Augusta: a Pen Pal sorta Gal

February 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, research) (, , , , )

Although I’ve had photographs of this letter for almost TWO YEARS (lots of other letters came my way in that time…) I *finally* got around to transcribing a letter by Mary-Anne Perozzi, dated 24 April 1824.

It was one out of more than a hundred letters in a private collection. The name, wholly unfamiliar. The date intriguing, and yet I didn’t pay it a LOT of attention. The handwriting is exquisite, so it wasn’t the legibility that caused the delay. Just a lack of “interest” and “other things to do”.

But, last night, in an effort to have at least all letters from this collection transcribed (the two I’ve left: nearly ALL crossed and a couple of really scribbling hands), I finally did this one.

And got a surprise!

Although addressed to Lady Elizabeth Compton, the Smith siblings’ cousin, it contained a particularly “painful” section for me to read.

Mary-Anne (as she signed herself, though her direction — included at the end of the letter, as a reminder to Lady Elizabeth to write in return — reads Marianne) has an extensive “thank you” to Lady Elizabeth for the part she played in Mary-Anne obtaining “two fine drawings, or likenesses“. Now, deciphering these words I was, of course, thinking Lady Elizabeth had sent her something she had drawn. I’ve seen her work. She’s very talented! And, being in Rome, she could have taken her sketch book around the city.

But the word “likenesses” – they tend to use that word to indicate portraits.

THEN: I read on…

likenesses, which AUGUSTA had the kindness to make me a present of.

There’s only ONE Augusta who would have been referred to by her first name alone – and that would be Emma’s eldest sister, the extremely artistic Augusta Smith, renowned in the family for her ability at taking “likenesses”.

I was in Seventh Heaven (and in a bit of pain: Could they still exist? but where??).

THEN: I read on…

and which I have found VERY MUCH ALIKE to HER

So a portrait of Augusta herself (I had presumed it had been of Mary-Anne, perhaps)!

THEN: I read the rest of the sentence:

“very much alike to her, and to her MOTHER

ARGH! Two portraits of the Two Augustas, in 1824! a precious gift indeed. And Mary-Anne then had the manners to say “and very well performed“. So, Mary-Anne not only thought the portraits “very like” (a huge compliment, indeed) but also well drawn.

Oh… the… pain… of not being able to see them. And of thinking that they could be long gone – or “unknown” in some collection or archive.

As it happens there IS a further mention, in the Smith & Gosling letters, of Mary-Anne Perozzi. An 1824 letter that pre-dates one that I own. Written by Augusta, she makes a very brief comment of writing a letter to Mary-Anne!

I opened the transcriptions of Emma’s diaries, 1823 and 1824 – hoping for some “address” of Mary-Anne. Nothing. Perhaps she was a friend of Augusta more than any of the other girls.

Mary-Anne obviously kept up a correspondence. Her address was simply “Ancona”, and, although her English was quite good, it points to a woman as Italian-sounding as her last name. (And can be said to account for the slightly odd phrase, “very much alike to her”.) I had hoped to find a bit of a footprint left behind, but so far nothing. And, although I KNOW it’s too much to hope for: some of her letters (to or from Augusta or Lady Elizabeth) would be the frosting on the cake.

Mary-Anne wrote of obtaining the portraits from Lord and Lady Compton, who were visiting Ancona. I simply had to look it up. On the map, it’s south of Ravenna-Rimini-San Marino; on the opposite coast from Rome:

ancona map

The blown-up map shows an exquisite “hook” of land. And in photographs… it looks divine:

ancona from air

I can see what would have enticed the Comptons here, in 1824. And how Augusta (the Smiths BIG trip was from summer 1822 to summer 1823; and they wintered in Rome) might have met Mademoiselle Perozzi.

Augusta DID have a wider-ranging correspondence – I’ve found letters to the Lante delle Rovere family, for one instance of her Pen Pals abroad. Must confess, trying to read her tiny hand in English isn’t super hard, but these are described as “In lingua francese e italiana“. AND, to make matters worse, the letters from 1823 are described as “scrittura di base righe di testo in verticale“. So she, as USUAL, has crossed her writing. To have them, though, is something I MUST Do.

Fnding Mary-Anne Perozzi of Ancona makes me even MORE intent on obtaining images of the Lante Letters (one also by Lady Compton in the same collection).


This Georgette Heyer reprint features the Raeburn portrait of Lord Compton, done only a short time before he once again saw Mademoiselle Perozzi.

As I always ask, IF anyone has any information – about the Perozzis, Ancona, the location of (more) letters or those likenesses, do contact me!


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Lady Morgan’s Memoirs

September 29, 2012 at 11:25 am (books, history, people) (, , , , , , , )

I first came across Lady Morgan through John Waldie. Waldie has a connect with Langham Christie and the online items from his diaries give a fascinating glimpse of the theatrical and musical world during the long nineteenth century.

Today I was pulling books off shelves and out of their floor piles to augment my much-neglected online bibliography. Found a few forgotten print-outs, and finally located some I’d been searching the house for: they are always in the LAST place you look, huh?!

So while trying to find the URL for one of my “is this where that had gotten to” items, I found online the two volumes of Lady Morgan’s Memoirs

Sydney Owenson lived a glittering life (c1776-1859); two of her travel book volumes are online as well.

  • Lady Morgan’s Memoirs: Autobiography, Diaries and Correspondence (1862): vol. I; vol. II
  • France in 1829-30 (1830) vol. I; vol. II {dedicated to General Lafayette!}
  • Lady Morgan’s fiction and other writings at Internet Archive

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

* * *

UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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Jane Austen Fashion on Guernsey

June 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm (books, fashion, news, people, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

While searching online for mentions of “Le Marchant” I found this wonderful “cyber display” by the Priaulx Library – a favorite source of mine, as, yes, my Le Marchant family has Guernsey connections. The letters are a delight to savor, and the fashion plates will delight all Jane Austen fans.

Begin corresponding with Miss Caroline Guille Le Marchant by clicking here.

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Jane Austen’s Regency World: Write it Right

May 2, 2011 at 5:13 am (books, entertainment, news) (, , , , , , )

Happy May!

And with a new month comes a new issue of the wonderful British magazine: Jane Austen’s Regency World.

In this issue is a very timely article on “managing disability in Jane Austen’s time” — this I look forward to reading, as poor Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger sister, had an accident and never walked again! How did a young lady cope with such a disability (Charlotte was in her late teens).

And there’s an interview with Amanda Vickery – talking about her Home with the Georgians book, among other things.

And further along the issue: my article! “Correspondence Culture” discusses what a  pre-postage stamp (“Regency” era) letter looked like, but it also touches upon the ins & outs of the large circle of correspondents someone like Jane Austen would have negotiated; how you paid (and how much) for letters; how young children were taught to begin their writing-life by first sending compliments, then composing their own letters; and also what happened when, as you aged, maybe you couldn’t read handwriting as easily as you once did. The kernel of this article was drawn from my talk “Austen/Adams: Journeys with Jane and Abigail,” hosted last summer by the JASNA-Vermont chapter.

Purchase Jane Austen’s Regency World online: Rates for single issues, back issues, or UK/outside UK subscriptions are available here.

Big C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S to JARW:
the March/April 2011 issue was their 50th edition!

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Wanna Bet?

November 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm (research) (, , , )

The Preface to Jo Modert’s Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile ends with this exchange:

“Soon after I began this search, a friend asked if I seriously thought that a new Austen letter would add any information to what we already know of her life. ‘No,’ I replied. (I lied — of course I can!)”

Such a thought made me think about two such letters that indeed added VITAL information to my knowledge of the lives of the writer of one, the recipient of the other: Emma’s eldest sister Augusta Smith and youngest sister Maria Smith.

Augusta’s letter (owned by Angela in Alberta) reminisced about Auguta’s thoughts, feelings and memories of being abroad, in particular of being in Rome over Easter. Letters exist about this year on the Continent, but never before was the strength of AUGUSTA’s longings made known. Without this letter, this aspect of Augusta’s personality could NEVER have been guessed!

Angela’s “Augusta letter,” one of the greatest finds this blog has yielded, also hints at a couple “mysteries”, one involving cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton (which I think I’ve solved), one involving Aunt Emma Smith (which is still in search of a definitive answer). I’ll leave discussion of those for later.

Jacky’s “Maria letter” was written by Mrs Odell — the mother of the young man who accompanied Drummond Smith on a tour to Italy, the trip 20-year-old Drummond never returned from. Letters of the period, combined with relevant pages in Mary Augusta Austen Leigh’s 1911 biography of her father, James Edward Austen Leigh, indicates that Mrs Smith — never a fan of this trip — grilled Mr Odell in a couple interviews; as well, she was the recipient of several explicatory letters. And here was Mrs Odell pleading to Maria to think twice about marrying her son?! Several reasons come to mind as to why Maria would say ‘no’ and continue to say ‘no’; important questions crop up as to why Mrs Odell would write this letter — or Maria keep this letter among the items she passed down through her family.

To echo Jo Modert: Can just one letter add information to what we already know?

You Bet It Can!

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Emma Meets the Austens

September 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm (people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In summer 1829, Emma Austen met her Austen relations. Two letters from this period exist, one written to ‘Aunt’ (Judith Smith, the only remaining sister of Emma’s father); the other to her own sister, Fanny.

The Edward Austens had visited Ben and Anna Lefroy, Edward’s brother-in-law and half-sister. Emma met ‘Mr Knight’, ‘who changed his name from Austen to Knight for a fortune.’ She describes to Aunt my favorite of them all: ‘Mrs Cassandra Austen’, whom she calls ‘a very pleasing lady like person’.

Emma goes on to describe the visit: ‘We staid at Ashe till Friday — Mr William Knight has the living of Steventon & his father has built him a capital parsonage house with every convenience & luxury about it’. This convenience, of course, is why the Steventon parsonage that was Jane Austen’s birthplace no longer exists. Progress…

But rather than write about Emma’s impressions of the family, I want to touch on the fact that after her discussion of Steventon the rest of the letter is physically missing! More than half of the page is just gone. So much information, then a SNIP and some precious other bit is torn away.

It’s rather like Emma’s diaries. One queer thing about them is that whenever she gave birth to one of her children pages have been removed and a notation made as to which child was born when. Why??? Souvenir? hiding intimate thoughts? Were the Pieces destroyed? Were the Pieces kept? I’ve just no clue.

More about these letters, and Emma’s impression, in some later post.

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Dash It All–

September 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Came across this interesting article from Australia in which Jane Austen’s penmanship, punctuation and pungent sentences come in for a bit of scrutiny. How apropos! Since one thing that is always at the forefront of conducting primary research is contending with handwriting!

Forming the base of the article: The two chapters cut from Persuasion, the only extant manuscript penned by Austen (if we don’t count the copied-out juvenilia).

Having a copy of Modert’s Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile, I really don’t think Austen’s writing difficult to read (on the other hand imagine if this book had been published with the even better images now possible in the digital age!); and so little cross writing. In fact the quirk of Austen’s letters are those written with much white-space so that the next “layer” of writing comes upside-down, but in between this first “layer” of writing.

Examining actual letters (from the Gosling and Smith families — though I did read a couple written by Cassandra Austen!), you see with what a fine line (ie, a well-sharpened quill) most people wrote. The difference between a dot (period) and a comma often quite difficult to discern. And dashes? Hell! I use them all the time! Who doesn’t?

And if commas are thought of as a “pause” when reading aloud, then many of Austen’s commas make great sense.

If Austen can be described as having a “closely written” hand, then the writer of this article has NEVER read anything written by the likes of young Augusta Smith (aka Augusta Wilder)! Yow!

(The execrable handwriting of the likes of Lady Elizabeth Dickins I won’t even mention…)

I must comment on the comment about underlining: Seeing as I transcribe as closely as possible, I use underlining rather than italicizing. Once, an editor changed the underlined words into italics. Hate to say, but, it just was not the same! And how to include two or even three lines?!? If I remember correctly, one of the editors working with Queen Victoria’s letters kept the original emphasis — one, two or even three underscores — intact. I like to do the same with Emma, Mary and all the rest, too.

  • From Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine, read a graphologist’s thoughts on Jane’s handwriting <broken link; try this link instead>. I see a LOT of the same characteristics in the Smith/Gosling papers.
  • To learn about the “mechanics” of writing in the period of the Quill Pen, see JASNA’s Persuasions On-Line, in an article by Robert Hurford.
  • To see an actual piece of Austen’s writing, there is none better than the British Library’s presentation of her The History of England, with (we must give the artist her due) the fabulous drawings of Cassandra Austen.
  • The BBC and Chawton Cottage (Louise West) in conversation.

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August 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm (a day in the life, books, research) (, , , , , )

Time and again I am reminded how true-to-life Jane Austen’s prose are; as well, how the Smiths and Goslings reflect the same sensibility and milieu as Austen’s best-loved characters.

Early in the weekend (for I have done a LOT of reading), I encountered this paragraph and just had to smile: Mamma Smith, Emma and little Eliza all immediately sprang to mind:

“As dinner was not to be ready in less than two hours from their arrival, Elinor determined to employ the interval in writing to her mother, and sat down for that purpose. In a few moments Marianne did the same. ‘I am writing home, Marianne,’ said Elinor; ‘had not you better defer your letter for a day or two?’
‘I am not going to write to my mother,’ replied Marianne hastily…. Elinor said no more; it immediately struck her that she must then be writing to Willoughby.”

I don’t know if it is just the idea of passing along the same information, or giving different people the chance to write, or just reducing the cost to the recipient: but in Austen we have remarks about the UNusual: two letters written and received by ONE person:

“What a fine fellow Charles [their youngest brother] is, to deceive us into writing him two letters at Cork! I admire his ingenuity extremely, especially as he is so great a gainer by it.” [Austen letters, p. 6]

Here was a more typical outcome (like the passage in S&S) of too many willing letter-writers:

“my writing to you prevents Eliz:th writing to Harriot” [Austen letters, p. 108]

Jane is in residence with the Austen/Knights, while Cassandra is at Godnestone with Elizabeth Austen’s sister Harriot Brydges.

And here is a favorite passage in a letter from Mamma to Emma, 1825:

“Eliza has just been grumbling at me for writing this letter, I tell her Spencer will not think hers the less valuable; I had concealed it from her because she was so unwilling to write.”

Emma and Spencer were travelling with Charles, and young Eliza had drawn Spencer for a correspondent, yet wasn’t sitting down to do her duty! In a less amusing vein, comes this same thought in a letter to Augusta following Drummond’s untimely death (1832):

“I pity him [Spencer] deeply for no longer having any Brother; the three were so united … [Maria’s] first youth has been much clouded by sorrow. Fanny is rather less drooping, & she eats & sleeps better. Maria & Eliza wished to write to you, but I would not give up the turn to day to any body.”

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Lost Letters…

August 22, 2009 at 9:42 am (books) (, , , , , , )

I am reading (a library copy) Katherine Sutherland’s Jane Austen’s Textual Lives. She has much to say about the Austen-Leigh Memoir with which _I_ would disagree, but I want to comment on the “Cassandra Controversy” Sutherland and everyone writing on Austen sooner or later bring up. Why is it, I ask myself this morning, everyone cares ONLY for the letters of Jane written to Cassandra?? Is it because we know they once existed? Does the imagined ‘bonfire’ ignite the passion for the “lost letters”?? (They were Cassandra’s property to do with as she pleased…) My indignation (rather too strong a word, but I will use it) comes from the fact that no one cares – or at least writes about – the lost letters of CASSANDRA! If Jane wrote to her, she wrote to Jane. They existed, though are a bit more ephemeral from the perspective of not being divvied up, not being knowingly burned, not being by the famous sister.

Jane Austen did not live in a vacuum. My own researches into the letters of the Smith family prove that each member of a family wrote — in turn — to other members of the family. Therefore, not only would there have been Jane’s letters to the likes of cousins like Eliza, Jane would have written her mother, her father, her brothers, her friends (Martha Llloyd, the Bigg sisters); and oh! what ever happened to the letters to Miss Sharp.

Cassandra, too, would have had a circle of correspondents. Never mind the brothers, with their wide circles of acquaintance.

The volume of family letters known as the Austen Papers, which I make no bones about saying “collate ALL the known Austen letters, Jane’s and her family’s, into a volume” are easily dismissed by Austen scholars: They should not be! That would be like presenting Mozart’s letters without those of his father.

An interesting point, to get back to the “circle” of correspondents a singular writer would have had: Emma writes to one of her sisters a letter already addressed to another sister! The opening line apologizes, claiming that although the letter was written to one it is “by rights” the turn of this sister, whose name was inserted near the crossed out name of the original recipient. Did the sister mind? Evidently not! Did the sister desire a letter, any letter, rather than that it went to the original sister? – Evidently! That was of more importance than the crossing out and substitution! After all, most letters were read aloud. (I have only come across ONE letter, one written by Mary Smith, in which the writer designated the letter ‘private’ = which therefore would NOT have been read out or passed around to other readers.)

There is much, in this age of phone calls and emails, that people do not think about concerning the age of letter-writing. I sincerely wish the laments for the “lost” Austen letters extended to the “lost” letters that were either also later destroyed (the niece’s destruction of letters to her father comes to mind), but also perhaps were never kept.

There has long been the question in the back of my mind as regards keeping correspondence. This came up when reading about Mozart’s many, many moves in the years of his marriage: All those letters from Papa Mozart were hauled from house to house to house. Imagine the *desire* to keep such items!!

Through this blog, I have met several people who have some snippet of surviving family correspondence. How lucky they are! All I have of my family are a handful of sepia photographs – which I treasure, I must confess, because of the rarity of their survival.

In short, we should be grateful for what we have, and stop harping on what was lost (through whatever means: destruction, carelessness, or cutting up for souvenirs). I am, for the Smith letters, even while I hope there is more to uncover!

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