We already announced the death of Mrs. Matilda Jane Evans, better known as Maud Jeanne Franc, which occurred at her residence, Clifton street, Prospect, on Friday evening, October 22. Her father, Mr. Henry Congreve, was a member of one of the oldest English families, which has numbered among its members several distinguished in literary as well as in scientific and philosophical pursuits. The name of the poet Congreve who was a member of the family, will of course be familiar to our readers. The family of the mother of Mrs. Evans was also eminently distinguished in science and art. Her maiden name was Jacob, and so far as her grandfather was concerned it need only be mentioned as a proof of his musical genius that at a very early age he presided at the organ at the York oratories, and for many years was organist at the church of the celebrated Rowland Hill, and an intimate friend of that gentleman. Mrs. Congreve's great-grandfather being possessed of independent means, devoted himself to the study of the then dawning science of electricity, and in no small degree assisted in the development of that science. Mr. Henry Congreve was the son of a doctor in Bedworth, and was well known throughout the county of Warwickshire. His father succeeded in accumulating a large fortune, as may be imagined from the fact that on two occasions he presented his son with £10,000, which was only to be unfortunately lost in speculations. At one time the son purchased 50,000 acres of land in Canada, which at the present day would have yielded an ample competency to every one of his descendants in the colonies. Nothing daunted by the failure of his speculations Mr. Congreve settled in London, where he married Miss Jacob. The subject of our notice was born at Peckham Park, Surrey, on August 7, 1827. Having studied medicine under his father Mr. Congreve turned his energies in that direction, and as a specialist in the cure of consumption was very successful. Owing to his continued speculations he became rather embarrassed in circumstances, and having a family of growing sons and daughters he thought he would seek the shores of Australia. His sons, Mr. Henry John Congreve, now editor of the Gawler Bunyip, and Mr. William Congreve, who for many years past has resided in Victoria, had preceded their father to the colonies by about three years. The father of Mrs. Evans arrived at Adelaide in the year 1852, and before he could get his affairs into anything like order he died somewhat suddenly at his residence, North Adelaide. The energy of the deceased lady, which was always great, became more than ever prominent at this stage, and despite great difficulties the younger members of the family were kept together and their education completed. Mrs. Evans had at an early age given proof of a desire for literary habits, and when 14 years old received £10 for the copyright of a small volume of poems for the young. When residing in Mount Barker she commenced the popular story of Marian, or the Light of Someone's Home. This was published by Mr. Wadly, of Mount Barker, in monthly parts, and the sale in South Australia was for an early publication very large. These parts were sent to a Bath firm of publishers, Messrs Binns and Goodwin, and a gentleman now living in Adelaide informs us that the subsequent interest manifested in the work was if anything exceeded by that of Messrs Binns & Goodwin's compositors, who vied with each other in obtaining the "copy" before it was committed to print. Some time later Messrs. Binns and Goodwin's establishment having failed, the business was taken over by Messrs Sampson Low & Co., of London, who have ever since been the publishers of the stories issued by Maud Jeanne Franc. We have already referred to the number of books which Mrs. Evans has given to the world, and it is only necessary here to enumerate them. They are as follow:—Emily's Choice, Vermont Vale, Minnie's Munion, Golden Gifts, Silken Cords and Iron Fetters, John's Wife, Hall's Vineyard, Little Mercy, Beatrice Melton's Discipline, Two Sides to Every Question, No Longer a Child, Into the Light, and The Master of Ralston. These works have had a good sale, not only in England but in the colonies as well, and their popularity is certainly on the increase. Mrs. Evans has left one or two finished short stories and an unfinished story, the latter being a sequel to Wooden Crosses, which was published in the Christian Colonist. She has written several tales for the Christmas number of the Chronicle, and we shall in December next publish what was probably the last effort of her pen.
Mrs. Congreve was married in Adelaide to the Rev. E. Evans, a Baptist minister, who was a hard working, highly respected clergyman in the Angaston district. Only four years had elapsed when Mr. Evans was seized with a paralytic stroke, brought on by excessive devotion to his duty, and died. The widow thus practically thrown upon her own resources once more, and this time with four children, two the result of her husband's former marriage (Mr. E. E. Evans and Mrs. Lines of Tarcowie), showed herself equal to the occasion, and she removed from Nuriootpa to Angaston where she established a ladies' school. The success attending her tuition and the solicitations made by friends in the metropolis induced her to come to Adelaide, which she did in the year 1868. Here, notwithstanding the excessive worry necessarily attendant on her educational labors, and the times of trial and difficulty she experienced, she managed to devote her few leisure hours to that which was undoubtedly the joy of her life—literature. About five years ago Mrs. Evans, owing to the demands upon her pen, gave up scholastic pursuits and entered upon a quiet life so far as the outside world could discern. But all this time the was exceedingly busy, and she issued more than one volume which has been read with interest. She was a member of the North Adelaide Baptist Church until her death, occupying for a considerable period the position of deaconess, which involved no little labor; and although for the last year or two they were a great tax on her physical power, she scrupulously carried out the duties of her office. Last year it was discovered that she was suffering from a painful disease, and hopes at one time were held out of her recovery, but a sudden change which set in on Friday week proved that the end was near, and she died as we have stated. She has two sons —Mr. H. Congreve Evans, leader of the Advertiser reporting staff; and Mr. W. J. Evans, who occupies a position in the commercial department of the same paper. Her other near relatives are a younger sister, Miss Emily Congreve; and her brothers—Mr. Henry John Congreve, Mr. Wm. Congreve, Mr. Fred. J. Congreve (of Condowie), and Mr. James Congreve (of Sydney). Mr. George Thos. Congreve, of Peckham and Brighton, England, is a half-brother of the deceased lady. We understand that the late Mrs. Evans has left behind some interesting and varied information in the shape of a diary and in other forms, which her sons contemplate publishing at some future date.
The funeral of the deceased lady took place on Sunday afternoon, the remains being interred in the West-terrace Cemetery. A number of vehicles followed the cortege, and a very large gathering of the late Mrs. Evans's wide circle of friends and acquaintances assembled at the grave. Had it not been also for the rough weather prevailing during the afternoon no doubt many of those who only knew Maud Jeanne Franc through her works would have been present. The Rev. W. E. Rice performed the burial service.
'Evans, Matilda Jane (1827–1886)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/evans-matilda-jane-3487/text24112, accessed 6 March 2015.