Happy Birthday, Emma!

September 27, 2009 at 9:33 am (a day in the life) (, , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

On this date – 27 September – in 1801, Emma Smith was born.

Unlike Mary Gosling (who mentions only the birthdays of her children; never Charles’ or her own), Emma’s diaries make running comments on the birthdays of her mother and all her siblings. She also comments upon her own ‘natal day’, in both her diaries and her letters. I especially like these, written in 1821:

from the diary, 27 Sept – “God grant I may grow in virtue as in years”

and from a letter to Aunt Judith Smith, dated 28 Sept“It is quite alarming to think I have completed a score of years & left my teens entirely, I shall fancy I begin to feel old”.

She continues, by listing a series of gifts given her: “–Augusta made me present of an ivory opera glass  Fanny a pretty blue bead necklace she has strung. Eliza a most excellent pen knife, Charlotte a little satin pincushion, & Maria a silk mark for a book made on the bobbin machine.”

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Of Horses and Carriages

September 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Over the Labor Day weekend, I visited one of my favorite used bookstores: Old Depot No. 6, in Henniker, New Hampshire. As usual, I spent most of my time upstairs, amid the British history and biography section of this very well-laid-out store. Among the ‘finds’ volumes one and two of the Torrington Diaries; I already had volume one, but was missing volume two thanks to an online store “selling, misplacing, losing, etc” the volume they had posted for sale. They were library copies, the first volume a bit worse for wear; but the price was one I would have paid for a single volume, never mind the two. I also got a dual biography of Wellington and the Arbuthnots; I have the Journals of Mrs Arbuthnot and was intrigued to see what someone researching to three had to say.

Then, standing at the register, I happened to spy a tiny little book entitled “Victorian Horses and Carriages” – which featured quaint and cute drawings done by William Francis Freelove. A precious find, indeed!

freeloveThere are some really funny little works; and I searched to find the entire set of drawings from the series – finally succeeding in coming across them in the Bridgeman Collection. Two of my favorites: the little poem which closes this copy of the drawings (at left),

Up hill urge me not,
Down hill hurry me not,
Along the level spare me not,
And in the stable forget me not.

How very apropos!

And one of my favorite drawings, not found in this little sampling of Freelove’s drawings, is one called Wedding Carriages. What an absolutely charming display of horses, happiness, carriages and church. This one especially speaks to me because of the article I am currently writing (for submission one last time to Persuasions, the Jane Austen Journal): “Pemberley’s Welcome” looks at Elizabeth Darcy’s arrival at Pemberley, based on the diary entry Emma Smith wrote about a similar ‘welcome home’ to the bridge of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton in 1815.

The following weekend after this ‘find’, I was speaking on “Georgiana Darcy and the ‘Naïve Art’ of Young Ladies”, at Hyde Park (see the Austen weekends at the Governor’s House). By the way, I must say this particular explanation of ‘naïve art’ is excellent: “Term applied to the work of non-professional artists who apply themselves to their art in a resolute and independent spirit.” (paraphrased from this website.) Anyway, in August one picture by young artist Mary Yelloly sparks a conversation about carriages – so, of course, I had to bring this little volume of Freelove’s with me to share with this new group.

At the same time, talking with Suzanne, the B&B’s owner, Sunday – with plans to offer talks on carriages or fashion when the topic of her weekends turn to Sense and Sensibility – I came up with a wonderful idea for a new article! As my Hyde Park talk centered on the minor character of Georgiana Darcy, this article will focus on the character of young Margaret Dashwood. Can’t wait to get started – and will share more about it later, once it finds a home!

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A little birdie told me

September 12, 2009 at 12:18 am (books) (, , , , , )

After a bit of a search, a dear friend in Britain has come across one of the British Library’s Austen items — the Jane Austen Desk Diary — and our two figures have been identified!

austen-desk-diary1

The disappointing part is that, while profusely illustrated (with silhouettes by JEAL [James Edward Austen Leigh] as well as BL illustrations), there are no other people-silhouettes in the book [mentally insert a sad face here…].  See my previous post for some theories and hypotheses.

So who, according to my dickie bird, are these people?? The man – who I thought just might be Edward Austen Knight (Jane’s brother who was ‘adopted’ when a youth) – turns out to be James Edward Austen-Leigh! From the pictures I have of him – a couple paintings and one photograph taken in old age, I simply would not have guessed it was him.

And the girl I had so hoped was Emma’s sister Fanny?? Seems this is a silhouette of Caroline Wiggett, the adopted daughter of the Chutes of The Vyne! I kept thinking ‘no way!’ all day – but looking at my cache of pics just now I see that the silhouette I recalled in my mind’s eye and thought was a young Caroline Wiggett is actually of Caroline Austen (JEAL’s sister). No wonder they look nothing alike!

So mystery solved, as far as published pictures of the family goes. What the Austen-Leighs of today may have in their possession (and which may have been thought not as interesting as the silhouettes Edward cut for his children) remains to be seen (literally and figuratively). Evidently the British Library did not try to attribute the silhouettes to anyone. Could they possibly be the work of Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta?? I would LOVE to think that!

In Emma’s diaries there are MANY mentions of Augusta’s ‘shades’; she evidently was quite the adept at producing good likenesses. From Caroline’s “Reminiscences” (not published, but available in manuscript copy at the Hampshire Record Office), Augusta and Caroline were fast friends. Nice to believe, therefore, that the threesome were occupied one quiet evening, perhaps while everyone visited The Vyne, in creating what has come down to us via this lovely cover art.

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Book Reviews and Books Reviewed

September 10, 2009 at 8:53 pm (books) (, , , , , )

ja_and_marriage_coverKerri Spennicchia — who supplies us all with dozens of Austen clippings — sent the following Times Literary Supplement review (TLS) of Hazel Jones’ recent Austen book.

I wish you could read it — but something’s up with WordPress — the file uploads, but doesn’t link. Will try again later.

[9/11] It’s now later and for some reason it still doesn’t ‘pop’ in – but I did a bit of finagling and *finally* it works – be advised, however, that you will have to turn the page image around: it opens upside-down! [no real big deal, Kerri…]

In the meantime, with all the problems, I checked out the publisher’s listing of reviews (hoping for a link to the TLS): Continuum includes an excerpt from my review found on the JASNA-Vermont chapter blog!

dress of peopleSooo…. looking for more of my own work (!! = but, if I don’t toot my own horn, no one else will), I found a website by historian and author John Styles – whose book The Dress of the People I reviewed in the most recent JASNA-News. He has some interesting research avenues, including a history of hand spinning in England. Check out his website.

October update: the JASNA review can now be found online.

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