The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Find the Lady!

Isabel Dickinson and Teresa (Whitby) West

Information provided by a correspondent

Isabel Mary Lucy Dickinson was born c. 1823. She was an actress in the 1840s and ‘50s with the Lyceum and performed in the USA as well.

Isabel is loosely connected to the Wests. She was befriended and mentored by Teresa West of Ruthin Castle. She died at Madeira in January 1856 (Mrs West was with her when she died and paid for funeral and burial expenses, interring her in a vault next to that of the Norfolk family. In Isabel Dickinson’s will she leaves four hundred pounds to Mrs West of Ruthin Castle whom she describes as her ‘noble-hearted and kind benefactress.’)

A reasonable guess would be that Isabel met Mrs West while performing as leading lady at the Chester Theatre Royal at the time of the Chester Races in May 1847. Tim Coates in his book on Patsy mentions Chester races as being part of the ‘season’ for London’s high society. Chester is not so far from Ruthin Castle and it seems Mrs West was still there at this time.

Just as there was a well-connected social set among the ruling classes, so too there seems to have been a literary set which also overlapped with the former. One of the people who appears to have been in touch with many in the literary scene was the latinist and poet Walter Savage Landor.

Landor seems to have been a generous and kindly person, often given to helping others. One such was Isabel Dickinson. He was definitely a friend of Teresa West (he says as much in the very last letter he wrote from Florence to Rose Graves-Sawle on 19 January 1863.. He describes Mrs West as ‘my friend’.

In September 1849 Landor writes to Charles Dickens, who was holidaying at the time at Bonchurch at the Isle of Wight. Landor asked Dickens to use his influence to assist Isabel Dickinson. Dickens promised to help when he returned to London in the Autumn. Whether Dickens was able to help or not is a moot point; she was to sign with Madame Vestris at the Lyceum before Christmas of 1849.

Teresa West seems to have been a gifted artist as well as a musician/composer; someone perhaps who was interested in the arts in general.

In passing, the editor of Letters of Walter Savage Landor Private and Public, London 1899, mentions that in rummaging through Landor’s desk he found some lines – probably the last poetry Landor wrote – addressed to ‘the Lady of Ruthin Castle.’

Teresa’s son was in Florence as Landor was ending his days.

Colin Bower
30 April 2012

The Wests

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