A fragment of surviving correspondence between the artist J W North ARA and C Churchill Osbourne of 6 De Vaux Place Salisbury. Osborne was briefly editor of the Salisbury Journal. The correspondence concerns the Wiltshire writer Richard Jefferies, arrangements for the financial relief of his widow and children and the adminstration of various funds raised for that purpose
22 Aug 1887
My dear Sir
I telegraphed to you this morning, on Saturday I was at Richard Jefferies’ burial. Yesterday I went into particulars with his widow. I have been entrusted by her with all necessary documents to show the actual state of his accounts. I am not in any way a relative, but I do not think that there is any one else who knew so much of these things, relative or not. You may rely upon my account in the Pall Mall Gazette of last Tuesday being literally and in spirit absolutely correct and yet I found on the morning of Saturday that there was all the time a fund which existed for his benefit and amounted to over £200. I am as nearly certain as man can be, that he knew nothing of this fact and I am quite certain – from her own lips the widow did not and yet it is in the hand of a kind hearted man but alas ignorant of the character of poor Jefferies – except it is necessary I do not wish to go further into this matter but as you have assumed some responsibility it is well that you should be prepared to hear references made to this fund. I have today written to the gentleman in whose hands this money was and is hoping that he may have the courage to tell the truth.
I am greatly honoured by you in the slip you enclosed. I can tell you that yesterday Mrs Jefferies seemed more touched and pleased by the idea of recognition in this way in her and his native county than in any other means I heard.
I shall probably see Mrs Jefferies again in a few days when I will hand her your most kind letter.
Excuse the hand -writing for I am doing all the correspondence personally and it is now 2 am. If you can speedily draw up an independent petition to the Treasury for a grant of a pension for the widow it may be of great value. I have good hopes of success already.
J W North.
Mr Churchill Osborne Esq
29th August, 1887
My dear Sir
I am extremely glad to hear the very good account you give of your fund. I presume you saw my letter in Saturday’s “Standard” referring to it. Firstly to answer your question with respect to the committee of trustees – I think that except in compliance with the express invitation of the gentleman you name I would rather not join as a trustee. I would be of course willing and would in truth wish that my name should appear somewhere in a subordinate list to show that I (as perhaps the nearest personal friend of Jefferies) had every desire for the success of your appeal. But my worldly position is not good enough to enable me to rank by the side of those you have named, and whose names will inspire confidence in all ranks of society. You have had now sufficient experience to know the weight of correspondence the sole and personal arrangement of a fund of this character involves so will excuse the slipshod style of this note.
John Richard Jefferies was born at Chiseldon nr Swindon. He died on March 14th August aged 38. His widow Jessie Jefferies – maiden name Baden – was a native of the same neighbourhood. There are only two children living –
Richard Harold – aged 12 and
Phyllis – nearly 7.
Jefferies’ illness commenced with fistula which confined him to his couch for eleven months during which time he underwent four operations. For the year succeeding he appeared to be regaining an overall position of health but the improvement did not last and he became the victim of some consumptive disease which affected all the lower part of the body first and then attacked the lungs and heart – ultimately he died of suffocation. Surely a more lingering and terrible case of a long suffering can be unimagined.
I do not think that Mrs Jefferies will care to part with her servant girl but I will tell her of Mr Kinglake’s offer.
In case of any accident to myself while the final disposition of the funds is in suspense, I have placed the money in my hands in a joint account Mrs Jefferies & myself, and have placed on deposit at the L & W B (illegible word) £500 of the amount. When I tell you that I have personally and alone answered every separate letter in connection you will not be astonished to know that until Saturday last these duties took me until 2.30 am each night.
I have just called on Mr Louis Jessop (?) M.P. in ref to a question about the pension to be asked in the House tonight – the best way to influence the government is through the members of Parliament. I have no great faith in formal petitions.
Mrs Jefferies’ address is
You know the kind of Harpies who endeavour to make a harvest out of all misfortune. So I was very glad circumstances enabled me to leave it uncertain whether Goring on the Thames or Goring in Sussex was intended. Any information or explanation you wish upon the subject I will immediately and willingly give.
Very truly yours
J W North.
7 Sept 1887
My Dear Sir
I have obtained the consent of Mr W C Alexander, Banker, of 24 Lombard Street, to act as treasurer for the Jefferies fund now in my hands – and a sum at my disposal will be placed in his hands as soon as it can be arranged. I shall be glad to hear if this seems satisfactory to you.
I am desirous (of course speaking in the interests of Mrs Jefferies and the children) that you should name a gentlemen in whom you have perfect confidence to act as joint trustee with Mr Alexander and myself, providing you see no obstacle to an arrangement of this kind. I imagine that the amount now in my hands is about £630 or £40. I anticipate the amalgamation of another fund of £200 or thereabouts, and I have already placed to Mrs Jefferies’ private account at Brighton about £130. I hope that we may eventually reach £3,000 which I think should be arrived at – the interests of the fund to Mrs Jefferies until the children reach the age of 21 and then the capital to be applied for their benefit, of course on the understanding that this is supplemented by a civil list pension for Mrs Jefferies, upon which I hope we may confidently rely on. I must greatly congratulate you upon the success of your appeal. I know from my own experience that you must be overwhelmed with correspondence, but still I trust you will find a moment to give me your ideas on this subject. I have many names of gentlemen of influence (as also you must have) willing to join a general committee but the primary pursuit(?) is the acting and responsible body.
Believe me dear Sir
J W North
F C Osbourne Esq.
I have affixed
an autograph to the
14 Sept 1887
My Dear Mr Osbourne
I am much pleased with your letter. You seem to be about the only man willing to give time and trouble to this business ungrudgingly, if there is such a word. In the first place you are wrong in supposing that I have any connection whatever with the Pall Mall Gazette, except on account of this business. I thought I explained this to you in my first letter. The fact was that the editor of the Standard and St James’s were both out of town, they were both personal friends of Jefferies and I had relied upon them. I, having no acquaintance at all with any newspaper office previously. Time was all precious and the Pall Mall the only ready means. I must confess that in this matter the P.M.G. has behaved well. They have done a great deal and of course gratis. I have had two letters in the “Standard” with my initials wrongly given – I greatly regret that Mr Mudford has not responded to your request, but I am not sure that he could have given much time to the work.
In strict confidence I must tell you that Mr W C Alexander is the gentleman who then personally unknown to me at the commencement of the fund sent me his cheque for £100 insisting on secrecy. He is a partner in the banking firm of Alexander 24 Lombard Street. I wish you would ask Mr E P Bouverie or any established authority such as the head of your bank, as to Mr Alexander’s standing in the business world. I had some difficulty in getting his consent and it was given on the distinct understanding that he would have no transaction in this matter with the Pall Mall Gazette or any other newspaper. I had no trouble in giving this assurance because in spite of the heading to the list which appears in the P.M.G. the facts are that the money is actually in the joint power of myself and Mrs Jefferies. The P.M.G. paying into the account as they receive sums.
I forget whether I sent you a rough balance sheet made up to September 6th. If not, just send me a line and I will forward it to you. Of late years I have not been much in London, and in consequence do not know many people of great commercial standing. So, had it not been for Mr Alexander’s consent, I might have found myself obliged to rely on a publisher such as George Smith or Longman or MacMillan. For very many reasons this was undesirable for it is just possible that some future property in some of the copyrights may exist and in that case the interests of publishers and that of the widow and children would be opposed. There are also other persons which may commend themselves to you, the prominence of publishers and even literary men should not I think be too great, for Jefferies undoubtedly had the great power of converting his readers into his personal friends, and shop(?) should not be too pronounced. For all these reasons I shall be sincerely glad if you are able to obtain the promise of Mr Wyndham to be a trustee jointly with Mr Alexander if he will, and myself. I think Mr Alexander will do it, but he has only so far promised to act as treasurer. I have arranged to transfer the main body of the fund to Mr Alexander on Monday next so that if you can make your enquiries and let me have a short note on Sunday post Saturday, I shall be most grateful. I believe that I may answer for Mrs Jefferies most willing consent. She has promised to pay us a visit and I expect her and her two children on Saturday. There are a great many papers left by her late husband which should be carefully looked over and in all probability she will stay some time here for that purpose.
Mr Arthur Kinglake of Taunton, who has much interested himself in this matter, is desirous to make Mrs Jefferies acquaintance, perhaps in a week or two we might all be able to meet at Taunton? If you could come as far, I do not want to be in London again for a long while if I can avoid it.
I had a long talk with Mrs Jefferies and her boy about his education and I was rather agreeably surprised at his readiness to go from home and try a public school. He is only about 12 years old, so it is too early to form a definite opinion as to his ability, but he has certainly no mental (or so far as I could see bodily) defect and appears to be good of reading and is able to write fairly well. I did not in any way examine him but I should think that he is up to the ordinary standard of boys of his age. I must beg you on behalf of Mrs Jefferies to accept the portrait I send with this. I have been trying to get the London Stereoscopic Company to pay something for the right of reproduction and public sale (to go of course to the funds). So if any of your friends will write to the company independently, of course not mentioning my name, it might induce them to make an offer.
I think like you that it will not be well to have more than three trustees with actual power. As soon as this is decided I wish to issue a circular with names &c., because I have many promises of subscriptions which I have requested may remain in abeyance until this is done previously the P.M.G. list can be finally closed and perhaps it would be well to publish in the Times, an amalgamated list of all the funds and statements of accounts and intentions. I have set down in my mind £3,000 as the sum to be reached and I think it can be done.
I will certainly tell Mrs Jefferies the contents of your letter and will write again on the subject of Harold. I feel sure that you will be favourably impressed when you meet Mrs Jefferies and if she has been (which is possible) labouring under some mistake, I can assure you I shall have no difficulty in correctly it.
Be assured that I will do my best to bring Harold into contact with Dr Bourne, and also that I esteem you one of the sincerest friends of Mrs Jefferies and her children. After trying many days to obtain help from pretended friends upon whom the widow and children had far more claim than upon myself, it comes as a scarcely credited thing that help should come from you, one upon whom they had much less.
J W North
25 Sept 1887
My Dear Mr Osbourne
You will be glad to hear that Mrs Jefferies had a letter from the Treasury this morning announcing the grant to her of £100 per annum from the Civil List. I am extremely sorry that Mr Wyndham has declined to act as trustee and sincerely hope that Mr Morrison will be able to do so, for I am unable to apply for many promised subscriptions until some definite scheme has been formed, and you know how it is in these cases – as time goes on the interest wanes and the man who would a week back have willingly given £10, now thinks twice over £1.
Although I think it advisable until affairs are in working order that I should be a trustee – pro tem – I do not desire to remain one if another can be found willing to take the position. This being clearly understood possibly it might render your own work easier. For instance Mr Wyndham might be willing to act as trustee in conjunction with a personal friend, or the same thing might be the case with Mr Morrison. Should this be so you will perfectly understand that I would willingly and unhesitatingly withdraw. My idea of publishing a full list of subscriptions in the “Times” was not intended to be more than a suggestion, merely as a way of severing any connections in the minds of people between the Jefferies fund and the Pall Mall. Certainly I would not do it without your concurrence.
With respect to Dr Bourne, you must not suppose that Mrs Jefferies is not very grateful for his kindness, but I rather think I may have been a little to blame in this matter. As I understood your mention of the subject, it seemed to me that it would be rather premature or perhaps even presumptuous to write to Dr Bourne direct until he had had an opportunity of seeing Jefferies’ son and judging for himself. I was desirous that nothing should be done which might embarrass Dr Bourne, should he feel inclined to withdraw. I hope you will kindly explain this to Dr Bourne.
I have now had an opportunity of seeing the lad more closely and I have every confidence in his future progress – but for the last few years he has necessarily been without much personal supervision from his poor father and it would perhaps be better that he should have a month or two at a fairly good school before we ask Dr Bourne to come to a decision on the subject. Mrs Jefferies has obtained permission of the several publishers to the re-publication of her husband’s papers in a book form, and Mr Walter Besant has kindly promised to write a memoir and preface to the volume.
I trust that you will explain to Dr Bourne the reasons which prevented myself or Mrs Jefferies writing directly to him and leave not any doubt in his mind with regard to her sincerely grateful feeling.
Believe me dear Mr Osbourne
most faithfully yours J W North
2nd Oct 1887
Dear Mr Churchill Osbourne
I have shown Mrs Jefferies your kind note of 30th and she will write to Dr Bourne, but as she has no letter from him and does not know his address, encloses it with this.
I may be to blame for the matter but I do not remember any definite invitation from Dr Bourne. It has probably been overlooked by us. Richard Harold, has been placed for three months at West Somerset County School at Wellington. He enters it tomorrow 3rd October. It is, as you know, difficult to make the journey to Salisbury and back here in one day and the little Phyllis could not well be left for longer, or Mrs Jefferies would have made the journey to you from this before now with her son. I do not wish to interfere or suggest anything in this matter, but I consider it is probably of great moment to the boy – and also, it may be to Dr Bourne that Dr Bourne should have a perfectly good opportunity of forming a free judgement as to the lad before raising any expectations of advantage, either in his or his mother’s mind.
I have had no experience in these matters, but I should fancy that after the boy has been for a short time, even if to be only counted by weeks at a school, it will be more easy to form a reliable judgement of his character and abilities. By conversation with his mother and by observation, this could now be done. The boy is a handsome lad, very tall for his age with exceedingly fair hair and with plenty of vivacity and fairly well up in the three R’s.
With Mrs Jefferies I have answered the letter from Mr Mackrell Wiltshire Soc. saying that any grant which could be applied to the purpose of education would be valuable and acceptable, but that the children were too young for any definite pursuit.
Thank you much for the information respecting the photographs, it will be of value to know if any are actually forwarded. I do not think I have more to say except that I trust you will succeed in obtaining trustees and that Mrs Jefferies desires me to give you her grateful thanks and that I am
Yours very faithfully
J W North
C Churchill Osbourne Esq.
6 De Vaux Place
P.S. Some of my friends have desired that I should let them have the enclosed free from the contamination of the P.M.G. I have had them re-printed.
Oct 30 1887
Dear Mr Osbourne
I trust that neither ill health or other mis-fortune has prevented me from having had lately a note from you. Mrs Jefferies not having yet found an available house is still visiting here.
Mr Walter Besant has been down with a view to the memoir of Jefferies which will be a separate work and not as originally intended a mere short prefix to a last volume of Jefferies collected papers. This will appear later on. With regard to the trusteeship, things remain as far as I am concerned at exactly the same position.
Believe me my dear sir
J W North
8 Nov 1887
Dear Mr Osbourne
Thank you for your note. I am sorry that you were not successful either with Dr Bourne or Mr Morrison. Mrs Jefferies will probably call on you in Salisbury on her way back here from Goring, her tenancy there having expired on 11th. She has to see to the removing of the furniture – probably she will take a small house in this neighbourhood for a year at all events. There are so many of her husband’s papers to arrange that she will require all the help in this way that I can give her. I think you are right as to closing the fund.
I imagine that the P.M.G. lists too will be closed about that time. As soon as these things are done an arrangement for investment can be seen to.
Perhaps it would be best to decide in conference with the holder of the other separate funds as to a scheme as soon as possible, after the accounts are closed in the meantime as no costs are being incurred as the sums bear interest equal I suppose to costs. I send you a few printed lists of Jefferies works thinking they may be useful. Mrs Jefferies is not here today or I am sure she would desire to be kindly remembered by you.
I am sincerely yours
J W North
4th Jan 1888
Dear Mr Osbourne
I am pleased to hear from you. I do not quite understand about Mr C P Scott declining because he positively promised Mrs Jefferies a short time back. I must get her to write to him.
Mr Alexander, if you look again at the P.M.G. joined as treasurer, but he would not take the after work as trustee. The trustees in the last paragraph refer to you & Scott. Have you any objections to lodge with him the sum that you have free after paying the expenses you refer to – which I certainly think you should not saddle yourself with. The reason I wish this is that your lodging the fund with Mr Alexander would probably induce Mr Scott to do the same and then there would be tangibly in hand of the treasurer a definite sum to invest – of course it would remain to your order until a final decision was arrived at with your consent as to investment.
Have you given a thought to the lately formed Executor and Trustee Association? I think that might relieve us of future responsibility but have not enquired into it as yet.
I shall pay at the end of the week an additional sum to Mr Alexander raising the amount in his hands to £700 odd – there will I suppose be some legal fees for that deed so the odd sums I retain at the L & W.B. until this is arranged for – Mrs Jefferies is away in Surrey and I do not expect her back for a week or two – so there may be some delay in Mr Scott’s case.
With all compliments
believe me very truly yours J W North
Mr Churchill Osbourne Esq.