married Young Herries.

3 William-Henry Brock, son of Henry, married Mary Priaulx, daughter of Thomas Priaulx, on 20 September 1812 at St Peter Port church. 'William Brock has taken for three years the house you may recollect Tixier is building near Le Jeune. I imagine that in the course of a few months he will give us another cousin. Miss Priaulx is an aimiable girl and I doubt not will be a pleasant addition to our family.' [Martha Dobrée to FW Mann, July 29 1812.]