Future Plans

April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am (diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , )

Same sitting, different poseIt seems like ages since I wrote about my own research – though that is NOT to mean I’ve been idle. Indeed I’ve been “beavering away”!

beaver

A GREAT influx of letters (diaries too) from several different “deposits” has kept me at the keyboard, transcribing. I try NOT to read a letter or diary until I transcribe it. Bad Luck thoughts make me wonder if I won’t later be able to decipher some word that I easily read earlier! Oh, that would be the worst. So, it’s in the act of transcribing that I LEARN the contents.

I also have a habit of leaving the really hard letters to absolute END. If it’s crossed… If it’s illegible…  If it’s a poor image… I leave it till all the easy letters are DONE.

Given that plan of operation, haven’t I found a JEWEL or two among those waiting to be deciphered and read! But that’s news for some next blog post.

I wanted to say here, however, something I wrote recently in an email, about this project, for it brings up a very important point about the decades the project actually covers, which is roughly the 1790s through the 1840s.

I used to use 1842 as an end-date. Mary Gosling, my original diarist – and one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen (the other being Emma Austen) – died in July of that year. So when first in Winchester, I tried not to look for later material.

By the time I returned to the UK (seven years later), I was willing to go beyond that – but pretty much held to the idea that the end of Mary’s life brought my telling of their story to a close.

THEN: in the summer of 2015, I found photo albums!

Since photography become a norm in and after the 1850s, there was no photo of Mary (Lady Smith). A surprising number of her in-laws, however: Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour); Arthur Currie and his second wife Dora (also née Seymour); Richard and Fanny Seymour; and more Seymour siblings. A photo of Eliza Le Marchant (Lady Le Marchant; née Smith), and the familiar face of Sir Denis Le Marchant. Only one photo of Emma Austen Leigh – which I had already seen in a book. The one photo of her husband, James Edward Austen Leigh, was quite evidently the same sitting as the companion photo in the book, but a different pose, so slightly “new information”.

What REALLY got into my brain, however, were images of the CHILDREN! The albums can be traced to members of the Spencer-Smith family. I.e., children of Emma’s brother Spencer Smith – the hyphenated last name differentiated his children from children of their brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith (2nd baronet).

So one son, whom I can trace in photos from youngster to young man, came to carry the name Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith. A bit of a tongue-twister without his middle name! He later adopted his wife’s name, so that late in life he was Spencer Compton Hamilton-Spencer-Smith; a Hamilton-Spencer-Smith son became the 5th baronet, after the death of Charles grandson Drummond Cunliffe Smith.

The twins, Orlando Spencer-Smith and Gilbert Spencer-Smith, are present in almost the same frame of life-span. From youngsters, they become men as the pages turn.

Of the sisters, photos of Dora Spencer-Smith especially, but also Isabella and Augusta, are QUITE prolific. As Mrs. Jenkyns, Dora has a Jane Austen connection all her own: her son married a grand-daughter of Emma & Edward Austen Leigh.

Two cousins have worked their way into my heart because of the photo albums. Daughters of Fanny and Richard Seymour, “Emma and Fanny” grow up before my eyes! It helped that another source had this youthful duo in a family portrait that included their mother – the first photo I ever saw of dear Fanny Seymour (Mrs. Richard Seymour), taken in the 1850s.

There are also, of course, portraits of the Austen Leigh children! So I could confirm a Silvy portrait found online WAS young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. Same sitting, different pose. And I found Amy Austen Leigh (aka: Emma Cassandra Austen Leigh), whom I had never before seen.

The Currie children and LOTS of various Seymour children – so most of Emma’s nieces and nephews were present. Seeing them all (and having to sort out all those Seymours!) made me more amenable to reading their letters too. So, I’ve slowly expanded my collection of letters through the 1840s and upwards to the 1880s. I’ve gone back to fill in holes, and have more holes to fill. And I’m still searching for material, especially early letters (1790s through 1810s).

Along with the albums, I found ONE letter that really resonated with me.

It was one of those SUPER-crossed, dense, thickly-inked letters. The writer apologized for not taking a bigger sheet of paper, as, in the end, she had too much to say. If ithe letter had been less crossed, I would have gotten to it much earlier! It convinced me I had hitherto overlooked the true, definitive “end” for my project.

BIG “Ah-HA!” moment.

The touchstone became Mamma, Mrs. Charles Smith, Augusta (senior). And the “ah-ha” was the last moments of any member of the Smiths living at No. 6 Portland Place.

Mamma’s 1845 death set her children (metaphorically) adrift; without the London home that had belonged to her, their leave-taking created a pause for reflection. And that leave-taking becomes the event that closes my set of books dealing with Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

To get back to the emailed thought. I told my correspondent:

“Digging about the 1850s, tho I really need to concentrate on the 1810s. It seems SUCH a different world… there’s a lightness to their lives when the children WERE children, that has darkened once they’ve grown and had children of their own. I find them such a thoroughly fascinating family.”

and I hope YOU, dear Readers, feel or will come to feel the SAME about the Smiths and Goslings. They were truly living a dream during the Regency – with travels, trips to exhibitions, evenings at the opera. Some were crossed in love; most married, had children of their own, experienced heartache as a family. Luckily for ME they also remembered, reminisced, and wrote – including those books published by the Austen Leighs: about Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865), a Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; expanded 1871), and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record (1913). Especially dear to my heart is the biography of her father written by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911), for Emma and her family figure LARGE in that book. It also drops some tantalizing hints about missing letters and diaries…

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International Women’s Day (March 8)

March 8, 2017 at 2:35 pm (books, diaries, history) (, , )

Readers of Two Teens will see a familiar face when they check out Wikipedia’s homepage today, during International Women’s Day, Norfolk diarist Mary Hardy:

Hardy

Mary Hardy is well-represented in Margaret Bird’s excellent transcription, a vast 4-volume set (with an extra volume of out-takes) which is packed with informational notes and evocative illustrations. I am patiently waiting for the companion volumes.

Mary Hardy appears in the following Two Teens in the Time of Austen posts:

CELEBRATE Women!!

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FREE Book: Profiles of the Past

February 26, 2017 at 11:45 am (entertainment, fashion, history, news) (, , , )

The University of Brighton has available online its publication, Profiles of the Past: Silhouette, Fashion and Image, 1760-1960.

profiles-of-the-past

It features

  • Annebella Pollen: Peering into the Shadows: Researching Silhouettes.
  • Bridget Millmore: ‘To turn sideways’ – an Examination of the Depiction of Hair and Head Dresses in late eighteen century Women’s Silhouettes.
  • Johanna Lance: Cutting an Elegant Figure: the Fashionable Male Silhouette, c1790-1820.
  • E-J Scott and Lou Taylor: The Impact of Neoclassicism on Silhouette Art in the late eighteenth century.
  • Suzanne Rowland: Fashion, Ageing and Identity in Regency Silhouettes, 1810-20.
  • Pallavi Patke: The Silhouette as Portrait and Conservation Piece, late 1830-1840s.
  • Gabriella Mihok: Shadow, Dress and Identity, 1890-1914
  • Jaclyn Pyper: The Material Culture of Nostalgia: Hubert Leslie, Baron Scotford and Twentieth Century Silhouette Portraiture.
  • Annebella Pollen: Silhouettes into the twenty-first century.

Click on the “cover” to obtain download options.

The website itself, discussing 250 years of British Portrait Silhouette history, is also worth exploring. See this page on Silhouette Methods and Materials. Costume enthusiasts and Regency Reenactors will welcome the generous Gallery of silhouettes.

The website also brought me (again) to The Regency Town House website. The link provides information on touring the house, which opens again in April 2017. “The House at 13 Brunswick Square, Hove [UK], is a Regency town house built in the 1820’s as part of Charles Busby’s Brunswick Estate.  We are creating an archive and museum focused on the history of Brighton & Hove between the 1780’s and 1840’s.”

I found them both while looking for MORE information about the Smith & Gosling silhouettes done by Auguste Edouart (they may have been among those that Edouart lost in a shipwreck! oh, wouldn’t you know…); see my past post entitled The Shades of Pemberley.

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Secrets from the Royal Archives

February 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm (british royalty, diaries, entertainment, history, news, people) (, , )

The Vaults are OPENING!

For some time I have been reading about the Georgian Papers Programme. I cannot say I am one to read timelines, and hadn’t realized until author and researcher Charlotte Frost sent me a link: The end of January 2017 produced the first glimpses of this five-year project, which unearths documents from the Royal Archives and the Royal Library at Windsor.

FABULOUSLY, the entire project will be free-of-charge and available Worldwide!

According to the recent press release, by the year 2020 350,000 documents from the Georgian period will be available to researchers, scholars and the general public alike – an estimate is that only 15% of the holdings has ever been published.

princess-amelia

It is well worth the effort to find the BBC TV program George III – The Genius of the Mad King, which I found to be a fascinating peep into the early days of this “opening of the archives”. From researchers finding a lock of hair, to a look at Frogmore – the retreat of Queen Charlotte and her daughters, to the cries of Princess Amelia (above) through her letters.

Authorized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, public access is through the cooperation of the Royal Collection Trust, King’s College London, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, William & Mary, as well as other key U.S. institutions such as the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.

  • Read Smithson Magazine’s article on seeing the American Revolution through the Eyes of George III

The documents NOW online are a treat to someone like me, with an eye for the Queen and the royal princesses: The Queen’s diaries have shown me, written in her own hand, that the Queen saw “Miss Meen the Paintress” on the 27 October 1789. This was a fertile period for Margaret Meen – and for her pupils, the four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire.

I’ve also read a letter from Queen Charlotte to her husband in which the Walsinghams were mentioned – these are relations of Charlotte Gosling (née the Hon. Charlotte de Grey, a daughter of Lord Walsingham; step-mother to my diarist, Mary Gosling). I’ve recently come across a small group of letters, some of which were written from “Old Windsor”, by Charlotte Gosling’s mother. It’s always exciting to find another side of the same conversation!

The digital items also include documents relating to Lady Charlotte Finch and the children of the royal nursery. I’m sure there are many Jane Austen fans who will LOVE to walk through the Georgian Menu Books. They run to 24 volumes! And include menus from Carlton House, Windsor, St. James, and the Brighton Pavilion. _I_ may even have mention of a few of those parties, in diaries and letters, by those who attended (a thrilling thought).

In short, there is MUCH to explore – and many more items to come!

“With Her Majesty’s full authority, the project is part of Royal Collection Trust’s objective to increase public access to and understanding of primary source material held in the collection.”

 

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Jane Austen’s England: Hicks Beach Diary

January 25, 2017 at 11:00 am (estates, history, news, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Although I was too late to actually WATCH (online) this London auction (1 PM GMT, 25 January 2017), I quickly could see what this exquisite little diary SOLD FOR, and listen to the rapid sale of other manuscripts and books.

diaryThe sale was enticing advertised as representing “Jane Austen’s England”:

Jane Austen’s England.- [Hicks Beach (Henrietta, wife of Sir Michael Hicks, later Hicks Beach, of Netheravon, Wiltshire and Williamstrip Park, Coln St. Aldwyn, Gloucestershire, 1760-1837)] [Diary & Account Book], printed in red with manuscript insertions, 88pp. excluding blanks, most entries in pencil, a few in ink, pencil sketches of furniture on a few pp., list of novels at beginning and provisions at end, 1f. loose, browned, inner hinges weak, original roan, rubbed, ink date “1789” on upper cover, lacks head of spine, 2 tears on spine, 12mo, 1789. ⁂ Includes numerous references to visits and dinners, including to the Chute family of The Vyne (a country house near Basingstoke), and their relatives, the Bramstones of Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, both families known to the Austen and Hicks Beach families. “Friday 6th February 1789 Mr W Chute came to Dinner…”; “Sunday 13 September 1789 went to the Vine to Dinner… Mr. T. Chute”. Also includes amounts lost and won at cards, payment for wages, items bought, money received from Mr. Hicks and paid to their son, Michael. Other names including, the Pettat family (Rev. C.R. Pettat became Rector of Ashe), Polhill, Musgrave etc. Jane Austen was 14 in 1789 when this diary was compiled. “The Beach and Wither families were well known, and frequently discussed by the Austens at Steventon. When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach… lost one of their babies, in 1796, Jane Austen was well enough acquainted with their romantic story to confide to her sister Cassandra, ‘I am sorry for the Beaches’ loss of their little girl, especially as it is the one so like me’ (9 January 1796).” – Chris Viveash. Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Vol. 24, 2002.

I suspect it was once owned by Chris Viveash. OH! how I wish I had gotten online in time to hear the auctioneer say, “Lots of interest in this lot”, (as he undoubtedly did!). The auctioneer goes through lots FAST, yet always the fair warning, which gives just enough time to put in a new bid, IF YOUR WALLET IS THICK ENOUGH.

The successful buyer must indeed have had deep pockets. The estimate was £400-600.

The selling price (which may NOT include the seller’s premium): £1,100!

janeaustens-england

Few will have heard of the Hicks Beach family – but attach the name “Jane Austen” and it was guaranteed to sell. Did it go to an internet buyer? phone buyer? or “In the Room” — would LOVE to know where it will be heading to, after today.

Would be WONDERFUL to learn that the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), which has some Hicks Beach materials, or The Vyne – which gets mentions in the diary – was a purchaser. Will we ever learn its fate??

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Hamilton at the Hammer

January 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm (books, estates, history, news) (, , , )

1/24/2017 UPDATE = see below

On Wednesday 18 January 2017 the LARGE family archive of Alexander Hamilton will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York. Expect the prices to be exorbitant. No “Ham for Ham” ($10) here…

hamilton-ten

ESTIMATES are in the tens of thousands. Good news for the family; but what institution, even, can afford, item after item, to pay such prices. I, personally, wonder if the archive – together for over 200 years – will be fractured beyond repair of ever being reunited.

Conversely, now that they’ve seen the light of day, will the precious letters and other artifacts be swooped upon by deep-pocketed collectors – bringing up the possibility that these “national treasures” might depart the U.S.

eliza-hamilton-and-lock-of-ah-hair

Two Teens readers will recall the embargo the U.K. placed on Kelly Clarkson’s purchase (at auction) of Jane Austen’s ring. Will the U.S. be faced with anything similar (and not over just one item)??

The photo, above, shows TWO of the gut-wrenching articles up for sale: a letter of Eliza Hamilton, and a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair.

You can look through the online Catalogue, Alexander Hamilton: an Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, in order to draw up your own lists of “wouldn’t that be nice to have”.

I know what I’d love to sit and read: Letters to, from, or about the Schuyler Sisters. They fascinate me.

For instance: Lot 1006, Autograph Hamilton letter to Peggy Schuyler, confessing his love for her sister Eliza Schuyler: estimate $15,000-20,000.

Or, the five-page love letter (Lot 1007) from Alexander Hamilton to his “dearest girl” Eliza Schuyler, the earliest surviving letter of his to her: estimate $40,000-$60,000.

Even with the monies the musical Hamilton has brought to composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda and historian Ron Chernow, even a handful of items could break their banks: Either of them might like General George Washington’s letter appointing Hamilton as his aid-de-camp (Lot 1004). Estimates being up to a cool quarter-of-a-million-dollars means the price could be even higher.

See this “Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot“, the estimates were £8,000-12,000 – it sold for £56,250!

If your family archive (mine has NONE, I must confess) could fetch money – whether “enough” or “millions”: Would you seek to sell?

I don’t think I could do it. Good thing, then, that I don’t have to worry about it….

***UPDATE***

Hamilton’s family archives drew a cool $2.6 MILLION once the hammer fell on the last item. Take a look at just ONE “lot” –

LOT 1040 – a group of 17 letters from Philip Schuyler to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton. Estimate was $30,000 to $50,000. Sold for (with buyer’s premium) $118,750.

Y-o-w-! more than twice the high estimate.

The New York Times offered readers a couple of affecting portraits of potential buyers: an 11-year-old from Manhattan, Zack Pelosky, had bid on a “low-ticket item,” which ultimately went to a phone bidder for $1,500. Joanne Freeman, “a Hamilton expert at Yale,” who has been studying duel culture, bid on a fragment of a Hamilton 1795 will – and was likewise outbid. Or, as author Jennifer Scheussler’s Hamilton-reference quoted: the Professor was “outgunned”.

Imagine! a writer and historian hopeful of a piece reminiscent of the very person studied… only to have the hopes dashed. From the article, it was obvious that the auctioneer had been on young Zack’s side, too.

An Angelica Church (née Angelica Schuyler) letter went for $50,000 – “more than ten times the estimate”. The disparity argued away by, “there’s no way that someone who saw the show [Hamilton] made that estimate”.

A note for people like me who wished the archive had gone wholesale to a repository: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History evidently came out as a heavy-hitter (or, should I say heavy-bidder).

Scheussler’s overall take: “It’s official: Alexander Hamilton now out-earns his boss [George Washington].”

 CNN’s report on the auction mentions the sale of the lock of Hamilton’s hair: $37,500. Keep in mind that hair, an exceptionally personal item, was exceptionally popular as a remembrance – of the living as well as the dead – in this period. I see MANY locks of hair in my own research – though I do wish I’d come across some of the Mourning Jewelry Smith & Gosling letters mention!

As someone who is working to put back together the disparate sides of a voluminous correspondence, a pang enters my heart when I read a quote from Selby Kiffer of Sotheby’s: “What is so unusual about this is it’s a cohesive integral whole that’s survived since the 18th century. The pieces interrelate and inform each other. It’s rare to have correspondence back and forth.” Only the future – and further writers on Hamilton and family – will tell us where all these items ended up. Fingers crossed that access to the items (especially letters!) whether opened or closed before are open to examination from now on. Manhattan fans evidently did take the opportunity to SEE the archive, during the week-long exhibition prior to the auction.

Other articles on the Results of the Hamilton auction at Sotheby’s:

That last brought up a thought that hadn’t before entered my brain: who purchased with the intent of RE-SELLING and making MORE money?

I say that because of one item in the Smith & Gosling universe. I have blogged about miniatures being sold several times, including a link to the brother of Susan Mackworth Smith (Emma Austen’s great aunt): Vice-Admiral Bulkley Praed, sold at Bonhams  in 2011 for £1250. I remember being SHOCKED seeing it BACK up for sale at like twice the price almost immediately.

Wouldn’t Joanne Freeman or Zack Pelosky lose heart if they saw their pieces back on the market – or, on eBay – like some scalped theater ticket.

It dawned on me last week what _I_ would have done, had I been a Hamilton descendant: I would have opened a museum, where those in love with the musical, history, Hamilton – the Schuyler Sisters – or even Aaron Burr could have paid to spend a little time in the presence of these people. Here’s hoping for public access, and that this is not the “end” of the Hamilton Papers’ Saga.

Gotta wonder: did Chernow or Miranda come away with any souvenirs?

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Why I read Jane Austen

December 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , )

Yesterday, 16 December 2016, being the anniversary of the birth of JANE AUSTEN, JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America – published their annual journal, Persuasions On-Line. It is interesting to see papers presented at the Washington DC AGM (annual general meeting) that _I_ sat in the audience to hear.

[NB: I did not submit my paper, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma,” for publication.]

The article I opened, however, was among the Miscellany: Gillian Dooley‘s article on “‘The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled’: Jane Austen’s ‘Courtship Novels’.” I think all fans of Austen have come up against the “dismissive” stares, shrugs, and “Who?” comments. Because I publish and speak on aspects of Austen and the early Austen Leighs (my research subject), I’ve mentioned “Jane Austen” in job interviews. Several interviewers had NO clue who she was, never mind what she had written. Others recalled “costumed fans” and, yes, ‘Courtship’ films.

Has it been film then that has created this atmosphere of Austen as a kind of ‘romance writer’? For, in many cinematic offerings, the dramatic underpinnings of her novels disappear in order to make a pleasing, coherent, and “short” adaptation. The one thing that is always in place (of course) is the heroine’s ‘romance’ storyline. And it’s the couples that fans remember and love to discuss:

elizabeth and darcy

Even those couples who might have been:

marianne-and-willoughby

But does that mean the films and even the novels are “Courtship”-based? I have long contended that I read Austen because they are slices of life, true windows into a time, place, milieu, that otherwise I only read about through history texts. The films may stick in the memory, but the novels are what I return to again and again. And, luckily, puzzling out the letters and diaries the Smiths and Goslings have left behind has allowed me to grasp small details that Austen’s original readers “knew” but which I have had to “learn” about.

So, this morning, I was musing over the MANY ‘romances’ of the story of my Two Teens. Would I term their lives – as any resultant writing must, out of necessity, condense their real histories – as center on ‘Courtship’ merely because courtships begin and conclude within the covers of a book about them?

To answer one question posed by Gillian Dooley, “There are courtships in the [Austen] novels, but are they in any overarching sense primarily ‘about’ courtship?” with a simplistic ‘No’ should, therefore, also cover the “history” of this large, extended family.

To take one “for instance”: The Colebrooke sisters, Belinda and Harriet, come into the circle of the Smith family in 1816/17. The basics of their history: Harriet dies young and Belinda marries Charles Smith (Emma’s brother). More can be deciphered about Belinda’s life because she married. And, it is her marriage that ended her life: Belinda Smith died in childbirth, before the age of 25.

It was all a “fact of life” back then.

Even today, we seek out a partner; live together; marry if we can. No one wants to be alone – and, given the cold world in which we live, a little human warmth within the home is something everyone can appreciate.

Carey Mulligan

(yes, I’ve long thought Carey Mulligan a quintessential Belinda)

I’ve recently found a lovely portrait (perhaps by her eldest sister-in-law, Augusta Smith) of Belinda Lady Smith. And even a tiny silhouette of her sister Harriet Colebrooke. Harriet was even younger, only 18 at her death. For the longest time her (ultimately) fatal illness was the focus for poor Harriet’s historical remembrance. She was an appendage; a younger sister who obligingly got out of the way; a dead sibling who made the “heroine” that much more attractive to the “hero”. And there was even an “over the top” drama-queen of a mother! Belinda, left on her own by her sister’s demise, was due to be “rewarded” by marriage to a good and very eligible young man.

To to my mind, however, it was hard not to think of Belinda as “the other woman”: Mary Gosling, the girl next door and Charles Smith’s second wife was the first diarist I unearthed (now, ten years ago).

Talulah Riley

Yes, young Talulah Riley, as Mary Bennet [above], put me in mind of Mary Gosling – rather tossed aside as a close friend, never mind as a potential love interest, once the doomed Colebrooke sisters came on the scene.

As an historian, I knew – nearly from the beginning – what the “end result” for EVERYone was. I knew when they were born; who they married (or didn’t); knew when they died. What I had to unearth was all the LIFE in between the pertinent “dates”.

And even now there comes surprises; welcome surprises, as it happens. Even someone like Harriet Colebrooke, on the scene for only a handful of years, takes on new importance.

“Why?” you might ask.

“Because, she had a fella!” A young man, who does appear in Emma Smith’s diaries, but who seemed just one of the crowd, was actually interested in, and pursued, Harriet Colebrooke.

Like her elder sister, Belinda, Harriet came to any relationship with a LOT of baggage. Charles Smith had the unenviable task of “approving” the young man, especially once he began to suspect that Harriet was transferring her affections to himself.

Harriet never lived long enough, of course, to see her sister married to Charles. I don’t even know if Charles ever really had to say, “I’m not interested”. That mystery is still inconclusive.

Which brings me back to Austen and the ‘Courtship’ Novel. In such a novel, there are often MANY vying for the hand of the heroine. There are those wholly unsuitable:

stillman2

There are those whom the observer hopes will win out in the end:

darcy

As Dooley asserts, “I would expect the heroine [of a courtship novel] to have one or more men actively playing court to her throughout the novel.  And I don’t think that any of Austen’s novels quite fit that standard.” She sums up by saying, “it is the assiduous attention of the hero to gain the heroine’s hand throughout the courtship novel that I think is the missing element.”

Just as in life.

Even when the “grass is greener” on the other side of that proverbial fence, as when Charles begins to suspect that Harriet’s interest in himself is pushing her interest in William Sumner (her beau) to one side. Here is no flat declaration of love, but a mystery: Does she? Doesn’t she? How do I handle it?

And everyone LOVES a mystery.

When Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal, few contemporary readers would have foreseen them ending up together at the novel’s end. There might even have been NO marriages at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Contemporary Readers were enjoying the ride, living in the moment with all the Bennets. Suffering their disappointments and, yes, rejoicing over their happiness. That ‘happiness’ included marriages, and those came within pages of the end is good fortune for readers who – metaphorically AND literally – could close the book at the end of a concluding chapter in the characters’ lives.

In a courtship novel, the marriage is the “be-all”. It has to end it all because little more was the novel’s focus. In Austen’s slices of life, the characters live on. The clues of the mystery behind attraction (even repulsion), love, loss, daily life in another land and another era, keep readers coming back for more.

If a MAN had written Austen novels, would we even be discussing “courtship” as their basis – or would it be treated, as courtship (without quotation marks) deserves to be treated: as a MOST INTERESTING part of life, something in which EVERY reader can sympathize.

Austen’s novels touch on economics (those with little funds as well as those with very fat purses, indeed); privations and sacrifices; sibling love and sibling rivalries; one’s role within society; the tumult of the times – even though, like today, one lives life somewhat disconnected (unless war comes to touch one personally). Austen’s novels help explain the minutiae I’ve seen discussed or recorded in the papers of the Smiths; and the Smiths explain what should be of more importance in Austen’s novels.

They are the perfect MATCH! History informing literature, and literature helping to inform biography.

colonel brandon and marianne

marianne and colonel brandon

And a coincidence, as could only happen in real life, that Emma Smith becomes (though eleven years after the author’s death) a niece by marriage to Cassandra and Jane Austen, Frank, Charles, and Henry Austen, and Edward Knight. That Emma Austen read Austen’s Emma prior to marriage, and with her intended, is a fitting close for that chapter of her life – one which can be said to have ended in marriage. Life is about so much more than birth-marriage-death, but as a fundamental courtship and marriage is a commonality that happens to most, and interests even those who do not experience it first-hand.

The “mysteries” of their lives keep me digging for more clues – even as some “new” clue only leads to further mystery. It is the pleasure derived from “digging” again and again, that Readers, who read Austen with a mind open to discovering new clues amid well-known strophes, enjoy as much as (if not more than) the ‘courtships’ with which each novel ends.

“[T]he plans and decisions of mortals,” to use the words of the narrator of Mansfield Park, forms the basis behind Two Teens in the Time of Austen, as well as the six novels of Jane Austen. “Courtship” is part of the story of life, and “courtship” may be the most human part in general. The need to feel connected, to someone (mate or friend), is a powerful emotion.

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Some Things NEVER Change

November 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm (history, people) (, , )

At election time, it’s hard NOT to think of:

Greed
Favored Candidates
Purchased Votes
Tension
Division
Pocket & Rotten Boroughs
Jubilation
Corruption

In “the shadow of the American War of Independence” came so hotly a contested election for the seat of Northampton, it pretty much knocked out the family finances for the Earls of Northampton (ie, the father of Emma’s Uncle Northampton). It has gone down in history as the “Spendthrift Election” (1767/68).

8th-earl-northampton

The “contest of the three earls” (Earl Spencer, Earl Halifax, and the Earl of Northampton [pictured]) has been described as: ‘the most violent contest for aristocratic pre-eminence that has taken place for the last century’. Rumors put Lord Northampton’s spending at the level of £100,000 – a prodigious sum. His daughter-in-law (our Lady Northampton, née Maria Smith of Erle Stoke Park) still cringed a half-century later, at the “expense” of “canvassing”.

Not long after the campaign, the Earl of Northampton left England – for Switzerland – never returning. His son (our Lord Northampton) is said to have been on the lookout for a wealthy heiress… to bolster the sagging family funds, and to upkeep the family seat, Castle Ashby.

Some things NEVER seem to change.

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Thomas & Jane Carlyle on Twitter

November 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history) (, , , )

carlyles-on-twitter

It’s a bit of a mystery, because I KNOW I have looked at the letters of Jane and Thomas Carlyle online – but the server seems to be having problems (and it’s been days). They used to be available free; maybe that is changing; I don’t know.

But you can access TWEETS of the Carlyles – and interesting reading they make too; for instance, Thomas Carlyle:

“My existence is marked by almost nothing, but that silent stream of thoughts and whims and fantasies”

Or recently from Jane Welsh Carlyle:

“For me, I am purposely living without purpose”

I was at a New Hampshire second-hand bookstore that I love (Old Number Six Book Depot, in Henniker); one *find* was a “new” book of Jane’s letters – but I have one or two volumes already, and without having the book with me I couldn’t know whether indeed the letters would have been “new” to me or not. Jane Welsh Carlyle is a favorite! Which is why I would have loved to have also cited their site with access to their letters – and put it on the list of Online Diaries and Online Letters that I’ve begun (yes, a work in progress at the moment) on the Regency Reads blog. More coming, as I go through notes – though WHY did I only think of books, and never the terrific finds online??? Some great sites – and great “thoughts” waiting to be discovered.

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Diary of a Victorian Gardener

November 5, 2016 at 2:04 pm (diaries, estates, history) (, , )

I have been very impressed – after finding the Capability Brown accounts book online – with the online outreach of the Royal Horticultural Society.

This is their blog post about a diary – of a Victorian Gardener. Who cannot take to heart a diary that is described by its new owners (RHS, since 2014) as an “old, worn exercise book, in very poor condition”.

diary-rhs

Inside, was the diary of James Child (born in 1838).

The manuscript should be termed a memoir, as James looked back on his life, working himself through the ranks at several large and important garden sites. But he also added to it, commenting on his life and the state of the nation through the first World War.

RHS’s article has accompanying photos and more on James’ life – including his living in EPSOM! The journal book has been conserved – so maybe we will hear more in the future.

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