Midshipman’s Missing Letter: Evelyn Culme Seymour (1899)

July 26, 2020 at 11:36 pm (people, research) (, , , )

To place this young man in context: Evelyn Culme Seymour was the grandson of Maria Smith, Emma’s youngest sister. Maria married the Reverend Sir John Hobart Culme Seymour in February 1844. They welcomed their first son, Henry Hobart, in 1847. Henry is the “dear Father” to whom, in January 1899, from aboard HMS Majestic, 18-year-old Evelyn Culme Seymour wrote.

As you might guess, looking at the date – 1899 – this period is very late for me. My main protagonists all had died off. It took me QUITE a while to finally bite the bullet and purchase a few letters, related to and yet in a wholly different world, far beyond my Two Teens (Emma and Mary) whose lives went back to King George III.

Still, Evelyn was “family” – and it had been items relating to Maria that turned up periodically for sale. (I wish whomever was cleaning house had found me!) I had just returned from a conference on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and decided, “Why not?” Blame it on the weekend’s naval theme…

Evelyn Culme Seymour_letter1

Periodically, therefore, I search online – hoping (against hope) to find bits and pieces of research. It’s been a while since I have found anything; it’s even been a while since I’ve found something that sold long ago — until last night.

Sold on eBay in the UK in March 2014.

The pictures are TINY! and only page one and the last page are shown. The description claims the letter is “QUITE LONG and INTERESTING.”

Six year later (more than!) if anyone having this letter would like to see what else Evelyn wrote from HMS Majestic – come find me. I have three letters from the ship (two on H.M.S. Majestic  Channel Squadron “letter head”), dating to March, April and July 1898. I am interested only in CONTENT!

WorthPoint (the website) has described the letter’s original description: “Evelyn states that the Empress came to see the ship on the 9th Jan 1899 and he helped her onto the ship and was introduced to her. He also mentions that he went to a dance at Admiralty House and was photographed by flashlight.”

The envelope is addressed to Henry at GLENVILLE, Bitterne (near Southampton), Hampshire. England, of course. This address is EXCEPTIONALLY important. Glenville was the home of Aunt Emma Smith. She willed it to Maria, and through her, then, it came to her eldest son. An address redolent with history!

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Autograph Letter Signed, 1790s

June 14, 2020 at 8:55 pm (Help Wanted, history, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2012, I wrote about various SINGLE LETTERS potentially held by collectors of (Great Britain or GB) postal history items, saying I’d *LOVE* to hear from them. In “Autograph Letter Signed,” I talked about the difficulty of searching for individual pieces of Smith and Gosling mail. Can’t search for ALS, without tons of pages about Lou Gehrig’s disease. Not everyone discusses “entire” letters, and sometimes the letter is not present in its entirety.

But today I wish to put out some images, with brief information, about the postmarks and where letters, in the Smith and Gosling world, got sent from and to.

I am _not_ a collector of postal history or pre-stamp items, per se. My interest is in the CONTENTS. When I studied these photographs a few nights ago, as I saved the address panels for posting here at Two Teens in the Time of Austen, there were moments when I *suddenly* noticed a post mark, buried among the strokes of the handwriting. Sometimes, the post marks are not well struck. The striking might be repeated, or blurred, or partial. And, as a non-specialist and non-collector I don’t know what SHOULD be there. I only know what I can read.

Among the earliest letters – and I will let my original page on Autograph Letters Signed tell who lived where – are those from the estate of the parents (grandparents to my not-yet-born “Teen” Emma Smith – later Emma Austen Leigh), Joshua Smith, MP and his wife Sarah Gilbert. By the 1790s, they lived at Stoke Park, near Devizes, in Wiltshire. As is often the case, this estate bore several spellings of its name: Earl Stoke Park, Erle Stoke Park, even Erlestoke Park. You will see from the examples what they themselves typically called the estate. Joshua rebuilt it in the late 1780s, onward.

There are indications that the Four Sisters of Erlestoke Park lived, priorly, at Eastwick Park in Surrey. Eliza Chute, after her marriage living at The Vine (The Vyne), near Basingstoke in Hampshire, briefly waxed nostalgic on their time at Eastwick (rented by the Smiths), but I’ve never yet seen a letter from that address, or to them there. THAT would be a *find* indeed!

1790_Brodie_Devizes1790: Joshua Smith to John Brodie;
from London to Stoke Park, Devizes, Wiltshire
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
circular post mark and something above Joshua’s name;
seemingly assessed 1d (1 penny)

The Smith family had SEVERAL MPs in their family in the 1790s. Joshua Smith, Lord Compton (later: the 1st Marquess of Northampton), William Chute, and even for a short time Charles Smith (the father of Emma, my “Teen“; there are other Emma Smiths in the family, over three generations). So, in the early 1790s, I came across a LOT of “free” mail. Mail was free because a Member of Parliament fill out the address, and wrote his name. A frank meant that the recipient (who usually paid the postage) did not have to pay for postage. Of course, such mail should have been concerned with Parliamentary business. These contain family news.  So you will see several examples of various “FREE” postal marks, over the years. An “abuse of privilege,” but even Jane Austen used a frank to mail a letter to her sister Cassandra, from time to time.

1790_Steuart_London1790: Joshua Smith to George Steuart;
from Stoke Park to London;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

These two letters (above) both deal with work being done at Erlestoke Park. George Steuart was the main architect; John Brodie worked at the site.

1793_ASmith_Stoke1793: Maria, Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARK: one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Here, we are in the midst of the wars with France, with Lord Compton serving a group of Northamptonshire militia who are based in the south of England, for training and maneuvers. The envelope is written in Lord Compton’s hand, as is proper for any piece of franked mail. The actual letter was written by his wife.

You can view samples of the different handwriting for the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park on a prior blog post. Their hands are ALL quite different. From Aunt Emma’s sometimes difficult to decipher “spiky” hand (she was the youngest), to Lady Compton’s rounded child-like hand (she was the eldest).

To read more about each sister, personally, see Further Thoughts on Four Sisters.

1793_ASmith_Tring1793: Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Tring Park, Hertfordshire;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Tring Park, in the 1790s, was the country estate of the Smith sisters’ uncle, Drummond Smith. He would, in 1804, be awarded a baronetcy. His first wife, who never lived to become “Lady Smith” of Tring, was Mary Cunliffe, the elder daughter of Sir Ellis Cunliffe. Lady Cunliffe (his wife) was a friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and it is Lady Cunliffe and her two daughters who appear in the online article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal“. The younger sister, born posthumously, was Margaret Elizabeth Cunliffe. Tring Park (now a performing arts school) is a VERY important estate in my research. Mrs. Charles Smith (the former “Miss Augusta Smith”) and her children moved to Tring in the late 1820s, and Emma and James Edward Austen lived at Tring for the first years of their marriage. You see here a peep at Augusta Smith’s own handwriting: she endorsed it right above Lord Compton’s signature.

1793_EChute_Vine1793: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARK: one-line “DEVIZES”

You see here, in pencil, to the left of “Via London” an indication of to whom this letter (and others) were given, possibly in the 1840s after the death of Eliza Chute. The initials are EAL = Emma Austen Leigh. Mrs. Chute’s letters typically are covered, in the address area, with reminders of who sent the letter (“Mama”) and what the contents covered. “Mrs. Gosling” denotes Margaret Elizabeth née Cunliffe. In 1793 the two Elizas married – Eliza Smith married William Chute, MP and Eliza Cunliffe married William Gosling, banker. EVERY letter that mentions Eliza Gosling is special to me: in 1800 she gave birth to my “TeenMary Gosling, who, with Emma Smith, make my “Two Teens“. Mary Gosling married Emma Smith’s eldest brother, Sir Charles Joshua Smith; and, as mentioned, Emma Smith married Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen. Thus the full title of my blog: Smith and Gosling: Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

1794_EChute_Vine1794: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to The Vine, Basingstoke;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

You can easily spot that this is one of Emma Austen’s batch of letters (EAL in pencil) and that the letter was originally written to Eliza Chute, who wrote out hints about the contents.

1795_EChute_London1795; Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to (1) The Vine; forwarded to Great George St, London;
FRANKED: “FREE MP” in Sarah Smith’s hand;
POST MARKS: circular date and “FREE”;
two-line “BASING STOKE”; faint “DEVIZES”

Although this was a letter from mother to daughter, it was addressed to William Chute, a Member of Parliament, at The Vine, and forwarded to the Joshua Smiths’ London address, 29 Great George Street, Westminster. During this period, the families often “bunked in” with Joshua Smith when Parliament was in session.

1795_EChute_Vine1795: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Great George St., London to The Vine, Basingstoke;
POST MARK: circular “FREE”

Again, unmistakably with notes written by Eliza Chute on the envelope section indicating contents, including “Mrs. Melford’s dance”.

1796_ASmith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby, near Northampton to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

In April 1796, upon the death of the 8th Earl Northampton, his son Lord Compton succeeded him as the 9th Earl. It is his frank you see in the above envelope. We also see “Miss A. Smith” has now become the eldest unmarried daughter, and her mail is addressed now to MISS SMITH. Castle Ashby, in Northamptonshire, a few miles from Northampton itself, was the country estate of sister Maria, Lady Northampton.

1796_ASmith_Vine1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Bath to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARK: “BATH”

With the Northamptons in Bath, Maria was writing to her sister Augusta, who was visiting their sister Eliza Chute. Lord Northampton was again at the head of the Northamptonshire Militia in the summer of 1796.

1796_EChute_Roehampton1796: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to Roehampton Grove, Surrey;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: faint circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

As mentioned, above, the William Goslings were important friends and relations to the Smiths. Letters like this are among  my very favorites because of the pictures they paint of “Life at Roehampton Grove” (now part of the University of Roehampton). Eliza Gosling died in December 1803, after a lengthy illness. ANY news of Eliza Gosling is always welcome news.

1796_Joshua Smith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby to Stoke Park, Devizes:
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

Here is a sample of the handwriting of Lady Northampton, she’s writing her sister Augusta. Unmarried, until 1798, Augusta and youngest sister Emma Smith often remained at Stoke with their mother, until the London Season (approximately, February through June) brought them to “Town” for the balls, parties, dances, and other dissipations. Lady Northampton wrote frequently, keeping up a “conversation” with each of her sisters, her parents, her husband, and later her children.

The difficulty in locating single specimens is that I am looking for specific writers and recipients. Collectors talk of cancellations and post marks; hand stamps and free fronts; if I’m lucky, they mention whether there is an “entire letter” and if I’m REALLY lucky, they include an image of the contents.

A for instance: Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter was missing pages 1 thru 4, the extra sheet (folded in half) which would have been “wrapped” by the additional page (a half-sheet). With franked letters, the weight of that extra page did not cost the recipient extra – it was “free.” Such a second sheet often ended the letter on one side and had the direction written on the reverse side. This often is described as a “wrapper.” If the franked address panel is cut out – a small oblong rather than a half-sheet of paper, then you have a “free front.” The rear may be blank or have portions of text (the rest of course has been cut away). These are the saddest to find: Letters that once were!

Early on I got into the habit of calling divorced letters “WIDOWS” (a beginning with no end) and “ORPHANS” (an end with no beginning). In “Orphan in search of its Widow,” I included text AND images of Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter. I am convinced that sometimes family kept the letter, but jettisoned the “envelope.” I live in hope of uniting my orphan with its widow. Thanks to my work in various archives, “The Case of the ‘Noble Torso‘” tells the tale of two halves reunited (at the SAME archive; different folders).

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My first blog post: Emma and Mary

April 2, 2020 at 2:10 pm (books, entertainment, introduction, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

My first post introduced Emma Smith and Mary Gosling, my TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN, on 1 June 2008. it was called:

WHY EMMA and MARY?

I called them ordinary English girls. And so they remain to me. And, yet, they are extraordinary in that they left personal writing – diaries and letters – behind. More extraordinary: so did one mother and several aunts; so did brothers, sisters, cousins (though SOME items I have not yet located). Most extraordinary, _I_ found these girls, and their families. And I located, on several continents, their literary (and artistic) remains.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Of course, over the years, I’ve blogged about some of those finds. I’ve also *dreamed* about locating other bits and pieces, certainly those bits that I know once existed, and hoping – always – for those pieces of their puzzle that I didn’t know were out there. Kind readers of TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN (thank you!!) have written to me over the years, some with a diary, others with a book, a couple with portraits, many with LETTERS, all of which I absolutely cherish. There’s no such thing as “enough”. One line in one letter potentially could ‘solve a mystery’. A relationship disclosed in a diary could point me to the next BIG STASH of stuff. And to be able to look at the faces of those who have penned their thoughts (and thereby penned their life stories): priceless.

Of course, the years of research also means that I’ve uncovered tidbits about MANY people – famous as well as extended family – with whom the Smiths and Goslings interacted. A VERY long list. Including members of the extended Austen – Austen Leigh – Knight – Lefroy families. Members of the British Royal Family. Many of these people I’ve listed on the CAN YOU HELP? page. Of course, since their names turn up in my research,  _I_ can help those looking for more information about people they research too.

I’m currently working on a book chapter, for the book “Women and Music in Georgian Britain,” edited by Miriam Hart and Linda Zionkowski. My chapter will cover the years 1815 to 1825, with a focus on Augusta and Emma Smith, the two eldest sisters. These were formative years for them; a decade of music masters, London concerts (the “London Season” was astoundingly busy), travel, and of friends with whom they ‘make music’. The decade culminates with a year-long trip to the Continent and stays in Rome and Naples. If the trip was a ‘high,’ of course, the return home – to the “same old way of life” – led to angst over hearing less and less from their new acquaintances left behind.

The possibility of a beau or two left behind was also of concern to the brothers and sisters who remained home for that year (June 1822-June 1823).

cover-twoteens

Several years ago I collected blog “essays” into a book-length Kindle: TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN: RANDOM JOTTINGS, 2008-2013 – and that book is still available. Given the times we currently live in, it is readily available. All you need is your Amazon account. No mailman or -woman need be involved.

As new information slowed, so too did my dissemination of information. And so too did my enthusiasm for talking to people whom I couldn’t see. I wondered: Is Anybody there? / Does anybody care? I plugged away at transcribing, and searching & finding – but I didn’t talk about it as much. For later “finds” were hard-won, or they were family images, or they were items that I purchased and didn’t want to share.

Then came a recent Kindle sale. (Thank you, dear reader)

The picture’s linked to the US site; but there are other Amazons, including United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia.

The Kindle version includes a couple items not found on the blog; though disregard the “early” first chapter – the same thoughts are still extant, but the chapter has totally evolved. Every purchase helps support this research, so: THANK YOU!

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Free Fronts, Wrappers, Entire Letters

June 4, 2018 at 3:17 pm (history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , )

Yesterday afternoon – though a BEAUTIFUL day – became rather frustrating… I tried to find an eBay sale from 2013. Ultimately, I got it because I retained its PAYPAL receipt.

What was the item?

It is what would be called a “free front” – the address panel of a letter, in my case franked by a Gentleman with the name Labouchere. Franked mail was received free of charge to the recipient (who, otherwise, paid the cost of postage).

mrs smith free front 1838

You can see the edges of the paper, where it was trimmed from the letter’s wrapper (an extra sheet that once “wrapped” or “covered” the actual letter); nothing is written on the backside.

I cared FAR less about the signature than I did for that tangible piece of paper. That it once wended its way to Mapledurham House, and brought news from London, THRILLED me!

But: frustrating, too, that the letter once inside has been destroyed, or lost, or otherwise just-not-included.

Free fronts DO serve a purpose. I generally know who was receiving a letter — the exception being when “man” of the house is addressed, while the contents are written to his wife!

In obtaining a DESTINATION, I might be able to extrapolate a locale for letters I have, but which have no envelope or direction. THAT is certainly information worth having. Sometimes, I can verify where the person was residing, _if_ they were diligent diarists.

And there is always the HOPE that some day maybe envelope AND letter could be reunited!

bright star_letter

And resemble it as it once was, when first mailed.

A letter that was franked did not (as mentioned above) carry a COST for the postage. So these were likely to have a sheet of paper, with the direction written on, which certainly could have been written out in advance by the person franking the letter. Jane Austen several times mentions “getting” franks from, among them, William Chute – a Member of Parliament whom she knew.

It was imperative that the MP write the direction, the date (note: Place, month, day, year) and his “signature”.

I find eBay rather frustrating – yesterday for instance, I was searching for SMITH, DEVIZES, FRANK – up popped a plaster mask made from the face of actor Jim Carrey! Not what I was looking for… Then I used the term FRANKED LETTER PRESTAMP and get a “hit” on a letter described as “1819 prestamp completly letter”.

Sellers: Typos do not help!

(8 letters come up with that same verbiage…)

Plus, when I search online, I sooner or latter use the phrase “entire letter” (typically with the quotations marks) – I never thought about “complete letter”.

There is NO standardization. I found a couple useful letters or free front under Collectible – military (not a place I’d look, IF narrowing the category filters).

“EL” is sometimes used to ID an “entire letter”. Does that even search WELL?

One seller describes a letter as “1897” – the image shows a letter from 1840! Same seller has another listed as 1899; the image is from 1828. The reason they are called PRESTAMP: they were mailed before postage stamps. This seller is obviously not targeting dates (maybe they are inventory numbers?), but that means the descriptions are useless…

Dates, names, places would be what I look for. Call it a Free Front, a Wrapper, a Cover, an entire letter, a complete letter, an ALS – autograph letter signed. (ALS – another term one does NOT want to search for online!), I am on the HUNT for more.

If you collect, or known anyone who does, in the coming weeks I will be posting information about those I’m hoping to find MORE letters from and to. Please help, if you can!

 

 

 

 

 

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My Girls: Emma Austen

April 23, 2018 at 7:41 pm (chutes of the vyne, introduction, jane austen, research, World of Two Teens) (, , )

A month ago I wrote about Emma Smith and Mary Gosling, my two diarists who head this research project, Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

I mentioned how I found the first diary, and a little about the family of both girls.

But, in celebration of this blog’s Tenth Anniversary, _I_ was wanting to go back, to see what was written, who was introduced. It’s damned hard to find! (I need to be in WP-Admin to sort by date.) The “Posts” calendar goes back month by month – but no one will have the patience to do that over TEN years.

On June 1, 2008, I introduced my girls:

Emma Smith and Mary Gosling were two ordinary English girls. They attended the opera and the theatre when their families resided in London for ‘the season’. They were present at court functions, and even witnessed the coronation of George IV. They travelled with family across the country and across to the Continent. They lived among servants in large houses on substantial estates; and when in town were next-door neighbours (No. 5 and 6 Portland-place) on a street south of Regent’s Park. See, just two ordinary girls.

Luckily, they kept diaries, and wrote lots and lots of letters. Some of which still exist.

So let’s take a moment to talk about Emma.

Austen_Emma

She married, on the 16 December 1828, the nephew of Jane Austen – James Edward Austen. Thus was born the title of this blog. She wasn’t the first diarist found, but her family members have been remarkably retentive of their own letters, diaries, drawings! And there were so many of them that the sheer amount of material is voluminous.

Emma’s earliest diary began on the first of January 1815. She kept diaries the rest of her life (1801 to 1876). She was the third child in a family of nine, and it is their interaction, recorded in her diary and in the family letters, that enliven the history of the Regency for me.

I cannot prove that either of the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even. Mrs. Chute of The Vine was Emma’s aunt, her mother’s elder sister.

Reading the movements of these people really bring *reality* to the novels of Austen. I don’t mean to intimate that they are like her characters, or that her characters are based on actual people. It’s the milieu, the times, the ethos. I don’t live in the United Kingdom, I wasn’t alive 200 years ago. The novels and the letters & diaries compliment each other in my mind, one helping me to understand the other.

The interests of the girls are remarkably like my own – a taste for reading; a love of music; an interest in travel. It feels like a match made in heaven. Getting to know them all fires my inner Sherlock Holmes. I want to know MORE. And that was the gist behind starting a blog: Finding MORE of their remaining materials. In that, there has been a good deal of success! More letters uncovered, a diary “recovered,” and new sources of information from their friends and close relatives.

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How to LOCK a Letter

June 16, 2016 at 8:29 pm (entertainment, europe, history, research) (, , , )

fascinating find: 2,600 letters were uncovered, kept inside a postmaster’s trunk. Astounding!

“The trunk contains 2,600 letters sent from France, Spain and the Spanish Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 but never delivered – including 600 letters never opened,” says the press release for the project that is now called SIGNED, SEALED & UNDELIVERED.

letter_trunk

Stored at the Hague’s Museum voor Communicatie since 1926, only now (thanks to technology) will the letters be “read,” unopened.

I hate to say it, but I was VERY grateful for the early dates of the letters! If I had thought ANY Smith & Gosling letters were among them, it would have driven me CRAZY!

Even more astounding are the YouTube videos featuring ways writers “locked” old letters – more than a simple wax seal over a seam, to keep prying eyes at bay.

I found this “pleated letter” of 1691, very interesting:

pleated letter

It’s “lock” is the piece you see with the very tapered end, closest to the “letter writer’s” arm.

pleated letter2

What’s really interesting is the “writer,” after closing up the letter, then shows HOW TO OPEN it!

This “diamond” shaped letter was also one above the usual, since it actually is a piece of HATE mail!

diamond letter

Step-by-step How To for EACH of the letters is shown (there’s no voice). The completed letter is briefly on view, then the letter is opened.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged…

February 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm (fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Leafing through Country Living magazine, I came across this photo:

It is advertising Spoonflower.com — a site where you may upload you own ideas for textiles! This upholstery fabric is said to date from an 1882 family letter.

Spoonflower.com allows you to adjust image-size, choose repeats, and choose type of fabric. I’ve even found where pillows were featured on the Nate Berkus Show.

No minimum fabric to order, or set-up fee.  Order a swatch for $5; a yard for as little as $16.20.

They’re based in Durham, North Carolina (home of Duke University, where the diaries of Mary Gosling reside!), and ship worldwide.

I can well imagine some Austen fans flocking to have upholstery fabric with their favorite quotes, can’t you???

Here’s some “Austen-inspired” fabrics on Spoonflower.com.

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