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Enriqueta Tennant Rylands [1843–1908]


In the land of Six Degrees of Separation (with or without Kevin Bacon), I’ve experienced more than a fair share of connections that seem too close for coïcidence. Witness the (synthetic) family of Anson Curtiss Tennant, entirely concocted and major players in the Agincourt narrative.

photo copyright John Rylands University Library

The young architect required a family, so I provided one, three generations back and two ahead. To simplify the “work”, I made the founder of the family a bastard, there being at least three “Tennant” families in Burke’s Landed Gentry as sperm donors. Flash forward several years: Mr J. Johnson and I were walking down Deansgate, the main thoroughfare in Manchester, UK. I stopped short, making Jeremiah wonder what could be wrong, and I pointed to the John Rylands Library two blocks ahead. I was a little foggy on its date but knew precisely that the architect had been Basil Champneys, a name that doesn’t roll lightly off the tongue or the memory. We invested a couple hours wandering it wondrous interior where the main reading room is presided over by larger-than-life white marble sculptures of the library’s founders John and Enriquetta Rylands. Then flash forward to a simple search for additional information on the library and its founders at the end of the 19th century.

Much to my surprise, shock and amazement, Mrs Rylands was the former Enriqueta Augustina Tennant [1843-1908], born in Havana, Cuba, to an English father and Cuban mother. You can find quite a bit of biography about her but two things are important for me: #1) her maiden name was Tennant, for krysakes, and #2) “Enriqueta Rylands is one of the most influencer [sic] philanthropists in the history of the United Kingdom,” according to a documentary I found. [They must have used google.translate.]

It’s going to take a while to weave this good woman into the tale but I’m compelled to do it.

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