And they called her MARIA Ramsay

June 27, 2020 at 9:11 pm (diaries, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

She popped up in a search of wills in the search engine of The National Archives. These are records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and the wills date from 1384 until 12 January 1858. Jane Austen’s will can be found through this site. Fun Fact: Due the Covid-19 closure, TNA offers free downloads of their digital wills.

The “She” in question was a woman named Maria Ramsay, Spinster of Whickham, Durham. I had been searching (again…) for a first name for Emma’s “Miss Ramsay,” their young governess who died in August 1819, aged only 28. Miss Ramsay can also be found in the journals of The Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus. It’s frustrating to SEARCH for someone when you have little more than (1) her last name, (2) the date of her death, and (3) the place of her death. This Maria Ramsay hit the last name and the place, but the date?!? Her will was proved 25 January 1820, nearly five months after my Miss Ramsay’s death. I didn’t hold out much hope, but: I HAD TO KNOW FOR CERTAIN!

The will was super short, and the opening line sealed the deal – and solved a very long-standing mystery. “This is the last Will and testament of me MARIA RAMSAY late of Portland Place in the County of Middlesex.” The address is that of Mrs. Smith, No. 6 Portland Place.

Finally… I KNOW HER NAME!

They called her MARIA! The “they” being her family, rather than the family with whom she lived. None of the girls would have called her anything other than MISS RAMSAY – even Elizabeth Grant (and her book editors) would only ever call the dear governess “MISS RAMSAY.”

HighlandLady-Lady Grant

I wish I could say the entire world opened up, and I now knew all about her. Alas…! The only tidbits I have are her mother’s name – Mary Ramsay – obtained because she’s named in her daughter’s will, as the only heir to the few possessions of her young daughter. Emma took Miss Ramsay’s death quite to heart, writing in her diary about the loss of this true friend. Ancestry indicates, though the actual images are not online, that a daughter of RALPH Ramsay was born on December 26th in the year 1790. This could be her. Again the place of WHICKHAM is mentioned, and Emma did once mention Miss Ramsay’s birthday (though not her age). The date is correct. And from her obituary I had already guessed circa 1789. It must be her! I would love to have seen an image of the parish registers to ascertain that RALPH was a correct reading; this child was baptised on 9 January 1791. The child’s mother is merely listed as “Mary”. I could find no marriage of a Ralph Ramsay and Mary xxx (presumably in Whickham), nor any siblings. (Miss Ramsay had at least a brother.)

But, finding a FIRST NAME is a great start!

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Just one more thing…

June 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm (diaries, people, research, travel) (, , , , )

Michael in Wales has seen the diary entry made by Lady Eleanor Butler about the Goslings’ 1821 trip through Northern Wales, when they made a four-hour stop to visit Lady Eleanor and Sarah Ponsonby – better known to the Goslings (and posterity) as The Ladies of Llangollen.

butler-and-ponsonby

This is exciting (though dampened by Covid-19 closure of archival libraries), and FAIRLY puzzling: Michael’s comment unearthed an additional person visiting with the Ladies at Plas Newydd!

Michael’s summarization of Lady Eleanor’s comment:

5 Sept 1821 – Mr. and Mrs. Gosling, son, and 2 daughters.

led me to relook at Mary’s diary and two letters, written about the Goslings’ 1821 trip (i.e., merely reporting news of them NOT their news written by one of them). I doubt that Lady Eleanor gave much information, beyond WHO their visitors were, but I’m dying to know what SHE said! Oh, for libraries and archives to reopen.

This is NOT the first time that I have “waited with baited breath” for a tasty morsel; it usually turns out to be a mere TIDBIT only.

There once was hint of a letter’s contents: mention of “Master Charles Smith” and “our little maid” (i.e., his elder sister Augusta) during a stay with Grandpa and Grandma Smith at Stoke Park near Devizes, when the two children were quite young. Alas, there wasn’t much beyond the FACT of their stay, though there was enough extra to be satisfied with a small picture of their childish antics.

Another letter, different archive, was written on the very day William Gosling married his second wife, the Hon. Charlotte de Grey. Ooooohhhh, wedding news! And written by the mother-of-the-bride!

Alas… only the statement that they had married. NO details!

That felt like a sprinkling of crumbs, never mind a FAR tastier letter.

Beechey-Mary
(I used to hope THIS was the face of Mary Gosling)

But, BACK TO WALES. The 1821 diary by MARY GOSLING was my FIRST acquaintance with her, her family, and the Smiths of Suttons, the family Mary married into in 1826. Little did I know then how much I would discover, and how far-ranging this project would become. But I always took Mary at her word: That they departed from Roehampton “Papa, Mamma, my sister [Elizabeth Gosling] and myself,”  which makes up the very first sentence written to record this trip.

WHERE and WHEN did a “son” come into the mix?? Mary never says!

As I read and cogitated, an image of Columbo (yes, the 1970s TV detective) came to mind: “Just one more thing…” Only Mary didn’t come back with some second thoughts. (NB: I now wonder if she wrote up her entire diary once she got home.)

It was the second of the two letters (written in October 1821) that mentioned, “Mr. G-, Bennett & the two girls only crossed the sea” (ie, went to Ireland). LONG had I recalled that letter saying that Mrs. Gosling had stayed behind, with her relations the Irbys. WHY had I never thought about the inclusion of BENNETT Gosling in the same sentence?

Mary never mentioned that Bennett accompanied them, nor that her step-mother did not accompany them to Dublin. Nor was mention made about everyone in their party suffering from SEASICKNESS aboard the steamship! (Coming and going.) Only Emma, in a letter repeating news of a letter, let slip these vital details.

Of course, without Mary, I don’t know when Bennett joined them. But – thanks to Eleanor Butler’s diary! – I do know that he, too, visited the Ladies of Llangollen.

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“I felt an immediate bond with this diarist”

April 18, 2020 at 4:21 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , , )

As promised back in February, Margaret Bird’s monumental 4-volume “commentary and analysis” of The Diary of Mary Hardy, 1773-1809 is primed for release on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

I first found Mary Hardy following the 2013 publication of the full diary. Editor Margaret Bird now celebrates the completion of 32 years of work – on the four diary volumes (plus a single volume of entries not included) and now the four companions.

An excellent article on her passion, tasks, and triumphs is now online in the Eastern Daily Press article by Rowen Mantell, “Secrets of a Norfolk Diary revealed after almost 250 years.’ Says Bird of the diarist, “The best aspect for me is the way Mary Hardy depicts the social, economic and religious forces of the time.” Says Bird of her project, “I could see the diary’s significance just from short extracts.” Bird also comments on her affinity for and partnership (if I may call it such) with Mary Hardy: “I knew the church, the lanes, the waterways and the public houses familiar to her.” She confesses her “immediate bond” with Mary Hardy, and we get a fabulous snapshot of two pages from the diary itself.

As Mantell recognizes, “Margaret had no idea the project would take her more than three decades.” In the kind of dedication that _I_ can attest to, Margaret Bird has “given it [the Mary Hardy project] 10 to 15 hours a day, usually seven days a week, other than during our time on the boat on the Broads. When in Norfolk I carried out the fieldwork and worked in libraries and the record office.”

This link will give you several of the posts at Two Teens in the Time of Austen dedicated to Mary Hardy and Margaret Bird. I’ve also talked about the diaries in my blog Georgian Gems, Regency Reads & Victorian Voices, a site dedicated to letters and diaries – those primary materials that are so important to find and to celebrate.

mary-hardy vol 1 of the DIARIES

Read Margaret Bird’s latest Press Release, even with the disappointment of the 2020 Launch party (due to coronavirus closures and distancing), which would have taken place last evening, the article still ends with a “Clink” of champagne glasses! Scroll to the bottom of that page for information on both the DIARIES and the COMMENTARIES. The Companion volumes are ably described on this page, with links to further information on each volume.

A “Hardy” CONGRATULATIONS, Margaret, for your achievement!

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Spotlight on: Fanny Smith

April 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm (diaries, people, research, spotlight on) (, , )

I am reminded that Fanny Smith (after marriage in 1834, Fanny Seymour, or Mrs. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton), was among the earliest people I gathered information about. I gave a talk on her; and wrote about her early years (up to her marriage). That’s why it would be SO FASCINATING to find her own diaries!

One archive (Hertfordshire) has photographs of the Seymours; I’ve only ever seen one, very early (for photography), circa 1850s. It was taken out-of-doors (you can see a blanket kind of backdrop!), with Fanny and her three daughters – Augusta, the eldest of the family; Emma and Fanny the two youngest – and one of the sons, whom it took me the longest to identify, as Dick. I’ve never yet found the miniature Richard talks about commissioning, painted by Ross; but often figure it must have somewhat looked like this:

Ross_a Lady-closeup

I have a photograph of a “from a miniature” photograph, but whether it represents that portrait done by Ross or not, it doesn’t say. I would, however, be able to ID it as Fanny, should the actual miniature come to light!

My two Local Past articles on young Fanny Smith are available through my Academia account (another link is provided in the menu section – on the right side of the screen):

  • “Before She Became Fanny Seymour, Parson’s Wife”
  • “‘Fanny I am thankful to say continues going on very well'”

The first is about Fanny’s life up to her marriage; the second deals with the tragic days of Fanny’s confinement, following the loss of her first-born, a son named Michael John.

The articles can be read online; you will only need to log in (can do it through Facebook!) if you wish to download.

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New Website for Mary Hardy Diaries

February 28, 2019 at 9:24 am (books, diaries, history, news) (, , , , )

An email from Margaret Bird, who is in the midst of finishing the Companion volumes to her 4-volume edition of Mary Hardy Diaries, 1773-1809 [Burnham Press, UK], announced a new website has launched!

mary-hardyvol. 1 of Mary Hardy’s diaries

You can “preview” the four companion volumes Mary Hardy and her World, 1773-1809:

  • volume 1 A Working Family “will appeal to everyone interested in the home lives of the farming and commercial middle class in the eighteenth century.”
  • volume 2 Barley, Beer and the Working Year “analyses the way all the aspects of a family business hinged on one another. It goes to the heart of the industry in which the Hardys were engaged: farming, malting, brewing, sales to public houses, and the neglected subject of distribution.”
  • volume 3 Spiritual and Social Forces “chronicles and analyses a series of exciting developments in religion in an age often regarded as spiritually somnolent… Religion was increasingly no longer ‘the cement of society’…. Fractures were opening up, fast.”
  • volume 4 Under Sail and Under Arms “It is unusual to read in a woman’s diary allusions to such subjects as building a navigation (a canalized river), and to trade on the rivers and at sea. This volume also enters the world of politics…. Mary Hardy shows her absorption in the electoral process as a bystander.”

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Elizabeth Chivers: Diary of a London Tourist, 1814

October 31, 2018 at 3:55 pm (books, diaries, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

The Museum of London has produced a spectacular illustrated account of the London tour of Elizabeth Chivers, a resident of Bath. In 1814, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth and her younger sister Sarah, accompanied by their unnamed uncle (in his own carriage), left home on March 14th. Readers travel with them through such familiar places as Devizes, Marlborough, Bray, and Hounslow Heath. We halt with them at their hotel in Covent Garden. Here, with Miss Chivers, we see London in 1814 through the eyes of an untiring tourist. The Chivers sisters also were doing a bit of sleuthing, turning up places associated with several uncles (“late” as well as present) and even where “Father and Mother first became acquainted.”

custom house_london

Custom House, London

What makes the presentation extra special? The illustrations from the collection of The Museum of London, with captions that tell a bit more about what Miss Chivers saw, and whether something no longer exists. Helpful notes as well tease out the places visited or seen.

walksthroughregencylondon

To actually walk in the footsteps of such Regency visitors – you might enjoy a copy of Louise Allen’s Walks Through Regency London. Great for the armchair traveller too.

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Selina, Lady Heathcote

March 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , )

A couple of weeks ago I got a used copy (and so reasonably priced that the shipping was only a few pounds less than the book) of The Diary of Selina, Lady Heathcote, January 1841-June 1849.

This is a slim hard-bound book, but it packs a pleasing wallop. It opens with a short introduction, with portraits of both Selina (née Shirley) and Sir William Heathcote.

diary.jpg

William was a boyhood friend of James Edward Austen (my diarist Emma Smith’s eventual husband); they remained life-long friends – and the Austen Leighs (the ‘Leigh’ named added after the death of Edward’s great aunt, Mrs. Leigh Perrot) and their inherited estate Scarlets DO APPEAR in Selina’s diary!

An especially wonderful photograph: Selina’s open diary! Considering how “little” text takes up a manuscript page, the physical size of the diary must be about the size of those I’ve dealt with — which is as tall and as wide as the size of my hand. But the LOCK is, in comparison, SO stout!!

It was published in 1984 by IBM, which has a Hursley connection. Hursley was the Heathcote estate, and the book has a picture of that too. So it’s pleasingly illustrated, including maps showing trips the pair took.

For me, the shock was to read of the consistent ill-health of Sir William. He was older than his young second wife. He had children by his first wife, a daughter of Lord Arden – so related to the Northamptons, Lord Arden being the elder brother of Spencer Perceval, MP. So a couple of connection with my research! I’ve even seen letters (both before and after marriage) by Helena Perceval (also known as Helena Trench) (“French” in the book is a mis-transcription), who also appears in Selina’s diary, as does her daughter Maria.

William Heathcote’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who with her sisters – especially Althea Bigg – were great friends to Jane Austen. Mrs. Heathcote was widowed early; Althea Bigg never married. Both appear in Selina Heathcote’s diary. It was their brother, Harris Bigg-Wither (only the sons of the family took the ‘Wither’ name in addition to Bigg), who proposed to Jane Austen – who “famous” rescinded her acceptance after much thought.

Click the photo of the book cover to be whisked away to “The History of Hursley Park,” and see what Dave Key will tell you about the potential visit by Lady Heathcote to “Stratfield Saye [home of the Duke of Wellington] to meet the Queen & Prince Albert.”

EXTRAS:

 

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Etching Memories

November 8, 2017 at 12:35 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , )

A year or two ago I bought a batch of letters; included was one which should have had a half-page etching of Worthing, England. The Smiths & Goslings _never_ wrote on the rear of these pictures – though the letter confesses that the writer had written ON the drawing: an “X” marked the spot where the parents of the recipient had over-nighted.

But I can’t tell you where anyone stayed: the picture has been cut off. All that remains is the letter.

So within the last few weeks, when I came across some letter sheets I bought them. But none are of Worthing….

Companies, such as ROCK & CO, did produce books of their engravings. You can see one here, currently (Nov 2017) for sale. In my ‘searches’, however, I came across a very useful and touching website.

This book, posted online, forms both a diary and a book of engravings. A unique combination.

Torquay letter sheet

What is *special* about this copy of the book Drives &c In & About TORQUAY is that the author collected the drawings AND put down memories of a trip.

In the days before easy photography, these drawings procured the author the perfect illustrations!

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Victoria & Thomas Sully

July 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm (books, british royalty, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Yesterday I watched two episodes of the recent series VICTORIA, with Jenna Coleman in the title role. Episode 2 had a session of the Queen sitting to the portraitist Sir James Hayter (Guy Oliver-Watts) and ends with Victoria “needing help” at the unveiling of his resultant portrait.

Coleman as Victoria

This had me running to fetch my copy of Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully, Carrie Rebora Barratt‘s book that includes Sully’s 1837-38 diary of his stay in London with his daughter Blanche. I remember picking up this book in a newly-reopened Oxfam bookshop in Winchester in 2007. Ooh, they had some good titles then!

Not only does it tell about the MANY portraits the poor Queen sat for – be it miniatures; destined for postage stamps and coins; official portraits; commissions (like Sully’s – destined for the U.S.) – the book also has something to say about Hayter as well as his rival Wilkie — whose portrait the Queen did not think “very like”.

_I_ had to chuckle over her comments (culled from Victoria’s diary) about William Charles Ross – who painted at least TWO of the Smith sisters; Fanny Seymour (which I believe I have found, as a photograph of the original) and Maria Seymour – which was sold at auction, and about which Mamma (Mrs Charles Smith) has left us a letter.

Victoria_Sully

Amazon has a “new” copy – but many “near new” can be found in secondhand book markets. Definitely find a copy with its dust jacket.

Notice, too, of a tiny buried citation in the end credits of “Victoria”: that the series is based on the book by A.N. Wilson. The New York Times said of the book in 2014, “One more foray into a well-thumbed archive inevitably risks diminishing returns. In the absence of some new trove of documents, Wilson’s narrative holds few factual surprises. Rather, its novelty lies in psychological analysis, making his a Victoria for the age of reality TV. A celebrity who craves a private life but also courts popularity through new media technologies.”

A TV series is about as close to “reality TV” as one can get – so perhaps as fitting a source as any of the many biographies of Queen Victoria.

For those interested in “tie-ins”, Daisy Goodwin (series creator) has authored a “Victoria” novel, and Helen Rappaport has PBS’s “official companion book” to the TV series.

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An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

May 13, 2017 at 12:22 pm (books, diaries, history, news, people) (, , )

More than a decade ago I worked on a typescript of a diary; this now has been turned into a book by the Saint Michael’s College (History Department) professor I used to work with, Dr. Susan Ouellette.

An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 tells – in her own words – the story of Phebe Orvis, born in Vermont and educated in Middlebury; her marriage to Samuel Eastman settled them in Upstate New York. So, geographically, the diary is much involved with the area near where I live.

Thanks SUNY for providing a review copy – it arrived in yesterday’s mail! So keep on eye out for my review.

It’s a HUGE book (10 x 7 format; 380 pages). Includes a half-dozen essays, that extract and expound on information from the diary; and then the entire journal transcription is presented.

Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

I include the Table of Contents:

Introduction

Part I. “The sweet, single life”

1. “A delightful prospect of my Nativity”

2. “I conclude there are some strange intentions”

3. “rendered . . . more ignorant than others”

Part II. “New modes of living among strangers”

4. “perhaps the partner of his joys”

5. “Retired, much fatigued”

6. “He cumbers the ground no more”

Conclusion. “beneath the spreading Oak and Hickory”

The Journal
Maps
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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