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.

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