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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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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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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