Edward Odell’s Writing Box

July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm (books, diaries, europe, history, people, research, travel) (, , , , , , )


As I neared the end of Lord Ossory’s diary — he has reached home (Kilkenny, Ireland) and returned to the bosom of his family, but now writes some thoughts about his impressions of the trip, especially the well-explored Island of Sicily (which he will later publish about) — I came across this rather shocking passage:

We left London at night on Tuesday

for Wednesdays packet. At Maidenhead we

had the pleasure of finding that some [brute?]

youth had put his hand into the hind

seat of the carriage, & bagged our two writing boxes.

We had unfortunately left Benelli {Odell’s servant} behind,

instead of taking him down to Bristol.

Odell lost a good many things of value in his.

I luckily had not left any thing very precious

in mine, but it was provoking

losing it after it had travelled so far

without damage. It was full of letters.

I have a great recollection of Odell meeting with Mamma Smith (more than once?), after his return to England in January 1833, and went to re-look up those winter events. In Emma’s journal, there is this entry for 8 February 1833:

Read Mr Odell’s journal of Drummond’s illness

Of course even at the time of transcribing that particular passage my heart skipped a beat: Odell had kept a journal!

That makes sense, though: Drummond had kept a journal; Ossory had kept a journal; Odell had hoped to publish about the trip – so why wouldn’t he have kept a journal.

Having now TWO of the three journals at my disposal, thoughts turned to, ‘Wonder where Odell’s journal might be? with family? in an Irish archive? lost to posterity?’

So last night I turned to the letters, so see what else was written around this time period — and began my reading with Drummond’s own letters written in the spring of 1832. Mamma, displeased that he had said nothing about wanting to go abroad with Odell, had quite evidently shown her displeasure. What exists (in copy) are two letters Drummond wrote, in response, confessing to a long-standing (since their Harrow days!) desire to travel together; that he would never think to ask anyone for money for such a trip but Mamma; that he never concealed a trip from her, only never had anything concrete to ask her consent about.

Poor Mamma! how she must have been beating herself over ever giving this permission.

And yet, Drummond was such a favorite – and he made a good case, by saying that he had been at Cambridge for three years (his eldest brother Charles had only done two years, and then took a lengthy trip abroad — though Drummond recognized that as eldest son, Charles had more money!) and was about to take his examinations. How could Mamma have ever hardened her heart and made him stay home.

Only 20 years old, Drummond was the youngest of the three travellers. Mamma – from what you read in Ossory’s diary of Drummond’s illness – would not have left him to fend so much for himself, and probably would have had him treated quite differently, and by different medical men. I think she would have removed him from Sicily far in advance of his lowest days, and I do wonder how much had the (in)actions of Ossory and Odell contributed to Drummond’s death.

Ossory’s diary rather exposes an indifference; what would Odell — a close friend to Drummond — have written in his journal at the time everything was unfolding?

Now, a “brute hand” may indeed have removed the evidence! If Odell’s journal was in his writing box.

At the same time, would the Smiths have been satisfied with merely reading Odell’s journal; or would one of the industrious sisters have copied it out?! Time will tell if more (letters and/or diaries) turn up regarding Sicily – November 1832 – Drummond Smith – Edward Odell of Carriglea – Lord Ossory of Kilkenny.

regency writing box

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