American Duchess: Dressmaking!

September 26, 2017 at 7:39 pm (books, fashion, history, research) (, , , , )

Many of you will already be familiar with “American Duchess” for their “historical footwear” (I’m in love with their new “Regency” shoe, called Dashwood), or for the American Duchess blog on “Historical Costuming“. Those of you who do your own hand-sewn costumes, or those who WANT to begin such a project, will be happy with a new book by Lauren Stowell (“American Duchess”) and Abby Cox.

18th-Century-Dressmaking

Click the book’s cover to see the “preview” at Amazon.

Lauren and Abby have a well-thought-out series of “Georgian Gowns”. The Amazon preview gives the pages that cover “Historic stitches and how to sew them.” The photos that accompany this section show the detail clearly.

From the table of contents, other sections cover gowns:

  • The English Gown, 1740s
  • The Sacque Gown, 1760s-1770s
  • The Italian Gown, 1780s-1790s
  • The Round Gown, 1790s

Looking at the sub-categories, topics covered include items like “1740s Cap”; “1760s Undies – Side Hoops”; “1760s Ribbon Choker Necklace”; “1780s Poufs and Bows”; “Learning to Love Linen”; “1790s The ‘Frog’ Reticule”.

_I_ am more impressed with books that narrow the focus of research. Heaven forbid a brief book on an all-encompassing idea of “European Men and Women’s Fashions, 17th to 21st Centuries”.

So this book gets a BIG thumbs up for a nice number of pages (240 pages) and a tight focus that makes it a true “Guide to Eighteenth Century Dressmaking: How to Hand Sew Georgian Gowns and Wear Them With Style“.

Dare we hope that there will be further entries, making a series of Dressmaking Guides?!? Fingers crossed!!

Book release date is 21 November 2017! The video has “news” about MANY of their upcoming plans – watch it to find out more…. They also promise more videos as the weeks pass, counting down to November.

(note that Lauren & Abby show the cover, above; rather than the picture on Amazon’s website. Barnes & Noble have the correct cover. Be advised: the book images are “reversed” in the video.)

the ladies favoriteThe Ladies and their “favorite gown to work on”

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Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’

August 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm (books, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , )

James Boswell actually has a few connections to people in the Smith & Gosling families. I’ve already written about the GREGG family – my diarist Mary Gosling‘s Aunt Gregg (sister of Mary’s father, William Gosling) married into this family. Aunt Gregg’s husband was Henry Gregg. Henry and his sister Miss Gregg (the future Caroline Carr) can be found in diary entries by Boswell.

But my earliest Boswell *find* concerned Lady Cunliffe – Mary’s maternal grandmother – and her two daughters Mary and Eliza. Lady Cunliffe came from Chester, England and maintained ties there. It was in my second post to THIS blog, on 7 June 2008, that I first mentioned the “tie” between my Cunliffe ladies and James Boswell. And YES! 2018 will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

Boswell wrote A LOT – letters, diaries, memos to self even. He and his later heirs saved a LOT. But one item that slipped through, and evidently was lost BY Boswell in his lifetime, is his “Chester Journal“. I cannot say how WONDERFUL it would have been to read his words about my trio of ladies! Alas…

Based on a few letters from circa 1780, my article on Academia.edu, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal,” rectifies the misidentification of the two sisters in the original Boswell literature. They appear in the volume, The Correspondence of James Boswell with Certain members of the Club (1976); and also letters between Boswell and Margaret Stuart (née Cuninghame) in Catalogue of the Papers of James Boswell at Yale University (1993).

This article is the only place to read so much information about Lady Cunliffe (below, in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds) and her daughters Mrs. Drummond Smith (Mary) and Mrs. William Gosling (Eliza).

Read: Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’ (also linked in the sidebar)

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Eton Schoolboy writes home

July 4, 2017 at 11:40 am (goslings and sharpe, history, people, research) (, , , )

Today may be the 4th of July, 2017 – but I have spent time at ETON in the early 1800s, reading letters home to Mamma. The writer is young RICHARD GOSLING, a cousin to my diarist Mary Gosling (aka Lady Smith). He was the younger son of Francis Gosling, the son of Sir Francis Gosling, knight.

One of the most puzzling things about this group of letters is a postscript written by Richard’s mother, Barbara Gosling née Baker.

Truthfully, I thought the archive must have mis-identified the writer. The hand is so “unformed”, so “elderly”. I thought for sure it must be Grandmamma!

BUT: Mary’s grandmother, who lived until 1809, wasn’t Richard’s grandmother…. And Richard’s granmother died in 1806.

Why “puzzling”, you might ask.

Because other ladies of this generation had the loveliest penmanship! Mary’s mother, for instance, had a flowing, easily-read hand. In comparison, Barbara’s hand looks “unschooled”. Reminded me a LOT of the penmanship of Sarah Smith, Emma Austen’s maternal grandmother.

And therein lies the puzzle. To know more of Barbara’s background and education, to assess how she and Francis came to know one another and marry may be something I never learn. Gosling items are thinner on the ground than Smith items.

Francis and Barbara Gosling married MUCH earlier than William and Eliza Gosling (my Mary’s parents). Francis and Barbara in 1777; William and Eliza nearly twenty years later in 1793.

baker-gosling marriage 1777 GM3 March 1777, Gentleman’s Magazine

So Barbara has a London address; Francis’ lists not his abode so much as the banking firm’s address – Fleet Street. But the family is often identified as “of Fleet Street” bcause of the family firm.

I sometimes refer to Richard’s father Francis (though being a ‘knight’ Sir Francis’ title did not devolve to his son) as Francis II. Richard’s brother therefore becomes Francis III. Thank Goodness for a name like Richard – instead of the trail of Francises and Roberts in this portion of the Gosling family tree. No guesswork required, in deciphering who was the letter recipient.

Richard was far enough down the chain of children to be of an age with the Gosling sons:

Gosling, Richard, s. Francis, of Twickenham, Middlesex, arm. Christ Church, matric. 27 Oct., 1814, aged 19; B.A. 1818, M.A. 1822, of Ashford Place, Middlesex, and of London, banker. See Etott School Lists. [10]

Mary’s brother William Ellis Gosling arrived, aged 17, at Brasenose College, Oxford in 1812. Her brother Robert, aged 18, arrived at Christ Church in January 1814. Richard, aged 19, arrived in November 1814. Bennett, aged 18, followed in March 1815. These last two were also at Christ Church, like Robert. The family visited William and Robert in college in the summer of 1814. Mary left a diary of this trip.

To get back to Barbara for a moment, with several “Mrs Goslings” listed among the output of certain painters, I long ago hunted down a photograph of a Mrs Gosling that is believed to be Barbara; the portrait is by Reynolds:

Gosling_Mrs by Reynolds

I thinkI went on the hunt for this portrait in order to clear up how a sitter’s ARMS are described – to an onlooker, Barbara’s arm could be described as the left arm; but a portrait would be discussed as if the viewer WERE the sitter: “right arm across the body“. Most do not give a first name, or ID the woman as “wife of …. Gosling”.

As you might guess, there are multiple “Mrs Goslings” done by the regarded portraitists of the day.

* * *

A bit of housekeeping: WordPress has obviously had an upgrade, which interrupted the “facebook” connection – and it won’t reconnect. After the run-around I went thru with AirBnB over the weekend – I am in NO MOOD. Will just say: why don’t websites TEST before they launch. And it’s not just websites – have had problems with Windows 10 AND with Office 365 for the iPad. Am utterly TIRED of being told they’re “ironing out bugs”. Do it BEFORE it impacts your customers!
(Rant over.)

 

 

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1853: Enclosures & Chobham Park

May 26, 2017 at 7:02 pm (estates, places, research) (, )

“Enclosures” – a word embedded with thoughts of public access vs private ownership; “the people” vs “the wealthy”; court cases and even Jane Austen novels come into play.

But to see a recent blog post about Chobham Park and a case that Denis Le Marchant was embroiled in was QUITE the thrill!

I’ve a few letters commenting on Denis and Eliza (Emma Austen’s younger sister) searching for a country estate. I’ve never put my finger on Chobham, as it exists today. Alas, it exists, but in a much transformed house from what Denis & Eliza knew. It also has a NEW name: Wentworth Place! (Who knew?)

Chobham Place 1824

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End of an era

April 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm (diaries, history, jane austen, research) (, )

Ten years ago I began on the journey, looking into the lives of Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An early blog post or two will explain for those interested in the seeds of this flowering and flourishing research.

BUT: had one thing been missing, this never would have gotten off the ground.

The one thing was the filming of Mary’s adult diaries in the microfilm series “Women’s Language and Experience” by Adam Matthew Publications [scroll to the bottom of that page to see the links to the series].  This was a major undertaking. Filming archival records from UK repositories took six series:

series 1: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire County Record Offices [16 reels]
series 2: Birmingham Central Library and Birmingham University Library [24 reels]
series 3: Suffolk County Record Office and Cambridge University Library [25 reels]
series 4: National Library of Scotland and National Library of Wales [26 reels]
series 5: Essex Record Office [20 reels]
series 6: Wiltshire, Somerset, and Hampshire Record Offices [26 reels]

mary_emma_entry

You do the math: a huge undertaking for any library to BUY (and store) 137 reels of microfilm!

Now, as of April 12, 2017, the company is no longer filling orders for microfilm; Adam Matthew’s digital arm is aiming for those “primary sources with a board appeal”. Uh-oh… I would be the FIRST ONE to say ‘yay’ for “digital” – it’s easy to search, the images are (potentially) photograph quality rather than microfilm quality, and presumeably a subscription is how they are purchased: no special machines or storage required.

BUT: the same information isn’t going to be available. Which means no one ELSE will be obtaining such a series as Women’s Language and Experience.

I first put a diary from Duke University archives written by Mary Gosling together with diaries from “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney” because Adam Matthew Publications put a little bit of information about Lady Smith online. She was the daughter of a banker. Well, I had a visit by Mary Gosling to the Bank of Ireland, in company with her father! The Goslings left from Roehampton; Lady Smith’s father was known as “of Roehampton and Fleet Street”.

It took a trip to Virginia (who has FIVE series? very few libraries) to confirm my suspicions and an interlibrary loan of the three reels from Duke University to work on obtaining every word Mary Gosling, also known as Lady Smith, had written as an adult; her diaries now housed at the Essex Record Office. These microfilms were invaluable, as each entire diary – from cover to cover – was filmed. So all of the ‘extras’ that are PRINTED in the purchased diaries, from Birthdays of the Royal Family to tax tables, were included. I’ve never paid nor photographed these materials. But I printed them out in their entirety from the microfilm.

Women’s Language and Experience offered up some wonderful diarists, including Edith Baring-Gould (series 2), Hester Thrale Piozzi (series 4), Clarissa Trant (series 5). SOME are so tantalizing, for instance a 1790 “Travel Journal of a Young Lady” (series 4) – SO many in the Smith and Gosling family could have written such a journal! But with no library within easy driving distance, it is not like I will ever find out more about this “unnamed” writer.

There’s simply too much one could research within Women’s Language and Experience.

And a downside to digital: it’s not like individuals can now access any more material than before. Even “trials” are only open to faculty and libraries. So don’t think that a small cri de coeur didn’t escape my lips when I first spotted the news of the demise of microfilm from this company.

I am firmly convinced that without Women’s Language and Experience, I would never have found HALF of what I have found about Mary Gosling and Emma Smith. Thanks go to the Essex Record Office for letting the diaries be filmed in the first place!

It was reading Mary’s entry (above), sitting in the library of Old Dominion University, that made me wonder who Emma was – And anyone reading this blog will know what a major player she has become.

Emma’s baby was christened at
Tring Church by Mr Austen, “Cholmeley”
Mr Knight, Charles, and Mrs Ligh [sic?]
Parrot [sic?] were the godfathers & godmother

Readers who know their Jane Austen will recognize (as I did back in 2007)

Mr. Knight = Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s brother
Mrs. Leigh Perrot = the owner of Scarlets; Jane’s aunt
Mr. Austen = James Edward Austen (James Edward Austen Leigh), Jane’s nephew
Cholemely = Jane Leigh Perrot’s maiden name; Emma’s first-born

 

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Miss Clephane’s “Miss Stanhope”

April 23, 2017 at 6:25 pm (books, estates, people, research) (, , , )

Letters at Castle Ashby, according to the book The History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates, put a certain “Miss Stanhope” at the eye of the storm during the lengthy courtship of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton and the eldest of the three Clephane daughters of Torloisk, Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane, in circa 1813. The girls come into the purview of the Smiths once there is actually an engagement – in 1815! Yes, it took that long; Lord Compton moved at a snail’s pace, even after confessing to his mother that he was wishing to marry Miss Clephane.

It is always so nice when further information appears – especially when from an old book. The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Stanhope is indeed related to the Stanhopes known by the future Lady Compton. She even appears – only once – though under the name “Lady Crompton”.

[just in case the U of California’s volumes disappear or are incomplete, there are other volumes available; beware of “new” reprints with limited accessibility]

Marianne Stanhope

The eldest Miss Stanhope, Marianne, was born on 23 May 1786 “about 7 o’clock in the morning” (writes her mother) in their house in Grosvenor Square, London. She was therefore a few years older than Margaret (born in 1791). It was her brother, whose life we follow through his sister’s letters in The Letter-bag, John Spencer-Stanhope who succeeded father Walter to the estate of Cannon Hall, Yorkshire. Marianne married later in life: March 1828 saw her become the wife of Robert Hudson of Tadworth Court (near Reigate). She died (aged 76) in 1862. [An age Lady Compton (later the 2nd Marchioness of Northampton) never attained. Margaret died in 1830.]

The wonderful silhouette of Marianne comes from the book; and her sisters (and Mother) are also represented!

Stanhope_Anne

Anne Stanhope has such a characterful face! She “was born September 7th, 1788, between 6 & 8 in the Morning at Cannon Hall”. Anne never married. She died (aged 72) in 1860.

Stanhope_Isabella

Isabella Stanhope, their “eleventh Child, was born on the 20th of October 1797, at one in the morning”. She, too, never married. She lived until 1857 (aged 60).

Stanhope_Frances

Frances Mary Stanhope, child number 13, was, like her eldest sister, born in Grosvenor Square, “on the 27th of June, 1800, at 1/2 past twelve at Noon”. She lived until the age of 85, and also lived in the state of blessed singleness.

Stanhope_Maria

Maria Alicia Stanhope “was born at Cannon Hall,” like several of her sisters, “the 4th of September 1802, 1/2 before seven in the Morning”. Maria died the year before Frances (in 1884), aged 82. She, too, never married.

  • Much from the Cannon Hall archives can be found at Bradford’s West Yorkshire Archive Service, including many of the letters included in The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Stanhope – who, by the way, married the heir.
  • Claimed as the “bosom friend” of Margaret Clephane, Miss Stanhope and others of the Spencer-Stanhope family appear from time to time in Smith & Gosling family correspondence. Their own correspondence, as edited by A.M.W. Stirling is highly recommended.

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Future Plans

April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am (diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , )

Same sitting, different poseIt seems like ages since I wrote about my own research – though that is NOT to mean I’ve been idle. Indeed I’ve been “beavering away”!

beaver

A GREAT influx of letters (diaries too) from several different “deposits” has kept me at the keyboard, transcribing. I try NOT to read a letter or diary until I transcribe it. Bad Luck thoughts make me wonder if I won’t later be able to decipher some word that I easily read earlier! Oh, that would be the worst. So, it’s in the act of transcribing that I LEARN the contents.

I also have a habit of leaving the really hard letters to absolute END. If it’s crossed… If it’s illegible…  If it’s a poor image… I leave it till all the easy letters are DONE.

Given that plan of operation, haven’t I found a JEWEL or two among those waiting to be deciphered and read! But that’s news for some next blog post.

I wanted to say here, however, something I wrote recently in an email, about this project, for it brings up a very important point about the decades the project actually covers, which is roughly the 1790s through the 1840s.

I used to use 1842 as an end-date. Mary Gosling, my original diarist – and one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen (the other being Emma Austen) – died in July of that year. So when first in Winchester, I tried not to look for later material.

By the time I returned to the UK (seven years later), I was willing to go beyond that – but pretty much held to the idea that the end of Mary’s life brought my telling of their story to a close.

THEN: in the summer of 2015, I found photo albums!

Since photography become a norm in and after the 1850s, there was no photo of Mary (Lady Smith). A surprising number of her in-laws, however: Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour); Arthur Currie and his second wife Dora (also née Seymour); Richard and Fanny Seymour; and more Seymour siblings. A photo of Eliza Le Marchant (Lady Le Marchant; née Smith), and the familiar face of Sir Denis Le Marchant. Only one photo of Emma Austen Leigh – which I had already seen in a book. The one photo of her husband, James Edward Austen Leigh, was quite evidently the same sitting as the companion photo in the book, but a different pose, so slightly “new information”.

What REALLY got into my brain, however, were images of the CHILDREN! The albums can be traced to members of the Spencer-Smith family. I.e., children of Emma’s brother Spencer Smith – the hyphenated last name differentiated his children from children of their brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith (2nd baronet).

So one son, whom I can trace in photos from youngster to young man, came to carry the name Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith. A bit of a tongue-twister without his middle name! He later adopted his wife’s name, so that late in life he was Spencer Compton Hamilton-Spencer-Smith; a Hamilton-Spencer-Smith son became the 5th baronet, after the death of Charles grandson Drummond Cunliffe Smith.

The twins, Orlando Spencer-Smith and Gilbert Spencer-Smith, are present in almost the same frame of life-span. From youngsters, they become men as the pages turn.

Of the sisters, photos of Dora Spencer-Smith especially, but also Isabella and Augusta, are QUITE prolific. As Mrs. Jenkyns, Dora has a Jane Austen connection all her own: her son married a grand-daughter of Emma & Edward Austen Leigh.

Two cousins have worked their way into my heart because of the photo albums. Daughters of Fanny and Richard Seymour, “Emma and Fanny” grow up before my eyes! It helped that another source had this youthful duo in a family portrait that included their mother – the first photo I ever saw of dear Fanny Seymour (Mrs. Richard Seymour), taken in the 1850s.

There are also, of course, portraits of the Austen Leigh children! So I could confirm a Silvy portrait found online WAS young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. Same sitting, different pose. And I found Amy Austen Leigh (aka: Emma Cassandra Austen Leigh), whom I had never before seen.

The Currie children and LOTS of various Seymour children – so most of Emma’s nieces and nephews were present. Seeing them all (and having to sort out all those Seymours!) made me more amenable to reading their letters too. So, I’ve slowly expanded my collection of letters through the 1840s and upwards to the 1880s. I’ve gone back to fill in holes, and have more holes to fill. And I’m still searching for material, especially early letters (1790s through 1810s).

Along with the albums, I found ONE letter that really resonated with me.

It was one of those SUPER-crossed, dense, thickly-inked letters. The writer apologized for not taking a bigger sheet of paper, as, in the end, she had too much to say. If ithe letter had been less crossed, I would have gotten to it much earlier! It convinced me I had hitherto overlooked the true, definitive “end” for my project.

BIG “Ah-HA!” moment.

The touchstone became Mamma, Mrs. Charles Smith, Augusta (senior). And the “ah-ha” was the last moments of any member of the Smiths living at No. 6 Portland Place.

Mamma’s 1845 death set her children (metaphorically) adrift; without the London home that had belonged to her, their leave-taking created a pause for reflection. And that leave-taking becomes the event that closes my set of books dealing with Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

To get back to the emailed thought. I told my correspondent:

“Digging about the 1850s, tho I really need to concentrate on the 1810s. It seems SUCH a different world… there’s a lightness to their lives when the children WERE children, that has darkened once they’ve grown and had children of their own. I find them such a thoroughly fascinating family.”

and I hope YOU, dear Readers, feel or will come to feel the SAME about the Smiths and Goslings. They were truly living a dream during the Regency – with travels, trips to exhibitions, evenings at the opera. Some were crossed in love; most married, had children of their own, experienced heartache as a family. Luckily for ME they also remembered, reminisced, and wrote – including those books published by the Austen Leighs: about Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865), a Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; expanded 1871), and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record (1913). Especially dear to my heart is the biography of her father written by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911), for Emma and her family figure LARGE in that book. It also drops some tantalizing hints about missing letters and diaries…

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Why I read Jane Austen

December 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , )

Yesterday, 16 December 2016, being the anniversary of the birth of JANE AUSTEN, JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America – published their annual journal, Persuasions On-Line. It is interesting to see papers presented at the Washington DC AGM (annual general meeting) that _I_ sat in the audience to hear.

[NB: I did not submit my paper, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma,” for publication.]

The article I opened, however, was among the Miscellany: Gillian Dooley‘s article on “‘The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled’: Jane Austen’s ‘Courtship Novels’.” I think all fans of Austen have come up against the “dismissive” stares, shrugs, and “Who?” comments. Because I publish and speak on aspects of Austen and the early Austen Leighs (my research subject), I’ve mentioned “Jane Austen” in job interviews. Several interviewers had NO clue who she was, never mind what she had written. Others recalled “costumed fans” and, yes, ‘Courtship’ films.

Has it been film then that has created this atmosphere of Austen as a kind of ‘romance writer’? For, in many cinematic offerings, the dramatic underpinnings of her novels disappear in order to make a pleasing, coherent, and “short” adaptation. The one thing that is always in place (of course) is the heroine’s ‘romance’ storyline. And it’s the couples that fans remember and love to discuss:

elizabeth and darcy

Even those couples who might have been:

marianne-and-willoughby

But does that mean the films and even the novels are “Courtship”-based? I have long contended that I read Austen because they are slices of life, true windows into a time, place, milieu, that otherwise I only read about through history texts. The films may stick in the memory, but the novels are what I return to again and again. And, luckily, puzzling out the letters and diaries the Smiths and Goslings have left behind has allowed me to grasp small details that Austen’s original readers “knew” but which I have had to “learn” about.

So, this morning, I was musing over the MANY ‘romances’ of the story of my Two Teens. Would I term their lives – as any resultant writing must, out of necessity, condense their real histories – as center on ‘Courtship’ merely because courtships begin and conclude within the covers of a book about them?

To answer one question posed by Gillian Dooley, “There are courtships in the [Austen] novels, but are they in any overarching sense primarily ‘about’ courtship?” with a simplistic ‘No’ should, therefore, also cover the “history” of this large, extended family.

To take one “for instance”: The Colebrooke sisters, Belinda and Harriet, come into the circle of the Smith family in 1816/17. The basics of their history: Harriet dies young and Belinda marries Charles Smith (Emma’s brother). More can be deciphered about Belinda’s life because she married. And, it is her marriage that ended her life: Belinda Smith died in childbirth, before the age of 25.

It was all a “fact of life” back then.

Even today, we seek out a partner; live together; marry if we can. No one wants to be alone – and, given the cold world in which we live, a little human warmth within the home is something everyone can appreciate.

Carey Mulligan

(yes, I’ve long thought Carey Mulligan a quintessential Belinda)

I’ve recently found a lovely portrait (perhaps by her eldest sister-in-law, Augusta Smith) of Belinda Lady Smith. And even a tiny silhouette of her sister Harriet Colebrooke. Harriet was even younger, only 18 at her death. For the longest time her (ultimately) fatal illness was the focus for poor Harriet’s historical remembrance. She was an appendage; a younger sister who obligingly got out of the way; a dead sibling who made the “heroine” that much more attractive to the “hero”. And there was even an “over the top” drama-queen of a mother! Belinda, left on her own by her sister’s demise, was due to be “rewarded” by marriage to a good and very eligible young man.

To to my mind, however, it was hard not to think of Belinda as “the other woman”: Mary Gosling, the girl next door and Charles Smith’s second wife was the first diarist I unearthed (now, ten years ago).

Talulah Riley

Yes, young Talulah Riley, as Mary Bennet [above], put me in mind of Mary Gosling – rather tossed aside as a close friend, never mind as a potential love interest, once the doomed Colebrooke sisters came on the scene.

As an historian, I knew – nearly from the beginning – what the “end result” for EVERYone was. I knew when they were born; who they married (or didn’t); knew when they died. What I had to unearth was all the LIFE in between the pertinent “dates”.

And even now there comes surprises; welcome surprises, as it happens. Even someone like Harriet Colebrooke, on the scene for only a handful of years, takes on new importance.

“Why?” you might ask.

“Because, she had a fella!” A young man, who does appear in Emma Smith’s diaries, but who seemed just one of the crowd, was actually interested in, and pursued, Harriet Colebrooke.

Like her elder sister, Belinda, Harriet came to any relationship with a LOT of baggage. Charles Smith had the unenviable task of “approving” the young man, especially once he began to suspect that Harriet was transferring her affections to himself.

Harriet never lived long enough, of course, to see her sister married to Charles. I don’t even know if Charles ever really had to say, “I’m not interested”. That mystery is still inconclusive.

Which brings me back to Austen and the ‘Courtship’ Novel. In such a novel, there are often MANY vying for the hand of the heroine. There are those wholly unsuitable:

stillman2

There are those whom the observer hopes will win out in the end:

darcy

As Dooley asserts, “I would expect the heroine [of a courtship novel] to have one or more men actively playing court to her throughout the novel.  And I don’t think that any of Austen’s novels quite fit that standard.” She sums up by saying, “it is the assiduous attention of the hero to gain the heroine’s hand throughout the courtship novel that I think is the missing element.”

Just as in life.

Even when the “grass is greener” on the other side of that proverbial fence, as when Charles begins to suspect that Harriet’s interest in himself is pushing her interest in William Sumner (her beau) to one side. Here is no flat declaration of love, but a mystery: Does she? Doesn’t she? How do I handle it?

And everyone LOVES a mystery.

When Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal, few contemporary readers would have foreseen them ending up together at the novel’s end. There might even have been NO marriages at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Contemporary Readers were enjoying the ride, living in the moment with all the Bennets. Suffering their disappointments and, yes, rejoicing over their happiness. That ‘happiness’ included marriages, and those came within pages of the end is good fortune for readers who – metaphorically AND literally – could close the book at the end of a concluding chapter in the characters’ lives.

In a courtship novel, the marriage is the “be-all”. It has to end it all because little more was the novel’s focus. In Austen’s slices of life, the characters live on. The clues of the mystery behind attraction (even repulsion), love, loss, daily life in another land and another era, keep readers coming back for more.

If a MAN had written Austen novels, would we even be discussing “courtship” as their basis – or would it be treated, as courtship (without quotation marks) deserves to be treated: as a MOST INTERESTING part of life, something in which EVERY reader can sympathize.

Austen’s novels touch on economics (those with little funds as well as those with very fat purses, indeed); privations and sacrifices; sibling love and sibling rivalries; one’s role within society; the tumult of the times – even though, like today, one lives life somewhat disconnected (unless war comes to touch one personally). Austen’s novels help explain the minutiae I’ve seen discussed or recorded in the papers of the Smiths; and the Smiths explain what should be of more importance in Austen’s novels.

They are the perfect MATCH! History informing literature, and literature helping to inform biography.

colonel brandon and marianne

marianne and colonel brandon

And a coincidence, as could only happen in real life, that Emma Smith becomes (though eleven years after the author’s death) a niece by marriage to Cassandra and Jane Austen, Frank, Charles, and Henry Austen, and Edward Knight. That Emma Austen read Austen’s Emma prior to marriage, and with her intended, is a fitting close for that chapter of her life – one which can be said to have ended in marriage. Life is about so much more than birth-marriage-death, but as a fundamental courtship and marriage is a commonality that happens to most, and interests even those who do not experience it first-hand.

The “mysteries” of their lives keep me digging for more clues – even as some “new” clue only leads to further mystery. It is the pleasure derived from “digging” again and again, that Readers, who read Austen with a mind open to discovering new clues amid well-known strophes, enjoy as much as (if not more than) the ‘courtships’ with which each novel ends.

“[T]he plans and decisions of mortals,” to use the words of the narrator of Mansfield Park, forms the basis behind Two Teens in the Time of Austen, as well as the six novels of Jane Austen. “Courtship” is part of the story of life, and “courtship” may be the most human part in general. The need to feel connected, to someone (mate or friend), is a powerful emotion.

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Boswell and Miss Gregg

August 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, people, research) (, , , )

On Wednesday the 2nd of March, 1791, James Boswell set down in his diary news of his evening’s entertainment:

Boswell_biographer

“… I dined today at Mr. Gregg’s in the City,… In the evening Miss Gregg played both on the harpsichord and harp and sung admirable well. But I felt none of the fondness for her which made me once rave [fn: This is the sole reference to Boswell’s earlier fondness for Miss Gregg.], and it seemed awkward to me. I stole away in time to be at the Essex Head Club, and not be obliged to act also at supper.”

Miss Gregg – the future Caroline Carr (Mrs. Ralph Carr of Stannington) – was a friend to Miss Augusta Smith (aka “Mamma”) and her sisters, staying at Erle Stoke Park (in Wiltshire), before her marriage.

In the near future, Caroline Carr would become the sister-in-law of Maria Gosling, my diarist Mary’s “Aunt Gregg“. Caroline Gregg and Ralph Carr married in 1793, while Maria Gosling and Henry Gregg married in 1794. Mr. Carr was brother to Harriet Cheney (née Carr), whose watercolor portraits were auctioned at Christie’s in 2005. Harriet painted this little portrait of Lady Compton (née Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane), which was among those sold:

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

The little girl is Lady Marianne Compton, her eldest daughter.

I’ve an interest in the Gregg-Gosling-Smith-Carr connection, for there are several letters that tell about the ladies of this generation, interacting with each other. The Boswell sighting has long been known, but was just a little vignette. A moment, all its own.

After last evening, I can add a little “history” to the young Caroline Gregg. She shows up in the book The History of the Family of Carr of Dunston Hill, Co. Durham (1893), the first volume of three in an exhaustive family history. What a FIND!

The young couple lived at 7 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury; they moved in 1800 to No. 18 Bloomsbury Street (in a house that remained in family possession until 1871). Vacations were spent with the in-laws at Dunston Hill, “travelling in two post-chaises, servants riding. The great cost of travelling at that time is shewn by the fact that the journey each way cost over £50.” (A not-insignificant sum, when some households lived on 350 pounds – or less – a year.)

 The country estate the Carrs called home, from circa 1806, was Barrow Point Hill, in Pinner.

The book’s author offers this summation of Caroline (Gregg) Carr:

This gentle and talented lady was especially distinguished as a musician, both in singing and as a pianist and harpist. She had had the advantage of the best masters, and her fame as an amateur pianist was such that the great Haydn paid a visit to her father’s house in London to hear her play. She was the composer of several musical pieces, one March being written at the express request of the Marquis of Northampton [ie, Emma Smith’s uncle], for the use of his regiment, and has since been highly approved by more than one military band.” Caroline also had an interest in the works of Handel, possessing in score (over several volumes) “all his works”.

Caroline had been born in 1770, and was therefore about 21 years old when her singing and playing entertained James Boswell. How young she might have been when first attracting his eye can be guessed at from mentions of her brother Francis Gregg in 1788, and more especially time spent at “Mrs. Gregg’s” (either Caroline’s sister-in-law, or mother) in 1790.

She died in 1823, aged only 53. She was buried at Pinner Church.

What the book does not touch upon is the strife Caroline and Ralph endured from their respective families, especially Mr. Gregg. Letters in the Northumberland Archives speak of the “cruel treatment meted out to himself [Ralph Carr] and Caroline by her father”. Ralph Carr seems to have had as variable a temper as Mr. Gregg, for Eliza Gosling (Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law) writes of him keeping his wife away from “her own relations … even her Mother.”

As far as Boswell is concerned, however, Mrs. Carr doesn’t yet exist – only Miss Gregg, at her piano or harp, existed to cause him unease.

From the book comes this “charming” signature – oh! for the letters…

signature_caroline gregg

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Articles @ Academia.edu

July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm (history, research) (, , , , , )

A reminder for some, and a “poke” for those new to the SMITH & GOSLING blog: I post “original” articles on Academia.edu, a website dedicated to papers, books, classes, etc. relating to academics and independent scholars.

Academia

These currently include:

Combine Jane Austen, Eliza Chute, and “Sense and Sensibility” with a true-life courtship and abandonment. Mrs. Wheeler, a woman taken in by the Chutes of The Vyne, left an orphan daughter, Hester, who left deep impressions on both Caroline Wiggett and Caroline Austen.

The flower painter Margaret Meen also taught painting: pupils included Queen Charlotte and the Royal Princesses; the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park: Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma. Little about Meen’s life has been uncovered — until now. Four letters lead to some surprisingly-full biographical details of the life of a woman artist in Georgian England.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}

JARW

Links to ACADEMIA articles can always be found in the navigation at right.

And, soon, these two articles will be joined by a new treatise!

Early in the history of this blog, I dangled the idea that JAMES BOSWELL was one of the “famous” names connected with the Smiths & Goslings. So watch my Academia page for the upload (coming shortly) of “Boswell’s ‘Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal“.

Academia.edu will ask you to sign in to view articles (Google and Facebook are two alternatives to creating an Academia account); articles are PDF.

 

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