At Highclere for the Gardens & House

January 7, 2013 at 1:47 am (diaries, estates, europe, history, jane austen, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , )

My dear Emma Smith was a talented artist; her diaries are rife with tales of the industry of the Smith of Suttons sisters, their pencils scratching away at their drawings.

Watching the excellent television program, Secrets of Highclere Castle, with its peek inside the walls of the actual residence used in the series Downton Abbey, I had a flash of typing that name — Highclere — while transcribing Emma’s diaries.

highclere castle

Indeed, there is brief mention in 1829, the spring of the first year she spent as Emma Austen. She has been visiting Austen family, and within days of her visit to Highclere (27 May 1829) she is also noting a stay at “Mr Lefroy’s at Ashe,” where they entertained Edward Knight, Mr and Mrs William Knight, Miss Knight, and “Mrs. Cassandra Austen at dinner”.

Watching the special, I was rather surprised that the Carnarvon family tree includes a member of the Rothschild family. I haven’t seen a lot about Almina Wombwell / Lady Carnarvon, but her father, Alfred, was the second son of Baron Lionel de Rothschild — who in 1872 purchased Tring Park, the rented estate the Austens (Emma, Edward and their first children) shared with Emma’s mother Augusta Smith and her unmarried children.

lady carnarvon

Read about the book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
at Enchanted Serenity of Period Films.

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Texas Beckons – Long and Winding Road nears its end

October 12, 2011 at 8:03 am (jane austen, jasna, news, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Today marks the beginning of the JASNA AGM long and winding road: I leave for Manchester, NH and a Thursday flight for Dallas-Fort Worth.

It has, indeed, been long and winding…

Was last year about this time that I proposed a paper to the Annual General Meeting 2011 of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Then came the acceptance! Hurrah, was my first thought; but it’s been much work — and time away from my beloved Smiths & Goslings. In the last month, when I might have been living life in 1830s England, transcribing Richard Seymour’s diaries, I’ve been looking to fine tune some Jane Austen writings. I’ve read Austen because she would have been Emma’s “Aunt”; Emma, on visits to Chawton, when she describes Cassandra Austen or Edward Knight, might have been rubbing elbows with a woman whose books she read (there is a diary notation of Mansfield Park in 1818). I’ve certainly learned a lot about life, reading Austen’s novels; and also learned about obscure aspects of her novelistic world by studying the Smiths & Goslings. Yet, I’ll be glad to get back to “work” come November. I’m missing “my people”!

I’ve never been West – so this will be a bit of a treat. Going book-looking in New Hampshire (if all goes well) at my favorite used bookstore: Old Depot No. 6, in Henniker.

Not a lot of book room in the suitcase, should the JASNA Emporium beckon…

Hope to keep you up-to-date while I’m at the AGM!

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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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