I have become CONSUMED with getting more and more Smith & Gosling material, and that has included the dreaded WILLS of even earlier ancestors. The one thing that has proven to be a help? The old wills means I have some earlier orthography, which often helps with the segue into “modern” spelling. The same holds for the earliest handwriting! I even READ some wills I downloaded from The National Archives five or six (or more…) years ago.
So while I thought to share a particularly fabulous hand, I chose this one because its (currently) the earliest example I have – although it is almost (ALMOST!) modern in its legibility.
The give-away: the first word; otherwise, doesn’t it rather look like a child writing?
Just in case you’re unsure what it says: Elsewhere in the Kingdom of England…
Yes, this particular document has a most unusual (to me) ‘s’, which makes the first word look rather like Elfewhere… My document dates from 1726. And is related to family of my diarist Mary Gosling.
I’ll talk more about this document, which I’m just transcribing. In the meantime, I introduce you to palaeography on The National Archives website – which provides a delightful interactive tutorial.
Gotta love a book that begins,
“Years ago I found a trove of old letters. I found them in a broken-down steamer trunk buried under moldy blankets in a dilapidated shed attached to a decrepit row house.”
These words open the 2014 book Nina Sankovitch entitled, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing.
Although I’ve heard of her Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, it was a blog post about LETTERS that brought me to this later book. For the Love of Bookshops wrote about the genesis of Sankovitch’s “next” book:
Like Erin (the bookstore-loving blogger), I too cannot believe the “luck” of such a treasure trove. And, it’s addictive! The more I find on my Smiths & Goslings, the more I want to find.
Sankovitch’s “find” rather reminds me of the beginning of Célestine. Although Gillian Tindall’s trove was a handful of letters, the fascinating history of young Célestine, a French woman, made for a stupendous read and an enthralling untangling of someone’s past. Nina Sankovitch’s stash turned out to be early 20th century: a mother & son correspondence. Thanks goodness the letters found a home!
After a quarter-century AND with a fourth volume projected for the series, actor/writer Simon Callow‘s comments, thoughts, frustrations, and triumphs are a revelation! Actually make ME FEEL GOOD about my own work (though can two unknown English girls compare to the world-famous Welles?).
SO MANY “bells” going off, as I read:
- “Multi-volume biographies are by no means encouraged in the trade…” [_I_ LOVE them; and the BIGGER the better (as long as the bio is GOOD…)]
- “I [Callow] was determined that, unlike the Laughton book – for which I had simply seen all the films, read all the available published sources and interviewed a few easily accessible people – the Welles biography would be a work of serious scholarship.” [my emphasis]
- “I crossed the US plundering archives, libraries and museums, obsessively photocopying and microfiching, peering at blurred and fuzzy documents which took long and painful months to decipher; I went through the European collections, I tracked down obscure doctoral theses, again painstakingly photocopied – no internet, no email, back then, of course.” [1989 marked the inception of the project]
- “If I had carried on, the book would have been hernia-inducingly heavy, and it would have been a gabble.” [Callow on WHY there’s to be a fourth volume]
- “He [Welles] was fearless in his experiments, and he never did any of it for the money, just for the sheer joy of making films. Because of this, he has inspired more directors than any other film-maker, but he leaves no legacy” [that is a SAD thought to have about such an artist]
Click on book to read The Guardian‘s article
“Lives don’t have plots, they have
only movements and phases. The good biographer tries
to resist the rut of merely telling one thing after another…”
— reviewer, Anthony Quinn
You may have gotten the idea, from the previous post, that I’ve been working on a diary – which (I believe) has no “beginning” and no “end”. Written in 1819, the volume begins at Plymouth Dock on Saturday August 28th; it ends at Glastonbury on Wednesday September 29th. I would presume that Emma (Aunt Emma; I should be specific and differentiate between the two “Miss Emma Smiths”) left and returned to Erle Stoke Park, her deceased father’s Wiltshire estate. Emma could be found there into the spring of 1820, when letters discuss her packing up the house; in its bareness, it’s looking forlorn and melancholy.
Joshua Smith (above) had died earlier in 1819. At one point Aunt Emma makes an oblique reference to the lonely feelings his death produced in her, his youngest (now “orphaned”) daughter. Otherwise, the diary really doesn’t discuss must of a very personal nature. She tours, meets people, loves places, hates places, has a horse go lame, and sketches a few times. Although I don’t have an image of the fly leaf, I suspect it was blank – or at least not ID’ed by Emma herself (a later owner sometimes writes in them). Therefore, except for the fact that it was one of MANY items belonging to Emma Smith of Erle Stoke Park (not the designation the library gives her, by the way), how could ANYONE know who wrote such a diary?? – if the beginning of this trip, or its end turned up as a single volume, for instance – there probably is NOTHING within it that ID’s Emma in any way. She doesn’t mention her name; she has no parent, relation, or named-companion. All there is that ID’s her is her spiking handwriting:
Very distinctive, isn’t it?
And I have access to OTHER travel diaries, one of which (from 1794) is referenced in this 1819 diary – for she heartily wishes to see once again the estate known as Fancey (or Fancy?) in Devonshire, where she stayed as a younger woman with all her family. That trip, too, “ends” because the booklet ends; but most travel diaries seem to depart from home and return there. These two volumes do not.
So, if out there with (really) no clues about the writer beyond “woman”, I started looking in some obvious places for a further continuation of this 1819 diary: in the Wiltshire Archives, in the Devon Archives, in the Plymouth Archives. Of course, not ALL items are listed online. And without SEEING the writing, I cannot guess ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when the online description gives ANONYMOUS DIARY as a sole indentification; not even a DATE!
A few interesting items did turn up. For instance, I found the website EARLY TOURISTS IN WALES, which I discuss at greater length on my Ladies of Llangollen blog. I took yet another look, this time concentrating on the “Anon.” entries, at William Matthews’ British Diaries: An Anotated Bibliography (there are others out there, including the Ponsonby series). Oh! there are so many anonymous diaries; any of them could be by ANY of the Smiths (given a certain time parameter, of course).
One he mentions – for 1819 – is most tantalizing: “Travel diary, July-August, 1819: pleasure and business trip to Dublin and back; acute observation and dry humor; one of the better travel diaries.” It is held at the Wigan Public Library, part of the EDWARD HALL COLLECTION (if Matthews’ information, from 1967, still holds).
The use of the term BUSINESS makes me presume a male writer; though: you never know; Emma DOES write that same word at last once in her diary. It would be most intriguing to think that she went further afield – to Dublin – and then to Devonshire. It IS possible.
MY Emma (young Emma, as she is sometimes called in the family in the 1810s) [though, PLEASE, do not think of Aunt Emma as “old Emma”!! she wouldn’t like that…] seems to have made very little mention of her aunt in her diary for 1819. Though strife in the family cannot be discounted as a reason for silence.
In short, I simply do not KNOW where Aunt Emma went or what she did, except for these few weeks.
But what a pipe-dream to take with me throughout 2016: the idea of putting a name to some ANONYMOUS diarist’s volume.
Best Wishes to you, for a happy & healthy 2016
Readers of Jane Austen all recognize the (lack of) funds heroines likes Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood have as their marriage portion. And, what happens to the family estate when their fathers die: Norland goes to the only Dashwood son; Mr. Collins, a male relative, will inherit Longbourn.
But, in a highly interesting and exceptionally valuable book, A.P.W. Malcomson tells us that the HEIRESS, such as Wickham’s Miss Grey, may have been as cash poor as anyone else. Marriage portions didn’t always get paid, or paid in a timely manner. Sometimes, the lady’s fortune was quite tied up by trustees, and sometimes “a fortune” ended up meaning that you inherited nothing else other than your marriage portion – even when your parent had a healthy bank account.
This last seems to have been the lot of Mary (Lady Smith; née Gosling) and her sister Elizabeth (Mrs. Langham Christie). A letter written by Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, passes on news following the decease of father William Gosling, partner in the Fleet Street firm Goslings and Sharpe, in January 1834. He left the bulk of his HUGE estate to Robert Gosling, the eldest surviving son. (Elder brother William Ellis Gosling predeceased their father by only three weeks.) The main item going to Bennett and Thomas Gosling (the remaining sons) was the country estate of Roehampton Grove, although each were said to be receiving a healthy £135,000. Mary and Elizabeth, who had married, respectively, in 1826 and 1829, surely thought some further monies would come to them – one a widow and the other living “in limited circumstances & with an increasing family” – especially given the size (possibly up to a million pounds, in 1834 currency) of Mr. Gosling’s estate.
Augusta Wilder’s letter passes on information gained from young Charlotte Gosling. Augusta wrote:
“It seems to me perfectly unfair to heap riches so upon the sons & portion off the daughters with comparatively such small sums.”
Augusta’s mention of “to cut off I may say the daughters with 20.000 is inexplicable” reflects the marriage portion Mary was said to have brought with her in 1826 (which was a decided surprise to Mrs. Chute! She wrote of it in a letter).
Charlotte Gosling, one of two children born to her mother, formerly the Hon. Charlotte de Grey (the Walsingham barons of Norfolk were her siblings), still had a living mother – which circumstance was seen as a blessing to Augusta: “Charlotte who if her mother were dead would be very poorly off after what she has been used to…”
Augusta said of the news of William Gosling giving so little to his daughters, in comparison to his sons: “It really passes our comprehension & is quite distressing – for it is irreparable; no wonder Mary did not wish to talk about the will.–”
Writing on the same day (but from a different place), Spencer Smith, Emma’s brother, passed on knowledge (gleaned from a Gosling cousin, Henry Gregg) “that Mr Gosling out of his vast wealth has left her [Mary] & Elizabeth nothing, or what is next door to it”. Bennett Gosling could tell Spencer about his own inheritance (Roehampton and a sum of money): “The bulk of the property … is entailed in the most strict & inconvenient manner possible, & the Will … is most exceedingly complicated.”
Such documents – diaries, letters, wills, settlements, court documents – are the bread and butter of Malcomson’s edifying research into THE PURSUIT OF THE HEIRESS: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland, 1740-1840.
Books.google has a “healthy” preview of the book – it is what convinced me to buy a copy. You cannot beat BooksIreland, which has the hard cover for £9.99 (on sale from £24.99) or the eBook at £7.99. Although the airmail postage to the U.S. from Northern Ireland was as much as the book, even U.S. readers will want to plump for the hard cover; it is so fully illustrated and a handsome book.
Malcomson discusses a range of topics. His first chapter introduces the idea of “the by-passed heiress” => the woman who seems on the brink of inheriting, but who in fact may not only be “by-passed” in favor of a male – she may also have her “fortune” so tied up in the estate of her deceased parent that funds aren’t even forthcoming to her! Mention is made, for instance, of two sisters – daughters of Edmond Sexten Pery (Viscount Pery). The father’s estate passed to a nephew (son of the Viscount’s brother), “the 1st Earl of Limerick. In toto, the ladies seem to have received c.£20,000 each. £5,000 of which represented their original (and still unpaid) marriage portions. (These figures are belied by the usual family anecdotage, according to which one daughter got £60,000 in cash and the other the equivalent in land.)”
On the heels of the Pery girls comes the tale of the co-heiresses of Sir Arthur Brooke, bart. Selina and Letitia Charlotte received marriage portions – which, along with another debt, were evidently “charged” to the estate (ie, monies taken out after the owner’s death; in short, while his bank account remained healthy, “less” was there to be inherited). The Brooke “estates were not huge, and Francis Brooke, the nephew who succeeded to them, and Francis Brooke’s descendants considered themselves aggrieved and impoverished by the open-handedness of Sir Arthur. This is typical of the male whingeing of the period and of the bias of family history written by men. It would be more to the point to suggest that the two by-passed heiresses… were not well done by.”
Makes me glad to come from a family with no money or landed estate…
Other chapters touch on “the younger son”; “The ‘marriage of affection'”; and “Elopements, mésalliances and mis-matches”. All are fascinating topics, and relevant to Smith and Gosling research, as well as Austen studies.
As mentioned, the volume is generously illustrated (full color more often than not), and the writing is engaging and always informative. The research is deep and well presented; the focus (geographically and chronologically) is tight and always on point. Generous notes; a useful bibliography; a handy index.
HIGHLY recommended. Five full inkwells.
* * *
- a note: Malcomson’s earlier treatise on the same subject, from which this book grew – given new information and sources, has the same title. This edition was published in 1982 and has the years “1750 to 1820” in its title (70 pages). Malcomson rightly claims in his preface that the volume under discussion above (published in 2006 by the Ulster Historical Foundation [same as in 1982]) is “new, greatly enlarged and more widely focused”.
the 1982 edition
(not to be confused with the 2006)
As a member of BIO – the Biographers International Organization – every month I get to savor a Newsletter (The Biographer’s Craft). This month features another piece about the group WOMEN WRITING WOMEN’S LIVES. I’ve known about WWWL for some little while, but find myself compelled to write about their latest conference because of the comments and questions raised in the BIO Newsletter.
- Whose life is valuable enough to deserve a biography?
WWWL’s response: “Any life has the potential to be a biography.”
At the “founding”, 25 years ago, ‘the two organizers listened as one woman after another poured out her concerns about the obstacles involved in researching and writing the lives of women—including the need to find “the courage to think that women’s lives, on their own and without any attachment to men, were important and interesting enough to deserve being put into print.”’
I can never claim for Mary or Emma – even for someone as dynamic as Mamma (Mrs. Charles Smith) – that they “overcame obstacles and achieved remarkable things”. But I know, in my heart, that their lives, so indicative of the “ordinary”, being so well-represented in letters, diaries, even published memoirs, IS remarkable. If just for the tenacity of the items to surface! Certainly, we cannot understand – cannot imagine – life in another time (200 years ago) without the ability to feel placed within the shoes of someone who LIVED in that other time.
And, truth be told, their lives WERE filled with so much drama and pathos, joy and heartbreak. It would be beyond fiction, if it weren’t all true!
A very interesting section of the article concerns the “selling off” of female-related material. Rather brings to mind the wonderful cache of letters relating to Emily Duchess of Leinster. It’s amazing that the family would, at some point in the past, have given up such TREASURE (Emily’s letters are in the collection of the National Library of Ireland).
I have the book Dear Abigail (about Abigail Adams and her sisters), cited further down the article; with its emphasis on the life of Abigail (and therefore John Adams), I’m not sure the author was as successful as could be hoped in presenting the story of a “sisterhood”. I, on the other hand, an only child, SEE how a “sisterhood” of siblings (brothers and sisters) functioned in the gentry class of London society at the beginning of the 19th century. Their solidarity is FASCINATING to study.
One question near the article’s end is of major concern to me:
- Do publishers still care if no one has heard of the subject? Well, yes.
And there’s a major reason for the existence of this blog! Not only to help me find more material (and it has!), but also to connect with people who just might give a damn about Mary & Emma and all my “cast of thousands”. That “connection” has been its own reward.
The parting shot of the article?
‘[B]y holding the biographer to a high standard of both writing and scholarship … [i]t has also raised the bar for biographers as narrators. Nowadays, as Bair noted, “the biographer has to be able to write a page-turner and yet refuse to relinquish truth and authenticity.”’ I feel that my skills are up to the task, but in the end only people like YOU will give thumb down or up.
Several weeks ago (I always have GOOD intentions about posting *News*… then don’t do it!) I came across Geri Meftah‘s blog post from FEBRUARY 2015, mentioning the purchase of a letter book by the Huntington Library in California. I visit Geri’s delightful JANE AUSTEN blog (kleurrijkjaneausten) with some regularity, but am not (and never will be) one “on top of” new news….
Better late than never, right?
But one thing about being half a year behind the time: The Huntington has had time to DIGITIZE the collection!
kleurrijkjaneausten @ blogspot will fill you in on the background of the purchase – and has a link to The Guardian‘s article about it. The letter book was at the time described as “52 unpublished letters, poems and other material from six generations of the Leigh family”.
As you might imagine, I held my breath: Anything from the family in the nineteenth century? Indeed: YES! and two letters (though late for my research) from James Edward Austen Leigh!
I see that the catalogue will be off-line on September 16th (2015), but before or after, do look through the images. The Huntington has made it exceptionally easy to read the LEIGH LETTERS online, or download images. [use search term: leigh family papers]
The above “snippet” is from the first Edward Austen Leigh letter, and is a DELIGHTFUL snippet of memories of his aunt, Jane Austen, and Stoneleigh Abbey.
- for the Digital Images of the LEIGH LETTERS from the Huntington
- for Edward’s own letter to Frederick Leigh Colvile (1866)
- for Edward’s follow-up letter to same (also 1866)
The Huntington describes the small collection as “letters, poems and other manuscripts written by various members of the Leigh family and other people in their circle. The letters are mainly concerned with the intimate, mundane, playful and tragic aspects of family life from the early modern period until the middle of the 19th century”. They would be a wonderful addition to anyone reading Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family: Through Five Generations.
For those lucky enough to be within striking distance of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California: Funny Business: Humor in British Drawings from Hogarth to Rowlandson. The exhibition opened on August 15 and runs until 30 November 2015.
Have been transcribing letters – little “holes” in the narratives of Sir Charles Joshua Smith, for one. The last letter of his transcribed, late last night, is a short one to “Aunt” (Judith Smith, Charles Smith senior’s only remaining sister). Charles is thanking her for the gift of a pencil (of all things!). Could it be a birthday gift? He was born at the end of May. If so, which birthday? The letter is undated.
Only one postal mark and that for PLACE (Chigwell) rather than a date (though a postal historian might be able to say “only in use during the years blah-to-blah”). My gut tells me it is earlier rather than later. Why? Because it’s address to Miss J. Smith / The Grove / Stratford rather than Mrs. J. Smith / Stratford / Essex – like a couple of later letters that I CAN date.
That’s my theory, anyway… (hint: Aunt never married, but at some point, like Cassandra Austen, took on “brevet rank” [to use Cassandra’s words].)
One other letter, newly transcribed (for I had got some images last December thanks to Emily), is precious: Charles’ reactions to the newly-announced engagement of Emma with Edward Austen!!
It’s tough – I read letters that delicately sprinkle FABULOUS news, like a light, refreshing summer shower. I put an un-ID’ed face next to one that HAS its identification and find more images of the same person, sometimes (thank, you, God) throughout a lifetime. Looking through pictures last night, it DAWNED on me: “Addie and Johnson” wasn’t a photography of Adela Smith with a child named Johnson; ADDIE WAS THE CHILD! and “Johnson” the nursemaid! So I had therefore pictures of Addie from about the age of 3 and up.
Except: WHO is around to share my excitement? It’s tough.
And that is where the “title” of this blog comes into play.
Most of my “contacts” are in England; I am in New England. People from work never write. My mother has sighed and rolled the eyes enough that I no longer tell her my finds, little or BIG. My father has taken to constantly asking, “Where the Book?” (Got three chapters, Daddy, but also a LOT of letters to go through.)
Chatting on Sunday (my talk for JASNA-Vermont, on Emma’s Aunt Emma), with Kirk – he mentioned enjoying my blog! I was honest: Truly, (I said), I’m never sure…
And he asked, “Have you ever heard 1776?”
I knew it WAS a film, but one I’ve never seen; never seen it on stage either. And Kirk then told me something which niggled at me the rest of the evening, until I looked it up (thank, you, YouTube!) next morning. “Is Anybody There?” sings John Adams, “Does anybody Care? Does anybody see what I see??” A sobering series of thoughts. Listen for yourself, to singer Randal Keith.
I want to thank JASNA-Vermont for inviting me to speak at their June gathering yesterday – and for dipping with me in the waters of RESEARCH into the family of the Austens. So little time, so MUCH information! My illustrated talk entitled “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” was an “interactive” presentation – and people really spoke up, made observations, added comments, asked questions. It was GREAT! Later, one audience member even told me my “research reads like a thrilling mystery!” Heartening words, indeed. No one can ever guess the “desert” a writer *feels* to be stranded in, when the research is this intensive and taking years to produce something substantive.
I figure I’m closing in on a THOUSAND letters and several HUNDRED diaries – and more turns up. I just returned (after midnight, last friday…) from a research jaunt to New York City.
Very helpful staff at NYU, where I spent most of the day, every day, Monday through Friday morning. And I am just *bowled over* by the staff of the Morgan Library – from the security guide near the door, to the gentleman who brought me up to the third floor reading room; and the library people – especially the ladies in the reading room = helpful – chatty – friendly. Just an exceptionally pleasant experience. Pity I ran out of time. BUT: I saw my LONG-AWAITED letter from Humphry Repton to Papa Smith => an even BETTER read than I had hoped. Repton was thanking Papa for paying him…, but also writing in SUCH a friendly manner, and even including Mamma in his thoughts. Pure GOLD!
Now if only his RED BOOK for Suttons would turn up!
Then I turned my eyes to the special editions of Walter Scott works. My memory is that they were presented — by Compton and his sister Lady Elizabeth — to LORD Northampton; but I swear at least one of the volumes said LADY Northampton! Will have to revisit the Morgan’s catalogue, and also my notes. AND revisit the Morgan – for I ran out of time before I ran out of volumes.
The Scott works were not only specially bound for the Marquess / Marchioness, they included pen and ink drawings done by Lord Compton – his fiancée and then wife Margaret Maclean Clephane / Lady Compton – and Lady Elizabeth Compton. One volume, The Lady of Lake, included a “letter” (for lack of a better description) in which Compton (I think it was his handwriting) outlined ALL the drawings – and also who they were drawn by, as well as their source (if applicable). Imagine my SURPRISE to see that THREE were listed to have as a source “William Gosling, Esq”!!!
At first, glancing at the paper, I thought it said it INCLUDED drawings by William Gosling. ARGH! that that was NOT the case. But: this helps with a mini-mystery about William (described as “the banker of Fleet Street” in the citation I unearthed) drawing STOWE in circa 1814. These volumes for the Northamptons are of a similar period, and just the fact that the Compton children included the word “esquire” in his name indicates to me that they are saying drawings of the father rather than William Ellis Gosling, the son (though William Ellis Gosling of an age with Compton & Elizabeth, he was still at College in 1814).
The especially LOVED to illustrate Lake Katrine!
In one short word: WOW! is all I can say about having another clue that William Gosling (Mary’s Papa) was an accomplished artist – for if he was mediocre, the Comptons would not have wanted to “copy” his work, surely. And their own work is…. ASTOUNDING! such meticulous strokes; interesting compositions; accurate representation of things like crumbling castles.
I should perhaps remind readers that Margaret, Lady Compton, was a ward (along with her two younger sisters – altogether often referred to as the Clephane Sisters of Torloisk) of Walter Scott. Even Edward Austen Leigh adored the works of Sir Walter.