'Like the Bronte sisters, Jessie and Caroline Fothergill were accomplished Victorian writers. Between them they wrote some twenty two novels as well as other short stories. But why, you may ask, are they highlighted on Rebels Lane? The answer can be read in the introduction to:
'A Bibliography of Jessie Fothergill' written by Jane Crisp of Queensland University.
Jessie Fothergill came from a long and respectable line of yeoman Quakers. Carr End, the farmhouse in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, where her father John grew up, had been inhabited by Fothergills since 1668; and the family had produced various men of note: among those whose careers are recorded in the Dictionary of National Biography are John Fothergill, M.D. (1712-1780), a physician and botanist; George Fothergill, D.D. (1705-1760), principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford; and Samuel Fothergill (1715-1772), merchant and Quaker minister, who spent some years in America endeavouring to make peace between the colonists and the Indians. John Fothergill, Jessie’s father, learnt about the cotton trade at Rochdale, before going into business with a friend in Manchester. His marriage with Anne Coultate, daughter of a Burnley medical man (My GG Grandfather) and a non-Quaker, forced him to leave the Society of Friends, but his nonconformist inheritance remained strong and had a considerable influence on his children, none of whom, as adults, stayed with the Established Church. Jessie herself gives sympathetic, albeit not uncritical, portraits of the Quakers and their way of life in at least two of her novels, Healey (1875) and Kith and Kin (1881), and her background is reflected both in the austerity of many of her protagonists and the way love of luxury and dependence on material comfort characterise the morally suspect.
Sadly, Jessie suffered greatly from a chronic respiratory illness for much of her life, having to frequently live away from home in more healthy climes. It was while so doing, living in Germany, that she wrote 'The First Violin'. Sadly, she passed away age just 40 while living in Berne, Switzaerland. She never married.
Whilst Jessie's life was cut short, her sister Caroline lived until she was 79, a life that is full of intrigue that I am still just beginning to discover! For what I have found so far, click on the button below.
Jessie and Caroline also had two more sisters and two brothers. Click below to read about them.
Some Books In Print
The Fothergill Sisters
Born: June 1851, Manchester
Died: 28 July 1891, Bern, Switzerland
Born: 1858, Bowden, Chesire
Died: 1937 Windermere, Westmorland
"There must have been something of the artist,"continues Jessie Fothergill, "and something also of the vagabond in me, for I quite well remember going home to this place for the first Christmas holidays after my father's death and being enchanted and delighted, despite the sorrow that overshadowed us, with the rough roads, the wild sweeping moors and fells, the dark stone walls, the strange, uncouth people, the out-of-the-worldness of it all. And the better I knew it the more I loved it, in its winter bleakness and its tempered but delightful summer warmth. I loved its gloom, its grey skies and green fields, the energy and the desperate earnestness of the people, who lived and worked there."