International Women’s Day (March 8)

March 8, 2017 at 2:35 pm (books, diaries, history) (, , )

Readers of Two Teens will see a familiar face when they check out Wikipedia’s homepage today, during International Women’s Day, Norfolk diarist Mary Hardy:

Hardy

Mary Hardy is well-represented in Margaret Bird’s excellent transcription, a vast 4-volume set (with an extra volume of out-takes) which is packed with informational notes and evocative illustrations. I am patiently waiting for the companion volumes.

Mary Hardy appears in the following Two Teens in the Time of Austen posts:

CELEBRATE Women!!

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reviews for JANE AUSTEN and the ARTS

January 24, 2017 at 11:11 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

Natasha Duquette, as one of the editors (along with Elisabeth Lenckos) of Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety and Harmony, has recent uploaded some reviews of the book. One, by Audrey Bilger in the journal Women’s Studies, mentions my contribution, the chapter entitled, “‘A Reputation for Accomplishment’: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers”.

ja and the arts

“Kelly M. McDonald examines Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse in terms of their skill as artistic performers and sees the primary lessons that each heroine needs to learn as being linked to their initial stance as artists: Marianne, who is ‘consumed with interior passions,’ must cultivate restraint; Emma ‘[c]onsumed with exterior experiences’ must develop deeper insight.”

This is a chapter that I have not revisited in the recent past, yet, given my 2016 topic for the JASNA Annual General Meeting that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the novel EMMA, the ‘art’ of Emma is definitely an ongoing preoccupation of mine. (My paper was entitled, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma”, also given to the Vermont JASNA chapter in December 2016.) I found, in revisiting the paper AFTER transcribing more Smith & Gosling family letters in October and November, that I had a few new points to make on the subject.

But to get back to Audrey Bilger’s review of Jane Austen and the Arts

Being an academic press (Lehigh University Press), Jane Austen and the Arts is currently selling for $30 (used; paperback) and up on Amazon. Bilger’s comments on the book as a whole, include:

  • “The editors perceive the arts in the broadest possible way, … encompassing painting, music, dance, and theater, … also judgment, taste, morality and ultimately reading and writing as aesthetically charged activities.”
  • “An excellent preface by Vivasvan Soni, ‘Jane Austen’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,’ explains the meaning of the book’s subtitle.”
  • “most of the contributions are theoretically nuanced, especially with regard to the history of aesthetics.”
  • “the book’s focus on the arts illuminates aspects of Austen’s work in fresh ways…. Readers familiar with the Austen canon will appreciate the book’s numerous close readings and textual analysis.”

Another review Natasha posted is by Marina Cano, for The Modern Language Review. Cano recognizes the volume as “a highly interdisciplinary and polyphonic study”. Cano is especially enthusiastic about Jeffrey Nigro’s “The Sister Artist: Cassandra Austen’s Portraits of Jane Austen in Art-Historical Context”: “he argues, here Cassandra was experimenting with the artistic conventions of her time”.

Cano concludes, “Jane Austen and the Arts is a valuable collection in its exploration of Austen’s involvement in the aesthetic concerns of her time and in its examination of little-studied materials.”

Looking today at books.google I see Jane Austen and the Arts listed as being in 204 libraries worldwide; maybe one of these is nearby, allowing you, too, to dip your toe. Would love to hear from readers on any and all aspects of the book (ie, you don’t even have to comment on my chapter!).

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Hamilton at the Hammer

January 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm (books, estates, history, news) (, , , )

1/24/2017 UPDATE = see below

On Wednesday 18 January 2017 the LARGE family archive of Alexander Hamilton will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York. Expect the prices to be exorbitant. No “Ham for Ham” ($10) here…

hamilton-ten

ESTIMATES are in the tens of thousands. Good news for the family; but what institution, even, can afford, item after item, to pay such prices. I, personally, wonder if the archive – together for over 200 years – will be fractured beyond repair of ever being reunited.

Conversely, now that they’ve seen the light of day, will the precious letters and other artifacts be swooped upon by deep-pocketed collectors – bringing up the possibility that these “national treasures” might depart the U.S.

eliza-hamilton-and-lock-of-ah-hair

Two Teens readers will recall the embargo the U.K. placed on Kelly Clarkson’s purchase (at auction) of Jane Austen’s ring. Will the U.S. be faced with anything similar (and not over just one item)??

The photo, above, shows TWO of the gut-wrenching articles up for sale: a letter of Eliza Hamilton, and a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair.

You can look through the online Catalogue, Alexander Hamilton: an Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, in order to draw up your own lists of “wouldn’t that be nice to have”.

I know what I’d love to sit and read: Letters to, from, or about the Schuyler Sisters. They fascinate me.

For instance: Lot 1006, Autograph Hamilton letter to Peggy Schuyler, confessing his love for her sister Eliza Schuyler: estimate $15,000-20,000.

Or, the five-page love letter (Lot 1007) from Alexander Hamilton to his “dearest girl” Eliza Schuyler, the earliest surviving letter of his to her: estimate $40,000-$60,000.

Even with the monies the musical Hamilton has brought to composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda and historian Ron Chernow, even a handful of items could break their banks: Either of them might like General George Washington’s letter appointing Hamilton as his aid-de-camp (Lot 1004). Estimates being up to a cool quarter-of-a-million-dollars means the price could be even higher.

See this “Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot“, the estimates were £8,000-12,000 – it sold for £56,250!

If your family archive (mine has NONE, I must confess) could fetch money – whether “enough” or “millions”: Would you seek to sell?

I don’t think I could do it. Good thing, then, that I don’t have to worry about it….

***UPDATE***

Hamilton’s family archives drew a cool $2.6 MILLION once the hammer fell on the last item. Take a look at just ONE “lot” –

LOT 1040 – a group of 17 letters from Philip Schuyler to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton. Estimate was $30,000 to $50,000. Sold for (with buyer’s premium) $118,750.

Y-o-w-! more than twice the high estimate.

The New York Times offered readers a couple of affecting portraits of potential buyers: an 11-year-old from Manhattan, Zack Pelosky, had bid on a “low-ticket item,” which ultimately went to a phone bidder for $1,500. Joanne Freeman, “a Hamilton expert at Yale,” who has been studying duel culture, bid on a fragment of a Hamilton 1795 will – and was likewise outbid. Or, as author Jennifer Scheussler’s Hamilton-reference quoted: the Professor was “outgunned”.

Imagine! a writer and historian hopeful of a piece reminiscent of the very person studied… only to have the hopes dashed. From the article, it was obvious that the auctioneer had been on young Zack’s side, too.

An Angelica Church (née Angelica Schuyler) letter went for $50,000 – “more than ten times the estimate”. The disparity argued away by, “there’s no way that someone who saw the show [Hamilton] made that estimate”.

A note for people like me who wished the archive had gone wholesale to a repository: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History evidently came out as a heavy-hitter (or, should I say heavy-bidder).

Scheussler’s overall take: “It’s official: Alexander Hamilton now out-earns his boss [George Washington].”

 CNN’s report on the auction mentions the sale of the lock of Hamilton’s hair: $37,500. Keep in mind that hair, an exceptionally personal item, was exceptionally popular as a remembrance – of the living as well as the dead – in this period. I see MANY locks of hair in my own research – though I do wish I’d come across some of the Mourning Jewelry Smith & Gosling letters mention!

As someone who is working to put back together the disparate sides of a voluminous correspondence, a pang enters my heart when I read a quote from Selby Kiffer of Sotheby’s: “What is so unusual about this is it’s a cohesive integral whole that’s survived since the 18th century. The pieces interrelate and inform each other. It’s rare to have correspondence back and forth.” Only the future – and further writers on Hamilton and family – will tell us where all these items ended up. Fingers crossed that access to the items (especially letters!) whether opened or closed before are open to examination from now on. Manhattan fans evidently did take the opportunity to SEE the archive, during the week-long exhibition prior to the auction.

Other articles on the Results of the Hamilton auction at Sotheby’s:

That last brought up a thought that hadn’t before entered my brain: who purchased with the intent of RE-SELLING and making MORE money?

I say that because of one item in the Smith & Gosling universe. I have blogged about miniatures being sold several times, including a link to the brother of Susan Mackworth Smith (Emma Austen’s great aunt): Vice-Admiral Bulkley Praed, sold at Bonhams  in 2011 for £1250. I remember being SHOCKED seeing it BACK up for sale at like twice the price almost immediately.

Wouldn’t Joanne Freeman or Zack Pelosky lose heart if they saw their pieces back on the market – or, on eBay – like some scalped theater ticket.

It dawned on me last week what _I_ would have done, had I been a Hamilton descendant: I would have opened a museum, where those in love with the musical, history, Hamilton – the Schuyler Sisters – or even Aaron Burr could have paid to spend a little time in the presence of these people. Here’s hoping for public access, and that this is not the “end” of the Hamilton Papers’ Saga.

Gotta wonder: did Chernow or Miranda come away with any souvenirs?

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Why I read Jane Austen

December 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , )

Yesterday, 16 December 2016, being the anniversary of the birth of JANE AUSTEN, JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America – published their annual journal, Persuasions On-Line. It is interesting to see papers presented at the Washington DC AGM (annual general meeting) that _I_ sat in the audience to hear.

[NB: I did not submit my paper, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma,” for publication.]

The article I opened, however, was among the Miscellany: Gillian Dooley‘s article on “‘The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled’: Jane Austen’s ‘Courtship Novels’.” I think all fans of Austen have come up against the “dismissive” stares, shrugs, and “Who?” comments. Because I publish and speak on aspects of Austen and the early Austen Leighs (my research subject), I’ve mentioned “Jane Austen” in job interviews. Several interviewers had NO clue who she was, never mind what she had written. Others recalled “costumed fans” and, yes, ‘Courtship’ films.

Has it been film then that has created this atmosphere of Austen as a kind of ‘romance writer’? For, in many cinematic offerings, the dramatic underpinnings of her novels disappear in order to make a pleasing, coherent, and “short” adaptation. The one thing that is always in place (of course) is the heroine’s ‘romance’ storyline. And it’s the couples that fans remember and love to discuss:

elizabeth and darcy

Even those couples who might have been:

marianne-and-willoughby

But does that mean the films and even the novels are “Courtship”-based? I have long contended that I read Austen because they are slices of life, true windows into a time, place, milieu, that otherwise I only read about through history texts. The films may stick in the memory, but the novels are what I return to again and again. And, luckily, puzzling out the letters and diaries the Smiths and Goslings have left behind has allowed me to grasp small details that Austen’s original readers “knew” but which I have had to “learn” about.

So, this morning, I was musing over the MANY ‘romances’ of the story of my Two Teens. Would I term their lives – as any resultant writing must, out of necessity, condense their real histories – as center on ‘Courtship’ merely because courtships begin and conclude within the covers of a book about them?

To answer one question posed by Gillian Dooley, “There are courtships in the [Austen] novels, but are they in any overarching sense primarily ‘about’ courtship?” with a simplistic ‘No’ should, therefore, also cover the “history” of this large, extended family.

To take one “for instance”: The Colebrooke sisters, Belinda and Harriet, come into the circle of the Smith family in 1816/17. The basics of their history: Harriet dies young and Belinda marries Charles Smith (Emma’s brother). More can be deciphered about Belinda’s life because she married. And, it is her marriage that ended her life: Belinda Smith died in childbirth, before the age of 25.

It was all a “fact of life” back then.

Even today, we seek out a partner; live together; marry if we can. No one wants to be alone – and, given the cold world in which we live, a little human warmth within the home is something everyone can appreciate.

Carey Mulligan

(yes, I’ve long thought Carey Mulligan a quintessential Belinda)

I’ve recently found a lovely portrait (perhaps by her eldest sister-in-law, Augusta Smith) of Belinda Lady Smith. And even a tiny silhouette of her sister Harriet Colebrooke. Harriet was even younger, only 18 at her death. For the longest time her (ultimately) fatal illness was the focus for poor Harriet’s historical remembrance. She was an appendage; a younger sister who obligingly got out of the way; a dead sibling who made the “heroine” that much more attractive to the “hero”. And there was even an “over the top” drama-queen of a mother! Belinda, left on her own by her sister’s demise, was due to be “rewarded” by marriage to a good and very eligible young man.

To to my mind, however, it was hard not to think of Belinda as “the other woman”: Mary Gosling, the girl next door and Charles Smith’s second wife was the first diarist I unearthed (now, ten years ago).

Talulah Riley

Yes, young Talulah Riley, as Mary Bennet [above], put me in mind of Mary Gosling – rather tossed aside as a close friend, never mind as a potential love interest, once the doomed Colebrooke sisters came on the scene.

As an historian, I knew – nearly from the beginning – what the “end result” for EVERYone was. I knew when they were born; who they married (or didn’t); knew when they died. What I had to unearth was all the LIFE in between the pertinent “dates”.

And even now there comes surprises; welcome surprises, as it happens. Even someone like Harriet Colebrooke, on the scene for only a handful of years, takes on new importance.

“Why?” you might ask.

“Because, she had a fella!” A young man, who does appear in Emma Smith’s diaries, but who seemed just one of the crowd, was actually interested in, and pursued, Harriet Colebrooke.

Like her elder sister, Belinda, Harriet came to any relationship with a LOT of baggage. Charles Smith had the unenviable task of “approving” the young man, especially once he began to suspect that Harriet was transferring her affections to himself.

Harriet never lived long enough, of course, to see her sister married to Charles. I don’t even know if Charles ever really had to say, “I’m not interested”. That mystery is still inconclusive.

Which brings me back to Austen and the ‘Courtship’ Novel. In such a novel, there are often MANY vying for the hand of the heroine. There are those wholly unsuitable:

stillman2

There are those whom the observer hopes will win out in the end:

darcy

As Dooley asserts, “I would expect the heroine [of a courtship novel] to have one or more men actively playing court to her throughout the novel.  And I don’t think that any of Austen’s novels quite fit that standard.” She sums up by saying, “it is the assiduous attention of the hero to gain the heroine’s hand throughout the courtship novel that I think is the missing element.”

Just as in life.

Even when the “grass is greener” on the other side of that proverbial fence, as when Charles begins to suspect that Harriet’s interest in himself is pushing her interest in William Sumner (her beau) to one side. Here is no flat declaration of love, but a mystery: Does she? Doesn’t she? How do I handle it?

And everyone LOVES a mystery.

When Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal, few contemporary readers would have foreseen them ending up together at the novel’s end. There might even have been NO marriages at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Contemporary Readers were enjoying the ride, living in the moment with all the Bennets. Suffering their disappointments and, yes, rejoicing over their happiness. That ‘happiness’ included marriages, and those came within pages of the end is good fortune for readers who – metaphorically AND literally – could close the book at the end of a concluding chapter in the characters’ lives.

In a courtship novel, the marriage is the “be-all”. It has to end it all because little more was the novel’s focus. In Austen’s slices of life, the characters live on. The clues of the mystery behind attraction (even repulsion), love, loss, daily life in another land and another era, keep readers coming back for more.

If a MAN had written Austen novels, would we even be discussing “courtship” as their basis – or would it be treated, as courtship (without quotation marks) deserves to be treated: as a MOST INTERESTING part of life, something in which EVERY reader can sympathize.

Austen’s novels touch on economics (those with little funds as well as those with very fat purses, indeed); privations and sacrifices; sibling love and sibling rivalries; one’s role within society; the tumult of the times – even though, like today, one lives life somewhat disconnected (unless war comes to touch one personally). Austen’s novels help explain the minutiae I’ve seen discussed or recorded in the papers of the Smiths; and the Smiths explain what should be of more importance in Austen’s novels.

They are the perfect MATCH! History informing literature, and literature helping to inform biography.

colonel brandon and marianne

marianne and colonel brandon

And a coincidence, as could only happen in real life, that Emma Smith becomes (though eleven years after the author’s death) a niece by marriage to Cassandra and Jane Austen, Frank, Charles, and Henry Austen, and Edward Knight. That Emma Austen read Austen’s Emma prior to marriage, and with her intended, is a fitting close for that chapter of her life – one which can be said to have ended in marriage. Life is about so much more than birth-marriage-death, but as a fundamental courtship and marriage is a commonality that happens to most, and interests even those who do not experience it first-hand.

The “mysteries” of their lives keep me digging for more clues – even as some “new” clue only leads to further mystery. It is the pleasure derived from “digging” again and again, that Readers, who read Austen with a mind open to discovering new clues amid well-known strophes, enjoy as much as (if not more than) the ‘courtships’ with which each novel ends.

“[T]he plans and decisions of mortals,” to use the words of the narrator of Mansfield Park, forms the basis behind Two Teens in the Time of Austen, as well as the six novels of Jane Austen. “Courtship” is part of the story of life, and “courtship” may be the most human part in general. The need to feel connected, to someone (mate or friend), is a powerful emotion.

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An Agreeable Tyrant

October 31, 2016 at 3:41 pm (books, fashion) (, )

To follow up on the DAR post, for those who may be interested in the EXHIBITION catalogue of their costume installation:

tyrant-catalogue-cover

“An Agreeable Tyrant”: Fashion after the Revolution – What’s a patriotic American to wear? is described as: “Paperback, 196 color pages, lavishly illustrated with portraits and fashion plates of the period as well as the garments on display. In addition to the extensive catalog entries, there are five essays by leading experts in the field, a selected bibliography for further reference, and over twenty scaled patterns of men’s and women’s garments seen in  the exhibit.”

$35 (plus shipping, which I didn’t look up) from the DAR Store’s website.

To SEE the exhibit, you only need to get to Washington DC before it closes in 2017.

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Tales of the D.A.R.

October 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, news) (, , , )

Although I have been to WASHINGTON DC several times over the decades, I had never entered the fabulous building that houses the Daughters of the American Revolution. WONDERFUL “period room” exhibits, and for the JASNA group an added incentive: the costume installation entitled, “An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution“, which opened October 7 (2016) and runs until April 2017.

Ann Lewis fecit2

With the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (the JASNA AGM) having taken place this past weekend (21-23 October) in Washington DC – my own paper “Sketching Box Hill with Emma” being presented in the afternoon of the 22nd – there were a lot of costumes on parade in Washington. I don’t pretend to know much, but I have a stash of very useful books – for I would like to envision what my Emma and Mary would have worn. From a comment or two in the family correspondence, Mary (especially before she was widowed in 1831) was careful to look the part of a smart & stylish London Lady. The Gosling ladies had their step-mother’s shoes to step into: the Hon. Charlotte Gosling (née de Grey, related to the Barons Walsingham) was a serious society hostess in the 1810s. Every spring, during “the season” Mrs Gosling hosted routs, concerts, and parties. Her husband’s dinners are also found in the newspapers (yes, men gave ‘dinners’, but women gave other entertainments).

It still boggles MY mind that their parties could attract 300 to 600 people. How is that possible?? such a crowd in a small townhouse (No. 5 Portland Place, London).

But, to get back to the DAR.

JASNA members had morning “free”, and the DAR Museum was my one and only choice for a place to go. Thankfully, many other members had been already; for the most part I could look, read the brochure (one per room), and savor furnishings and costumes by myself. The room that stands out most is the one paneled in wood from the salvaged ship AUGUSTA. Jacobean in nature, with a lengthy table, the dark wood and colorful stained glass windows makes for a room that I’d happily spend time sitting in.

And the fact that the ship was called the AUGUSTA – the name of TWO of my ladies in the Smith family (Emma Austen’s mother and sister; never mind a slew of Augustas born in the 1820s and 1830s…).

But what really brought me to visit the DAR (free entry a big inducement) was the curator’s talk, which took place on the Thursday (the day I landed in DC) of last week.

I missed the first half of the talk, having to find the hotel, check-in, register for the conference, and get to the room – but was in time enough to hear the speaker Alden O’Brien toss off the intelligence that SHE WAS WORKING WITH A DIARY.

I pulled her aside at the end of her presentation to hear more, especially: Had she published it.

The answer to that burning question was ‘no’. The diarist – “Sylvia Lewis Tyler (1785-1851), an early nineteenth-century Everywoman, of Connecticut and Western Reserve Ohio” had left thirty years of diaries, and Alden didn’t believe ANY publisher would want that amount of material. Alden said the diary was akin to that which formed the basis of A Midwife’s Tale, the diaries by Martha Ballard [which is online at DoHistory; printed copies were also produced].

I truly do Hope She is Wrong. I can actually think of diaries that I’ve gotten copies of BECAUSE they were the “complete” set. But, in this day and age, it is a tough sell, to be sure.

Alden did say that she had published articles – and it was in looking that I found a her Common-Place post from 2011, all about her thoughts on SYLVIA’S DIARY.

Her comments, in the article, reminds me so much of a diary that I believe is being published in the spring 2017, concerning the diary of a Vermont woman that a friend (and former colleague) has been working on for over ten years. (More on that later.) Sylvia was a spinner and sewer. She lived in Bristol, Connecticut as a girl (her diaries begin at age 15), and textile & clothing is also an interest of mine – as far as production goes. I used to be a keen sewer and knitter; though I’ve never spun or weaved.

From the article: “I was taken aback when the archivist deposited nineteen manila folders before me, each containing a small, slim, hand-made volume.” Thirty years of Sylvia’s diaries. The title page (like that early diary of my Mary Gosling) claimed the diary in the name of SYLVIA LEWIS of BRISTOL.

Sylvia’s diary runs from 1801 (when she was 15 years old) to 1831 (aged 46); two years are missing and a couple of gaps exist. Alden even targeted another Bristol girl’s diary, belonging to an acquaintance! Thus are “projects” born…

Alden asks her readers, “Why did I leap into this project—and why did I stick to it?” Nearly ten years into my own project on Two Teens in the Time of Austen (Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, who – as sisters-in-law, both become related to Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh), I couldn’t wait to see what she said in reply!

  • an abiding fondness for the area (ie, Bristol & environs) and interest in its local history
  • Sylvia’s “records are richly informative” as regards social history
  • “Most of all, Sylvia herself drew me in.”

“Once I knew the cast of characters in the diary, the entries created a narrative, and I kept wanting to know what happens next.”

Amen, Sister!

I can say yes-yes-YES to the three points above, as regards Mary, Emma, and their (extensive) families and the English history and daily “mundane chronicles” they all have left behind.

An aside: a letter I just transcribed last night, written by Sir Charles Joshua Smith (bart.) [1800-1831], Emma’s eldest brother and Mary’s eventual husband, had this FABULOUS sentence that just called out to me:

“it is very flattering to one’s vanity to feel that there is some one who cares whether one is alive or dead”

If Charles could know how MUCH _I_ care about them all… his vanity would be HIGHLY flattered. And Sylvia Lewis Tyler must feel that same if she could know the loving care and attention her biographer Alden O’Brien is taking over bringing her own “herstory” to light.

I invite you to read Alden’s own words, and to savor 19th century Bristol, Connecticut by checking out this tale from the vault of the DAR. And should you be in the area of Washington DC, stop by – Alden O’Brien might be there!sylvia-lewis

The finding of Sylvia’s grave makes for truly SPOOKY reading! Enjoy…

also: Bringing Sylvia Lewis back to Life

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Hamilton at Work in London

October 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

This was the scene Last Sunday, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London:

vic-hamilton1

As you can see, the refurbishment – HAMILTON is to open in October of 2017 – is underway, yet also under-wraps. This (below) was the street scene in the past:

victoria_palace-2011

This past summer, stories ran about the refurbishment, including this article in The Guardian, which claims a £30 million price tag.

vic-hamilton2

I must admit, having been in New Jersey (near the site of the Hamilton/Burr duel), and taking in the lyrics so in praise of New York City (“in the greatest city in the world”), it feels as if a little will be lost in translation. NOT that I think fans won’t be queuing for MILES to get tickets.

For once, the BRITISH look forward to something AMERICAN coming to them after being a ‘hit’ in the States (the shoe is usually on the other foot).

vic-hamilton3

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Boswell and Miss Gregg

August 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, people, research) (, , , )

On Wednesday the 2nd of March, 1791, James Boswell set down in his diary news of his evening’s entertainment:

Boswell_biographer

“… I dined today at Mr. Gregg’s in the City,… In the evening Miss Gregg played both on the harpsichord and harp and sung admirable well. But I felt none of the fondness for her which made me once rave [fn: This is the sole reference to Boswell’s earlier fondness for Miss Gregg.], and it seemed awkward to me. I stole away in time to be at the Essex Head Club, and not be obliged to act also at supper.”

Miss Gregg – the future Caroline Carr (Mrs. Ralph Carr of Stannington) – was a friend to Miss Augusta Smith (aka “Mamma”) and her sisters, staying at Erle Stoke Park (in Wiltshire), before her marriage.

In the near future, Caroline Carr would become the sister-in-law of Maria Gosling, my diarist Mary’s “Aunt Gregg“. Caroline Gregg and Ralph Carr married in 1793, while Maria Gosling and Henry Gregg married in 1794. Mr. Carr was brother to Harriet Cheney (née Carr), whose watercolor portraits were auctioned at Christie’s in 2005. Harriet painted this little portrait of Lady Compton (née Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane), which was among those sold:

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

The little girl is Lady Marianne Compton, her eldest daughter.

I’ve an interest in the Gregg-Gosling-Smith-Carr connection, for there are several letters that tell about the ladies of this generation, interacting with each other. The Boswell sighting has long been known, but was just a little vignette. A moment, all its own.

After last evening, I can add a little “history” to the young Caroline Gregg. She shows up in the book The History of the Family of Carr of Dunston Hill, Co. Durham (1893), the first volume of three in an exhaustive family history. What a FIND!

The young couple lived at 7 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury; they moved in 1800 to No. 18 Bloomsbury Street (in a house that remained in family possession until 1871). Vacations were spent with the in-laws at Dunston Hill, “travelling in two post-chaises, servants riding. The great cost of travelling at that time is shewn by the fact that the journey each way cost over £50.” (A not-insignificant sum, when some households lived on 350 pounds – or less – a year.)

 The country estate the Carrs called home, from circa 1806, was Barrow Point Hill, in Pinner.

The book’s author offers this summation of Caroline (Gregg) Carr:

This gentle and talented lady was especially distinguished as a musician, both in singing and as a pianist and harpist. She had had the advantage of the best masters, and her fame as an amateur pianist was such that the great Haydn paid a visit to her father’s house in London to hear her play. She was the composer of several musical pieces, one March being written at the express request of the Marquis of Northampton [ie, Emma Smith’s uncle], for the use of his regiment, and has since been highly approved by more than one military band.” Caroline also had an interest in the works of Handel, possessing in score (over several volumes) “all his works”.

Caroline had been born in 1770, and was therefore about 21 years old when her singing and playing entertained James Boswell. How young she might have been when first attracting his eye can be guessed at from mentions of her brother Francis Gregg in 1788, and more especially time spent at “Mrs. Gregg’s” (either Caroline’s sister-in-law, or mother) in 1790.

She died in 1823, aged only 53. She was buried at Pinner Church.

What the book does not touch upon is the strife Caroline and Ralph endured from their respective families, especially Mr. Gregg. Letters in the Northumberland Archives speak of the “cruel treatment meted out to himself [Ralph Carr] and Caroline by her father”. Ralph Carr seems to have had as variable a temper as Mr. Gregg, for Eliza Gosling (Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law) writes of him keeping his wife away from “her own relations … even her Mother.”

As far as Boswell is concerned, however, Mrs. Carr doesn’t yet exist – only Miss Gregg, at her piano or harp, existed to cause him unease.

From the book comes this “charming” signature – oh! for the letters…

signature_caroline gregg

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History’s Eyes on Soo

July 10, 2016 at 12:01 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , , )

On Broadway, she’s played, sung, “lived and breathed,” Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, now Phillipa Soo puts pen to paper – writing the foreword to a new book about the wife & widow of Alexander Hamilton.

Soo-Miranda_Hamilton

Woo-HOO! Right?

Alas, the projected bio is to be a children’s picture book: “Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton”, by Margaret McNamara (Schwartz & Wade, fall 2017).

Great for youthful readers (for whom, I guess, the “clean” Broadway cast album has been produced – since the play has become a hit with school teachers), but what about the rest of us?! _I_ cannot be the only reader interested in hearing more about “The Schuyler Sisters”: Angelica, Eliza – and Peggy.

Their history is particularly relevant to those of us in the north-east U.S., so close to the action of Albany, New York, where Philip J. Schuyler (a “Revolutionary War general, U.S. Senator, and business entrepreneur”) lived in a lovely mansion that still exists — and can be visited.

Schuyler Mansion NY State Historic Site

Schuyler Mansion – a New York State Historic Site

Described on the website as, “The Georgian structure, reflecting Schuyler’s English tastes – was built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River,” the house is open from May through October. Cost (in 2016 dollars) is a very reasonable $5.00 ($4 Seniors & Students; free for children under 12) [for groups, see their rate sheet]

  • NB: Combined tickets can be had for Crailo, the Van Rensselaer mansion, across the river.

Of course the main topic targeted is the life of Philip and Catharine (Van Rensselaer) Schuyler. ALTHOUGH there is a *special* tour offered this year (on selected days), “When Alexander Hamilton called Albany Home”. Surely, among the moments recounted will be Alexander’s marriage to Elizabeth – which took place here in 1780. [NOTE: THIS focus-tour is by reservation only]

Schuyler_Mansion interior

Maybe next year the Schuyler mansion will highlight Eliza Schuyler instead of Alexander Hamilton. One news story, about Phillipa Soo, highlights one reason I find Hamilton such a compelling listen:

“As Eliza, she’s got a trip through the ringer as the shy middle child of the wealthy, covetable Schuyler sisters; by falling for Hamilton in the first place, her fate is already sealed for a whole spectrum of heartbreak, including infidelity and, of course, death. She emerged as a key reason for the show’s emotional resonance, most especially delivered in her final-scene solo, in which she recounts Eliza’s accomplishments after her husband’s death, redeeming a somewhat lost historical figure through tears. It was the most notable part of Hamilton, for me—that Lin-Manuel Miranda would end the show by righting the essential erasure of a woman who was key to the creation of America”

— Julianne Escobado Shepherd

History finally has its eyes on you, Eliza! The lyrics to “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” is an astonishing move for a play about Alexander Hamilton, bringing Elizabeth Hamilton fully into the spotlight. It would be nice to page through 800-pages of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography in order to pluck out of it Eliza’s story – but here’s hoping some one takes the baton from Margaret McNamara and delves deeper into the lives of the Hamilton women. As Shepherd quotes Soo saying upon first working on Hamilton, “‘Oh, I don’t really know that much about Alexander Hamilton, and who is this Eliza person that I’ve never heard about?’”

“History waiting to be unlocked,” is Soo’s understated summation of her involvement in the play. “I think it just reminds us that women have such a huge place in history but their voices weren’t necessarily as loud.”

Anyone following Hamilton will know that three leads ended their performances last night (July 9th). The New York Theater website has a concise history for the trio on the occasion of the “original cast” breaking up, including a link to Facebook footage of the “final curtain call” – which already has well over a MILLION views.

Soo moves on to another new musical – based on the de-light-ful French film, Amelie!! (If you’ve never watched the movie, run to get a copy; you’ll be ready to book a flight to Paris soon afterwards…)

* * *

Two personal notes: _I_ just love how a history-slash-biography BOOK can make a name (and money) for its author a decade after its publication. Writers dream of film and/or TV – few would dream of their work being the basis for a stage musical. Still, Hamilton shows what FRESH ideas can do for any industry.

Also, I have my father to thank for a LOT of my interest in Hamilton. Last summer (June, 2015) I dragged him down to New York City. A three-month, temporary job had just ended and I had LONGED to visit two archives, which, indeed, have given me SO MUCH Smith & Gosling material.

Everything fell so perfectly into place – I got a seat in the archive for the entire week; and found a place to live, a new Air B&B listing in Weehawken, New Jersey – just a bus ride through the Lincoln Tunnel, which offered parking (for we drove down from Vermont).

Although not affecting me (except when walking from/to the subway stop), the rain was so bad that parts of nearby New Jersey sustained flood damage. Yet, the rain kept my father – who wasn’t inclined to visit Manhattan on his own – close to “home”.

NYC 1 June 2015

It was he who discovered, just around the corner, near THIS FABULOUS view of Manhattan, this historic marker:

hamilton-burr duel

July 11, 1804

The most famous duel in American History took place on this date at the dueling grounds in Weehawken, between political rivals, General Alexander Hamilton and sitting Vice-President of the United States, Colonel Aaron Burr. Hamilton fell mortally wounded, and died the next day in New York City.

Tragically, Hamilton’s son Philip had also met his death here in a duel in 1801.

Dedicated on July 11, 2004, the 200th Anniversary of the Duel.

* * *

Just for fun:

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At Home – with Jane & Lucy

July 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , )

2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.

Worsley

We all know Worsley’s work from her many TV specials – “Tales from the Royal Wardrobe”, “Tales from the Royal Bedchamber”, “The First Georgians”, “A Very British Murder”, “Harlots, Housewives & Heroines”, etc. etc. I have certainly enjoyed her book The Courtiers: Splendour and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, which brought some refreshing storytelling.

courtiers

In its early stage provisionally entitled AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN (which already exists among the “Jane Austen” series of books by Kim Wilson), the biography tell Jane Austen’s “story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her”. Says Worsley’s  editor: “Lucy’s knowledge of the period makes her the perfect biographer and her wonderful writing style will truly bring Jane Austen and her world to life.”

Worsley used a Kensington Palace painting to open the oft-told history of the first Hanoverian King George. What will she use for Jane Austen? Will it look at Steventon, which is no longer existing, as well as Chawton and Bath? Chawton is a source for many items that belonged to Austen – for instance, her jewelry. Her writing slope is also on public display.

“… an everyday object that had been
important to her writing life.”

Paula Byrne’s book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, sought a similar approach away from the typical cradle-to-grave biography. It will be *fun* to see how Worsley works out the lack of any new discoveries. Will she recreate some of the homes, spaces, and places that Austen knew? Perhaps readers of If Walls Could Talk will have advance knowledge of the Worsley’s approach. Worsley has already been caught rubbing elbows with Regency dandies. And she’s even got a work of fiction, as well as her TV-tie-ins, on bookstore shelves. Lucy Worsley is one of four writers who back in April (2016) discussed Lizzy & Darcy and themselves.

The Hodder & Stoughton website gives the following information:

  • title (revised from above): Jane Austen at Home
  • projected pagination (nicely hefty): 352 pages
  • release date (it’ll be here before we know it): 18 May 2017

 

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