Phelps, Elizabeth “Bella”. [MS] Journal 1836 [London and Madeira].
Oblong 8vo. 162pp. Old half morocco leather over marbled boards, spine replaced at some point and title label added. Strong and clean, the majority in ink with some sections in pencil. Ink ownership to front pastedown, along with the legend “Jounal No. 5.” By Bella’s own admission her previous journals were apparently somewhat haphazard:
“I have hitherto been content to keep my journals any how, but now that I have ceased to be a schoolgirl I hope I shall be able to go through it regularly.” Judging from the neat hand and depth of detail throughout, Bella kept to this resolution rather well. Bella Phelps is 16 at this point, still 20 years away from probably the most notable achievement of her life; causing Madeira to become the centre of a thriving 19th century lace industry (laid into the journal is a piece of Madeira Lace). Bella was the eldest of the 11 children of Joseph and Elizabeth Phelps, Joseph being a well known wine dealer. Bella gives every appearance of leading the life of a rather privileged young woman, with a seemingly endless itinerary of trips to Hampton Court, various stately homes and palaces, frequent trips to the Opera, of which she is a keen aficianado quite distraught at the death of Maria Felicia Malibran in September (”Dearest, Darling, Adorable, Angelic Malibran!!! Odious Dr Belleconinni, I am sure and certain he poisoned her!”), and being quite scandalised at the allegations that she drank herself to death. In the latter part of the year the family relocates to Madeira, and the remainder of the journal deals with the sights and events of the island, both political and social. A detailed journal from an articulate, observant and intelligent young woman, charting the beginning of her familiarity with an island upon which she would have a considerable cultural impact.