Tory vs Whig

July 11, 2015 at 12:35 pm (british royalty, history, people, research) (, , , )

I must admit to an intense boredom over politics. For, in the end, no matter what, nothing ever really seems to change. Translate that boredom to the past and even to another country, and you will easily see that confusion over “labels” is bound to occur.

None more so than the terms TORY and WHIG. At least with Labour and Conservative one feels on surer ground…

But working in the early 19th century rather than the early 20th century, Whiggism and Toryism are two “isms” I have to get my head around. It is not helped by the fact that, while the words remained the same, their meanings did not. How highly entertaining to be told that the word Whig came into English vocabulary from the Scots Gaelic and was “applied to horse thieves and, later, to Scottish Presbyterians”. Tory had as ignominious a beginning: “an Irish term suggesting a papist outlaw”.

Of course _I_ can’t go that far back either. But must concentrate on the pull of the parties as occurred from the late 18th century into the early 19th century.

So why this “dip” into politics – which I can quite easily avoid in research that tends towards the biographical and the social?

Around the turn of the century, I have several gentlemen in the House of Commons: Joshua Smith (Emma’s grandfather), William Chute (Emma’s uncle), Charles Smith (Emma’s papa), and even the two Compton men, Charles and Spencer (Emma’s uncle and cousin, respectively). William Gosling, Mary’s father, is once caught out nearly all night, at a debate in the House.

Sooner or later I have to pay attention to politics!

But my recent question had been to remind myself the years Spencer Compton served. Some early letters describe his year forays into giving speeches, and (since he was a very young man!) give insight into his general personality. It was with great interest, therefore, that I read about his voting patterns in the short summation at the History of Parliament website.

Given that I have rather a soft spot for the ladies of Torloisk, the Clephane family into which Spencer married in summer 1815, I could not help but chuckle over an anecdote in the write-up on Spencer, Lord Compton (later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton): “He voted for the repeal of the Irish window tax, 21 Apr. 1818, opposed extension of the forgery bill, 14 May, and supported Brougham’s amendment to the aliens bill, 22 May. Sir James Mackintosh commented, ‘Lord Compton shows propensities to Whiggery which some ascribe to his lady, though it be a little singular that a Miss Maclean from the Isle of Mull should be a Whig’.

signature_margaret clephane

MargaretCompton

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Spencer Compton, fossilist

April 24, 2014 at 9:17 pm (estates, history, jasna, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

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.

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.

SpencerCompton

Alternate link to the PDF of the entire issue
(more information on Spencer Compton at Wikipedia)

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).

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Visitors to Bamburgh Castle, c1800-1820

February 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jane austen, places, research, travel) (, , , , , )

While searching for information on the Northumberland Archives (nice online catalogue), I found an image – of a visitors’ book to Bamburgh Castle {where?}, and had to investigate WHY it turned up in a search for CARR GREGG.

A fantastic “slice of several lives” was revealed!

A “visitors’ book” is a litany of signatures, from those visiting a site (or hotel even); most will not contain more information that just a scrawled name. Yet in that name lies the “I was Here!” trace that is of use to me, 200 years later.

bamburgh castle_book

See images (4) and what seems a complete listing by clicking on the photo.

What rather thrills are the “oddly transcribed” names of a family which cannot be mistaken: the ladies of the family Maclean Clephane!

First, however, if you (like me) aren’t sure what Bamburgh Castle was/is – take a look at their website:

bamburgh castle_site

Lindisfarne Castle, a place I’ve longed to visit, is in the neighborhood of Bamburgh Castle – and looking into the history of this place I have to ask why was this never on my radar. Lindisfarne, however, is a National Trust property, and I’ve got at least one “Trust” publication. Bamburgh Castle continues as the “private home of the Armstrong family to this day.”

But what of my 19th-century visitors? Who did I find?

One family should come as no surprise: the Davisons of Swarland, Northumberland. Their visit is one of the earliest, taking place in 1801: “Mr and Mrs and 2 Masters Davison from Swarland, Northumberland“, e.g., Alexander Davison, Harriet Davison née Gosling (William’s sister; Mary’s aunt), and their two sons, the twins William and Hugh Percy (born in 1788). Even without further information – no thoughts about what they viewed – just knowing they toured the place puts the Davisons a little closer to “reality”. Perhaps Harriet once wrote Eliza Gosling, to tell them of their day out…

Another pair of visitors that same year are designated as “Mr Carr and Miss Carr from Newcastle upon Tyne“; the Carrs marry into the Gregg family – as did Maria Gosling, the remaining sister of William and Harriet (Davison) Gosling. Letters from the Carrs are often dated “Newcastle”; certainly those visitors from 1809 are them: “Mr. and Mrs Carr from Dunston Hill Co. Durham“; several Carrs turn up in the Bamburgh Castle visitors’ book.

An interesting name crops up in 1814: “Colonel and Mrs. Austen“. That spelling of the Austen name had my heart in palpitations for a moment; but surely NOT Henry Austen, as my first thought had flown to. A little digging, and I may have uncovered the correct man: Col. THOMAS Austen (1775-1859) “the second but eldest surviving son of Francis Motley Austen (d. 1815) and his wife Elizabeth, nee Wilson.” He inherited Kippington in 1817.

An 1819 party was of more immediate interest: “Colonel and Mrs. Davison from Swarland Hall. Mr. Henry Gregg and family.” Here was one of the twins, all grown up and perhaps married (Mrs D. could be his mother Harriet), in company (surely not separate visits) with Maria and Henry Gregg, and some (all?) of their children! Oh, for some letters from 1819!! Mary mentions her Davison cousins several times in her late diaries; Aunt Davison is only mentioned (in Charles’ diaries) following the news of her death.

And finally to the puzzling transcription, back in 1815: “Mrs. D. Maclean and Miss Maclean from Cliphane. Miss Wilmisson Maclean from Cliphane“. This can be none other than Mrs Douglas Maclean Clephane and her daughters, Anna Jane and Wilmina. After seeing letters of Margaret Maclean Clephane (after her marriage, Lady Compton; later, Lady Northampton), with a difficult hand where words often run together, I cannot be surprised at transcriptions like Wilmisson and Cliphane.

Several very small pieces of an extremely large puzzle, but welcome nonetheless.

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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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Lady E. Compton

January 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

A bit of a puzzle has come up and I’m curious if anyone has any clue(s) that would help.

lady e comptonPaul Frecker has this photo designated Lady E. Compton – is this woman any member of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates / Castle Ashby / Marquess of Northampton family?

My own Lady Elizabeth (daughter of the 1st Marquess) married in 1829 — Emma writes about her cousin’s marriage to Charles Scrase Dickins. Therefore, by the time Silvy was active, she was Lady Elizabeth Dickins.

(Sitter #628 would date to 1860 — see the Silvy Daybook 1 at the National Portrait Gallery, where Adelaide Kemble is sitting #586 and Vicountess Jocelyn is sitting #657; images that are not represented online seem not to have their sitting number provided.)

Lady Marian Alford is sitting #631 (at NPG and Frecker; both claim to have the same sitting number).

It would have been nice had this been her sister, Margaret-Mary-Frances-Elizabeth. Why? Poor Lady Northampton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane) died weeks after this daughter’s birth in 1830. But the daughter too had a short life; she evidently died in childbirth in 1858.

UPDATE: Thanks to Philip, I know more of the history of this youngest child of Margaret Maclean Clephane: she contracted measles from her brother and died soon after her son was born.

I don’t know who this Lady E. Compton might have been, but sending Philip a portrait, by Augusta Smith (the daughter), of Aunt Northampton, I swear I see the same nose!

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Seeking Harriet Scott

January 10, 2013 at 9:54 am (diaries, europe, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , )

harriet scott

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”

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Library Acquisition: John Rylands circa 1963

November 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm (diaries, europe, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

More on the letters written by young Lady Compton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane). I came across this notation on escholar.manchester.ac.uk; it dates from 1963!

“Among recent accessions to the Manuscript Department is a small collection of letters written in the mid-eighteen-twenties to the Hon. Henry Edward Fox, later 4th and last Lord Holland, by Margaret, Countess Compton, from May 1828 until her death in 1830 Marchioness of Northampton. Although only forty in number they comprise over 160 well-filled pages and all save four, which date from July and August 1829, fall within the short period of nine months between October 1825 and June 1826. The Comptons lived in Italy from 1820 to 1830 and the first nine letters were written to Fox at the end of 1825 when he was also there. The majority, however, date from after his departure and during his visit to France between February and May in the following year. The greater part were written from Rome.

Apart from the personal side, their value is mainly social and literary. They are, for example, of interest for their remarks on and information concerning members of the English colony in Italy and common acquaintances in Italian Society, for Lady Compton comments freely. From this point of view they form a useful supplement to Fox’s Journal of 1818-30, edited by the Earl of Ilchester in 1923. Both Lady Compton and her husband interested themselves in literature and the fine arts and she writes of the artists then being patronized in Rome and of the artistic purchases being made. She also corresponded with Sir Walter Scott and in several letters refers to his financial difficulties at this time. Not least they demonstrate the esteem she had for Fox and, in spite of their quarrels, the close friendship that existed between them. This was no less fully appreciated by Fox, for, when she died in Rome in 1830, he wrote of her in his Journal as ‘my best and dearest friend … the being upon earth of whose regard and friendship I felt surest’.”

Those were NOT the thoughts Fox had upon first meeting Margaret, when he described her as “a gigantic, well-informed, hard-headed, blue Scotchwoman.” — Journal of Henry Edward Fox, 26 Nov 1824

I have found a few other tidbits of the Comptons over the last week as well.

Of course Walter Scott, formerly Margaret’s guardian, crops up. Here he is writing to Lord Byron:

“Should you meet Lady Compton in Society pray be acquainted with her — it is worth while for she is a very clever young woman and skilled in legendary lore–” (5 Jan 1816)

The letter was signed, “My best respects to Lady Byron & I am always, my dear Lord, most truly yours

Walter Scott

Scott, however, was not Lady Compton’s only champion! There is an obscure (to me) letter writer, poet Ugo Foscolo. In this third volume of letters, dating to the 1820s, the Comptons (more specifically, Lady Compton) are mentioned to two separate correspondents, for instance:

To Gino Capponi (30 June 1821),

“Gino mio,

     Tu hai conosciuto di certo lady Compton in Londra, ma ti gioverà di riconoscerla,, e vederla più davvicino; e quand’anche non abbia tempo nè occasioni di usara verso di te le gentilezze con che mi ha spesso onorato e consolato, pochi giorni di conversazione con lei ti rinfrescheranno il cuore, e ti solleveranno la mente,–“

{roughly: Dear Gino, You certainly knew lady Compton in London; it will benefit you to recognize it, and even if you do not have time nor occasion to meet with the kindness that I have often been honored with, a few days conversation with her will refresh your heart, and raise the mind–}

Margaret, Lady Compton, even appears in a personal letter to Mrs Georgiana Gell dated 13 January 1827.

The English colony in Rome, in Italy in general, may prove rich fishing for further information on my dear Smiths of Suttons.

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Bleak house? November Notes from Letters

November 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm (diaries, history, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, the days have grown so short, now that the clocks are turned back. Night settles around the house, lights pop on at the flick of a switch, and I think of life for the Smiths & Goslings, 200 years ago.

So today I look up a few quotes, from November Letters and a Journal, to brighten up these lengthening November nights.

  • “Tuesday, being the 5th of Nov:br I tryed to get some squibs & crackers & at last John succeeded in making some, so we let them off last night.” — Drummond Smith, 6 Nov 1822, writing from Suttons, to his brother Spencer
  • “I believe Tanner has got a ferret, Miss M. mistook it one day for a very large rat.” — ditto
  • “you really can have no idea of how much we have to do, & how little time to spare, unless you could take a trip down here and spend a few weeks among us.” — Drummond Smith, 17 Nov 1824, writing from Harrow, to his eldest sister Augusta
  • “There have been several pugilistic encounters lately, I think I shall send Eliza notice that she may come, as she takes delight in them.” — ditto
  • “I afterwards went to Lady Compton’s  She is a gigantic, well-informed, hard-headed, blue Scotchwoman.” — Journal of Henry Edward Fox, 26 Nov 1824

And from the earlier generation:

  • “Dear Papa’s Eyes Glistened with Love & pleasure, he Blessed his little favorite  said she had always been a good Girl” — Sarah Smith, 13 Nov 1793, writing to her newlywed daughter, Eliza Chute
  • “I never heard of such a shameful conduct in any Officers as these Irish ones; swearing most shockingly, pass thro’ the Turnpikes without paying, they are the bane of Devizes, and no one can walk the Streets at night in safety.” — Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”), 16 Nov 1794, writing to her sister Eliza Chute
  • “The accident would not have happened if he had staid at home with Lady Compton to knit.” — Eliza Gosling (Mary’s mother), 7 Nov 1795, writing from Roehampton Grove, to her friend Eliza Chute

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A Tale of Two Macdougalls

October 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading Emma’s diaries for 1822-1823 — even with half of EACH diary left blank (while the family was away on the continent) — one would never realize that the Miss Macdougall found in the first diary was NOT the same Miss Macdougall found in the second.

Thank goodness for letters!

The secret is to be found in a couple of letters at the Essex Record Office (Chelmsford).

The “Tale of Two Macdougalls” begins in 1819. The governess to the younger Smith girls, at the moment, is Miss Ramsay — about whom I’ve written before. She turns up in the memoirs of Elizabeth Grant, the “Highland Lady”.

By February, 1819, Miss Ramsay is described as having a cough. At the very end of March “Miss McDougall {sic} arrived this morning from the North at her sisters in Euston Sqr  She came directly to see Miss Ramsay…” Miss M. brought Miss R. the unwelcome news that illness prevented Mrs Ramsay’s journey south. In April, Emma makes the comment that “Miss Susan McDougall {sic} was to stay in Portland Place with Miss Ramsay during our absence”. So, the two northern ladies were acquainted! And Miss Susan Macdougall comes into the circle of the Smiths of Suttons.

Ill, Miss Ramsay left the Smiths at the end of April, and by the fifth of May Emma could note her arrival in “the North”. Poor Miss Ramsay; she never recovered her health. Emma received “the melancholy account of dearest Miss Ramsay’s death” on August 10th.

On the governess front, Miss Pond was engaged by Mamma on 18 June 1819. There are hints that Miss Pond was perhaps on the lookout for another position. More of Miss Pond, however, in some later post.

Emma’s 1821 diary has the following address: “Miss Susan Macdougall  10 Picardy Place Edinburgh”

A “Miss Macdougall”, who was probably Susan, came to see Emma shortly before Christmas, 1821. On March 24, 1822 Emma could write, “Miss Macdougall came here in the evening to be my sisters governess”.

Come December, with the family away on the Continent, but the younger children — Charlotte and Maria; Spencer and Drummond — in England, Charlotte was writing to Mamma, “I cannot express how excessively sorry I am, we are going to lose, dearest Miss Macdougall …. I am very glad her sister is coming, for I know her, and like her very much, & we can talk of Miss Macdougall to her.”

And there is the one hint that the later letter writer HELEN Macdougall was Miss Macdougall Number Two!

Come April, 1823, we learn, from Miss Helen Macdougall, that her sister Susan was soon off to Paris – to meet up with a M. Noverre, who had promised to marry her. But all was not well, even then. Miss Helen Macdougall ended her sister’s tale, in a letter to Mamma: “My Brother and Sister Fordyce are so much dissatisfied with his conduct, that even now they wish poor Susan to give him up.”

What happened?!? Did Susan give up M. Noverre? Did Monsieur jilt Susan?

All I currently know is that Emma would write in mid-June, 1823: “I am extremely sorry to hear that any unpleasant circumstances are at all likely to put a stop to Miss Susan Macdougall’s marriage …. pray beg Miss {Helen} Macdougall to send us without fail her sisters direction at Paris.”

The Smiths returned to England in July, 1823. Emma’s 1824 diary has this address:

Miss S. Macdougall
Chez Mde Martin
Rue de Vendome No. 13–
a Paris

And in April, 1824 Augusta is writing her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton, “I have had a letter from Lady Compton {Lady Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, the former Margaret Maclean Clephane} quite pleased with the idea of Miss S. Macdougall and I do think indeed she has got a treasure more especially for the salary she gives…”

Without more letters the tale of the Two Miss Macdougalls remains what I’ve outlined here.

One clue to their future lies in the family of “Sister Fordyce”. There were at least four Miss Macdougalls, daughters of Mr Alexander Macdougall of Inveresk House (near Edinburgh). This obituary may be their mother’s:

June 1779, The Scots Magazine

14. At Inveresk, Mrs Macdougall, spouse of Alexander Macdougall, Esq; deputy-treasurer’s remembrancer in exchequer.”

I have found evidence that Charlotte Macdougall — Sister Fordyce — was born c1778. She married James, the second son of Dr Arthur Dingwall Fordyce of Culsh and Janet Morison, his wife, who was born in August 1778, on 23 July 1797. If Charlotte was the youngest daughter, then all the Macdougall sisters are in their 40s by the early 1820s.

The book on the Dingwall Fordyces notes the death of “McDougall [sic] (Alexander) of Inveresk House, Edinburgh and Deputy Remembrancer” on the 14th March, 1792. “The name of Mr. McDougall’s wife has not reached us; but his family must have been left in reduced circumstances, from the fact that two daughters, Misses Helen and Susan McDougall, for years creditably supported themselves, the former in the family of Mr. James Walker, an eminent civil engineer in London; the latter as governess in the family of the Marquis of Northampton.” This last we have seen recounted by Augusta to her cousin. Helen’s position with the Walkers probably also post-dates her stay with the Smiths.

I have found the following Musselburgh (near Edinburgh) estate, Inveresk House, now a B&B — IS this the former home of the Macdougalls? What happened to the Macdougall children after the deaths of (seemingly) two parents?

One telling hint to Miss Susan Macdougall’s future, if this is the same woman: a book, published in 1865, lists among its subscribers “Macdougall,  Miss S., 11 Princes Gate, London”.

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Byrne’s Jane Austen Portrait: By Eliza Chute?

December 26, 2011 at 11:59 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Jane Austen‘s presumed portrait (at left), c1815, may have caused some hearts to skip a beat; mine skipped several beats for a far different reason: The unmistakable relationship to another portrait, a family portrait, indicating that the artist might be Eliza Chute was staring me in the face!

At the beginning of November, I received the first email from author Paula Byrne, asking about Eliza. Her probing caused only one conclusion: that she had come across a portrait. Answering her queries in the abstract was difficult: I had only a passing acquaintance with work by Eliza Chute — mainly those drawings on display at The Vyne. Not being resident in England, it has been four-plus years since I’ve seen them. And even then: Which belonged to Eliza? Which to her sisters Emma or Augusta?

Dr. Byrne’s first questions concerned Eliza Chute’s whereabouts in 1814. There is no Eliza Chute diary for that year [if you have it, do let me know!], which makes the question harder to answer; that is also the year before Emma’s diaries begin; and the year in which Augusta Smith lost her husband. Dr. Byrne was also curious about the Smiths’ George Street, London residence. She had begun her email stating that she was commissioned to write a new Austen biography; she ended that first message by saying, “I have discovered she {Eliza Chute} was a painter of some repute. Do you know anything about this?”

Thanks to Mike E., I have an engraved portrait of Joshua Smith based on a portrait by Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma” to my Emma Austen Leigh). Mike photographed The Vyne’s copy; another copy exists at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum. Emma had great talent for taking a likeness! What about Eliza??

Ah, so much time could have been saved if Paula Byrne had forwarded a picture of the portrait’s front and identification! But we researchers like to hold our cards close to our chest…

So to answer Paula Byrne’s Question: Where was Eliza Chute in 1814, and what about George Street?

Thanks to Mark Woodford, and the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith, Great George Street was a very well-known address: there is even discussion of the rooms and layout of the place at Victoria History. Alas, Joshua, who grew less in health as 1819 approached, seems to have given up his George Street residence in 1812.

Obviously, Great George Street’s proximity to Westminster (Joshua Smith was a Member of Parliament), was of interest; seeing the portrait, one can see why. But family letters put Eliza Chute, when she was in London, at her sister Augusta’s Portland Place address in these mid-eighteen-teen-years.

As to Eliza’s artistic abilities —,” I replied, “I’ve read in Emma’s diary that the Duke of Wellington was impressed enough to invite her to Strathfield Saye to copy from his Old Masters (this of course a typical “exercise” for artists — male and female — to hone their skills). I have a very small image (culled from elsewhere on the web…) of her portrait of her sister Maria. This comes from a book — A History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates {another Compton / Northampton property, in addition to Castle Ashby}.”

Once you compare the Maria Compton portrait with the Austen portrait, well, you will understand the excitement!

I have seen neither portrait “in the flesh”, but the positioning of the sitters are very like… And both described as being “Graphite on Vellum” (see the Guardian’s article and also this Peerage link to the online photo of Maria Compton’s portrait).

Paula and I wrote back and forth.

I made the comment, “I will not write at length NOW, but I have thoughts on the supposed “dislike” of Eliza by Austen, based on Austen’s few comments in letters. To put it simply: I think Austen was a great JOKER in letters to Cassandra, and a lot more is tongue-in-cheek than we (outsiders) might think.

Were they great friends, Eliza and Jane or Cassandra? Doubtful. But the Smiths certainly befriended their clergy (was just reading Emma’s 1828 diary last night, and their move to Tring Park brought them to the Rev. Charles Lacy), and would have known Cass & Jane. Thomas Chute owned early editions of Austen’s novels, and I think Eliza would have known she wrote them as word began to get out thanks to loose-tongued people like Henry Austen.

Paula’s response to that observation was heartening: “I quite agree with you about Austen’s supposed dislike of Eliza Chute. I think that Jane adopts the persona of the naughty little sister, who says shocking things to the older, wiser sister. She was indeed a great joker and loved to shock and tease. I think that the Chutes were very important to the Austen family and have been neglected. They all visited the Vyne and seemed to have a great time–even Fanny Knight went and enjoyed it there and when Charles and Francis were home they went along too. It’s very interesting that Tom Chute owned early editions of the novels. Anything else you can think of to further the Chute/Austen connection will be very valuable.

In answer to the Chute / Austen connection I wrote, “I would have thought Austen would have enjoyed the company of the family (which is why I keep mind open about uncovering some reference to Jane in particular, but I’d take Cass. too! I just love her…). Edward Austen Knight joined the hunt; Chute franked some letters; they were all of a similar age. But, socially, the Chutes would have been in different circles (and in some ways their family was their great friend; it’s amazing how people you think were “only friends” turn out to have a family connection!) — and yet, Sarah Smith (mother) mentions Mrs Lefroy. The connections just swirl around them all.

Although Eliza Chute diaries exist for 1813 and 1815, I had done work only up to 1807 (the last extant diary prior to 1813); for that year I could give Paula Byrne a brief rundown of Eliza’s typical movements during a calendar year:

1807 Eliza in London; stays at No. 6 PP with Charles & Augusta [leave for Town 2/12]; Wm seems with her for she mentions “us” dining with the Goslings on 2/20; leaves 3/13; 4/26 Parliament dissolved; 5/29 Eliza in Portsmouth for day, Gosport 6/2; 6/24 London, George St.; a note of the House sitting on 7/6 (Whitbread’s motion, State of the Nation); 7/11 leave London; 7/21 Winchester Races; 10/27 Went to London, PP; Augusta Smith delivers Sarah Eliza 11/11 (the future Lady Le Marchant); 12/10 Basingstoke Ball; Stoke for the New Year

And the prior existing diary, for 1804:

1804 Been at Stoke; Miss Meen accompanies her home on 1/14 (Chute left 1/3); family from Stoke at Vyne, but leave for London: news of illness of Mrs Drummond Smith; 2/7 London, stays 6 PP – Caroline with them; 2/17 notes visit by ‘TVC’ – Thomas Vere Chute (Wm’s brother); following the death of Mary (Cunliffe) Smith (2/27) Eliza moves to their house in Picadilly – Caroline left with the Charles Smiths (6 PP) – Wm Chute sleeps at Picadilly but dined at George St.

Towards the end of our flurry of emails, Paula asked, “Do we know that she definitely knew that Jane Austen was the author of the novels?

A difficult question to answer in the absolute affirmative, but one I had already conjectured upon when writing about Fanny Smith (later Fanny Seymour, Mrs Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton).

  • The Walter Scott Connection: his ward Margaret Maclean Clephane married the Smith’s cousin Spencer (Lord Compton) in 1815. Scott visited the Portland Place household on 16 May 1815. He corresponded regularly with Lady Compton and her family. Scott reviewed Austen’s Emma.
  • The Chutes of The Vyne had James Austen as their clergyman. He and his son (Emma’s eventual husband) visited The Vyne often; as did Jane’s other brothers, her parents, Cassandra and, yes, Jane herself.
  • The Reverend Thomas Vere Chute, whom Jane mentions in her letters, was William Chute’s younger brother; he owned copies of Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. (His name inscribed in the volumes; he died in 1827.)
  • According to Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (daughter of Emma Smith and James Edward Austen Leigh), in 1814 her father “was admitted to the knowledge of a well-kept secret, this being that his Aunt Jane had lately published two books, though he had read these books with a keen enjoyment.” She also revealed that Eliza Smith (Lady Le Marchant; born 1807) remembered Edward ‘at the Vine in my schoolroom days… He was a great favourite with Aunt and Uncle Chute.’
  • In addition to Thomas Vere Chute, Jane Austen knew their sister: Mary (Mrs. Wither Bramston) of Oakley Hall. This branch of Bramstons were relations to the Essex branch of the Bramstons of Skreens, an estate which neighbored Suttons — home of Charles and Augusta Smith.

And, if I had known in early November about the spelling of the portrait’s identification, I might have included the following, which appeared in my article “Edward Austen’s Emma Reads Emma” (Persuasions (no. 29; 2007): 235-240): Of the Austen novels Le Faye has ID’ed as belonging to Thomas Vere Chute, Emma and Mansfield Park are not among the titles. Emma had in her possession a copy of that first novel (Emma) during the period of her engagement to Edward Austen: September 1828. Can we assume this was Emma’s first reading of this novel? Never assume—.

Among the diary items removed from Emma’s 1817 diary are two quotes, from Mansfield Park, which was ID’ed in the article as,

The quotation reproduces part of the conversation between Miss Crawford and Edmund Bertram regarding his becoming a clergyman (“At length, after a short pause, Miss Crawford began” to “the rest of the nation” [MP 91-93]); the attribution is given as “Mansfield Park / Miss Jane Austin“.

The Smiths and Chutes were quite consistent in spelling the name with an ‘i’. In an era of erratic spelling — even within families (think in the Austen family: Bridges and Brydges; in the Smith family: Dickins and Dickens; Devall and Duval). In an 1823 diary, Emma amends the Austin name to AUSTEN — this spelling she then consistently uses to the end of her days! Compelling evidence indeed…

AustenOnly has a fantastic post on the Byrne portrait (complete with Austen family portraits); the above responds to the comment about the “interesting misspelling of Jane Austen’s surname: ‘Miss Jane Austin’.”

I’d also like to mention in response to those who wonder about Paula Byrne’s “fixation” on the nose (see for instance the debate at Jane Austen’s World): the nose is often where I start when tracking down drawings, miniatures or (especially) photos of various family members and in-laws. It is the most prominent facial feature, whether a person is six or sixty.

I’d like to end this exceptionally long post with the recollection of a memory on first seeing the drawings – family portraits (with one exception) – included in the little booklet, Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827. Anyone who has looked through a collection of portraits of one sitter (choose, for example, the multiple portraits of the Duchess of Devonshire [Georgiana Cavendish]), knows that good and bad “likenesses” exist. I have no way of knowing whether Augusta Smith (the future Mrs. Henry Wilder) was a good portraitist — although her family thought her quite adept. Still, leafing through Suttons, tears began to flow as I looked at portrait after portrait: Augusta was there (by another artist); Emma; Charles and Mary – whom I’d never seen any representations of; Mary’s elder sister Elizabeth; even Charles Scrase Dickins! And, as frontispiece, Mamma: Mrs Augusta Smith. It was a heady day!

However imperfect, our a visual society loves pictorial representations. Augusta Smith wrote on her portrait of sister Fanny, that the face was ‘too long’. It currently remains my only representation of Fanny; Freydis Welland has a silhouette of her I’ve not yet seen.

Would Jane Austen have “sat to” Eliza Chute, in London, in 1814/1815? Quite probably not. Did Eliza Chute know what Jane Austen looked like, enough to do a portrait, in some manner related to that of her own sister, Maria Lady Northampton, at least as a remembrance or an homage? Absolutely.

Broadcast Links, Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait? (BBC2, 26 Dec 2011):

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