Austen’s Prose

January 31, 2011 at 9:36 pm (books) (, )

Celebrate the Bicentenary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility!

Find out more by visiting Austenprose: Although the “challenge” got underway on January 26th, you have until 1 March to sign up. Be sure to check out the prizes!

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Long, Winding Road… to Fort Worth

January 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm (jasna) (, , , , , , , )

A couple days ago the post delivered the cutest postcard to my address, from JASNA’s North Texas Region, the host of this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM):

As the backside reads: “Sense will always have an attraction for me.” (ch. x) And so doesn’t the novel, which I have been looking through (my library copy of Chapman’s third edition, pictured above, is over due by a day…)

We’ve grey-ish skies, but (so far) no snowfall (unlike yesterday’s giant flakes) so I for one can’t wait for October — and the beautiful skies of “horizonless” Texas! Thanks for sending the pick-me-up, North Texas volunteers.

**NEWS: Dr. Cheryl Kinney speaks on “Women’s Health in the Novels of Jane Austen” in February: find it online at www.soundmedicine.iu.edu. Dr. Kinney is one of the 2011 AGM coordinators, along with Rosalie Sternberg.

**BTW, here’s the original post, when I first learned this paper had been ACCEPTED!

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On this day

January 27, 2011 at 12:02 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In 1793, young Eliza Smith (Eliza Chute as she would become in October) is writing in her diary. She is in Great George St, London, her father’s residence:

27 January “…Out in the morning. Admitted at L:y Arden’s Mrs Jelfe & L:y Cunliffe… Farquhar came to Fanny  We read together 2 vol. of the Benevolent Quixote a novel  Alone I began Mad:e de Sévigné’s letters & read Pope’s Moral essays”

My favorite mentions in this entry are Lady Cunliffe — who was mother to Eliza and Mary Cunliffe, the future mother and aunt of my Mary Gosling; and of Madame de Sévigné — whose letters I have read with great interest. Madame’s old Paris home is now the Musee Carnavalet, which, alas, I appreciated more for her past presence than for its value as a history of Paris museum. (The Wikipedia entry has a link to some evocative photos!)

Eliza Chute’s own London home, in Great George Street, was a former home of another national museum: the “infant” National Portrait Gallery. See details (and some wonderful pictures of this demolished residence) at British History Online.

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Sir William Knighton – New Biography!

January 21, 2011 at 10:54 am (books, news, people, places) (, , , , , , , )

Announcing…

from the publisher’s website:
“William Knighton is remembered as the indispensable confidant whom George IV trusted to act with efficiency and discretion in matters personal and constitutional, great and small. Between 1822 and 1830 Knighton was a national figure, the intermediary between George and most of the world, but his life at Court was a second career undertaken in early middle age. He was born a farmer’s son, came of age in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and for most of his working life earned his living as a doctor. As a physician Knighton was tied to the eighteenth century, skilled at diagnosis and prognosis but with only limited remedies to hand. As a courtier in the 1820s he served a monarch whose subjects feared revolution but favoured religious tolerance and the reform of public life, and in both careers he moved among larger-than-life characters. During his working life he witnessed the indiscretions of an age in which courtesans and mistresses held power, while retirement gave him leisure to despair of an England that had enacted the Great Electoral Reform Bill. He has much to offer historians. A confirmed landlubber who fled Plymouth to become obstetrician to London society, he was also the Everyman of maritime England who accepted ships and the sea as part of everyday life. His mother was a triumphant example of the advantages of business sense over gentility for Georgian women, while his discriminate exercise of patronage shows its acceptable use in the absence of alternatives.

Yet a study of Knighton’s life is more than a reflection of late Georgian England. He was not defined by the age in which he lived. The victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo, the insanity of one king and the extravagance of another, hard harvests, religious dissent and electoral reform were merely context. Knighton’s life was shaped by family secrets, a good marriage, a child’s death and a capricious employer – common experiences in every society and every age. His life was also shaped by his abilities. A fine intellect and capacity for hard work ensured success at whatever he attempted, but he lacked the spark of genius that would take him to the top of any one career or make it inevitable that he would follow one calling rather than another. With ambition and ability but no vocation, Knighton’s life was a series of choices. Some he made wisely. Others he was honest enough to regret.”

You can find more about Charlotte Frost and her new biography Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician on authorsonline.co.uk

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Judge a Letter by its Cover

January 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When Craig from Australia — a most helpful Smith&Gosling “fan”! — wrote about a letter he found, the tell-tale tidbit that attracted me was hearing that it was addressed to the Marquess of Northampton. Its dating, to 1824, meant to the first Marquess — husband of Mamma Smith’s sister Maria, father to Lord Compton (the 2nd Marquess) and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton (later married to Charles Scrase Dickins).

The idea that came into my brain while corresponding with Craig was that, although his find might be addressed TO Lord Northampton — the enclosed LETTER might very well be addressed to someone else!

My evidence?

At the Essex Record Office, there is a small set of letters, written by “the children” — as Emma referred to her two youngest sisters (her younger brothers were in school), Charlotte and Maria — but the girls, while addressing their letters to eldest sister Augusta and to Mamma, addressed their envelopes to “Le Chevalier Charles Smith“!

Obviously, therefore, the “head of the household” was the letter recipient whenever letters were sent Poste Restante or to be called for at, say, the offices of the family’s foreign banker.

Just one exceptionally interesting “find” while delving back in time nearly 200 years. Stay tuned for more!

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Rev. Richard Seymour: 16 Feb 1832

January 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm (books, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through letters and diaries for the early 1830s (I know, I know; I should be working about 15 years earlier than this!! I will get back to the 1810s…), I came across some exceptionally interesting news about Tring Church (St. Peter and St. Paul) and an 1832 connection with the four unmarried Smith sisters. This news I save for later, however…

But in looking through other diaries for the same year, I was searching through Richard Seymour’s published extracts (found in The Nineteenth Century Country Parson (1954), ed. by Hart and Carpenter), and just have to share two particular entries.

Richard, born in 1806, was therefore in his mid-20s in 1832; his diary shares many thoughts on the privileges his family enjoyed, contrasted to his desire to live a Christian life of duty and sacrifice. Was he idealistic, or simply young? His self-examinations can make for exhilarating reads, as in these entries (especially the second) from February 1832:

February 11: Drove Frances and Lizzy [his sisters] out to Codlington [sic: Cadlington]. Mrs. Morgan’s children’s dance. My conscience not at ease. Doubtful therefore whether I should have been there. I feel a great and I hope proper fear of being thought not to live up to what I preach. Shall avoid such things in future. May God mercifully guide me in my participation of those things which are perhaps lawful but not expedient.

February 16: While in the workhouse [his curate’s duty took him there] this evening the thought struck me, how different this scene from that of last night! [he had attended a ball at his father’s house in Portsmouth] There the handsome, well furnished and well lighted room. Here a cheerless, comfortless space with one small candle to throw its light on my book. There Youth and Beauty and affluence and careless hearts. Here the maimed, the blind, the halt, the aged, the sick, the deprived of reason, all, too, poor and destitute but for the aid of others. There the sound of music and revelry, mixed with the happy laughs. Here, the crying infant or the moan of the more aged. Most different indeed! His blessing upon my ministry, that these may become poor in spirit, as they are poor in this world’s goods, and that their heavenly and eternal prospects may grow brighter and clearer as their earthly hopes wax more dim and dismal.

Richard’s diaries are those which exist only on microfilm; I’ve blogged about them a couple times as they are among the great “missing” items; he married Emma’s sister Fanny in 1834. His sister Frances married Fanny’s brother Spencer the following spring; and eldest brother John (the Rev. Sir John Culme-Seymour, bart) later (in 1844) married the baby of the Smith of Suttons family, Maria. He and Fanny would live in the “remote” north — Warwickshire; Kinwarton to be specific.

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Sad Day at Suttons

January 14, 2011 at 11:05 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , )

The year was 1831; Charles was only 30 years old and had endured some horrific medical procedures (never mind the mercury-laiden medicines!). I will post some information about this “last illness” of a vital young man, as well as some of the questions that remain on what precipitated the entire episode, at a later point.

{note on the obituary, which was published in Gentleman’s Magazine: Augusta Smith’s eldest sister was Maria the dowager Marchioness of Northampton, but Lady Dunsany was actually a paternal AUNT to the four Erle Stoke sisters Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma. Charles’ father, Charles Smith of Suttons, pre-deceased his uncle by marriage, Sir Drummond Smith — which is how the title devolved upon Charles Joshua. Charles left three children at his death: Charles Cunliffe Smith, Mary (called Mimi by her mother), and Augusta.}

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Dearest Aunt…

January 11, 2011 at 11:26 am (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Emma, writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, sister to Emma’s deceased father Charles), 10 Oct 1831:

“Our party here is very tiny only four; five I ought to say for Miss Corbaux is still with us – She has made a most charming water colored drawing of Mamma for me which is (Aunt Northampton says) amazingly like. She is seated on a Sofa in a black velvet gown with her hands crossed and her head rather on one side in a reflecting mood & so much like the attitude of the head in yr picture that it must be characteristic of her – The maids think it so much like [Missis?] sitting at Prayers. Then Miss Corbaux has taken a drawing of Miss Ashley for Charlotte which is very nearly as like as Mamma’s – I am going to indulge myself with having a likeness of Edward taken as the one by Mrs. Carpenter is not satisfactory – The children we do not mean to have taken considering it too great an extravagance…”

Can’t you just SEE Mamma: her dress, her demeanor, her attitude and look: oh, what’s happened to this drawing?!

I will post later some information on the artist.

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Sir William Knighton

January 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm (books, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night, reading through some 1830 letters, I spotted a couple that Emma tells us she and Cholmeley (her eldest child) visited in March 1830: Mr & Mrs Arbuthnot.

Arbuthnot made me think of The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, edited by Francis Bamford and the Duke of Wellington (1950) — the 1820-1832 diary of Harriet Fane Arbuthnot, close friend of the Duke of Wellington. Alas, different people….

And yet… Harriet and Charles Arbuthnot, moving in the circles they did, know the very person recently under discussion with author Charlotte Frost: her forthcoming book focussing on Sir William Knighton, the father of Richard Seymour’s sister-in-law Dora K. (The man was also Richard’s uncle: Lady Knighton and Lady Seymour were sisters, daughters of Capt. James Hawker.)

Anyway, looking through the index I had to see what Harriet Arbuthnot had to say about Sir William, whose moving quote about seeing his beloved Dora married (read post) really indicates to present-day readers just how much love such a man held for a daughter.

Mrs Arbuthnot is writing in September of 1822:

“The Duke sent me the King’s letters & his to the King. … The friend to whom the King alludes is Sir Wm Knighton, whose origin was being a physician’s shop boy at Plymouth; from that he became physician at Plymouth, afterwards travelled with Ld Wellesley to take care of his mistress, then became an accoucheur in London & now ends by being the King’s Privy Purse & his most confidential friend, to whom he tells everything, political & private. He is a great rogue & a blackguard, with great softness & plausibility of manner. I ought not to abuse him just now for I have been unwell & he has prescribed for me (very condescending in the Privy Purse) & has done me great good.”

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Cadlington Found!

January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm (estates, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

If you’ve ever wondered about the extended family and how “well off” they might have been, consider this: When Dora Knighton married her cousin Capt. Michael Seymour (following in the footsteps of his father, Sir Michael Seymour, Capt. Seymour was in the Royal Navy), their wedding present was … a home: Cadlington, in the county of Hampshire.

Mrs Augusta Smith writes Emma from Cadlington in 1838; this was, after all, the home of the brother & wife of both her son-in-law (Richard Seymour) AND daughter-in-law (Frances Seymour).

Not only were there two Frances Seymours* for a while, Richard Seymour also had a sister Dora (Dorothea, in both cases). To differentiate them, he always referred to his sister-in-law as Dora K.

[*Richard Seymour and Fanny Smith married prior to Frances Seymour and Spencer Smith. To Richard — and to her own family, Frances Smith Seymour was always Fanny; Frances Seymour Smith was always known as Frances. Little distinctions mean a lot when working with diaries, letters, and similarly-named family members!]

Dora Knighton was the daughter of Sir William Knighton. In 1838, Lady Knighton caused to be published two volumes of his memoirs (and you can find much information about their children): vol. 1, vol. II. The portrait of Sir William included on this website comes from this series of memoirs.

Dora’s wedding is the subject of ch. XXI in vol. 2:

“June 22nd, 1829.

On this day my beloved Dora was married, at eight o’clock in the morning, by the Bishop of Winchester, at Bendworth [sic] Church.

The feelings excited by resigning the care of one’s child to another, no one can express. It seems as if you were called upon to part with the best feelings of your nature. The ceremony to me was most melancholy. I wept bitterly; but the inward feelings were still greater. I proceeded to London at one the same day…”

An early 20th-century photo of Cadlington, where its dining room is called “opulent and impressive,” can be viewed here.

Cadlington has undergone some changes — turned into luxury flats (rather like Hassobury, the Gosling’s old estate in Essex). And the agent posted (long ago) an interesting flyer: cadlington house.

READ “Cadlington” Headlines:

By the way, Michael Seymour (contrary to the brochure’s claim) was a captain in 1829. See his biography.

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