January to 21 April 1799
||January: MJV travels to the Bridgewater /Taunton district to confront Lethbridge regarding further financial assistance. Possibly this is in response to pressure from creditors, as she appears to be asking for 20 pounds. [#03]
Jan 15: Appears to have met with Lethbridge. He threatens to expose her situation and warns against approaching his family (presumably his wife). She may have asked him to accept custody of the child, and if he did not, to provide other assistance (a sum of 20 pounds is mentioned). [#01][#07]
Lethbridge writes to Mr James Ireland enquiring if MJV has sworn (presumably to the matter of his paternity) and requesting a copy of the [bastardy] examination. [#05]
"I will not be bullied by any Man, nor will I become a Dupe to any woman under the Canopy of Heaven".
Jan 18: Mr Ireland replies to JL, expressing sympathy for MJV’s plight. He relates the incident from the previous year. After asking him to take her oath on a variety of matters, which he refused, she swore a short statement which she kept until she could show it to “one person”. He says that none of MJV’s circumstances are known in the parish nor has MJV been examined. He was not aware of her having left Brislington. [#06]
Jan 19: MJV writes to JL from Bridgewater, indicating she would wait there a week for his reply to her proposal. [#03]
"...I am utterly incapable of any steps that could justify insult from any party of your family...nor will that personage ever receive on my account any application that is inconsistent with the excellence of her character or the degradation of mine."
At some point during this week, Mr. Bryant speaks to JL to intercede on MJV’s behalf. (This is alluded to but no direct evidence from either Bryant or Lethbridge regarding when they spoke or what took place. Evidently there is some discussion about a letter of MJV’s in regard to some person at Barry Island). [#31]
Jan 21: Lethbridge forwards Mr Ireland's letter to Beadon. [#05]
"I think as his compassion is so extensive towards this fair Lady he can not do better than to take her as an amusement for his old age."
Jan 22: Back in Taunton, MJV writes letters to Mr Robert Vizer in Bristol and Mr Brewer Senior in Newport, begging them to write attesting to her proper conduct during the time she spent in Newport and Barry Island in 1797, as her reputation as a virtuous woman has been called in to question. She asks for replies to be sent to her at Bridgwater (probably because they will be addressed to Mrs. St. Julian, rather than Mrs. Jones). She leaves the letters and copies with Mr James Bryant, surgeon, in Taunton, and asks him to post them. [#44][#45][#46][#48][#49]
Jan 23: Interview with Mr Bryant: he has not succeeded in changing JL’s mind about support for MJV and the child, and now gives up interference. He has not heard anything from JL to indicate that he does not now reject advancing her 20 pounds. [#34]
Jan 24: MJV writes to RB, asking him to communicate JL’s final decision regarding the 20 pounds. She is leaving for Bridgwater that day, and anticipates that her creditor may soon have her arrested. [#34]
Jan 26=>: At Bridgwater. MJV writes to Mr. Bryant, enclosing a letter written to her in 1797 from “the person understood” i.e. A_ C_, demonstrating A C’s good character as evidence of her own. She has written to A C asking permission to show JL all of her letters, after which she wishes to be questioned on oath. She asks for a copy of the letter of her own which Mr Bryant said had displeased JL regarding some person at Barry Island. [#31][#47]
MJV also writes around this time to an unnamed recipient (most likely Mr. Beadon) “solemnly disclaiming every other view in regard to Mr. L. than that of proving myself innocent of his charges against me”. She refers to an “unhappy step relating to Mr. ___” (the name is indecipherable, but might be Hervey or Thring), a voluntary confession of the matter, and a spurious letter. The implication is that Lethbridge used an incident of deception involving MJV and another man to justify breaking off his relationship with MJV: and that Lethbridge then later sought to deny paternity by accusing her of consorting with other men, and (apparently) of feigning attachment to him in order to secure material advantage. MJV protests that the letters she wrote to JL “at the beginning of the business” (which are not included in this correspondence) prove the genuineness of the feelings she once held for him. [#30]
February 12--14?: Mr Beadon presents an offer of 20 pounds to MJV on JL’s instruction: she refuses the offer. Beadon writes to advise JL. Details of the offer and any conditions attached are not known. [#07]
Feb 15: JL instructs Beadon not to renew the offer of 20 pounds, and to tell MJV she will continue to get 5/- per week if she cares for the child herself; otherwise if she places the child back in Brislington the money will be paid to the parish. He will not take the child under his care and protection. He wants the child “identified and a regular certificate given”. He repeats insinuations that MJV is deceitful and out to get what she can from him. [#07]
"I wish to avoid if possible any future Interview with Mrs. Vial; in respect of Conduct, I scarcely think there is any man quite perfect & from the experience I have of late years had of the other Sex, I have less reason to expect it from that quarter".
Feb 18: Beadon drafts a letter to MJV (copied on the reverse of JL’s letter) to advise her of JL’s decision i.e. that he will not repeat the offer of 20 pounds without the previous conditions (whatever they were), nor will he take charge of the child, but will continue the 5/- a week allowance. [#08]
March 3: MJV returns to Taunton with her daughter. She has not heard from Beadon and assumes JL has refused to give her 20 pounds. (Letter drafted by Beadon has not been received). She expresses the wish that Mr Beadon and Mr Bryant (surgeon) would see the child “so that no disputation may thereafter arise for want of a clear identity”. She uses the name Mrs. Jones at her lodgings, at Mrs Rendle’s mantua makers. [#09]
April 3: MJV writes to Lethbridge from Taunton, reminding him she needs to be paid weekly and the allowance is nearly 4 weeks overdue. She asks to whom she should apply to receive it. [#10]
Apr 5: Lethbridge instructs Beadon to pay the month’s allowance, and to perhaps arrange with the Parish Officer if the money has to be paid weekly. He expresses the intention to see Beadon to make a plan to “ease myself of this Burden with reasonable speed”. [#11]
April ?: It appears MJV moves to Yeovil, most probably some time in early April. She writes to Beadon from the White Hart*, advising that she is moving to Mr. Palmer’s linen drapers. She has prepared a list of her debts, and prays that he and Mr Bryant do not abandon her. She next writes to Mr Beadon at the George Inn*, begging that he and Captain Andrews do not disclose her true situation. She is receiving charitable attention from prominent local families, and cannot afford to lose this: she speaks of a raffle, a subscription to assist her, and (needle)work being given to her. She is known locally as a widow in reduced circumstances. [#30A][#32_33]
* Pigot’s 1847 Directory of Somerset lists both a White Hart Inn and George Inn in Yeovil.
Apr 20: Some ladies in Taunton send MJV money. Members of a “club at the Old Angel” offer to contribute and pay MJV’s debt to prevent her imprisonment. The spokesman refers to the “unfortunate mistake by the Town Clerk of Bridgwater*”. MJV refuses the assistance, as it would entail revelation of her true circumstances and thereby lose her the patronage upon which she relies. [#13][#24]
* Most likely this is an error by the writer, and should be Brislington.
Apr 21: MJV is arrested and imprisoned for debt at Ilchester Gaol (as Mrs. St. Julian). Beadon intercedes to ensure that she is conveyed to jail in a humane manner. She writes to Mr Beadon to ask him to speak to a Mr Cogan (who is to write to Kingdon) and beg him not to tell Kingdon of the offer to pay her debt. She suggests providing the excuse of having a longer debt to a Lady, which she must honor first. She tells Beadon he should point out to Lethbridge that “delicacy to him” made her refuse the benefit of the offer. [#24]