Universities Big and Bigger

August 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm (books, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )


A Bodleian staff member responded to my recent query about the SKETCH BOOKS OF FANNY (SMITH) SEYMOUR! The response is mainly ‘we’re moving; even if that were not the case, we don’t have staff nor time…’.

I was, however, encouraged (or I take it as encouragement…) to contact their Imaging Services. (I had asked about obtaining an image or two; I’m not in a position to pay for a lot of images, when there are diaries and letters I should be working with, instead of topographical drawings.)

I’m happy that my inquiry was not ignored. But, at the same time, would it take that much “time” to fetch one volume, flip through it, and describe it a bit? Size of book, number of drawings, that sort of think. I know; We are talking Oxford here, and the Bodleian is large.

I have had luck, in the past, to have gained the help of Prof. Jeremy Catto and Ariel College’s archivist Rob Petre in obtaining images of letters written by young Drummond Smith (Emma’s youngest brother), and copied out by one of the Smith sisters (I suspect Maria) [2013 Update: the handwriting is that of Fanny!]. Prof. Catto owns Drummond’s letter book, which was utilized in a history of Harrow — and that’s how I found out it existed. Talk about the ‘kindness of strangers’… I was and am grateful.*

So I will toss out this request: If anyone reading this post has ties to Oxford, lives nearby etc etc, can gain access to the library collection and has a half-hour to spare, please contact me (see Author page).

The main reason for this post, however, is to recognize someone who DID have time and take the time. She is Elizabeth Dunn, at Duke University, who responded to my initial query about Mary Gosling’s diary. I have remarked on this kindness elsewhere, but want to take the opportunity to reiterate how this project never would have gotten off the ground if I had been told ‘we have no time’. Instead, Elizabeth found the volume, found the entry I was most interested in (about the Ladies of Llangollen), described the diary and the other entries, and got the twenty or so pages xeroxed and sent to me. I met her in person some months later, when I traveled to Duke and transcribed the rest of the diary.

Months later, when I contacted Stanford University for information on holdings they have, my query got a response, but the proffered assistance was never actually acted upon (and I didn’t push it, having other avenues to pursue). Few realize just how important a drop of encouragement is to an “independent” scholar.

As my main hope had been to gain a view or two of Fanny’s books, if Imaging Services is willing and able, my curiosity might be assuaged. (To the tune of their minimum £15 charge!)

Drawing meant so much to Fanny, and (unlike many female amateur artists) she had an abiding desire to draw — even after her marriage. These sketches are dated c.1828-1838; Fanny married Richard in October 1834. Sophie du Pont, whose book I am just finishing, even Diana Sperling, pretty much gave up drawing after marriage.  Lucky Bodleian for having these souvenirs of Fanny.

*I am also lucky in my friendship with author Charlotte Frost, who photographed these three albums!

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3 Comments

  1. Kelly said,

    I certainly hope that you can convince someone to photograph this book for you for less than £15. Have you thought of contacting the Jane Austen Project in Oxford: http://www.janeaustenproject.org/home.shtml? Perhaps someone in the group has access to the library. Good luck!

    Funny coincidence — I just started reading “Mrs. Hurst Dancing” this afternoon.

    Kelly

  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    Thanks for the heads-up, Kelly, about the Austen Project. I will definitely look into it. One never knows when it comes to finding someone willing to ‘help’!

    I just LOVE Mrs Hurst Dancing. I find Diana’s drawings enchanting; I just wish someone had done more with material that exists and we’d have Diana’s life history in the family letters.

    Funnily enough, when I gave a talk using the drawings of Diana, Mary Yelloly — a very young girl, was the artist the audience members often gravitated to. They liked her energy; while I still adore Diana’s narrative ability.

    k

    • Kelly said,

      I have both books and although I haven’t had a chance to look through them indepth, I agree with you about Diana’s drawings. There’s much more humor in her narratives as well. Ones like “Mrs. Sperling murdering flies” still have me giggling.:)

      Kelly

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