Sunday 7 October 2012

Emily Pfeiffer and Gerard de Tyldesley

Emily Jane Pfeiffer 1827-1890 was one of three Victorian wriers who drew inspiration from the history of the Tyldesley family—the others being Bramwell Brontë (Morley Hall) and William Harrison Ainsworth (Beatrice Tyldesley).  The difference in the case of Pfeiffer was that she claimed descent from the Tyldesleys, her mother being Emily Tilsley of Milford Hall in Montgomershire.

Pfeiffer's work Gerard's Monument involves a fictional character, Gerard de Tyldesley.  As Pfeiffer explains in a preface written in 1873, not only is the character fictional, she also  moves the family to Sussex:
The author of Gerard's Monument has assumed the right—which, unhappily, none now living have more claim to than herself—to transplant a branch of the ancient family of Tyldesley of Tyldesley, in Lancashire, to that part of the low wild coast of Sussex which has been encroached upon by the sea.
It has been thought desirable to mention this, as the story has a local setting, and persons with antiquarian tendencies might incur disappointment in seeking for records of the name amongst those belonging to the district. For the rest, the author has endeavoured to render with fidelity both the aspects of the lonely coast between Bognor and Selsea, and the traditional characteristics of a family, represented in more recent times by the gallant cavalier, Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Governor of Lichfield, who having raised regiments of "horse, foot, and dragoons," at his own expense, in support of the losing cause of Charles the First, yielded up his life in 1650, at the battle of Wigan [FN1].
There seems little doubt that the brief details of Sir Thomas Tyldesley in the preface were taken from the Tyldesley Monument, and a possible explanation as to why the year of the Battle of Wigan Lane has been wrongly given as 1650 rather than 1651 will be offered in a later posting.

Gerard's Monument can be read online and the original publication Gerard's Monument and Other Poems is available for download as a .pdf (2.5MB).

1. Gerard's Monument and Other Poems, Emily Pfeiffer, 1873.