The Vyne: Meet Eliza Chute

July 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, jane austen, travel) (, , , , , , , , )

Want to walk in the FOOTSTEPS of Mary and Emma? A visit to The Vyne is one of the few “open to the public” homes which they used to inhabit, both women visited “Aunt Chute” and her home. Emma, being Eliza Chute’s niece from birth, visited more often – and came away with the ultimate prize: her husband Edward Austen!

Can’t get to the countryside outside of Basingstoke (Hampshire, England)? A ‘next best thing’ comes via this photo-laden blogspot, LoveIsSpeed. VERY rare are the interior shots.

vyne botanicals

Botanicals grace the walls of this little bedroom – and includes work by Margaret Meen, Augusta Smith (“mamma” to my Emma Austen), Lady Northampton, Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), and – of course! – Eliza Chute herself. Recent letters have tipped me off to how much Eliza Chute was addicted to painting.

The Botanicals are often painted upon Vellum; the few I’ve seen in the flesh are genuinely “etherial”.

LoveIsSpeed has some fantastic shots of the grounds, exterior, and some items of a recent special installation. I invite you to visit Aunt Chute yourself!

Should you wish to READ more about Eliza, Jane Austen, and The Vyne the best book out there is Rupert Willoughby’s Sherborne St. John and The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen. This is a fascinating look at a period in the estate’s history that isn’t always heavily considered by the National Trust — ie, the VERY period of Eliza and William Chute.

sherborne st john_willoughby

Rupert Willoughby, who was very kind in offering up suggestions for getting a handful of Chute letters, has published several books on local Hampshire history. Among his books is Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village and Selborne: Gilbert White’s Village.

Reading is ALSO the ‘next best thing to being there. Jane Austen obviously agrees:

janeaustenvyne

 

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William Heathcote of Hursley Park

July 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

Always searching for more, I’ve come across this ENCHANTING portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – which features a cherubic William Heathcote (later the 5th baronet), with his cousins, painted by William Owen c1803.

wm heathcoteThe museum’s write-up about the painting is fascinating: for it proves how wrong a catalogue attribution sometimes can be! The baby in the quartet was, in 1938, thought to be William (born in 1801). This then meant that the children surrounding the baby were all little girls… When you click on the picture to see the ENTIRE portrait (it will take you to the Met, and open in another window) you will see why this is so important a mistake.

  • when at the Met’s website, click under “catalogue entry” for the painting’s full history

William, who was a GREAT CHUM of Edward Austen, was the son of the Rev William Heathcote, vicar of Worting. Jane Austen knew the Heathcotes well; little William’s mother was the former Elizabeth Bigg, daughter of Lovelace Bigg-Wither. Elizabeth returned to her parental home following the early death of her husband. Jane Austen was friendly with all the Bigg sisters of Manydown.

The painter, William Owen, exhibited the work in 1806.

The fascinating part of the history is what happened in 2012 – just two years ago – when a descendent gave the museum access to family history and, based on birth dates, the Met re-evaluated the sitters.

The Heathcote pictures (yes, in the PLURAL) were sold off in the 1930s, by a distant relation who had inherited the baronetcy (as mentioned, Edward Austen’s friend was the 5th baronet). As the website says, the extensive collection “constituted a rather comprehensive record of the appearance of succeeding generations from the late seventeenth century until shortly after 1800“. Breaks my heart to read of families divesting themselves of The Old Family Portraits – but without such divestment these would not be found online now…

Owen’s work has great charm, in the rusticity of the scene presented.

I forgot to mention: William Heathcote’s first wife was Caroline Perceval, daughter of the 2nd Baron Arden — who was related to the Comptons of Castle Ashby (ie, Emma Austen’s Aunt and Uncle Northampton). So, in a way, William “married into the family” even before Edward Austen did! (He and Emma Smith married on 16 December 1828.)

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A Country Gentleman

July 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm (books, diaries, estates, jane austen, research) (, , , , , )

Elizabeth Bennet made a decided coup de grace when she uttered the words, “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”

In looking up the books.google link, Arthur Aspinall gives a great indication of what it was to be “a Country Gentleman”, while admitting, “It is impossible to define a country gentleman in a phrase.”

The title of the book I’ve found – about Sir William Heathcote, a firm friend of Edward Austen (later, Austen Leigh) – claims just that impossible-to-define title for this biography. You’ll find several mentions of my dear Edward in it!

william heathcote_aged6

The portrait is a close-up of one included in the book, showing William at the age of 6. William’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who returned after her husband’s death to her father’s home. The household at MANYDOWN, the estate of Lovelace Bigg Wither, gets many mentions in the correspondence of Jane Austen. Edward Austen mentions this lifelong friend with great love.

sir william heathcote

Sir William Heathcote, 1873

 

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What WERE they Thinking? Dull?! NEVER —

March 1, 2014 at 10:47 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I am in seventh heaven this weekend transcribing letters written by Augusta Wilder, her main correspondent being her sister Charlotte, now Mrs Arthur Currie.

This particular letter dates to January 1834.

It opens with a comical story of a “black dog” whom “Mr Baillie” (related to Joanna Baillie??) would like to foist upon Henry Wilder, then moves on to the affecting story of two “Cousins” who are in line for the “Orphan Asylum”! This begging for an act of charity segues into a discussion very close to my heart: the lamented demise of William Ellis Gosling, Mary’s eldest brother. Augusta calls him “a valued friend“. He died, aged only thirty-nine, of scarlet fever, contracted at Christmas time. One day well; next day ill; days later – dead.

Next is mention of Mr & Mrs Knight, with a fine description – though a bit puzzling too – of the lady. Then begins a lengthy discussion of Edward Austen’s great friend, fellow clergyman Mr Majendie. Augusta compliments his singing and his conversation – but saves her highest praise for the man’s preaching. A nugget, indeed!

A heartbreaking assessment of Augusta’s son Frederick is tackled, thanks to her noticing the progress Emma’s children make – including one (“Charlie”) born in the same year as Fred (1832), and only days before him. I’ve yet to name any kind of illness or debility from the references given to baby Fred’s health. He ultimately lived into his 60s — and had three wives.

Much more letter follows (Augusta was given to crossing her writing, and this letter is a typical example of that practice), but what caught my eye was the direction. The letter was originally addressed — and, yes, opens with My dear Charlotte — to Mrs Currie in London; and that address is struck out and the letter forwarded to Mrs Smith at Tring Park.

There is a pen notation of the receipt of the letter (19 January; it is dated the 18th); but a pencil note that surely reads Jan ’31. And “beneath” that a correction to 1834, with the last digit underlined. Considering the letter is dated, there are many postal stamps, and of course notice of the death of William and the illness of Mr Gosling, 1831 is clearly incorrect – but who made the mistake? who in a separate dating “corrected” it?

That matters less to me than what is written – again in pencil – at ninety-degrees to the address. Can you read it?

augusta wilder letter

Pencil is one of my *frights* to read – it wears off, is often light to begin with – and is typically used as a third application to a crossed letter, which simply is NOT a help in deciphering the contents! But I’m quite sure I’ve puzzled this one out:

Mrs Augusta / Smith / to Charlotte / Currie / dull  

Oh, dear…

Firstly, the writer is not Mamma; it is to Charlotte Currie, but it is FAR FAR from D-U-L-L! In fact, the letter is a jewel! Who could be so cruel??

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I Want to Read…

March 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm (books, introduction, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…DIARIES and LETTERS!

It occurred to me that blog readers might be interested in a bit of “hmmm… what’s she raising money for??” explanation. (see the Austen Book Raffle posts).

I’m more than happy to bend a few “eyes” (and ears) about my research project! (As friends and family know, to their detriment…)

To start at the very beginning: I visited Northern Wales — Llangollen to be exact — and was just ENCHANTED with the story of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I began collecting “first-hand” information, and posted it on my website. Surprisingly, there was abundant material! Though much found was of the second-hand, mythic variety, there were some great finds.

One “find” was a Duke University diary. Once belonging to MARY GOSLING, the diary turned out to contain several trips – to the English coast, to the battlefields of Waterloo, and a certain trip to Ireland that took the Gosling family through Northern Wales. And — wait for it! — they visited with the Ladies! Were shown around Plas Newydd (the home of the Ladies of Llangollen; now a museum), in fact!

But who were these GOSLINGS??

(And, by the way, Mary hadn’t much to about the Ladies, other than what was already known about them – ie, how they dressed and how they never travelled far from home.)

With the internet, I struck gold. Found a series of diaries written by Lady Smith, the 2nd daughter of William Gosling of Roehampton Grove, a banker. Now, in Mary Gosling’s diary, there was a man who brought his family to see Bank of Ireland currency MADE. Who, other than a banker, would have the ability to go that? And Mary had them departing from “Roehampton”!

But, without seeing these later diaries of Lady Smith’s, it was mere supposition that Mary Gosling = Lady Smith.

The main reason these Lady Smith diaries were listed online was that they were included in part of an exceptional large microfilm collection. Essex County was in PART FIVE, which I learned was a far cry from Part One — the only series owned by the closest “big” educational facility within easy driving: Dartmouth College (New Hampshire). Oh, the drive home that day was a disappointment.

Again: thankfully the internet — and online college & university catalogues — helped me track down a handful of places with the full series (or at least through series five). A trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought me within easy distance of one of those few: Old Dominion University. I’ve never seen such a lovely library! And once I found the rolls of film with Lady Smith’s diaries, I was well rewarded: There was the SAME handwriting, the same reference to “My Sister” (Mary never calls Elizabeth Gosling anything other than “my Sister”.)

I had found my girl!

Or, should I say girls — for that day I spotted my first reference to young Emma:

If I had KNOWN that in looking up some Jane Austen books I’d have found ALL of Charles Joshua Smith’s siblings, I would have saved myself TONS of digging… Alas, it’s almost a “happier” circumstance to piece the family together: 9 Smith siblings in all!

“Mr Austen, Mr Knight, and Mrs Leigh Perrot” in the diary entry above (Emma and Edward’s first child’s christening!) were the giveaways about the Jane Austen connection.

And thanks to that connection I got to see TONS of diaries and letters and memorabilia (for instance, a lock of young Drummond Smith’s hair!) at the Hampshire Record Office, when I lived in England for two months in 2007 in order to transcribe as much material as possible. For most of the time, I worked six days a week at the archive (thanks to their generous hours) and on the seventh — well, I began well: reading and reviewing the work of previous days, but it was summer and, yes, some Sundays I spent in the park near Winchester’s town hall.

I had already inter-library loaned those rolls of microfilm with Lady Smith’s diaries; purchased a roll of film with all of the existing diaries written by Charles Joshua Smith (Mary Gosling’s husband; Emma Smith’s eldest brother), which the Essex Record Office houses. Now I had a growing collection of letters and diaries by the likes of Emma, her mother Augusta Smith, her sisters Augusta, Fanny and Maria; a diary series belonging to Fanny’s eventual husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour was briefly worked on at the Warwickshire Record Office (their hours were much shorter than HRO’s…).

In short, I’ve seen much, typed a LOT, and still there is more material for me to “visit” — if not in person (expensive) then via film.

And that’s where the Book Raffle comes in. Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) made some delightful silhouettes, and his descendent, Freydis Welland, put them together into a book, originally published by private press: A Life in the Country. The pictures are accompanied by Jane Austen quotes. The book was then published “commercially” by the British Library.

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