Bramston of Skreens

July 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm (books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Happy are the days when you pull out an old book and find a new “find”! Years ago I got the Journal of Clarissa Trant. I had long known she married John Bramston, the young son of the Bramstons of Skreens who came and went with such frequency through the diaries of the Smiths of Suttons. Last night, I pulled out the Journal once again, to see what Clarissa had to say about her upbringing — though done mainly on the Continent, it was far different from anything the young Smiths knew.

Looking at the list of illustrations today I was surprised to be “reminded” that the Journal ends with words about her marriage — and a portrait of young John Bramston!

So here a new portrait enters our little blog family:

The Journal puts the portrait as c1826, and assumes it was done during a trip to the Continent.

John Bramston is an interesting figure in the Smiths history because he seems at one point to have been attached to Emma’s younger sister, Charlotte. He seems to have withdrawn, causing the Smiths a bit of… hmm… how shall I put this? to be a bit peeved at him…

Four years ago, when at Duke University, I looked at the unpublished diaries of Clarissa Trant Bramston, hoping for SOME comments about the Smiths; I found nothing. Did the junior branch of the Bramstons fall out of favor with the Smiths? Did John’s wife not associate with his old friends, and their neighbors? Some questions are still yet to be answered.

To see other portraits, gathered mainly from online sources, see PORTRAITS.

A nice little web history of Clarissa Trant can be found here.

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Dearest Aunt…

January 11, 2011 at 11:26 am (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Emma, writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, sister to Emma’s deceased father Charles), 10 Oct 1831:

“Our party here is very tiny only four; five I ought to say for Miss Corbaux is still with us – She has made a most charming water colored drawing of Mamma for me which is (Aunt Northampton says) amazingly like. She is seated on a Sofa in a black velvet gown with her hands crossed and her head rather on one side in a reflecting mood & so much like the attitude of the head in yr picture that it must be characteristic of her – The maids think it so much like [Missis?] sitting at Prayers. Then Miss Corbaux has taken a drawing of Miss Ashley for Charlotte which is very nearly as like as Mamma’s – I am going to indulge myself with having a likeness of Edward taken as the one by Mrs. Carpenter is not satisfactory – The children we do not mean to have taken considering it too great an extravagance…”

Can’t you just SEE Mamma: her dress, her demeanor, her attitude and look: oh, what’s happened to this drawing?!

I will post later some information on the artist.

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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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Augusta rules!

August 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , )

This seems destined to be the summer of Augusta Smith turning up in unexpected places. A few months ago, it was a 1798 diary penned by Augusta Smith the elder, whom I usually refer to as ‘Mamma’ in this blog. And over this past weekend, an 1824 letter written by her eldest daughter, Augusta!

The letter arrived in my email box thanks to Angela in Alberta, Canada. Her grandfather had been given the letter, when he was in England, during World War II. Imagine.

Angela is lucky, as it is one of the most intriguing letters. Augusta proves herself a very astute writer, especially when she is reminiscing about the family trip to 1822-23 and remembering their time in Rome. Ah! I know only too well what it is like to pine for places you haven’t seen in some time…

There are a couple items to bring up in this blog, but I will leave them for later. Let it suffice that I greatly thank Angela for bringing this letter to my attention. Few might realize  how one letter, one diary, sometimes even just one sentence or two written about these people can shed new light, revealing light, on these 200-year-old people.  Hip-hip-hurrah for blogs! for without this one I would never have seen these private sides of my two Augustas.

BTW, the above is not a portrait of Augusta (I have nothing of either — so far!), but a fashion plate from c1820. As eldest daughter, young Augusta occupied a unique place in the Smith of Suttons family, she was Mrs Smith’s ‘ornamental daughter’ according to one contemporary and friend. Augusta’s life makes for riveting reading, and I do so want her story to be told. Riches – pain – love – marriage – death. She is definitely one reason I pursue these people to the ‘ends of the earth,’ from North Carolina, to Winchester and Chelmsford, Warwick and Chicago, London, New York City, Oxford, and now Alberta.

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Dobro Prozhalovat!

May 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm (a day in the life, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Were those the words that Emma read when she first received a letter from brother Charles postmarked: ST PETERSBURG??

The year is 1820. Emma designates this letter No. 19 and notes its receipt on 21 November.

Charles’ last (No. 18), received on the 1st, had been headed “Stockholm” — what could have induced him to spend the winter months in such cold countries?!?

Unless the letters are found, we may never know…

It is interesting, after Drummond’s death (1832) the sisters collected together his letters. I have a copy of just one such collection. Instead of actual letters, however, someone collected all his correspondence to his sisters and rewrote everything. I suspect the pen to have been wielded by Fanny (see the post below), yet without more handwriting samples I cannot be sure. It is possible that several of these “letterbooks” existed.

Why do I wonder about that? There are several letters missing — inevitably those written by Drummond to Fanny (his “little Mother”) [for an article devoted to Fanny Smith Seymour, see the author, on the menu at right]. — as well, his travel diary from 1830 remains unfinished. YET: in both cases the requisite number of blank pages remain. That could mean several things: Fanny wasn’t coming across quickly with her letters and the room needed was guessed at; the writer got tired of the trip entries (oh! such a loss!!) and moved on — or, there was a “master copy” from which this letterbook was being written and the writer felt at ease to skip around, skipping the required number of pages.

My point is: These people kept letters — we know that;. And after the death of a relative these letters (and diaries) became precious relics to be read and reread.

I was thinking about all this today because of one of my favorite phrases in all the letters I’ve transcribed. The year is 1822. It is September, and Emma is writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, of Stratford; only sister to Charles Smith, Sr.). Mamma has taken her eldest five children abroad. They had departed from England in June. Emma’s letter originates in Geneva and she amusingly lays out what must come to Aunt herself as a bit of a surprise: they now plan to cross into Italy:

“…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”

I just LOVE the idea that they MUST spend the winter months there; no short visit of a few days! Plus there is just something endearing about the phrase that Mamma “has kindly consented”.

Emma continues:

“now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts… I really think you would be almost tempted to go there; you know Mamma is not a very uncertain person & she wishes me to tell you she intends being at home during next June… Mamma wishes you not to tell this to the poor children unless you think that by very gentle degrees & hints, it would be adviseable to let them know we might spend the winter abroad…”

Note the use of the “might” here, as contrasted to the word “must” only a few sentences before!

There are a couple letters extant, from young Charlotte — one of the “children” left at home: Spencer, Charlotte, Drummond, and Maria — in which she tears your heart out as she writes of missing her mother, missing her eldest brother, her four eldest sisters. When the party returns the following June, Emma hardly recognizes young Spencer — he had grown so tall!

So, while it is thrilling to think of those gababouts, and the places they visited, thought must also be spared to those left behind…

But, to turn back to Charles. Imagine going abroad — and very lengthy trips! — twice in as many years. The amazing thing is how far north and east he got during this first trip, 1820-21. I’ve made a list of letters, and either Emma got tired of noting them — or I did! I see notations about the receipt of 43 letters, the last (in August 1821) from Paris. Obviously, therefore, there should have followed a few more, even if he travelled quickly towards the Channel.

Emma begins well: letters reach her from Brussels and The Hague. Then, without spending any evident time in that bastion of European travel (France), Charles is next in Frankfurt. He works his way — quickly — through Saxe-Gotha, Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg. At some point, while in Hamburg, he dispatches gifts — for Emma notes their receipt on 26 November.

Charles then moves through Copenhagen and is next in Gothenburg and Stockholm — his first letter received on 25 September, but his last on 1 November. By that time he is reaching St. Petersburgh, as Emma calls it. She is still receiving post from there in mid-January 1821! By February he has travelled on to Warsaw. At the end of  February, Emma and the family receive more gifts: these posted from Vienna. Oh! how I envy Charles visiting pre-Ringstrasse Vienna! He is still there (letter received) at the end of May; but he has moved into Italy — lovely Venice — come June. By August Emma is receiving mail from Paris.

Charles had left the family on 3 June, 1820 and returned to them on 15 August 1821 — when he hands out more gifts. Imagine the things he might have bought… and then imagine me wondering where those items might be today.

To finish my thought about the next trip: the family left 24 June 1822 – Emma keeps up her diary only until the 28th: the family are just arrived at Ghent. And then the rest of her diary for the year is BLANK! 1823’s diary begins upon their return: 21 July 1823.

So lucky Charles sees the north for more than a year, then travels south – for this time they work through Switzerland and into Italy — staying the winter with the Comptons (Spencer and his wife Margaret), as we’ve seen from Emma’s letter to Aunt.

“You know  Mamma is not a very uncertain person…” –No, indeed! No wonder her children loved her so.

What made me post on such a subject? Firstly, the generous offer of Mark in Illinois, who is the owner of young Augusta’s diary for the year 1798, the year she married Charles, Sr. This one sentence is more telling of the kind of person Mamma became than any I have ever run across.

The second is the hope that if a single diary can turn up why not a group of letters?? The Smiths, collectively — for it’s possible that Emma noted only those letters addressed specifically to her — would surely have held on to such a precious bundle as Charles’ letters from Abroad. Emma herself intimates that her diary, so tiresome to keep while away from home, was superseded by letters, sent to her siblings, to her aunts — especially “Aunt”. So this may be seen as a plea: Anyone owning even ONE letter with a bunch of fancy postmarks, addressed to No. 6 Portland Place or Suttons in Essex, drop me a line!

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Recent writings…

June 7, 2008 at 11:21 am (introduction) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This week I have been immersed, not in the Regency period of Emma and Mary’s girlhood years, but in the 1830s.

June has turned into a ‘big’ month for me: the publication (finally!) of Persuasions, the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which contains my article on Emma Austen; and the release (June 12th), in England, of Local Past, the Journal of the Alcester and District (Warwickshire) Historical Society. This contains my article on Emma’s sister Fanny, who married the Rev. Richard Seymour and settled in Kinwarton (about ten miles from Stratford on Avon) for the rest of her long life. This last has spurred me on to finish an article I hope the editor will accept for the December issue, which continues Fanny’s story with the birth of her first son in October 1835.

Unfortunate for Fanny, the child – which was described by Emma as ‘very fine’, died after little more than a day.

What affected me most was reading months earlier a later letter, written by Fanny in 1837. In this letter she relates a little story that shows just how much Richard enjoyed his baby daughter’s company, enjoyed making her laugh, enjoyed puzzling out whom she looked like. Oh, he sounded such a wonderful father! Only upon further investigation into their lives, did I realize that this little girl was not their first child, but their second. How heart-breaking to have gone through pregnancy and birth only to see your child begin strong and then die!

The time-period is one of the interesting parts of this research. Taken together, the lives of these people span the early years of the nineteenth-century (of this generation, Edward Austen, born in 1798, is one of the elder members), and, for the longer-lived, extend into the middle and later years of Victoria’s reign. From George III to Victoria; from horse to the ‘iron horse’; from war abroad to strife at home; from the Age of Austen to the Age of Dickens.

However, in looking at the children one can never forget the parents, and even grandparents. And this moves us back to the 1760s and the birth of the parent-generation.

I began writing an article about the Goslings recently, which just has to start off with two ladies: Mrs Eliza Gosling née Cunliffe and Mrs Eliza Chute née Smith. I like to think of them as The Two Elizas. Funny thing is, they both married men named William! (Very confusing for the casual reader, no?)

One Eliza, Mrs Gosling, was mother to Mary Gosling; the other Eliza, who had no children of her own, was aunt to Emma Smith. Therefore, for two generations these two families had what they themselves described as relationships between ‘sisters-of-the-heart’. Friendships so close that the two women involved felt like sisters. Eliza Chute had three sisters; Eliza Gosling alas had only one. Emma Smith had five sisters, while Mary Gosling had two, but one to which she had a close-close bond.

I cannot prove that either Mrs Gosling, or the two girls, Emma and Mary, ever met Jane Austen (until there comes a new diary, or an as-yet-unread letter…). But Eliza Chute knew her, entertained her even.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into the diaries of Eliza Chute of The Vyne. This estate, which can be visited as it belongs now to the National Trust, is located in the parish of Sherborne St John (some few miles from Basingstoke). The man who ministered to the congregation on Sundays was none other than the Rev. James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother. Even a cursory review of Deirdre Le Faye’s wonderful Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family (2006) shows how many Sundays James returned to The Vyne for a repast. In later years he would be accompanied by his son, James-Edward (known as Edward in the family). This little boy grew up to write A Memoir of Jane Austen under the name he took in 1837: James Edward Austen-Leigh.

I’m still digging into the short life of Eliza Gosling and the early life of Eliza Chute – and am actively seeking any information on the Two Elizas, in the form of letters, diaries, even mentions in published books. For instance, Eliza Gosling, when a girl and still Eliza Cunliffe, met James Boswell. She and her sister (‘Miss Cunliff’) are mentioned in Boswell’s letters! Sometimes it is a very small world. I have cause to say that over and again.

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Why Emma and Mary???

June 1, 2008 at 10:53 pm (introduction) (, , )

Emma Smith and Mary Gosling were two ordinary English girls. They attended the opera and the theatre when their families resided in London for ‘the season’. They were present at court functions, and even witnessed the coronation of George IV. They travelled with family across the country and across to the Continent. They lived among servants in large houses on substantial estates; and when in town were next-door neighbours (No. 5 and 6 Portland-place) on a street south of Regent’s Park. See, just two ordinary girls.

Luckily, they kept diaries, and wrote lots and lots of letters. Some of which still exist.

In coming posts I will tell a bit of what I’ve found out about these girls – and just how Jane Austen played a role in their lives.

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