Orphan in search of its Widow

November 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm (diaries, Help Wanted, jane austen, research) (, , , , , )

When it comes to letters, I think in terms of “Widows” and “Orphans,” like the terminology for single lines at the bottom (“widow”) or top (“orphan”) on printed pages. Programs like Microsoft Word let you toggle “Widow/Orphan Control” (under paragraph) so as to force lines together, leaving neither one-line widow nor one-line orphan.

I apply the terms to sections of “torso” letters. A torso describes (as in musicology) an “unfinished” or partial piece. It probably comes from my reading of Alfred Einstein’s book on Mozart. So if I designate a letter as an “Orphan Torso” then I know it’s a letter with no beginning. Of course, that means that a “Widow Torso” is missing its ending.

There have been times when a sheet has neither its beginning nor its end; those are usually attached (by an archive) to a letter where the logic of thought just isn’t present – which tells me the “torso” is attached to an incorrect letter. I recently received images of a letter which actually had been encased in mylar with two sheets front to back! Again, the flow of the letter (or lack thereof) told its tale, although I never would have guessed that multiple sheets had been encased together.

Of course, I DO wonder, when a letter isn’t complete, where the REST of it might be….

I recently purchased a letter, purportedly an “entire” letter, but when asked, the seller said it was missing a page of text. The more I look at the letters of Miss Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”), whether writing from home (Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire) or while at one of her sisters’ homes, the more I am convinced that this letter is missing four pages (a sheet folded in half), and mine represents the “Orphan Torso” – the fifth page’s text, and the envelope on the rear.

A GREAT LOSS not to have the entire letter. Thus this blog post.

Aunt Emma used a sheet (folded) and a half-a-sheet (torn down the middle) a couple of times, in letters at the Hampshire Record Office. I also own a letter, written by Mrs. Smith (Sarah Smith née Gilbert; Mrs. Joshua Smith), in which a second sheet was used, with a few lines on page 5; the direction written on page 6. For their recipients, it did not matter that an extra (half-) sheet was used. The cost of postage was the same.

These letters were franked — meaning, the letters did not have to be paid for by the recipient; they were mailed free of charge. The interesting thing about Aunt Emma’s letter is that it was franked, not by her father Joshua Smith, but by her brother-in-law William Chute.

Epping Essex env
a franked letter, 1799 (click image to enlarge)

The envelope is directed, in William Chute’s hand:

Basingstoke September thirty 1799

Mrs. C. Smith
            Suttons
W.free          Epping
Chute                   Essex

Sure enough, Eliza Chute‘s diary mentions her sister Emma’s visit! As well, there had been a visit by Mrs. Charles Smith and her infant daughter Augusta (born in February 1799, and named after her mother).

The remaining page begins mid-sentence:

Epping Essex ltrclick to enlarge

The text is:

[. . . so-and-so was to] have shewn us the way, but he changed his mind, and we did just as well without him; I fear when Mr. Chute comes, he will wish us to go out with the Hounds till they find the Fox, and I have not the least Inclination for it, I shall certainly try to get off —  Yesterday we had rain all the day; and the same till just now two oC.; the men got wet going to Church, dreadful weather for the Country, for the Corn must now be injured. —
Thanks for your enquiries after me, my side is quite well, and none of the party seem to make any complaints, Miss Meen leaves us on Tuesday; if she can she intends you a visit at Suttons.
Best love attend you from all here, and particularly from your

Ever Affectionate Sister
Emma Smith

A most tantalizing snippet! I am unsure who “he” might have been, or where the ladies rode. Emma and Lady Frances Compton (Lord Northampton’s sister) often rode out together. Eliza Chute’s diary is SILENT about Saturday, nor does she mention the horrible weather (unusual for her).

Emma herself had sustained an injury, having had a riding accident in Bath early in September, when an inattentive coachman’s horse bumped against Emma’s horse. Sarah Smith was quite certain that her daughter Emma’s life had been saved by Lady Frances – who diverted the coach horse so that the coach’s wheels missed running over the prostrate Emma. Emma was also lucky to have come off her horse (she would have been riding side saddle) after the horse went down; Mrs. Smith presumes that falling from the saddle onto pavement would have been disastrous.

That no one else had health issues is always good news, especially for poor Sarah Smith or Mrs. Norman.

Very interesting that Miss Meen’s plans were mentioned – Eliza Chute wrote down her arrival, but not her departure from The Vine. I wonder if she managed to get to Suttons for a visit? Miss Margaret Meen was a Botanical artist; her work can be found at The Royal Horticultural Society, London, in “company” with the sisters Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma Smith – those whom I refer to as “the Smith sisters of Stoke Park” (for Augusta – Mrs. Charles Smith – had daughters of those same names!) I have written about Margaret Meen in the article entitled “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters“.

{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}

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smith, with baby Augusta, had arrived at The Vine (The Vyne) with Sarah and Joshua Smith, Emma and Mrs. Norman on Monday, November 23rd. The three gentlemen – Mr. Chute, Mr. Smith, Mr. C. Smith went up to London the next day “to attend Parliament.” Mamma Smith and Augusta departed for home on Thursday. Home being “Suttons” in the county of Essex.

Eliza Chute mentions the rides that Emma and Lady Frances took – but says little about what everyone was doing over the next several days. Her SATURDAY is left BLANK! Emma was obviously writing ON Sunday (she mentions the rain ceasing “just now”), and would have gone to church at Sherborne St. John, where the man who regularly “did the duty” was Jane Austen’s brother the Rev. James Austen. Emma then waited till Monday, after William Chute’s late Sunday arrival (he was less adverse to travel on the Sabbath than his wife), to have the letter franked. Part of the action of “franking” was to write the PLACE and DATE across the top.

What news might Emma have imparted to her sister?? IF YOU KNOW, because you’ve seen the beginning half of this letter, please let me know.

Permalink Leave a Comment

British Postmarks (tutorial)

March 5, 2019 at 10:21 am (history, news, research) (, , , )

An interesting, because it’s so useful, “tutorial” (short: 33 slides) of early 19th century British Postmarks – and how to understand all you see when looking at a piece of “UK postal history”.

Mary Russell Mitford

It forms part of the Digital Mary Russell Mitford project — one of their project include digitizing and transcribing her letters!

As you can see from the “example” photo, the images help explain what exactly you are looking at. I couldn’t resist this image – with its identification of “delivery” and “mileage” stamps, the letter’s “franking,” its “seal,” and (especially) the “finger” of the person making the image!

Clicking on the photo above will take you to the second version (a bit longer than the first version) of THE POSTMARKS OF MITFORD’S LETTERS (by Greg Bondar, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg).

[Once you are on their site: click the [IN] icon (lower right-hand corner), which will allow you to access the full screen mode]

You will learn to recognize:

  • a MILEAGE stamp
  • a DUTY stamp
  • a DELIVERY stamp
  • CHARGE mark(s)
  • RECEIVING HOUSE stamp (for instance, the Two Penny post)

Some explanations, too, of rimmed and double-rimmed stamps; colors of ink; and – for 1812 – a list of postal charges (based on distance and “weight” [number of pieces of paper]).

Because the site is dedicated to Mary Russell Mitford, near the end of the slides are images of seals she used; paper types used (based on impressions in the paper). For those interested in the output of Mitford, the homepage of Digital Mitford is your place to start.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Mary & Emma, Two Teens in the Time of Austen

March 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm (chutes of the vyne, goslings and sharpe, introduction, jane austen, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Before I go much further, I should talk a little about “my two girls”. THEY are the Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An appropriate post with which to celebrate “International Women’s Day, 2018“, don’t you think?

EVERYTHING goes back to the very first diary of the project – a travel diary, in which people from Roehampton travel across England to Northern Wales, and even make a Dublin visit. Two things stood out about that trip: The Gosling family met and stayed HOURS with the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. They also saw money being made in Dublin. That her father turned out to be a London banker made this last event less “unusual” and more of a “busman’s holiday” for Mr. Gosling.

At the time, all I had was a name from the card catalogue: Mary Gosling. She only mentioned “Papa, Mama, my Sister, and myself”. (NB: throughout her diaries, Mary ONLY refers to Margaret Elizabeth Gosling as “my sister”; Elizabeth is NEVER mentioned by name.)

Searching Gosling, Roehampton I happened upon what turned out to be MORE of Mary’s diaries: She was her father’s daughter: William Gosling of Roehampton and Fleet Street (this last, the family banking firm’s address). So her later diaries were ‘tagged’ by her relationship to him, which helped immensely. These are ID’ed as “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney”. Suttons being the Smith family estate, and Stapleford Tawney, Essex, being its location. When I first saw the handwriting on these “Lady Smith” diaries, I _knew_ they were the same girl!

Within a year, I was in Hampshire, reading letters and diaries relating to Emma Smith, but “Mary” remained my focal point. And even though MORE material has surfaced for Emma’s family – thanks in great part to her marriage with James Edward Austen, the nephew and first biographer of his aunt, writer Jane Austen. MUCH Smith family material is held at the Hampshire Record Office. Doesn’t hurt that one aunt (her mother’s next elder sister) was Eliza Chute of The Vine (nowadays: The Vyne), a National Trust property in Hampshire. Eliza’s diaries mention Jane Austen. And the blog’s name was born!

But the Smith and Gosling families are QUITE intertwined, so the two girls remain linked together in this project. They were great childhood friends, and even became sisters-in-law in 1826 (Mary married Emma’s eldest brother).

smith-gosling_silhouette1

Mary (foreground) and Emma

I still hope for MORE material from the Goslings. They are a fascinating family. A firm of bankers (and their records still exist), Goslings & Sharpe amalgamated with Barclays Bank, which still is headquartered at the Goslings branch on Fleet Street, London. There are some letters, but I’ve had little luck hearing from Glyndebourne – where there may (or may not…) be further evidence of this branch of the Christie family.

Mary’s sister Elizabeth (Margaret Elizabeth Gosling) married Langham Christie in 1829 – and he inherited Glyndebourne. A major litigation “case”, (as you might guess), since there were other interested parties. But Langham prevailed, and their son William Langham Christie became the first of this family to call Glyndebourne home. (The Langham Christies called Preston Deanery home instead.) At the very least, a Christie granddaughter wrote about the family portraits at Glynebourne, circa 1900, that included Langham and Elizabeth Christie; and even Elizabeth’s maternal grandparents Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe.

Ooooohhh….

But whether the family archives include Gosling-related materials, I don’t know. Glyndebourne’s “advertised” archives are opera-centric; East Sussex has some too-early and too-late estate papers. I’m particularly on the hunt for diaries, and any letters from or to Elizabeth and/or Langham Christie.

Mary’s own branch of the family lived on through her daughters, but her only son had sons who did not have sons. The baronetcy jumped from Charles Joshua Smith‘s heirs to those of his brother (Emma’s brother, too, of course) Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith line married into the Austen Leigh line, and it’s the Austen Leighs (for one) who stayed heavily invested in Jane Austen’s legacy; Joan Austen Leigh (“my” Emma’s great granddaughter) helped found JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America (ie, the U.S. and Canada). So my project “circles” around some very exciting history! And by blogging about it, I get to tell YOU, dear Reader, all the little tidbits.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Postman Always Rings II

January 29, 2018 at 9:01 pm (books, history, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Alan brought up the point of costs for letters in a comment to my last post (about the frequency and times of collection for the London Two-penny post in 1835). This chart comes from a 1798 diary. It mentions _new_ postal rates after the passing of an Act of Parliament (rates took effect in July of the previous year). Cost is undoubtedly _the_ reason for the existence of crossed text. If an extra piece of paper cost more, then simply put another layer of writing on the single sheet! (NB: a third layer – written diagonally – does sometimes occur.) Cost also accounts for the usage of a wrapper (another half-sheet of paper, folded around the folded-up letter) when a FRANK was used. It didn’t matter what a letter weighed when it was sent “free” thanks to the Member of Parliament’s signature.

  • What DID matter for a franked letter? That the “envelope” was written in the hand of the MP; the place and date [what you see across the top in the image below] was correct and current; and, of course, the MP’s “free” signature.

The last comment serves as a reminder: It was the RECIPIENT who paid postage. A frank, therefore, saved the recipient money rather than the sender (who sometimes went to a LOT of trouble to obtain a frank). Of course, franks should have been used only for an MP’s government-related business….

In the table, “single” refers to the single sheet of paper, folded so as to create its own envelope (perhaps the topic of another post).

free front1

 

Act for additional Charges on Postage of Letters, &c.

By the 37th of Geo. III. ch. 18. the following Rates for Postage shall be taken after the 5th of July, 1797, throughout England, Wales, and at Berwick upon Tweed.

For every single Letter,

                                    if not exceeding 15 miles from Office to Office – 0s 3d

                                    if above 15, and not more than 30                       – 0s 4d

                                    if above 30, and not above 60                               – 0s 5d

                                    if above 60, and not above 100                             – 0s 6d

                                    if above 100, and not above 150                           – 0s 7d

                                    if above 150                                                               – 0s 8d

                                    sent by Post within Scotland, an Addition of        – 0s 1d

N.B. Double, Treble, and Ounce Letters, pay two, three, and four times those sums.

For all single Letters to or From Portugal                                           – 1s 0d
                                         to or from British America                             – 1s 0d
N.B. The inland Postage to be added.

Single Letters to non-commissioned Officers, Privates, or Seamen   – 0s 1d

Permalink Leave a Comment

How to LOCK a Letter

June 16, 2016 at 8:29 pm (entertainment, europe, history, research) (, , , )

fascinating find: 2,600 letters were uncovered, kept inside a postmaster’s trunk. Astounding!

“The trunk contains 2,600 letters sent from France, Spain and the Spanish Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 but never delivered – including 600 letters never opened,” says the press release for the project that is now called SIGNED, SEALED & UNDELIVERED.

letter_trunk

Stored at the Hague’s Museum voor Communicatie since 1926, only now (thanks to technology) will the letters be “read,” unopened.

I hate to say it, but I was VERY grateful for the early dates of the letters! If I had thought ANY Smith & Gosling letters were among them, it would have driven me CRAZY!

Even more astounding are the YouTube videos featuring ways writers “locked” old letters – more than a simple wax seal over a seam, to keep prying eyes at bay.

I found this “pleated letter” of 1691, very interesting:

pleated letter

It’s “lock” is the piece you see with the very tapered end, closest to the “letter writer’s” arm.

pleated letter2

What’s really interesting is the “writer,” after closing up the letter, then shows HOW TO OPEN it!

This “diamond” shaped letter was also one above the usual, since it actually is a piece of HATE mail!

diamond letter

Step-by-step How To for EACH of the letters is shown (there’s no voice). The completed letter is briefly on view, then the letter is opened.

Permalink Leave a Comment

A trove of old letters

April 27, 2016 at 9:41 pm (books, history) (, , , )

Gotta love a book that begins,

“Years ago I found a trove of old letters. I found them in a broken-down steamer trunk buried under moldy blankets in a dilapidated shed attached to a decrepit row house.”

These words open the 2014 book Nina Sankovitch entitled, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing.

Although I’ve heard of her Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, it was a blog post about LETTERS that brought me to this later book. For the Love of Bookshops wrote about the genesis of Sankovitch’s “next” book:

old letters

Like Erin (the bookstore-loving blogger), I too cannot believe the “luck” of such a treasure trove. And, it’s addictive! The more I find on my Smiths & Goslings, the more I want to find.

Sankovitch’s “find” rather reminds me of the beginning of Célestine. Although Gillian Tindall’s trove was a handful of letters, the fascinating history of young Célestine, a French woman, made for a stupendous read and an enthralling untangling of someone’s past. Nina Sankovitch’s stash turned out to be early 20th century: a mother & son correspondence. Thanks goodness the letters found a home!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Letters of Caroline Norton

May 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm (books, history, people, research) (, , )

Yesterday I *treated* myself: drove three hours to reach a used bookstore I simply LOVE: Old Number Six Book Depot, in Henniker, New Hampshire. Alas, I was cashing out my finds at 5.20 pm — twenty minutes AFTER they should have closed (if not for me). How I wish the gent had shouted up the stairs… I don’t wear a watch, and (truthfully) didn’t realize that they closed so early.

BUT: one book I bought, which I want to talk about today, is a slim (182 pages) volume from 1974 entitled The Letters of Caroline Norton to Lord Melbourne – the letters dating from the 1830s into the early 1840s. So right in the time period of my Smiths & Goslings.

WHO can resist a series of letters, from the right era, when they begin:

“I am very dull — how are you?”

caroline norton2

Caroline, née Sheridan (yes, related to that Sheridan; a grand-daughter), has a ready wit which comes across in her letters. I am impressed that one letter is reproduced in toto as a set of four photographs nested within the transcript. Something to keep in mind for my own future publications. Though, at first, I thought the entire book was facsimile!

Was quite intrigued to read a letter about a young girl – now 13 – brought into the Melbourne household as a child by Caroline Lamb, Melbourne’s late wife. Caroline Norton spends some little time telling him WHY he must continue the girl’s education, and WHY sending her out as a governess – IF she MUST make her own way in the world (Melbourne evidently tired of providing for his former wife’s plaything). The child has become used to and was promised the life of a “lady” – and life as a seamstress or such like would NOT allow her that privilege. My mind, at that point, was all attention, thinking of all the poor (monetarily speaking) young ladies who entered the Smith household as governess from the 1810s through the later 1830s.

A sad note: the man who first worked with these letters, circa 1954 — Clarke Olney — died before more than a short article about them came into print. Nearly twenty years later, having come across Olney’s files and notes, did a second author, James Hoge, complete the task.

Permalink 2 Comments

Anything Exciting? Reading Other People’s Letters

July 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm (history, people, research) (, , , , , , )

A friend recently asked:

How about your letters, anything exciting?

As I typed my reply, the thought came: this would interest readers of Two Teens, too — or so I hope.

I’m just scaling the heights, after an influx of new-to-me information; mainly letters, but also a few early diaries. Here are some early thoughts on the *new* material:

pen and letters
“Can’t say I’ve come across anything that would be termed exciting in and of itself; just a build-up of family history. Seems quite a few letters were saved from a period in Emma’s life when she was “sought after” by Arthur Perceval. She certainly didn’t find him ‘attractive’; but gosh she experienced such ANGST over her negative thoughts!

“HARD not to wonder if she didn’t already think about Edward Austen – though this was a good 3 years before they married…

“I knew a few letters along this line existed, but there turned out to be more! And those letters from 1825 that I thought would be primarily about Charles and his recent bereavement, turned out to be MORE letters about Mr Perceval! The Oxford collection, though, had an interesting twist on the tale: Mr P visited Suttons! A bit of an uncomfortable encounter for them both.

“And in the end? he married someone else, seemingly rather quickly. Almost an “any girl will do”, rather like Mr Collins. (from your favorite: Pride and Prejudice.)

“The letters of Lady Northampton to her husband are – of themselves – not much. Short, written (and sent) nearly every day. Such longing for his return! and it seems they were SHORT (and frequent) because HE disliked long letters! So as a group, they are quite of use. She wrote her daughter in the same way. Never having much to say, but always keeping the conversation going.

“The question, now, is: If HER letters exist, what happened to those sent TO her?! Weren’t those saved??”

Permalink Leave a Comment

Hot on the Trail: 1820s letters of life in ROME

June 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm (entertainment, history, news, people, research, travel) (, , , , , , )

I have been burning the candle – quite literally: Up late most nights these last weeks. It paid off immensely last Thursday, with the discovery of a small batch of letters IN ROME!

Mamma Mia!

The BIGGER surprised came when I realized the KEY to knowing these letters were in fact having anything to do with my batch of Smiths was the name involved: LANTE turns up in a letter I actually bought (thanks, Craig!) a couple of years ago.

And Villa Lante (in Gianicolo) still exists, as this GORGEOUSLY illustrated blog post on Rosa Arcium attests. I can’t help but believe that Charles, Augusta, Emma, and Fanny visited here – perhaps quite often, during their winter in Rome (1822-1823).

lauro

In addition to Rosa Arcium, gain views of the house from:

 

Permalink 2 Comments

Mary Shelley letters re-discovered

January 13, 2014 at 8:08 am (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , )

Lucky:  When you’re an academic AND you discover letters of a well-established writer at the ‘click of a mouse’ you get MEGA-PRESS coverage! My Smiths & Goslings should be only so lucky…

(Those of you sharing your letters, diaries, & images with me, know who you are; thank you!)

But on to the BIG news

Mary Shelley's seal

Professor Nora Crook‘s “re-discovery” during on online search uncovered – at the ESSEX RECORD OFFICE, the repository where some Smith & Gosling diaries and letters reside! – unpublished letters by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. A fabulous find! And proves my point that you sometimes uncover TERRIFIC *finds* while looking for something completely different.

According to The Guardian, “The letters date between 1831, nine years after the death of her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and 1849, when Mary Shelley was already unwell with the brain tumour that would kill her two years later, and show a woman who was skilled in charming favours from friends, bursting with pride in and concern for her teenage son – and not unconcerned with frivolities. A last-minute ticket to the coronation of William IV in 1831 necessitated a 3am visit from her hairdresser; she attended the event sporting a plumed headdress (‘The whole thing was wondrously splendid – Diamonds & cloth of gold grew common to the eye.’)”

Even the ‘seal’ (see Keith Crook’s photo) was previously unknown.

” ‘Pure serendipity,’ ” says Prof. Crook, ” ‘The [Horace] Smith connection has been known but this little bit of the jigsaw hasn’t been’ “.

The comments, especially of ARCHIVISTSN, should be included in your perusal of the article.

BIG O-M-G: the letters turned up in the papers of the ROUND family because of the marriage of Laura Smith with John Round: MY SMITHS (of Suttons) knew the Round family (of Birch Hall)!

ERO

ERO features the letters as their January 2014 “YOUR FAVOURITE ERO DOCUMENT”: read their article.

The thirteen letters are to be published in an upcoming Keats-Shelley Journal.

shelley

Permalink 3 Comments

Next page »