Missed Opportunity: Clarissa Trant Diary

August 7, 2015 at 8:17 am (books, diaries, history, people) (, , , , , )

As mentioned in a couple of places, I’ve been finding some nice tidbits at the blog of the Essex Record Office (ERO). This one disheartened me a bit: in January 2015 they had an original diary written by Clarissa Trant (later, Mrs John Bramston) on display!

trant diary

I first “met” Clarissa Trant through her published journals, long before I ever knew that she was sort of affiliated with my Smiths & Goslings: John Bramston once proposed to Emma’s sister Charlotte Smith! He was a neighbor to the Smiths of Suttons, living at Skreens.

I well remember taking a few moments out of my research at Duke University to take a look at the microfilm of Clarissa’s later diaries: had she said anything about the death of Mary Lady Smith? Alas: it seemed not! There that was, after John was refused (1830), some amount of tension between him and the Smiths is evident – for mention is made of its slight abatement later. But how that extended to his new household I cannot really say: the Smiths likewise didn’t mention HER either (except when news of their engagement went around; John had written to Spencer Smith, informing him – and thereby information ALL the Smiths, as he must have known).

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, Clarissa’s early journal, of 1815, was chosen as “Document of the Month” for January 2015. The archive had the diary on DISPLAY that month! Ah, a missed opportunity, though I’ve not visited ERO for eight years.

THIS JUST IN: ERO’s blog also had a post called “Could this be our smallest document?” It turns out to have belonged to CLARISSA TRANT!!! Click the link to see what it is, and they have to store it. I bet you 5p that you’ll be surprised!!!

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The Case of the “Noble Torso”

July 2, 2015 at 11:30 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , )

Research can be exhilarating…

Research can be frustrating….

And some days, there’s a little bit of BOTH the ‘high’ and the ‘low’!

bright star_letter

When a letter was delivered, it was all nice and tight in its “wrapper”. By the time it’s gotten into an archive (perhaps after being at auction, or in the hands of some seller not family), envelopes are opened, letters are categorized, and sometimes… separated. Thus: the Noble Torso, as I am now calling such little widows and orphans.

As a for-instance: letters in a folder marked “Unidentified writers” => which can be due to illegible signatures or missing signatures. In here I found an interesting letter, all about the Smith’s LAST VISIT (in 1835 – puzzlingly; that was a good 7 or 8 months after they moved to Mapledurham House!) to Tring Park. I transcribed, relishing the tale of the garden (seen in May, and quite flourishing). Then – bang! – it ended in what seemed mid-thought.

I dipped into another folder, for there were two to choose from: one “dated” and another “undated”. I wasn’t having much luck “dipping”. So I decided: GIVE UP! Just start transcribing from the Beginning! and I opened the first image I had photographed in a “dated” file: and there IT was: the Noble Torso that finished a highly interesting story of a Young Buck, out shooting Rooks, whose shot (or shots?) was rather wild and wide off the mark: Poor Maria (Emma’s youngest sister) wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to shoot her!

FINALLY: a united LETTER!! (though, as a new “find” I still have to contact the archive, so physically, they are still apart…).

I then looked for the widow of yet another orphaned Noble Torso: and THERE its companion was (though not as *dramatic* a moment as that first “find”).

I must confess here, that in England I grew rather fond of Emma and (especially!!!) Mamma = for theirs were the letters (and diaries) I brought home in 2007 (and have worked with since). Fanny, the middle sister, I was giving a lecture on that summer, so she too I grew to know more about — yet it was different to being immersed in her thoughts and feelings via letters. Now, with an influx of more correspondence – and from the likes of Fanny (or to her) and Maria and even dear Spencer – I feel as if I’m getting to know each of them. A tight family unit, and yet still individuals, with quirks & foibles, passions & set-backs, all their own.

Frustrating … and … EXHILARATING!


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Giving Thanks – and always

November 24, 2011 at 10:13 am (news, research) (, , , )

Today, and every day, I give thanks for this fascinating project! And for all of you who read about it, and especially those of you contributing to it!

Here’s just a short list of people who have bits, parts, and pieces of this project; some have even found me, through this blog:

Alan Godfrey – letters to, from & about Fanny Seymour.
Jeremy Catto, Oxford University, owns Drummond’s letter book, into which were copied all his letters to his sisters; and a bow to Rob Petrie who photographed the book page-by-page.
Mark Woodford – his father purchased an obscure diary, which just happens to be the earliest known diary (1798) written by Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith, of Suttons).
Angela in Alberta, Canada shared with me her transcription of a truly delightful letter penned in 1824 by Augusta Smith (Mrs Henry Wilder, of Purley).
Jacky in Maidstone, England shared so many letters and journals; especially dear to my heart is Maria’s Progress, an astonishing book Mamma wrote over the years about her youngest child. Jacky’s favorites are Aunt Emma’s travel journals; precious indeed.

Mike E. in Surrey was among the first to really offer “help” – he’s taken photos, dug in databases and archives, visited churches.
Mike H. at Tring Park has sent items and photos that truly flesh out the Smiths’ Tring era.
Charlotte Frost volunteered to be my “eyes” at Oxford, and photographed three albums of drawings; she also shared her biography on Sir William Knighton (Richard Seymour’s uncle) and some research notes.
Craig in Australia had ties to the family’s Essex past, and he alerted me to the sale of the one letter I am grateful to say I own.
Eliza shared the precious image of Mimi Smith.

Caroline Benson, at the Museum of Rural English Life (Reading), helped me obtain photos.
Mark Booth, Robert Eyre, Robert Pitt, and Clare Murdoch helped with the microfilm of Richard Seymour’s diaries, held at the Warwickshire Record Office. I am currently transcribing these.

Jenny Sherwood‘s writings on John Culme-Seymour has led to the discovery of several photos of John & Maria.
Robin Jenkins kindly alerted me to the Macklin Album, which surely has ties to Aunt Emma Smith, of Glenville.

Freydis and Damaris have shared great conversation about their forebears.

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