My Dear Hamy

February 16, 2018 at 12:55 pm (books, british royalty) (, , , )

This book was reviewed in the latest JASNA News (the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America) by Susan Allen Ford (the editor of Persuasions, the journal of JASNA); I’ve linked the review at the bottom, under “EXTRAS”.

My copy came via The National Archives bookshop; the author’s website is also a source for mail order. Other avenues may tell you the book is “unavailable” (Amazon.uk, for instance).

My Dear Hamy

My Dear Hamy, by Martin Thomas, is the tale of Anne Hayman – the one-time sub-governess to Princess Charlotte of Wales. Anne Hayman’s longer role was as Privy Purse to Princess Caroline.

My Dear Hamy is a LARGE book – over 700 pages.

From the author’s website:

“This book is the story of the lives of three feisty women – Caroline and Charlotte, of the blood royal, and Anne herself, the common sensed commoner. The world was rocking on its axis as Napoleon led the French into war with Britain and Europe. But as her husband progressed from mistress to mistress and squandered a fortune on gambling and excess, Caroline’s household too rocked with hushed up scandals and indiscretions.”

Martin Thomas had access to letters written by Hayman, as well as documents by (and about) the Princess of Wales. In addition, Thomas lives in the Welsh house first occupied by Hayman in the early 19th century. That coincidence sparked his research!

I’m in the midst of reading – and enjoying – My Dear Hamy.

You can get a taste of the book by reading excerpts on the author’s site. One current online review is by Alistair Lexden.

A bit of judicious editing could have tightened the narrative, and eradicated the more egregious typos. As well, some analysis of the quoted passages from letters would have better guided the reader and, perhaps, kept the author from jumping to conclusions (without considering all possibilities) about the quite-intricate manoeuvering happening within the circle of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Princess Caroline’s story is an oft-told one, but Hayman’s life – and her position within the Princess’ household – is an area of research which is most welcome.

EXTRAS:

 

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Sarah Beeny’s “Great British Christmas”

December 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm (entertainment, europe, history, jane austen) (, , , , , )

It was with great anticipation, after hearing this show was to be broadcast this past Monday, that I searched online for “A Great British Christmas, with Sarah Beeny” (originally broadcast on UK’s Channel 4). I don’t know why, but I really believed this was a multi-part series, with the first “hour” dedicated to a Georgian Christmas. I so hankered for knowledge of what exactly “Georgian” Christmas rites and festivities were!

(I kept seeing “Series 1 – Episode 1,” which does make it sound like a lengthy “series”….)

My mistake; the 46-minute, single episode rushes through the Georgians to firmly trot onto the Victorian’s well-trod ground of family, children, toys, and trees. I’m afraid I stopped there, and by the time I got back to watching this particular link had disappeared…. So I missed out on the rest of the Victorian era (if much more remained), as well as all the “war-time” era and whatever of “today” was shown.

[NB: If you see any “video” at the end of my posts, those are WordPress Ads… I’ll try to make a concerted effort to have text and not a photo at the end]

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The show starts off with a lengthy introduction: the rehab project by Beeny and her husband at their Yorkshire property, Rise Hall. Channel 4 “advertises” that a show exists on this rehab project, so, given the length (and the focus) of this Christmas special, less would have been more (dare I use the word “padding”?): however, I’d LOVE to find Rise Hall’s “Restoration Nightmare” online… Will have to look.

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A useful segment on the Kissing Ball — still not sure if this was called a Kissing Bowl or Kissing Bough instead (rather like “Rise” Hall, I would have turned on closed-captioning if I’d been watching this on TV). Was it really only hung “downstairs”? LOVED that when you kissed you plucked off a Mistletoe Berry. And who knew that in churches (only in Britain?) Mistletoe is verboten – except at York Minster!

This is a pretty display; it rather looks, with its candles, very Advent Wreath-like to me (ah, those Germans… already!?)

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This makes me think of my childhood; not because _we_ had a fireplace, but because WPIX in New York City went off-air (can you imagine such a thing nowadays!) and the only picture on the TV was a burning Yule Log.

There was something about your Yule log lasting till Twelfth Night – but as my link isn’t working, I can’t go back and listen to this section of the show. HUGE log hauled in here; LOVE the fruit and cinnamon sticks!! What a scent they must have sent into the air.

It was here however that I rather wondered: who wrote Beeny’s script? Was there a researcher who plucked out of letters, diaries, whathaveyou the very “rites” of the Festive Season I was craving to learn about? Or, was there some secondary book on, say, Regency Christmases, that — right or wrong — was followed.

There is a book out there (which I confess I’ve never seen in the flesh) that may serve as the basis for an online LIST of GIFTS received by my Emma, used to conclude that large gift-exchanges occurred at this date. Trouble is, I’ve seen mention of items from this list: I suspect it’s Emma’s list of BIRTHDAY gifts (HRO did call them both; but I’m not sure); and one year it’s gifts bought by Charles Joshua Smith (her eldest brother) while on his Grand Tour.

I made one brief note at this point, and can’t relisten: there was talk of attending Church twice. This given as “proof” of the Georgian era’s “piety.” Trouble is, they ALWAYS (horrid weather permitting) went to Church twice on Sundays!

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On to food then – with this woman, whose name I did not note at the time. Now, _I_ (fussy eater that I am, and not a great lover of meat either) wouldn’t want to eat much of what was on offer either, but “been there before” with the turned-up noses and snide comments. Amanda Vickery’s Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice  “Netherfield” Ball special also had a culinary historian chief; that was, as I recall, quite informative. Pity that route wasn’t taken here.

But then, we were pressed for time, weren’t we…

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One “game” was discussed: that of plucking out raisins (were they?) from a flaming bowl. But my attention was caught instead by the Christmas Cake, and the short discussion of King / Queen for the Day. There is a delightful segment in the Letters of Abigail Adams (yes, Mrs John Adams, later President of the United States), when the couple was resident in Paris. Talk of “No Bean – No Queen,” which I remember to this day. John, alas, does not come off well in his wife’s tale!

I’ll see if I can hunt up an online version of this letter (one of my favorites!); written to her sister, it is not at the major site of Adams correspondence.

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Must confess to being rather disappointed. Of course the link I used to watch half thursday night was down by yesterday. A few comments of the “rude” Georgians and their kissing ball (bowl? bough? not sure what she said!), few more about their “crude” food and “rude” adult games (those flaming bowls). Then it was on to toys and kiddies, trees and “traditional” Xmas.

I will try to post about the “Christmas” I have found via the Smith-Gosling family – but, like many things, what they took for granted they did not always expressly comment about.

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Jane Austen’s Regency World: Write it Right

May 2, 2011 at 5:13 am (books, entertainment, news) (, , , , , , )

Happy May!

And with a new month comes a new issue of the wonderful British magazine: Jane Austen’s Regency World.

In this issue is a very timely article on “managing disability in Jane Austen’s time” — this I look forward to reading, as poor Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger sister, had an accident and never walked again! How did a young lady cope with such a disability (Charlotte was in her late teens).

And there’s an interview with Amanda Vickery – talking about her Home with the Georgians book, among other things.

And further along the issue: my article! “Correspondence Culture” discusses what a  pre-postage stamp (“Regency” era) letter looked like, but it also touches upon the ins & outs of the large circle of correspondents someone like Jane Austen would have negotiated; how you paid (and how much) for letters; how young children were taught to begin their writing-life by first sending compliments, then composing their own letters; and also what happened when, as you aged, maybe you couldn’t read handwriting as easily as you once did. The kernel of this article was drawn from my talk “Austen/Adams: Journeys with Jane and Abigail,” hosted last summer by the JASNA-Vermont chapter.

Purchase Jane Austen’s Regency World online: Rates for single issues, back issues, or UK/outside UK subscriptions are available here.

Big C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S to JARW:
the March/April 2011 issue was their 50th edition!

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Enter Stage Right: Sir William Knighton

April 20, 2011 at 7:11 pm (books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , )

We are in conversation (part II) with biographer Charlotte Frost, about her new book Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician:

[NB: read part 1]

Q: Did you hope to find a certain story in Knighton’s life? Did what you uncover answer that initial thought, or were you constantly uncovering new and different twists?

Charlotte Frost: More a matter of what I hoped not to find. Had I discovered that Knighton had done something truly shameful I would have had to include it. That’s why I hesitated about contacting Knighton’s descendants. I didn’t want to be welcomed into their homes or be given copies of private family documents, only to publish a damning account of their forebear. And finding a dark, sinister side to Knighton would have wrecked my wonderful Word master plan for a sympathetic biography!

Q: In researching the career of Knighton, was there a particular question or historical conundrum you hoped to answer? Did the answer appear?

CF: I failed to identify why Knighton was sceptical about some of the medical education he received in London. New medical ideas were evolving in France, but I don’t know whether he was exposed to them.

Q: Was there any surprise in what you found out about Knighton, his career, his biography, his family?

CF: I was taken aback by discrepancies between the Memoir’s account of Knighton’s early years and the account suggested in primary sources. The explanation perhaps died with those who knew it, or it may survive in oblique references yet to be discovered.

Q: What about the period interested you the most?

CF: It was a gentler era than those that preceded it. When Knighton was accused of corruption he was satirised in a cartoon, not put on the rack. The cruellest forms of execution became unacceptable, and were abolished. Injustices still thrived, but they began to be seen for what they were.

Q: Where there other characters — those people whom Knighton knew or encountered — whom you wished to spend more time on?

CF: Knighton’s dealings with the poets and radicals in the 1810s needs more attention. Timely journal article seeks author!

Q: You list many books in your bibliography; was there any one or two books that you particularly would recommend to students of the period?

CF: For all its difficulties, I recommend the Memoir. The universal financial insecurity of the age is reflected in pleas for Knighton’s intervention from educated men too ill or old to continue their professions. His Seymour in-laws experienced the same difficulties as every naval family. Knighton was not the only man of his era to examine his soul in the light of Evangelical preaching. And his contempt for and alarm at popular protest is that of a generation that grew up in fear of revolution.

Q: The nature of primary research means that we find what still exists; is there any item(s) you wanted to find, or had hoped still existed?

CF: An unfinished portrait of Knighton’s wife, Dorothea, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. And miniatures of Knighton, Dorothea and their daughter that Knighton commissioned before he went to Spain.

Q: Have you any stories to pass along about doing primary research? (Gaining access to archives? transcriptions? old and fragile items? etc)

CF: I have some wonderful memories of research, but I’m haunted by the time, money and energy I’ve wasted. Reading a London street directory on microfilm, I mistook Knighton’s first London address for No 23 Argyll Street. Only after several years in search of corroborative evidence did I discover from a printed directory that he lived at No 28, which I was immediately able to confirm. I made numerous visits to The National Archives for information that was held at the Royal College of Surgeons, and I pestered the British Library for a copy of a print held at the British Museum.

Q: How did your family handle “living with the Knightons”?

CF: My significant other refers to Knighton as ‘the other man’, and is relieved to see him in print.

Q: Please describe for our readers former projects; future projects.

A: I have been a late learner, not taking my first degree until I was thirty, and not rediscovering a childhood love of history until I was in my forties. Until now my historical output has been researching and reporting in response to community history requests, giving occasional talks and submitting work for academic assessment. If I had to put a label on myself, I’d say ‘independent researcher’ but not ‘independent scholar’. My biography of Knighton marks my transition to author — someone who has found her voice. I don’t rule out further academically assessed study, but at present I feel ‘essayed out’. I want to do my own work, not what other people think I should do. But to stay fresh and sharp I need to keep in touch with academic life. I can’t bask in a post-publication comfort bubble.

I’ve started investigating loans that the Prince of Wales and his brothers incurred in a few short years in the late 1780s-early 1790s. Not biography, but the story behind each loan – who were the lenders, did they get their money back and, if not, how did they cope? I don’t yet know whether I’m revealing a gripping tale of suicide, assassination and missing diamonds, or wasting my time with two-hundred-year-old allegations that can be neither proved or disproved.

Find Sir William Knighton online:

 Charlotte Frost, Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician
info & purchase through Authors OnLine
the book’s page at Amazon.co.uk
Charlotte Frost’s author page at Amazon.co.uk

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