Jane Hedley

Jane Elizabeth Hedley (1796–1877)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 299–300.

Jane was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ninth and youngest child, and fifth daughter, of John and Arabella Graham-Clarke. She was baptized on 7 June 1796. She grew to adulthood in the family home and married Robert Hedley (ca. 1794–1862) on 18 October 1821. The latter is almost always mentioned in family correspondence as “Uncle Hedley.” A letter (139) from Mary Moulton-Barrett to EBB dated 28 November 1821 tells of their honeymoon on the Continent. They were living at Torquay when EBB went there for health reasons in 1838, and she stayed with them for a while. Uncle Hedley was one of her favourite people. Jane and Robert Hedley had three sons and five daughters. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, was apparently a very beautiful child and is frequently mentioned as “Ibbit” in EBB’s letters. Family correspondence indicates that the Hedleys moved from Torquay to Southampton in the summer of 1839. Later they took up residence in France. They came from France to London in the summer of 1846 for the elaborate wedding of their daughter Arabella to J.J. Bevan. This was just before EBB’s marriage to RB, and the Hedleys’ presence as visitors at 50 Wimpole Street created a problem for EBB. All indications are that Jane was not a tactful person; she sensed what was going on, and did not hesitate to make pointed remarks. Jane was somewhat critical when the marriage finally took place, but Uncle Hedley sided with EBB. Robert Hedley was a man of considerable wealth. He had £20,000 invested in a French railway and was understandably alarmed by the revolution which occurred in France in 1848. The Hedleys left their residence in Tours and went to live for a time at Tunbridge Wells, England. By 1851 they were back in Paris, where the Brownings visited them. A Hedley son—Robert, generally called Robin—visited Casa Guidi with his bride in the early 1850’s. In the summer of 1856, Jane Hedley and EBB’s friend Julia Martin made a final effort to persuade Edward Moulton-Barrett to “forgive” the three children—EBB, Henrietta, and Alfred—who had married without his approval. (He replied to Mrs. Martin that he “had forgiven” them, but he never communicated with them.) The Hedleys went back to England before the husband’s death, which occurred at West Monkton, Somersetshire. He was buried there on 15 April 1862. Jane died in London on 1 May 1877 and also was buried at West Monkton.


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