Mary Anne Deane was born about 1718 and was believed to be the daughter of John Deane, Governor of India, who died about 1752. Sadly, it’s proving difficult to find anything about this lady’s early life.
She came to my attention when I was asked for help in finding out more about her for the television programme, A House Through Time, but, as their plans changed I decided that for now it was worth including the little we do know about her, here on All Things Georgian.
Mary Anne was a deeply religious woman and friend of John Wesley, the evangelist and lived at The Manor House, Whitkirk, near Leeds, until her death on 4 February 1807, when she was buried at the parish church, aged 88 years, according to the parish register. The burial register entry also stated:
Her life was pious, her death triumphant
William Dawson described as ‘an eloquent preacher’ gave the sermon at Mary Anne’s funeral which took place the week following her demise. The York Herald 14 February 1807 also paid tribute to her, describing her as, ‘a lady universally respected’.
Mary Anne had moved to Whitkirk about 1768, but it’s not clear whether that it was then that she moved into The Manor House.
Apart from being well known to the Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntington, the religious leader who played a prominent part in the religious revival of the 18th century and the Methodist movement in England and Wales, Mary Anne was also reputed to be related to the Frances, Viscountess Irwin, but so far it hasn’t been possible to establish whether the connection was to the Countess or her husband.
Viscountess Frances Irwin (Irving) was the illegitimate daughter of Shepheard, but was also known as Gibson, her mother’s name. Her father Samuel Shepheard’s will of 1748, made that clear ‘my daughter Frances Gibson, commonly called Frances Shepheard’.
In her will, May Anne stipulated that she should be buried at Whitkirk parish church, with a gravestone just showing her name and age. She made provision for a Louisa Deane, daughter of her late uncle Lewis Deane, the interest on £1,000 stock, so long as Louisa paid £10 per annum to her brother John. This was all to be left in trust granted to Viscountess Irwin.
She also made reference to bank annuities from 1747, but provided no explanation as to exactly what consisted of. She left £1,000 to a Mary Greenwood, wife of John Greenwood, of Whitkirk, but again, sadly no explanation as to who this was, or whether John and Mary were connected to her, and also to a Christopher Wainwright she left, 10 guineas.
She also made provision for her employees – household linen and wearing apparel to her chambermaid, Deborah and money to Catherine Houseman, her cook. Not only her wages, to Catherine, but also her ‘Mr Wesley’s unbound magazines‘, which she clearly felt Catherine would really appreciate.
She also mentioned Miss Gordon and Miss Alice Scott, to whom she bequeathed a miniature of Lady Irwin. Her will was proven 5 May 1807.
There was an account in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine of 1840 about a Mrs Bywater, who had died in 1837. Mrs Bywater being nee Houseman (Catherine) which made reference to Mary Anne and provided a small glimpse into her later life:
In the year 1797, following, as she believed, the leadings of divine providence, she engaged in the service of that venerable saint, the late Mrs Deane of Whitkirk. Her fellow servant was also a deeply pious young woman, and they both enjoyed peculiar privileges while dwelling under that favoured roof. Mrs Dean was so infirm that, though the church was not far distant, it was very difficult to get her there; and, as her hearing was far from good, she could not hear much of the service; and though she could join in the prayers, yet the sermon was lost to her. The servants were induced to propose to her to have preaching on Sunday evenings in the front kitchen; and to this she readily consented, attending as long as she was able, and fining the service very profitable.
In The Sword and The Trowel: A Record of Combat with Sin and of Labour for the Lord, edited by C.H Spurgeon, written in 1873, Spurgeon was writing about the Yorkshire farmer and preacher, William Dawson, who had given the sermon at Mary Anne’s funeral. It was said that Mary Anne was very attached to Dawson and was in the habit of designating him, ‘My Willy’.
The late Mrs Deane who resided at that time at Whitkirk near Leeds, was considered as ranking among the higher circles. She had occasionally heard Mr Ingram and Mr Edwards, who had withdrawn himself from Mr Wesley, and had built himself a place of worship, known by the name of ‘White Chapel’, at Leeds, where he continued to dispense the Word of Life for more than thirty years.
Mr Edwards mentioned Mrs Dean to Lady Huntingdon, who observing the mark of a penitent in her, invited her to her house, and there she became acquainted with those bright stars that shone in England, and now shine in heaven. Messrs Whitefield, the Wesley’s, Venn, Ingram, Romain and other clergymen who found a welcome in that honourable house. She had frequent opportunities of conversing with Lady Huntingdon and enjoying those spiritual pleasures which would naturally result from communication with one so well qualified as that excellent lady, to direct and comfort the Christian in his road to glory.
Mrs Dean was a woman of rank, of superior education and accomplishments, ad her letters and meditations afford strong proofs that if there be any happiness separate from union and communication with God by faith in Jesus Christ.
Mrs Deane was nearly allied to the noble family of Charles, Viscount Irvine, of Temple Newson. His Lordship, who had succeeded to the title in 1763, had married Miss Shepheard, a lady possessed of a very great fortune. Mrs Deane’s attachment to and affection for Lady Irvine and every member of that honourable family were remarkable, and always appeared so vigorous that they were constantly breaking forth in the most aren’t prayers for their eternal welfare. She soon brought her Ladyship acquainted with Lady Huntingdon, and never failed to invite Lord and Lady Irvine to her house whenever the Countess was at Leeds, or at Ledstone Hall.
The account goes on to say that Lady Irvine outlived her ‘old friend and relative’ and that Mary Anne died at the age of 88 years and nine months. Hopefully in due course more information can be found about Mary Anne’s earlier life.
Today we offer a little exclusive snippet of extra information to our biography, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. It concerns something we looked at in the course of our research, but which proved too vague to be included. And so we present it here instead, for our readers to make up their minds on. Does it relate to Grace’s family, or not?
At the very end of 1774, The Town and Country Magazine included another of their infamous Histories of the Téte-à-Téte annexed, this one titled ‘Memoirs of the Pious Preacher and Miss D___mple’. The Pious Preacher is easily discernible as John Wesley, the Methodist preacher, who had been attacked in the same magazine before. But Miss D___ple? The most likely surname for this lady is Dalrymple and this would be a name well known to the readers of the magazine with Grace herself having appeared in her own ‘Téte-à-Téte’ following her indiscretion with Lord Valentia. The description of Miss D___ple does seem to fit with a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, Grace’s father.
This young lady is the daughter of an eminent attorney, who made a capital fortune by usury and the rapine of the law. He gave her a polite education and imagined, with the portion he could bestow on her, that she was entitled to a husband in a man of fashion and family. Upon the death of his wife he sent for Miss D___ from the boarding-school to superintend his domestic affairs. She was not about eighteen and though not a regular beauty was a very genteel, agreeable girl.
We know Hugh practised as an attorney, we know Grace at least had attended a convent school and returned home after the death of her mother. If this is a daughter of Hugh’s, perhaps the mysterious third daughter sometimes alluded to, she would be born c.1750 if she was just under eighteen at her mother’s death in 1767, placing her as a middle sister between Grace and her elder sister Jacintha.
The magazine tells us that this girl fell in love with her father’s clerk and he with her, but her father, when approached to ask if they may marry, ‘would not listen to it, having far more elevated views for his daughter’. The clerk, having finished his service, went abroad and settled in America. The bereft Miss D___ple, whilst her father was seeking a match for her, met an army officer. He, ‘finding he had no chance of succeeding in an honourable way, he used all the artillery of stratagem to succeed upon other terms. He was too fortunate and the event was very natural. Upon her being visibly pregnant, her father banished her, his house and the only asylum she could find was at a kinswoman’s, who prefessed midwifry’.
Grace’s sister Jacintha married an army officer, but he at least was in line for inheritance to a fine estate. If this is indeed a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple, this affair took place before he left for Grenada in the spring of 1772 and presumably before Grace’s marriage in October 1771. Was this the reason he was so happy to marry his youngest daughter off to Dr. Eliot, not wanting to see her follow in the footsteps of a sister?
The kinswoman attended discourses held by the Pious Preacher and, after helping her to abort the baby, began to remonstrate with Miss D___ple on ‘the heinous sins she had been guilty of… she persuaded Miss D___ to follow her footsteps and be regenerated’. The Pious Preacher, the magazine states, ‘made a great impression upon our heroine. He now frequently visited mother Midnight [the kinswoman] and seemed to take particular pains and pleasure to make Miss D___ a convert. He at length successed to the utmost extent of his wishes and gave her the appellation of his fair Proselyte’.
The article ends with the suggestion that Miss D___ple has borne twins to the Pious Preacher. No evidence can be found to back up any of the assertions in the article, but it would suggest a reason why, if there were a third Dalrymple sister, she may have been airbrushed from their family history.
NB: In an earlier blog post for Laurie Benson, we recounted a night at a Ridotto in 1777, and speculated that a ‘Mother M’ who was mentioned was ‘Mother Mordaunt’, aka Grace’s aunt, Robinaiana Mordaunt, Countess of Peterborough. Here we have another ‘Mother M’ mentioned, seemingly in connection with a close relative of Grace’s, ‘Mother Midnight’, an eighteenth-century term for a midwife or, sometimes, for a bawd.
Once again we are thrilled to welcome our guest, the lovely Regan Walker, author of a Christmas story, ‘ The Holly & The Thistle‘ (full details of how to purchase her book are given below).
Today Regan has looked at faith in Georgian England; we hope you enjoy it and find it informative, we certainly have.
Beneath the form and ritual of religious life in Georgian England, one is tempted to ask, where were the hearts and minds of the people? I took on this task and found it daunting. It seemed the only evidence I could provide of what was in their hearts was to look at the actions that resulted from their faith (or the lack of it). I approach this issue hoping to shed light on what was happening to the church in England at the time that influenced the people, both rich and poor, in matters of faith.
The 18th Century
The early 18th century was an age of reason. The churches in England, such as they were, lacked vitality, perhaps in part due to the action of the government. I speak in general terms, of course, as there have always been exceptions. But from what I’ve read, there was little enthusiasm for spiritual matters, perhaps as a reaction to the excesses of the 17th century. People were content with things as they were, and those few who attended church did so out of habit and social custom. The aristocracy was expected to provide a good example by attending church and some did, but perhaps only a few times a year on major church holidays. There were parishes where the poor had no church at all and wanted for spiritual leadership.
In the middle of the century, a change swept England. It began with a few who desired to grow closer to God. In 1729, a small group of men at Oxford began gathering under the direction of a man named John Wesley to observe the fasts and festivals of the church, take Communion, and visit the sick and prisoners. Wesley had made his love of God the central focus of his life. His efforts, and those of others, led to what became known as The Great Awakening, a movement that also swept Europe and the American colonies. It was to have great consequence.
The “Awakening” produced powerful preachers who encouraged a personal faith in God and a need for salvation. Pulling away from the ritual and ceremony that brought people to church out of habit, the “Awakening” made Christianity intensely personal by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.
John Wesley, his brother, Charles, and George Whitefield—all ordained in the Anglican Church of England—had been missionaries in America. In 1738, they returned home disillusioned and discouraged. They began attending prayer meetings on Aldersgate Street in London, searching for answers. And they found them. During that time, all three had conversion experiences.
As John Wesley wrote,
“I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins.” (Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738.)
A year later, John Wesley and George Whitefield began preaching the gospel outdoors to large gatherings. Wesley considered the whole of England his parish, preaching to as many as 20,000 at one time in London. Thousands who had previously thought little of religion were converted. Although not his intention, Wesley’s message led to a new movement that would ultimately separate from the Church of England, called the Methodists.
From the very start, the Methodists were concerned with personal holiness and emphasized the need for salvation and forgiveness of sin. Those who criticized them, such as the Duchess of Buckingham, complained of being held accountable for sin “as the common wretches”. Wesley’s mission was to England’s poor, the unlearned and the neglected. He had little time for the aristocratic rich, finding them idle, trivial, extravagant and lacking in social responsibility.
One of the converts at this time, however, was the Countess of Huntingdon, who for the next forty years was deeply involved with the leaders of the Methodist movement. The countess was born into aristocracy as Selina Shirley, both sides of her family being descended from royalty. Selina married Theophilus Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon, in 1728. The countess found the social life of the aristocracy empty. After she converted to the Christian faith in 1739, she was determined to use her energies and wealth for the cause of the gospel. Within a short time she was identifying herself with the Wesley brothers and other Methodist preachers in the Church of England. This reflected great courage on her part because these itinerant preachers were despised by most of the aristocracy.
To reach her friends, the countess brought the leading preachers of the day into her home. A number of noble and influential people came to faith in this way. All of them were most likely members of the Church of England. When her husband died in 1746, the countess threw herself into her work with even greater zeal. By the time of her death, she had built sixty-four chapels, or “preaching places”, including one in Bath.
It is interesting to note that in 1748, John Newton, the slave ship captain and later author of the hymn Amazing Grace, was converted to Christianity during a storm at sea. Afterward, he became an enthusiastic disciple of George Whitefield and then an Evangelical lay preacher. In 1757, he applied to be an ordained priest in the Church of England, though it took seven years for that to happen, owing to his lack of credentials. Meanwhile, in his frustration, he also applied to the Methodists, Presbyterians and Independents, which suggests he could have found a spiritual home with any of them. Newton’s new found faith in God made a distinct difference in his life and the hymn for which he is famous testifies to this change (“I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see”).
The Clapham Group:
At the end of the 18th century, a group of wealthy Evangelicals came together, most of them living in the village of Clapham southwest of London. They were members of the Anglican Church but also Evangelicals. Their aim was to end slavery and cruel sports and to support prison reform and foreign missions.
The Clapham Group had some illustrious members including William Wilberforce, friend of both John Newton and Prime Minister William Pitt, and the statesman who successfully ended the slave trade; Charles Simeon, rector at Cambridge; Granville Sharp, a lawyer and founder of the St. George’s Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra Leone Company; Zachary Macaulay, estate manager and Governor of Sierra Leone (a homeland for emancipated slaves); John Shore, Lord Teignmouth, formerly Governor-General of India; James Stephen, lawyer, Wilberforce’s brother-in-law and author of the Slave Trade Act of 1807; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; and Hannah More, poet and playwright, who produced tracts for the group.
What motivated them? William Wilberforce’s views here are helpful. In his book, “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity,” published in 1798, he speaks of a “true Christian” as one discharging a debt of gratitude to God for the grace he has received. Likely his views mirrored those of his fellow Clapham Group members when he said,
They are not their own: their bodily and mental faculties, their natural and acquired endowments, their substance, their authority, their time, their influence, all these they consider. . . to be consecrated to the honor of God and employed in His service.
The Clapham Group certainly put their faith into action. One of their primary concerns was foreign missions, taking seriously Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Among their achievements were the following: the Religious Tract Society founded in 1799; the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (now the Church Missionary Society) founded in 1799; and the British and Foreign Bible Society, founded in 1804. The latter circulated Bibles in England and abroad (likely the King James version). With funding from the Clapham Group, Hannah More established twelve schools by 1800 where reading, the Bible and the catechism were taught to local children.
Against this background, we emerge into Regency England (1811-1820). During this period, the religious landscape consisted of the Anglican Church, which occupied the predominant ground, and those considered “Dissenters,” a general term that included non-conformist Protestants, Presbyterians (identified with the Scots), Baptists, Jews, Roman Catholics and Quakers.
The Protestants moved toward the Methodist and Evangelical belief in a personal God and the need for salvation. The Roman Catholics, governed by the Pope in Rome, though discriminated against, were too strong to be suppressed and persisted, eventually regaining the ability to become Members of Parliament and hold public office with The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. (Ironically, the Prince Regent opposed Catholic Emancipation even though Maria Fitzherbert, a twice-widowed Roman Catholic, was arguably the love of his life.)
There were many incentives to being a part of the Church of England because it was government controlled: Only Anglicans could attend Oxford or receive degrees from Cambridge. Except for the Jews and Quakers (the latter obtaining freedom of worship in 1813), all marriages and baptisms had to take place in the Anglican Church and the ceremony had to be conducted by an Anglican minister. All citizens, no matter their faith, paid taxes to maintain the parish churches, and non-Anglicans were prevented from taking many government and military posts.
According to Henry Wakeman in An Introduction to theHistory of the Church of England, by the time George III died in 1820, despite all that occurred in the 18th century, with a few exceptions, the Church of England was not materially different than it was when George III came to the throne in 1760.
The bishops were still amiable scholars who lived in dignified ease apart from their clergy, attended the king’s levee regularly, voted steadily in Parliament for the party of the minister who had appointed them, entertained the country gentry when Parliament was not sitting, wrote learned books on points of classical scholarship, and occasionally were seen driving in state through the muddy country roads on their way to the chief towns of their dioceses to hold a confirmation. Of spiritual leadership they had but little idea. (Wakeman at 457)
Jane Austen wrote about the world of the Anglican clergy, which she knew well, her father being the Reverend George Austen, a pastor who encouraged his daughter in her love of reading and writing. (In addition to her novels, Jane Austen composed evening prayers for her father’s services.) Two of her brothers were members of the Anglican clergy.
It was a culture in which faith often influenced one’s livelihood. Some of Austen’s characters (i.e., Edward Ferrars and Edmund Bertram) were clergy in need of parsonages. It was an acceptable occupation for a younger son. Large landowners and peers owned many of the church appointments and could appoint them.
Of the Anglican clergy, Wakeman said (at 459, 461),
The bulk of the English clergy then as ever were educated, refined, generous, God-fearing men, who lived lives of simple piety and plain duty, respected by their people for the friendly help and wise counsel and open purse which were ever at the disposal of the poor.
A few of them hunted, shot, fished and drank or gambled during the week like their friends in the army or at the bar, and mumbled through a perfunctory service in church on Sundays unterrified by the thought of archdeacon or bishop. Some of them, where there was no residence in the parish, lived an idle and often vicious life at a neighbouring town, and only visited their parishes when they rode over on Sundays to conduct the necessary services.
[With few exceptions] the clergy held and taught a negative and cold Protestantism deadening to the imagination, studiously repressive to the emotions, and based on principles which found little sanction either in reason or in history. The laity willingly accepted it, as it made so little demand upon their conscience, so little claim upon their life.
Wakeman also recognized the indifference of the Church of England to the “tearing away” of the followers of Whitefield and Wesley:
An earnest revival of personal religion had deeply affected some sections of English society. Yet…the Church of England reared her impassive front…sublime in her apathy, unchanged and apparently unchangeable….
Unlike some Anglicans, who may have attended church merely out of duty or habit, Jane Austen was more than a nominal church member. From the prayers she wrote, she seems to have been a devout believer who accepted the Anglican faith as it was, though she disliked hypocrisy and that may be reflected in some of her clergyman characters.
Austen also had views on the Evangelicals. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, written on January 24, 1809, she admitted, “I do not like the Evangelicals.” Like many Anglicans, she likely felt faith was to be unemotional and demonstrated in observances of certain services, prayers and moral teachings. The demonstrative preaching and strong message of the Evangelicals, particularly their enthusiasm and fervor, might not appeal to a girl raised in an Anglican minister’s home. Then, too, she had experience with certain Evangelicals, notably her cousin Edward Cooper, who she said in a letter to her sister, wrote “cruel letters of comfort”.
However, as Austen grew older, there is some indication of a softening in her thinking. On November 18, 1814, in a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, Austen wrote,
“I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason & Feeling, must be happiest & safest.”
Perhaps as Austen viewed the decadence of the Regency period (particularly the social life in London), the indulgences of the monarch, George the Prince Regent, and the lackluster faith of some who adhered to the Church of England only out of habit, she found value in the sincerity of those who espoused a more evangelical message. It was, after all, the Evangelicals led by William Wilberforce, allied with the Quakers, who became the champions of the anti-slavery movement, resulting in the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807. Among Jane Austen’s favorite writers were those who were passionately anti-slavery, such as William Cowper, Doctor Johnson and Thomas Clarkson.
Austen was critical of the Prince Regent, too, and understandably so. Unlike his parents, George III and Queen Charlotte, the Prince Regent lived a decadent life, indulging in his personal pleasure and devoid of any evidence of a personal faith, though he was nominally the head of the Church of England. As a result of the tax burden from the wars in France and the Prince’s opulent lifestyle that was crushing the poor and working classes, the resentment for the Prince grew more strident as time went on. Jane Austen disliked him intensely, principally because of his treatment of his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick (as seen in Jane’s letter to Martha Lloyd of February 16, 1813).
However, in at least some parts of the Church of England during the Regency era, spiritual change was afoot. In such instances, the Church of England looked more like the Protestant Evangelicals. For example, Charles Simeon, rector of Trinity Church, Cambridge from 1782 to 1836, and a member of the Clapham group, was a great Bible expositor, who taught a risen Savior and salvation through grace, sounding very much like Wesley and Whitefield decades earlier. That was no mean feat given the opposition he faced at Cambridge. The universities were bastions of the established Church of England and seedbeds of rationalism, neither of which made them sympathetic to a rector of strong religious faith.
Because of their stance on moral issues, the Evangelicals of the day were viewed by some as troublemakers who didn’t want anyone to have any fun. Notwithstanding such views, there were those in the aristocracy, including William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who became Evangelicals though they never left the Anglican Church. And such faith produced change. Upon his conversion, the Duke gave up his long time mistress.
Scientific Discovery and the Industrial Revolution:
Other factors influenced people’s view of God, particularly in the 19th century. New ideas in politics, philosophy, science and art all vied for people’s attention. Two in particular, the scientific discoveries of the time and the Industrial Revolution, may have had dramatic effect on the people’s faith.
In 1781, while investigating what he and others believed to be a comet, William Herschel, an astronomer, discovered a new planet he named “George’s star,” after King George III. (In 1850, after Herschel’s death, the name would be changed to Uranus.) This was the first planet discovered since ancient times. Herschel, a devout Christian, strongly believed that God’s universe was characterized by order and planning. His discovery of that order led him to conclude, “The undevout astronomer must be mad.”
Herschel’s discoveries caused his fellow scientists and theologians to reconsider their prior views of God and the possibility there were other creations in the universe. Not all views expressed were those of believers; however, one who is illustrative of the prevailing attitude was Thomas Dick, a Scottish minister and science teacher. In his book The Sidereal Heavens, published in 1840, he said of Herschel’s discovery,
To consider creation, therefore, in all its departments, as extending throughout regions of space illimitable to mortal view, and filled with intelligent existence, is nothing more than what comports with the idea of HIM who inhabiteth immensity, and whose perfections are boundless and past finding out.
Dick’s statement is indicative of the view during the early 19th-century when science was dominated by clergymen, men dedicated to their scientific work but still committed to their faith in God. Scientific discoveries were seen as entirely consistent with a belief in a Creator.
The other factor is the Industrial Revolution, which transformed English society and would certainly cause people to question the established order of things, including the church.
During the 18th century, England’s population nearly doubled. The industry most important in the rise of England as an industrial nation was cotton textiles. A series of inventions led to machines that replaced human laborers. The effect of machines replacing workers, particularly in the textile industry, was keenly felt in some parts of England. The lives of the working class were disrupted and many people relocated from the countryside to the towns.
In 1801, at the time of the first census, only about 20% of the population lived in towns. By 1851, the figure had risen to over 50%. New social relationships emerged with the growing working and middle classes. During this time of upheaval and relocation, though some individuals, like Charles Simeon, exercised great spiritual influence, the church as a whole failed to grapple with the problems that resulted from the huge surge in population and the growth of industrial towns. Still, perhaps the problems that led people to move to the larger cities resulted in their hearing the message of the great preachers of the day. Having heard, they might have been spurred to examine their faith.
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Mrs DUBOIS’s Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, useful on Journies or at Sea, and not disagreeable to chew when Hunting, and a Chace proves long; or for the ready making Gravy Sauce; made in Cakes of a proper Size to make one Mess each, in Quantity three or four Gills. This Soup is made after the receipt of her late Uncle, Paul Monlong, Cook to the late Duke of Argyll, and with his Grace in Flanders during Queen Anne’s Wars. The Conveniency of which is late well-known to several Gentlemen of the Navy, from whom she has Letter with great Commendations. This useful Commodity will never spoil, if kept dry, and is dissolv’d in a few minutes in boiling Water. She has also succeeded (a Thing never attempted by any) in making some of Veal and Fowls, some of Fowls only, and some of Mutton entirely, in which the Herbs are as fresh as when first made. All the above Soups or Broths are 6d each, or 5s. a Dozen, in a Tin Box, for Conveniency of Carriage, and to keep them dry at Sea, are sold at the Golden Head in Prujean-Court, in the Great Old Baily.
General Advertiser, 2nd January, 1748
Mrs Elizabeth Dubois had been advertising the sale of her portable soup in the British newspapers since at least November 1746 when they appear to have first been available in this country. Previously she had sold them in the Netherlands through Mr Arnoldus Brunel Toyman in the Spuy Straat at The Hague (Den Haag). When they first appeared for sale her plan, as stated in the newspaper, was to sell them under the following names: Gravy Soup, Mutton Broth, Chicken Broth, Veal and Fowls. In later years, for Lent, she produced a soup using fish and shellfish, which was also suitable to be stored for many months. To prevent mistakes her cakes of Portable Soups were stamped with her name, Dubois. Whilst she didn’t invent Portable Soup, she is the first person to market it with any degree of success and seems to have been something of an 18th-century entrepreneur.
The idea had been about for half a century or so already; something similar was known in France as bouillons en tablettes from at least 1690 and obviously Mrs Dubois’ uncle Paul Monlong (actually her uncle by marriage) had been producing portable soup whilst on campaign with John Campbell, British Army Officer and the 2nd Duke of Argyll and 1st Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743), in the early 1700s during the War of the Spanish Succession. It is mentioned in a play of 1738 by Robert Dodsley, Sir John Cockle at Court: Being the Sequel of the King and the miller of Mansfield when Sir John Cockle’s French Cook offers to make him ‘portable soup to put in your Pocket’, described as a dish ‘de Englis know not[h]ing of.’
We give a recipe for Portable Soup at the end but, in brief, to make it ‘portable,’ soup it was made as normal but then reduced until it was gelatinous and dried. It could then be reconstituted with boiling water and used as soup or gravy and alternatively could be treated more like a biscuit and eaten as it was. Most commonly it was made from the ‘offal’ of a cow; in the 18th century this referred to legs and shins of beef, not what we would term offal today and this misconception has given rise to the notion it was used to prevent scurvy. However, it was of particular interest to naval officers as an easily transported and stored provision on board ship and for a nourishing food for the sick and wounded.
I beg leave to remind my former Customers, as well as such Gentlemen as at this Season are setting out on their Travels, but particularly those who are going long Voyages by Sea, of that useful Commodity, viz. Portable Soup, or Solid Broth, sold at the Golden Head, a Print-Shop, the Corner of Burleigh-street, near Exeter Exchange in the strand, by their very humble Servant, Elizabeth Dubois.
General Advertiser, 24th April, 1750
Although some naval men were using it from as early as 1743 it was not until 1756 that Mrs Dubois obtained a contract to supply the navy together with the aptly named William Cookworthy, a Plymouth apothecary. She was certainly advertising herself as Portable Soup Maker to His Majesty’s Navy from October 1757. Captain Cook extolled its virtues and used it on his South Sea journeys, and it was still in use in the early 1800s when Lewis and Clarke took Portable Soup as one of the provisions on their expedition.
We hear that Orders are issued by the Commissioners of the Victualling Office, to appropriate for the future all the useful Offal of Oxen, &c. to be prepared into portable Broth or Soup, for the better Accommodation of the Seamen employed on board his Majesty’s Fleet, which it is expected at this dear Time will prove of great Service to the Navy.
Oxford Journal, 6th May, 1758
A couple of adverts in 1750, giving Mrs Dubois’ address as a print shop at the Golden Head on the corner of Burleigh Street, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand, reveal the identity of her husband, Isaac Du Bois, who carried on the trade of a chaser (engraver) and printseller at this address. Isaac had been born in 1704, the eldest child of Isaac and Jane Elizabeth Dubois, née Monlong. He traded under the sign of the Golden Head at various addresses and is probably the same Isaac Du Bois who was declared bankrupt in 1748 (giving his wife a reason to market her Portable Soups to provide for herself) but he seems to have picked up his trade again afterwards.
On the 2nd May 1750, he placed an advert in the Daily Advertiser informing his customers he was leaving town on account of his health and selling his stock. Later in the year, Elizabeth was living at East Ham in Essex although she was still selling her Portable Soup through her shop on the corner of Burleigh Street and by 1752 was at the Golden Head in Brownlow Street near Long Acre.
By November 1756 he had died and the widowed Elizabeth Dubois had married again and was running the business with her new husband, Edward Bennet, a Sheffield man. The couple was living at her former marital home, the Golden Head in Brownlow Street before moving to Fleet Street. The cakes of Portable Soup were henceforth marked with Elizabeth’s new surname, BENNET.
Edward Bennet and spouse, (late Du Bois) the original portable soup-maker to his Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden-Head, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths, in cakes of a proper size to make one mess each. (1760)
Bennet’s parents had been amongst the first people in Sheffield to welcome the Reverend John Wesley into their house. Edward moved to London, married Elizabeth Dubois, and made a success of running their joint business from Fleet Street. Edward died in December 1788 and a lengthy obituary of him appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine shortly after, including the following information:
His father was a grinder at Sheffield, and he was brought up to the same employment; but he was endowed with too large a share of abilities and emulation to walk long in so narrow a sphere. He came up to London, in quest of a better occupation; and was for some time engaged at the Tower, in repairing and polishing the armour. Here he became acquainted with Mrs. Dubois, a person of good character and circumstances, whom he married, and with whom he lived in Fleet-Street, and entered into a profitable branch of business, that of making portable soup for exportation. This he followed with great diligence and success, till, by repeated experiments of his own, he had so far made himself master of sugar-refining as to enable him to set up a small house in his native town, which he enlarged as his capital increased and his business extended, till it came to be one of the most considerable in the country.
Edward Bennet’s sugar house was at the bottom of Coalpit Lane in Sheffield and the Methodist minister George Whitefield sometimes preached from its doors. Around 1780 Bennet built an independent chapel near his refinery and officiated there himself as a pastor until his death.
Whilst Edward Bennet concentrated on his sugar refinery in Sheffield, he sold on the portable soup enterprise in London (his wife seems to have ceased advertising in 1771 and it is possible that this marks her death) and by 1780 Benjamin Piper had taken over Mrs Dubois’ business and premises, for the following adverts appeared.
Benjamin Piper, successor to Messieurs Bennet and Dubois, the original portable soup-makers to His Majesty’s Royal Navy, at the Golden Head in Three-King-Court, adjoining to No. 149, in Fleet-Street, opposite Water-Lane, London, makes and sells portable soups, or solid broths. (1780)
RICH FOREIGN CORDIALS, PERFUMERY, &c. AT the PERFUMERY WAREHOUSE, No. 14, Conduit-street, Hanover-square (removed from No. 3 Mill-street) all sorts of rich Foreign Cordials, (liqueurs) warranted genuine and neat as imported, sold wholesale and retail. Where also may be had every article of Perfumery, both English and Foreign, of the best quality: Great choice of Pocket Books, Silk Purses, and all the most approved Family Medicines. Piper’s (late Dubois’) Portable Soup, wholesale and retail, very serviceable at sea and in private families, as an expeditious method of making gravy.
The upper part of a large House to lett, ready furnished. Enquire as above.
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 9th February, 1780.
Benjamin Piper lasted a mere six years at the most, for Thomas Vigor was at the helm by 1786, still supplying the navy and listed in the Sun Fire Insurance registers at Three King Court, Fleet Street as a Portable Soup Maker.
Whilst we can’t be sure that the following recipe matches that of Elizabeth Dubois, passed down to her by her uncle, it is a contemporary one.
Recipe for Portable Soup from The Complete Housewife; Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, E. Smith, 1773
Take two legs of beef, about fifty pounds weight, take off all the skin and fat as well as you can, then take all the meat and sinews clean from the bones, which meat put into a large pot, and put to it eight or nine gallons of soft water; first make it boil, then put in twelve anchovies, an ounce of mace, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of whole pepper black and white together, six large onions peeled and cut in two, a little bundle of thyme, sweet-marjoram, and winter-savoury, the dry hard crust of a two-penny loaf, stir it all together and cover it close, lay a weight on the cover to keep it close down, and let it boil softly for eight or nine hours, then uncover it, and stir it together; cover it close again, and let it boil till it is a very rich good jelly, which you will know by taking a little out now and then, and letting it cool. When you think it is a thick jelly, take it off, strain it through a coarse hair bag, and press it hard; then strain it through a hair sieve into a large earthen pan; when it is quite cold, take off the skum and fat, and take the fine jelly clear from the settlings at bottom, and then put the jelly into a large deep well tinned stew-pan. Set it over a stove with a slow fire, keep stirring it often, and take great care it neither sticks to the pan or burns. When you find the jelly very stiff and thick, as it will be in lumps about the pan, take it out, and put it into large deep china-cups, or well-glazed earthen-ware. Fill the pan two-thirds full of water, and when the water boils, set in your cups. Be sure no water gets into the cups, and keep the water boiling softly all the time till you find the jelly is like a stiff glue; take out the cups, and when they are cool, turn out the glue into a coarse new flannel. Let it lie eight or nine hours, keeping it in a dry warm place, and turn it on fresh flannel till it is quite dry, and the glue will be quite hard; put it into clean new stone pots, keep it close covered from dust and dirt, in a dry place, and where no damp can come to it.
When you use it, pour boiling water on it, and stir it all the time till it is melted. Season it with salt to your palate. A piece as big as a large walnut will make a pint of water very rich; but as to that you are to make it as good as you please; if for soup, fry a French roll and lay it in the middle of the dish, and when the glue is dissolved in the water, given it a boil and pour it into the dish. If you chuse it for a change, you may boil either rice or barley, vermicelli, celery cut small, or truffles or morels; but let them be very tenderly boiled in the water before you stir in the glue, and then give it a boil altogether. You may, when you would have it very fine, add forcemeat balls, cocks-combs, or a palate boiled very tender, and cut into little bits; but it will be very rich and good without any of these ingredients.
If for gravy, pour the boiling water on to what quantity you think proper; and when it is dissolved, add what ingredients you please, as in other sauces. This is only in the room of a rich, good gravy. You may make your sauce either weak or strong, by adding more or less.
If you would like to see how to make portable soup today, this video has been recommended by one of our readers.
Sources used not already mentioned:
General Advertiser, 10th November 1746, 23rd April 1747 and 30th June 1752;
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 17th November 1756 and 15th September 1764;
Read’s Weekly Journal, 8th October 1757;
London Evening Post, 8th December 1750;
The Country Journal, Or, the Craftsman, 1750;
Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era, Jane Macdonald, 2004;