Fanny’s Lament

July 28, 2015 at 11:52 am (diaries, estates, history, people, places) (, , )

Poor Fanny Smith — or, I should really say: Poor Fanny Seymour. For her “trouble with servants” comes AFTER her marriage, AFTER her removal to Kinwarton (Warwickshire), AFTER she has begun to set up her own household.

Fanny, of all the Smith of Suttons siblings, settled the furthest away from everyone else. And, as a girl and then woman, used to the quiet of the country at certain seasons but the BUSTLE of LONDON during “the season”, she is finding Kinwarton a little too-quiet. And, therefore, she knows what other will think

And so she informs her sister Charlotte, to whom she turns after a letter arrived asking Fanny to consider hiring a protegée of someone known to Charlotte (who, by the way, is living in London [Cavendish Square] – with husband Arthur Currie).

NB: a protegée is meant to convey the idea of recommendation: A servant (new to the market or simply seeking a different position) whom the friend or relation can recommend to the attention of someone seeking a servant.

My! what an absorbing letter to read! The gist of Fanny’s lament is not that she doesn’t think the woman will suit => Fanny believes the position would NOT at all suit the woman! The woman is too used to fine households (“white gloves” were mentioned…); and her brother is in the household of a titled family. What has the Kinwarton Vicarage to offer other than a stone-floored kitchen – no “housekeeper’s room” at all, as in all the fine house’s the woman may indeed associate with the Smiths: Suttons (in Essex), Stoke (in Wiltshire), Tring (in Hertfordshire). Fanny asks her sister to be candid, to tell the ex-Lady’s Maid — though one of Charlotte’s servants — all the letter contains about the position and the household. Tell this also to the lady who wrote to Fanny, so that she too will be under no misapprehensions.

Alas! Poor Fanny then leaves the door open, for she writes towards the end: IF the woman cares to pursue the position still, let her contact Fanny.

fanny signature

Foolish Fanny!

Now, Fanny had written Charlotte that the WORST scenario she could EVER envision was one where an unhappy servant moans and complains… Fanny may be a new-ish bride (it’s been well over a year since the wedding), but she is no “young” lady: she is in her 30s and well used to the large establishment of her mother’s household (yet, of course, always had her mother on the other side of a letter if advice was required about the said household).

Indeed, it seems, from one short sentence, that James Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) sat Fanny down and told her a few facts about life in the country’s more impecunious rectories. She knew, going into the marriage, she writes Charlotte, that she’d been heading a household where hundreds and not thousands (of pounds) would be spent in a year.

So why on earth does she simply NOT even consider taking “White Gloves” on?

For the next letter finds the woman IN KINWARTON!

Oh Fanny….

The situation is not the happiest, on both sides (as Fanny predicted!), and Fanny, pregnant and planning to move south to be with her mother for her confinement, is already planning to give the woman her dismissal: the plan is NOT to engage her further once they arrive in London. The plan, then, calls for the woman – whom we now know to be nearer 50 than 40 in age (another Lament!) to be unemployed come Christmas, for Fanny was confined in mid-January.

Ah, for MORE in order to know IF this plan was followed!  DID she arrive back in London with a handshake and a pay-off?

Richard’s diary mentions the woman just once: the fact of her travelling separately to Oxford as they break their journey south. Nothing more, as if the household does not affect him at ALL. And perhaps it didn’t! Fanny could write reams to her sisters, laments and pleadings for advice, but Richard can’t even be bothered to note the woman’s arrival or dismissal, or his wife’s unease.

MEN!

So, until more letters come to light – or, more mentions of a woman named Heck or Hook – this story too is a “torso” waiting for a conclusion.

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Little Red Bag of Emphemera

May 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm (diaries, history, news, research) (, , , , , , )

Today – 16 May 2012 – marks the fifth anniversary of the take off of this research project. That is the day I left Vermont for two months in England!

It seems a lifetime ago…

And yet, howfarthis project has come!

When I left for England, I knew there were diaries and letters – now I have worked with many of those (more to do!), and oh-so-much more besides. Private collectors have opened their vaults and drawn forth more letters, and a few more diaries, and sometimes pictures! Interested writers and scholars have offered help, tidbits, advice — and, yes, long-distance friendship. I also thank those readers who have found something of interest in this project, as it unfolds. Keep reading, for I must keep on writing.

I called this post a little red bag of ephemera for two reasons. First, last night, late – near midnight – I was rummaging for my bits and pieces: diaries, brochures from places visited – or those I had hoped to visit and never did, bus passes, grocery lists maybe too. I didn’t go through it all. Stopped when I found my plane itinerary. It is all stored in a glossy red shopping bag that once held a photo of St. Mary’s Church in Kinwarton — a framed photo gifted to me by Alan, following my talk on young Fanny Smith (aka the soon-to-be Fanny Seymour). Alan had done the legwork to bring in a very good local crowd who wanted to hear more about Fanny. Once I returned to Vermont, the photo got placed on my library table and all these little bits got put in the bag and the bag put away.

But – and here’s the second part – I’ve recently been researching for some new and different avenues of finding more letters and any other bits of paper the Smiths & Goslings might have left behind them. And that’s how I came across the Ephemera Society. Hey! who knew I was right “in style” keeping things like bus ticket stubs! Makes me feel like a collector.

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WANTED: One Willing Reader resident near Reading (England)*

March 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

*must have access to a digital camera — that’s the only caveat!

Two days ago I found notice of a letter written by Fanny Smith (aka Fanny, Mrs Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton). You can read it for yourself in The Berkshire Echo, volume #55 (April 2011). I *LOVE* how the writer describes dear Fanny as “a rather strong-minded young lady”! I have some letters written in the same period — November – December 1830 — for the Smiths were caught up in what is known as the Swing Riots: crowds of marauders bent on getting better wages by forcing the destruction of farm machinery (ie, threshers) which had been displacing agricultural workers.

The Echo lauded the “contemporary” aspect of Fanny’s letter; I crow about finding another tiny piece of my research.

After reading an email from the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) today, I had even more cause for rejoicing: there exist in their archives six letters and a partial seventh letter!

Oh fabjous Day!

Alas… alas… Isn’t there always an “alas”…

BRO figures each letter as four pages rather than two sides of a page, equalling pages 4 and 1 on one side, and pages 2 and 3 on the flip side.

Their charge is £10 a page!

You do the math: £10/page x 4 pages x 6 letters x 1.60$ to 1£ — my hair stands on end contemplating the bottom line! Even at half (ie, two pages per letter) the charge feels astronomical.

So my plea today, Is there a Smith&Gosling reader willing to visit the Berkshire Record Office in Reading on my behalf?

If you’re on the fence and want to know more – or, if you’re willing to take the plunge, just contact me. My email is listed on the “About the Author” page.

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Happy 2012!!!

January 1, 2012 at 11:52 am (entertainment, research) (, , , , , , , )

Mary, Emma and I wish everyone

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I’m looking forward, in 2012, to acquainting readers with the history of the Smiths&Goslings – they lived through SUCH an extraordinary period. I light to think of my girls (born in 1800 and 1801) as going from the horse and carriage age, through the steam age and into the train age. Plus they knew and met some extraordinary people.

Yet it is their own histories, the every-day lives they and their families and friends lived that remains most compelling.

Their stories can only be told through their own words, bolstered by media reports extant public evidence, and illustrated by their own images and artwork.

I was reading some letters from 1825 — an important year, in that Belinda Colebrooke, Lady Smith (Charles’ first wife) died in January; Emma’s diary for that year is missing — and came across one from Mamma Smith, it is simply signed; just:

ASmith

I can well imagine some letters out there, which people have little idea who wrote them, or who they were written to. Especially if a letter is mailed to Miss Smith! For one letter I recently read, had Emma apologizing to Fanny for addressing her letter as usual, to Miss Fanny Smith — when she now (thanks to Augusta’s marriage) deserved the title Miss Smith.

It is really easy to see, from the list of items at the Hampshire Record Office, how several items passed to Emma. Therefore, other items — earlier Mamma Smith diaries; later Aunt Chute diaries — must have passed to Eliza Le Marchant, to Fanny Seymour, to Maria Culme-Seymour. Perhaps even to Spencer Smith, the sole-remaining brother.

I also like to think that some of Mary’s items still exist – perhaps subject to dispersal by her sister Elizabeth Christie. Those items at the Essex Record Office I think once belonged to her daughter Augusta, Mrs Lawrence Capel Cure.

So here’s some wishes for some new items — either in Archives (but unknown to me, like the wonderful Macklin Album, brought to my attention recently by Robin Jenkins) or in dribs-and-drabs in someone’s private collection. I’ve Richard Seymour’s diaries to work on, and some diaries and drawings that are across the country to investigate more fully.

I hope readers will comment and interact! You are my lifeline, sometimes — and I appreciate the friends I have made through this blog.

As they say in Austria — for the radio plays the Vienna New Year’s Concert: Prosit Neu Jahr!!

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Pretty as a Picture

December 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm (fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician, recently asked how I found the images, portraits, miniatures I had been uncovering. In a word: SEARCHED. Hours, sometimes, of painstaking searching for names, different combinations of names and estates (you trying looking for people named SMITH!), and sometimes just sheer luck: looking for something totally different you unearth a little piece of GOLD.

Charlotte’s Sir William was uncle to my Richard Seymour — husband of Fanny Smith, Emma’s younger sister. And it was while transcribing Richard’s 1836 diary that I came across mention of what seem to be two portraits:

At the end of April, 1836, Richard laments his lack of time – he is taken up with parish duties, “sitting to Ross & the claims of friends”. He is in London and it is easy to disregard the comment, although the phrase “sitting to” is self-evident.

Then, in September 1836, come two further comments about Mr Ross. The first reads, “Mr. Ross arrived this evening to paint dearest Fanny’s miniature“.

Really?! The connection of ROSS and MINIATURE immediately brought to mind the delightful miniature of Maria Smith (Lady Culme-Seymour) auctioned at Bonhams.

And then the suspicion — always a habit when dealing with primary materials — IS the image really of Maria? Or, could it have been misidentifie,d and it’s really Fanny??

Just from the look of the eyes — always described as too “light” by Mamma Smith — and the youthful impertinence, I have come to love and think of this picture as Maria. So Maria she remains.

The question therefore arises: WHERE is miniature of Fanny Seymour? Where is the seeming “companion” miniature of Richard Seymour??

That Richard and Fanny are home, in Kinwarton (Warwickshire, not far from Stratford on Avon) — Richard’s comments on Ross’s arrival — leads me to presume that they may have housed the man for the few days he sat at work.

Ross arrived the evening of the 22nd, and he “finished a miniature of dearest Fanny – w:h quite satisfies me” on the 28th. Richard then comments that he paid the man £26, 5 shillings for the portrait; and £3, 15 shillings for the frame & case. There are moments when you just fall in love with Richard, and this is one of those moments, when he writes, “This piece of self indulgence will I hope be pardoned in me–“.

A little digression: Jane Hawker — AKA Lady Seymour — was Richard Seymour’s mother. She was also mother to John Culme-Seymour (eventual husband to Maria, pictured above), Michael Seymour (of the Royal Navy), and Frances Seymour. Frances married Emma/Fanny/Maria’s middle brother Spencer Smith — so THREE Smith siblings married THREE Seymour siblings! And Michael? he married his cousin, Dora Knighton — daughter of Dorothea Hawker (Jane’s sister) and the very same Sir William Knighton mentioned above.

Due to Maria’s portrait — sold in a lot that also included the Seymours’ mother — Richard’s “Mr. Ross” can only be (Sir) William Charles Ross, RA (1794-1860) — at the time not yet a “sir” and not yet a Royal Academician…

You can view Lot Details of Maria Lady Culme Seymour and Jane Lady Seymour, from Bonhams.

While it’s wonderful to see the cost of such a treasure, how could Richard say nothing about the portrait — a description of Fanny’s clothing, for instance, would have helped identify it. Oh, it is hard not to wonder if the two fluffy sheep in the background of Maria’s picture are KINWARTON sheep!

It breaks my heart to read of such portraits leaving the family (these two were first sold by Sotheby’s in 1972); I can only hope the two purchases went to the same purchaser…

Needless to say, should anyone know the whereabouts of Richard and Fanny’s miniatures by Mr Ross please do let me know!

* * *

To read more about Sir Wm Chas. Ross, RA:

It kills me to think one Unbekannte like this lady (c1832) could be Fanny:

When you view a page such as this one from BING you see how daunting a task finding Fanny could turn out to be (not all images are ROSS miniatures).

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Happy Birthday, Fanny

October 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm (diaries, history, news, research) (, , , , , , )

Today – October 28 – is the 208th birthday of Fanny Smith / Fanny Seymour of Kinwarton.

Fanny first took on a life of her own when I was invited to give a talk in the Kinwarton-area on her. At the time, I was in Hampshire, researching the diaries and letters at the Record Office in Winchester; it was amazing how suddenly Fanny stood out from the crowd. Indeed: Seek and ye shall find.

READ the Kinwarton letter for yourself.

Her letter — found online — was one of the first I ever tracked down. Thanks to also tracking down its owner, Alan in Alcester, I was given access to other letters he had collected over the years from the family; this included one from Mary Lady Smith!

Fanny has a tight and tidy hand, with a slightly lesser tendancy to “cross” her writing than some of her sisters… She certainly seemed to have felt the plight of being much farther north (Warwickshire) than her siblings. There’s so much known about Fanny — yet so much more to uncover.

The thrill, today, however, was to hear about Mike H’s trip to Oxford — and his look at Fanny’s sketches of Tring Park!

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Nothing So Lovely as a Tree

September 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm (history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I spent last evening reviewing photographs Charlotte Frost had taken of Fanny Seymour’s sketchbooks (held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University). Today, I sit at my desk (I call it “sitting in a hall, staring at a wall’ – but you’d have to see my ‘office cubicle’ to appreciate the poetry….), the window is high above the section of wall, and looking up don’t I see some tall, thin, green, leafy TREE — just like so many Fanny sketched!

I was suddenly transported back in time (c1830) and place (England rather than the state of Vermont).

Studying these drawings — mainly architectural (some of the Smith homes: Tring Park and Mapledurham; some homes of relatives: Castle Ashby, Coolhurst, Purley Hall; some surroundings: gardens, walks, villages) — makes me cast a glance back on my own art studies in college.

I have only two specimens in my collection (guess I didn’t care enough about still life or models to keep those studies) and really don’t recall how long it look me to do the most intensive one: a “collage” of various items all spilling over across the paper, one “scene” segueing into the next. I’ve always been rather proud of it, though. Proved — to me! — that I had at least imitative talent.

I’m dating myself here, but think of the campaign, “Can You Draw This Girl? You Might Have a Career in Art.” This was a correspondence course type of ad. I’m sure I attempted the girl or the “Bambi” deer, but I never sent anything in.

An Aside: Guess they are still around!

 

  • Art Instruction Schools — since 1914.
  • a student has actually posted an interesting “review” of the Schools; but also a complaint.
  • in a hunt for the “Can You Draw This Girl?” I came across Wikipedia‘s entry for the School.

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Breaking News: Scenes from life at Suttons

June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm (a day in the life, books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

**My “solution” to the Mr Darcy-Mystery Man will appear at the end of the week**

The breaking news concerns a slim little volume I’ve searched a couple YEARS for: Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 — a Wiltshire seller had a copy on eBay, the auction ending about three weeks ago. Yet who but me would want this little book?! Evidently, no one: when I emailed about it the book was still available. This little prize arrived in my mailbox this past Monday — the 13th of June! YIPPEE.

So what does this little treasure offer?

There are 28 pages of text, which are short plays, in verse, written by DRUMMOND and ELIZA SMITH. The scenes take place in 1825 and 1827, as the title indicates. They are comical and charming little pieces, especially heartwarming to me because I can see and hear them, I know the “characters” so well! The first is entitled BREAKFAST AT SUTTONS, JULY 1825. The first pages includes this exchange:

Fanny: Whoever chuses coffee — speak.
Charlotte: I should like some — but very weak.
Augusta: Coffee too — if you please, for me;
                     But no — I think I’ll have some Tea.

Readers get a sense of the house, the manners and characters, as well as the staff members: we have “appearances” by Tanner (Mr Tanner he is later called); John who evidently answered the door to a ‘poor woman’ arriving to talk to Mamma; the ever-loyal Tidman, who shows up in letters. Interestingly, these people do not appear as “characters” listed at the beginning of each “play”!

The next scene, AN HOUR’S READING AT SUTTONS, 1825, features Aunt and Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma is, of course, Mamma Smith’s youngest sister (she never married); Aunt, on the other hand is erroneously ID’ed as Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton (ie, Mamma’s eldest sister).

‘Aunt’ was in fact Charles Smith’s only sister, Judith Smith of Stratford! I recall a charming little drawing of Aunt (by Augusta, the daughter) in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). I have long meant to ask for a copy; this makes me want it even more, because, although there is no Aunt Emma, Scenes from Life at Suttons has portraits of Mamma and her sister Maria, Lady Northampton!

The last little play, EVENING AT SUTTONS, 1827, has a few lines spoken by my beloved MARY! This takes place in The Library.

The end of the book includes ELEVEN portraits, all (except her own) by Augusta Smith Wilder. So came my first look at Mary (Gosling) Smith, and even her sister Elizabeth. Most of the Smith siblings are present: Augusta, Charles, Emma, Spencer, Charlotte and Drummond. Alas! No Fanny, Eliza or Maria!! Which is QUITE the loss, though as far as Fanny goes I believe the portrait at HRO is of this set. This I have a copy of! (Sorry, you won’t find it online…). Mary’s portrait easily translates into a silhouette, so I’ll shortly post her picture, as companion to her “sister of the heart”, Emma Austen Leigh. Stay tuned for more about this unique booklet!

One thing I can NOW say: This title does indeed exist! I was beginning to think May Lamberton Becker’s imagination had conjured it up. The description, its only depiction, appeared in her book Presenting Miss Jane Austen (1952).

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News! News! News!

May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am (books, entertainment, people, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Two *new* portraits join my little gallery… They were found while looking for something totally different (isn’t that always the case?!).

My first was this delightful portrait of Wilmina Maclean Clephane:

I was looking to update information on my current writing project, about Fanny( Smith) Seymour, and wanted to double check information about Torloisk (on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). This was the home of the three Maclean Clephane sisters. Don’t remember them?? I can’t blame you — there are so many names and people to remember, aren’t there?

The Clephane sisters were wards of writer Walter Scott; Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815 — and Emma recorded the events of Margaret’s homecoming (see my article at the JASNA website equating this event to a proposed welcome for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy). Spencer and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton were the only cousins the Smiths of Suttons had. Emma came to know the Clephane girls — the other two being Anna-Jane and Wilmina — fairly well, and even wrote of meeting Walter Scott himself!

**Read about the Clephanes’ connection to early music for the Gaelic Harp**

How wonderful to read Walter Scott’s (online) journal and see this; it’s September, 1827:

“September 6. — Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance… I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck’s Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their back.” Read more ….

Margaret was the eldest (born 1791), Wilmina the youngest (born 1803); they and Compton are extremely prevalent in the Scott correspondence. Such fun to read of Margaret, when a young bride newly brought home to Castle Ashby, entertaining her guests with Scottish Song and Music, such as Emma recorded witnessing. Margaret was a dab hand at art as well, which brings me back to Harriet Cheney.

The Cheney name is one VERY familiar from letters and diaries. And, besides, the Cheney family were related to the Carrs/Carr Ellisons and they end up in Mary Gosling’s extended family! Again: a small world.

Harriet Cheney, whose Italian sketchbooks went up for auction in 2005 at Christie’s, not only sketched places, but also those whom she came across. Wilmina was one; her sister Margaret and her family was another:

Here, Margaret is depicted with her daughter Marianne Compton (the future Lady Alford). Other images not “illustrated” at Christie’s includes other children and also Spencer Lord Compton! Such treasures.

**Read Karen E. McAulay‘s PhD thesis Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting, c1760-1888**

Look at all 110 lots (Wilmina is Lot 44; Margaret and Marianne are Lot 45) at Christie’s. There is even a specimen of the artistry of Wilmina herself at Lot 87.

I swear that Emma called Wilmina’s husband Baron de Normann (Christie’s cites de Norman). Was it Emma’s spelling, or how he spelled his name ?? Always tricky to tell during this time period, when spelling was somewhat fluid — even for names! Christie’s seems to have obtained the name from the signature on the art itself, but who knows…

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A Richard Seymour Sighting!

February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In “conversation” over email with Charlotte Frost (see the post on her new biography of Sir William Knighton), it turned up that Ms. Frost had seen a photograph of the Rev. Richard Seymour — husband of my dear Fanny Smith — among a group of family photos!

Now, the Warwickshire Record Office has the not-very-good photo of a portrait of a young Richard (see portraits page), but can you imagine: seeing, “in the flesh”, a photo of someone you only know through his words and deeds? Quite THRILLING!!!

Richard has a nice “following” in Warwickshire, thanks to the talks given by Alan Godfrey. Alan had kindly invited me to offer a talk on Fanny Smith when I was in England in 2007. Seems a lifetime ago. We had a great turnout that Friday evening — thanks in no small part to Alan’s organization skills. I was able to have in hand a drawing of dear Fanny, probably done by her eldest sister Augusta, but maybe done by her sister Emma. This was done when Fanny was in her 20s and reminds me of the work of Mrs Carpenter — very likely, as that artist was commissioned for a number of pieces in the Smith family, which means the girls had the opportunity to watch her work, as well as study her methods.

By the way, Richard is described by Ms. Frost as “a man in his 60s, seated at a desk”. How wonderful if the same holding turns up a picture of … Fanny!

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