Same sitting, different poseIt seems like ages since I wrote about my own research – though that is NOT to mean I’ve been idle. Indeed I’ve been “beavering away”!
A GREAT influx of letters (diaries too) from several different “deposits” has kept me at the keyboard, transcribing. I try NOT to read a letter or diary until I transcribe it. Bad Luck thoughts make me wonder if I won’t later be able to decipher some word that I easily read earlier! Oh, that would be the worst. So, it’s in the act of transcribing that I LEARN the contents.
I also have a habit of leaving the really hard letters to absolute END. If it’s crossed… If it’s illegible… If it’s a poor image… I leave it till all the easy letters are DONE.
Given that plan of operation, haven’t I found a JEWEL or two among those waiting to be deciphered and read! But that’s news for some next blog post.
I wanted to say here, however, something I wrote recently in an email, about this project, for it brings up a very important point about the decades the project actually covers, which is roughly the 1790s through the 1840s.
I used to use 1842 as an end-date. Mary Gosling, my original diarist – and one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen (the other being Emma Austen) – died in July of that year. So when first in Winchester, I tried not to look for later material.
By the time I returned to the UK (seven years later), I was willing to go beyond that – but pretty much held to the idea that the end of Mary’s life brought my telling of their story to a close.
THEN: in the summer of 2015, I found photo albums!
Since photography become a norm in and after the 1850s, there was no photo of Mary (Lady Smith). A surprising number of her in-laws, however: Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour); Arthur Currie and his second wife Dora (also née Seymour); Richard and Fanny Seymour; and more Seymour siblings. A photo of Eliza Le Marchant (Lady Le Marchant; née Smith), and the familiar face of Sir Denis Le Marchant. Only one photo of Emma Austen Leigh – which I had already seen in a book. The one photo of her husband, James Edward Austen Leigh, was quite evidently the same sitting as the companion photo in the book, but a different pose, so slightly “new information”.
What REALLY got into my brain, however, were images of the CHILDREN! The albums can be traced to members of the Spencer-Smith family. I.e., children of Emma’s brother Spencer Smith – the hyphenated last name differentiated his children from children of their brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith (2nd baronet).
So one son, whom I can trace in photos from youngster to young man, came to carry the name Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith. A bit of a tongue-twister without his middle name! He later adopted his wife’s name, so that late in life he was Spencer Compton Hamilton-Spencer-Smith; a Hamilton-Spencer-Smith son became the 5th baronet, after the death of Charles grandson Drummond Cunliffe Smith.
The twins, Orlando Spencer-Smith and Gilbert Spencer-Smith, are present in almost the same frame of life-span. From youngsters, they become men as the pages turn.
Of the sisters, photos of Dora Spencer-Smith especially, but also Isabella and Augusta, are QUITE prolific. As Mrs. Jenkyns, Dora has a Jane Austen connection all her own: her son married a grand-daughter of Emma & Edward Austen Leigh.
Two cousins have worked their way into my heart because of the photo albums. Daughters of Fanny and Richard Seymour, “Emma and Fanny” grow up before my eyes! It helped that another source had this youthful duo in a family portrait that included their mother – the first photo I ever saw of dear Fanny Seymour (Mrs. Richard Seymour), taken in the 1850s.
There are also, of course, portraits of the Austen Leigh children! So I could confirm a Silvy portrait found online WAS young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. Same sitting, different pose. And I found Amy Austen Leigh (aka: Emma Cassandra Austen Leigh), whom I had never before seen.
The Currie children and LOTS of various Seymour children – so most of Emma’s nieces and nephews were present. Seeing them all (and having to sort out all those Seymours!) made me more amenable to reading their letters too. So, I’ve slowly expanded my collection of letters through the 1840s and upwards to the 1880s. I’ve gone back to fill in holes, and have more holes to fill. And I’m still searching for material, especially early letters (1790s through 1810s).
Along with the albums, I found ONE letter that really resonated with me.
It was one of those SUPER-crossed, dense, thickly-inked letters. The writer apologized for not taking a bigger sheet of paper, as, in the end, she had too much to say. If ithe letter had been less crossed, I would have gotten to it much earlier! It convinced me I had hitherto overlooked the true, definitive “end” for my project.
BIG “Ah-HA!” moment.
The touchstone became Mamma, Mrs. Charles Smith, Augusta (senior). And the “ah-ha” was the last moments of any member of the Smiths living at No. 6 Portland Place.
Mamma’s 1845 death set her children (metaphorically) adrift; without the London home that had belonged to her, their leave-taking created a pause for reflection. And that leave-taking becomes the event that closes my set of books dealing with Two Teens in the Time of Austen.
To get back to the emailed thought. I told my correspondent:
“Digging about the 1850s, tho I really need to concentrate on the 1810s. It seems SUCH a different world… there’s a lightness to their lives when the children WERE children, that has darkened once they’ve grown and had children of their own. I find them such a thoroughly fascinating family.”
and I hope YOU, dear Readers, feel or will come to feel the SAME about the Smiths and Goslings. They were truly living a dream during the Regency – with travels, trips to exhibitions, evenings at the opera. Some were crossed in love; most married, had children of their own, experienced heartache as a family. Luckily for ME they also remembered, reminisced, and wrote – including those books published by the Austen Leighs: about Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865), a Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; expanded 1871), and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record (1913). Especially dear to my heart is the biography of her father written by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911), for Emma and her family figure LARGE in that book. It also drops some tantalizing hints about missing letters and diaries…
2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.
We all know Worsley’s work from her many TV specials – “Tales from the Royal Wardrobe”, “Tales from the Royal Bedchamber”, “The First Georgians”, “A Very British Murder”, “Harlots, Housewives & Heroines”, etc. etc. I have certainly enjoyed her book The Courtiers: Splendour and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, which brought some refreshing storytelling.
In its early stage provisionally entitled AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN (which already exists among the “Jane Austen” series of books by Kim Wilson), the biography tell Jane Austen’s “story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her”. Says Worsley’s editor: “Lucy’s knowledge of the period makes her the perfect biographer and her wonderful writing style will truly bring Jane Austen and her world to life.”
Worsley used a Kensington Palace painting to open the oft-told history of the first Hanoverian King George. What will she use for Jane Austen? Will it look at Steventon, which is no longer existing, as well as Chawton and Bath? Chawton is a source for many items that belonged to Austen – for instance, her jewelry. Her writing slope is also on public display.
- Jane Austen’s Writing Habits
- The History of Jane Austen’s Writing Desk (PDF)
- Jane Austen @ The British Library
“… an everyday object that had been
important to her writing life.”
Paula Byrne’s book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, sought a similar approach away from the typical cradle-to-grave biography. It will be *fun* to see how Worsley works out the lack of any new discoveries. Will she recreate some of the homes, spaces, and places that Austen knew? Perhaps readers of If Walls Could Talk will have advance knowledge of the Worsley’s approach. Worsley has already been caught rubbing elbows with Regency dandies. And she’s even got a work of fiction, as well as her TV-tie-ins, on bookstore shelves. Lucy Worsley is one of four writers who back in April (2016) discussed Lizzy & Darcy and themselves.
The Hodder & Stoughton website gives the following information:
- title (revised from above): Jane Austen at Home
- projected pagination (nicely hefty): 352 pages
- release date (it’ll be here before we know it): 18 May 2017
Readers of Jane Austen all recognize the (lack of) funds heroines likes Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood have as their marriage portion. And, what happens to the family estate when their fathers die: Norland goes to the only Dashwood son; Mr. Collins, a male relative, will inherit Longbourn.
But, in a highly interesting and exceptionally valuable book, A.P.W. Malcomson tells us that the HEIRESS, such as Wickham’s Miss Grey, may have been as cash poor as anyone else. Marriage portions didn’t always get paid, or paid in a timely manner. Sometimes, the lady’s fortune was quite tied up by trustees, and sometimes “a fortune” ended up meaning that you inherited nothing else other than your marriage portion – even when your parent had a healthy bank account.
This last seems to have been the lot of Mary (Lady Smith; née Gosling) and her sister Elizabeth (Mrs. Langham Christie). A letter written by Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, passes on news following the decease of father William Gosling, partner in the Fleet Street firm Goslings and Sharpe, in January 1834. He left the bulk of his HUGE estate to Robert Gosling, the eldest surviving son. (Elder brother William Ellis Gosling predeceased their father by only three weeks.) The main item going to Bennett and Thomas Gosling (the remaining sons) was the country estate of Roehampton Grove, although each were said to be receiving a healthy £135,000. Mary and Elizabeth, who had married, respectively, in 1826 and 1829, surely thought some further monies would come to them – one a widow and the other living “in limited circumstances & with an increasing family” – especially given the size (possibly up to a million pounds, in 1834 currency) of Mr. Gosling’s estate.
Augusta Wilder’s letter passes on information gained from young Charlotte Gosling. Augusta wrote:
“It seems to me perfectly unfair to heap riches so upon the sons & portion off the daughters with comparatively such small sums.”
Augusta’s mention of “to cut off I may say the daughters with 20.000 is inexplicable” reflects the marriage portion Mary was said to have brought with her in 1826 (which was a decided surprise to Mrs. Chute! She wrote of it in a letter).
Charlotte Gosling, one of two children born to her mother, formerly the Hon. Charlotte de Grey (the Walsingham barons of Norfolk were her siblings), still had a living mother – which circumstance was seen as a blessing to Augusta: “Charlotte who if her mother were dead would be very poorly off after what she has been used to…”
Augusta said of the news of William Gosling giving so little to his daughters, in comparison to his sons: “It really passes our comprehension & is quite distressing – for it is irreparable; no wonder Mary did not wish to talk about the will.–”
Writing on the same day (but from a different place), Spencer Smith, Emma’s brother, passed on knowledge (gleaned from a Gosling cousin, Henry Gregg) “that Mr Gosling out of his vast wealth has left her [Mary] & Elizabeth nothing, or what is next door to it”. Bennett Gosling could tell Spencer about his own inheritance (Roehampton and a sum of money): “The bulk of the property … is entailed in the most strict & inconvenient manner possible, & the Will … is most exceedingly complicated.”
Such documents – diaries, letters, wills, settlements, court documents – are the bread and butter of Malcomson’s edifying research into THE PURSUIT OF THE HEIRESS: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland, 1740-1840.
Books.google has a “healthy” preview of the book – it is what convinced me to buy a copy. You cannot beat BooksIreland, which has the hard cover for £9.99 (on sale from £24.99) or the eBook at £7.99. Although the airmail postage to the U.S. from Northern Ireland was as much as the book, even U.S. readers will want to plump for the hard cover; it is so fully illustrated and a handsome book.
Malcomson discusses a range of topics. His first chapter introduces the idea of “the by-passed heiress” => the woman who seems on the brink of inheriting, but who in fact may not only be “by-passed” in favor of a male – she may also have her “fortune” so tied up in the estate of her deceased parent that funds aren’t even forthcoming to her! Mention is made, for instance, of two sisters – daughters of Edmond Sexten Pery (Viscount Pery). The father’s estate passed to a nephew (son of the Viscount’s brother), “the 1st Earl of Limerick. In toto, the ladies seem to have received c.£20,000 each. £5,000 of which represented their original (and still unpaid) marriage portions. (These figures are belied by the usual family anecdotage, according to which one daughter got £60,000 in cash and the other the equivalent in land.)”
On the heels of the Pery girls comes the tale of the co-heiresses of Sir Arthur Brooke, bart. Selina and Letitia Charlotte received marriage portions – which, along with another debt, were evidently “charged” to the estate (ie, monies taken out after the owner’s death; in short, while his bank account remained healthy, “less” was there to be inherited). The Brooke “estates were not huge, and Francis Brooke, the nephew who succeeded to them, and Francis Brooke’s descendants considered themselves aggrieved and impoverished by the open-handedness of Sir Arthur. This is typical of the male whingeing of the period and of the bias of family history written by men. It would be more to the point to suggest that the two by-passed heiresses… were not well done by.”
Makes me glad to come from a family with no money or landed estate…
Other chapters touch on “the younger son”; “The ‘marriage of affection'”; and “Elopements, mésalliances and mis-matches”. All are fascinating topics, and relevant to Smith and Gosling research, as well as Austen studies.
As mentioned, the volume is generously illustrated (full color more often than not), and the writing is engaging and always informative. The research is deep and well presented; the focus (geographically and chronologically) is tight and always on point. Generous notes; a useful bibliography; a handy index.
HIGHLY recommended. Five full inkwells.
* * *
- a note: Malcomson’s earlier treatise on the same subject, from which this book grew – given new information and sources, has the same title. This edition was published in 1982 and has the years “1750 to 1820” in its title (70 pages). Malcomson rightly claims in his preface that the volume under discussion above (published in 2006 by the Ulster Historical Foundation [same as in 1982]) is “new, greatly enlarged and more widely focused”.
the 1982 edition
(not to be confused with the 2006)
Have been transcribing letters – little “holes” in the narratives of Sir Charles Joshua Smith, for one. The last letter of his transcribed, late last night, is a short one to “Aunt” (Judith Smith, Charles Smith senior’s only remaining sister). Charles is thanking her for the gift of a pencil (of all things!). Could it be a birthday gift? He was born at the end of May. If so, which birthday? The letter is undated.
Only one postal mark and that for PLACE (Chigwell) rather than a date (though a postal historian might be able to say “only in use during the years blah-to-blah”). My gut tells me it is earlier rather than later. Why? Because it’s address to Miss J. Smith / The Grove / Stratford rather than Mrs. J. Smith / Stratford / Essex – like a couple of later letters that I CAN date.
That’s my theory, anyway… (hint: Aunt never married, but at some point, like Cassandra Austen, took on “brevet rank” [to use Cassandra’s words].)
One other letter, newly transcribed (for I had got some images last December thanks to Emily), is precious: Charles’ reactions to the newly-announced engagement of Emma with Edward Austen!!
It’s tough – I read letters that delicately sprinkle FABULOUS news, like a light, refreshing summer shower. I put an un-ID’ed face next to one that HAS its identification and find more images of the same person, sometimes (thank, you, God) throughout a lifetime. Looking through pictures last night, it DAWNED on me: “Addie and Johnson” wasn’t a photography of Adela Smith with a child named Johnson; ADDIE WAS THE CHILD! and “Johnson” the nursemaid! So I had therefore pictures of Addie from about the age of 3 and up.
Except: WHO is around to share my excitement? It’s tough.
And that is where the “title” of this blog comes into play.
Most of my “contacts” are in England; I am in New England. People from work never write. My mother has sighed and rolled the eyes enough that I no longer tell her my finds, little or BIG. My father has taken to constantly asking, “Where the Book?” (Got three chapters, Daddy, but also a LOT of letters to go through.)
Chatting on Sunday (my talk for JASNA-Vermont, on Emma’s Aunt Emma), with Kirk – he mentioned enjoying my blog! I was honest: Truly, (I said), I’m never sure…
And he asked, “Have you ever heard 1776?”
I knew it WAS a film, but one I’ve never seen; never seen it on stage either. And Kirk then told me something which niggled at me the rest of the evening, until I looked it up (thank, you, YouTube!) next morning. “Is Anybody There?” sings John Adams, “Does anybody Care? Does anybody see what I see??” A sobering series of thoughts. Listen for yourself, to singer Randal Keith.
Just a short note to say “thank you” to those visitors who take the time to read this blog.
I reserve *special thanks* to those with items — diaries, letters, book sources — who’ve contacted me and shared their thoughts, and especially, their items. I’ve also met some people who always manage to bring smiles to my face whenever I hear from them. Such interaction and friendship are more meaningly than I can express.
Seeing search terms on the site statistics, today made me think to tell readers that I have more information than many a time does not hit the blog. These extended families are HUGE – and my main interest covers what is a large chunk of time (1800-1842), but at the same time extends in both directions: children lived into the late Victorian times (and sometimes beyond), as well parents and grandparents bring the research span into the mid-18th century. A lot of people, a lot of family “lines”, a number of generations… Whew!
But I’m always happy to hear from people, and help in any way that I can. So write if you’re interested in specific people, even if you don’t see them often on the blog.