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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Plot Thickens: Clarissa Trant

June 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , , )

I love the Clarissa Trant book because she treats the same period — she was born in November 1800 — as Mary and Emma lived through. Yet she lived a life far different from the average English girl.

So, flipping through I thought it wonderful to read about what made a young man “shine” in her eyes (see previous post on Charles Boyle). Then, reading the introduction over again afterwards, the realization comes that if John Bramston had proposed to Charlotte Smith, Clarissa Trant, too, had an earlier proposal:

“Clarissa was often wooed but hard to win.” C.G. Luard, the editor, continues, “I have counted twelve suitors and there are indications of more. She had a strong sense of the fitness of things, and we find her haughtily refusing a rich widower, on the one hand, and her friend Charles Boyle — whom she greatly liked and admired — as too exalted for her, on the other hand.”

Clarissa DID head towards the altar, however, with a Colonel Cameron. As with some of the Seymour siblings who married into the Smith family, there was family contention over money. According to Luard, once the settlement negotiations broke down, the “young man seems to have made no sort of fight for Clarissa”. Like many an Austen heroine, Clarissa Trant’s father — a career military man in the age of the Napoleonic Wars, had no fortune.

I was lucky enough to quickly peek at Clarissa Trant’s early diaries: they are microfilmed as part of the same series “Women’s Language and Experience“, part 5, Essex, as Mary Gosling/Lady Smith’s diaries!

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Brothers & Sisters: Clarissa Trant speaks

June 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm (books, diaries, people) (, , , , , )

So many books; so little time! (Working for a living is a curse…)

While flipping through the delightful Journal of Clarissa Trant, 1800-1832, I came across this most telling description of what made for an attractive man in the eyes of a young lady of taste, distinction, and wide travelling-experience.

“What a desert Brighton, gay and brilliant as it is, would have been to me but for them {the Boyles}. Was introduced to their handsome brother Charles, who is just arrived from the Continent. Caddy{Caroline Boyle} may well be proud of her Brother — he is so kind to his sisters and so very prepossessing both in appearance and manner.” [4 Jan 1829]

and then: “To my great annoyance Mr. Charles Boyle called three times whilst I was out.” [7 Jan]

He returns the following day: “At four o’clock Mr. C. Boyle… paid me a visit… He is indeed singularly handsome, but his great merit in my eyes is his devoted affection to his sister.”

Although I have yet to find much interaction between Clarissa and the Smiths of Suttons, the Smiths certainly knew of her — for she married John Bramston of Skreens. Some tense feelings prevailed: John had proposed to Emma’s younger sister Charlotte and not been accepted. Had Charlotte expected John to propose a second time? Or had she already had her eye on Arthur Currie? The family was, I can say, perturbed that John Bramston would involve himself with Miss Trant a while later… Such convoluted little mysteries keep me digging!

Mamma could write Emma the following year: “I have some news to announce… It destroyed the romance of real life, & proves the inconstancy of man. John Bramston has forgot his first love; and taken a second; he writes to Spencer a very chearful & lover like letter… — not a word of his Sister Elizabeth, he is too full of his own happiness. But he desires it may be a secret at present within our own Family, including you & Edward, … so pray be discreet; you may tell Augusta, & do write me all your comments.” Oh! for that letter of Emma’s

As always, a plea: if you have ANY correspondence (diaries count too!) relating to these people, do drop me a line!

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Bramston of Skreens

July 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm (books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Happy are the days when you pull out an old book and find a new “find”! Years ago I got the Journal of Clarissa Trant. I had long known she married John Bramston, the young son of the Bramstons of Skreens who came and went with such frequency through the diaries of the Smiths of Suttons. Last night, I pulled out the Journal once again, to see what Clarissa had to say about her upbringing — though done mainly on the Continent, it was far different from anything the young Smiths knew.

Looking at the list of illustrations today I was surprised to be “reminded” that the Journal ends with words about her marriage — and a portrait of young John Bramston!

So here a new portrait enters our little blog family:

The Journal puts the portrait as c1826, and assumes it was done during a trip to the Continent.

John Bramston is an interesting figure in the Smiths history because he seems at one point to have been attached to Emma’s younger sister, Charlotte. He seems to have withdrawn, causing the Smiths a bit of… hmm… how shall I put this? to be a bit peeved at him…

Four years ago, when at Duke University, I looked at the unpublished diaries of Clarissa Trant Bramston, hoping for SOME comments about the Smiths; I found nothing. Did the junior branch of the Bramstons fall out of favor with the Smiths? Did John’s wife not associate with his old friends, and their neighbors? Some questions are still yet to be answered.

To see other portraits, gathered mainly from online sources, see PORTRAITS.

A nice little web history of Clarissa Trant can be found here.

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