Few days ago I stumbled upon a curious and intriguing citation on the “Church of England Magazine” issue for October 31st, 1857, p.287:
“NOTICE OF BOOKS:
AMONG the books which have lately reached us are the following:
The Bow in the Cloud a Memoir of MEH. By her Sister, London: Hatchard, 1857. This is the account of a young lady who lived, for the most part of her life, and ultimately died, abroad. The pity we feel for those, whose lot it is to dwell far from their fatherland, augments the interest with which we peruse such records. The disadvantages, social, political, and religious, of the continent, are obstacles and stumbling-blocks which to many have proved of ruinous effect. And yet, in spite of them, God has often been pleased to cherish the spiritual life of his people, and render such sojourners the means of usefulness to those around them. Thus it seems to have been with the subject of this memoir. An accident in early life destroyed the sight of one eye; and subsequent ill-health was a continued chastening from the Father of her spirit. She was brought into believing union with the Saviour; and the copious extracts from her journal depict very touchingly the working of her inner life. Her last hours were peace; for Christ sustained her; and she sleeps (having died in her 27th year, a few weeks after her father, and a few months before her mother) with her parents in the British cemetery at Leghorn, in sure and certain hope of joyful resurrection. We cheerfully give our testimony to the value of this little volume; and we think it likely to be acceptable and useful, especially to young persons.“
I was not yet sure whether this information on the author and her family was true or invented and I went on searching for more information about this mysterious author. I found another brief citation in a list of books printed by the same editor:
“Bow in the Cloud: a Memoir of M. E. H. By her Sister, Author of ” Ellen Mordaunt.” Fcap. cloth, 3s. 6d.
A simple, but touching biography. It records the trials and the consolations of one whose father died after a lingering illness, shortly before the period of her own dissolution ; and whose mother survived this shock for a few months only. The experience of sorrow is thus sketched, under no ordinary circumstances, by the only surviving member of the family. There is nothing of maudlin sentimentalism in the book; it conveys some weighty lessons to the Christian reader. – Liverpool Courier.”
So there were at least two books by the same unknown author, the second one being “Ellen Mordaunt”. Further research in the British Library catalogues revealed the full title of both books and confirmed the fact that she still seems to be unidentified:
- Ellen Mordaunt, or the effects of true religion; a tale, [by – H.] by Ellen MORDAUNT, London, 1851. [printed by James Nisbet and Co., Berners Street].
- The Bow in the Cloud. A Memoir of M.E.H. By her sister, author of “Ellen Mordaunt” [With a Preface by the Rev. H. Greene (See note at the end of the article], by M.E.H., London, 1857
Clearly there was some confusion about the author, once called Ellen Mordaunt as in the title, and once M.E.H., confusing her with the sister. I tried to obtain both books, but was able to find only the first one, of which the introduction reads:
“THE following Story was not written with a view to publication, and had private feeling alone been consulted, it probably would never have been given to the world; but the Writer has yielded to the advice of kind, but perhaps too partial friends.
It was written with the intention of perpetuating the memory of scenes in this sunny land, rendered dear by many associations, and of traits of character, which at various times came under her observation. It is, therefore, a satisfaction for her to know that in perusing it, indulgent Reader, your time is not wasted on mere fiction; and should it prove useful in leading any to long after growth in grace, or to cherish love in these uncharitable days for all who love and serve the Lord Jesus, her disinclination to appear in print will be abundantly compensated.
July 24, 1850.“
Intriguing: a book by an unknown, young female author, whose father, mother and only sister (M.E.H.) died and were buried in Livorno. It claimed to be not just a tale, but a true story to perpetuate “the memory of scenes in this sunny land” and whose introduction was also written in Livorno, probably by the author herself. It could be a new literary source about Livorno in the first half of the 19th century and also a completely unknown source about an entire family buried in the English cemeteries of Livorno.
The identification that I propose here was unexpectedly very simple and straight-forward to obtain. What I knew, based on the above sources, were the initials of her sister (M.E.H.), her sister’s age at death (27), the facts that their father died few weeks earlier and their mother a few months after, and finally the place of burial being one of the two English cemeteries of Livorno, depending on the exact date of decease (pre-1840 or post-1840).
The solution came from the burial register of the New English Cemetery: only one person would match the initials M.E.H.: Mary Elizabeth Harrington, died May 25th, 1850. In the same register there was only another Harrington: Elizabeth, died April 18th, 1850, evidently the mother, but this date would contradict the fact that it was the father, and not the mother, who died a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately the burial register, which was made in 1990 by the then caretaker of the cemetery, is not always precise and contains some errors; therefore, further documents verifying this finding had to be obtained. For a death/burial in Livorno in the 1840s-50s, two more sources are available: the civil death registers of the Municipality (which did not mention any Harrington because they probably did not die in town) and the chaplaincy burial registers kept at the Guildhall library of London, in particular the manuscript Ms 20990, which I have digitized some years ago. The check on this register confirmed the information I knew from the Church of England Magazine: Henry Harrington was buried in Livorno on April 12, 1850, having died in Pisa aged 49 years old; Maria Elizabeth Harrington was buried on May 27 of the same year (but died in Pisa), aged 26 and Elizabeth Harrington on November 20th, aged 50 (died apparently in Livorno); all three buried by Thomas Sleeman, Chaplain in Livorno.
The date of death of the father, Henry Harrington, as well as his occupation, was provided in one obituary on “The Medical Times” dated April 27th, 1850, p.329: “On the 10th, at Pisa, Henry Harrington, M.D.”.
The IGI (International Genealogical Index) furnished the missing details of the family as well as, finally, the identity of the anonymous author of the two books: a search for Maria Elizabeth Harrington brought up only one person (with the variant spelling of Harington) who was baptized at Remenham (Berkshire) on the 2nd of October 1825, a fact which is compatible with her age at death of about 26-27 years. The parents’ names were Henry and Elizabeth, a perfect match. This search also allowed me to find the batch number of the parish of Remenham (I031404) which I used to make another search on the IGI using the fixed batch number technique together with the name Harington. This search finally revealed the other daughter’s name: Amelia Margaretta, baptized on the same day as Maria Elizabeth. A final search for a possible marriage of their parents Henry and Elizabeth gave one possible result: October 1st, 1822, at the Old Church of St. Pancras in London, revealing, at the same time, Elizabeth’s last name: Wright.
During one of my surveys at the New English Cemetery of Via Pera in Livorno I had taken some pictures of their graves, at that time not knowing anything about them. Unfortunately the group of three graves is not in the best condition and I wish that through our Association Livorno delle Nazioni we will be able to find someone interested in funding their restoration.
Now that the anonymous author has been identified, as well as her family and their graves, both books should be analyzed as social history documents. Hopefully they should shed some light on the everyday habits and life of a 19th century English family established in Tuscany.
Note: While researching for this article I found a series of books by Mrs. C.G.H. (commonly identified as Mrs. Charles Gillingham Hamilton) that might be connected to our Amelia Margaret Harrington. The first hint was the book “Amy Harrington; or a Sister’s Love” printed in 1848 by the same editor J. Nisbet & Co., Berners Street. The title itself could refer to Amelia Harrington (Amy) and her sister, and the story is partially happening in Italy. Another of her books is entitled “The Exiles of Italy” (1857) and contains several references to Livorno. Other titles by the same author are: “The Curate of Linwood; or, The Real Strenght of the Christian Ministry” (1845), “Carlington Castle” (1852), “Margaret Waldegrave or, The Power of Truth” (1846), “Norman Leslie: A [Scottish] Tale” (1850), etc. Her husband was Rev. Charles Gillingham Hamilton, M.A., Head-Master of the Grammar School of Stockport, born in 1821. Unfortunately I could not find their marriage record or even her name.
Note on Reverend Greene: Rev. H. Greene (1808?-1876) cited as the author of the Preface of the second book, “The Bow in the Cloud”, was the British Chaplain at Pisa (1846-1875) and the Baths of Lucca, and also an author. He was buried at the English Cemetery of Florence.