Anything Exciting? Reading Other People’s Letters

July 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm (history, people, research) (, , , , , , )

A friend recently asked:

How about your letters, anything exciting?

As I typed my reply, the thought came: this would interest readers of Two Teens, too — or so I hope.

I’m just scaling the heights, after an influx of new-to-me information; mainly letters, but also a few early diaries. Here are some early thoughts on the *new* material:

pen and letters
“Can’t say I’ve come across anything that would be termed exciting in and of itself; just a build-up of family history. Seems quite a few letters were saved from a period in Emma’s life when she was “sought after” by Arthur Perceval. She certainly didn’t find him ‘attractive’; but gosh she experienced such ANGST over her negative thoughts!

“HARD not to wonder if she didn’t already think about Edward Austen – though this was a good 3 years before they married…

“I knew a few letters along this line existed, but there turned out to be more! And those letters from 1825 that I thought would be primarily about Charles and his recent bereavement, turned out to be MORE letters about Mr Perceval! The Oxford collection, though, had an interesting twist on the tale: Mr P visited Suttons! A bit of an uncomfortable encounter for them both.

“And in the end? he married someone else, seemingly rather quickly. Almost an “any girl will do”, rather like Mr Collins. (from your favorite: Pride and Prejudice.)

“The letters of Lady Northampton to her husband are – of themselves – not much. Short, written (and sent) nearly every day. Such longing for his return! and it seems they were SHORT (and frequent) because HE disliked long letters! So as a group, they are quite of use. She wrote her daughter in the same way. Never having much to say, but always keeping the conversation going.

“The question, now, is: If HER letters exist, what happened to those sent TO her?! Weren’t those saved??”

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Spencer Compton, fossilist

April 24, 2014 at 9:17 pm (estates, history, jasna, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Spencer Compton — often described here as “Lord Compton”, for in his youth he was his father’s heir and only in 1828 did he become “Lord Northampton”. Emma’s “Uncle Northampton” (the first Marquess) is whom I typically refer to here as Lord Northampton.

Spencer Compton, only brother of Lady Elizabeth Compton (the future Lady Elizabeth Dickins, wife of Charles Scrase Dickins), married in 1815 Margaret Maclean Clephane – one of three sisters who were wards of Walter Scott.

Philip Compton, archive researcher to the current Marquess, has written an informative article, published in The Geoscientist, the Fellowship Magazine of the Geological Society of London, on Spencer Compton’s interest in collecting fossils and his correspondence with imminent scientists. To read a side of Spencer, Lord Compton which you will rarely see discussed here, click on the picture below.

SpencerCompton

Alternate link to the PDF of the entire issue
(more information on Spencer Compton at Wikipedia)

The article, entitled “Through the Looking Glass,” is nicely illustrated – including of Lord Northampton (first cousin of Emma Austen Leigh) and his home, Castle Ashby (which Emma knew well).

Permalink 2 Comments

Further Thoughts on Four Sisters

September 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

Today commences some time off work for me; I hope to do some catching up on research! To that end, I’ve been reading letters from the 1790s, specifically, at the moment, letters of Sarah Smith to her daughter, the newly-married Eliza Chute (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne).

In looking for more information on Maud Tomlinson Berkeley (my latest book purchase: Maud: The Illustrated Diary of a Victorian Woman, edited by Flora Fraser [I’m dying to know where the ORIGINAL diary is…]), I came across the book Victorian Honeymoons. Dipping into it online (UVM has a copy), I saw much about the honeymoon of Effie Grey and John Ruskin. Since John never, in Effie’s words, made her “his wife”, one concludes that other wedding nights could not be half so disastrous.

In truth, though, I can never know the intimate thoughts of Eliza Chute on this most momentous, and highly personal, aspect of life.

But, musing on such moments, the thought struck me: here, in one family of four girls, we have four case-studies in the various dilemmas life offers:

  • Maria, the eldest, undoutedly “married well”: A young man seemingly enamoured of her; with prospects of a title and a large landed estate (or two…. ). A catch worthy of being in the same league as Mr Darcy of Pemberley; only Lord Compton of Castle Ashby was real once. There are letters describing Maria’s anxiety for Lord Compton (as he was styled before his father’s death in 1796); some relating to his duties with the Militia, some relating to illness. Maria produced, in the end, the traditional “heir” — but in her case there was no “spare”: her first-born and third-born sons died within a short time of their births. Only her second baby (Spencer, later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton) and her fourth (Elizabeth, later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) survived. She had no further children, though I’ve no idea whether there were further pregnancies. Letters describe Maria as being rather quiet, liking her domestic comforts, being very interested in plants. She was adept at painting botanicals, for a few survive in the (public archive) Royal Horticultural Society.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith, Maria’s sister, has a “gallery” on this RHS homepage; best way to bring up all the works of the Smith girls: search the term MEEN — Margaret Meen was their instructor.
  • Eliza, the recipient of the Sarah Smith letters housed at the Hampshire Record Office, was married to another gentleman of means, William John Chute, a Member of Parliament for Hampshire. There were no children forthcoming for the Chutes, and one letter — annoyingly missing its concluding page(s)! — seems to hint that Eliza and William Gosling might consider a loan of one of theirs… It is rather supposition, but based on good fact: the Chutes “adopted” William Chute’s cousin Caroline Wiggett when she was a mere toddler. The Vyne estate, however, passed to William Chute’s younger brother, Thomas (unmarried) and after Thomas’s death to Caroline Wiggett’s brother William who adopted the name Wiggett-Chute. He gained possession of Thomas Chute’s Norfolk estate, but possession of The Vyne had to await the death of Eliza Chute in 1842.
    • ASIDE: Caroline Wiggett’s story has been hypothesized as a source behind the “adoption” of the character Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. More on the Chutes, especially William are found in James Edward Austen Leigh’s A History of the Vine Hunt. Caroline Wiggett Workman left “Reminiscences” of her youth.
  • Augusta, the third daughter, concerns us much – for she was the prolific mother of nine, including our Emma Austen Leigh. Augusta has left many letters, and several diaries; her character comes across as formidable, at least in her later years. She lost her husband, Charles Smith of Suttons, when pregnant with her youngest daughter Maria. I often refer to her as “Mamma,” but she is both matriarch and young woman – for her 1798 marriage is documented in one of the earliest diaries I have yet seen. She also, according to one neighbor, held the ignominious position of being Charles second wife — and she did not go down well with this woman who remembered and much preferred Wife Number One! Augusta produced an heir not only for her husband’s estate, but also for her uncle Drummond Smith’s title of baronet. She may have vacated Suttons following her son’s second marriage, but she never gave up her parental concerns – and her advice was sought by all her children until the day she died.
    • ASIDE: the diary comments about young Augusta c1803 are to be found in the valuable biography of William Smith of Parndon {no relation} entitled Progress by Persuasion by Hazel Lake and Jenny Handley.
  • Emma, the “maiden aunt”. The one Erle Stoke sister who never married. After the death of Sarah Smith (1810), Emma and Joshua were left together at Stoke. On Joshua’s death (1819) Emma seems to stay separate from her sisters. At some point she begins living at a place called Glenville, near Southampton. Looking through the records of the Hampshire Record Office, I was rather pleased to see that Emma Austen Leigh saved some newspaper clipping that referenced “the Value of Maiden Aunts” — she had had the pleasure of three such women in her life: “Aunt Emma” (Emma Smith, her mother’s sister); “Aunt” (Judith Smith, her father’s sister); “Aunt Frances,” Lady Frances Compton, Uncle Northampton’s sister. Emma is a slight enigma, awaiting more information. She’s the petulant youngest sister in early letters, and the aloof “maiden aunt” abroad in later letters. A fascinating transformation that I have certain thoughts about; confirming or denying my suspicions will be for a future endeavor.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith was a prolific artist, and delighted in her stays abroad. A mystery as to the identity of someone called MACKLIN, especially as there exists in Wiltshire the so-called Macklin Album, where the initials A.A. Macklin have been interpreted as meaning an Amelia Macklin. Same person as the one referred to in an 1824 letter? {note: the images for the Macklin Album}

In short, though, several aspects of women – from the titled widow down to the well-heeled spinster – are represented in the Four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park. They will one day make for a fascinating study.

Permalink Leave a Comment

1796: ‘I fear much we shall be invaded’

February 16, 2013 at 11:45 am (chutes of the vyne, diaries, europe, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Maria, Lady Northampton — sister-in-law to Lady Frances Compton (see my last two posts) — kept up a healthy correspondence with her family back at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire; letters to her sister Augusta have been preserved, and in them Lady Northampton makes frequent mention of the Militia, and also the general fear of invasion by French troops.

Maria Lady Northampton

These same rumors and feelings run strong in the letters of Mrs Lefroy, Jane Austen’s dear friend and the wife of the rector at Ashe. Mrs Lefroy was known to the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park; Sarah Smith, mother of Eliza Chute and Lady Northampton, wrote to Eliza, asking her to query Mrs. Lefroy about her ‘straw manufactory’ in early 1797.

In reviewing Lord Northampton’s chapter in the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates, there is much quoted from the 1790s letters of Lady Northampton to Augusta Smith (yeah!), at the time in the possession of Mr Scrase Dickins.

In the Spring of 1796, Maria could write of her blooming flower-garden; it is suspected that she painted flowers during this period. Works by the sisters of Earl Stoke Park (and their teacher, Miss Margaret Meen) are at the Royal Horticultural Society; type margaret meen into the search box. These particular flower paintings predominantly date from the 1780s.

Maria quipped that in spending the spring at Castle Ashby she was “rusticating in the country” while sister Augusta (and probably sisters Eliza and Emma as well) were “enjoying the town diversions.” As the winter months of 1796 descend, we begin to see mentions of the Militia – but Maria also comments, asking her sister, “What think you of the Memorial about peace; I fear it is very distant, and I fear much we shall be invaded.” Reading the quotes included in the book, it is an extremely TENSE time; mobs, rioting, troops quartered. Towards the end of one letter Maria could say, “one of our carpenters was the principal person at the riot at Yardley, and is of course no longer employed here.”

There exists also (in a private collection) a chatty letter from Eliza Chute to Augusta Smith, who is still feeling the effects of a fall, probably from a horse; a gossipy letter, written in French by ‘Auguste’ also comes from the early period of 1797. It seems as if the sisters are trying to buoy flagging spirits. Then more “news”: of a failed French invasion at Pembroke; banks stopping payments of gold. Amid all the fears and frivolity, Eliza Chute meets the new Mrs James Austen (Mary Lloyd): “she is perfectly unaffected, and very pleasant; I like her.” The Austens’ would hear soon of the death of Cassandra Austen‘s fiancé Tom Fowle; and sister Jane Austen would put the final touches on her manuscript, “First Impressions.” Life, never on hold because of war and civil unrest, going on…

Permalink Leave a Comment

Lady Frances Compton’s Library

February 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, europe, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Compton_Lady FrancesLady Frances Compton, sister of the 1st Marquess of Northampton of Castle Ashby, is just one of the many strong women I have come across in the extended Smith of Suttons family. You cannot image how thrilling it is to see a picture of her. And sold so long ago (see Sotheby’s 2006 auction). Her father’s miniature I had seen, but it’s hers I’m happy to see!

She is more easily tracked than her niece (and namesake), Lady Frances Elizabeth Compton (aka Lady Elizabeth Dickins, wife of Charles Scrase Dickins), and among the items unearthed yesterday are some BOOKS.

I have long been interested in the library holdings of the extended family. And was just overjoyed to be holding in my hands — thanks to a gift from Martyn Downer (author of, among other texts, Nelson’s Purse, which traces the friendship of Lord Nelson with Mary Gosling’s uncle, Alexander Davison) of an actual book once in the library of Mrs Gosling (her bookplate attachment). More about that important gift at a later date.

A small image of Lady Frances’ bookplate will continue my story.

bookplate_Lady FrancesThis appears in what seems to be a CURRENT sale of a book entitled, Wild Flowers, or, Pastoral and Local Poetry by Robert Bloomfield, published in 1806.

But there’s more out there…

This one is of great interest to me, being an ‘American Lady‘: Memoirs of an American Lady: with sketches and manners and scenery in America, as they existed previous to the Revolution. By the author of Letters from the Mountains, &c &c {Anne Grant}. Published in 1808. How wonderful to picture Lady Frances, whether in England or abroad on the Continent, sitting down to read about a woman who “spent her formative years” in Albany, New York — which is a few hours to the south of me in northern Vermont.

But there’s more….

A copy of Amelie Opie’s Valentine’s Eve (3 vols; 1816) also comes complete “Mit dem heraldischen Exlibris von Lady Frances Compton auf den Innendeckeln.” The seller is in Switzerland, a country which Lady Frances frequented.

And more…

Richard Johnson’s Lilliputian Library; Or, Gulliver’s Museum containing Lectures on Morality. Historical Pieces. Interesting Fables…. has a subscription list. Lady Frances began early then, as she is listed in this 1779 title.

Last, I will mention one academic library – King’s library at Miami University – which has in its Special Collections a volume once owned by Lady Frances. I LOVE the title, which I include in full: An essay on the art of ingeniously tormenting: with proper rules for the exercise of that pleasant art, humbly addressed; In the first part to the master, husband &c. In the second part to the wife, friend &c. with some general instructions for plaguing all your acquaintance.

I leave my best two thoughts for last.

The sellers of the first book, Wild Flowers, have possibly seen Deirdre Le Faye’s excellent Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family – for they cite the following as an inducement to purchase: “Lady Frances was a friend of the Austen family and frequently visited and dined with them.” Hmmmm….

And then there’s this:

The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets.

4 volumes. [6], 436; v, [1], 431; [4], 409 + [1] ad; [4], 452 pp. Copper-engraved frontispiece portrait of Johnson in Vol. I. 8½x5, period straight-grained red morocco ruled in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Attractive edition, in nice period bindings. With the bookplates of Mrs. Chute, and an ink inscription in the first volume, “Elizabeth Chute, Lady Francis Compton’s gift, 1799.”
Heading:
Author: Johnson, Samuel
Place Published: London
Publisher Name: Printed for T. Longman, et al.
Date Published: 1794

lives_English Poets

Did Eliza really write her name as Lady Francis Compton?
The entire family (until Emma’s involvement with James Edward Austen)
did typical write Austin rather than Austen.
“Misspellings” make searches more challenging.

Check out Lot 6 from the same 2006 sale. Who was Lady Tara?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Lady E. Compton

January 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

A bit of a puzzle has come up and I’m curious if anyone has any clue(s) that would help.

lady e comptonPaul Frecker has this photo designated Lady E. Compton – is this woman any member of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates / Castle Ashby / Marquess of Northampton family?

My own Lady Elizabeth (daughter of the 1st Marquess) married in 1829 — Emma writes about her cousin’s marriage to Charles Scrase Dickins. Therefore, by the time Silvy was active, she was Lady Elizabeth Dickins.

(Sitter #628 would date to 1860 — see the Silvy Daybook 1 at the National Portrait Gallery, where Adelaide Kemble is sitting #586 and Vicountess Jocelyn is sitting #657; images that are not represented online seem not to have their sitting number provided.)

Lady Marian Alford is sitting #631 (at NPG and Frecker; both claim to have the same sitting number).

It would have been nice had this been her sister, Margaret-Mary-Frances-Elizabeth. Why? Poor Lady Northampton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane) died weeks after this daughter’s birth in 1830. But the daughter too had a short life; she evidently died in childbirth in 1858.

UPDATE: Thanks to Philip, I know more of the history of this youngest child of Margaret Maclean Clephane: she contracted measles from her brother and died soon after her son was born.

I don’t know who this Lady E. Compton might have been, but sending Philip a portrait, by Augusta Smith (the daughter), of Aunt Northampton, I swear I see the same nose!

Permalink Leave a Comment

1903 Glimpse: Castle Ashby

October 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm (books, estates, history, news, places) (, , , , , , )

Found this issue of Country Life on Books.Google – you are welcome to read the article there as well. Certainly the photos show a Castle Ashby that only the likes of Emma would have had intimate knowledge about.

Castle Ashby (Northamptonshire) was and is the home of the Marquess of Northampton. In Emma’s youth, it was home to her uncle and aunt (mother’s sister), Lord and Lady Northampton, and their two children Spencer (Lord Compton) and Lady Elizabeth Compton (later: Lady Elizabeth Dickins).

 

* * *

Read about the “other” Compton estate, Compton Wynyates (Pall Mall Magazine, 1898), or in Architectural Forum (1911).

Permalink Leave a Comment

A Visit to Aynhoe

January 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm (estates) (, , , , , , , )

Having spent the weekend with Calista from Montreal, I heard MUCH about the travels she and her husband have undertaken in order to visit English estates.

Aynho, pictured at left, is a place few may have heard of; I know of it because of a BOOK!

Lili at Aynhoe: Victorian Life in an English Country House, was published some years ago; written by Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett (a great-great-grand-daughter, who lived a time at Aynhoe — it sold in 1960), the book presents Lili Cartwright’s drawings of the house, but also it allows glimpses into Lili’s diaries. Oh! for more…

But why this discussion of Aynho (or Aynhoe, I’ve seen it spelled both ways)?

Cathy Kawalek, who kindly visited the New York Public Library to “dust off” History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates for me, emailed a large section covering the life of the 1st Marquess of Northampton, uncle of Emma Smith; brother-in-law of Eliza Chute of The Vyne.

Imagine my SURPRISE when I read that the Comptons visited Aynhoe! Well, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since the estates are both in Northamptonshire; but a “blast from the past” — since I had owned Lili at Aynhoe for quite some time — always comes as a surprise, doesn’t it?

  • For those wanting more information, check out the Aynho History Society’s website for publications.
  • An interesting little book “find” is an 1892 title called A Descriptive List of The Deer Parks and Paddocks of England, by Joseph Whitaker. Among the parks mentioned is not only Aynhoe (with 100 deer), but also Tring Park (owned then by Lord Rothschild; with 60 deer — and also 25 kangaroos, 14 emus, and more!).
  • Cathy Kawalek has mentioned that she is open to helping other non-NY researchers; contact can be made with Cathy via ArtsResearchNYC [at] yahoo [dot] com. I highly recommend her services, for her knowledge, helpfulness and resourcefulness! It is through such wonderful people that much of my little researches become possible.

Permalink Leave a Comment

I’ve WATCHED “Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?”

January 2, 2012 at 9:32 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, seek and indeed ye shall find. Yesterday, about noon, I came upon a full, uninterrupted showing of Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?

I found the differing paths taken to gain information about the portrait exceptionally interesting to view. After all, everyone whose research utilizes primary material must (1) discover it; (2) verify it; (3) keep an open mind about whatever turns up; and (4) ultimately reject, support, or present both sides of the argument.

I hope to have more to say, later, but right now I want to discuss an “image” that flashes — twice — on the screen that may puzzle people, or, more likely, totally fly by them:

Both show (as above) Paula Byrne‘s face reflected on her computer screen, and a portrait image that’s up on the computer, which she contemplates. The image is NOT the “Austin” portrait, but the portrait of Maria Lady Compton/Lady Northampton, which the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates designates as on vellum and done by “her sister Mrs Chute”. The image below is that found on this blog’s Portraits page:

Pity, then, that no discussion on the TV show about this “known” portrait took place. I have a feeling that the original was not located in the two most logical places: The Vyne nor Castle Ashby.

The Vyne was Eliza Chute’s Hampshire estate (now a National Trust property; near Basingstoke); Castle Ashby is still a private residence, then and now owned by the Marquess of Northampton. Seneca Productions contacted me to see if I knew more about the portrait; they were in contact with The Vyne already (so nothing there, I gather), and I gave the Castle Ashby contact information I had — and waited to hear more (but have heard nothing).

  • I’ve a couple questions on this portrait, and the 1930 book from which it comes (published in a very limited edition of 200 copies. Any reader resident in the New York City area who would be willing to visit the New York Public Library, please contact me (see “the author” for contact information).

The interesting thing about the two portraits: “Jane Austin” is shown in the act of writing; Maria Compton is holding what I suspect are “plans” — and wasn’t Maria and her husband at one point knee-deep in “updating” their accommodations at Castle Ashby…

I used to be somewhat disappointed by this portrait of Maria, but putting it side-by-side with the “Austin” portrait, it now looks pretty good.

* * *

NB: By the way, I’m GRATEFUL for ALL the portraits I unearth: I now have two of Lady Northampton, this one and a profile view done by her niece Augusta Smith. I’ve a number of Emma, at least one of which looks nothing (really) like her. Until the advent of photography (and even then, don’t we all say: “That’s a horrible picture of me”), images depended on the artist, the amount of “flattery” in altering the sitter’s image, and oh so many other things. Even “Unseen Portrait” host, Martha Kearney, felt flattered at the portrait drawn of her during the show!

Images make no difference about how I perceive the “inner” Emma and Mary et al — but I sure LOVE to see all representations of them and the rest of the family.

Permalink 2 Comments

Spencer Compton/Marquess Northampton – New Image!

November 25, 2011 at 11:13 am (books, history, news, research) (, , , , , , )

A new image! This time of Spencer Compton, AKA Lord Compton, AKA the 2nd Marquess of Northampton.

Spencer was the only male cousin of the Smith of Suttons children. Brother of Lady Elizabeth Compton, young Emma writes about visiting the Comptons in 1815 when Spencer (Lord Compton) married Margaret Maclean Clephane — the ward of Walter Scott!

The image ran in January 1851, in the Illustrated London News, following the Marquess’ death; it dates, however, from a few years earlier. The accompanying text reads, in part,

“The late Marquis died on Friday week, at Castle Ashby, the ancient family seat, in Northamptonshire. The recent death of Lord Alford, his son-in-law, had proved a severe shock to a naturally sensitive temperament, and he was advised to leave Ashridge for his own residence, before the funeral.”

Poor Lady Marion, first a husband gone, and now a father…

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »