Maria Culme Seymour, miniature by Ross

July 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm (diaries, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve written before about finding this darling miniature of Maria Smith AKA Lady Culme Seymour; but last night I took the opportunity to RELOOK at Bonhams auction site, because a letter I’ve given scant attention to actually mentions THIS VERY image!

It is the end of November, 1844; Maria and John Culme Seymour have been married since February; the visitor is Mamma Smith, and she is writing, jointly, to daughters Emma and Eliza:

“Maria sang too; she … played her part [ie, of hostess] very well; conversed with animation, was polite to all, & looked happy: she looked young & pretty, with Curls; looked quite like Ross’s picture.”

That comment alone tells me that Mamma thought the portrait a fair likeness of her youngest daughter!

As you can see, when you go to Bonhams, they have a “similar items” area in the lower right corner; in this case, other portraits done by Sir William Charles Ross, RA.

Among them is this portrait, simply described as “of a Lady”. As you know, such terminology kills me.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

A sweet, yet slightly melancholy face, wouldn’t you say. The description is short: “A Lady, standing in a landscape and wearing black dress and white underslip, a pink rose at her corsage [sic?], jeweled belt, olive green shawl draped about her shoulders, her hair upswept into a knot, the front centrally parted and curled in ringlets framing her face, holding periwinkles in her right hand. Gilt-mounted within brown leather travelling case lined with velvet.” She sold for £2000 in a May 2013 auction (and was earlier sold through Christie’s, in 1979).

Who could she be??

_I_ am looking for a “missing” Ross portrait: of Fanny Seymour. Richard Seymour (who also sat to the artist in April 1836), wrote in his diary of Ross’s visit to Kinwarton on the 22nd to paint Fanny in September 1836; and on the 28th, he says:

“Mr. Ross has finished a miniature of dearest Fanny – w:h quite satisfies me – and I have just paid him £30. viz: £26..5 for the Min: and £3..15 for the frame & case, yet to come. X Giving him a £5 note and checque on Curries for £25. This piece of self indulgence will I hope be pardoned in me –“

Now compare the above to Maria, which Mamma seems to agree is a good likeness:

Maria Culme-Seymour2

Not the same person, but could they be sisters? And yet compare to their Sister-in-law Frances (Seymour) Smith (Spencer Smith’s wife), another miniature by Ross dating to the mid-1830s (this a later “copy”):

Smith_FrancesSeymour-MagdalenaRoss_1836-1911copy

While not as engaging as this slyly-smiling Frances Smith, one almost wonders a bit: Could it be her?

Ah, I mourn that the sitter of the Bonhams Ross miniature may go through life forever more as “A Lady”. If only Richard had written something about what Fanny wore, or how she  was posed.

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Rev. Richard Seymour: 16 Feb 1832

January 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm (books, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through letters and diaries for the early 1830s (I know, I know; I should be working about 15 years earlier than this!! I will get back to the 1810s…), I came across some exceptionally interesting news about Tring Church (St. Peter and St. Paul) and an 1832 connection with the four unmarried Smith sisters. This news I save for later, however…

But in looking through other diaries for the same year, I was searching through Richard Seymour’s published extracts (found in The Nineteenth Century Country Parson (1954), ed. by Hart and Carpenter), and just have to share two particular entries.

Richard, born in 1806, was therefore in his mid-20s in 1832; his diary shares many thoughts on the privileges his family enjoyed, contrasted to his desire to live a Christian life of duty and sacrifice. Was he idealistic, or simply young? His self-examinations can make for exhilarating reads, as in these entries (especially the second) from February 1832:

February 11: Drove Frances and Lizzy [his sisters] out to Codlington [sic: Cadlington]. Mrs. Morgan’s children’s dance. My conscience not at ease. Doubtful therefore whether I should have been there. I feel a great and I hope proper fear of being thought not to live up to what I preach. Shall avoid such things in future. May God mercifully guide me in my participation of those things which are perhaps lawful but not expedient.

February 16: While in the workhouse [his curate’s duty took him there] this evening the thought struck me, how different this scene from that of last night! [he had attended a ball at his father’s house in Portsmouth] There the handsome, well furnished and well lighted room. Here a cheerless, comfortless space with one small candle to throw its light on my book. There Youth and Beauty and affluence and careless hearts. Here the maimed, the blind, the halt, the aged, the sick, the deprived of reason, all, too, poor and destitute but for the aid of others. There the sound of music and revelry, mixed with the happy laughs. Here, the crying infant or the moan of the more aged. Most different indeed! His blessing upon my ministry, that these may become poor in spirit, as they are poor in this world’s goods, and that their heavenly and eternal prospects may grow brighter and clearer as their earthly hopes wax more dim and dismal.

Richard’s diaries are those which exist only on microfilm; I’ve blogged about them a couple times as they are among the great “missing” items; he married Emma’s sister Fanny in 1834. His sister Frances married Fanny’s brother Spencer the following spring; and eldest brother John (the Rev. Sir John Culme-Seymour, bart) later (in 1844) married the baby of the Smith of Suttons family, Maria. He and Fanny would live in the “remote” north — Warwickshire; Kinwarton to be specific.

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Augusta’s Comings & Goings

July 11, 2010 at 11:54 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

My “Augusta” (known to most as the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith, Mamma to Emma Austen Leigh) is now on her return voyage to Illinois, headed back to her owner, Mark Woodford. Thank you, Mark, for the opportunity to see the original diary! Not many people would lend such a treasure to a complete stranger… And she’s now in the hands of the United States Post Office. Safe return, my Augusta!

But while lamenting “goings” there was also an Augusta “coming” this week. On Friday, Alan from Warwickshire sent me a scan of his recent acquisition: an 1841 letter written to Fanny Seymour and penned by none other than her mother, Augusta Smith!

So in one week, there was young 1798 Augusta, a new bride, awaiting (come February 1799) the birth of her first child — the next Augusta in a line of Augustas [ie, the future Augusta Wilder]; and then the older, wise Mamma Smith, who has recently been at the deathbed of her grandson, Spencer Joshua Smith, eldest child of Spencer and Frances [Seymour] Smith.

While there is much in the 1798 diary still to be “digested”, the 3-page letter provides such a snippet of life, a moment captured. In this case, the grief of a family. But the interesting part comes in several comments Mamma makes about the actual funeral of little Spencer Joshua.

In the biography of her father, James Edward Austen Leigh, Mary Augusta wrote about the funeral of Eliza Chute (she died in July 1842); as the first to die of the four daughters of Joshua Smith, Eliza was attended by her three surviving sisters: Maria  marchioness of Northampton, Augusta Smith, Emma Smith. It was highly unusual for women to attend funerals or gravesides; though “the times they were a-changing”.

Mary Augusta writes:

“Mrs. Chute’s funeral took place at half-past eleven on the morning of August 5, the coffin being borne through the wooded lanes for more than a mile to the church of Sherborne St. John by two sets of eight bearers, the gentlemen of the large family party that collected in the house following on foot, and the three surviving sisters accompanying them in a carriage. The service was performed by Uncle Richard [ie, the Rev. Richard Seymour, Fanny’s husband].

So why do I write that it was unusual for women to attend? Emma herself attended, the following year, the funeral of Mrs James Austen (Edward’s mother). Edward had informed Mrs Augusta Smith, “The funeral will be on Friday, at Steventon, where a vacant brick grave by the side of my father’s has been waiting nearly 24 years…” Mary Augusta takes up the story:

“Aunt Caroline [Edward’s sister] meant to be present herself, and so great was our mother’s attachment to her sister-in-law that she determined to go with her…. Much fatigue of body and mind must have been involved in these long drives in extremely hot August weather, and by taking part in a funeral service for the first time in her life, as neither she nor her sister had attended Aunt Chute’s. There was then a wide-spread belief that women would be unable sufficiently to command their feelings during a service which might be painful and trying.” Mary Augusta then quotes a letter Emma wrote her eldest daughter (Mary Augusta’s sister), Amy: “It was a trying day… I cannot wish dear Amy that you had been at the sad service, or at present think I could myself (having now seen it) ever wish to attend another of a friend.”

Friend, in its 19th century use, meant family… It is a word the Smiths used often.

So, to bring back Augusta’s letter of 1841.

By December 1832 there only remained one Smith son: Spencer. In 1835 he had married Frances Seymour, Richard Seymour’s sister. Their little boy, Spencer Joshua, was born the following summer. Little Spencer seems to have had health problems from the start. The first indication was in Mary’s diary, when she wrote: “Poor little Spencer Smith died not quite 5 years old: his removal was a merciful dispensation of the Almighty”. Mamma Smith also intimates great concerns when she concludes: Frances “is sensible that life might have been a burthen to the poor Child, but still she loved him & misses him.”

Although the mystery of “Poor little Spencer Smith” remains, the 1841 letters sheds light on the changes taking place in the attendance by women at the graveside. Augusta tells Fanny, “Spencer went [to the funeral], attended only by Mr. Lacy; he declined Arthur’s [brother-in-law Arthur Currie] offer, because it must be trying to him; & he declined mine; I could have done it very well. I accompanied Richard to your poor Babe’s Grave. — Mrs Bond & Mrs. Marshall went; poor Horne is too nervous to venture.”

It is the line, “I could have done it very well. I accompanied Richard to your poor Babe’s Grave” that gets me: Fanny’s son Michael John died (after living only a day) in 1835!  Augusta’s thoughts of “accompanying Richard” gives the deep impression of a woman willing to sacrifice her own feelings in order to support her son-in-law in this most distressing time. And here, again, we see an offer given to Spencer, but, like Frances, he prefers to mourn alone.

This may seem a morbid subject for a bright summer’s day, but it also points up the wonderful opportunities for digging into the past, for uncovering social conventions of Britain 200 years ago. The Smiths and Goslings are a fascinating family, and I am blissfully happy when working among their papers.

Thanks to both Mark and Alan, little puzzle pieces come out of the blue – and each piece, in its own way, solves a bit of the mystery. Here, the “game” is always “a-foot”!

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