Diary of Rev Edward Stevens

1873, March 18, Tuesday

Paid Richardson Solicitor, of Bristol, 13/4 charged for “Myself v Bessell”. Paid Abbott and Nicholls for Billiard Balls 18/6.

1873, March 23, Sunday

Bell went to Cheltenham by 4.10 train, but arrived too late to see her mother alive.

Mr Lee and Mr Robin called this evening.

1873, April 2, Wednesday

Mrs Owen called and asked me to take her son as a pupil for the Easter Vacation. I declined.

Drove to Sandford and took all duty this evening.

1873, April 12, Saturday

“iexwyxk fr ptmva tgw uxeel.” House £6.6.0 Key forgotten.

A coded phrase? Perhaps “Key forgotten” refers to the key to the code. See April 17 below for another coded phrase, and a likely explanation.

1873, April 16, Wednesday

Went to Footscray with Louie and Lottie in Mountain’s carriage and pair.

Received from Longmans on account of G.L.B. £100.

1873, April 17, Thursday 

“Laundress El ptmva, cheque £12.” Key lost.

I think that this and the previous peculiar phrase on April 12 have been encrypted using a simple Caesar shift cipher. If we shift each letter along the alphabet by 7 letters (a to h, b to i, etc), then the April 12 phrase iexwyxk fr ptmva tgw uxeel becomes pledfer my watch and bells.

The word ptmva (watch) is repeated in today’s partially enciphered phrase, with El perhaps being the Latin et (and) with an uncrossed t.

Given yesterday’s entry referring to receipt of a cheque from Longmans, I think a reasonable interpretation of all this is that Stevens had a cash-flow problem: on the 10th, he “pledged my watch and Bell’s” at a pawnbroker in order to pay the rent on his house. After receiving the Longmans payment he was able to write a cheque for £12 to the pawnbroker in order to re-possess the watches and obtain sufficient cash to pay the laundress.

Tim Huckvale

1873, April 28, Monday

Harry at home this morning.

Wrote to Bishop of Oxford (Mackarness) about my ordination to the Priesthood.

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Read about the Rev Edward Stevens here.