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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The Austens, Nattes & Suttons

September 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm (entertainment, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Was looking through the wonderful source Jane Austen: A Family Record, by Deirdre Le Faye; wanted to see what she had to say about Jane the artist (ie, drawing or music, but especially music).

Page 50 had this tidbit, regarding the year 1784:

“This year he {papa, George Austen} also paid  £11.9s.0d to Claude Nattes – presumably the artist better known as John Claude Nattes (c.1765-1822) and later to become famous as a watercolourist — who had possibly been staying at the Rectory to give drawing lessons to the children. In later years Henry was reputed to be the artist of the family, and some of Cassandra’s sketches still survive, while of Jane it was said: ‘She had not only an excellent taste for drawing, but in her earlier days, evinced great power of hand in management of the pencil.’ ”

There are a couple Nattes-stories relating to the Smiths! Online you can find two drawings of his inscribed ‘Suttons’ — one called “The Pigeon House &c, at Suttons  Essex/Augst 1st 1811” (pen and brown and black ink over pencil; 12 1/2 inches x 9 inches); the other “Farm yard &c, from the interior of a Barn. Suttons” (also pen and brown and black ink over pencil; 9 inches x 12 3/4 inches).

Peppiatt Fine Art has two articles with the two Nattes works on view, and support text: PDF & website. The PDF provides a nice LARGE image of both works.

For Nattes other Smith connection — the delightful governess Miss Ramsay, I point blog readers to my earlier post on Elizabeth (Grant) Smith, the Highland Lady — who mentions Nattes and Miss Ramsay in her own memoirs!

The picture is from the early edition of The Memoirs of a Highland Lady, found online. The only *kvetch* I have against the Tod edition: No family tree (boy! is it “needed” to keep track of who’s who) and NO PICTURES!

Just spotted this blog post on the Memoir at I prefer reading: enjoy!

I must do a little digging into Nattes’ death date; Le Faye gives 1822; Peppiatt gives 1839.

Wiki Gallery has a fair number of his images online. 42 works at last count! Even one, I see, from Sydney Gardens in Bath — a scene that Jane Austen must have been QUITE familiar with.

Small world, huh?

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Secrets of The Vyne

April 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm (chutes of the vyne) (, , , , , )

Callie, in Montreal, who is a great traveller and soon heads to England, told me of a little video about The Vyne on the National Trust’s webpage for the estate. I post a link to the PAGE here, because I have problems viewing the video (is it security settings on my computer?) — the video “box” doesn’t even show up: it’s just blank space where, on other computers, the little “box” is. So if you can’t watch this, try what I did: Another computer (libraries might be a good place to start).

VERY interesting! They’ve a maid servant, MARY, who introduces you to the house through its masters and mistresses — including Eliza Chute (here called ‘Elizabeth’, which rather threw me off! I don’t think she’s ever called that by ANYONE!). You get to see rooms, and (especially close to my heart) some drawings done by Eliza, her sister Augusta and Miss Meen. I’m still not convinced (as the National Trust seems to be; why ARE they convinced?) that Miss Meen was their governess – but I’ve not delved into her life; not sure there is much beyond the letters and diaries (in which she is frequently mentioned, I must say, years and years later). As an artist, and one who taught Queen Charlotte and her daughters, I would think she earned money more by painting and giving lessons than being a governess. But more about thoughts on her later…

Two things picked up from this video: the pronunciation of CHUTE and SANDYS. In my head Sandys, the early owners of The Vyne, were pronounced with two syllables: San-dis. Not so! Sands… of course. And Chute? I always thought of them as Shute, in fact it seems they would have called themselves Chewt!

This video prompted me to look for others. And there is a second wonderful one on The Vyne on YouTube (pity this is not a full-length video, but I’ll take what I can get); the poster is obviously interested in the Tudors and therefore this section is highlighted by the Sandys family and their ‘Vine’; some lovely images of the Chapel – but that is the point at which the snippet ends. If anyone has the entire video and wants to share, do let me know.

I see the National Trust is offering GROUNDED tourists FREE entry to their properties! What a wonderful opportunity at such a stressful time. One friend, in Russia, was routed out of the ash’s way — which added three hours to his trip: but at least he got home!

Another, short, bit of interest to tales attached to The Vyne: I was flipping through volume two of Memoirs of a Highland Lady. Elizabeth at the end talks of giving birth to her first child, daughter Janey (named after her sister). Don’t I see something QUITE of interest as I leaf through:

“I daresay it was very good for me to try to wait upon myself, however as Mr Workman of Basingstoke, who was to attend me, was not easy about me, as he told Jane, a proper monthly nurse was sent for to town…”

Now as Elizabeth writes that he was “to attend her,” then she must mean him when she speaks of “The clever little strange Doctor” who “brought us both thro’.”

Why does this excite me? Why does this man, with no first name and who doesn’t even rate a mention in the index, leap from the page? (This index is NOT half as good as it could/should be, and this the “full” edition of the Memoirs! Lady Strachey’s edition cuts out ALL mention of him, by the way.) 

Why? Because surely the man is none other than Thomas Workman, who attended Caroline Wiggett (adopted daughter of the Chutes), and married her in September 1837! So here is a book, long in my possession, about a “Highland Lady” and she’s known TWO people in the Smith circle! Sometimes the world indeed IS a small one.

By the way, by excluding mentions of Mr Workman, Lady Strachey, as editor, also edited out that Elizabeth was in labor from Saturday the last day of June (when she “took ill”, as everyone called labor at the time) until Janey was born on 3 July. Poor woman! No wonder Elizabeth wrote of Workman saving the lives of mother and child even after her own sister seemed to give up hope of them coming through okay.

Short note: Internet Archive has Lady’s Strachey’s 1911 edition, which included several family portraits — including one of Elizabeth’s sister JANE (opposite page 318). Such an evocative portrait! (They also have the 3rd impression of the 1898 edition.)

So now I’ve more digging to do, though I would be surprised if Elizabeth’s Mr Workman and Caroline’s are two different people.

Reading about him brought me back to Caroline’s Recollections – and her wonderful memories of the Smiths, Goslings, Colebrookes and Chutes. Her thoughts on her own life are precious indeed — but I say that about all the tidbits I find about this circle of people. Caroline’s portrait (above) — done by Eliza Chute! — was snatched from the NT video (which is why it’s none too clear).

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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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