Tales of Noses & Ears: Portrait Mysteries

January 5, 2012 at 8:44 am (portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In the midst of all the changing thought on Paula Byrne‘s “Austin” portrait, I thought I would write a few words on my own little mysteries. It is because of these “thoughts” that I can commiserate with Paula! and why also I found the show, Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait? a great viewing experience. Let me explain, from “a beginning”.

When I first began working with these diaries and letters, I was — of course! — presented with really NO images of anyone. I came across a photograph taken of Emma Austen Leigh in older age (6os), then began to find early drawings and silhouettes of her. All were identified — so problem solved! Or so you might think. At least once (an oil painting, seen in a photo), I found an image that looked unlike the others. Just a bad artist? Just more like her than the others? How to answer that question??

While watching the Amanda Vickery show about The Many Lovers of Jane Austen (which I also enjoyed; quite returned me to Fort Worth! But am I alone in thinking the show deserved a bit less-titillating title??), there flashed up on the screen a COMPLETELY new image of James Edward Austen Leigh; I can’t say (having seen a photo, again taken when he was in his 60s) it looks like some of the drawings I have, although it quite seems an off-shoot of another drawing.

Here is the Vickery special’s picture:

There’s just something about it, between the “wind-blown hair” and the “glum” look that makes him look less-than-sober! (Sorry, Edward.) Anyway, except for its identification as “Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward” I’d not quite recognize him. No clue who has this image. The more I stare at it, while typing… perhaps it’s meant to look “Byronic” or “Romantic”. Will have to look through the letters and diaries. There was ONE image Emma mentioned (by Mrs Carpenter, I belive) that she criticised as “not very like”. But I thought that one covered by an image in Life in the Country! (ie, the book of James Edward Austen Leigh silhouettes, with Jane Austen quotes.)

Today, I was delighted to get a photograph, thought to have been taken in the 1860s, of a Seymour brother. The archive and the person who sent me the photo are unwavering that it represents Sir John Culme Seymour. For several reasons (which I won’t go into here), I believe that — yet wonder: Could it be a different Seymour brother?

So tonight I was looking at the EAR. I’ve a later photo (definitely 1867) of John Seymour, though he is facing the OPPOSITE direction. Oh my! While the lips seem a bit downturned in the ’67 photo, and upturned (a smile?) in the ’60s photo; I’ve long looked at the noses; and now also the ears. The ears do seem to match — rather smooth, as opposed to one brother who has a bit of a pendulous lower lobe.

The reason I bring these things up?? To outline, if briefly, that one DOES compare noses — and other bits and pieces!

Of the Seymour family, I’ve four photographs: three brothers and one sister. Do they look alike?? I can’t say they do!

I once was in church with a family of 8 or 9 siblings. There were short ones and tall ones; thin ones and fat ones; and facially, they really didn’t resemble each other either! Yikes! (I have no brothers and sisters; but I’ve cousins who rather resemble, in small ways, each other.)

When I first found the image of Emma — a photograph, remember — one of my first thoughts was: How much did she and Charles, her brother who died in 1831, look alike?? Did he have her nose? Yes, I found myself asking that Paula Byrne question!

When I first saw an 1860s photo of Mary’s brother Robert Gosling, again my thought was: How much did Mary look like him? — hard to say, looking at a very “Victorian” Gent in a stove-pipe hat! (Frankly, all I could think of was Abe Lincoln.)

Then there’s the REAL puzzle of the Beechey portrait — discussed in the post I’ve Found My Girl!?! — Oh, that one is difficult. The West Virginia museum that has it obtained it BEFORE the portrait at Suttons was sold at auction. That is the hard hurdle to get past. I can believe the costumes were perhaps “old” (c1803) to emulate their mother, who died in 1803. But this tale supposes there once was TWO portraits… And that’s hard to get around.

And yet…

And yet…

The Gosling girls are said to be 3/4-length, seated at a piano, with music in the hand of the elder and a frill painted (for modesty, it was painted years later by that same elder sister!) along the neckline of the younger sister. All those elements are there. You can view the Early Music magazine cover here. (It’s a PDF).

The hunt is on — but while Paula Byrne has one portrait to authenticate — and Sir Roy Strong may be correct in his prognostication that her chances are “Nil” — I’ve, let’s see… Two sets of parents, nine Smith siblings, seven Gosling siblings, four grandparents, a “Smith of Stratford” aunt, three “Smith of Erle Stoke” aunts, three uncles on the Smith side, and an uncle-in-law on the Gosling side, two Smith cousins, a handful of Gosling cousins, numerous in-laws, some children…

Ah! Exhausting just writing about them all. I do hope you’re not exhausted reading about them all.

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Jane Austen: Chute Red Herring?!

January 4, 2012 at 1:00 am (chutes of the vyne, history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , )

 

  Janeite Kelly: Eliza, did you draw that picture now being circulated around England as a portrait of your neighbor, Jane Austin?

 
   

 Mrs Chute: My dear, we are talking two hundred years ago. Would you remember what you had for dinner yesterday, if you were my age?

Late-breaking tweet from Paula Byrne yesterday hints at P.D. James’ style RED HERRING. The “who-dun-it?” may not, alas, be dear Eliza Chute!

As predicted in my Regency Portrait Pricing Post, not all portraits cost an arm-and-leg. Paula is evidently on the trail of a culprit, described as a “low-end professional charging three guineas“.

Where’s Dalgleish when you need him?? He could at least track down the elusive governess, Helen Carruthers. If a governess is mixed up in the case, I’d look harder at Miss Sharpe

Even if your new-found fame fades, Eliza, you’re still “tops” with Emma, Mary, and I!

Stay tuned for later-breaking news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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The Missing, The Mysteries, The Marvels

December 31, 2011 at 10:45 am (history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On this last day of 2011, I reflect upon how something “turning up” can cause a flurry of thoughts — and how some earlier “flurries” have affected this Smith & Gosling research.

At left is a “seal” of a letter written nearly two hundred years ago by Augusta Smith, on the cusp of her marriage to Henry Wilder. A vibrant girl, her life-story has been lost to the greater world, but she is a large part of what drew me to this family. And why I want their histories told.

The letter was written to her youngest sister Maria, and just happened to be found among a cache of letters by Jacky in Maidstone. This particular letter — quite sweet as it spoke, Eldest Sister to Youngest Sister, of their relationship at the moment it is about to change — was not the bombshell another letter, also written to Maria Smith, Jacky had for me! That letter was from Mrs Odell, whose son had accompanied Drummond Smith, the youngest Smith brother, on his fateful trip to Italy. Seems Young Odell was interested in Maria! Alas, did Maria reject him because she didn’t care for him, or… did she somewhat hold him responsible for her dear brother’s death???

You can find an earlier Drummond Smith blog post here: Drummond Erased?

So there is one mystery yet to be solved. Only more letters, or diaries, will shed light on that one.

Another mystery, surprisingly uncovered, came with the letter Angela from Alberta has transcribed: Lady Elizabeth Compton‘s love for a near constant companion: Charles Scrace Dickins! What Angela didn’t know, as she wove an Austenian story around the clues laid out in her letter, was that nearly five years later the pair marry! But: What brought them to the altar?? Again: some more puzzle pieces are required to flesh out the story.

Paula Byrne has now come across a small picture:

And speculates that it was perhaps drawn by Eliza Chute, of The Vyne, and portrays Jane Austen! Not sure which excites me more: the idea of Jane Austen portrayed, or that a drawing potentially done by dear Eliza has been discovered…

A possible Wiggett-Chute connection to this picture has brought me back to Miss Le Faye‘s excellent Biographical Index in her Jane Austen Letters. So many familiar names, in conjunction with the Chutes, the Smiths, even the earlier generation of Goslings. Was just this morning reading about Alethea Bigg of Manydown.

The more I think about the VAST correspondence circle Jane Austen — and Cassandra too, we mustn’t forget her — would have been a part of, the more I have to wonder what cache of letters might still exist, somewhere, all dusty and locked away. As with the letter Angela from Alberta saw, even ONE letter can make a difference. As can one drawing.

Eliza in England sent me a watercolor image of Mimi Smith — daughter of Mary and Charles; wife of Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper — if I remember correctly, Eliza saved the little book of drawings containing it from certain destruction! Now to find the photograph the drawing was based upon…

Mark Woodford’s father obtained the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith (Mamma), possibly at Auction. Who owned the diary that it got separated from everything else?? Who else — living in Chicago, like Mark; or anywhere around the world — might have purchased a letter or a diary and have no idea WHOSE property they own, for few ever put their names to their diaries, and some sign their letters with their last name, but how common a name is Smith.

I could say, who would NOT know the name Jane Austen — but I can offer this anecdote: A few years ago I was interviewed for a job at a local pharmaceutical college. Had, I think, five people in succession interviewing me. One man (yes, note the sex of the person) looked at me, quiet serious, and as he asked for more comments about my volunteer work with JASNA [Jane Austen Society of North America], asked: Who’s Jane Austen??

I didn’t get that job and now I see the same position is advertised again. I won’t be applying. Their loss! for they missed the boat in hiring a really terrific person.

My New Year’s Resolution is to work harder at this project, and get Smith&Gosling the attention it deserves. The first task is to do a little updating to some of the pages on the blog — so stay tuned! And I’ve not forgotten that I owe readers my Boswell connection story.

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Byrne’s Austen Portrait, Part II

December 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm (chutes of the vyne, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

A kind friend sent a screen shot of the backside of the Byrne Portrait:

The “M” is curious: almost looks like a “tail” was added to the beginning stroke. Miss is not written as I might have expected: with the double-s written as an Esszet (as I call it after having had German lessons). Here is Mary Gosling / Lady Smith’s diary from 1829, citing the name Miss de Grey (her step-mother’s sister), with the double-s I expected:

Is is possible that the Miss was added? The one thing against that notion is that Eliza Chute (for instance) would have referred to her formally: Miss Austin would have been Cassandra; Miss Jane (or J.) Austin would have indicated the younger unmarried daughter. Eliza’s capital “M” typically began at the top of the left side, with a slight curl before the decent of the downstroke.

Eliza Chute’s capital “J” typically were shorter on the top, longer on the bottom (the opposite of the letter seen above). Her word-ending “e” typically was closed, as in Mary’s “de” above.

AUSTEN, on the other hand, could be akin to the way Eliza noted the name in her 1799 diary, reproduced in Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life.

My first thought was a shaky hand (possibly because of infirmity?).

Inconclusive conclusion, for I’ve no one about whom I would say, “This is so-and-so’s hand.”

* * *

Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: Regency Physician, has sent me an informative series of “thoughts & reactions” on viewing the program (thanks, Charlotte!), so there will be more to come.

Because the Chutes of The Vyne (or Vine) are so well-known, I’ve made little mention of them in this blog. Obviously, there are diaries missing in the Hampshire Record Office series, including the one which Paula Byrne thinks the “crucial” year: 1814.

Dear Blog Reader: If you’ve a diary, quite probably kept in a pocket book (typically red in color, but I remember one green-covered book) entitled THE DAILY JOURNAL, OR, Gentleman’s, Merchants’s and Tradesman’s Complete Annual Accompt Book — these were a series of pre-printed diaries, with left-side available for memoranda and the right-side kept for accounts (debits and credits), but sometimes not used for that purpose — and you recognize some of these names, please-please-please contact me! (see Author, at right, for contact info.)

I make no claim to “world authority,” as Paula Byrne’s tweet claims, but I certainly have a deep interest in Eliza and all the family. So allow me to lay out a few words about Miss Eliza Smith of Erle Stoke Park and Mrs William Chute of The Vyne:

Gwyneth Dunstan, a former steward connected to The Vyne, was someone I contacted after finding notice of her talk, on 16 July 2009, at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Her talk was entitled, “Eliza Chute: A Gentlewoman in local society in Jane Austen’s Day”. It is from her talk’s poster that this silhouette of Eliza Chute was posted on this site, on the Portraits page:

The same appears in A Day in the Country; as companion silhouette for William Chute exists, the set must have been made prior to 1824 (when William died).

past posts:

      • Eliza Chute – it’s 1793 and Eliza has just married
      • Eliza Smith – writes of reading Madame de Sevigne
      • Lady Cunliffe – notes about her portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

I bring up Lady Cunliffe — mother to Eliza Cunliffe, who, only a few days after Eliza Smith married William Chute, married William Gosling (she eventually gave birth to my diarist, Mary Gosling) — because so much of Eliza Chute’s early “history” is tied up with her BFF Eliza Gosling. Lady Cunliffe and her daughters were known to James Boswell, who was a friend to the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Thrale, and Samuel Johnson. Boswell wrote to Reynolds about Lady C and her daughters…

I hate to leave readers dangling, but it’s been a long day, I’m tired…. So more tomorrow!

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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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