Emma’s “Aunt” is not “Aunt Emma”

January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, london's landscape, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through posts at AustenOnly (check out those concerning livery, and also Lord Nelson!), I spotted a tweet about the Document of the Month, featured on the Hampshire Record Office’s website: Augusta Smith’s poem, To My Aunt on New Year’s Day — written by young Augusta in 1825. It’s one of my favorite pieces! Why? Because it speaks about her having a red Pocketbook; ie, a journal! just like those my young Emma recorded her thoughts and life in. Oh, what has happened to Aunt’s diaries?!?!

I must confess, however, to some head-scratching over the accompanying informational text…

As noted in the text’s beginning, my Emma (Augusta’s sister) was born in 1801; she did marry James Edward Austen; and she did keep diaries, most of them extant at the Hampshire Record Office.

But the poem’s nothing to do with young Emma; it’s not her pockets that bulge, nor her red pocketbook that lays among all the Mary-Poppins-items of that vast pocket! Young Emma was no “aunt” in 1825!

{NB: the first nephew was little Charles, born in 1827; Mary and Charles Joshua’s son}

Yes, there was an “Aunt Emma” — this person was the youngest sister of the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park, the daughters of Joshua and Sarah Smith; namely, Maria (the Marchioness of Northampton); Eliza (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne); Augusta (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons); and … Emma.

But “Aunt Emma” and “Aunt” are not the same person!

So to whom belonged “these ponderous pockets” that “would jumble my hips almost out of their sockets”??

The “most perfect” Aunt, who resided at Stratford (note the place/date at the bottom of the page), was Miss Judith Smith — only surviving sister of the Smith siblings’ father, Charles Smith. Judith and Charles were children of Charles Smith and Judith Lefevre. Poor Aunt! Even in Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 she is misidentified; there, as Lady Northampton.

Thanks to Charlotte Frost, I’ve seen a drawing, done by Fanny Smith, of Stratford (Stratford Le Bow) — a “suburb” of London, and soon to be the site of the hustle-bustle of the 2012 Summer Olympics. This was once home to Aunt, and a great stop-off whenever the Smiths of Suttons travelled to and from London.

Now that you know a little about “Aunt” – take a moment to read this delicious poem, by the sparkling eldest Smith sibling, Augusta. I’m going to check my transcription against HRO’s!

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I’ve WATCHED “Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?”

January 2, 2012 at 9:32 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, seek and indeed ye shall find. Yesterday, about noon, I came upon a full, uninterrupted showing of Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?

I found the differing paths taken to gain information about the portrait exceptionally interesting to view. After all, everyone whose research utilizes primary material must (1) discover it; (2) verify it; (3) keep an open mind about whatever turns up; and (4) ultimately reject, support, or present both sides of the argument.

I hope to have more to say, later, but right now I want to discuss an “image” that flashes — twice — on the screen that may puzzle people, or, more likely, totally fly by them:

Both show (as above) Paula Byrne‘s face reflected on her computer screen, and a portrait image that’s up on the computer, which she contemplates. The image is NOT the “Austin” portrait, but the portrait of Maria Lady Compton/Lady Northampton, which the book A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates designates as on vellum and done by “her sister Mrs Chute”. The image below is that found on this blog’s Portraits page:

Pity, then, that no discussion on the TV show about this “known” portrait took place. I have a feeling that the original was not located in the two most logical places: The Vyne nor Castle Ashby.

The Vyne was Eliza Chute’s Hampshire estate (now a National Trust property; near Basingstoke); Castle Ashby is still a private residence, then and now owned by the Marquess of Northampton. Seneca Productions contacted me to see if I knew more about the portrait; they were in contact with The Vyne already (so nothing there, I gather), and I gave the Castle Ashby contact information I had — and waited to hear more (but have heard nothing).

  • I’ve a couple questions on this portrait, and the 1930 book from which it comes (published in a very limited edition of 200 copies. Any reader resident in the New York City area who would be willing to visit the New York Public Library, please contact me (see “the author” for contact information).

The interesting thing about the two portraits: “Jane Austin” is shown in the act of writing; Maria Compton is holding what I suspect are “plans” — and wasn’t Maria and her husband at one point knee-deep in “updating” their accommodations at Castle Ashby…

I used to be somewhat disappointed by this portrait of Maria, but putting it side-by-side with the “Austin” portrait, it now looks pretty good.

* * *

NB: By the way, I’m GRATEFUL for ALL the portraits I unearth: I now have two of Lady Northampton, this one and a profile view done by her niece Augusta Smith. I’ve a number of Emma, at least one of which looks nothing (really) like her. Until the advent of photography (and even then, don’t we all say: “That’s a horrible picture of me”), images depended on the artist, the amount of “flattery” in altering the sitter’s image, and oh so many other things. Even “Unseen Portrait” host, Martha Kearney, felt flattered at the portrait drawn of her during the show!

Images make no difference about how I perceive the “inner” Emma and Mary et al — but I sure LOVE to see all representations of them and the rest of the family.

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Coolhurst Discovered

September 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm (books, europe, history, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Come meet the Scrase Dickins family:

Maria, Marchioness of Northampton, widowed mother to:

Lady Elizabeth (née Compton) Scrase Dickins, a young lady described by her cousin Augusta as “your strength and courage have more than once led you into very imprudent situations, such as few other ladies would ever get into. You may feel like a man but remember you do not look like one. God bless you sweetest Liz.” Wife to:

Charles Scrase Dickins (or Dickens)- known as CSD  in the diaries of his cousin Charles Joshua Smith – was first a family friend, then husband to his beloved cousin Lady Elizabeth.

A great image of their children, drawn by Miss Corbaux; published in Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book (1849).

For me, a thrill is to read about Horsham in an earlier diary, the delightful Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762: Life and Love in Eighteenth Century Horsham, transcribed by Barbara Hurst and edited by Susan Djarbi (Amberley; 2009). A FASCINATING account and wonderful book. See the West Sussex Gazette review.

Read more about Coolhurst by clicking on the page “estates” (see menu on right)!

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Breaking News: Scenes from life at Suttons

June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm (a day in the life, books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

**My “solution” to the Mr Darcy-Mystery Man will appear at the end of the week**

The breaking news concerns a slim little volume I’ve searched a couple YEARS for: Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 — a Wiltshire seller had a copy on eBay, the auction ending about three weeks ago. Yet who but me would want this little book?! Evidently, no one: when I emailed about it the book was still available. This little prize arrived in my mailbox this past Monday — the 13th of June! YIPPEE.

So what does this little treasure offer?

There are 28 pages of text, which are short plays, in verse, written by DRUMMOND and ELIZA SMITH. The scenes take place in 1825 and 1827, as the title indicates. They are comical and charming little pieces, especially heartwarming to me because I can see and hear them, I know the “characters” so well! The first is entitled BREAKFAST AT SUTTONS, JULY 1825. The first pages includes this exchange:

Fanny: Whoever chuses coffee — speak.
Charlotte: I should like some — but very weak.
Augusta: Coffee too — if you please, for me;
                     But no — I think I’ll have some Tea.

Readers get a sense of the house, the manners and characters, as well as the staff members: we have “appearances” by Tanner (Mr Tanner he is later called); John who evidently answered the door to a ‘poor woman’ arriving to talk to Mamma; the ever-loyal Tidman, who shows up in letters. Interestingly, these people do not appear as “characters” listed at the beginning of each “play”!

The next scene, AN HOUR’S READING AT SUTTONS, 1825, features Aunt and Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma is, of course, Mamma Smith’s youngest sister (she never married); Aunt, on the other hand is erroneously ID’ed as Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton (ie, Mamma’s eldest sister).

‘Aunt’ was in fact Charles Smith’s only sister, Judith Smith of Stratford! I recall a charming little drawing of Aunt (by Augusta, the daughter) in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). I have long meant to ask for a copy; this makes me want it even more, because, although there is no Aunt Emma, Scenes from Life at Suttons has portraits of Mamma and her sister Maria, Lady Northampton!

The last little play, EVENING AT SUTTONS, 1827, has a few lines spoken by my beloved MARY! This takes place in The Library.

The end of the book includes ELEVEN portraits, all (except her own) by Augusta Smith Wilder. So came my first look at Mary (Gosling) Smith, and even her sister Elizabeth. Most of the Smith siblings are present: Augusta, Charles, Emma, Spencer, Charlotte and Drummond. Alas! No Fanny, Eliza or Maria!! Which is QUITE the loss, though as far as Fanny goes I believe the portrait at HRO is of this set. This I have a copy of! (Sorry, you won’t find it online…). Mary’s portrait easily translates into a silhouette, so I’ll shortly post her picture, as companion to her “sister of the heart”, Emma Austen Leigh. Stay tuned for more about this unique booklet!

One thing I can NOW say: This title does indeed exist! I was beginning to think May Lamberton Becker’s imagination had conjured it up. The description, its only depiction, appeared in her book Presenting Miss Jane Austen (1952).

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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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Dearest Aunt…

January 11, 2011 at 11:26 am (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Emma, writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, sister to Emma’s deceased father Charles), 10 Oct 1831:

“Our party here is very tiny only four; five I ought to say for Miss Corbaux is still with us – She has made a most charming water colored drawing of Mamma for me which is (Aunt Northampton says) amazingly like. She is seated on a Sofa in a black velvet gown with her hands crossed and her head rather on one side in a reflecting mood & so much like the attitude of the head in yr picture that it must be characteristic of her – The maids think it so much like [Missis?] sitting at Prayers. Then Miss Corbaux has taken a drawing of Miss Ashley for Charlotte which is very nearly as like as Mamma’s – I am going to indulge myself with having a likeness of Edward taken as the one by Mrs. Carpenter is not satisfactory – The children we do not mean to have taken considering it too great an extravagance…”

Can’t you just SEE Mamma: her dress, her demeanor, her attitude and look: oh, what’s happened to this drawing?!

I will post later some information on the artist.

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Elizabeth Grant and Miss Ramsay

March 21, 2010 at 11:22 am (books, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

WHAT a *thrill* comes when an old book yields a new discovery — and who would have thought to find Emma’s “Miss Ramsay” in such as place as the Memoirs of a Highland Lady, a book written by Elizabeth (Grant) Smith for her grandchildren and first published by her niece Lady Strachey in 1898.

It was while reading through Emma’s diary for 1819, and finding they met a “Miss Elizabeth Grant, niece of Miss Devall” that I began to look online for Elizabeth Grant and tumbled upon the book I’ve owned (along with its sequels) for many years. Actually, I’m surprised I never consulted its index, but perhaps I thought “Highlands” and never remembered “London” enough to think, despite the time period (1800-1830s), the book at all relevant. [NB: I am NOT convinced that this Elizabeth Grant and Emma’s Miss EG are the same person.]

But the wide circle of relatives and acquaintances do intersect and overlap in the most strange manner: Jane Austen and Walter Scott, just two circles that touch the Smiths and Goslings.

It was the original edition of Memoirs online that made me pull off the shelf my own copy of the “entire” memoir – and finding Mr Nattes, the artist, in the index (who, by the way, was at Suttons in 1811 and again a few years later; Emma comments on him “paying a visit” in December 1818). There, on the page discussing him was mention of Miss Ramsay! And not long after, mention of “a rich Mrs Smith, sister of the Marchioness of Northampton”! You might imagine my joyous delight:

“Mr Nattes had another pupil in whom he was much interested. He said she would never draw much nor be first rate in any art, but she was so excellent a person that he had recommended her as Governess to a family in which he taught. This was our old friend Miss Ramsay, who had come up to London to improve herself. She often came to see us, both before and after she went to live with a rich Mrs Smith, sister to the Marchioness of Northampton, with whom and her very nice daughters she lived for many years, in fact till she died, tended by them in all her failing health with all the affectionate care her good conduct merited.”

Unfortunately… Miss Ramsay still remains first-nameless. But I now know much more about her than ever imagined for a woman truly lost in the mists of time. Including, how she came to be in the Smith household.

Anyone with any information on Miss Ramsay, her mother, her brother and his wife – please let me know. In the last months of her life Miss Ramsay returns “North” — according to Elizabeth Grant the city she must return to is in or around Newcastle.

From Emma, I know that she — and Coulthard, a servant named for many years to come — sailed north on the Theodosia (captained by a Mr Jullocks, if I read and typed correctly). They leave London on Tuesday, and arrive at “Shields Harbour”:

“We had the happiness of hearing that dear Miss Ramsay arrived safe at Shields Harbour Sunday Morn:g & got to Whickham Sunday Even:g. She had borne the voyage very well till the last night which was very rough at the bar she had not suffered from sea sickness but Coulthard had.” (5 May 1819)

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