Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Augusta Johnstone Actress and Writer

Johnston[e] Augusta 59 Herbert Street North Shoreditch
Actress, music and Comedy teacher and writer, 
Someone I would have liked to have met!
Mary Ann Augusta Johnstone was born in Marylebone in 1818. Her parents had married at St Paul Covent Garden in 1809.  Her father Thomas Oswald Johnstone was in trade at the time of her baptism.   In November 1824 when he was made bankrupt he was in business as a dealer in music and musical instrument dealer at Great Queen Street Lincolns Inn Fields . In her later article on Debt Augusta clearly speaks from experience, and who knows what the parents and their 5 year old daughter went through in the following years.   . It appears that her father  died by 1851.   In the 1851 census Augusta was a teacher of Music and Comedy, living with her widowed mother who was totally  dependent on her for support.  
In 1857 she published A Woman’s Preachings for woman’s practice, essays addressed to women on a range of topics, which were apparently first published in a weekly magazine from 1854. http://dbooks.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/books/PDFs/600077362.pdf  The first essay, addressed to men,  is graphic in its descriptions of the violence which women can suffer from their husbands in marriage. On page 80, in the chapter on Art and Artistes she describes the drudgery a middle ranking actress as well as discussing the fate of young ballet dancers who are at risk of becoming prostitutes .  On page 131, in the article on Debt she  advises single women on the dangers of getting into debt. The  article on Suspicion is particularly interesting on the double standards which might exist in the Victorian marriage.  She herself did not marry, but one wonders if it was  her parents'or friends' relationship which informed her strong opinions.   She suggests that it is foolish to marry a rake expecting that he will be reformed by marriage.  On Page 150 she says .’it is a terrible thing to find you share his affections(?)[sic] with your own house maid …[or that] a discarded mistress [comes to your home asking for help]   In 1859 she published A few out of thousands their sayings and doings and in 1864 A message from Whitechapel which I have not seen, but which are in the British Library.
 ]In the next census, in 1861 at 59, Herbert Street, Shoreditch, she describes herself as a theatrical performer and, as well as her mother, the household includes a boarder, widow Louisa Belyer, a German writer of light literature, and a 17 year old maid.  They are one of five households at this address.  She appears at her petition address in the 1866 street directory as a Professor of Music.    By 1871, her mother having died,  she is lodging with a family at 41 Herbert Street, and is still a teacher of music, again sharing her lodgings with language teacher Louise Belger.  In that census Augusta says she was born in 1827! 

1861 census Civil Parish: Shoreditch St Leonard Ecclesiastical parish Holy Trinity County/Island: Middlesex Country: England Registration district: Shoreditch Sub-registration district: Hoxton New Town ED, institution, or vessel: 7 Household schedule number: 61 Piece: 236 Folio: 145 Page Number: 9