This past week has been FILLED with letters (thank you Anna!), some of which have given the harrowing details of the last illness of William Gosling, senior partner in the banking firm Goslings and Sharpe – and my Mary’s father. Mary lost two family members in January 1834 – her brother William also died (of scarlet fever).
But it is from a diary, written by a young girl who, though ever so nominally ‘related’ to the Smiths and Goslings, probably never met any of them. The connection is Mrs Thomas Smith – sister-in-law of Joshua Smith, she was Great Aunt to Emma and Charles Smith; and through her own sister Juliana (née Mackworth Praed), aunt to the diarist Emily Shore and her sisters, as well as Winthrop Mackworth Praed.
But I digress…
It is May 20, 1835 – and Emily Shore and her mother have been invited to visit a London family. Oh, Emily has some very choice words to say about the fog, smog, smoke of London. The country-girl was unimpressed.
So how wonderful to then read what DID impress her: Portland Place!
But let’s first put Emily on the road :
“We avoided the City altogether, going by the New Road, through Regent’s Park. I was altogether disappointed in the Park. I had expected at least to see fine timber. No such thing. The horrid atmosphere of London checks all vegetation. As far as I could see, there was not a tree in Regent’s Park to compare with the greater part of those in Whitewood. Besides, the sky is smoky and dingy, there is not freshness in the air, nor the bloom of spring everywhere, as in the country. It has also a formal look; it is intersected with wide public roads, which are inclosed by hedges or railings. These roads were full of carriages, cabs, horsemen, and pedestrians, which are supposed to give so much liveliness to the scene; so they do, but I like a retired, unfrequented park much better.
On leaving Regent’s Park we entered Portland place. Here I was much struck with the grandeur of the buildings, surpassing anything I ever saw in the shape of private houses. If London had all been like this, it would have been a magnificent city. But I believe not many parts are so noble as this.”
To remind Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers, the Goslings lived at No. 5 Portland Place, and the Smiths were next door, at No. 6 — No. 5 is the address in the middle, with the “longest” yard and “shortest” house (click to enlarge map), and at the right (with the white pilasters) in the photo below, which looks UP the street from Langham Place; Regents Park is at the opposite end.
- Emily Shore’s published diary @ Archive.org
- News of the existing Original diaries, University of Virginia Press [diaries @ University of Delaware Library]
- Do your own “drive” up Portland Place