Browse Books @ Toadstool Bookshops

May 2, 2021 at 6:14 pm (books, entertainment) (, , )

I am in *LOVE* with the website (how is I’ve never found it before) for Toadstool Bookshops — three shops, in Keene, Nashua, and Peterborough, New Hampshire. For readers outside of New England – there is the online cart. They also offer eBooks from Kobo and downloadable audio books from Libro.

I am in the midst of perusing the “shelf” for History/ Europe/ Great Britain/ Georgian Era (1714-1837). I rather like my “history” on the scholarly side – and Toadstool is introducing me to several titles that are due out in the next few months, and a couple that are new but “out”.

Sample a few that caught my eye:

  • Maggie Kilbey, Music-making in the Hertfordshire Parish, 1760-1870 “Maggie Kilbey explores attempts to improve parochial music-making over the following century and the factors that played a part in their success or failure. Using Hertfordshire as a basis, original research by this respected author and historian uses a wide range of documentary evidence to reveal a complicated picture of influence and interaction between the gentry, clergymen, and their parishioners.” [256 pp]
  • Julienne Gehrer (intro), Martha Lloyd’s Household Book: The Original Manuscript from Jane Austen’s Kitchen. “Martha Lloyd’s Household Book is a remarkable artifact, a manuscript cookbook featuring recipes and remedies handwritten over thirty years. Austen fans will spot the many connections between Martha’s book and Jane Austen’s writing, including dishes such as white soup from Pride and Prejudice.” [312 pp; August 2021].
  • Jeremy Smilg, The Jews of England and The Revolutionary Era: 1789-1815. “Drawing on a rich range of sources, the book examines the extent of anti-Jewish sentiment in England. It breaks new ground by using government archives to demonstrate that these negative representations only had a very limited impact on the implementation of the Alien Act of 1793. This book understands the fears of the communal elite but also argues that the controversial views of some Jewish dissidents were more widely held than previously considered.” [260 pp; June 2021]
  • Susan Sloman, Gainsborough in London. “Thomas Gainsborough’s (1727–88) London years, from 1774 to 1788, were the pinnacle and conclusion of his career. They coincided with the establishment of the Royal Academy, of which Gainsborough was a founding member, and the city’s ascendance as a center for the arts. This is a meticulously researched and readable account of how Gainsborough designed his home and studio and maintained a growing schedule of influential patrons, making a place for himself in the art world of late-18th-century London. New material about Gainsborough’s technique is based on examinations of his pictures and firsthand accounts by studio visitors.” [412 pp]
  • Pat Rogers, The Poet and the Publishers: The Case of Alexander Pope, Esq., of Twickenham versus Edmund Curll, Bookseller in Grub Street. “The quarrel between the poet Alexander Pope and the publisher Edmund Curll has long been a notorious episode in the history of the book, when two remarkable figures with a gift for comedy and an immoderate dislike of each other clashed publicly and without restraint. However, it has never, until now, been chronicled in full. Ripe with the sights and smells of Hanoverian London,The Poet and Publisher details their vitriolic exchanges, drawing on previously unearthed pamphlets, newspaper articles, and advertisements, court and government records, and personal letters.” [448 pp; June 2021]
  • Michael D. Hattem, Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution. “Between the 1760s and 1800s, Americans stopped thinking of the British past as their own history and created a new historical tradition that would form the foundation for what subsequent generations would think of as “American history.” This change was a crucial part of the cultural transformation at the heart of the Revolution by which colonists went from thinking of themselves as British subjects to thinking of themselves as American citizens.” [320 pp]

At Toadstool Books you will find books you NEVER KNEW you wanted!

NB: In truth, I came across the ‘categories’ when I landed on Jeremy Smilg’s book; you might have to do the same – categories broaden out, but I can’t figure out how to “browse books” to start you off…  This is the best I can do:

Check out the lower LEFT corner (on a computer; not sure about other internet devices) for the “tree” of categories. This might be the BEST to change categories:

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Carte de Visite Photographers, UK, 1840-1940

April 26, 2021 at 7:43 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Several years ago, I came across a GOOD STASH of Carte de Visite portraits belonging to the Smith and Gosling family (most dating, as you might guess, to the 1860s and 1870s). There were albums, put together by the daughters of Spencer Smith of BrooklandsDora Spencer-Smith and her sister Isabella Spencer-Smith. Alas! the same “old” sittings I’d l-o-n-g seen of Emma and Edward Austen Leigh. But several of the Smith siblings (and even some Gosling grandchildren) were new to me. Thank goodness that Dora and Isabella, along with painting borders on many pages, thought to identify the sitters! Sitters included all the Austen Leigh siblings; many “in-laws” (or to-be “in-laws” of Seymours and Culme-Seymours. The *thrill* for me was to see so many photographs of the Spencer-Smiths, children of Spencer and Frances (neé Seymour).

Frances was the sister of two of Spencer’s brothers-in-law! The Rev. Richard Seymour (husband to Fanny Smith) and the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour (husband to Maria Louisa Smith).

I saw, for the FIRST TIME, images of Spencer and his sister Sarah Eliza (Lady Le Marchant, wife of Sir Denis Le Marchant). The time period was, sadly, too late to have images of my diarist Mary Lady Smith (neé Gosling) or the Smith sisters Charlotte (Mrs. Arthur Currie) and Augusta (Mrs. Henry Watson Wilder). Augusta had died in 1836 (along with Henry); Charlotte in 1840; Mary in 1842. Mamma (Mrs. Charles Smith; the original ‘Augusta’ – and there are lots in this family named AUGUSTA, after her), too, died before the general age of Carte de Visite photography.

Fanny Seymour – Emma’s middle sister – however I had seen already, in an 1850s “outdoor” photograph. There was a dispute as to the sitters in the picture. The archive thought it Sir John, Lady Seymour [Maria], and family. BUT: the children fit FANNY’s family more than her sister’s. An older daughter, two younger daughters, an unknown man (probably a son). I posed the probability that this photograph showed the Seymours of Kinwarton. And the albums vindicated that supposition!

It was the albums that ID’ed Fanny in a couple of lovely informal portraits, as well as a more standard, badly faded, Carte de Visite. The albums that showed the two youngest throughout their childhood and growing into young womanhood. The albums that allowed a name to be put upon the unknown man (yes, a son). Indisputable proof that the 1850s photograph showed the SEYMOURS of Kinwarton, rather the CULME-SEYMOURS of Gloucester and Northchurch.

Less successful, as far as identification went, was the pile of individual Cartes de Visite. Some had the same “view” as pasted into an album (or two). They were easy. I was pretty sure I had spotted a wonderful head and shoulders view of MARIA (Lady Seymour), mainly because there was a “companion” of Sir John – and he was recognizable from other photographs. The rear of both had the same PHOTOGRAPHER’s STUDIO. This convinced me that Maria was indeed the Lady Louisa Seymour held, in two studio views, at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The photographer in that case: Camille Silvy. (Though it still puzzles me that he would put on her picture “Lady Louisa Seymour”; see my past blog post about the ins and outs of titles and first name.)

So wonderful to SEE Maria, rather than an artist’s interpretation:

Maria Smith

Her portrait miniature (above), by Sir William Charles Ross, was sold at auction some years ago; its background is so over-painted that the painting of it is generally more noticeable (to me) than the figure. If only they had left it alone (a large picture hat must have been painted out). John’s companion, painted about the same time, I have not seen (or found). Family letters discuss Maria’s portrait at length, including her SITTING to Ross – and Mamma thought the portrait “very like”. The ultimate compliment!

[The opposite, of course, was that the viewer thought a portrait, “NOT very like”.]

The *bonus* with the single Cartes de Visite, was the ability to see the REAR of each photo! Few identifications of sitter (Boo!). The photographer’s studio and other such identifying information – such *riches* – were present, and something I always have wanted to collate and put into a blog post.

NOW I may not have to do as much “digging”…

It was while searching for something completely different that I came across a website with a LENGTHY photographer LIST – a list of those men and women working as Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland,1840-1940.

There’s a “date your old photographs wizard” (I haven’t yet tried it), but REALLY enjoyed the summary of how the PHYSICAL photo – and yes counting clothes, hair, and props, but looking at the photo artwork and mount in particular. Biographies of photographers (a growing source of information); even some examples of a given photographer’s work. I do not know why (it could be my browser), but I cannot get the LONG list to highlight a searched-for name. Do scroll down, if the same happens to you. (For instance, I searched for SILVY – and he IS there in their list.)

A great resource to add to my “UK Archives Online” page, to which I have been adding many online sources beyond the traditional county “archives” catalogue.

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The Gender of Nouns

April 24, 2021 at 11:38 pm (history, jane austen, jasna) (, , , , )

In the conference JANE AUSTEN’s FRENCH CONNECTION, hosted jointly by JASNA Regions New York Metro and New Jersey, over the weekend of April 17 & 18 – one participant brought up the use of the word AUTHOR and AUTHORESS as regards JANE AUSTEN. Specifically, in a letter to James Stanier Clarke, and brother Henry Austen’s “Biographical Sketch.” We must, of course, also consider the dedication of Emma to the Prince Regent.

  • click the BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH link to read Henry’s original, in the 1818 edition of Northanger Abbey (vol. I)

The very TITLE of Henry Austen’s biographical sketch announces to Austen’s readership that he was presenting, for the first time, the “Biographical Sketch of THE AUTHOR” of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The edition, published posthumously, came out in four volumes (two volumes per novel).

  • Austen’s early novel, never published in her lifetime, had been picked up by Crosby & Co. – for which they paid her £10. It languished upon the proverbial shelf. Austen actually repaid the £10, thereby regaining the rights to the publication of her own manuscript. Read more about Northanger Abbey‘s history at JASNA.org.

Like many authors, Austen published anonymously – Sense and Sensibility (1811) appearing as “BY A LADY“; subsequent work appeared as the latest publication “by the Author of Sense and Sensibility” – with successive title pages emphasizing the authorship of the well received Pride and Prejudice.

The brief audience comment during the weekend conference made me think about the “sex” of nouns. Of course in English, (unlike other languages), words have no gender, are “sexless” if I may so term them. No die Welt (the world [feminine] or der Mond [the moon [masculine]) or das Mädchen [which is cheating, for it it “neuter” as opposed to male or female, although it indicates a ‘girl‘ or ‘young woman‘].

What English does have are words like author-authoress; poet-poetess; actor-actress. With the exception of the last, which continues in usage, ARE there many professions that designate a male or female practitioner? I rather wonder if those once in existence, having “fallen out of usage,” sound now so unusual because they were never much IN use?

OR, I wonder, DID they arise by somewhat pejorative?

Take “writer” – no ‘sex’, masculine or feminine, can be attributed to that task.

We have the term “knitter” – which certainly has undergone a change in the sex of those practicing the craft. Yet, despite the predominance of it as a “‘home craft’ among females” nowadays, there exists no “knitteress” or “knittrix” in the English language. One who knits is a knitter.

I go back to German, where it seems (German speakers could tell me if this still holds, in the second decade of the 21st century) MANY nouns had its male/female counterpart: Student / Studentin; Professor / Professorin; Schüler / Schülerin; Arzt / Ärztin; Doktor / Doktorin; Schriftsteller / Schriftstellerin; you get my drift.

English does have holdovers, like Executor / Executrix.

Paintrix comes to mind, but is it a word? Does anyone describe the likes of Freda Kahlo as a “paintress”? I don’t think so…

Photographer.
Cinematographer.
Videographer.

I might give you SALESPERSON, which has definitely evolved from Salesman/Saleswoman.

No one calls a female Singer a Songstress.

Professor.
Teacher.
Construction Worker.
Operator (as in telephone).
Assistant.
Banker; Bank Teller.
Writer.

I will even make a case for the “sex” of the WORD Secretary. Now quite outmoded (in favor of Administrative Assistant), but, once, pretty singularly A MALE occupation, before becoming dominated by FEMALES. And we all know how a profession drops in “prestige” once women enter that workforce. I’m not going down that lane in this post…

I do recognize that British Politics has retained its Private Secretary role; and in the U.S. we still designate office holders, such as the Secretary of War, Secretary of State, etc.

But most, hearing the word SECRETARY, will pull up an image from films… Always efficient; sometimes button-upped and bespectacled. Often QUITE good-looking when she takes off her glasses and lets down her pinned-up hair.

But, let’s get back to JANE AUSTEN.

In the dedication of Emma to the Prince Regent:

In BIG and BOLD lettering, Jane Austen is designated

The Author.

I’ve never thought about the word novelist – did it have a pejorative sense when it was first ‘invented’, in order to denigrate female writers of novels? (Must look that one up.)

***

SEE LETTER 106 (2 Sept 1814) – which has Jane Austen telling Martha Lloyd that she has not forgotten Martha’s Bath Friends, Captain and Mrs. Deans Dundas, for “their particular claim to my Gratitude as an Author.” Le Faye assumes it must reflect a person – ie, Captain Dundas – useful to her naval research, but note Austen’s word THEIR. As unmistakeable as her use of the designation AUTHOR in the same sentence.

HENRY Austen’s letters to/from John Murray – see this blog: http://www.strangegirl.com/emma/letters.php

Ah yes, Stanier Clarke’s letter in which she uses the term “authoress,” dated 11 Dec 1815: “the most unlearned, & unformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress.” Surely, Austen is toying with her correspondent. SHE DOES echo Murray’s own phrase “Authoress of Emma” in an 1816 “reply” to Murray she herself pens. BUT: is any tongue-in-cheek joke meant — considering the letter is dated, 1 April (ie, April Fools Day).

*

“He is a Rogue of Course, But a Civil One”

— Jane Austen, referring to John Murray

letter to Cassandra Austen; October 1816

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A History of the Harp

March 25, 2021 at 3:42 pm (entertainment, jasna, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

While writing my chapter for the edited book Women and Music in Georgian Britain (soon to be under review), I found this FASCINATING video by Simon Chadwick, “The Erard Grecian pedal harp, and the history of the harp in Scotland. Talk at Hospitalfield House

Simon Chadwick’s YouTube channel gives listeners the opportunity to HEAR several harps. Tune in!

In “The Erard Grecian Pedal Harp” lecture, Chadwick mentions Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane (after 1815, Lady Compton; from 1827 until her untimely early death, Lady Northampton). With her marriage, Margaret became my diarist Emma Austen’s cousin. Also touched upon is Elizabeth Grant (the “Highland Lady”); and the daughters of Sir Walter Scott. For the last, because Chadwick’s talk slightly pre-dates some *breaking* information from Abbotsford, see “A Tale of Two Harps” on the Abbotsford website (from 2016).

Because Chadwick’s is a filmed talk, the amount of information given out is outstanding; and viewers get to see and hear so much. The portrait of Margaret Compton, which he shows on the screen, you’ll find on my PORTRAITS page. To read more about Margaret herself, and her harp “recital” at Castle Ashby in 1815, see my article “Pemberley’s Welcome: or, An Historical Conjecture upon Elizabeth Darcy’s Wedding Journey,” published in JASNA Peruasions On-Line.

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Emma Austen and the Guitar

March 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm (diaries, entertainment, people) (, , )

Quite some time ago, musicologist Christopher Page contacted me over mentions in Emma’s diaries of the guitarist Trinidad Huerta. Page’s research now has been published as, The Guitar in Georgian England: A Social and Musical History.

Huerta was actually born a few months after my diarist Mary (her birthday: 2 February 1800); making him about a year older than Emma, when she reports hearing him and his (2nd) wife Angiolina Panormo (on the piano, and singing) at a morning concert in Newbury on the 27 March 1830. The Austens were young marrieds by then, and Newbury must have given Emma a pleasant memory of her “single lady” days, in London.

It was not easy to be a professional performer in the first quarter of the 19th century. Page notes “The travels of Trinidad Huerta reveal the movements of a solo guitarist who often looked beyond London (where he was well known) for his engagements.” Thus his ending up in Newbury, Berkshire.

In an email, Page wrote: “1830 marks the peak of the guitar craze in Georgian England as measured, for example, by the number of women seeking governess posts through advertisements in the London press, year by year, and offering to teach the instrument.”

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Small Victory

March 1, 2021 at 2:06 pm (history, jane austen, postal history, research) (, , , , )

Over the weekend I spent some time with the Smith & Gosling letters. Nearing 4000 pages of typescript, ranging from the 1760s into the 1940s.

I have more to add – some portions of information about the VYSE family. George Howard Vyse married — after a very long courtship — Lizzy Seymour, sister to the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton and the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour of Northchurch and Gloucester.

Vyse’s father, Colonel Vyse, literally stood in the way of the match. An intense dislike, of the Seymour family, of Lizzy. It is heartbreaking to read that GHV (as Richard always referred to the young man as, shortening a long name into three initials) was spotted by Mamma (Mrs. Smith, Emma’s mother), wistfully looking up to the windows, hoping to spot his young lady a brief second, while on military parade as part of Queen Victoria’s Coronation!

Mixed within these letters was one I suspected did NOT belong in the year 1838. DATED “August 12” from Mapledurham (the family’s rented estate in Hertfordshire), it is missing its last page or perhaps pages. These are small sheets of paper, and typically there were up to 8 pages (2 sheets folded in half; each creating 4 pages) of text. As well, these small sheets probably had utilized an envelope — and the end and signature could have ended up inside the envelope. I’ve come across one or two envelopes at this archive, hermetically sealed between two sheets of mylar, that were not pulled open before being sealed inside, yet the dark writing clearly showed thru the paper! Groan…

The letter – half letter – had ended up in a folder marked “Unidentified”. That folder was very *full* when I saw it in summer 2015. Did I miss a second sheet, or a single sheet? Are there envelopes, addressed to Fanny (Smith) Seymour in Kinwarton that I never photographed? (Alas, a couple of them!)

The letter in question is unmistakably written by youngest sister Maria Smith. She has such scrawling penmanship, with a very distinctive “W”. Also, as Mamma’s youngest, she was the last in the family ‘nest’ once all her siblings had married (or died).

That it was written from Mapledurham tells me the letter could not date before October 1834, when they moved into the house (so, summer of 1835, at earliest). That Mamma was alive, tells me it could be no later than Summer 1844. Maria sounds unmarried (ie, still with Mamma), so that backed it into 1843 (and, therefore, summer of 1842 at latest).

Although a full-run of Mamma’s diaries does not exist, several for the late 1830s and early 1840s DO exist. Plus I have other letters. Several years were already removed from contention: Mamma and Maria were elsewhere than Mapledurham.

There were two clues within the content: Their visit to Chobham – home of sister Eliza and her husband Denis Le Marchant – sounded too much like Maria describing what NO ONE among the siblings had yet seen. I had to find a date for their move.

The other was Maria saying that Arthur Currie had purchased a horse (heavily contributed to by Mamma) for Maria’s use. Not the EASIEST to find, someone commenting again on a new horse. Maria asked her sister Fanny what name should the horse be given – so, unlike “Jack Daw” or “Tom Tit“, I knew of no name to search for.

I had already searched Mamma’s diaries – but went back to 1840 again. And THERE found a comment about CHOBHAM! It became unmistakable: Maria and Mamma had returned home from a visit to Chobham in August 1840.

Frosting on the cake was that Maria, a couple of letters later, commented that she was pleased with her New Horse!

I call this a small victory because the letter still has no ending.

There have been times in the past, when a WIDOW torso gets a date close enough to an ORPHAN torso (yes, that’s what I call them…), that a closer look is warranted. A couple of times, the flow of the sentence AND the topic of conversation indicated that they were, indeed, one and the same letter. I remember once, spotting a DATE, buried within the handwriting, a confirmation of my hunch — after reuniting a pair.

Across archives, I have several incomplete, widow or orphan torso-only letters. I live in hope… But nothing dropped into place this time. Missing photographs? Missing envelope? Irretrievably-missing pages?

Envelopes were easy prey in the past – for their postal marks, their STAMPS, their wax seals. Hand-stamps [cancellations and handwritten marks] in the early, prestamp, era made (and make) “wrappers” and “free fronts” highly collectable. The wrappers got divided from letters, robbing the letter of its definitive dating. The free fronts – where the “direction” is cut away from the rest of the page, robs the letter of CONTENT. The reverse side’s content (if there) appearing as disparate sentences with few beginnings or endings. MADDENING to know the original – full – letter must have been jettisoned after the “surgery”. All for the saving of the “collectible” signature that allowed the piece of mail to travel for free.

Once such “collection” of autographs had SIX LINES missing from a Jane Austen letter. Its discovery (a long time after the album’s sale) caused a *STIR* in Austen circles in 2019! And it really did end up being about … LAUNDRY!

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Half-a-Century Later

February 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm (diaries, history, research) (, , , )

Recently, I have been doing a little work on putting up information for Isadore Albee’s diaries. I put up names today from the FIRST HALF of her 1862 diary.

Spending nearly fourteen years on researching Emma and Mary – their lives less of “an open book” than a tangle of information (and a great deal of tangled information!) that must be teased and sorted – has taught me useful “tricks” that are coming in handy with Dora’s diaries. But, oh!, the differences!

Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, two young English women, from families who were Quite Well Off Financially, are (literally and figuratively) half a world away from Isadore Albee, in the rural neighborhood of Rockingham and Springfield, Vermont. Isadore has the Connecticut River in place of the Thames – but it’s just not the same.

In 1860s Vermont, Dora’s trips take her to Derby (near the Canadian border) and into New Hampshire, there’s no London Townhouse to occupy, as with the Smiths and Goslings, where a “season” of entertainment, lessons, exhibitions, and friends may be enjoyed.

Dora works; she laments her need to work – or otherwise starve. At times, she seems to do paid millinery work (following in the footsteps of an elder sister); but she also seems to work (at times) in a local store and “living in” for a short period with local families. This, while trying to educate herself.

Emma and Mary might have sewn – usually items distributed among the poor of their parish – but they didn’t have a need to account for monies coming in AND going out (though Emma did, at times, keep tallies of her spending). The Albees were on a far lower economic stratum than the Smiths and Goslings. And Vermont, in the 1860s, was no 1810s Essex or Surrey, never mind London.

A major difference, to me as a dispassionate observer, is the differences in their diaries. If I thought Mary and Emma had small diaries (about the size of an 8 x 5 index card), Dora’s diaries are even tinier! A half-a-century, and half-a-world away (United Kingdom versus United States), the personal items of three “twenty-somethings” are as different as their writing implements: Emma Smith, for instance, wrote the bulk of her diary (all the entries) in INK. Tougher on her, I’m sure, but easier on me as her transcriber. Dora Albee’s entries are totally in pencil. The most noticeable difference comes in SPELLING. Emma’s is consistent, and usually correct. Dora’s tends to have a phonetic basis for some words, though others are probably just too-hastily-written. In either case, her diary is more of a challenge, when transcribing, to make out words, to make sense of sentences.

Some words, however, live in the ear – “surpose” must be indicative of her pronunciation of suppose. And one phrase, “down street”, is used by locals in areas of central Vermont to this day. Such was never a phrase I heard (or used), here in northern Vermont.

But it wasn’t all work for Dora Albee. She mentions a “singing school”; and a concert or two at which she and other “singing” students performed. She comments, too, on the typical Vermont weather that still exists in my own life – the crusty snow in winter, the muddy paths in spring. There are sledding parties and sleigh rides, music and plays, visits to and from young friends. She mentions illness and death much more often than Emma – for instance, Dora’s sister (and later Dora herself) join in the “watch” over the ill, much like Mary Lloyd Austen “watched”, with Cassandra Austen, during Jane Austen’s last illness in Winchester.

So, although far apart, in distance and time, some things – especially for women – remain remarkably “same”. Especially, the written notices of marriages, babies, illnesses, and deaths. Dora had it tougher, experiencing the deaths of young men and women in her social circle. And she knew so many young men who left the comfortable arable acres and woods of Vermont for Civil War battlefields and military camps.

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In my mailbox from University Presses, part 2

February 19, 2021 at 8:44 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Two days ago, I “published” the first three in a list of five new books, recently received in the mail. Today I continue with two more *finds*, all (curiously!) from University Presses.

A View from Abroad:
The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe”

Jeanne E. Abrams
New York University Press, 2021
(vi + 288 pages)

Many moons ago (2010), when composing my JASNA lecture “Austen/Adams: Journeys with Jane and Abigail,” I read the Letters of Abigail Adams in an old copy from the UVM library. What I had wanted to focus on were those letters written during her travels abroad – the sailing ship; the carriage travel in England; the lengthy period in France. I have never forgotten her fleet way with words. “No Bean, and No Queen” was her succinct phrase to deal with daughter, Nabby’s hunt for the elusive “bean,” part of a French traditional celebration, which Mrs. Adams wrote about in a letter to Lucy Cranch, 5 Jan 1785:

“I will relate to you a custom of this country. You must know that the religion of this country requires abundance of feasting and fasting, and each person has his particular saint, as well as each calling and occupation. To-morrow is to be celebrated, le jour des rois. The day before this feast it is customary to make a large paste pie, into which one bean is put. Each person at table cuts his slice, and the one who is so lucky as to obtain the bean, is dubbed king or queen. Accordingly, to-day, when I went in to dinner, I found one upon our table. Your cousin Abby began by taking the first slice; but alas! poor girl, no bean, and no queen. In the next place, your cousin John seconded her by taking a larger cut, and . . . bisected his paste with mathematical circumspection; but to him it pertained not. By this time, I was ready for my part; but first I declared that I had no cravings for royalty. I accordingly separated my piece with much firmness, nowise disappointed that it fell not to me. Your uncle, who was all this time picking his chicken bone, saw us divert ourselves without saying any thing; but presently he seized the remaining half, and to crumbs went the poor paste, cut here and slash there; when, behold the bean! “And thus,” said he, “are kingdoms obtained;” but the servant, who stood by and saw the havoc, declared solemnly that he could not retain the title, as the laws decreed it to chance, and not to force.”

I always *cheer* the servant’s coup de grâce! (and the scenario made me loathe gauche John Adams…)

David McCullough, author of the hefty biography JOHN ADAMS, once indicated that he could have written a whole book just on Abigail’s time abroad. Now Jeanne Abrams has published on this very topic, though included the trips John Adams accomplished on his own too. This is a newly-released book – and just arrived in my mailbox three days ago (Feb 2021). Abrams is also the author of First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role.

Dear Catharine, Dear Taylor:
The Civil War Letters of a Union Soldier and His Wife

edited by Richard L. Kiper
letters transcribed by Donna B. Vaughn
University Press of Kansas, 2002
(xii + 448 pages)

I found this book searching . . . for something else.

I had a book (upstairs) that was a Civil War correspondence between husband and wife. Those words were what I searched for. You can see other “finds” by reading this post at Isadore Albee’s Civil War Diaries website. Bad weather has kept this book longer in the mail – last seen in Nashua, New Hampshire! so I expect that it’s closed in and will deliver soon.

Taylor Peirce was 40-years-old when he enlisted. The letters are described by the publisher, specifically Catharine Peirce’s half of the correspondence, as “a rich trove of letters from the homefront.” THAT was all I needed to see in order to hunt down a copy of the book. The book describes both halves of the correspondence, but, again, it’s Catharine’s plight that intrigues: “Catharine, for her part, reported on family and relatives, the demands of being a single mother with three young children, business affairs, household concerns, weather and crops, events in Des Moines, and national politics, filling gaps in our knowledge of Northern life during the war. Most of all, her letters convey her frustration and aching loneliness in Taylor’s absence, as well as her fears for his life, even as other women were becoming widowed by the war.”

Bad (snow) weather delayed its delivery by several days once the mail hit southern New Hampshire. It finally arrived yesterday. On first perusal – a slight disappointment that of 178 letters, only 51 are by Catharine Peirce. Footnotes attached to early letters by Taylor indicate “letter not found” whenever the husband thanked the wife for a letter. Ah, such a loss! I can imagine that some catastrophe happened, and Taylor’s carefully preserved stash of early letters went missing or got destroyed. A horrible loss to him no doubt. Taylor’s first letter is dated 20 August 1862; Catharine’s first surviving letter is dated January 1863.

*

The Websters: Letters of an American Army Family
in Peace & in War, 1836-1853

edited by Van R. Baker
The Kent State University Press, 2000
(xiv + 327 pages)

As a ‘bonus’ – the book I was trying to find through the online search — instead of going upstairs to pluck this book off the shelf — which resulted in finding Dear Catharine. I had remembered this as a book that included husband & wife letters AND had a Vermont connection. Indeed Lucien Bonaparte Webster had been born in Hartland, Vermont. His future wife, Frances Smith, was perhaps born in her grandfather’s Litchfield, Connecticut home. It fits this series of books because – surprisingly – it’s another University Press publication.

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In my mailbox from University Presses

February 16, 2021 at 2:03 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Ever find that a depressed mood gets lightened by the arrival of *new books*??

I do.

Between several projects, including the Isadore Albee Civil War era diaries (a brand new project), and old interests, a NUMBER of books have been coming to the door. Interestingly, these last have one thing in common: they’re all published by UNIVERSITY presses! So I will toss out their existence in one blog post. Three are brand new; two are in the “used books” category.

In order of receipt (yes, all have been mail ordered), here is what I’m thrilled about lately =>

Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary

edited by Nancy Disher Baird
University Press of Kentucky, 2009
(xviii + 262 pages)

This is my current read. I’ve been REALLY impressed with the narrative. Josie Underwood is a young woman (with oh-so-many-proposals during the opening months of the war) in Kentucky. Her father, despite a dislike of President Lincoln’s politics, is a firm Union-man. So is his wife (southern born, but with convictions as firm as her husband’s, in memory of the men who fought hard for the unification of the United States in the past). Josie is hard-pressed to keep her Union sentiments quiet-ish while seeing childhood friends, relations, and potential lovers sign-up for the Confederacy. (Kentucky was taking a neutral stance.) I’ve blogged a little bit more in my Georgian Gems, Regency Reads, Victorian Voices blog. Highly recommended for its freshness – in writing, in subject matter – and the tale it tells.

I believe the press is poised to come out with a reissue (paperback, I presume), but this book is worth tracking down its original hardcover version (unless the reprint is updated). It’s a keeper.

A Georgetown Life: The Reminiscences of
Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon
of Tudor Place

edited by Grant S. Quertermous
Georgetown University Press, 2020
(xi + 250 pages)

I think A Georgetown Life turned up in a search. I might have been looking specifically for new books. (I look for women’s history, biography, diaries, letters; though usually in Great Britain.) It wasn’t that long ago, but I don’t remember how I spotted it! Once I did, though, I knew I had to have it.

In the Fall of 2019, JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) had its Annual General Meeting (or AGM) in delightful Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I brought my father and aunt with me (we drove down). I gave a paper on Cassandra and Jane Austen (in a very stuffed-to-the-rafters small room; apologies to those who couldn’t fit in, or hear due to the constantly opening/closing door). We had temperatures in the 90s for at least two days… My father and aunt were happy just to hang out at the hotel; I saw the sites of Williamsburg on my own. BUT: I got both of them to join me in two “house tours” — Mount Vernon, the estate of George and Martha Washington (which I had wanted to visit ever since seeing a sign to it when driving from the 2009 AGM in Philadelphia!) and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s remarkable mountain-top estate. I wish, back then, I had known about Tudor Place!

Britannia Wellington Peter – along with sisters Columbia and America – descended from Martha Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s grand-daughter. You will therefore see the interest! All dovetails back to Mount Vernon and Washington D.C. It was Thomas and Martha (Parke Custis) Peter who acquired Tudor Place.

Britannia Kennon’s memories are vivid, astounding, and astonishing. She saw so much. I will let the editor, Grant Quertermous, speak about what you will find inside the book, for there are several quite decent youtube videos on the project and publication, including from the (US) National Archives (55.55 minutes long; recorded 4 Dec 2020) and Georgetown University Press’s presentation (44.50 minutes; recorded 5 Oct 2020).

This book is packed with illustrations. The introductory essay, along with the illustrations, give a real sense of “who” everyone is. Highly recommended, too.

She Being Dead Yet Speaketh:
The Franklin Family Papers

edited by Vera S. Camden
University of Chicago Press, 2020
(349 pages)

Part of the series “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe,” She being dead yet speaketh presents the writings of Mary Franklin and her grand-daughter Hannah Burton. This was a birthday gift from two dear friends in England. It being quite new to me, I have only “dipped into it”. But my friends know me well – authentic women’s voices are always a draw. Mary Franklin’s writings are 17th century; Hannah Burton’s words date to 1782. Both women used the same notebook to record their thoughts! The Franklins were Dissenters – so the women’s writings offer a unique look at the period. As the wife of a Presbyterian Minister, Robert Franklin, who was one of two thousand dissenting ministers “ejected from their pulpits,” Mary Franklin was well-positioned to mark the religious persecutions of her time. Hannah Burton’s journal describes life as “an impoverished widow, barely surviving the economic revolutions of 18th Century London.” The table of contents is illustrative of… the book’s contents!

With this post getting long, I’m going to divide it into two parts. Look for “In My Mailbox from University Presses, Part 2“.

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Candice Hern: What’s inside a Lady’s Reticule?

February 6, 2021 at 10:51 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

Last year’s visit to Cleveland, Ohio for the JASNA AGM turned into a virtual event. Among the nicest, most interesting side-entertainments were the videos made to enlighten participants about anything from “Regency” food and gardens, to making marbled papers (truly fascinating!).

New to the JASNA – Jane Austen Society of North America – website is the first in a series of three videos by author Candice Hern: “What a Lady Might Carry in her Reticule“. For me, these videos were super instructive because I can pinpoint times when Emma Smith (Mrs. James Edward Austen) secured for herself nearly every little item Candice Hern brings to the attention of the camera. Hers is a tremendous collection! And now she’s sharing her collection with everyone via these freely-viewable videos.

Part I of “What a Lady Might Carry in Her Reticule” discusses Calendars and Almanacs. Says Hern, when discussing her “Smalls” (the “tiny” items my Emma would have readily recognized), “I’ve been collecting antiques for decades, many of them from the years during which Jane Austen lived.” [click photo to go to the JASNA website]

Part 2, available shortly, features “Scents and Cosmetics”; Part 3, “Coin Purses, Fans, and Vinaigrettes”.

You may also wish to visit Candice Hern’s “Regency World” website. And do keep in mind the future plans at JASNA to include more videos in their *new* Austen’s World Up-Close. The JASNA Post brings you all the new (and give links to old) Announcements, News, and Observations in one handy place.

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