1796: ‘I fear much we shall be invaded’

February 16, 2013 at 11:45 am (chutes of the vyne, diaries, europe, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Maria, Lady Northampton — sister-in-law to Lady Frances Compton (see my last two posts) — kept up a healthy correspondence with her family back at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire; letters to her sister Augusta have been preserved, and in them Lady Northampton makes frequent mention of the Militia, and also the general fear of invasion by French troops.

Maria Lady Northampton

These same rumors and feelings run strong in the letters of Mrs Lefroy, Jane Austen’s dear friend and the wife of the rector at Ashe. Mrs Lefroy was known to the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park; Sarah Smith, mother of Eliza Chute and Lady Northampton, wrote to Eliza, asking her to query Mrs. Lefroy about her ‘straw manufactory’ in early 1797.

In reviewing Lord Northampton’s chapter in the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates, there is much quoted from the 1790s letters of Lady Northampton to Augusta Smith (yeah!), at the time in the possession of Mr Scrase Dickins.

In the Spring of 1796, Maria could write of her blooming flower-garden; it is suspected that she painted flowers during this period. Works by the sisters of Earl Stoke Park (and their teacher, Miss Margaret Meen) are at the Royal Horticultural Society; type margaret meen into the search box. These particular flower paintings predominantly date from the 1780s.

Maria quipped that in spending the spring at Castle Ashby she was “rusticating in the country” while sister Augusta (and probably sisters Eliza and Emma as well) were “enjoying the town diversions.” As the winter months of 1796 descend, we begin to see mentions of the Militia – but Maria also comments, asking her sister, “What think you of the Memorial about peace; I fear it is very distant, and I fear much we shall be invaded.” Reading the quotes included in the book, it is an extremely TENSE time; mobs, rioting, troops quartered. Towards the end of one letter Maria could say, “one of our carpenters was the principal person at the riot at Yardley, and is of course no longer employed here.”

There exists also (in a private collection) a chatty letter from Eliza Chute to Augusta Smith, who is still feeling the effects of a fall, probably from a horse; a gossipy letter, written in French by ‘Auguste’ also comes from the early period of 1797. It seems as if the sisters are trying to buoy flagging spirits. Then more “news”: of a failed French invasion at Pembroke; banks stopping payments of gold. Amid all the fears and frivolity, Eliza Chute meets the new Mrs James Austen (Mary Lloyd): “she is perfectly unaffected, and very pleasant; I like her.” The Austens’ would hear soon of the death of Cassandra Austen‘s fiancé Tom Fowle; and sister Jane Austen would put the final touches on her manuscript, “First Impressions.” Life, never on hold because of war and civil unrest, going on…

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A Visit to Aynhoe

January 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm (estates) (, , , , , , , )

Having spent the weekend with Calista from Montreal, I heard MUCH about the travels she and her husband have undertaken in order to visit English estates.

Aynho, pictured at left, is a place few may have heard of; I know of it because of a BOOK!

Lili at Aynhoe: Victorian Life in an English Country House, was published some years ago; written by Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett (a great-great-grand-daughter, who lived a time at Aynhoe — it sold in 1960), the book presents Lili Cartwright’s drawings of the house, but also it allows glimpses into Lili’s diaries. Oh! for more…

But why this discussion of Aynho (or Aynhoe, I’ve seen it spelled both ways)?

Cathy Kawalek, who kindly visited the New York Public Library to “dust off” History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates for me, emailed a large section covering the life of the 1st Marquess of Northampton, uncle of Emma Smith; brother-in-law of Eliza Chute of The Vyne.

Imagine my SURPRISE when I read that the Comptons visited Aynhoe! Well, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since the estates are both in Northamptonshire; but a “blast from the past” — since I had owned Lili at Aynhoe for quite some time — always comes as a surprise, doesn’t it?

  • For those wanting more information, check out the Aynho History Society’s website for publications.
  • An interesting little book “find” is an 1892 title called A Descriptive List of The Deer Parks and Paddocks of England, by Joseph Whitaker. Among the parks mentioned is not only Aynhoe (with 100 deer), but also Tring Park (owned then by Lord Rothschild; with 60 deer — and also 25 kangaroos, 14 emus, and more!).
  • Cathy Kawalek has mentioned that she is open to helping other non-NY researchers; contact can be made with Cathy via ArtsResearchNYC [at] yahoo [dot] com. I highly recommend her services, for her knowledge, helpfulness and resourcefulness! It is through such wonderful people that much of my little researches become possible.

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I’ve WATCHED “Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?”

January 2, 2012 at 9:32 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, seek and indeed ye shall find. Yesterday, about noon, I came upon a full, uninterrupted showing of Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?

I found the differing paths taken to gain information about the portrait exceptionally interesting to view. After all, everyone whose research utilizes primary material must (1) discover it; (2) verify it; (3) keep an open mind about whatever turns up; and (4) ultimately reject, support, or present both sides of the argument.

I hope to have more to say, later, but right now I want to discuss an “image” that flashes — twice — on the screen that may puzzle people, or, more likely, totally fly by them:

Both show (as above) Paula Byrne‘s face reflected on her computer screen, and a portrait image that’s up on the computer, which she contemplates. The image is NOT the “Austin” portrait, but the portrait of Maria Lady Compton/Lady Northampton, which the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates designates as on vellum and done by “her sister Mrs Chute”. The image below is that found on this blog’s Portraits page:

Pity, then, that no discussion on the TV show about this “known” portrait took place. I have a feeling that the original was not located in the two most logical places: The Vyne nor Castle Ashby.

The Vyne was Eliza Chute’s Hampshire estate (now a National Trust property; near Basingstoke); Castle Ashby is still a private residence, then and now owned by the Marquess of Northampton. Seneca Productions contacted me to see if I knew more about the portrait; they were in contact with The Vyne already (so nothing there, I gather), and I gave the Castle Ashby contact information I had — and waited to hear more (but have heard nothing).

  • I’ve a couple questions on this portrait, and the 1930 book from which it comes (published in a very limited edition of 200 copies. Any reader resident in the New York City area who would be willing to visit the New York Public Library, please contact me (see “the author” for contact information).

The interesting thing about the two portraits: “Jane Austin” is shown in the act of writing; Maria Compton is holding what I suspect are “plans” — and wasn’t Maria and her husband at one point knee-deep in “updating” their accommodations at Castle Ashby…

I used to be somewhat disappointed by this portrait of Maria, but putting it side-by-side with the “Austin” portrait, it now looks pretty good.

* * *

NB: By the way, I’m GRATEFUL for ALL the portraits I unearth: I now have two of Lady Northampton, this one and a profile view done by her niece Augusta Smith. I’ve a number of Emma, at least one of which looks nothing (really) like her. Until the advent of photography (and even then, don’t we all say: “That’s a horrible picture of me”), images depended on the artist, the amount of “flattery” in altering the sitter’s image, and oh so many other things. Even “Unseen Portrait” host, Martha Kearney, felt flattered at the portrait drawn of her during the show!

Images make no difference about how I perceive the “inner” Emma and Mary et al — but I sure LOVE to see all representations of them and the rest of the family.

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