A Seymour Sighting

August 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm (books) (, , , )

Actually, there are TWO mentions of Richard Seymour — in online books. One – The Rambler in Worcestershire – has noted Richard in his clergyman capacity at Kinwarton; the other – Art and Nature Under an Italian Sky – lists not only Richard but Fanny Seymour as subscribers.


Other names on the pages with connections to those in this blog:

Sir William Knighton, bart.
Dowager Lady Knighton
Miss Hawker
Mrs G. Wilder
Rev. Sir J. H. C. Seymour, bart. [Maria’s husband]
Mrs Arthur Currie [Dora, Arthur’s second wife]
Mrs Spencer Smith

Given the number of Seymour relations, one must ask: who was the author, M.J.M.D.??? The book was published by Constable in Edinburgh, in 1852. The site, archive.org, names the author Margaret Juliana Maria Dunbar.

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Lost Letters…

August 22, 2009 at 9:42 am (books) (, , , , , , )

I am reading (a library copy) Katherine Sutherland’s Jane Austen’s Textual Lives. She has much to say about the Austen-Leigh Memoir with which _I_ would disagree, but I want to comment on the “Cassandra Controversy” Sutherland and everyone writing on Austen sooner or later bring up. Why is it, I ask myself this morning, everyone cares ONLY for the letters of Jane written to Cassandra?? Is it because we know they once existed? Does the imagined ‘bonfire’ ignite the passion for the “lost letters”?? (They were Cassandra’s property to do with as she pleased…) My indignation (rather too strong a word, but I will use it) comes from the fact that no one cares – or at least writes about – the lost letters of CASSANDRA! If Jane wrote to her, she wrote to Jane. They existed, though are a bit more ephemeral from the perspective of not being divvied up, not being knowingly burned, not being by the famous sister.

Jane Austen did not live in a vacuum. My own researches into the letters of the Smith family prove that each member of a family wrote — in turn — to other members of the family. Therefore, not only would there have been Jane’s letters to the likes of cousins like Eliza, Jane would have written her mother, her father, her brothers, her friends (Martha Llloyd, the Bigg sisters); and oh! what ever happened to the letters to Miss Sharp.

Cassandra, too, would have had a circle of correspondents. Never mind the brothers, with their wide circles of acquaintance.

The volume of family letters known as the Austen Papers, which I make no bones about saying “collate ALL the known Austen letters, Jane’s and her family’s, into a volume” are easily dismissed by Austen scholars: They should not be! That would be like presenting Mozart’s letters without those of his father.

An interesting point, to get back to the “circle” of correspondents a singular writer would have had: Emma writes to one of her sisters a letter already addressed to another sister! The opening line apologizes, claiming that although the letter was written to one it is “by rights” the turn of this sister, whose name was inserted near the crossed out name of the original recipient. Did the sister mind? Evidently not! Did the sister desire a letter, any letter, rather than that it went to the original sister? – Evidently! That was of more importance than the crossing out and substitution! After all, most letters were read aloud. (I have only come across ONE letter, one written by Mary Smith, in which the writer designated the letter ‘private’ = which therefore would NOT have been read out or passed around to other readers.)

There is much, in this age of phone calls and emails, that people do not think about concerning the age of letter-writing. I sincerely wish the laments for the “lost” Austen letters extended to the “lost” letters that were either also later destroyed (the niece’s destruction of letters to her father comes to mind), but also perhaps were never kept.

There has long been the question in the back of my mind as regards keeping correspondence. This came up when reading about Mozart’s many, many moves in the years of his marriage: All those letters from Papa Mozart were hauled from house to house to house. Imagine the *desire* to keep such items!!

Through this blog, I have met several people who have some snippet of surviving family correspondence. How lucky they are! All I have of my family are a handful of sepia photographs – which I treasure, I must confess, because of the rarity of their survival.

In short, we should be grateful for what we have, and stop harping on what was lost (through whatever means: destruction, carelessness, or cutting up for souvenirs). I am, for the Smith letters, even while I hope there is more to uncover!

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Little Charles’ Birthplace

August 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm (estates) (, , , , , , , )

As Emma notes (and Annual Register published), the birth of Mary’s son Charles – born 15 September 1827 – took place at 32 New Norfolk Street (London):

“In New Norfolk-street, the lady of sir C. Smith, bart. a son and heir.”

Imagine my surprise last night in learning that this was (1) the home of Grandmamma, Lady Cunliffe; and (2) the building still exists (more or less…)! The Survey of London, vol. 40 (British History Online) in its survey of The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair has the following to say about the area and the building; photographs come from the same source:

“Today, looking over the wide dual carriageway of Park Lane with Hyde Park stretching beyond, it is difficult to imagine that this road was once a narrow, rutted and unlit track alongside a high brick wall which screened it from the park. In 1741 Tyburn Lane (as it was then known) was one of a number of roads taken over by the Kensington Turnpike Trust…. A short terrace of houses—King’s Row on the site of the present Nos. 93–99 (consec.) Park Lane—was built there in the 1720’s and 1730’s, but it was set back from the roadway behind a small plantation, and few other houses were erected directly along its remaining frontage. When Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street was laid out in the 1750’s the houses on the west side turned their backs to Park Lane, a circumstance that eventually led to much picturesque modification of these rear elevations….”

{the ‘rear’ view of houses provides this photos unusual juxtaposition of buildings}



caption to plate 73b: Nos. 117 (formerly 37) Park Lane (right) and 128 park Lane (left) with backs of Nos. 25-31 Dunraven Street between (left to right) in July 1926. (note: Nos. 25-31 demolished.)


“Originally called Norfolk Street, it was sometimes known as New Norfolk Street in the nineteenth century and was renamed Dunraven Street by the London County Council in 1939 after the fourth Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, a former resident of the street….”

And specifically, for our purposes here:

“No. 117.

This house, originally No. 32 Norfolk Street, and from 1872 to 1934 known as No. 37 Park Lane, stands on a plot sub-leased by Edmund Rush, mason, to John Adams, glazier, in 1756. (ref. 182) It is broader than were other houses between Wood’s Mews and Green Street, having five windows towards Park Lane, four towards Dunraven (formerly Norfolk) Street, and stucco on all three elevations (Plates 73b [picture above], 74e [see below]). Almost certainly it is an entire replacement of the previous house on the site, which was smaller and was entered from Norfolk Street. The Greek style of the present broad porch and passage towards Park Lane and of the surviving interior features (Plates 74c, 75c), principally a fine staircase from ground- to first-floor level, suggest that this reconstruction took place in about 1822, when a new lease came into operation, but there is no certain evidence on the point. (ref. 183) Possibly somewhat later, an elaborate first-floor verandah was added, with a conservatory over the entrance passage.

The detail of No. 117’s hall (plate 74c), c1978: 


No. 117’s Chimney piece (plate 75c), also c1978:


In 1884 the house was taken by Robert Wellesley Grosvenor, subsequently second Lord Ebury, a first cousin to the Duke of Westminster. On his behalf new rooms were erected on the top, and the exterior was painted, ‘orange colour with a deeper shade for the ground floor’ being suggested. (ref. 184) In 1903 the next occupant, Victor Cavendish, M.P., added a completely new top storey. (ref. 185) On succeeding in 1908 as ninth Duke of Devonshire he moved to the family mansion in Piccadilly. The house then fell empty and a proposal by John Garlick to refront it came to nothing. But in 1911 Lord Moreton took it on, and his family remained here for some years. (ref. 186)

The house suffered some damage in the war of 1939–45, and much renovation took place in 1948–9 under the direction of C. Edmund Wilford for Hammersons, the developers. Inter alia, the approach from Park Lane and the verandah above were simplified. (ref. 187)

Occupants include: Countess of Huntingdon, wid. of 9th Earl and foundress of ‘Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion’ of Calvinistic Methodists, 1759–62. Lieut.-gen. Lord John Murray, son of 1st Duke of Atholl, 1764–70. Lady Cunliffe, wid. of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, 1st bt., 1771–1814: her son-in-law, William Gosling, banker, 1816–27. Robert Wellesley Grosvenor, latterly 2nd Baron Ebury, 1884–94. Victor Cavendish, M.P., later 9th Duke of Devonshire, 1895–1908. Lord Moreton, son of 3rd Earl of Ducie, 1911–20: his wid., 1920–44.

(plate 74e): No. 117 Park Lane (Dunraven Street front), in 1976:


There is NO WAY William lived there; he had his own home in Portland Place (never mind at Roehampton Grove; as well as the estate of Hassobury). Lady Cunliffe died in 1814, so what happened after that event is up for grabs. Mary and Charles can only be placed there (at present) in 1827. Eliza Chute, interestingly enough, mentions Norfolk Street (no number) in all her early diaries: being a bosom friend to Eliza Gosling (even when she was still Eliza Cunliffe), Eliza Smith (as she was before her marriage) visited Miss and Lady Cunliffe quite often when in town with her father Joshua Smith.

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For Better, For Worse

August 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , )

Dear Miss Heber2Since January, when I came across advance information on Hazel Jones’ forthcoming book Jane Austen & Marriage, I’ve awaited its July release. For a fuller ‘review’ of it, please see Jane Austen In Vermont’s blog. Here, I merely want to point up the amount of information Jones has plucked from letters in the SMITH family! Not only does Eliza Chute (née Smith) and her mother Sarah come into the discussion of courting and matrimony, so does Eliza’s sister Maria (who marries the heir to the Earl of Northampton; her husband later becomes the first Marquess). James Austen — Jane’s eldest brother and father of James-Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) — is here also, with both of his wives. And source materials bring old friends like Miss Heber (pictured at left) and new friends like Dorothea Herbert (a book I am currently reading, with much enjoyment).

ja_and_marriage_coverJones’ chapter on “The Power of Refusal” (chapter 2) put a smile on my face: here she mentions that some suitors proposed in person — while others wrote letters or used an intermediary. Why the smile? The Rev. Richard Seymour, totally unsure of his reception (according to his own diaries), sent his elder brother John (another man of the cloth) to sound out Mrs Smith – who then sounded out daughter Fanny; it was good news from both. And wasn’t Richard happy!

The map of “Jane Austen’s Hampshire” (in B&W in the book, but reproduced in color on the back cover of the dust jacket) shows just how close The Vyne was situated to such Austen locales as Manydown House, Deane, Steventon, Chawton and Basingstoke’s Assembly Rooms.

This is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in Austen or her novels; the use of primary materials written by acquaintances, relations and autobiographers will appeal to historians researching early nineteenth-century mores in middle class England. Anyone interested in my research will enjoy the peeks into the lives of the few Smith-Gosling relatives.

Also worth a look – the author’s website, which includes information on the Austen courses she offers.

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