Hamilton at the Hammer

January 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm (books, estates, history, news) (, , , )

1/24/2017 UPDATE = see below

On Wednesday 18 January 2017 the LARGE family archive of Alexander Hamilton will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York. Expect the prices to be exorbitant. No “Ham for Ham” ($10) here…

hamilton-ten

ESTIMATES are in the tens of thousands. Good news for the family; but what institution, even, can afford, item after item, to pay such prices. I, personally, wonder if the archive – together for over 200 years – will be fractured beyond repair of ever being reunited.

Conversely, now that they’ve seen the light of day, will the precious letters and other artifacts be swooped upon by deep-pocketed collectors – bringing up the possibility that these “national treasures” might depart the U.S.

eliza-hamilton-and-lock-of-ah-hair

Two Teens readers will recall the embargo the U.K. placed on Kelly Clarkson’s purchase (at auction) of Jane Austen’s ring. Will the U.S. be faced with anything similar (and not over just one item)??

The photo, above, shows TWO of the gut-wrenching articles up for sale: a letter of Eliza Hamilton, and a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair.

You can look through the online Catalogue, Alexander Hamilton: an Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, in order to draw up your own lists of “wouldn’t that be nice to have”.

I know what I’d love to sit and read: Letters to, from, or about the Schuyler Sisters. They fascinate me.

For instance: Lot 1006, Autograph Hamilton letter to Peggy Schuyler, confessing his love for her sister Eliza Schuyler: estimate $15,000-20,000.

Or, the five-page love letter (Lot 1007) from Alexander Hamilton to his “dearest girl” Eliza Schuyler, the earliest surviving letter of his to her: estimate $40,000-$60,000.

Even with the monies the musical Hamilton has brought to composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda and historian Ron Chernow, even a handful of items could break their banks: Either of them might like General George Washington’s letter appointing Hamilton as his aid-de-camp (Lot 1004). Estimates being up to a cool quarter-of-a-million-dollars means the price could be even higher.

See this “Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot“, the estimates were £8,000-12,000 – it sold for £56,250!

If your family archive (mine has NONE, I must confess) could fetch money – whether “enough” or “millions”: Would you seek to sell?

I don’t think I could do it. Good thing, then, that I don’t have to worry about it….

***UPDATE***

Hamilton’s family archives drew a cool $2.6 MILLION once the hammer fell on the last item. Take a look at just ONE “lot” –

LOT 1040 – a group of 17 letters from Philip Schuyler to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton. Estimate was $30,000 to $50,000. Sold for (with buyer’s premium) $118,750.

Y-o-w-! more than twice the high estimate.

The New York Times offered readers a couple of affecting portraits of potential buyers: an 11-year-old from Manhattan, Zack Pelosky, had bid on a “low-ticket item,” which ultimately went to a phone bidder for $1,500. Joanne Freeman, “a Hamilton expert at Yale,” who has been studying duel culture, bid on a fragment of a Hamilton 1795 will – and was likewise outbid. Or, as author Jennifer Scheussler’s Hamilton-reference quoted: the Professor was “outgunned”.

Imagine! a writer and historian hopeful of a piece reminiscent of the very person studied… only to have the hopes dashed. From the article, it was obvious that the auctioneer had been on young Zack’s side, too.

An Angelica Church (née Angelica Schuyler) letter went for $50,000 – “more than ten times the estimate”. The disparity argued away by, “there’s no way that someone who saw the show [Hamilton] made that estimate”.

A note for people like me who wished the archive had gone wholesale to a repository: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History evidently came out as a heavy-hitter (or, should I say heavy-bidder).

Scheussler’s overall take: “It’s official: Alexander Hamilton now out-earns his boss [George Washington].”

 CNN’s report on the auction mentions the sale of the lock of Hamilton’s hair: $37,500. Keep in mind that hair, an exceptionally personal item, was exceptionally popular as a remembrance – of the living as well as the dead – in this period. I see MANY locks of hair in my own research – though I do wish I’d come across some of the Mourning Jewelry Smith & Gosling letters mention!

As someone who is working to put back together the disparate sides of a voluminous correspondence, a pang enters my heart when I read a quote from Selby Kiffer of Sotheby’s: “What is so unusual about this is it’s a cohesive integral whole that’s survived since the 18th century. The pieces interrelate and inform each other. It’s rare to have correspondence back and forth.” Only the future – and further writers on Hamilton and family – will tell us where all these items ended up. Fingers crossed that access to the items (especially letters!) whether opened or closed before are open to examination from now on. Manhattan fans evidently did take the opportunity to SEE the archive, during the week-long exhibition prior to the auction.

Other articles on the Results of the Hamilton auction at Sotheby’s:

That last brought up a thought that hadn’t before entered my brain: who purchased with the intent of RE-SELLING and making MORE money?

I say that because of one item in the Smith & Gosling universe. I have blogged about miniatures being sold several times, including a link to the brother of Susan Mackworth Smith (Emma Austen’s great aunt): Vice-Admiral Bulkley Praed, sold at Bonhams  in 2011 for £1250. I remember being SHOCKED seeing it BACK up for sale at like twice the price almost immediately.

Wouldn’t Joanne Freeman or Zack Pelosky lose heart if they saw their pieces back on the market – or, on eBay – like some scalped theater ticket.

It dawned on me last week what _I_ would have done, had I been a Hamilton descendant: I would have opened a museum, where those in love with the musical, history, Hamilton – the Schuyler Sisters – or even Aaron Burr could have paid to spend a little time in the presence of these people. Here’s hoping for public access, and that this is not the “end” of the Hamilton Papers’ Saga.

Gotta wonder: did Chernow or Miranda come away with any souvenirs?

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New Portraits – Happy 2014!

January 1, 2014 at 10:47 am (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

A quick post today, to give readers a taste of a couple new portraits that have been found on the internet.

terrys of dummer

Here are husband and wife, Stephen Terry and Frances Terry, of Dummer, Hampshire — readers of Jane Austen’s letters will be familiar with Stephen Terry. The Chutes of The Vyne and the Bramstons of Oakley Hall were also neighbors. The portraits, by Thomas Hudson, pop up online as notice of an October 1998 sale through Sotheby’s.

Another *find*, posted a short bit ago, is a portrait of Edward Odell of Carriglea in Ireland. Odell was Drummond Smith’s travelling companion (along with Lord Ossory) to Italy and Sicily in 1832. Possessing both a journal and some letters written by Drummond on this last trip from which he never returned, as well as the private diary and later-published travel memoir of Lord Ossory (later 2nd Marquess of Ormonde), finding this most tangible evidence of Edward Odell himself was a surprise and a great THRILL!

Two past posts about that fateful trip abroad, and Mr Odell:

Last minute addition: How could I forget coming across a photograph of James Edward Austen Leigh, during all the news of the Sotheby’s sale of the Jane Austen portrait?!? (has anyone learned the identity of the purchaser??)

Best wishes to all for a bright & happy 2014!

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Sotheby’s: Jane Austen Portrait

December 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm (jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

Got wind of a very informative article at ArtDaily.org – discussing the Austen portrait that sold at auction today. The BIG Mystery: Who purchased the portrait?!?

  • New York Times’ blog quotes that Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum felt they could not raise the required funds (estimated to fetch £150,000 to £200,000) after purchasing Jane Austen’s ring.
  • Death Threats over the £10 Bill portrait?
  • Lotta Jane Austen on the block!

The ArtDaily article offers a “behind the scenes” idea as to how Cassandra Austen‘s little drawing (now at the National Portrait Gallery, London) was used to produce the watercolor (ie, Sotheby’s auction item), which, in turn, was made into the etching that graced as frontispiece the Memoir of Jane Austen, written by her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh (husband to my Emma!).

austen-watercolor2

The watercolor portrait has been in family hands – and rarely seen. So, for me, it’s a thrill to see a decent image of the little portrait. Letters have recorded what Edward and his sisters thought of the work of watercolorist James Andrews. That discussion will be Part II – unless the mystery owner is revealed! Gotta wonder if the buyer – if outside the UK – is prepared for backlash. After the furor Kelly Clarkson’s purchase of the Jane Austen ring aroused, it is unlikely the portrait would not arouse the same.

  • If you owned this portrait – could you have sold it?

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Two Views of Lady Frances Compton

February 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm (british royalty, entertainment, fashion, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Today I was backtracking, re-reading some correspondence of Sir Walter Scott. In 1815 he was meeting for the first time some of the family of Lord Compton — future husband to Margaret Maclean Clephane.

It was his description of Lady Frances Compton that made me seek out some more information. And unearthed this lovely little miniature of her!

In the Smith letters, Lady Frances hovers around the edges. She is often abroad (sometimes in company with Aunt Emma, I dare say). The siblings call her ‘Aunt Frances’. Funnily enough, Walter Scott seems to write of her as “Lady Francis Compton”. Maybe not an inappropriate spelling, given his story….

First, here is a glimpse of Lady Frances, at “Her Majesty’s Drawing-Room“, reported in La Belle Assemblée (1816):

Lady Frances Compton.

    A petticoat of white satin, with draperies of embroidered silver net; train of Saxon blue satin, trimmed with silver lama lace.

The occasion celebrated the marriage of HRH the Princess Charlotte.

Walter Scott’s comment on the lady is rather remarkable; he is writing a year earlier, in April 1815:

Compton_Lady FrancesI have missed the post and cannot help myself till Monday there being none tomorrow in this God fearing and religious capital. I will see Lord G. after breakfast tomorrow perhaps before for I thought it necessary to accustom Lady Francis [sic] Compton to the voracity of a Scotchman at breakfast that she may not be surprised at the cousins whom the Isle of Mull may send upon an occasional visit and at breakfast you know I can match any highland man of them all. She is a spirited old lady fond of dogs and horses and had a pair of loaded pistols to defend her house in person when it was threatened in the corn bill riots.

(the miniature, left, sold at Sotheby’s in 2006)

Lady Frances died in February 1832, aged 74 – making her about 57 when Scott found her “a spirited old lady”. I like the fact that she could wield a brace of pistols!

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Inauguration: Kelly Clarkson

January 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm (entertainment, jasna, news) (, , , , , )

jane austen ring

I had originally blogged about this ring, once the property of JANE AUSTEN, because she handed it down to  her niece CAROLINE AUSTEN, the younger sister-in-law of my Emma Austen Leigh.

Tonight – inauguration evening – I put an end to the story: Guess who PURCHASED this ring?

Inaugural Swearing InSinger Kelly Clarkson, pictured at the inaugural performance of My Country, ’tis of Thee.

JASNA NEWS (rec’d last Friday) mentions that Clarkson paid $243,000. A snafu, however: Austen’s ring has been designated ‘a national [UK] treasure’ – and it cannot be exported! “So Clarkson owns a ring she can wear only in Britain. Ms. Clarkson also collects first editions of Jane Austen’s novels.”

A gal with great taste…

Click on her photo to go to Huffington Post’s story on her performance at the Obama Inauguration.

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Ring around Jane Austen

July 3, 2012 at 9:09 am (fashion, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

No doubt this thrilled readers for its Jane Austen connection. My thrill? The Caroline Austen connection!

I was visiting Sabine’s Kleidung um 1800 (you must view her newest creation) –> which brought me to Biltmore via Living with Jane –> which induced me to click on A Fashionable Frolick and there was the news, gathered from Two Nerdy History Girls:

What GRABBED my attention was this history of the ring, dated November 1863:

 “autograph note signed by Eleanor Austen {Henry Austen’s second wife}, to her niece Caroline Austen, ‘My dear Caroline. The enclosed Ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your Uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you! ‘ 

The provenance claims it went from Caroline to the daughter of my dear Emma Austen Leigh! (Emma died in 1876, so it makes sense that Caroline would leave the ring directly to Mary Augusta).

Caroline Austen is such a faded, background memory. One of the delights of my research has been little snippets, written by Emma about her new sister or by one of the other Smith sisters noting down their thoughts on “sweet Caroline”.

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Bodleian Buys “Watsons”

July 17, 2011 at 12:34 am (news) (, , )

Charlotte Frost tipped me off to the news — as she’s off to Oxford in September: the Bodleian Library is the “mystery” purchaser of Austen’s recently auctioned off manuscript of “The Watsons”. At least my Fanny Seymour (whose 3 sketchbooks exist in the same library) has some good company!

See notice of the manuscript “going on display” here.

Seems the bulk of the funding came through the National Heritage Memorial Fund — which “buys at-risk treasures”. A nice friend to have, huh? And here’s an interesting aside, from this same article: “Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s senior specialist for its books and manuscripts department, said ‘In the weeks before the sale we have been reminded of the remarkable appeal of Austen.'”

The article entices visitors to the site janeausten.ac.uk, which has manuscripts online — including “The Watsons.”

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Austen’s Watsons Sold!

July 14, 2011 at 11:25 am (news) (, , , )

And wow, look at the price at the final gavel: £993,250!

Macleans states that the 4-way tussle ended with the manuscript going to an undisclosed “anonymous buyer”.

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Austen’s Watsons at Auction – July 14th

July 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm (books, news, people) (, , , , )

Have you ever wanted to OWN your own Jane Austen manuscript?

The Watsons, an unfinished Austen manuscript, goes on the block tomorrow at Sotheby’s. Read The Guardian‘s article on the sale here. The Wall Street Journal has a picture of one manuscript page! (And some interesting text.)

Ah, it just kills me to read of the manuscript currently existing in two separate places (NYC’s Morgan museum owns the first 12 pages – sold off by the family-member owner during World War I); and even worse, the notice that some pages disappeared while it was in the custody of the University of London!

But was a FASCINATING thing to read about Austen making her paper into booklets — indeed mirroring a BOOK:

“… the manuscript has 68 pages – hand-trimmed by Austen – which have been split up into 11 booklets. …. Austen took a piece of paper, cut it in two and then folded over each half to make eight-page booklets. Then she would write, small neat handwriting leaving little room for corrections – of which there are many. ‘You can really see the mind at work with all the corrections and revisions,’ said Heaton. At one stage she crosses so much out that she starts a page again and pins it in. It seems, in Austen’s mind, her manuscript had to look like a book.”

I hate to say, looking at the page image: she left a LOT of room for corrections! Quite a neat thing to see.

Sotheby’s is estimating it will sell for £200,000-300,000. How Jane herself would have enjoyed that kind of money!

 

Read the “catalogue notes & provenance” section – the Morgan paid only a little over £317!

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The Year of the French, 1798

May 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm (a day in the life, books, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have spent the last three days in England 1798 — literally the Year of the French, due to all the rumors flying around about imminent invasion.

The “tour” has been courtesy of Illinois resident Mark Woodford, whose company website, Networked Robotics, is worth a look. Mark’s father recently bequeathed him a diary which had passed the last ten to fifteen years in Charles Woodford’s household as “1798 Diary of a High-Born Lady”. The high-born lady turns out to be none other than AUGUSTA SMITH (née Smith), Emma Austen-Leigh’s mother; and 1798, the year of her courtship and marriage to Charles Smith of Suttons. A true find, indeed. And I owe Mark more than one heartfelt “thank you” — firstly, for contacting me after he identified Augusta as the diarist; and, secondly, for loaning me the diary in order for a transcription to be taken.

Augusta arrived last Thursday, and we’ve spent hours together ever since.

How did the diary come to be among the Woodford possessions? With the death of Charles Woodford, it may be impossible to narrow down: a second-hand antiquarian bookshop? Christie’s or Sotheby’s? Or…?? Where it came from would be a mystery well-solved, yet it points up what I’ve long suspected: There are individual diaries out there (potentially of MANY family members), on random shelves, merely described by their dates of composition because their diarists never ascribed names to their scribblings. (Only in ONE diary — belonging to Charles Joshua Smith — have I encountered an owner’s inscription; although, of course, Mary Gosling penned her name on the “title page” of her earliest travel diary, dated 1814. That simple act of possession unravelled this entire historical puzzle.)

May this diary of Augusta’s be the first of many such “discoverings”!

Although I have now completed a preliminary transcription (proofing to come!), a year in someone’s life can be overwhelming to describe in a few paragraphs, never mind a few words. And a few words will right now have to suffice.

The year begins with young Augusta at home, at Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire — home of Joshua and Sarah (née Gilbert) Smith. Her father was a Member of Parliament (for Devizes); her soon-to-be fiancé also sits in the House of Commons. Between the two men as sources for political bulletins, Augusta punctuates her diary with news of Buonaparte, French troop movements, taxation laws, and Nelson Naval Victories. One interesting item: she writes of visiting Mrs Davison — this would be Harriot Davison, née Gosling: sister to William Gosling (father to my diarist Mary Gosling) and wife of Nelson’s confidant, Alexander Davison of Swarland.

Mrs Davison is a shadowy figure; she had already died by the time Mary’s diaries begin (1829). Charles, whose diaries begin the year he and Mary married (1826), mentions her just once: when they hear of her death (28 October 1826).

From Augusta Smith’s entry on January 2nd — where she makes notation of a rumor: that the French were building a RAFT (700 feet long by 350 feet wide) “for an Invasion on England” (on the opposite page, written down who-knows-when, is the bold negation: “N.B. this report proved false.”) — to her comments surrounding news of Nelson’s Nile Victory towards the end of the year, we now get a spine-chilling glimpse at how unsettled life for the English living near the coast could be.

More later!

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