Dido Belle

September 22, 2019 at 11:06 am (books, diaries, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Dido Belle

Click on the picture to see the Wikipedia entry on the painting and its two sitters, Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (Finch-Hatton).

Although aired in 2018, I just watched last night the FAKE or FORTUNE? episode that identified the portrait’s painter (once thought to be Zoffany) as David Martin. The Mansfield archives even has a ledger, with payment to him – though, of course, NO mention of the work, just his name.

It was while looking at the close-up (above) that I was struck with the thought: Dido Belle must, in many ways, gives clues to the appearance of the last governess of the Smiths, Miss Ashley. There were two west Indian sisters, Sarah and Eliza Ashley. Interestingly, there are book chapters of the grandmother of these girls, known as The Queen of Demerara.

One book is Empowering Women (by Candlin and Pybus); very well-written and quite informative. I came across it because of the chapters on Dorothy Thomas and Mrs. Sala, a performer and music teacher, who, when in London, Emma writes about in her diaries.

The Smith family in general have left a fair amount of letters and diaries.

It is quite obvious that the Smith family’s governess Miss Ashley is Eliza Ann Ashley (cousin George Augustus Sala names her Elise – I have located one letter; the signature almost looks Elize). Her sister, when named, is Miss S. Ashley or in later years just “Sarah”. Her full name being Sarah Edmonstone Ashley. The family, (seemingly anyway), make it easy to differentiate the sisters.

Emma Smith was actually older (by about two years) than Miss Ashley.

(Emma was the third child, of nine; born in 1801.)

Miss Ashley came to the Smiths in May 1824. It is *exciting* to wonder if she traveled from Demerara in company with Dorothy Thomas, her grandmother. How she came to be employed by the Smiths, I do not know. Mrs. Smith (Augusta Smith, senior; the widowed Mrs. Charles Smith of Suttons and 6 Portland Place) has left some diaries, but I’ve not (yet) tracked down anything for 1824.

That these sisters are related to Sala I have no doubt. There is enough in the diaries that reference Mrs. Sala, Mr. Sala’s fatal illness, an unnamed aunt’s death, etc. to confirm they are the women George Augustus Sala wrote about.

What I do not know is whose children they were; whether there were more siblings; and how they were related to Sala – he calls them cousins, which leads me to presume, like Mrs. Sala, they were daughters of a daughter of Dorothy Thomas. But which daughter (and from which relationship)?

Miss Ashley’s tenure with the Smiths was twofold.

She ceased working for the Smiths when the youngest daughter, Maria, “aged out” of needing a governess (late 1830s). There is enough in the letters to put her in the employ of the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. But by the 1840s she is back. She appears in the diaries of Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), giving music and drawing lessons. After Mary’s death in 1842, Miss Ashley was clearly hired by Mrs. Smith to be the governess with her two now-orphaned granddaughters (children of Sir Charles and Lady Smith). The names of Miss Ashley or her sister occasionally appear in letters over the next three decades, including news of Miss Ashley’s death (1874).

I’ve found Eliza Ann in two census reports. I’ve also located a SILHOUETTE clearly identified as ‘Miss Ashley.’ Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta Smith junior, was well-known for her “heads”; she probably created this group of family silhouettes.

As you might imagine, governesses in general are an important topic to pursue when looking at the history of a wealthy London-based family in the 19th century; it is intriguing, though, to contemplate not only their love for Miss Ashley, but also her influence upon the family, coming from a background so far removed from their own.

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“I am Governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters…”

August 11, 2013 at 10:35 am (carriages & transport, diaries, history, london's landscape, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , , , , )

Been a VERY busy, rewarding week. Have been living in many decades – the 1820s and back again to the 1760s. I never feel that I “get much done”, but little puzzle pieces fitting together to create a larger whole IS one goal of this research, isn’t it?

I’ve mentioned before the need to flesh out the Smith & Gosling households. If you think locating information (official accounts; the letters and diaries are a miracle of survival, and yet who but women carried on such connective interaction?) on women is an uphill battle, try locating those faithful (and also the troublesome…) men, women, children who worked so the town houses and estates ran smoothly.

I’ve long visited the wonder website The Proceedings of the Old Bailey; seen a few cases – but only now think about two things: culling them to fill-in those little moments when one brother or father or uncle appeared in court, the subject, perhaps, of a robbery! And, reading this particular account (see below), it dawned that I could do a little in adding NAMES to the people in the household!

And yet, reading the account with fresh eyes this morning, this poor woman had so much stolen: Perhaps all her personal effects! And with the thought of shedding a little light on a moment of life for MARY ANN HARDCASTLE, I post today.

Mary Ann Hardcastle describes herself in this court document: “I am governess to Mr Gosling’s daughters; the family live in Lincoln-Inns-Fields, and their country house is at Langley.*” These, then, also the addresses associated with this hardworking governess. And when the family packed up to move from town to country, or country to town as in this case, so did she.

[* Robert Gosling was my Mary’s paternal grandfather; the daughters here being Mary’s aunts: Harriet (later, Mrs Alexander Davison of Swarland) and Mary [Maria?] (later, Mrs Henry Gregg, of Lincoln’s Inn).]

At the heart of the case, her DEAL BOX (see a c1800 Welsh “deal box” settle). “I packed up my box on the 27th of November [1783], I never saw the box afterwards, till I saw it in Hall’s lodging…”

Two men were indicted: William Hall (“otherwise Halley”) and John Field; the first for stealing; the second for receiving stolen goods.

Mary Cartwright, the Goslings’ housekeeper, swore to seeing the box set upon the waggon of the Langley Carrier, Thomas Webb. Webb then told a tale of robbery: after delivering “an empty Hamper at Knights Bridge, and a woman at Hyde Park Corner,” he “came to the Running Horse, just below Park Lane….I missed two boxes, the tilt was tore, and the skewers taken out; I had a great many other persons goods; there were two trunks taken out; This is one of the boxes that was lost, the other was much larger and heavier.”

Some items were recovered from Field’s room and accommodations. Among the still-missing: “an apron and some sort of a locket or thing that ladies wear about their neck; he said he had sold them”.

Field claimed to have found the trunk.

While it’s heartbreaking to see the list of simple items stolen from her, to read Mrs Hardcastle’s next statement is a revelation! The statement says much about Field’s actions, but look at what Mrs Hardcastle valued:

“Field immediately took the poker and attempted to open the drawers; he seemed very concerned and very much surprized when my things were found in his possession: I had several letters in my box, some directed at me at Mr. Gosling’s, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, and some in the country. I had a large parcel of manuscripts, poetry, and bills and receipts, and many things that I valued very much, and Hall had burnt them the night before: the gentleman went down into the kitchen and found several scraps of my papers half burnt; I had likewise a common leather memorandum book which Hall sold for two-pence with the papers that were in it which I valued exceedingly: I had likewise a very large parcel of poetry; Hall afterwards, when I asked him why he burnt them, said, for fear of leading to a discovery, because he meant to sell my clothes”.

I stop here to list the items which appear at the head of the report*:

one deal box, value 6 d.
three linen shirts, value 15 s.
six pair of white stockings, value 6 s.
one dimity gown, trimmed with muslin, value 10 s.
two womens linen riding shirts, value 10 s.
two womens riding waistcoats, value 10 s.
two linen handkerchiefs, value 2 s.
one deal box, value 12 d.
two worked muslin aprons, value 10 s.
one plain lawn apron, value 4 s.
one plain muslin short apron, value 3 s.
two tambour muslin gowns, value 20 s.
one printed muslin gown, value 10 s.
one sattin gown, value 10 s.
one white sarcenet cloak, value 10 s.
two yards of white striped gauze, value 10 s.
a pink silk petticoat, value 10 s.
two muslin neck handkerchiefs, value 4 s.
two muslin night caps, value 2 s.
one silver tissue pocketbook, value 12 d.
one leather pocket-book, value 2 d.
one base metal handkerchief slider, value 6 d.

the property of Mary Hardcastle, spinster.

[*NEARLY FORGOT to include this valuable website: check out the English Costume link, as well as the textiles, to get an impression of the items at the center of this case.]

Other than the boxes and the leather pocket book, there really is NO valuation given to the papers – the letters, poetry (did she write them? did the Gosling girls?) OH TO HAVE THESE ITEMS!!

From a 21st-century perspective, the report ends SO UBRUPTLY! Witnesses for the two prisoners were called; characters given; NOT GUILTY is the verdict passed!

And poor Mary Hardcastle? Some items recovered; others lost. And – seemingly, (given the “caught-red-handed” scenario) – no justice served.

Was the court unimpressed by the simple belongings of a mere governess to follow-through with prosecution? Was Mary Ann Hardcastle literally “robbed” a second time?

A fabulous document, attached to this case, appears online at LONDON LIVES.

hardcastle-cartwright

Beyond her name, I know nothing of Mary Ann Hardcastle; not how old she was in 1783, nor how long she was with the Goslings at this point, nor how long she stayed. The candle that illuminates her life at this moment of such stress, flickers out…

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Elizabeth Grant and Miss Ramsay

March 21, 2010 at 11:22 am (books, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

WHAT a *thrill* comes when an old book yields a new discovery — and who would have thought to find Emma’s “Miss Ramsay” in such as place as the Memoirs of a Highland Lady, a book written by Elizabeth (Grant) Smith for her grandchildren and first published by her niece Lady Strachey in 1898.

It was while reading through Emma’s diary for 1819, and finding they met a “Miss Elizabeth Grant, niece of Miss Devall” that I began to look online for Elizabeth Grant and tumbled upon the book I’ve owned (along with its sequels) for many years. Actually, I’m surprised I never consulted its index, but perhaps I thought “Highlands” and never remembered “London” enough to think, despite the time period (1800-1830s), the book at all relevant. [NB: I am NOT convinced that this Elizabeth Grant and Emma’s Miss EG are the same person.]

But the wide circle of relatives and acquaintances do intersect and overlap in the most strange manner: Jane Austen and Walter Scott, just two circles that touch the Smiths and Goslings.

It was the original edition of Memoirs online that made me pull off the shelf my own copy of the “entire” memoir – and finding Mr Nattes, the artist, in the index (who, by the way, was at Suttons in 1811 and again a few years later; Emma comments on him “paying a visit” in December 1818). There, on the page discussing him was mention of Miss Ramsay! And not long after, mention of “a rich Mrs Smith, sister of the Marchioness of Northampton”! You might imagine my joyous delight:

“Mr Nattes had another pupil in whom he was much interested. He said she would never draw much nor be first rate in any art, but she was so excellent a person that he had recommended her as Governess to a family in which he taught. This was our old friend Miss Ramsay, who had come up to London to improve herself. She often came to see us, both before and after she went to live with a rich Mrs Smith, sister to the Marchioness of Northampton, with whom and her very nice daughters she lived for many years, in fact till she died, tended by them in all her failing health with all the affectionate care her good conduct merited.”

Unfortunately… Miss Ramsay still remains first-nameless. But I now know much more about her than ever imagined for a woman truly lost in the mists of time. Including, how she came to be in the Smith household.

Anyone with any information on Miss Ramsay, her mother, her brother and his wife – please let me know. In the last months of her life Miss Ramsay returns “North” — according to Elizabeth Grant the city she must return to is in or around Newcastle.

From Emma, I know that she — and Coulthard, a servant named for many years to come — sailed north on the Theodosia (captained by a Mr Jullocks, if I read and typed correctly). They leave London on Tuesday, and arrive at “Shields Harbour”:

“We had the happiness of hearing that dear Miss Ramsay arrived safe at Shields Harbour Sunday Morn:g & got to Whickham Sunday Even:g. She had borne the voyage very well till the last night which was very rough at the bar she had not suffered from sea sickness but Coulthard had.” (5 May 1819)

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