Mary Trepsack

Mary Trepsack (1769–1857)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 301–302.

She was the daughter of an impoverished Jamaican planter, William Trepsack, and a female slave. Orphaned early in life, she became the ward of Samuel Barrett, a younger brother of Edward Barrett of Cinnamon Hill. When Samuel died in 1782, Mary came to the Cinnamon Hill estate. From then on, she was the constant friend and companion of Elizabeth Moulton, EBB’s paternal grandmother. She is generally referred to in family correspondence as “Treppy” or “Trippy.” She evidently had some private funds and underwrote the publication expenses for EBB’s An Essay on Mind with Other Poems, 1826. EBB wrote endearingly of her to RB in a letter dated 2 June 1846: “She has nursed .. tossed up .. held on her knee—Papa when he was an infant; the dearest friend of his mother & her equal, I believe, in age—so you may suppose that she is old now. Yet she can outwalk my sisters.” Treppy lived with Elizabeth Moulton until the latter’s death in 1830. Mrs. Moulton left her £2,000 plus numerous personal effects. From then on, Treppy lived at various London addresses in the St. Marylebone Parish, and was a regular visitor at the Wimpole Street home of the Moulton-Barretts. Indications are that she was well aware of the situation between EBB and RB. After the marriage and flight to Italy, EBB sent letters to her sisters in care of Treppy, rather than sending them directly to Wimpole Street where they might have been intercepted by the father. The Moulton-Barretts carried out Elizabeth Moulton’s final wish that Treppy be well cared for. In later life she grew deaf and became paranoid and thought the Wimpole Street people were trying to poison her. Eventually, most of her money was lost through unwise speculations by John Gordon (brother-in-law of EBB’s uncle Sam) and she became largely dependent on EBB’s father. Her place of residence at the time of her death on 9 March 1857 was in Great Quebec Street (now Upper Montagu Street), London. Her legacies included a parrot for EBB’s son Pen, which was kept for him by Arabella. Furniture and linen were given to Henrietta and Surtees. The silver, which had belonged to Elizabeth Moulton, went to EBB (for a list see Reconstruction, pp. 615–616, items 1–23). Mary Trepsack was buried 11 March 1857 at Kensal Green Cemetery.


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