Sunday, 5 April 2015

The poetry of Miss Ann Holmes to Hugh Doherty when confined in her father's house

Within the copy of Wilson's Accurate Description of Bromley published in 1797 Bromley Archives reference Bromley Archives Catalogue  there are two handwritten entries of poetry written "by Miss Ann Holmes to Hugh Doherty Esquire whilst confined in her father's house."

"If in that heart so good so pure,
Compassion ever-loved to dwell,
Pity the sorrows I endure
The causes I must not dare to tell.
The grief that on my quiet peeps
That rends my heart that chains my tongue,
I fear twill last me al my days but feel it cannot last me long."
An additional poem is written:
Thro'the bars of my prison I see
The birds as they wanton in aver
My heart how it pant to be free
And my looks they are wild with despair".
(included by Doherty in The Discovery page 132)

Hugh Doherty was the son of John Doherty of Dublin and was related to the Secretary of State George Canning.
Ann Holmes was the child of  a Gentleman named Thomas Holmes and is believed to have been born born in 1786. She had been well schooled and in 1804 had not reached the age of 15 (according to her father's affidavit later introduced to the King's Bench by the Attorney General). Holmes made  Hunter in 1804 owned several substantial properties and was introduced to Doherty,who took the opportunity of being seated next to Ann at dinner to pursue her.
Doherty had entered the 23rd Light Dragoons and was "upwards of 37 years of age". He was awaiting deployment to India and had debts and no "fortune or profession." Doherty formed a relationship with Ann largely through smuggled letters to her at the various Holmes households. Her father when he discovered Doherty's debts and reputation forbade him from visiting Ann and Doherty began the correspondence. He later discovered Doherty's letters and had confined Ann to his house to prevent Doherty attempting to meet or abduct her. The confinement began in 1802.
Ann became a source of concern as she deteriorated ( the letters from Doherty became her obsession) and she became sufficiently agitated to concern doctors called to attend her who were concerned about her refusal to eat and melancholic state. Sir W Farquhar recommended that her mental state be treated by Doctor Simmonds who removed her to his house. She deteriorated mentally to such an extent that she was removed to Fisher House Islington sometimes referred to as Islington Aylum. The house and grounds had been built early in the seventeenth century by Sir Thomas Fisher. It opened as a "madhouse" in 1797 and eventually closed in 1844 being demolished the following year.
Doherty made contact with one of the two Attendants at Fisher House and at Anne's suggestion procured two sleeping draughts for twelve and ten hours the first to render the unwitting Attendant unconscious whilst the other (McNab) released Ann to Doherty  then took the second draft to provide her alibi. The escape took place on 19 April 1802 around 1 am by Doherty's account. Ann had suggested fleeing to Scotland for a clandestine marriage;in the event the couple appear to have legally married in Rainham Essex on 25 May 1802 after banns. The couple had a son. Ann Doherty shortly after becoming Mrs Ann Doherty complained that Doherty was violent toward her these complaints came to her father's attention in 1806 and he began to take legal advice which culminated in the Attorney General's application to the King's Bench who granted a rule to show cause in May 1808.
Doherty accepted £2000 from Hunter under a surety but this was insufficient to avoid his creditors and whilst imprisoned for debt Hunter called in his surety. Whilst imprisoned Doherty published "The Discovery" The Discovery online his account of his relationship with Ann. He also published "Ronaldsha" in his wife's name although in 1808 when read to the court certain passage's were found to be his own attacks on Holmes Hunter.
It is in this context that following the 1797 publication of Wilson the handwritten poems appear subsequently written. The relationship was of course widely publicised. Pride and Prejudice contains a sub plot involving  Lydia the youngest Bennet daughter's elopement with Wickham;she is 15 when the relationship begins  and shows no remorse for the disgrace she causes to her family. The Ann Holmes and Hugh Doherty affair cannot have escaped Jane Austen's attention.