Autograph Letter Signed, 1790s

June 14, 2020 at 8:55 pm (Help Wanted, history, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2012, I wrote about various SINGLE LETTERS potentially held by collectors of (Great Britain or GB) postal history items, saying I’d *LOVE* to hear from them. In “Autograph Letter Signed,” I talked about the difficulty of searching for individual pieces of Smith and Gosling mail. Can’t search for ALS, without tons of pages about Lou Gehrig’s disease. Not everyone discusses “entire” letters, and sometimes the letter is not present in its entirety.

But today I wish to put out some images, with brief information, about the postmarks and where letters, in the Smith and Gosling world, got sent from and to.

I am _not_ a collector of postal history or pre-stamp items, per se. My interest is in the CONTENTS. When I studied these photographs a few nights ago, as I saved the address panels for posting here at Two Teens in the Time of Austen, there were moments when I *suddenly* noticed a post mark, buried among the strokes of the handwriting. Sometimes, the post marks are not well struck. The striking might be repeated, or blurred, or partial. And, as a non-specialist and non-collector I don’t know what SHOULD be there. I only know what I can read.

Among the earliest letters – and I will let my original page on Autograph Letters Signed tell who lived where – are those from the estate of the parents (grandparents to my not-yet-born “Teen” Emma Smith – later Emma Austen Leigh), Joshua Smith, MP and his wife Sarah Gilbert. By the 1790s, they lived at Stoke Park, near Devizes, in Wiltshire. As is often the case, this estate bore several spellings of its name: Earl Stoke Park, Erle Stoke Park, even Erlestoke Park. You will see from the examples what they themselves typically called the estate. Joshua rebuilt it in the late 1780s, onward.

There are indications that the Four Sisters of Erlestoke Park lived, priorly, at Eastwick Park in Surrey. Eliza Chute, after her marriage living at The Vine (The Vyne), near Basingstoke in Hampshire, briefly waxed nostalgic on their time at Eastwick (rented by the Smiths), but I’ve never yet seen a letter from that address, or to them there. THAT would be a *find* indeed!

1790_Brodie_Devizes1790: Joshua Smith to John Brodie;
from London to Stoke Park, Devizes, Wiltshire
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
circular post mark and something above Joshua’s name;
seemingly assessed 1d (1 penny)

The Smith family had SEVERAL MPs in their family in the 1790s. Joshua Smith, Lord Compton (later: the 1st Marquess of Northampton), William Chute, and even for a short time Charles Smith (the father of Emma, my “Teen“; there are other Emma Smiths in the family, over three generations). So, in the early 1790s, I came across a LOT of “free” mail. Mail was free because a Member of Parliament fill out the address, and wrote his name. A frank meant that the recipient (who usually paid the postage) did not have to pay for postage. Of course, such mail should have been concerned with Parliamentary business. These contain family news.  So you will see several examples of various “FREE” postal marks, over the years. An “abuse of privilege,” but even Jane Austen used a frank to mail a letter to her sister Cassandra, from time to time.

1790_Steuart_London1790: Joshua Smith to George Steuart;
from Stoke Park to London;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

These two letters (above) both deal with work being done at Erlestoke Park. George Steuart was the main architect; John Brodie worked at the site.

1793_ASmith_Stoke1793: Maria, Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARK: one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Here, we are in the midst of the wars with France, with Lord Compton serving a group of Northamptonshire militia who are based in the south of England, for training and maneuvers. The envelope is written in Lord Compton’s hand, as is proper for any piece of franked mail. The actual letter was written by his wife.

You can view samples of the different handwriting for the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park on a prior blog post. Their hands are ALL quite different. From Aunt Emma’s sometimes difficult to decipher “spiky” hand (she was the youngest), to Lady Compton’s rounded child-like hand (she was the eldest).

To read more about each sister, personally, see Further Thoughts on Four Sisters.

1793_ASmith_Tring1793: Lady Compton to her sister Miss Augusta Smith;
from Weymouth to Tring Park, Hertfordshire;
FRANKED: Lord Compton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “WEYMOUTH”

Tring Park, in the 1790s, was the country estate of the Smith sisters’ uncle, Drummond Smith. He would, in 1804, be awarded a baronetcy. His first wife, who never lived to become “Lady Smith” of Tring, was Mary Cunliffe, the elder daughter of Sir Ellis Cunliffe. Lady Cunliffe (his wife) was a friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and it is Lady Cunliffe and her two daughters who appear in the online article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal“. The younger sister, born posthumously, was Margaret Elizabeth Cunliffe. Tring Park (now a performing arts school) is a VERY important estate in my research. Mrs. Charles Smith (the former “Miss Augusta Smith”) and her children moved to Tring in the late 1820s, and Emma and James Edward Austen lived at Tring for the first years of their marriage. You see here a peep at Augusta Smith’s own handwriting: she endorsed it right above Lord Compton’s signature.

1793_EChute_Vine1793: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARK: one-line “DEVIZES”

You see here, in pencil, to the left of “Via London” an indication of to whom this letter (and others) were given, possibly in the 1840s after the death of Eliza Chute. The initials are EAL = Emma Austen Leigh. Mrs. Chute’s letters typically are covered, in the address area, with reminders of who sent the letter (“Mama”) and what the contents covered. “Mrs. Gosling” denotes Margaret Elizabeth née Cunliffe. In 1793 the two Elizas married – Eliza Smith married William Chute, MP and Eliza Cunliffe married William Gosling, banker. EVERY letter that mentions Eliza Gosling is special to me: in 1800 she gave birth to my “TeenMary Gosling, who, with Emma Smith, make my “Two Teens“. Mary Gosling married Emma Smith’s eldest brother, Sir Charles Joshua Smith; and, as mentioned, Emma Smith married Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen. Thus the full title of my blog: Smith and Gosling: Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

1794_EChute_Vine1794: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to The Vine, Basingstoke;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

You can easily spot that this is one of Emma Austen’s batch of letters (EAL in pencil) and that the letter was originally written to Eliza Chute, who wrote out hints about the contents.

1795_EChute_London1795; Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park to (1) The Vine; forwarded to Great George St, London;
FRANKED: “FREE MP” in Sarah Smith’s hand;
POST MARKS: circular date and “FREE”;
two-line “BASING STOKE”; faint “DEVIZES”

Although this was a letter from mother to daughter, it was addressed to William Chute, a Member of Parliament, at The Vine, and forwarded to the Joshua Smiths’ London address, 29 Great George Street, Westminster. During this period, the families often “bunked in” with Joshua Smith when Parliament was in session.

1795_EChute_Vine1795: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Great George St., London to The Vine, Basingstoke;
POST MARK: circular “FREE”

Again, unmistakably with notes written by Eliza Chute on the envelope section indicating contents, including “Mrs. Melford’s dance”.

1796_ASmith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby, near Northampton to Stoke Park, Devizes;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

In April 1796, upon the death of the 8th Earl Northampton, his son Lord Compton succeeded him as the 9th Earl. It is his frank you see in the above envelope. We also see “Miss A. Smith” has now become the eldest unmarried daughter, and her mail is addressed now to MISS SMITH. Castle Ashby, in Northamptonshire, a few miles from Northampton itself, was the country estate of sister Maria, Lady Northampton.

1796_ASmith_Vine1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Bath to The Vine, Basingstoke, Hampshire;
FRANKED: Lord Northampton;
POST MARK: “BATH”

With the Northamptons in Bath, Maria was writing to her sister Augusta, who was visiting their sister Eliza Chute. Lord Northampton was again at the head of the Northamptonshire Militia in the summer of 1796.

1796_EChute_Roehampton1796: Sarah Smith to her daughter Eliza Chute;
from Stoke Park, Devizes to Roehampton Grove, Surrey;
FRANKED: Joshua Smith;
POST MARKS: faint circular “FREE”; one-line “DEVIZES”

As mentioned, above, the William Goslings were important friends and relations to the Smiths. Letters like this are among  my very favorites because of the pictures they paint of “Life at Roehampton Grove” (now part of the University of Roehampton). Eliza Gosling died in December 1803, after a lengthy illness. ANY news of Eliza Gosling is always welcome news.

1796_Joshua Smith_Stoke1796: Lady Northampton to her sister Augusta Smith;
from Castle Ashby to Stoke Park, Devizes:
POST MARKS: circular “FREE”; two-line “NORTH AMPTON”

Here is a sample of the handwriting of Lady Northampton, she’s writing her sister Augusta. Unmarried, until 1798, Augusta and youngest sister Emma Smith often remained at Stoke with their mother, until the London Season (approximately, February through June) brought them to “Town” for the balls, parties, dances, and other dissipations. Lady Northampton wrote frequently, keeping up a “conversation” with each of her sisters, her parents, her husband, and later her children.

The difficulty in locating single specimens is that I am looking for specific writers and recipients. Collectors talk of cancellations and post marks; hand stamps and free fronts; if I’m lucky, they mention whether there is an “entire letter” and if I’m REALLY lucky, they include an image of the contents.

A for instance: Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter was missing pages 1 thru 4, the extra sheet (folded in half) which would have been “wrapped” by the additional page (a half-sheet). With franked letters, the weight of that extra page did not cost the recipient extra – it was “free.” Such a second sheet often ended the letter on one side and had the direction written on the reverse side. This often is described as a “wrapper.” If the franked address panel is cut out – a small oblong rather than a half-sheet of paper, then you have a “free front.” The rear may be blank or have portions of text (the rest of course has been cut away). These are the saddest to find: Letters that once were!

Early on I got into the habit of calling divorced letters “WIDOWS” (a beginning with no end) and “ORPHANS” (an end with no beginning). In “Orphan in search of its Widow,” I included text AND images of Aunt Emma’s 1799 letter. I am convinced that sometimes family kept the letter, but jettisoned the “envelope.” I live in hope of uniting my orphan with its widow. Thanks to my work in various archives, “The Case of the ‘Noble Torso‘” tells the tale of two halves reunited (at the SAME archive; different folders).

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Did Mamma dabble with the Violin?

May 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm (entertainment, history, people) (, , )

The earliest diaries from the Smith family, as well as some of the earliest letters, date to the 1790s. That even-earlier diaries once existed can be extrapolated from written evidence.

I would give my eye teeth for items from the youths of the four Smith Sisters of Stoke Park. Especially from the years before they even moved to this Wiltshire estate….

I have _NO_ reason to think that this “Miss Augusta Smith” is my “Mamma” (ie, the Augusta Smith who married Charles Smith of Suttons in 1798), but it sure gets my antennae twitching: “If only!”

This listing is from the Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum (1909; vol. III).

Miss Augusta Smith_1784

Of course written for could mean MANY things: a composition for a student to play; a piece to honor a patron; something dashed off in thanks from a musician or composer.

It is possible that the Smiths knew of William Savage; she certainly had a love of listening to music – though, unlike her children, I have no evidence that she played an instrument. I kept finding the year “1774” attached, to this deposit, but seeing the page from the original book, I can see why that happened. I had to discount “1774” because my “Miss Augusta Smith” would have been too young. On the other hand “1784” makes this possible, though (you will concur) SMITH is too common a name to ever be sure.

A bit more of a description (say, daughter of Sarah and Joshua Smith) or some indication of where she lived is the kind of help I mean.

I always think of her as “Mamma,” to differentiate mother from daughter. Her eldest daughter, once also a “Miss Augusta Smith” became Augusta Wilder, or Mrs. Henry Wilder, of Sulham and Purley. Augusta Smith, senior was the third daughter of Sarah Gilbert and Joshua Smith, MP. She came behind Maria (Lady Compton; Lady Northampton, after 1796); and Elizabeth (“Eliza“) (Mrs. William Chute of The Vine/The Vyne); and ahead of Emma.

Born in January 1772, a composition for Miss Augusta Smith is possible. Though is it probable? I’d certainly LIKE to think so!

 

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Jane Austen @ LA Review of Books

May 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Another _very interesting_ piece of writing by Janine Barchas (author, Matters of Fact in Jane Austen [2013]; and The Lost Books of Jane Austen [Oct 2019]), who looks at “Marie Kondo’s Contributions to the Reception History of Jane Austen” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

As an avid purchaser of used books, I certainly have my share of those identified with former owner names. And there are those with inscriptions. You know the type of inscription I mean, “With love, from Grandma, Christmas 1922,” is one image used in the article, attached to a fine looking, highly colorful, embossed cover for Sense and Sensibility.

books_north country

Now, such information is being culled for the “reception history” of Jane Austen’s novels.

This section of Janine’s article REALLY fired my imagination:

“In recent years, … hard-lived survivors of old reprints have surfaced among the flotsam and jetsam of eBay offerings, charity shops, and second-hand bookstores. While these unwanted 19th-century books apparently failed to spark joy for some, for me they have opened new avenues of research into Austen’s early readers.

This is because some ownership signatures and gift inscriptions left behind in these copies can be traced. Resources such as Google and Ancestry.com have lowered the costs of provenance research so that bare names and dates can be more easily wrapped in biographical context. As a result, mundane copies can supplement the highbrow evidence by which scholars have traditionally tracked reception —”

Having so few books that I would actually resell, I had to laugh and then “oooh” over the true realization that, “The decluttering craze is democratizing reception history.” (I hate to add, the deaths of householders must also contribute to the resale of items: when relatives and friends just don’t know what to do with it all; and certainly they feel no sentiment towards what Grandma gave at Xmas in 1922…)”

Using census data, some of the ghost-readers can be fleshed out – including geographic information and sometimes even knowledge of their employment.  As one who _never_ claims her books half so fully as those mentioned in the article, the heartwarming (and even heartbreaking) tales culled from these books are AMAZING. I’m really looking forward, then, to Janine Barchas’ Plenary presentation at the JASNA – Jane Austen Society of North America – Annual General Meeting (AGM), being held this October (2019) at Colonial Williamsburg. Janine will speak on such “refound” volumes, concentrating on Northanger Abbey – the focus of the AGM, which celebrates the novel’s 200th anniversary of publication. Not attending the JASNA AGM? Look for the publication that month of The Lost Books of Jane Austen. “The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes.”

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Northamptonshire Past & Present

November 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm (books, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , )

“…because the Work is too hard for Women, it requires more strength than they are capable of, to raise Walls of Defence about a Lady’s Shape.” 

— Robert Campbell, The London Tradesman (1747)

regarding the fact that “stay-makers were always men”. “Stays were made of buckram, a thick, heavily stiffened, linen, difficult to cut and sew.”

The owner of the stays in this instance was Lady Langham of Cottesbrooke. On March 26, 1774, Lady Langham wrote of paying £1 16s to “Harrison” for “a pr of Stays”. The summation of Lady Langham’s London expenditures turns up in the eye-opening article by Judith Hodgkinson.

It is one article in back issues – now digitized (and continuing to add volumes) – of the journal Northamptonshire Past & Present produced by the Northamptonshire Record Society. [This particular volume is No. 62, from 2009.]

Northamptonshire Past and Present

Of course, Northamptonshire has Two Teen in the Time of Austen connections in being the location of Castle Ashby, home of the aunt and uncle of Emma Smith (later Emma Austen; and still later Emma Austen Leigh) – Lord and Lady Northampton.

I’ve even located a couple of related articles!

The first, “George London at Castle Ashby,” by the estate’s prior archivist Peter McKay. These are very early doings, indeed: 17th Century gardens. [article appears in No. 61 (2008)]

The second, also by Peter McKay, is brand new – issue 70 (not digitized; though the volume for sale) – “The Grand Tour of James, Lord Compton, 1707-1709.

The current issue also discusses such as Boughton House and Burghley House; a couple of locals – John Cope and the Rev. Henry Jephcott; as well as “Suffragettes and Suffragists in Northampton”.

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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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