Macklin & Aunt Emma

June 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, jasna, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

I want to thank JASNA-Vermont for inviting me to speak at their June gathering yesterday – and for dipping with me in the waters of RESEARCH into the family of the Austens. So little time, so MUCH information! My illustrated talk entitled “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” was an “interactive” presentation – and people really spoke up, made observations, added comments, asked questions. It was GREAT! Later, one audience member even told me my “research reads like a thrilling mystery!” Heartening words, indeed. No one can ever guess the “desert” a writer *feels* to be stranded in, when the research is this intensive and taking years to produce something substantive.

pen and letters

I figure I’m closing in on a THOUSAND letters and several HUNDRED diaries – and more turns up. I just returned (after midnight, last friday…) from a research jaunt to New York City.

Very helpful staff at NYU, where I spent most of the day, every day, Monday through Friday morning. And I am just *bowled over* by the staff of the Morgan Library – from the security guide near the door, to the gentleman who brought me up to the third floor reading room; and the library people – especially the ladies in the reading room = helpful – chatty – friendly. Just an exceptionally pleasant experience. Pity I ran out of time. BUT: I saw my LONG-AWAITED letter from Humphry Repton to Papa Smith => an even BETTER read than I had hoped. Repton was thanking Papa for paying him…, but also writing in SUCH a friendly manner, and even including Mamma in his thoughts. Pure GOLD!


Now if only his RED BOOK for Suttons would turn up!

Then I turned my eyes to the special editions of Walter Scott works. My memory is that they were presented — by Compton and his sister Lady Elizabeth — to LORD Northampton; but I swear at least one of the volumes said LADY Northampton! Will have to revisit the Morgan’s catalogue, and also my notes. AND revisit the Morgan – for I ran out of time before I ran out of volumes.

The Scott works were not only specially bound for the Marquess / Marchioness, they included pen and ink drawings done by Lord Compton – his fiancée and then wife Margaret Maclean Clephane / Lady Compton – and Lady Elizabeth Compton. One volume, The Lady of Lake, included a “letter” (for lack of a better description) in which Compton (I think it was his handwriting) outlined ALL the drawings – and also who they were drawn by, as well as their source (if applicable). Imagine my SURPRISE to see that THREE were listed to have as a source “William Gosling, Esq”!!!

At first, glancing at the paper, I thought it said it INCLUDED drawings by William Gosling. ARGH! that that was NOT the case. But: this helps with a mini-mystery about William (described as “the banker of Fleet Street” in the citation I unearthed) drawing STOWE in circa 1814. These volumes for the Northamptons are of a similar period, and just the fact that the Compton children included the word “esquire” in his name indicates to me that they are saying drawings of the father rather than William Ellis Gosling, the son (though William Ellis Gosling of an age with Compton & Elizabeth, he was still at College in 1814).

The especially LOVED to illustrate Lake Katrine!

Lady of Lake

In one short word: WOW! is all I can say about having another clue that William Gosling (Mary’s Papa) was an accomplished artist – for if he was mediocre, the Comptons would not have wanted to “copy” his work, surely. And their own work is…. ASTOUNDING! such meticulous strokes; interesting compositions; accurate representation of things like crumbling castles.

I should perhaps remind readers that Margaret, Lady Compton, was a ward (along with her two younger sisters – altogether often referred to as the Clephane Sisters of Torloisk) of Walter Scott. Even Edward Austen Leigh adored the works of Sir Walter.


Permalink 3 Comments

I’m a Single Lady!

May 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, jasna, news, people, research) (, , , , )

In the post a few days ago: the latest edition of JASNA News – alas without my article on James Edward Austen and Tring. (Humphhh….)

Lots about the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Louisville, on “Living in Jane Austen’s World”. (official website) VERY thrilling to hear the topic Amanda Vickery is expected to speak on: “No Happy Ending? At Home with Miss Bates in Georgian England”. The gist of the talk is “female-only households in Austen’s world, particularly those of declining status [like dear Miss Bates] and modest means.”

My research has several “female-only households” – from the top tier, with Lady Frances Compton (Lady Northampton’s sister-in-law) through to “Aunt,” Charles Smith’s (“Papa”) only living sister.

Then there was Mamma’s bachelorette sister: Emma Smith of Glenville — my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”.

Aunt Emma is at the heart of my upcoming talk for JASNA-Vermont — and if you’re in the neighborhood on Sunday, June 7th please come join us!

The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma
an interactive presentation

Sunday, 7 June 2015
1:00 PM

Champlain College
“Morgan Room”, Aiken Hall
(83 Summit Street)
Burlington, Vermont

PowerPoint slides will illustrate with images of the people & places you’ll never see on this blog – and YOU will help (re)solve the “mystery” surrounding Emma Smith. Is it a “scandal” or “much ado about nothing”? Evidence suggests class-economic-religious tensions, or a past well-hidden for two hundred years. Help us decide! Like Austen’s Sanditon or Dickens’ Mystery of Edwin Drood, this mini-mystery relies on its audience to provide a sense of closure.

Letters provide our only clues! (This one written by Aunt Emma.)

BTW: Prior knowledge of JANE AUSTEN or her NOVELS are not necessary for taking part – the slides will help introduce Emma Austen and the family. Aunt Emma lived 1774-1858, her later life spent in Hampshire; we’ll cover the years (approximately) 1812 to 1843.

FREE and open to the public
parking on the street – and light refreshments

Want to come extra “prepared”? Email me (smithandgosling at gmail dot com) for a full Smith & Gosling family tree which you can then bring with you!

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Four Erle Stoke Park Sisters

April 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , )

Have been busy trying to assess what letters I have transcribed, what letters I need to track down. Part of me wishes the letters were a bound book, but I suspect it would be HUGE: over 700 pages! And yet every time I read a section of letters (lately I have been in the 1790s and early 1800s), I notice something never before thought about. They are precious, and the life-blood (in many ways) of this project.

Perusing the letters, I’ve added a few more SIGNATURES to my list. I cannot stress more that if anyone ever discovers letters written by any of these people, or even a short mention of a line or a paragraph about them, I’d love to hear about your discovery!

In SIGNATURES I’ve swapped out one or two poorer images for clearer images; and added a few NEW people — like dear Eliza Gosling. Mary’s mother died at such a young age (in her 30s). Her handful of letters to Eliza Chute are all that are currently known to exist, and yet they are such wonderful letters, filled with decisive thoughts. She must have been a delight to have known. Letters of Sarah Smith (wife of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park; mother to Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma) make brief mention of the youthful, newly-wedded Goslings. Just as (even briefer) mention is made of Jane Austen’s dear Madame Lefroy. SUCH Delicious letters!

But now that I’ve actual specimens of the handwriting of ALL four Erle Stoke sisters, I really wanted to share these with Two Teens‘ readers.

Going from youngest to eldest, let’s begin with Miss Emma Smith (known to the Smith of Suttons siblings as “Aunt Emma”). Living until Joshua’s death (in 1819) at Erle Stoke Park, Emma later removed to Sidney and then Glenville, Southampton. Emma never married; traveled extensively. She has really grabbed my attention lately, for she is rather sassy!


EMMA [“Aunt Emma”]: When I saw her handwriting in 2007, my thoughts were: “Oh Emma has a spiky hand that it will take me time to get used to – and time I don’t have”. I later called it “easy but hard to read” and made a note, “I’ll pass on this”.


And my reaction only a year ago: “I thought the one letter I have VERY easy to read!”

Time — practice-practice-practice — conquers all.

* * *

AUGUSTA [“Mamma”]: There wasn’t a day when I had thoughts about Mamma’s writing, because I concentrated on her de-light-ful letters over my entire stay at the Hampshire Record Office. Her letters deserve their own book! She’s forthright, opinionated, and witty. I love her – and LOVE her handwriting. She has some VERY distinctive orthography, especially her capitals (as in Friend and Picture here).


I must say I detected in nearly ALL of them a propensity for double-l words – for instance, well – to look more like wele. Emma especially exaggerates this tiny second ‘l’, as you see above in the word ‘will’ which looks more like wile.

* * *

ELIZA [“Aunt Chute”]: this image is a bit unfair, for it’s more of a draft hand than Eliza Chute’s formal writing. I’m so eager to get her SIX letters to sister Augusta that The Vyne was able to obtain – but they are the most elusive place… Writing, calling even, seems to get one nowhere.


For Eliza, my thoughts have typically been that she had a “legible” hand. The capitals look large in comparison to the lower case letters; the little loops on the ‘d’ are quite fun to see.  In the specimen above the “W.C. Esq:r. MP” is telling her correspondent where to address responses, so that Eliza gets it more quickly than the initial letter. “Mr C,” as he often is in her notes to herself, was husband William Chute.

* * *

MARIA [“Aunt Northampton”]: 2007 “again I just can’t deal with a hard to read hand!” In comparing youngest and eldest sister, I noted down: “now her sister Maria a totally different hand! lot of up/down strokes – I simply couldn’t describe either of them!”

Now I think of Maria’s hand as “fresh” and “youthful”:


I can guess why the word “youthful” sprang to mind, because in its ‘neatness’ it somewhat reminds me of the children’s early writings — see, for instance, this sample from young Emma (my Emma Austen Leigh, circa 1811).

I must say that I’ve been very lucky to be able to see letters from grandparents – parents – siblings – children. So many generations! But I am voracious: I always want MORE.

Happy Easter for those celebrating, and talk to you soon. Must get back to the 18th century…


Permalink 1 Comment

Further Thoughts on Four Sisters

September 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

Today commences some time off work for me; I hope to do some catching up on research! To that end, I’ve been reading letters from the 1790s, specifically, at the moment, letters of Sarah Smith to her daughter, the newly-married Eliza Chute (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne).

In looking for more information on Maud Tomlinson Berkeley (my latest book purchase: Maud: The Illustrated Diary of a Victorian Woman, edited by Flora Fraser [I’m dying to know where the ORIGINAL diary is…]), I came across the book Victorian Honeymoons. Dipping into it online (UVM has a copy), I saw much about the honeymoon of Effie Grey and John Ruskin. Since John never, in Effie’s words, made her “his wife”, one concludes that other wedding nights could not be half so disastrous.

In truth, though, I can never know the intimate thoughts of Eliza Chute on this most momentous, and highly personal, aspect of life.

But, musing on such moments, the thought struck me: here, in one family of four girls, we have four case-studies in the various dilemmas life offers:

  • Maria, the eldest, undoutedly “married well”: A young man seemingly enamoured of her; with prospects of a title and a large landed estate (or two…. ). A catch worthy of being in the same league as Mr Darcy of Pemberley; only Lord Compton of Castle Ashby was real once. There are letters describing Maria’s anxiety for Lord Compton (as he was styled before his father’s death in 1796); some relating to his duties with the Militia, some relating to illness. Maria produced, in the end, the traditional “heir” — but in her case there was no “spare”: her first-born and third-born sons died within a short time of their births. Only her second baby (Spencer, later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton) and her fourth (Elizabeth, later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) survived. She had no further children, though I’ve no idea whether there were further pregnancies. Letters describe Maria as being rather quiet, liking her domestic comforts, being very interested in plants. She was adept at painting botanicals, for a few survive in the (public archive) Royal Horticultural Society.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith, Maria’s sister, has a “gallery” on this RHS homepage; best way to bring up all the works of the Smith girls: search the term MEEN — Margaret Meen was their instructor.
  • Eliza, the recipient of the Sarah Smith letters housed at the Hampshire Record Office, was married to another gentleman of means, William John Chute, a Member of Parliament for Hampshire. There were no children forthcoming for the Chutes, and one letter — annoyingly missing its concluding page(s)! — seems to hint that Eliza and William Gosling might consider a loan of one of theirs… It is rather supposition, but based on good fact: the Chutes “adopted” William Chute’s cousin Caroline Wiggett when she was a mere toddler. The Vyne estate, however, passed to William Chute’s younger brother, Thomas (unmarried) and after Thomas’s death to Caroline Wiggett’s brother William who adopted the name Wiggett-Chute. He gained possession of Thomas Chute’s Norfolk estate, but possession of The Vyne had to await the death of Eliza Chute in 1842.
    • ASIDE: Caroline Wiggett’s story has been hypothesized as a source behind the “adoption” of the character Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. More on the Chutes, especially William are found in James Edward Austen Leigh’s A History of the Vine Hunt. Caroline Wiggett Workman left “Reminiscences” of her youth.
  • Augusta, the third daughter, concerns us much – for she was the prolific mother of nine, including our Emma Austen Leigh. Augusta has left many letters, and several diaries; her character comes across as formidable, at least in her later years. She lost her husband, Charles Smith of Suttons, when pregnant with her youngest daughter Maria. I often refer to her as “Mamma,” but she is both matriarch and young woman – for her 1798 marriage is documented in one of the earliest diaries I have yet seen. She also, according to one neighbor, held the ignominious position of being Charles second wife — and she did not go down well with this woman who remembered and much preferred Wife Number One! Augusta produced an heir not only for her husband’s estate, but also for her uncle Drummond Smith’s title of baronet. She may have vacated Suttons following her son’s second marriage, but she never gave up her parental concerns – and her advice was sought by all her children until the day she died.
    • ASIDE: the diary comments about young Augusta c1803 are to be found in the valuable biography of William Smith of Parndon {no relation} entitled Progress by Persuasion by Hazel Lake and Jenny Handley.
  • Emma, the “maiden aunt”. The one Erle Stoke sister who never married. After the death of Sarah Smith (1810), Emma and Joshua were left together at Stoke. On Joshua’s death (1819) Emma seems to stay separate from her sisters. At some point she begins living at a place called Glenville, near Southampton. Looking through the records of the Hampshire Record Office, I was rather pleased to see that Emma Austen Leigh saved some newspaper clipping that referenced “the Value of Maiden Aunts” — she had had the pleasure of three such women in her life: “Aunt Emma” (Emma Smith, her mother’s sister); “Aunt” (Judith Smith, her father’s sister); “Aunt Frances,” Lady Frances Compton, Uncle Northampton’s sister. Emma is a slight enigma, awaiting more information. She’s the petulant youngest sister in early letters, and the aloof “maiden aunt” abroad in later letters. A fascinating transformation that I have certain thoughts about; confirming or denying my suspicions will be for a future endeavor.
    • ASIDE: Emma Smith was a prolific artist, and delighted in her stays abroad. A mystery as to the identity of someone called MACKLIN, especially as there exists in Wiltshire the so-called Macklin Album, where the initials A.A. Macklin have been interpreted as meaning an Amelia Macklin. Same person as the one referred to in an 1824 letter? {note: the images for the Macklin Album}

In short, though, several aspects of women – from the titled widow down to the well-heeled spinster – are represented in the Four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park. They will one day make for a fascinating study.

Permalink Leave a Comment