Persuasion: a novel of love

September 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm (books, diaries, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ah….

I have just finished Persuasion, one volume (along with Northanger Abbey) of six in a new-to-me complete set of Jane Austen novels.

all austen

Bought in the spring (April), they departed England at the height of summer (July 1st); to arrive in the north-eastern United States on the cusp of Fall (September).

They are the Chapman, 3rd edition. The leather binding melts in my hands, so soft to the touch, reminding me of the exquisite feel of one leather-bound volume once residing in the library of Mrs Gosling (sent, so kindly sent, by Martyn Downer).

bookplate_Mrs Gosling

I hope next to pick up Mansfield Park, to decide at last whether to propose the paper topic I’ve long had in my head, or work on some other project.

The rekindled love of Captain Wentworth for Miss Anne Elliot is too well-known to need much information here; but how difficult, being let in on the personal correspondence and journal confessions of the Smiths & Goslings, not to muse on others who in real life were thwarted in obtaining marital happiness, without much anxiety — and years of waiting.

Richard Seymour’s family seems to have endured much in this line. Two sisters — TWO! — who were sorely tried. The first, his sister Dora, was persuaded by her own family – Richard a reluctant persuader – to give up marrying the Rev. Mr. Chester.

In October, 1835, Richard writes in his diary:

“letter from John & Dora announcing her attachment & engagement to Mr. Chester: Rector of Elsted. John disapproving on acc:t of small means £400 per an. Wrote to Dora as kindly as I c:d–“

Announcing her attachment AND engagement…

John was the eldest Seymour brother, Sir John Culme Seymour.

Kindly Richard, the following day, wrote “to John & my Mother, urging as much consideration as possible to Dora’s wishes”.

Two days later, and he has ridden from Mapledurham (Mrs Smith’s home) to Blendworth (Lady Seymour’s home), to discuss family business.

By the end of the week he has gone “to Elsted. Found Mr. C:– entered on his affairs – w:h proved below the amount named and cannot be strictly called more than £330 per an – (£3700 in the Funds and his living ab:t £200 per an) & 23 acres of Glebe — pretty spot – returned home – talked to Dora – who soon agreed to write to him, expressing her decision to comply with the advice of her Mother & Brothers & relinquish her hopes. I added a note to this–“

Dora returns to Mapledurham with her brother, “thinking the change w:d be useful to her”.

At the time, Richard was bearing his own grief: the death of his son, Fanny’s first child.

“my visit to Blendworth sadly hurried, but glad to have made it for Dora’s sake – I trust she has acted as is most for her real happiness–“

Dora married Mr Chester two years later, in August 1837. They had only a few years together, before Mr Chester’s untimely death, in April 1841.

* * *

That same year, 1835, Richard’s diary speaks of a “Letter from Mrs. Vyse, expressing Col:l. V’s continued disapproval of GHV’s attachment”

GHV was George Howard Vyse; his “attachment” was to Lizzy, Richard’s next-to-youngest sister. Whatever Colonel Vyse’s disapproval was based upon, it was intransigent. For nearly twenty months had passed since Richard’s notation, on Sunday 12 January 1834, that, “Between the Services, to my great surprise G.H.V: {George Vyse} came in — full of affection to dear Lizzy  I trust they will yet be happy together-“

This couple would not marry until August 1839!

* * *

There is also, closer to home, the story of Augusta Smith, Emma’s eldest sister. Emma herself was the first of the six sister’s to marry. Augusta followed in the following year. She too, like Lizzy Vyse, seems to have been the subject of her father-in-law’s enmity.

An extraordinary letter, written in November 1828, exists. The Rev. Henry Watson Wilder, an old suitor of Augusta’s, laid his own tormented thoughts at Mrs Smith’s feet:

“My dear Madam

You will I am sure be surprised at this letter; I fear it may cause you some uneasiness but if I have not mistaken the kind feelings of regard you have hitherto expressed towards me you will I think forgive me  … Though many months have now passed since my intercourse with your family has ceased, much as I have thought on the subject I have most sincerely convinced myself that no other woman is likely to supply the place your eldest daughter has long held in my affection…”

Emma’s diary accounts for the arrival of this letter, two days later. Henry Wilder then calls; the date is marked by being the 30th Birthday of James Edward Austen.

Emma’s diary marks out the progress:

  • Charles, Mr Wilder & Augusta walked into the city to Mr. Lawford’s
  • Mamma had a long conversation with Mr Wilder
  • The party in town accompanied by Mr. Wilder went to see the Zoological garden

and finally:

11/23 “All the party & Mr Wilder went to St. James Church … the afternoon we went to see the Edridges  Lady Smith & Miss Bennett called here  Augusta was engaged to marry Mr Henry Wilder  He came to drink tea here”

Emma and Edward married within the month, on the 16 December 1828; the Wilders, four months later.

But when had Henry Wilder first declared himself? And was he the reason that a romance with a young doctor – a man (according to the Austens’ daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) who had the approbation of Lady Elizabeth Compton’s family at Castle Ashby — went nowhere?

Perhaps, like Anne Elliot, it was easy to give up a second man (in Anne’s case, Charles Musgrove) when the first man was so decidedly unavailable. And perhaps, like Anne, Augusta could revel in a revival of feelings kept dormant for several years.

One sentence, towards the end of Persuasion struck me with great force (page 240): “There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had first been projected; more tender, more tired, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment…”

A month before the marriage of her eldest daughter, Mrs Smith was writing bride Emma Austen, “I really think his {Henry Wilder’s} love is always encreasing; he spends most of the mornings with her, as well as the Evenings. Fanny & Eliza are almost tired of seeing him here, & want to know whether he will be as much tied to her side after marriage; I flatter them with hopes that he will not. What say you to it? You have had a little experience now. I do hope Edward pities you a great deal; cheers you & comforts you.”

Jane Austen may never have married, but she seems to have been intuitively attuned to the feelings of those who loved, lost, and lived to regain that emotion.

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Dying to Read: Eliza Chute Letters

January 6, 2013 at 7:26 am (history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

Eliza-Chute-letters

The above letters were MUCH publicized in the summer of 2012 (thanks, Deb Barnum, for telling me about them in the first place!) Extreme frustration in trying to get anyone at The Vyne to respond beyond a “thanks for contacting us”… I’ve written a good four times, to four different people – gotten one response. So much for the newspapers claim of “sharing these stories” [dead link].

These six letters, dating from 1795 to 1798, were all written (evidently…) to Augusta Smith (Mamma)! A vital piece of Smith & Gosling history. Read the full story of Eliza Chute’s letters.

By the way: my dear Augusta just passed her 242nd Birthday on Friday 4 January.

Anyone willing and/or able to help — please contact me!

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Letters: Unspoken Speech

December 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm (diaries, history) (, , , , , )

A Pinterester got me excited, less for the image than the sentiment written beneath it:

pen and letters

“….when someone can still speak to you even after they’ve gone…”

This sentiment speaks VOLUMES to me. Mary and Emma have lived lives so long ago – and yet, because they left diaries and letters, I begin to feel I’ve known them. When I applied for the Leon Levy Fellowship in Biography, I wrote that these people haunt me. How true! I continually want MORE: more information, more letters, more answers – hell, even more “mysteries”, for that would mean “more digging.”

I’ll take a moment to post a couple of thank yous – to Kildare, to Philip, Michael in London, and especially Michael in Aberystwyth.

And I’ll mention also that Two Teens is also on Pinterest! Visit, drop by and say hi.

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Marriage of Materials

November 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm (books, diaries, history, news) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will realize how “collecting” together diaries and letters and other ephemera, with items spread over the world, can be frustrating, rewarding, and time-consuming.

So to read that a discovery – in 2007, after nearly 80 years (since the 1930s) – occurred involving the diaries of Mary Boykin Chesnut was just a thrill. I HAVE THIS BOOK:

I LOVE diaries, nice and thick; like this one.

An album, begun in 1861, was mentioned – but it was something Woodward’s book wasn’t able to reproduce. Mary collected photographs during and even after the war; adding to her collection. Mary then worked at her writing….

After Mary’s death, like so many items relating to the Smiths and Goslings, items probably were “gifted” to different people. A niece, who died in 1931, was possibly the last family member to have the three albums. What happened to the albums is the tale you will hear if you listen to this podcast from October 2011:

How did word get out about Mary’s albums? They were on auction in Texas, and listed on eBay! Family members purchased the albums, promising to gift them to the USC’s Caroliniana Library. After a long separation, photo albums and diaries were to be reunited. A true “Marriage of Materials”.

The albums and Diary from Dixie have been published as the 2-volume Mary Chestnut’s Illustrated Diaries, by Martha M. Daniels and Barbara E. McCarthy.

Listen to the podcast for a wonderful “forensic” discussion of mid-19th century photography. Think about the phrase “We’ve never seen a picture of ….” for that was how I felt until seeing some of the drawings in Scenes from Life at Suttons. Ah, how I cried when I first flipped through that book, seeing Mamma for the first time, seeing Mary and Charles, finding dear Augusta Wilder’s picture. “The excitement…” indeed!

“Women had such a quiet role”

– Marty Daniels, quoting Mary Boykin Chesnut

 

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A Plea to Postal History Collectors

October 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm (diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

In conversation with Dave from Ottawa, I had the idea to post something that more plainly laid out what places the letters I seek came from / were sent to and also the people – writers or recipient; and the dates.

The letter that caught Dave’s eye was sent in 1798. It was sent to Charles Smith at his estate ‘Suttons’.

SUTTONS remains an address of great interest from beginning to end: it was the childhood home to Emma Smith and the marital home to Mary Gosling.

Another long-standing address for the Smiths & Goslings would be their residences in Portland Place, London (No. 5 = Goslings; No. 6 = Smiths).

The Goslings also had their country estate, Roehampton Grove.

Of course there are family members a bit further removed: aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve begun a list, which you can find under the tab “Autograph Letter Signed”.

I honestly don’t know what to search for – ALS will get something far different than an autographed letter. On the likes of eBay, there’s very little about the contents of letters or the addressee in most cases, and I simply tire of sitting at a computer, looking at post marks for hours. Way too many bookseller orders and attorney or banker letters of inquiry are on the market.

I want a juicy letter filled with family gossip!

*

Something which might be of use in helping ID some of the writers are the signatures I’ve posted here, as well as the pedigrees. Even the smallest, shortest sentence about any of these people would interest me!

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The “Original” Jane Austen Book Club

September 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

In reading about Jane Austen and the Plumptres of Fredville, I took down my copy of Jane Austen’s Letters to see for myself her mentions of the Plumptres.

I’ll blame it on the early morning, and the fact that my tea was still steeping; I turned to a letter that in the index was cited for its mention of the Papillons. Right letter of the alphabet, wrong family.

But I was sucked into this letter in an instant!

Jane is writing to Cassandra from Chawton, and mentions the reading she has been doing:

My Mother is very well & finds great amusement in the glove-knitting; when this pair is finished, she means to knit another, & at present wants no other work. — We quite run over with Books. She has got Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B.  & I am reading a Society-Octavo… by Capt. Pasley of the Engineers, a book which I protested against at first, but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining.”

Le Faye’s endnote explains that Jane Austen was part of “the Chawton Book Society, or reading club.”

Time and again the Smiths mention the purchase of books from the reading club, or attending club dinners. My assumption is that various members clubbed together, the purchased books made the rounds, and afterwards were up for sale – and purchased (or not) by the club members.

NB: I’d love to hear from anyone with specific news on how these reading clubs worked.

Jane later writes, “Yesterday moreover brought us Mrs Grant’s Letters, with Mr White’s Comp:ts,– but I have disposed of them, Comp:ts & all, for the first fortnight to Miss Papillon — & among so many readers or retainers of Books as we have here in Chawton, I dare say there will be no difficulty in getting rid of them for another fortnight if necessary.” [letter 78; 24 Jan 1813]

CAN YOU IMAGINE?! a place as small and intimate as Chawton, with all these readers?! Gosh, I would be in heaven to be among so many booklovers!! By the way, I found myself laughing at loud at so many of Austen’s turns of phrase. Just DELIGHTFUL!

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One Man Band: Life of an Independent Scholar

June 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm (a day in the life, books, history, introduction, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Curious about what a project like this Smith & Gosling research entails?

Although I worked (as staff) in academia for nineteen years, being an “independent scholar” (ie, without academic affiliation) means you don’t have the “interaction” of colleagues. That I really miss — and that’s why I’m so grateful for the readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen! If I can’t bend your ears, you at least allow me to bend your eyes. And it’s a two-way street – I value your comments and “likes” and dialogue.

So here’s my summary of Life as an Independent Scholar:

  • the location of diaries, letters, sketch books, portraits and miniatures, ephemera
  • a transcription of handwritten items
  • identification of people, places, and also the political, social, economic history of the era (approximately 1760-1845)
  • “getting the word out” through blog spots, journal, magazine and local history articles
  • finding obscure sources, including private collectors, for single items that once belonged to the Smiths, Goslings and friends/family
  • tracking down book citations
  • tracking down oblique references to family members in printed or manuscript sources
  • obtaining copies (xerox, digital photographs, microfilm) of relevant source material (thereby owing great debts to many blog readers)
  • corresponding with lots of libraries, record offices, and other depositories
  • TONS of internet searching
  • accepting the help of anyone who offers (see “obtaining copies”)
  • asking for help, when the distance is too great to make a personal visit (ditto)
  • spending precious hours/days/weeks at wonderful libraries and archives
  • typing-transcribing-writing-rewriting-proofing-searching-questioning-rewriting-proofing

No research assistants – No typists – No funding = A One-Man Band!

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Postal – it’s history

June 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm (diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Been there – done that – got the T-shirt.

This one, of course, says it all, as far as I’m concerned!

During the last few evenings, I’ve been re-reading, correcting transcriptions, and trying to figure out what I have — and what I still need to see — for Smith & Gosling letters.

Not counting what I’ve not yet pursued (ie, family archives at a couple large estates), I’ve amassed more than 300 letters — and I’m still counting, for I know more is out there.

Just in the last month, three letters surfaced and a very kind gentleman let me see their contents! One was a bit out of the ordinary: signed Norman, I believe this woman (rather than dear Miss Meen, the painter of flowers, who gave lessons to the Smiths — and Queen Charlotte and her princesses) – Mrs Norman – a good contender for the post of governess to the daughters of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park. She is certainly around the family, and very “familiar”, although I still can’t quite track her down. They’re either “too young or too old”.

My latest “craze” has been for letters written by young Augusta Smith (later: Mrs Henry Wilder of Purley and Sulham). Ah! she is just a delight. A quick wit, with a ready turn of phrase.  Here, in the 1830s, Augusta is on the Isle of Wight, for the health of her toddling son. Doesn’t this just transport you back in time, at the hand of a fashionable wit?

“– A lovely cottage close by has just been taken by Mrs. Mason a daughter of L:d Hoods with a host of progeny of all ages – her husband is commanding a ship in the Medit:n & she is going to beguile his absence tomorrow by a “dejeuner dinant” & dansant” w:h I suppose will bring hither a whole squadron of galleys & barges full of blue jackets, white trowsers & gold epaulettes from Portsmouth

Don’t you just want to read more?

I’m always thrilled to hear from readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, who have some pieces of my particular puzzle — letters, diaries, sketches even. Let me hear from you!

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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.

* * *

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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Mary Queen of Scots – Purchasing History

March 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , )

Breaking news today was about the sale of a letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots! It was sold at auction – at Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh, among other items sold from Blair Castle, said to be the oldest continually-inhabited “mansion” in Scotland. Read the story of “The Sick Note Written by Mary Queen of Scots” at The Daily Record.

* * *

Jane Austen had some thoughts about Mary, Queen of Scots! See it here — along with Cassandra’s illustration.

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