It is a truth universally acknowledged…

February 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm (fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Leafing through Country Living magazine, I came across this photo:

It is advertising Spoonflower.com — a site where you may upload you own ideas for textiles! This upholstery fabric is said to date from an 1882 family letter.

Spoonflower.com allows you to adjust image-size, choose repeats, and choose type of fabric. I’ve even found where pillows were featured on the Nate Berkus Show.

No minimum fabric to order, or set-up fee.  Order a swatch for $5; a yard for as little as $16.20.

They’re based in Durham, North Carolina (home of Duke University, where the diaries of Mary Gosling reside!), and ship worldwide.

I can well imagine some Austen fans flocking to have upholstery fabric with their favorite quotes, can’t you???

Here’s some “Austen-inspired” fabrics on Spoonflower.com.

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Princess Victoria visits Ryde

February 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm (books, british royalty, history, people, research) (, , , , , , )

With Roger’s interest in the daughters of Jane Hawker and Rear-Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Bart., KCB, I dipped once again into the biography written by their son, the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton. I simply have to share this charming story:

“In the summer of the year 1831, {Sir Michael} and Lady Seymour had the honour of receiving our present gracious Sovereign, then Princess Victoria, together with H.R.H. the Duchess of Kent, and entertaining them at luncheon, after which he conveyed their Royal Highnesses in his barge over to Ryde, himself steering the boat. The Princess, then in her thirteenth year, showed a lively sympathy with Sir Michael in the loss of his arm, and expressed great surprised and interest at his ability to do so much with the remaining one.”

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Chasing Mrs Frances Jacson

February 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm (books, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

J-A-C-S-O-N; an unusual spelling, isn’t it.

When I came across the name this evening, I had to mutter to myself: They’re the same person…, surely…

While writing a blog post on Anna Seward for the Ladies of Llangollen blog, I came across a very nice biography of her at Chawton House Library. Intrigued, as I hadn’t look over the Library’s website for quite a while, I clicked to see what authors they were featuring on their NOVELS-ON-LINE. Some familiar-sounding names, not from a novel-point-of-view, but from a Smith & Gosling point of view! Harriet Cheney? The same who drew portraits while in Italy, including the young Comptons (see portraits & pedigrees page). Mrs Cheney’s book (2nd edition published in 1825) is A Peep at the Pilgrims. She did live until 1848, according to Christie’s website. But so many people — especially within a family — have the same name as other family members that I won’t yet count the two Harriets as one.

Then I spied the name JACSON. Two novels are listed for a FRANCES JACSON: Things by their Right Names (1812) and  Isabella: A Novel (1823).

Why did the name attract me? I think I have a picture (a miniature) of her!

Sale 5984 at Christie’s was The Country House Sale – Newton Hall. Newton Hall, in Northumberland, has ties to the Cook-Widdrington family; they have ties (through the Davisons) to the Goslings! And it was while perusing this sale catalogue that I came across (and saved) a pair of miniatures — Captain Shalcross Jacson and his wife Frances, née Cook. Frances captivated me:

She is described as, “in white muslin dress, blue fringed shawl, coral necklace”; the pair of miniatures date to c1815.

IS this Frances Jacson, with the unusual last name, Chawton House’s Frances Jacson??? S-U-R-E-L-Y    S-O. {see UPDATE below}

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BTW, this same Christie’s auction, and source, sold my beloved Harriet Gosling AKA Mrs Alexander Davison. The Dorothy Widdrington you see represented as an old lady, as well as some of her drawings, was the Davison’s daughter — whom my Mary Gosling (Lady Smith) includes several times in her diaries!

BTW2: Capt Cook, who took the name Widdrington, published a couple books too! Sketches in Spain During the Years 1829-1832 and Spain and the Spaniards in 1843 (vol. 1; vol. 2) and Observations on the Present State of War in Spain. Interestingly, the Sketches exists in an 1834 GERMAN edition (on books.google.com) as well!

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UPDATE: The Christie’s Sale 5475 featured a novel, Plain Sense, by Frances Margaretta Jacson – and included this description:

“FIRST EDITION OF THE AUTHOR’S ‘POPULAR FIRST NOVEL’. The two unmarried sisters, Maria and Frances, both turned to writing, partly in order to help out their brother Shallcross Jacson (d. 1821) who was ‘over-fond of drink and horse-racing’, Maria turning to manuals on botany and gardening, and Frances to fiction (see ODNB). Their other brother, Roger, had a son Shallcross Fitzherbert Jacson (1826-1917) who married Frances, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Cook of Newton Hall, and who inherited the house in 1856, following the death of his wife’s brother, Samuel Edward Cook (later Widdrington). RARE. NO COPY IN BL and only two copies recorded in the British Isles (National Trust and private collection). Blakey, p. 172. (3)”

This copy of Plain Sense was once part of Newton Hall’s library.

I have found Christie’s and/or Bonhams to have some incorrect information (which auction house had the three Spencer-Smith girls??); but here is a Shallcross Jacson married to a Frances Cook whose birth/death dates are 1826-1917. In the miniatures Captain Shallcross Jacson is given dates of 1787-1852. Groan! were there really TWO Shallcross Jacsons married to TWO Frances Cooks??? I do rather chuckle over poor Shallcross who died in 1821 being “over-fond of drink and horse-racing,” but who were all these Shallcross Jacsons!?

BTW, here’s a portrait, from the Newton Hall sale, of the Rev. Roger Jacson, Rector of Bebington (b. 1753, according to Christie’s). If he was born in 1753, did he really have a son in 1826??? Wikipedia describes Frances Margaretta Jacson as the daughter of the Rev. Simon Jacson, Rector of Bebington (1728-1808). This then is probably Roger’s father, and therefore the father of an unmarried Frances Margaretta Jacson.

Check out this at the Orlando Project (most of the site is by subscription, alas…): Frances Margaretta Jacson kept a diary!

The game is afoot, Watson…

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“Another Emma”: Emma Wedgwood Darwin

February 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm (diaries, history, news) (, , , , , , , , , , )

It is amazing all the websites, books, etc I’ve collected/seen/consulted — and then “forgotten”. It was while putting in the Carlyle Letters (see the Browing Letters post) – for I am very interested in Jane Welsh Carlyle – that I began to cast my mind back: What else had I forgotten I loved??

Then I recalled finding a site with Darwin letters. As you might, however, have guessed, I’m less interested in Charles Darwin and more interested in his wife, Emma. And what did I spot but EMMA Wedgwood / EMMA Darwin’s diaries! How could I have missed those before…

Once you spot such drawings as this one above, you just have to look through them. This is a page from Emma Darwin’s 1840 diary; someone’s costume, or else an idea for herself, must have caught Emma’s eye; the diary evidently a handy place for a quick “scratch”.

Emma Wedgwood (yes, that Wedgwood family!) was born in 1808 — so right in the midst of all the Smith & Gosling children. Her earlist extant diary dates to 1824; she lived, and kept diaries, until 1896. There are a few diaries from the 1830s; fewer holes during the 1840s; and complete runs from then on.

Don’t neglect the printed materials of the diary-series; they can quite be of use to the historian – with things like postal rates, or even when an eclipse is expected. {note: I do not think all beginning/end materials have been included, so savor those which have.} Then there are the unexpected, like this handwritten addendum in 1894 for a “knitted jacket”! Ah, a woman after my own heart…

{a word of advice: Use your browser’s “history” or the back arrow to get back to the index of diaries. “back” will move you back a page in the diary you are viewing}

I am reminded to mention The Darwin Correspondence Project, and also that Emma was a friend of my dear Ellen Tollet (a book I highly recommend).

Was this 1824 diary an 1823 Christmas gift?

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How do I love thee: The Browning Letters

February 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm (history, jane austen, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A great new website is up and running, featuring the letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Baylor and Wellesley have teamed up to present actual images of the letters in their collections. Hurrah, hurray! The letters are “browsable and searchable by date, author, and first line of text.” Other research centers and universities, with Browningana holdings, are being asked to join the initiative — so who knows how much this will grow as time passes.

Wellesley has the original 573 “love” letters (beginning “10 January 1845, with a letter address to ‘dear Miss Barrett’ and continued until a week after their marriage…”).

Here is Elizabeth’s letter dated 11 January 1845 – all eight pages are represented individually; as well as the two sides of the envelope! Scan the page, enlarge the image, move on to a full-screen view – complete with typescript, or have text alone:

Postal historians must be getting their first looks at such as this 11 January 1845 envelope:

The New York Times gives a fine overview in this article by John Williams; but I highly recommend you simply immerse yourself in the world of working with primary materials such as manuscripts (ie, the Austen Fiction Manuscripts Project), diaries, and letters like these. A true gift of a web collection!

* * *

This blog has featured a couple of other “project” websites. The ones that come to mind are:

Happy to hear about projects — ongoing, proposed, or up-and-running — from readers!

UPDATED: How could I forget these sites, which I use but evidently haven’t mentioned on this blog:

* * *

These digitized letters are as authentic online as if you pulled them out of an evelope

 — Darryl Stuhr

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Emma’s list of people encountered

February 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm (diaries, history, introduction, people, research) (, , , )

A quick note to mention that the Dramatis Personae, drawn from Emma Smith‘s diaries, is now up. It’s a VERY preliminary listing, covering just the first few diaries; but if you recognize people, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Some I may have information on; others exist only as a name.

I’ve been lucky to have a few people ID’ed or at least given fuller names, by readers of Two Teens. This has been a GREAT help!

See, for instance: Rev. Daniell of Ramsgate and Mary Gosling’s Dramatis Personae S-Z

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Sense & Sensibility the Musical

February 6, 2012 at 9:38 am (entertainment, jane austen, jasna, people) (, , , , )

In honor of tonight’s debut (on NBC) of SMASH, Two Teens highlights Sense & Sensibility the Musical, by Jeffrey Haddow (book/lyrics) and Neal Hampton (music).

Soon after returning from Fort Worth (yes, it’s been since OCTOBER) I listened to the CD included in the “goodie bag” at the JASNA AGM. Recorded in November 2009, the demo provided music that was pleasing enough. I put the CD aside for later.

With Calista’s visit — she was travelling to the Austen weekend with me and spending a couple of hours at my house before departure — I pulled the CD out again; but it sat next to my chair all week long. Until Saturday night.

I was writing, and put the CD in to play on the computer. It played a couple times, and I was intrigued enough to visit the website listed on the liner notes: SenseandSensibilitymusical.com — and found there is a newly-recorded (summer 2011) version. A couple of listens and it was obvious the musical had been reworked to great advantage. Gone were some of the rough bits, now appeared some deeper character studies. I was impressed!

Of course, it’s hard not to be impressed with years-long dedication too. You can read about Haddow and Hampton on the CREATIVE TEAM link.

Sense & Sensibility is about to be performed at the prestigious Denver Center Theatre Company New Play Summit (on Sunday, 12 February 2012) barring all the snow perhaps… S&SMusical’s facebook page lists further information.

All you need, however, is an MP3 player –> go to THE MUSIC link and listen… They’re looking for backers, should you wish to enter the Broadway world of SMASH!

Cast of June 2011 recording, Playwrights  Horizons:

Elinor – Christiane Noll
Marianne – Brandi Burkhardt
Brandon – Robert Petkoff
Edward – Sebastian Arcelus
Willoughby – Jeremiah James
Mrs. Jennings/Mrs. Dashwood – Kay Walbye
Lucy Steele – Erin Mackey
John Dashwood – Jamie LaVerdiere
Fanny Dashwood – Erin Maguire
Ensemble – Janna Cardia, Christy Morton, Chris Critelli, Ed Prostak

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Plas Newydd and Mary Gosling

February 5, 2012 at 8:57 am (diaries, history, research) (, , , , , , )

On Mary Gosling’s birthday (February 2nd), I posted a “brief history” of this Smith & Gosling project on my Ladies of Llangollen web. Why? it was while searching for contemporary reports on Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler that I found Mary Gosling’s diaries!

So, a belated “hey, check it out!” –> for those inquiring minds who would like to know how this project began…

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Plumptre of the Foundling Hospital

February 4, 2012 at 11:20 am (books, diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , )

While reading Richard Seymour’s diaries this week, I couldn’t help but wonder about a certain “Mr Plumtree” whom he mentions on Sunday, the 19th of January 1834.

Such a familiar name — for Fanny Knight wrote Aunt Jane about her undecidedness about marrying (should he ask) a Mr Plumptre.  (This was also the story behind the TV show Miss Austen Regrets.) Was Richard’s spelling more phonetic than accurate?

Indeed! the two men are related! And even related to Sir Brooke Bridges. A Small World.

A search *finally* procured an essay on the Rev Henry-Scawen Plumptre, minister of St Mary’s, Lambeth; and also evening preacher at the Foundling Hospital. The book — The Living Preachers’ Portrait Gallery — even had this illustrating his essay!

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Music to my Ears

February 2, 2012 at 10:51 am (books, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

To most people, today (Feb 2nd) is Groundhog Day — when the end (or not!) of winter is “predicted” down in Punxsutawney, PA. It’s a very grey day, here in Vermont; but I guess even I would see my shadow.

Yet after reading Eliza Chute’s 1800 diary one fateful day, and seeing her comment that,

“Mrs Gosling brought
to bed of Mary”

on Sunday, February 2nd, this day has always represented Mary Gosling’s birthday, 212 years later!

I have mentioned, in previous years, how unusual Eliza’s comment seems; typically it should have read “of a girl”, never naming the child at this point. My only conclusion is that Eliza G must have told Eliza C “If it’s a girl, she will be MARY, after my mother and my sister.”

The Goslings’ elder daughter was named after her own mother, although perhaps with the names inverted: Mother was Margaret Elizabeth — always called Eliza, she signed her letters, at least to Eliza Chute, MEG. Daughter may have been Elizabeth Margaret or Margaret Elizabeth (I have found evidence of both, though tend to think the later is correct). She was always called Elizabeth by the Smiths, yet never referred to in writing by Mary as anything other than my Sister. Finding a letter of Elizabeth’s — whether signed Elizabeth Gosling or Elizabeth Christie — would be a great FIND!

I am still at the preliminary stage of tracking down the dual portrait of the sisters, done by Sir William Beechey. I have an excellent description of it, via Elizabeth’s daughter Charlotte. Mary is seated at a pianoforte; Elizabeth, seated beside her, holds a piece of music composed for her by Cramer.

Mary mentions, I believe only once, having the piano tuner in. Emma’s diaries, written in the midst of lessons and family performances, makes frequent mention of music. Often concerning herself and elder sister Augusta.

I adore music, although I never took lessons. (I blame it on an ever-so-slightly older cousin who did not stick with the clarinet; it was thought I wouldn’t stick with an instrument either. One music career blighted before it even began!) It is my deepest regret, despite trying to teach myself, that I have no facility for reading music. In serious books on music history, I have no choice but to skip over illustrations and lengthy descriptions. However, I have quite the collection of music history and biography, especially about Mozart.

It has been some weeks since I grabbed off my shelves a book I read when first purchased, about 1998 (when it was published): The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context, by Ruth Halliwell. I thought it an excellent book then, and am still enjoying it — more than 430 pages later! I haven’t stuck with a big book this long in a long while…

(BTW, this is the type of scholarship Austen Studies needs; something which looks at the whole family unit; also a scholarly edition of the entire family letters, setting Jane’s alongside the correspondence of others. See the original Mozart Briefe for what I’m talking about.)

One item which struck me was given very early (pages 42-3), in which I found myself saying, Emma commented on this for her musical education. Given that I’m reviewing Gillen D’arcy Wood’s Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840 for JASNA News, this passage from Halliwell brought home just how much an “amateur” had to accomplish:

“…Rieger {a biographer of Nannerl Mozart} appears to underestimate the creative nature of keyboard playing in the eighteenth century. To be able to play a fully-written-out piece accurately and in good taste was only one part of it. Most keyboard players, even amateur ones, also needed to be able to accompany solos and ensembles, and the accompaniments were not written out — only the base-line was provided, and the harmony notated below it in shorthand by figures. Because figured bass accompaniment is no longer practised by most keyboard players, it is difficult to … appreciate just what this meant in terms of skill and creative imagination.”

Immediately upon reading the likes of this I was transported back to c1818, where Emma writes of lessons in Thorough Base!

My girls were so lucky — no one nipped their musical interests in the bud.

So, honor my Mary, by grabbing a favorite beverage (a cup of tea, in my case) , and settling down to listen to a lovely Mozart piano work. And remember: Six more weeks of winter!

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