Announcing: Online Articles

March 6, 2015 at 11:46 am (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

As a writer – especially with as LARGE a project as Two Teens in the Time of Austen (<=click to see how the volumes break down) – articles have enabled me to hone little details into precise pictures-of-a-moment. Alas! readership depends on those who stumble upon the journals or magazines.

So I’ve decided to write “for myself”. These Online Articles will be much lengthier, more in-depth than blog posts, and cited (where appropriate) like journal articles. I hope you will enjoy them; and I invite comments on them.

I open the series with the original manuscript of artist Margaret Meen‘s “history”.

flowering of kew

Miss Meen (like Cassandra Austen, she later employed the “brevet rank” of Mrs) is a fascinating woman. At the time of writing the article, my BIG surprise was to discover how much of a fan she had in author Richard Mabey; and by extension, Martyn Rix who reviewed Mabey’s book The Flowering of Kew (1988). The explosion of information on the internet meant _I_ could supply a lot of the biographical information unavailable to them in the 1980s — all thanks to the existence of four letters written by Miss Meen, saved from a conflagration of Chute correspondence!

But I’ll leave you to read about her letters – and her life – on my Academia.edu page. Check the site often for further articles (I’m working on one relating to Sense and Sensibility) in the future.

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Bath History Journal

February 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm (books, history) (, , , , , , )

I wanted to alert readers, since links can be somewhat “unhandy” to locate, of a FABULOUS online resource pertaining to a myriad of topics all pertaining to BATH, ENGLAND. Bath History is a journal, now up to volume 13, published in 2013 (not yet digitized).

Two useful links to the articles are,

  • Volume indexes, via the Bath History website – most of the articles are linked.
  • PDF articlesBath Spa University; the downside is the lack of article names. Either now where to look, or love a surprise. HELPFUL TIDBIT: vol. 10 has an index to vols 1 thru 10.

There are so many interesting articles, that here I will only name a few:

  • Anne Buchanan – Charles Dickens and the Guild of Literature and Art Ticket, 1851 [vol 11; not yet digitized)
  • Angus R. Buchanan – Brunel in Bath [vol. 10]
  • Stephen Marks – The Journals of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (1738-1817), A Half Century of Visits to Bath [vol. 9]
  • Jean Manco – Saxon Bath: The Legacy of Rome and the Saxon Rebirth [vol. 7]
  • Nicholas von Behr – The Cloth Industry of Twerton from the 1780s to the 1820s [vol. 6]

I will make special mention of three articles:

  • Deirdre Le Faye has a Jane Austen-related article, entitled ‘A Persecuted Relation': Mrs Lillingstone’s Funeral and Jane Austen’s Legacy.
  • another “Bath Widow” tale is brought to our attention by Hilary Arnold in Mrs Margaret Graves and her Letters from Bath, 1793-1807.
  • and a particular favorite diarist, Katherine Plymley – who shows up in the Ladies of Llangollen blog! – gets a nod from Ellen Wilson in A Shropshire Lady in Bath, 1794-1807. Plymley was a subject in Liz Pitman’s book Pigsties and Paradise: Lady Diarists and the Tour of Wales.

pigsties

While searching for the article links I stumbled upon THIS surprise: images of two Margaret Graves letters! Chosen a “Gem from the Archive” by Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2013. A little more ‘sleuthing’ and a few more really neat tidbits popped up too:

bath_avon

 

 

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One Woman’s Belongings, circa 1811

February 7, 2015 at 6:37 pm (history) (, , )

William in Hampshire sent this link to the National Archives blog, asking if this Mary Smith could be in any way connected to the Smiths of Suttons. As you might imagine: LOADS of Marys and LOTS of Smiths in the world!

But the story, about a poor woman in the lunatic asylum, is fascinating if only for the wealth of items she brought with her in a small wooden box. What I found MOST intriguing were the miniatures. Surely, they represented her family – several adults and even a baby. Of course today no one has a clue as to the identity of the sitters – nor does the repository have much information on this particular Mary Smith.

smith miniatures_1811click to read Mary’s full story

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Peopling the Georgian House

January 16, 2015 at 11:09 am (estates, history, places) (, , , , , )

georgian houseAlthough centered on teaching history to school children, I highly recommend looking over the materials at Peopling the Georgian House. A useful look inside a Bristol residence, picking apart the rooms in the townhouse, as well as its people. Surprising to me was information about the Pinney family:

  • domestic staff included two ‘slaves’ – Pero Jones (gentleman’s valet); and Fanny Coker (lady’s maid), who becomes manumitted.
  • poet Robert Southey was a visitor.
  • a Pinney connection to Horatio Nelson.
  • the residence used SPEAKING TUBES in order to communicate upstairs to downstairs! Find out why we use the phrase “to bend one’s ear”…
  • and FABULOUS to see the house (illustration left) broken down floor by floor – from attics to 2nd, 1st and ground floor, until down in the cellars, two levels below ground!

After READING about the house, how about a TOUR through it: The Georgian House Museum has a brief online presence – including “Life below Stairs”, and tells who used the “plunge pool” located in the basement. Alas, an actual walk through the property must wait until after April 3rd (closed for winter).

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The Mystery of Miss Macklin

December 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm (diaries, history, people) (, , , , )

On the heels of The Invisible Cast (a post about servants, in Jane Austen novels), I would like to toss out a conundrum for which I have no ‘answer’.

The “mystery” of Miss Macklin derives from several mentions of her, but mysterious and even contradictory information. I will mention here that Wiltshire Heritage Museum has a series of drawings they call the Macklin Album, so named because of an inscription. This album certainly has something to do with the Smiths — for a large portion was done at Stoke Park, Joshua Smith’s estate (he being papa to my Emma’s Mamma).

Austen_Emma

Emma Smith, early 1820s

The first time I EVER heard the name ‘Macklin’ was in an April 1824 letter. Augusta (Emma’s eldest sister) writing to Lady Elizabeth Compton (cousin) about their Aunt Emma (Mamma’s youngest sister):

“I do allow it is very material to her [Aunt Emma] that Macklin’s origin should remain concealed, but is it not far more probable that her old servants have handed the story on to her new ones as any story of the kind would be so much talked of in that class.”

My mind RACED, trying to think WHO Macklin could be? Woman? Man? Child? I mean, yes, I even had the WILD idea of out-of-wedlock child. It was the word ORIGIN in the sentence that really made my thoughts spin.

Of course, after reading a few days ago about the all-seeing-eyes of servants in Austen novels, my mind’s eye immediately called up the above quote. For nothing could be more true: both as to servant knowledge as well as servant gossip (though Augusta could have been more P.C. by NOT adding the phrase ‘in that class‘ but I cannot apologize for someone writing nearly 200 years ago).

Since that initial letter, I’ve been on the lookout for any mention of MACKLIN – and now have a few, including puzzling mentions that only make her sound a bit juicier!

A curiosity I will mention here: Amelia Macklin married in 1821 (to Mr Patrick Robert Wybault) – and yet please note the date on the above letter: April 1824. Note also the person is simply referred to as MACKLIN. Not Miss Macklin nor Mr Macklin; nor an indication of a first name.

I think the next time I spotted Macklin was in a diary, written by Mamma in 1821. Two notations. One, within the diary, on 8 September: “Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.” In the back of the book, as Mamma is summing up her year, she writes: “My sister Emma went to France in February & did not return this year; her Friend Miss Macklin was married to Mr. Wybault.”

Two things stand out here: that Macklin could be described as Aunt Emma’s friend and that Mamma actually called her Miss Macklin in the end whereas she did not give her a title in the diary proper.

wm taylor-diary

This fall (2014), and an influx of letters; including some from the period surrounding Joshua Smith’s last illness and death (1819). And there she turns up again! And the plot THICKENS. One thing to keep in mind, at this point in time Aunt Emma had been residing with her father at Stoke Park (Wiltshire).

Eliza-Chute-letters10 February 1819; Mamma is writing from Stoke Park, having visited her ill father: “Macklin is civil to us all, & we are civil to her.” And a PS in the same letter: “I hope your Chilblains will soon be well; how are Eliza’s  Macklin is civil to us. & we are very civil to her to keep peace.”

What on earth has been going on??

The next letter dates to c23 February 1820, in the period of packing up Stoke Park for its eventual sale (Joshua died the prior year): “We have heard nothing of Macklin except that Coulthard [a servantsays she is not in the house… Zeus … [has] gone to town so perhaps M— is with her at any rate she is better out of the way.”

Remember, in just another year, Mamma will refer to her as her sister Emma’s friend.

Two days later (25 Feb 1820), her whereabouts are confirmed: “Macklin is gone to London“.

At the time I wondered if perhaps there could be two Macklins – one a servant and the other a daughter. Still, that discounts Mamma’s use of MACKLIN and MISS MACKLIN in the same journal.

In a letter from 17 June 1821, News is being passed once again to Lady Elizabeth Compton, this time by Emma’s sister Fanny: “We saw last night at Mrs Gosling’s the Davisons [Gosling relatives] who are just returned from Paris  they had seen Aunt Emma there…: they did not mention a word of Macklin to us, but the Goslings told us they had to them (probably not the least knowing who she was) and that they liked her very much, and said that she and Aunt Emma were so handsomely drest.”

Words packing a wallop: “did not mention Macklin to us…” “not in the least knowing who she was…”

By 1825 the couple are referred to by their married name, “Aunt Emma has taken a house on Pear tree green at Southampton & the Wybaults have also got one some where in the neighborhood“.

At the end of the same year (December, 1825), a most puzzling statement: “Aunt Emma gets every day more thoroughly at her ease & more confidence in the society that surrounds her, that is to say …. she has lived in a constant struggle of mind, doubtful of every body, because she knew they had reason to doubt of her, & really sensitive of many slights which were very naturally put upon her for the sake of her companions. …now I trust she is entering upon a new career & that disengaged from these inconvenient appendages she will regain her former ideas, & the consideration of the world, & as long as the Wybaults live the other side of the Southampton river with the prospect of going over to Ireland, I am satisfied because they have too much in their power to make a sudden & entire rupture desirable, & we know Macklin’s mauvaise langue of old.

I hate to say it, but the mystery only deepened with more information!

ONE mention is made of Mr Wybault; the date is 1842, nearly twenty years later. The youngest Smith sister, Maria, is writing. Combined with all the rest, it lends this tale a rather cryptic (and up-in-the-air) end: “Aunt Emma continue[s] here at present. … she hopes Mr Wybault has just accepted our offer for the sale of Rook Cliff – he appears to be quite miserable at his wife’s death.” Amelia Wybault died at Rookcliff (Hampshire) in 1842; no Smith purchase of this place ever happened. Maria married in 1844; and Mamma died still living at Mapledurham House in 1845.

Only one snippet, from 1829, bridges the gap. When I was told about the Macklin Album, the same person mentioned seeing a letter, from Rookcliff (so either Amelia herself or perhaps her husband), to W.W. Salmon in Devizes (near which was located Stoke Park, though no Smiths lived there by this time). “We have heard from our friend Miss Smith [ie, Aunt Emma] who had a long passage to France of 20 hours…“. My correspondent went on to say, “I’m afraid I couldn’t decipher the rest!” (Groan!!)

It’s a REAL long-shot, but if any Two Teens readers have ever come across Amelia Macklin, Patrick Robert Wybault, Rookcliff (or Rook Cliff), Hampshire – do let me know. Even a GUESS would be welcome. VERY curious about her, her relationship to the Smiths, and why family members other than Aunt Emma seemed to tip toe around her in 1819-1820.

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Lovers’ Vows in performance (a review)

November 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm (books, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , )

It is RARE that one hears about performances of the “play within the novel” — used by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park — of Mrs Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows – and I’ve a treat for Two Teens Readers: a member of its recent audience who was enthusiastic about writing a short review!

Contact information for the performing group – Artifice – is included in the links. Now: On with the Show…

* * *

Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, 1798
Performed by Artifice at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea [Hampshire, England]
13 November 2014

This was a bustling, engaging production, the action spilling from stage to auditorium, and every door fair game for an exit or entrance.

Frederick, an impoverished junior officer, returns to his village after five years’ absence to obtain his birth certificate, without which he cannot obtain promotion. His mother, Agatha, who brought him up alone, tells him in great distress that he has no certificate because he is illegitimate. Her lover vowed to marry her, and at his request she promised not to name him as the father of their unborn child. He broke his vow to her, but she kept hers to him and was disowned by all who knew her. Frederick insists on knowing who his father is, and Agatha reveals that he is the present Baron Wildenhaim.

Frederick is bitter about Wildenhaim’s treatment of Agatha, who is now destitute through ill health, and by mischance the two men clash without knowing each other’s identity. Tragedy seems inevitable, but Frederick and Wildenhaim eventually avoid it by exercising forgiveness and good will, and they embrace as father and son.

There’s no escaping Jane Austen’s Northamptonshire Novel, which Artifice acknowledges through the hair and dress of Wildenhaim’s daughter, the only character who doesn’t wear uniform or occupational costume. But forget the Mansfield Park prism.

Lovers’ Vows is not a frothy romance. With a versifying butler to delay the plot and ratchet up the tension, Inchbald trumps Shakespeare’s tedious porter in Macbeth. And the denouement’s requirement that social distinctions give way to fairness was a dangerous proposition for 1798.

Artifice’s motto is ‘Classical plays in beautiful places’, and this production was perfect for Groundlings’ distinctive eighteenth-century venue – the Beneficial School, or the Old Benny as it is known locally. Where else would the barman come out from behind the bar to treat his patrons to a lively, pre-performance history of the theatre, ghosts and all? Artifice, come back soon.

Charlotte Frost
author, Sir William Knighton

Lovers' Vows [Artifice]

Amelia [Mairi-Clare Murphy] visiting Frederick in prison.

artifice

 

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Letters from Harrow

November 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm (a day in the life, books, diaries, history, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , )

When is being inundated with letters and transcribing an especial blessing – when it brings a new voice into the mix!

Over the eight years I’ve dug and scraped to bring more primary materials under my umbrella, I’ve found what mainly belonged to the women of the Smith & Gosling family: Mary’s travels, Emma’s diaries, Mamma’s letters. Even when I’ve known about some “manly writings”, I’ve given them a bit of a backseat position. Doesn’t help when some of it is so sketchy – both in terms of content AND in terms of the hasty scrawl employed… (Yes, Sir Charles Smith, I’m talking about you!!)

But I’m currently in the midst of transcribing schoolboy / young man SPENCER SMITH letters – and am quite enchanted with them.

Drummond Smith, the youngest of the three brothers [Sir Charles (born 1800) – Spencer (born 1806) – Drummond (born 1812)] has long had a “sisterly following” due to his early death, aged only 20. In fact, a journal of his writings was sold at auction at the firm DOMINIC WINTER in July 2013:

  • 294 Grand Tour. A manuscript fair hand journal of a European
    Grand Tour undertaken by Drummond Smith in 1832, 286 pp.,
    travelling [from Tring, Hertfordshire] through France, Germany, Italy
    and with most time spent in Sicily, a total of seven weeks, partly in
    the company of Mr Odell and Lord Ossory, the latter half containing
    copy letters sent home, all in a neat and uniform hand written up
    soon after (paper watermarked 1832), contemp. morocco gilt, lacks
    upper cover, 4to     (1) £200-300

I am familiar with an alternate copy of this same journal – how I WISH I had heard back from the auctioneer’s, or the current owner! I have so much to offer regarding the “history” of Drummond Smith and especially this “last” journey.

But I digress.

Spencer Smith, heretofore, was seen solely through the eyes of his sisters and mother – I knew a few things about him, but rather the basics of where he was, or what he liked to do. I’d never “HEARD HIS VOICE”. And yes, as the only long-surviving member of the Smith family (later, his children use the surname of “Spencer-Smith”, which evolved into Hamilton-Spencer-Smith and back to Spencer-Smith again), there were impressions I had of him that I could not have of his brothers.

His letters are less joking, less consciously “witty” than those of young Drummond; more matter-of-fact – they are touching in their very quietude. Who knew the young man had such depth; certainly not from sisterly tales of his mis-placed gun or his newly-acquired horse! Or the image Mamma put in my brain of the lolling youth enjoying 6 Portland Place, London, on his own. The letters are mainly to his sister FANNY SMITH (Mrs Richard Seymour), some to his brother – especially when Drummond, following Spencer’s footsteps, was a student at Harrow.

Some Spencer letters were written from his tutor’s, at Iver; some from Harrow; a few from the abodes of later tutors – Mr Blount at Clare and Mr Boudier at Warwick; the ones I’m currently transcribing hail from Oxford (Balliol College).

All of this came at a most opportune moment: for I was thinking about girl versus boy education; home versus institution.

Finding – about six or seven years ago – Christopher Tyerman’s A HISTORY OF HARROW SCHOOL is how I came across a copy book of young Drummond’s letters: they were quoted in a chapter covering Butler’s regime (1820s). When I first found the citations there was just NO DOUBT it was the right family: Drummond’s correspondent was his sister, Fanny Smith.

tyerman_harrow

Due to Spencer Smith’s letters from Harrow, I recently re-read this particular chapter.

And I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred the “girl” route to education! My… what rowdy goings-on… among these boys. I invite you to read Tyerman’s History for yourself.

Unlike Drummond, who was in Dr. George Butler‘s house, Spencer Smith was at Hog Lane House, with Mr Evans. Mr Evans – Spencer tells us to pronounce the name “Ivins”, to differentiate him from another Evans “higher up in the town” – figures in Tyerman’s book: He was a rival candidate in the headmaster search that ultimate brought Butler into the position.

The Smith boys, of course, would never have envisioned that their Letters from Harrow could one day tell historians about little lost episodes in the school’s life – as well as in the lives of several “boys” resident therein during the 1810s and 1820s.

* * *

 

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“Jane, is that you?”

November 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm (history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

The “Jane” in question here is not Jane Austen but Jane Perceval, wife then widow of Spencer Perceval the British Prime Minister murdered in 1812.

Although my first volume of Smith & Gosling biography begins in 1814 – the history surrounding the PM’s death two years prior is vital: Spencer Perceval was a relative of Mamma Smith’s brother-in-law Charles, 1st Marquess of Northampton. The Marquess’s son, young Lord Compton, ended up in Parliament soon thereafter. Several letters discuss the Percevals — Jane and her children — during the immediate aftermath of the assassination.

One letter, written by Jane herself, has her on the defensive against an out-cry caused by the widow’s upcoming remarriage. Emma Smith mentions the fact of her marriage to “Sir H. Carr” (no embellishments) in her 1815 diary.

The woman, obviously distraught at the negativism, and combating an illness, was pleading her case at such length, that I simply had to find out more about her. And that’s when I came across this purported portrait on the blog PottoingAround. It went up for auction in May 2014.

janeperceval_vigee lebrun

A major  “anniversary” year in 2012 (200 years since the assassination), there started some thoughts on commemorating Perceval; at least one biography came out; some press articles &c. It is less his death than how the family responded and coped that interests me. I’ve read of similar backlash when Mrs Thrale (who made no bones about how unhappy Henry Thrale made her) married Mr. Piozzi. “Public opinion” as well as private sentiments were making themselves felt in this case, however — especially as Mrs Perceval had been granted a generous “pension”. This remains an area I’ll have to delve into a bit more, just out of curiosity.

This portrait, a pastel by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, dates to 1804. The French artist was resident in England at the time, so the fact of it being her work seems not in question. What IS questioned is the identification of the sitter.

It’s difficult to compare portraits – and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on various representations looking like each other: there are too many portrait series where the sitter is KNOWN and the portraits look very little alike (I might, as a quick for instance, mention Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s several portraits).

For my purposes, I sure HOPE this is Jane Perceval. Hands-down, it would win my case; for I wish to call Jane Perceval, in May 1812, a ‘vibrant’ woman in her forties. No one viewing this portrait would be immune to the charms of this face just eight years later.

* * *

  • More info on Vigée Le Brun, the terrific Batguano site (this pastel is near the top of the page)
  • the “hidden in plain sight” family history of an MP
  • recent news on a Spencer Perceval memorial plaque

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Anne Rushout’s Sketchbook

November 20, 2014 at 11:40 am (diaries, entertainment, history, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

One of the MANY (many….) people peppering the Smith & Gosling papers is Anne Rushout, a beauty painted several times, and an artist of some merit. I first wrote about her when a search turned up a rather extravagant gavel price for a portrait of Anne and her sisters – Regency “It” Girls – all three of whom figure tangentially in my research, depending on which family members one follows.

The eagle-eyes of author Charlotte Frost (Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) spotted this new-ish blog (thanks, Charlotte!) under the delightful name of Wicked William – which has posted two series of Anne’s watercolors (click on photo).

While there, I also invite readers to also check-out WHY William was “wicked”….

Rushout_Mersey-towards-Toxteth-Park-1829

* Anne Rushout’s “Regency Tour“, from which comes the View of the Mersey (above)
* Anne Rushout’s Wanstead
* and a little background info on the Rushout sisters, especially Anne

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Lymington History

October 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm (books, entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , , )

IMAGINE: a letter saved for a good 170 years, in which the chief topic of conversation is a “commission” to buy the letter writer “six or eight pounds” — at the reasonable cost (evidently) of 6 pence per pound — of EPSOM SALTS!

The letter is undated – and there are several contenders for the “Miss Smith” of the letter’s direction and salutation, depending on the date of the letter.

A bit of a catch-22 that.

Without a definitive person OR date I cannot fix on a tentative date OR person!

But within the letter is the mention of a place: LYMINGTON. That being the one place that has the BEST Epsom Salts for this incredible price.

Give the date of the letter must be within the first half of the 19th century, I did wonder if perhaps this was a phonetic spelling; “Lymington,” however, MUST be correct – for the exchange of goods is directed to take place at Aunt Emma’s home in Southampton; and indeed there is such a place – on the coast – as Lymington, within 50 miles of Southampton.

Finding their tourist website, I also found – and this is why I’m posting – their page on Lymington History.

tour isle of wight

And look at the GOODIES found there:

  • Tour to the Isle of Wight (1790) [title page above]
  • History of Lymington (1825) [by David William Garrow]
  • Picturesque Companion to Southampton (1830)
  • Notes from a Pedestrian Excursion (1832)
  • … and MORE!

They also provide links for historical maps of Lymington and some interesting and useful descriptions of the environs (for instance, on the Lymington Marshes, c1840).

The main page has a walking tour (“A Walk around Lymington”) as well as a nice page (with maps) on “Along the Solent Way”.

 

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