Ellie Bennett on Jane Austen: Unseen Portrait

December 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm (chutes of the vyne, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Writer Ellie Bennett, on her blog Bikes, Boots and Boats, has THREE lengthy write-ups about the BBC2 Special, Paula Byrne’s portrait, and — yes, even a few thoughts for my dear Eliza Chute!

(By the way, Ms Bennett spells her name the same way Lady Cunliffe {Mary’s maternal grandmother} spelled her maiden name — which accounts for Mary’s brother Bennett Gosling)

        • PART 1 – background; includes info on Mr Foster, MP
        • PART II – a Wiggett-Chute connection to the Fosters?
        • PART III – thoughts on Eliza Chute & the portrait

I want to pay some particular attention to the thoughts on the Wiggett-Chutes: I don’t know why, but I had wondered — as Eliza Chute’s “items” (diaries, letters, etc) seem to have gone to various family members — if maybe this portrait hadn’t traveled to Caroline Wiggett Workman somehow… I mean, if Edward Austen Leigh had known about the portrait, surely he’d have used it as a basis for the engraving, rather than having the Maidenhead artist Andrews provide an ‘interim’ between Cassandra’s drawing and the engraving used in the Memoir.

Read along with me, to find what Ellie has uncovered…


  1. Ellie Bennett said,

    Thank you very much for the mention, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on my speculations, as I mention I am very far from being an expert on either the Austens or the Chutes. Sadly I can find no Bennett family connection with the Cunliffe/Gosling families, we moved in different social circles I believe! The only Bennett – Austen connection I can find is tenuous and relates to her stay in Lyme: http://elliestravelstories.blogspot.com/2011/12/jane-austen-mary-anning-and-me.html.
    Best wishes, and congratuations on a fascinating blog.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Ellie — thanks for the comment. The Bennetts were a Cheshire family – one sister even marries into the Wynns of Wynnstay. The branch of the family are described as the Bennetts of Moston.

      I have done very little with the Wiggett-Chute family; Caroline, because she lived with the Chutes from a young age, is of more interest than her brother. She visited the Smiths often. William, therefore, is a shadowy figure, who pops in late. William Chute died in 1824, and his brother Thomas in 1827 – it is from Thomas’s death that The Vyne passed to William Lyde Wiggett.

      I pulled down my National Trust booklet on The Vyne, looking for info on him. There is also the book (which I do not own) called THE CHUTES OF THE VYNE: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY, by Francis Chute.

      We all say the same thing, IF it is Austen and IF it is by Eliza – where has it been? why was it drawn? It is quite evident that articles were left to different people after death. Ie, the Hampshire Record Office articles must have been given to Emma — a few Mamma’s diaries, some Aunt Chute’s diaries; letters written to Emma, of course, but also some written to Aunt Chute from friends and relatives. That means other articles took other avenues…. Part of my resaerch is uncovering more information! Sometimes one piece is all it takes, so you’ve opened an interesting line of thought.


  2. Ellie Bennett said,

    I have received some information which sadly (for me anyway) dispenses with my theory that the picture came from John Foster’s grandmother. It seems it was left to him by his governess, Helen Carruthers. So it’s evident I was going up the wrong track. Opens up a new line of enquiry though…

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      HI, Ellie — I saw Paula’s “tweet” — who was Helen Carruthers? What have you seen? Is there something other than the Twitter account I should be looking at? I’d love to know more! Alas my Eliza’s “hour in the sun” seems dimming…


      • Ellie Bennett said,

        I gather from Paula Byrne’s tweets that evidence is now pointing away from Eliza Chute – although I’m not sure that line of enquiry is finished yet! I understand that Helen Carruthers was Sir John Foster’s governess and that she bequeathed the picture to him in her will, circa 1973. I’m afraid that’s all I know at the moment.

      • Janeite Kelly said,

        I must admit that I’d have more “faith” in it possibly being Jane Austen IF it seemed like Eliza Chute worked the picture — after all, she knew the Austen family. But part of me sees a better artist in the Maria Compton picture (and that’s probably an earlier work); plus there’s the handwriting. I’ve never seen a Miss written that way. Consistent use of the “Mifs”.

        It’s keeping us all intrigued, though, as this unfolds. Poor Paula Byrne – how nerve-wracking.


  3. Ellie Bennett said,

    Although it could possibly have been given to the governess by the Fosters and then passed back to John on her death.

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