Boswell’s Presumptuous Task

September 4, 2018 at 9:12 pm (books, history, people) (, , , )

Being a three-day weekend, I took the opportunity to visit my favorite used bookstore, in Henniker, New Hampshire: Old Number 6 Book Depot. Check out this blog (Home Maid Simple) for TONS of photos of the shop – and you’ll see why I find it worth a three-hour drive.

I picked up a copy of Roger Pilkington’s Small Boat on the Meuse; I have many of his “Small Boat” books. This one dates to 1967, and the early volumes are the most entertaining.

Boswell_Sisman

But my “find” – which I am currently enjoying – is Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, by Adam Sisman. This is a “take” on the writer without spitting out Boswell’s words verbatim from the journals. Reading it has even made me take down my old paperback copy of the Hebrides tour by Samuel Johnson and (later) that published by Boswell himself. I especially welcome the narrow focus, pin-pointing Boswell and Johnson as well as Boswell writing about Johnson.

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen can add to their knowledge of James Boswell by looking up my article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal.” This is available free on Academia.edu – where you can see other articles in the series:

  • “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler”
  • “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters”

For other links to useful Boswell items, see my earlier blog post.

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Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’

August 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm (books, people, research, spotlight on) (, , , )

James Boswell actually has a few connections to people in the Smith & Gosling families. I’ve already written about the GREGG family – my diarist Mary Gosling‘s Aunt Gregg (sister of Mary’s father, William Gosling) married into this family. Aunt Gregg’s husband was Henry Gregg. Henry and his sister Miss Gregg (the future Caroline Carr) can be found in diary entries by Boswell.

But my earliest Boswell *find* concerned Lady Cunliffe – Mary’s maternal grandmother – and her two daughters Mary and Eliza. Lady Cunliffe came from Chester, England and maintained ties there. It was in my second post to THIS blog, on 7 June 2008, that I first mentioned the “tie” between my Cunliffe ladies and James Boswell. And YES! 2018 will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

Boswell wrote A LOT – letters, diaries, memos to self even. He and his later heirs saved a LOT. But one item that slipped through, and evidently was lost BY Boswell in his lifetime, is his “Chester Journal“. I cannot say how WONDERFUL it would have been to read his words about my trio of ladies! Alas…

Based on a few letters from circa 1780, my article on Academia.edu, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal,” rectifies the misidentification of the two sisters in the original Boswell literature. They appear in the volume, The Correspondence of James Boswell with Certain members of the Club (1976); and also letters between Boswell and Margaret Stuart (née Cuninghame) in Catalogue of the Papers of James Boswell at Yale University (1993).

This article is the only place to read so much information about Lady Cunliffe (below, in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds) and her daughters Mrs. Drummond Smith (Mary) and Mrs. William Gosling (Eliza).

Read: Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’ (also linked in the sidebar)

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Articles @ Academia.edu

July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm (history, research) (, , , , , )

A reminder for some, and a “poke” for those new to the SMITH & GOSLING blog: I post “original” articles on Academia.edu, a website dedicated to papers, books, classes, etc. relating to academics and independent scholars.

Academia

These currently include:

Combine Jane Austen, Eliza Chute, and “Sense and Sensibility” with a true-life courtship and abandonment. Mrs. Wheeler, a woman taken in by the Chutes of The Vyne, left an orphan daughter, Hester, who left deep impressions on both Caroline Wiggett and Caroline Austen.

The flower painter Margaret Meen also taught painting: pupils included Queen Charlotte and the Royal Princesses; the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park: Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma. Little about Meen’s life has been uncovered — until now. Four letters lead to some surprisingly-full biographical details of the life of a woman artist in Georgian England.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}

JARW

Links to ACADEMIA articles can always be found in the navigation at right.

And, soon, these two articles will be joined by a new treatise!

Early in the history of this blog, I dangled the idea that JAMES BOSWELL was one of the “famous” names connected with the Smiths & Goslings. So watch my Academia page for the upload (coming shortly) of “Boswell’s ‘Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal“.

Academia.edu will ask you to sign in to view articles (Google and Facebook are two alternatives to creating an Academia account); articles are PDF.

 

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Blogs, Books, & Pamphlets

August 19, 2015 at 12:05 pm (books, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

In yesterday’s mail the terrific-looking new book by Jenny Uglow (I have her humongous biography of Gaskell), “In These Times”: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815.

uglow

Nothing can be more up my alley! It’s about the Napoleonic era without being all about battles, and strategies, and War-War-War (to quote Scarlett O’Hara). I need information of the 1790s through 1810s, but I want to learn from it, not be BORED by it. (Yeah, war bores me. Though when I worked at a local college [uni-aged students for those of you in the UK], the POPULAR courses in history were Black Death and World War II. Still, I am what I am: more interested in social history and women’s history.)

I recognize a few names – for Uglow uses personal accounts to paint a full picture. There’s the Heber family (I adore the book Dear Miss Heber…); Lady Lyttleton (née Sarah Spencer); Jane Austen’s “sailor brothers”, Frank (Sir Francis Austen later in life) and Charles Austen; Betsey Fremantle (I’m still waiting from more from her current biographer, Elaine Chalus; though I have the complete set of three volumes published in the 1940s); Mary Hardy, the Norfolk diaristabout whom I have blogged before, at RegencyReads.

Can’t tell you much about the book, as I’m only in chapter 1 – but I’m enjoying it so far! Just the right amount of detail, and well-written. It opens with an idea VERY dear to my heart – for my own book (tentatively entitled The Brilliant Vortex, about my Two Teens during the Regency era, and all those London seasons, from 1814 to 1821.) discusses the same thing: the dissemination of news. Uglow, of course, looks at newspapers. I know, for instance, that Richard Seymour, in the 1830s, borrowed newspapers. So I already knew that some people had subscriptions, some people got papers passed on to them. And I LOVE Uglow’s descriptions of particular coffee houses:

“Visiting Glasgow in 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth found ‘the largest coffee room I ever saw’, in the piazza of the Exchange. ‘Perhaps there might be thirty gentlemen sitting on the circular bench of the window, reach reading a newspaper’ …. The linen-mill owner John Marshall also admired the room, brilliantly lit with candles, and rarely with fewer than a hundred people in it. ‘There are 1100 Subscribers to the Coffee Room at 28/- a year’.”

I remember back in the 1980s & 90s when VIDEO stores started out with yearly membership SUBSCRIPTIONS. Of course, the next store would open, offering LOWER rates – until ultimately the “membership” was free.

(And now every GROCERY store sports a RedBox!)

But I-M-A-G-I-N-E: 1100 subscribers at 28 shillings a year each! Sounds like it was a little goldmine! Marshall went on (and Uglow follows suit) with what the coffee house carried: “‘They take London & Edinburgh papers & journals, country papers & 9 copies of the Sun, Star & Courier & all the monthly publications.'”

Dissemination, of course, comes from MANY sources – including correspondence (my diarists’ chief avenue), and we all have heard of the dreaded PAMPHLET and the satirical CARTOON. No one reading about the French Revolution can get away from the ideas of salacious pamphlets against Queen Marie Antoinette; and no one reading about the Regency can escape the cartoons of Rowlandson (for just one example) skewering the Prince Regent.

I have a friend whose research has turned up a COUPLE different narratives. The conundrum: WHICH pamphlet is more truthful than the other?? That made me think of this conundrum from the writer’s point of view – and that made me think of James Boswell. For he put quite a lot into print (anonymous as well as with his name) during his lifetime. I’ve blogged a LOT about Boswell’s diaries and books about the Boswell Papers.

Then it HIT ME:

Pamphlets, in the 18th & 19th century, were to the likes of Boswell what BLOGS are to the likes of me TODAY! Those with a point-of-view, or even just “something to say”, stick it out there for anyone and everyone to see. Only, today, I don’t have to locate a printer and a bookseller – I just needed to stumble upon WordPress and have an internet connection!

boswellCan you IMAGINE: Boswell as Blogger?!?

(I sure can…)

My point to my friend was: Veracity wasn’t always on the minds of the pamphlet writer; so I find it wholly understandable that two versions of the same incident could exist. It’s like Twitter today: how many times do we hear about someone apologizing for BLASTING on social media, only to regret it later. Hard to do with a penny publication: not like you can go back and find everyone who bought your pamphlet – though a retraction, or even another pamphlet pointing out the errors (and thought to be by a DIFFERENT writer!) are not impossibilities to contemplate.

It’s that old adage back again: “Plus ςa change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they STAY THE SAME!

* * *

Since I’m talking BOOKS here, I’ll make brief mention: Readers interested in obtaining a FREE copy of Hazel Jones’s Jane Austen’s Journeys – please take a look at the giveway I’m running on RegencyReads. I’m taking names for a lengthy period: till the end of this month (August 2015). I had an extra copy, so it IS a book I’m keeping on my own shelves.

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Mrs Thrale’s connection to Mr Scrase

July 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm (books, diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Arrrggggghhhhh!

This certainly points up the need to check, double-check, and even triple-check information.

Yesterday, I devoured Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’, a new acquisition. Imagine my surprise to see Mrs Thrale in Brighton (not the surprising part), seeking help from her friend and attorney, Charles Scrase.

Now the Scrase Dickins have a long history, according to the Smith&Gosling letters and diaries I’ve seen, of residing in Brighton. Surely this Charles Scrase was a relation!

I’ve many volumes relating to the biography and papers of Hester Thrale / Hester Piozzi, as you may read in this post on my Ladies of Llangollen site. Her letter describing Lady Cunliffe’s anguish over the deaths of her two daughters (Eliza Gosling, my Mary’s mother, in December 1803; and Mary Smith, wife of Drummond Smith, in February 1804) is included in the Piozzi Letters. Thraliana mentions Mrs Drummond Smith, but so little else about the family. Yet it couldn’t simply be “gossip” that Hester passed on, she seemed to know Lady Cunliffe. Yet another straggling thread, to be taken up and sewn into the fabric of this family….

So when I read that Hester had sought out help — and achieved it — from Mr Charles Scrase, I was ballyhooing!

And yet…

Taking up Mary’s Hyde’s excellent book The Thrales of Streatham Park, which, in publishing Hester’s “Children’s Book,” touches on the era of Mr Thrale’s business problems and Hester’s seeking out Mr Scrase’s help and advice, I read the following:

“The transaction was handled by Charles Scrase, who had been Ralph Thrale’s lawyer, a family friend whom Thrale had known all his life, and whom Mrs. Thrale had come to like very much. He was a single man of sixty…”

A single man??! So not a forebear to Charles Scrase Dickins.

But the Brighton connection…; the very name ‘Scrase’…

I kept reading into the evening, but dug no more into the life of Mr Scrase — until this morning.

It IS the same man – maternal grandfather to Charles Dickins (my Charles Scrase Dickins’ father), who bequeathed his estate, and the name of Scrase.

You can read about the family in the Sussex Archeological Collections (1855).  Charles Scrase was an attorney at law, baptised in 1709 (Hyde confuses his brother’s baptism in 1707 for his own). He married Sarah Turner in 1742, and had two daughters: Sarah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth married William Smith, but died without issue. Sarah Scrase married Anthony Dickins. Among their children: Charles Dickins, husband to Elizabeth Devall (a name also spelled several ways) and father to Charles Scrase Dickins.

The Dickins married in 1792, the year grandfather Scrase died. But look what the editors of Fanny Burney’s Journals and Letters has to say in reference to Elizabeth Dickins: “daughter of Mrs. Thrale’s friend and adviser Charles Scrase (1709-92) of Brighton and wife of Anthony Dickins (c1729-94)”. Fanny Burney — close friend in the late 1770s and early 1780s to Mrs Thrale has made mention of Elizabeth Dickins! Alas, my only copy of Burney’s diaries and letters is a paperback selection, with no mention of Mr Scrase or Mrs Dickins.

Now I wonder a little less about how Hester Thrale / Hester Piozzi came to know the Cunliffe family. Yes, the Cunliffes knew Joshua Reynolds; yes, they’d met James Boswell; yes, Lady Cunliffe moved in the circle of the Bluestockings – but now the Scrase thread is weaving through their fabric slightly more boldly. More to come!

* * *

You can read about Fanny Burney’s comments regarding Mrs Dickens (sorry, Charlie!) at Project Gutenberg (1891 edition):

and the 1840s/1850s edition at Internet Archive:

all Internet Archives Burney listings

photo of Streatham Park, at Thrale.com

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Byrne’s Austen Portrait, Part II

December 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm (chutes of the vyne, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A kind friend sent a screen shot of the backside of the Byrne Portrait:

The “M” is curious: almost looks like a “tail” was added to the beginning stroke. Miss is not written as I might have expected: with the double-s written as an Esszet (as I call it after having had German lessons). Here is Mary Gosling / Lady Smith’s diary from 1829, citing the name Miss de Grey (her step-mother’s sister), with the double-s I expected:

Is is possible that the Miss was added? The one thing against that notion is that Eliza Chute (for instance) would have referred to her formally: Miss Austin would have been Cassandra; Miss Jane (or J.) Austin would have indicated the younger unmarried daughter. Eliza’s capital “M” typically began at the top of the left side, with a slight curl before the decent of the downstroke.

Eliza Chute’s capital “J” typically were shorter on the top, longer on the bottom (the opposite of the letter seen above). Her word-ending “e” typically was closed, as in Mary’s “de” above.

AUSTEN, on the other hand, could be akin to the way Eliza noted the name in her 1799 diary, reproduced in Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life.

My first thought was a shaky hand (possibly because of infirmity?).

Inconclusive conclusion, for I’ve no one about whom I would say, “This is so-and-so’s hand.”

* * *

Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: Regency Physician, has sent me an informative series of “thoughts & reactions” on viewing the program (thanks, Charlotte!), so there will be more to come.

Because the Chutes of The Vyne (or Vine) are so well-known, I’ve made little mention of them in this blog. Obviously, there are diaries missing in the Hampshire Record Office series, including the one which Paula Byrne thinks the “crucial” year: 1814.

Dear Blog Reader: If you’ve a diary, quite probably kept in a pocket book (typically red in color, but I remember one green-covered book) entitled THE DAILY JOURNAL, OR, Gentleman’s, Merchants’s and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt Book — these were a series of pre-printed diaries, with left-side available for memoranda and the right-side kept for accounts (debits and credits), but sometimes not used for that purpose — and you recognize some of these names, please-please-please contact me! (see Author, at right, for contact info.)

I make no claim to “world authority,” as Paula Byrne’s tweet claims, but I certainly have a deep interest in Eliza and all the family. So allow me to lay out a few words about Miss Eliza Smith of Erle Stoke Park and Mrs William Chute of The Vyne:

Gwyneth Dunstan, a former steward connected to The Vyne, was someone I contacted after finding notice of her talk, on 16 July 2009, at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Her talk was entitled, “Eliza Chute: A Gentlewoman in local society in Jane Austen’s Day”. It is from her talk’s poster that this silhouette of Eliza Chute was posted on this site, on the Portraits page:

The same appears in A Day in the Country; as companion silhouette for William Chute exists, the set must have been made prior to 1824 (when William died).

past posts:

      • Eliza Chute – it’s 1793 and Eliza has just married
      • Eliza Smith – writes of reading Madame de Sevigne
      • Lady Cunliffe – notes about her portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

I bring up Lady Cunliffe — mother to Eliza Cunliffe, who, only a few days after Eliza Smith married William Chute, married William Gosling (she eventually gave birth to my diarist, Mary Gosling) — because so much of Eliza Chute’s early “history” is tied up with her BFF Eliza Gosling. Lady Cunliffe and her daughters were known to James Boswell, who was a friend to the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Thrale, and Samuel Johnson. Boswell wrote to Reynolds about Lady C and her daughters…

I hate to leave readers dangling, but it’s been a long day, I’m tired…. So more tomorrow!

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Recent writings…

June 7, 2008 at 11:21 am (introduction) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This week I have been immersed, not in the Regency period of Emma and Mary’s girlhood years, but in the 1830s.

June has turned into a ‘big’ month for me: the publication (finally!) of Persuasions, the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which contains my article on Emma Austen; and the release (June 12th), in England, of Local Past, the Journal of the Alcester and District (Warwickshire) Historical Society. This contains my article on Emma’s sister Fanny, who married the Rev. Richard Seymour and settled in Kinwarton (about ten miles from Stratford on Avon) for the rest of her long life. This last has spurred me on to finish an article I hope the editor will accept for the December issue, which continues Fanny’s story with the birth of her first son in October 1835.

Unfortunate for Fanny, the child – which was described by Emma as ‘very fine’, died after little more than a day.

What affected me most was reading months earlier a later letter, written by Fanny in 1837. In this letter she relates a little story that shows just how much Richard enjoyed his baby daughter’s company, enjoyed making her laugh, enjoyed puzzling out whom she looked like. Oh, he sounded such a wonderful father! Only upon further investigation into their lives, did I realize that this little girl was not their first child, but their second. How heart-breaking to have gone through pregnancy and birth only to see your child begin strong and then die!

The time-period is one of the interesting parts of this research. Taken together, the lives of these people span the early years of the nineteenth-century (of this generation, Edward Austen, born in 1798, is one of the elder members), and, for the longer-lived, extend into the middle and later years of Victoria’s reign. From George III to Victoria; from horse to the ‘iron horse’; from war abroad to strife at home; from the Age of Austen to the Age of Dickens.

However, in looking at the children one can never forget the parents, and even grandparents. And this moves us back to the 1760s and the birth of the parent-generation.

I began writing an article about the Goslings recently, which just has to start off with two ladies: Mrs Eliza Gosling née Cunliffe and Mrs Eliza Chute née Smith. I like to think of them as The Two Elizas. Funny thing is, they both married men named William! (Very confusing for the casual reader, no?)

One Eliza, Mrs Gosling, was mother to Mary Gosling; the other Eliza, who had no children of her own, was aunt to Emma Smith. Therefore, for two generations these two families had what they themselves described as relationships between ‘sisters-of-the-heart’. Friendships so close that the two women involved felt like sisters. Eliza Chute had three sisters; Eliza Gosling alas had only one. Emma Smith had five sisters, while Mary Gosling had two, but one to which she had a close-close bond.

I cannot prove that either Mrs Gosling, or the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into the diaries of Eliza Chute of The Vyne. This estate, which can be visited as it belongs now to the National Trust, is located in the parish of Sherborne St John (some few miles from Basingstoke). The man who ministered to the congregation on Sundays was none other than the Rev. James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother. Even a cursory review of Deirdre Le Faye’s wonderful Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family (2006) shows how many Sundays James returned to The Vyne for a repast. In later years he would be accompanied by his son, James-Edward (known as Edward in the family). This little boy grew up to write A Memoir of Jane Austen under the name he took in 1837: James Edward Austen-Leigh.

I’m still digging into the short life of Eliza Gosling and the early life of Eliza Chute – and am actively seeking any information on the Two Elizas, in the form of letters, diaries, even mentions in published books. For instance, Eliza Gosling, when a girl and still Eliza Cunliffe, met James Boswell. She and her sister (‘Miss Cunliff’) are mentioned in Boswell’s letters! Sometimes it is a very small world. I have cause to say that over and again.

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