Meet me in LOUISVILLE – JASNA AGM 2015

February 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm (jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , , )

The list of breakout speakers for the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA is up. Under the banner title of “LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD”, breakout speaker topics are diverse, and fascinating.

ja world

In the appropriately-named novel Emma, Jane Austen wrote of a marriage – that of Miss Taylor (Emma Woodhouse’s governess and dear friend) to Mr Weston, that resulted in the birth of a child! and a woman’s lying-in or “confinement” is the topic of my breakout talk, taking place in the Saturday, October 10th “D” session.

As before, that means _I_ miss some great speaker, such as: Sheryl Craig (whom I know) on “William Wickham”; Kristen Miller Zohn (whose AGM talk on miniatures I so enjoyed) on “silhouettes”; and Sue Forge on “London High Society” – which readers of this blog will know, I consider my Smiths & Goslings to be, if not “movers and shakers” in society, at least “prevalent” among the party-goers. And here’s why:

Of course, as an AMG participant, I must also pick speakers to hear. Too many to choose among!

Do I hear about Jane Austen’s ideas on being “Past the Bloom” (Stephanie Eddleman) or “A Quack or Dr. House” (Sharon Latham)?? When, equally, I’d dearly love to learn about Embroidery (which I used to enjoy) (Julie Buck)… or Estate Tenants (Linda Slothouber)… or Austen family cookbooks (Julienne Gehrer)… or Village Life (Sara Bowen)… or the treatment of poor George Austen, Jane Austen’s sometimes-forgotten brother (Bridget McAdam).

And that’s only the FIRST session!  Good thing there are several months to think over the possibilities.

I’ll say more, at a later date, about my topic — “Who could be more prepared than she was?”  True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in early 19th Century England — at a later date, but will take the time to say that many of the letters & diaries excerpts come from the copious examples of this Smith & Gosling research. From the “bantling” born in 1790 — the future 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin “Lord Compton”), to the Confinements of Emma Austen herself.

And, no, I won’t forget Mrs Weston!

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Samuel Prout, Painter in Water-Colours

September 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Seven years ago I spent two months transcribing a MASS of letters and diaries. Back then cameras weren’t allowed in archives – and what I could transcribe is all I came away with.

I’ve written about some of the divergent handwriting specimens I’ve had to decipher (mainly, the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park); so it is NO surprise to see that I gave up on one letter (extracting from it about six sentences only) because the writing was “so tiny”.

That writer was Fanny Smith (later: Fanny Seymour, wife of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton).

Having a photo of this cramped epistle, I *finally* transcribed it in total last night.

And from the pen strokes emerged this DELIGHTFUL tale of Fanny and her love of drawing and (by dint of this story) watercolor painting. Fanny’s letter is addressed to her sister, Emma Austen:

I have corresponded with Mr Prout from whom I had rather an ambiguous answer about teaching after the Water Color Exhibition opened …. {Spencer Smith, Fanny and Emma’s brother, then went to see Mr Prout} he said he was much engaged with the 2d vol. of the landscape annual & jumped at the idea of my having been in Italy, hoping I could furnish him with some sketches, Spencer said he had a sister who had a great many italian views, he [Prout] begged leave to call some morning & see them, & we thought we should like him to see your drawings…. Mr Prout spent the whole morning here looking at them, & expressed the most unbounded admiration for them…. I hope now you feel properly flattered, & conceive my being out with Augusta & Henry the whole time he was here, in furniture shops.

prout_1831Poor Fanny! there’s the revered teacher, in her own home — looking at her sister’s work (by her own invitation, granted), but made worse by the fact that she wasn’t even there — she’d been shopping with the newly-wedded Augusta and Henry Wilder!

So I simply HAD to find out more about “Mr Prout”. I believe he must have been Samuel Prout (1783-1852), described as one of the MASTERS among the British Watercolorists – and (by the date of this letter, March 1830) the Painter in Water-Colours-in-Ordinary to King George IV.

Initially, I had GREAT trouble with this person’s name – Pront? was one guess. So might I, in earlier days, have come across this name and guessed (incorrectly)? – I’ll have to look among the letters and diary entries. So many possibilities: Did Fanny finally get to have the lessons she so clearly yearned for? Did she get overshadowed by Emma’s (perhaps better?) Italian sketches? Did any of the Smith girls have their sketches exhibited or published??? Now there’s an enticing thought!

There are sketches belonging to Fanny in the Bodleian; but none are watercolors (pencil sketches only). A new source DOES indeed claim to have an album of watercolor works and  the current thought is that the items (lotta letters) may once have been in Fanny’s possession – certainly the letters I’ve so far seen are mostly addressed to Fanny. So maybe some of the visual material is actually by her. That would certainly be nice, and the many people who have become interested in Fanny’s unique life will be made happy.

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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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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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Persuasion: a novel of love

September 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm (books, diaries, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ah….

I have just finished Persuasion, one volume (along with Northanger Abbey) of six in a new-to-me complete set of Jane Austen novels.

all austen

Bought in the spring (April), they departed England at the height of summer (July 1st); to arrive in the north-eastern United States on the cusp of Fall (September).

They are the Chapman, 3rd edition. The leather binding melts in my hands, so soft to the touch, reminding me of the exquisite feel of one leather-bound volume once residing in the library of Mrs Gosling (sent, so kindly sent, by Martyn Downer).

bookplate_Mrs Gosling

I hope next to pick up Mansfield Park, to decide at last whether to propose the paper topic I’ve long had in my head, or work on some other project.

The rekindled love of Captain Wentworth for Miss Anne Elliot is too well-known to need much information here; but how difficult, being let in on the personal correspondence and journal confessions of the Smiths & Goslings, not to muse on others who in real life were thwarted in obtaining marital happiness, without much anxiety — and years of waiting.

Richard Seymour’s family seems to have endured much in this line. Two sisters — TWO! — who were sorely tried. The first, his sister Dora, was persuaded by her own family – Richard a reluctant persuader – to give up marrying the Rev. Mr. Chester.

In October, 1835, Richard writes in his diary:

“letter from John & Dora announcing her attachment & engagement to Mr. Chester: Rector of Elsted. John disapproving on acc:t of small means £400 per an. Wrote to Dora as kindly as I c:d–“

Announcing her attachment AND engagement…

John was the eldest Seymour brother, Sir John Culme Seymour.

Kindly Richard, the following day, wrote “to John & my Mother, urging as much consideration as possible to Dora’s wishes”.

Two days later, and he has ridden from Mapledurham (Mrs Smith’s home) to Blendworth (Lady Seymour’s home), to discuss family business.

By the end of the week he has gone “to Elsted. Found Mr. C:– entered on his affairs – w:h proved below the amount named and cannot be strictly called more than £330 per an – (£3700 in the Funds and his living ab:t £200 per an) & 23 acres of Glebe — pretty spot – returned home – talked to Dora – who soon agreed to write to him, expressing her decision to comply with the advice of her Mother & Brothers & relinquish her hopes. I added a note to this–“

Dora returns to Mapledurham with her brother, “thinking the change w:d be useful to her”.

At the time, Richard was bearing his own grief: the death of his son, Fanny’s first child.

“my visit to Blendworth sadly hurried, but glad to have made it for Dora’s sake – I trust she has acted as is most for her real happiness–“

Dora married Mr Chester two years later, in August 1837. They had only a few years together, before Mr Chester’s untimely death, in April 1841.

* * *

That same year, 1835, Richard’s diary speaks of a “Letter from Mrs. Vyse, expressing Col:l. V’s continued disapproval of GHV’s attachment”

GHV was George Howard Vyse; his “attachment” was to Lizzy, Richard’s next-to-youngest sister. Whatever Colonel Vyse’s disapproval was based upon, it was intransigent. For nearly twenty months had passed since Richard’s notation, on Sunday 12 January 1834, that, “Between the Services, to my great surprise G.H.V: {George Vyse} came in — full of affection to dear Lizzy  I trust they will yet be happy together-“

This couple would not marry until August 1839!

* * *

There is also, closer to home, the story of Augusta Smith, Emma’s eldest sister. Emma herself was the first of the six sister’s to marry. Augusta followed in the following year. She too, like Lizzy Vyse, seems to have been the subject of her father-in-law’s enmity.

An extraordinary letter, written in November 1828, exists. The Rev. Henry Watson Wilder, an old suitor of Augusta’s, laid his own tormented thoughts at Mrs Smith’s feet:

“My dear Madam

You will I am sure be surprised at this letter; I fear it may cause you some uneasiness but if I have not mistaken the kind feelings of regard you have hitherto expressed towards me you will I think forgive me  … Though many months have now passed since my intercourse with your family has ceased, much as I have thought on the subject I have most sincerely convinced myself that no other woman is likely to supply the place your eldest daughter has long held in my affection…”

Emma’s diary accounts for the arrival of this letter, two days later. Henry Wilder then calls; the date is marked by being the 30th Birthday of James Edward Austen.

Emma’s diary marks out the progress:

  • Charles, Mr Wilder & Augusta walked into the city to Mr. Lawford’s
  • Mamma had a long conversation with Mr Wilder
  • The party in town accompanied by Mr. Wilder went to see the Zoological garden

and finally:

11/23 “All the party & Mr Wilder went to St. James Church … the afternoon we went to see the Edridges  Lady Smith & Miss Bennett called here  Augusta was engaged to marry Mr Henry Wilder  He came to drink tea here”

Emma and Edward married within the month, on the 16 December 1828; the Wilders, four months later.

But when had Henry Wilder first declared himself? And was he the reason that a romance with a young doctor – a man (according to the Austens’ daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) who had the approbation of Lady Elizabeth Compton’s family at Castle Ashby — went nowhere?

Perhaps, like Anne Elliot, it was easy to give up a second man (in Anne’s case, Charles Musgrove) when the first man was so decidedly unavailable. And perhaps, like Anne, Augusta could revel in a revival of feelings kept dormant for several years.

One sentence, towards the end of Persuasion struck me with great force (page 240): “There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had first been projected; more tender, more tired, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment…”

A month before the marriage of her eldest daughter, Mrs Smith was writing bride Emma Austen, “I really think his {Henry Wilder’s} love is always encreasing; he spends most of the mornings with her, as well as the Evenings. Fanny & Eliza are almost tired of seeing him here, & want to know whether he will be as much tied to her side after marriage; I flatter them with hopes that he will not. What say you to it? You have had a little experience now. I do hope Edward pities you a great deal; cheers you & comforts you.”

Jane Austen may never have married, but she seems to have been intuitively attuned to the feelings of those who loved, lost, and lived to regain that emotion.

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Now on Kindle = Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013

September 2, 2013 at 11:21 am (books, introduction, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

cover-twoteens

Smith&GoslingThe biography A Memoir of Jane Austen, compiled by her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh, was first published in 1870 (2nd edition on google.books). In 1911, daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh wrote down Edward’s own life history. Two Teens in the Time of Austen dramatizes events in the lives of Edward’s beloved wife Emma Smith (1801-1876) and her friend and sister-in-law Mary Gosling (1800-1842).

It is Emma’s eventual connection to the Austens of Steventon which gives this project its very name!  (The fact that the diaries of both girls begin in the period that saw Austen’s publications, doesn’t hurt either.)  Celebrate with me five years of uncovering the lives of the Smiths & Goslings. You can even “click to Look Inside“. Lightly edited, and highly rearranged, “Random Jottings” (estimated at 170 pages) serves as an introduction to the world of my Two Teens from posts published since the start of their blog.

For a limited time, Random Jottings also includes the opening pages of their biography (volume 1, Two Teens in the Time of Austen) and *all new* images of Mary and Emma. Available only at Amazon [Amazon.co.uk; Amazon.ca; Amazon.de (alas, not auf deutsch)]

UPDATE: since Kindles don’t (yet) allow for image zooming, the two pedigrees:

 

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NEW: Two Teens on YouTube!

May 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jane austen, news, research) (, , )

Just added a Third video
to my YouTube channel!

smith-gosling_silhouette1

Please watch — comment — subscribe.

As Amazon always says, MORE ON THE WAY!

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Lady E. Compton

January 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

A bit of a puzzle has come up and I’m curious if anyone has any clue(s) that would help.

lady e comptonPaul Frecker has this photo designated Lady E. Compton – is this woman any member of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates / Castle Ashby / Marquess of Northampton family?

My own Lady Elizabeth (daughter of the 1st Marquess) married in 1829 — Emma writes about her cousin’s marriage to Charles Scrase Dickins. Therefore, by the time Silvy was active, she was Lady Elizabeth Dickins.

(Sitter #628 would date to 1860 — see the Silvy Daybook 1 at the National Portrait Gallery, where Adelaide Kemble is sitting #586 and Vicountess Jocelyn is sitting #657; images that are not represented online seem not to have their sitting number provided.)

Lady Marian Alford is sitting #631 (at NPG and Frecker; both claim to have the same sitting number).

It would have been nice had this been her sister, Margaret-Mary-Frances-Elizabeth. Why? Poor Lady Northampton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane) died weeks after this daughter’s birth in 1830. But the daughter too had a short life; she evidently died in childbirth in 1858.

UPDATE: Thanks to Philip, I know more of the history of this youngest child of Margaret Maclean Clephane: she contracted measles from her brother and died soon after her son was born.

I don’t know who this Lady E. Compton might have been, but sending Philip a portrait, by Augusta Smith (the daughter), of Aunt Northampton, I swear I see the same nose!

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Mapledurham House – its secret past

January 12, 2013 at 9:55 am (diaries, estates, europe, history, news, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

mapledurham_newspaper

Mapledurham House (near Reading) was the last home Mamma (Mrs Augusta Smith) would inhabit. She and her unmarried children moved here in 1834. The first family event was to be a wedding uniting Fanny Smith with the Rev. Richard Seymour. The night before the wedding was spent, however, fanning the flames of a fire!

Mary, Lady Smith, saved the house by alerting everyone to smoke. Emma Austen‘s diary relates the story.

Working on my Pinterest boards (you can find us by searching Emma Austen, if you’d like!), and responding to a comment about my little Mapledurham House thimble, I searched once again for pictures to post – and found this article from The Telegraph, published in 2011.

According to Damien Thompson, Mapledurham was a “safe house for fugitive priests”. “Mapledurham House kept a genuine secret during the Tudor persecution and … its current owners, John and Lady Anne Eyston, are still making discoveries. The most recent priest hole, for example, lay undiscovered until 2002 — though it’s in such an inaccessible upper bedroom that it can’t accommodate crowds of tourists. The hole is hidden underneath a sliding hearth, and it might better be described as an elaborate escape shaft. ‘Family legend had it that there was a priest hole in the bedroom fireplace – but we didn’t realise that for years we were looking at the wrong fireplace, not the hidden original…’.”

Now if only I knew which bedroom Mary shared with Eliza. It was next door to a “large sitting room up stairs”. A crack in the hearth, and smoldering embers, caused the “insufferable smoke,” which woke Mary at four in the morning. Emma ends the diary entry, “The floor of the room & a picture were much burnt & the wall & ceiling smoked  the house a good deal injured by fire. Sir John Seymour arrived.” Richard Seymour’s diary recounts that his “beloved” Fanny woke him at “4 1/2 AM  the house being on fire  Two hours of the deepest anxiety followed…” Surely not the start to their wedding day the couple had envisioned!

Maybe it was a Priest Hole rather than a “crack in the hearth”….

* * *

Visit Mapledurham!

mapledurham_website

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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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