The Wynne Diaries

September 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , )

Years ago I visited Dartmouth College library several times a month – I had a quarter-year pass to borrow books. A hectic summer, but a productive one.

Surely it was during that summer that I spotted, on the shelf in the darkened bowels of the library where books of English history & biography are stored, the three-volumes that make up The Wynne Diaries. Although the published diaries include entries by three Wynne sisters, it is Betsey Wynne — the future Lady Fremantle, wife of Admiral Thomas Fremantle (one of Nelson’s “band of brothers”), who makes headlines.

  • 2010 story of the ‘rediscovery’ of the original diaries (The Independent)

Both the newspaper article and the talk cited below list the impetus for Elaine Chalus’ interest in her project: Her finding a worn, old Penguin paperback, a one-volume reprint of the original Oxford set. I never knew such existed, but even if I had – the lover of “complete” editions in me would had brought about the same search for the full three volumes (1935-1937-1940). I found them, online, pricey but far less so than the current offers. And my trio had their dust jackets!

  • Giustiniana Wynne (aunt) figures in the biography A Venetian Affair, by Andrea di Robilant

Needless to say, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Chalus’ biography, The Admiral’s Wife, so this recent 75-minute talk was a nice find, although I do wish Betsey were less “seen through the eyes of her husband”, but given its title, ” ‘My dearest Tussy’: Family, Navy and Nation in the Fremantle Papers, 1801-1814″, the talk should be forgiven for being a bit Thomas-Fremantle-centric. Being women’s history, its firm association with Nelson will undoubtedly help sales once the biography finally hits the shelves.

chalus

While listening, I took down two short notes, relevant to my own project:

  • “this is a face-to-face world, where knowing people matters, using your networks matters”;
  • “building community networks… entertaining the community; paying the visits, and the reciprocal visiting, and offering dinners and going out to dinners, and having balls… This is very much the Jane Austen world, in that sense; people are forever popping in and visiting, and having a cup of tea, and then going out and inviting somebody else to dine.”
wynne diaries

colorful jackets of the original Wynne Diaries

 

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Lady Nugent and Jamaica, 1801-1805

March 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm (books, diaries, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

The Smiths’ aunt Susannah (Mrs Thomas Smith) notes that her brother-in-law, Lord Mayo, attended an 1823 ball hosted by Lady Nugent. Maria (née Skinner) Nugent turns out to have left a journal, which was published as Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years ago (published: 1907).

maria lady nugentMaria Skinner was born in New Jersey.

Mrs Thomas Smith first writes of encountering Sir George Nugent in 1808 at Clovelly Court.

Kristin Condotta speaks on Mrs Nugent’s colonial years in a talk entitled ‘I Thank God I’m not a Man’: Lady Nugent and the Self-Made Woman in Colonial Jamaica, 1801-05. You can listen to this talk online (19+ minutes)

From the introduction to the 2002 edition, re-edited by Philip Wright, “Maria Nugent’s Journal is mainly concerned with life int he household of the Governor of Jamaica during a period of about four years, from Augusta 1801 to June 1805. As the Governor’s wife, the writer found herself at the centre of a slave-owning society, with a part to play there and no mere onlooker, yet observing its manners with the curiosity of a stranger. She met everyone of importance in the colony…”

Diarist Elizabeth Fremantle (in The Wynne Diaries, 3 vols) has left this “first impression” of the lady, from a meeting in December 1800: “Mrs. Nugent is the most conceited little woman I ever saw, she is very pretty though shorter than myself, she has the smallest head that can be, very thin and little. She is an amazing dresser, never appears twice in the same gown.” After a shopping expedition: “Mrs. Nugent bought a great deal of lace, she seems not to care how much money she spends in dres,s but she truly improves upon acquaintance and is a pleasant even-tempered little woman.”

Lady Nugent died, aged 63, in 1834.

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