Isabella Norcliffe
"You've got nothing more to fear from him. Do you understand?"

Isabella Norcliffe - "two Jacks would not suit together"

Isabella was born on 9 November 1785. Her father inherited Langton Hall, near Malton in Yorkshire in 1807; Anne was a regular visitor there. Anne often refers to Isabella as "Tib" in the diaries.

I'm not sure when Anne first met Isabella: it has been suggested that she was a pupil at the Manor School with Anne, but as she was six years older there has to be some doubt. A letter from Eliza to Anne dated 18 May 1810 is the first reference I have: "I am delighted to hear you have got so pleasant a companion as Miss Norcliffe" [Patricia Hughes]. In May 1810 Isabella would have been 24, which is old for a 19th-century upper-class woman to still be at school. The Norcliffes had a house in Petergate, so they probably met in York.
At Christmas 1810 Anne wrote to Isabella: "Perhaps my dear girl at this moment whilst my thoughts are all yours, you are gaily winding through the mazes of the dance, or led by some stupid senseless coxcomb gasping for breath among the careless crowd." (Helena Whitbread, blog). This could indicate that their relationship had become intimate; "stupid senseless coxcomb" could be a reference to their shared sexual preference.

Isabella, like Anne, apparently had a masculine manner. Anne recorded a conversation with Mariana Belcombe at Shibden: "Mr Lally had been visiting at Moreton last September and said he would as soon turn a man loose in his house as me - as for Miss Norcliffe, two jacks would not suit together" (12 Sep 1825). Obviously both Anne and Tib already had a reputation.

Anne and Isabella's's relationship was interrupted when Anne fell in love with Mariana Belcombe, although she would continue to see (and have sex with) Isabella after Mariana's marriage. The 1826 Valentine's Day diary entry is heart-wrenching: "a kiss last night of Isabella - perhaps I may never have another" (14 February 1826).

Tib outlived Anne and died, unmarried, on 11 May 1846.

Page updated 14-Mar-2021
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