Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’

August 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm (books, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , )

James Boswell actually has a few connections to people in the Smith & Gosling families. I’ve already written about the GREGG family – my diarist Mary Gosling‘s Aunt Gregg (sister of Mary’s father, William Gosling) married into this family. Aunt Gregg’s husband was Henry Gregg. Henry and his sister Miss Gregg (the future Caroline Carr) can be found in diary entries by Boswell.

But my earliest Boswell *find* concerned Lady Cunliffe – Mary’s maternal grandmother – and her two daughters Mary and Eliza. Lady Cunliffe came from Chester, England and maintained ties there. It was in my second post to THIS blog, on 7 June 2008, that I first mentioned the “tie” between my Cunliffe ladies and James Boswell. And YES! 2018 will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

Boswell wrote A LOT – letters, diaries, memos to self even. He and his later heirs saved a LOT. But one item that slipped through, and evidently was lost BY Boswell in his lifetime, is his “Chester Journal“. I cannot say how WONDERFUL it would have been to read his words about my trio of ladies! Alas…

Based on a few letters from circa 1780, my article on Academia.edu, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal,” rectifies the misidentification of the two sisters in the original Boswell literature. They appear in the volume, The Correspondence of James Boswell with Certain members of the Club (1976); and also letters between Boswell and Margaret Stuart (née Cuninghame) in Catalogue of the Papers of James Boswell at Yale University (1993).

This article is the only place to read so much information about Lady Cunliffe (below, in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds) and her daughters Mrs. Drummond Smith (Mary) and Mrs. William Gosling (Eliza).

Read: Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’ (also linked in the sidebar)

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An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman (review)

August 27, 2017 at 1:36 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , )

James Boswell sums up in one sentence his idea of good biography:

I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man’s life than not only relating all the most important events of it in their order, but interweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought.”

Susan M. Ouellette, who presents the entire extant diary of Phebe Orvis Eastman, first provides an adroit clarification of the diary, in a set of essays. The diarist, of course, never wrote with the intention of publication. Her thoughts are personal and private – and, at times, (well-labeled by the editor) cryptic. This layout, of essays then diary, guides the reader to pick up on the crumb-like indicators within the diary. Ouellette has uncovered a good deal of the life of Phebe Orvis Eastman — before, during, and after the diary, which makes for a rounded biographical profile. She also informs the reader about the era in which Phebe lived.

Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 tells of life on the American “frontier,” first in Vermont and then in the vicinity of Canton, New York. A young nation, the United States was still at war with England during Phebe’s childhood (she lived from 1801 to 1868). The geography of her diary is not the cosmopolitan perspective of Philadelphia, New York, or Washington; nor even from some great plantation. Thereby supplementing those perspectives, it enlarges our knowledge of young women in post-Revolutionary War America.

Phebe’s immediate family had staked claims and worked to clear the land and worked to create their community. (Vermont joined the Union as the Fourteenth State in 1791.) Phebe’s picture of rural Vermont, in the decades beyond that first settlement, offers readers first-hand experience of a growing, interconnected community. And through her move to a less congenial, even “wilder” frontier, Phebe’s own words involve us as witnesses to her personal pain and turmoil.

Phebe Orvis lived a somewhat carefree life as a young woman in Bristol, Vermont. Ouellette’s earliest chapter covers the tragedy of Phebe’s early life: Her mother died when Phebe was just a toddler. The baby’s age and gender (she was the fourth child, but the only daughter) resulted in her living not with her father and siblings, but with her aging maternal grandparents.

Readers of The Midwife’s Tale, featuring Maine’s Martha Ballard, will find a similarity here in the craft-skills taught to young women. Phebe Orvis is a weaver, spinner, and sewer; for instance, when Phebe writes of “Finished my web”, she is telling readers that she has yet again begun a weaving project. Such projects probably helped to fund the classes she took at the Middlebury Female Seminary.

Phebe Orvis is a serious student – and among the early cohort of women attending Willard’s establishment (though Willard herself had moved on by this time). Phebe’s “formal education” is unfortunately cut short, and readers feel her disappointment, and her reticence in doing what is requested of her: She moves to Parishville, New York, to help at her aunt and uncle’s Tavern. This transition led her to marry a man who was not her first choice for a life-partner. Ouellette uncovered in the diary the subtle “ceremony” of gifts exchanged (and ultimately returned), which points out a certain young man as Phebe’s prior attachment.

The Eastmans married in 1823; it is the marriage, the arrival of children, and the constant scratching for a living in New York, which concerns the remainder of the diary, which ends in October 1830. The blank pages that follow serve as silent testament that life went on, even if the woman writing could see no reason to spare the time to record more of that life. Phebe Orvis Eastman retained her diary, and even placed a few later inserts inside it. The diary meant enough to her, at the very least as evidence of early concerns and feelings, to have preserved it.

And others preserved it after Phebe’s death.

Special mention should be made of the late Mary Smallman, who encountered the diary after it surfaced again in Plattsburgh, NY. She transcribed the diary and dug about for information about the mystery diarist. Safe in her hands at a time when few put value on such manuscripts, Smallman ultimately deposited the diary and support materials with the Saint Lawrence County Historical Association (NY).

As with any primary source, records helped to fill out details, but aspects remain that can never truly be known. This book, with the diary in its entirety, ably supported by informative essays, is a window into early 19th century America. That its roots begin in Vermont makes it special to me, a native Vermonter, like Phebe. The physical world she knew nearly two hundred years ago can still be discerned.

Maps provide visuals for those needing to conceptualize the placement of Bristol, Middlebury, and Vergennes, Vermont; also, Saint Lawrence County, New York. An index is included. The size of the book – being both taller and wider than the average hardcover – somehow makes it a bit unwieldy; being produced in hardcover rather than paperback might have minimized that sensation. A tighter layout of the diary entries might have allowed for slightly larger type without increasing page count. Generous spacing between lines tries to compensate for the font and font size. Notes and a bibliography bring the book to 380 pages (Excelsior Editions, SUNY Press; $29.95).

Diaries, in general, are filled with the insignificant, and Ouellette has done the hard work of teasing out the significance behind the diarist’s little clues of life-events. This single volume diary indeed covers (as Boswell prescribed) “all the most important events” in the life of this Vermont girl, from her days as a single woman seeking education at the Middlebury establishment founded by Emma Willard; to her employment in New York, which brought her into the company of Samuel Eastman, whom she eventually married. The diary tells her story; the essays and finely-tuned editing makes Phebe’s history accessible to all readers.

*

Susan Ouellette, a history professor from Saint Michael’s College (VT), has written on Phebe Orvis Eastman over the decade that researches into the diary have taken. One of the more accessible (it’s ONLINE) is her article “Religion and Piety in the Journal of Phebe Orvis“, in the Vermont History magazine. The book An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 is the richer for this lengthy gestation.

See also:

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Regency Explorer explores BOOKS!

August 26, 2017 at 7:14 pm (books, entertainment, europe, news) (, , , )

Today, in looking for reviews of the book I’m currently reading (The Real Persuasion, by Peter James Bowman), I found the kind of post I’ve LONG longed for: All about new books!

Specifically, Regency Explorer – and its author Anna M. Thane – gives a monthly listing of releases in the area of ‘non-fiction Georgian age’ books. Anna’s list can include books in French, German, as well as English; and the books run the gamut of war and politics, as well as biography, history, art, architecture; not to mention scholarly monographs. Covers many contries outside of Europe, including India and the United States. I think readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will find the lists of as much help and guidance as I do.

regency explorer blog

I’ll list separate links to the recent months of:

(I’m not sure WHERE in the world the new releases take place, but bibliophiles all know how to buy from overseas vendors, if you have to do so.)

To whet your appetite, some ‘for instances’ that caught my eye:

A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England, by Monica Hall. This was Anna’s “choice” book in July. _I_ like the idea behind “everything you need to know in order to survive undetected among the ordinary people.”

A Political Biography of Frances Burney, by Lorna J. Clark

Fame and Fortune: Sir John Hill and London Life in the 1750s, by Clare Brant and George Rousseau

The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home, by Abigail Williams

Anna’s pick for August was Gainsburough; A Portrait, by James Hamilton

I am intrigued to see, in the September list, the biography A Striking Likeness: The Life of George Romney, by David A. Cross – especially as the lovely portrait of Mrs. Drummond Smith was once thought, in the 19th century, to have been painted by Romney instead of Sir Joshua Reynolds! [This may be a reprint]

Striking Likeness

Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760-1815, by Sarah Easterby-Smith

Cultivating Commerce

The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist: Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain, 1760-1824, by Greg Smith

There’s even – to go with your Jane Austen and Food – a Poldark Cookery Book

poldark cookery

In short, we all owe Anna a debt of thanks for enumerating “new releases” every month, even if it means significantly lightening our wallets…

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Jane Austen-mania

August 21, 2017 at 11:11 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , )

I wish to draw to the attention of readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen an article in the LITERARY REVIEW for July 2017, by Lucy Lethbridge, entitled AUSTENMANIA.

Literary Review

Lucy is discussing and reviewing a HUGE pile of *new* Jane Austen books, including:

  • Jane Austen at Home: A Biography — by Lucy Worsley
  • Jane Austen the Banker’s Sister — by E.J. Clery
  • Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility — by Marian Veevers
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf — by Claire Sweeney
  • The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She is a Hit in Hollywood — by Paula Byrne
  • The Making of Jane Austen — by Devoney Looser
  • Jane Austen: A Brief Life — by Fiona Stafford

[whew!]

I must say, Lucy doesn’t think much of Jane and Dorothy – a book I recently ordered (it shipped today!) mainly because of Veevers’ connection to Wordsworth scholarship. Might be a while, but hopefully I’ll have something to say about reading it.

I’ve been VERY intrigued by the book that obviously discusses Henry Austen – he’s the banker in the family (and I like to think had some kind of connections with the firm of Goslings & Sharpe! the banking family _I_ am most closely associated with).

I must look at the book more closely, for I’m really confused by Lucy Lethbridge’s use of the word (IN quotes!) ‘cosmic’ – as in the sentence: the book “looks at her [Jane Austen’s] ‘cosmic’ connection with her brother”.

Although I’d LOVE to know more about Anne Sharp (Fanny Knight’s governess), I’m not all caring about the other authors.

I found Worsley’s TV show, Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors, of interest – but don’t care to read her exclamation-filled book (read Amazon reviews, and you’ll see some of the criticisms of her current writing style).

Lucy Lethbridge saves her highest praises for the two books that are from authors familiar to JASNA members. Byrne’s book is a revamped, expanded edition of her earlier book on Jane Austen and the “theatre”. I’m rather glad that, for once, a publisher allowed for updates rather than simply renaming, and re-dust-jacketing an old title.

And she’s put Devoney Looser’s book on the radar for me, especially by calling it a “lively account”. A decent price ($29.95) for a university press is also a PLUS.

I’ve grown rather tired of the same “life histories” of Austen, but I’d even like to take a look at Stafford’s stab at “A Brief Life”. At 184 pages, not as brief as the title made it originally sound. (obviously, the brief life refers to Austen’s life being brief)

Would welcome hearing from anyone (reader or writer) about these books, or if there’s something out or coming out.

*

NB: for those, like me, who wondered WHY the Lethbridge post’s URL was “Austenmania-2”; Austenmania was the original review (by Mark Bostridge, 2009) for Claire Harmon’s Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (alas! can only read it with a subscription to Literary Review)

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The Matrimonial Ladder (1825)

August 20, 2017 at 9:35 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Catherine Kullmann has posted the most delightful “graphic novel” – from the year 1825.

Declaration

With pages headed by words like Admiration, FlirtationApprobation, and Declaration (above), the reader enters into the romance of “Henry” and “Maria” via witty poetry and drawings. Given that the title is The Matrimonial Ladder, you know that things will not always go smoothly for the two lovers…

It is a true *find* – and readers are lucky that Ms. Kullmann has shared her ‘gift’ with the rest of us!

Click on the photo, then scroll to the bottom to get to the beginning of Henry & Maria’s story.

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Dining with Jane Austen

August 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

A few evenings ago, I attended a “delicious” lecture, sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

Julienne Gehrer has created, in photos and text, “a culinary adventure” through the “life and works” of Jane Austen. It’s called Dining with Jane Austen.

Dining with JA_Gehrer

Lay your white gloves aside, and dip into recipes from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the Knight Family Cookbook. Julienne has had unprecedented access to photograph at both Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House Museum (ie, Chawton Cottage) – making the book a feast for the eyes as well!

Julienne has “tested” and updated recipes from the two manuscript books – recipes which Jane Austen herself may very well have tasted. I whet your appetite with a sample page; more available on the book’s website (click the picture or Dining with Jane Austen).

Trifle with whipt syllabub

UPDATE: I totally forgot to mention: Proceeds are earmarked for Chawton House Library AND Jane Austen’s House Museum. So you also get to “fund” two Jane Austen sites, as well as “feed” you need for books and sustenance.

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