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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