Letter to Mamma

April 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm (entertainment, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last week I bid on this little snippet from the Smith & Gosling past:

mrs smith free front 1838

I suspect it once contained a letter written to Mamma by Eliza (and/or her husband Denis Le Marchant). The “frank” is described as the signature of Mr. Labouchere; it’s a REAL guess, because the Smiths obtained franks from so many quarters. Given the date and Denis’ position in the late 1830s, it’s a guess that makes me salivate for the letter it once contained!

My father rather scoffed when he saw the tiny scrap. I must admit to my own disappointment – but I simply had to have it. Something once addressed to Mamma Smith! It was the shock, genuine shock, of seeing MAPLEDURHAM as I looked through tons of letters online. Pity this one contained no actual letter… What might have been written in 1838 to Mamma?? Is the letter somewhere, waiting to be ‘reunited’ with its (partial) envelope?

I held the paper up to the window and spotted a fabulous watermark: a large fleur de lys and below this, J & M, written in script. The cartouche around the fleur de lys has been cropped — for this is only a Free Front: what you see in the image (above) is what I got.

It’s early days; my information on watermarks comes from a book (quite wonderful; called Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores) that out of necessity does not comment on English writing paper. IF anyone can ID the paper for me, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a look at this terrific set of watermarks from England and Continental papers.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The “Original” Jane Austen Book Club

September 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

In reading about Jane Austen and the Plumptres of Fredville, I took down my copy of Jane Austen’s Letters to see for myself her mentions of the Plumptres.

I’ll blame it on the early morning, and the fact that my tea was still steeping; I turned to a letter that in the index was cited for its mention of the Papillons. Right letter of the alphabet, wrong family.

But I was sucked into this letter in an instant!

Jane is writing to Cassandra from Chawton, and mentions the reading she has been doing:

My Mother is very well & finds great amusement in the glove-knitting; when this pair is finished, she means to knit another, & at present wants no other work. — We quite run over with Books. She has got Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B.  & I am reading a Society-Octavo… by Capt. Pasley of the Engineers, a book which I protested against at first, but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining.”

Le Faye’s endnote explains that Jane Austen was part of “the Chawton Book Society, or reading club.”

Time and again the Smiths mention the purchase of books from the reading club, or attending club dinners. My assumption is that various members clubbed together, the purchased books made the rounds, and afterwards were up for sale – and purchased (or not) by the club members.

NB: I’d love to hear from anyone with specific news on how these reading clubs worked.

Jane later writes, “Yesterday moreover brought us Mrs Grant’s Letters, with Mr White’s Comp:ts,– but I have disposed of them, Comp:ts & all, for the first fortnight to Miss Papillon — & among so many readers or retainers of Books as we have here in Chawton, I dare say there will be no difficulty in getting rid of them for another fortnight if necessary.” [letter 78; 24 Jan 1813]

CAN YOU IMAGINE?! a place as small and intimate as Chawton, with all these readers?! Gosh, I would be in heaven to be among so many booklovers!! By the way, I found myself laughing at loud at so many of Austen’s turns of phrase. Just DELIGHTFUL!

Permalink Leave a Comment

UK Literary Tour

August 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm (books, jane austen, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Found this on Pinterest – and then hunted up a place to get it. Check out The Literary Gift Company – £12. Jane Austen seems to reside in Gloucestershire more than Hampshire. Oh, well; can you find her? Who on the “map” is your favorite writer? Who is missing?? It’s claimed there’s 188 writers here… Happy Hunting — and reading!

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Cover Art

August 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

These days, publishing seems to love old books — out of copyright and “free” of royalties for them. It’s not a bad thing, although I do wear my SKEPTICAL hat when I see something selling for “full price”.**

Anyway, rather than talking publishers and their high costs, low royalties (if any), today’s post concerns these truly lovely Brontë & Austen covers.

Makes me want to pull out some paints and have a go myself!

The story behind the artwork is told at The New York Times: it’s a bid for “younger” audiences.

In March, Splinter, an imprint of Sterling Publishing, began releasing its Classic Lines series, paperback editions of classic novels with French flaps and delicate illustrations on the jackets that have the appearance of watercolors. For the artwork, the publisher hired Sara Singh, a Manhattan-based fashion illustrator.”

Personally, I don’t see cover art as a case of “boring, stuffy” versus “hip” – a good cover should do SOMETHING to convey the story –> which these covers do nicely.

**At Amazon, the Austen novels published by Splinter are selling for $8.95 each (reasonably priced; though I wonder: traditional paperback size or the oversized pb?? maybe I’ll visit my nearest Barnes and Noble and track them down – in the Young Adult Section? Or Classic Fiction?). Interesting note: the novels are cited online as being “by Jane Austen AND Sara Singh“!

What do YOU think of trends: in publishing, in cover art, in books?

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment