Miss Meen hits “Jane Austen’s Regency World”

June 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, history, jane austen, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Just thrilled to bits to see the release of the July/August issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine: my article on Margaret Meen is included:

Jane Austen Regency World_8-14

Margaret Meen – believed by some to have been governess to the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park – AKA, Lady Northampton, Mrs Chute, Mrs Smith and Miss Smith – was definitely a painter (on vellum and paper) of botanicals, and a teacher. Including, as the JARW line suggests: to the Royal family of Queen Charlotte and her girls. I truly hope that I’ve uncovered a bit of “life” for this somewhat undiscovered artist — and invite you to seek out a copy of the full-color publication that promises to deliver “EVERYTHING that is happening in the world of Jane Austen“, including this tidbit of Smith & Gosling history.

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Queen Charlotte’s Brooch

January 4, 2014 at 11:33 am (british royalty, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been crafting some “mini-biographies” of the Smiths & Goslings lately; one gave a short history of Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger (half-) sister. One of the thrilling stories about her occurred early in her life: her Godmother was England’s Queen Charlotte! It is doubtful that her name derives from the Queen; Charlotte Gosling’s mother was another Charlotte, the former Charlotte de Grey. But the connection undoubtedly could not have hurt, and it is possible that Charlotte (de Grey) Gosling was named for the queen: her father, Thomas 2nd Lord Walsingham, was Groom of the Bedchamber during the 1770s (his daughter Charlotte born in 1774).

Charlotte Gosling’s niece, another Charlotte — Charlotte Christie — remembered that when baby Charlotte was christened, her godmother the Queen gave the elder Gosling girls each a brooch, with her likeness. What could have happened to such treasures?!? What might these brooches have looked like? Searching, I found one that _I_ wouldn’t have minded being gifted with, by my sister’s godmother.

queen charlotteQueen Charlotte
J.H. Hurter, 1781
enamel, copper, gold, rubies, pearls

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Two Views of Lady Frances Compton

February 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm (british royalty, entertainment, fashion, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Today I was backtracking, re-reading some correspondence of Sir Walter Scott. In 1815 he was meeting for the first time some of the family of Lord Compton — future husband to Margaret Maclean Clephane.

It was his description of Lady Frances Compton that made me seek out some more information. And unearthed this lovely little miniature of her!

In the Smith letters, Lady Frances hovers around the edges. She is often abroad (sometimes in company with Aunt Emma, I dare say). The siblings call her ‘Aunt Frances’. Funnily enough, Walter Scott seems to write of her as “Lady Francis Compton”. Maybe not an inappropriate spelling, given his story….

First, here is a glimpse of Lady Frances, at “Her Majesty’s Drawing-Room“, reported in La Belle Assemblée (1816):

Lady Frances Compton.

    A petticoat of white satin, with draperies of embroidered silver net; train of Saxon blue satin, trimmed with silver lama lace.

The occasion celebrated the marriage of HRH the Princess Charlotte.

Walter Scott’s comment on the lady is rather remarkable; he is writing a year earlier, in April 1815:

Compton_Lady FrancesI have missed the post and cannot help myself till Monday there being none tomorrow in this God fearing and religious capital. I will see Lord G. after breakfast tomorrow perhaps before for I thought it necessary to accustom Lady Francis [sic] Compton to the voracity of a Scotchman at breakfast that she may not be surprised at the cousins whom the Isle of Mull may send upon an occasional visit and at breakfast you know I can match any highland man of them all. She is a spirited old lady fond of dogs and horses and had a pair of loaded pistols to defend her house in person when it was threatened in the corn bill riots.

(the miniature, left, sold at Sotheby’s in 2006)

Lady Frances died in February 1832, aged 74 – making her about 57 when Scott found her “a spirited old lady”. I like the fact that she could wield a brace of pistols!

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On Cloud 9

September 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm (british royalty, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last Sunday I was crowing to myself about all the *FINDS*. Just think: THREE different “items” turned up in one week, after some searching and much fortuitous clicking. On the last I have some extra news as of last night. I *LOVE* it when items rise to the surface, clambering to be noticed.

(1) Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton

My first find was stumbling once again upon ARCHIVES HUB. This time with a true piece of my research at the other end!

Archives Hub enables searches at “nearly 200 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales.” At first I could see the “hit” concerned letters written by Margaret, Lady Compton — but the site (or my connection?) was having problems. It took a lot of searching to realize the letters were housed at The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. I have fond memories of the name of this library: The French Diaries of Mrs Thrale and Dr Johnson was based on JRUL holdings! It is a favorite book, my used copy in quite decent shape.

So what was found, I hear you ask: 39 letters, penned by Margaret, plus 2 sets of verse. The citation is rather confusing. At first it sounds like the letters were written from October 1828 up to September 1829 — but further into the record I read that all the letters, addressed to Henry Edward Fox (later 4th and last Baron Holland), mainly written from ROME (check: the Comptons resided long in Italy), “are addressed to Fox in France (mostly, February-March 1826), Italy and London. All are dated within a period of nine months (October 1825-June 1826), except for four which are dated July and August 1829”

So: October 1825 to June 1826…. or, October 1828 to September 1829???

Time will tell – for this set of letters must for now remain on the back burner. Like the letters at the National Library of Scotland, penned in that case to Walter Scott. Scott’s own letters to the Clephanes and Comptons have been published. Luckily, my university’s library has the set and I long ago began culling family news.

The description says: “The letters are primarily personal, but have social and literary value“. Yeah!

(2)  Letter from Aunt Emma / Emma Smith

I’ll jump to the last “find”, for it is the least visual. I had come across internet comments by Dr. Kevin Linch (Leeds University) a while ago. I knew he had seen a letter of Aunt Emma’s (ie, Emma Smith, the youngest sister of Maria, Eliza, and Augusta – the four Smith Girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), dating to 1794. Dr Linch was interested in Emma’s description of the exercises of the yeomanry. The picture painted rather makes me think of a war-era drawing by Diana Sperling.

Of course, Dr Linch pushed to one side the very bits I wanted most from this letter I hadn’t yet transcribed (the original is at the Hampshire Record Office): the family chit-chat. So imagine my surprise when I found online Dr. Linch’s full transcription (nice…) AND the ENTIRE “original” letter (far better*).

[*by the bye: I much prefer to do my own transcribing; one transcription was given to me as “Dear Ivy” – who the hell was Ivy??! I wondered. The letter’s content indicated Lady Elizabeth Compton, cousin to the Smiths of Suttons (Maria Smith’s only daughter; sister-in-law to Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton); I had never heard her called “Ivy” though. Another letter soon surfaced and this time I read the salutation – and knew the mistake. The three-letter word ended not in a “Y” but in a “Z” — and the name was Liz! Which made complete sense.
Another source for a letter indicated the writer was someone I did not know at all. Still, I asked that a scan be sent, as the letter was well within my time period. Imagine my surprise when the writer turned from a complete unknown into the MOTHER of Mr Odell, school friend and fellow-traveller with Drummond Smith! Her letter I wanted to read – and thrilling reading it was, too.]

Here, looking at it myself, was Aunt Emma’s comments in Aunt Emma’s own loopy writing.

Emma even anticipates the arrival of Miss Meen. Margaret Meen, who surfaces in the diaries and letters, was an artist who gave lessons (I discount The Vyne’s theory that she was governess to the Erle Stoke girls), not only to the four Smiths sisters, but also to Queen Charlotte and her princesses. Little did I know, when I read this letter by Emma, that I had already put my finger on many of Margaret Meen’s watercolors!

(3) Royal Horticultural Society: Miss Meen and the four daughters of Joshua Smith

Smack in the middle of all these letter discoveries came the Botanical “watercolours on vellum” housed at the Royal Horticultural Society. Trouble is, depending on which website used, you find less or more drawings, less or more images. FRUSTRATING! and yet last night I uncovered at 48 images (one you REALLY have to search for) by this quintet!!! May rival the holdings at The Vyne – none of which are currently pictured online.

You have the choice of the following:

I naturally began with the CATALOGUE. I mean when you want to know the extent of holdings where else would you go?

Looking up keywords margaret and meen I found four hits – and one image, which belonged to the citation for her 1790 book Exotic Plants from the Royal Garden at Kew. Searching for smith and elizabeth — which I knew should bring up drawings, for those were what I had found for purchase — drew a blank. smith and augusta brought up two citations for drawings from 1787, but their artist was described as Augusta Smith (17–) => Was this Mamma?!?

Maria was nowhere to be seen – and those of Emma, which like Eliza, had been found “for purchase” were best found at another site too. What’s a girl to do? She sends an email.

And keeps on searching…

Why all the hullaballoo? Because I had found a watercolor of Eliza (Chute) Smith’s for sale through Amazon (of all places…) and the description said: “Smith was one of four daughters of Joshua Smith the MP for Devizes in Wiltshire. The Smith sisters were instructed in painting by the botanical artist Margaret Meen (fl.-). The RHS Lindley Library collection holds works on vellum by Meen and all of the Smith Sisters.” My stunned reaction: REALLY??!?!

I had to find out how many, by which artist.

Facebook had another image. Mediastorehouse.com had more – and only $15.99 for an 8×10 print. Reasonable… I now realize, though, that Mediastorehouse is NOT RHS – and searching their print “store” you can find TWELVE Miss Meen botanicals. Be advised, THIS set is the only image and info for Solandra grandiflora (LIB0036980), c1780s.

[NB: again frustration: two works are dated 1789 in the “images” but 1785 in the “prints / shop”]

In the “images” one unearths ALL when searching for Margaret Meen (she turns up in their descriptions): without knowing (until I hear back from RHS) whether ALL their Smith/Meen holdings are digitized, and barring the “can’t find this drawing here, but it is listed somewhere else”, I now see:

  • numbers: LIB0002763 – LIB0002770 –> eight Botanicals by Emma Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002761 – LIB0002762 –> two Botanicals by the elusive Maria Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002749 – LIB0002755 –> seven Botanicals by Augusta Smith (here rather described as marrying her father-in-law; Charles Smith of Suttons, not Stratford Langthorne…)
  • numbers: LIB0002737 – LIB0002748 –> twelve Botanicals by Eliza Smith
  • numbers: LIB0036963 – LIB0036981 –> eighteen (out of 19) Botanicals by Margaret Meen

And on the “images” site you are treated to a GALLERY by Miss Emma Smith:

I could hardly believe my eyes — and they will be a treat for your eyes.

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Queen Luise of Prussia

August 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm (books, british royalty, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

I first encountered Queen Luise in the delightful little portrait by Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun (see her oeuvre at Batguano). So it was wonderful to see a book dedicated to her clothing mentioned on Kleidung um 1800Sabine always finds the most fascinating books! I only wish my German language skills weren’t so rusty…

The book is Luise –  Die Kleider der Königin. The television “short” I found about the exhibition which was the basis for the book is also in German: but it is a FEAST for the eyes. Take a look:

 

Aren’t these DETAILS simply gorgeous?
Such well-preserved gowns are so wonderful to see.

And here is the Queen herself:

Some links which will tell you about the royal residence and the exhibition:

The woman German World magazine called “the ‘Lady Diana’ of the 19th century“, was born Duchess Luise Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz — niece to Britain’s Queen Charlotte.

Queen Luise would not live to see the end of the Napoleonic Wars; she died in July 1810 – aged only 35. Her husband, Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia Mary Gosling would mention in her earliest (1814) diary.

Read more and See more Königin Luise via google.

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Postal – it’s history

June 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm (diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Been there – done that – got the T-shirt.

This one, of course, says it all, as far as I’m concerned!

During the last few evenings, I’ve been re-reading, correcting transcriptions, and trying to figure out what I have — and what I still need to see — for Smith & Gosling letters.

Not counting what I’ve not yet pursued (ie, family archives at a couple large estates), I’ve amassed more than 300 letters — and I’m still counting, for I know more is out there.

Just in the last month, three letters surfaced and a very kind gentleman let me see their contents! One was a bit out of the ordinary: signed Norman, I believe this woman (rather than dear Miss Meen, the painter of flowers, who gave lessons to the Smiths — and Queen Charlotte and her princesses) – Mrs Norman – a good contender for the post of governess to the daughters of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park. She is certainly around the family, and very “familiar”, although I still can’t quite track her down. They’re either “too young or too old”.

My latest “craze” has been for letters written by young Augusta Smith (later: Mrs Henry Wilder of Purley and Sulham). Ah! she is just a delight. A quick wit, with a ready turn of phrase.  Here, in the 1830s, Augusta is on the Isle of Wight, for the health of her toddling son. Doesn’t this just transport you back in time, at the hand of a fashionable wit?

“– A lovely cottage close by has just been taken by Mrs. Mason a daughter of L:d Hoods with a host of progeny of all ages – her husband is commanding a ship in the Medit:n & she is going to beguile his absence tomorrow by a “dejeuner dinant” & dansant” w:h I suppose will bring hither a whole squadron of galleys & barges full of blue jackets, white trowsers & gold epaulettes from Portsmouth

Don’t you just want to read more?

I’m always thrilled to hear from readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, who have some pieces of my particular puzzle — letters, diaries, sketches even. Let me hear from you!

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Regency London

September 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm (books, fashion, london's landscape) (, , , , , , , )

Gotta love it when you’re reading a novel and suddenly you are transported back in time.

I have made mention before that Jane Austen’ s novels are a great source for “life as lived” by people like the Smiths and Goslings. Never mind that Emma Smith later (1828) married James Edward Austen, Jane’s nephew!

Anyway, in preparation for the JASNA AGM, I’ve been re-reading Sense and Sensibility — which was published 200 years ago (1811-2011) — and came across a couple of passages that seem to breath “life” into similar scenes that must really have happened. Recalling my post of Mrs Gosling’s party, it’s just thrilling to read about Marianne and Elinor:

They arrived in due time at the place of destination, and as soon as the string of carriages before them would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their names announced form one landing-place to another in an audible voice, and entered a room splendidly lit up, quite full of company, and insufferably hot. When they had paid their tribute of politeness by curtseying to the lady of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the heat and inconvenience, to which their arrival must necessarily add. “

Augusta Smith (Emma’s eldest sister) spoke of the press of people when she went to court to be presented; this passage from Sense and Sensibility ably targets the “wonder” of one’s arrival — but also what awaited in rooms filled with hundreds of people!

Read about Mrs Gosling’s parties here.

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