I’ve inherited my grandma’s autograph book. She was given it when she was eighteen for a Christmas present in 1905. At that time, unmarried, she lived with her widowed mother and three of her brothers, Horace, Nelson and Edward, known as Teddy. Oldest brother George was living elsewhere with his wife Elizabeth and four-year-old Howard. The autograph book is full of names, as one might expect, but also little paintings, sketches, sayings and poems.
One which caught my eye was a poem ‘The Moss Rose’ written in the most beautiful and flowing handwriting, by the beautifully named Susanna Munnings Maxwell. I wondered who she was; the poem, it seems was written by Friedrich Adolf Krummacher (1767–1845) and Susanna inscribed an anonymous translation from the German in grandma’s book
So who was Susanna? Can I find her? It seems she was the daughter of William Maynard Maxwell and his wife Mary Ann, née Smith, he was born in Hoxton, she in Holborn, both places in Middlesex, The married in 1875 when he was twenty-two and she twenty; he like his father was a clock maker. They had three children, William born in 1879, Susanna in 1880, and Arthur in 1886 named after William’s brother, From being a clock maker, William senior changed to become a telegraph instrument maker, reflecting the changing times. William junior is a copper plate engraver, and Arthur has work to do with electrical appliances or installation – the census record is indecipherable! Susanna, listed as Susie, is a school teacher. When she wrote in grandma’s autograph book she was a teacher still – as she was in 1911 where she appears for the first time as Susannah Munnings Maxwell.
What happened to Susanna? I have no idea; I can find no trace of a marriage or a death, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t marry – it’s just I can’t find it. Maybe she emigrated, who knows… not me for the moment. This is the poem she wrote for grandma:
The Moss Rose
The Angel of the flowers, one day,
Beneath a rose-tree sleeping lay, –
That Spirit, to whose charge is given
To bathe young buds in dew from heaven
Awaking from his light repose,
The Angel whisper’d to the Rose, –
“O fondest object of my care,
Still fairest found where all are fair,
For the sweet shade thou giv’st me,
Ask what thou wilt, ‘tis granted thee.”
“Then,” said the Rose, with deepen’d glow,
“On me another grace bestow,”
The Spirit paused, in silent thought,
What grace was there the flower had not?
Twas but a moment – o’er the Rose
A veil of moss the Angel throws
And, robed in nature’s simplest weed
Could there a flower that Rose exceed?
Friedrich Adolf Krummacher
My featured image is of my grandma, Ida Isabel.