Goslings’ Bank Ledgers

June 22, 2017 at 8:13 pm (books, goslings and sharpe, history, jane austen, news) (, , )

Notice of a mid-May blog post by Barclays, the bank which (after an 1896 amalgamation with Goslings & Sharpe and several other banks) today is still doing business at the Fleet Street, London, premises of the family banking firm GOSLINGS & SHARPE. In Mary Gosling’s lifetime the partners included her brothers and father.

I’ve long known of the firm’s archives – quite intact after more than 200 years; Linda Slothouber, in researching her book Jane Austen, Edward Knight & Chawton: Commerce and Community, found that the Goslings’ ledgers included Edward Austen Knight‘s accounts.

JA-EAK-Chawton

It was QUITE heartwarming to learn, since I’ve never visited the bank’s archives myself, that my suggestion to Linda resulted in a good exchange after she contacted Barclays. Their archives is one of the places on my “little list” that I’ll get to some day. But, as the bank isn’t my main concern, books like Linda’s help fill in some blanks.

It’s also WONDERFUL to find a history like this dissertation by Gareth David Turner, “English Banking in the 18th Century: Bankers, Merchants and the Creation of the English Financial System.”

I’ll remind readers of a couple of old “finds” :

TODAY’s “find” is an on-going project, concerning the ledgers of Goslings & Sharpe: LEGENDS IN THE LEDGERS is Barclays’ blog post about their project. The post also has the best representation of the old business sign “the 3 Squirrels”:

sign_threesquirrels

Which THIS is not – click to their blog to see a full-color close-up.

The emblem exists even on firm checks.

The family diaries and letters seldom mention the firm – although Emma’s great aunt Mrs Thomas Smith had several meetings with William Ellis Gosling (Mary’s eldest brother) over her finances. Banking back then wasn’t just standing behind the counter, greeting customers!

One of the stories mentioned in the Barclays blog is the Great Beer Flood of 1814 (yes, you read that right…). “Millions of pints of beer” flooded the area around the brewery of Meux & Co. Goslings had a “voluntary account” that raised funds for victims of the catastrophe.

The ledgers of Goslings & Sharpe (though there were other partners, in earlier days, I will use the name most associated with the firm) come in at a whopping 654 ledgers! It is said, in a family letter, that Mr. Gosling was very reluctant to give his blessing for his eldest daughter’s marriage to Langham Christie because discussion of Elizabeth’s dowery came at the same time that the bank was paying out its dividends…

So I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open about the family banking concerns.

 

 

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An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

May 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm (books, diaries, history, news, people) (, , )

More than a decade ago I worked on a typescript of a diary; this now has been turned into a book by the Saint Michael’s College (History Department) professor I used to work with, Dr. Susan Ouellette.

An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 tells – in her own words – the story of Phebe Orvis, born in Vermont and educated in Middlebury; her marriage to Samuel Eastman settled them in Upstate New York. So, geographically, the diary is much involved with the area near where I live.

Thanks SUNY for providing a review copy – it arrived in yesterday’s mail! So keep on eye out for my review.

It’s a HUGE book (10 x 7 format; 380 pages). Includes a half-dozen essays, that extract and expound on information from the diary; and then the entire journal transcription is presented.

Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

I include the Table of Contents:

Introduction

Part I. “The sweet, single life”

1. “A delightful prospect of my Nativity”

2. “I conclude there are some strange intentions”

3. “rendered . . . more ignorant than others”

Part II. “New modes of living among strangers”

4. “perhaps the partner of his joys”

5. “Retired, much fatigued”

6. “He cumbers the ground no more”

Conclusion. “beneath the spreading Oak and Hickory”

The Journal
Maps
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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The Real Persuasion

May 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm (diaries, jane austen, news, people) (, , , )

Spent a little time in the local Barnes & Noble yesterday. Found two books that were of GREAT interest due to their topics (both were biographies of British women); but both became “maybe I’ll find them in the library?” after reading reviews. One – and I must confess, the one I thought most likely to be purchased – exhibits such an annoying writing style, that I rather prefer to revert to an old biography instead. Or, the lady’s letters. Both subjects were QUITE known for the high caliber of their writing….

But it was in looking up customer reviews that I found the soon-to-be released (July in the UK; November in the US) Amberley publication that should hold its interest: The Real Persuasion: An Intimate Portrait of a Real-Life Austen Heroine, by Peter James Bowman.

I’m less intrigued by parallels with Austen’s Anne Elliot of Kellynch Hall that Bowman promises to tease out, than with learning more about his diarist and letter writer Katherine Bisshopp. Thank goodness for the unusual spelling… I think I found some of his source material, thanks to The Diary Junction. According to this, born in 1791, Katherine’s diaries run from 1808 until 1834.

Even MORE intriguing now that I see her married name. Lady Pechell, Katherine’s future mother-in-law, actually turns up in diaries _I_ have access to. As do many other Pechells, including Capt and Mrs. Pechell.

And EVEN MORE intriguing once I look at a Pechell family genealogy published in the 1840s: there is a connection to Berkhamstead (which comes into play for the Two Teens in the Time of Austen with Sir John Culme-Seymour); a connection to the Smiths of Ashlyns Hall (Tring Park neighbors of Mamma Smith, Emma & Edward Austen); and a connection to the Thoyts of Sulhamstead House (the very estate that comes into the Wilder family).

I couldn’t get much closer to home, if I tried.

Real Persuasion_Bowman

So what is The Real Persuasion about?

According to the Amberley website, “Her father is a vain, foolish baronet, obsessed with his lineage but forced to quit his ancestral seat as a result of his own improvidence. Her sister is a fretful invalid with a good-natured husband and two disobedient sons. She herself falls in love with a handsome naval officer, and he with her, but his income and prospects are judged inadequate by her proud family. Heartbroken, the lovers part: he goes to sea while she leads a forlorn life at home. Years later he returns, having made a fortune in prize money, and after further misunderstandings he claims as his bride the woman he has never ceased to love“.

What intrigues me, though:

Using the sisters’ letters and journals, as well as other family correspondence, Peter James Bowman paints an intimate picture of life in a Regency family, and looks at the remarkable parallels between the true story of the Bisshopps and the fictional narrative of Jane Austen’s final novel. Whether their subject is daily life at the Bisshopps’ family seat of Parham; the social round in London, Brighton and elsewhere; or Katherine’s eleven-year courtship with George Pechell, the writers of these hitherto unpublished documents are brought to life through their own unaffected language, charmingly evocative of its time, and the author’s engaging insight into life in Jane Austen’s“.

Weighing in at 336 pages, Bowman has pages enough to expound upon, and hopefully expends more time on, the fascinating Bisshopps and Pechells, than on finding parallels to Austen’s novel, Persuasion. After all, Austen died in 1817 and the Pechells didn’t marry until 1826. As mentioned with the Hicks-Beach diary, “few will have heard of … but attach the name ‘Jane Austen’….” We shall see, once the book is released. For now, at least, I’m eagerly awaiting its release.

In the meanwhile, readers can dip into Bowman’s earlier biography, The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England – which tells the story of Prince Pückler-Muskau, who wrote of the Ladies of Llangollen as “The two most celebrated virgins in Europe”.

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Visit a Portrait: William Ellis Gosling

April 18, 2017 at 10:08 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

William Ellis Gosling

Decommissioned from one museum and long “for sale” at a dealer, the portrait of William Ellis Gosling by Sir William Beechey is a star at the El Paso Museum of Art. Now viewers from far and wide can see some up close & personal views of the young babe who became the eldest brother of my diarist Mary Gosling. Click on the picture to watch a short (2 minutes) film on YouTube.

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FREE Book: Profiles of the Past

February 26, 2017 at 11:45 am (entertainment, fashion, history, news) (, , , )

The University of Brighton has available online its publication, Profiles of the Past: Silhouette, Fashion and Image, 1760-1960.

profiles-of-the-past

It features

  • Annebella Pollen: Peering into the Shadows: Researching Silhouettes.
  • Bridget Millmore: ‘To turn sideways’ – an Examination of the Depiction of Hair and Head Dresses in late eighteen century Women’s Silhouettes.
  • Johanna Lance: Cutting an Elegant Figure: the Fashionable Male Silhouette, c1790-1820.
  • E-J Scott and Lou Taylor: The Impact of Neoclassicism on Silhouette Art in the late eighteenth century.
  • Suzanne Rowland: Fashion, Ageing and Identity in Regency Silhouettes, 1810-20.
  • Pallavi Patke: The Silhouette as Portrait and Conservation Piece, late 1830-1840s.
  • Gabriella Mihok: Shadow, Dress and Identity, 1890-1914
  • Jaclyn Pyper: The Material Culture of Nostalgia: Hubert Leslie, Baron Scotford and Twentieth Century Silhouette Portraiture.
  • Annebella Pollen: Silhouettes into the twenty-first century.

Click on the “cover” to obtain download options.

The website itself, discussing 250 years of British Portrait Silhouette history, is also worth exploring. See this page on Silhouette Methods and Materials. Costume enthusiasts and Regency Reenactors will welcome the generous Gallery of silhouettes.

The website also brought me (again) to The Regency Town House website. The link provides information on touring the house, which opens again in April 2017. “The House at 13 Brunswick Square, Hove [UK], is a Regency town house built in the 1820’s as part of Charles Busby’s Brunswick Estate.  We are creating an archive and museum focused on the history of Brighton & Hove between the 1780’s and 1840’s.”

I found them both while looking for MORE information about the Smith & Gosling silhouettes done by Auguste Edouart (they may have been among those that Edouart lost in a shipwreck! oh, wouldn’t you know…); see my past post entitled The Shades of Pemberley.

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Secrets from the Royal Archives

February 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm (british royalty, diaries, entertainment, history, news, people) (, , )

The Vaults are OPENING!

For some time I have been reading about the Georgian Papers Programme. I cannot say I am one to read timelines, and hadn’t realized until author and researcher Charlotte Frost sent me a link: The end of January 2017 produced the first glimpses of this five-year project, which unearths documents from the Royal Archives and the Royal Library at Windsor.

FABULOUSLY, the entire project will be free-of-charge and available Worldwide!

According to the recent press release, by the year 2020 350,000 documents from the Georgian period will be available to researchers, scholars and the general public alike – an estimate is that only 15% of the holdings has ever been published.

princess-amelia

It is well worth the effort to find the BBC TV program George III – The Genius of the Mad King, which I found to be a fascinating peep into the early days of this “opening of the archives”. From researchers finding a lock of hair, to a look at Frogmore – the retreat of Queen Charlotte and her daughters, to the cries of Princess Amelia (above) through her letters.

Authorized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, public access is through the cooperation of the Royal Collection Trust, King’s College London, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, William & Mary, as well as other key U.S. institutions such as the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.

  • Read Smithson Magazine’s article on seeing the American Revolution through the Eyes of George III

The documents NOW online are a treat to someone like me, with an eye for the Queen and the royal princesses: The Queen’s diaries have shown me, written in her own hand, that the Queen saw “Miss Meen the Paintress” on the 27 October 1789. This was a fertile period for Margaret Meen – and for her pupils, the four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire.

I’ve also read a letter from Queen Charlotte to her husband in which the Walsinghams were mentioned – these are relations of Charlotte Gosling (née the Hon. Charlotte de Grey, a daughter of Lord Walsingham; step-mother to my diarist, Mary Gosling). I’ve recently come across a small group of letters, some of which were written from “Old Windsor”, by Charlotte Gosling’s mother. It’s always exciting to find another side of the same conversation!

The digital items also include documents relating to Lady Charlotte Finch and the children of the royal nursery. I’m sure there are many Jane Austen fans who will LOVE to walk through the Georgian Menu Books. They run to 24 volumes! And include menus from Carlton House, Windsor, St. James, and the Brighton Pavilion. _I_ may even have mention of a few of those parties, in diaries and letters, by those who attended (a thrilling thought).

In short, there is MUCH to explore – and many more items to come!

“With Her Majesty’s full authority, the project is part of Royal Collection Trust’s objective to increase public access to and understanding of primary source material held in the collection.”

 

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Jane Austen’s England: Hicks Beach Diary

January 25, 2017 at 11:00 am (estates, history, news, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Although I was too late to actually WATCH (online) this London auction (1 PM GMT, 25 January 2017), I quickly could see what this exquisite little diary SOLD FOR, and listen to the rapid sale of other manuscripts and books.

diaryThe sale was enticing advertised as representing “Jane Austen’s England”:

Jane Austen’s England.- [Hicks Beach (Henrietta, wife of Sir Michael Hicks, later Hicks Beach, of Netheravon, Wiltshire and Williamstrip Park, Coln St. Aldwyn, Gloucestershire, 1760-1837)] [Diary & Account Book], printed in red with manuscript insertions, 88pp. excluding blanks, most entries in pencil, a few in ink, pencil sketches of furniture on a few pp., list of novels at beginning and provisions at end, 1f. loose, browned, inner hinges weak, original roan, rubbed, ink date “1789” on upper cover, lacks head of spine, 2 tears on spine, 12mo, 1789. ⁂ Includes numerous references to visits and dinners, including to the Chute family of The Vyne (a country house near Basingstoke), and their relatives, the Bramstones of Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, both families known to the Austen and Hicks Beach families. “Friday 6th February 1789 Mr W Chute came to Dinner…”; “Sunday 13 September 1789 went to the Vine to Dinner… Mr. T. Chute”. Also includes amounts lost and won at cards, payment for wages, items bought, money received from Mr. Hicks and paid to their son, Michael. Other names including, the Pettat family (Rev. C.R. Pettat became Rector of Ashe), Polhill, Musgrave etc. Jane Austen was 14 in 1789 when this diary was compiled. “The Beach and Wither families were well known, and frequently discussed by the Austens at Steventon. When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach… lost one of their babies, in 1796, Jane Austen was well enough acquainted with their romantic story to confide to her sister Cassandra, ‘I am sorry for the Beaches’ loss of their little girl, especially as it is the one so like me’ (9 January 1796).” – Chris Viveash. Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Vol. 24, 2002.

I suspect it was once owned by Chris Viveash. OH! how I wish I had gotten online in time to hear the auctioneer say, “Lots of interest in this lot”, (as he undoubtedly did!). The auctioneer goes through lots FAST, yet always the fair warning, which gives just enough time to put in a new bid, IF YOUR WALLET IS THICK ENOUGH.

The successful buyer must indeed have had deep pockets. The estimate was £400-600.

The selling price (which may NOT include the seller’s premium): £1,100!

janeaustens-england

Few will have heard of the Hicks Beach family – but attach the name “Jane Austen” and it was guaranteed to sell. Did it go to an internet buyer? phone buyer? or “In the Room” — would LOVE to know where it will be heading to, after today.

Would be WONDERFUL to learn that the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), which has some Hicks Beach materials, or The Vyne – which gets mentions in the diary – was a purchaser. Will we ever learn its fate??

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Hamilton at the Hammer

January 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm (books, estates, history, news) (, , , )

1/24/2017 UPDATE = see below

On Wednesday 18 January 2017 the LARGE family archive of Alexander Hamilton will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York. Expect the prices to be exorbitant. No “Ham for Ham” ($10) here…

hamilton-ten

ESTIMATES are in the tens of thousands. Good news for the family; but what institution, even, can afford, item after item, to pay such prices. I, personally, wonder if the archive – together for over 200 years – will be fractured beyond repair of ever being reunited.

Conversely, now that they’ve seen the light of day, will the precious letters and other artifacts be swooped upon by deep-pocketed collectors – bringing up the possibility that these “national treasures” might depart the U.S.

eliza-hamilton-and-lock-of-ah-hair

Two Teens readers will recall the embargo the U.K. placed on Kelly Clarkson’s purchase (at auction) of Jane Austen’s ring. Will the U.S. be faced with anything similar (and not over just one item)??

The photo, above, shows TWO of the gut-wrenching articles up for sale: a letter of Eliza Hamilton, and a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair.

You can look through the online Catalogue, Alexander Hamilton: an Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, in order to draw up your own lists of “wouldn’t that be nice to have”.

I know what I’d love to sit and read: Letters to, from, or about the Schuyler Sisters. They fascinate me.

For instance: Lot 1006, Autograph Hamilton letter to Peggy Schuyler, confessing his love for her sister Eliza Schuyler: estimate $15,000-20,000.

Or, the five-page love letter (Lot 1007) from Alexander Hamilton to his “dearest girl” Eliza Schuyler, the earliest surviving letter of his to her: estimate $40,000-$60,000.

Even with the monies the musical Hamilton has brought to composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda and historian Ron Chernow, even a handful of items could break their banks: Either of them might like General George Washington’s letter appointing Hamilton as his aid-de-camp (Lot 1004). Estimates being up to a cool quarter-of-a-million-dollars means the price could be even higher.

See this “Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot“, the estimates were £8,000-12,000 – it sold for £56,250!

If your family archive (mine has NONE, I must confess) could fetch money – whether “enough” or “millions”: Would you seek to sell?

I don’t think I could do it. Good thing, then, that I don’t have to worry about it….

***UPDATE***

Hamilton’s family archives drew a cool $2.6 MILLION once the hammer fell on the last item. Take a look at just ONE “lot” –

LOT 1040 – a group of 17 letters from Philip Schuyler to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton. Estimate was $30,000 to $50,000. Sold for (with buyer’s premium) $118,750.

Y-o-w-! more than twice the high estimate.

The New York Times offered readers a couple of affecting portraits of potential buyers: an 11-year-old from Manhattan, Zack Pelosky, had bid on a “low-ticket item,” which ultimately went to a phone bidder for $1,500. Joanne Freeman, “a Hamilton expert at Yale,” who has been studying duel culture, bid on a fragment of a Hamilton 1795 will – and was likewise outbid. Or, as author Jennifer Scheussler’s Hamilton-reference quoted: the Professor was “outgunned”.

Imagine! a writer and historian hopeful of a piece reminiscent of the very person studied… only to have the hopes dashed. From the article, it was obvious that the auctioneer had been on young Zack’s side, too.

An Angelica Church (née Angelica Schuyler) letter went for $50,000 – “more than ten times the estimate”. The disparity argued away by, “there’s no way that someone who saw the show [Hamilton] made that estimate”.

A note for people like me who wished the archive had gone wholesale to a repository: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History evidently came out as a heavy-hitter (or, should I say heavy-bidder).

Scheussler’s overall take: “It’s official: Alexander Hamilton now out-earns his boss [George Washington].”

 CNN’s report on the auction mentions the sale of the lock of Hamilton’s hair: $37,500. Keep in mind that hair, an exceptionally personal item, was exceptionally popular as a remembrance – of the living as well as the dead – in this period. I see MANY locks of hair in my own research – though I do wish I’d come across some of the Mourning Jewelry Smith & Gosling letters mention!

As someone who is working to put back together the disparate sides of a voluminous correspondence, a pang enters my heart when I read a quote from Selby Kiffer of Sotheby’s: “What is so unusual about this is it’s a cohesive integral whole that’s survived since the 18th century. The pieces interrelate and inform each other. It’s rare to have correspondence back and forth.” Only the future – and further writers on Hamilton and family – will tell us where all these items ended up. Fingers crossed that access to the items (especially letters!) whether opened or closed before are open to examination from now on. Manhattan fans evidently did take the opportunity to SEE the archive, during the week-long exhibition prior to the auction.

Other articles on the Results of the Hamilton auction at Sotheby’s:

That last brought up a thought that hadn’t before entered my brain: who purchased with the intent of RE-SELLING and making MORE money?

I say that because of one item in the Smith & Gosling universe. I have blogged about miniatures being sold several times, including a link to the brother of Susan Mackworth Smith (Emma Austen’s great aunt): Vice-Admiral Bulkley Praed, sold at Bonhams  in 2011 for £1250. I remember being SHOCKED seeing it BACK up for sale at like twice the price almost immediately.

Wouldn’t Joanne Freeman or Zack Pelosky lose heart if they saw their pieces back on the market – or, on eBay – like some scalped theater ticket.

It dawned on me last week what _I_ would have done, had I been a Hamilton descendant: I would have opened a museum, where those in love with the musical, history, Hamilton – the Schuyler Sisters – or even Aaron Burr could have paid to spend a little time in the presence of these people. Here’s hoping for public access, and that this is not the “end” of the Hamilton Papers’ Saga.

Gotta wonder: did Chernow or Miranda come away with any souvenirs?

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Fire at Royal Clarence Hotel

October 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm (news, places, travel) ()

Breaking news, just told to me by a friend in the area of Exeter (England):

fire-royal-clarence

The Royal Clarence Hotel, in the center of Exeter, Devon had been burning all day since early yesterday morning (28 Oct 2016) – and news stories now say the edifice is collapsing. A ruptered gas line helped fuel the fire. A drone will help assess damage, but from pictures I look at as I type, so much of it has been destroyed (and that’s not even looking at the interior).

Described as England’s oldest hotel, the building actually has a Smith & Gosling connection: adjoining it was Praeds Bank (1769). The hotel was originally “Assembly Rooms” brought into being by William Mackworth Praed (Emma Austen’s great aunt was born Susannah Mackworth Praed, before she married – in 1800 – Thomas Smith).

Because of the “family” connection, my friend brought me here in 2014; and we had lunch at the cafe next door.

This is very close to Exeter Cathedral; services and a concert have been cancelled.

REALLY hard to hear that the fire broke out in a gallery that was undergoing RENOVATION – that was the tale for the theater fire that destroyed La Fenice (Venice’s renowned opera house) back in 1996.

Of course, as a hotel, paying guests were in their rooms when the fire broke out. No one seems to have gotten hurt.

royal-clarence-hotel_2015<=The Royal Clarence, Exeter, a year ago (2015)                   And “today” (29 Oct 2016) =>

royal-clarence-hotel_nov2016

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Tales of the D.A.R.

October 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, news) (, , , )

Although I have been to WASHINGTON DC several times over the decades, I had never entered the fabulous building that houses the Daughters of the American Revolution. WONDERFUL “period room” exhibits, and for the JASNA group an added incentive: the costume installation entitled, “An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution“, which opened October 7 (2016) and runs until April 2017.

Ann Lewis fecit2

With the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (the JASNA AGM) having taken place this past weekend (21-23 October) in Washington DC – my own paper “Sketching Box Hill with Emma” being presented in the afternoon of the 22nd – there were a lot of costumes on parade in Washington. I don’t pretend to know much, but I have a stash of very useful books – for I would like to envision what my Emma and Mary would have worn. From a comment or two in the family correspondence, Mary (especially before she was widowed in 1831) was careful to look the part of a smart & stylish London Lady. The Gosling ladies had their step-mother’s shoes to step into: the Hon. Charlotte Gosling (née de Grey, related to the Barons Walsingham) was a serious society hostess in the 1810s. Every spring, during “the season” Mrs Gosling hosted routs, concerts, and parties. Her husband’s dinners are also found in the newspapers (yes, men gave ‘dinners’, but women gave other entertainments).

It still boggles MY mind that their parties could attract 300 to 600 people. How is that possible?? such a crowd in a small townhouse (No. 5 Portland Place, London).

But, to get back to the DAR.

JASNA members had morning “free”, and the DAR Museum was my one and only choice for a place to go. Thankfully, many other members had been already; for the most part I could look, read the brochure (one per room), and savor furnishings and costumes by myself. The room that stands out most is the one paneled in wood from the salvaged ship AUGUSTA. Jacobean in nature, with a lengthy table, the dark wood and colorful stained glass windows makes for a room that I’d happily spend time sitting in.

And the fact that the ship was called the AUGUSTA – the name of TWO of my ladies in the Smith family (Emma Austen’s mother and sister; never mind a slew of Augustas born in the 1820s and 1830s…).

But what really brought me to visit the DAR (free entry a big inducement) was the curator’s talk, which took place on the Thursday (the day I landed in DC) of last week.

I missed the first half of the talk, having to find the hotel, check-in, register for the conference, and get to the room – but was in time enough to hear the speaker Alden O’Brien toss off the intelligence that SHE WAS WORKING WITH A DIARY.

I pulled her aside at the end of her presentation to hear more, especially: Had she published it.

The answer to that burning question was ‘no’. The diarist – “Sylvia Lewis Tyler (1785-1851), an early nineteenth-century Everywoman, of Connecticut and Western Reserve Ohio” had left thirty years of diaries, and Alden didn’t believe ANY publisher would want that amount of material. Alden said the diary was akin to that which formed the basis of A Midwife’s Tale, the diaries by Martha Ballard [which is online at DoHistory; printed copies were also produced].

I truly do Hope She is Wrong. I can actually think of diaries that I’ve gotten copies of BECAUSE they were the “complete” set. But, in this day and age, it is a tough sell, to be sure.

Alden did say that she had published articles – and it was in looking that I found a her Common-Place post from 2011, all about her thoughts on SYLVIA’S DIARY.

Her comments, in the article, reminds me so much of a diary that I believe is being published in the spring 2017, concerning the diary of a Vermont woman that a friend (and former colleague) has been working on for over ten years. (More on that later.) Sylvia was a spinner and sewer. She lived in Bristol, Connecticut as a girl (her diaries begin at age 15), and textile & clothing is also an interest of mine – as far as production goes. I used to be a keen sewer and knitter; though I’ve never spun or weaved.

From the article: “I was taken aback when the archivist deposited nineteen manila folders before me, each containing a small, slim, hand-made volume.” Thirty years of Sylvia’s diaries. The title page (like that early diary of my Mary Gosling) claimed the diary in the name of SYLVIA LEWIS of BRISTOL.

Sylvia’s diary runs from 1801 (when she was 15 years old) to 1831 (aged 46); two years are missing and a couple of gaps exist. Alden even targeted another Bristol girl’s diary, belonging to an acquaintance! Thus are “projects” born…

Alden asks her readers, “Why did I leap into this project—and why did I stick to it?” Nearly ten years into my own project on Two Teens in the Time of Austen (Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, who – as sisters-in-law, both become related to Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh), I couldn’t wait to see what she said in reply!

  • an abiding fondness for the area (ie, Bristol & environs) and interest in its local history
  • Sylvia’s “records are richly informative” as regards social history
  • “Most of all, Sylvia herself drew me in.”

“Once I knew the cast of characters in the diary, the entries created a narrative, and I kept wanting to know what happens next.”

Amen, Sister!

I can say yes-yes-YES to the three points above, as regards Mary, Emma, and their (extensive) families and the English history and daily “mundane chronicles” they all have left behind.

An aside: a letter I just transcribed last night, written by Sir Charles Joshua Smith (bart.) [1800-1831], Emma’s eldest brother and Mary’s eventual husband, had this FABULOUS sentence that just called out to me:

“it is very flattering to one’s vanity to feel that there is some one who cares whether one is alive or dead”

If Charles could know how MUCH _I_ care about them all… his vanity would be HIGHLY flattered. And Sylvia Lewis Tyler must feel that same if she could know the loving care and attention her biographer Alden O’Brien is taking over bringing her own “herstory” to light.

I invite you to read Alden’s own words, and to savor 19th century Bristol, Connecticut by checking out this tale from the vault of the DAR. And should you be in the area of Washington DC, stop by – Alden O’Brien might be there!sylvia-lewis

The finding of Sylvia’s grave makes for truly SPOOKY reading! Enjoy…

also: Bringing Sylvia Lewis back to Life

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