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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The Real Persuasion

May 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm (diaries, jane austen, news, people) (, , , )

Spent a little time in the local Barnes & Noble yesterday. Found two books that were of GREAT interest due to their topics (both were biographies of British women); but both became “maybe I’ll find them in the library?” after reading reviews. One – and I must confess, the one I thought most likely to be purchased – exhibits such an annoying writing style, that I rather prefer to revert to an old biography instead. Or, the lady’s letters. Both subjects were QUITE known for the high caliber of their writing….

But it was in looking up customer reviews that I found the soon-to-be released (July in the UK; November in the US) Amberley publication that should hold its interest: The Real Persuasion: An Intimate Portrait of a Real-Life Austen Heroine, by Peter James Bowman.

I’m less intrigued by parallels with Austen’s Anne Elliot of Kellynch Hall that Bowman promises to tease out, than with learning more about his diarist and letter writer Katherine Bisshopp. Thank goodness for the unusual spelling… I think I found some of his source material, thanks to The Diary Junction. According to this, born in 1791, Katherine’s diaries run from 1808 until 1834.

Even MORE intriguing now that I see her married name. Lady Pechell, Katherine’s future mother-in-law, actually turns up in diaries _I_ have access to. As do many other Pechells, including Capt and Mrs. Pechell.

And EVEN MORE intriguing once I look at a Pechell family genealogy published in the 1840s: there is a connection to Berkhamstead (which comes into play for the Two Teens in the Time of Austen with Sir John Culme-Seymour); a connection to the Smiths of Ashlyns Hall (Tring Park neighbors of Mamma Smith, Emma & Edward Austen); and a connection to the Thoyts of Sulhamstead House (the very estate that comes into the Wilder family).

I couldn’t get much closer to home, if I tried.

Real Persuasion_Bowman

So what is The Real Persuasion about?

According to the Amberley website, “Her father is a vain, foolish baronet, obsessed with his lineage but forced to quit his ancestral seat as a result of his own improvidence. Her sister is a fretful invalid with a good-natured husband and two disobedient sons. She herself falls in love with a handsome naval officer, and he with her, but his income and prospects are judged inadequate by her proud family. Heartbroken, the lovers part: he goes to sea while she leads a forlorn life at home. Years later he returns, having made a fortune in prize money, and after further misunderstandings he claims as his bride the woman he has never ceased to love“.

What intrigues me, though:

Using the sisters’ letters and journals, as well as other family correspondence, Peter James Bowman paints an intimate picture of life in a Regency family, and looks at the remarkable parallels between the true story of the Bisshopps and the fictional narrative of Jane Austen’s final novel. Whether their subject is daily life at the Bisshopps’ family seat of Parham; the social round in London, Brighton and elsewhere; or Katherine’s eleven-year courtship with George Pechell, the writers of these hitherto unpublished documents are brought to life through their own unaffected language, charmingly evocative of its time, and the author’s engaging insight into life in Jane Austen’s“.

Weighing in at 336 pages, Bowman has pages enough to expound upon, and hopefully expends more time on, the fascinating Bisshopps and Pechells, than on finding parallels to Austen’s novel, Persuasion. After all, Austen died in 1817 and the Pechells didn’t marry until 1826. As mentioned with the Hicks-Beach diary, “few will have heard of … but attach the name ‘Jane Austen’….” We shall see, once the book is released. For now, at least, I’m eagerly awaiting its release.

In the meanwhile, readers can dip into Bowman’s earlier biography, The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England – which tells the story of Prince Pückler-Muskau, who wrote of the Ladies of Llangollen as “The two most celebrated virgins in Europe”.

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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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Thomas & Jane Carlyle on Twitter

November 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history) (, , , )

carlyles-on-twitter

It’s a bit of a mystery, because I KNOW I have looked at the letters of Jane and Thomas Carlyle online – but the server seems to be having problems (and it’s been days). They used to be available free; maybe that is changing; I don’t know.

But you can access TWEETS of the Carlyles – and interesting reading they make too; for instance, Thomas Carlyle:

“My existence is marked by almost nothing, but that silent stream of thoughts and whims and fantasies”

Or recently from Jane Welsh Carlyle:

“For me, I am purposely living without purpose”

I was at a New Hampshire second-hand bookstore that I love (Old Number Six Book Depot, in Henniker); one *find* was a “new” book of Jane’s letters – but I have one or two volumes already, and without having the book with me I couldn’t know whether indeed the letters would have been “new” to me or not. Jane Welsh Carlyle is a favorite! Which is why I would have loved to have also cited their site with access to their letters – and put it on the list of Online Diaries and Online Letters that I’ve begun (yes, a work in progress at the moment) on the Regency Reads blog. More coming, as I go through notes – though WHY did I only think of books, and never the terrific finds online??? Some great sites – and great “thoughts” waiting to be discovered.

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