**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).