Everything’s Comin’ up GEORGIAN

April 8, 2014 at 6:49 pm (british royalty, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , , , , , )

In anticipation of the 300th anniversary of the accession of the first Hanoverian King (1 August) British television is beginning to present a lot of things “Georgian”.

A friend watched the first among this series  – and recommends the collaborative BBC2/BBC4/Radio3 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY BRITAIN: MAJESTY, MUSIC, AND MISCHIEF.

Being in the US, I can only look on, and drool. The BBC website has teasers that include:

  • Explore the story behind the Charity Concert “The Messiah” at the Foundling Hospital (1750)
  • The “mass consumption” of music
  • A look at “the first Georgians”
  • An examination of the World Premier, in Prague, of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

mozart_ye

And SO much more!

It’s a RICH era, and lucky will be those who can watch/listen, or find items online. READ more at The Telegraph.

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Leave YOUR Mark: at Memoirture

March 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm (europe, history, news) (, , , , , )

The site where I have been s-l-o-w-l-y posting about my Jane Austen Summer (2007) (further posts can be accessed here), Memoirture, is hosting a Kickstarter campaign for a TIME CAPSULE, to be opened at the next millennium. Yep: a 1,000 years from now.

As readers of TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN know, my research is predicated upon finding primary materials: letters, diaries, portraits, biographies &c. I’ve been lucky, in that the Smith & Gosling families not only retained items, they wrote them in the first place!

Will your blogs and tweets last 1,000 years? I’m not even sure my paper diaries will withstand that test of time. Memoirture’s ambitious project will preserve both written words as well as sound. Join me in supporting this unique project by checking out the Unified Time Capsule Kickstarter Project Page.

Prof Harris

Professor Ruth Harris, University of Oxford

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Lady Jersey: “Setting her Cap”

March 13, 2014 at 6:30 pm (diaries, entertainment, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Have been inhabiting the “Beau Monde” world of the 1790s, and am thoroughly enjoying myself! After having my internet connect down for a week (severe withdrawal symptoms…), I’m now able to cast about for information on one name that turned up: Lady Jersey.

lady jersey

There are several ‘depictions’ of the notorious lover of the Prince of Wales, who evidently honored the lady with his attentions for nearly a decade (1793-1799), at the National Portrait Gallery – by Gillray. “A Lady putting on her cap” (detail above) was published in June 1795. The British Museum gives a nicely-minute description of the scene and some of the “symbolism”. A (short) discussion of the print occurs in the 1848 book England Under the House of Hanover (vol 2).

MY interest in Lady Jersey (née Frances Twysden; AKA Frances Villiers) comes from a letter, which indicates that the Prince of Wales pressed to have Mrs Drummond Smith invite Lady Jersey to one of her soirées in 1797. The hostess was not interested. Oh! for more Smith & Gosling tales along that line!

For inquiring minds, I include two blogs that make mention of Lady Jersey:

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What WERE they Thinking? Dull?! NEVER –

March 1, 2014 at 10:47 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I am in seventh heaven this weekend transcribing letters written by Augusta Wilder, her main correspondent being her sister Charlotte, now Mrs Arthur Currie.

This particular letter dates to January 1834.

It opens with a comical story of a “black dog” whom “Mr Baillie” (related to Joanna Baillie??) would like to foist upon Henry Wilder, then moves on to the affecting story of two “Cousins” who are in line for the “Orphan Asylum”! This begging for an act of charity segues into a discussion very close to my heart: the lamented demise of William Ellis Gosling, Mary’s eldest brother. Augusta calls him “a valued friend“. He died, aged only thirty-nine, of scarlet fever, contracted at Christmas time. One day well; next day ill; days later – dead.

Next is mention of Mr & Mrs Knight, with a fine description – though a bit puzzling too – of the lady. Then begins a lengthy discussion of Edward Austen’s great friend, fellow clergyman Mr Majendie. Augusta compliments his singing and his conversation – but saves her highest praise for the man’s preaching. A nugget, indeed!

A heartbreaking assessment of Augusta’s son Frederick is tackled, thanks to her noticing the progress Emma’s children make – including one (“Charlie”) born in the same year as Fred (1832), and only days before him. I’ve yet to name any kind of illness or debility from the references given to baby Fred’s health. He ultimately lived into his 60s – and had three wives.

Much more letter follows (Augusta was given to crossing her writing, and this letter is a typical example of that practice), but what caught my eye was the direction. The letter was originally addressed — and, yes, opens with My dear Charlotte — to Mrs Currie in London; and that address is struck out and the letter forwarded to Mrs Smith at Tring Park.

There is a pen notation of the receipt of the letter (19 January; it is dated the 18th); but a pencil note that surely reads Jan ’31. And “beneath” that a correction to 1834, with the last digit underlined. Considering the letter is dated, there are many postal stamps, and of course notice of the death of William and the illness of Mr Gosling, 1831 is clearly incorrect – but who made the mistake? who in a separate dating “corrected” it?

That matters less to me than what is written – again in pencil – at ninety-degrees to the address. Can you read it?

augusta wilder letter

Pencil is one of my *frights* to read – it wears off, is often light to begin with – and is typically used as a third application to a crossed letter, which simply is NOT a help in deciphering the contents! But I’m quite sure I’ve puzzled this one out:

Mrs Augusta / Smith / to Charlotte / Currie / dull  

Oh, dear…

Firstly, the writer is not Mamma; it is to Charlotte Currie, but it is FAR FAR from D-U-L-L! In fact, the letter is a jewel! Who could be so cruel??

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Visitors to Bamburgh Castle, c1800-1820

February 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jane austen, places, research, travel) (, , , , , )

While searching for information on the Northumberland Archives (nice online catalogue), I found an image - of a visitors’ book to Bamburgh Castle {where?}, and had to investigate WHY it turned up in a search for CARR GREGG.

A fantastic “slice of several lives” was revealed!

A “visitors’ book” is a litany of signatures, from those visiting a site (or hotel even); most will not contain more information that just a scrawled name. Yet in that name lies the “I was Here!” trace that is of use to me, 200 years later.

bamburgh castle_book

See images (4) and what seems a complete listing by clicking on the photo.

What rather thrills are the “oddly transcribed” names of a family which cannot be mistaken: the ladies of the family Maclean Clephane!

First, however, if you (like me) aren’t sure what Bamburgh Castle was/is – take a look at their website:

bamburgh castle_site

Lindisfarne Castle, a place I’ve longed to visit, is in the neighborhood of Bamburgh Castle – and looking into the history of this place I have to ask why was this never on my radar. Lindisfarne, however, is a National Trust property, and I’ve got at least one “Trust” publication. Bamburgh Castle continues as the “private home of the Armstrong family to this day.”

But what of my 19th-century visitors? Who did I find?

One family should come as no surprise: the Davisons of Swarland, Northumberland. Their visit is one of the earliest, taking place in 1801: “Mr and Mrs and 2 Masters Davison from Swarland, Northumberland“, e.g., Alexander Davison, Harriet Davison née Gosling (William’s sister; Mary’s aunt), and their two sons, the twins William and Hugh Percy (born in 1788). Even without further information – no thoughts about what they viewed – just knowing they toured the place puts the Davisons a little closer to “reality”. Perhaps Harriet once wrote Eliza Gosling, to tell them of their day out…

Another pair of visitors that same year are designated as “Mr Carr and Miss Carr from Newcastle upon Tyne“; the Carrs marry into the Gregg family – as did Maria Gosling, the remaining sister of William and Harriet (Davison) Gosling. Letters from the Carrs are often dated “Newcastle”; certainly those visitors from 1809 are them: “Mr. and Mrs Carr from Dunston Hill Co. Durham“; several Carrs turn up in the Bamburgh Castle visitors’ book.

An interesting name crops up in 1814: “Colonel and Mrs. Austen“. That spelling of the Austen name had my heart in palpitations for a moment; but surely NOT Henry Austen, as my first thought had flown to. A little digging, and I may have uncovered the correct man: Col. THOMAS Austen (1775-1859) “the second but eldest surviving son of Francis Motley Austen (d. 1815) and his wife Elizabeth, nee Wilson.” He inherited Kippington in 1817.

An 1819 party was of more immediate interest: “Colonel and Mrs. Davison from Swarland Hall. Mr. Henry Gregg and family.” Here was one of the twins, all grown up and perhaps married (Mrs D. could be his mother Harriet), in company (surely not separate visits) with Maria and Henry Gregg, and some (all?) of their children! Oh, for some letters from 1819!! Mary mentions her Davison cousins several times in her late diaries; Aunt Davison is only mentioned (in Charles’ diaries) following the news of her death.

And finally to the puzzling transcription, back in 1815: “Mrs. D. Maclean and Miss Maclean from Cliphane. Miss Wilmisson Maclean from Cliphane“. This can be none other than Mrs Douglas Maclean Clephane and her daughters, Anna Jane and Wilmina. After seeing letters of Margaret Maclean Cleaphane (after her marriage, Lady Compton; later, Lady Northampton), I cannot be surprised at the likes of Wilmisson and Cliphane.

Several very small pieces of an extremely large puzzle, but welcome nonetheless.

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Clerk of the House of Commons: Sir Denis Le Marchant

February 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm (history, london's landscape, people) (, , , )

In 1850 (ie, a bit past the period I research), Sir Denis Le Marchant — husband to Emma’s sister Sarah Eliza Smith — became Clerk of the House of Commons (a position held until 1871).

At a loose end today, I was on the hunt for more … of anything … letters … diaries … info.

I found an anecdote!

I wouldn’t have thought Denis had such a sense of humor (or was it self-preservation?). Do click on the photo to hear Sir Robert Rogers, current Clerk of the House of Commons, give his delightful talk, but below is the tale he tells of Sir Denis.

sir robert rogers

In describing the duties of the Clerk, Sir Robert claims (at 15:46), “We do try, of course, to be a bit more helpful then one of my learning predecessors, Sir Denis Le Marchant in Victorian times, where the Speaker of the day could see that there was disaster approaching. He leaned forward and he said ‘Sir Denis, Sir Denis, what do I do?’ and the Clerk of the House got up, tipped his wig on his head, gathered his books, shrugged his gown around his shoulders and went and stood beside the Chair and the speaker obviously thought, ‘right this is it, I’ve got the get out of jail card.’  Sir Denis Le Marchant said ‘I advise you Sir, to be extremely cautious’ and then disappeared behind the Chair.

Denis_etching-1874-Illustrated London News

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Portriats / Costume Database: The Portrait Project

January 29, 2014 at 2:42 am (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Breaking news of a terrific website:

portrait project

If you’re like me, you might look at a portrait and wish you could “date” it; or, you might wish to know what costume looked like, say, in 1817. This database will help! A lot of “famous” faces, and you’ll soon begin to recognize certain “famous” artists, too. But what a wealth of well-arranged, early to navigate information & images!

There’s even a “History Timeline” which lays out a what-happened-when series of happenings, compositions or world events. For instance, if you see 1813′s mention of JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and wish to see what portraits looked like from c1813, simply click on the link – et voilà!

Artwork represented comes from many nations and time periods; portraits are nicely ID’ed.

Highly recommended.

Lady Milner_vienna

Lady Milner

George_IV

George_IV

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The Invisible Woman: FIVE stars

January 28, 2014 at 5:36 am (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , , , , , , )

Many years ago I purchased a copy of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Nelly Ternan, The Invisible Woman. Finally, it’s been made into a film – and Rick Kisonak (one of two reviewers for 7 Days) wrote a glowing review of the Ralph Fiennes – Felicity Jones film.

(Readers of Two Teens will remember Jones’ star-turn in Northanger Abbey on PBS.)

invisible woman

“Jones does an uncanny job of conveying her
character’s evolution…. Fiennes has never been better.”

Here in Vermont, the film is playing at the Savoy in Montpelier, an hour’s drive from me. Wherever you are, catch it while (and where) you can; plan on buying the DVD too.

The Invisible Woman gained only one Oscar nod: for costume design. Kisonak had an opinion on this sad state of affairs: “That’s less a reflection on this smart and affecting film than on the Academy, of course, which — I’m not making this up — lavished Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger with an unbelievable three nominations between them. The rules allow for 10 Best Picture candidates, and, for some reason, only nine movies were recognized. This is the picture that should’ve been No. 10.” Let’s hope the British Film industry makes up for this paucity of recognition: BAFTA are you listening?? No… I guess NOT: their nominees are riddled with American films, and nearly echoes the American Oscar list.

Invisible women are invisible still…. “You was robbed.”

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Robert Gosling: 200 Years ago TODAY

January 27, 2014 at 6:09 am (a day in the life, diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )

Reading through the first chapter of my book (those purchasing Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013 get a slightly-stale taste of that opening chapter) I was submerged into Mary’s world via her 1814 trip to Oxford when I read aloud the following:

“Two of Mr. Gosling’s four sons resided in college in 1814: William Ellis, the eldest of the seven Gosling children, only weeks beyond his twentieth birthday; and Robert, one year younger. William had entered Brasenose College on 10 July 1812, and seems to have taken no degree. Robert was fairly new to college, having matriculated on 27 January 1814. He stayed through 1822, leaving with a Master’s degree.”

January 27th?! I long have had Monday in mind as “Mozart’s birthday” (you can always tell when the anniversary of that day approaches: the local radio station plays a LOT of Mozart!). But reading my little history, I found myself whispering to myself: two hundred years ago to the day…

I have been lucky enough (thank you Mark & Emma!!) to see a portrait of all three Gosling boys – William, Robert and Bennett – painted some few years later. What a handsome trio! Though, in some ways, the most “pleasing” countenance can be said to belong to Robert. As a toddler he was compared to Falstaff for his roundness; as an old man in a long-exposed photograph he reminded this American of Abraham Lincoln: long, lean, and wearing a stove-pipe hat!

But two-hundred years ago TODAY, on 27 January 1814, Robert Gosling, a young man, had matriculated at Christ College, Oxford — and that summer his sister Mary wrote down the trip her family (“Mama, Papa, my Sister and myself”) took in order to visit the boys. That wasn’t the first diary of hers that I read, but ultimately it has so-far become the earliest of her writings that I have found.

christ church college

    • Did the “Great Hall” of Christ Church College really serve as inspiration for HOGWARTS HALL? Mary was there… and left her thoughts: “The Hall is one of the most magnificent in Oxford.” (and I remember that scene in the first film, vividly)

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Georges Simenon & The Age of Aquarius

January 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm (books, history, news, research) (, , , , , )

suttons_Mary-silhouette2Mary Gosling (aka Lady Smith) and I are both born under the sign of Aquarius: Mary born February 2nd; me on February 4th. Although I have never had a horoscope cast, I am a keen reader of the generic tidbits that turn up in newspapers. These past several months there have been several that spoke to the writer in me. I cannot express how comforting these “predictions” feel. When no one “known” to me (as I call it, in my daily life) seems to care whether this project breathes life, or dies on the vine, I take courage from these Aquarian words of encouragement.

So imagine my opening the local paper 7 Days and finding this juicy morsel to chew upon this week:

“The Aquarian author Georges Simenon (13 Feb 1903 – 1989) wrote more than 200 novels under his own name and 300 more under pseudonyms. On average, he finished a new book every 11 days. Half a billion copies of his books are in print. I’m sorry to report that I don’t think you will ever be as prolific [me neither...] in your own chosen field as he was in his. However, your productivity could soar to a hefty fraction of Simenon-like levels in 2014 — if you’re willing to work your ass off. Your luxuriant fruitfulness won’t come as easily as his seemed to. But you should be overjoyed that you at least have the potential to be luxuriantly fruitful.”

I thought drafting a novel (still in first-draft mode, many years later) in a summer a feat of diligence. Eleven days? Yow! I’ve read Simenon (been a while though), and only in English of course. I do remember enjoying them; and, of course, got turned on to them via TV’s Maigret series (the French series also ran locally, from time to time).

Mary and I certainly ‘hoo-ray’ the idea of being ‘luxuriantly fruitful’ in getting ahead in our project. And here comes Emma, and even Mamma, to add their voices to the mix….

I’ve been finishing (not yet finished though) Book of Ages and was wonderfully surprised to see the fanaticism shown by Jared Sparks in hunting down, amassing, and even acquiring “original” Benjamin Franklin documents. I, too, have that fever! It rages, flames, and settles as embers, only to rage again as certain items come to light – a new batch of letters, an unknown portrait. It is exciting, but it takes T-I-M-E. Certainly more than eleven days.

Addendum: I knew I had mentioned Mr Darcy and Aquarius before; see also my October 2013 post.

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