The Mystery of Miss Macklin

December 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm (diaries, history, people) (, , , , )

On the heels of The Invisible Cast (a post about servants, in Jane Austen novels), I would like to toss out a conundrum for which I have no ‘answer’.

The “mystery” of Miss Macklin derives from several mentions of her, but mysterious and even contradictory information. I will mention here that Wiltshire Heritage Museum has a series of drawings they call the Macklin Album, so named because of an inscription. This album certainly has something to do with the Smiths — for a large portion were done at Stoke Park, Joshua Smith’s estate (he being papa to my Emma’s Mamma).

Austen_Emma

Emma Smith, early 1820s

The first time I EVER hear the name ‘Macklin’ was in an April 1824 letter. Augusta (Emma’s eldest sister) writing to Lady Elizabeth Compton (cousin) about their Aunt Emma (Mamma’s youngest sister):

“I do allow it is very material to her [Aunt Emma] that Macklin’s origin should remain concealed, but is it not far more probable that her old servants have handed the story on to her new ones as any story of the kind would be so much talked of in that class.”

My mind RACED, trying to think WHO Macklin could be? Woman? Man? Child? I mean, yes, I even had the WILD idea of out-of-wedlock child. It was the word ORIGIN in the sentence that really made my thoughts spin.

Of course, after reading a few days ago about the all-seeing-eyes of servants in Austen novels, my mind’s eye immediately called up the above quote. For nothing could be more true: both as to servant knowledge as well as servant gossip (though Augusta could have been more P.C. by NOT adding the phrase ‘in that class‘ but I cannot apologize for someone writing nearly 200 years ago).

Since that initial letter, I’ve been on the lookout for any mention of MACKLIN – and now have a few, including puzzling mentions that only make her sound a bit juicier!

A curiosity I will mention here: Amelia Macklin married in 1821 (to Mr Robert Wybault) – and yet please note the date on the above letter: April 1824. Note also the person is simply referred to as MACKLIN. Not Miss Macklin nor Mr Macklin; nor an indication of a first name.

I think the next time I spotted Macklin was in a diary, written by Mamma in 1821. Two notations. One, within the diary, on 8 September: “Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.” In the back of the book, as Mamma is summing up her year, she writes: “My sister Emma went to France in February & did not return this year; her Friend Miss Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.”

Two things stand out here: that Macklin could be described as Aunt Emma’s friend and that Mamma actually called her Miss Macklin in the end whereas she did not give her a title in the diary proper.

wm taylor-diary

This fall (2014), and an influx of letters; including some from the period surrounding Joshua Smith’s last illness and death (1819). And there she turns up again! And the plot THICKENS. One thing to keep in mind, at this point in time Aunt Emma had been residing with her father at Stoke Park (Wiltshire).

Eliza-Chute-letters10 February 1819; Mamma is writing from Stoke Park, having visited her ill father: “Macklin is civil to us all, & we are civil to her.” And a PS in the same letter: “I hope your Chilblains will soon be well; how are Eliza’s  Macklin is civil to us. & we are very civil to her to keep peace.”

What on earth has been going on??

The next letter dates to c23 February 1820, in the period of packing up Stoke Park for its eventual sale (Joshua died the prior year): “We have heard nothing of Macklin except that Coulthard [a servantsays she is not in the house… but [another servant; name Zeno or Yeno] [has] gone to town so perhaps M— is with her at any rate she is better out of the way.”

Remember, in just another year, Mamma will refer to her as her sister Emma’s friend.

Two days later (25 Feb 1820), her whereabouts are confirmed: “Macklin is gone to London“.

At the time I wondered if perhaps there could be two Macklins – one a servant and the other a daughter. Still, that discounts Mamma’s use of MACKLIN and MISS MACKLIN in the same journal.

In a letter from 17 June 1821, News is being passed once again to Lady Elizabeth Compton, this time by Emma’s sister Fanny: “We saw last night at Mrs Gosling’s the Davisons [Gosling relatives] who are just returned from Paris  they had seen Aunt Emma there…: they did not mention a word of Macklin to us, but the Goslings told us they had to them (probably not the least knowing who she was) and that they liked her very much, and said that she and Aunt Emma were so handsomely drest.”

Words packing a wallop: “did not mention Macklin to us…” “not in the least knowing who she was…”

By 1825 the couple are referred to by their married name, “Aunt Emma has taken a house on Pear tree green at Southampton & the Wybaults have also got one some where in the neighborhood“.

At the end of the same year (December, 1825), a most puzzling statement: “Aunt Emma gets every day more thoroughly at her ease & more confidence in the society that surrounds her, that is to say …. she has lived in a constant struggle of mind, doubtful of every body, because she knew they had reason to doubt of her, & really sensitive of many slights which were very naturally put upon her for the sake of her companions. …now I trust she is entering upon a new career & that disengaged from these inconvenient appendages she will regain her former ideas, & the consideration of the world, & as long as the Wybaults live the other side of the Southampton river with the prospect of going over to Ireland, I am satisfied because they have too much in their power to make a sudden & entire rupture desirable, & we know Macklin’s mauvaise langue of old.

I hate to say it, but the mystery only deepened with more information!

ONE mention is made of Mr Wybault; the date is 1842, nearly twenty years later. The youngest Smith sister, Maria, is writing. Combined with all the rest, it lends this tale a rather cryptic (and up-in-the-air) end: “Aunt Emma continue[s] here at present. … she hopes Mr Wybault has just accepted our offer for the sale of Rook Cliff – he appears to be quite miserable at his wife’s death.” Amelia Wybault died at Rookcliff (Hampshire) in 1842; no Smith purchase of this place ever happened. Maria married in 1844; and Mamma died still living at Mapledurham House in 1845.

Only one snippet, from 1829, bridges the gap. When I was told about the Macklin Album, the same person mentioned seeing a letter, from Rookcliff (so either Amelia herself or perhaps her husband), to W.W. Salmon in Devizes (near which was located Stoke Park, though no Smiths lived there by this time). “We have heard from our friend Miss Smith [ie, Aunt Emma] who had a long passage to France of 20 hours…“. My correspondent went on to say, “I’m afraid I couldn’t decipher the rest!” (Groan!!)

It’s a REAL long-shot, but if any Two Teens readers have ever come across Amelia Macklin, Robert Wybault, Rookcliff (or Rook Cliff), Hampshire – do let me know. Even a GUESS would be welcome. VERY curious about her, her relationship to the Smiths, and why family members other than Aunt Emma seemed to tip toe around her in 1819-1820.

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The “Invisible Cast”

December 16, 2014 at 12:46 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

Being the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth (16 Dec 1775) — as well, I must mention, of the marriage of Emma Smith and James Edward Austen (16 Dec 1828) — JASNA publishes Persuasions On-line. The first article which GRABBED my attention was Natalie Walshe’s “The Importance of Servants in Jane Austen’s Novels.”

all austen

The servants who come-go-serve the Smith & Gosling households are, as in Jane Austen’s novels, there. One must, however, tease them out! Sometimes they appear as a surname only. Or, when a first name, you wonder if when a first AND last name comes up IF the two are the same person — or different people. I’ve a few names posted online – but, gosh, there are TONS more. (I have been VERY remiss getting more names online.)

And how welcome an opportunity when someone points out a more subtle WHY behind the “half-smile” of such as Baddeley! (Mansfield Park) So many small points go over our heads (for, I don’t know about YOU, but I’ve never employed a servant…)

Consider Persuasions On-line as an early Christmas present: much to be enjoyed!

* * *

Extras:

“A servant should neither blow his nose or spit in his master’s presence;
and, if possible, neither sneeze nor cough.”
— Dr. Trusler, Domestic Management (1819)

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Torquay: Jane Austen letter from 1799

December 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm (jane austen, news, research) (, , )

The Mail Online has a complete transcription and (small) image of the letter, written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra in January 1799. In Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters it is letter No. 17; images appear in Jo Modert’s facsimile edition as F29.1 thru F29.4. The letter was gifted to the Torquay Museum by Hester Pengelly (Mrs Hester Forbes-Julian), daughter of one of the museum’s founders.

The BAD News is the museum hopes to SELL the letter at auction, undoubtedly the reason behind the current press release. More disappointing, however, is the notion that the letter was a “discovery” and “previously unseen”. Its rediscovery – for it was gifted in the 1930s – happened in 1989! And the museum’s own website claims that it “possible to view items by request” from this very collection [see link below].

NPG D1007; Jane Austen after Cassandra Austen

NB: note the comment that a word transcribed as “Moneydower” is MANYDOWN. What other transcription errors there may be is anyone’s guess. Read it in Le Faye or Modert instead.

Must confess the “headlines hoopla” leaves me as disappointed as the blogger at “Late Modern English Letters“. I thought it was truly a NEW discovery, until I spotted the SAME opening sentence in Le Faye. For I do believe that some day more Austen letters WILL come to light – “lost” in an archive, or a dusty attic, closet or trunk.

By the way, the other three letters Mrs Forbes-Julian donated are written by John Keats, Charlotte Brontë and Abraham Lincoln. I hope EACH of them goes to a facility where they are “gathered into the fold”, in the case of Austen’s – it would be nice to see the Hampshire Record Office, Chawton Cottage, or the Morgan Library put in a bid. (according to THIS link, it is a combined estimate, not solely the Austen holograph, that suggests a valuation of £200,000; of course this does NOT account for the current feeding frenzy of Anything Austen)

Still, rather sad to hear the fundraising potential of selling rather than having these items in their collection at the Torquay Museum. And really rather distasteful if the lady’s will specifically prohibited (strongly or by implication) a future sale of her gift. At the very least, it could be a move to rouse enough outcry that the Museum obtains funding while retaining their Hester Forbes-Julian Letter Collection (which the museum puts at “sixteen albums”) in toto.

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KDFC: “Christmas at Downton Abbey” – CD of the Week

December 11, 2014 at 10:54 am (entertainment) ()

Being in snowy New England – with one classical radio station, I sometimes dip into classical stations from elsewhere; my current *FAVORITE* is KDFC in San Francisco: great music!

They have an impressive array of “CDs of the Week” for 2014 – and this week’s entry is CHRISTMAS AT DOWNTON ABBEY. As they say: Lady Grantham Sings! (So does Mr. Carson…)

downtown abbey xmas

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What was Jane Austen Reading?

December 3, 2014 at 11:55 am (entertainment, jane austen) (, , )

A Bonhams auction this past summer sold a dated (January 1811) Jane Austen signature for over £23,000! The auction house contends the paper indicates this once was written on the “flyleaf of a book”:

jane austen signature

So my question is, What was Jane Austen reading? Would LOVE to know if there is some book out there that once had her signature in it, which got clipped away in some “collector’s enthusiasm” — for wouldn’t the BOOK and SIGNATURE, together, have been of greater value (several meanings to that word)?

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Emma Stoops to Conquer

December 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm (entertainment, people) (, , , )

I’ve been thigh-deep in letters lately, but am also trying to go back, read a series (for instance, a given year) — for it is only then that things POP OUT and I pay attention to them.

After writing a little bit about Spencer Smith’s school years, I was reading through letters from 1818. This was a fun year for the family in ending with a play – at The Vyne (Hampshire): She Stoops to Conquer. Emma was Miss Hardcastle and Augusta was Tony Lumpkin. Miss Ramsay, the governess whose life would be cut short the following year, was Mrs Hardcastle. Fanny I used to think Emma crossed out; now I think Emma meant to give some minor roles to Augusta and therefore ended up not writing out Fanny’s contribution as fully as she should have done. I am now convinced that Fanny took the romantic lead, Mr Charles Marlow.

It was while contemplating the play, the roles, the people once inhabiting these roles, that I found this delightful online production, from Utah Valley University (2011):

she stoops to conquer

The caveat is brought forward by director Christopher Clark in a few well-chosen words of introduction: Social Networking. And the use of “VisageBook“, Instant Messaging &c provides some extra-textural chuckles (it works less well in the scenes with Kate Hardcastle stooping to untie the formerly-tied tongue of Charles Marlow; I missed their interaction). Reading the introductory News Feeds, I was rolling with laughter – like (above) Miss Neville’s penchant for “Foppish Men”, or Tony Lumpkin listing his religion as “beer”, or Mr Marlow’s self-assessment in listing his hobbies as “Being Handsome and Confident”.

UVU has a stylish cast, who handle the material (and the concept) well. A useful set (above) is well used for the play’s many entrances and scenes. The filming of the play is nicely done.

REALLY loved Mrs Hardcastle; what a delight Miss Ramsay, with her Geordie accent, must have been in the role.

Having worked with undergrad theater, it was particularly neat to see that Jake Ben Suazo (Mr Hardcastle) came out a winner at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) regionals.

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

 extras:

UVU blog post about the play
the play @ Gutenberg

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Darcy 2711

November 28, 2014 at 11:41 am (entertainment, jane austen) (, )

I had a WHOLLY different blog post planned for today – then a friend with whom I was discussing “Black Friday”, and asking if there WAS such a thing in the U.K. (in the U.S. it designates the Friday after Thanksgiving — when most people, having the day off, would “begin” Christmas shopping), sent me notice of 20% off at the Jane Austen Giftshop (Bath).

But MORE IMPORTANTLY is this hook for the weekend of a FREE gift with a purchase over £10:

A Mr Darcy keyring!

darcy2711

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Lovers’ Vows in performance (a review)

November 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm (books, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , )

It is RARE that one hears about performances of the “play within the novel” — used by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park — of Mrs Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows – and I’ve a treat for Two Teens Readers: a member of its recent audience who was enthusiastic about writing a short review!

Contact information for the performing group – Artifice – is included in the links. Now: On with the Show…

* * *

Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, 1798
Performed by Artifice at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea [Hampshire, England]
13 November 2014

This was a bustling, engaging production, the action spilling from stage to auditorium, and every door fair game for an exit or entrance.

Frederick, an impoverished junior officer, returns to his village after five years’ absence to obtain his birth certificate, without which he cannot obtain promotion. His mother, Agatha, who brought him up alone, tells him in great distress that he has no certificate because he is illegitimate. Her lover vowed to marry her, and at his request she promised not to name him as the father of their unborn child. He broke his vow to her, but she kept hers to him and was disowned by all who knew her. Frederick insists on knowing who his father is, and Agatha reveals that he is the present Baron Wildenhaim.

Frederick is bitter about Wildenhaim’s treatment of Agatha, who is now destitute through ill health, and by mischance the two men clash without knowing each other’s identity. Tragedy seems inevitable, but Frederick and Wildenhaim eventually avoid it by exercising forgiveness and good will, and they embrace as father and son.

There’s no escaping Jane Austen’s Northamptonshire Novel, which Artifice acknowledges through the hair and dress of Wildenhaim’s daughter, the only character who doesn’t wear uniform or occupational costume. But forget the Mansfield Park prism.

Lovers’ Vows is not a frothy romance. With a versifying butler to delay the plot and ratchet up the tension, Inchbald trumps Shakespeare’s tedious porter in Macbeth. And the denouement’s requirement that social distinctions give way to fairness was a dangerous proposition for 1798.

Artifice’s motto is ‘Classical plays in beautiful places’, and this production was perfect for Groundlings’ distinctive eighteenth-century venue – the Beneficial School, or the Old Benny as it is known locally. Where else would the barman come out from behind the bar to treat his patrons to a lively, pre-performance history of the theatre, ghosts and all? Artifice, come back soon.

Charlotte Frost
author, Sir William Knighton

Lovers' Vows [Artifice]

Amelia [Mairi-Clare Murphy] visiting Frederick in prison.

artifice

 

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Letters from Harrow

November 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm (a day in the life, books, diaries, history, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , )

When is being inundated with letters and transcribing an especial blessing – when it brings a new voice into the mix!

Over the eight years I’ve dug and scraped to bring more primary materials under my umbrella, I’ve found what mainly belonged to the women of the Smith & Gosling family: Mary’s travels, Emma’s diaries, Mamma’s letters. Even when I’ve known about some “manly writings”, I’ve given them a bit of a backseat position. Doesn’t help when some of it is so sketchy – both in terms of content AND in terms of the hasty scrawl employed… (Yes, Sir Charles Smith, I’m talking about you!!)

But I’m currently in the midst of transcribing schoolboy / young man SPENCER SMITH letters – and am quite enchanted with them.

Drummond Smith, the youngest of the three brothers [Sir Charles (born 1800) – Spencer (born 1806) – Drummond (born 1812)] has long had a “sisterly following” due to his early death, aged only 20. In fact, a journal of his writings was sold at auction at the firm DOMINIC WINTER in July 2013:

  • 294 Grand Tour. A manuscript fair hand journal of a European
    Grand Tour undertaken by Drummond Smith in 1832, 286 pp.,
    travelling [from Tring, Hertfordshire] through France, Germany, Italy
    and with most time spent in Sicily, a total of seven weeks, partly in
    the company of Mr Odell and Lord Ossory, the latter half containing
    copy letters sent home, all in a neat and uniform hand written up
    soon after (paper watermarked 1832), contemp. morocco gilt, lacks
    upper cover, 4to     (1) £200-300

I am familiar with an alternate copy of this same journal – how I WISH I had heard back from the auctioneer’s, or the current owner! I have so much to offer regarding the “history” of Drummond Smith and especially this “last” journey.

But I digress.

Spencer Smith, heretofore, was seen solely through the eyes of his sisters and mother – I knew a few things about him, but rather the basics of where he was, or what he liked to do. I’d never “HEARD HIS VOICE”. And yes, as the only long-surviving member of the Smith family (later, his children use the surname of “Spencer-Smith”, which evolved into Hamilton-Spencer-Smith and back to Spencer-Smith again), there were impressions I had of him that I could not have of his brothers.

His letters are less joking, less consciously “witty” than those of young Drummond; more matter-of-fact – they are touching in their very quietude. Who knew the young man had such depth; certainly not from sisterly tales of his mis-placed gun or his newly-acquired horse! Or the image Mamma put in my brain of the lolling youth enjoying 6 Portland Place, London, on his own. The letters are mainly to his sister FANNY SMITH (Mrs Richard Seymour), some to his brother – especially when Drummond, following Spencer’s footsteps, was a student at Harrow.

Some Spencer letters were written from his tutor’s, at Iver; some from Harrow; a few from the abodes of later tutors – Mr Blount at Clare and Mr Boudier at Warwick; the ones I’m currently transcribing hail from Oxford (Balliol College).

All of this came at a most opportune moment: for I was thinking about girl versus boy education; home versus institution.

Finding – about six or seven years ago – Christopher Tyerman’s A HISTORY OF HARROW SCHOOL is how I came across a copy book of young Drummond’s letters: they were quoted in a chapter covering Butler’s regime (1820s). When I first found the citations there was just NO DOUBT it was the right family: Drummond’s correspondent was his sister, Fanny Smith.

tyerman_harrow

Due to Spencer Smith’s letters from Harrow, I recently re-read this particular chapter.

And I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred the “girl” route to education! My… what rowdy goings-on… among these boys. I invite you to read Tyerman’s History for yourself.

Unlike Drummond, who was in Dr. George Butler‘s house, Spencer Smith was at Hog Lane House, with Mr Evans. Mr Evans – Spencer tells us to pronounce the name “Ivins”, to differentiate him from another Evans “higher up in the town” – figures in Tyerman’s book: He was a rival candidate in the headmaster search that ultimate brought Butler into the position.

The Smith boys, of course, would never have envisioned that their Letters from Harrow could one day tell historians about little lost episodes in the school’s life – as well as in the lives of several “boys” resident therein during the 1810s and 1820s.

* * *

 

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“Jane, is that you?”

November 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm (history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

The “Jane” in question here is not Jane Austen but Jane Perceval, wife then widow of Spencer Perceval the British Prime Minister murdered in 1812.

Although my first volume of Smith & Gosling biography begins in 1814 – the history surrounding the PM’s death two years prior is vital: Spencer Perceval was a relative of Mamma Smith’s brother-in-law Charles, 1st Marquess of Northampton. The Marquess’s son, young Lord Compton, ended up in Parliament soon thereafter. Several letters discuss the Percevals — Jane and her children — during the immediate aftermath of the assassination.

One letter, written by Jane herself, has her on the defensive against an out-cry caused by the widow’s upcoming remarriage. Emma Smith mentions the fact of her marriage to “Sir H. Carr” (no embellishments) in her 1815 diary.

The woman, obviously distraught at the negativism, and combating an illness, was pleading her case at such length, that I simply had to find out more about her. And that’s when I came across this purported portrait on the blog PottoingAround. It went up for auction in May 2014.

janeperceval_vigee lebrun

A major  “anniversary” year in 2012 (200 years since the assassination), there started some thoughts on commemorating Perceval; at least one biography came out; some press articles &c. It is less his death than how the family responded and coped that interests me. I’ve read of similar backlash when Mrs Thrale (who made no bones about how unhappy Henry Thrale made her) married Mr. Piozzi. “Public opinion” as well as private sentiments were making themselves felt in this case, however — especially as Mrs Perceval had been granted a generous “pension”. This remains an area I’ll have to delve into a bit more, just out of curiosity.

This portrait, a pastel by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, dates to 1804. The French artist was resident in England at the time, so the fact of it being her work seems not in question. What IS questioned is the identification of the sitter.

It’s difficult to compare portraits – and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on various representations looking like each other: there are too many portrait series where the sitter is KNOWN and the portraits look very little alike (I might, as a quick for instance, mention Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s several portraits).

For my purposes, I sure HOPE this is Jane Perceval. Hands-down, it would win my case; for I wish to call Jane Perceval, in May 1812, a ‘vibrant’ woman in her forties. No one viewing this portrait would be immune to the charms of this face just eight years later.

* * *

  • More info on Vigée Le Brun, the terrific Batguano site (this pastel is near the top of the page)
  • the “hidden in plain sight” family history of an MP
  • recent news on a Spencer Perceval memorial plaque

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