Arthur Benoni Evans had married my grandmother, Anne Dickinson, in 1819, when he was thirty-eight and she was ten years younger. Her miniature was there to show the manner of woman she was: not pretty, yet almost beautiful; young, but wise.
Her family was half-French, of Huguenot stock. Rachel de Brissac and her child were among the early refugees to England at the end of the seventeenth century; and in the eighteenth century the family worked as silk weavers in Spitalfields. They considered themselves to be connected with the Cossé de Brissac, who have given three marshals to France and were rewarded by Francis I with a Dukedom. Family tradition says that my great—grandmother Frances de Brissac remembered her grandfather showing her an old pedigree and telling her that but for his religion he should have been duc de Brissac. She was born in 1760, and this happened when she was so young that she had to stand on a foot-stool to see on to the table where the document was spread out. There was the very same paper: a faded old “Généalogie de la Maison de Cossé Brissac” evidently extracted from a still older pedigree, with coats of arms sketched in; but it does not include Peter Abraham de Brissac, Frances’s father, in any branch. Another, and later, copy, based on the old one and with the arms painted in, shows him as the son of Charles Timoléon de Cossé, duc de Brissac, and Catherine daughter of Claude Pécoil, seigneur de Villedieu, but by a dotted line. There is no proof; but the family tastes are certainly expensive enough to need noble descent for their justification.
Anne Dickinson brought into the family a precious heritage of French common-sense and Huguenot tenacity. Whenever one of her descendants faces facts, draws sound conclusions and acts upon them, he does it the more easily because of his inheritance from her. She was not especially gifted except in the domestic arts; but our debt to her is none the less considerable. Most especially was her second son, my father, John Evans, so indebted; for if he inherited a taste for learning and an appreciation of beauty from his Welsh father, it was from his half French mother that he was endowed with the sense of reality and of responsibility, and with a kind of intellectual staying power that was no less precious. Here I was on known ground, for I was nearly fifteen when my father died; yet among the family papers there was much about him that I did not know and more to recall what I had forgotten.
[Joan Evan, Prelude and Fugue, p144...]
Harriet's Notes on Peter