Miss Mary A. Leigh

June 10, 2015 at 2:22 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings)

Janeite Kelly:

TWO years ago – and I *finally* got CONFIRMATION => in the shape of a companion photo, in an ALBUM, with an ID.

IT’S HER!!!!

Originally posted on Two Teens in the Time of Austen:

mary augusta austen leighs

As mentioned a few days ago, Paul Frecker’s website includes a photo by Camille Silvy of a woman identified as “Miss Mary A. Leigh” — my immediate thought: Mary Augusta Austen Leigh?

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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FABULOUS Thames Trip (online)

April 24, 2015 at 9:57 am (london's landscape, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , )

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.

thames2

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,

thames

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!

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Family of Benjamin Sharpe

April 23, 2015 at 10:01 pm (goslings and sharpe, history, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

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.

sharpe family

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”

sharpe family_backsides

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.

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Hester Wheeler, The Vyne and “Sense & Sensibility”

April 4, 2015 at 5:43 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

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”.

vine_dundee

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.

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Announcing: Online Articles

March 6, 2015 at 11:46 am (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

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.

flowering of kew

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.

* * *

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):

meen article

“Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters”

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.

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“Jane, is that you?”

November 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm (history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

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.

janeperceval_vigee lebrun

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.

* * *

  • 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

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Anne Rushout’s Sketchbook

November 20, 2014 at 11:40 am (diaries, entertainment, history, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

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”….

Rushout_Mersey-towards-Toxteth-Park-1829

* Anne Rushout’s “Regency Tour“, from which comes the View of the Mersey (above)
* Anne Rushout’s Wanstead
* and a little background info on the Rushout sisters, especially Anne

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Samuel Prout, Painter in Water-Colours

September 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Seven years ago I spent two months transcribing a MASS of letters and diaries. Back then cameras weren’t allowed in archives – and what I could transcribe is all I came away with.

I’ve written about some of the divergent handwriting specimens I’ve had to decipher (mainly, the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park); so it is NO surprise to see that I gave up on one letter (extracting from it about six sentences only) because the writing was “so tiny”.

That writer was Fanny Smith (later: Fanny Seymour, wife of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton).

Having a photo of this cramped epistle, I *finally* transcribed it in total last night.

And from the pen strokes emerged this DELIGHTFUL tale of Fanny and her love of drawing and (by dint of this story) watercolor painting. Fanny’s letter is addressed to her sister, Emma Austen:

I have corresponded with Mr Prout from whom I had rather an ambiguous answer about teaching after the Water Color Exhibition opened …. {Spencer Smith, Fanny and Emma’s brother, then went to see Mr Prout} he said he was much engaged with the 2d vol. of the landscape annual & jumped at the idea of my having been in Italy, hoping I could furnish him with some sketches, Spencer said he had a sister who had a great many italian views, he [Prout] begged leave to call some morning & see them, & we thought we should like him to see your drawings…. Mr Prout spent the whole morning here looking at them, & expressed the most unbounded admiration for them…. I hope now you feel properly flattered, & conceive my being out with Augusta & Henry the whole time he was here, in furniture shops.

prout_1831Poor Fanny! there’s the revered teacher, in her own home — looking at her sister’s work (by her own invitation, granted), but made worse by the fact that she wasn’t even there — she’d been shopping with the newly-wedded Augusta and Henry Wilder!

So I simply HAD to find out more about “Mr Prout”. I believe he must have been Samuel Prout (1783-1852), described as one of the MASTERS among the British Watercolorists – and (by the date of this letter, March 1830) the Painter in Water-Colours-in-Ordinary to King George IV.

Initially, I had GREAT trouble with this person’s name – Pront? was one guess. So might I, in earlier days, have come across this name and guessed (incorrectly)? – I’ll have to look among the letters and diary entries. So many possibilities: Did Fanny finally get to have the lessons she so clearly yearned for? Did she get overshadowed by Emma’s (perhaps better?) Italian sketches? Did any of the Smith girls have their sketches exhibited or published??? Now there’s an enticing thought!

There are sketches belonging to Fanny in the Bodleian; but none are watercolors (pencil sketches only). A new source DOES indeed claim to have an album of watercolor works and  the current thought is that the items (lotta letters) may once have been in Fanny’s possession – certainly the letters I’ve so far seen are mostly addressed to Fanny. So maybe some of the visual material is actually by her. That would certainly be nice, and the many people who have become interested in Fanny’s unique life will be made happy.

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Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman

September 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Yesterday, searching for information on a ship of the line toured by the young ladies from Erle Stoke Park — HMS St. George (90 guns) and those who sailed on her in 1792, I came across the most arresting portrait, in oils, of a very mannish-looking woman.

Was the sitter who I thought?

Indeed!  a genuine portrait of le Chevalier d’Eon!

Chevalier d'Eon

The blog post I found is a couple years old, and tells the story of art dealer Philip Mould “uncovering and identifying” the sitter. Evidently the National Portrait Gallery snapped it up.

Frankly, how could anyone mistake the sitter – d’Eon was my first thought when the image popped up on my screen.

To understand the full d’Eon story, I refer Two Teens in the Time of Austen‘s readers to a biography by Gary Kates, Monseiur d’Eon is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade.

kates_deon

I remember buying this book like it was yesterday (alas: more like 2001! assuming it was newly out in paperback).

I was visiting Dartmouth College, and going to Hanover ALWAYS meant a visit to the delightful Dartmouth Bookstore (now – alack!! – nothing more than another Barnes & Noble). I always searched a couple of sections: history (mainly Britain; France; Austria); biography; travel; and remaindered books in the back of the basement. I still remember where these departments used to be located!

D’Eon must have been in the history section (France), or maybe Gender Studies. I had gone down to New Hampshire by myself that day, and the sun was shining gloriously – I pulled into a park area near the river and hurriedly unwrapped the book from its bag, to look my treasure over more carefully. I had never heard of Charles d’Eon de Beaumont. I’ve pulled the book off the shelf again, and will have to give it a look-through, if not a re-read — now that I know what she looked like.

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Sir Michael Seymour – father & son

September 10, 2014 at 11:52 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

In the “Smith & Gosling” family it is often DIFFICULT to differentiate the generations: so many similar (SAME) Names!

As is the case here, with Rear-Admiral Sir Michael Seymour (1st baronet):

and his third son, Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, GCB:

seymour_michael-son

Richard Seymour speaks of his father with such great affection and attention to detail in the Memoir of Rear Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Bart, K.C.B. that I leave it to him to tell you about Sir Michael “the father”, as I call him.

It’s Richard’s brother, Sir Michael the son, that I want to say a few words about tonight.

Michael grabs my attention because he married Dora Knighton – daughter of Sir William Knighton, a confident of the Prince of Wales/George IV. Richard writes of this cousin, often distinguishing her from his sister Dora (yes, there were TWO Dora Seymours!) by referring to her as “Dora K.” She is a sweet-faced young lady in the portrait of her by Linnell. Dora (Knighton) Seymour interests me intensely! But it’s her husband that I find more information about.

An item readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will be surprised to hear: Captain Michael Seymour served under Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Austen, Jane’s brother. See this inquiry into the service details of HMS Vindictive.

Michael was a delightful artist, and we find some of his work online:

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