Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen may know of my admiration for Mavis E. Smith’s book, Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall; for instance, I mention being “positively engrossed” in this book of Journals and Letters - when I first picked it up in 2008. Then came the publication of The Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. I have both! Now – in December – I find that Mavis Smith has another publication right up my alley (time-period-wise); alas, it came out this past spring:
It’s a slim little booklet, only 28 pages, but only £2.50. I wish I could say more about its contents at present. It’s published by the Betley Local History Society, and I’ve a wonderful bookshop in the area, which I’ve ordered from before (very friendly and fast service): The Nantwich Bookshop. Treat yourself to a Xmas gift and get all three!
It was with great anticipation, after hearing this show was to be broadcast this past Monday, that I searched online for “A Great British Christmas, with Sarah Beeny” (originally broadcast on UK’s Channel 4). I don’t know why, but I really believed this was a multi-part series, with the first “hour” dedicated to a Georgian Christmas. I so hankered for knowledge of what exactly “Georgian” Christmas rites and festivities were!
(I kept seeing “Series 1 – Episode 1,” which does make it sound like a lengthy “series”….)
My mistake; the 46-minute, single episode rushes through the Georgians to firmly trot onto the Victorian’s well-trod ground of family, children, toys, and trees. I’m afraid I stopped there, and by the time I got back to watching this particular link had disappeared…. So I missed out on the rest of the Victorian era (if much more remained), as well as all the “war-time” era and whatever of “today” was shown.
[NB: If you see any "video" at the end of my posts, those are WordPress Ads... I'll try to make a concerted effort to have text and not a photo at the end]
The show starts off with a lengthy introduction: the rehab project by Beeny and her husband at their Yorkshire property, Rise Hall. Channel 4 “advertises” that a show exists on this rehab project, so, given the length (and the focus) of this Christmas special, less would have been more (dare I use the word “padding”?): however, I’d LOVE to find Rise Hall’s “Restoration Nightmare” online… Will have to look.
A useful segment on the Kissing Ball — still not sure if this was called a Kissing Bowl or Kissing Bough instead (rather like “Rise” Hall, I would have turned on closed-captioning if I’d been watching this on TV). Was it really only hung “downstairs”? LOVED that when you kissed you plucked off a Mistletoe Berry. And who knew that in churches (only in Britain?) Mistletoe is verboten – except at York Minster!
This is a pretty display; it rather looks, with its candles, very Advent Wreath-like to me (ah, those Germans… already!?)
This makes me think of my childhood; not because _we_ had a fireplace, but because WPIX in New York City went off-air (can you imagine such a thing nowadays!) and the only picture on the TV was a burning Yule Log.
There was something about your Yule log lasting till Twelfth Night – but as my link isn’t working, I can’t go back and listen to this section of the show. HUGE log hauled in here; LOVE the fruit and cinnamon sticks!! What a scent they must have sent into the air.
It was here however that I rather wondered: who wrote Beeny’s script? Was there a researcher who plucked out of letters, diaries, whathaveyou the very “rites” of the Festive Season I was craving to learn about? Or, was there some secondary book on, say, Regency Christmases, that — right or wrong — was followed.
There is a book out there (which I confess I’ve never seen in the flesh) that may serve as the basis for an online LIST of GIFTS received by my Emma, used to conclude that large gift-exchanges occurred at this date. Trouble is, I’ve seen mention of items from this list: I suspect it’s Emma’s list of BIRTHDAY gifts (HRO did call them both; but I’m not sure); and one year it’s gifts bought by Charles Joshua Smith (her eldest brother) while on his Grand Tour.
I made one brief note at this point, and can’t relisten: there was talk of attending Church twice. This given as “proof” of the Georgian era’s “piety.” Trouble is, they ALWAYS (horrid weather permitting) went to Church twice on Sundays!
On to food then – with this woman, whose name I did not note at the time. Now, _I_ (fussy eater that I am, and not a great lover of meat either) wouldn’t want to eat much of what was on offer either, but “been there before” with the turned-up noses and snide comments. Amanda Vickery’s Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice ”Netherfield” Ball special also had a culinary historian chief; that was, as I recall, quite informative. Pity that route wasn’t taken here.
But then, we were pressed for time, weren’t we…
One “game” was discussed: that of plucking out raisins (were they?) from a flaming bowl. But my attention was caught instead by the Christmas Cake, and the short discussion of King / Queen for the Day. There is a delightful segment in the Letters of Abigail Adams (yes, Mrs John Adams, later President of the United States), when the couple was resident in Paris. Talk of “No Bean – No Queen,” which I remember to this day. John, alas, does not come off well in his wife’s tale!
- VibriVox reading on YouTube of Abigail Adams’ letters to her sister (in Auteuil, France)
I’ll see if I can hunt up an online version of this letter (one of my favorites!); written to her sister, it is not at the major site of Adams correspondence.
Must confess to being rather disappointed. Of course the link I used to watch half thursday night was down by yesterday. A few comments of the “rude” Georgians and their kissing ball (bowl? bough? not sure what she said!), few more about their “crude” food and “rude” adult games (those flaming bowls). Then it was on to toys and kiddies, trees and “traditional” Xmas.
I will try to post about the “Christmas” I have found via the Smith-Gosling family – but, like many things, what they took for granted they did not always expressly comment about.
- Read about Jane Austen Novels & Christmas at Old-Fashioned Charm
- Regency Era Christmas posts at Jane Austen’s World
- Decorating the Georgian Home for Christmas at AustenOnly
- A Jane Austen Christmas Vignette at Historic Odessa Foundation
Thanks to John, I’ve been given a glimpse of Aunt at home (Stratford Grove) – and have posted this delightful section of a letter at SoundCloud: new bride Augusta Wilder is sending Christmas greetings to “Aunt” (known to others as Mrs Judith Smith, sister of the late Charles Smith of Suttons).
Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen know that one “great unknown” is the whereabouts of Aunt’s former home: Stratford (now known as Newham) is so close to London that the area Aunt knew has undergone tremendous changes. I’m always hoping to hear from readers that somehow Aunt’s “The Grove” still exists. This 1829 letter excerpt nicely describes The Grove’s exterior, with a “forecourt” and a path from door to the gate swept clean of snow.
- Aunt, The Grove, and the Olympics (earlier blog post)
- Jo Beverley’s Regency Christmas article
- Sarah Beeny’s “Great British Christmas” (UK’s Channel 4)
- Grandma Utahna Felix’s English Toffee (recipe!!)
NB: if the recordings don’t work, try cleaning “cookies”; I don’t know why, but this seems a solution whenever I have a problem accessing them.
Every once in a while I come across a *fun* piece of information. This one is not only fun it’s also a step back in time, a moment from the lives of the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park.
The year, circa 1795/6.
As governments still desire to do, the English Parliament needed money. But how to get it, where to get it? Some bright idea occurred to someone: Let’s tax something! Ah, yes… cast your mind back: The Stamp Act; a tax on Tea; how about paying tax based the number of windows in your house, or the number of dogs in your kennel.
In 1795 that brilliant idea served to tax that commodity so many used on a daily basis: Hair Powder.
Unlike someone counting your windows or your dogs, this was based on obtaining a certificate. A tax of One Guinea gave you leisure to powder for the year (in this instance, through to 1 August 1796). Joshua Smith of Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire was a Member of Parliament; what choice did he have but to pay:
William Hiskins, under-butler to J. Smith, 11 April.
Augusta Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Emma Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Joshua Smith, housekeeper, 11 April.
Sarah Smith, wife of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Alexander Struthers, footman to Joshua Smith, 11 April.
My favorite portion of the announcement is a section, which reads: “… NO MORE IS TO BE DEMANDED OF ANY PERSON upon taking out a Certificate for using or wearing of Hair Powder, upon any Pretence whatever, except where there are more than two unmarried Daughters in a Family, in which Case a DOUBLE CERTIFICATE stamped with two Stamps, of One Pound One Shilling each, is required to be taken out.”
- On RootsWeb, powder tax payments for Towcester
- Notice of offices open for the attainment of said certificate
- Payment by the Smith household, see DannyHowell.net
- Relevant page from Roy and Lesley Adkins’ book, Jane Austen’s England
- A 2012 article on Sunderland during the powder tax period
- Rob Eyre of the Warwickshire Record Office: guest blog and BBC Radio’s Making History
If you can locate a copy of Beryl Hurley’s booklet “The Hair Powder Tax, Wiltshire” (1997), you can read about the Smiths of Erlestoke yourself! Needless to say, powdering wigs and hair quickly went out of fashion…
Kildare alerted me to a useful — and highly praising — review of the book I have recommended to several contacts and friends:
Hannah Greig’s The Beau Monde describes a world in which the Smiths and Goslings participated, if on a slightly less-central level than someone like the glittering Duchess of Devonshire…
It has dawned on me, while reading, that the parent generation was more among the “movers and shakers” than the child generation. Routs, card parties, soirées – held for hundreds of guests – was the norm for the Hon. Charlotte Gosling at No. 5 Portland Place during the Regency years. Her two step-daughters, Mary and her sister Elizabeth, married well – young men of means; but they never supported the life Charlotte, the daughter of a peer (the 2nd Baron Walsingham) strove for in the early years of her marriage. Emma’s great aunt, Mrs Smith of Bersted Lodge, in her frequent interactions with the Royals – her twin sister, Lady Mayo, eventually served as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Adelaide (1830-1837), enjoyed an intimacy with the likes of the Duchesses of Clarence, Kent, and Gloucester, Princess Augusta, and even attended parties at Carlton House. Emma has left an account of the presentation of her eldest sister Augusta in 1817. Mamma was magnificently dressed!
In transcribing diaries of Emma’s great aunt (Mrs Smith of Bersted Lodge), I have been dying to track down some of her fashion images. While I’m not quite convinced I’ve stumbled upon the source (I’ve yet to find her exact image), I’ve found some quite evocative images from the magazine The Ladies’ Museum, specifically in their column (with, typically, two fashion plates) “THE MIRROR OF FASHION“.
First up is a rather late entry, from 1831. Some of these gowns I can see Mary and Emma wearing; though, Mary would perhaps never recapture the fashionable figure she cut before Charles’ death (January 1831). And Emma, though interested in fashion to some degree, as the young bride of a clergyman she doesn’t seem to have overspent on herself.
“The Mirror of Fashion” will gain its own page, so be on the lookout for more in the near future.
For now: here is mirror of fashion_1831.
UPDATE: here’s its permanent page.
A bit of a personal digression tonight.
And a confession.
For years I’ve sought what would bring me the elusive … Satisfaction.
I’ve chased job ads, gotten interviews, and put up with rejection that was closer to indifference than a genuine “thank you for your interest”. With too few jobs, and too many applicants, employers have grown callous in their treatment of seekers like me.
I’ve felt at a genuine crossroads. Why? An interview where silence was their only response. Guess I didn’t get that job!
One can never raise the subject of ageism, but it stares me in the face just reviewing the ads: “3 to 5 years experience” crops up again and again. Finally dropping this futile search has actually lightened the load – a few monkeys jumped off my back that day.
Balancing the sobering realization that I will never get another job is the burgeoning idea that I should concentrate on what I LOVED: My research into the history of Mary and Emma, their family, their times.
With few to talk to other than you, I confess that it was a welcome validation to find tonight a 2008 commencement address given by J.K. Rowling (yes, of Harry Potter fame!). The sentences that spoke to me:
“I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free…”
When it feels like you stand alone – having the courage to go on, and finding the determination to walk the path that feels right is not easy. Embracing that is the one thing that allows me to free myself.
Although Mary and Charles made scant mention of Mary’s Aunt and Uncle Davison (Alexander Davison’s wife, Harriet Gosling, was her father William Gosling’s sister), the Davison children made frequent company.
So, doing a little belated work at seeing the London residence of the Davisons – No. 11 St James Square – after reading about the area in Hannah Greig’s excellent The Beau Monde, I was so excited to come across a little history of No. 11 in the section “LOOKING AT DRAWINGS” from the Sir John Soane Museum. Click the photo (a 2013 picture) to be taken away to St James Square, London:
- read a fine description via British History Online
- Christie’s 2010 “Newton Hall” Country House Sale (some family items)
- Collage’s collection of photos, No 11 Saint James Square
- Martyn Downer’s book, Nelson’s Purse
- letters of Frances Lady Nelson to Alexander Davison (sold Sotheby’s 2002), one of 72 letters found “literally in a trunk in the attic”
- Davison items at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
- Lady Nelson at NMM
- article: Smithsonian Magazine, “Lord Nelson: Hero … and Cad!“
- article: Colin White’s “The Wife’s Tale“
- Davison’s Alabaster panels @ Sotheby’s
Address panel of Lady Nelson’s letter
I swear that I checked out the publisher’s site (Lehigh University Press /Rowman & Littlefield) just a week or so ago – for a book due out in November (ie, this month!), it was still “faceless”…
Then, clicking on my Amazon page to make sure my blog post on the “Mystery Lady, with Stag” had posted: Well there she was –> Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony!
The publisher’s site has the eBook coming out this month, with the hard cover edition out in December. Gosh, for me this has been so long in the works. And I only wrote a chapter… With my attention firmly in the Smith & Gosling direction, this foray really will be a one-off. I hope readers enjoy it.
A “Reputation for Accomplishment”: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers covers two of Austen’s most intriguing heroines. Marianne is perhaps the writer’s most gifted instrumentalist; Emma, on the other hand, sometimes throws her talents aside with both hands! Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen quickly realize how much I adore classical music; few will know that I actually studied art history at university, and used to dabble in making art.
Mike from Tring sent me a photo of a drawing – a room in a house: But which room and in which house (never mind by which Smith sister, assuming it to be by a Smith in the first place). The companion drawing has a notation of “Chinese Bedroom at Tring”. I can barely make out the date, which could be 1829? The other drawing is untitled and undated.
The un-ID’ed room has a box piano to the left, then a group of stout books (folios) in a free-standing bookshelf. Two windows flank a well-stocked bookcase (which includes a tier or two of ceramics); this is placed central in the sketch. What appears to be a chess set sits on a table in front of the left-most window. A seating area is seen to take up much of the right side.
The Ceiling is high and decorated with much plaster-work (no murals within the medallions); the floor is carpeted (a block pattern, with perhaps floral motifs?); wood flooring peeks out at the sides. The windows are tall, starting near the ceiling. A left-hand-side door leads to the rest of the house, a wing (or perhaps porch?) of which is glimpsed outside the window.
What catches the eye straightaway is the full-length portrait over the filled bookcase. Identification of the portrait may help ID the room and in turn the estate and the artist. I’ve got my guesses, but toss it out to TWO TEENS readers: Shout out if you’ve seen this Lady!!
The stag makes me think “Diana the Huntress” or some other “symbolic” figure; but the clothing seems right out of a portrait meant to represent (dare I hope) a family member, thought the head-dress may be conical and have a gauze-fabric (or is that more ‘tree’?). The scale of the portrait to the room makes the actual painting HUGE! It hangs just below the crown molding, and if the room has a 10-foot ceiling, the painting could be over five-feet in height!