So much to do…

June 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm (news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The two days of a “weekend” just go so quickly. No wonder I never get anything “done”! I was up past 3 a.m. last night, working (don’t sleep well these days anyway…), and now NOON Sunday approaches

I’m still beavering away at Augusta’s 1798 diary, trying to get a fully readable and correct copy for Mark Woodford, along with some notes on who were many of the people. JASNA News will run a little story about Mark and his father Charles Woodford and the “finding” of Augusta when their next issue comes out in August. That will be nice – and a well-named month, huh?! Wish I could sit down and compare Augusta and Eliza Chute’s 1798s! But that means contacting the Hampshire Record Office, for I never completely transcribed Eliza’s diary, just looked for the periods during which she was in London — and meeting the Goslings (Eliza was particular friends with Eliza Gosling, Mary’s young mother). Actually, I was thinking of contacting HRO to see about Microfilming Eliza’s early diaries (as a start; though her diaries are less numerous than Emma’s!), when Mark contacted me with his diary.

Anyway, in the last few days I’ve gone from being in 1798 to being back in the 1830s and looking up Mary’s diaries once again. Why? a wonderful email from Jim in Liverpool — who has an interest in the Alexander Davisons because of his research into Lord Nelson. Funnily enough what becomes big news in Augusta’s diary towards the end of the year?Nelson’s Nile Victory! See how it all eventually dovetails, one item into another, one person’s thoughts or actions into another’s.

So I’ve spent a couple days pulling out old papers, looking up old computer files, relooking for internet information (especially on books.google and Internet Archive). And imagine what I found while “not” looking for it: A Birth Announcement for FANNY SMITH! (28 October 1803) My, that fits so well: I was looking to augment my little booklet on Fanny, before turning it into something available to the public, with illustrations!

I also have begun working up a new blog page on ESTATES & HOMES, which will feature images and some useful links. And I think something on all the churches these people either attended or were buried in will soon be in the works.

But all takes TIME, and working just to pay bills does NOT help give me that time. I’ve a book chapter to write, Augusta to finish (she goes back to her owner in a couple weeks!), and a proposal for funding to work up for mid-July. Some funding would be nice as I could then get some copies of what I know to be out there…

But: to get back to Mary. I was struck again, as I pulled out comments on the Davisons, their children and in-laws (a certain General White — who seems to have no given name!; and Captain Samuel Cook, who in 1840 took the name of Widdrington). I had forgotten that twin Percy Davison married twice; and hadn’t noticed that Maria Smith (Emma’s youngest sister) comments on the vivacity and broken English of Rosalie, the foreign-born wife of twin William Davison. Rosalie’s descendents come into play with the items sold at auction in 2002 — and written about in the book Nelson’s Purse. The catalogue is online, so here’s a link to that. The BBC reported on the “sky high” prices fetched at this auction. Yow! For instance, look at Lot 65: a letter from Nelson to Davison; short, little more than a half-page (though of  interest to me because of Nelson’s solicitations for Davison’s current battle against gout!); it sold for over 11,000 pounds (estimated at £1,000-1,500).

I’d rather see the letters from Frances, Lady Nelson to Davison; is there a book out there yet? Though, even then, I can imagine that she writes about herself – so to have the letters Alexander wrote in return would be the real prize! For people always write about themselves when writing to others, don’t we?

But: to get back to Mary. I’ve noticed this before, though never mentioned it in this blog: people in 18th/19th century England used the words “introduce” and “met” in separate, specific ways. I had long wondered if Edward Ferrars was really “introduced” to the Dashwood ladies in Sense and sensibility; indeed this evidently would have been the case, for Austen uses that word in chapter III: “…the brother of Mrs John Dashwood, a gentlemanlike and pleasing young man who was introduced to their acquaintance soon after his sister’s establishment at Norland…” Augusta, in 1798, uses this same manner of speech as she meets for the first time her in-laws and others of Charles Smith’s relations; Mary does the same in the 1830s when discussing the new cousins, the husbands of Elizabeth and Dorothy Davison. I guess Fanny never introducing members of her immediate family to the step-mother and half-sisters of her husband just adds fodder to the self-centered mentally she shows earlier, over the funds her husband could grant these women after his father’s death. You would NEVER see the Smiths or Goslings not hosting never mind not even knowing the siblings of any of their in-laws (of course it helps when sometimes those very relatives are your OWN relatives…).

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Happy Father’s Day

June 20, 2010 at 11:10 am (news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , )

Mark Woodford’s father, Charles, owned Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary; he died in February, 2009.

My own father is exceptionally supportive of my writing, this research project, and all I have accomplished and hope to accomplish with it.

Here’s here a not-so-short, and perhaps convoluted, tribute to some fathers:

I mention Mark because, reading through a diary in which the writer (Augusta Smith) marries (Charles Smith, of Suttons), he has been digging to find information on so much more than I have had a mind to do. For instance, he has uncovered a very useful set of books on Parliament, MPs and their voting records — thereby fleshing out both Joshua Smith (Augusta’s father) and Charles Smith (Augusta’s husband).

[I will remind readers here that Augusta was a ‘Smith’ and married a ‘Smith’ = but they were not related.]

This set, in four volumes, is The House of Commons, 1790-1820, a History of Parliament by R.G. Thorne. Middlebury College’s library has it; but wouldn’t you know: ONE volume is OUT! I’ll keep an eye on the online catalogue and take a ride down when all four are back on the shelf…

Why, you may ask, wouldn’t I be totally interested and have unearthed this set of books myself? A couple reasons; first I love history — but not politics. True, the two are inexplicably linked in oh so many ways. Yet, it can often be entirely overlooked: Austen set her novels in a slightly apolitical world, didn’t she?

But, more importantly, my earliest diary — belonging to Mary Gosling — dates from 1814. She is en route to Oxford. Sure she visits her brothers, who are in residence there, but Oxford is also en fête: the “false peace” of 1814 has been declared and guess who seats herself on the thrones not long before occupied by the likes of the Emperor of Prussia and the Tsar of Russia: Mary!

So I’ve always seen 1814 as the kick-off — summer, 1814 even. Poor Charles Smith, Emma’s father, has already died, though just a few months before. Emma’s own earliest diary begins New Year’s Day 1815. Thus, my two girls really are “teenagers” by the time I begin to write (and think) about them. Actually, another point in Jane Austen’s favor: they are sentient beings with wills and characters all their own, and ready to get on with life.

This line of thinking has never meant, however, that research into the parent, even grandparent generation hasn’t taken place, or needs to take place. It just means it rather lives simmering, always on the back-burner.

Which is where the enthusiasm of someone like Mark comes in handy. For him, the girls are not the focus: AUGUSTA is a  focus point, her father, her grandfather.

Joshua long has been Emma‘s grandfather, the older man, still in good health, a widower who entertains his children and grandchildren when they stay with him at Erle Stoke over New Year’s 1816/1817. Emma’s 1817 diary opens with, “Grandpapa was in good health at the age of 84. Stoke.” written across the top of the page, between a note about “Winter” and a “pair of galashes” and her first entry describing the people who had come to Stoke: Lord and Lady Northampton (aunt and uncle), their daughter Lady Elizabeth, Mr and Mrs Chute and Caroline (aunt and uncle and their “adopted” daughter), and a certain Mrs Langham — who just has to be a relation of Langham Christie (the future husband to Mary’s sister Elizabeth).

I think I’ve mentioned this entry before, because it is so evocative of a time past, as well as the “monied crowd” of England during this period:

“The new year was ushered in by a band of music playing round the house… band of music came in the evening & we danced a little”.

Mark Woodford, having an early interest in the Antiguan roots of the paternal family of Sarah (Gilbert) Smith, has found some invaluable information on Nathaniel Gilbert; and, as mentioned, the political careers of Charles Smith and Joshua Smith. Prior to this, Nathaniel was a bit of a name — great-grandfather, only; now he takes on a bit more flesh.

Charles was always Papa, but he dies so early in Emma’s life that being required to think of him as LIVING and LOVING the mind begins to think of him as he once was, before illness took him from Augusta.

And Joshua Smith, still so vibrant — I treasure letters from the early years when he misses his Eliza (Mrs Chute) so terribly; but my overriding image has long been of the loving grandfather whose end is also too well known from the letters — for Augusta writes passionately of rushing to his bedside, although he is often incoherent and doesn’t even recognize her.

We all have fathers, grandfathers, great-great-great-great grandfathers, etc. etc. If only we all had the mementoes the Smiths (especially) and Goslings left behind.

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Another LOST Face

June 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm (news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , )

Surfing, I found mention of a Sotheby’s sale — 7 June 2006 — which had this miniature (by George Engleheart) of the 1st Marquess of Northampton:

[Note how much it looks like the miniature held in Philadelphia!]

The truly s-a-d part: the Sotheby’s catalogue has only THIS image although the reverse of this miniature is also of interest to this blog; as well, a SECOND miniature was sold as part of this lot (#304). [I can also say, take a look at lot 307 — which is a gorgeous miniature of the two Compton children, cousins to the Smith of Suttons children; but I say little about that one here because I had found that piece long ago…]

Anyway, the catalogue has this to say of the Marquess’ miniature:

“DESCRIPTION he with powdered hair en queue , wearing a blue coat, yellow waistcoat and a pleated jabot, sky background, within a plaited hair border, the reverse a portrait of his mother-in-law: Mrs Joshua Smith by Mrs Anne Mee circa 1795, with powdered and curled hair, wearing a white gown, sky background, gold frame.”

ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!! to see the description and NOT the portrait just kills me!

The amazing thing (the more I think about this piece) is that the two miniatures are done by two different artists. At some point I can only imagine that Maria (the Marchioness), set two portraits – one of her husband and one of her mother – in one “frame”. The HAIR seems to be two different colors (which must have been something to plait…) and must be from two different people: husband and wife? daughter and mother? I include below the Philadelphia miniature of the Marquess, so the hair might be compared:

EXCEPTIONALLY blond here; and obviously NOT the exact same picture (although also by Engleheart).

Sotheby’s gave a reference, and I’ve found the book on books.google – George Engleheart, 1750-1829: miniature painter to George III. Check out some of the other sitters: I see LADY CUNLIFFE, surely Mary, the “relict” of Sir Ellis (the year painted 1782, so without a first name, it’s impossible to know for sure from this one source, but my find of Mary being sold in a 1980 auction it MUST be the same piece). And there is mega-mention of the GOSLING family! Oh my gosh, look at them all:

under 1785: Miss Gosling   [could this be William’s sister, the future Mrs Gregg?]

under 1787: Mr Gosling

under 1788: Mrs Gosling

under 1790: Mrs Gosling, Sen.

under 1793: Mr Gosling

under 1805: Mr Gosling

Oh! this is maddening! no first names, only dates of marriages to guess who “Mrs Gosling Senior” might have been. Another KILLER!

At the back of the book, there is an index of miniatures and their owners (in 1902!), and there we see SOME of the first names: a Mrs RODWELL, of Eaton Square possessed those of FRANCIS and BARBARA GOSLING. But that only accounts for TWO out of SIX miniatures! Because of the dates one might guess this pair to be those painted in 1787 and 1788 (Francis Gosling II married Barbara Baker in 1777).

Mrs Gosling, Sen. I would all along guess to be William’s mother, the former Miss Houghton; but that might just be a “hopeful” guess…

Either of the other two could be William — or some other Gosling. Maddening! Maddening…

There are various Christie’s (though I cannot claim the Rev. Mr Christie to be of this family), various Colebrookes (ditto the idea that probably not all are relatives to Sir George Colebrooke).

Also maddening is that the Anne Mee miniature of Sarah Smith gets so little attention! If anyone has any picture of this work (yes, someday I will contact Sotheby’s to see what THEY have), do contact me.

Mrs Mee has several “little biographies” in this link (a Notes & Queries), and includes comments by none other than Algernon Graves!

To finish this post, I just comment on the second “missing” portrait, part of Lot 304:

“and another miniature of his wife Maria, Marchioness of Northampton, circa 1795, with powered and piled hair, wearing a white dress, cloud and sky background, cracked, gold frame, glazed hair reverse”

This last is also (I believe; swear I saw it somewhere) by Mrs Mee.

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How Much is that Paper in the Window?

June 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm (research) (, , , )

On Sunday, I led a lecture — called Austen/Adams: Travels with Jane and Abigail –that discussed the “correspondence culture” of the late 18th / early 19th centuries. We investigated postage rates (and how that compared to the price of meat!); how paper was made; how letters were folded so as to make their own envelopes – and that, of course, brought about a discussion of crossed writing (versus, as Austen most often did when she “filled” her paper: writing in between lines).

One question I had not thought to look into, however, left a couple people wondering about an answer (myself included): How much did (writing) paper cost?

As often with the “typical” of one’s life, there seemingly are no mentions in diaries of the Smiths or Goslings to answer this question (it may be I just didn’t note it down; when I couldn’t transcribe a diary fully, I put in what interested me: like the price of stockings or shoes or gloves).

Jane Austen’s Letters (the Le Faye edition) certainly makes mention of SEVERAL paper firms (their watermarks detectable), and there may be books out there that either quote from records, or make mention of prices.

Anyone with ANY information (please: only cited, authoritative sources), especially for the British firms the Smiths, Goslings as well as Austens would have easily been able to procure paper from, do let me (us!) know.

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