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[Untitled Manuscript Map, an allegorical Island in the shape of England & Wales ]: “A Voyage around the Island”

  • Author: ANONYMOUS ['S.S' (Sarah Stephens ?)]
  • Date: c1825
  • Dimensions: sheet: 18.5 x 22.8 cms


Extract from a young lady’s early 19th Century manuscript journal with fine allegorical island map in the shape of England & Wales

About this piece:

[Untitled Manuscript Map, an allegorical Island in the shape of England & Wales ]: “A Voyage around the Island”

Four leaves extracted from an early 19th Century manuscript journal, the paper watermarked “Bridge Mill 1825”. Left side of sheet with holes from original string bindings. Manuscript map in upper half of first page, with attractive compass spur highlighted with grey-inked flowers. Pages 2 & 3 and upper part of final page provide description of the map. Two sets of verses on Page 1 & Page 4 provide amusing acrostics on the names ENGLAND and STEPHENS. A finely preserved example.

A most interesting and unusual set of four leaves, extracted from the private journal or commonplace book of an early 19th Century English young lady.

They offer the reader, at the top of the first page, a finely drawn allegorical map, which takes the shape of England & Wales and a detailed description of a would-be traveller’s voyage around the coastal waters of this imaginary island.

So the North Sea becomes the Sea of Experience; the English Channel the Channel of Truth; St.George’s Channel, the Channel of Correction. The Isle of Wight is the Isle of Humility. Liverpool Bay becomes the Bay of Sorrows. Spurn Head becomes Lassitude; The Naze, Cape Farewell; The Thames Estuary, Welcome Harbour; South Foreland, Cape Gladness; Beachy Head, Cape of Hope; Lyme Bay, the Bay of Improvement; Land’s End, Resignation; St. David’s Head, Resolution; The Lleyn Peninsula, Point Vexation. The Capital City of London is denoted as Home, from which radiate Love, Sympathy, Religion, Liberty, Society, Peace and Benediction. Other regions and counties are denoted with a variety of human conditions, emotions and feelings: Joy, Advice, Gratitude, Wisdom, Avarice, Inconstancy, Vanity, Injustice, Gaiety, Temptation, Deceit, Interest, Pride, Counsel and Anxiety. The waters of the Northernmost regions of the land are denoted by Fear, Dispair & Remorse. An attractively drawn compass spur, with Home at its centre, and decorated with trailing flowers, shows West as “P. of Contentment” and North as “M. of Enjoyment”.

A seven line poem below the map reads as an acrostic, the initial letters of each line providing the hidden word : ENGLAND:

Enthroned in Majesty she stands

Nor deigns to bow her proud yet beauteous head

Girt round with emerald waves which she commands

Like Neptune’s daughter, whose bright glories shed

A Radiant halo o’er the Ocean spread

Nursed in the lap of Science, Nature free

Deems this fair Isle, the Queen of Liberty.

The following pages offer the reader a tour of this allegorical Island which begins:

A Voyage round the Island

Surrounded by all the social virtues, enjoying the sweets of domestic society, who is there than can wish to leave Home – Yet there are some who from a wish to see the world quit that halo of Peace, to visit foreign climes, – some from a restless disposition, think they can find more amusement in the variety that travelling affords. We will suppose one of the latter turn of mind setting out on a voyage round our dear little island in eager pursuit of pleasure. He sets out and reaches Farewell Point, where he takes leave of his friends, onwards he goes with the shores of Expectation in view, till he reaches the Promontory of Ambition, eager to proceed, his pleasure soon grows weary and he gains Point Lassitude, fatigued with his undertaking. Tossed about in the Sea of Experience, he sees the shores of Remorse but will not anchor there. At length he reaches the Promontory of Dispair, where is he is almost driven to destruction on seeing the huge Mountains of Fear, which form the Western boundary of the Coast. He next enters the Bay of Sorrows and is alarmed to touch the Point of Vexation, without Hope or comfort. Adverse winds overtake him and he is unwillingly into the Channel of Correction. He soon begins to feel its influence and steers for the Cape of Resolution, where he resolves to be more cautious. Anchoring in the Harbour of Reflection, it affords him an opportunity of viewing his past life. He determines now, to hasten home, and sails round the Cape of Resignation, into the Channel of Truth, along whose shores is the beautiful Bay of Improvement and the flourishing Island of Humility. Passing round the Cape of Hope, he discovers the white cliffs of the Cape of Gladness; he finally anchors in Welcome Harbour, and then reaches Home. Thus we see by experience, that it is only in this Isle of Liberty and Love, that we can enjoy the real sweets of domestic happiness; it is here alone we find comfort, for as the poet Hicky says :

“There is a spot with Peace & Plenty Crowned,

Art thou a man – a Patriot- look around

And Thou shall find, where so e’er you roam

That land, thy country, and that spot thy Home.”


The final page is completed with another seven line poem, On Miss Stephens, an Acrostic – the initial letters of each line spelling out the surname, which suggests that the author of these pages, who signs herself only with the initials “S.S” may well be a member of this same Stephens family and may even be the Miss Stephens referenced in the acrostic, a young woman…who sings so soft, so sweet, so soothing still…..

The allegorical map and Voyage together provide a symbolic metaphor which brings together that conflated idea of individual and national identity and overlays the topography of the imagined personal world of emotions & feelings with that of the real England & Wales of the early 19th Century. The author recognizes the powerful emotional pull of “hearth & home” on one’s inner world, that deep sense of rooted-ness and domestic happiness after protracted & difficult navigations through the turbulent, storm-tossed waters of life experience. Equally she points to a definitive national identity, where as a English citizen & Patriot, one holds dear to one’s treasured homeland, England, fair isle, Queen of Liberty.

A most rare and unusual piece.