Yesterday, long after I posted about the *FINDS* now online at the National Trust Collections, the pleasing thought came:
“I now have seen a Flower painting that Mamma worked on and finished at Suttons in August 1803!”
Augmenting my jollity came the recollection: “I have Mamma’s diary for 1803!! she was expecting Fanny (born in October), she was worried about Eliza Gosling (whose illness took her in December)” – then BOOM! came the immediate realization: “The diary pages from end of April onward have been CUT OUT; there are no entries for August…”
How well I remember the day I began transcribing this diary. I never read ahead; the unfolding drama of the written words always encourages my tired little fingers to keep on flying away. Then, suddenly, an image where there was PRINTED material on the right-hand side. I didn’t think about it and went to the next image.
There is always printed material at the beginning and end of the journals they used. Typically, they were the series published yearly, THE DAILY JOURNAL, or, GENTLEMAN’S, MERCHANT’S, AND TRADESMAN’S COMPLETE ANNUAL ACCOMPT-BOOK.
Confused, I flipped back an image: April 1803.
I flipped forward an image.
Only then, flipping back again, did the jagged edges filling the gutter of the diary register: the REST of the year had been cut out; only the yearly summation existed.
There was no information about her pregnancy and the birth of Fanny Smith.
There was no information about the last illness of young Mary’s mother, Eliza Gosling.
It was just GONE!
“Why?” is the one word question I constantly ask when coming across “mutilation” of this sort. What was there that needed “destroying”? What was there that needed to be kept separately? Surely, easier to keep – or destroy – the entire diary. And then the question, “WHO did this?” Was it the diarist? was it a child? was it someone even further down the timeline?
I just don’t get it…
So, while I’m ecstatic to see a work Mamma completed in the (presumably) balmy summer days of August 1803 (she often recorded extremes of weather), its execution – if indeed she mentioned it – remains one of the unknowns; like her comments on the imminent arrival of little Fanny, and the hectic days of travelling back and forth to London to see and hear about the health of her beloved friend and Portland Place next-door-neighbor, Eliza Gosling.
“Why? – Who did this? – What happened to the missing pages?“
Why is it: the Best FINDS are found around midnight or 2 AM?
Last night I found that the National Trust has been BUSY photographing artwork and posting them on their National Trust Collections site. FINALLY! we can see some flower paintings of Eliza Chute, Augusta Smith (her sister), and their teacher Miss Meen (Margaret Meen).
- NB: I do not believe Miss Meen was a governess to the girls (see my online article at Academia: “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters“).
Alas! isn’t there ALWAYS confusion when more than one person has similar or exactly the SAME NAME?!?
The Vyne is uncertain, for instance, who painted one “scene” picture – Eliza Chute, or the wife of William Wiggett (who later took the name Wiggett Chute in order to inherit); their daughter was also an Eliza Chute (1843-1913). Her pictures of The Vyne are simply charming.
- see all images sorted by the search term “Elizabeth Chute“
There IS one “scene” picture that they DO attribute to Eliza Chute (Mrs. William Chute), called A Roadside Halt. Emma’s “Aunt Chute” WAS known as an adept painter, and did practice by copying “old masters”, for example in the art collection of neighbor the Duke of Wellington.
But it is the Floral Paintings that I am most excited to see, for instance this undated work inscribed (pencil) “Eliz. Smith Chute” = which, without seeing it up close, could be in Eliza’s hand, or could be a later hand (not that I doubt it was painted by her, just that she may not have signed it herself).
Watercolor on Vellum
I suspect, between the fact that the Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma [later: Lady Northampton, Aunt Chute, Mamma, and Aunt Emma]), were busy in the 1790s, around the time of Eliza’s marriage, producing various Flower Paintings while in the company of Miss Meen, and the fact that it’s ID’ed as “Smith Chute”, that it probably dates from early in this period. It’s unusual for Eliza to use both her maiden and married names.
- compare Eliza’s flower paintings at The Vyne with those at The Royal Horticultural Society (afraid you have to work for this one: use the SEARCH function and type in Elizabeth Chute or Elizabeth Smith).
- See other “artwork done by” (more links), on this blog.
Some Flowers are very in the style of Miss Meen – for instance the Asclepia Giganticus Pentandria Digynia, signed “El. S. 1785”. But others seem their own sweet style – like the Amaryllis, which has to date before September 1793 [when she married William Chute] if it is signed “El. S.”
Born in 1768, Eliza was still in her teens in 1785!
There is even one, called Log and Red Berries, worked by BOTH Eliza Chute AND Margaret Meen.
- search National Trust for Margaret Meen’s own botanicals.
Problems arise with the works of Augusta Smith — is it the daughter Augusta (whom they ID by her married name, Augusta Wilder), or is the artist Mamma?
Watercolor on Vellum
This is – judged from afar (though I am NO expert on artist identifications) – said to date from 1820-1836. The cut-off is obvious: Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, died in the summer of 1836. The back merely says “Augusta Smith” (which of course she would NOT have been after 1829, when she married! so the dating is still erroneous.)
Other Botanicals are a much easier call, and are clearly misattributed – little Augusta was not painting florals at the age of 4 or 5, and there are works identified (for instance) as “Suttons, 1803”. Even worse: “Turnera Ulmifolio Pentandria Trigynia by Augusta Smith, Mrs Henry Wilder (1799-1836). (in ink). AS 1787.” So prodigious a child was little Augusta, that she painted TWELVE YEARS before she was even born!?! Don’t think so…
Emma, by the way, began lessons with Miss Meen in February 1815, aged 13.
- Fuschia, painted “Suttons November 1804”
- Spray of Cuphea painted “Suttons August 1803”
- see all “Augusta Smith” images at The Vyne
The images at the Royal Horticultural Society must be searched for, but all the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (and their instructress, Margaret Meen) are represented. Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”) is actually represented by an online “gallery” of work. Twenty nine images (currently) come up if you search for the term Joshua Smith — because the girls are ID’ed as his daughters! You can toggle the image display so the instructive text comes up beside each image, which is highly useful.
Doesn’t it always happen this way: late at night, searching for something else, and up pops some USEFUL item on the internet.
Last night it was locating some lovely drawings of the Surrey artist John Hassell (1767-1827). “Exploring Surreys Past” has a fine “exhibition” of his works, sorted geographically. A lot of country churches and country estates, including one (1822) of Botleys – the future home of Mary’s brother, Robert Gosling.
Botleys (in Chertsey), still exists! You can get a peek inside, via this “wedding venue” site. For me, the most evocative photo is one that includes the outside “double sweep” stairs:
I have a photograph, from the 1860s, in which all of Robert’s family is seated around the base of the stairs. Robert Gosling is center; his wife Georgina Vere Sullivan to one side – it was the first time I had ever seen a picture (never mind a photograph!) of dear Georgina. She is mentioned with frequency in Mary’s diaries. Their children and grandchildren – and even a pet or two – are ringed around and above them. I see them, even in the “empty” photograph above.
TWO years ago – and I *finally* got CONFIRMATION => in the shape of a companion photo, in an ALBUM, with an ID.
Truthfully: I just don’t know!
On the left is Frecker’s sitter, ID’ed as sitting number 10,508 taking place on 10 July 1862 – which puts her in Silvy’s Daybook 8. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive “gallery” of the Daybooks. They, however, are not exceptionally enlightening on this young lady.
Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (right) was a younger daughter of Emma Smith and Edward Austen Leigh (see their portraits); she was born on 2 February 1838, her aunt Mary’s 38th birthday! It is a curious fact that Emma’s diaries all have pages cut out whenever she delivers a child. 1838 is no different. These pages are missing, and a small notation in pencil “2d Mary Augusta…
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Last night, searching for biographical information about the Sharpe family, as well as trying to RE-find a book on London Bankers (which I had had to interlibrary loan, once upon a time… Thanks, Internet!!), I came across this WONDERFULLY evocative Trip down (or up) the Thames.
This is what I first stumbled upon, notice of Rothbury House “now” [in 1829] occupied by “Benjamin Sharpe, a wealthy banker, and his family.” There were at least TWO Benjamin Sharpe partners at Goslings & Sharpe (not sure how much they overlapped) – father and son.
I hadn’t noticed last night that the image darkens everything EXCEPT the dwelling being considered. (VERY useful.) What _I_ noticed was the FABULOUS “painting” of the villas and woods and scenes that I could “sail” past. Like this Chiswick vista,
I strongly recommend the website and project, Panorama of the Thames. A digitized 1829 panorama from London to Richmond, you can catch a whole ride on the river (press the “restart” button on the screen), or dip in at any point you wish to see (press the “Back to River Map” button). Historians will appreciate the Georgian London tour. ALL travellers and London-fans will thoroughly enjoy the 2014 panorama in photos! Although it’s hard not to lament when one sees side-by-side Battersea Church surrounded by trees and Battersea Church overtaken by tower blocks!
There are some AMAZING items in auctions. Some past ones have unearthed miniatures, letters, even a copy of Drummond Smith’s Sicily diary. Some auction houses are helpful; others are totally dismissive. Which is a great pity. Still, the images are free! And although the original image from the auction house was rather poor, I found an alternative site – and wanted to give everyone the opportunity of seeing what I found just last night.
The original auction took place in early 2013. These are silhouettes of the SHARPE family, which included William Gosling’s banking partner, Benjamin Sharpe — taken circa 1819! He was the “Sharpe” in the banking firm of Goslings & Sharpe.
Here’s the description:
- “A collection of ten silhouettes relating to the Sharpe family of London bankers and comprising: Mrs Isabella Beetham [artist] – Oval portrait of a young woman wearing a lace bonnet, verso with Mrs Beetham’s trade label….and faintly inscribed Mrs Sharpe.”
- “another of a young boy or girl with long hair”
- “Attributed to Mrs Bull [artist] – Oval portrait of Mrs Sharpe wearing an elaborate hat, verso inscribed and dated 1788″
- “two oval portraits of gentlemen, one inscribed to verso J.R. Sharpe”
- “A group of four portraits of the children of Benjamin and Ann Sharpe, each with white highlights to their blue coloured clothing, each verso dated March 1823 and with respective script, Benjamin Sharpe aged 10 Years 4 Months born 16 November 1812, Elizabeth Isabella Sharpe aged 8 Years 3 Months born 9 December 1814, William Francis Sharpe aged 6 Years 7 Months born 31st August 1816 and John Charles Sharpe aged 4 Years 8 Months born 14 July 1818″
- “Portrait of Benjamin Sharpe, inscribed to verso Gosling and Sharp (sic), B. Sharpe 1819“
- “an oval pencil miniature of Ann Sharpe, wife of Benjamin Sharpe”
IMAGINE: people Mary and her family actually knew!! So fascinating a find!
Estimate was £1000 to £1500; results only go back as far as September 2013, so I do not know for what price they actually sold.
As promised, I’ve posted an *all new* and rather lengthy article on Hester Wheeler. By the end, you will not only be familiar with Hester’s history, you’ll also SEE her face! For a portrait has been located!
Digging deeper into the background of someone tangential to the Smiths has proved rewarding and also a bit frustrating! I’ve come to the conclusion that my two Carolines — Caroline Austen (Edward’s younger sister) and Caroline Wiggett Workman (the Chutes’ adopted niece, at The Vyne) — were “challenged” when recollecting. Until further evidence comes forth, some points about Hester Wheeler will simply remain “cloudy”.
The above abode is The Vine – not in Hampshire, but in Dundee Scotland. And yet it does have a relationship to The Vyne near Basingstoke. This home, certainly built to “honor” the Hampshire estate, once belonged to George Duncan, MP. If you read the article, you will see why he and his “Georgian” home is important to the later history of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
I DO WISH that the Jane Austen Society Reports article by Anne Hardy was still available online. If anyone can pinpoint its later history (it showed up online because it hadn’t made the print edition), let me know. This snippet from “Women Writers Through The Ages” forum will have to give a flavor of the original, which I used as a jumping-off-point for my article, “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler“.
For another (quick) look at the Duncan monument, see the video discussed in the post about the Dundee Howff. It begins at the minute mark 25.38.
[I, of course, disagree about WHY Hester is not buried under the name DUNCAN!!]
I invite anyone with further information — on Hester; the Marshalls; Eliza Chute’s diaries, Edward Austen’s interactions with George Duncan &c — to contact me (see About the Author for my email address). I’d dearly love to solve some of the “mysteries” the two Carolines have created.
As a writer – especially with as LARGE a project as Two Teens in the Time of Austen (<=click to see how the volumes break down) – articles have enabled me to hone little details into precise pictures-of-a-moment. Alas! readership depends on those who stumble upon the journals or magazines.
So I’ve decided to write “for myself”. These Online Articles will be much lengthier, more in-depth than blog posts, and cited (where appropriate) like journal articles. I hope you will enjoy them; and I invite comments on them.
I open the series with the original manuscript of artist Margaret Meen‘s “history” = Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters.
Miss Meen (like Cassandra Austen, she later employed the “brevet rank” of Mrs) is a fascinating woman. At the time of writing the article, my BIG surprise was to discover how much of a fan she had in author Richard Mabey; and by extension, Martyn Rix who reviewed Mabey’s book The Flowering of Kew (1988). The explosion of information on the internet meant _I_ could supply a lot of the biographical information unavailable to them in the 1980s — all thanks to the existence of four letters written by Miss Meen, saved from a conflagration of Chute correspondence!
But I’ll leave you to read about her letters – and her life – on my Academia.edu page. Check the site often for further articles (I’m working on one relating to Sense and Sensibility) in the future.
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March 7th: apologies for those viewing the page, who then could NOT then download the article without logging in to Academia.edu (although it does allow for log-ins via Facebook and Google).
Once articles are online a bit longer, they will search – but I want interested readers to have “access” now!
Here’s a current screen-shot [click pic to follow link] (the “info” button was toggled, which is why the upper portion shows the abstract &c):
I want people to see a “page” view, but also have the ability to download (and save, if you wish) the PDF. The link attached to the screen-shot enables the “preview” (the article runs four pages), but the “download” still asks for a log-in.
If I come across a better link, I’ll post it.
further info on Margaret Meen ILLUSTRATIONS:
I should also take the opportunity to add some links – there ARE images of Miss Meen’s wonderful Flower Paintings — combined with those from my Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (as I’ve long mentioned on this blog). See Artwork Done By on this site; then click on the RHS pic. Or direct to the Royal Horticultural Society site, and either click on EMMA SMITH [who is “Aunt Emma” to my Emma Austen] or search for MEEN – which brings up all five artists.
You should “hit” on 48 images; and can either view them as larger thumbnails in a grid, or a row of images and descriptive text.
The “Jane” in question here is not Jane Austen but Jane Perceval, wife then widow of Spencer Perceval the British Prime Minister murdered in 1812.
Although my first volume of Smith & Gosling biography begins in 1814 – the history surrounding the PM’s death two years prior is vital: Spencer Perceval was a relative of Mamma Smith’s brother-in-law Charles, 1st Marquess of Northampton. The Marquess’s son, young Lord Compton, ended up in Parliament soon thereafter. Several letters discuss the Percevals — Jane and her children — during the immediate aftermath of the assassination.
One letter, written by Jane herself, has her on the defensive against an out-cry caused by the widow’s upcoming remarriage. Emma Smith mentions the fact of her marriage to “Sir H. Carr” (no embellishments) in her 1815 diary.
The woman, obviously distraught at the negativism, and combating an illness, was pleading her case at such length, that I simply had to find out more about her. And that’s when I came across this purported portrait on the blog PottoingAround. It went up for auction in May 2014.
A major “anniversary” year in 2012 (200 years since the assassination), there started some thoughts on commemorating Perceval; at least one biography came out; some press articles &c. It is less his death than how the family responded and coped that interests me. I’ve read of similar backlash when Mrs Thrale (who made no bones about how unhappy Henry Thrale made her) married Mr. Piozzi. “Public opinion” as well as private sentiments were making themselves felt in this case, however — especially as Mrs Perceval had been granted a generous “pension”. This remains an area I’ll have to delve into a bit more, just out of curiosity.
This portrait, a pastel by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, dates to 1804. The French artist was resident in England at the time, so the fact of it being her work seems not in question. What IS questioned is the identification of the sitter.
It’s difficult to compare portraits – and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on various representations looking like each other: there are too many portrait series where the sitter is KNOWN and the portraits look very little alike (I might, as a quick for instance, mention Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s several portraits).
For my purposes, I sure HOPE this is Jane Perceval. Hands-down, it would win my case; for I wish to call Jane Perceval, in May 1812, a ‘vibrant’ woman in her forties. No one viewing this portrait would be immune to the charms of this face just eight years later.
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- More info on Vigée Le Brun, the terrific Batguano site (this pastel is near the top of the page)
- the “hidden in plain sight” family history of an MP
- recent news on a Spencer Perceval memorial plaque
One of the MANY (many….) people peppering the Smith & Gosling papers is Anne Rushout, a beauty painted several times, and an artist of some merit. I first wrote about her when a search turned up a rather extravagant gavel price for a portrait of Anne and her sisters – Regency “It” Girls – all three of whom figure tangentially in my research, depending on which family members one follows.
The eagle-eyes of author Charlotte Frost (Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) spotted this new-ish blog (thanks, Charlotte!) under the delightful name of Wicked William – which has posted two series of Anne’s watercolors (click on photo).
While there, I also invite readers to also check-out WHY William was “wicked”….