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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“poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend”

November 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm (estates, history, news, people, research) (, , , )

It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:

“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”

Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.

b gosling

 

Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.

b gosling2

BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.

I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.

Heraby?  Heneby?

Hanby? Hornby?

Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…

The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.

John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!

Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.

I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.

Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.

George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.

On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:

the hook_hornby

Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.

warsash ferry

Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!

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Spring Fling in Tring (2014)

September 18, 2015 at 11:53 am (a day in the life, books, diaries, entertainment, estates, history, people, research) (, , , )

Note: This article was published in the most recent JASNA News (Jane Austen Society of North America’s newsletter), in an abbreviated form. The pictures (by Mike in Tring; thanks, Mike) looked GREAT! But the story I wanted to tell was only half-told.

Here is the story of my Spring Fling (last May, 2014) in a place that is THIS YEAR celebrating it’s 700th anniversary (chartered in 1315), Tring in the county of Hertfordshire, England.

Tring Welcomes You

In the Shadow of James Edward Austen

The recipient of the (in)famous “piece of ivory” letter, Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen authored two late-in-life books: Recollections of the Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865) and A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; 1871); and served as the subject of a memoir by daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911). In concentrating on his wife Emma Smith — one half of my “Two Teens in the Time of Austen” project — it’s easy to overlook the young husband who joined the predominately-female Smith household on 16 December 1828.

Tring church b-w

The wedding ceremony took place in the parish church of Tring; Edward was to serve as curate until the Austens left in November 1833. His stipend: ₤20 per annum. “The place must have a curate,” wrote Emma’s sister Fanny Smith, “as there are three churches to serve”.  With an income of £850 a year (not counting the stipend, earmarked for Edward’s own substitute when he had to be away), the couple had the opportunity to build a nest egg by living with Emma’s large family at Tring Park, a substantial estate once owned by great uncle Sir Drummond Smith. Five sisters and two brothers, under the watchful eye of the widowed Mrs (Augusta) Smith, provided Edward Austen with a bustling household that he came to adore. Edward’s superior, the Rev. Mr. Charles Lacy, was an unmarried man (though with an intended), only three years older than himself, who had held the living for nearly ten years. The Smiths all commented favorably on their vicar’s preaching, conversation, and singing. Edward looked back on the Tring years, during which the Austens welcomed their first three children, with great fondness.

Present-day Tring Park

Present-day Tring Park, altered by late-19th-century additions (by Rothschild).

During the wedding breakfast, the servants had danced in the hall. The day I visited Tring Park (now a performing arts school), the pale light of a rainy English day filtered through the super-sized window on the far side of the stair well, weakly illuminating the hall that echoes still with notes from violins and dance. My tour guide, Mike, was able to show the nooks and crannies thanks to school being out for the week. The soft rain dampened thoughts of tramping the grounds, so we ventured no further than the small church where Edward Austen “did the duty,” to use the phrase Edward used [see uppermost photo]. Vestry Minutes for September 1832 marked a milestone in the church’s history: “The Revd J.E. Austen proposed on the part of the Miss Smith’s [sic] of Tring Park to present the Church with an Organ.” A vote was moved, seconded – and passed! Mr Lacy was tasked with conveying the news to Emma’s sisters. Mike and I had hoped to glimpse the little organ, as it may still exist – but the church of Long Marston was unfortunately closed, except for service.

Wigginton Church b-w

The third church – at Wiggintonwas open to visitors! Described by Mary Austen Leigh as “a scattered village on a picturesque common,” it was in the “damp and cold little church” at Wigginton that chills caught while preaching and teaching affected Edward’s throat to such an extent that his voice grew weak and was never again the same. His diary entry for January 13 (1833) places him in Wigginton, and ends in the remark “I did no more Sunday duty on account of my throat”. His ability to read aloud, his family’s “evening enjoyment” since Edward “could always make the characters, to use his Aunt Jane’s expression, ‘speak as they should do,’” was also affected. During months of inactivity, Edward Austen cut keenly-observed silhouettes, now published as Life in the Country with Quotations by Jane Austen (2008).

Life in the Country

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Make mine a LANDAU

September 1, 2015 at 10:24 pm (carriages & transport, entertainment, places) (, , , )

Susan Bennett, who’s researching the diaries of Georgiana Henderson (née Keate), has spotted my GOSLINGS once or twice. I suspect they are “Old Mrs. Gosling“, William Gosling’s mother (my Mary’s grandmother, who died in the summer of 1811), for she seems to have been the one to introduce Miss Norford to Eliza Gosling (William’s first wife; Mary’s mother). Susan IDs Miss Norford as “Annabella” – so terrific to have a FIRST NAME! Now she’s a bit less anonymous…

Two others of interest have turned up as well: Mr & Mrs Gregg — who (in company with Mrs Gosling) can only be William’s sister, Maria, and her husband Mr Henry Gregg of the Middle Temple. SUCH a thrill to catch these little glimpses of them in the early years of the 1800s.

cabriolet

Susan also sent me a newspaper “clipping” from 1805 – though the “Mrs Gosling” listed currently remains an unknown. Eliza Gosling had died in December 1803; and William doesn’t remarry until 1806 – so it’s not his wife. And there is always the possibility that any given Gosling is from the branch of the family attached to Francis Gosling (William’s cousin and partner in the banking firm Goslings and Sharpe).

But it’s less about the PEOPLE mentioned than the THINGS: carriages to be exact!

The news comes out of MARGATE (The Morning Post, dated 25 Sept 1805), and concerns the Dandelion Royal Fete. How enchanting to read of the “persons of exalted character” as well as the “sultry heat being tempered by the sea breezes”. Then arrive “the fashionables from Ramsgate”!! And the article’s writer is only too ready to tell you (the audience) which “fashionable” arrived in which equipage; it’s simply TOO DELICIOUS.

My currently-anonymous “Mrs. Gosling” appeared in her chariot

Mrs Gosling 1805

Others (as you can see) came in landaus and curricles (guess none in phaetons or barouches were “prominent” enough to be mentioned!), though some “in full regimentals” came on horseback.

Now, if anyone has a diary or some letters from 1805 which pinpoints which Mrs. Gosling was in Margate and Ramsgate in September… come find me!

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Regency Diaries of Fanny Chapman (online)

July 30, 2015 at 7:03 am (a day in the life, diaries, history, news, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , )

Charlotte Frost (author of Sir William Knighton, The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) – always with her eyes and ears open for tidbits of interest to me, emailed me about this site which is SO terrific that I simply must share it.

fanny chapman

Fanny Chapman (pictured; click pic to go to site) is the author of a set of diaries spanning the years 1807 thru 1812 and 1837 through 1840 (as of July 2015, not yet online). I’m THRILLED because I’ve found brief mentions of Lady Colebrooke, wife of Sir George Colebrooke; grandmother of Belinda Colebrooke (Charles Joshua Smith’s first wife).

The fine “introduction”, which tells about the people and the diaries, can be augmented by another at All Things Georgian.

The Chapman diaries are well illustrated, and have been lovingly transcribed by George and Amanda Rosenberg — who would LOVE to hear from anyone with further glimpses of their own Fanny Chapman and her relations & friends. _I_ only wish my own stash of letters and diaries were as forthcoming on their behalf as their research as been for me (I do live in hope of uncovering more). But, while the Colebrookes were visited in Bath by the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park, the Smiths stayed home or were found in London; they never seem to have lived a time in Bath. Still, I do have NAMES now to be on the look-out for in the future.

prince of wales

From what I’ve read, you will not per se learn about the likes of the Prince of Wales, but the daily life of a sociable woman has its own rewards. The Diaries of Fanny Chapman is HIGHLY recommended – and the Rosenbergs are commended for offering these transcriptions and elucidations to the public.

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The Duchess of Richmond’s Waterloo Ball

June 14, 2015 at 7:38 pm (entertainment) (, )

After reading about Jane Austen’s pelisse, in looking for an article listed in Davidson’s bibliography and notes, I stumbled upon this website

duchess of richmonds ball

discussing a CURRENT recreation of the Waterloo Ball of 1815. In blogging about the Pelisse, and putting off the ball a day – I am too late! for it took place yesterday.

I will have to consult some diaries – see if ANYone my Smiths & Goslings knew attended…

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Old Sir John’s young love

May 29, 2015 at 5:22 pm (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , )

A year later, and I am still transcribing letters from last spring, last fall. While other items wait, and more items come in.

Gotta LOVE it and HATE it.

So, a few days ago, I was back to transcribing letters from a collection in New York; late letters of Mamma (Mrs. Augusta Smith, Emma’s mother). I am trying to write about the 1810s and here am I immersed in the 1840s. BUT this news is too good not to share!

It’s also a bit of a head-scratcher.

Mamma’s youngest daughter, Maria, I already knew was the object of pursuit by her brother-in-law’s brother. The Rev. Richard Seymour wrote in his diary that his elder brother the Rev. Sir John Culme-Seymour had begun making inquiries about young Maria Smith. I wrote about Richard’s diary entries for The Chronicle (publication of the Berkhamstead Local History & Museum Society) last year:

“Letter from Dora in w:h she tells me that J: had divulged to her his g:t admiration of & strong penchant for M – and leaves me to act upon her information.”

Of course _I_ knew – from history, as well as Richard’s diary, that Maria accepted Sir John’s proposal. There were already two Seymour in-laws; Sir John made the third! Maria (born in 1814) accepted Sir John in the fall of 1843. He was a widower whose wife had died in 1841, leaving him with three children. It was Richard’s use of the word “penchant” which has always made me sit up and take notice.

And now this undated letter of Mamma’s…

Mrs Smith wrote in terms of “he” and “she” and at first I was guessing the name of the couple she described. Could it be…??? Surely it was some one else.

“I ought almost to apologize for not having written sooner… I had nothing to tell but conjectures”. “He was in high spirits & talked a good deal…. After that, he became a little graver & she perceived it, & told me her suspicions. She was still in a doubtful state; could think of his age, &c.”

Mamma, ready to let the “she” decide for herself, then plays with her audience, like a cat plays with a mouse – describing minute changes in attitude, attention, spirits, in both “she” and “he”.

“I am told he was dreadfully nervous, could not sleep, & was almost desponding.”

Then, she reports: “in the most respectful & timid manner he made known his attachment, dreading her answer”. The expected outcome is chronicled, but with an odd interjection: “When he had obtained her consent, he was indeed happy: his Family say, he never was in love before. He had been fearing me; & when they came home… you may be sure I received him most kindly… his age & his grey hair are no objections to me: it was the same case with my own dear Husband”.

Finally, she divulges the “she”: MARIA!

Maria Culme-Seymour2

So it IS Sir John who had the grey hair and a great age (he was closing in on 43). Mrs. Smith’s memories of her own youthful marriage to a widower tore at my heart – but back up even more and you’ll see the sentence that causes me concern: “his Family say, he never was in love before.” How can a widower’s family EVER so blot out a first wife??? And who makes up this “family”? — the in-laws (mother, sisters) of the very person Mrs. Smith is writing: her own daughter Fanny Seymour!

Thoughts now crowd into my head that had never been there before – about Sir John; about his first marriage to Elizabeth Culme (he took her name, with his own, by special license); about his penchant for little Maria Smith. Clearly, Sir John — who tackled Mrs. Smith when his brother Richard was looking to marry Fanny (a proposal by proxy) — was a man with a lot to offer, and yet had not the confidence to directly pursue his aims. But what is the meaning behind the words Mamma says came from his own womenfolk? Only time will tell. One source would have been Richard’s diary – but pages and passages are missing in the early years; and these passages may have covered the betrothal of John to Elizabeth.

At least Richard’s diaries are already transcribed… Now I just have to find the time to re-read them, with an eye to deciphering the past and future of Sir John Culme-Seymour.

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Meet me in LOUISVILLE – JASNA AGM 2015

February 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm (jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , , )

The list of breakout speakers for the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA is up. Under the banner title of “LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD”, breakout speaker topics are diverse, and fascinating.

ja world

In the appropriately-named novel Emma, Jane Austen wrote of a marriage – that of Miss Taylor (Emma Woodhouse’s governess and dear friend) to Mr Weston, that resulted in the birth of a child! and a woman’s lying-in or “confinement” is the topic of my breakout talk, taking place in the Saturday, October 10th “D” session.

As before, that means _I_ miss some great speaker, such as: Sheryl Craig (whom I know) on “William Wickham”; Kristen Miller Zohn (whose AGM talk on miniatures I so enjoyed) on “silhouettes”; and Sue Forge on “London High Society” – which readers of this blog will know, I consider my Smiths & Goslings to be, if not “movers and shakers” in society, at least “prevalent” among the party-goers. And here’s why:

Of course, as an AMG participant, I must also pick speakers to hear. Too many to choose among!

Do I hear about Jane Austen’s ideas on being “Past the Bloom” (Stephanie Eddleman) or “A Quack or Dr. House” (Sharon Latham)?? When, equally, I’d dearly love to learn about Embroidery (which I used to enjoy) (Julie Buck)… or Estate Tenants (Linda Slothouber)… or Austen family cookbooks (Julienne Gehrer)… or Village Life (Sara Bowen)… or the treatment of poor George Austen, Jane Austen’s sometimes-forgotten brother (Bridget McAdam).

And that’s only the FIRST session!  Good thing there are several months to think over the possibilities.

I’ll say more, at a later date, about my topic — “Who could be more prepared than she was?”  True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in early 19th Century England — at a later date, but will take the time to say that many of the letters & diaries excerpts come from the copious examples of this Smith & Gosling research. From the “bantling” born in 1790 — the future 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin “Lord Compton”), to the Confinements of Emma Austen herself.

And, no, I won’t forget Mrs Weston!

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Lymington History

October 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm (books, entertainment, history, places, travel) (, , , )

IMAGINE: a letter saved for a good 170 years, in which the chief topic of conversation is a “commission” to buy the letter writer “six or eight pounds” — at the reasonable cost (evidently) of 6 pence per pound — of EPSOM SALTS!

The letter is undated – and there are several contenders for the “Miss Smith” of the letter’s direction and salutation, depending on the date of the letter.

A bit of a catch-22 that.

Without a definitive person OR date I cannot fix on a tentative date OR person!

But within the letter is the mention of a place: LYMINGTON. That being the one place that has the BEST Epsom Salts for this incredible price.

Give the date of the letter must be within the first half of the 19th century, I did wonder if perhaps this was a phonetic spelling; “Lymington,” however, MUST be correct – for the exchange of goods is directed to take place at Aunt Emma’s home in Southampton; and indeed there is such a place – on the coast – as Lymington, within 50 miles of Southampton.

Finding their tourist website, I also found – and this is why I’m posting – their page on Lymington History.

tour isle of wight

And look at the GOODIES found there:

  • Tour to the Isle of Wight (1790) [title page above]
  • History of Lymington (1825) [by David William Garrow]
  • Picturesque Companion to Southampton (1830)
  • Notes from a Pedestrian Excursion (1832)
  • … and MORE!

They also provide links for historical maps of Lymington and some interesting and useful descriptions of the environs (for instance, on the Lymington Marshes, c1840).

The main page has a walking tour (“A Walk around Lymington”) as well as a nice page (with maps) on “Along the Solent Way”.

 

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In Nelson’s Navy: Seaman Hodge

May 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Searching for letters and manuscripts (I need to tap into the network of people who buy/sell letters – I want MORE scans of MORE letters!), I came across old information – but it’s too good to miss passing along to readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen — for what did Jane Austen follow with great intensity, but the exploits of the Royal Navy. Specifically, of course, the movements of her Sailor Brothers.

It seems we are still – 2/3 years later – in the dark about the purchaser of this little gem: See this wonderful post by Joan Druett.

Joan also fills in the background of the Diary of Seaman George Hodge. In 2009 – and you can find many press stories about this – the diary was put up for auction through a firm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire [so close to my home in Vermont!].

As you can guess from the above illustration, Seaman Hodge was an able artist as well. So I join the cry, if a bit late then at least with some earnest shouts: Please Publish the Diary of George Hodge!

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