Now on Kindle = Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013

September 2, 2013 at 11:21 am (books, introduction, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

cover-twoteens

Smith&GoslingThe biography A Memoir of Jane Austen, compiled by her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh, was first published in 1870 (2nd edition on google.books). In 1911, daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh wrote down Edward’s own life history. Two Teens in the Time of Austen dramatizes events in the lives of Edward’s beloved wife Emma Smith (1801-1876) and her friend and sister-in-law Mary Gosling (1800-1842).

It is Emma’s eventual connection to the Austens of Steventon which gives this project its very name!  (The fact that the diaries of both girls begin in the period that saw Austen’s publications, doesn’t hurt either.)  Celebrate with me five years of uncovering the lives of the Smiths & Goslings. You can even “click to Look Inside“. Lightly edited, and highly rearranged, “Random Jottings” (estimated at 170 pages) serves as an introduction to the world of my Two Teens from posts published since the start of their blog.

For a limited time, Random Jottings also includes the opening pages of their biography (volume 1, Two Teens in the Time of Austen) and *all new* images of Mary and Emma. Available only at Amazon [Amazon.co.uk; Amazon.ca; Amazon.de (alas, not auf deutsch)]

UPDATE: since Kindles don’t (yet) allow for image zooming, the two pedigrees:

 

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Fanny Fitzwilliam Palmer Austen

January 8, 2013 at 7:28 am (books, diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As readers will know from my earlier discussion of Deborah Kaplan’s Jane Austen Among Women, the book gives a wealth of information about the female relatives and neighbors of the Austen family – for my purposes, Eliza Chute and her sister-in-law Mary Bramston; Eliza’s mother Sarah Smith; and Eliza’s bosom friend Eliza Gosling. But re-reading the book after MANY years, I am drawn even more into the Austen family — young Fanny Knight; her governesses Miss Chapman and Miss Sharp; and a brief mention of Uncle Charles’ Bermuda-born wife Fanny Palmer.

It sinks in today, seeing her listing at Stanford, that Fanny’s middle name was Fitzwilliam…. Indeed… (Le Faye, of course, does mention that fact).

I did a little looking around, for there is mention of letters at the Morgan Library — one place I would be able to visit if the Leon Levy Fellowship at CUNY came through! Here’s an image of Fanny Palmer Austen from the blog Mansfield Park: Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Novel:

fanny palmerMiss Sneyd’s wonderful post is entitled the Fanny Hall of Fame (do read all the parts; & intro, too); indeed, I could add a Fanny or two myself! Miss Sneyd handily includes Fanny Palmer’s link at the peerage dot com; here she is at Stanford. Ellen Moody touches on Fanny’s death (and “colonial” relations in general).

As to the Pierpont Morgan Library; it took a while, but there finally were Fanny Austen’s few letters. They exist at the Morgan thanks to a bequest by Gordon N. Ray — the same source as the Walter Scott novels illustrated by the Compton siblings! The letters date from the period 1810-1814.

Readers all joke, So Little Time, So Many Books – in research the same holds, but distance and money are factors harder to overcome than simple lack of time. Someday…

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December 16th

December 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm (books, jasna, news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , )

An important day, historically:

  • Jane Austen born at Steventon (Hampshire, England), her father’s rectory, 16 December 1775
  • Ludwig van Beethoven at Bonn, birth ‘celebrated’ on 16 December 1770, but the only known date is for his baptism on the 17th.
  • Marriage of Emma Smith to James Edward Austen, only son of the eldest son of the Revd. George Austen, 16 December 1828.
  • And the annual publication date of the latest edition of Persuasions On-Line, the Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

Enjoy!

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Emma Meets the Austens

September 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm (people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In summer 1829, Emma Austen met her Austen relations. Two letters from this period exist, one written to ‘Aunt’ (Judith Smith, the only remaining sister of Emma’s father); the other to her own sister, Fanny.

The Edward Austens had visited Ben and Anna Lefroy, Edward’s brother-in-law and half-sister. Emma met ‘Mr Knight’, ‘who changed his name from Austen to Knight for a fortune.’ She describes to Aunt my favorite of them all: ‘Mrs Cassandra Austen’, whom she calls ‘a very pleasing lady like person’.

Emma goes on to describe the visit: ‘We staid at Ashe till Friday — Mr William Knight has the living of Steventon & his father has built him a capital parsonage house with every convenience & luxury about it’. This convenience, of course, is why the Steventon parsonage that was Jane Austen’s birthplace no longer exists. Progress…

But rather than write about Emma’s impressions of the family, I want to touch on the fact that after her discussion of Steventon the rest of the letter is physically missing! More than half of the page is just gone. So much information, then a SNIP and some precious other bit is torn away.

It’s rather like Emma’s diaries. One queer thing about them is that whenever she gave birth to one of her children pages have been removed and a notation made as to which child was born when. Why??? Souvenir? hiding intimate thoughts? Were the Pieces destroyed? Were the Pieces kept? I’ve just no clue.

More about these letters, and Emma’s impression, in some later post.

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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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For Better, For Worse

August 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , )

Dear Miss Heber2Since January, when I came across advance information on Hazel Jones’ forthcoming book Jane Austen & Marriage, I’ve awaited its July release. For a fuller ‘review’ of it, please see Jane Austen In Vermont’s blog. Here, I merely want to point up the amount of information Jones has plucked from letters in the SMITH family! Not only does Eliza Chute (née Smith) and her mother Sarah come into the discussion of courting and matrimony, so does Eliza’s sister Maria (who marries the heir to the Earl of Northampton; her husband later becomes the first Marquess). James Austen — Jane’s eldest brother and father of James-Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) — is here also, with both of his wives. And source materials bring old friends like Miss Heber (pictured at left) and new friends like Dorothea Herbert (a book I am currently reading, with much enjoyment).

ja_and_marriage_coverJones’ chapter on “The Power of Refusal” (chapter 2) put a smile on my face: here she mentions that some suitors proposed in person — while others wrote letters or used an intermediary. Why the smile? The Rev. Richard Seymour, totally unsure of his reception (according to his own diaries), sent his elder brother John (another man of the cloth) to sound out Mrs Smith – who then sounded out daughter Fanny; it was good news from both. And wasn’t Richard happy!

The map of “Jane Austen’s Hampshire” (in B&W in the book, but reproduced in color on the back cover of the dust jacket) shows just how close The Vyne was situated to such Austen locales as Manydown House, Deane, Steventon, Chawton and Basingstoke’s Assembly Rooms.

This is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in Austen or her novels; the use of primary materials written by acquaintances, relations and autobiographers will appeal to historians researching early nineteenth-century mores in middle class England. Anyone interested in my research will enjoy the peeks into the lives of the few Smith-Gosling relatives.

Also worth a look – the author’s website, which includes information on the Austen courses she offers.

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