Charlotte Frost (author of Sir William Knighton, The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) – always with her eyes and ears open for tidbits of interest to me, emailed me about this site which is SO terrific that I simply must share it.
Fanny Chapman (pictured; click pic to go to site) is the author of a set of diaries spanning the years 1807 thru 1812 and 1837 through 1840 (as of July 2015, not yet online). I’m THRILLED because I’ve found brief mentions of Lady Colebrooke, wife of Sir George Colebrooke; grandmother of Belinda Colebrooke (Charles Joshua Smith’s first wife).
The fine “introduction”, which tells about the people and the diaries, can be augmented by another at All Things Georgian.
The Chapman diaries are well illustrated, and have been lovingly transcribed by George and Amanda Rosenberg — who would LOVE to hear from anyone with further glimpses of their own Fanny Chapman and her relations & friends. _I_ only wish my own stash of letters and diaries were as forthcoming on their behalf as their research as been for me (I do live in hope of uncovering more). But, while the Colebrookes were visited in Bath by the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park, the Smiths stayed home or were found in London; they never seem to have lived a time in Bath. Still, I do have NAMES now to be on the look-out for in the future.
From what I’ve read, you will not per se learn about the likes of the Prince of Wales, but the daily life of a sociable woman has its own rewards. The Diaries of Fanny Chapman is HIGHLY recommended – and the Rosenbergs are commended for offering these transcriptions and elucidations to the public.
Always on the lookout for something different, I was DE-LIGHT-ED to find a brief (1.40) video, mainly outside, but a few glimpses at the interior, of ROEHAMPTON GROVE. The Gosling estate from mid-1790s to the 1850s (it sold out of the family following Bennett Gosling’s death), Roehampton lies at the very CENTER of my research. One day I’ll visit it…
Although not quite two minutes’ long, the history of the house is nice — so if you watch, do turn on the sound!
Of course, interiorly, the house the Goslings knew – especially NOW that the building belongs to Roehampton University and is used as an “academic building” – is maybe present, maybe gone in any given room. Still, this once was Mary’s HOME!
Poor Fanny Smith — or, I should really say: Poor Fanny Seymour. For her “trouble with servants” comes AFTER her marriage, AFTER her removal to Kinwarton (Warwickshire), AFTER she has begun to set up her own household.
Fanny, of all the Smith of Suttons siblings, settled the furthest away from everyone else. And, as a girl and then woman, used to the quiet of the country at certain seasons but the BUSTLE of LONDON during “the season”, she is finding Kinwarton a little too-quiet. And, therefore, she knows what other will think…
And so she informs her sister Charlotte, to whom she turns after a letter arrived asking Fanny to consider hiring a protegée of someone known to Charlotte (who, by the way, is living in London [Cavendish Square] – with husband Arthur Currie).
NB: a protegée is meant to convey the idea of recommendation: A servant (new to the market or simply seeking a different position) whom the friend or relation can recommend to the attention of someone seeking a servant.
My! what an absorbing letter to read! The gist of Fanny’s lament is not that she doesn’t think the woman will suit => Fanny believes the position would NOT at all suit the woman! The woman is too used to fine households (“white gloves” were mentioned…); and her brother is in the household of a titled family. What has the Kinwarton Vicarage to offer other than a stone-floored kitchen – no “housekeeper’s room” at all, as in all the fine house’s the woman may indeed associate with the Smiths: Suttons (in Essex), Stoke (in Wiltshire), Tring (in Hertfordshire). Fanny asks her sister to be candid, to tell the ex-Lady’s Maid — though one of Charlotte’s servants — all the letter contains about the position and the household. Tell this also to the lady who wrote to Fanny, so that she too will be under no misapprehensions.
Alas! Poor Fanny then leaves the door open, for she writes towards the end: IF the woman cares to pursue the position still, let her contact Fanny.
Now, Fanny had written Charlotte that the WORST scenario she could EVER envision was one where an unhappy servant moans and complains… Fanny may be a new-ish bride (it’s been well over a year since the wedding), but she is no “young” lady: she is in her 30s and well used to the large establishment of her mother’s household (yet, of course, always had her mother on the other side of a letter if advice was required about the said household).
Indeed, it seems, from one short sentence, that James Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) sat Fanny down and told her a few facts about life in the country’s more impecunious rectories. She knew, going into the marriage, she writes Charlotte, that she’d been heading a household where hundreds and not thousands (of pounds) would be spent in a year.
So why on earth does she simply NOT even consider taking “White Gloves” on?
For the next letter finds the woman IN KINWARTON!
The situation is not the happiest, on both sides (as Fanny predicted!), and Fanny, pregnant and planning to move south to be with her mother for her confinement, is already planning to give the woman her dismissal: the plan is NOT to engage her further once they arrive in London. The plan, then, calls for the woman – whom we now know to be nearer 50 than 40 in age (another Lament!) to be unemployed come Christmas, for Fanny was confined in mid-January.
Ah, for MORE in order to know IF this plan was followed! DID she arrive back in London with a handshake and a pay-off?
Richard’s diary mentions the woman just once: the fact of her travelling separately to Oxford as they break their journey south. Nothing more, as if the household does not affect him at ALL. And perhaps it didn’t! Fanny could write reams to her sisters, laments and pleadings for advice, but Richard can’t even be bothered to note the woman’s arrival or dismissal, or his wife’s unease.
So, until more letters come to light – or, more mentions of a woman named Heck or Hook – this story too is a “torso” waiting for a conclusion.
A friend in the UK sent me a newspaper clipping. Honestly, it had me shaking my head – not up-and-down, but side-to-side.
I have always been frugal; never more so than now. But am I the only one who grows a bit disgusted at the prices some items fetch? The newest is a letter – not a new discovery, but on the market – written by Cassandra Austen, to her niece Fanny Knight, about the death of Jane Austen.
The “asking” price is £30,000!
Surely, in the UK, that must buy a CAR (and a pretty nice one, I would think); it used to buy a house.
I work with letters exactly like this. I’ve even handled a couple written by Cassandra Austen. Such exorbitant pricing means this is one letter that will NEVER turn up in a pile of letters at the Hampshire Record Office. Where does the insanity end?
The email, with the newspaper clipping, came yesterday – and I was still thinking about this today. Wouldn’t it have been nice for the owner to donate the letter?
I’m glad the museum seems on target for their goal. No one knows better than me the angst of something that you’re so close to having – and then some glitch and … zip … someone ELSE gets to call it theirs (long story). But there’s also greed – which leaves me, as I began, shaking my head.
- Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum: join the fundraising effort (ending 31 July 2015)
- Southern Evening Echo article (11 July 2015)
I must admit to an intense boredom over politics. For, in the end, no matter what, nothing ever really seems to change. Translate that boredom to the past and even to another country, and you will easily see that confusion over “labels” is bound to occur.
None more so than the terms TORY and WHIG. At least with Labour and Conservative one feels on surer ground…
But working in the early 19th century rather than the early 20th century, Whiggism and Toryism are two “isms” I have to get my head around. It is not helped by the fact that, while the words remained the same, their meanings did not. How highly entertaining to be told that the word Whig came into English vocabulary from the Scots Gaelic and was “applied to horse thieves and, later, to Scottish Presbyterians”. Tory had as ignominious a beginning: “an Irish term suggesting a papist outlaw”.
Of course _I_ can’t go that far back either. But must concentrate on the pull of the parties as occurred from the late 18th century into the early 19th century.
So why this “dip” into politics – which I can quite easily avoid in research that tends towards the biographical and the social?
Around the turn of the century, I have several gentlemen in the House of Commons: Joshua Smith (Emma’s grandfather), William Chute (Emma’s uncle), Charles Smith (Emma’s papa), and even the two Compton men, Charles and Spencer (Emma’s uncle and cousin, respectively). William Gosling, Mary’s father, is once caught out nearly all night, at a debate in the House.
Sooner or later I have to pay attention to politics!
But my recent question had been to remind myself the years Spencer Compton served. Some early letters describe his year forays into giving speeches, and (since he was a very young man!) give insight into his general personality. It was with great interest, therefore, that I read about his voting patterns in the short summation at the History of Parliament website.
Given that I have rather a soft spot for the ladies of Torloisk, the Clephane family into which Spencer married in summer 1815, I could not help but chuckle over an anecdote in the write-up on Spencer, Lord Compton (later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton): “He voted for the repeal of the Irish window tax, 21 Apr. 1818, opposed extension of the forgery bill, 14 May, and supported Brougham’s amendment to the aliens bill, 22 May. Sir James Mackintosh commented, ‘Lord Compton shows propensities to Whiggery which some ascribe to his lady, though it be a little singular that a Miss Maclean from the Isle of Mull should be a Whig’.”
I’m reading a group of letters from 1832. I’ve just added some new transcriptions to that year, and decided to read them all, in chronological order. It is a heart-rending year for the Smiths: Mary is still mourning the loss of her husband Charles (Emma’s eldest brother); “Aunt” – their father’s beloved sister, Judith Smith – dies in February, as does Lady Frances Compton, whom the siblings called “Aunt Frances”; Emma is expecting her third child; Augusta is expecting her first child; the wife of their lawyer and friend has a miscarriage; and what none of them could possibly know: youngest brother Drummond will go on a tour of Italy and Sicily, and never return.
So amidst all these “happenings” I’m reading one letter that says, regarding a letter written to an ill-and-dying Aunt “She has received Spencer’s letter & desires me to thank him for it; it was a kind attention from him…”
I HAVE THIS LETTER TOO! that was one of the newly-transcribed.
I’m sure to meet with people who say, “You have so many – what does one more matter.” And yet: The fuller the correspondence can be, with little news from this person to that, the more *miraculous* this project seems! It’s like plugging the holes of a dyke. It’s like a puzzle where you knew the general layout of the image, but none of its detail.
It’s EXCITING. And keeps me continually looking more MORE.
In four short words: I want them ALL.
We shall see, in the next month or two, if an article I wrote for JASNA-News, the bulletin of the Jane Austen Society of North America, gets published. Otherwise, you may hear about my visit, last May, here on Two Teens. Meanwhile, I invite readers to VERSAILLES TO VICTORIA, a fabulous website talking about architecture & history of “Beautiful places”. Like: Tring Park!
Readers hopefully remember that one of the estates Emma Austen knew as a girl, and lived in as a new wife and mother was Tring – the former home of her great uncle Drummond Smith. Tring has a special “Austen” connection, in that it was in the little parish church that Emma married James Edward Austen. And their first children took their first steps in the rooms of the mansion. A recent “find” among letters is one that pointed out the return of Mamma and Maria (Emma’s mother and youngest sister), in a trip of Mary 1835. The family had moved to Mapledurham in October of 1834! Yet here was a couple of people – and a couple of letters – talking about missing their former home.
And now you can see more the place they so reluctantly left.
By 1835, Edward (pictured above) and Emma had moved into their own home. It is from this point that Emma – MY main source for information on her siblings – begins to have her own topics of conversation. Edward’s ill health, the illnesses of her children, the pregnancies of herself and four of her sisters. Edward felt the “Tring Years” to have been special; and _I_ firmly agree! With Charles and Mary off on their own at Suttons, it was everyone else hanging out together at Tring.
TRING was also the beginning of this research project! The above diary entry (belonging to Mary Smith, Emma’s sister-in-law) was the first inkling I had that Mary’s family included Austen family members. Click on the entry to enter the World of Tring Park.
Research can be exhilarating…
Research can be frustrating….
And some days, there’s a little bit of BOTH the ‘high’ and the ‘low’!
When a letter was delivered, it was all nice and tight in its “wrapper”. By the time it’s gotten into an archive (perhaps after being at auction, or in the hands of some seller not family), envelopes are opened, letters are categorized, and sometimes… separated. Thus: the Noble Torso, as I am now calling such little widows and orphans.
As a for-instance: letters in a folder marked “Unidentified writers” => which can be due to illegible signatures or missing signatures. In here I found an interesting letter, all about the Smith’s LAST VISIT (in 1835 – puzzlingly; that was a good 7 or 8 months after they moved to Mapledurham House!) to Tring Park. I transcribed, relishing the tale of the garden (seen in May, and quite flourishing). Then – bang! – it ended in what seemed mid-thought.
I dipped into another folder, for there were two to choose from: one “dated” and another “undated”. I wasn’t having much luck “dipping”. So I decided: GIVE UP! Just start transcribing from the Beginning! and I opened the first image I had photographed in a “dated” file: and there IT was: the Noble Torso that finished a highly interesting story of a Young Buck, out shooting Rooks, whose shot (or shots?) was rather wild and wide off the mark: Poor Maria (Emma’s youngest sister) wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to shoot her!
FINALLY: a united LETTER!! (though, as a new “find” I still have to contact the archive, so physically, they are still apart…).
I then looked for the widow of yet another orphaned Noble Torso: and THERE its companion was (though not as *dramatic* a moment as that first “find”).
I must confess here, that in England I grew rather fond of Emma and (especially!!!) Mamma = for theirs were the letters (and diaries) I brought home in 2007 (and have worked with since). Fanny, the middle sister, I was giving a lecture on that summer, so she too I grew to know more about — yet it was different to being immersed in her thoughts and feelings via letters. Now, with an influx of more correspondence – and from the likes of Fanny (or to her) and Maria and even dear Spencer – I feel as if I’m getting to know each of them. A tight family unit, and yet still individuals, with quirks & foibles, passions & set-backs, all their own.
Frustrating … and … EXHILARATING!
It’s been a LONG time since I’ve read as fascinating an article as Hilary Davidson’s “Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, 1812-1814″ (available thru her Academia.edu account)
Originally published in Costume (vol. 49, no. 2, 2015), her uploaded articles includes all the illustrations under discussion in the article, and is a thorough piece of investigative writing. Taking into consideration not only the Jane Austen provenance (a indelicately-worded letter helped cast the shadow…), but also insights into construction and sewing, cost and “fashion”, the article should interest readers who want more information on
- Jane Austen
- Regency fashion
- English fashion & textiles
- costume construction
- conservation & recreation strategies for museum pieces
And a TON of other topics. In short, HIGHLY recommended!
Seen only in photographs, I’ve never been super impressed with the Austen garment. After reading about it in a fair amount of depth – it perhaps does suffer “age and infirmity”. It just looks so crumpled.
Their reproduction, reinstating some closures the original must have had (but doesn’t any more), has a much greater stiffness – and is well served by a tall, exceptionally-thin young woman.
The Austen Pelisse is considered in conjunction with several theoretical and actual garments – including Barbara Johnson’s excellent “book” of fabrics and fashions (reproduced in commercial book form as A Lady of Fashion) and a lovely garment from the V&A.
_I_ was quite surprised to see that the original garment has been sewn using “nine stitches to the inch” – which seemed a surprisingly low number (when hand-quilting and piecing is considered…; a reason I used to stay away from hand-sewing or quilting!).
And how interesting to read about the shift in costs: in Austen’s day the labor was nothing… nowadays a greater consideration. But, read the chart (p. 217) and you will see along with me how pitiful the wages of someone making less than 8 shillings! (For, unless you owned the business, the money did not go solely to the sewer — rather like a car mechanic today [ie, expensive labor rates!].) £300 was the labor cost for their replica. A far cry from the 2008 “equivalent” of 8 shillings: £20.
I don’t know what else to say about this incredibly-informative article – other than: READ IT for yourself.
Have been transcribing letters – little “holes” in the narratives of Sir Charles Joshua Smith, for one. The last letter of his transcribed, late last night, is a short one to “Aunt” (Judith Smith, Charles Smith senior’s only remaining sister). Charles is thanking her for the gift of a pencil (of all things!). Could it be a birthday gift? He was born at the end of May. If so, which birthday? The letter is undated.
Only one postal mark and that for PLACE (Chigwell) rather than a date (though a postal historian might be able to say “only in use during the years blah-to-blah”). My gut tells me it is earlier rather than later. Why? Because it’s address to Miss J. Smith / The Grove / Stratford rather than Mrs. J. Smith / Stratford / Essex – like a couple of later letters that I CAN date.
That’s my theory, anyway… (hint: Aunt never married, but at some point, like Cassandra Austen, took on “brevet rank” [to use Cassandra’s words].)
One other letter, newly transcribed (for I had got some images last December thanks to Emily), is precious: Charles’ reactions to the newly-announced engagement of Emma with Edward Austen!!
It’s tough – I read letters that delicately sprinkle FABULOUS news, like a light, refreshing summer shower. I put an un-ID’ed face next to one that HAS its identification and find more images of the same person, sometimes (thank, you, God) throughout a lifetime. Looking through pictures last night, it DAWNED on me: “Addie and Johnson” wasn’t a photography of Adela Smith with a child named Johnson; ADDIE WAS THE CHILD! and “Johnson” the nursemaid! So I had therefore pictures of Addie from about the age of 3 and up.
Except: WHO is around to share my excitement? It’s tough.
And that is where the “title” of this blog comes into play.
Most of my “contacts” are in England; I am in New England. People from work never write. My mother has sighed and rolled the eyes enough that I no longer tell her my finds, little or BIG. My father has taken to constantly asking, “Where the Book?” (Got three chapters, Daddy, but also a LOT of letters to go through.)
Chatting on Sunday (my talk for JASNA-Vermont, on Emma’s Aunt Emma), with Kirk – he mentioned enjoying my blog! I was honest: Truly, (I said), I’m never sure…
And he asked, “Have you ever heard 1776?”
I knew it WAS a film, but one I’ve never seen; never seen it on stage either. And Kirk then told me something which niggled at me the rest of the evening, until I looked it up (thank, you, YouTube!) next morning. “Is Anybody There?” sings John Adams, “Does anybody Care? Does anybody see what I see??” A sobering series of thoughts. Listen for yourself, to singer Randal Keith.