Grinling Gibbons at Trinity College Chapel, Oxford

November 3, 2018 at 8:42 am (history, places, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

In the summer of 1814, Mary Gosling (one of my Two Teens) visited her two eldest brothers at Oxford University. On her last full day of touring the various buildings and quads, Mary and family visited Trinity College Chapel.

A fabulous online article from 2016, in the periodical OXFORD TODAY, covers the recent restoration of the chapel. Entitled, “Simply Divine: Trinity College Chapel is Restored to its Former Glory,” it showcases the Chapel’s artwork – including the very carvings by Grinling Gibbons which Mary wrote about seeing in her journal!

For me (and you, dear Reader) the thrill of SEEING and hearing about the Chapel is the next best thing to being there. According to the story by Olivia Gordon, the Chapel’s “dynamic integration of architecture, sculpture and painting is unrivalled among England’s surviving ecclesiastical interiors.” Studying the nineteenth century, with its sometimes harsh “upgrades,” it is heartwarming to read that the interior of the Chapel is now  “brought back to glory with a sympathetic restoration“. The “glory” originated in 1694.

Trinity College Oxford Chapel

I also found, in reading this article, that perhaps Mary got it RIGHT when she wrote about the Chapel being “finely finished in CEDAR by Mr Gibbons.” I have long presumed this to have been a misidentification on her part, knowing that Gibbons (and the craftsmen, like Tilman Riemenschneider, whose work is seen on the Continent) worked with LIMEWOOD. However, four pieces, by Gibbons, of the Evangelists, ARE indeed in “Bermudan Cedar, a wood which is no longer available.” Restoration of the Evangelists actually came via old furniture made of the same antique wood!

Another interesting point made refers to the “hands-on” approach taken by the Chapel’s Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Dr. Emma Percy. She even scaled scaffolding, obtaining an up-close view of a ceiling piece, undergoing restoration.

I must admit, reading about the wife/widow of the founder (Sir Thomas Pope) and how she attended service brings to mind how the Salzburg Prince-Archbishops got from the Residenz to the Cathedral (it’s a “secret” you learn about when on a guided tour of the Residenz).

Re-dedication occurred at Easter-time, 23 April 2016; the embedded video (less than 4 minutes) will give you a taste of the gigantic task behind the year-long (April to April 2015-2016) project. It also pinpoints several of the different types of artwork that required refurbishment. More videos and further information about the renovation process and practices are found on the Chapel website. This page, commemorating the Conservation Awards, includes a link to a fabulous 20-page booklet (PDF) on the fully-restored Chapel. (Also accessed via their Renovation page).

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Sticky Days and Sticky Posts

July 9, 2018 at 9:09 pm (entertainment, research, World of Two Teens) (, )

After last week’s horrendous temperatures here in the northeastern United States (six days in the 90s), I decided to experiment with “sticky posts”. It seemed to work a treat. So I will be showcasing additional “Posts from the Two Teens Archives” (so to speak…).

William Ellis Gosling

William Ellis Gosling, painted by William Beechey

There were so many tidbits uncovered, and the enthusiasm to share elations and disappointments made for some “shares” that I wouldn’t think about sharing while I corral all the information (AND gather more!) about the Smith & Gosling family, the times they lived through – the Regency, the early Victorian era, as well as all the tumult of their lives as individuals.

signature_richard seymour

And the breadth of people with whom they came into contact is truly amazing. Just today I caught a glimpse of Gilbert Scott [alternate website GilbertScott.org] hired by Sir John Culme-Seymour in the early 1850s. Was _he_ the “Mr Scott” I’ve seen referred to in diaries? I can’t wait to find out!

Emma Austen, nee SmithYoung Emma’s silhouette

While I’m digging and otherwise occupied with my project, I hope you enjoy the “Sticky posts”. They’ll be active over each weekend.

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Criminal Broadsides

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am (history, london's landscape, places) (, , , )

It’s not often that I write of the dark underside of life in 19th Century Britain… but when I came across this “deposit” at Kent State University, I had to share.

Kent’s archival holdings contains BROADSIDES – those oh-so-ephemeral handouts that we all toss away. But these have miraculously been saved from the dust bin!

Wm Shaw

Imagine: one of the London printers of broadsides in the early 19th century had the intriguing name (nom de plume?) of Jimmy Catnach.

Among their criminal broadsides are some broadcasting the “unusual”, such as THE WILD AND HAIRY MAN, or THE WANDERING LADY. Although the veracity of the execution broadsides are called into question, the details are fascinating – and the website provides many instances of the contents of those. You can get your fill of Murderers, Horse Thieves, and Confessions (from the guilty or the wrongly-convicted) by reading through the 139 “cases” presented for your perusal. Dates covered 1800s, 1810s, 1820s, 1830s up to the 1870s.

Some EXTRAS:

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A Stitch in Time

February 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Several months ago I watched the only episode of A Stitch in Time a certain website had available. Last night I watched FOUR more. A fascinating series of half-hour investigation into clothing from the past.

The fashion-forward hostess, Amber Butchart, a fashion historian, has fashioned a series of garment “tales” from historical portraits. With the able assistance of the very knowledgeable Ninya Mikaila, an historical costumier, the garments take shape. So viewers learn not only about the lives of each portrait’s personage, we also learn about things like today’s wool industry; historical dyes; the precious remains of bygone fabrics from London’s Foundling Hospital, and, of course, everything under the sun about sewing historical fashion.

Six episodes have aired on BBC4 in January and February 2018, focusing on:

  • Charles II
  • the Arnolfini wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Broughton Castle’s anonymous leather-clad 18th Century “Hedge Cutter”
  • Dido Belle, brought up in the household of Lord Mansfield (Jane Austen fans note!)
  • The Black Prince
  • Marie Antoinette, specifically Vigée Le Brun‘s Marie Antoinette en chemise

Find Butchart’s website here.

Butchart and Robe a la Chemise

And more about the series (and viewer reactions) in this blog post (click the photo).

For those in or visiting England, there is a Stitch in Time Exhibition at HAM HOUSE of the six costumes from the series! Runs until 6 April 2018, open from 12 to 4 PM.

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End of an era

April 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm (diaries, history, jane austen, research) (, )

Ten years ago I began on the journey, looking into the lives of Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An early blog post or two will explain for those interested in the seeds of this flowering and flourishing research.

BUT: had one thing been missing, this never would have gotten off the ground.

The one thing was the filming of Mary’s adult diaries in the microfilm series “Women’s Language and Experience” by Adam Matthew Publications [scroll to the bottom of that page to see the links to the series].  This was a major undertaking. Filming archival records from UK repositories took six series:

series 1: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire County Record Offices [16 reels]
series 2: Birmingham Central Library and Birmingham University Library [24 reels]
series 3: Suffolk County Record Office and Cambridge University Library [25 reels]
series 4: National Library of Scotland and National Library of Wales [26 reels]
series 5: Essex Record Office [20 reels]
series 6: Wiltshire, Somerset, and Hampshire Record Offices [26 reels]

mary_emma_entry

You do the math: a huge undertaking for any library to BUY (and store) 137 reels of microfilm!

Now, as of April 12, 2017, the company is no longer filling orders for microfilm; Adam Matthew’s digital arm is aiming for those “primary sources with a board appeal”. Uh-oh… I would be the FIRST ONE to say ‘yay’ for “digital” – it’s easy to search, the images are (potentially) photograph quality rather than microfilm quality, and presumeably a subscription is how they are purchased: no special machines or storage required.

BUT: the same information isn’t going to be available. Which means no one ELSE will be obtaining such a series as Women’s Language and Experience.

I first put a diary from Duke University archives written by Mary Gosling together with diaries from “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney” because Adam Matthew Publications put a little bit of information about Lady Smith online. She was the daughter of a banker. Well, I had a visit by Mary Gosling to the Bank of Ireland, in company with her father! The Goslings left from Roehampton; Lady Smith’s father was known as “of Roehampton and Fleet Street”.

It took a trip to Virginia (who has FIVE series? very few libraries) to confirm my suspicions and an interlibrary loan of the three reels from Duke University to work on obtaining every word Mary Gosling, also known as Lady Smith, had written as an adult; her diaries now housed at the Essex Record Office. These microfilms were invaluable, as each entire diary – from cover to cover – was filmed. So all of the ‘extras’ that are PRINTED in the purchased diaries, from Birthdays of the Royal Family to tax tables, were included. I’ve never paid nor photographed these materials. But I printed them out in their entirety from the microfilm.

Women’s Language and Experience offered up some wonderful diarists, including Edith Baring-Gould (series 2), Hester Thrale Piozzi (series 4), Clarissa Trant (series 5). SOME are so tantalizing, for instance a 1790 “Travel Journal of a Young Lady” (series 4) – SO many in the Smith and Gosling family could have written such a journal! But with no library within easy driving distance, it is not like I will ever find out more about this “unnamed” writer.

There’s simply too much one could research within Women’s Language and Experience.

And a downside to digital: it’s not like individuals can now access any more material than before. Even “trials” are only open to faculty and libraries. So don’t think that a small cri de coeur didn’t escape my lips when I first spotted the news of the demise of microfilm from this company.

I am firmly convinced that without Women’s Language and Experience, I would never have found HALF of what I have found about Mary Gosling and Emma Smith. Thanks go to the Essex Record Office for letting the diaries be filmed in the first place!

It was reading Mary’s entry (above), sitting in the library of Old Dominion University, that made me wonder who Emma was – And anyone reading this blog will know what a major player she has become.

Emma’s baby was christened at
Tring Church by Mr Austen, “Cholmeley”
Mr Knight, Charles, and Mrs Ligh [sic?]
Parrot [sic?] were the godfathers & godmother

Readers who know their Jane Austen will recognize (as I did back in 2007)

Mr. Knight = Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s brother
Mrs. Leigh Perrot = the owner of Scarlets; Jane’s aunt
Mr. Austen = James Edward Austen (James Edward Austen Leigh), Jane’s nephew
Cholemely = Jane Leigh Perrot’s maiden name; Emma’s first-born

 

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Tales of the D.A.R.

October 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, news) (, , , )

Although I have been to WASHINGTON DC several times over the decades, I had never entered the fabulous building that houses the Daughters of the American Revolution. WONDERFUL “period room” exhibits, and for the JASNA group an added incentive: the costume installation entitled, “An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution“, which opened October 7 (2016) and runs until April 2017.

Ann Lewis fecit2

With the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (the JASNA AGM) having taken place this past weekend (21-23 October) in Washington DC – my own paper “Sketching Box Hill with Emma” being presented in the afternoon of the 22nd – there were a lot of costumes on parade in Washington. I don’t pretend to know much, but I have a stash of very useful books – for I would like to envision what my Emma and Mary would have worn. From a comment or two in the family correspondence, Mary (especially before she was widowed in 1831) was careful to look the part of a smart & stylish London Lady. The Gosling ladies had their step-mother’s shoes to step into: the Hon. Charlotte Gosling (née de Grey, related to the Barons Walsingham) was a serious society hostess in the 1810s. Every spring, during “the season” Mrs Gosling hosted routs, concerts, and parties. Her husband’s dinners are also found in the newspapers (yes, men gave ‘dinners’, but women gave other entertainments).

It still boggles MY mind that their parties could attract 300 to 600 people. How is that possible?? such a crowd in a small townhouse (No. 5 Portland Place, London).

But, to get back to the DAR.

JASNA members had morning “free”, and the DAR Museum was my one and only choice for a place to go. Thankfully, many other members had been already; for the most part I could look, read the brochure (one per room), and savor furnishings and costumes by myself. The room that stands out most is the one paneled in wood from the salvaged ship AUGUSTA. Jacobean in nature, with a lengthy table, the dark wood and colorful stained glass windows makes for a room that I’d happily spend time sitting in.

And the fact that the ship was called the AUGUSTA – the name of TWO of my ladies in the Smith family (Emma Austen’s mother and sister; never mind a slew of Augustas born in the 1820s and 1830s…).

But what really brought me to visit the DAR (free entry a big inducement) was the curator’s talk, which took place on the Thursday (the day I landed in DC) of last week.

I missed the first half of the talk, having to find the hotel, check-in, register for the conference, and get to the room – but was in time enough to hear the speaker Alden O’Brien toss off the intelligence that SHE WAS WORKING WITH A DIARY.

I pulled her aside at the end of her presentation to hear more, especially: Had she published it.

The answer to that burning question was ‘no’. The diarist – “Sylvia Lewis Tyler (1785-1851), an early nineteenth-century Everywoman, of Connecticut and Western Reserve Ohio” had left thirty years of diaries, and Alden didn’t believe ANY publisher would want that amount of material. Alden said the diary was akin to that which formed the basis of A Midwife’s Tale, the diaries by Martha Ballard [which is online at DoHistory; printed copies were also produced].

I truly do Hope She is Wrong. I can actually think of diaries that I’ve gotten copies of BECAUSE they were the “complete” set. But, in this day and age, it is a tough sell, to be sure.

Alden did say that she had published articles – and it was in looking that I found a her Common-Place post from 2011, all about her thoughts on SYLVIA’S DIARY.

Her comments, in the article, reminds me so much of a diary that I believe is being published in the spring 2017, concerning the diary of a Vermont woman that a friend (and former colleague) has been working on for over ten years. (More on that later.) Sylvia was a spinner and sewer. She lived in Bristol, Connecticut as a girl (her diaries begin at age 15), and textile & clothing is also an interest of mine – as far as production goes. I used to be a keen sewer and knitter; though I’ve never spun or weaved.

From the article: “I was taken aback when the archivist deposited nineteen manila folders before me, each containing a small, slim, hand-made volume.” Thirty years of Sylvia’s diaries. The title page (like that early diary of my Mary Gosling) claimed the diary in the name of SYLVIA LEWIS of BRISTOL.

Sylvia’s diary runs from 1801 (when she was 15 years old) to 1831 (aged 46); two years are missing and a couple of gaps exist. Alden even targeted another Bristol girl’s diary, belonging to an acquaintance! Thus are “projects” born…

Alden asks her readers, “Why did I leap into this project—and why did I stick to it?” Nearly ten years into my own project on Two Teens in the Time of Austen (Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, who – as sisters-in-law, both become related to Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh), I couldn’t wait to see what she said in reply!

  • an abiding fondness for the area (ie, Bristol & environs) and interest in its local history
  • Sylvia’s “records are richly informative” as regards social history
  • “Most of all, Sylvia herself drew me in.”

“Once I knew the cast of characters in the diary, the entries created a narrative, and I kept wanting to know what happens next.”

Amen, Sister!

I can say yes-yes-YES to the three points above, as regards Mary, Emma, and their (extensive) families and the English history and daily “mundane chronicles” they all have left behind.

An aside: a letter I just transcribed last night, written by Sir Charles Joshua Smith (bart.) [1800-1831], Emma’s eldest brother and Mary’s eventual husband, had this FABULOUS sentence that just called out to me:

“it is very flattering to one’s vanity to feel that there is some one who cares whether one is alive or dead”

If Charles could know how MUCH _I_ care about them all… his vanity would be HIGHLY flattered. And Sylvia Lewis Tyler must feel that same if she could know the loving care and attention her biographer Alden O’Brien is taking over bringing her own “herstory” to light.

I invite you to read Alden’s own words, and to savor 19th century Bristol, Connecticut by checking out this tale from the vault of the DAR. And should you be in the area of Washington DC, stop by – Alden O’Brien might be there!sylvia-lewis

The finding of Sylvia’s grave makes for truly SPOOKY reading! Enjoy…

also: Bringing Sylvia Lewis back to Life

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Old Artists, Faded Art

May 15, 2016 at 7:01 pm (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

One of the most difficult things to accomplish is the identification of portraits. Too many portraits who remain unnamed.  Merely, “Portrait of a Gentleman” or “Portrait of a Lady”.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

Also “unnamed” – sometimes – are the small-scale artists. For instance, I have a will which gave the TANTALIZING news that family portraits existed (at least up to 1814). But who was the painter?

family pictures

“all the Family Pictures painted by Mr. Fold[s…]”

For the life of me I could NOT read the last few letters of the name…

But, while researching for my upcoming article on James Boswell and the city of Chester, I came across this book – and offer it as an excellent place to look up some SMALL Artists, a DICTIONARY of exhibitors from The Society of Artists of Great Britain and The Free Society of Artists, compiled by Algernon Graves (published in 1907):

society artists

I’ll give a special prize to the first reader to email me (smithandgosling [dot] gmail [dot] com) with the ONE exhibitor of paramount interest, a Smith & Gosling relative, who appears in Graves’ line-up.

NB: the artist’s name in the will extract may be John FOLDSONE (father of Anne Mee). Foldsone was described in 1808 as “A painter of portraits in oils, small heads, of no great merit, but with sufficient likeness to procure much employment at a small price. His practice was to attend his sitters at their dwellings.” (He was not alone in this practice, actually.)

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Living in Jane Austen’s World: 5 reasons to visit Montpelier

March 3, 2016 at 10:52 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jasna, research) (, , , , )

The Jane Austen Society of North America, Vermont Chapter hosts their March 2016 meeting in Montpelier, Vermont, on the campus of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Several members of “Jane Austen in Vermont” travelled to Louisville, Kentucky to attend the JASNA AGM. I was lucky enough to present a paper, which will be re-presented for a home-audience:

ja world

“Who could be more prepared than she was”
True Tales of Life, Death, & Confinement:
Childbirth in 19th Century England

Kelly M. McDonald

Period letters and diaries present stories of Austen-related mothers-to-be.  Georgian women discussed among themselves what potentially preoccupied a woman’s life for twenty years and more: miscarriage, pregnancy, labor, childbed fever, lactation barriers, and rituals affecting a new mother up to (and including) “churching.”

Sunday, 13 March 2016
2:00 PM
Gary Library, 36 College Street
Vermont College of Fine Arts
Montpelier, VT

1. Learn & Discuss, “Living in Jane Austen’s World”

2. Illlustrations include images of actual letters & diaries

3. Meet others who read, watch, and love Jane Austen & England

4. Have a cup of tea and enjoy some munchies

5. It’s FREE and open to the public!

bright star_letter

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Good News, New Book: Agnes Witts

November 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm (books, diaries, history) (, , , )

Well, it’s ABOUT TIME! I’ve long owned volume one in the series (formerly) entitled The Complete Diary of a Cotswold Lady:

cotswoldlady1

Published back in 2008, the promised continuation of the series never seemed to materialize. Sigh – Unhappy Face – Boo!

TODAY, looking for the name of another scholarly press (no, not Amberley), I looked up – once more – the Complete Cotswold series (there is another one for Agnes’ son, Francis Witts: Complete Diaries of a Cotswold Parson), and there came news of Alan Sutton, Fonthill Media, and (on Fonthill Media’s website) the news that come January 2016 we shall see a further entry into the Agnes Witts diary series!!

YIPPEE!!

edinburgh diary

As you can see from the dates (and the title, too), this diverges a bit from the original “second volume” projected in 2008, with the original publication:

  • The Exile Years, 1793-1800 (vol. 2)
  • Places of Fashion, 1800-1808 (vol. 3)
  • A Settled Life, 1808-1817 (vol. 4)
  • Life without Edward, 1817-1824 (vol. 5)

As suggested by the title, An Edinburgh Diary, this volume will have the diaries Agnes Witts wrote following the end of the first volume – when, selling up, the Witts were heading north, over the border. (The original projection, up to the year 1800, would therefore have included the Witts’ journey to Germany – hoping for further opportunities at saving precious family funds that were dwindling even in Edinburgh.)

The Smiths & Goslings have Scottish ties – so it will be doubly interesting to see volume two of Agnes Witts’ diary. Fingers crossed for further volumes!

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Electronic British Library Journal

September 15, 2015 at 3:58 pm (research) (, )

In seeking information on a new book just coming out from the University of Toronto Press – The Edwardses of Halifax: The making and selling of beautiful books in London and Halifax, 1749-1826, by G.E. Bentley, Jr. – I stumbled upon this very apropos article in the British Library Journal. That find opened up an entire WORLD of journal articles, from 1975 to today!

eblj1

“The eBLJ is the journal of scholarly research into the contents and history of the British Library and its collections. It is the successor to the British Library Journal, which appeared in twenty-five volumes between 1975 and 1999. Its purpose is to advance knowledge of the British Library’s collections by demonstrating their wealth and the ways in which they are used by researchers. It is available free to all users of our website.”

As you might guess, eBLJ is wide-ranging in topic as well as time-period. You can search by year or author; pity there is no subject or “search” capability. So much information, given the amount of publishing they’ve done! You can, however, put the journal title AND a search term (I used ‘austen’) into a search engine and see what comes up. (After all, that was how I found the Edwards article in the first place!) This won’t necessarily give you an article on (for instance) Austen, but finds all instances of your search term(s) within articles. The first on the list for ‘austen’ was a 2006 article entitled LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (by Morna Daniels), which “hit” because of a mention of Northanger Abbey and “Gothic romances”.

A second “hit” was an article (from 2014) by Christina Duffy (THE DISCOVERY OF A WATERMARK ON THE ST CUTHBERT GOSPEL…), which cites Jane Austen’s letters in the Morgan Library as being a large deposit which has recorded watermarks.

Another “hit” – which was a mistake (for the publication location AUSTIN, cited within the article) – was Miles Johnson and A.D. Harvey’s POLITICAL VERSE IN LATE GEORGIAN BRITAIN: POEMS REFERRING TO WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (1759-1806) [2004].

Goes to show, though that a “search” is possible and the plethora of material covered in the journal articles. Happy hunting!

 

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