London’s Landscape: The Custom House

May 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm (london's landscape, places, travel) (, , , , , , , )

How fortuitous! Only last week was I trying to find some information about a certain “Mr Hames” who may be a “Mr Haines” of the Custom House, and today I find this wonder 1816 image of the riverside facade!

Let me fill you in on the dilemma…

When you travel to transcribe you also leave with nothing to compare your transcription to should a question arise. This happened when, in two letters, I encountered the abovementioned Mr H.

In spring 1823 the younger children, Charlotte and Maria, were writing to this mother and siblings who had ventured to the Continent and stayed the winter in order to see Rome! An inquiry must have turned up, for young Charlotte (born in 1810) is responding when she says, “We heard from Mr Haines [note!] that you had written to him to know if you might send some dresses to England, he says they must seem as if they had been worn.”

Emma later writes to Aunt, “Mamma begs you to be so kind as to offer to pay Mr Hames [note!!] (of the Custom House) for the money he has paid for our things….”

So… was it ME and I mis-read either Charlotte or Emma’s handwriting? Did Charlotte not know how the man spelled his name, but Emma did? Without heading back to Essex and Hampshire, I’ll not know.

Though I’m hopeful of ID’ing him through newspapers of the period.

Anyway: the building itself is much easier to discuss than some cog-in-the-wheel worker who paid for some trunks of clothing from Italy in 1823!

This picture is found in The Repository of Arts, July 1816 (see the issues found online). Some interesting tidbits accompanies it:

  • “The Custom-House erected at the commencement of Queen Elizabeth’s reign … destroyed by the great conflagration in 1666”
  • the new building, together with 120 houses, also burned down – in 1715; 50 persons died.
  • the next successor also burned – in 1814.

While this building (before it burned) was deemed “inadequate to the vast increase of commercial business”, the Board of Customs “abandoned the idea of making additions to the old building”. “[P]lans were prepared for a building on a magnificent scale, and of a very classic design, the first stone of which was laid, with the usual ceremonies, at the south-east corner [between the old Custom House and Billingsgate], on the 25th of October, 1813.

“This building is great in its features of design, and substantial in the dimensions of its parts…[and] is highly honourable to the abilities of Mr. Laing, the architect: but, unfortunately, the situation is not favourable to a display or to an inspection of its merits; for the grandeur of the outline cannot be sufficiently seen, owing to the comparatively confined terrace or quay….”

Oh, dear.

“The front is of Portland stone, and consists of an Ionic superstructure, supported by a basement, and finished by an attic. the centre … contains the great room, which is lighted by nine large arched windows; the central entrance beneath is {flanked} by flights of steps on each side; and a projecting portion of the basement sustains recumbent figures of Ocean and Commerce. The attic of the centre is decorated by a fine bas-relief 200 feet long, with figures 5 feet 6 inches high, representing our commercial alliances, and executed by Mr. Bubb. Above this is a group of figures representing Industry and Ingenuity, supporting a dial.”

“Though all the desired results … cannot be expected, from its crowded situation, yet its effect from the entrance of the metropolis over London bridge is very striking, and foreigners, who visit the port of London, on viewing it, must speak with respect of our architectural talent, and of the magnificence of this national edifice.”

more later!

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Bloomin’ Rhododendrons

May 28, 2011 at 11:17 am (a day in the life, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

One *amazing* discovery, made reading these 200-year-old (more or less) letters and diaries, is the passion for FLOWERS everyone, young and old, exhibited. There are those who loved to draw and sketch flowers:

Miss Meen came & I began to learn painting flowers” – Emma Smith, 6 February 1815

That same year, in late Summer, Castle Ashby, home of the Marquess of Northampton, when Emma’s cousin Spencer Lord Compton married Margaret Maclean Clephane, the rooms were bedecked with “flowerpots, to the number of 32”. These were placed “in most of the rooms“, although the Great Hall received special floral treatment.

In her 1798 diary, Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons) kept a listing of flowers, probably those she found at Suttons following her March wedding, or else those she had cause to see planted. Among them, “White Lilics & Day Lilies. Lillies of the Valley Bigonia…Magnolias  Seeds of Anemonie, sown directly

In the summer she exults about eating “The first dish of Strawberries from our garden.”

In August 1832, when her younger daughter “little Augusta shews a great taste for flowers” Mary (Lady Smith) makes sure to note it in her diary.

These are just a few that popped to mind, which I could find and quote. As my own garden turns to blooms, they join recollections of springs and summers abroad, in England and Wales. The rhododendrons that grew wild along the roadside my father and I trekked along in search of a castle estate in North Wales always comes to mind when I see my own blooms (left).

And there is nothing more humble than the little purple violets which grow wild hereabouts; weed to some, it is a valued little flower to me, as much as Augusta’s Lilies of the Valley must have been to her:

Truthfully, I have very little love of gardening. But to have such color and scent to hand is something I too watch and note every year. The crocuses that bloom on the “first” warm day — only to decimated by the ensuing cold… The rhodos that grew larger and larger — and attract too many bees to safely cut them for an indoors look… The Day Lilies which, despite being orange and therefore not really a favorite color, I watch to see their daily progression from open blooms to dying relics.

So it is any wonder everyone writes of the passage of their gardens, whether working in them or simply admiring them?

I am reminded to note two new books added to my collection, bought for $2.99 each at the local Goodwill: The Glory of the English Garden, by Mary Keen; and Royal Gardens, by Roy Strong. Will have more to say about them when I’ve looked through them more thoroughly. Having a keen interest in the Royal Gardens, I was ready to purchase that one straightaway; the other I was less sure about — yet, I have a feeling that one will prove the more valuable in the end. Such wonderful chapters, and glorious pictures (by Clay Perry).

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News! News! News!

May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am (books, entertainment, people, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Two *new* portraits join my little gallery… They were found while looking for something totally different (isn’t that always the case?!).

My first was this delightful portrait of Wilmina Maclean Clephane:

I was looking to update information on my current writing project, about Fanny( Smith) Seymour, and wanted to double check information about Torloisk (on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). This was the home of the three Maclean Clephane sisters. Don’t remember them?? I can’t blame you — there are so many names and people to remember, aren’t there?

The Clephane sisters were wards of writer Walter Scott; Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815 — and Emma recorded the events of Margaret’s homecoming (see my article at the JASNA website equating this event to a proposed welcome for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy). Spencer and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton were the only cousins the Smiths of Suttons had. Emma came to know the Clephane girls — the other two being Anna-Jane and Wilmina — fairly well, and even wrote of meeting Walter Scott himself!

**Read about the Clephanes’ connection to early music for the Gaelic Harp**

How wonderful to read Walter Scott’s (online) journal and see this; it’s September, 1827:

“September 6. — Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance… I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck’s Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their back.” Read more ….

Margaret was the eldest (born 1791), Wilmina the youngest (born 1803); they and Compton are extremely prevalent in the Scott correspondence. Such fun to read of Margaret, when a young bride newly brought home to Castle Ashby, entertaining her guests with Scottish Song and Music, such as Emma recorded witnessing. Margaret was a dab hand at art as well, which brings me back to Harriet Cheney.

The Cheney name is one VERY familiar from letters and diaries. And, besides, the Cheney family were related to the Carrs/Carr Ellisons and they end up in Mary Gosling’s extended family! Again: a small world.

Harriet Cheney, whose Italian sketchbooks went up for auction in 2005 at Christie’s, not only sketched places, but also those whom she came across. Wilmina was one; her sister Margaret and her family was another:

Here, Margaret is depicted with her daughter Marianne Compton (the future Lady Alford). Other images not “illustrated” at Christie’s includes other children and also Spencer Lord Compton! Such treasures.

**Read Karen E. McAulay‘s PhD thesis Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting, c1760-1888**

Look at all 110 lots (Wilmina is Lot 44; Margaret and Marianne are Lot 45) at Christie’s. There is even a specimen of the artistry of Wilmina herself at Lot 87.

I swear that Emma called Wilmina’s husband Baron de Normann (Christie’s cites de Norman). Was it Emma’s spelling, or how he spelled his name ?? Always tricky to tell during this time period, when spelling was somewhat fluid — even for names! Christie’s seems to have obtained the name from the signature on the art itself, but who knows…

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A little time for The Times

May 22, 2011 at 10:52 am (books, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The Times of course is the great newspaper of London, and with it — on Sunday’s — comes that wonderful Times Literary Supplement. Ah, how I remember my Kingsworthy landlady Chris bringing home the newspaper every Sunday! Not being a subscriber to The New York Times, I’ve never really had such a wonderful BOOK-related piece to peruse.

Somewhere (where?) I recall reading or hearing “The TLS has a wide readership; and people hold on to their copies to look over again and again. Queries sent to them rarely FAIL to turn up responses.” Surely I didn’t dream this kind of thing, right??

Anyway, yesterday I looked up the TLS website and what was in the classified section but this ad:

REQUEST FOR
INFORMATION

* The University of Cambridge Henslow Correspondence Project seeks access to letters to and from John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861) originally dispersed at the Dawson-Turner Manuscripts Sale, 1859. Please contact Prof. John Parker at jsp25 [at] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk.

Now, this Prof. Parker has a much easier task than myself: one person (J.S. Henslow), who lived a fair but not lengthy lifespan, and with a KNOWN collection sold, granted, over 150 years ago. Henslow turns out to have been in Charles Darwin’s circle, and I’ve been reading a bio of Emma Darwin — the former Miss Emma Wedgwood; herself in the circle of Ellen Tollet! (small world) [see my post on Ellen Tollet’s diary]

I’m now honing a brief, succinct ad of my own. Keep your fingers crossed… It’s so hard to read an item like this, from Richard Seymour’s diary:

“…my dear Brother [Sir John Seymour] has just been here to shew me Mrs. S.’s reply after speaking to Miss S. [Mrs. S. = Mamma Smith; Miss S. = Fanny Smith], and I think it more favourable than I had dared to anticipate!”

Richard was making “an offer” to Fanny — through his brother John, he was so unsure of his reception (can you imagine???). But bottom line is, Where is the little letter Mamma wrote? Does it still exist?? Who has it, if it does, and do they know what they have?

I’ll let you know if any juicy tidbits surface via the TLS! (Just wish I had some  “big guns,” like Cambridge University, behind me…)

* * *

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Anonymous Woman

May 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm (fashion, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Instead of humming The Guess Who’s American Woman, I should really be channeling These Eyes

Working on an article about the “London Season” in 1816 — or, should I say the Season that Emma Smith recorded — I was looking for any image of work by Mary Ann Knight. She is the artist whom Mamma Smith sits to that spring.

Miss Knight (1776-1851) painted the well-known portrait of Joanna Baillie (see the portrait at Scotland’s National Galleries) and evidently produced works in watercolor, miniature, and sometimes even oils. This leads me to wonder if the “miniature” once said to exist at Suttons of Mrs Charles Smith might not be this painted by Miss Knight. But that is mere speculation.

The above is obviously not a woman in her 40s, but (as the title suggests) a “Girl in a White Dress“. When I found this miniature my first thought was that the nose rather looked similar to those portraits I have of Emma and her sister Fanny (the future Emma Austen Leigh and Fanny Seymour); the hair, with its ringlets curling around the face and the remaining hair swept up at the back of the head was reminiscent of the hair style worn by Fanny in a portrait her sister Emma or more probably Augusta may have drawn. Taking a short-cut I checked my “portrait wants” on this website. Alas! a mistake in typing a date lead me to wonder — to dare hope — that this Girl might be AUGUSTA SMITH (later Augusta Wilder). When I could not FIND Augusta’s sitting in 1817 (as I had typed) I went on a search of  the letters and diaries and finally located the sessions in 1822! Groan… (sloppy! the correct date was in my computer files, so it was a transcription error.)

The dating of this work is c1815; two years is one thing; but seven makes it very doubtful that this could POSSIBLY be my little Augusta.

Like SOOOO many portraits and miniatures, this one survived but is nameless: Who WAS THIS YOUNG WOMAN??? Those limpid eyes really grab me; making me wish I could give her an identity.

The artist, Miss Knight, is described as the daughter of a wealthy London merchant. She trained with Andrew Plimer — who later married her sister! “Knight’s surviving notebooks record some 696 miniatures which she painted between 1802 and 1835 and sold at two to forty guineas each.” The National Galleries think her “sketchbooks reveal an impressive range of sitters.”

Where ARE these notebooks?

More on Miss Knight’s biography in a later post.

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I drove the cabriolet from Wellington

May 15, 2011 at 8:21 am (carriages & transport) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The title comes from the diary of Emma SmithAunt Emma to my Emma (her mother’s sister). The year is 1792 and Emma and her two sisters, Augusta and Elizabeth (not yet Mrs Charles Smith [1798] or Mrs William Chute [1793]), are on holiday:

“We left Stoke at a quarter before eight on Saturday the 28th of July. Mama & Eliza in the cabriolet; Papa, Augusta and myself in the Phaeton; and Richard and Spencer on horseback”.

At the end of her entry for July 30th, as she describes the joyous sights (and sites) of Somersetshire, she appends the words “I drove the cabriolet from Wellington.” When encountered by such a phrase, it rather takes one by surprise: how many women could “drive”? It’s possible that all Sarah Smith’s daughters did; and it was merely Emma’s turn in the cabriolet with Mama. Later in the trip, eldest sister Maria (Lady Compton at this present moment) sits with Mama.

Anyway, reading these early diaries once again this week (a second is from 1794), I thought to begin a series about CARRIAGES. This stems from two things: a tiny book I happened across a couple years ago (at my favorite New Hampshire used bookstore, Old Depot No. 6) – Victorian Horses and Carriages: A Personal Sketch Book by William Francis Freelove and an AGM talk by James Nagle entitled in part “Coaches, Barouches and Gigs, Oh My!”

The book is a later edition, reworked, of An Assemblage of 19th Century Horses & Carriages by Jennifer Lang; both feature the wonderful drawings of William Francis Freelove. (see my prior post about Freelove; and view the drawings at Bridgeman Art.) I now own both, but somehow, the smaller book is more precious to me.

So: What was a CABRIOLET?

In pictures, both that I thought most illustrative date from c1830. I just love this piece, by William Joseph Shayer – The Cabriolet in Hyde Park:

A cabriolet is pretty unanimous described as:

A two-wheeled, doorless, hooded, one-horse carriage; may come from the French cabriole, an indication of its light, bounding motion. A cabriolet can be driven by someone seated in the carriage. The design is intended to accommodate two comfortably. The collapsible leather hood allows passengers to enjoy sunny weather or shelter from rain.

London’s Science Museum has this specimen (photo from Encyclopedia Britannica):

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A Passion for Porcelain

May 14, 2011 at 10:12 am (entertainment, fashion, news, people) (, , , , , )

In the days when I had some extra money (before leaving my job at a local college for “bigger and better pastures elsewhere…), I used to love looking in local Vermont shops for items of handmade pottery. I also haunted the stall of one woman whose “rehabilitated” (my word) antique linens were often made into sachets, pin cushions, or — if in great shade — were left to be the tablecloths they had always been.

So, yesterday, looking through the latest Bliss Victoria magazine, I was thrilled to see a North Carolina potter who makes “lace pottery”! Maggie Weldon has posted the Victoria article about her work online, and of course has an online store.

Pictured is her Starburst Bowl; I love the 3-dimensionality of these pieces. Maggie also offers some GORGEOUS glazes. (Who can resist sapphire or turquoise or the richness of red brick or the well-named patina?)

Wonder if she’ll come out with some tea cups some day? Then you could order some Jane Austen Tea, from Bingley Teas and have a bit of a party!

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Dress for Excess, Brighton

May 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm (british royalty, entertainment, fashion, news) (, , , , , , , , )

Author Charlotte Frost (see posts on her biography of Sir William Knighton) mentioned her hope of seeing this wonderful Regency-era exhibition of clothing at Brighton Pavilion: Dress for Excess. We await news from Charlotte on her visit!

In the meantime, looking for more information, a link was found at A Fashionable Frolick leading readers to Jennifer Rothrock‘s delightful behind-the-scenes look at this very exhibit (which runs until February 2012).

With my passport newly expired I feel exceptionally “homebound” now… Luckily are those within striking distance of Brighton!

(Hopefully) More later —

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Where the Duke of York Lived

May 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm (estates) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As mentioned in an early post <fit for a queen> the family of the Duke of York (the future George VI, his wife Elizabeth and daughters Elizabeth and Margaret Rose) inhabited No 145 Piccadilly. The release of THE KING’S SPEECH (with Colin Firth as the Duke and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue) on DVD gives the opportunity of “revisiting” this house (although it no longer exists). Here it is, as depicted in the film:

While the Drummond Smiths lived at No 144 Piccadilly, Drummond’s brother and sister-in-law, the Smith-Burgesses, lived at No 145!

Here are a couple images I’ve managed to unearth of the real “royal residence” at No 145. This first is young little Princess Elizabeth: 

This link is to news reel footage, where the King and Queen are entering then exiting the premises.

Obviously, though, the film crew used some building. And guess which they happened to choose? No. 33 PORTLAND PLACE! The Very Street upon which the Smiths & Goslings once lived! The film has more to show than JUST in the exterior: the Georgian interior AS WELL AS the fabulous consultation rooms of Lionel Logue were filmed at No. 33!

 

When you see a shot like this, looking down all levels of the staircase, you no longer have to imagine how Charlotte Gosling could fit hundreds of people in for an evening’s party (see this post).

Kate in Norfolk forwarded me a couple of highly interesting links: This first one, an interview with production designer Eve Stewart, discusses the film THE KING’S SPEECH. The second also discusses Logue’s consultation room — and obsesses on that wall (I love the windows!). It also links up the Guardian’s article.

Just search for “33 Portland Place” I had already come across the website for the building. Just marvel at the interiors, as you read about the history of the place. A 2nd website provides a few more photos and info.

Have to wonder: Did anyone realize the 19th century inhabitants of 145 Piccadilly may have visited No. 33 Portland Place??

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Jane Austen’s Regency World: Write it Right

May 2, 2011 at 5:13 am (books, entertainment, news) (, , , , , , )

Happy May!

And with a new month comes a new issue of the wonderful British magazine: Jane Austen’s Regency World.

In this issue is a very timely article on “managing disability in Jane Austen’s time” — this I look forward to reading, as poor Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger sister, had an accident and never walked again! How did a young lady cope with such a disability (Charlotte was in her late teens).

And there’s an interview with Amanda Vickery – talking about her Home with the Georgians book, among other things.

And further along the issue: my article! “Correspondence Culture” discusses what a  pre-postage stamp (“Regency” era) letter looked like, but it also touches upon the ins & outs of the large circle of correspondents someone like Jane Austen would have negotiated; how you paid (and how much) for letters; how young children were taught to begin their writing-life by first sending compliments, then composing their own letters; and also what happened when, as you aged, maybe you couldn’t read handwriting as easily as you once did. The kernel of this article was drawn from my talk “Austen/Adams: Journeys with Jane and Abigail,” hosted last summer by the JASNA-Vermont chapter.

Purchase Jane Austen’s Regency World online: Rates for single issues, back issues, or UK/outside UK subscriptions are available here.

Big C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S to JARW:
the March/April 2011 issue was their 50th edition!

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