Orphan in search of its Widow

November 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm (diaries, Help Wanted, jane austen, research) (, , , , , )

When it comes to letters, I think in terms of “Widows” and “Orphans,” like the terminology for single lines at the bottom (“widow”) or top (“orphan”) on printed pages. Programs like Microsoft Word let you toggle “Widow/Orphan Control” (under paragraph) so as to force lines together, leaving neither one-line widow nor one-line orphan.

I apply the terms to sections of “torso” letters. A torso describes (as in musicology) an “unfinished” or partial piece. It probably comes from my reading of Alfred Einstein’s book on Mozart. So if I designate a letter as an “Orphan Torso” then I know it’s a letter with no beginning. Of course, that means that a “Widow Torso” is missing its ending.

There have been times when a sheet has neither its beginning nor its end; those are usually attached (by an archive) to a letter where the logic of thought just isn’t present – which tells me the “torso” is attached to an incorrect letter. I recently received images of a letter which actually had been encased in mylar with two sheets front to back! Again, the flow of the letter (or lack thereof) told its tale, although I never would have guessed that multiple sheets had been encased together.

Of course, I DO wonder, when a letter isn’t complete, where the REST of it might be….

I recently purchased a letter, purportedly an “entire” letter, but when asked, the seller said it was missing a page of text. The more I look at the letters of Miss Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”), whether writing from home (Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire) or while at one of her sisters’ homes, the more I am convinced that this letter is missing four pages (a sheet folded in half), and mine represents the “Orphan Torso” – the fifth page’s text, and the envelope on the rear.

A GREAT LOSS not to have the entire letter. Thus this blog post.

Aunt Emma used a sheet (folded) and a half-a-sheet (torn down the middle) a couple of times, in letters at the Hampshire Record Office. I also own a letter, written by Mrs. Smith (Sarah Smith née Gilbert; Mrs. Joshua Smith), in which a second sheet was used, with a few lines on page 5; the direction written on page 6. For their recipients, it did not matter that an extra (half-) sheet was used. The cost of postage was the same.

These letters were franked — meaning, the letters did not have to be paid for by the recipient; they were mailed free of charge. The interesting thing about Aunt Emma’s letter is that it was franked, not by her father Joshua Smith, but by her brother-in-law William Chute.

Epping Essex env
a franked letter, 1799 (click image to enlarge)

The envelope is directed, in William Chute’s hand:

Basingstoke September thirty 1799

Mrs. C. Smith
            Suttons
W.free          Epping
Chute                   Essex

Sure enough, Eliza Chute‘s diary mentions her sister Emma’s visit! As well, there had been a visit by Mrs. Charles Smith and her infant daughter Augusta (born in February 1799, and named after her mother).

The remaining page begins mid-sentence:

Epping Essex ltrclick to enlarge

The text is:

[. . . so-and-so was to] have shewn us the way, but he changed his mind, and we did just as well without him; I fear when Mr. Chute comes, he will wish us to go out with the Hounds till they find the Fox, and I have not the least Inclination for it, I shall certainly try to get off —  Yesterday we had rain all the day; and the same till just now two oC.; the men got wet going to Church, dreadful weather for the Country, for the Corn must now be injured. —
Thanks for your enquiries after me, my side is quite well, and none of the party seem to make any complaints, Miss Meen leaves us on Tuesday; if she can she intends you a visit at Suttons.
Best love attend you from all here, and particularly from your

Ever Affectionate Sister
Emma Smith

A most tantalizing snippet! I am unsure who “he” might have been, or where the ladies rode. Emma and Lady Frances Compton (Lord Northampton’s sister) often rode out together. Eliza Chute’s diary is SILENT about Saturday, nor does she mention the horrible weather (unusual for her).

Emma herself had sustained an injury, having had a riding accident in Bath early in September, when an inattentive coachman’s horse bumped against Emma’s horse. Sarah Smith was quite certain that her daughter Emma’s life had been saved by Lady Frances – who diverted the coach horse so that the coach’s wheels missed running over the prostrate Emma. Emma was also lucky to have come off her horse (she would have been riding side saddle) after the horse went down; Mrs. Smith presumes that falling from the saddle onto pavement would have been disastrous.

That no one else had health issues is always good news, especially for poor Sarah Smith or Mrs. Norman.

Very interesting that Miss Meen’s plans were mentioned – Eliza Chute wrote down her arrival, but not her departure from The Vine. I wonder if she managed to get to Suttons for a visit? Miss Margaret Meen was a Botanical artist; her work can be found at The Royal Horticultural Society, London, in “company” with the sisters Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma Smith – those whom I refer to as “the Smith sisters of Stoke Park” (for Augusta – Mrs. Charles Smith – had daughters of those same names!) I have written about Margaret Meen in the article entitled “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters“.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smith, with baby Augusta, had arrived at The Vine (The Vyne) with Sarah and Joshua Smith, Emma and Mrs. Norman on Monday, November 23rd. The three gentlemen – Mr. Chute, Mr. Smith, Mr. C. Smith went up to London the next day “to attend Parliament.” Mamma Smith and Augusta departed for home on Thursday. Home being “Suttons” in the county of Essex.

Eliza Chute mentions the rides that Emma and Lady Frances took – but says little about what everyone was doing over the next several days. Her SATURDAY is left BLANK! Emma was obviously writing ON Sunday (she mentions the rain ceasing “just now”), and would have gone to church at Sherborne St. John, where the man who regularly “did the duty” was Jane Austen’s brother the Rev. James Austen. Emma then waited till Monday, after William Chute’s late Sunday arrival (he was less adverse to travel on the Sabbath than his wife), to have the letter franked. Part of the action of “franking” was to write the PLACE and DATE across the top.

What news might Emma have imparted to her sister?? IF YOU KNOW, because you’ve seen the beginning half of this letter, please let me know.

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Dido Belle

September 22, 2019 at 11:06 am (books, diaries, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Dido Belle

Click on the picture to see the Wikipedia entry on the painting and its two sitters, Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (Finch-Hatton).

Although aired in 2018, I just watched last night the FAKE or FORTUNE? episode that identified the portrait’s painter (once thought to be Zoffany) as David Martin. The Mansfield archives even has a ledger, with payment to him – though, of course, NO mention of the work, just his name.

It was while looking at the close-up (above) that I was struck with the thought: Dido Belle must, in many ways, gives clues to the appearance of the last governess of the Smiths, Miss Ashley. There were two west Indian sisters, Sarah and Eliza Ashley. Interestingly, there are book chapters of the grandmother of these girls, known as The Queen of Demerara.

One book is Empowering Women (by Candlin and Pybus); very well-written and quite informative. I came across it because of the chapters on Dorothy Thomas and Mrs. Sala, a performer and music teacher, who, when in London, Emma writes about in her diaries.

The Smith family in general have left a fair amount of letters and diaries.

It is quite obvious that the Smith family’s governess Miss Ashley is Eliza Ann Ashley (cousin George Augustus Sala names her Elise – I have located one letter; the signature almost looks Elize). Her sister, when named, is Miss S. Ashley or in later years just “Sarah”. Her full name being Sarah Edmonstone Ashley. The family, (seemingly anyway), make it easy to differentiate the sisters.

Emma Smith was actually older (by about two years) than Miss Ashley.

(Emma was the third child, of nine; born in 1801.)

Miss Ashley came to the Smiths in May 1824. It is *exciting* to wonder if she traveled from Demerara in company with Dorothy Thomas, her grandmother. How she came to be employed by the Smiths, I do not know. Mrs. Smith (Augusta Smith, senior; the widowed Mrs. Charles Smith of Suttons and 6 Portland Place) has left some diaries, but I’ve not (yet) tracked down anything for 1824.

That these sisters are related to Sala I have no doubt. There is enough in the diaries that reference Mrs. Sala, Mr. Sala’s fatal illness, an unnamed aunt’s death, etc. to confirm they are the women George Augustus Sala wrote about.

What I do not know is whose children they were; whether there were more siblings; and how they were related to Sala – he calls them cousins, which leads me to presume, like Mrs. Sala, they were daughters of a daughter of Dorothy Thomas. But which daughter (and from which relationship)?

Miss Ashley’s tenure with the Smiths was twofold.

She ceased working for the Smiths when the youngest daughter, Maria, “aged out” of needing a governess (late 1830s). There is enough in the letters to put her in the employ of the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. But by the 1840s she is back. She appears in the diaries of Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), giving music and drawing lessons. After Mary’s death in 1842, Miss Ashley was clearly hired by Mrs. Smith to be the governess with her two now-orphaned granddaughters (children of Sir Charles and Lady Smith). The names of Miss Ashley or her sister occasionally appear in letters over the next three decades, including news of Miss Ashley’s death (1874).

I’ve found Eliza Ann in two census reports. I’ve also located a SILHOUETTE clearly identified as ‘Miss Ashley.’ Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta Smith junior, was well-known for her “heads”; she probably created this group of family silhouettes.

As you might imagine, governesses in general are an important topic to pursue when looking at the history of a wealthy London-based family in the 19th century; it is intriguing, though, to contemplate not only their love for Miss Ashley, but also her influence upon the family, coming from a background so far removed from their own.

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Spotlight on: Fanny Smith

April 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm (diaries, people, research, spotlight on) (, , )

I am reminded that Fanny Smith (after marriage in 1834, Fanny Seymour, or Mrs. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton), was among the earliest people I gathered information about. I gave a talk on her; and wrote about her early years (up to her marriage). That’s why it would be SO FASCINATING to find her own diaries!

One archive (Hertfordshire) has photographs of the Seymours; I’ve only ever seen one, very early (for photography), circa 1850s. It was taken out-of-doors (you can see a blanket kind of backdrop!), with Fanny and her three daughters – Augusta, the eldest of the family; Emma and Fanny the two youngest – and one of the sons, whom it took me the longest to identify, as Dick. I’ve never yet found the miniature Richard talks about commissioning, painted by Ross; but often figure it must have somewhat looked like this:

Ross_a Lady-closeup

I have a photograph of a “from a miniature” photograph, but whether it represents that portrait done by Ross or not, it doesn’t say. I would, however, be able to ID it as Fanny, should the actual miniature come to light!

My two Local Past articles on young Fanny Smith are available through my Academia account (another link is provided in the menu section – on the right side of the screen):

  • “Before She Became Fanny Seymour, Parson’s Wife”
  • “‘Fanny I am thankful to say continues going on very well'”

The first is about Fanny’s life up to her marriage; the second deals with the tragic days of Fanny’s confinement, following the loss of her first-born, a son named Michael John.

The articles can be read online; you will only need to log in (can do it through Facebook!) if you wish to download.

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Help Wanted: Pocket Diaries of Fanny Smith (Mrs. Richard Seymour)

April 19, 2019 at 11:48 am (diaries, Help Wanted, history, research) (, , , )

I was looking last night at the last pages of the diaries of Emma Austen’s brother-in-law, Richard Seymour. Although he died years later, his last entry was made in 1873 — and the rest of the notebook remained BLANK (though no notation on the microfilm image of HOW MANY blank pages remained).

So he didn’t “finish” the book…

Richard did record much, especially in the aftermath of the death of Emma’s sister (his wife) Fanny Smith (Mrs. Richard Seymour) in 1871.

Richard began keeping diaries before the 1830s; his earliest on microfilm is 1832, but the volume states “4” on the cover, which tells me that three early volumes were missing by the time the journals were filmed.

Richard’s original diaries were available to authors Arthur Tindal Hart and Edward Carpenter, when compiling their 1950s book The Nineteenth Century Country Parson; I have so far been unable to locate the original notebooks, and the archive had not had a viable address since the 1970s or 1980s (though had never given me the name of the last-known owner).

Wanting to read about Fanny’s last illness and death (1871), I picked a page a bit down the list. Looking for April, I came up with dates in May.

Oh My GOSH!

RICHARD noted READING journals kept by Fanny about each of their children (which I hadn’t even thought about her doing). THEN he noted reading the similar journal her MOTHER kept during Fanny’s own youth!

I had known about family “baby books” – one written for Drummond Smith was casually mentioned in the biography of James Edward Austen Leigh (written by daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh).

I’ve only ever seen the “baby book” of Maria Smith – the youngest sister; the future Lady Seymour (married to Richard’s brother Sir John Hobart Culme Seymour). The journal’s owner calls it “Maria’s Progress,” because it deals with her progression through life, from babyhood to adulthood, in disconnected, but consistent, entries, over a good twenty-years.

I was pretty _sure_, therefore, that there must once have existed one for ALL nine of the Smith of Suttons siblings. This slots a third one into line.

But even MORE interestingthrillingexasperating:

Richard notes reading Fanny’s JOURNALS for 1833 and 1834; and either he then makes a mistake or means what he writes, a journal for 1844.

And soon a comment about a trip to Clovelly in 1820 (confirmed by Emma’s diary). He also comments on a sketch by Fanny (you might recall her artwork at the Bodleian Library, Oxford), worked at Clovelly during this trip. Richard soon is IN Clovelly, standing on the spot he presumes she stood in, fifty-one years before, to make the said sketch.

I cannot discount that young Fanny (she would have been sixteen going on seventeen) was keeping a diary just for the trip, and included the sketch in such a book. But I would rather believe that, like Mamma, Emma, brother Charles, sister-in-law Mary, Aunt Chute, and even Aunt Emma (and evidently, too, ‘Aunt’, their father’s sister, Judith Smith of Stratford), that Fanny kept journals, possibly in the pre-printed variety called THE DAILY JOURNAL; Or, The Gentleman’s and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt-Book.

beg13

In short, it was a surprise that Fanny kept journals – and yet not a surprise (because so many OTHERS in the family did the same thing). Potentially, the volumes stretch from at least 1820 (if not earlier; Fanny was born in 1803, so the 1810s are probable); and go until (maybe) the year of her death.

Of course the kicker: What has happened to Fanny Smith’s / Fanny Seymour’s JOURNALS?

I live in dread of seeing Richard say that he or the children got rid of them. But surely, his heart was so full of longings for his deceased wife, that he would see the VALUE in passing them on to his children. Daughters seem to have gotten such invaluable ephemerals. There were only three Seymour daughters. Some sons didn’t marry; some didn’t have children.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

BURIED treasure, Fanny’s missing journals 200 years later, that is for sure. (I include that written by Mrs. Augusta Smith recounting Fanny’s babyhood and girlhood, as well as those “baby books” covering the many Seymour children.)

Richard mentioned a few snippets from journals that he had read:

  • 1833 – Fanny’s grief over the death of her youngest brother, Drummond Smith (in Sicily, in November 1832; the family learned of his death a month later)
  • 1834 – Fanny’s engagement and marriage (at Mapledurham) to the Rev. Richard Seymour, just appointed to the living of Kinwarton in Warwickshire. NO DOUBT she mentioned the house fire the day before the wedding in October 1834! Her sister Emma did; it was Mary Gosling – i.e., their sister-in-law Lady Smith – who alerted everyone to the danger of the smoke she smelled in the night — and the butler who helped save the day.
  • 1844 – _IF_ Richard was reading Fanny’s diary for 1844 (and it wasn’t a mistake of his pen OR my vision while transcribing his thickly-written numbers), he would have been reliving the events around the birth of their son, Charles Joshua Seymour, who was born in June 1844 – but died in March of 1846.
  • 1820 – with mention of a trip to Clovelly, Fanny also wrote about taking tea with Mamma at Clovelly Court, and going sketching with her sisters Emma and Augusta. Mentions of the friend Belinda Colebrooke can also be guaranteed.

If any of these “hints” sound familiar – and _you_ have seen one (or more) of these diaries, please drop me a line!

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New Website for Mary Hardy Diaries

February 28, 2019 at 9:24 am (books, diaries, history, news) (, , , , )

An email from Margaret Bird, who is in the midst of finishing the Companion volumes to her 4-volume edition of Mary Hardy Diaries, 1773-1809 [Burnham Press, UK], announced a new website has launched!

mary-hardyvol. 1 of Mary Hardy’s diaries

You can “preview” the four companion volumes Mary Hardy and her World, 1773-1809:

  • volume 1 A Working Family “will appeal to everyone interested in the home lives of the farming and commercial middle class in the eighteenth century.”
  • volume 2 Barley, Beer and the Working Year “analyses the way all the aspects of a family business hinged on one another. It goes to the heart of the industry in which the Hardys were engaged: farming, malting, brewing, sales to public houses, and the neglected subject of distribution.”
  • volume 3 Spiritual and Social Forces “chronicles and analyses a series of exciting developments in religion in an age often regarded as spiritually somnolent… Religion was increasingly no longer ‘the cement of society’…. Fractures were opening up, fast.”
  • volume 4 Under Sail and Under Arms “It is unusual to read in a woman’s diary allusions to such subjects as building a navigation (a canalized river), and to trade on the rivers and at sea. This volume also enters the world of politics…. Mary Hardy shows her absorption in the electoral process as a bystander.”

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The Monthly Nurse

January 17, 2019 at 10:32 am (diaries, history, jasna, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2015, at the JASNA Annual General Meeting (Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM) entitled LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD, I gave a paper that cited “True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England.” Everything was based on the many confinements relating to the family of Emma Austen Leigh and her sister-in-law Mary Smith (my “Two Teens,” now all grown up!). This spanned from the 1790s, with the recorded birth of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton, through the 1850s, when the last children born to Emma’s younger siblings were coming into the world. The treatment of mothers, in the post-natal period, throughout this span of sixty years, were remarkably consistent. One item that caused a LOT of ink to be expended concerned their use of the Monthly Nurse.

An audience member (at that talk) fairly recently asked me to remind her about the Monthly Nurse, so it was rather FRESH in my mind when I spotted, (on the website dealing with Emma’s son ARTHUR HENRY Austen Leigh), a late census report listing among the servants a Monthly Nurse!

HANNA HORSMEN, married, 55, female; birthplace: Thornbury, Gloucestershire; described in the census of 1881 as “servant Monthly Nurse”. She comes at the end of the listing of house-, parlour-, and nursery-maids. Unlike other domestics, she would not have been a “permanent” hire. (The “monthly” nurse really did only stay a month.)

And we can see, among the family members listed on the census, the reason behind the Monthly Nurse’s visit: the recent birth of Honor Caroline Austen Leigh. An interesting side note: Mrs. Hall-Say (reproduced as ‘Hallsay’), Mrs. Austen Leigh’s mother, was also visiting at the time of the census! (Census night was 3 April 1881.)

A quick internet search leads to the conclusion that many conflate “midwife” and “monthly nurse”. They are not synonymous.

(A Monthly Nurse also did not ‘nurse’ the child; if the mother had difficulty, a wet-nurse was sought.)

In my findings (albeit among generations of the same family), there was always a doctor (an accoucheur) attending the child’s birth; if “in time” (some mothers were wrong at their reckoning!) the Monthly Nurse might have been present, but her duties were mainly discharged during the month of postpartum recovery of the mother.

I can never forget the number of mothers in my 2015 JASNA audience who raised their hands, wishing they had had the services of a Monthly Nurse!

It is needless to say, the women I researched delivered in what we would think of as ‘home-births’; the Monthly Nurse ‘lived-in.’

Although I won’t list here every step taken during the month, there was a progression from being in bed to rising a few hours a day; to walking around one’s room, then walking more within the residence and coming downstairs for a meal; the end of the confinement was signaled by the comments of the mother being churched; the child being christened; the departure of the Monthly Nurse.

Side Notes:

  • In this period, children of Church of England parents were both Baptised and Christened; baptism took place soon after birth; christening occurred about the time of the mother being churched.
  • The youngest child of a family was typically referred to as BABY (although a name was given at the christening) — until the next baby came along!

royalsAs you might guess, concerning someone working so intimately with the new mother — although there were advertisements in the newspapers (see Pithers) by women offering their services (some would also offer care for the sick) – my ladies asked their circle of family and acquaintances for referrals and suggestions. They wanted their same Monthly Nurse from confinement to confinement when at all possible (Emma lost one jewel of a nurse to death).

Oddly, from the comment in one letter, it seems that the husband/father-to-be actually ENGAGED the Nurse, and PAID for her. But it was the women who were involved in finding suitable candidates.

The round of referrals doesn’t come as a surprise because the same could be said for more general servants. Letters consistently mention servants who were recommended to them by others, or by them if they were the ones who knew of someone in need of a position.

Letters have even sought comments (good or bad) from correspondents about prospective marital partners of friends. With the long tentacles that friends and family could reach, it was a remarkably effective system!

Along with the Monthly Nurse, letters make mention of “Baby Linen.” This was especially noted down in diaries – typically occurring in a list of names of women in the parish who were lent Baby Linen.

“Baby Linen” encompassed items for both ‘baby’ and ‘mother’. A fascinating list of the baby linen purchased and made for Elizabeth Austen, wife of Jane Austen’s brother (the future) Edward Austen Knight (mother of the children who show up in the George Hill photo album), in the 1790s, is included in the Brabourne edition of The Letters of Jane Austen (available online via Internet Archive); see pages 355-356 (vol. 2).

Emma’s Aunt, Mrs. Chute, had baby linen that could be given out on loan, according to her early diaries. And Emma followed suit, in the 1830s, in her diaries. How many sets each had available to lend out is unknown; lists typically do not show more than one woman at a given time. Mrs. Chute never had children of her own; I presume it was an additional set, rather than Emma’s own Baby Linen, that she offered other mothers and babies in the Parish of Tring Park (Hertfordshire), when she and James Edward Austen lived with Emma’s mother and younger siblings.

 

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Elizabeth Chivers: Diary of a London Tourist, 1814

October 31, 2018 at 3:55 pm (books, diaries, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

The Museum of London has produced a spectacular illustrated account of the London tour of Elizabeth Chivers, a resident of Bath. In 1814, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth and her younger sister Sarah, accompanied by their unnamed uncle (in his own carriage), left home on March 14th. Readers travel with them through such familiar places as Devizes, Marlborough, Bray, and Hounslow Heath. We halt with them at their hotel in Covent Garden. Here, with Miss Chivers, we see London in 1814 through the eyes of an untiring tourist. The Chivers sisters also were doing a bit of sleuthing, turning up places associated with several uncles (“late” as well as present) and even where “Father and Mother first became acquainted.”

custom house_london

Custom House, London

What makes the presentation extra special? The illustrations from the collection of The Museum of London, with captions that tell a bit more about what Miss Chivers saw, and whether something no longer exists. Helpful notes as well tease out the places visited or seen.

walksthroughregencylondon

To actually walk in the footsteps of such Regency visitors – you might enjoy a copy of Louise Allen’s Walks Through Regency London. Great for the armchair traveller too.

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The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency, 1812-1821

May 31, 2018 at 3:35 pm (books, diaries, history, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

Charles Brockden Brown’s 1806 quote, “If it were possible to read the history of those who are doomed to have no historian, and to glance into domestic journals….” condenses into a single thought my entire project. Two diarists, Mary Gosling (1800-1842) and Emma Smith (1801-1876), have left a vast array of journals and letters, which have hitherto remained unused by historians except for information on Jane Austen (Emma married Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen in 1829). A large deposit of material resides at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England) due to this familial relationship.

Films have made Jane Austen’s six novels beloved by a vast readership. Readers interested in English history, the Regency period, Cultural history, Women’s history, as well as Austen’s work and life are my target audience for the biography under research. The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency in Letters and Diaries of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, 1812-1821 uses the lives of these two diarists to discuss English gentry life during the Regency. The milieu of Jane Austen’s novels is but one aspect of this project.

elizabeth and darcy

Darcy & Elizabeth’s wedding

The Brilliant Vortex references the “London Season” and its influence in the lives of the future Lady Smith and Emma Austen, next-door-neighbors in a desirable London neighborhood. Based on manuscript sources, the book opens (“prelude”) with the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. Newly-discovered letters indicate that Emma Smith’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Compton, resided in the Perceval household at the time. Mary Gosling’s family is introduced (“Chapter I”) amid a journey to Oxford in June 1814, during celebrations for the Allied Sovereigns following the cessation of hostiles; Emma Smith’s family is introduced (“Chapter II”) at the time of her father’s death (May 1814).

The framework provided by diaries and letters guides our exploration of an extended, well-documented landed gentry family. Not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography, the families’ tentacular reach – into politics, commerce, war, even stretched into the royal family; as well, group interests in art, literature, music, theater, travel expand the picture beyond notions of daily sameness.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Letters, written 1796, from Eliza Chute of “The Vine” (in Hampshire)

Extrapolation and in-depth interpretation permits an overall picture of society at this crucial period in English history. The Smiths and Goslings esteemed cutting edge technology, patronized leading lights of industry and the arts, and geography placed them front-and-center in a London rife with unrest. For them, the Regency period brought years of tribulation, scandal, and personal growth, amid a large family unit.

A brief chronology of the times and the lives of the Smiths and Goslings:

1815: Removing from their respective country estates Suttons and Roehampton Grove, the Smiths and Goslings arrive for the Season (February-May) at their London residences, No. 6 and No. 5 Portland Place, bringing the families into near-daily interaction. Emma begins master-led lessons in music, painting and drawing, and Italian language. She attends Covent Garden and Drury Lane; actors seen include Miss O’Neill and Mr. Kean. A week of riots at the House of Commons due to the Corn Bill ensues in February. Emma notes the shifting impressions and rumors surrounding Bonaparte’s escape from Elba. News of the Battle of Waterloo filters to them on June 21st. In an extended essay, she describes the arrival at Castle Ashby of newlyweds Lord and Lady Compton (who had married in Edinburgh); the Scottish bride had been a ward of writer Walter Scott. Once back at Suttons, the farming season draws attention. Family visitors replace the balls, concerts, plays, and gallery visits prevalent during their London stay. The end of the year sees an extensive round of visits – shifts from estate to estate – taking place.

1816: No sooner does the family celebrate the national Thanksgiving for Peace (January 19) then they go into mourning for Mrs. Smith’s seventy-five-year-old uncle (Mr. Gosling’s former brother-in-law) Sir Drummond Smith, baronet. Emma’s eldest brother Charles inherits his title. February sees the joint debuts of Augusta Smith and Elizabeth Gosling. The first Colebrooke enters their circle; Henry Thomas Colebrooke is the youngest son of Lady Colebrooke, the half-sister of Emma’s late maternal grandmother. These Colebrooke relatives are entangled in a series of court cases which will last decades; in the opening gambit, Mrs. Taaffe, the estranged mother of Belinda and Harriet Colebrooke, institutes a petition to regain custody. Another relation, Ann Rachel Hicks, is disinherited by uncles William and Thomas Chute (two childless brothers, successive owners of The Vyne) after eloping with an Irish baronet whom she had met in Cheltenham. On their European honeymoon, her bridegroom runs off with her maid! Mrs. Smith falls ill with erysipelas, and is laid up six months. Among doctors in attendance: Farquhar, Astley Cooper, and Baillie, which introduces concepts of contemporary medical science.

Austen_Emma

Emma Smith (1820s)

1817: A notation that “Grandpapa [Joshua Smith] was in good health at the age of 84” opens the year. Emma mentions the tumult occurring when the Prince Regent attends the House in late January. Sixteen-year-old Charles Joshua Smith returns to his studies; and eighteen-year-old Augusta is presented to the Queen at the February 20th Drawing Room. In company with Mrs. Gosling, Fanny and Augusta Smith see Kean as Othello, but they encounter riotous spectators due to the non-appearance of the actor Booth. Mrs. Gosling’s ball & supper ends a day of dancing – and makes the papers (as they always do), having attracted more than three hundred “fashionables.” In the midst of the season, Queen Charlotte is taken ill. Caroline Wiggett, adopted “niece” of the Chutes of The Vyne and of an age with Augusta Smith, seems to enjoy less of the season than any of the Smith children. The Smiths meet children of the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan. Mary Gosling tours the Brighton Pavilion (“magnificently furnished”); a new building scheme has been embarked upon. News comes in about the latest election. The Colebrooke court case heats up after the two girls, Belinda and Harriet, visited England and were barred from returning to Scotland by the Lord Chancellor. The latest attempt by Mrs. Taaffe to gain access to her two daughters is a thwarted kidnapping on a lonely stretch of heath. The estranged mother will be brought into court. Days after seeing the Queen pass through Devizes en route to Bath, news comes about the confinement – and death – of the Princess Charlotte and her child. Emma refers to her as “the much lamented Princess.”

1818: With London shrouded in fog, gossip floats around the city that Sir Richard Croft, Princess Charlotte’s accoucheur, has shot himself. “Some strange ideas” are cropping up about the Duke of Devonshire: that the 5th Duke’s son and heir was the product of his liaison with Lady Elizabeth Foster. Matrimonial shenanigans regarding the Duke of Clarence dribble through the gutter press. The “present blessed mode of Husband-hunting” is blamed for the false-report of a marriage for Lady Elizabeth Compton. Excessively-high winds play havoc with London houses – two deaths resulting. Emma and a large family party visit ships about to embark on a voyage to North America and the North Pole. They are escorted by Lieutenant William Edward Parry, the explorer. Spencer Smith leaves prep school to begin at Harrow, but the start of the term is put off on account of Dr. Butler’s marriage. Schoolboy rebellion at Winchester College ends in the expulsion of Caroline Wiggett’s brother. When news of the death of Queen Charlotte reaches the populace, Emma and the Goslings overnight in Windsor to witness her funeral procession.

1819: The Chigwell Ball becomes the first public ball Emma ever attends. Bennett Gosling has taken rooms at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in order to finish his law studies. Reports surface of Grandpapa’s deteriorating health. Joshua Smith, long-standing Member of Parliament for Devizes, dies at Stoke Park on 20 March. Miss Ramsay’s illness prompts a governess search. The Smiths see “the Charity Children at St Paul’s” – 1500 people in the church and 7000 charity children. Charles returns from Cambridge; he dines at the Catch Club. He and Bennett Gosling attend a fancy ball at Almacks. After eighteen years in service to the Smiths, Kitty Hunt, a nursery maid, marries the cook/housekeeper’s nephew John Marshall, a former prisoner of war in France. Parliament is opened by the Prince Regent, with Lord Compton attending. Rumors circulate about the King’s death, “but without foundation.” The Chutes dine and sleep at Stratfield Saye, the Duke of Wellington’s. On the last day of the year, Emma composes a tender essay on her friendship with the late Miss Ramsay, “a friend from my youth” when the year began but come the end of the year, “I am bereft of her.” Warm feelings for her mother, Mrs. Smith – reflecting on God, death, acceptance, and reflection – ends the entry.

prince of wales

Prince of Wales, later George IV

1820: Suttons’ upper servants attend a ball at the Talbot, though snow the next day prevents many from attending church. News of the death of the Duke of Kent is followed by far graver news: the death of King George III. James Edward Austen commences his last term at Oxford; like his father, Edward is preparing to enter the Church. The Smiths distribute food and clothes to the parish poor. One of Emma’s Sunday scholars is dying of a consumption. On the day she reads to the girl, Emma notes the proclamation of George IV as King and the untrue reports of the new king’s death. Emma, Fanny, and Mrs. Smith visit Carlton House to “enquire after the King’s health”. Amid the flurry of drawing and music Masters and Mistresses, Emma mentions the “most horrid conspiracy,” now known as the Cato Street Conspiracy. Mrs. Smith’s youngest children are resident in Portland Place; her reaction is expressed in a letter to daughter Fanny: “horror struck”, “what wickedness!”, “all London must be in consternation.” The Smiths visit, for the last time, Earl Stoke Park, her late-father’s estate. Mrs. Smith takes leave of prior friends and “poor villagers” with whom she has interacted for more than forty years. Special attention is given to the absence of Macklin, a servant (possibly Irish Catholic) who has struck up a friendship with Mrs. Smith’s youngest sister (“Aunt Emma”), which is causing concern – and rifts – among the family. Parliament is dissolved, and Uncle Chute makes the momentous decision not to stand again; he was member for Hampshire nearly thirty years. Lord Compton loses his election. He never again stands for Parliament. With the death of Joshua Smith and the removal of Mr. Chute and Lord Compton, the era in which the Smiths and Goslings hear first-hand about government comes to an end. Emma meets John Stuart – the young man Belinda Colebrooke wishes to marry. The largest impediment is the smallness of his fortune in comparison to her own; a Chancery suit ensues, and the specter of her illegitimacy arises. Twenty-year-old Sir Charles Joshua Smith departs on a Grand Tour, accompanied by Charles Scrase Dickins; they will be gone through 1821 and go as far as Sweden and Russia. As the men cross to Calais, rumors “were afloat” that the Queen had perhaps already landed at Dover. Violence – in Portland Place! – against households “illuminating for the Queen.” No. 6 Portland Place (Smiths) was illuminated, but their windows were luckily not broken, though houses further up the street sustained damage. Tensions are running high on both sides of the Queen debate; and crossing either group can end in the same manner: A Riot.

1821: Mrs. Smith and her elder children (Augusta, Emma, Fanny, Spencer) go through London en route to Roehampton, joining a large party at the Gosling country estate. Charles has sent more gift boxes from abroad. The Goslings’ ball begins at ten, and lasts till five in the morning – with guests going “in detachments” to supper in the library. Quadrilles were the dances of choice, two nights in a row. The Smiths, with Augusta as secretary, near completion for a local book society. The current novel being read is Kenilworth, by Walter Scott. Aunt Judith Smith takes Augusta to see “the female prisoners at Newgate” who are under the direction of the influential reformer, Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. In a similar vein, Elizabeth Gosling and the Smiths view the penitents at “the Magdalen.” At Drury Lane, to hear the newest singing sensation, the Smiths share Aunt Emma’s box, which includes Miss Macklin – their former servant, as Miss Smith and Miss Macklin prepare to leave the country. The women set out for the Continent in mid-February; weeks later news comes of war being declared between the Neapolitan government and Austria. In anticipation of a future Drawing Room, the girls choose dresses. At this Drawing Room Aunt Northampton, Mrs. Smith and her two eldest daughters (Augusta and Emma) are presented to King George IV. Lady Compton’s son is christened; Mrs. Smith and Sir Walter Scott are two of the sponsors. Lord Northampton is in London to attend the House of Lords during the raising of “this Catholic question,” but the last reading gets postponed. The group from Portland Place joins a party on board the Fury for a dance given by Captain Parry. Emma estimates that between three and four hundred people were on board. The impending sale of Tring Park, property of their late uncle Sir Drummond Smith, embroils the Smiths in bringing an Act of Parliament before the House of Lords. Charles’ twenty-first birthday is announced, but he is still abroad; the tenants at Suttons have a celebration dinner nevertheless. The Gosling girls and Emma go by appointment to Westminster Abbey, to view preparations for the upcoming coronation. Then comes the thunderbolt report of Bonaparte’s death (which occurred two months previous). The Northamptons arrive from Switzerland “on purpose to attend the Coronation”— which the Smiths and Goslings also attend. Mrs. Smith records “London was in quite a bustle” and afterwards pronounces the Coronation “a most splendid spectacle.”

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Putting a Face to a Name

May 2, 2018 at 2:13 pm (diaries, estates, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to *share* a *find* with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers! With the amount of material I’ve unearthed over the past ten years, although bits and pieces turn up, a lot of my time lately is taken up with processing what I have. Photography of archival material means that I’ve a backlog of items awaiting transcription.

So a wonderful surprise to find a photograph of someone who plays a small role in the Smith & Gosling history.

Emma’s brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith had two wives. My second diarist (the other being Emma herself) is Mary Gosling, the second Lady Smith. Charles’ first wife (she died in childbirth) was Belinda Colebrooke. She and her younger sister Harriet Colebrooke were the focus of an intense Chancery battle – at one point it even came to blows, at gun-point, on the windswept heath as the sisters approached London in a carriage overtaken by their mother and two hired thugs.

Such actions gave the family pain and heartache, and (of course) made the papers – which is how the likes of historians can learn about so much that took place two hundred years ago.

It is rather a surprised, despite the wealth of the Colebrooke girls, that they were so accepted by “Society”. The crux of the Chancery case concerned which “side of the blanket” they were born on. Thus the odd ages that some materials list for the girls (rounded down to make them younger, and indisputably born after their parents’ marriage). The court case actually pitted family against family (as was so often the case – see for instance Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Dickens’ Bleak House): Belinda’s paternal uncles were on two different sides. Their father, George Colebrooke – son of Sir George and Lady Colebrooke (the half sister of the Smith’s maternal grandmother) – had died months before his father (both in 1809). The baronetcy went to a younger brother, therefore. Legitimate heirs, though, could inherit Mr. George Colebrooke’s fortune; and their mother could claim her share while her children were under-age.

The case went on, in one form or another, for decades. (Even after Charles’ death, in 1830.)

Harriet Colebrooke died in January 1822, after a lengthy illness (heart disease; perhaps consumption). She hadn’t even reached her twentieth birthday. Belinda was inconsolable; their uncle, Henry Colebrooke – who had been overseas, wasn’t even aware of Harriet’s death. He first heard when he landed back in Britain.

A few sentences in a few letters fleshes out Harriet’s life. At one point, she seems to have been attracted to Charles Smith! He seems to have been uninterested. Perhaps he already held out hopes for attracting Belinda – though in the period before her sister’s death, Belinda was already engaged, to a young man of whom the family did not approve. There was more fodder for the courts!

WSumner

William Holme Sumner

It seems, however, that Harriet did have a young man wanting to marry her. A “deeply hidden” sentence in a letter made me take a look at ALL the occurrences (noted in Emma’s meticulously-kept early diaries) of visits by a certain young man named William Sumner.

A Most Frustrating Letter! The important passage, written in light red ink, is crossed against a dark black ink. AND: the paper bleeds through from the other side, giving three handwritings to choose between: strokes of black ink, the shadow of the backside, and the scrawl in red.

IF I read the passage correctly, the sticking point may have been the young man himself: Charles intimates that the “W. Sumner” needed “to make up his mind.” This in a letter, written during Charles’ grand tour, in 1820. William would have been about 22-years-old; Harriet only 16 or 17. Whether Harriet’s illness or the Sumner-heel-dragging intervened, the marriage never took place.

The Sumners – who had purchased (c1770) the estate HATCHLANDS from the widowed Frances Boscawen – were known to Emma’s family. The father, George Sumner, a Member of Parliament, turns up in Smith family letters, and even earlier in diaries of Mrs. Smith and her sister Mrs. Chute. So it was with a bit of _pleasure_ to realize the connection that was developing between the Colebrooke-Sumner children. As more items come to light, I hope to uncover more of their story.

But it’s the photograph of William Sumner (above) that I wanted to mention in this blog post.  Being photography, William would be at least forty years older than the young man who pursued Harriet Colebrooke during the waning years of the Regency.

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Selina, Lady Heathcote

March 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , )

A couple of weeks ago I got a used copy (and so reasonably priced that the shipping was only a few pounds less than the book) of The Diary of Selina, Lady Heathcote, January 1841-June 1849.

This is a slim hard-bound book, but it packs a pleasing wallop. It opens with a short introduction, with portraits of both Selina (née Shirley) and Sir William Heathcote.

diary.jpg

William was a boyhood friend of James Edward Austen (my diarist Emma Smith’s eventual husband); they remained life-long friends – and the Austen Leighs (the ‘Leigh’ named added after the death of Edward’s great aunt, Mrs. Leigh Perrot) and their inherited estate Scarlets DO APPEAR in Selina’s diary!

An especially wonderful photograph: Selina’s open diary! Considering how “little” text takes up a manuscript page, the physical size of the diary must be about the size of those I’ve dealt with — which is as tall and as wide as the size of my hand. But the LOCK is, in comparison, SO stout!!

It was published in 1984 by IBM, which has a Hursley connection. Hursley was the Heathcote estate, and the book has a picture of that too. So it’s pleasingly illustrated, including maps showing trips the pair took.

For me, the shock was to read of the consistent ill-health of Sir William. He was older than his young second wife. He had children by his first wife, a daughter of Lord Arden – so related to the Northamptons, Lord Arden being the elder brother of Spencer Perceval, MP. So a couple of connection with my research! I’ve even seen letters (both before and after marriage) by Helena Perceval (also known as Helena Trench) (“French” in the book is a mis-transcription), who also appears in Selina’s diary, as does her daughter Maria.

William Heathcote’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who with her sisters – especially Althea Bigg – were great friends to Jane Austen. Mrs. Heathcote was widowed early; Althea Bigg never married. Both appear in Selina Heathcote’s diary. It was their brother, Harris Bigg-Wither (only the sons of the family took the ‘Wither’ name in addition to Bigg), who proposed to Jane Austen – who “famous” rescinded her acceptance after much thought.

Click the photo of the book cover to be whisked away to “The History of Hursley Park,” and see what Dave Key will tell you about the potential visit by Lady Heathcote to “Stratfield Saye [home of the Duke of Wellington] to meet the Queen & Prince Albert.”

EXTRAS:

 

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