Women’s History 2020

March 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm (history, news, people, research) (, )

This month, the U.S. celebrates WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – touching on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the right for Women to Vote. Today, 8 March 2020, being celebrated as the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Women make up the bulk of my research (mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts), and certainly remain the focus of my interest.

Just last night I came across several young women whom Emma Smith meets, in 1821, in Wells – the Misses Frankland. Emma doesn’t specify how many of them, but her use of the word “some” is definitely more than two. She notes that they are daughters of one of the Canons – he being the Reverend Roger Frankland. And he is definitely the brother of the artist whose work illustrates this post, Ann(e) Frankland Lewis (though by 1821, she had married her second husband, Mr. Hare).

So many women, hidden from history and lost to posterity, right under our noses.

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Two new biographies

January 22, 2020 at 4:18 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

I am always thrilled to find biographies that concentrate on women. These two (one from mid-2019 and one just released – in Britain – January 2020) center on four sisters, in one case, and, in the other case, five women writers between the wars who lived in Mecklenburgh Square (Bloomsbury, London).

Noble Savages

Sarah Watling’s Noble Savages: The Olivier Sisters – Four Lives in Seven Fragments grabbed my attention from page one: The opening introduction describes a 1962 meeting between Noel Oliver (the youngest sister) and an intent Rupert Brooke biographer, Christopher Hassell. What did Hassell hanker after? Noel Olivier’s letters from Brooke, which, in nearly fifty years, she had not offered up to ANY writer on Brooke.

They were private, and kept until after Noel Olivier’s death; subsequent publication (in 1991) was by a grand-daughter.

I can see BOTH sides…

Noel’s property was Noel’s property; why should she have to yield it up to anyone, especially knowing it would be impossible to refuse publication once the letters got into Hassell’s hands.

And yet, to a researcher, to _know_ that something MORE exists, and to have no access to even a glimpse of it, is an exquisite torment.

It was a situation even James Edward Austen Leigh went through, when letters his aunt Cassandra Austen had saved (written to her by her sister Jane Austen – and given to a niece), could no longer be located. And no one else was offering up their Jane Austen memorabilia, beyond his own two sisters (Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen). Edward’s Memoir of Jane Austen was published without accessing at least two batches of letters (one of which ceased to exist about this time); he died before his cousin’s son published Jane Austen’s Letters.

Square Haunting

Francesca Wade’s biography Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars features one of my all-time favorite authors: Dorothy L. Sayers. The five women sharing Mecklenburgh Square as an address (not necessarily at the same time) include poet H.D.; Jane Harrison; Eileen Power; and Virginia Woolf. The book opens with the 1940 bombing of the area. As someone who works with diaries, it was an absolute *thrill* to read that Woolf dug out her diaries (evidently uninjured) from the rubble of her apartment.

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Selina, Lady Heathcote

March 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , )

A couple of weeks ago I got a used copy (and so reasonably priced that the shipping was only a few pounds less than the book) of The Diary of Selina, Lady Heathcote, January 1841-June 1849.

This is a slim hard-bound book, but it packs a pleasing wallop. It opens with a short introduction, with portraits of both Selina (née Shirley) and Sir William Heathcote.

diary.jpg

William was a boyhood friend of James Edward Austen (my diarist Emma Smith’s eventual husband); they remained life-long friends – and the Austen Leighs (the ‘Leigh’ named added after the death of Edward’s great aunt, Mrs. Leigh Perrot) and their inherited estate Scarlets DO APPEAR in Selina’s diary!

An especially wonderful photograph: Selina’s open diary! Considering how “little” text takes up a manuscript page, the physical size of the diary must be about the size of those I’ve dealt with — which is as tall and as wide as the size of my hand. But the LOCK is, in comparison, SO stout!!

It was published in 1984 by IBM, which has a Hursley connection. Hursley was the Heathcote estate, and the book has a picture of that too. So it’s pleasingly illustrated, including maps showing trips the pair took.

For me, the shock was to read of the consistent ill-health of Sir William. He was older than his young second wife. He had children by his first wife, a daughter of Lord Arden – so related to the Northamptons, Lord Arden being the elder brother of Spencer Perceval, MP. So a couple of connection with my research! I’ve even seen letters (both before and after marriage) by Helena Perceval (also known as Helena Trench) (“French” in the book is a mis-transcription), who also appears in Selina’s diary, as does her daughter Maria.

William Heathcote’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who with her sisters – especially Althea Bigg – were great friends to Jane Austen. Mrs. Heathcote was widowed early; Althea Bigg never married. Both appear in Selina Heathcote’s diary. It was their brother, Harris Bigg-Wither (only the sons of the family took the ‘Wither’ name in addition to Bigg), who proposed to Jane Austen – who “famous” rescinded her acceptance after much thought.

Click the photo of the book cover to be whisked away to “The History of Hursley Park,” and see what Dave Key will tell you about the potential visit by Lady Heathcote to “Stratfield Saye [home of the Duke of Wellington] to meet the Queen & Prince Albert.”

EXTRAS:

 

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Mary & Emma, Two Teens in the Time of Austen

March 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm (chutes of the vyne, goslings and sharpe, introduction, jane austen, people, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , )

Before I go much further, I should talk a little about “my two girls”. THEY are the Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An appropriate post with which to celebrate “International Women’s Day, 2018“, don’t you think?

EVERYTHING goes back to the very first diary of the project – a travel diary, in which people from Roehampton travel across England to Northern Wales, and even make a Dublin visit. Two things stood out about that trip: The Gosling family met and stayed HOURS with the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. They also saw money being made in Dublin. That her father turned out to be a London banker made this last event less “unusual” and more of a “busman’s holiday” for Mr. Gosling.

At the time, all I had was a name from the card catalogue: Mary Gosling. She only mentioned “Papa, Mama, my Sister, and myself”. (NB: throughout her diaries, Mary ONLY refers to Margaret Elizabeth Gosling as “my sister”; Elizabeth is NEVER mentioned by name.)

Searching Gosling, Roehampton I happened upon what turned out to be MORE of Mary’s diaries: She was her father’s daughter: William Gosling of Roehampton and Fleet Street (this last, the family banking firm’s address). So her later diaries were ‘tagged’ by her relationship to him, which helped immensely. These are ID’ed as “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney”. Suttons being the Smith family estate, and Stapleford Tawney, Essex, being its location. When I first saw the handwriting on these “Lady Smith” diaries, I _knew_ they were the same girl!

Within a year, I was in Hampshire, reading letters and diaries relating to Emma Smith, but “Mary” remained my focal point. And even though MORE material has surfaced for Emma’s family – thanks in great part to her marriage with James Edward Austen, the nephew and first biographer of his aunt, writer Jane Austen. MUCH Smith family material is held at the Hampshire Record Office. Doesn’t hurt that one aunt (her mother’s next elder sister) was Eliza Chute of The Vine (nowadays: The Vyne), a National Trust property in Hampshire. Eliza’s diaries mention Jane Austen. And the blog’s name was born!

But the Smith and Gosling families are QUITE intertwined, so the two girls remain linked together in this project. They were great childhood friends, and even became sisters-in-law in 1826 (Mary married Emma’s eldest brother).

smith-gosling_silhouette1

Mary (foreground) and Emma

I still hope for MORE material from the Goslings. They are a fascinating family. A firm of bankers (and their records still exist), Goslings & Sharpe amalgamated with Barclays Bank, which still is headquartered at the Goslings branch on Fleet Street, London. There are some letters, but I’ve had little luck hearing from Glyndebourne – where there may (or may not…) be further evidence of this branch of the Christie family.

Mary’s sister Elizabeth (Margaret Elizabeth Gosling) married Langham Christie in 1829 – and he inherited Glyndebourne. A major litigation “case”, (as you might guess), since there were other interested parties. But Langham prevailed, and their son William Langham Christie became the first of this family to call Glyndebourne home. (The Langham Christies called Preston Deanery home instead.) At the very least, a Christie granddaughter wrote about the family portraits at Glynebourne, circa 1900, that included Langham and Elizabeth Christie; and even Elizabeth’s maternal grandparents Sir Ellis and Lady Cunliffe.

Ooooohhh….

But whether the family archives include Gosling-related materials, I don’t know. Glyndebourne’s “advertised” archives are opera-centric; East Sussex has some too-early and too-late estate papers. I’m particularly on the hunt for diaries, and any letters from or to Elizabeth and/or Langham Christie.

Mary’s own branch of the family lived on through her daughters, but her only son had sons who did not have sons. The baronetcy jumped from Charles Joshua Smith‘s heirs to those of his brother (Emma’s brother, too, of course) Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith line married into the Austen Leigh line, and it’s the Austen Leighs (for one) who stayed heavily invested in Jane Austen’s legacy; Joan Austen Leigh (“my” Emma’s great granddaughter) helped found JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America (ie, the U.S. and Canada). So my project “circles” around some very exciting history! And by blogging about it, I get to tell YOU, dear Reader, all the little tidbits.

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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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Zoffany’s Daughter

February 27, 2018 at 8:37 am (books, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

A reader of my Ladies of Llangollen blog brought to my attention a new book published in Australia and the UK: Zoffany’s Daughter: Love and Treachery on a Small Island, by Prof. Stephen Foster. She described it as, “quite unusual, as it combines History, Fact, and Fiction.”

zoffanys-daughter

The book’s website gives an enticing introduction: “2nd July 1825: Cecilia Zoffany, daughter of a famous artist, flees to the island of Guernsey with her two young daughters, one of them disguised as a boy. Alone and distressed, the beautiful stranger seeks the help of locals in a desperate attempt to retain the custody of her children. Her estranged husband, a London clergyman, follows close behind.

Cecilia Horne is the second daughter of famed artist, Johan Zoffany. Born in 1780, she married the Rev. Thomas Horne on 27 June 1799; Zoffany painted a portrait of his father (another Rev. Thomas Horne). After eight children, the couple separated in 1821. Of course, at the time, British law gave custody of children to the father.

  • read a review, at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  • the book’s Amazon.uk page
  • The Ladies Monthly Museum magazine, features news of the trial of “Mrs. Cecilia Zoffany, wife of Mr. Horne”
  • Investigate the “Rice Portrait,” possibly illustrating the young Jane Austen, which was once believed to have been painted by Zoffany

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An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman (review)

August 27, 2017 at 1:36 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , )

James Boswell sums up in one sentence his idea of good biography:

I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man’s life than not only relating all the most important events of it in their order, but interweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought.”

Susan M. Ouellette, who presents the entire extant diary of Phebe Orvis Eastman, first provides an adroit clarification of the diary, in a set of essays. The diarist, of course, never wrote with the intention of publication. Her thoughts are personal and private – and, at times, (well-labeled by the editor) cryptic. This layout, of essays then diary, guides the reader to pick up on the crumb-like indicators within the diary. Ouellette has uncovered a good deal of the life of Phebe Orvis Eastman — before, during, and after the diary, which makes for a rounded biographical profile. She also informs the reader about the era in which Phebe lived.

Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 tells of life on the American “frontier,” first in Vermont and then in the vicinity of Canton, New York. A young nation, the United States was still at war with England during Phebe’s childhood (she lived from 1801 to 1868). The geography of her diary is not the cosmopolitan perspective of Philadelphia, New York, or Washington; nor even from some great plantation. Thereby supplementing those perspectives, it enlarges our knowledge of young women in post-Revolutionary War America.

Phebe’s immediate family had staked claims and worked to clear the land and worked to create their community. (Vermont joined the Union as the Fourteenth State in 1791.) Phebe’s picture of rural Vermont, in the decades beyond that first settlement, offers readers first-hand experience of a growing, interconnected community. And through her move to a less congenial, even “wilder” frontier, Phebe’s own words involve us as witnesses to her personal pain and turmoil.

Phebe Orvis lived a somewhat carefree life as a young woman in Bristol, Vermont. Ouellette’s earliest chapter covers the tragedy of Phebe’s early life: Her mother died when Phebe was just a toddler. The baby’s age and gender (she was the fourth child, but the only daughter) resulted in her living not with her father and siblings, but with her aging maternal grandparents.

Readers of The Midwife’s Tale, featuring Maine’s Martha Ballard, will find a similarity here in the craft-skills taught to young women. Phebe Orvis is a weaver, spinner, and sewer; for instance, when Phebe writes of “Finished my web”, she is telling readers that she has yet again begun a weaving project. Such projects probably helped to fund the classes she took at the Middlebury Female Seminary.

Phebe Orvis is a serious student – and among the early cohort of women attending Willard’s establishment (though Willard herself had moved on by this time). Phebe’s “formal education” is unfortunately cut short, and readers feel her disappointment, and her reticence in doing what is requested of her: She moves to Parishville, New York, to help at her aunt and uncle’s Tavern. This transition led her to marry a man who was not her first choice for a life-partner. Ouellette uncovered in the diary the subtle “ceremony” of gifts exchanged (and ultimately returned), which points out a certain young man as Phebe’s prior attachment.

The Eastmans married in 1823; it is the marriage, the arrival of children, and the constant scratching for a living in New York, which concerns the remainder of the diary, which ends in October 1830. The blank pages that follow serve as silent testament that life went on, even if the woman writing could see no reason to spare the time to record more of that life. Phebe Orvis Eastman retained her diary, and even placed a few later inserts inside it. The diary meant enough to her, at the very least as evidence of early concerns and feelings, to have preserved it.

And others preserved it after Phebe’s death.

Special mention should be made of the late Mary Smallman, who encountered the diary after it surfaced again in Plattsburgh, NY. She transcribed the diary and dug about for information about the mystery diarist. Safe in her hands at a time when few put value on such manuscripts, Smallman ultimately deposited the diary and support materials with the Saint Lawrence County Historical Association (NY).

As with any primary source, records helped to fill out details, but aspects remain that can never truly be known. This book, with the diary in its entirety, ably supported by informative essays, is a window into early 19th century America. That its roots begin in Vermont makes it special to me, a native Vermonter, like Phebe. The physical world she knew nearly two hundred years ago can still be discerned.

Maps provide visuals for those needing to conceptualize the placement of Bristol, Middlebury, and Vergennes, Vermont; also, Saint Lawrence County, New York. An index is included. The size of the book – being both taller and wider than the average hardcover – somehow makes it a bit unwieldy; being produced in hardcover rather than paperback might have minimized that sensation. A tighter layout of the diary entries might have allowed for slightly larger type without increasing page count. Generous spacing between lines tries to compensate for the font and font size. Notes and a bibliography bring the book to 380 pages (Excelsior Editions, SUNY Press; $29.95).

Diaries, in general, are filled with the insignificant, and Ouellette has done the hard work of teasing out the significance behind the diarist’s little clues of life-events. This single volume diary indeed covers (as Boswell prescribed) “all the most important events” in the life of this Vermont girl, from her days as a single woman seeking education at the Middlebury establishment founded by Emma Willard; to her employment in New York, which brought her into the company of Samuel Eastman, whom she eventually married. The diary tells her story; the essays and finely-tuned editing makes Phebe’s history accessible to all readers.

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Susan Ouellette, a history professor from Saint Michael’s College (VT), has written on Phebe Orvis Eastman over the decade that researches into the diary have taken. One of the more accessible (it’s ONLINE) is her article “Religion and Piety in the Journal of Phebe Orvis“, in the Vermont History magazine. The book An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830 is the richer for this lengthy gestation.

See also:

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Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister

July 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna) (, , , , )

I just ordered a book I’ve waited several months for its publication (see what it is), and tonight I find another that “I can’t wait to read!”

Fanny Palmer Austen

We all will have to wait until OCTOBER – by which time it will be JASNA AGM time for those going to Huntington Beach, CA.

Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen, by Sheila Johnson Kindred is EXACTLY what I love to read – Fanny, the wife of Charles Austen (Jane’s youngest brother), was a “naval wife”. Letters exist which give voice to Fanny’s experiences in Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and (of course) England.

“Fanny’s articulate and informative letters – transcribed in full for the first time and situated in their meticulously researched historical context – disclose her quest for personal identity and autonomy, her maturation as a wife and mother, and the domestic, cultural, and social milieu she inhabited.”

“Enhanced by rarely seen illustrations, Fanny’s life story is a rich new source for Jane Austen scholars and fans of her fiction, as well as for those interested in biography, women’s letters, and history of the family.”

Hazel Jones (Jane Austen & Marriage) calls Fanny Palmer Austen an “unsung heroine” and she finds Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister “the first extensive study to focus on a man’s naval career from a woman’s perspective.”

To whet your appetite, sample some of Fanny’s letters in Deborah Kaplan’s book Jane Austen Among Women.

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Celebrating UNDER-RATED Women!

March 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm (books, europe, history, people) (, , , )

March is Women’s History Month – and author Charlotte Frost has given me a boot in the rear by giving me notice of a New Book and a hitherto unseen History Blog.

The Blog is History in the Margins. “A Blog about History, Writing, and Writing about History.” Recent posts have discussed “Confederate Nurses”, new books (including a tie-in with the PBS series Mercy Street), and of course the New Book I mentioned at the top of the page.

marie von clausewitzMarie von Clausewitz:
The Woman Behind the Making of On War

What is MOST striking, is the informative interview with the author Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, on History in the Margins. Some wonderful moments, like seeing she has a connection to Norwich University (a short-ish drive from where I live) to the vicarious *THRILL* of some letters just turning up! She also touches upon the thoughts that resonate with ME about the “why” behind such thing as Women’s History Month.

Women from the past MATTER. And the more women whose lives are dusted off and introduced, the more the realization will grow that WOMEN have voices, and they have IMPORTANT things to say.

Marie von Clausewitz sounds a woman so like the Smiths & Goslings: she SAVED everything. But: a miracle when one realized (200 years later) that these items STILL exist!

My Sunday today began with remembering a Clephane relative of Margaret (Lady Compton, Emma’s cousin-in-law) was fighting on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. Today ends with anticipating a good read about a German woman, a patron of the arts, a writer whose best known work has only her husband’s name on the cover.

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Announcing: Online Articles

March 6, 2015 at 11:46 am (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

As a writer – especially with as LARGE a project as Two Teens in the Time of Austen (<=click to see how the volumes break down) – articles have enabled me to hone little details into precise pictures-of-a-moment. Alas! readership depends on those who stumble upon the journals or magazines.

So I’ve decided to write “for myself”. These Online Articles will be much lengthier, more in-depth than blog posts, and cited (where appropriate) like journal articles. I hope you will enjoy them; and I invite comments on them.

I open the series with the original manuscript of artist Margaret Meen‘s “history” = Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters.

flowering of kew

Miss Meen (like Cassandra Austen, she later employed the “brevet rank” of Mrs) is a fascinating woman. At the time of writing the article, my BIG surprise was to discover how much of a fan she had in author Richard Mabey; and by extension, Martyn Rix who reviewed Mabey’s book The Flowering of Kew (1988). The explosion of information on the internet meant _I_ could supply a lot of the biographical information unavailable to them in the 1980s — all thanks to the existence of four letters written by Miss Meen, saved from a conflagration of Chute correspondence!

But I’ll leave you to read about her letters – and her life – on my Academia.edu page. Check the site often for further articles (I’m working on one relating to Sense and Sensibility) in the future.

* * *

March 7th: apologies for those viewing the page, who then could NOT then download the article without logging in to Academia.edu (although it does allow for log-ins via Facebook and Google).

Once articles are online a bit longer, they will search – but I want interested readers to have “access” now!

Here’s a current screen-shot [click pic to follow link] (the “info” button was toggled, which is why the upper portion shows the abstract &c):

meen article

“Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters”

I want people to see a “page” view, but also have the ability to download (and save, if you wish) the PDF. The link attached to the screen-shot enables the “preview” (the article runs four pages), but the “download” still asks for a log-in.

If I come across a better link, I’ll post it.

further info on Margaret Meen ILLUSTRATIONS:

I should also take the opportunity to add some links – there ARE images of Miss Meen’s wonderful Flower Paintings — combined with those from my Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (as I’ve long mentioned on this blog). See Artwork Done By on this site; then click on the RHS pic. Or direct to the Royal Horticultural Society site, and either click on EMMA SMITH [who is “Aunt Emma” to my Emma Austen] or search for MEEN – which brings up all five artists.

You should “hit” on 48 images; and can either view them as larger thumbnails in a grid, or a row of images and descriptive text.

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