Sarah Smith – wife of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, Wilts

September 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm (a day in the life, chutes of the vyne, history, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wish I had a picture of Sarah, Mrs Joshua Smith, to share. Alas, the one citation I have of a miniature of her — by Anne Mee — came with NO illustration!

So, to illustrate this lengthy obituary of Sarah, I include this illustration of Stoke Park, where she died. The write-up comes from The Monthly Magazine and British Register, 1810:

“At Stoke Park, near Devizes, Mrs Smith, the lady of Joshua Smith, esq. one of the representatives in parliament for that borough. She was the daughter, by a second wife, of Nathaniel Gilbert, of the island of Antigua, sequire [sic], a gentleman of large landed property there, and chief legal magistrate of the island, the maternal sister of the late lady Colebrooke, and mother of the present lady Northampton. Through life, this lady was conspicuous not only for great good sense and very amiable manners, but also for the great sincerity of her attachments; a sincerity which was the result of affection, principle, and benevolence, alone. In an age in which the woman of fashion too frequently affects the most extravagant degree of moral sentiment, the purity of her conduct expressed the innate worth and value of her mind; and while her charitable heart was ever ready to mitigate distress, the delicacy of her pecuniary favours never wounded the feelings of those, whom her bounty so liberally relieved. Though handsome in her youth, she was totally free from vanity and affectation; her charity, though exerted on the precepts of the divine word, in secrecy and silence, was not confined merely to alms, but manifested by a liberal and charitable opinion of the conduct of all. So far was she from uttering scandal of any one that she did not even think it; and as to pride, if it resided in her, it was of that decent kind which preserved her within the bounds of virtue and propriety. Thus beloved and revered for three generations, in consequence of a debility of body produced by an arthritic complaint, she expired at the end of her sixty-second year, when threatened with a total loss of sight, leaving her inconsolable husband, children, and other connections, the example of a woman, illustrious in every social department of life. Her remains were conveyed for interment to the family vault at Lambeth.”

[Curious mistake: the Lady Colebrooke, who was half-sister to Mrs. Joshua Smith, died in 1818 – eight years later.]

*

Sarah Smith of Erle Stoke Park lives on in letters, especially those to her daughter Eliza Chute of The Vyne, now housed at the Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, England. Eliza, in 1793, was newly married, and frequent correspondence passed between the two households.

A plea to anyone coming across letters of the 1790s: This important decade connects the Smiths & Goslings together in the “parent generation” – not only is Sarah Smith writing to Eliza and William Chute, she also writes of the newly-married pair William and Eliza GOSLING. Eliza Chute, as well, writes of her life — at The Vyne, at Roehampton Grove (the Gosling home), at Richmond — to her sisters Emma Smith (at Stoke); Augusta Smith (at Suttons, in Essex); Maria, Lady Compton (later: Lady Northampton = Marchioness of Northampton). Please contact me (see about the author for contact information) if you have letters to share!

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Born on this day

January 4, 2011 at 9:55 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

January 4, 1772 – Miss Augusta Smith, third daughter of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park (Wiltshire) and his wife Sarah Gilbert, daughter of Nathaniel Gilbert of Antigua.

Miss Smith married, in 1798, Mr Charles Smith (no relation) of Suttons in Essex.

The couple had nine children – including (2nd daughter, 3rd child) Emma — who, in 1828, married the only son of the Rev. James Austen of Deane and Steventon and his wife Martha Lloyd.

Thanks to Mark Woodford, of Networked Robotics, Miss Smith’s 1798 diary has surfaced! In this blog, she is often referred to as Mamma Smith — there are just so many ‘Augustas’, and it’s confusing that she was a Smith before marriage and remained a Smith after marriage… 

So, Happy Birthday Mamma Smith!

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Happy Birthday, Charles!

May 31, 2010 at 10:24 am (a day in the life, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Frenchie (Photobucket)

Today, May 31 — Memorial Day in the US — marks the 210th birthday of Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s brother and Mary’s husband. (Maybe I shall start calling them “birtharies” = birthdays/anniversaries.)

Charles was the second child, and first son, of Charles and Augusta Smith. His elder sister, Augusta, had been born the previous February (1799).

It might be interesting to note, in the Woodford diary (see previous post), that Augusta senior makes mention of the imminent birth of Little Augusta:

“[P]ossessed of each other’s love & confidence, founded on the most perfect esteem & a similarity of character & temper, our days glide on in uninterrupted harmony, & we have no anxiety for the future. Such a state of perfect happiness seems too much for my lot in this World; I cannot expect it to last: I pray God that I may not be spoiled by this prosperity, & that I may bear a reverse with resignation & patience. Now, love & fortune smile upon me, & I find myself near becoming a Mother, an event which will give pleasure to many of those nearly connected with me.”

Augusta had three sisters; only two of those three married; only one of would have children (Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton would produce two surviving children, son Spencer and daughter Elizabeth Compton). Augusta and Charles senior would produce nine children, all of whom lived to adulthood, if not exceptionally far into that adulthood. Charles Joshua, for instance, died a few months shy of his 31st birthday; Augusta died only aged 37.

But it is difficult not to be curious about Augusta, Mamma Smith’s, comment about “becoming a Mother, an event which will give pleasure to many of those nearly connected with me.” This could, of course, connect to grandparents — who always seem to relish the advent of grandchildren. At this point (1798) both Augusta’s mother, Sarah Smith (née Gilbert) and mother-in-law Judith Smith (née Lefevre) were alive. [In fact, Judith lived until 1808; Sarah two years longer, until 1810). Augusta’s father, Joshua Smith, lived a widower until 1819. From letters, the maternal Smiths took great delight in their toddling grandchildren Augusta and Charles. In 1804, Grandmamma Sarah writes that she has charge of “our little Squire“:

“he is so fond of going in the Cabriole, & indeed he is so good there is no denying him; Augusta has given him up to me & I have undertaken to cure him of Whining & fretting, & I can assure you we have not once in her absence had a Crying fit with us, some times a little naughty at Lessons: but do not suppose I flatter myself with the continuance of his good humour when they return; he has not had his Sisters to contend with. I expect them on Sunday or Monday.”

By then, Emma (1801) and Fanny (1803) had been born, so the “little Squire” already had half his quota of sisters!

And yet, the person most “nearly connected” with Augusta would of course be her own husband. Charles Smith had lost his first wife, Susanna Devall, at a very young age. Her monument inscription in the little church at Tawney tells that she “bore a long and painful illness, with the most Pious Submission to the will of God”. She died 26 October 1796, “in the 27th Year of her Age.” I have never found an indication that she and Charles, though married in 1791, had had any children.

The Devalls, however, remained a fixture in the lives of the Smiths of Suttons – Susanna’s sister Elizabeth married Charles Scrase Dickins (or Dickens); her son Charles would marry Lady Elizabeth Compton. A single remaining-single Miss Devall haunts the diaries of Emma, though there is only one mention of her brother (John).

Charles senior was an old father – 42 years old when his first child (little Augusta) was born, compared to his wife being just past her 27th birthday. Papa Charles, living only until 1814, is a somewhat shadowy figure, especially since Emma’s diaries do not begin until the year following, 1815. There exists, however, this delightful though short missive to little Augusta, dated c1807:

“My dear Augusta

      As you wrote me so pretty a French letter [note! Augusta was only about 7 or 8 years old!] I will not wait until I see you to let you know how much I was pleased with it… my little Maid is good and I shall find your Mamma and all of you quite well tomorrow afternoon — I am

                                                                    Y:r affectionate Father
Charles Smith

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The Year of the French, 1798

May 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm (a day in the life, books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have spent the last three days in England 1798 — literally the Year of the French, due to all the rumors flying around about imminent invasion.

The “tour” has been courtesy of Illinois resident Mark Woodford, whose company website, Networked Robotics, is worth a look. Mark’s father recently bequeathed him a diary which had passed the last ten to fifteen years in Charles Woodford’s household as “1798 Diary of a High-Born Lady”. The high-born lady turns out to be none other than AUGUSTA SMITH (née Smith), Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother; and 1798, the year of her courtship and marriage to Charles Smith of Suttons. A true find, indeed. And I owe Mark more than one heartfelt “thank you” — firstly, for contacting me after he identified Augusta as the diarist; and, secondly, for loaning me the diary in order for a transcription to be taken.

Augusta arrived last Thursday, and we’ve spent hours together ever since.

How did the diary come to be among the Woodford possessions? With the death of Charles Woodford, it may be impossible to narrow down: a second-hand antiquarian bookshop? Christie’s or Sotheby’s? Or…?? Where it came from would be a mystery well-solved, yet it points up what I’ve long suspected: There are individual diaries out there (potentially of MANY family members), on random shelves, merely described by their dates of composition because their diarists never ascribed names to their scribblings. (Only in ONE diary — belonging to Charles Joshua Smith — have I encountered an owner’s inscription; although, of course, Mary Gosling penned her name on the “title page” of her earliest travel diary, dated 1814. That simple act of possession unravelled this entire historical puzzle.)

May this diary of Augusta’s be the first of many such “discoverings”!

Although I have now completed a preliminary transcription (proofing to come!), a year in someone’s life can be overwhelming to describe in a few paragraphs, never mind a few words. And a few words will right now have to suffice.

The year begins with young Augusta at home, at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire — home of Joshua and Sarah (née Gilbert) Smith. Her father was a Member of Parliament (for Devizes); her soon-to-be fiancé also sits in the House of Commons. Between the two men as sources for political bulletins, Augusta punctuates her diary with news of Buonaparte, French troop movements, taxation laws, and Nelson Naval Victories. One interesting item: she writes of visiting Mrs Davison — this would be Harriot Davison, née Gosling: sister to William Gosling (father to my diarist Mary Gosling) and wife of Nelson’s confidant, Alexander Davison of Swarland.

Mrs Davison is a shadowy figure; she had already died by the time Mary’s diaries begin (1829). Charles, whose diaries begin the year he and Mary married (1826), mentions her just once: when they hear of her death (28 October 1826).

From Augusta Smith’s entry on January 2nd — where she makes notation of a rumor: that the French were building a RAFT (700 feet long by 350 feet wide) “for an Invasion on England” (on the opposite page, written down who-knows-when, is the bold negation: “N.B. this report proved false.”) — to her comments surrounding news of Nelson’s Nile Victory towards the end of the year, we now get a spine-chilling glimpse at how unsettled life for the English living near the coast could be.

More later!

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