Edith: The plot thickens

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Edith Aileen Wharton, born on Halloween 1903, baptised on Christmas Eve of the same year. There was always going to be something special about her. There have been many posts about Edith in the Anglo-Indian Project:


Whilst I never met Edith, my Great-Grandmother – she died in 1963 – the image of her (right) hung on the wall in the family home, scaring the life out me as a child. The image has an eery quality (and don’t forget she was born on Halloween) but also a real beauty. 

It appears Edith had a colourful life which she lived to the full. She married at age 19 in 1922- not so young for the time period. But, given Edith’s early life was fraught with tragic events – orphaned by age 11 – she must have developed a strong sense of resilience. Her later life too, seems to have had its difficulties.

Having provided so much intrigue, the plot thickens. Edith may have married for a third time.

A picture (on a postcard) emerged which indicates a third husband, ‘Hopee’, dated 3/2/1942, with the message ‘To: Edith, my darling + beloved wife, with love from Hopee.’

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Edith’s first husband, David Vincent Hassett, died on 30 August 1941. On the 19 April 1942, Edith married Clifford Melville Carr Smith – for which there is an official record. A time frame of just over seven months. Is it possible that Edith married Hopee in the meantime?

Having trawled through numerous resources in the British Library and many others, some of which are detailed here, I have so far drawn a blank. There’s not a huge amount to go off, but a few theories so far include:

  • It’s not real –
    • Maybe it was a joke.
    • Maybe Hopee wanted Edith’s hand in marriage and she refused.
    • Maybe there was no official marriage, but they referred to one another as husband and wife.
    • Could Edith have met Hopee before David died? Could there have been a longer-term relationship?
  • It could, of course, be real –
    • Perhaps they were engaged to be married but didn’t go through with it.
    • Or, they did go through with it – somewhere there will be a record – yet, one or the other left the marriage (seems immediate given Edith’s marriage to Clifford within two months of the picture).
    • Clifford – an alleged rogue – did he have a role in this? If, assuming it’s real, could Edith have left Hopee for Clifford in such a short space of time? This may explain the five years Edith removed from her age on her marriage record to Clifford (avoiding detection of multiple marriages on the hand-written records).

We may never know. Whatever the answer, Edith keeps providing intrigue and surprise – breathing life into the Anglo-Indian Project story. It’s as though she is somehow writing this herself.

Answers on a postcard.


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9 thoughts on “Edith: The plot thickens

  1. The plot thickens Dan. It would be good if this trail goes further because, as you say, she was an interesting woman and it would be good to read and find out more about her.

  2. Maybe “Hopee” was a nickname for the second husband. Maybe he wrote that postcard calling her his wife anticipating their actual marriage ceremony.

    1. I think you’re correct, Nicole, that Hopee was a nickname. I’m searching all the ‘Hope’s’ that exist in the British India records in hope (pardon the pun) that I find some further clues to who he was. Given that there is no official record of a marriage, i’m working on the theory that one was planned / anticipated. Genealogical research becomes more like writing a novel every day. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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