Where Art Thou?

April 25, 2009 at 10:19 am (books) (, , , , , , , , )

Thirty-five years ago a series of diaries got dropped off by their then-owner in order for the WARWICKSHIRE RECORD OFFICE to microfilm them. That roll of microfilm is the one I worked with in 2007. Unable to travel again to England, I recently contacted the WRO to request a copy of that microfilm. ALAS: they need to contact the owner, for whom they only have a 1974 address!

I more expected them to inform me that they had no master and could not copy the research room’s copy. Instead, this conundrum! How to find someone, or more likely that someone’s heirs, thirty-five years later?!? However, the archivist who contacted me said he/she would try – and I gratefully accepted that slim hope.

But this situation made me think of the one published account, with extracts from the diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton (Fanny’s husband). The book, published in 1954, is THE NINETEENTH CENTURY COUNTRY PARSON, edited by A. Tindal Hart and Edward Carpenter.

The preface to the text thanks “Miss A.M. Seymour, The Diaries of Richard Seymour.” Its opening line acknowledges that “we are inevitably and deeply indebted to a large number of contributors, who had lent us unpublished diaries or furnished oral reminiscences of parsons they have known. It is, unfortunately, quite impossible to record all their names here; but we should like, publicly, to thank those from whose MSS we are reproducing extracts in Part II.” Richard’s diaries, of course, make up part of Part II.

I must confess that it is heartening to see that the diaries were still in family hands in the 1950s (the preface is dated 1951), though that seem so long ago now… nearly sixty years.

Richard’s early diaries give vital information on his relationship to Fanny and her family; they even record Richard’s bedside visits to the dying William Gosling (Mary’s father). What more they hold, I could not uncover during my way-too-brief look at them. In the introduction to the Seymour section, Hart & Carpenter write: “The Diary itself, which stretches unbroken from January 1st, 1832 until November 26th, 1873, presents a day to day picture of the life and work of one of the more prosperous and better connected nineteenth century country rectors. And what a busy and varied life it was! There are long pleasant holidays spent on the continent and in nearly every part of the British Isles; there are visits to well-to-do relations in their lovely country residences; and there are sight-seeing jaunts to the Metropolis. Kinwarton rectory and gardens were large, but so was the family and the staff of servants. When the Seymours were in residence the house always seemed to be overflowing with guests…” Indeed, among the guests would be Mary’s children, especially her two daughters, who rather floated from the homes of various relations in the years between the death of their grandmother Mrs Smith in 1845 and their brother reaching his majority in 1848. They raised funds for new service books, which were gifted to St. Mary’s, Kinwarton, on Christmas Day, 1847.

Takeley Local Historical Society (see their section called “Loose Ends”) has long sought information on the whereabouts of the diaries of the Rev. Robert Hart (grandfather of Arthur Tindal Hart); and now I ask: If anyone can help secure permission for WRO to copy their roll of microfilm, please contact me!

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Happy Birthday!

April 13, 2009 at 11:26 am (a day in the life) (, , , )

Today – 13 April 2009 – marks the 197th birthday of Drummond Smith.

When I left Drummond last night, in the year 1825, he was a school boy at Harrow. Actually, Harrow is how I found the existence of a book (copied out by one of the sisters; I suspect Maria) [2013 update: the handwriting belongs to Fanny] containing letters he wrote from the time he was a young boy up until he left for the fateful trip to Italy (against his mother’s wishes, which were reluctantly bestowed in the end…) – mention was made of his letters from school in a history of Harrow!

On their own, given the relative youth of the boy for many of them, they are quaint vignettes of the life of a schoolboy from a well-to-do London-based family. But: input within correspondence from Mamma, Emma, Augusta, Mary and Maria, they flesh out some periods of the family history. Now if only his travel diaries would surface — or his actual letters come to light! (Or the replies to them.) Frustratingly, especially as I have studied Fanny Smith a bit more than many of her sisters, later letters to Fanny were given space – blank pages left – but were never filled in; had Fanny, making her home in Kinwarton (Warcs), had trouble finding the letters from her brother — or had the letters brought up too many memories??

[NB: given that Fanny is the transcriber, she may simply have been lazy: she owned the original letters! Alas, that is our loss — until the actual letters turn up.]

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Diaries, Missing or Lost?

April 12, 2009 at 9:52 am (books) (, , , )

cover_1822-daily-journalAfter writing the previous post, it dawned that I should have mentioned: There are a definite lack of details about Drummond in 1825 because his sister Emma’s diary for that year is missing. There is a near-complete set of diaries – little pocket diaries the size to fit in one’s hand (approx 3.5 x 7 inches), similar to that pictured at left (Emma’s had clasps which close the books) – at the Hampshire Record Office. What happened to 1825?? Kept in the family? Lost, like Boswell’s Holland Journal? Given to someone, who then never returned it? Hidden in some attic somewhere? In some collection, like Mary’s Duke University travel journal, unconnected with the rest of the family archives?? The answer may come — or never come.

Charles, too, might have kept diaries before the five (beginning in 1826) that the Essex Records Office owns. Why would he begin a diary in the middle of the year (July)? A couple possibilities come to mind: Either, like Mary and his sister Emma, he decided to begin keeping a diary; or else, figuring on beginning a new life, his old diaries were set aside and this new journal begun: for the first entry (though the casual reader would NEVER know it!) is notice of his bringing Mary, his bride, home to Suttons on their wedding day! 1825 was a difficult year for the Smiths: in January Belinda, Charles’ first wife, gave birth (according to one source to a daughter; if born alive, the baby did not live long);  Belinda soon slipped away as well. Hers was the first death this family of nine siblings had endured in some years (father in 1814; maternal grandfather in 1819). When I first contacted the Essex Record office to obtain microfilm copies of Charles’ diaries, I was under the impression that they were from January through December. No wonder the cost was less than anticipated; no wonder the online description suddenly read that they covered July through December: the preceding six months are blank! There went any indication of why Charles chose to marry Mary Gosling. I had pinned my hopes on his diary confessions. Of course I hadn’t “known” Charles well then… He is rather silent on many matters, just like his wife Mary.

There are several possibilities for the ‘holes’ in a collection – and only time will tell if some of these holes get puttied over. I am convinced there are more materials (letters and diaries) to be discovered.

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10 April 1825

April 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm (a day in the life)

As Easter approaches, I wondered what was up with the Smiths and Goslings – and came across this stressing time in Drummond Smith’s life in 1825. The following comes from a letter Drummond wrote his eldest sister, Augusta on April 10th:

“My dearest Goosey, so obliged am I for your nice big letter, that I am in doubt how to thank you for it enough. … I am able to trot about on my crutches without any help, and I make the people who offend me feel the weight of them sometimes. I often wish you could see me stand alone you would be as proud as a mother when she sees her child walk at first.”

But what happened to Drummond?? In 1825, he would have been turning 13 years old in just three days. A school boy, he had to be carried down the stairs from his school-house room, for a month earlier Mamma Smith had written Emma: “Augusta and Coulthard have been describing to me the misery & the wants of Drummond’s room at Harrow, & all other things there, & I shudder to think if he must have staid there. It was a difficult thing to bring him down the steep narrow winding Staircase from that nasty room [!!]; Mr. Cutler carried him upon his arms. We can laugh at it all now.” Mamma ends this letter with a comment about the doctor (Mr Brodie) attending, but not staying long.

The curiosity is that in 1823 Emma comments in a letter from Salzburg: “Spencer I suppose will be considerably aged, grown tall, with a hoarse voice, & perhaps a beard – dear Drummond I should not wish altered in any particulars except those of buttoning up his trowsers and walking with his knees straight”.

What happened, and how or why, to Drummond that he walked with bent knees in 1823, and had a broken leg attended to in 1825??

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Previewing Persuasions

April 1, 2009 at 11:40 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

peak-cavern-entrance_1830-kmJASNA has posted a link to the table of contents for volume 30 (2008) of the Jane Austen Society of North America’s journal Persuasions. This annual is a peer-reviewed journal, featuring both articles based on papers presented at the October AGMs (Annual General Meeting; 2008’s took placed in Chicago) and ‘miscellany’ — which includes my own article on the 1833 Austen-Smith journey to Derbyshire: they travelled pretty much in the shoes of Elizabeth Bennet! Watch the JASNA website, for I have been told the article might be posted on their “maps” page (a quite useful resource, now augmented with related articles on places and travel pulled from the Persuasions archive). This article has evolved into an illustrated talk, which will be of interest to anyone with an affinity for 19th-century travel in England!

(picture, courtesy of AncestryImages.com, shows the Entrance to the Peak Cavern – complete with its twine workers)

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