Sunday, February 5, 2012
The Diaries of Sophia Stevens
A footnote to the suicide of Thomas Stevens (1782-1832) are the diaries of his wife, Sophia Le Marchant (1798-1860). In 2009, five volumes of the diaries were deposited at the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple. Last summer when I visited Barnstaple, I had the opportunity to view the diaries. My interest was in any references to Baron Rolle of Stevenstone (1751-1842). Thomas Stevens was the first cousin once removed of John Rolle, and had it not been for his death, was the most likely successor to the vast Rolle estates.
I was not prepared for how small the diaries were. Each volume only measures about three inches by five inches. The writing inside was even tinier. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my reading glasses. I decided to photograph the months of August and September 1831 with my Nikon D40X and hope for the best.
The diary records the trivia of the life of the landed gentry. In the summer of 1831 Thomas and Sophia were living at Cross in the parish of Little Torrington, Devon. Names of dinner guests figure prominently, as do comments about the weather.
The photo at left shows the entries for Sunday, August 14th to Saturday, August 20th. The only significant event during this week was the 9th birthday of Sophia STEVENS (1822-1892) on Sunday. Sophia was the oldest of Thomas and Sophia's two daughters. Elsewhere in August and September are references to young Sophia being unwell and unable to take her music lesson, and a reference to her riding with her parents. Sophia's sister, Louisa Annie STEVENS (1828-1868) is not mentioned, although her cousin Louisa MOORE (1823-1856) was apparently a frequent visitor. Louisa was the daughter of John MOORE-STEVENS (1784-1865), Vicar of Otterton and Archdeacon of Exeter.
The diaries do record a visit to the Misses Rolle of Hudscott. Lord Rolle had two unmarried sisters, Anne (1755-1842) and Lucilla (1757-1851), who lived at Hudscott in the parish of Chittlehampton, Devon.
The diaries are definitely worth a second look and I'll be sure to bring my reading glasses next time.