Sister Act – the Culmes of Tothill

July 11, 2021 at 1:16 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

While searching one of my favorite searches – John Hobart Culme Seymour, a good search because it’s a long name, an “unusual” name, and does often bring up something about the Rev. Sir John Culme Seymour instead of children or (what’s worse!) junk results – I found a most useful and interesting article.

The name “Culme” turns up a 2017 local history article in the Sid Vale Association‘s journal “Past, Present, Future”.

It seems the Sidmouth Museum has a little sketchbook – something acquired in the 1970s – once belonging to Fanny Culme, the sister of Elizabeth Culme, the first wife of Sir John Seymor, and the 2nd “Lady Seymour” (following John’s own mother).

The article is illustrated by two watercolors (evidently dating to c1819) of the area around Sidmouth; and – most tantalizing – a self-portrait of Frances Goddard Culme, aged 17. The article, by Rab and Christine Barnard, is called, invoking this self-portrait, “The Girl in the Mirror” (see pp. 34-35).

It is most interesting to me, as a researcher trying to track down such items as sketchbooks and portraits, to read that when it was first acquired, the book was thought to belong to someone named “Fanny Coulter.” By the time the book was catalogued the last name had been guessed at as “Culine.” One can readily see in the lumps comprising the “m” of CULME how this could have segued into the odd name of Culine – but thank goodness someone recognized the girl’s real identity!

The opening tale, too, indicates how spread out research items can be. Even local museums getting in on the act, which I hadn’t always anticipated, although I did recently learn of a sketchbook by the Smith sister Charlotte Judith Smith existing in just such a local museum collection in Tring. So, my eyes have been opened – but when fingers have to do the walking, the search is trebly difficult without someone prompting discovery with a well-timed “here’s what we (or I) have . . .”

Church, Kinwarton, Warcs.

I can add a bit of clarification to the assumption about Elizabeth Culme’s marriage. She and John Seymour married in April of 1833. I suspect that they performed a marriage visit to her family in May, thus the cry of “For Auld lang syne” from her sister. (Although Fanny also may have visited Elizabeth and John, an opportunity to see where her sister would be living.) I could relay more information if John’s brother Richard Seymour had made comments about their whereabouts, IF there weren’t pages cut out of Richard’s diary about the time of this marriage (mid-April is missing), as well as dates around mid-May.

There seems to have been a ‘stall’ in the engagement in early March 1833, but Richard is not specific as to the “obstacle” nor to the nature of Elizabeth’s “promise”. Richard received news, from his sister Dora (who was undergoing her own romantic tribulations…), a few days later that “Miss Culme had set aside her [……]” [=single word cut out here; I think it must be promise]. Since whatever Miss Culme set aside made the marriage ready to move forward, it cannot have been a promise to John. Had there been a promise to another man? (seems doubtful) Maybe Elizabeth had made some promise to her sister, Fanny? Though, according to the article, Fanny had already married in 1823 – and John Seymour surely held “good prospects” for Elizabeth’s future life as a clergyman’s wife.

Private “history” can be so mysterious, especially when trying to piece things together using the remains of secrets left standing in ephemeral items like letters – or (mutilated) diaries.

The article, too, helped to recognize what I had guessed at – the transcription of the word SOLTAU (Fanny’s married name). I especially was unsure of the last letter – “u” or “n”? Richard mentions Fanny Soltau in the period surrounding the death of her sister, in 1841. Elizabeth’s baby survived – and was named after her mother, though called for the rest of her life “Sissy” by her immediate family. Sissy and her two brothers were raised by Maria Smith, my diarist Emma Austen’s youngest sister, after Maria married Elizabeth’s widower in 1844. By then, Sir John had added “Culme” to his own last name of Seymour.

*

A quick note should be made as to the position of the Rev. Seymour as Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. It was a mistake I myself made because of verbiage in certain write-ups about John Seymour. No queen in 1827. Sir John did serve as Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, once she ascended the throne, a decade later.

In 1827, John Seymour was named Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, George IV.

Preference within the Church was of great concern for any English family with clergy sons to advance; John’s uncle Sir William Knighton was His Majesty’s Private Secretary. This last link will take you to Charlotte Frost’s website, where you have the ability to download her 2010 biography Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician for free. Or, follow the author on Twitter.

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By Any Other Name

June 19, 2021 at 1:10 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

You might ask, given that I research people with the name of “Smith” – and Christen names like Charles and Mary, what name could possibly give me trouble….

Try: Jane Seymour.

Emma’s sister Fanny Smith was the first to marry a Seymour – the Rev. Richard Seymour the new incumbent to the living of Kinwarton (Warwickshire). They married on 30 October 1834.

The following year, September 1835, brother Spencer Smith married Richard’s sister Frances Seymour.

By 1845, not only had youngest sister Maria Smith married (his 2nd wife) the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour, but the Smith’s widowered brother-in-law Arthur Currie had married the widowed Dora (Seymour) Chester.

It was Maria who gave birth (in January 1851) to the JANE SEYMOUR I thought I was chasing. I had unearthed about a dozen photographs of a little girl and young woman – identified in a couple of albums, plus many more loose cartes-de-visite, which (I thought…) pointed to a certain “future” for the young lady portrayed.

I was wrong!

It’s tough, looking at my photographs of photographs – often done under inauspicious conditions of overhead lighting and cradled bound books – some out of focus; others the best that can be taken of the faded nothingness that now remains. Tough, too, to put together some faces that may be the same person – or some sibling – or someone totally different, just seen from an unusual angle that now has you comparing the straight or down-turned mouth, the curved or shell-like ear, the beak-sharp or the bulbous nose.

Such a one was the picture, only ID’ed on the rear with a date – “1877” – of a mother (presume) and frilly-frocked infant (christening?). The adult sitter looked like Jane Seymour – but cousin Jane never married, had had no children. The nose, here, looked sharper; the hair exhibited an mere half-inch of “fringe” (bangs they cannot be called), when in all other pictures there was only a center part and all hair pulled downwards and back. The face looked thinner, more sculpted, but then the face was bent downward, gazing at the child. The one thing all the adult photos had in comment was a clipped-short “side burn” above the ears – very similar to my own (because the bow of glasses sits right over this area).

Mother-and-Babe remained a “mystery” – for later ‘detection’.

Signature Maria L. Seymour

It was while looking through diaries – predominantly those written by Richard Seymour – for further information on the relationship of Mary Smith and Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, that I came across mention of Richard’s niece, Jane Seymour.

Mary and Gaspard had married in 1861 – but the engagement was so fraught with angst and doubt, that I had to find out more. What I found out was that they initially had become engaged in 1858. I haven’t found out if they stayed engaged the whole time, or if it was on-off-on again. Although other diaries exist, some I don’t have access to, and Richard’s I have to take painstaking reads through microfilmed handwriting. Letters of the period can be hit or miss – and more have tantalizing hints than full-length histories.

But back to Jane Seymour.

This Jane was not the first “Jane” in the family. Of course – OF COURSE! – there were several, over many generations. Maria’s daughter was a “CULME-SEYMOUR” – the “Culme” coming from Sir John’s first wife. For a while, I thought only Sir John’s “Culme” children used the “Culme” name. Maria’s mail always seemed addressed to “Lady Seymour” (see a letter I’m desperately seeking – and from 1861!). BUT: If I looked closely, Maria and her daughters inserted “C” as part of their signature. But who else could the girl called Jenny Seymour and the young woman identified as Jane Seymour or Miss Seymour have been?

Remember I said that Richard mentioned JANE SEYMOUR in his diary…

In 1858’s diary.

The section that caught my eye mentioned Richard’s “Australian niece Jane Seymour”. She arrived in mid-December, having left Sidney, Australia on September 1st. – Dora (née Seymour) and Arthur Currie picked her up at Gravesend! The very Curries who inhabited High Elms, the estate *now* (June 2021) up for sale.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

“Australian Jane” was the only child of Richard’s youngest brother, William (Willy) Seymour, who had emigrated, married an Australian girl in 1849, and died in 1857. I had presumed that she had stay Down-Under.

Nope…

Jane had a convoluted history. Her mother had remarried – at some unknown point – in 1858. This poor mother, born Sarah Avory and now Mrs. Pleydell-Bouverie, died in February 1859. Jane’s step-father died two years later, in February 1861.

But none of that mattered: little Jane Seymour had already sailed for England, arriving hardly two months before her mother’s death – which she could never have known about for another six or eight months.

What I do not know is the WHY Jane Seymour sailed from Sidney that September 1st of 1858!

Had the patriarchal arm reached across the globe, and over her father’s grave, to pluck the little girl from the bosom of her Australian family? Had the mother, stricken by some fatal illness (? – it’s a guess) already, made plans for her soon-to-be-orphaned child, plans that did not involve that child’s step-father? Or, had the Pleydell-Bouveries sought out this change for a child they no longer cared to care for?

Such a mystery remains to be solved, awaiting more information, other diaries, more letters.

One mystery that has been SOLVED involves the BIRTH DATE of Aussie Jane. I have found her baptismal information, which gives her date of birth. Given an 1849 marriage, I had presumed the birth of a first child in 1850. Jane Seymour, however, was born in MAY 1852 – which makes our little passenger a mere SIX YEARS OLD when she sailed from Sidney Harbor to Gravesend – and into the arms and the seemingly eternal care of an aunt she had never set eyes upon before: Dora Currie.

Dora’s step-children, Arthur’s children with his first wife, Charlotte Smith, were growing up – the youngest, Drummond Arthur Currie, had been born in 1840 and would attain his majority in a couple of years. Dora had married – after a long-fought-for marriage to the Rev. William H. Clinton Chester (her family disapproved of his slender means). They had married in August 1837, but by April 1841 Dora was burying her husband. They had had no children. Little Orphan Aussie Jane might have provided an opportunity too good for Dora to pass up. A small child to call her own.

The Curries are a branch of the family with very little archival resources. Charlotte had not lived to old age, but she had daughters – and the Smiths, as a group, seem a family that held very tightly on to items like letters and diaries, portraits and memories. So what happened to the items that Charlotte produced or received, and could figure to have been given over to any or all of her daughters – akin to the family letters amassed by Emma Austen, Fanny Seymour, and Maria Lady Seymour.

As you might guess, anyone with further information, please do contact me!

Richard’s 1859 diary speaks to his meeting the child. He was enchanted with his Australian niece, Jane Seymour.

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Faint Faces Found

June 13, 2021 at 8:36 am (diaries, estates, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been searching for several things lately, and usually come across something completely different in that kind of situation. Friday night proved to be no different.

I’ve been reading through old letters, first from 1840 (to go with a diary I’ve transcribed); then those from 1836 – a momentous, tragic year for the Smiths & Goslings, because of the deaths (by drowning) of Augusta and Henry Wilder, in a boat accident. I have recently come across two *new* letters, written in the aftermath of this family tragedy.

1840 was another year of loss – with the death of sister Charlotte Currie. And it was in the hope of (always a hope!)  finding more letters from Charlotte that I began reading letters to Charlotte, written predominantly by eldest sister Augusta Wilder.

It was while looking for any “hit” with Charlotte and Arthur Currie, that I searched for one of several addresses at which Arthur lived – and found that his old home, High Elms (Watford), is currently up for sale! It’s a MASSIVE 14-bedroom (7 bath) Grade II listed house:

Arthur settled here long after Charlotte’s death, bringing their children and his second wife, Dora (née Seymour; the widowed Mrs. Chester). The interiors are stunning (if “empty” looking in these photos). Take a peek now (before the listing disappears) – although the price is liable to keep it on the market for a bit of time – asking £7.5 million (it does come with 10 acres of land).

[Be advised: Arthur Currie of High Elms is far different from General Sir Arthur Currie.]

When High Elms was still called “Garston Manor” (from the 1890s until 2010), it was featured in a 2011 episode of Country House Rescue, the series hosted by Ruth Watson. I must see if I can find that particular episode…

Friday, I had also been trying to locate the diary (sounds like there is only one, but one never knows!) of Jane Eliza Currie – the wife of Captain Mark John Currie, Royal Navy, Arthur’s cousin. The one diary – though (great pity!) I’ve not been able to locate images of its written contents – covers the couple’s voyage in 1829 and stay (through 1832) in Australia — in quite a new settlement at the time, which is why she as well as he comes up in searches. I’ve had a brief look through Smith & Gosling letters and early diaries for Miss Wood (I don’t know if she went by ‘Jane’ or ‘Eliza’ – I find people referring to her by each of those; but what did she call herself??) and/or the Mark Curries Junior. Not successful there. Being out of England until their return in the 1830s, means there’s no hope (or very little) that Arthur and Charlotte would be mentioned by Jane Eliza – but one never knows. It is a new avenue to take a look down. What I have found is located at the Mitchell Library, NSW. And Currie just is not an easy name to search for — so much overtaken by a certain “General Sir”.

I have also been trying to remember who I had found – among the grandchildren? (not sure now) – whose death had been looked into via a coroner’s inquest. An accidental overdose. I remember a woman… Laudanum or Morphine… but the WHO escapes me, as does the date (19th century still? Early 20th century?). I thought maybe one in the Capel Cure family – and that was how I located my *FIND*!

Of Mary Gosling’s three children – Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith; Mary Charlotte Smith; Augusta Elizabeth Smith – two married children of Capel Cure and Frederica Cheney. The Cure siblings make for heartbreaking reading in retrospect – five of the eleven children died before the age of 21. The main seat of the Cures, Blake Hall, is very familiar from the letters and diaries of the Smiths and Goslings. Of course Mary (Lady Smith) never lived to see these marriages of her children – she died in 1842 and the first marriage, Sir Charles Smith to Agnes Cure, occurred in February 1855. The next to marry, in 1857, were younger sister Augusta Smith and the Rev. Lawrence George Capel Cure.

[Elder sister Mary married in 1861, Major Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, Royal Artillery.]

Since much literature that mentions the Capel Cure children does not mention all of them, I will list them here. You can find them in the 2nd volume of The Visitation of England and Wales (same place the Smiths of Suttons turns up):

  • Robert
  • Henry (died aged 7)
  • Frederica (died aged 10)
  • Alfred [the photographer]
  • (Rev.) Edward
  • Rosamund
  • (Rev.) Lawrence [married Augusta Smith]
  • Emmeline (died aged 19)
  • Agnes [married Sir Charles Smith]
  • Charles (died aged 8)
  • Frederick (died aged 14)

I have known of the photography work done – early in the “life” of photography – by Alfred Capel Cure. I have come across images of trees or estates – but Friday I spotted a LOT of PEOPLE. And when one album, digitized by UCLA, popped up a photograph of a portrait of “Sir C. Smith” by Ercole (whom I knew to have drawn Lawrence Cure), I slowed to savor each of the gentry portraits in Alfred’s album.

WITH SUCCESS!

A couple of photographs of Charles — whom I often still refer to, as his mother Mary did, as “Little Charles”. Mary, of course, was differentiating husband from son; I, on the other hand, know the son through the mother – and he was a child and teen in Mary’s lifetime. (Charles was born in 1827.) At least one album photograph ID’s him. Also ID’ed in a photograph is “Lady Smith and Miss Cure” – Alfred’s sisters, Agnes and Rosamund. Agnes and/or Rosumond (the only surviving girls) feature in a couple of group portraits, one of which surely includes Lawrence – it so resembles his Ercole portrait.

There are pictures of the exteriors of Suttons, Blake Hall, Badgers (a Cheney estate, which came into Alfred Capel Cure’s possession). So many familiar names. So many unknown faces.

Among the familiar names a faint and faded face identified as Lady Marian Alford. Lady Marianne Compton, as she originally was, was the eldest daughter of Spencer 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin) and Margaret Clephane. There are a LOT of images – painted and photographed – of Lady Marian (Viscountess Alford) out there.

Alas, no one identified as Mr. and Mrs. Leigh or their children … – which might have unearthed some new images of Emma and James Edward Austen.

But, among the faint and faded, came a duo identified as “the Misses Smith” and dated “Badger, 9 Nov:r 1854“. And I knew I had found something “Completely New”.

I usually have a “feeling” about a *FIND* – including excitement and sureness of the “who” or “what”. I don’t know WHY, but I have almost no feelings on this portrait. Except of loving the sweet faces I see.

Maybe it’s because, named “the Misses Smith” – I’m not sure who is who.

think the elder sister is standing; the younger sister is seated. The standing sister is smiling, broadly. A ring and what looks to be a charm bracelet dangle are on her visible right hand. Her left hand rests on the chair in which her sister is seated. This seated sister has a quieter look, as if not quite “ready” for the camera. And yet, there is an attractive wistfulness that becomes haunting the more one looks.

When they posed at Badger, Mary Charlotte Smith was soon, at the end of November 1854, to celebrate her 26th birthday. Augusta Elizabeth Smith was a few months past her summer celebration of turning 24-years-old. That it IS them is not in doubt – the diary of their uncle, the Rev. Richard Seymour, notes welcoming them to Kinwarton just after their stay at Badger.

The sepia coloring of the album’s print continues strong, fading only along the lines of the gowns and around their hands. It is a remarkable souvenir of their day, (or stay), at Badger during the time of their brother’s engagement.

 

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A History of the Harp

March 25, 2021 at 3:42 pm (entertainment, jasna, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

While writing my chapter for the edited book Women and Music in Georgian Britain (soon to be under review), I found this FASCINATING video by Simon Chadwick, “The Erard Grecian pedal harp, and the history of the harp in Scotland. Talk at Hospitalfield House

Simon Chadwick’s YouTube channel gives listeners the opportunity to HEAR several harps. Tune in!

In “The Erard Grecian Pedal Harp” lecture, Chadwick mentions Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane (after 1815, Lady Compton; from 1827 until her untimely early death, Lady Northampton). With her marriage, Margaret became my diarist Emma Austen’s cousin. Also touched upon is Elizabeth Grant (the “Highland Lady”); and the daughters of Sir Walter Scott. For the last, because Chadwick’s talk slightly pre-dates some *breaking* information from Abbotsford, see “A Tale of Two Harps” on the Abbotsford website (from 2016).

Because Chadwick’s is a filmed talk, the amount of information given out is outstanding; and viewers get to see and hear so much. The portrait of Margaret Compton, which he shows on the screen, you’ll find on my PORTRAITS page. To read more about Margaret herself, and her harp “recital” at Castle Ashby in 1815, see my article “Pemberley’s Welcome: or, An Historical Conjecture upon Elizabeth Darcy’s Wedding Journey,” published in JASNA Peruasions On-Line.

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Emma Austen and the Guitar

March 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm (diaries, entertainment, people) (, , )

Quite some time ago, musicologist Christopher Page contacted me over mentions in Emma’s diaries of the guitarist Trinidad Huerta. Page’s research now has been published as, The Guitar in Georgian England: A Social and Musical History.

Huerta was actually born a few months after my diarist Mary (her birthday: 2 February 1800); making him about a year older than Emma, when she reports hearing him and his (2nd) wife Angiolina Panormo (on the piano, and singing) at a morning concert in Newbury on the 27 March 1830. The Austens were young marrieds by then, and Newbury must have given Emma a pleasant memory of her “single lady” days, in London.

It was not easy to be a professional performer in the first quarter of the 19th century. Page notes “The travels of Trinidad Huerta reveal the movements of a solo guitarist who often looked beyond London (where he was well known) for his engagements.” Thus his ending up in Newbury, Berkshire.

In an email, Page wrote: “1830 marks the peak of the guitar craze in Georgian England as measured, for example, by the number of women seeking governess posts through advertisements in the London press, year by year, and offering to teach the instrument.”

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Jane Austen Society: Reports

December 21, 2020 at 12:04 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, jasna, people) (, , , , )

If you are unfamiliar with Persuasions / Persuasions On-line, the journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), (see blog post, “Jane Austen’s Birthday publication“), you may not realize the extent to which Austen Societies in other countries publish Austenian research.

The Jane Austen Society (JAS) in the U.K. publishes an “Annual Report,” and has even collected them into “omnibus” editions over the decades. These editions have been reprinted; and (of course!) are sometimes found in used book stores (and on their websites). I found a decently-priced copy, in Germany if I remember correctly, of the Collected Reports, 1986-1995. It was about that time that I started thinking about “fleshing out” my collection.

For the longest time JAS, unlike JASNA, did not have online availability of the contents of their oldest issues. All that has changed!

JAS Reports have been consistent in providing nuggets of Austen family history, which I of course relish.

Just yesterday, in beginning to read E.J. Clery’s Jane Austen, The Banker’s Sister (which has for too long been in my To Be Read pile), I had reason to find the JAS Annual Report for 2007 – Clery cites an article in that issue on Papermaking (for the Bank of England) and the Portal family, written by Helen Lefroy.

I knew where to look – for I had long ago found the *STASH* of JAS Reports, uploaded to Internet Archive.org. But I never told you, dear Readers, about this *find,* did I?

Internet Archive is the site that also hosts the Austen Family Music books, where you can gaze and study the music copied by various members of the family, including Jane Austen.

Currently, Jane Austen Society Annual Reports include:

  • Collected Reports, 1949-1965
  • Collected Reports, 1966-1975
  • Collected Reports, 1976-1985
  • Collected Reports, 1986-1995
  • Collected Reports, 1996-2000 [includes Index, 1949-2000]
  • Collected Reports, 2001-2005

Then follows the single JAS Annual Report for the years, 2006 through 2018.

I recognize the cover for the 2017 Report – and it reminds me of another piece of (old) Austen “news” that I don’t think I mentioned yet to Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen. I’ll put that on my “To Be Blogged” pile. The curious may click on the picture to be brought to Internet Archive (which should sort the titles by year, so scroll down for later Reports).

 

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The 13th of December (a poem)

December 13, 2020 at 9:58 am (books, history, people) (, , )

by Anna Jane Douglas Maclean Clephane, included in her book of Plays and Poems (1864):

THE 13TH OF DECEMBER

A day thou wert of gladness

In times of yore;

Thou art a day of sadness

For evermore.

 

Sad thoughts must aye encumber

Her day of birth,

Who locked in mortal slumber

Hath passed from earth.

 

Yet thoughts of her as treasure

Our bosoms store;

A well of painful pleasure

For evermore;

 

Roots with our heart strings twining

Unwrenchable;

Light on our deep souls shining

Unquenchable.

 

As by a mirror doubled,

In each heart’s core

Her image dwells untroubled

For evermore.

 

Of joys the purest, lightest,

Deep griefs are made;

The sun when he shines brightest

Casts darkest shade.

 

Thus we in deep heart-sorrow

Her loss deplore;

Joy from her smile to borrow—

No nevermore.

 

Not so, there will be meeting

For us again,

Where joy’s unmeasured greeting

Includes no pain.

 

When each enfranchised spirit

God’s throne before,

Shall life and love inherit

For evermore.

 

Anna Jane writes, of course, about her sister Margaret, the 2nd Marchioness of Northampton (born Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane; usually known in this blog as Lady Compton). Margaret died of an aneurysm in April 1830, while abroad in Italy.

I, too, face the birthday of a deceased loved one every December – and find the lines of this poem both sad and comforting. Made more poignant by today being the 13th of December (2020) once again, with its grey skies and one beam of sun breaking through the clouds at an opportune moment of grief and reflection.

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Meet Miss Anna Jane Clephane

December 8, 2020 at 10:49 am (introduction, people, spotlight on, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Anna Jane Douglas Maclean Clephane was born on 21 May 1793. The announcement of her birth reads, “21. at Kirkness, Mrs Douglas Maclean Clephane of Carslogie, of a daughter.”

Anna Jane died at the home of her nephew the 3rd Marquess of Northampton, at Castle Ashby, 27 January 1860; her burial service was conducted by another nephew, Lord Alwyne Compton, rector of Castle Ashby, on February 1st.

Her birth is often confused with that listed as “1798. 11 [November]. Mrs D. Maclean Clephane of Carslogie, a daughter.” This may be an announcement for a sister (Helen Amelia) who died in April 1803, but I have yet to confirm this.

Mrs. Clephane had three daughters grow to adulthood:

The eldest sister’s birth is found alongside her future sister-in-law in December 1791. Margaret Clephane on the 13th and Lady Elizabeth Compton on the 20th December. Margaret died in Italy, in April 1830. She is buried at Castle Ashby.

The youngest Clephane sister, Wilmina, was born 26 December 1803 (her father, Maj. Gen. William Douglas Maclean Clephane, died in November 1803). She died 9 February 1869. She is found in records under her married name, de Normann. (She had married Wilhelm, Baron de Normann in 1831.) A little portrait of Wilmina was among many at auction (Christie’s) back in October 2005.

I have yet to find a portrait of Anna Jane. I have had access to a number of her (early) letters, written around the time she was “meeting” Lady Elizabeth Compton via the post. A LOT of Anna Jane “sightings” happen once the Smiths meet her in person, in the late 1810s, when she comes to visit Lord and Lady Compton in London.

I have not – so far – come across Anna Jane’s correspondence with (especially) Augusta Smith, Emma’s eldest sister. It is discussed at length in letters to Lady Elizabeth — including that Anna Jane sent Augusta, following strict instructions, an outline so that Augusta could create a silhouette.  Of course, nothing was included with the letter that mentioned this tidbit of information, and I’ve not come across it in Lady Elizabeth’s group of “heads” (which also does not include Lady Elizabeth herself).

Black Out

Augusta Smith (later: Wilder) was well-known for her artistic ability, and kept at least one “book of heads”, though I believe silhouettes in various collections to have been done (at least in part) by Augusta. I chuckle whenever I recall one transcript of a letter, which referred to Augusta’s “book of beads“. Surely a misread.

Wilmina, born at the end of 1803, was still quite young when her sister Margaret married Spencer, Lord Compton (Lady Elizabeth’s brother; cousin to Emma Smith et al.) in the summer of 1815. Anna Jane, on the other hand, was already a young woman. When her new relations wrote their London news, she was resident in Scotland; Margaret had gotten married in Edinburgh. Of course ONE hope was that visitors would come to them, at Torloisk (if not Edinburgh).

Mrs. Clephane was most adamant that she would leave Margaret to settle in with her new family. The Clephanes traveled into England, but only to stay at Harrogate. The ladies, of course, stayed in touch with lots of letters.

The sisters’ girlhood home, Torloisk, on the Isle of Mull, passed from Margaret to her next-to-eldest son. Mrs. Clephane (who died in August 1843) gets some mentions in the diaries of James Robertson (listed, among online diaries I have found, on my blog Georgian Gems, Regency Reads & Victorian Voices). Remaining unmarried, Anna Jane spent much of her life with Margaret’s children, sharing Compton’s – by then the 2nd Marquess of Northampton – Northamptonshire home. I’ve done little beyond collecting and transcribing letters from the later years; I lose sight of Anna Jane.

One superb source for a little about Anna Jane Douglas Mclean Clephane, as a person, is James Robertson’s Journal. In his 15 December 1843 entry, he notes the “better read and better educated” Mrs. Milman (and others), who does not hold a candle to Miss Clephane, “who is an exception to all rule.” If only he had painted a picture of her looks as he so adeptly did for two of her nephews (and dear sweet Miss Macdougall, too).

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Augusta in Italy

August 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm (books, diaries, europe, news, people, postal history, research) (, , , , , , )

Two years ago I wrote a short “article” for a new-to-the-market magazine. Of course the article had to be shorter rather than longer (I forget the word count; 2000 words?). And magazine articles don’t normally have notes and sources.

The magazine debuted without my article…

So what to _do_ with something that is a viable story – the 1822-1823 trip to Italy by Mrs. Smith and her eldest children, Augusta, Charles, Emma, Fanny and Eliza?

Lady Compton, in Italy

It took a while, and was actually posted on my Academia.edu account pretty much as it went to the editor. Now, however, it’s more fleshed out, two small errors have been corrected, and it contains some notes on sources. (“Private” collections I’m keeping to myself for the present.)

The main source is a group of 13 letters at the Archivio di Stato di Roma. Twelve letters are written (some jointly) by Mrs. Smith and Augusta Smith (her twenty-something daughter) to Don Filippo Lante.

Emma joins in at least once, adding a postscript, after the family has moved on from their lengthy stay in Rome and are headed northward into Austria, homeward to England. The six Smiths never enter Italy again. Charles died in January 1831. Augusta died in July 1836. Other travels to the Continent took the family to Germanic destinations — following Augusta’s edict that she thought the English had more in common with the Germans than the Italians!

Oh, dear…

Perhaps, though, part of that rancor arose from the seeming “neglect” from persons they thought of as firm and fast friends – be they young male correspondents, like Don Filippo.

Emma Smith (Emma Austen)

I have come across one letter and therefore know of a correspondence kept up with an young woman from Ancona. Augusta seemingly sent her a silhouette – such a ‘fragile’ and ‘ephemeral’ item! Regency Silhouettes are TINY, only a few inches in height. Emma’s (above) on the average computer screen is about the same size in “real life.” Silhouettes are easily misplaced or destroyed. It’s doubtful this relic of their friendship exists.

What also does not (seemingly) exist is their correspondence. Only the one letter…

I’ve not (yet?) come across too many letters from Italians, in general. One that I have located is more business-like and from a man who gave them lessons in Italian when the family was in London.

Lost, too, are any letters sent to the family by Don Filippo. Which is why the existence of the few they sent him was a true *find*.

The archive underwent restoration about the time I dilly-dallied about contacting an Archive in ROME. It was a wait, therefore; and even the purchase of copies didn’t go exactly smoothly from my mishandling of payment (do NOT get lazy and use Western Union online — the charges imposed by THAT action nearly cost as much as the purchase of the images! Even the credit card imposed fees – for a CASH advance.)

And it was TOUGH dealing with a slight cropping (around the edges) of images. How to complain when I can’t get my point across in their language? (and it wasn’t just ONE image…)

With hand-written letters, the transcription is difficult enough when written in ENGLISH. But, at least then I can guess, from the meaning of the sentence, at a cut-off word. (NOT every time. Try fill in the blank: “He is such a ________.” Doesn’t work, does it.) In a foreign (to me) language, I transcribe what I SEE not what the sentence says.

Mrs. Smith wrote to Don Filippo in French (my study of which goes back to SCHOOL DAYS – long ago, indeed; and yes, I don’t live far from the border with Quebec… Canada’s French-speaking province). Augusta wrote mainly in French, but she later samples her Italian.

 

I’ve been told that Augusta’s grasp of the Italian language was QUITE good!

Of course, we are dealing with native English-speakers, writing two hundred years ago languages they learned MORE than two hundred years ago (Mamma’s earliest letters in French are from the 1790s, before her marriage!)

So, think of the tough time I have had:

  • images of letters (not original letters); though DECENT digital copies (not xerox)
  • handwritten – sometimes “crossed”
  • written in foreign languages by people who learned the languages (not native speakers)
  • transcribed by someone who is (1) not a native French or Italian speaker; (2) who learned as a school girl (French) or through listening to OPERA (Italian)
  • and the letters are TWO HUNDRED years old, showing all the vagaries of spelling, “accents” in French (often non-existent, or backwards), and archaic sentence structure.

IN SHORT, a difficult task – but made wholly WORTHWHILE by the amount of information for a period during which little exists beyond letters. Emma’s 1822 and 1823 diaries are half-complete. In 1822, she leaves people on the shores of the Channel. In 1823, she picks up after their return to London’s shores. Augusta intimated that she kept a travel journal (Emma may have done the same), but I’ve so far found nothing. Even Fanny, whose ENTIRE set of diaries remains unlocated cannot be a ‘source’ for information about the trip.

(Richard Seymour, Fanny’s widower, comments in his diary about reading her diaries, after Fanny’s death. That is my only clue that she KEPT diaries! Even Richard’s diaries have gone missing, although the Warwickshire Record Office has a microfilm copy of them, from the 1980s, if I remember correctly.)

I therefore invite Readers to do your own reading about this fabulous trip taken by the Smiths in 1822-1823. The focus here is on Rome and their friendship with Don Filippo Lante – and his curious reticence to stay in touch.

I’ve long thought of the article as “Augusta in Italy” – she was my focus, as was this segment of their year-long trip. But the actual article is called, “Forget me not: Sealing Friendships from Italy, 1823-1827.”

I touch on their Italian leg of the journey, because of the musical richness of their activities in places like Milan and Naples, in my new book chapter “Prima la musica: Gentry Daughters at Play – Town, Country, and Continent, 1815-1825,” to appear in the book Women and Music in Georgian Britain. The chapter was just handed over to the editors (Mimi Hart and Linda Zionkowski) at the beginning of August (2020), so you’ve a bit of a wait for the actual book! But that chapter was the impetus for *finally* tackling the re-write.

Back to “Augusta in Italy” and its true title. There are MANY lovely wax seals on letters in the collections I have seen. (That topic in itself would make a great blog post!) But the “forget-me-not” – the little flower – is certainly a recurrent theme in the “impression” of seals from the period.

wax seal, “Augusta”

This is NOT a forget-me-not of course. But it is a favorite seal – and a fine photo. The 19th century letters are SMALL (3 inches by 5 inches, many of them; like an index card in the U.S.); the seals smaller. My camera would have problems focusing on BLACK seals, from the “density” of the wax’s color AND the effort to get CLOSE to something small. So the above IS an image I’m proud of having obtained.

And the article’s title mentions the one thing the Smiths were intent on doing: Sealing friendships with their Italian acquaintances. With Don Filippo they were only marginally successful – but I’ll leave you to read the article (7 pages; PDF) to learn WHAT actions of his the Smith family most objected to, which nearly cut the correspondence.

Special thanks to Clemente Fedele – his initial interest in a short postal history article I wrote for Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine brought about this article in the first place. He also helped in SO MANY WAYS while I was bumbling along anxiously trying to obtain copies of the baker’s dozen (the 13 letters include one from Lady Compton) from a repository so “foreign” and LARGE as Rome’s Archivio di Stato di Roma. Grazie tante!

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Sighting: Miss Sarah Ashley, 1851

August 9, 2020 at 10:27 am (history, news, people, research) (, , , )

2020 is, of course, a census year in the United States. In the spring, the government bombarded with postcards and letters: Get online, Count in the 2020 Census! All _I_ wanted was the FORM. When it *finally* arrived in the mail, it was so short, that it was back in the post next day. Now a plethora of TV commercials… The deadline extended into October.

Censuses for historical research are a useful component. Though I remember looking for Mary (Lady Smith, née Mary Gosling) in the 1841 census – I _KNEW_ her birth date (1800); could NOT find her. Thank GOODNESS she had a diary for 1841 still in existence. The surprise was on me: She was at the Cavendish Square address of the Curries (her brother-in-law). Emma’s younger sister, Charlotte Currie, had died the year previous, so in the household was her widower Arthur Currie and their children. Took a LONG time for me to find the correct census that covered Cavendish Square, I can tell you! She wasn’t “searching” properly because her birth date was “rounded” down. So, a case where KNOWING the information was NOT a help. (After all, I’m searching for a woman called MARY SMITH; the one point in my favor, having “1800” as her absolute birth year.)

1803 fashion plate

At the same time, WHAT can a census tell me? I know more about the Smiths and Goslings, from letters, from diaries, than any census could tell. I certainly know where they lived – if not quite where they were on census night… I know their age, their birthday, their family members. But: I don’t always know all of their staff. So it’s very useful for that. Nor do I always know who was visiting.

But what I found for 1851 – not involving Mary (who died in July 1842), but her younger half-sister Charlotte Gosling – has me scratching my head. A visitor? A (paid) companion?

The 1851 census mentions Eliza Ann Ashley – this young woman was a couple years younger than Emma (born c1803), and yet she came to the Smith household in 1824 as the governess to Emma’s younger sisters; she staid until Maria (the youngest of all the nine Smith siblings) turned 18. Maria would have been just ten-years-old at the time of Miss Ashley’s arrival.

I believe her sister, Sarah Edmonstone Ashley, was a couple of years younger (born c1805); the 1851 census lists her as _13_ years younger (“35” to Miss Ashley’s “48”) [this could be a transcription error; I need to find the original].

Eliza is listed, in 1851’s census, as a “visitor” to Suttons, “Charles C. Smith,” the Landed Proprietor. This is the son of Sir Charles Joshua Smith and Mary, Lady Smith = Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith. He was only four-years-old when his father died, and he inherited the baronetcy. Born in 1827, by 1851 he was “of age” and has moved into Suttons (it had been let for a time); his two younger sisters Mary Charlotte Smith and Augusta Elizabeth Smith with him. The younger, Augusta, was born in July 1830 – so too old to _now_ be in need of a governess; BUT: Miss Ashley had acted as their governess after Mary’s death. Therefore, she was a visitor, but one who knew Suttons and the family very well.

Miss Ashley’s sister, Sarah, hovers around the fringes of diaries and letters. She crops up as a visitor, or, I should say, a person visited. So my extreme surprise was to see her in the 1851 census — as a “visitor” not to anyone in the extended Smith family, but in the household of Charlotte Gosling.

Charlotte Gosling, of an age with Charlotte Smith (Mrs. Arthur Currie), would have been in her 40s in 1851. Charlotte Gosling incurred a fall, inside the house at No. 5 Portland Place, London, in early 1828. The fall injured her in such a way, perhaps exacerbated by a bout of whooping cough, that she never walked again. She had been the glittering Mrs. Gosling’s social companion. How much Charlotte’s social life was curtailed by her inability to walk is only rarely touched upon. Except for mentions of Charlotte’s extreme grief over her mother’s death in the late 1830s (Mr. Gosling had died weeks after his eldest son William Ellis Gosling, in 1834), so little mention is made of Charlotte – especially after Mary’s death (when, let’s face it, my source of information dries up).

So my surprise last night: Sarah Edmonstone Ashley was evidently in the household of Charlotte Gosling on census night, 1851! And a wholly *new* address to me, for Charlotte is listed as living at: 10 Clarence Street, Cavendish Square.

Of course No. 5 Portland Place (renumbered to No. 15 Portland Place) still remained in the Goslings’ hands, but it now housed the family of Mary and Charlotte’s brother, Robert Gosling and his wife Georgina Vere Gosling (née Sullivan) and many children and MANY servants. For CHARLOTTE to be down as the householder she could not have been living with her young brother, Thomas George Gosling (another sibling that gets only a few mentions). Both of her parents certainly had money, so if Charlotte’s mother had left her enough, it would be no surprise that she lived on her own, rather than with her unmarried brother.

But that begs the question: WAS Miss Sarah Ashley truly a visitor? Or, had she become a (paid) companion to Miss Gosling? Or: Was Miss Sarah Ashley “sleeping out” – this is where a person “living” at another address, is given a bed in another household (even in the household of a merchant; so not just with family “friends”) – and just happened to be with Charlotte Gosling on census night?

It’s possible that one Miss Ashley came into the household on Portland Place by 1855 (remember, Robert and Georgina had a LOT of children), for there is a subscription list that gives the names, one after the other, of MISS GOSLING and MISS ASHLEY – but by that time the eldest Gosling girl would certainly have been called “MISS” Gosling. Robert and Georgina had married nearly the same time as Mary and Charles – in mid-1825. Their first children were all daughters.

But the 1851 sighting of Sarah Ashley with Charlotte Gosling is a given…

New, if slim, information. But: Useful information.

  • see also, “Dido Belle” – a post that discusses Dorothy Thomas, the “Queen of Demerara,” who evidently was grandmother (?) to the Misses Ashley. I know the Ashley sisters were _cousins_ to Henrietta Simon, Mrs. Sala, the singer, and mother of writer George Augustus Sala. But I do not know who the Ashleys’ parents were. [information always gratefully accepted!]

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