A Vision of Beauty: Chapter 3

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.

The Pattles in India and France

Sensational stories

Even more stories and fables were told about Julia’s very colourful Pattle relations than about the Chevalier. Where the Pattles were concerned truth was very often much stranger and more sensational than fiction. 

Julia’s grandfather, James Pattle (1775-1845) and his relations

Working for the EIC was a family tradition for generations of Pattles, many of whom were confusingly called Thomas. Julia’s great-great-grandfather, Captain Thomas Pattle (1710-1788), had worked himself up in the EIC hierarchy from 3rd mate to eventually becoming owner of an East Indiaman sailing ship, the Speke. After leaving the sea he had a second successful and very lucrative career in London, becoming among other things Hall-keeper at the Guildhall and a Freeman of the Company of Musicians.1 His second marriage was on 22 March 1747, in St Paul’s Cathedral, to the very well-connected Elizabeth Brooke, also from a long line of sea-going ancestors working for the EIC. Thomas had employed Elizabeth’s brother Robert Brooke to captain the Speke.

Robert later married Ruth Casson Pattle, daughter of Captain Thomas Pattle and his first wife, Elizabeth Loving. Robert thus became, very confusingly for family historians, both Thomas Pattle’s brother-in-law and son-in-law. Robert and Ruth’s wedding announcement in the Public Advertiser, 24 September 1760, described Ruth as daughter to Thomas Pattle Esq of Guildhall, ‘an agreeable young Lady, of a most admirable character, with a very good Fortune.’ This announcement reflects Thomas Pattle’s wealth and social position, and makes Ruth sound like a heroine in a Jane Austen novel.2 Thomas and Elizabeth (Brooke) Pattle’s son, Thomas J Pattle, was born on 28 February 1748, in the grand surroundings of Goodnestone Park, Kent, Elizabeth’s family home.

1. Goodnestone Park was built in 1704 by Brooke Bridges, the first baronet. In the 19th century, it was often visited by Jane Austen, after her brother Edward married Brooke Bridges’ great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Bridges.

Julia’s great-grandfather, Thomas J Pattle (1748-1818)

When Thomas J Pattle, was 16, his father wrote to his friend, Robert Clive, the first British Governor of Bengal, for a recommendation for him to join the EIC. So in 1766, a few years before George Jackson and John Prinsep, Thomas arrived in Calcutta with very influential connections.

2. Fort William in the Kingdom of Bengal belonging to the East India Company of England. A painting and coloured engraving by Jan Van Ryne, Calcutta 1754. 
3. Catherine Grand (1761-1834) by Élisabeth-Louise Vignée Le Brun.

He and ten other young men, bunking together in the main cabin of the Lord Camden, were typical of the adventurous 16-year-olds going to make their fortunes with the EIC in India. Stories of their colourful, cosmopolitan, backgrounds, or scandalous exploits on arrival, read like the plots of a Sensation novel.3 But it was precarious. Of these 11 who left England, two died on board ship and only three were still alive after 18 months. 

George Grand, a French-Swiss Huguenot, quickly married the very attractive, young Catherine Noël Worlée, whose mother was Danish and father a French officer stationed in Pondicherry. Sadly for George, Catherine was soon seduced by Sir Phillip Francis, then deputy of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India. George was awarded 50,000 rupees in compensation. Catherine left India and soon established herself as a high class courtesan in Paris, finally becoming mistress, then wife, of Talleyrand.4

George Grand published a Journal in 1808 detailing the voyage on the Lord Camden, including nearly being drowned when his canoe capsized and fighting a duel, and his life in India, lengthily titled Narrative of the Life of a Gentleman Long Resident in India: Comprehending a Period the Most Eventful in the History of that Country, with Regard to the Revolutions Occasioned by European Interference, and Interspersed with Interesting Anecdotes and Traits Characteristical of Those Eminent Persons who Distinguished Themselves at that Juncture.5

4. William M. Thackeray (1749-1813) – the elephant hunter. 

According to family story, another surviving shipmate, William Makepeace Thackeray, grandfather of the famous novelist of the same name, and youngest of 16 children, arrived in India with little else than his widowed mother’s bible. After five years in Calcutta, he was posted to the remote jungle station of Sylhet where, as well as being Collector for the EIC, he became a famous elephant hunter. Within ten years his private initiative in selling elephants to the EIC made him rich enough to marry Amelia Webb, return to England, and live comfortably for the rest of his life.6

Thomas J. Pattle, like William Thackeray, Charles Grand and his other shipmates from the Lord Camden, was initially a Writer with the EIC in Calcutta.7 He was very well-connected but also had drive and ambition, for he soon rose through the ranks, like his father making a fortune along the way. He married Sarah Hasleby in Cossimbazar in June 1770. They lived for some years at Beauleah, (now Rajshahi, Bangladesh) a major trading centre especially for silk production. Thomas was the Factor, in charge of the EIC Factory (trading station). Three of their nine children were born there including Julia’s grandfather James Peter Pattle, in December 1775. Another child, John was born in Calcutta.

5. Rear View of the East India Company’s Factory at Cossimbazar 1795. Watercolour by anonymous artist.

Thomas had also been a Company Merchant trading with Canton, China. He was making his way and becoming very wealthy but for some reason, possibly ill health, decided to leave India. Thomas, Sarah, and their four young children, boarded the Godfrey leaving Madras in March 1779 for what was to be a very long voyage. They did not dock in England until January 1780. Their fifth child, Elizabeth Anne Pattle, was born at sea and baptised when they put into St Helena. 

Julia’s grandfather, James Pattle (1775-1845) – growing up in London and Epsom

The Pattles, like most Anglo-Indian families, were very peripatetic and cosmopolitan. By the time Thomas, Sarah and their children arrived back in England, his father, Captain Thomas Pattle, had moved to Paris where he remained, living and entertaining in great style, until he died in 1788, just before the Revolution.8Though he left a very rich legacy it was more than forty years before his descendants had restitution for his property confiscated at that time.

In London, Thomas Pattle and his ever growing family seemed to move frequently, always to town houses in fashionable areas popular with Anglo-Indians, including Great Cumberland Street, Finsbury Square, Newman Street, and Soho Square. Thomas became a Director of the East India Company working in their prestigious offices in Leadenhall Street.9

6. East India House. Leadenhall Street, 1726-1786.

Sarah and the children seem to have spent most of their time in their grand country house in New Inn Lane, Epsom, which Thomas owned from 1782-1792.10 Topographer James Edwards described in his A Companion from London to Brighthelmston (now Brighton),11 ‘the property of Thomas Pattle Esq’. It was ‘a large elegant house, which is cased in Adams’s composition, in imitation of stone, the centre part is ornamented in fluted pilasters’. On ‘each side of the central part is an elegant room, the length of which is equal to the whole depth of the house, at each end is a spacious window after the Venetian style’ which ‘greatly adds to the beauty of the whole’. It has ‘good gardens, enclosed with fine fruit walls, warmwalls, large hothouses, green houses’, and ‘on the north is a paddock, skirted with pleasant shrubbery.’ It also had a lake and an ice house in its parkland. Here Julia’s grandfather James spent most of his childhood.

7. Top: Thomas Pattle’s property in Epsom, 1820. 8. Bottom: View of the Epsom house and park. Print by Overton c.1825.

Thomas, a skilled horseman noted for his numbers of fine horses, was probably attracted to Epsom for its horse-racing, especially the annual Derby, first run in 1780. Sarah was no doubt more attracted by its reputation as a spa and its famous Epsom salts. It was no longer as fashionable as it had been when visited by Charles II and Samuel Pepys in the seventeenth century, but it was still noted for its well and mineral waters.

Sarah by this time, like many other Pattle women including Julia’s mother Mia, was famous for being ‘a poor invalid’ as Thomas described Sarah in a letter to his friend Jeremiah Bentham. A visit to Weymouth in 1785 for its newly popular sea-bathing, which attracted George III and many others, had not seemed to improve Sarah’s health. It was little wonder that she was exhausted and worn down. The last five of her eleven children were born during these ten years at Epsom12. The two youngest also died there. Louisa, born in 1787, lived just two years and Charlotte, born in 1791, only 6 weeks. Both were buried at St Martin Le Tours church and memorialised on the same stone.

Sarah also had to say goodbye to her sons as they reached the age of about 16. After their training with the Company in England, they were sent out to India to follow family tradition in the EIC. Thomas Charles left in 1789, Richard William in 1791 and James followed in 1792, all appointed as Writers thanks to their father’s influence. James’s two younger brothers, Henry John and William, followed them to India later, but they both went into the Company Army. Henry, a lieutenant in the Bengal Native Infantry, died aged only 21 in 1803, the same year as his older brothers Richard and John, but William prospered, becoming a General and ADC to Queen Victoria. 

James Pattle in India

Highly coveted appointments and advancements in the EIC, both in London and Calcutta, were still determined by patronage and kinship links, as they had been in James’s father’s and grandfather’s days. When James Pattle returned to India in September 1792, he was welcomed into existing networks of influential family and friends; a ‘maze of social intimacy and obligation [which] had to be negotiated by all in authority in India’.13 His father and grandfather were still well-remembered in Calcutta. His older brothers, Thomas Charles and Richard, were already there, working for the Company.

In 1799 his father also returned to India as Senior Judge at Murshidabad, where James was already working as Register of the Court. Sarah and her daughters also returned to India and the girls soon married there. Elizabeth married Robert Mitford, and Sophia, James Gardiner. The Pattle family lived in unbelievable luxury. The house at Champapoka just outside of Murshidabad, was only one of their palatial properties.14

9. ‘South Front of Mr Pattle’s House, Champapoka, Murshidabad, 1790-1800’. Watercolour. Artist unknown. This would be the home of James’s father, Thomas, but James and Adeline may also have lived there. Thomas and Sarah’s daughters Sophia and Elizabeth had their wedding celebrations there in 1803 and 1804. 

Business, social and domestic life was very closely interwoven, in both England and India.15 These networks were often extended through marriage between the dynastic families. The Pattles, Prinseps, Impeys and Thackerays were all closely linked. James Pattle was a witness at the wedding of Sir Elijah Impey’s son, Edward, to Adeline’s sister, Julie de L’Étang.16 Adeline’s daughter married Thoby Prinsep. Such ties of loyalty and support lasted through many generations. Julia Stephen was a close friend of the elephant hunter’s great-granddaughters, Anny and Minny Thackeray.17

Supportive networks were particularly important in Calcutta where illness and early death were prevalent and the English population was relatively small.18 The city was still expanding at a chaotic pace with more and more grand houses of the newly rich on the outskirts, but as David Olusoga notes,

Meanwhile another city, Calcutta’s necropolis, expanded at a similarly frenetic pace. For hundreds, a plot in South Park Street Cemetery was the only Calcutta property they ever secured. Most of the eager young men who left Georgian Britain for India never returned; the majority were dead within two years of arrival. […] The presence of death, coupled with the enormous opportunity for self-enrichment, created a frenetic boomtown atmosphere. Here the British elite, and Europeans drawn from across that distant continent, lived in a whirl of socialising, gossip and heavy drinking, incongruously set amid Georgian town houses that would not have looked out of place lining the thoroughfares of London or Edinburgh.19

10. South Park Street Cemetery, Calcutta.

South Park Street Cemetery was the largest Christian cemetery outside of Europe or America, with over 2000 graves, large tombs and grand mausoleums, very like those in Highgate Cemetery, London. Many of Julia’s antecedents are buried here including her uncle William Jackson, her aunt Harriott Pattle, many other Pattle babies, and several members of the Thackeray family.

Julia’s grandparents, James Pattle and Adeline Maria de L’Étang – a turbulent life together

James slotted well into this frenetic society. Like his father and grandfather, he was popular and gregarious, and he was a survivor. With all his advantages it is not surprising that his career flourished and he was promoted to a new position and place, moving virtually every year.20

James married Adeline21 Maria de L’Étang, the Chevalier’s daughter, on 18 February 1811 in Bhaugulpore,22 one of the East India Company’s Out Stations, up-river from Calcutta. Adeline was 17 and had been living back in India for less than a year after being in Paris; James was 35 and already a well-established, successful, civil servant. His occupation was entered on the marriage record as Third Judge of the Court of Appeal at Murshidabad.

11. Portraits of James Pattle (1775-1845) and Adeline Pattle (1793-1845). These lockets were probably commissioned to celebrate the wedding of James and Adeline. Family story has it that the portraits were painted by Jean-Pierre Menuisier (1783-1883), a noted miniaturist and pupil of the more famous Isabey d’Aubrey.23 

James was well used to life both in Calcutta and in various more remote Out Stations. But for Adeline the difference between living in a small town on the bank of the Ganges, and her sociable, sophisticated life in Paris and London, would have been remarkable.24 She was living in elegant luxury with lots of servants, but she was away from her family for the first time, one of very few European women. She was also soon coping with her first pregnancy. 

Their daughter, Adeline Maria Pattle, was born on 19 March 1812. James was appointed to the Court of Appeal in Calcutta and the family were on the move again. Arrivals, departures and constant travelling, within India and to and from Europe, was the norm for Anglo-Indian families. In Calcutta, Adeline would have been reunited with her sister Julia, about to be married to Edward Impey, and, for a few months, with her mother. But Thérèse de L’Étang sailed on the Sovereign for Paris on 5 January 1813, just missing seeing her first grandson, James Rocke Mitford Pattle, born a month later. The nearly three month gap before James was baptised at Fort William, Calcutta, on 29 April, suggests that the baby seemed strong and well and there was no urgency for a baptism. However in the first of many tragedies to strike the family, James only lived eight months and on 14 October he was buried at the Out Station of Berhampore. Infant mortality was so common that it was not thought necessary to record a cause of death.

While James continued his peripatetic career in Calcutta and various Out Stations, Adeline was occupied with her growing family. She and the children remained mostly in their homes in Chowringhee and Garden Reach, the most fashionable areas of Calcutta.

12. A house in the fashionable Garden Reach area on the banks of the River Hooghly by Hubert Cornish, 1795.

Adeline was permanently pregnant or nursing, having a baby each year. Their third child, Eliza Julia, was born on 3 April 1814, Julia Margaret on 11 June 1815, and Sarah Monkton on 16 August 1816. 

Adeline’s sister Julie, now married to Edward Impey, was also having babies.25 Edward, Elijah, Julia and Hastings, were born between 1814 and 1819. All the babies were baptised in the church at Fort William. The sisters would have had many servants to help with all these young children, but must also have welcomed each other’s support.

James meanwhile continued his active business and social life as a prominent member of Calcutta Society. He became life-long friends with another noted player on the fives court, Thoby Prinsep, so coming into the orbit of the Prinsep dynasty. William Prinsep, newly arrived in Calcutta in 1817, thought that his brother Thoby’s friends, including James, were, 

a clique of the choicest men in the service – all men of note and high talent […]. They were a truly social set but mingling wit and deep knowledge with their cups.26

James’s career was progressing and in July 1818 he was appointed Senior Judge of the Court of Appeal of Calcutta. Adeline Pattle was not in Calcutta to share in the celebrations. Following her family custom, she was taking their daughters ‘home’ to Paris for their health and education.

13. The High Court, Calcutta, opened in 1782. Aquatint by Francis Swain c.1804.

The voyage of the William Miles 1818 – the birth of Julia’s mother, Maria (Mia) Pattle

Adeline left Calcutta in February 1818 on board the William Miles, captained by Samuel Beadle. She would be prepared from experience for difficult conditions, though as war with France was over she did not fear attack by French frigates. No one knew how long the voyage would be as the East Indiamen sailing ships were dependent on winds and currents. Passengers could expect to be on board for five or six months, either tediously becalmed for days, or thrown from their bunks, their belongings scattered and drenched, in storms and high seas. Adeline also well knew how many of these ships foundered, often with loss of all lives,27 and she had already been shipwrecked herself. In 1815 she, James, and their children had narrowly avoided drowning when their ship, the Mornington, caught fire and sank near Madras.28

14. The William Miles, built 1816, by Thomas Walters c.1827.

This voyage on the William Miles was particularly traumatic for Adeline. She was travelling with four daughters, Adeline, Eliza, Julia and Sarah, the eldest only five. And she was pregnant with her next child. A wealthy passenger, she would have been able to bring servants and additional comforts, but her cabin would still be hot, creaky and insect-ridden. Some ten weeks into the voyage Adeline had to watch helplessly as four-year-old Eliza died on 30 May, and was buried at sea. No cause of death was recorded; it was not an uncommon occurrence. Adeline went into labour five weeks later and Julia’s mother, Maria (Mia) Pattle, was born on 7 July, when the ship was still off the Cornish coast.29 Two days later, five months after leaving Calcutta, they finally docked. 

Thomas Pattle and Susannah… a Sensational Story

Instead of sailing straight to France, Adeline recuperated for a short while in London, but she was to face more trauma. She found her father-in-law, 69-year-old Thomas J. Pattle, on his death-bed. She also met Thomas’s new, much younger wife, Susannah and their children, Thomas, Susanna and Maria Ruth aged six, four and nineteen months. 

Thomas and his first wife, Sarah, retired from India and returned to London in 1811, living at 56 Baker Street. At some time in the next few months Thomas Pattle and Susannah Wilson began their liaison. It is not clear how Thomas met Susannah, who according to Thomas’s will, came from Cromer in Norfolk. Her father, who had owned a hostelry, had been declared bankrupt, so it is possible that Susannah was employed as a servant. Their story has all the ingredients of a popular Sensation or Romance pot-boiler.

15. Church of St Giles, North View c.1825.

The plot is unclear. Was Susannah a Becky Sharp type character30 scheming to seduce the wealthy old man whose wife was dying; or was she an innocent young country woman, exploited by her old master? Their first child, Thomas, was born in London on 1 December 1812. Sarah Pattle, long an invalid, died weeks later on 22 January 1813, hopefully oblivious to the affair. She was buried at St Giles, Camberwell, a church which features significantly in James Pattle’s later story. 

16. St Mary-le-Bone Parish Church, built 1813-1817. 

Later that year Thomas moved to 3 Bryanston Street, Portman Square, Marylebone,31 a fashionable new suburb. It is not clear if Susannah and baby Thomas moved with him, nor exactly when or where their next child Susanna was born, but she was baptised at St Nicolas Church, Brighton, on 6 August 1814. They had another daughter, Maria Ruth in December 1815. However she was not baptised until March 1816, at the newly built and very grand Parish Church of St Mary-le-bone. On 15 January 1817, Thomas signed a deed of allegation, swearing to marry Susannah. She is recorded as 31 and a spinster. He was 69. The following day they were married at the St Mary-le-bone Parish Church, with her sister, Maria, as one of the witnesses. 

It is unclear how much news of Thomas’s second marriage, new family, and terminal illness, would have reached James and Adeline in India before she left, and just how much of a shock this would all be on her arrival in London. It is probable that Adeline went to stay with her father-in-law, or was certainly staying nearby. Adeline must have been exhausted after the long voyage. She was nursing a new baby, Mia, and had three other young children traumatised by the recent death of their sister. She was grieving for Eliza. Now she had to come to terms, amicably or not, with her young step-mother, Susannah, and her family. A month after she arrived, on 8 August, Thomas Pattle died. Two days after that, baby Mia, was baptised at St Mary-le-bone Parish Church. Three days later, in accordance with wishes expressed in his will, Thomas Pattle was buried ‘in the vault with my late best beloved and most [respected?] wife Sarah’, in St Giles Church, Camberwell. It was an eventful time.

Less than a month before Thomas died he made a new will, revoking all previous ones. Adeline and James were probably in for another shock. James’s two older brothers, Thomas Charles and Richard, were already dead, so James was now the oldest son, but the money and property which he and Adeline would have expected to inherit, were no longer to be theirs. Thomas left detailed instructions to James, as one of the executors, about many bequests to his daughters, now both married, and to grandchildren of his first marriage. His youngest son, Captain William Pattle of the Bengal Native Cavalry, then about 35 and unmarried, was left the enormous amount of £4000. James was left no money but inherited family papers and portraits and cherished heirlooms including Thomas’s ‘largest silver server on which my coat of arms is engraved, my sapphire ring, and my diamond broach suspended by this bar’. Thomas’s ‘dinner set or service of China with my coat of arms engraved thereon’ was left to ‘my dear daughter Elizabeth Mitford’.32

Most of Thomas’s possessions and wealth and the lease on the house were left to Thomas’s ‘dearest wife Susannah Pattle’, and there were many further financial bequests to her family. Her sister Elizabeth received the very generous amount of £1400, and a codicil in favour of her brother William was added just days before Thomas died. Was the dying old man being coerced by the scheming young Wilson family; or was Thomas belatedly concerned to make generous provision for his vulnerable second wife and young children? When Adeline and her four children finally arrived at Thérèse’s home in Versailles, she must have been in dire need of her mother’s care and attention. 

Pattle family portraits – creating new stories

Julia’s mother, Mia, had a dramatic entrance into a very turbulent world. However, her first portrait, painted in late 1818, when the family had just arrived in Paris, gives no sense of their recent traumas. It tells a very different story.

17. Painting of James Pattle and his family Paris 1818. The inscription on the frame, added at a much later date, lists Adeline and Julia the wrong way round: ‘Mr JUSTICE PATTLE & Mrs PATTLE (Mademoiselle de l’étang) AND THEIR CHILDREN. Left to right – Sitting ADELINE MACKENZIE standing JULIA CAMERON. Baby in arms MARIA JACKSON – SARAH PRINSEP 

The Pattle family are artfully posed against a painted backdrop of an idyllic, idealised garden. They are literally rose-tinted, with pink fluffy clouds, pale blue sky, baskets and swags of pastel coloured flowers, and froths of white muslins and gauze. Adeline, romantically dressed as a bride, looks impossibly young and carefree for a mother of five who has just survived her hazardous voyage and is in mourning for her child and her father-in-law. The individual figures are poorly executed. Mia, on her mother’s lap, is the most realistic. Adeline’s head is at an odd angle and more heavily painted than her languidly posed, elongated body. Her five year old daughter Adeline’s face and hairstyle is as mature and large as hers, though perched awkwardly as if pasted onto a small child’s body. The more solidly painted figure of James must have been added at a later date, inserted behind his family, disturbing the careful composition. He was not with them in Paris. His young, debonair, profile seems copied from the identical one in the locket. 

The painting has often been attributed to Jean-Francois Garneray (1755-1837), a student of David and a prestigious portrait painter.33 However given the distinctive theatrical style, and the variable quality of the work, I came to believe that it was more probably by his son, Auguste-Simeon Garneray (1785-1824), a designer of romantic sets and costumes. This was confirmed when seeing the dedication on the frame and a high resolution image of the portrait, where ‘Auguste Garnerey Paris 1818’ can be seen inscribed on the garden seat. 

The portrait would have been an expensive commission, possibly paid for by Thérèse for her to keep when her family returned to India. James and Adeline were clearly pleased with this romanticised portrayal of themselves. The painting and lockets were passed down through the generations and remain family heirlooms.

The return journey of the William Miles – back to Calcutta

18. Virginia de L’Étang.

By May 1819 Adeline, with baby Mia, was making the journey back to India, again on the William Miles. This return voyage was a much happier, sociable journey than the outward one, in spite of the fact that she was leaving behind her older daughters. Adeline was with baby Mia, her mother Thérèse and younger sister Virginia, and a young niece Lydia. Family traditions were repeating themselves. Adeline, Julia and Sarah Pattle were being left in Paris for their education; Virginia de L’Étang was returning to India after completing hers. Adeline already knew the Captain, Samuel Beadle, well, but it was the first time he had met her sister, Virginia. Samuel, a widower with two sons, was clearly attracted to the chic young woman, and the voyage was lightened by a blossoming romance.

The ship’s surgeon kept a lively detailed log describing life on board:

On getting on board the Wm Miles I found her elegantly fitted up. The Poop cabins with large flintglass windows, mahogany doors and very [?] painted in [?]. A most plentiful live stock laid in. 3 cows and a calf, 60 sheep, 50 hogs, 80 dozen of poultry and [?] which make a most delightful concert in the morning but keep quiet during the day. Delighted with finding an excellent band on board, which entertains us with several excellent tunes during the evenings. They consist of 3 clarinets, 1 french horn 1 bugle, flutes, Bazoon (sic) and Drums. Went to bed about 10 and was kept awake for some time by thinking on those from whom I had parted, and partly by the gentleman of the watch pacing up and down …34

Samuel Beadle had to make the return voyage to Europe again before he and Virginia could be married in Calcutta Cathedral on New Year’s Day 1822. The new Mrs Beadle boarded the William Miles again that February, for what would be her honeymoon voyage. Adeline Pattle, her new baby Louisa, and three year old Mia were also once more making the dangerous voyage to Europe, this time with their servant, Mary Caradine. 

Julia’s mother, Mia – growing up in Paris and London 

Most Anglo-Indian children were sent ‘home’ to Europe for their health and education. The separation from their mothers, and from often idyllic infant years cossetted by ayahs, could cause life-long trauma.35 Mia Pattle was lucky. She had not been sent ‘home’ on her own but was with her mother, though the family was split. Adeline’s dilemma was typical of that of Anglo-Indian mothers. She had to leave either her children or her husband for very long periods. This time she chose to stay with her children for three years before returning to James in Calcutta. 

In Paris Mia was reunited with Julia and Sarah, the older sisters she barely knew. Her grandmother Thérèse de l’Étang also lived there, as now did her Aunt Julia and Uncle Edward Impey and her cousins.36 Mia did not return to India until she was 16, so this was a very formative time for her. Her fluency in French, her love of Paris, her French style and cosmopolitan outlook were all passed on to Julia and her other daughters.

Meanwhile in Calcutta, James’s prestige was increasing. He had survived the tidal wave of bankruptcies following the catastrophic collapse of John Palmer’s Agency House, with which the Prinseps were closely linked, and a number of other banks.37 He was becoming more prominent in the Company and was involved in various social and business ventures. He was a member of the newly formed Bengal Club modelled on the London clubs in Pall Mall.38 He was in the consortium which spectacularly organised the first importation of ice from America, shipped by the American Tudor Ice Company.39 Calcutta had a day’s holiday for residents to enjoy chilled drinks! 

19. The Esplanade, Calcutta, by Sir Charles D’Oyly. The buildings on the Esplanade c.1830 included the domed Government House and Government House Gateway to the left and Gordon’s Buildings, the tall rectangular building to the right of the tree, which at the time housed the select Bengal Club. 

When Adeline returned in 1825, there were soon more Pattle babies. Virginia born in January 1827, and Sophia Ricketts, in March 1829, both thrived; but Harriott Trevor Charlotte, born in March 1828, lived only three months and was buried in the South Park Street Cemetery.40

James and Adeline, with infants Virginia and Sophia, and Adeline now 18, left Calcutta on the Eliza in March 1830. A fellow passenger was Lieutenant Colin Mackenzie of the Madras Light Infantry, going home on sick leave. According to the memoir written by Colin Mackenzie’s second wife, Helen, who transmits many of the inaccuracies and fables about the Pattles and the Chevalier:

Among Mackenzie’s fellow-passengers on his first homeward voyage was a well-known Bengal civilian, Mr. James Pattle, with his charming wife, their eldest daughter Adeline, and two infant children. Mrs. Pattle, one of the most amiable of women, was a French lady, daughter of the Chévalier (sic) de l’Etang, who had been a page of Marie Antoinette, and who was sent out to Pondicherry to avoid a letter de cachet.41

They all broke their journey at Cape Town and spent several months holidaying and recuperating in South Africa. Then the Pattles continued to Paris and for once the whole family was reunited. James was having his first home leave from India and the family stayed with friends or relations and rented houses in London and Brighton. 

Mia, now thirteen, was already fluent in French and English and spoke some German. She continued her rather haphazard education with their governess Kent, but was increasingly entering the sociable, cosmopolitan world of her parents’ Anglo-Indian community in Paris and London. Friends and relatives visited each other and travelled around Europe on holidays and health cures. Anyone arriving from India brought letters of introduction and was soon included in the community. 

The young future novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray, was at this time studying painting in Paris and frequently visited the Pattles in Versailles. Thackeray seems to have considered asking Mia to marry him, writing to his mother,

I dine today with the Pattles & shall meet pretty Theodosia – I wish she had £11325 in the 3 per cts (sic) – I would not hesitate above two minutes in popping that question wh was to decide the happiness of my future life.42

20. William Makepeace Thackeray as a young man.

The problem, and significance of the amount of money he wishes Mia [Theodosia]43 had, was that he had lost most of his inheritance, which was in trust for him until he became 21, due to mismanagement and the collapse of the Indian banking houses.44 He was not in a financial position to offer marriage to anyone other than an heiress, and Mia was in any case very young to be even thinking of marriage. I can find no record to indicate if Mia knew of his feelings, or if she did, what her own feelings were, but Thackeray did remain a life-long family friend and welcome visitor.

Mia’s family continued to expand. She watched the continuing romance between her sister Adeline and Colin Mackenzie. He visited the Pattle family in Brighton, where he and Adeline got engaged. Mia would have been at their marriage at St Mary’s Bryanston Square in London, in May 1832, hastily arranged with a special licence so that Adeline could accompany him when he had to sail back to Madras to re-join his regiment.

21. Colin Mackenzie in oriental dress. 

There were tragedies, too. Mia’s heavily-pregnant aunt, Virginia Beadle, was with them in Paris. She received news that her husband Captain Samuel Beadle and his son had both perished in a shipwreck off Australia, just before her baby, another Adeline, was born.

In August 1834 Adeline Pattle, her six daughters, their governess Kent, and her newly widowed sister Virginia Beadle with baby Adeline, sailed from Portsmouth on board the Duke of Northumberland. James had already returned to his post in India. There was more tragedy when baby Adeline Beadle died and was buried at sea. Mia learnt early about infant mortality. It was no wonder she would be anxious about her own babies.

The Duke of Northumberland docked in December 1834. Julia’s mother Mia (16), and her aunts Julia (19), Sarah (18), Louise (13), Virginia (7) and Sophia (5) were about to begin what was probably the most exciting time of their lives. Pattledom was hitting Calcutta!

22. View of Calcutta from a point opposite to Kidderpore by James Baillie Fraser, 1826.

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.


I am indebted to the late Mary Bennett and her heirs, who wish to remain anonymous, especially for sending images of the lockets of James and Adeline Pattle. The late Katharine Duckworth and her daughters very generously showed me the Garneray painting, the family scrap book and many photographs and documents. 

The India Office Papers, now at the British Library, contain extensive records of births, marriages and deaths, wills, EIC employment records, and details of ships sailing to and from India including passenger lists. I have accessed these at the British Library and via Find My Past and the Families in British India (FIBIS) site. I am very grateful to the Board of the British Library for permission to publish archive material from their collections and from their On-Line Gallery. I am indebted to Donal Connon for sharing his exhaustive genealogical research into the early and extended history of the Pattle family. 

Picture credits

  1. Goodnestone Park. © British Library Board. http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?tabs=moreTab&ct=display&fn=search&doc=BLL01004851037&indx=1&recIds=BLL01004851037&recIdxs=0&elementId=0&renderMode=poppedOut&displayMode=full&frbrVersion=&frbg=&&dscnt=0&scp.scps=scope%3A%28BLWEBSITE%29%2Cscope%3A%28BLO_WA%29%2Cscope%3A%28BLO_Aleph%29%2Cscope%3A%28BLO_SFX%29%2Cscope%3A%28BLO_SAMI%29&vl(2084770704UI0)=any&tb=t&vid=BLVU1&mode=Basic&srt=rank&tab=available_online&dum=true&vl(freeText0)=goodneston&dstmp=1617358811774 (accessed 29/03/21).
  2. Fort William in the Kingdom of Bengal belonging to the East India Company of England. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/largeimage65589.html (accessed 29/03/21).
  3. Catherine Grand – Madame Grand (Noël Catherine Vorlée, 1761–1835). Metropolitan Museum, Public Domain. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437898 (accessed 29/03/21).
  4. William M. Thackeray (1749-1813). https://www.wikitree.com/photo.php/7/77/Thackeray-109.jpg (accessed 02/04/21).
  5. Rear View of the East India Company’s Factory at Cossimbazar 1795. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/addorimss/r/largeimage55016.html (accessed 29/03/21).
  6. East India House. Leadenhall Street. c. 1780. British Library. Public Domain.         https://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2017/01/east-india-company-headquarters-on-leadenhall-street.html (accessed 29/03/21).
  7. Thomas Pattle’s property in Epsom, 1820. https://eehe.org.uk/?p=25596 (accessed 29/03/21).
  8. The Epsom House and Park, 1825. https://eehe.org.uk/?p=29861 (accessed 06/04/21).
  9. South Front of Mr Pattle’s House, Champapoka, Murshidabad, 1790-1800. Watercolour. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/addorimss/a/largeimage55020.html (accessed 29/03/21).
  10. South Park Street Cemetery. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/South_Park_Street_Cemetery_Kolkata_%2838293886922%29.jpg (accessed 01/04/21).
  11. Portraits of James Pattle and Adeline Pattle. Family possession.
  12. A house in the fashionable Garden Reach area. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019wdz000004282u00000000.html (accessed 01/04/21).
  13. The Old Court House, Calcutta. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000007682u00017000.html (accessed 29/03/21).
  14. The William Miles. © Bristol Museum, Galleries & Archives – licensed for non-commercial use. https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/ship-william-miles-of-bristol-189232 (accessed 06/04/21).
  15. Church of St Giles, North View. Frontispiece to Collections, illustrative of the geology, history, antiquities and associations of Camberwell and the neighbourhood by Douglas Allport published 1841 by subscription. British Library. Public Domain. UIN BLL01014903903.
  16. St Mary-le-Bone Church by Thomas H. Shepherd, 1828. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Gate,_London (accessed 01/04/21). This image is from the Mechanical Curator collection, a set of over 1 million images scanned from out-of-copyright books and released to Flickr Commons by the British Library in 2013. British Library. Public Domain.
  17. James Pattle and his Family. Family possession. 
  18. Mademoiselle Virginie de l’Étang, 1816, by G. E. Lami. http://www.artnet.com/artists/ge-lamy-lami/mademoiselle-virginie-de-létang-her-brown-hair-in-fpV6xK8gIZzGNl9GRiLHfg2 (accessed 19/04/21).
  19. Esplanade, Calcutta. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000666u00023000.html (accessed 02/04/21).
  20. William Makepeace Thackeray attributed to Eyre Crow. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Makepeace_Thackeray (accessed 01/04/21).
  21. Colin Mackenzie in Oriental Dress. National Army Museum 1961-10-61-1. Out of Copyright.           https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?q=searchType%3Dsimple%26resultsDisplay%3Dlist%26simpleText%3DColin%2Bmackenzie&pos=0&total=4&page=1&acc=1961-10-61-1 (accessed 05/04/21).
  22. A view of A view of Calcutta from a point opposite to Kidderpore. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000644u00020000.html (accessed 07/04/21).


For abbreviations and full publication details of frequently used texts please see the Bibliography.

  1. As my focus is on Julia Stephen I have only touched on these earlier Pattle ancestors, in order to give a flavour of what her background was like. 
  2. Even more like the plot of a novel is the later story of Ruth and Robert Brooke’s grandson, James Brooke, who became the first white Raja of Sarawak.
  3. Sensation novels were popular in the later 19th century. They included gothic settings and lurid, sensational plots often including forced marriage, incarceration of young heiresses and family secrets of bigamy or sexual indiscretions. Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1859) and Mary Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) are typical. 
  4. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord was the first Prime Minister of France. After being his mistress for many years, Catherine Grand married him in 1802 becoming Catherine Noël Grand de Talleyrand-Périgord, Princesse de Bénévent. The marriage did not last and each had other liaisons. She died in Paris in 1834.
  5. Available on https://books.google.co.uk/books
  6. His sisters, Jane and Henrietta Thackeray, joined him, primarily to find husbands, and lived their own remarkable lives in India. William Thackeray bought a house at Hadley, north London, which became the centre for an Anglo-Indian community. See William Wilson Hunter, The Thackerays in India and Some Calcutta Graves (London: Henry Frowde, 1897).
  7. A Writer was the lowest position in the EIC. Candidates, usually 15 or 16 years old, had to be recommended, and had to pass exams in England, before being sent to India.
  8. For more on the Pattles in Paris see Scraps, Orts and Fragments.
  9. Thomas J. Pattle was a Director in London from 1787-1790 and again from 1792-94. He returned to India in 1799 until his retirement in 1810.
  10. This house has had many owners and undergone a number of transformations. It is now Clock House Healthcare on Dorking Road, the busy A24.
  11. Epsom and Ewell History Explorer, www.eehe.org.uk.
  12. Henry John was born in 1782, either in London or Epsom, William in Epsom, 1783, Sophia in London in 1786 and Louisa and Charlotte in Epsom in 1787 and 1791.
  13. Jean Sutton, The Richest East India Merchant: The East India Company’s Maritime Service: 1746-1834 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2010) 19. For more on kinship links and on the Prinsep family see also Anthony Webster, Life and Business of John Palmer of Calcutta 1767-1836 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2007).
  14. For a contemporary description of the Pattles’ lifestyle at Murshidabad, see Scraps, Orts and Fragments.
  15. For patronage and kinship links with Impeys and Prinseps see Chapter 1
  16. For more on Pattle and Impey connections see Chapter 2.
  17. Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray married Leslie Stephen, Julia’s second husband. Virginia Woolf always called Anne Isabella (Anny) Thackeray, Aunt Anny. The networks continue down the generations.
  18. Even in 1837 there were still only just over 3,000 English listed in Calcutta in a total population of nearly 300,000. There were more Portuguese and many more Eurasians. See Antony Wild, The East India Company – Trade and Conquest from 1600 (London: Harper Collins, 1999) 58.
  19. David Olusoga, Civilisations- First Contact: The Cult of Progress (London: Profile Books, 2018) 126-128.
  20. Register of Employees of the East India Company and the India office, 1746-1939, British Library.
  21. Adéline began to anglicise her name from the time of her marriage, dropping the accent. Confusingly she later sometimes adopted the name Adelaide, as on her son’s birth record, and used both Adeline and Adelaide randomly during her later life. I am using the name Adeline throughout.
  22. The names of all the EIC Out-Stations are spelt in a variety of ways on different documents and at different times. For reasons of consistency I have chosen to use Beauleah, Bhaugulpore, Cossimbazar and Murshidabad throughout. 
  23. I think that it is more likely they were painted by one of the many very skilled, but anonymous, Indian miniature painters. James and Adeline Pattle were in India in 1811 and for some time afterwards, and as far as I know Menuisier, who was born in France, did not leave Europe. 
  24. For a detailed social history of this period, based on letters, diaries and other primary sources, see David Gilmour, The British in India (London: Penguin Random House, 2019)As a child, Adeline had spent more time in India and less being educated in Paris than her younger sisters, but had just returned from a long visit.
  25. For more on the Impey family see Chapter 2.
  26. Memoirs of William Prinsep, Volume 1 unpublished manuscript, British Library (BL.IOR:MSS.Eur.D.1160/1).
  27. William Hickey recorded that between 1808 and 1810 ‘no less than seven homeward bound East Indiamen have foundered at sea, and all on board perished’. Alfred Spencer (ed.), Vol 4 476. He lists the ships which were wrecked and those passengers he knew who drowned. Many were women and children.
  28. John Beaumont, VWB8, 38.
  29. Her birth certificate, and later census returns, give her place of birth as ‘at sea’. On the 1891 census return, when she was 72, ‘at sea’ is crossed out and ‘Cornish Coast’ recorded. The William Miles from Bengal is recorded as ‘off Lymington’ (near Southampton) on 8 July. The Asiatic Journal (London: Black, Kingsbury, Parbury & Allen, 1818) Vol. VI 229.
  30. Becky Sharp is the impecunious heroine of William Thackeray’s novel, Vanity Fair, which is set around this period.
  31. Thomas Pattle’s name is on the land tax records there from 1814-1818.
  32. For more on the dinner service and coat of arms see Scraps, Orts and Fragments.
  33. Brian Hill (J.M. Cameron: A Victorian Family Portrait, image 4), Victoria Olsen (From Life 10-12), and many other biographers, attribute it to Jean-Francois Garneray (1755-1837). Hermione Lee labels it as by August Cannery (Virginia Woolf, opposite 220). 
  34. Ship surgeon’s log book. Wellcome Foundation Archive MS.7114.
  35. David Gilmore, The British in India 363-379. See also Scraps, Orts and Fragments, for stories of Thackeray family separations.
  36. Edward Impey was dismissed from the EIC in 1820. Leslie Stephen’s brother, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, analysed the episode in The Story of Nuncomar and the Impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey (London: Macmillan, 1885)The family then lived in England and in their Paris apartment near Thérèse de L’Étang.
  37. January 1830. See note 13.
  38. David Gilmore, 396.
  39. Ibid. 362.
  40. Another birth is recorded on 5 Oct 1823, of a daughter of James Pattle ‘and his lady’ Bengal. This would be while Adeline was in Paris. This could be a transcription error, but I think it more likely that she is an illegitimate daughter with an Indian mistress, who customarily would not be named on these records. ‘His lady’ instead of ‘his wife’ or the wife’s name was common especially in records in the out stations, but it is significant that no place of birth is given, only Bengal. See chapter 2 for more on mixed race relationships.
  41. Helen Mackenzie, Storms and Sunshine of a Soldier’s Life: Lt-General Colin Mackenzie, C.B. 1825-1881 (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1884) 25. For the Chevalier’s story see Chapter 2.
  42. Letter from W.M. Thackeray to Mrs Carmichael-Smyth, 22 October 1833. Gordon Ray (ed.), The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray (London: Oxford University Press, 1945 Vol. I) 267.
  43. Victoria Olsen names her Maria Theodosia Pattle in a family tree (From Life, frontispiece). I can find no birth, marriage, death or census record which gives Maria this, or any other, second name. It was probably a nickname given by Thackeray. See also Beaumont (VWB8, 47-48).
  44. The inheritance was tied up in complicated ways and had been mismanaged. See D.J. Taylor, Thackeray (London: Chatto & Windus, 1999) 98-110.