Elizabeth Grant and Miss Ramsay

March 21, 2010 at 11:22 am (books, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , )


WHAT a *thrill* comes when an old book yields a new discovery — and who would have thought to find Emma’s “Miss Ramsay” in such as place as the Memoirs of a Highland Lady, a book written by Elizabeth (Grant) Smith for her grandchildren and first published by her niece Lady Strachey in 1898.

It was while reading through Emma’s diary for 1819, and finding they met a “Miss Elizabeth Grant, niece of Miss Devall” that I began to look online for Elizabeth Grant and tumbled upon the book I’ve owned (along with its sequels) for many years. Actually, I’m surprised I never consulted its index, but perhaps I thought “Highlands” and never remembered “London” enough to think, despite the time period (1800-1830s), the book at all relevant. [NB: I am NOT convinced that this Elizabeth Grant and Emma’s Miss EG are the same person.]

But the wide circle of relatives and acquaintances do intersect and overlap in the most strange manner: Jane Austen and Walter Scott, just two circles that touch the Smiths and Goslings.

It was the original edition of Memoirs online that made me pull off the shelf my own copy of the “entire” memoir – and finding Mr Nattes, the artist, in the index (who, by the way, was at Suttons in 1811 and again a few years later; Emma comments on him “paying a visit” in December 1818). There, on the page discussing him was mention of Miss Ramsay! And not long after, mention of “a rich Mrs Smith, sister of the Marchioness of Northampton”! You might imagine my joyous delight:

“Mr Nattes had another pupil in whom he was much interested. He said she would never draw much nor be first rate in any art, but she was so excellent a person that he had recommended her as Governess to a family in which he taught. This was our old friend Miss Ramsay, who had come up to London to improve herself. She often came to see us, both before and after she went to live with a rich Mrs Smith, sister to the Marchioness of Northampton, with whom and her very nice daughters she lived for many years, in fact till she died, tended by them in all her failing health with all the affectionate care her good conduct merited.”

Unfortunately… Miss Ramsay still remains first-nameless. But I now know much more about her than ever imagined for a woman truly lost in the mists of time. Including, how she came to be in the Smith household.

Anyone with any information on Miss Ramsay, her mother, her brother and his wife – please let me know. In the last months of her life Miss Ramsay returns “North” — according to Elizabeth Grant the city she must return to is in or around Newcastle.

From Emma, I know that she — and Coulthard, a servant named for many years to come — sailed north on the Theodosia (captained by a Mr Jullocks, if I read and typed correctly). They leave London on Tuesday, and arrive at “Shields Harbour”:

“We had the happiness of hearing that dear Miss Ramsay arrived safe at Shields Harbour Sunday Morn:g & got to Whickham Sunday Even:g. She had borne the voyage very well till the last night which was very rough at the bar she had not suffered from sea sickness but Coulthard had.” (5 May 1819)

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1 Comment

  1. A Tale of Two Macdougalls « Two Teens in the Time of Austen said,

    […] The “Tale of Two Macdougalls” begins in 1819. The governess to the younger Smith girls, at the moment, is Miss Ramsay — about whom I’ve written before. She turns up in the memoirs of Elizabeth Grant, the “Highland Lady”. […]

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