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Mary Jane Tomkins

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Published : 7 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Tomkins, Mary Jane I Miss Tomkins I. The Office Book notation accompanying payment record for "The Mother's Test" [II, 612. March 22, 1851] reads: "Enclosed & left in Russell Place." The Tomkins residing in Russell Place in the 1850s was John Newton Tomkins (1812–1876), resident surgeon at the National Vaccine Establishment, 8 RusseIl Place. (Address correctly given as Russell Place, Plarr's Lives, I, xxiii; incorrectly given as RusselI Square, II, 423.) Tomkins's work was the examination of specimens of vaccine to be sent to various vaccination stations throughout the country. "In these examinations he was assisted by a favourite sister" – Mary Jane. Mary Jane Tomkins "had some reputation as a writer of poems." She became the wife of Dr. Gustavus Plarr [d. 1892], an Alsatian; she and her husband lived some time on the Continent; when their house was burned down during the Franco-Prussian War [1870–71], they removed to Scotland. They were the parents of Victor Gustave Plarr [1863–1929], librarian to the Royal College of Surgeons of England (Plarr's Lives, II, 422–23; I, vii).

      The Office Book record of Home's name jointly with Tomkins's for "Winter Violets" [III, 468. Aug. 9, 1851] indicates that Home revised the poem. At the date that the poem appeared, however, Horne was no longer on the H.W. staff, his engagement having terminated in mid-May 1851. In what capacity he is listed as reviser is, thus, not clear. He may have known Miss Tomkins and worked on the poem with her personally; or, as former staff member, he may have been asked to revise the poem for its appearance in H.W. It is possible, though unlikely, that he revised the poem before the termination of his engagement; items once accepted for publication did not usually remain for more than two months unpublished. 

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971

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