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Marshman, Sophia
Musings, Reflections, and Thoughts of Sophia Marshman, of Camberwell, London, England, c1822-1825

small quarto, 376 manuscript pp., three thick fascicles, likely three separate notebooks, sewn into the binding with green silk ties, bound in contemporary ½ black leather, green paper covered boards, binding worn and rubbed at corners and edges, no endpapers, entries written in ink, in a legible hand, text written in English and French, not dated c1823-1825.

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The volume is not dated but does have a couple of entries with dates of 1822 to 1825 where our writer appears to be quoting from magazines of the day. The physical volume, paper, handwriting, is from the early decades of the 19th Century. The volume is not inscribed by the author but does have the following inscription on the front leaf, identifying its compiler:

“This book belongs to Mrs. William Stephenson Bennett, nee Fanny Jane Rendle. It is supposed to have been written by her mother Mrs. Edmund Rendle, nee Sophia Marshman, or some of her relations.”

The book contains the musings of Miss Sophia Marshman, who would have been about 18 to 23 years old when she compiled it. The volume appears to be in at least two large alphabetical listings of words, or ideas, with short entries on those words, or ideas (paragraph, one page, two pages, etc.). For example, the first page has the word “Album”, and our writer goes on to talk about an album:

“Album. In truth it is not every book

That’s suited to the mind

In some forever we may look

and no amusement find.

But seldom does an album fail

to please both grave & gay.

It seems with many a merry tale

and many a thoughtful lay.

Then reader know whatever you be

wise, witty, gay or sad

Tis like the world in some degree

made up of good and bad.”


She then follows with musings on Age, which seems to be taken from Henry Neele (1823):

“Age. Old age is honorable for on the sands of life already on its flight to brighter words and that strange change which men miscall decay Is renovated life; the feeble voice with which the soul attempts to speak its meanings is like the skylarks note heard faintest when its wing soars highest of those hoary signs. Those white reverend locks which move the scorn of thoughtless ribald seem to me like the snow upon an alpine summit, only, proving how near it is to heaven – Neele’s Dramas”

   Afterwards she writes on: Agreeable Old Lady, Amiable Man, Aunt, Affection, Absence, Angel, Arlequin, Advice, Adieu, etc…and on to Watering Places, Winter, Women, Watchman, with much in between and finally ending with Youth. Then the next section again has a similar pattern, but not as in order as the first section, and with different words, ideas, or topics.

Our author writes in English and in French. The pieces appear to rhyme at times. Sometimes she appears to quote from books, magazines, stories, other times possibly original reflections and thoughts, although it is difficult to tell as there are not usually names of authors quoted, and there are plenty of French entries. Overall, an interesting collection of thoughts, reflections, quotes, showing what was on the mind of a young educated British woman of early 19th Century London.

Sophia Marshman Rendle (1805-1873)

While the volume offered here is not inscribed with the name of the author, the front-page inscription does tell us it was written by Sophia Marshman Rendle. Sophia Marshman was born on 6 July 1805, the daughter of John Gill Marshman (1773-1842) and his wife Catherine Palmer. Sophia was baptized at Saint Giles, Camberwell, London, England, on 5 August 1805. She had at least one sister (Elizabeth) and one brother (John).

Sophia married Dr. Edmund Rendle, M.D. (1800-1876) on 12 January 1831 at Portchester, Hampshire, England. Dr. Edmund Rendle was born on 31 October 1800, at Plymouth, England. In the 1851 English Census he was recorded as a medical doctor with a general practice. He started his practice in Plymouth in 1823 and did notable work during the cholera epidemic at Plymouth in 1832, a street in Plymouth being name in his honor. He was for a time partners with Dr. William Joseph Square (1813-1891) at Plymouth. The Rendle family went on for several generations as physicians in Plymouth.

In the English Census of 1851, Dr. Rendle is living with his family (Sophia and children) at St. Andrew Parish, Plymouth, Devon, England. Together the couple had at least nine children:  Edward; Charles; Sophia; Fanny; Ellen; Mary; Elizabeth; Harry; and Arthur. The children were born between the years 1843 to 1851. Since the couple married in 1831, there is a possibility that there were other children born between the years 1831 to 1842, who are not recorded on the census. However, when viewing the 1841 Census there are no children older than eight-year-old Edward, who shows up in 1851 as 18 years of age.

Sophia Rendle died 18 October 1873, at Plymouth. Her husband Edmund died a couple of years later, on 15 May 1876 at Buckland Tc., Plymouth, Devon, England.

Sophia’s daughter Fanny Jane Rendle (1838-1925) married William Stephenson Bennett (1835-1907) in 1861 at Devon, England. In the 1871 Census we find three grandchildren of Sophia Rendle living with her: Fanny Bennett and her sisters Mary Bennett and Emily Bennett. These children were born between the years 1863 to 1867 and were listed as being born in Ceylon, thus their parents may have been missionaries, or were in the tea business in Ceylon, and that is why they are living with their grandparents. There is a William Stephenson Bennett who shows up in the Ceylon tea business later in the 19th Century.

Emily Pell Bennett is found with a baptism record of Holy Trinity Church, Pussellawa, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Her parents stated as: William Stephenson Bennett and Fanny Jane his wife of Devon Estate Dimbula. The two other children born in Ceylon (Fanny and Mary) were baptized at St Paul's Church, Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

In 1881, we find Fanny and Bennett had at least four other children: Ada; Florence, Bryan, and William, (plus the three that were living with their grandparents back in 1871). In 1881 the Bennett family was living at Calne, Wiltshire, England. William Stephenson Bennett is listed as having been born at Corsham, Wiltshire, England. A baptism record for him is found showing he was baptized at Corsham, Wiltshire, England, on 8 October 1835. He was the son of William Coles Bennett and Frances Otto Edwards. William Coles Bennett graduated with a B.A. (1816) and M.A. (1819) from Queen’s College, Oxford.

The 1851 Census shows Bennett’s father William Coles Bennett (1794-1857) as being the “Vicar of Corsham, Hon. Canon of Bristol.” He was appointed the Vicar of Corsham in 1832. Prior to that he was Stipendiary Curate at Bedminster St. John the Baptist, Abbots Leigh Chapel (1823); Assistant Curate of Lympsham (1820); and Stipendiary Curate at Corsham (1818). He was also the Domestic Chaplain to the Right Hon. Lord Methuem for many years. This same 1851 Census show’s W.S. Bennett as being a student at Marlborough College in Wiltshire. Bennett’s mother Frances Otto Edwards (1794-1865) was born on the island of Jamaica in the West Indies. She and her husband married in 1828 at St. Michael’s, Bath, Somerset, England.

In the 1881 Census W.S. Bennett stated he had “no profession.” The 1891 Census shows W.S. Bennett and his family living on their “own means” without occupations. William Stephenson Bennett died at Reading, Berkshire, England, on 29 April 1907. His wife Fanny Rendle died on 6 September 1925, at Fleet, Hampshire, England.

Some examples from the book:

“Arabic - This language is so rich that it has 1000 words to express a sword, 500 for a lion, 200 for a serpent, and 0 for money.”

“Carriage lately invented so light that two men drew it 30 miles when loaded with 1500 weight.”

“College - On the establishment of a college at Williamsburg in Virginia in 1788, the American government made the Indians an offer of placing 12 of their children there for their education free of all expenses. The Indians after some time deliberating on this proposal amongst themselves sent one of their chiefs who said to thank the government for their kind offer but said they could not consent comply with their proposition but to show their gratitude for it if they would send them 12 of their sons they would teach them all their arts & would make them complete men in every respect.”

“Ethiopians – In all public calamities they always massacred their priests, observing that as the Gods appeared to be deaf to their prayers it was necessary for priests to go nearer to them to make them hear.”

“Liberia – Linnaeus maintained that this was the spot first inhabited by mankind.”

“Playbills – at Mr. Kemble’s sale a complete set of the Bills of Covent Garden Theatre for the last 60 years sold for £180 Stirling.”

“Religion…The Queen of Sweden said that Madame la Suza had turned Catholic to avoid seeing her husband in this world or the next.”

“Santeuil observes that the reason why handsome women never possess as much good sense as ugly ones is that women who are not handsome are continually in search of any person that will give them sense whilst on the contrary handsome women always avoid those persons who are possessed of sense & might impart it to them.”

“Turkey – If a husband refuses to allow coffee to his wife it is a legitimate cause for suing for divorce.”

“Wife…When sad experience proved the bitter fate

Of beauty coupled to a senseless mate;

These gentle wives still gloried to submit

Some tho invited by alluring wit

Refused in paths of lawless joy to range

But with a lively sweetness unopposed

By a dull husband’s lamentable jest

Their constant rays of gay good humor shed

A guardian glory round their idiot’s head

The next in order are those lovely forms,

Whose patience weathered all paternal storms;

By filial cares the mins unfailing test;

Well have they earned their seats of blissful rest.

They unrepining at severe restraint,

Peevish commands & undeserved complaint

Bent with unwearied kindness to appease,

Each fancied want of querulous disease;

Gave up those joys which youthful hearts engage

To watch the weakness of parental age.

Dorat gave as a reason for having married a young

Wife in his old age that he preferred having his heart wounded with a bright & well-polished sword

Rather than by an old a rusty one…”

“Women…Happy is that Woman who in the prime of life considered that she should not be always young & had the precaution to lay up for herself in her latter years the precious resources of education, a taste for the fine arts, a fondness for reading & of that tender friendship which makes us no longer think of what we have lost & compensates for all we do not possess.”