Eliza Donnithorne is said to be the inspiration for the Charles Dickens character Miss Havisham, the jilted bride who wandered forlornly around her house in her wedding dress, waiting for her groom to return.
Donnithorne moved to Australia during the 1840s with her father, an official of the East India Company, and continued to live there after he died. In 1889, the Illustrated Sydney News published an article about her being left at the altar, leaving her “completely prostrated.”
Eliza had formed an attachment to a young man of whom her father disapproved, and after resisting his attempts to split them up, the couple set a date for the wedding. Mr. Donnithorne was such an important official that a great deal of interest was held in the wedding, and crowds are said to have lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the bride. Eliza Donnithorne, dressed in her finery, waited excitedly at the altar for her lover.[
He didn’t show.
The article maintained that she had left the wedding feast upon the table “until it mouldered into dust,” after which she never left the house again. She was said to be mortified at the thought of what people’s reactions. Her only interest was her books, and at her death, she left a large collection of books behind.
She probably avoided the romances.