You know how much I like a delicious tragedy. I'm always drawn to people who have a life of unfortunate events, then die in a swift and unexpected manner, better still if their entire family is peppered with calamity. Imaginethen my delight when I met the beautiful Eleanor Butcher...
As it turned out, I already knew Miss Butcher, and have used her image many times in the past because she posed for Beatrice in this painting by Henry Holiday...
|Dante and Beatrice (1883) Henry Holiday|
Beside the river Arno in Florence, Beatrice, in white, takes a stroll with her bestie, Monna Vanna, and a maid, watched by Dante. In those flowing white robes is Eleanor, out for a stroll with Milly Hughes and Kitty Lushington. At first, I wondered if Milly was Emily Hughes, daughter of artist Arthur Hughes, but apparently Milly was the daughter of an old friend of Holiday. Kitty Lushington is marvellously famous, and there is no doubt who she is...
|The lovely Kitty Lushington|
I could write an entire post on the lovely Kitty, who was the blueprint for Mrs Dalloway and plunged to her death over a banister and down the stairs (not by accident, according to Virginia Woolf). However, this is Eleanor's post, so Kitty's tragedies will have to wait.
|Eleanor Butcher (unknown photographer)|
Eleanor Louisa Gertrude Butcher was born in April 1860. Her parents, Mary and Samuel were Irish and had homes in both London and Ireland after Samuel became Rector of Ballymoney. The family moved their Irish residence to Ardbraccan House when Samuel became the Bishop of Meath in 1866. Eleanor was the second youngest, after Elizabeth (1849-1908), Samuel (1850-1910), John George (1853-1935), Margaret Frances (Fanny) (1854-1934), and Augusta (1856-1899). Eleanor was followed by Clara in 1861. I'm not entirely sure what became of Clara as I can find her until the end of the century, as, like her sisters, she was musically accomplished and acted as bridesmaid to society friends. After that, it seems we don't talk about Clara. If I hadn't seen her in the 1881 census, I would have imagined she was fictional, but there she is. I don't think she came to a particularly tragic end so let's move on.
Eleanor's family was exceptionally well connected and her siblings furthered that through work and marriage. Elizabeth married Thomas Spring-Rice, the 2nd Baron Montegal of Brandon in 1875. If the name Spring-Rice is familiar, it's because of things like this...
|Mary Spring-Rice O'Brien (1867) Julia Margaret Cameron|
|John George Butcher (1926) Lafayette|
|Augusta, Fanny and Eleanor (1880s) Eveleen Tennant Myers|
|Fanny Prothero (1898) Charles W Furse|
Fanny and Eleanor were extremely close, and their friends worried that Eleanor would be lonely. Or possibly they were worried that Eleanor would not be lonely, if you know what I mean, as it didn't take long for several names to be attached to hers. Eleanor was very much admired for her looks - "She is lovelier than ever, in such an exquisite highbred way, which throws such a bar-maid beauty as Mrs Fred Myers completely in the shade..."
Oh good Lord, well that's appalling. So, Mrs Fred Myers was actually Eveleen Tennant, photographer and bar-maid beauty - I assumed Bet Lynch and leopard print, but was sadly disappointed.
|Eveleen being not very barmaid-y, 1870s (unknown photographer)|
Eveleen married Frederick Myers in March 1880, but before (and to be honest afterwards) he was a bit of a one for the ladies. In 1878, he set his sights on Eleanor but, as would become apparent, Eleanor was a bit of a procrastinator when it came to men, which I think made everyone nervous. Possibly it showed good taste. If Fred was still interested in Eleanor, it didn't stop Eveleen and Eleanor from being friends as the group shot of the sisters is labelled "Taken by their friend Mrs Frederic [sic] Myers" in Lady Jebb's memoirs, and also didn't stop Eveleen taking this exquisite image of Eleanor in the early 1890s...
|Eleanor Butcher (early 1890s) Eveleen Tennant Myers|
|Gerald Balfour (1890s) Lord Battersea|
|Walter Leaf (1891) Henry Herschel Hay Cameron|
|Lewis Nettleship (c.1870s) Unknown Photographer|
|Eleanor Butcher (1890s) Charles W Furse|
|Private View at the New Gallery: The Crush in the Central Hall from The Graphic, May 1893|