Just like Jane Austen as a baby…

March 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have been reading — and immensely enjoyingThe John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer, 1752-1828 (edited by Brian Robins). More about this book later

The year is 1775 and John Marsh, who has been living in ROMSEY, has gotten married and is expecting his first child. Mrs Marsh is delivered of a son on 10 November 1775.

On Sunday the 12th. Mr Haverfield officiating at church for Mr. W. {Williams} we got him to come & baptise the child by the name of John, who was this day put out to nurse Webb who had been secur’d in case of my wife’s not succeeding in suckling the child herself w’ch after a few attempts she was obliged to give up…” [pp. 134]

Little John reappears in the journals on p. 142, when the Marshes are planning a move to Salisbury: “The 25th. [of June 1776] now fix’d on for our removal, on the 24th. we took leave of our Romsey friends… & the day after Mrs M. & I (leaving our little John, now above 7 months old) at nurse Webbs, sat [sic] off for Sarum…

So it’s possible that little John had been all this time at Nurse Webb’s.

Little John is next mentioned, p. 149, when the couple, now settled in Salisbury, expect Mrs. Marsh’s parents, Dr. & Mrs. Brown — who, having lived beside the couple in Romsey are now moving to Salisbury (nearly always “Sarum” to Marsh):

On the 26th Dr. & Mrs Brown quitted Romsey & came to stay a few days with us previous to their going into their new house, & brought over our little boy with them, who was now just wean’d.

Presumably, the boy — like Jane Austen (and probably other {all?} Austen siblings) — was now returned to his family after the nurse, who received him at only two days old, has cared for him for nearly nine months.

As the likes of Tomalin et al. have written: standard practice then, in Hampshire (if not elsewhere), to farm out your child.

I can’t say much more about little John (not having read any further…), but will mention here that Marsh has quite recently met Lord George Lennox — younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Richmond and also Lady Louisa Conolly (née Lennox)! The name of Lord George’s wife? Lady Louisa Lennox! This Lady Louisa is described as “the musical Lady Louisa Lennox (who is not to be confused with the Lennox’s sister Louisa)…. She was noted for wearing military and masculine attire, being painted in such dress by Romney and others.” Marsh writes of her: …some of the good ladies who lived in the market place … used … to come & drink tea, hear the music & see the lady…”

The little boy above is neither Jane Austen nor little John Marsh — but “Master Gosling” (ie, William Ellis Gosling, Mary’s eldest brother), by Sir William Beechey.


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