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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Just Launched: Ladies of Llangollen

August 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm (research) (, , , , , )

A quick post to alert readers that I’ve begun to ‘repost’ some fascinating research that actually introduced me to Mary Gosling. It was a visit to Llangollen, and a purchase of a small ‘history’ about the lives of its Ladies, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, that caused me to find my first diary: Mary’s travel diary, now owned by Duke University. There’s not much there at present, but please visit: I’ve a ton of information to share.

Check it out at ladiesofllangollen.wordpress.com

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I Want to Read…

March 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm (books, introduction, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…DIARIES and LETTERS!

It occurred to me that blog readers might be interested in a bit of “hmmm… what’s she raising money for??” explanation. (see the Austen Book Raffle posts).

I’m more than happy to bend a few “eyes” (and ears) about my research project! (As friends and family know, to their detriment…)

To start at the very beginning: I visited Northern Wales — Llangollen to be exact — and was just ENCHANTED with the story of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I began collecting “first-hand” information, and posted it on my website. Surprisingly, there was abundant material! Though much found was of the second-hand, mythic variety, there were some great finds.

One “find” was a Duke University diary. Once belonging to MARY GOSLING, the diary turned out to contain several trips – to the English coast, to the battlefields of Waterloo, and a certain trip to Ireland that took the Gosling family through Northern Wales. And — wait for it! — they visited with the Ladies! Were shown around Plas Newydd (the home of the Ladies of Llangollen; now a museum), in fact!

But who were these GOSLINGS??

(And, by the way, Mary hadn’t much to about the Ladies, other than what was already known about them – ie, how they dressed and how they never travelled far from home.)

With the internet, I struck gold. Found a series of diaries written by Lady Smith, the 2nd daughter of William Gosling of Roehampton Grove, a banker. Now, in Mary Gosling’s diary, there was a man who brought his family to see Bank of Ireland currency MADE. Who, other than a banker, would have the ability to go that? And Mary had them departing from “Roehampton”!

But, without seeing these later diaries of Lady Smith’s, it was mere supposition that Mary Gosling = Lady Smith.

The main reason these Lady Smith diaries were listed online was that they were included in part of an exceptional large microfilm collection. Essex County was in PART FIVE, which I learned was a far cry from Part One — the only series owned by the closest “big” educational facility within easy driving: Dartmouth College (New Hampshire). Oh, the drive home that day was a disappointment.

Again: thankfully the internet — and online college & university catalogues — helped me track down a handful of places with the full series (or at least through series five). A trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought me within easy distance of one of those few: Old Dominion University. I’ve never seen such a lovely library! And once I found the rolls of film with Lady Smith’s diaries, I was well rewarded: There was the SAME handwriting, the same reference to “My Sister” (Mary never calls Elizabeth Gosling anything other than “my Sister”.)

I had found my girl!

Or, should I say girls — for that day I spotted my first reference to young Emma:

If I had KNOWN that in looking up some Jane Austen books I’d have found ALL of Charles Joshua Smith’s siblings, I would have saved myself TONS of digging… Alas, it’s almost a “happier” circumstance to piece the family together: 9 Smith siblings in all!

“Mr Austen, Mr Knight, and Mrs Leigh Perrot” in the diary entry above (Emma and Edward’s first child’s christening!) were the giveaways about the Jane Austen connection.

And thanks to that connection I got to see TONS of diaries and letters and memorabilia (for instance, a lock of young Drummond Smith’s hair!) at the Hampshire Record Office, when I lived in England for two months in 2007 in order to transcribe as much material as possible. For most of the time, I worked six days a week at the archive (thanks to their generous hours) and on the seventh — well, I began well: reading and reviewing the work of previous days, but it was summer and, yes, some Sundays I spent in the park near Winchester’s town hall.

I had already inter-library loaned those rolls of microfilm with Lady Smith’s diaries; purchased a roll of film with all of the existing diaries written by Charles Joshua Smith (Mary Gosling’s husband; Emma Smith’s eldest brother), which the Essex Record Office houses. Now I had a growing collection of letters and diaries by the likes of Emma, her mother Augusta Smith, her sisters Augusta, Fanny and Maria; a diary series belonging to Fanny’s eventual husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour was briefly worked on at the Warwickshire Record Office (their hours were much shorter than HRO’s…).

In short, I’ve seen much, typed a LOT, and still there is more material for me to “visit” — if not in person (expensive) then via film.

And that’s where the Book Raffle comes in. Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) made some delightful silhouettes, and his descendent, Freydis Welland, put them together into a book, originally published by private press: A Life in the Country. The pictures are accompanied by Jane Austen quotes. The book was then published “commercially” by the British Library.

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St David’s Day – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant

March 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm (entertainment, travel) (, , , , , , , )

Today, March 1st, celebrates Saint David’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales.

The first time I met Mary Gosling was on a family tour through North Wales: her comments on the Ladies of Llangollen (Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby) are what introduced me to this fascinating research project! Not that Mary had a LOT to say about the Ladies that everyone else didn’t say…

And the Smiths of Suttons seem staunch fans of travelling in Wales. Time and again they journey from home to spend some time in one of my favorite countries to visit: I also know how special the atmosphere is around the hills, mountains, streams, castles of Wales.

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