A Tale of Two Macdougalls

October 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading Emma’s diaries for 1822-1823 — even with half of EACH diary left blank (while the family was away on the continent) — one would never realize that the Miss Macdougall found in the first diary was NOT the same Miss Macdougall found in the second.

Thank goodness for letters!

The secret is to be found in a couple of letters at the Essex Record Office (Chelmsford).

The “Tale of Two Macdougalls” begins in 1819. The governess to the younger Smith girls, at the moment, is Miss Ramsay — about whom I’ve written before. She turns up in the memoirs of Elizabeth Grant, the “Highland Lady”.

By February, 1819, Miss Ramsay is described as having a cough. At the very end of March “Miss McDougall {sic} arrived this morning from the North at her sisters in Euston Sqr  She came directly to see Miss Ramsay…” Miss M. brought Miss R. the unwelcome news that illness prevented Mrs Ramsay’s journey south. In April, Emma makes the comment that “Miss Susan McDougall {sic} was to stay in Portland Place with Miss Ramsay during our absence”. So, the two northern ladies were acquainted! And Miss Susan Macdougall comes into the circle of the Smiths of Suttons.

Ill, Miss Ramsay left the Smiths at the end of April, and by the fifth of May Emma could note her arrival in “the North”. Poor Miss Ramsay; she never recovered her health. Emma received “the melancholy account of dearest Miss Ramsay’s death” on August 10th.

On the governess front, Miss Pond was engaged by Mamma on 18 June 1819. There are hints that Miss Pond was perhaps on the lookout for another position. More of Miss Pond, however, in some later post.

Emma’s 1821 diary has the following address: “Miss Susan Macdougall  10 Picardy Place Edinburgh”

A “Miss Macdougall”, who was probably Susan, came to see Emma shortly before Christmas, 1821. On March 24, 1822 Emma could write, “Miss Macdougall came here in the evening to be my sisters governess”.

Come December, with the family away on the Continent, but the younger children — Charlotte and Maria; Spencer and Drummond — in England, Charlotte was writing to Mamma, “I cannot express how excessively sorry I am, we are going to lose, dearest Miss Macdougall …. I am very glad her sister is coming, for I know her, and like her very much, & we can talk of Miss Macdougall to her.”

And there is the one hint that the later letter writer HELEN Macdougall was Miss Macdougall Number Two!

Come April, 1823, we learn, from Miss Helen Macdougall, that her sister Susan was soon off to Paris – to meet up with a M. Noverre, who had promised to marry her. But all was not well, even then. Miss Helen Macdougall ended her sister’s tale, in a letter to Mamma: “My Brother and Sister Fordyce are so much dissatisfied with his conduct, that even now they wish poor Susan to give him up.”

What happened?!? Did Susan give up M. Noverre? Did Monsieur jilt Susan?

All I currently know is that Emma would write in mid-June, 1823: “I am extremely sorry to hear that any unpleasant circumstances are at all likely to put a stop to Miss Susan Macdougall’s marriage …. pray beg Miss {Helen} Macdougall to send us without fail her sisters direction at Paris.”

The Smiths returned to England in July, 1823. Emma’s 1824 diary has this address:

Miss S. Macdougall
Chez Mde Martin
Rue de Vendome No. 13–
a Paris

And in April, 1824 Augusta is writing her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton, “I have had a letter from Lady Compton {Lady Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, the former Margaret Maclean Clephane} quite pleased with the idea of Miss S. Macdougall and I do think indeed she has got a treasure more especially for the salary she gives…”

Without more letters the tale of the Two Miss Macdougalls remains what I’ve outlined here.

One clue to their future lies in the family of “Sister Fordyce”. There were at least four Miss Macdougalls, daughters of Mr Alexander Macdougall of Inveresk House (near Edinburgh). This obituary may be their mother’s:

June 1779, The Scots Magazine

14. At Inveresk, Mrs Macdougall, spouse of Alexander Macdougall, Esq; deputy-treasurer’s remembrancer in exchequer.”

I have found evidence that Charlotte Macdougall — Sister Fordyce — was born c1778. She married James, the second son of Dr Arthur Dingwall Fordyce of Culsh and Janet Morison, his wife, who was born in August 1778, on 23 July 1797. If Charlotte was the youngest daughter, then all the Macdougall sisters are in their 40s by the early 1820s.

The book on the Dingwall Fordyces notes the death of “McDougall [sic] (Alexander) of Inveresk House, Edinburgh and Deputy Remembrancer” on the 14th March, 1792. “The name of Mr. McDougall’s wife has not reached us; but his family must have been left in reduced circumstances, from the fact that two daughters, Misses Helen and Susan McDougall, for years creditably supported themselves, the former in the family of Mr. James Walker, an eminent civil engineer in London; the latter as governess in the family of the Marquis of Northampton.” This last we have seen recounted by Augusta to her cousin. Helen’s position with the Walkers probably also post-dates her stay with the Smiths.

I have found the following Musselburgh (near Edinburgh) estate, Inveresk House, now a B&B — IS this the former home of the Macdougalls? What happened to the Macdougall children after the deaths of (seemingly) two parents?

One telling hint to Miss Susan Macdougall’s future, if this is the same woman: a book, published in 1865, lists among its subscribers “Macdougall,  Miss S., 11 Princes Gate, London”.


  1. Marian McIntyre said,

    The house that the Macdougalls lived in was actually Eskhill House in Inveresk Village, near Edinburgh, built by their father Alexander Macdougall. It is a classic Georgian mansion with a large garden, half of which is a victorian walled garden.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Thanks so MUCH, Marian, for supplying the name. I’ve done a quick dig: is the house for SALE? It’s gorgeous!
      Do you know about the house or the Macdougall family?


      • Marian McIntyre said,

        I wonder if you got my follow-up email with further information about the family. If not, let me know and I will re send it. The house is absolutely lovely, you are right.


  2. The Macdougall sisters’ Edinburgh-area home | Two Teens in the Time of Austen said,

    […] an earlier post, “A Tale of Two Macdougalls,” I wondered where the sisters Susan and Helen Macdougall — two women who served in the […]

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