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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How does YOUR Garden grow?

November 27, 2010 at 11:56 am (books, estates, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

For quite some time now I’ve known of the existence of a letter from Humphry Repton to Charles Smith (the father) of Suttons. Yes, the “great” Repton had been consulted about the Smith Estate! The date of the letter is January 1808.

What was the Smith family like in 1808? Emma was just six years old, and would turn seven in September. Eliza (later Lady Le Marchant) was a mere babe in arms — born just 2 and 1/2 months ago. Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s letters written around this time are just a delight to read because, when written to the older children — Augusta, Emma — she talks so charmingly of the other children, her own parents, their Papa.

Anyway, yesterday I was looking up the online Austen ‘exhibit’ at the Morgan Library in NYC; and took a look at their online ‘exhibit’ for Humphry Repton. Now, Repton is a name known to me, but beyond the faint knowledge that he was hired at Suttons, I’ve not really (yet) delved into his side of the ‘business’. The Morgan changed all that!

Earlier this year they had two of Repton’s “Red Books” on display. These books are what cyber-viewers can now take a look at. I simply cannot imagine being wealthy enough to hire a man who produces such items in the hopes of gaining my business! But then I’m not from a “landed” family in 19th-century England. The above is taken from Repton’s Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, published in 1803 — you find Sutton’s mentioned on page 16. (The University of Florida has an online copy of this invaluable document.)

Hmmm…, Jane Austen has her Mr Rushworth, in vol. 1 of Mansfield Park discuss the improvements made to a “Mr Smith’s” property:

“‘I wish you could see Compton,’ said he, ‘it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach now is one of the finest things in the country. You see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison — quite a dismal old prison.’

…’Your best friend upon such an occasion,’ said Miss Bertram, calmly, ‘would be Mr. Repton, I imagine.’

‘That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day…. Smith’s place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand.'”

[read Austen’s Repton mentions: Mansfield Park, 1814 edition; a ‘by the way’: Compton, the name Austen gives Smith’s estate is a familial name belonging to the Smiths of Suttons… Coincidence?? or had she been remembering conversations with Mrs Chute of The Vyne?]

These “Red Books” are amazing! The drawings, the overlays that foretold what the proposed ‘improvements’ would look like. The prose, which lay out his thoughts and evaluations of your property.

Well, take a look for yourself: Repton at the Morgan.

Oh! I want just such a book about SUTTONS!!!!

Searching for more of these little red books, I find that the “Red Book” made in 1791 for Claybury (then owned by the Hatch family) still exists. The Smiths often visited the Abdys, who inherited, at Claybury. What a treasure Repton has left behind, never mind what pride he must have taken in presenting his work in this manner.

Needless to say, if anyone’s attic or closet turns up a little “Red Book” about Suttons, Essex, Seat of Charles Smith, esq — come find me!!

further readings:
See Repton at Dagnam (another estate the Smiths often visited).
Read about Repton and these “Red Books”; listed are several well-known properties, including Stoneleigh Abbey.
Sheringham Park has its “Red Book” on display (National Trust). It was published in facsimile in 1976 by Basilisk Press.
Oulton Hall’s Red Book is mentioned here as being in the West Yorkshire Archive, as well as some published in Country Life (1987).
A 24-page PDF of Hampshire’s Historic Parks & Gardens.

In the end I could not help but include this tidbit from the Hatchlands’ Red Book, for it so makes me think of Pride & Prejudice:

“In the situation of a house, its aspect ought to be the first consideration, and not the views it may command: a good aspect is a perpetual source of comfort to the inhabitant; while a fine view is rather a transitory subject of admiration to the stranger.”

Though I will say, even an ‘inhabitant’ enjoys the transitory admiration of a view every once in a while, I just think of Darcy and Elizabeth: a stranger perhaps when she views the park from the windows, but soon to become mistress of all she surveys! Little things sometimes explain volumes about a small, short passage in Austen’s novels.

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