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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