|Miss Cotterell Was a Sad Martyr to Her Illness|
Sunday, October 16, 2011
A Romantic footnote
Another miniature portrait of an all-but-forgotten female from the Romantic era. Poor Miss Cotterell has haunted my doodle book for a while, and my imagination for a bit longer. She was an ordinary middle-class girl born in the early 1800s. But for a twist of fate she would have lived and died and been laid to rest in complete anonymity.
As it was, however, she happened to book her passage (and that of her chaperone, Mrs Pidgeon) to Naples (where her brother was a banker) on the Maria Crowther on the same date as Keats and Severn and has thus, as fellow-traveller, gained a kind of immortality by fleetingly appearing in all the poet's biographies, a shadowy figure who shared their six week voyage south, suffering from consumption and subject to frequent fainting fits.
Severn wrote that she was eighteen, pretty and "agreeable and ladylike". We are also given to understand that her case was terminal and that she was "a sad martyr to her illness", as Severn put it, but do not know her as anything but her formal title of Miss Cotterell.
What happened to her, how long did she have to live with her brother Charles in Naples? Where and when was she buried?
Poor, poor Miss Cotterell.