WANTED: One Willing Reader resident near Reading (England)*

March 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

*must have access to a digital camera — that’s the only caveat!

Two days ago I found notice of a letter written by Fanny Smith (aka Fanny, Mrs Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton). You can read it for yourself in The Berkshire Echo, volume #55 (April 2011). I *LOVE* how the writer describes dear Fanny as “a rather strong-minded young lady”! I have some letters written in the same period — November – December 1830 — for the Smiths were caught up in what is known as the Swing Riots: crowds of marauders bent on getting better wages by forcing the destruction of farm machinery (ie, threshers) which had been displacing agricultural workers.

The Echo lauded the “contemporary” aspect of Fanny’s letter; I crow about finding another tiny piece of my research.

After reading an email from the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) today, I had even more cause for rejoicing: there exist in their archives six letters and a partial seventh letter!

Oh fabjous Day!

Alas… alas… Isn’t there always an “alas”…

BRO figures each letter as four pages rather than two sides of a page, equalling pages 4 and 1 on one side, and pages 2 and 3 on the flip side.

Their charge is £10 a page!

You do the math: £10/page x 4 pages x 6 letters x 1.60$ to 1£ — my hair stands on end contemplating the bottom line! Even at half (ie, two pages per letter) the charge feels astronomical.

So my plea today, Is there a Smith&Gosling reader willing to visit the Berkshire Record Office in Reading on my behalf?

If you’re on the fence and want to know more – or, if you’re willing to take the plunge, just contact me. My email is listed on the “About the Author” page.

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Shop the Etsy Way!

March 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm (fashion, history, news) (, , , , , , )

Would you like the “background”, the “story”, or the “pictures”? Probably the pictures!

This necklace just arrived in today’s post — from ENGLADY, in Campbell, California. It’s a silver, hand-crafted piece based on seals once used to … well, seal your letter!

On to some background…

In the early 19th century, when the young Smiths and Goslings were writing to each other, there were no envelopes. One simply folded the letter so that one square on the rear side of the sheet of paper was left blank.

Here’s a Jane Austen letter:

Even with parts of the full page not in this photograph you can see where the “direction” has been placed, as well as see the remains of its RED SEAL.

I’ll talk more about these next time — for I found such a wonderful little collection of different seals in the Smith&Gosling Correspondence at the Hampshire Record Office.

And it was while searching for some of these that I found Englady’s Etsy Shop. Kat specializes in Wax Seal and Gemstone Jewelry. Seals often wove together images and clever (sometimes French) phrases. As is the case with my piece: Telle est la Vie … Such is life: a ship on a stormy sea!

Imagine, too, this seal closing up your letter to mom, dad, sis, brother, friend, or lover. Telle est la vie… maybe literally, if you were oceans away.

In another installment I’ll tell you about seals as well as other seal jewelery that caught my eye. But today belongs to Kat! What a preciously tiny pendant, on an oh-so-delicate chain, fixed with a solid clasp. This necklace is EXQUISITE in person.

I was mildly worried about the length of the chain — but took Kat’s advice and ordered the standard 17-inches. It nestles perfectly around the base of my neck. If you want it longer, though, all you need to do is tell her!

I spotted the padded yellow envelope poking out of the mail box straightaway, but what waited inside? A true present:

a lovely card for keeping or passing on to friends, a handwritten note, and look at the box! All tied up in a bow. My mother and aunt, who both gave me money for my February birthday, said “buy yourself something” —  my mother adding, “something you can wear and not a book!”. Won’t they be ever so surprised.

And you will too, should you shop Englady at Etsy! Highly recommended.

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Early Photography: Chasing images

March 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How do you identify an image of a person – one painted or photographed long, long ago?

By what’s written on the back! if you’re lucky.

This miniature of Maria Smith, aka Lady Culme Seymour, was ID’ed as her; I take it to have been her mainly because the provenance claims a family descent.

It sold, at auction, with her mother-in-law’s miniature — Jane, Lady Seymour.

My task lately — and a daunting one it has been — is to ID a couple of photographs. Are they Maria? are they a sister? or (worse thought) have they been mis-identified????

Time WILL tell.

But that brings into the mix, several early photographers. Yes, these were certainly the types of people, with money enough, who would have been interested in having their portraits done. Interested, too, in pursuing photography for themselves, in the end. A photo album connected to the Gosling family resides at a Surrey archive; among portraits are also what can only be described as travel photographs! Imagine what you had to tote around to photograph your adventures away from home back in the 1870s!

One portrait of Maria is by the famed photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910). The National Portrait Gallery’s website about him calls Silvy “a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the nineteenth century. Maria seems to have been photographed in 1860. (She was born in 1814. You do the math.) Silvy moved to London in 1859. Her nephew, Mary and Charles Smith’s son, Charles Cunliffe Smith — along with his wife Agnes, Lady Smith — are represented in Silvy’s books, but far later in number. How fascinating to go through these book NPG has and see all the people photographed by Silvy!

But there are other family photos, but other photographers. One that has surfaced is a family group, plus some individual photographs, by William Claridge (1797-1876). He began photographing in the Berkhamsted area in the 1850s.

A third photographer, one with ties — at the very least — with the Comptons and Dickens families, is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online article entitled “William Henry Fox Talbot and the Invention of Phography“. I’ve come across mention of Dickens family pictures, and online have found Fox Talbot’s letters, which have him giving several wonderful descriptions of Lord and Lady Compton, while they lived in Italy.

Such valuable resources — in images and words.

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Elusive Eliza Smith (Sarah Eliza, Lady Le Marchant)

March 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The ever-so-obliging Charlotte Frost, author of the new biography on Sir William Knighton, a Regency-era physician (include among his patrons, the Prince of Wales), consented to do a little research for me while she was consulting the Parliamentary Archives on her own behalf. What she turned up, however, was not quite what I had expected…

In the papers of Denis Le Marchant (at the archives) is a line item entitled “Photographs of Le Marchant family members“. The description reads: Four photographs entitled “Ewhurst, 1874, early photos of Le Marchant family”: Eliza Le Marchant, W G Le Marchant, H C Le Marchant and E T Le Marchant.

For a couple of years I’ve had dreams of seeing Eliza, Miss Sarah Eliza Smith, Lady Le Marchant.

Alas, alas… be careful what you wish for!

The foursome photographed individually are … all … CHILDREN! Not one “older” lady among them!

Charlotte kindly photographed the backside of them as well, and indeed they are ID’ed with the initials seen above. Maddeningly, someone seems to have “shrink wrapped” the pictures, along with the “envelope” they had once been kept in, which is attached to the backside. The writing on the back of the photos seems to read: W. Le M [this one cut off by the envelope; all you see is W L and part of the upper tail of the M]; H C Le M; and E.T. Le M — the fourth, a robust little boy — is entirely hidden by the envelope. He certainly is not “Eliza”!

The envelope reads:

Ewherst 1874 [looks more like Ervhist!]
Early Photoes [sic]
[sth crossed out] E Le M
                                WG   ”   ”
                                H  C  ”    ”

So who even came up with the idea that any represented an Eliza?? And who is that fourth child?

Searching (for I had known all along the others were probably children, for the initials did not fit Eliza and Denis’ own immediate family), I find the following people:

  • Sir Edward Thomas Le Marchant, 4th bart (b 1871)
  • William Gaspard Le Marchant (b 1873)
  • Herbert Carey Le Marchant (b 1875) [which makes no sense with Ewhurst 1874… so somebody’s incorrect!]
  • and no mention of their daughter

These being children of the son of Denis and Eliza, Henry Denis Le Marchant (b 1839) and the hon. Sophia Strutt.

The Debrett’s of 1879 describes “Widow living of 1st Baront — SARAH ELIZA (Lady Le Marchant), da. of Charles Smith, Esq., formerly M.P. for Westbury; m. 1835 Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st baronet, who d. 1874. Residence, 2, Easton Place West, S.W.”

Eliza, Lady Le Marchant, died in 1894.

Needless to say, I’m still on the HUNT for a photograph of the Elusive Eliza.

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Mary Queen of Scots – Purchasing History

March 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , )

Breaking news today was about the sale of a letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots! It was sold at auction – at Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh, among other items sold from Blair Castle, said to be the oldest continually-inhabited “mansion” in Scotland. Read the story of “The Sick Note Written by Mary Queen of Scots” at The Daily Record.

* * *

Jane Austen had some thoughts about Mary, Queen of Scots! See it here — along with Cassandra’s illustration.

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Just like Jane Austen as a baby…

March 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have been reading — and immensely enjoyingThe John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer, 1752-1828 (edited by Brian Robins). More about this book later

The year is 1775 and John Marsh, who has been living in ROMSEY, has gotten married and is expecting his first child. Mrs Marsh is delivered of a son on 10 November 1775.

On Sunday the 12th. Mr Haverfield officiating at church for Mr. W. {Williams} we got him to come & baptise the child by the name of John, who was this day put out to nurse Webb who had been secur’d in case of my wife’s not succeeding in suckling the child herself w’ch after a few attempts she was obliged to give up…” [pp. 134]

Little John reappears in the journals on p. 142, when the Marshes are planning a move to Salisbury: “The 25th. [of June 1776] now fix’d on for our removal, on the 24th. we took leave of our Romsey friends… & the day after Mrs M. & I (leaving our little John, now above 7 months old) at nurse Webbs, sat [sic] off for Sarum…

So it’s possible that little John had been all this time at Nurse Webb’s.

Little John is next mentioned, p. 149, when the couple, now settled in Salisbury, expect Mrs. Marsh’s parents, Dr. & Mrs. Brown — who, having lived beside the couple in Romsey are now moving to Salisbury (nearly always “Sarum” to Marsh):

On the 26th Dr. & Mrs Brown quitted Romsey & came to stay a few days with us previous to their going into their new house, & brought over our little boy with them, who was now just wean’d.

Presumably, the boy — like Jane Austen (and probably other {all?} Austen siblings) — was now returned to his family after the nurse, who received him at only two days old, has cared for him for nearly nine months.

As the likes of Tomalin et al. have written: standard practice then, in Hampshire (if not elsewhere), to farm out your child.

I can’t say much more about little John (not having read any further…), but will mention here that Marsh has quite recently met Lord George Lennox — younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Richmond and also Lady Louisa Conolly (née Lennox)! The name of Lord George’s wife? Lady Louisa Lennox! This Lady Louisa is described as “the musical Lady Louisa Lennox (who is not to be confused with the Lennox’s sister Louisa)…. She was noted for wearing military and masculine attire, being painted in such dress by Romney and others.” Marsh writes of her: …some of the good ladies who lived in the market place … used … to come & drink tea, hear the music & see the lady…”

The little boy above is neither Jane Austen nor little John Marsh — but “Master Gosling” (ie, William Ellis Gosling, Mary’s eldest brother), by Sir William Beechey.

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Lady Louisa Conolly’s letters

March 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm (books, history, news) (, , , , , , , )

Looking today for Lady Louisa Seymour (it’s a long story, but the National Portrait Gallery, London has photos of Maria Louisa Culme Seymour, née Smith with this unusual nomenclature for a baronet’s wife), I came across this FANTASTIC auction which occurred in December 2011:

You can read the full description at the auction house, Mealy’s, but here’s an abbreviated description:

Lady Louisa Connolly’s Transcript Letters Connolly (Lady Louisa) [Seymour (Lady Albert)] A very important collection of nine quarto volumes containing manuscript transcriptions of Lady Louisa’s letters 1759 – 1821, mostly to her brother and sisters (the celebrated Lennox family), with a few letters from other family members. The volumes strongly bound in half moroco on heavy marble boards, transcribed in the clear mid-19th Century hand of Lady Albert Seymour. As m/ss, w.a.f.
Lady Lousia was the wife of Thomas Connolly of Castletown House. She was a daughter of the third Duke of Richmond; her brother Charles Lennox, the fourth Duke, organised the celebrated Ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. One sister was married to Charles James Fox; another to Sir Charles Napier, historian of the Peninsular War, and another to the Duke of Leinster (hence Lord Edward Fitzgerald was her nephew).
* A most valuable and important historical collection, deserving of much further research. Some of the original Lennox letters have been sold at various times (including some at Mealy’s…) and other deposited in various libraries, but this is probably the most complete collection of their texts than exists anywhere else.
From the family of Lady Albert Seymour, who was great-niece of Louise Connolly, the daughter of Lady Sarah Napier.
Sold for €4200

oh! seeing these books I’m just salivating!

Some of Lady Louisa’s letters were published (edited by Brian Fitzgerald) as The Correspondence of Emily Duchess of Leinster, in three volumes back in the 1940s and 1950s. (Find the books at the National Library of Ireland.)

AMAZINGLY these books have been digitalized by the Irish Manuscripts Commission!!! Oh, fabulous (although I have the books):

vol 1 – Letters of Emily, Duchess of Leinster; James, 1st Duke of Leinster; Caroline Fox (Lady Holland)

vol. 2 – Letters of Lord Edward Fitzgerald; Lady Sarah Napier (née Lennox)

vol. 3 – Letters of Lady Louisa Conolly; William, Marquis of Kildare (2nd Duke of Leinster)

Click on the picture of Lady Louisa to get to the Irish Manuscripts Commission’s list of digitalized books.

Find portraits of the Conollys (note the spelling difference from Mealy’s!!) online at Castletown House.

* * *

Bonus Question: can you spot the incorrect information in the auction house’s description??

Oh, such mis-information makes me cringe! (Unfortunately, I have written such statements before…)


UPDATE: 3 January 2023 – I have replaced the broken link to Mealy’s website with the auction CATALOGUE at “Yumpu” for the Mealy’s “Rare Book Sale, December 13th & 14th, 2011”. The advertisement for the bound volumes of transcribed letters appears on page 93.

I also SAVED an image of the page; so, if all else fails, click here.

I do wonder, after a DOZEN years, What happened to these books? It would be nice to think of them in a public archive, but I don’t know that I ever traced them following the sale. Would love to know further information from you, dear readers.

I have also updated the Irish Manuscripts Commission links to the volumes of the three volumes of published letters. These files have become PDFs, which makes for much easier online reading (than the “flip-book” versions previously uploaded by the IMC). For those interested in out-of-print Irish history books, this link will pull up all IMC Digital Editions.

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Unknown Mozart Composition Unearthed!

March 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm (entertainment, europe, history, news) (, , , , , , , , )

And who says old things never turn up?!

The Stiftung Mozarteum, in Salzburg (meine Lieblingsstadt!), has announced a newly-discovered piano composition (hard to describe it more fully, as there is little information given so far…). Handwriting experts claim the piece to be by Mozart and, found in a music book in Innsbruck by researcher/lecturer Dr. Hildegarde Herrmann-Schneider, date the book itself to 1780 — so, for once, we may have a more mature “unknown” Mozart composition! (Mozart would have been about age 24.)

Stay tuned: the piece will have its presumed “world premiere” in the Tanzmeistersaal of the Mozart Wohnhaus on 23 March 2012.

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