The Vampyre Family: Passion, Envy and the Curse of Byron by Andrew McConnell Stott
Andrew McConnell Stott's latest book examines how the lives of Romantic poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and their close associates Mary Godwin Shelley, her step-sister Claire Clairmont and Byron's doctor, John Polidori, intertwined during that famous summer of 1816 that they spent on the shore of Lake Geneva. Quoting the inside cover blurb:
It was a period of extraordinary creativity from which would emerge Frankenstein, the gothic masterpiece of Romantic fiction, Byron's Childe Harold, Shelley's Mont Blanc, and John Polidori's The Vampyre, the first great vampire novel...It was also a time of remarkable drama and emotional turmoil. For Byron and the Shelleys, their stay by the lake would serve to immortalise them in the annals of literary history. But for Clair and Polidori, the Swiss sojourn would scar them forever.Professor Stott's book is the first major publication to incorporate the facts now known about Claire's birth; her true parents, Mary Jane Vial and Sir John Lethbridge; and Mary Jane Vial's own parentage and early life. An endnote to the book references the material on this website. I am of course very grateful for Professor Stott's kind acknowledgement of the relevance of the material to his research.
Reference: Stott, Andrew McConnell, The Vampyre Family: Passion, Envy and the Curse of Byron (Edinburgh, Canongate Books, 2013)
More information from Exeter baptismal records strongly suggests that Mary Jane Vial's grandfather and Mary Tremlett's father was probably Samuel Tremlett, Junior, born before 1720 and most probably the eldest son of Samuel Tremlett (1690 - 1765) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1773). The baptism register of the Exeter Non-Conformist congregation of Rev. Jos. Hallett Jnr records the baptism, on 13th March 1740, of Mary, daughter of Samuel Tremlett Jnr and his wife Mary. The register was commenced in 1720, and the first recorded baptism of a child of Samuel and Elizabeth was of a daughter in 1722, so if Samuel Jnr is indeed their eldest son, his birth would have been before 1720.
The collection Wills and Administrations Proved in the the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799 contains reference to the will of a Samuel Tremlett who died in 1755. This is consistent with the absence of references of Mary's father in the wills of Samuel Snr and other family members.
Having now obtained an abstract of the documents held in Devon Record Office (found by Anne Speight in 2006) that provide the probative link between:
- Mary Jane Vial and her sister Sophia Elizabeth Pilcher (nee de Vial)
- Peter de Vial, merchant of Exeter, their father, and
- Mary Tremlett, wife of Peter De Vial and mother of Sophia and Mary Jane,
Claire Clairmont's family tree
has been updated to reflect the recently-discovered information about her maternal grandparents, Peter de Vial and Mary Tremlett. Devon Record Office research service has provided a transcript of the of the 1791 lease and release deed that establishes the marital relationship between Mary Tremlett and Peter de Vial, and identifies Mary Jane de Vial and Sophia de Vial as children of the marriage.
Legal documents found in the Devon Record Office in 2006 by English family history researcher Anne Speight
prove that Mary Tremlett and Peter de Vial were the parents of both Sophia Elizabeth de Vial and Mary Jane Vial. Mary Tremlett and Peter de Vial were married in Exeter in 1764. Mary made her will on 7 April 1776, leaving certain property settled on her at the time of her marriage to her infant daughters, Sophia and Mary Jane. Mary Tremlett died in 1776, shortly after making her will. Peter de Vial subsequently married Catherine Oak in 1782: she was the mother of Charlotte de Vial, Mary Jane's other known sister, as well as several other children.
An abstract of the documents has been requested from Devon Record Office. More information will be added to these pages when this is to hand.
The Lethbridge papers, and specifically this web site, received some very flattering attention on Roberta Wedge's splendid blog Vindication of the Rights of Mary
. Ms Wedge says of her blog:
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), best known for
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
, and thus a foremother of feminism. Also a war correspondent, a pedagogue, a spiritual quester, a radical republican, a single mother, a passionate & taboo-breaking lover.
Her story is ripe for the telling.
This blog gathers anecdotes, freelance research, resources, and news of current projects.
Additions to Claire Clairmont's family tree: Juste Gaulis, brother of Charles and Albertina Marianna; Rose Gaulis, youngest sister; and their mother Jeanne Louise Dorothee Porta. Juste Gaulis would have been the senior member of the immediate family still living when Mary Jane Vial, Claire's mother, was appealing for help to pay her debts and secure her release from Ilchester Prison. Rose Gaulis (according to Herbert Huscher, 1957) lived in Devon and was executrix of Albertina Trefusis' will: she was appointed to look after the seven Clinton children.
My apologies to visitors who were unable to access the letters through the links on the 'View the letters
' page. I have corrected the document sharing settings so that all documents should now be viewable.
The Wikipedia biographical entry for Claire Clairmont has been updated to include reference to the Lethbridge correspondence and Claire's paternity.