Portrait of Mary

June 29, 2008 at 9:29 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

A while ago I found the image of the Beechey portrait of “Master Gosling” (William-Ellis Gosling, Mary’s eldest brother) at the website linked in the post below – but only tonight did I read its (lengthy) descriptive article about this work, Beechey’s children’s portraits, and the Gosling family portraits. Be advised: some of the information in the article is incorrect. (There were two Mrs Goslings: the woman who paid for the portraits was the Hon. Charlotte (de Grey) Gosling; the woman who gave birth to these children was Margaret Elizabeth (Cunliffe) Gosling. Mary Cunliffe was Eliza’s elder sister who married Charles Joshua Smith’s great-uncle, Drummond Smith.)

So a great surprise in store once I reached the end of the article: the double portrait – of Mary and her sister Elizabeth – had been sold through Sotheby’s in 1958:

“The three male Gosling portraits are presently unlocated but the double portrait of Mary and Elizabeth Gosling sitting at a box piano was sold from the Sir Richard Spencer-Smith collection Sotheby’s, London, February 19, 1958, lot 54, bt Leger £280.”

The book from which information was taken (a Beechey biography by William Roberts*) is incorrectly interpreted; as mentioned below: all three sons, both parents and the double-portrait of the two girls were executed by Beechey – a total of six works.

Of course I’m seeking a peek at this portrait. Any information about its whereabouts would be most appreciated! Send me a photo and I’d have to devise you some out-of-this-world reward…

[*a comment on the Robert’s book: this is the same biography from which the accounts [below] were taken – it was published in 1907 and could NOT have information about a sale that took place in 1958, although the third citation in the website article would make you read it that way.]

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Paint me a picture

June 21, 2008 at 10:49 am (portraits and paintings) (, , )

In corresponding with Kate from Norfolk, the comment came up about a famous artist who reportedly painted the eldest Gosling son. Pity the artist died a couple years before the boy was born… (This artist, however, does have a connection to earlier family members; but that is a story for later).

So I mentioned to Kate that there is one portrait of William-Ellis I did know of, and had actually seen an online image of: Sir William Beechey’s “Master Gosling,” painted c1800 and exhibited in that year.

Beechey had a lengthy connection with the William Gosling family. An old biography (published 1907) of the artist places the Goslings in his studio, sitting for several portraits – parents and children. The diaries of Emma Austen puts her there, visiting the studio in company with them, in 1820. So where are these portraits??

According to the biography by William Roberts, “Master Gosling” was ‘the first of a number of members to sit to Beechey; the other Gosling portraits will be found in the Account Books of 1817, 1820, and 1823.’ According to those account-book pages, the Goslings paid the following:

In 1817 –
Apr. 11  Of Mrs. Gosling (as half), for a half-length of her two daughters and three-quarter of her own     105£  0s.   0d.
Aug. 8   Of Mrs. Gosling (as last payment), for the Miss Goslings, and three-quarter of Mr. W. Gosling       105£  0s.   0d.

1818 –
Apr. 21  Of Mr. Gosling (first half)   26£  5s.  0d.

1820 –
Mar. 26  Of Mrs. Gosling, for Mr. Robert Gosling (last half)   26£  5s.  0d.

1823 –
Feb. 24  Of Mrs. Gosling (as half), for Mr. Bennett Gosling   31£  10s.  0d.

A three-quarter portrait would be one not showing hands (so, head and upper torso); a half-length length – a more costly portrait – would include that much more of the body (typically, everything but the feet!); a full-length, of course, would mean head to foot – as in the portrait of Master Gosling (and was the most expensive to commission).

Therefore, all SEVEN members of the family seem to have sat!

Here is how I read the account books:  A portrait of Mrs Gosling’s two daughters must preclude her own biological daughter, Charlotte (born c1810 and still a child); so the two painted were Mary and her elder sister Elizabeth. If Mrs Gosling paid for a three-quarter portrait of herself, then the three-quarter of the Mr W. Gosling, matching hers as to size, purchased in August was of William Gosling, esq., the father. Oldest children, sons and daughters, were designated Mr or Miss. Thus the eldest son would be Mr Gosling, a younger son Mr Robert or Mr Bennett; the same for the daughters – Miss Gosling would indicate Elizabeth, Miss Mary or Miss Charlotte the younger sisters.

(When the eldest sister married, however, the next eldest took her title. There is an amusing little anecdote about Maria Smith, the baby of the Smith of Suttons family, who obviously had taken umbrage at her sister for writing and addressing the letter MARIA SMITH rather than the now correct MISS SMITH; these little courtesies mattered!!)

It would seem that William-Ellis paid for his own (it is the only one designated ‘of Mr Gosling’).

It is interesting that all three of the boys get portraits of their own; but the two girls share one together. Yet, in this instance, it seems appropriate – and here’s why. In her diaries (and Mary has left a travel diary and seven diaries after her marriage) she never once refers to her sister Elizabeth by name, always she is ‘my sister’. Speaks volumes about the close ties these two shared, doesn’t it?

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In the emailbox…

June 14, 2008 at 11:22 pm (goslings and sharpe) ()

I got a wonderful email on Friday the thirteenth from Kate in Norfolk; she has Gosling ancestors – via the family of Sir Francis Gosling, knight.

Sir Francis was the brother of Robert Gosling (William’s father) and gave me tons of trouble all because every generation had a Francis Gosling! There were five successive Francis Goslings by the twentieth century. At the time of the merger with Barclays Bank (1896), Herbert Gosling (Mary’s nephew) and Francis Gosling IV were directors. Kate let me know of a useful article on Gosling’s Branch at the website of a gentleman who actually worked at 19 Fleet-street in 1940. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who can tell me more about this publication; the one citation I found for it listed the author as anonymous and n.d. for the year of publication. There are some illustrations I had never yet seen – and I have to say sections IV and V are really thought-provoking. Section IV deals with debits like, ‘To the poor woman who cleans the Shop, her husband just dead, £1.0.0.’ 

Section V tells of a side of the bank I would never have thought about – the staff. William Gosling (Mary’s father) died in 1834; he had been partner – and senior partner – for some decades. So here is a mention of Goslings in March 1826, in ‘Instructions to the Porters’ and how they were to deal with the ‘junior staff’ who ‘lived in’:

Every morning the Clerks sleeping in the House are to be supplied with hot and cold water, jugs and basins with Towels &c for their use to be cleared away as soon as they are done with before breakfast…

Honestly, I can now see dapper William, with perhaps William-Ellis beside him, arriving in a spiffy carriage that draws up to the doors of 19 Fleet-street; and the breakfast things of the clerks getting spirited out of the way just in the nick of time…

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Eliza Chute, part II

June 13, 2008 at 10:58 am (chutes of the vyne) (, , )

Was thinking that maybe some readers, unable or unwilling to afford Le Faye’s Chronology ($150!), might like to have a taste of Eliza Chute’s diary entries, especially those involving the Austins (as she always spelled the name).

On 15 October 1793, Eliza Smith married William Chute, MP and settled at The Vyne for the rest of her life. Her sister Augusta (the future Mrs Smith and mamma to Emma Austen-Leigh) stayed at The Vyne even after the rest of the family departed, as we see in Eliza’s diary entry for 21 October: ‘misty & foggy  mild  Papa Mama & Emma & Lord & Lady Compton went away early; they left Augusta with me.’ Papa and Mama were Joshua and Sarah Smith; Emma was the youngest sister; Lord and Lady Compton, the eldest sister and her husband (future 1st Marquess of Northampton).

Four days later we see ‘wedding visits’ from many neighbors: ‘rainy & windy. Mr Harwood Mr Austin, Lady & Miss Poole, Mr Poole, Mr Mrs & Miss Austen Mr & Mrs Lefroy Mrs Bramston in the morn. We dined at Mrs Brocas.’ I suspect here the first Mr Austin was James; and that Miss Austen was Cassandra. The Lefroys, of course, would be Jane’s friend, Anne Lefroy and her clergyman husband (the parents of Anna Austen Lefroy’s husband, Ben).

But in November we definitely see Jane in Eliza’s company: ‘much rain in the night  sunny high wind. Visited Miss Biggs, Mr & Mrs Lafroy [sic] out  Mr Mrs & Miss Austins  dined & supped at Mr Bramston’s; met Mr & Mrs Birch there  played at snip-snap  staid till 11.’ It is difficult to tell (sans punctuation!) whether Eliza indicates that she called on the Austens (as the ‘out’ comment for the Lefroys indicates), or whether all ‘dined & supped’ at the Bramstons, or even whether the Austens dined and she separately means to record that she (and presumably William Chute) supped at the Bramstons… I tend to think she returned calls, which would put her at Steventon on this day.

And there, in a nutshell, is the type of primary material I work with in order to piece together the lives of people living more than 200 years ago.

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Eliza Chute, of The Vyne

June 12, 2008 at 3:09 pm (introduction) (, , , )

Reading the post below, reminds me to mention here a wonderful article that does indeed cite the diaries of Eliza Chute. It was destined for JAS’s annual publication (Report), but, forgotten, it ended up online — for which I am truly grateful: that fact gave me a chance to read it.

The author, Anne Hardy, looks at Sense and Sensibility and the possible connection a woman from The Vyne may have had with Austen and her novel. Highly recommended!

(for more on The Vyne: see the National Trust; or Hantsweb – with its lovely chalk-drawing of a young Emma Smith! Some exterior photos are found at astoft.co.uk)

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Recent writings…

June 7, 2008 at 11:21 am (introduction) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This week I have been immersed, not in the Regency period of Emma and Mary’s girlhood years, but in the 1830s.

June has turned into a ‘big’ month for me: the publication (finally!) of Persuasions, the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which contains my article on Emma Austen; and the release (June 12th), in England, of Local Past, the Journal of the Alcester and District (Warwickshire) Historical Society. This contains my article on Emma’s sister Fanny, who married the Rev. Richard Seymour and settled in Kinwarton (about ten miles from Stratford on Avon) for the rest of her long life. This last has spurred me on to finish an article I hope the editor will accept for the December issue, which continues Fanny’s story with the birth of her first son in October 1835.

Unfortunate for Fanny, the child – which was described by Emma as ‘very fine’, died after little more than a day.

What affected me most was reading months earlier a later letter, written by Fanny in 1837. In this letter she relates a little story that shows just how much Richard enjoyed his baby daughter’s company, enjoyed making her laugh, enjoyed puzzling out whom she looked like. Oh, he sounded such a wonderful father! Only upon further investigation into their lives, did I realize that this little girl was not their first child, but their second. How heart-breaking to have gone through pregnancy and birth only to see your child begin strong and then die!

The time-period is one of the interesting parts of this research. Taken together, the lives of these people span the early years of the nineteenth-century (of this generation, Edward Austen, born in 1798, is one of the elder members), and, for the longer-lived, extend into the middle and later years of Victoria’s reign. From George III to Victoria; from horse to the ‘iron horse’; from war abroad to strife at home; from the Age of Austen to the Age of Dickens.

However, in looking at the children one can never forget the parents, and even grandparents. And this moves us back to the 1760s and the birth of the parent-generation.

I began writing an article about the Goslings recently, which just has to start off with two ladies: Mrs Eliza Gosling née Cunliffe and Mrs Eliza Chute née Smith. I like to think of them as The Two Elizas. Funny thing is, they both married men named William! (Very confusing for the casual reader, no?)

One Eliza, Mrs Gosling, was mother to Mary Gosling; the other Eliza, who had no children of her own, was aunt to Emma Smith. Therefore, for two generations these two families had what they themselves described as relationships between ‘sisters-of-the-heart’. Friendships so close that the two women involved felt like sisters. Eliza Chute had three sisters; Eliza Gosling alas had only one. Emma Smith had five sisters, while Mary Gosling had two, but one to which she had a close-close bond.

I cannot prove that either Mrs Gosling, or the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into the diaries of Eliza Chute of The Vyne. This estate, which can be visited as it belongs now to the National Trust, is located in the parish of Sherborne St John (some few miles from Basingstoke). The man who ministered to the congregation on Sundays was none other than the Rev. James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother. Even a cursory review of Deirdre Le Faye’s wonderful Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family (2006) shows how many Sundays James returned to The Vyne for a repast. In later years he would be accompanied by his son, James-Edward (known as Edward in the family). This little boy grew up to write A Memoir of Jane Austen under the name he took in 1837: James Edward Austen-Leigh.

I’m still digging into the short life of Eliza Gosling and the early life of Eliza Chute – and am actively seeking any information on the Two Elizas, in the form of letters, diaries, even mentions in published books. For instance, Eliza Gosling, when a girl and still Eliza Cunliffe, met James Boswell. She and her sister (‘Miss Cunliff’) are mentioned in Boswell’s letters! Sometimes it is a very small world. I have cause to say that over and again.

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Why Emma and Mary???

June 1, 2008 at 10:53 pm (introduction) (, , )

Emma Smith and Mary Gosling were two ordinary English girls. They attended the opera and the theatre when their families resided in London for ‘the season’. They were present at court functions, and even witnessed the coronation of George IV. They travelled with family across the country and across to the Continent. They lived among servants in large houses on substantial estates; and when in town were next-door neighbours (No. 5 and 6 Portland-place) on a street south of Regent’s Park. See, just two ordinary girls.

Luckily, they kept diaries, and wrote lots and lots of letters. Some of which still exist.

In coming posts I will tell a bit of what I’ve found out about these girls – and just how Jane Austen played a role in their lives.

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