“We have been wonderstruck at reading in the Times of our ‘orgies on board the Star of the South’. We never had any orgies – we never had the luck! A dinner of salt junk, & preserved tripe & preserved potatoes, followed by the snores of one of the company, the rheumatic complaints of another, the growls of a third smothered in tobacco smoke and the inexorable dowsing of the glim at 10 o’clock are not lovely materials for an orgie.”
– Fanny Duberly, Journal Kept During the Russian War (1855)
Mrs. Henry Duberly was born Frances Isabella Locke on 27 September 1829 to Wadham Locke, Esq., a Member of Parliament for the Devizes Constituency, and Anna Maria Selina Powell. Frances, or “Fanny” as she was known throughout most of her life, was the youngest of nine children, three sons and six daughters. Two of the older Locke daughters, Selina and Anne, were married by the year of their mother’s death in 1838, when Fanny’s brother Wadham became the caretaker of his sisters.[i]
As the youngest sibling by many years, Fanny was the only one still school-aged upon the death of her mother and was sent by her brother to Wycombe for an education. Fanny’s time away at school proved worthwhile, and upon her departure, she was equipped with all of the requisite skills that a marriageable young woman ought to possess.
As accomplished as Fanny was in her youth, the chief accomplishment of her life was her marriage to Lieutenant Henry Duberly, the younger brother of Major George Duberly of the 64th Regiment of the British Army. It is likely that Henry and Fanny first met at the wedding of Fanny’s sister Katy to George Duberly in 1846. The two maintained a regular correspondence as Henry was sent with the 32nd Regiment to a post in India months later. In 1854, Duberly traveled with her husband to the front lines of battle of the Crimean conflict and remained with Henry for the duration of his battalion’s involvement in the war. While there, Duberly documented her experiences in a diary that was published in 1855 under the title, Journal Kept During the Russian War: From the Departure of the Army from England in April 1854, to the Fall of Sebastopol.
[i] Christine Kelly, “Editor’s Introduction,” in Mrs. Duberly’s War: Journal and Letters from the Crimea, ed. Kelly (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), xvii-liv.