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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Where Mamma was: August 1803

August 17, 2015 at 11:33 am (diaries, history, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , )

Yesterday, long after I posted about the *FINDS* now online at the National Trust Collections, the pleasing thought came:

“I now have seen a Flower painting that Mamma worked on and finished at Suttons in August 1803!”

cuphea_1803

Augmenting my jollity came the recollection:  “I have Mamma’s diary for 1803!! she was expecting Fanny (born in October), she was worried about Eliza Gosling (whose illness took her in December)” – then BOOM! came the immediate realization: “The diary pages from end of April onward have been CUT OUT; there are no entries for August…”

How well I remember the day I began transcribing this diary. I never read ahead; the unfolding drama of the written words always encourages my tired little fingers to keep on flying away. Then, suddenly, an image where there was PRINTED material on the right-hand side. I didn’t think about it and went to the next image.

There is always printed material at the beginning and end of the journals they used. Typically, they were the series published yearly, THE DAILY JOURNAL, or, GENTLEMAN’S, MERCHANT’S, AND TRADESMAN’S COMPLETE ANNUAL ACCOMPT-BOOK.

Confused, I flipped back an image: April 1803.

I flipped forward an image.

Only then, flipping back again, did the jagged edges filling the gutter of the diary register: the REST of the year had been cut out; only the yearly summation existed.

There was no information about her pregnancy and the birth of Fanny Smith.

There was no information about the last illness of young Mary’s mother, Eliza Gosling.

It was just GONE!

Why?” is the one word question I constantly ask when coming across “mutilation” of this sort. What was there that needed “destroying”? What was there that needed to be kept separately? Surely, easier to keep – or destroy – the entire diary. And then the question, “WHO did this?” Was it the diarist? was it a child? was it someone even further down the timeline?

I just don’t get it…

So, while I’m ecstatic to see a work Mamma completed in the (presumably) balmy summer days of August 1803 (she often recorded extremes of weather), its execution – if indeed she mentioned it – remains one of the unknowns; like her comments on the imminent arrival of little Fanny, and the hectic days of travelling back and forth to London to see and hear about the health of her beloved friend and Portland Place next-door-neighbor, Eliza Gosling.

Why? – Who did this? – What happened to the missing pages?

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Having it “all”

July 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm (history, news, research) (, , )

Imagine…

I’m reading a group of letters from 1832. I’ve just added some new transcriptions to that year, and decided to read them all, in chronological order. It is a heart-rending year for the Smiths: Mary is still mourning the loss of her husband Charles (Emma’s eldest brother); “Aunt” – their father’s beloved sister, Judith Smith – dies in February, as does Lady Frances Compton, whom the siblings called “Aunt Frances”; Emma is expecting her third child; Augusta is expecting her first child; the wife of their lawyer and friend has a miscarriage; and what none of them could possibly know: youngest brother Drummond will go on a tour of Italy and Sicily, and never return.

pen and letters

So amidst all these “happenings” I’m reading one letter that says, regarding a letter written to an ill-and-dying Aunt “She has received Spencer’s letter & desires me to thank him for it; it was a kind attention from him…”

I HAVE THIS LETTER TOO! that was one of the newly-transcribed.

I’m sure to meet with people who say, “You have so many – what does one more matter.” And yet: The fuller the correspondence can be, with little news from this person to that, the more *miraculous* this project seems! It’s like plugging the holes of a dyke. It’s like a puzzle where you knew the general layout of the image, but none of its detail.

It’s EXCITING. And keeps me continually looking more MORE.

In four short words: I want them ALL.

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Is Anybody There???

June 11, 2015 at 9:37 am (history, news, research) (, , )

Have been transcribing letters – little “holes” in the narratives of Sir Charles Joshua Smith, for one. The last letter of his transcribed, late last night, is a short one to “Aunt” (Judith Smith, Charles Smith senior’s only remaining sister). Charles is thanking her for the gift of a pencil (of all things!). Could it be a birthday gift? He was born at the end of May. If so, which birthday? The letter is undated.

Only one postal mark and that for PLACE (Chigwell) rather than a date (though a postal historian might be able to say “only in use during the years blah-to-blah”). My gut tells me it is earlier rather than later. Why? Because it’s address to Miss J. Smith / The Grove / Stratford rather than Mrs. J. Smith / Stratford / Essex – like a couple of later letters that I CAN date.

That’s my theory, anyway… (hint: Aunt never married, but at some point, like Cassandra Austen, took on “brevet rank” [to use Cassandra’s words].)

One other letter, newly transcribed (for I had got some images last December thanks to Emily), is precious: Charles’ reactions to the newly-announced engagement of Emma with Edward Austen!!

Austen_Emma

It’s tough – I read letters that delicately sprinkle FABULOUS news, like a light, refreshing summer shower. I put an un-ID’ed face next to one that HAS its identification and find more images of the same person, sometimes (thank, you, God) throughout a lifetime. Looking through pictures last night, it DAWNED on me: “Addie and Johnson” wasn’t a photography of Adela Smith with a child named Johnson; ADDIE WAS THE CHILD! and “Johnson” the nursemaid! So I had therefore pictures of Addie from about the age of 3 and up.

Wunderbar!

Except: WHO is around to share my excitement? It’s tough.

And that is where the “title” of this blog comes into play.

Most of my “contacts” are in England; I am in New England. People from work never write. My mother has sighed and rolled the eyes enough that I no longer tell her my finds, little or BIG. My father has taken to constantly asking, “Where the Book?” (Got three chapters, Daddy, but also a LOT of letters to go through.)

Chatting on Sunday (my talk for JASNA-Vermont, on Emma’s Aunt Emma), with Kirk – he mentioned enjoying my blog! I was honest: Truly, (I said), I’m never sure…

And he asked, “Have you ever heard 1776?”

I knew it WAS a film, but one I’ve never seen; never seen it on stage either. And Kirk then told me something which niggled at me the rest of the evening, until I looked it up (thank, you, YouTube!) next morning. “Is Anybody There?” sings John Adams, “Does anybody Care? Does anybody see what I see??” A sobering series of thoughts. Listen for yourself, to singer Randal Keith.

is anybody

Randal Keith

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Macklin & Aunt Emma

June 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, jasna, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

I want to thank JASNA-Vermont for inviting me to speak at their June gathering yesterday – and for dipping with me in the waters of RESEARCH into the family of the Austens. So little time, so MUCH information! My illustrated talk entitled “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” was an “interactive” presentation – and people really spoke up, made observations, added comments, asked questions. It was GREAT! Later, one audience member even told me my “research reads like a thrilling mystery!” Heartening words, indeed. No one can ever guess the “desert” a writer *feels* to be stranded in, when the research is this intensive and taking years to produce something substantive.

pen and letters

I figure I’m closing in on a THOUSAND letters and several HUNDRED diaries – and more turns up. I just returned (after midnight, last friday…) from a research jaunt to New York City.

Very helpful staff at NYU, where I spent most of the day, every day, Monday through Friday morning. And I am just *bowled over* by the staff of the Morgan Library – from the security guide near the door, to the gentleman who brought me up to the third floor reading room; and the library people – especially the ladies in the reading room = helpful – chatty – friendly. Just an exceptionally pleasant experience. Pity I ran out of time. BUT: I saw my LONG-AWAITED letter from Humphry Repton to Papa Smith => an even BETTER read than I had hoped. Repton was thanking Papa for paying him…, but also writing in SUCH a friendly manner, and even including Mamma in his thoughts. Pure GOLD!

repton

Now if only his RED BOOK for Suttons would turn up!

Then I turned my eyes to the special editions of Walter Scott works. My memory is that they were presented — by Compton and his sister Lady Elizabeth — to LORD Northampton; but I swear at least one of the volumes said LADY Northampton! Will have to revisit the Morgan’s catalogue, and also my notes. AND revisit the Morgan – for I ran out of time before I ran out of volumes.

The Scott works were not only specially bound for the Marquess / Marchioness, they included pen and ink drawings done by Lord Compton – his fiancée and then wife Margaret Maclean Clephane / Lady Compton – and Lady Elizabeth Compton. One volume, The Lady of Lake, included a “letter” (for lack of a better description) in which Compton (I think it was his handwriting) outlined ALL the drawings – and also who they were drawn by, as well as their source (if applicable). Imagine my SURPRISE to see that THREE were listed to have as a source “William Gosling, Esq”!!!

At first, glancing at the paper, I thought it said it INCLUDED drawings by William Gosling. ARGH! that that was NOT the case. But: this helps with a mini-mystery about William (described as “the banker of Fleet Street” in the citation I unearthed) drawing STOWE in circa 1814. These volumes for the Northamptons are of a similar period, and just the fact that the Compton children included the word “esquire” in his name indicates to me that they are saying drawings of the father rather than William Ellis Gosling, the son (though William Ellis Gosling of an age with Compton & Elizabeth, he was still at College in 1814).

The especially LOVED to illustrate Lake Katrine!

Lady of Lake

In one short word: WOW! is all I can say about having another clue that William Gosling (Mary’s Papa) was an accomplished artist – for if he was mediocre, the Comptons would not have wanted to “copy” his work, surely. And their own work is…. ASTOUNDING! such meticulous strokes; interesting compositions; accurate representation of things like crumbling castles.

I should perhaps remind readers that Margaret, Lady Compton, was a ward (along with her two younger sisters – altogether often referred to as the Clephane Sisters of Torloisk) of Walter Scott. Even Edward Austen Leigh adored the works of Sir Walter.

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New Signatures

October 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm (history, people, research) (, , )

Now that it’s turned to October, I’m doing a little housekeeping – and, having an influx of letters means that I can ADD to my file of SIGNATURES.

signature_william ellis gosling

Mary’s eldest brother, William c1830

I cannot stress enough: should anyone ever come across letters with these names, diaries with these inscribed, or my “Cast of Characters” sounds at all familiar — please do get in touch!

Earlier this week I was confronted with a VERY familiar hand — and yet I could not for the life of me say who I thought it might be. Only a few lines; I could date the letter – but who was the WRITER?!?

It haunted me for hours.

Then I looked up a photo of a letter that was written by one of the two Misses Ashley – two sisters, both of whom were governesses. Eureka!

And the snippet of information finally made sense too…

But that made me determined to make myself a file, with samples of their handwriting, for all the siblings, their spouses, the parents, aunts, uncles. Anyone and everyone. One stop shopping, the next time I’m guessing “who IS this masked writer?”

 

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