“poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend”

November 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm (estates, history, news, people, research) (, , , )

It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:

“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”

Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.

b gosling


Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.

b gosling2

BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.

I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.

Heraby?  Heneby?

Hanby? Hornby?

Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…

The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.

John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!

Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.

I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.

Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.

George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.

On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:

the hook_hornby

Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.

warsash ferry

Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!

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… but we have flowers

November 19, 2015 at 9:19 am (europe, history, news) (, , )

flower power 2015

A departure today, for I cannot forget this video of a little French-speaking boy and his father.

I’ve been reading about the assassination of Spencer Perceval – related to Emma’s cousins, the Comptons – in May of 1812. In another fifty years, the U.S. would lose its president to an assassin’s bullet – Why was Lincoln’s death shocking, while Perceval’s shocked his family but left others quite blasé. Lincoln became an obsession with historians, and Perceval seems to go down in history as one whose death in office was simply something that sometimes “happens”.

Yesterday, I finally looked up some newspapers of the incident. British newspapers of 1812 were only four-pages – sheets printed front and back, folded down the center like a letter. They were jam-packed with ads, notices for plays and routs, goings-on at court, and of course news of the day. I was quite surprised at the Perceval story in The Times. A LOT of talk about Members mulling around the Woolsack; it reads more like a trial transcript, with testimony, than the story of a statesman’s death. A more enlightening article was published the same day (12 May 1812) in The Morning Chronicle – which even included mention of Mrs. Perceval and the children.

And, for one only too confronted nightly with television images of soldiers and guns, the Chronicle‘s article touches on the mayhem in the streets of London. For crowds DID gather around the Houses of Parliament as word got out. “The deadful [sic] intelligence spread with amazing rapidity, and before six o’clock, the crowd collected on the outside was so great, that it was deemed prudent to close the doors of Westminster Hall, as well as to plant constables at all the entrances… Ingress was denied to all persons but Members and witnesses.”

The Horse Guards were called out, though the Chronicle uses the curious phrase “to ensure tranquility, and produce a dispersion of the mob”. The Foot Guards and the City Militia were also called upon. Other than people gathering to hear, first-hand, the latest news, there was never a need to hunt for Bellingham; the assassin had never left, and came forward within minutes.

The Chronicle hints at why Perceval never became an historian’s goldmine. Towards the article’s end, a lengthy paragraph reads (in part): “Thus has the existence of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval been terminated – a man of whom much good may and ought to be said, and who errors shall be, with his remains, consigned to the grave…. However mistaken may have been his political views, and however disastrous for his country the result, none have denied him the praise of integrity of intention.”

Then, rather like “the king is dead, long live the king” talk turns to the open seat (Perceval was Member for Northampton; Spencer Compton, Emma’s cousin, would be elected) as well as giving “the Prince Regent time to arrange a new Administration”.

In 1812, they were convinced Bellingham had acted alone, and for his own ends and grievances. “Sense” could (I presume) be made of a”senseless” act.

With so much misery in the world from so many sources, WHY impose more misery upon others so senselessly? I, too, take a bit of comfort in this father’s idea of Flower Power 2015.

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“Sexing-up” Mr Darcy

October 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, )

Devoney Looser has an article in The Independent entitled Mr. Darcy through the ages. Of course, the flight relies heavily on the Darcy of Colin Firth (and, quite evidently, writer Andrew Davies; he said as much at the Fort Worth AGM in 2011).

Quite eye-opening to read about the “early” attempts at presenting Pride and Prejudice on the stage. Sounds like one should seek more information on the pre-film Darcy, COLIN KEITH-JOHNSTON, who had the role on Broadway.

pp_colin keith johnston

(Olivier of course in the film, with Greer Garson)

As I read more and more of the article, I found myself thinking:

“A novel focused on men never has writers angsting over the smaller-roled women characters; but have a (wonderful!) novel focused on WOMEN and always the focus struggles not to shift to the off-to-one-side men.”

I don’t at all mean this as criticism of Devoney’s EXCELLENT article, but as a wake-up call about all the (never-ending) Darcy-centric-ness in general.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a LOVE STORY – and Lizzy must have her Darcy. BUT: Must women suffer getting paid LESS for comparable roles & work (read about Jennifer Lawrence) AND have the spotlight taken away, too, when they are the STAR?”

Think about it. It’s The King and I all over again: once Yul Brynner broke out as “quintessential” king, the role of Anna slightly dimmed forever.

Pride and Prejudice is Lizzy’s story – we see things through her eyes, and realize what she comes to realize, that this aloof young man is a worthy life-mate. Even in this highly VISUAL age (which I’m a bit disdainful of, at the present moment especially) — and _I_ understand as well as anyone how vital good looks and pleasing places and costumes are to a production (I’m as susceptible as anyone…) — ALL this blathering about Darcy (and especially the same ONE incarnation) seems unfair to my dear LIZZY!

So, my question is: IF this were a novel about DARCY, would there be as much ink spilled over the over-shadowing of Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Would screenwriters work hard to sex her up or give HER more screen time?

[certainly TV sexed up Fanny Price… totally ruining the television series of that novel..]

Would Lizzy’s LOOKS mean more than her inner integrity, wit, and intelligence? Aren’t women already OBJECTS? (especially in advertising).

Like Anna Leonowens, Lizzy Bennet seems now to have sunk into second place behind the man. Am _I_ the only one shouting, “ENOUGH about DARCY! Get back to the novel, and let’s lift Elizabeth Bennet back up to her starring role”???

It’s like our heroine has been elbowed out of the limelight.

And Lizzy’s toe-tapping means she’s getting rather TIRED of being treated as second banana in her own tale…

back to the bookBACK to the BOOK

darcy-lizzy together(where Darcy doesn’t over-shadow Miss E. Bennet)

lizzy bennet_noooo(Lizzy Bennet is NOT happy!)

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Leigh Letters @ The Huntington

September 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm (diaries, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , )

Several weeks ago (I always have GOOD intentions about posting *News*… then don’t do it!) I came across Geri Meftah‘s blog post from FEBRUARY 2015, mentioning the purchase of a letter book by the Huntington Library in California. I visit Geri’s delightful JANE AUSTEN blog (kleurrijkjaneausten) with some regularity, but am not (and never will be) one “on top of” new news….

Better late than never, right?

But one thing about being half a year behind the time: The Huntington has had time to DIGITIZE the collection!

kleurrijkjaneausten @ blogspot will fill you in on the background of the purchase – and has a link to The Guardian‘s article about it. The letter book was at the time described as “52 unpublished letters, poems and other material from six generations of the Leigh family”.

As you might imagine, I held my breath: Anything from the family in the nineteenth century? Indeed: YES! and two letters (though late for my research) from James Edward Austen Leigh!

edward austen letter snippet huntington

I see that the catalogue will be off-line on September 16th (2015), but before or after, do look through the images. The Huntington has made it exceptionally easy to read the LEIGH LETTERS online, or download images. [use search term: leigh family papers]

The above “snippet” is from the first Edward Austen Leigh letter, and is a DELIGHTFUL snippet of memories of his aunt, Jane Austen, and Stoneleigh Abbey.

The Huntington describes the small collection as “letters, poems and other manuscripts written by various members of the Leigh family and other people in their circle. The letters are mainly concerned with the intimate, mundane, playful and tragic aspects of family life from the early modern period until the middle of the 19th century”. They would be a wonderful addition to anyone reading Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family: Through Five Generations.

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Blogs, Books, & Pamphlets

August 19, 2015 at 12:05 pm (books, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

In yesterday’s mail the terrific-looking new book by Jenny Uglow (I have her humongous biography of Gaskell), “In These Times”: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815.


Nothing can be more up my alley! It’s about the Napoleonic era without being all about battles, and strategies, and War-War-War (to quote Scarlett O’Hara). I need information of the 1790s through 1810s, but I want to learn from it, not be BORED by it. (Yeah, war bores me. Though when I worked at a local college [uni-aged students for those of you in the UK], the POPULAR courses in history were Black Death and World War II. Still, I am what I am: more interested in social history and women’s history.)

I recognize a few names – for Uglow uses personal accounts to paint a full picture. There’s the Heber family (I adore the book Dear Miss Heber…); Lady Lyttleton (née Sarah Spencer); Jane Austen’s “sailor brothers”, Frank (Sir Francis Austen later in life) and Charles Austen; Betsey Fremantle (I’m still waiting from more from her current biographer, Elaine Chalus; though I have the complete set of three volumes published in the 1940s); Mary Hardy, the Norfolk diaristabout whom I have blogged before, at RegencyReads.

Can’t tell you much about the book, as I’m only in chapter 1 – but I’m enjoying it so far! Just the right amount of detail, and well-written. It opens with an idea VERY dear to my heart – for my own book (tentatively entitled The Brilliant Vortex, about my Two Teens during the Regency era, and all those London seasons, from 1814 to 1821.) discusses the same thing: the dissemination of news. Uglow, of course, looks at newspapers. I know, for instance, that Richard Seymour, in the 1830s, borrowed newspapers. So I already knew that some people had subscriptions, some people got papers passed on to them. And I LOVE Uglow’s descriptions of particular coffee houses:

“Visiting Glasgow in 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth found ‘the largest coffee room I ever saw’, in the piazza of the Exchange. ‘Perhaps there might be thirty gentlemen sitting on the circular bench of the window, reach reading a newspaper’ …. The linen-mill owner John Marshall also admired the room, brilliantly lit with candles, and rarely with fewer than a hundred people in it. ‘There are 1100 Subscribers to the Coffee Room at 28/- a year’.”

I remember back in the 1980s & 90s when VIDEO stores started out with yearly membership SUBSCRIPTIONS. Of course, the next store would open, offering LOWER rates – until ultimately the “membership” was free.

(And now every GROCERY store sports a RedBox!)

But I-M-A-G-I-N-E: 1100 subscribers at 28 shillings a year each! Sounds like it was a little goldmine! Marshall went on (and Uglow follows suit) with what the coffee house carried: “‘They take London & Edinburgh papers & journals, country papers & 9 copies of the Sun, Star & Courier & all the monthly publications.'”

Dissemination, of course, comes from MANY sources – including correspondence (my diarists’ chief avenue), and we all have heard of the dreaded PAMPHLET and the satirical CARTOON. No one reading about the French Revolution can get away from the ideas of salacious pamphlets against Queen Marie Antoinette; and no one reading about the Regency can escape the cartoons of Rowlandson (for just one example) skewering the Prince Regent.

I have a friend whose research has turned up a COUPLE different narratives. The conundrum: WHICH pamphlet is more truthful than the other?? That made me think of this conundrum from the writer’s point of view – and that made me think of James Boswell. For he put quite a lot into print (anonymous as well as with his name) during his lifetime. I’ve blogged a LOT about Boswell’s diaries and books about the Boswell Papers.

Then it HIT ME:

Pamphlets, in the 18th & 19th century, were to the likes of Boswell what BLOGS are to the likes of me TODAY! Those with a point-of-view, or even just “something to say”, stick it out there for anyone and everyone to see. Only, today, I don’t have to locate a printer and a bookseller – I just needed to stumble upon WordPress and have an internet connection!

boswellCan you IMAGINE: Boswell as Blogger?!?

(I sure can…)

My point to my friend was: Veracity wasn’t always on the minds of the pamphlet writer; so I find it wholly understandable that two versions of the same incident could exist. It’s like Twitter today: how many times do we hear about someone apologizing for BLASTING on social media, only to regret it later. Hard to do with a penny publication: not like you can go back and find everyone who bought your pamphlet – though a retraction, or even another pamphlet pointing out the errors (and thought to be by a DIFFERENT writer!) are not impossibilities to contemplate.

It’s that old adage back again: “Plus ςa change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they STAY THE SAME!

* * *

Since I’m talking BOOKS here, I’ll make brief mention: Readers interested in obtaining a FREE copy of Hazel Jones’s Jane Austen’s Journeys – please take a look at the giveway I’m running on RegencyReads. I’m taking names for a lengthy period: till the end of this month (August 2015). I had an extra copy, so it IS a book I’m keeping on my own shelves.

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Where Mamma was: August 1803

August 17, 2015 at 11:33 am (diaries, history, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , )

Yesterday, long after I posted about the *FINDS* now online at the National Trust Collections, the pleasing thought came:

“I now have seen a Flower painting that Mamma worked on and finished at Suttons in August 1803!”


Augmenting my jollity came the recollection:  “I have Mamma’s diary for 1803!! she was expecting Fanny (born in October), she was worried about Eliza Gosling (whose illness took her in December)” – then BOOM! came the immediate realization: “The diary pages from end of April onward have been CUT OUT; there are no entries for August…”

How well I remember the day I began transcribing this diary. I never read ahead; the unfolding drama of the written words always encourages my tired little fingers to keep on flying away. Then, suddenly, an image where there was PRINTED material on the right-hand side. I didn’t think about it and went to the next image.

There is always printed material at the beginning and end of the journals they used. Typically, they were the series published yearly, THE DAILY JOURNAL, or, GENTLEMAN’S, MERCHANT’S, AND TRADESMAN’S COMPLETE ANNUAL ACCOMPT-BOOK.

Confused, I flipped back an image: April 1803.

I flipped forward an image.

Only then, flipping back again, did the jagged edges filling the gutter of the diary register: the REST of the year had been cut out; only the yearly summation existed.

There was no information about her pregnancy and the birth of Fanny Smith.

There was no information about the last illness of young Mary’s mother, Eliza Gosling.

It was just GONE!

Why?” is the one word question I constantly ask when coming across “mutilation” of this sort. What was there that needed “destroying”? What was there that needed to be kept separately? Surely, easier to keep – or destroy – the entire diary. And then the question, “WHO did this?” Was it the diarist? was it a child? was it someone even further down the timeline?

I just don’t get it…

So, while I’m ecstatic to see a work Mamma completed in the (presumably) balmy summer days of August 1803 (she often recorded extremes of weather), its execution – if indeed she mentioned it – remains one of the unknowns; like her comments on the imminent arrival of little Fanny, and the hectic days of travelling back and forth to London to see and hear about the health of her beloved friend and Portland Place next-door-neighbor, Eliza Gosling.

Why? – Who did this? – What happened to the missing pages?

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Regency Diaries of Fanny Chapman (online)

July 30, 2015 at 7:03 am (a day in the life, diaries, history, news, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , )

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

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.

prince of wales

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.

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Jane Austen Appeal

July 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , , )

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.

cassandra Austen silhouette

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.

cassandra letter

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Having it “all”

July 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm (history, news, research) (, , )


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.

pen and letters

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.

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The Case of the “Noble Torso”

July 2, 2015 at 11:30 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , )

Research can be exhilarating…

Research can be frustrating….

And some days, there’s a little bit of BOTH the ‘high’ and the ‘low’!

bright star_letter

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!


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