Anna Lefroy: “the sloppy lane through Steventon & Dean”

May 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm (history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , )

Anna Lefroy – sister-in-law to my Emma Austen Leigh – left a fourteen-page letter, written at the behest of James Edward Austen Leigh (when he was working on the Memoir of Jane Austen), describing her memories (or lack of) of their Aunt Jane.

anna-lefroyAnna (1793-1872), the eldest child of Jane’s eldest brother James, was certainly in a position to recall her aunt: if only she’d kept diaries or retained letters written in her youth! Her half-sister Caroline, had recourse to her mother’s diaries, those written by Mary (Lloyd) Austen, when writing up her own reminiscences.

Reading an article published by Deirdre Le Faye in 1988 (in The Review of English Studies), in which Anna’s letter was published in full, caused me to chuckle reading the first image young Anna recalled:

“I look back to the first period but find little that I can grasp of any substance, or certainty: it seems now all so shadowy! I recollect the frequent visits of my two Aunts, & how they walked in wintry weather through the sloppy lane between Steventon & Dean in pattens, usually worn at that time even by gentlewomen.”

In the course of writing, however, anecdotes slowly came back to Anna; this is one of the most delightful:

“I have been told that one of her earliest Novels (Pride & Prejudice) was read aloud (in MS of course) in the Parsonage at Dean, whilst I was in the room, & not expected to listen — Listen however I did with so much interest, & with so much talk afterwards about ‘Jane & Elizabeth’ that it was resolved for prudence sake, to read no more of the story aloud in my hearing.”

and

“the two years before my marriage, & the two or three years after, when we lived, as you know almost close to Chawton when the original 17 years between us seemed to shrink to 7 — or to nothing — It comes back to me now how strangely I miss her…”

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Miss Mary A. Leigh

January 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm (jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

mary augusta austen leighs

As mentioned a few days ago, Paul Frecker’s website includes a photo by Camille Silvy of a woman identified as “Miss Mary A. Leigh” — my immediate thought: Mary Augusta Austen Leigh?

Truthfully: I just don’t know!

On the left is Frecker’s sitter, ID’ed as sitting number 10,508 taking place on 10 July 1862 – which puts her in Silvy’s Daybook 8. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive “gallery” of the Daybooks. They, however, are not exceptionally enlightening on this young lady.

Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (right) was a younger daughter of Emma Smith and Edward Austen Leigh (see their portraits); she was born on 2 February 1838, her aunt Mary’s 38th birthday! It is a curious fact that Emma’s diaries all have pages cut out whenever she delivers a child. 1838 is no different. These pages are missing, and a small notation in pencil “2d Mary Augusta born” on a remaining page.

On the 21 March, Emma writes, “Baby was christened by the names of Mary Augusta — Ed: christened her — Her Sponsors were Mrs. Lefroy  Lady Smith (Julia her proxy) & Denis (Mr E. Lefroy his proxy).”

Mrs. Benjamin Lefroy was the former Anna Austen, Edward’s half-sister. Lady Smith – my Mary – was surely the person for whom “Baby” was named. The Augusta could be for either Emma’s sister (died 1836) and/or mother. Baby’s third sponsor was Eliza Smith’s husband, Denis Le Marchant.

Looking around for mentions of Mary A. Leigh and Mary Austen Leigh, I found notice of a portrait listed in the Royal Academy of Arts: exhibited in 1856, #954 “Miss Mary Austen Leigh” painted by Edmund Havell, Jr (1819-1894). I asked to have the identity of the painter of the little portrait, which is young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, but no signature can be detected. Could this be the Edmund Havell  portrait? — UPDATE: 1/25 I’ve seen a more detailed photograph of the little portrait (it’s gorgeous!), it seems a drawing with chalk highlights and pastels. I know very little about Havell, but suspect he painted in oils — unless this was a preliminary sketch for a full work in oils. Without more information about the 1856 exhibition’s work, and without more knowledge of the original (above) portrait, all is supposition, I’m afraid.

I have one vote against Miss Mary A. Leigh being Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. I want to think it the same person, especially after viewing this pair of portraits of Catherine Anne Austen (daughter of Frank Austen, [follow the arrows under the photo to read Frank’s entire entry]).

Help! What do YOU think?

* * *

UPDATE: transcribing some pages from the 1856 diary of the Rev. Richard Seymour, there comes a visit from “Emma and her 2 daughters”. Then he notes their departure: “Emma  Amy – Mary Leigh left us for Bray” = note the use during this period of the sole familial name: LEIGH. He was not alone in that designation.

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It’s a Small Jane Austen World

July 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In Friday’s post (hurray!) was the 2nd Sarah Markham book — really the one I wanted most because of its subject, which you can glean from its title: A Testimony of Her Times: Based on Penelope Hind’s Diaries and Correspondence, 1787-1838.

A slight aside: Penelope Loveday Benwell Hind was born in 1759 and died in 1846; so the title dates are NOT her lifespan!

When I found mention of this book online – and quickly located a nice (used) copy at a fair price, I awaited its arrival impatiently because of the time period and, also, I’m a sucker for any account based on an English woman’s life. Will say this of the book: EXCELLENT! Locate a copy ASAP, it will NOT disappoint.

There were MANY connections to other diary/correspondence/biography I have collected over the years: there were mentions of the Countess of Ilchester (the Talbot family) mentioned in A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter; the Byngs — see the Torrington Diaries — were relations of the Lovedays; the Berrys — ie, Mary Berry of the Walpole correspondence — comes in for frequent visits; Felbrigg Hall comes up once or twice (must admit to boredom so I never read more than the first book about the National Trust caretakers of the estate).  Then came this, on page 85; the Hinds are removing Pen’s sister Sarah to their home in Findon, Sussex:

“The first day’s journey was quite short as they spent the night at SPEEN HILL with a FRIEND, MRS CRAVEN, who had formerly lived at Chilton House…” There is then a footnote explaining about Mrs Craven — though with no mention of her Austen connection; that comes from JA’s Letters. Mrs Craven’s elder son was Fulwar Craven. (I’ll let you consult your own Letters to puzzle out the Fulwars-Cravens-Fowles-Austens.)

Of Mrs Craven, Le Faye writes: “1779 [married] Catherine Hughes, daughter of James Hughes of Letcombe, Berks., and had two sons and one daughter; lived at BARTON Court  and also at Chilton Foliat, Wilts” — which is where the Lovedays would have encountered her. Husband John Craven died in 1804; Mrs Craven in 1839.

Then this morning, MORE Austen connections. A great friend to Pen Hind’s first husband (William Benwell) was the Rev. James Ventris. He continued a friend and “since he had stayed with them [the Hinds] he had been presented to the living of Beeding, not far away, and lived at Beeding Priory. In May 1816 he married Jane Hinton, daughter of the former rector of CHAWTON, whom they liked very much.” Miss Hinton herself appears in JA’s Letters; and the family are in Le Faye’s Biographical Index. Mrs Ventris is the “Jane II” who lived 1771-1856. Her brother, John-Knight Hinton, joined the suit of James-Hinton Baverstock against Edward Austen Knight in 1814 “for possession of his Hampshire estates” (Edward settled in 1818, paying 15,000 pounds).

Mrs Ventris’ sister, Mary, had a daughter – Elizabeth Wells — who married the nephew of Pen Hind! Arthur and Elizabeth Loveday had a son, another Arthur (for Pen also had a brother Arthur). This family, who’s little history is coming up in Testimony, became related to the Lefroys when young Arthur married the youngest daughter of Anna Austen and Ben Lefroy! (Anna, of course, was elder sister to James Edward Austen Leigh and Caroline Mary Craven Austen.)

Have to wonder, with all the letters and diaries that could exist in the Loveday-Hind-Wells-Craven-Hinton etc circle, if there aren’t some uncovered mentions of the Austens… Jane included.

BTW: Happy 4th of July!

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