Georgette Heyer’s BATH TANGLE

July 24, 2013 at 9:54 am (books, british royalty, diaries, history, news) (, , , , , , , )

Now, I was rather pleased to see the portrait of Spencer Compton (Emma’s cousin; later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton) gracing the cover of a recent edition of a Georgette Heyer novel. Even so, it was a bit of a curious find when, searching for Lady Smith-Burges (Smith-Burgess is common, but not the lady’s spelling), I stumbled upon this serialization of Miss Heyer’s Bath Tangle in THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S WEEKLY, 3rd installment of 6 in the issue dated 13 April 1955. Heyer mentions the rumor of the marriage of Lady Smith-Burges to Lord Poulett!

heyer_smith burgess

Lady Smith-Burges was the widow of Emma’s great uncle Sir John (brother to Emma’s maternal grandfather, Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park). Indeed the couple married in the summer of 1816, the time period for this novel.

But why on earth would Heyer chose this couple?

You can see through my new Smith&Gosling Timeline what was happening in the Smith family c1816.

Susannah Praed Smith also made note of the upcoming events in her diary:

Thurs:y 18th Mr Smith was obliged to go to Town on business – and we received a letter from Lady Smith Burges to tell us the day was fixed for her Marriage with Lord Poulett and to desire us all to be present at the ceremony = on account of its taking Place the 23d – we thought we had better go to London the day before – &

Mond:y 22d we left Bersted very early – got to Norfolk St before five OClock – found Mr Smith at home expecting us –

Tues:y 23d The Duke of Clarence dined with us – and in the Evening H: R H: went with us to Picadilly – as he was to give her Lady Burges away….

Ah, ha! The Duke of Clarence, of course, was the future King William IV; undoubtedly, their marriage was BIG news in 1816, and Heyer used it to advantage.

heyer_bath tangle

You can read the entire serialization at TROVE:

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Easter Sunday, in Rome

March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm (diaries, entertainment, europe, history, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Reminiscing in April 1824, Augusta Smith (the daughter) writes to her cousin Lady Elizabeth Compton. Augusta was in Rome last Easter and Lady Elizabeth is resident in Italy this spring.

“9 o’clock in the evening! St. Peters is resplendent with its magnificent illuminations. Innumerable crowds are thronging all around; the Ponte St. Angelo is one mass of heads and the Tiber a sheet of waving fire reflected from the brilliant explosions of light bursting every moment from the top of that venerable castle amidst wreaths of dark blue smoke. Last year we formed a part of the multitude…”

Ah, I know only too well Augusta’s nostalgia, and slight melancholia. I, too, have memories – too distant and therefore sometimes painful to reflect upon. Augusta’s trip was a year-long adventure from summer 1822 through summer 1823. The Smith family (Mamma and her older children) had stayed the winter in Rome. As Emma wrote Aunt before the group trooped farther south,

“you can hardly imagine my dear Aunty that we could be so near to Rome without visiting it, which Charles wishes, to the full as much as we do & Mamma for our sakes has kindly consented to so do, & in order to accomplish it we must spend the winter months there, now do not my dear Aunt fancy that we are determined gadabouts but think what an event in our lives it will be to visit Rome  I really think you would be almost tempted to go there…”

Great Aunt Susannah Smith’s Roman winter certainly points up the “wild” times that were enjoyed by the inhabitants and visitors. Is it like that today? (I still await my first journey into Italy.)

From young Augusta’s wistful memories, to Great Aunt Smith’s experience of Easter, 1827:

“we went to See the Pope give the benediction to his people from the Centre window of St Peters – it is an imposing ceremony – the military were all drawn up horse & foot – the bands playing – drums beating – but as soon as his Holiness appear{ed} an awful Silence prevailed -& continued while the benediction & prayers were read – the crowd were on their knees & their hats were off – the Evening turned out so wet – that the illumination of St Peters – and the fire works at St Angelo were put off”

Viva, la Roma!

And, “Happy Easter”.

st_ peters illumined by oil lamps

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Palm Sunday, in Rome

March 24, 2013 at 11:45 am (diaries, europe, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , )

Smith_Susan Mackworth PraedLast night, transcribing a diary for 1827, I was reading about PALM SUNDAY, and it struck me because we were hours aways from Palm Sunday 2013!

I am not lucky enough to spend Holy Week in Rome (new pope: Francis I), but Susannah Smith, her sister and brother-in-law Lord and Lady Mayo managed to be there the winter of 1826-27 — Pope Leo XII doing all the benedictions they attended.

Both Augusta Smith (the daughter) and Mrs Susannah Smith (her great aunt) describe a whirlwind of celebrations in Rome during the Easter season.

This being Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church, I will describe it as Mrs Smith saw it, when in Rome:

Sunday 8 April. this being Palm Sunday we went to see the Pope bless the Palms at the Sistina Chapel in St Peters – the procession was grand the service long – & the ceremonies very tiresome and I was glad when it was over“.  The length and tedium, however, does not stop they from visiting churches for their Masses over and again! But more on that next week (Easter).

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Lady Nugent and Jamaica, 1801-1805

March 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm (books, diaries, history, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

The Smiths’ aunt Susannah (Mrs Thomas Smith) notes that her brother-in-law, Lord Mayo, attended an 1823 ball hosted by Lady Nugent. Maria (née Skinner) Nugent turns out to have left a journal, which was published as Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years ago (published: 1907).

maria lady nugentMaria Skinner was born in New Jersey.

Mrs Thomas Smith first writes of encountering Sir George Nugent in 1808 at Clovelly Court.

Kristin Condotta speaks on Mrs Nugent’s colonial years in a talk entitled ‘I Thank God I’m not a Man’: Lady Nugent and the Self-Made Woman in Colonial Jamaica, 1801-05. You can listen to this talk online (19+ minutes)

From the introduction to the 2002 edition, re-edited by Philip Wright, “Maria Nugent’s Journal is mainly concerned with life int he household of the Governor of Jamaica during a period of about four years, from Augusta 1801 to June 1805. As the Governor’s wife, the writer found herself at the centre of a slave-owning society, with a part to play there and no mere onlooker, yet observing its manners with the curiosity of a stranger. She met everyone of importance in the colony…”

Diarist Elizabeth Fremantle (in The Wynne Diaries, 3 vols) has left this “first impression” of the lady, from a meeting in December 1800: “Mrs. Nugent is the most conceited little woman I ever saw, she is very pretty though shorter than myself, she has the smallest head that can be, very thin and little. She is an amazing dresser, never appears twice in the same gown.” After a shopping expedition: “Mrs. Nugent bought a great deal of lace, she seems not to care how much money she spends in dres,s but she truly improves upon acquaintance and is a pleasant even-tempered little woman.”

Lady Nugent died, aged 63, in 1834.

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12 – 12 – 12

December 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm (a day in the life, diaries, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

I couldn’t resist posting today, on 12th December 2012; I have ONE diarist who wrote down what she was doing on 12th December 1812:

“The Duke dined again with us,” wrote Mrs Thomas Smith. The Duke was HRH the Duke of Clarence (later: King William IV). The Smiths had a far more thrilling 12-12-12 than I have done today…

Duke of Clarence, c1800duke of clarence

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Regency “It Girls” @ Bonhams

November 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm (diaries, fashion, history, news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thrilling happenings today. Over the last few days, with a new contact, I’ve been digging into the background of Bersted Lodge — this was the estate of Thomas and Susannah Smith, great aunt and uncle to my Emma Smith; and therefore Aunt and Uncle to her Aunt Emma.

So imagine my complete surprise to come across a watercolor – at Yale (in their British Center for Art) – of Bersted Lodge, done in 1831, by Anne Rushout. Who was she? Had she been at the Smiths’  Bersted Lodge in Bognor Regis in 1831? In one word: YES!

So I’ve been digging and digging…

and ultimately arrived at this little beauty, up for auction at Bonhams this past summer; you will NEVER guess what it sold for:

You may click on the picture to be taken to Bonhams site for a full description of this divine trio, but I will ID them:

  • Anne Rushout (c1768-1849)
  • Harriet Rushout (d. 1851), married Sir Charles Cockerell
  • Elizabeth Rushout (c1774-1862), married 1st Sydney Bowles; 2nd John Wallis Graeve (or Grieve?)

It was Harriet’s married name – Cockerell – that had me crowing: I remember transcribing a name that could be either Lady Cocherell or Lady Cockerell. Now I know… And I’ve not only Rushouts and Cockerells, I’ve at least one Mr Bowles, too.

But to get back to my trio of beauties.

Evidence suggests this work was commissioned by SYDNEY BOWLES – which makes it that much more special to me, for he obviously did not have a long life, if his widow remarried by 1819. Bonhams estimated the piece to sell for £10-15,000. It sold for an ASTOUNDING £67,250 !!! Whoa. Wonder: to whom??

I have found that the University of London has diaries (1828-1849) for Anne Rushout, including the time (I hope…) she spent at Bersted Lodge in 1831; Oxford’s Bodleian has letters to Harriet Lady Cockerell (alas, possibly not early enough for me – 1839-1850). But the interesting and somewhat perplexing note is that a 1958 article, based on diary entries for Anne Rushout, has her diaries spanning 1791 to 1845!?! I could easily suspect a division of the diaries in someone’s will; but what accounts for the additional years at the end?

I’d welcome any information on ANY of the Rushout Girls – but especially anything that puts them in contact with Mrs Thomas Smith (née Susan or Susannah Mackworth Praed); and especially about the whereabouts of those early-early 1791-1827 diaries belonging to Anne.

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Pictures worth a 1000 words

January 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm (british royalty, diaries, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This picture isn’t worth only the proverbial “thousand words,” it was also worth a £1000 to the lucky purchaser at a November 2011 Bonhams auction. The sitter: Mamma Smith’s aunt, Susannah Mackworth Smith (wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge, Bognor).

Emma’s diaries mention a near-yearly visit to Bersted; though very little is said about the Aunt and Uncle found there… AH, joys and frustrations of working with primary materials. You wish people would ‘spill their guts’; instead they tempt you with teasing clues.

You can see the entire Susannah Smith miniature at Bonhams‘ website. If you search for Mackworth Praed you will also find her twin sister (Arabella, Countess of Mayo; a lady attached to the household of Queen Adelaide); and two of their brothers.

Susannah has not been my only *find* recently. Gosh! so many families purging themselves of ancestral miniatures… Don’t know which is more depressing: people selling their ancestors or all those portraits of “A Lady” or “A Gentleman” who could be someone in the Smith & Gosling family and friend tree!

{Hell, there even could be some Austens out there… going through life as unnamed Ladies and Gents.}

Another family member “found” and not yet discussed, although I posted her portrait a short bit ago, is Frances Anne Seymour — who married Spencer Smith. I actually have a photograph of Frances, granted – as photography was a later medium, taken when she was in her late 50s. Still so much FUN to compare the two, young “Bride” Frances and older “Matriarch” Frances. She, too, sold through Bonhams (in 2008). Note that on the website her middle name is spelled Ann; oh, spelling differences just kills me! {And Paula Byrne thinks she has problems with Austin… Try Jelfe/Jelph; Dickins/Dickens; Du Val/Duval; Susan/Susannah/Susanna; and a whole host of others… Never mind, just trying to find people named SMITH!}

Frances and Spencer were the parents of the trio of girls whose miniatures sold at auction I discussed in December. They sold through Christie’s. Mike E., who photographed the album into which Frances and her three daughters were “pasted,” was surprised yet happy that the girls had sold as one lot. May they remain together!

Emma Rutherford‘s Facebook page offers some fascinating reading about the world of miniatures and silhouettes. Let’s face it, for most of my people — even those who lived into older age and photography — these are the types of images that (might) survive. Emma has a new article out in Homes & Antiques Magazine; I’ve unearthed an earlier conversation on miniatures from the same magazine. Her February 2012 article is on silhouettes. Not sure how easy it is to find the magazine in the US. You can read more about Emma Rutherford at her website. Emma kindly alerted Two Teens readers to an article on the Byrne Jane Austen portrait.

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Elations and Disappointments

April 18, 2010 at 11:21 am (a day in the life, books, news, people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Oh, it has been a LONG week — where to start, where to start…

First, a long-standing thank you to Dr. John Chandler, of Hobnob Press. He kindly forwarded a back issue of the truly interesting journal, now-defunct, The Hatcher Review, which published a thorough article on artist Margaret Carpenter. The author, Richard J. Smith, has an abiding interest in Carpenter — I am told he composed her entry for DNB! More on this fascinating subject later, when I’ve taken the time to really peruse the piece.

Belated thanks are also due to Michele, at the Lewes Library (Sussex), for her help in obtaining pages from Charlotte Brookes’ little book, Christie of Glyndebourne: Being Recollections of Her Family. Yes, I finally tracked down ONE copy of this elusive title! Charlotte was the daughter of Langham Christie and Elizabeth Gosling (Mary’s sister and brother-in-law). It was this book’s description of the painting of Mary and Elizabeth, done by Beechey, which at the time of publication (1920) still hung at Suttons, that prompted me to go on a search for the picture — and why I discovered that portrait at the Huntington Gallery in West Virginia.

But: so far, the “gut reaction” is batting ZERO, while the evidence against is mounting. As mentioned in the post below, The Huntington identifies the work as “Ann and Augusta Coventry”. You try doing a search for “coventry”…

(BTW: just noticed: below the portrait, the Huntington ID’s the work as of the “18th century” – surely not!)

UVM’s Hope Greenberg, who gave an insightful talk on Costume in Austen’s Era for JASNA-Vermont in June 2009, dashed away some of my early hopes. When I asked for a brief reaction — 1808 or 1817? — to the Beechey work, her gut reaction was for 1808, which is when Beechey’s sitters’ book gives a listing for an anonymous Coventry daughter or daughters. Hope did a great job in enumerating the little fashion changes of the period (thanks, Hope), but it’s hard to give up my own “hope” for a different pair of sitters in this work.

Then, the more I dug, the more I experienced “elation” ending in “disappointment”. I contacted the Huntington (sending my email addressed to the curator  inadvertently to the administrative assistant I had earlier thought to contact – damn!), and am waiting to hear more about their work.

Then I searched and searched. Rather than contact Sotheby’s (WHO does one contact about a sale that took place in 1958??!), I got in mind to find the auction results.

The citation from the journal Art and Auctions for 1958 was kindly supplied by the Art Reference Librarian at Amherst College. (Gosh, I envy their collection — all relevant texts are ALWAYS in their library; but at four or so hours south, I’ve never been able to visit them, or UMass Amherst). This citation sent me in search of the actual catalogue of the sale. My mistake was in thinking that in 1958 these would include a photograph of EVERY work up for sale. Silly me… But this mistake wasn’t realized until after I contacted the National Gallery of Art, when their reference librarian told me catalogues were “all text, no illustrations”. Still, his kindness in forwarding a xerox of the relevant pages revealed what I had never EVER thought of: The Sotheby’s sale of 19 February 1958 had OTHER family portraits up on the block!

Among the works was one “Emma Smith” — a portrait of Joshua Smith of Stoke Park, Wiltshire. Now this could be Joshua’s daughter Emma = known to the Smith of Suttons siblings as “Aunt Emma”; or, this could be my Emma Austen-Leigh! Impossible to know, especially without seeing the portrait.

It is similar in size to one that also sold in this sale, that one ID’ed as a Gainsborough; so it is possible Joshua’s daughter or grand-daughter copied this work, though changed the color of his clothing. Or, if done from life – Joshua’s age could determine the artist; or perhaps it is signed! Let’s face it, there’s just no way of knowing… BTW, the work sold to “Wiggins” for £5.

The Gainsborough, with its description as “half-length, in blue coat and red doublet in a landscape setting”, started off another “elation” period that ended in “disappointment”: Went up to UVM’s library and looked through EVERY book on Gainsborough, including the so-called catalogue raisonné Waterhouse did in the 1950s (black and white photos! boo…). I could find no trace of “Smith” other than a “John Smith, a draper” mentioned in the text, but NOT reproduced. (Oh, for more NEW books, like the catalogue of Reynolds’ works!) And I thought grandpa Smith would be easy to find, given his famous portraitist. HA!

In the same sale (put up by Sir Thomas Spencer-Smith), was a portrait by Beechey of Thomas Smith of Fonthill and Bersted Lodge (Bognor). And don’t I find that his wife, Susan Mackworth-Praed, was also painted by Beechey, in what must have been a pair of portraits: they both measure 50×40 inches. Hers was up for sale, at Christie’s, in 1901. Thomas Smith was brother to Sir Drummond Smith of Tring Park and Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, and therefore a great uncle to my Emma.

To get back to Mary and Elizabeth Gosling —

I give the full catalogue description of Mary and Elizabeth’s portrait: “three-quarter lengths, seated by a piano in white satin dresses with a blue sash and flowers, signed with initials and dated 1817.” Its size, 49×39 inches. It sold to “Leger” for £280 (outdistancing the Gainsborough, which sold to “Buckley” for £35).

Charlotte Brookes says of this picture: “My mother {Elizabeth Gosling Christie} was a good pianist, and her master, the great Cramer, dedicated a piece of music to her. This she is holding in her hand in the picture of herself and her sister Mary, afterwards Lady Smith, painted by Sir William Beechey and now at Suttons. With regard to this picture Charles lost both his parents when a child, and his good aunt… thought that he ought not to see too much of his mother, for the dresses are cut rather low, so she had frills painted in which still remain, though Charles in later years often talked of having them removed.” [This comment about “seeing too much” brings SUCH a smile to my face!]

You see why I wonder about the Huntington piece — blue sash I can see (especially since, while at UVM yesterday, I looked up the original Early Music issue and could see “The Sisters” in the flesh!); but the reference to “flowers” puzzles me. Will they be in hands? in a vase on the piano? in the hair, or tucked in a ribbon tie or bosom?? So a small strike against “The Sisters” being Mary and Elizabeth — again.

BUT: The Brookes book told a tale never before realized: Langham Christie’s grandmother Elizabeth Lawton (mother to Elizabeth Langham) was the sister of Lord Northampton’s wife Jane Lawton — Jane, Lady Northampton would have been Maria Smith’s mother-in-law, and therefore the grandmother of Spencer, Lord Compton (later the 2nd Marquess Northampton; Emma’s cousin, and brother to Lady Elizabeth Dickins). NO WONDER the Smiths, in letter and diary, mention Mrs Christie and her sons so often and so early! They were “family”!!

So that sent me on a hunt for information on Langham Christie. And that hunt brought me back to a source I found who knows how long ago: that Langham wrote several letters to a Mr John Waldie, which are to be found at UCLA. But who was John Waldie?? Very little digging told me that he was “somebody” by virtue of his massive diary-keeping. His diaries have ended up (for the most part; there are some missing volumes) at UCLA. Prof. Emeritus Frederick Burwick has made available online his typed entries of John Waldie’s theater-going comments from these diaries. There are all the names that Emma mentions in her diaries during the 1810s, and names Mary mentions in her diaries of the 1820s! Waldie even enabled me to correct the spelling of one singer, Begrez — to be precise, Pierre-Ignace Begrez (of Namur), a tenor — whose name I usually guessed, depending on Emma’s writing, as Begrey or Beyrey.

There in Waldie are the Knyvetts (Waldie having some particular comments about William Knyvett…; look them up for yourself!); and there, also, is a certain Miss Sharp — who, I think, has an Austen connection. But I will leave that for a later post all its own. As to John Waldie — Langham Christie accompanies him on at least TWO Continental tours! Nice to know what Langham was up to in those years before his marriage.

So much to do, so little time, so little enthusiasm for anything else.

If Austen’s Emma is a “detective novel” (which P.D. James certainly made a great case for in her JAS talk some years ago), then research is the greatest detective opportunity ever. You pluck at clues, go down blind alleys, get hit over the head with good news — and bad. And in the end amass all intelligence into a coherent whole, that, if not wholly the truth (can we ever really know a person?), then at least approximates the truth from the evidence at hand.

One parting thought: a nice article on the Northamptons and their homes, Compton Wynyates and Castle Ashby, is to be found in the journal The Connoisseur, 1915 (the article begins page 156). Readers of my Persuasions On-line article will appreciate the (albeit brief) description of the interior of Castle Ashby, with its Great Hall and Staircase. Watch for the author’s wonderfully effusive comments, which in a split second turn a bit “backhanded”… BTW, this little jewel of a magazine has such useful things as “Notes & Queries” — where people sent in pictures of portraits and asked readers for identifications! And there are sections on book reviews, and genealogy, never mind antiques and estates. I must find additional copies and put up some links to the issues (bound as several issues in one file).

Must make mention that I found two new portraits — of Charles, 1st Marquess Northampton and his marchioness Maria, Lady Northampton — hers done by her sister, MRS CHUTE! (See the Portraits page.)

A coda: looking for the link to Persuasions On-line I see they’ve posted a new “special” edition — this one is papers not from JASNA but from the New Directions in Austen Studies (for which I proposed a paper on Misters Darcy and Collins). Alice Villaseñor, who was working on the Austen-Leigh papers for references to Mrs Hubback, has her work appearing here: Fanny Caroline Lefroy: A Feminist Critic in the Austen Family. Congratulations, Alice! Can’t wait to read it.

Alice and I met in Winchester (at HRO; her name, though, forwarded to me by JASNA’s Kerri Spennicchia). There are a couple other interesting articles; so I must take a closer look at this journal. Wish JASNA gave an option to download the entire issue as one PDF. Would make it so much easier for those of us getting wireless via public means.

As I observed earlier: So little time… Better get myself a Megabucks lottery ticket, then I would “own” all the time in the world, and could “work” every minute of every day.

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