Viaggio in Sicilia: Meet Lord Compton

July 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm (books, europe, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

What a FABULOUS *FIND*!!

The ‘miracle’ took place in the middle of the night, a couple of nights ago when I unearthed a RECENT exhibition of sketches done by Spencer, Lord Compton c1823. His sketchbook, in the hands of the Fondazione Sicilia, has been “conserved” and “preserved” and the drawings exhibited in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014:

viaggio4 The exhibition spawned a book and two informative (especially if you speak Italian) YouTube videos – including one showing the sketch book in its entirety (which has no soundtrack at all). viaggio3

The second video (en Italiano) gives glimpses of the condition of the original sketch book, sketches, and their subsequent exhibition.

viaggio2 viaggio1

Spencer Compton, cousin to Emma and brother to Lady Elizabeth Compton (later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) spent many years in Italy with his wife, the former Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Spencer became the second Marquess of Northampton, following his father’s death in 1828.

heyer_cover

A “romantic figure” in this Raeburn portrait (painted in the era of his sketch book), Spencer Lord Compton graced the cover of this Georgette Heyer reprint recently.

viaggio5partial legend from one sketch, in Spencer’s hand-writing

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Hot on the Trail: 1820s letters of life in ROME

June 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm (entertainment, history, news, people, research, travel) (, , , , , , )

I have been burning the candle – quite literally: Up late most nights these last weeks. It paid off immensely last Thursday, with the discovery of a small batch of letters IN ROME!

Mamma Mia!

The BIGGER surprised came when I realized the KEY to knowing these letters were in fact having anything to do with my batch of Smiths was the name involved: LANTE turns up in a letter I actually bought (thanks, Craig!) a couple of years ago.

And Villa Lante (in Gianicolo) still exists, as this GORGEOUSLY illustrated blog post on Rosa Arcium attests. I can’t help but believe that Charles, Augusta, Emma, and Fanny visited here – perhaps quite often, during their winter in Rome (1822-1823).

lauro

In addition to Rosa Arcium, gain views of the house from:

 

Permalink 2 Comments

Easter Sunday, in Rome

March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Reminiscing in April 1824, Augusta Smith (the daughter) writes to her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton. Augusta was in Rome last Easter and Lady Elizabeth is resident in Italy this spring.

“9 o’clock in the evening! St. Peters is resplendent with its magnificent illuminations. Innumerable crowds are thronging all around; the Ponte St. Angelo is one mass of heads and the Tiber a sheet of waving fire reflected from the brilliant explosions of light bursting every moment from the top of that venerable castle amidst wreaths of dark blue smoke. Last year we formed a part of the multitude…”

Ah, I know only too well Augusta’s nostalgia, and slight melancholia. I, too, have memories – too distant and therefore sometimes painful to reflect upon. Augusta’s trip was a year-long adventure from summer 1822 through summer 1823. The Smith family (Mamma and her older children) had stayed the winter in Rome. As Emma wrote Aunt before the group trooped farther south,

“you can hardly imagine my dear Aunty that we could be so near to Rome without visiting it, which Charles wishes, to the full as much as we do & Mamma for our sakes has kindly consented to so do, & in order to accomplish it we must spend the winter months there, now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts but think what an event in our lives it will be to visit Rome  I really think you would be almost tempted to go there…”

Great Aunt Susannah Smith’s Roman winter certainly points up the “wild” times that were enjoyed by the inhabitants and visitors. Is it like that today? (I still await my first journey into Italy.)

From young Augusta’s wistful memories, to Great Aunt Smith’s experience of Easter, 1827:

“we went to See the Pope give the benediction to his people from the Centre window of St Peters – it is an imposing ceremony – the military were all drawn up horse & foot – the bands playing – drums beating – but as soon as his Holiness appear{ed} an awful Silence prevailed -& continued while the benediction & prayers were read – the crowd were on their knees & their hats were off – the Evening turned out so wet – that the illumination of St Peters – and the fire works at St Angelo were put off”

Viva, la Roma!

And, “Happy Easter”.

st_ peters illumined by oil lamps

Permalink 1 Comment

Palm Sunday, in Rome

March 24, 2013 at 11:45 am (diaries, europe, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , )

Smith_Susan Mackworth PraedLast night, transcribing a diary for 1827, I was reading about PALM SUNDAY, and it struck me because we were hours aways from Palm Sunday 2013!

I am not lucky enough to spend Holy Week in Rome (new pope: Francis I), but Susannah Smith, her sister and brother-in-law Lord and Lady Mayo managed to be there the winter of 1826-27 — Pope Leo XII doing all the benedictions they attended.

Both Augusta Smith (the daughter) and Mrs Susannah Smith (her great aunt) describe a whirlwind of celebrations in Rome during the Easter season.

This being Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church, I will describe it as Mrs Smith saw it, when in Rome:

Sunday 8 April. this being Palm Sunday we went to see the Pope bless the Palms at the Sistina Chapel in St Peters – the procession was grand the service long – & the ceremonies very tiresome and I was glad when it was over“.  The length and tedium, however, does not stop they from visiting churches for their Masses over and again! But more on that next week (Easter).

Permalink Leave a Comment

Seeking Harriet Scott

January 10, 2013 at 9:54 am (diaries, europe, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , )

harriet scott

This portrait, by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1795, illustrates Harriet Scott. Why am I seeking more information on her? The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service lists a handful of letters, written by her to Mary Jemima Robinson / Baroness Grantham.

In a letter dated 3 September 1827, Mrs Scott mentions Sir Walter Scott – a recent visit and some Scottish stories dedicated to his grandson, John Hugh Lockhart. An 1829 letter, written from Rome, she mentions Lord and Lady Northampton (Spencer Compton, the 2nd Marquess, and his wife, the former Margaret Maclean Clephane). I’m intrigued to know if more letters exist elsewhere from this same period. There are references to her in the Walter Scott literature. What other members of the Smith&Gosling extended family might she have met?

Harriet was the daughter of Count Hans Moritz von Brühl (in England so long he was known as John Maurice) and Alicia Maria Carpenter. She married Hugh Scott of Harden (Mertoun) in 1795, the year of her portrait.

In writing to her in 1832, Walter Scott commented, “I envied your management of the pencil when at Malta…” So Harriet was an artist in her own right!

Three years later, in 1835, Hugh Scott was confirmed as the 6th Lord Polwarth. So there may be items ID’ed as by Lady Polwarth, though it is the 1820s that interests me the most.

The letters at Beds & Luton sound fascinating, for instance this riveting tale of travel in a bygone era:

“once got a fright having 4 mules to our Coach driven by one post Boy riding the Wheel mule when the first chose to turn short down to a Mill where they usually lived and very near overturned us”

Permalink 3 Comments

Library Acquisition: John Rylands circa 1963

November 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm (diaries, europe, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

More on the letters written by young Lady Compton (the former Margaret Maclean Clephane). I came across this notation on escholar.manchester.ac.uk; it dates from 1963!

“Among recent accessions to the Manuscript Department is a small collection of letters written in the mid-eighteen-twenties to the Hon. Henry Edward Fox, later 4th and last Lord Holland, by Margaret, Countess Compton, from May 1828 until her death in 1830 Marchioness of Northampton. Although only forty in number they comprise over 160 well-filled pages and all save four, which date from July and August 1829, fall within the short period of nine months between October 1825 and June 1826. The Comptons lived in Italy from 1820 to 1830 and the first nine letters were written to Fox at the end of 1825 when he was also there. The majority, however, date from after his departure and during his visit to France between February and May in the following year. The greater part were written from Rome.

Apart from the personal side, their value is mainly social and literary. They are, for example, of interest for their remarks on and information concerning members of the English colony in Italy and common acquaintances in Italian Society, for Lady Compton comments freely. From this point of view they form a useful supplement to Fox’s Journal of 1818-30, edited by the Earl of Ilchester in 1923. Both Lady Compton and her husband interested themselves in literature and the fine arts and she writes of the artists then being patronized in Rome and of the artistic purchases being made. She also corresponded with Sir Walter Scott and in several letters refers to his financial difficulties at this time. Not least they demonstrate the esteem she had for Fox and, in spite of their quarrels, the close friendship that existed between them. This was no less fully appreciated by Fox, for, when she died in Rome in 1830, he wrote of her in his Journal as ‘my best and dearest friend … the being upon earth of whose regard and friendship I felt surest’.”

Those were NOT the thoughts Fox had upon first meeting Margaret, when he described her as “a gigantic, well-informed, hard-headed, blue Scotchwoman.” — Journal of Henry Edward Fox, 26 Nov 1824

I have found a few other tidbits of the Comptons over the last week as well.

Of course Walter Scott, formerly Margaret’s guardian, crops up. Here he is writing to Lord Byron:

“Should you meet Lady Compton in Society pray be acquainted with her — it is worth while for she is a very clever young woman and skilled in legendary lore–” (5 Jan 1816)

The letter was signed, “My best respects to Lady Byron & I am always, my dear Lord, most truly yours

Walter Scott

Scott, however, was not Lady Compton’s only champion! There is an obscure (to me) letter writer, poet Ugo Foscolo. In this third volume of letters, dating to the 1820s, the Comptons (more specifically, Lady Compton) are mentioned to two separate correspondents, for instance:

To Gino Capponi (30 June 1821),

“Gino mio,

     Tu hai conosciuto di certo lady Compton in Londra, ma ti gioverà di riconoscerla,, e vederla più davvicino; e quand’anche non abbia tempo nè occasioni di usara verso di te le gentilezze con che mi ha spesso onorato e consolato, pochi giorni di conversazione con lei ti rinfrescheranno il cuore, e ti solleveranno la mente,–“

{roughly: Dear Gino, You certainly knew lady Compton in London; it will benefit you to recognize it, and even if you do not have time nor occasion to meet with the kindness that I have often been honored with, a few days conversation with her will refresh your heart, and raise the mind–}

Margaret, Lady Compton, even appears in a personal letter to Mrs Georgiana Gell dated 13 January 1827.

The English colony in Rome, in Italy in general, may prove rich fishing for further information on my dear Smiths of Suttons.

Permalink Leave a Comment

News! News! News!

May 23, 2011 at 8:39 am (books, entertainment, people, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Two *new* portraits join my little gallery… They were found while looking for something totally different (isn’t that always the case?!).

My first was this delightful portrait of Wilmina Maclean Clephane:

I was looking to update information on my current writing project, about Fanny( Smith) Seymour, and wanted to double check information about Torloisk (on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). This was the home of the three Maclean Clephane sisters. Don’t remember them?? I can’t blame you — there are so many names and people to remember, aren’t there?

The Clephane sisters were wards of writer Walter Scott; Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane married Spencer, Lord Compton in 1815 — and Emma recorded the events of Margaret’s homecoming (see my article at the JASNA website equating this event to a proposed welcome for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy). Spencer and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton were the only cousins the Smiths of Suttons had. Emma came to know the Clephane girls — the other two being Anna-Jane and Wilmina — fairly well, and even wrote of meeting Walter Scott himself!

**Read about the Clephanes’ connection to early music for the Gaelic Harp**

How wonderful to read Walter Scott’s (online) journal and see this; it’s September, 1827:

“September 6. — Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance… I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck’s Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their back.” Read more ….

Margaret was the eldest (born 1791), Wilmina the youngest (born 1803); they and Compton are extremely prevalent in the Scott correspondence. Such fun to read of Margaret, when a young bride newly brought home to Castle Ashby, entertaining her guests with Scottish Song and Music, such as Emma recorded witnessing. Margaret was a dab hand at art as well, which brings me back to Harriet Cheney.

The Cheney name is one VERY familiar from letters and diaries. And, besides, the Cheney family were related to the Carrs/Carr Ellisons and they end up in Mary Gosling’s extended family! Again: a small world.

Harriet Cheney, whose Italian sketchbooks went up for auction in 2005 at Christie’s, not only sketched places, but also those whom she came across. Wilmina was one; her sister Margaret and her family was another:

Here, Margaret is depicted with her daughter Marianne Compton (the future Lady Alford). Other images not “illustrated” at Christie’s includes other children and also Spencer Lord Compton! Such treasures.

**Read Karen E. McAulay‘s PhD thesis Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting, c1760-1888**

Look at all 110 lots (Wilmina is Lot 44; Margaret and Marianne are Lot 45) at Christie’s. There is even a specimen of the artistry of Wilmina herself at Lot 87.

I swear that Emma called Wilmina’s husband Baron de Normann (Christie’s cites de Norman). Was it Emma’s spelling, or how he spelled his name ?? Always tricky to tell during this time period, when spelling was somewhat fluid — even for names! Christie’s seems to have obtained the name from the signature on the art itself, but who knows…

Permalink 4 Comments

Light Housekeeping

September 12, 2010 at 11:17 am (research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Do take a moment to check out a few new *pages*. I’ve created one page about various “missing” parts of this research, as well as acknowledged those that have come to light in private hands (special thank you to people who have contacted me; and to Alan, who continues to send scans as he finds new letters).

Readers will find all the page links under CAN YOU HELP (see PAGES, to the right), but the most important is the one entitled Where are these items?

*

NB: I worked on these pages while listening to the LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS, on Vermont Public Radio. Oh, to be in London again…

The Smiths & Goslings would have been EXACTLY the type to subscribe to such concerts year after year after year (lucky people, no?). One thought: the London Season in their day would NOT have been the hot summer months, but the winter months of January/February through spring (depending on when Easter fell); the plays, parties and operas continued for the Smiths & Goslings into the month of June.

Permalink Leave a Comment