Sister Act – the Culmes of Tothill

July 11, 2021 at 1:16 pm (history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

While searching one of my favorite searches – John Hobart Culme Seymour, a good search because it’s a long name, an “unusual” name, and does often bring up something about the Rev. Sir John Culme Seymour instead of children or (what’s worse!) junk results – I found a most useful and interesting article.

The name “Culme” turns up a 2017 local history article in the Sid Vale Association‘s journal “Past, Present, Future”.

It seems the Sidmouth Museum has a little sketchbook – something acquired in the 1970s – once belonging to Fanny Culme, the sister of Elizabeth Culme, the first wife of Sir John Seymor, and the 2nd “Lady Seymour” (following John’s own mother).

The article is illustrated by two watercolors (evidently dating to c1819) of the area around Sidmouth; and – most tantalizing – a self-portrait of Frances Goddard Culme, aged 17. The article, by Rab and Christine Barnard, is called, invoking this self-portrait, “The Girl in the Mirror” (see pp. 34-35).

It is most interesting to me, as a researcher trying to track down such items as sketchbooks and portraits, to read that when it was first acquired, the book was thought to belong to someone named “Fanny Coulter.” By the time the book was catalogued the last name had been guessed at as “Culine.” One can readily see in the lumps comprising the “m” of CULME how this could have segued into the odd name of Culine – but thank goodness someone recognized the girl’s real identity!

The opening tale, too, indicates how spread out research items can be. Even local museums getting in on the act, which I hadn’t always anticipated, although I did recently learn of a sketchbook by the Smith sister Charlotte Judith Smith existing in just such a local museum collection in Tring. So, my eyes have been opened – but when fingers have to do the walking, the search is trebly difficult without someone prompting discovery with a well-timed “here’s what we (or I) have . . .”

Church, Kinwarton, Warcs.

I can add a bit of clarification to the assumption about Elizabeth Culme’s marriage. She and John Seymour married in April of 1833. I suspect that they performed a marriage visit to her family in May, thus the cry of “For Auld lang syne” from her sister. (Although Fanny also may have visited Elizabeth and John, an opportunity to see where her sister would be living.) I could relay more information if John’s brother Richard Seymour had made comments about their whereabouts, IF there weren’t pages cut out of Richard’s diary about the time of this marriage (mid-April is missing), as well as dates around mid-May.

There seems to have been a ‘stall’ in the engagement in early March 1833, but Richard is not specific as to the “obstacle” nor to the nature of Elizabeth’s “promise”. Richard received news, from his sister Dora (who was undergoing her own romantic tribulations…), a few days later that “Miss Culme had set aside her [……]” [=single word cut out here; I think it must be promise]. Since whatever Miss Culme set aside made the marriage ready to move forward, it cannot have been a promise to John. Had there been a promise to another man? (seems doubtful) Maybe Elizabeth had made some promise to her sister, Fanny? Though, according to the article, Fanny had already married in 1823 – and John Seymour surely held “good prospects” for Elizabeth’s future life as a clergyman’s wife.

Private “history” can be so mysterious, especially when trying to piece things together using the remains of secrets left standing in ephemeral items like letters – or (mutilated) diaries.

The article, too, helped to recognize what I had guessed at – the transcription of the word SOLTAU (Fanny’s married name). I especially was unsure of the last letter – “u” or “n”? Richard mentions Fanny Soltau in the period surrounding the death of her sister, in 1841. Elizabeth’s baby survived – and was named after her mother, though called for the rest of her life “Sissy” by her immediate family. Sissy and her two brothers were raised by Maria Smith, my diarist Emma Austen’s youngest sister, after Maria married Elizabeth’s widower in 1844. By then, Sir John had added “Culme” to his own last name of Seymour.

*

A quick note should be made as to the position of the Rev. Seymour as Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. It was a mistake I myself made because of verbiage in certain write-ups about John Seymour. No queen in 1827. Sir John did serve as Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, once she ascended the throne, a decade later.

In 1827, John Seymour was named Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, George IV.

Preference within the Church was of great concern for any English family with clergy sons to advance; John’s uncle Sir William Knighton was His Majesty’s Private Secretary. This last link will take you to Charlotte Frost’s website, where you have the ability to download her 2010 biography Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician for free. Or, follow the author on Twitter.

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Mystery portrait ID’ed: Queen Elizabeth I

February 18, 2014 at 2:27 am (british royalty, estates, fashion, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.

mystery lady and deer

click photo to read original post

In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:

The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….

In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!

queen elizabeth

Major OMG!

Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).

So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”

faces of QEI

NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:

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Thrilling news of Fanny Seymour

July 22, 2010 at 10:21 am (news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

It’s always a *banner* day when something new and hitherto unknown turns up! Like Mark emailing about his having Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary — or finding that a giant library like Oxford University’s Bodleian has SKETCH BOOKS that once belonged to Fanny Smith / Fanny Seymour!

I’ve a bit of a soft-spot for young Fanny. When I travelled to England to do research in the Hampshire Record Office at Winchester, I had already been in email contact with Alan up in Warwickshire. Alan made arrangements for me to give a talk on “local girl” Fanny Seymour. It’s amazing that once you LOOK for the doings and goings-on in some one person’s life, comments about them just pop out. So here was I, transcribing big sister Emma’s diaries and letters written by Emma and Mamma Smith (ie, Mark’s Augusta, only twenty-plus years down the road), and putting together the fragments of Fanny’s life. It was a great talk — or so I hope my audience thought! (It was well-attended, though oh so few questions at the end of it all.) And I enjoyed my time up in Warwickshire; I even managed to work a short time with the microfilm containing Richard Seymour’s diaries (check out the old post on my trying to find the whereabouts of Richard’s original diaries).

But back to Fanny!

I wrote a small booklet — which you will hear more about shortly (I’ve been compiling images for it!) — about the young girl years of Fanny Smith, up until the time of her marriage. Alan was hoping to write something similar for Richard Seymour, but he’s been very busy. In that booklet, I had a comment that while Fanny was always written about as drawing, and even mentions herself her love of this art, I had never yet seen — or located — any of her work.

Then, two nights ago, just online trying various search terms, don’t I turn up SKETCH-BOOKS OF FANNY SMITH, and the description calls her Mrs Richard Seymour. The books (unfortunately…) are described as topographical — so NO portraits are expected but imagine seeing drawings of the homes Fanny lived in, visited, and loved!

I’ve been working up an email in my head and will shortly contact Oxford. Part of me simply cannot believe that such items — Fanny’s sketches — have ended up at the Bodleian! I have said and thought “this project is golden” more than once; and this discovery proves it yet again: The Smiths and Goslings obviously want to be found.

The picture is from the book of Diana Sperling drawings, entitled Mrs Hurst Dancing. EASY to imagine Fanny, Emma and the other Smith siblings as characters in this charming little glimpse at English life.

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Funny thing happened today…

July 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

I received a lovely email from Eliza, who has been ‘saving’ and ‘rescuing’ items related to the Tupper family. One of the items turns out to be a sketchbook by Mimi Smith’s daughter (Mary Gosling’s grand-daughter), Florence. As a coincidence, this turn-up is slightly astounding. Gearing up for a couple of talks in Hyde Park, Vermont (in August and September), my topic is lady artists – those who would never have thought to make a living at what they did, but who enjoyed drawing and painting enough to do it quite well. Unless the sketches can be dated (Mimi’s portrait is surely based on a photograph of her – though it may have been done long after the photo was taken; especially since the face looks quite young and the year of her death is penned in beside the biographical information the artist saw fit to include), it’s difficult to guess how old little Florence would have been. But as it seems a lesson in drawing (pen and ink) and coloring (watercolor), based on existing pictures, she must have been fairly young. A teenager, perhaps.

I thank Eliza for sharing her ‘find’ with me! Just proves my point that we never know what will turn up in someone’s closet or attic or rubbish bin…

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