Faint Faces Found

June 13, 2021 at 8:36 am (diaries, estates, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been searching for several things lately, and usually come across something completely different in that kind of situation. Friday night proved to be no different.

I’ve been reading through old letters, first from 1840 (to go with a diary I’ve transcribed); then those from 1836 – a momentous, tragic year for the Smiths & Goslings, because of the deaths (by drowning) of Augusta and Henry Wilder, in a boat accident. I have recently come across two *new* letters, written in the aftermath of this family tragedy.

1840 was another year of loss – with the death of sister Charlotte Currie. And it was in the hope of (always a hope!)  finding more letters from Charlotte that I began reading letters to Charlotte, written predominantly by eldest sister Augusta Wilder.

It was while looking for any “hit” with Charlotte and Arthur Currie, that I searched for one of several addresses at which Arthur lived – and found that his old home, High Elms (Watford), is currently up for sale! It’s a MASSIVE 14-bedroom (7 bath) Grade II listed house:

Arthur settled here long after Charlotte’s death, bringing their children and his second wife, Dora (née Seymour; the widowed Mrs. Chester). The interiors are stunning (if “empty” looking in these photos). Take a peek now (before the listing disappears) – although the price is liable to keep it on the market for a bit of time – asking £7.5 million (it does come with 10 acres of land).

[Be advised: Arthur Currie of High Elms is far different from General Sir Arthur Currie.]

When High Elms was still called “Garston Manor” (from the 1890s until 2010), it was featured in a 2011 episode of Country House Rescue, the series hosted by Ruth Watson. I must see if I can find that particular episode…

Friday, I had also been trying to locate the diary (sounds like there is only one, but one never knows!) of Jane Eliza Currie – the wife of Captain Mark John Currie, Royal Navy, Arthur’s cousin. The one diary – though (great pity!) I’ve not been able to locate images of its written contents – covers the couple’s voyage in 1829 and stay (through 1832) in Australia — in quite a new settlement at the time, which is why she as well as he comes up in searches. I’ve had a brief look through Smith & Gosling letters and early diaries for Miss Wood (I don’t know if she went by ‘Jane’ or ‘Eliza’ – I find people referring to her by each of those; but what did she call herself??) and/or the Mark Curries Junior. Not successful there. Being out of England until their return in the 1830s, means there’s no hope (or very little) that Arthur and Charlotte would be mentioned by Jane Eliza – but one never knows. It is a new avenue to take a look down. What I have found is located at the Mitchell Library, NSW. And Currie just is not an easy name to search for — so much overtaken by a certain “General Sir”.

I have also been trying to remember who I had found – among the grandchildren? (not sure now) – whose death had been looked into via a coroner’s inquest. An accidental overdose. I remember a woman… Laudanum or Morphine… but the WHO escapes me, as does the date (19th century still? Early 20th century?). I thought maybe one in the Capel Cure family – and that was how I located my *FIND*!

Of Mary Gosling’s three children – Sir Charles Cunliffe Smith; Mary Charlotte Smith; Augusta Elizabeth Smith – two married children of Capel Cure and Frederica Cheney. The Cure siblings make for heartbreaking reading in retrospect – five of the eleven children died before the age of 21. The main seat of the Cures, Blake Hall, is very familiar from the letters and diaries of the Smiths and Goslings. Of course Mary (Lady Smith) never lived to see these marriages of her children – she died in 1842 and the first marriage, Sir Charles Smith to Agnes Cure, occurred in February 1855. The next to marry, in 1857, were younger sister Augusta Smith and the Rev. Lawrence George Capel Cure.

[Elder sister Mary married in 1861, Major Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, Royal Artillery.]

Since much literature that mentions the Capel Cure children does not mention all of them, I will list them here. You can find them in the 2nd volume of The Visitation of England and Wales (same place the Smiths of Suttons turns up):

  • Robert
  • Henry (died aged 7)
  • Frederica (died aged 10)
  • Alfred [the photographer]
  • (Rev.) Edward
  • Rosamund
  • (Rev.) Lawrence [married Augusta Smith]
  • Emmeline (died aged 19)
  • Agnes [married Sir Charles Smith]
  • Charles (died aged 8)
  • Frederick (died aged 14)

I have known of the photography work done – early in the “life” of photography – by Alfred Capel Cure. I have come across images of trees or estates – but Friday I spotted a LOT of PEOPLE. And when one album, digitized by UCLA, popped up a photograph of a portrait of “Sir C. Smith” by Ercole (whom I knew to have drawn Lawrence Cure), I slowed to savor each of the gentry portraits in Alfred’s album.

WITH SUCCESS!

A couple of photographs of Charles — whom I often still refer to, as his mother Mary did, as “Little Charles”. Mary, of course, was differentiating husband from son; I, on the other hand, know the son through the mother – and he was a child and teen in Mary’s lifetime. (Charles was born in 1827.) At least one album photograph ID’s him. Also ID’ed in a photograph is “Lady Smith and Miss Cure” – Alfred’s sisters, Agnes and Rosamund. Agnes and/or Rosumond (the only surviving girls) feature in a couple of group portraits, one of which surely includes Lawrence – it so resembles his Ercole portrait.

There are pictures of the exteriors of Suttons, Blake Hall, Badgers (a Cheney estate, which came into Alfred Capel Cure’s possession). So many familiar names. So many unknown faces.

Among the familiar names a faint and faded face identified as Lady Marian Alford. Lady Marianne Compton, as she originally was, was the eldest daughter of Spencer 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin) and Margaret Clephane. There are a LOT of images – painted and photographed – of Lady Marian (Viscountess Alford) out there.

Alas, no one identified as Mr. and Mrs. Leigh or their children … – which might have unearthed some new images of Emma and James Edward Austen.

But, among the faint and faded, came a duo identified as “the Misses Smith” and dated “Badger, 9 Nov:r 1854“. And I knew I had found something “Completely New”.

I usually have a “feeling” about a *FIND* – including excitement and sureness of the “who” or “what”. I don’t know WHY, but I have almost no feelings on this portrait. Except of loving the sweet faces I see.

Maybe it’s because, named “the Misses Smith” – I’m not sure who is who.

think the elder sister is standing; the younger sister is seated. The standing sister is smiling, broadly. A ring and what looks to be a charm bracelet dangle are on her visible right hand. Her left hand rests on the chair in which her sister is seated. This seated sister has a quieter look, as if not quite “ready” for the camera. And yet, there is an attractive wistfulness that becomes haunting the more one looks.

When they posed at Badger, Mary Charlotte Smith was soon, at the end of November 1854, to celebrate her 26th birthday. Augusta Elizabeth Smith was a few months past her summer celebration of turning 24-years-old. That it IS them is not in doubt – the diary of their uncle, the Rev. Richard Seymour, notes welcoming them to Kinwarton just after their stay at Badger.

The sepia coloring of the album’s print continues strong, fading only along the lines of the gowns and around their hands. It is a remarkable souvenir of their day, (or stay), at Badger during the time of their brother’s engagement.

 

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Spotlight on: Fanny Smith

April 21, 2019 at 1:15 pm (diaries, people, research, spotlight on) (, , )

I am reminded that Fanny Smith (after marriage in 1834, Fanny Seymour, or Mrs. Richard Seymour of Kinwarton), was among the earliest people I gathered information about. I gave a talk on her; and wrote about her early years (up to her marriage). That’s why it would be SO FASCINATING to find her own diaries!

One archive (Hertfordshire) has photographs of the Seymours; I’ve only ever seen one, very early (for photography), circa 1850s. It was taken out-of-doors (you can see a blanket kind of backdrop!), with Fanny and her three daughters – Augusta, the eldest of the family; Emma and Fanny the two youngest – and one of the sons, whom it took me the longest to identify, as Dick. I’ve never yet found the miniature Richard talks about commissioning, painted by Ross; but often figure it must have somewhat looked like this:

Ross_a Lady-closeup

I have a photograph of a “from a miniature” photograph, but whether it represents that portrait done by Ross or not, it doesn’t say. I would, however, be able to ID it as Fanny, should the actual miniature come to light!

My two Local Past articles on young Fanny Smith are available through my Academia account (another link is provided in the menu section – on the right side of the screen):

  • “Before She Became Fanny Seymour, Parson’s Wife”
  • “‘Fanny I am thankful to say continues going on very well'”

The first is about Fanny’s life up to her marriage; the second deals with the tragic days of Fanny’s confinement, following the loss of her first-born, a son named Michael John.

The articles can be read online; you will only need to log in (can do it through Facebook!) if you wish to download.

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The Case of the “Noble Torso”

July 2, 2015 at 11:30 am (diaries, history, news, people, research) (, , , , )

Research can be exhilarating…

Research can be frustrating….

And some days, there’s a little bit of BOTH the ‘high’ and the ‘low’!

bright star_letter

When a letter was delivered, it was all nice and tight in its “wrapper”. By the time it’s gotten into an archive (perhaps after being at auction, or in the hands of some seller not family), envelopes are opened, letters are categorized, and sometimes… separated. Thus: the Noble Torso, as I am now calling such little widows and orphans.

As a for-instance: letters in a folder marked “Unidentified writers” => which can be due to illegible signatures or missing signatures. In here I found an interesting letter, all about the Smith’s LAST VISIT (in 1835 – puzzlingly; that was a good 7 or 8 months after they moved to Mapledurham House!) to Tring Park. I transcribed, relishing the tale of the garden (seen in May, and quite flourishing). Then – bang! – it ended in what seemed mid-thought.

I dipped into another folder, for there were two to choose from: one “dated” and another “undated”. I wasn’t having much luck “dipping”. So I decided: GIVE UP! Just start transcribing from the Beginning! and I opened the first image I had photographed in a “dated” file: and there IT was: the Noble Torso that finished a highly interesting story of a Young Buck, out shooting Rooks, whose shot (or shots?) was rather wild and wide off the mark: Poor Maria (Emma’s youngest sister) wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to shoot her!

FINALLY: a united LETTER!! (though, as a new “find” I still have to contact the archive, so physically, they are still apart…).

I then looked for the widow of yet another orphaned Noble Torso: and THERE its companion was (though not as *dramatic* a moment as that first “find”).

I must confess here, that in England I grew rather fond of Emma and (especially!!!) Mamma = for theirs were the letters (and diaries) I brought home in 2007 (and have worked with since). Fanny, the middle sister, I was giving a lecture on that summer, so she too I grew to know more about — yet it was different to being immersed in her thoughts and feelings via letters. Now, with an influx of more correspondence – and from the likes of Fanny (or to her) and Maria and even dear Spencer – I feel as if I’m getting to know each of them. A tight family unit, and yet still individuals, with quirks & foibles, passions & set-backs, all their own.

Frustrating … and … EXHILARATING!

 

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Have You Seen this Lady?

November 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, history, london's landscape, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Mike from Tring sent me a photo of a drawing – a room in a house: But which room and in which house (never mind by which Smith sister, assuming it to be by a Smith in the first place). The companion drawing has a notation of “Chinese Bedroom at Tring”. I can barely make out the date, which could be 1829? The other drawing is untitled and undated.

The un-ID’ed room has a box piano to the left, then a group of stout books (folios) in a free-standing bookshelf. Two windows flank a well-stocked bookcase (which includes a tier or two of ceramics); this is placed central in the sketch. What appears to be a chess set sits on a table in front of the left-most window. A seating area is seen to take up much of the right side.

The Ceiling is high and decorated with much plaster-work (no murals within the medallions); the floor is carpeted (a block pattern, with perhaps floral motifs?); wood flooring peeks out at the sides. The windows are tall, starting near the ceiling. A left-hand-side door leads to the rest of the house, a wing (or perhaps porch?) of which is glimpsed outside the window.

What catches the eye straightaway is the full-length portrait over the filled bookcase. Identification of the portrait may help ID the room and in turn the estate and the artist. I’ve got my guesses, but toss it out to TWO TEENS readers: Shout out if you’ve seen this Lady!!

The stag makes me think “Diana the Huntress” or some other “symbolic” figure; but the clothing seems right out of a portrait meant to represent (dare I hope) a family member, though the head-dress may be conical and have a gauze-fabric (or is that more ‘tree’?). The scale of the portrait to the room makes the actual painting HUGE! It hangs just below the crown molding, and if the room has a 10-foot ceiling, the painting could be over five-feet in height!

mystery lady and deer

A SOLUTION now posted.

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Postal – it’s history

June 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm (diaries, history, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Been there – done that – got the T-shirt.

This one, of course, says it all, as far as I’m concerned!

During the last few evenings, I’ve been re-reading, correcting transcriptions, and trying to figure out what I have — and what I still need to see — for Smith & Gosling letters.

Not counting what I’ve not yet pursued (ie, family archives at a couple large estates), I’ve amassed more than 300 letters — and I’m still counting, for I know more is out there.

Just in the last month, three letters surfaced and a very kind gentleman let me see their contents! One was a bit out of the ordinary: signed Norman, I believe this woman (rather than dear Miss Meen, the painter of flowers, who gave lessons to the Smiths — and Queen Charlotte and her princesses) – Mrs Norman – a good contender for the post of governess to the daughters of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park. She is certainly around the family, and very “familiar”, although I still can’t quite track her down. They’re either “too young or too old”.

My latest “craze” has been for letters written by young Augusta Smith (later: Mrs Henry Wilder of Purley and Sulham). Ah! she is just a delight. A quick wit, with a ready turn of phrase.  Here, in the 1830s, Augusta is on the Isle of Wight, for the health of her toddling son. Doesn’t this just transport you back in time, at the hand of a fashionable wit?

“– A lovely cottage close by has just been taken by Mrs. Mason a daughter of L:d Hoods with a host of progeny of all ages – her husband is commanding a ship in the Medit:n & she is going to beguile his absence tomorrow by a “dejeuner dinant” & dansant” w:h I suppose will bring hither a whole squadron of galleys & barges full of blue jackets, white trowsers & gold epaulettes from Portsmouth

Don’t you just want to read more?

I’m always thrilled to hear from readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, who have some pieces of my particular puzzle — letters, diaries, sketches even. Let me hear from you!

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I drove the cabriolet from Wellington

May 15, 2011 at 8:21 am (carriages & transport) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The title comes from the diary of Emma SmithAunt Emma to my Emma (her mother’s sister). The year is 1792 and Emma and her two sisters, Augusta and Elizabeth (not yet Mrs Charles Smith [1798] or Mrs William Chute [1793]), are on holiday:

“We left Stoke at a quarter before eight on Saturday the 28th of July. Mama & Eliza in the cabriolet; Papa, Augusta and myself in the Phaeton; and Richard and Spencer on horseback”.

At the end of her entry for July 30th, as she describes the joyous sights (and sites) of Somersetshire, she appends the words “I drove the cabriolet from Wellington.” When encountered by such a phrase, it rather takes one by surprise: how many women could “drive”? It’s possible that all Sarah Smith’s daughters did; and it was merely Emma’s turn in the cabriolet with Mama. Later in the trip, eldest sister Maria (Lady Compton at this present moment) sits with Mama.

Anyway, reading these early diaries once again this week (a second is from 1794), I thought to begin a series about CARRIAGES. This stems from two things: a tiny book I happened across a couple years ago (at my favorite New Hampshire used bookstore, Old Depot No. 6) – Victorian Horses and Carriages: A Personal Sketch Book by William Francis Freelove and an AGM talk by James Nagle entitled in part “Coaches, Barouches and Gigs, Oh My!”

The book is a later edition, reworked, of An Assemblage of 19th Century Horses & Carriages by Jennifer Lang; both feature the wonderful drawings of William Francis Freelove. (see my prior post about Freelove; and view the drawings at Bridgeman Art.) I now own both, but somehow, the smaller book is more precious to me.

So: What was a CABRIOLET?

In pictures, both that I thought most illustrative date from c1830. I just love this piece, by William Joseph Shayer – The Cabriolet in Hyde Park:

A cabriolet is pretty unanimous described as:

A two-wheeled, doorless, hooded, one-horse carriage; may come from the French cabriole, an indication of its light, bounding motion. A cabriolet can be driven by someone seated in the carriage. The design is intended to accommodate two comfortably. The collapsible leather hood allows passengers to enjoy sunny weather or shelter from rain.

London’s Science Museum has this specimen (photo from Encyclopedia Britannica):

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St David’s Day – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

March 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm (entertainment, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Today, March 1st, celebrates Saint David’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales.

The first time I met Mary Gosling was on a family tour through North Wales: her comments on the Ladies of Llangollen (Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby) are what introduced me to this fascinating research project! Not that Mary had a LOT to say about the Ladies that everyone else didn’t say…

And the Smiths of Suttons seem staunch fans of travelling in Wales. Time and again they journey from home to spend some time in one of my favorite countries to visit: I also know how special the atmosphere is around the hills, mountains, streams, castles of Wales.

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