The Beau Monde

November 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm (books, london's landscape, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Kildare alerted me to a useful — and highly praising — review of the book I have recommended to several contacts and friends:

beau monde

Hannah Greig’s The Beau Monde describes a world in which the Smiths and Goslings participated, if on a slightly less-central level than someone like the glittering Duchess of Devonshire…

It has dawned on me, while reading, that the parent generation was more among the “movers and shakers” than the child generation. Routs, card parties, soirées – held for hundreds of guests – was the norm for the Hon. Charlotte Gosling at No. 5 Portland Place during the Regency years. Her two step-daughters, Mary and her sister Elizabeth, married well – young men of means; but they never supported the life Charlotte, the daughter of a peer (the 2nd Baron Walsingham) strove for in the early years of her marriage. Emma’s great aunt, Mrs Smith of Bersted Lodge, in her frequent interactions with the Royals – her twin sister, Lady Mayo, eventually served as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Adelaide (1830-1837), enjoyed an intimacy with the likes of the Duchesses of Clarence, Kent, and Gloucester, Princess Augusta, and even attended parties at Carlton House. Emma has left an account of the presentation of her eldest sister Augusta in 1817. Mamma was magnificently dressed!

Carlton House

See my page The Fashionable World or posts like Erle Stoke Park: The Well-to-do Party and What If You Threw A Party – and Everyone Came

adelaide-ladies museum

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Mirror of Fashion

November 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history, people, research) (, , , )

In transcribing diaries of Emma’s great aunt (Mrs Smith of Bersted Lodge), I have been dying to track down some of her fashion images. While I’m not quite convinced I’ve stumbled upon the source (I’ve yet to find her exact image), I’ve found some quite evocative images from the magazine The Ladies’ Museum, specifically in their column (with, typically, two fashion plates) “THE MIRROR OF FASHION“.

mirror of fashion

First up is a rather late entry, from 1831. Some of these gowns I can see Mary and Emma wearing; though, Mary would perhaps never recapture the fashionable figure she cut before Charles’ death (January 1831). And Emma, though interested in fashion to some degree, as the young bride of a clergyman she doesn’t seem to have overspent on herself.

“The Mirror of Fashion” will gain its own page, so be on the lookout for more in the near future.

For now: here is mirror of fashion_1831.

UPDATE: here’s its permanent page.

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At Crossroads: J.K. Rowling and Writing

November 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm (research) (, , , )

JAustenA bit of a personal digression tonight.

And a confession.

For years I’ve sought what would bring me the elusive … Satisfaction.

I’ve chased job ads, gotten interviews, and put up with rejection that was closer to indifference than a genuine “thank you for your interest”. With too few jobs, and too many applicants, employers have grown callous in their treatment of seekers like me.

I’ve felt at a genuine crossroads. Why? An interview where silence was their only response. Guess I didn’t get that job!

One can never raise the subject of ageism, but it stares me in the face just reviewing the ads: “3 to 5 years experience” crops up again and again. Finally dropping this futile search has actually lightened the load – a few monkeys jumped off my back that day.

Balancing the sobering realization that I will never get another job is the burgeoning idea that I should concentrate on what I LOVED: My research into the history of Mary and Emma, their family, their times.

With few to talk to other than you, I confess that it was a welcome validation to find tonight a 2008 commencement address given by J.K. Rowling (yes, of Harry Potter fame!). The sentences that spoke to me:

“I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.  Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.  I was set free…”

When it feels like you stand alone – having the courage to go on, and finding the determination to walk the path that feels right is not easy. Embracing that is the one thing that allows me to free myself.

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Alexander Davison’s No 11 St James Square, London

November 12, 2013 at 4:35 am (estates, history, london's landscape, people) (, , , , , , , )

Although Mary and Charles made scant mention of Mary’s Aunt and Uncle Davison (Alexander Davison’s wife, Harriet Gosling, was her father William Gosling’s sister), the Davison children made frequent company.

So, doing a little belated work at seeing the London residence of the Davisons – No. 11 St James Square – after reading about the area in Hannah Greig’s excellent The Beau Monde, I was so excited to come across a little history of No. 11 in the section “LOOKING AT DRAWINGS” from the Sir John Soane Museum. Click the photo (a 2013 picture) to be taken away to St James Square, London:

11 st james sq

f4370-4_Lady Nelson to Alex Davison_1801-nmm

Address panel of Lady Nelson’s letter

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Jane Austen & the Arts: Our book has a “FACE”!

November 11, 2013 at 5:14 am (jane austen, news) (, , )

ja and arts

I swear that I checked out the publisher’s site (Lehigh University Press /Rowman & Littlefield) just a week or so ago – for a book due out in November (ie, this month!), it was still “faceless”…

Then, clicking on my Amazon page to make sure my blog post on the “Mystery Lady, with Stag” had posted: Well there she was –> Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony!

The publisher’s site has the eBook coming out this month, with the hard cover edition out in December. Gosh, for me this has been so long in the works. And I only wrote a chapter… With my attention firmly in the Smith & Gosling direction, this foray really will be a one-off. I hope readers enjoy it.

A “Reputation for Accomplishment”: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers covers two of Austen’s most intriguing heroines. Marianne is perhaps the writer’s most gifted instrumentalist; Emma, on the other hand, sometimes throws her talents aside with both hands! Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen quickly realize how much I adore classical music; few will know that I actually studied art history at university, and used to dabble in making art.

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Have You Seen this Lady?

November 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, london's landscape, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Mike from Tring sent me a photo of a drawing – a room in a house: But which room and in which house (never mind by which Smith sister, assuming it to be by a Smith in the first place). The companion drawing has a notation of “Chinese Bedroom at Tring”. I can barely make out the date, which could be 1829? The other drawing is untitled and undated.

The un-ID’ed room has a box piano to the left, then a group of stout books (folios) in a free-standing bookshelf. Two windows flank a well-stocked bookcase (which includes a tier or two of ceramics); this is placed central in the sketch. What appears to be a chess set sits on a table in front of the left-most window. A seating area is seen to take up much of the right side.

The Ceiling is high and decorated with much plaster-work (no murals within the medallions); the floor is carpeted (a block pattern, with perhaps floral motifs?); wood flooring peeks out at the sides. The windows are tall, starting near the ceiling. A left-hand-side door leads to the rest of the house, a wing (or perhaps porch?) of which is glimpsed outside the window.

What catches the eye straightaway is the full-length portrait over the filled bookcase. Identification of the portrait may help ID the room and in turn the estate and the artist. I’ve got my guesses, but toss it out to TWO TEENS readers: Shout out if you’ve seen this Lady!!

The stag makes me think “Diana the Huntress” or some other “symbolic” figure; but the clothing seems right out of a portrait meant to represent (dare I hope) a family member, though the head-dress may be conical and have a gauze-fabric (or is that more ‘tree’?). The scale of the portrait to the room makes the actual painting HUGE! It hangs just below the crown molding, and if the room has a 10-foot ceiling, the painting could be over five-feet in height!

mystery lady and deer

A SOLUTION now posted.

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New Letters, New Revelations

November 3, 2013 at 9:38 am (diaries, history, news, people, research, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , )

Special thanks to Mike who photographed some letters for me at the Hampshire Record Office. Being 3000 miles from this enormous source of Smith&Gosling info is one of the hardest situations to be in. I’m very grateful to Mike, and to anyone who is able to allow me to continue my research from afar (you all know who you are…).

I spent yesterday morning and evening (until 2 am! – though with the time change, I gained an hour) in the 1790s – with Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), youngest sister to Augusta (AKA Mamma); also with their Father Joshua Smith and Mother Sarah Smith. There’s even a letter from Judith Smith (née Lefevre), Emma’s great-grandmother, but I’ve not touched that one yet. The Smiths senior (Emma, Joshua, Sarah) write a LOT about aches, pains, accidents. A HARROWING letter from Sarah Smith to daughter Eliza Chute sets out the near-fatal accident of young Emma (“Aunt Emma”)! O-M-G-!

  • click link “near-fatal accident” to LISTEN to this segment of Sarah Smith’s September 1799 letter

The letters of my Emma Smith (AKA Emma Austen Leigh) come from the period 1811 / 1814. Emma was just nine-years-old in August 1811. HUGE handwriting — but cursive handwriting:


This is page 3 — and LOOK at the treat that was in store for me: an early mention of my Mary Gosling, an 11-year-old! Only eleven and nine, and the girls were already corresponding…

The 1814 letters are poignant, dealing in the time period of Papa Charles Smith’s last illness. The bright spot in one letter? Mentions of “the little ones”. I swear Emma writes, “When we came to Stratford [the home of “Aunt”, Judith Smith – Charles’ only living sister; she was obviously keeping the children away from the scene of sickness] we found the little ones very well & hungry…” Emma goes on to mention little Drummond – a toddler at this point; and Charlotte, about five-years-old – who was outpacing her elder sister Eliza in learning her religion and also in reading.

Knowing what life had in store for all these people – (for example: marriage, children, early death) – it touches me to glimpse these moments of them as innocent, buoyant children. Thankfully, so much material has been preserved – in so many different places. Each letter shades their portraits in such subtle ways. A valuable gift, as we move into the festive season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on to a New Year.

* * *

NB: IS Mrs Thrale in the recorded letter of Sarah Smith who I think she is?

Hester Thrale Piozzi did know the Cunliffes; letters mention the deaths of Lady Cunliffe’s daughters, Eliza Gosling (1803) and Mary Smith (1804). Trouble is: Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale had, by 1799, long ago become Mrs Piozzi. The name could be read as “Thrall”… But it’s possible Sarah Smith had a slip of the pen, or didn’t hear (or didn’t remember hearing) of Mrs Thrale’s remarriage. Must dig a bit further.

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