Samuel Prout, Painter in Water-Colours

September 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Seven years ago I spent two months transcribing a MASS of letters and diaries. Back then cameras weren’t allowed in archives – and what I could transcribe is all I came away with.

I’ve written about some of the divergent handwriting specimens I’ve had to decipher (mainly, the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park); so it is NO surprise to see that I gave up on one letter (extracting from it about six sentences only) because the writing was “so tiny”.

That writer was Fanny Smith (later: Fanny Seymour, wife of the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton).

Having a photo of this cramped epistle, I *finally* transcribed it in total last night.

And from the pen strokes emerged this DELIGHTFUL tale of Fanny and her love of drawing and (by dint of this story) watercolor painting. Fanny’s letter is addressed to her sister, Emma Austen:

I have corresponded with Mr Prout from whom I had rather an ambiguous answer about teaching after the Water Color Exhibition opened …. {Spencer Smith, Fanny and Emma’s brother, then went to see Mr Prout} he said he was much engaged with the 2d vol. of the landscape annual & jumped at the idea of my having been in Italy, hoping I could furnish him with some sketches, Spencer said he had a sister who had a great many italian views, he [Prout] begged leave to call some morning & see them, & we thought we should like him to see your drawings…. Mr Prout spent the whole morning here looking at them, & expressed the most unbounded admiration for them…. I hope now you feel properly flattered, & conceive my being out with Augusta & Henry the whole time he was here, in furniture shops.

prout_1831Poor Fanny! there’s the revered teacher, in her own home — looking at her sister’s work (by her own invitation, granted), but made worse by the fact that she wasn’t even there — she’d been shopping with the newly-wedded Augusta and Henry Wilder!

So I simply HAD to find out more about “Mr Prout”. I believe he must have been Samuel Prout (1783-1852), described as one of the MASTERS among the British Watercolorists – and (by the date of this letter, March 1830) the Painter in Water-Colours-in-Ordinary to King George IV.

Initially, I had GREAT trouble with this person’s name – Pront? was one guess. So might I, in earlier days, have come across this name and guessed (incorrectly)? – I’ll have to look among the letters and diary entries. So many possibilities: Did Fanny finally get to have the lessons she so clearly yearned for? Did she get overshadowed by Emma’s (perhaps better?) Italian sketches? Did any of the Smith girls have their sketches exhibited or published??? Now there’s an enticing thought!

There are sketches belonging to Fanny in the Bodleian; but none are watercolors (pencil sketches only). A new source DOES indeed claim to have an album of watercolor works and  the current thought is that the items (lotta letters) may once have been in Fanny’s possession – certainly the letters I’ve so far seen are mostly addressed to Fanny. So maybe some of the visual material is actually by her. That would certainly be nice, and the many people who have become interested in Fanny’s unique life will be made happy.

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Lady Jersey: “Setting her Cap”

March 13, 2014 at 6:30 pm (diaries, entertainment, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Have been inhabiting the “Beau Monde” world of the 1790s, and am thoroughly enjoying myself! After having my internet connect down for a week (severe withdrawal symptoms…), I’m now able to cast about for information on one name that turned up: Lady Jersey.

lady jersey

There are several ‘depictions’ of the notorious lover of the Prince of Wales, who evidently honored the lady with his attentions for nearly a decade (1793-1799), at the National Portrait Gallery – by Gillray. “A Lady putting on her cap” (detail above) was published in June 1795. The British Museum gives a nicely-minute description of the scene and some of the “symbolism”. A (short) discussion of the print occurs in the 1848 book England Under the House of Hanover (vol 2).

MY interest in Lady Jersey (née Frances Twysden; AKA Frances Villiers) comes from a letter, which indicates that the Prince of Wales pressed to have Mrs Drummond Smith invite Lady Jersey to one of her soirées in 1797. The hostess was not interested. Oh! for more Smith & Gosling tales along that line!

For inquiring minds, I include two blogs that make mention of Lady Jersey:

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A Studentship for Richard Seymour

August 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm (books, british royalty, diaries, history, people, research) (, , , )

Regular readers of Two Teens will know that a major source is the diary kept by the Rev. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton; the extant volumes span from 1832 until the 1870s. There are obvious volumes missing at the beginning of the series (or… dare I hope… in existence, but for some reason NOT microfilmed by the Warwickshire Record Office?). A great pity.

Richard_SeymourSo, imagine my thoughts, last night when I spotted a letter that mentioned him written by his uncle Sir William Knighton to Lord Liverpool, dated 1824!

(see Twitter and blog of Knighton’s
biographer, Charlotte Frost)

Richard’s brother, the Rev. John Hobart Culme-Seymour, certainly seems to have risen dramatically through the church’s ranks and perhaps Sir William’s influence at court was a help (could never be a hinderance, right?). Yet Richard seems so meek, mild, and willing to serve that I didn’t really think about any patronage he might have benefited from. Now, a little evidence of an “uncle-ly” helping hand (though Sir William doesn’t out and out say that he and Sir Michael Seymour married sisters). The book is The Letters of King George IV (volume 1: 1813-1830).

Sir William Knighton to the Earl of Liverpool, February 1824

The King has commanded me to write your Lordship a private letter on the subject of H.M.’s commands relative to the two studentships of C.C. {Christ Church, Oxford}. I explained to H.M. in the most detailed and accurate manner all that your Lordship had said on the subject in conversation with me yesterday; and I, at the same time, mentioned to H.M. what I had humbly presumed to advise the Dean of C.C. to do through your Lordship, and hence the Dean’s letter to me.

His Majesty, I am commanded to say, agrees in the general principle laid down by the D. of C.C. as it was urged and supported by your Lordship at our interview on that occasion. But H.M. will not, on this present occasion, forego his commands altho’ H.M. may not repeat such commands in future.

Sir H. Calvert’s son was promised by the King, three years since, at the earnest and affectionate solicitation of the Duke of York.

The King’s word was passed and the young man is under the influence of this promise. Under these circumstances the King is obliged to consult the delicacy due to his own feelings as well as those of his brother the Duke of York.

The King has long had the intention of fulfilling, for a variety of amiable as well as just reasons (which H.M. says it becomes no one to question) to command a studentship for Richard Seymour. He is one of eleven or twelve children, is on the foundation of the Charter House, there placed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and is at the head of the school. Sir M. Seymour, the father of this young gentleman, stands thus in the annals of his country. On the first of June he lost his arm. On commanding the Amethyst, frigate, he took the Thetis, French frigate, of superior force, in single action and had the medual [sic]. He afterwards, in single action took the Niemen, French frigate, of much superior force, for which he was created a Baronet. He continued to serve during the whole of the War, with increased reputation, and at the close was made Commander of the Bath. Now Sir M. Seymour commands the King’s yatch [sic]. It would be invidious to say the King’s favor was improperly bestowed on this occasion.

I am further commanded to state to you that it is now seven years since the King has commanded a studentship, which then was for Dr. Hook’s son, — the grandson of the late Sir W. Farquhar — and, moreover, this studentship was required of the late Dean by the application of Dr. Cyril Jackson, at His M’s. gracious commands.

The Alumni Oxoniensis contains the following information about the Rev. Richard Seymour:

CHRIST CHURCH, matric. 8 May, 1824, aged 18; student 1824-34, B.A. 1828, M.A. 1830, rector of Kinwarton 1834-77, hon. Canon of Worcester 1846-73, canon 1873, until his death 6 July, 1880.

As we all had already guessed: Richard gained his studentship.

signature_richard seymour

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Dress for Excess, Brighton

May 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm (british royalty, entertainment, fashion, news) (, , , , , , , , )

Author Charlotte Frost (see posts on her biography of Sir William Knighton) mentioned her hope of seeing this wonderful Regency-era exhibition of clothing at Brighton Pavilion: Dress for Excess. We await news from Charlotte on her visit!

In the meantime, looking for more information, a link was found at A Fashionable Frolick leading readers to Jennifer Rothrock‘s delightful behind-the-scenes look at this very exhibit (which runs until February 2012).

With my passport newly expired I feel exceptionally “homebound” now… Luckily are those within striking distance of Brighton!

(Hopefully) More later —

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Enter Stage Right: Sir William Knighton

April 20, 2011 at 7:11 pm (books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , )

We are in conversation (part II) with biographer Charlotte Frost, about her new book Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician:

[NB: read part 1]

Q: Did you hope to find a certain story in Knighton’s life? Did what you uncover answer that initial thought, or were you constantly uncovering new and different twists?

Charlotte Frost: More a matter of what I hoped not to find. Had I discovered that Knighton had done something truly shameful I would have had to include it. That’s why I hesitated about contacting Knighton’s descendants. I didn’t want to be welcomed into their homes or be given copies of private family documents, only to publish a damning account of their forebear. And finding a dark, sinister side to Knighton would have wrecked my wonderful Word master plan for a sympathetic biography!

Q: In researching the career of Knighton, was there a particular question or historical conundrum you hoped to answer? Did the answer appear?

CF: I failed to identify why Knighton was sceptical about some of the medical education he received in London. New medical ideas were evolving in France, but I don’t know whether he was exposed to them.

Q: Was there any surprise in what you found out about Knighton, his career, his biography, his family?

CF: I was taken aback by discrepancies between the Memoir’s account of Knighton’s early years and the account suggested in primary sources. The explanation perhaps died with those who knew it, or it may survive in oblique references yet to be discovered.

Q: What about the period interested you the most?

CF: It was a gentler era than those that preceded it. When Knighton was accused of corruption he was satirised in a cartoon, not put on the rack. The cruellest forms of execution became unacceptable, and were abolished. Injustices still thrived, but they began to be seen for what they were.

Q: Where there other characters — those people whom Knighton knew or encountered — whom you wished to spend more time on?

CF: Knighton’s dealings with the poets and radicals in the 1810s needs more attention. Timely journal article seeks author!

Q: You list many books in your bibliography; was there any one or two books that you particularly would recommend to students of the period?

CF: For all its difficulties, I recommend the Memoir. The universal financial insecurity of the age is reflected in pleas for Knighton’s intervention from educated men too ill or old to continue their professions. His Seymour in-laws experienced the same difficulties as every naval family. Knighton was not the only man of his era to examine his soul in the light of Evangelical preaching. And his contempt for and alarm at popular protest is that of a generation that grew up in fear of revolution.

Q: The nature of primary research means that we find what still exists; is there any item(s) you wanted to find, or had hoped still existed?

CF: An unfinished portrait of Knighton’s wife, Dorothea, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. And miniatures of Knighton, Dorothea and their daughter that Knighton commissioned before he went to Spain.

Q: Have you any stories to pass along about doing primary research? (Gaining access to archives? transcriptions? old and fragile items? etc)

CF: I have some wonderful memories of research, but I’m haunted by the time, money and energy I’ve wasted. Reading a London street directory on microfilm, I mistook Knighton’s first London address for No 23 Argyll Street. Only after several years in search of corroborative evidence did I discover from a printed directory that he lived at No 28, which I was immediately able to confirm. I made numerous visits to The National Archives for information that was held at the Royal College of Surgeons, and I pestered the British Library for a copy of a print held at the British Museum.

Q: How did your family handle “living with the Knightons”?

CF: My significant other refers to Knighton as ‘the other man’, and is relieved to see him in print.

Q: Please describe for our readers former projects; future projects.

A: I have been a late learner, not taking my first degree until I was thirty, and not rediscovering a childhood love of history until I was in my forties. Until now my historical output has been researching and reporting in response to community history requests, giving occasional talks and submitting work for academic assessment. If I had to put a label on myself, I’d say ‘independent researcher’ but not ‘independent scholar’. My biography of Knighton marks my transition to author — someone who has found her voice. I don’t rule out further academically assessed study, but at present I feel ‘essayed out’. I want to do my own work, not what other people think I should do. But to stay fresh and sharp I need to keep in touch with academic life. I can’t bask in a post-publication comfort bubble.

I’ve started investigating loans that the Prince of Wales and his brothers incurred in a few short years in the late 1780s-early 1790s. Not biography, but the story behind each loan – who were the lenders, did they get their money back and, if not, how did they cope? I don’t yet know whether I’m revealing a gripping tale of suicide, assassination and missing diamonds, or wasting my time with two-hundred-year-old allegations that can be neither proved or disproved.

Find Sir William Knighton online:

 Charlotte Frost, Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician
info & purchase through Authors OnLine
the book’s page at Amazon.co.uk
Charlotte Frost’s author page at Amazon.co.uk

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Sir William Knighton

January 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm (books, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night, reading through some 1830 letters, I spotted a couple that Emma tells us she and Cholmeley (her eldest child) visited in March 1830: Mr & Mrs Arbuthnot.

Arbuthnot made me think of The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, edited by Francis Bamford and the Duke of Wellington (1950) — the 1820-1832 diary of Harriet Fane Arbuthnot, close friend of the Duke of Wellington. Alas, different people….

And yet… Harriet and Charles Arbuthnot, moving in the circles they did, know the very person recently under discussion with author Charlotte Frost: her forthcoming book focussing on Sir William Knighton, the father of Richard Seymour’s sister-in-law Dora K. (The man was also Richard’s uncle: Lady Knighton and Lady Seymour were sisters, daughters of Capt. James Hawker.)

Anyway, looking through the index I had to see what Harriet Arbuthnot had to say about Sir William, whose moving quote about seeing his beloved Dora married (read post) really indicates to present-day readers just how much love such a man held for a daughter.

Mrs Arbuthnot is writing in September of 1822:

“The Duke sent me the King’s letters & his to the King. … The friend to whom the King alludes is Sir Wm Knighton, whose origin was being a physician’s shop boy at Plymouth; from that he became physician at Plymouth, afterwards travelled with Ld Wellesley to take care of his mistress, then became an accoucheur in London & now ends by being the King’s Privy Purse & his most confidential friend, to whom he tells everything, political & private. He is a great rogue & a blackguard, with great softness & plausibility of manner. I ought not to abuse him just now for I have been unwell & he has prescribed for me (very condescending in the Privy Purse) & has done me great good.”

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