A Vision of Beauty: Chapter 10

A Biography of Julia Prinsep Stephen by Marion Dell.

© CC BY-NC-SA unless otherwise stated; image copyrights are listed in the credits and they are not licensed for re-use.

Herbert and Julia: The happiest years of their lives (c.1866–1870)


1. Herbert’s aunt, Anna, Lady Coltman photographed by Camille Silvy.

The happiest chapter of Julia’s life was about to begin. She and Herbert spent the first ten days of their honeymoon at Puttenham Rectory which Herbert’s older brother, the Reverend William Arthur Duckworth, loaned to them while he and his family went to the Duckworth’s London house and had their own holiday going to the Zoo, art galleries, and the theatre. They also had to visit friends and relatives, especially his favourite Aunt Anna, widow of Sir Thomas Coltman, at her home 8 Hyde Park Gate, to give a first-hand account of Julia and Herbert’s wedding.

At Puttenham William Arthur had left all ready for them and the house fully staffed. Julia also took her German maid, Bowroom. The Rectory was a large, picturesque house in a huge garden.

2. Puttenham Rectory, watercolour by Edward Hassell.
3. Herbert’s brother, The Reverend William Arthur Duckworth. Family photograph.

Puttenham is an ancient, beautiful, little village in a rich agricultural area, but only about five miles from Guildford and main line trains to London. Tucked under the ridge of the North Downs known as the Hog’s Back, it was an idyllic place to spend a honeymoon. If they wanted society, then Puttenham Priory was almost next door, and Lord More-Molyneux’s Loseley Estate was very close.

Julia and Herbert would have wanted to see the large village church. This building was in the middle of an energetic and enthusiastic programme of restoration and renovation being carried out by Herbert’s brother, his curate the Reverend Charles Kerry and their architect Henry Woodyer, all followers of the style of Pugin and Victorian Gothic Revival. They had installed a new altar, pulpit and font, renewed the stone tracery and glass in some of the windows, and laid encaustic tiles on the floors. William Arthur had donated some £1200 of his own money towards restoring the tower and had also given a new organ with pedals, to replace the old barrel organ. He had the old bells recast and the year of Herbert’s wedding gave them and an additional new bell to the church.

4-6. Left: Puttenham – Church of St John the Baptist and Puttenham Priory. Middle:Puttenham – Church of St John the Baptist and The Street. Right: Puttenham Common with a view to the Hogs Back.

When William Arthur returned on 11 May, he recorded that the early May weather was ‘delicious’, ‘the leaves were out as if by magic’, and there had been a ‘novel arrangement of our drawing room furniture by Herbert and Julia’, who had left the previous day for the next part of their honeymoon: a grand tour around Europe. Their progress can be plotted in their daily correspondence to and from all the family.1

European tour

Herbert and Julia’s tour began in Venice, the place where they had first met five years previously. Julia’s mother, Mia Jackson, was reminded, in a letter to her ‘dear Son Herbert’, of that earlier occasion and ‘how lovely Venice looked under the moonshine …more like a dream than reality’. More prosaically she hoped that their weather was less chilly than in England where ‘there seems to be no summer in the air though the flowers are looking beautiful.’ Herbert had obviously been comforting Mia by reporting on Julia’s good health. Mia reminds him that Julia ‘will eat chicken and little birds when she will not eat butcher’s meat, and likes sweetbreads and brains and such things’. She approves of the china they have been buying and does not think them extravagant.

After Venice Herbert and Julia had a good crossing to Trieste and then on to Vienna. Their spectacular train journey interested John Jackson, who had ‘always understood that the Railway from Trieste to Vienna was the most wonderful in the world and the ascent greater than any yet made except in India’. Julia’s sister, Mary Fisher hoped that they would enjoy the pictures; her artist nephew, Val Prinsep, had told her that ‘there were splendid Titians in Vienna’. From Vienna they went on to the Hotel Bellevue in Dresden. Julia was so fully thinking of her new married status that she inadvertently addressed her letter to her sister to Mrs Herbert Duckworth, instead of to Mary. Mary, very amused, wrote back affectionately to Dear Babe. Then to Hanover. Mia could ‘fancy how little you like Germany after beautiful Venice’.

They were all getting excited about the forthcoming highlight of the tour, a visit to Paris and the Universal Exhibition. Mia was concerned about Julia’s wardrobe, selecting additional items to be boxed up and sent to her. Would Julia prefer her ‘green or the gold colour or yr china. The latter will look very pretty and I cd send the green cashmere at the same time for chilly days, or your white china crepe’. She also thinks that ‘a couple of coloured muslins would be so useful to you in Paris – new they would last clean for several days’. She is very knowledgeable about shopping in Paris, advising Julia that she ‘might find a shawl at Delphine’s, but I think that you would meet with more variety at a shawl shop’. Julia would ‘require to be well dressed at the Exhibition – you will meet so many you know. I will send you a cheque darling to Paris that you may get your bonnets there’. Herbert’s father, William, had been similarly generous, giving each of his daughters-in-law £50 to spend at the Exhibition.

The Paris Universal Exhibition

That summer of 1867, Paris was en fête. Many of Julia and Herbert’s friends and relations were also visiting, including both of Herbert’s brothers and their families and Julia’s aunt Virginia Somers, along with some 8 million other tourists. They had come to see the largest, most extravagant and astounding Exhibition so far to be held anywhere in the world.2 Emperor Napoleon III made it part of his extended coronation celebrations.

7. The official birds-eye view of the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867, at Parc Montsouris: covered galleries in an ellipse and pavilions and exhibits in the surrounding park.

On June 1st dignitaries including Czar Alexandra of Russia, the Prince of Wales, the Sultan of Turkey and Khedive of Egypt, Otto von Bismarck of Prussia, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and the kings of Denmark, Sweden and Portugal came to join in the celebrations. It is not clear if Julia and Herbert were also there on that particular day. Mary had written that while the Prince of Wales, by whom her husband Herbert Fisher was employed as Private Secretary, was away in Paris they were hoping to use his box at a London theatre.

8. Napoleon III welcoming his guests.
9. Léon Edoux’s hydraulic elevator.

Whichever days they went, Julia and Herbert would have been able to see amazing scientific and technological innovations. Julia would have been particularly interested in the two rooms showcasing the Suez Canal Company’s engineering achievements. The Canal was nearing completion and when opened in 1869 would reduce the journey time between India and England for the many of Julia’s relations who were still making the journey, to only about six weeks. Julia and her mother Mia were used to it taking six months. Displays included the new materials aluminium and reinforced concrete, a hydraulic elevator, natural gas for heating, ice cream soda, and a fifty-foot steel cannon from the German armaments firm Krupps.3 Samuel Morse demonstrated the latest in telegraphy. There were extensive water gardens and floating exhibits. Huge replicas of key cultural or architectural buildings included the Palace of the King of Tunisia and an English lighthouse. 

10. In the park: the English Lighthouse (upper left), Egyptian temple (upper right),
Palace of the King of Tunisia (lower right). 

There were national pavilions – one of the most popular being that of Japan. Artists and designers such as Van Gogh, were entranced by the displays of Japanese art, ceramics and design, aspects of which soon influenced their own Post-Impressionist works. 

11. The Japanese Pavilion. 

There was a huge entertainment section with ethnic restaurants, balloon rides and bateaux mouches on the Seine. Demonstrations of Steinway’s new piano caused a surge of aspiring pianists wanting to buy, satirised in the press.

12-13. Left: The Chinese Pavilion served Chinese food. Right:A cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, August 10 1867, showing the rush for Steinway’s new piano.
14. Rue de Rivoli c.1855.

Paris itself was also a revelation. Haussmann’s plans for the total reconstruction and modernisation of the city were well under way but not yet complete. Most of the narrow overcrowded streets of the medieval town, which Julia would have known from her childhood, had been demolished. In their place were wide, tree-lined, boulevards bordered by elegant apartment buildings with huge windows. Extensive parks, open spaces and fountains were created in each section of the city. Modern infrastructure was being built including new bridges over the Seine, railways and elegant new stations. New drinking water and sewage systems were being constructed. Even the public conveniences were grand buildings! 

15-16. Left: A public toilet near the Champs Élysées (1865). Right: Buildings were demolished to make way for the new boulevards.

Julia and Herbert would have been able to engage in the latest craze – being a flâneur, sauntering round the streets just for pleasure.4 They could promenade in the newly completed Bois de Boulogne, sit in cafés in one of the many new squares shaded by some of the six hundred thousand newly planted trees throughout Paris, or visit Notre Dame with its newly replaced spire. 

17. Les flâneurs – ‘Paris Street; Rainy Day’ c.1877 by Gustave Caillebotte.
18. ‘La Musique aux Tuileries’ by Édouard Manet, 1862.
19. Shopping at Bon Marché, the first modern department store.

And of course there was shopping. The first modern department store in the world, Bon Marché, was now well established, and Au Printemps, opened in 1865 on Boulevard Haussmann. These enormous glass and wrought iron structures, lit by gas-light, and full of tempting new commodities, offered the ultimate in luxury and style.

By mid-August this idyll had to end and Julia and Herbert were back in England.

Leslie Stephen and Minny Thackeray 

20. Leslie Stephen and Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray, 1867. 

While Julia was away in Paris, one of her mother’s long chatty letters told her of the marriage of her friend Minny Thackeray. Lightly sewn onto the thin paper was a cutting from a newspaper announcing the wedding on 19th June of Leslie Stephen Esq, of the Inner Temple, second son of the late Sir James, KCB, to Harriet Marian, daughter of the late W.M. Thackeray Esq. at Onslow Square, Brompton. Mia had sent flowers to the bride and roses for her hair. Minny’s sister, Anny, was inconsolable at ‘losing’ the sister to whom she had been so close. She wrote a typically effusive thankyou letter to the ‘most kindest and munificent’ Mia Jackson. The whole house, she wrote, ‘was like a bower for my bride to come out of’. Minny and Anny’s adopted children had carried bunches of roses to the church and ‘instead of crying we arranged them everywhere on that dreary last evening’. Julia’s aunt, Sarah Prinsep, had given Minny a wedding gown. Leslie Stephen took Minny honeymooning in the Alps.5 He was an expert alpine climber and skier, and this was one of his favourite places. 

Anny took herself off for a fortnight in Paris where she had grown up, had many friends, and where she no doubt also visited the Exhibition.

21. Left to right: Anny Thackeray, Minny Thackeray and Leslie Stephen.

Early married life

Herbert and Julia were back in England in mid-August. From the beginning Herbert and Julia’s relationship was a close one of equals. Their letters throughout their engagement show an understanding, respect and close love for each other. She listens to talk of his work, shares interests, and gets to know his friends and colleagues. There are fewer letters after their marriage. Correspondence was unnecessary because Julia and Herbert were determined to be together as much as possible. When Herbert resumed his career as a barrister on the Northern Circuit, Julia, unusually, travelled with him to Liverpool or Manchester. Barristers’ wives more often remained at home while their husbands were on circuit, as Julia’s sister Adeline did when her husband Henry Vaughan went on circuit in South Wales. 

22-23. Left: Herbert in barrister’s silks. Right: Mrs Herbert Duckworth, 1867, photographed by her Aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron. 

Herbert’s friend and fellow barrister, Vernon Lushington, sent a detailed description of meeting them in a letter to his wife Jane,

 I met the Duckworths at Gullys6 last night, and today I had luncheon with them in their lodgings. She is a sweet amiable girl. She gave me a sad account of her mother’s health. She cannot walk or ride or even drive, but lies all day long in a carriage in the garden & what is very sad, she cannot read or even be read to – Mrs Duckworth & her husband have had a delightful trip abroad; they are now going to pay some long visits, first to her old home, and then to his home, & November will find them settled in Bryanston Square. She was prettily dressed last night in white – how I can’t say exactly, but she had a gold band around her waste (sic) such as sometimes with the striped gold dress my own used to wear. She sang in the evening but it was not much. 

(Letter from Vernon Lushington to his wife Jane, Liverpool Aug? 1867)

At the end of August Julia and Herbert went to visit his family at Orchardleigh. William Arthur was also visiting and recorded that Julia ‘was much stronger and healthier looking’. It was a light-hearted summer holiday for the extended family. They played croquet and Herbert, William Arthur and other male guests swam in the lake, often accompanied by the dog, Oscar. Mr and Mrs Dickinson7 and other neighbours came for dinner. Herbert and Julia met their new nephew, ten-day old William Henry Duckworth, son of Russell and Jeannette who lived nearby at Murty Hill Farm. Julia and Herbert had their own good news to delight his parents. Julia was already pregnant and they would have another grandchild the following March.


At the beginning of September they travelled from Orchardleigh to Saxonbury. John Jackson had sent Julia a long gossipy letter in anticipation of their arrival. The weather was so pleasant and warm that her mother was able to have her breakfast outdoors, and to lie in her pony carriage on the terrace. He tells Julia about the servants, and the neighbours. He had dined with their new neighbours, the Saint family, and other friends and had a splendid musical evening. There is family news from Julia’s aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron, who has pain now in her middle instead of her back. Her son Charlie is at home and his going to India uncertain, and they had not heard how another son, Hardinge gets through his exams at Oxford. She has been photographing Gov. Eyre and Mr Carlyle, and staying some time in Bournemouth. 

24-25. Left: Governor John Eyre photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. Right: Thomas Carlyle photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Finally John Jackson tells Julia that the ‘roses and rhododendrons have come out in perfection and the place looks ready to welcome you and Herbert back to it. The weather has been cold but there has been no rain. On Monday I am to begin my hay and a very short crop I am afraid’. He signs himself: ‘Your fond papa with love to Herbert. J. Jackson’.

On 10 October Julia and Herbert travelled back to London, spending two nights at Puttenham Rectory with William Arthur and his family on the way. There was a cloud over this gathering. Herbert’s father, William Duckworth, was worryingly ill while on holiday in France. Julia’s father, Dr John Jackson, was again appealed to for medical help, and he went to Paris for some weeks to look after William, before allowing him to be moved to Boulogne and then back to Orchardleigh. William Arthur was so concerned about his father’s health that he suggested leaving Puttenham and moving to Orchardleigh, where he could take over the Rectory at Lullington and become his father’s secretary. The curmudgeonly old William however refused to be ‘laid aside’, and William Arthur and his family remained in Puttenham.

38 Bryanston Square

26. Samuel Augustus Barnett Portrait by G F Watts. 

Julia and Herbert began life in what was to be their new home, the Duckworth family town house, 38 Bryanston Square, London, lent to them rent free thanks to the generosity of Herbert’s father. They lost no time in making it their own. When William Arthur had breakfast with them there on 20 November, he noted that their drawing room and bedroom had already been refurnished. 

Bryanston Square, built between 1810 and 1815 as part of the Portman estate, was one of the elegant garden squares being developed in Marylebone, not far from where John Jackson had his medical practice in Hanover Square, and in the opposite direction, Marble Arch. At one end was St Mary’s Church, Marylebone, built between 1823-4 where many of the Duckworth family ceremonies took place. From 1867 the curate was the reformer and philanthropist Samuel Augustus Barnett. 

The houses were built around a large, beautifully planted, tree filled garden, for the private use of residents. The house itself was large, spacious and comfortable. The property included a mews at the back with stabling for their horses, housing for their carriages and lofts and living rooms over for the staff. 

27. Bryanston Square and central garden c.2022.

Sadly number 38 was demolished in 1940 in the Blitz and there is now a modern in-fill. But most of the nineteenth century houses remain to show how elegant and desirable the area was, and still is. The Swiss Embassy occupies the corner plot.

Married life

So Julia and Herbert began a very privileged, comfortable, married life, supported by many servants, and warm, generous, close extended families on both sides. Posts were very frequent, quick and reliable. Letters were sent and circulated around the family on a daily basis, with news of the children, illnesses, holidays, offers of help. While many of these letters are extant, including some 900 of Mia Jackson’s to Julia and her children, now lodged at the University of Sussex, sadly almost none of Julia’s have survived. So her life must be deduced from one sided conversations, and pieced together like a jigsaw. The letters show how close the relationships were especially between Julia, her mother and her sisters, and how quickly new sons-in-law were welcomed into the family and also became frequent correspondents. Herbert, away on circuit, wrote to Mia Jackson,

Passage Court
November 1st 1867

This is Corporation paper and I am writing in Court under the infliction of listening to an Irish barrister and a witness in dock. I am pitying you very much today for the loss of our darling Mrs. Tusie [Julia], and it always makes me feel such a selfish old gentleman to take her away from you. You must to come to us in January. We will give you an airy sight of chimneys to look at, some lovely black birds to serenade you in the morning, and a sitting room for Minna [Mia’s maid] opening out of your bedroom. It will break the long winter for you, and you can tub all day long, even in a fog; at all events you will not have the Frant gales or the Frant damp. There is plenty of room here too for Dr Jackson also, and you will be too lovely at the end of the month; new spirits, new dressing gowns, new dresses, new capes, and when you are very well and lovely we will take you out in one of Her majesty’s carriages. […] so it is a settled plan and we expect you in January after I get back from Liverpool.

28. Thérèse Tietjens (Titiens) (1831-1877). Celebrated opera singer. 

Family letters reveal how cosmopolitan and well-travelled they all were, with many mutual friends. It was a common practice to lend houses out to each other – especially country houses, for holidays and honeymoons. They shared lots of holidays in Brighton or other sea-side resorts, usually with their children, went walking in the Lake District, or touring the continent. They were cultured, visiting art galleries, recitals, theatres and the latest exhibitions. They paid and received daily rounds of visits either briefly during the afternoons, often not even getting out of their carriages, or for teas, suppers, musical evenings or dances. Servants, especially cooks, were a favourite topic. Mary tells Julia that, ‘Eliza has improved very much. Old Ann has got the sack from Loppes for sending up too many peas for dinner – which is quite charming. Eliza is already a much better cook than she was’. 

They had strong religious convictions and were philanthropic. House prayers were read each evening at Bryanston Square, by William Arthur Duckworth when he was staying there. They stayed with each other for pleasure or to help when someone was ill or new babies were arriving. They looked after each other’s children, met trains, swapped ideas and fabrics for clothes, sent hampers of fruit, vegetables and flowers from the country houses to those in town. If someone was having a party or grand dinner, others would also send curries, special deserts, or their servants to help out. On one such occasion Herbert wrote to Mia Jackson that, 

Vaughan has sent us a couple of woodcocks for our party tomorrow and we will have a hamper from Orchardleigh, so our game larder is well stocked, so we are to have a cosy little party of ourselves to see Titiens in Fidelio tonight. The result of a long unpaid fee being paid in full yesterday. £11.11.0 so that I feel quite rich! 

Julia’s sister Mary sent her a long gossipy, stream of consciousness account of all the entertaining and visiting she was doing,

29. ‘The Bridesmaid’ is wearing a burnous – a fashionable hooded cloak.

My darling Babe

…We had Mr Fawcett the blind MP and his Bride who is rather pretty and very clever. Mr and Mrs Clough, Mr Roupe whom you remember and used to call ‘Croup’ and Mr Mills. Aunt Sara sent us a curry and a trifle so we managed very well but the evening was very long and heavy. […] My tea was rather dull but I like Maggy Beadle – we dined that evening at the Bensons and on Thursday at the Normans where we met Captain Bonham Carter. He was very different to what I expected and talked to me the whole evening I suppose on account of you. His sister is still in town and we have asked her to dinner next Friday to meet only gentlemen. I hope she will be able to come. On Friday I took May Prinsep to Halle’s recital as Val did not want to go. I can’t say that I enjoyed it much for the room was dreadfully hot and Halle played only long pianoforte pieces none of which I knew except a Heller at the end. We saw the Millais – Brookfields – Mr Collins and Mr Doyle. Herbert went out riding with Mr Palmer that afternoon […] We had Aunt Loo and William to dinner that night and she brought Mia’s present for you. It is really a most exquisite burnous all most delicately worked in gold thread upon a white ground with gold lapels. I am so glad you have got one for it will suit you so well and be just the thing for breakfasts and garden parties. 

Aunt Loo was very good and no trouble. Today we have not been out much. After the children’s tea we took them to Kensington Gardens and they watched the ducks and were very helpful. Mack goes to Saxonbury on Tuesday. He is full of it already – he is sometimes most comical – but Herbert will add a line at the end of this and tell you all about them much better than I can. Little Boy [Arthur Fisher] gets prettier every day – he crawls very fast – yesterday they could not find him anywhere and at last discovered him in the nursery cupboard at the oatmeal. The prince goes to Paris for three days next week – so we are going to try and get the prince’s box one of the nights as we must ask Arthur – Mr W Coltman called last Wednesday but would not come in as I had the Beadles. Mama sends us up lovely roses and vegetables every time we have a party. […] It has been quite dark and cold the last week like November more than June but today it was beautiful – we had a fire last night – we dine at the Knollys tomorrow – and on Tuesday I have the Queens Ball and an evening party at the Stanley and one at the Cambridges which we shall get off […] Ever your fondest sister May Fisher.  

Xmas at Orchardleigh

Christmas at Orchardleigh was always very full of enjoyment and gaiety, and remembered as such in the Orchardleigh stories published by Henry Newbolt, the husband of William Arthur’s daughter Margaret, and also by their daughter Celia Furse.8 1867 was no exception. Julia and Herbert arrived just before Christmas and were joined by William Arthur and his family as soon as he had carried out his duties at Rector for the services in Puttenham Church. Russell and Jeannette and their children came over as did many friends, including the Dickinsons. John Jackson was also there for a few days, though it was too painful for Mia to travel. 

30. Family group on the steps of Orchardleigh. Herbert on the left with a shotgun, his sister Minna in the striped shawl. Unknown photographer, possibly William Arthur Duckworth, not dated. 
31. Skating on the lake at Orchardleigh, an illustration from the book ‘The Visiting Moon’ by William Arthur Duckworth’s grand-daughter Celia Furse.

Herbert wrote to Mia on Christmas Day, 

We have had a white fog all day and been out shooting. Dr Jackson, with a little practice, would be a capital shot and as it is has contributed more than his fair share to the bag. He is taking to what we say are his and your old Indian ways: Billiards after breakfast and whist at night. Miss Colville, a sister of Sir James, has come over especially to pay him a visit… 

The house was decorated with greenery from the estate and a huge tree covered in presents for the family and staff. The children went sledging and built snowmen. Inside there were charades and hide and seek around the large house. The men enjoyed the new fives court, went off pheasant shooting, skated on the lake, and played billiards in the evenings. They all celebrated communion in the Island Church. 

Herbert and Julia stayed over New Year before returning to London.

32. The Island Church, Orchardleigh 

Family life

33. Julia Duckworth looking pregnant.

Herbert wrote to Mia Jackson on the first anniversary of their engagement – aware of how much she missed Julia, whom he nicknames Mrs Tusie, and also how she will want to know about Julia’s health in the later stages of her pregnancy.  

Temple Feb 1  1868

Our dear Mother

This day last year was a sad day for you I am afraid though you tried to think it a very happy one – as I hope it will be to look back upon for I do not think Julia has repented yet of trusting herself to me – has she? We intend to be good lovers all our lives – you must not give up coming to see us please […] I will write to Dr Farre on Monday. Julia has not quite such good nights as she had at Saxonbury and dreams too much – she awoke almost in a sob this morning from one of them – she has a busy brain of her own asleep or awake. 

He added that they were hoping the new curtains would be up before Mary Fisher came to them to help Julia in her confinement. 

Julia was by now very heavily pregnant, though as William Arthur noted when he visited in February ‘looking well’ and ‘very pretty’. George Herbert Duckworth was born at 38 Bryanston Square, slightly earlier than expected, on 5th March. 

34. Herbert’s father, William Duckworth.

Herbert’s father wrote immediately he heard,

Orchardleigh Frome
7 March 1868

My dear Julia

A few lines in my own handwriting to tell you how heartily we rejoiced at this morning’s good news. We should have welcomed either but a boy is better towards redressing the balance in that generation. I inclose the little fellow his first birthday present, a privilege always claimed by grandpapa and with my blessings for both of you.

I remain
Very affectionately 
Willm Duckworth.     

Mia Jackson had also been staying with Julia for the birth and wrote to Herbert’s step-mother,

My dear Mrs. Duckworth;

I intended to write to you before I left your delightful house to tell you what a happy visit we had enjoyed, but the unexpected arrival of the little grandson absorbed both time and strength.

To look at the little fellow one would not say he had come a day too soon. He is really a very fine Baby, with a nice clean skin and compact features. You have heard from dear Herbert how well our darling got through her troubles. You can imagine how tender and careful he was. He has an instinct for nursing and is in every respect a perfect husband. It did me good to witness their happiness. They spoiled us, and that we were there for the great event was owing to their pressing us to stay until Saturday. What a spacious and delightful house it is. Your room which you kindly desired that I should have, I found a very quiet one and the sofa most comfortable. To live in such conditions is quite a different thing to the close atmosphere one generally finds.

Herbert wrote, on March 12, to thank his brother for the money he had sent. 

My dear Russell

I must get Baby something when he is a little older. Many thanks. We are getting on very well – not rapidly – but Dr Farre says most satisfactorily. Baby, after all, promises to have light chestnut hair and dark blue eyes; the latter look sometimes dark, sometimes blue, and his hair at present is almost as dark as Jeannette’s. Your little man is much darker. [Russell and Jeanette’s son, William Henry Duckworth was born at Murtry Hill 17 Aug 1867] Hornby promises to make certain reforms at Eton. Perhaps our little men may be there together. I shall begin to lay by for his education. 

William Arthur, who was asked to be godfather, reported that Julia was ‘doing well under Dr Farre’ and that ‘Little George Herbert was doing well – a plain little fellow without eyebrows or eyelashes at present but strong and long backed promising to be at least six feet’. He sketched him in his bath. 

35. Julia with baby George. Unknown photographer. 

Julia and Herbert continued to live the crowded, peripatetic life which she especially was used to. She had servants to run the Bryanston Square house and a nursemaid to look after George. They continued to go out to the theatre, opera and dinners, entertained Anny Thackeray and other friends at home, went to Little Holland House, and frequently had Herbert’s family staying. When Herbert was away on circuit Julia went to stay with her cousin Julia Norman, or with her parents at Saxonbury. But Julia and Herbert were apart as little as possible and only while George was very young. On these occasions they wrote long gossipy, loving letters daily or even twice daily. They were constantly in each other’s thoughts. Typical was Herbert’s from Liverpool telling Julia that he had ‘been all day in court listening to a succession of all sorts of crime’. The man he was defending ‘a regular thief’ got ‘7 years penal servitude’. He gossips about other cases including in the Manchester courts with the Fenians, ‘those who are convicted of having revolvers in their hands are to be hung – the rest to get long sentences of penal servitude’. He contrasts his busy days while on circuit and socialising with friends and fellow lawyers in the evenings to their home life:

My darling what a different life this is to our home life at Saxonbury – I have not had a quiet five minutes since breakfast so different again from my family way of doing things at Bryanston Square, which I am sorry to say always chills me up a little – few people have such a good father as I have – and yet how little we understand each other, or rather how little intimate we are – as to his speeches he inherits them from his Father and they are partly the result of shyness – he attacks my velvet coat as unprofessional – as if I wore it on circuit! – George [Herbert’s deceased older brother] could never stand them at all, and I do not like them at the time, but am used to them now, and after all one feels he really does everything for us but he cannot understand any good coming out of a young man – one must be 50 at least before one ceases to be a fool – yet if any one took to abusing us, he would stand up for us and would not change sons with anyone else, unambitious though we are – if we ever opened our mouths as children we were put an end to at once, which was not the way to make us eloquent. 

Herbert’s mother had died when he was less than a year old and he had also been away from home at boarding school and university. He had a very kind, loving step-mother, close circle of siblings, and a father whom he acknowledged as the most indulgent and generous, but there was a reticence. Julia had never lived apart from her mother and her aunts. Herbert was also acknowledging his own lack of ambition and sharing this with Julia. Neither seem to have thought it a problem. Like his brother Russell, who preferred to be a farmer rather than a high flying lawyer, happiness, comfort and close family seemed to be most important. He ended his letter by asking about Julia’s new sewing machine and family affairs: ‘tell me about Aunt Loo’s [Louisa Bayley’s] misadventures for I am sure she could never get to Blairgowrie without some’. 

In June they were all again at Saxonbury where William Arthur visited them. He recorded being met at Frant station by Herbert in the pony carriage, having lunch with all the family, then walking in Erridge Park where, as he described, there were fine beeches and birches, red and fallow deer and swans. In the Saxonbury garden, Mrs Jackson lay full length in a wheelchair and little George was asleep curled up in a railway bag at the foot of a tree. In July, John Jackson’s brother, George, died in North Reston. Unaccountably, neither Julia nor Mia seem to have had contact with their Jackson relations. John Jackson however was in touch with them and proved the will. His brother Howard inherited the Manor at North Reston, and another brother George was Rector there.9 

William Arthur stayed at Bryanston Square for some time having treatment for throat problems which meant that he could not preach. They all continued their whirl of social engagements including private theatricals at the Richmonds where they watched She Stoops to Conquer, with Mrs Pollock playing Mrs Hardcastle.

36. Julia and baby George aged about 6 months. Photograph by Dan Jones, Liverpool.

In August 1868, Julia was again accompanying her husband as he carried out his legal work in Liverpool and Manchester. This time five months old George was with them, accompanied by his nurse. Vernon Lushington wrote to his wife that,

This afternoon I called on Mrs Duckworth, who with her baby & nurse has gallantly followed her husband to Manchester & this place – I enjoy greatly her simple self- possessed way. The baby is not a bit like her – a huge boy with bright eyes – Duckworth eyes.

(Letter from Vernon Lushington to his wife, Jane, Liverpool 19 August 1868)

They were back in London for some weeks and then again at Orchardleigh for a big family Christmas. In March 1869 Julia was again staying in legal lodgings with Herbert and George, just one year old. Vernon Lushington reported that,

I stepped into a bookseller’s shop & bought a French novel by a wicked man called Balzac […] Then falling in with Herbert Duckworth, I walked to his lodgings with him – & there found Eleanor Bonham Carter! She was in Liverpool on her Education Mission with Miss Clough.10 Unfortunately they go south tomorrow. We had a nice little talk about nothing in particular. […] Poor Mrs Duckworth had a very bad cold which had been plaguing her for 10 days. She looked very pretty however notwithstanding. Her little boy George was playing in the room. He can’t talk yet or walk, but crawls & makes funny noises. He has a pair of wonderfully sharp black eyes.

(Letter from Vernon Lushington to his wife, Jane, Liverpool 23 March 1869)

Julia not only had a bad cold but was also heavily pregnant with her second child. However, once back in London she and Herbert continued to socialise, though Herbert was very concerned about her welfare and looked after her carefully, as he told Mia Jackson:

Monday May 10 [1869] 

Our dear Granny

Julia keeps pretty well – she has not lost her cough and no 2 gives her some uncomfortable nights but we try to be in bed by eleven every night and generally succeed. Of course things turn up each day which give Julia some walking or talking or something which she ought not to have but on the whole she is very well considering. Baby is in good spirits his cough much less though not gone and of the same character when he does cough.

Aunt Sarah was enthusiastic yesterday on seeing Julia and Mary together – she pronounces Julia’s new Paris bonnet exactly suitable – high though it be – we dine at Mary’s tonight and look in for half an hour at the Ritchie’s afterwards. A little party now and then sets Julia up and she is very good about coming away early. […] A new housekeeper arrives today in Bryanston Squ. Mrs Peck is dead. Long live Mrs McRitchie an Irish sounding name but she is an economic Scot […] Baby has at last made friends with my father and his other chief delight is being on the landing watching people coming up and down stairs – no teeth and no talk yet – I hope the gout has gone. 

Yr Affectionate son Herbert.

Stella was born at Bryanston Square on 30 May 1869. She was christened on 8 July by William Arthur at St Mary’s Church, Bryanston Square. The ceremony was followed by a tea at the house, for a large gathering of family and friends. The following day Herbert and his two brothers took the opportunity to have a male day out, watching the Eton and Harrow match at Lords Cricket Ground.

Life also continued very happily at Saxonbury which was a perfect place for children. It had large gardens, fields, and lots of animals, including horses, a donkey and chickens. Mia had a huge staff of indoor servants, gardeners and coachmen to help run Saxonbury, as well as her own personal maid and companion, a German woman called Minna. Their new cook was also German, so that John Jackson joked they were becoming a Hanoverian colony. Julia’s sister May Fisher often stayed there as her husband was frequently away accompanying the Prince of Wales as his Private Secretary. May would also bring her own maid and nursemaids for the four children she now had.

37. Julia’s parents’ home, Saxonbury, showing the extensive fields and grounds. Unknown photographer, possibly William Arthur Duckworth.

Julia would sometime leave baby George with her mother, who adored him, calling him ‘Little Saint’. She wrote to Julia that, 

Little Saint is quite well and ‘applay’. He has been driving with me in my chair. We have been to the stables and to see Mrs Henwood and George saw the chickens. He is so well and bright and clever and lovely. He gets more dear every day […] George takes so to May [Fisher] will leave even Minna [Mia’s maid] to go to her. It is so pretty to see him roving about with the other children and looking wiser than any. He clasps Emmeline [Fisher] as if she were a big toy. I hope May Ewart will not go near fevers while you are in Manchester.

The year continued with family events. George recovered from his whooping cough. That summer Mia Jackson’s health was so much better that she was able to make two long journeys, one to see her daughter Adeline Vaughan and family living at Upton Castle in Pembrokeshire, and another to visit Orchardleigh. Sadly Julia’s cousin William de L’Etang Bayley, the son of Mia’s sister Louisa, died aged only twenty. 

In November William Arthur was again staying for a few days with Julia and Herbert at Bryanston Square. Each morning he read prayers for the household at 9.00 before breakfast at 9.15. He entertained Julia over their tea with an account of his walk under the newly opened Blackfriar’s Bridge, and recorded that ‘little George talks monosyllables and eats grapes’ and that he ‘saw little plump Stella in her bath’. 

December found the extended Duckworth families once more enjoying the festivities at Orchardleigh. Julia and Herbert stayed on longer than usual, not returning to a fog-bound London until mid-January. 

The year 1870 was as packed with social and family events as ever. Herbert’s ever generous father increased all his sons’ allowances by £200, so that Herbert and Russell received £1000 per year and William Arthur, the oldest, £1500. They also received a share from their mother’s estate and had long discussions about investments. Herbert must have been relieved about these improvements in his finances as Julia was once again pregnant. 

Julia’s sister Mary and her family, who had lived nearby at 3 Onslow Square, moved to Sussex. As Herbert Arthur Fisher remembered it:

My father’s promotion from a Court appointment, to a Judgeship in Cornwall released us from our London bondage. To the unspeakable delight of the older children the household moved to the Sussex coast, and here at Blatchington Court, near Seaford, in full view of the sea and the Downs, we spent four happy years riding and bathing, hunting with the Southdowns, and birds-nesting or wandering over the lovely Downs country which spread northwards and eastwards to Firle and Eastbourne. The family exchequer was far from being ample, but in those days of light taxation a modest income went a long way, and since my parents were prepared to spend their all upon their children the best kind of English country life was within our reach.11

In August John and Mia Jackson were staying near Puttenham and visited William Arthur and his family several times. Their close French connections meant that they were all following events in the Franco-Prussian war with interest and growing alarm. 

In September, Herbert, a heavily pregnant Julia, George, Stella and their nursemaid, went to stay with Julia’s sister Adeline Vaughan and her family at Upton Castle in Pembrokeshire. They were blissfully unaware that it was to be the end of their idyllic life and of Julia’s happiness.

From: A Vision of Beauty: A Biography of Julia Prinsep Stephen by Marion Dell. © CC BY-NC-SA unless otherwise stated; image copyrights are listed in the credits and they are not licensed for re-use.

Acknowledgements and sources

Information in this chapter is predominantly from the diary of William Arthur Duckworth (WAD) material from the Duckworth family scrapbook (DAL), and Mia Jackson’s letters lodged at the University of Sussex (MJ). All unpublished.  

WAD. William Arthur Duckworth. I am grateful to the staff at the Somerset County Record office in Taunton, for helping me locate all their extensive holdings about Duckworth family history, estate records and photographs. The many diaries of the Reverend W A Duckworth (DD/DU/184-194) have been especially useful, as has his Puttenham Rectory Diary and Guest Register 1859-1893 (DD/DU153). I have found Alan Bott’s book A History of the Churches of Puttenham, Seale, Wanborough & The Sands [Self-published, 2016] very useful for information about the transformations which William Arthur Duckworth, his curate and his architect, made at the parish church of St John the Baptist in Puttenham. 

DAL. My grateful thanks to the late Hon. Katharine Duckworth, and to Sarah Munro and Harriet grafin von Einsiedel, for allowing me to see and copy letters, photographs and other material from the amazing Duckworth family scrapbook when it was at Dalingridge, and to use it here. This scrapbook is now part of the Duckworth archive in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. 

MJ. My thanks to Florence Dall, Special Collections Supervisor at Sussex University, for her permission to use the Mia Jackson Letters (GB181_SxMs89).

I am grateful to Karen Kukil and her colleagues then at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts for showing me Leslie Stephen’s photograph album, which has now been digitised.

Thanks to Dr David Taylor, local historian and author of many works on the Lushington family, for drawing my attention to the letters from Vernon Lushington to his wife Jane in which he described his meetings with Herbert and Julia. These letters are now in the Lushington archive in the Surrey History Centre, Woking.

Picture credits

  1. Anna, Lady Coltman. Photographer Camille Silvy. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp121275/anna-nee-duckworth-lady-coltman (accessed 28/02/22).
  2. Puttenham Rectory. Watercolour by Edward Hassell. © Surrey History Centre, Woking.
  3. The Reverend William Arthur Duckworth. Family photograph.
  4. Puttenham – Church of St John the Baptist and Puttenham Priory. https://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EAW015538 (accessed 29/02/22).
  5. Puttenham – Church of St John the Baptist and The Street. https://puttenham-pc.gov.uk/useful-links/sportsclubs/ (accessed 29/02/22).
  6. Puttenham Common with a view to the Hogs Back. http://wordsmart.org.uk/royer/puttenham-common-top-car-park/ (accessed 29/02/22).
  7. The Paris Universal Exhibition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_Universelle_%281867%29#/media/File:Vue_officielle_a_vol_d’oiseau_de_l’exposition_universelle_de_1867.jpg (accessed 29/02/22).
  8. Napoleon III welcoming his guests. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_Universelle_%281867%29 (accessed 29/02/22).
  9. Félix Léon Edoux’s hydraulic elevator. https://collectionneurspoitevins.fr/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/causerie-acp-leon-edoux-par-jean-nobilet.pdf (accessed 29/02/22).
  10. In the park. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_Universelle_%281867%29#/media/File:Vue_officielle_a_vol_d’oiseau_de_l’exposition_universelle_de_1867.jpg (accessed 29/02/22).
  11. The Japanese Pavilion. L’habitation japonaise du Parc des Nations à l’Exposition universelle de 1867, gravure extraite du Monde illustré, 31 août 1867, p. 137 © BnF (accessed 29/03/22).
  12. The Chinese Pavilion served Chinese food. Le Monde Illustre, 28 September 1867. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_Universelle_(1867)#/media/File:ChineseAndJapaneseExhibitsAtThe1867WorldFair.JPG (accessed 29/03/22).
  13. A cartoon showing the rush for Steinway’s new piano. https://www.google.com/search?q=steinway+piano+paris+1867&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiY1-HnnoH-AhVVQEEAHZGvBhAQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=959&bih=1098&dpr=2#imgrc=P5Z0m9KfvqwmPM (accessed 29/03/22).
  14. Rue de Rivoli c.1855 (other sources date the photo to 1860-1865). Photographer: Adolphe Braun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haussmann%27s_renovation_of_Paris (accessed 29/03/22).
  15. A public toilet near the Champs Élysées (1865). Photograph by Charles Marville (1813 – 1879). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Marville,_Cabinets_water_closets_Dorion,_Champs-Elysées,_ca._1865.jpg (accessed 30/03/23).
  16. Buildings were demolished to make way for the new boulevards. Photograph by Charles Marville (1813 – 1879). https://www.parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/musee-carnavalet/oeuvres/percement-de-l-avenue-de-l-opera-chantier-de-la-butte-des-moulins-du (accessed 18/04/23).
  17. Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. Art Institute Chicago. Creative Commons Zero (CC0). https://www.artic.edu/artworks/20684/paris-street-rainy-day (accessed 29/03/23).
  18. La Musique aux Tuileries by Édouard Manet, 1862. Co-owned by the National Gallery, London and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_in_the_Tuileries (accessed 31/03/23).
  19. Shopping at Bon Marché, the first modern department store. https://www.napoleon.org/en/history-of-the-two-empires/articles/french-department-stores-during-the-second-empire/ (accessed 31/03/23).
  20. Leslie Stephen and Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray, 1867. Leslie Stephen photograph album, 35d, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.
  21. Left to right: Anny Thackeray, Minny Thackeray and Leslie Stephen. Other people, location and photographer unknown. © Eton College.
  22. Herbert in barrister’s silks. DAL
  23. Mrs Herbert Duckworth, 1867. Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron. https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/2003.151 (accessed 31/03/23).
  24. Governor John Eyre. Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw66029/Edward-John-Eyre (accessed 31/03/23).
  25. Thomas Carlyle. Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1428733/thomas-carlyle-photograph-cameron-julia-margaret (accessed 31/03/23).
  26. Samuel Augustus Barnett. Portrait by G. F. Watts, National Portrait Gallery. Creative Commons licence. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?mkey=mw00350 (accessed 29/03/23).
  27. Bryanston Square and central garden c.2022. https://www.mansionglobal.com/articles/duplex-apartment-on-tony-bryanston-square-in-london-asks-4-1m-123919 (accessed 29/03/23).
  28. Thérèse Tietjens (Titiens) (1831-1877). National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons Licence. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?mkey=mw113420 (accessed 29/03/23).
  29. ‘The Bridesmaid’ is wearing a burnous. Portrait by George Baxter. Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Creative Commons licence. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O125630/the-bridesmaid-print-baxter-george/?carousel-image=2006BH8147 (accessed 29/03/23).
  30. Family group on the steps of Orchardleigh. Leslie Stephen photograph album, 33b, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.
  31. Skating on the lake at Orchardleigh. Chapter-head illustration by Charles Stewart (1915–2001) for Celia Furse’s book ‘The Visiting Moon’ published by Faber & Faber, London, 1956.
  32. The Island Church, Orchardleigh. Author’s own photograph, October 2003.
  33. Julia Duckworth c 1868. Leslie Stephen photograph album, 34e, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.
  34. Herbert’s father, William Duckworth. DAL
  35. Julia with baby George. Leslie Stephen photograph album, 34f, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.
  36. Julia and baby George aged about 6 months. Photographer Dan Jones, 66 Bold Street, Liverpool. DAL. 
  37. Julia’s parents’ home, Saxonbury. DAL. 



  1. Information for their travels is mostly from family letters to Julia and some to Herbert. Sadly none of hers are extant. What happened has to be guessed at by their comments. One sided correspondence.
  2. The first World’s Fair had been held in the United States in 1855 and the first Paris Universal Fair in 1855. The Exposition Universelle began in 1 April, 1867, and ran until 31 October. It followed on from Prince Albert’s 1862 Great Exhibition in London in showcasing the latest technological and engineering achievements.
  3. With hindsight this should have caused frissons of fear, since the Franco-Prussian War was to commence only three years in the future. Paris would be under siege by the Prussians and Emperor Napoleon captured.
  4. Charles Baudelaire had portrayed the flâneur in his essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ in 1863. It was one of Julia’s daughter, Virginia Woolf’s, favourite pastimes as she described in her essay ‘Street Haunting’. 
  5. The image of Leslie Stephen and Minny Thackeray has been included in many publications and is usually labelled as being taken during their wedding tour in the Alps. However the image from Eton College is clearly taken on the same day and place and includes Anny Thackeray, seated, and two other women who I think are Leslie’s mother Jane Stephen and his sister Caroline. So this cannot be in the Alps. More investigation is needed. See ‘Where was Leslie Stephen’ in Scraps, Orts and Fragments.
  6. William Court Gully, 1st Viscount Selby (1835-1909) was a fellow barrister on the northern circuit. He had also been to Trinity College Cambridge. He was the son of James Manby Gully, a physician who developed the water cure at Malvern much used by Mia Jackson and many eminent Victorians. William Gully, later became Speaker of the House of Commons.
  7. Parents of Violet Dickinson, who would later be a great friend of Stella’s and of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.
  8. See Stories of Orchardleigh in Scraps, Orts and Fragments.
  9. For a history of the Jackson family at North Reston see Chapter One.
  10. Anne Jemima Clough (1820-1892) is cited by Virginia Woolf, in her polemic Three Guineas, as a rare example of a nineteenth century professional woman. She was a suffragist and campaigner for women’s education and became the first Principal of the newly formed Newnham College, Cambridge. She was the sister of Herbert Fisher’s friend the poet Arthur Hugh Clough. Eleanor Bonham Carter (1837-1923) a fellow activist and promoter of education for women. She was a friend of Julia Duckworth’s and visited Bryanston Square.
  11. H.A.L. Fisher An unfinished Autobiography 18.