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!

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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!

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Autograph Letter Signed, 1790s

June 14, 2020 at 8:55 pm (Help Wanted, history, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2012, I wrote about various SINGLE LETTERS potentially held by collectors of (Great Britain or GB) postal history items, saying I’d *LOVE* to hear from them. In “Autograph Letter Signed,” I talked about the difficulty of searching for individual pieces of Smith and Gosling mail. Can’t search for ALS, without tons of pages about Lou Gehrig’s disease. Not everyone discusses “entire” letters, and sometimes the letter is not present in its entirety.

But today I wish to put out some images, with brief information, about the postmarks and where letters, in the Smith and Gosling world, got sent from and to.

I am _not_ a collector of postal history or pre-stamp items, per se. My interest is in the CONTENTS. When I studied these photographs a few nights ago, as I saved the address panels for posting here at Two Teens in the Time of Austen, there were moments when I *suddenly* noticed a post mark, buried among the strokes of the handwriting. Sometimes, the post marks are not well struck. The striking might be repeated, or blurred, or partial. And, as a non-specialist and non-collector I don’t know what SHOULD be there. I only know what I can read.

Among the earliest letters – and I will let my original page on Autograph Letters Signed tell who lived where – are those from the estate of the parents (grandparents to my not-yet-born “Teen” Emma Smith – later Emma Austen Leigh), Joshua Smith, MP and his wife Sarah Gilbert. By the 1790s, they lived at Stoke Park, near Devizes, in Wiltshire. As is often the case, this estate bore several spellings of its name: Earl Stoke Park, Erle Stoke Park, even Erlestoke Park. You will see from the examples what they themselves typically called the estate. Joshua rebuilt it in the late 1780s, onward.

There are indications that the Four Sisters of Erlestoke Park lived, priorly, at Eastwick Park in Surrey. Eliza Chute, after her marriage living at The Vine (The Vyne), near Basingstoke in Hampshire, briefly waxed nostalgic on their time at Eastwick (rented by the Smiths), but I’ve never yet seen a letter from that address, or to them there. THAT would be a *find* indeed!

1790_Brodie_Devizes1790: Joshua Smith to John Brodie;
from London to Stoke Park, Devizes, Wiltshire
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
circular post mark and something above Joshua’s name;
seemingly assessed 1d (1 penny)

The Smith family had SEVERAL MPs in their family in the 1790s. Joshua Smith, Lord Compton (later: the 1st Marquess of Northampton), William Chute, and even for a short time Charles Smith (the father of Emma, my “Teen“; there are other Emma Smiths in the family, over three generations). So, in the early 1790s, I came across a LOT of “free” mail. Mail was free because a Member of Parliament fill out the address, and wrote his name. A frank meant that the recipient (who usually paid the postage) did not have to pay for postage. Of course, such mail should have been concerned with Parliamentary business. These contain family news.  So you will see several examples of various “FREE” postal marks, over the years. An “abuse of privilege,” but even Jane Austen used a frank to mail a letter to her sister Cassandra, from time to time.

1790_Steuart_London1790: Joshua Smith to George Steuart;
from Stoke Park to London;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

These two letters (above) both deal with work being done at Erlestoke Park. George Steuart was the main architect; John Brodie worked at the site.

1793_ASmith_Stoke1793: Maria, Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARK: one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Here, we are in the midst of the wars with France, with Lord Compton serving a group of Northamptonshire militia who are based in the south of England, for training and maneuvers. The envelope is written in Lord Compton’s hand, as is proper for any piece of franked mail. The actual letter was written by his wife.

You can view samples of the different handwriting for the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park on a prior blog post. Their hands are ALL quite different. From Aunt Emma’s sometimes difficult to decipher “spiky” hand (she was the youngest), to Lady Compton’s rounded child-like hand (she was the eldest).

To read more about each sister, personally, see Further Thoughts on Four Sisters.

1793_ASmith_Tring1793: Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Tring Park, Hertfordshire;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Tring Park, in the 1790s, was the country estate of the Smith sisters’ uncle, Drummond Smith. He would, in 1804, be awarded a baronetcy. His first wife, who never lived to become “Lady Smith” of Tring, was Mary Cunliffe, the elder daughter of Sir Ellis Cunliffe. Lady Cunliffe (his wife) was a friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and it is Lady Cunliffe and her two daughters who appear in the online article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal“. The younger sister, born posthumously, was Margaret Elizabeth Cunliffe. Tring Park (now a performing arts school) is a VERY important estate in my research. Mrs. Charles Smith (the former “Miss Augusta Smith”) and her children moved to Tring in the late 1820s, and Emma and James Edward Austen lived at Tring for the first years of their marriage. You see here a peep at Augusta Smith’s own handwriting: she endorsed it right above Lord Compton’s signature.

1793_EChute_Vine1793: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARK: one-line “DEVIZES”

You see here, in pencil, to the left of “Via London” an indication of to whom this letter (and others) were given, possibly in the 1840s after the death of Eliza Chute. The initials are EAL = Emma Austen Leigh. Mrs. Chute’s letters typically are covered, in the address area, with reminders of who sent the letter (“Mama”) and what the contents covered. “Mrs. Gosling” denotes Margaret Elizabeth née Cunliffe. In 1793 the two Elizas married – Eliza Smith married William Chute, MP and Eliza Cunliffe married William Gosling, banker. EVERY letter that mentions Eliza Gosling is special to me: in 1800 she gave birth to my “TeenMary Gosling, who, with Emma Smith, make my “Two Teens“. Mary Gosling married Emma Smith’s eldest brother, Sir Charles Joshua Smith; and, as mentioned, Emma Smith married Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen. Thus the full title of my blog: Smith and Gosling: Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

1794_EChute_Vine1794: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to The Vine, Basingstoke;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

You can easily spot that this is one of Emma Austen’s batch of letters (EAL in pencil) and that the letter was originally written to Eliza Chute, who wrote out hints about the contents.

1795_EChute_London1795; Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to (1) The Vine; forwarded to Great George St, London;
FRANKED: “FREE MP” in Sarah Smith’s hand;
POST MARKS: circular date and “FREE”;
two-line “BASING STOKE”; faint “DEVIZES”

Although this was a letter from mother to daughter, it was addressed to William Chute, a Member of Parliament, at The Vine, and forwarded to the Joshua Smiths’ London address, 29 Great George Street, Westminster. During this period, the families often “bunked in” with Joshua Smith when Parliament was in session.

1795_EChute_Vine1795: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Great George St., London to The Vine, Basingstoke;
POST MARK: circular “FREE”

Again, unmistakably with notes written by Eliza Chute on the envelope section indicating contents, including “Mrs. Melford’s dance”.

1796_ASmith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby, near Northampton to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

In April 1796, upon the death of the 8th Earl Northampton, his son Lord Compton succeeded him as the 9th Earl. It is his frank you see in the above envelope. We also see “Miss A. Smith” has now become the eldest unmarried daughter, and her mail is addressed now to MISS SMITH. Castle Ashby, in Northamptonshire, a few miles from Northampton itself, was the country estate of sister Maria, Lady Northampton.

1796_ASmith_Vine1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Bath to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARK: “BATH”

With the Northamptons in Bath, Maria was writing to her sister Augusta, who was visiting their sister Eliza Chute. Lord Northampton was again at the head of the Northamptonshire Militia in the summer of 1796.

1796_EChute_Roehampton1796: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to Roehampton Grove, Surrey;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: faint circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

As mentioned, above, the William Goslings were important friends and relations to the Smiths. Letters like this are among  my very favorites because of the pictures they paint of “Life at Roehampton Grove” (now part of the University of Roehampton). Eliza Gosling died in December 1803, after a lengthy illness. ANY news of Eliza Gosling is always welcome news.

1796_Joshua Smith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby to Stoke Park, Devizes:
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

Here is a sample of the handwriting of Lady Northampton, she’s writing her sister Augusta. Unmarried, until 1798, Augusta and youngest sister Emma Smith often remained at Stoke with their mother, until the London Season (approximately, February through June) brought them to “Town” for the balls, parties, dances, and other dissipations. Lady Northampton wrote frequently, keeping up a “conversation” with each of her sisters, her parents, her husband, and later her children.

The difficulty in locating single specimens is that I am looking for specific writers and recipients. Collectors talk of cancellations and post marks; hand stamps and free fronts; if I’m lucky, they mention whether there is an “entire letter” and if I’m REALLY lucky, they include an image of the contents.

A for instance: Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter was missing pages 1 thru 4, the extra sheet (folded in half) which would have been “wrapped” by the additional page (a half-sheet). With franked letters, the weight of that extra page did not cost the recipient extra – it was “free.” Such a second sheet often ended the letter on one side and had the direction written on the reverse side. This often is described as a “wrapper.” If the franked address panel is cut out – a small oblong rather than a half-sheet of paper, then you have a “free front.” The rear may be blank or have portions of text (the rest of course has been cut away). These are the saddest to find: Letters that once were!

Early on I got into the habit of calling divorced letters “WIDOWS” (a beginning with no end) and “ORPHANS” (an end with no beginning). In “Orphan in search of its Widow,” I included text AND images of Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter. I am convinced that sometimes family kept the letter, but jettisoned the “envelope.” I live in hope of uniting my orphan with its widow. Thanks to my work in various archives, “The Case of the ‘Noble Torso‘” tells the tale of two halves reunited (at the SAME archive; different folders).

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Just one more thing…

June 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm (diaries, people, research, travel) (, , , , )

Michael in Wales has seen the diary entry made by Lady Eleanor Butler about the Goslings’ 1821 trip through Northern Wales, when they made a four-hour stop to visit Lady Eleanor and Sarah Ponsonby – better known to the Goslings (and posterity) as The Ladies of Llangollen.

butler-and-ponsonby

This is exciting (though dampened by Covid-19 closure of archival libraries), and FAIRLY puzzling: Michael’s comment unearthed an additional person visiting with the Ladies at Plas Newydd!

Michael’s summarization of Lady Eleanor’s comment:

5 Sept 1821 – Mr. and Mrs. Gosling, son, and 2 daughters.

led me to relook at Mary’s diary and two letters, written about the Goslings’ 1821 trip (i.e., merely reporting news of them NOT their news written by one of them). I doubt that Lady Eleanor gave much information, beyond WHO their visitors were, but I’m dying to know what SHE said! Oh, for libraries and archives to reopen.

This is NOT the first time that I have “waited with baited breath” for a tasty morsel; it usually turns out to be a mere TIDBIT only.

There once was hint of a letter’s contents: mention of “Master Charles Smith” and “our little maid” (i.e., his elder sister Augusta) during a stay with Grandpa and Grandma Smith at Stoke Park near Devizes, when the two children were quite young. Alas, there wasn’t much beyond the FACT of their stay, though there was enough extra to be satisfied with a small picture of their childish antics.

Another letter, different archive, was written on the very day William Gosling married his second wife, the Hon. Charlotte de Grey. Ooooohhhh, wedding news! And written by the mother-of-the-bride!

Alas… only the statement that they had married. NO details!

That felt like a sprinkling of crumbs, never mind a FAR tastier letter.

Beechey-Mary
(I used to hope THIS was the face of Mary Gosling)

But, BACK TO WALES. The 1821 diary by MARY GOSLING was my FIRST acquaintance with her, her family, and the Smiths of Suttons, the family Mary married into in 1826. Little did I know then how much I would discover, and how far-ranging this project would become. But I always took Mary at her word: That they departed from Roehampton “Papa, Mamma, my sister [Elizabeth Gosling] and myself,”  which makes up the very first sentence written to record this trip.

WHERE and WHEN did a “son” come into the mix?? Mary never says!

As I read and cogitated, an image of Columbo (yes, the 1970s TV detective) came to mind: “Just one more thing…” Only Mary didn’t come back with some second thoughts. (NB: I now wonder if she wrote up her entire diary once she got home.)

It was the second of the two letters (written in October 1821) that mentioned, “Mr. G-, Bennett & the two girls only crossed the sea” (ie, went to Ireland). LONG had I recalled that letter saying that Mrs. Gosling had stayed behind, with her relations the Irbys. WHY had I never thought about the inclusion of BENNETT Gosling in the same sentence?

Mary never mentioned that Bennett accompanied them, nor that her step-mother did not accompany them to Dublin. Nor was mention made about everyone in their party suffering from SEASICKNESS aboard the steamship! (Coming and going.) Only Emma, in a letter repeating news of a letter, let slip these vital details.

Of course, without Mary, I don’t know when Bennett joined them. But – thanks to Eleanor Butler’s diary! – I do know that he, too, visited the Ladies of Llangollen.

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Stop to Smell the ROSES

March 29, 2020 at 9:35 am (jane austen, people) (, , , )

Last week I divided a bouquet – flowers at my mother’s grave; gifted to my aunt; and a couple retained for myself.

Photo Mar 22, 12 36 45 PM

The color GRABBED me when I saw them, a deep blush pink – They “called to me.”

Then I spotted their ‘name’:

Photo Mar 22, 12 36 06 PM

LOVELY LYDIA

How could someone who reads Jane Austen and researches her niece-by-marriage, Emma Austen Leigh, RESIST? Instantly, sprang to mind: “LYDIA BENNET” (Pride and Prejudice, of course).

By the time I got home, though, I found the name had morphed in my mind into:

Laughing Lydia

and that is what I call them now, whenever I glance at these roses, though the blooms in my vase have now “dried” into little dangling bells of pink blush.

I leave you that thought today, and wish you – especially those who are home, sheltering from the coronavirus – to “take a moment and smell the roses.” Enjoy what brings you pleasure, whether online or in a book (for instance). Revel in good health, or increasing health if you’ve been ill (any illness). Leave a moment, too, to remember those no longer in your life. And always: LAUGH along with Lydia.

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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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