- Finding Number: SD 1705/MS2524
- Date: 1874-1880
- Level: Item
- Extent: 1 item
- Description: This is a valuable and touching document, naive in style, and possessed of a great and simple pathos, which captivates the reader.
Louisa Jessie emerges from the diary as a typical young lady of the period, given to dramatic utterances ("My birthday. I am 16 at last - how very old I do feel, to be sure"), or equally given to a child-like brevity ("Went to Centennial alone. Saw coffins and photographs"). Her pursuits are the normal ones for a young woman of her position: charades, riding, billiards, singing, dancing, and "gigily" (sic) music lessons. There is a demure acceptance of the events and the boredoms of adolescence. She is punctilious about her charitable work, and a regular and devout churchgoer. We hear of Colin Minton Campbell's decision to stand for Parliament, and of his award of the rank of Commander in the Order of Francis Joseph of Austria. Much is made of Woodseat, of "Mama", of "Jack" (her brother John Fitzherbert Campbell ?), and of the Countesses Clara and Lucille, and she travels quite extensively- for example, to London and to America. On the way to America (a trip made with Colin Minton Campbell), she is seasick, or "seedy" as she slangily puts it, but eventually enjoys the trip, and arrives at Jersey City to begin her round of New York, Saratoga, Montreal, Niagara, Cleveland and Washington. On the way home, aboard the "Scythia", she develops measles, and probably arrives home feeling even more "seedy". A touching commentary on the times she lived in, occurs when she is away at school at Highfield, and goes riding with a friend and a Mr. Barnett: "Glory Massey's hair came down once, and without thinking, Mr. Barnett said 'It won't come off, will it?' we could not help laughing, although he got very red". So much significance was there, in whether a young "girl's hair was "up" or "down"! But the most striking feature of the diary is her devotion to Mr. Cotton. There is a Mrs. Cotton (of whom Louisa writes quite civilly), who "seemed to be put out with everything". But for Mr. Cotton, Louisa Jessie has a passion which is at once entirely innocent, and very touching in its sheer naive charm. She says, at various times: "I like him more every time I see him"; "I don't know which I liked Mr. Cotton best in [this of charades]: the gendarme or the gentleman. I think the gentleman, taking it all in all"; [at his NOT leaving Rocester] "I am so very glad I can't write it down on paper"; [of his racing] "I do wish he would not do such dangerous things- I am afraid he won't stop till he has a dangerous one [accident] but oh may it never come to that". A lump is never far from the throat of the reader; however, the quaintness of some of the writer's sentiments can equally precipitate a chuckle, and in a flash, pathos becomes bathos. For example: "I went out with Mr. Cotton for a ride for the first time on Bogie and we had splendid fun. I had not enjoyed a ride so much for a long time. He was very kind indeed and took every possible care of me. No-one can ever imagine how kind he has been to me; may the Lord give him health and riches in abundance and also a perfect knowledge of himself"! Or again: "Mr. Cotton did not come up in the evening. I was very sorry indeed as I wanted him to say goodbye to me, but I dare say it was for the best". Ma pauvre petite!! Mr. Cotton must have been charmed at all this, although he evaded her request for a photograph of himself. On the eve of her departure to school, her Mr. Cotton came to lunch and to bid her goodbye: "I gave him some forget-me-nots when he went". However, love was to triumph in the end. Firstly though, there are the significant entries for the opening of 1879:
"S [Stapleton] asked me to be his wife".
"I went abroad for two months".
"Returned to Woodseat". *
"S. came to Woodseat".
"Father broke off our engagement".
What had happened to Mrs. Cotton, assuming that she was Mr. Cotton's wife and not his mother? Had Stapleton been too precipitate in his pursuit of Louisa Jessie following his wife's death? Anyway, Colin Minton Campbell obviously disapproved most strongly. There follows her trip to Italy, where she can "...expect to be as happy as it is possible to be without 'him'". On January 3rd 1880, "Father withdrew his opposition to our wedding". On January 30th, "Stapleton came to Rome", and on February 5th, "We were married at the British Embassy by Mr. Tait. Left at once for Florence". As her surviving daughter Hester (see SD 1705/MS2531) has said, Louisa Jessie and her Stapleton lived happily ever after. What is more, they obviously deserved to do so. There follows a copy newspaper announcement of the event.
- Access Status: Open
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