Two new biographies

January 22, 2020 at 4:18 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

I am always thrilled to find biographies that concentrate on women. These two (one from mid-2019 and one just released – in Britain – January 2020) center on four sisters, in one case, and, in the other case, five women writers between the wars who lived in Mecklenburgh Square (Bloomsbury, London).

Noble Savages

Sarah Watling’s Noble Savages: The Olivier Sisters – Four Lives in Seven Fragments grabbed my attention from page one: The opening introduction describes a 1962 meeting between Noel Oliver (the youngest sister) and an intent Rupert Brooke biographer, Christopher Hassell. What did Hassell hanker after? Noel Olivier’s letters from Brooke, which, in nearly fifty years, she had not offered up to ANY writer on Brooke.

They were private, and kept until after Noel Olivier’s death; subsequent publication (in 1991) was by a grand-daughter.

I can see BOTH sides…

Noel’s property was Noel’s property; why should she have to yield it up to anyone, especially knowing it would be impossible to refuse publication once the letters got into Hassell’s hands.

And yet, to a researcher, to _know_ that something MORE exists, and to have no access to even a glimpse of it, is an exquisite torment.

It was a situation even James Edward Austen Leigh went through, when letters his aunt Cassandra Austen had saved (written to her by her sister Jane Austen – and given to a niece), could no longer be located. And no one else was offering up their Jane Austen memorabilia, beyond his own two sisters (Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen). Edward’s Memoir of Jane Austen was published without accessing at least two batches of letters (one of which ceased to exist about this time); he died before his cousin’s son published Jane Austen’s Letters.

Square Haunting

Francesca Wade’s biography Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars features one of my all-time favorite authors: Dorothy L. Sayers. The five women sharing Mecklenburgh Square as an address (not necessarily at the same time) include poet H.D.; Jane Harrison; Eileen Power; and Virginia Woolf. The book opens with the 1940 bombing of the area. As someone who works with diaries, it was an absolute *thrill* to read that Woolf dug out her diaries (evidently uninjured) from the rubble of her apartment.

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Sanditon purloins “Lord Compton” portrait

January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Last night, the heroine of ITV’s Sanditon Charlotte Heywood (and viewers peeking over her shoulder) first encounter love interest Sidney Parker by gazing upon this portrait:

Sanditon

I had to do a double-take!

This isn’t any fictional character – it’s Spencer, Lord Compton (Emma’s cousin).

This well-known portrait that has already graced the cover of a Georgette Heyer novel. Now it’s purloined for the Andrew Davies television series.

You judge the similarities for yourself:

Spencer-Sidney Sanditon

 

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“Saving Brinton” – a delight to watch

December 18, 2019 at 12:53 pm (entertainment, history) (, , , )

The film Saving Brinton ran last night (18 Dec 2019) on Vermont Public Television. I was clicking channel after channel, waiting for commercials to be done, when I came upon it – paused – and stayed. What a delight to watch!

At the heart are the Brintons – husband and wife Frank and Indiana Brinton – who were involved in a number of concerns, including early (late 19th and early 20th century) Silent-era FILM exhibition. At the heart, also, and what grabbed my attention, is the collector / saver of the Brinton treasure trove, Michael Zahs.

Saving Brinton

The vintage films are FASCINATING – and you can find more about them online, thanks to the University of Iowa Libraries. With their use of astonishing film techniques (no ‘CGI’) and stunningly-vivid hand-coloring (done, of course, frame-by-frame), the films are indeed treasures from the vaults of early cinematography.

A finding aid (same link, above) will help those interested in learning more about the overall collection. And the Brinton collection IS unique – as it includes original equipment, handbills, glass slides, memorabilia, diaries and press clippings. Estimated at 9,000 items, at one point in the documentary, a reporter (?) asks, How many items; and either mishears or doesn’t take in that Zahs says “thousands”. I found myself nodding in agreement when the reporter leaves, and Zahs mutters, Thought he’d stay longer. Me, too!

Which is why I want more about Michael Zahs, as well as the collection! His history with the items is touched upon very lightly, but what resonated with me is how many YEARS went by where he seemed the only one interested in what he was preserving. Saving Brinton shows how that became no longer the case, with visits to professors, preservationists, even the Library of Congress; and finally enthusiastic audience members sitting in Bologna’s city square and in the World’s Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater, “The State Theater,” in Washington, Iowa.

One should never discount the filmmakers – Tommy Haines, John Richard, and Andrew Sherburne. Their interest in bringing the Brintons & Zahses to a wider audience must be warmly applauded.

As someone with my own (minor, in comparison) project, it is the interest of others giving a tremendous BOOST to Zahs that offered the most compellingly-heartfelt moments. There are always cinephiles in awe over early films; but to have – finally – a home for this collection at the University of Iowa, felt like vindication of Zahs’ dedication over (now nearly) forty years. His wife, too, putting up with the saving and hoarding (let’s face it…) that goes along with collecting. The ‘secret history of cinema,’ as one review claimed for Saving Brinton, the documentary also touches upon the ‘secret history of saving’. Sometimes it only takes one person, picking up the baton from another one person in the past, to ignite a passion in others. “Doesn’t really interest anybody but me” is something we all can say about our “object” of a passion. It sure is nice to come across other like-minded people, isn’t it?

footnote: I’ve just realized (reading a review of the 2018 theatrical release) that Saving Brunton is 90-minutes in length. The PBS series, America Reframed, has evidently edited this down to 55 minutes. Cutting a third is a disservice to this film. It may explain why I thought I had “missed things” by momentary inattention. Vimeo (stream or download) or Amazon (disc or stream) offer the full “directors’ cut” of the documentary. Note the Amazon reviewer who says “it’s at least 30 minutes too long”… I’d like to be able to judge for myself.
An interesting read is the original Kickstarter campaign for Saving Brinton.

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New ‘Jane Austen’ books coming

May 31, 2019 at 10:41 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , )

I am looking forward to seeing Helen Amy’s dual biography of Cassandra and Jane Austen, The Austen Girls (Amberley; release in June in the UK; November in US), and from time to time I actively search for ‘Austen’ in forthcoming books – to see what else I can look forward to in the further future.

TODAY I hit upon some VERY interesting forthcoming books!

This “searching” can be a bit of a crap shoot – too many Austen reprints; Austen novels reworked; Austen mysteries; Austen fantasies. My “Jane Austen” is the Chapman third edition, a nice leather-bound set [SEE them here] obtained at an eBay auction. For sentimental reasons, I’ve kept my first omnibus edition (which probably does have mistakes in the text). Most “knock offs” are just not my cup of tea. I really am interested in rigorous literary or biography texts.

The first I found is a short wait. Rory Muir, whose MONUMENTAL two-volume LIFE OF WELLINGTON is a newer purchase. Wellington turns up in my research, but I am not one to read in-depth about ‘war.’ After I found Muir’s exceptionally useful online “Commentary” for the books, I took vol. 1 out of the local university library (they did not purchase vol. 2), then bought both volumes. The commentaries are comprised of information which did NOT make the books, and are about as voluminous as the volumes themselves! Sorted by chapter (also searchable; AND downloadable in full), they are a _must_ for Wellington fans.

So it was with a bit of surprise, and true pleasure too, that his latest book turned up in my ‘Austen’ search, due to the subtitle: Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England (Yale; release in the UK in August; in US in September).

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune

A quick blurb says of the plot: “A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons – men of good family but small fortune.” My own research encompasses “eldest sons,” “younger sons,” even “ONLY sons” (I’m especially thinking of James Edward Austen, Emma’s husband).

Even more “hmmm…” is the intriguing idea of a biography of Anne Lefroy. Jane Austen’s Inspiration: Beloved Friend Anne Lefroy by Judith Stove (Pen & Sword History) is due in September (US release date; UK – revised release date: end July).

Anne Lefroy

As it happens, I have recently been reading Helen Lefroy‘s excellent, edited volume The Letters of Mrs. Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, and I’ve especially enjoyed the earliest letters that are rather diary-like in their recording of her day. (Read my review of Helen Lefroy’s book on JASNA’s website.)

I recently read a fascinating article by Janine Barchas; her latest book – due in October (Johns Hopkins University Press) – is The Lost Books of Jane  Austen.

Lost Books of Jane Austen

A unique field of study, the article serves as a preview of how research can turn a researcher into playing detective. Read the article yourself and you’ll be bitten by the bug.

I will also comment here (briefly) about the grave disservice done to the reading public by certain academic publishers when they price texts out of the range of most people’s wallets. [NB: none of the above are more costly than the average hardcover.] I mean, unless I _adore_ a book – there isn’t one I’d spend over $100 to read, no matter the subject matter – and there are a couple books that “if not for cost” would be of interest (if lucky: library; if not: used book market; if out of luck totally: no book). PLUS: I do remember an interesting subject ill-served by a horribly executed text (dry-dry-dry; and one of the campus’ professors, who taught the subject area, agreed with me…), that eighteen years ago was $$$$. Prices have only skyrocketed – and you can’t tell me that the authors get much in return (but that is a whole other blog post). “Print-on-demand,” in this scenario, IS a very worthwhile scheme; I applaud them. (Yet if Lulu can print a book on demand that retails for $40…)

During past similar searches, I found The Real Persuasion (Peter James Bowman) [I love his The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England] and Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister (Sheila Johnson Kindred) [now out in paperback].

I will also mention, though it’s a resource I take too little advantage of, the New Releases page on Regency Explorer (the site set-up must have changed slightly; now: one post, newest monthly releases at the top).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paper Conundrums

May 30, 2019 at 9:01 am (entertainment, history, research) (, , , , )

After reading about Karen Ievers’ Photo Album (once belonging to Lord George Hill) having some bound-in “manuscript” pages, I thought about all the paper bits I have seen.

It’s not usual for “paper” to be reused. As well as, of course, collected. Countless letters no longer exist, while their address panels were saved (often cut out). These are typically franked pieces, collected for their “signatures.” The *hard part* is when writing from the letter appears on the backside! Potentially “valuable” pieces of evidence, just gone.

Augusta Smith, Emma’s sister, was a talented artist. At least in her early years (ie, during the late 1810s), her portraits were often done on pieces of paper quite evidently cut out from programmes obtained at the Ancient Concerts. Augusta and Mamma attended the Antient Music concerts faithfully every week during the season.

(Full concert programmes have only been seen by me as bound sets, online on books.google)

Some of those pasted down squares show the portrait VERY CLOSE to the text of that evening’s performance – as if Augusta had taken her pencil from her reticle and sketched while she listened!

Others, although pasted down, you can see the heavily-imprinted text from the backside, as in the subscribers’ list below.

Here, the Goslings – mother, father and the two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary) – are found in the list of subscribers for 1823 (the above link):

goslings1823

The interesting thing about Augusta’s portraits is seeing the wealth of music offered in an evening. All the choruses, songs, glees, and concerti. These were the golden days of the Knyvetts, Miss Travis, and Miss Stephens, names which turn up in the Smiths’ diaries and correspondence with great regularity.

What I discovered recently (to my dismay) is that old letters could also be used for SILHOUETTE CUT OUTS. Turning one such cut out over, I could just detect handwrting. Old paper tends to be stiff, and obviously made a useful item to pillage when one ran out of silhouette paper. But like the franked letters above, and even the Antient Music programmes, a loss to posterity of the original.

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Did Mamma dabble with the Violin?

May 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm (entertainment, history, people) (, , )

The earliest diaries from the Smith family, as well as some of the earliest letters, date to the 1790s. That even-earlier diaries once existed can be extrapolated from written evidence.

I would give my eye teeth for items from the youths of the four Smith Sisters of Stoke Park. Especially from the years before they even moved to this Wiltshire estate….

I have _NO_ reason to think that this “Miss Augusta Smith” is my “Mamma” (ie, the Augusta Smith who married Charles Smith of Suttons in 1798), but it sure gets my antennae twitching: “If only!”

This listing is from the Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum (1909; vol. III).

Miss Augusta Smith_1784

Of course written for could mean MANY things: a composition for a student to play; a piece to honor a patron; something dashed off in thanks from a musician or composer.

It is possible that the Smiths knew of William Savage; she certainly had a love of listening to music – though, unlike her children, I have no evidence that she played an instrument. I kept finding the year “1774” attached, to this deposit, but seeing the page from the original book, I can see why that happened. I had to discount “1774” because my “Miss Augusta Smith” would have been too young. On the other hand “1784” makes this possible, though (you will concur) SMITH is too common a name to ever be sure.

A bit more of a description (say, daughter of Sarah and Joshua Smith) or some indication of where she lived is the kind of help I mean.

I always think of her as “Mamma,” to differentiate mother from daughter. Her eldest daughter, once also a “Miss Augusta Smith” became Augusta Wilder, or Mrs. Henry Wilder, of Sulham and Purley. Augusta Smith, senior was the third daughter of Sarah Gilbert and Joshua Smith, MP. She came behind Maria (Lady Compton; Lady Northampton, after 1796); and Elizabeth (“Eliza“) (Mrs. William Chute of The Vine/The Vyne); and ahead of Emma.

Born in January 1772, a composition for Miss Augusta Smith is possible. Though is it probable? I’d certainly LIKE to think so!

 

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Humphrey “Shop Album” @ Yale

March 3, 2019 at 9:38 am (british royalty, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , )

Gillray cartoon

This VERY recognizable cartoon is part of a “blue paper shop album” created by George Humphrey, nephew of the “famous” Hannah Humphrey and her shop of satirical cartoons.

Yale acquired the album in 2014 – and they have conserved and cleaned this delightful piece of political history, and now (press release dated 28 Feb 2019) invite scholars and students to see it in person. “Researcher from afar may browse images of the volume online.” They also say that each image has been catalogued in Orbis (Yale’s database of holdings), in which summary notes appear.

“This large folio album (approximately 66 x 50 cm [approx. 26 x 19.5 inches]) includes 130 early nineteenth-century prints, 117 of which were not previously represented in the Lewis Walpole Library collection. All are etchings and engravings with original, fresh publisher’s hand color, with more than a dozen of the titles not held by the British Museum.”

“Virtually all the prints are satires dedicated to the scandal over the trial of George IV’s divorce from Queen Caroline and the Queen’s alleged affair with Count Bergami. The album spans roughly one year of prints published from June 1820, when the Queen returned from Europe to London, through May 1821. She died shortly thereafter on August 7, 1821. The satires feature many major figures involved in the scandal. “

“The album is a rare surviving example of a volume that a print seller would put together in order to showcase for clients visiting the shop the satirical prints available for purchase either from existing inventory or to be printed to order from copper plates in the publisher’s stock. Most such albums are broken up and sold by later dealers. Further, the prints in the album are fine examples of prints with publisher’s hand coloring.”

In fall 2019, the Humphrey album will be featured as part of an exhibition project Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Scandal at the Yale Law Library (September 9 to December 20, 2019). The exhibition is a collaboration between Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Paintings, The Lewis Walpole Library, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian & Lecturer in Legal Research, Lillian Goldman Law Library. A conference is planned for the fall and a related online exhibition will feature brief essays by scholars from across disciplines.”

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Black Out @ Smithsonian

February 16, 2019 at 12:21 pm (books, entertainment, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

There’s still time, if you act fast, to catch the closing weeks (until 10 March 2019) of BLACK OUT: SILHOUETTES NOW AND THEN, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.).

Having opened in May 2018, there has been a fair amount of press:

  • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian: Press Release
  • Washington Post: “Before Photography the silhouette helped leave an impression” (Philip Kennicott)
  • Hyperallergic: “An Outline of over 200 Years of Silhouettes” (Claire Voon) [great photos of the installation]
  • “Five Questions” with Curator Asma Naeem
  • Quarizy: “An Enslaved Woman’s Candlelit Shadow” {Portrait of Flora] (Corinne Purtill)
  • Frieze: “Out of the Shadows: A Contrasting History Lesson in Black and White (Evan Moffitt)

Also available: the book BLACK OUT: Silhouettes Then and Now, through the museum store, which helps support the National Portrait Gallery, as well as such exhibitions.

Black Out

ONE resultant article is a fascinating look at Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant of Weybridge, Vermont! Their portrait images are from the Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, in Middlebury. [The Sheldon Museum reopens on 2 April 2019.]

Dating from c1805-1815, the engaging pair of silhouettes, “entwined in braided human hair,” lift from the shadows a story of this same-sex couple. A quote from William Cullen Bryant (Charity’s nephew), in 1841, says: “If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life….” The Drake-Bryant silhouettes alone have lifted that veil (see below). Being placed on display, especially in such a prominent exhibition, “allow[s] these kinds of stories to be told” (to quote the curator in Roger Caitlin’s article for Smithsonian.com).

The pair of women have also made the local Vermont news:

  • The newspaper Addison County Independent‘s story on Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant travelling down from Middlebury, Vermont to Washington D.C.
  • Seven Days picked up the story, and through that we learn of Bryant’s death in 1851; and that the Sheldon Museum also has “a wealth of archival materials,” donated by Drake’s family. These include “letters, diaries, poems and other ephemera.” Oooohhh…..

Fascinating to read that University of Victoria (BC, Canada) historian Rachel Hope Cleves, who researched the Sheldon’s collection of Drake materials “and basically made this case that these women were a lesbian couple living together.” Cleves published (in 2014) Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America.

Charity & Sylvia

The cover will whet your appetite to see the original silhouettes!! And the content, the story of Charity and Sylvia, will make you want to buy the book – which is available through the Henry Sheldon Museum as well as your usual book places.

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Costumes de la Suisse

January 31, 2019 at 8:52 am (entertainment, fashion, history, research, travel) (, , , )

I actually have copies of the Costumes de la Suisse – minute “vignettes,” cut out and pasted into a scrapbook. In trying to find a date for them, I found a fabulous website that presents digital copies of many albums and books of visual art. I invite you to explore! These are rare books from the collection of Mr. S.P. Lohia. You can sample pages, or browse through an entire book.

As to the dating for the Costumes de la Suisse, I’ve seen “c1810-1820”, as well as c1830. In short, I’m still not sure.

costumes of unterwalden

The above represents the “costumes” (or Trachten, in German) for Unterwalden, in Switzerland. There are no words of explanation, nor have I any idea whether my scrapbooker traveled in Switzerland, or obtained the images in England.

The images are quite small (Unterwalden is about two inches tall), but because they are hand-colored, the images are still quite vivid and spectacularly colorful.

And there are those beautiful Dirndl and Ledenhosen outfits!

suisse individual

Although Lohia owns a bound book (images of the binding are included), it’s possible these little vignettes began life as individual ‘cards’ in a slipcase, as in this version, currently for sale at a used book site. This image certainly gives a clue as to why these costumes were attractive to some young woman with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. Her handiwork and dexterity are my reward.

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Sorrows of Werther

December 8, 2018 at 10:16 am (books, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, jane austen, people) (, , , )

Last Saturday I was listening to the Met’s broadcast of Mefistofele (Boito); here, of course, is a subject who is undoubtedly better-associated with composer Charles Gounod.

Searching (as I always do!) for more on my Smiths & Goslings, I turned up a subscriber list for a book that, for DAYS, I believed was an English translation of that 18th-century smash-hit from Germany, Die Leiden des jungen WerthersThe Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe.

Pulling up the relevant book – this time having to SEARCH FOR IT (rather than stumbling upon it), I found that the text is a bit of a “hybrid” – a POEM, The Sorrows of Werter (sic): A Poem, by Amelia Pickering. It is, like the operas Mefistofele and Faust, based on source material, in this case “Founded on Goethe’s Novel.” It was published by Cadell in 1788.

No “Jane Austen” among the subscribers (famously, she IS listed as a Fanny Burney Camilla subscriber). But: a long list of names familiar to me as belonging to the wider Smith and Gosling circle.

When I spotted HENRY ADDINGTON (MP and PM), I wasn’t surprised when JOSHUA SMITH and MRS. SMITH turned up. The Smiths are Emma Austen’s maternal grandparents; Addington was Joshua’s fellow MP for Devizes.

The Duchess of Bolton would have been a name familiar to Jane Austen. There’s even a MRS. BENNET and a MRS. ELTON on the list!

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Several names occur in the Smith diaries – but I would have to dig about to ascertain whether they were the actual PEOPLE the Smiths and Goslings knew. Some BLACKWOODS, even an ABDY and a Mrs. BAKER of BEDFORD SQUARE. And who was the 1780s “Miss Ashley”???!! Two sisters of that name (but in the 1830s and beyond) were beloved by the Smith family.

There’s a BERTIE and a couple of BOSANQUETS. BLACKSTONES join the Blackwoods from further up the list. LADY CLIVE is prominent (in second position at the start of the ‘C’s’); Clive of India banked with the Goslings. Several CARTWRIGHTS and a couple of CARRS and COURTENAYS. Even “Mr. Cadell,” who (presumably) must be the publisher himself.

Well, you get the drift. So many people, so many readers.

In short, it’s so much fun to sort thru the names – especially when realizing that I am actually uncovering what volumes once belonged to a library or bedside table of relations to my Two Teens in the Time of Austen (ie, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith). The inclusion of The Sorrows of Werter: A Poem is a bit of a surprise, though they were a group who LOVED to read (and even write) verses.

Among family, joining the aforementioned Joshua and Sarah Smith are:

  • Robert Gosling, Esq.
  • Mrs. Gosling

(surely Mary’s paternal grandparents)

There are three Hornes and a Mrs. Hyde who may be Smith relations. The HICKS I suspect Jane Austen also to have known. There is a Countess Dowager of Northampton, related to Emma’s Castle Ashby cousins, but no one young Emma knew personally.

elizachute

The NORMANS were the cause of my search, and the reason I stumbled upon this book: TWO Mrs. Norman’s are listed; I lean a bit more towards the “Mrs. Norman, Henley” as being the woman _I_ want; but I’m not sure (the other has no identifying information attached to her name). I do believe, though, that her sons and daughter-in-law turn up as:

  • Richard Norman, Esq.
  • Mrs. R. Norman
  • George Norman, Esq.

The identify of Mrs. R. Norman is especially interesting – she was a daughter of Francis Gregg, and therefore a sister to Caroline Carr, née Gregg. Married in 1783, she evidently died in 1792 or 1793. Eliza Chute (then unmarried and still Eliza Smith) makes NO MENTION of the death of Mrs. Richard Norman (which would have been an enormous help, Eliza!), but neither did she mention the 1817 death of Jane Austen — and both events must have been known to her, and of interest to her.

It dawned on me in the night to ask: WHO was Amelia Pickering??

It was while trying to find something, anything about the author that I found a copy of this very book (!!) at a rare-bookseller’s site, for £1200 (!!!!).

The seller found a critique of the period by Mary Wollstonecraft:

4to., pp. xxii, 69, [1]; with half-title and a sixteen-page list of 961 subscribers; apart from slight fraying a very good copy, uncut, in original blue-grey wrappers and tan paper spine.

First edition. Amelia Pickering’s ‘melancholy, contemplative poem’ (Todd) was one of a spate of works in English and German founded on Goethe’s novel, including poems by Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson, both subscribers here. Pickering ‘gives to Charlotte a voice, if rather weakly moralistic, and to Werter suffering which is acute, credible and unhysterical’ (Feminist Companion citing ‘The Sorrows of Young Charlotte: Werter’s English Sisters’, Goethe Yearbook, 1986).

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, was not enthusiastic. ‘To pity Werter we must read the original … The energy … is lost in this smooth, and even faithful, imitation … Werter is dead from the beginning: we hear his very words; but the spirit which animated them is fled …’ (Analytical Review, January 1789).

 

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