Acquisitions Summer 2015

29th June 2015

'A visit to the Tennysons in 1839,' Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, (CLV) May 1894, with many Guernsey connections (Lane, Hoskins, MacCulloch, Maingay, Luce &c.); Pickford, Nigel, Lost Treasure Ships of the Northern Seas; J C Melvill, Miscellanea Botanica 1875-1910. 

The Library has acquired a copy of 'A Visit to the Tennyson's in 1839,' Bartle Teeling's account of his mother-in-law, local scientist and author Louisa Lane Clarke's, merry jape of 1839; she disguised herself as a maid and went off with her friend Mary 'Mimosa' Neville to visit Mary's great friends the Tennysons in London. The women were members of a poetry-writing group calling themselves 'the Husks,' and were later visited in London by a Guernsey friend and fellow 'Husk,' Anna Maria Maingay. The big joke for the two ladies was that the Tennyson family, including the poet, had no idea who Louisa Lane was and treated her like a servant, (whereas she was actually the daughter of a Major-General and the grand-daughter of the Governor of Alderney.) It must have been a good disguise: amazingly, she was not recognised by her friend Anna Maria either. 

Mimosa Neville (1802-1850) was even grander. The daughter of Elizabeth and Peregrine Langton Massingberd of Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, she had married a ne'er-do-well army officer, William Hastings Neville, in 1823. In 1832 he took her, their baby, her sister, and her father to Australia, but they had to abscond a few years later when her husband was accused of fraud. They took off to America around 1836, but she was forced to live a hard life in the backwoods and when it proved too much for her, her husband abandoned her with their three children. She developed tubercolosis and her father brought her to Guernsey, where she met Louisa. The vicissitudes of Mary Neville and her family, the Massingberds, seem to have provided her friend Alfred Tennyson with material for his writings. Louisa visited the Tennysons again later, out of disguise, and was amused that neither they nor the other servants had an inkling that she and they had previously lived under the same roof.

Bartle Teeling refers to his having been left 'through the death of a friend, a library of about 2000 volumes.' This was Louisa's personal library, which he did not want to sell, but was in the habit of giving away. Some he says, 'are now reposing on the book-shelves of a dignitary of the Church in an island off the coast of Normandy.' We would like to identify these books to help us find out more about Louisa, so please do let us know of any examples, wherever they may be.

Pickford, Nigel, Lost treasure ships of the Northern Seas, London and Minnesota: Chatham Publishing, 2006. This book, which features fifteen case sutides of high-value wrecks, excludes the English Channel; it includes the North and Baltic Seas, and the notorious Goodwin Sands, graveyard of many a Guernsey ship and sailor. Chapter 12 is dedicated to the wreck of the Guernsey Lily in 1799. This was a hired transport of 218 tons burthen, the master being William Wilson, and the owner Geoffrey Blackman of London, carying 8 cannon and brass fieldpieces evacuated from Holland. Its home port was Woolwich. It sank in the Yarmouth Roads; all the crew were saved. This may have been the Le Mesuriers' Guernsey Lily, which was whaling out of London under their ownership in 1792-3, and is recorded as being of 220 tons burthen; an earlier Guernsey Lily, owned by Darell Carey of Guernsey and John Baucher of London, was much smaller. The chapter is particularly interesting for its detailed information about the recovery operation in March 1832, which was undertaken by the Deane brothers, who inspired Guernsey's own Orchard brothers to develop their diving equipment in 1833.

The other chapters are: The secret of Pudding Pan shoal, in which Guernsey's 'Asterix' Roman wreck is mentioned (p. 24): Viking treasure: the Dunwich Bank wreck: the Blessing of Burntisland: the burning of the Royal James: the Kronan catastrophe: the Golden Lion of Amsterdam: the Carlisle bullion: the Vliegend Hert's gold: the lost artworks of Catherine the Great: the myth of the Bonhomme Richard: the lure of the Lutine: the wreck of the Deutschland: the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Amber Room. There is also a Gazetteer and extensive bibliography.

James Cosmo Melvill's Miscellanea Botanica is a collection of offprints and pamphlets (1875-1910), bound together in half-morocco and cloth. It includes an offprint, 'On the occurrence of Trachelium coeruleum (Linn.)  in Guernsey,' which was originally published in the Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1892. The Melvill family had a long-standing connection with the East India Company and India itself. This James (1845-1929), a botanist and Fellow of the Linnaean Society, was born in Hampshire in 1845, the grandson of the well-known Sir James Cosmo Melvill, FRS, first director of the Indian Railways, and great-grandson of Captain Philip Melvill and Elizabeth Carey Dobrée, daughter of Peter Dobrée of Beauregard in Guernsey.