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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For your consideration: A Botanical Blog

October 13, 2016 at 10:11 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Not having picked up a paint brush in YEARS, I was looking the other day specifically for artists who paint BOTANICALS; that I found one artist’s blog who showed in words and pictures some thought-provoking work was a bonus I had to share with Two Teen Readers.

This particular post is most INTERESTING, because it tells the consequences to one business (a maker of vellum) when the UK government considered going from vellum to paper. Artist Shevaun Doherty lays out her own thoughts on “what might have been”, which gives the post a personal perspective, too:

doherty-blog

But it is Doherty’s sharing her art’s triumphs and challenges that I found especially interesting to read about. And seeing botanicals “under construction,” and how the artist must build up a picture is just a thrill to see (for a picture IS worth a thousand words). For instance, this post from March 2015 called the “War of the Roses“. Or this piece on “Challenges! Painting the Laburnum,” which provided much-needed insight into the work-a-day process of painting botanicals.

Two Teens has a large handful of botanical artists in their company, including the artist Margaret Meen – about whom I’ve written. She taught Queen Charlotte and the royal princesses, but also Aunt Emma Smith and my diarist Emma Smith (aka Emma Austen). I hope in the coming months to see a bit more of their work. Or, at least hear about it. My JASNA AGM presentation touches upon Botanicals – for Mr. Elton mentions flowers that Emma Woodhouse had painted. Thanks to Shevaun’s blog, it’s nice to see the art is alive and well.

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Hamilton at Work in London

October 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

This was the scene Last Sunday, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London:

vic-hamilton1

As you can see, the refurbishment – HAMILTON is to open in October of 2017 – is underway, yet also under-wraps. This (below) was the street scene in the past:

victoria_palace-2011

This past summer, stories ran about the refurbishment, including this article in The Guardian, which claims a £30 million price tag.

vic-hamilton2

I must admit, having been in New Jersey (near the site of the Hamilton/Burr duel), and taking in the lyrics so in praise of New York City (“in the greatest city in the world”), it feels as if a little will be lost in translation. NOT that I think fans won’t be queuing for MILES to get tickets.

For once, the BRITISH look forward to something AMERICAN coming to them after being a ‘hit’ in the States (the shoe is usually on the other foot).

vic-hamilton3

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Book an Evening with Jane Austen

August 10, 2016 at 10:49 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, , , )

Another Charlotte Frost Find – author Catherine Curzon’s new book Life in the Georgian Court plays a featured role in a September 2016 “Jane Austen” evening of music at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. “Soloists” include Adrian Lukis (Mr. Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) and Caroline Langrishe, who will perform “dialogues”, and harpist Camilla Pay and soprano Rosie Lomas. Catherine will perform introductions, as well as sign copies of her book during the interval.

life Georgian Court

Read more Catherine Curzon at her blog A Covent Garden Gilflirt’s Guide to Life while awaiting her book!

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At Home – with Jane & Lucy

July 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , )

2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.

Worsley

We all know Worsley’s work from her many TV specials – “Tales from the Royal Wardrobe”, “Tales from the Royal Bedchamber”, “The First Georgians”, “A Very British Murder”, “Harlots, Housewives & Heroines”, etc. etc. I have certainly enjoyed her book The Courtiers: Splendour and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, which brought some refreshing storytelling.

courtiers

In its early stage provisionally entitled AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN (which already exists among the “Jane Austen” series of books by Kim Wilson), the biography tell Jane Austen’s “story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her”. Says Worsley’s  editor: “Lucy’s knowledge of the period makes her the perfect biographer and her wonderful writing style will truly bring Jane Austen and her world to life.”

Worsley used a Kensington Palace painting to open the oft-told history of the first Hanoverian King George. What will she use for Jane Austen? Will it look at Steventon, which is no longer existing, as well as Chawton and Bath? Chawton is a source for many items that belonged to Austen – for instance, her jewelry. Her writing slope is also on public display.

“… an everyday object that had been
important to her writing life.”

Paula Byrne’s book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, sought a similar approach away from the typical cradle-to-grave biography. It will be *fun* to see how Worsley works out the lack of any new discoveries. Will she recreate some of the homes, spaces, and places that Austen knew? Perhaps readers of If Walls Could Talk will have advance knowledge of the Worsley’s approach. Worsley has already been caught rubbing elbows with Regency dandies. And she’s even got a work of fiction, as well as her TV-tie-ins, on bookstore shelves. Lucy Worsley is one of four writers who back in April (2016) discussed Lizzy & Darcy and themselves.

The Hodder & Stoughton website gives the following information:

  • title (revised from above): Jane Austen at Home
  • projected pagination (nicely hefty): 352 pages
  • release date (it’ll be here before we know it): 18 May 2017

 

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Desperately Seeking “addressed to Lady Seymour”

May 23, 2016 at 8:56 am (history, news, people, research) (, , )

An internet search brought up the following for a former eBay auction – trouble is I have NO CLUE as to the date of the auction — recent? really old? The date of the letter is less in question, 1861 – though no day or month.

ebay auction

The original description read:

“Addressed to Lady Seymour. Stamp has been cut out leaving part Southampton cancel with Botley & part Berkhamsted CDS’s on back. 4 page partly cross hatched letter.”

Would LOVE images of the letter (so I can transcribe the contents) – in exchange for information on the recipient and/or writer. The “Lady Seymour” in question undoubtedly is Maria Culme Seymour (née Smith), Emma Austen’s youngest sister.

Maria L Seymour

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Naval Journal, 1858-1859

April 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm (diaries, history, news) (, , , )

rawson journal

As always, finding an item LONG after it’s been sold at auction. Today’s find was this journal, written by Harry Holdsworth Rawson, aboard HMS Calcutta. Of interest to ME because young Rawson (only fourteen years old) was under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Richard Seymour’s brother. Richard’s diary, of course, has mention of his seafaring brother (and the wife & children left behind in England) – but, like mentions of his father (also Sir Michael Seymour), they are mainly of leaves or letters.

I’ve heard a little about Michael on shipboard, mainly because some of the children of Richard Seymour and John Culme-Seymour were aboard with him. How thrilling to hear of such a precious relic.

Would be interested to hear if anyone knows the present whereabouts of this journal, sold at Bonham’s on 19 March 2014.

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In Memoriam: Alan Rickman

January 14, 2016 at 7:08 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, )

One of the delights of Jane Austen filmdom: Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon.

colonel brandon and marianne

He brought a gentleness to the role that really characterized the “second chance” at happiness.

marianne and colonel brandon

One of the few actors with a very distinctive and “calming” voice. He will be missed.

brandons

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“Independent” choices in Biography

December 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm (books, entertainment, news) (, , , )

Reading the monthly newsletter of BIOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION (BIO) is always informative, and often quite a delight, biography being a favorite area of shelf space (at home and in the stores).

Being the end of the year, ” BEST OF LISTS” are of course beginning to turn up. And the newsletter mentioned biographies that had made “the list” of the Independent. I was QUITE surprised to read that TWO Charlotte Brontë biographies were on the list! The first one was listed on the first line – ah, Claire Harmon has a new book! (NB: not out in the States until Spring 2016.) Although she was already known to me thanks to her biography of Fanny Burney (2000), Harmon undoubtedly gained LOTS of press when she published Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2011) – especially in light of Harmon’s treatise being called a populist take on the earlier “scholarly” Jane Austen’s Textural Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood (2005) by Kathlryn Sutherland. I’ll leave it to readers of both books to comment (should you so wish).

As my eyes scanned the rest of the *short* list (six book), it settled upon the second Brontë biography. It is HARDLY “new”: Catherine Gaskell’s biography! Frankly, reading the original article (though the headline says “six”) I’m stymied: Gaskell’s work seems there merely to introduce Harmon’s biography of the same person, using the “same papers”. Was the Independent really THAT hard up to name a sixth worthy biography to recommend for Christmas giving?

Another thing hard not to notice: Harmon’s book in the U.K. is titled, Charlotte Brontë: A Life – whereas the U.S. has been given a much more dramatic subtitle — Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart. The covers even look hot and cold, with their blue versus red motifs:

bronte

bronte_UK

Must admit, I don’t always understand the marketing strategies of the two countries, nor the time-lag in offering the same book to another English-speaking country. NB: where’s Harmon on Canada’s Amazon site??

For anyone waiting until the U.S. release – or wanting the rest of the clan too, might I recommend a duo by Juliet BarkerThe Brontës: A Life in Letters and her hefty biography of the family unit (even heftier in a 2013 updating), The Brontës.

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