The Case of the “Noble Torso”

July 2, 2015 at 11:30 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , )


Research can be exhilarating…

Research can be frustrating….

And some days, there’s a little bit of BOTH the ‘high’ and the ‘low’!

bright star_letter

When a letter was delivered, it was all nice and tight in its “wrapper”. By the time it’s gotten into an archive (perhaps after being at auction, or in the hands of some seller not family), envelopes are opened, letters are categorized, and sometimes… separated. Thus: the Noble Torso, as I am now calling such little widows and orphans.

As a for-instance: letters in a folder marked “Unidentified writers” => which can be due to illegible signatures or missing signatures. In here I found an interesting letter, all about the Smith’s LAST VISIT (in 1835 – puzzlingly; that was a good 7 or 8 months after they moved to Mapledurham House!) to Tring Park. I transcribed, relishing the tale of the garden (seen in May, and quite flourishing). Then – bang! – it ended in what seemed mid-thought.

I dipped into another folder, for there were two to choose from: one “dated” and another “undated”. I wasn’t having much luck “dipping”. So I decided: GIVE UP! Just start transcribing from the Beginning! and I opened the first image I had photographed in a “dated” file: and there IT was: the Noble Torso that finished a highly interesting story of a Young Buck, out shooting Rooks, whose shot (or shots?) was rather wild and wide off the mark: Poor Maria (Emma’s youngest sister) wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to shoot her!

FINALLY: a united LETTER!! (though, as a new “find” I still have to contact the archive, so physically, they are still apart…).

I then looked for the widow of yet another orphaned Noble Torso: and THERE its companion was (though not as *dramatic* a moment as that first “find”).

I must confess here, that in England I grew rather fond of Emma and (especially!!!) Mamma = for theirs were the letters (and diaries) I brought home in 2007 (and have worked with since). Fanny, the middle sister, I was giving a lecture on that summer, so she too I grew to know more about — yet it was different to being immersed in her thoughts and feelings via letters. Now, with an influx of more correspondence – and from the likes of Fanny (or to her) and Maria and even dear Spencer – I feel as if I’m getting to know each of them. A tight family unit, and yet still individuals, with quirks & foibles, passions & set-backs, all their own.

Frustrating … and … EXHILARATING!

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. ronalddunning said,

    Would that first Cassandra, then Frank’s daughter Francis Sophia hadn’t disposed of Austen family correspondence! I’m envious.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Ron — I must confess that when Austen scholars blame Cassandra, I can’t help but shake my head: Jane Austen would have had a VAST correspondence network – the letters to one sister in the times of separation surely made up a large – yet not whole – part of what she would have written. BIG groan to here that a later generation destroyed something (at least Cassandra destroyed something written to her). Where’s the rest? All those brothers, and cousins, not to mention friends?

      Yes, I do feel EXTREMELY lucky – for instance, just today, I was reading several letters all written before & after the wedding of Fanny Smith and Richard Seymour. First one sister, then another, then mother. Some heartfelt thoughts about “missing” Fanny, as well as some “motherly advice”. It is mind-blowing to be within their heads.

      In my case, I am convinced there is more; in Austen’s case – wouldn’t someone have come forward by now? What I long for, however, is a comprehensive publication of ALL Austen family correspondence – to gain the fuller picture, of the family as a whole.

      Thanks for writing!

      k

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: