Woodslane Online Catalogues
Complete Diary of a Cotswold Parson
Volume 1 - The Patriarch
- Volume Nine begins with the death of the diarist's wife, Margaret, after a marriage of almost 42 years. Margaret's health had always been delicate and she finally declined and died of dropsy-what today might be referred to as an edema due to congestive heart failure. Margaret had never been a lively or outgoing person, but it had been a marriage of money and the Backhouse resources restored the Witts family's fortune and provided the foundation to the substantial estate that Francis Witts left to his son Edward when he, the diarist, also died four years later. Francis Witts was lonely and reflective in his final years. His own health was not good and he predicted, correctly that it was the heart. On 4 May 1854 he put his thoughts to his diary: 'But, in truth, the continued, if not increased, difficulty of breathing, makes me satisfied that there is some serious mischief near or about the heart: it may be organic; and the end may come at no distant period: may I be then found not ill-prepared; resigned, patient, and penitent as the clouds gather around me!' In between the periods of indifferent health he roused himself to visit old friends and relations and he made several visits to London, especially at the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851. Francis Witts longed for visits from Edward, Sophy and his grandsons, and the sadness he felt at not getting enough of their time is painfully clear in these last years. At last he found a curate to aid him in his clerical duties, but it was all too late. In the presence of his curate at lunch on 18 August 1854 the ultimate mischief occurred. The previous day he had written the final words in his diary: 'Received from C. J. Geldard a present of two brace of Moor game.' He did not live to enjoy them, and his diaries extending 56 years came to close.
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