La luna

August 21, 2010 at 12:21 am (books, entertainment, goslings and sharpe, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I write at the end of a long, busy day.

Contemplating the use Austen makes of the pianoforte for young Marianne Dashwood, I have spent the week slowly watching the old (1980) BBC production of Sense and Sensibility. I must admit to being charmed by it. Oh, nothing is ever perfect…, but overall the right tone is struck so many times in this production, which stars Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne.

I was exceptionally surprised at the ending to this series (7 approximately 1/2 hour episodes), which has Marianne interested in talking literature with Colonel Brandon. My reaction was: That’s the end?!?

But then, immediately rewatching episode 1, the series not only ends in the midst of action unresolved, it also begins in the midst of the story: the three Dashwood women riding back from having looked at an unsuitable house (Fanny Dashwood, quite obviously, wants her in-laws gone from Norland).

So, thinking about it now, I find the beginning and ending quite novel (no pun intended).

I include this picture of Tracey Childs as Marianne, with Robert Swann as Colonel Brandon. This is the scene I’m writing about for an article, and this scene comes to mind tonight because of “the moon”. As in the novel, this series’ Sir John Middleton refers to the invitations he gave to the evening’s gathering — only to find everyone already booked. The novel is specific: “it was moonlight — and every body was full of engagements”. The moonlight here in Vermont was bright tonight too, as I drove back from St. Albans. Who realized that moonlit nights made for an increase in people going abroad in Austen’s era!?!

A find today, while checking out the stock at The Eloquent Page, St. Albans’ great little used book store, was a copy of volume 2 of a relevant biography: The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker (by E.H. Coleridge).  I might have bought it but for two things: firstly, no volume ONE; and this second volume wasn’t in the best shape (had it gotten wet once?). But the lucky thing about volume 2 is the index was in the back! Sure enough, a “Mr Gosling” was mentioned. The interesting thing about the citation (vol 2, p. 83) is the amount of money cited:

“Strand, 2nd December 1796

Sir, Mr Dent, Mr Hoare, Mr Snow, Mr Gosling, Mr Drummond and myself met to-day, and have each subscribed £50,000 . . . . I shall leave town to-morrow, having stayed solely to do any service in my power in fowarding this business, which I sincerely wish and hope my be the means of procuring peace on fair and honourable terms.

I am, Sir,


We have subscribed £10,000 in your name and shall take care to make the payments.”

Coutts’ correspondent was William Pitt. According to the index, the monies were contributed to a “loyalty loans” scheme. Robert Gosling (father to William, grandfather to my Mary) died in 1794, so he is not the Mr Gosling in question; that leaves Francis Gosling or perhaps my William himself. I always love finding such minute traces of these people…

As I drove the highway, the moon shone bright and nearly full — which made me think of this moonlight comment from S&S, and also (of course!) of the film Moonstruck, which I watched on TV a few weeks ago. Did Austen mean anything by the fact that she tells readers that the moon was big and bright on the very night Brandon meets Marianne at the Middleton residence? Or did it just provide a good excuse for inventing a small, intimate party??

Of course I got online trying to find the ENTIRE Coutts biography. And luck was with me: Internet Archive has both volumes: volume 1, volume 2.

I’ve looked, but find no mention of “Austen” in the Coutts index; of course Jane’s brother Henry was a banker for a while. The business went down the tubes, thanks to the economic crisis after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Pity Coutts made no mention of Henry Austen; that would have made for an interesting connection. I am actively trying to find any connection — banker to banker — between Henry Austen and William Gosling. (Last October, at the JASNA AGM, I had asked author Maggie Lane if she ever came across Gosling & Sharpe, when investigating Henry Austen’s business — but she had never heard of the Goslings’ firm).

When I arrived home I could see a large piece of mail in the mailbox: my extra copies of JASNA News had arrived!! Ah, how I had hoped the mail would come before I left the house, for I had a feeling it would come today. My article on the discovery of Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary, now owned by Mark Woodford, is included. (Interested in diary entries for this same year, I had started the day by reading Parson Woodforde’s diary; then moved on to some re-writes on the pianoforte article.) The one book review that I read soon after looking through the entire issue is Brian Southam’s of Young Nelsons: Boy Sailors During the Napoleonic Wars (2009), by D.A.B. Roland. Must see if I can locate a copy, for I am intrigued by the author’s use of diaries and letters — even if Southam finds some author errors and annoyances.

Hmm…, looking the Roland book up on, don’t I find a second book on this subject (not yet published): The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy, by Ronald Pietsch. Popular subject! The Goslings knew Admiral Nelson and the Smiths married into the Seymour family, who had many naval men in their family tree.

It’s late, and before the moonlight fades, and I follow suit, I will say ‘good night’.


  1. Kelly said,

    I watched a clip from the 1981 production on YouTube last week and was intrigued by it. It was the scene where Fanny Dashwood tries to talk Mrs. Dashwood into leaving her breakfast set at Norland and of having Elinor give up any hope of marrying Edward. I can’t remember this specific exchange from the novel, but it seems to have been repeated in the future adaptations. Still, I found Diane Fairfax’s reaction as Mrs. Dashwood refreshing in that unlike the later Mrs. Dashwoods, she openly showed her contempt for Fanny. Other than the beginning and end, how does the rest of the series compare to the novel?


    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Watching the production, and needing the Chapman edition to finish off my article, I began to READ the novel (it’s probably been a good three years…). The exchange between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is possibly cattier in print, but the BBC sure got the feeling right all around. Mrs Dashwood is just a lovely woman, not scatty or really in need of being taken in hand by her eldest daughter. Fanny isn’t one large caricature; she’s the daughter you’d hate to have marrying your son — unless, he’s as self-centered as John Dashwood. It’s this scene, in the novel, that really gets Mrs Dashwood moving. She simply can take no more hints! Her way to lash back at Fanny is to leave (for Barton Cottage, of course), and pointed invite Edward to visit.

      Ah, Austen writes characters so much better than the average screenwriter.

      I rather liked the idea of a half-hour episode — for I often watched late, late at night; I could watch one episode, or two. Easy to zip through the credits with a DVD.

      Completeness of main characters (except for little Margaret) is rather nice. Here is Lady Middleton, and even her eldest boy. Reading the book, I was rather surprised that the household servants (two women and a man) were taken from the Norland staff; in the TV movie they are all sacked by Fanny (!) so she could start afresh, and the people at Barton Cottage are welcoming the Dashwoods to their new home rather than known people sent on ahead. A small point, but (as usual) one that makes you wonder: Why did they do that? Miss Steele is there, and it is she who spills the beans about her sister.

      I am NOT one who knows any of the novels by heart (and consequently am rubbish at those *popular* quizzes…); so to see the production and then take up the book again makes some things stand out in the book, rather than in the series. I must agree with Calista from Montreal — you rather grow to like the likes of Brandon and Edward Ferrars in this series. And it brings out new dimensions to the written characters when you go back to the books.

      Must confess to having no real favorites among any of the Austen (tele)films, and feel I enjoy them all, deficiencies and positives taken in stride.

  2. Georgina Kynaston said,

    I have just come across your post of 21 Aug 2010! I too love finding ‘minute traces of people’ and, amongst those quoted in the Thomas Coutts correspondence with William Pitt, is a Mr Snow – my Robert Snow. I am always excited to find little references to my banking Snows.
    Only this week I came across and transcribed a write up in the Morning Post of 7 Sept 1818 respecting “forgeries to an enormous amount”! Amongst the banking houses involved were Snow and Paul, and Messrs Gosling and Sharpe! It makes fascinating reading and I would be happy to share it with you if you are still interested and looking for Gosling and Sharpe snippets.
    I can also make links from Robert Snow in my family to the Austen’s (Jane and her brother James).

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi Georgina — I wonder, (after reading your comment), if there’s anything that mentions the Snows. Though I must admit, I don’t remember coming across them. As you might guess, I’ve accessed more familial letters & diaries than Firm correspondence. I do, however, find Snow et al in the banks listed in an 1810 diary.

      If you are combing thru “Morning Post” editions, look also at the Old Bailey website (if you haven’t found that resource already). For instance, I found there a pick-pocket incident involving the eldest Gosling son.

      I wonder if I’ve ever come across the 1818 case you mention – it could be something quite new. I do wish, sometimes, for the “male” portion of the correspondence circle.

      I am ALWAYS “still looking” and am “perpetually” interested.

      I’d be very interested, too, in the Austen connection – Robert Snow, personally or professionally? James, of course, was the father of my diarist Emma Smith’s husband, James Edward Austen Leigh.

      Feel free to use to the email you see under “about the author”.


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