“On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay,” stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on the table but not touching it, “was brought here. It and I have worn away together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me.”

Does this quote sound familiar? No? It’s OK, we’ll get there.

Jane Lewson, or Lady Lewson to some, was born in 1700, in Strand. She married a wealthy merchant, moved to Coldbath Square, and had a daughter. All was fine until her husband died when she was 26 years old. Although she allegedly had many suitors, she decided not to remarry. After the marriage of her daughter, her life took a weird turn.

Jane, while developing a series of superstitions, decided she might as well leave everything as they were. Same clothes, same shoes, same bed-sheets, same cup and cutlery, and most of all, same daily rituals. Water and light were declared her worst enemy. According to the legend, by the time of her death, her windows were so covered in dust crust, that no natural light would get in.

Speaking of crust, she also had some interesting make-up rituals. Since water was forbidden, she thought it wise to smear her face and hands daily with lard, and she would then proceed with powder and make-up, without washing it off of course at night.

I realize how this sounds, but Jane was probably doing something right, as she died in 1816, at the age of 116!

Now, go back up and read the quote again. This is Miss Havisham from “The Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. Although Dickens was only a kid when she died, he was always able to smell a good story out!

First published: 30/9/2016