Putting a Face to a Name

May 2, 2018 at 2:13 pm (diaries, estates, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to *share* a *find* with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers! With the amount of material I’ve unearthed over the past ten years, although bits and pieces turn up, a lot of my time lately is taken up with processing what I have. Photography of archival material means that I’ve a backlog of items awaiting transcription.

So a wonderful surprise to find a photograph of someone who plays a small role in the Smith & Gosling history.

Emma’s brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith had two wives. My second diarist (the other being Emma herself) is Mary Gosling, the second Lady Smith. Charles’ first wife (she died in childbirth) was Belinda Colebrooke. She and her younger sister Harriet Colebrooke were the focus of an intense Chancery battle – at one point it even came to blows, at gun-point, on the windswept heath as the sisters approached London in a carriage overtaken by their mother and two hired thugs.

Such actions gave the family pain and heartache, and (of course) made the papers – which is how the likes of historians can learn about so much that took place two hundred years ago.

It is rather a surprised, despite the wealth of the Colebrooke girls, that they were so accepted by “Society”. The crux of the Chancery case concerned which “side of the blanket” they were born on. Thus the odd ages that some materials list for the girls (rounded down to make them younger, and indisputably born after their parents’ marriage). The court case actually pitted family against family (as was so often the case – see for instance Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Dickens’ Bleak House): Belinda’s paternal uncles were on two different sides. Their father, George Colebrooke – son of Sir George and Lady Colebrooke (the half sister of the Smith’s maternal grandmother) – had died months before his father (both in 1809). The baronetcy went to a younger brother, therefore. Legitimate heirs, though, could inherit Mr. George Colebrooke’s fortune; and their mother could claim her share while her children were under-age.

The case went on, in one form or another, for decades. (Even after Charles’ death, in 1830.)

Harriet Colebrooke died in January 1822, after a lengthy illness (heart disease; perhaps consumption). She hadn’t even reached her twentieth birthday. Belinda was inconsolable; their uncle, Henry Colebrooke – who had been overseas, wasn’t even aware of Harriet’s death. He first heard when he landed back in Britain.

A few sentences in a few letters fleshes out Harriet’s life. At one point, she seems to have been attracted to Charles Smith! He seems to have been uninterested. Perhaps he already held out hopes for attracting Belinda – though in the period before her sister’s death, Belinda was already engaged, to a young man of whom the family did not approve. There was more fodder for the courts!

WSumner

William Holme Sumner

It seems, however, that Harriet did have a young man wanting to marry her. A “deeply hidden” sentence in a letter made me take a look at ALL the occurrences (noted in Emma’s meticulously-kept early diaries) of visits by a certain young man named William Sumner.

A Most Frustrating Letter! The important passage, written in light red ink, is crossed against a dark black ink. AND: the paper bleeds through from the other side, giving three handwritings to choose between: strokes of black ink, the shadow of the backside, and the scrawl in red.

IF I read the passage correctly, the sticking point may have been the young man himself: Charles intimates that the “W. Sumner” needed “to make up his mind.” This in a letter, written during Charles’ grand tour, in 1820. William would have been about 22-years-old; Harriet only 16 or 17. Whether Harriet’s illness or the Sumner-heel-dragging intervened, the marriage never took place.

The Sumners – who had purchased (c1770) the estate HATCHLANDS from the widowed Frances Boscawen – were known to Emma’s family. The father, George Sumner, a Member of Parliament, turns up in Smith family letters, and even earlier in diaries of Mrs. Smith and her sister Mrs. Chute. So it was with a bit of _pleasure_ to realize the connection that was developing between the Colebrooke-Sumner children. As more items come to light, I hope to uncover more of their story.

But it’s the photograph of William Sumner (above) that I wanted to mention in this blog post.  Being photography, William would be at least forty years older than the young man who pursued Harriet Colebrooke during the waning years of the Regency.

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A Stitch in Time

February 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Several months ago I watched the only episode of A Stitch in Time a certain website had available. Last night I watched FOUR more. A fascinating series of half-hour investigation into clothing from the past.

The fashion-forward hostess, Amber Butchart, a fashion historian, has fashioned a series of garment “tales” from historical portraits. With the able assistance of the very knowledgeable Ninya Mikaila, an historical costumier, the garments take shape. So viewers learn not only about the lives of each portrait’s personage, we also learn about things like today’s wool industry; historical dyes; the precious remains of bygone fabrics from London’s Foundling Hospital, and, of course, everything under the sun about sewing historical fashion.

Six episodes have aired on BBC4 in January and February 2018, focusing on:

  • Charles II
  • the Arnolfini wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck
  • Broughton Castle’s anonymous leather-clad 18th Century “Hedge Cutter”
  • Dido Belle, brought up in the household of Lord Mansfield (Jane Austen fans note!)
  • The Black Prince
  • Marie Antoinette, specifically Vigée Le Brun‘s Marie Antoinette en chemise

Find Butchart’s website here.

Butchart and Robe a la Chemise

And more about the series (and viewer reactions) in this blog post (click the photo).

For those in or visiting England, there is a Stitch in Time Exhibition at HAM HOUSE of the six costumes from the series! Runs until 6 April 2018, open from 12 to 4 PM.

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Portrait: Which Mrs. Gosling?

December 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm (people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , )

Last year I was contacted by someone with a portrait purporting to be “Mrs. Gosling” painted (in oils) by Margaret Carpenter. The idea was that it could be a portrait of my diarist, Mary Gosling. But, as she was “born” a Gosling, I discounted that idea straightaway.

That left the possibility that she represented a spouse. The probability of “Mrs. Gosling” being SOMEHOW related hung on the idea that she had come to South Africa through Houghton family connections: Elizabeth Houghton (born 1739 or 1743; died June 1811) was William Gosling’s mother, wife of Robert Gosling and sister-in-law of Sir Francis Gosling.

Mrs Gosling_Carpenter

As you can see from the auction “ad” from 2006, the auction house placed the painter “in the circle of” Margaret Carpenter. There is no denying, however, that Mrs. Carpenter painted many members of the Smith & Gosling family – including Emma Austen, James Edward Austen, even Augusta Wilder and Spencer Smith.

I have never seen the “indistinct signature and date” that is supposed to be in the right lower corner. But I have seen the labels on the rear – which, of course, may not be contemporary with the painting.

One label queries a date – 1835? 1855? When I asked Hope Greenberg of the University of Vermont (and a fellow member of JASNA Vermont), she put the dress of the sitter to around 1840. The Gosling ladies would have been on the cusp of fashion; never a decade behind.

LOOK at all the bits and pieces that are up in the air: painter; sitter; date of the painting. Plus it made its way from England to South Africa. On the plus side that it was connected (at least anecdotally) to the Houghton family.

Also on the plus side, that it seems to have an “exhibition” (?) label, designating the painter as at an address truly associated with Margaret Carpenter (also known as Mrs. William Carpenter):

Mrs W:m Carpenter
3, Nottingham Gate
York Gate, Regent’s Park

Exhibition catalogues or Mrs. Carpenter’s own catalogue of sitters (a copy at London’s National Portrait Gallery exists) could help; at present, I have no access.

The sitter is on the younger side – so the Hon. Mrs. Gosling (née the Hon. Charlotte de Grey), William’s widow who died in October 1839, should be discounted.

So the next place to turn is the dress of the woman – who is very fashionably dressed, indeed! The hairstyle, and the jewelry, are also of interest.

It’s the long chain, VERY prominent, that made me wonder: Is it Georgina Vere Gosling? She was Mary’s sister-in-law, the only sister-in-law of the family; only Robert Gosling, the second son, ever married – William Ellis Gosling died young, unmarried; Bennett Gosling and half brother Thomas George Gosling lived longer lives, but never married either.

There is a photograph from 1865 of Georgina Vere Gosling, which I’ve seen elsewhere than online, in which she is wearing just such a chain, though it is not quite so “displayed” around the body, as on the portrait.

But Georgina (born Georgina Sullivan) was born in 1804 – and that is where another label comes into play: it seemingly claims the sitter to have been born in 1810. For the label which (in another hand) claims:

Signed Right/Hand lower/Corner.
By/Margaret/Carpenter/1835? 1855?

— each two line written on either “end” — states, in a large, beautiful, and prominent hand, the obvious intent of the label:

Mrs. Gosling
1810 —  

If we go with the birth date of 1810, that leaves out several wives of the Gosling cousins, for instance Richard Gosling married Maria Elizabeth Gregg in 1820; his wife would not have been a 10-year-old.

But the date does pose an interesting possibility: Born in 1809 was the youngest Gosling sibling, Charlotte Gosling. As Cassandra Austen once wrote that she was taking “brevet rank” — indicating that she now chose to be addressed as “Mrs. Austen” in the place of “Miss Austen,” due to her age, it’s possible that this “Mrs. Gosling” was in fact an unmarried woman, who thought herself past the age of being a “Miss”.

If she was exhibited, her title was merely “Portrait of a Lady” (again, according to the rear label). That the family did lend their private portraits to public exhibitions, at the behest of an artist, IS borne out by one letter (from 1830), in which Mary writes: “I can only sanction its being exhibited on one condition, that Mrs Carpenter should put it into another frame, as I am sure it would get knocked about, and that my Sister would not like it to be exposed to the risk.

To anyone with further thoughts or information, the comment box awaits!

 

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Victoria & Thomas Sully

July 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm (books, british royalty, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Yesterday I watched two episodes of the recent series VICTORIA, with Jenna Coleman in the title role. Episode 2 had a session of the Queen sitting to the portraitist Sir James Hayter (Guy Oliver-Watts) and ends with Victoria “needing help” at the unveiling of his resultant portrait.

Coleman as Victoria

This had me running to fetch my copy of Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully, Carrie Rebora Barratt‘s book that includes Sully’s 1837-38 diary of his stay in London with his daughter Blanche. I remember picking up this book in a newly-reopened Oxfam bookshop in Winchester in 2007. Ooh, they had some good titles then!

Not only does it tell about the MANY portraits the poor Queen sat for – be it miniatures; destined for postage stamps and coins; official portraits; commissions (like Sully’s – destined for the U.S.) – the book also has something to say about Hayter as well as his rival Wilkie — whose portrait the Queen did not think “very like”.

_I_ had to chuckle over her comments (culled from Victoria’s diary) about William Charles Ross – who painted at least TWO of the Smith sisters; Fanny Seymour (which I believe I have found, as a photograph of the original) and Maria Seymour – which was sold at auction, and about which Mamma (Mrs Charles Smith) has left us a letter.

Victoria_Sully

Amazon has a “new” copy – but many “near new” can be found in secondhand book markets. Definitely find a copy with its dust jacket.

Notice, too, of a tiny buried citation in the end credits of “Victoria”: that the series is based on the book by A.N. Wilson. The New York Times said of the book in 2014, “One more foray into a well-thumbed archive inevitably risks diminishing returns. In the absence of some new trove of documents, Wilson’s narrative holds few factual surprises. Rather, its novelty lies in psychological analysis, making his a Victoria for the age of reality TV. A celebrity who craves a private life but also courts popularity through new media technologies.”

A TV series is about as close to “reality TV” as one can get – so perhaps as fitting a source as any of the many biographies of Queen Victoria.

For those interested in “tie-ins”, Daisy Goodwin (series creator) has authored a “Victoria” novel, and Helen Rappaport has PBS’s “official companion book” to the TV series.

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Visit a Portrait: William Ellis Gosling

April 18, 2017 at 10:08 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

William Ellis Gosling

Decommissioned from one museum and long “for sale” at a dealer, the portrait of William Ellis Gosling by Sir William Beechey is a star at the El Paso Museum of Art. Now viewers from far and wide can see some up close & personal views of the young babe who became the eldest brother of my diarist Mary Gosling. Click on the picture to watch a short (2 minutes) film on YouTube.

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William Heathcote of Hursley Park

July 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , )

Always searching for more, I’ve come across this ENCHANTING portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – which features a cherubic William Heathcote (later the 5th baronet), with his cousins, painted by William Owen c1803.

wm heathcoteThe museum’s write-up about the painting is fascinating: for it proves how wrong a catalogue attribution sometimes can be! The baby in the quartet was, in 1938, thought to be William (born in 1801). This then meant that the children surrounding the baby were all little girls… When you click on the picture to see the ENTIRE portrait (it will take you to the Met, and open in another window) you will see why this is so important a mistake.

  • when at the Met’s website, click under “catalogue entry” for the painting’s full history

William, who was a GREAT CHUM of Edward Austen, was the son of the Rev William Heathcote, vicar of Worting. Jane Austen knew the Heathcotes well; little William’s mother was the former Elizabeth Bigg, daughter of Lovelace Bigg-Wither. Elizabeth returned to her parental home following the early death of her husband. Jane Austen was friendly with all the Bigg sisters of Manydown.

The painter, William Owen, exhibited the work in 1806.

The fascinating part of the history is what happened in 2012 – just two years ago – when a descendent gave the museum access to family history and, based on birth dates, the Met re-evaluated the sitters.

The Heathcote pictures (yes, in the PLURAL) were sold off in the 1930s, by a distant relation who had inherited the baronetcy (as mentioned, Edward Austen’s friend was the 5th baronet). As the website says, the extensive collection “constituted a rather comprehensive record of the appearance of succeeding generations from the late seventeenth century until shortly after 1800“. Breaks my heart to read of families divesting themselves of The Old Family Portraits – but without such divestment these would not be found online now…

Owen’s work has great charm, in the rusticity of the scene presented.

I forgot to mention: William Heathcote’s first wife was Caroline Perceval, daughter of the 2nd Baron Arden — who was related to the Comptons of Castle Ashby (ie, Emma Austen’s Aunt and Uncle Northampton). So, in a way, William “married into the family” even before Edward Austen did! (He and Emma Smith married on 16 December 1828.)

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Mystery portrait ID’ed: Queen Elizabeth I

February 18, 2014 at 2:27 am (british royalty, estates, fashion, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.

mystery lady and deer

click photo to read original post

In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:

The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….

In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!

queen elizabeth

Major OMG!

Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).

So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”

faces of QEI

NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:

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Portraits / Costume Database: The Portrait Project

January 29, 2014 at 2:42 am (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Breaking news of a terrific website:

portrait project

If you’re like me, you might look at a portrait and wish you could “date” it; or, you might wish to know what costume looked like, say, in 1817. This database will help! A lot of “famous” faces, and you’ll soon begin to recognize certain “famous” artists, too. But what a wealth of well-arranged, early to navigate information & images!

There’s even a “History Timeline” which lays out a what-happened-when series of happenings, compositions or world events. For instance, if you see 1813’s mention of JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and wish to see what portraits looked like from c1813, simply click on the link – et voilà!

Artwork represented comes from many nations and time periods; portraits are nicely ID’ed.

Highly recommended.

Lady Milner_vienna

Lady Milner

George_IV

George_IV

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Robert Gosling: 200 Years ago TODAY

January 27, 2014 at 6:09 am (a day in the life, diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )

Reading through the first chapter of my book (those purchasing Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013 get a slightly-stale taste of that opening chapter) I was submerged into Mary’s world via her 1814 trip to Oxford when I read aloud the following:

“Two of Mr. Gosling’s four sons resided in college in 1814: William Ellis, the eldest of the seven Gosling children, only weeks beyond his twentieth birthday; and Robert, one year younger. William had entered Brasenose College on 10 July 1812, and seems to have taken no degree. Robert was fairly new to college, having matriculated on 27 January 1814. He stayed through 1822, leaving with a Master’s degree.”

January 27th?! I long have had Monday in mind as “Mozart’s birthday” (you can always tell when the anniversary of that day approaches: the local radio station plays a LOT of Mozart!). But reading my little history, I found myself whispering to myself: two hundred years ago to the day…

I have been lucky enough (thank you Mark & Emma!!) to see a portrait of all three Gosling boys – William, Robert and Bennett – painted some few years later. What a handsome trio! Though, in some ways, the most “pleasing” countenance can be said to belong to Robert. As a toddler he was compared to Falstaff for his roundness; as an old man in a long-exposed photograph he reminded this American of Abraham Lincoln: long, lean, and wearing a stove-pipe hat!

But two-hundred years ago TODAY, on 27 January 1814, Robert Gosling, a young man, had matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford — and that summer his sister Mary wrote down the trip her family (“Mama, Papa, my Sister and myself”) took in order to visit the boys. That wasn’t the first diary of hers that I read, but ultimately it has so-far become the earliest of her writings that I have found.

christ church college

    • Did the “Great Hall” of Christ Church College really serve as inspiration for HOGWARTS HALL? Mary was there… and left her thoughts: “The Hall is one of the most magnificent in Oxford.” (and I remember that scene in the first film, vividly)

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What Jane Austen Saw: the 1813 Reynolds Exhibition

August 10, 2013 at 11:10 am (history, jane austen, jasna, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Being CHEST-DEEP in portraits this week, I was so excited to find two Janine Barchas-related websites. One, a 2012 “work-in-progress” page on the Aphra Behn.Org “interactive journal” (see also ABO’s new website); the other, her up-and-running “WHAT JANE SAW” website.

reynolds exhibition

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will realize (quickly!) that my interest in Austen is only outstripped by my fascination with my SMITH & GOSLING families. What JANE AUSTEN SAW is surely also WHAT THE SMITHS & GOSLINGS SAW!

Emma’s youthful diaries are filled with references to exhibitions; alas, no 1813 diary written by Emma exists (that I know of….). BUT: An 1813 diary exists for Eliza Chute.

Unfortunately, Eliza was less likely to be in London than her sister Augusta Smith, and nothing exists at HRO (Hampshire Record Office) for Mamma for any of the years comprising the decade of the 1810s.  Mary Lloyd Austen also has a diary for 1813, but, like Eliza Chute, was even less likely to be in London during “the season”.

If I had been given the nod by JASNA to visit England this summer, my project would have centered around these very diaries! Alas, again, it was not to be. So if anyone in England, near Winchester, wants to pop in, take a look, and tell readers what is or is not listed in these diaries — feel free to comment.

Lady Cunliffe was still alive (died in fall, 1814); and she knew Sir Joshua Reynolds — was painted by him even. She probably visited the exhibition, but so far very little written by her is known to exist. The Gosling/Cunliffe family was well-known to Mrs Piozzi (Hester Thrale); and she lent paintings to this exhibition! Small world…

For now, though, let’s take a viritual tour, circa 1813, in the company of Jane Austen!

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