GRANDMAMA DICKINSON’S STORY OF HER MATERNAL ANCESTORS
(née Frances de Brissac, b. 22nd Sept 1760 d. 27th Aug. 1854)
Monsieur Polchet is said to have been among the number of French Protestants who, at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 1685, were obliged to flee their country with such remains of their property as they were able hastily to get together, and to seek the shelter of countries under more liberal government.
With an infant daughter entirely dependent on his care, and a considerable sum that he had been able to rescue from the wreck of his fortunes, M. Polchet, a man of energy and talent, was not long in finding employment for his money, and by his skill and industry greatly increased the store he had brought with him from his native country.
As years rolled by, fortune seemed again to smile on him. His daughter, the pride and joy of his heart, grew into a lovely woman; and her rare beauty, together with the report of her Father’s wealth, soon occasioned her to be surrounded by suitors. Among these, a M. Jamet was the one selected by M. Polchet. Family tradition does not say whether the lady’s inclinations were bent elsewhere, but it is certain that she did not approve of her father’s choice; and though she was at length persuaded, or compelled, to consent to the match, her aversion from it was so great that she is said on the morning of the wedding day to have thrown herself on her knees before her father, imploring him with many tears to break off the proposed marriage, But M. Polchet remained inexorable. Whether he considered his honour was engaged in the transaction, or was in his heart a Tyrant, we cannot ascertain; but the marriage proceeded notwithstanding the objections of the bride!
This unhappy connection did not last long. At the age of 20 Mme Jamet was left a widow, with a son and a daughter who remained under her care. After her husband’s death she returned to her Father’s house, for, to the astonishment of all, M. Jamet had died poor. She was treated with much kindness and indulgence, and it is said that her Father once addressed her thus: “You were a good girl, my daughter, in marrying first according to my wishes; fear no more interference from me: now you shall choose for yourself.”
The beautiful young widow was not long in making her selection. She married secondly a M.Sebastian Loi, of whom all we know is that he was a very handsome man, and that he treated her daughter by the first marriage with the same affection as he showed to his own. They had two daughters, the elder of whom died in infancy. When this child was born, the father was disappointed that it was not a son., but afterwards he repented, and promised that the next should be welcomed in any case.
When the two young ladies grew up, the hand of Mdlle. Jamet was sought by a Mr. Landon, said to be the richest man in the Liberty of Norton Folgate, who afterwards became a stockbroker.
As he was a man of large fortune, M. Loi offered no objection to the connection; but he was not so well satisfied with the favoured admirer of his daughter, a Mr. Nash, who, we may conclude was not in so good a position. Mr. Nash also laboured under the great disadvantage of not being able to speak French, while M. Loi spoke English very indifferently. At length N. Loi made this drawback to their intercourse an excuse for refusing to accept Mr. Nash as his son-in-law. The young lovers would not despair. Mr. Nash was clever and industrious and he resolved to overcome this difficulty. After an absence of some months he returned, quite a master of the French language, and preferred his request in French. M. Loi again refused, because Mr. Nash could not work at the loom as he did. Again Mr. Nash, determined not to be discouraged, went away. He worked like a journeyman until he was able to produce a piece of satin of excellent workmanship of his own weaving. M. Loi still refused his consent to the match, and said he must consider longer about it. At length he could not help observing that his daughter visibly drooped and pined away; and having surprised her one day in the garden, walking with an air of great sadness and dejection, he addressed her in words to this effect: “I see, my Jenny, that you are ill at ease: tell me what it is that makes you unhappy.”
Whereupon she answered, “Since you ask me, Father, the reason of my discontent, I must tell you that I consider you have used me ill with regard to Mr. Nash, who has done all that you required to make himself accepted as your son-in-law, and still you refuse to listen to his suit.”
“Well”, returned the Father, “if this is it, my girl, you shall not be crossed in your inclination. Name the day, and you shall be married!”
“Indeed, Sir,” she replied, overwhelmed at once with gratitude and astonishment, ‘that you shall fix.”
“I shall name this day week,” replied her Father.
“Nay,” she exclaimed, “that is too soon!”
“Well then, fix for yourself" said her Father.
Jeanne named that day month, and on the day then fixed she was married to Mr. Nash, and Mdlle. Jamet to Mr. Landon. At the double wedding the brides’ undress lace was at half a guinea a yard, some of it is in my possession, while the dress lace was a guinea a yard.
The two Brides were married in a piece of rich shite satin woven on purpose, and they were dressed alike to a pin. The marriages were celebrated in February and the wedding party walked from Spital Square (No. 18, where M. Loi lived,) to Spitalfields Church, without a speck on their white shoes. The windows of the house lowered a pane to please the ladies of the family.
By this marriage Mrs. Nash had two sons, Sebastian and John, and not long after the birth of the latter, her Husband died. The elder son was christened Sebastian after his Grandfather, M. Loi, who was so delighted when he heard of the birth of this grandson that at first he could not believe the news for joy; he then ordered cold meat and beer to be given to all the poor of the parish, and kept open house for a week.
After some time of mourning, Mrs. Nash married secondly, M. de Brissac, a gentleman of ancient and noble family, claiming the ancient title of Duc de Brissac. He had however been unable to make good his right, because the elder branch of the family, to which he belonged had, being Protestant, resided in England ever since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
[These notes of Harriet Ann Dickinson date from the 1840's.]