Jane Gomeldon - Biography


Jane Middleton was born in the Newcastle area, the daughter of a Quaker family of glassmakers. She was well-educated in philosophy, science, and languages. At a young age, she married Captain Francis Gomeldon, an officer in Sir John Bruce-Hope's Regiment of Foot, and a friend of George Bowes, the coal proprietor.

Soon after her marriage, she fled to France and, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, she proceeded to have many adventures, disguised as a man. These included paying court to a young nun whom she almost persuaded to elope with her. In 1740, her husband placed an advertisement in the Newcastle Journal announcing that she had left him and asking for her to return. Jane Gomeldon undertook the unusual response by placing her own advertisement in the rival Newcastle Courant, explaining that she had left him because of his cruelty to her and because he was intermeddling with the fortune that her mother had left her, secured for her sole and separate use. In 1742, she brought a separation suit to court, against her husband, on the grounds of cruelty.

Her husband died and his will was proved in February 1750/1. However, she was not a beneficiary of the will as he left all her property to a nephew, Thomas Lake.

She took an interest in the Lying-in Hospital, which was built in Rosemary Lane, Newcastle, in 1760 as an 'asylum for pregnant married women'. In March 1766, she wrote to William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, referring to the duke's position as the head of that charity, making proposals relating to the hospital and to making the charity more extensive. Her first book, published in the same year, was sold by subscription to raise money for this charity.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography, she fell in love with the name of Captain James Cook and wished to accompany him on his first voyage around the world. She seems to have been a cousin of Sydney Parkinson who was employed by Joseph Banks and who travelled on that voyage, although their exact relationship is uncertain. A letter from Gomeldon (addressed to Parkinson as "Dear Cousin") is published in the preface to the first published edition of Parkinson's journal. The letter, dated 29 January 1773 relates to an attempt to "suppress" the book by Dr. Hawkesworth (who was also publishing an account of the voyage) and who filed a bill in chancery against Parkinson, claiming that Parkinson had invaded his property by printing manuscripts and engraving designs, which he sold to Joseph Banks. Gomeldon's letter provided some evidence against this claim.

Jane Gomeldon died "at an advanced age" on 10 July 1779. Her death was reported in the Newcastle Courant.

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