Henry Woodhope

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The Reverend Henry Woodhope is the son of the late curate of St Swithin's, Clunbury and brother of Arabella Strange. After taking holy orders he was, in early 1808, curate of the village of S___, Gloucestershire[22]. From there he became Rector of Grace Adieu, Gloucestershire, and later, thanks to Strange's influence with Sir Walter Pole, who held the advowson, Rector of the more prosperous parish of Great Hitherden in Northamptonshire. Here he met and came to an understanding with a Miss Sophronia Watkins, an heiress of ten thousand pounds.

Woodhope was the childhood friend of Jonathan Strange and their connexion had always been affectionate - indeed Henry was keenly anxious that Strange should marry his sister [22] - but a coolness developed between them once Strange began first to study and then to practise magic. In common with many clergymen Woodhope felt the occupation to be barely respectable, even lowering, and therefore particularly unsuited to a gentleman of means. As he exclaimed when Strange first bruited the notion: "But if you are going to take up a profession - and I cannot see why you should want one at all, now that you have come into your property - surely you can chuse something better than magic[22]!".

In time Woodhope's disapproval of his friend's pursuit deepened and cast a shade upon their friendship. Whereas formerly he had admired and even deferred to Strange for his position in society and his possession of house and lands at Ashfair, Henry gradually came to entertain less generous feelings. He privately disparaged Strange's achievements as a magician and found fault with him for not leading the sort of life which a country gentleman should[43]. In 1815, while on a lengthy Christmas visit to Ashfair, he also criticized the disposition of the rooms and condemned the building as incommodious and unimproved. Strange, a man of quick temper, was naturally piqued by his friend's comments and relations between the two friends became somewhat strained, though the quick intervention of Mrs Strange smoothed matters over for the time being. It seems likely however that Woodhope's growing dislike of the old house was in part a response to the unease he felt at the magic which imbued it: "What really disturbed him about the house was the all-pervading air of magic[43]."

After Mrs Strange's death, letters sent by Strange to his former brother-in-law from Venice suggest that in the magician's mind at least the attachment was still a very strong one[57]. Unhappily for that friendship, these same letters were taken by Woodhope to indicate that Strange had lost his reason - an opinion in which he was confirmed after he had consulted the views of Gilbert Norrell[58].

These letters from Strange at Venice were later surreptitiously published, possibly by the agency of Mr Norrell's friend Henry Lascelles, and became known as The Black Letters. Henry Woodhope maintained that their publication was against his wishes and also claimed that they had been altered[57]. He later made the originals available to John Segundus, who published them in his The Life of Jonathan Strange.

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Singing to the Reverend | Italian music no doubt