The wrong Emma Atkinson…

In its issue of 17 September 1881, the Barnsley Chronicle published the latest in its series of articles about prominent citizens of the Yorkshire town, setting out a detailed biography of Thomas Atkinson, who was born in the nearby village of Cawthorne. The article quotes extensively from correspondence sent by Thomas’ wife Lucy, and includes many fascinating details about the great explorer’s humble beginnings.

Generally, the article, which is unsigned, is very accurate and informative. But there is one section which is mistaken and perhaps here is the place to lay it to rest. It states:

“In addition to the son referred to above, who is now in Honolulu, Mr Atkinson left two daughters by a previous wife; one of whom we have been told, was many years ago engaged as a teacher of languages at Wentworth Castle. Miss Emma Wilsher Atkinson, one of these daughters, is not unknown in the literary world, having written ‘The Lives of the Queens of Prussia’ and ‘Extremes’, a novel in two volumes. The materials for the former work, which was published in 1858, she collected during her residence in Prussia; and it is dedicated to ‘a much-beloved invalid sister’. ‘Extremes’ is a novel written with a sober purpose and wound up with a moral…”

In fact, having looked into this in some detail, I can confirm that Emma Wilsher Atkinson was not related in any way to Thomas Witlam Atkinson. It is true that the latter had a son and two daughters through his first marriage to Rebecca (nee Mercer). The eldest daughter, born in 1819, was Martha, who went on to marry the very successful railway solicitor James Wheeler and eventually ended up living in a very grand house in Hyde Park Gardens in Central London.

His second daughter, Emma, was born in Pimlico in 1829. She appears never to have married and lived with her sister’s family until at least 1871. After that I have not been able to trace her. But she was never a writer and had no connection with the other Emma Atkinson.

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