Has it been staring me in the face…???
This transcription, from A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family, 1700-2000, by Deirdre Le Faye, copies out Eliza Chute’s diary entries for 1794. Born in 1768 and therefore only in her mid-20s, and still a fairly new bride, too, Eliza was in seventh heaven with her parents and sisters at The Vyne for a visit (January 14th), and was up for a bit of dancing.
First, some identifications:
- “Ld. C. from Weymouth” was Eliza’s brother-in-law, Lord Compton (the future Lord Northampton).
- “Ly. Compton” is of course his wife, and Eliza’s eldest sister Maria (the future Lady Northampton).
- “Papa Mama” are Joshua Smith and Sarah (née Gilbert) Smith, of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire – the “Stoke” from where they all arrive. (Lord Compton’s involvement with the Militia was his reason for being in Weymouth.)
- “Augusta Emma” in this early instance are the two sisters “Mamma” and “Aunt Emma”.
I’ve read this passage over and again – but only yesterday saw an image of the actual entry. And I wondered: If Henry Austen was at the Basingstoke Ball, were other members of the family?
Would this be the moment… even if neither Augusta nor Emma nor Eliza left specific word… that I could point to and say “The sisters met Jane Austen!”
Claire Tomalin, in her biography Jane Austen: A Life puts Jane elsewhere; but her sister Cassandra Austen at Steventon:
“First then, the couple from the Vine…” William and Eliza Chute. No mention of the two young ladies they had brought with them: 22-year-old Augusta Smith and 19-year-old Emma Smith. (Long before they were “Mamma” and “Aunt Emma”!). Augusta would have celebrated her birthday only a couple weeks before (January 4th).
There are, I will take a moment to say, other Smith relations present! Sir Colebrook and even that kill-joy “Squire Le Fevre” of Heckfield. (click the link, above, for the entire poem)
Not having seen the original poem, I can only give, for your consideration, Deborah Kaplan – the author of Jane Austen Among Women – although she uses it to illustrate the people Jane Austen would have known and encountered on a fairly regular basis. Kaplan ID’s the author as “Mrs Austen”; the date as “1794”; and places TWO Austens in company with each other: Henry and Cassandra.
David Selwyn merely ascribes the poem to “another occasion” of dancing, without saying when or who was there; he intimates the poem was written for both daughters. Jane Austen: A Family Record cites a Basingstoke Ball of 7 November 1799 as the source (Anna Austen Lefroy as the copyist).
Sometimes a writer can just be wrong; as in Tomalin’s assertion:
“I danced six dances with Mr. H. Austin” – giving ALL the dances Eliza Chute mentioned to one partner, and attributing that excess to “Henry’s charm working as usual”. Le Faye’s transcription reinstates the additional two partners, Misters Wallop and Terry.
And, while I agree that Eliza often spelled Austen Austin, she seems not to have dotted an ‘i’ here (compare to ‘i’ in Basingstoke):
But secondary interpretations are all I have to go on – That Henry was there, is a given; that Cassandra was probably there. Any chance that Jane Austen attended this particular Basingstoke Ball, 16 January 1794? Happy to hear from those in the know.
Le Faye’s Chronology uses the phrase “It is probably this month” – meaning December 1793 – “that JA and CEA go to Southampton to stay with the Butler-Harrison family, and while there dance in the Southampton Assembly…”; the entry is cited as Letters 62. That letter, written in December 1808 tosses out the comment “It [ie, a dance] was in the same room in which we danced 15 years ago!” Tomalin puts Jane Austen’s visit to the family from December 1793 up to the christening of their daughter, Austen’s godchild – which took place in Southampton on 18 January 1794. Lengthy stay versus return for the church service versus being represented by proxy? All a matter of interpreting slim source material.
The list of breakout speakers for the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA is up. Under the banner title of “LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD”, breakout speaker topics are diverse, and fascinating.
In the appropriately-named novel Emma, Jane Austen wrote of a marriage – that of Miss Taylor (Emma Woodhouse’s governess and dear friend) to Mr Weston, that resulted in the birth of a child! and a woman’s lying-in or “confinement” is the topic of my breakout talk, taking place in the Saturday, October 10th “D” session.
As before, that means _I_ miss some great speaker, such as: Sheryl Craig (whom I know) on “William Wickham”; Kristen Miller Zohn (whose AGM talk on miniatures I so enjoyed) on “silhouettes”; and Sue Forge on “London High Society” – which readers of this blog will know, I consider my Smiths & Goslings to be, if not “movers and shakers” in society, at least “prevalent” among the party-goers. And here’s why:
- see, 1816 Fashions, At Mrs Gosling’s Ball
- experience, Emma’s “London Season,” 1816
- and be part of the ‘crush’ in What if you threw a PARTY – and everyone came?!
- At the BookRat, go Behind the Facade
Of course, as an AMG participant, I must also pick speakers to hear. Too many to choose among!
Do I hear about Jane Austen’s ideas on being “Past the Bloom” (Stephanie Eddleman) or “A Quack or Dr. House” (Sharon Latham)?? When, equally, I’d dearly love to learn about Embroidery (which I used to enjoy) (Julie Buck)… or Estate Tenants (Linda Slothouber)… or Austen family cookbooks (Julienne Gehrer)… or Village Life (Sara Bowen)… or the treatment of poor George Austen, Jane Austen’s sometimes-forgotten brother (Bridget McAdam).
And that’s only the FIRST session! Good thing there are several months to think over the possibilities.
I’ll say more, at a later date, about my topic — “Who could be more prepared than she was?” True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in early 19th Century England — at a later date, but will take the time to say that many of the letters & diaries excerpts come from the copious examples of this Smith & Gosling research. From the “bantling” born in 1790 — the future 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin “Lord Compton”), to the Confinements of Emma Austen herself.
And, no, I won’t forget Mrs Weston!
Caught Allison Janney on THE TALK, and could not believe my ears when I heard her say that she had a role – against Hugh Grant (Edward Farrars, Sense and Sensibility) – playing a professor whose main interest is JANE AUSTEN!
Or, as the Boston Herald calls her in a review of the film, “a prissy, uptight and emasculating Jane Austen scholar” (Hmmm….; Janney herself uses the pleasanter phrase Austen aficionado), meeting up with Grant who’s come to teach in UPSTATE New York (ie, not far from me).
- “You don’t LIKE Jane Austen?”
- “Teaching is an absurd profession…”
- Janney on THE TALK (13 Feb 2015) [approx 2:35 into the interview]
- Official (UK) Trailer “The Rewrite”
I wanted to alert readers, since links can be somewhat “unhandy” to locate, of a FABULOUS online resource pertaining to a myriad of topics all pertaining to BATH, ENGLAND. Bath History is a journal, now up to volume 13, published in 2013 (not yet digitized).
Two useful links to the articles are,
- Volume indexes, via the Bath History website – most of the articles are linked.
- PDF articles – Bath Spa University; the downside is the lack of article names. Either now where to look, or love a surprise. HELPFUL TIDBIT: vol. 10 has an index to vols 1 thru 10.
There are so many interesting articles, that here I will only name a few:
Anne Buchanan – Charles Dickens and the Guild of Literature and Art Ticket, 1851 [vol 11; not yet digitized)
Angus R. Buchanan – Brunel in Bath [vol. 10]
Stephen Marks – The Journals of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (1738-1817), A Half Century of Visits to Bath [vol. 9]
Jean Manco – Saxon Bath: The Legacy of Rome and the Saxon Rebirth [vol. 7]
Nicholas von Behr – The Cloth Industry of Twerton from the 1780s to the 1820s [vol. 6]
I will make special mention of three articles:
- Deirdre Le Faye has a Jane Austen-related article, entitled ‘A Persecuted Relation’: Mrs Lillingstone’s Funeral and Jane Austen’s Legacy.
- another “Bath Widow” tale is brought to our attention by Hilary Arnold in Mrs Margaret Graves and her Letters from Bath, 1793-1807.
- and a particular favorite diarist, Katherine Plymley – who shows up in the Ladies of Llangollen blog! – gets a nod from Ellen Wilson in A Shropshire Lady in Bath, 1794-1807. Plymley was a subject in Liz Pitman’s book Pigsties and Paradise: Lady Diarists and the Tour of Wales.
While searching for the article links I stumbled upon THIS surprise: images of two Margaret Graves letters! Chosen a “Gem from the Archive” by Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2013. A little more ‘sleuthing’ and a few more really neat tidbits popped up too:
- Gem from the Archive – two Margaret Grave letters (show in full)
- Devon Heritage Services Newsletter (2012) – more about Margaret Graves & her letters at the archive, part of the Simcoe Family Archive
- Devon Archives online catalogue
- John Graves Simcoe’s biography of course mentions Margaret Graves, but it’s the biography of Elizabeth Postuma Simcoe, 1762-1850 which has piqued my interest; author Mary Beacock Fryer has also published on Francis Simcoe (Our Young Soldier)
William in Hampshire sent this link to the National Archives blog, asking if this Mary Smith could be in any way connected to the Smiths of Suttons. As you might imagine: LOADS of Marys and LOTS of Smiths in the world!
But the story, about a poor woman in the lunatic asylum, is fascinating if only for the wealth of items she brought with her in a small wooden box. What I found MOST intriguing were the miniatures. Surely, they represented her family – several adults and even a baby. Of course today no one has a clue as to the identity of the sitters – nor does the repository have much information on this particular Mary Smith.