Ernestine Rose’s English Lodgings

I recently visited England (my first visit in way too many years), partly to track down some residences associated with Ernestine Rose, the heroine of my forthcoming novel, The Queen of the Platform. Although Ernestine spent many years in New York City, none of her homes there have survived modern development, so it was a treat to be able to look at her English residences.

Our first stop is in Bath, where Ernestine and her husband, William Ella Rose, lodged in 1870 and 1871. The Roses lived at 24 Paragon, one of many crescent-shaped streets in that city. As with all of their homes, the couple did not occupy the entire building, but lived in rented lodgings. Ernestine wrote to her friends at the freethinking Boston Investigator on December 27, 1870, “We have two large rooms, well furnished, one story high, in one of the principal streets, in a private house owned by the people who live in it. For the rooms, with fire and gas, and all kinds of service, we pay £1 5s. per week, and for that we have our rooms taken care of, and our food cooked and served in our room, and all we have to do is provide whatever we wish to have, order how to have it cooked, and when served. Thus we have all the real comfort of housekeeping without the trouble of it, or servants.”

During her stay in Bath, Ernestine helped elect two women to the local school board by giving a speech on their behalf.

Incidentally, the Paragon has associations with two other well-known figures: actress Sarah Siddons, who stayed at 33 Paragon for a while, and Jane Austen, whose wealthy uncle and aunt, James and Jane Leigh Perrot, lived at 1 Paragon. Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra from 1 Paragon on May 6, 1801, “I have the pleasure of writing from my own room up two pair of stairs, with everything very comfortable around me.”

Next is St. Petersburgh Place in the Bayswater neighborhood of London, not far from Paddington Station. Ernestine, who was widowed in 1882, spent her last years living on this street, although she traveled to Brighton for her health during the summers. Ernestine dated her will from 18 St. Petersburgh Place (the house with the blue door) on January 6, 1890, and the 1891 census has her living next door at 16 St. Petersburgh Place (the house with the yellow door). (At the time of William’s death in 1882, the Roses were living at 32 St. Petersburgh Place.) A caller saw Ernestine at 16 Petersburgh Place on January 13, 1891, Ernestine’s birthday, and wrote, “Mrs. Rose spent her birthday in her drawing-room, sitting in her arm chair looking very cheerful, her black eyes at times sparkling with interest or fun. She has still a very fresh complexion.”

Finally, Ernestine died on August 4, 1892, at 39 Marine Parade in Brighton, having suffered a stroke three days before. Her house is the one without scaffolding. Located close to the present-day Brighton Palace Pier, it has an excellent view of the sea. An atheist, Ernestine had fretted that some religious person might take advantage of her weakened condition in her last illness to secure a deathbed conversion, but “her last hours passed away peacefully and were quite untroubled by any thoughts of religion.”

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