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!}

Advertisements

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.

 

New: Online Diaries

How I could neglect SO LONG in collecting together all the WEBSITES that reproduce diaries (and coming soon, letters), I just don’t know. You will find them under the tab DIARIES ONLINE.

While I track down more that I have come across over the years, I start with FOUR sites that were true *FINDS* indeed:

  • Gertrude Savile’s diaries, on Twitter
  • Miss Fanny Chapman’s diaries
  • Lady Charlotte Bridgeman’s journals
  • the theatre comments of John Waldie

This group covers Britain (and sometimes beyond) from the early 1720s into and beyond the 1850s. Each diarist has a fascinating tale to tell, and a compelling voice with which they narrate. Some are presented “whole”; some have accompanying links to page images, if you wish to try deciphering them yourself.

lady-charlotte-bridgeman
a page from Charlotte Bridgeman’s journal

Revisiting Rosalie

rosalie riversdaleI recently took this book off the shelf again. Hadn’t remembered talking about it – but I did, in the early days of this blog.

It was a “shelf find” in the library where my office was located at the time. A “gift” to the library by a departing history professor. I was ENTRANCED! and pretty immediately looked online for a copy. That I bought a hardcover (the library copy was softcover), complete with its dust jacket, all in very good condition, should tell you how well-regarded I felt the contents to be.

Rosalie Stier had escaped the French revolutionary forces that had begun to invade her home country – Belgium. She and her family embarked for the United States. They ended up in Maryland. At the time that I got this book, I, too, had been spending time in Maryland (I live in Vermont). Such an experience, to see the very places in which Rosalie lived – including the mansion-house of Riversdale itself. Rosalie’s extraordinary letters exist because she stayed behind when the rest of her family returned to Belgium.

As it happens, Rosalie Calvert makes her appearance at this Fall’s Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), when the AGM convenes in Washington, D.C. But it was listening to the Original Broadway Recording of Hamilton that had me pulling out the book.

Diggs_Jefferson

Rosalie had some harsh thoughts about Thomas Jefferson (she referred to him as “Tommy Jeff”); through marriage the Calverts were related to Martha Washington’s Custis children; and the Calverts were “on the scene,” having settled so close to the new national capital.

What might Rosalie Stier Calvert have written about Eliza and Alexander Hamilton??

Alas, it is his death alone that warrants a comment in the existing correspondence (as translated from the French and published here):

“America has just had a great loss in the person of Alexander Hamilton who was killed in a duel with Colonel Burr, the vice-president. Even General Washington’s death did not produce such a sensation. The City of New York is in an uproar, and if Burr had not fled, they would have made him pay dearly for his vengeance.”

America has just had a great loss… Forceful words, indeed. Pity nothing else in her letters elaborates upon the “whys” behind her thoughts.

HIGHLY recommended for those travelling to the AGM in October 2016, those interested in women’s history, and those interested in a “plantation” view of the new nation of the United States. Excellently edited by Margaret Law Callcott, with a fine essay that introduces the Stiers and supports the letters that follow.

FREE Book Giveaway: Jane Austen’s Journeys

JA journeys

Hazel Jones – author of Jane Austen and Marriage – has completed a breezy narrative on travel in the life and works of Jane Austen.

I’m offering a FREE copy of this book, Jane Austen’s Journeys.

  • read about Jane Austen’s Journeys @ the publisher Robert Hale’s official website
  • read about Jane Austen’s Journeys @ GoodReads
  • ASK any questions – and enter below by adding a “comment”. The giveaway will be open through the end of August (31 August 2015, U.S. eastern time). Please: U.S. mailing addresses only

Hardcover
published February 2015
272 pages
8 color plates
list price: $28.95

1 Sept 2015
Out of the pink pillowcase, the recipient of the book is:

Aubrey Leaman