Unknown - portrait of Helen Shelley

This artist is unknown, but the portrait is clearly inscribed;

Mrs Parker of Bath, dec'd, sister of Sir Timothy Shelley Bart.

This would make her the Hellen Shelley who married a Mr Robert Parker (born 1754, wed 1782, buried at Bath 1837) of Bath. Hellen Shelley (1755-1839) was the sister of Sir Timothy Shelley and he was the father of Percy Bysshe Shelley. This Hellen Shelley was the aunt of the famous poet.

However, the clothes and hair may be too recent to be that Hellen Shelley, as they appear to date closer to 1810-20 when she would have been aged 55 or more. Thus it may be Helen Shelley (1799-10 May 1885), the sister of Percy Bysshe Shelley. This Helen Shelley appears not to have married.

There is an interesting reference in the Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Henry Reeve, C.B., D.C.L., by John Knox Laughton, to a letter to a Mr. E. Cheney dated January 23rd 1879.

"I saw Lady Shelley to-day, and, as I told her you could not call on her, she very obligingly said she would be happy to call on you and bring you the enlarged photograph of the poet to look at. These photographs are done on porcelain. There are only three copies of them, which Lady S. has got. The negative is destroyed. ... She says the drawing is the image of Shelley's sister, Helen Shelley." See In Two Volumes. Volume II. / Laughton, John Knox, 1830-1915

Comparison with one of these images could help the identification. The Bodleian Library has a miniature portrait described as of Hellen Shelley and her sister Margaret, which, by the clothing, appears to date to around 1850-55. See, Shelley's sister wearing necklace of Mary Wollstonecraft's hair ...

The husband of Hellen Shelley Parker was a wealthy man, as indicated by his will. From the will, they seem not to have had any surviving children, so the sitter seems unlikely to be a daughter of Robert Parker, unless she had pre-deceased him.

The will is recorded at 1837 Will of Robert Parker - nephew of ELIZABETH MORTON who was ... - but it can be summarised as;

* £60,000 of three pounds per centum Consols to wife Helen
* £10,000 of three pounds per centum Consols to E1izabeth the widow of Charles Bedford Young
* £5,000 of three pounds per centum Consols to Mary Ann Young
* £500 to Arriana wife of Aitkin Esquire formerly Arriana Shelley
* £100 to Godson John Shelley
* £50 to Godson Charles Parker Cally
* £50 to to Goddaughter Mary Day
* £50 to Goddaughter Louisa Scudamore
* £200 to Frances Jeffery, now North, who lived with his late mother and received an annuity which was to cease after Robert’s death
* £200 to her son Robert Jeffery
* the residual ready money to brother in law Sir Timothy Shelley Bart and Sir John Shelley Sidney Bart to invest on behalf of Robert’s wife during her lifetime and afterwards to be divided amongst cousins Thomas Marchant, John Marchant and the children of Robert‘s late cousin Mary Knight viz one equal share to Thomas Marchant one equal share to John Marchant one equal share amongst the children of WILLIAM MARCHANT and the remaining share amongst the children of Mary
* all third part shares in lands in Ifield and Charlswood (Westfield) and lands and castle at Otford in Kent plus farm and lands in Chevington in Suffolk, in Hargrove and Isfield and house in Catherine Place, Bath to Sir Timothy Shelley and Sir John Shelley Sidney
* all residual property for the use of wife Helen and after her decease to Thomas and John Marchant and the children of the said WILLIAM MARCHANT and Mary Knight in equal shares
* all jewels plate linen china carriage wines and other goods chattels to his wife
* £1,000 to Mrs Down
* £1,000 to Martha Isgrove
* £500 to each of the other servants

The will seems to have later been the subject of a Court Case:
By order of Vice Chancellor Knight Bruce bearing date the 8th of March 1842 the following case was submitted for the opinion of the Judges of this Court. Robert Parker Esq was at the date of his will herein after set forth seised and possessed respectively of the following real and leasehold properties and of no other real or leasehold property that is to say Real property A freehold messuage or tenement and farm called The Great Lodge of Otford Park together with the barns stables lodges edifices buildings yards gardens orchards and appurtenances thereto belonging 1 and twenty one several closes or pieces or parcels of land thereto belonging containing by admeasurement 210 acres. A freehold messuage or tenement and farm called The Place Farm together with the granary barns stables oast houses lodges outhouses edifices and buildings and the ruins of the ancient castle and palace of Otford yards gardens orchards and appurtenances thereunto belonging and twenty seven closes pieces or parcels of land thereto belonging containing together by admeasurement 229 acres all which several messuages tenements lauds hereditaments and premises with the appurtenances are situate lying and being in the several parishes villages or hamlets of Otford and Kemsing or one of them in the county of Kent. A freehold plot piece or parcel of ground together with the messuage tenement or dwelling house thereon or on some part thereof erected and built being No 18 in Catherine Place in that part of the parish of Walcot in the county of Somerset which lies without the jurisdiction of the city of Bath. A freehold messuage tenement or farm barns stables buildings orchards gardens lands meadows pastures feedings coppices shaws and wood grounds thereto belonging with the appurtenances situate lying and being in the parish of Ifield in the county of Sussex and containing together by estimation in the whole 55 acres A freehold messuage tenement or farm barn stables buildings orchards gardens backsides lands meadows pastures feedings woods underwoods coppices shaws and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging containing by estimation 45 acres situate lying and being in the said parish of Ifield in the said county of Sussex. A freehold messuage tenement or farm and barns stables outhouses and buildings thereunto belonging and several pieces or parcels of laud arable meadow pasture and woodland situate lying and being in the parish of Charlewood in the county of Surrey One etc. etc.......

The judgement was; The testator, after several pecuniary bequests and a bequest of the residue of his "ready money" securities for money, and money in the funds, to trustees proceeded thus; "As to to my messuages, lands, tenements, and real estate, I do dispose thereof as follows and then he specifically devised to the same trustees, certain freehold estates and all other my messuages, lands, tenements, and hereditaments which may not be herein particuiarly described or mentioned, upon certain trusts. The testator possessed no other real estates besides those mentioned but he possessed certain leasehold property at Bath and elsewhere. Held that the leaseholds did not pass to the trustees. Scott's New Reports in the Court of Common Pleas and Exchequer ... - Google Books Result-

One other possibility for the miniature is that it is of Sophia Stacey (1791-1874) who was a ward of Robert Parker. Her age fits the apparent date of the miniature, although her hair may not be dark enough. Having lived in Parker's house around the time the miniature was painted, it is possible the miniature remained there and was later miss-identified as his wife, rather than as his ward.

Shortly before Percy Florence Shelley's birth, Sophia Stacey with Miss Jones, her travelling companion, arrived in Florence from Sussex. Sophia was the youngest daughter of Mr Flint Stacey of Sittingbourne, and on the death of her father, she became a ward of Percy Shelley's uncle Robert Parker. During her three year residence with Mr Parker at Bath and Brighton she said she had naturally heard much of Percy Shelley and was enthusiastic to see him. Sophia described Percy "His face was singularly engaging, with strongly marked intellectuality. His eyes were, however, the most striking portion of his face, blue and large and of a tenderness unsurpassed. In his manner there was an almost childish simplicity combined with much refinement."

Sophia was described as having dark hair and "strong' almost lycanthropic" eyes. She was a talented harpist and is believed to have had an affair with Percy Shelley. It is said the five or more lyrics and fragments he wrote for Sophia are among his most erotic works. In 1823 she married Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, James Patrick Catty, and they had five children. 916

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