Miss Mary A. Leigh

January 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm (jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

mary augusta austen leighs

As mentioned a few days ago, Paul Frecker’s website includes a photo by Camille Silvy of a woman identified as “Miss Mary A. Leigh” — my immediate thought: Mary Augusta Austen Leigh?

Truthfully: I just don’t know!

On the left is Frecker’s sitter, ID’ed as sitting number 10,508 taking place on 10 July 1862 – which puts her in Silvy’s Daybook 8. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive “gallery” of the Daybooks. They, however, are not exceptionally enlightening on this young lady.

Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (right) was a younger daughter of Emma Smith and Edward Austen Leigh (see their portraits); she was born on 2 February 1838, her aunt Mary’s 38th birthday! It is a curious fact that Emma’s diaries all have pages cut out whenever she delivers a child. 1838 is no different. These pages are missing, and a small notation in pencil “2d Mary Augusta born” on a remaining page.

On the 21 March, Emma writes, “Baby was christened by the names of Mary Augusta — Ed: christened her — Her Sponsors were Mrs. Lefroy  Lady Smith (Julia her proxy) & Denis (Mr E. Lefroy his proxy).”

Mrs. Benjamin Lefroy was the former Anna Austen, Edward’s half-sister. Lady Smith – my Mary – was surely the person for whom “Baby” was named. The Augusta could be for either Emma’s sister (died 1836) and/or mother. Baby’s third sponsor was Eliza Smith’s husband, Denis Le Marchant.

Looking around for mentions of Mary A. Leigh and Mary Austen Leigh, I found notice of a portrait listed in the Royal Academy of Arts: exhibited in 1856, #954 “Miss Mary Austen Leigh” painted by Edmund Havell, Jr (1819-1894). I asked to have the identity of the painter of the little portrait, which is young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, but no signature can be detected. Could this be the Edmund Havell  portrait? — UPDATE: 1/25 I’ve seen a more detailed photograph of the little portrait (it’s gorgeous!), it seems a drawing with chalk highlights and pastels. I know very little about Havell, but suspect he painted in oils — unless this was a preliminary sketch for a full work in oils. Without more information about the 1856 exhibition’s work, and without more knowledge of the original (above) portrait, all is supposition, I’m afraid.

I have one vote against Miss Mary A. Leigh being Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. I want to think it the same person, especially after viewing this pair of portraits of Catherine Anne Austen (daughter of Frank Austen, [follow the arrows under the photo to read Frank’s entire entry]).

Help! What do YOU think?

* * *

UPDATE: transcribing some pages from the 1856 diary of the Rev. Richard Seymour, there comes a visit from “Emma and her 2 daughters”. Then he notes their departure: “Emma  Amy – Mary Leigh left us for Bray” = note the use during this period of the sole familial name: LEIGH. He was not alone in that designation.


  1. No Words Can Express… « Two Teens in the Time of Austen said,

    […] to his daughter, Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, it wasn’t until the end of 1814 that James Edward Austen was ‘admitted to the […]

  2. reflectionasera (@reflectionasera) said,

    Hi, I just found out there’s a memoir of James Edward Austen by his daughter Mary Augusta, through James Austen’s book of poems. It appears that the memoir was privately circulated by the author herself. Did you borrow the book from the library?

    Thank you for the informative post!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hello to you too!

      Yes, this is an exceptionally difficult title to find, but I interlibrary loaned it. Many libraries that have it do not “circulate” the book. By far, the best book Mary Augusta authored, although the “Jane Austen” title is easier to come by.

      I find the memoir priceless, for she does discuss a lot about her mother, her “Smith” aunts and uncles, and her own youth, as well as her father’s life. She accessed the diaries and letters of both parents.


      • reflectionasera (@reflectionasera) said,

        It leaves me wondering,, did she ever married?

        >>By far, the best book Mary Augusta authored, although the “Jane Austen” title is easier to come by.
        Now I’m envious! :D I was going through old bookshops online for it actually.


      • Janeite Kelly said,

        Dear Asera, no she never married; only a couple of the sons married. You might be interested in Ron Dunning’s site: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/

        If you happen to find JAMES EDWARD AUSTEN LEIGH via the used book path, grab it. It has never been reprinted (to my knowledge) and probably was a small print run to begin with. Take a look through OCLC and try to interlibrary loan.


  3. Janeite Kelly said,

    Reblogged this on Two Teens in the Time of Austen and commented:

    TWO years ago – and I *finally* got CONFIRMATION => in the shape of a companion photo, in an ALBUM, with an ID.

    IT’S HER!!!!

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