Seeds of a Project: Diaries and Letters

March 5, 2018 at 4:42 pm (books, introduction, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Reading through Smith & Gosling: My Project, it dawned that this would be a good way to start talking about Two Teens in the Time of Austen, ten years later. There is so much on the blog, that it would take nearly that long for people to revisit old posts. The most salient ones do exist, in a lightly edited version, available through the Kindle Store at Amazon. (Your purchase helps fund this project!)

Over the past decade, I’ve pulled together the diaries of eight key players. Some constitute only a few years; others run nearly an entire lifetime. A few other diarists sweeten the pot. (And I’m always looking for more!)

diary.jpg

Letters! A goldmine of information. Aided by some found in books (Jane Austen, Walter Scott, for instance), I’ve pulled together over a thousand letters, spanning the decades of the 1780s through the 1880s. Most are manuscripts.

As I’ve said elsewhere, It’s very time consuming – unearthing what’s been buried for 200 years…. 

I’m not sure which is harder – finding relevant items, obtaining primary materials, or deciphering while doing the transcription. One letter sometimes poses a new problem, while solving only a piece of an old conundrum. Still looking for MORE!

My father said, a week or two ago, “When Time Machines come into being, you can go back, meet them, tell them you’ve been reading all about them, and ask them about their lives.” The one downside of that would be: At WHAT POINT in TIME would I go back? When they’re all young, and don’t know what’s about to befall them? Or, when they’re older and can look back and remember?

I’m not sure I could pick.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Writing biography and history, of course means reading. Biography and British history; gardens and estate histories; Regency fashion to late-Victorian fashion; diaries of servants; letters of Ladies of the Manor etc. etc. (You get the drift.)

Thus, the reason you see so many BOOKS and YouTube shows. Anything that stimulates the brain. There are days, though, that I really wish I could just sit down with a copy of my own book. In the meantime, I have to be satisfied with reading such as Sherborne St. John & The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen, by Rupert Willoughby.

sherborne st john_willoughby

To help YOU “read all about them,” I can point to a few Blog pages that I hope help.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Postman Always Rings

January 28, 2018 at 9:43 am (history, london's landscape, World of Two Teens) (, , )

In the *first* of a series of posts (not necessarily all in a row), culling useful information about the World of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, is a short tidbit on the English Postal System.

So many times the Smiths and Goslings query each other:

  • When did you mail this letter? I received it only today.
  • How long did my letter take to reach you?
  • Should I use the route X rather than Y? Is it faster?
  • This letter took three days to reach me – why?
  • When did you post it?
  • I find, Today is not a post day.
  • The Postman is here, I must finish.

It, of course, is obvious that letters can travel through the hands of relatives – servants – as enclosures – via the family solicitor or banker, etc. etc. Some are franked; others hand-delivered next door or even inside the same house! Imagine yourself without your email…. “Why isn’t so-and-so answering me?” Things have not changed, it’s just the manner of the communication that differs.

(As well, the “historical” trail left behind! I Pity anyone studying the early 21st century 200 years from now…)

The Smiths and Goslings were as eager for news, as happy with a bit of a gossipy chat, as anxious about travelling loved-ones, as YOU are today. I was counting last night, and given the period from 1770s through the 1940s (stray letters at the beginning and the end, in a bell-curve fashion), and even discounting for wrappers alone or free-fronts (ie, NO letter inside) and for those copied from books, I have transcribed over two thousand letters. A *major* feat; though perhaps on par with finding them in the first place! The life stories that roll across the amassed pages is astounding. No wonder it’s taken ten years to come to grips with it all – and to see the materials for myself, when they are scattered from England to Italy, from Canada and the U.S. to Australia.

If I read a letter a day, EVERY day, it would take SIX-and-a-half YEARS to go through them, and that wouldn’t be counting any that are still out there, in someone’s closet or shoebox. And that doesn’t count the family diaries.

bright star_letter

So, what did I find? A schedule for the London Two-Penny Post in the year 1835, information among the printed matter at the front of “The Commercial LedgerAnnual Memorandum Book, used as a daily diary:

REGULATIONS OF THE TWOPENNY POST.

There are Six Collections and Deliveries of the Letters in Town, daily, (Sundays excepted), and there are Two Dispatches from, and Three Deliveries at, most Places in the Country, within the Limits of this Office.

The Hours by which Letters should be put into the Receiving Houses in town, for each Delivery, are as follow [sic]:

For Delivery in TOWN.
Over Night by 8 for the First
Morning ……… 8 …………. Second
                         10 ………… Third
                         12 ………… Fourth
Afternoon ……. 2 …………. Fifth
                          5 ………….. Sixth

For Delivery in the COUNTRY.
The preceding Even. by 5 for the First.
Morning ……………………… 8 …………… Second
Afternoon ……………………. 2 …………… Third.

But Letters, whether for Town or Country, may be put in at either of the Two Principal Offices an Hour later for each Dispatch.

Permalink 2 Comments

One Man Band: Life of an Independent Scholar

June 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm (a day in the life, books, history, introduction, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Curious about what a project like this Smith & Gosling research entails?

Although I worked (as staff) in academia for nineteen years, being an “independent scholar” (ie, without academic affiliation) means you don’t have the “interaction” of colleagues. That I really miss — and that’s why I’m so grateful for the readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen! If I can’t bend your ears, you at least allow me to bend your eyes. And it’s a two-way street – I value your comments and “likes” and dialogue.

So here’s my summary of Life as an Independent Scholar:

  • the location of diaries, letters, sketch books, portraits and miniatures, ephemera
  • a transcription of handwritten items
  • identification of people, places, and also the political, social, economic history of the era (approximately 1760-1845)
  • “getting the word out” through blog spots, journal, magazine and local history articles
  • finding obscure sources, including private collectors, for single items that once belonged to the Smiths, Goslings and friends/family
  • tracking down book citations
  • tracking down oblique references to family members in printed or manuscript sources
  • obtaining copies (xerox, digital photographs, microfilm) of relevant source material (thereby owing great debts to many blog readers)
  • corresponding with lots of libraries, record offices, and other depositories
  • TONS of internet searching
  • accepting the help of anyone who offers (see “obtaining copies”)
  • asking for help, when the distance is too great to make a personal visit (ditto)
  • spending precious hours/days/weeks at wonderful libraries and archives
  • typing-transcribing-writing-rewriting-proofing-searching-questioning-rewriting-proofing

No research assistants – No typists – No funding = A One-Man Band!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Happy 2012!!!

January 1, 2012 at 11:52 am (entertainment, research) (, , , , , , , )

Mary, Emma and I wish everyone

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I’m looking forward, in 2012, to acquainting readers with the history of the Smiths&Goslings – they lived through SUCH an extraordinary period. I light to think of my girls (born in 1800 and 1801) as going from the horse and carriage age, through the steam age and into the train age. Plus they knew and met some extraordinary people.

Yet it is their own histories, the every-day lives they and their families and friends lived that remains most compelling.

Their stories can only be told through their own words, bolstered by media reports extant public evidence, and illustrated by their own images and artwork.

I was reading some letters from 1825 — an important year, in that Belinda Colebrooke, Lady Smith (Charles’ first wife) died in January; Emma’s diary for that year is missing — and came across one from Mamma Smith, it is simply signed; just:

ASmith

I can well imagine some letters out there, which people have little idea who wrote them, or who they were written to. Especially if a letter is mailed to Miss Smith! For one letter I recently read, had Emma apologizing to Fanny for addressing her letter as usual, to Miss Fanny Smith — when she now (thanks to Augusta’s marriage) deserved the title Miss Smith.

It is really easy to see, from the list of items at the Hampshire Record Office, how several items passed to Emma. Therefore, other items — earlier Mamma Smith diaries; later Aunt Chute diaries — must have passed to Eliza Le Marchant, to Fanny Seymour, to Maria Culme-Seymour. Perhaps even to Spencer Smith, the sole-remaining brother.

I also like to think that some of Mary’s items still exist – perhaps subject to dispersal by her sister Elizabeth Christie. Those items at the Essex Record Office I think once belonged to her daughter Augusta, Mrs Lawrence Capel Cure.

So here’s some wishes for some new items — either in Archives (but unknown to me, like the wonderful Macklin Album, brought to my attention recently by Robin Jenkins) or in dribs-and-drabs in someone’s private collection. I’ve Richard Seymour’s diaries to work on, and some diaries and drawings that are across the country to investigate more fully.

I hope readers will comment and interact! You are my lifeline, sometimes — and I appreciate the friends I have made through this blog.

As they say in Austria — for the radio plays the Vienna New Year’s Concert: Prosit Neu Jahr!!

Permalink 2 Comments

The Missing, The Mysteries, The Marvels

December 31, 2011 at 10:45 am (history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On this last day of 2011, I reflect upon how something “turning up” can cause a flurry of thoughts — and how some earlier “flurries” have affected this Smith & Gosling research.

At left is a “seal” of a letter written nearly two hundred years ago by Augusta Smith, on the cusp of her marriage to Henry Wilder. A vibrant girl, her life-story has been lost to the greater world, but she is a large part of what drew me to this family. And why I want their histories told.

The letter was written to her youngest sister Maria, and just happened to be found among a cache of letters by Jacky in Maidstone. This particular letter — quite sweet as it spoke, Eldest Sister to Youngest Sister, of their relationship at the moment it is about to change — was not the bombshell another letter, also written to Maria Smith, Jacky had for me! That letter was from Mrs Odell, whose son had accompanied Drummond Smith, the youngest Smith brother, on his fateful trip to Italy. Seems Young Odell was interested in Maria! Alas, did Maria reject him because she didn’t care for him, or… did she somewhat hold him responsible for her dear brother’s death???

You can find an earlier Drummond Smith blog post here: Drummond Erased?

So there is one mystery yet to be solved. Only more letters, or diaries, will shed light on that one.

Another mystery, surprisingly uncovered, came with the letter Angela from Alberta has transcribed: Lady Elizabeth Compton‘s love for a near constant companion: Charles Scrace Dickins! What Angela didn’t know, as she wove an Austenian story around the clues laid out in her letter, was that nearly five years later the pair marry! But: What brought them to the altar?? Again: some more puzzle pieces are required to flesh out the story.

Paula Byrne has now come across a small picture:

And speculates that it was perhaps drawn by Eliza Chute, of The Vyne, and portrays Jane Austen! Not sure which excites me more: the idea of Jane Austen portrayed, or that a drawing potentially done by dear Eliza has been discovered…

A possible Wiggett-Chute connection to this picture has brought me back to Miss Le Faye‘s excellent Biographical Index in her Jane Austen Letters. So many familiar names, in conjunction with the Chutes, the Smiths, even the earlier generation of Goslings. Was just this morning reading about Alethea Bigg of Manydown.

The more I think about the VAST correspondence circle Jane Austen — and Cassandra too, we mustn’t forget her — would have been a part of, the more I have to wonder what cache of letters might still exist, somewhere, all dusty and locked away. As with the letter Angela from Alberta saw, even ONE letter can make a difference. As can one drawing.

Eliza in England sent me a watercolor image of Mimi Smith — daughter of Mary and Charles; wife of Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper — if I remember correctly, Eliza saved the little book of drawings containing it from certain destruction! Now to find the photograph the drawing was based upon…

Mark Woodford’s father obtained the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith (Mamma), possibly at Auction. Who owned the diary that it got separated from everything else?? Who else — living in Chicago, like Mark; or anywhere around the world — might have purchased a letter or a diary and have no idea WHOSE property they own, for few ever put their names to their diaries, and some sign their letters with their last name, but how common a name is Smith.

I could say, who would NOT know the name Jane Austen — but I can offer this anecdote: A few years ago I was interviewed for a job at a local pharmaceutical college. Had, I think, five people in succession interviewing me. One man (yes, note the sex of the person) looked at me, quiet serious, and as he asked for more comments about my volunteer work with JASNA [Jane Austen Society of North America], asked: Who’s Jane Austen??

I didn’t get that job and now I see the same position is advertised again. I won’t be applying. Their loss! for they missed the boat in hiring a really terrific person.

My New Year’s Resolution is to work harder at this project, and get Smith&Gosling the attention it deserves. The first task is to do a little updating to some of the pages on the blog — so stay tuned! And I’ve not forgotten that I owe readers my Boswell connection story.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Judge a Letter by its Cover

January 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm (people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When Craig from Australia — a most helpful Smith&Gosling “fan”! — wrote about a letter he found, the tell-tale tidbit that attracted me was hearing that it was addressed to the Marquess of Northampton. Its dating, to 1824, meant to the first Marquess — husband of Mamma Smith’s sister Maria, father to Lord Compton (the 2nd Marquess) and his sister Lady Elizabeth Compton (later married to Charles Scrase Dickins).

The idea that came into my brain while corresponding with Craig was that, although his find might be addressed TO Lord Northampton — the enclosed LETTER might very well be addressed to someone else!

My evidence?

At the Essex Record Office, there is a small set of letters, written by “the children” — as Emma referred to her two youngest sisters (her younger brothers were in school), Charlotte and Maria — but the girls, while addressing their letters to eldest sister Augusta and to Mamma, addressed their envelopes to “Le Chevalier Charles Smith“!

Obviously, therefore, the “head of the household” was the letter recipient whenever letters were sent Poste Restante or to be called for at, say, the offices of the family’s foreign banker.

Just one exceptionally interesting “find” while delving back in time nearly 200 years. Stay tuned for more!

Permalink Leave a Comment