Samuel Prout, Painter in Water-Colours

September 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Seven years ago I spent two months transcribing a MASS of letters and diaries. Back then cameras weren’t allowed in archives – and what I could transcribe is all I came away with.

I’ve written about some of the divergent handwriting specimens I’ve had to decipher (mainly, the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park); so it is NO surprise to see that I gave up on one letter (extracting from it about six sentences only) because the writing was “so tiny”.

That writer was Fanny Smith (later: Fanny Seymour, wife of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton).

Having a photo of this cramped epistle, I *finally* transcribed it in total last night.

And from the pen strokes emerged this DELIGHTFUL tale of Fanny and her love of drawing and (by dint of this story) watercolor painting. Fanny’s letter is addressed to her sister, Emma Austen:

I have corresponded with Mr Prout from whom I had rather an ambiguous answer about teaching after the Water Color Exhibition opened …. {Spencer Smith, Fanny and Emma’s brother, then went to see Mr Prout} he said he was much engaged with the 2d vol. of the landscape annual & jumped at the idea of my having been in Italy, hoping I could furnish him with some sketches, Spencer said he had a sister who had a great many italian views, he [Prout] begged leave to call some morning & see them, & we thought we should like him to see your drawings…. Mr Prout spent the whole morning here looking at them, & expressed the most unbounded admiration for them…. I hope now you feel properly flattered, & conceive my being out with Augusta & Henry the whole time he was here, in furniture shops.

prout_1831Poor Fanny! there’s the revered teacher, in her own home — looking at her sister’s work (by her own invitation, granted), but made worse by the fact that she wasn’t even there – she’d been shopping with the newly-wedded Augusta and Henry Wilder!

So I simply HAD to find out more about “Mr Prout”. I believe he must have been Samuel Prout (1783-1852), described as one of the MASTERS among the British Watercolorists – and (by the date of this letter, March 1830) the Painter in Water-Colours-in-Ordinary to King George IV.

Initially, I had GREAT trouble with this person’s name – Pront? was one guess. So might I, in earlier days, have come across this name and guessed (incorrectly)? – I’ll have to look among the letters and diary entries. So many possibilities: Did Fanny finally get to have the lessons she so clearly yearned for? Did she get overshadowed by Emma’s (perhaps better?) Italian sketches? Did any of the Smith girls have their sketches exhibited or published??? Now there’s an enticing thought!

There are sketches belonging to Fanny in the Bodleian; but none are watercolors (pencil sketches only). A new source DOES indeed claim to have an album of watercolor works and  the current thought is that the items (lotta letters) may once have been in Fanny’s possession – certainly the letters I’ve so far seen are mostly addressed to Fanny. So maybe some of the visual material is actually by her. That would certainly be nice, and the many people who have become interested in Fanny’s unique life will be made happy.

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Hot on the Trail: 1820s letters of life in ROME

June 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm (entertainment, history, news, people, research, travel) (, , , , , , )

I have been burning the candle – quite literally: Up late most nights these last weeks. It paid off immensely last Thursday, with the discovery of a small batch of letters IN ROME!

Mamma Mia!

The BIGGER surprised came when I realized the KEY to knowing these letters were in fact having anything to do with my batch of Smiths was the name involved: LANTE turns up in a letter I actually bought (thanks, Craig!) a couple of years ago.

And Villa Lante (in Gianicolo) still exists, as this GORGEOUSLY illustrated blog post on Rosa Arcium attests. I can’t help but believe that Charles, Augusta, Emma, and Fanny visited here – perhaps quite often, during their winter in Rome (1822-1823).

lauro

In addition to Rosa Arcium, gain views of the house from:

 

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Spencer Smith’s Brooklands

June 15, 2014 at 4:22 am (estates, history, jane austen, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

After much searching – for any information about the Hampshire estate called BROOKLANDS, I finally FOUND information, and a photo!

brooklands_20thcentury

So, here, is a c1915 photo of Brooklands - which is located very near the River Hamble in Sarisbury, Hampshire. Try searching merely for “brooklands” and you find a totally different place in a totally different county of England! The secret is to attach it to “hamble” or “sarisbury” or even “bursledon”.

buoyed by the photos I then uncovered, I began to look in the newspapers. I was never certain if Spencer Smith purchased the estate, or rented; never certain either quite when he and Frances relocated to Brooklands - even though he is known as “Spencer Smith of Brooklands“.

What turned up was this advertisement in the Hampshire AdvertiserNovember 1838:

BROOKLANDS
House and Gardens, with or without the Farm.

TO BE LET, by the year, or for a term of years, this handsome and elegantly furnished RESIDENCE, situate[d] at Sarisbury, midway between Southampton and Fareham, and bounded on one side by the Hamble River.
A Neat Chapel has been recently erected near the entrance to the park.
For terms apply (if by letter, free of postage) to Messrs. Barney and Moberly, Solicitors, or Mr. Perkins, Auctioneer, Southampton.

The house was up for sale a bit ago (asking price: £5.3 million), and the advertisement gave it a JANE AUSTEN connection. Though: Be skeptical; her letters mention the man and the place – but don’t really serve to indicate that a “JANE AUSTEN SLEPT HERE” plaque is deserving.

Although Jane Cooper’s husband was building Brooklands, Jane Cooper – who was Jane Austen’s close friend, as well as relation – died young.  [see Austen’s letters] I’ll let you look up references to Sir Thomas Williams, RN on your own, and decide for yourself whether Jane was a frequent visitor to Brooklands.

Still, no denying that the estate has a connection. And more, once Spencer settled in, in the 1830s, a connection to his Aunt Emma Smith – who lived at Sydney (another place I’m trying to track down! I must ask Charlotte Frost, who tipped me off about righting my lack of luck in locating Brooklands), and has left sketches of Bitterne and the surrounding area. [See the Macklin Album at the Wiltshire Museum.]

A family by the name of SHEDDEN are found at Brooklands after Sir Thomas Williams – I turn up both a Robert Shedden and a George Shedden. Messrs. Gils & Son advertised, three years before the TO LET notice, an auction of furnishings — though the sale ultimately did not take place. There’s a story – the Sheddens of Brooklands – waiting to be told.

As to Spencer Smith — at some point he took as a complete surname his entire name “Spencer Smith” – so that his children came to be differentiated from those offspring of Charles Joshua Smith of Suttons. The Spencer Smiths are still around today, if no longer at Brooklands.

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The Four Erle Stoke Park Sisters

April 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , )

Have been busy trying to assess what letters I have transcribed, what letters I need to track down. Part of me wishes the letters were a bound book, but I suspect it would be HUGE: over 700 pages! And yet every time I read a section of letters (lately I have been in the 1790s and early 1800s), I notice something never before thought about. They are precious, and the life-blood (in many ways) of this project.

Perusing the letters, I’ve added a few more SIGNATURES to my list. I cannot stress more that if anyone ever discovers letters written by any of these people, or even a short mention of a line or a paragraph about them, I’d love to hear about your discovery!

In SIGNATURES I’ve swapped out one or two poorer images for clearer images; and added a few NEW people — like dear Eliza Gosling. Mary’s mother died at such a young age (in her 30s). Her handful of letters to Eliza Chute are all that are currently known to exist, and yet they are such wonderful letters, filled with decisive thoughts. She must have been a delight to have known. Letters of Sarah Smith (wife of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park; mother to Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma) make brief mention of the youthful, newly-wedded Goslings. Just as (even briefer) mention is made of Jane Austen’s dear Madame Lefroy. SUCH Delicious letters!

But now that I’ve actual specimens of the handwriting of ALL four Erle Stoke sisters, I really wanted to share these with Two Teens‘ readers.

Going from youngest to eldest, let’s begin with Miss Emma Smith (known to the Smith of Suttons siblings as “Aunt Emma”). Living until Joshua’s death (in 1819) at Erle Stoke Park, Emma later removed to Sidney and then Glenville, Southampton. Emma never married; traveled extensively. She has really grabbed my attention lately, for she is rather sassy!

writing_Emma1797

EMMA ["Aunt Emma"]: When I saw her handwriting in 2007, my thoughts were: “Oh Emma has a spiky hand that it will take me time to get used to – and time I don’t have”. I later called it “easy but hard to read” and made a note, “I’ll pass on this”.

Argh!

And my reaction only a year ago: “I thought the one letter I have VERY easy to read!”

Time — practice-practice-practice — conquers all.

* * *

AUGUSTA ["Mamma"]: There wasn’t a day when I had thoughts about Mamma’s writing, because I concentrated on her de-light-ful letters over my entire stay at the Hampshire Record Office. Her letters deserve their own book! She’s forthright, opinionated, and witty. I love her - and LOVE her handwriting. She has some VERY distinctive orthography, especially her capitals (as in Friend and Picture here).

writing_Augusta1794

I must say I detected in nearly ALL of them a propensity for double-l words – for instance, well – to look more like wele. Emma especially exaggerates this tiny second ‘l’, as you see above in the word ‘will’ which looks more like wile.

* * *

ELIZA ["Aunt Chute"]: this image is a bit unfair, for it’s more of a draft hand than Eliza Chute’s formal writing. I’m so eager to get her SIX letters to sister Augusta that The Vyne was able to obtain – but they are the most elusive place… Writing, calling even, seems to get one nowhere.

writing_Elizac1817

For Eliza, my thoughts have typically been that she had a “legible” hand. The capitals look large in comparison to the lower case letters; the little loops on the ‘d’ are quite fun to see.  In the specimen above the “W.C. Esq:r. MP” is telling her correspondent where to address responses, so that Eliza gets it more quickly than the initial letter. “Mr C,” as he often is in her notes to herself, was husband William Chute.

* * *

MARIA ["Aunt Northampton"]: 2007 “again I just can’t deal with a hard to read hand!” In comparing youngest and eldest sister, I noted down: “now her sister Maria a totally different hand! lot of up/down strokes – I simply couldn’t describe either of them!”

Now I think of Maria’s hand as “fresh” and “youthful”:

writing_Maria1797

I can guess why the word “youthful” sprang to mind, because in its ‘neatness’ it somewhat reminds me of the children’s early writings — see, for instance, this sample from young Emma (my Emma Austen Leigh, circa 1811).

I must say that I’ve been very lucky to be able to see letters from grandparents – parents – siblings – children. So many generations! But I am voracious: I always want MORE.

Happy Easter for those celebrating, and talk to you soon. Must get back to the 18th century…

 

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National Library Week: FREE OUP Online Sources

April 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm (books, fashion, news, research) (, , )

If you’ve ever been frustrated by finding the obscure person you needed to read about in DNB - but then hit their paywall, now is your chance!

Oxford University Press is giving U.S. readers FREE Access from April 13 through April 19th to several databases. Along with the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), there’s such as Berg Fashion LibraryGrove Music OnlineGrove Art Online.

Celebrate National Library Week, without even having to travel to your local library!

fashion 1819

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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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Austen in Boston Reviews “Jane Austen and the Arts”

March 17, 2014 at 11:42 am (books, jane austen, news) (, , , , , )

With her ear always to the ground for new books, Janeite Deb alerted me to an online review of Jane Austen and the Arts, on the Austen in Boston: A Jane Austen Bookclub.

I’ll let Kirk’s own words tell his thoughts on the book, but give this hint:

ja and the arts

He awarded it 4.25 Regency Teacups!

Here’s a skimming of the table of contents to whet your appetite:

Acknowledgments
Preface: Jane Austen’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment by Vivasvan Soni
Introduction by Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos

I. The Fine Arts in Austen’s World: Music, Dance, and Portraiture
C
hapter 1 –”Daily Practice, Musical Accomplishment, and the Example of Jane Austen” by Kathryn Libin
Chapter 2 – “A ‘Reputation for Accomplishment’: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers” by Kelly McDonald
Chapter 3 – “Miss Bingley’s Walk: The Aesthetics of Movement in Pride and Prejudice” by Erin Smith
Chapter 4 – “The Sister Artist: Cassandra Austen’s Portraits of Jane Austen in Art-Historical Context” by Jeffrey Nigro

II. Austen and Romanticism: Female Genius, Gothicism, and Sublimity
Chapter 5 – “Portrait of a Lady (Artist): Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot, Madame de Staël’s Corrine, and the Woman of Genius Novel” by Elisabeth Lenckos
Chapter 6 – “Jane Austen’s Comic Heroines and the Controversial Pleasures of Wit” by Belisa Monteiro
Chapter 7 – “An Adaptable Aesthetic: Eighteenth-Century Landscapes, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen” by Alice Davenport
Chapter 8 – “Exploring the Transformative Power of Literature: Joanna Baillie, Jane Austen and the Aesthetics of Moral Reform” by Christine Colón
Chapter 9 – “Jane Austen’s Influence on Stephenie Meyer” by Deborah Kennedy

III. Austen in Political, Social, and Theological Context
Chapter 10 – “Aesthetics, Politics, and the Interpretation of Mansfield Park” by Russell Perkin
Chapter 11 – “Reflections on Mirrors: Austen, Rousseau, and Socio-Politics” by Melora Vandersluis
Chapter 12 – “‘So much novelty and beauty!’: Spacious Reception through an Aesthetic of Restraint in Persuasion” by Jessica Brown
Chapter 13 –”Augustinian Aesthetics in Jane Austen’s World: God as Artist” by Diane Capitani
Chapter 14 –”‘Delicacy of Taste’ Redeemed: The Aesthetic Judgments of Austen’s Clergymen Heroes” by Fred and Natasha Duquette

* * *

  • review (brief) and interview with JA & the Arts editor Natasha Duquette on British Weekly - Gabrielle Pantera: “A Must Read for JA Fans”
  • Biola University’s Book Launch on YouTube (71 minutes)

“’I think it could be adapted
into a fantastic BBC documentary
,’
says Duquette.”

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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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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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Mystery portrait ID’ed: Queen Elizabeth I

February 18, 2014 at 2:27 am (british royalty, estates, fashion, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.

mystery lady and deer

click photo to read original post

In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:

The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….

In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!

queen elizabeth

Major OMG!

Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).

So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”

faces of QEI

NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:

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