The drama of Jane being hit by her mother for being seen with the wrong man really upset Fred. I’ve just finished reading, and have now transcribed his whole diary, and now realise he’s not given to writing his feelings down in it very much at all. It’s rare when he does and on one occasion the economy of his expression had me weeping. I’ll share that in more detail in another post. I think it’s also worth bearing in mind that these two are still quite young; in the autumn of 1878 Fred was 19 and Jane was 18. While Fred doesn’t seem to express things – he’s not backwards in resolving confrontation, perhaps even showing a little lack of judgement. Or he may be a believer in the idea of ‘faint heart never did win fair lady’. Anyway for whatever reason, he tries to see Jane at the Cross Keys and unsurprisingly gets short shrift from her mother:
Wednesday, September 11.
The occurrence of last night completely upset me, so having half a day off Tom Hughes and I set off for Birely Spa by way of Handsworth and Woodhouse. I called in at the Cross Keys but did not see J. Her mother waited off me, and was I thought rather cruel.
Fred, clearly indignant, decides to write what appears to be the first letter between them, which I share here in its entirety:
September 11, 1878
I was compelled – though most unwillingly – to hear what your mother said on Tuesday week and as it was through me I have come to the conclusion that rather than you should suffer a repetition of the annoyance and indignity, I would discontinue my visits to Handsworth, at least for the present.
I also heard your mater familias say, that she would not have you walking out with me, and writing to another, at the same time. If this is correct, it must be the same one I heard of before, and of whom I spoke to you but you did not try to explain it; it appears now that would’ve been much better if you had, for, altho’ I do not want to preach, I cannot help saying, but I think you could not have expected good to come, through, or by, a deception practised on both of us.
However, I will forgive you this once. Why your mother should have allowed you to go to Wharncliffe and now to kick up this bother I cannot understand!
It would save misunderstanding if you would answer as to the receipt of this letter, and also say whether you agree with the conclusions I have come to. If you do not I shall be glad to place myself at your disposal, and at your earliest convenience. Do not think I am treating you lightly – far from it! – but it is better to look at it in a matter-of-fact sort of way, rather than in a romantic. You may think that I ought to have more perseverance as to coming up now that the weather is cloudy but if I did it would only cause you bother and trouble, so that it is as well I have not.
If you do write – I hope you will – you can either direct it to 34 Freedom Hill, Darnall or to Messrs Brown, Bayley & Dixon Ltd, Attercliffe.
If you do not write the probability is that I should never know whether you had received it or not as I do not know whether they open your letters or not at home.
But believe me I shall ever remain your sincere friend, admirer, and well wisher
P.S. I have to thank you for the many happy hours I have spent in your company.
We don’t have Jane’s reply but she did send one as Fred records it in his diary:
Friday, September 13.
Ted bought me a letter from J. In it she says “that when her mother is vexed she does not think what she says. That it is quite correct she was engaged but intended breaking it off in July but had been prevented. However it is now broken off. As I had had so many pleasant hours with her, she hoped I should have many more, and also that the expedition to Woodhouse church which have been proposed should not fall through.”
My sister and I have been speculating on the circumstances of this ‘Mr Bricks’ that the Warburtons seem so keen on Jane marrying – to the point of preventing Jane ‘breaking’ with him. He obviously had an attraction – most likely of the financial kind, but not of much else as far as Jane was concerned.
It’s clear that there is enormous attraction between Jane and Fred for them to be exercising their own wills so strongly in the face of objection (confound it, I’m picking up Fred’s idiom in my writing) and I’m having fun trying to work out exactly what it is. From the in-jokes they share in their later letters, humour seems to be very present. I’ve found myself giggling at their turns of phrase – which seem so comfortably familiar. In the truest sense of that word.
Anyway, the letters smooth the way and and two days later it’s is all back on:
Sunday, September 15.
It rained very hard at 5:30 so did not go to H[andsworth] until after our church at eight. Saw J, had a walk with her, who was on very delicate ground, but eventually cleared of all doubts and enjoyed myself immensely.