Touching Mrs. Dalloway

May 15, 2018 at 9:23 am (books, history, jane austen, london's landscape) (, , , )

Join the London Evening Standard in a “Behind the Scenes” look at the British Library. Yes, this is where you can see Jane Austen’s writing desk (on permanent loan).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

In the midst of the article comes the question: Why they let us touch “Mrs. Dalloway” (Woolf’s manuscript) without gloves?

I hate to say, but Have you ever LOOKED at the gloves typically handed out to handle materials? Rather disgustingly DIRTY! And, big. (I have neither small nor large hands).

Clean, dry hands is key.

In the article, not only is “Mrs. Dalloway” discussed, but also the “scary literary dungeons” – those areas DEEP in the bowels (six stories below!) of the facility – where manuscripts are kept in “special chambers filled with nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon.”

A rotating exhibition of “treasures” from the vault gives even frequent visitors to the British Library something *new* to see.

[I confess, I cannot see where there is a video, of the curators; I only see “today’s headlines and highlights”, but perhaps a different browser would help]

“Experience a sense of history,” says one curator; and that indeed is a well-expressed summation. To touch, to read, to digest the information culled from a manuscript (like the letters, diaries, and drawings I work from) is “to experience” in the highest sense of the phrase.

Click on Jane’s eyes to Look Behind the Scenes. And, if you’re heading to London (or lucky enough to BE in London), check out the Standard’s “London’s prettiest and most Instagrammable BOOKSHOPS” article for some “treasures” you can bring home.

(I think my favorite to seek out next time is the Dutch barge bookshop, Word on the Watermoored on Regent’s Canal.)

Advertisements

Permalink 2 Comments

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.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Garden Tour – Christ Church College, Oxford

April 16, 2018 at 10:09 am (history, places, travel, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Poking around the Christ Church College, Oxford website, I came upon an announcement of their Seasonal Gardens Tour!

This is so evocative a thing to contemplate, even though I am 3000 miles away. The Goslings visited Oxford in the summer of 1814. Two of my diarist Mary Gosling‘s brothers were in college. Robert Gosling (the second-youngest brother) was actually attending Christ Church College, and the Goslings tramped all over the college grounds and into its quads and buildings. (Actually, they tramped about several of the colleges….)

My one time in Oxford, which had to be far quicker than I would have liked, my view of the gardens came through the college gates. So I wish I could transport myself over for the day and join those being shown around by the College’s head gardener.

It wasn’t until I really looked at the DATES that I realized the “Seasonal” wasn’t several dates over the blooms of spring or summer, but the Four Seasons of the year!

And the “Spring” date is coming up: on Thursday, April 26th (at 2 PM).

Other dates occur in July, October and January.

CC Oxford

From their website:

“Take a seasonal tour of Christ Church’s beautiful private gardens and Meadow with our Head Gardener, John James. Learn about their history, conservation, current and future planting schemes and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet away from the bustling city.

The tour lasts 1.5 hours and will take place in English. Entry to Christ Church is included in the ticket price [£15] so that you may visit the college and cathedral before or after your tour.”

The tours are booked online; see the Christ Church College website (link above, or click the photo). You would be walking in the historical footsteps of the very people who populate this research project.

Permalink 2 Comments

Criminal Broadsides

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am (history, london's landscape, places) (, , , )

It’s not often that I write of the dark underside of life in 19th Century Britain… but when I came across this “deposit” at Kent State University, I had to share.

Kent’s archival holdings contains BROADSIDES – those oh-so-ephemeral handouts that we all toss away. But these have miraculously been saved from the dust bin!

Wm Shaw

Imagine: one of the London printers of broadsides in the early 19th century had the intriguing name (nom de plume?) of Jimmy Catnach.

Among their criminal broadsides are some broadcasting the “unusual”, such as THE WILD AND HAIRY MAN, or THE WANDERING LADY. Although the veracity of the execution broadsides are called into question, the details are fascinating – and the website provides many instances of the contents of those. You can get your fill of Murderers, Horse Thieves, and Confessions (from the guilty or the wrongly-convicted) by reading through the 139 “cases” presented for your perusal. Dates covered 1800s, 1810s, 1820s, 1830s up to the 1870s.

Some EXTRAS:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Selina, Lady Heathcote

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

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

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

diary.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRAS:

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Understanding Old English Money

February 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm (diaries, history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

12 pennies to the shilling (12d = 1s; also written as / ).

20 shillings (or 240 pence) to the pound. (20s = 1 l. and 240d = 1 l.)
To avoid confusion, I will typically use the modern pound sign online, £.

NB: A “guinea” was equal to 21 shillings (1 pound plus 1 shilling). Big ticket items (like a horse, for instance) might be quoted in “guineas.”

So if a letter cost 5d, then FOUR letters cost a shilling. If you had a “healthy” correspondence network, you might very well receive four letters in a DAY! (The recipient bore the cost.) Multiple deliveries in a week and that puts you up to 3 or 4 shillings a week. A heavier letter, or farther distance, and you pulled more coins from your purse.

The Smiths and Goslings frequently comment in their diaries about money spent.

What did a penny buy?

English Penny

Genuine English Penny from 1807

Even in the 1790s, evidently not much! So many items are in shillings and pence. “Pearl Needles” cost Mrs. Chute 6d. So did “a Song.” A pit-stop for the horses in the midst of a trip, for “Hay & water,” cost 6d. As did “a Glass for my watch: 6d.”

In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute’s typical generosity to a “Poor Man” or a “Poor Woman” was 2s; every once in a while it dips to a low of 6d. And sometimes hit the high of 2/6 (“2 and 6” or 2s 6d), for instance to a “Poor Sailor.” She was the most generous, in 1794, to a “poor French woman,” giving her 5 shillings.

Wages, sometimes, can be found among the costs.

The most telling:

In 1794, Mrs. Chute of The Vine notes the wages of a “Kitchenmaid” named Sally (no last name given) – “one’s year’s wages to Xmas” as 3£ 3s. She also notes “one year’s wages” to the unnamed Cook (to Michaelmas), 9£ 9s; to “Mrs. Bligh” (housekeeper; also to Christmas), 16£ 16s.

To an unnamed “kitchen girl” for an unnamed period of time: 2/6. To “the housemaid” in Albemarle Street (i.e., when on a visit), 10/6.

What goods did shillings purchase?

In Emma’s youth (1816), the Church Sacrament is typically 2/6. In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute (her aunt) would note that a “seat at church” cost 1 shilling. For the Sacrament, she gave 5s.

To put prices into perspective, some typical expenses (all from 1794):

To a letter: 8d

To Washing: 1s

To Letters: 1s

To seeing “Lord Abercorn’s house” 2s 6d

To Seeds: 3s

To 12 Tuberose roots: 3s

To a book: 3s

To a play: 6s

To “Simpson, hair dresser”: 6s

To a Week’s Washing: 6s 5d

To the opera: 12s

To “paper and pens”: 14s

A doctor’s visit: 1£ 1s; but another visit cost slightly less, 10s 6d

Five yards Muslin: 1£ 5s 0d

 

See Project Britain: http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm for slang and some history of English coins.

Permalink 2 Comments

Postman Always Rings II

January 29, 2018 at 9:01 pm (books, history, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Alan brought up the point of costs for letters in a comment to my last post (about the frequency and times of collection for the London Two-penny post in 1835). This chart comes from a 1798 diary. It mentions _new_ postal rates after the passing of an Act of Parliament (rates took effect in July of the previous year). Cost is undoubtedly _the_ reason for the existence of crossed text. If an extra piece of paper cost more, then simply put another layer of writing on the single sheet! (NB: a third layer – written diagonally – does sometimes occur.) Cost also accounts for the usage of a wrapper (another half-sheet of paper, folded around the folded-up letter) when a FRANK was used. It didn’t matter what a letter weighed when it was sent “free” thanks to the Member of Parliament’s signature.

  • What DID matter for a franked letter? That the “envelope” was written in the hand of the MP; the place and date [what you see across the top in the image below] was correct and current; and, of course, the MP’s “free” signature.

The last comment serves as a reminder: It was the RECIPIENT who paid postage. A frank, therefore, saved the recipient money rather than the sender (who sometimes went to a LOT of trouble to obtain a frank). Of course, franks should have been used only for an MP’s government-related business….

In the table, “single” refers to the single sheet of paper, folded so as to create its own envelope (perhaps the topic of another post).

free front1

 

Act for additional Charges on Postage of Letters, &c.

By the 37th of Geo. III. ch. 18. the following Rates for Postage shall be taken after the 5th of July, 1797, throughout England, Wales, and at Berwick upon Tweed.

For every single Letter,

                                    if not exceeding 15 miles from Office to Office – 0s 3d

                                    if above 15, and not more than 30                       – 0s 4d

                                    if above 30, and not above 60                               – 0s 5d

                                    if above 60, and not above 100                             – 0s 6d

                                    if above 100, and not above 150                           – 0s 7d

                                    if above 150                                                               – 0s 8d

                                    sent by Post within Scotland, an Addition of        – 0s 1d

N.B. Double, Treble, and Ounce Letters, pay two, three, and four times those sums.

For all single Letters to or From Portugal                                           – 1s 0d
                                         to or from British America                             – 1s 0d
N.B. The inland Postage to be added.

Single Letters to non-commissioned Officers, Privates, or Seamen   – 0s 1d

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Postman Always Rings

January 28, 2018 at 9:43 am (history, london's landscape, World of Two Teens) (, , )

In the *first* of a series of posts (not necessarily all in a row), culling useful information about the World of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, is a short tidbit on the English Postal System.

So many times the Smiths and Goslings query each other:

  • When did you mail this letter? I received it only today.
  • How long did my letter take to reach you?
  • Should I use the route X rather than Y? Is it faster?
  • This letter took three days to reach me – why?
  • When did you post it?
  • I find, Today is not a post day.
  • The Postman is here, I must finish.

It, of course, is obvious that letters can travel through the hands of relatives – servants – as enclosures – via the family solicitor or banker, etc. etc. Some are franked; others hand-delivered next door or even inside the same house! Imagine yourself without your email…. “Why isn’t so-and-so answering me?” Things have not changed, it’s just the manner of the communication that differs.

(As well, the “historical” trail left behind! I Pity anyone studying the early 21st century 200 years from now…)

The Smiths and Goslings were as eager for news, as happy with a bit of a gossipy chat, as anxious about travelling loved-ones, as YOU are today. I was counting last night, and given the period from 1770s through the 1940s (stray letters at the beginning and the end, in a bell-curve fashion), and even discounting for wrappers alone or free-fronts (ie, NO letter inside) and for those copied from books, I have transcribed over two thousand letters. A *major* feat; though perhaps on par with finding them in the first place! The life stories that roll across the amassed pages is astounding. No wonder it’s taken ten years to come to grips with it all – and to see the materials for myself, when they are scattered from England to Italy, from Canada and the U.S. to Australia.

If I read a letter a day, EVERY day, it would take SIX-and-a-half YEARS to go through them, and that wouldn’t be counting any that are still out there, in someone’s closet or shoebox. And that doesn’t count the family diaries.

bright star_letter

So, what did I find? A schedule for the London Two-Penny Post in the year 1835, information among the printed matter at the front of “The Commercial LedgerAnnual Memorandum Book, used as a daily diary:

REGULATIONS OF THE TWOPENNY POST.

There are Six Collections and Deliveries of the Letters in Town, daily, (Sundays excepted), and there are Two Dispatches from, and Three Deliveries at, most Places in the Country, within the Limits of this Office.

The Hours by which Letters should be put into the Receiving Houses in town, for each Delivery, are as follow [sic]:

For Delivery in TOWN.
Over Night by 8 for the First
Morning ……… 8 …………. Second
                         10 ………… Third
                         12 ………… Fourth
Afternoon ……. 2 …………. Fifth
                          5 ………….. Sixth

For Delivery in the COUNTRY.
The preceding Even. by 5 for the First.
Morning ……………………… 8 …………… Second
Afternoon ……………………. 2 …………… Third.

But Letters, whether for Town or Country, may be put in at either of the Two Principal Offices an Hour later for each Dispatch.

Permalink 2 Comments

Rescuing Family History

January 13, 2018 at 11:08 am (estates, history, people, research) (, , )

A most delightful story:

“Three of her daughters married. . . .

The second, Elizabeth, married in May, 1784, John Colchester of Westbury-on-Severn. Family tradition has it that Mr. Colchester was one day sitting in his summer-house at the end of his garden by the road, waiting to see the coach pass. One of the passengers was a beautiful young lady. I am tempted here to apply Wordsworth’s lines, only interchanging the pronouns:

‘She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon his sight.’

He arose in haste, followed up the coach to the Red Lion, where it had stopped, found out who she was, and never rested till he had married her.

The garden where this romantic incident is said to have happened, laid out in the old Dutch style, with long ponds, statues, and summer-house, can still be seen at Westbury…”

[NB to all you readers of Jane Austen novels & letters: I *must* say: This is one reason why YOUNG LADIES did not travel alone! When ‘strange men’ follow your carriage into the coach yard…, you should be happy to have a brother or a servant ready at your elbow to help.]

The mother of the trio of ladies was Elizabeth Dighton (née Hunter), a widow with nine children. The book, The Dightons of Clifford Chambers and Their Descendants (1902), places Mrs. Dighton in the wills of Lister Dighton of Clifford and also George Lucy of Charlecote (the eldest son also carried “Lucy” as part of his name).

It is the daughter, though, Eliza Colchester, who’s come under my radar. In Colchester genealogy she’s described as “the daughter of John Dighton, of Ascot Park, Oxon.”

The Dighton book, published in 1902, claims the “property at Ascot was sold, but I have not been able to trace the date of the sale [see ASIDE, below], after which James Lucy [J.L. Dighton, Elizabeth’s brother] went to India. It is thought he went as private secretary to Warren Hastings, but I have not found any allusion to this in Gleig’s life of the great Governor-General…” Warren Hastings, of course, appears in Jane Austen biographies because of his relationship to her aunt Philadelphia (Austen) Hancock and her daughter Eliza (best known under her married name of Eliza de Feuillide).

The Dighton/Colchesters have a GREAT India connection, and, indeed the one item that brought Eliza Colchester to my attention – an 1826 letter – makes mention of her family members who are living abroad. (In the letter, she also “gave joy” for the summer 1826 marriage of Sir Charles Joshua Smith [Emma’s brother] with Mary Gosling [my diarist].)

One letter, out of so many.

But it’s not in the collection of correspondence, per se, that makes me think along of the line of “rescuing” a family’s history – it’s the AMOUNT of material I’ve been able to pull together. Letters, diaries, drawings, books, portraits, just to name a few.

The REACH of the family is rather mind-boggling.

The Smith and Gosling family had a complex social network, an extensive correspondence network. Their friends network can only be guessed at. Until something like this letter, written by Eliza Colchester from The Wilderness to her dear friend Mrs. Judith Smith at The Grove in Stratford (greater London, not Stratford on Avon), surfaces, relationships remain unknown.

I describe this Colchester letter a little bit in an earlier post, before going on to discuss some Wymess-Colchester garden that had been rescued recently.

Being JANUARY, however, I’ve thought about what I’d like to share with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers. This year, 2018, is actually the TENTH anniversary of this blog. (how time flies…) And once some of the MAIN “discoveries” were uncovered, there were things I took for granted that readers “knew”. But audiences come and go, and I plan a major push starting NOW to “reintroduce” some people, places, and things.

cover-twoteens

Random Jottings, my Kindle (and also paperback book) is still available. If the paperback interests you, contact me – but the Kindle is easily ordered at Amazon (and its overseas branches). It gathered together blog posts and ordered them in a way that introduces all of the family members and their estate-homes.

So, *upcoming*, will be further information about all the family, radiating outwards from the core duo of EMMA AUSTEN and Mary LADY SMITH. But I’m also HOPING for some additional sources to turn up; items like letters and diaries! Thus, the *need* to talk about people like Eliza Colchester. Not only might descendants exist, but letters (especially) circulate in collections of private individuals. Sometimes, ONE LETTER makes such a difference!

For instance. . . .

ONE letter described “Macklin” in such terms that I’ve now spent a good five years uncovering MORE information on Miss Macklin (also known as Amelia Wybault, her married name). This became SUCH a concentrated topic that I created a presentation around it called “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” (a bow to Dickens’s “unfinished” The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

ONE letter describes Augusta Smith’s feelings for the young Northamptonshire doctor her family was against her marrying in the 1820s.

ONE letter from a friend to “Aunt” (the Smith’s aunt Judith Smith, their father’s sister; “Aunt” is all they ever called her) uncovered a tiny SLICE of Aunt’s life – and that is EXCEPTIONALLY valuable to me.

So just one of anything – a letter, an envelope even, a diary, a picture – when gathered among everything else MATTERS greatly. Even finding that description of a youthful Eliza Dighton, when my own picture of her was of an elderly friend. Precious!

Some other aspects readers can look forward to finding out about during 2018:

Family members who exist in photographs. Obviously these are mainly the children of the siblings. And there will come pleas for information about items that surfaced… and then disappeared again. “To Where?” is the constant question.

The geography of the Smith and Gosling world is so extensive. They lived in England; travelled west, to Wales and Ireland; travelled east to places as far as Moscow; and south as far as Italy and Sicily. I’m still waiting for one archive in Rome so I can access thirteen letters from the 1820s. [The Lante delle Rovere papers are kept in the Borromini-designed library biblioteca Alessandrina, Sant’Ivo a la Sapienza, Archivio di Stato di Roma, closed since 2014 for renovations.]

I find the world of the Smiths & Goslings unendingly fascinating, and I hope to interest YOU.

* * *

ASIDE: According to an Oxfordshire “paper” (by John Sykes, Oxfordshire Building Trust, in 2012; link called: “History of Ascott Park”) on the estate of Ascot (or Ascott) Park, the contents of Ascot were dispersed on the death of Alice Dormer (aunt to the heir John Lucy Dighton) in 1780.  Ascot Park had been put up for sale in 1773, after James Lucy Dighton came of age (his father had died in 1761), but it failed to sell. The estate was ultimately sold to the Blackalls, a landed family “in the Great Haseley area” in 1795.

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »