Mary Shelley letters re-discovered

January 13, 2014 at 8:08 am (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , )

Lucky:  When you’re an academic AND you discover letters of a well-established writer at the ‘click of a mouse’ you get MEGA-PRESS coverage! My Smiths & Goslings should be only so lucky…

(Those of you sharing your letters, diaries, & images with me, know who you are; thank you!)

But on to the BIG news

Mary Shelley's seal

Professor Nora Crook‘s “re-discovery” during on online search uncovered – at the ESSEX RECORD OFFICE, the repository where some Smith & Gosling diaries and letters reside! – unpublished letters by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. A fabulous find! And proves my point that you sometimes uncover TERRIFIC *finds* while looking for something completely different.

According to The Guardian, “The letters date between 1831, nine years after the death of her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and 1849, when Mary Shelley was already unwell with the brain tumour that would kill her two years later, and show a woman who was skilled in charming favours from friends, bursting with pride in and concern for her teenage son – and not unconcerned with frivolities. A last-minute ticket to the coronation of William IV in 1831 necessitated a 3am visit from her hairdresser; she attended the event sporting a plumed headdress (‘The whole thing was wondrously splendid – Diamonds & cloth of gold grew common to the eye.’)”

Even the ‘seal’ (see Keith Crook’s photo) was previously unknown.

” ‘Pure serendipity,’ ” says Prof. Crook, ” ‘The [Horace] Smith connection has been known but this little bit of the jigsaw hasn’t been’ “.

The comments, especially of ARCHIVISTSN, should be included in your perusal of the article.

BIG O-M-G: the letters turned up in the papers of the ROUND family because of the marriage of Laura Smith with John Round: MY SMITHS (of Suttons) knew the Round family (of Birch Hall)!

ERO

ERO features the letters as their January 2014 “YOUR FAVOURITE ERO DOCUMENT”: read their article.

The thirteen letters are to be published in an upcoming Keats-Shelley Journal.

shelley

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Plot Thickens: Clarissa Trant

June 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , , )

I love the Clarissa Trant book because she treats the same period — she was born in November 1800 — as Mary and Emma lived through. Yet she lived a life far different from the average English girl.

So, flipping through I thought it wonderful to read about what made a young man “shine” in her eyes (see previous post on Charles Boyle). Then, reading the introduction over again afterwards, the realization comes that if John Bramston had proposed to Charlotte Smith, Clarissa Trant, too, had an earlier proposal:

“Clarissa was often wooed but hard to win.” C.G. Luard, the editor, continues, “I have counted twelve suitors and there are indications of more. She had a strong sense of the fitness of things, and we find her haughtily refusing a rich widower, on the one hand, and her friend Charles Boyle — whom she greatly liked and admired — as too exalted for her, on the other hand.”

Clarissa DID head towards the altar, however, with a Colonel Cameron. As with some of the Seymour siblings who married into the Smith family, there was family contention over money. According to Luard, once the settlement negotiations broke down, the “young man seems to have made no sort of fight for Clarissa”. Like many an Austen heroine, Clarissa Trant’s father — a career military man in the age of the Napoleonic Wars, had no fortune.

I was lucky enough to quickly peek at Clarissa Trant’s early diaries: they are microfilmed as part of the same series “Women’s Language and Experience“, part 5, Essex, as Mary Gosling/Lady Smith’s diaries!

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I Want to Read…

March 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm (books, introduction, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…DIARIES and LETTERS!

It occurred to me that blog readers might be interested in a bit of “hmmm… what’s she raising money for??” explanation. (see the Austen Book Raffle posts).

I’m more than happy to bend a few “eyes” (and ears) about my research project! (As friends and family know, to their detriment…)

To start at the very beginning: I visited Northern Wales — Llangollen to be exact — and was just ENCHANTED with the story of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I began collecting “first-hand” information, and posted it on my website. Surprisingly, there was abundant material! Though much found was of the second-hand, mythic variety, there were some great finds.

One “find” was a Duke University diary. Once belonging to MARY GOSLING, the diary turned out to contain several trips – to the English coast, to the battlefields of Waterloo, and a certain trip to Ireland that took the Gosling family through Northern Wales. And — wait for it! — they visited with the Ladies! Were shown around Plas Newydd (the home of the Ladies of Llangollen; now a museum), in fact!

But who were these GOSLINGS??

(And, by the way, Mary hadn’t much to about the Ladies, other than what was already known about them – ie, how they dressed and how they never travelled far from home.)

With the internet, I struck gold. Found a series of diaries written by Lady Smith, the 2nd daughter of William Gosling of Roehampton Grove, a banker. Now, in Mary Gosling’s diary, there was a man who brought his family to see Bank of Ireland currency MADE. Who, other than a banker, would have the ability to go that? And Mary had them departing from “Roehampton”!

But, without seeing these later diaries of Lady Smith’s, it was mere supposition that Mary Gosling = Lady Smith.

The main reason these Lady Smith diaries were listed online was that they were included in part of an exceptional large microfilm collection. Essex County was in PART FIVE, which I learned was a far cry from Part One — the only series owned by the closest “big” educational facility within easy driving: Dartmouth College (New Hampshire). Oh, the drive home that day was a disappointment.

Again: thankfully the internet — and online college & university catalogues — helped me track down a handful of places with the full series (or at least through series five). A trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought me within easy distance of one of those few: Old Dominion University. I’ve never seen such a lovely library! And once I found the rolls of film with Lady Smith’s diaries, I was well rewarded: There was the SAME handwriting, the same reference to “My Sister” (Mary never calls Elizabeth Gosling anything other than “my Sister”.)

I had found my girl!

Or, should I say girls — for that day I spotted my first reference to young Emma:

If I had KNOWN that in looking up some Jane Austen books I’d have found ALL of Charles Joshua Smith’s siblings, I would have saved myself TONS of digging… Alas, it’s almost a “happier” circumstance to piece the family together: 9 Smith siblings in all!

“Mr Austen, Mr Knight, and Mrs Leigh Perrot” in the diary entry above (Emma and Edward’s first child’s christening!) were the giveaways about the Jane Austen connection.

And thanks to that connection I got to see TONS of diaries and letters and memorabilia (for instance, a lock of young Drummond Smith’s hair!) at the Hampshire Record Office, when I lived in England for two months in 2007 in order to transcribe as much material as possible. For most of the time, I worked six days a week at the archive (thanks to their generous hours) and on the seventh — well, I began well: reading and reviewing the work of previous days, but it was summer and, yes, some Sundays I spent in the park near Winchester’s town hall.

I had already inter-library loaned those rolls of microfilm with Lady Smith’s diaries; purchased a roll of film with all of the existing diaries written by Charles Joshua Smith (Mary Gosling’s husband; Emma Smith’s eldest brother), which the Essex Record Office houses. Now I had a growing collection of letters and diaries by the likes of Emma, her mother Augusta Smith, her sisters Augusta, Fanny and Maria; a diary series belonging to Fanny’s eventual husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour was briefly worked on at the Warwickshire Record Office (their hours were much shorter than HRO’s…).

In short, I’ve seen much, typed a LOT, and still there is more material for me to “visit” — if not in person (expensive) then via film.

And that’s where the Book Raffle comes in. Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) made some delightful silhouettes, and his descendent, Freydis Welland, put them together into a book, originally published by private press: A Life in the Country. The pictures are accompanied by Jane Austen quotes. The book was then published “commercially” by the British Library.

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Judge a Letter by its Cover

January 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When Craig from Australia — a most helpful Smith&Gosling “fan”! — wrote about a letter he found, the tell-tale tidbit that attracted me was hearing that it was addressed to the Marquess of Northampton. Its dating, to 1824, meant to the first Marquess — husband of Mamma Smith’s sister Maria, father to Lord Compton (the 2nd Marquess) and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton (later married to Charles Scrase Dickins).

The idea that came into my brain while corresponding with Craig was that, although his find might be addressed TO Lord Northampton — the enclosed LETTER might very well be addressed to someone else!

My evidence?

At the Essex Record Office, there is a small set of letters, written by “the children” — as Emma referred to her two youngest sisters (her younger brothers were in school), Charlotte and Maria — but the girls, while addressing their letters to eldest sister Augusta and to Mamma, addressed their envelopes to “Le Chevalier Charles Smith“!

Obviously, therefore, the “head of the household” was the letter recipient whenever letters were sent Poste Restante or to be called for at, say, the offices of the family’s foreign banker.

Just one exceptionally interesting “find” while delving back in time nearly 200 years. Stay tuned for more!

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