The Vyne: Meet Eliza Chute

July 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, estates, jane austen, travel) (, , , , , , , , )

Want to walk in the FOOTSTEPS of Mary and Emma? A visit to The Vyne is one of the few “open to the public” homes which they used to inhabit, both women visited “Aunt Chute” and her home. Emma, being Eliza Chute’s niece from birth, visited more often – and came away with the ultimate prize: her husband Edward Austen!

Can’t get to the countryside outside of Basingstoke (Hampshire, England)? A ‘next best thing’ comes via this photo-laden blogspot, LoveIsSpeed. VERY rare are the interior shots.

vyne botanicals

Botanicals grace the walls of this little bedroom – and includes work by Margaret Meen, Augusta Smith (“mamma” to my Emma Austen), Lady Northampton, Emma Smith (my Emma’s “Aunt Emma”), and – of course! – Eliza Chute herself. Recent letters have tipped me off to how much Eliza Chute was addicted to painting.

The Botanicals are often painted upon Vellum; the few I’ve seen in the flesh are genuinely “etherial”.

LoveIsSpeed has some fantastic shots of the grounds, exterior, and some items of a recent special installation. I invite you to visit Aunt Chute yourself!

Should you wish to READ more about Eliza, Jane Austen, and The Vyne the best book out there is Rupert Willoughby’s Sherborne St. John and The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen. This is a fascinating look at a period in the estate’s history that isn’t always heavily considered by the National Trust — ie, the VERY period of Eliza and William Chute.

sherborne st john_willoughby

Rupert Willoughby, who was very kind in offering up suggestions for getting a handful of Chute letters, has published several books on local Hampshire history. Among his books is Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village and Selborne: Gilbert White’s Village.

Reading is ALSO the ‘next best thing to being there. Jane Austen obviously agrees:

janeaustenvyne

 

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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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Dying to Read: Eliza Chute Letters

January 6, 2013 at 7:26 am (history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

Eliza-Chute-letters

The above letters were MUCH publicized in the summer of 2012 (thanks, Deb Barnum, for telling me about them in the first place!) Extreme frustration in trying to get anyone at The Vyne to respond beyond a “thanks for contacting us”… I’ve written a good four times, to four different people – gotten one response. So much for the newspapers claim of “sharing these stories”.

These six letters, dating from 1795 to 1798, were all written (evidently…) to Augusta Smith (Mamma)! A vital piece of Smith & Gosling history. Read the full story of Eliza Chute’s letters.

By the way: my dear Augusta just passed her 242nd Birthday on Friday 4 January.

Anyone willing and/or able to help — please contact me!

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Revisiting Kaplan’s Jane Austen Among Women

January 5, 2013 at 11:45 am (books, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , , )

kaplan_JA among womenA great number of years ago I found Deborah Kaplan’s excellent Jane Austen Among Women – I am currently rereading the first couple of chapters, which deal with women Austen knew. From the Knights to the Chutes; from the Powletts to the Deedes family, there are diaries and letters which tell us a wealth of information about life in England during Austen’s lifetime — which, for my research, coincides with the youth and adulthood of the sisters Eliza Chute (of The Vyne) and Augusta Smith (of Suttons), as well as the children Augusta and Charles Smith brought up at Suttons, my Emma Smith (aka Emma Austen Leigh) among them.

Kaplan has an interesting narrative for chapter 1: Genteel Domesticity. She touches on fertility and sexuality (so many children for some couples); “growing up gentry” (if I may term it so!); maiden aunts (for Emma there was “Aunt” – Miss Judith Smith [father’s sister] and “Aunt Emma” [mother’s sister]). Wonderful to read Kaplan’s thoughts on writing circles and visiting circles. Time and again I’d find myself saying “yes”, for her conclusions echoed my own.

Not a new book, but still available, if only from a library – and highly recommended!

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Bleak house? November Notes from Letters

November 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm (diaries, history, research) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, the days have grown so short, now that the clocks are turned back. Night settles around the house, lights pop on at the flick of a switch, and I think of life for the Smiths & Goslings, 200 years ago.

So today I look up a few quotes, from November Letters and a Journal, to brighten up these lengthening November nights.

  • “Tuesday, being the 5th of Nov:br I tryed to get some squibs & crackers & at last John succeeded in making some, so we let them off last night.” — Drummond Smith, 6 Nov 1822, writing from Suttons, to his brother Spencer
  • “I believe Tanner has got a ferret, Miss M. mistook it one day for a very large rat.” — ditto
  • “you really can have no idea of how much we have to do, & how little time to spare, unless you could take a trip down here and spend a few weeks among us.” — Drummond Smith, 17 Nov 1824, writing from Harrow, to his eldest sister Augusta
  • “There have been several pugilistic encounters lately, I think I shall send Eliza notice that she may come, as she takes delight in them.” — ditto
  • “I afterwards went to Lady Compton’s  She is a gigantic, well-informed, hard-headed, blue Scotchwoman.” — Journal of Henry Edward Fox, 26 Nov 1824

And from the earlier generation:

  • “Dear Papa’s Eyes Glistened with Love & pleasure, he Blessed his little favorite  said she had always been a good Girl” — Sarah Smith, 13 Nov 1793, writing to her newlywed daughter, Eliza Chute
  • “I never heard of such a shameful conduct in any Officers as these Irish ones; swearing most shockingly, pass thro’ the Turnpikes without paying, they are the bane of Devizes, and no one can walk the Streets at night in safety.” — Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”), 16 Nov 1794, writing to her sister Eliza Chute
  • “The accident would not have happened if he had staid at home with Lady Compton to knit.” — Eliza Gosling (Mary’s mother), 7 Nov 1795, writing from Roehampton Grove, to her friend Eliza Chute

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Sarah Smith – wife of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park, Wilts

September 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm (a day in the life, chutes of the vyne, history, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wish I had a picture of Sarah, Mrs Joshua Smith, to share. Alas, the one citation I have of a miniature of her — by Anne Mee — came with NO illustration!

So, to illustrate this lengthy obituary of Sarah, I include this illustration of Stoke Park, where she died. The write-up comes from The Monthly Magazine and British Register, 1810:

“At Stoke Park, near Devizes, Mrs Smith, the lady of Joshua Smith, esq. one of the representatives in parliament for that borough. She was the daughter, by a second wife, of Nathaniel Gilbert, of the island of Antigua, sequire [sic], a gentleman of large landed property there, and chief legal magistrate of the island, the maternal sister of the late lady Colebrooke, and mother of the present lady Northampton. Through life, this lady was conspicuous not only for great good sense and very amiable manners, but also for the great sincerity of her attachments; a sincerity which was the result of affection, principle, and benevolence, alone. In an age in which the woman of fashion too frequently affects the most extravagant degree of moral sentiment, the purity of her conduct expressed the innate worth and value of her mind; and while her charitable heart was ever ready to mitigate distress, the delicacy of her pecuniary favours never wounded the feelings of those, whom her bounty so liberally relieved. Though handsome in her youth, she was totally free from vanity and affectation; her charity, though exerted on the precepts of the divine word, in secrecy and silence, was not confined merely to alms, but manifested by a liberal and charitable opinion of the conduct of all. So far was she from uttering scandal of any one that she did not even think it; and as to pride, if it resided in her, it was of that decent kind which preserved her within the bounds of virtue and propriety. Thus beloved and revered for three generations, in consequence of a debility of body produced by an arthritic complaint, she expired at the end of her sixty-second year, when threatened with a total loss of sight, leaving her inconsolable husband, children, and other connections, the example of a woman, illustrious in every social department of life. Her remains were conveyed for interment to the family vault at Lambeth.”

*

Sarah Smith of Erle Stoke Park lives on in letters, especially those to her daughter Eliza Chute of The Vyne, now housed at the Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, England. Eliza, in 1793, was newly married, and frequent correspondence passed between the two households.

A plea to anyone coming across letters of the 1790s: This important decade connects the Smiths & Goslings together in the “parent generation” – not only is Sarah Smith writing to Eliza and William Chute, she also writes of the newly-married pair William and Eliza GOSLING. Eliza Chute, as well, writes of her life — at The Vyne, at Roehampton Grove (the Gosling home), at Richmond — to her sisters Emma Smith (at Stoke); Augusta Smith (at Suttons, in Essex); Maria, Lady Compton (later: Lady Northampton = Marchioness of Northampton). Please contact me (see about the author for contact information) if you have letters to share!

  • Just bought a letter from eBay, for instance, and
  • its contents point to the people in this blog??
  • Contact me; I’d LOVE to hear from you!

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James Edward Austen Leigh: His Oxford University Years

September 5, 2012 at 8:21 am (a day in the life, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

James Edward Austen was the only son of James Austen — eldest brother of Cassandra & Jane Austen; and the clergyman who said Sunday service (at Sherborne St John) for William & Eliza Chute of The Vyne.

Edward, as he was known within the family, visited and dined with the Chutes as the years went by. And in 1828 he married my little Emma Smith — their wedding taking place on the 16th of December, the birthday of Edward’s dear Aunt Jane.

Coincidence?

I don’t know that I will ever be able to answer that question. Of interest, is Emma’s diary notations that she and Edward read Emma together in the days surrounding their engagement (September 16, which Emma calls “This day proved one of the most important in my life”). These days were the basis for my Persuasions article entitled “Edward Austen’s Emma reads Emma“.

This blog post, however, is about Edward rather than Emma. A fine biography looking at Edward’s Oxford University years by Chris Viveash, originally published in JAS Reports and reproduced in an updated but abridged essay. The future clergyman is caught here as a vivacious young man, complete with a circle of close friends, all of whom enjoyed hunting while doing the required coursework to gain their university degrees.

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On Cloud 9

September 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm (british royalty, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last Sunday I was crowing to myself about all the *FINDS*. Just think: THREE different “items” turned up in one week, after some searching and much fortuitous clicking. On the last I have some extra news as of last night. I *LOVE* it when items rise to the surface, clambering to be noticed.

(1) Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton

My first find was stumbling once again upon ARCHIVES HUB. This time with a true piece of my research at the other end!

Archives Hub enables searches at “nearly 200 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales.” At first I could see the “hit” concerned letters written by Margaret, Lady Compton — but the site (or my connection?) was having problems. It took a lot of searching to realize the letters were housed at The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. I have fond memories of the name of this library: The French Diaries of Mrs Thrale and Dr Johnson was based on JRUL holdings! It is a favorite book, my used copy in quite decent shape.

So what was found, I hear you ask: 39 letters, penned by Margaret, plus 2 sets of verse. The citation is rather confusing. At first it sounds like the letters were written from October 1828 up to September 1829 — but further into the record I read that all the letters, addressed to Henry Edward Fox (later 4th and last Baron Holland), mainly written from ROME (check: the Comptons resided long in Italy), “are addressed to Fox in France (mostly, February-March 1826), Italy and London. All are dated within a period of nine months (October 1825-June 1826), except for four which are dated July and August 1829”

So: October 1825 to June 1826…. or, October 1828 to September 1829???

Time will tell – for this set of letters must for now remain on the back burner. Like the letters at the National Library of Scotland, penned in that case to Walter Scott. Scott’s own letters to the Clephanes and Comptons have been published. Luckily, my university’s library has the set and I long ago began culling family news.

The description says: “The letters are primarily personal, but have social and literary value“. Yeah!

(2)  Letter from Aunt Emma / Emma Smith

I’ll jump to the last “find”, for it is the least visual. I had come across internet comments by Dr. Kevin Linch (Leeds University) a while ago. I knew he had seen a letter of Aunt Emma’s (ie, Emma Smith, the youngest sister of Maria, Eliza, and Augusta – the four Smith Girls of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire), dating to 1794. Dr Linch was interested in Emma’s description of the exercises of the yeomanry. The picture painted rather makes me think of a war-era drawing by Diana Sperling.

Of course, Dr Linch pushed to one side the very bits I wanted most from this letter I hadn’t yet transcribed (the original is at the Hampshire Record Office): the family chit-chat. So imagine my surprise when I found online Dr. Linch’s full transcription (nice…) AND the ENTIRE “original” letter (far better*).

[*by the bye: I much prefer to do my own transcribing; one transcription was given to me as “Dear Ivy” – who the hell was Ivy??! I wondered. The letter’s content indicated Lady Elizabeth Compton, cousin to the Smiths of Suttons (Maria Smith’s only daughter; sister-in-law to Margaret Clephane / Lady Compton); I had never heard her called “Ivy” though. Another letter soon surfaced and this time I read the salutation – and knew the mistake. The three-letter word ended not in a “Y” but in a “Z” — and the name was Liz! Which made complete sense.
Another source for a letter indicated the writer was someone I did not know at all. Still, I asked that a scan be sent, as the letter was well within my time period. Imagine my surprise when the writer turned from a complete unknown into the MOTHER of Mr Odell, school friend and fellow-traveller with Drummond Smith! Her letter I wanted to read – and thrilling reading it was, too.]

Here, looking at it myself, was Aunt Emma’s comments in Aunt Emma’s own loopy writing.

Emma even anticipates the arrival of Miss Meen. Margaret Meen, who surfaces in the diaries and letters, was an artist who gave lessons (I discount The Vyne’s theory that she was governess to the Erle Stoke girls), not only to the four Smiths sisters, but also to Queen Charlotte and her princesses. Little did I know, when I read this letter by Emma, that I had already put my finger on many of Margaret Meen’s watercolors!

(3) Royal Horticultural Society: Miss Meen and the four daughters of Joshua Smith

Smack in the middle of all these letter discoveries came the Botanical “watercolours on vellum” housed at the Royal Horticultural Society. Trouble is, depending on which website used, you find less or more drawings, less or more images. FRUSTRATING! and yet last night I uncovered at 48 images (one you REALLY have to search for) by this quintet!!! May rival the holdings at The Vyne – none of which are currently pictured online.

You have the choice of the following:

I naturally began with the CATALOGUE. I mean when you want to know the extent of holdings where else would you go?

Looking up keywords margaret and meen I found four hits – and one image, which belonged to the citation for her 1790 book Exotic Plants from the Royal Garden at Kew. Searching for smith and elizabeth — which I knew should bring up drawings, for those were what I had found for purchase — drew a blank. smith and augusta brought up two citations for drawings from 1787, but their artist was described as Augusta Smith (17–) => Was this Mamma?!?

Maria was nowhere to be seen – and those of Emma, which like Eliza, had been found “for purchase” were best found at another site too. What’s a girl to do? She sends an email.

And keeps on searching…

Why all the hullaballoo? Because I had found a watercolor of Eliza (Chute) Smith’s for sale through Amazon (of all places…) and the description said: “Smith was one of four daughters of Joshua Smith the MP for Devizes in Wiltshire. The Smith sisters were instructed in painting by the botanical artist Margaret Meen (fl.-). The RHS Lindley Library collection holds works on vellum by Meen and all of the Smith Sisters.” My stunned reaction: REALLY??!?!

I had to find out how many, by which artist.

Facebook had another image. Mediastorehouse.com had more – and only $15.99 for an 8×10 print. Reasonable… I now realize, though, that Mediastorehouse is NOT RHS – and searching their print “store” you can find TWELVE Miss Meen botanicals. Be advised, THIS set is the only image and info for Solandra grandiflora (LIB0036980), c1780s.

[NB: again frustration: two works are dated 1789 in the “images” but 1785 in the “prints / shop”]

In the “images” one unearths ALL when searching for Margaret Meen (she turns up in their descriptions): without knowing (until I hear back from RHS) whether ALL their Smith/Meen holdings are digitized, and barring the “can’t find this drawing here, but it is listed somewhere else”, I now see:

  • numbers: LIB0002763 – LIB0002770 –> eight Botanicals by Emma Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002761 – LIB0002762 –> two Botanicals by the elusive Maria Smith
  • numbers: LIB0002749 – LIB0002755 –> seven Botanicals by Augusta Smith (here rather described as marrying her father-in-law; Charles Smith of Suttons, not Stratford Langthorne…)
  • numbers: LIB0002737 – LIB0002748 –> twelve Botanicals by Eliza Smith
  • numbers: LIB0036963 – LIB0036981 –> eighteen (out of 19) Botanicals by Margaret Meen

And on the “images” site you are treated to a GALLERY by Miss Emma Smith:

I could hardly believe my eyes — and they will be a treat for your eyes.

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Emma’s “Aunt” is not “Aunt Emma”

January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, london's landscape, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through posts at AustenOnly (check out those concerning livery, and also Lord Nelson!), I spotted a tweet about the Document of the Month, featured on the Hampshire Record Office’s website: Augusta Smith’s poem, To My Aunt on New Year’s Day — written by young Augusta in 1825. It’s one of my favorite pieces! Why? Because it speaks about her having a red Pocketbook; ie, a journal! just like those my young Emma recorded her thoughts and life in. Oh, what has happened to Aunt’s diaries?!?!

I must confess, however, to some head-scratching over the accompanying informational text…

As noted in the text’s beginning, my Emma (Augusta’s sister) was born in 1801; she did marry James Edward Austen; and she did keep diaries, most of them extant at the Hampshire Record Office.

But the poem’s nothing to do with young Emma; it’s not her pockets that bulge, nor her red pocketbook that lays among all the Mary-Poppins-items of that vast pocket! Young Emma was no “aunt” in 1825!

{NB: the first nephew was little Charles, born in 1827; Mary and Charles Joshua’s son}

Yes, there was an “Aunt Emma” — this person was the youngest sister of the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park, the daughters of Joshua and Sarah Smith; namely, Maria (the Marchioness of Northampton); Eliza (Mrs William Chute of The Vyne); Augusta (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons); and … Emma.

But “Aunt Emma” and “Aunt” are not the same person!

So to whom belonged “these ponderous pockets” that “would jumble my hips almost out of their sockets”??

The “most perfect” Aunt, who resided at Stratford (note the place/date at the bottom of the page), was Miss Judith Smith — only surviving sister of the Smith siblings’ father, Charles Smith. Judith and Charles were children of Charles Smith and Judith Lefevre. Poor Aunt! Even in Scenes from Life at Suttons, 1825 & 1827 she is misidentified; there, as Lady Northampton.

Thanks to Charlotte Frost, I’ve seen a drawing, done by Fanny Smith, of Stratford (Stratford Le Bow) — a “suburb” of London, and soon to be the site of the hustle-bustle of the 2012 Summer Olympics. This was once home to Aunt, and a great stop-off whenever the Smiths of Suttons travelled to and from London.

Now that you know a little about “Aunt” – take a moment to read this delicious poem, by the sparkling eldest Smith sibling, Augusta. I’m going to check my transcription against HRO’s!

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Austen/Chute – more Byrne Jane Austen portrait news

January 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm (chutes of the vyne, diaries, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

After a visit to the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, Ellie Bennett posted some interesting photos and thoughts on Reading Eliza Chute’s Regency-era diaries.

Not only will Two Teens readers see Eliza’s handwriting, you also get a taste of what the diaries holds for information, especially for the interaction between The Vyne and the various Austen households, Chawton included.

Enjoy!

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