Wednesday 26 March 2014

Brussels, Brontë, Jenkins: My great-great-grandparents Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins and the Brontës

Monica Kendall tells of her search for her relatives in Brussels.

In Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1857 biography of Charlotte Brontë, published two years after Charlotte’s death, Mrs Gaskell comments that when she was researching the biography and visited Brussels:

Mrs. Jenkins told me that she used to ask them [Emily and Charlotte] to spend Sundays and holidays with her, until she found that they felt more pain than pleasure from such visits. (Gaskell, 1997: 162)

I am the great-great-granddaughter of that Mrs Jenkins (her name was Eliza, née Jay), and of Rev. Evan Jenkins, the British Chaplain in Brussels from 1825 until his death in 1849. Until October 2013 I knew quite a bit about the Jenkins family in Brussels, though mostly in the second half of the nineteenth century, but knew nothing about our connection with the Brontës. It’s a mystery why there are no anecdotes in the family. But thanks to hugely helpful people who responded to my interest (and an inordinate number of emails I sent) I finally arrived in Brussels in February 2014 to investigate. It was the same month Charlotte and Emily arrived, 172 years before – rather more quickly (by Eurostar from London where I live) than the Brontës had managed!

But first, grateful thanks to the following for their support, time, help and information: Brian Bracken, Mme Jacqueline Charade and all at the Chapel Royal, Roger Cox, Robyn Crosslé, the staff at the Evere cemetery, Jones Hayden for a wonderful walk around Brontë Brussels, Renate, cousin Suzie Walker, Marcia Watson and above all to Helen MacEwan, of the Brussels Brontë Group, who not only found more Jenkins graves than I could have possibly hoped for, and rubbed off moss with Renate before I visited, but recommended my (excellent) hotel, found time to answer all my emails, saved me from howlers and organized my Saturday which ended up with a descendant of the Hegers and descendant of the Jenkinses downing (in my case) copious amounts of wine in a wonderfully convivial way which I will always treasure.

A Jenkins descendant meets a Heger descendant:
M. Francois Fierens (great-great-great-grandson of Constantin
Heger) and Monica Kendall (great-great-granddaughter of Rev.
Evan and Eliza Jenkins), Brussels, February 2014
What follows is my journey and discoveries in Brussels over three days.

St Bernard’s School, New York and what happened next ... and before
In 2000 I wrote an article for my grandfather’s school magazine, entitled ‘My Grandfather Jack’. My grandfather, John Card Jenkins (1874–1958), founded a school in New York in 1904 called St Bernard’s. It is an extraordinary and unique prep school for boys and I have visited it twice – as recently as autumn 2011. My article was accurate: but with one big error about the Jenkins church in Brussels (see below)! My research for it was based on his elder sisters’ scrapbooks that went to my mother Dorice on their deaths (my last great-aunt died in 1954). They were the daughters of Rev. John Card Jenkins (1834–94) who had been an Anglican chaplain in Brussels, after his father and elder brother. I found then that the roots of the school in New York lay in Brussels in the 1820s, with Rev. Evan and Mrs Jenkins.
My mother, Dorice Kendall, née Jenkins, remembered stories of Brussels from her parents (both British, who were born or grew up there), and in my article I tried to describe Brussels of the nineteenth century. I mentioned the Brontës in passing: ‘In this city ... Emily and Charlotte Brontë came to study languages in the early 1840s, and Charlotte returned to teach and found unrequited love.’ That’s all! Alas no one emailed me to say: But haven’t you read Mrs Gaskell’s biography? I hadn’t, nor it seems had any member of the Jenkins family, and I hadn’t even read Villette!

What happened next, 13 years later, was one of those strange coincidences that change everything: I am an academic book editor, and I just happened in autumn 2013 to be copy-editing a book that included a chapter on Charlotte Brontë’s extraordinary novel Villette (a fictional name for Brussels). I decided to buy the book since my ancestors were in Brussels at the same time Charlotte had been there. Then out of the blue my cousin Suzie Walker (née Jenkins) asked for the number of the Jenkins home in Rue St Bernard in Brussels as her artist daughter was about to visit (I am the historian of the family!). Suddenly Suzie emailed telling me to try googling this combination: Brussels, Brontë, Jenkins. I did so, intrigued. Suzie tells me she had just idly tried doing that combination as she explored her Jenkins roots and had found something amazing. And I came across Brian Bracken’s blog on the Brussels Brontë Group website about finding the whereabouts of the Jenkins home in Chaussée d’Ixelles: the house that Charlotte and Emily had ‘visited’ on several occasions in 1842–43. I was astounded. The Brontë sisters knew my ancestors?

My research took off. I began to email total strangers, including Helen via the Group website, and Roger Cox, who had written a booklet on the Anglicans in Brussels, and then read as much as I could after work. And wonderfully most people responded! After a few weeks I knew I had to go to Brussels. Helen suggested a good time would be in February 2014 for Eric Ruijssenaars’ talk for the Group on the Isabelle Quarter where the Brontë sisters had stayed and learned. I booked my Eurostar ticket. So what did I find?

The cemetery in Evere
I arrived early on a Friday morning in February 2014 and was to meet Helen at the cemetery in Evere a few hours later, where she and others had discovered many of my Jenkins family in four graves. Without her book, Down the Belliard Steps, it would have taken me so much longer to discover that the old Protestant cemetery had been closed in the late nineteenth century and bodies moved to Evere. She was going to show me round. Apparently one grave included Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins – and many of their children; next to him was their eldest son, my great-great uncle Rev. Edward. Then a short distance away was my great-grandfather Rev. John and family; and opposite him was my great-uncle Edward (also formally Rev. Charles Edward Jenkins). He had been an Anglican priest in England but had come back to Brussels in 1928 until his early death a few years later to minister at the Church of the Resurrection, the church built by the Jenkins. He was the last Jenkins clergyman, but 1825 to 1931 (with some gaps) is a good stretch for a family of clergymen in a foreign city, who all died far too young.

I was early at the cemetery and went to the office: as it was a cold drizzly day the office was a warmer place to wait for Helen. ‘Two people came before to ask about the Jenkins,’ I was told. They meant Helen and Renate, of the Group. The staff were enormously helpful as I tried to find out if my other great-grandfather was buried here (Ernest Rust Hodson, who had taken over St Bernard’s School from the Jenkins family in about the early 1890s). They found nothing on him and suggested I go to the City Hall at Ixelles next time I came to Brussels.

But then the woman suddenly brought me a buff folder, labelled: ‘Concession de sépulture de la famille Jenkins’. Startled, I skimmed through its contents, a bit annoyed at my rusty French: but I could tell they were all documents and letters about moving Rev. Evan, wife Eliza and some of their children’s bodies from the old Protestant cemetery – the same one Charlotte had been to so often – to here. There was a letter in French by my great-grandfather, Rev. John, dated November 1887, from 27 Rue St Bernard, that moved me most: simply seeing his handwriting and understanding his efforts to move his parents, a sister and a brother to the new cemetery. It can’t have been easy emotionally.

Part of a letter written by Rev. John Card Jenkins, 28 November 1887,
about moving his parents' bodies to the Evere cemetery

When Helen arrived she took me to the four Jenkins graves. I don’t know precisely what I felt. Excited, yes, but I wasn’t sure if Rev. Evan and Eliza, or my great-grandparents Rev. John and Mary Elizabeth, might even approve of me. But I knew it was good they were together, and that Rev. John had moved his parents and some siblings here, and he was here too with some of his family. But his elder brother Rev. Edward’s grave slab was split; great-uncle Edward’s cross (his eldest son) had toppled; there was a bit of plastic lying in the broken slab of Rev. John’s grave. I was too moved to get rid of it.

Before I visited the graves, when I went through my great-aunts’ albums over the years, I felt I was getting to know them well. Yet the graves were almost those of strangers. But I had gleaned something from looking at the 1887–88 documents in the Jenkins folder. There I felt some kind of kinship. I hoped great-grandfather Rev. John might actually approve of me after all. I’d like to do something to mend their graves in the future. Brian Bracken had deciphered the names on Rev. Evan’s grave, and Helen and Renate had on the others. (In the drizzle I could barely see anything.) The new knowledge I had now was confirmation of a rather large brood in the first Brussels Jenkins family when Charlotte and Emily arrived in 1842.

Me and the grave of Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins
(my great-great-grandparents) (left) and the
grave of my great-great-uncle Rev. Edward (right)
The Jenkins brood in 1842
Piecing together information from the grave slab, from distant cousins in Australia and my great-aunts’ albums, Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins had seven children. Only six were living in 1842: their fourth child, Mary Jane, had died about the age of 8 in 1838. I discovered she was moved in the 1880s with her parents from the old cemetery to be buried with them. At first I was puzzled as the record has ‘Jeannette’, but the records do sometimes change people’s names into the French version, and the date is right.

These are their possible ages when Emily and Charlotte arrived in February 1842: Edward, aged 15; Helen Eliza, 14; Alexander Livingston, 13; Evan, 10; John (later Rev. John: my great-grandfather), 7; Mina Janet, 3. Commenting on the Brontës’ relationship with children, Mrs Gaskell says in her biography:

the little Brontës had been brought up motherless; and from knowing nothing of the gaiety and the sportiveness of childhood – from never having experienced caresses or fond attentions themselves they were ignorant of the very nature of infancy, or how to call out its engaging qualities. Children were to them the troublesome necessities of humanity; they had never been drawn into contact with them in any other way. (Gaskell, 1997: 149–50)

I wonder if, therefore, part of the sisters’ ‘pain’ at visiting the Jenkins family were the children. If Brian Bracken’s detective work is right then the Jenkins home in 1842 was not substantial. There might well have been a nurse and a nursery for the children but they were bound to overflow, rather noisily probably.

I need to say something about Mrs Gaskell because sources are so important: Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–65), novelist, clergyman’s wife, mother, became a friend of Charlotte in 1850, five years before Charlotte’s death. Three months later, Charlotte’s father Patrick asked her to write a biography of his daughter (Uglow, 2004). She had access to Charlotte’s surviving letters. She visited Brussels in May 1856 and talked to my great-great-grandmother, Eliza Jenkins. If she talked to Eliza’s children, she doesn’t mention it. She is a primary source – unique, even if she suppressed some of what she discovered: her biography of Charlotte is thus often described as ‘controversial’. But it is that most valued of all sources: a primary source.

Escorting duties and the problem with Mrs Chadwick
And that brings me to my problem as a source with Mrs Ellis H. Chadwick, who wrote a biography of Charlotte published in 1914, and subsequent biographers who use Mrs Chadwick as a source without evaluating her evidence. For example, Winifred Gérin in her biography of Charlotte gives Chadwick as a source for Mrs Jenkins introducing Charlotte and Emily to Madame Heger: ‘evidence derived from Mrs. Jenkins herself, ch. 15’ (Gérin, 1969, 187 n. 2). Since Mrs Jenkins, my great-great-grandmother Eliza, died in 1864, Gérin seems to believe that Chadwick started her research in Brussels 50 years before publication in 1914. The only dates I have found online for Esther Alice Chadwick, who wrote as Mrs Ellis H. Chadwick, are ‘fl. 1882–1928’. From my reading of her book, it seems that Chadwick visited Brussels in the early years of the twentieth century, but not before then.

Also Gérin is wrong: there is nothing about Mrs Jenkins in Chadwick’s ‘ch. 15’, which is about London. The first mention of the Jenkins in Brussels is in Chapter 18. And only Mr Jenkins is mentioned as accompanying the Brontë sisters to the Heger Pensionnat, which has no source.

There is a charming story, that seems to originate with Mrs Chadwick (she is the source later biographers give), that my great-grandfather John and great-great-uncle Edward (both later Reverends and chaplains at the Chapel Royal) escorted the Brontë sisters to their home on Sundays. Here is the whole quote:

Mrs. Jenkins said that she gave up asking them to her home on Sundays and holidays as she saw that it gave them more pain than pleasure, and the two sons of Mrs. Jenkins John and Edward who were sent to the pensionnat to escort the Brontës when they were invited to their home, declare that they were most shy and awkward, and scarcely exchanged a word with them during the journey. In the home, Mrs. Jenkins said, ‘Emily hardly ever uttered more than a monosyllable, and Charlotte was sometimes excited sufficiently to speak eloquently and well on certain subjects but, before her tongue was thus loosed, she had a habit of gradually wheeling round on her chair, so as almost to conceal her face from the person to whom she was speaking.’ (Chadwick, 1914: 225)

Mrs Chadwick gives no sources for this. But it is obvious that she has copied Mrs Gaskell about the ‘pain and pleasure’, paraphrasing slightly (Gaskell, 1997: 162), and also Mrs Jenkins’ quote is almost the same as in Mrs Gaskell’s biography (162). But what is this about ‘John and Edward’ escorting the Brontës? Where does this come from?

At first I was excited by the escorting story, but doubts crept in. Before I went to Brussels I emailed Helen that this was improbable. In February 1842 my great-grandfather John was 7. (Mrs Chadwick refers to ‘John and Edward’ as if John was the elder.) His elder brother Charles Edward (known as just Edward, as his nephew was) was about 15 in 1842. Yes, if I was my great-great-grandmother Eliza I might ask Edward to escort the Brontë sisters about 15 minutes’ walk to or from the Heger Pensionnat. (I walked it: it’s not far.) The problem is: he was probably at boarding school in England (Shrewsbury) at the time. And I don’t know that I would repeatedly send a 7-year-old – especially the sixth child in the family. Since I now knew there were two older sons and a daughter (aged about 14) available, it now looked likely that Mrs Chadwick had either made it up, or had heard a muddled source that she doesn’t expand on: and as she published her book 70 years after the event it is likely the people those in Brussels remembered of the Jenkins children were the two British chaplains in Brussels: Rev. Edward and Rev. John: the first and sixth children.

Even more of a problem with this delightful but probably fictional story is that Rev. Edward died in 1873; Rev. John in 1894. Mrs Chadwick’s book was published in 1914. She would have to have talked to ‘John and Edward’ over 40 years beforehand.  

Church of the Resurrection: the Jenkins church
After catching a miraculous bus (which stopped when I jumped up and down and gesticulated wildly: I was not near a busstop, I had no idea where it was but was desperate to get back to the centre of Brussels somehow in the drizzle) I booked into my room at the hotel and set off at once to look for the Church of the Resurrection at 16 Rue de Stassart, Ixelles. It was consecrated 30 years after the Brontës’ time in Brussels. But Rev. Evan may have wanted a church built just for the Anglican congregation, and it might have been in his mind in the 1840s, especially having probably seen the consecration of his elder brother’s new church in 1824 in Pudsey, Yorkshire (see below).

From perusing my great-aunts’ albums, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that my great-great-uncle Rev. Edward died of exhaustion after trying to get an Anglican church built in Brussels. He finally had it built in 1873, but died, aged only 46, that year. It was consecrated a year later. His youngest brother, my great-grandfather Rev. John, was the first chaplain of the new church, and after 60 years the Anglicans left the Chapel Royal. They now had a church of their own in Brussels.

It was cold and the rain was worsening when I found the church building. In my article for St Bernard’s School I wrote that the church had been bombed and nothing remained. It was my mother’s (confused) memory. She may have been muddling British wartime memories with the fire on 16 March 1927 that totally destroyed it apart from ‘a small bell turret and parts of the walls’ (The Times account in a great-aunt’s album). But it was rebuilt, and in 2013 Roger Cox assured me it was still there! I was astounded. He said it was a shop, then reported back that it was a nightclub. I hovered by the ‘church’ twice on that rainy Friday afternoon. There was no doorbell. But on my second hover suddenly a man came out and I grabbed his attention. ‘My ancestors built this church and I’d love to –’. ‘I know,’ he replied, mysteriously. At first he wouldn’t let me in, then reluctantly let me go inside – though I wasn’t allowed to take photos. It was rather overwhelming: this is the church the Jenkins brothers had worked so hard to build and it seemed wonderfully restored (though the dazzling nightclub features were a bit hard to disentangle from the fabric of the building). I didn’t have time to ask if the memorial window to Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins had survived. I guess I felt ambivalent, but so pleased to have had a glimpse.

138 Rue Chaussée d’Ixelles: a Jenkins home
My next stop was to find Eliza and Evan Jenkins’ 1840s home in Chaussée d’Ixelles. Mrs Gaskell writes in 1857:

Reference has been made in [Charlotte’s] letters to Mrs. Jenkins, the wife of the chaplain of the British Embassy. At the request of his brother – a clergymen, living not many miles from Haworth [Rev. David Jenkins], and an acquaintance of Mr. Brontë’s – she made much inquiry [about schools in Brussels], and at length, after some discouragement in her search, heard of a school which seemed in every respect desirable [the pensionnat of Madame Heger in the Rue d’Isabelle] ... Mr. Brontë took his daughters to the Rue d’Isabelle, Brussels; remained one night at Mr. Jenkins’; and straight returned to his wild Yorkshire home. (Gaskell, 1997: 162, 163)

Thanks to Brian Bracken’s research and photo (see his blog on the Group’s site) I was able to locate the Jenkins home easily, even if we are unsure which house it was or whether the same house survives. No. 138 Rue Chaussée d’Ixelles is the address where Rev. Evan died in 1849 as recorded in the Chapel Royal’s book of the deceased that I was shown, and in Brian’s blog. It is about five minutes’ walk from the Church of the Resurrection, built by his sons, and at the most 15 minutes’ walk from the Chapel Royal and the Heger Pensionnat. It was an easy distance for the Brontës (used to walking on moors) and my ancestors.

Chapel Royal and Charlotte’s ‘unclerical little Welsh pony’
Of all my visits to Brussels that weekend in February 2014, I was most nervous, and most intrigued, about visiting the Chapel Royal – the Église Protestante de Bruxelles – in Rue du Musée. I’d been puzzled about why on its website there was a list of ‘Pasteurs d’hier’ from 1804 to 2011 with no mention of the Jenkins. And there is even a painting of Pasteur Becker with the caption ‘Chapelain de Léopold Ier’ (his dates as chaplain 1844–69). But where was Even Jenkins – who according to my family records was the King’s chaplain from 1835 to his death in 1849? And what about his sons who had also been chaplains there: Rev. Edward and Rev. John? And all their children who had been baptised there? I’d emailed the Chapel Royal and at first received no reply (well, I’m impatient!): then at the last moment before setting off I got an email! Someone would meet me after the church service on Sunday with ‘information about the Jenkins’.

I was apprehensive. Would the Jenkins all turn about to be frauds! Was it alternatively a Belgian conspiracy to ignore the Brits?! One biographer, Winifred Gérin, wrote that my great-great-grandfather Evan ‘because of the King’s attendance at his chapel was able to style himself “Chaplain to H.M. King Leopold”’ (Gérin, 1969: 199; my emphasis). A bit uncharitable that: I had grown up with knowing he was chaplain to the King, not just that the King sometimes went to his services. It also says he was chaplain to the King in the Almanack of the Church of the Resurrection, probably dating to 1894 (see Figure 8). But was this Jenkins’ posturing? This was important to me.

Me outside the Chapel Royal before the Sunday
service - trying not to look apprehensive!
And add to this the disconcerting (to a descendant) comment that Charlotte wrote in a letter to Ellen Nussey on (Sunday) 6 August 1843:

Last Sunday afternoon being at the Chapel Royal in Brussels I was surprised to hear a voice proceed from the pulpit – which instantly brought all Birstal and all Battley before my mind’s eye – I could see nothing but I certainly thought that unclerical little Welsh pony Jenkins was there. (Brontë, 1995, I: 327)

The editor of the letters, Margaret Smith, has a note to this saying that this ‘unclerical little Welsh pony’ was:

The Revd Evan Jenkins, MA, the English episcopal clergyman and ‘Chaplain to H.M. King Leopold’ [note her inverted commas and ‘English’] ... His Welsh voice would recall that of his nephew, the Revd Joseph Walker Jenkins, curate of Batley ... Ellen Nussey would know the Revd Evan Jenkins, who visited his English [sic] relatives ... On 24 July 1843 Abraham Dixon wrote: ‘Mr Jenkins has been very ill of a brain fever & confined several days to his bed, he was taken ill on the day after his return from London about ten days ago, Mrs Jenkins in consequence came up from Ostend. he is now better & they set off this morning from Ostend, from whence they go again to London, or rather to Greenwich for about a fortnight.’ (Letter to Mary Dixon, Leeds City Museum.) These events help to explain CB’s surprise. The Jenkins’s absence must also have intensified her feeling of isolation. (Brontë, 1995, I: 328 n. 5)

Smith’s note is bizarre. I couldn’t believe my great-great-grandfather Rev. Evan was Charlotte’s ‘unclerical little Welsh pony’ (call it family instinct). But, if not, who was the ‘little Welsh pony’ who delivered the sermon from the pulpit on Sunday 30 July 1843? If Dixon’s comment above is accurate, Rev. Evan was ill but recovered enough to leave on 24 July for Greenwich until about 7 August. According to my distant cousin Robyn Crosslé in Australia, working on the transcription of hundreds of nineteenth-century letters of Eliza Jenkins’ sister’s family, Eliza had a brother and sister in Greenwich in 1854, who may well have been there in the 1840s. Yes, it would be a surprise for Charlotte if Rev. Evan was back in the ‘pulpit’ after only six days in England. First let us look at some biographers on this.

Nothing from Mrs Gaskell. Mrs Chadwick, mentioning no sources, comments on the Brontës’ arrival in Brussels:

After having paid their respects to Madame Heger, they had the pleasure of spending a few hours looking round Brussels before the father said ‘Good-bye’ after spending a night at the residence of  Mr. Jenkins, whom Charlotte Brontë afterwards referred to as ‘that little Welsh pony Jenkins.’ (Chadwick, 1914: 224)

She seems to have been nervous about Charlotte’s adjective ‘unclerical’ and thus omits it, and thus misquotes, but still thinks Rev. Evan is a ‘little Welsh pony’ (this is Mrs Chadwick who claims to have talked to his sons ... and is supposed to have talked to his wife, Eliza, dead since 1864).

Winifred Gérin’s biography of Charlotte (published in 1967) doesn’t quote Charlotte’s pony comment, but unfortunately includes Mrs Chadwick as a reliable source who has ‘recollections of the Jenkins’s sons’ about the escorting (1969: 200) and actually claims that my great-great-grandmother Eliza Jenkins (d. 1864) had talked to Mrs Chadwick (book published 1914), saying: ‘What was the use, she [Mrs Jenkins] later asked Mrs. Chadwick [as regards the escorting duties] if no one derived any pleasure, and if what was intended as a kindness was regarded in the light of an imposition?’ (1969: 200, giving as a note for this: ‘Chadwick, E.: In the Footsteps of the Brontës, 1914, ch. 15–20’).

I cannot find this quote in Mrs Chadwick’s book in chapters ‘15–20’ – because it is not there. As an academic editor, no one would escape my red pen with saying, oh, I think she says something like that somewhere in one of those six chapters. No, she doesn’t.

It would be useful to try and pinpoint when exactly Mrs Chadwick visited Brussels. She says she talked to a Mlle de Bassompierre who said she was at school with Emily and Charlotte when she was 16 – thus born about 1826. Chadwick says that ‘over seventy years’ later (1914: 227) Mlle de Bassompierre cherished a drawing Emily had given her in 1842: which makes Chadwick’s interview date to 1912 at the earliest. I can accept that Chadwick visited Brussels in the early twentieth century; but Chadwick did not talk to my great-great-grandmother in the 1860s, nor to two of her sons in the 1870s. And yet modern biographers often cite her as a reliable source.

In Juliet Barker’s biography of the Brontës (1994), she repeats Mrs Chadwick’s ‘escorting’ story (2010: 461) and speculates that the preacher in the pulpit in 1843 was either Rev. Evan’s elder brother David, ‘incumbent of Pudsey’ (then aged 56), or ‘more likely’ Evan’s nephew, and adds ‘it was Jenkins’ who later called round to see Charlotte. She doesn’t say which Jenkins she thinks it was who called round, but implies it was the same man (which I doubt). But at least Evan seems partly exonerated from being ‘little’ or ‘unclerical’ (Barker, 2010: 1069 n. 37). Not only family honour, but common sense, require that I completely exonerate him, as I do below.

Yes, Evan was certainly Welsh. But let’s look at ‘little’. There is definitely a tall Jenkins male gene. The photograph below shows my great-great-uncle Rev. Edward in 1865. Reckoning that is a normal-sized Louis XVI console table I would suggest that the eldest son of Evan was over six foot.

Rev. Evan and Mrs Jenkins' eldest son,
Rev. Charles Edward Jenkins
(1826-73), in 1865
The other point about Charlotte’s ‘surprise’ at the preacher in the pulpit, apart from the dates when Evan was supposedly still in Greenwich, is that a minister goes into the pulpit only to preach the sermon, which comes at about two-thirds of the way through the service – as indeed it did at the Chapel Royal, in the very same pulpit, on 16 February 2014 when I was there. The minister leads the first part of the service on the floor, below the pulpit, visible to everyone (unless you are sitting behind a pillar). The surprise would come when someone else preached the sermon. So we presumably have one minister leading the service, someone else preaching the sermon. Yes, it would be a surprise if Evan, away in England recovering, had come back just to preach the sermon and not to take the service. And slightly odd: surely preaching a sermon is more tiring than taking the service.

Chapel Royal interior from the view of sitting
in a pew, showing the pulpit
But look again at the context in which Charlotte writes. She had known Rev. Evan Jenkins since February 1842 – that’s 18 months. She must have been often to his Sunday service, to his home, knew his wife and family. He was more or less in loco parentis – she refers in a letter to her aunt (29 September 1841) about the ‘respectable protection’ Mrs Jenkins would offer her (Brontë, 1995: 268). To note as Smith does that the ‘unclerical little Welsh pony’ was that man is surely not only questionable, it is uncomfortable.

But to add about ‘unclerical’. The Alumni Cantabrigienses is confused about whether Evan Jenkins ‘adm. sizar’ to Trinity College Cambridge in December 1817 (that is, some form of assistance during his time as a student, such as lower fees) was the one who became British chaplain in Brussels, or another Evan altogether. In the Jenkins family Bible, births, weddings and deaths are listed, starting with 1834. I believe the handwriting is Rev. John’s. And he puts ‘MA’ after his father Evan’s name. Since both Rev. John and his elder brother Rev. Edward went to Cambridge it is possible that their father had been there too. According to the Alumni Cantabrigienses, Evan (whichever Evan it is) went to the grammar school at Ystrad, in what is now known as Ceredigion, in Wales. A Wikipedia article says it was a well-known school for Welsh-language speakers who wanted to enter the ordained ministry. However, in the Clergy of the Church of England database, the only record for an Evan Jenkins in the 1820s that fits has him ordained as a deacon in London in 1825, after being at Trinity College Oxford! But we have firm evidence that he certainly arrived in Brussels in 1825 as Anglican chaplain – or as one of at least two Anglicans chaplains, as I found out at the Chapel Royal.

Part of a page in the Jenkins family Bible, with
details of births, marriages, and deaths
More discoveries at the Chapel Royal: the honorary chaplain to the King
My time at the Chapel Royal on Sunday 17th was illuminating for many reasons. After the service Madame Jacqueline Charade explained about the Jenkins’ non-appearance on their website as chaplains, and she and a colleague gave me photocopies of their information on Evan from various sources.

Basically the Anglican Church had rented the Chapel Royal since 1814, and shared it with the Belgian Protestants – or, before the 1830 revolution, the (south) Netherlands-about-to-become-Belgians of course. Madame Charade told me that there was another Anglican chaplain when Evan arrived in 1825. This chaplain served at the Church of the Augustines (demolished in 1893), where the British ambassador worshipped, but a second Anglican chaplain was needed for the Chapel Royal. This is because of Napoleon and the impending Battle of Waterloo: huge numbers of allied troops and their families had arrived in Brussels in 1814 and thereafter the British wanted to maintain at least two Anglican chaplains. So at about the age of 30 (see more on Evan’s dates below) Evan arrived in Brussels, though not it seems as the ambassador’s chaplain.

This explains the listing of Anglican chaplains in the Church of the Resurrection Almanack of about 1894, where Evan is ‘Chaplain to H.M. King Leopold I’ (from 1835 onwards, not 1825 of course) but not described as chaplain to the ambassador. Though it doesn’t quite explain why the Wyndham family tree (sent to me some years ago from Australia) says Eliza Jenkins’ younger sister Margaret Jay was married to the Wiltshire-born George Wyndham in April 1827 at the ‘Ambassadors Chap, Brussels’, which seems to imply Evan Jenkins’ Chapel Royal. Maybe the ambassador had two chaplains in two different churches in Brussels. Or more!

From the 'Almanack of the Church of the Resurrection'
c. 1894, with photos of Rev. Edward and Rev. John
(my great-grandfather)
Madame Charade and the documents from the Chapel Royal told me also that when the vehemently Lutheran Leopold was elected king in 1831 he insisted on several Protestant chaplains, and was particularly attracted by the Anglican Church: he had been to Britain often (and in 1819 was even escorted on a tour by Sir Walter Scott: Braekman, 1981: 3) and especially approved of the role given to the sovereign by the Anglicans. He is one of those ‘what-ifs’ in British history – if his first wife, Charlotte Princess of Wales, and child hadn’t died, he would have become the Prince Consort. Instead his nephew Albert did.

In a photocopy of an article I was given at the Chapel Royal it says:

Le premier pasteur anglican de Belgique à qui le Roi Léopold octroya le titre de chapelain fut Evan Jenkins (89). Etabli à Bruxelles avant l’indépendance, il ne reçut sa licence de pasteur que le 16 mars 1835 (90). (Boudin, 1981: 252)

Notes 89 and 90 are not entirely accurate, however, saying  there were ‘six Anglican pastors of the name of Jenkins’ (my translation), misspelling Rev. John Card as John Carol, and making my grandfather John Card (the younger) a pastor (he instead opted for New York to found St Bernard’s School). Interestingly the sixth pastor listed is Evan’s nephew, here ‘Joseph Walter’ rather than Joseph Walker. Margaret Smith (e.g. Brontë, 1995, 276 n. 2) names him as Joseph Walker Jenkins. Note 90 says that the licence needed by Evan Jenkins was authorisation by the Anglican Church to exercise a pastoral function (granted by the Bishop of London).

The paragraph that follows the above is:

Le 18 juin la même année [1835] ‘voulant donner un témoignage de Son estime et de Sa satisfaction’ ..., le Roi signa un arrêté royal à usage interne de sa Maison nommant E. Jenkins chapelain honoraire. Cette nomination intervint quelques mois après la discussion de l’attribution d’un subside au culte anglican en Belgique. (Boudin, 1981: 252)

So, ‘styled himself’? No. Evan Jenkins was appointed honorary chaplain by the King, by royal decree (Boudin, 1981: 258), and it seems King Leopold often took Evan with him to England (Braekman, 1981: 7). Leopold was Queen Victoria’s uncle and he ‘arranged’ the marriage between his nephew Albert and Victoria in 1840.

Rev. Evan Jenkins: Freemason
And then I read more of the photocopied article, which stunned me: it states (Boudin, 1981: 258; citing Clement, 1949: 114 note) that the King initiated Evan as a Freemason on 15 March 1838, into the Lodge ‘Les Amis Philanthropes’. According to Wikipedia, this Lodge was created in 1798 and was one of the two oldest in Brussels. Evan Jenkins was now mixing with some of the most important people in Brussels: writers, artists, lawyers, politicians, generals, noblemen. And he had been initiated by the King himself.

King Leopold I surely therefore had great respect for a man he initiated as a Freemason, who had been an Anglican chaplain in Brussels for ten years, bilingual in Welsh and English, who had a Scottish wife who possibly also spoke Dutch – Eliza was born in Rotterdam, the daughter of a Scottish minister, granddaughter of a Provost of Aberdeen (Alexander Livingston), though they went back to Scotland for some years when she was a baby (information from Wyndham family tree of the Jays).

King Leopold I was an intense Protestant, proud of his faith. Braekman (1981: 7) says ‘Le roi Léopold Ier ...  appréciait vivement ses chapelains’ and quotes from a letter of his to a nephew:

Le christianisme bien compris exige que, à toute heure et à toute minute de la vie, on agisse sur la destinée des autres, sans ostentation, avec bonté et humilité envers Dieu et les hommes.
(qtd in Braekman 1981: 8)

I think this also applied to my ancestor Evan Jenkins and his clergymen sons.

Regarding Evan’s eldest son, Rev. Edward (d. 1873), after Eric’s fascinating talk on the Isabelle Quarter at the Group’s meeting on the Saturday, I was introduced and asked if there was anything of my family I might recognise in Villette. I answered that maybe the teenage ‘Celtic’ John Graham Bretton in the earlier part of the novel might be modelled on my great-great-uncle Edward, who was totally Celt: half-Scottish, half-Welsh, and the same age as the young Bretton, that is, about 16, at the time he met the Brontës. And there was likely an adoring younger sister around!

It is therefore probable that the ‘unclerical little Welsh pony’ was Evan’s nephew, Joseph Walker Jenkins, who was a curate in Batley and known to Charlotte and her friend Ellen to whom she wrote the letter. According to the 1851 census, he was born in 1817 and thus was 26 in 1843, and recently ordained (Brontë, 1995: 283 n. 9). Maybe the tall male Jenkins gene escaped his side of the family! His father, Rev. David Jenkins, Evan’s brother and an acquaintance of Patrick Brontë, built the church in Pudsey, Yorkshire (in between Haworth and Leeds) which still stands – as a church and not as a nightclub! David arrived in Pudsey in 1814 and applied for a grant to build a church, which was consecrated in 1824, according to the Pudsey church website. Perhaps Evan and his fiancée Eliza were at the consecration. I am looking forward to visiting St Lawrence in April. And to add my thanks to Brontë researchers: until late last year I had not heard of either of my relations David or Joseph.

Most sources have Evan Jenkins born about 1797, but Brian Bracken told me he had seen Evan’s death certificate which gives his age at death, and at the Chapel Royal I was given a photocopied list from their records of Protestants who died in 1849, which included Evan, aged 55. He was therefore likely born instead about 1794, and was in his late forties when the Brontë sisters arrived.

One final word on the Chapel Royal: the organ has a glorious mellow sound. It was ‘built in 1839 by the organ builder Bernard Dreymann of Mainz, Germany’ and placed in the Chapel Royal in 1841. ‘This was the first organ Dreymann built outside Germany and he wanted to innovate ... the organ of the Royal Chapel was well ahead of its time. It can therefore be considered as the first “romantic” instrument in Belgium’ (Royal Chapel leaflet, n.d.). In the 1980 exhibition catalogue, Le protestantisme à Bruxelles, which Madame Charade told me about and I subsequently bought, it says the exhibition displayed a letter from Evan, dated 21 November 1840, which states that the Anglican community had contributed 500 francs to the organ (Braekman, 1980: 113). It was that organ that the Brontë sisters heard. I hope the pianist Emily enjoyed the romantic sound.

61 Rue des Champs Elysées: a Jenkins home and school
My final discovery on my weekend in Brussels was the Jenkins home and English school at 61 Rue des Champs Elysées. Rev. John’s eldest daughter Helen Meliora was born here in 1866. Two years before this, his mother Eliza Jenkins died, and no. 61 was possibly the house where Rev. John and his bride Mary Elizabeth (née Tompson) created a new home and where they moved the Jenkins school.

Mary Elizabeth was the eldest of five daughters and one son. I don’t know if she was able to bring money into the Jenkins family, though she had good connections: her mother Mary Anne Tompson, née Chevallier, was a cousin of Lord Kitchener. And according to a family tree another distant cousin sent me many years ago, she was thus descended from not only Edward I of England but also Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy (d. 932)! But the Jenkins school certainly prospered under the headships of Evan and his two sons (and, no doubt, the huge help of their wives).

The current 61 Rue des Champs Elysées - possibly the same
house as in the 1860s: the Jenkins home and school at that time

The Jenkins school in Brussels ... and New York
When Evan, Eliza and her sister Margaret arrived in 1825 they started a school. I don’t know where it was or where they lived then. I wonder if they started, just as my grandfather John Card did in New York in 1904, with three pupils (Saint Bernard’s School, 2004: 10). But by the mid-1860s some of the Jenkins were settled at 61 Rue des Champs Elysées. It is minutes away from the 1840s home in Chaussée d’Ixelles. It is a substantial building with a garden and looks similar (if not exactly the same) as the photo in Great-Aunt Helen Meliora’s album under which she writes ‘I was born here’. Later the family moved themselves and the school to 27/29 Rue St Bernard, St Gilles – which I also found. They were certainly there in 1886. It is even more substantial.

When my grandfather John Card founded his school in New York he called it St Bernard’s after the Jenkins school in Brussels. I know my other great-grandfather, Ernest Rust Hodson, took over the Jenkins school c. 1890 – his eldest daughter Constance (Connie) married grandfather John Card in 1913 – but I don’t know what happened to the Brussels St Bernard’s after the mid-1890s. However, the school Evan and Eliza started in Brussels in 1825 has a proud and worthy descendant at 4 East 98th Street, New York.

New York, 2011: me and a painting of my grandfather
John Card Jenkins, headmaster of St Bernard's School,
New York, 1904-49. He was the grandson of
Rev. Evan and Eliza Jenkins
After my great-grandfather Rev. John died in 1894, aged only 59 (my age), the Jenkins family moved to London. And this included his elder sister Helen Eliza. Aged about 14 when the Brontë sisters arrived, she would surely have met them often. She didn’t die until 1911, in west London (coincidentally only 10 minutes’ walk from where I live), and according to the 1901 census she was living next door to her sister-in-law, the widow of Rev. Edward. Surely, I wonder, Helen Eliza might have mentioned the Brontë sisters and started up a Jenkins anecdote to pass on down the generations? Alas, none reached my mother Dorice (who seemed to know all the stories ...). It is such a pity that Mrs Chadwick didn’t do more research nearer her home, also in west London (the address she gives in her Preface). But belatedly, thanks to cousin Suzie’s random Google search, her daughter Helen’s trip to Brussels in 2013 and the Brussels Brontë Group, I have confirmed ‘Brussels, Brontë, Jenkins’ is a fascinating connection, and I have hopefully added to the context of the Brontë sisters in Brussels, and corrected some of the ‘stories’ that perhaps future biographers will not repeat without a bit of scrutiny!

What next for my research? Evan’s wife Eliza Jay had merchant and clergymen ancestors, in Scotland and the Netherlands; Evan’s sixth son John’s wife had a rather astonishing pedigree; but Evan Jenkins himself – the British chaplain whose services Charlotte and Emily attended, who kept a pastoral eye on them in Brussels – where did he come from? A bright Welsh boy who became chaplain to a king. My research has only just begun (and the emails are already flowing ...!).

Last but not least: Brian Bracken told me that the Jenkins were very sporty (I knew they played tennis and cricket, and Rev. John won two rowing trophies in the 1850s while at Cambridge – in the possession of my family) and he said that they were responsible for introducing football to Belgium. I really can’t add to that as regards a Jenkins legacy on the continent! But perhaps I can say that, as someone told me in Brussels, without the presence in 1840s Brussels of the Jenkins family and the Heger Pensionnat, there would be no Villette, and maybe no Jane Eyre.

Note: Sources not listed in this Bibliography are family records that are unpublished and in the process of being catalogued.

Barker, Juliet (2010) The Brontës (London: Abacus).
Boudin, H.R. (1981) ‘Le Roi Léopold 1er et less communautés protestantes en Belgique’, Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire du Protestantisme Belge, ser. 8, no. 9.
Braekman, E.M. (1980) Le protestantisme à Bruxelles: Des origines à la mort de Léopold I (Brussels: Bibliothèque Royale Albert I).
Braekman, E.M. (1981) ‘Les sentiments religieux de Léopold Ier’, Le Lien 280 (September): 3–7.
Brontë, Charlotte (1995) The Letters of Charlotte Brontë, vol. 1: 1829–1847, ed. Margaret Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Chadwick, Mrs Ellis H. (1914) In the Footsteps of the Brontës (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons).
Clement, F. (1949) Histoire de la Franc-Maçonnerie belge au XIXe siècle (Brussels).
Clergy of the Church of England Database, http://theclergydatabase.org.uk/.
Cox, Roger (2004) Anglicans in Brussels: A History of Anglican Worship in Brussels, rev. edn (Brussels: Holy Trinity Brussels).
Gaskell, Elizabeth (1997) The Life of Charlotte Brontë (London: Penguin).
Gérin, Winifred (1969) Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius (Oxford University Press).
MacEwan, Helen (2012) Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels  (Hythe, Kent: Brussels Brontë Editions).
Royal Chapel leaflet (n.d.) Protestant Church of Brussels-Museum Royal Chapel www.eglisedumusee.be.
Royal Chapel (1849) Registre des funérailles.
St Bernard’s School (2004) Saint Bernard’s School: The First Century: 1904–2004 (New York).
St Bernard’s School New York, www.stbernards.org/about-us/history.
St Lawrence Church, Pudsey website, www.pudseyparish.org.uk/about-our-church/history.php.
Uglow, Jenny (2004) ‘Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn (1810–1865)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10434, accessed 28 Feb 2014
Wikipedia: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Amis_philanthropes

© 2014 Monica Eve Kendall
All rights reserved. All photographs © Monica Eve Kendall

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