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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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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An Island Alone?

October 20, 2010 at 9:45 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ever feel like your out there on your own? As another winter begins to descend, and early (early!) mornings come thanks to local airport noise (long, looonnnnggg story there; boring to everyone but me), the thoughts crowd around in the dark that few would wish to contemplate: the jobs that got away; the life I used to have when days were “better”; getting older; having older parents.

My saving grace: the Smiths and Goslings. They aren’t my “family”, but they have become “my family”. I long to find out their movements, to piece together all their individual puzzles, to fit their lives, dreams and thoughts into some pattern that points up their times as well as their lives.

Jacky from Maidstone has recently given much food for thought in the shape of an astonishing letter to Maria, the youngest Smith of Suttons daughter. The correspondent is the mother of a young man who has simply never found anyone — other than Maria — that he could love and wish to marry.

What makes this of great interest?

Henry Wilder wrote similar sentiments to Mrs Smith regarding Augusta. It was a letter, when I first deciphered it, as I sat beside the windows at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England), that tore at my heart. It was obvious that Henry had had a relationship with Augusta; that something or someone had intervened (I suspect some Wilder parental interference, but have not discovered anything concrete as yet); and here he was, a couple years later, talking about his inability to forget Augusta. He’s now wondering if Mrs Smith will find out if Augusta still has feelings for him.

Now there are several mildly “star-crossed” lovers in these extended families. The most extreme “disapproval” I have yet come across involves Richard Seymour’s sister Dora. Richard’s diaries (on microfilm at the Warwickshire Record Office) is quite plain in the disapproval of Dora’s family after she engaged herself to the Rev. Mr. Chester. Richard – a docile man in such matters – was pressured to put pressure on Dora to break off the engagement. The end was achieved; yet not in the long-run. Dora did ultimately marry the Rev. Mr. Chester.

[an aside: if I could track down the current whereabouts and the owner of Richard Seymour’s diaries, then I could get a COPY of the microfilm from WRO…]

So, back to Maria. The date of this letter is 1835. Mrs Catherine Odell, the writer, had obviously NOT been in touch with the family for some time. She mailed her letter to Tring Park; the Smiths had moved from Tring to Mapledurham House in October 1834 (the first “event” held there: the wedding of Fanny Smith to the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton). Also, Mrs Odell addressed her letter to “Miss Maria Smith”. That alone would have gained Maria’s ire! In one letter she quite obviously had chastised a sibling for not giving her her due: as the “eldest” single Smith sister she was now entitled to be addressed as “Miss Smith”.

In this period, the eldest son or daughter or Mr Lastname, Miss Lastname. Other, younger, siblings had their first name appended, thus, as we find in Jane Austen: Mr Ferrars but Mr Robert Ferrars; Miss Dashwood, Miss Marianne Dashwood; Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Lydia Bennet, Miss Kitty Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet.

If we take the Bennets (since there are so many of them!), with the marriages of Lydia, followed by those of Jane and Elizabeth, than the elder of the two left single would assume the title “Miss Bennet”.

That was what happened with Maria Smith: In October 1834, elder sister Fanny married Richard. And Eliza Smith, the next unmarried Smith sister, married in January 1835. So with that event, little Maria finally became Miss Smith — the three events (move, and two marriages) unknown to Mrs Odell in Ireland.

But what makes the letter so extraordinary is that Mr Edward Odell’s pleading is done by his mother! She writes that he could never marry anyone but Maria (to the sadness of his family, she is quick to point out); that Edward will come into his elder brother’s estate (though ‘why’ that would be so, I don’t yet know); that Edward already had an income of £600 (an amount perhaps exceeded by money given to Maria to live, for all I know; certainly, in a letter to Augusta, Mrs Smith intimated that she NEED NOT MARRY, as she had income enough to live, and live comfortably, I’m sure).

One personal favorite: Mrs Odell says that her son would willingly live anywhere; and that Mrs Smith could live with them should she need to be taken care of. Mamma Smith?! in need of care?! from a son-in-law’s household? She is the most “matriarchal” matriarch I have ever come across!

The story behind Mr Odell, which may or may not have impacted the “welcome”: A Mr Odell (I suspect Edward rather than his unnamed elder brother due to a Harrow connection), longtime friend of Drummond, enticed Drummond to visit Italy much against Mrs Smith’s inclination. There are many mentions of interviews, letters, letters from Mr Odell even — in which Mrs Smith digs to find out about Drummond’s illness and death.

So, in the end, the big question is: Would Mr Edward Odell have stood a chance with Maria? was there family pressure to dissolve any relationship? Was Maria herself uninterested? Only time will tell; or else I may never know the answer to those questions!

But you see, you few who read these musings, what occupies my mind — so happily occupies my mind!

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Thrilling news of Fanny Seymour

July 22, 2010 at 10:21 am (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

It’s always a *banner* day when something new and hitherto unknown turns up! Like Mark emailing about his having Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary — or finding that a giant library like Oxford University’s Bodleian has SKETCH BOOKS that once belonged to Fanny Smith / Fanny Seymour!

I’ve a bit of a soft-spot for young Fanny. When I travelled to England to do research in the Hampshire Record Office at Winchester, I had already been in email contact with Alan up in Warwickshire. Alan made arrangements for me to give a talk on “local girl” Fanny Seymour. It’s amazing that once you LOOK for the doings and goings-on in some one person’s life, comments about them just pop out. So here was I, transcribing big sister Emma’s diaries and letters written by Emma and Mamma Smith (ie, Mark’s Augusta, only twenty-plus years down the road), and putting together the fragments of Fanny’s life. It was a great talk — or so I hope my audience thought! (It was well-attended, though oh so few questions at the end of it all.) And I enjoyed my time up in Warwickshire; I even managed to work a short time with the microfilm containing Richard Seymour’s diaries (check out the old post on my trying to find the whereabouts of Richard’s original diaries).

But back to Fanny!

I wrote a small booklet — which you will hear more about shortly (I’ve been compiling images for it!) — about the young girl years of Fanny Smith, up until the time of her marriage. Alan was hoping to write something similar for Richard Seymour, but he’s been very busy. In that booklet, I had a comment that while Fanny was always written about as drawing, and even mentions herself her love of this art, I had never yet seen — or located — any of her work.

Then, two nights ago, just online trying various search terms, don’t I turn up SKETCH-BOOKS OF FANNY SMITH, and the description calls her Mrs Richard Seymour. The books (unfortunately…) are described as topographical — so NO portraits are expected but imagine seeing drawings of the homes Fanny lived in, visited, and loved!

I’ve been working up an email in my head and will shortly contact Oxford. Part of me simply cannot believe that such items — Fanny’s sketches — have ended up at the Bodleian! I have said and thought “this project is golden” more than once; and this discovery proves it yet again: The Smiths and Goslings obviously want to be found.

The picture is from the book of Diana Sperling drawings, entitled Mrs Hurst Dancing. EASY to imagine Fanny, Emma and the other Smith siblings as characters in this charming little glimpse at English life.

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Seeking Miss Knight

February 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

After a bit of time away from research, I have been pushing myself to get restarted on this very exceptional project. And where better to start than (more or less) at the beginning. If we count only Mary and Emma (rather than their parents or grandparents – who, let’s face it, must come into the equation), then the beginning is the early eighteen-teens, specifically 1814 for Mary’s earliest diary and 1815 for Emma’s.

Mary’s earliest diary, if I haven’t mentioned it before, concerns a trip to visit her elder brother at Oxford. All of her diaries at this early date (ie, when she was unmarried) are trips taken with her family. Emma’s earliest diary is an actual day-to-day journal. She is breathless in describing not so much what she feels but what ALL family members do — this is eight siblings plus Mamma Smith (plus various aunts and uncles, and two cousins). So it was with her diaries that I began — rereading them, correcting obvious typos, commenting on what I now recognize for visitors. The secret key to the diary — to this entire project — is the identification of people. And there are so many of them!

Of keen interest, of course, are those artists, musicians, actors that Emma mentions. They “did” the season in London, every year moving from Suttons (in Essex county) to Portland Place. Emma, being the second eldest girl, mentions all the social calls and events elder sister Augusta encountered. So between all family members, and the Goslings (who, living next door, are also in town for the season) Emma’s social calendars are quite full of everyone’s activities.

She also mentions when the “unordinary” happens — like her mother have her portrait done. The year is 1816. A Miss Knight comes, but of course there is little information; until you go and search for it. Turns out Mary Ann Knight was fairly well-known (not a surprise, as the Smiths and Goslings both patronized the ‘well’-known everything). She has not much of an internet presence, but I did find a short (very short) bio and two drawings done by her. One of her sitters is none other than Joanna Baillie — and guess who, at this period, was consulting Joanna’s brother Dr. Baillie? Mrs Smith, as well as Augusta Smith! Small world… One could wonder if Joanna recommended Miss Knight to the Smiths — but Miss Baillie’s portrait post-dates this period. Find her portrait, and that of Robert Owen, both by Miss Knight at The National Galleries of Scotland. By clicking on the photos you will bring up information on the sitter(s) as well as the artist (scanty as it is).

One interesting side note (especially as the Baillie portrait seems the most ‘famous’ one of her – it’s on all the book covers): This style of a well-drawn face, with color added, but a (slightly) less-sketched-in-torso very much recalls to mind the one portrait I have of Fanny (Smith) Seymour: could sister Augusta, who is thought to have done the picture, have done it in Miss Knight’s style, or was this “all the attention on the face” something in vogue at the time???

The burning question, however, is: What ever happened to Mrs Augusta Smith’s portrait??

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Happy Birthday!

April 13, 2009 at 11:26 am (a day in the life) (, , , )

Today – 13 April 2009 – marks the 197th birthday of Drummond Smith.

When I left Drummond last night, in the year 1825, he was a school boy at Harrow. Actually, Harrow is how I found the existence of a book (copied out by one of the sisters; I suspect Maria) [2013 update: the handwriting belongs to Fanny] containing letters he wrote from the time he was a young boy up until he left for the fateful trip to Italy (against his mother’s wishes, which were reluctantly bestowed in the end…) – mention was made of his letters from school in a history of Harrow!

On their own, given the relative youth of the boy for many of them, they are quaint vignettes of the life of a schoolboy from a well-to-do London-based family. But: input within correspondence from Mamma, Emma, Augusta, Mary and Maria, they flesh out some periods of the family history. Now if only his travel diaries would surface — or his actual letters come to light! (Or the replies to them.) Frustratingly, especially as I have studied Fanny Smith a bit more than many of her sisters, later letters to Fanny were given space – blank pages left – but were never filled in; had Fanny, making her home in Kinwarton (Warcs), had trouble finding the letters from her brother — or had the letters brought up too many memories??

[NB: given that Fanny is the transcriber, she may simply have been lazy: she owned the original letters! Alas, that is our loss — until the actual letters turn up.]

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