Postal History: Ride Mail Rail

July 12, 2018 at 8:31 am (entertainment, history, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

A friend recently rode the Mail Rail attached to the Postal Museum in London. She described great fun, and also a great learning experience. The tunnels utilized are original to the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office.

Mail rail

Of course, the original trains moved mail not people – but the Mail Rail takes visitors back in time by sharing stories from the past. The rail once kept mail “coursing through London for 22 hours a day” – Astounding!

My Smiths & Goslings, who loved to tour the marvels of industry, would have been at the “head of the queue” for obtaining tickets.

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Sticky Days and Sticky Posts

July 9, 2018 at 9:09 pm (entertainment, research, World of Two Teens) (, )

After last week’s horrendous temperatures here in the northeastern United States (six days in the 90s), I decided to experiment with “sticky posts”. It seemed to work a treat. So I will be showcasing additional “Posts from the Two Teens Archives” (so to speak…).

William Ellis Gosling

William Ellis Gosling, painted by William Beechey

There were so many tidbits uncovered, and the enthusiasm to share elations and disappointments made for some “shares” that I wouldn’t think about sharing while I corral all the information (AND gather more!) about the Smith & Gosling family, the times they lived through – the Regency, the early Victorian era, as well as all the tumult of their lives as individuals.

signature_richard seymour

And the breadth of people with whom they came into contact is truly amazing. Just today I caught a glimpse of Gilbert Scott [alternate website GilbertScott.org] hired by Sir John Culme-Seymour in the early 1850s. Was _he_ the “Mr Scott” I’ve seen referred to in diaries? I can’t wait to find out!

Emma Austen, nee SmithYoung Emma’s silhouette

While I’m digging and otherwise occupied with my project, I hope you enjoy the “Sticky posts”. They’ll be active over each weekend.

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Lady’s Magazine

June 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , )

The Lady’s Magazine: “Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex appropriated solely to their amusement”.

If the magazine’s subtitle weren’t so deliciously amusing (200 years later), I’d be rather inclined to feel insulted.

Several blog posts feature the history of the magazine, from the University of Kent. See also this introduction, to the university’s project. The Eighteenth Century Journals website features the index compiled by the University of Kent’s project. At one time, the firm Adam Matthew had microfilm of issues beginning in 1801. Check WorldCat for holdings. My local university evidently carries the reels.

As is only too typical, Google book scans can be good – or crappy. Plates may be present – or missing. To bridge the gap, do check out Catherine Decker’s “Regency Fashion” page. And the National Portrait Gallery (in London) has a nice listing of Lady’s Magazine fashion plates. Here’s another NPG group sorted  by “artist” (features a lot from 1805, 1806, 1807).

I had already found some of the volumes – which helped compile this list (I will be updating that page shortly). A concerted search produced a few more of the “missing”. Though am rather “bummed” about not finding ALL of the first series. If you come across them, do let me know!

LadysMagazine Britannia_1808

The Lady’s Magazine

vol. 1 – 1770
vol. 2 – 1771
vol. 3 – 1772
vol. 4 – 1773
vol. 5 – 1774
vol. 6 – 1775
vol. 7 – 1776
vol. 8 – 1777
vol. 9 – 1778
vol. 10 – 1779
vol. 11 – 1780
vol. 12 – 1781
vol. 13 – 1782
vol. 14 – 1783
vol. 15 – 1784
vol. 16 – 1785
vol. 17 – 1786
vol. 18 – 1787
vol. 19 – 1788
vol. 20 – 1789
vol. 21 – 1790  [alternate copy NYPL]
vol. 22 – 1791
vol. 23 – 1792
vol. 24 – 1793
vol. 25 – 1794
vol. 26 – 1795
vol. 27 – 1796
vol. 28 – 1797
vol. 29 – 1798
vol. 30 – 1799
vol. 31 – 1800
vol. 32 – 1801
vol. 33 – 1802 [some fashion plates]
vol. 34 – 1803 [some fashion plates]
vol. 35 – 1804 [some fashion plates]

vol. 38 – 1807 [alternate site Archive.org] [alternate copy]
vol. 39 – 1808 [some fashion plates]
vol. 40 – 1809
vol. 41 – 1810 [see 12 fashion plates @ TESSA]
vol. 42 – 1811

“new series” (1819-1829):

1821

1829

“improved series” (1830-1832)

1830 [may be a different “new & improved” magazine]

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Marianne’s Square Piano

May 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2010, I wrote on film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, specifically asking (and noting) how various films treated Marianne Dashwood’s pianoforte. It has always bothered me that I scoffed at the idea of the piano being moved from Norland Park (the Dashwood estate now in the hands of their half-brother) to Barton Cottage by water. How could something so delicate (in my mind) be subjected to (perhaps!) a watery grave?

A new-to-me book, Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano, by Madeline Goold, brings home just how ingeniously-constructed these early pianos were. She purchased at auction an 1807 Broadwood “box” piano. This probably was the type of pianoforte the Goslings sisters first learned to play. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this Beechey portrait (below), identified as the Coventry Sisters, is VERY like the description of the Beechey portrait (still “missing”) of Elizabeth and Mary Gosling.

(You should also read the post, “Elations and Disappointments“…)

Early Music

(the periodical “Early Music” on JSTOR)

The piano, though, is what we want to pay attention to in this portrait. And that brings me back to Goold’s pianoforte. When she first found it – in “complete” condition (unlike one that was a hollow shell, latterly used for chickens!) – its legs were laying beside the keyboard’s “box. I certainly NEVER thought, when contemplating the removal of Marianne Dashwood’s piano, about disassembling it to the point of removing its legs, packing it in a deal box (a “box” within a box, if you will), thereby making it not only portable, but highly stable. Can’t tip over if it isn’t standing upon its legs, can it?

Goold’s book (which isn’t new – published in 2009) highlights the fascinating history of her auction purchase, and how she put together that history. I, too, have wished for a bit more of the backstory (even as an appendix) concerning the two-year restoration her Broadwood No. 10651 incurred. Goold’s story of the almost-accidental discovery of the pianoforte, in the early chapters, really spoke to me; so many of us would have loved to have made a similar discovery.

(I, alas, do not play…)

In March, 2017, I attended an Austen symposium at SUNY Plattsburgh, a Bicentenary Celebration of Art, Music, Austen. This was a wonderful gathering. Small and intimate, presenters made up a good deal of the audience. A FABULOUS mini-concert by mezzo Meagan Martin (with pianist Douglas Sumi) which presented her commissioned piece, “Marianne Dashwood: Songs of Love and Misery”. The weekend ended with an optional tour through Plattsburgh’s Kent-Delord House – and there, against the wall in one room, was their box (or square) piano. Alas! the vagaries of too many winters & summers had been quite unkind to it. Our docent pronounced it unplayable. Which was not to be the case with Goold’s auction find!

A sad fate for so many; a happy fate for too few – such as the Broadwood No. 10651.

The book includes information on the Broadwood business (the glimpse into their sales books is highly interesting), as well as the titular “Mr. Langshaw,” a piano teacher in the north of England who helped supply pianos to his students.

* * *

UPDATE: The blog Prinny’s Taylor posted in 2011 the “Adventures of a Pianoforte” which discusses (with pictures!) a restored 1809 Broadwood GRAND piano affiliated with author Charles Bazalgette’s ancestor, Louis Bazalgette. A fascinating use of the old ledgers of the Broadwood business. The Bazalgettes were especially active in having their piano moved and tuned. I must admit that I never _thought_ about WHO was tuning the pianos in the Smith and Gosling family. They make mention only a couple of times; but I’ve never thought about following such a lead – and wouldn’t have without Charles’ post.

 

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Morgan Library: Gainsborough

May 11, 2018 at 10:32 pm (entertainment, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Gainsborough_Morgan

In my email today was notice that The Morgan Library in New York City has opened their exhibit: Thomas Gainsborough: Experiments in Drawing, which runs until August 19, 2018.

(click the photo for more information from The Morgan about their exhibition)

More than twenty works “reveal the artist’s technical innovations, his mastery of materials, and his development of a new and original mode of drawing.”

Also planned are Lunchtime Lectures, such as this one coming up on May 16th:

GAINSBOROUGH EXPERIMENTS: CORK, BROCCOLI, MILK, AND DRAWING THE LANDSCAPE

This lecture is a ticketed event ($15, but free for Morgan Library Members and student with valid ID); available online. For times and access information, see their website.

The Gainsborough exhibit has an exhibition catalogue, too! An 84-page paperback, for $20.

 

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Enjoying a Cuppa

April 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm (entertainment, news) (, )

At the supermarket today, I just felt like buying some new tea…. I didn’t NEED more, but WANTED something *new*.

Boy! am I glad I did.

Delicious…

Black Tea

A friend once gave me a little casket of Sri Lankan tea. Uncle Lee’s carries a similar “woody” flavor that I came to love. Until now I haven’t had the same pleasure. Seek it in a store near you – and if you can’t find it, the website can be reached by clicking the panda.

 

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Women and Power

March 14, 2018 at 12:50 pm (entertainment, news) (, , )

In the United Kingdom, 2018 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act — which gave women the vote. But: Only IF they were over 30 years of age, a registered property occupier (or married to a registered property occupier) of a “rateable value greater than £5.”

Ham House (which currently has “A Stitch in Time” exhibition; until 29 April 2018) celebrates by exploring the “remarkable life” of ELIZABETH MURRAY, DUCHESS OF LAUDERDALE. They call it “Women and Power at Ham House: Duchess, Daughter, Socialite, Spy?

Nattional Trust

Lady Londonderry

 

The exhibition is part of the National Trust’s celebrations “Women and Power”. This also extends to NT property in Northern Ireland. The National Trust has launched a website, “Women and Power: Exploring Women’s History at our Places.

  • “Suffragette City in London,” 8-25 March 2018 – walk in the shoes of a London Suffragette (think: Mrs. Banks, from Mary Poppins)
  • “Fashion, Femininity, and the Right to Vote at Killerton, Devon,” February-October 2018 – explore Killerton’s fashion collection
  • “Misrepresented?” at Cliveden, Berkshire, February 2018 onwards – an outdoor exhibition and immersive audio experience
  • “Women of Industry at Cragside, Northumberland,” April-July 2018 – learn about the pioneering women who worked for Lord Armstrong during WWI
  • see their line-up (and further info on those listed above) at NT’s website – where you can also read about those who opposed female suffrage.

Mark your calendars for Ham House’s “Duchess, Daughter, Socialist, Spy?” which opens 13 July 2018 and runs until 19 October 2018.

 

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A Stitch in Time

February 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Several months ago I watched the only episode of A Stitch in Time a certain website had available. Last night I watched FOUR more. A fascinating series of half-hour investigation into clothing from the past.

The fashion-forward hostess, Amber Butchart, a fashion historian, has fashioned a series of garment “tales” from historical portraits. With the able assistance of the very knowledgeable Ninya Mikaila, an historical costumier, the garments take shape. So viewers learn not only about the lives of each portrait’s personage, we also learn about things like today’s wool industry; historical dyes; the precious remains of bygone fabrics from London’s Foundling Hospital, and, of course, everything under the sun about sewing historical fashion.

Six episodes have aired on BBC4 in January and February 2018, focusing on:

  • Charles II
  • the Arnolfini wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Broughton Castle’s anonymous leather-clad 18th Century “Hedge Cutter”
  • Dido Belle, brought up in the household of Lord Mansfield (Jane Austen fans note!)
  • The Black Prince
  • Marie Antoinette, specifically Vigée Le Brun‘s Marie Antoinette en chemise

Find Butchart’s website here.

Butchart and Robe a la Chemise

And more about the series (and viewer reactions) in this blog post (click the photo).

For those in or visiting England, there is a Stitch in Time Exhibition at HAM HOUSE of the six costumes from the series! Runs until 6 April 2018, open from 12 to 4 PM.

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Victoria’s Costume Ball, 1842

January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm (entertainment, fashion, people) (, , , )

May 12, 1842 – and we are in the room with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at the Plantagenet-inspired Bal Costumé:

Victoria_Ball 1842_2

I had spent the weekend working, reading through letters from 1840 through 1843. This was the opportunity to refining the dating of a few letters, as well as fixing some portions of transcriptions.

One hitherto “undated” letter mentioned what I had read in two other letters: the Queen’s Ball. This helped to definitively date the third.

Playing in the background was the ITV (“Masterpiece”) presentation, Victoria – starring Jenna Coleman. When the TV show began to discuss a costume ball, my one thought was: Is that Maria’s “Queen’s Ball”?

I went back to 1842’s group of letters …

Emma Austen’s youngest sister Maria Smith was writing to middle sister Fanny from London:

“on Thursday Ev:g is the Queen’s ball, so we must return to see Eliza dressed in her old fashioned satin brocade dress – a present from Parsloes, & Mrs Leigh Perrot’s hoop … she has been a little perplexed what to wear on her head – weather a little black velvet hat – or what.”

When I first read this, the *thrill* was to think that Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s court “hoop” had long outlived her (James Edward Austen Leigh’s great aunt had died in 1836). And also a query as to WHY Eliza Le Marchant (Emma’s younger sister) had the use of it.

That the Fanshawes were staying with the Le Marchants explains the comment that Eliza’s dress was “a present from Parsloes,” which was the name of the Fanshawe estate in Dagenham. Mrs. Fanshawe had been born Catherine (or Katherine) Le Marchant.

When Maria next wrote to Emma (as far as extant letters go), she gave a description of Lord Alford (who had married Lady Marianne Compton and was therefore a close relation) costumed as “Caesar Borgia – duke of Valentia … from Raphael’s picture, with one striped black & white leg, & one slashed sleeve”.

Eliza wrote a lengthy letter describing the evening – but that letter is still “missing“.

Victoria_Ball 1842

Eliza and Denis Le Marchant planned to bring young Maria to the upcoming Drawing Room. Maria, who had met Queen Victoria before her marriage, wanted to attend a Drawing Room where Prince Albert was at her side. “In all probability this will be the last time in my life that I do anything so gay,” admitted Maria.

In my very first blog post (June 1, 2008) I described Emma and her sister-in-law Mary as “two ordinary girls”. Thank goodness that ordinary lives back in the 19th century included so many diaries and letters. And Fancy-Dress Balls!

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!

Ivanhoe

But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.

cushion_austen

a Jane Austen pillow

 

Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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