My Girls: Emma Austen

April 23, 2018 at 7:41 pm (chutes of the vyne, introduction, jane austen, research, World of Two Teens) (, , )


A month ago I wrote about Emma Smith and Mary Gosling, my two diarists who head this research project, Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

I mentioned how I found the first diary, and a little about the family of both girls.

But, in celebration of this blog’s Tenth Anniversary, _I_ was wanting to go back, to see what was written, who was introduced. It’s damned hard to find! (I need to be in WP-Admin to sort by date.) The “Posts” calendar goes back month by month – but no one will have the patience to do that over TEN years.

On June 1, 2008, I introduced my girls:

Emma Smith and Mary Gosling were two ordinary English girls. They attended the opera and the theatre when their families resided in London for ‘the season’. They were present at court functions, and even witnessed the coronation of George IV. They travelled with family across the country and across to the Continent. They lived among servants in large houses on substantial estates; and when in town were next-door neighbours (No. 5 and 6 Portland-place) on a street south of Regent’s Park. See, just two ordinary girls.

Luckily, they kept diaries, and wrote lots and lots of letters. Some of which still exist.

So let’s take a moment to talk about Emma.

Austen_Emma

She married, on the 16 December 1828, the nephew of Jane Austen – James Edward Austen. Thus was born the title of this blog. She wasn’t the first diarist found, but her family members have been remarkably retentive of their own letters, diaries, drawings! And there were so many of them that the sheer amount of material is voluminous.

Emma’s earliest diary began on the first of January 1815. She kept diaries the rest of her life (1801 to 1876). She was the third child in a family of nine, and it is their interaction, recorded in her diary and in the family letters, that enliven the history of the Regency for me.

I cannot prove that either of the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even. Mrs. Chute of The Vine was Emma’s aunt, her mother’s elder sister.

Reading the movements of these people really bring *reality* to the novels of Austen. I don’t mean to intimate that they are like her characters, or that her characters are based on actual people. It’s the milieu, the times, the ethos. I don’t live in the United Kingdom, I wasn’t alive 200 years ago. The novels and the letters & diaries compliment each other in my mind, one helping me to understand the other.

The interests of the girls are remarkably like my own – a taste for reading; a love of music; an interest in travel. It feels like a match made in heaven. Getting to know them all fires my inner Sherlock Holmes. I want to know MORE. And that was the gist behind starting a blog: Finding MORE of their remaining materials. In that, there has been a good deal of success! More letters uncovered, a diary “recovered,” and new sources of information from their friends and close relatives.

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