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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.”

Permalink 2 Comments

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).

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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).

Permalink Leave a Comment

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!

Permalink Leave a Comment

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!]

Permalink Leave a Comment

Midshipman’s Missing Letter: Evelyn Culme Seymour (1899)

July 26, 2020 at 11:36 pm (people, research) (, , , )

To place this young man in context: Evelyn Culme Seymour was the grandson of Maria Smith, Emma’s youngest sister. Maria married the Reverend Sir John Hobart Culme Seymour in February 1844. They welcomed their first son, Henry Hobart, in 1847. Henry is the “dear Father” to whom, in January 1899, from aboard HMS Majestic, 18-year-old Evelyn Culme Seymour wrote.

As you might guess, looking at the date – 1899 – this period is very late for me. My main protagonists all had died off. It took me QUITE a while to finally bite the bullet and purchase a few letters, related to and yet in a wholly different world, far beyond my Two Teens (Emma and Mary) whose lives went back to King George III.

Still, Evelyn was “family” – and it had been items relating to Maria that turned up periodically for sale. (I wish whomever was cleaning house had found me!) I had just returned from a conference on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and decided, “Why not?” Blame it on the weekend’s naval theme…

Evelyn Culme Seymour_letter1

Periodically, therefore, I search online – hoping (against hope) to find bits and pieces of research. It’s been a while since I have found anything; it’s even been a while since I’ve found something that sold long ago — until last night.

Sold on eBay in the UK in March 2014.

The pictures are TINY! and only page one and the last page are shown. The description claims the letter is “QUITE LONG and INTERESTING.”

Six year later (more than!) if anyone having this letter would like to see what else Evelyn wrote from HMS Majestic – come find me. I have three letters from the ship (two on H.M.S. Majestic  Channel Squadron “letter head”), dating to March, April and July 1898. I am interested only in CONTENT!

WorthPoint (the website) has described the letter’s original description: “Evelyn states that the Empress came to see the ship on the 9th Jan 1899 and he helped her onto the ship and was introduced to her. He also mentions that he went to a dance at Admiralty House and was photographed by flashlight.”

The envelope is addressed to Henry at GLENVILLE, Bitterne (near Southampton), Hampshire. England, of course. This address is EXCEPTIONALLY important. Glenville was the home of Aunt Emma Smith. She willed it to Maria, and through her, then, it came to her eldest son. An address redolent with history!

Permalink Leave a Comment

And they called her MARIA Ramsay

June 27, 2020 at 9:11 pm (diaries, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

She popped up in a search of wills in the search engine of The National Archives. These are records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and the wills date from 1384 until 12 January 1858. Jane Austen’s will can be found through this site. Fun Fact: Due the Covid-19 closure, TNA offers free downloads of their digital wills.

The “She” in question was a woman named Maria Ramsay, Spinster of Whickham, Durham. I had been searching (again…) for a first name for Emma’s “Miss Ramsay,” their young governess who died in August 1819, aged only 28. Miss Ramsay can also be found in the journals of The Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus. It’s frustrating to SEARCH for someone when you have little more than (1) her last name, (2) the date of her death, and (3) the place of her death. This Maria Ramsay hit the last name and the place, but the date?!? Her will was proved 25 January 1820, nearly five months after my Miss Ramsay’s death. I didn’t hold out much hope, but: I HAD TO KNOW FOR CERTAIN!

The will was super short, and the opening line sealed the deal – and solved a very long-standing mystery. “This is the last Will and testament of me MARIA RAMSAY late of Portland Place in the County of Middlesex.” The address is that of Mrs. Smith, No. 6 Portland Place.

Finally… I KNOW HER NAME!

They called her MARIA! The “they” being her family, rather than the family with whom she lived. None of the girls would have called her anything other than MISS RAMSAY – even Elizabeth Grant (and her book editors) would only ever call the dear governess “MISS RAMSAY.”

HighlandLady-Lady Grant

I wish I could say the entire world opened up, and I now knew all about her. Alas…! The only tidbits I have are her mother’s name – Mary Ramsay – obtained because she’s named in her daughter’s will, as the only heir to the few possessions of her young daughter. Emma took Miss Ramsay’s death quite to heart, writing in her diary about the loss of this true friend. Ancestry indicates, though the actual images are not online, that a daughter of RALPH Ramsay was born on December 26th in the year 1790. This could be her. Again the place of WHICKHAM is mentioned, and Emma did once mention Miss Ramsay’s birthday (though not her age). The date is correct. And from her obituary I had already guessed circa 1789. It must be her! I would love to have seen an image of the parish registers to ascertain that RALPH was a correct reading; this child was baptised on 9 January 1791. The child’s mother is merely listed as “Mary”. I could find no marriage of a Ralph Ramsay and Mary xxx (presumably in Whickham), nor any siblings. (Miss Ramsay had at least a brother.)

But, finding a FIRST NAME is a great start!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sydney Smith’s Blue Plaque at York

June 21, 2020 at 10:35 pm (books, people, places) (, , )

sydney smith blue plaque

The Blue Plaque scheme of the United Kingdom brings the homes and haunts of the “famous” to the present-day masses. This April 2019 ceremony unveiled the Blue Plaque for the Rev. Sydney Smith at More House, Heslington, York. Known for his wicked wit, Sydney Smith supplies incisive reading to those lucky enough to grab any of the books based on his letters and published writing.

While awaiting the launch of the *new* website for the Sydney Smith Association, I was pleased to find this lengthy write-up for this dedication.

More House now houses the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of York. It was Sydney Smith’s vicarage from 1809 to 1814. Smith is connected to the Beach family, neighbors to Jane Austen’s family; the writer may have met Smith in Bath – but more on that story later!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »