Wednesday, 9 May 2012

To Have and to Hold

Here's an ancestor I found on another line, an Elizabeth Waters. She is my Grandmother by seven times, on my maternal line, four times Great Grandmother of my own Great Grandmother, Anne 'Heart' Starke Gardner, daughter of John Dubineen Gardner and Julia Belle Starke. Elizabeth Waters is quite a find.  I wish I'd known her. A free spirit. She married William Overton. Eloped with him in fact, it was all a bit controversial. A novel, 'To Have and to Hold' was written about her life. Quite a lady. She was born about 1640 in London, and there are many stories about her. Here's a thing:  a subscriber to the Richmond Times Dispatch responded to a series of stoires run by the paper relating the the Overton Genealogy. Elizabeth's virtue was very protected:

"Judging from the reverence in which her character has always been held by her descendants, Mary Waters must have been a woman of decided intellectual and moral superiority. Long ago, I have heard a then aged person speak of an account given of Mary Waters by her descendant who was born soon after the American Revolution. Other accounts of Mary Waters, received from very old and reliable sources, confirm the belief that she must have been a woman of decided excellence of character, which her descendants have generally inherited."

Her father was Samuel Waters, and her mother was Ann somebody, we don't know, born after 1600 in St. Sepulchre's Parish, London. She married William Overton. But there is a story around their marriage that has been made immortal in the novel by Mary Johnston, 'To Have and to Hold', published in 1899. It centres around the story that Mary Waters fled Enlgland disguised as her maid to escape marriage to a nobleman she despised.

    • There are several versions of the above tradition, but all are ultimately brought to the same grand finale. That is, William Overton and Elizabeth Mary Waters are married on board the ship on which she arrived in America in 1670. The background that appeals to me (JPC) the most is one of a combination of political controversy surrounding William's supposed father, Robert Overton, and the clash of two opposing religions and political alignments of the William and Elizabeth's respective families. William's father was a strong advocate of Cromwell's policies (having been imprisoned several times for opposing King Charles I), while Elizabeth's family were strong Royalists. Furthermore, Elizabeth was born and raised Catholic, while the Overtons were known members of the Church of England.

      Some, or all, of the above circumstances led William Overton to leave England for America around 1667. It is speculated that when William was nearly caught by the Royalists, Elizabeth's nurse hid him and persuaded her nephew, a ship's captain, to bring him to America. Elizabeth followed within a short period of time, bringing with her a dowry worth a thousand pounds, which was the genesis for the Overton's fortune in the New World.

      To Have and to Hold is the story of an English soldier, Ralph Percy, turned Virginian explorer in colonial Jamestown. Ralph buys a wife for himself - a girl named Jocelyn Leigh - little knowing that she is the escaping ward of King James I, fleeing a forced marriage to Lord Carnal. Jocelyn hardly loves Ralph - indeed, she seems to abhor him. Carnal, Jocelyn's husband-to-be eventually comes to Jamestown, not knowing that Ralph Percy and Jocelyn Leigh are man and wife.
      Lord Carnal attempts to kidnap Jocelyn several times and eventually follows Ralph, Jocelyn, and their two companions - Jeremy Sparrow, the Separatist minister, and Diccon, Ralph's servant - as they escape from the King's orders to arrest Ralph and carry Jocelyn back to England. The boat that they are in, however, crashes on a desert island, but they are accosted by pirates, who, after a short struggle, agree to take Ralph as their captain, after he pretends to be the pirate "Kirby". The pirates gleefully play on with Ralph's masquerade, until he refuses to allow them to rape and pillage those on board Spanish ships.
      The play is up when the pirates see an English ship off the coast of Florida. Ralph refuses to fire upon it, knowing that it carries the new Virginian governor, Sir Francis Wyatt, but the pirates open fire, and Jeremy Sparrow, before the English ship can be destroyed, purposefully crashes the ship into a reef. The pirates are all killed, but the Englishmen (and woman) are rescued by the Governor's ship.
      Ralph is put on trial on board the ship as a pirate, after Lord Carnal tells the Governor that he ordered the destruction of the ship, but Jocelyn, having come to love Ralph, speaks for him. Her words are so persuasive that the Governor believes her and frees Ralph. They return to Virginia, though Ralph is forced to remain in a gaol - King's orders.
      Ralph is lured into a trap, though, by Lord Carnal and is subsequently captured by Indians - but not before putting up a fight and seeing Lord Carnal terribly wounded. The brother of Pocahontas, the Indian Nantauquas, rescues him and Diccon, but only to inform them that all the Virginian Indians plan to massacre the Jamestown settlers. As they are on their way back to Jamestown, Diccon is shot and killed by a hostile Indian, and Ralph is left alone to brave his way back. Returning to the colony, he gives his information, only to be told that Jocelyn had made her way to the forest in search of him after his absence was noticed, with Jeremy Sparrow, and that they had not been found. It is also discovered that Lord Carnal has taken poison and will die within a week.
      Jamestown is saved, thanks to Ralph's almost-too-late warning, and after things are stabilized, Ralph goes in search of Jocelyn and the minister. After a long and seemingly fruitless search, Nantauquas himself, though he had turned traitor, leads Ralph to where Jocelyn is staying. The two are reunited, and at the end of the story intend to go to England, where Jocelyn's lands have been restored to her and they can finally live in peace.

      Yes, I have pretty much taken the synopsis from Wikipedia, anyone can tell. I've just read this myself, and I'm blown away. Why? Because all these ancestors of mine seem to have ended up in Virginia. I've just written the synopsis for my new book, "The Poetic Spy'", which is about Sir Thomas Wyatt, as a spirit, seeking a descendent willing to tell the story of his affair with Ann Boleyn. The Wyatts are also my direct ancestors, and here we are in 'To Have and to Hold', with Sir Francis Wyatt, governer of VIrginia, playing an important part of the novel. I have chosen to write about his brother, Rev. Haute Wyatt, who arrived in Virginia in 1621. He is the first descendent that Sir Thomas approaches, but with no success, the Reverent Wyatt being quite the Puritan with no time for the illicit poetic yearnings of his Great Great Grandfather who had come close to death in the Tower of London for his affair with Ann Boleyn. 

       I can't believe how intertwined my ancestors are with each other, on different lines. And, I'll be following their trails myself this summer, take a train down from New York to Virginia, where I have never been before in my life, where so many of my ancestors landed up in the 1600's. Some part of me feels that they are calling me back there. But again, the horrific battles with the ''Indians" haunt me, never sit well with me. I'm about to start reading 'The Known World' by Edward P. Jones, a novel about slavery in Virginia. 
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