Mary Ellen Worthington
This collection is one of a number of pictures we have for sale taken from an 1834 ‘commonplace book’ once owned by a Mary Ellen Worthington of Liverpool.
The ‘commonplace’, or ‘hodgepodge’ book was a place to accumulate general knowledge. For many centuries it was considered a scholarly apparatus for note taking and observational work. However, with the rise of Romanticism in the early nineteenth-century, and its emphasis on the cultivation of feeling and personal sentiment, the commonplace book became a popular tool for the collection of favoured items of poetry, art and other more intimate forms of expression.
The Worthington Book is one example of this, and is indicative of one young woman’s reading practice. Mainly comprised of poetry copied from popular books and journals published between the years 1830-1835, the artwork was meant as a visual accompaniment to the elegant flow of the written word, hence the small scale of many of the images. As a result, the works are highly intimate, providing a fascinating insight into the personality and preference of one specific Victorian woman. It shows, in particular, her love for her northern birthplace - Liverpool - by the repetition of poems written by local authors, such as Felicia Hemens, and printed by local publishers, such as the Diamond: A Collection of Superior Poetic Pieces, Calculated for Amusement and Instruction, by Henry Lacey of Bond Street.
Mary Ellen Worthington was born in Liverpool to Charles and Francis Worthington, of Chesire, in 1821. She appears to have lived in Liverpool most of her life. She is listed in the 1851 census as being a resident there, unmarried at 29 and living upon an annuity likely left to her by her parents. Her ‘commonplace book’ was written when she was very young, at the age of thirteen, but it shows a precocious talent for intricate drawing, painting and exquisite handwriting. Though nothing could be traced of Ms. Worthington after this date, the works in this collection are a intriguing foresight into the distinguished and burgeoning tastes of a woman of independent means.