A Vision of Beauty: Chapter 4

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.

Julia’s mother and aunts

Pattledom1 in Calcutta

The Duke of Northumberland docked in December 1834 and the Pattle girls, Julia Margaret (19), Sarah (18), Maria (16), Louise (13), Virginia (7) and Sophia (5), hit Calcutta! The oldest, Adeline, was already married to Colin Mackenzie and they and their two daughters, Adeline Anne and Mary Julia, were living in Madras, where his regiment was based. 

William Tayler, later a close friend of the Pattles, recollected that:

At the period we first reached India, viz. in 1829, the arrival of two or three English girls was doubtlessly an event creating undeniable sensation. Residents of Calcutta used to crowd down to the banks of the river and gaze with intense curiosity on the new arrivals. Speculations of all kinds were excited; the forms and faces of the neophytes were the subjects of critical examination.2

1. General View of Calcutta, from the entrance to the Water Gate of Fort William. Coloured lithograph by Sir Charles D’Oyly

So six young women, all lively, sophisticated, soignée, and dressed in the latest French fashions, must have created quite a stir especially among, what William Tayler described as, ‘the waiting bachelors young and old’. They were not part of the notorious ‘fishing fleet’, young women sent from England to look for husbands. The Pattles were country-born, returning to their home and family, excited to see places some remembered from their early childhoods, and not in need of the many guidebooks for travellers which were being published. But the older ones were clearly marriageable, well connected and, thanks to James Pattle’s late brother, Thomas Charles, wealthy.3

Pattle wills and heiresses – another sensational Story

Thomas Charles Pattle (1771-1815) worked for the EIC, mostly trading in Canton, and amassed a huge fortune. He had only one child, Elizabeth (Eliza), whose story reads like the classic plot of a Sensation novel. In 1816, seventeen-year-old Eliza, whose father had just died leaving her a wealthy heiress, was persuaded to elope to Scotland4 and there marry Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a charming scoundrel. Eliza was a ward in Chancery and the Court of Chancery awarded Wakefield a marriage settlement from Thomas’s estate of some five million pounds in modern terms. They left England and lived in Genoa where he was a diplomat. Some accounts say they were accompanied by her mother. Eliza died shortly after the birth of their second child. Crucially, this was just before her 21st birthday when she would have inherited the remainder of her father’s wealth.

2. E.G. Wakefield (1796-1862)

Wakefield tried to overturn Thomas Charles Pattle’s will and get the rest of Eliza’s inheritance, but failed.5 The beneficiaries were instead Thomas Pattle’s nieces, Adeline, Sarah and Julia, the only children his brother James had at the time of Thomas’s death. They became rich young women. In James’s own will he did not mention Adeline as she had predeceased him, but left Sarah and Julia only £100 each to buy a mourning ring in his memory, making it clear that this was ‘not from any want of affection’ but because they were provided for in the will of his brother, Thomas Charles Pattle, ‘more amply than I am able to provide for their sisters’. 

Edward Gibbon Wakefield not only seduced Eliza Pattle, but also, after her death, kidnapped another 15 year old heiress, Ellen Turner. He again eloped with her, to Gretna Green, Scotland, but this time her family quickly rescued her and had the marriage annulled. Edward Wakefield and his brother William, who had helped him in the abduction, were both tried and sent to Newgate Prison for three years. In spite of this Edward Wakefield went on to play an important, though controversial, part in the founding and administering of the British colonies of South Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In a very long career, he was a Member of Parliament in New Zealand and in Canada, and initiator of several imaginative, but often very dubious, political and financial schemes.

Social life in Calcutta

Julia’s mother, Mia, and her sisters, chaperoned by their mother Adeline, threw themselves into the very lively Calcutta society. Just five months after arriving back in Calcutta, on 14 May 1835, 18-year-old Sarah married her father’s good friend, Thoby Prinsep, 20 years older than her, in the Cathedral, Fort William.

3. St Peter’s Church, Fort William, by William Prinsep, 1835.

Alongside all the social events, there continued the frenetic whirl of family arrivals and departures, marriages, births and, sadly, more deaths. Later in 1835, Mia’s sister, Adeline Mackenzie and her daughters, Adeline and Mary, came back from Madras to be with her family while her husband Colin was posted to the Straits of Malacca with his regiment. 

Colin was being attacked by pirates while she gave birth to their third child, Rose Prinsep. Colin Mackenzie returned safely at the beginning of 1836 and there was a family gathering for Rose’s baptism in January at the Old Church, Calcutta. 

Sadly by this time Adeline Mackenzie was worryingly unwell, allegedly from being outside in the sun over much, and it was decided that a sea voyage was the cure. She and her three young daughters set sail from Calcutta on the Catherine in April. Adeline became weaker and six weeks into the voyage, she died and was buried at sea. Mia would not hear news of her sister’s death for many weeks and it was not until October that Colin Mackenzie, then with his regiment fighting in Afghanistan, would hear of the death of his young wife.

4. Isabella Fane (1804-1886).

Society was enlivened by the arrival late in 1835 of a new Commander in Chief, Sir Henry Fane, and his daughter Isabella who acted as his official hostess. Isabella, illegitimate and unusually still unmarried at 31, seems to have been very petty and jealous. Her comments in her letters home can be acerbic but she seems to have singled out the Pattle sisters, especially Sarah whom she usually calls Mrs. Thoby, for particularly malicious and cruel criticism. This was in spite of being a guest of the newly married couple for her first and last nights in Calcutta, and a frequent visitor to their home. She particularly mocked the Prinseps’ delight in Sarah’s first pregnancy, public mention of which Isabella found shocking:

I also went to try and see and laugh at Mrs Thobias fool Prinsep. She is decidedly in that way in which ladies ‘like to be who love their Thobys’ and the fuss they both make about it is truly droll and nasty. (4 January 1836) 6

As in England among the upper classes at this time, women and young bachelors were expected to pay rounds of social calls. These visits would be taken in a carriage, or for the men on horseback. In India they would be mostly early morning or early evening to avoid the heat of the day. Isabella Fane was no exception. One Sunday she describes attending church, then paying a visit to Thoby and Sarah Prinsep, and another to Thoby’s sister-in-law:

I have called upon Mrs William Prinsep, who has recently arrived from England. She is a very pretty woman, but what disagreeable manners she has! They tell me her husband makes more noise than all the Prinseps besides put together. God help us, if he beats James alone he is my horror. Think of there being five of that name now in Calcutta, three married and wives running a race with each other who is to be confined first! (31 January 1836)

5. Riders and carriages on the Esplanade in an extract from Jacob Janssen’s panorama of Calcutta, 1832.

Society was very formal. There was rigorously enforced protocol for social precedence, especially at the almost nightly dinner parties or soirées in each other’s homes or at Government House. Sarah Prinsep, according to the ever watchful Isabella, caused ‘a pretty scrape’ at one of the Fanes’ dinner parties: 

We thought Mrs Thoby Prinsep was the lady for my father to take into dinner, instead of which there were two who ought to have gone in before her. […] In consequence of this error of etiquette, we thought the party would have spent the night with us, for you may remember my telling you that no one can stir to go home here until the lady of the party makes the move; and as Mrs Thoby, contrary to her wishes, had become the great lady for the night, the right one did not choose to stir; and as Mrs Thoby did not wish to extend further her usurped rights, nothing would induce her to stir either. (23 February 1836)

6. Top: The Chowringhee Theatre on the corner of Theatre Street and Chowringhee Road by William Wood, 1833. 7. Bottom: Interior of the Chowringhee Theatre, Calcutta, from the circle looking towards the stage, showing the first few rows of seats. William Prinsep, pen and ink on paper, 1835. 

Theatricals were very popular among the Prinseps, Pattles and their friends, both to entertain each other at home and when visiting the theatre. They did not have far to go. The Private Subscription Theatre, known as the Chowringhee Theatre, was on the corner of Theatre Road and Chowringhee Road, where many of them lived.

Thoby Prinsep’s brother, William, was a proficient amateur artist. He created many of the sets and drew sketches of the interior, now sadly become very faint. William annotated his drawing with descriptions: ‘Chowringhee Theatre holds about 800 persons in the boxes and 200 in the pit. […] All the rest is rows of benches, Counsillers box and Govr. Genl. Box.’ The theatre was bought by William Prinsep’s friend Dwarkanath Tagore in 1835, but sadly burnt down in 1839. 

There were some professional actors, sometimes visiting from Europe, and a small group of professional musicians. However most of the players were enthusiastic amateurs.

In February 1836 it seems that Sarah Prinsep had been invited to join the Fanes in their box. They had gone to watch Thoby’s brother, James Prinsep, playing the part of one of the witches in Macbeth. Isabella Fane seems to have been more concerned with the audience: 

8. Study of Mrs Thoby Prinsep  by G. F. Watts c.1840s.

Nasty Mrs Thoby was of our party, and did not behave with what I should call propriety. She has a sister, a Miss Pattle, a little, ugly, underbred looking thing [Julia Margaret] but she has the reputation of being very clever, which is better than beauty. She is courted by one captain Smyth, an A.D.C. of Sir C. Metcalfe’s.7 These two doves sat behind me at the play, and the tiresome creatures did nothing but coo the whole time. (25 February 1836) 

Changes in Society – the arrival of Emily Eden

In March 1836 Emily Eden, then 49, arrived with her younger sister Fanny and brother, George Eden Lord Auckland, who was Governor General in India from 1836 -1842. As George was also unmarried, Emily and Fanny took charge of his household and acted as his official hostesses.

Emily Eden wrote many letters full of her keen observations and witty, clever, but often barbed, comments on people and life in India. They have an interesting after-story. A selection of these letters was later edited by Emily’s great-niece Violet Dickinson and published by Macmillan in 1919. The Dickinson family in Somerset were friends and neighbours of the Duckworths, Julia’s first husband Herbert’s family. Violet was a great friend of Julia’s daughters Stella Duckworth and later Virginia Woolf. 

The Edens had had a long and eventful journey. They left England in October 1835, very privileged passengers.8

We all went down to look at the ‘Jupiter’ yesterday morning, with our captain, and gave our final directions about our cabins – a shelf here and a hook there, and more means of through ventilation, and better beds for the maids, and so on. It is all, I dare say, as comfortable as a ship can be. (October 1835)

They travelled with six servants and their dog. Emily, a very talented artist, took every opportunity to sketch what she saw.

9. Watercolour sketches made by Emily Eden on board the ‘Jupiter’ (1835-1836).

They enjoyed a week in Funchal, were feted with a grand ball in their honour on shore in Rio and had a pleasant break in Cape Town hiring a house, visiting friends and buying wine and horses to bring to India. Then the Jupiter was hit by gales. Sails were blown away; their chests were torn loose and water gushed into their cabins soaking everything. Stores were getting low:

We have come to our last sheep, and have but one pig and six geese left – no coffee, no marmalade, and no porter, and […] my arrowroot [her sea-sickness cure] is at its last spoonful. (February 1836)

10. Emily Eden (1797-1869).

On 2 March 1836, they finally arrived at the mouth of the Hooghly River where a steam tug and pilot came to tow them the forty miles up to Calcutta in the Governor’s state yacht. The pilot brought letters and packets and told them they ‘had been given up for lost in Calcutta; the steamers have been looking for [them] for three weeks’. But the hazards were not past. The tug was grounded on one of the many dangerous sandbanks and the yacht extensively damaged, further delaying their arrival in Calcutta, which was not until 11.00 in the evening of March 4th. The official welcoming party, including Sir Henry Fane and Thoby Prinsep, were finally able to escort them in a ceremonial carriage drive through the city to Government House, though the ceremonial troops had already been dismissed. 

There was much competition among hostesses in Calcutta to greet the new arrivals. Sarah Prinsep had already sent out invitation cards for a Ball on the 10th when Isabella Fane decided, ‘we dislike her [Sarah] so much not to do a bit of spite’ and quickly arranged to get in first and have her Ball on the 8th. She followed this on the 9th with a dinner party for 30 guests including Lord Auckland and all the heads of Government. Isabella attended Sarah’s Ball, but in a very petty mood, recording,

Mrs Thoby Prinsep’s ball was tonight, to which we all went save John. I was so tired and footsore from all I had danced at my own ball that I would much rather have gone to bed; so I would not dance, only staid one hour and was at home and in bed by eleven o’clock. The hostess as usual acted like a fool, but what can you expect of a pig, but a grunt! (10 March 1836)

Isabella was equally sour and malicious about Emily and Fanny Eden after their first meeting. Though she claimed that, ‘they all got on famously’, she wrote that, 

They are both great talkers, both old, both ugly, and both stank like polecats!

The Edens entertained on 14 March at Government House with a sit down supper for 650 people and a Ball afterwards for 1000. The Pattle girls must have been among them. 

11. Government House Gateway and Government House on The Esplanade. 

Emily Eden could be more than a match for Isabella. She had grown up in a large influential family and was used to the society of aristocrats, politicians, diplomats and famous people of the day. Describing Isabella to her friend Pamela, daughter of Lord and Lady Edward Fitzgerald, Emily commented, ‘she is a good natured little woman, but not one of us’.9 Thoby Prinsep, she thought, was ‘the greatest bore Providence ever created, and so contradictory that he will not let anybody agree or differ with him.’10 Emily found Calcutta an elegant, pleasant place in which to drive around in her carriage with ‘turbaned postilion and coachmen’. Chowringhee, where the Pattles, Prinseps, and later the Jacksons lived, was, she thought, ‘the Regent’s Park of Calcutta’ with houses like those ‘in St John’s Wood’. She was however, keenly aware of the less attractive aspects of life in Calcutta, noting that the river frequently had dead bodies floating in it. 

Drives or rides would be taken very early in the morning, or in the evening, to avoid the sun. Morning visits should be between 10.00 and 12.00. Emily was particularly oppressed by the heat which she found enervating, though the Pattle girls would have been more acclimatised. She thought women’s lives ‘wearisome’ constantly having to be in houses darkened by drawn shutters against the heat, ‘nothing to do and no strength to do it; and then most of the mothers are either parted from their children, or feeling they are wrong by keeping them here’. It was difficult to keep a house in order, she thought, though there were dozens of servants to help. Damp rotted and damaged books, furnishings and fabrics. In the rainy season ‘milliners and shopkeepers will not open any of their packages’ and ‘muslins were soon spotted’. Violent storms caused damage, even blowing everything off the table during one dinner party at Government House.

Emily was surprised by how many clothes she needed, far more than she had brought. Throughout the day, there was ‘constant dressing’, for one event or another. She enjoyed the theatre and noticed the love of amateur theatricals and masked balls with elaborate costumes and stage sets. This was something William Prinsep had also noticed on his arrival, once being asked to assist Mrs Charles Bullen with organising one at her house at Chowringhee, where she, ‘wanted to turn her verandah into an English village with blacksmith’s, shop and alehouse etc.’.11

Advice on clothing for the English woman in India 

A lady will not require more linen than she had for the long sea voyage, with the exception of a set of trimmed night dresses to wear in case of illness. Stockings wear out very quickly, and cotton ones in India cost nearly as much as silk at home; four dozen thread and two dozen silk would be a good supply, including two or three pairs of black silk ones. The country leather shoes and boots are not presentable for any lady. Half a dozen pairs of thin boots, the same of kid shoes, with one or two pairs of kid riding and walking boots, and a large supply of white ones for evening, should be brought from England. […] Gentlemen sometimes bring a last, which is an excellent plan, as the sambur skin makes far better racket shoes and shooting boots than English materials. Petticoats should be made of fine cambric calico, with a few stouter ones for morning or travelling use; […] Under-linen should not be bought ready-made, unless warranted to be done in a lock-stitch sewing-machine, for, as the dhobies beat the clothes on stones, ordinary work soon unrips; it is both more lasting and better done when given to be made at a school, or a penitentiary, to say nothing of aiding a charity. Stays require constant washing, and several pairs should be brought – not the ones with elastic, which are ruined at once by the heat, but light coutil ones with few steels; they are very expensive in India, from 30s. to £2. The most economical morning dresses are nice white ones, as the dhoby cannot take out the colour. Some people fancy India too hot to wear anything but muslin, but this is a great mistake. Flannel is so generally left off that the heat of the dress is of less consequence. All rich silks should have the high body down to the shoulders lined with thin flannel, otherwise they are apt to change colour, and if they are at all damp from perspiration they should be carefully turned inside out and dried, or they are certain to mildew in the box. For evening and dinner dress silk, moiré, even velvet is worn; in fact, exactly what is worn at home; but blue always spots and turns yellow, and every shade of lilac and mauve looks dreadful in the light of the oil lamps. A white and a black lace dress are a sine qua non; and a plentiful stock of tarlatane, tulle, and sarsnet for slips should not be omitted, as well as some dresses unmade, as the tailors make beautifully from a pattern.12

17. Fives was a popular game in England. 18. Cricket was introduced. 

Sports were also extremely popular. William Prinsep described his friends including James Pattle and Thoby Prinsep playing fives,13 a game similar to Squash, but with players using their hands instead of rackets to hit the ball. It was very fast and its players needed to have a high level of fitness. Emily Eden watched Charles Cameron, whom she had known in England, play cricket with his team, often against officers from visiting ships. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club was founded in 1829 soon gaining many members. Sports involving horses were especially popular: horse racing, gymkhanas, and various forms of hunting. Women only participated in these sports as admiring audiences. But they were allowed to ride at certain times, promenading on the Maidan and the Esplanade as they might have done in London Parks. Much of the sport including cricket and horse-racing also took place on the Maidan, or Esplanade, as it is referred to in the 1842 map below.

19-20. Government House and the racecourse shown on a 1842 map of Calcutta.
21. The old race-course grandstand faced west for morning racing.

Sarah Prinsep loved riding, but as she was very pregnant on this occasion she lent her horse to Isabella Fane. Isabella’s comments were softer than usual: 

The rainy season began today, with heavy showers and fine intervals. The evening held up and we all took a delightful ride on horseback into parts of the environs of Calcutta which we had never visited before. Mrs. Prinsep lent me her horse, which is more than I deserve after all the abuse I have at different times lavished upon her; but I have been more civil to her of late, because she has been much more regular in her conduct. (26 June 1836)

Sickness was prevalent, and people had to be constantly alert to the danger of sudden death. One of the cures was to convalesce on the coast, as Thoby Prinsep did that June at Sandheads at the mouth of the Hooghly River. Only forty miles down-river from Calcutta it was a popular resort for people who wanted some healthy sea air. Meanwhile, Sarah’s sister Julia Margaret went to keep her company. Isabella Fane, ever observant, was outraged that the heavily pregnant Sarah still went out into society and accused her of flirting while her husband was away. 

Thoby and Sarah’s first child, Henry Thoby, was born on 3 August. Isabella continued her malicious gossip, repeating rude remarks about Julia and innuendo about James Pattle, referring to him by his nickname, Jemmy Blaze.14

[Sarah Prinsep] has an unmarried sister nursing her, who has been living with her of late. Because, I believe, she is so disgusted with her father, Jemmy Blaze, she is very unhappy at home. This creature, Miss Julia by name, sets up for a bas-bleu [blue-stocking] and the notes she writes in answer to our common-place enquiries are worth reading. She says in one, after enquiring about my father, ‘many in this house will make offerings at the shrine of Aesculapius upon his recovery’!! She makes me so sick, and she is so ugly and conceited withal. (5 Aug 1836)

This story of Julia being unhappy at home because of her father’s behaviour is not one I have seen any evidence for, though James could be difficult. Julia was prone to fits of depression and had a serious breakdown. In September she sailed on the steam ship Cornwall to South Africa for what became a year-long convalescence at the Cape. It was here that she met Sir John Herschel, the renowned astronomer, who was to remain her life-long friend and inspiration for her later career in photography, and his friend Charles Cameron, widower, and her future husband.

22. Left: John Herschel. A sketch by Henry William Pickersgill c.1835. 23. Middle: Charles Cameron. A sketch by Colesworthy Grant c.1839. 24. Right: Julia Margaret Pattle. A sketch by James Prinsep c.1834-1838.

Julia Margaret and Charles Cameron were married on 1st February 1838 in the Cathedral in Calcutta. She was 23 and he 43, already with at least two children with Indian mothers. Charles Henry Cameron and Ellen Cameron, then 12 and 8, remained in India, but both Charles and Julia Margaret stayed in touch and supported them for the rest of their lives.

Mia Pattle and John Jackson

25. Maria (Mia) Jackson by G. F. Watts

Meanwhile, Mia and John Jackson were engaging in their own love affair, apparently not observed by Isabella Fane or Emily Eden. John Jackson was possibly not perceived to be of a high enough social standing to merit gossiping about! 

Julia’s parents were married in the Cathedral on 17 January 1837. They probably attended the grand Ball given in Calcutta Town Hall that evening in honour of Emily and Fanny Eden. Everyone was in new dresses, Emily’s was Chinese white embroidered satin. A red and white satin tent had been erected with white satin monogrammed chairs for Emily and Fanny. Supper was prepared for 650 but 750 turned up. ‘There was every lady of society there except three, who were ill and who sent notes of excuse and their husbands or sons to make their apologies’.15

26. View of St John’s Cathedral 1826 by James Baillie Fraser.

The Jacksons left Calcutta to return to his posting at Ghazipur, a period described in Chapter 2. Society went on without them. Emily Eden went to services in the Cathedral where, she was shocked to find, women often did not wear bonnets and all fanned themselves with large feather fans. In March 1837 she heard the Bishop preach a sermon for John Jackson’s recently deceased friend, Archdeacon Corrie, ‘that excellent Corrie who appears in ‘Henry Martyn’s Life’, and in all other good Indian memoirs’.16

In 1841, John Jackson was promoted to the Presidency Hospital in Calcutta and they returned there to live, bringing with them their two year old daughter, Adeline, and baby George Corrie. 

27. General Hospital and Surgeon’s House 1800. Uncoloured aquatint with etching by James Moffat. 
The hospital, which was built in 1768, stood on the southern edge of the Maidan facing Fort William. 

They were soon able to move from hospital accommodation into the much grander area of Garden Reach. Tragically Mia, heavily pregnant with her third child, had to watch helplessly as their two-year-old son George became dangerously ill. Even his doctor father could not save him. He was buried just two months before the birth of their third child, Mary Louise. Mary was baptised on the 22 January 1842 in St Peter’s Garrison Church. 

The Jacksons found many changes in Calcutta. John Jackson’s brother William, then a solicitor in the Supreme Court, had died. The Pattle family’s lives had continued their frantic pace. Mia’s youngest sisters, Virginia and Sophia, with their mother Adeline and Aunt Virginia Beadle, had gone back to Paris. Sarah and Thoby Prinsep now had three children, Henry, Valentine and Arthur. Her sister Julia and Charles Cameron already had their first two children, Julia and Eugene. Charles Cameron was appointed to the Supreme Council of India, a very eminent position. The Edens and the Fanes had left. As the current Governor General did not then have a wife, Julia Cameron took on the role of Government hostess, becoming the highest ranking lady in Calcutta Society. 

House parties and holidays

In December 1838, Mia’s sister, Louisa Pattle, aged 17, married Henry Vincent Bayley, the son of the distinguished Judge William Bayley, then a Director of the EIC in London. The Bayleys became particular friends of William Tayler and his wife Charlotte. After his retirement, and back in England, Tayler wrote and illustrated his memoirs, Thirty-Eight Years in India. William and Charlotte, a daughter of John Palmer of the famous banking house with whom William and James Prinsep worked, knew everyone in Calcutta society. William was a colleague of James Pattle and friend of all the family, especially the Camerons and Bayleys with whom they often spent holidays. They were gregarious and hospitable. He was also an accomplished artist, frequently sketching his guests. In 1843 he had been appointed Judge at Midnapore, near Calcutta. The house he had taken was, he recorded, a,

28. William Tayler’s sketch of Adeline Anne Bayley, born 22 Oct 1842. 

remarkably nice one, with two storeys (a thing unusual in the Mofussil), situated in very extensive grounds dignified by the name of a ‘park’. […] Some miles distant from the station of Midnapore, there was a small retreat called Beercool, situated by the sea-side, which, like Pooree, forms a delightful change during the hot months, and was generally resorted to. […] We passed some very pleasant days there with Mr. and Mrs. Bayley during the hottest month, and with no little satisfaction. I took a sketch of her dear little child.17

Charles Cameron thought Tayler’s portrait of Julia Margaret, ‘much the best likeness of her that has ever been taken.’18 Mia wrote to thank him for showing her a sketch of a child, which had clearly moved her.

Thank you for letting me see the sweet little picture; it has all the calm beauty of death, and yet it does not make us feel painfully its presence. What a treasure to a mother such a picture! 19

When Adeline Pattle returned from Europe with her youngest daughters, Virginia and Sophia, they were included in the circle. In October 1843, Tayler remembered,

we laid ourselves out for a pleasant month’s holiday making. Our house was large and capacious, so we invited a considerable party of friends, of the lively and sociable sort, to share our conviviality. Our party consisted of Mrs. James Pattle and her two unmarried daughters, Miss Virginia Pattle, now Countess Somers, and her younger sister, now Mrs. Dalrymple; another married daughter with her husband Henry Bayley of the Civil Service, whom I have already mentioned; Mr and Mrs Charles Prinsep, James Mackenzie, Carrington Palmer, Warren Frith, Lois Jackson, R. Crust, and others. Many of these were in our own house, others had rooms elsewhere, but we all met in the evening.20

29. Virginia and Sophia Pattle and William Tayler’s wife playing charades. Sketch by William Tayler. 

A favourite evening entertainment was playing charades:

The whole word Pygmalion, was represented by my wife, myself, the two Misses Pattle, and an obliging gentleman whose name I cannot recall. […] The room was arranged like a studio, the two Misses Pattle standing, as lovely statues, on each side of the arch.21

A prettier trio than that which formed the tableau “Hay” was seldom seen – it was composed of the two Misses Pattle and my wife.22

The arrival of Virginia and Sophia was of course the subject of gossip. Their friend William Ritchie,23 wrote to ask his sister Charlotte, 

Do you remember Mrs. Pattle, in Paris, about ten years since? The two youngest daughters, who came out last year, about the same time as I did [December 1842], are two of the prettiest and nicest girls here. The old lady herself is still looking [illegible] and desired me at a ball the other night at her daughter’s, Mrs Cameron’s, to remember her kindly to my mother, if she recollected her, and to give her love to William Thackeray. Mrs. Cameron, the plainest of her daughters, is now quite a grand lady here, the wife of a Member of Council.24

William Ritchie’s letter shows just how close-knit and communicative the Anglo-Indian community was within India and in Paris and England. Editing William’s letters in 1920, his son Gerald Ritchie noted that, ‘Dr. Jackson and his wife must have been in Calcutta at this time. The name of Dr Jackson is still affectionately remembered and quoted by the Indians in Calcutta, to whom he was a real friend’.25

Mia Jackson and her daughters Adeline and Mary back to England 

Mia and John Jackson were becoming very anxious about the health of their surviving children, and with reason. George had already died and Adeline had been life-threateningly ill soon after her birth in Ghazipur. In Calcutta, John Jackson’s brother William, and his wife Jane, had lost four of their sons in infancy. The particularly serious outbreaks of cholera, measles and smallpox in 1844 must have contributed to Mia’s determination to take Adeline and Mary back to England. She left in September that year to go to her sister Sarah and Thoby Prinsep, who were now permanently settled in London. 

John Jackson’s widowed aunt, Hannah Ellerton, wrote of her eagerness to move in to look after his household for him while Mia was away. 

I am engaged to go to my nephew’s, Dr. Jackson, at the General Hospital, who is to me as a second son, and as he has been obliged to send his wife and children in haste away, on account of their health, their apartments will be mine for a season.26

30. Hannah Ellerton (1777-1837).

Hannah Ellerton was born and spent her whole life in India. She first married William Myers, who died in 1817. Then she married Mr Ellerton, an indigo planter who translated the New Testament into Bengali. After his death in 1820 she lived for much of her life with her daughter Elizabeth and her husband the Archdeacon Daniel Corrie in Calcutta.27 After their deaths she lived with her nephew John Jackson, acting as his housekeeper and hostess when Mia was in England. She was lively, humorous and a great story teller. For ‘nearly eighty years [she] was a famous historical figure in Bengal […] Of every public event in India therefore till the Mutiny, of every change in Calcutta, she knew the personal history, and much of her knowledge she communicated to the Rev. J. Long for the Calcutta Review’.28  She kept up a long gossipy correspondence with John Jackson’s mother, Mary, and a detailed diary.29

John and Mia Jackson reunited

Returning to India, Mia was able to make use of the speedy new route overland via Suez.  She left London the middle of March 1845 and by the end of April the Bentinck was docking back in Calcutta. John Jackson was promoted, they moved to a grand house in Chowringhee, and Mia was again pregnant. It must have been a happy and sociable time for her. Living nearby were her parents, James and Adeline, her two younger sisters, Sophia and Virginia, and her two married sisters Julia Cameron and Louisa Bayley and their families. But four months later everything changed. 

The death of James Pattle, Julia’s grandfather

On 4 September James Pattle died at his home in Chowringhee. No cause of death is recorded, but the family story which was passed down is that he drank himself to death. This is unlikely. He was known to enjoy drinking with friends, but not more so than others in that society. He is variously recorded as 69 or 70, which was old for an expatriate who had lived virtually all his life in India. His older brothers Richard and Thomas had died aged 30 and 44. He was one of the oldest members of the Bengal Civil Service still working. There were also many rumours about his disreputable life style and his mistreatment of Adeline, and it is probable that he had Indian mistresses, especially during the years that Adeline was away.30

31. James Pattle (1775-1845).

However, in reality he seems to have been active, well-liked, gregarious, a convivial companion and a very generous host. He was known as a good raconteur, but Edward Lear records that it was James’s younger brother Colonel William Pattle who was known as ‘Joot Sing’- ‘The King of the Liars’.31 Telling tall tales seems to have been a family trait. But no tale could be taller or more fabulous than that of what happened just after James’s death – the story of the barrel which burst and the death of Adeline. It is a story which fascinated Virginia Woolf and was passed on through the family becoming more and more sensational and macabre with each retelling. 

The Story of the Barrel that Burst and the death of Adeline Pattle

Virginia Woolf was just one of many descendants and biographers who told versions of the story. She begins her essay, ‘Pattledom’:

One day in the early years of the nineteenth century a corpse burst the coffin in which it was contained on the deck of an East Indiaman and shot high into the air. The sailors, it is said, had drunk the embalming spirit dry; the widow, it is said, died of the shock. What remains of certainty is that the corpse was the corpse of James Pattle.32

Virginia Woolf, clearly relishing the story, and drawing on accounts she had been reading in Ethel Smyth’s memoirs of her father, Impressions that Remained, sensationalises it with even more lurid detail in her biographical essay ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’:  

[James Pattle] was, a gentleman of marked, but doubtful, reputation, who after living a riotous life and earning the title of “the biggest liar in India”, finally drank himself to death and was consigned to a cask of rum to await shipment to England. The cask was stood outside the widow’s bedroom door. In the middle of the night she heard a violent explosion, rushed out, and found her husband having burst the lid off the coffin, bolt upright menacing her in death as he had menaced her in life. ‘The shock sent her off her head then and there, poor thing, and she died raving.’ It is the father of Ethel Smyth who tells the story (Impressions that Remained), and he goes on to say that, after ‘Jim Blazes’ had been nailed down again and shipped off, the sailors drank the liquor in which the body was preserved, ‘and by Jove, the rum ran out and got alight and set the ship on fire! And while they were trying to extinguish the flames she ran on a rock, blew up, and drifted ashore just below the Hooghly. And what do you think the sailors said? “That Pattle had been such a scamp that the devil wouldn’t let him go out of India!’ 33

Julia Stephen’s grandson, Quentin Bell, published his own version. Adeline, he claimed, 

married a James Pattle, who was, we are told, a quite extravagantly wicked man. He was known as the greatest liar in India; he drank himself to death; he was packed off home in a cask of spirits, which cask, exploding, ejected his unbottled corpse before his widow’s eyes, drove her out of her wits, set the ship on fire and left it stranded in the Hooghly. 

He did acknowledge that the, ‘story has been told many times. Some parts of it may be true’.34

The Bengal Catholic Herald of 4 October 1845, just a month after James’ death, reported that, 

The body is said to have been put up in spirits and sent on board a vessel about to depart for England, when the tars got scent of the circumstance, and threatened to abandon the ship. It was then conveyed quietly on board the ‘Royal Consort’. This vessel soon after took fire, and in the confusion of the moment and the anxiety to save the vessel and cargo, Mr. Pattle’s remains are supposed to have been forgotten and consumed. 

The same newspaper had already reported on 30th September, that the Royal Consort had indeed caught fire while at her moorings at the mouth of the Hooghly, sadly a not uncommon occurrence in that treacherous place. In trying to save the vessel she had become grounded and was totally destroyed. On board, reportedly, were 12,000 gallons of rum. Was someone using the report of this disaster and linking it to rumours about the supposed fate of James Pattle? 

What is true among all the scurrilous, lurid tales is that James Pattle’s body was, as he requested, and very unusually, shipped back to England for burial. Most burials took place very quickly and the nearest cemetery would have been South Park Street, where his daughter Harriott was buried. For some reason James left instructions that he was to be buried in St Giles Church, Camberwell, London, with his mother Sarah.35 Adeline presumably felt that she had to carry out these wishes, however difficult it might be. The only way was to preserve the body for the journey in a barrel of brandy or rum. 

James had left £100 sterling each to his two eldest daughters, Julia Margaret Cameron and Sarah Prinsep, his two executors Thoby Prinsep and Charles Cameron, and his nephew Frederick Becher Rocke, for them to buy a mourning ring or token in remembrance of him. The remainder of his wealth was left entirely to Adeline. In the event of her death while still unmarried it was to go equally to his four youngest daughters, Mia, Louisa, Sophia and Virginia. 

32. Adeline Pattle (1793-1845). 

Adeline must have been in shock and before she could leave for England would have had to make arrangements for James’s affairs and for the voyage for herself and her two youngest daughters. To complicate arrangements it was decided that her married daughter Louisa Bayley, and her husband Henry, would also accompany her, but Louisa was about to have a baby, born three weeks after James died. So it was just over two months before Adeline boarded The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s very modern Precursor, leaving Calcutta in November bound for England. On board with her were her youngest daughters Sophia and Virginia; her daughter Louisa and husband Henry Bayley with three-year-old Adeline and two-month-old Mia Louisa, and Louisa’s one Indian and two European servants. There is no record about the body in the barrel. Was this also on board, or had it been sent on a ship leaving earlier? 

Just days into the Precursor’s voyage, on November 11, Adeline herself suddenly died and was buried at sea. She was only 52. No cause of death was given. Virginia Woolf, drawing on accounts by Major Smyth and others, says it was caused by shock when the barrel containing James’s body burst. Other accounts claim the barrel burst because the sailors drained it and drank the rum. Of course the barrel could have been on a different ship entirely. On her memorial it is stated that Adeline was ‘a victim to affliction and suffering produced by the calamity of her husband’s death’. The very unusual circumstances and the many gaps in the story,36 left room for all the increasingly lurid and highly-coloured tales circulating at the time and added to by descendants.

33. The Precursor, launched 1841. 

Memorials for James and Adeline in Calcutta

A memorial was placed in St John’s Church Calcutta, the church where Maria and John Jackson were married:

The late James Pattle Esq. Senior Member of the board of revenue, and the oldest in the Bengal Civil Service, died at his residence in Chowringhee, on Thursday 4 September 1845, in the 69th year of his age. He had been suffering for a long period of painful disease which terminated in his death. He entered the Civil Service in the year 1790. In consequence of Mr Pattle’s own earnest request his funeral did not take place here, but his remains were sent to England and deposited in the Vault of his family at Camberwell. He lived respected and beloved.

A further plaque, placed there by their ‘sorrowing children’, is in memory of both James and Adeline. William Dalrymple, James and Adeline’s great-great-grandson, tells a story of this plaque, in an article called ‘Wicked man on the wall’:

34. James Pattle Memorial 

James Pattle was known as the greatest liar in India. A man supposed to be so wicked that the devil wouldn’t let him leave India after he died. Pattle left instructions that when he died, his body was to be shipped back to Britain. So, after his demise (in 1845) they pickled the body in rum, as was the way of transporting bodies back then. The coffin was placed in the cabin of Pattle’s wife and the ship set off from Garden Reach. In the middle of the night, the corpse broke through the coffin and sat up. The wife had a heart attack and died. Now both bodies had to be preserved in rum. But the casks reeked of alcohol and the sailors bored holes through the sides of the coffins and drank the rum … and of course, got drunk and the ship hit a sandbank and the whole thing exploded, cremating Pattle and his wife in the middle of the Hooghly! That’s why you see a plaque on the wall and not a grave in the graveyard of my great- great-grandfather.37

There is also a tablet in St Giles’ Church, Camberwell, London, erected by his children:

Sacred to the memory of James Pattle […] he died in Calcutta on the 4th September, 1845, and by his particular desire his body was brought to England to be buried near his mother in Camberwell Church, Surrey. 

He was married to Adeline de l’Étang, by whom he had issue as herein undernamed. She died in the Bay of Bengal on the 10th November, 1845, in the 52nd year of her age while on her voyage to England, a victim to affliction and suffering produced by the calamity of her husband’s death. […]

St Giles’ church was almost completely destroyed by fire, but this was in 1841, otherwise no doubt this would also have been attributed to James Pattle’s malign influence, but there is a final twist in the story. James Pattle’s grave has disappeared. There is no surviving stone and all the graves were grassed over in the 1930s to become a park. The tablet, which was recorded as being by the west entrance to the church, has also disappeared, and no one now seems to know of its whereabouts.38

The birth of Julia Prinsep Jackson 

Mia must have been traumatised by shock and by the horrifying circumstances. She also had to endure the increasingly malicious gossip and scandalous stories, especially about her father, which were circulating in Calcutta. Then, several weeks after the event, news of her mother’s death would have reached Mia, back in Calcutta, just before the birth of her next child. Julia Prinsep Jackson was born on 7 February 1846. 

The next morning John Jackson hurriedly wrote to tell his daughters, Adeline and Mary Louise, then living in London with their aunt and uncle Sarah and Thoby Prinsep and their aunts Virginia and Sophia Pattle.   

35. Top: Pastel drawing of Adeline and Mary Jackson in England, 1846, by V. Dartiguenave. Bottom: Extract from letter from John Jackson to his daughter Adeline, Calcutta, 8 February 1846. 

My dearest Addy

I must write to you and to darling Mary Loo, to let you know that you have both got another little Sister, and that it arrived yesterday at 4 o’clock. It is a very fine and pretty looking Baby, more like Addy than Mary Loo, and is a very good little Child doing nothing but sleep, never has been known to cry. What we shall call this little Sister I can not tell you but I think we shall call it Julia after your dear Aunt, whom we all love so much. How I wish that you and sweet Mary Loo were with us or that we were with you in London: but when that will be I cannot tell, but hope it may come some happy time when I may put you both on my knee, as Uncle Thoby now does. Give my love to Aunt Sarah & to Virginia and Sophy and tell them that they must all give you a kiss from their Mamma and tell Aunty Sarah that we miss her so much & that we should so have liked Aunty Virginia to have been here that she might have nursed the little Baby and have been with your darling Mamma who is now in bed, & is unable to write and tell you about Baby but she will do next mail & have much more to tell you than I can.

Give sweet Mary Loo a thousand Kisses from her dear Papa – and now goodbye, dearest darling Addy.

         Your fond Papa
                        J Jackson.

Pattle family life went on with its usual bustle. Baby Julia was baptised on 9 March and in August of that year Mia’s sister Julia Margaret Cameron’s son Hardinge was born. 

The Pattles in London

Sophia and Virginia Pattle had arrived in England orphaned and in shock at the death of their parents. They were taken in by their older sister Sarah and husband Thoby Prinsep, now settled in London. 

Sophia, however, soon caught the eye of 23-year-old, Sir John Warrender Dalrymple of the Bengal Civil Service. His family had been in India for several generations.40 They were married in a grand society wedding at St George’s Hanover Square, London, on 7 June 1847. Thérèse de L’Étang came from France and drove with her granddaughter to the church.

According to a notice in the Bombay Times, ‘After the ceremony friends repaired to the residence of Thoby Prinsep Esq, Hyde Park Gardens, to a dejeuner a la forchette [a fork luncheon]’. 

The Dalrymples’ honeymoon was a voyage back to Calcutta on the luxurious P&O steamer, Haddington, arriving in December. Emily Metcalfe, a fellow passenger, who was returning after her education in England, recollected in her memoirs, 

As we approached the landing-place, we saw groups of ladies and gentlemen awaiting the arrival of their friends on the steamer and I noticed two ladies, one in black, the other in red velvet, who were pointed out to me as Mrs Cameron and Mrs Jackson, coming to meet their newly married sister, Virginia Dalrymple [Mistaken memory – this was Sophia]. They were all sisters of Louisa, Henry Vincent Bayley’s wife, and of Mrs Thoby Prinscep (sic) and Lady Somers, daughters of Mr Pattle, of whom in olden days there were many facetious stories in Calcutta, although all that is ancient history and of no interest to the present generation.41

I imagine that Mia would have been the one in black and Julia Margaret, the more flamboyant, in red velvet in spite of the heat. Contrary to Emily’s statement, facetious stories of James Pattle are not ‘ancient history’ but are still retold and embroidered with relish. 

Julia and her mother leave India

36. Julia Jackson, aged 4, drawn by George Frederic Watts.

Mia Jackson again decided to take her child away from the dangers of India. She and two-year-old Julia arrived in April 1848, as recorded in John Jackson’s mother’s diary, and went to stay at the Prinseps’ very fashionable, very crowded, London house, 9 Chesterfield Street.  Adeline and Mary Jackson must have been waiting for them excitedly. It was the first time they had met the new little sister their father had written to them about.

Mia intended to settle her children with their relatives and return to India, but ill health prevented this. John Jackson would have a very long separation from his wife and children. 

Later the same year the Cameron family also left India to settle back ‘home’. Pattledom was moving to London and this is where Julia Prinsep Jackson would grow up.

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 very grateful to the Board of the British Library for giving me permission to reproduce archive material and images from their On Line Gallery. I am grateful to the Watts Gallery Trust for permission to publish images from their collection. I am indebted to Donal Connon for sharing his exhaustive genealogy of the Pattle family and to Mike Wood for sharing his genealogical research which includes James Pattle and family. John Beaumont’s research into the Thackeray family and his connections with the Pattles, ‘Thackeray in Pattledom’ which he sent me, has been invaluable. Still unpublished, it is lodged at the Julia Margaret Cameron house museum at Dimbola, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.

Picture credits

  1. A General view of Calcutta c.1830s published posthumously 1848. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/largeimage69123.html (accessed 06/04/21).
  2. E. G. Wakefield. Unknown artist. © National Portrait Gallery licensed for use  CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?mkey=mw06539 (accessed 06/04/21).
  3. St Peter’s Church, Fort William, Calcutta. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019wdz000004042u00000000.html (accessed 06/04/21).
  4. Isabella Fane. Genealogy website. https://www.geni.com/people/Isabella-Fane/6000000032720262157 (accessed 07/04/21).
  5. Extract from Panorama of Calcutta 1832. State Library of New South Wales: Licensed under the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0 AU. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panorama_of_Kolkata_(Calcutta),_1832_Jacob_Janssen.jpg (accessed 09/04/21).
  6. The Chowringhee Theatre. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000630u00022000.html (accessed 10/04/21).
  7. Interior of the Chowringhee Theatre, Calcutta. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019wdz000003861u00000000.html (accessed 06/04/21).
  8. Study of Mrs Thoby Prinsep. Public Domain. https://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_268342/George-Frederick-Watts/Portrait-of-Mrs-Thoby-Prinsep%2C-nee-Pattle-%281816-1887%29 (accessed 10/04/21).
  9. Sketches made by Emily Eden on board the Jupiter (1835-1836). https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/The-Voyage-to-India—–an-album-includi/6C91FFB9A35B26E0?msg=welcome (accessed 06/04/21).
  10. Emily Eden. © National Portrait Gallery licensed for use  CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?agreed=true&email=&form=cc&mkey=mw11561 (accessed 07/04/21).
  11. Government House Gateway and Government House on The Esplanade. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000644u00003000.html (accessed 06/04/21).
  12. Taylor & Co.’s Emporium in Calcutta by James Baillie Fraser c.1826. © British Library Board. James Baillie Fraser’s ‘Views of Calcutta and its Environs’ Plate 16: A view of the Loll Bazaar, from Opposite the House of John Palmer Esq. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000644u00016000.html (accessed 06/04/21).
  13. Tom Raw visits Taylor & Co.’s emporium in Calcutta, Sir Charles D’Oyly c1828. © British Library Board. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tom_Raw_visits_Taylor_%26_Co.%27s_emporium_in_Calcutta.jpg.
  14. Khansuma, or house steward, returned from market. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Khansuma.jpg (accessed 06/04/21).
  15. Pykars or Pedlars, Alexandre-Marie Colin after Mrs Belnos. Met Museum, Public Domain. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/771244 (accessed 06/04/21).
  16. The young civilian’s toilet and The young lady’s toilet. Sketches Illustrating the Manners & Customs of the Indians and Anglo-Indians. https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2014/03/our-hero-is-a-sportsman-british-domestic-interiors-in-19th-century-india.html (accessed 07/04/21).
  17. Fives. https://www.worldturndupsidedown.com/2011/01/colonial-games-how-to-play-fives.html.
  18. Cricket was introduced. http://web.uvic.ca/vv/student/cricket/empire/race.html (accessed 10/04/21).
  19. The Government House and Treasury, Calcutta, from the old Race-course. © British Library Board. http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000002DD8 (accessed 06/04/21).
  20. 1842 map of Calcutta. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1842_S.D.U.K._Map_of_the_City_of_Calcutta,_India_-_Geographicus_-_Calcutta-sduk-1842.jpg (accessed 10/04/21).
  21. The old race-course grandstand faced west for morning racing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Calcutta_Turf_Club (accessed 10/04/21).
  22. John Herschel. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp02165/sir-john-frederick-william-herschel-1st-bt?search=sa (accessed 12/04/21).
  23. Charles Cameron. From Lithographic Sketches of the Public Characters of Calcutta by Colesworthy Grant. © British Library Board.
  24. Julia Margaret Cameron. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Julia_Margaret_Cameron,_by_James_Prinsep.jpg
  25. Mia (Maria) Jackson. Platinum print of a drawing by G. F. Watts of Maria Pattle Jackson., Leslie Stephen Photograph Album, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, MS 00005, ©Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.           https://compass.fivecolleges.edu/object/smith:1342164 (accessed 10/04/21).
  26. View of St John’s Cathedral 1826. © British Library Board. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000644u00019000.html (accessed 07/04/21).
  27. General Hospital and Surgeons House near Calcutta. © British Library Board. http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?tabs=moreTab&ct=display&fn=search&doc=MBogi65677&indx=1&recIds=MBogi65677&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)=general%20hospital%20and%20surgeons%20house&dstmp=1618071129266 (accessed 07/04/21).
  28. Adeline Anne Bayley and Virginia and Sophia Pattle and Mrs Tayler. Thirty-eight Years in India: from Juganath to the Himalaya Mountains, William Tayler, pages 314 and 317. © British Library Board. http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000035700#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-157%2C-144%2C1858%2C2871 (accessed 14/04/21).
  29. Adeline Anne Bayley and Virginia and Sophia Pattle and Mrs Tayler. Thirty-eight Years in India: from Juganath to the Himalaya Mountains, William Tayler, pages 314 and 317. © British Library Board. http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/vdc_000000035700#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-157%2C-144%2C1858%2C2871 (accessed 14/04/21).
  30. Hannah Ellerton (1772-1858) and Daniel Corrie (1777-1837). From Lithographic Sketches of the Public Characters of Calcutta by Colesworthy Grant. © The British Library Board.
  31. James Pattle. Extract from an August Garnerey painting. Family possession.
  32. Adeline Pattle. Extract from an August Garnerey painting. Family possession.
  33. The Precursor. ©The National Maritime Museum. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND. https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/148848.html (accessed 10/04/21).
  34. James Pattle Memorial. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interior_of_St._John%27s_Church,_Kolkata3.jpg (accessed 06/04/21).
  35. Top: Adeline and Mary Jackson, 1846. Family possession. Bottom: Letter from John Jackson to his daughter Adeline. See note 39.
  36. Julia Jackson, aged 4. © Watts Gallery Trust.


Full publishing details of frequently used texts are in the Select Bibliography.

  1. Pattledom was a word coined to describe all the Pattle sisters together – an exuberant, excitable, noisy force. Virginia Woolf uses this term for her essay ‘Pattledom’, attributing it to Henry Taylor (E4:282n3). However it was probably first coined by William M. Thackeray.
  2. William Tayler, Thirty-Eight Years in India. 514-5.
  3. See James Pattle Select Family Tree
  4. English law used to forbid anyone under 21 marrying without their parent’s or guardian’s consent, but in Scotland the legal age was 16. Wakefield and Eliza were married on 17 July 1816, at St Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh.
  5. For the full story of Edward Wakefield’s abductions and his trial at Lancaster Castle, see Lynette Morrissey’s research on http.//www.lancastergate.com.
  6. Extracts from Isabella’s letters from John Pemble (ed.), Miss Fane in India: The Indian Diary of a Victorian Lady.
  7. This is the father of Ethel Smyth who much later became a great friend of Virginia Woolf.
  8. Extracts from Eleanor Eden (ed.), Letters from India Vol.1. 
  9. Violet Dickinson (ed.), Miss Eden’s Letters 327.
  10. Ibid. 320.
  11. Memoirs of William Prinsep. Volume 1 unpublished manuscript, British Library (BL.IOR:MSS.Eur.D.1160/1).
  12. Jane Robinson (ed.), Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) 240-241.
  13. Memoirs of William Prinsep, see n11.
  14. Jemmy Blaze was a well-known nickname for James Pattle, though it is unclear where it derives from. It was also frequently given to his brother William. It is written in different versions as Jim, Jimmy, Jemmy or Jem and as Blaze or Blazes.
  15. Eleanor Eden (ed.), Letters from India Vol.1 295. 
  16. Ibid. 333-334.
  17. William Tayler, Thirty-Eight Years in India. 307, 317.
  18. Ibid. 350.
  19. Ibid. 353.
  20. Ibid. 310.
  21. Ibid. 313.
  22. Ibid. 314.
  23. William Ritchie (1817-1862) was the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray’s, cousin. The two families were close and often inter-married. William Ritchie’s son Gerald married his cousin Margie (Ann Margaret) Thackeray and W.M. Thackeray’s daughter Anny married her cousin Richmond Ritchie.
  24. Letter from William Ritchie to Charlotte, 12 February 1844, Gerald Ritchie (ed.),The Ritchies in India: extracts from the correspondence of William Ritchie, 1817-1862; and personal reminiscences of Gerald Ritchie, (London: John Murray, 1920) 131.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Letter from Hannah Ellerton to Mrs Duff, 20 October 1944, Bhaugulpore. George Smith, The Life of Alexander Duff, D.D., L.L.D. Vol II (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1879) 109.
  27. See Mary Howard Select Family Tree.
  28. George Smith, The Life of Alexander Duff, D.D., L.L.D. Vol II (Hodder and Stoughton, London 1879) 107, 108.
  29. British Library.  OIOC C938.
  30. The birth of a daughter to an unnamed mother, ‘lady of Jas. Pattle Esq’, is recorded in October 1823, while Adeline was in France.
  31. Peter Levy, Edward Lear: A Biography (London: Macmillan, 1995) 287.
  32. Virginia Woolf, ‘Pattledom’ (1925) (E4: 280-281).
  33. Virginia Woolf, ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’ (1926) (E4: 375-6).
  34. Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography (London: Random House, 1996) 14.
  35. See Chapter 3.
  36. Regrettably letters which Louisa Bayley must surely have written about her mother’s sudden death, and which could have answered many of these questions, are not extant. The log book for the Precursor is not one of the many held by the British Library.
  37. The Telegraph of India, 3/1/10. Article by Samhita Chakraborty Lahri interviewing William Dalrymple.
  38. See www.stgilescamberwell.org for an excellent history of the church.
  39. Letter from John Jackson to Adeline Jackson 8 February 1846. ©British Library OIOC papers F446. The aunt for whom Julia was named was Julia Margaret Cameron. Her second name, Prinsep, was a tribute to her uncle, Thoby Prinsep.
  40. William Dalrymple tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel James Dalrymple who married a daughter of the Nawab of Masulipatam and had five children with her in White Mughals.
  41. Emily Metcalfe gives a detailed account of this incident packed voyage. See M.M. Kaye (ed.)The Golden Calm: An English Lady’s Life in Moghul Delhi. Reminiscences by Emily, Lady Clive Bayley, and by her father, Sir Thomas Metcalfe. (Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1980) 114.