Lord Compton’s Sicily

June 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm (books, europe, history, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

An additional link to the same exhibition and book is available on YouTube, in which the “pages” are flipped in a 10-minute-plus video. The book is Viaggio in Sicilia: Il taccuino di Spencer Compton. My original blog post from 2014 discusses a bit more the actual sketchbook and the art exhibition.

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I recently found a link in which each drawing can be examined, for those wishing to spend a bit more time with Lord Compton, on his tour of Sicily. Click the photo, and you will be brought to the site for the Fondazioni Sicilia.

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Augusta: a Pen Pal sorta Gal

February 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, research) (, , , , )

Although I’ve had photographs of this letter for almost TWO YEARS (lots of other letters came my way in that time…) I *finally* got around to transcribing a letter by Mary-Anne Perozzi, dated 24 April 1824.

It was one out of more than a hundred letters in a private collection. The name, wholly unfamiliar. The date intriguing, and yet I didn’t pay it a LOT of attention. The handwriting is exquisite, so it wasn’t the legibility that caused the delay. Just a lack of “interest” and “other things to do”.

But, last night, in an effort to have at least all letters from this collection transcribed (the two I’ve left: nearly ALL crossed and a couple of really scribbling hands), I finally did this one.

And got a surprise!

Although addressed to Lady Elizabeth Compton, the Smith siblings’ cousin, it contained a particularly “painful” section for me to read.

Mary-Anne (as she signed herself, though her direction — included at the end of the letter, as a reminder to Lady Elizabeth to write in return — reads Marianne) has an extensive “thank you” to Lady Elizabeth for the part she played in Mary-Anne obtaining “two fine drawings, or likenesses“. Now, deciphering these words I was, of course, thinking Lady Elizabeth had sent her something she had drawn. I’ve seen her work. She’s very talented! And, being in Rome, she could have taken her sketch book around the city.

But the word “likenesses” – they tend to use that word to indicate portraits.

THEN: I read on…

likenesses, which AUGUSTA had the kindness to make me a present of.

There’s only ONE Augusta who would have been referred to by her first name alone – and that would be Emma’s eldest sister, the extremely artistic Augusta Smith, renowned in the family for her ability at taking “likenesses”.

I was in Seventh Heaven (and in a bit of pain: Could they still exist? but where??).

THEN: I read on…

and which I have found VERY MUCH ALIKE to HER

So a portrait of Augusta herself (I had presumed it had been of Mary-Anne, perhaps)!

THEN: I read the rest of the sentence:

“very much alike to her, and to her MOTHER

ARGH! Two portraits of the Two Augustas, in 1824! a precious gift indeed. And Mary-Anne then had the manners to say “and very well performed“. So, Mary-Anne not only thought the portraits “very like” (a huge compliment, indeed) but also well drawn.

Oh… the… pain… of not being able to see them. And of thinking that they could be long gone – or “unknown” in some collection or archive.

As it happens there IS a further mention, in the Smith & Gosling letters, of Mary-Anne Perozzi. An 1824 letter that pre-dates one that I own. Written by Augusta, she makes a very brief comment of writing a letter to Mary-Anne!

I opened the transcriptions of Emma’s diaries, 1823 and 1824 – hoping for some “address” of Mary-Anne. Nothing. Perhaps she was a friend of Augusta more than any of the other girls.

Mary-Anne obviously kept up a correspondence. Her address was simply “Ancona”, and, although her English was quite good, it points to a woman as Italian-sounding as her last name. (And can be said to account for the slightly odd phrase, “very much alike to her”.) I had hoped to find a bit of a footprint left behind, but so far nothing. And, although I KNOW it’s too much to hope for: some of her letters (to or from Augusta or Lady Elizabeth) would be the frosting on the cake.

Mary-Anne wrote of obtaining the portraits from Lord and Lady Compton, who were visiting Ancona. I simply had to look it up. On the map, it’s south of Ravenna-Rimini-San Marino; on the opposite coast from Rome:

ancona map

The blown-up map shows an exquisite “hook” of land. And in photographs… it looks divine:

ancona from air

I can see what would have enticed the Comptons here, in 1824. And how Augusta (the Smiths BIG trip was from summer 1822 to summer 1823; and they wintered in Rome) might have met Mademoiselle Perozzi.

Augusta DID have a wider-ranging correspondence – I’ve found letters to the Lante delle Rovere family, for one instance of her Pen Pals abroad. Must confess, trying to read her tiny hand in English isn’t super hard, but these are described as “In lingua francese e italiana“. AND, to make matters worse, the letters from 1823 are described as “scrittura di base righe di testo in verticale“. So she, as USUAL, has crossed her writing. To have them, though, is something I MUST Do.

Fnding Mary-Anne Perozzi of Ancona makes me even MORE intent on obtaining images of the Lante Letters (one also by Lady Compton in the same collection).

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This Georgette Heyer reprint features the Raeburn portrait of Lord Compton, done only a short time before he once again saw Mademoiselle Perozzi.

As I always ask, IF anyone has any information – about the Perozzis, Ancona, the location of (more) letters or those likenesses, do contact me!

 

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Viaggio in Sicilia: Meet Lord Compton

July 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm (books, europe, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

What a FABULOUS *FIND*!!

The ‘miracle’ took place in the middle of the night, a couple of nights ago when I unearthed a RECENT exhibition of sketches done by Spencer, Lord Compton c1823. His sketchbook, in the hands of the Fondazione Sicilia, has been “conserved” and “preserved” and the drawings exhibited in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014:

viaggio4 The exhibition spawned a book and two informative (especially if you speak Italian) YouTube videos – including one showing the sketch book in its entirety (which has no soundtrack at all). viaggio3

The second video (en Italiano) gives glimpses of the condition of the original sketch book, sketches, and their subsequent exhibition.

viaggio2 viaggio1

Spencer Compton, cousin to Emma and brother to Lady Elizabeth Compton (later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) spent many years in Italy with his wife, the former Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Spencer became the second Marquess of Northampton, following his father’s death in 1828.

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A “romantic figure” in this Raeburn portrait (painted in the era of his sketch book), Spencer Lord Compton graced the cover of this Georgette Heyer reprint recently.

viaggio5partial legend from one sketch, in Spencer’s hand-writing

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Two Views of Lady Frances Compton

February 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm (british royalty, entertainment, fashion, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Today I was backtracking, re-reading some correspondence of Sir Walter Scott. In 1815 he was meeting for the first time some of the family of Lord Compton — future husband to Margaret Maclean Clephane.

It was his description of Lady Frances Compton that made me seek out some more information. And unearthed this lovely little miniature of her!

In the Smith letters, Lady Frances hovers around the edges. She is often abroad (sometimes in company with Aunt Emma, I dare say). The siblings call her ‘Aunt Frances’. Funnily enough, Walter Scott seems to write of her as “Lady Francis Compton”. Maybe not an inappropriate spelling, given his story….

First, here is a glimpse of Lady Frances, at “Her Majesty’s Drawing-Room“, reported in La Belle Assemblée (1816):

Lady Frances Compton.

    A petticoat of white satin, with draperies of embroidered silver net; train of Saxon blue satin, trimmed with silver lama lace.

The occasion celebrated the marriage of HRH the Princess Charlotte.

Walter Scott’s comment on the lady is rather remarkable; he is writing a year earlier, in April 1815:

Compton_Lady FrancesI have missed the post and cannot help myself till Monday there being none tomorrow in this God fearing and religious capital. I will see Lord G. after breakfast tomorrow perhaps before for I thought it necessary to accustom Lady Francis [sic] Compton to the voracity of a Scotchman at breakfast that she may not be surprised at the cousins whom the Isle of Mull may send upon an occasional visit and at breakfast you know I can match any highland man of them all. She is a spirited old lady fond of dogs and horses and had a pair of loaded pistols to defend her house in person when it was threatened in the corn bill riots.

(the miniature, left, sold at Sotheby’s in 2006)

Lady Frances died in February 1832, aged 74 – making her about 57 when Scott found her “a spirited old lady”. I like the fact that she could wield a brace of pistols!

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Early Photography: Chasing images

March 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How do you identify an image of a person – one painted or photographed long, long ago?

By what’s written on the back! if you’re lucky.

This miniature of Maria Smith, aka Lady Culme Seymour, was ID’ed as her; I take it to have been her mainly because the provenance claims a family descent.

It sold, at auction, with her mother-in-law’s miniature — Jane, Lady Seymour.

My task lately — and a daunting one it has been — is to ID a couple of photographs. Are they Maria? are they a sister? or (worse thought) have they been mis-identified????

Time WILL tell.

But that brings into the mix, several early photographers. Yes, these were certainly the types of people, with money enough, who would have been interested in having their portraits done. Interested, too, in pursuing photography for themselves, in the end. A photo album connected to the Gosling family resides at a Surrey archive; among portraits are also what can only be described as travel photographs! Imagine what you had to tote around to photograph your adventures away from home back in the 1870s!

One portrait of Maria is by the famed photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910). The National Portrait Gallery’s website about him calls Silvy “a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the nineteenth century. Maria seems to have been photographed in 1860. (She was born in 1814. You do the math.) Silvy moved to London in 1859. Her nephew, Mary and Charles Smith’s son, Charles Cunliffe Smith — along with his wife Agnes, Lady Smith — are represented in Silvy’s books, but far later in number. How fascinating to go through these book NPG has and see all the people photographed by Silvy!

But there are other family photos, but other photographers. One that has surfaced is a family group, plus some individual photographs, by William Claridge (1797-1876). He began photographing in the Berkhamsted area in the 1850s.

A third photographer, one with ties — at the very least — with the Comptons and Dickens families, is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online article entitled “William Henry Fox Talbot and the Invention of Phography“. I’ve come across mention of Dickens family pictures, and online have found Fox Talbot’s letters, which have him giving several wonderful descriptions of Lord and Lady Compton, while they lived in Italy.

Such valuable resources — in images and words.

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Bloomin’ Rhododendrons

May 28, 2011 at 11:17 am (a day in the life, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

One *amazing* discovery, made reading these 200-year-old (more or less) letters and diaries, is the passion for FLOWERS everyone, young and old, exhibited. There are those who loved to draw and sketch flowers:

Miss Meen came & I began to learn painting flowers” – Emma Smith, 6 February 1815

That same year, in late Summer, Castle Ashby, home of the Marquess of Northampton, when Emma’s cousin Spencer Lord Compton married Margaret Maclean Clephane, the rooms were bedecked with “flowerpots, to the number of 32”. These were placed “in most of the rooms“, although the Great Hall received special floral treatment.

In her 1798 diary, Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons) kept a listing of flowers, probably those she found at Suttons following her March wedding, or else those she had cause to see planted. Among them, “White Lilics & Day Lilies. Lillies of the Valley Bigonia…Magnolias  Seeds of Anemonie, sown directly

In the summer she exults about eating “The first dish of Strawberries from our garden.”

In August 1832, when her younger daughter “little Augusta shews a great taste for flowers” Mary (Lady Smith) makes sure to note it in her diary.

These are just a few that popped to mind, which I could find and quote. As my own garden turns to blooms, they join recollections of springs and summers abroad, in England and Wales. The rhododendrons that grew wild along the roadside my father and I trekked along in search of a castle estate in North Wales always comes to mind when I see my own blooms (left).

And there is nothing more humble than the little purple violets which grow wild hereabouts; weed to some, it is a valued little flower to me, as much as Augusta’s Lilies of the Valley must have been to her:

Truthfully, I have very little love of gardening. But to have such color and scent to hand is something I too watch and note every year. The crocuses that bloom on the “first” warm day — only to decimated by the ensuing cold… The rhodos that grew larger and larger — and attract too many bees to safely cut them for an indoors look… The Day Lilies which, despite being orange and therefore not really a favorite color, I watch to see their daily progression from open blooms to dying relics.

So it is any wonder everyone writes of the passage of their gardens, whether working in them or simply admiring them?

I am reminded to note two new books added to my collection, bought for $2.99 each at the local Goodwill: The Glory of the English Garden, by Mary Keen; and Royal Gardens, by Roy Strong. Will have more to say about them when I’ve looked through them more thoroughly. Having a keen interest in the Royal Gardens, I was ready to purchase that one straightaway; the other I was less sure about — yet, I have a feeling that one will prove the more valuable in the end. Such wonderful chapters, and glorious pictures (by Clay Perry).

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News! News! News!

May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am (books, entertainment, people, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Two *new* portraits join my little gallery… They were found while looking for something totally different (isn’t that always the case?!).

My first was this delightful portrait of Wilmina Maclean Clephane:

I was looking to update information on my current writing project, about Fanny( Smith) Seymour, and wanted to double check information about Torloisk (on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). This was the home of the three Maclean Clephane sisters. Don’t remember them?? I can’t blame you — there are so many names and people to remember, aren’t there?

The Clephane sisters were wards of writer Walter Scott; Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815 — and Emma recorded the events of Margaret’s homecoming (see my article at the JASNA website equating this event to a proposed welcome for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy). Spencer and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton were the only cousins the Smiths of Suttons had. Emma came to know the Clephane girls — the other two being Anna-Jane and Wilmina — fairly well, and even wrote of meeting Walter Scott himself!

**Read about the Clephanes’ connection to early music for the Gaelic Harp**

How wonderful to read Walter Scott’s (online) journal and see this; it’s September, 1827:

“September 6. — Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance… I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck’s Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their back.” Read more ….

Margaret was the eldest (born 1791), Wilmina the youngest (born 1803); they and Compton are extremely prevalent in the Scott correspondence. Such fun to read of Margaret, when a young bride newly brought home to Castle Ashby, entertaining her guests with Scottish Song and Music, such as Emma recorded witnessing. Margaret was a dab hand at art as well, which brings me back to Harriet Cheney.

The Cheney name is one VERY familiar from letters and diaries. And, besides, the Cheney family were related to the Carrs/Carr Ellisons and they end up in Mary Gosling’s extended family! Again: a small world.

Harriet Cheney, whose Italian sketchbooks went up for auction in 2005 at Christie’s, not only sketched places, but also those whom she came across. Wilmina was one; her sister Margaret and her family was another:

Here, Margaret is depicted with her daughter Marianne Compton (the future Lady Alford). Other images not “illustrated” at Christie’s includes other children and also Spencer Lord Compton! Such treasures.

**Read Karen E. McAulay‘s PhD thesis Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting, c1760-1888**

Look at all 110 lots (Wilmina is Lot 44; Margaret and Marianne are Lot 45) at Christie’s. There is even a specimen of the artistry of Wilmina herself at Lot 87.

I swear that Emma called Wilmina’s husband Baron de Normann (Christie’s cites de Norman). Was it Emma’s spelling, or how he spelled his name ?? Always tricky to tell during this time period, when spelling was somewhat fluid — even for names! Christie’s seems to have obtained the name from the signature on the art itself, but who knows…

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Judge a Letter by its Cover

January 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When Craig from Australia — a most helpful Smith&Gosling “fan”! — wrote about a letter he found, the tell-tale tidbit that attracted me was hearing that it was addressed to the Marquess of Northampton. Its dating, to 1824, meant to the first Marquess — husband of Mamma Smith’s sister Maria, father to Lord Compton (the 2nd Marquess) and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton (later married to Charles Scrase Dickins).

The idea that came into my brain while corresponding with Craig was that, although his find might be addressed TO Lord Northampton — the enclosed LETTER might very well be addressed to someone else!

My evidence?

At the Essex Record Office, there is a small set of letters, written by “the children” — as Emma referred to her two youngest sisters (her younger brothers were in school), Charlotte and Maria — but the girls, while addressing their letters to eldest sister Augusta and to Mamma, addressed their envelopes to “Le Chevalier Charles Smith“!

Obviously, therefore, the “head of the household” was the letter recipient whenever letters were sent Poste Restante or to be called for at, say, the offices of the family’s foreign banker.

Just one exceptionally interesting “find” while delving back in time nearly 200 years. Stay tuned for more!

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Never too late

January 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm (news) (, , , , , , , )

Oh, I had had such plans, last month, for posting items to this blog; not much happened, did it? A couple of items are silly to talk about now, a month-plus later – but a couple things I will alert readers to now:

  • On 16 December 2009, Persuasions On-line published my last “Emma” article: Pemberley’s Welcome. The fun of the article comes from Emma Smith’s exuberant account of the homecoming of her cousin, Spencer (Lord Compton), in the summer of  1815. His bride was Margaret Maclean Clephane, ward (with her sisters) of the writer Walter Scott – a favorite author of James-Edward Austen.
  • I am thinking of teaching a course over a weekend in the summer focussing on Pride and Prejudice. No details of cost, dates, syllabus, etc. are yet available, but if this is something you’d be interested in obtaining information about, contact me through the email address on “the author” page.
  • Stowe Magazine ran a lovely article (great photographs!) on the Jane Austen Weekends held in Hyde Park. To get a taste for what goes on, there’s a PDF link on “the author” page.

If there was anything else I waited and waited to talk about, I’ve forgotten them and they’ll have to wait. Time to get off the internet and back to work.

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