Emma Austen and the Guitar

March 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm (diaries, entertainment, people) (, , )

Quite some time ago, musicologist Christopher Page contacted me over mentions in Emma’s diaries of the guitarist Trinidad Huerta. Page’s research now has been published as, The Guitar in Georgian England: A Social and Musical History.

Huerta was actually born a few months after my diarist Mary (her birthday: 2 February 1800); making him about a year older than Emma, when she reports hearing him and his (2nd) wife Angiolina Panormo (on the piano, and singing) at a morning concert in Newbury on the 27 March 1830. The Austens were young marrieds by then, and Newbury must have given Emma a pleasant memory of her “single lady” days, in London.

It was not easy to be a professional performer in the first quarter of the 19th century. Page notes “The travels of Trinidad Huerta reveal the movements of a solo guitarist who often looked beyond London (where he was well known) for his engagements.” Thus his ending up in Newbury, Berkshire.

In an email, Page wrote: “1830 marks the peak of the guitar craze in Georgian England as measured, for example, by the number of women seeking governess posts through advertisements in the London press, year by year, and offering to teach the instrument.”

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Half-a-Century Later

February 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm (diaries, history, research) (, , , )

Recently, I have been doing a little work on putting up information for Isadore Albee’s diaries. I put up names today from the FIRST HALF of her 1862 diary.

Spending nearly fourteen years on researching Emma and Mary – their lives less of “an open book” than a tangle of information (and a great deal of tangled information!) that must be teased and sorted – has taught me useful “tricks” that are coming in handy with Dora’s diaries. But, oh!, the differences!

Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, two young English women, from families who were Quite Well Off Financially, are (literally and figuratively) half a world away from Isadore Albee, in the rural neighborhood of Rockingham and Springfield, Vermont. Isadore has the Connecticut River in place of the Thames – but it’s just not the same.

In 1860s Vermont, Dora’s trips take her to Derby (near the Canadian border) and into New Hampshire, there’s no London Townhouse to occupy, as with the Smiths and Goslings, where a “season” of entertainment, lessons, exhibitions, and friends may be enjoyed.

Dora works; she laments her need to work – or otherwise starve. At times, she seems to do paid millinery work (following in the footsteps of an elder sister); but she also seems to work (at times) in a local store and “living in” for a short period with local families. This, while trying to educate herself.

Emma and Mary might have sewn – usually items distributed among the poor of their parish – but they didn’t have a need to account for monies coming in AND going out (though Emma did, at times, keep tallies of her spending). The Albees were on a far lower economic stratum than the Smiths and Goslings. And Vermont, in the 1860s, was no 1810s Essex or Surrey, never mind London.

A major difference, to me as a dispassionate observer, is the differences in their diaries. If I thought Mary and Emma had small diaries (about the size of an 8 x 5 index card), Dora’s diaries are even tinier! A half-a-century, and half-a-world away (United Kingdom versus United States), the personal items of three “twenty-somethings” are as different as their writing implements: Emma Smith, for instance, wrote the bulk of her diary (all the entries) in INK. Tougher on her, I’m sure, but easier on me as her transcriber. Dora Albee’s entries are totally in pencil. The most noticeable difference comes in SPELLING. Emma’s is consistent, and usually correct. Dora’s tends to have a phonetic basis for some words, though others are probably just too-hastily-written. In either case, her diary is more of a challenge, when transcribing, to make out words, to make sense of sentences.

Some words, however, live in the ear – “surpose” must be indicative of her pronunciation of suppose. And one phrase, “down street”, is used by locals in areas of central Vermont to this day. Such was never a phrase I heard (or used), here in northern Vermont.

But it wasn’t all work for Dora Albee. She mentions a “singing school”; and a concert or two at which she and other “singing” students performed. She comments, too, on the typical Vermont weather that still exists in my own life – the crusty snow in winter, the muddy paths in spring. There are sledding parties and sleigh rides, music and plays, visits to and from young friends. She mentions illness and death much more often than Emma – for instance, Dora’s sister (and later Dora herself) join in the “watch” over the ill, much like Mary Lloyd Austen “watched”, with Cassandra Austen, during Jane Austen’s last illness in Winchester.

So, although far apart, in distance and time, some things – especially for women – remain remarkably “same”. Especially, the written notices of marriages, babies, illnesses, and deaths. Dora had it tougher, experiencing the deaths of young men and women in her social circle. And she knew so many young men who left the comfortable arable acres and woods of Vermont for Civil War battlefields and military camps.

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Explore Barbara Johnson’s Fashions

December 27, 2020 at 10:44 am (books, diaries, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , , , , , )

Serena Dyer has posted her article, “Barbara Johnson’s Album: Material Literacy and Consumer Practice, 1746-1823,” from Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (2019) on her Academia account. This will give readers a taste of her current (edited) volume, Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A National of Makers (co-edited by Chloe Wigston Smith), as well as her upcoming Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the 18th Century.

Barbara Johnson’s book, called in its publication A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson’s Album of Styles and Fabrics, is a title – photographed when it was being conserved – I had long been on the lookout for – but it’s a title that can be harder to find (and pricey). Natalie Rothstein‘s introductory chapters are fascinating. Dyer builds upon this foundation.

According to blog posts, it took me about four years to finally take the plunge and purchase it (2008 to 2012). I see I first blogged about the Album on 27 December 2008 – a prior year’s “today”!

Sewing clothes, but never one who ever looked into the construction of 18th- or 19th-century fashion, I still haven’t delved into this book in a way some friends have done. It’s size is tremendous – analogous to its beginnings as an accounts ledger – and presented as “life-size.” This past summer, when shifting around some tables, chairs, books, it found a new home on the second floor of the house – a bit more accessible, but still put to one side.

Dyer’s reintroduction makes me think to pull the Album off the shelf once again. And I’m waiting for February 2021, and Dyer’s new book (sorry, but the current book is out of my price range).

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Tales from the Bodleian: Manuscript Diaries

December 17, 2020 at 12:27 pm (diaries, history, travel) (, , , , )

As you might guess, DIARIES and LETTERS have a fascination for me. Sketches and drawings, too. If they’re English, and of a certain date, I begin to wonder: Could it be related to the Smiths and Goslings??

These are NOT related, but the twin tales told of IDENTIFYING these diaries are FASCINATING. And (I can attest to similar searches) very true to life for a researcher.

The earlier (2015) blog post is very Austenian in its title:

The second, by the same author – Mike Webb – was the one I clicked on first because of its drawing of the young lady holding a pail (or a bag?; 2017 blog post)

You will see a TREND here: once “anonymous” diaries that, with some work, have revealed their writers to posterity, 200 years later.

I wish both (or either) were “in print” and available to READ. The Bodleian Blog also makes me wish I were near Oxford, and able to delve in their wonderful archives in person.

 

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Isadore Albee’s Civil War Diaries

November 26, 2020 at 7:55 am (books, diaries, history, news, research) (, , , , , )

Whether Isadore Albee gets her own blog or not, I want to talk about her – and will do so here.

A very recent purchase, the Civil War diaries of Isadore Albee (her father spelled his name Allbee), is EXACTLY the project I have long sought. Past purchases have tended to forward my main research, into the Smith and Gosling family — presented online as “Two Teens in the Time of Austen” because Emma Smith married James Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) AND Mary married Emma’s eldest brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith, baronet.

Isadore – I tend to think of her as ‘Dora‘ (which may or may NOT be what she called herself; I’m still hoping to find that out) – was a “known object” when I purchased the diaries. The seller’s ad had boasted a plethora of characterful excerpts, which caught my eye and fired my imagination. Dora wrote of her everyday life during a period, 1862 through 1871, important to American history, a period of change and national turmoil. That “era” called to me, as it does to many.

Dora is a female diarist. Typically, men‘s war diaries have been preserved for posterity, so Dora’s are a welcome breath of fresh air. Dora is young – she records her 21st birthday in May, 1862. It’s recorded as a day of “no preasants” (sic) and given over to the first effects of “scarlettina.” Dora’s typical “luck”….

The BIG inducement, compounding “female diarist” and “Civil War era” into a trifecta: Dora lived in Springfield, VERMONT. My home state!

I’d *LOVE* to direct you to a new blog. But I may simply delete what I began on WordPress. I liked the blogging platform, as it was; I despise what it is now.

I haven’t yet made up my mind if Dora will somewhat “share” space with my Two Teens or not. It’s a departure in so many ways, AND YET somewhat related – in terms of being a research project.

Isadore Albee's 1870 & 1862 diaries

After fourteen years of researching English diaries and letters, finding related biographies and related artwork, visiting estates now turned into schools or cut into condominiums, there are “challenges” in working on a set of diaries from Vermont. The Smiths & Goslings were important people, wealthy people; they owned estates; they lived in London during “the season.” Traces of their faded tracks pop up in newspapers. The popular literature of their day, monthly items like Gentleman’s Magazine and the Annual Review, are go-to places for a wealth of information on their (wide) circle of English landed gentry.

For Dora‘s diaries, I’m down to a small local newspaper (not digitized) and the U.S. Census. Dora’s friends and presumed neighbors are sometimes only mentioned by first name; it’s my assumption that they are young ladies, like herself.

Mary and Emma, on the other hand, always cite people in a VERY formal manner. Young friends (and even relatives) always are designated by first and last name. Only their own immediate family members rated a first-name-only. Finding information on the many, many servants of their world has been tougher; they, too, could be first name OR last name only.

To confuse the average reader, though, those next-door neighbors were interrelated even before Mary’s marriage to Charles in 1826.

Emma, for instance, differentiates between her sister Charlotte and Mary’s sister Charlotte Gosling. Family also had two Carolines (Caroline Mary Craven Austen and Caroline Wiggett [later Caroline Workman]). In later years, there were not only Mrs. (Augusta) Smith and her eldest daughter, Augusta; but Mary had a daughter named Augusta. Emma had a daughter named Augusta. Fanny had a daughter named Augusta….

You get my drift…. A LOT of duplicate names. Even marriages brought in new but similarly-named family members. Emma’s sister Fanny changed her name from Smith to Seymour a few months before their new sister-in-law, Frances, changed her name from Seymour to Smith. To confuse things, Frances seemed to have been called ‘Pam,’ at least in her girlhood, by her family; though the Smiths always referred to her as Frances. Whereas Fanny was never known as Frances, except in a very youthful letter. Fanny’s husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour, referred to his cousin (and eventual sister-in-law) as “Dora K.” because he also had a sister Dora. Cousin Dora Knighton was the daughter of Sir William Knighton – an important personage known to the Prince of Wales / Prince Regent / King George IV. Lady Knighton’s first name was Dorothea, thus the sprouting of other ‘Doras’. Though, of course, not for my ‘Dora’ Albee.

I’ve already begun a family tree for Dora: her only brother died when a toddler, and she talks most about her elder sister, Jane, and younger sister, Sophia. I have yet to figure out if “Bessie” in 1862 is “Lizzie” in 1870, and whether both refer to her sister Elizabeth. The family tree includes eldest sister Gratia (who married in 1850 and moved to Iowa a decade or more ago) and one who married only in 1860, Ellen.

But I’m used to sorting out people. In “Two Teens,” there are THREE Emma Smiths! Besides my diarist, Emma Smith (Emma Austen), there is: “Aunt Emma” (who never married), Mrs. Smith’s youngest sister, and great aunt Emma Smith (later Lady Dunsany), a sister to grandfather Joshua Smith. Lady Dunsany married late in life, and, from what I’ve found, was as loquacious as Miss Bates (in the Jane Austen novel, Emma).

My prime interest in the Civil War diaries is Isadore Albee, herself.

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Where have all the Bloggers gone?

November 25, 2020 at 9:55 am (diaries, entertainment, history, news, research, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

This blog post will be a departure.

I have a new project, and one that I had *wanted* to talk about, get input on, and just share. My frustration, though, comes from trying to create a new “blog”.

I created all three of my blogs QUITE some time ago. They are:

  • Two Teens in the Time of Austen – my main research, which looks at the family of Emma Smith and Mary Gosling. The two women were born in 1801 and 1800; Emma married the nephew of writer Jane Austen in December 1828. This is all-consuming, covering from the 1790s through the 1840s (and beyond). They are the subject of my book for Kindle, “Random Jottings,” which is based on blog posts that discuss the extended Smith & Gosling family and other aspects of research.
  • Georgian Gems, Regency Reads, Victorian Voices – gives me a place to discuss PRIMARY materials, be it published (books) or online. This pretty much covers my major interests of 18th and 19th century letters and diaries from England. I do diverge every once in a while – to the U.S. (where I live) and Canada (near neighbor). The time period can also migrate into the 20th century. And I am a BIG fan of the travel narrative – so other countries do sometimes appear.
  • The Ladies of Llangollen – is based upon a former website, begun after a 2005 trip to Llangollen, and a visit (of course!) to Play Newydd, home to Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler – known as the Ladies of Llangollen. It was in finding an 1824 diary by Mary Gosling, in which she recorded meeting the ladies, that I discovered the first tidbit belonging to my Two Teens in the Time of Austen project!

My favorite “WordPress theme” remains that used for THIS blog. A sliver of an area for text, bits off to one side that allows readers to visit other pages and gather more information. Overall, the blog serves as a place to focus readers’ attention on the project; as a consequence, it mentions my publications (see About the Author). In the past, the blog bought to my attention several *IMPORTANT* items of research — mainly letters, but also at least one diary. I keep hoping for MORE, along these same lines. Am I being “disappointed” because there’s just no more material to unearth? Or, is it that blogs and bloggers are tired things from the past?

Mine is not an image-heavy subject. Images, generally, are items found on the internet that have become part of my research. Of course, in the days of DIGGING for more information, discoveries led to things that I wanted to crow to someone about – and I took to blogging. But research also makes one hug “finds” close to the chest…

Mary Gosling’s initial diary led me to search for more information about Ponsonby and Butler. And when DIARIES and LETTERS make up 98 percent of my material, it’s easy to also talk about books and websites that have been unearthed, thus the third blog sprang into existence.

As the “Smiths & Goslings” became more reading, deciphering, thinking and less discovery, it wasn’t always EASY to find something I wanted to talk about. Add to that changes to WordPress that have begun to drive me crazy – well: the whole together accounts for lots of silence.

But in trying to launch a new site for a new project, I’ve really thought: Why Bother? “Blogging” seems not supported here at Wordpress any more. My choice of a “theme,” for instance, has stopped me in my tracks. I thought I’d have FUN trying to decide! In the past themes were dazzling, like the blaze of color and swirls used for the “Ladies of Llangollen,” or the sustained quiet of maroon and black background for the “Regency Reads” site.

The day before yesterday I only saw WHITE backgrounds; strips of BLOCK photographs followed by BLOCK text; and what I picked came with a HOMEPAGE and a BLOG.

There once was a time – when the Ladies of Llangollen site was being re-created, because it had originally BEEN a website – when I would have welcomed a “homepage” kind of site. I’m not re-building it a THIRD time…

The new site, the one I would like to create…, where I could drop tidbits as I discovered them, calls out for intimacy. Instead, (DARE I say it?), EVERYthing is full-screen, so f’ing WHITE, and BLOCK-LIKE. _I_ have done better, in the past (ie, before WordPress) with NO “templates,” in creating websites with more style than these static “scroll down” sites. Maybe WP keeps the good stuff for paying customers – but after this “Gutenberg” upgrade, frankly, I give up ever wishing to pay.  I had thought of converting THIS site (mainly to get rid of the *gross* ads that show up; if you’ve seen them, you know which I mean). I don’t CARE anymore.

So, my question is: Where do all the BLOGGERS go?

My research does not fit in with TikTok or Instagram (it’s not visual). I quickly lost interest in (though I have several boards on) Pinterest. Never been a great fan of the Facebook craze, but to satisfy WP, I did open a site for “Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings.” I want to “SPEAK”, not post pictures never mind share details of my life. (THAT is no one’s business.)

The idea of “tweeting” about my latest project is possible, but (as you can see by this LONG blog post), what I _LIKED_ is what I once _HAD_.

Why does a platform decide to “new and improve” into something that offers users less than it used to do? Would it have troubled WordPress so much to ask: Do you want a website? Do you want to blog? And tailored things to each specific group. Someone selling product is not going to want the same thing as I do for a research project. Someone who wants to share with the wider world their photographs or drawings is not going to need the same construct, for instance, as I have built for this “Two Teens” project.

My question now is: Will some new text-loving platform arrive to take WordPress’s place?

(If you can answer that, please: Post a Comment.)

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Life & Times of Georgiana Jane Henderson

October 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, news) (, , , )

You know that I *LOVE* to hear about new books, but to hear of one from a writer with whom I’ve been in correspondence has to be extra special.

Susan Bennett‘s new book is A Thankless Child: The Life and Times of Georgiana Jane Henderson (1771-1850). Her prior publication, ‘I awleis admired your talent’: The artistic life of Georgiana Jane Henderson (née Keate) (1771-1850) (MA dissertation, published in Germany) also presents aspects in the life and times of Georgiana Keate Henderson.

Bennett A Thankless Child

I first learned about Georgiana five years ago; her diaries mention some Goslings!

In an early email, Susan mentioned a print, based on work by George Keate (Georgiana’s father), of HALL’S LIBRARY, Margate ( click to see it at The British Museum). Mrs. Gosling did have a book by Keate in her library (her book plate being attached). And the names attached to an entry in Georgiana Henderson’s diary all point to Mrs. Gosling (née Elizabeth Houghton), my diarist Mary’s paternal grandmother: “Mrs. Gosling with Mr. and Mrs. Gregg brought Miss Norford from Langley about one o’clock – they left us again at three“. The entry dated: 15 September 1803.

Mrs. Gregg would be Mrs. Gosling’s daughter, the former Maria Gosling, accompanied by her husband, Henry Gregg. Miss (Annabella) Norford shows up twice in Gosling letters, and does seem typically in company with this Mrs. Gosling. Langley was the Gosling’s old family estate. (William Gosling, Mary’s father, much preferred his own estate – Roehampton Grove – to this estate of his parents.)

There is a slim possibility that “Mrs. Gosling’s” is Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law, Eliza (mother of my diarist Mary Gosling), who would live only another three months….

You can imagine how *thrilled* I was to hear of these tidbits!

I’m only now thinking: Miss Norford, friend of Georgiana, must have been visiting the Goslings (at Langley) [that a given] and was perhaps being brought to Georgiana’s home for a stay (so that only Mrs. Gosling & the Greggs departed). A lady did not travel alone, and from what I’ve read of coaching inns and coaching yards during the Georgian period, _I_ would be happy to have company (male or female) for any “change horses” stops.

Of course, it is possible that ALL traveled back to Langley. To know the whereabouts of Annabella Norford may be answered by Susan’s book!

Susan was hoping that the Goslings had perhaps mentioned Mrs. Henderson – but I’ve so far uncovered little “Gosling” archives (especially in comparison to the Smiths). Revisiting old emails makes me wish I could find more, and earlier, items.

Susan was lucky enough to find references to Georgiana Henderson in the superb online diary of Fanny Chapman.

In an early invitation to correspond, Susan Bennett included this vivid description of her research subject:

Georgiana was the only daughter of George Keate, an amateur artist and poet, who was known to most of the artistic and literary circles of the day.  He (and therefore Georgiana) could count David Garrick, Angelica Kauffman, John Russell, Charles James Fox and Robert Adam among their close circle of friends.   Georgiana married John Henderson (also an amateur artist) who was an early patron of J M W Turner and Thomas Girtin.

The diaries I work with are similar to those Susan used as a source: Visits and Visitors. I can’t wait to read her biography of Georgiana Jane Henderson. Buy it thru several sources: Amazon, Amazon.uk [=sites offer a preview of the book], or Lulu.

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Augusta in Italy

August 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm (books, diaries, europe, news, people, postal history, research) (, , , , , , )

Two years ago I wrote a short “article” for a new-to-the-market magazine. Of course the article had to be shorter rather than longer (I forget the word count; 2000 words?). And magazine articles don’t normally have notes and sources.

The magazine debuted without my article…

So what to _do_ with something that is a viable story – the 1822-1823 trip to Italy by Mrs. Smith and her eldest children, Augusta, Charles, Emma, Fanny and Eliza?

Lady Compton, in Italy

It took a while, and was actually posted on my Academia.edu account pretty much as it went to the editor. Now, however, it’s more fleshed out, two small errors have been corrected, and it contains some notes on sources. (“Private” collections I’m keeping to myself for the present.)

The main source is a group of 13 letters at the Archivio di Stato di Roma. Twelve letters are written (some jointly) by Mrs. Smith and Augusta Smith (her twenty-something daughter) to Don Filippo Lante.

Emma joins in at least once, adding a postscript, after the family has moved on from their lengthy stay in Rome and are headed northward into Austria, homeward to England. The six Smiths never enter Italy again. Charles died in January 1831. Augusta died in July 1836. Other travels to the Continent took the family to Germanic destinations — following Augusta’s edict that she thought the English had more in common with the Germans than the Italians!

Oh, dear…

Perhaps, though, part of that rancor arose from the seeming “neglect” from persons they thought of as firm and fast friends – be they young male correspondents, like Don Filippo.

Emma Smith (Emma Austen)

I have come across one letter and therefore know of a correspondence kept up with an young woman from Ancona. Augusta seemingly sent her a silhouette – such a ‘fragile’ and ‘ephemeral’ item! Regency Silhouettes are TINY, only a few inches in height. Emma’s (above) on the average computer screen is about the same size in “real life.” Silhouettes are easily misplaced or destroyed. It’s doubtful this relic of their friendship exists.

What also does not (seemingly) exist is their correspondence. Only the one letter…

I’ve not (yet?) come across too many letters from Italians, in general. One that I have located is more business-like and from a man who gave them lessons in Italian when the family was in London.

Lost, too, are any letters sent to the family by Don Filippo. Which is why the existence of the few they sent him was a true *find*.

The archive underwent restoration about the time I dilly-dallied about contacting an Archive in ROME. It was a wait, therefore; and even the purchase of copies didn’t go exactly smoothly from my mishandling of payment (do NOT get lazy and use Western Union online — the charges imposed by THAT action nearly cost as much as the purchase of the images! Even the credit card imposed fees – for a CASH advance.)

And it was TOUGH dealing with a slight cropping (around the edges) of images. How to complain when I can’t get my point across in their language? (and it wasn’t just ONE image…)

With hand-written letters, the transcription is difficult enough when written in ENGLISH. But, at least then I can guess, from the meaning of the sentence, at a cut-off word. (NOT every time. Try fill in the blank: “He is such a ________.” Doesn’t work, does it.) In a foreign (to me) language, I transcribe what I SEE not what the sentence says.

Mrs. Smith wrote to Don Filippo in French (my study of which goes back to SCHOOL DAYS – long ago, indeed; and yes, I don’t live far from the border with Quebec… Canada’s French-speaking province). Augusta wrote mainly in French, but she later samples her Italian.

 

I’ve been told that Augusta’s grasp of the Italian language was QUITE good!

Of course, we are dealing with native English-speakers, writing two hundred years ago languages they learned MORE than two hundred years ago (Mamma’s earliest letters in French are from the 1790s, before her marriage!)

So, think of the tough time I have had:

  • images of letters (not original letters); though DECENT digital copies (not xerox)
  • handwritten – sometimes “crossed”
  • written in foreign languages by people who learned the languages (not native speakers)
  • transcribed by someone who is (1) not a native French or Italian speaker; (2) who learned as a school girl (French) or through listening to OPERA (Italian)
  • and the letters are TWO HUNDRED years old, showing all the vagaries of spelling, “accents” in French (often non-existent, or backwards), and archaic sentence structure.

IN SHORT, a difficult task – but made wholly WORTHWHILE by the amount of information for a period during which little exists beyond letters. Emma’s 1822 and 1823 diaries are half-complete. In 1822, she leaves people on the shores of the Channel. In 1823, she picks up after their return to London’s shores. Augusta intimated that she kept a travel journal (Emma may have done the same), but I’ve so far found nothing. Even Fanny, whose ENTIRE set of diaries remains unlocated cannot be a ‘source’ for information about the trip.

(Richard Seymour, Fanny’s widower, comments in his diary about reading her diaries, after Fanny’s death. That is my only clue that she KEPT diaries! Even Richard’s diaries have gone missing, although the Warwickshire Record Office has a microfilm copy of them, from the 1980s, if I remember correctly.)

I therefore invite Readers to do your own reading about this fabulous trip taken by the Smiths in 1822-1823. The focus here is on Rome and their friendship with Don Filippo Lante – and his curious reticence to stay in touch.

I’ve long thought of the article as “Augusta in Italy” – she was my focus, as was this segment of their year-long trip. But the actual article is called, “Forget me not: Sealing Friendships from Italy, 1823-1827.”

I touch on their Italian leg of the journey, because of the musical richness of their activities in places like Milan and Naples, in my new book chapter “Prima la musica: Gentry Daughters at Play – Town, Country, and Continent, 1815-1825,” to appear in the book Women and Music in Georgian Britain. The chapter was just handed over to the editors (Mimi Hart and Linda Zionkowski) at the beginning of August (2020), so you’ve a bit of a wait for the actual book! But that chapter was the impetus for *finally* tackling the re-write.

Back to “Augusta in Italy” and its true title. There are MANY lovely wax seals on letters in the collections I have seen. (That topic in itself would make a great blog post!) But the “forget-me-not” – the little flower – is certainly a recurrent theme in the “impression” of seals from the period.

wax seal, “Augusta”

This is NOT a forget-me-not of course. But it is a favorite seal – and a fine photo. The 19th century letters are SMALL (3 inches by 5 inches, many of them; like an index card in the U.S.); the seals smaller. My camera would have problems focusing on BLACK seals, from the “density” of the wax’s color AND the effort to get CLOSE to something small. So the above IS an image I’m proud of having obtained.

And the article’s title mentions the one thing the Smiths were intent on doing: Sealing friendships with their Italian acquaintances. With Don Filippo they were only marginally successful – but I’ll leave you to read the article (7 pages; PDF) to learn WHAT actions of his the Smith family most objected to, which nearly cut the correspondence.

Special thanks to Clemente Fedele – his initial interest in a short postal history article I wrote for Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine brought about this article in the first place. He also helped in SO MANY WAYS while I was bumbling along anxiously trying to obtain copies of the baker’s dozen (the 13 letters include one from Lady Compton) from a repository so “foreign” and LARGE as Rome’s Archivio di Stato di Roma. Grazie tante!

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And they called her MARIA Ramsay

June 27, 2020 at 9:11 pm (diaries, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

She popped up in a search of wills in the search engine of The National Archives. These are records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and the wills date from 1384 until 12 January 1858. Jane Austen’s will can be found through this site. Fun Fact: Due the Covid-19 closure, TNA offers free downloads of their digital wills.

The “She” in question was a woman named Maria Ramsay, Spinster of Whickham, Durham. I had been searching (again…) for a first name for Emma’s “Miss Ramsay,” their young governess who died in August 1819, aged only 28. Miss Ramsay can also be found in the journals of The Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus. It’s frustrating to SEARCH for someone when you have little more than (1) her last name, (2) the date of her death, and (3) the place of her death. This Maria Ramsay hit the last name and the place, but the date?!? Her will was proved 25 January 1820, nearly five months after my Miss Ramsay’s death. I didn’t hold out much hope, but: I HAD TO KNOW FOR CERTAIN!

The will was super short, and the opening line sealed the deal – and solved a very long-standing mystery. “This is the last Will and testament of me MARIA RAMSAY late of Portland Place in the County of Middlesex.” The address is that of Mrs. Smith, No. 6 Portland Place.

Finally… I KNOW HER NAME!

They called her MARIA! The “they” being her family, rather than the family with whom she lived. None of the girls would have called her anything other than MISS RAMSAY – even Elizabeth Grant (and her book editors) would only ever call the dear governess “MISS RAMSAY.”

HighlandLady-Lady Grant

I wish I could say the entire world opened up, and I now knew all about her. Alas…! The only tidbits I have are her mother’s name – Mary Ramsay – obtained because she’s named in her daughter’s will, as the only heir to the few possessions of her young daughter. Emma took Miss Ramsay’s death quite to heart, writing in her diary about the loss of this true friend. Ancestry indicates, though the actual images are not online, that a daughter of RALPH Ramsay was born on December 26th in the year 1790. This could be her. Again the place of WHICKHAM is mentioned, and Emma did once mention Miss Ramsay’s birthday (though not her age). The date is correct. And from her obituary I had already guessed circa 1789. It must be her! I would love to have seen an image of the parish registers to ascertain that RALPH was a correct reading; this child was baptised on 9 January 1791. The child’s mother is merely listed as “Mary”. I could find no marriage of a Ralph Ramsay and Mary xxx (presumably in Whickham), nor any siblings. (Miss Ramsay had at least a brother.)

But, finding a FIRST NAME is a great start!

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Just one more thing…

June 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm (diaries, people, research, travel) (, , , , )

Michael in Wales has seen the diary entry made by Lady Eleanor Butler about the Goslings’ 1821 trip through Northern Wales, when they made a four-hour stop to visit Lady Eleanor and Sarah Ponsonby – better known to the Goslings (and posterity) as The Ladies of Llangollen.

butler-and-ponsonby

This is exciting (though dampened by Covid-19 closure of archival libraries), and FAIRLY puzzling: Michael’s comment unearthed an additional person visiting with the Ladies at Plas Newydd!

Michael’s summarization of Lady Eleanor’s comment:

5 Sept 1821 – Mr. and Mrs. Gosling, son, and 2 daughters.

led me to relook at Mary’s diary and two letters, written about the Goslings’ 1821 trip (i.e., merely reporting news of them NOT their news written by one of them). I doubt that Lady Eleanor gave much information, beyond WHO their visitors were, but I’m dying to know what SHE said! Oh, for libraries and archives to reopen.

This is NOT the first time that I have “waited with baited breath” for a tasty morsel; it usually turns out to be a mere TIDBIT only.

There once was hint of a letter’s contents: mention of “Master Charles Smith” and “our little maid” (i.e., his elder sister Augusta) during a stay with Grandpa and Grandma Smith at Stoke Park near Devizes, when the two children were quite young. Alas, there wasn’t much beyond the FACT of their stay, though there was enough extra to be satisfied with a small picture of their childish antics.

Another letter, different archive, was written on the very day William Gosling married his second wife, the Hon. Charlotte de Grey. Ooooohhhh, wedding news! And written by the mother-of-the-bride!

Alas… only the statement that they had married. NO details!

That felt like a sprinkling of crumbs, never mind a FAR tastier letter.

Beechey-Mary
(I used to hope THIS was the face of Mary Gosling)

But, BACK TO WALES. The 1821 diary by MARY GOSLING was my FIRST acquaintance with her, her family, and the Smiths of Suttons, the family Mary married into in 1826. Little did I know then how much I would discover, and how far-ranging this project would become. But I always took Mary at her word: That they departed from Roehampton “Papa, Mamma, my sister [Elizabeth Gosling] and myself,”  which makes up the very first sentence written to record this trip.

WHERE and WHEN did a “son” come into the mix?? Mary never says!

As I read and cogitated, an image of Columbo (yes, the 1970s TV detective) came to mind: “Just one more thing…” Only Mary didn’t come back with some second thoughts. (NB: I now wonder if she wrote up her entire diary once she got home.)

It was the second of the two letters (written in October 1821) that mentioned, “Mr. G-, Bennett & the two girls only crossed the sea” (ie, went to Ireland). LONG had I recalled that letter saying that Mrs. Gosling had stayed behind, with her relations the Irbys. WHY had I never thought about the inclusion of BENNETT Gosling in the same sentence?

Mary never mentioned that Bennett accompanied them, nor that her step-mother did not accompany them to Dublin. Nor was mention made about everyone in their party suffering from SEASICKNESS aboard the steamship! (Coming and going.) Only Emma, in a letter repeating news of a letter, let slip these vital details.

Of course, without Mary, I don’t know when Bennett joined them. But – thanks to Eleanor Butler’s diary! – I do know that he, too, visited the Ladies of Llangollen.

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