This is the first instalment of the story of Charlotte’s pursuit of love. Click here to read the next instalment.
December 1855 – January 1856. Charlotte is in Edinburgh for the season, living at 38 Melville Street with her stepfather Mr William Scott Kerr and his family. Her life consists of attending lectures and concerts, going to parties, visiting friends, and taking singing lessons. She sees her friend Mrs Gregory almost daily, and is excited by making a new acquaintance, Baron Hermann von Liebig …
*asterisks refer to explanantory notes which you can find by scrolling down the page to the end of the diary entries
December 11th Tuesday.
Walked with Mr Kerr*. Intensely cold. Met Major Pringle* in Princes St. looking flourishing. Went with Mr & Mrs S K. to party at Miss Sinclairs. Enjoyed it more than usual. Saw lots I know. Lady Glasgow & her son were there*. Spoke to _______, Professor and Mrs Gregory*, who introduced me to Baron Herrmann von Liebig, the son of the great Professor*; Miss Graemes; saw Mr J. Ennis & his sister, who looks very nice. Was introduced to a Mr Pemberton, cousin of the Gregorys, & Miss ________; heard music & singing, & performed. Mrs S K. looked handsome, & was admired.
Went to Mr Main, to have tooth staffed. At three, Miss E Makdougall called*, looks small & is good & gentle. Then under the Miss Sinclairs care* to a sort of morning reception given by the Miss Reeds; Sisters of Lady Dunbar Bewteen 20 & 30 people. Met Mrs Gregory & Miss Fitzroy & Baron v Liebig, who made himself very agreeable in German, wh: I do not always understand. Talked about Shakespeare with rapture, & Goethe. Was introduced to Miss Sandford, a nice little thing. Got a horrid fright for the door opened, & “Mr Dunbar” announced; not my friend, however*, but certainly his brother; he was introduced to me afterwards; rather awkward! However we soon departed. Heard good music from Miss Johnstone, & Miss Ganovitsch. In the evening, went my 1st expedition in a Sedan chair to drink tea with Mrs Gregory, Miss Fitzroy, Baron v. L. Mr Pemberton & Miss Diana Sinclair. The Professor did nothing but sit looking through a microscope for 2 blessed hours! Mrs G so nice. The Baron gentlemanly, good looking clever & agreeable.
Mary’s 17th birthday*. Mrs Gregory asked her & me to go to her in the evening, but Mr K. wd not let her go, & was turning so fierce, at the thought of my going, that I gave it up; I do it the more willingly too, because I fancy that Baron v. L. has a predilection for Self*, and as she could not make up her mind to become German, thinks it best to nip in the bud, if possible. Called on Mrs G and saw her and L., and felt very awkward & shy wh:- regret extremely. Lady Brisbane* is confined to bed with a cold; found the Tods & Graemes, who told us that the Thrieplands* are coming!
Paid Mrs Gregory a visit, & talked about Catty & my future Brother in law, of whom Mrs G has the highest opinion. He seems to her what C. says, truly “wise & good”. L. is looking at farms in Fife.
Ellen Paton paid me an unexpected visit. Went to St Cecilia’s Hall to have a singing class. In the ev[enin]g to a large party at the Misses Reed. Rooms much too crowded. Found Miss C. Sinclair as my chaperon. She and her Sisters kept a watchful care over me all night, & wd not let me sit a moment away from one of them till the dancing began, when I danced once, & ______ then fled; but fortunately, found the Miss Graemes, who kindly saw me home. Mr D. was there, very like his brother but not half so good looking; did little more than bow to him. L. was there, and am more confirmed in my fancy. We had not much communication however, for when Miss C. S. saw him sitting by me, she sent a Miss Reed to fetch me away, & then introduced me to hosts of young Britishers Spoke to Ladies Ducie, Arbuthnot; Mrs & Miss Sandford & &. Miss Johnston played beautifully also Miss Ganowitz, & Ursini sang “Vi ravviso”*
[between Christmas Day and New Year's Day there are 2 pages torn out of Charlotte's diary]
January 10th Thursday
Mrs S K. & the baby doing well*. Went with Mrs Gregory & the Baron Hermann von Liebig to the Phrenological Museum*. Was much interested though I know nothing of the subject. I saw casts of the heads of Hare*, Malibran*, & many remarkable characters, good & bad.
Mr Kerr & I dined at the Gregories. Miss Hope Vere, Dr Guthrie, & another* were there. Dr Guthrie seems most agreeable & clever, & has a preaching style of speaking, & names the person at every word. Had a pleasant evening. Mr K. said, coming home “What a very nice young man that B v L. is!”
William Scott Kerr of Sunlaws, Charlotte’s stepfather. Charlotte usually refers to him as Mr Kerr. When referring to him and his wife together she often writes “Mr and Mrs S.K.”
Probably Norman Pringle of Stichill, Major with the 21st Regiment of Northern British Fusiliers, and later 6th Baronet of Stichill (Charles Mosley (ed), Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition).
Lady Glasgow and her son
Julia, widow of George Boyle, the 4th Earl of Glasgow and daughter of Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet of Ulbster. Her son was George Frederick Boyle, later 6th Earl of Glasgow (Charles Mosley (ed), Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition).
Professor and Mrs Gregory
Professor William Gregory (1803-1858). He was a professor of chemistry and had studied in Germany under the famous chemist Justus von Liebig (see note below). He married Lisette Scott.
the great Professor
Baron Justus von Liebig (1803-1873), renowned chemist who was a professor at the University of Geissen.
Miss E Makdougall
Of the Makdougall family of Makerston
Then under the Miss Sinclairs care
The Sinclairs of Middlehaugh near Dunkeld. Charlotte spends many social evenings under the chaperonage of the Miss Sinclairs. She is also acquainted with a separate Miss Sinclair, Catherine Sinclair of Ulbster (d.1864), author of travel books and children’s stories, and daughter of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, 1st Baronet. Several of the events that Charlotte mentions attending at Ulbster Hall with the Miss Sinclairs of Middlehaugh have been arranged by Catherine Sinclair of Ulbster. It is not always clear to which Miss Sinclair she is referring.
not my friend, however
Charlotte’s friend was Captain Archibald Dunbar, later 8th Baronet of Northfield, with whom she had had an abortive romance in 1854.
Mary’s 17th birthday
Mary Scott Kerr, Charlotte’s half sister.
predilection for Self
Charlotte often refers to herself coyly in her diary in the 3rd person as “self”. Another pet name she uses for herself is “Velly”.
Anna Maria, wife of General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (and Governor of Australia) and daughter of Sir Henry Hay Makdougall Baronet of Makerstoun. The Brisbanes were cousins of the Scott Douglas family.
Sir Peter Thriepland and his three sisters. Charlotte will spend her summer holiday next year (1856) with them at their home, Fingask Castle, in Perthshire.
An aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “La Sonnambula” (The Sleepwalker).
Mrs S K. & the baby doing well
Mrs Scott Kerr had given birth to a daughter on 8 January.
The Phrenology Society of Edinburgh was formed in 1820. The museum was situated in Chambers Street, opposite the National Museums of Scotland of today. Phrenology was the theory, much in vogue in the 19th century as a branch of science and now considered a ‘pseudo-science’, that mental faculties and character traits could be deduced from the shape of a person’s skull.
William Hare, one of the two infamous 19th-century Edinburgh “resurrectionists” known as Burke and Hare, who committed murder to provide bodies for vivisection.
Maria Malibran (1808-1836), a famous opera singer renowned for her dramatic persona and powerful voice.
i.e. The Baron