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Title: An Account of the Ladies of Llangollen
Author: Prichard, Rev. John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the H. Jones edition by David Price, email

                  [Picture: Title page of the pamphlet]

                                AN ACCOUNT
                                  OF THE
                          LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN.

                                * * * * *

                  _BY THE LATE REV. J. PRICHARD_, _D.D._

  [Picture: Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, the Ladies of Llangollen]

                             PRICE TWO PENCE

                                * * * * *

    Printed and Published by H. Jones, at the Atmospheric Gas Printing
                 Works, “Advertiser” Office, Llangollen.


LADY Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby were Irish ladies of rank and
beauty, who loved each other with an affection so true that they could
never bear the idea of the separation which the marriage of either would
necessitate.  They, therefore, resolved on lives of celibacy, and,
refusing many handsome offers, fled from home.  They were, however,
overtaken and brought back to their respective relations.  Many attempts
were made to draw Miss Butler into marriage, but all were in vain.  In a
short time the ladies eloped again, each having a small sum with her; and
it was said that, although Lady Eleanor arrived here in the natural
aspect of a maid of 34, Miss Ponsonby accompanied her in the guise of a
smart footman, in top boots and buskin breeches.  It was about the year
1778 when these errant ladies visited Llangollen.  While rambling along
this charming locality, their eyes rested on a gentle eminence near the
village, and there they resolved to fix their abode.  They, accordingly,
purchased the estate, built a new cottage on the site of the old one,
laid out gardens, pleasure grounds, rural walks and bridges, by which
they might enjoy the natural charms of this picturesque retreat.  Their
mode of life being very singular, and their costume still more so, they
soon became noticed by the many travellers who passed through North
Wales.  The celebrated comedian Charles Mathews thus describes their
appearance:—“As they are seated, there is not one point to distinguish
them from men; the dresses and powdering of the hair, their well-starched
neckcloths, the upper part of their habits (which they always wear, even
at a dinner party) made precisely like men’s coats, with regular black
beaver hats, everything contributing to this semblance.  To crown all,
they had crop heads, which were rough, bushy, and white as snow.”

Plas Newydd was built at the north-east end of a field called the _Maes_,
and was, therefore, called _Penymaes_—The end of the Maes.

The ladies were, according to their means, charitable to the aged, sick,
and infirm; and had been taught, by wisdom and experience, that the best
way to help the poor labourer was by giving him employment.  The workman,
having precious commodities for the market of the world—physical power,
knowledge, and good common sense—that were of more value to society than
gold or land, would, by being given an opportunity to use his capacities,
be able to support himself and family, without losing his independence,
and humbling himself to be a crouching beggar, producing no honey to the
common hive.  Although their farm had only thirteen acres of land—four of
their own, and nine held as tenants, they kept a carpenter, a cowman, a
man for all work on the farm, and in the hay-harvest an additional number
of men and poor women; with two ladies’ maids and three female servants
in the house.  By the help of these male hands, they made every inch of
ground productive, and every hedge-fence and walk pleasant to the
sight—well answering their end, and the house healthy, orderly, and
comfortable.  In employing the labouring class, they were as wise and
praiseworthy as the Society of Friends.

We recollect another feature in the character of the Ladies of
Penymaes,—their non-interference with the religion of their servants.
They wished all to be religious, and possess the root of the matter.
Though they were LADIES, they left conscience to be ruled by its rightful
Owner; they followed the example of a certain German sovereign, who, when
some of his courtiers advised him to compel all his subjects to be of the
same religion as himself, replied, “I rule over the bodies of my faithful
subjects; as touching the soul I am not their king, but a fellow-subject
with them to the Great King, who _can_ govern the soul, and has reserved
conscience as His own sacred province.”  Lady Eleanor and the Honourable
Miss Ponsonby knew too well that coercion might make people worthless
hypocrites; but teaching the truth, a life consistent with the truth of
God, with loving persuasion, only could make sincere followers of Him,
who says, My son, give me _thine heart_.

Allow us to relate another incident in the lives of the Ladies of
Llangollen that fell under our observation, under the following
heading:—_Kindness creates kindness and liberality_.  Mr. Thomas Jones,
of Bachau Mill, and the minister of Penybryn Chapel were the collectors
for the Bible Society through the township of Bachau, from year to year,
for thirty years.  Penymaes being in their district, the collectors
called there as well as every other house in the township, and were
received with a smile, wishes of success, and a handsome subscription
from the ladies’ maids, Misses Elizabeth and Jane Hughes, and something
from the other servants.  Either Miss Jane or Miss Elizabeth would always
present the collecting book to the ladies.  But the book, for years,
would be returned from the ladies’ room, without anything to gladden the
collectors’ hearts.  However, one year, Miss Jane said, with a double
smile, and appearance of confidence on her face, “Please, I will take
your book to Lady Eleanor and Miss Ponsonby.”  She soon returned with a
yellow piece that did gladden the hearts of the collectors, and added,
“You must be sure, every year, to call on the ladies.”  And so they did
as long as the last of them remained on earth, and met with equal success
and cheerfulness.  The collectors had no clue to the welcome change at
Penymaes, in collecting, for years after the death of Miss Ponsonby.  In
course of time, Miss June Hughes (now Mrs. Roberts, Ormonde Cottage,
Berwyn Street,) was united in marriage to Mr. Edward Roberts, timber
merchant, and attended the means of grace at Penybryn Chapel, and became
a useful member there.  When the minister of Penybryn was taking tea at
her house, she asked him, “Do you remember the time you and Mr. Jones
received the first half-sovereign for the Bible Society from the dear
ladies!”  “Yes, as it were yesterday, but we know not the cause of our
success.”  “Well, I shall tell you.  Do you remember Lady Eleanor’s
severe illness about two years before she died?”  The minister replied,
“I do, and shall never forget it.”  “You, therefore, remember your
praying so earnestly for her, and for her recovery, that you, and many of
the congregation, were moved to tears?  Next day, someone, that was
present at Penybryn, described at Plas Newydd the remarkable prayer, and
its effects upon yourself and those present.  When the ladies heard of
the prayer they felt so much that they remembered the words of the
Apostle James (chap. v. 16), ‘The _effectual fervent_ prayer of a
righteous man availeth much.’  And Lady Eleanor soon recovered, and was
restored to her usual health: and both believed that the God of the Bible
had saved her life, and restored her health, and determined, to the end
of their days, to subscribe for the Bible; and so they did, as you know.”
The minister thanked Mrs. Roberts for the encouraging relation that
revealed the secret of the collectors’ success, on behalf of the British
and Foreign Bible Society, at Plas Newydd.

Miss Seward, the clever and amusing gossip, says of the “ladies,” whom
she rhapsodizes as “the enchantreses” of Plas Newydd:—

    “Lady Eleanor is of middle height, and somewhat beyond the
    _embonpoint_ as to plumpness; her face round and fair, with the glow
    of luxuriant health.  She has not fine features, but they are
    agreeable; enthusiasm in her eye, hilarity and benevolence in her
    smile.  Exhaustless is her fund of historic and traditionary
    knowledge, and of everything passing in the present eventful period.
    She expresses all she feels with an ingenuous ardour, at which the
    cold-spirited beings stare.  I am informed that both these ladies
    read and speak most of the modern languages.  Of the Italian poets,
    especially of Dante, they are warm admirers.  Miss Ponsonby, somewhat
    taller than her friend, is neither slender nor otherwise, but very
    graceful.  Easy, elegant, yet pensive, is her address and manner.

             “Her voice, like lovers’ watched, is kind and low.”

    “A face rather long than round, a complexion clear but without bloom,
    with a countenance which, from its soft melancholy, has a peculiar
    interest.  If her features are not beautiful, they are very sweet and
    feminine.  Though the pensive spirit within permits not her lovely
    dimples to give mirth to her smile, they increase its sweetness, and,
    consequently, her power of engaging the affections.  We see, through
    her veil of shading reserve, that all the talents and accomplishments
    which enrich the mind of Lady Eleanor exist, with equal powers, in
    this her charming friend.”

The celebrated Madame de Genlis, in an entertaining miscellany, under the
title of “Souvenirs de Felicie L—,” has given the following graphic
narrative of “The Fair Recluses of Llangollen:”—

    During my residence in England, nothing struck me so much as the
    delicious cottage of Llangollen, in North Wales.  It is not a little
    extraordinary, that a circumstance, so singular and remarkable, as
    that connected with this retreat, should hitherto have escaped the
    notice of all modern travellers.  The manner in which I became
    acquainted with it was this:—During our long stay at Bury, a small
    company of five or six persons, including ourselves, met every
    evening from seven till half-past ten o’clock.  We diverted ourselves
    with music and conversation, so that the time passed very agreeably.
    One night, friendship happened to be the subject of conversation, and
    I declared that I would with pleasure undertake a long journey to see
    two persons who had long been united by the bonds of genuine
    friendship.  ‘Well, madam,’ replied Mr. Stuart (now Lord
    Castlereagh), ‘go to Llangollen; you will there see a model of
    perfect friendship, which, will afford you the more delight, as it is
    exhibited by two females who are yet young and charming in every
    respect.  Would you like to hear the history of Lady Eleanor Butler
    and Miss Ponsonby?’—‘It would give me the greatest pleasure.’—‘I will
    relate it to you.’  At these words the company drew nearer to Mr.
    Stuart, we formed a little circle round him, and after recollecting
    himself a few moments, he thus began his narrative:—

    ‘Lady Eleanor Butler was born in Dublin.  She was left an orphan
    while in her cradle; and possessing an ample fortune, together with
    an amiable disposition and a beautiful person, her hand was solicited
    by persons belonging to the first families in Ireland.  At an early
    age she manifested great repugnance to the idea of giving herself a
    master.  This love of independence, which she never dissembled, did
    no injury to her reputation; her conduct has always been
    irreproachable, and no female is more highly distinguished for
    sweetness of temper, modesty, and all the virtues which adorn her
    sex.  In early life a mutual attachment took place between her and
    Miss Ponsonby, by an accident, which made a deep impression on their
    imagination.  They had no difficulty to persuade themselves that
    heaven had formed them for each other; that is, that it had designed
    each of them to devote her existence to the other, so that they might
    glide together down the stream of life, in the bosom of peace, the
    most intimate friendship, and delicious independence.  This idea
    their sensibility was destined to realize.  Their friendship
    gradually grew stronger with their years, so that when Miss Ponsonby
    was seventeen, and Lady Eleanor Butler thirty-four, they mutually
    engaged never to sacrifice their liberty, or to part from each other.
    From that moment they formed the design of withdrawing from the
    world, and of settling for good in some sequestered retreat.  Having
    heard of the charming scenery of Wales, they secretly absconded from
    their friends for the purpose of fixing upon their future residence.
    They visited Llangollen, and there, on the summit of a hill, they
    found a little detached cottage, with the situation of which they
    were delighted.  Here they resolved to form their establishment.
    Meanwhile the guardians of the young fugitives sent people after
    them, and they were conveyed back to Dublin.  They declared that they
    would return to their hill as soon as they were free.  Accordingly,
    when Miss Ponsonby was twenty-one, in spite of the entreaties and
    remonstrances of their relatives and friends, they quitted Ireland
    for ever, and flew to Llangollen.  Miss Ponsonby is not rich, but
    Lady Eleanor possesses a considerable fortune.  She purchased the
    little hut and the property of the hill, where she built a cottage,
    very simple in external appearance, but the interior of which
    displays the greatest elegance.  On the top of the hill she has
    formed about the house a court and flower-garden; a hedge of
    rosebushes is the only enclosure that surrounds this rural
    habitation.  A convenient carriage-road, the steepness of which has
    been diminished by art, was carried along the hill.  On the aide of
    the latter some ancient pines of prodigious height were preserved;
    fruit trees were planted, and a great number of cherry trees in
    particular, which produce the best and finest cherries in England.
    The two friends likewise possess a farm for their cattle, with a
    pretty farm-house and a kitchen-garden close by.  In this sequestered
    abode, these two extraordinary persons, with minds equally
    cultivated, and accomplishments equally pleasing, have now resided
    ten years, without ever having been absent from it a single night.
    Nevertheless, they are not unsociable; they sometimes pay visits to
    the neighbouring gentry, and receive, with the greatest politeness,
    travellers on their way to or from Ireland, who are recommended to
    them by any of their old friends.’

    This account strongly excited my curiosity, and produced the same
    effect on Mademoiselle d’Orleans and my two young companions.  We
    determined the same night to set out immediately for Llangollen, by
    the circuitous route of Brighton, Portsmouth, and the Isle of Wight.
    It was the latter end of July when we arrived at Llangollen.  This
    place has not the rich appearance of the English villages in general,
    but nothing can equal the cleanliness of the houses, and among the
    lower classes of any country this is an infallible proof of
    abundance.  Llangollen, surrounded with woods and meadows, clothed
    with the freshest verdure, is situated at the foot of the hill
    belonging to the two friends, which there forms a majestic pyramid
    covered with trees and flowers.  We arrived at the cottage, the only
    object of our journey, an hour before sunset.

    The two friends had received in the morning by a messenger the letter
    which Mr. Stuart had given me for them.  We were received with a
    grace, a cordiality, and kindness, of which it would be impossible
    for me to give any idea.  I could not turn my eyes from those two
    ladies, rendered so interesting by their friendship and so
    extraordinary on account of their way of life.  I perceived in them
    none of that vanity which takes delight in the surprise of others.
    Their mutual attachment, and their whole conduct evince such
    simplicity, that astonishment soon gives way to softer emotions; all
    they do and say breathes the utmost frankness and sincerity.  One
    circumstance which I cannot help remarking is, that after living so
    many years in this sequestered retreat, they speak French with equal
    fluency and purity. * * * An excellent library, composed of the best
    English, French, and Italian authors, affords them an inexhaustible
    source of diversified amusement and solid occupation; for reading is
    not truly profitable except when a person has time to read again.

    The interior of the house is delightful on account of the just
    proportion and distribution of the apartments, the elegance of the
    ornaments and furniture, and the admirable view which you enjoy from
    all the windows; the drawing-room is adorned with charming
    landscapes, drawn and coloured from nature, by Miss Ponsonby.  Lady
    Eleanor is a great proficient in music; and their solitary habitation
    is filled with embroidery, by them both, of wonderful execution.
    Miss Ponsonby, who writes the finest hand I ever saw, has copied a
    number of select pieces in verse and prose, which she has ornamented
    with vignettes and arabesques, in the best taste, and which form a
    most valuable collection.  Thus the arts are cultivated there with
    equal modesty and success, and their productions are admired with a
    feeling that is not experienced elsewhere; the spectator observes
    with delight that so much merit is secure in this peaceful retreat
    from the shafts of satire and envy.

There are several little reminiscences of the Ladies of Penymaes to be
gleaned from the few remaining old residents, such as their habit of
distributing sixpenny pieces on Sunday mornings on their way to Church,
which was always down Butler’s Hill and along Church Street to the gate
which formerly stood in the same street.  Their influence was considered
paramount, and very solicitous were the labouring classes and
tradespeople for their patronage and countenance.  During hay-harvest,
the poor women of the village were wont to scrape a few pence for the
purpose of buying a quart of beer for the mowers in the ladies’ field,
for the sake of their certain acknowledgment, and thereby causing a
superfluity of drink to run during the ladies’ harvest.  The poor cottage
gardeners of the neighbourhood used to vie with each other in being the
first in tendering their earliest and finest vegetables to the ladies.
The working tradesmen of the town would leave any work unfinished to
attend to the building and other tastes of Miss Ponsonby.

They were deemed all-powerful intercessors with the magistracy and
government.  Many a mother has stood, twirling her apron, at that dark
threshold, whilst recounting her sorrowful tale about her Will or Tom
having got into a scrape, and consequent durance, and had her burden
lightened by the sympathetic countenance of Lady Eleanor, being at the
same time edified by the wholesome advice of Miss Ponsonby.  Fancy
recalls her lightened step and brightened face, as she turned away with
the much-desired promise of their advocacy.  Their influence proved
sufficient even to save the life of one young man, who had been sentenced
to death for forgery.  Their qualities were such that their whole lives
were spent in performing worthy deeds.  Good actions, like sweet herbs,
have a retentive perfume.  May their memory be long cherished as virtuous
exponents of that paternal and sympathetic life of the upper order which
knits class to class, and has a strong, refining influence on the poor
and lowly.

On June 2nd, 1829, death severed the faithful friendship which had
existed for so many years between the eccentric residents at Plas Newydd,
by removing from this earthly scene Lady Eleanor Butler, who had attained
the advanced age of ninety.  On December 9th, 1831, Miss Ponsonby also
died.  They are both buried in the Churchyard of Llangollen, where a
stone monument is erected to their memory.  On this record of mortality
are inserted the following memorials:—

                           SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
                            _The Right Honourable_
                        LADY ELEANOR CHARLOTTE BUTLER,
                     Late of Plas Newydd, in this Parish,
                        _Deceased_ 2_nd_ _June_, 1829,
                                Aged 90 Years,
           _Daughter of the Sixteenth_, _Sister of the Seventeenth_
                        _EARLS OF ORMONDE AND OSSORY_;
                     Aunt to the late, and to the present
                             MARQUESS OF ORMONDE.

    _Endeared to her friends by an almost unequalled excellence of
    heart_, _and by manners worthy of her illustrious birth_, _the
    admiration and delight of a very numerous acquaintance from a
    brilliant vivacity of mind undiminished to the latest period of a
    prolonged existence_.  _Her amiable condescension and benevolence
    secured the grateful attachment of those by whom they had been so
    long and so extensively experienced_.  _Her various perfections_,
    _crowned by the most pious and cheerful submission to the Divine
    will_, _can only be appreciated where it is humbly believed they are_
    now _enjoying their Eternal Reward_,_ and by her_, _of whom for more
    than fifty years they constituted that happiness which_, _through our
    blessed Redeemer_, _she trusts will be renewed when_ THIS TOMB _shall
    have closed over its_ latest tenant.

                 “Sorrow not as others who have no hope.”

                                           1 _Thess._, _chap._ 4, _v._ 13.

                                * * * * *

                                SARAH PONSONBY
                              Departed this Life
                          On the 9th December, 1831,
                                   Aged 76.

    _She did not long survive her beloved companion_, _LADY ELEANOR
    BUTLER_, _with whom she lived in this valley for more than half a
    century of uninterrupted friendship_.  “_But they shall no more
    return to their house_, _neither shall their place know them any
    more_.”—_Job_, _chap._ 7, _v._ 10.

    _Reader_, _pause for a moment and reflect_, _not on the uncertainty
    of human life_, _but_, _upon the certainty of its termination_, _and
    take comfort from the assurance that_ “_As it is appointed unto men
    once to die_, _but after this the judgment_: _so Christ was once
    offered to bear the sins of many_; _and unto them that look for Him
    shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation_.”—_Heb._,
    _chap._ 9, _v._ 27, 28.

On the same tombstone is also the following inscription, to the memory of
a faithful servant, who accompanied “the ladies” from Ireland:—

                                 IN MEMORY OF
                              MRS. MARY CARRYL,
                     _Deceased_ 22_nd_ _November_, 1809.

    This Monument is erected by Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, of
    Plas Newydd, in this Parish.

    _Released from earth and all its transient woes_,
    _She whose remains beneath this Stone repose_,
    _Steadfast in faith resigned her parting breath_,
    _Looked up with Christian joy and smiled in death_. _ Patient_,
    _industrious_, _faithful_, _generous_, _kind_,
    _Her conduct left the proudest far behind_;
    _Her virtues dignified her humble birth_,
    _And raised her mind above this sordid earth_. _Attachment_ (_sacred
    bond of grateful breasts_)_ Extinguished but with life_, _this Tomb
    _Reared by two friends who will her loss bemoan_,
    _Till with her ashes_, _here_, _shall rest their own_.


   ONCE two young girls of rank and beauty rare,
   Of features more than ordinary fair,
   Who in the heyday of their youthful charms
   Refused the proffer of all suitors’ arms,
   Lived in a cottage here rich carved in oak,
   Though now long passed from life by death’s grim stroke.
   Plas Newydd’s gardens then displayed much taste,
   And nought about them e’er allowed to waste.
   The umbrageous foliage of surrounding trees
   Gave them a shelter from the stormy breeze,
   Whilst in a snug retreat about south-west,
   Was bird-cote placed as shelter for redbreast,
   For sparrow, chaffinch, blackbird, or for thrush,
   These ladies did not wish the cold to touch.
   Then did all species of ferns abound
   In every nook and corner of their ground,
   Then none were known to come unto their door
   That were not welcomed with kind words, or more.
   These ladies to each other kind and true,
   Around Llangollen’s vale, like them were few.
   E’en now I see them seated in yon chair,
   In well-starched neckcloths, and with powdered hair,
   Their upper habits just like men’s they wore,
   With tall black beaver hats outside their door;
   To crown it all my muse would whisper low,
   With hair cropped short, rough, bushy, white as snow.
   They at death’s summons, God’s commands obeyed,
   And were in fair Llangollen’s churchyard laid,
   As they through life together did abide,
   E’en now in death they both lie side by side;
   Of them remains nought save dark mould and sod,
   Who loved their neighbours second to their God;
   Sweet peace be theirs—by death to dust allied,
   Through him who near a century was their Guide;
   Beloved, respected by the world were they,
   By all regretted when they passed away.

PLAS NEWYDD was purchased by General Yorke, C.B., in 1876.  He knew the
Ladies intimately in his Eton school-boy days, and has saved their
cottage from decay, and filled the rooms with antiquities and
curiosities, and all persons express delight on leaving the grounds.  In
1878–79 the General made an extensive new wing to the back of the house.
He spends his summer months at this delightful retreat, and is becoming a
general favourite in the town, imitating the old Ladies in his liberality
and kindness.  He takes great delight in carving, and much of his
handi-work may be seen in and about the house.  It is very fortunate that
the property fell to the hands of the present proprietor, whose constant
aim is to improve and keep it in the most perfect repair.  May the
gallant general be long spared to reside amongst us.  He has been happy
in the selection of Mr. Joseph Davies and his amiable wife Mrs. Davies to
look after the place, who are most careful to keep everything in the
house and grounds in proper trim, and most attentive and obliging to
visitors, who are admitted daily, on payment of a small fee.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                   _H. Jones_, _Printer_, _Llangollen_.

                                * * * * *

 _Published every Friday Morning_, _by H. Jones_, 17, _Castle_, _Street_,
                     _Llangollen_, _Price One Penny_,

                        The Llangollen Advertiser,
                         AND NORTH WALES JOURNAL.

This Journal was established in 1860, and has a very influential
circulation in Llangollen, and throughout all North Wales.  Being
conducted entirely on neutral principles, it finds its way into families
of all classes.  As it is also the only paper printed and published in
this district, it offers peculiar advantages to advertisers.  Special
attention is paid to local intelligence, and general news is carefully

             _Terms for Advertisements sent on Application_.

                                * * * * *

                    ON SALE AT H. JONES’S, STATIONER,

                                * * * * *

                         PRICE SIXPENCE, JONES’S

HAND-BOOK TO LLANGOLLEN & CORWEN, with Plan and several Engravings of the

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

THE GOSPEL OF ST MATTHEW, in English and Welsh, with Notes and
References.  Price Four Pence.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

MAPS AND GUIDES FOR WALKS, and a Well-selected Stock of LITHO. AND

                                * * * * *


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