Easter Sunday, in Rome

March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Reminiscing in April 1824, Augusta Smith (the daughter) writes to her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton. Augusta was in Rome last Easter and Lady Elizabeth is resident in Italy this spring.

“9 o’clock in the evening! St. Peters is resplendent with its magnificent illuminations. Innumerable crowds are thronging all around; the Ponte St. Angelo is one mass of heads and the Tiber a sheet of waving fire reflected from the brilliant explosions of light bursting every moment from the top of that venerable castle amidst wreaths of dark blue smoke. Last year we formed a part of the multitude…”

Ah, I know only too well Augusta’s nostalgia, and slight melancholia. I, too, have memories – too distant and therefore sometimes painful to reflect upon. Augusta’s trip was a year-long adventure from summer 1822 through summer 1823. The Smith family (Mamma and her older children) had stayed the winter in Rome. As Emma wrote Aunt before the group trooped farther south,

“you can hardly imagine my dear Aunty that we could be so near to Rome without visiting it, which Charles wishes, to the full as much as we do & Mamma for our sakes has kindly consented to so do, & in order to accomplish it we must spend the winter months there, now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts but think what an event in our lives it will be to visit Rome  I really think you would be almost tempted to go there…”

Great Aunt Susannah Smith’s Roman winter certainly points up the “wild” times that were enjoyed by the inhabitants and visitors. Is it like that today? (I still await my first journey into Italy.)

From young Augusta’s wistful memories, to Great Aunt Smith’s experience of Easter, 1827:

“we went to See the Pope give the benediction to his people from the Centre window of St Peters – it is an imposing ceremony – the military were all drawn up horse & foot – the bands playing – drums beating – but as soon as his Holiness appear{ed} an awful Silence prevailed -& continued while the benediction & prayers were read – the crowd were on their knees & their hats were off – the Evening turned out so wet – that the illumination of St Peters – and the fire works at St Angelo were put off”

Viva, la Roma!

And, “Happy Easter”.

st_ peters illumined by oil lamps

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Women’s History Month: Amelia Edwards

March 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm (books, europe, history, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

amelia edwards dolomitesYears ago (possibly as long ago as 1989!) I bought a paperback reprint of the book Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequently Valleys, by Amelia Edwards. _If_  it was as long ago as I think, reading the book would predate my own travels to Austria — though I have never visited the Dolomites, as Edwards does in this delight 1870s journey.

Her writing is a breath of fresh air, her descriptions always crisp and engaging. And who wouldn’t want to travel alongside Amelia, her companion “L.” and L’s ladies maid once Amelia describes how they made off with a couple of coveted (read: hard-to-come-by) Side Saddles!

I spotted a brief view of the Dolomites on a TV travel show, and searched my shelves for this book. Have been happily ensconced in it for a couple weeks.

As March 2013 comes to its close, I was curious enough to read up on Women’s History Month and spotted that the theme this year was “Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. Surely archeology and Egyptology must  relate to “science”. Amelia Edwards’ most famous book recounts her trip  A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877). From there, her interest in Egypt never waned.

Amelia Peabody meet your real-life counterpart Amelia Edwards! You can read many of Amelia Edwards’ books at A Celebration of Women Writers (and even catch up a bit on Elizabeth Peters and her “Amelia Peabody” creation). Prefer to listen to your books, see Untrodden Peaks at LibriVox, read by Sibella Denton.

amelia edwards

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Palm Sunday, in Rome

March 24, 2013 at 11:45 am (diaries, europe, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , )

Smith_Susan Mackworth PraedLast night, transcribing a diary for 1827, I was reading about PALM SUNDAY, and it struck me because we were hours aways from Palm Sunday 2013!

I am not lucky enough to spend Holy Week in Rome (new pope: Francis I), but Susannah Smith, her sister and brother-in-law Lord and Lady Mayo managed to be there the winter of 1826-27 — Pope Leo XII doing all the benedictions they attended.

Both Augusta Smith (the daughter) and Mrs Susannah Smith (her great aunt) describe a whirlwind of celebrations in Rome during the Easter season.

This being Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church, I will describe it as Mrs Smith saw it, when in Rome:

Sunday 8 April. this being Palm Sunday we went to see the Pope bless the Palms at the Sistina Chapel in St Peters – the procession was grand the service long – & the ceremonies very tiresome and I was glad when it was over“.  The length and tedium, however, does not stop they from visiting churches for their Masses over and again! But more on that next week (Easter).

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Lady Nugent and Jamaica, 1801-1805

March 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm (books, diaries, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

The Smiths’ aunt Susannah (Mrs Thomas Smith) notes that her brother-in-law, Lord Mayo, attended an 1823 ball hosted by Lady Nugent. Maria (née Skinner) Nugent turns out to have left a journal, which was published as Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years ago (published: 1907).

maria lady nugentMaria Skinner was born in New Jersey.

Mrs Thomas Smith first writes of encountering Sir George Nugent in 1808 at Clovelly Court.

Kristin Condotta speaks on Mrs Nugent’s colonial years in a talk entitled ‘I Thank God I’m not a Man’: Lady Nugent and the Self-Made Woman in Colonial Jamaica, 1801-05. You can listen to this talk online (19+ minutes)

From the introduction to the 2002 edition, re-edited by Philip Wright, “Maria Nugent’s Journal is mainly concerned with life int he household of the Governor of Jamaica during a period of about four years, from Augusta 1801 to June 1805. As the Governor’s wife, the writer found herself at the centre of a slave-owning society, with a part to play there and no mere onlooker, yet observing its manners with the curiosity of a stranger. She met everyone of importance in the colony…”

Diarist Elizabeth Fremantle (in The Wynne Diaries, 3 vols) has left this “first impression” of the lady, from a meeting in December 1800: “Mrs. Nugent is the most conceited little woman I ever saw, she is very pretty though shorter than myself, she has the smallest head that can be, very thin and little. She is an amazing dresser, never appears twice in the same gown.” After a shopping expedition: “Mrs. Nugent bought a great deal of lace, she seems not to care how much money she spends in dres,s but she truly improves upon acquaintance and is a pleasant even-tempered little woman.”

Lady Nugent died, aged 63, in 1834.

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Wild for Regency Antiques

March 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm (entertainment, history, research) (, , , , , )

Yesterday I went *wild* for “pinning” Regency Antiques and Furniture, and fleshed out a board that had only a couple of dull pieces. I never really thought about it before, but items like Tea Caskets, Writing Slopes, and Ormolu Lustres were items used every day by the Smiths & Goslings. Peppering their reimagined homes — on Portland Place, at Suttons and Roehampton Grove — with furnishings and knickknacks enables me to fully see their everyday existences.

It wouldn’t surprise me if they had a piece similar to this George I Bookcase (I’m in love…); and check out the *fun* Nutmeg Grater in the “shape” of Brighton Pavilion!

Now this pinning is fun, because I could never afford the Brighton Pavilion grater (there’s NO price listed; and you know the old saying: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”), but it will forever be on my Pinterest Board!

What grabbed my attention, and what I’m blogging about today, however, was in seeing the several models of “Regency work tables”. I give as a for-instance, this lovely piece:

work table

I was QUITE perplexed by the fabric “bag” which they all had, dangling like the utter on a cow. It wasn’t until searching specifically for regency work tables tonight that I found one piece illustrated by several photos, one of which included its “bag” pulled out. Ah… ha…!

work table2

I had assumed that the “bag” was more flexible and maybe, just maybe, dropped in from the top. Nope. Pulled out, it seems quite a “constructed” box, doesn’t it; and it obviously slides into place. Ingenious, when you think about “tidying up” your space. Grab your work basket and — slip — under the table it goes, all nice and neat.

In the booklet Scenes from Life at Suttons there is brief mention made of the work basket — quite obviously the pieces distributed to the poor at the year’s end, that the Smith girls worked on periodically. I need to hunt up the passage I’m recalling (so do check back), but my impression was that if you had a spare moment you grabbed a piece of clothing and sewed. Perhaps this was where such works-in-progress were stored!

* * *

NB: www.onlinegalleries.com has been my “place” of antiquing choice. Please, let me know YOUR favorite online shops.

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Jane Austen Portraits

March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm (jane austen, jasna) (, )

Checking in at JASNA.org, I found a link to a short collection of essays on the various portraits:


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Mr Bennet celebrates 200th Anniversary Pride and Prejudice

March 10, 2013 at 11:09 am (books, jane austen) (, , , , )

Terribly funny letter from Mr Bennet to his “dear Lizzy” can be found in this short (3-minute) performance by Timothy West, script by Sue Limb.

timothy westAfter “200 years”… Timothy West / Mr Bennet props up the bar on Coronation Street
(Thanks, Calista, for the link!)


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