THREE Google Doodles commemorate the 141st Birthday of Lucy Maud Montgomery:
Must admit to being rather partial to No. 2. I know the author more through her diaries (living near Canada helped me to find those, during long-ago trips to Montreal) than her novels. And living near Canada meant we got to see the Anne of Green Gables (and other programs) when new and showing on the CBC. Ah, happy younger day memories….
I recently joined this online knitting & crocheting committee: RAVELRY. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, that some of the “groups” are JANE AUSTEN fans!
Among the groups:
- Jane Austen’s Girls Swap, which includes “chats about her books”
- Jane Austen Knits, based on the Interweave knitting publication
- Jane Austen Book Club
- Sense & Sensibility, the film and book
- For the Love of Darcy
Indulging myself, I also joined groups who love opera and historical knitting patterns (like the Aran sweater) and those living in my geographic area.
If you dip your toes in, stop by – my username is JaneiteKelly (though, at present, my profile &c are under construction).
It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:
“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”
Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.
Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.
BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.
I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.
Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…
The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.
John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!
Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.
I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.
Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.
George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.
On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:
Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.
Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!
One point made in my October JASNA AGM paper at Louisville was the propensity for Jane Austen to close after the relevant couples departed the church. We are told little of Wedding Breakfasts, Honeymoons, or burgeoning of “twigs” on “family trees”.
BUT: In amongst the “happily ever after” intentions of the closing chapters is also the recent history of Mrs Weston (Emma’s former governess). Hers is a narrative arc that encompasses Spinster – Wife – Mother all in one novel. Mrs. Weston (or Mister Weston, for there are men in JASNA audiences!) was someone to keep in mind, as I went on to speak about Mothers-to-be preparing for confinements.
Let me mention here that anyone able to visit Montpelier, Vermont in March 2016 will be welcome to attend the same talk, “Who could be more prepared than she was? True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England”, thanks to JASNA-Vermont.
Just visible in the photo above is an image (lower corner) showing Emma and Mr Knightley, during a discussion of “due dates”. (You might just recall Mr. Austen’s comment that he and his wife had “in old age grown such bad reckoners” when Jane Austen failed to appear as predicted, in November.)
I can’t say I ever think of Austen’s characters as other than relatively happy couples and families – much like what I’ve seen played out over the course of fifty years (1790 to 1840) of family letters for Emma and her siblings. So, it was with great interest that I read Deborah Yaffe’s recent blog post HOW DARE YOU?, a refutation of the “long-term chances” of Austen couples like Emma & Mr. Knightly (deemed to have “So-So” chances) and Anne Elliot & Captain Wentworth (whose chances were assessed as “Dodgy”).
A departure today, for I cannot forget this video of a little French-speaking boy and his father.
I’ve been reading about the assassination of Spencer Perceval – related to Emma’s cousins, the Comptons – in May of 1812. In another fifty years, the U.S. would lose its president to an assassin’s bullet – Why was Lincoln’s death shocking, while Perceval’s shocked his family but left others quite blasé. Lincoln became an obsession with historians, and Perceval seems to go down in history as one whose death in office was simply something that sometimes “happens”.
Yesterday, I finally looked up some newspapers of the incident. British newspapers of 1812 were only four-pages – sheets printed front and back, folded down the center like a letter. They were jam-packed with ads, notices for plays and routs, goings-on at court, and of course news of the day. I was quite surprised at the Perceval story in The Times. A LOT of talk about Members mulling around the Woolsack; it reads more like a trial transcript, with testimony, than the story of a statesman’s death. A more enlightening article was published the same day (12 May 1812) in The Morning Chronicle – which even included mention of Mrs. Perceval and the children.
And, for one only too confronted nightly with television images of soldiers and guns, the Chronicle‘s article touches on the mayhem in the streets of London. For crowds DID gather around the Houses of Parliament as word got out. “The deadful [sic] intelligence spread with amazing rapidity, and before six o’clock, the crowd collected on the outside was so great, that it was deemed prudent to close the doors of Westminster Hall, as well as to plant constables at all the entrances… Ingress was denied to all persons but Members and witnesses.”
The Horse Guards were called out, though the Chronicle uses the curious phrase “to ensure tranquility, and produce a dispersion of the mob”. The Foot Guards and the City Militia were also called upon. Other than people gathering to hear, first-hand, the latest news, there was never a need to hunt for Bellingham; the assassin had never left, and came forward within minutes.
The Chronicle hints at why Perceval never became an historian’s goldmine. Towards the article’s end, a lengthy paragraph reads (in part): “Thus has the existence of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval been terminated – a man of whom much good may and ought to be said, and who errors shall be, with his remains, consigned to the grave…. However mistaken may have been his political views, and however disastrous for his country the result, none have denied him the praise of integrity of intention.”
Then, rather like “the king is dead, long live the king” talk turns to the open seat (Perceval was Member for Northampton; Spencer Compton, Emma’s cousin, would be elected) as well as giving “the Prince Regent time to arrange a new Administration”.
In 1812, they were convinced Bellingham had acted alone, and for his own ends and grievances. “Sense” could (I presume) be made of a”senseless” act.
With so much misery in the world from so many sources, WHY impose more misery upon others so senselessly? I, too, take a bit of comfort in this father’s idea of Flower Power 2015.
Readers of Jane Austen all recognize the (lack of) funds heroines likes Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood have as their marriage portion. And, what happens to the family estate when their fathers die: Norland goes to the only Dashwood son; Mr. Collins, a male relative, will inherit Longbourn.
But, in a highly interesting and exceptionally valuable book, A.P.W. Malcomson tells us that the HEIRESS, such as Wickham’s Miss Grey, may have been as cash poor as anyone else. Marriage portions didn’t always get paid, or paid in a timely manner. Sometimes, the lady’s fortune was quite tied up by trustees, and sometimes “a fortune” ended up meaning that you inherited nothing else other than your marriage portion – even when your parent had a healthy bank account.
This last seems to have been the lot of Mary (Lady Smith; née Gosling) and her sister Elizabeth (Mrs. Langham Christie). A letter written by Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, passes on news following the decease of father William Gosling, partner in the Fleet Street firm Goslings and Sharpe, in January 1834. He left the bulk of his HUGE estate to Robert Gosling, the eldest surviving son. (Elder brother William Ellis Gosling predeceased their father by only three weeks.) The main item going to Bennett and Thomas Gosling (the remaining sons) was the country estate of Roehampton Grove, although each were said to be receiving a healthy £135,000. Mary and Elizabeth, who had married, respectively, in 1826 and 1829, surely thought some further monies would come to them – one a widow and the other living “in limited circumstances & with an increasing family” – especially given the size (possibly up to a million pounds, in 1834 currency) of Mr. Gosling’s estate.
Augusta Wilder’s letter passes on information gained from young Charlotte Gosling. Augusta wrote:
“It seems to me perfectly unfair to heap riches so upon the sons & portion off the daughters with comparatively such small sums.”
Augusta’s mention of “to cut off I may say the daughters with 20.000 is inexplicable” reflects the marriage portion Mary was said to have brought with her in 1826 (which was a decided surprise to Mrs. Chute! She wrote of it in a letter).
Charlotte Gosling, one of two children born to her mother, formerly the Hon. Charlotte de Grey (the Walsingham barons of Norfolk were her siblings), still had a living mother – which circumstance was seen as a blessing to Augusta: “Charlotte who if her mother were dead would be very poorly off after what she has been used to…”
Augusta said of the news of William Gosling giving so little to his daughters, in comparison to his sons: “It really passes our comprehension & is quite distressing – for it is irreparable; no wonder Mary did not wish to talk about the will.–”
Writing on the same day (but from a different place), Spencer Smith, Emma’s brother, passed on knowledge (gleaned from a Gosling cousin, Henry Gregg) “that Mr Gosling out of his vast wealth has left her [Mary] & Elizabeth nothing, or what is next door to it”. Bennett Gosling could tell Spencer about his own inheritance (Roehampton and a sum of money): “The bulk of the property … is entailed in the most strict & inconvenient manner possible, & the Will … is most exceedingly complicated.”
Such documents – diaries, letters, wills, settlements, court documents – are the bread and butter of Malcomson’s edifying research into THE PURSUIT OF THE HEIRESS: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland, 1740-1840.
Books.google has a “healthy” preview of the book – it is what convinced me to buy a copy. You cannot beat BooksIreland, which has the hard cover for £9.99 (on sale from £24.99) or the eBook at £7.99. Although the airmail postage to the U.S. from Northern Ireland was as much as the book, even U.S. readers will want to plump for the hard cover; it is so fully illustrated and a handsome book.
Malcomson discusses a range of topics. His first chapter introduces the idea of “the by-passed heiress” => the woman who seems on the brink of inheriting, but who in fact may not only be “by-passed” in favor of a male – she may also have her “fortune” so tied up in the estate of her deceased parent that funds aren’t even forthcoming to her! Mention is made, for instance, of two sisters – daughters of Edmond Sexten Pery (Viscount Pery). The father’s estate passed to a nephew (son of the Viscount’s brother), “the 1st Earl of Limerick. In toto, the ladies seem to have received c.£20,000 each. £5,000 of which represented their original (and still unpaid) marriage portions. (These figures are belied by the usual family anecdotage, according to which one daughter got £60,000 in cash and the other the equivalent in land.)”
On the heels of the Pery girls comes the tale of the co-heiresses of Sir Arthur Brooke, bart. Selina and Letitia Charlotte received marriage portions – which, along with another debt, were evidently “charged” to the estate (ie, monies taken out after the owner’s death; in short, while his bank account remained healthy, “less” was there to be inherited). The Brooke “estates were not huge, and Francis Brooke, the nephew who succeeded to them, and Francis Brooke’s descendants considered themselves aggrieved and impoverished by the open-handedness of Sir Arthur. This is typical of the male whingeing of the period and of the bias of family history written by men. It would be more to the point to suggest that the two by-passed heiresses… were not well done by.”
Makes me glad to come from a family with no money or landed estate…
Other chapters touch on “the younger son”; “The ‘marriage of affection'”; and “Elopements, mésalliances and mis-matches”. All are fascinating topics, and relevant to Smith and Gosling research, as well as Austen studies.
As mentioned, the volume is generously illustrated (full color more often than not), and the writing is engaging and always informative. The research is deep and well presented; the focus (geographically and chronologically) is tight and always on point. Generous notes; a useful bibliography; a handy index.
HIGHLY recommended. Five full inkwells.
* * *
- a note: Malcomson’s earlier treatise on the same subject, from which this book grew – given new information and sources, has the same title. This edition was published in 1982 and has the years “1750 to 1820” in its title (70 pages). Malcomson rightly claims in his preface that the volume under discussion above (published in 2006 by the Ulster Historical Foundation [same as in 1982]) is “new, greatly enlarged and more widely focused”.
the 1982 edition
(not to be confused with the 2006)
As a member of BIO – the Biographers International Organization – every month I get to savor a Newsletter (The Biographer’s Craft). This month features another piece about the group WOMEN WRITING WOMEN’S LIVES. I’ve known about WWWL for some little while, but find myself compelled to write about their latest conference because of the comments and questions raised in the BIO Newsletter.
- Whose life is valuable enough to deserve a biography?
WWWL’s response: “Any life has the potential to be a biography.”
At the “founding”, 25 years ago, ‘the two organizers listened as one woman after another poured out her concerns about the obstacles involved in researching and writing the lives of women—including the need to find “the courage to think that women’s lives, on their own and without any attachment to men, were important and interesting enough to deserve being put into print.”’
I can never claim for Mary or Emma – even for someone as dynamic as Mamma (Mrs. Charles Smith) – that they “overcame obstacles and achieved remarkable things”. But I know, in my heart, that their lives, so indicative of the “ordinary”, being so well-represented in letters, diaries, even published memoirs, IS remarkable. If just for the tenacity of the items to surface! Certainly, we cannot understand – cannot imagine – life in another time (200 years ago) without the ability to feel placed within the shoes of someone who LIVED in that other time.
And, truth be told, their lives WERE filled with so much drama and pathos, joy and heartbreak. It would be beyond fiction, if it weren’t all true!
A very interesting section of the article concerns the “selling off” of female-related material. Rather brings to mind the wonderful cache of letters relating to Emily Duchess of Leinster. It’s amazing that the family would, at some point in the past, have given up such TREASURE (Emily’s letters are in the collection of the National Library of Ireland).
I have the book Dear Abigail (about Abigail Adams and her sisters), cited further down the article; with its emphasis on the life of Abigail (and therefore John Adams), I’m not sure the author was as successful as could be hoped in presenting the story of a “sisterhood”. I, on the other hand, an only child, SEE how a “sisterhood” of siblings (brothers and sisters) functioned in the gentry class of London society at the beginning of the 19th century. Their solidarity is FASCINATING to study.
One question near the article’s end is of major concern to me:
- Do publishers still care if no one has heard of the subject? Well, yes.
And there’s a major reason for the existence of this blog! Not only to help me find more material (and it has!), but also to connect with people who just might give a damn about Mary & Emma and all my “cast of thousands”. That “connection” has been its own reward.
The parting shot of the article?
‘[B]y holding the biographer to a high standard of both writing and scholarship … [i]t has also raised the bar for biographers as narrators. Nowadays, as Bair noted, “the biographer has to be able to write a page-turner and yet refuse to relinquish truth and authenticity.”’ I feel that my skills are up to the task, but in the end only people like YOU will give thumb down or up.
Well, it’s ABOUT TIME! I’ve long owned volume one in the series (formerly) entitled The Complete Diary of a Cotswold Lady:
Published back in 2008, the promised continuation of the series never seemed to materialize. Sigh – Unhappy Face – Boo!
TODAY, looking for the name of another scholarly press (no, not Amberley), I looked up – once more – the Complete Cotswold series (there is another one for Agnes’ son, Francis Witts: Complete Diaries of a Cotswold Parson), and there came news of Alan Sutton, Fonthill Media, and (on Fonthill Media’s website) the news that come January 2016 we shall see a further entry into the Agnes Witts diary series!!
As you can see from the dates (and the title, too), this diverges a bit from the original “second volume” projected in 2008, with the original publication:
- The Exile Years, 1793-1800 (vol. 2)
- Places of Fashion, 1800-1808 (vol. 3)
- A Settled Life, 1808-1817 (vol. 4)
- Life without Edward, 1817-1824 (vol. 5)
As suggested by the title, An Edinburgh Diary, this volume will have the diaries Agnes Witts wrote following the end of the first volume – when, selling up, the Witts were heading north, over the border. (The original projection, up to the year 1800, would therefore have included the Witts’ journey to Germany – hoping for further opportunities at saving precious family funds that were dwindling even in Edinburgh.)
The Smiths & Goslings have Scottish ties – so it will be doubly interesting to see volume two of Agnes Witts’ diary. Fingers crossed for further volumes!