Beyond Death Do Us Part, High Victorian Brooch

October 21, 2011

While enjoying the romantic splendour of Bath in England I came across this most touching brooch with accompanying sampler.

Mr F Wilson

The brooch itself is large in scale, and classically High Victorian Gothic in style. Its decorative triangular border juxtaposed with smooth arches is visually dominating,  masculine and architectural. It is not a swivel brooch, but has glazed compartments for photos on both the front and rear.

Mrs F Wilson

The front image is that of a bearded man. Due to its dominant placement and the fact that it is more faded, it appears to be an earlier image to that of the woman. The gent is Mr Francis Wilson. The woman whose photo is in the back compartment is Mrs F Wilson. The image retains much of its (presumably) hand-applied colour, and she is possibly wearing this very brooch.

The wonderfully shaped domed box appears to be original. It has been embossed on the lid ‘Mrs F. Wilson August 18, 1858’.

A blue cloth purse accompanies the brooch and inside is a most delicate sampler, simply embroidered to read:

Ah! would to heaven I ne’er had seen,
Thy manly form, thy graceful mien,
Thine eyes of lovely blue,
For then my heart had never known
The pain it feels for thee alone,
The sighs that heave for you!
But why lament the pains I find,
Since Francis has a generous mind
From meaner passions free!
Oh! rather let me bless the day
My simple heart was led away,
A captive caught by thee!
F. Wilson. 1842

The delicate sampler with the cloth purse

From the material provided I believe the logical sequence of events here is that the sampler was produced in 1842 by Mrs F Wilson upon the death of her husband. The brooch bears Mr Wilson’s photograph, perhaps Mrs Wilson already had this made as a sentimental piece, and it became a memorial piece upon his death, but just as possibly was purchased and used as a memorial piece in 1842.

Embossed box

In 1858 Mrs F Wilson passed away. The date of her passing is embossed on the lid of the box, also at this time a third person (perhaps a son or daughter?) places a later photograph of Mrs Wilson into the brooch that she treasured so much, and transforms it into a memorial for two beloved people.

The piecing together of the turn of events certainly has room for reappraisal, however, the dealer in Bath did purchase it from a member of the Wilson family who confirmed the relationship. It also provides a strong basis from which to undertake further research.

More importantly, based on the poem alone, it depicts a story of enduring marital love between the kind, blue-eyed Francis and the talented, elegant Mrs F Wilson, which death itself can not end.

Molam De Love

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