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Chronology and events


to 1798

Mary Jane Vial flees France and travels to Cadiz and then to England.  Her movements are not well documented during this period.  Her son Charles Gaulis Clairmont is born in 1795, possibly in Bristol.  Charles' presumptive father dies in Europe in 1796.  Mrs. Vial spends time in London, Bristol, Newport and Barry Island.  She has an affair with John Lethbridge and becomes pregnant: her daughter Mary Jane Clairmont is born in Brislington in April 1798.


from January to April 21

Mary Jane Vial is in debt and desperate to secure support for herself and her daughter.  Lethbridge is hostile and reluctant to accept responsibility for his child.  Mrs. Vial travels to Somerset to convince Lethbridge that only he can be the father, and to enlist support for her cause.  Lethbridge wants her to go back to Brislington, where he has arranged to pay an allowance to the Parish for the child's support.  On 21 April, under the name of Mrs. St. Julian, Mary Jane is arrested for debt and imprisoned in Ilchester Jail.


from April 21 to August

Mrs. Vial is imprisoned at Ilchester during this period.  She and the infant both become ill.  She receives financial assistance in the form of gifts from prominent citizens who are interested in her case.  She attempts to maintain her position as a respectable widow fallen on hard times.  She appeals for help to the Gaulis family and other friends.  A benefactor secures her release around 19 August 1799.


from September to end 1800

 For the next 12 months, Mary Jane lives in Ilchester, making a scanty living with needlework and cultivating the patronage of local gentry.  William White, a solicitor in Yeovil, takes up advocating for her, and becomes her agent in dealing with Lethbridge and his lawyer.  Through the support of various patrons, she obtains a promise of ongoing support for her son, and is helped to secure a respectable situation.  She leaves Somerset for London some time after August 1800.


 to 1814

By May 1801 "Mrs. Clairmont" is living in Somers Town, and sets out to attract the attention of her widowed neighbour William Godwin. They soon commence an affair: Mary Jane becomes pregnant and she and Godwin marry in December 1801.  They have a successful, if debt-ridden, marriage, and raise 5 children, none of whom have the same mother and the same father.

Index to the Lethbridge Papers in chronological order