What a FABULOUS *FIND*!!
The ‘miracle’ took place in the middle of the night, a couple of nights ago when I unearthed a RECENT exhibition of sketches done by Spencer, Lord Compton c1823. His sketchbook, in the hands of the Fondazione Sicilia, has been “conserved” and “preserved” and the drawings exhibited in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014:
The exhibition spawned a book and two informative (especially if you speak Italian) YouTube videos – including one showing the sketch book in its entirety (which has no soundtrack at all).
The second video (en Italiano) gives glimpses of the condition of the original sketch book, sketches, and their subsequent exhibition.
- “Viaggio in Sicilia” video presentation of the entire Lord Compton’s Sketch book
- “Viaggio in Sicilia” a 3-minute “short” on the sketch book and its exhibition (in Italian)
- Viaggio in Sicilia: il taccuino di Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton (catalogue @ amazon)
Spencer Compton, cousin to Emma and brother to Lady Elizabeth Compton (later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) spent many years in Italy with his wife, the former Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Spencer became the second Marquess of Northampton, following his father’s death in 1828.
- the delightful article “The Accomplished Ladies of Torloisk” by Karen Mc Auley
- Plays & Poems by Margaret Compton’s sister Anna Jane Douglas Maclean Clephane (1864)
- present-day Torloisk House, on the Isle of Mull
A “romantic figure” in this Raeburn portrait (painted in the era of his sketch book), Spencer Lord Compton graced the cover of this Georgette Heyer reprint recently.
partial legend from one sketch, in Spencer’s hand-writing
Want to walk in the FOOTSTEPS of Mary and Emma? A visit to The Vyne is one of the few “open to the public” homes which they used to inhabit, both women visited “Aunt Chute” and her home. Emma, being Eliza Chute’s niece from birth, visited more often – and came away with the ultimate prize: her husband Edward Austen!
Can’t get to the countryside outside of Basingstoke (Hampshire, England)? A ‘next best thing’ comes via this photo-laden blogspot, LoveIsSpeed. VERY rare are the interior shots.
Botanicals grace the walls of this little bedroom – and includes work by Margaret Meen, Augusta Smith (“mamma” to my Emma Austen), Lady Northampton, Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), and – of course! – Eliza Chute herself. Recent letters have tipped me off to how much Eliza Chute was addicted to painting.
- flash back: there once was a day when Eliza Chute was thought to have drawn Jane Austen’s portrait
The Botanicals are often painted upon Vellum; the few I’ve seen in the flesh are genuinely “etherial”.
LoveIsSpeed has some fantastic shots of the grounds, exterior, and some items of a recent special installation. I invite you to visit Aunt Chute yourself!
Should you wish to READ more about Eliza, Jane Austen, and The Vyne the best book out there is Rupert Willoughby’s Sherborne St. John and The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen. This is a fascinating look at a period in the estate’s history that isn’t always heavily considered by the National Trust — ie, the VERY period of Eliza and William Chute.
Rupert Willoughby, who was very kind in offering up suggestions for getting a handful of Chute letters, has published several books on local Hampshire history. Among his books is Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village and Selborne: Gilbert White’s Village.
- Read about all Rupert Willoughby’s publications on his website.
- Rupert also offers readers interesting “historical” blog posts.
Reading is ALSO the ‘next best thing to being there. Jane Austen obviously agrees:
Always searching for more, I’ve come across this ENCHANTING portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – which features a cherubic William Heathcote (later the 5th baronet), with his cousins, painted by William Owen c1803.
The museum’s write-up about the painting is fascinating: for it proves how wrong a catalogue attribution sometimes can be! The baby in the quartet was, in 1938, thought to be William (born in 1801). This then meant that the children surrounding the baby were all little girls… When you click on the picture to see the ENTIRE portrait (it will take you to the Met, and open in another window) you will see why this is so important a mistake.
- when at the Met’s website, click under “catalogue entry” for the painting’s full history
William, who was a GREAT CHUM of Edward Austen, was the son of the Rev William Heathcote, vicar of Worting. Jane Austen knew the Heathcotes well; little William’s mother was the former Elizabeth Bigg, daughter of Lovelace Bigg-Wither. Elizabeth returned to her parental home following the early death of her husband. Jane Austen was friendly with all the Bigg sisters of Manydown.
- read online Materials for a History of The Wither Family
The painter, William Owen, exhibited the work in 1806.
The fascinating part of the history is what happened in 2012 – just two years ago – when a descendent gave the museum access to family history and, based on birth dates, the Met re-evaluated the sitters.
The Heathcote pictures (yes, in the PLURAL) were sold off in the 1930s, by a distant relation who had inherited the baronetcy (as mentioned, Edward Austen’s friend was the 5th baronet). As the website says, the extensive collection “constituted a rather comprehensive record of the appearance of succeeding generations from the late seventeenth century until shortly after 1800“. Breaks my heart to read of families divesting themselves of The Old Family Portraits – but without such divestment these would not be found online now…
Owen’s work has great charm, in the rusticity of the scene presented.
- compare the heir to Hursley with the Gosling family heir, in Beechey’s portrait of William Ellis Gosling
- read online the history of Sir William Heathcote, 5th baronet
I forgot to mention: William Heathcote’s first wife was Caroline Perceval, daughter of the 2nd Baron Arden — who was related to the Comptons of Castle Ashby (ie, Emma Austen’s Aunt and Uncle Northampton). So, in a way, William “married into the family” even before Edward Austen did! (He and Emma Smith married on 16 December 1828.)
I have been living in the 18th century lately, and in looking for the Smiths at No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster, came across this Newspaper advertisement in 1802, when No. 15 (across and a bit up the street from the Smiths) was for sale:
“No. 15, SOUTH SIDE of GREAT GEORGE-STREET,
To be Sold by Private Contract, by Mr. CHRISTIE,
A Singularly elegant LEASEHOLD HOUSE, with two coach houses, roomy four-stall stable, &c. … with views from the balcony into St. James’s Park and Westminster-bridge, from which a most perfect free circulation of air rendering the premises chearful, airy, healthy, &c. The premises have, on the parlour floor, a library, dressing room, and elegant dining parlour, spacious entrance hall, with folding doors, paved with marble; first floor, a suit [sic] of three spacious apartments, the two principal ones laid together occasionally by folding doors, the windows of the front room opening down to the floor into balconies; four spacious bedchambers and patent water closet on the second floor; five excellent bedchambers on the attics, principal staircase of easy ascent, and back staircase; basement story, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, store room, and excellent wine cellars, servant’s hall, detached kitchen, wash house, and laundry, capital arched vault for pipes of wine. the premises have been recently put into the most elegant and complete repair, fit for the immediate reception of a large family. The locality of the premises to both Houses of Parliament, St. James’s Park, Westminster Bridge, and within one shilling fare of Court, Places of Amusement, &c renders the premises particularly eligible. — To be viewed with tickets, and further particulars known in Pall Mall.”
No. 29 is prominently marked “XIX”; No. 15 is the first on the right, right below the letter “T” in Street. Reading letters from the 1790s, when three men were living at No. 29 — Joshua Smith and his sons-in-law Charles, Lord Compton (of Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire) and William Chute (of The Vyne in Hampshire) — were ‘bunking together’ you get the impression of it being a NO PLACE FOR LADIES! Too little room? too many additional servants? Hard to tell the exact reason why. All three men were in Parliament; and a ‘bachelor establishment’ was probably just not the most conducive place to be!
In the mid-1790s, “the Ladies” would have included:
- Sarah Smith – Joshua’s wife
- Lady Compton – Charles’ wife (Joshua’s eldest daughter)
- Spencer and Elizabeth – the two Compton children
- Eliza Chute – William’s wife (Joshua’s second eldest daughter)
- Augusta Smith (Joshua’s third daughter)
- Emma Smith (Joshua’s fourth and youngest daughter)
That’s SEVEN more people, never mind maids and nursery staff.
From such a list, how could one possibly pick and choose?
I’ve long looked at the excellent series of BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE, but have also looked at the book SURVEY OF LONDON (from 1926) online at the University of Toronto (Great George Street is in vol. 10), which has many in the series. Must confess, it gives the entry an entirely different “feel” to see the BOOK!
“DEMOLISHED” is such a horrific word to see…
I sure hope the bits & pieces said to be “preserved” in the Victoria and Albert Museum still exist!
* * *
- The Antiquary‘s article on The National Portrait Gallery (once in residence at No. 29 Great George Street; first opened in 1859)
- The NPG History page
- No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster – in photographs at Collage
A friend recently asked:
How about your letters, anything exciting?
As I typed my reply, the thought came: this would interest readers of Two Teens, too — or so I hope.
I’m just scaling the heights, after an influx of new-to-me information; mainly letters, but also a few early diaries. Here are some early thoughts on the *new* material:
“Can’t say I’ve come across anything that would be termed exciting in and of itself; just a build-up of family history. Seems quite a few letters were saved from a period in Emma’s life when she was “sought after” by Arthur Perceval. She certainly didn’t find him ‘attractive’; but gosh she experienced such ANGST over her negative thoughts!
“HARD not to wonder if she didn’t already think about Edward Austen – though this was a good 3 years before they married…
“I knew a few letters along this line existed, but there turned out to be more! And those letters from 1825 that I thought would be primarily about Charles and his recent bereavement, turned out to be MORE letters about Mr Perceval! The Oxford collection, though, had an interesting twist on the tale: Mr P visited Suttons! A bit of an uncomfortable encounter for them both.
“And in the end? he married someone else, seemingly rather quickly. Almost an “any girl will do”, rather like Mr Collins. (from your favorite: Pride and Prejudice.)
“The letters of Lady Northampton to her husband are – of themselves – not much. Short, written (and sent) nearly every day. Such longing for his return! and it seems they were SHORT (and frequent) because HE disliked long letters! So as a group, they are quite of use. She wrote her daughter in the same way. Never having much to say, but always keeping the conversation going.
“The question, now, is: If HER letters exist, what happened to those sent TO her?! Weren’t those saved??”
As mentioned in my blog Regency Reads, I’ve been on a bit of a book buying spree. I’ve gotten Deirdre Le Faye’s newest, Jane Austen’s Country Life (am enjoying it, but WISH there were source citations….), and in that same shipment came this book from 2009:
First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence, by Sheila L. Skemp, really has had my brain working, digesting Skemp’s thoughts on the young Judith Sargent, while at the same time equating some of Sargent’s “colonial-era” youth with the families of Mary & Emma.
Born in Gloucester, Mass, in 1751 – Judith Sargent is older than Mamma (Augusta Smith) and her sisters, though in an “older sister” way, rather than a “generational” way. Sargent certainly gave a lot of thought to education, especially how her own differed from that of her slightly younger brother Winthrop. And “governess” versus “Oxford” is one thing I touch upon in my first chapter, as Mary visits her brothers William and Robert in college in 1814.
Sometimes reading about an era just slightly ahead of the one being researched is a great influence – and Skemp presents her material well.
Elizabeth Bennet made a decided coup de grace when she uttered the words, “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”
In looking up the books.google link, Arthur Aspinall gives a great indication of what it was to be “a Country Gentleman”, while admitting, “It is impossible to define a country gentleman in a phrase.”
The title of the book I’ve found – about Sir William Heathcote, a firm friend of Edward Austen (later, Austen Leigh) – claims just that impossible-to-define title for this biography. You’ll find several mentions of my dear Edward in it!
The portrait is a close-up of one included in the book, showing William at the age of 6. William’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who returned after her husband’s death to her father’s home. The household at MANYDOWN, the estate of Lovelace Bigg Wither, gets many mentions in the correspondence of Jane Austen. Edward Austen mentions this lifelong friend with great love.
Sir William Heathcote, 1873
“I am consumed!”
That was my hot-off-the-presses confession to a friend over email, this morning.
For several months I have been actively gathering more Smith and Gosling bits, mainly letters and diaries and images. Perpetual negatives on the job front make this project – as tenuous as any “writing project” can possibly be – cook on the biggest, brightest burner my stove carries. Today, for instance, despite (or because of!) it being the 4th of July, I’ve been working, deciphering letters. It’s become an OBSESSION!
My vacuum comes out only for the biggest dust balls under the bed; my garden sprouts gargantuan weeds; my parents probably wish they’d had more than one child.
And all _I_ want to do is immerse myself in the world I’ve unearthed among a trunkful of dusty letters 200-hundred-years old.
I’ve books I’d like to read, but who can sit still when the laptop beckons so enticingly. “Come, read an old letter. See, here’s a new bit for you to transcribe!” Oooh, such exquisite torment! Real torture this past week, as the temperatures soared into the 90s (hot-hazy-humid). Turn the fan on high, set the computer on top of bare legs.
Is it masochistic to desire MORE, always more? Research will prove the death of me. But what a way to go.
“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Happy INDEPENDENCE Day!