Chasing Mrs Frances Jacson

February 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm (books, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

J-A-C-S-O-N; an unusual spelling, isn’t it.

When I came across the name this evening, I had to mutter to myself: They’re the same person…, surely…

While writing a blog post on Anna Seward for the Ladies of Llangollen blog, I came across a very nice biography of her at Chawton House Library. Intrigued, as I hadn’t look over the Library’s website for quite a while, I clicked to see what authors they were featuring on their NOVELS-ON-LINE. Some familiar-sounding names, not from a novel-point-of-view, but from a Smith & Gosling point of view! Harriet Cheney? The same who drew portraits while in Italy, including the young Comptons (see portraits & pedigrees page). Mrs Cheney’s book (2nd edition published in 1825) is A Peep at the Pilgrims. She did live until 1848, according to Christie’s website. But so many people — especially within a family — have the same name as other family members that I won’t yet count the two Harriets as one.

Then I spied the name JACSON. Two novels are listed for a FRANCES JACSON: Things by their Right Names (1812) and  Isabella: A Novel (1823).

Why did the name attract me? I think I have a picture (a miniature) of her!

Sale 5984 at Christie’s was The Country House Sale – Newton Hall. Newton Hall, in Northumberland, has ties to the Cook-Widdrington family; they have ties (through the Davisons) to the Goslings! And it was while perusing this sale catalogue that I came across (and saved) a pair of miniatures — Captain Shalcross Jacson and his wife Frances, née Cook. Frances captivated me:

She is described as, “in white muslin dress, blue fringed shawl, coral necklace”; the pair of miniatures date to c1815.

IS this Frances Jacson, with the unusual last name, Chawton House’s Frances Jacson??? S-U-R-E-L-Y    S-O. {see UPDATE below}

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BTW, this same Christie’s auction, and source, sold my beloved Harriet Gosling AKA Mrs Alexander Davison. The Dorothy Widdrington you see represented as an old lady, as well as some of her drawings, was the Davison’s daughter — whom my Mary Gosling (Lady Smith) includes several times in her diaries!

BTW2: Capt Cook, who took the name Widdrington, published a couple books too! Sketches in Spain During the Years 1829-1832 and Spain and the Spaniards in 1843 (vol. 1; vol. 2) and Observations on the Present State of War in Spain. Interestingly, the Sketches exists in an 1834 GERMAN edition (on books.google.com) as well!

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UPDATE: The Christie’s Sale 5475 featured a novel, Plain Sense, by Frances Margaretta Jacson – and included this description:

“FIRST EDITION OF THE AUTHOR’S ‘POPULAR FIRST NOVEL’. The two unmarried sisters, Maria and Frances, both turned to writing, partly in order to help out their brother Shallcross Jacson (d. 1821) who was ‘over-fond of drink and horse-racing’, Maria turning to manuals on botany and gardening, and Frances to fiction (see ODNB). Their other brother, Roger, had a son Shallcross Fitzherbert Jacson (1826-1917) who married Frances, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Cook of Newton Hall, and who inherited the house in 1856, following the death of his wife’s brother, Samuel Edward Cook (later Widdrington). RARE. NO COPY IN BL and only two copies recorded in the British Isles (National Trust and private collection). Blakey, p. 172. (3)”

This copy of Plain Sense was once part of Newton Hall’s library.

I have found Christie’s and/or Bonhams to have some incorrect information (which auction house had the three Spencer-Smith girls??); but here is a Shallcross Jacson married to a Frances Cook whose birth/death dates are 1826-1917. In the miniatures Captain Shallcross Jacson is given dates of 1787-1852. Groan! were there really TWO Shallcross Jacsons married to TWO Frances Cooks??? I do rather chuckle over poor Shallcross who died in 1821 being “over-fond of drink and horse-racing,” but who were all these Shallcross Jacsons!?

BTW, here’s a portrait, from the Newton Hall sale, of the Rev. Roger Jacson, Rector of Bebington (b. 1753, according to Christie’s). If he was born in 1753, did he really have a son in 1826??? Wikipedia describes Frances Margaretta Jacson as the daughter of the Rev. Simon Jacson, Rector of Bebington (1728-1808). This then is probably Roger’s father, and therefore the father of an unmarried Frances Margaretta Jacson.

Check out this at the Orlando Project (most of the site is by subscription, alas…): Frances Margaretta Jacson kept a diary!

The game is afoot, Watson…

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So much to do…

June 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm (news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The two days of a “weekend” just go so quickly. No wonder I never get anything “done”! I was up past 3 a.m. last night, working (don’t sleep well these days anyway…), and now NOON Sunday approaches

I’m still beavering away at Augusta’s 1798 diary, trying to get a fully readable and correct copy for Mark Woodford, along with some notes on who were many of the people. JASNA News will run a little story about Mark and his father Charles Woodford and the “finding” of Augusta when their next issue comes out in August. That will be nice – and a well-named month, huh?! Wish I could sit down and compare Augusta and Eliza Chute’s 1798s! But that means contacting the Hampshire Record Office, for I never completely transcribed Eliza’s diary, just looked for the periods during which she was in London — and meeting the Goslings (Eliza was particular friends with Eliza Gosling, Mary’s young mother). Actually, I was thinking of contacting HRO to see about Microfilming Eliza’s early diaries (as a start; though her diaries are less numerous than Emma’s!), when Mark contacted me with his diary.

Anyway, in the last few days I’ve gone from being in 1798 to being back in the 1830s and looking up Mary’s diaries once again. Why? a wonderful email from Jim in Liverpool — who has an interest in the Alexander Davisons because of his research into Lord Nelson. Funnily enough what becomes big news in Augusta’s diary towards the end of the year?Nelson’s Nile Victory! See how it all eventually dovetails, one item into another, one person’s thoughts or actions into another’s.

So I’ve spent a couple days pulling out old papers, looking up old computer files, relooking for internet information (especially on books.google and Internet Archive). And imagine what I found while “not” looking for it: A Birth Announcement for FANNY SMITH! (28 October 1803) My, that fits so well: I was looking to augment my little booklet on Fanny, before turning it into something available to the public, with illustrations!

I also have begun working up a new blog page on ESTATES & HOMES, which will feature images and some useful links. And I think something on all the churches these people either attended or were buried in will soon be in the works.

But all takes TIME, and working just to pay bills does NOT help give me that time. I’ve a book chapter to write, Augusta to finish (she goes back to her owner in a couple weeks!), and a proposal for funding to work up for mid-July. Some funding would be nice as I could then get some copies of what I know to be out there…

But: to get back to Mary. I was struck again, as I pulled out comments on the Davisons, their children and in-laws (a certain General White — who seems to have no given name!; and Captain Samuel Cook, who in 1840 took the name of Widdrington). I had forgotten that twin Percy Davison married twice; and hadn’t noticed that Maria Smith (Emma’s youngest sister) comments on the vivacity and broken English of Rosalie, the foreign-born wife of twin William Davison. Rosalie’s descendents come into play with the items sold at auction in 2002 — and written about in the book Nelson’s Purse. The catalogue is online, so here’s a link to that. The BBC reported on the “sky high” prices fetched at this auction. Yow! For instance, look at Lot 65: a letter from Nelson to Davison; short, little more than a half-page (though of  interest to me because of Nelson’s solicitations for Davison’s current battle against gout!); it sold for over 11,000 pounds (estimated at £1,000-1,500).

I’d rather see the letters from Frances, Lady Nelson to Davison; is there a book out there yet? Though, even then, I can imagine that she writes about herself – so to have the letters Alexander wrote in return would be the real prize! For people always write about themselves when writing to others, don’t we?

But: to get back to Mary. I’ve noticed this before, though never mentioned it in this blog: people in 18th/19th century England used the words “introduce” and “met” in separate, specific ways. I had long wondered if Edward Ferrars was really “introduced” to the Dashwood ladies in Sense and sensibility; indeed this evidently would have been the case, for Austen uses that word in chapter III: “…the brother of Mrs John Dashwood, a gentlemanlike and pleasing young man who was introduced to their acquaintance soon after his sister’s establishment at Norland…” Augusta, in 1798, uses this same manner of speech as she meets for the first time her in-laws and others of Charles Smith’s relations; Mary does the same in the 1830s when discussing the new cousins, the husbands of Elizabeth and Dorothy Davison. I guess Fanny never introducing members of her immediate family to the step-mother and half-sisters of her husband just adds fodder to the self-centered mentally she shows earlier, over the funds her husband could grant these women after his father’s death. You would NEVER see the Smiths or Goslings not hosting never mind not even knowing the siblings of any of their in-laws (of course it helps when sometimes those very relatives are your OWN relatives…).

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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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