A New Addition to our Family

March 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm (books, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )

It’s always wonderful when I come across a new “illustration” of a family member — this one I grabbed from Wikipedia’s entry on Sir Michael Seymour — he is the Rev. Richard Seymour’s brother. Sir Michael followed in his father’s footsteps; both were navy men (and, I hate to tell you, both named Michael!).

Sir Michael Seymour, the father, died in 1834 — an important year for Richard (he and Fanny married in October of that year).

As you can see here, Sir Michael Seymour, the son, lived a longer life (born in 1802, he died in 1887).

I have a cruder picture of a young Richard Seymour — it is a photo of a drawing, which is why the quality is not high (but I’ve never come across the original painting); do you think they look alike, these brothers?

Sir Michael was the husband of Dora K. (Dora Knighton, but Richard always referred to her as Dora K. in his diaries because the Seymours likewise had a SISTER named Dora!). Dora K., of course, was the daughter of Sir William Knighton — the subject of Charlotte Frost’s new biography.

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Arts Alive!

March 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm (books, news, people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

Over the weekend (Friday?) I saw a news story about military artists, ie, men in Afghanistan who were official “painters” at the front. I simply cannot put my hands on that story (though I’ll keep looking… this stuff usually gets posted at the news website — and I only get local channels, so CBS, ABC, or NBC are the possible choices.)

However, looking for this story, I’ve come across some other interesting links of war-era art.

My reason for looking, or being interested in this in the first place?

I just finished writing an article talking about art — and art, of course, is half my AGM paper (see references to “A House Divided? How the ‘Sister Arts’ Define the Dashwood Sisters” on this blog). Austen scholars tend to think of drawing as a female accomplishment but maybe don’t think about the fact that before the advent of the CAMERA pencil and paper were the only way to record people, places and things that meant something to you. Maria Smith even drew her own frontispieces to letters: she certainly had the artistic ability to do it with great success.

I once came across a notice about Mr William Gosling (Mary’s father) sketching at STOWE.

A travel sketchbook was last year auctioned in a house sale (New Hall); the artist was Mary’s cousin, Alexander Davison’s daughter Dorothy. The Italy Album, containing forty drawings made c1840, sold for more than twice its estimated: £5000.

Among my favorite books are some publishing Queen Victoria’s drawings.

So this news story (on whatever channel…) really caught my attention: people, in this digital day-and-age, still picking up the pencil, still coloring with watercolor — and at the warfront too!

While still searching for that particular story (tell me if you know!), I found some of these “stories” of interest too:

* They Drew Fire: Combat Artists in WWII

* US Army Center of Military History: Army Art Program – A Brief History

* A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan [publication based on prior exhibition]

* World War I: Doughboy Center

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Lady Elizabeth Dickins sighted!

March 27, 2011 at 8:58 am (people, places, research) (, , , , , )

Ah, just gotta love these 19th century published memoirs! Here is one, entitled Further Recollections of a Diplomatist  where the biographer has gone “on to Castle Ashby…” Sir Horace Rumbold describes being “at first much bewildered by the size of the beautiful old Jacobean pile, with its intricate passages and long, creepy galleries. But although a thoroughly haunted-looking house, no uncomfortable traditions appear to attach to Castle Ashby.”

He goes on to talk of the inhabitants: “We spent upwards of a fortnight here, our host taking a great fancy to the boy, and to the quaint German patois songs they had been taught to sing in parts by one of their nurses. Lord Northampton [the 3rd marquess; son of Spencer and Margaret] was already then in the very last stage of decline, but his conversation was still delightful, and, like his gifted sister, Lady Marian Alford, he was an admirable draughtsman, and worked with pencil and brush to the very last. Artistic gifts are indeed hereditary in the family, for staying in the house was old Lady Elizabeth Dickins [or Dickens, I see the name spelled BOTH ways…], Lord Northampton’s aunt, who used to amuse the children with very clever pen-and-ink sketches which she did, for choice, kneeling by the table, although then considerably past eighty.”

One letter, written in 1824, from Augusta (Emma’s sister) to Lady Elizabeth discusses her “scratches” and “sketches”. What precious items these would be to locate — but I am on the trail…

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An Invitation

March 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Just a short note to say “thank you” to those visitors who take the time to read this blog.

I reserve *special thanks* to those with items — diaries, letters, book sources — who’ve contacted me and shared their thoughts, and especially, their items. I’ve also met some people who always manage to bring smiles to my face whenever I hear from them. Such interaction and friendship are more meaningly than I can express.

Seeing search terms on the site statistics, today made me think to tell readers that I have more information than many a time does not hit the blog. These extended families are HUGE – and my main interest covers what is a large chunk of time (1800-1842), but at the same time extends in both directions: children lived into the late Victorian times (and sometimes beyond), as well parents and grandparents bring the research span into the mid-18th century.  A lot of people, a lot of family “lines”, a number of generations… Whew!

But I’m always happy to hear from people, and help in any way that I can. So write if you’re interested in specific people, even if you don’t see them often on the blog.

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Jane Austen Fashion II: Spring!

March 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm (entertainment, fashion) (, , , , , , )

March has supposedly brought with it the first day of spring: we had better weather BEFORE the official “first day” than afterwards! That’s Vermont for you…

So let’s look at a “spring” fashion — for the year 1815:

This “Walking Dress,” from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, is described as:

“Pelisse of short walking length, made of evening primrose-coloured velvet, ornamented down the front with satin trimming; round capes, trimmed to correspond; full lace ruff. A French bonnet, composed of white velvet and satin in reversed plaitings, trimmed round the edge with a quilting of lace; full plume of ostrich feathers in the front. Half-boots of tan-coloured kid. Gloves, Limerick or York tan.”

and later, this interesting attribution: “For the fashions for this month we are again indebted to the tasteful and elegant designs of Mrs. Bean, of Albemarle-street.”

As mentioned in my earlier post, any information on the said Mrs. Bean would be most welcome!

The Smiths and Goslings, living at their London residences on Portland Place, would still have been in the city when spring officially came. This time, up to Easter, was busy-busy-busy with concerts and parties. A fascinating period to study, I must confess…

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Erin go bragh

March 17, 2011 at 8:26 am (a day in the life, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…Éirinn go brách… Ireland forever!

The following words are those of Margaret Fountaine (published in Love Among the Butterflies):

“…then we were off, speeding across Holyhead Harbour out into the open sea…. We amused ourselves… by rampaging all over the boat, A strong breeze was blowing so we left our hats in the cabin for safety. The sky was almost cloudless, blue in the sky above, blue in the rolling water below. Close to the side of the boat, with my hair in long shreds streaming in the wind, I leaned forward straining my eyes to catch the first glimpse of the Irish coast.”

Margaret, in 1890, was 28 years old. When I first travelled to Ireland, along that same route — Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, arriving as dawn (and an autumn mist) rose over the intensely-blue waters — I was about 23 years old.

Mary Gosling travelled to Ireland in 1821, when she was 21 years old; it was the culminating landing of a trip that brought the Gosling family (“Papa, Mamma, my Sister and myself”) from Roehampton, through Shrewsbury, to Chirk and North Wales, then a boat ride across to Ireland. On September 9th, they “arrived at Howth eight miles from Dublin at three o’clock, after rather a rough passage of seven hours. We went to Dublin in the Mail coach and arrived at Morrison’s hotel in Dawson Street at five o’clock.” Mary reports “we were all very ill” during the sea journey. Emma, who received a letter from her dear friend, passed similar news on to Aunt [Mrs Judith Smith, of Stratford] in a letter dated 28 September: “We have heard again from the Goslings they have been in Ireland, but suffered so much from sea sickness both in coming & going that it has in a great degree spoilt their enjoyment, they say that those who cross the water as they did in steam boats suffer more from sickness than in any other way.”

This Irish part of the trip was most curious when I first read it. (This 1821 diary was the very first piece of this research! and I had NO idea who Mary was, never mind what her ‘Papa’ did for a living). Mary accompanies Papa “to see the Bank, the exterior of which is very handsome forming a very fine object almost in the centre of the City with Trinity College…. We saw the whole process of making bank notes, which is all done by steam engines and is very curious.” She then goes on to describe the process: what is done with and to the paper; the printing of notes; the finishing and “signing” — “which must be done by hand”. Knowing the identity of William Gosling — a banker, with his own ‘family’ firm — it all makes such perfect sense; for who, but a banker, could gain such immediate access to the making of currency!

They toured a little of the island, then headed back to Dublin — where they again see the process of “making money” on September 17th. They prepared for a return to England the following day, going to Holyhead: “We got up at half past four…we had a very favorable passage of seven hours and a half though very ill all the time”. Their return was leisurely: they arrived at Roehampton on October 6th, “well pleased with our six weeks Tour. We travelled all together 845 miles.”

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Regency Cookery

March 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm (entertainment, news) (, , , , , , )

I’ve come across a wonderful website on HISTORIC FOOD! Great find… especially if you live in England, for you can join in on courses — like a Regency Cookery. Who could resist learning to make such a dish as “Haunch of Mutton dressed like Venison”?! ” Ivan Day “runs unique practical courses on period cookery, many of which take place in an historic kitchen in his own home, a seventeenth century farmhouse on the edge of the English Lake District.” Can you imagine?!

“As well as advertising the Historic Food Courses, this site contains a wealth of unique information, recipes and images relating to the history of English food. It demonstrates how Ivan uses period cookery illustrations, antique utensils and other primary sources to re-create the remarkable food of the past.”

And Ivan Day, recently (7 March 2011) was on Royal Upstairs Downstairs (BBC2) at CASTLE HOWARD! Oh, such memories visiting that place in the aftermath of having viewed the wonderful TV series Brideshead Revisited.

Anyway, there’s much to see so check out their site!  There’s recipes, info, courses, even Ivan Day’s book (and you know how much I LOVE books!). Highly recommended.

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I Want to Read…

March 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm (books, introduction, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


It occurred to me that blog readers might be interested in a bit of “hmmm… what’s she raising money for??” explanation. (see the Austen Book Raffle posts).

I’m more than happy to bend a few “eyes” (and ears) about my research project! (As friends and family know, to their detriment…)

To start at the very beginning: I visited Northern Wales — Llangollen to be exact — and was just ENCHANTED with the story of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I began collecting “first-hand” information, and posted it on my website. Surprisingly, there was abundant material! Though much found was of the second-hand, mythic variety, there were some great finds.

One “find” was a Duke University diary. Once belonging to MARY GOSLING, the diary turned out to contain several trips – to the English coast, to the battlefields of Waterloo, and a certain trip to Ireland that took the Gosling family through Northern Wales. And — wait for it! — they visited with the Ladies! Were shown around Plas Newydd (the home of the Ladies of Llangollen; now a museum), in fact!

But who were these GOSLINGS??

(And, by the way, Mary hadn’t much to about the Ladies, other than what was already known about them – ie, how they dressed and how they never travelled far from home.)

With the internet, I struck gold. Found a series of diaries written by Lady Smith, the 2nd daughter of William Gosling of Roehampton Grove, a banker. Now, in Mary Gosling’s diary, there was a man who brought his family to see Bank of Ireland currency MADE. Who, other than a banker, would have the ability to go that? And Mary had them departing from “Roehampton”!

But, without seeing these later diaries of Lady Smith’s, it was mere supposition that Mary Gosling = Lady Smith.

The main reason these Lady Smith diaries were listed online was that they were included in part of an exceptional large microfilm collection. Essex County was in PART FIVE, which I learned was a far cry from Part One — the only series owned by the closest “big” educational facility within easy driving: Dartmouth College (New Hampshire). Oh, the drive home that day was a disappointment.

Again: thankfully the internet — and online college & university catalogues — helped me track down a handful of places with the full series (or at least through series five). A trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought me within easy distance of one of those few: Old Dominion University. I’ve never seen such a lovely library! And once I found the rolls of film with Lady Smith’s diaries, I was well rewarded: There was the SAME handwriting, the same reference to “My Sister” (Mary never calls Elizabeth Gosling anything other than “my Sister”.)

I had found my girl!

Or, should I say girls — for that day I spotted my first reference to young Emma:

If I had KNOWN that in looking up some Jane Austen books I’d have found ALL of Charles Joshua Smith’s siblings, I would have saved myself TONS of digging… Alas, it’s almost a “happier” circumstance to piece the family together: 9 Smith siblings in all!

“Mr Austen, Mr Knight, and Mrs Leigh Perrot” in the diary entry above (Emma and Edward’s first child’s christening!) were the giveaways about the Jane Austen connection.

And thanks to that connection I got to see TONS of diaries and letters and memorabilia (for instance, a lock of young Drummond Smith’s hair!) at the Hampshire Record Office, when I lived in England for two months in 2007 in order to transcribe as much material as possible. For most of the time, I worked six days a week at the archive (thanks to their generous hours) and on the seventh — well, I began well: reading and reviewing the work of previous days, but it was summer and, yes, some Sundays I spent in the park near Winchester’s town hall.

I had already inter-library loaned those rolls of microfilm with Lady Smith’s diaries; purchased a roll of film with all of the existing diaries written by Charles Joshua Smith (Mary Gosling’s husband; Emma Smith’s eldest brother), which the Essex Record Office houses. Now I had a growing collection of letters and diaries by the likes of Emma, her mother Augusta Smith, her sisters Augusta, Fanny and Maria; a diary series belonging to Fanny’s eventual husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour was briefly worked on at the Warwickshire Record Office (their hours were much shorter than HRO’s…).

In short, I’ve seen much, typed a LOT, and still there is more material for me to “visit” — if not in person (expensive) then via film.

And that’s where the Book Raffle comes in. Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) made some delightful silhouettes, and his descendent, Freydis Welland, put them together into a book, originally published by private press: A Life in the Country. The pictures are accompanied by Jane Austen quotes. The book was then published “commercially” by the British Library.

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International Women – a Bit of a Rant

March 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm (news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was sorry to be waylaid by snow (and MORE and more and even MORE snow), here in New England, and be unable to post ANYTHING about International Women’s Day — IWD marked its 100th anniversary on Tuesday, March 8th.

See IWD’s website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

I am fairly apolitical, but certainly “dream” of a world of decency towards all, equality of the sexes, equal wages, equal opportunity — and am smart enough to know I’ll never live to see such things. (“Dreamers” see solutions to world problems, but no one listens.)

At the same time, it really annoys me when people, discussing Austen’s era, disparage the idea of women of the “leisure class” having nothing to do and how boring their lives must have been because they couldn’t go out and work, must marry and have children, must be under the thumb of father, husband or brother.

My Smiths and Goslings of course would be included here. And they were people not under anyone’s thumb (you’ve never seen anyone more formidable than Mamma Smith!); they also had money enough to live without marrying — but the girls chose to do so. Choice is something many today don’t have: we must work, even at jobs we hate, just to pay the bills. So who’s to say that “today” is better than “yesterday”? It really all depends on the individual.

I adore the arts. Lament that my parents were not encouraging when, in grade 5 or 6, I wanted to take up the drums (you can guess why they were not encouraging! however: I never learned to read music…). I grew up in a small Vermont city with no one in my life who was interested in plays, theater, concerts (which were as active then as today). I found those things, later, on my own. I enjoy working for hours and days and months on a writing assignment; it fills my mind when I write. I cannot imagine a house devoid of books (even Andy Rooney, last Sunday, spoke of Kindles and real books!).

In short, I would KILL for a life as lived by young Emma Smith and Mary Gosling: drawing lessons from artists; trips away from a country home (quiet!!!) to the bustle of London for the ‘season’; concerts and operas and plays enjoyed and understood; time to read; time to learn foreign languages — and money enough to go on trips to those foreign lands!

Now, I recognize that not everyone would have talent for, or even like, pursuits like drawing, music, travel, reading, learning. But some also don’t care to spend time in an office. Some people are Career-minded; Career with a capital C. Some are nurturers and want a homelife and children. Some work to live rather than live to work. Some are artistic — and just wish artists didn’t traditionally ‘starve to death’.

I’m sure there were women in the 19th century who wanted to “work” for a living (and were disparaged for it, if they did it), just as there are women today who would rather be home (and are disparaged for it). Every individual tries to do what brings them enjoyment; some are less successful than others; some just never have the opportunity to rise to their particular potential. Roadblocks exist, have existed, and will exist. I don’t fit into my “world,” but have tried and am trying to carve a new niche. None of us represent an era, a generation, or women in general. We are each only ourself.

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Jane Austen Book Raffle

March 6, 2011 at 11:00 am (books, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Time to post a bit of a *PLUG* for the giveaway:

One lucky winner will be gifted with this SIGNED copy of the delightful Life in the Country. Let’s take a quick look inside!

A little history, as my Emma would say, of the book:

This copy came direct from the U.K. (purchased by a friend). I brought it with me to the 2009 JASNA AGM in Philadelphia. Joan Ray, who spoke in Vermont in September of that year, had already signed the book. In Philadelphia, I tracked down Maggie Lane after her AGM presentation (I also wanted to see if she had heard of the Goslings, as a banking firm; unfortunately, she was unfamiliar with them). Freydis Welland, who is the daughther of Joan Austen-Leigh, I sought out because I wanted to meet her — she’s my Emma’s family, after all! Freydis and her sister were most kind in their remarks about my research, and Freydis consented to sign the copy of this book. Thus, only Eileen Sutherland is missing in this line-up.

The essays, like the one pictured — “Jane Austen and her Family” (Maggie Lane’s contribution) — make for a nice read. The bulk of the book are made up of wonderful silhouettes cut by my James Edward Austen Leigh!

My online review of the book has this to say about Life in the Country: “Most reviews of Life in the Country focus on its Jane Austen connection; while her name will create media coverage and open consumer wallets, it is the silhouettes themselves that will keep this book at hand. Although noted a bit late, there is acknowledgement at the back that virtually all the silhouettes are presented in their original size. The level of intricacy, especially in the more complicated scenery pieces, is astounding and the skill necessary to have produced them freehand is truly amazing.”

To read the entire review, see Jane Austen in Vermont (the JASNA-Vermont blog): http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/life-in-the-country-a-review/

The Jane Austen Raffle is simple and costs only $1:

Read the rest of this entry »

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