In 1994 Joy Melville published a biography of our Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde titled, "Mother of
Oscar". In her acknowledgments, she firsts thanks Merlin Holland for his permission to use Lady
Wilde's unpublished letters and Oscar's letters (edited by Rupert Hart-Davis). She goes on to list
two pages of people who helped her in her research and editing.
The first sentence in Chapter One reads, "Lady Wilde was born plain Jane Elgee." She goes on to
describe Jane as having long black hair and luminous dark eyes. Her birth was not registered as
there was no legal requirement to do this and she was not baptized. Mrs. Melville goes on to say
that Jane took advantage of the lack of documentation about her beginnings to "re-invent herself
and weave romantic mysteries about her background".
The book then reveals the following: Her great grandfather Charles Elgee was a bricklayer, born
at Raby, Co., Durham in 1714. In the 1730s he and his brother (not named) sailed to Ireland
where there was a building boom and "they quickly prospered".
Charles's youngest son (Jane's grandfather) went into the Church and rose to the position of
Archdeacon in Wexford and his eldest son, another Charles and the future father of Jane, went
into law and became a solicitor (attorney) practicing in Dublin from 1807. He lived at No. 8
Essex Bridge near Dublin Castle. Here he met Sara Kingsbury who along with her two sisters,
Henrietta and Elizabeth, were considered the most beautiful girls in Dublin.
Charles and Sara were married in Wexford, the ceremony being conducted by Charles's brother in
the "impressive Doric-style, eighteenth century Protestant church of St. Iberius in the High
Street." This is recorded in the record books on 23 December 1809.
Their first child was Emily Thomasine born probably in late 1810 at the Essex Bridge address. In
1811 the family moved to 4 St. James's Street East and their second child, John was born in 1812.
The couple had financial troubles and at one point considered separation. Documents exist
describing a potential settlement and are outlined in the book. However, they stayed together and
eventually moved to No. 3 Leeson Street where in 1816 a third child, Frances, was born. She
died shortly after at Wexford and her burial was recorded at St. Iberius' Church on 12 Sep 1816,
aged 3 months. No other records have been found in the church records for this family.
In 1817 the family moved down the street to No. 6 and it is here the author believes Jane was
born between 1817 and 1822. The book continues, "After 1822, the Elgees disappear from the
street directory for twenty-one years. There was obviously some kind of upheaval as Charles
precipitately left Ireland for India -- a fact only known from the appearance in Dublin's "Freeman's
Journal", on 4 February 1825, of the following obituary: 'On the 13th August last, at Bangalore,
in the East Indies, Charles Elgee, Esquire, eldest son of the late venerable Archdeacon Elgee of
Wexford.'" Jane's birth date had been widely accepted as 1826, but Ms. Melville points out this
could hardly be true since Charles died in 1822. Additionally Jane applied for a grant to the Royal
Literary Fund and gave her birth date as 27 Dec 1821. It was more advantageous for an older
woman to receive the money than one 5 years younger, thus she elected to give her actual age.
Jane considered any inquire as to her age impertinent. "When asserting her claim to a share in the
estate of Sir Robert McClure, her first cousin and discoverer of the Northwest Passage, she wrote
imperiously: 'There is no register of my birth in existence. It was not the fashion then, nor
compulsory in Ireland as it is now, but I cannot see why it is required when there is no dispute as
to my legitimacy as daughter of Charles Elgee.' She claimed that 'all records, bibles and other
documents' had been sent to her brother, who had emigrated to America, and that these
documents had then (fortuitously?) 'perished in the fire at New Orleans'.
This 308 page biography is very well written and documented. It contains an extensive
bibliography and for the serious researcher of Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde, should be a must have.
Several copies are available at http://www.abebooks.com
For additional Elgee/Elgie information seehttp://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~inthetrees/elgie.ht...