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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER III
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A.D. 1835-1848

One after another the brothers of Charlotte went out to India. Henry Carre, the eldest, well known in Indian story, had left in 1831, when she was only ten years old; and in 1835 her particular companion, Robert, went also. He was a tall, handsome young fellow; and though only eighteen years old, he had already done well in his studies. At Haileybury his remarkable abilities won him the admiration of the Professors; and at his last examination for the Civil Service he signalised himself by actually carrying off four gold medals.

Among other gifts he had a keen touch of satire, and a power of easy versification. Some of the early verses preserved show considerable power, and are very spirited as well as amusing. A main feature of his character was, however, his intense earnestness. He was of the same stern and heroic cast of mind as Charlotte herself; with perhaps less fun and sparkle to lighten the sternness. Like her, he was markedly self-reliant, and was never known to lean upon the opinion of others.

With all Charlotte’s gaiety and merriment, her delight in dancing and acting, and her love of games, there was a stern side, even in those early days, to her girlish nature; and in this respect she and Robert were well suited the one to the other. She was, as one says who knew her well,[28] ‘a born heroine’; indeed, both she and Robert were of the stuff of which in former centuries martyrs have been made.

At what date Charlotte first began to think seriously upon religious questions it is not possible to say. Probably at a very early age. Underlying her high spirits was a stratum of deep thought; and strong principle seems almost from the beginning to have held control over her life. One of her brothers speaks of her as ‘always religious.’ She may have thought and may have felt to any extent, without expression in words of what she thought or felt. The innate reticence, which veiled so much of herself from others, would naturally in early years extend itself to matters of religion. Later in life reserve broke down in that direction; but silence in girlhood was no proof whatever of indifference.

An undated letter to her niece, Miss Laura Veronica Tucker, written in middle life, gives us something of a clue here.

‘I am much interested in hearing from your dear Mother that you are so soon to take upon you the vows made for you in Baptism, and I wish specially to remember you, my love, in prayer on the 18th.

‘To-morrow, too, you attain the age of fifteen.... I was about your age, dear Laura, when the feeling of being His—of indeed having the Saviour as my own Saviour, came upon me like a flood of daylight. I was so happy! This was a little time before my Confirmation. Though I have often often done wrong since, and shed many many tears, I have never quite lost the light shed on me then, and now it brightens all the future, so that I can scarcely say that I have any care as regards myself—the Lord will take care of me in advancing age—in the last sickness—in what is called death, (it is only its shadow).’

To the majority of people religious conviction and experience come as daylight comes; not in one sudden burst, but gradually, heralded by grey dawn, slowly unfolding into brightness. Brought up as Charlotte was in[29] an atmosphere of kindness, of gentleness, of unselfish thought for others, of generosity, of high principle, and of most real religion, albeit not much talked about, she would naturally imbibe the latter almost unconsciously, and as naturally would say little. The spiritual life, begun early in her, would expand and develop year by year, as fresh influences came, each in turn helping to shape the young ardent nature.

She was essentially independent; one who would of necessity think questions out for herself, and form her own opinions; and when an opinion was once formed, she would act in accordance with that opinion, fearlessly and conscientiously. All this came as a logical result of what she was in herself. But the very independence was of gradual growth; and side by side with it existed always a spirit of beautiful and reverent submission to her Father and Mother.

Although she never published anything during her Father’s lifetime—whether because she was slow to recognise her own capabilities, or because he failed to encourage the idea, does not distinctly appear,—her pen was often busy. A small magazine or serial in manuscript, for family use, was early started among the brothers and sisters, and to this, as might be expected, Charlotte was a frequent contributor.

She also wrote several plays, following in her Father’s footsteps; and some of these are extant, not written but exquisitely printed by her own hand. She was indeed an adept at such printing, as at many other things; and one amusing story is told anent this particular gift. About 1840, when her brother St. George was at Haileybury College, the latter wrote an essay, which was copied for him by Charlotte in small printed characters. Whereupon a rumour went through the College that one of the competitors had actually had his essay printed for[30] the occasion. Inquiries were made; and the ‘printed copy’ was discovered to be the essay of Mr. St. George Tucker.

The earliest in date of these unpublished plays, composed for the entertainment of the home-circle, appears to have been The Iron Mask; achieved in 1839, when Charlotte was about eighteen years old. It was ‘Dedicated, with the fondest esteem and affection, to her beloved Father, Henry St. George Tucker, to whom she is indebted for the outline of the characters and plot, by the Author, Charlotte Maria Tucker.’ By which Dedication may be plainly seen that Mr. Tucker encouraged his daughter’s literary bent, so far as actual writing went, though he does not seem to have helped her into print. The Preface to this early work is quaint enough to be worth quoting. The young Author had evidently studied Miss Edgeworth’s style.

‘I cannot pretend to offer that most common excuse of Authors that their works have been written in great haste and consequently under great disadvantages. I have been a considerable time about my little performance, and its defects are not owing to want of care or attention on my part.

‘I once had thoughts of myself writing a Critique on The Iron Mask, to show that I am sensible of its faults, though I do not think I have the power to remove at least all of them. But I have dropped the idea, and am determined to leave them to be found out, or perhaps overlooked, by the eye of partiality and affection.’

The play is, of course, historical, and is of considerable length. One short quotation may be given as a specimen of her girlish powers, taken from Scene II.

‘Apartment in the Castle of Chateaurouge: a grated window seen in the background.

The Iron Mask.
‘The glorious Sun hath reached the farthest west,
And clouds transparent tipt with living fire
Hang o’er his glory, bright’ning to the close.
Now gently-falling dews refresh the earth,
And pensive Silence, hand in hand with Night,
Already claims her reign.
Another day
Has past! another weary weary day,
And I am so much nearer to my grave!
Oh that I could, like yon broad setting Sun,
For one day tread the path of Liberty,
For one day shine a blessing to my Country,
Then, like him, set in glory!
Still come they not?—then Chateaurouge deceived me!
He said e’er sunset that they must be here,
And I have watched from the first blush of morn,
Before the lark his cheerful matins sung,
Before the glorious traveller of the skies
Had with one ray of gold illumed the east,
And still they come not!—’Tis in vain to watch,
They will not come to-night!—my sinking heart
For one day more must sicken in suspense.’

The writing of the play as a whole is unequal,—what girl of eighteen is not unequal?—but in these lines,as well as elsewhere, there are tokens of genuine power, alike poetical and dramatic.

Next came, in the year 1840, The Fatal Vow; a Tragedy in Three Acts; on the title-page of which is found a dedication—‘To Jane Tucker; the Mother who in the bloom of youth and beauty devoted herself to her children, and whose tender care can never by them be repaid.’ The play was written in less than two months; its scene being laid in Arabia, while the characters are of Arabian nationality. It is an ambitious and spirited effort for a girl under twenty.

Two years later she wrote another, The Pretender; a Farce in Two Acts; respectfully dedicated to ‘Fair Isabella, the Flower of the East.’ This witty and amusing little farce shall be given entire in the next chapter, as a fair example of what she was able to accomplish at the[32] age of twenty-one. It also shows conclusively her love of fun, and the manner in which she delighted in any play upon words.

In 1842, the same year which saw her produce The Pretender, her brother St. George went out to India; and two years later a paper of extracts from different letters, in her handwriting, records the sister’s loving pride in the warm opinions sent home about that brother. Also the same paper contains an account of an affair in which he was engaged; but the said account not being correct in all details, I give it in different words.

In 1844, one year and a quarter after the arrival of Mr. St. George Tucker in India, he volunteered to assist his joint magistrate, Mr. Robert Thornhill, to capture the celebrated dacoit,[2] Khansah. Upon the receipt of further orders from his chief magistrate, Mr. Thornhill decided not to make the attempt. Mr. Tucker, however, having volunteered, thought it was his duty to go; and go he did, accompanied by a Thannadar,[3] four horsemen, and some Burkandahs. On a January morning, in early dawn, they reached the village in which the dacoit leader, Khansah, was supposed to be concealed; and after many inquiries they induced an alarmed little native boy to point out silently which hut sheltered Khansah.

Leaving the horsemen and the Burkandahs outside, Mr. Tucker and the Thannadar went into the courtyard of the house. In the darkness of the entry to one of the huts stood Khansah, holding a loaded blunderbuss. At first he was unperceived; but suddenly the Thannadar exclaimed, ‘There he is!’ and as Mr. Tucker turned to the right, Khansah fired off the blunderbuss. The Thannadar dropped dead; and Mr. Tucker’s right arm fell helpless, from a wound in the shoulder. He climbed quickly over the low walls of a roofless hut, then turned about, and[33] with his left hand steadying the right hand on the top of the outer wall, he fired his pistol at the dacoit,—and missed him. Mr. Tucker then went round the back of the hut to a tree which stood near the entrance; and shortly afterward Khansah came out, calling—‘Kill the Sahib!’ A struggle followed between Khansah and one of the native police, which lasted some three or four minutes. Then Khansah, having apparently had enough, made away on the Thannadar’s pony; and Mr. Tucker, regaining his own horse, rode back to the station, accompanied by the Burkandahs and horsemen, who had carefully kept in the background when most needed, but whose courage returned so soon as the peril was over.

Eighteen months later an offer was made by Government of ten thousand rupees to any one who should give up Khansah,—the dacoit being a very notorious robber and murderer. His own relatives responded promptly to this appeal, and Khansah speedily found himself in durance vile. Mr. Tucker failed to identify the man in Court; but other evidence was forthcoming, and Khansah, being convicted, was hung. Charlotte, when noting down particulars of the above stirring episode, observes: ‘We cannot feel too thankful to a merciful God for my precious George’s preservation.’ The brief account which she copied out from the letter of a friend in India ends with these words: ‘My husband tells me he (Mr. Tucker) acted with great spirit, and showed much cool, determined courage, and deserved great credit; but from being almost a stranger to the habits of this country, he failed in his attempt to capture the dacoit.’

Another paper of copied extracts has a particular interest, because it seems to show, even then, a dawning sense in the mind of Charlotte Tucker of the needs of heathen and semi-heathen lands. The sheet is dated 1844; and the passages are selected from a book of the day, called[34] Savage Life and Scenes. But probably at that period nothing was further from her dreams than that she herself would ever go out as a missionary to the East.

The following undated letters belong to the years 1846-7. A little sentence in the first, as to the solution of Mr. Tucker’s enigma, is very characteristic of one who through life was always peculiarly ready to give praise to others.


‘How sweet, good, and kind you are! I hardly know how to thank you and dearest Mother for such notes as I have received from both, but I truly feel your kindness at my heart....

‘My eye is exceedingly improved. Such a fuss has been made about it here by my affectionate Fannies, that one might suppose that, like your friend Polyphemus, I had but one eye, and that as rudely treated as was his by Ulysses.

‘We think that the solution of my noble Father’s enigma is “Glass” or “Mirror.” Fanny was the first to imagine this. As for going to Gresford the 3rd of next month, I do not wish to be one of the party at all, at all! I calculate that Robin will then have been on the waves 76 days; and though I do not expect him till October, the S—— may be a fast sailer, and fast sailers have accomplished the whole voyage in about that time, I believe. I drink the port wine which Papa brought down, which I hope may serve instead of bark.’


‘Having concluded my reading of old Russell, how can I do better than employ the interval before the arrival of the Indian letters in sitting down and writing to my fair absent sister? Colonel Sykes let me know last night that Robin would not come by this mail, which was, he says, only from Bombay, so that letters being all we must expect before Saturday fortnight, you need not hurry home on account of Robin’s return.

‘Now doubtless you would like to hear a little how the world in Portland Place has been going on since your fair countenance disappeared from our horizon. In the first place all the three Misses —— are coming. A comical party we shall have! There has been no letter from Lord Metcalfe yet, that I know of. We had a very[35] nice evening yesterday. I wish that yours may have been equally agreeable. The beginning was by no means the worst part of it. I dressed early, and while Mamma and Fanny were upstairs, Charlie and I enjoyed quite a stream of melody from my dear Father, who sang us more than twenty songs, most of which I had never heard before. I wonder that he did not sing his throat quite dry, particularly after a Wednesday’s work. I must now write Lautie an account of the Ball.’


‘Well, dearest Lautie, we had a nice Ball last night. There were the Vukeels of S——, with their dark intelligent countenances, Colonel Sykes, your friend, who is really becoming quite a friend of mine, and honest, handsome Sir Henry Pottinger, the very look of whom does one good. I chatted with both the latter amusing gentlemen, and heard from Sir Henry a circumstantial account of his attack of gout, when, he said: “I felt as though I could have roared like a bull.” Sir Henry thinks that ladies should have a glass of champagne after every dance, quadrille, waltz, or polka! “You would see,” said he, “if my plan were followed, how many ladies would come.” ... Papa has had applications for cadetships from Lord Jocelyn and H—— T——. I suppose that in both cases it will be, “I wish you may get it!”’


‘We have had such an amusing breakfast. Lord Glenelg was here. And he and Mamma have been making us laugh so,—he with his quiet jokes, and dear Mamma with her na?veté. Mamma very freely criticised Sir R. Peel’s and Lord John Russell’s manner of speaking, to the great amusement of our guest, who threw out a hint that he might inform, and that Mamma had compromised herself. “It would be rather awkward,” he observed, “if I were to sit beside Sir Robert this evening,[4] after what has passed”; and when he heard that Sir Robert was not to be present, he hinted that Mamma was in the same danger in regard to Lord John Russell. “But if I tell him that he opens his mouth too wide,” said Lord Glenelg, “he may think I mean that he eats too much!”


‘I am sure that our guest enjoyed his morning’s gossip, and it gave us all a merry commencement to what I hope may be a very enjoyable though rather anxious day. Tudor is to take luncheon with us, so we have amusement provided for that meal also; and what a business it will be in the evening! Such a phalanx of ladies as dear Mother is to head. The Misses Cotton, two Misses Galloway, two Misses Shepherd, Miss Kensington, and our three selves, all to set off from No. 3! It will look like a nocturnal wedding.

‘I have just come in from paying a round of visits, with a card of admission in my hand.... My hand trembles with the heat, for it is warm walking at this hour, and I always walk fast when I walk in the streets alone. I look forward with much pleasure to the evening’s entertainment. I only wish that you and dear Bella could enjoy it too; but I hope that your dinner in September may afford you as much gratification as this would have done....

‘We ... went to Mrs. Bellasis’ Ball last night. Mamma and I thought it a nice one, but —— considered it very dull. The Eastwicks were not there, but your friend, Colonel Sykes, appeared, with his stern bandit-like countenance. He so reminds me of you! His fair lady and sons were also there.... Sir de Lacy and Lady Evans, the Hinxmans and Galloways were also at the Ball.

‘How are the dear little Robins? I hope that we may soon have them with us again. Pray give them plenty of kisses from Auntie Charlotte.... I hope dear Robin got home comfortably.’

Some of the above-mentioned names were of men well and widely known. Lord Metcalfe, at one time Acting Governor-General of India, was a wise and most courteous Indian statesman, whose life has been written by Sir John Kaye. Colonel Sykes was one year Chairman of the Court of Directors. Sir Henry Pottinger was a famous diplomatist. Lord Glenelg, living near, was often in and out, and loved to have a cup of tea at hospitable No. 3.

The habit of the family at this time, while spending the main part of the year at Portland Place, was to go to some country place in the summer, for several weeks, sometimes renting a house where they could stay all together, sometimes[37] breaking into smaller parties. In 1846 they were at Herne Bay; in 1847 at Gresford; in 1848 at Dover and Walmer. While at Walmer they were a good deal thrown with the Duke of Wellington, and the former acquaintanceship ripened into more of intimacy. Before deciding on Walmer, two or three of the party went to Dover, and they had a somewhat perilous voyage thither, to which the following letter makes allusion:—


‘I hope that you will all write us very affectionate letters of congratulation on our escape from the waves. How talented it was in Mamma to manage to send us letters so soon! We had no idea of hearing from home by 6 o’clock on Monday morning. We are all quite well. I was not well yesterday morning,—I imagine from the effects of our adventure; but I am, like the rest of our dear party, quite well to-day.

‘We are to set out in a pony-chaise for Walmer, to see about a house. Papa is to drive, and I have no doubt but that we shall have a delightful little excursion.

‘The immense cliff is a great objection to Dover. Unless we undergo the great fatigue of getting up it, we should be quite prisoners. Walmer is much flatter. We are anxious to hear what has become of the poor Emerald. She landed us here on Saturday morning, and proceeded on her perilous journey at about five in the afternoon. Papa saw the carpenter’s wife, who told him that the leak could not be got at because of the coals, that they would not get to Boulogne, but must return in two hours. The poor woman’s husband was in the vessel. She said that her eyes were tired with looking at the steamer, but philosophically observed that those who are doomed to sup salt water must sup it. The Emerald has not returned, however. It is probable that she has put in to some other port. I should like to hear about her fate. I should feel for our kind sailor.

‘My darling Papa has rather taken fright at Mamma’s letter. He fears that she is not well, that she has been hysterical at the thought of our danger, and seems anxious to go up to London himself, in order to assist her and see about her. Fanny and I expostulate. He is the best of husbands and fathers. I hope, however, that dearest[38] Mamma is not unwell, and that the sea-air may do her good and strengthen her. Another objection to Dover is that the voyage is likely to be rougher to it than to Walmer. Walmer is not situated so near that terrible South Foreland.... This is Papa’s opinion, but we cannot decide till we see Walmer.’

Further particulars of the adventure alluded to are unfortunately not forthcoming.

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