Thursday, September 29, 2022

In search of a rich wife

John Thomlinson, an English clergyman only remembered because of his diary, was born all of 330 years ago today. The diary is variously described as ‘strange’  and ‘unpleasing’ but is also said to give ‘a lively picture’ of the writer’s ‘sordid and selfish views’, in particular with reference to his efforts to find a rich wife.
Thomlinson was born in the small farming village of Blencogo, near Wigton, Cumberland, on 29 September 1692. He studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was ordained a deacon in 1717. Subsequently, he became curate at Rothbury, Northumberland, and rector at Glenfield, Leicestershire. He married Catherine Winstanley, daughter of his patron at Glenfield. He died in 1761. Very little else is known of Thomlinson, but for what is contained in his diary.
Extracts were first published in Six North Country Diaries edited by J C Hodgson (published by The Surtees Society, Durham in 1910). An introduction to Thomlinson’s diary notes the following: ‘On a sheet of paper pasted into the volume, there is written in an eighteenth or early nineteenth century hand, ‘This strange diary seems to have been kept by a young North-country man, of the name of Thomlinson, a student at Cambridge, just entering into Holy Orders. It affords a lively picture of the sordid and selfish views of the writer and of his friends for his advancement, in seeking for a rich wife, and the shameless traffic and trifling with the feelings of many women in this pursuit. There are many things that illustrate the domestic manners of the time, and some anecdotes of Dr Bentley and the proceedings at Cambridge, not without interest.’ ’
Arthur Ponsonby, author of English Diaries, says of Thomlinson’s diary: ‘This is an instance of a diary which, however unpleasing it may be, is quite spontaneous and honest and therefore portrays the character of the writer more vividly than letters or second-hand observations of others could do.’ And Wikipedia adds this: ‘Indeed, this is one of the most captivating, but little-known diaries of the period, rich in antiquarian and literary interest. Thomlinson does not hesitate to criticize his subjects, and reports scandals together with curious and humorous anecdotes including what is certainly one of the earliest limericks.’
Most of Thomlinson’s manuscript is held by The British Library, but The Huntington Library, in San Marino, California, holds one volume, and provides this information: ‘This journal or diary, kept at irregular intervals over nearly forty years (fullest for the 1720s), gradually morphs into a letterbook recording copies of Thomlinson’s correspondence. Early entries discuss with some frankness his family and prospects, his own and his family’s business and legal mattters, daily life and gossip, books and reading (including The Tatler), politics and current events, sermons, occasional medicinal recipes and cures, and accounts of his correspondence.’
Here are several extracts from Thomlinson’s diary (taken from Six North Country Diaries).
13 September 1717
‘Mr Fletcher debauched several women in Whitehaven; a lame gent, was told by some malicious woman that he had made an assignation with his wife and that they were then together - he went and found them, but it was accidental, he broke her and his head both - I believe with his crutch. But it is thought their meeting was accidental.’
14 September 1717
‘King of Spain entered upon Sardinia, and begun the war with the emperor - the pope is thought to be at the bottom of it - they deserved no mercy for disturbing the emperor when he is at war with the common enemy of Christendom.’
15 September 1717
‘Two men endeavoured to ravish a woman. Uncle took notice of it in his sermon, it had no less punishment assigned by our law than death, this startled the audience.’
8 October 1717
‘Brother told me yesterday that they de- signed one of Mr Ord’s daughters for me. Uncle John says they would never have gott that estate with the mill, if they had followed uncle Robert’s scheme, but he does not doubt but to gett it, if they’ll take his advice. Last Sunday Mr Dulap, senior, wished this place and uncle, such a hopefull successor as I, etc.’
10 October 1717
‘Mrs Nicholson accused uncle of great injustice about her fortune in making the match, etc. Said she was afraid the golden cup which old Mrs Nicholson had formerly given him had bribed him in her favour, and he knew no text of Scripture that commanded her to starve her children to enrich his relations, etc.’
15 November 1717
‘Uncle Robert says uncle John cares not how soon I was married - thinks of John Ord’s daughter - the eldest; she is a religious, good natured woman, not so handsome as the second who is a proud, conceiting herself to be a witt, etc. Neither the mother nor the eldest daughter are women of parts, or extraordinary sense, but enough to manage a house, etc. They think John may gett me this living, being acquainted with Mr Sharp’s brother, the lawyer, and he will do brother Richard business about the mill.’
30 December 1717
‘B Haddon sent me some apples, an orange, and a bottle of gooseberry wine to be drunk at Christopher’s. Uncle said he would be afraid to marry me into that family (i.e., Colingwood’s), I should gett into such a nest of drinkers at this time, etc.’
13 April 1718
‘Mr Werg reported to have offered to lay with two or three men’s wifes in Alnwick - one was the day before sacrament - she asked him how he durst, when he knew he was the next day to administer sacrament and she to receive it - he replyed love was a noble passion, and God would indulge it. This sent up to London, and they say he is stopt of the living.’
16 May 1718
‘Aunt Reed called me ‘an idle fellow - following his hussys,’ etc., and said she would tell my uncle when I came to Rothbury - staying something (sic) in town, etc., told by N Fay. Lettice and spinage will be fitt to be cutt in a week - cresses ready now - sown a few turnips.’
31 March 1722
‘Query whether I am not engaged to Mrs A Repington more than by inclination, i.e., because I like her best - I mean it is a query whether my words may not have engaged me - I cannot well recollect - only the letter to Mr Poynton, now in his hands, which she never saw. Uncle told bishop’s lady that if his lordship would give me a living, for he wanted to see me setled, and he beleived I would make a good parish preist, he would give bond to oblige a freind of my lord’s when his fell vacant, etc. The lady said his lordship had so many upon him for livings, that he knew not what to do - his chaplain had gott nothing yet, etc. This lady’s living is about 3 miles from Leicester, 300 l. per annum, and she has 1,200 l., and other sisters may die. 300 l. per annum is equivalent to 900 l. So that the lady of Amington is better fortune, if they have the estate, etc.’
This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 29 September 2012.

No comments: