Letters from Harrow

November 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm (a day in the life, books, diaries, history, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , )

When is being inundated with letters and transcribing an especial blessing – when it brings a new voice into the mix!

Over the eight years I’ve dug and scraped to bring more primary materials under my umbrella, I’ve found what mainly belonged to the women of the Smith & Gosling family: Mary’s travels, Emma’s diaries, Mamma’s letters. Even when I’ve known about some “manly writings”, I’ve given them a bit of a backseat position. Doesn’t help when some of it is so sketchy – both in terms of content AND in terms of the hasty scrawl employed… (Yes, Sir Charles Smith, I’m talking about you!!)

But I’m currently in the midst of transcribing schoolboy / young man SPENCER SMITH letters – and am quite enchanted with them.

Drummond Smith, the youngest of the three brothers [Sir Charles (born 1800) – Spencer (born 1806) – Drummond (born 1812)] has long had a “sisterly following” due to his early death, aged only 20. In fact, a journal of his writings was sold at auction at the firm DOMINIC WINTER in July 2013:

  • 294 Grand Tour. A manuscript fair hand journal of a European
    Grand Tour undertaken by Drummond Smith in 1832, 286 pp.,
    travelling [from Tring, Hertfordshire] through France, Germany, Italy
    and with most time spent in Sicily, a total of seven weeks, partly in
    the company of Mr Odell and Lord Ossory, the latter half containing
    copy letters sent home, all in a neat and uniform hand written up
    soon after (paper watermarked 1832), contemp. morocco gilt, lacks
    upper cover, 4to     (1) £200-300

I am familiar with an alternate copy of this same journal – how I WISH I had heard back from the auctioneer’s, or the current owner! I have so much to offer regarding the “history” of Drummond Smith and especially this “last” journey.

But I digress.

Spencer Smith, heretofore, was seen solely through the eyes of his sisters and mother – I knew a few things about him, but rather the basics of where he was, or what he liked to do. I’d never “HEARD HIS VOICE”. And yes, as the only long-surviving member of the Smith family (later, his children use the surname of “Spencer-Smith”, which evolved into Hamilton-Spencer-Smith and back to Spencer-Smith again), there were impressions I had of him that I could not have of his brothers.

His letters are less joking, less consciously “witty” than those of young Drummond; more matter-of-fact – they are touching in their very quietude. Who knew the young man had such depth; certainly not from sisterly tales of his mis-placed gun or his newly-acquired horse! Or the image Mamma put in my brain of the lolling youth enjoying 6 Portland Place, London, on his own. The letters are mainly to his sister FANNY SMITH (Mrs Richard Seymour), some to his brother – especially when Drummond, following Spencer’s footsteps, was a student at Harrow.

Some Spencer letters were written from his tutor’s, at Iver; some from Harrow; a few from the abodes of later tutors – Mr Blount at Clare and Mr Boudier at Warwick; the ones I’m currently transcribing hail from Oxford (Balliol College).

All of this came at a most opportune moment: for I was thinking about girl versus boy education; home versus institution.

Finding – about six or seven years ago – Christopher Tyerman’s A HISTORY OF HARROW SCHOOL is how I came across a copy book of young Drummond’s letters: they were quoted in a chapter covering Butler’s regime (1820s). When I first found the citations there was just NO DOUBT it was the right family: Drummond’s correspondent was his sister, Fanny Smith.

tyerman_harrow

Due to Spencer Smith’s letters from Harrow, I recently re-read this particular chapter.

And I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred the “girl” route to education! My… what rowdy goings-on… among these boys. I invite you to read Tyerman’s History for yourself.

Unlike Drummond, who was in Dr. George Butler‘s house, Spencer Smith was at Hog Lane House, with Mr Evans. Mr Evans – Spencer tells us to pronounce the name “Ivins”, to differentiate him from another Evans “higher up in the town” – figures in Tyerman’s book: He was a rival candidate in the headmaster search that ultimate brought Butler into the position.

The Smith boys, of course, would never have envisioned that their Letters from Harrow could one day tell historians about little lost episodes in the school’s life – as well as in the lives of several “boys” resident therein during the 1810s and 1820s.

* * *

 

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Spencer Smith’s Brooklands

June 15, 2014 at 4:22 am (estates, history, jane austen, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

After much searching – for any information about the Hampshire estate called BROOKLANDS, I finally FOUND information, and a photo!

brooklands_20thcentury

So, here, is a c1915 photo of Brooklands – which is located very near the River Hamble in Sarisbury, Hampshire. Try searching merely for “brooklands” and you find a totally different place in a totally different county of England! The secret is to attach it to “hamble” or “sarisbury” or even “bursledon”.

buoyed by the photos I then uncovered, I began to look in the newspapers. I was never certain if Spencer Smith purchased the estate, or rented; never certain either quite when he and Frances relocated to Brooklands – even though he is known as “Spencer Smith of Brooklands“.

What turned up was this advertisement in the Hampshire AdvertiserNovember 1838:

BROOKLANDS
House and Gardens, with or without the Farm.

TO BE LET, by the year, or for a term of years, this handsome and elegantly furnished RESIDENCE, situate[d] at Sarisbury, midway between Southampton and Fareham, and bounded on one side by the Hamble River.
A Neat Chapel has been recently erected near the entrance to the park.
For terms apply (if by letter, free of postage) to Messrs. Barney and Moberly, Solicitors, or Mr. Perkins, Auctioneer, Southampton.

The house was up for sale a bit ago (asking price: £5.3 million), and the advertisement gave it a JANE AUSTEN connection. Though: Be skeptical; her letters mention the man and the place – but don’t really serve to indicate that a “JANE AUSTEN SLEPT HERE” plaque is deserving.

Although Jane Cooper’s husband was building Brooklands, Jane Cooper – who was Jane Austen’s close friend, as well as relation – died young.  [see Austen’s letters] I’ll let you look up references to Sir Thomas Williams, RN on your own, and decide for yourself whether Jane was a frequent visitor to Brooklands.

Still, no denying that the estate has a connection. And more, once Spencer settled in, in the 1830s, a connection to his Aunt Emma Smith – who lived at Sydney (another place I’m trying to track down! I must ask Charlotte Frost, who tipped me off about righting my lack of luck in locating Brooklands), and has left sketches of Bitterne and the surrounding area. [See the Macklin Album at the Wiltshire Museum.]

A family by the name of SHEDDEN are found at Brooklands after Sir Thomas Williams – I turn up both a Robert Shedden and a George Shedden. Messrs. Gils & Son advertised, three years before the TO LET notice, an auction of furnishings — though the sale ultimately did not take place. There’s a story – the Sheddens of Brooklands – waiting to be told.

As to Spencer Smith — at some point he took as a complete surname his entire name “Spencer Smith” – so that his children came to be differentiated from those offspring of Charles Joshua Smith of Suttons. The Spencer Smiths are still around today, if no longer at Brooklands.

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Miniatures on the Auction Block

December 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm (fashion, history, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Soon after my last post, in which I discussed the *discovery* of Fanny Seymour having had her portrait miniature painted by Mr Ross (where is it??), I found a group of THREE miniatures of Fanny’s nieces:

This was a sale that just took place at the end of November 2011! A correspondent, who had photographed an album containing photographs of some of the Spencer Smith children, was VERY surprised — yet happy to note the threesome have stayed together. 

(side note: Yes, ultimately Spencer gave his children the name Spencer Smith; I supposed to differentiate his children from those of his brother, Charles Joshua Smith.)

The uppermost portrait is Augusta Frances Spencer Smith (born 1849); bottom row shows, on the left, Isabella Mary Spencer Smith (born 1846), and, right, Dora Spencer Smith (born 1845). Dora married the Rev. John Jenkyns, whose family has ties to Balliol College, Oxford University.

The miniatures are by Reginald Easton (1807-1893), painted in 1863.

Please disregard the lot’s “notes” — no way did Charles Smith (who died in 1814, and was Spencer’s father) marry Frances Seymour born in 1808!

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Breaking News: Scenes from life at Suttons

June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm (a day in the life, books, estates, news, people, places, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

**My “solution” to the Mr Darcy-Mystery Man will appear at the end of the week**

The breaking news concerns a slim little volume I’ve searched a couple YEARS for: Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 — a Wiltshire seller had a copy on eBay, the auction ending about three weeks ago. Yet who but me would want this little book?! Evidently, no one: when I emailed about it the book was still available. This little prize arrived in my mailbox this past Monday — the 13th of June! YIPPEE.

So what does this little treasure offer?

There are 28 pages of text, which are short plays, in verse, written by DRUMMOND and ELIZA SMITH. The scenes take place in 1825 and 1827, as the title indicates. They are comical and charming little pieces, especially heartwarming to me because I can see and hear them, I know the “characters” so well! The first is entitled BREAKFAST AT SUTTONS, JULY 1825. The first pages includes this exchange:

Fanny: Whoever chuses coffee — speak.
Charlotte: I should like some — but very weak.
Augusta: Coffee too — if you please, for me;
                     But no — I think I’ll have some Tea.

Readers get a sense of the house, the manners and characters, as well as the staff members: we have “appearances” by Tanner (Mr Tanner he is later called); John who evidently answered the door to a ‘poor woman’ arriving to talk to Mamma; the ever-loyal Tidman, who shows up in letters. Interestingly, these people do not appear as “characters” listed at the beginning of each “play”!

The next scene, AN HOUR’S READING AT SUTTONS, 1825, features Aunt and Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma is, of course, Mamma Smith’s youngest sister (she never married); Aunt, on the other hand is erroneously ID’ed as Maria, the Marchioness of Northampton (ie, Mamma’s eldest sister).

‘Aunt’ was in fact Charles Smith’s only sister, Judith Smith of Stratford! I recall a charming little drawing of Aunt (by Augusta, the daughter) in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office (HRO). I have long meant to ask for a copy; this makes me want it even more, because, although there is no Aunt Emma, Scenes from Life at Suttons has portraits of Mamma and her sister Maria, Lady Northampton!

The last little play, EVENING AT SUTTONS, 1827, has a few lines spoken by my beloved MARY! This takes place in The Library.

The end of the book includes ELEVEN portraits, all (except her own) by Augusta Smith Wilder. So came my first look at Mary (Gosling) Smith, and even her sister Elizabeth. Most of the Smith siblings are present: Augusta, Charles, Emma, Spencer, Charlotte and Drummond. Alas! No Fanny, Eliza or Maria!! Which is QUITE the loss, though as far as Fanny goes I believe the portrait at HRO is of this set. This I have a copy of! (Sorry, you won’t find it online…). Mary’s portrait easily translates into a silhouette, so I’ll shortly post her picture, as companion to her “sister of the heart”, Emma Austen Leigh. Stay tuned for more about this unique booklet!

One thing I can NOW say: This title does indeed exist! I was beginning to think May Lamberton Becker’s imagination had conjured it up. The description, its only depiction, appeared in her book Presenting Miss Jane Austen (1952).

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Augusta’s Comings & Goings

July 11, 2010 at 11:54 am (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

My “Augusta” (known to most as the 1798 diary of Augusta Smith, Mamma to Emma Austen Leigh) is now on her return voyage to Illinois, headed back to her owner, Mark Woodford. Thank you, Mark, for the opportunity to see the original diary! Not many people would lend such a treasure to a complete stranger… And she’s now in the hands of the United States Post Office. Safe return, my Augusta!

But while lamenting “goings” there was also an Augusta “coming” this week. On Friday, Alan from Warwickshire sent me a scan of his recent acquisition: an 1841 letter written to Fanny Seymour and penned by none other than her mother, Augusta Smith!

So in one week, there was young 1798 Augusta, a new bride, awaiting (come February 1799) the birth of her first child — the next Augusta in a line of Augustas [ie, the future Augusta Wilder]; and then the older, wise Mamma Smith, who has recently been at the deathbed of her grandson, Spencer Joshua Smith, eldest child of Spencer and Frances [Seymour] Smith.

While there is much in the 1798 diary still to be “digested”, the 3-page letter provides such a snippet of life, a moment captured. In this case, the grief of a family. But the interesting part comes in several comments Mamma makes about the actual funeral of little Spencer Joshua.

In the biography of her father, James Edward Austen Leigh, Mary Augusta wrote about the funeral of Eliza Chute (she died in July 1842); as the first to die of the four daughters of Joshua Smith, Eliza was attended by her three surviving sisters: Maria  marchioness of Northampton, Augusta Smith, Emma Smith. It was highly unusual for women to attend funerals or gravesides; though “the times they were a-changing”.

Mary Augusta writes:

“Mrs. Chute’s funeral took place at half-past eleven on the morning of August 5, the coffin being borne through the wooded lanes for more than a mile to the church of Sherborne St. John by two sets of eight bearers, the gentlemen of the large family party that collected in the house following on foot, and the three surviving sisters accompanying them in a carriage. The service was performed by Uncle Richard [ie, the Rev. Richard Seymour, Fanny’s husband].

So why do I write that it was unusual for women to attend? Emma herself attended, the following year, the funeral of Mrs James Austen (Edward’s mother). Edward had informed Mrs Augusta Smith, “The funeral will be on Friday, at Steventon, where a vacant brick grave by the side of my father’s has been waiting nearly 24 years…” Mary Augusta takes up the story:

“Aunt Caroline [Edward’s sister] meant to be present herself, and so great was our mother’s attachment to her sister-in-law that she determined to go with her…. Much fatigue of body and mind must have been involved in these long drives in extremely hot August weather, and by taking part in a funeral service for the first time in her life, as neither she nor her sister had attended Aunt Chute’s. There was then a wide-spread belief that women would be unable sufficiently to command their feelings during a service which might be painful and trying.” Mary Augusta then quotes a letter Emma wrote her eldest daughter (Mary Augusta’s sister), Amy: “It was a trying day… I cannot wish dear Amy that you had been at the sad service, or at present think I could myself (having now seen it) ever wish to attend another of a friend.”

Friend, in its 19th century use, meant family… It is a word the Smiths used often.

So, to bring back Augusta’s letter of 1841.

By December 1832 there only remained one Smith son: Spencer. In 1835 he had married Frances Seymour, Richard Seymour’s sister. Their little boy, Spencer Joshua, was born the following summer. Little Spencer seems to have had health problems from the start. The first indication was in Mary’s diary, when she wrote: “Poor little Spencer Smith died not quite 5 years old: his removal was a merciful dispensation of the Almighty”. Mamma Smith also intimates great concerns when she concludes: Frances “is sensible that life might have been a burthen to the poor Child, but still she loved him & misses him.”

Although the mystery of “Poor little Spencer Smith” remains, the 1841 letters sheds light on the changes taking place in the attendance by women at the graveside. Augusta tells Fanny, “Spencer went [to the funeral], attended only by Mr. Lacy; he declined Arthur’s [brother-in-law Arthur Currie] offer, because it must be trying to him; & he declined mine; I could have done it very well. I accompanied Richard to your poor Babe’s Grave. — Mrs Bond & Mrs. Marshall went; poor Horne is too nervous to venture.”

It is the line, “I could have done it very well. I accompanied Richard to your poor Babe’s Grave” that gets me: Fanny’s son Michael John died (after living only a day) in 1835!  Augusta’s thoughts of “accompanying Richard” gives the deep impression of a woman willing to sacrifice her own feelings in order to support her son-in-law in this most distressing time. And here, again, we see an offer given to Spencer, but, like Frances, he prefers to mourn alone.

This may seem a morbid subject for a bright summer’s day, but it also points up the wonderful opportunities for digging into the past, for uncovering social conventions of Britain 200 years ago. The Smiths and Goslings are a fascinating family, and I am blissfully happy when working among their papers.

Thanks to both Mark and Alan, little puzzle pieces come out of the blue – and each piece, in its own way, solves a bit of the mystery. Here, the “game” is always “a-foot”!

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Spotlight on… Spencer Smith of Brooklands

August 19, 2008 at 6:06 pm (spotlight on) (, )

A Surrey archive owns a late-nineteenth-century Gosling photo album. One page contains two interesting identifications: Mrs S. Smith and Mr S. Smith. Surely… Spencer Smith and his wife Frances (née Seymour). So, it was devastating to read the words “photo missing” after Spencer’s name! A photo that once was, but now is lost…

So who was Emma’s brother Spencer??

He was born in 1806, five years after Emma and was the second son born to Charles and Augusta Smith of Suttons. He was destined to outlive both his elder and his younger brothers… As Mamma Smith once lamented, ‘the three were so united’.

From letters and diaries, Spencer led the life of an eager sportsman. It was Spencer who put together a sledge and pushed the girls around when they spent some winter weeks at Suttons; he is usually mentioned among those who go out ‘skaiting’, and is described once as the ‘most agile of the party’. Letters document his worries over a misplaced gun (therefore, Spencer went out on shooting parties during the Autumn season) and his purchase of a hunter – which understandably worried Mamma: ‘Mr Cure fell out hunting & broke his arm … Spencer may perhaps be the next sufferer, for he has bought a Hunter at Oxford, which is just arrived.’ Many in the Smith household, Spencer included, enjoyed the game of Billiards (and they seem to have owned a table and had a Billiards Room). It is also obvious that he was an enthusiastic player of cricket or at least a knowledgeable critic. He passed something along to his sons, for three can be found on the rolls of players.

He attended Harrow and his comings and goings are documented in Emma’s diaries. As an older teen, Spencer seems to have followed the same schooling as his brother Charles: he is found in the company of a Mr Twissleton of Warwick; Mr Twissleton may have been a private tutor (though more information is required before identifying him), since Charles had resided with a Mr Boudier of Warwick.

Spencer attended Oxford (Balliol College), matriculating in 1823 (BA 1827; MA 1833). About this time Emma was touring Europe – along with Mamma, brother Charles, and her three eldest sisters. The Smiths had journeyed through the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland and then wintered in Italy; ultimately, they remained abroad an entire year! The ‘little children’ (Spencer, Drummond, Charlotte and Maria) who remained at home were slowly told the plans as they unfolded… which did not make for happy children. Emma, writing home, pictures the brother she has not seen in about ten months: ‘Spencer I suppose will be considerably aged, grown tall, with a hoarse voice, & perhaps a beard’; she had already recognized that ‘we hear so much of the growth of [Spencer]  perhaps he will out top us all, before we come home’.

Like Jane Austen, he must have enjoyed dancing, for in 1829 Mamma mentions ‘Spencer is a little animated about the Ball [the Smiths were hosting a ball of their own]; they are getting up Waltzing, & Le Gallop, which is rather new. He thinks we shall have quite Beaux enough, & wishes to refuse farther introductions.’ She closes this letter with, ‘At this moment Spencer is practicing the Waltz with his Sisters & Madame Lennox, the Mistress.’ He may have sometimes joined his sisters in providing entertainment, as he is once noted as ‘playing a little on the flute’.

Spencer evidently inherited property from an uncle of his mother, for he travels to Jamaica in 1831. Unfortunately, he left on 1 January; his brother Charles died a couple weeks later. It is probable that the family encouraged him to continue with his plans; they may have realized that Charles’ prognosis was not very promising, although his death came as quite the shock to Mary (Lady Smith). Spencer sailed from Bristol in a ship captained by ‘Cap’n Trip  He had no fellow passenger’. He arrived back (landing at Falmouth) by the 20th of July, after a ‘prosperous journey of 40 days’. Emma’s diary for the 21st says, ‘Dearest Spencer arrived well  thank God – he looks rather thinner’.

more later…

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