I found online a listing of books several “Regency-era” writers recommended. Already own most of them, but was intrigued by a certain title penned by Sarah Markham.
Looking up the book, I was saddened to find that Mrs Markham had died in 2003 (aged 93). But in reading her obituary, I was AMAZED and THRILLED to see that she had published her first biography — John Loveday of Caversham, 1711-1789: The Life and Tours of an Eighteenth-Century Onlooker — when she was 75!
Not that I expect to need a couple more decades to publish my own work (though it wouldn’t hurt, I simply don’t have that kind of patience…), it’s the idea that she published this volume (over 600 pages) of family-related research without being in academia or even having “an education”. Rather gives someone like me a bit of “hope”, an especially good thing when some things seem hopeless.
Markham was lucky in another respect: her biography of both John Loveday and Penelope Hind (her next biography, published in 1990) were based on family papers. Of course it was the Hind book, entitlted A Testimony of her Times, that grabbed my attention in the first place; but I ended up ordering copies of BOTH. Can’t wait for them to arrive!
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BTW, one of the twosome will come from England. I’m still waiting to SEE the arrival of the little book The Diary of a Betley Governess, 1812; what’s up with the mail between the UK and the US?? I really have a feeling my book is sitting somewhere in the likes of NYC just waiting for The Royal Mail’s inquiry — which they won’t do until 25 business days have elapsed… Still almost another WEEK to go before that will happen then. Does the government have nothing better to do? Too many people have told the same story lately.
UPDATE 6/29 – the mail kindly brought the first Markham book, John Loveday of Caversham. I had only the shortest peek at it last night (a Netflix film is due back quite soon and had to be watched!), but it seems worthy of the praise it received at the time of its publication. Added bonus: it was in better shape than I might have hoped. Double-added Bonus: it was a signed copy! Well, that last I knew when I purchased it, as the seller mentioned.
While searching online for mentions of “Le Marchant” I found this wonderful “cyber display” by the Priaulx Library – a favorite source of mine, as, yes, my Le Marchant family has Guernsey connections. The letters are a delight to savor, and the fashion plates will delight all Jane Austen fans.
Begin corresponding with Miss Caroline Guille Le Marchant by clicking here.
Last night I was reviewing the opening pages of the biography of James Edward Austen Leigh, written by daughter Mary Augusta (1911). With the focus, of course, on her father, Mary Augusta was finding reminiscences about him and using his own diaries, as well as excerpts from family letters.
I’ve probably not fully reread this in about 4 years — when this research was in its infancy; there was a LOT I did not know about, a LOT I would have taken note of without noting it down. And this is one of those “fell through the cracks” things.
Mary Augusta comments that Aunt Eliza (Lady Le Marchant) wrote “recollections” about her youth. This niece, )of course!), pulls from them Eliza’s memories of the youthful Edward Austen. Obviously, she would have written down oh-so-many more recollections!
I don’t know if this document would have been long or short;would have belonged to Mary Augusta or been borrowed by her; existed in as a sole manuscript or was copied out by any of the nieces/nephews. It may very well be resident today in the Le Marchant family! I live in hope anyway. IMAGINE such a “prize”!!!
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As an aside, one disappointment in Scenes from Life at Suttons was the ABSENCE of a portrait of Eliza herself — who, according to the introduction, with Drummond, caused these little “plays” to exist. How much fun it would have been to have seen a youthful depiction of her.
So, to get back to the book I’ve been reading: Priviledge and Scandal, by Janet Gleeson tells the life story of Harriet Spencer, later Countess Bessborough. I remember when the book first came out (2006 in the US), and one reviewer was quite negative, calling it a rehash of Amanda Foreman’s biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire mainly because (since they were sisters) it covered much of the same territory. Poor Harriet; and poor Janet Gleeson. It is a very decent read; evidently quite what I am in the mood for, at present.
It helps that the time period is well in the period in which the Smiths (in general) lived and which I am writing about — the more I read, the more some small puzzle piece sometimes clicks into place.
Anyway, I was struck, reading about Granville Leveson Gower (Harriet’s lover, by whom she had two children) and also of his friendship with Henry Richard Vassell Fox, 3rd Lord Holland (nephew of Charles James Fox). Curious, I do wonder how much Jane Austen might have come across concerning either man, for their early friendship, as Gleeson tells of it, so reminds me of Darcy-Bingley.
I mentioned this in my earlier post, a little teaser. Read that one to get an idea of why I immediately thought “DARCY” when first encountering this description of how people sometimes thought him haughty.
And it’s also the description of his new-formed “Grand Tour” friendship with Holland that struck me. Read this description: “Holland had not until now numbered Granville among his close friends — Granville’s hauteur was alien to Holland’s outgoing ebullience. But being onboard ship for three months had smoothed Granville’s affectations and perhaps too make Holland less choosy about the company he kept. ‘I think Leveson much improved both in intellect manner etc., and has lost that reserve which however laudable and prudent always prevents my liking a man much — I fancy my reason for not liking in this instance … must originate from self love and that I cannot much esteem …’.”
So Leveson Gower got better upon acquaintance! Just like Darcy.
Now how much, and what type of information, Jane Austen might have heard about the man — men, if I include Lord Holland, which in his amiability rather reminded me of Mr Bingley, I perhaps can never say. A bit of a coincidence? Or, did some little news tidbit or gossip once plant the seed for this seemingly unusual friendship between two “opposites”? Inspiration does come out of the blue sometimes…, and takes on consequences of its own, far outshining the original thought.
updated 6/26/11: Am reminded: From the mouth of Jane Austen, when asked if she had portrayed an individual: “she expressed a very great dread of what she called an ‘invasion of social proprieties.’ She said she thought it fair to note peculiarities, weaknesses and even special phrases but it was her desire to create not to reproduce ….” (See Deirdre le Faye Jane Austen : A Family Record p233)
**My “solution” to the Mr Darcy-Mystery Man will appear at the end of the week**
The breaking news concerns a slim little volume I’ve searched a couple YEARS for: Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 — a Wiltshire seller had a copy on eBay, the auction ending about three weeks ago. Yet who but me would want this little book?! Evidently, no one: when I emailed about it the book was still available. This little prize arrived in my mailbox this past Monday — the 13th of June! YIPPEE.
So what does this little treasure offer?
There are 28 pages of text, which are short plays, in verse, written by DRUMMOND and ELIZA SMITH. The scenes take place in 1825 and 1827, as the title indicates. They are comical and charming little pieces, especially heartwarming to me because I can see and hear them, I know the “characters” so well! The first is entitled BREAKFAST AT SUTTONS, JULY 1825. The first pages includes this exchange:
Fanny: Whoever chuses coffee — speak.
Charlotte: I should like some — but very weak.
Augusta: Coffee too — if you please, for me;
But no — I think I’ll have some Tea.
Readers get a sense of the house, the manners and characters, as well as the staff members: we have “appearances” by Tanner (Mr Tanner he is later called); John who evidently answered the door to a ‘poor woman’ arriving to talk to Mamma; the ever-loyal Tidman, who shows up in letters. Interestingly, these people do not appear as “characters” listed at the beginning of each “play”!
The next scene, AN HOUR’S READING AT SUTTONS, 1825, features Aunt and Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma is, of course, Mamma Smith’s youngest sister (she never married); Aunt, on the other hand is erroneously ID’ed as Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton (ie, Mamma’s eldest sister).
‘Aunt’ was in fact Charles Smith’s only sister, Judith Smith of Stratford! I recall a charming little drawing of Aunt (by Augusta, the daughter) in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). I have long meant to ask for a copy; this makes me want it even more, because, although there is no Aunt Emma, Scenes from Life at Suttons has portraits of Mamma and her sister Maria, Lady Northampton!
The last little play, EVENING AT SUTTONS, 1827, has a few lines spoken by my beloved MARY! This takes place in The Library.
The end of the book includes ELEVEN portraits, all (except her own) by Augusta Smith Wilder. So came my first look at Mary (Gosling) Smith, and even her sister Elizabeth. Most of the Smith siblings are present: Augusta, Charles, Emma, Spencer, Charlotte and Drummond. Alas! No Fanny, Eliza or Maria!! Which is QUITE the loss, though as far as Fanny goes I believe the portrait at HRO is of this set. This I have a copy of! (Sorry, you won’t find it online…). Mary’s portrait easily translates into a silhouette, so I’ll shortly post her picture, as companion to her “sister of the heart”, Emma Austen Leigh. Stay tuned for more about this unique booklet!
One thing I can NOW say: This title does indeed exist! I was beginning to think May Lamberton Becker’s imagination had conjured it up. The description, its only depiction, appeared in her book Presenting Miss Jane Austen (1952).
Am reading a biography published five years ago and just purchased used for $5; to give the title would be to give away my little game.
Within the illustration section is a portrait of a quite handsome man; I’ve read of him before; seen the portrait before. But this author had this to say about him mid-way in this biography (of quite another person):
“His manners were perfectly polished and he had an air of distinction about him that some thought bordered on hautiness and others attributed to shyness. As one later acquaintance described him, he was ‘…one of those men who, once seen, leave an impression on the memory…’.” The author later tells us that “as his mother’s only son … he had been much cosseted and lavished with praise.”
While on “The Grand Tour”, he encounters a compatriot who was “Friendly, jovial, and unaffected”; the one is now described as displaying a “hauteur” while the new friend is said to have an “outgoing ebullience”.
Now I would be the FIRST to say that Jane Austen’s characters were not modelled on, nor meant to represent, any given person — yet an author can’t help but be influenced by people met or read about, seen or gossiped about. An author takes away some little something — a trait, a look, a quirk, a tale — and adds that to the pot to create something wholly original.
But don’t these lines rather describe Darcy and Bingley? A tantalizing thought — even if untrue! More later.
Yep, that’s the scoop! Direct from Cheryl Kinney at JASNA AGM central:
We will be adding a link on our radio website to JASNA, and also providing details about the society’s October annual meeting.
For a complete list of stations and air times for our show, please see this page of our website: http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/whereitairs.htm
Beginning on June 12, the show will also be available to download any time from our website archives at this page: http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/archive.htm
A brief little “news item” in the last issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine let slip the return this fall of the wonderful period drama, Garrow’s Law. Finally a series with great writing, acting and storylines!
Must admit to not being a great fan of some of the British fare coming on PBS lately. Why do they not tout Garrow’s Law instead?