Intrepid Aunt Emma

December 26, 2015 at 1:40 pm (carriages & transport, diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people) (, , , )


First, let me take the opportunity to wish readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen a (belated) “Happy Holidays!”

I’ve been at work transcribing a diary, written by Emma’s “Aunt Emma” (Mamma’s youngest sister, Emma Smith) in 1819. Maddeningly, this diary volume begins already in the midst of this “tour,” and seems to end on a point prior to her return home, too. I hate to say it, but: For every piece that falls my way, there often are indicators of even MORE that is (currently?) MISSING.

However: I have to take whatever I get.

stoke parkErle Stoke Park, Wiltshire

Aunt Emma and an unnamed companion have obviously left from Erle Stoke Park (the estate of the now-deceased [spring 1819] Joshua Smith, MP, Aunt Emma’s father) at some point in the recent past, and arrived at Plymouth Dock in the county of Devon. She opens with a complaint about the proceedings of the morning, but bypasses further elucidation with the comment that it would take “too long” to recount. A bitter loss of information!

Emma and her companion tour the “lions” of Dock (as she writes the place-name); they are shown over several ships – one which, because it is set to soon sail, has its full complement of men (which causes GREAT excitement!!), and also necessitates the ladies being hoisted aboard! They tour from stem to stern and from bowels to poop deck. Amazing that a pair of English citizens could simply ask, and, being treated with “great civility”, be shown around by some one or two of the naval men.

I could go further – but really want to talk today about on specific tiny side-tour taken after they’ve left Dock and come to Tavistock.

Emma, who would have liked to have descended in the Plymouth Diving Bell that EVERY tourist to the area in this era commented upon, desired to descend into one of the Copper Mines. She applied to a Mr. Paul, who was attached to Wheal Friendship. Permission was granted, and Emma writes of “descending” via the SLOPE.

I must admit that the “image” I had in mind when transcribing this section was not at ALL correct. Having read more about Salt Mines in Austria, my idea of a “slope” was more akin to a “slide”. Thank goodness I found a drawing of the tunnel opening at Wheal Friendship:

wheal friendship

Please visit the website (click picture) to learn more about the mine; they offer a fascinating historical overview, culled from such sources as newspapers. I have a feeling the 1816 “report from Mr. Burge signed by Captain’s Bassett, Paul, Sarah and Brenton” points to Aunt Emma’s escort “Mr. Paul”.

Just finding this photo crystallized WHAT Emma was trying to tell me about her experience in entering the tunnel; why the men had to stop working in order for them to descend into the mine; and why “ladies” did not go beyond a particular point (which was approximately beyond 600 yards “instead of nearly half a Mile to where the Miners were at work”). Emma described it as a “wet and rough” descent.

I’m still in the midst of my transcription – and Emma in the midst of her travels! – so will leave it here, but invite readers to take a look at the travels of Mrs. Trollope in Austria (and vol II), published in a memoir from the 1830s. It never ceases to amaze me how intrepid women travelers could be – going where few living today have gone: Climbing hills in long skirts in order to traipse over ancient ruins, descending into the sea in leaky diving bells, walking on to chaotic industrial production floors, peering into hissing steam engines. For them, it was all in a day’s work at pleasuring their inquisitive minds.

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