I’m a Single Lady!

May 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, jasna, news, people, research) (, , , , )

In the post a few days ago: the latest edition of JASNA News – alas without my article on James Edward Austen and Tring. (Humphhh….)

Lots about the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Louisville, on “Living in Jane Austen’s World”. (official website) VERY thrilling to hear the topic Amanda Vickery is expected to speak on: “No Happy Ending? At Home with Miss Bates in Georgian England”. The gist of the talk is “female-only households in Austen’s world, particularly those of declining status [like dear Miss Bates] and modest means.”

My research has several “female-only households” – from the top tier, with Lady Frances Compton (Lady Northampton’s sister-in-law) through to “Aunt,” Charles Smith’s (“Papa”) only living sister.

Then there was Mamma’s bachelorette sister: Emma Smith of Glenville — my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”.

Aunt Emma is at the heart of my upcoming talk for JASNA-Vermont — and if you’re in the neighborhood on Sunday, June 7th please come join us!

The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma
an interactive presentation

Sunday, 7 June 2015
1:00 PM

Champlain College
“Morgan Room”, Aiken Hall
(83 Summit Street)
Burlington, Vermont

PowerPoint slides will illustrate with images of the people & places you’ll never see on this blog – and YOU will help (re)solve the “mystery” surrounding Emma Smith. Is it a “scandal” or “much ado about nothing”? Evidence suggests class-economic-religious tensions, or a past well-hidden for two hundred years. Help us decide! Like Austen’s Sanditon or Dickens’ Mystery of Edwin Drood, this mini-mystery relies on its audience to provide a sense of closure.

Letters provide our only clues! (This one written by Aunt Emma.)

BTW: Prior knowledge of JANE AUSTEN or her NOVELS are not necessary for taking part – the slides will help introduce Emma Austen and the family. Aunt Emma lived 1774-1858, her later life spent in Hampshire; we’ll cover the years (approximately) 1812 to 1843.

FREE and open to the public
parking on the street – and light refreshments

Want to come extra “prepared”? Email me (smithandgosling at gmail dot com) for a full Smith & Gosling family tree which you can then bring with you!

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Hester Wheeler, The Vyne and “Sense & Sensibility”

April 4, 2015 at 5:43 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

As promised, I’ve posted an *all new* and rather lengthy article on Hester Wheeler. By the end, you will not only be familiar with Hester’s history, you’ll also SEE her face! For a portrait has been located!

Digging deeper into the background of someone tangential to the Smiths has proved rewarding and also a bit frustrating! I’ve come to the conclusion that my two Carolines — Caroline Austen (Edward’s younger sister) and Caroline Wiggett Workman (the Chutes’ adopted niece, at The Vyne) — were “challenged” when recollecting. Until further evidence comes forth, some points about Hester Wheeler will simply remain “cloudy”.


The above abode is The Vine – not in Hampshire, but in Dundee Scotland. And yet it does have a relationship to The Vyne near Basingstoke. This home, certainly built to “honor” the Hampshire estate, once belonged to George Duncan, MP. If you read the article, you will see why he and his “Georgian” home is important to the later history of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

I DO WISH that the Jane Austen Society Reports article by Anne Hardy was still available online. If anyone can pinpoint its later history (it showed up online because it hadn’t made the print edition), let me know. This snippet from “Women Writers Through The Ages” forum will have to give a flavor of the original, which I used as a jumping-off-point for my article, “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler“.

For another (quick) look at the Duncan monument, see the video discussed in the post about the Dundee Howff. It begins at the minute mark 25.38.

[I, of course, disagree about WHY Hester is not buried under the name DUNCAN!!]

I invite anyone with further information — on Hester; the Marshalls; Eliza Chute’s diaries, Edward Austen’s interactions with George Duncan &c — to contact me (see About the Author for my email address). I’d dearly love to solve some of the “mysteries” the two Carolines have created.

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The Vyne: Meet Eliza Chute

July 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, jane austen, travel) (, , , , , , , , )

Want to walk in the FOOTSTEPS of Mary and Emma? A visit to The Vyne is one of the few “open to the public” homes which they used to inhabit, both women visited “Aunt Chute” and her home. Emma, being Eliza Chute’s niece from birth, visited more often – and came away with the ultimate prize: her husband Edward Austen!

Can’t get to the countryside outside of Basingstoke (Hampshire, England)? A ‘next best thing’ comes via this photo-laden blogspot, LoveIsSpeed. VERY rare are the interior shots.

vyne botanicals

Botanicals grace the walls of this little bedroom – and includes work by Margaret Meen, Augusta Smith (“mamma” to my Emma Austen), Lady Northampton, Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), and – of course! – Eliza Chute herself. Recent letters have tipped me off to how much Eliza Chute was addicted to painting.

The Botanicals are often painted upon Vellum; the few I’ve seen in the flesh are genuinely “etherial”.

LoveIsSpeed has some fantastic shots of the grounds, exterior, and some items of a recent special installation. I invite you to visit Aunt Chute yourself!

Should you wish to READ more about Eliza, Jane Austen, and The Vyne the best book out there is Rupert Willoughby’s Sherborne St. John and The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen. This is a fascinating look at a period in the estate’s history that isn’t always heavily considered by the National Trust — ie, the VERY period of Eliza and William Chute.

sherborne st john_willoughby

Rupert Willoughby, who was very kind in offering up suggestions for getting a handful of Chute letters, has published several books on local Hampshire history. Among his books is Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village and Selborne: Gilbert White’s Village.

Reading is ALSO the ‘next best thing to being there. Jane Austen obviously agrees:



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Great George Street, Westminster

July 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, london's landscape, research) (, , , , )

I have been living in the 18th century lately, and in looking for the Smiths at No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster, came across this Newspaper advertisement in 1802, when No. 15 (across and a bit up the street from the Smiths) was for sale:


To be Sold by Private Contract, by Mr. CHRISTIE,

A Singularly elegant LEASEHOLD HOUSE, with two coach houses, roomy four-stall stable, &c. … with views from the balcony into St. James’s Park and Westminster-bridge, from which a most perfect free circulation of air rendering the premises chearful, airy, healthy, &c.  The premises have, on the parlour floor, a library, dressing room, and elegant dining parlour, spacious entrance hall, with folding doors, paved with marble; first floor, a suit [sic] of three spacious apartments, the two principal ones laid together occasionally by folding doors, the windows of the front room opening down to the floor into balconies; four spacious bedchambers and patent water closet on the second floor; five excellent bedchambers on the attics, principal staircase of easy ascent, and back staircase; basement story, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, store room, and excellent wine cellars, servant’s hall, detached kitchen, wash house, and laundry, capital arched vault for pipes of wine. the premises have been recently put into the most elegant and complete repair, fit for the immediate reception of a large family. The locality of the premises to both Houses of Parliament, St. James’s Park, Westminster Bridge, and within one shilling fare of Court, Places of Amusement, &c renders the premises particularly eligible. — To be viewed with tickets, and further particulars known in Pall Mall.”

george street

No. 29 is prominently marked “XIX”; No. 15 is the first on the right, right below the letter “T” in Street. Reading letters from the 1790s, when three men were living at No. 29 — Joshua Smith and his sons-in-law Charles, Lord Compton (of Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire) and William Chute (of The Vyne in Hampshire) — were ‘bunking together’ you get the impression of it being a NO PLACE FOR LADIES! Too little room? too many additional servants? Hard to tell the exact reason why. All three men were in Parliament; and a ‘bachelor establishment’ was probably just not the most conducive place to be!

In the mid-1790s, “the Ladies” would have included:

  • Sarah Smith – Joshua’s wife
  • Lady Compton – Charles’ wife (Joshua’s eldest daughter)
  • Spencer and Elizabeth – the two Compton children
  • Eliza Chute – William’s wife (Joshua’s second eldest daughter)
  • Augusta Smith (Joshua’s third daughter)
  • Emma Smith (Joshua’s fourth and youngest daughter)

That’s SEVEN more people, never mind maids and nursery staff.

From such a list, how could one possibly pick and choose?

I’ve long looked at the excellent series of BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE, but have also looked at the book SURVEY OF LONDON (from 1926) online at the University of Toronto (Great George Street is in vol. 10), which has many in the series. Must confess, it gives the entry an entirely different “feel” to see the BOOK!

“DEMOLISHED” is such a horrific word to see…

I sure hope the bits & pieces said to be “preserved” in the Victoria and Albert Museum still exist!

* * *


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Miss Meen hits “Jane Austen’s Regency World”

June 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, history, jane austen, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Just thrilled to bits to see the release of the July/August issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine: my article on Margaret Meen is included:

Jane Austen Regency World_8-14

Margaret Meen – believed by some to have been governess to the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park – AKA, Lady Northampton, Mrs Chute, Mrs Smith and Miss Smith – was definitely a painter (on vellum and paper) of botanicals, and a teacher. Including, as the JARW line suggests: to the Royal family of Queen Charlotte and her girls. I truly hope that I’ve uncovered a bit of “life” for this somewhat undiscovered artist — and invite you to seek out a copy of the full-color publication that promises to deliver “EVERYTHING that is happening in the world of Jane Austen“, including this tidbit of Smith & Gosling history.

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Mrs Wiggett’s portrait

January 2, 2014 at 5:35 am (chutes of the vyne, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Gosh! trying to verify a birthdate for Caroline Wiggett Workman, I came across this exquisite portrait of her mother, aged 16: Rachel Lyde


See the entire @BBC paintings

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New Portraits – Happy 2014!

January 1, 2014 at 10:47 am (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

A quick post today, to give readers a taste of a couple new portraits that have been found on the internet.

terrys of dummer

Here are husband and wife, Stephen Terry and Frances Terry, of Dummer, Hampshire — readers of Jane Austen’s letters will be familiar with Stephen Terry. The Chutes of The Vyne and the Bramstons of Oakley Hall were also neighbors. The portraits, by Thomas Hudson, pop up online as notice of an October 1998 sale through Sotheby’s.

Another *find*, posted a short bit ago, is a portrait of Edward Odell of Carriglea in Ireland. Odell was Drummond Smith’s travelling companion (along with Lord Ossory) to Italy and Sicily in 1832. Possessing both a journal and some letters written by Drummond on this last trip from which he never returned, as well as the private diary and later-published travel memoir of Lord Ossory (later 2nd Marquess of Ormonde), finding this most tangible evidence of Edward Odell himself was a surprise and a great THRILL!

Two past posts about that fateful trip abroad, and Mr Odell:

Last minute addition: How could I forget coming across a photograph of James Edward Austen Leigh, during all the news of the Sotheby’s sale of the Jane Austen portrait?!? (has anyone learned the identity of the purchaser??)

Best wishes to all for a bright & happy 2014!

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Have You Seen this Lady?

November 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, london's landscape, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Mike from Tring sent me a photo of a drawing – a room in a house: But which room and in which house (never mind by which Smith sister, assuming it to be by a Smith in the first place). The companion drawing has a notation of “Chinese Bedroom at Tring”. I can barely make out the date, which could be 1829? The other drawing is untitled and undated.

The un-ID’ed room has a box piano to the left, then a group of stout books (folios) in a free-standing bookshelf. Two windows flank a well-stocked bookcase (which includes a tier or two of ceramics); this is placed central in the sketch. What appears to be a chess set sits on a table in front of the left-most window. A seating area is seen to take up much of the right side.

The Ceiling is high and decorated with much plaster-work (no murals within the medallions); the floor is carpeted (a block pattern, with perhaps floral motifs?); wood flooring peeks out at the sides. The windows are tall, starting near the ceiling. A left-hand-side door leads to the rest of the house, a wing (or perhaps porch?) of which is glimpsed outside the window.

What catches the eye straightaway is the full-length portrait over the filled bookcase. Identification of the portrait may help ID the room and in turn the estate and the artist. I’ve got my guesses, but toss it out to TWO TEENS readers: Shout out if you’ve seen this Lady!!

The stag makes me think “Diana the Huntress” or some other “symbolic” figure; but the clothing seems right out of a portrait meant to represent (dare I hope) a family member, thought the head-dress may be conical and have a gauze-fabric (or is that more ‘tree’?). The scale of the portrait to the room makes the actual painting HUGE! It hangs just below the crown molding, and if the room has a 10-foot ceiling, the painting could be over five-feet in height!

mystery lady and deer

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Further Thoughts on Four Sisters

September 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

Today commences some time off work for me; I hope to do some catching up on research! To that end, I’ve been reading letters from the 1790s, specifically, at the moment, letters of Sarah Smith to her daughter, the newly-married Eliza Chute (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne).

In looking for more information on Maud Tomlinson Berkeley (my latest book purchase: Maud: The Illustrated Diary of a Victorian Woman, edited by Flora Fraser [I’m dying to know where the ORIGINAL diary is…]), I came across the book Victorian Honeymoons. Dipping into it online (UVM has a copy), I saw much about the honeymoon of Effie Grey and John Ruskin. Since John never, in Effie’s words, made her “his wife”, one concludes that other wedding nights could not be half so disastrous.

In truth, though, I can never know the intimate thoughts of Eliza Chute on this most momentous, and highly personal, aspect of life.

But, musing on such moments, the thought struck me: here, in one family of four girls, we have four case-studies in the various dilemmas life offers:

  • Maria, the eldest, undoutedly “married well”: A young man seemingly enamoured of her; with prospects of a title and a large landed estate (or two…. ). A catch worthy of being in the same league as Mr Darcy of Pemberley; only Lord Compton of Castle Ashby was real once. There are letters describing Maria’s anxiety for Lord Compton (as he was styled before his father’s death in 1796); some relating to his duties with the Militia, some relating to illness. Maria produced, in the end, the traditional “heir” — but in her case there was no “spare”: her first-born and third-born sons died within a short time of their births. Only her second baby (Spencer, later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton) and her fourth (Elizabeth, later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) survived. She had no further children, though I’ve no idea whether there were further pregnancies. Letters describe Maria as being rather quiet, liking her domestic comforts, being very interested in plants. She was adept at painting botanicals, for a few survive in the (public archive) Royal Horticultural Society.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith, Maria’s sister, has a “gallery” on this RHS homepage; best way to bring up all the works of the Smith girls: search the term MEEN — Margaret Meen was their instructor.
  • Eliza, the recipient of the Sarah Smith letters housed at the Hampshire Record Office, was married to another gentleman of means, William John Chute, a Member of Parliament for Hampshire. There were no children forthcoming for the Chutes, and one letter — annoyingly missing its concluding page(s)! — seems to hint that Eliza and William Gosling might consider a loan of one of theirs… It is rather supposition, but based on good fact: the Chutes “adopted” William Chute’s cousin Caroline Wiggett when she was a mere toddler. The Vyne estate, however, passed to William Chute’s younger brother, Thomas (unmarried) and after Thomas’s death to Caroline Wiggett’s brother William who adopted the name Wiggett-Chute. He gained possession of Thomas Chute’s Norfolk estate, but possession of The Vyne had to await the death of Eliza Chute in 1842.
    • ASIDE: Caroline Wiggett’s story has been hypothesized as a source behind the “adoption” of the character Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. More on the Chutes, especially William are found in James Edward Austen Leigh’s A History of the Vine Hunt. Caroline Wiggett Workman left “Reminiscences” of her youth.
  • Augusta, the third daughter, concerns us much – for she was the prolific mother of nine, including our Emma Austen Leigh. Augusta has left many letters, and several diaries; her character comes across as formidable, at least in her later years. She lost her husband, Charles Smith of Suttons, when pregnant with her youngest daughter Maria. I often refer to her as “Mamma,” but she is both matriarch and young woman – for her 1798 marriage is documented in one of the earliest diaries I have yet seen. She also, according to one neighbor, held the ignominious position of being Charles second wife — and she did not go down well with this woman who remembered and much preferred Wife Number One! Augusta produced an heir not only for her husband’s estate, but also for her uncle Drummond Smith’s title of baronet. She may have vacated Suttons following her son’s second marriage, but she never gave up her parental concerns – and her advice was sought by all her children until the day she died.
    • ASIDE: the diary comments about young Augusta c1803 are to be found in the valuable biography of William Smith of Parndon {no relation} entitled Progress by Persuasion by Hazel Lake and Jenny Handley.
  • Emma, the “maiden aunt”. The one Erle Stoke sister who never married. After the death of Sarah Smith (1810), Emma and Joshua were left together at Stoke. On Joshua’s death (1819) Emma seems to stay separate from her sisters. At some point she begins living at a place called Glenville, near Southampton. Looking through the records of the Hampshire Record Office, I was rather pleased to see that Emma Austen Leigh saved some newspaper clipping that referenced “the Value of Maiden Aunts” — she had had the pleasure of three such women in her life: “Aunt Emma” (Emma Smith, her mother’s sister); “Aunt” (Judith Smith, her father’s sister); “Aunt Frances,” Lady Frances Compton, Uncle Northampton’s sister. Emma is a slight enigma, awaiting more information. She’s the petulant youngest sister in early letters, and the aloof “maiden aunt” abroad in later letters. A fascinating transformation that I have certain thoughts about; confirming or denying my suspicions will be for a future endeavor.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith was a prolific artist, and delighted in her stays abroad. A mystery as to the identity of someone called MACKLIN, especially as there exists in Wiltshire the so-called Macklin Album, where the initials A.A. Macklin have been interpreted as meaning an Amelia Macklin. Same person as the one referred to in an 1824 letter? {note: the images for the Macklin Album}

In short, though, several aspects of women – from the titled widow down to the well-heeled spinster – are represented in the Four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park. They will one day make for a fascinating study.

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1796: ‘I fear much we shall be invaded’

February 16, 2013 at 11:45 am (chutes of the vyne, diaries, europe, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Maria, Lady Northampton — sister-in-law to Lady Frances Compton (see my last two posts) — kept up a healthy correspondence with her family back at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire; letters to her sister Augusta have been preserved, and in them Lady Northampton makes frequent mention of the Militia, and also the general fear of invasion by French troops.

Maria Lady Northampton

These same rumors and feelings run strong in the letters of Mrs Lefroy, Jane Austen’s dear friend and the wife of the rector at Ashe. Mrs Lefroy was known to the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park; Sarah Smith, mother of Eliza Chute and Lady Northampton, wrote to Eliza, asking her to query Mrs. Lefroy about her ‘straw manufactory’ in early 1797.

In reviewing Lord Northampton’s chapter in the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates, there is much quoted from the 1790s letters of Lady Northampton to Augusta Smith (yeah!), at the time in the possession of Mr Scrase Dickins.

In the Spring of 1796, Maria could write of her blooming flower-garden; it is suspected that she painted flowers during this period. Works by the sisters of Earl Stoke Park (and their teacher, Miss Margaret Meen) are at the Royal Horticultural Society; type margaret meen into the search box. These particular flower paintings predominantly date from the 1780s.

Maria quipped that in spending the spring at Castle Ashby she was “rusticating in the country” while sister Augusta (and probably sisters Eliza and Emma as well) were “enjoying the town diversions.” As the winter months of 1796 descend, we begin to see mentions of the Militia – but Maria also comments, asking her sister, “What think you of the Memorial about peace; I fear it is very distant, and I fear much we shall be invaded.” Reading the quotes included in the book, it is an extremely TENSE time; mobs, rioting, troops quartered. Towards the end of one letter Maria could say, “one of our carpenters was the principal person at the riot at Yardley, and is of course no longer employed here.”

There exists also (in a private collection) a chatty letter from Eliza Chute to Augusta Smith, who is still feeling the effects of a fall, probably from a horse; a gossipy letter, written in French by ‘Auguste’ also comes from the early period of 1797. It seems as if the sisters are trying to buoy flagging spirits. Then more “news”: of a failed French invasion at Pembroke; banks stopping payments of gold. Amid all the fears and frivolity, Eliza Chute meets the new Mrs James Austen (Mary Lloyd): “she is perfectly unaffected, and very pleasant; I like her.” The Austens’ would hear soon of the death of Cassandra Austen‘s fiancé Tom Fowle; and sister Jane Austen would put the final touches on her manuscript, “First Impressions.” Life, never on hold because of war and civil unrest, going on…

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