Women’s History 2020

March 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm (history, news, people, research) (, )

This month, the U.S. celebrates WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – touching on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the right for Women to Vote. Today, 8 March 2020, being celebrated as the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Women make up the bulk of my research (mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts), and certainly remain the focus of my interest.

Just last night I came across several young women whom Emma Smith meets, in 1821, in Wells – the Misses Frankland. Emma doesn’t specify how many of them, but her use of the word “some” is definitely more than two. She notes that they are daughters of one of the Canons – he being the Reverend Roger Frankland. And he is definitely the brother of the artist whose work illustrates this post, Ann(e) Frankland Lewis (though by 1821, she had married her second husband, Mr. Hare).

So many women, hidden from history and lost to posterity, right under our noses.

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Austen Leigh’s Memoir in Woolfs’ Library

February 25, 2020 at 8:56 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, people) (, , )

Given the chapter on Virginia Woolf in the book Square Haunting [see previous post], it was a *thrill* to find this “Short Title Catalog” of books in the Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

Square Haunting

The thrill comes from seeing so many Jane Austen-related titles, including a 1926 “review copy” of Chapman’s edition of James Edward Austen Leigh‘s A Memoir of Jane Austen.

The Austen titles become quite the revelation. The list has several copies of Pride and Prejudice; also some tantalizing early 20th-century publications, like “Five Letters from Jane Austen to her Niece Fanny Knight” (1924); “Two Chapters of Persuasion … with a Facsimile” (1926) [one of the two copies on handmade paper]; “Volume the First” (1933); and even “Lady Susan” (1925).

Of course, the whole list of the Woolfs’ library is what gives a great deal of food for thought. Someone’s “library” drops so many clues about the interests of that person.

 

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Mary Hardy Commentaries – 2020 release date

February 11, 2020 at 9:56 am (books, diaries, history, news, people) (, , , )

mary-hardy

The Diary of Mary Hardy, covering the years 1773-1809, has been edited by Margaret Bird and published in four volumes (plus a “Remaining” volume). Burnham Press has announced the four companion volumes of commentary, under the title MARY HARDY AND HER WORLD, is to be released on 23 April 2020.

Mary Hardy and Her World offers more than 3000 pages (not including their indexes!) and covers topics relevant to the main diaries. See the Burnham Press for information on each volume:

Mary Hardy and Her World comprise the following:

The commentary will be available as a set or individually (as are the main Mary Hardy Diary volumes). The Burnham Press homepage has cover images of all Mary Hardy volumes.

You can keep up with the “Mary Hardy” news on this page.

To read more about Margaret Bird, the editor of the diary / author of the commentaries.

To read a sample of life as lived by Mary Hardy and her family, see Margaret Bird’s article “Supplying the Beer: Life on the road in late-eighteenth-century Norfolk” (The Local Historian – Journal of the British Association for Local History) [Oct, 2015]

Margaret Bird joined me in “conversation” in the early days of this blog, soon after publication of the Mary Hardy Diaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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Putting a Face to a Name: Mr. Dixon

February 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm (people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

About a month ago I bought a letter online. Written from the estate Chicksands Priory, in December 1825, it happened to have been sent days after Mrs. Smith and her daughters Augusta and Emma left! Alas, no mention of the Smiths…. But I hadn’t expected to be THAT lucky, to be truthful.

Still, it made me do a little digging about Chicksands Priory itself, and that was when I turned up this portrait of Charles Dixon of Stansted (the estate he later purchased).

Charles Dixon of Stansted

Read about the portrait’s “recent” history (from 2016): “Rediscovered” this lost portrait returned to Stansted.

In the 1820s, however, he and his first wife, Harriet (née Wilder), were tenanting Chicksands Priory. Harriet Dixon was paternal aunt to Henry Wilder, who would marry Augusta Smith at the end of the decade.

Dixon 22Aug1801 marriageThe Dixons’ marriage announcement;
they married on 22 August 1801
(Gentleman’s Magazine)

Once the face of someone who had been only a name is seen, they take on new life in the mind of the researcher. Prior to this I had only seen a silhouette, which possible was produced by Augusta, who was adept at “taking shades.” But more amazing than seeing Dixon’s face, was reading about his philanthropy. Here are a few online articles that I found of interest:

Charles Dixon married, as his second wife, the widow of his former brother-in-law, George-Lodowick Wilder. You will find all the Wilder generations here, in Burke’s Landed Gentry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jane Austen’s Letter 88 for SALE!

October 20, 2019 at 9:05 pm (history, jane austen, jasna, news, people) (, , , )

2019 must be a banner year for JANE AUSTEN letters.

Early this year came news of a snippet included in an autograph album (sold at auction in 2017); the album was on display at Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum.

During the Summer, the museum successfully concluded its purchase – thanks to funding from the National Lottery AND devoted fans – of a lengthier partial letter

NOW, in October, comes word of a New York auction conducted by Bonhams of a Jane Austen letter from a private collection coming onto the market, part of the DODGE FAMILY COLLECTION of Autographs.

The Guardian has a lengthy article on the (upcoming) October 2019 auction.

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Of course, every time, the same trope about how Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra destroyed the correspondence crops up. I’ve just spoken about this at the recent Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, which took place this year at Williamsburg, Virginia. _I_ give thanks for those letters that have come down to us, rather than lament those that probably never were saved (but that’s a topic for another post).

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Marriage of Lord Compton, 1787

August 15, 2019 at 9:14 pm (history, people, research) (, )

Going all the way back to 1787, in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine (which has this fetching cover):

Walkers Hibernian

was this ANNOUNCEMENT for the marriage of Maria Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith of Earl Stoke Park (Wiltshire), with Lord Compton.

Wedding announce Maria Smith Lord Compton

It reads: “— [August] 18 By Special licence, Lord Compton, son of the Earl of Northampton, to Miss Smith, eldest daughter of Joshua Smith, Esq; of Earl Stoke Park, county Wilts.”

 

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Did Mamma dabble with the Violin?

May 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm (entertainment, history, people) (, , )

The earliest diaries from the Smith family, as well as some of the earliest letters, date to the 1790s. That even-earlier diaries once existed can be extrapolated from written evidence.

I would give my eye teeth for items from the youths of the four Smith Sisters of Stoke Park. Especially from the years before they even moved to this Wiltshire estate….

I have _NO_ reason to think that this “Miss Augusta Smith” is my “Mamma” (ie, the Augusta Smith who married Charles Smith of Suttons in 1798), but it sure gets my antennae twitching: “If only!”

This listing is from the Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum (1909; vol. III).

Miss Augusta Smith_1784

Of course written for could mean MANY things: a composition for a student to play; a piece to honor a patron; something dashed off in thanks from a musician or composer.

It is possible that the Smiths knew of William Savage; she certainly had a love of listening to music – though, unlike her children, I have no evidence that she played an instrument. I kept finding the year “1774” attached, to this deposit, but seeing the page from the original book, I can see why that happened. I had to discount “1774” because my “Miss Augusta Smith” would have been too young. On the other hand “1784” makes this possible, though (you will concur) SMITH is too common a name to ever be sure.

A bit more of a description (say, daughter of Sarah and Joshua Smith) or some indication of where she lived is the kind of help I mean.

I always think of her as “Mamma,” to differentiate mother from daughter. Her eldest daughter, once also a “Miss Augusta Smith” became Augusta Wilder, or Mrs. Henry Wilder, of Sulham and Purley. Augusta Smith, senior was the third daughter of Sarah Gilbert and Joshua Smith, MP. She came behind Maria (Lady Compton; Lady Northampton, after 1796); and Elizabeth (“Eliza“) (Mrs. William Chute of The Vine/The Vyne); and ahead of Emma.

Born in January 1772, a composition for Miss Augusta Smith is possible. Though is it probable? I’d certainly LIKE to think so!

 

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Spotlight on: Fanny Smith

April 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm (diaries, people, research, spotlight on) (, , )

I am reminded that Fanny Smith (after marriage in 1834, Fanny Seymour, or Mrs. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton), was among the earliest people I gathered information about. I gave a talk on her; and wrote about her early years (up to her marriage). That’s why it would be SO FASCINATING to find her own diaries!

One archive (Hertfordshire) has photographs of the Seymours; I’ve only ever seen one, very early (for photography), circa 1850s. It was taken out-of-doors (you can see a blanket kind of backdrop!), with Fanny and her three daughters – Augusta, the eldest of the family; Emma and Fanny the two youngest – and one of the sons, whom it took me the longest to identify, as Dick. I’ve never yet found the miniature Richard talks about commissioning, painted by Ross; but often figure it must have somewhat looked like this:

Ross_a Lady-closeup

I have a photograph of a “from a miniature” photograph, but whether it represents that portrait done by Ross or not, it doesn’t say. I would, however, be able to ID it as Fanny, should the actual miniature come to light!

My two Local Past articles on young Fanny Smith are available through my Academia account (another link is provided in the menu section – on the right side of the screen):

  • “Before She Became Fanny Seymour, Parson’s Wife”
  • “‘Fanny I am thankful to say continues going on very well'”

The first is about Fanny’s life up to her marriage; the second deals with the tragic days of Fanny’s confinement, following the loss of her first-born, a son named Michael John.

The articles can be read online; you will only need to log in (can do it through Facebook!) if you wish to download.

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George Perceval at Trafalgar

April 8, 2019 at 1:15 pm (books, history, people) (, , , )

Every once in a while something published turns out to be of use. Lord and Lady Arden are related to the Comptons of Castle Ashby (Emma Smith’s Uncle and Aunt Northampton). I’ve come across a few letters by the Arden’s children, but one is always hopeful that maybe letters to the children are still in existence. One must get _creative_ when searching – different names, sometimes different spellings. Who knows what I searched for when this little booklet turned up. The Banstead Boy at Trafalgar: George Perceval’s Letters to his Parents Lord and Lady Arden, 1805 to 1815.

Banstead_Perceval

This has so much going for it! It is a group of letters (the originals at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich); it is related to people related to my research; AND it deals with a young man in the Royal Navy, including his earliest days, when young George Perceval was first being sent aboard the ship Orion in 1805. Born in 1794, he was, at the time, about eleven years old.

It’s a short (64 pages) but well-produced booklet. The original purchase of the letters in 2005 evidently made quite the press sensation. In looking up that original sale, I am _not_ surprised: the lot at Sotheby’s sold for £33,600 (estimated: £20,000 to £30,000). W-O-W! You also get to SEE a few samples of the letters. The booklet, however, is your go-to source for reading about a young boys life in the Royal Navy, 1805 to 1815. Available through the Banstead History Research Group (BHRG). So wonderful that they pursued the publication of these letters! Banstead being the location of the Perceval estate, Nork.

 

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Portraits: Jane Austen & Gilbert White

February 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

An old (May 2017) article on Smithsonian.com by Brigit Katz assesses the “Six Portraits” that were on display during the 200th anniversary year (1817-2017) commemorating Jane Austen’s death. It asks the question, Was Austen demure, sardonic or glamorous? (based on no one portrait looking like any other in the group) while acknowledging that actually the “Six Portraits Deepen the Mystery of Jane Austen.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Without going into the good / bad points of individual portraits,* I will outline the portraits that were displayed:

(*I briefly commented on “the wedding ring” image ten years ago; it continues in heavy usage. I did touch on several portraits, though, in 2013)

  • The pencil and watercolor sketch of Jane by her sister Cassandra Austen (circa 1810) [National Portrait Gallery]
  • the hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist from circa 1810- 15 [National Portrait Gallery], “L’aimable Jane
  • watercolor of Austen in blue dress, bonnet [rear view], also by Cassandra Austen, circa 1804
  • the 1869 James Andrews watercolor portrait [had been up for auction in 2013] and the frontispiece of her nephew’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1870, based on the Andrews watercolor
  • portrait said to represent Jane Austen, in album belonging to James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent
  • the ‘Byrne’ portrait

No clue as to why the ‘Byrne’ but not the ‘Rice’ portrait.

The lack of portraits – though not the lack of ‘contenders’ – depicting Jane Austen echoes the story of Gilbert White of Selborne, another late-18th century Hampshire resident.

A riveting 1987 article by J.E. Chatfield actually “summarises verbal descriptions of the Selborne naturalist, the Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793) by his contemporaries and discusses the background to each of the illustrations which have been suggested as possible likenesses of White.” After citing a group of portraits comes the notice (similar to what Jane Austen enthusiasts might typically read): “The only proven authentic likenesses of Gilbert White are two small pen and ink sketches drawn inside his copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad now in the British Library.”

It was the growing fame of his book The Natural History of Selborne that (naturally) made “further information on [White’s] life and personality” of interest to its readers.

Under Descriptions of White: “There are relatively few recollections of him from members of his own family, in spite of the vast numbers of nephews and nieces which Gilbert White refers to in his journals.” Also mentioned, that at the time of centenary editions of the National History of Selborne (originally published in 1789) “there was no suggestion or knowledge of any portraits or sketch of White.”

Sound familiar?

It was after the sale of The Wakes (White’s home) in 1844 to Prof. Bell, “who was working on his edition of The Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne,” that a White nephew passed on recollections. The “Reverend Francis White who remembered his uncle Gilbert well, although he was only twelve years of age when White died…., provided the information on White’s physical appearance – only 5 feet 3 inches in stature, of a spare form and remarkably upright carriage.”

Nineteenth-century editions of Selborne have included “Recollections of White by older villagers.” If only such a census had been made shortly after Austen’s lifetime! It was this kind of off-hand recollection that James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew and my diarist Emma’s husband) that Edward hoped to collate from those nieces and nephews still alive. His sources, however, proved a bit problematic. And some were quite uncooperative.

An interesting comment, from circa 1880, that could so easily be applied to Jane Austen: “‘White was thought very little of till he was dead and gone, and then he was thought a great deal of.'”

I invite you to read the Chatsfield article, look at the Austen portraits as well as Gilbert White’s, and reflect on the highly valid points made.

 

 

 

 

 

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