Just a note about how this book came about. I haven't written anything substantial for about the last three years, but with Covid restrictions, I was rereading lots of old things that I had written over the last 20 years or so. I came across the letters from a young man and his girlfirend, in the period between 1829-1831 - he living in London and she in Liverpool. As I read the letters again, the name Bowring came up over and over from the man's life stories. So I've spent the last two months researching the Bowring family, and what a gift it has given me. So this story is about 95 % fact, but the format of letters and diaries makes it into fiction, as there is no evidence that the girl I give the lead role to ever wrote anything.
November 20, 1829
My cousin William gave me this book, which he suggests I use as a diary and write down all the things about myself and my family.
It all started when William came in September to stay with Grandma for a while. I spend a lot of time at Grandma’s house, because I need to get away from my bratty brothers and Grandma Alice enjoys my company and teaches me things, like cooking and sewing. Moma doesn’t have time. Grampa died a few years ago.
I have five younger brothers, John Charles, 8, Lewin, 6, Charles, 4, Edgar 2 and Fredrick 1. Father loves the fact that he has lots of sons, and spends hours when he is at home telling them all about the world he has seen, and the adventures he has had. He doesn’t spend much time with me, and I feel bad about that.
Anyway, back to William Holt as he is called. He is 19. His mother and mine both have Lewin as their family name. I think William’s mother Theodosia is my mother’s aunt, so I guess that makes him my second cousin. He has come to London to learn to be a solicitor, and has a place at a law firm in London called Taylor and Roscoe. But before he
had a place to live, he stayed with Grandma, and even now, though he has a room nearby his work, he still comes here most weekends, so I see a lot of him.
William gets along with Father too, and I know William is jealous of all the famous people he meets as part of his work. Father is the editor of a publication called The Westminster Review. I will talk more about his job later, but back to William.
He has a fiancee called Mary Cox in Liverpool which is where he is from, and he writes
to her frequently and gets letters from her. She sends them to Grandma’s house, and then either of her sons, Tom or Samuel take them with them when they go to the law courts in London which is near where William works..
I told William that I wished I had somebody to write to, as I love writing, so he bought me this book which is to be my imaginary pen friend. His girlfriend is very pretty as he has shown me a likeness of her. He is going to get his done soon, and will send it to her. He
is very thin and delicate looking, and he told me that he has had many medical problems over the years and has to take great care of his health. He has lovely thick curly hair, and a very sweet smile. I like him very much.
Well now that I have said why I am writing, I suppose the thing to do is to introduce my family. As I mentioned, my father leads a very interesting and active life. He is called Dr. John Bowling and was born in Exeter in Dorset, and his family were wool dealers. He
stopped school at 13 and joined them in their business. He dealt with the foreign trade, as he was gifted in languages and taught himselfto speak and understand Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and German. he had learned French in school. I have heard people call him a polyglot, which I looked up in my dictionary. It means a person who can speak many languages.
Before long, Father started his own business and instead of dealing with wool, he sold sardines and brought back wine. It started out very well, and he spent a lot of time in Portugal and France and Italy, but then things went wrong and he lost his money so he came back. He managed to get in with a business in London. He met my mother through
contacts with her father, my grandfather, Samuel Lewin who was an important business man and had shares in the Steam Navigation Business.
My mother is also called Maria, and she was born on the 23rd of March,1794. So she was 22 when they got married. She is 35 now. Father was born on October 17, 1792, so he is now 37.
They got married on 12th October, 1816, at St. John’s Church in Hackney. That is an Anglican Church. Our Unitarian chapels are not allowed to marry people, so we have to go to the Anglican churches for baptism, marriages and funerals. Because Father travelled so much, they lived with my grandparents until he was in a financial situation to be able to afford the house where we live now. .
Our house is in an area called London Fields. It is just on the edge of Hackney where Grandma lives, and is like living in a big park, as that was what it was originally. But now lots more people are building houses along the road to London, and we live in one of
those. It is a large house, and with our huge family, it is important. I have my own bedroom, but the older boys have to share and the youngest has just a sort of box room for his.
Father first got a lease for the house in 1817 from Joseph Williams of London Fields, who had built it. Then Mr. Williams sold it to John Shrage of London in 1823 and we were able to stay in our house and increase our lease to 21 years. The details say that the property
includes messuage garden and forecourt and a part of garden to the South. It is a terraced house. I looked up the term messuage in the dictionary. It means “a dwelling house with out buildings and land assigned to it.”
Father was away lots of the time when I was a baby and when John Charles was born. He got into trouble by trying to help out people in Greece with some financial deal, financed by his friend Mr. Jeremy Bentham, and they ended up accusing him of spying. He didn’t of course, but he had to spend two weeks in a French jail in solitary confinement before they were able to confirm his innocence. He often talks about those days when he was there, and even wrote about it. I haven’t read it yet but I would like to some day.
Father is very talented and loves reading and writing poetry, which includes hymns. He has written hundreds of hymns and published them in several books.
I should say something about our religion. We are Unitarians, and up till a few years ago, to practice that religion was against the law. We believe in God, but unlike the established churches, we don’t believe in the Trinity. And we are dedicated to doing good to
all people. We go to The Old Gravel Pit Chapel where the minister is Rev. Robert Aspland. He is another good friend of Father’s. William goes to church there too sometimes. Rev. Aspland is a very important man, and a very good speaker.
A few years ago, Father spent a lot of time in Holland and other European countries including Russia and translated some of their most famous poems into English. So he has written books with those in too.
And as well as that, he is very gifted in mathematical concepts, and the government sent him to Holland to see if their method of dealing with finance had something different about it that might be of use to us. Father wrote a book about that too, and was so important to the Dutch people that last year theygave him a doctorate from the University of Groningen, conerring on him the degree of doctor of laws. So he is now called Dr. John Bowring, and he is very proud of his title and uses it all the time. He also likes to wear his academic gown.
I should perhaps say more about who else lives with Grandma. Their eldest daughter, Hannah, still lives at home, as do the youngest boys, Samuel who is at the Six Clerks Office of the court of Chancery in London. Tom is also working there as his brother's subordinate clerk.
I must stop for now but will write more next weekend. I hope we see William again so I can show him how much use I have made of this book he gave me.