steepholm (steepholm) wrote,


In the spirit of completeness, I want to join the dots between my last family entry, which was on the Gibernes, and the Butlers of whom I have written at such tedious length in the past.

We left Jean René Giberne making his will in London in 1706. In 1771, his granddaughter Anne Giberne (1738-1803) married Weeden Butler Snr, whom we first met almost two years ago. Between the two stands Jean René’s younger son Isaac Louis (1701-42), my 5*great grandfather. Isaac Louis didn’t end up a predendary like his big brother Daniel, but does seem to have had a very eventful gap year, at least if we're to believe the author of The Harrow Life of Henry Montagu Butler (1920):

Giberne, when walking alone in the Black Forest, lost his way. Overtaken by a storm, he took shelter in a lonely inn kept by a most unprepossessing landlord. On retiring to rest, he took the precaution to barricade his bedroom door with a large chest. Some hours later stealthy steps were heard on the stairs, and his door was tried in vain. Giberne then lay down fully dressed upon his bed, determining to keep awake ; but weariness overcame him, and he slept. Soon, however, he was aroused by the violent barking of his faithful companion, the dog, and found that his bed was sinking through the floor. He sprang up just in time and escaped through the window, carrying under one arm the preserver of his life. Whether Sir Walter Scott had heard of this story before he wrote Anne of Geierstein I cannot say.

This seems dramatic enough, but fate had not yet finished with Isaac Louis and his dog...

The story is recorded that a man threw his dog into a bonfire, and that Isaac Louis, in a fit of anger at this outrage, stabbed the offender and had to fly his country. The fact that the little dog had previously saved his (or her) master's life will secure for the refugee the sympathy of most lovers of dogs.

Sympathy up to a point! Admittedly it doesn’t say that the man he stabbed died of his wounds, but that’s fairly strongly implied by Isaac Louis’s having to flee the country. If he hadn’t been a gentleman, and his victim foreign, one might be tempted to call him a murderer.

On the other hand, I don’t know how much of all this to believe – and at this distance it’s hard to verify: then as now, what happens in the Schwarzwald, stays in the Schwarzwald. Murdering and being murdered is a young man’s game, though, and I like to think that if it happened at all it was on Isaac Louis's European Tour. At twenty-four he followed his father’s example in making a love match, marrying his landlady’s daughter Catherine Dewberry, and proceeding to have twelve children (of whom Anne was one) before dying at forty-one – which wouldn’t have left much further time for sanguinary escapades.

And so the Giberne-Butler dots are joined, but I want to make a brief detour before I finish, by way of Anne’s great nephew George Giberne (1797-1876). I feel an affinity with George Giberne greater than our second cousin four times removedness might suggest, because he (like my great grandfather, and like me in a small way) spent quite a bit of time puzzling away at family genealogy. Indeed, it’s thanks to him (by indirect crook’d ways) that I have most of the Giberne information that I do have. I’ve seen a transcript of his researches, and it’s fascinating to watch him poring over ancient papers (now lost), trying to figure out whether something is a ‘y’ or an ‘r’, and becoming frustrated at the ancient Gibernes, who would change their lengthy names as often as their hats, as they picked up or dropped a demesne or two.

George is also an interesting person in his own right. In his professional life he was a Judge in the Bombay Presidency under the East India Company. I’ve no idea whether he was any good at that (although, in 1834, as Collector of Thane, he ordered the digging of a pond which became known as Jari Jivan Saheb’s pond, which is kind of cool linguistically at least), but after retirement he took up painting and became an early photographer. He was talented in both capacities, and it’s thanks to him that we have early pictures of his nephew, Gerard Manley Hopkins, on whom he seems to have had a fair degree of influence. This is quite a well known one:


But I like this one even better:


I'd like to say more about the Gibernes - about George's daughter Isabel and the Hanseatic connection, or his sister Marina Rosina, who became obsessed with Cardinal Newman (having turned down marriage with his brother), took to whipping herself for penance, and ended up a nun. But I fear I'm straying too far from the direct family line for it to count, so I shall end here and go and mark a couple more essays.
Tags: family history
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment