Kitty Kirkpatrick

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Katherine Aurora "Kitty" Kirkpatrick (9 April 1802 – 1889) was born in India but lived most of her life in England. She was the Anglo-Indian child of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, British Resident in Hyderabad (1798–1805), and Khair-un-Nissa, a Hyderabadi noblewoman. She was for a few years the love interest of the Scottish writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle.

Early life in India[edit]

Kitty Kirkpatrick was born Noor un-Nissa, Sahib Begum, at Hyderabad. In 1805, the year of her father's death, she and her elder brother Mir Ghulam Ali, Sahib Allum, were sent to live with their grandfather Colonel James Kirkpatrick, in London and Keston, Kent, leaving their mother in India.

Although brought up as Muslims, the two children were baptised on 25 March 1805 at St. Mary’s Church, Marylebone Road, and were thereafter known by their new Christian names, William George Kirkpatrick and Katherine Aurora "Kitty" Kirkpatrick.[1] William was disabled in 1812 after falling into boiling water and had to have an arm amputated; he married and had three children but died in 1828 aged 27.

Kitty was "brought up as a Victorian lady – grew into a famous beauty, [and] [was] immortalised by Thomas Carlyle in his novel Sartor Resartus".[2] It is believed that she was the inspiration for the Calypso-like Blumine, one of the characters of Carlyle's book.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Her brother's death, as well as that of her grandfather and other relations, left Kitty with an inheritance estimated at about £50,000. In 1822, while staying with her cousin Barbara Isabella, wife of Charles Buller, M.P., she met Thomas Carlyle, who was then employed as the Buller children's tutor. Romance was encouraged by another of Kitty's cousins, Julia (who married Edward Strachey, grandfather of the writer Lytton Strachey), but the marriage of a wealthy lady to a poor, struggling writer was not generally approved of. Instead, on 21 November 1829, Kitty married Captain James Winslowe Phillipps and went on to have seven children.

Contact with India in later life[edit]

After 36 years of silence, Kitty was able to establish contact with her grandmother Sharaf un-Nissa with the help of a former Resident of Hyderabad and her father's former assistant, Henry Russell, son of the judge Sir Henry Russell. Although they never saw each other again, the two women corresponded regularly for six years.

Kitty Phillips died in Torquay, Devon, in 1889.


Further reading[edit]

The story of the love affair between Kitty's parents is the focus of William Dalrymple's book White Mughals.