Faint Faces Found

June 13, 2021 at 8:36 am (diaries, estates, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been searching for several things lately, and usually come across something completely different in that kind of situation. Friday night proved to be no different.

I’ve been reading through old letters, first from 1840 (to go with a diary I’ve transcribed); then those from 1836 – a momentous, tragic year for the Smiths & Goslings, because of the deaths (by drowning) of Augusta and Henry Wilder, in a boat accident. I have recently come across two *new* letters, written in the aftermath of this family tragedy.

1840 was another year of loss – with the death of sister Charlotte Currie. And it was in the hope of (always a hope!)  finding more letters from Charlotte that I began reading letters to Charlotte, written predominantly by eldest sister Augusta Wilder.

It was while looking for any “hit” with Charlotte and Arthur Currie, that I searched for one of several addresses at which Arthur lived – and found that his old home, High Elms (Watford), is currently up for sale! It’s a MASSIVE 14-bedroom (7 bath) Grade II listed house:

Arthur settled here long after Charlotte’s death, bringing their children and his second wife, Dora (née Seymour; the widowed Mrs. Chester). The interiors are stunning (if “empty” looking in these photos). Take a peek now (before the listing disappears) – although the price is liable to keep it on the market for a bit of time – asking £7.5 million (it does come with 10 acres of land).

[Be advised: Arthur Currie of High Elms is far different from General Sir Arthur Currie.]

When High Elms was still called “Garston Manor” (from the 1890s until 2010), it was featured in a 2011 episode of Country House Rescue, the series hosted by Ruth Watson. I must see if I can find that particular episode…

Friday, I had also been trying to locate the diary (sounds like there is only one, but one never knows!) of Jane Eliza Currie – the wife of Captain Mark John Currie, Royal Navy, Arthur’s cousin. The one diary – though (great pity!) I’ve not been able to locate images of its written contents – covers the couple’s voyage in 1829 and stay (through 1832) in Australia — in quite a new settlement at the time, which is why she as well as he comes up in searches. I’ve had a brief look through Smith & Gosling letters and early diaries for Miss Wood (I don’t know if she went by ‘Jane’ or ‘Eliza’ – I find people referring to her by each of those; but what did she call herself??) and/or the Mark Curries Junior. Not successful there. Being out of England until their return in the 1830s, means there’s no hope (or very little) that Arthur and Charlotte would be mentioned by Jane Eliza – but one never knows. It is a new avenue to take a look down. What I have found is located at the Mitchell Library, NSW. And Currie just is not an easy name to search for — so much overtaken by a certain “General Sir”.

I have also been trying to remember who I had found – among the grandchildren? (not sure now) – whose death had been looked into via a coroner’s inquest. An accidental overdose. I remember a woman… Laudanum or Morphine… but the WHO escapes me, as does the date (19th century still? Early 20th century?). I thought maybe one in the Capel Cure family – and that was how I located my *FIND*!

Of Mary Gosling’s three children – Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith; Mary Charlotte Smith; Augusta Elizabeth Smith – two married children of Capel Cure and Frederica Cheney. The Cure siblings make for heartbreaking reading in retrospect – five of the eleven children died before the age of 21. The main seat of the Cures, Blake Hall, is very familiar from the letters and diaries of the Smiths and Goslings. Of course Mary (Lady Smith) never lived to see these marriages of her children – she died in 1842 and the first marriage, Sir Charles Smith to Agnes Cure, occurred in February 1855. The next to marry, in 1857, were younger sister Augusta Smith and the Rev. Lawrence George Capel Cure.

[Elder sister Mary married in 1861, Major Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, Royal Artillery.]

Since much literature that mentions the Capel Cure children does not mention all of them, I will list them here. You can find them in the 2nd volume of The Visitation of England and Wales (same place the Smiths of Suttons turns up):

  • Robert
  • Henry (died aged 7)
  • Frederica (died aged 10)
  • Alfred [the photographer]
  • (Rev.) Edward
  • Rosamund
  • (Rev.) Lawrence [married Augusta Smith]
  • Emmeline (died aged 19)
  • Agnes [married Sir Charles Smith]
  • Charles (died aged 8)
  • Frederick (died aged 14)

I have known of the photography work done – early in the “life” of photography – by Alfred Capel Cure. I have come across images of trees or estates – but Friday I spotted a LOT of PEOPLE. And when one album, digitized by UCLA, popped up a photograph of a portrait of “Sir C. Smith” by Ercole (whom I knew to have drawn Lawrence Cure), I slowed to savor each of the gentry portraits in Alfred’s album.

WITH SUCCESS!

A couple of photographs of Charles — whom I often still refer to, as his mother Mary did, as “Little Charles”. Mary, of course, was differentiating husband from son; I, on the other hand, know the son through the mother – and he was a child and teen in Mary’s lifetime. (Charles was born in 1827.) At least one album photograph ID’s him. Also ID’ed in a photograph is “Lady Smith and Miss Cure” – Alfred’s sisters, Agnes and Rosamund. Agnes and/or Rosumond (the only surviving girls) feature in a couple of group portraits, one of which surely includes Lawrence – it so resembles his Ercole portrait.

There are pictures of the exteriors of Suttons, Blake Hall, Badgers (a Cheney estate, which came into Alfred Capel Cure’s possession). So many familiar names. So many unknown faces.

Among the familiar names a faint and faded face identified as Lady Marian Alford. Lady Marianne Compton, as she originally was, was the eldest daughter of Spencer 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin) and Margaret Clephane. There are a LOT of images – painted and photographed – of Lady Marian (Viscountess Alford) out there.

Alas, no one identified as Mr. and Mrs. Leigh or their children … – which might have unearthed some new images of Emma and James Edward Austen.

But, among the faint and faded, came a duo identified as “the Misses Smith” and dated “Badger, 9 Nov:r 1854“. And I knew I had found something “Completely New”.

I usually have a “feeling” about a *FIND* – including excitement and sureness of the “who” or “what”. I don’t know WHY, but I have almost no feelings on this portrait. Except of loving the sweet faces I see.

Maybe it’s because, named “the Misses Smith” – I’m not sure who is who.

think the elder sister is standing; the younger sister is seated. The standing sister is smiling, broadly. A ring and what looks to be a charm bracelet dangle are on her visible right hand. Her left hand rests on the chair in which her sister is seated. This seated sister has a quieter look, as if not quite “ready” for the camera. And yet, there is an attractive wistfulness that becomes haunting the more one looks.

When they posed at Badger, Mary Charlotte Smith was soon, at the end of November 1854, to celebrate her 26th birthday. Augusta Elizabeth Smith was a few months past her summer celebration of turning 24-years-old. That it IS them is not in doubt – the diary of their uncle, the Rev. Richard Seymour, notes welcoming them to Kinwarton just after their stay at Badger.

The sepia coloring of the album’s print continues strong, fading only along the lines of the gowns and around their hands. It is a remarkable souvenir of their day, (or stay), at Badger during the time of their brother’s engagement.

 

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Anna Atkins (Google Doodle)

March 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , )

Often I stare at any given day’s “Google Doodle” with a thought for the cute design. YESTERDAY I found myself thoroughly entranced by learning about a woman who lived during the lifetime of my Two Teens!

Anna Atkins was born in 1799 — the same YEAR as Emma’s eldest sister Augusta Smith; she died in 1871, five years prior to Emma’s own death. Right there, given the overlapping time-frame, I was captivated.

atkins cyantope

But there are also ties to Tonbridge (Kent) and Fox Talbot (an important figure in the early days of photography). And her images are GORGEOUS!

  • Read Fox Talbot Letters online (for fun: search for COMPTON to find some ties to Two Teens [not ALL hits will be for Lord &/or Lady Compton])

I have to admit, that I am partly captivated by these Cyanotypes because of their “relationship” to the flower paintings done by the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (ie, Emma Austen’s mother and three aunts).

rhs images

Search for “Meen” to see some Erle Stoke floral drawings!

 

Two Teens actually HAS an “early photograph component to it too: Charles Spencer Scrase Dickins, son of Lady Elizabeth Compton and Charles Scrase Dickins. Some of his photographs of Italy are reproduced in the book PICTURING PLACE: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE GEOGRAPHICAL IMAGINATION. (<-Yes, this book gets the ordering of his name incorrect; and this one incorrectly IDs his uncle as a “duke” ->) His biography appears in the text Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860. (online preview)

Anna Atkins also provided engravings of shells to illustrate works. Of the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park, Lady Northampton (the eldest of the quarter) had an intense interest in shells, which included painting them with a similar attention to detail that one finds in the floral paintings!

I’m a bookworm, so will have to see what is available about Anna Atkins. Thrilling discovery! And a name I will now be on the lookout for in any of the later letters and diaries.  Did any of “my people” meet Anna Atkins??

 

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Early Photography: Chasing images

March 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How do you identify an image of a person – one painted or photographed long, long ago?

By what’s written on the back! if you’re lucky.

This miniature of Maria Smith, aka Lady Culme Seymour, was ID’ed as her; I take it to have been her mainly because the provenance claims a family descent.

It sold, at auction, with her mother-in-law’s miniature — Jane, Lady Seymour.

My task lately — and a daunting one it has been — is to ID a couple of photographs. Are they Maria? are they a sister? or (worse thought) have they been mis-identified????

Time WILL tell.

But that brings into the mix, several early photographers. Yes, these were certainly the types of people, with money enough, who would have been interested in having their portraits done. Interested, too, in pursuing photography for themselves, in the end. A photo album connected to the Gosling family resides at a Surrey archive; among portraits are also what can only be described as travel photographs! Imagine what you had to tote around to photograph your adventures away from home back in the 1870s!

One portrait of Maria is by the famed photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910). The National Portrait Gallery’s website about him calls Silvy “a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the nineteenth century. Maria seems to have been photographed in 1860. (She was born in 1814. You do the math.) Silvy moved to London in 1859. Her nephew, Mary and Charles Smith’s son, Charles Cunliffe Smith — along with his wife Agnes, Lady Smith — are represented in Silvy’s books, but far later in number. How fascinating to go through these book NPG has and see all the people photographed by Silvy!

But there are other family photos, but other photographers. One that has surfaced is a family group, plus some individual photographs, by William Claridge (1797-1876). He began photographing in the Berkhamsted area in the 1850s.

A third photographer, one with ties — at the very least — with the Comptons and Dickens families, is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online article entitled “William Henry Fox Talbot and the Invention of Phography“. I’ve come across mention of Dickens family pictures, and online have found Fox Talbot’s letters, which have him giving several wonderful descriptions of Lord and Lady Compton, while they lived in Italy.

Such valuable resources — in images and words.

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