Secrets of The Vyne

April 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm (chutes of the vyne) (, , , , , )

Callie, in Montreal, who is a great traveller and soon heads to England, told me of a little video about The Vyne on the National Trust’s webpage for the estate. I post a link to the PAGE here, because I have problems viewing the video (is it security settings on my computer?) — the video “box” doesn’t even show up: it’s just blank space where, on other computers, the little “box” is. So if you can’t watch this, try what I did: Another computer (libraries might be a good place to start).

VERY interesting! They’ve a maid servant, MARY, who introduces you to the house through its masters and mistresses — including Eliza Chute (here called ‘Elizabeth’, which rather threw me off! I don’t think she’s ever called that by ANYONE!). You get to see rooms, and (especially close to my heart) some drawings done by Eliza, her sister Augusta and Miss Meen. I’m still not convinced (as the National Trust seems to be; why ARE they convinced?) that Miss Meen was their governess – but I’ve not delved into her life; not sure there is much beyond the letters and diaries (in which she is frequently mentioned, I must say, years and years later). As an artist, and one who taught Queen Charlotte and her daughters, I would think she earned money more by painting and giving lessons than being a governess. But more about thoughts on her later…

Two things picked up from this video: the pronunciation of CHUTE and SANDYS. In my head Sandys, the early owners of The Vyne, were pronounced with two syllables: San-dis. Not so! Sands… of course. And Chute? I always thought of them as Shute, in fact it seems they would have called themselves Chewt!

This video prompted me to look for others. And there is a second wonderful one on The Vyne on YouTube (pity this is not a full-length video, but I’ll take what I can get); the poster is obviously interested in the Tudors and therefore this section is highlighted by the Sandys family and their ‘Vine’; some lovely images of the Chapel – but that is the point at which the snippet ends. If anyone has the entire video and wants to share, do let me know.

I see the National Trust is offering GROUNDED tourists FREE entry to their properties! What a wonderful opportunity at such a stressful time. One friend, in Russia, was routed out of the ash’s way — which added three hours to his trip: but at least he got home!

Another, short, bit of interest to tales attached to The Vyne: I was flipping through volume two of Memoirs of a Highland Lady. Elizabeth at the end talks of giving birth to her first child, daughter Janey (named after her sister). Don’t I see something QUITE of interest as I leaf through:

“I daresay it was very good for me to try to wait upon myself, however as Mr Workman of Basingstoke, who was to attend me, was not easy about me, as he told Jane, a proper monthly nurse was sent for to town…”

Now as Elizabeth writes that he was “to attend her,” then she must mean him when she speaks of “The clever little strange Doctor” who “brought us both thro’.”

Why does this excite me? Why does this man, with no first name and who doesn’t even rate a mention in the index, leap from the page? (This index is NOT half as good as it could/should be, and this the “full” edition of the Memoirs! Lady Strachey’s edition cuts out ALL mention of him, by the way.) 

Why? Because surely the man is none other than Thomas Workman, who attended Caroline Wiggett (adopted daughter of the Chutes), and married her in September 1837! So here is a book, long in my possession, about a “Highland Lady” and she’s known TWO people in the Smith circle! Sometimes the world indeed IS a small one.

By the way, by excluding mentions of Mr Workman, Lady Strachey, as editor, also edited out that Elizabeth was in labor from Saturday the last day of June (when she “took ill”, as everyone called labor at the time) until Janey was born on 3 July. Poor woman! No wonder Elizabeth wrote of Workman saving the lives of mother and child even after her own sister seemed to give up hope of them coming through okay.

Short note: Internet Archive has Lady’s Strachey’s 1911 edition, which included several family portraits — including one of Elizabeth’s sister JANE (opposite page 318). Such an evocative portrait! (They also have the 3rd impression of the 1898 edition.)

So now I’ve more digging to do, though I would be surprised if Elizabeth’s Mr Workman and Caroline’s are two different people.

Reading about him brought me back to Caroline’s Recollections – and her wonderful memories of the Smiths, Goslings, Colebrookes and Chutes. Her thoughts on her own life are precious indeed — but I say that about all the tidbits I find about this circle of people. Caroline’s portrait (above) — done by Eliza Chute! — was snatched from the NT video (which is why it’s none too clear).

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Elations and Disappointments

April 18, 2010 at 11:21 am (a day in the life, books, news, people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Oh, it has been a LONG week — where to start, where to start…

First, a long-standing thank you to Dr. John Chandler, of Hobnob Press. He kindly forwarded a back issue of the truly interesting journal, now-defunct, The Hatcher Review, which published a thorough article on artist Margaret Carpenter. The author, Richard J. Smith, has an abiding interest in Carpenter — I am told he composed her entry for DNB! More on this fascinating subject later, when I’ve taken the time to really peruse the piece.

Belated thanks are also due to Michele, at the Lewes Library (Sussex), for her help in obtaining pages from Charlotte Brookes’ little book, Christie of Glyndebourne: Being Recollections of Her Family. Yes, I finally tracked down ONE copy of this elusive title! Charlotte was the daughter of Langham Christie and Elizabeth Gosling (Mary’s sister and brother-in-law). It was this book’s description of the painting of Mary and Elizabeth, done by Beechey, which at the time of publication (1920) still hung at Suttons, that prompted me to go on a search for the picture — and why I discovered that portrait at the Huntington Gallery in West Virginia.

But: so far, the “gut reaction” is batting ZERO, while the evidence against is mounting. As mentioned in the post below, The Huntington identifies the work as “Ann and Augusta Coventry”. You try doing a search for “coventry”…

(BTW: just noticed: below the portrait, the Huntington ID’s the work as of the “18th century” – surely not!)

UVM’s Hope Greenberg, who gave an insightful talk on Costume in Austen’s Era for JASNA-Vermont in June 2009, dashed away some of my early hopes. When I asked for a brief reaction — 1808 or 1817? — to the Beechey work, her gut reaction was for 1808, which is when Beechey’s sitters’ book gives a listing for an anonymous Coventry daughter or daughters. Hope did a great job in enumerating the little fashion changes of the period (thanks, Hope), but it’s hard to give up my own “hope” for a different pair of sitters in this work.

Then, the more I dug, the more I experienced “elation” ending in “disappointment”. I contacted the Huntington (sending my email addressed to the curator  inadvertently to the administrative assistant I had earlier thought to contact – damn!), and am waiting to hear more about their work.

Then I searched and searched. Rather than contact Sotheby’s (WHO does one contact about a sale that took place in 1958??!), I got in mind to find the auction results.

The citation from the journal Art and Auctions for 1958 was kindly supplied by the Art Reference Librarian at Amherst College. (Gosh, I envy their collection — all relevant texts are ALWAYS in their library; but at four or so hours south, I’ve never been able to visit them, or UMass Amherst). This citation sent me in search of the actual catalogue of the sale. My mistake was in thinking that in 1958 these would include a photograph of EVERY work up for sale. Silly me… But this mistake wasn’t realized until after I contacted the National Gallery of Art, when their reference librarian told me catalogues were “all text, no illustrations”. Still, his kindness in forwarding a xerox of the relevant pages revealed what I had never EVER thought of: The Sotheby’s sale of 19 February 1958 had OTHER family portraits up on the block!

Among the works was one “Emma Smith” — a portrait of Joshua Smith of Stoke Park, Wiltshire. Now this could be Joshua’s daughter Emma = known to the Smith of Suttons siblings as “Aunt Emma”; or, this could be my Emma Austen-Leigh! Impossible to know, especially without seeing the portrait.

It is similar in size to one that also sold in this sale, that one ID’ed as a Gainsborough; so it is possible Joshua’s daughter or grand-daughter copied this work, though changed the color of his clothing. Or, if done from life – Joshua’s age could determine the artist; or perhaps it is signed! Let’s face it, there’s just no way of knowing… BTW, the work sold to “Wiggins” for £5.

The Gainsborough, with its description as “half-length, in blue coat and red doublet in a landscape setting”, started off another “elation” period that ended in “disappointment”: Went up to UVM’s library and looked through EVERY book on Gainsborough, including the so-called catalogue raisonné Waterhouse did in the 1950s (black and white photos! boo…). I could find no trace of “Smith” other than a “John Smith, a draper” mentioned in the text, but NOT reproduced. (Oh, for more NEW books, like the catalogue of Reynolds’ works!) And I thought grandpa Smith would be easy to find, given his famous portraitist. HA!

In the same sale (put up by Sir Thomas Spencer-Smith), was a portrait by Beechey of Thomas Smith of Fonthill and Bersted Lodge (Bognor). And don’t I find that his wife, Susan Mackworth-Praed, was also painted by Beechey, in what must have been a pair of portraits: they both measure 50×40 inches. Hers was up for sale, at Christie’s, in 1901. Thomas Smith was brother to Sir Drummond Smith of Tring Park and Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, and therefore a great uncle to my Emma.

To get back to Mary and Elizabeth Gosling —

I give the full catalogue description of Mary and Elizabeth’s portrait: “three-quarter lengths, seated by a piano in white satin dresses with a blue sash and flowers, signed with initials and dated 1817.” Its size, 49×39 inches. It sold to “Leger” for £280 (outdistancing the Gainsborough, which sold to “Buckley” for £35).

Charlotte Brookes says of this picture: “My mother {Elizabeth Gosling Christie} was a good pianist, and her master, the great Cramer, dedicated a piece of music to her. This she is holding in her hand in the picture of herself and her sister Mary, afterwards Lady Smith, painted by Sir William Beechey and now at Suttons. With regard to this picture Charles lost both his parents when a child, and his good aunt… thought that he ought not to see too much of his mother, for the dresses are cut rather low, so she had frills painted in which still remain, though Charles in later years often talked of having them removed.” [This comment about “seeing too much” brings SUCH a smile to my face!]

You see why I wonder about the Huntington piece — blue sash I can see (especially since, while at UVM yesterday, I looked up the original Early Music issue and could see “The Sisters” in the flesh!); but the reference to “flowers” puzzles me. Will they be in hands? in a vase on the piano? in the hair, or tucked in a ribbon tie or bosom?? So a small strike against “The Sisters” being Mary and Elizabeth — again.

BUT: The Brookes book told a tale never before realized: Langham Christie’s grandmother Elizabeth Lawton (mother to Elizabeth Langham) was the sister of Lord Northampton’s wife Jane Lawton — Jane, Lady Northampton would have been Maria Smith’s mother-in-law, and therefore the grandmother of Spencer, Lord Compton (later the 2nd Marquess Northampton; Emma’s cousin, and brother to Lady Elizabeth Dickins). NO WONDER the Smiths, in letter and diary, mention Mrs Christie and her sons so often and so early! They were “family”!!

So that sent me on a hunt for information on Langham Christie. And that hunt brought me back to a source I found who knows how long ago: that Langham wrote several letters to a Mr John Waldie, which are to be found at UCLA. But who was John Waldie?? Very little digging told me that he was “somebody” by virtue of his massive diary-keeping. His diaries have ended up (for the most part; there are some missing volumes) at UCLA. Prof. Emeritus Frederick Burwick has made available online his typed entries of John Waldie’s theater-going comments from these diaries. There are all the names that Emma mentions in her diaries during the 1810s, and names Mary mentions in her diaries of the 1820s! Waldie even enabled me to correct the spelling of one singer, Begrez — to be precise, Pierre-Ignace Begrez (of Namur), a tenor — whose name I usually guessed, depending on Emma’s writing, as Begrey or Beyrey.

There in Waldie are the Knyvetts (Waldie having some particular comments about William Knyvett…; look them up for yourself!); and there, also, is a certain Miss Sharp — who, I think, has an Austen connection. But I will leave that for a later post all its own. As to John Waldie — Langham Christie accompanies him on at least TWO Continental tours! Nice to know what Langham was up to in those years before his marriage.

So much to do, so little time, so little enthusiasm for anything else.

If Austen’s Emma is a “detective novel” (which P.D. James certainly made a great case for in her JAS talk some years ago), then research is the greatest detective opportunity ever. You pluck at clues, go down blind alleys, get hit over the head with good news — and bad. And in the end amass all intelligence into a coherent whole, that, if not wholly the truth (can we ever really know a person?), then at least approximates the truth from the evidence at hand.

One parting thought: a nice article on the Northamptons and their homes, Compton Wynyates and Castle Ashby, is to be found in the journal The Connoisseur, 1915 (the article begins page 156). Readers of my Persuasions On-line article will appreciate the (albeit brief) description of the interior of Castle Ashby, with its Great Hall and Staircase. Watch for the author’s wonderfully effusive comments, which in a split second turn a bit “backhanded”… BTW, this little jewel of a magazine has such useful things as “Notes & Queries” — where people sent in pictures of portraits and asked readers for identifications! And there are sections on book reviews, and genealogy, never mind antiques and estates. I must find additional copies and put up some links to the issues (bound as several issues in one file).

Must make mention that I found two new portraits — of Charles, 1st Marquess Northampton and his marchioness Maria, Lady Northampton — hers done by her sister, MRS CHUTE! (See the Portraits page.)

A coda: looking for the link to Persuasions On-line I see they’ve posted a new “special” edition — this one is papers not from JASNA but from the New Directions in Austen Studies (for which I proposed a paper on Misters Darcy and Collins). Alice Villaseñor, who was working on the Austen-Leigh papers for references to Mrs Hubback, has her work appearing here: Fanny Caroline Lefroy: A Feminist Critic in the Austen Family. Congratulations, Alice! Can’t wait to read it.

Alice and I met in Winchester (at HRO; her name, though, forwarded to me by JASNA’s Kerri Spennicchia). There are a couple other interesting articles; so I must take a closer look at this journal. Wish JASNA gave an option to download the entire issue as one PDF. Would make it so much easier for those of us getting wireless via public means.

As I observed earlier: So little time… Better get myself a Megabucks lottery ticket, then I would “own” all the time in the world, and could “work” every minute of every day.

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The Lady’s Magazine, or Entertaining Companion

April 14, 2010 at 10:42 am (books) (, , , )

Primary materials are the life-blood of research. And journals such as The Lady’s Magazine were quite possibly read by the likes of the Smiths and Goslings. Never mind they give us today a peek into the world as seen two hundred years ago. Gentleman’s Magazine is well known to everyone – if for nothing else, its births, deaths and marriages. So now for the Ladies!

Issues are at books.google; index at the end of each; the magazine ran 1770-1837 (a complete run is on microfilm from Adam Matthew Publications (the same firm that microfilmed Mary Lady Smith’s diaries!). Note that NONE have been checked for continuity of pages… (a typical problem with books.google scans).

The Original Series, 1770-1818 (vols 1-49):

January-December 1771

January-December 1775

January-December 1778
January-December 1779

January-December 1781

January-December 1784

January-December 1786
January-December 1787

January-December 1789

January-December 1790
January-December 1791

January-December 1794

January-December 1796
January-December 1797

January-December 1802

January-December 1810

The New Series, 1820-1829 (vols. 1-10):

January-December 1829

The Improved Series, 1830-1832 (vols. 1-5):

January-December 1830

A merger with the Lady’s Monthly Museum had already occurred in 1928.  Yet, after the further merger in 1832 with La Belle Assemblée (and, in 1838, The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic), even though these journals continued to be printed at separate locations and appear under their own title for some time, their contents were identical. 

Lady’s Monthly Museum:

January-December 1834
January-December 1835
January-December 1836
January-December 1837

different: Elegant Extracts – Poetry & Prose (1797)

La Belle Assemblée (1806-1868) (also called Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine)
This magazine is exceptionally difficult to find within books.google: it may be the accent in Assemblée; there are issues out there, but not easily “findable” with its title!

February-July 1806; August-December 1806
*new find!*
January-June 1807; July-December 1807 (same issue at Internet Archive)

January-June 1809; July-December 1809
January-June 1810 (alternative link to issue ); July-December 1810
January 1811 (supplemental); January-June 1811; July-December 1811
January-June 1812; July-December 1812

July-December 1814 *new find!*

January-June; July-December 1818

New Series:

January-June 1820

January-June 1823 *new find!*

July-December 1830

January-June 1832
January-June 1833; July-December 1833
January-June 1834; July-December 1834
July-December 1835
July-December 1836 *new find!*

January-June 1837

January-June 1850

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I’ve Found My Girl!?!

April 13, 2010 at 3:03 am (a day in the life, books, fashion, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

Is this the face of MARY GOSLING, as she appeared in 1817???

The “missing” portrait, painted by Sir William Beechey evidently in the spring and summer of 1817, turned up on the cover of the journal Early Music in 1985. In the citation it is called “The Sisters” and information is given that it is in the collection of the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia. In their own brief description of the work, they name the sitters Ann and Augusta Coventry. But, for several reasons, I question this attribution.

The Beechey book does list payment by a Mr Coventry for his daughter or daughters. Mr Coventry’s first name is never mentioned, though (assuming it the same man!) once his initial, “J.”, is used. On March 16, 1808 is the first entry, which reads: “Of Mr. Coventry (as half), for a half length containing two portraits of his daughters.” Then, on June 29: “Of Mr. Coventry (as last half), for Miss Coventry’s portraits.”

Now there can be a case made for a misprint: Miss Coventry’s being in reality Miss Coventrys’ — but what if the first entry contains the misprint and there’s some one picture with two portraits of the same sitter, only one Miss Coventry?! That is my pet theory — and I’m sticking to it! Nevertheless, where are the names Ann and Augusta from?

To continue on with Mary and Elizabeth, however…

The Beechey book lists payment made for Mary and Elizabeth in 1817: on April 11th (first half payment) and August 8th. Mary, therefore, would be only 17 and Elizabeth, born in April 1798, just past her 19th birthday.

The online description of Beechey’s “Master Gosling” (a toddler portrait of the Gosling’s eldest son, William Ellis) quoted the description of the girls’ portrait as “Mary and Elizabeth Gosling sitting at a box piano”. The claim is that it was sold, at Sotheby’s, in 1958 (lot 54; sale of February 19, 1958 in London).

Having just received (thank yous will appear shortly!) a description of this work, as it was when hanging at Suttons in 1920, I have two further items of evidence to put forward. One, that Elizabeth holds a copy of music (as indeed is the case here, when you view the entire portrait); and two, that “frills” were painted on the low-neckline of Mary’s dress by Elizabeth (Gosling) Christie when Mary’s son Charles was young — and the “frills” remained, though Charles later spoke of having them removed. So here is a portrait, of two girls at a box piano; there is sheet music in the older girl’s hand; and there ARE frills on the younger girl’s neckline!!!

I’ve some additional digging to do (by contacting Sotheby’s and/or the Huntington {Jan2012 note:  new HMOA link, which seems to have removed the image of The Sisters}) — but that will come in future days and right now — right NOW! — I can’t sleep for having the thought that I’VE FOUND MY GIRL!!!

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