Untold lives blog

10 posts from July 2021

06 July 2021

JMW Turner’s Daughters – Part 1 Evelina

Shortly after the musician and glee composer John Danby died, aged 41, on 16 May 1798, his widow Sarah began a relationship with the artist JMW Turner, who was a near neighbour in Covent Garden.  Their daughter, Evelina, probably named after the title character of Fanny Burney’s novel, was baptised at Guestling in Sussex on 19 September 1801.  The register records her as ‘Evelina, daughter of William and Sarah Turner’.  According to the 1861 census, she was born in Hastings.  In 1811, a second daughter, Georgiana, was born.

In the early years of their relationship, Turner lived with Sarah for short periods of time at various addresses, but this was never a permanent arrangement and they never married.  Turner did not spend a great deal of time with his daughters, although some of his friends reported seeing young girls with a family resemblance, from time to time, at his Queen Anne Street house and gallery.  They are also thought to appear in some of his paintings, notably Evelina in 'Frosty Morning' (1813) and both in 'Crossing the Brook' (1815).

TuJMW Turner, Frosty Morning - Winter landscape with a man and young girl, and a horse pulling a cart

JMW Turner, Frosty Morning, 1813, Tate 00492 , digital image © Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

On 31 October 1817, sixteen-year-old Evelina married 28-year-old Joseph Dupuis, a civil servant, at St James’s, Piccadilly, under the name of Evelina Turner.  Her mother, Sarah Danby, was a witness but Turner did not attend.  Joseph Dupuis had a long career in the diplomatic service.  In 1818 he was appointed British Envoy and Consul to Kumasi, part of the kingdom of the Ashanti (now Ghana).  He became regarded as an expert on African affairs, although some of his superiors felt that he had made too many concessions to the Ashanti.  Between 1819 and 1832, Evelina gave birth to seven children, four of whom survived infancy.  In the 1840s the Dupuis family moved to Greece and then back to London in the 1850s.  According to the census records, they were living at 44 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, in 1861 and at 135 Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, in 1871.  Their unmarried daughter, Rosalie, lived with them at both addresses.

JMW Turner, Crossing the Brook - view of the Tamar Valley with three girls at the brook. One has waded across, and is looking back to her dog in midstream which is carrying her basket.  The other girls are preparing to cross.JMW Turner, Crossing the Brook, 1815, Tate N00497, digital image © Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) 

Dupuis had incurred heavy debts and, following the death of Turner’s housekeeper Hannah Danby in 1853, he applied, unsuccessfully, to manage Turner’s gallery in Queen Anne Street.  Evelina had been left £50 in Hannah Danby’s will, with the stipulation that it was not to be used to pay her husband’s debts.  She was amongst those who challenged Turner’s will and when it was finally proved in 1856, she received, in addition to £100 a year from the original will, annuities based on £3,333 worth of Turner’s 3% consols.  This was clearly not enough because, in November 1865, Evelina wrote to Jabez Tepper, the solicitor who had represented various Turner cousins, asking for help to ‘alleviate the sorrows which oppress the last lineal descendant of the race of Turner, the surviving daughter of an artist of such repute’.

Dupuis’ debts must have been substantial because when Evelina died of a heart attack in Lambeth in 1874, a few months after her husband, she left an estate of less than £800 to her daughter Rosalie.

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, ‘JMW Turner, marriage and morals’, The British Art Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 119-125
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016)
Anthony Bailey, Standing In The Sun – a life of J.M.W.Turner (1997)
Search for JMW Turner papers in the British Library catalogue Explore Archives and Manuscripts 

JMW Turner's Daughters - Part 2 Georgiana

Turner’s topographical watercolours

Turner's House

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham has reopened. Check the website for details.


01 July 2021

Theft from an East India Company London warehouse

On 30 November 1814, Truman Wood was convicted at the Old Bailey for stealing from the East India Company 24 lb of paper, value 6s, and 21 lb of tea, value £3.  He was sentenced to be transported for seven years but remained in England on prison hulks.

Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour Prison hulks in Portsmouth Harbour by Ambrose-Louis Garneray circa 1812-1814 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London 

Truman Wood had worked for the East India Company as a labourer for sixteen years.  His theft of Company goods from the Haydon Square tea warehouse was discovered when an officer searched an old woman in the Commercial Road on 27 October 1814.  Hidden underneath her petticoats were a bag containing a small amount of tea and some India paper.  After questioning her, the officer went with two colleagues to Wood’s home at 3 Trafalgar Square, Stepney.  There they found several jars, caddies and parcels containing tea. together with a quantity of India paper.  They also discovered £100 in notes, four guineas in gold, and some bags of silver.

Wood asked the officers if they could just take the money, paper and tea, and say nothing more about it.  It would be the ruin of him if the matter came to the Company’s ears.  He was taken before a magistrate and claimed that the paper was a perquisite of his job and that he had bought the tea from a man in the Commercial Road.  The Old Bailey jury found Wood guilty of theft.

Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816Petition of Truman Wood to the East India Company 16 August 1816 - British Library IOR/E/1/252 p.21 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On 16 August 1816, Wood wrote to the directors of the East India Company from the Portland hulk moored at Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth, expressing his ‘sincere and unfeigned sorrow’ for his crime and begging their forgiveness.  He had always tried to conduct himself with the ‘greatest recititude’ in his warehouse duties and in his service with the Royal East India Volunteers.  Before his lamentable lapse, Wood had never been suspected of an illicit transaction.  He had suffered the 'greatest privations and heartfelt afflictions' during his imprisonment.  His wife Jane and two children were reduced to ‘most poignant distress’, which was aggravated by Jane having ‘a Complaint in her breast’ which prevented her from looking after the family.  Wood asked the directors to recommend him for a free pardon.

Wood IOR E 1 251Letter from East India Company to Viscount Sidmouth 17 September 1816 British Library IOR/E/1/251 p.509 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Company forwarded the petition to the Home Secretary, Viscount Sidmouth, with a covering letter expressing the hope that Wood might be pardoned.  The directors asked for Wood’s past good character to be taken into consideration, and suggested that the imprisonment he had suffered might be seen as a sufficient warning to others.  They believed that a continuation of his punishment would be the total ruin of his family who had borne the calamity ‘with becoming resignation and propriety’.

The Company’s intervention was not immediately successful. In October 1816, Wood was transferred to the Bellerophon hulk at Woolwich.  However on 10 July 1818 he was granted a free pardon by Sidmouth and released ten days later.

Sadly it appears that Jane did not recover her health.  The burial records of St Dunstan Stepney show a Jane Wood dying of cancer in February 1819.

Wood married widow Ann Blendall in May 1822 in Bethnal Green.  He was buried at Wycliffe Congregational Church in Mile End Old Town in July 1837.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Petition of Truman Wood - British Library, IOR/E/1/252 pp.21-23, IOR/E/1/251 p.509
Old Bailey Online - Trial of Truman Wood 
Home Office records of Newgate Prison and the hulks – The National Archives via Findmypast
Parish registers for East London via Ancestry and Findmypast