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Sarah Trimmer

Sarah Trimmer

Sarah Trimmer, the daughter of John Kirby, a landscape artist, was born in Ipswich in 1741. Educated at a local private school she moved with her parents to London in 1755.

In 1782 Sarah married James Trimmer. Sarah used mutual instruction, a method developed by Dr. Andrew Bell, to teach her twelve children. In an article published in the Edinburgh Review she advocated the use of Bell's methods to spread the ideas of the Anglican Church. This eventually led to the formation of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church.

Trimmer wrote several books on education including: An Essay Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature (1782), the six volume, Sacred History Adapted to the Comprehension of Young Persons (1784) The Economy of Charity (1786) and Comparative View of the New Plan of Education (1805). Trimmer also edited The Family Magazine (1788-89) and the Guardian of Education (1802-06). Sarah Trimmer died in 1810.


Sarah Trimmer

Sarah Trimmer (1741–1810) was one of the founders of the Christian Sunday school, as well as an apologist, a person who argues in defense or justification of something, such as a doctrine, policy, or institution. In the case of Trimmer, she wrote about Christianity. In the nineteenth century she became one of the most influential people involved in education and literature for children. She had so much influence on the style and content of children's books that she has been likened to such notable critics as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Newbury. Her books were so well circulated that she became one of the best selling authors of her time.


1-12 Windmill Road

Site of Sarah Trimmer’s house Residences built early 19th century. In St Paul’s Conservation Area. History Group of six early 19c houses, Tuscan style, white render. Built on the site of Sarah Trimmer’s house (wife of a local businessman and a leading educationalist of her time. died 1810). At one time there was a name plaque showing Trimmer Villas and there is a section of &hellip Continue reading 1-12 Windmill Road


Sarah Trimmer’s Brentford Industrial School

Prepared by Val Bott and James Wisdom, on behalf of the Society, in October 2015 when the School, a Grade 2 Listed Building was threatened with conversion into three “duplex apartments”, a wholly inappropriate scheme for a historic structure of this kind

Summary
This building at 367 Brentford High Street may be the only surviving purpose-built Georgian School of Industry in the country. It was built in 1806, with accommodation for the school mistress, and the design of the building is significant in its own right. Its historic value also lies in its links with Sarah Trimmer.

Mrs Trimmer started Sunday Schools in Brentford in 1786 and Schools of Industry in 1787, long before she had a building. Established teachers took “divisions” of children, either on Sundays for religious instruction and education, or during the week for work and education. The George Chapel (later called St George’s Church) was also used for classes.

The Girls’ School of Industry was financially successful and by 1806 Mrs Trimmer was able to build the schoolroom which brought all these Girls’ divisions together under one teacher. It was also used as a Sunday School. The Boys’ School of Industry, however, was less successful. Two of Mrs Trimmer’s daughters continued her work after her death in 1810.

Origins
The venture was inspired by the first such Sunday School established in Gloucester by Robert Raikes in 1780 and published in his newspaper in 1783. Raikes visited Brentford in 1787, was highly satisfied with what he saw and presented the children with Bibles (1).

According to Daniel Lysons (2) the Sunday Schools were instituted by the Rev Charles Sturges, Vicar of Ealing at that time the part of Brentford east of the Half Acre was known as Old Brentford and formed part of the Parish of St Mary Ealing. A Chapel had been built in Old Brentford in 1766, funded by subscribers the architect was Joshua Kirby, the King’s Clerk of Works at Kew. It was generally known as George Chapel. The subscribers collected the pew rents and the proceeds of special sermons where a collection was taken, and paid for the curate.

The Vicar may have been the prime mover, but the project would probably not have got off the ground without the support of Mrs Sarah Trimmer. She was Kirby’s daughter and in 1762 had married James Trimmer jnr, a prosperous brickmaker in the town. She brought up their large family and oversaw their education from the early 1780s she was publishing books for children.

Setting up the Sunday Schools
Many accounts of Brentford reported on the needs of the poor. In 1787, in An Account of the Establishment of the Sunday Schools in Old Brentford extracted from The Oeconomy of Charity, Mrs Trimmer set out what had been achieved. Rev Sturges had announced the project from the pulpit, started a subscription list with his own donation to encourage better off parishioners and collecting boxes had been placed at the door of the Chapel. The Vicar had encouraged poorer families to avail themselves of this opportunity, and Mrs Trimmer had visited many of their homes, choosing to go when the husband was at work and she could have a private conversation with the mothers of potential pupils.

The response was substantial, so teachers were found, a number of them being women who already ran weekday schools, and local ladies were asked to help as voluntary assistants. “Rooms were now hired, alphabets printed, books bought and numbered tickets containing the names of the prospective teachers written on slips of paper leaving a space for each child’s name to be inserted before the delivery of them”, she wrote. Some children had such inadequate clothing that charitable people were asked to provide “bare necessaries”, while other parents were so keen for their children to join the Sunday Schools that they offered to pay a fee.

Each teacher was allotted 30 pupils at first, but this grew to 50 each. Three or four Sunday schools were started, and were held wherever the teachers taught during the week. A school was also held in the Chapel, as she writes: “Provision of forms &c was made for seating the children in the aisles of the Chapel, and the teachers were allowed to sit in pews where they could overlook their respective scholars.” It must have been noisy and crowded as the teachers settled their charges, beginning lessons with a prayer. Some attempt was made to group the children by ability, but they were also concerned to emphasise cleanliness and punctuality as well as learning the alphabet, reading and religious knowledge. There were problems with the girls in particular as many did not even recognise a single letter of the alphabet.

The children were taken in twos to Church (it is not clear if this is to Ealing or St Lawrence’s, New Brentford) and a few that could do so read psalms in the morning service. They returned to school for lessons, then were dismissed for lunch, returning at 2pm for lessons with the curate at the Chapel. In winter there was no afternoon sermon, so there were singing lessons or “psalmody” which she described as “a solemn part of divine service which was never to be practised as a mere amusement”. Success was rewarded with praise, the loan of books and gifts of clothing for girls and small sums towards the purchase of clothing for boys, plus occasional half pence when they repeated their lessons well.

In 1795 Lysons commented that “the Sunday-schools in this parish have been peculiarly efficacious, in consequence of the zealous and persevering attention of Mrs. Trimmer, who resides near the populous hamlet of Old Brentford, and is well known by her many useful treatises tending to increase the comforts and reform the manners of the poor. About sixty boys, and more than a hundred girls, are now educating in the Sunday-schools of this parish, which are conducted upon a plan which affords great encouragement to the meritorious, and seems admirably calculated to excite a spirit of emulation and improvement”.

The Schools of Industry
In 1787 Mrs Trimmer introduced a School of Industry on weekdays to train selected girls and boys with useful skills. She believed this was morally preferable to children learning in employment, where they would be in the company of rough men who swore and would exploit them.

In 1795 Lysons wrote: “A school of industry for girls has been some time established at present they are forty in number, and are employed in making coarse shirts. A school of industry for boys also has been lately opened hitherto they have been employed only in combing wool but it is in contemplation to find them some other occupation, which may prove of more service to them in their future life.”

Lysons mentioned that the Queen subscribed £20 a year to support the schools and surviving handbills (4), printed by Norbury of Brentford, give notice of celebrity sermons in November 1806 and December 1807 with the words of the hymns to be sung by the children of the Sunday Schools and School of Industry in Old Brentford at these events. The fund-raising clearly had to continue.

John Bew, writing in 1807 (5) stated that the School of Industry was situated in the chapel-yard at Old Brentford, where the girls were making coarse shirts and the boys were carding wool. Lysons did not mention a purpose-built school in 1795 but in the second edition of his work, published in 1810, he rewrote the section about the Sunday Schools and the School of Industry. He described the School of Industry as “grafted on the Sunday Schools” and commented that it had “furnished to society many well-principled domestic servants”. The chief employment of the girls in the School of Industry was plain needlework for which they were allowed to keep half the money earned from its sale. He added “a new commodious school-room has lately been erected by subscription, to admit an unlimited number of scholars selected from the Sunday Schools”. The date of 1806 is confirmed in The Life of the Revd Andrew Bell (6) who promoted the “Madras system”. In the spring of that year Sarah Trimmer invited Dr Bell to examine the new building. This is presumably when the plaque was inserted in the High Street wall.

When Sarah’s son James gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education in 1834, he stated that he had been interested in the subject of education for 48 years, that he was a member of the committee of the National Society for Promoting Religious Education and that his sisters continued to support the schools in Brentford founded with their mother’s help nearly 50 years before. By that time the growing population had access to several local schools, including one for infants.

The Building
The school room is significant as the home of the Schools of Industry, and as they were weekday schools it was built primarily for that purpose, although it was also used by one of the Sunday schools. Although Mrs Trimmer reports her early difficulties in the appendix to The Oeconomy of Charity, in time the Schools of Industry for Girls were successful. By 1811 there were 85 attending and over a hundred in 1834. The girls in the School of Industry were provided with green gowns, and in the Sunday schools with brown gowns – this probably explains why the Girls’ School of Industry was sometimes known as the Green School.

The School of Industry for Boys had periods of success but was more difficult to run and had failed by about 1807. Families needed the income generated by their sons’ working and donors were less likely to make charitable gifts to support training which took the boys away from employers.

The interior of the building shows that it was divided into three parts – the accommodation for the mistress, the main hall and a partitioned north end with a store room above. The main hall occupies about two-thirds of the floor plan. At some date the wall on the Chapel side was given a second skin of bricks. As the interior brickwork shows no trace of a door on this wall or the High Street wall, we conclude the main door was at the north end of the building. The building is on a slope, the entry to the first room is level with outside, there is a step down inside the building at the partition, and the rest of the floor is at this level. Today, since the door has been inserted at the High Street end, there are steps down to the street.

The original purpose of the smaller northern room is hard to deduce after the changes to the building, but it could have been a second smaller workroom or classroom, a storage area for chairs, somewhere for the children to leave their outdoor clothes, shelves for books or cupboards to store half finished work, or a collection and despatch area for materials and finished garments. Similarly, the storage area above could have been for materials and stock for the children to work on.

In the open workroom, the girls were learning plain needlework (sewing and knitting). They had a long-term contract from a ready-made warehouse to assemble men’s shirts. In the early days they had learnt spinning with a wheel which had been donated. This wheel allowed 13 little children to stand and spin flax simultaneously. This part of the venture soon failed, as it was hard to repair and some parents did not want their children to learn spinning, a skill that was rapidly being replaced by machinery. The younger children were then set to winding cotton or picking rushes for tallow chandlers to turn into rush lights. The windows are set high in the building to illuminate the close needlework and to prevent the children being distracted, or being seen when working. In winter they would have required light (candles or oil lamps) and of course heat, and an air vent in the roof is hardly surprising. It would have been even more necessary if and when gas lighting was provided (the Brentford Gas Co started in 1820). Timber fillets within the brickwork would have provided fixing points for wainscot and a hanging rail for maps, diagrams, girls’ work bags, alphabets or other instructional paraphernalia.

There is evidence which suggests that living accommodation was provided at the High Street end of the building. The chimney stack nearest to the High Street is a double flue, and 19th century photographs show a dormer window on the hipped roof facing the street. The door onto the High Street is only visible in photographs taken after 1913, so we assume that originally the schoolmistress entered her rooms from inside the building and her ground floor room was illuminated by the first window of the range facing the Chapel yard. When the building was re-roofed in the 20th century the dormer went. The second stack is a single flue, serving the hearth for the school room. The 1839 Tithe and later OS maps show an outbuilding at the other end of the building, which may have been a toilet/privy block. As Mrs Trimmer’s husband ran the major brick and tile business in Brentford, we surely have to conclude that he provided the materials for the school building (as his family had for the Chapel).

The schoolmistress managed the Girls’ School of Industry in the building. Mrs Trimmer also reports relying on a woman from the workhouse, who knew about carding wool, being given a press-bed, a tea kettle and other little comforts to live in the school room and manage the Boys’ School of Industry. This School does not seem to have settled after the transition into the new building.

The Chapel was taken over by the Church of England in 1828 and became St George’s Church. The school took on the same name and was the fore-runner of the school built at the end of the 19th century in Green Dragon Lane. The school room survived as the church hall for St George’s parish but once the church had been declared redundant and the parish merged with St Paul’s, it was neglected and for long periods has not been used.

The heritage value of the building
We must not forget how significant the construction of a new school building would have been in a town like Brentford in 1806. A Georgian Industrial day school building is a very rare survival from the early days of providing education for poor children. It may even be unique. The buildings for Schools of Industry which have survived are more likely to be Victorian residential reformatories

The school is also significant because of its connection with a pioneer in children’s education and the status her involvement gave it. Mrs Trimmer’s promotion of her model of schooling was part of a vigorous public discourse about the education of the poor and the importance of the established Church in their lives. The patronage of the royal family (in whose circle Sarah Trimmer had grown up), her fame as an author, and in particular the widespread use of some of her books by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, gave her a national reputation. In many of her writings are the issues and themes which are still current in the public debate about the nature of technical and vocational education. The subscribers to the private Chapel and then to the school building, were important local people who were involved in Brentford’s rapid 18th century industrial expansion and, in their way, responding to the social problems which were associated with it. In the area of the education of the poor, Mrs Trimmer’s work at Brentford was a model which others followed.

(1) Gentleman’s Magazine, vol 58, 1788
(2) Daniel Lysons, Environs of London Vol 2 Middlesex, first edition, 1795
(3) Sarah Trimmer, The Oeconomy of Charity, second edition 1810, Appendix:
An Account of the Sunday Schools and School of Industry in Old Brentford
(4) Chiswick Local Studies Library L B Hounslow
(5) John Bew, The Ambulator or a Tour Round London within 25 miles, 1807
(6) R Southey, The Life of the Revd Andrew Bell, 1844


Sarah Trimmer - History

Introductory essay

Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) produced at least thirty-three books. Some were aimed at an adult audience, but most were designed for the nursery. Trimmer's first work was An Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature (1780). Her Sacred History Selected from the Scriptures followed in 1782-85, and was itself followed in 1786 by Trimmer's most enduring work, Fabulous Histories, later known as The History of the Robins (see 0241-0245). This remained in print, sometimes in abridged form, well into the twentieth century. Other titles, usually self-explanatory, like Easy Lessons for Young Children (c.1786: HC0655-HC0656), The Ladder to Learning (1792: 0003) and The Charity School Spelling Book (c.1799: 0654) followed hard upon each other's heels.

Other than Fabulous Histories, perhaps the most celebrated of Trimmer's publications were the sets of copper-plate prints on various historical subjects, accompanied by Trimmer's commentary. These came in various forms. The early editions were designed so that the prints could be pasted onto boards and hung on the wall (as the title of 1152 indicates: A series of prints of Roman history, designed as ornaments for those apartments in which children receive the first rudiments of their education). Later the prints were bound into books. They were sold either together with, or separate from, Trimmer's text. First, in 1786, came A Description of a Set of Prints of Scripture History: contained in a Set of Easy Lessons (0451). Other packages soon followed, bringing classical and English history to the nursery (1145-1152), as well as the events of the new and old testaments (0451-0460). According to the Edinburgh Review (9:177), by the early nineteenth century Trimmer was 'dearer to mothers and aunts than any other author who pours the milk of science into the mouths of babes and sucklings.'


Trimmer, Sarah (1741–1810)

English author. Name variations: Sarah Kirby. Born Sarah Kirby on January 6, 1741, in Ipswich, England died on December 15, 1810, in London daughter of John Joshua Kirby and Sarah (Bull) Kirby married James Trimmer, in 1762 children: six daughters six sons.

Sarah Trimmer, an author of popular children's stories and treatises on education, was born in Ipswich, England, in 1741, the daughter of John Joshua Kirby and Sarah Bull Kirby . Her father, an artist, encouraged Sarah to write and provided her with a good education in literature. After moving his family to London, John Kirby introduced Sarah to London's literary community, where she formed a friendship with Samuel Johnson. At age 21, Sarah married James Trimmer, a government bureaucrat of Kew who shared her literary interests. After settling in London, the couple had 12 children, who were educated by their mother at home. Trimmer did not approve of the educational texts available at the time, believing many of them to be frivolous or amoral, and she began writing her own lessons, combining them with stories of religious instruction. By 1780, her friends had convinced her to publish her stories as Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature. The book went into numerous editions and was well received, encouraging Trimmer to publish more collections of stories throughout the 1780s, including her most popular book, The History of the Robins. Her works were pioneering in English children's literature in their use of illustrations as an aid in learning.

Trimmer also turned her pen to treatises on educational issues, and gradually emerged as an active proponent of widespread, religiously oriented popular education. Throughout the 1790s and early 1800s, she helped establish local schools to teach vocational subjects to the poor. With the assistance of her husband and olderchildren, Trimmer then launched Family Magazine, stories and articles intended for adults to read with their children, which they produced between 1778 and 1789. This popular magazine was followed by Guardian of Education, a periodical review of new children's literature which was often deeply critical of other writers. Her teachers' guides were widely adopted in England, as was her illustrated New and Comprehensive Lessons, which was continuously in print until 1830.

Sarah Trimmer remained an active writer and publisher long after her children were grown. She died in 1810, at age 68.


The History of the Robins

Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories: The History of the Robins for the Instruction of Children on Their Treatment of Animals has an enduring legacy. It was first published in 1786 and was reprinted and republished numerous times, including several editions during the time period focused on in this exhibit. This book is also currently available in digitized form.

Harrison Weir and Thomas Bewick are two of the best-known artists who received commissions to create illustrations for this book. The book tells the tale of a family of humans and a family of robins whose lives intersect. Underpinning the book is the theme of “universal benevolence.”

The History of the Robins by Sarah Trimmer. Collection of the National Museum of Animals & Society.

The History of the Robins by Sarah Trimmer. Collection of the National Museum of Animals & Society.


Mrs. Trimmer's Introduction to Natural History: In an Easy and Familiar Style, Adapted to the Capacities of Children (Classic Reprint)

Such instructions are of the highest importance, and most essential for all to be acquainted with.

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com

This book is a repr Excerpt from Mrs. Trimmer's Introduction to Natural History: In an Easy and Familiar Style, Adapted to the Capacities of Children

Such instructions are of the highest importance, and most essential for all to be acquainted with.

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works. . more


English Historical Fiction Authors

The governess was not on equal footing with the family but of higher status than other servants, a lonely position. Maria Grace described the duties and position of governess well in her excellent post Here. However, with all its difficulties and limitations, the position of governess was one of few respectable alternatives for an educated woman of no means to support herself, and could, at least in some cases, provide opportunities for satisfaction, a measure of security and even affection. Some of these can be found in the lives of two governesses during the Regency era: Selina Trimmer and Agnes Porter. In this post, we will first meet Selina Trimmer.

In order to get a glimpse of Selina Trimmer, it is important to know her mother. Selina was the daughter of Sarah Kirby Trimmer, an education reformer, writer and philanthropist. She founded several schools, Sunday schools as well as charity schools, and questioned many of the attitudes and customs regarding women and family then in place. From a genteel family, she was living at Kew (thanks to her father’s appointment as clerk of works in the palace) when she met James Trimmer, whom she married. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls. She was primarily a wife and mother, who educated her children herself at home (the boys until they went to school) with the assistance of her husband, and became passionate about education.

Sarah read all of the books intended for her children, and selected reading specifically for each child. She herself wrote between thirty and fifty books, including text books, children’s literature, teaching manuals, and more. Sarah was also deeply religious, believed in rank and the social structure of her time (the poor were meant to be poor, in her estimation), and she embedded a strong religious and moral foundation into her educational program. She placed her students in positions, including positions as governess in respectable households. As Mrs. Trimmer became known for her interest in education, her schools and her writing, she became influential even the Queen asked her advice regarding the founding of a school.

Selina (actually named Sarah, like her mother) was the second child, and second daughter, born to Mr and Mrs Trimmer. She was born August 16, 1764, and was thoroughly educated at home by her mother. Mrs. Trimmer took her children to visit their grandparents regularly. She was literally surrounded by books and educational theory throughout her childhood and young adulthood. She did not marry, and references to her are limited to her position as governess in the family of the Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I found no biography of Selina, and she appears in the background as a minor character when reading of the Duchess and her children, and her niece Caroline Lamb. However, there was much more to Selina Trimmer than first appeared. An interesting question: how did she get into the Devonshire household?

Margaret Georgiana Poyntz Spencer, Countess Spencer, was the mother of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was a very intelligent, well-educated woman, who was interested in philanthropy and education herself. She and her husband John, Earl Spencer were noted patrons of writers and artists. Although I have found no specific reference to support this, I find it hard to believe that Lady Spencer did not at some point make the acquaintance of Mrs. Trimmer and possibly her daughter.

There is no doubt that Lady Spencer was instrumental in inserting Selina into the Duchess’s household. Lady Spencer had long been concerned about and vastly disapproving of the intimate friendship Georgiana had formed with Lady Elizabeth Foster, who had also become the intimate friend of Georgiana’s husband, the Duke of Devonshire. Elizabeth had also been hired as governess to the Duke’s illegitimate daughter Charlotte and was to accompany Charlotte to France. Unfortunately, in Lady Spencer’s view, this separation did not cool the friendship. Lady Spencer also disapproved severely of Georgiana’s own behaviour, particularly the gambling, the interest in politics and her other activities.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds (with Little G)

By 1785, Georgiana had two daughters with the Duke, and Bess also had a daughter with him. (I do not propose to go into all of the particulars of the activities of the Devonshire House set. Suffice to say, Lady Spencer found plenty about which to be upset, not only with Georgiana and her activities, her son-in-law, and their live-in friend Elizabeth, but with her younger daughter Harriet Ponsonby, Lady Bessborough, the mother of Caroline Ponsonby who became Lady Caroline Lamb.) I am speculating here, but it seems highly likely that Lady Spencer would have consulted with Mrs. Sarah Trimmer regarding her daughters’ children, their need for a governess who was not only intelligent and well educated, but of strong moral fibre, to counteract the bad influences swirling around them. Who better than Mrs. Trimmer’s own daughter?

Selina was already in the household as governess when Georgiana conceived her third child while in France in 1789 with her husband and Elizabeth. There are hints that Lady Spencer had managed to insert her in the Devonshire household, and that Selina reported to Lady Spencer even at this early date. Apparently the entire family was together when the longed-for son William, the Marquise of Hartington, was born May 21, 1790.

Lady Spencer returned to England with the children in July, which was apparently the point that Lady Spencer actually became friendly with Selina, and saw an opportunity to try to reform her daughter’s household from within. Multiple accounts indicate that Selina reported the intimate goings-on in the household to Lady Spencer, and was influenced by Lady Spencer’s displeasure with those goings on and desire to rid the household of Lady Elizabeth. Selina was particularly disapproving of the presence of Lady Elizabeth in the household (a ménage a’ trois, by all accounts), and made her disapproval known to the lady in no uncertain terms.

Lady Elizabeth Foster by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Fanny Burney met Selina Trimmer in the Duchess’s household, and was apparently not impressed, finding her neither natural nor simple in manner, plain, yet in possession of her mother Sarah’s pleasant calm. Most accounts describe her as friendly and well-liked, yet easily worn down. (Apparently, despite her education and moral rectitude, Selina was not a harsh disciplinarian it seems her charges were able to get around her.) She was considered quite learned and imbued her lessons with the religious morality learned from her mother, which must have been a source of satisfaction to Lady Spencer.

When in October of 1791, the Duke of Devonshire ordered Georgiana (who was pregnant with Charles Grey’s child) to go abroad, Selina had sole care of the three children at Devonshire House in London. During the two years that the Duchess was separated from her children, Selina Trimmer assisted her in maintaining contact with her children by letter, and kept her informed on their activities. The Duchess was allowed to return in September of 1793, which created further awkwardness.

The children had developed difficulties in the Duchess’s absence: under the strictly moral program of education formulated by Miss Trimmer (and, I’m sure, approved by Lady Spencer), Georgiana (“Little G”, the oldest child of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire) had become morbidly religious, worried about sin and with no self-confidence Harriet (“Harry-O”) was reserved and very sensitive their son William (the Marquise of Hartington, called “Hart”) had had an infection that resulted in his near-deafness, didn’t remember Georgiana at all, and had grown from a cuddly baby to an angry toddler.

Georgiana would hardly have been human if she had not resented these issues with her children, and blamed Selina at least in part. Selina, on the other hand, was accustomed to having free rein with the children and disliked the duchess trying to take back control of the children’s care. The tension was exacerbated by the duchess’ awareness that Selina was continuing to report to her mother. It took three years for the two women to come to terms and rebuild a semblance of trust between them.

The children were all genuinely fond of Selina and, even after the Duchess had restored her relationship with her children to some degree and regained some control over their upbringing, the Duchess continued to rely on Selina and encouraged her children to appreciate the care Selina had given them. There are letters in the Chatsworth archives written by the children that show their continuing affection for her even after they reached adulthood.

About 1794, the household included the Duchess’s niece, Caroline Ponsonby, who created her own excitement with her lively curiosity and intense emotional swings. Selina was limited in her ability to challenge Caroline’s intellectual curiosity as much as she may have wished, as the doctors recommended that Caroline be discouraged from applying herself to her study and to refrain from stimulation in hopes of calming her. However, Caroline was a great reader and developed a talent for writing. As the girls grew up, Selina acted as their chaperon and companion.

Lady Caroline Lamb

Selina remained in the Devonshire household even after both girls had come out and Hart had gone to Harrow in 1801. When the Duchess became ill in March of 1806, the Duke asked Selina to remain with them to attend to the household during her illness and decline. The Duchess died on March 30, 1806. By this time, Little G was married and in her own household. Harriet, the oldest daughter at home, assumed she would be in control of the household (at least to the extent of sitting in her mother’s place at table and being the hostess) but, to her chagrin, found the role taken by Lady Elizabeth. Neither of Georgiana’s daughters had ever liked Elizabeth, and they greatly resented her continued presence in the house and their father’s life.

Harriet kept Selina with her to avoid having to appear with Lady Elizabeth. This was a particularly difficult time for Selina as Lady Elizabeth, in her role as chatelaine, apparently decided to avenge past slights and made Selina’s life very uncomfortable by criticizing and contradicting her. There is an indication that Selina left Devonshire House in November of 1806. If she did leave, it was not permanent because she was back with Harriet (“Harry-O”) in 1807. Regardless of the emotional highs or lows, there is no indication that Selina was forced to look elsewhere or that her life was unpleasant enough for Selina to want to move on.

Elizabeth married the Duke of Devonshire on October 19, 1809, yet another cause for uproar within the family. However, she was received into society and the situation calmed. Regrettably, the Duke became ill in July of 1811, and died July 29th. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, he died leaving financial matters for his son by Elizabeth unclear. Selina joined other family members in counselling the new Duke (Hart) to make an appropriate settlement for his half-brother. Selina was recommended to Princess Charlotte as a possible candidate to become governess to the Princess’s expected child, but stayed on in the Devonshire household. Princess Charlotte died in childbirth November 6, 1817.

When the late Duchess of Devonshire’s beloved sister Harriet (Lady Bessborough and Lady Caroline Lamb’s mother) became ill, Caroline became very agitated. When Lady Bessborough died, Selina stepped into the breach and stayed with Caroline in London prior to the funeral, to be held December 31, 1821 (Harriet was buried at Chatsworth). Caroline was distraught, contemplating suicide, and under medical care during this time. Selina went to Brocket, the Lamb’s country home, with Caroline, and then on to Chatsworth with her, although Caroline did not actually attend the funeral.

Selina Trimmer was a valued member of the Devonshire household from approximately 1788 or 1789 until at least 1821, a period of over 30 years. Throughout this tumultuous period, in spite of the intrigue and factions within the household, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Spencer obviously respected Selina and held her in high regard. The children apparently held her in affection, as their letters indicate.

She had at least one significant opportunity to change positions to her advantage and chose not to do so, which argues that she was content with her situation with the Devonshires. (Even though the Princess died, the fact that such a recommendation had been made is in indication that Selina could have obtained another position without much difficulty had she genuinely wish to do so.) In dire situations, the family turned to Selina for support and she remained a person of influence. Selina Trimmer died in 1829. Although I could not find the exact date of her death or the location of her grave, there is nothing to indicate that her connection with the family of the Duke of Devonshire was severed prior to her passing.

Austen, Jane. EMMA. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1988.

Chapman, Caroline. ELIZABETH AND GEORGIANA The Duke of Devonshire and His Two Duchesses. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2002.

Douglass, Paul. LADY CAROLINE LAMB A Biography. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

Foreman, Amanda. GEORGIANA Duchess of Devonshire. New York: Radom House, 1998.

English Historical Fiction Authors blog. “Professional Household Staff, A Cut Above the Servants,” by Maria Grace, Feb 17, 2016. Here.

GoogleBooks. Mrs. Trimmer (Sarah). SOME ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF MRS. TRIMMER. London: C & J Rivington, 1825. Here.


Notes

  1. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 8–9 Wills, DLB, 343.
  2. ^ Yarde, Life and Works of Sarah Trimmer, 15: Wills, DLB, 343.
  3. ^ Heath, 387: Wills, DLB, 343.
  4. ^ Yarde, Life and Works of Sarah Trimmer, 17 Wills, 343.
  5. ^ Rodgers, 113.
  6. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", vi–vii Wills, DLB, 343.
  7. ^ Rodgers, 115 Wills, DLB, 343.
  8. ^ a b c Yarde, 31.
  9. ^ a b Rodgers, 118–19.
  10. ^ Yarde, 33.
  11. ^ Heath, 389 Wills, DLB, 345.
  12. ^ Rodgers, 124 Wills, DLB, 345.
  13. ^ a b Wills, "Sarah Trimmer’s Œconomy of Charity", 157–58.
  14. ^ Qtd. in Wills, "Sarah Trimmer’s Œconomy of Charity", 160.
  15. ^ Wills, "Sarah Trimmer’s Œconomy of Charity", 159.
  16. ^ Wills, "Sarah Trimmer’s Œconomy of Charity", 162.
  17. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 117.
  18. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 220.
  19. ^ a b Yarde, 40–43.
  20. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 218.
  21. ^ Keutsch, 47.
  22. ^ Laqueur, 21.
  23. ^ a b c Grenby, "Introduction", viii–ix.
  24. ^ a b Heath, 385.
  25. ^ Janowitz, Anne. "Amiable and Radical Sociability: Anna Barbauld’s ‘Free Familiar Conversation.’" Romantic Sociability: Social Networks and Literary Culture in Britain 1770–1840. Eds. Gillian Russell and Clara Tuite. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2002), 71.
  26. ^ Wills, DLB, 343.
  27. ^ Trimmer, Sarah. An Easy Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature, and Reading the Holy Scriptures. Adapted to the Capacities of Children. 10th ed. London: Printed for T. Longman and O. Rees C. G. and J. Robinson J. Johnson and F. and C. Rivington (1799), v–vi.
  28. ^ Yarde, Sarah Trimmer of Brentford and Her Children, 20.
  29. ^ a b c Ruwe, 10–11.
  30. ^ a b Fyfe, 469.
  31. ^ Fyfe, 460.
  32. ^ Fyfe, 471.
  33. ^ Grenby, "Introduction," viii Wills, DLB, 345.
  34. ^ Barbara Brandon Schnorrenberg, "Trimmer, Sarah (1741–1810)," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, Oxford: OUP, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27740
  35. ^ Morning Post and Daily Advertiser 16 Sept 1786
  36. ^ Prospectus in the John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library, Prospectuses of Journals 22 (16).
  37. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 296.
  38. ^ Heath, 391–92.
  39. ^ a b Heath, 392–93.
  40. ^ Heath, 394–97.
  41. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", viii Wills, DLB, 344.
  42. ^ Pickering, 29.
  43. ^ Cosslett, 41.
  44. ^ Ferguson, 7.
  45. ^ Trimmer, Sarah. Fabulous Histories. Designed for the Instruction of Children, Respecting their Treatment of Animals. London: Printed for T. Longman (1786), x–xi.
  46. ^ Jackson, 143.
  47. ^ Yarde, Sarah Trimmer of Brentford and Her Children, 33–4.
  48. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", x.
  49. ^ Immel, Andrea. "James Petit Andrews's 'Book' (1790): The First Critical Survey of English Children's Literature." Children's Literature 28 (2000): 147–63.
  50. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xiv.
  51. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xii.
  52. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xvi.
  53. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xvii–xviii.
  54. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xxi.
  55. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xxxv.
  56. ^ See, for example, Summerfield, 188–205.
  57. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xxiv.
  58. ^ Grenby, "Conservative Woman", 148–49.
  59. ^ Grenby, "Introduction", xl.
  60. ^ Perrault, Charles (1697). Histoires ou contes du temps passé (in French). Paris: Claude Barbin.
  61. ^ Grenby, "Conservative Woman", 152.
  62. ^ Tucker, 106–107.
  63. ^ Tucker, 108–10.
  64. ^ Tucker, 114.
  65. ^ Rowe, 58.
  66. ^ Qtd. in Rowe, 60 see also Tucker, 111–12.
  67. ^ Trimmer, Sarah. The Guardian of Education, 1:2, 10, 81, 145.
  68. ^ Cutt, 8.
  69. ^ Cutt, 9.
  70. ^ Cutt, 17.
  71. ^ a b Darton, 159–60.
  72. ^ Darton, 160 Wills, DLB, 347.
  73. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 431–32.
  74. ^ Trimmer, Some Account, 456.
  75. ^ Yarde, 29.
  76. ^ Cosslett, 33.
  77. ^ Qtd. in Cosslett, 37.
  78. ^ Cosslett, 37.
  79. ^ a b Ruwe, 3–4.
  80. ^ The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame d'Arblay) (London: OUP, 1975), Vol. 5, L. 460 (17 December 1801).
  81. ^ Heath, 399.
  82. ^ Summerfield, 188 for Summerfield's analysis of Trimmer's works, see 188–205.
  83. ^ Ruwe, 2 for a theoretical discussion of this problem, see Margaret J. M. Ezell, Writing Women's Literary History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (1993).
  84. ^ Ruwe, 14.
  85. ^ The information in this table is taken from Yarde's Sarah Trimmer of Brentford and Her Children.
  86. ^ Wills, DLB, 340–342.


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