In my mailbox from University Presses, part 2

February 19, 2021 at 8:44 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Two days ago, I “published” the first three in a list of five new books, recently received in the mail. Today I continue with two more *finds*, all (curiously!) from University Presses.

A View from Abroad:
The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe”

Jeanne E. Abrams
New York University Press, 2021
(vi + 288 pages)

Many moons ago (2010), when composing my JASNA lecture “Austen/Adams: Journeys with Jane and Abigail,” I read the Letters of Abigail Adams in an old copy from the UVM library. What I had wanted to focus on were those letters written during her travels abroad – the sailing ship; the carriage travel in England; the lengthy period in France. I have never forgotten her fleet way with words. “No Bean, and No Queen” was her succinct phrase to deal with daughter, Nabby’s hunt for the elusive “bean,” part of a French traditional celebration, which Mrs. Adams wrote about in a letter to Lucy Cranch, 5 Jan 1785:

“I will relate to you a custom of this country. You must know that the religion of this country requires abundance of feasting and fasting, and each person has his particular saint, as well as each calling and occupation. To-morrow is to be celebrated, le jour des rois. The day before this feast it is customary to make a large paste pie, into which one bean is put. Each person at table cuts his slice, and the one who is so lucky as to obtain the bean, is dubbed king or queen. Accordingly, to-day, when I went in to dinner, I found one upon our table. Your cousin Abby began by taking the first slice; but alas! poor girl, no bean, and no queen. In the next place, your cousin John seconded her by taking a larger cut, and . . . bisected his paste with mathematical circumspection; but to him it pertained not. By this time, I was ready for my part; but first I declared that I had no cravings for royalty. I accordingly separated my piece with much firmness, nowise disappointed that it fell not to me. Your uncle, who was all this time picking his chicken bone, saw us divert ourselves without saying any thing; but presently he seized the remaining half, and to crumbs went the poor paste, cut here and slash there; when, behold the bean! “And thus,” said he, “are kingdoms obtained;” but the servant, who stood by and saw the havoc, declared solemnly that he could not retain the title, as the laws decreed it to chance, and not to force.”

I always *cheer* the servant’s coup de grâce! (and the scenario made me loathe gauche John Adams…)

David McCullough, author of the hefty biography JOHN ADAMS, once indicated that he could have written a whole book just on Abigail’s time abroad. Now Jeanne Abrams has published on this very topic, though included the trips John Adams accomplished on his own too. This is a newly-released book – and just arrived in my mailbox three days ago (Feb 2021). Abrams is also the author of First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role.

Dear Catharine, Dear Taylor:
The Civil War Letters of a Union Soldier and His Wife

edited by Richard L. Kiper
letters transcribed by Donna B. Vaughn
University Press of Kansas, 2002
(xii + 448 pages)

I found this book searching . . . for something else.

I had a book (upstairs) that was a Civil War correspondence between husband and wife. Those words were what I searched for. You can see other “finds” by reading this post at Isadore Albee’s Civil War Diaries website. Bad weather has kept this book longer in the mail – last seen in Nashua, New Hampshire! so I expect that it’s closed in and will deliver soon.

Taylor Peirce was 40-years-old when he enlisted. The letters are described by the publisher, specifically Catharine Peirce’s half of the correspondence, as “a rich trove of letters from the homefront.” THAT was all I needed to see in order to hunt down a copy of the book. The book describes both halves of the correspondence, but, again, it’s Catharine’s plight that intrigues: “Catharine, for her part, reported on family and relatives, the demands of being a single mother with three young children, business affairs, household concerns, weather and crops, events in Des Moines, and national politics, filling gaps in our knowledge of Northern life during the war. Most of all, her letters convey her frustration and aching loneliness in Taylor’s absence, as well as her fears for his life, even as other women were becoming widowed by the war.”

Bad (snow) weather delayed its delivery by several days once the mail hit southern New Hampshire. It finally arrived yesterday. On first perusal – a slight disappointment that of 178 letters, only 51 are by Catharine Peirce. Footnotes attached to early letters by Taylor indicate “letter not found” whenever the husband thanked the wife for a letter. Ah, such a loss! I can imagine that some catastrophe happened, and Taylor’s carefully preserved stash of early letters went missing or got destroyed. A horrible loss to him no doubt. Taylor’s first letter is dated 20 August 1862; Catharine’s first surviving letter is dated January 1863.

*

The Websters: Letters of an American Army Family
in Peace & in War, 1836-1853

edited by Van R. Baker
The Kent State University Press, 2000
(xiv + 327 pages)

As a ‘bonus’ – the book I was trying to find through the online search — instead of going upstairs to pluck this book off the shelf — which resulted in finding Dear Catharine. I had remembered this as a book that included husband & wife letters AND had a Vermont connection. Indeed Lucien Bonaparte Webster had been born in Hartland, Vermont. His future wife, Frances Smith, was perhaps born in her grandfather’s Litchfield, Connecticut home. It fits this series of books because – surprisingly – it’s another University Press publication.

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In my mailbox from University Presses

February 16, 2021 at 2:03 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , , )

Ever find that a depressed mood gets lightened by the arrival of *new books*??

I do.

Between several projects, including the Isadore Albee Civil War era diaries (a brand new project), and old interests, a NUMBER of books have been coming to the door. Interestingly, these last have one thing in common: they’re all published by UNIVERSITY presses! So I will toss out their existence in one blog post. Three are brand new; two are in the “used books” category.

In order of receipt (yes, all have been mail ordered), here is what I’m thrilled about lately =>

Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary

edited by Nancy Disher Baird
University Press of Kentucky, 2009
(xviii + 262 pages)

This is my current read. I’ve been REALLY impressed with the narrative. Josie Underwood is a young woman (with oh-so-many-proposals during the opening months of the war) in Kentucky. Her father, despite a dislike of President Lincoln’s politics, is a firm Union-man. So is his wife (southern born, but with convictions as firm as her husband’s, in memory of the men who fought hard for the unification of the United States in the past). Josie is hard-pressed to keep her Union sentiments quiet-ish while seeing childhood friends, relations, and potential lovers sign-up for the Confederacy. (Kentucky was taking a neutral stance.) I’ve blogged a little bit more in my Georgian Gems, Regency Reads, Victorian Voices blog. Highly recommended for its freshness – in writing, in subject matter – and the tale it tells.

I believe the press is poised to come out with a reissue (paperback, I presume), but this book is worth tracking down its original hardcover version (unless the reprint is updated). It’s a keeper.

A Georgetown Life: The Reminiscences of
Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon
of Tudor Place

edited by Grant S. Quertermous
Georgetown University Press, 2020
(xi + 250 pages)

I think A Georgetown Life turned up in a search. I might have been looking specifically for new books. (I look for women’s history, biography, diaries, letters; though usually in Great Britain.) It wasn’t that long ago, but I don’t remember how I spotted it! Once I did, though, I knew I had to have it.

In the Fall of 2019, JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) had its Annual General Meeting (or AGM) in delightful Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I brought my father and aunt with me (we drove down). I gave a paper on Cassandra and Jane Austen (in a very stuffed-to-the-rafters small room; apologies to those who couldn’t fit in, or hear due to the constantly opening/closing door). We had temperatures in the 90s for at least two days… My father and aunt were happy just to hang out at the hotel; I saw the sites of Williamsburg on my own. BUT: I got both of them to join me in two “house tours” — Mount Vernon, the estate of George and Martha Washington (which I had wanted to visit ever since seeing a sign to it when driving from the 2009 AGM in Philadelphia!) and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s remarkable mountain-top estate. I wish, back then, I had known about Tudor Place!

Britannia Wellington Peter – along with sisters Columbia and America – descended from Martha Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s grand-daughter. You will therefore see the interest! All dovetails back to Mount Vernon and Washington D.C. It was Thomas and Martha (Parke Custis) Peter who acquired Tudor Place.

Britannia Kennon’s memories are vivid, astounding, and astonishing. She saw so much. I will let the editor, Grant Quertermous, speak about what you will find inside the book, for there are several quite decent youtube videos on the project and publication, including from the (US) National Archives (55.55 minutes long; recorded 4 Dec 2020) and Georgetown University Press’s presentation (44.50 minutes; recorded 5 Oct 2020).

This book is packed with illustrations. The introductory essay, along with the illustrations, give a real sense of “who” everyone is. Highly recommended, too.

She Being Dead Yet Speaketh:
The Franklin Family Papers

edited by Vera S. Camden
University of Chicago Press, 2020
(349 pages)

Part of the series “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe,” She being dead yet speaketh presents the writings of Mary Franklin and her grand-daughter Hannah Burton. This was a birthday gift from two dear friends in England. It being quite new to me, I have only “dipped into it”. But my friends know me well – authentic women’s voices are always a draw. Mary Franklin’s writings are 17th century; Hannah Burton’s words date to 1782. Both women used the same notebook to record their thoughts! The Franklins were Dissenters – so the women’s writings offer a unique look at the period. As the wife of a Presbyterian Minister, Robert Franklin, who was one of two thousand dissenting ministers “ejected from their pulpits,” Mary Franklin was well-positioned to mark the religious persecutions of her time. Hannah Burton’s journal describes life as “an impoverished widow, barely surviving the economic revolutions of 18th Century London.” The table of contents is illustrative of… the book’s contents!

With this post getting long, I’m going to divide it into two parts. Look for “In My Mailbox from University Presses, Part 2“.

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A Stitch in Time

February 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Several months ago I watched the only episode of A Stitch in Time a certain website had available. Last night I watched FOUR more. A fascinating series of half-hour investigation into clothing from the past.

The fashion-forward hostess, Amber Butchart, a fashion historian, has fashioned a series of garment “tales” from historical portraits. With the able assistance of the very knowledgeable Ninya Mikaila, an historical costumier, the garments take shape. So viewers learn not only about the lives of each portrait’s personage, we also learn about things like today’s wool industry; historical dyes; the precious remains of bygone fabrics from London’s Foundling Hospital, and, of course, everything under the sun about sewing historical fashion.

Six episodes have aired on BBC4 in January and February 2018, focusing on:

  • Charles II
  • the Arnolfini wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Broughton Castle’s anonymous leather-clad 18th Century “Hedge Cutter”
  • Dido Belle, brought up in the household of Lord Mansfield (Jane Austen fans note!)
  • The Black Prince
  • Marie Antoinette, specifically Vigée Le Brun‘s Marie Antoinette en chemise

Find Butchart’s website here.

Butchart and Robe a la Chemise

And more about the series (and viewer reactions) in this blog post (click the photo).

For those in or visiting England, there is a Stitch in Time Exhibition at HAM HOUSE of the six costumes from the series! Runs until 6 April 2018, open from 12 to 4 PM.

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Future Plans

April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am (diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , )

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”!

beaver

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…

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At Home – with Jane & Lucy

July 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , )

2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.

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.

courtiers

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.

“… 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

 

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Bias of Family Histories?

November 12, 2015 at 11:43 am (books, estates, europe, history, jane austen, research) (, , , , , )

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.

heiress_malcomson

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”.

heiress_malcomson earlierthe 1982 edition
(not to be confused with the 2006)

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Is Anybody There???

June 11, 2015 at 9:37 am (history, news, research) (, , )

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!!

Austen_Emma

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.

Wunderbar!

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.

is anybody

Randal Keith

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Boston Marathon: Express Yourself at Memoirture

April 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm (history, news) (, , , , )

memoir

I invite all readers of TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN to visit a new website called MEMOIRTURE. Several people have been posting about the recent explosions in Boston at Monday’s marathon; I added my two-cents. The gist of the site is to give people a place, and an opportunity, to post their private thoughts (I have a ‘me-only’ diary for my research), as well as weigh in and interact with others who “share your experiences”. Registration is free (and very easy to do).

You can find the Marathon thread by searching the site (once you’re logged in) for BOSTON. Take look around, click on some of the countries listed, or do alternate searches. Our ‘today’ is history in the making.

More later!

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An Invitation

March 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

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.

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