Ye Quakerre Weddynge

Ye Quakerre Weddynge (1894) is a pencil sketch on brown paper by Richard Morris Smith.  (Pictured below).  It shows the marriage ceremony of Bertrand Russell and Alys Pearsall Smith at the Westminster Friends Meetinghouse.  The guests were a mix of Friends and non-Friends, a few of the Quakers still in plain dress.  Humorous captions appear near many of the people as well as the warning, “Kyinde Friends are requested to observe that this does not purport to be a precisely accurate representation of a Ffriends silent meeting”.  Written descriptions of the event also differ from the sketch.  (The Meetingroom itself was bombed by the Luftwaffe in World War Two and had to be rebuilt after the war).  In 1999 a photograph of the drawing was donated to Britain’s National Portrait Gallery by Barbara Halpern.

Little is known about Richard Morris Smith.  He was a cousin of the bride. A caption in the lower right of the sketch refers to one person as, “Having no name for the gent on the right, he was dubbed Hon. Noisy Cloqueur”.  (He is yelling “Bravo”).  That is probably Smith.

Russell agreed to the wedding ceremony because Smith wanted it, but he was reluctant since he was an atheist.  (He joked that he was going to compose a poem, “From all Quaker weddings, Good Lord deliver us” and later recalled the experience as “terrifying”).   After a guest offered ministry about the Miracle at Cana during the ceremony, Smith, a temperance advocate, felt distinctly uncomfortable.  Smith adored Russell, calling her love for him “a kind of religion”.  Nevertheless, they divorced in 1921.  Smith never remarried, though Russell did so three times and also engaged in many affairs.

I thought Ye Quakerre Weddynge was delightful.  Some of the other captions read, “a Weightie Elderre (20 Stone)”, “Ye 2 naughtie Elderres” with one noting to the other, “Beholde how fayre shee bee”, and an adult admonishing two young girls, “Children don’t fidget”. 

Because the drawing is difficult to see unless you expand it, here is a link where you may do so:

Gary Sandman

November 2022

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