Jane Elgee & William Wilde: ‘Wed on Wednesday, Happy Match’

On 12 November 1851 Dr William Wilde married Jane Elgee at St. Peter’s on Aungier Street, Dublin. Here’s an excerpt from my book, Wilde’s Women to mark the occasion:


Excerpt from Chapter 3: Taming Speranza

Shortly after eight o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, 12 November 1851, , a carriage brought Dr. William Wilde and Jane’s uncle John Elgee to the door of 34 Leeson Street, the home she had shared with her mother, recently deceased, for the past eight years. To the men’s surprise, Jane was ready to leave, allowing them to reach St. Peter’s on Aungier Street [1], her parish church, in time for a nine o’clock wedding. The modest ceremony that joined ‘William R. Wilde Esq., F.R.C.S.’ and ‘Jane Francesca’ was conducted by the groom’s older brother, Reverend John M. Wilde. For the occasion, Jane had exchanged her mourning clothes for a, ‘very rich dress of Limerick lace’ with matching veil worn under a head wreath of white flowers, but she was back in black by eleven o’clock that same morning.

Both bride and groom were well known in the capital, and their dozens of acquaintances would surely have delighted in witnessing the sealing of such a dynamic alliance, but a lavish wedding would have been inappropriate on account of Sarah’s death. Describing the day to the bride’s estranged sister, Emily, Elgee hinted that the couple had married a day earlier than expected and confirmed: ‘nobody were present save our own party and the old hangers on of the church’. Perhaps they desired an auspicious start to their married life. An old folk rhyme beloved of Victorian brides advised: ‘Wed on Wednesday, happy match’. Theirs was certainly happy, but it did not lack turbulence.

After a celebratory breakfast at the Glebe house, Elgee waved the newlyweds off on their short journey to the coastal village of Kingstown, now Dun Laoghaire, where they caught the steamer to Holyhead. Judging by his letter to Emily, he was determined to improve relations between the sisters: ‘I don’t want to see open war between you and them’, he cautioned. Acknowledging that, ‘love of self’ was a prominent feature of Jane’s flamboyant character, he countered by insisting that she possessed, ‘some heart’ and, ‘good impulses’. It reassured him that she had chosen for her husband a man she clearly liked and respected: ‘Had she married a man of inferior mind he would have dwindled down into insignificance or their struggle for superiority would have been terrific’, he warned.

Notes & Sources:

[1] This was the church where her literary uncle by marriage, Charles Maturin served as Anglican Curate for the last eighteen years of his life.

Much of the detail in this post comes from a letter sent by John Elgee to Emily Warren. This letter was shown to Terence de Vere White and he quotes from it in ‘Speranza’s Secret’, Times Literary Supplement, 21 November 1980.


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