The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency, 1812-1821

May 31, 2018 at 3:35 pm (books, diaries, history, news, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

Charles Brockden Brown’s 1806 quote, “If it were possible to read the history of those who are doomed to have no historian, and to glance into domestic journals….” condenses into a single thought my entire project. Two diarists, Mary Gosling (1800-1842) and Emma Smith (1801-1876), have left a vast array of journals and letters, which have hitherto remained unused by historians except for information on Jane Austen (Emma married Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen in 1829). A large deposit of material resides at the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester, England) due to this familial relationship.

Films have made Jane Austen’s six novels beloved by a vast readership. Readers interested in English history, the Regency period, Cultural history, Women’s history, as well as Austen’s work and life are my target audience for the biography under research. The Brilliant Vortex: Revealing the Regency in Letters and Diaries of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, 1812-1821 uses the lives of these two diarists to discuss English gentry life during the Regency. The milieu of Jane Austen’s novels is but one aspect of this project.

elizabeth and darcy

Darcy & Elizabeth’s wedding

The Brilliant Vortex references the “London Season” and its influence in the lives of the future Lady Smith and Emma Austen, next-door-neighbors in a desirable London neighborhood. Based on manuscript sources, the book opens (“prelude”) with the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. Newly-discovered letters indicate that Emma Smith’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Compton, resided in the Perceval household at the time. Mary Gosling’s family is introduced (“Chapter I”) amid a journey to Oxford in June 1814, during celebrations for the Allied Sovereigns following the cessation of hostiles; Emma Smith’s family is introduced (“Chapter II”) at the time of her father’s death (May 1814).

The framework provided by diaries and letters guides our exploration of an extended, well-documented landed gentry family. Not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography, the families’ tentacular reach – into politics, commerce, war, even stretched into the royal family; as well, group interests in art, literature, music, theater, travel expand the picture beyond notions of daily sameness.

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Letters, written 1796, from Eliza Chute of “The Vine” (in Hampshire)

Extrapolation and in-depth interpretation permits an overall picture of society at this crucial period in English history. The Smiths and Goslings esteemed cutting edge technology, patronized leading lights of industry and the arts, and geography placed them front-and-center in a London rife with unrest. For them, the Regency period brought years of tribulation, scandal, and personal growth, amid a large family unit.

A brief chronology of the times and the lives of the Smiths and Goslings:

1815: Removing from their respective country estates Suttons and Roehampton Grove, the Smiths and Goslings arrive for the Season (February-May) at their London residences, No. 6 and No. 5 Portland Place, bringing the families into near-daily interaction. Emma begins master-led lessons in music, painting and drawing, and Italian language. She attends Covent Garden and Drury Lane; actors seen include Miss O’Neill and Mr. Kean. A week of riots at the House of Commons due to the Corn Bill ensues in February. Emma notes the shifting impressions and rumors surrounding Bonaparte’s escape from Elba. News of the Battle of Waterloo filters to them on June 21st. In an extended essay, she describes the arrival at Castle Ashby of newlyweds Lord and Lady Compton (who had married in Edinburgh); the Scottish bride had been a ward of writer Walter Scott. Once back at Suttons, the farming season draws attention. Family visitors replace the balls, concerts, plays, and gallery visits prevalent during their London stay. The end of the year sees an extensive round of visits – shifts from estate to estate – taking place.

1816: No sooner does the family celebrate the national Thanksgiving for Peace (January 19) then they go into mourning for Mrs. Smith’s seventy-five-year-old uncle (Mr. Gosling’s former brother-in-law) Sir Drummond Smith, baronet. Emma’s eldest brother Charles inherits his title. February sees the joint debuts of Augusta Smith and Elizabeth Gosling. The first Colebrooke enters their circle; Henry Thomas Colebrooke is the youngest son of Lady Colebrooke, the half-sister of Emma’s late maternal grandmother. These Colebrooke relatives are entangled in a series of court cases which will last decades; in the opening gambit, Mrs. Taaffe, the estranged mother of Belinda and Harriet Colebrooke, institutes a petition to regain custody. Another relation, Ann Rachel Hicks, is disinherited by uncles William and Thomas Chute (two childless brothers, successive owners of The Vyne) after eloping with an Irish baronet whom she had met in Cheltenham. On their European honeymoon, her bridegroom runs off with her maid! Mrs. Smith falls ill with erysipelas, and is laid up six months. Among doctors in attendance: Farquhar, Astley Cooper, and Baillie, which introduces concepts of contemporary medical science.

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Emma Smith (1820s)

1817: A notation that “Grandpapa [Joshua Smith] was in good health at the age of 84” opens the year. Emma mentions the tumult occurring when the Prince Regent attends the House in late January. Sixteen-year-old Charles Joshua Smith returns to his studies; and eighteen-year-old Augusta is presented to the Queen at the February 20th Drawing Room. In company with Mrs. Gosling, Fanny and Augusta Smith see Kean as Othello, but they encounter riotous spectators due to the non-appearance of the actor Booth. Mrs. Gosling’s ball & supper ends a day of dancing – and makes the papers (as they always do), having attracted more than three hundred “fashionables.” In the midst of the season, Queen Charlotte is taken ill. Caroline Wiggett, adopted “niece” of the Chutes of The Vyne and of an age with Augusta Smith, seems to enjoy less of the season than any of the Smith children. The Smiths meet children of the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan. Mary Gosling tours the Brighton Pavilion (“magnificently furnished”); a new building scheme has been embarked upon. News comes in about the latest election. The Colebrooke court case heats up after the two girls, Belinda and Harriet, visited England and were barred from returning to Scotland by the Lord Chancellor. The latest attempt by Mrs. Taaffe to gain access to her two daughters is a thwarted kidnapping on a lonely stretch of heath. The estranged mother will be brought into court. Days after seeing the Queen pass through Devizes en route to Bath, news comes about the confinement – and death – of the Princess Charlotte and her child. Emma refers to her as “the much lamented Princess.”

1818: With London shrouded in fog, gossip floats around the city that Sir Richard Croft, Princess Charlotte’s accoucheur, has shot himself. “Some strange ideas” are cropping up about the Duke of Devonshire: that the 5th Duke’s son and heir was the product of his liaison with Lady Elizabeth Foster. Matrimonial shenanigans regarding the Duke of Clarence dribble through the gutter press. The “present blessed mode of Husband-hunting” is blamed for the false-report of a marriage for Lady Elizabeth Compton. Excessively-high winds play havoc with London houses – two deaths resulting. Emma and a large family party visit ships about to embark on a voyage to North America and the North Pole. They are escorted by Lieutenant William Edward Parry, the explorer. Spencer Smith leaves prep school to begin at Harrow, but the start of the term is put off on account of Dr. Butler’s marriage. Schoolboy rebellion at Winchester College ends in the expulsion of Caroline Wiggett’s brother. When news of the death of Queen Charlotte reaches the populace, Emma and the Goslings overnight in Windsor to witness her funeral procession.

1819: The Chigwell Ball becomes the first public ball Emma ever attends. Bennett Gosling has taken rooms at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in order to finish his law studies. Reports surface of Grandpapa’s deteriorating health. Joshua Smith, long-standing Member of Parliament for Devizes, dies at Stoke Park on 20 March. Miss Ramsay’s illness prompts a governess search. The Smiths see “the Charity Children at St Paul’s” – 1500 people in the church and 7000 charity children. Charles returns from Cambridge; he dines at the Catch Club. He and Bennett Gosling attend a fancy ball at Almacks. After eighteen years in service to the Smiths, Kitty Hunt, a nursery maid, marries the cook/housekeeper’s nephew John Marshall, a former prisoner of war in France. Parliament is opened by the Prince Regent, with Lord Compton attending. Rumors circulate about the King’s death, “but without foundation.” The Chutes dine and sleep at Stratfield Saye, the Duke of Wellington’s. On the last day of the year, Emma composes a tender essay on her friendship with the late Miss Ramsay, “a friend from my youth” when the year began but come the end of the year, “I am bereft of her.” Warm feelings for her mother, Mrs. Smith – reflecting on God, death, acceptance, and reflection – ends the entry.

prince of wales

Prince of Wales, later George IV

1820: Suttons’ upper servants attend a ball at the Talbot, though snow the next day prevents many from attending church. News of the death of the Duke of Kent is followed by far graver news: the death of King George III. James Edward Austen commences his last term at Oxford; like his father, Edward is preparing to enter the Church. The Smiths distribute food and clothes to the parish poor. One of Emma’s Sunday scholars is dying of a consumption. On the day she reads to the girl, Emma notes the proclamation of George IV as King and the untrue reports of the new king’s death. Emma, Fanny, and Mrs. Smith visit Carlton House to “enquire after the King’s health”. Amid the flurry of drawing and music Masters and Mistresses, Emma mentions the “most horrid conspiracy,” now known as the Cato Street Conspiracy. Mrs. Smith’s youngest children are resident in Portland Place; her reaction is expressed in a letter to daughter Fanny: “horror struck”, “what wickedness!”, “all London must be in consternation.” The Smiths visit, for the last time, Earl Stoke Park, her late-father’s estate. Mrs. Smith takes leave of prior friends and “poor villagers” with whom she has interacted for more than forty years. Special attention is given to the absence of Macklin, a servant (possibly Irish Catholic) who has struck up a friendship with Mrs. Smith’s youngest sister (“Aunt Emma”), which is causing concern – and rifts – among the family. Parliament is dissolved, and Uncle Chute makes the momentous decision not to stand again; he was member for Hampshire nearly thirty years. Lord Compton loses his election. He never again stands for Parliament. With the death of Joshua Smith and the removal of Mr. Chute and Lord Compton, the era in which the Smiths and Goslings hear first-hand about government comes to an end. Emma meets John Stuart – the young man Belinda Colebrooke wishes to marry. The largest impediment is the smallness of his fortune in comparison to her own; a Chancery suit ensues, and the specter of her illegitimacy arises. Twenty-year-old Sir Charles Joshua Smith departs on a Grand Tour, accompanied by Charles Scrase Dickins; they will be gone through 1821 and go as far as Sweden and Russia. As the men cross to Calais, rumors “were afloat” that the Queen had perhaps already landed at Dover. Violence – in Portland Place! – against households “illuminating for the Queen.” No. 6 Portland Place (Smiths) was illuminated, but their windows were luckily not broken, though houses further up the street sustained damage. Tensions are running high on both sides of the Queen debate; and crossing either group can end in the same manner: A Riot.

1821: Mrs. Smith and her elder children (Augusta, Emma, Fanny, Spencer) go through London en route to Roehampton, joining a large party at the Gosling country estate. Charles has sent more gift boxes from abroad. The Goslings’ ball begins at ten, and lasts till five in the morning – with guests going “in detachments” to supper in the library. Quadrilles were the dances of choice, two nights in a row. The Smiths, with Augusta as secretary, near completion for a local book society. The current novel being read is Kenilworth, by Walter Scott. Aunt Judith Smith takes Augusta to see “the female prisoners at Newgate” who are under the direction of the influential reformer, Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. In a similar vein, Elizabeth Gosling and the Smiths view the penitents at “the Magdalen.” At Drury Lane, to hear the newest singing sensation, the Smiths share Aunt Emma’s box, which includes Miss Macklin – their former servant, as Miss Smith and Miss Macklin prepare to leave the country. The women set out for the Continent in mid-February; weeks later news comes of war being declared between the Neapolitan government and Austria. In anticipation of a future Drawing Room, the girls choose dresses. At this Drawing Room Aunt Northampton, Mrs. Smith and her two eldest daughters (Augusta and Emma) are presented to King George IV. Lady Compton’s son is christened; Mrs. Smith and Sir Walter Scott are two of the sponsors. Lord Northampton is in London to attend the House of Lords during the raising of “this Catholic question,” but the last reading gets postponed. The group from Portland Place joins a party on board the Fury for a dance given by Captain Parry. Emma estimates that between three and four hundred people were on board. The impending sale of Tring Park, property of their late uncle Sir Drummond Smith, embroils the Smiths in bringing an Act of Parliament before the House of Lords. Charles’ twenty-first birthday is announced, but he is still abroad; the tenants at Suttons have a celebration dinner nevertheless. The Gosling girls and Emma go by appointment to Westminster Abbey, to view preparations for the upcoming coronation. Then comes the thunderbolt report of Bonaparte’s death (which occurred two months previous). The Northamptons arrive from Switzerland “on purpose to attend the Coronation”— which the Smiths and Goslings also attend. Mrs. Smith records “London was in quite a bustle” and afterwards pronounces the Coronation “a most splendid spectacle.”

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Food for Thought

March 11, 2018 at 9:52 am (books, research) (, , )

In A Guide to Documentary Editing (an online source!), by Mary-Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue, a chapter concerns “Transcribing the Source Text”. With few exceptions, I have done all transcribing myself — from tiny diaries the size of my hand to letters crossed so densely that deciphering became a real struggle.

As you might imagine, work done in the spring months of 2007 – working at the Archives (mainly, the Hampshire Record Office) with the actual documents – all the names and places were new; and Emma’s diaries (for example) mention a literal “community” of so many different people. A true “cast of thousands”.

But the one thing I’ve always been quite decided on: transcribe what you see. So I include crossings out as word(s) crossed out, insertions with an indication of what words were inserted; and I keep track of the organization on the page: be it paragraphing, pagination, crossed sections or additional correspondents on the same letter.

Obviously, I’ve gotten to know the “players” far better than I did then (ie, ten years ago).

So well do I know the main cast of characters, when someone once contacted me about a letter written to “Dear Ivy” I _really_ had no clue who the recipient might be. The letter existed only in transcription, and that done many years before, no access to the original letter by the transcriber (never mind me).

Only when another letter turned up, by which time, having read the contents, did the shoe drop: Ivy was actually Liz – which WAS a known person: Lady Elizabeth Compton. But, not knowing the people, the transcriber took the descending stroke of the last letter as a ‘y’ and the rest morphed into Ivy.

Another letter carries a similar story. This one WAS present in manuscript, but the name of the signature had been guessed at. The moment I saw the signature, the name told me exactly who it was: The woman who wished (with all her heart) that Maria Smith would consent to the marriage proposal of the woman’s son. (Which she did NOT do.)

And names are probably the HARDEST part of transcribing. A word, even if misspelled in the original, can be puzzled out; a name … unless you can track it down, an unknown name remains the longest with a question mark next to it.

signature_mary austen

So what REALLY grabbed my attention in “Documentary Editing” was the following section, before which was a discussion of keeping track of how the transcription is to be accomplished so that all transcribers do the work with the same constructs in place:

Theoretical as well as practical considerations argue for a careful record of transcription methods. Even solo editors responsible for their own transcribing are well advised to keep such a log, for transcribing sources is a learning process. As the editor-transcriber moves through the collection, he or she will inevitably learn to recognize meaning in patterns of inscription that earlier seemed meaningless or baffling. Only by keeping track of their hard-won knowledge of what matters and how it is to be translated can editors hope to be consistent or accurate. Drawing on her experience as the editor of Mary Shelley’s letters, Betty T. Bennett has suggested that “the transcription of the letters by the editor” be considered a “requisite standard” for all editors of correspondence. She points out that “the act of transcribing the letters may be one of the most valuable tools the editor has for reviewing the subject. In transcribing word after word, one comes as close to the act of writing the letters as possible and can consider words as they unfold into a thought” (“The Editor of Letters as Critic: A Denial of Blameless Neutrality,” 217).

That last section REALLY speaks to me! I’ve long said I prefer to _do_ the transcribing (which means a literal backlog of diaries and letters to do), but what a poetic way to think: that in transcribing one is close to “the act of writing the letters”.

Must admit, I’ve usually had thoughts (especially in those I struggled to decipher) more along the lines of how did they read this letter; must have been a sunny day… Or they handed it off to someone with good eyesight!

I’m luckier than most, as only in the diaries of Charles Joshua Smith (Emma’s brother, Mary’s husband) have I come across erratic spelling, contracted names and general words. Thankfully, I had just transcribed his wife’s diaries – so I had learned a lot about the family, their business, their concerns, their friends and neighbors.

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Mary Smith’s neat hand

Otherwise, letters carry the usual: would, could, should, with the first letter and a superscripted (often underlined) ending ‘d’; dear often followed the same rule. Xtian for Christian. You get the drift.

One thing that struck me, back in 2007: the usage by this English family of what I (an American) would think of as “American” spelling: neighbor rather than neighbour, for instance. But the speller and the auto-correct were not fans of words like ‘chearful’ (I got into the habit of [sic] just in case the auto-correction wasn’t caught AND it told me NOT to correct it, when I later read thru the text).

This chapter, “Documentary Editing,” also mentions something of interest to Jane Austen and her editor R.W. Chapman: “For a compelling discussion of the need to remember the effect of punctuation on oral patterns, see Kathryn Sutherland’s review of Chapman’s editions of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.” This followed a section on being attentive to prior-century usage, words, phrasing, creative spellings, etc. and the need NOT to “correct” what may in fact NOT be a “mistake.” [If I find more on Sutherland’s ‘review’, I’ll put up a link.]

 

 

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Mary & Emma, Two Teens in the Time of Austen

March 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm (chutes of the vyne, goslings and sharpe, introduction, jane austen, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Before I go much further, I should talk a little about “my two girls”. THEY are the Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An appropriate post with which to celebrate “International Women’s Day, 2018“, don’t you think?

EVERYTHING goes back to the very first diary of the project – a travel diary, in which people from Roehampton travel across England to Northern Wales, and even make a Dublin visit. Two things stood out about that trip: The Gosling family met and stayed HOURS with the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. They also saw money being made in Dublin. That her father turned out to be a London banker made this last event less “unusual” and more of a “busman’s holiday” for Mr. Gosling.

At the time, all I had was a name from the card catalogue: Mary Gosling. She only mentioned “Papa, Mama, my Sister, and myself”. (NB: throughout her diaries, Mary ONLY refers to Margaret Elizabeth Gosling as “my sister”; Elizabeth is NEVER mentioned by name.)

Searching Gosling, Roehampton I happened upon what turned out to be MORE of Mary’s diaries: She was her father’s daughter: William Gosling of Roehampton and Fleet Street (this last, the family banking firm’s address). So her later diaries were ‘tagged’ by her relationship to him, which helped immensely. These are ID’ed as “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney”. Suttons being the Smith family estate, and Stapleford Tawney, Essex, being its location. When I first saw the handwriting on these “Lady Smith” diaries, I _knew_ they were the same girl!

Within a year, I was in Hampshire, reading letters and diaries relating to Emma Smith, but “Mary” remained my focal point. And even though MORE material has surfaced for Emma’s family – thanks in great part to her marriage with James Edward Austen, the nephew and first biographer of his aunt, writer Jane Austen. MUCH Smith family material is held at the Hampshire Record Office. Doesn’t hurt that one aunt (her mother’s next elder sister) was Eliza Chute of The Vine (nowadays: The Vyne), a National Trust property in Hampshire. Eliza’s diaries mention Jane Austen. And the blog’s name was born!

But the Smith and Gosling families are QUITE intertwined, so the two girls remain linked together in this project. They were great childhood friends, and even became sisters-in-law in 1826 (Mary married Emma’s eldest brother).

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Mary (foreground) and Emma

I still hope for MORE material from the Goslings. They are a fascinating family. A firm of bankers (and their records still exist), Goslings & Sharpe amalgamated with Barclays Bank, which still is headquartered at the Goslings branch on Fleet Street, London. There are some letters, but I’ve had little luck hearing from Glyndebourne – where there may (or may not…) be further evidence of this branch of the Christie family.

Mary’s sister Elizabeth (Margaret Elizabeth Gosling) married Langham Christie in 1829 – and he inherited Glyndebourne. A major litigation “case”, (as you might guess), since there were other interested parties. But Langham prevailed, and their son William Langham Christie became the first of this family to call Glyndebourne home. (The Langham Christies called Preston Deanery home instead.) At the very least, a Christie granddaughter wrote about the family portraits at Glynebourne, circa 1900, that included Langham and Elizabeth Christie; and even Elizabeth’s maternal grandparents Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe.

Ooooohhh….

But whether the family archives include Gosling-related materials, I don’t know. Glyndebourne’s “advertised” archives are opera-centric; East Sussex has some too-early and too-late estate papers. I’m particularly on the hunt for diaries, and any letters from or to Elizabeth and/or Langham Christie.

Mary’s own branch of the family lived on through her daughters, but her only son had sons who did not have sons. The baronetcy jumped from Charles Joshua Smith‘s heirs to those of his brother (Emma’s brother, too, of course) Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith line married into the Austen Leigh line, and it’s the Austen Leighs (for one) who stayed heavily invested in Jane Austen’s legacy; Joan Austen Leigh (“my” Emma’s great granddaughter) helped found JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America (ie, the U.S. and Canada). So my project “circles” around some very exciting history! And by blogging about it, I get to tell YOU, dear Reader, all the little tidbits.

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Seeds of a Project: Diaries and Letters

March 5, 2018 at 4:42 pm (books, introduction, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Reading through Smith & Gosling: My Project, it dawned that this would be a good way to start talking about Two Teens in the Time of Austen, ten years later. There is so much on the blog, that it would take nearly that long for people to revisit old posts. The most salient ones do exist, in a lightly edited version, available through the Kindle Store at Amazon. (Your purchase helps fund this project!)

Over the past decade, I’ve pulled together the diaries of eight key players. Some constitute only a few years; others run nearly an entire lifetime. A few other diarists sweeten the pot. (And I’m always looking for more!)

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Letters! A goldmine of information. Aided by some found in books (Jane Austen, Walter Scott, for instance), I’ve pulled together over a thousand letters, spanning the decades of the 1780s through the 1880s. Most are manuscripts.

As I’ve said elsewhere, It’s very time consuming – unearthing what’s been buried for 200 years…. 

I’m not sure which is harder – finding relevant items, obtaining primary materials, or deciphering while doing the transcription. One letter sometimes poses a new problem, while solving only a piece of an old conundrum. Still looking for MORE!

My father said, a week or two ago, “When Time Machines come into being, you can go back, meet them, tell them you’ve been reading all about them, and ask them about their lives.” The one downside of that would be: At WHAT POINT in TIME would I go back? When they’re all young, and don’t know what’s about to befall them? Or, when they’re older and can look back and remember?

I’m not sure I could pick.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Writing biography and history, of course means reading. Biography and British history; gardens and estate histories; Regency fashion to late-Victorian fashion; diaries of servants; letters of Ladies of the Manor etc. etc. (You get the drift.)

Thus, the reason you see so many BOOKS and YouTube shows. Anything that stimulates the brain. There are days, though, that I really wish I could just sit down with a copy of my own book. In the meantime, I have to be satisfied with reading such as Sherborne St. John & The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen, by Rupert Willoughby.

sherborne st john_willoughby

To help YOU “read all about them,” I can point to a few Blog pages that I hope help.

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Rescuing Family History

January 13, 2018 at 11:08 am (estates, history, people, research) (, , )

A most delightful story:

“Three of her daughters married. . . .

The second, Elizabeth, married in May, 1784, John Colchester of Westbury-on-Severn. Family tradition has it that Mr. Colchester was one day sitting in his summer-house at the end of his garden by the road, waiting to see the coach pass. One of the passengers was a beautiful young lady. I am tempted here to apply Wordsworth’s lines, only interchanging the pronouns:

‘She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon his sight.’

He arose in haste, followed up the coach to the Red Lion, where it had stopped, found out who she was, and never rested till he had married her.

The garden where this romantic incident is said to have happened, laid out in the old Dutch style, with long ponds, statues, and summer-house, can still be seen at Westbury…”

[NB to all you readers of Jane Austen novels & letters: I *must* say: This is one reason why YOUNG LADIES did not travel alone! When ‘strange men’ follow your carriage into the coach yard…, you should be happy to have a brother or a servant ready at your elbow to help.]

The mother of the trio of ladies was Elizabeth Dighton (née Hunter), a widow with nine children. The book, The Dightons of Clifford Chambers and Their Descendants (1902), places Mrs. Dighton in the wills of Lister Dighton of Clifford and also George Lucy of Charlecote (the eldest son also carried “Lucy” as part of his name).

It is the daughter, though, Eliza Colchester, who’s come under my radar. In Colchester genealogy she’s described as “the daughter of John Dighton, of Ascot Park, Oxon.”

The Dighton book, published in 1902, claims the “property at Ascot was sold, but I have not been able to trace the date of the sale [see ASIDE, below], after which James Lucy [J.L. Dighton, Elizabeth’s brother] went to India. It is thought he went as private secretary to Warren Hastings, but I have not found any allusion to this in Gleig’s life of the great Governor-General…” Warren Hastings, of course, appears in Jane Austen biographies because of his relationship to her aunt Philadelphia (Austen) Hancock and her daughter Eliza (best known under her married name of Eliza de Feuillide).

The Dighton/Colchesters have a GREAT India connection, and, indeed the one item that brought Eliza Colchester to my attention – an 1826 letter – makes mention of her family members who are living abroad. (In the letter, she also “gave joy” for the summer 1826 marriage of Sir Charles Joshua Smith [Emma’s brother] with Mary Gosling [my diarist].)

One letter, out of so many.

But it’s not in the collection of correspondence, per se, that makes me think along of the line of “rescuing” a family’s history – it’s the AMOUNT of material I’ve been able to pull together. Letters, diaries, drawings, books, portraits, just to name a few.

The REACH of the family is rather mind-boggling.

The Smith and Gosling family had a complex social network, an extensive correspondence network. Their friends network can only be guessed at. Until something like this letter, written by Eliza Colchester from The Wilderness to her dear friend Mrs. Judith Smith at The Grove in Stratford (greater London, not Stratford on Avon), surfaces, relationships remain unknown.

I describe this Colchester letter a little bit in an earlier post, before going on to discuss some Wymess-Colchester garden that had been rescued recently.

Being JANUARY, however, I’ve thought about what I’d like to share with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers. This year, 2018, is actually the TENTH anniversary of this blog. (how time flies…) And once some of the MAIN “discoveries” were uncovered, there were things I took for granted that readers “knew”. But audiences come and go, and I plan a major push starting NOW to “reintroduce” some people, places, and things.

cover-twoteens

Random Jottings, my Kindle (and also paperback book) is still available. If the paperback interests you, contact me – but the Kindle is easily ordered at Amazon (and its overseas branches). It gathered together blog posts and ordered them in a way that introduces all of the family members and their estate-homes.

So, *upcoming*, will be further information about all the family, radiating outwards from the core duo of EMMA AUSTEN and Mary LADY SMITH. But I’m also HOPING for some additional sources to turn up; items like letters and diaries! Thus, the *need* to talk about people like Eliza Colchester. Not only might descendants exist, but letters (especially) circulate in collections of private individuals. Sometimes, ONE LETTER makes such a difference!

For instance. . . .

ONE letter described “Macklin” in such terms that I’ve now spent a good five years uncovering MORE information on Miss Macklin (also known as Amelia Wybault, her married name). This became SUCH a concentrated topic that I created a presentation around it called “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” (a bow to Dickens’s “unfinished” The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

ONE letter describes Augusta Smith’s feelings for the young Northamptonshire doctor her family was against her marrying in the 1820s.

ONE letter from a friend to “Aunt” (the Smith’s aunt Judith Smith, their father’s sister; “Aunt” is all they ever called her) uncovered a tiny SLICE of Aunt’s life – and that is EXCEPTIONALLY valuable to me.

So just one of anything – a letter, an envelope even, a diary, a picture – when gathered among everything else MATTERS greatly. Even finding that description of a youthful Eliza Dighton, when my own picture of her was of an elderly friend. Precious!

Some other aspects readers can look forward to finding out about during 2018:

Family members who exist in photographs. Obviously these are mainly the children of the siblings. And there will come pleas for information about items that surfaced… and then disappeared again. “To Where?” is the constant question.

The geography of the Smith and Gosling world is so extensive. They lived in England; travelled west, to Wales and Ireland; travelled east to places as far as Moscow; and south as far as Italy and Sicily. I’m still waiting for one archive in Rome so I can access thirteen letters from the 1820s. [The Lante delle Rovere papers are kept in the Borromini-designed library biblioteca Alessandrina, Sant’Ivo a la Sapienza, Archivio di Stato di Roma, closed since 2014 for renovations.]

I find the world of the Smiths & Goslings unendingly fascinating, and I hope to interest YOU.

* * *

ASIDE: According to an Oxfordshire “paper” (by John Sykes, Oxfordshire Building Trust, in 2012; link called: “History of Ascott Park”) on the estate of Ascot (or Ascott) Park, the contents of Ascot were dispersed on the death of Alice Dormer (aunt to the heir John Lucy Dighton) in 1780.  Ascot Park had been put up for sale in 1773, after James Lucy Dighton came of age (his father had died in 1761), but it failed to sell. The estate was ultimately sold to the Blackalls, a landed family “in the Great Haseley area” in 1795.

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Future Plans

April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am (diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , )

Same sitting, different poseIt seems like ages since I wrote about my own research – though that is NOT to mean I’ve been idle. Indeed I’ve been “beavering away”!

beaver

A GREAT influx of letters (diaries too) from several different “deposits” has kept me at the keyboard, transcribing. I try NOT to read a letter or diary until I transcribe it. Bad Luck thoughts make me wonder if I won’t later be able to decipher some word that I easily read earlier! Oh, that would be the worst. So, it’s in the act of transcribing that I LEARN the contents.

I also have a habit of leaving the really hard letters to absolute END. If it’s crossed… If it’s illegible…  If it’s a poor image… I leave it till all the easy letters are DONE.

Given that plan of operation, haven’t I found a JEWEL or two among those waiting to be deciphered and read! But that’s news for some next blog post.

I wanted to say here, however, something I wrote recently in an email, about this project, for it brings up a very important point about the decades the project actually covers, which is roughly the 1790s through the 1840s.

I used to use 1842 as an end-date. Mary Gosling, my original diarist – and one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen (the other being Emma Austen) – died in July of that year. So when first in Winchester, I tried not to look for later material.

By the time I returned to the UK (seven years later), I was willing to go beyond that – but pretty much held to the idea that the end of Mary’s life brought my telling of their story to a close.

THEN: in the summer of 2015, I found photo albums!

Since photography become a norm in and after the 1850s, there was no photo of Mary (Lady Smith). A surprising number of her in-laws, however: Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour); Arthur Currie and his second wife Dora (also née Seymour); Richard and Fanny Seymour; and more Seymour siblings. A photo of Eliza Le Marchant (Lady Le Marchant; née Smith), and the familiar face of Sir Denis Le Marchant. Only one photo of Emma Austen Leigh – which I had already seen in a book. The one photo of her husband, James Edward Austen Leigh, was quite evidently the same sitting as the companion photo in the book, but a different pose, so slightly “new information”.

What REALLY got into my brain, however, were images of the CHILDREN! The albums can be traced to members of the Spencer-Smith family. I.e., children of Emma’s brother Spencer Smith – the hyphenated last name differentiated his children from children of their brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith (2nd baronet).

So one son, whom I can trace in photos from youngster to young man, came to carry the name Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith. A bit of a tongue-twister without his middle name! He later adopted his wife’s name, so that late in life he was Spencer Compton Hamilton-Spencer-Smith; a Hamilton-Spencer-Smith son became the 5th baronet, after the death of Charles grandson Drummond Cunliffe Smith.

The twins, Orlando Spencer-Smith and Gilbert Spencer-Smith, are present in almost the same frame of life-span. From youngsters, they become men as the pages turn.

Of the sisters, photos of Dora Spencer-Smith especially, but also Isabella and Augusta, are QUITE prolific. As Mrs. Jenkyns, Dora has a Jane Austen connection all her own: her son married a grand-daughter of Emma & Edward Austen Leigh.

Two cousins have worked their way into my heart because of the photo albums. Daughters of Fanny and Richard Seymour, “Emma and Fanny” grow up before my eyes! It helped that another source had this youthful duo in a family portrait that included their mother – the first photo I ever saw of dear Fanny Seymour (Mrs. Richard Seymour), taken in the 1850s.

There are also, of course, portraits of the Austen Leigh children! So I could confirm a Silvy portrait found online WAS young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh. Same sitting, different pose. And I found Amy Austen Leigh (aka: Emma Cassandra Austen Leigh), whom I had never before seen.

The Currie children and LOTS of various Seymour children – so most of Emma’s nieces and nephews were present. Seeing them all (and having to sort out all those Seymours!) made me more amenable to reading their letters too. So, I’ve slowly expanded my collection of letters through the 1840s and upwards to the 1880s. I’ve gone back to fill in holes, and have more holes to fill. And I’m still searching for material, especially early letters (1790s through 1810s).

Along with the albums, I found ONE letter that really resonated with me.

It was one of those SUPER-crossed, dense, thickly-inked letters. The writer apologized for not taking a bigger sheet of paper, as, in the end, she had too much to say. If ithe letter had been less crossed, I would have gotten to it much earlier! It convinced me I had hitherto overlooked the true, definitive “end” for my project.

BIG “Ah-HA!” moment.

The touchstone became Mamma, Mrs. Charles Smith, Augusta (senior). And the “ah-ha” was the last moments of any member of the Smiths living at No. 6 Portland Place.

Mamma’s 1845 death set her children (metaphorically) adrift; without the London home that had belonged to her, their leave-taking created a pause for reflection. And that leave-taking becomes the event that closes my set of books dealing with Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

To get back to the emailed thought. I told my correspondent:

“Digging about the 1850s, tho I really need to concentrate on the 1810s. It seems SUCH a different world… there’s a lightness to their lives when the children WERE children, that has darkened once they’ve grown and had children of their own. I find them such a thoroughly fascinating family.”

and I hope YOU, dear Readers, feel or will come to feel the SAME about the Smiths and Goslings. They were truly living a dream during the Regency – with travels, trips to exhibitions, evenings at the opera. Some were crossed in love; most married, had children of their own, experienced heartache as a family. Luckily for ME they also remembered, reminisced, and wrote – including those books published by the Austen Leighs: about Early Days of the Vine Hunt (1865), a Memoir of Jane Austen (1869; expanded 1871), and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record (1913). Especially dear to my heart is the biography of her father written by Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (1911), for Emma and her family figure LARGE in that book. It also drops some tantalizing hints about missing letters and diaries…

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The Handwriting on the Will

May 5, 2016 at 9:15 pm (history, research) (, , , , )

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.

elsewhere

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.

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A trove of old letters

April 27, 2016 at 9:41 pm (books, history) (, , , )

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:

old letters

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!

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Simon Callow remarks on his Orson Welles biographies

January 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm (books) (, , )

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

welles_callow

“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

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The Power of Anonymous

January 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm (books, carriages & transport, diaries) (, , , )

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

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:

aunt emma 1819

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

 

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