A Tale of Two Macdougalls

October 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading Emma’s diaries for 1822-1823 — even with half of EACH diary left blank (while the family was away on the continent) — one would never realize that the Miss Macdougall found in the first diary was NOT the same Miss Macdougall found in the second.

Thank goodness for letters!

The secret is to be found in a couple of letters at the Essex Record Office (Chelmsford).

The “Tale of Two Macdougalls” begins in 1819. The governess to the younger Smith girls, at the moment, is Miss Ramsay — about whom I’ve written before. She turns up in the memoirs of Elizabeth Grant, the “Highland Lady”.

By February, 1819, Miss Ramsay is described as having a cough. At the very end of March “Miss McDougall {sic} arrived this morning from the North at her sisters in Euston Sqr  She came directly to see Miss Ramsay…” Miss M. brought Miss R. the unwelcome news that illness prevented Mrs Ramsay’s journey south. In April, Emma makes the comment that “Miss Susan McDougall {sic} was to stay in Portland Place with Miss Ramsay during our absence”. So, the two northern ladies were acquainted! And Miss Susan Macdougall comes into the circle of the Smiths of Suttons.

Ill, Miss Ramsay left the Smiths at the end of April, and by the fifth of May Emma could note her arrival in “the North”. Poor Miss Ramsay; she never recovered her health. Emma received “the melancholy account of dearest Miss Ramsay’s death” on August 10th.

On the governess front, Miss Pond was engaged by Mamma on 18 June 1819. There are hints that Miss Pond was perhaps on the lookout for another position. More of Miss Pond, however, in some later post.

Emma’s 1821 diary has the following address: “Miss Susan Macdougall  10 Picardy Place Edinburgh”

A “Miss Macdougall”, who was probably Susan, came to see Emma shortly before Christmas, 1821. On March 24, 1822 Emma could write, “Miss Macdougall came here in the evening to be my sisters governess”.

Come December, with the family away on the Continent, but the younger children — Charlotte and Maria; Spencer and Drummond — in England, Charlotte was writing to Mamma, “I cannot express how excessively sorry I am, we are going to lose, dearest Miss Macdougall …. I am very glad her sister is coming, for I know her, and like her very much, & we can talk of Miss Macdougall to her.”

And there is the one hint that the later letter writer HELEN Macdougall was Miss Macdougall Number Two!

Come April, 1823, we learn, from Miss Helen Macdougall, that her sister Susan was soon off to Paris – to meet up with a M. Noverre, who had promised to marry her. But all was not well, even then. Miss Helen Macdougall ended her sister’s tale, in a letter to Mamma: “My Brother and Sister Fordyce are so much dissatisfied with his conduct, that even now they wish poor Susan to give him up.”

What happened?!? Did Susan give up M. Noverre? Did Monsieur jilt Susan?

All I currently know is that Emma would write in mid-June, 1823: “I am extremely sorry to hear that any unpleasant circumstances are at all likely to put a stop to Miss Susan Macdougall’s marriage …. pray beg Miss {Helen} Macdougall to send us without fail her sisters direction at Paris.”

The Smiths returned to England in July, 1823. Emma’s 1824 diary has this address:

Miss S. Macdougall
Chez Mde Martin
Rue de Vendome No. 13–
a Paris

And in April, 1824 Augusta is writing her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton, “I have had a letter from Lady Compton {Lady Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, the former Margaret Maclean Clephane} quite pleased with the idea of Miss S. Macdougall and I do think indeed she has got a treasure more especially for the salary she gives…”

Without more letters the tale of the Two Miss Macdougalls remains what I’ve outlined here.

One clue to their future lies in the family of “Sister Fordyce”. There were at least four Miss Macdougalls, daughters of Mr Alexander Macdougall of Inveresk House (near Edinburgh). This obituary may be their mother’s:

June 1779, The Scots Magazine

14. At Inveresk, Mrs Macdougall, spouse of Alexander Macdougall, Esq; deputy-treasurer’s remembrancer in exchequer.”

I have found evidence that Charlotte Macdougall — Sister Fordyce — was born c1778. She married James, the second son of Dr Arthur Dingwall Fordyce of Culsh and Janet Morison, his wife, who was born in August 1778, on 23 July 1797. If Charlotte was the youngest daughter, then all the Macdougall sisters are in their 40s by the early 1820s.

The book on the Dingwall Fordyces notes the death of “McDougall [sic] (Alexander) of Inveresk House, Edinburgh and Deputy Remembrancer” on the 14th March, 1792. “The name of Mr. McDougall’s wife has not reached us; but his family must have been left in reduced circumstances, from the fact that two daughters, Misses Helen and Susan McDougall, for years creditably supported themselves, the former in the family of Mr. James Walker, an eminent civil engineer in London; the latter as governess in the family of the Marquis of Northampton.” This last we have seen recounted by Augusta to her cousin. Helen’s position with the Walkers probably also post-dates her stay with the Smiths.

I have found the following Musselburgh (near Edinburgh) estate, Inveresk House, now a B&B — IS this the former home of the Macdougalls? What happened to the Macdougall children after the deaths of (seemingly) two parents?

One telling hint to Miss Susan Macdougall’s future, if this is the same woman: a book, published in 1865, lists among its subscribers “Macdougall,  Miss S., 11 Princes Gate, London”.

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2016: Jane Austen’s Emma

October 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , , , )

A couple of weeks ago, the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) held its annual conference (AGM); and the announcement would have been made about the latest addition to the upcoming AGM line up:

2013 – “Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice … Timeless” = Minneapolis, MN

2014 – “Mansfield Park in Montreal: Contexts, Conventions, Controversies” = Montreal, Quebec

2015 – “Living in Jane Austen’s World” = Louisville, KY

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know how “bullish” I am on studying the life of Cassandra Austen, and reading actual letters, and learning more about life in Regency England; so I really look forward to Louisville as a slice of something out of the ordinary. While Minneapolis and Montreal carry forward the 200th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Austen’s novels begun last year, in Fort Worth, with Sense and Sensibility.

So it was with GREAT interest that I looked up JASNA’s website listing of AGMs to see that Emma in 2016 will be held in our nation’s capital: Washington, DC!

Emma at 200: ‘No One But Herself’” builds on the idea of Austen writing that she was creating a heroine whom no one but herself would like. Fans know this is not true.

Can’t imagine a better place to celebrate Emma‘s “bicentennial”!

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Queen Advertises for Maid

October 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm (books, british royalty, history, jane austen, jasna, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

On tonight’s news, the “bulletin” that the Queen of England is in search of a … MAID! See my recent post on the EXCELLENT BBC series, Servants:The True Story of Life Below Stairs with Pamela Cox.

The “Housekeeping Assistant” works 40 hours per week, and is expected to spend three months out of London.

Accommodation is available.

Apply by the 26th!

The London household is also looking for, among other positions, a gardener, an events coordinator; the Windsor household is looking for a groom.

I am reminded to mention again a book purchased a few years ago in Montreal at dear Nicholas Hoare Bookstore: Mrs Woolf and the Servants, by Alison Light.

I also recently read a FASCINATING account of servants in Jane Austen’s novelsJudith Terry (U of Victoria, BC) entitled her survey “Seen but not heard: Servants in Jane Austen’s England.” I must confess that I couldn’t have named half of those servants Terry has unearthed!

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A Lady Rancliffe Mystery

October 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm (books, diaries, history, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A letter written in French in late January 1797, by Augusta (“Mamma”) Smith to her friend Eliza Gosling, had this tidbit of gossip:

“All talk of the death of Lady Rancliffe as sad, & caused by her carelessness; there is surely something that we do not know; have the grace to tell me what caused her death: I hear that she has had some gallantry, & I think with Mr. Matthews. but did she ever leave her husband; we are wholly ignorant of this Chapter.”

Inquiring minds — mine included! — want to know more.

A couple of images of Lady Rancliffe exist – like this 1795 study for a portrait by Hoppner. She was Mrs Parkyns then. And her “biography” is really the only thing I can find. According to the Annual Necrology, Elizabeth Anne James was the only daughter of Sir William James. Her father died on her wedding day! Married to Thomas Boothby Parkyns on 16 Dec 1783. The year of Hoppner’s drawing, 1795, Parkyns was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Rancliffe.

By the time she died, Lady Rancliffe would be written up as “married at 18; has been the mother of nine children in thirteen years, six of which, one son and five daughters, are now living.” Her obituary describes her as, “with every elegrance of person, youth, riches, dignity, and mental accomplishments, in the highest degree refined, and cultivated; matched to a husband, whose worth is equalled only by his benevolence; nothing seemed to have been wanting to complete the happiness of the charming woman whose loss we now deplore.”

So what is the truth?

A happy, charming woman – or a wife on the look-out for other men? What might her “carelessness” have been?

To echo Augusta’s comment, “I am wholly ignorant of this Chapter.”

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A Plea to Postal History Collectors

October 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm (diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

In conversation with Dave from Ottawa, I had the idea to post something that more plainly laid out what places the letters I seek came from / were sent to and also the people – writers or recipient; and the dates.

The letter that caught Dave’s eye was sent in 1798. It was sent to Charles Smith at his estate ‘Suttons’.

SUTTONS remains an address of great interest from beginning to end: it was the childhood home to Emma Smith and the marital home to Mary Gosling.

Another long-standing address for the Smiths & Goslings would be their residences in Portland Place, London (No. 5 = Goslings; No. 6 = Smiths).

The Goslings also had their country estate, Roehampton Grove.

Of course there are family members a bit further removed: aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve begun a list, which you can find under the tab “Autograph Letter Signed”.

I honestly don’t know what to search for – ALS will get something far different than an autographed letter. On the likes of eBay, there’s very little about the contents of letters or the addressee in most cases, and I simply tire of sitting at a computer, looking at post marks for hours. Way too many bookseller orders and attorney or banker letters of inquiry are on the market.

I want a juicy letter filled with family gossip!


Something which might be of use in helping ID some of the writers are the signatures I’ve posted here, as well as the pedigrees. Even the smallest, shortest sentence about any of these people would interest me!

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Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs (BBC)

October 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm (diaries, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Calista alerted me to a terrific new three-part documentary, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs.  Our guide through this world is Dr. Pamela Cox (University of Essex), whose great-grandmothers were servants.

Here is Dr Cox talking about the servant portraits at Knole (in Kent). Calista hasn’t forgotten the photographic portraits — and poems! — found at Erddig Hall (near Wrexham) – so I’ll give you what I emailed her (from my Ladies of Llangollen site):

Merlin WATERSON, The Servants’ Hall: A ‘Downstairs’ History of a British Country House (1980) – pictures and text trace the history of Erddig Hall (National Trust property; near Wrexham), the estate belonging to the Yorke family (a distant relative was the General Yorke who purchased, and expanded, Plas Newydd late in the 19th century). 

A favorite section, perhaps because it went back in time to an era during which my Mary and Emma were young brides and mothers, concerned the diary of William Taylor, servant to a widow living in Great Cumberland Street, London.

The diary was kept during the year of 1837 – so at the very beginning of Victoria’s reign. Like the portraits illustrated above, with the servants seemingly in street clothes and certainly not in the “servant uniforms” we all think of when pictures from Upstairs, Downstairs flash into our brains – William’s diary is a rare example of a pre-Victorian household.

Two items I noted, while listening to the discussion, were entries from May. On the 14th  he has written a very thought-provoking statement defending the servant class: “servants form one of the most respectable classes of person that is in existence: they must be healthy, clean, honest, a sober set of people.”

And I had to chuckle over his comments about young ladies at a party being “nearly naked to the waist“. Oh, for more from William Taylor! Has his diary been published? Will it be published? And include William’s delightful drawings.

Yes, a man who draws about life in service, his family, etc etc. He’s as comic and informative as my favorite “naive” artist, Diana Sperling (by the way, another Essex country inhabitant; if you don’t know her work, do look up the book Mrs Hurst Dancing).

This is a self-portrait: William has come home for a visit – to the astonishment of relations. To see those relations portrayed you’ll have to watch the TV show. William is discussed in part 1 of the series, “Knowing Your Place.” A HIGHLY recommended series. I’m going to catch part 3 before heading to bed.

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Mrs William Gosling’s Concert

October 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm (a day in the life, british royalty, entertainment, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Anyone reading Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know that I LOVE classical music. Mrs William Gosling, Mary’s stepmother was an inveterate “party, ball, concert” giver during the London season.

Thanks to Craig in Australia, I found the following newspaper announcement of a tremendous party given in 1821. It was reported in The Morning Post, Wednesday 6 June 1821:

“In Portland-place, on Monday evening, was attended by 300 fashionables. The music commenced at half-past ten, with an instrumental Septetto, the composition of HAYDN. An Aria, by Madame CAMPORESE, from Don Giovanni, accompanied by Mr. LINLEY, on the violoncello [sic], was a delightful treat. A duetto, by Madam CAMPORESE and Signor AMBROGETTI, from Il Turco in Italia, was followed by an air by Miss STEPHENS. ‘Hush, ye pretty warbling choir.’ Selections from HANDEL, ROSSINI, ROMBERG, MAYER, BISHOP, and BEETHOVEN. Leader of the Band, Mr KIESEWETTER; at the pianoforte, Sir George SMART.

Among the audience were —-
His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess de Frias and suite, Bavarian Envoy, Marchioness of Salisbury and Lady Georgiana Wellesley, Sir William Abdy, Mr. and Lady Drummond, Miss Nugent, Lady Elizabeth Talbot, Mrs. Malcolm and Miss Macleod, Lady Robert and Miss Fitzgerald, Marchioness of Winchester and Lady Mary Paulet, Sir Eyre Coote, Mrs. and Misses Blackshaw, Earl and Countess Verulam, Countess of Westmeath, Mrs. Hope.”

What fun! though could _I_ ever envision a party for three hundred people?! Yow! Love the term “fashionables”! In a letter I have, from the Two Augustas (Mamma and her eldest daughter), they speak of Rossini being in London: did Mrs Gosling open her purse (as Augusta intimated would NOT be the case with another grand lady) and invite him to her home?

Do you think they served any Syllabub??

Because this 1824 article describes the layout of the house, I include this brief notice about Mrs Gosling’s “excellent quadrille Party” :

“The three drawing rooms were appropriated to dancing.

The supper was set out in the large bow banquetting-room, on the ground floor. There was an abundance of sparkling champaigne [sic], and fruits peculiar to the season…”

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Supersizers Go Regency

October 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm (entertainment, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , )

From their Country Estate, Giles Coren and Sue Perkins will teach us about life and living during the Regency.

Giles is a self-confessed “dandy”; Sue is his unattached sister.

The FOOD is the focus of the show.

One of the “receipt books” used: the Experienced English House-Keeper

A view of one of the rooms in this lovely Country Manor House.

And another view of another room.

Giles is channeling his inner Prince. (Note the pink hair curlers!)

The twosome visit the Georgian City of Bath.

And the pump rooms.


Back home, Sue is enjoying her latest acquisition: a piano forte piece composed by Herr Beethoven.

But she sure pines for a beau…

Giles, in London, gets into much trouble while hoping to find a husband for his sister.

Sue gets a day out…

and tonight an intimate dinner party; tomorrow a dance!

Although I’m a fan of the first two episodes I had seen — a Victorian era episode, and a Restoration era episode — I was a bit disappointed in their Regency Romp. A little too much channeling of Austen sequels? They’d have been less ‘campy’ if they’d read my Smith&Gosling diaries and letters!

Still, if you tune in you get to see how Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding fared – what White Soup looked like (not very white…) – and how tasty Syllabub could be after all the meat and cheese.

Supersizers Go… aired over three years (2007-2009) and features many different eras of cookery and costumes.

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1903 Glimpse: Castle Ashby

October 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm (books, estates, history, news, places) (, , , , , , )

Found this issue of Country Life on Books.Google – you are welcome to read the article there as well. Certainly the photos show a Castle Ashby that only the likes of Emma would have had intimate knowledge about.

Castle Ashby (Northamptonshire) was and is the home of the Marquess of Northampton. In Emma’s youth, it was home to her uncle and aunt (mother’s sister), Lord and Lady Northampton, and their two children Spencer (Lord Compton) and Lady Elizabeth Compton (later: Lady Elizabeth Dickins).


* * *

Read about the “other” Compton estate, Compton Wynyates (Pall Mall Magazine, 1898), or in Architectural Forum (1911).

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