But as she got older, things changed. She never married, and the references in the letters and diaries got fewer and fewer, and less and less detailed, until, in the last twenty-seven years of her life (she lived to be almost 90), they stop. This really bothered me a lot. I found her in censuses, so I knew that at the end of her life, she was living as a lodger, in two rooms -- and this, too, seemed horrible. I pictured her in some kind of slum, all alone.
I could NOT stop thinking about it and it made me really sad, so sad that I started to wonder if I wanted to write the book at all. Did I really want to spend so much time being so unhappy?
Then, I looked at the census record under a magnifying glass until I could ALMOST read her address and google-mapped it, trying variations on the street name. FInally, I was spelled it correctly and found the address! B is where she lived, A is where her sister-in-law and neices lived; that park was there in those days, and then (as now) B had a view of both the park (called "the Hoe") and the ocean.
And since it's in England, the old houses on that street are still there (I also saw some of the whole street after the blitz: all Georgian houses, built in around 1805) -- I think this one was hers:
From behind the house -- or maybe her own windows if she lived on the top floor-- she had a view not only of the park but of something like this:
Not too shabby! Knowing that she was in this beautiful place at the end of her life has lifted a huge weight from me and from this book, too. I kept telling myself that I didn't NEED to know about all that to tell the story of her childhood, I tried not to think about it -- but I couldn't stop. I guess I've become kind of obsessed by her and her family and finding out as much as I can about them all. Now, I can let it rest for awhile (at least until I am researching the next books in the series) and concentrate on the story of her childhood. I hope I can do justice to it.
And one GOOD thing about being so obsessed is that just as imagining her miserable was making ME miserable, picturing her in this beautiful place makes me happy. Someday, I'll go there and see it for myself -- maybe I'll even get to stay in her house. It's now a hotel. In fact, if anyone publishes the book, the advance can fund the trip and further research!