At Slate, a thought-provoking look at Austen’s writing and her novels by Adelle Waldman.
Images are EVERYTHING in a project of this sort. The stress of KNOWING items were painted, drawn, sketched… But “Where are they NOW?” is THE question. On Memoirture, Calista asked me if I had an image of Mary. Maybe? was the best answer I could give. For the famous Beechey portrait of Mary and Margaret Elizabeth Gosling seems found – and, yet, how can it be so?
The dilemma stems from the 1958 sale at auction (sold to “Leger”) of the Suttons portrait, and the acquisition of the known-Beechey by the Huntington Museum (West Virginia) occurred prior to that date.
The Gosling girls are said to be 3/4-length, seated at a piano, with music in the hand of the elder and a frill painted (for modesty, it was painted years later by that same elder sister!) along the neckline of the younger sister. All those elements are there. You can view the Early Music magazine cover here. (It’s a PDF).
Read my two earlier posts about this Beechey, “The Sisters,” Portrait:
Calista’s inquiry, however, had me looking at other Beechey female portraits; were their decolletage all that ‘on view’? I’ll leave it to you to judge for yourself that Elizabeth Christie could have had more to cover up on other Beechey portraits!
Portrait of a Girl, c1790
Harriet Beechey (undated)
Miss Elizabeth Beresford (undated)
Lady Clinton Walters (c1810)
Lady Elizabeth Cole (undated)
Portrait of a Lady (1825)
Frances Addington (c1805)
Miss Ann Lee (undated)
this last might have made Victorian-era Elizabeth Christie blush:
Miss Abernathy (undated)
IMAGINE my utter surprise to see the following turn up in a December 2012 Newsletter for the El Paso Museum of Art:
They’ve purchased my William Ellis Gosling’s portait!!
(by Sir William Beechey)
Designated the “Members Choice 2012 Winner”, it has been at Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, having once hung (but been ‘deaccessioned’ in 2000) in West Bend, Wisconsin. Ah, little does anyone know what they had, and El Paso now has.
William Ellis Gosling, the eldest child of banker William Gosling and his (first) wife Margaret Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Cunliffe, was born in the summer of 1794. The painting, exhibited in 1800, is surely of a child younger than age 6. Mention is made of “Master Gosling” (p. 72) and the family sittings (p. 244) in the 1907 book Sir William Beechey, R.A. (I don’t know why you can’t search the “read online” copy and find Gosling anymore…)
I will finish this post – with some information about dear William Ellis – later. Off to the library at present! (pouring rain…)
6.49 pm – have returned; and it’s STILL pouring out.
William Ellis Gosling was the eldest of seven children. Mary’s earliest diary, from 1814, is a door-to-door travel memoir of her trip from London to Oxford — to see her brothers who were at the university. For the 29th of June, Mary wrote,
“Tuesday [sic: Wednesday] morning having been invited by William to breakfast in his room accompanied by Robert we walked to Brazennose where there was a very sumptuous Collation prepared for us, Dr and Miss Burton partook of it, afterwards Papa, Mrs Sandoz my Sister my two brothers and myself went in a four oared boat to Nuneham William and Robert rowed us and as they could not get any other young men to row us they got two fishermen and Miss Burton’s butler steered us. Mama Dr. and Miss Burton were in the open carriage”.
A few years later, in September 1818, William is mentioned as having been at trial over a pick-pocket; the young man, Thomas Gardner – only 21-year-old) – was found guilty and sentenced to transportation. The short transcript of the Old Bailey proceedings says, in part,
“THOMAS GARDNER was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of June, from the person of William Ellis Gosling, one pocket-book, value 3s; one half-sovereign, and one 1 [pound] bank note his property.
WILLIAM ELLIS GOSLING, ESQ. I am a banker, and live in the Strand. On the 25th of June I was in Bear-street, Leicester-fields, at the time of the election, about half-past four o’clock, looking at the state of the poll, which was up in a shop-window, and felt somebody touching my right-hand coat-pocket. I turned round, and saw the prisoner with my pocket-book in his hand. I charged him with taking it, which he denied. I took him into a shop, and sent for a constable.”
Groan! a red morocco “pocket book”! So perhaps William kept a diary, like his sister, if this was something like The Daily Journal…
Between 1823 and 1828 William commissioned (one presumes) two portraits by Sir Edwin Landseer… of his dogs: Bob (a terrier) and Neptune (a Newfoundland). Both works went on to be engraved by Landseer’s brother Thomas. (full color of each dog: Bob; Neptune) Mary’s husband Charles notes in his diary for January 3, 1829: “Went with W:m Gosling to see Landseer’s pictures he is a most admirable artist”.
Spotting William in Mary’s diaries is easy; he is frequently mentioned, coming for visits (and going), dining; when not in company with one of his brothers, he accompanies Spencer Smith, Charles’ younger brother. After Charles’ death, William often is her man of business, coming when the rents were due. William is also mentioned in this capacity in the diaries of Susannah Smith (Charles’ great-aunt, the widowed Mrs Thomas Smith).
Dreadful news comes in Mary’s entry for the 30th of December, 1833: “Received an account from my Mother to inform us that William had got the Scarletina, but was going on well.” And on the following day, “Went to town, and saw my Father who was much the same. Made many inquiries about William but I could not learn many particulars. he dined at Richard Gosling’s on the 29th and complained before dinner of having a sore throat, during dinner it became so much worse that he was obliged to return home… on Monday morning Mr Tupper pronounced it to be Scarletina… he expressed it as his opinion that none of the family should go up to him, as he considered it an infectious complaint.”
The next FIVE years of Mary’s diaries are missing…
While I can chart – somewhat – the last illness of Mr Gosling (the father), in the diary for 1834 kept by the Rev. Richard Seymour (some sections of the diary have been cut out, probably removing sections about Richard’s distress about the family of his brother John), nothing is said of the death of this young man, which occurred on the 3rd of January, 1834. Richard records that Mrs Smith (“Mamma”) asked him to visit Mr Gosling on Sunday, January 12th; he calls the next three days. One more visit is recorded (what missing might once have existed is of course unknown) before notice of his death: “Heard from Lady Smith of the death of her poor Father Mr. G – wrote her a note of comfort – & by her request went to them at 4.” (27 Jan 1834)
Anna Lefroy – sister-in-law to my Emma Austen Leigh – left a fourteen-page letter, written at the behest of James Edward Austen Leigh (when he was working on the Memoir of Jane Austen), describing her memories (or lack of) of their Aunt Jane.
Anna (1793-1872), the eldest child of Jane’s eldest brother James, was certainly in a position to recall her aunt: if only she’d kept diaries or retained letters written in her youth! Her half-sister Caroline, had recourse to her mother’s diaries, those written by Mary (Lloyd) Austen, when writing up her own reminiscences.
Reading an article published by Deirdre Le Faye in 1988 (in The Review of English Studies), in which Anna’s letter was published in full, caused me to chuckle reading the first image young Anna recalled:
“I look back to the first period but find little that I can grasp of any substance, or certainty: it seems now all so shadowy! I recollect the frequent visits of my two Aunts, & how they walked in wintry weather through the sloppy lane between Steventon & Dean in pattens, usually worn at that time even by gentlewomen.”
In the course of writing, however, anecdotes slowly came back to Anna; this is one of the most delightful:
“I have been told that one of her earliest Novels (Pride & Prejudice) was read aloud (in MS of course) in the Parsonage at Dean, whilst I was in the room, & not expected to listen — Listen however I did with so much interest, & with so much talk afterwards about ‘Jane & Elizabeth’ that it was resolved for prudence sake, to read no more of the story aloud in my hearing.”
“the two years before my marriage, & the two or three years after, when we lived, as you know almost close to Chawton when the original 17 years between us seemed to shrink to 7 — or to nothing — It comes back to me now how strangely I miss her…”
- See the 1814 marriage licence of Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy
- Read all of Anna’s letter online (in Italian & English)
JASNA has released the contents page of the upcoming issue of Persuasions, the Austen journal sent to members every spring. (For purchase, see their website.)
Can’t wait to read Elaine Bander’s “Why Elizabeth finally says ‘Yes!’.”
Mary Ann O’Farrell’s title, “Meditating much upon Forks” reminds me of the 1991 BBC production’s Mr Collins — who sat at table scrutinizing the Bennet silverware!
VERY interested in seeing Jocelyn Harris’ article on The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge — all the clergymen in my research seem to raise money for this society, certain the Rev. Richard Seymour mentions the society over and again. Usually, he called it by its initial SPCK — took me a while to figure out what it meant!
I chuckle to myself thinking of Willoughby as “a luxury good” – so Shannon Chamberlain’s article will have to be an early read.
Calista in England alerted me to this interesting online interview with Jane Austen and Marriage author Hazel Jones.
I loved her book (see my online review of it), mainly because of the attention she paid to diaries and letter contemporary with those written by Mary and Emma.
In her interview you will find out,
- Why she adores Henry Tilney, and which actor is her favorite portrayer of that character
- Which Austen character she finds ‘a complete turn off’
- Which character she would ‘return’ as, if given the opportunity – and why she chose as she did!
Of course, you’ll also learn about Hazel’s Jane Austen courses…
Act now to watch Amanda Vickery’s program Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball.
Austen! Food! Dance! Music! Wonderfully informative.
You’ll even learn about White Soup.
for more on
- Ivan Day & Regency Cookery
- Mrs Gosling’s 1816 Ball at No. 5 Portland Place, London
- Sir William Knighton at Carlton House
- At the BBC
- Martha Lloyd’s White Soup @ Chawton
Comment on the show
- leave comments below; I’d LOVE to hear from you
Having joined (a few months ago) Biographers International Organization — BIO, for short of course! — I feel (momentarily, at least) among kindred spirits. In today’s email box a new edition of the Society’s Newsletter, The Biographer’s Craft. There are short news articles, a list of biographies just hitting the shelves, a member interview or two.
Until six years ago (almost to the day!), I worked as a staff member at a local college. Oh, how I wanted to rewrite my life! It’s been more like a re-run… Once the economy tanked… Well, I don’t expect I have to say more than that to you. But at the college (university-aged students, for those of you in the UK), I had a few kindreds: people who read books; people who travelled; people who did research, wrote, and published. Not that the professors thought of little ol’ me as far as research went! One prof thought I’d do well writing fiction (rather than history / biography). Another wanted to know, ‘Why is there so much material on these people?’ Luck of the draw, would be my answer to that unanswerable question. Her project? a diary that someone else had transcribed and left voluminous notes about – but she taught me how much can be deduced from so little primary material. I, on the other hand, do have diaries and letters, sketchbooks, printed biographies, &c, &c.
So reading the latest edition of The Biographer’s Craft, my mind was engaged by a couple of bits and pieces:
There’s an upcoming (in NYC) conference – among the roundtables, talks, lectures are two sessions, one entitled Diary of a Biographer: How Authors Lived Their Lives While Writing Someone Else’s and another called Almost Famous: Biographies of Wives, Sisters, Fathers, Lovers of the Famous. The second intrigues me; but I’ll mention the first first.
“Just starting out” means no one cares about my unearthing anything about Mary Gosling and Emma Smith; few know about the project (oh, you lucky few! those reading this post…); people who know me sometimes ask about it with the questioning tone in their voice that says, Are you still working on that?
I think about these families, the Smiths and Goslings, day and night.
I travel with them — right now I’ve just ridden over the Simplon Pass on a mule, enjoyed the beauty of the tremendous mountain scenery, and quaked at the dangerous precipices. This comes from a diary I’m currently transcribing, dated 1827.
I moan over letters I know to be out there, but have remained (some time) unread.
I bemoan pictures and silhouettes and miniatures which may be out there, unattributed; and lament those I, again, know to exist but which haven’t been shared with me.
When I bought my little copy of Scenes from Life at Suttons, a book of “poetry” in which the Smiths go about their daily business of reading, or having breakfast, because I know these people, from their letters, from their diaries, I could hear them speak. For others, however — those with glazing-over eyes who maybe never can share my passion, their lack of enthusiasm sometimes colors my day. So it’s nice to think of writers (some QUITE successful) inhabiting this world. I feel less alone when I read an issue of The Biographer’s Craft.
And I feel invigorated. Take the topic of Almost Famous. Although other materials exist in public archives, the vast majority of materials exist because of Emma’s connection to Jane Austen. I know that. I also know that Austen herself is the interest for the 99%. When I gave a lecture on letters, I asked for a show of hands: How many of my audience had read some of Austen’s Letters. Very few hands went up. More had read a biography of her.
I read biographies of the “almost famous” because of the circle of people they knew, the time period, and of course the connection to England. But we 1% are a GREAT minority in Austen Studies. It’s a small group for me to target — and yet if more Austen readers would find my Emma and Mary, they’d find a story not far removed from Austen’s novels. Will my books ever excite the attention of Jo Baker’s Longbourn… I have a feeling, probably not. Yet: It Should! My Two Teens led fabulous lives, so ordinary in some respects, so unusual in other respects. And the “times” they lived through: the Regency, political strife, war, a changing “welfare” state, the young Victoria ascending the throne. I always think of them as starting in the horse-age and proceeding through the steam-age into the age of trains.
I have long said that I would LOVE to see a volume (probably a set of books would be required) in which ALL the Austen family letters were published — Jane’s among them, all chronological, and of course highly annotated. But if 1% only want to buy such a book, it will never be published.
A favorite book of mine on Mozart is Ruth Halliwell’s The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context; why can’t there be a book about Jane Austen that treats her entire family circle in such a manner?!? Again, if 99% buy Longbourn, who’s left to care about “lives in a social context”?
And yet, when I see a book on the “used” market which is scarce and hard to come by – quite often, unless I’m quick, another one-percenter snaps it up!
Thank you, Charlotte Frost (meet the author yourself, Dear Reader, on Twitter), for reminding me about a meeting that took place in 1790 in which Gouverneur Morris (famous to Americans) noted in his diary a meeting with my Lady Cundliffe (as he calls her) and her daughters, Mary (Mrs Drummond Smith) and Eliza (later: Mrs William Gosling).
I typically put such comments into my “letters” files now; but this was a comment found so early on in the research (it began 7 years ago) that I remembered it having happened — but NOT what the man had written about them (that’s why I BUY books: to have them on the shelf to take down when I want them). In searching out the online book links for Charlotte Frost, I re-read the entry.
“To-day [April 23d (1790)] I dine with my brother, General Morris. The company are a Lady Cundliffe, with her daughters, Mrs. Drummond Smith and Miss Cundliffe; the Marquis of Huntly, Lord Eglinton, General Murry, Mr. Drummond Smith (who, they tell me, is one of the richest commoners in England), and Colonel Morrison of the Guards. After dinner there is a great deal of company collected in the drawing-room, to some of whom I am presented; the Ladies Hays, who are very handsome, Lady Tancred and her sister, and Miss Byron are here, Mr. and Mrs. Montresor. I am particularly presented to Colonel Morrison, who is the quartermaster-general of this kingdom, and whose daughter also is here. She has a fine, expressive countenance, and is, they tell me, of such a romantic turn of mind as to have refused many good offers of marriage because she did not like the men. I have some little conversation with Mrs. Smith after dinner. She appears to have good dispositions for making a friendly connection, as far as one may venture to judge by the glance of the eye. Visit Mrs. Cosway, and find here Lady Townsend, with her daughter-in-law and daughter. The conversation here (as, indeed, everywhere else) turns on the man (or rather monster) who for several days past has amused himself with cutting and wounding women in the streets. One unhappy victim of his inhuman rage is dead. Go from hence to Drury Lane Theatre. The pieces we went to see were not acted, but instead, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Spoiled Child.’ This last is said to have been written by Mrs. Jordan. She plays excellently in it, and so, indeed she does in the principle piece. Two tickets have been given me for the trial of Warren Hastings….” [pp 317-18]
Morris, from just this passage, seems to have had an eye for the ladies, don’t you think?
* * *
My two Cunliffe girls have short histories. Mary, who married Drummond Smith (brother to Joshua Smith – father of Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma Smith – the girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), was a new-ish bride. She had married in July 1786. Without a definitive birth date she was born circa 1762; her husband, born in July 1740, was about twenty-two years her senior! At this point in time, I have no real idea how the families met, why Mary Cunliffe and Drummond Smith married. I do know that Mary’s sister, Eliza Cunliffe, became a great friend to all the Smiths at Erle Stoke, though perhaps especially to second daughter Eliza (the future Mrs William Chute, of The Vyne).
It breaks my heart to think of Eliza Gosling, who married banker William soon after friend Eliza married her William (September 1793). She either was or came to be in fragile health. Eliza Chute worried about her having more children, writing that FIVE were enough in her nursery. The fifth Gosling child was my Mary Gosling (born February 1800) – obviously named for her Aunt and Grandmother.
But: Did Mary remember either her mother or her Aunt Mary? In December 1803, Eliza Gosling died. And by the end of February 1804 so had her sister! So it is with awe that I re-read Morris’ comments. This prior Mary Smith was destined never to become LADY SMITH; Drummond received his baronetcy months after her death. (Mary Gosling’s future husband would inherit the title from his great-uncle in 1816.) Simply WONDERFUL to hear that this Mary Smith seemed to have “good dispositions for making a friendly connection”.
NB: I am quite intrigued by his comment about the ‘monster’ on the loose.
I must find out more.
Hmmm… whatever happened to ‘choosy’ Miss Morrison?