Boswell and Miss Gregg

August 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history, people, research) (, , , )

On Wednesday the 2nd of March, 1791, James Boswell set down in his diary news of his evening’s entertainment:

Boswell_biographer

“… I dined today at Mr. Gregg’s in the City,… In the evening Miss Gregg played both on the harpsichord and harp and sung admirable well. But I felt none of the fondness for her which made me once rave [fn: This is the sole reference to Boswell’s earlier fondness for Miss Gregg.], and it seemed awkward to me. I stole away in time to be at the Essex Head Club, and not be obliged to act also at supper.”

Miss Gregg – the future Caroline Carr (Mrs. Ralph Carr of Stannington) – was a friend to Miss Augusta Smith (aka “Mamma”) and her sisters, staying at Erle Stoke Park (in Wiltshire), before her marriage.

In the near future, Caroline Carr would become the sister-in-law of Maria Gosling, my diarist Mary’s “Aunt Gregg“. Caroline Gregg and Ralph Carr married in 1793, while Maria Gosling and Henry Gregg married in 1794. Mr. Carr was brother to Harriet Cheney (née Carr), whose watercolor portraits were auctioned at Christie’s in 2005. Harriet painted this little portrait of Lady Compton (née Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane), which was among those sold:

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

The little girl is Lady Marianne Compton, her eldest daughter.

I’ve an interest in the Gregg-Gosling-Smith-Carr connection, for there are several letters that tell about the ladies of this generation, interacting with each other. The Boswell sighting has long been known, but was just a little vignette. A moment, all its own.

After last evening, I can add a little “history” to the young Caroline Gregg. She shows up in the book The History of the Family of Carr of Dunston Hill, Co. Durham (1893), the first volume of three in an exhaustive family history. What a FIND!

The young couple lived at 7 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury; they moved in 1800 to No. 18 Bloomsbury Street (in a house that remained in family possession until 1871). Vacations were spent with the in-laws at Dunston Hill, “travelling in two post-chaises, servants riding. The great cost of travelling at that time is shewn by the fact that the journey each way cost over £50.” (A not-insignificant sum, when some households lived on 350 pounds – or less – a year.)

 The country estate the Carrs called home, from circa 1806, was Barrow Point Hill, in Pinner.

The book’s author offers this summation of Caroline (Gregg) Carr:

This gentle and talented lady was especially distinguished as a musician, both in singing and as a pianist and harpist. She had had the advantage of the best masters, and her fame as an amateur pianist was such that the great Haydn paid a visit to her father’s house in London to hear her play. She was the composer of several musical pieces, one March being written at the express request of the Marquis of Northampton [ie, Emma Smith’s uncle], for the use of his regiment, and has since been highly approved by more than one military band.” Caroline also had an interest in the works of Handel, possessing in score (over several volumes) “all his works”.

Caroline had been born in 1770, and was therefore about 21 years old when her singing and playing entertained James Boswell. How young she might have been when first attracting his eye can be guessed at from mentions of her brother Francis Gregg in 1788, and more especially time spent at “Mrs. Gregg’s” (either Caroline’s sister-in-law, or mother) in 1790.

She died in 1823, aged only 53. She was buried at Pinner Church.

What the book does not touch upon is the strife Caroline and Ralph endured from their respective families, especially Mr. Gregg. Letters in the Northumberland Archives speak of the “cruel treatment meted out to himself [Ralph Carr] and Caroline by her father”. Ralph Carr seems to have had as variable a temper as Mr. Gregg, for Eliza Gosling (Maria Gregg’s sister-in-law) writes of him keeping his wife away from “her own relations … even her Mother.”

As far as Boswell is concerned, however, Mrs. Carr doesn’t yet exist – only Miss Gregg, at her piano or harp, existed to cause him unease.

From the book comes this “charming” signature – oh! for the letters…

signature_caroline gregg

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News! News! News!

May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am (books, entertainment, people, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Two *new* portraits join my little gallery… They were found while looking for something totally different (isn’t that always the case?!).

My first was this delightful portrait of Wilmina Maclean Clephane:

I was looking to update information on my current writing project, about Fanny( Smith) Seymour, and wanted to double check information about Torloisk (on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). This was the home of the three Maclean Clephane sisters. Don’t remember them?? I can’t blame you — there are so many names and people to remember, aren’t there?

The Clephane sisters were wards of writer Walter Scott; Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815 — and Emma recorded the events of Margaret’s homecoming (see my article at the JASNA website equating this event to a proposed welcome for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy). Spencer and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton were the only cousins the Smiths of Suttons had. Emma came to know the Clephane girls — the other two being Anna-Jane and Wilmina — fairly well, and even wrote of meeting Walter Scott himself!

**Read about the Clephanes’ connection to early music for the Gaelic Harp**

How wonderful to read Walter Scott’s (online) journal and see this; it’s September, 1827:

“September 6. — Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance… I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck’s Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their back.” Read more ….

Margaret was the eldest (born 1791), Wilmina the youngest (born 1803); they and Compton are extremely prevalent in the Scott correspondence. Such fun to read of Margaret, when a young bride newly brought home to Castle Ashby, entertaining her guests with Scottish Song and Music, such as Emma recorded witnessing. Margaret was a dab hand at art as well, which brings me back to Harriet Cheney.

The Cheney name is one VERY familiar from letters and diaries. And, besides, the Cheney family were related to the Carrs/Carr Ellisons and they end up in Mary Gosling’s extended family! Again: a small world.

Harriet Cheney, whose Italian sketchbooks went up for auction in 2005 at Christie’s, not only sketched places, but also those whom she came across. Wilmina was one; her sister Margaret and her family was another:

Here, Margaret is depicted with her daughter Marianne Compton (the future Lady Alford). Other images not “illustrated” at Christie’s includes other children and also Spencer Lord Compton! Such treasures.

**Read Karen E. McAulay‘s PhD thesis Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting, c1760-1888**

Look at all 110 lots (Wilmina is Lot 44; Margaret and Marianne are Lot 45) at Christie’s. There is even a specimen of the artistry of Wilmina herself at Lot 87.

I swear that Emma called Wilmina’s husband Baron de Normann (Christie’s cites de Norman). Was it Emma’s spelling, or how he spelled his name ?? Always tricky to tell during this time period, when spelling was somewhat fluid — even for names! Christie’s seems to have obtained the name from the signature on the art itself, but who knows…

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