Happy Birthday, Charles!

May 31, 2010 at 10:24 am (a day in the life, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

Today, May 31 — Memorial Day in the US — marks the 210th birthday of Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s brother and Mary’s husband. (Maybe I shall start calling them “birtharies” = birthdays/anniversaries.)

Charles was the second child, and first son, of Charles and Augusta Smith. His elder sister, Augusta, had been born the previous February (1799).

It might be interesting to note, in the Woodford diary (see previous post), that Augusta senior makes mention of the imminent birth of Little Augusta:

“[P]ossessed of each other’s love & confidence, founded on the most perfect esteem & a similarity of character & temper, our days glide on in uninterrupted harmony, & we have no anxiety for the future. Such a state of perfect happiness seems too much for my lot in this World; I cannot expect it to last: I pray God that I may not be spoiled by this prosperity, & that I may bear a reverse with resignation & patience. Now, love & fortune smile upon me, & I find myself near becoming a Mother, an event which will give pleasure to many of those nearly connected with me.”

Augusta had three sisters; only two of those three married; only one of would have children (Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton would produce two surviving children, son Spencer and daughter Elizabeth Compton). Augusta and Charles senior would produce nine children, all of whom lived to adulthood, if not exceptionally far into that adulthood. Charles Joshua, for instance, died a few months shy of his 31st birthday; Augusta died only aged 37.

But it is difficult not to be curious about Augusta, Mamma Smith’s, comment about “becoming a Mother, an event which will give pleasure to many of those nearly connected with me.” This could, of course, connect to grandparents — who always seem to relish the advent of grandchildren. At this point (1798) both Augusta’s mother, Sarah Smith (née Gilbert) and mother-in-law Judith Smith (née Lefevre) were alive. [In fact, Judith lived until 1808; Sarah two years longer, until 1810). Augusta’s father, Joshua Smith, lived a widower until 1819. From letters, the maternal Smiths took great delight in their toddling grandchildren Augusta and Charles. In 1804, Grandmamma Sarah writes that she has charge of “our little Squire“:

“he is so fond of going in the Cabriole, & indeed he is so good there is no denying him; Augusta has given him up to me & I have undertaken to cure him of Whining & fretting, & I can assure you we have not once in her absence had a Crying fit with us, some times a little naughty at Lessons: but do not suppose I flatter myself with the continuance of his good humour when they return; he has not had his Sisters to contend with. I expect them on Sunday or Monday.”

By then, Emma (1801) and Fanny (1803) had been born, so the “little Squire” already had half his quota of sisters!

And yet, the person most “nearly connected” with Augusta would of course be her own husband. Charles Smith had lost his first wife, Susanna Devall, at a very young age. Her monument inscription in the little church at Tawney tells that she “bore a long and painful illness, with the most Pious Submission to the will of God”. She died 26 October 1796, “in the 27th Year of her Age.” I have never found an indication that she and Charles, though married in 1791, had had any children.

The Devalls, however, remained a fixture in the lives of the Smiths of Suttons – Susanna’s sister Elizabeth married Charles Scrase Dickins (or Dickens); her son Charles would marry Lady Elizabeth Compton. A single remaining-single Miss Devall haunts the diaries of Emma, though there is only one mention of her brother (John).

Charles senior was an old father – 42 years old when his first child (little Augusta) was born, compared to his wife being just past her 27th birthday. Papa Charles, living only until 1814, is a somewhat shadowy figure, especially since Emma’s diaries do not begin until the year following, 1815. There exists, however, this delightful though short missive to little Augusta, dated c1807:

“My dear Augusta

      As you wrote me so pretty a French letter [note! Augusta was only about 7 or 8 years old!] I will not wait until I see you to let you know how much I was pleased with it… my little Maid is good and I shall find your Mamma and all of you quite well tomorrow afternoon — I am

                                                                    Y:r affectionate Father
Charles Smith

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BBC discovers Anne Lister

May 28, 2010 at 8:46 am (news, people) (, , , , )

Although the diaries of Yorkshirewoman Anne Lister, of Shibden Hall, have been in print for decades, the BBC has a new special, airing this weekend on BBC Two.

The press calls the series “Bold and Passionate” – and it undoubtedly centers on her lesbian affairs, for which the diaries — as published — are known. Pity no one yet has seen fit to give Anne’s audience a broader view of her highly interesting life.

Maxine Peake, stars. The Secret Diary of Miss Anne Lister, airing in two parts, starts Monday. Let’s hope some fan(s) post it to YouTube for those of us without access to the BBC.

some links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00snjmd

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/proginfo/tv/2010/wk22/feature_annelister.shtml

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/bradford/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8388000/8388858.stm – this one features a portrait of the real Anne.

http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/leisure/museums-galleries/shibden-hall/index.html – one of the sites on Anne’s home, Shibden Hall.

http://www.historytoherstory.org.uk/index.php?targetid=5 – From History to Her Story, the best (and the original) web content on Anne, the diaries, the transcriptions and the resultant books. Features Helena Whitbread’s original work into deciphering the diaries.

By the way, Anne met the Ladies of Llangollen (that association was how I found Anne’s diaries, actually); I’ve posted her comments about them. Be sure to click on the actual diary entries and the letter excerpt concerning Anne’s thoughts on meeting with Sarah Ponsonby (Eleanor was unwell).

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The Year of the French, 1798

May 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm (a day in the life, books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have spent the last three days in England 1798 — literally the Year of the French, due to all the rumors flying around about imminent invasion.

The “tour” has been courtesy of Illinois resident Mark Woodford, whose company website, Networked Robotics, is worth a look. Mark’s father recently bequeathed him a diary which had passed the last ten to fifteen years in Charles Woodford’s household as “1798 Diary of a High-Born Lady”. The high-born lady turns out to be none other than AUGUSTA SMITH (née Smith), Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother; and 1798, the year of her courtship and marriage to Charles Smith of Suttons. A true find, indeed. And I owe Mark more than one heartfelt “thank you” — firstly, for contacting me after he identified Augusta as the diarist; and, secondly, for loaning me the diary in order for a transcription to be taken.

Augusta arrived last Thursday, and we’ve spent hours together ever since.

How did the diary come to be among the Woodford possessions? With the death of Charles Woodford, it may be impossible to narrow down: a second-hand antiquarian bookshop? Christie’s or Sotheby’s? Or…?? Where it came from would be a mystery well-solved, yet it points up what I’ve long suspected: There are individual diaries out there (potentially of MANY family members), on random shelves, merely described by their dates of composition because their diarists never ascribed names to their scribblings. (Only in ONE diary — belonging to Charles Joshua Smith — have I encountered an owner’s inscription; although, of course, Mary Gosling penned her name on the “title page” of her earliest travel diary, dated 1814. That simple act of possession unravelled this entire historical puzzle.)

May this diary of Augusta’s be the first of many such “discoverings”!

Although I have now completed a preliminary transcription (proofing to come!), a year in someone’s life can be overwhelming to describe in a few paragraphs, never mind a few words. And a few words will right now have to suffice.

The year begins with young Augusta at home, at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire — home of Joshua and Sarah (née Gilbert) Smith. Her father was a Member of Parliament (for Devizes); her soon-to-be fiancé also sits in the House of Commons. Between the two men as sources for political bulletins, Augusta punctuates her diary with news of Buonaparte, French troop movements, taxation laws, and Nelson Naval Victories. One interesting item: she writes of visiting Mrs Davison — this would be Harriot Davison, née Gosling: sister to William Gosling (father to my diarist Mary Gosling) and wife of Nelson’s confidant, Alexander Davison of Swarland.

Mrs Davison is a shadowy figure; she had already died by the time Mary’s diaries begin (1829). Charles, whose diaries begin the year he and Mary married (1826), mentions her just once: when they hear of her death (28 October 1826).

From Augusta Smith’s entry on January 2nd — where she makes notation of a rumor: that the French were building a RAFT (700 feet long by 350 feet wide) “for an Invasion on England” (on the opposite page, written down who-knows-when, is the bold negation: “N.B. this report proved false.”) — to her comments surrounding news of Nelson’s Nile Victory towards the end of the year, we now get a spine-chilling glimpse at how unsettled life for the English living near the coast could be.

More later!

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Mrs Adams Hears Handel

May 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm (entertainment) (, , , , , )

In putting finishing touches on a talk that links correspondence of Abigail Adams and Jane Austen, I came across this paragraph that now means so much more than it would have a year or so ago, before investigating the lives of the Knyvett family musicians: Abigail Adams attended the 1785 Handel celebrations at Westminster Abbey.

In 1784, the celebrations had as one of its chief singers Charles Knyvett – the musician who young Emma Smith mentions in her diary decades later (10/21/1820):

Mamma Augusta & I left the Vine to go to Heckfield. We found only Mr & Mrs Shaw Lefevre & Mr & Mrs C. Lefevre there – Old Mr Knyvett was asked to meet us, but did not come

In a letter dated 2 Sept 1785, Mrs Adams writes:

“The most powerful effect of music I every experienced, was at Westminster Abbey. The place itself is well calculated to excite solemnity, not only from its ancient and venerable appearance, but from the dignified dust, marble and monuments which it contains. Last year it was filled up with seats, and an organ loft sufficiently large to contain six hundred musicians, which were collected from this and other countries. This year the music was repeated. It is called the celebration of Handel’s music; the sums collected are deposited, and the income is appropriated to the support of decayed musicians. [I just love her word choice here: decayed…] There were five days set apart for the different performances. I was at the piece called the Messiah, and though a guinea a ticket, I am sure I never spent one with more satisfaction. It is impossible to describe to you the solemnity and dignity of the scene…. I was one continued shudder from the beginning to the end of the performance. Nine thousand pounds were collected, by which you may judge of the rage that prevailed for the entertainment.”

And Charles Knvyett? He would be remembered forever and always as “one of the chief singers”. But: Did he also appear in 1785? I’ll have to revisit notes taken for my Regency World article, dig a bit deeper — and keep my fingers crossed.

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An Adventure Begins

May 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm (research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

As a change of pace, keeping in mind that it soon will be three years since I began to research this project in earnest (and this blog chalks up its second anniversary), I feel like reminiscing about my two-month research stay in Hampshire — for guess who kept diaries!

So, whenever you see my avatar (at right), the accompanying post will tell some tale of those heady days when I was living abroad, jobless but far from aimless. (My mother sees this period as one l-o-n-g vacation which drained my bank account, but that is an untruth: being a year-plus out of work did all the draining; but that is a tale best left UNtold. Who knew economic catastrophe was lurking around the next corner.)

When you work nineteen years at the same place, with little to show for your years there beyond having grown older, you come to a point when things just have to change. Never mind that two years before (in Dec 2004/Jan 2005) I had been ill with two bouts of stomach flu. You don’t eat when you have the stomach flu; you grow weak, lose weight. At one point I thought of myself as Hansel (brother to Gretel): my arm like a thin twig he might allow the old Witch to fondle in order for her to judge whether he had fattened up enough (No–).

Not feeling well for MONTHS just brought about an epiphany (call it a mid-life crisis if you like): What was I doing with my life!?

But all this was a good year in the future. In 2005 the concern was getting back my health, and enjoying three weeks in the UK with my father. We rented a narrowboat! For two of those weeks we were a household afloat. Our trip began in Shropshire, ventured across North Wales to end at wonderful little Llangollen; back to Whitchurch (Salops) and north towards Chester — where we stayed a couple days rather than continue on to Ellesmere Port. That trip alone could be the subject of a most interesting blog!

But one thing that I came away with was a devotion to the so-called LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN: Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. I began a website about them a year after our return — but never really finished building it. Still, there are some interesting tidbits there for those interested in learning more about these women whom I believe were the greatest of friends (nothing more), and who spent their lives living as they pleased: reading, teaching themselves languages, visiting and being visited by friends. They took pleasure in their home, and in each other’s company. Pleasing oneself is how one’s life should be spent…, don’t you think?

It was while searching for first-hand information on the Ladies, that I stumbled upon MARY GOSLING. She had visited Llangollen, visited the Ladies, in 1821. Her diary entry on her meeting with Sarah and Eleanor did not contain much new information, and was initially a great disappointment. However, as time went by, I began to wonder: WHO was Mary Gosling?? — this “anonymous” person whose diary had started as an aide memoir of her travels, but which had ended up collecting dust on a shelf at Duke University.

That wondering changed my life. Stay tuned to find out how and why.

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Dobro Prozhalovat!

May 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm (a day in the life, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Were those the words that Emma read when she first received a letter from brother Charles postmarked: ST PETERSBURG??

The year is 1820. Emma designates this letter No. 19 and notes its receipt on 21 November.

Charles’ last (No. 18), received on the 1st, had been headed “Stockholm” — what could have induced him to spend the winter months in such cold countries?!?

Unless the letters are found, we may never know…

It is interesting, after Drummond’s death (1832) the sisters collected together his letters. I have a copy of just one such collection. Instead of actual letters, however, someone collected all his correspondence to his sisters and rewrote everything. I suspect the pen to have been wielded by Fanny (see the post below), yet without more handwriting samples I cannot be sure. It is possible that several of these “letterbooks” existed.

Why do I wonder about that? There are several letters missing — inevitably those written by Drummond to Fanny (his “little Mother”) [for an article devoted to Fanny Smith Seymour, see the author, on the menu at right]. — as well, his travel diary from 1830 remains unfinished. YET: in both cases the requisite number of blank pages remain. That could mean several things: Fanny wasn’t coming across quickly with her letters and the room needed was guessed at; the writer got tired of the trip entries (oh! such a loss!!) and moved on — or, there was a “master copy” from which this letterbook was being written and the writer felt at ease to skip around, skipping the required number of pages.

My point is: These people kept letters — we know that;. And after the death of a relative these letters (and diaries) became precious relics to be read and reread.

I was thinking about all this today because of one of my favorite phrases in all the letters I’ve transcribed. The year is 1822. It is September, and Emma is writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, of Stratford; only sister to Charles Smith, Sr.). Mamma has taken her eldest five children abroad. They had departed from England in June. Emma’s letter originates in Geneva and she amusingly lays out what must come to Aunt herself as a bit of a surprise: they now plan to cross into Italy:

“…you can hardly imagine my dear Aunty that we could be so near to Rome without visiting it, which Charles wishes, to the full as much as we do & Mamma for our sakes has kindly consented to so do, & in order to accomplish it we must spend the winter months there”

I just LOVE the idea that they MUST spend the winter months there; no short visit of a few days! Plus there is just something endearing about the phrase that Mamma “has kindly consented”.

Emma continues:

“now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts… I really think you would be almost tempted to go there; you know Mamma is not a very uncertain person & she wishes me to tell you she intends being at home during next June… Mamma wishes you not to tell this to the poor children unless you think that by very gentle degrees & hints, it would be adviseable to let them know we might spend the winter abroad…”

Note the use of the “might” here, as contrasted to the word “must” only a few sentences before!

There are a couple letters extant, from young Charlotte — one of the “children” left at home: Spencer, Charlotte, Drummond, and Maria — in which she tears your heart out as she writes of missing her mother, missing her eldest brother, her four eldest sisters. When the party returns the following June, Emma hardly recognizes young Spencer — he had grown so tall!

So, while it is thrilling to think of those gababouts, and the places they visited, thought must also be spared to those left behind…

But, to turn back to Charles. Imagine going abroad — and very lengthy trips! — twice in as many years. The amazing thing is how far north and east he got during this first trip, 1820-21. I’ve made a list of letters, and either Emma got tired of noting them — or I did! I see notations about the receipt of 43 letters, the last (in August 1821) from Paris. Obviously, therefore, there should have followed a few more, even if he travelled quickly towards the Channel.

Emma begins well: letters reach her from Brussels and The Hague. Then, without spending any evident time in that bastion of European travel (France), Charles is next in Frankfurt. He works his way — quickly — through Saxe-Gotha, Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg. At some point, while in Hamburg, he dispatches gifts — for Emma notes their receipt on 26 November.

Charles then moves through Copenhagen and is next in Gothenburg and Stockholm — his first letter received on 25 September, but his last on 1 November. By that time he is reaching St. Petersburgh, as Emma calls it. She is still receiving post from there in mid-January 1821! By February he has travelled on to Warsaw. At the end of  February, Emma and the family receive more gifts: these posted from Vienna. Oh! how I envy Charles visiting pre-Ringstrasse Vienna! He is still there (letter received) at the end of May; but he has moved into Italy — lovely Venice — come June. By August Emma is receiving mail from Paris.

Charles had left the family on 3 June, 1820 and returned to them on 15 August 1821 — when he hands out more gifts. Imagine the things he might have bought… and then imagine me wondering where those items might be today.

To finish my thought about the next trip: the family left 24 June 1822 – Emma keeps up her diary only until the 28th: the family are just arrived at Ghent. And then the rest of her diary for the year is BLANK! 1823’s diary begins upon their return: 21 July 1823.

So lucky Charles sees the north for more than a year, then travels south – for this time they work through Switzerland and into Italy — staying the winter with the Comptons (Spencer and his wife Margaret), as we’ve seen from Emma’s letter to Aunt.

“You know  Mamma is not a very uncertain person…” –No, indeed! No wonder her children loved her so.

What made me post on such a subject? Firstly, the generous offer of Mark in Illinois, who is the owner of young Augusta’s diary for the year 1798, the year she married Charles, Sr. This one sentence is more telling of the kind of person Mamma became than any I have ever run across.

The second is the hope that if a single diary can turn up why not a group of letters?? The Smiths, collectively — for it’s possible that Emma noted only those letters addressed specifically to her — would surely have held on to such a precious bundle as Charles’ letters from Abroad. Emma herself intimates that her diary, so tiresome to keep while away from home, was superseded by letters, sent to her siblings, to her aunts — especially “Aunt”. So this may be seen as a plea: Anyone owning even ONE letter with a bunch of fancy postmarks, addressed to No. 6 Portland Place or Suttons in Essex, drop me a line!

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Maria — Found!

May 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

Sometimes LUCK is finally with you.

Using some different search engines, I hit paydirt with BING: a 2009 sale at Bonhams – of this precious miniature of Maria, Lady Culme-Seymour. It originally sold out of the family in 1972, via Sotheby’s. I’d LOVE to know what other items were sold then…

Maria Smith was Emma’s youngest sister. She married, in 1844, Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour, bart., the eldest brother — and a fellow clergyman — of Fanny’s husband, Richard Seymour. These two Seymours were also brothers of Spencer’s wife Frances! And, by the way, in 1845, Charlotte’s widower Arthur Currie married Dora Chester — Dora was another Seymour sister. So this family was popular with the Smiths of Suttons!

This miniature, painted by Sir William Charles Ross, RA, can be seen in a wider-angle closeup on this blog, or view the full portrait at Bonhams (their background info is exceptionally interesting). If painted around the same time as her mother-in-law (Lady Seymour, the former Jane Hawker), then this could date to c1846 — and Maria would be about 32 years old.

Caroline Wiggett Workman, adopted daughter of William and Eliza Chute, describes young Maria as “rather spoilt”, yet Mamma Smith recognizes that little Maria had much sorrow in the early years of her life: her father died before she was born; she lost a sister-in-law, two brothers, and a most-beloved aunt by the time she was 18. Some of Maria’s letters have ended up in private collections, perhaps these first hit the market about the time this miniature first sold, at the Sotheby’s sale of 27 March 1972.

This latest sale took place in November 2009 – and little Maria sold for £2,400.

The “smith nose” looks quite evident here (first noticed on a silhouette of brother Drummond); compare this sibling portrait with that of Emma drawn by Mrs Carpenter (attributed) at the Hampshire Record Office.

Ain’t she lovely!!

By the way: One private collector has sent me images of relevant letters in his collection, and there is one Maria letter dating to this period. I include her closing signature:

Note that she signs herself Maria L. Seymour — Maria Louisa Seymour, rather than including the Culme; yet if you don’t look for Culme Seymour, you wouldn’t find this miniature in an internet search! From various sources, including some original letters, I have begun a page of SIGNATURES (see the menu at the right). A neat little collection, don’t you think?

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