Maria's Diary 38
We know not in what hallowed part
Of the wide heavens Thy throne may be;
But this we know, that where Thou art,
Strength, wisdom, goodness, dwell with Thee.
I am using the newspaper articles to help me write this rather painful chapter. Papa and Deborah announced their engagement today. They are getting married on the 8th of November. None of us children is happy about it. It isn’t that we don’t like Deborah, or realise that she is good for Papa, but that she isn’t Moma and we aren’t yet ready to see another Lady Bowring. It said in the paper that I am likely to be a bridesmaid. That is not going to happen.
He assured us children. “Lady B is a most sweet tempered lady-like woman and is a most careful and solicitous guardian of my health and happiness.”
I was the only family member to go to the wedding. Papa was grateful to me, but also very hurt by the refusal of the others. He had to get a second cousin to be his best man, and he hardly knows him. And somehow he got our cousin, Sarah Lewin, who is related to our mother, to be a bridesmaid. So in order to be fair, I will quote from the newspaper. I do leave out bits of it, like all who attended, as most of them I didn’t know.
For sometime now the public journals have contained allusions to the approaching marriage of the accomplished linguist and a state diplomat, Sir John Bowring and Miss Deborah Castle; and yesterday the event was solemnised at Lewin’s Mead Chapel. The event was marked by an interest far exceeding that which would have attached to a merely fashionable wedding and the concourse of persons who presented themselves to witness the ceremony was almost unpleasantly large. A full hour before the time at which the nuptials were to take place the chapel was crowded with a throng of persons. Policemen were stationed at every avenue that formed an inlet and by dint of physical strength more than suggestion, succeeded partially the human torrent. The body of the chapel was reserved for those with tickets.
The children of the girls' school which Miss Castle had always maintained a good kindness for were drawn up on the outside of the chapel each bearing a bouquet in her hand. They formed a double line and as soon as all of the bridal company who arrived in 11 carriages had passed, they entered the organ gallery which had been reserved for them. The chapel was hung with festoons and garlands of evergreens and flowers which gave a pleasing effect. Mr. HA Palmer was first of the wedding party then Commissioner Hill and his daughter. At 11.15 the rest arrived including Miss Bowring. Sir John came accompanied by his youthful groomsman, Mr. Tremoric Lang, a relative. The organist Mr. Haines sent forth the organ jubilant strains as the several bundles of the nuptial party passed at intervals up the aisle to the communion table.
At 11.30 a loud peal from the organ, and the bride arrived on the arm of her brother. There were six bridesmaids, Miss Castle, Miss A Castle, Miss E Castle, Miss Lewin, Miss Hardwood and Miss Bourn and also Miss Agnes, too young to be a bridesmaid, was a flower girl. The bride wore white crystalised glace ( thin silk) trimmed with lace and riband, the bridesmaids wore white glace robes trimmed in a zaline colour, and large tulle shawls trimmed with white rouches. They wore white glace bonnets trimmed with a white rose and green foliage. Rev Brock Aspland of South Hackney and Rev W James of Lewin’s Mead chapel took the service using the typical Church of England words.
Afterward Rev Aspland shook hands with the couple, and introduced Sir John to WIlliam Wansy of London who was there to present him with a bible, provided by the Unitarians. The inscription said, “This bible was presented at Lewin’s Mead Chapel, Bristol on November 8 1860 to Sir John Bowring on the morning of his marriage to Miss Deborah Castle as an offering of respect and affection from Unitarism of the Americas, Australia and other places to mark the appreciation of the fidelity to religious convictions of his services he has rendered by his writings and example to the cause of pure Christianity. The gift was a polyglot quarto bible of great value. I understand the languages are Hebrew, Samaritan, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Syria, Arabic, Persian and of course English and French.
Then Rev Aspland said to Deborah, ”The honour is entrusted to me of presenting to you a bible as the offering of friends from Bristol with this inscription. ‘presented by Unitarians of both hemispheres and friends and admirers of her husband with sincere wishes for their united happiness.’” This was also a polyglot bible, exquisitely bound, with gold clasps. Both bibles were in cases of British oak lined in velvet.
In reply Sir John said “Believe me I feel too much and too deeply to give adequate expression to the thoughts and feelings that rush through my mind. On this day and on this occasion, speech fails me to express the emotion with which I am moved. I will take an opportunity more equal to it of putting on record some of those thoughts and feelings and will only say that I thank you most warmly from myself and Lady Bowring for all your kind wishes and for these valuable testimonies of your regard.”
The party then retired to the vestry and signed the registers. The Knightly bridegroom saluted his bride and expressed his obligation to the officiating minister and bridesmaids and many friends who had manifested an interest in their happiness.
The party returned to the carriages and returned to the house of Michael Castle at which the couple have taken up temporary residence.
The wedding breakfast was on a scale of liberality and elegance en suite with the other arrangements and partaken by 40 ladies and gents. The toast to the couple was given by Rev. Aspland, and it was drunk with a cordiality which showed the sentiment was shared by everyone. The bridesmaids could not be forgotten. Needless to say that the cheers at the mention of their names were heartfelt, loud and ringing and that the nicest young man falteringly returned thanks for them. Sir and Lady Bowring left for a wedding tour and plan to settle for some time in Paris.
Another newspaper, the Bristol Times added a few other things. I don’t know if they don’t like Papa, but they started out the article with a description of him. “Sir John Bowring has a retreating forehead and sharp prominent nose and chin and a rather sallow complexion. He wore a dark blue surtout and trouser, canary coloured waistcoat, and a small blue scarf under a turned down collar called, a la Lord Byron. There was a poetic air, youthful animation and spirits in the vestry as he gallantly saluted (kissed) all the bridesmaids and other young ladies. Miss Lewin is a niece of Sir John’s. A voluntary was played at the beginning of the service and the Wedding march at the end.
I wasn’t sure what was meant by surtout, but it is an over frock coat, such as those worn by cavalry officers.
They stayed at the Hotel du Louvre in Paris for their honeymoon.
A later note from the paper.
Sir John Bowring and Deborah went to live in a new house in Exeter called "Claremont Villa." Her husband had travelled widely as he was a diplomat and linguist. Both of them joined the social circle in Exeter. She encouraged giving at their Unitarian church and she donated money to assist the Children's Band of Mercy Royal Devon Hospital and Albert Memorial Fund.
Here is a letter from Frederick to Lewin about the marriage plans. “ Shall you have anticipated the deuce’s own shindy caused by our Father’s second marriage? Married he and Miss Caste were to be and married they were, now finishing their honeymoon in Paris. I must tell my own story in my own way.
“Edith was excessively affected and annoyed and stupified by the news of Father’s intended marriage and is quite determined not to live with them. She and Father had a painful interview just before the wedding and parted mutually dissatisfied. I think my father felt more than betrayed by Edith’s judgement and affection, it must have been very painful for him to see how this step had alienated him from her. Next I put my foot in it innocently (imagine a lawyer of 38 being innocent). I could not indeed bring myself to write very congratulatory letters, but I did write civilly and politely to Miss Castle, and as far as I am concerned resolved not to make bad worse. But seeing how matters stood and how hard it was on my sisters to be so completely dependant on a father married to a wife not much older than themselves, I determined to write, and I wrote to him saying I thought (and I thought my brothers would think with me) that he ought to increase my sisters’ allowances and allow them to live at Larkbear if they pleased - and to this my father readily responded and said he would do so. A few days after comes a letter from Maria complaining of my interference, wishing to banish them to Larkbear and passionately rejecting all increase of allowance, so my father seems to have accepted the whole at an end, and told Edith he would offer her a home at his residence at present but would do nothing further at present. And he has I am told (for I refused to be a trustee) settled his fortune on his wife for her life. It is easy enough to see that in the case of my father’s death my sisters’ interests would be postponed during the life of a woman not much older than they and having a much better life than they. I say nothing of us men, as we do not care about it and indeed the only anxiety I have left is that my father would provide for our sisters. But for Maria’s foolish interference, I have no doubt this would have taken place. Edith has her friend Miss Gallard but Maria has no such personal friend so I can understand the latter’s wish to live with my father and his second wife, but I very much doubt that she will like it. I don’t think there is going to be much cordiality between us and the new Lady Bowring, We have not heard from you or John Charles yet, so cannot tell what view you take but I believe I may claim the credit of not having written to you in an exaggerated way, annoyed as I was.”