George Scharf’s National Portrait Gallery (1859)

February 10, 2019 at 8:33 am (history, london's landscape, places, research) (, , )

The drawings of No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster that I remembered seeing when writing about “Jane Austen’s London, 1815” illustrated this article by Catherine Karusseit, “Victorian Respectability and Gendered Domestic Space.”

In looking for them again, I find the originals at the British Museum. Karusseit clearly denotes two drawings as being interiors of No. 29. What caught my eye was this inviting window seat:

No 29 window seat

“29 Great George Street,” December 1869

You will be able to enlarge the BM drawings just enough to decipher the descriptions (one CLEARLY reads  “the meeting room of the Society of Antiquaries at Somerset House”). I am especially loving the staircase view, which is clearly identified ID’ed as original National Portrait Gallery, at 29 Great George Street. These are drawings by George Scharf. On the staircase drawing, he has noted WHEN (day and what hours) he sketched.

These Scharf images are an *absolute THRILL* to see, especially the staircase view, which I hadn’t seen before.

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Great George Street, Westminster

July 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, london's landscape, research) (, , , , )

I have been living in the 18th century lately, and in looking for the Smiths at No. 29 Great George Street, Westminster, came across this Newspaper advertisement in 1802, when No. 15 (across and a bit up the street from the Smiths) was for sale:

“No. 15, SOUTH SIDE of GREAT GEORGE-STREET,
WESTMINSTER

To be Sold by Private Contract, by Mr. CHRISTIE,

A Singularly elegant LEASEHOLD HOUSE, with two coach houses, roomy four-stall stable, &c. … with views from the balcony into St. James’s Park and Westminster-bridge, from which a most perfect free circulation of air rendering the premises chearful, airy, healthy, &c.  The premises have, on the parlour floor, a library, dressing room, and elegant dining parlour, spacious entrance hall, with folding doors, paved with marble; first floor, a suit [sic] of three spacious apartments, the two principal ones laid together occasionally by folding doors, the windows of the front room opening down to the floor into balconies; four spacious bedchambers and patent water closet on the second floor; five excellent bedchambers on the attics, principal staircase of easy ascent, and back staircase; basement story, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, store room, and excellent wine cellars, servant’s hall, detached kitchen, wash house, and laundry, capital arched vault for pipes of wine. the premises have been recently put into the most elegant and complete repair, fit for the immediate reception of a large family. The locality of the premises to both Houses of Parliament, St. James’s Park, Westminster Bridge, and within one shilling fare of Court, Places of Amusement, &c renders the premises particularly eligible. — To be viewed with tickets, and further particulars known in Pall Mall.”

george street

No. 29 is prominently marked “XIX”; No. 15 is the first on the right, right below the letter “T” in Street. Reading letters from the 1790s, when three men were living at No. 29 — Joshua Smith and his sons-in-law Charles, Lord Compton (of Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire) and William Chute (of The Vyne in Hampshire) — were ‘bunking together’ you get the impression of it being a NO PLACE FOR LADIES! Too little room? too many additional servants? Hard to tell the exact reason why. All three men were in Parliament; and a ‘bachelor establishment’ was probably just not the most conducive place to be!

In the mid-1790s, “the Ladies” would have included:

  • Sarah Smith – Joshua’s wife
  • Lady Compton – Charles’ wife (Joshua’s eldest daughter)
  • Spencer and Elizabeth – the two Compton children
  • Eliza Chute – William’s wife (Joshua’s second eldest daughter)
  • Augusta Smith (Joshua’s third daughter)
  • Emma Smith (Joshua’s fourth and youngest daughter)

That’s SEVEN more people, never mind maids and nursery staff.

From such a list, how could one possibly pick and choose?

I’ve long looked at the excellent series of BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE, but have also looked at the book SURVEY OF LONDON (from 1926) online at the University of Toronto (Great George Street is in vol. 10), which has many in the series. Must confess, it gives the entry an entirely different “feel” to see the BOOK!

“DEMOLISHED” is such a horrific word to see…

I sure hope the bits & pieces said to be “preserved” in the Victoria and Albert Museum still exist!

* * *

EXTRAS:

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Byrne’s Jane Austen Portrait: By Eliza Chute?

December 26, 2011 at 11:59 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Jane Austen‘s presumed portrait (at left), c1815, may have caused some hearts to skip a beat; mine skipped several beats for a far different reason: The unmistakable relationship to another portrait, a family portrait, indicating that the artist might be Eliza Chute was staring me in the face!

At the beginning of November, I received the first email from author Paula Byrne, asking about Eliza. Her probing caused only one conclusion: that she had come across a portrait. Answering her queries in the abstract was difficult: I had only a passing acquaintance with work by Eliza Chute — mainly those drawings on display at The Vyne. Not being resident in England, it has been four-plus years since I’ve seen them. And even then: Which belonged to Eliza? Which to her sisters Emma or Augusta?

Dr. Byrne’s first questions concerned Eliza Chute’s whereabouts in 1814. There is no Eliza Chute diary for that year [if you have it, do let me know!], which makes the question harder to answer; that is also the year before Emma’s diaries begin; and the year in which Augusta Smith lost her husband. Dr. Byrne was also curious about the Smiths’ George Street, London residence. She had begun her email stating that she was commissioned to write a new Austen biography; she ended that first message by saying, “I have discovered she {Eliza Chute} was a painter of some repute. Do you know anything about this?”

Thanks to Mike E., I have an engraved portrait of Joshua Smith based on a portrait by Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma” to my Emma Austen Leigh). Mike photographed The Vyne’s copy; another copy exists at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum. Emma had great talent for taking a likeness! What about Eliza??

Ah, so much time could have been saved if Paula Byrne had forwarded a picture of the portrait’s front and identification! But we researchers like to hold our cards close to our chest…

So to answer Paula Byrne’s Question: Where was Eliza Chute in 1814, and what about George Street?

Thanks to Mark Woodford, and the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith, Great George Street was a very well-known address: there is even discussion of the rooms and layout of the place at Victoria History. Alas, Joshua, who grew less in health as 1819 approached, seems to have given up his George Street residence in 1812.

Obviously, Great George Street’s proximity to Westminster (Joshua Smith was a Member of Parliament), was of interest; seeing the portrait, one can see why. But family letters put Eliza Chute, when she was in London, at her sister Augusta’s Portland Place address in these mid-eighteen-teen-years.

As to Eliza’s artistic abilities —,” I replied, “I’ve read in Emma’s diary that the Duke of Wellington was impressed enough to invite her to Strathfield Saye to copy from his Old Masters (this of course a typical “exercise” for artists — male and female — to hone their skills). I have a very small image (culled from elsewhere on the web…) of her portrait of her sister Maria. This comes from a book — A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates {another Compton / Northampton property, in addition to Castle Ashby}.”

Once you compare the Maria Compton portrait with the Austen portrait, well, you will understand the excitement!

I have seen neither portrait “in the flesh”, but the positioning of the sitters are very like… And both described as being “Graphite on Vellum” (see the Guardian’s article and also this Peerage link to the online photo of Maria Compton’s portrait).

Paula and I wrote back and forth.

I made the comment, “I will not write at length NOW, but I have thoughts on the supposed “dislike” of Eliza by Austen, based on Austen’s few comments in letters. To put it simply: I think Austen was a great JOKER in letters to Cassandra, and a lot more is tongue-in-cheek than we (outsiders) might think.

Were they great friends, Eliza and Jane or Cassandra? Doubtful. But the Smiths certainly befriended their clergy (was just reading Emma’s 1828 diary last night, and their move to Tring Park brought them to the Rev. Charles Lacy), and would have known Cass & Jane. Thomas Chute owned early editions of Austen’s novels, and I think Eliza would have known she wrote them as word began to get out thanks to loose-tongued people like Henry Austen.

Paula’s response to that observation was heartening: “I quite agree with you about Austen’s supposed dislike of Eliza Chute. I think that Jane adopts the persona of the naughty little sister, who says shocking things to the older, wiser sister. She was indeed a great joker and loved to shock and tease. I think that the Chutes were very important to the Austen family and have been neglected. They all visited the Vyne and seemed to have a great time–even Fanny Knight went and enjoyed it there and when Charles and Francis were home they went along too. It’s very interesting that Tom Chute owned early editions of the novels. Anything else you can think of to further the Chute/Austen connection will be very valuable.

In answer to the Chute / Austen connection I wrote, “I would have thought Austen would have enjoyed the company of the family (which is why I keep mind open about uncovering some reference to Jane in particular, but I’d take Cass. too! I just love her…). Edward Austen Knight joined the hunt; Chute franked some letters; they were all of a similar age. But, socially, the Chutes would have been in different circles (and in some ways their family was their great friend; it’s amazing how people you think were “only friends” turn out to have a family connection!) — and yet, Sarah Smith (mother) mentions Mrs Lefroy. The connections just swirl around them all.

Although Eliza Chute diaries exist for 1813 and 1815, I had done work only up to 1807 (the last extant diary prior to 1813); for that year I could give Paula Byrne a brief rundown of Eliza’s typical movements during a calendar year:

1807 Eliza in London; stays at No. 6 PP with Charles & Augusta [leave for Town 2/12]; Wm seems with her for she mentions “us” dining with the Goslings on 2/20; leaves 3/13; 4/26 Parliament dissolved; 5/29 Eliza in Portsmouth for day, Gosport 6/2; 6/24 London, George St.; a note of the House sitting on 7/6 (Whitbread’s motion, State of the Nation); 7/11 leave London; 7/21 Winchester Races; 10/27 Went to London, PP; Augusta Smith delivers Sarah Eliza 11/11 (the future Lady Le Marchant); 12/10 Basingstoke Ball; Stoke for the New Year

And the prior existing diary, for 1804:

1804 Been at Stoke; Miss Meen accompanies her home on 1/14 (Chute left 1/3); family from Stoke at Vyne, but leave for London: news of illness of Mrs Drummond Smith; 2/7 London, stays 6 PP – Caroline with them; 2/17 notes visit by ‘TVC’ – Thomas Vere Chute (Wm’s brother); following the death of Mary (Cunliffe) Smith (2/27) Eliza moves to their house in Picadilly – Caroline left with the Charles Smiths (6 PP) – Wm Chute sleeps at Picadilly but dined at George St.

Towards the end of our flurry of emails, Paula asked, “Do we know that she definitely knew that Jane Austen was the author of the novels?

A difficult question to answer in the absolute affirmative, but one I had already conjectured upon when writing about Fanny Smith (later Fanny Seymour, Mrs Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton).

  • The Walter Scott Connection: his ward Margaret Maclean Clephane married the Smith’s cousin Spencer (Lord Compton) in 1815. Scott visited the Portland Place household on 16 May 1815. He corresponded regularly with Lady Compton and her family. Scott reviewed Austen’s Emma.
  • The Chutes of The Vyne had James Austen as their clergyman. He and his son (Emma’s eventual husband) visited The Vyne often; as did Jane’s other brothers, her parents, Cassandra and, yes, Jane herself.
  • The Reverend Thomas Vere Chute, whom Jane mentions in her letters, was William Chute’s younger brother; he owned copies of Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. (His name inscribed in the volumes; he died in 1827.)
  • According to Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (daughter of Emma Smith and James Edward Austen Leigh), in 1814 her father “was admitted to the knowledge of a well-kept secret, this being that his Aunt Jane had lately published two books, though he had read these books with a keen enjoyment.” She also revealed that Eliza Smith (Lady Le Marchant; born 1807) remembered Edward ‘at the Vine in my schoolroom days… He was a great favourite with Aunt and Uncle Chute.’
  • In addition to Thomas Vere Chute, Jane Austen knew their sister: Mary (Mrs. Wither Bramston) of Oakley Hall. This branch of Bramstons were relations to the Essex branch of the Bramstons of Skreens, an estate which neighbored Suttons — home of Charles and Augusta Smith.

And, if I had known in early November about the spelling of the portrait’s identification, I might have included the following, which appeared in my article “Edward Austen’s Emma Reads Emma” (Persuasions (no. 29; 2007): 235-240): Of the Austen novels Le Faye has ID’ed as belonging to Thomas Vere Chute, Emma and Mansfield Park are not among the titles. Emma had in her possession a copy of that first novel (Emma) during the period of her engagement to Edward Austen: September 1828. Can we assume this was Emma’s first reading of this novel? Never assume—.

Among the diary items removed from Emma’s 1817 diary are two quotes, from Mansfield Park, which was ID’ed in the article as,

The quotation reproduces part of the conversation between Miss Crawford and Edmund Bertram regarding his becoming a clergyman (“At length, after a short pause, Miss Crawford began” to “the rest of the nation” [MP 91-93]); the attribution is given as “Mansfield Park / Miss Jane Austin“.

The Smiths and Chutes were quite consistent in spelling the name with an ‘i’. In an era of erratic spelling — even within families (think in the Austen family: Bridges and Brydges; in the Smith family: Dickins and Dickens; Devall and Duval). In an 1823 diary, Emma amends the Austin name to AUSTEN — this spelling she then consistently uses to the end of her days! Compelling evidence indeed…

AustenOnly has a fantastic post on the Byrne portrait (complete with Austen family portraits); the above responds to the comment about the “interesting misspelling of Jane Austen’s surname: ‘Miss Jane Austin’.”

I’d also like to mention in response to those who wonder about Paula Byrne’s “fixation” on the nose (see for instance the debate at Jane Austen’s World): the nose is often where I start when tracking down drawings, miniatures or (especially) photos of various family members and in-laws. It is the most prominent facial feature, whether a person is six or sixty.

I’d like to end this exceptionally long post with the recollection of a memory on first seeing the drawings – family portraits (with one exception) – included in the little booklet, Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827. Anyone who has looked through a collection of portraits of one sitter (choose, for example, the multiple portraits of the Duchess of Devonshire [Georgiana Cavendish]), knows that good and bad “likenesses” exist. I have no way of knowing whether Augusta Smith (the future Mrs. Henry Wilder) was a good portraitist — although her family thought her quite adept. Still, leafing through Suttons, tears began to flow as I looked at portrait after portrait: Augusta was there (by another artist); Emma; Charles and Mary – whom I’d never seen any representations of; Mary’s elder sister Elizabeth; even Charles Scrase Dickins! And, as frontispiece, Mamma: Mrs Augusta Smith. It was a heady day!

However imperfect, our a visual society loves pictorial representations. Augusta Smith wrote on her portrait of sister Fanny, that the face was ‘too long’. It currently remains my only representation of Fanny; Freydis Welland has a silhouette of her I’ve not yet seen.

Would Jane Austen have “sat to” Eliza Chute, in London, in 1814/1815? Quite probably not. Did Eliza Chute know what Jane Austen looked like, enough to do a portrait, in some manner related to that of her own sister, Maria Lady Northampton, at least as a remembrance or an homage? Absolutely.

Broadcast Links, Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait? (BBC2, 26 Dec 2011):

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On this day

January 27, 2011 at 12:02 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In 1793, young Eliza Smith (Eliza Chute as she would become in October) is writing in her diary. She is in Great George St, London, her father’s residence:

27 January “…Out in the morning. Admitted at L:y Arden’s Mrs Jelfe & L:y Cunliffe… Farquhar came to Fanny  We read together 2 vol. of the Benevolent Quixote a novel  Alone I began Mad:e de Sévigné’s letters & read Pope’s Moral essays”

My favorite mentions in this entry are Lady Cunliffe — who was mother to Eliza and Mary Cunliffe, the future mother and aunt of my Mary Gosling; and of Madame de Sévigné — whose letters I have read with great interest. Madame’s old Paris home is now the Musee Carnavalet, which, alas, I appreciated more for her past presence than for its value as a history of Paris museum. (The Wikipedia entry has a link to some evocative photos!)

Eliza Chute’s own London home, in Great George Street, was a former home of another national museum: the “infant” National Portrait Gallery. See details (and some wonderful pictures of this demolished residence) at British History Online.

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