It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:
“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”
Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.
Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.
BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.
I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.
Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…
The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.
John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!
Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.
I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.
Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.
George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.
On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:
Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.
Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!