Thursday, September 10, 2009


Penelope Boothby 1785-1791
The above monument, by Thomas Banks was shown at the Royal Academy in 1793 before being installed in St. Oswald's Parish Church, Ashbourne, Derbyshire (the link to Ashbourne is extremely interesting with snippets from the parish records dating back to 1539).

The white Carrara marble effigy commemorates the short life of Penelope Susanah Boothby, daughter of Sir Brooke Boothby, who died on 20th March 1791, a month short of her sixth birthday. The inscription reads, 'She was in form and intellect most exquisite. The unfortunate parents ventured their all on this frail bark and the wreck was total.' She is said to have been able to speak a little of the four languages inscribed on her tomb.

She used to play in the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds and at age 4, was the subject of his painting "The Little Girl in the Mob-cap". Henry Fuseli, an acquaintance of Sir Joshua, also painted "The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby" in 1792.

Her distraught parents parted after her funeral, each blaming the other for her death. Sir Brooke Boothby never got over his only child's death and wrote several Sonnets about his loss; an excerpt from Sonnet X111 follows:

Her faded form now glides before my view;
her plaintiff voice now floats upon the gale.
The hope how vain, that time should bring relief!
Time does but deeper root a real grief.


Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...


What a captivating post. The unfathomable pain of losing a little one . . . some simply never recover.

What an incredible marble monument to this child.

Alaine said...

Hi Bonnie, indeed, unimaginable and I'm sure I would never recover from such an awful loss.

steven said...

phew - kerblam!!! that was intense - not only a child flying away but a marriage as well!! and all (one would surmise) within a short span of time. have a peaceful day alaine. steven

Alaine said...

Hi Steven, a tragic tale. I came across it when looking up Derbyshire one day. So many stories to be found and told...

Tracy said...

This is just the saddest thing...Oh how heartbreaking is this story! I hope that these troubles souls found peace eventually... Happy Day, Alaine--you are a wonder at sharing the beautiful, thoughtful and interesting. :o) ((HUGS))

Derrick said...

Hi Alaine,

It is an amazing and touching tale. So much created from one short life. Wonderful that you happened upon it.

Susan said...

Oh, how sad! Not only her death, but that her parents couldn't comfort each other and draw closer together in their grief. It happens that way sometimes.

Yoli said...

How utterly heartbreaking. I don't know if I would have been able to survive my only child. Death must have been a relief to her poor father.

Alaine said...

Tracy, Susan, Derrick & Yoli (thanks for visiting, Yoli!), the following is how Sir Brooke Boothby's life unfolded after her death; he lived another 33 years.

'Boothby's life went into decline after his daughter's death. He commissioned the sculpture illustrated and the painting by Henry Fuseli. His wife Susanna returned after Penelope's funeral to her parent's home in Hampshire and settled in Dover. Her death was recorded under her own family name, Bristoe.

Boothby was involved with the substantial purchase of sixteenth century stained glass for Lichfield Cathedral in 1801, which he purchased from the Abbey of Herkenrode which had been dissolved in the Napoleonic wars. He sold the glass to the cathedral on a non-profit basis.

As a result of his extravagance Boothby met with economic disaster which completely altered the course of his life. Ashbourne Hall was leased in 1814 (parish records show that in 1817 Sir Richard Arkwright's grandson, also Richard, was living there) and he settled in diminished circumstances in Boulogne in 1815 and died there in 1824. He was buried in St. Oswald's with his parents and his sister Maria Elizabeth and other Boothby family members.'

Lyn said...

This tiny life left such a big mourned, again and again and we too, a few hundred years away. Her tender beauty lasts forever..thank you!

Alaine said...

Lyn, yes, we are, aren't we, mourning again. I'm sorry I posted such a sad post now. I remembered the little girl in the mob-cap from my childhood and I was so sad to learn that her life didn't blossom further.