Vigor, Jane née Goodwin, previously Ward and Rondeau, 1699—1783
by Benjamin Colbert
The preface to Eleven Additional Letters gives a short biography of the author whose Letters from a Lady who Resided Some Years in Russia ) had been published anonymously: ‘The late Mrs. Vigor was the daughter of the rev. Mr. Goodwin, a clergyman of large fortune in Yorkshire, which, after her brother’s death, devolved to her, and was married, 1. to Thomas Ward, esq. Consul General to Russia, 1728; 2. to Claudius Rondeau, esq. Resident at that court, Nov. 23, 1731; and 3. to William Vigor, esq. of Taplow, Bucks, whom she long survived. She died at Windsor, September 12, 1784, aged 84’ (vi).
Leo Loewenson, Katherine Turner (ODNB), and others have since filled in many of the gaps and corrected errors in dating. Vigor was the daughter of the Reverend George Goodwin (1666-1716) and Elizabeth Goodwin, née Sykes (Thackray; Sussex People). After inheriting her father’s fortune, she married first Thomas Ward, Consul General to Russia and agent of the Russia Company, and, upon his death in February 1831, Ward’s secretary, Claudius Rondeau (1695-1839), in November (O'Loughlin 97). Overall, her residence at St Petersburg lasted from 1728 until 1739, although there is some evidence that she returned to England briefly in 1737 to seek medical advice (Loewenson 399). After her second husband died in 1839, she returned to England, pregnant and in weakened health, accompanied by the man who would become her third husband, the Quaker Minister William Vigor (d. 1767). They were married in 1740 and Jane Vigor settled down to a quiet life with him in Taplow and, after his death, Windsor, where she herself died on 12 September 1783.
Some forty years after the events which they recount, her Letters from a Lady appeared in 1775, according to the Gentlemen’s Magazine, ‘to prevent a spurious and incorrect copy from being obtruded upon the public’. While these letters concern her time in Russia during her marriage to Claudius Rondeau, the posthumous Eleven Additional Letters go farther back to her initial residence in St Petersburg as ‘Mrs Ward’.
'Jane Vigor: The remarkable story of an 18th-century girl from Graffham'. Sussex People: Biographies of People from Sussex. Web. 2 July 2019.
Loewenson, Leo. ‘Lady Rondeau’s Letters from Russia (1728-1739)’. Slavonic and East European Review 35.85 (June 1957): 399-408. Print.
Obituary [signed X–––N]. Gentleman's Mag. 53 (Oct. 1783): 892. Print.
O'Loughlin, Katrina. Women, Writing, and Travel in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Print.
Thackray, Bill. 'The Remarkable Life of Jane Vigor' (2017). Methley Village. Web. 2 July 2019.
Turner, Katherine. 'Vigor [other married names Ward, Rondeau], Jane (1699–1783), travel writer'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 January 2008. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 July 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/59244
|Eleven Additional Letters from Russia||1785|