Discovered in a Cotswolds’ cottage, a stash of over 110 Regency-era love letters penned by the Reverend George Bisset, Vicar of Malmesbury Abbey to Lady Catherine Howard, only daughter of the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, tells a love story with certain similarities to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. However, in this real-life story, it was the woman, Lady Catherine Howard, who possessed wealth and social status, whilst her male admirer, a non-descript Oxford-educated vicar, had little of either. Lady Catherine, after heart-wrenching debate and citing familial duty, refused Rev Bisset’s proposals, and he sailed for Ceylon (Sri Lanka). But this was not the end of their relationship.
In this talk, Diane Lovell charts their courtship, exploring the fascinating details about class, wealth, gender, courtship, marriage, anxiety and foreign evangelism, revealed by their letters.