A Vision of Beauty: Chapter 6

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 Jacksons at Well Walk – new friends and relationships

While Sara and Thoby Prinsep were busy moving to Little Holland House,1 Mia Jackson continued her visits to health resorts. She and her daughters spent the winter of 1850-1851 in Brussels and Julia’s fifth summer was again in Spa, this time with a group of other Pattle aunts and cousins. However the water treatments, though relieving Mia’s pain, did not cure her debilitating and disabling arthritis. She eventually decided that she would not undergo another journey to India, but would find a London home for the family and wait for John Jackson’s return to England, which they both expected would be soon. 

9, Well Walk, Hampstead

In the summer of 1851, when Julia was five, Mia enlisted Thoby Prinsep’s help to find and then rent 9, Well Walk.2 Hampstead was then a very wealthy area on the outskirts of London, though already beginning an increasingly rapid expansion of new building works and modernisation. 

Its healthy location would have appealed to Mia. High above London, Hampstead, adjacent to open heathland, had long been renowned for the purity of its air and the beneficial properties of the chalybeate water in its famous well. 

1. John Constable. Watercolour view from his home in Well Walk over London. Inscribed on the back, ‘Hampstead drawing room 12 o’clock noon Sept 1830’.

Mia would also have enjoyed its many literary and artistic connections. In the eighteenth century Hampstead was renowned for its prestigious literary, philosophical, scientific and artistic societies and salons, many of which continued. John Constable loved painting views over London from his home there. 

2. Keats’ Seat, Old Well Walk, c.1818. Artist unknown c.1876.

The poet Keats who had lived in Hampstead was said to have composed ‘Endymion’ and ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ while sitting on a bench in Well Walk. 

While Mia lived there, so did other regular visitors to Little Holland House, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti with his wife Lizzie Siddal, George du Maurier, and Ford Madox Brown. Tennyson often visited his mother who was another close neighbour.

Typhoid and cholera were constant scourges throughout London at this time. There was a particularly bad epidemic in Hampstead while Mia and her daughters were there in 1854. The location for Ford Madox Brown’s painting Work is Heath Street, in Hampstead, very close to Well Walk. It depicts both rich and poor residents and shows one of the many new building works, the digging of new sewers and drains. 

3. Ford Madox Brown ‘Work’, c.1852–1865.

Julia at Well Walk 1851–1855

4. Julia Jackson, aged about 5, 1851. Metalpoint drawing by G. F. Watts.

So Julia grew up in Well Walk, her first stable home. Here, as well as at Little Holland House, she was surrounded by cultured, artistic, people, many also involved in trying to alleviate the social problems of the day. Her life was less exciting, and much quieter, than at Little Holland House, though she and her sisters, sometimes with their mother, visited there often. John Jackson wrote that he was,

glad that you like Hampstead so much and that you have got so nice a House and Garden, with the advantage of plenty of Water. We shall all have a Happy Home together when I come and join you & the thought of this will keep me up during the present hot season. (8 Feb 1852)

Mia Jackson was by temperament much quieter than her more volatile sisters, especially Sara Prinsep and Julia Margaret Cameron. She had a smaller home and was less affluent than them at this time. In addition John Jackson’s absence and her continuing illness led her to prefer a more reclusive life style, entertaining just one or two close friends, rather than giving grand parties. A friend, Ellen Twisleton, described the sisters: 

5. Julia’s mother, Mia, c.1851. Metalpoint drawing by G. F. Watts. © The Watts Gallery Trust. 

Lady Somers is fair, and round, and sweet, and Mrs. Prinsep’s “darling,” as she says, and looks as if she might be anyone’s darling, but really not so charming to me as Mrs. P. herself, as is often the case with such warm-hearted people’s idols. Mrs. Jackson is a tall striking person, who has been a great invalid, and lives in complete retirement, near Mr. Vaughan at Hampstead. She has been a great reader, and has the greatest refinement and charm of manner – very quiet, not like Mrs Prinsep, but equally attractive in another line.3

The house in Well Walk seems to have been something of an oasis for Mia and her daughters. 

Apart from missing John Jackson, the years they spent there were very easy and pleasant. Mia had her own maid, they had servants for the house, nursemaids for the girls, and governesses and tutors coming in. It was quiet, especially as compared to Little Holland House, but not isolated. They paid and received many visits. 

Mia Jackson was well informed about current affairs and medical matters. She loved reading, especially poetry, and was, as Mary Watts noted, ‘the intimate friend of many literary men and women’.4 She passed on this love of literature and story especially to Julia, the only one of her daughters to be with her for all her childhood. 

Corresponding with ‘Dear Papa’ 

6. John Jackson’s letter to Adeline, 7 February 1850. ©The British Library. 

John Jackson was detained longer in India than he had hoped. He was posted as a doctor with his regiment fighting in the Punjab, before returning to duties in Calcutta. He wrote almost daily to one or other of his family, but sadly only his letters to Adeline are extant, and none of their letters to him. In these letters he seems very homesick and nostalgic, clearly missing Mia and his daughters. His letter of 7 February 1850 begins ‘My dear little Addy, How glad I should have been to have passed my Christmas with you all, I should have enjoyed so much to have seen you happy.’ He asks Mia to buy a chess board and men so that Adeline can learn to play. 

In spite of the long gaps in between sending and receiving letters, still at this time sent in packets with friends or relatives sailing to and from India, John Jackson managed to keep up a ‘conversation’ with them all, so that it is easy to fill in the gaps: 

I have been much entertained with the account you have sent me of the way in which you passed your Birthday, you seem to have had plenty of Fun, & the word you chose ‘Innocence’ was admirable for a charade & more difficult to guess than ‘Looking Glass’. I can well remember & perhaps you may also the time when you used to dress yourself in my Coat and Waistcoat and Boots and come in to make your dear Mamma & myself have a hearty laugh … (7 Jan 1851)

I have received your long and very interesting account of your visit to the Museum, and the lecture which Mr Phillips gave, and I can well imagine the delight with which you would listen to him, and endeavour to understand the Movement of the Earth and the Sun and the Moon, which without the help of a good orrery and a clever Instructor is very difficult to comprehend. […] I daresay little Julia talked a great deal about all she saw. (7 March 1851)

7. The Great Exhibition Building South Side. ‘Illustrated London News’, 1851.

Though Julia and her sisters did not see their father for what would doubtless have seemed to them a very long time, they must have felt loved and cared for by him. His letters are very warm, immediate, natural and heartfelt. They are full of endearments and compliments. He follows their activities, is gentle, funny, thoughtful and considerate. He keeps up to date with current events. 

John Jackson was pleased to hear that Adeline had visited the Great Exhibition in July 1851, which he had seen pictures of in the Illustrated London News. He admired her taste in the sculpture she had seen there and looked forward to the time when he would have ‘the pleasure of taking [her] to see some of Roubilliac’s sculpture in Westminster Abbey and at one of the colleges in Cambridge’. 

Reading that Adeline had seen an exotic Victoria Regia waterlily at the Great Exhibition, he told her that he had also seen one in the Botanical Garden in Calcutta:

It is very pretty and I should have enjoyed the visit which I paid to it if I had not been in such fear of the boat being upset, and I had no desire to get a dipping in one of the deep Pools […] It added very much to my pleasure in seeing it because I knew that you had been to see the one at Kensington. (Sep 1851)

John Jackson is constantly looking for items or bits of information which will interest or amuse them, and gifts which will appeal to them, often writing on decorated notepaper, some with pictures of princesses in the margins, which would have appealed to them. 

8. Victoria Regia by Walter Hood Fitch, 1851. This enormous waterlily was presented by the Duke of Devonshire to Queen Victoria and named after her. The Duke’s gardener who had cultivated it was Joseph Paxton, who is said to have modelled his design for the Crystal Palace on the ribbed veins on the underside of each enormous leaf. Fitch and W.J. Hooker’s botanical drawings and descriptions in their book ‘Victoria Regia’, were much admired. 

He asked Mia to measure all their heights and ‘had it all marked on the Wall’. Adeline, then 13, is, he tells her, already two inches taller than her ‘diminutive’ great-aunt, Mrs Ellerton, who is only five feet. He is glad they have such a lovely house and garden which they all seemed to enjoy. He is trying to get some seeds for his daughters to try and grow there. 

9. Princess and castle in the margin of John Jackson’s letter to Adeline, 8 March 1850.

I long for the sight of a primrose which I have not seen these 22 years, & the sweet scent of the violet bed would be more grateful than the gaudy flowers and deep green foliage of our finest trees. (3 May 1852)

He always remembers their birthdays and Christmas, usually sending some money to Adeline as the eldest and asking her to distribute it, or buy presents on his behalf:

You are to spend 2 Sovereigns upon a little present for Mamma which you are to give with Papa’s love, and then you are to keep one Sovereign for yourself, and to spend it as you like best and you are to give Ten Shillings to Mary Loo, and the same to little Julia, and to give One Sovereign to old Nurse Byers and tell her that Papa has sent it as a Christmas Box. (7 Nov. 1849)

He is concerned about their education and behaviour, but advice is lightly given – there is no sense of the stereotypical paterfamilias. Over the years, he sends money for a new piano and for their music, dancing and German lessons. He shares his love of reading with them, telling them which books and magazines he has received in boxes by the steamer. He is pleased that Adeline is interested in science and is reading ‘Joyce’s Scientific Dialogues’ with Mia and hopes she will continue with ‘Mrs Marcet’s books’. He hopes that Julia and Mary might go to one of the local infant schools ‘where the lessons are all sung and the different angles and lines explained most simply’. He compliments the drawings which Adeline sends him and is pleased when she starts taking lessons with George Frederic Watts.

10. Adeline Jackson. G. F. Watts’ metalpoint drawing c. 1850-1852.

He approves of Adeline going with Mia to Oxford to hear a lecture by the historian Henry Halford Vaughan on the Danes. He tells her that,

in the country where I have passed most of my young days, namely Lincolnshire, there are remains of their residence marked by peculiarity of names of villages similar to those that occur in Denmark. (2 July 1852)

He had not forgotten his roots and sent with ‘Aunt Louisa on the Queen of the South steamer’ a box of presents ‘including a picture of Aunt Ellerton which is for my Mother’.5 Mia must have been in touch with her mother-in law, Mary Jackson, to pass on this gift. Unaccountably, she does not seem to have taken Julia or her sisters to visit their Jackson grandmother, aunts, uncles or cousins, many of whom were living in London at this time.6

11. Mary Jackson. G. F. Watts’ metalpoint drawing c. 1850-1852. © The Watts Gallery Trust.

They are very much in touch with their Pattle relations. John Jackson’s letters are full of family chit chat and gossip, about Aunt Sophie’s baby, Uncle John (Dalrymple) taking dancing lessons, and Aunt Ellerton’s messages to them all. Letters were prized and passed around the family for each other to read: 

Your Aunt Louisa [Bayley] has now gone to Midnapore, she writes to me very often and tells me that her two little Boys are quite well. She sent me your letter to read & I was very much pleased with it. (Sep 1851)

Eastnor and other visits

Adeline had told her father of the many visits she was making to Museums and Galleries. Mia was too ill to join in these visits but they all went to stay with Mia’s sister Virginia Somers at Eastnor Castle in November 1851. Charles and Virginia Somers had just come back from a visit to Madeira in time for the birth of their first child. So Julia had another new cousin to meet, two-month old Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks.

12. Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire. Author’s own photograph.

John Jackson hoped that Adeline would not be envious and that she would enjoy her visit without having any desire to possess all the wonderful things she would see there. He hoped she would still be happy in the ‘little quiet house where dear Mamma is’. 

13. The Gatehouse, Eastnor Castle. Author’s own photograph.

Eastnor must have looked like an old fairy tale castle to the girls, but it was a Victorian Gothic Revival building, and had only been completed in 1820.7 As John Jackson predicted, there were indeed a great many wonderful things to see. 

Since the 1840s Charles Somers had been a member of the Travellers’ Club ‘for gentlemen who had travelled out of the British Isles to a distance of at least five hundred miles from London in a direct line’. Here he made many like-minded friends. He explored and sketched the ruins of ancient Nineveh and Babylon with the famous archaeologist Sir Austen Layard, and Greece with Robert Curzon. He filled the rooms at Eastnor with items of beauty and curiosity which he brought back from his travels. 

14. These photographs were taken by James Valentine (1815–1880), during the time that Charles and Virginia Somers owned Eastnor Castle. James Valentine (1815–1879) was a gifted Scottish photographer specialising in topographical studies. The firm he set up became famous for their picture postcards. Top:
The Great Hall at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, with its three chandeliers. The 17th century tapestries came from a palazzo in Mantua. Bottom: The Long Library at Eastnor Castle. 

Charles Somers carried out new decorations inside the Castle, and had recently commissioned the famous architect A.W. Pugin to design his drawing room. Julia and her sisters must have been amazed to be in such a room, which would have been gleaming with new paint and great candelabras. 

15-17. Top: Watercolour of the decoration design for The Drawing Room by John Gregory Crace of the London decorating company, Crace, c.1850. Left: The Drawing Room when the castle was in the hands of Charles and Virginia Somers. James Valentine (1815-1880), Date unknown. Right: The Drawing Room – a recent photograph.

Charles Somers was a friend of Robert Holford of Westonbirt,8 and like him an enthusiastic plant collector. He planted specimen trees from around the world in the grounds at Eastnor, and constructed new terraces. These would have provided a wonderful playground for Julia and her sisters. No doubt Virginia Somers would have taken Mia and the girls for a carriage drive around the deer park and arboretum and by the lake. Julia would visit the Castle many more times in her life. She spent her honeymoon with her second husband, Leslie Stephen, at Eastnor.

Charles Somers had inherited an artistic talent from his mother but she considered it was not ‘the thing for a gentleman to draw too well like an artist; a gentleman might do many things pretty well, but nothing too well’. So he remained a talented amateur painter and later photographer. He was a friend of Ruskin, Turner, Thackeray and Watts. This was how he came to meet Virginia Pattle and to fit so well into the Little Holland House and later Freshwater Circles. 

18. Reigate Priory by Prosser published 1828. 
Charles Somers was born there in 1819.

Julia with her mother and sister continued to be close to her aunt Virginia though their lives were increasingly different. Virginia enjoyed travel as much as her husband and soon after Julia’s visit they were off to study the Bedouin Arabs. The following year, on the death of his grandfather, Charles came into the earldom, becoming Lord Somers. From 1853 to 1857 he was a Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria and the couple spent time in London, at Eastnor and at another Somers’ family home, Reigate Priory. Charles had briefly been MP for Reigate before his marriage.

Adeline growing up

Julia and Mary stayed with Mia in Well Walk, while Adeline now 12, was considered young woman enough to begin paying visits on her own. In 1852 she went to stay with her aunt Julia Margaret. The Camerons had also just moved, this time to East Sheen near Richmond Park.

19. Mary and Julia Jackson, 
photographed by James Mudd, 1857–8

In August that year, John Jackson hoped to receive ‘a full description of Bonn and the Rhine & Drakenfels and all the pretty places that you visit’. Later he was pleased to have had Adeline’s letter from Dover where she was with her mother, and probably her sisters. He was apprehensive about coping with an English winter, ‘for 22 years have now passed without my seeing snow or feeling frost’. 

The following January he was concerned that Adeline had been ill with a bad cold and confined to bed. He half seriously asks her, ‘How should you like a Voyage to India? To remain with your Papa during the Cold Weather? Are you very ill at Sea? You have made some little excursions across the Channel and would be able to judge.’ Adeline must have visited her grandmother, Thérèse de L’Étang in Paris.

 John Jackson in India

Meanwhile John Jackson’s career was prospering in Calcutta. In 1849 he had been promoted to the highest post available to civil surgeon – Presidency Surgeon. He also had a private practice. One of his grateful patients was a young Jane Grant, later Jane Strachey and mother of Lytton. She remembered that as a child,

I was constantly being knocked up by headaches, and was often visited by Dr Jackson, whose kindness to me I have always remembered; and I am uncommonly glad to know that his grandchildren, the Leslie-Stephens, have always been great friends of my own children.9

His house was run by his aunt Mrs Ellerton, and was always full of Anglo-Indian families coming and going, especially the Dalrymples and the Bayleys. His wife’s sisters, Louisa Bayley and Sophia Dalrymple, stayed with him for long periods often while they had their babies and their husbands had to travel away from Calcutta. So his house was often full of children, nannies, Sophia’s French maid Eugénie who often caused a stir, and Aunt Ellerton who was often cross if she felt she was not being given the attention and deference she deserved. 

In 1853 unable to return to England as he wished he instead took a long holiday to Ceylon, sending detailed descriptions and presents of an ebony inkstand for Adeline, a wooden boat for Mary and an ebony elephant for Julia. By 1853 the first direct home delivery of mail was introduced and instead of a packet of letters which a returning passenger brought in their box, Adeline received a letter addressed directly to her at Well Walk, with an Indian stamp on it. 

While Mia and her daughters spent Christmas 1853 quietly in Well Walk, John Jackson was celebrating in high style in Calcutta Society. The following year he was sent on a long tour through India up to Delhi and Agra, again sending long descriptions to Adeline especially of his first journey on a train and his nostalgic visit back down the Ganges to Ghazipur where he took, 

a peep at our old House where you were born, and where you were so ill that for many days neither your darling Mamma nor myself thought that you would grow. The House is close upon the River and was looking prettier than any other place I visited, so that I was quite pleased at finding our old Home looking so clean and nice. This is the place famous for rose water, and I bought some and shall send home a batch especially for your own use, as a memento of the place where you were born. (10 Aug 1854)

He also sent a signet ring for Adeline which he had had specially made for her in Delhi ‘as a keepsake for ever’, engraved with her name in Persian on one side and Old English on the other.          

20. Virginia Julian Dalrymple, Sophia’s daughter, aged 3 by G. F. Watts, 1853. © The Watts Gallery Trust.

John Jackson was getting together a box of silk handkerchiefs and nightdresses for his daughters and Mia. He had visited Sophia Dalrymple, who was back from visiting England and living with her husband nearby. She was, he wrote,

looking very well, and is very happy with Baby, who is a very pretty Child like little Virginia. You seem to have a great many visitors from India and now & then they write to me that they have been to Hampstead, and they all speak of the pretty place that you have got to live in. (4 Apr 1854)


New friends – Henry Halford Vaughan 

One important new family friend was the Jacksons’ near neighbour in Well Walk, Henry Halford Vaughan. He was at this time a highly acclaimed Professor of History at Oxford. Mia introduced him to the Little Holland House Circle, where he soon made a place for himself and became a favourite, especially of the more serious, less artistic members. His manner and interests soon earned him the family nickname Boudh (Buddha) taken from Thoby Prinsep’s newly published book Tibet, Tartary and Mongolia: Their Social and Political Condition, and the Religion of Boudh.

Henry Halford Vaughan was born in Bloomsbury, the son of John Vaughan Serjeant-at-Law and the Hon. Lady Augusta Beauchamp, who died when he was only two. He was educated at Rugby and Christ Church College Oxford, where he excelled academically. He became a fellow at Oriel College and began what promised to be a glittering career in the law and academia. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1838, but never practiced as a Barrister, though he became Clerk of Assize for the South Wales Circuit. He was deprived of his Fellowship in 1842 for refusing to take Holy Orders, a requisite at that time. He was appointed Professor of Modern History in 1848 and gave an acclaimed series of annual public lectures on English History from the following year until 1856. By all accounts he held his audience spellbound, one listener claiming that, ‘the lecture was a powerful, poetical, and sometimes sublime oration […] Vaughan is almost too brilliant, both in conversation and in lecturing. He dazzles one.’10 Mia Jackson and Adeline were two of his dazzled listeners. 

21. Henry Halford Vaughan photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, c.1864–70. 
‘His features were large, well-defined and mobile, especially his eyes [which] were fixed on you with an intensity of expression that seemed to pierce your very soul. He had an immense ‘fell’ of rough hair [which] gave a sort of wild Olympian character to his head.’11

However he disliked Oxford Society, much preferring being in London at the Athenaeum Club, the London Library, and with close friends such as Thomas Carlyle, Edward Twisleton, William Nassau Senior and Henry Liddell.

His daughter, Emma Vaughan, later told the story of how he was ‘kidnapped’ by Sara Prinsep and taken off to Little Holland House:

One day, when my father was a middle-aged man and was sitting in the Athenaeum, he received a message to say that Mrs Prinsep (of whom he had never heard) was at the door in her carriage and wished to speak to him. There he found a charming lady, half English, half French, who insisted on carrying him off with her to her home on the then outskirts of London. Her salon was renowned for the painters, poets, and men of science who frequented it. She had heard of my father and was determined to draw him in, no matter how unconventionally.12

It is a colourful account and says much for Sara’s reputation as well as Vaughan’s celebrity status, but he was first introduced to the Pattles by Mia Jackson, his neighbour and avid attender of his lectures. 

More new friends – Edward and Ellen Twisleton 

Henry Vaughan in turn introduced Mia and the other Pattle sisters to his friend Edward Twisleton and his new young wife, Ellen. Edward Twisleton was the younger brother of Lord Saye and Sele of Broughton Castle, near Banbury, Oxfordshire.13

22. Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire.

He had been brought up until the age of seven in Ceylon, so had much in common especially with the Camerons. Sent back to England, he grew up in his cousin, Lord Leigh’s home, Stoneleigh Abbey, and was a friend of William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle and Arthur Hallam. He had married Ellen after visiting her father in Boston, New England. Though much younger, Ellen was a strong, assertive, independent, very well-educated and well-connected young woman. In spite of the age gap and many differences, they were well matched and very happy.

23. Ellen Twisleton (1828–1862). 

The Twisletons spent much time at Broughton Castle and in introducing Ellen to new relations around the country. In London, a highlight of Ellen’s time was being presented to Queen Victoria. Another was when she, ‘went out to Little Holland House, where I met five sisters, Mrs. Prinsep, Cameron, Dalrymple, Jackson, and Lady Somers, and anything so beautiful as this last, or so sweet and loving as the others, one must see them to imagine.’14 Though she was enjoying her honeymoon tour in England and Europe, she was also very homesick, especially for the company of her sisters, from whom she had never been separated before. She wrote almost daily, long, gushing, stream of consciousness letters to her sisters. Many were about the Pattles and Little Holland House. They are private, informal, letters full of detail and humour. 

She was hugely grateful to the Pattles, especially Sara and Mia, for their warm welcome and their understanding of how much she was missing her sisters. She claimed that ‘nobody but Mrs. Jackson or Mrs. Prinsep has given me such a warmhearted greeting as she always does.’15 Ellen became a frequent visitor at Little Holland House, sending fulsome long descriptions of typical evenings and the people there:

Sunday evening: Dined at Little Holland House, where again I had a perfectly delightful time. Mrs. Prinsep was beaming and beautiful and Mrs. Jackson delightful, and both of them so good to me that if I could have kissed the hems of their garments, I should have been glad. […]Mrs. Prinsep is a fine looking woman, and Mrs. Jackson is one of the most superior women I have seen. A person who comprehends all heights and depths, tender hearted and womanly, about twice as tall as I am and an elegant looking person, […] Mr. Prinsep is a great six footer, not fat, with a fair complexion, grey hair, and a good broad forehead and a generally sunny expression. He is a generous, affectionate person who appreciates his wife, and likes to have her do just as she pleases and to have everybody at their ease and at home in his house. He is an East-India director, and would be very rich if he had not spent a great deal of money in a series of contested elections. As it is, they have this great house, and live in free and comfortable style. The dinner was very nice and wonderful with calves-head and lobster curries and odd sort of dishes, all first rate. Lord and Lady Somers and Mr. Layard were expected, but missed the train and did not come, which made the table seem rather long – so Mrs. Prinsep had us all upstairs to dessert, in the room where all those frescoes of Mr. Watts’ are, which I described to you, to a smaller table, just the right size, and changed everybody’s place, to make it cheerfuller still. Then besides this, and opening out of it, are two other parlours (sic) where we spent the evening. When we left the gentlemen, there were only the two sisters and myself, so Mrs. Prinsep showed me all over her house, not for show’s sake, but out of friendliness, that I might see her room and where Mrs. Jackson was when she lived with her, etc. We wound up in Mr. Watts’ studio, where we stayed until the gentlemen remonstrated in a body. Then Mrs. Prinsep was busy with other people and Mrs. Jackson sat down and told me to tell her about my sisters and I began and told her as I have not seen the other person in England I could have told, and she understood everything I said and you may judge if I enjoyed it. At the end of the evening we had some excellent music and I talked with Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Watts, while Edward pitched into East Indian politics with Mr. Prinsep, and Mrs. Jackson cloaked and shawled me, and her daughter [Adeline] brought me a splendid bouquet of flowers and altogether there were no bounds at all to their goodness or my gratitude.16

Ellen Twisleton described the frescoes which Watts had painted, using the Pattle sisters as his models. 

In one of the rooms, there are seven or eight arched spaces, he has painted in fresco, a splendid series of pictures – the first is Earth with the infant Humanity – a beautiful, womanly figure, stooping over a child in her lap – this has fair hair, and is most like Lady Somers […] On the fourth side of the room, are two windows, and in the three spaces between these he has painted single figures of Science, “Contemplation”, and another which I have lost among the many. The two which I recollect are all over Mrs. Jackson, and I never saw a face and figure which would do better as a study for such subjects than hers. 

Julia Margaret Cameron modelled for the figure of Hindustan, and Virginia Somers for Progress. Virginia Somers was so impressed that she invited Watts to decorate the dining room of her London house, 7 Carlton House, Terrace. This theme was The Elements, based on Greek mythology. 

24-25. Left: Study for Diana, Carlton House fresco, Watercolour by G. F. Watts c. 1855. © The Watts Gallery Trust. Right: Apollo and Diana, G. F. Watts c. 1855. Carlton House fresco, exhibited at the Watts Gallery, Compton, 2017.  

This would have boosted Watts’ celebrity status as they were seen by many influential and aristocratic dinner guests. Ellen Twisleton was also a guest and wrote to her sisters: 

After dinner we went to the Somers’, where we met the Percys, Lady and Sir Charles Eastlake, Lord Landsdowne, and other few, – to tea and to see Mr. Watts’ frescoes, which cover their dining-room walls, and are splendid. Lady Somers was more beautiful than anyone else can be. I could think of nothing but a splendid full moon, so radiant and benignant as she was. They have let their house for three months, for 900 guineas, and left on Monday. The guineas will help pay the bills of furnishing, a process not yet completed, and it is a common expedient in London for making or saving a little money.17

The frescoes remained when the house later became the German Embassy. The frescoes were painted over in white by the next owners, but were rediscovered and displayed by Albert Speer when he was redesigning the house to become the German Embassy in the 1830s. They were removed in the 1960s and now hang in Malvern College. What Virginia Somers did not display on her own wall was a very erotic representation of herself as an almost naked Briseis in the huge mural Achilles and Briseis painted by Watts in 1858, which was in the entrance hall at Bowood House, Wiltshire.

However, of all the Pattle sisters, Ellen seems to have had the most affinity with Mia Jackson. After a long journey on the Continent, Ellen and Edward,

reached home Monday, lunched and drove out to Hampstead to see Mrs. Jackson, who was perfectly delightful, tall, elegant and handsome, and frank and loving and very fond of some persons, and equally averse to others, and altogether refreshing and making me feel as if I had got home. She loaded me with flowers and branches of ivy and laurel, which are still making Jermyn St. beautiful, and told me to come any day at any hour and she would always be glad to see me, in short, carried out the beautiful benevolence of the family towards me.18

More visits soon followed: 

26. Crayon drawing of Henry Halford Vaughan by G. F. Watts. Family Possession.

Mrs. Jackson came, bringing me another splendid dish of flowers and such a superb white Magnolia, as I have not seen since I was at Rose Hill, which made the room fragrant and was the admiration of all our visitors for three days […] She is the intensest person in her manners that I ever saw, just because she is so affectionate and sympathetic, and she is also more than virtually clever, and very fine looking, with a splendid figure. She brought Edward a photograph from a crayon head of Mr. Vaughan, which Mr. Watts has lately completed; it was very successfully taken, and is such an admirable portrait of Mr. Vaughan that I keep wanting to send it over to you.19

The Twisletons travelled often on the Continent and other parts of England but on returning in June 1854 they again, 

drove to Hampstead and found Mrs. Jackson at home, stayed about an hour and a half, lunched with her, and had a splendid talk. She is just as charming as ever and just as enthusiastic about Mr. Vaughan, and has been to Oxford to hear nearly all his lectures, which she thinks better than ever this year.20

That summer, cholera was rife in London. The Twisletons escaped to Weymouth and Torquay. Mia took her daughters to the seaside in Wales. Adeline paid another visit to her aunt Virginia and John Jackson in his letter of August 10th sent thanks for her long letter describing it. However Mia was not cured and in December John Jackson wrote anxiously to Adeline: 

I was very much grieved last night at receiving the accounts of the sad Illness which has befallen dear Mamma; & to find that she had suffered so much & been confined to her Bed for so long. It must have been a very trying and anxious time for you all, & the irritability of Stomach continuing for so long a time and unrelieved by any Medicine must have alarmed you greatly. I am glad that you sent for Dr Babington and that his remedies were so successful. (5 Dec 1854)

Adeline is clearly in charge of the household at this time, and her doctor father has confidence in her judgement. He suggests that ‘a week or two in Brighton’ might help Mia’s recovery and sends his love and thanks to Adeline for all her ‘tender care to darling Mamma during her Illness’. 

John Jackson’s return to England

When Julia was nine her life changed again. In 1855 John Jackson was finally able to retire from the East India Company. He packed up his belongings, wound up his affairs with the EIC medical service, closed his private practice at 14 Chowringhee Road, helped his aunt, Mrs Ellerton, who refused to come back to England with him, settle back at the Bishop’s Palace, and enjoyed a round of farewell visits and parties. 

27. John Jackson, photographed by his sister-in-law, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864.

After 25 years John Jackson could finally return to England. It was a time of new beginnings for the Jackson family.

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 Watts Gallery Trust for permission to reproduce drawings and paintings by G. F. Watts. In particular I would like to thank Chloe Ward, Judi Barrett and Stacey Clapperton for their assistance. 

I am grateful to the British Library for permission to reproduce facsimiles of John Jackson’s fragile, unpublished letters.

I am very grateful to Hazel Lein, the curator of the archives at Eastnor Castle, for her generous help and information.  It is a very beautiful and fascinating place to visit.

Picture credits

  1. London from Hampstead Heath, watercolour, by John Constable. Courtesy of the British Museum, London. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_from_Hampstead_Heath_by_John_Constable.jpg (accessed 09/08/21).
  2. Keats’ Seat, Old Well Walk. From Old and New London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places. The North Western Studies by Edward Walford.
  3. Work c.1852 -1865. Public Domain. https: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_(painting)#/media/File:Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Work_-_artchive.com.jpg (accessed 09/08/21).
  4. Julia Jackson, aged about 5. Family possession, courtesy Virginia Nicholson. 
  5. Julia’s mother, Mia. © The Watts Gallery Trust.
  6. John Jackson’s letter to Adeline, 7 February 1850. ©The British Library. 
  7. The Great Exhibition Building South Side. Illustrated London News, 1851.           https://www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/1851.htm. (accessed 09/08/21).
  8. Victoria Regia by Walter Hood Fitch. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victoria_regia_–_Walter_Fitch.jpg (accessed 09/08/21).
  9. Princess and castle in the margin of John Jackson’s letter to Adeline, March 8, 1850. ©The British Library. 
  10. Adeline Jackson, c.1850–2 by G. F. Watts. © Royal Academy, London.           https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/a-seated-girl-in-profile-possibly-adeline-jackson?form=objects&index=5&procedure_id=G306&total_entries=8 (accessed 09/08/21).
  11. Mary Jackson, c1850–2 by G. F. Watts. © The Watts Gallery Trust.
  12. Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire. Author’s own photograph.
  13. The Gatehouse, Eastnor Castle. Author’s own photograph.
  14. Monochrome images of the interior of Eastnor Castle. Courtesy National Galleries Scotland, licensed for use Creative Commons CC by NC. https://www.nationalgalleries.org (accessed 09/08/21).
  15. Watercolour of the decoration design for the Drawing Room. Public Domain. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/363529 (accessed 09/08/21).
  16. The Drawing Room, James Valentine. Courtesy National Galleries Scotland, licensed for use: Creative Commons CC by NC. https://www.nationalgalleries.org (accessed 09/08/21).
  17. The Drawing Room, contemporary photograph. https://eastnorcastle.com/things-to-do/explore -the-castle/ (accessed 09/08/21).
  18. Reigate Priory by Prosser. Lithograph illustration from G. F. Prosser’s Select Illustrations of the county of Surrey (1828).
  19. Mary and Julia Jackson. Photographed by James Mudd or Joseph Cundall c.1857. https://www.sworder.co.uk/news/the-original-super-model–photographs-of-pre-raphaelite-beauty-to-be-sold/ (accessed 14/08/21).
  20. Virginia Julian Dalrymple, aged 3. © The Watts Gallery Trust.
  21. Henry Halford Vaughan. Photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. © National Portrait Gallery. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw123394/Henry-Halford-Vaughan (accessed 09/08/21).
  22. Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire. © Philip Halling. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5856000 (accessed 09/08/21).
  23. Ellen Twistleton. Frontispiece to the Letters of the Hon. Mrs. Edward Twisleton  Written to Her Family 1852–1862, privately printed 1925. Unknown photographer.
  24. Study for Diana, Carlton House Fresco. Watercolour by G. F. Watts c. 1855. © The Watts Gallery Trust.
  25. Apollo and Diana. G. F. Watts c. 1855. Carlton House fresco, exhibited at the Watts Gallery, Compton, 2017.  © Crown Estate.
  26. Crayon drawing of Henry Halford Vaughan by G. F. Watts. Family possession.
  27. John Jackson. Julia Margaret Cameron photograph of John Jackson from Graham Ovenden (ed.) A Victorian Album; Julia Margaret Cameron and Her Circle, published Secker & Warburg, London, 1975. Plate 99.


Full publishing details can be found in the Bibliography, under Resources

Frequent abbreviations in this chapter:

JJ         Letters from John Jackson, British Library OIOC papers F446. Unpublished.

ET       Vaughan E T (ed.) Letters of the Hon. Mrs. Edward Twisleton 1852-1862 (privately printed 1925).


  1. See Chapter 5.
  2. Later renumbered 46, Well Walk.
  3. ET 29 June 1853, p116-117.
  4. Mary Watts, Annals  1.129.
  5. JJ 7 Sep 1852.
  6. For the Jackson family background see Chapter 1.
  7. See Chapter 5 for stories of how Charles Somers was attracted to Virginia Pattle by Watts’ portraits of her and an account of their marriage. For a history of the castle and further images see https://eastnorcastle.com and Wikipedia
  8. Westonbirt, the estate owned by Robert Holford, where he first planted his trees collected from around the world, is now the National Arboretum.
  9. From Some Recollections of a Long Life by Lady Strachey, ch II Girlhood, 39. [Unpublished. British Library Rare Manuscripts].
  10. George Butler, quoted Oxford DNB: Vaughan, Henry Halford.
  11. Henry Liddell, quoted Oxford DNB: Vaughan, Henry Halford.
  12. Emma Vaughan, quoted E. G. W. Bill, A Study of Henry Halford Vaughan 219.
  13. For more information see www.broughtoncastle.com.
  14. ET 19 June 1855, 305.
  15. ET 30 April 1855, 296-7.
  16. ET 14 July 1853, 132-133.
  17. ET 18 May 1855, 298-9.
  18. ET 7 July 1853, 130.
  19. ET 20 July 1853, 137.
  20. ET 29 June 1854, 222.