Trying to work out just how much (and why) the early days of Janie and Fred’s relationship were blighted by the disapproval of Janie’s family, the Warburtons, is tricky when the only lens I’ve got for this time are the sporadic entries from Fred’s diary. Fred is feeling that his shortcomings in the eyes of Mrs Warbuton (whatever they were) are insurmountable and it seems to be Janie that is holding fast to the idea of being with Fred. It’s frustrating to have so little of her voice as this point but she’s coming across to me as knowing what she wants – which is Fred, and strong willed to the point of crossing her mother:

“Thursday December 19th. Told Janie that the future was so unsatisfactory that I thought it would be advisable to part. She said we had better not. So we agreed to think about it.
Sunday Decr 22. Had another interview with Janie, when it came out that her mother offered serious objections, which she thought might be got over in time. A desperate bit of kissing etc ensued we thought it was going to be the last.”

I’m now wondering what the “etc” meant. More than kissing clearly.

Fred then throws himself into the Christmas season and the following entries provide a tantalising portrait of  Christmas activities in a working class community in Sheffield. There is plenty of ‘bumping’ into Janie too.

“Monday. December 23rd. Went to the [Sheffield] Albert Hall to hear Mendelssohn’s Elijah. [Charles] Santley as Elijah.
Wednesday. December 25. Christmas Day. Went to church in the morning, in the afternoon walked round Tinsley, Brinkworth, Catcliffe + Handsworth. Evening, saw Janie again, had an understanding with her, that I was to see her once a week.
Thursday, December 26. Had half day holiday. Tom Hughes and I went to O’Donnell’s to tea, played at cards until 10 PM, I would not play for money but lost all my nuts.
Friday, December 27. Went to the entertainment after the Social tea at Darnall school. Saw Janie there.
Saturday, December 28. Went to see the ventriloquist (Maccabe) at the Albert Hall, Sheffield.
Sunday 29th December. Went to church in the morning, in the afternoon to my brother Walter’s to dinner and tea, night to see Janie.
Monday, December 30. Went with Janie and Miss Bray to the entertainment at our school.
Tuesday, December 31. Went to the children’s tea at Attercliffe, afterwards there was a “Magic Lantern”, after that Betsy Panton and myself, Will Meays and Miss Hopkinson, went on the top of our church steeple. Splendid view! could see all around. Coming down we had “Days and moments”, and “Now the day is over” in the bell chamber. Enjoyed ourselves immensely. Proper girls to go at that time after 9.0 pm.”

Fred’s New Year’s eve sounds rather lovely including rounding it off with a bit of a sing. I’ve found out that Fred was a baritone and singing and music feature a lot in his writing and letters. I have spent several fascinating hours finding out about Charles Santley – the most eminent opera singer in the UK at that time, Frederic Maccabe, who wrote an important book on ventriloquism, watching videos about Magic Lanterns and finding recordings of some of the music mentioned. Listening to a crackly recording of Santley’s voice and knowing that my great great grandfather listened to him makes me feel a sudden unexpected connection.

Below are some links to Youtube videos of some of the music I’ve found. I can almost see Fred in the bell chamber of the church in Attercliffe, contentedly singing “Now the Day is Over” with his friends.

British Film Industry video about adapting Charles Dickens for the Magic Lantern
Charles Santley singing ‘Though art passing hence my brother
Alex Lawrence, Baritone, sings Lord God of Abraham from Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Recording of Now the Day is Over

Magic Lantern Image source: “The Best Wishes of the Season to You (c.1885) Christmas card produced by A.L & Co. The illustration features a magic lantern show, which was a very popular form of entertainment in the days before cinema. Location: Francis Parker Scrapbook. Parker Collection. Early and Fine Printing Collection Item Number 698218”


2 thoughts on “Let’s call the whole thing off (but I’ll see you once a week)

  1. I’ve had a comment elsewhere about the first line of Fred’s diary entry being difficult to fathom: “Told Janie that in the future was so unsatisfactory but I thought it would be advisable to part.” I think I read that in connection with the second entry regarding Mrs Warburton’s objections. I think Fred was feeling discouraged by opinions of him and also concern for his own prospects and his ability to provide enough for a wife. It is also becoming clear from his diary entries and responses from letters of his friends that Fred was prone to depression or ‘Melancholy’ as they termed it. And Janie later calls it his ‘Lemonkolly’ which makes me want to hug them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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