Thursday, November 25, 2010

What the Sutherlands Read

I've written elsewhere about the Sutherland family and their reading habits, particularly the likelihood they were familiar with the works of Sir Walter Scott. Here is an example of an actual book that belonged to the family, held by the Lambton Room. Inscribed in the front is "Grace Sutherland, from her father." The 35-page book (titled simply Death: A Poem) was published anonymously in Edinburgh in 1826, and I have been unable to track an identifiable author for it (I'm pretty sure it wasn't TS, Jr., as the style differs, but I wanted to be sure). For anyone who might be interested to know what kind of book Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) thought suitable for his children, the book can be read online.

Given the date and place of publication, in combination with what would appear to be a limited print-run, it seems likely it was one of the books the Sutherlands brought with them when they first came to Canada, and thus was probably loaned out to various members of the community. I find it melodramatic and a bit sensational at times, but the pressed leaves suggest a more sentimental or melancholy interpretation on the part of an earlier reader.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Talfourds, the Lambs, and Normand House

I'm pleased to share that my essay titled "Managing Madness: Charles and Mary Lamb, Thomas Noon Talfourd, and Normand House" is scheduled for publication in the October 2010 issue of The Charles Lamb Bulletin. Talfourd's brothers Froome and Field were neighbours to the Sutherlands in Upper Canada, and it was in all probability through this family that Thomas Sutherland met Charles Dickens while visiting England in the 1830s. (A Canadian obituary for Froome Talfourd conflates the brothers: Dickens dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Thomas, who was also the model for Tommy Traddles of David Copperfield--not Froome.) Elsewhere I have shown the unlikelihood that Sutherland met Dickens and others in the home of Froome and Field's mother, as an earlier report claims. The fact that the elder Mrs. Talfourd was the doyenne of what was termed a "madhouse" at the time makes this additionally improbable.

This essay addresses in large part the Talfourd family's seventy-two year association with Normand House (Fulham), an asylum for ladies where Mary Lamb spent time. Reading the available records--admittedly scant--as well as reports of various Lunacy Commissions to determine more about the residents, has been fascinating.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sarnia's sun shall rise!

Late Nineteenth-Century Sarnia

I've commented before on Thomas Sutherland, Jr.'s (1797-1880) status as poet of Moore. I thought it might be interesting to post a few more of his poems, if only to demonstrate the mood of the time. In this case, that would seem to be boosterism. While I've made the point elsewhere that his poetry isn't all that fantastic, once again, that's not the point. Thinking about it generously, this poem attests to the son's desire to improve his region, as well as his pride in it--both of which he no doubt inherited from his father. However, lacking his father's business sense, TS, Jr. took up the pen, hoping to inspire others.

Exhortation to Port Sarnia

Sarnia, thy situation designates a splendid station
For the fair display
Of Canadian resources, if no apathy divorces
Energy from Sway.

Say'st thou?--"Sand and marshes all met" Let this sand, with lime, avail thee,
City to cement
Drain the swamps, and soil superior, never seen a surface cheerier;
Lambton longs for vent!

Near an enterprizing neighbor, asking interchange of labor,
Land and water woo resort;
Middlesex presents its treasure, Michigan responds with pleasure,
Be their prosperous port.

"Mend thy ways," from lake to London,--be no longer idly undone,
Make a lasting road;
Weather-proof, and life-ensuring, self-supporting, trade-securing,
To thy brisk abode.

Nature nursed thy nook north-wester, as a capital investor,
Huron and St. Clair combine,
With their confidence transparent, to make latent wealth apparent,
Open then thy mine!

Rouse from retrogressive slumber, let not churlish chain encumber,
Learning league with merchandize;
Christianity, thy standard;--with vigor for thy vanguard,
Sarnia's sun shall rise!

Thomas Sutherland
Moore, November 11, 1855

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sutherland Scandal

Thomas-Ann Sutherland Abbott

The story of Robert Horatio George Minty (1831-1906) and his common-law relationship with Laura Abbott (1844-1909), while married to her sister, Grace Ann Abbott (1836-1920), will be known to many Sutherland descendants. Grace and Laura were granddaughters of Thomas Sutherland, by his daughter Thomas-Ann (1812-1902) and her husband Richard Abbott (1808-1872). Those who've read Winning Pendergast's Sutherland family history may recall that
"Thomas-Ann (and one wonders who she was named for, with a Thomas already in the family) washed up the dishes one winter’s night, January 29, 1834, put her shawl about her and ran down to the river's edge to meet her lover, Richard Abbott, and they rowed across to St. Clair and were married. " (The aside is Pendergast's, incidentally, though it does make me wonder if the original TS might have been a bit self-infatuated to name both a daughter and a son after himself.)

Apparently Thomas-Ann's daughter Laura inherited a bit of her mother's rebellious spirit, though with more spectacular results. In chapter 31-32 of his book Minty and his Cavalry: A History of the Sabre Brigade and Its Commander (Michigan, 2006) Rand K. Bitter covers the family scandal, and Laura's subsequent efforts to prove (falsely) the legal validity of her relationship. In addition to consulting surviving family members, Bitter has dug into a particularly rich archive, namely U.S. Military records, tracing the sisters' competing claims to a widow's pension, and the interviews and letters collected shortly after Minty's death in an attempt to sort out the mess. While Bitter's primary focus is Minty himself, the family dynamic covered in these chapters is fascinating. (He also includes a genealogy of his descendants, as well as photos of both families that may be of interest to some.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Broad Street Chapel

On a recent visit to the UK, we were sure to visit the Broad Street Chapel in Reading, where Froome and Field Talfourd's grandfather (Thomas Noon) had been a minister, and their father (the brewer Edward Talfourd) a deacon. Froome recalled his early years there quite vividly: "I remember being carried to a day school in Chancery Lane by a man named Jim from the brewery, whose clothes smelt of beer, and who used to sweep the road in front of our house on Saturdays. I remember the Chapel, and Mr. Douglas, minister. When feeling sleepy, people stood up, and a Mr. Wilmhurst to do so made faces." If the Talfourds found the services uninspiring, they could not complain: Thomas Noon was apparently a less-than-energetic speaker, by the family's own admission.

While the Talfourds moved to Fulham in 1813, Reading remained important in their lives: notably, Froome and Field's elder brother, Thomas Noon Talfourd, would later represent the area in Parliament. The influence on Froome appeared to be more in regards to the choices he made. He became a fervent temperance advocate, signing the pledge while in Canada. Following the family's involvement in church-life, Froome was also the most pious of the three sons. So while he and Thomas Sutherland may have agreed on the need for churches in Upper Canada, they probably had quite divergent opinions about the necessity of a well-stocked cellar.

In this way, Sutherland may have gotten along better with the eldest Talfourd, whom it appears he met on a visit home. Reports suggest that Thomas Noon Talfourd began his morning with a negus at the Garrick Club on his way to Westminster Hall, stopped again for a night-cap on his way home, and was a bit wobbly by dinner time. I do wonder how much of his reputation as a generous host had to do with the libations at the table--certainly this did much to make Sutherland's hospitality memorable.

I've lifted a recipe from Epicurious for negus, in case anyone else is curious.
  • 1 quart Port
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg, to taste
  • Whole cloves, to taste
  • 1 quart boiling water
Heat Port but do not let it boil. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Let the mixture stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes. Pour boiling water into the warm wine and serve immediately. Garnish with grated lemon rind, if desired.

Finding Wright

Jane Leech and William Elliott Wright

In the past I have asked for help locating items of interest. I am pleased to say that the mystery Field Talfourd diary has surfaced. Additionally, the painting of Grace Hogg Sutherland and her daughter has also been traced (thank you to Dustin again). But here's another object I'd like to find: the diary of Capt. William Elliott Wright (1795-1869). Wright was a naval man who settled not far from Sutherland and visited often with him, according to surviving transcriptions from his diary. However, the diary appears to have been passed down in the family, not deposited with Archives Canada, as other family papers were (I have inquired further, just in case).

Wright's daughter, Catherine, was friends with Thomas Sutherland's daughter Grace, and the two may even have been educated together: a Miss Clark came from England to stay at Wright's home (named Oaklands) on the St. Clair River and was charged with the education of the four daughters of the family. Apparently, other girls from homes along the river also came and lived at Oaklands, sharing in Miss Clark's lessons. Given their friendship, it is a distinct possibility that Grace would have been included. If this is indicative of the kind of details Wright recorded, it seems clear that his diary would provide significant additional insight into the lives and interactions of early settlers. The Wrights are, of course, interesting for other reasons as well: Jane Leech Wright was said to have cut off a lock of Napoleon's hair with his own sword--and his permission. (Apparently it was set in a brooch, and passed down in the family.)

Fans of Canadian history might be interested to know that Catherine Louisa Wright would go on to marry Alexander Vidal, another Sarnia acquaintance of all, and a Canadian senator from 1873-1906. Their daughter, Charlotte Jane Vidal (in 1876 married Thomas William Nisbet, Sarnia), was the author of a 1940 Wright genealogy, and is considered Sarnia's first historian--she drew extensively on family papers in her work. She is also the namesake of that city's Charlotte Street.

Sutherland Family Reunion, Circa 1900

Special thanks to Dustin DuFort Petty for sending this photo, and for permission to post it. This is a reunion, circa 1900, of the descendants of George Sutherland (son of Thomas) and his three wives. Dustin also has provided the names of all in the photo, but wonders if anyone can identify the painting in the background: is it George? It would make a certain amount of sense given the context. But I've never seen another image of him to compare.

Back row: Warren Russell and Laura Sutherland Russell (George’s daughter and her husband); Minnie Bassett (George’s granddaughter, by Euphemia); Josiah Good (George’s grandson by Mary) with his wife Mary; George and Augusta Sutherland (son and daughter-in-law of George).

Front row: Rev. Roland Cross (son of our George’s third wife from her first marriage); Janet Sutherland Black (George’s eldest daughter); Mary McLean Cross Sutherland (George's third wife); Tom and Susanna (Parkinson) Sutherland (George’s eldest son); and in the very front is a son of the Goods.

Thanks to Adrienne for correcting Susanna's name.