By Rosemary Bailey
This article was published in the April 2023 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Back in the December 2017 issue George Solly wrote in his Research Co-ordinator’s report the following:
From Dr. Elizabeth Weiser of Ohio;
Hello. I seem to have picked up at my parish book give-away the handwritten 1833 travel journal of one of the daughters of Edward Solly the merchant. I am not 100% sure, but someone in the past (not the original author) has written their names in the front of the journal, and the journal itself is written by a young woman in an educated hand, and describes a connected British family spending many months in Germany in 1833, with the names Papa, Edward, and Annette mentioned frequently. An enclosed note from her also indicates that “We left England in June 1826 and stayed at Berlin till the beginning of June 1828. The same year we went at the beginning of August to Holland, and returned about the middle of October. The end of June 1833 – end of October 1833” (these last are the dates of the journal as well).
I would guess the writer is in her late teens/early 20s, with Annette a bit younger and Edward a child. Your family website has given me enough clues into them all that I imagine they are likely to be the Solly family. I would be happy to scan the journal for you all, but I also wonder if you have further information on the lives of the daughters of Edward Solly. It seems Annette married in 1839(?) and Sarah & Lavinia sold the family art collection in 1847, but that is all I see of them on the website. Having read the delightful musings of this Sarah or Lavinia, I am quite curious to see how they lived the rest of their lives.
Of course George replied to her and we waited for the scans of the travel journal but they didn’t arrive.
Then just before Covid hit, as I was putting together the April 2020 journal, I thought I would email Dr Weiser to ask again. She replied to say they had been locked out of the university campus due to Covid and the journal was in her office there. I emailed in August 2022 and she was incredibly apologetic and said she had looked through all her bookcases both at home and at university and was unable to find the journal. However she thought it might be with an ex-student who she had asked to photocopy it for her.
I was delighted, therefore, when I received an email this March from her with a scan of the first 21 pages attached! She has not given up hope that the journal itself will be found and says she will keep in touch. So a huge thanks to Elizabeth Weiser for persevering.
I have started to transcribe the travel journal and below we have the period from Thursday 29th August when the family was in Cologne to 5th September. There will be more about who the family were in the next journal.
Thursday 29th August 1833
This morning at breakfast an old officer introduced himself to us, telling us that he was Commandant of Aachen and that if we should happen to come there he would show us all that was worth seeing. I called upon Mr Schmeyer, but found him so busy that he could not look over the minerals as he had promised he would, so our visit was postponed till the next day.
I had frequently heard that one had a fine view from the tower upon the top of the Dom today as we were so near it I and had nothing better to do, and the day was very fine I proposed on ascending the tower [Ed: The Dom is Cologne Cathedral where there is a tower which is today open to the public]. We went to the Minister, asked for the key, had the door opened, and had to ascend some tedious spiral stairs of 250 steps.
When we at last reached the top with trembling knees, I believe we all agreed that our trouble was fully repaid, as one of the most glorious sights burst upon us since though the majestic Rhine forms the chief beauty of this part of the world, yet from this elevation we over looked so many ……. and gardens in the towns, and so many distant villages that the whole appeared to me like a beautiful Panorama. At last to my great joy the clock began to strike ………, and as this Bell is of singularly beautiful, deep and sonorous sound I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Upon our guide proposing whether we should like to see the Bell I gladly acquiesced as I had never seen one of any ……. …….. We had to descend about 2 flights of the same stairs, after which we had to ascend again 100 steps which were of singularly crazy description and shook and one …… at every step. The large Bell hung over a platform and is fastened to a beam of an immense thickness. Whenever they ring it, which is only done on high festivals, 16 men are obliged to pull the rope, its dimensions are 9 feet in diameter and 27 in circumference and its thickness nearly a foot and a half. The young man told us that the very stairs that we had just ascended were rocked backwards and forwards whenever the Bell was in motion. I declare I could not help thinking that the Bell must begin to move and how should we escape quickly enough from the deafening noise down the heaving stairs! I was delighted when we were once more upon firmer ground, escaped from all imaginary danger though I was eternally glad that I had seen the Bell, which has I am told only its equal in size at Oxford(?)
At table today I had the old [Obeist en Mayer] who talked a great deal, and rather more than was agreeable. I forgot that on Monday evening we passed the house in which Rubens was born and in which Marie de Medici [Ed: (26 April 1575 – 3 July 1642) Queen of France and Navarre as the second wife of King Henry IV. ] spent the latter part of her life and died. —- After tea we took a long walk in the town, met Dr Garthe, and afternoon with Schmeyer, who told us he would expect us tomorrow at 11.
Friday 30th August
Papa has for some days past been very much displeased with our dinner, and so he settled that by way of a change we should dine at the Hotel Imperiale today. This morning was the last German lesson, as the instruction has exceeded every expectations. After we went according to appointment to Mr Schlmeyer where the ……. had … …. … and but few were found worthy of being kept.
At half past twelve Papa called to tell me that Mrs Wilmes who was to dine with us would call for us here, as it had turned out a wet disagreeable day. I had the pleasure to introduce the ….. to each other. We had an excellent dinner, though much the same kind of company as at the other place. It rained nearly the whole afternoon, and after tea I went merely to change the boots, it being very raw and cold, which after a few days heat, and after a bath which we had taken yesterday felt very disagreeable. We had a letter today from Sir W. Donnville informing us that he intended to be here on the 11th September.
Saturday 31st August
The weather was very bad all this morning. Went down to the mistress before dinner to explain to her our wishes of events in consequenses of which we had some deliveries. Beefsteak for dinner. When we went down to tea the Waiter told us that Sir W. Donnville was arrived, and had returned to the steamboat to fetch his luggage. We could not believe it possible after yesterday’s letter, but in a very short time, we found our information correct and
W. Henry before us. He wanted to get to England as soon as possible, to finish some business which he has to do … before he can join his family who are all going on a tour into Italy and this was the reason why he had changed his plans. We were very sorry to find that he meant to be off again tomorrow morning. I took W. Henry a short walk, and afterwards we sat together till 9 o’clock when we parted.
Sunday 1st September
I heard our friends going off this morning and was glad I had not to accompany them as it was very wet. The weather was very bad all day, and we employed …… in …… and overlooking our trunks as I believe we shall depart from here whenever the weather clears up.
Monday 2nd September
Shocking weather all day. Between the showers we contrived to go as far as Mr Schmeyer’s to fetch away some minerals which we had forgotten, when he very kindly made the young …. a present of a very pretty collection of minerals which we labelled in the evening.
Tuesday 3rd September
This morning we packed up all the minerals and fastened the boxes. The weather today has been worse than ever, our morning was spent on my part in making a flannel jacket and in bitter complaints from us all about the cold. After dinner we tried several expedients to warm ourselves but did not succeed till after tea which I am very glad of. The rooms are so small that we cannot think of walking about in them.
Wednesday 4th September
The cold weather makes it mere fancy to think of some warmer clothing so between the showers I bought some petticoats and warms shoes.
Thursday 5th September
The weather today has been rather more favourable whilst Annette and I took a pleasant walk on the ramparts. Edward went to Mrs Spencer to look at some minerals.
To be continued.