Two Teens on Paper

When Elizabeth Bennet captured the attention of Pemberley’s wealthy owner Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so captured the attention of her sixteen-year-old nephew, James Edward Austen, that he concluded a poem of congratulations addressed to his aunt with the lines,

And though Mr. Collins so grateful for all
Will Lady de Bourgh his dear patroness call,
‘Tis to your ingenuity really he owed
His living, his wife, and his humble abode.

Emma Smith, the wife chosen by this son of a country clergy experienced a youth far more stellar than his own, one befitting the wealth a landed-gentleman and Member of Parliament could provide. Through their personal writings – diaries and letters, Emma Smith (1801-1876) and her friend and eventual sister-in-law Mary Gosling (1800-1842) have left a legacy of their lives dating from Regency London to early-Victorian England. Two Teens in the Time of Austen reconstructs this extended family’s biography, as well as recounts the chronicles of Britain at war and on the brink of great social, political, industrial, and financial change.

Based on re-edited and re-ordered blog posts, Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2015 presents an introduction to these fascinating “days of yore.”

England rejoiced in the summer of 1814, for the Napoleonic Wars were presumed to be at an end. This was a momentous year for the Smiths of Suttons and the Goslings of Roehampton Grove. Mary Gosling visited Oxford just as these national celebrations ended. Emma Smith’s father had died early in the year, leaving Mrs. Smith a 42-year-old widow: “Mamma” (Mrs. Smith) gave birth to the youngest of her nine children days after her husband’s death. Emma began keeping diaries on 1 January 1815. The girls are, at this date, fourteen and thirteen years old. Mary’s stepmother hosted dazzling London parties; and Emma’s great-aunt hobnobbed with members of the Royal Family. The privileged daughters of gentlemen, their teen years are a mixture of schoolrooms, visits, travels to relatives, stays in London during the “Season,” and trips to Wales, Ireland, and the Continent — in fact, the Goslings visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo and Mary has left her impressions of this war-torn region.

Here is a tale worthy of Jane Austen’s pen, as beaux dance and ladies choose their (life) partners. But happiness comes at a price for many.

Emma marries the Rev. James Edward Austen (Jane Austen’s nephew) on 16 December 1828, and settles into life as a country clergyman’s wife, the mother of a large family. Mary loses her beloved Sir Charles Joshua Smith (Emma’s brother) within five years of their 1826 marriage. The late 1820s and early 1830s are a difficult time for the family — and the nation also sees much strife, politically and economically. Siblings marry — more Vicars become sons-in-law; while one only (Denis Le Marchant) mingles in the world of Westminster. Already the family has gone from the horse and carriage into the age of steam; now comes the age of the railway. In one letter, James Edward Austen Leigh writes of his excitement — and trepidation — at riding the rails when the speed gets up to the likes of 35 miles per hour! The early 1840s witnessed the deaths of several vibrant women this story contains: Lady Smith (née Mary Gosling), Eliza Chute, Augusta Smith, senior. Young Victoria is on the throne, but the legacy of George III and his Charlotte has never been forgotten.

Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2015 introduces the people Jane Austen met – like the Chutes of the Vyne, as well as the niece she never lived to welcome into the family: Emma Austen Leigh, whose husband would later publish Recollections of the Early Days of the Vyne Hunt (1865) and A Memoir of Jane Austen (1870; revised, 1871).

Sample the Kindle version;
the updated & expanded paperback
edition is available exclusively at Jane Austen books.


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