Portland now; next: Fort Worth!

October 30, 2010 at 9:45 am (books, jasna) (, , , , , , , , , )

This “Halloween” weekend, JASNA members and guests gather in Portland, Oregon for the Annual General Meeting; 2010’s Theme, as you can see, centers on Northanger Abbey.

Must admit, thinking about it, I still like my paper proposal which talked about bringing into society the two “Debs” of 1818: Catherine Morland, heroine of NA, and my own sweet Augusta Smith – who was presented at Court. Her sister Emma wrote extensively about Augusta’s court dress, as well as Mamma’s; and some conversation from the Queen (Charlotte, consort to George III) and the Princess Elisabeth — Augusta, Mrs Smith, Queen Charlotte and the princesses all had the same art teacher: Miss (later Mrs) Meen. They were instructed in the fine art of painting flowers. Catherine Morland’s debut, of course, came in entry into Bath society. Austen captures well the ‘crush’ of such social gatherings, as well as the hesitant demeanor of a young woman’s foray into society and the company of strangers.

But my thoughts don’t stay long with the 2010 AGM; no! 2011 — and my paper. The ideas swirl around, for I like audience interaction and want them to see and hear art and music from the period. One painting I will be sure to talk about: The Sisters, by Sir William Beechey (the Huntington Museum of Art, in West Virginia). Readers of this blog can find my posts about this work (post 1; post 2): for its description fits ALMOST perfectly a description of a Beechey work portraying Mary and Elizabeth GOSLING. But, the younger sister seated at the piano, the elder enjoying the moment of interaction with the viewer, this piece credibly could portray Elinor and Marianne Dashwood!

I’m surprised no publisher has planted The Sisters on an S&S cover yet…

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Drummond Erased?

October 24, 2010 at 10:45 am (news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , )

Although, writing-wise, I’m back in the 1810s, all this vital information coming in about the 1830s has me digging deeper about this trip of Drummond, Mr Odell and Lord Ossory.

In 1850, having obtained his title upon the death of his father in 1838, the 2nd Marquess of Ormonde published a memoir of this very journey: An Autumn in Sicily. The preface makes for interesting reading:

“My fellow-traveller, Mr. Odell, and I, proposed, on our return from our tour, to publish in conjunction a volume descriptive of it, of which he undertook the compilation. From various causes [yes, like the death of Drummond Smith!] the work was laid aside by him, after some sheets had been struck off. In the course of last winter [ie, 1849], when on a visit at his residence, I saw them, and thinking it a pity that the mass of notes which he had collected should, as well as the plates…, remain useless, I obtained his permission to carry off and make use of the entire of the materials, with full power to preserve, alter, and omit, as I thought proper.”

Drummond is “omitted” alright!

Even if it would be a bit of a “downer” in such a travel memoir to mention an illness and death, why make it sound — from the start — like only two travelled? What did these men have to hide?

By 1850 Mrs Smith had died; only Aunt Emma still survived from the older generation. Charles, Charlotte, Augusta — and of course Drummond — were gone from the sibling generation.

“I must ever look back to the summer of 1832 as one of the pleasantest portions of my life,” reminisced the Marquess, still Lord Ossory in that long ago summer. “Young — in the enjoyment of robust health — with means sufficient for every reasonable want, and with a companion with whom I was, and had long been, on the most intimate and friendly terms…”

A companion; Ossory means Odell, but they travelled as a threesome. Where is Drummond in this memoir???

“[O]n a fine evening towards the end of July I found myself in the Dover mail, on my way to Calais, whither my companion, with the carriage and baggage, had gone twelve hours previously. I rejoined him…, and we started at once, taking the line through Belgium, which caused us some delay, as on the Prussian frontier we found a sanitary cordon established, in consequence of some cases of cholera having occurred, or been reported”.

Cholera? There were outbreaks everywhere in the 1830s, including England. I have to assume that whenever the threesome split, as in this mention of the Dover mail and Ossory’s “companion” going ahead with the baggage, that Drummond would have been travelling with Odell. I’m not sure how well Drummond knew Lord Ossory; he’d known Odell since their Harrow schooldays.

What did the remaining Smith siblings — Emma, Fanny, Spencer, Eliza, Maria — think about this book?

Ormonde continued his youthful journey:

“We arrived at Naples on the 20th of August, and our preparations for the voyage to Messina and subsequent journey were soon complete. The weather, however, was very unfavourable…. On the 31st the wind became fair, we were all ready, and in the evening took leave…, and got under way for Paestrum.”

Emma’s diary — some of its comments obviously written in after the fact, after the receipt of certain letters — also lays out Drummond’s travels: July 6, he goes to Town [London] with Odell. Spencer, in London, “bid good bye to dear Drummond” on the 9th. The next day he goes “abroad with Mr Odell  & Lord Ossory—”

Emma notes his crossing into Italy on July 28; and the following day her newest child, son Charles Edward, is christened; his sponsors include Drummond.

Drummond “entered Rome — this day at 1/2 past 7 P.M.”, is the diary entry for 15 August. The next day, Arthur Currie proposes to Charlotte, and is accepted. Drummond’s letter dated “ROME” arrives on 4 September 1832. Undoubtedly, this is how Emma received the news of the party’s entry into the city.

Her diary then begins to have retrospective entries of a more peculiar nature: mapping out Drummond’s illness, and the dates upon which Mr Odell wrote the letters he sent to the unsuspecting family back in England.

October 22: “Drummond left Trapani quite ill”; October 26: “Drummond reached Palermo very ill after a two days journey in a litter”; October 30: Drummond was “better but not strong & obliged to give up going up to Etna”. The next day Odell begins a letter, intended for Mrs Smith, advising her that “Drummond was dangerously ill with fever”. When he finishes the letter on November 1, All Saints Day, he can conclude that “a favorable change had taken place & Drummond thanks be to the Lord God pronounced by the Physicians quite out of danger—“.

Then, what must have been difficult for Emma to pen into her diary, but so great was the urge to record this minutiae (although she writes this in on November 4’s entry, the family did not know of his last hours until one month later): “Mr. Odell again wrote — Drummond’s strength seemed going   he had continued in nearly the same state for 3 days — Inflammation in the Chest & head had taken place & suppurations in his ear & mouth — His neck & arms had been blistered  His mind was collected — but no hopes were entertained of his recovery—”  The family receive this letter on the 27 of November, on the cusp of preparations for the wedding of Charlotte to Arthur Currie; the wedding, of course, is postponed. It was also approaching Charlotte’s birthday!

Odell’s next letter arrives two days later; Emma’s entry ends, “– Strength seemed going–”

And Lord Ormonde’s book?

There are entries dated October 17, 18, 19; he chatters on about the ruins of “Selinuntine” on the 20th.

“October 21. — The wind awoke me about midnight, and shortly after, as I lay ruminating, the door of the tent was blown in. … [T]he next moment… I found myself kneeling under heavy rain, the tent having been blown right over.”

Ormonde’s book has the party arriving in Trapani on October 23; on the 24th he notes that their “servant” was “too ill to leave his bed”. How many ill persons on this trip at this point?! Odell wasn’t well; Drummond of course. Is this “servant” in reality Drummond? why the two-day difference right here, from what Emma reported (culled from Odell’s letter) and Ormonde’s, which obviously comes from carefully-kept journals. More entries for October 25, 26, 27, as they journey to Palermo. October 28 opens a new chapter: Palermo described in historical detail.

When the next chapter opens, time has advanced to “November 11.” Six days after Drummond’s death! Why the missing days? How interesting that the last sentence of the previous chapter mentions that “servant”: “Our servant had joined us from Trapani, much pulled down by his illness, but quite fit to take to the road again, and we wound up the last evening by a general card-leaving on all our acquaintance.”

The obvious remedy for all this discussion would be a perusal of the ORIGINAL journals of John Butler, Lord Ossory, later the 2nd Marquess of Ormonde.

A little digging unearthed Ormonde papers at the National Library of Ireland. Of 27 items belonging to the 2nd Marquess is one journal, entitled “Tour in Italy, especially of Sicily”. Hurray! BUT: it’s dated July-September 1832. Where is its second half, October-December???

Why was Drummond “erased”? Was has happened to the “end” of the Ossory-Odell-Smith/Servant Sicilian tour journal?

Read Lord Ormonde’s published account yourself at Books.Google.

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Shocking Discovery! Did Mamma Know?

October 23, 2010 at 9:47 am (news, people) (, , , , , , , , , )

An incredible “find”!!!!

Thanks to Jacky, I have been on the lookout for information on or about or by EDWARD ODELL. In the diaries and letters everyone merely mentioned him as “Mr Odell” or just plain “Odell”. I hadn’t even had a first name! Mary even wrote of him as Mr Odall!

But thanks to Jacky’s incredible letter, from Catherine Odell to Maria Smith – concerning Mrs Odell’s son EDWARD – I figured I had found not only the first name of the elusive Mr Odell, but also a “family” for him. It all fit: Drummond’s constant remarks about Ireland (Catherine’s letter was headed “YOUGHAL”); the family conferences after Odell returned from Sicily — but Drummond did not; the pleading of Mrs Odell for Maria to consider her son Edward as a suitor. And the seeming silence (though note: this letter was retained!).

So I was searching and searching for information on some Edward Odell in the Youghal region. Little did I at first realize the one (and only) Edward Odell I stumbled upon was THE MAN: Edward Odell of Carriglea, near Dungarvan, Ireland.

Because Drummond was a Cambridgeman, I kept trying to locate Odell in the Alumni Cantabrigienses. Drummond himself, once I read through some of his letters (first transcribed about two years ago; all beginning in the 1820s and going on into the early 1830s; they end before his fateful trip to Italy with Mr Odell), made me realize the obvious: Odell may have been at Harrow with Drummond, but he was now at OXFORD! Of course he was quite easily located in the Alumni Oxonienses.

But I located this citation only after this extraordinary “find”: A Publication with a letter written by Odell and containing news about the death of “a friend of mine named Smith”. My Drummond!!

Read for yourself [my comments, as I typed the letter from a snippet view of the book, are included in green; I have paragraphed it, to make it easier to read online]:

Carriglea [that name!], Dungarvan, Ireland

Feb. 21, 1833

Dear Giles

I was much annoyed to find by your letter which I received two days since that I have been so long in your debt, and regret that you did not sooner write to inform me of it. But it can hardly be said to have been my own fault as I will explain to you. The very day on which you left Oxford I called at your room to discharge my debt and was informed by the porter that you had been gone I believe only an hour. As I then intended to have resided the next term I thought no more of it, but the Fates had decreed otherwise, and long before the term began I was on my way to Italy.

Previous to my departure however I left a sum of money with Lord Ossory with a memorandum of how he was to dispose of it, which done I discharged my mind of the whole business. In September of the following year when at Venice I received a letter from him saying that he had lost the list which I gave him, but that he believed he had paid all that I desired him and had lodged the remainder at my banker’s. In this opinion I very naturally coincided, when after a length of time I heard nothing to the contrary. This I hope will convince you that I was not to blame, and before long it will be in my power to make all straight between us.

I say before long because I have returned from my wanderings like the prodigal son, and could not raise as many pence till my next quarter becomes due. I am sorry that you have left Oxford as I have some intention of keeping my Master’s term in the summer, that is to say if I am well enough, for at present I am in rather a seedy state.

I had been ill last spring in London & like a fool set off to travel before I had recovered my strength, in consequence of which I eventually became again so unwell that independent of other causes the object of my leaving England would have been disappointed. [IS this Drummond?:] Lord Ossory and a friend of mine named Smith [!] whom Toogood remembers at Harrow were with me – the former intending to return to England at the end of the year, but Smith and I were going to Egypt [no, can’t be Drummond…] and Asia Minor and from there into Persia.” We accordingly proceeded through Germany, down Italy and to Sicily which was all beaten ground to me.

Till then I had got on tolerably well but the knocking about in the latter country and sleeping in the open air floored me completely. We were three weeks at one spell without entering a house & living in a tent. [my God! I swear this IS Drummond] Our design was after leaving that to have gone to Malta and sailed from thence to Egypt. But everything went wrong.

Bad as I was I was better than Smith who [gotta be HIM!] seemed quite unequal to standing the vicissitudes of climate and weather. At last he got a fever against which he had not strength to bear up & at the end of eleven days he breathed his last. This as you may imagine was a complete extinction to any further pleasure, and at once determined me on returning with Lord Ossory to England. In fact being now without a companion and in the wretched state of health in which I myself was it would have been preposterous had I persisted in my design of going to the East. We therefore made our way back to Italy and from thence home as fast as we could, and here I have now been for a month nursing myself. I have by no means abandoned my intention of visiting the countries which I have mentioned, but I shall wait till the beginning of next year [! it’s a letter SIGNED by Edward Odell!!!!!!]. Perhaps before that something may take you to Oxford and that we may meet. Pray remember me to Toogood who I hope is flourishing, and believe me dear Giles

your’s very truly

Edward Odell

OH–MY–GOSH!

What’s so “shocking” about this letter, other than the fact that it’s the first time I’ve seen ANYTHING from Odell himself describing this trip? As mentioned, Drummond’s letter book (lent to Rob Petre for photographing by Prof. Jeremy Catto; I am grateful to them both) is that it ends with the very letters where Drummond pleads with Mamma Smith to be allowed to accompany Odell on this trip (me thinks Mamma was NEVER very pleased; I know she grudgingly gave consent…); yet there are NO letters — and Drummond would have sent a steady stream of correspondence home! — during the trip abroad. (A loss; for I had hoped they spanned up to the time of his death.)

What Odell reveals here is the shocker: “Our design was after leaving [Sicily] to have gone to Malta and sailed from thence to Egypt” and  “Smith and I were going to Egypt and Asia Minor and from there into Persia.” EGYPT! ASIA MINOR! PERSIA!?

Mamma Smith didn’t want to consent to Drummond’s travelling to Italy — and yet the pair contemplated Egypt, Asia Minor, and Persia?! So my question: Did Mamma know? If Drummond had lived, would he one day have sent a letter dated “Egypt,” stating his intention of remaining by Odell’s side through this fantastically far-flung trip?

There was precedent: Mamma herself, in July 1822, left the younger children home: Spencer, Drummond, Charlotte and Maria. Emma wrote Aunt about their decision to remain in ROME during the winter of 1822/23, and advised Aunt “Mamma wishes you not to tell this to the poor children unless you think that by very gentle degrees, & hints, it would be advisable to let them know”…

Would Mamma have been “hoisted by her own petard”? We’ll never know; Drummond died November 5, 1832, in Sicily.

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An Island Alone?

October 20, 2010 at 9:45 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ever feel like your out there on your own? As another winter begins to descend, and early (early!) mornings come thanks to local airport noise (long, looonnnnggg story there; boring to everyone but me), the thoughts crowd around in the dark that few would wish to contemplate: the jobs that got away; the life I used to have when days were “better”; getting older; having older parents.

My saving grace: the Smiths and Goslings. They aren’t my “family”, but they have become “my family”. I long to find out their movements, to piece together all their individual puzzles, to fit their lives, dreams and thoughts into some pattern that points up their times as well as their lives.

Jacky from Maidstone has recently given much food for thought in the shape of an astonishing letter to Maria, the youngest Smith of Suttons daughter. The correspondent is the mother of a young man who has simply never found anyone — other than Maria — that he could love and wish to marry.

What makes this of great interest?

Henry Wilder wrote similar sentiments to Mrs Smith regarding Augusta. It was a letter, when I first deciphered it, as I sat beside the windows at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England), that tore at my heart. It was obvious that Henry had had a relationship with Augusta; that something or someone had intervened (I suspect some Wilder parental interference, but have not discovered anything concrete as yet); and here he was, a couple years later, talking about his inability to forget Augusta. He’s now wondering if Mrs Smith will find out if Augusta still has feelings for him.

Now there are several mildly “star-crossed” lovers in these extended families. The most extreme “disapproval” I have yet come across involves Richard Seymour’s sister Dora. Richard’s diaries (on microfilm at the Warwickshire Record Office) is quite plain in the disapproval of Dora’s family after she engaged herself to the Rev. Mr. Chester. Richard – a docile man in such matters – was pressured to put pressure on Dora to break off the engagement. The end was achieved; yet not in the long-run. Dora did ultimately marry the Rev. Mr. Chester.

[an aside: if I could track down the current whereabouts and the owner of Richard Seymour’s diaries, then I could get a COPY of the microfilm from WRO…]

So, back to Maria. The date of this letter is 1835. Mrs Catherine Odell, the writer, had obviously NOT been in touch with the family for some time. She mailed her letter to Tring Park; the Smiths had moved from Tring to Mapledurham House in October 1834 (the first “event” held there: the wedding of Fanny Smith to the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton). Also, Mrs Odell addressed her letter to “Miss Maria Smith”. That alone would have gained Maria’s ire! In one letter she quite obviously had chastised a sibling for not giving her her due: as the “eldest” single Smith sister she was now entitled to be addressed as “Miss Smith”.

In this period, the eldest son or daughter or Mr Lastname, Miss Lastname. Other, younger, siblings had their first name appended, thus, as we find in Jane Austen: Mr Ferrars but Mr Robert Ferrars; Miss Dashwood, Miss Marianne Dashwood; Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Lydia Bennet, Miss Kitty Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet.

If we take the Bennets (since there are so many of them!), with the marriages of Lydia, followed by those of Jane and Elizabeth, than the elder of the two left single would assume the title “Miss Bennet”.

That was what happened with Maria Smith: In October 1834, elder sister Fanny married Richard. And Eliza Smith, the next unmarried Smith sister, married in January 1835. So with that event, little Maria finally became Miss Smith — the three events (move, and two marriages) unknown to Mrs Odell in Ireland.

But what makes the letter so extraordinary is that Mr Edward Odell’s pleading is done by his mother! She writes that he could never marry anyone but Maria (to the sadness of his family, she is quick to point out); that Edward will come into his elder brother’s estate (though ‘why’ that would be so, I don’t yet know); that Edward already had an income of £600 (an amount perhaps exceeded by money given to Maria to live, for all I know; certainly, in a letter to Augusta, Mrs Smith intimated that she NEED NOT MARRY, as she had income enough to live, and live comfortably, I’m sure).

One personal favorite: Mrs Odell says that her son would willingly live anywhere; and that Mrs Smith could live with them should she need to be taken care of. Mamma Smith?! in need of care?! from a son-in-law’s household? She is the most “matriarchal” matriarch I have ever come across!

The story behind Mr Odell, which may or may not have impacted the “welcome”: A Mr Odell (I suspect Edward rather than his unnamed elder brother due to a Harrow connection), longtime friend of Drummond, enticed Drummond to visit Italy much against Mrs Smith’s inclination. There are many mentions of interviews, letters, letters from Mr Odell even — in which Mrs Smith digs to find out about Drummond’s illness and death.

So, in the end, the big question is: Would Mr Edward Odell have stood a chance with Maria? was there family pressure to dissolve any relationship? Was Maria herself uninterested? Only time will tell; or else I may never know the answer to those questions!

But you see, you few who read these musings, what occupies my mind — so happily occupies my mind!

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Interesting Posts

October 17, 2010 at 7:57 pm (entertainment) (, , , , , , , , , )

Jane Austen’s World — has this informative post on SHOES. Vic always comes up with such clever, in-depth posts! (I don’t know where she finds the time, or the energy…)

* * *

Had the “howl” of my morning with the following “bumper sticker” attributed to Lady Dalrymple

I can only please one person per day.
Today is not your day.
Tomorrow is not looking good either.

I know where I’d like to hang THAT one!

Look up others for Persuasion at http://www.austenauthors.com/2010/10/persuasion-bumper-stickers.html; and under http://www.austenauthors.com/2010/09/jane-austen-bumper-stickers.html find those for Pride and Prejudice. My favorite there, Mr Darcy‘s withering “Talk only if you can improve the silence” (there are a few “live” people that could fit…) and Colonel Fitzwilliam‘s “If you’re rich, I’m single”.

* * *

Investigating the AustenAuthors site, I find that Jane Odiwe has a new book coming out in February 2011: Mr. Darcy’s Secret! Congratulations, Jane! And she also anticipates the publication, by Random House, of a short story inspired by Persuasion. You can find my review of Jane’s wonderful Lydia Bennet’s Story at JASNA. Jane’s own website is found here. Got to love her GREAT “wallpaper”, and it’s a fun site to peruse!

* * *

Looking for more Culme Seymour items and tidbits (thanks to Jacky!), I fell into this wonderful site: British Pathé, you remember the old newsreels! This one is the wedding of Elizabeth Culme Seymour to Cdr Saunders, 11 March 1933, at the Culme Seymour estate Rockingham. Elizabeth was the grand-daughter of Sir John Hobert Culme Seymour’s eldest son:

Sir John Hobert Seymour and Elizabeth Culme –> Sir Michael Culme-Seymour (3rd Bart.) and Mary Watson –> Sir Michael Culme-Seymour (4th Bart.) and Florence Nugent –> Elizabeth Culme-Seymour.

Sir John married the youngest Smith — my Maria — as his second wife.

See the current owners of Rockingham Castle. The Hawker family, into which several generations of Seymours married is well laid out under this link.

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The Envelope, please…

October 16, 2010 at 11:10 am (news) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Such good news came in yesterday’s post, even if slightly damp and limp thanks to generous all-day rain:

From the Annual General Meeting committee, 2011 – Fort Worth, Texas. My paper proposal was accepted for the AGM covering “Jane Austen: 200 Years of Sense and Sensibility“!!

Must admit to coming up with a great topic, one very apropos for my likes and interests — and for which I must thank Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos; without their request for book chapters (mine on drawing, writing, and music in three Jane Austen novels), I would never have thought along the lines I did for this paper proposal.

The title says much about its content, and I include a short teaser description:

 “A House Divided? How the ‘Sister Arts’ Define the Dashwood Sisters”

In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen consciously chose for eldest sister Elinor Dashwood a desire to practice the art of drawing; for middle sister Marianne, that of making music. What does this simple choice of dividing the sister arts between sisters imply for their characterizations?

With the artistry of Elinor and Marianne manifested in Elinor’s drawings adorning walls and Marianne’s music-making filling the parlor, visitors to Barton Cottage (readers included) have treats for their eyes and ears; likewise audience members attending this talk will be treated to the sights and sounds of the early-nineteenth century.

So, members of the Jane Austen Society of North America, accept this early invitation to “Barton Cottage” (aka some small conference space in the Renaissance Worthington Hotel) to attend my talk! Yeee-ha!

***

An aside: the Kimbell Art Museum is in Fort Worth; it houses the wonderful self-portrait of perhaps my favorite artist: Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (view the portrait). The best Vigée Le Brun website is at batguano. TONS of information on the artist, her life AND work; just superb images culled from all over the world. Among the books on the site is the Kimbell Exhibition catalogue; I can recommend also the biography by Angelica Goodden (The Sweetness of Life) and her source material, Sian Evans’s translation of Madame Vigée Le Brun’s Souvenirs (“Memoirs”).

My last-spotted portrait is in the wonderful Museo de Arte de Ponce (a fabulous place! Puerto Rico’s gem!), the Comtesse de Chastenay.

My VERY FAVORITE portrait, which started this craze, is the evocative Countess Ecaterina Vassilievna Skavronskaya (thank you, Svetlana, for telling me about the Musée Jacquemart-André , Paris!)

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Puzzle piece leads to more Puzzling

October 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Great thanks to Jacky, in Maidstone, England, for contacting me — she has some exciting pieces of the Smith puzzle!

But one piece in particular I want to blog about today. Jacky writes:

The journal about Maria by Augusta {Mamma Smith} … talks about Maria’s development, particularly the development of her character, but also how she is doing with her lessons and with learning skills such as music and drawing.

There is much in family letters about young Maria’s struggles in Music and Drawing (after all, she had FIVE elder sisters to compete against, including the ‘perfect’ Augusta).

Maria was 15 years younger than the eldest, Augusta, and a young teenager and woman when her sisters were young wives and mothers. She ended up being pretty much alone with her mother by the mid-1830s, and obviously at times felt the “baby” of the family, wishing for ties to the siblings who somewhat had left her behind because of their own children and spouses.

But the very existence of this journal — a Georgian “Baby Book,” if I may so term it — raises the specter of just such a manuscript mentioned in the biography (by his daughter, Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) of James Edward Austen Leigh, this, however, about Edward’s brother-in-law, the youngest Smith son, Drummond:

In a MS. book describing Drummond from his birth onwards, his mother writes…

WHAT MANUSCRIPT BOOK?!? Was my reaction at the time of reading this sentence. I rather forgot about it, when talking about so much else that either I know is out there (seen and as yet unseen…), as well as what I expect to find, as well as what I know is currently “missing”. So much material! And thank God there’s so much material!

Jacky believes Mamma all along meant to present this little journal to Maria. And, in 1911, young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh had access to that book outlining Drummond’s youth — including some concluding paragraphs, written by Mamma after hearing of his death:

His arrival at home for the vacations was hailed with the greatest delight and affection and seemed to infuse new animation within the Family. His constant good temper and cheerfulness and his powers of conversation made him the most charming inmate and companion; in the larger circle of acquaintance he was valued and caressed because he was so agreeable, but in the inner circle of his near Relatives he was loved to a very great degree because he was so amiable and warmhearted. He was quite free from conceit, though his abilities were certainly above the ordinary level, I do not think he was sensible of it. . . . His conversation had a peculiar charm from the originality of some of his ideas, from the sudden, yet apposite allusions he would bring in unexpectedly, from his good spirits, and above all because it was so natural and so entirely without study or display. . . . It happened to be his lot to live much with an excellent clergyman, his Brother-in-law, Mr Austen, and all that I hear from him of my dear Drummond’s character raises my hope that our good and great Creator has not cut him off from life thus early in punishment, but in mercy; to take him from evil to come, to shorten his probation.

I must admit, not being overly religious myself, to being affected by the great store Mrs Smith put in her faith as she lost (at this time) more family: in 1825 Belinda, her daughter-in-law; in 1831, Charles, her eldest son; in February 1832, her sister-in-law Judith Smith and in November, her youngest son Drummond.

I can only wonder, however: ARE THERE “BABY BOOKS” OUT THERE FOR EACH OF HER NINE CHILDREN? From an era when such documents of baby were begun with gusto, only to be abandoned before baby was more than a couple years old, especially if a sibling joined the family (my own baby book didn’t even get THAT far!), it is amazing to me that Mrs Smith pursued this route. Emma, Mary and Augusta document the physical growth of their children, in their journals — but I’ve never come across anything like this “Maria Journal”. How grateful I am to know of its existence!

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In Memoriam

October 13, 2010 at 8:40 am (news) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Donna Anna…, Turandot…, Marie…, Violetta…

Just a few of the recordings I have, gathered in the early days of collecting and opera-going, that feature Dame Joan Sutherland.

Truly an “end of an era”, now that she is no longer with us. I never saw her in person, but if Mary and Emma had been alive in the 20th century, they undoubtedly would have experienced many of her performances — they loved music, and saw London performances of many “big names”. (I hate to confess it, but the girls rarely commented on how well they liked a singer or a performance; when they do, the comments are wonderful to read and interpret!)

Among the many articles on Dame Joan’s career came out, I found this one from Gainesville to be among the most in-depth.

Her own website might be of interest to opera fans, so I include a link to that here.

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Rediscoveries – old item newly found

October 9, 2010 at 11:40 am (news, people) (, , , , , , , , , )

One newspaper article that recently grabbed headlines concerned a piece of FABRIC long kept at the Coolidge Museum in Plymouth, Vermont. Why was it news? Why is Kelly blogging about it? Read the article for yourself (from The Burlington Free Press):

PLYMOUTH NOTCH — Researchers at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth are learning new details about the night he became the 30th president of the United States  at his father’s Vermont home.
 
Historic-site officials were cataloging artifacts recently when a handwritten note by Grace Coolidge fluttered out of what had been believed to be a shawl.

It turns out the brown and white linen was the table covering in place on the night of Aug. 3, 1923, when Coolidge was sworn in by his father following the sudden death of President Warren Harding.

The note read: “Cover which was on the mahogany-topped table in the sitting room of father Coolidge’s house in Plymouth, Vermont on the night of August 3rd, 1923” and was initialed “G.C.,” said Amy Mincher, a collections manager at the site.

It had been thought that a green tablecloth with an embroidered border had been on the table that night.

The research was funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. The money allowed the site to hire Mincher to inventory and catalog the site’s holdings.

“Although many of the objects have been in the collection for several decades, this thorough analysis has yielded some important discoveries,” she said. Some 5,200 objects have been catalogued, according to the site.
 
My incredulity comes from the fact that this was owned by the museum, but never “investigated”; had the piece been mine, I would have known every inch of it, and found the note long, long ago!
 
Can you imagine coming across something of the Goslings, the Smiths like that? Some ‘artifact’ that a family member touched, wore, or owned. I’ve come across a few hints lately, and even a couple pieces with family connections and will augment this blog post in the next day or two, when I’ve a moment. Right now the sun is shining (a rare occurrence lately!) and I want to get out, maybe go book-looking.
In the meantime, read up about Grace Coolidge at the First Ladies website.
Here also is a link to the Coolidge site’s page on Grace Coolidge, and her letters. Must admit to having read a recent article on Grace and her correspondence with a friend she did not meet in person (for some years) in Victoria magazine that spurred on this idea of corresponding.
See some letters listed here.
 
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So what items out there, besides portraits of course, have been found to have once been owned by the Goslings and Smiths; what items might have been alluded to, in letters or diaries (LOTS!).

A recent item that came to my attention is one that was gifted by Mary’s eldest brother William Ellis to his Oxford college, Brasenose. This was found in the 2004 book, A Treasured Inheritance: 600 Years of Oxford College Silver by Helen Clifford:

Writing about the Oxford days of William and his younger brother Robert, I find it curious that William attended Oxford, but seems never to have taken his degree. Am investigating why that might have been the case!

Anyway, was this a parting gift? He matriculated in 1812 (aged 17), was still at Brasenose when the family visited campus in summer 1814. By 14 July 1815, he would have obtained his majority, and perhaps left school to work in the family banking business. That I know so much about William, and yet so little, is very annoying.

He was obviously a passionate collector of art; not only had he commissioned portraits of his dogs, he owned other pieces — like this engraving of  The Widow, also be Edwin Landseer:

William Ellis Gosling also endowed schools, left money (in his will) to colleges and universities, and even for the organ of St. Dunstan’s in the West.

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Bright Star

October 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm (people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A few weeks ago I rented the film Bright Star. Must admit to knowing  very little about the life of John Keats – and even less about his poetry. I was, however, interested in young Fanny Brawne. And what grabbed me from the beginning of the film was its “setting”: 1818, Hampstead! Which is the area (and era) in which Belinda and Harriet Colebrooke lived. Could the three ladies have met?? What intriguing ideas come out of such a thought!

I will agree with my friend Hope, in admiring the costumes — though are we really to believe that three years go by and Keats as well as his friend Brown are still wearing the same clothes? That got rather tedious, I must admit.

So, in wanting to find out more than this film offered about Fanny, I went to the library to pick up the old biography (the only biography), which I’m about half-way through: Joanna Richardson’s Fanny Brawne: A Biography (1952). It’s a slim volume, but has some source material no one will ever duplicate: the author spoke with Brawne’s grand-daughter.

Gale Flament, in a master’s degree thesis (2007), examines the MATERIAL goods Fanny has left behind: her fashion plates and (more importantly) samples of her needlework. The biographical material might have benefited from a good editing, but as evidence of some wonderful investigation among such thankfully-preserved materials from this time period, I recommend Flament’s writing, which is available online via pdf.

One thing that struck me: Fanny paying for the letter the mail carrier delivers to her door! People forget that before the advent of stamps it was the recipient who paid for letters – dependent upon weight (number of pages) and distance. The film did a pretty good job at making a letter look like a letter of that era – though I am wondering about that single postmark…. Postal History enthusiasts can fill us in on that, if they’ve a desire to help out!

In coming months I’ll be paying a bit more attention to post marks, as I prepare an upcoming article. So any books on the subject, or reliable websites — do let me know.

Anyone with some other interesting bits on Fanny Brawne — or anything that ties her to my Colebrooke sisters, do drop me a line. Kind of fun to envision them all at the same little dances and dinners! Sometimes, indeed, truth is stranger than fiction.

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