A Catholic Convert

A Catholic Convert

John Francis in militia uniform

JOHN FRANCIS DUKE YONGE was born on the 30th January 1814. He was the third child and second son of the Rev Duke Yonge of Antony, Cornwall and his wife Cordelia Anne Colborne, sister of Sir John Colborne.

Presumably in his late teens he would have commenced his studies in medicine – it is recorded that he studied with “Williams the surgeon” but there is no indication where that might have been but almost certainly it would have been away from home. We know he studied medicine at the medical school in Edinburgh which at that time was probably the leading centre in Britain.

By the late 1830s John Francis was in Edinburgh completing his M. D., finally graduating on the 1 August 1839., and it is here that he and his future wife were most likely drawn together.

He married in Brussels Elizabeth Birt Alice Reed, nee Holmes, (during her marriage to John Francis, if not previously, there is evidence she was simply known as Alice) on the 12 August 1839. This is recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine of October 1839. The service was conducted according the rites of the Church of England, at the home of the British Charge D'Affaires in Brussels by John Francis's brother Duke John Yonge. The marriage certificate says that the couple were both resident in Brussels. They could only just have arrived as John Francis had only graduated less than two weeks before.

She was born 13 January 1800 and christened 5 August that year at Antony, Cornwall. Presumably this service was conducted by her father in law to be, Duke Yonge. She was the second of 2 children of Richard Holmes and Elizabeth Nash.

She was still almost 2 months short of her 16th birthday when she married Cavalié Shorthose Mercer (1789 - 1819) on 18 November 1815 at Antony – again probably by her future father-in-law, Rev. Duke Yonge. Cavalié graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, as a 2nd Lieut. in mid 1804, and was promoted to 1st Lieut. in March the following year. In late December 1805 he was posted  to Gibraltar, where he spent an uneventful two years. He was then involved in two battles of this early stage of the Peninsular War, in late 1808.  He left the Peninsular the following January, so was probably involved in Sir John Moore's retreat to Corunna and the evacuation from there. Sometime in 1818, by then probably a 1st Captain, he was posted to Bermuda as Engineer in command of the company of Miners and Sappers.  It was in Bermuda that he died, along with half his company, of yellow fever.

Her second husband John Reed was with the 62nd Foot and in 1814 in the latter stages of the Peninsular War, one battalion was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, while the other spent time at home, then assisted with the occupation of Paris before being disbanded. The battalion in Halifax remained there for some time before returning to Ireland in about 1823. Heand Elizabeth married at Merton, Surrey, on 19th October 1822. The regiment remained in Ireland until 1830. In June that year, the 62nd, under the command of the now Lt. Colonel John Reed, embarked for India. He was created a Knight of Hanover in 1832 In March 1834, the now Sir John Reed was sent home on what was supposed to be two years sick leave but he never served again, dying Rothesay on the Isle of Bute in Scotland from the effects of fever in Sept 1835. Elizabeth was in India for a least part of the time as there is record of a child being born at Bangalore. Together they had 5 children.


The inscription on the monument reads (as far as the resolution of the photograph allows it to be deciphered):










How did Alice and John Francis get together? The comments here are speculative but probably accurate.

When Alice married Cavalié Mercer, John Francis was not yet 2 years old, however, especially if she had any significant involvement with the church at Antony, she must have known who he was. If she managed to return home from time to time, for instance during the time she was in Ireland, then there is again a good chance that she would have come across him so reminding herself of his existence.

Pertinent to this is that Alice's first grandchild was named Theodosia Yonge Müller. On the balance of probability Theodosia Yonge Muller was born between June and October 1838. This is a whole year before Alice and John Francis married. Theodosia's father John Martin Muller was organist At St Pauls Episcoplian Church Edinburgh. John Martin's business partner, David Hamilton, was organist at St John's, and had built the organ there. Also, he and John Martin edited together Harmonia Sancta, a collection of Chants, Psalms, etc. adapted for use in the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

The Muller family had originally come from Germany in the late 18th century to live in Edinburgh. They were a very musical. John Francis was musical (as was Alice- see below) and it was probably this shared interest in music and possible links though the Episcopalean Church in Edinburgh (a fairly small and close knit community) which brought the Muller, Yonge and Reed families together

In those circumstance it is perfectly reasonable that John Francis was asked to be Theodosia's godfather. That would then explain the Yonge middle name; taking a godparent's name as a middle name was not an uncommon practice at the time. Moreover if John Francis was the godfather of Alice's first grandchild, because of an existing friendship between the Müllers and John Francis, that would have provided the ideal circumstance in which Alice and he could have become better acquainted on a more personal level.

Whether shared interests in the church and music brought Alice and John Francis together or an existing friendship was reinforced by the church and music is not clear, for whatever the reason, clearly friendship blossomed

It is not known why John Francis then went went to Germany for several years in the 1840's, after obtaining his degree at Edinburgh. It was not until the 1850's onwards that it began to become fashionable to study medicine in Germany. Also Koblenz where he lived was n It is possible that it was no more than he got the idea because of family connections, namely:

  1. John Müller's brother, Robert, who was quite a celebrated pianist, studied and toured in Germany and became court pianist to the King of Saxony.

  2. David Hamilton's brother, and perhaps David also, had studied organ building in Germany.

  3. The Hamilton's had a family ensemble which had toured in Germany.

  4. John Francis' mother was in Heidelberg during part of 1838.

  5. Two Reed sisters went to Germany due to their husbands work.

It would be very unlikely that John Francis going to Germany had anything to do with religious views for he was married according to the rites of the Church of England and his children were baptised in the same faith although living in a Roman Catholic part of the Country. It is not thought that Alice ever followed her husband in converting to Catholicism later in life..


There were three children by this marriage.

Their first child, Francis Arthur Holmes, was born in June 1840 at the Crescent Plymouth,though n by the time the he was three months old the family were living in Mannheim. Either they moved to German after this date or she came back to England for the birth of their first child. Their second child, James Frederick Moore, was born in Germany in 1842 and the third, Stephen Duke, there in 1845. It seems that the Yonge's returned to Plymouth in 1849. The novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge was a younger cousin of John Francis and there are several letters of hers and of family which mention John Francis. One of these supports the above date and at the same time throws some light on his conversion. See below.

A family tradition repeated by his children and grandchildren, which is supported by a letter written by John Francis in July 1856 telling his brother Fred in New Zealand of the death of their mother. He notes that his boys “will return from France next month”, is that the sons educated in France after leaving Germany. They were said to be fluent in English, German and French.

Back in England

After his time in Germany he seems to have settled down to an uneventful life in Plymouth and area. He was said to have had "one pill for every ill" Interestingly while he appears in some volumes of the British Medical Digest for the period he does not appear in the Medical Digest. One wonders how active he was as a doctor. One of the letters below suggests that his practice suffered because of his religion.

During French invasion scare of 1860's, he served in 2nd Devon Volunteer Regiment, a "home Guard" unit. There is a photograph of him in uniform.

The 1861 Census shows him living at Oak Cottage Plymstock with his wife, his son James, then a supernumerary Post Office Clerk, a step daughter and three servants.

Trade Directories of the period have the following entries:

1864 and 1867, physician of Plymouth living at 15 the Crescent. This was a terrace developed by the Yonge family.

1873 Down as a private resident though described as a doctor and living at Lodge Park. No entry for him in that year in Plymouth. Lodge Park could be a mistake for Ladye Park for the 1871 census shows him living at Ladye Park. It also shows the children of his son Francis Arthur Holmes living with him. It is not known how long standing this arrangement was for but various members of the family did provide considerable assistance for his son. The 1871 census also shows that although only in his 50's he was no longer practicing. Ladye was originally a priory so he was probably very much at home there.

1878 ditto as above save address described at Ladye Park.

His interests extended beyond medicine to music. John Francis wrote the music for a piece "Dear is the Morning Gale of Spring" a sacred song from the poetry from Keble's Christian Year published in 1854.


His wife Alice died 8th February 1863 in Plymouth. Her estate was valued at under £100. Francis then married in Plymouth 19th July 1864, Mary, daughter of David Jones, a retired surgeon, of Plymstock Devon. There were no children by this marriage.


In 1879 he was living at 6 Dean Terrace, Liskeard, where he and died of prostrate cancer on 25th December 1879. Possibly this last home of John Francis was chosen as the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of Our Lady and St. Neot in Liskeard was built following the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act.

John Francis is buried at Sclerder, betweenLooe and Polpero. His gravestone can still (2003) be identified in the small cemetery The Catholic Church there was completed in 1843 For most of its history, Sclerder has had a religious community associated with it, among which have been Franciscan Recollects, Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Poor Clares and Carmelites. At the beginning of the 21st century, Sclerder is a Carmelite Monastery, with a community of contemplative nuns.

Roman Catholic conversion

At some point he became a Roman Catholic, though from the letters below it seems to have been a gradual "coming out" in 1850's though perhaps he never formally converted. See below in Appendix for correspondence on this issue.

At the time of his marriage in Brussels in 1839 he was married by his brother, an Anglican priest, in The Anglican Church there. He then spent several years in Koblenz which is a predominantly Roman Catholic part of Germany, so he could gradually have been influenced while living there..

In the 1861 census his son Stephen is shown as being as at a school in Bristol headed by a Catholic priests with pupils mainly born in Ireland.

In a Letter dated 24 June 1850 Charlotte Mar Yonge states that nobody she knew well had converted, the nearest being John Francis Yonge (1814-1879), one of the Antony cousins, whom she had not seen since childhood. This was no doubt technically true. However, the shadow hung nonetheless over many of those closest to her, as her father’s letter (14 March 1849), about John Francis, indicates. The Antony Yonge's were far from being the only family she knew well to be affected. In October 1849 Sir William Heathcote’s (she had known him since childhood) eldest son, an army officer married in haste a young and devout Roman Catholic lady who was quite unknown to all his relations, and whose different creed was naturally a great distress to his father, foreseeing as he did the fact that she would draw her husband after her.


In the letters of the next few years to Sir John Coleridge (whose second son was also under Roman Catholic influences, and also eventually joined the Roman Church) there is an undercurrent of deep sadness, and of anxiety lest others of the family should also secede. Sir John Taylor Coleridge’s son. the Rev. Henry Coleridge, later Father Coleridge S. J. was probably an even more intimate friend: he converted in 1852. The Puslinch Yonge's nearest neighbour, Edmund Bastard of Kitley, had converted by 1851. Her first publisher, James Burns, had converted in 1847. The cumulative impact of these conversions helps account for Yonge’s anxiety, revealed in the correspondence.


This was a reflection of what was happening in society generally. The Catholic Relief Act of 1829 removed most legal restrictions on Roman Catholics but what made the real change to the fortunes of the Catholic Church in England, was when as he later became, Cardinal Newman, a leading figure the Tractarianism or Oxford Movement, converted to Rome in 1845.. The Tractarians opposed the secularisation of the Anglican Church. They leant towards the Roman Church, especially in its pre-reformation form but paradoxically became very upset when any of their number went so far as to convert. Charlotte Mary Yonge herself often referred to as the novelist of the Oxford Movement. Hers last published work was “Why I am a Catholic and not a Roman Catholic”. In the 1860s, Newman republished the eight – extremely popular – volumes of his Anglican sermons, almost unchanged. He showed in practice that it was possible to be English and a Roman Catholic and he made it socially acceptable.also it did not necessariy mean subscribing to the eccentric opinions of Pius IX.


Barbara Dennis, in her work Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) “Novelist of the Oxford Movement (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen 1992) states, on the authority of Yonge family tradition, that John Francis Duke Yonge having converted to Roman Catholicism, that the Rev. Duke John Yonge also converted. There seems to be no evidence at all for this “second conversion!

John Francis would have been able to practice his beliefs in Devon/Cornwall for this was a time of building many new Roman Catholic churches and to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.



Appendix 1 - Correspondence


Letters and notes Largely taken from the website of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship


Conversion to Rome

Extract from letter 14 March 1849

William Crawley Yonge (CMY's father) to the Reverend John Yonge at Puslinch. 1

"Delia in a letter to Fanny just whispered the sad intelligence of her son John’s rambling inclinations, saying it was quite a secret, & that you were to only person informed of his state of Mind. How long do you understand that he has been unsettled? It is lamentable indeed to have a case of the sort come home in our own Family and as in all others that I have known or heard of the accompanying circumstances have been just such as to do the greatest injury and cause the greatest pain to the Friends of the Party. If he persists in the Change, what a horrid thing his coming to live in Plymouth will be. How much better that he should have remained where he was. Poor fellow, it is not so much a matter of Surprise as of regret, seeing how very little opportunity he has had of seeing and being engaged in the practice of the Church of England. Looking back to his coming home 2 on Saturdays from Macaulay’s 3, when Sunday was more in the way of relaxation from School, than a Holy Day, then with Williams the Surgeon where I suppose no great good was to be learnt, then at Edinburgh and since in a Roman Catholic country. I very much wish we could get him to come here. I think the best chance for him would be to let him open his Mind to Mr Keble 4. Do you understand what it is that he goes off upon?"

Notes on the above extract

  1. This relates to John Francis' conversion to Catholicism. Notice it was all hush- hush. While the conversion was not totally surprising it was still 'news' and it is clear they thought he might still be persuaded otherwise. If the decision was not recent then clearly John Francis must previously have been a closet Catholic.

  2. This reads as though John Francis had either just arrived in Plymouth or his arrival was imminent.

  3. Macaulay's was the school he had attended. Note also, this confirms he had later been at Edinburgh before going to the Continent.

  4. Mr Keble was the Rev. Vicar of Hursley, the parish in which CMY's village of Otterbourne, Hampshire was situated. He was a close friend and confidant of CMY and her family. Although a country parson, he was in fact one of the central figures of the Tractarians.

Extract from letter: Midsummer, 24 June 1850 from CMY


Midsummer Day [24 June 1850]


My Dear M. A.


O that the sky of the Church was as clear as the sky above our heads, and how, as they always do, yesterday's Christian Year seemed to chime in with the thoughts that must sadden one even in this most glorious weather, as we thought last night when the full moon was shining so gloriously in the midst of the sky, and the elm-tree making such a beautiful shadow on the field. What can I say but that I am very sorry for you, and for her, it is like seeing tower after tower in a fortress taken by some enemy, and every time the blow seems nearer home. I do think such things as these make one know the comfort of people's being dead and safe, so that one can give them one's whole heart without the fear of having to wrench it away again. ‘Death only binds us fast. When I say one's whole heart I mean one's heart of admiration, and that kind of half-historical love for living saints that we were talking of one evening, for I am thankful to say that no personal friend of my own, no one indeed whom I knew well, has gone, none indeed whom I knew so well as Miss Lockhart. There was a cousin indeed, but I had not seen him since he was a youth and I a child, and we feel most about him for the sake of his mother and of his wife, who holds firm, and as to his mother, nothing could ever shake her I am sure. After hearing of such a thing as this, it does seem indeed a warning to any woman not to put herself in the way of being shaken by personal influence, and yet what could one do if one's Mr. Keble went, meaning him as an example of one's Pope. I remember Mr. H[enry]. Wilberforce.saying he could fancy making a Pope of Archdeacon Manning]. ; is this what he is doing ? And then why is Rome better because England is worse? that is the great wonder.

Notes on the above extract

CMY to a friend: here she has been commiserating concerning the 'loss' of a mutual acquaintance, Miss Lockhart, to the Catholic Church. She goes on to write:

This again refers to John Francis. While it is recorded elsewhere that CMY had visited her Antony cousins from time to time there was a 9 year age difference between her and John, so by the time she was of an age to really get to know him he was off to school, etc., most of the time. It is also very clear from this that Alice had not converted; she was holding firm to the Church of England.

Extract from letter 8 March 1854

Frances Mary Yonge (CMY's mother) to the Reverend John Yonge (of Puslinch, who was married to her step-sister) writing on the death of her husband.

MS Plymouth and West Devon Record Office 308/2543

"I have had a very kind message from Delia so I hope she did not take amiss what I thought I ought to say about John Francis."



She had told her stepsister Cordelia (Colborne) Yonge, a sister of John Francis, that. John Francis would be unwelcome at the funeral because he had become a Roman Catholic.

Extract from letter Otterbourn, Friday [17 March 1854]

Anne Yonge (CMY's cousin) to the Rev. John Yonge (at Puslinch, her father)

Delia Oldfield had writen to Charlotte saying she was sorry only one brother was here at the Funeral, but the fact was

neither Uncle James or Alice had the heart to let John Francis know his presence especially wd be objected to, so they discouraged both him & Arthur alike from coming. She adds ‘He would not understand the feeling & is sensitive and affectionate. Such spirits should be spared. & I hope Mr Wither’s message may never reach him’.


It seems that Uncle James and Alice had suggested that John Francis and his brother Arthur need not feel they ought attend the funeral. There was no reason why Arthur should stay away; it seems to be a ploy to avoid having to tell John Francis he was not wanted there or the reason.

There is small church at Otterbourne and the funeral took place there. Mr Withers was the Curate and it seems he was charged with conveying CMY's mother's request that John Francis should not attend the funeral.


Letter toTo Anne Yonge - ref.308/281 - date: Aug 4th [1863] – probably from Charlotte Mary Yonge

How strangely sorrows have thickened on the family. Poor Delia Oldfield, she seems so especially desolate in her helplessness. I am glad Francis Yonge and who I suspect of having become a Roman Catholic, which is likely to have destroyed his practice in Plymouth.) was with her, he must be more able to comfort her than any one else, and now that he has no call to other duties or any other home, he can best be with her. We were at Emsworth barely a month ago, and have certainly liked the General much better of late years; and seen more of his real and genuine goodness And now your first Sunday is over, and you are getting again into the daily stream of life, and realizing that the sweet counsel together of earth is over, and turned to the Communion of Saints. I am glad it was a Sunday of that meeting of those on earth with those in Heaven."

On the death of his Mother

"11 Crescent

20 July –56



My Dear Frederick


All is at length over. Our dear mother breathed forth her gentle soul this morning at 10 minutes (smeared). Since last Easter twelve months about, she has been visibly declining, but her decline was very gradual. Her intellect has been as unclouded as ever till within the last six weeks or so, when it gradually , very gradually gave in, that is, her memory failed and the mental energies became impaired. Her bodily health also correspondingly declined and at last her struggle with death was most distressing and heart rending, save & except about the last hour and a half of her life, when her breathing became more calm and calm and the dear, the good mother rendered up her spirit to her maker. So calmly, so gently, one could hardly say the precise moment it occurred. Delia Arthur, Alice, Caroline Stooks, Elizabeth (Bloye?) & the nurse with myself were present. May she find rest and peace eternal by the goodness and mercy of God! Oh dear brother, this is a heavy blow, though not unexpected. She will I suppose be buried at Antony. You shall hear ere long again. I trust and hope you are going on well. I have had a paper or two from you, and Arthur one. Dick Reed is at home from Australia. He had no means left to do the home passage with, so he came home, much to his credit, before the mast as seaman. We shall be glad to find you are going on well. Alice has had two severe attacks of jaundice lately.' Do you Know that Stook is dead & that Caroline & her children are living at Lukesland near Ivybridge. "


I must now say adieu. My boys do not come home from France till the middle of next month August. Kenneth & Walter are at home.


Ever my dear Fred, your affect brother Francis [John Francis Duke Yonge]

We all send our love to you."


Illness and death of John Francis


Letter from his brother Arthur to his brother Frederick


"Springfield Villa

Clive Vale



3 May [1877?]


My dear Fred:


I left France the other day for London to see what I could do to set matter straight and gather up the fragments and strange to say the same day and the same time Francis came to town. He had written to me a short time before in a melancholy strain them, from an enlargement of the prostrate gland he was now a confirmed invalid that his suffering must increase until it carried him off. Now this was not a pleasant prospect, so I urged him strongly to come to London and put himself under Sir Henry Thompson the man for those sort of things. He acted on the advice and I am glad to say, Sir HT has done him a great deal of good and if he follows up his treatment he tells him he wont die of it at all.


With best love to Midge, boys and girls and all, ever your affect brother Arthur D.Y.


Villa Gaston, Arcachon, France"


Letter from John Francis to his bother Frederick


"Ladye Park, near Liskeard


11 December 1877


My dear Fred:


I have not heard from you for a long time now & I have not written either for a long time. I am so much of an invalid that it seems to me that all my time or very much of it, is so absorbed more & more by the increasing requirements of my illness or infirmity that I have time for very little else.


Liskeard and not Launceston has been our post town for the past 11 years nearly. What on earth has possessed you, who have gone on addressing your letters to me correctly all that time, to begin last year to think that Ladye Park has "flitted" to the vicinity of Launceston! And I suppose that some other place near Launceston that you [wot] of had come here change places, a sort of "pup in the corner" little game, for Christmas perhaps. But one letter (at least the envelope) having gone all about the country here was returned by the P.O. to New Zealand and again was enclosed by you to Arthur at Hastings in order that you might have the mystery explained!


Well, well my dear Fred, here we are within a week of Christmas once more for today is the 19th of December. (I began this letter on the 11th I see, but my time is now so taken up by the requirements peculiar to my malady that I seem to have time for very little else. I suffer occasionally, considerably, often acutely and I cannot think but that my time is, as far as this world is concerned, drawing to an end 'ere very long, in Gods good time his blessed will be done. Each day and each night I have always some suffering to undergo but still I vary even thus. But I know I can never get materially better, and gradually seem to get worse.


Stephen, determined to do what he can for his two dear children, has torn himself from them and me and all he holds dear, and gone to the Tea plantation in Assam, Upper India. I heard from him from Calcutta, the other day. He had a splendid passage out via Suez Canal on board the S.S.Merkara Dear fellow! God prosper him, for he is an honest, straight forward and affectionate son and father and makes friend with everybody. His friends here in Liskeard gave him a most handsome farewell dinner (to which I being invited also, went) at Webbes Hotel. James as you know married and in Lakeport, Lake County, California. His wife was called Britton, an American damsel. Helene is her name and have a little daughter Madeline Helene. My unfortunate son Francis is never I feel to do anything for himself of any use. It is not that he does not work, and he has much talent and cleverness and energy, but it is ever misdirected and useless to a great extent.


And now, writing you my dear brother and your dear wife and family, a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year with much love to all and each of them, from my wife as well as myself finding that I am driven up to the last minute to [send] the post via [friends].


I remain ever your affect brother.


JFDY [John Francis Duke Yonge]


Arthur’s wife is much the same but I should think very frail. They have been this summer in Scotland for her health."


Letter from J Arthur to his brother Frederick


"7 April [1878]


Springfield Villa

Clive Vale



[written at right angles across the page]


I enclose a bit of pen and ink for Nellies scrapbook. I intended to have sent it at Xmas but it must now be for Easter.



Dear Fred


Of course you have heard that Francis has left Ladye Park and migrated to Liskeard. L.P was an awfully damp and mouldy situation and 1 think he will be better on the top of the hill. 1 have not heard from him since his remove, which I think was about last Xmas. His son Frank having left Roubaix in France where be might done fairly if gin hadn’t been too cheap, then came with his wife and two sons, the other being at Liskeard, as Francis didn't care to have them down with him. He is obliged to look out for some employment and has risen to the post of a conductor on a tramway or rather was trying to get it – but I’m ½ inclined to think he says so to frighten the family into doing something for him. One of his boys has got into the telegraph Office. Stephen has gone out to Madras piously trusting in Providence and getting into some tea growing swindle. but as that requires some knowledge of the business it isn’t likely. There was nothing in the tea line about him except rather a canister look. He should have been a priest.


With best love from us all to you, Midge girls and boys.


Your aft brother A.D.Y."


Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick


"8th Nov. [1878?]


Springfield Villa

Clive Vale




My Dear Fred:


Stephen [one of John's sons] is still out in Madras and has a salary, so he says of LIO per month. He gammons his father that it was entirely in hopes of being able to repay his debt to me that he left him to seek fortune in a distant land. The Dr. will swallow a great deal especially if served up with holy tenets and blessed Virgin [ ] and other pious ejaculations.


Ever your affectionate brother







Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick


"Springfield Villa

Clive Vale



St Valentines [Feb 14th] 1879


My dear Fred


I heard from Francis the other day. He seems pretty cheery. He had been lucky in selling or buying some Railway shares and sent me a L5 note for a Xmas box. to help pay Drs and chemists bills. Well he was in my debt L50 but as that's beyond the statute of limitations and he has quite forgotten it, its as well to let it rest.


Your affect. brother


Arthur D. Yonge"


[notepaper is fringed with a black line]


Cliff House Dovercourt


The old address, Springfield Villa Hastings will always find me.


Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick


"29 May, 1879


My dear Fred:


……..I intend returning in June to Hastings to see if I can let my house in which case I shall pay Francis a visit, who is at present in lodgings in Devonport under Swaine's care and he writes more hopefully as to his doing him good. With best love to Midge and tell her that even in my own distress I can feel for her and your loss and to my nephews and nieces as well.


Ever yr affect brother


Arthur D Yonge"


Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick. He must have been visiting John Francis when he wrote


"7 Dean Terrace




8th August [1879]


My dear Fred


... 1 went back afterwards to Hastings and having let my house for a month have put in practice a long promised visit to Francis and so here I am. I am very much puzzled what to do with Alie. ………..Francis is better than I expected to find him and promises to put in a line. With best love to Midge and family. Alie’s also who was much pleased with her letter from her far away cousin .


Believe me ever yr affect brother Arthur D Yonge"




Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick


"2 Springfield Villas


8th November [1879]


My dear Fred


Francis takes a very desponding view of his case. But a doctor told me that he had had an old admiral under his care whose symptoms were worse. Still he had lived to past 80 and died of something else after all. I think his son Frank worries him a good deal both in mind and pocket. But he never mentioned either him or Stephen to me, as he knows what my opinion of the latter is.


With best wishes to Midge and all. Alie sends her love and wishes Nellie was here to have a game with. I wish we were squatting? in the vicinity of the poplars.


Ever your affect brother Arthur D.Y"


Letters from Arthur to his brother Frederick. He must have been visiting John Francis when he wrote these.


"7 Dean Terrace



22 Dec 79


My Dear Fred:


It seems to be my lot to be always the messenger of evil tidings. I had a letter from Mary on Friday telling me how ill Francis was and begging me to come to him. So after making arrangements about Alie I started and got to Liskeard Sunday morning. You know he has been under treatment for a long time and lately the swelling or tumour and so increased as to become a complete obstruction in the passage and in a consultation the Doctor agreed that the only way to relieve him was by cutting an artificial passage in the side into the big gut or colon. The operation was performed successfully on Friday last and has afforded temporary relief. Still there is no hope of his ever rising from his bed again, nor indeed can he turn or move without assistance. You may fancy after such a fearful operation that he suffers a good deal at times. Still when more easy the poor dear fellow is wonderfully cheerful and makes his jokes in the spirit of old times. He takes very little but ice and toast and water although he has just told me how he would like a pull at a tankard of ale. I am very glad I came, as it brightens him up to see me and I am of help in moving him. His poor wife is indefatigable in attending to him and I believe has had no sleep for 3 or 4 nights. I am afraid she will knock herself up. Everybody seems to sympathise with him and are most kind in sending him anything they think he may like. The Doctors do not think he can last long. But really sometimes he seems so strong. Both in voice and in his words, that I can't fancy death to be so near as they seem to think. I had not looked forward to a Merry Christmas, but this is an addition of woe I had not anticipated.

I must finish for me time and can hold out no hopes of sending any more cheering account in my next.


With much love to all


Ever my Dear Fred


Your Affectionate brother


Arthur D. Yonge


Tuesday, 23 December


Francis had a bad night but in some respects not much changed. I am inclined to think that the operation was ill-advised from what the Doctor here says -or at any rate should have been postponed until there was an absolute necessity. But he was very anxious to have it done himself put great faith in Swain of Devonport who does as it is, it does not seem to have had any beneficial effect on the primary symptoms and has instead had him all to pieces for before he could move and get out of bed by himself.


[John died two days later, on Christmas day.]


Letter from Arthur to his brother Frederick


Springfield Villa,

Clive Vale



27 July - 1st August [1880]


My dear Fred


Doubtless you have by this time my letter giving details of our dear Francis' last days. How after the operation which he thought wd. be a relief, he never rallied but suffered much from spasms. Yet was his strength & vitality so great that the last 3 days was nothing more nor less than a struggle with death. which it goes to my heart to recall. Poor fellow. He lies in a small R.C. cemetery according to his wish, on the High ground not far from Looe. For the last year and more he had much discomfort but from his lively genial temper, no one wd. have supposed him to be such a sufferer. It seems strange that none of the doctors that have suspected this cancerous growth which had been coming on for a long time, but had latterly increased so rapidly, that had his life been prolonged it cd. but have been a time of intolerable pain & agony. All the comfort that the unremitting attention of his wife & indeed of all about him, cd. give was not wanting and Dr (Marrick) a great friend of his came at all times night & day and felt his loss terribly, & refused to take any fee for his services.


Mary just writes me that she has had a granite cross put up in his memory. I think she has but L150 p.a. left her but her sisters, one of whom is married to a man of considerable property will lend her a helping hand. She takes Eugene, Franks youngest son of whom she is very fond & has been a great deal more than his own mother to him. I only hope she wont spoil him.


With best love to Midge, boys & Nellie.


Every yr affect brother Arthur D.Y."


© R I Yonge 2012 and 2022



For musical references - Bibliotheca Cornubiensis - A catalogue of the writings, both manuscript and printed, of Cornishmen, and of works relating to the county of Cornwall.


For first marriage - Gentleman's Magazine Vol X!! 1839 page 419


For degree - Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal Vol 52 page 591


For Daniel and Helder case - Supplement to London Gazette 1888


For address details - various Plymouth and area trade directories

Latest comments

27.10 | 10:41

Hi Ian....Has taken me a while but finally found your website. Brilliant. Will be in touch. Julian Hastings

20.06 | 13:06


Thanks. Praise always appreciated! I presume you are a descendant of Peter Herbert. You can email me on iyonge@legalisp.net for fuller reply


19.06 | 23:35

I am the Great-Great Grandson of Walter Francis Duke Young. This is such a great website and so interesting to read about the Yonge family history!!

27.05 | 17:13

Thank you for this account of Charlotte M Yonge. I wouldn't say she was a recluse, however, judging by her letters. https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/yonge/