Ring around Jane Austen

July 3, 2012 at 9:09 am (fashion, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

No doubt this thrilled readers for its Jane Austen connection. My thrill? The Caroline Austen connection!

I was visiting Sabine’s Kleidung um 1800 (you must view her newest creation) –> which brought me to Biltmore via Living with Jane –> which induced me to click on A Fashionable Frolick and there was the news, gathered from Two Nerdy History Girls:

What GRABBED my attention was this history of the ring, dated November 1863:

 “autograph note signed by Eleanor Austen {Henry Austen’s second wife}, to her niece Caroline Austen, ‘My dear Caroline. The enclosed Ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your Uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you! ‘ 

The provenance claims it went from Caroline to the daughter of my dear Emma Austen Leigh! (Emma died in 1876, so it makes sense that Caroline would leave the ring directly to Mary Augusta).

Caroline Austen is such a faded, background memory. One of the delights of my research has been little snippets, written by Emma about her new sister or by one of the other Smith sisters noting down their thoughts on “sweet Caroline”.

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Mozart’s Birthday / Jane Austen Weekend

January 27, 2012 at 11:13 am (books, entertainment, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

Something out of the ordinary this 27 January — while I listen to a lovely Mozart piano concerto, I’m also thinking of this evening’s “treat”: a Hyde Park bed & breakfast weekend centered around the Theme of Emma.

Just last night (thanks to Cathy Kawalek — more on Cathy later!) I was reading Clive Caplan’s biography on Henry Austen as “Jane Austen’s Soldier Brother”; and came across a notation that Jane must have used her knowledge of Henry’s thoughts and desires for his military career when it came to the writing of Emma. How so, you may ask… Because Austen put Mr Weston in a certain regiment that was then posted to Yorkshire — where he met his wife and begat his son, Frank Churchill.

Must admit I never really thought about Mr Weston’s earlier exploits much and through what means he might have met his wife. But how fortuitous to read Clive’s comment now, right before our Emma weekend!

More later, for my computer travels with me…

 

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Henry Austen, Banker

January 7, 2012 at 10:06 am (books, history, jane austen, jasna, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Henry Austen, seen in this portrait later in life, after he took holy orders, was once a banker.

In the late 1990s, Clive Caplan wrote two biographical articles for Persuasions on Henry:

          • “Jane Austen’s Soldier Brother: The Military Career of Captain Henry Thomas Austen of the Oxfordshire Regiment of Militia, 1793-1801,” Persuasions, 18 (1996): 122-43.
          • “Jane Austen’s Banker Brother: Henry Thomas Austen of Austen & Co., 1801-1816,” Persuasions, 20 (1999): 68-90.

I am especially interested in obtaining information from the later publication:

In the Fall, Iris Lutz, JASNA president, spoke to our JASNA Vermont group Iris was speaking about the estates and homes in Austen’s life. Surprisingly, COTTESBROOKE came up. This was the property of the Langham family. (the link will take you to the Two Teens blog post about that talk and Henry Austen.)

The Langhams’ property figure in my research because of Langham Christie, who married Margaret Elizabeth Gosling; he eventually inherited Glyndebourne (yes, that Christie family…).

Of course all these bankers must have “known” each other — but I’ve never yet come up with definitive evidence of Henry Austen interacting in any way with the Goslings (Goslings & Sharpe) or the Curries (Currie & Co). I once posed the question to Maggie Lane, but the Gosling name was totally unfamiliar to her.

I joined JASNA only a handful of years ago; online databases that include Persuasions go back to 2000 — so just after all those juicy articles about Henry Austen. It is the online versions that the large library I have access to, the Bailey-Howe at UVM (the University of Vermont), has in its “collection.”

What’s a girl to do?

  • If any reader out there — a member of JASNA or just near a big library — can put a finger on the 1999 article, can you peruse it for me, or get me a copy (I know: it IS a lot of pages). {contact information is found on “the author” page}

FEB2012 update: Many thanks to Cathy Kawalek (of ArtsResearchNYC) and Kerri S. for helping to track down “Jane Austen’s Soldier Brother”.

MAR2012 update: Thanks — yet again! — to Cathy Kawalek of Arts Research NYC for the second part of Clive Caplan’s wonderful study of Henry Austen.

Reading about Henry’s life-struggles makes me realize yet again that what the Austen literature desparately needs is an all-encompassing AUSTEN FAMILY biography. Alas: no mention of other banking firms, which had been one slim hope I had held. Can’t wait for the Louisville AGM in a few years… for its focus is Living in Jane Austen’s World. I’d love to see some biographical studies – Yeah!

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Henry Austen & Cottesbrooke

September 27, 2011 at 8:40 am (estates, history, jane austen, jasna, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I am not one to speculate on Jane Austen’s novels — certainly not on what estates (IF any were in mind) might have served as prototypes for estates in her novels.

But Sunday (25 Sept 2011) our local JASNA-Vermont chapter hosted a talk given by incoming JASNA president, Iris Lutz. I first corresponded with Iris about five years ago when starting to think about getting up a chapter in the state — Iris was VP for Regions then. She put me in contact with Carol from Montpelier — who had had a similar idea and that was how JASNA-VT got off the ground.

Iris’ illustrated talk centered on the houses — in life and fiction — she had researched and/or seen in her travels. No mention of The Vyne, which was a bit of a surprise, seeing as it is highly accessible (it’s a National Trust property); but there were wonderful photos of the likes of Godmersham (the Knight estate in Kent) and Ibthorpe (home way back when to the Lloyd family; recently sold so it’s up in the air whether subsequent JASNA tours will be able to go visit the home). I thought a great talk could be made on Godmersham alone — the fabulous interior decoration in conjunction with Austen’s comments from her letters about the house or her stay(s) there.

Then an image flashed on that looked oh-so-familiar: It was Cottesbrooke! An estate that is a bit related to this blog’s research as it once was in the Langham family. And — as you might guess from the name — Langham Christie was  related to the Langhams of Cottesbrooke.

A friend to the Langhams of Cottesbrooke turns out to have been Henry Austen, Jane’s soldier-banker-clergyman brother.

Now, I always imagined some “knowledge” of Henry Austen by the Goslings — seeing as both were in banking. In Philadelphia, at the 2009 JASNA AGM, I had asked Maggie Lane, a writer on the Austens, if she had ever come across the Gosling name (or Goslings & Sharpe) when researching Henry; she had no recollection of the name.

Working on some separating writing (an Austen book chapter), I dug out my Le Faye copy of a bio on Austen cousin (and later Henry’s wife), Eliza de Feuillaide, I spotted Clive Caplan‘s 1998 article on Henry Austen as banker. So the hunt is on for this issue of the journal. Does Caplan find any Gosling & Sharpe? Does he mention the Langhams of Cottsbrooke? Time will tell.

Iris’ talk intimated that someone somewhere had the idea that Cottesbrooke might have served as a basis for Austen’s depiction of Mansfield Park. I personally doubt she “based” too heavily, although aspects might certainly have been used about ANY estate for any of her fictional places, but the idea is intriguing. Lots out there on the subject, I now find:

Facebook and AustenOnly are the main sources. Cottesbrooke Gardens get a nod from the Telegraph. You can find more mentions of the possible Mansfield Park-Cottesbrooke connection by searching for the two together.

* * *

 27 September 1801

on this day was born Emma Smith

who married James Edward Austen, later Austen Leigh

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Lady Travellers

September 5, 2010 at 11:08 am (books, fashion, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

With so much information, I sometimes find myself flitting from one decade to another; Mark’s diary sent me back to 1798, the early days of marriage, and the victories of Nelson; Angela’s letter catapulted me to Rome in the 1820s, yet sent me looking for information on Rossini’s visit to London in 1824. (Young Augusta writes of his being invited to a party; a most amusing section of this delightful letter!) I have shelves of books; some read long ago, others purchased because their content interested me at one time or they were a fortuitous find. One book I recall breezing through (evidently in August/September 2005; the Alibris packing slip is still in the book) is The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7, edited by Elizabeth Mavor — author of the only biography of the Ladies of Llangollen; her name on the cover was the reason for this purchase!

Although the Russian journal was interesting, Katherine (c1773-1824) was journalizing for a different reason with the earlier, French, journal: Her brother was the ultimate recipient. In France, she was also a traveller, rather than a house guest (of the formidable Princess Dashkov). Mavor calls the French journals ‘remarkably uninhibited,’ and indeed Katherine speaks with a remarkably modern voice! Makes me a bit more determined to get more written by the women of this family – although I already have the published journals/letters of her sister Martha (1775-1873), for Martha lived in one of my favorite capitals (about which so little is EVER written): Vienna.

Luck was against me when I looked at books.google — but with me when I looked at my preferred site (I love that you can read online or download page the page images of a genuine book) Internet Archive: there is the 1920 publication of these same French journals, under the somewhat misleading title of An Irish Peer on the Continent as Related by Catherine Wilmot (yes, please note that you will find her name spelled both with a ‘C’ as well as with a ‘K’).

Must confess: Funny to see the publisher’s address — Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Jane Austen’s brother Henry resided for a time in Henrietta Street! Small world. [BTW, Le Faye’s Austen Letters designates Henry’s abode as No. 10, and claims the upper facade to be as it would have looked when Jane stayed there.]

At 227 pages, this earlier publication gives even more of the journals, although (given the title) obviously the focus is supposedly less on Katherine herself and more on her travel-companions, Lord and Lady Mount Cashell. And yet, Katherine, as author, is never far away of course!

So let me share with you some of Katherine’s bon mots, but first let’s set the scene —-

“At this time there were special reasons to draw the world to France. The War of 1793-1801, the first phase of the Napoleonic campaigns, had precluded travelling in that country, and, taking into consideration the disturbances there since 1789, it may be said to have been closed to tourist for almost a decade” [Thomas Sadleir, in his introduction].

It is “An 10” — Year 10, of the new French Calendar.

Paris 24 Nov. 1801 — whoever follows my directions will infallibly find himself precisely where I am this moment, dazzled, delighted, and bewildered by everything I behold. But not to anticipate, I must take you back with me to London every step of the ways, that you may cross from Dover to Calais with all due formality….

The 29th Novr. at 3 o’clock in the morning, we got on board the ‘Countess of Elgin,’ commanded by Captain Sampson, and Lady Mount Cashell smuggled in her suite, Monsieur Amoulin, a young Frenchman, who couldn’t get a passport…. After a desperately rough passage of 5 hours, and a cruel delay before we were permitted to land, occasion’d by our names being written down and reported to the municipality….[W]e were taken to the Custom House, transferr’d from thence to the municipal officers, and then to the examination of the commissaires. They were the most shocking sharks I ever saw altogether; even after trunks, Pocket Books, Writing Cases, Green baize bags, &c., were quietly deliver’d in, they put their hands into our pockets and then felt down our sides, even to our ankles, for contraband commodities….

Monday 30th Novr. …you will laugh at me when I confess to you the flash of transport I experienced in saying to myself ‘I absolutely then am in France,’ and in drawing aside the Curtain of my Bed to prove it to myself, by contemplating the Painted ceiling, the white marble Tables, the looking-glass panels, the polish’d oak floor, and all the little circumstances of difference in the Apartment… I lost my balance — and down I flump’d upon the floor to the utter destruction of all my glorious visions and abhorring those prodigious looking glasses…

Sunday, Dec. 13th, or (as they call it here) le dimanche ce 12me Frimaire, An 10.…a family of the name of Rose walk’d into the room as if they had suddenly step’d off of Pedestals. They were the first French ladies I had seen and such was the dress of the three demoiselles that I thought some of the Statues out of the Louvre had suddenly caught animation, and were come to return the compliments we had paid them in the morning. Nothing could look more like a little ‘Diana’ than Victoire, in light (almost transparent) drapery, no sleeves to her gown but gold chain twisted round the upper part of her Arm, into the form of a bracelet and her neck entirely seen. She was remarkably pretty and wore her hair with a crescent like a goddess. Her two sisters were in the same style, but had their hair twisted into long snaky curls, form their foreheads down to their chins, and greas’d with (what is call’d) Antique oil. Madame, their Mother, was too much en bon point to have such a sylphlike appearance as her daughters. But she did not add to her size by too much covering.

Ah, time for another cup of tea, and maybe a few Licorice All-Sorts (a treat found at TJ Maxx), and a serious read of my new “find”. I’m in the mood to be in France, awaiting a glimpse of Napoleon — though the Mount Cashell party travelled extensively these two years: including to Italy and even to my beloved Vienna.

Oh, before I forget — links to the online books! An Irish Peer and the Wilmot memoirs of Princess Dashkov, vol. 1 and vol. 2. These memoirs had to be smuggled out of Russia as the Wilmots made a hasty leave-taking; a great tale on its own!

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La luna

August 21, 2010 at 12:21 am (books, entertainment, goslings and sharpe, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I write at the end of a long, busy day.

Contemplating the use Austen makes of the pianoforte for young Marianne Dashwood, I have spent the week slowly watching the old (1980) BBC production of Sense and Sensibility. I must admit to being charmed by it. Oh, nothing is ever perfect…, but overall the right tone is struck so many times in this production, which stars Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne.

I was exceptionally surprised at the ending to this series (7 approximately 1/2 hour episodes), which has Marianne interested in talking literature with Colonel Brandon. My reaction was: That’s the end?!?

But then, immediately rewatching episode 1, the series not only ends in the midst of action unresolved, it also begins in the midst of the story: the three Dashwood women riding back from having looked at an unsuitable house (Fanny Dashwood, quite obviously, wants her in-laws gone from Norland).

So, thinking about it now, I find the beginning and ending quite novel (no pun intended).

I include this picture of Tracey Childs as Marianne, with Robert Swann as Colonel Brandon. This is the scene I’m writing about for an article, and this scene comes to mind tonight because of “the moon”. As in the novel, this series’ Sir John Middleton refers to the invitations he gave to the evening’s gathering — only to find everyone already booked. The novel is specific: “it was moonlight — and every body was full of engagements”. The moonlight here in Vermont was bright tonight too, as I drove back from St. Albans. Who realized that moonlit nights made for an increase in people going abroad in Austen’s era!?!

A find today, while checking out the stock at The Eloquent Page, St. Albans’ great little used book store, was a copy of volume 2 of a relevant biography: The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker (by E.H. Coleridge).  I might have bought it but for two things: firstly, no volume ONE; and this second volume wasn’t in the best shape (had it gotten wet once?). But the lucky thing about volume 2 is the index was in the back! Sure enough, a “Mr Gosling” was mentioned. The interesting thing about the citation (vol 2, p. 83) is the amount of money cited:

“Strand, 2nd December 1796

Sir, Mr Dent, Mr Hoare, Mr Snow, Mr Gosling, Mr Drummond and myself met to-day, and have each subscribed £50,000 . . . . I shall leave town to-morrow, having stayed solely to do any service in my power in fowarding this business, which I sincerely wish and hope my be the means of procuring peace on fair and honourable terms.

I am, Sir,

THOMAS COUTTS.

We have subscribed £10,000 in your name and shall take care to make the payments.”

Coutts’ correspondent was William Pitt. According to the index, the monies were contributed to a “loyalty loans” scheme. Robert Gosling (father to William, grandfather to my Mary) died in 1794, so he is not the Mr Gosling in question; that leaves Francis Gosling or perhaps my William himself. I always love finding such minute traces of these people…

As I drove the highway, the moon shone bright and nearly full — which made me think of this moonlight comment from S&S, and also (of course!) of the film Moonstruck, which I watched on TV a few weeks ago. Did Austen mean anything by the fact that she tells readers that the moon was big and bright on the very night Brandon meets Marianne at the Middleton residence? Or did it just provide a good excuse for inventing a small, intimate party??

Of course I got online trying to find the ENTIRE Coutts biography. And luck was with me: Internet Archive has both volumes: volume 1, volume 2.

I’ve looked, but find no mention of “Austen” in the Coutts index; of course Jane’s brother Henry was a banker for a while. The business went down the tubes, thanks to the economic crisis after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Pity Coutts made no mention of Henry Austen; that would have made for an interesting connection. I am actively trying to find any connection — banker to banker — between Henry Austen and William Gosling. (Last October, at the JASNA AGM, I had asked author Maggie Lane if she ever came across Gosling & Sharpe, when investigating Henry Austen’s business — but she had never heard of the Goslings’ firm).

When I arrived home I could see a large piece of mail in the mailbox: my extra copies of JASNA News had arrived!! Ah, how I had hoped the mail would come before I left the house, for I had a feeling it would come today. My article on the discovery of Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary, now owned by Mark Woodford, is included. (Interested in diary entries for this same year, I had started the day by reading Parson Woodforde’s diary; then moved on to some re-writes on the pianoforte article.) The one book review that I read soon after looking through the entire issue is Brian Southam’s of Young Nelsons: Boy Sailors During the Napoleonic Wars (2009), by D.A.B. Roland. Must see if I can locate a copy, for I am intrigued by the author’s use of diaries and letters — even if Southam finds some author errors and annoyances.

Hmm…, looking the Roland book up on Amazon.uk, don’t I find a second book on this subject (not yet published): The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy, by Ronald Pietsch. Popular subject! The Goslings knew Admiral Nelson and the Smiths married into the Seymour family, who had many naval men in their family tree.

It’s late, and before the moonlight fades, and I follow suit, I will say ‘good night’.

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