Mariana Belcombe
"Miss Lister likes trouble"

Mariana Belcombe - the love of Anne's life

Mariana was a friend of Isabella Norcliffe - both families had houses in Petergate, York. Either Mariana was at the Manor School, or - perhaps more likely - Isabella Norcliffe introduced her to Anne at Langton Hall[1]; they had definitely met by July 1810.[2] Mariana became Mrs Lawton in 1816.

We meet Mariana in episode 1 of GJ: "all the usual sleeping arrangements". By 1832 she has been married to Charles Lawton[3] for 16 years, having broken Anne's heart "for a carriage and a jointure". The marriage is not happy and Mariana has not been able to provide Charles with the heir he wants. Charles is nearly 20 years older than Mariana: initially she and Anne planned to live together after Charles' expected early death. Charles, however, lives to be 89, outliving Anne by nearly 20 years.

In 1821, during a visit to Steph Belcombe in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Anne and Mariana considered themselves to be married: "We talked all last night and only closed our eyes to dose[sic] about half hour just before getting up. Went to Mariana but somehow did not manage a good kiss - refused to promise till I had really felt that she was my wife. Went to her a second time, succeeded better and then bound ourselves to each other by an irrevocable prom[is]e forever - in pledge of which turned on her finger the gold ring I gave her several years ago and also her wedding ring which had not been moved off her finger ever since her marriage. She seems devoted to me and I can and shall trust her now". Anne then refers back to her diary entry of the 14th and a letter from Mariana: "Her indisposition arises from her having a fright about a fortnight ago by being thrown from her horse in Newcastle - 'had been taken unwell the day before and it produced a stoppage of the right thing and ever since I have had a discharge which makes me uneasy and sometimes very uncomfortable but I have no pain'" - which leads Anne to wonder "it has occurred to me, can Charles have given her a venereal affectioninfection??" Mariana has caught some sort of venereal disease - presumably from Charles - and Anne later realises that Mariana has passed it on to her. The coded entry continues: "Left to ourselves perhaps an hour this morning, mutually most affectionate said how much happier I felt to have lost my liberty than I should to have kept it etc. etc." (23-Jul-1821).

Anne and Mariana have sex every day until Mariana leaves Newcastle-under-Lyme for Lawton: "Two last night or three. Mariana and I seize eevery[sic] moment we are left alone together to assure eeach[sic] other and talk of days to come... Sat up lovemaking. Mariana loves and seems devoted to me eentirely[sic] and my heart is thoroughly hers" (24-Jul-1821) --- "Two last night" (25-Jul-1821) --- "Two last night" (26-Jul-1821) --- "In spite of my cousinperiod's appearance last night just at bedtime, we both being excited as we sat talking at my dressing table, undressed and got into bed before my hair was curled and had two good kisses, both together - that is without having separated. Had a quarter hour's nap. I then left Mariana in bed and got up and curled [my hair] and on returning to her had another good kiss" (27-Jul-1821) --- "Three last night - one after another without once separating" (28-Jul-1821) --- "Two last night" (29-Jul-1821).

After the idyllic days spent together "I do feel wedded to her now and my mind is settled and satisfied. The thought quickens my pulse and I feel at this moment that she is and ever has been and ever will be the only real obiect of my love" (2-Aug-1821). Her fear that Mariana may have been infected by Charles, however, is realised: "Feel a queer, hot-ish, itching sensation tonight about the pudendum" (3-Aug-1821). Anne's condition would continue to cause Anne distress for several years, and one of the reasons for her 1825 trip to Paris was to seek a cure. She subsequently passed the infection on to Isabella Norcliffe and, possibly, Ann.

Despite having comitted themselves to each other, with time it seems that Mariana became more settled in her rôle as Mrs Lawton and as Anne became better travelled she began to find Mariana less appealing. In 1823 the "Blackstone Edge" and "Scarborough" incidents occurred: On 19 August Anne walked some ten and a half miles from Shibden along the Rochdale road eager to meet Mariana on her way to Halifax from her marital home in Cheshire. At the top of Blackstone Edge she met Mariana's carriage and leapt on board, seeming "to have taken 3 steps at once"[4]. Mariana was "horror-struck" and mortified by Anne's dishevelled appearance and extraordinary behaviour; her reaction deeply hurt Anne. The following month Anne travelled to Scarborough - then a fashionable spa town - with Mariana and two of the other Belcombe sisters. Here Mariana was ashamed to be seen with Anne because of her masculine behaviour and unfeminine appearance. Both incidents are referred to in episode 7 of GJ; Mariana: "Let's talk about Blackstone Edge! And Scarborough! Do you know what miseries, what agonies, I went through? Being seen with you, the way you used to look, the way you used to dress!? Everyone whispering behind your back about how... masculine you were! I was snubbed too! Just for being seen with you!". Anne never forgot Blackstone Edge or Scarborough.

As per GJ, Anne and Mariana continued their on-off sexual relationship up until Anne committed herself to Ann.


Footnotes: 
[1] This is Helena Whitbread's supposition.
[2] Anne mentions Mariana in a letter to Isabella [Patricia Hughes].
[3] Mariana was the second wife of Charles Bourne Lawton (1770-1860). His first wife, Ann Featherstonhaugh, had died in 1814.
[4] Anne also referes to the Blackstone Edge incident as "the 3 steps".
Page updated 16-Aug-2020
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