Where Art Thou?

April 25, 2009 at 10:19 am (books) (, , , , , , , , )

Thirty-five years ago a series of diaries got dropped off by their then-owner in order for the WARWICKSHIRE RECORD OFFICE to microfilm them. That roll of microfilm is the one I worked with in 2007. Unable to travel again to England, I recently contacted the WRO to request a copy of that microfilm. ALAS: they need to contact the owner, for whom they only have a 1974 address!

I more expected them to inform me that they had no master and could not copy the research room’s copy. Instead, this conundrum! How to find someone, or more likely that someone’s heirs, thirty-five years later?!? However, the archivist who contacted me said he/she would try – and I gratefully accepted that slim hope.

But this situation made me think of the one published account, with extracts from the diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton (Fanny’s husband). The book, published in 1954, is THE NINETEENTH CENTURY COUNTRY PARSON, edited by A. Tindal Hart and Edward Carpenter.

The preface to the text thanks “Miss A.M. Seymour, The Diaries of Richard Seymour.” Its opening line acknowledges that “we are inevitably and deeply indebted to a large number of contributors, who had lent us unpublished diaries or furnished oral reminiscences of parsons they have known. It is, unfortunately, quite impossible to record all their names here; but we should like, publicly, to thank those from whose MSS we are reproducing extracts in Part II.” Richard’s diaries, of course, make up part of Part II.

I must confess that it is heartening to see that the diaries were still in family hands in the 1950s (the preface is dated 1951), though that seem so long ago now… nearly sixty years.

Richard’s early diaries give vital information on his relationship to Fanny and her family; they even record Richard’s bedside visits to the dying William Gosling (Mary’s father). What more they hold, I could not uncover during my way-too-brief look at them. In the introduction to the Seymour section, Hart & Carpenter write: “The Diary itself, which stretches unbroken from January 1st, 1832 until November 26th, 1873, presents a day to day picture of the life and work of one of the more prosperous and better connected nineteenth century country rectors. And what a busy and varied life it was! There are long pleasant holidays spent on the continent and in nearly every part of the British Isles; there are visits to well-to-do relations in their lovely country residences; and there are sight-seeing jaunts to the Metropolis. Kinwarton rectory and gardens were large, but so was the family and the staff of servants. When the Seymours were in residence the house always seemed to be overflowing with guests…” Indeed, among the guests would be Mary’s children, especially her two daughters, who rather floated from the homes of various relations in the years between the death of their grandmother Mrs Smith in 1845 and their brother reaching his majority in 1848. They raised funds for new service books, which were gifted to St. Mary’s, Kinwarton, on Christmas Day, 1847.

Takeley Local Historical Society (see their section called “Loose Ends”) has long sought information on the whereabouts of the diaries of the Rev. Robert Hart (grandfather of Arthur Tindal Hart); and now I ask: If anyone can help secure permission for WRO to copy their roll of microfilm, please contact me!

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