Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Best wishes on your birthday?

Just yesterday it was my birthday and Mrs Many Coats did me proud with a copy of The Legend of St Cuthbert with the Antiquities of the Church of Durham. Revised and Corrected, With Explanatory Notes and Illustrations. To Which is Prefixed, A Concise Account of Robert Hegge, The Author. By John Brough Taylor, F.S.A (1816)

Title Page of John Brough Taylor's Legend of St Cuthbert

A fine title for a fine book and one that will take pride of place upon my night table for some time to come. But what struck me was the inscription on the inside cover...

Anne Gregson
January 1817

Given by her Father

Click on image to make larger...

Not, Given with love. Not, Given to my loving daughter or even, Given with best wishes. Just Given by her Father, and it got me wondering about Anne and her father. Were they typical of their time? Was this the best and only sign of affection that Anne or any other well to do girl might hope for in late Georgian England?

Perhaps the gift of a book was itself enough to make Anne secure in the knowledge that her father loved her dearly, but then again the choice of a book about a Saint might suggest her father thought she was in need of some religious or moral guidance. Not a present at all, but rather a guide for a wayward girl who spent too long with her head in the clouds and not in her studies perhaps?

I don't think so, because although the book has a religious theme, it's too obscure to be a moral tool. It is after all a reworking of a much earlier work by Robert Hegge on St Cuthbert and I think it's likely that the giving of such an obscure book to a young woman by her father suggests an interest in history, myth and legend that her father was trying to nurture.

Copy of the orignal Robert Hegge 1625 title page
John Brough Taylor's 1816 edition

Of course I can't be certain, but I think Anne's father, although not given to displays of emotion, clearly held his daughter in high esteem and loved her deeply.

It only remains for me to thank Mrs Many-Coats for a lovely present and for her note to me, beneath Anne's father's to her. A message that mirrors his message, but leaves me in no doubt as to her thoughts and feelings for me!

+Many-Coats R.S.A.R+


  1. Reminds me of a nice book I have, though not an original, "History of Myddle" by Richard Gough, 1701. A remarkable chronicle of a community told by or in order of each family pew's location within the church.

  2. Many happy returns of your birthday. What a lovely present. I have had many of St Cuthbert's beads, but never the legend.

  3. Happy Birthday!...Pop'

  4. Thanks for the happy birthdays one and all. I too have a copy of Gough's History of Myddle. A fine book although if I remember correctly Gough is the local vicar or Rector and is very disapproving of the 'meaner sort' who still like to celebrate mayday and other more popular events. Am I right?

    +Many Coats+

  5. A splendid tome Sir! I look forward to examining this work in person at some point in the near future.

    ~ Munro ~