Elizabeth Firth diaries (online)

Give thanks for repositories who SHARE the wealth by offering digital images and/or transcriptions of their holdings.

The University of Sheffield Library has a PDF transcription of the diaries of Elizabeth Firth, who is a young schoolgirl when the first diary begins in 1812.

Elizabeth was born in 1797 (she lived until 1837).

On Archives Hub is the following description: “Diaries recording the day-to-day events in the life of a young girl in the Yorkshire village of Thornton in the 1810s and 1820s.” It goes on to categorize the diaries as being “of the simplest kind: brief day-to-day records of social and church occasions…. Their principal interest lies in the references to members of the Brontë family with whom Elizabeth was acquainted, and the collection includes a letter from Charlotte Brontë to Elizabeth Firth” (also known under her married name, Elizabeth Franks).

As you might guess, _I_ do not think the principal interest is due to her connection to the Brontës, but in the descriptions of the lifeof diarist Elizabeth Firth herself. And she tells some wonderful stories.

To give a bit of background: Elizabeth Firth lived at Kipping House, Thornton (near Bradford), Yorkshire. Her father John Scholefield Firth was a doctor – and, by the time the Brontës moved to Bradford (1815), Dr. Firth had become a widower.

The connection to the Brontës, though, IS quite an interesting one: Elizabeth Firth befriended Maria (Branwell) Brontë; in 1821 Patrick Brontë proposed to Elizabeth! I’ve already told you that her married name was “Franks”, thereby letting the cat out of the bag regarding Patrick’s proposal. It is “thought to have led to a rupture in her relations with the Brontë family” that lasted at least a couple of years. Elizabeth married the Rev. James Clarke Franks in September 1824.

The Bronte Sisters blog has two interesting posts (from 2013) you’ll want to read:

A blog dedicated to Anne Brontë has an additional story (from 2017):

Elizabeth Firth

Both blogs have this image of Elizabeth Firth; I’ve been unable to find it anywhere else – but hope it truly is her. Don’t we all like to SEE the writer we’re reading?!

The diaries of Elizabeth Firth have been culled for such books as The Letters of Charlotte Brontë: 1829-1847. But in discussing Elizabeth’s importance to the family, readers learn about Elizabeth’s life. Including, that the Franks had five children.

Other books Elizabeth shows up in: A Brontë Family Chronology and the Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors (by Juliet Barker).

Elizabeth Franks’ grandson, G.C. Moore Smith, published some extracts in The Modern Language Quarterly, entitling his 1901 article “The Diary of a Schoolgirl of Eighty Years Ago.” This covers the earliest years, which in detailing some “odd” (to us) school practices, is quite fascinating. A 1904 article in The Bookman also discusses aspects of “My grandmother,” in an illustrated article entitled “The Brontës at Thornton.”

The diaries not only include daily entries, there are also accounts. Of use, if you wish to know the cost of “3 caps” in 1829 (1 pound) or an apron (14s 10d). On the last page (page 252) I spot recipes for “Cheescakes”, “stuffin”, and “punch”.

The editing includes footnotes and explanations, even of archaic or dialect words. Some give indications of places, and also note special markings in the diary itself. Entries are short, as befits such pocket diaries of the time, and are gathered in daily remarks for the month, which makes the look of the transcription very easy to read. In short, Highly Recommended.

[NB: REALLY tough searching for Miss Firth – keep coming up with images of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy!}

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Two new Illustrated Diaries

I have not seen these books, but I am VERY intrigued!

Baker_on the Broads

A Week on the Broads was “advertised” in the recent Christmas email from the bookshop at The National Archives in Britain. Only 96 pages, it didn’t really catch my attention at first. But I have been to Norfolk, and I my attention was piqued just enough by the sub-title, “Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889,” to search it out. I’m glad I did!

S.K. Baker’s volume about the Norfolk Broads actually has a companion volume, entitled Camping on the Wye. Both came out this year, in June and August 2017.

Michael Goffe, a descendant of one of the “gents” who accompanied Baker, owns the sketchbooks — “Facsimile” in this case means S.K. Baker’s words and watercolor pictures!

Amazon.uk lets us “look inside” the two books:

  • Camping on the Wye: Four Victorian gents row the Wye in a randan skiff in 1892. (also: a Sample, from Bloomsbury, includes the “into”]
  • A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889.

And it’s the look inside that will convince you that there’s a LOT packed inside. Here’s a page from each volume:

Broads

A Week on the Broads

Wye

Camping on the Wye

 

S.K. Baker and his “Victorian Gents” made the Times Literary Supplement in October (2017). Of course, the writer (Jacqueline Banerjee) alludes to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat – and calls her article, “Four Men in a Boat”.

 

More images from the book, A Week on the Broads, and some background information can be found in The Great Yarmouth Mercury‘s article — including a photo of Michael Goff. It was this article, by Andrew Stone, that REALLY fired my imagination!

And there’s the thing: illustrating why the books are “facsimile” editions (as Stone’s article does) goes a LONG way towards helping readers appreciate just what their owner is now sharing with us. This small remainder — just two sketchbook diaries — of one man’s life (and four men’s adventures) is a very special gift indeed.

Private Journal of Adelaide Darby

Adelaide Darby2

Publisher / date: Sessions Book Trust/Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, 2004
pages: 502
Paperback
genre: diary

I purchased this a few months ago, but only recently started reading from the beginning (rather than “dipping” into the text here and there). Adelaide Darby is 16 years old when the diary opens. She is a DELIGHT to get to know!

The Private Journal of Adelaide Darby of Coalbrookdale opens in 1833. The impetus for beginning to keep a journal was reading The Young Christians – which encouraged all readers to keep a journal. Ample notes identify who people and places are – the Darbys are a multi-generational group associated with the Ironbridge (built by Adelaide’s grandfather).

Adelaide’s journal is actually the third in a series of diaries – all transcribed by the late Lady Rachel Labouchere. (The other two concern Deborah Darby, 1754-1810 and Abiah Darby, 1716-1793. Both are still offered ‘new’ by Sessions Books.)

The layout of each year begins with a ‘Comment’ section by the editor, Emyr Thomas. This underscores (though sometimes ‘repeats’) what the diarist has to tell us. Adelaide’s opinions of neighbors and relations bring fun into the proceedings. There are times that she is QUITE opinionated! As when she calls one young man, “the detestable.” Adelaide is also seeing the ‘death’ of the coaching era as trains will take over more and more – and her family take part in all that business. There’s no index, so any nuggets that come when she mentions her readings will be discovered as they happen – but of Maria Edgeworth’s Helen she was writing (in 1834), “Helen is such a beautiful natural and good character…. All the people are to the life.” So despite her protests that she should not be reading novels, Adelaide does manage to pick them up from time to time.

The Darbys were Quakers (“Friends” is the term used in the book); and it’s not a surprise, therefore, that Adelaide should meet the Gaskells – “Mrs. Gaskell is the most delightfully simple, girlish creature imaginable.”

The family were involved with the local politicians, so there is a bit of the current political climate cropping up.

The book’s cover describes the diary’s contents as, “In her early years she [Adelaide Darby] records her feelings about a succession of unsuccessful suitors. Approaching her thirties she realised how much she like church music and singing (and fine clothes) contrary to the simple Quaker practices of her upbringing, and was baptised into the Church of England. In 1852 [the diary goes up to 1861], at age 35, she married Henry Whitmore, MP for Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who served in Lord Derby’s second and third Tory administrations…. Adelaide, from her London homes, recorded an increasingly glittering political round in increasingly staccato Journal references.”

Ballard: England in 1815

In 2011, the blog Austenonly ran an article on the actress Miss O’Neill, and, in commenting on her, introduced me to the journal of Joseph Ballard. Ballard says more about Miss O’Neill than my diarist, Emma Smith (after marriage, Emma Austen). The post induced me to look up Ballard’s journal for myself.

joseph ballard

Its full title goes a long way to explaining the delights to be found inside: England in 1815 as seen by a Young Boston Merchant, being the Reflections and Comments of Joseph Ballard on a Trip through Great Britain in the year of Waterloo. Published in 1913, its frontispiece was a watercolor portrait of the young merchant in 1813 (detail above). Ballard was 26 years-old during his trip abroad. The journal covers March to November 1815.

The voyage to England, of course, opens the narrative. With nations at war and sea travel parlous when the weather whipped up storms, Ballard’s journey could not have an easy one. He touched on English soil at Liverpool.

To read Ballard’s journal is to discover:

  • “Manchester is quite a smokey place.”
  • “Leeds is a town of considerable consquence.”
  • “On visiting the Bank of England I was astonished at its magnitude…”
  • “The Tower of London is a large pile of buildings surrounded by a deep moat.”
  • “… went to Astley’s Amphitheatre near Westminster Bridge.”
  • “… curiosity led me in …”

ballard journal

FIND Ballard @ books.google or archive.org

 

Captain Gronow Reminisces

One book often cited, Reminiscences of Captain Gronow actually is one of FOUR books by Rees Howell Gronow, published in the 1860s. Although written as memoirs later in life, the amount of informative gossip keeps Gronow at the top of the “bibliography” lists in many Regency histories and biographies.

Capt Gronow

The first book – the most famous of them – is also available *free* as an audio book at Librivox.

Grego’s two volume illustrated edition should prove popular too: volume 1, volume 2

Gronow lived from 1794 to 1865. He attended Eton, served in the Napoleonic Wars, spent time in Debtors’ Prison, was a Member of Parliament who was ousted in a “void” election.

Diary of Philippa Brooksbank

A little account of my happy life when I was in my 21st year,” is how Philippa Clitherow (born in 1760) introduces herself.

This fully-transcribed diary recounts Philippa’s introduction to Mr. Brooksbank while on a September visit to BRIGHTON, “a very gay public sea bathing place”. Her future husband, Benjamin Brooksbank, she describes as “a very lively, agreeable Young Man.”

In the opening paragraph, alongside meeting Mr. Brooksbank, Philippa’s sister Jane “greatly admired by Mr. Baker”, marries “three months after the first meeting”. Philippa links her sister’s marriage to her own sadness: “never having seen Mr. Brooksbank since we returned from Brighton, thought he had quite forgotten me; really was sick at heart.”

And yet… the next 1781 entry tells us that Mr. Brooksbank did not leave young Philippa dangling for long: “His first visit to Boston House was in two days after the wedding.” Poor Philippa! Her father being out, Mr. Brooksbank “was not let in”. But he called again; and even stayed to dinner.

Colonel Clitheroe_RomneyJames Clitherow (by Romney, 1784)
Philippa’s “Brother”

Come the first entry under 1782, Philippa tells readers, “On the 27th February, I was married to Dear Mr. Brooksbank. It was a very quiet wedding.”

This delightful family diary was transcribed in October 2006 by Kerry Brooksbank. The file is all text, which left me wishing for some images – of people, places, or at the very least the dear diary which cover FIFTY years, the last entry being in August 1832.

Boston ManorBoston Manor, near London
Philippa Clitherow’s family home …

State drawing room_Boston Manor
… a Grade I listed Jacobean manor house

Luckily, there is MUCH online about the family and their homes, especially Boston House.

In between these dates of 1781 and 1832 comes much family history – the birth of children, of course, which brings in some interesting tidbits be it attendance at Cambridge or voyages to India. Mentions are made of places as divergent as Cape Town and Ireland. One son becomes a clergyman.

The years go by quickly, with intermittent entries for really important occurrences – like the Hunt Ball or a family christening. In all the diary covers about 79 typed pages. But it packs a wallop within those pages: Assizes; child-rearing; travel; social calls.

Stamp Brooksbank_Geo EngleheartPhilippa’s son, Stamp Brooksbank

Her diary, of course, helps to put her family together. The Brentford High Street Project, featuring a website on “The Clitherow Family of Boston Manor“, helps to put siblings, aunts & uncles perfectly into context.

Philippa’s family included:

  • Ann (b. 1760) m. William Salkeld
  • Jane (b. 1761) m. Peter William Baker
  • Mary (b. 1764)
  • James (b. 1766) m. Jane Snow
  • Martha (b. 1768) m. Lord William Seymour
  • Sarah (b. 1769) m. Rev. E. Bullock

The family was well connected. Mary Clitherow’s letters, which tell of King William IV and Queen Adelaide (part 2; part 3), were published in 1902. Mary’s husband was the son of Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford. Their sister, Mrs. Baker – whose marriage is mentioned in the diary, was painted by Gainsborough:

Jane Clitheroe BakerMrs. Baker by Gainsborough

Daughter Philippa Brooksbank married Guiseppi Pecchio – known to Ugo Foscolo, who knew Lord and Lady Compton (AKA: Spencer Compton and Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane).

[Spencer Compton, 2nd Marquess of Northampton, was Emma Austen Leigh’s cousin and Emma is one of my Two Teens in the Time of Austen]

Some useful Clitherow / Brooksbank LINKS:

Note some spelling differences – Clitheroe or Clitherow; Phillipa or Philippa.

 

Journals of Henrietta Liston

liston journals

Thanks go to Janeite Deb, who sent an email with links to Henrietta Liston’s online journals, as well as to this (click photo) informative article. Both are from the National Library of Scotland. I must say I was VERY impressed with the NLS publication Discover magazine. In this issue alone, there are articles on Robert Louis Stevenson manuscripts, Blackwood’s Magazine, and – of course – the cover story of Mrs. Liston.

Born on the island of ANTIGUA in 1752, Henrietta Marchant emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland as a child. She married Robert Liston in 1796. “A few weeks after their wedding, the Listons sailed to America.” Robert Liston had been appointed British Minister to the United States.

Living in what soon became the 14th State in the Union (the state of Vermont), I was impressed with the accessibility of maps showing Henrietta Liston’s movements. And, yes, she touched Vermont, having navigated Lake Champlain.

Some of the BEST of Abigail Adams‘ letters were written during her periods abroad; the Liston journals will be *MUST READS* for those interested in an “outsider’s view” of the country. They also can be used to flesh out such first-person accounts of the new country as told in the letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert (published as “Mistress of Riversdale”).

Liston’s words about George and Martha Washington are juxtaposed with her thoughts on flora and fauna. And, yes, she writes of gallant (as she calls him) Alexander Hamilton.

liston journals2“The Liston Papers – an amazing resource; … a boon to social historians”