The Curious Case of Two Wives

December 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm (people) (, , )


As it happened, I did venture up to the University of Vermont’s library. I had a book to return (on the Shaw Lefevres, relatives to Emma Austen-Leigh) and one to pick up (on artist Mary Ellen Best). Surprisingly I remembered about the microfiche and Gentleman’s Magazine. UVM holds a fine collection of this and, with school our, there was no competition for a micro-reader. And here is what I found there:

On page 542 (vol. XXX): November 6 [1760] – “Sir Ellis Cunliffe, Bt. member for Liverpool, — to Miss Davis.” Right first name, right identification. Then, page 594: December 17 [1760] – “Sir Ellis Cunliffe, Bart, member for Liverpool, — to Miss Bennet.”

A bigamist? Doubtful… I looked in vain for a retraction. Despite the unmistakable name, I wonder – another Cunliffe and wrong first name inserted? Another member for Liverpool and the entire name incorrect? The mystery is still to be solved. This does, however, point up the very important fact of verifying EVERYTHING. Talk about ‘making a list and checking it twice’!

When I first began to research Mary Gosling’s diaries, it was a toss-up as to the day upon which she and Charles married. Various periodicals had both the 2nd of July and the 20th of July. It took the diary of Emma Smith to convince me (after all: she was a guest): 2o July 1826. But this Miss Davis-Miss Bennett mix-up is truly curious.

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