Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pandora's Early Years

It's time we got back to Pandora Boxworth, don't you think?  We left her about to disembark from her ship to meet her fiancé, James.  We know something must have happened, but we are not quite sure yet...  We scoured her journal for clues...  and while we have yet to find out what happened to James, we have discovered quite a lot about Pandora's early life, and perhaps we should put that in here...  This will help us to see why she chose to come to America in the first place...

Pandora was born in London, England, on September 9th, 1746, to Mr. Beeston Boxworth and his wife, Jane.  Beeston's family had been the gardeners to the wealthy for many years, and the enterprise made him wealthy, too, by a stroke of good luck.  He developed a new rose, the Lady Jane, which was particularly beautiful.  While he developed it for the owner of the land he was working, and therefore, the invention belonged to that man, the squire was generous in his praise (and rewards) for the gardener.  Of course, that was some years before, and now, Beeston and his wife lived a very different life - one in which they turned their backs on their humble beginnings.  

They lived in a fine town home in Bow Lane, shortly before it became the headquarters for the famous Bow Street Runners - the precursors to the London police force.  This was a lively area of town where aristocrats rubbed shoulders with actors, musicians and other reprobates!  Beeston thought it a fine area, befitting his new station in life.  Mrs. Boxworth thought it noisy, smelly, and not very safe.  The Boxworths put on airs about their fine home (it was rented), and did not realize that by naming it Boxwood Downs, they were marking themselves as rustic gardeners in the eyes of the sophisticated town set!

Into this world, Pandora was born.  The couple did not know mythology, but thought Pandora a very grand-sounding name for their daughter.  Little did they know that combining it with their surname, Boxworth, would bring startling images to any educated person who met her.  Pandora somehow managed to grow up with the tenacity and shrewd business acumen that her father possessed, an artistic, independent streak inherited from her grandmother, Tildy Boxworth, tempered with the soft and pleasing demeanor her mother demonstrated.  Quickly understanding the full import of her namesake, the quick-witted girl asked everyone to "please call me Dora" as soon as she was introduced.  While her parents wondered why she should eschew such a lovely-sounding name, they nevertheless indulged her whimsy, and Dora she became!

Beeson's mother, Tildy, was a wonderful woman in Dora's eyes - fiercely independent and comfortable with who she was, she settled in Cornwall as the young bride of a seaman, and stayed long after he was lost at sea.   She lived in Windswept Cottage in Praa Sands.  A quaint village by the sea, it's where Dora and her family spent the summers from the time she was three until the previous year.
This is a painting of Windswept Cottage by Tildy. ***

Dora's 'Grandmama Tildy' was a constant embarrassment to her son and his wife.  A free spirit who would have made a living as an artist had she been born in a different time, she plied her watercolors and pastels with abandon and her art had a freedom about it that spoke to Dora's soul!   The year before her death, she captured Dora in watercolors.  We found this lovely portrait along with the view of the cottage and another painting of the village carefully wrapped in tissue in a wardrobe that was part of the same estate sale we got her writing box from.  I think you can see Dora's independence and spirit written on her face!  Tildy changed her usual style to make a particularly fine portrait.***

Truly a woman before her time, Tildy was one of the first people in England to go up in a hot air balloon*, and she captured the way the village looked from the air!   And if it wasn't exactly like that, who would know?

Praa Sands Village and Beach***

When Beeston and his family first visited, the local people welcomed them warmly, as Tildy was a beloved local character.  They soon learned, however, that Beeston was very different from his mother!  If he ever gave a thought to how she earned a living, I'm sure he assumed she'd been left some money by her husband or his family.  After all, she wanted for nothing!  I expect he'd have been mortified to find out that rumor had it that she'd been a very successful smuggler in her youth and had been able to "retire" in comfort some years ago!  

We looked up smuggling in that part of the world, and found that along with many other Cornish seaside places, Praa Sands has a long association with smuggling. Up until the late 1700s it is reported that smugglers openly landed their cargoes on the beach. After the end of the war with France, in and around 1815, smuggling runs became more secretive as coastguards were more vigilant as there was now a reward of prize-money for capturing smuggled cargoes. Goods were landed at Praa Sands where at the west end of the beach is a tunnel that apparently led to a house at Pengersick reported to be the birthplace of the smuggler John Carter, who was also known as the King of Prussia.

Stories like that were why Dora loved the place so - in fact, she reveled in the idea that there was a haunted castle nearby!  Pengersick Castle is still thought of as one of the most haunted spots in England!  Some 30 ghosts are said to roam the castle and grounds, including several ladies and a devil dog!  Dora tried for some years to convince people she'd seen a "black cat" with the fiercest eyes and other-worldly caterwaul, swimming in the moat, but people just assumed, correctly, that she had a wonderful imagination!**

Praa Sands' history is colorful and varied - it was a favorite spot of John Wesley, who, along with his brother Charles, founded the Methodist Church.  They also wrote many religious verses, which became hymns, and have long been stitched on samplers.  John Wesley was a charitable man who later in life, worked to improve the lot of orphans. In all probability, he knew Dora well, as they were often in Praa Sands at the same time.

 In 1745, Tildy passed away, leaving Windswept Cottage and a monetary stipend to her granddaughter.  Knowing how she loved the place, Tildy was sure that Dora would make good use of the much-loved home.  But Dora's father felt the rebuke at being passed over very keenly, and he took possession of the cottage before Dora could voice an objection!  Luckily, the money was in her name, and her father didn't give it a second thought.  Beeston intended to continue to summer in Praa Sands, but the first order of business would be to change the name of his new home, from Windswept Cottage to the more grand-sounding Linhay Browse.  He and Jane had heard people use the word "Linhay" in the local dialect, and Browse certainly sounded right to them.  In fact, they had dubbed the home "Lean-to in the underbrush", and the name brought a smile to the face of every local when they heard it.  Dora, of course, never thought of the lovely spot as anything but Windswept Cottage!

Dora had been seeing James for some time - he was a handsome young man from a good, though poor, family.  He had to make his own way in the world, as there wasn't anything to inherit.  He decided to make his fortune by going to sea.  Dora knew that Tildy would understand her following her heart, especially to marry a seaman!  Dora's parents wouldn't hear of it, of course, so she and James had a secret engagement.  When Dora told her parents of their plans, they forbade her to see him again.  Dora gathered her belongings together, along with the money that Grandmama had left her, and stole away in the quiet hours one morning to board the ship that would take her to America and her one true love!  She was 17.

Obviously, Pandora kept the memories of her early times in Cornwall very close to her heart!

Oh know ye the county of pastie and cream -
with hay in the meadow and tin in the stream,
In the beautiful county of Cornwall
The land of pasties and cream,
The land of the miners and fisherman bold
The land of the smugglers in stories of old...

Well, imagine the courage it would take to do such a thing!  The colonies were very wild (or so most Londoners imagined), and Dora just "up and left" everything and everyone she knew for adventures unknown and unknowable!  Don't you wish you could stow away in her trunk and follow her?  Now you can - our next installment will tell about the voyage!  

*Dora, Beeston, Jane and Tildy are all fictional characters and while it would be wonderful to contemplate, Tildy couldn't possibly have gone up in a hot air balloon to make her painting of the village since the hot air balloon was not invented until the end of the 1700's!

** The first sighting of a ghost at Pengersick Castle wasn't until 1835, but we think Dora would have been very precocious!

*** These paintings are nothing like what would have been painted in the early 1700's - but we love them anyway!


We love to get discussions going - please let us know what you're thinking!

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails