Caroline Wiggett Remembers Austen/Vyne Neighbors

December 30, 2011 at 10:23 am (a day in the life, chutes of the vyne, diaries, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

From the mouth of babes — or at least those (in 1869) who were once babes, and reminiscing about their lives c1803!

Caroline Wiggett was “adopted” by Eliza and William Chute. Cousin to William Chute of The Vyne, and the youngest of seven motherless children, Caroline went to live at The Vyne when she was 3-and-half years old. Caroline always called them Aunt and Uncle Chute.

This silhouette of Caroline as a young woman (left) graced the cover of the Jane Austen Journal (published by the British Library a couple years ago; still available on Amazon).

When in England four-and-a-half years ago, one manuscript I transcribed was Caroline Wiggett Workman’s Reminiscences, which she wrote for her nephew Chaloner Chute, among others. Re-reading it tonight, in light of Ellie Bennett’s thoughts, the list of neighbors she recalled as being important to the Chutes pops, like reading an Austen biography.

Caroline is remembering what life was like when she was first adopted, and the neighbors whom came and went and provided friends for the Chutes, as well as playmates for the lonely little girl.

We start with the Brocas family of Beaurepaire, which remained largely untenanted, but was sometimes inhabited by “old Mrs Brocas, step grand mother to the late Mr. Brocas.”

In the village of St John (called West Sherborne), there lived the rector “old Dr. Hall,” his wife and sister. “These we visited now & then”.

Mrs C. Blackstone and her daughter Margaret — a particular friend to Caroline, as they were of a same age — lived at Worting; “at the Upper house an old Mrs. Blackstone & her nephew (who was then the rector) & her daughter Harriett lived, relations to Mrs. C. Blackstone.” At the Great House was Mr. and Mrs Clarke – a sister to Lady Mildmay; they had several children. “We were often in that house as my Aunt was very partial to the family.”

Her next estate is Manydown, where lived “Mr. Wither & three daughters” – Mrs. Heathcote (a widow, whose son William was friend to young James Edward Austen), Miss Alethea Bigg & Miss Kitty. “These frequently rode to the Vyne, as my Uncle was very partial to old Mr Wither, so we were on most intimate terms with the family. I was very fond of visiting them”.

She next mentions the James Austens (Mary Lloyd, his second wife; Anna, Edward, and Caroline his three children); distance — to Steventon — seems a bit of an impediment, but James was of course the Rector of Sherborne and therefore their clergyman.

Colonel & Mrs Cunnyinghame with 7 children lived at Malshanger, she was a great friend of my Aunt’s”. Mrs Sclater and two maiden sisters lived at Tangier. Mrs & Mrs Bramton (Mrs B the sister of William Chute) lived at Oakley Hall. Lady Hicks was another married Chute sister. “Miss Elizabeth Chute took a small house at Oakley to be near her sister Mrs. Bramston”.

“The Crooks lived at Kempshot. On the Aldermaston side, we visited the Mounts, father of the Late W. Mount; there were 4 or 5 daughters…., the eldest afterwards married Mr. Michael Beach. We were very intimate in that house, also at Sulhamstead” — home of the Thoyts.

“There were many other neighours whom I have not mentioned, who used to dine at the Vyne, but those mentioned were those whom we saw most of, & with whom we were most intimate.”

* * *

Rupert Willoughby (an Austenian-sounding name!) has written several books that will be of interest to those looking for information on locale, or neighbors, or the Chutes. Willoughby’s website has a detailed listing of his books:

      • Basingstoke and Its Contribution to World Culture
      • Reading and its Contributions to World Culture
      • Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village
      • Shelborne: Gilbert White’s Village, with a guide to his house; with illustrations by Julie Anne Hudson
      • Sherborne St John & The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen
      • A Key to Odiham Castle
      • Life in Medieval England
      • The Incredible Journey of Victor Hugo’s Dog (forthcoming)

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Ellie Bennett on Jane Austen: Unseen Portrait

December 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm (chutes of the vyne, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Writer Ellie Bennett, on her blog Bikes, Boots and Boats, has THREE lengthy write-ups about the BBC2 Special, Paula Byrne’s portrait, and — yes, even a few thoughts for my dear Eliza Chute!

(By the way, Ms Bennett spells her name the same way Lady Cunliffe {Mary’s maternal grandmother} spelled her maiden name — which accounts for Mary’s brother Bennett Gosling)

        • PART 1 – background; includes info on Mr Foster, MP
        • PART II – a Wiggett-Chute connection to the Fosters?
        • PART III – thoughts on Eliza Chute & the portrait

I want to pay some particular attention to the thoughts on the Wiggett-Chutes: I don’t know why, but I had wondered — as Eliza Chute’s “items” (diaries, letters, etc) seem to have gone to various family members — if maybe this portrait hadn’t traveled to Caroline Wiggett Workman somehow… I mean, if Edward Austen Leigh had known about the portrait, surely he’d have used it as a basis for the engraving, rather than having the Maidenhead artist Andrews provide an ‘interim’ between Cassandra’s drawing and the engraving used in the Memoir.

Read along with me, to find what Ellie has uncovered…

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Maria — Found!

May 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

Sometimes LUCK is finally with you.

Using some different search engines, I hit paydirt with BING: a 2009 sale at Bonhams – of this precious miniature of Maria, Lady Culme-Seymour. It originally sold out of the family in 1972, via Sotheby’s. I’d LOVE to know what other items were sold then…

Maria Smith was Emma’s youngest sister. She married, in 1844, Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour, bart., the eldest brother — and a fellow clergyman — of Fanny’s husband, Richard Seymour. These two Seymours were also brothers of Spencer’s wife Frances! And, by the way, in 1845, Charlotte’s widower Arthur Currie married Dora Chester — Dora was another Seymour sister. So this family was popular with the Smiths of Suttons!

This miniature, painted by Sir William Charles Ross, RA, can be seen in a wider-angle closeup on this blog, or view the full portrait at Bonhams (their background info is exceptionally interesting). If painted around the same time as her mother-in-law (Lady Seymour, the former Jane Hawker), then this could date to c1846 — and Maria would be about 32 years old.

Caroline Wiggett Workman, adopted daughter of William and Eliza Chute, describes young Maria as “rather spoilt”, yet Mamma Smith recognizes that little Maria had much sorrow in the early years of her life: her father died before she was born; she lost a sister-in-law, two brothers, and a most-beloved aunt by the time she was 18. Some of Maria’s letters have ended up in private collections, perhaps these first hit the market about the time this miniature first sold, at the Sotheby’s sale of 27 March 1972.

This latest sale took place in November 2009 – and little Maria sold for £2,400.

The “smith nose” looks quite evident here (first noticed on a silhouette of brother Drummond); compare this sibling portrait with that of Emma drawn by Mrs Carpenter (attributed) at the Hampshire Record Office.

Ain’t she lovely!!

By the way: One private collector has sent me images of relevant letters in his collection, and there is one Maria letter dating to this period. I include her closing signature:

Note that she signs herself Maria L. Seymour — Maria Louisa Seymour, rather than including the Culme; yet if you don’t look for Culme Seymour, you wouldn’t find this miniature in an internet search! From various sources, including some original letters, I have begun a page of SIGNATURES (see the menu at the right). A neat little collection, don’t you think?

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Secrets of The Vyne

April 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm (chutes of the vyne) (, , , , , )

Callie, in Montreal, who is a great traveller and soon heads to England, told me of a little video about The Vyne on the National Trust’s webpage for the estate. I post a link to the PAGE here, because I have problems viewing the video (is it security settings on my computer?) — the video “box” doesn’t even show up: it’s just blank space where, on other computers, the little “box” is. So if you can’t watch this, try what I did: Another computer (libraries might be a good place to start).

VERY interesting! They’ve a maid servant, MARY, who introduces you to the house through its masters and mistresses — including Eliza Chute (here called ‘Elizabeth’, which rather threw me off! I don’t think she’s ever called that by ANYONE!). You get to see rooms, and (especially close to my heart) some drawings done by Eliza, her sister Augusta and Miss Meen. I’m still not convinced (as the National Trust seems to be; why ARE they convinced?) that Miss Meen was their governess – but I’ve not delved into her life; not sure there is much beyond the letters and diaries (in which she is frequently mentioned, I must say, years and years later). As an artist, and one who taught Queen Charlotte and her daughters, I would think she earned money more by painting and giving lessons than being a governess. But more about thoughts on her later…

Two things picked up from this video: the pronunciation of CHUTE and SANDYS. In my head Sandys, the early owners of The Vyne, were pronounced with two syllables: San-dis. Not so! Sands… of course. And Chute? I always thought of them as Shute, in fact it seems they would have called themselves Chewt!

This video prompted me to look for others. And there is a second wonderful one on The Vyne on YouTube (pity this is not a full-length video, but I’ll take what I can get); the poster is obviously interested in the Tudors and therefore this section is highlighted by the Sandys family and their ‘Vine’; some lovely images of the Chapel – but that is the point at which the snippet ends. If anyone has the entire video and wants to share, do let me know.

I see the National Trust is offering GROUNDED tourists FREE entry to their properties! What a wonderful opportunity at such a stressful time. One friend, in Russia, was routed out of the ash’s way — which added three hours to his trip: but at least he got home!

Another, short, bit of interest to tales attached to The Vyne: I was flipping through volume two of Memoirs of a Highland Lady. Elizabeth at the end talks of giving birth to her first child, daughter Janey (named after her sister). Don’t I see something QUITE of interest as I leaf through:

“I daresay it was very good for me to try to wait upon myself, however as Mr Workman of Basingstoke, who was to attend me, was not easy about me, as he told Jane, a proper monthly nurse was sent for to town…”

Now as Elizabeth writes that he was “to attend her,” then she must mean him when she speaks of “The clever little strange Doctor” who “brought us both thro’.”

Why does this excite me? Why does this man, with no first name and who doesn’t even rate a mention in the index, leap from the page? (This index is NOT half as good as it could/should be, and this the “full” edition of the Memoirs! Lady Strachey’s edition cuts out ALL mention of him, by the way.) 

Why? Because surely the man is none other than Thomas Workman, who attended Caroline Wiggett (adopted daughter of the Chutes), and married her in September 1837! So here is a book, long in my possession, about a “Highland Lady” and she’s known TWO people in the Smith circle! Sometimes the world indeed IS a small one.

By the way, by excluding mentions of Mr Workman, Lady Strachey, as editor, also edited out that Elizabeth was in labor from Saturday the last day of June (when she “took ill”, as everyone called labor at the time) until Janey was born on 3 July. Poor woman! No wonder Elizabeth wrote of Workman saving the lives of mother and child even after her own sister seemed to give up hope of them coming through okay.

Short note: Internet Archive has Lady’s Strachey’s 1911 edition, which included several family portraits — including one of Elizabeth’s sister JANE (opposite page 318). Such an evocative portrait! (They also have the 3rd impression of the 1898 edition.)

So now I’ve more digging to do, though I would be surprised if Elizabeth’s Mr Workman and Caroline’s are two different people.

Reading about him brought me back to Caroline’s Recollections – and her wonderful memories of the Smiths, Goslings, Colebrookes and Chutes. Her thoughts on her own life are precious indeed — but I say that about all the tidbits I find about this circle of people. Caroline’s portrait (above) — done by Eliza Chute! — was snatched from the NT video (which is why it’s none too clear).

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