Shocking Discovery! Did Mamma Know?

October 23, 2010 at 9:47 am (news, people) (, , , , , , , , , )

An incredible “find”!!!!

Thanks to Jacky, I have been on the lookout for information on or about or by EDWARD ODELL. In the diaries and letters everyone merely mentioned him as “Mr Odell” or just plain “Odell”. I hadn’t even had a first name! Mary even wrote of him as Mr Odall!

But thanks to Jacky’s incredible letter, from Catherine Odell to Maria Smith – concerning Mrs Odell’s son EDWARD – I figured I had found not only the first name of the elusive Mr Odell, but also a “family” for him. It all fit: Drummond’s constant remarks about Ireland (Catherine’s letter was headed “YOUGHAL”); the family conferences after Odell returned from Sicily — but Drummond did not; the pleading of Mrs Odell for Maria to consider her son Edward as a suitor. And the seeming silence (though note: this letter was retained!).

So I was searching and searching for information on some Edward Odell in the Youghal region. Little did I at first realize the one (and only) Edward Odell I stumbled upon was THE MAN: Edward Odell of Carriglea, near Dungarvan, Ireland.

Because Drummond was a Cambridgeman, I kept trying to locate Odell in the Alumni Cantabrigienses. Drummond himself, once I read through some of his letters (first transcribed about two years ago; all beginning in the 1820s and going on into the early 1830s; they end before his fateful trip to Italy with Mr Odell), made me realize the obvious: Odell may have been at Harrow with Drummond, but he was now at OXFORD! Of course he was quite easily located in the Alumni Oxonienses.

But I located this citation only after this extraordinary “find”: A Publication with a letter written by Odell and containing news about the death of “a friend of mine named Smith”. My Drummond!!

Read for yourself [my comments, as I typed the letter from a snippet view of the book, are included in green; I have paragraphed it, to make it easier to read online]:

Carriglea [that name!], Dungarvan, Ireland

Feb. 21, 1833

Dear Giles

I was much annoyed to find by your letter which I received two days since that I have been so long in your debt, and regret that you did not sooner write to inform me of it. But it can hardly be said to have been my own fault as I will explain to you. The very day on which you left Oxford I called at your room to discharge my debt and was informed by the porter that you had been gone I believe only an hour. As I then intended to have resided the next term I thought no more of it, but the Fates had decreed otherwise, and long before the term began I was on my way to Italy.

Previous to my departure however I left a sum of money with Lord Ossory with a memorandum of how he was to dispose of it, which done I discharged my mind of the whole business. In September of the following year when at Venice I received a letter from him saying that he had lost the list which I gave him, but that he believed he had paid all that I desired him and had lodged the remainder at my banker’s. In this opinion I very naturally coincided, when after a length of time I heard nothing to the contrary. This I hope will convince you that I was not to blame, and before long it will be in my power to make all straight between us.

I say before long because I have returned from my wanderings like the prodigal son, and could not raise as many pence till my next quarter becomes due. I am sorry that you have left Oxford as I have some intention of keeping my Master’s term in the summer, that is to say if I am well enough, for at present I am in rather a seedy state.

I had been ill last spring in London & like a fool set off to travel before I had recovered my strength, in consequence of which I eventually became again so unwell that independent of other causes the object of my leaving England would have been disappointed. [IS this Drummond?:] Lord Ossory and a friend of mine named Smith [!] whom Toogood remembers at Harrow were with me – the former intending to return to England at the end of the year, but Smith and I were going to Egypt [no, can’t be Drummond…] and Asia Minor and from there into Persia.” We accordingly proceeded through Germany, down Italy and to Sicily which was all beaten ground to me.

Till then I had got on tolerably well but the knocking about in the latter country and sleeping in the open air floored me completely. We were three weeks at one spell without entering a house & living in a tent. [my God! I swear this IS Drummond] Our design was after leaving that to have gone to Malta and sailed from thence to Egypt. But everything went wrong.

Bad as I was I was better than Smith who [gotta be HIM!] seemed quite unequal to standing the vicissitudes of climate and weather. At last he got a fever against which he had not strength to bear up & at the end of eleven days he breathed his last. This as you may imagine was a complete extinction to any further pleasure, and at once determined me on returning with Lord Ossory to England. In fact being now without a companion and in the wretched state of health in which I myself was it would have been preposterous had I persisted in my design of going to the East. We therefore made our way back to Italy and from thence home as fast as we could, and here I have now been for a month nursing myself. I have by no means abandoned my intention of visiting the countries which I have mentioned, but I shall wait till the beginning of next year [! it’s a letter SIGNED by Edward Odell!!!!!!]. Perhaps before that something may take you to Oxford and that we may meet. Pray remember me to Toogood who I hope is flourishing, and believe me dear Giles

your’s very truly

Edward Odell

OH–MY–GOSH!

What’s so “shocking” about this letter, other than the fact that it’s the first time I’ve seen ANYTHING from Odell himself describing this trip? As mentioned, Drummond’s letter book (lent to Rob Petre for photographing by Prof. Jeremy Catto; I am grateful to them both) is that it ends with the very letters where Drummond pleads with Mamma Smith to be allowed to accompany Odell on this trip (me thinks Mamma was NEVER very pleased; I know she grudgingly gave consent…); yet there are NO letters — and Drummond would have sent a steady stream of correspondence home! — during the trip abroad. (A loss; for I had hoped they spanned up to the time of his death.)

What Odell reveals here is the shocker: “Our design was after leaving [Sicily] to have gone to Malta and sailed from thence to Egypt” and  “Smith and I were going to Egypt and Asia Minor and from there into Persia.” EGYPT! ASIA MINOR! PERSIA!?

Mamma Smith didn’t want to consent to Drummond’s travelling to Italy — and yet the pair contemplated Egypt, Asia Minor, and Persia?! So my question: Did Mamma know? If Drummond had lived, would he one day have sent a letter dated “Egypt,” stating his intention of remaining by Odell’s side through this fantastically far-flung trip?

There was precedent: Mamma herself, in July 1822, left the younger children home: Spencer, Drummond, Charlotte and Maria. Emma wrote Aunt about their decision to remain in ROME during the winter of 1822/23, and advised Aunt “Mamma wishes you not to tell this to the poor children unless you think that by very gentle degrees, & hints, it would be advisable to let them know”…

Would Mamma have been “hoisted by her own petard”? We’ll never know; Drummond died November 5, 1832, in Sicily.

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An Island Alone?

October 20, 2010 at 9:45 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ever feel like your out there on your own? As another winter begins to descend, and early (early!) mornings come thanks to local airport noise (long, looonnnnggg story there; boring to everyone but me), the thoughts crowd around in the dark that few would wish to contemplate: the jobs that got away; the life I used to have when days were “better”; getting older; having older parents.

My saving grace: the Smiths and Goslings. They aren’t my “family”, but they have become “my family”. I long to find out their movements, to piece together all their individual puzzles, to fit their lives, dreams and thoughts into some pattern that points up their times as well as their lives.

Jacky from Maidstone has recently given much food for thought in the shape of an astonishing letter to Maria, the youngest Smith of Suttons daughter. The correspondent is the mother of a young man who has simply never found anyone — other than Maria — that he could love and wish to marry.

What makes this of great interest?

Henry Wilder wrote similar sentiments to Mrs Smith regarding Augusta. It was a letter, when I first deciphered it, as I sat beside the windows at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England), that tore at my heart. It was obvious that Henry had had a relationship with Augusta; that something or someone had intervened (I suspect some Wilder parental interference, but have not discovered anything concrete as yet); and here he was, a couple years later, talking about his inability to forget Augusta. He’s now wondering if Mrs Smith will find out if Augusta still has feelings for him.

Now there are several mildly “star-crossed” lovers in these extended families. The most extreme “disapproval” I have yet come across involves Richard Seymour’s sister Dora. Richard’s diaries (on microfilm at the Warwickshire Record Office) is quite plain in the disapproval of Dora’s family after she engaged herself to the Rev. Mr. Chester. Richard – a docile man in such matters – was pressured to put pressure on Dora to break off the engagement. The end was achieved; yet not in the long-run. Dora did ultimately marry the Rev. Mr. Chester.

[an aside: if I could track down the current whereabouts and the owner of Richard Seymour’s diaries, then I could get a COPY of the microfilm from WRO…]

So, back to Maria. The date of this letter is 1835. Mrs Catherine Odell, the writer, had obviously NOT been in touch with the family for some time. She mailed her letter to Tring Park; the Smiths had moved from Tring to Mapledurham House in October 1834 (the first “event” held there: the wedding of Fanny Smith to the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton). Also, Mrs Odell addressed her letter to “Miss Maria Smith”. That alone would have gained Maria’s ire! In one letter she quite obviously had chastised a sibling for not giving her her due: as the “eldest” single Smith sister she was now entitled to be addressed as “Miss Smith”.

In this period, the eldest son or daughter or Mr Lastname, Miss Lastname. Other, younger, siblings had their first name appended, thus, as we find in Jane Austen: Mr Ferrars but Mr Robert Ferrars; Miss Dashwood, Miss Marianne Dashwood; Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Lydia Bennet, Miss Kitty Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet.

If we take the Bennets (since there are so many of them!), with the marriages of Lydia, followed by those of Jane and Elizabeth, than the elder of the two left single would assume the title “Miss Bennet”.

That was what happened with Maria Smith: In October 1834, elder sister Fanny married Richard. And Eliza Smith, the next unmarried Smith sister, married in January 1835. So with that event, little Maria finally became Miss Smith — the three events (move, and two marriages) unknown to Mrs Odell in Ireland.

But what makes the letter so extraordinary is that Mr Edward Odell’s pleading is done by his mother! She writes that he could never marry anyone but Maria (to the sadness of his family, she is quick to point out); that Edward will come into his elder brother’s estate (though ‘why’ that would be so, I don’t yet know); that Edward already had an income of £600 (an amount perhaps exceeded by money given to Maria to live, for all I know; certainly, in a letter to Augusta, Mrs Smith intimated that she NEED NOT MARRY, as she had income enough to live, and live comfortably, I’m sure).

One personal favorite: Mrs Odell says that her son would willingly live anywhere; and that Mrs Smith could live with them should she need to be taken care of. Mamma Smith?! in need of care?! from a son-in-law’s household? She is the most “matriarchal” matriarch I have ever come across!

The story behind Mr Odell, which may or may not have impacted the “welcome”: A Mr Odell (I suspect Edward rather than his unnamed elder brother due to a Harrow connection), longtime friend of Drummond, enticed Drummond to visit Italy much against Mrs Smith’s inclination. There are many mentions of interviews, letters, letters from Mr Odell even — in which Mrs Smith digs to find out about Drummond’s illness and death.

So, in the end, the big question is: Would Mr Edward Odell have stood a chance with Maria? was there family pressure to dissolve any relationship? Was Maria herself uninterested? Only time will tell; or else I may never know the answer to those questions!

But you see, you few who read these musings, what occupies my mind — so happily occupies my mind!

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