A fairly balanced account of Lady Jane, with heavy emphasis on her role in Van Dieman’s Land where she clearly manipulated her husband’s performance as Governor General while always denying any involvement in the politics of the island. It comes across as an indictment of an ineffectual and easily swayed Sir John and a controlling Lady Jane. Alexander dwells somewhat on Franklin’s prim Protestantism, Sabbatarianism, and Scriptural grounding while Jane comes across as much less concerned about such matters. Disappointingly little about the James Clark Ross visit to Hobart, or about Franklin’s interactions with some North American political convicts.
p. 21, about Franklin’s first wife, Eleanor Porden: Then there was religion. Both were Anglicans, but John had Puritan tendencies. ‘I should be inclined to say that my religion like my character, was of a gayer nature than yours’, Eleanor wrote. ‘The simpler our Religion is, the better.’ But John disapproved of the Porden’s literary salon, the Attic Chest, meeting on Sunday, and rashly sent Eleanor some ardent evangelical writings, which she received coldly.
p. 78, on Jane’s religious views: Her husband and stepdaughter [Eleanor] were deeply religious, but Jane did not seem to share their consuming personal faith. She had much the same attitude to religion as to science and art: civilizing influences which she encouraged, but which did not affect her personally. She described herself as ‘very low Church’—a no-frills Protestant—and was so vehemently anti-Catholic that she once checked a bookshop to see if it was selling Catholic translations of the Bible bound to resemble Protestant ones…. Outwardly she conformed, however, and that was enough.
p. 88, in Van Diemen’s land at Government House: Or else she read: ‘read Vicar of Wakefield’, I read a good deal to day in a beautiful book, the “Christian Life” of Dr. Arnold’, ‘read Channing’s slavery’. Novels were rare, though she once recorded enjoying ‘a light amusing book’, a princess’s memoirs.
[The account of Lady Jane’s own search for Franklin and her efforts to support and enhance his reputation is quite brief whereas the Van Diemen section is a bit long. But it is a good job by a Tasmanian writer who in the end sees Tasmania as the only place to honor sufficiently the memory of both John and Jane.]