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.


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(only the sons of the family took the ‘Wither’ name in addition to Bigg), who proposed to Jane Austen – who “famous” rescinded her acceptance after much thought.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.”




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Pride & Prejudice Austen Feast

March 16, 2018 at 12:18 pm (books, jane austen) (, , , )

Devoney Looser on visiting the Margaret Herrick Library, in Beverly Hills is a MUST-READ for those who LOVE (or love to hate) the Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier 1940 MGM film Pride and Prejudice.

I must admit, I’m a Greer Garson fan (she made some great films), and look past the fact that she and Elizabeth Bennet are farther apart in age than they should be. (Rather like overlooking her off-screen amour with her on-screen son from Mrs. Miniver.) I find Garson far more “charming” than a certain 1990s Elizabeth.

And who, after Rebecca, wouldn’t desire an Olivier-Darcy?

So I look past a lot (though haven’t seen the film in a few years; and that, I think, might have been watched via

But: back to Devoney Looser’s blog post.

It’s like a breadth from “Old Hollywood”! Especially when she’s describing the photographic stills. Had SUCH a laugh over the idea of someone masking a putto’s nakedness from the cameras! (Putto, the singular of Putti.)

Greer Garson

As to the LOVE of British actors for their tea — heard that one already from Susan Hampshire, when filming The Pallisers. Those damned big dresses get in the way when the tea passes through…

I must admit, I diverge a bit from Devoney’s thinking towards the end of her post, knowing how much TV and films are constantly “echoing” the last blockbuster or climbing aboard the current bandwagon. Lately, Primetime Game Shows, Superheroes, and lots of “extraordinary” doctors and sleuths (everybody’s got superior intelligence nowadays). Back then, it was the Cowboys and the Comedies. BUT: it’s also the era of British-literary films that made it BIG here in the States like David Copperfield (1935).

So I don’t think it so much the audiences who required some impetus for attending Pride and Prejudice (and the stage play would have helped make an audience – both for a film AND for the original novel).

pp_colin keith johnston

I think the heads of Hollywood wanted a sure-fire hit by producing the same they were used to producing, wanted a little of this and a bit of that to liven up a book they might never have read.

Let’s face it: some screen writers probably never READ Austen, and were not up to the task (and why their efforts were deep-sixed).

On a personal level, having been in Devoney’s shoes – though, with the exception of the Morgan, we’re walking into different libraries – I loved reading about the “wonderment” she experienced during her bus-trip and her entrance into the Herrick.

The post, of course, advertises her recent book, The Making of Jane Austen.

THANKS to the Facebook group “British History Georgian Lives” post by Alan Taylor, which alerted me to the Devoney Looser blog post.


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Mary & Emma, Two Teens in the Time of Austen

March 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm (chutes of the vyne, goslings and sharpe, introduction, jane austen, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Before I go much further, I should talk a little about “my two girls”. THEY are the Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An appropriate post with which to celebrate “International Women’s Day, 2018“, don’t you think?

EVERYTHING goes back to the very first diary of the project – a travel diary, in which people from Roehampton travel across England to Northern Wales, and even make a Dublin visit. Two things stood out about that trip: The Gosling family met and stayed HOURS with the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. They also saw money being made in Dublin. That her father turned out to be a London banker made this last event less “unusual” and more of a “busman’s holiday” for Mr. Gosling.

At the time, all I had was a name from the card catalogue: Mary Gosling. She only mentioned “Papa, Mama, my Sister, and myself”. (NB: throughout her diaries, Mary ONLY refers to Margaret Elizabeth Gosling as “my sister”; Elizabeth is NEVER mentioned by name.)

Searching Gosling, Roehampton I happened upon what turned out to be MORE of Mary’s diaries: She was her father’s daughter: William Gosling of Roehampton and Fleet Street (this last, the family banking firm’s address). So her later diaries were ‘tagged’ by her relationship to him, which helped immensely. These are ID’ed as “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney”. Suttons being the Smith family estate, and Stapleford Tawney, Essex, being its location. When I first saw the handwriting on these “Lady Smith” diaries, I _knew_ they were the same girl!

Within a year, I was in Hampshire, reading letters and diaries relating to Emma Smith, but “Mary” remained my focal point. And even though MORE material has surfaced for Emma’s family – thanks in great part to her marriage with James Edward Austen, the nephew and first biographer of his aunt, writer Jane Austen. MUCH Smith family material is held at the Hampshire Record Office. Doesn’t hurt that one aunt (her mother’s next elder sister) was Eliza Chute of The Vine (nowadays: The Vyne), a National Trust property in Hampshire. Eliza’s diaries mention Jane Austen. And the blog’s name was born!

But the Smith and Gosling families are QUITE intertwined, so the two girls remain linked together in this project. They were great childhood friends, and even became sisters-in-law in 1826 (Mary married Emma’s eldest brother).


Mary (foreground) and Emma

I still hope for MORE material from the Goslings. They are a fascinating family. A firm of bankers (and their records still exist), Goslings & Sharpe amalgamated with Barclays Bank, which still is headquartered at the Goslings branch on Fleet Street, London. There are some letters, but I’ve had little luck hearing from Glyndebourne – where there may (or may not…) be further evidence of this branch of the Christie family.

Mary’s sister Elizabeth (Margaret Elizabeth Gosling) married Langham Christie in 1829 – and he inherited Glyndebourne. A major litigation “case”, (as you might guess), since there were other interested parties. But Langham prevailed, and their son William Langham Christie became the first of this family to call Glyndebourne home. (The Langham Christies called Preston Deanery home instead.) At the very least, a Christie granddaughter wrote about the family portraits at Glynebourne, circa 1900, that included Langham and Elizabeth Christie; and even Elizabeth’s maternal grandparents Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe.


But whether the family archives include Gosling-related materials, I don’t know. Glyndebourne’s “advertised” archives are opera-centric; East Sussex has some too-early and too-late estate papers. I’m particularly on the hunt for diaries, and any letters from or to Elizabeth and/or Langham Christie.

Mary’s own branch of the family lived on through her daughters, but her only son had sons who did not have sons. The baronetcy jumped from Charles Joshua Smith‘s heirs to those of his brother (Emma’s brother, too, of course) Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith line married into the Austen Leigh line, and it’s the Austen Leighs (for one) who stayed heavily invested in Jane Austen’s legacy; Joan Austen Leigh (“my” Emma’s great granddaughter) helped found JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America (ie, the U.S. and Canada). So my project “circles” around some very exciting history! And by blogging about it, I get to tell YOU, dear Reader, all the little tidbits.

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JASNA AGM on “Persuasion”

January 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

For those who are JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) members, and those have been thinking about becoming members, information for the Breakout Sessions is now up on the Annual General Meeting website. This year’s conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the end of September (2018).

Some exciting and engaging papers!

The AGM’s title is “200 Years of Constancy and Hope


The themes that caught my eye:

  • “Jane Austen worked on Persuasion from August 1815 to August 1816, while she was also closely concerned with the publication and reception of Emma.” [Juliette Wells]
  • “The cancelled final chapters of Persuasion offer a glimpse of Austen transforming her own work.” [Marcia Folsom]
  • “Jane Austen’s chosen settings of the Cobb at Lyme, with the seaside and fossils, and the city of Bath… provide an underlying sense of hope and rebirth.” [Randi Pahlau]
  • “Naval portraiture both as personal mementos and markers of collective social identity.” [Moriah Webster]
  • “Although a family’s wealth generally belonged to men, the task of managing that money often fell to women.” [Linda Zionkowski]
  • “Austen’s descriptions of the Musgroves’ ancestral portraits and new furniture… allude to the era’s changing aesthetics in furnishings and clothing styles.” [Kristen Zohn]
  • “Anne Elliot struggles to believe herself deserving ….” [Mary Ellen Bertolini]

and many more!

It’s always a *thrill* to anticipate the next Annual General Meeting – Fresh thoughts on favorite novels.

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Add Jane Austen, and Ka-ching

January 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm (books, jane austen, people) (, , )

Over the weekend, looking for books once owned by Lady Frances Compton – the sister of the 1st Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s uncle), I found SEVERAL booksellers who added the JANE AUSTEN name to their posts. My Question is: WHY??

bookplate_Lady Frances

Here is Lady Frances’ bookplate. She was the daughter of an earl, and a formidable woman by the time I meet her, in the 1790s. She lived much of her early and later years in Switzerland. The early years, because her father had settled there after spending a fortune in trying to secure a parliamentary seat. The later years, it was obvious that she loved her Swiss surroundings.

I have never seen proof of any relationship between the sister of Mrs. Chute of The Vine, i.e., Lady Northampton herself, with the Austens. Her sister-in-law is even one remove farther away. So it was with EXTREME interest that I read some of these books descriptions . . . and prices.

On the low scale, of rhetoric as well as price, is an offer by Between the Covers, Rare Books, Inc:

  • Robert Bloomfield, Wildflowers; or, Pastoral and Local Poetry (1806)

“First edition. Contemporary speckled calf ruled, and spine heavily gilt. Spine rubbed, and some loss of leather at the corners, a handsome very good copy. Engraved bookplate of Lady Frances Compton on the front pastedown. Lady Frances was a friend of the Austen family and frequently visited and dined with them.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this volume: $375

Another seller, selling an 1812 copy, without any ‘Austen’ mention is selling it for $120.

At the opposite end of the scale, with some of the most explosive, out-on-a-limb speculations, is this on offer by Arroyo Seco Books:

  • Antony Ashley Cooper [3rd Earl Shaftsbury], Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, with a Collection of Letters, 3 vols. (1790)

“Basil [Basel]: J J Tourneisen / J L Legrand, 1790. Reprint . Speckled Calf / Boards. Very Good +. 8 1/2″ Tall. (Viii), 414; (Vi), 367; (Viii), 340, + Long Index To All Volumes At End. Published 1790. Original Or Very Early Spotted Calf, 6 Spine Compartments With Two Morocco Labels On Each Volume, Gilt Decorations And Borders On Spine, Over Marbled Paper Covered Boards, Spotted Calf Tips, Light Blue Endpapers. Lightly Used, Single 1/8″ Deep X 3/16” Long Chip At Top Of Spines Of Vols 2 And 3, Hinges Solid. Bookplates Of Lady Frances Compton; She Is Noted As A Visitor To The Household By Jane Austen’s Father In The Early 1790’S. An Interesting Association As There Is Speculation That Jane Austen Used Shaftesbury As A Source For Her Ideas Of Morality. Although There Is No Evidence That Austen Had Access To A Copy Of Shaftesbury, It Is Possible That She Discussed The Ideas With Lady Compton, Or Even That This Particular Set Was Made Accesible To Her.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this set: $2,000

Although not quite as handsome along the spine, another 3-volume set currently for sale, without the Austen wishful thinking, is selling for $175.

signature_lady frances compton

What _I_ would dearly love to hear is, When Lady Frances dined with the Austens, and Where she sat down with Jane Austen to discuss ideas

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!


But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.


a Jane Austen pillow


Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands

December 26, 2017 at 11:46 am (jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Over the holiday weekend I got an email from a friend who plans a future trip to the Shetland Islands! Oooohh…..

Islands have a lure for me – though I cannot say I have EVER visited any I’ve pointed to on a map. The Isles of Scilly remain merely read about. The Channel Islands, because they are on U.K. time, proved impossible to visit as a day trip from Paris, thanks to the ferry schedule. In Scotland, I did get to the Highlands, but never to any of the Islands.

In the back of my brain, however, I dug up the memory of once having ordered yarn (yes, I used to knit) from the tippy-top of Shetland – from Unst, if I recall correctly. I still have the sweater – a thin wool “jumper,” dark green, made to go with a Macdonald tartan skirt.

Oh, the memories! I’m looking at the Jamieson & Smith website. I remember when I used to look at books on historical knitting – and thought about building myself a JUMPER BOARD. If you’re a knitter, and don’t know what that is, click the link. The cost is 85 pounds (though not sure about the shipping…). GROAN: “currently unavailable.” (Ditto for the glove boards.)

IMAGINE: Mail order, in the days before the internet! I can’t be a 100% sure of the company or which island my goods came from, but I’m in the right neighborhood. I bet somewhere around the house is the original packing slip. I remember some fabric, from Scotland, and even Wales, too.

Those were GOOD days. I used to be so enthusiastic about sewing; and I actually designed my own knitwear. Not my own design, but one of my handiwork is this pair of socks:


The photo was meant to show the “clock” that’s worked around the ankle, although this pattern is Austrian, and features a cable from ankle to knee.

So I’ve had an interest in Shetland patterns, and historical knits in general (I have a tidy little library of books on that subject). AND now I’ve a Highland Lady of my own – Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane – whom I have been writing about. Margaret married Emma Smith’s (Emma Austen Leigh’s) cousin, Lord Compton. On the death of his father (May 1828), she became the 2nd Marchioness of Northampton.

But Margaret was a Highland Bluestocking.

Torloisk, the Isle of Mull home she shared with her mother and two sisters, is an area I’ve recently looked at on google maps. So it wasn’t hard to look up the likes of Staffa, which Lord Compton visited in 1813 – and I’m beginning to think the Clephane ladies showed him around this island known for its basalt columns.

And not far off from there (on a map): the Shetlands – and that is how I discovered the footprints of Sir Walter Scott!

Margaret Clephane knew Walter Scott (he was her godfather, and her guardian) – and due to her intended marriage to Lord Compton (in 1815) he dropped by the Smith residence at No. 6 Portland Place and chatted an hour with Emma and Fanny Smith! (Mamma was not at home…)

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

Margaret & Marianne (her eldest daughter)

Walter Scott is behind the naming of JARLSHOF, a name he invented for his novel The Pirate (1822). At the southern tip of the Sheltland Islands, Jarlshof is an important archeological site.

Ian Mitchell has written about Scott’s adventures in the Shetlands; Scott visited these northern islands in 1814 – the year he published WAVERLEY, the novel Jane Austen was loath to like, though she “feared she must” like it. [aside: read David Groves, “Jane Austen in Scotland” in JASNA’s 1985 journal Persuasions.] Until that publication, Scott was known for his poetry – and Jane Austen, with three novels to her credit, teased her niece that Scott should have left the crowded field of novel-writing alone! Indeed, his works became fiercely beloved in his lifetime. Published anonymously, it’s rather surprising that Austen had already heard who the author of Waverley was; even Margaret Clephane was only guessing when she wrote to Scott about Waverley – teasing about how much she could have helped the “unknown” author with all things Scots Gaelic (a language Margaret spoke as well as English). She is the reason for a LOT of the Highland scholarship behind Scott’s historical novels. It’s all there, in her letters to him (his replies to her, of course, make up letters in the published Scott Correspondence).

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A Jane Austen Birthday Present

December 16, 2017 at 11:04 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Every December, on Jane Austen’s Birthday (December 16th), JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America, celebrates by publishing their digital periodical, Persuasions On-Line. This a free to view periodical of scholarship centering on Austen, her novels, her life, her family.

I’m really thrilled to see an article on the “The Sitting with Jane Art Trail, Celebrating Jane Austen, Basingstoke, and Literary Tourism,” by Misty Krueger. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will recall a brief post I called “Jane Austen BookBenches“.

Dancing with Jane

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra AustenOther articles, some culled from the recent AGM (Annual General Meeting) in Huntington Beach, California, that caught my eye include:

  • “Persuasion: Why the Revised Ending Works so Well,” by Paul Wray
  • “‘My Fanny’ and ‘A Heroine Whom No One but Myself Will Much Like’: Jane Austen and Her Heroines in the Chawton Novels,” by Gillian Dooley
  • “‘I Have Unpacked the Gloves’: Accessories and the Austen Sisters,” by Sara Tavela
  • “Jane Austen’s Early Death in the Context of Austen Family Mortality,” by Christopher O’Brien
  • “The Immortality of Sense and Sensibility: Margaret’s Tree House, Edward’s Handkerchief, Marianne’s Rescue,” by Susan Allen Ford

There’s even a “Conversation with Whit Stillman,” who joined us at Huntington Beach for an evening that included discussion of his film Love & Friendship (based on Austen’s “Lady Susan”), which then played for the assembled audience.

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Portraits: Captain & Mrs Hawker

November 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

It was with GREAT surprise that I came across miniature portraits of Captain Edward Hawker and his wife (perhaps at the time, fiancée?) Joanna Naomi Poore.

Why do the young Hawkers concern us at Two Teens in the Time of Austen? Mainly, because Edward Hawker was the uncle of Fanny Smith’s husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour (son of Sir Michael Seymour and Jane Hawker.)

Therefore, Edward was also the uncle of Spencer Smith’s wife Frances Seymour; Maria Smith’s husband the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour; and Arthur Currie’s second wife Dora Seymour (the widowed Mrs. Chester).

In addition to Jane Hawker, another sister of Edward’s was Dorothea Hawker – who married Dr. William Knighton — another frequent name on this website, thanks to Charlotte Frost’s biography, Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician, the text of which she is offering “free” on her website Sir William Knighton.

Edward Hawker

Captain Edward Hawker has a fascinating naval history, including time spent in Bermuda, where he knew Captain Charles AustenJane Austen‘s youngest brother.

As you can see from the “detail” of the miniature, Edward is pictured in his naval uniform. No doubt one reason why the pair sold for £1700 (after an estimate – for the two – of £100 to £150).

What excites me is that his wife’s portrait is still paired with his!

Joanna Poore

Isn’t Joanna Poore a little treasure! If you click on her image, you will be taken to a site that deals with past auctions (The Saleroom), but you can also find information on them from Dominic Winter, the auction house, by clicking the next link.

The sale took place March 2, 2017; the Hawkers were Lot 231.

They now join the other “Family Portraits” that you can peruse – From Emma and Mary, down to aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, & siblings.

As readers know: I’d love to hear from anyone with further images — or family letters and diaries!!


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Visiting 11 Jane Austen Locations

October 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, travel) (, , )

My surprise came from seeing among the “11 Jane Austen Locations in the U.K. to Visit on Your Next Reading-Inspired Adventure” (a 2015 article) the one large estate most closely related to my Smith & Gosling research: Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire.

Castle Ashby was (and still is) the seat of the Marquess of Northampton. In Emma Austen’s youth this was “Uncle Northampton,” the 9th Earl and 1st Marquess of Northampton; the title then devolved to Emma’s cousin (the 1st Marquess’ only son), Spencer Compton – who usually appears in these blog posts under the title he carried while his father was still alive, Lord Compton. Compton married Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Both of them pop up in many Two Teens in the Time of Austen posts.

I visited the archives at Ashby in 2014, and (of course) have many of Emma’s “Castle Ashby” impressions and stories at my finger tips.

The Castle Ashby Gardens are open to the public, but the house is a private residence. So why include it on a to-do list of houses to visit for Jane Austen fans? Its appearance in an issue of Country Life holds the key.

Mansfield Park

Some sites, like Plymouth’s Saltram House, are on the list because of films.

The Jane Austen Center in Bath is a given, as one of the few “museums” dedicated to the author; ditto the Jane Austen’s House Museum and its neighbor Chawton House.

Stoneleigh Abbey has a “Leigh” family connection (the “Leigh” of the Leigh-Perrots, Mrs. Austen’s brother and sister-in-law), which Stoneleigh exploits quite a bit in tourist advertising and tours. Mrs. Austen’s letter home chatters on in great detail about the Austen visit to Stoneleigh in 1806.

  • NB: Leigh family papers at the Huntington Library (California) is completely online, in a very useful digital collection.

Also on Emma Oulton’s “11 Jane Austen sites” list (of course) is Austen’s grave, inside Winchester Cathedral.

Some sites come straight from the books: Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) mentions “the Island”, which to her indicates the Isle of Wight (much as Emma Austen and Lady Smith call London “Town”). Emma Woodhouse (Emma) visits Box Hill – a “vista” that a kind friend drove me to experience for myself in October 2016. Also on the list, Gretna Green – although Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) did not cross the border into Scotland, but remained (unmarried…) somewhere in London.

Then, the realm of “inspiration” and Oulton’s “must visit” list takes a bit of an unexpected turn: Tintern Abbey for its gothic inspiration. Chatsworth more for its supposed “Pemberley” inspiration than its film location persona. And this is where and how CASTLE ASHBY appears. All thanks to a Country Life article that got picked up by The Telegraph in 2015.

Ashby’s archivist had mentioned to me in 2014 that some Jane Austen scholar had “a theory about Ashby,” but it wasn’t until The Telegraph article got emailed that I tracked down the origin article. Relooking for this blog post, I found one blogger’s thoughts to be RIGHT ON target when it comes to writing and what could be behind any writer’s “inspiration”.

Mansfield Park2

Margaret C. Sullivan’sWill Jane Austen’s Real Inspiration Please Stand Up” specifically addresses issues concerning a writer’s “inspiration” and, obliquely, the theory Dr. Robert Clark (University of East Anglia) had set in motion.

Clark’s rationale is the genealogy of “Uncle Northampton” and Spencer Perceval, the member for Northampton who became Prime Minister and who has gone down in history as the only British Prime Minister assassinated while in office.

The Percevals (Spencer and his elder brother Lord Arden) were cousins of Lord Northampton. Lady Northampton (Emma’s aunt) was the eldest sister of Eliza Chute of The Vine; the Chutes were neighbors of the Austens – ergo: six degrees of separation and Jane Austen’s “inspiration” for Mansfield Park (the estate) was (fanfare, please: ta-da!) Castle Ashby.

You are invited to seek out Clark’s Country Life article (I do have an emailable PDF, if you’re really desperate; contact info under “About the Author” link); the Telegraph article can be found online (see next link).

But, first, several of Sullivan’s blog post thoughts:

  • “When I saw this article in the Telegraph …, I rolled my eyes a bit and prepared myself for silliness. We’ve had so much of this sort of thing: the Real Mr. Darcy, the Real Pemberley, etc., and it’s becoming tiresome…”
  • “I think it’s rare for writers, especially writers of Jane Austen’s genius, to be so literal about their inspiration…. Writers get inspiration from all over—the littlest thing to the biggest— … used however we need them to fit the plot.”
  • “tiresome … when five thousand Internet listicle sites pick it up like Moses brought it down from the mountain, and all our well-meaning friends send us links saying, ‘DID YOU SEE THIS?'”

I invite you to read Sullivan’s post in its entirety, for she makes some excellent points about Austen and Mansfield Park.

[By the way, Cottesbrook – which you’ll see in the comments section, is ALSO related to the Smiths & Goslings – home of the Langham family, relations of Elizabeth Gosling’s husband Langham Christie.]

My concern with Clark’s theory is less about “inspiration” and more about the veracity and depth of his familial research. Entitled, “Is this the Real Mansfield Park?” the sub-header entices Country Life readers by asking: “‘Are there hedgerows in Northamptonshire?Robert Clark has found compelling evidence to identify the country house on which Jane Austen based her novel Mansfield Park and to look at it in a new light.” A smaller-font teaser between paragraphs then asks, “Did the political and family connections of Castle Ashby draw Jane Austen to immortalize it in Mansfield Park?

Anyone who has read Mansfield Park will guess why Austen wanted to know if she could write about Hedgerows in the course of the novel. Austen’s query to Cassandra (letter of 29 Jan 1813) was, “If you c:d discover whether Northamptonshire is a Country of hedgerows, I sh:d be glad again.”

As I re-read Country Life, from their 2 September 2015 issue, these annoyances pop out:

  • Elizabeth Chute – this is more correctly applied to William Wiggett Chute’s wife. William Wiggett inherited The Vine after the deaths of brothers William and Thomas Chute, but only took possession of the Hampshire estate [there was also a Norfolk estate, as well] after the death of William’s widow ELIZA Chute. She may have been born an Elizabeth, but it is not the name she (or Claire Tomalin, in her Jane Austen biography, which the article cites) used.
  • Who the hell is “James Henry Austen-Leigh”? Typo or misprint is no excuse. The man’s name was James EDWARD Austen Leigh (and went by ‘Edward’). Austen scholars often abbreviate the Austen, and contract him to ‘JEAL’. So many writers seem unable to check their sources over James Austen and his son James Edward Austen (Leigh). [NB: Edward married my diarist Emma Smith]
  • The next section really is egregious: “Perhaps Austen-Leigh exaggerated [the intimacy of the Chutes and Percevals in his book on the Vine Hunt], as his wife was descended from another sister … and he wanted to affirm his kinship with the great, but the fact that he named two of his children — Spencer Austen and Edward Compton Austen — to commemorate the family relationships must lend weight to the suggestion….”

Emma had a brother Spencer, as well as cousin ‘Spencer Compton’. The two Compton siblings – Lord Compton and Lady Elizabeth Compton – were the ONLY first cousins the Smiths had. Clark’s concept of Edward Austen wishing to “affirm” kinship “with the great” might be altered if Clark had noted that Spencer Perceval had been William Chute’s fag at Harrow.

The Telegraph article by Hannah Furness brings other issues:

  • “Jane Austen’s fictional country house was based on the real-­life Castle Ashby, in Northamptonshire, the home of the family of Spencer Perceval.” [to me this sounds like Ashby was the Perceval seat; not so.]

Reactions of friends at the time of the Telegraph article, rather echoed the “letters to the editor”; they included:

  • “It’s a while since I read MP, but I got the impression that the house was quite contemporary, fairly recently built.  …. Castle Ashby is Elizabethan, and seems to me to be much grander than MP.
  • “Methinks that too many people are reading/trying to read too many things into not very much.”

My own response took the form of a (never published) Letter to the Editor:

Why Jane Austen should require “models” for the creation of characters or estates is a question few address; besides, it is fun to pose “what ifs” (“Sleuth’s trail to the heart and home of an Austen classic”, Sept 3).

I research the very persons Prof. Clark theorizes about: Eliza Chute’s family, into which James Edward Austen married on 16 December 1828. I agree with Prof. Richards (letters, Sept 11) that Castle Ashby and its Spencer Perceval connection seems too loose a thread for Austen to have woven its connotations into Mansfield Park. In the midst of re-reading Nelson’s Purse (Martyn Downer, 2004) as this story broke, I have an alternative suggestion from the same family: Swarland, owned by Alexander Davison. His involvement with Admiral Horatio Nelson; the family unit of Edmund and Fanny (Nelson’s father and estranged wife) against the mesmerizing newcomer; and a strong dose of Church, Navy, Portsmouth, and the West Indies all fall within Austen’s story.

Swarland was a neo-Palladian house, mid-eighteenth-century built, with substantial parkland – including a ha-ha and extensive walks á la Sotherton. It serves for house, grounds, and the extra-textural fare Clark seeks for the “cognoscenti reader”. Far north if left in situ (Northumberland), Swarland could have precipitated Jane Austen’s questions about hedgerows and Northamptonshire, if she prepared to “relocate” the action to a southerly county with a similar name.

See, even _I_ can play the game!

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