Free Book Download

January 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm (books, estates, europe, history, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Charlotte Frost, author of Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician (who was an uncle of Fanny’s husband, Richard Seymour), has mentioned a book that caught her eye:


Slavery and the British Country House is offered on the English Heritage website. Anyone with interest in “the English Country House” (Downton Abbey anyone?) will find something worth reading here. A lavishly-illustrated hardcover has been produced, but dip in to the *free* PDF of the text.

NB: I had to copy the full PDF address, go away from the site, and pop it in the address line. Try it, if you have problems downloading.

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Colonial Williamsburg: Historic Threads

November 8, 2012 at 8:52 pm (fashion, history, jasna, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , )

Thought I’d share this wonderful website, pointing out the clothing information — but mention that visitors should look more fully at ALL the items on offer at Colonial Williamsburg’s website:

This shows the array of items you can investigate: from portraits through materials. I dressed a young lady of the gentry! from stockings to pocket to cap and dress. It was fun – you can find it by clicking on “Dressing the Part“.

Now, you might be thinking “What does colonial-era clothing have to do with Two Teens in the Time of Austen?” Certainly, neither Mary nor Emma would have worn a gown like that above — but Lady Cunliffe certainly would have been familiar with the dress of this young lady. For those who wonder about Lady Cunliffe, Mary’s maternal grandmother, you can read a prior post by clicking on her portrait:

Lady Cunliffe in her portrait of 1761, painted by Joshua Reynolds.

* * *

two book recommendation:

The Dress of the People, John Styles (Yale U Press)
What Clothes Reveal, Linda Baumgarten (Yale U Press)

read my review of Styles’ book at JASNA
read about Styles’ upcoming Williamsburg 2013 Exhibit & Symposium:
Threads of Feeling Unraveled: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens

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Need Help: Susannah Smith, nee Mackworth Praed

May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm (diaries, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been thinking of letters and diaries these last couple of weeks. Some diaries are in the 1810s; others propel me forward to the 1840s; and the letters have been as early as the 1790s!

Today I want to make a special appeal to anyone who might have knowledge of letters written by or to Susannah Smith, the wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge.

Susannah and Thomas married in 1800; Thomas was a brother of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, so he was Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s Uncle and therefore a great-uncle to my Emma.

This close-up is from a miniature that recently sold at auction. How can you resist this face?!?

Susannah had a twin-sister: Arabella, Countess of Mayo. She became a lady-in-waiting.

Knowing well that LETTERS were the bread-and-butter of life then, I suspect Susannah’s letters, at the very least to and from her sister, but probably also to others in the Smith’s extended family, must exist. Mrs Thomas Smith was of the generation who visited Tring Park to stay with Mr and Mrs Drummond Smith – and also visit Roehampton, where resided Eliza Gosling (Mrs William Gosling), sister to Mary, Mrs Drummond Smith. How wonderful it would be to read comments – even slightly negative ones! – about my Smiths & Goslings.

Even hints to possible whereabouts of some correspondence would be welcome! Published sources as much as manuscript sources.

* * *

UPDATE: it was stupid of me not to include more information on Susannah’s sister and brother-in-law. The Earl of Mayo had the familial name of BOURKE. Some places associated with the family include Naas and Palmerstown. The Praed family were also related to the Shore family, which produced the delightful publication The Journal of Emily Shore.

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The Curious Case of Two Wives

December 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm (people) (, , )

As it happened, I did venture up to the University of Vermont’s library. I had a book to return (on the Shaw Lefevres, relatives to Emma Austen-Leigh) and one to pick up (on artist Mary Ellen Best). Surprisingly I remembered about the microfiche and Gentleman’s Magazine. UVM holds a fine collection of this and, with school our, there was no competition for a micro-reader. And here is what I found there:

On page 542 (vol. XXX): November 6 [1760] – “Sir Ellis Cunliffe, Bt. member for Liverpool, — to Miss Davis.” Right first name, right identification. Then, page 594: December 17 [1760] – “Sir Ellis Cunliffe, Bart, member for Liverpool, — to Miss Bennet.”

A bigamist? Doubtful… I looked in vain for a retraction. Despite the unmistakable name, I wonder – another Cunliffe and wrong first name inserted? Another member for Liverpool and the entire name incorrect? The mystery is still to be solved. This does, however, point up the very important fact of verifying EVERYTHING. Talk about ‘making a list and checking it twice’!

When I first began to research Mary Gosling’s diaries, it was a toss-up as to the day upon which she and Charles married. Various periodicals had both the 2nd of July and the 20th of July. It took the diary of Emma Smith to convince me (after all: she was a guest): 2o July 1826. But this Miss Davis-Miss Bennett mix-up is truly curious.

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Seek & Find

December 19, 2008 at 12:12 am (books, portraits and paintings) (, , )

As much as I l-o-v-e BOOKS.GOOGLE it can also be highly frustrating: how to find entire SETS of books…, sometimes pages are missing or misplaced…, and then there are always missing volumes. But: Seek and ye shall find! Tonight a second look for volumes on Sir Joshua Reynolds unearthed the A-C volume of his works — and therefore the entries for the Cunliffes. Some interesting information indeed…

We already knew (see post) that Sir Joshua painted Lady Cunliffe. Here is her ‘description’:


Wife of Sir Ellis Cunliffe. Died October 7, 1814.
Sat in June, 1761. Paid for, July 1, 1761 Lady Cunliffe, £15 15s. 1761, Lady Cunliffe, £15 15s.

The picture belongs to Sir Charles Smith, Bart., at Suttons, Romford. 
[note: This would be Mary Gosling Smith’s son]


Here for the first time is the ‘description’ of Sir Ellis’s lost portrait – and a tantalizing notice that a copy exists!

CUNLIFFE, Sir Ellis, Bart.

M.P. for Liverpool; was the eldest son of Foster Cunliffe, an opulent [!] merchant, and M.P. for Liverpool; created a baronet in 1759; married, first, [!!] November 6, 1760 Miss Davis (“Gentleman’s Magazine,” 1760), and secondly, Mary, daughter of Henry Bennet [sic], of Moston, Cheshire; died October 16, 1767.
In a morning gown, seated in a chair.
Sat in January, 1762. Paid for, 1762 Sir Ellis Cunliffe, £15 15s. December 29, 1762, Sir Ellis Cunliffe, £15 15s.

Sir Robert A. Cunliffe, Bart., writes, May 31, 1899: “The three pictures by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, his wife, and daughter, were left away from my family. I have a good copy by Allen of that of Sir Ellis.”

The picture belongs to Herbert Gosling, at Botleys Park, Chertsey.


mrs-drummond_theconnoisseur-nov1913The third portrait is of course also described:

CUNLIFFE, Miss Mary, afterwards Mrs. Drummond Smith.

Sat in June, 1786.

The picture belongs to Herbert Gosling, at Botleys Park, Chertsey. See SMITH, page 908. [note: that volume is still MIA.]


Gosh! I never knew Mary Bennett was Ellis Cunliffe’s second wife! Who was and what happened to ‘Miss Davis’?!? But more: Was there really a Miss Davis??? Ellis and Mary married on the 19 December 1760… Will have to hunt up the old GM (nothing online; and not sure UVM’s microform holdings go back that far). This could be incorrect information, or incorrect dating. Stay tuned!

Interesting that Herbert, a son of Robert ‘Robin’ Gosling (Mary’s nephew), and Mary’s own son are considered by a not-too-distant branch of the Cunliffe family to be “away” from the Cunliffes! See the Baronetage and also an informative lawsuit among Sir Ellis’ siblings and widow.

And one wonders: if Herbert owned the portrait of Mrs. Drummond Smith, how on earth did it get to the Comptons (for it is now at Castle Ashby)? The Comptons were of course related to Drummond Smith (he was the uncle of Augusta Smith, Eliza Chute, Maria Marchioness Northampton, and Emma Smith), and I could have sworn that while considered a Romney portrait it was exhibited by Lord Northampton. Must look into that one’s provenance again. (For, if in the hands of the Comptons, that would mean this book’s claimed ownership was incorrect.)

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Giving Thanks

November 27, 2008 at 11:42 am (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , )

This year there is much to give thanks for: the ability to pay mounting bills, and successful stays in hospital chief among them. And – as always – for this project, which continues to unfold.

Just yesterday evening I found a useful series of books (alas two volumes are missing; both of them waited for with baited breath! for they would contain ‘Cunliffe’ and ‘Smith’) = page scans at of the Graves & Cronin 1899-1901 texts of A HISTORY OF THE WORKS OF SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, the originals in the collection of the terrific New York Public Library.

In the authoritative text Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (Yale: 2000), author David Mannings relies on Graves and Cronin as well as The Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds, by Leslie and Taylor (vol I here). THIS book had a handful of references to GOSLINGS, but the most intriguing was notice of a portrait of a generic “Mrs Gosling” (see page 388).

So the thrill of finding Graves and Cronin’s books are that there seem to be two portraits, one less fully known to them, of Mrs Goslings. Alas it is the less-fully-known (wouldn’t you know…) which concerns us here – for the portrait is said to have been of William Gosling’s mother!

Here is the description (Graves & Cronin: bottom, p. 373):

Elizabeth, daughter of William Houghton; married, November 3, 1763, Robert Gosling, of Hassobury, Essex, son [sic] of Sir Francis Gosling, the banker; died June 6, 1811.
Sat in February, 1761, March, 1762, and August, 1764.

(Robert Gosling was of course the brother of Sir Francis.)

VERY intriguing to wonder whether Sir Joshua – who painted Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe (Margaret Elizabeth’s parents, William’s future in-laws) – could have brought the Goslings and Cunliffes into the same social sphere. Although Sir Ellis, of course, died the year Eliza Gosling was born, Lady Cunliffe lived on and off with her children and grandchildren; and she had a documented friendship with Sir Joshua (see his pocket books). That could mean that William and Eliza meet from childhood onwards!

Anyway, the volumes so far found online are A-CD-GH-L; and M-R. Once again I ask: Where is this portrait???? [update Nov 2017:] It’s in the volume IV that includes Addenda! see below.


The Royal Academy has an interesting introduction to Sir Joshua’s pocket books — ridiculous to read that they paid (in 1873) a mere £29 10s for them! (I assume the meaning of £29.10 – or has the original cost been translated into today’s currency of pounds and pence??)

For more on Sir Joshua and Lady Cunliffe see my post.

[Photo of a page from Sir Joshua’s pocket book; from Graves and Cronin, vol D-G.]

November 2017 – I’m sure I’ve come across this volume before, but only now do I update this post. Interesting to read, now that I’ve studied so many family photos, of the letter from Mrs. Robert Gosling (née Eleanor Spencer Smith).

Eleanor wrote, on 5 July 1900, concerning the portrait mentioned on page 373: “I have ascertained that the picture of Mrs. Gosling, who sat in 1761-1764, is that of Elizabeth (née Midwinter), wife of Francis Gosling, banker, and afterwards [page 1323] knighted. It is in the possession of R.H. Gosling, Esq.” (identified as Richard Henry Gosling, at The Manor House, Waltham)

So there goes all of my presumptions!

I need to remind myself what Mannings wrote of this piece.

The illustration of Mrs. Gosling, who’s been ID’ed as the wife of Francis Gosling, the son of Sir Francis, is far in the back, facing page 1568. This volume features not only addenda, but also exhibition catalogues and even Sir Joshua’s diary. Its title page claims it to be volume IV in A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

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Spotlight on… Lady Cunliffe

August 31, 2008 at 12:36 pm (portraits and paintings, spotlight on) (, , , )

The reader’s first reaction will undoubted be: Who was Lady Cunliffe?? There are actually several ladies who, at the end of the 18th century, went by this name. All were related; wives of several baronets who held the title, one after the other. The woman pictured at left (in a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds) is Mary, Lady Cunliffe; wife (widow) of Sir Ellis Cunliffe; daughter of Henry Bennett of Chester. Of the career and life of Sir Ellis I will have more to say later; he figures in the histories of both Liverpool and Annapolis, Maryland. Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe were Mary Gosling’s maternal grandparents.

Lady Cunliffe had only two children, unlucky for her husband’s title, neither of them a son. Her first daughter, Mary, married Drummond Smith – alas, she died before he received his baronetcy in 1806. This Drummond Smith (for he had a great-nephew of the same name) was Uncle to Eliza Chute of The Vyne, Maria Marchioness of Northampton, Augusta Smith of Suttons, and Emma Smith (again, not to be confused with her niece, Emma Austen-Leigh). He lived much of his life at his estate Tring Park in Hertfordshire.

Lady Cunliffe’s second daughter, Margaret Elizabeth, married William Gosling the banker. Her premature death in December 1803 is said to have hastened the death of her most beloved sister only two months later, in February 1804.

The book in which this portrait is reproduced – SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS: A COMPLETE CATALOGUE OF HIS PAINTINGS (Yale, 2000), by David Mannings, has this to say about the work: ‘Painted 1761, wearing a pink dress of ruched silk with lace ruffles; a miniature portrait of her husband on her left wrist. She sits in a green upholstered chair. There are appointments with Lady Cunliffe in June 1761… There is a cancelled appointment on 9 Nov. 1762. A first payment of 15 gns is recorded in the Ledger on 1 July [1761] (Cormack 1970, 114); a second payment of the same amount was made between 6 July 1761 and 28 May 1762 (ibid. 115).’

Then comes this most interesting tidbit: ‘Lady Cunliffe’s name appears almost every year in Reynolds’ Pocket Books 1777-89, usually at eight or nine o’clock, apparently in the evening, on one occasion with a note: “Cards & supper.” Sometimes she arrives with Mrs Vesey, Mrs Shipley or Mrs Boscowen and it is clear that these are social calls.’

A side note: Sir Joshua is known to have painted a companion portrait of Sir Ellis (1717-1767) – but its whereabouts remains untraced; it was last known to have descended to Herbert Gosling of Botley’s. Herbert died in 1929; the estate was sold in 1930. The artist also painted several members of the Colebrooke family – relatives of Charles’ first wife, Belinda. The most famous of the Reynolds’ portraits belonging to this extended family is that of Mrs Drummond Smith, held in private collection at Castle Ashby (seat of the Marquess of Northampton; not open to the public).

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