At election time, it’s hard NOT to think of:
Pocket & Rotten Boroughs
In “the shadow of the American War of Independence” came so hotly a contested election for the seat of Northampton, it pretty much knocked out the family finances for the Earls of Northampton (ie, the father of Emma’s Uncle Northampton). It has gone down in history as the “Spendthrift Election” (1767/68).
The “contest of the three earls” (Earl Spencer, Earl Halifax, and the Earl of Northampton [pictured]) has been described as: ‘the most violent contest for aristocratic pre-eminence that has taken place for the last century’. Rumors put Lord Northampton’s spending at the level of £100,000 – a prodigious sum. His daughter-in-law (our Lady Northampton, née Maria Smith of Erle Stoke Park) still cringed a half-century later, at the “expense” of “canvassing”.
Not long after the campaign, the Earl of Northampton left England – for Switzerland – never returning. His son (our Lord Northampton) is said to have been on the lookout for a wealthy heiress… to bolster the sagging family funds, and to upkeep the family seat, Castle Ashby.
Some things NEVER seem to change.
Spencer Compton — often described here as “Lord Compton”, for in his youth he was his father’s heir and only in 1828 did he become “Lord Northampton”. Emma’s “Uncle Northampton” (the first Marquess) is whom I typically refer to here as Lord Northampton.
Spencer Compton, only brother of Lady Elizabeth Compton (the future Lady Elizabeth Dickins, wife of Charles Scrase Dickins), married in 1815 Margaret Maclean Clephane – one of three sisters who were wards of Walter Scott.
- At the Jane Austen Society of North America: “Pemberley’s Welcome: Or, An Historical Conjecture upon Elizabeth Darcy’s Wedding Journey, ” (Persuasions On-Line, Winter 2009), by Kelly M. McDonald
- “The Accomplished Ladies of Torloisk,” by Karen E. McAulay
Philip Compton, archive researcher to the current Marquess, has written an informative article, published in The Geoscientist, the Fellowship Magazine of the Geological Society of London, on Spencer Compton’s interest in collecting fossils and his correspondence with imminent scientists. To read a side of Spencer, Lord Compton which you will rarely see discussed here, click on the picture below.
The article, entitled “Through the Looking Glass,” is nicely illustrated – including of Lord Northampton (first cousin of Emma Austen Leigh) and his home, Castle Ashby (which Emma knew well).
This portrait, by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1795, illustrates Harriet Scott. Why am I seeking more information on her? The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service lists a handful of letters, written by her to Mary Jemima Robinson / Baroness Grantham.
In a letter dated 3 September 1827, Mrs Scott mentions Sir Walter Scott – a recent visit and some Scottish stories dedicated to his grandson, John Hugh Lockhart. An 1829 letter, written from Rome, she mentions Lord and Lady Northampton (Spencer Compton, the 2nd Marquess, and his wife, the former Margaret Maclean Clephane). I’m intrigued to know if more letters exist elsewhere from this same period. There are references to her in the Walter Scott literature. What other members of the Smith&Gosling extended family might she have met?
Harriet was the daughter of Count Hans Moritz von Brühl (in England so long he was known as John Maurice) and Alicia Maria Carpenter. She married Hugh Scott of Harden (Mertoun) in 1795, the year of her portrait.
In writing to her in 1832, Walter Scott commented, “I envied your management of the pencil when at Malta…” So Harriet was an artist in her own right!
Three years later, in 1835, Hugh Scott was confirmed as the 6th Lord Polwarth. So there may be items ID’ed as by Lady Polwarth, though it is the 1820s that interests me the most.
The letters at Beds & Luton sound fascinating, for instance this riveting tale of travel in a bygone era:
“once got a fright having 4 mules to our Coach driven by one post Boy riding the Wheel mule when the first chose to turn short down to a Mill where they usually lived and very near overturned us”
Found this issue of Country Life on Books.Google – you are welcome to read the article there as well. Certainly the photos show a Castle Ashby that only the likes of Emma would have had intimate knowledge about.
Castle Ashby (Northamptonshire) was and is the home of the Marquess of Northampton. In Emma’s youth, it was home to her uncle and aunt (mother’s sister), Lord and Lady Northampton, and their two children Spencer (Lord Compton) and Lady Elizabeth Compton (later: Lady Elizabeth Dickins).
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George Engleheart (1752-1829), an English miniaturist, turns up as the artist in this ‘snippet’ view of a SOTHEBY’S AUCTION CATALOGUE (date: 16 Oct 1980) from books.google.com. Here is the image from p. 161:
It reads: “George Engleheart, 1782 [lot] 135 Lady Cunliffe, wife of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, her powdered hair piled high and adorned with a lemon and blue scarf, wearing a matching lemon and blue jacket over a white dress, cloud and sky background set on the lid of a hinged navette-shaped ivory patch-box, the gold mounts bright-cut and the interior fitted with a mirror, the miniature oval 4.2cm…” It seems to have A PHOTOGRAPH above the description BUT I CAN’T VIEW IT! Nor can the remainder of the description be read.
I would appreciate if someone with access to this sales catalogue could copy me this page — especially if it contains an image of Lady Cunliffe’s miniature which sits atop this ‘hinged navette-shaped ivory patch-box’!
With hopes of finding more information on this piece (and also its current whereabouts), I came across the following miniature which is exceptionally intriguing for two reasons:
It belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and is described as Lord Northampton, c1795. Could this be the Lord Northampton who was brother-in-law to Augusta Smith (Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother); or is it his father? Charles, the ninth Earl of Northampton became the first Marquess of Northampton in 1812. He was born in 1760, succeeded his father in 1796, and died in 1828, when the Smiths’ cousin Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton succeeded to the title. The museum has this to say about the piece: ‘Pearls and the twisted lock of a hair, probably from a loved one of Lord Northampton, surround this portrait.’
If this represents the first Marquess in his younger days, then the hair might very well have belonged to his wife – Maria Smith, sister to Emma Smith, Eliza Chute and Augusta Smith. Was Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother a blonde?? Maria married Lord Compton (his title before his father’s death) in 1787. The couple eventually settled in Castle Ashby, an estate well-known and often visited by Emma Austen-Leigh.
Ohhh!!! I certainly know one place I will be visiting should my paper be accepted for JASNA’s AGM next October – the AGM to be held in Philadelphia! In the meantime, if anyone has more information on this piece, please contact me.