Mary Richardson (1815–49)
John Ruskinʼs cousin, daughter of Janet (“Jessie”) and Patrick Richardson of Perth. For her life dates, see Viljoen, Scottish Heritage, 184, 185. She married Parker Bolding, a lawyer, in 1848 (Hilton, John Ruskin: The Early Years, 112).
In 1826, following the death by consumption of Ruskinʼs cousin, James Richardson, who had lived at Herne Hill, Margaret Ruskin declared a ban on “bringing ourselves under such responsibility” by adopting relativesʼ children into the household (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 15 May 1826). Nonetheless, one year later, Margaret expressed “how great a relief” she felt owing to the arrangements for Jamesʼs sister, Mary to live at Herne Hill for at least some extended periods of time (John referring, e.g., to having “changed very much in my lessons for while mary was with me I said them very ill every day”). Perhaps Margaret was led to this exception by Maryʼs gender and personality, since in the same letter she conveyed to John James her satisfaction in having a female companion, a Miss DePree, to stay with her “while you are away” on business travel, “and it seems to be her real desire to make herself useful and spare me trouble” in such tasks as sewing and shopping. Mary may have been viewed in the same capacity (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 28 April 1827; John to John James Ruskin, May 1827, in Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 144, 156, 157, 157 n. 2).
Nonetheless, boundaries were maintained, as Mary was kept at school, Margaret reporting in May 1827 having only “seen her twice”. An even harder line was drawn separating Herne Hill from the Richardsons of Croydon, Margaret remarking that her sister, Bridget Richardson, felt “much mortification that Mary [i.e., apparently her daughter, Mary Bridget Richardson] is not to have her home with us” and “seems hurt that I should feel her child such a burden”. (Had expectations for Mary Bridget of Croydon even been usurped by arrangements for Mary of Perth?) Margaret confessed herself unequal to liberal demands on her affections, for “had I the love for hers [Bridgetʼs children] she has for mine it would have been very different”. Bridgetʼs more capacious affections were “natural” given her “love for society”, but Margaret needed a more limited and, one suspects, socially stratified circle, and she concluded these remarks that she “continue[d] to find Miss DePree a most desirable companion” (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 8 May 1827, in Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 162–63). A year later, following the death of the Perth Maryʼs mother, Jessie Richardson, in May 1828, Maryʼs residence at Herne Hill became permanent until her marriage.
Maryʼs permanent residence had begun by January 1829, when Margaret Ruskin refers to Mary returning to school (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 21 January 1829). Arrangements for Maryʼs schooling appear in the earliest surviving household accounts kept by John James, the ledger pages for 1827, which record a total payment for the year of £62.11.10 to Miss Williamson. (Account Book, 4v). Van Akin Burd was unable to locate a school listing operated by a Miss Williamson in directories, but quotes an 1830 letter by Mary to a cousin, describing a small school limited to twelve boarders and a few day scholars, “most of them . . . Scotch”. The tuition consisted “Music, Drawing, and French;—and Geography, Dancing, Writing, and Arithmetic for two quarters”, and “latterly . . . Italian” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 164 n. 3). In May 1827, at the start of this tuition, Margaret reported that Mary “had not one bad mark for want of punctuallity and for all she is learning generally good ones” (Margaret to John James Ruskin, 8 May 1827, in Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 162).
In John Jamesʼs accounts, support of Maryʼs schooling is easily confused with the same support for Mary Bridget Richardson of Croydon. If the Ruskins refused to bring Mary Bridget into the family, John James did pay for her schooling, and she may have been Maryʼs schoolmate at Miss Williamsonʼs. In the same January 1829 in which Margaret mentions Maryʼs resumption of school, she comments that she shall also “send” Bridget “instantly to school”; and in John Jamesʼs accounts for 1828, a yearʼs payments totaling £83.6.5 to Miss Williamson are listed under the heading “Mary Richardson Croydon”, while for November of thqt year a single payment of £19.6 is listed for “Mary Schoolg” under the heading “John, Mary, And[re]w, & Will[ia]m Richardson [of Perth]”. (Accounting for the discrepancy of less schooling for Mary Richardson, she would have returned to Perth that year in mourning for her mother.) For 1829, John Jamesʼs accounts show a single entry in March of £38.7.1 for Mary Bridget Richardsonʼs “June Schoolg”, and two entries (in June and December) of £22.9.6 and £23.11.9 for Mary Richardsonʼs “Schoolg”. The accounts for 1830 record nothing for Mary Bridgetʼs education, while Miss Williamsonʼs name appears twice under the heading “John, Mary, And[re]w, & Will[ia]m Richardson [of Perth]”. There the girlsʼ education apparently ended; for in 1831, the Ruskins were abroad for much of the year, and nothing is listed for the girlsʼ schooling in 1832 (Account Book, 9r, 13r, 13v, 18r).
More to come.