Behind the Scenes with Mrs Siddons

November 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm (books, diaries, entertainment) (, , )

I highly recommend the Journal of Emily Shore for anyone wishing to get inside the mid of a young and extremely inquisitive girl, covering 1830s England. Emily has a tangential relationship to the Smiths — in that her Great Aunt Susannah Smith (Mrs Thomas Smith, of Bersted Lodge) was also Emma’s Great Aunt (Thomas Smith being a brother of grandpapa Joshua Smith).

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At the point in time that Emily Shore is writing, it is 1836; she is staying with her aunt in Exeter. And one day, her diary remarks, the conversation turned to MRS SIDDONS – this immediately caught my eye because the Smith letters occasionally have mentioned seeing her act – including, if I’m not mistaken, in her famous role as Lady Macbeth; and I also am reading a biography of her niece, Fanny Kemble: A Reluctant Celebrity by Rebecca Jenkins – which (of course!) tells tales from behind the curtain.

But the little story which I relate here — (I invite you to read Emily Shore’s journal for the full Siddons-story), is so humorous that one sees a far different (off-stage) Mrs Siddons.

Emily’s Aunt Bell was staying with her aunts Mrs Smith and Lady Mayo — and the party was being entertained at the neighboring home of Lord Arran.

How I wish Emily had mentioned a date! for there are several mentions of Mrs Siddons in Smith family diaries. Without that I have only Emily’s recollection of someone else’s story – and it is perhaps in the retelling that the tale takes on a bit of mirth:

Mrs Siddons “was, of course, to be considered the queen of the party; but as there was not a woman in the house who did not by right rank above her, much manoeuvring was employed to raise her above them. When Aunt Bell dined there, she was curious to see how this object would be effected. A little before the company was summoned to dinner, Mrs. Siddons vanished; and while they entered the dining-room at one door, behold, she was seen entering like a queen by herself at the other.”

Emily had a few choice words to say about Lord Arran, but I only include here her anecdote that continues a visit of Mrs Siddons:

She sometimes read Shakespeare to the party, on which occasions Lord A. always took care to have a scenes ready, and was himself invariably prepared with tears and pocket-handkerchief.

Even with all the jockeying and histrionics, what I wouldn’t give for an evening’s front row seat to a Mrs Siddons recitation!

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Driving down Portland Place, 1835

September 29, 2014 at 10:25 am (books, carriages & transport, diaries, goslings and sharpe, history, london's landscape) (, , , )

This past week has been FILLED with letters (thank you Anna!), some of which have given the harrowing details of the last illness of William Gosling, senior partner in the banking firm Goslings and Sharpe – and my Mary’s father. Mary lost two family members in January 1834 – her brother William also died (of scarlet fever).

But it is from a diary, written by a young girl who, though ever so nominally ‘related’ to the Smiths and Goslings, probably never met any of them. The connection is Mrs Thomas Smith – sister-in-law of Joshua Smith, she was Great Aunt to Emma and Charles Smith; and through her own sister Juliana (née Mackworth Praed), aunt to the diarist Emily Shore and her sisters, as well as Winthrop Mackworth Praed.

But I digress…

Anna Leszkiewicz’s delightful review @ Rookie of “The Journal of Emily Shore”

It is May 20, 1835 – and Emily Shore and her mother have been invited to visit a London family. Oh, Emily has some very choice words to say about the fog, smog, smoke of London. The country-girl was unimpressed.

So how wonderful to then read what DID impress her: Portland Place!

But let’s first put Emily on the road :

We avoided the City altogether, going by the New Road, through Regent’s Park. I was altogether disappointed in the Park. I had expected at least to see fine timber. No such thing. The horrid atmosphere of London checks all vegetation. As far as I could see, there was not a tree in Regent’s Park to compare with the greater part of those in Whitewood. Besides, the sky is smoky and dingy, there is not freshness in the air, nor the bloom of spring everywhere, as in the country. It has also a formal look; it is intersected with wide public roads, which are inclosed by hedges or railings. These roads were full of carriages, cabs, horsemen, and pedestrians, which are supposed to give so much liveliness to the scene; so they do, but I like a retired, unfrequented park much better.

nos-5-6PPOn leaving Regent’s Park we entered Portland place. Here I was much struck with the grandeur of the buildings, surpassing anything I ever saw in the shape of private houses. If London had all been like this, it would have been a magnificent city. But I  believe not many parts are so noble as this.

To remind Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers, the Goslings lived at No. 5 Portland Place, and the Smiths were next door, at No. 6 — No. 5 is the address in the middle, with the “longest” yard and “shortest” house (click to enlarge map), and at the right (with the white pilasters) in the photo below, which looks UP the street from Langham Place; Regents Park is at the opposite end.

portland place

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

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UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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