Betley Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars

December 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm (books, diaries, research) (, , , , , , )

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen may know of my admiration for Mavis E. Smith’s book, Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall; for instance, I mention being “positively engrossed” in this book of Journals and Letters – when I first picked it up in 2008. Then came the publication of The Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. I have both! Now – in December – I find that Mavis Smith has another publication right up my alley (time-period-wise); alas, it came out this past spring:

betley soldiers

It’s a slim little booklet, only 28 pages, but only £2.50. I wish I could say more about its contents at present. It’s published by the Betley Local History Society, and I’ve a wonderful bookshop in the area, which I’ve ordered from before (very friendly and fast service): The Nantwich Bookshop. Treat yourself to a Xmas gift and get all three!

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A Young Lady of some education

October 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

In working on some ideas for Emma, I’ve been reviewing a book I bought a couple months ago (and which was delayed about a month, thanks to US Customs…), Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. Editor Mavis E. Smith had won me over with her earlier book on the Betley Hall household with the publication of Ellen Tollet’s diary of 1835.

My Emma — Miss Emma Smith — began her diary-keeping in 1815. Or, at least that is the earliest so far found! I do live in hope of more items, so why not hope for earlier diaries written by Emma, too? There is certainly talk of the schoolroom, their governesses, “holidays” granted for birthdays or visitors. The Smiths seem a happy family, with well-liked (loved even) governesses.

Then you read a book like that based on the unnamed governess to the four Tollet daughters of Betley Hall! I don’t know who to pity more: the girls for having this governess; or the young {presume…} lady given the task of educating four rambunctious girls?

Mavis Smith clearly has opinions on the strict governess, for she asks once or twice if the woman might not be a bit “unbalanced”. Yet, reviewing Mamma Smith’s assessment of her youngest child, Maria, which Jacky in Maidstone is lucky enough to own, don’t I find some choice comments made about this little scholar by her governess. For instance, written in December 1820, “Maria has shown more violence of temper, more irritability & impertinence I thought had belonged to her character; Miss Pond {the governess} has made frequent & strong complaints of her”. Yet my beloved Mamma follows up with these thoughts, “She {Maria} is not yet seven years old, & one cannot expect reason to be all powerful at that age.”

Any wonder why Mamma Smith is just a delight to know? From her diaries, and especially her letters, I have experienced many moments of laughter. (Mike H. at Tring Park School knows her “humour” as she describes the next tenants of Tring Park with some choice words!)

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Off on another topic: The end of this week sees the much-anticipated JASNA AGM and the discussion of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which was published 200 years ago (1811-2011). Wish me luck on presenting my paper! And I certainly hope I don’t get stuck at some airport, overnight, like I did last time I flew…

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Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall

December 21, 2008 at 2:05 pm (books) (, , , )

tolletAm positively engrossed by the “Journals and Letters” of Ellen Tollet (ed. Mavis E. Smith), which arrived fresh from the Nantwich Bookshop in England just yesterday (£12.50; proceeds to UK cancer charities). Cannot compliment it enough – but you will have to wait for a full review to be posted later.  This well-edited journal of Miss Tollet gives an inkling not only into the lives of ladies like Emma and Mary, but even Miss Austen herself – Ellen is writing in 1835 at the beginning, and many things remained as it had in the last decades of Austen’s life: travel, family, church, and books-books-books. Never forget that Cassandra Austen was alive and well for much of the period covered by this journal! The only image I could find is of the BACK cover (I have no scanner – and it’s snowing out too much to go to a library for the use of one). Ellen was friends with another ‘Emma’ – Miss Emma Wedgwood (yes, of that Wedgwood family…), who married one Charles Darwin. See Emma Darwin online here.

Nantwich is a true ‘treasure’ – my father and I stopped there when on our narrow boat cruise (aboard the ‘Fenris‘ rented from Viking Afloat) in 2006. An interesting article found about clock plaques; and here’s an online ‘walk around town‘. Enjoy!

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