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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Carte de Visite Photographers, UK, 1840-1940

April 26, 2021 at 7:43 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Several years ago, I came across a GOOD STASH of Carte de Visite portraits belonging to the Smith and Gosling family (most dating, as you might guess, to the 1860s and 1870s). There were albums, put together by the daughters of Spencer Smith of BrooklandsDora Spencer-Smith and her sister Isabella Spencer-Smith. Alas! the same “old” sittings I’d l-o-n-g seen of Emma and Edward Austen Leigh. But several of the Smith siblings (and even some Gosling grandchildren) were new to me. Thank goodness that Dora and Isabella, along with painting borders on many pages, thought to identify the sitters! Sitters included all the Austen Leigh siblings; many “in-laws” (or to-be “in-laws” of Seymours and Culme-Seymours. The *thrill* for me was to see so many photographs of the Spencer-Smiths, children of Spencer and Frances (neé Seymour).

Frances was the sister of two of Spencer’s brothers-in-law! The Rev. Richard Seymour (husband to Fanny Smith) and the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour (husband to Maria Louisa Smith).

I saw, for the FIRST TIME, images of Spencer and his sister Sarah Eliza (Lady Le Marchant, wife of Sir Denis Le Marchant). The time period was, sadly, too late to have images of my diarist Mary Lady Smith (neé Gosling) or the Smith sisters Charlotte (Mrs. Arthur Currie) and Augusta (Mrs. Henry Watson Wilder). Augusta had died in 1836 (along with Henry); Charlotte in 1840; Mary in 1842. Mamma (Mrs. Charles Smith; the original ‘Augusta’ – and there are lots in this family named AUGUSTA, after her), too, died before the general age of Carte de Visite photography.

Fanny Seymour – Emma’s middle sister – however I had seen already, in an 1850s “outdoor” photograph. There was a dispute as to the sitters in the picture. The archive thought it Sir John, Lady Seymour [Maria], and family. BUT: the children fit FANNY’s family more than her sister’s. An older daughter, two younger daughters, an unknown man (probably a son). I posed the probability that this photograph showed the Seymours of Kinwarton. And the albums vindicated that supposition!

It was the albums that ID’ed Fanny in a couple of lovely informal portraits, as well as a more standard, badly faded, Carte de Visite. The albums that showed the two youngest throughout their childhood and growing into young womanhood. The albums that allowed a name to be put upon the unknown man (yes, a son). Indisputable proof that the 1850s photograph showed the SEYMOURS of Kinwarton, rather the CULME-SEYMOURS of Gloucester and Northchurch.

Less successful, as far as identification went, was the pile of individual Cartes de Visite. Some had the same “view” as pasted into an album (or two). They were easy. I was pretty sure I had spotted a wonderful head and shoulders view of MARIA (Lady Seymour), mainly because there was a “companion” of Sir John – and he was recognizable from other photographs. The rear of both had the same PHOTOGRAPHER’s STUDIO. This convinced me that Maria was indeed the Lady Louisa Seymour held, in two studio views, at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The photographer in that case: Camille Silvy. (Though it still puzzles me that he would put on her picture “Lady Louisa Seymour”; see my past blog post about the ins and outs of titles and first name.)

So wonderful to SEE Maria, rather than an artist’s interpretation:

Maria Smith

Her portrait miniature (above), by Sir William Charles Ross, was sold at auction some years ago; its background is so over-painted that the painting of it is generally more noticeable (to me) than the figure. If only they had left it alone (a large picture hat must have been painted out). John’s companion, painted about the same time, I have not seen (or found). Family letters discuss Maria’s portrait at length, including her SITTING to Ross – and Mamma thought the portrait “very like”. The ultimate compliment!

[The opposite, of course, was that the viewer thought a portrait, “NOT very like”.]

The *bonus* with the single Cartes de Visite, was the ability to see the REAR of each photo! Few identifications of sitter (Boo!). The photographer’s studio and other such identifying information – such *riches* – were present, and something I always have wanted to collate and put into a blog post.

NOW I may not have to do as much “digging”…

It was while searching for something completely different that I came across a website with a LENGTHY photographer LIST – a list of those men and women working as Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland,1840-1940.

There’s a “date your old photographs wizard” (I haven’t yet tried it), but REALLY enjoyed the summary of how the PHYSICAL photo – and yes counting clothes, hair, and props, but looking at the photo artwork and mount in particular. Biographies of photographers (a growing source of information); even some examples of a given photographer’s work. I do not know why (it could be my browser), but I cannot get the LONG list to highlight a searched-for name. Do scroll down, if the same happens to you. (For instance, I searched for SILVY – and he IS there in their list.)

A great resource to add to my “UK Archives Online” page, to which I have been adding many online sources beyond the traditional county “archives” catalogue.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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

Lady Northampton’s Album

January 2, 2021 at 3:53 pm (entertainment, history, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

At Christie’s in December 2020, this album compiled by Emma’s “Aunt Northampton” – featuring her own watercolors, but also those of others – including her teacher and friend, Miss Margaret Meen, and her sister Emma Smith.

Miss Meen‘s work is shown in these two specimens. Click on the picture to see all 10 illustrations. I hope the album went to a good home, and will stay in “one piece”, rather than broken up into 69 “for sale” Botanicals.

I have seen some of Lady Northampton‘s work in the flesh; they are stunning.

Permalink 2 Comments

Sheila Hancock presents…

August 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm (entertainment, history, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

30 August 2020 – technical difficulties (thanks, WordPress) in displaying “ginormous” images and the rest of the blog crowding in on the posts. SICK of the block editor – so a project I will come back to. But it impacts the last few block posts. Used to display JUST FINE.

Two exceptionally interesting “documentaries” (from circa 2011 and 2013) hosted by Sheila Hancock are what I bring to your attention today. Youtube comments are super-positive about her style, delivery, and information. I heartily concur!

The first I found and watched is, The Brilliant Bronte Sisters.

Brilliant Bronte

It was a tough day with _NO_ TV reception (all our channels here in northern Vermont are powered by the same antenna atop Mount Mansfield). I went youtube hunting – but I wasn’t sure WHAT I wanted to watch, other than something interesting. This program on the Brontë Sisters ultimately fit the bill. I especially loved the items we, the audience, were shown – drawings and paintings done by the sisters; portraits of the sisters; interviews with scholars like Juliet Barker (I have her Brontës biography and volume of family letters).

The other program is Sheila Hancock Brushes Up: The Art of Watercolours.

Art of Watercolours

Her father was a watercolourist – and her enthusiasm translates well to her audience. In my research, which you (dear reader) glimpse on this blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen — there are so many artists! I, on the other hand, have never dabbled (paint-by-numbers, maybe counts). So seeing and hearing about these pieces (and, of course, their artists) was exceptionally informative.

I join others in saying I wish there were more documentaries from Sheila Hancock. Very well done!

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sanditon purloins “Lord Compton” portrait

January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Last night, the heroine of ITV’s Sanditon Charlotte Heywood (and viewers peeking over her shoulder) first encounter love interest Sidney Parker by gazing upon this portrait:

Sanditon

I had to do a double-take!

This isn’t any fictional character – it’s Spencer, Lord Compton (Emma’s cousin).

This well-known portrait that has already graced the cover of a Georgette Heyer novel. Now it’s purloined for the Andrew Davies television series.

You judge the similarities for yourself:

Spencer-Sidney Sanditon

 

Permalink 1 Comment

Dido Belle

September 22, 2019 at 11:06 am (books, diaries, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Dido Belle

Click on the picture to see the Wikipedia entry on the painting and its two sitters, Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (Finch-Hatton).

Although aired in 2018, I just watched last night the FAKE or FORTUNE? episode that identified the portrait’s painter (once thought to be Zoffany) as David Martin. The Mansfield archives even has a ledger, with payment to him – though, of course, NO mention of the work, just his name.

It was while looking at the close-up (above) that I was struck with the thought: Dido Belle must, in many ways, gives clues to the appearance of the last governess of the Smiths, Miss Ashley. There were two west Indian sisters, Sarah and Eliza Ashley. Interestingly, there are book chapters of the grandmother of these girls, known as The Queen of Demerara.

One book is Enterprising Women: Gender, Race, and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic (by Kit Candlin and Cassandra Pybus); very well-written and quite informative. I came across it because of the chapters on Dorothy Thomas and Mrs. Sala, a performer and music teacher, who, when in London, Emma writes about in her diaries.

The Smith family in general have left a fair amount of letters and diaries.

It is quite obvious that the Smith family’s governess Miss Ashley is Eliza Ann Ashley (cousin George Augustus Sala names her Elise – I have located one letter; the signature almost looks Elize). Her sister, when named, is Miss S. Ashley or in later years just “Sarah”. Her full name being Sarah Edmonstone Ashley. The family, (seemingly anyway), make it easy to differentiate the sisters.

Emma Smith was actually older (by about two years) than Miss Ashley.

(Emma was the third child, of nine; born in 1801.)

Miss Ashley came to the Smiths in May 1824. It is *exciting* to wonder if she traveled from Demerara in company with Dorothy Thomas, her grandmother. How she came to be employed by the Smiths, I do not know. Emma’s diary for 1824 exists, but she merely states,  “Miss Ashley the children’s new governess came.” Her mother, Mrs. Smith (Augusta Smith, senior; the widowed Mrs. Charles Smith of Suttons and 6 Portland Place) has left some diaries. Again, 1824 merely mentions Elise Ashley’s arrival, nothing about how or through whom Mrs. Smith learned of her (a very active grapevine often obtained applicants for jobs, and also found jobs for needy applicants). I’ve not (yet) tracked down anything in letters from 1824 that more fully explains Miss Ashley’s arrival.

That these sisters are related to Sala I have no doubt. There is enough in the diaries that reference Mrs. Sala, Mr. Sala’s fatal illness, an unnamed aunt’s death, etc. to confirm they are the women George Augustus Sala wrote about.

What I do not know is whose children they were; whether there were more siblings; and how they were related to Sala – he calls them cousins, which leads me to presume, like Mrs. Sala, they were daughters of a daughter of Dorothy Thomas. But which daughter (and from which relationship)?

Miss Ashley’s tenure with the Smiths was twofold.

She ceased working for the Smiths when the youngest daughter, Maria, “aged out” of needing a governess (late 1830s). There is enough in the letters to put her in the employ of the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. But by the 1840s she is back. She appears in the diaries of Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), giving music and drawing lessons. After Mary’s death in 1842, Miss Ashley was clearly hired by Mrs. Smith to be the governess with her two now-orphaned granddaughters (children of Sir Charles and Lady Smith). The names of Miss Ashley or her sister occasionally appear in letters over the next three decades, including news of Miss Ashley’s death (1874).

I’ve found Eliza Ann in two census reports. I’ve also located a SILHOUETTE clearly identified as ‘Miss Ashley.’ Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta Smith junior, was well-known for her “heads”; she probably created this group of family silhouettes.

As you might imagine, governesses in general are an important topic to pursue when looking at the history of a wealthy London-based family in the 19th century; it is intriguing, though, to contemplate not only their love for Miss Ashley, but also her influence upon the family, coming from a background so far removed from their own.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »