The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency, 1812-1821

May 31, 2018 at 3:35 pm (books, diaries, history, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

Charles Brockden Brown’s 1806 quote, “If it were possible to read the history of those who are doomed to have no historian, and to glance into domestic journals….” condenses into a single thought my entire project. Two diarists, Mary Gosling (1800-1842) and Emma Smith (1801-1876), have left a vast array of journals and letters, which have hitherto remained unused by historians except for information on Jane Austen (Emma married Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen in 1829). A large deposit of material resides at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England) due to this familial relationship.

Films have made Jane Austen’s six novels beloved by a vast readership. Readers interested in English history, the Regency period, Cultural history, Women’s history, as well as Austen’s work and life are my target audience for the biography under research. The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency in Letters and Diaries of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, 1812-1821 uses the lives of these two diarists to discuss English gentry life during the Regency. The milieu of Jane Austen’s novels is but one aspect of this project.

elizabeth and darcy

Darcy & Elizabeth’s wedding

The Brilliant Vortex references the “London Season” and its influence in the lives of the future Lady Smith and Emma Austen, next-door-neighbors in a desirable London neighborhood. Based on manuscript sources, the book opens (“prelude”) with the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. Newly-discovered letters indicate that Emma Smith’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Compton, resided in the Perceval household at the time. Mary Gosling’s family is introduced (“Chapter I”) amid a journey to Oxford in June 1814, during celebrations for the Allied Sovereigns following the cessation of hostiles; Emma Smith’s family is introduced (“Chapter II”) at the time of her father’s death (May 1814).

The framework provided by diaries and letters guides our exploration of an extended, well-documented landed gentry family. Not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography, the families’ tentacular reach – into politics, commerce, war, even stretched into the royal family; as well, group interests in art, literature, music, theater, travel expand the picture beyond notions of daily sameness.

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Letters, written 1796, from Eliza Chute of “The Vine” (in Hampshire)

Extrapolation and in-depth interpretation permits an overall picture of society at this crucial period in English history. The Smiths and Goslings esteemed cutting edge technology, patronized leading lights of industry and the arts, and geography placed them front-and-center in a London rife with unrest. For them, the Regency period brought years of tribulation, scandal, and personal growth, amid a large family unit.

A brief chronology of the times and the lives of the Smiths and Goslings:

1815: Removing from their respective country estates Suttons and Roehampton Grove, the Smiths and Goslings arrive for the Season (February-May) at their London residences, No. 6 and No. 5 Portland Place, bringing the families into near-daily interaction. Emma begins master-led lessons in music, painting and drawing, and Italian language. She attends Covent Garden and Drury Lane; actors seen include Miss O’Neill and Mr. Kean. A week of riots at the House of Commons due to the Corn Bill ensues in February. Emma notes the shifting impressions and rumors surrounding Bonaparte’s escape from Elba. News of the Battle of Waterloo filters to them on June 21st. In an extended essay, she describes the arrival at Castle Ashby of newlyweds Lord and Lady Compton (who had married in Edinburgh); the Scottish bride had been a ward of writer Walter Scott. Once back at Suttons, the farming season draws attention. Family visitors replace the balls, concerts, plays, and gallery visits prevalent during their London stay. The end of the year sees an extensive round of visits – shifts from estate to estate – taking place.

1816: No sooner does the family celebrate the national Thanksgiving for Peace (January 19) then they go into mourning for Mrs. Smith’s seventy-five-year-old uncle (Mr. Gosling’s former brother-in-law) Sir Drummond Smith, baronet. Emma’s eldest brother Charles inherits his title. February sees the joint debuts of Augusta Smith and Elizabeth Gosling. The first Colebrooke enters their circle; Henry Thomas Colebrooke is the youngest son of Lady Colebrooke, the half-sister of Emma’s late maternal grandmother. These Colebrooke relatives are entangled in a series of court cases which will last decades; in the opening gambit, Mrs. Taaffe, the estranged mother of Belinda and Harriet Colebrooke, institutes a petition to regain custody. Another relation, Ann Rachel Hicks, is disinherited by uncles William and Thomas Chute (two childless brothers, successive owners of The Vyne) after eloping with an Irish baronet whom she had met in Cheltenham. On their European honeymoon, her bridegroom runs off with her maid! Mrs. Smith falls ill with erysipelas, and is laid up six months. Among doctors in attendance: Farquhar, Astley Cooper, and Baillie, which introduces concepts of contemporary medical science.

Austen_Emma

Emma Smith (1820s)

1817: A notation that “Grandpapa [Joshua Smith] was in good health at the age of 84” opens the year. Emma mentions the tumult occurring when the Prince Regent attends the House in late January. Sixteen-year-old Charles Joshua Smith returns to his studies; and eighteen-year-old Augusta is presented to the Queen at the February 20th Drawing Room. In company with Mrs. Gosling, Fanny and Augusta Smith see Kean as Othello, but they encounter riotous spectators due to the non-appearance of the actor Booth. Mrs. Gosling’s ball & supper ends a day of dancing – and makes the papers (as they always do), having attracted more than three hundred “fashionables.” In the midst of the season, Queen Charlotte is taken ill. Caroline Wiggett, adopted “niece” of the Chutes of The Vyne and of an age with Augusta Smith, seems to enjoy less of the season than any of the Smith children. The Smiths meet children of the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan. Mary Gosling tours the Brighton Pavilion (“magnificently furnished”); a new building scheme has been embarked upon. News comes in about the latest election. The Colebrooke court case heats up after the two girls, Belinda and Harriet, visited England and were barred from returning to Scotland by the Lord Chancellor. The latest attempt by Mrs. Taaffe to gain access to her two daughters is a thwarted kidnapping on a lonely stretch of heath. The estranged mother will be brought into court. Days after seeing the Queen pass through Devizes en route to Bath, news comes about the confinement – and death – of the Princess Charlotte and her child. Emma refers to her as “the much lamented Princess.”

1818: With London shrouded in fog, gossip floats around the city that Sir Richard Croft, Princess Charlotte’s accoucheur, has shot himself. “Some strange ideas” are cropping up about the Duke of Devonshire: that the 5th Duke’s son and heir was the product of his liaison with Lady Elizabeth Foster. Matrimonial shenanigans regarding the Duke of Clarence dribble through the gutter press. The “present blessed mode of Husband-hunting” is blamed for the false-report of a marriage for Lady Elizabeth Compton. Excessively-high winds play havoc with London houses – two deaths resulting. Emma and a large family party visit ships about to embark on a voyage to North America and the North Pole. They are escorted by Lieutenant William Edward Parry, the explorer. Spencer Smith leaves prep school to begin at Harrow, but the start of the term is put off on account of Dr. Butler’s marriage. Schoolboy rebellion at Winchester College ends in the expulsion of Caroline Wiggett’s brother. When news of the death of Queen Charlotte reaches the populace, Emma and the Goslings overnight in Windsor to witness her funeral procession.

1819: The Chigwell Ball becomes the first public ball Emma ever attends. Bennett Gosling has taken rooms at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in order to finish his law studies. Reports surface of Grandpapa’s deteriorating health. Joshua Smith, long-standing Member of Parliament for Devizes, dies at Stoke Park on 20 March. Miss Ramsay’s illness prompts a governess search. The Smiths see “the Charity Children at St Paul’s” – 1500 people in the church and 7000 charity children. Charles returns from Cambridge; he dines at the Catch Club. He and Bennett Gosling attend a fancy ball at Almacks. After eighteen years in service to the Smiths, Kitty Hunt, a nursery maid, marries the cook/housekeeper’s nephew John Marshall, a former prisoner of war in France. Parliament is opened by the Prince Regent, with Lord Compton attending. Rumors circulate about the King’s death, “but without foundation.” The Chutes dine and sleep at Stratfield Saye, the Duke of Wellington’s. On the last day of the year, Emma composes a tender essay on her friendship with the late Miss Ramsay, “a friend from my youth” when the year began but come the end of the year, “I am bereft of her.” Warm feelings for her mother, Mrs. Smith – reflecting on God, death, acceptance, and reflection – ends the entry.

prince of wales

Prince of Wales, later George IV

1820: Suttons’ upper servants attend a ball at the Talbot, though snow the next day prevents many from attending church. News of the death of the Duke of Kent is followed by far graver news: the death of King George III. James Edward Austen commences his last term at Oxford; like his father, Edward is preparing to enter the Church. The Smiths distribute food and clothes to the parish poor. One of Emma’s Sunday scholars is dying of a consumption. On the day she reads to the girl, Emma notes the proclamation of George IV as King and the untrue reports of the new king’s death. Emma, Fanny, and Mrs. Smith visit Carlton House to “enquire after the King’s health”. Amid the flurry of drawing and music Masters and Mistresses, Emma mentions the “most horrid conspiracy,” now known as the Cato Street Conspiracy. Mrs. Smith’s youngest children are resident in Portland Place; her reaction is expressed in a letter to daughter Fanny: “horror struck”, “what wickedness!”, “all London must be in consternation.” The Smiths visit, for the last time, Earl Stoke Park, her late-father’s estate. Mrs. Smith takes leave of prior friends and “poor villagers” with whom she has interacted for more than forty years. Special attention is given to the absence of Macklin, a servant (possibly Irish Catholic) who has struck up a friendship with Mrs. Smith’s youngest sister (“Aunt Emma”), which is causing concern – and rifts – among the family. Parliament is dissolved, and Uncle Chute makes the momentous decision not to stand again; he was member for Hampshire nearly thirty years. Lord Compton loses his election. He never again stands for Parliament. With the death of Joshua Smith and the removal of Mr. Chute and Lord Compton, the era in which the Smiths and Goslings hear first-hand about government comes to an end. Emma meets John Stuart – the young man Belinda Colebrooke wishes to marry. The largest impediment is the smallness of his fortune in comparison to her own; a Chancery suit ensues, and the specter of her illegitimacy arises. Twenty-year-old Sir Charles Joshua Smith departs on a Grand Tour, accompanied by Charles Scrase Dickins; they will be gone through 1821 and go as far as Sweden and Russia. As the men cross to Calais, rumors “were afloat” that the Queen had perhaps already landed at Dover. Violence – in Portland Place! – against households “illuminating for the Queen.” No. 6 Portland Place (Smiths) was illuminated, but their windows were luckily not broken, though houses further up the street sustained damage. Tensions are running high on both sides of the Queen debate; and crossing either group can end in the same manner: A Riot.

1821: Mrs. Smith and her elder children (Augusta, Emma, Fanny, Spencer) go through London en route to Roehampton, joining a large party at the Gosling country estate. Charles has sent more gift boxes from abroad. The Goslings’ ball begins at ten, and lasts till five in the morning – with guests going “in detachments” to supper in the library. Quadrilles were the dances of choice, two nights in a row. The Smiths, with Augusta as secretary, near completion for a local book society. The current novel being read is Kenilworth, by Walter Scott. Aunt Judith Smith takes Augusta to see “the female prisoners at Newgate” who are under the direction of the influential reformer, Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. In a similar vein, Elizabeth Gosling and the Smiths view the penitents at “the Magdalen.” At Drury Lane, to hear the newest singing sensation, the Smiths share Aunt Emma’s box, which includes Miss Macklin – their former servant, as Miss Smith and Miss Macklin prepare to leave the country. The women set out for the Continent in mid-February; weeks later news comes of war being declared between the Neapolitan government and Austria. In anticipation of a future Drawing Room, the girls choose dresses. At this Drawing Room Aunt Northampton, Mrs. Smith and her two eldest daughters (Augusta and Emma) are presented to King George IV. Lady Compton’s son is christened; Mrs. Smith and Sir Walter Scott are two of the sponsors. Lord Northampton is in London to attend the House of Lords during the raising of “this Catholic question,” but the last reading gets postponed. The group from Portland Place joins a party on board the Fury for a dance given by Captain Parry. Emma estimates that between three and four hundred people were on board. The impending sale of Tring Park, property of their late uncle Sir Drummond Smith, embroils the Smiths in bringing an Act of Parliament before the House of Lords. Charles’ twenty-first birthday is announced, but he is still abroad; the tenants at Suttons have a celebration dinner nevertheless. The Gosling girls and Emma go by appointment to Westminster Abbey, to view preparations for the upcoming coronation. Then comes the thunderbolt report of Bonaparte’s death (which occurred two months previous). The Northamptons arrive from Switzerland “on purpose to attend the Coronation”— which the Smiths and Goslings also attend. Mrs. Smith records “London was in quite a bustle” and afterwards pronounces the Coronation “a most splendid spectacle.”

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Gouveneur Morris meets Lady Cunliffe & Daughters

May 7, 2013 at 8:35 am (books, diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thank you, Charlotte Frost (meet the author yourself, Dear Reader, on Twitter), for reminding me about a meeting that took place in 1790 in which Gouverneur Morris (famous to Americans) noted in his diary a meeting with my Lady Cundliffe (as he calls her) and her daughters, Mary (Mrs Drummond Smith) and Eliza (later: Mrs William Gosling).

morrisI typically put such comments into my “letters” files now; but this was a comment found so early on in the research (it began 7 years ago) that I remembered it having happened — but NOT what the man had written about them (that’s why I BUY books: to have them on the shelf to take down when I want them). In searching out the online book links for Charlotte Frost, I re-read the entry.

WOW!

“To-day [April 23d (1790)] I dine with my brother, General Morris. The company are a Lady Cundliffe, with her daughters, Mrs. Drummond Smith and Miss Cundliffe; the Marquis of Huntly, Lord Eglinton, General Murry, Mr. Drummond Smith (who, they tell me, is one of the richest commoners in England), and Colonel Morrison of the Guards. After dinner there is a great deal of company collected in the drawing-room, to some of whom I am presented; the Ladies Hays, who are very handsome, Lady Tancred and her sister, and Miss Byron are here, Mr. and Mrs. Montresor. I am particularly presented to Colonel Morrison, who is the quartermaster-general of this kingdom, and whose daughter also is here. She has a fine, expressive countenance, and is, they tell me, of such a romantic turn of mind as to have refused many good offers of marriage because she did not like the men. I have some little conversation with Mrs. Smith after dinner. She appears to have good dispositions for making a friendly connection, as far as one may venture to judge by the glance of the eye. Visit Mrs. Cosway, and find here Lady Townsend, with her daughter-in-law and daughter. The conversation here (as, indeed, everywhere else) turns on the man (or rather monster) who for several days past has amused himself with cutting and wounding women in the streets. One unhappy victim of his inhuman rage is dead. Go from hence to Drury Lane Theatre. The pieces we went to see were not acted, but instead, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Spoiled Child.’ This last is said to have been written by Mrs. Jordan. She plays excellently in it, and so, indeed she does in the principle piece.  Two tickets have been given me for the trial of Warren Hastings….” [pp 317-18]

Morris, from just this passage, seems to have had an eye for the ladies, don’t you think?

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My two Cunliffe girls have short histories. Mary, who married Drummond Smith (brother to Joshua Smith – father of Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma Smith – the girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), was a new-ish bride. She had married in July 1786. Without a definitive birth date she was born circa 1762; her husband, born in July 1740, was about twenty-two years her senior! At this point in time, I have no real idea how the families met, why Mary Cunliffe and Drummond Smith married. I do know that Mary’s sister, Eliza Cunliffe, became a great friend to all the Smiths at Erle Stoke, though perhaps especially to second daughter Eliza (the future Mrs William Chute, of The Vyne).

It breaks my heart to think of Eliza Gosling, who married banker William soon after friend Eliza married her William (September 1793). She either was or came to be in fragile health. Eliza Chute worried about her having more children, writing that FIVE were enough in her nursery. The fifth Gosling child was my Mary Gosling (born February 1800) – obviously named for her Aunt and Grandmother.

But: Did Mary remember either her mother or her Aunt Mary? In December 1803, Eliza Gosling died. And by the end of February 1804 so had her sister! So it is with awe that I re-read Morris’ comments. This prior Mary Smith was destined never to become LADY SMITH; Drummond received his baronetcy months after her death. (Mary Gosling’s future husband would inherit the title from his great-uncle in 1816.) Simply WONDERFUL to hear that this Mary Smith seemed to have “good dispositions for making a friendly connection”.

morris2

NB: I am quite intrigued by his comment about the ‘monster’ on the loose.
I must find out more.

*

Hmmm… whatever happened to ‘choosy’ Miss Morrison?

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Prior post on Lady Cunliffe

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Hear a letter from Augusta Smith to Eliza Gosling, 1797
(YouTube)

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Diaries and Letters

September 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm (books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Starting my book in the Year of 1814, I wanted to remind myself what life was like in the age of the horse. I pulled off my shelves the first volume of the Torrington Diaries (1934), and began at the beginning: how the 24 diaries were re-assembled. A fabulous story, and once which spoke immediately to me.

“A year or to ago Mr. Douglas Clayton of Croydon, showed me [editor C. Bruyn Andrews] one of the volumes, which he had bought at a second-hand bookseller’s”. Immediately, my mind flew to thoughts of Mark and his father, who had purchased, perhaps at just such a “second-hand bookseller’s” the 1798 diary of young Augusta Smith (Mamma to Emma; mother-in-law to Mary).

Andrews continued, telling of the diaries just lying around, “apparently unnoticed”, until they were sold “quite recently by auction for a few pounds”. The manuscripts were then resold almost immediately (sounds rather like some recent sales of Jane Austen first editions….). The auction catalogue listed 31 volumes; the bookseller’s only 24, which leads the editor to surmise that the seven remaining were “odd volumes of something quite different”. At the time the introduction was written 22 volumes had been located; by the time subsequent volumes were published the two missing volumes had been located and included (see 1938’s vol. 4 online at Internet Archive).

But what a true “variety of places” the manuscripts of the Torrington Tours were found in! Andrews lists them: “At the Bodleian Library at Oxford; at Mr. Sadler’s mansion at Ashburne in Derbyshire; with Mr. Dunn, general draper of Blackburn; at the Cardiff Public Library; at the delightful secluded Berkshire vicarage of Mr. de Vitré at West Hendred; at the Public Library at the busy town of Luton; at Mr. Suckling’s old bookshop next to the Garrick Club in London.” Such “luck” in the early 1930s; can that be reenacted in the 2010s?

Every time Alan in Warwickshire emails me a scan of a newly-purchased letter, I thank my lucky stars; when someone like Mark or Angela comes with some unexpected — and exciting — piece of the puzzle, the “luck” turns incredible.

Angela’s letter — written by Augusta (the daughter; later Mrs. Henry Watson Wilder) in 1824 — is a perfect case: Augusta reminisces about their 1822-23 tour to the Continent. She tells her cousin (and us!) her longing for the bustle of Rome at Easter. Until Angela’s letter surfaced there was little about the Smiths during their stay in Rome that had come down to me.

And there lies the *magic* of letters: In an  instant they can tell something that was never before dreamed; they can hint at little trials and wishes; they can answer questions; or provide an instantaneous outlook on someone’s life.

Readers of this blog already know some of the far-flung places bits and pieces of this research reside in: Public Libraries in the U.K.; county archives from places as diverse as Essex, Hampshire and Warwickshire; large academic institutions like Duke University and Oxford University. Then there are the individuals – Alan, Mark, Angela, Dr. Catto. And the family members and descendents. What wonders research unearths — an even if I am the only one, in the end, who cares, some days that’s just okay too. These people fascinate me. And untangling their lives comes like a detective story that has come unravelled and just needs some knitting together; but first the strands must be located – the beginnings and the ends.

Oh! there are so many pieces that once existed! Do they still? Emma’s travel journals or letters from the Continental Tour of 1822-23; the “Foreign Journal” of her sister Augusta (which presumably covers the same tour); William Ellis Gosling’s “MS Volume of his reflections and notes”; Elizabeth Gosling’s honeymoon journal; letters and journals of Lady Elizabeth Compton; Charles Smith’s letters from abroad (the subject of its own post); the Diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour, which currently only exist in microfilm at Warwickshire Record Office; this too has its own post).

For more details on these items — and the page which will be updated when appropriate, please see the page “Where Are These Items?”

It is a momentous decision, to begin writing while still gathering — for one tiny letter, or stout diary discovered can totally change direction. Yet, when Angela’s letter appeared, with that testimony of Augusta’s about Easter, 1823 – it gave the perfectly fitting piece for my little booklet on sister Fanny. And for little things one must be grateful.

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Explore the Tunnel under the Thames

March 19, 2010 at 9:34 am (a day in the life, entertainment, news, places) (, , , , )

Last Friday and Saturday the news story on the BBC that made me prick up my ears announced, “The Thames Tunnel is Open!” Why, living thousands of miles and one large ocean away from London did this grab my attention? Because Mary Smith had toured this, in 1830! Only a 180 years ago…

It was a Friday in April, the 30th to be exact:

“We went to see the Thames Tunnel  it is ultimately to extend 1300 feet, and they have advanced 600 ft though we only advanced 400. the shaft is 60 ft in depth and the top of the Tunnel is 20 ft below the bed of the River. It would require full two years to finish it.”

Even then, ‘experts’ were a bit over-ambitious about their target finish dates. The Thames Tunnel opened in 1852.

Lulu Sinclair, for Sky News Online, writes: “[T]he tunnel gripped the nation’s imagination: nothing had been seen like it before and it paved the way for the present day Tube system. Lying deep beneath the River Thames, it is one of the Brunels’ [“engineering geniuses” father and son Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel] greatest engineering triumphs — and the only project they worked on together.” According to this article, the finished tunnel did grow in length to 1300 feet. The article speaks of the grand opening and the “half the population of London” who paid it a visit in 1852, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; but Mary’s comment demonstrates that even in its unfinished, still-under-construction state the Thames Tunnel was a touristic draw.

In discussing the “opening” of the Tunnel, however, we must acknowledge that the one reason for the tunnel being opened last weekend is that it will close “forever” now that it is being taken over by the London subway (“tube”) system, which will open later this year (in anticipation of the 2012 London Olympics). Tickets must have gone quickly for the mere two days of its being open for tours; online, there were several “want” ads for spares.

Some articles of interest found online:

  1. Wikipedia, I suppose, is a good place to start
  2. The Sky News report cited above
  3. The Tunnel discussed on “Thames Water
  4. The Tunnel as part of the series “Engines of our Ingenuity” at the University of Houston
  5. Discussion of the Tunnel being the ‘world’s first bored tunnel’ on Thames Pilot
  6. And the best source on the Brunel 200 website.

I will continue on with some thoughts, as I find them, of those who walked the walk.

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A Portrait of “Aunt Smith”

March 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

Mary’s mother, Eliza Gosling (née Cunliffe), died at the end of 1803; less than two months later her only sister Mary Smith (Mrs Drummond Smith) died. Poor Lady Cunliffe! Two daughters, then no daughters. Her grief was the subject of a letter written by Mrs Piozzi (Hester Thrale, as she was when Dr. Johnson and Mr Boswell knew her).

This portrait, from a 1913 issue of The Connoisseur, is based on the ‘famous’ Reynolds’ portrait which hangs in Castle Ashby (still in the Northampton family, as in Emma’s youth). It was confused with having been done by Romney well into the 19th century, but is probably the portrait begun before her marriage (1786) to Drummond Smith — Augusta Smith (Emma’s mother) paternal uncle. In the book Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete catalogue of his Paintings (2000), we read:

“Painted 1786-87, wearing a vast hat with soft crown, the brim decorated with lace ‘curtains’, the height of 1780s fashion. There are appointments with Miss Cunliffe in 1786: June 19 (at eleven o’clock), 23 (midday), July 3, 7 and 10 (at one). She was married on 12 July and had two more appointments that year on Aug. 1 (at one) and Nov. 20 (midday). Further appointments are recorded in 1787: Mar. 12 (midday), 15 (two sessions, at eleven and at 12), June 12 (at eleven), 14 (eleven thirty), 16 (at one), Aug. 22 and Dec. 17 (both midday). There is one further appointment with either Mr or Mrs (not clear) Drummond Smith on 16 June 1789 (midday). A payment of 100 gns is recorded in the Ledger in July 1788 (Cormack 1970, 164). This picture passed as a Romney in the nineteenth century.”

This picture – or I should say the copies of the original in etchings and whatnot – has been long found online. As well, the girlhood picture of her is easily come by. Including at the National Portrait Gallery.

It was difficult, therefore, to READ about a portrait, offered through Sotheby’s in 2003 (which failed to sell then) and not SEE it. But now it’s been found!

Every source keeps attributing this portrait to Thomas Phillips. A rather ‘unknown’ name to me.

Phillips seems to have come to London in 1790, and by 1796 was painting nothing but portraits. He was elected an Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1804 — a fateful year for many: Mary Smith died that February; Drummond Smith became a baronet some months later.

I would be interested in hearing from Costume Experts to see if this could be dated. Unfortunately the picture I have you cannot read the legend in the lower right of the picture, which may answer such a question. The curiosity for me is the black lace: it makes me think of mourning (though the red is not in keeping with that, obviously).

For me, I look at the FACE: how much did she resemble her sister?

To see the purported artist, see NPG (including one self-portrait).

Since Drummond (Charles’ great uncle, from whom he inherited the baronetcy in 1816) was not a baronet until after “Aunt Smith’s” death, unless this sitter is as in contention as its painter, this must portray Mary Smith rather than Sir Drummond’s second wife (married in 1805), the widowed Elizabeth Sykes. Anyone with any information to give on this sitter – contact me!

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Seeking Miss Knight

February 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

After a bit of time away from research, I have been pushing myself to get restarted on this very exceptional project. And where better to start than (more or less) at the beginning. If we count only Mary and Emma (rather than their parents or grandparents – who, let’s face it, must come into the equation), then the beginning is the early eighteen-teens, specifically 1814 for Mary’s earliest diary and 1815 for Emma’s.

Mary’s earliest diary, if I haven’t mentioned it before, concerns a trip to visit her elder brother at Oxford. All of her diaries at this early date (ie, when she was unmarried) are trips taken with her family. Emma’s earliest diary is an actual day-to-day journal. She is breathless in describing not so much what she feels but what ALL family members do — this is eight siblings plus Mamma Smith (plus various aunts and uncles, and two cousins). So it was with her diaries that I began — rereading them, correcting obvious typos, commenting on what I now recognize for visitors. The secret key to the diary — to this entire project — is the identification of people. And there are so many of them!

Of keen interest, of course, are those artists, musicians, actors that Emma mentions. They “did” the season in London, every year moving from Suttons (in Essex county) to Portland Place. Emma, being the second eldest girl, mentions all the social calls and events elder sister Augusta encountered. So between all family members, and the Goslings (who, living next door, are also in town for the season) Emma’s social calendars are quite full of everyone’s activities.

She also mentions when the “unordinary” happens — like her mother have her portrait done. The year is 1816. A Miss Knight comes, but of course there is little information; until you go and search for it. Turns out Mary Ann Knight was fairly well-known (not a surprise, as the Smiths and Goslings both patronized the ‘well’-known everything). She has not much of an internet presence, but I did find a short (very short) bio and two drawings done by her. One of her sitters is none other than Joanna Baillie — and guess who, at this period, was consulting Joanna’s brother Dr. Baillie? Mrs Smith, as well as Augusta Smith! Small world… One could wonder if Joanna recommended Miss Knight to the Smiths — but Miss Baillie’s portrait post-dates this period. Find her portrait, and that of Robert Owen, both by Miss Knight at The National Galleries of Scotland. By clicking on the photos you will bring up information on the sitter(s) as well as the artist (scanty as it is).

One interesting side note (especially as the Baillie portrait seems the most ‘famous’ one of her – it’s on all the book covers): This style of a well-drawn face, with color added, but a (slightly) less-sketched-in-torso very much recalls to mind the one portrait I have of Fanny (Smith) Seymour: could sister Augusta, who is thought to have done the picture, have done it in Miss Knight’s style, or was this “all the attention on the face” something in vogue at the time???

The burning question, however, is: What ever happened to Mrs Augusta Smith’s portrait??

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