How does YOUR Garden grow?

November 27, 2010 at 11:56 am (books, estates, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

For quite some time now I’ve known of the existence of a letter from Humphry Repton to Charles Smith (the father) of Suttons. Yes, the “great” Repton had been consulted about the Smith Estate! The date of the letter is January 1808.

What was the Smith family like in 1808? Emma was just six years old, and would turn seven in September. Eliza (later Lady Le Marchant) was a mere babe in arms — born just 2 and 1/2 months ago. Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s letters written around this time are just a delight to read because, when written to the older children — Augusta, Emma — she talks so charmingly of the other children, her own parents, their Papa.

Anyway, yesterday I was looking up the online Austen ‘exhibit’ at the Morgan Library in NYC; and took a look at their online ‘exhibit’ for Humphry Repton. Now, Repton is a name known to me, but beyond the faint knowledge that he was hired at Suttons, I’ve not really (yet) delved into his side of the ‘business’. The Morgan changed all that!

Earlier this year they had two of Repton’s “Red Books” on display. These books are what cyber-viewers can now take a look at. I simply cannot imagine being wealthy enough to hire a man who produces such items in the hopes of gaining my business! But then I’m not from a “landed” family in 19th-century England. The above is taken from Repton’s Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, published in 1803 — you find Sutton’s mentioned on page 16. (The University of Florida has an online copy of this invaluable document.)

Hmmm…, Jane Austen has her Mr Rushworth, in vol. 1 of Mansfield Park discuss the improvements made to a “Mr Smith’s” property:

“‘I wish you could see Compton,’ said he, ‘it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach now is one of the finest things in the country. You see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison — quite a dismal old prison.’

…’Your best friend upon such an occasion,’ said Miss Bertram, calmly, ‘would be Mr. Repton, I imagine.’

‘That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day…. Smith’s place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand.'”

[read Austen’s Repton mentions: Mansfield Park, 1814 edition; a ‘by the way’: Compton, the name Austen gives Smith’s estate is a familial name belonging to the Smiths of Suttons… Coincidence?? or had she been remembering conversations with Mrs Chute of The Vyne?]

These “Red Books” are amazing! The drawings, the overlays that foretold what the proposed ‘improvements’ would look like. The prose, which lay out his thoughts and evaluations of your property.

Well, take a look for yourself: Repton at the Morgan.

Oh! I want just such a book about SUTTONS!!!!

Searching for more of these little red books, I find that the “Red Book” made in 1791 for Claybury (then owned by the Hatch family) still exists. The Smiths often visited the Abdys, who inherited, at Claybury. What a treasure Repton has left behind, never mind what pride he must have taken in presenting his work in this manner.

Needless to say, if anyone’s attic or closet turns up a little “Red Book” about Suttons, Essex, Seat of Charles Smith, esq — come find me!!

further readings:
See Repton at Dagnam (another estate the Smiths often visited).
Read about Repton and these “Red Books”; listed are several well-known properties, including Stoneleigh Abbey.
Sheringham Park has its “Red Book” on display (National Trust). It was published in facsimile in 1976 by Basilisk Press.
Oulton Hall’s Red Book is mentioned here as being in the West Yorkshire Archive, as well as some published in Country Life (1987).
A 24-page PDF of Hampshire’s Historic Parks & Gardens.

In the end I could not help but include this tidbit from the Hatchlands’ Red Book, for it so makes me think of Pride & Prejudice:

“In the situation of a house, its aspect ought to be the first consideration, and not the views it may command: a good aspect is a perpetual source of comfort to the inhabitant; while a fine view is rather a transitory subject of admiration to the stranger.”

Though I will say, even an ‘inhabitant’ enjoys the transitory admiration of a view every once in a while, I just think of Darcy and Elizabeth: a stranger perhaps when she views the park from the windows, but soon to become mistress of all she surveys! Little things sometimes explain volumes about a small, short passage in Austen’s novels.

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Wanna Bet?

November 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm (research) (, , , )

The Preface to Jo Modert’s Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile ends with this exchange:

“Soon after I began this search, a friend asked if I seriously thought that a new Austen letter would add any information to what we already know of her life. ‘No,’ I replied. (I lied — of course I can!)”

Such a thought made me think about two such letters that indeed added VITAL information to my knowledge of the lives of the writer of one, the recipient of the other: Emma’s eldest sister Augusta Smith and youngest sister Maria Smith.

Augusta’s letter (owned by Angela in Alberta) reminisced about Auguta’s thoughts, feelings and memories of being abroad, in particular of being in Rome over Easter. Letters exist about this year on the Continent, but never before was the strength of AUGUSTA’s longings made known. Without this letter, this aspect of Augusta’s personality could NEVER have been guessed!

Angela’s “Augusta letter,” one of the greatest finds this blog has yielded, also hints at a couple “mysteries”, one involving cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton (which I think I’ve solved), one involving Aunt Emma Smith (which is still in search of a definitive answer). I’ll leave discussion of those for later.

Jacky’s “Maria letter” was written by Mrs Odell — the mother of the young man who accompanied Drummond Smith on a tour to Italy, the trip 20-year-old Drummond never returned from. Letters of the period, combined with relevant pages in Mary Augusta Austen Leigh’s 1911 biography of her father, James Edward Austen Leigh, indicates that Mrs Smith — never a fan of this trip — grilled Mr Odell in a couple interviews; as well, she was the recipient of several explicatory letters. And here was Mrs Odell pleading to Maria to think twice about marrying her son?! Several reasons come to mind as to why Maria would say ‘no’ and continue to say ‘no’; important questions crop up as to why Mrs Odell would write this letter — or Maria keep this letter among the items she passed down through her family.

To echo Jo Modert: Can just one letter add information to what we already know?

You Bet It Can!

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November 25, 2010 at 11:23 am (people, places) (, , , , , , )

Ah, Thanksgiving has rolled around once again. How time flies…

Just a short post today, putting in a couple links that I found in the past week that I thought would be of interest to readers.

The first is another first-rate find of Vic’s at Jane Austen’s World: She ‘tours’ the fabulous miniature rooms of Mrs James Ward Thorne. Reviewing the “Adam” rooms is like looking through the windows at the two Portland Place residences of the Smiths and Goslings.

And speaking of the Portland Place residences, the wonderful blog Ornamental Passions, which discusses architectural details most people miss when walking around London, has some interesting information on Portland Place buildings — including an important post on No. 5 PP: that the current building at the “address” was built in 1911.

I admit to still not finding out the layout of the street in the early 19th century — although many sources have surfaced telling who lived where on the street!

Anyway, check out both these blogs; you will give thanks!

By the way, if you have a kazillion dollars, you can purchase a flat in No. 5 Portland Place, Marylebone, London.

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Where there’s a WILL

November 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm (a day in the life, fashion) (, , , , , , , , , )

Yesterday, rather bored and wanting something to transcribe rather than write (I’m slowing working on my book about the Goslings & Smiths; a book review is due in a month, which is more or less done), I purchased and downloaded two wills – for Charles Joshua Smith and his wife Mary (Gosling) Smith.

One interesting feature of Charles’: he named Mary the guardian of his children — as long only as she remained his widow! If she remarried, then guardianship of the three (Charles Cunliffe Smith, Mary Charlotte Smith, Augusta Elizabeth Smith) was shared with Charles’ mother (Mrs Augusta Smith) and his brother (Spencer Smith).

Mary never did remarry; although she only outlived Charles by 11 years.

The “fun” thing about Mary’s will are the ‘trinkets’ (the name she applied) gifted by her to various relatives. Today I focus on that given by her to Charlotte (Smith) Currie — or I should say intended by Mary to go to Charlotte; Mary outlived young Charlotte by two years. The Codicil in which these items were given is dated 29 September 1834 (Mary died in July 1842).

So what had she intended Charlotte Currie to have as a memento? “A bracelet with Swiss Landscapes in enamel”. That I’d LOVE to see!!

So I looked up some images of 19th century, Georgian Swiss enamel jewelry. The only “landscapes” I found were those made into pins, and dating much later than 1830s. But isn’t this specimen, from c1850, gorgeous:

This bracelet could be closer to what Mary may have owned — possibly something she bought while abroad in 1829:

This, of course, is floral rather than landscapes, but this is described as being c1840, and so is more in keeping with what Mary may have purchased.

Mary’s 1829 diary was the first seen when comparing the handwriting of  “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney” (as the microfilm termed her) with that of Mary Gosling; they were a match! And the first words read in that 1829 diary?

Hausmadchen zeigen sie mir eines Bettzimmer“; above which she inserted “wollen sie mir zeigen“, which is a bit more “Would you mind showing me a bedroom, Housemaid”. Obviously, a phrase written down to prepare for this trip abroad.

I must admit, that reading of these gifts (mainly jewelry, but also some token gifts of money) made Mary seem that much more “solid” for some few moments; these items trinkets, as she said, of her existence — and her esteem for those left behind.

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eBaying letters

November 14, 2010 at 10:42 am (news) (, , , , , , )

Craig in Australia has long encouraged me to search for family correspondence on eBay; he has found some amazing family items! But his last name is a bit unusual. What name do I search for?? SMITH! Yow…

(Even Gosling has its problems — thanks to people like actor Ryan Gosling; but the main hinderance is that letters for sale are less for their content — writer and recipient included — than for their postmarks. I simply don’t have the patience! So, readers, should you find anything of use to me, please let me know! I appreciate Craig’s pointing out some Alexander Davison letters; the slightly unusual spelling — Davison rather than Davidson — rather saves the day with that family.)

But I thought to mention here this exceptional find, which ran in my local paper (among others, for the link is to the Times Herald in Pennsylvania): the letters of a Civil War Soldier, Alfred Covell Woods. The amazing story of what has been happening now is actually a fairly local story: Crown Point, NY is just across Lake Champlain from where I live.

What interests me, as readers may guess, is the story of his service told in letters home — as well, how these letters were reamassed (at least online) from the many purchasers among whom the items were distributed.

I’ll let the newspaper article tell the story; the link to the letter transcriptions can be found here, and don’t forget to notice the eBay pricing… This news article, from Syracuse, has the same info, but a couple great pictures, including the cover of the diary.

Woods’ diary is also online; see this link (from 2007!) about the transcriptions; the diary from 1861 can be found here – and check out the PICTURES! This, too, was once up for eBay bid.

Plattsburgh’s Press Republican ran the ‘after-story’: November 7‘s marker ceremony.

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Where are these items?

November 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm (people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the glories — and frustrations — of this project is the amount of material that has been saved, found, and ultimately consulted. But what about items that once existed, may exist still, and may be hidden away in a cellar, closet or attic??

Fortunate for me, the first diary I found — that belonging to Mary Gosling (aka Lady Smith) and now ‘living’ at Duke University — young Mary had emblazoned her name at the front of the note book! More typically, NO ONE puts their name in a diary (Charles did once  put ‘C. Smith Suttons’ in a pocket book journal!); though they often write out names, either in full or with first initial last name, on letters.

So what do I KNOW to be missing?? What precious relics of the Smiths & Goslings might be out there, but unidentified because there are few searchable names? They are mentioned in oh-so-many-sources:

Regarding Drummond Smith (Emma’s brother):

  • Tour (Italy) Journal of Drummond Smith; mentioned in his sister Emma’s (January) 1833 diary.
  • The beginning of anotherDrummond Smith travel narrative was copied into Jeremy Catto’s Letterbook: a journal of the tour Drummond took with Mary and Charles Smith, Fall 1829.
  • Manuscript book outlining Drummond’s life, from babyhood to young man; mentioned by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, in the biography of her father James Edward Austen Leigh [see post on a similar book for Maria Smith / Lady Culme Seymour]

Regarding Emma Smith / Emma Austen Leigh:

  • Tour Journal of Emma Smith, begun and either abridged or abandoned (see letter 1822).

Regarding Augusta Smith / Augusta Wilder:

  • “Foreign Journal” of Augusta Smith (aka Augusta Wilder); presumably covers the same tour (1822-23) as Emma’s begun/abandoned journal (see Mrs Smith’s letter dated December 1826).

Regarding Charles Joshua Smith:

  • Sir Charles Joshua Smith, letters from abroad during his Continental Tour, 1820-21 (surely retained in the family; originally addressed to Emma Smith).

Regarding the Gosling family:

  • William-Ellis Gosling, “MS Volume of his reflections and notes”; mentioned by Charlotte Brookes (c1919) as being in her possession – Christie of Glyndebourne (privately-printed book).
  • Elizabeth (Gosling) Christie’s “Honeymoon Diary” (c1829); mentioned by Charlotte Brookes (c1919; see above) as being in the possession of Mrs F.L. Wilder (presume the widow of Francis Langham Wilder, the former Beatrice Hibbert, who died in 1955).

Regarding the Compton / Northampton / Dickins family:

  • Letters and/or Travel Journal of Lady Elizabeth Compton (later, the wife of Charles Scrase Dickins or Dickens); mentioned in a letter from Augusta Smith (Wilder), 1824 (as the recipient), while the Comptons were in Italy: “I received, last week, your journal written after the ascent of Vesuvius and I thank you very much…”. Augusta also mentions wanting to see Lady Elizabeth’s drawings from this trip.

Regarding the Seymour family:

  • “Journals, Letterbooks &c” of Sir Michael Seymour, cited as sources for the DNB biography (1897 edition) of Sir Michael Seymour, son of Sir Michael and brother of the Revd. Richard Seymour.
  • Diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour; extracts published by A. Tindal Hart (see, for instance, The Curate’s Lot and The Nineteenth Century Country Parson) in the 1950s. The Warwickshire Record Office has microfilm of these diaries, but they are unable to copy the film without permission of the present owner; whereabouts of the actual diaries or their owner is currently unknown.


  • Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827. This was published by Spottiswoode in 1926. The authors are Eliza and Drummond Smith; artwork by Augusta Smith. UPDATE: June 2011 — FOUND on eBay!

If you know the whereabouts of any of these items, if they sound familiar to you, please contact me.

* * *

Here’s a list of those items that have been located! Grateful thanks to those who have helped, allowed me access to, or contacted me about their items:


  • Augusta Smith née Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons), 1798 diary; property of Mark Woodford (Chicago, IL)


  • Emma Smith, 1792 and 1794; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England)


  • Maria Smith, from infancy to age 17, written by her mother Augusta Smith; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England); see the post about the existence of a similar book for brother Drummond Smith


  • Kinwarton letters; property of Alan Godfrey (Alcester, Warks, England)
  • Drummond’s Letterbook; property of Dr. Jeremy Catto (Oxford University)
  • Augusta Smith (Augusta Wilder), 1824 Letter; property of Angela (Alberta, Canada)
  • various letters, to and from Maria (Smith) Culme-Seymour; property of Jacky (Maidstone, Kent, England)


  • Charlotte Brookes, Christie of Glyndebourne (privately printed, 1919). This book is referenced in the biography ‘John Christie of Glyndebourne’ by Wilfred Blunt (1968). FOUND! at the Lewes Library in Sussex.

* * *

See also the “portraits” page, for there are pieces of artwork I’m actively searching for — especially portraits of the Goslings (known to have been painted by Sir William Beechey).

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That’s a GOOD one!

November 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm (fashion) (, , )

I laughed my socks off when I spotted this T-Shirt in a Signals catalogue yesterday; just had to share:

Gives a whole new meaning to “been there, done that; got the T-shirt” — since many of my acquaintance have thought along this line whenever I ‘bore’ them for the umpteenth time, talking about Mary, Emma et al.

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No Le Faye at Fort Worth!

November 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm (jasna, people) (, , , )

A big disappointment is the recent news that Deirdre Le Faye, the renowned Austen scholar and author, is unable to travel to Texas for 2011’s AGM.

Especially after reading her monumental A Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family, 1700-2000, in which so much research Le Faye unearthed is presented, I’ve longed to meet her. There aren’t too many people who someone with my ‘non-teaching’ background can say I want to be as well-respected as her; Ms. Le Faye certainly is one such scholar.

If anyone has news as to ‘why’, do let me know (I hope it’s not health problems).

For blog readers interested in the Austen family — and how Emma Smith fits into it — seek out copies of Le Faye’s book. Emma, Edward, even Mrs Smith and especially Mrs Chute of The Vyne make appearances!

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Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

November 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm (news) (, , , , , )

Today unveils the Digital Archive of Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts:

This features manuscripts from the Juvenilia, unfinished novels, cancelled Persuasion chapters and such like; formerly found online, the History of England, though you see Cassandra’s pictures on this website, you will still find online at the British Library. (I love their presentation!)

Check out the website at:

How about such a site with all the FAMILY letters… now that would be something to have digitalized!

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