Gouveneur Morris meets Lady Cunliffe & Daughters

May 7, 2013 at 8:35 am (books, diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thank you, Charlotte Frost (meet the author yourself, Dear Reader, on Twitter), for reminding me about a meeting that took place in 1790 in which Gouverneur Morris (famous to Americans) noted in his diary a meeting with my Lady Cundliffe (as he calls her) and her daughters, Mary (Mrs Drummond Smith) and Eliza (later: Mrs William Gosling).

morrisI typically put such comments into my “letters” files now; but this was a comment found so early on in the research (it began 7 years ago) that I remembered it having happened — but NOT what the man had written about them (that’s why I BUY books: to have them on the shelf to take down when I want them). In searching out the online book links for Charlotte Frost, I re-read the entry.

WOW!

“To-day [April 23d (1790)] I dine with my brother, General Morris. The company are a Lady Cundliffe, with her daughters, Mrs. Drummond Smith and Miss Cundliffe; the Marquis of Huntly, Lord Eglinton, General Murry, Mr. Drummond Smith (who, they tell me, is one of the richest commoners in England), and Colonel Morrison of the Guards. After dinner there is a great deal of company collected in the drawing-room, to some of whom I am presented; the Ladies Hays, who are very handsome, Lady Tancred and her sister, and Miss Byron are here, Mr. and Mrs. Montresor. I am particularly presented to Colonel Morrison, who is the quartermaster-general of this kingdom, and whose daughter also is here. She has a fine, expressive countenance, and is, they tell me, of such a romantic turn of mind as to have refused many good offers of marriage because she did not like the men. I have some little conversation with Mrs. Smith after dinner. She appears to have good dispositions for making a friendly connection, as far as one may venture to judge by the glance of the eye. Visit Mrs. Cosway, and find here Lady Townsend, with her daughter-in-law and daughter. The conversation here (as, indeed, everywhere else) turns on the man (or rather monster) who for several days past has amused himself with cutting and wounding women in the streets. One unhappy victim of his inhuman rage is dead. Go from hence to Drury Lane Theatre. The pieces we went to see were not acted, but instead, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Spoiled Child.’ This last is said to have been written by Mrs. Jordan. She plays excellently in it, and so, indeed she does in the principle piece.  Two tickets have been given me for the trial of Warren Hastings….” [pp 317-18]

Morris, from just this passage, seems to have had an eye for the ladies, don’t you think?

* * *

My two Cunliffe girls have short histories. Mary, who married Drummond Smith (brother to Joshua Smith – father of Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma Smith – the girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), was a new-ish bride. She had married in July 1786. Without a definitive birth date she was born circa 1762; her husband, born in July 1740, was about twenty-two years her senior! At this point in time, I have no real idea how the families met, why Mary Cunliffe and Drummond Smith married. I do know that Mary’s sister, Eliza Cunliffe, became a great friend to all the Smiths at Erle Stoke, though perhaps especially to second daughter Eliza (the future Mrs William Chute, of The Vyne).

It breaks my heart to think of Eliza Gosling, who married banker William soon after friend Eliza married her William (September 1793). She either was or came to be in fragile health. Eliza Chute worried about her having more children, writing that FIVE were enough in her nursery. The fifth Gosling child was my Mary Gosling (born February 1800) – obviously named for her Aunt and Grandmother.

But: Did Mary remember either her mother or her Aunt Mary? In December 1803, Eliza Gosling died. And by the end of February 1804 so had her sister! So it is with awe that I re-read Morris’ comments. This prior Mary Smith was destined never to become LADY SMITH; Drummond received his baronetcy months after her death. (Mary Gosling’s future husband would inherit the title from his great-uncle in 1816.) Simply WONDERFUL to hear that this Mary Smith seemed to have “good dispositions for making a friendly connection”.

morris2

NB: I am quite intrigued by his comment about the ‘monster’ on the loose.
I must find out more.

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Hmmm… whatever happened to ‘choosy’ Miss Morrison?

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Prior post on Lady Cunliffe

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Hear a letter from Augusta Smith to Eliza Gosling, 1797
(YouTube)

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Bleak house? November Notes from Letters

November 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm (diaries, history, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, the days have grown so short, now that the clocks are turned back. Night settles around the house, lights pop on at the flick of a switch, and I think of life for the Smiths & Goslings, 200 years ago.

So today I look up a few quotes, from November Letters and a Journal, to brighten up these lengthening November nights.

  • “Tuesday, being the 5th of Nov:br I tryed to get some squibs & crackers & at last John succeeded in making some, so we let them off last night.” — Drummond Smith, 6 Nov 1822, writing from Suttons, to his brother Spencer
  • “I believe Tanner has got a ferret, Miss M. mistook it one day for a very large rat.” — ditto
  • “you really can have no idea of how much we have to do, & how little time to spare, unless you could take a trip down here and spend a few weeks among us.” — Drummond Smith, 17 Nov 1824, writing from Harrow, to his eldest sister Augusta
  • “There have been several pugilistic encounters lately, I think I shall send Eliza notice that she may come, as she takes delight in them.” — ditto
  • “I afterwards went to Lady Compton’s  She is a gigantic, well-informed, hard-headed, blue Scotchwoman.” — Journal of Henry Edward Fox, 26 Nov 1824

And from the earlier generation:

  • “Dear Papa’s Eyes Glistened with Love & pleasure, he Blessed his little favorite  said she had always been a good Girl” — Sarah Smith, 13 Nov 1793, writing to her newlywed daughter, Eliza Chute
  • “I never heard of such a shameful conduct in any Officers as these Irish ones; swearing most shockingly, pass thro’ the Turnpikes without paying, they are the bane of Devizes, and no one can walk the Streets at night in safety.” — Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”), 16 Nov 1794, writing to her sister Eliza Chute
  • “The accident would not have happened if he had staid at home with Lady Compton to knit.” — Eliza Gosling (Mary’s mother), 7 Nov 1795, writing from Roehampton Grove, to her friend Eliza Chute

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A Lady Rancliffe Mystery

October 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm (books, diaries, history, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A letter written in French in late January 1797, by Augusta (“Mamma”) Smith to her friend Eliza Gosling, had this tidbit of gossip:

“All talk of the death of Lady Rancliffe as sad, & caused by her carelessness; there is surely something that we do not know; have the grace to tell me what caused her death: I hear that she has had some gallantry, & I think with Mr. Matthews. but did she ever leave her husband; we are wholly ignorant of this Chapter.”

Inquiring minds — mine included! — want to know more.

A couple of images of Lady Rancliffe exist – like this 1795 study for a portrait by Hoppner. She was Mrs Parkyns then. And her “biography” is really the only thing I can find. According to the Annual Necrology, Elizabeth Anne James was the only daughter of Sir William James. Her father died on her wedding day! Married to Thomas Boothby Parkyns on 16 Dec 1783. The year of Hoppner’s drawing, 1795, Parkyns was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Rancliffe.

By the time she died, Lady Rancliffe would be written up as “married at 18; has been the mother of nine children in thirteen years, six of which, one son and five daughters, are now living.” Her obituary describes her as, “with every elegrance of person, youth, riches, dignity, and mental accomplishments, in the highest degree refined, and cultivated; matched to a husband, whose worth is equalled only by his benevolence; nothing seemed to have been wanting to complete the happiness of the charming woman whose loss we now deplore.”

So what is the truth?

A happy, charming woman – or a wife on the look-out for other men? What might her “carelessness” have been?

To echo Augusta’s comment, “I am wholly ignorant of this Chapter.”

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Mrs Thrale’s connection to Mr Scrase

July 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm (books, diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Arrrggggghhhhh!

This certainly points up the need to check, double-check, and even triple-check information.

Yesterday, I devoured Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’, a new acquisition. Imagine my surprise to see Mrs Thrale in Brighton (not the surprising part), seeking help from her friend and attorney, Charles Scrase.

Now the Scrase Dickins have a long history, according to the Smith&Gosling letters and diaries I’ve seen, of residing in Brighton. Surely this Charles Scrase was a relation!

I’ve many volumes relating to the biography and papers of Hester Thrale / Hester Piozzi, as you may read in this post on my Ladies of Llangollen site. Her letter describing Lady Cunliffe’s anguish over the deaths of her two daughters (Eliza Gosling, my Mary’s mother, in December 1803; and Mary Smith, wife of Drummond Smith, in February 1804) is included in the Piozzi Letters. Thraliana mentions Mrs Drummond Smith, but so little else about the family. Yet it couldn’t simply be “gossip” that Hester passed on, she seemed to know Lady Cunliffe. Yet another straggling thread, to be taken up and sewn into the fabric of this family….

So when I read that Hester had sought out help — and achieved it — from Mr Charles Scrase, I was ballyhooing!

And yet…

Taking up Mary’s Hyde’s excellent book The Thrales of Streatham Park, which, in publishing Hester’s “Children’s Book,” touches on the era of Mr Thrale’s business problems and Hester’s seeking out Mr Scrase’s help and advice, I read the following:

“The transaction was handled by Charles Scrase, who had been Ralph Thrale’s lawyer, a family friend whom Thrale had known all his life, and whom Mrs. Thrale had come to like very much. He was a single man of sixty…”

A single man??! So not a forebear to Charles Scrase Dickins.

But the Brighton connection…; the very name ‘Scrase’…

I kept reading into the evening, but dug no more into the life of Mr Scrase — until this morning.

It IS the same man – maternal grandfather to Charles Dickins (my Charles Scrase Dickins’ father), who bequeathed his estate, and the name of Scrase.

You can read about the family in the Sussex Archeological Collections (1855).  Charles Scrase was an attorney at law, baptised in 1709 (Hyde confuses his brother’s baptism in 1707 for his own). He married Sarah Turner in 1742, and had two daughters: Sarah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth married William Smith, but died without issue. Sarah Scrase married Anthony Dickins. Among their children: Charles Dickins, husband to Elizabeth Devall (a name also spelled several ways) and father to Charles Scrase Dickins.

The Dickins married in 1792, the year grandfather Scrase died. But look what the editors of Fanny Burney’s Journals and Letters has to say in reference to Elizabeth Dickins: “daughter of Mrs. Thrale’s friend and adviser Charles Scrase (1709-92) of Brighton and wife of Anthony Dickins (c1729-94)”. Fanny Burney — close friend in the late 1770s and early 1780s to Mrs Thrale has made mention of Elizabeth Dickins! Alas, my only copy of Burney’s diaries and letters is a paperback selection, with no mention of Mr Scrase or Mrs Dickins.

Now I wonder a little less about how Hester Thrale / Hester Piozzi came to know the Cunliffe family. Yes, the Cunliffes knew Joshua Reynolds; yes, they’d met James Boswell; yes, Lady Cunliffe moved in the circle of the Bluestockings – but now the Scrase thread is weaving through their fabric slightly more boldly. More to come!

* * *

You can read about Fanny Burney’s comments regarding Mrs Dickens (sorry, Charlie!) at Project Gutenberg (1891 edition):

and the 1840s/1850s edition at Internet Archive:

all Internet Archives Burney listings

photo of Streatham Park, at Thrale.com

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

* * *

UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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Regency Costume Fashion Plates

January 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Sabine — who’s excellent blog, Kleidungum1800, you just must check out! — has unearthed a terrific series of fashion plates on Flikr. I took a quick peep at just one – a collection of 99 photos (wow!) from 1803-1804, or, as the collection comes from the Bibliothèque des Arts Décoratifs, when dealing with those that are French  plates: from the Year 12. (Dear Napoleon!)

As you can see from the little screen shot (right), the plates include fashions for both men and women.

The page claims it’s “A Work In Progress” – and what work it all entails! Plans for the beginning uploads include fashions from 1800-1820, as well as the American Civil War period (c1855-64).

We owe a debt to user “Nuranar”. Thank you, Danke, Merci!

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I can see the Two Elizas (Eliza Chute & Eliza Gosling) being interested in this little number,
they did so love reading the Letters of Mme de Sévigné (en français)!

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Mary and Emma would have use for either of these beauties,
especially if the evening included one of Mrs Gosling’s balls

Read more about the “crush” at a Mrs. Gosling’s ball, c1816

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6 Degrees of Separation

January 6, 2012 at 11:03 am (chutes of the vyne, diaries, london's landscape, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

No, not Eliza Chute and Jane Austen (although, it definitely is the case, as well). My “degrees of separation” are with a totally different “author” — one who never would have thought of herself as being in print.

One of the slim profferings (only three! my apologies for being so slack) on my little book blog GEORGIAN GEMS, REGENCY READS & VICTORIAN VOICES is a book entitled The Complete Diaries of a Cotswold Parson — these being the diaries of Francis Edward Witts.

I was reviewing a letter, written in August 1800, from Eliza Chute to her best friend Eliza Gosling, when a desire to read through the (heavily-edited) transcription of Eliza Chute’s 1800 diary overtook me.

Gosh! what lives these people lead — especially when they came up to Town (ie, London). I paid more attention to Eliza’s writings while in London than while back at The Vyne. Why? She visited all the other people in London — her sister Augusta Smith; Maria’s sister-in-law Lady Frances Compton, just removing to Chelsea; her parents Joshua and Sarah Smith at Great George Street — where that notorious view of St Margaret’s abutting Westminster Abbey may be viewed:

(Until seeing this photo, I never quite realized the “scene” behind Jane Austin was two towers of two buildings: now it made sense!)

Thrilling for me are Eliza’s visits to Eliza and William Gosling, as well as Lady Cunliffe (Eliza’s mother) — and her other daughter Mary. Mary was Mrs Drummond Smith — and therefore aunt to Eliza Chute!

  • view portraits of Eliza Chute, Lady Cunliffe, and Mrs Drummond Smith on this blog’s Portraits page

On 20 April 1800, Eliza noted a visit to a woman I transcribed as “Ly Elehos” – a name that, during a later reread (ie, without the original diary as reference), I flagged as fairly improbable. This reading it dawned on me that I KNEW who this woman was, not Lady Elehos but correctly transcribed as a possessive (though the original is probably without the apostrophe): “went out  admitted to Ly Elcho’s

Now here was a familiar name, from the Witts diaries! Susan Tracy Keck, related to Francis Witts’ mother (who has her own diaries – more about that momentarily), married and now named Lady Elcho, is mentioned again and again. And Eliza Chute knew them well enough to visit! She should: the Kecks and Chutes were related –> see the Chute family website at Ancestry.

Gosh! small world.

But BIG opportunity.

The “Complete” Cotswold series is (when completed) TEN volumes for Francis Witts and five volumes for Mrs Witts. The tenth volume for Francis is a volume of Notes, IDs, Index, &c. The publisher, Amberley Books, is on volume 8 (I have vols. 1 and 5); but poor Mrs Witts is in a holding pattern: her series is still only ONE volume. Groan…

Eliza, later in the year, then mentions this interesting phrase: “Paid a long visit to Ld Elcho’s who was going to Scotland in a few days

Undoubtedly the couple were departing London for Scotland to visit the Witts family — for the Witts, in debt, were at the beginning of their “nomadic” years. [UPDATE: with further reading I find my assumption is incorrect: the Witts left Edinburgh in 1798; they were abroad in 1800.]

So the big question — without the Index: Did the Witts ever mention Eliza and/or William Chute? And: Did the Witts at all know Eliza and William Gosling, especially when they were installed in Cheltenham, where the Witts too could be found.

New reasons for perusing “old” (sitting on my self) books. Hurry up, Amberley, we need more Agnes Witts!!

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Byrne’s Austen Portrait, Part II

December 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm (chutes of the vyne, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A kind friend sent a screen shot of the backside of the Byrne Portrait:

The “M” is curious: almost looks like a “tail” was added to the beginning stroke. Miss is not written as I might have expected: with the double-s written as an Esszet (as I call it after having had German lessons). Here is Mary Gosling / Lady Smith’s diary from 1829, citing the name Miss de Grey (her step-mother’s sister), with the double-s I expected:

Is is possible that the Miss was added? The one thing against that notion is that Eliza Chute (for instance) would have referred to her formally: Miss Austin would have been Cassandra; Miss Jane (or J.) Austin would have indicated the younger unmarried daughter. Eliza’s capital “M” typically began at the top of the left side, with a slight curl before the decent of the downstroke.

Eliza Chute’s capital “J” typically were shorter on the top, longer on the bottom (the opposite of the letter seen above). Her word-ending “e” typically was closed, as in Mary’s “de” above.

AUSTEN, on the other hand, could be akin to the way Eliza noted the name in her 1799 diary, reproduced in Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life.

My first thought was a shaky hand (possibly because of infirmity?).

Inconclusive conclusion, for I’ve no one about whom I would say, “This is so-and-so’s hand.”

* * *

Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: Regency Physician, has sent me an informative series of “thoughts & reactions” on viewing the program (thanks, Charlotte!), so there will be more to come.

Because the Chutes of The Vyne (or Vine) are so well-known, I’ve made little mention of them in this blog. Obviously, there are diaries missing in the Hampshire Record Office series, including the one which Paula Byrne thinks the “crucial” year: 1814.

Dear Blog Reader: If you’ve a diary, quite probably kept in a pocket book (typically red in color, but I remember one green-covered book) entitled THE DAILY JOURNAL, OR, Gentleman’s, Merchants’s and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt Book — these were a series of pre-printed diaries, with left-side available for memoranda and the right-side kept for accounts (debits and credits), but sometimes not used for that purpose — and you recognize some of these names, please-please-please contact me! (see Author, at right, for contact info.)

I make no claim to “world authority,” as Paula Byrne’s tweet claims, but I certainly have a deep interest in Eliza and all the family. So allow me to lay out a few words about Miss Eliza Smith of Erle Stoke Park and Mrs William Chute of The Vyne:

Gwyneth Dunstan, a former steward connected to The Vyne, was someone I contacted after finding notice of her talk, on 16 July 2009, at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Her talk was entitled, “Eliza Chute: A Gentlewoman in local society in Jane Austen’s Day”. It is from her talk’s poster that this silhouette of Eliza Chute was posted on this site, on the Portraits page:

The same appears in A Day in the Country; as companion silhouette for William Chute exists, the set must have been made prior to 1824 (when William died).

past posts:

      • Eliza Chute – it’s 1793 and Eliza has just married
      • Eliza Smith – writes of reading Madame de Sevigne
      • Lady Cunliffe – notes about her portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

I bring up Lady Cunliffe — mother to Eliza Cunliffe, who, only a few days after Eliza Smith married William Chute, married William Gosling (she eventually gave birth to my diarist, Mary Gosling) — because so much of Eliza Chute’s early “history” is tied up with her BFF Eliza Gosling. Lady Cunliffe and her daughters were known to James Boswell, who was a friend to the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Thrale, and Samuel Johnson. Boswell wrote to Reynolds about Lady C and her daughters…

I hate to leave readers dangling, but it’s been a long day, I’m tired…. So more tomorrow!

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Giving Thanks

November 27, 2008 at 11:42 am (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

This year there is much to give thanks for: the ability to pay mounting bills, and successful stays in hospital chief among them. And – as always – for this project, which continues to unfold.

Just yesterday evening I found a useful series of books (alas two volumes are missing; both of them waited for with baited breath! for they would contain ‘Cunliffe’ and ‘Smith’) = page scans at books.google of the Graves & Cronin 1899-1901 texts of A HISTORY OF THE WORKS OF SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, the originals in the collection of the terrific New York Public Library.

In the authoritative text Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (Yale: 2000), author David Mannings relies on Graves and Cronin as well as The Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds, by Leslie and Taylor (vol I here). THIS book had a handful of references to GOSLINGS, but the most intriguing was notice of a portrait of a generic “Mrs Gosling” (see page 388).

So the thrill of finding Graves and Cronin’s books are that there seem to be two portraits, one less fully known to them, of Mrs Goslings. Alas it is the less-fully-known (wouldn’t you know…) which concerns us here – for the portrait is said to have been of William Gosling’s mother!

Here is the description (bottom, p. 373):

GOSLING, Mrs.
          Elizabeth, daughter of William Houghton; married, November 3, 1763, Robert Gosling, of Hassobury, Essex, son [sic] of Sir Francis Gosling, the banker; died June 6, 1811.
          Sat in February, 1761, March, 1762, and August, 1764.

(Robert Gosling was of course the brother of Sir Francis.)

VERY intriguing to wonder whether Sir Joshua – who painted Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe (Margaret Elizabeth’s parents, William’s future in-laws) – could have brought the Goslings and Cunliffes into the same social sphere. Although Sir Ellis, of course, died the year Eliza Gosling was born, Lady Cunliffe lived on and off with her children and grandchildren; and she had a documented friendship with Sir Joshua (see his pocket books). That could mean that William and Eliza meet from childhood onwards!

Anyway, the volumes so far found online are A-CD-GH-L; and M-R. Once again I ask: Where is this portrait????

reynolds1

The Royal Academy has an interesting introduction to Sir Joshua’s pocket books — ridiculous to read that they paid (in 1873) a mere £29 10s for them! (I assume the meaning of £29.10 – or has the original cost been translated into today’s currency of pounds and pence??)

For more on Sir Joshua and Lady Cunliffe see my post.

[Photo of a page from Sir Joshua’s pocket book; from Graves and Cronin, vol D-G.]

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Recent writings…

June 7, 2008 at 11:21 am (introduction) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This week I have been immersed, not in the Regency period of Emma and Mary’s girlhood years, but in the 1830s.

June has turned into a ‘big’ month for me: the publication (finally!) of Persuasions, the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which contains my article on Emma Austen; and the release (June 12th), in England, of Local Past, the Journal of the Alcester and District (Warwickshire) Historical Society. This contains my article on Emma’s sister Fanny, who married the Rev. Richard Seymour and settled in Kinwarton (about ten miles from Stratford on Avon) for the rest of her long life. This last has spurred me on to finish an article I hope the editor will accept for the December issue, which continues Fanny’s story with the birth of her first son in October 1835.

Unfortunate for Fanny, the child – which was described by Emma as ‘very fine’, died after little more than a day.

What affected me most was reading months earlier a later letter, written by Fanny in 1837. In this letter she relates a little story that shows just how much Richard enjoyed his baby daughter’s company, enjoyed making her laugh, enjoyed puzzling out whom she looked like. Oh, he sounded such a wonderful father! Only upon further investigation into their lives, did I realize that this little girl was not their first child, but their second. How heart-breaking to have gone through pregnancy and birth only to see your child begin strong and then die!

The time-period is one of the interesting parts of this research. Taken together, the lives of these people span the early years of the nineteenth-century (of this generation, Edward Austen, born in 1798, is one of the elder members), and, for the longer-lived, extend into the middle and later years of Victoria’s reign. From George III to Victoria; from horse to the ‘iron horse’; from war abroad to strife at home; from the Age of Austen to the Age of Dickens.

However, in looking at the children one can never forget the parents, and even grandparents. And this moves us back to the 1760s and the birth of the parent-generation.

I began writing an article about the Goslings recently, which just has to start off with two ladies: Mrs Eliza Gosling née Cunliffe and Mrs Eliza Chute née Smith. I like to think of them as The Two Elizas. Funny thing is, they both married men named William! (Very confusing for the casual reader, no?)

One Eliza, Mrs Gosling, was mother to Mary Gosling; the other Eliza, who had no children of her own, was aunt to Emma Smith. Therefore, for two generations these two families had what they themselves described as relationships between ‘sisters-of-the-heart’. Friendships so close that the two women involved felt like sisters. Eliza Chute had three sisters; Eliza Gosling alas had only one. Emma Smith had five sisters, while Mary Gosling had two, but one to which she had a close-close bond.

I cannot prove that either Mrs Gosling, or the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into the diaries of Eliza Chute of The Vyne. This estate, which can be visited as it belongs now to the National Trust, is located in the parish of Sherborne St John (some few miles from Basingstoke). The man who ministered to the congregation on Sundays was none other than the Rev. James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother. Even a cursory review of Deirdre Le Faye’s wonderful Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family (2006) shows how many Sundays James returned to The Vyne for a repast. In later years he would be accompanied by his son, James-Edward (known as Edward in the family). This little boy grew up to write A Memoir of Jane Austen under the name he took in 1837: James Edward Austen-Leigh.

I’m still digging into the short life of Eliza Gosling and the early life of Eliza Chute – and am actively seeking any information on the Two Elizas, in the form of letters, diaries, even mentions in published books. For instance, Eliza Gosling, when a girl and still Eliza Cunliffe, met James Boswell. She and her sister (‘Miss Cunliff’) are mentioned in Boswell’s letters! Sometimes it is a very small world. I have cause to say that over and again.

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