By Any Other Name

June 19, 2021 at 1:10 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

You might ask, given that I research people with the name of “Smith” – and Christen names like Charles and Mary, what name could possibly give me trouble….

Try: Jane Seymour.

Emma’s sister Fanny Smith was the first to marry a Seymour – the Rev. Richard Seymour the new incumbent to the living of Kinwarton (Warwickshire). They married on 30 October 1834.

The following year, September 1835, brother Spencer Smith married Richard’s sister Frances Seymour.

By 1845, not only had youngest sister Maria Smith married (his 2nd wife) the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour, but the Smith’s widowered brother-in-law Arthur Currie had married the widowed Dora (Seymour) Chester.

It was Maria who gave birth (in January 1851) to the JANE SEYMOUR I thought I was chasing. I had unearthed about a dozen photographs of a little girl and young woman – identified in a couple of albums, plus many more loose cartes-de-visite, which (I thought…) pointed to a certain “future” for the young lady portrayed.

I was wrong!

It’s tough, looking at my photographs of photographs – often done under inauspicious conditions of overhead lighting and cradled bound books – some out of focus; others the best that can be taken of the faded nothingness that now remains. Tough, too, to put together some faces that may be the same person – or some sibling – or someone totally different, just seen from an unusual angle that now has you comparing the straight or down-turned mouth, the curved or shell-like ear, the beak-sharp or the bulbous nose.

Such a one was the picture, only ID’ed on the rear with a date – “1877” – of a mother (presume) and frilly-frocked infant (christening?). The adult sitter looked like Jane Seymour – but cousin Jane never married, had had no children. The nose, here, looked sharper; the hair exhibited an mere half-inch of “fringe” (bangs they cannot be called), when in all other pictures there was only a center part and all hair pulled downwards and back. The face looked thinner, more sculpted, but then the face was bent downward, gazing at the child. The one thing all the adult photos had in comment was a clipped-short “side burn” above the ears – very similar to my own (because the bow of glasses sits right over this area).

Mother-and-Babe remained a “mystery” – for later ‘detection’.

Signature Maria L. Seymour

It was while looking through diaries – predominantly those written by Richard Seymour – for further information on the relationship of Mary Smith and Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, that I came across mention of Richard’s niece, Jane Seymour.

Mary and Gaspard had married in 1861 – but the engagement was so fraught with angst and doubt, that I had to find out more. What I found out was that they initially had become engaged in 1858. I haven’t found out if they stayed engaged the whole time, or if it was on-off-on again. Although other diaries exist, some I don’t have access to, and Richard’s I have to take painstaking reads through microfilmed handwriting. Letters of the period can be hit or miss – and more have tantalizing hints than full-length histories.

But back to Jane Seymour.

This Jane was not the first “Jane” in the family. Of course – OF COURSE! – there were several, over many generations. Maria’s daughter was a “CULME-SEYMOUR” – the “Culme” coming from Sir John’s first wife. For a while, I thought only Sir John’s “Culme” children used the “Culme” name. Maria’s mail always seemed addressed to “Lady Seymour” (see a letter I’m desperately seeking – and from 1861!). BUT: If I looked closely, Maria and her daughters inserted “C” as part of their signature. But who else could the girl called Jenny Seymour and the young woman identified as Jane Seymour or Miss Seymour have been?

Remember I said that Richard mentioned JANE SEYMOUR in his diary…

In 1858’s diary.

The section that caught my eye mentioned Richard’s “Australian niece Jane Seymour”. She arrived in mid-December, having left Sidney, Australia on September 1st. – Dora (née Seymour) and Arthur Currie picked her up at Gravesend! The very Curries who inhabited High Elms, the estate *now* (June 2021) up for sale.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

High Elms, estate of the Arthur Curries.

“Australian Jane” was the only child of Richard’s youngest brother, William (Willy) Seymour, who had emigrated, married an Australian girl in 1849, and died in 1857. I had presumed that she had stay Down-Under.

Nope…

Jane had a convoluted history. Her mother had remarried – at some unknown point – in 1858. This poor mother, born Sarah Avory and now Mrs. Pleydell-Bouverie, died in February 1859. Jane’s step-father died two years later, in February 1861.

But none of that mattered: little Jane Seymour had already sailed for England, arriving hardly two months before her mother’s death – which she could never have known about for another six or eight months.

What I do not know is the WHY Jane Seymour sailed from Sidney that September 1st of 1858!

Had the patriarchal arm reached across the globe, and over her father’s grave, to pluck the little girl from the bosom of her Australian family? Had the mother, stricken by some fatal illness (? – it’s a guess) already, made plans for her soon-to-be-orphaned child, plans that did not involve that child’s step-father? Or, had the Pleydell-Bouveries sought out this change for a child they no longer cared to care for?

Such a mystery remains to be solved, awaiting more information, other diaries, more letters.

One mystery that has been SOLVED involves the BIRTH DATE of Aussie Jane. I have found her baptismal information, which gives her date of birth. Given an 1849 marriage, I had presumed the birth of a first child in 1850. Jane Seymour, however, was born in MAY 1852 – which makes our little passenger a mere SIX YEARS OLD when she sailed from Sidney Harbor to Gravesend – and into the arms and the seemingly eternal care of an aunt she had never set eyes upon before: Dora Currie.

Dora’s step-children, Arthur’s children with his first wife, Charlotte Smith, were growing up – the youngest, Drummond Arthur Currie, had been born in 1840 and would attain his majority in a couple of years. Dora had married – after a long-fought-for marriage to the Rev. William H. Clinton Chester (her family disapproved of his slender means). They had married in August 1837, but by April 1841 Dora was burying her husband. They had had no children. Little Orphan Aussie Jane might have provided an opportunity too good for Dora to pass up. A small child to call her own.

The Curries are a branch of the family with very little archival resources. Charlotte had not lived to old age, but she had daughters – and the Smiths, as a group, seem a family that held very tightly on to items like letters and diaries, portraits and memories. So what happened to the items that Charlotte produced or received, and could figure to have been given over to any or all of her daughters – akin to the family letters amassed by Emma Austen, Fanny Seymour, and Maria Lady Seymour.

As you might guess, anyone with further information, please do contact me!

Richard’s 1859 diary speaks to his meeting the child. He was enchanted with his Australian niece, Jane Seymour.

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Australian Dress Register

March 4, 2020 at 12:46 pm (fashion) (, , , )

What IS the Australian Dress Register?

“The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance. It includes men’s, women’s and children’s clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world-wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.”

I looked at ONE garment, in-depth, to be better able to tell you about the site:

A Silver & Blue shot silk dress, English (Devonshire); c1810-1813

dress_silver-blue c1810

It’s believed to have been brought from England to Australia by Ann Deane, “who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary, and nephew Edgar.”

A description of the piece gives the following useful information:

A one-piece dress in silver and blue shot silk, with a pattern of dark blue flowers. The dress has a high waist, with a square back neckline and a dropdown bib-front. The bodice interior is lined with cream cotton panels. The full-length sleeves has a gathered sleeve head and extended cuffs over hands, with silk floss-corded trim at the band. The five-panelled skirt is gathered at the centre back and designed to be worn over a small back bustle pad. A cotton tape drawstring is attached to the interior of the bodice, and there are blue silk ribbon ties at back (not the original ties).

The site answered a question I had: Why would she bring this to Australia, and not “recut” it to a more modern style? (ie, How ‘original’ is its state?) “Made of valuable silk, the dress ‘along with other items of apparel’ was bequeathed to Ann’s eldest daughter and it became a treasured family heirloom.”

Sections of the webpage are dedicated to:

  • zoomable photographs – front, back, side views; as well as several showing the interior construction [note: the number of photographs differs from piece to piece; this garment was well-represented]
  • a “significance” statement
  • history & provenance (including any exhibition history)
  • trimmings & decorations
  • fiber/weave; manufacture details (hand vs machine sewn, for instance); etc.
  • measurements (GIRTH: chest, waist, hem; VERTICAL: neck to hem, sleeve length; HORIZONTAL: neck opening, across back, underarm) [in millimeters, site converts to inches at the click of a link]
  • garment condition
  • articles & further information
dress_silver-blue c1810 closeup
(note: I could not get the ‘full screen’ to toggle; ‘home’ reverts back to entire photo)

Ann Deane is known to have been christened in Devon in November 1772. Ann (née Pidsley) married Thomas Deane in Devon in 1807. So she was a young married woman (and four of her six children were born by 1813) during the period, 1810-1813, when this dress would have been worn.

Ann Deane must have been TINY! A chest measurement less than 24 ½-inches; the back neck to hem length is just 54 ¾-inches (she probably stood under 5’5″); the sleeves, at 27 ½-inches, are already seen to go beyond the wrist.

Ann’s husband had died about a decade before her emigration.

There are MANY ways to search the Australian Dress Register site, by garment-type; by time period; by gender. There are uniforms and wedding dresses; clothing originated in many countries (Australia predominant). More being added, of course, as the site grows.

After viewing a uniform dress coat and hat once belonging to a Royal Navy Officer, 1832-1853, and because they ask people to “share”, I wondered: Do other countries offer such a REGISTRY?

What a Fabulous (online) idea! Let’s hope other countries jump on the bandwagon.

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eBay find: Knights at Chawton photo album

January 12, 2019 at 10:42 am (history, jane austen, news) (, , , )

A friend whom I just visited before the New Year sent a link to a Daily Mail article. An EXTRAORDINARY find, indeed!

News coming out of Ireland, where Edward Austen Knight’s daughters settled after marriage, concerns an eBay purchase of a Victorian photo album – bought for the research potential, by Karen Ievers.

Readers of Sophia Hillan‘s biography, May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland, will be familiar with the cast of characters whom Ievers has uncovered in these 19th century images. It also shows that publication can later bring important related material to light (though evidently NOT providing an inkling to the seller).

jas brother

There is even a later-in-life photograph of Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), as well as a host of the next generation – including a wedding at Chawton House!

I’ve written about the GOSLING link to the Hill family via JAMES CRUMP in this blog post.

More can be read about Edward Austen Knight and Chawton in Linda Slothouber’s book:

JA-EAK-Chawton

UPDATE:

It is likely the “manuscript pages” with the watermark were paper for letterwriting, used, and bound up with the photographs. For a book on Papermaking in Britain: A Short History, 1488-1988.

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Dining with Jane Austen

August 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen) (, , , )

A few evenings ago, I attended a “delicious” lecture, sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

Julienne Gehrer has created, in photos and text, “a culinary adventure” through the “life and works” of Jane Austen. It’s called Dining with Jane Austen.

Dining with JA_Gehrer

Lay your white gloves aside, and dip into recipes from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the Knight Family Cookbook. Julienne has had unprecedented access to photograph at both Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House Museum (ie, Chawton Cottage) – making the book a feast for the eyes as well!

Julienne has “tested” and updated recipes from the two manuscript books – recipes which Jane Austen herself may very well have tasted. I whet your appetite with a sample page; more available on the book’s website (click the picture or Dining with Jane Austen).

Trifle with whipt syllabub

UPDATE: I totally forgot to mention: Proceeds are earmarked for Chawton House Library AND Jane Austen’s House Museum. So you also get to “fund” two Jane Austen sites, as well as “feed” you need for books and sustenance.

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Future Plans

April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am (diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , )

Same sitting, different poseIt seems like ages since I wrote about my own research – though that is NOT to mean I’ve been idle. Indeed I’ve been “beavering away”!

beaver

A GREAT influx of letters (diaries too) from several different “deposits” has kept me at the keyboard, transcribing. I try NOT to read a letter or diary until I transcribe it. Bad Luck thoughts make me wonder if I won’t later be able to decipher some word that I easily read earlier! Oh, that would be the worst. So, it’s in the act of transcribing that I LEARN the contents.

I also have a habit of leaving the really hard letters to absolute END. If it’s crossed… If it’s illegible…  If it’s a poor image… I leave it till all the easy letters are DONE.

Given that plan of operation, haven’t I found a JEWEL or two among those waiting to be deciphered and read! But that’s news for some next blog post.

I wanted to say here, however, something I wrote recently in an email, about this project, for it brings up a very important point about the decades the project actually covers, which is roughly the 1790s through the 1840s.

I used to use 1842 as an end-date. Mary Gosling, my original diarist – and one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen (the other being Emma Austen) – died in July of that year. So when first in Winchester, I tried not to look for later material.

By the time I returned to the UK (seven years later), I was willing to go beyond that – but pretty much held to the idea that the end of Mary’s life brought my telling of their story to a close.

THEN: in the summer of 2015, I found photo albums!

Since photography become a norm in and after the 1850s, there was no photo of Mary (Lady Smith). A surprising number of her in-laws, however: Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour); Arthur Currie and his second wife Dora (also née Seymour); Richard and Fanny Seymour; and more Seymour siblings. A photo of Eliza Le Marchant (Lady Le Marchant; née Smith), and the familiar face of Sir Denis Le Marchant. Only one photo of Emma Austen Leigh – which I had already seen in a book. The one photo of her husband, James Edward Austen Leigh, was quite evidently the same sitting as the companion photo in the book, but a different pose, so slightly “new information”.

What REALLY got into my brain, however, were images of the CHILDREN! The albums can be traced to members of the Spencer-Smith family. I.e., children of Emma’s brother Spencer Smith – the hyphenated last name differentiated his children from children of their brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith (2nd baronet).

So one son, whom I can trace in photos from youngster to young man, came to carry the name Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith. A bit of a tongue-twister without his middle name! He later adopted his wife’s name, so that late in life he was Spencer Compton Hamilton-Spencer-Smith; a Hamilton-Spencer-Smith son became the 5th baronet, after the death of Charles grandson Drummond Cunliffe Smith.

The twins, Orlando Spencer-Smith and Gilbert Spencer-Smith, are present in almost the same frame of life-span. From youngsters, they become men as the pages turn.

Of the sisters, photos of Dora Spencer-Smith especially, but also Isabella and Augusta, are QUITE prolific. As Mrs. Jenkyns, Dora has a Jane Austen connection all her own: her son married a grand-daughter of Emma & Edward Austen Leigh.

Two cousins have worked their way into my heart because of the photo albums. Daughters of Fanny and Richard Seymour, “Emma and Fanny” grow up before my eyes! It helped that another source had this youthful duo in a family portrait that included their mother – the first photo I ever saw of dear Fanny Seymour (Mrs. Richard Seymour), taken in the 1850s.

There are also, of course, portraits of the Austen Leigh children! So I could confirm a Silvy portrait found online WAS young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. Same sitting, different pose. And I found Amy Austen Leigh (aka: Emma Cassandra Austen Leigh), whom I had never before seen.

The Currie children and LOTS of various Seymour children – so most of Emma’s nieces and nephews were present. Seeing them all (and having to sort out all those Seymours!) made me more amenable to reading their letters too. So, I’ve slowly expanded my collection of letters through the 1840s and upwards to the 1880s. I’ve gone back to fill in holes, and have more holes to fill. And I’m still searching for material, especially early letters (1790s through 1810s).

Along with the albums, I found ONE letter that really resonated with me.

It was one of those SUPER-crossed, dense, thickly-inked letters. The writer apologized for not taking a bigger sheet of paper, as, in the end, she had too much to say. If ithe letter had been less crossed, I would have gotten to it much earlier! It convinced me I had hitherto overlooked the true, definitive “end” for my project.

BIG “Ah-HA!” moment.

The touchstone became Mamma, Mrs. Charles Smith, Augusta (senior). And the “ah-ha” was the last moments of any member of the Smiths living at No. 6 Portland Place.

Mamma’s 1845 death set her children (metaphorically) adrift; without the London home that had belonged to her, their leave-taking created a pause for reflection. And that leave-taking becomes the event that closes my set of books dealing with Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

To get back to the emailed thought. I told my correspondent:

“Digging about the 1850s, tho I really need to concentrate on the 1810s. It seems SUCH a different world… there’s a lightness to their lives when the children WERE children, that has darkened once they’ve grown and had children of their own. I find them such a thoroughly fascinating family.”

and I hope YOU, dear Readers, feel or will come to feel the SAME about the Smiths and Goslings. They were truly living a dream during the Regency – with travels, trips to exhibitions, evenings at the opera. Some were crossed in love; most married, had children of their own, experienced heartache as a family. Luckily for ME they also remembered, reminisced, and wrote – including those books published by the Austen Leighs: about Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865), a Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; expanded 1871), and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record (1913). Especially dear to my heart is the biography of her father written by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911), for Emma and her family figure LARGE in that book. It also drops some tantalizing hints about missing letters and diaries…

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WANTED: One Willing Reader resident near Reading (England)*

March 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm (history, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

*must have access to a digital camera — that’s the only caveat!

Two days ago I found notice of a letter written by Fanny Smith (aka Fanny, Mrs Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton). You can read it for yourself in The Berkshire Echo, volume #55 (April 2011). I *LOVE* how the writer describes dear Fanny as “a rather strong-minded young lady”! I have some letters written in the same period — November – December 1830 — for the Smiths were caught up in what is known as the Swing Riots: crowds of marauders bent on getting better wages by forcing the destruction of farm machinery (ie, threshers) which had been displacing agricultural workers.

The Echo lauded the “contemporary” aspect of Fanny’s letter; I crow about finding another tiny piece of my research.

After reading an email from the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) today, I had even more cause for rejoicing: there exist in their archives six letters and a partial seventh letter!

Oh fabjous Day!

Alas… alas… Isn’t there always an “alas”…

BRO figures each letter as four pages rather than two sides of a page, equalling pages 4 and 1 on one side, and pages 2 and 3 on the flip side.

Their charge is £10 a page!

You do the math: £10/page x 4 pages x 6 letters x 1.60$ to 1£ — my hair stands on end contemplating the bottom line! Even at half (ie, two pages per letter) the charge feels astronomical.

So my plea today, Is there a Smith&Gosling reader willing to visit the Berkshire Record Office in Reading on my behalf?

If you’re on the fence and want to know more – or, if you’re willing to take the plunge, just contact me. My email is listed on the “About the Author” page.

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A Richard Seymour Sighting!

February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In “conversation” over email with Charlotte Frost (see the post on her new biography of Sir William Knighton), it turned up that Ms. Frost had seen a photograph of the Rev. Richard Seymour — husband of my dear Fanny Smith — among a group of family photos!

Now, the Warwickshire Record Office has the not-very-good photo of a portrait of a young Richard (see portraits page), but can you imagine: seeing, “in the flesh”, a photo of someone you only know through his words and deeds? Quite THRILLING!!!

Richard has a nice “following” in Warwickshire, thanks to the talks given by Alan Godfrey. Alan had kindly invited me to offer a talk on Fanny Smith when I was in England in 2007. Seems a lifetime ago. We had a great turnout that Friday evening — thanks in no small part to Alan’s organization skills. I was able to have in hand a drawing of dear Fanny, probably done by her eldest sister Augusta, but maybe done by her sister Emma. This was done when Fanny was in her 20s and reminds me of the work of Mrs Carpenter — very likely, as that artist was commissioned for a number of pieces in the Smith family, which means the girls had the opportunity to watch her work, as well as study her methods.

By the way, Richard is described by Ms. Frost as “a man in his 60s, seated at a desk”. How wonderful if the same holding turns up a picture of … Fanny!

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