Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth & Tring Park

June 4, 2022 at 11:54 am (entertainment, estates, history, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

Some exciting news –

A little while ago I found David Shakespeare‘s work on the “Pregnancy Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth I. David has come across a photograph of Tring Park (Hertfordshire) during the Rothschild years — and his sharp eyes spotted, hanging on the Hallway wall, the very portrait I had found in a Smith Sister’s drawing, which quite obviously “copied” this well-known work:

Below is the sketch, enlarged to show only the “Portrait,” in pride of place between two Drawing Room windows — the image’s focal point as well as the room’s focal point, despite the loss of the fourth wall behind the viewer. This interior sketch surely dates to the late 1820s, during the Smiths’ early occupancy of Tring Park, their Uncle Drummond’s [Sir Drummond Smith] former country house, by that time sold out of the family – and yet rented again by his relations:

In my first blog post (written nearly ten years ago) I called this image “Mystery Lady and Deer” and I was seeking further information and had hoped for identification (see post “Have you seen this Lady?“). A few months later, I found the “Elizabeth I” image. As I wrote at the time, it was a “MAJOR Oh-My-Gosh!” moment (see “Mystery Portrait ID’ed“).

From time to time, I’m impelled to revisit old thoughts, old blog posts. I don’t recall what I was looking for — undoubtedly something to do with TRING — when I came across this discussion from David Shakespeare, on the very portrait in question!

It was the PDF that I came across first. Impressive scholarship! A member of the De Vere Society, David’s hour-long presentation on “The Pregnancy Portrait of Elizabeth I” (2018) is a must watch. I’ll include here a link to David Shakespeare’s entire YouTube channel.

As you might imagine, when I emailed the full sketch (the original is among the Austen Leigh papers at the Hampshire Record Office), David was intrigued enough to visit Winchester with great speed. What intrigued me was the ability to really see, thanks to his detailed photographs, what I have never seen in person. Heightened to darken the faint pencil lines of the original, for the first time, all viewers get a glimpse into Tring Park and the material lives of the Smith Family.

An ASIDE:

Tring was the first marital home for Emma and Edward Austen [the Rev. & Mrs. James Edward Austen Leigh], and the birthplace of their first children.

I have come across three sketch books by Fanny Smith (Bodleian Library, Oxford); one by next youngest sister, Charlotte Smith (Tring Local History Museum); and work of youngest sister Maria Louisa Smith. So there are “contenders” for the artist(s) of the two sketches of Tring Interiors at HRO (Hampshire Record Office). HRO presumes the artist to be either eldest sister Augusta Smith or next eldest Emma Smith. Without in-person study, and other artists’ work as comparison, I make no guesses.

Another ASIDE:

A related sketch book, of ten drawings, sold on eBay in November 2020 – the known contents of which (five drawings) closely mirror the Fanny-Charlotte sketches. Presumably, the sisters were sketching the same places together. Needless to say, I would love to know more about the current whereabouts of this eBay item, as would Tring Local History Museum.

I invite you to view David’s newest video “Update on the Pregnancy Portraits” (there’s a PDF as well) – where he not only tells about Tring’s missing portrait, but also offers fascinating insight, observations, and theories on the “original” portrait. And, yes, the plural word “portraits” is meant literally. For David would DEARLY LOVE to find the painting that used to hang at Tring, last seen during the Rothschild ownership.

Thrilling for me is David’s up-close-and-personal dissection of the Tring Drawing Room!! Including fascinating new information on the pianoforte seen on the left edge of the sketch. He will walk you around the room, before informing you about the “painting” seen in the drawing and the portraits – found and yet-to-be-discovered.

Join us!

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“Quite as much of THAT going on in the country as in town”

April 2, 2022 at 3:10 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Ah, dear Mrs. Bennet!
(Pride and Prejudice)

Long ago I purchased two novels by Anne Thackeray Ritchie: The Story of Elizabeth and Old Kensington – reprinted as part of the “Her Write His Name” series by THEOMMES. The life and work of ANY female writer, never mind one relating to Victorian England and carrying the well-known THACKERAY name, was/is of interest.

Anne Thackeray Ritchie comes up every once in a blue moon, even in connection with the Austen Leighs of this blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen. As she did TODAY, when I was double-checking access to the Eton College (Manuscripts) Archives. Soon-to-close is a special exhibition at Eton, in the Tower Gallery: “A Victorian Legacy: Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s life and writings.”

Running from 14 October 2021 until 14 April 2022, (by appointment), “This exhibition, based on an extensive archive of over 1000 letters, family albums and other personal papers in Eton College Library is the first dedicated to her in her own right.”

Eton, it turns out, has Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s copy of JANE AUSTEN: HER LIFE AND LETTERS, A FAMILY RECORD (1913), by William Austen Leigh and his nephew Richard Arthur Austen Leigh. Dating to a few years later (1919) is a letter from RAAL to the Hester Ritchie, said to be “Regarding Anne Thackeray Ritchie and an article about her work.” But what REALLY caught my eye was notice of a publication by Anne Thackeray Ritchie, of A Book of Sibyls: Mrs Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Mrs Opie, Miss Austen.

Of course I scrambled to find an online copy:

A Book of Sibyls: Mrs Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Mrs Opie, Miss Austen

The chapter on Jane Austen begins on page 197, and opens with a page-length quote of dialogue from Pride and Prejudice, which includes Mrs. Bennet’s “complete victory” over the dreaded Mr. Darcy with the observation that “titles” this post.

The book itself opens with this delightful mise-en-scene:

Not long ago, a party of friends were sitting at luncheon in a suburb of London, when one of them happened to make some reference to Maple Grove and Selina, and to ask in what county of England Maple Grove was situated. Everybody immediately had a theory. Only one of the company (a French gentleman, not well acquainted with English) did not recognise the allusion. A lady sitting by the master of the house (she will, I hope, forgive me for quoting her words, for no one else has a better right to speak them) said, ‘What a curious sign it is of Jane Austen’s increasing popularity! Here are five out of six people sitting round a table, nearly a hundred years after her death, who all recognise at once a chance allusion to an obscure character in one of her books.‘”

Alas what county each opined for Maple Grove is not mentioned.

It is easy to speculate if the “Lady” seated beside the “master of the house” wasn’t an Austen Leigh by marriage….

I leave it to you to discover this publication for yourself, and veer off to books on the Thackeray family:

Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s Wikipedia entry mentions the 2-volume set of “biography” by John Aplin; and also his five-volume edition of their “Correspondence and Journals” The latter is tremendously pricey; I may look into the former, especially as, being two volumes, one can buy one and then the other. There are also the biographies focused on the daughter by Winifred Gérin (1981), which one critic thanks for making “rediscovery” of the writer possible. And Anny: The Life of Anny Thackerary Ritchie, by Henrietta Garnett (2004; 2006). For a review of this last, by biographer Hermoine Lee (Virginia Woolf), read The Guardian. I especially appreciate Lee’s closing thoughts on “how obscure, unrecorded lives can speak to us.”

 

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Thin End of the Wedge? Online Security and Research “overseas”

March 30, 2022 at 12:51 pm (europe, news, research) (, , , )

Today, wishing to look up a citation for a drawing done, surely by one of the Smith sisters during their occupation of Tring Park (so, late 1820s most likely, but, depending on WHICH of the six sisters, perhaps into the early 1830s), I could not make the Hampshire Record Office catalogue actually SEARCH.

Was/Is it down?

I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t MY internet connection; me or them; or whatever??

I now searched rather than use my “book-marked” link, just in case there had been an update (although the SITE came up; it just didn’t actually SEARCH).

I clicked on the Hampshire Archives and Local Studies link on google – and got a “This site can’t be reached” error message. Again, was it my connection??

I clicked on the link for their Facebook page. And was ASTONISHED to see the following “pinned” to the site since March 16 (2022):

* * * * *

“As part of our current online security measures, connections are blocked to Hampshire County Council webpages from countries outside the UK, EU, and European Economic Area (EEA).”

* * * * *

The link, by the way, they supply does bring up the catalogue – but it still wasn’t searching for me.

My great fear, of course, is that “Online Security Measures” of THIS sort will bring my research to a screeching halt. The Hampshire Record Office is one of “the” biggest stash of Smith & Gosling-related stuff! And any collapse of online access really closes down my ability to find further items relating to my research, which (lately) has been done by a locum whenever I’ve located something I absolutely had to CONSULT and couldn’t do in person.

I have located, to date, items like diaries, drawings, and letters in countries as far apart as the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Australia. If I can’t SEARCH, I cannot FIND.

I won’t be alone… I will be in good company, I’m sure.

I haven’t looked to see what other archives this same directive affects – I’m sure HRO is not alone (so many use the same “Calm” catalogue structure).

Believe me, I _know_ about security vulnerability – but closing ACCESS from countries NOT in “your neighbourhood” cannot be the solution! Not for archives, especially.

I might say, given past access denied, this is NOT the first time that the likes of the U.S. has come in for such denial to freely available data. Obviously, those few (I can think of access to Queen Victoria’s Diaries), will now be joined by the likes of PUBLIC Archives.

Thin end of the wedge, indeed. Especially for those of us who use the nomenclature of “Independent” researcher. Some sites cannot even be “purchased” for use by individuals (I think especially of the GALE databases).

It has been said before, Two Countries DIVIDED by a common language. The UK really has shut “US” out with this move.

I hope that in the future there will be access at least through a “sign in” registration. But for now, I’m waiting to get home to look at my downloaded Austen Leigh archive information – and waiting for a sign that the catalogue was actually DOWN today (about 5 PM UK time) [I will update this, should that be the case]. I rather have my doubts, but would LOVE to be pleasantly surprised.

UPDATE: 90-minutes later and the SEARCH is actually working. And I found the citation for the drawing of Tring Park’s room. Lessens, a bit, the block of items beyond the HRo online catalogue, but I fear it’s just a matter of time…

 

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2/2/22 – Mary’s 222 Birthday

February 2, 2022 at 11:43 am (diaries, estates, history, jane austen, postal history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

I simply could not let today pass without a passing nod at my first diarist, Mary Gosling — also know here as Lady Smith (following her 1826 marriage to Sir Charles Joshua Smith, baronet).

There could be NO harder name to “search” or “research” than a couple called Charles and Mary Smith!

And yet, the research has been GOLDEN.

I first found Mary’s earliest diary – a set of six trips taken between 1814 and 1824 – in 2006, when I was wishing to note down “authentic” sightings of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I had visited their northern Wales home, Plas Newydd, in 2005. Mary Gosling met them! And she left her impressions of them. Well… less her impressions than notes of what others always said of them. I was QUITE disappointed, especially in the brevity of her thoughts — for, within a page, the family had DEPARTED Llangollen!

BUT: Mary herself began to intrigue me. Mainly, because the family members were shown around Plas Newydd and they spent about four hours with the Ladies, in their home. THAT one premise began EVERYTHING that has gone on since — from all the research into the Smiths of Suttons, as well as my interest in the Ladies of Llangollen themselves.

The results of all this early research:

  • Two Teens in the Time of Austen – this blog, so named because Mary’s sister-in-law, Emma Smith, my second diarist, married James Edward Austen. And Edward was the nephew of writer Jane Austen.
  • Ladies of Llangollen – a blog whose information, based on a website I created circa 2006, still needs additional work, but it currently hosts interesting artwork, book excerpts, and information on people who visited Plas Newydd — the GOSLINGS included — during the tenancy of Ponsonby and Butler, as well as after.

The Smiths took over my life – buried me under diaries and stacks of letters, stocked my brain with tidbits of personal and national (England) history, squinted my eyes in deciphering a myriad of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century “hands,” and made me spend my money and my time (not sure WHICH is more costly, in the end), in a never-ending pursuit after more knowledge. The nosing-around their lives has made and still makes me HAPPY.

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

With that thought, I wish Mary Gosling the HAPPIEST 222nd Anniversary of her 2 February 1800 birth. She graced the earth for only 42 years, leaving three youthful children, whose faint faces I have now unearthed. And she opened the door for a true glimpse into the past.

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The After-Life of Ann Jackson, Servant

January 20, 2022 at 11:49 am (diaries, estates, history, news, people, research) (, , , )

Quite some time ago, I found reference to “Bennett Gosling, Esq.” at the Old Bailey Online. His valet, Thomas Wenlock, was giving testimony in a theft case that had occurred in July 1839. I made mention of both Thomas Wenlock and Ann Jackson as having been part of Bennett’s household on the page “Servants-Clerks-Governesses.” For Ann Jackson, her employment seemed in the past.

Given that I have, (I think), ONE letter penned by Bennett Gosling – a brief note. Given that, among the Goslings, only Mary Gosling, Bennett’s younger sister, has left diaries – which, except for travels, are all daily diaries written after her marriage in 1826 to Sir Charles Joshua Smith, baronet (Emma Austen’s brother). AND given that only a handful of a household’s servant population manage to gain more than one mention in a person’s diaries (ie, there might be at least the hiring and/or the dismissal mentioned), SERVANTS are the hardest to construct any kind of roster. The early 19th century census, unlike our common “every ten years” really comes down to the 1840 census — and people were not always at home on Census Day. I once searched the census for Mary, Lady Smith – I had her birthday — Ancestry could NOT find her. I looked up her diary — she was in town (London) and staying at the Curries’ home (sister-in-law Charlotte and husband Arthur Currie).

Little did I know, at the time, that the age for Mary was incorrectly approximated in the census. In essence, I knew (and searched) too-specific information!

Anyway…

I was happy to find mention of Ann Jackson a few days ago. She turned up in an Australian database because she received a sentence of TRANSPORTATION at her 9 July 1839 trial. This *find* of a new-to-me website made me revisit what I had previously found at the Old Bailey.

The transcript of Ann Jackson’s trial can be read online. She was found to have in her possession disparate items from two households – the stays of Mrs. Pearse, for example, valued at 30 shillings; and two coats (valued at £4) of Bennett Gosling, Esq.

Arrest and trial records of the period tend to be rather sketchily transmitted. The policeman, Andrew Wyness, for instance, according to his testimony, follows the young woman, pushes open a door, and then confronts Jackson, demanding to know what’s in her bundle.

Was Wyness entering a residence? a rear yard? What had made him suspicious of Jackson, other than that he spotted her at “Four in the Morning”…

Wyness could not have known at the time that Ann Jackson would be found to have an alias – Maria Donaldson – though WHAT NAME she was using at the time of her employment with the Pearses (or Bennett Gosling) is not quite noted. Surely Wenlock had not known her under one name and come across her at the Pearses’ (where he lodged) under another, but which name she used when is anyone’s guess.

That she was indicted under the name ANN JACKSON leads me to believe this was her legal name.

Wenlock’s testimony that he and Bennett (“his master”) “went into the country” can only mean they spent the weekend at Roehampton Grove, before returning to banking duties on Monday. Sister Mary’s diary does not indicate a visit to Suttons that July weekend.

The Prisoner at the Bar was summarily sentenced after a brief self-defense. She was given Ten Years and Transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Ann Jackson was 23-year-old at the time of trial.

Jackson’s Australian history is picked up by the website “Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary of Convict Women from Beyond the British Isles“, edited by Lucy Frost and Collette McAlpine.

Jackson sailed on the Gilbert Henderson, reaching Van Diemen’s Land on 24 April 1840. Steve Rhodes, in his write-up of her biography, supplies interesting details missing from the curt Old Bailey transcript. Born in South America, she had been raised in London. Rhodes believes her legal name to have been MARIA DONALDSON, and promotes a marriage to one Robert Donaldson with a marital home at 1 Tavistock Street, London. The marriage had produced at least one (living?) child.

Surely it is convict records that accounts for the fascinating PHYSICAL details:

Jackson “was a short woman at 4 feet 9 1/2 inches (146.05 cm) tall, had dark brown hair, hazel eyes and fair complexion, and her freckled nose was inclined to the right.”

Records record only a few personal details of her time in Australia. There’s a “case of misconduct” (no information) on 16 April 1842. The delivery of an illegitimate child a few months later, on 28 July 1842. She married John Sykes, “a free man”, in Hobart on 26 December 1843. Evidently in the marriage registry Sykes is described as a 25-year-old mounted policeman. Given the earlier indication of a marriage, Jackson is incorrectly described as a 26-year-old “spinster”. “There were three children known to be born to Ann Jackson”, writes Rhodes, though I am unsure if this includes the two prior children he had already established or not.

Also produced online is the BOOK, Women Transported: Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories – a tie-in with a (2008) exhibition. Access the PDF catalogue and its essays by clicking on the picture (above). Essays include Gay Hendricksen’s WOMEN TRANSPORTED – MYTH AND REALITY; Carol Liston’s CONVICT WOMEN – IN THE FEMALE FACTORIES OF NEW SOUTH WALES; and Trudy Cowley’s FEMALE FACTORIES OF VAN DIEMEN’S LAND.

PLEASE NOTE: the website listed on the title page goes to a blog. The correct website address evidently is a “dot org”: https://femalefactory.org.au/ which will take you to the website for Cascades Female Factory (currently – early 2022 – closed for construction of a new History & Interpretation Centre).

Interesting reading in their evocative Brochure. There were five such “factories” in Van Diemen’s Land. And, yes, Ann Jackson’s name appears in the catalogue’s list of names.

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Mystery of the 1794 Stock & Pudding (fashion)

November 27, 2021 at 4:05 pm (fashion, history, london's landscape, research) (, , , )

There was a time when I hastened to find the solution to this mystery. Only, nothing much turned up. Things ‘cooled’; time passed.

This morning, I read from a book I bought long ago, when the diary-keeping of Elizabeth Porter Phelps, in Hadley, Massachusetts, initially caught my attention, called, Earthbound and Heavenbent: Elizabeth Porter Phelps and Life at Forty Acres, 1747-1817, by Elizabeth Pendergast Carlisle (Scribner, 2004).

Back in September, I mentioned in my blog Isadore Albee’s Civil War, (based on a series of diaries relating to the Albees of Springfield, Vermont; a future project), an earlier Vermont-related item, a Friendship Album dating from the late 1830s-early 1840s. This “Window into the Past” opened upon a different family, the wife and children of Charles Phelps of West Townshend, Vermont during a period of intense correspondence between the three young daughters – Eliza (named after her mother, Eliza Houghton), Fanny, and Jane. A main topic of conversation was of going away to school, for Eliza – who attended Mrs. Willard’s Troy Female Seminary (Troy, New York), and then Fanny – who, by dint of more numerous letters, went to schools in Chester and Brattleboro, Vermont; before leaving for the Misses Edwards’ School in New Haven, Connecticut. Isadore Albee’s early diaries frequently comment upon her desire to attend school, in order to teach. Coming approximately 20-25 years later, the Albee diaries found a ready companion in the album and batches of letters from the Phelps family because of the similarity in major topics, and how one generation would have *inspired* a future generation.

It was in looking for the duration of Eliza Phelps’ “tenure” as a scholar at Mrs. Willard’s school, and in finding only mention of the similarly-named Elizabeth Phelps Huntington (Elizabeth Porter Phelps’ daughter), that I re-plucked off the shelf Earthbound and Heavenbent. Elizabeth Porter had married an earlier Charles Phelps – in fact, the paternal uncle of “my” Charles Phelps of West Townshend. There is much in the book about Charles Phelps (of Hadley, MA), his brothers Solomon and Timothy (my Charles Phelps’ father), and their father Charles Phelps, Senior, who was living in Marlboro – and struggling hard AGAINST statehood for Vermont (admitted into the Union, as the 14th State, in 1791).

By this morning’s read, the children of the Hadley branch of the Phelps family had passed through the Revolutionary War and into the late 1790s. The only son, Porter, is in Boston, and his sister Betsy is evidently thanking him for a fashionable purchase made on her behalf:

“my pudding or neck-cloth, was not disliked tho’ ma said I should frighten some out of the house of worship — however I believe they withstood the shock — for I heard no disturbance.” [p 131; dated 18 Dec 1797]

PUDDING!

The word immediately made me scramble for the file of Smith & Gosling letters.

In a letter dated 1 February 1794, Sarah Smith (my diarist Emma’s maternal grandmother) mentions the London fashions to her daughter Eliza Chute, who always elected to remain at The Vyne, in Hampshire, despite her husband being a Member of Parliament (with one brief hiatus, William John CHUTE sat in the Commons from 1790 to 1820). While Sarah clearly describes something around the neck, I was uncertain what a PUDDING constituted in the fashionable circles of London circa 1794. Was it a fashion coming into being? Was it something fading out? The month of February would have seen the majority of country families just settled back in London. Whether related to MPs or merely moving to Town for the Season, now the parties and soirées increased in numerical intensity until Easter, and quietly wound down by June, when people left again for the country (though not necessarily their own estates).

Mrs. Smith’s letter claims as the latest fashion,

“for the Ladies either a very full Muslin plain Stock with a large Pudding, or the long cravats like your old one twisted round the neck & fastened behind”.

Words like STOCK and CRAVAT everyone knows and everyone can conjure up images – but even google got stumped over a correct description for a PUDDING. Look for it in ‘fashion’ and it is usually described as a toddler’s head-wrap, to guard against striking the head in a fall.

See, for instance, this write-up and photograph of a Pudding Cap.

Yet the idea of it being constructed of stuffed ROLLS is something to be remembered in a few moments….

Carlisle, in Earthbound and Heavenbent, in citing Betsy Phelps’ quoted letter, goes further in establishing WHAT Betsy’s “pudding” must have been:

“The word ‘pudding’ applied to a type of neck scarf derived from the nautical use of the word”. Carlisle goes on to described the nautical pudding as a “wreath of plaited cordage”. She alludes to its use on a MAST but deletes the word or words immediately after. Could the missing bit speak to the ship’s BOW? For, in googling nautical pudding, the “rope fender” protecting the BOW is the most consistent “hit”. And the subsequent photographs really point to some item that could be adapted and worn around the neck.

In just using the word FENDER in its nautical sense, (instead of Carlisle’s nondescript item for a mast that “prevent[s] chafing”), the image conjured is one of cylindrical bulk. The images found also allude to the fanciful knots that might have decorated any woman’s PUDDING. There is, however, the possibility of a couple of manifestations.

Here is a wonderful depiction, in several photographs, of what is described as a BEARD FENDER.

Mrs. Smith’s “a large pudding” could be a fall of fabric, as in the BEARD. That they were NOT the same piece of fabric is evident by her description of Eliza’s sister (Maria, Lady Compton): “Maria has made her appearance with the plain Stock but no pudding.”

Some fenders, for instance those posted to this Pinterest page, give more ideas to the type of “roll” that might have been worn around the necks of these Fashionables. The plaiting also could take on several forms. The material? Probably muslin, but not necessarily so.

the weave (above) of this bow
pudding is beautiful

this dense weave almost resembles a burlap

it’s easy to imagine:
exposed, a pudding could be decoration around the neck;
hidden under the stock, it could have added
weight or even layers to a manipulated muslin stock

If anyone has further information – especially, whether this was related to the jabot (as I tend to think of the ‘beard fender’), or truly was made of a rope material, I would welcome enlightenment upon the PUDDING as a fashion accessory for the necks of fashionable Georgian-era Ladies in London.

 

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In the News: Marie Antoinette Letters

October 31, 2021 at 1:47 pm (history, news) (, )

Getting out of email, I today spotted an interesting article on tests done, using the method of X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy [XRF], on LETTERS of Marie Antoinette. In looking up the “news”, though, I see an article ran in the The New York Times at the beginning of October. So a bit “old hat”.

The New York Times outpaces the article I originally saw, by including images of a redacted letter. It also includes a FASCINATING discussion of the various trials because the inks – the letter’s original AND the etched out blackened areas – were so similar. Believe me, when I say, I wish I had such at my fingertips whenever passages (and usually the “best” passages!) in crossed letters are difficult to read!

A CNN article also shows the letter in two “states” for comparison. Must admit, I’ve also seen similar redacted areas, especially in diaries. Ah, the marvel of modern science! You can also see an image of the scanner used.

Of course, the goal was to see _if_ any revelations came, concerning Count von Fersen and Queen Marie Antoinette’s relationship. Ask any Beethoven aficionado about the word BELOVED and you will at once hear of a strong emotional relationship, but not necessarily proof of sexual relations. Remember too, Marie Antoinette was Austrian – one must look at her interpretation of GELIEBTE(R), no matter the language of the Fersen letters, before jumping to conclusions.

For those interested, here is the link for the full Science Advances‘ article, “2D Macro-XRF to reveal redacted sections of French Queen Marie Antoinette Secret Correspondence….

I also will take a look a companion article, “Who Censored Marie Antoinette’s Letters?

Happy READING for what is, in my part of New England, a very grey and rainy Halloween Day.

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Sister Act – the Culmes of Tothill

July 11, 2021 at 1:16 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

While searching one of my favorite searches – John Hobart Culme Seymour, a good search because it’s a long name, an “unusual” name, and does often bring up something about the Rev. Sir John Culme Seymour instead of children or (what’s worse!) junk results – I found a most useful and interesting article.

The name “Culme” turns up a 2017 local history article in the Sid Vale Association‘s journal “Past, Present, Future”.

It seems the Sidmouth Museum has a little sketchbook – something acquired in the 1970s – once belonging to Fanny Culme, the sister of Elizabeth Culme, the first wife of Sir John Seymor, and the 2nd “Lady Seymour” (following John’s own mother).

The article is illustrated by two watercolors (evidently dating to c1819) of the area around Sidmouth; and – most tantalizing – a self-portrait of Frances Goddard Culme, aged 17. The article, by Rab and Christine Barnard, is called, invoking this self-portrait, “The Girl in the Mirror” (see pp. 34-35).

It is most interesting to me, as a researcher trying to track down such items as sketchbooks and portraits, to read that when it was first acquired, the book was thought to belong to someone named “Fanny Coulter.” By the time the book was catalogued the last name had been guessed at as “Culine.” One can readily see in the lumps comprising the “m” of CULME how this could have segued into the odd name of Culine – but thank goodness someone recognized the girl’s real identity!

The opening tale, too, indicates how spread out research items can be. Even local museums getting in on the act, which I hadn’t always anticipated, although I did recently learn of a sketchbook by the Smith sister Charlotte Judith Smith existing in just such a local museum collection in Tring. So, my eyes have been opened – but when fingers have to do the walking, the search is trebly difficult without someone prompting discovery with a well-timed “here’s what we (or I) have . . .”

Church, Kinwarton, Warcs.

I can add a bit of clarification to the assumption about Elizabeth Culme’s marriage. She and John Seymour married in April of 1833. I suspect that they performed a marriage visit to her family in May, thus the cry of “For Auld lang syne” from her sister. (Although Fanny also may have visited Elizabeth and John, an opportunity to see where her sister would be living.) I could relay more information if John’s brother Richard Seymour had made comments about their whereabouts, IF there weren’t pages cut out of Richard’s diary about the time of this marriage (mid-April is missing), as well as dates around mid-May.

There seems to have been a ‘stall’ in the engagement in early March 1833, but Richard is not specific as to the “obstacle” nor to the nature of Elizabeth’s “promise”. Richard received news, from his sister Dora (who was undergoing her own romantic tribulations…), a few days later that “Miss Culme had set aside her [……]” [=single word cut out here; I think it must be promise]. Since whatever Miss Culme set aside made the marriage ready to move forward, it cannot have been a promise to John. Had there been a promise to another man? (seems doubtful) Maybe Elizabeth had made some promise to her sister, Fanny? Though, according to the article, Fanny had already married in 1823 – and John Seymour surely held “good prospects” for Elizabeth’s future life as a clergyman’s wife.

Private “history” can be so mysterious, especially when trying to piece things together using the remains of secrets left standing in ephemeral items like letters – or (mutilated) diaries.

The article, too, helped to recognize what I had guessed at – the transcription of the word SOLTAU (Fanny’s married name). I especially was unsure of the last letter – “u” or “n”? Richard mentions Fanny Soltau in the period surrounding the death of her sister, in 1841. Elizabeth’s baby survived – and was named after her mother, though called for the rest of her life “Sissy” by her immediate family. Sissy and her two brothers were raised by Maria Smith, my diarist Emma Austen’s youngest sister, after Maria married Elizabeth’s widower in 1844. By then, Sir John had added “Culme” to his own last name of Seymour.

*

A quick note should be made as to the position of the Rev. Seymour as Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. It was a mistake I myself made because of verbiage in certain write-ups about John Seymour. No queen in 1827. Sir John did serve as Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, once she ascended the throne, a decade later.

In 1827, John Seymour was named Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, George IV.

Preference within the Church was of great concern for any English family with clergy sons to advance; John’s uncle Sir William Knighton was His Majesty’s Private Secretary. This last link will take you to Charlotte Frost’s website, where you have the ability to download her 2010 biography Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician for free. Or, follow the author on Twitter.

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By Any Other Name

June 19, 2021 at 1:10 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

You might ask, given that I research people with the name of “Smith” – and Christen names like Charles and Mary, what name could possibly give me trouble….

Try: Jane Seymour.

Emma’s sister Fanny Smith was the first to marry a Seymour – the Rev. Richard Seymour the new incumbent to the living of Kinwarton (Warwickshire). They married on 30 October 1834.

The following year, September 1835, brother Spencer Smith married Richard’s sister Frances Seymour.

By 1845, not only had youngest sister Maria Smith married (his 2nd wife) the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour, but the Smith’s widowered brother-in-law Arthur Currie had married the widowed Dora (Seymour) Chester.

It was Maria who gave birth (in January 1851) to the JANE SEYMOUR I thought I was chasing. I had unearthed about a dozen photographs of a little girl and young woman – identified in a couple of albums, plus many more loose cartes-de-visite, which (I thought…) pointed to a certain “future” for the young lady portrayed.

I was wrong!

It’s tough, looking at my photographs of photographs – often done under inauspicious conditions of overhead lighting and cradled bound books – some out of focus; others the best that can be taken of the faded nothingness that now remains. Tough, too, to put together some faces that may be the same person – or some sibling – or someone totally different, just seen from an unusual angle that now has you comparing the straight or down-turned mouth, the curved or shell-like ear, the beak-sharp or the bulbous nose.

Such a one was the picture, only ID’ed on the rear with a date – “1877” – of a mother (presume) and frilly-frocked infant (christening?). The adult sitter looked like Jane Seymour – but cousin Jane never married, had had no children. The nose, here, looked sharper; the hair exhibited an mere half-inch of “fringe” (bangs they cannot be called), when in all other pictures there was only a center part and all hair pulled downwards and back. The face looked thinner, more sculpted, but then the face was bent downward, gazing at the child. The one thing all the adult photos had in comment was a clipped-short “side burn” above the ears – very similar to my own (because the bow of glasses sits right over this area).

Mother-and-Babe remained a “mystery” – for later ‘detection’.

Signature Maria L. Seymour

It was while looking through diaries – predominantly those written by Richard Seymour – for further information on the relationship of Mary Smith and Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, that I came across mention of Richard’s niece, Jane Seymour.

Mary and Gaspard had married in 1861 – but the engagement was so fraught with angst and doubt, that I had to find out more. What I found out was that they initially had become engaged in 1858. I haven’t found out if they stayed engaged the whole time, or if it was on-off-on again. Although other diaries exist, some I don’t have access to, and Richard’s I have to take painstaking reads through microfilmed handwriting. Letters of the period can be hit or miss – and more have tantalizing hints than full-length histories.

But back to Jane Seymour.

This Jane was not the first “Jane” in the family. Of course – OF COURSE! – there were several, over many generations. Maria’s daughter was a “CULME-SEYMOUR” – the “Culme” coming from Sir John’s first wife. For a while, I thought only Sir John’s “Culme” children used the “Culme” name. Maria’s mail always seemed addressed to “Lady Seymour” (see a letter I’m desperately seeking – and from 1861!). BUT: If I looked closely, Maria and her daughters inserted “C” as part of their signature. But who else could the girl called Jenny Seymour and the young woman identified as Jane Seymour or Miss Seymour have been?

Remember I said that Richard mentioned JANE SEYMOUR in his diary…

In 1858’s diary.

The section that caught my eye mentioned Richard’s “Australian niece Jane Seymour”. She arrived in mid-December, having left Sidney, Australia on September 1st. – Dora (née Seymour) and Arthur Currie picked her up at Gravesend! The very Curries who inhabited High Elms, the estate *now* (June 2021) up for sale.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

“Australian Jane” was the only child of Richard’s youngest brother, William (Willy) Seymour, who had emigrated, married an Australian girl in 1849, and died in 1857. I had presumed that she had stay Down-Under.

Nope…

Jane had a convoluted history. Her mother had remarried – at some unknown point – in 1858. This poor mother, born Sarah Avory and now Mrs. Pleydell-Bouverie, died in February 1859. Jane’s step-father died two years later, in February 1861.

But none of that mattered: little Jane Seymour had already sailed for England, arriving hardly two months before her mother’s death – which she could never have known about for another six or eight months.

What I do not know is the WHY Jane Seymour sailed from Sidney that September 1st of 1858!

Had the patriarchal arm reached across the globe, and over her father’s grave, to pluck the little girl from the bosom of her Australian family? Had the mother, stricken by some fatal illness (? – it’s a guess) already, made plans for her soon-to-be-orphaned child, plans that did not involve that child’s step-father? Or, had the Pleydell-Bouveries sought out this change for a child they no longer cared to care for?

Such a mystery remains to be solved, awaiting more information, other diaries, more letters.

One mystery that has been SOLVED involves the BIRTH DATE of Aussie Jane. I have found her baptismal information, which gives her date of birth. Given an 1849 marriage, I had presumed the birth of a first child in 1850. Jane Seymour, however, was born in MAY 1852 – which makes our little passenger a mere SIX YEARS OLD when she sailed from Sidney Harbor to Gravesend – and into the arms and the seemingly eternal care of an aunt she had never set eyes upon before: Dora Currie.

Dora’s step-children, Arthur’s children with his first wife, Charlotte Smith, were growing up – the youngest, Drummond Arthur Currie, had been born in 1840 and would attain his majority in a couple of years. Dora had married – after a long-fought-for marriage to the Rev. William H. Clinton Chester (her family disapproved of his slender means). They had married in August 1837, but by April 1841 Dora was burying her husband. They had had no children. Little Orphan Aussie Jane might have provided an opportunity too good for Dora to pass up. A small child to call her own.

The Curries are a branch of the family with very little archival resources. Charlotte had not lived to old age, but she had daughters – and the Smiths, as a group, seem a family that held very tightly on to items like letters and diaries, portraits and memories. So what happened to the items that Charlotte produced or received, and could figure to have been given over to any or all of her daughters – akin to the family letters amassed by Emma Austen, Fanny Seymour, and Maria Lady Seymour.

As you might guess, anyone with further information, please do contact me!

Richard’s 1859 diary speaks to his meeting the child. He was enchanted with his Australian niece, Jane Seymour.

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Faint Faces Found

June 13, 2021 at 8:36 am (diaries, estates, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been searching for several things lately, and usually come across something completely different in that kind of situation. Friday night proved to be no different.

I’ve been reading through old letters, first from 1840 (to go with a diary I’ve transcribed); then those from 1836 – a momentous, tragic year for the Smiths & Goslings, because of the deaths (by drowning) of Augusta and Henry Wilder, in a boat accident. I have recently come across two *new* letters, written in the aftermath of this family tragedy.

1840 was another year of loss – with the death of sister Charlotte Currie. And it was in the hope of (always a hope!)  finding more letters from Charlotte that I began reading letters to Charlotte, written predominantly by eldest sister Augusta Wilder.

It was while looking for any “hit” with Charlotte and Arthur Currie, that I searched for one of several addresses at which Arthur lived – and found that his old home, High Elms (Watford), is currently up for sale! It’s a MASSIVE 14-bedroom (7 bath) Grade II listed house:

Arthur settled here long after Charlotte’s death, bringing their children and his second wife, Dora (née Seymour; the widowed Mrs. Chester). The interiors are stunning (if “empty” looking in these photos). Take a peek now (before the listing disappears) – although the price is liable to keep it on the market for a bit of time – asking £7.5 million (it does come with 10 acres of land).

[Be advised: Arthur Currie of High Elms is far different from General Sir Arthur Currie.]

When High Elms was still called “Garston Manor” (from the 1890s until 2010), it was featured in a 2011 episode of Country House Rescue, the series hosted by Ruth Watson. I must see if I can find that particular episode…

Friday, I had also been trying to locate the diary (sounds like there is only one, but one never knows!) of Jane Eliza Currie – the wife of Captain Mark John Currie, Royal Navy, Arthur’s cousin. The one diary – though (great pity!) I’ve not been able to locate images of its written contents – covers the couple’s voyage in 1829 and stay (through 1832) in Australia — in quite a new settlement at the time, which is why she as well as he comes up in searches. I’ve had a brief look through Smith & Gosling letters and early diaries for Miss Wood (I don’t know if she went by ‘Jane’ or ‘Eliza’ – I find people referring to her by each of those; but what did she call herself??) and/or the Mark Curries Junior. Not successful there. Being out of England until their return in the 1830s, means there’s no hope (or very little) that Arthur and Charlotte would be mentioned by Jane Eliza – but one never knows. It is a new avenue to take a look down. What I have found is located at the Mitchell Library, NSW. And Currie just is not an easy name to search for — so much overtaken by a certain “General Sir”.

I have also been trying to remember who I had found – among the grandchildren? (not sure now) – whose death had been looked into via a coroner’s inquest. An accidental overdose. I remember a woman… Laudanum or Morphine… but the WHO escapes me, as does the date (19th century still? Early 20th century?). I thought maybe one in the Capel Cure family – and that was how I located my *FIND*!

Of Mary Gosling’s three children – Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith; Mary Charlotte Smith; Augusta Elizabeth Smith – two married children of Capel Cure and Frederica Cheney. The Cure siblings make for heartbreaking reading in retrospect – five of the eleven children died before the age of 21. The main seat of the Cures, Blake Hall, is very familiar from the letters and diaries of the Smiths and Goslings. Of course Mary (Lady Smith) never lived to see these marriages of her children – she died in 1842 and the first marriage, Sir Charles Smith to Agnes Cure, occurred in February 1855. The next to marry, in 1857, were younger sister Augusta Smith and the Rev. Lawrence George Capel Cure.

[Elder sister Mary married in 1861, Major Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, Royal Artillery.]

Since much literature that mentions the Capel Cure children does not mention all of them, I will list them here. You can find them in the 2nd volume of The Visitation of England and Wales (same place the Smiths of Suttons turns up):

  • Robert
  • Henry (died aged 7)
  • Frederica (died aged 10)
  • Alfred [the photographer]
  • (Rev.) Edward
  • Rosamund
  • (Rev.) Lawrence [married Augusta Smith]
  • Emmeline (died aged 19)
  • Agnes [married Sir Charles Smith]
  • Charles (died aged 8)
  • Frederick (died aged 14)

I have known of the photography work done – early in the “life” of photography – by Alfred Capel Cure. I have come across images of trees or estates – but Friday I spotted a LOT of PEOPLE. And when one album, digitized by UCLA, popped up a photograph of a portrait of “Sir C. Smith” by Ercole (whom I knew to have drawn Lawrence Cure), I slowed to savor each of the gentry portraits in Alfred’s album.

WITH SUCCESS!

A couple of photographs of Charles — whom I often still refer to, as his mother Mary did, as “Little Charles”. Mary, of course, was differentiating husband from son; I, on the other hand, know the son through the mother – and he was a child and teen in Mary’s lifetime. (Charles was born in 1827.) At least one album photograph ID’s him. Also ID’ed in a photograph is “Lady Smith and Miss Cure” – Alfred’s sisters, Agnes and Rosamund. Agnes and/or Rosumond (the only surviving girls) feature in a couple of group portraits, one of which surely includes Lawrence – it so resembles his Ercole portrait.

There are pictures of the exteriors of Suttons, Blake Hall, Badgers (a Cheney estate, which came into Alfred Capel Cure’s possession). So many familiar names. So many unknown faces.

Among the familiar names a faint and faded face identified as Lady Marian Alford. Lady Marianne Compton, as she originally was, was the eldest daughter of Spencer 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin) and Margaret Clephane. There are a LOT of images – painted and photographed – of Lady Marian (Viscountess Alford) out there.

Alas, no one identified as Mr. and Mrs. Leigh or their children … – which might have unearthed some new images of Emma and James Edward Austen.

But, among the faint and faded, came a duo identified as “the Misses Smith” and dated “Badger, 9 Nov:r 1854“. And I knew I had found something “Completely New”.

I usually have a “feeling” about a *FIND* – including excitement and sureness of the “who” or “what”. I don’t know WHY, but I have almost no feelings on this portrait. Except of loving the sweet faces I see.

Maybe it’s because, named “the Misses Smith” – I’m not sure who is who.

think the elder sister is standing; the younger sister is seated. The standing sister is smiling, broadly. A ring and what looks to be a charm bracelet dangle are on her visible right hand. Her left hand rests on the chair in which her sister is seated. This seated sister has a quieter look, as if not quite “ready” for the camera. And yet, there is an attractive wistfulness that becomes haunting the more one looks.

When they posed at Badger, Mary Charlotte Smith was soon, at the end of November 1854, to celebrate her 26th birthday. Augusta Elizabeth Smith was a few months past her summer celebration of turning 24-years-old. That it IS them is not in doubt – the diary of their uncle, the Rev. Richard Seymour, notes welcoming them to Kinwarton just after their stay at Badger.

The sepia coloring of the album’s print continues strong, fading only along the lines of the gowns and around their hands. It is a remarkable souvenir of their day, (or stay), at Badger during the time of their brother’s engagement.

 

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