Richardson reads Pamela

October 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm (people) (, , , , )

Author Samuel Richardson has a Smith-and-Gosling connection: his ward was none other than Elizabeth Midwinter, who married (Sir) Francis Gosling – the brother of Robert Gosling, Mary’s paternal grandfather. She is shown in Francis Hayman’s family portrait as the woman in blue, on the right. According to the Bulletin of the New York Public Library (1897) “Richardson was a trustee for Miss Midwinter’s marriage settlement, and both he and Mrs Richardson left Lady Gosling mourning rings in their wills”. Robert Gosling, father of Francis and Robert Gosling, was a bookseller. A publishing firm within the family was Rivington: John Rivington married Elizabeth Miller Gosling, a sister of Sir Francis. (And in this book you can find an enchanting pencil portrait of a young William Gosling!)

Like Jane Austen who read her novels aloud to family, Richardson – according to several biographies – did the same when he was writing Pamela; and Miss Midwinter was there at the fireside, listening! Abstracts of English Studies (1963) had this to say: “[I]t is now quite obvious that the first audience of Pamela consisted of Mrs. Richardson and Miss Elizabeth Midwinter (later to become Lady Gosling).”

In Bastards and Foundlings (2005), Lisa Zunshine writes, “…the younger Grandisons could meet the same fate as did the nieces and nephews of Lord Mansfield or, indeed, the author’s own friend Elizabeth Midwinter, whose father managed to disinherit her altogether, leaving the family property to the illegitimate son he had with his servant.” Obviously, there is MUCH to be told about the life of poor young Miss Midwinter…

This painting was purchased by the Tate Gallery two years ago, and there is an article on the transaction and the work.

Ohhhhh, to have a description of her, or comments about her! Although I’ve searched through the online books of his correspondence, I find nothing about Francis, Elizabeth or her father – a friend of Richardson, which is why she became the author’s ward. Alas, the search is still on. . .

But for those with an interest in Richardson, I include here those volumes of his correspondence that I was able to track down on vol I; vol II; vol III; vol IV; vol V; vol VI.

And should you want to sit back with a cuppa and enjoy Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded in a series of familiar letters from a Beautiful Young Damsel to her Parents, here is an online version from 1845. If you have the eyesight for reading it, there is also a 1786 edition (in four volumes): vol I; vol II; vol III; vol IV. An 1832 edition of The Life of Thomas Gent, Printer, of York may have references to the mother (in particular) of Elizabeth, but I have to take a closer look at the book, and also investigate her parents more fully (Elizabeth’s father was Edward Midwinter, bookseller). This next book gives Midwinter-White-Gosling as well as Maryland and Pennsylvania connections!


  1. Nigel Kennard said,

    If Lisa Sunshine wrote as you suggest, then her research is hopelessly unreliable. Edward Midwinter did indeed have an illegitimate son, Edward, by his maid Hannah Cleaver but Elizabeth was far from disinherited altogether. If fact she was the principal beneficiary in her fathers will. Edward received the sum of three hundred pounds (a huge sum in 1736) and apart from a few bequests Elizabeth inherited everything else.
    One of her fathers most interesting assets that she inherited was the ground rent for part of the notorious Marshalsea Prison. This is where Charles Dickens’ father was briefly imprisoned for debt and it plays a large part in his Little Dorrit. These ground rents remained within the family for several generations.
    Poor Miss Midwinter she was not!
    Sir Francis and Elizabeth Gosling were my great (x5) grandparents and the above is taken from the will of Edward Midwinter.

  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    Nigel, thank you so much! All this is fascinating. I would welcome anything you have to say about Elizabeth Midwinter and family. I’ve seen Elizabeth’s will, and note that, in his own will, Sir Francis leaves HER “the rest of the fourth part of the Marshalsea Ground Rent which I bought of Duke Burshott”. [note: presume I read Duke Burshott correctly.]

    Which of Sir Francis’ children do you descend from? Kate from Norfolk descends from daughter Mary Cawne.

    Any information on Sir Francis’ brother or father Robert; or nephew William and his mother Elizabeth Houghton?

  3. Nigel Kennard said,

    My line is the same as Kate’s. We both live in Norfolk, about 25 miles apart.
    I am not sure about your reading of Sir Francis’ will, this requires further research in London Archives including sight of the original.
    You mention elsewhere a webpage for St Andrews Church in Nether Wallop. The plaque there to Sir Francis Reads “In Memory of Sir Francis Gosling Knt of Fleet Street London, Banker. He was elected Alderman of the ward of Farringdon without February 9, 1756. served the Office of Sheriff of London and County of Middlesex 1758, but was prevented from taking upon him the High Office of Lord Mayor to which he was first in Election in the Years 1766, 1767 & 1768 by a long illness which terminated his life December 29, 1768, aged 48. He filled every Station of Life in which he appeared with Integrity and Propriety & left behind him a Widow, three sons & three daughters. Pursuant to his Will he was buried near this Place by the Remains of his Honoured Parents Mr Robert Gosling sometime since Bookseller in Fleet Street & Mrs Elizabeth Gosling the Daughter of Thomas Douce Esq of the Parish of Wallop. He died January 4, 1740-1. She died August 26, 1729”
    Robert Gosling was generally known to have been based in St Pauls Churchyard as well as Fleet Street.
    The Douce family has some interesting connections.

  4. Janeite Kelly said,

    Dear Nigel, it is the Probate copy of Sir Francis’ will that I have seen.

    Thank you for the full inscription of Sir Francis’ St Andrews plaque; quite useful. Once I get home I will have to see if I had a death date for Mrs Robert Gosling – I fill in that type of information as I come across it. So William Gosling’s father – Robert Gosling II, if you will – was young when he lost his mother.

    Please let us in on those “interesting connections” of the Douce family! My own research concentrates on the period 1800-1842, though obviously the parent generation and their parents means I really begin about 1760; and the children’s generation means I go beyond the 1840s. An overwhelming amount of relatives! And each with such fascinating stories attached to them.

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