Dining with Jane Austen

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

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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