Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/19

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PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD

Miranda, January 1st, 1836,
Gertrude, July 28th, 1837,
Octavia, December 3rd, 1838.

The name given to the third child marks the close connection always recognised between Mr. Hill's different families. Octavia was his eighth daughter, and the half sisters welcomed the new comers as heartily as they had done their mother. Octavia's elder sisters were Julia and Louisa, the children of Mr. Hill's first wife, Margaret, Ida, and Kate, daughters by the second wife. There was only one son, Arthur, who proved himself a most affectionate and generous brother. Later on he built up a business for himself in Reading, where, as Mayor, he did much for the improvement of the town, showing the same public spirit which animated his father. And when he became a rich man, he welcomed to his beautiful grounds on many occasions the poor people in whom Octavia was interested.

But in 1840 a great change fell on the outward life of the family. There came another bank panic ; and, though Mr. Hill tried to struggle against his difficulties, they proved too much for him. The house at Wisbeach was given up and the children of the earlier marriage were taken by their maternal grandmother; and Gertrude was adopted by her grandfather, Dr. Southwood Smith. Mrs. Hill was complimented by the Bankruptcy Commissioners on the economical way in which she had managed the household expenses, which had facilitated a settlement of her husband's affairs ; and Mr. Hill tried for some years to fulfil all his obligations to his creditors.

In the year of the bankruptcy, another daughter, Emily Southwood, was born in her grandfather's cottage in Epping Forest, and in 1843 Florence the youngest child was born at Leeds.

For some years the family moved about from place to place. At one time they were in lodgings in Pond Street, Hampstead, where the house was discovered by an artist friend who was convinced that the children dancing round a rose-bush must be the daughters of Mrs. Hill. At last the strain of anxiety became too much for Mr. Hill. He broke down physically and mentally, and became