Tales of the D.A.R.

October 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, news) (, , , )

Although I have been to WASHINGTON DC several times over the decades, I had never entered the fabulous building that houses the Daughters of the American Revolution. WONDERFUL “period room” exhibits, and for the JASNA group an added incentive: the costume installation entitled, “An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution“, which opened October 7 (2016) and runs until April 2017.

Ann Lewis fecit2

With the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (the JASNA AGM) having taken place this past weekend (21-23 October) in Washington DC – my own paper “Sketching Box Hill with Emma” being presented in the afternoon of the 22nd – there were a lot of costumes on parade in Washington. I don’t pretend to know much, but I have a stash of very useful books – for I would like to envision what my Emma and Mary would have worn. From a comment or two in the family correspondence, Mary (especially before she was widowed in 1831) was careful to look the part of a smart & stylish London Lady. The Gosling ladies had their step-mother’s shoes to step into: the Hon. Charlotte Gosling (née de Grey, related to the Barons Walsingham) was a serious society hostess in the 1810s. Every spring, during “the season” Mrs Gosling hosted routs, concerts, and parties. Her husband’s dinners are also found in the newspapers (yes, men gave ‘dinners’, but women gave other entertainments).

It still boggles MY mind that their parties could attract 300 to 600 people. How is that possible?? such a crowd in a small townhouse (No. 5 Portland Place, London).

But, to get back to the DAR.

JASNA members had morning “free”, and the DAR Museum was my one and only choice for a place to go. Thankfully, many other members had been already; for the most part I could look, read the brochure (one per room), and savor furnishings and costumes by myself. The room that stands out most is the one paneled in wood from the salvaged ship AUGUSTA. Jacobean in nature, with a lengthy table, the dark wood and colorful stained glass windows makes for a room that I’d happily spend time sitting in.

And the fact that the ship was called the AUGUSTA – the name of TWO of my ladies in the Smith family (Emma Austen’s mother and sister; never mind a slew of Augustas born in the 1820s and 1830s…).

But what really brought me to visit the DAR (free entry a big inducement) was the curator’s talk, which took place on the Thursday (the day I landed in DC) of last week.

I missed the first half of the talk, having to find the hotel, check-in, register for the conference, and get to the room – but was in time enough to hear the speaker Alden O’Brien toss off the intelligence that SHE WAS WORKING WITH A DIARY.

I pulled her aside at the end of her presentation to hear more, especially: Had she published it.

The answer to that burning question was ‘no’. The diarist – “Sylvia Lewis Tyler (1785-1851), an early nineteenth-century Everywoman, of Connecticut and Western Reserve Ohio” had left thirty years of diaries, and Alden didn’t believe ANY publisher would want that amount of material. Alden said the diary was akin to that which formed the basis of A Midwife’s Tale, the diaries by Martha Ballard [which is online at DoHistory; printed copies were also produced].

I truly do Hope She is Wrong. I can actually think of diaries that I’ve gotten copies of BECAUSE they were the “complete” set. But, in this day and age, it is a tough sell, to be sure.

Alden did say that she had published articles – and it was in looking that I found a her Common-Place post from 2011, all about her thoughts on SYLVIA’S DIARY.

Her comments, in the article, reminds me so much of a diary that I believe is being published in the spring 2017, concerning the diary of a Vermont woman that a friend (and former colleague) has been working on for over ten years. (More on that later.) Sylvia was a spinner and sewer. She lived in Bristol, Connecticut as a girl (her diaries begin at age 15), and textile & clothing is also an interest of mine – as far as production goes. I used to be a keen sewer and knitter; though I’ve never spun or weaved.

From the article: “I was taken aback when the archivist deposited nineteen manila folders before me, each containing a small, slim, hand-made volume.” Thirty years of Sylvia’s diaries. The title page (like that early diary of my Mary Gosling) claimed the diary in the name of SYLVIA LEWIS of BRISTOL.

Sylvia’s diary runs from 1801 (when she was 15 years old) to 1831 (aged 46); two years are missing and a couple of gaps exist. Alden even targeted another Bristol girl’s diary, belonging to an acquaintance! Thus are “projects” born…

Alden asks her readers, “Why did I leap into this project—and why did I stick to it?” Nearly ten years into my own project on Two Teens in the Time of Austen (Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, who – as sisters-in-law, both become related to Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh), I couldn’t wait to see what she said in reply!

  • an abiding fondness for the area (ie, Bristol & environs) and interest in its local history
  • Sylvia’s “records are richly informative” as regards social history
  • “Most of all, Sylvia herself drew me in.”

“Once I knew the cast of characters in the diary, the entries created a narrative, and I kept wanting to know what happens next.”

Amen, Sister!

I can say yes-yes-YES to the three points above, as regards Mary, Emma, and their (extensive) families and the English history and daily “mundane chronicles” they all have left behind.

An aside: a letter I just transcribed last night, written by Sir Charles Joshua Smith (bart.) [1800-1831], Emma’s eldest brother and Mary’s eventual husband, had this FABULOUS sentence that just called out to me:

“it is very flattering to one’s vanity to feel that there is some one who cares whether one is alive or dead”

If Charles could know how MUCH _I_ care about them all… his vanity would be HIGHLY flattered. And Sylvia Lewis Tyler must feel that same if she could know the loving care and attention her biographer Alden O’Brien is taking over bringing her own “herstory” to light.

I invite you to read Alden’s own words, and to savor 19th century Bristol, Connecticut by checking out this tale from the vault of the DAR. And should you be in the area of Washington DC, stop by – Alden O’Brien might be there!sylvia-lewis

The finding of Sylvia’s grave makes for truly SPOOKY reading! Enjoy…

also: Bringing Sylvia Lewis back to Life

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Capability Brown @ the Royal Horticultural Society, London

October 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people) (, , )

If you missed the installation “A CAPABLE BUSINESSMAN” at London’s Lindley LibraryRoyal Horticultural Society, you’re in luck: the internet is able to help.

Back in August 2016, the RHS posted this press release, alerting fans of Capability Brown that the Society’s copy of Brown’s Account Book was going on public display.


Calling Brown “one of the 18th century’s most successful and pioneering businessmen,” the research into this account book has revealed the “astonishing amounts” paid to Brown – and I can say, for Castle Ashby, by one of the Earls of Northampton! (the 9th Earl being uncle to my diarist, Emma Austen)

“Mostly written in his own hand,” Brown’s clientele numbered 125 individuals in this book alone (dating from 1759 until his death in 1783).

The book descended through family, and – though loaned to the Society in the 1950s – has now been donated to the Society.

The display coincided with the (ongoing) 300th Anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Clicking on the photo above will bring you to the online “copy” of Brown’s Account Book.

The London Parks & Gardens Trust also featured Capability Brown in its newsletter; some articles are found online.

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For your consideration: A Botanical Blog

October 13, 2016 at 10:11 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Not having picked up a paint brush in YEARS, I was looking the other day specifically for artists who paint BOTANICALS; that I found one artist’s blog who showed in words and pictures some thought-provoking work was a bonus I had to share with Two Teen Readers.

This particular post is most INTERESTING, because it tells the consequences to one business (a maker of vellum) when the UK government considered going from vellum to paper. Artist Shevaun Doherty lays out her own thoughts on “what might have been”, which gives the post a personal perspective, too:


But it is Doherty’s sharing her art’s triumphs and challenges that I found especially interesting to read about. And seeing botanicals “under construction,” and how the artist must build up a picture is just a thrill to see (for a picture IS worth a thousand words). For instance, this post from March 2015 called the “War of the Roses“. Or this piece on “Challenges! Painting the Laburnum,” which provided much-needed insight into the work-a-day process of painting botanicals.

Two Teens has a large handful of botanical artists in their company, including the artist Margaret Meen – about whom I’ve written. She taught Queen Charlotte and the royal princesses, but also Aunt Emma Smith and my diarist Emma Smith (aka Emma Austen). I hope in the coming months to see a bit more of their work. Or, at least hear about it. My JASNA AGM presentation touches upon Botanicals – for Mr. Elton mentions flowers that Emma Woodhouse had painted. Thanks to Shevaun’s blog, it’s nice to see the art is alive and well.

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Hamilton at Work in London

October 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

This was the scene Last Sunday, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London:


As you can see, the refurbishment – HAMILTON is to open in October of 2017 – is underway, yet also under-wraps. This (below) was the street scene in the past:


This past summer, stories ran about the refurbishment, including this article in The Guardian, which claims a £30 million price tag.


I must admit, having been in New Jersey (near the site of the Hamilton/Burr duel), and taking in the lyrics so in praise of New York City (“in the greatest city in the world”), it feels as if a little will be lost in translation. NOT that I think fans won’t be queuing for MILES to get tickets.

For once, the BRITISH look forward to something AMERICAN coming to them after being a ‘hit’ in the States (the shoe is usually on the other foot).


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Boswell and Miss Gregg

August 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, people, research) (, , , )

On Wednesday the 2nd of March, 1791, James Boswell set down in his diary news of his evening’s entertainment:


“… I dined today at Mr. Gregg’s in the City,… In the evening Miss Gregg played both on the harpsichord and harp and sung admirable well. But I felt none of the fondness for her which made me once rave [fn: This is the sole reference to Boswell’s earlier fondness for Miss Gregg.], and it seemed awkward to me. I stole away in time to be at the Essex Head Club, and not be obliged to act also at supper.”

Miss Gregg – the future Caroline Carr (Mrs. Ralph Carr of Stannington) – was a friend to Miss Augusta Smith (aka “Mamma”) and her sisters, staying at Erle Stoke Park (in Wiltshire), before her marriage.

In the near future, Caroline Carr would become the sister-in-law of Maria Gosling, my diarist Mary’s “Aunt Gregg“. Caroline Gregg and Ralph Carr married in 1793, while Maria Gosling and Henry Gregg married in 1794. Mr. Carr was brother to Harriet Cheney (née Carr), whose watercolor portraits were auctioned at Christie’s in 2005. Harriet painted this little portrait of Lady Compton (née Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane), which was among those sold:

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

The little girl is Lady Marianne Compton, her eldest daughter.

I’ve an interest in the Gregg-Gosling-Smith-Carr connection, for there are several letters that tell about the ladies of this generation, interacting with each other. The Boswell sighting has long been known, but was just a little vignette. A moment, all its own.

After last evening, I can add a little “history” to the young Caroline Gregg. She shows up in the book The History of the Family of Carr of Dunston Hill, Co. Durham (1893), the first volume of three in an exhaustive family history. What a FIND!

The young couple lived at 7 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury; they moved in 1800 to No. 18 Bloomsbury Street (in a house that remained in family possession until 1871). Vacations were spent with the in-laws at Dunston Hill, “travelling in two post-chaises, servants riding. The great cost of travelling at that time is shewn by the fact that the journey each way cost over £50.” (A not-insignificant sum, when some households lived on 350 pounds – or less – a year.)

 The country estate the Carrs called home, from circa 1806, was Barrow Point Hill, in Pinner.

The book’s author offers this summation of Caroline (Gregg) Carr:

This gentle and talented lady was especially distinguished as a musician, both in singing and as a pianist and harpist. She had had the advantage of the best masters, and her fame as an amateur pianist was such that the great Haydn paid a visit to her father’s house in London to hear her play. She was the composer of several musical pieces, one March being written at the express request of the Marquis of Northampton [ie, Emma Smith’s uncle], for the use of his regiment, and has since been highly approved by more than one military band.” Caroline also had an interest in the works of Handel, possessing in score (over several volumes) “all his works”.

Caroline had been born in 1770, and was therefore about 21 years old when her singing and playing entertained James Boswell. How young she might have been when first attracting his eye can be guessed at from mentions of her brother Francis Gregg in 1788, and more especially time spent at “Mrs. Gregg’s” (either Caroline’s sister-in-law, or mother) in 1790.

She died in 1823, aged only 53. She was buried at Pinner Church.

What the book does not touch upon is the strife Caroline and Ralph endured from their respective families, especially Mr. Gregg. Letters in the Northumberland Archives speak of the “cruel treatment meted out to himself [Ralph Carr] and Caroline by her father”. Ralph Carr seems to have had as variable a temper as Mr. Gregg, for Eliza Gosling (Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law) writes of him keeping his wife away from “her own relations … even her Mother.”

As far as Boswell is concerned, however, Mrs. Carr doesn’t yet exist – only Miss Gregg, at her piano or harp, existed to cause him unease.

From the book comes this “charming” signature – oh! for the letters…

signature_caroline gregg

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Book an Evening with Jane Austen

August 10, 2016 at 10:49 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, , , )

Another Charlotte Frost Find – author Catherine Curzon’s new book Life in the Georgian Court plays a featured role in a September 2016 “Jane Austen” evening of music at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. “Soloists” include Adrian Lukis (Mr. Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) and Caroline Langrishe, who will perform “dialogues”, and harpist Camilla Pay and soprano Rosie Lomas. Catherine will perform introductions, as well as sign copies of her book during the interval.

life Georgian Court

Read more Catherine Curzon at her blog A Covent Garden Gilflirt’s Guide to Life while awaiting her book!

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Sotheby’s Museum Network

August 9, 2016 at 8:40 pm (entertainment, estates) (, , )

Charlotte Frost’s Twitter account is always informative, with news, books, English history (and that’s just for starters) – but this sounded EXTRA-EXCITING:

sothebys museum network

An August 5th press release announcing “an online destination to discover video content created by and about the world’s leading museums,” called Sothey’s Museum Network. “The Treasures of Chatsworth,” which is now in production, will be a 13-part series, featured on the network in the fall.

To read the entire article, click on the photo.

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Crime and Punishment

July 31, 2016 at 12:50 pm (people) (, , )

In the July “newsletter” of The National Archives came several announcements of the digitization of criminal records, beginning c1770. Off-site availability are typically through FindMyPast.

NB: there’s a Smith & Gosling pedigree (open to public viewing) on FindMyPast!

Crime and Punishment

The Smiths and Goslings actually appear a few times (on the “right” side of the law) in court proceedings. But the deepest “mystery” I’m currently trying to unravel concerns Lady Elizabeth Compton – family letters make one reference, in May 1817: “The result of the proceedings concerning Shaw is entirely satisfactory“. But I’ve no idea who “Shaw” was, nor anything about the extent of his “molestation” that led to incarceration, for the letter mentions the future possibility of Shaw “being let out”. My assumption is that this case took place in Northamptonshire – but of that, even, I am currently unsure. Perhaps these records will help!

Click on the photo to read the e-newsletter in its entirety.

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Articles @ Academia.edu

July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm (history, research) (, , , , , )

A reminder for some, and a “poke” for those new to the SMITH & GOSLING blog: I post “original” articles on Academia.edu, a website dedicated to papers, books, classes, etc. relating to academics and independent scholars.


These currently include:

Combine Jane Austen, Eliza Chute, and “Sense and Sensibility” with a true-life courtship and abandonment. Mrs. Wheeler, a woman taken in by the Chutes of The Vyne, left an orphan daughter, Hester, who left deep impressions on both Caroline Wiggett and Caroline Austen.

The flower painter Margaret Meen also taught painting: pupils included Queen Charlotte and the Royal Princesses; the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park: Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma. Little about Meen’s life has been uncovered — until now. Four letters lead to some surprisingly-full biographical details of the life of a woman artist in Georgian England.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}


Links to ACADEMIA articles can always be found in the navigation at right.

And, soon, these two articles will be joined by a new treatise!

Early in the history of this blog, I dangled the idea that JAMES BOSWELL was one of the “famous” names connected with the Smiths & Goslings. So watch my Academia page for the upload (coming shortly) of “Boswell’s ‘Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal“.

Academia.edu will ask you to sign in to view articles (Google and Facebook are two alternatives to creating an Academia account); articles are PDF.


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History’s Eyes on Soo

July 10, 2016 at 12:01 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , , )

On Broadway, she’s played, sung, “lived and breathed,” Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, now Phillipa Soo puts pen to paper – writing the foreword to a new book about the wife & widow of Alexander Hamilton.


Woo-HOO! Right?

Alas, the projected bio is to be a children’s picture book: “Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton”, by Margaret McNamara (Schwartz & Wade, fall 2017).

Great for youthful readers (for whom, I guess, the “clean” Broadway cast album has been produced – since the play has become a hit with school teachers), but what about the rest of us?! _I_ cannot be the only reader interested in hearing more about “The Schuyler Sisters”: Angelica, Eliza – and Peggy.

Their history is particularly relevant to those of us in the north-east U.S., so close to the action of Albany, New York, where Philip J. Schuyler (a “Revolutionary War general, U.S. Senator, and business entrepreneur”) lived in a lovely mansion that still exists — and can be visited.

Schuyler Mansion NY State Historic Site

Schuyler Mansion – a New York State Historic Site

Described on the website as, “The Georgian structure, reflecting Schuyler’s English tastes – was built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River,” the house is open from May through October. Cost (in 2016 dollars) is a very reasonable $5.00 ($4 Seniors & Students; free for children under 12) [for groups, see their rate sheet]

  • NB: Combined tickets can be had for Crailo, the Van Rensselaer mansion, across the river.

Of course the main topic targeted is the life of Philip and Catharine (Van Rensselaer) Schuyler. ALTHOUGH there is a *special* tour offered this year (on selected days), “When Alexander Hamilton called Albany Home”. Surely, among the moments recounted will be Alexander’s marriage to Elizabeth – which took place here in 1780. [NOTE: THIS focus-tour is by reservation only]

Schuyler_Mansion interior

Maybe next year the Schuyler mansion will highlight Eliza Schuyler instead of Alexander Hamilton. One news story, about Phillipa Soo, highlights one reason I find Hamilton such a compelling listen:

“As Eliza, she’s got a trip through the ringer as the shy middle child of the wealthy, covetable Schuyler sisters; by falling for Hamilton in the first place, her fate is already sealed for a whole spectrum of heartbreak, including infidelity and, of course, death. She emerged as a key reason for the show’s emotional resonance, most especially delivered in her final-scene solo, in which she recounts Eliza’s accomplishments after her husband’s death, redeeming a somewhat lost historical figure through tears. It was the most notable part of Hamilton, for me—that Lin-Manuel Miranda would end the show by righting the essential erasure of a woman who was key to the creation of America”

— Julianne Escobado Shepherd

History finally has its eyes on you, Eliza! The lyrics to “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” is an astonishing move for a play about Alexander Hamilton, bringing Elizabeth Hamilton fully into the spotlight. It would be nice to page through 800-pages of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography in order to pluck out of it Eliza’s story – but here’s hoping some one takes the baton from Margaret McNamara and delves deeper into the lives of the Hamilton women. As Shepherd quotes Soo saying upon first working on Hamilton, “‘Oh, I don’t really know that much about Alexander Hamilton, and who is this Eliza person that I’ve never heard about?’”

“History waiting to be unlocked,” is Soo’s understated summation of her involvement in the play. “I think it just reminds us that women have such a huge place in history but their voices weren’t necessarily as loud.”

Anyone following Hamilton will know that three leads ended their performances last night (July 9th). The New York Theater website has a concise history for the trio on the occasion of the “original cast” breaking up, including a link to Facebook footage of the “final curtain call” – which already has well over a MILLION views.

Soo moves on to another new musical – based on the de-light-ful French film, Amelie!! (If you’ve never watched the movie, run to get a copy; you’ll be ready to book a flight to Paris soon afterwards…)

* * *

Two personal notes: _I_ just love how a history-slash-biography BOOK can make a name (and money) for its author a decade after its publication. Writers dream of film and/or TV – few would dream of their work being the basis for a stage musical. Still, Hamilton shows what FRESH ideas can do for any industry.

Also, I have my father to thank for a LOT of my interest in Hamilton. Last summer (June, 2015) I dragged him down to New York City. A three-month, temporary job had just ended and I had LONGED to visit two archives, which, indeed, have given me SO MUCH Smith & Gosling material.

Everything fell so perfectly into place – I got a seat in the archive for the entire week; and found a place to live, a new Air B&B listing in Weehawken, New Jersey – just a bus ride through the Lincoln Tunnel, which offered parking (for we drove down from Vermont).

Although not affecting me (except when walking from/to the subway stop), the rain was so bad that parts of nearby New Jersey sustained flood damage. Yet, the rain kept my father – who wasn’t inclined to visit Manhattan on his own – close to “home”.

NYC 1 June 2015

It was he who discovered, just around the corner, near THIS FABULOUS view of Manhattan, this historic marker:

hamilton-burr duel

July 11, 1804

The most famous duel in American History took place on this date at the dueling grounds in Weehawken, between political rivals, General Alexander Hamilton and sitting Vice-President of the United States, Colonel Aaron Burr. Hamilton fell mortally wounded, and died the next day in New York City.

Tragically, Hamilton’s son Philip had also met his death here in a duel in 1801.

Dedicated on July 11, 2004, the 200th Anniversary of the Duel.

* * *

Just for fun:

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