Help Wanted: Pocket Diaries of Fanny Smith (Mrs. Richard Seymour)

April 19, 2019 at 11:48 am (diaries, Help Wanted, history, research) (, , , )

I was looking last night at the last pages of the diaries of Emma Austen’s brother-in-law, Richard Seymour. Although he died years later, his last entry was made in 1873 — and the rest of the notebook remained BLANK (though no notation on the microfilm image of HOW MANY blank pages remained).

So he didn’t “finish” the book…

Richard did record much, especially in the aftermath of the death of Emma’s sister (his wife) Fanny Smith (Mrs. Richard Seymour) in 1871.

Richard began keeping diaries before the 1830s; his earliest on microfilm is 1832, but the volume states “4” on the cover, which tells me that three early volumes were missing by the time the journals were filmed.

Richard’s original diaries were available to authors Arthur Tindal Hart and Edward Carpenter, when compiling their 1950s book The Nineteenth Century Country Parson; I have so far been unable to locate the original notebooks, and the archive had not had a viable address since the 1970s or 1980s (though had never given me the name of the last-known owner).

Wanting to read about Fanny’s last illness and death (1871), I picked a page a bit down the list. Looking for April, I came up with dates in May.

Oh My GOSH!

RICHARD noted READING journals kept by Fanny about each of their children (which I hadn’t even thought about her doing). THEN he noted reading the similar journal her MOTHER kept during Fanny’s own youth!

I had known about family “baby books” – one written for Drummond Smith was casually mentioned in the biography of James Edward Austen Leigh (written by daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh).

I’ve only ever seen the “baby book” of Maria Smith – the youngest sister; the future Lady Seymour (married to Richard’s brother Sir John Hobart Culme Seymour). The journal’s owner calls it “Maria’s Progress,” because it deals with her progression through life, from babyhood to adulthood, in disconnected, but consistent, entries, over a good twenty-years.

I was pretty _sure_, therefore, that there must once have existed one for ALL nine of the Smith of Suttons siblings. This slots a third one into line.

But even MORE interestingthrillingexasperating:

Richard notes reading Fanny’s JOURNALS for 1833 and 1834; and either he then makes a mistake or means what he writes, a journal for 1844.

And soon a comment about a trip to Clovelly in 1820 (confirmed by Emma’s diary). He also comments on a sketch by Fanny (you might recall her artwork at the Bodleian Library, Oxford), worked at Clovelly during this trip. Richard soon is IN Clovelly, standing on the spot he presumes she stood in, fifty-one years before, to make the said sketch.

I cannot discount that young Fanny (she would have been sixteen going on seventeen) was keeping a diary just for the trip, and included the sketch in such a book. But I would rather believe that, like Mamma, Emma, brother Charles, sister-in-law Mary, Aunt Chute, and even Aunt Emma (and evidently, too, ‘Aunt’, their father’s sister, Judith Smith of Stratford), that Fanny kept journals, possibly in the pre-printed variety called THE DAILY JOURNAL; Or, The Gentleman’s and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt-Book.

beg13

In short, it was a surprise that Fanny kept journals – and yet not a surprise (because so many OTHERS in the family did the same thing). Potentially, the volumes stretch from at least 1820 (if not earlier; Fanny was born in 1803, so the 1810s are probable); and go until (maybe) the year of her death.

Of course the kicker: What has happened to Fanny Smith’s / Fanny Seymour’s JOURNALS?

I live in dread of seeing Richard say that he or the children got rid of them. But surely, his heart was so full of longings for his deceased wife, that he would see the VALUE in passing them on to his children. Daughters seem to have gotten such invaluable ephemerals. There were only three Seymour daughters. Some sons didn’t marry; some didn’t have children.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

BURIED treasure, Fanny’s missing journals 200 years later, that is for sure. (I include that written by Mrs. Augusta Smith recounting Fanny’s babyhood and girlhood, as well as those “baby books” covering the many Seymour children.)

Richard mentioned a few snippets from journals that he had read:

  • 1833 – Fanny’s grief over the death of her youngest brother, Drummond Smith (in Sicily, in November 1832; the family learned of his death a month later)
  • 1834 – Fanny’s engagement and marriage (at Mapledurham) to the Rev. Richard Seymour, just appointed to the living of Kinwarton in Warwickshire. NO DOUBT she mentioned the house fire the day before the wedding in October 1834! Her sister Emma did; it was Mary Gosling – i.e., their sister-in-law Lady Smith – who alerted everyone to the danger of the smoke she smelled in the night — and the butler who helped save the day.
  • 1844 – _IF_ Richard was reading Fanny’s diary for 1844 (and it wasn’t a mistake of his pen OR my vision while transcribing his thickly-written numbers), he would have been reliving the events around the birth of their son, Charles Joshua Seymour, who was born in June 1844 – but died in March of 1846.
  • 1820 – with mention of a trip to Clovelly, Fanny also wrote about taking tea with Mamma at Clovelly Court, and going sketching with her sisters Emma and Augusta. Mentions of the friend Belinda Colebrooke can also be guaranteed.

If any of these “hints” sound familiar – and _you_ have seen one (or more) of these diaries, please drop me a line!

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Putting a Face to a Name

May 2, 2018 at 2:13 pm (diaries, estates, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to *share* a *find* with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers! With the amount of material I’ve unearthed over the past ten years, although bits and pieces turn up, a lot of my time lately is taken up with processing what I have. Photography of archival material means that I’ve a backlog of items awaiting transcription.

So a wonderful surprise to find a photograph of someone who plays a small role in the Smith & Gosling history.

Emma’s brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith had two wives. My second diarist (the other being Emma herself) is Mary Gosling, the second Lady Smith. Charles’ first wife (she died in childbirth) was Belinda Colebrooke. She and her younger sister Harriet Colebrooke were the focus of an intense Chancery battle – at one point it even came to blows, at gun-point, on the windswept heath as the sisters approached London in a carriage overtaken by their mother and two hired thugs.

Such actions gave the family pain and heartache, and (of course) made the papers – which is how the likes of historians can learn about so much that took place two hundred years ago.

It is rather a surprised, despite the wealth of the Colebrooke girls, that they were so accepted by “Society”. The crux of the Chancery case concerned which “side of the blanket” they were born on. Thus the odd ages that some materials list for the girls (rounded down to make them younger, and indisputably born after their parents’ marriage). The court case actually pitted family against family (as was so often the case – see for instance Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Dickens’ Bleak House): Belinda’s paternal uncles were on two different sides. Their father, George Colebrooke – son of Sir George and Lady Colebrooke (the half sister of the Smith’s maternal grandmother) – had died months before his father (both in 1809). The baronetcy went to a younger brother, therefore. Legitimate heirs, though, could inherit Mr. George Colebrooke’s fortune; and their mother could claim her share while her children were under-age.

The case went on, in one form or another, for decades. (Even after Charles’ death, in 1830.)

Harriet Colebrooke died in January 1822, after a lengthy illness (heart disease; perhaps consumption). She hadn’t even reached her twentieth birthday. Belinda was inconsolable; their uncle, Henry Colebrooke – who had been overseas, wasn’t even aware of Harriet’s death. He first heard when he landed back in Britain.

A few sentences in a few letters fleshes out Harriet’s life. At one point, she seems to have been attracted to Charles Smith! He seems to have been uninterested. Perhaps he already held out hopes for attracting Belinda – though in the period before her sister’s death, Belinda was already engaged, to a young man of whom the family did not approve. There was more fodder for the courts!

WSumner

William Holme Sumner

It seems, however, that Harriet did have a young man wanting to marry her. A “deeply hidden” sentence in a letter made me take a look at ALL the occurrences (noted in Emma’s meticulously-kept early diaries) of visits by a certain young man named William Sumner.

A Most Frustrating Letter! The important passage, written in light red ink, is crossed against a dark black ink. AND: the paper bleeds through from the other side, giving three handwritings to choose between: strokes of black ink, the shadow of the backside, and the scrawl in red.

IF I read the passage correctly, the sticking point may have been the young man himself: Charles intimates that the “W. Sumner” needed “to make up his mind.” This in a letter, written during Charles’ grand tour, in 1820. William would have been about 22-years-old; Harriet only 16 or 17. Whether Harriet’s illness or the Sumner-heel-dragging intervened, the marriage never took place.

The Sumners – who had purchased (c1770) the estate HATCHLANDS from the widowed Frances Boscawen – were known to Emma’s family. The father, George Sumner, a Member of Parliament, turns up in Smith family letters, and even earlier in diaries of Mrs. Smith and her sister Mrs. Chute. So it was with a bit of _pleasure_ to realize the connection that was developing between the Colebrooke-Sumner children. As more items come to light, I hope to uncover more of their story.

But it’s the photograph of William Sumner (above) that I wanted to mention in this blog post.  Being photography, William would be at least forty years older than the young man who pursued Harriet Colebrooke during the waning years of the Regency.

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Mary & Emma, Two Teens in the Time of Austen

March 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm (chutes of the vyne, goslings and sharpe, introduction, jane austen, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Before I go much further, I should talk a little about “my two girls”. THEY are the Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An appropriate post with which to celebrate “International Women’s Day, 2018“, don’t you think?

EVERYTHING goes back to the very first diary of the project – a travel diary, in which people from Roehampton travel across England to Northern Wales, and even make a Dublin visit. Two things stood out about that trip: The Gosling family met and stayed HOURS with the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. They also saw money being made in Dublin. That her father turned out to be a London banker made this last event less “unusual” and more of a “busman’s holiday” for Mr. Gosling.

At the time, all I had was a name from the card catalogue: Mary Gosling. She only mentioned “Papa, Mama, my Sister, and myself”. (NB: throughout her diaries, Mary ONLY refers to Margaret Elizabeth Gosling as “my sister”; Elizabeth is NEVER mentioned by name.)

Searching Gosling, Roehampton I happened upon what turned out to be MORE of Mary’s diaries: She was her father’s daughter: William Gosling of Roehampton and Fleet Street (this last, the family banking firm’s address). So her later diaries were ‘tagged’ by her relationship to him, which helped immensely. These are ID’ed as “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney”. Suttons being the Smith family estate, and Stapleford Tawney, Essex, being its location. When I first saw the handwriting on these “Lady Smith” diaries, I _knew_ they were the same girl!

Within a year, I was in Hampshire, reading letters and diaries relating to Emma Smith, but “Mary” remained my focal point. And even though MORE material has surfaced for Emma’s family – thanks in great part to her marriage with James Edward Austen, the nephew and first biographer of his aunt, writer Jane Austen. MUCH Smith family material is held at the Hampshire Record Office. Doesn’t hurt that one aunt (her mother’s next elder sister) was Eliza Chute of The Vine (nowadays: The Vyne), a National Trust property in Hampshire. Eliza’s diaries mention Jane Austen. And the blog’s name was born!

But the Smith and Gosling families are QUITE intertwined, so the two girls remain linked together in this project. They were great childhood friends, and even became sisters-in-law in 1826 (Mary married Emma’s eldest brother).

smith-gosling_silhouette1

Mary (foreground) and Emma

I still hope for MORE material from the Goslings. They are a fascinating family. A firm of bankers (and their records still exist), Goslings & Sharpe amalgamated with Barclays Bank, which still is headquartered at the Goslings branch on Fleet Street, London. There are some letters, but I’ve had little luck hearing from Glyndebourne – where there may (or may not…) be further evidence of this branch of the Christie family.

Mary’s sister Elizabeth (Margaret Elizabeth Gosling) married Langham Christie in 1829 – and he inherited Glyndebourne. A major litigation “case”, (as you might guess), since there were other interested parties. But Langham prevailed, and their son William Langham Christie became the first of this family to call Glyndebourne home. (The Langham Christies called Preston Deanery home instead.) At the very least, a Christie granddaughter wrote about the family portraits at Glynebourne, circa 1900, that included Langham and Elizabeth Christie; and even Elizabeth’s maternal grandparents Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe.

Ooooohhh….

But whether the family archives include Gosling-related materials, I don’t know. Glyndebourne’s “advertised” archives are opera-centric; East Sussex has some too-early and too-late estate papers. I’m particularly on the hunt for diaries, and any letters from or to Elizabeth and/or Langham Christie.

Mary’s own branch of the family lived on through her daughters, but her only son had sons who did not have sons. The baronetcy jumped from Charles Joshua Smith‘s heirs to those of his brother (Emma’s brother, too, of course) Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith line married into the Austen Leigh line, and it’s the Austen Leighs (for one) who stayed heavily invested in Jane Austen’s legacy; Joan Austen Leigh (“my” Emma’s great granddaughter) helped found JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America (ie, the U.S. and Canada). So my project “circles” around some very exciting history! And by blogging about it, I get to tell YOU, dear Reader, all the little tidbits.

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Understanding Old English Money

February 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm (diaries, history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

12 pennies to the shilling (12d = 1s; also written as / ).

20 shillings (or 240 pence) to the pound. (20s = 1 l. and 240d = 1 l.)
To avoid confusion, I will typically use the modern pound sign online, £.

NB: A “guinea” was equal to 21 shillings (1 pound plus 1 shilling). Big ticket items (like a horse, for instance) might be quoted in “guineas.”

So if a letter cost 5d, then FOUR letters cost a shilling. If you had a “healthy” correspondence network, you might very well receive four letters in a DAY! (The recipient bore the cost.) Multiple deliveries in a week and that puts you up to 3 or 4 shillings a week. A heavier letter, or farther distance, and you pulled more coins from your purse.

The Smiths and Goslings frequently comment in their diaries about money spent.

What did a penny buy?

English Penny

Genuine English Penny from 1807

Even in the 1790s, evidently not much! So many items are in shillings and pence. “Pearl Needles” cost Mrs. Chute 6d. So did “a Song.” A pit-stop for the horses in the midst of a trip, for “Hay & water,” cost 6d. As did “a Glass for my watch: 6d.”

In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute’s typical generosity to a “Poor Man” or a “Poor Woman” was 2s; every once in a while it dips to a low of 6d. And sometimes hit the high of 2/6 (“2 and 6” or 2s 6d), for instance to a “Poor Sailor.” She was the most generous, in 1794, to a “poor French woman,” giving her 5 shillings.

Wages, sometimes, can be found among the costs.

The most telling:

In 1794, Mrs. Chute of The Vine notes the wages of a “Kitchenmaid” named Sally (no last name given) – “one’s year’s wages to Xmas” as 3£ 3s. She also notes “one year’s wages” to the unnamed Cook (to Michaelmas), 9£ 9s; to “Mrs. Bligh” (housekeeper; also to Christmas), 16£ 16s.

To an unnamed “kitchen girl” for an unnamed period of time: 2/6. To “the housemaid” in Albemarle Street (i.e., when on a visit), 10/6.

What goods did shillings purchase?

In Emma’s youth (1816), the Church Sacrament is typically 2/6. In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute (her aunt) would note that a “seat at church” cost 1 shilling. For the Sacrament, she gave 5s.

To put prices into perspective, some typical expenses (all from 1794):

To a letter: 8d

To Washing: 1s

To Letters: 1s

To seeing “Lord Abercorn’s house” 2s 6d

To Seeds: 3s

To 12 Tuberose roots: 3s

To a book: 3s

To a play: 6s

To “Simpson, hair dresser”: 6s

To a Week’s Washing: 6s 5d

To the opera: 12s

To “paper and pens”: 14s

A doctor’s visit: 1£ 1s; but another visit cost slightly less, 10s 6d

Five yards Muslin: 1£ 5s 0d

 

See Project Britain: http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm for slang and some history of English coins.

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eBay: Gertrude Savile diaries

May 19, 2017 at 11:37 am (books, diaries, history) (, , , , )

Vicky alerted about the Kingsbridge (Devon) Oxfam‘s eBay auction of a copy of Secret Comment: The Diaries of Gertrude Savile, 1721-1757.

gertrude savile(NB: see eBay ad for pictures of actual copy up for sale; this is not theirs)

I am a BIG fan of this book – who doesn’t love a book over a Twitter feed; and Amanda Vickery’s short section of Gertrude Savile does the diarist such disservice! Anyone reading this book, Gertrude’s diaries, will know there is so much more to Gertrude Savile than a reputation as a mere constant complainer.

Starting “today” (19 May 2017), you’ve 8 days to bid — and remember, profits go to OXFAM, a very worthy charity.

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International Women’s Day (March 8)

March 8, 2017 at 2:35 pm (books, diaries, history) (, , )

Readers of Two Teens will see a familiar face when they check out Wikipedia’s homepage today, during International Women’s Day, Norfolk diarist Mary Hardy:

Hardy

Mary Hardy is well-represented in Margaret Bird’s excellent transcription, a vast 4-volume set (with an extra volume of out-takes) which is packed with informational notes and evocative illustrations. I am patiently waiting for the companion volumes.

Mary Hardy appears in the following Two Teens in the Time of Austen posts:

CELEBRATE Women!!

March 2019 UPDATE: a new website has launched for the Mary Hardy project – Margaret Bird says, “The new website is compatible with all devices, including smartphones….It should now be much easier to navigate through the 42 pages and 58 news items.”

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Jane Austen’s England: Hicks Beach Diary

January 25, 2017 at 11:00 am (estates, history, news) (, , , )

Although I was too late to actually WATCH (online) this London auction (1 PM GMT, 25 January 2017), I quickly could see what this exquisite little diary SOLD FOR, and listen to the rapid sale of other manuscripts and books.

diaryThe sale was enticingly advertised as representing “Jane Austen’s England”:

Jane Austen’s England.- [Hicks Beach (Henrietta, wife of Sir Michael Hicks, later Hicks Beach, of Netheravon, Wiltshire and Williamstrip Park, Coln St. Aldwyn, Gloucestershire, 1760-1837)] [Diary & Account Book], printed in red with manuscript insertions, 88pp. excluding blanks, most entries in pencil, a few in ink, pencil sketches of furniture on a few pp., list of novels at beginning and provisions at end, 1f. loose, browned, inner hinges weak, original roan, rubbed, ink date “1789” on upper cover, lacks head of spine, 2 tears on spine, 12mo, 1789. ⁂ Includes numerous references to visits and dinners, including to the Chute family of The Vyne (a country house near Basingstoke), and their relatives, the Bramstones of Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, both families known to the Austen and Hicks Beach families. “Friday 6th February 1789 Mr W Chute came to Dinner…”; “Sunday 13 September 1789 went to the Vine to Dinner… Mr. T. Chute”. Also includes amounts lost and won at cards, payment for wages, items bought, money received from Mr. Hicks and paid to their son, Michael. Other names including, the Pettat family (Rev. C.R. Pettat became Rector of Ashe), Polhill, Musgrave etc. Jane Austen was 14 in 1789 when this diary was compiled. “The Beach and Wither families were well known, and frequently discussed by the Austens at Steventon. When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach… lost one of their babies, in 1796, Jane Austen was well enough acquainted with their romantic story to confide to her sister Cassandra, ‘I am sorry for the Beaches’ loss of their little girl, especially as it is the one so like me’ (9 January 1796).” – Chris Viveash. Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Vol. 24, 2002.

I suspect it was once owned by Chris Viveash. OH! how I wish I had gotten online in time to hear the auctioneer say, “Lots of interest in this lot”, (as he undoubtedly did!). The auctioneer goes through lots FAST, yet always the fair warning, which gives just enough time to put in a new bid, IF YOUR WALLET IS THICK ENOUGH.

The successful buyer must indeed have had deep pockets. The estimate was £400-600.

The selling price (which may NOT include the seller’s premium): £1,100!

janeaustens-england
(click to enlarge)

Few will have heard of the Hicks Beach family – but attach the name “Jane Austen” and it was guaranteed to sell. Did it go to an internet buyer? phone buyer? or “In the Room” — would LOVE to know where it will be heading to, after today.

Would be WONDERFUL to learn that the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), which has some Hicks Beach materials, or The Vyne – which gets mentions in the diary – was a purchaser. Will we ever learn its fate??

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Merry Christmas Wishes

December 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm (diaries, entertainment) (, , , , , )

Just HAD to share some choice *nuggets* from the pen of Oscar Wilde, thanks to The Importance of Being Earnest.

miss fairfaxThe Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on a train.”

*

Miss Prism: “You must put away your diary, Cecily.  I really don’t see why you should keep a diary at all.”
Miss Cecily Cardew: “I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them”

*

miss cardewMiss Cecily Cardew:  “I think your frankness does you great credit, Ernest.  If you will allow me, I will copy your remarks into my diary.”  [Goes over to table and begins writing in diary.]
Mr. Algernon Moncreiff: “Do you really keep a diary?  I’d give anything to look at it.  May I?”
Miss Cecily Cardew:  “Oh no.”  [Puts her hand over it.]  “You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.  When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.”

Watch the 1952 film, with
Joan Greenwood & Dorothy Tutin

two diaries

Best Wishes!

KM

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Betley Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars

December 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm (books, diaries, research) (, , , , , , )

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen may know of my admiration for Mavis E. Smith’s book, Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall; for instance, I mention being “positively engrossed” in this book of Journals and Letters – when I first picked it up in 2008. Then came the publication of The Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. I have both! Now – in December – I find that Mavis Smith has another publication right up my alley (time-period-wise); alas, it came out this past spring:

betley soldiers

It’s a slim little booklet, only 28 pages, but only £2.50. I wish I could say more about its contents at present. It’s published by the Betley Local History Society, and I’ve a wonderful bookshop in the area, which I’ve ordered from before (very friendly and fast service): The Nantwich Bookshop. Treat yourself to a Xmas gift and get all three!

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Persuasion: a novel of love

September 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm (books, diaries, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ah….

I have just finished Persuasion, one volume (along with Northanger Abbey) of six in a new-to-me complete set of Jane Austen novels.

all austen

Bought in the spring (April), they departed England at the height of summer (July 1st); to arrive in the north-eastern United States on the cusp of Fall (September).

They are the Chapman, 3rd edition. The leather binding melts in my hands, so soft to the touch, reminding me of the exquisite feel of one leather-bound volume once residing in the library of Mrs Gosling (sent, so kindly sent, by Martyn Downer).

bookplate_Mrs Gosling

I hope next to pick up Mansfield Park, to decide at last whether to propose the paper topic I’ve long had in my head, or work on some other project.

The rekindled love of Captain Wentworth for Miss Anne Elliot is too well-known to need much information here; but how difficult, being let in on the personal correspondence and journal confessions of the Smiths & Goslings, not to muse on others who in real life were thwarted in obtaining marital happiness, without much anxiety — and years of waiting.

Richard Seymour’s family seems to have endured much in this line. Two sisters — TWO! — who were sorely tried. The first, his sister Dora, was persuaded by her own family – Richard a reluctant persuader – to give up marrying the Rev. Mr. Chester.

In October, 1835, Richard writes in his diary:

“letter from John & Dora announcing her attachment & engagement to Mr. Chester: Rector of Elsted. John disapproving on acc:t of small means £400 per an. Wrote to Dora as kindly as I c:d–“

Announcing her attachment AND engagement…

John was the eldest Seymour brother, Sir John Culme Seymour.

Kindly Richard, the following day, wrote “to John & my Mother, urging as much consideration as possible to Dora’s wishes”.

Two days later, and he has ridden from Mapledurham (Mrs Smith’s home) to Blendworth (Lady Seymour’s home), to discuss family business.

By the end of the week he has gone “to Elsted. Found Mr. C:– entered on his affairs – w:h proved below the amount named and cannot be strictly called more than £330 per an – (£3700 in the Funds and his living ab:t £200 per an) & 23 acres of Glebe — pretty spot – returned home – talked to Dora – who soon agreed to write to him, expressing her decision to comply with the advice of her Mother & Brothers & relinquish her hopes. I added a note to this–“

Dora returns to Mapledurham with her brother, “thinking the change w:d be useful to her”.

At the time, Richard was bearing his own grief: the death of his son, Fanny’s first child.

“my visit to Blendworth sadly hurried, but glad to have made it for Dora’s sake – I trust she has acted as is most for her real happiness–“

Dora married Mr Chester two years later, in August 1837. They had only a few years together, before Mr Chester’s untimely death, in April 1841.

* * *

That same year, 1835, Richard’s diary speaks of a “Letter from Mrs. Vyse, expressing Col:l. V’s continued disapproval of GHV’s attachment”

GHV was George Howard Vyse; his “attachment” was to Lizzy, Richard’s next-to-youngest sister. Whatever Colonel Vyse’s disapproval was based upon, it was intransigent. For nearly twenty months had passed since Richard’s notation, on Sunday 12 January 1834, that, “Between the Services, to my great surprise G.H.V: {George Vyse} came in — full of affection to dear Lizzy  I trust they will yet be happy together-“

This couple would not marry until August 1839!

* * *

There is also, closer to home, the story of Augusta Smith, Emma’s eldest sister. Emma herself was the first of the six sister’s to marry. Augusta followed in the following year. She too, like Lizzy Vyse, seems to have been the subject of her father-in-law’s enmity.

An extraordinary letter, written in November 1828, exists. The Rev. Henry Watson Wilder, an old suitor of Augusta’s, laid his own tormented thoughts at Mrs Smith’s feet:

“My dear Madam

You will I am sure be surprised at this letter; I fear it may cause you some uneasiness but if I have not mistaken the kind feelings of regard you have hitherto expressed towards me you will I think forgive me  … Though many months have now passed since my intercourse with your family has ceased, much as I have thought on the subject I have most sincerely convinced myself that no other woman is likely to supply the place your eldest daughter has long held in my affection…”

Emma’s diary accounts for the arrival of this letter, two days later. Henry Wilder then calls; the date is marked by being the 30th Birthday of James Edward Austen.

Emma’s diary marks out the progress:

  • Charles, Mr Wilder & Augusta walked into the city to Mr. Lawford’s
  • Mamma had a long conversation with Mr Wilder
  • The party in town accompanied by Mr. Wilder went to see the Zoological garden

and finally:

11/23 “All the party & Mr Wilder went to St. James Church … the afternoon we went to see the Edridges  Lady Smith & Miss Bennett called here  Augusta was engaged to marry Mr Henry Wilder  He came to drink tea here”

Emma and Edward married within the month, on the 16 December 1828; the Wilders, four months later.

But when had Henry Wilder first declared himself? And was he the reason that a romance with a young doctor – a man (according to the Austens’ daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) who had the approbation of Lady Elizabeth Compton’s family at Castle Ashby — went nowhere?

Perhaps, like Anne Elliot, it was easy to give up a second man (in Anne’s case, Charles Musgrove) when the first man was so decidedly unavailable. And perhaps, like Anne, Augusta could revel in a revival of feelings kept dormant for several years.

One sentence, towards the end of Persuasion struck me with great force (page 240): “There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had first been projected; more tender, more tired, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment…”

A month before the marriage of her eldest daughter, Mrs Smith was writing bride Emma Austen, “I really think his {Henry Wilder’s} love is always encreasing; he spends most of the mornings with her, as well as the Evenings. Fanny & Eliza are almost tired of seeing him here, & want to know whether he will be as much tied to her side after marriage; I flatter them with hopes that he will not. What say you to it? You have had a little experience now. I do hope Edward pities you a great deal; cheers you & comforts you.”

Jane Austen may never have married, but she seems to have been intuitively attuned to the feelings of those who loved, lost, and lived to regain that emotion.

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