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 Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 09:05

Henrietta Georgiana Marcia Lascelles Chatterton (nee Iremonger), in an age when Gerald Mills and Charles Boon had yet to inflict their authors' infinite ouvre of turgid romantic fiction on the public, compensated for this deficit with some sterling turgidity of her own. Between 1836 and 1875 she produced a string of such "novels", consumed as greedily by an appreciative audience of largely female readership as they were reviled and derided by literary critics. George Eliot, in her marvellous critique of the genre "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" (which makes points relevant to many of today's chick-litters) gave Georgiana pride of place amongst them. A writing style that did to prose what William McGonagall did to poetry, a cast of characters all afflicted with Ossianic speech and vocabulary regardless of social status or origin (even the small children), and a guaranteed denouement in which the lovers are at last united in wedded bliss, did nothing to stem the tide of sales which, unusually for a female author in her time, even the good ones, saw Lady Chatterton amass considerable wealth in her lifetime.

Which was a good thing for Georgiana. Married young to a Cork landlord Sir William Abraham Chatterton, the couple soon found themselves in financial straits and the famine of 1845 to 1851 saw the demise of Chatterton's Irish estate completely. They retreated to a frugal existence in Dorset, where Georgiana cannily realised that the encouraging sales of her prior novels could indicate a source of financial salvation. Turgid romantic floss had proved the most popular of her earlier ouvre (a pity - her "Travels in the South of Ireland" is one of the best such journals of its time) so from that moment on she resolved to write nothing else. Her resolution quickly paid off and revenue began pouring in, though too late for William, who died in 1855.

And this is where the ear wax comes into the story, though not before we first hop up to 1859 and are introduced to two new characters; a young ex-Guardsman rector, Edward Dering, and his lover, Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen who, though 26 years of age at the time, was a ward of the Baroness author. Dering was obliged by social convention therefore to approach Lady Georgiana and formally request permission to marry Dulcibella, which he duly did.

Or thought he did. To his horror, Lady Chatterton, upon hearing his request through ears badly in need of a cerumenic rinse, gladly accepted this young man's surpising proposal for her own hand and Dering, too gallant to disabuse her of her mistake, found himself engaged to a lady twice his age. They duly married.

But just as in the most predictably turgid of Georgiana's books, this twist of fate would prove but a catalyst for what was to come. An initially crestfallen Orpen soon found herself being "comforted" by one Marmion Ferrers, Dering's closest friend, and eight years later she had sufficiently recovered her enthusiasm for amour that they too tied the knot and went to live in Ferrer's dilapidated moated mansion in Baddesley-Clinton, near Warwick. No sooner however had the bride been carried across the (presumably dilapidated) doorstep than they were joined by their friends Edward and Georgiana and all four entered a domestic arrangement which had the neighbours gossiping, the local vicar condemning from pulpet, and which lent the society rags of the day a handy scandal to fall back on during lean times.

The story ran and ran, as the term goes, until 1876. Dering, possibly as a reaction to the local vicar, had converted to Catholicism rather suddenly about a year after moving in. In 1875 Georgiana followed suit and in that year produced her final work, a translation of "The Consolation of the Devout Soul (With an Appendix of The Holy Fear of God)" by J. Frassinetti, a Genoan priest, which must have pleased the local vicar no end. Within a few months she passed away.

Mermion Ferrers was next to go, dying in his refurbished mansion (thanks to Georgiana's money) in 1884. Which is where a Chatterton plotline must inevitably lead thirteen months later and a marriage delayed by thirty years in the small convent chapel at Baddesley-Clinton. Edward and Dulicibella could at last enter the final paragraphs of their lives hand in hand. Dering died in 1892, Dulcibella lived into her nineties and passed away in 1923. All four are buried beside each other in the local churchyard.
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 09:27

Quote :
and Dering, too gallant to disabuse her of her mistake, found himself engaged to a lady twice his age.

Aye right, as would be the response up here!

What clever boys, I wonder how long it took them to dream up that little plot and arrange for themselves a comfortable and well funded life financed by Lady G.
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 09:29

Clever boys? Clever boys and girl, I would have thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 09:37

In fact she was the milch cow that just kept on giving. Three years after her death Dering produced this:

Memoirs of Georgiana, Lady Chatterton
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 09:58

But of course dear Dulcibella must have been a party to the plan. What a wonderful name, it could be a confectionery and much too sweet to be wholesome.........

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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 10:11

Dulcibella was a reasonably successful artist in her own right. She had a moderate ability and knew it, so her strategy was to market herself to the nouveau riche (of which there were many at that time) with more money than artistic appreciation and sell them cut-rate portraiture. Pretty soon she realised that they were more interested in paintings of their newly built or renovated country piles, especially interiors, so she switched to these as her speciality. As an artist she kept her maiden name, Orpen, and her works are still to be found in many stately homes around the UK.

Here's one she did of her own gaff - the Baddesley-Clinton den of iniquity:



It strikes me that in this menage-a-quatre it was the women who were earning the bucks, so your first conclusion might well be the correct one!
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 10:44

Baddesley-Clinton Hall just seems to have always attracted and encouraged some rather individualistic behaviour, to put it mildly. Maybe it was the moat? In any case one can surmise that the vicar mentioned above was heading into some very dangerous territory when he denounced the menage-a-quatre it hosted in the 1870s.

In the 15th century the man who was responsible for the first moated structure on the site, Nicholas Brome "slew the minister of Baddesley Church findinge him in his plor (parlour) chockinge his wife under ye chinne, and to expiatt these bloody offenses and crimes he built the steeple and raysed the church body ten foote higher".

The steeple-building did the trick and he was pardoned by both the king and the pope. Brome had also dispatched earlier one John Herthill, steward to the "Kingmaker" Earl of Warwick, though this was quite understandable as Herthill himself had murdered Brome's father, John, in Whitefriars in London some years before. In any case both the king and the pope threw in a pardon for that one too.

In 1517 the Hall was taken over by the Ferrer branch of the family and remained in their staunchly Catholic hands until being taken over by the National Trust in 1982. A May Book Fair is held annually, it boasts a little second hand book shop and cafe, and there is also a chance to partake in Murder Mystery Weekends (don't fall into the priest-hole).
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 11:04

Seems Dulcibella might have been flogging some of Georgiana's stuff off behind her back!

Georgiana dabbled with brush and canvas too, and judging by her portraits and landscapes they were of a similar standard and style to those of her ward, little Dulcie. Suspiciously similar!

Here's Lady G's impression of a sub-Alpine landscape in Northern Italy:



Now I have images in my head which can't be expunged of poor old Georgie in fetters in the priest-hole in Baddesley-Clinton being forced for years to churn out novels and paintings at the rate of a hundredweight a day to keep the younger set in the lifestyle to which they were accustomed ...

The thlot pickens!
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Sun 05 Jun 2016, 18:12

One wonders if Rebecca Dulcibella was related to William Orpen the painter. A cousin or great-aunt perhaps? A prize-winning portrait artist, the Irishman was commissioned into the British army's service corps during the First World War and made a famous series of landscape paintings relating to the Somme battlefield. These, however, were done in 1917 (i.e. a year after the battle) and are, perhaps, all the more poignant for that. At first glance some can look like snowscapes until one realises that the whiteness is in fact the sunbaked earth under the hot August sky of that year:



Mines and the Bapaume Road, La Boiselle (1917)



Self Portrait (1917)
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PostSubject: Re: Lady Chatterton's Lover - a cautionary tale about ear wax   Mon 06 Jun 2016, 07:48

@Vizzer wrote:
One wonders if Rebecca Dulcibella was related to William Orpen the painter.

His second cousin Gregory Orpen, a historian of some repute at the time, was a nephew of Dulcibella and used Baddesley Clinton as a writing retreat. When the National Trust took over the property the extensive and impressive library they also inherited was largely down to Gregory's additions to it during these decades.

What is remarkable is the similarity in style between William and Rebecca Dulcibella's style artistically (what art critics these days call the slab effect), even if some of the latter had actually been Georgiana's. Though maybe not so remarkable if examples of the latter were floating around within the extended family as William was growing up in Dublin.
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