The Mystery of Miss Macklin

December 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm (diaries, history, people) (, , , , )

On the heels of The Invisible Cast (a post about servants, in Jane Austen novels), I would like to toss out a conundrum for which I have no ‘answer’.

The “mystery” of Miss Macklin derives from several mentions of her, but mysterious and even contradictory information. I will mention here that Wiltshire Heritage Museum has a series of drawings they call the Macklin Album, so named because of an inscription. This album certainly has something to do with the Smiths — for a large portion was done at Stoke Park, Joshua Smith’s estate (he being papa to my Emma’s Mamma).

Austen_Emma

Emma Smith, early 1820s

The first time I EVER heard the name ‘Macklin’ was in an April 1824 letter. Augusta (Emma’s eldest sister) writing to Lady Elizabeth Compton (cousin) about their Aunt Emma (Mamma’s youngest sister):

“I do allow it is very material to her [Aunt Emma] that Macklin’s origin should remain concealed, but is it not far more probable that her old servants have handed the story on to her new ones as any story of the kind would be so much talked of in that class.”

My mind RACED, trying to think WHO Macklin could be? Woman? Man? Child? I mean, yes, I even had the WILD idea of out-of-wedlock child. It was the word ORIGIN in the sentence that really made my thoughts spin.

Of course, after reading a few days ago about the all-seeing-eyes of servants in Austen novels, my mind’s eye immediately called up the above quote. For nothing could be more true: both as to servant knowledge as well as servant gossip (though Augusta could have been more P.C. by NOT adding the phrase ‘in that class‘ but I cannot apologize for someone writing nearly 200 years ago).

Since that initial letter, I’ve been on the lookout for any mention of MACKLIN – and now have a few, including puzzling mentions that only make her sound a bit juicier!

A curiosity I will mention here: Amelia Macklin married in 1821 (to Mr Patrick Robert Wybault) – and yet please note the date on the above letter: April 1824. Note also the person is simply referred to as MACKLIN. Not Miss Macklin nor Mr Macklin; nor an indication of a first name.

I think the next time I spotted Macklin was in a diary, written by Mamma in 1821. Two notations. One, within the diary, on 8 September: “Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.” In the back of the book, as Mamma is summing up her year, she writes: “My sister Emma went to France in February & did not return this year; her Friend Miss Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.”

Two things stand out here: that Macklin could be described as Aunt Emma’s friend and that Mamma actually called her Miss Macklin in the end whereas she did not give her a title in the diary proper.

wm taylor-diary

This fall (2014), and an influx of letters; including some from the period surrounding Joshua Smith’s last illness and death (1819). And there she turns up again! And the plot THICKENS. One thing to keep in mind, at this point in time Aunt Emma had been residing with her father at Stoke Park (Wiltshire).

Eliza-Chute-letters10 February 1819; Mamma is writing from Stoke Park, having visited her ill father: “Macklin is civil to us all, & we are civil to her.” And a PS in the same letter: “I hope your Chilblains will soon be well; how are Eliza’s  Macklin is civil to us. & we are very civil to her to keep peace.”

What on earth has been going on??

The next letter dates to c23 February 1820, in the period of packing up Stoke Park for its eventual sale (Joshua died the prior year): “We have heard nothing of Macklin except that Coulthard [a servantsays she is not in the house… Zeus … [has] gone to town so perhaps M— is with her at any rate she is better out of the way.”

Remember, in just another year, Mamma will refer to her as her sister Emma’s friend.

Two days later (25 Feb 1820), her whereabouts are confirmed: “Macklin is gone to London“.

At the time I wondered if perhaps there could be two Macklins – one a servant and the other a daughter. Still, that discounts Mamma’s use of MACKLIN and MISS MACKLIN in the same journal.

In a letter from 17 June 1821, News is being passed once again to Lady Elizabeth Compton, this time by Emma’s sister Fanny: “We saw last night at Mrs Gosling’s the Davisons [Gosling relatives] who are just returned from Paris  they had seen Aunt Emma there…: they did not mention a word of Macklin to us, but the Goslings told us they had to them (probably not the least knowing who she was) and that they liked her very much, and said that she and Aunt Emma were so handsomely drest.”

Words packing a wallop: “did not mention Macklin to us…” “not in the least knowing who she was…”

By 1825 the couple are referred to by their married name, “Aunt Emma has taken a house on Pear tree green at Southampton & the Wybaults have also got one some where in the neighborhood“.

At the end of the same year (December, 1825), a most puzzling statement: “Aunt Emma gets every day more thoroughly at her ease & more confidence in the society that surrounds her, that is to say …. she has lived in a constant struggle of mind, doubtful of every body, because she knew they had reason to doubt of her, & really sensitive of many slights which were very naturally put upon her for the sake of her companions. …now I trust she is entering upon a new career & that disengaged from these inconvenient appendages she will regain her former ideas, & the consideration of the world, & as long as the Wybaults live the other side of the Southampton river with the prospect of going over to Ireland, I am satisfied because they have too much in their power to make a sudden & entire rupture desirable, & we know Macklin’s mauvaise langue of old.

I hate to say it, but the mystery only deepened with more information!

ONE mention is made of Mr Wybault; the date is 1842, nearly twenty years later. The youngest Smith sister, Maria, is writing. Combined with all the rest, it lends this tale a rather cryptic (and up-in-the-air) end: “Aunt Emma continue[s] here at present. … she hopes Mr Wybault has just accepted our offer for the sale of Rook Cliff – he appears to be quite miserable at his wife’s death.” Amelia Wybault died at Rookcliff (Hampshire) in 1842; no Smith purchase of this place ever happened. Maria married in 1844; and Mamma died still living at Mapledurham House in 1845.

Only one snippet, from 1829, bridges the gap. When I was told about the Macklin Album, the same person mentioned seeing a letter, from Rookcliff (so either Amelia herself or perhaps her husband), to W.W. Salmon in Devizes (near which was located Stoke Park, though no Smiths lived there by this time). “We have heard from our friend Miss Smith [ie, Aunt Emma] who had a long passage to France of 20 hours…“. My correspondent went on to say, “I’m afraid I couldn’t decipher the rest!” (Groan!!)

It’s a REAL long-shot, but if any Two Teens readers have ever come across Amelia Macklin, Patrick Robert Wybault, Rookcliff (or Rook Cliff), Hampshire – do let me know. Even a GUESS would be welcome. VERY curious about her, her relationship to the Smiths, and why family members other than Aunt Emma seemed to tip toe around her in 1819-1820.

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The “Invisible Cast”

December 16, 2014 at 12:46 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

Being the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth (16 Dec 1775) — as well, I must mention, of the marriage of Emma Smith and James Edward Austen (16 Dec 1828) — JASNA publishes Persuasions On-line. The first article which GRABBED my attention was Natalie Walshe’s “The Importance of Servants in Jane Austen’s Novels.”

all austen

The servants who come-go-serve the Smith & Gosling households are, as in Jane Austen’s novels, there. One must, however, tease them out! Sometimes they appear as a surname only. Or, when a first name, you wonder if when a first AND last name comes up IF the two are the same person — or different people. I’ve a few names posted online – but, gosh, there are TONS more. (I have been VERY remiss getting more names online.)

And how welcome an opportunity when someone points out a more subtle WHY behind the “half-smile” of such as Baddeley! (Mansfield Park) So many small points go over our heads (for, I don’t know about YOU, but I’ve never employed a servant…)

Consider Persuasions On-line as an early Christmas present: much to be enjoyed!

* * *

Extras:

“A servant should neither blow his nose or spit in his master’s presence;
and, if possible, neither sneeze nor cough.”
— Dr. Trusler, Domestic Management (1819)

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Torquay: Jane Austen letter from 1799

December 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm (jane austen, news, research) (, , )

The Mail Online has a complete transcription and (small) image of the letter, written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra in January 1799. In Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters it is letter No. 17; images appear in Jo Modert’s facsimile edition as F29.1 thru F29.4. The letter was gifted to the Torquay Museum by Hester Pengelly (Mrs Hester Forbes-Julian), daughter of one of the museum’s founders.

The BAD News is the museum hopes to SELL the letter at auction, undoubtedly the reason behind the current press release. More disappointing, however, is the notion that the letter was a “discovery” and “previously unseen”. Its rediscovery – for it was gifted in the 1930s – happened in 1989! And the museum’s own website claims that it “possible to view items by request” from this very collection [see link below].

NPG D1007; Jane Austen after Cassandra Austen

NB: note the comment that a word transcribed as “Moneydower” is MANYDOWN. What other transcription errors there may be is anyone’s guess. Read it in Le Faye or Modert instead.

Must confess the “headlines hoopla” leaves me as disappointed as the blogger at “Late Modern English Letters“. I thought it was truly a NEW discovery, until I spotted the SAME opening sentence in Le Faye. For I do believe that some day more Austen letters WILL come to light – “lost” in an archive, or a dusty attic, closet or trunk.

By the way, the other three letters Mrs Forbes-Julian donated are written by John Keats, Charlotte Brontë and Abraham Lincoln. I hope EACH of them goes to a facility where they are “gathered into the fold”, in the case of Austen’s – it would be nice to see the Hampshire Record Office, Chawton Cottage, or the Morgan Library put in a bid. (according to THIS link, it is a combined estimate, not solely the Austen holograph, that suggests a valuation of £200,000; of course this does NOT account for the current feeding frenzy of Anything Austen)

Still, rather sad to hear the fundraising potential of selling rather than having these items in their collection at the Torquay Museum. And really rather distasteful if the lady’s will specifically prohibited (strongly or by implication) a future sale of her gift. At the very least, it could be a move to rouse enough outcry that the Museum obtains funding while retaining their Hester Forbes-Julian Letter Collection (which the museum puts at “sixteen albums”) in toto.

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KDFC: “Christmas at Downton Abbey” – CD of the Week

December 11, 2014 at 10:54 am (entertainment) ()

Being in snowy New England – with one classical radio station, I sometimes dip into classical stations from elsewhere; my current *FAVORITE* is KDFC in San Francisco: great music!

They have an impressive array of “CDs of the Week” for 2014 – and this week’s entry is CHRISTMAS AT DOWNTON ABBEY. As they say: Lady Grantham Sings! (So does Mr. Carson…)

downtown abbey xmas

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What was Jane Austen Reading?

December 3, 2014 at 11:55 am (entertainment, jane austen) (, , )

A Bonhams auction this past summer sold a dated (January 1811) Jane Austen signature for over £23,000! The auction house contends the paper indicates this once was written on the “flyleaf of a book”:

jane austen signature

So my question is, What was Jane Austen reading? Would LOVE to know if there is some book out there that once had her signature in it, which got clipped away in some “collector’s enthusiasm” — for wouldn’t the BOOK and SIGNATURE, together, have been of greater value (several meanings to that word)?

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Emma Stoops to Conquer

December 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm (entertainment, people) (, , , )

I’ve been thigh-deep in letters lately, but am also trying to go back, read a series (for instance, a given year) — for it is only then that things POP OUT and I pay attention to them.

After writing a little bit about Spencer Smith’s school years, I was reading through letters from 1818. This was a fun year for the family in ending with a play – at The Vyne (Hampshire): She Stoops to Conquer. Emma was Miss Hardcastle and Augusta was Tony Lumpkin. Miss Ramsay, the governess whose life would be cut short the following year, was Mrs Hardcastle. Fanny I used to think Emma crossed out; now I think Emma meant to give some minor roles to Augusta and therefore ended up not writing out Fanny’s contribution as fully as she should have done. I am now convinced that Fanny took the romantic lead, Mr Charles Marlow.

It was while contemplating the play, the roles, the people once inhabiting these roles, that I found this delightful online production, from Utah Valley University (2011):

she stoops to conquer

The caveat is brought forward by director Christopher Clark in a few well-chosen words of introduction: Social Networking. And the use of “VisageBook“, Instant Messaging &c provides some extra-textural chuckles (it works less well in the scenes with Kate Hardcastle stooping to untie the formerly-tied tongue of Charles Marlow; I missed their interaction). Reading the introductory News Feeds, I was rolling with laughter – like (above) Miss Neville’s penchant for “Foppish Men”, or Tony Lumpkin listing his religion as “beer”, or Mr Marlow’s self-assessment in listing his hobbies as “Being Handsome and Confident”.

UVU has a stylish cast, who handle the material (and the concept) well. A useful set (above) is well used for the play’s many entrances and scenes. The filming of the play is nicely done.

REALLY loved Mrs Hardcastle; what a delight Miss Ramsay, with her Geordie accent, must have been in the role.

Having worked with undergrad theater, it was particularly neat to see that Jake Ben Suazo (Mr Hardcastle) came out a winner at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) regionals.

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

 extras:

UVU blog post about the play
the play @ Gutenberg

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