Seeds of a Project: Diaries and Letters

March 5, 2018 at 4:42 pm (books, introduction, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Reading through Smith & Gosling: My Project, it dawned that this would be a good way to start talking about Two Teens in the Time of Austen, ten years later. There is so much on the blog, that it would take nearly that long for people to revisit old posts. The most salient ones do exist, in a lightly edited version, available through the Kindle Store at Amazon. (Your purchase helps fund this project!)

Over the past decade, I’ve pulled together the diaries of eight key players. Some constitute only a few years; others run nearly an entire lifetime. A few other diarists sweeten the pot. (And I’m always looking for more!)

diary.jpg

Letters! A goldmine of information. Aided by some found in books (Jane Austen, Walter Scott, for instance), I’ve pulled together over a thousand letters, spanning the decades of the 1780s through the 1880s. Most are manuscripts.

As I’ve said elsewhere, It’s very time consuming – unearthing what’s been buried for 200 years…. 

I’m not sure which is harder – finding relevant items, obtaining primary materials, or deciphering while doing the transcription. One letter sometimes poses a new problem, while solving only a piece of an old conundrum. Still looking for MORE!

My father said, a week or two ago, “When Time Machines come into being, you can go back, meet them, tell them you’ve been reading all about them, and ask them about their lives.” The one downside of that would be: At WHAT POINT in TIME would I go back? When they’re all young, and don’t know what’s about to befall them? Or, when they’re older and can look back and remember?

I’m not sure I could pick.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Writing biography and history, of course means reading. Biography and British history; gardens and estate histories; Regency fashion to late-Victorian fashion; diaries of servants; letters of Ladies of the Manor etc. etc. (You get the drift.)

Thus, the reason you see so many BOOKS and YouTube shows. Anything that stimulates the brain. There are days, though, that I really wish I could just sit down with a copy of my own book. In the meantime, I have to be satisfied with reading such as Sherborne St. John & The Vyne in the Time of Jane Austen, by Rupert Willoughby.

sherborne st john_willoughby

To help YOU “read all about them,” I can point to a few Blog pages that I hope help.

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Blogs, Books, & Pamphlets

August 19, 2015 at 12:05 pm (books, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

In yesterday’s mail the terrific-looking new book by Jenny Uglow (I have her humongous biography of Gaskell), “In These Times”: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815.

uglow

Nothing can be more up my alley! It’s about the Napoleonic era without being all about battles, and strategies, and War-War-War (to quote Scarlett O’Hara). I need information of the 1790s through 1810s, but I want to learn from it, not be BORED by it. (Yeah, war bores me. Though when I worked at a local college [uni-aged students for those of you in the UK], the POPULAR courses in history were Black Death and World War II. Still, I am what I am: more interested in social history and women’s history.)

I recognize a few names – for Uglow uses personal accounts to paint a full picture. There’s the Heber family (I adore the book Dear Miss Heber…); Lady Lyttleton (née Sarah Spencer); Jane Austen’s “sailor brothers”, Frank (Sir Francis Austen later in life) and Charles Austen; Betsey Fremantle (I’m still waiting from more from her current biographer, Elaine Chalus; though I have the complete set of three volumes published in the 1940s); Mary Hardy, the Norfolk diaristabout whom I have blogged before, at RegencyReads.

Can’t tell you much about the book, as I’m only in chapter 1 – but I’m enjoying it so far! Just the right amount of detail, and well-written. It opens with an idea VERY dear to my heart – for my own book (tentatively entitled The Brilliant Vortex, about my Two Teens during the Regency era, and all those London seasons, from 1814 to 1821.) discusses the same thing: the dissemination of news. Uglow, of course, looks at newspapers. I know, for instance, that Richard Seymour, in the 1830s, borrowed newspapers. So I already knew that some people had subscriptions, some people got papers passed on to them. And I LOVE Uglow’s descriptions of particular coffee houses:

“Visiting Glasgow in 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth found ‘the largest coffee room I ever saw’, in the piazza of the Exchange. ‘Perhaps there might be thirty gentlemen sitting on the circular bench of the window, reach reading a newspaper’ …. The linen-mill owner John Marshall also admired the room, brilliantly lit with candles, and rarely with fewer than a hundred people in it. ‘There are 1100 Subscribers to the Coffee Room at 28/- a year’.”

I remember back in the 1980s & 90s when VIDEO stores started out with yearly membership SUBSCRIPTIONS. Of course, the next store would open, offering LOWER rates – until ultimately the “membership” was free.

(And now every GROCERY store sports a RedBox!)

But I-M-A-G-I-N-E: 1100 subscribers at 28 shillings a year each! Sounds like it was a little goldmine! Marshall went on (and Uglow follows suit) with what the coffee house carried: “‘They take London & Edinburgh papers & journals, country papers & 9 copies of the Sun, Star & Courier & all the monthly publications.'”

Dissemination, of course, comes from MANY sources – including correspondence (my diarists’ chief avenue), and we all have heard of the dreaded PAMPHLET and the satirical CARTOON. No one reading about the French Revolution can get away from the ideas of salacious pamphlets against Queen Marie Antoinette; and no one reading about the Regency can escape the cartoons of Rowlandson (for just one example) skewering the Prince Regent.

I have a friend whose research has turned up a COUPLE different narratives. The conundrum: WHICH pamphlet is more truthful than the other?? That made me think of this conundrum from the writer’s point of view – and that made me think of James Boswell. For he put quite a lot into print (anonymous as well as with his name) during his lifetime. I’ve blogged a LOT about Boswell’s diaries and books about the Boswell Papers.

Then it HIT ME:

Pamphlets, in the 18th & 19th century, were to the likes of Boswell what BLOGS are to the likes of me TODAY! Those with a point-of-view, or even just “something to say”, stick it out there for anyone and everyone to see. Only, today, I don’t have to locate a printer and a bookseller – I just needed to stumble upon WordPress and have an internet connection!

boswellCan you IMAGINE: Boswell as Blogger?!?

(I sure can…)

My point to my friend was: Veracity wasn’t always on the minds of the pamphlet writer; so I find it wholly understandable that two versions of the same incident could exist. It’s like Twitter today: how many times do we hear about someone apologizing for BLASTING on social media, only to regret it later. Hard to do with a penny publication: not like you can go back and find everyone who bought your pamphlet – though a retraction, or even another pamphlet pointing out the errors (and thought to be by a DIFFERENT writer!) are not impossibilities to contemplate.

It’s that old adage back again: “Plus ςa change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they STAY THE SAME!

* * *

Since I’m talking BOOKS here, I’ll make brief mention: Readers interested in obtaining a FREE copy of Hazel Jones’s Jane Austen’s Journeys – please take a look at the giveway I’m running on RegencyReads. I’m taking names for a lengthy period: till the end of this month (August 2015). I had an extra copy, so it IS a book I’m keeping on my own shelves.

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For Latin, a presentation gift “by A Lady”

August 15, 2015 at 12:56 pm (books, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , )

I have been quite enjoying a book purchased many many years ago: Grand Tours and Cook’s Tours by Lynne Withey. A few days ago, the chapter in hand discussed the mid-19th travels of English (and others) to “the playground” of Europe, Switzerland.

Now, Switzerland has a heavy presence in the Smith & Gosling world: Lord Northampton’s father and step-mother lived there in the 1780s/90s. And the 1st Marquess’ sister, Lady Frances Compton, made several lengthy trips back to a country which quite obviously tugged at her heart-strings (though she was in England more than the 6th Marquess, who wrote The History of the Comptons of Compton Wynyates, thought…). She died in Vevey, in February 1832.

So, when I found Withey mention a WOMAN author, who wrote about Switzerland in the years 1859-1860, I was intent on finding out MORE.

Withey had claimed the book published in 1861 was by “A Lady”. A very familiar appellation, for Jane Austen was initially published under the same “soubriquet”.

I found the book, online, at Archive. BUT: Looking thru the “flip book” version I didn’t even see an AUTHOR never mind the designation “A Lady”.

no A Lady

How odd….

I have a tendency to save books as PDFs – and yet I HATE reading them on the computer – so have a tendency NOT to read them in the end. Still: I HAVE them! And that’s what counts. Like the Withey book, some day I will pick it up.

So I clicked on PDF and was intrigued: up came a book-plate! That, too, was not shown on the flip-book.

And that SO intrigued me! But I’ll come back to that thought…

To finish my first thought: the PDF had the same title page (it’s the same book, from Lausanne), but it showed a beautiful little graphic; and curled up within the circle of leaves was the designation I had been missing: BY A LADY

yes A Lady

In typical Library fashion, someone has penciled in a name for “A Lady”: Mrs. Henry Freshfield.

I swear, though, that this book is often ascribed to plain HENRY Freshfield. (Her first name was JANE.)

But what happened to this little graphic (compare image 1 and image 2 – same book!)??

And – (I’m long-winded today) – here comes the original idea for this post: I had thought the book had NO author designated at all. I had chuckled to myself for surmising a story, based on spotting the first book plate (there are two):

hyde house school

This copy of Alpine Byways, or Leaves Gathered in 1859 and 1860 had been presented to a “Mr Thomas” at Hyde House School, Winchester – for LATIN!

The joke which _I_ laughed over was: Bet young Mr Thomas didn’t realize the book was written by A WOMAN! Of course that cannot be the case (joke on ME!).

Still, what an unusual presentation gift.

Could I learn more about Hyde House School – surely in Winchester, England. It does receive, though scant, notice in an 1878 Gazetteer of the County of Hampshire as “a highly respectable private boarding school”.

Even though the “joke” cannot be sustained, this small snippet from lives lived so long ago – Mrs Freshfield, fresh from her sojourn; young Mr Thomas, whose Latin scholarship was cause for a prize – is really heartwarming.

Also missing in the flip-book is this lovely dedication page — which looks quite at home in a book authored by A Lady, and quite apropos for one with a subtitle about gathered “leaves”:

alpine dedication

In short, though, I have never thought about pages or images not showing up. Who knew I was missing so much! For I typically judge a book at “Archive” in it’s flip-book persona.

* * *

An unrelated “Aside”

In the same Hampshire Gazetteer cited above is listed a school whose name JUMPS OUT because it’s all in caps and a bit of an oddity to a 21st century woman: The ASYLUM for FEMALE CHILDREN. It is described as,

“The ASYLUM for FEMALE CHILDREN, in St. Thomas Street, was established in 1816, for boarding, clothing, and educating 30 poor girls, after leaving the Central School, till they are fit for domestic service; but during their stay from 4s. to 5s. per week has to be paid for each of them from other charitable funds. They are generally required to be orphans, either fatherless or motherless.”

In 1815 Eliza Chute paid for Hester Wheeler‘s schooling somewhere in Winchester, which had a view “down College Street” and Kingsgate Street – and Hester sometimes spotted Caroline Wiggett’s brothers who were attending Winchester College.

Although the years do not overlap – 1815 versus 1816 – it’s hard not to wonder if this “asylum” wasn’t the school that Hester Wheeler simply could not, after a while, abide – so much so that she ran away. Eliza Chute specifies giving the girl a weekly allowance of 3 shillings and mentions that a “Miss Young” arrived to tell her that Hester had absconded (she was promptly sent back). If Hester had been enrolled in a school that expected to turn out domestics, this indeed could point up one reason why she sought to leave, despite being a highly clever girl. I recommend to readers my Academia-uploaded paper: “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler“, which discusses also Colonel Brandon’s “two Elizas” in Sense and Sensibility.

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Elite Ladies of the North

September 2, 2014 at 9:07 pm (estates, history) (, , , , , , )

Was looking at the online “sample” copy of WOMEN’S HISTORY MAGAZINE; it’s from 2011 – but a wealth of information means it’s still worth a look, three years later.

My favorite story is by Julie Day, writing on “Household Management as a method of authority for three 18th Century Elite Yorkshire Women” – which focusses on three women: Sabine Winn, of Nostell Priory; Frances Ingram of Temple Newsam; and Elizabeth Worsley of Hovingham Hall. I cannot stress enough how fascinating an article was made by intertwining these lives; the focus is on finances and household management. HIGHLY recommended.

In looking for more on author Julie Day, I put my hands on the following that may also interest you, after reading the article:

Sabine Winn

Sabine Winn

Frances Ingram

Frances Ingram

 

 

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Finding a Voice: Diane Jacobs on ‘Abigail Adams and her Sisters’

April 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm (books, diaries, europe, history, jasna, people, research) (, , , , , , )

Looking for information about the Leon Levy Center for Biography (CUNY), I came across notice of this past lecture by Diane Jacobs:

adams_jacobs

What leapt off the screen was the idea that Jacobs solved the problem of “finding a voice for each of her protagonists”. TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN, while focused on Emma Smith and Mary Gosling, has the proverbial cast of thousands: Emma had 8 siblings; Mary, 6; in-laws for all those siblings who married add significantly to the count; parents and grandparents, especially ‘Mamma’ – Augusta Smith, and papa William Gosling; and all the relatives, friends, and neighbors who populate the letters and diaries.

Whew! rather like the chorus of a Gilbert & Sullivan extravaganza: “his sisters and his cousins, whom he reckons up by dozens, and his aunts“.

Jacobs also discussed “finding a way to distribute her attention between the one famous and the two unknown sisters” (for the record, Abigail’s sisters were Mary Smith Cranch and Elizabeth Smith Shaw Peabody). I have the problem of a super-well-represented sister (Emma Austen Leigh), several under-represented siblings, and a dying-for-more protagonist (Lady Smith). I believe there are primary materials out there, as yet “un(re)discovered”: more diaries and certainly more letters.

At least I don’t have to deal with “John Adams, who is not a main character, and yet so profoundly affects everyone else”! Although, I must ‘insinuate’ the historical since the “times” my ladies lived through are so eventful.

Wish I could have been in the audience at one of the several similar lectures Diane Jacobs gave last fall. And wish her book was already completed and out! I’d dearly love to read it. My own brush with Abigail Adams comes from her delightful letters sent home (to those sisters) from England and France. I even used her letters in a Jane Austen-related JASNA lecture.

I’ve a couple blog posts on Abigail Adams:

Check out the new material at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s digital edition of The Adam Papers, or read Abigail’s letters to her sisters!

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