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.

Advertisements

Trusty and Well Beloved

Trusty Harness

Publisher / date: SPCK, 1957
pages: 213
Hardcover
genre: biography (letters)

Although purchased a while ago, I am immensely engrossed in this book and wish I had cracked it open for a much longer on first receiving it. (But: there are many books in that boat…)

This book came to my attention through Jenny Uglow’s In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 [see my Two Teens in the Time of Austen post on that book]. She utilized many period personalities – including Mary Hardy and Betsy Fremantle.

William Harness, however, was a new name to me. The full title of this book supplies a LOT of information about the contents: Trusty and Well Beloved: The Letters Home of William Harness, an Officer of George the Third. The editor, Caroline M. Duncan-Jones has provided excellent (not too much; not too little) information linking the various letters, which begin in the period before the engagement of Captain William Harness to Miss Elizabeth Bigg of Aylesbury (they finally married, after a lengthy engagement, in 1791).

The romance of the couple accounts for the existence of the letters – but it is the fascinating picture that William paints while abroad which I find so captivating. The places he was posted to include a wind-swept island; a pricey Cape Hope; a savage yet tranquil Ceylon. It tears at your heart whenever he writes of soon ending a present tour – and his looking forward to seeing his wife and children. Readers know the end of the story, which the participants never could have done.

The two years spent in Ceylon read with such genuine storytelling ability (few of Elizabeth’s surviving letters are included), and the narrative of how long it took for letters to arrive – and how that came about – is as interesting. It is unimaginable to think of being so long torn from family, all in the hopes of a better future, especially for the children.

William Harness’ letters also make you long to know about what he did NOT write to his wife.

The Harness papers exist! At the Bodleian, you can search for more information on William’s brother, John Harness – a naval surgeon (and probably the medical man who treated Nelson when he lost is eye).

There are a few glimpses and the family in England, but you mainly travel along William. You feel his amazement at the mountain views, his disgust of the cruelties of man, and his longing for his family – and the family life he believes his sacrifice (and ‘Bessy’s’ sacrifice, too) will bring them in the future.

The cover illustration includes a depiction (also inside the book) of an Officer of the 80th Regiment of Foot, one of William Harness’ regiments. His regimental history is briefly outlined on the Napoleon Series website. And, of course, there is Uglow’s new (2015) book.

Currently, there are several copies of Trusty and Well Beloved at exceptionally reasonable prices. Heartily recommended.

Political & Social Letters

Mrs Osborn

Mrs. Osborn, daughter of Viscount Torrington, had her letter collected and edited (by Emily Osborn) in 1891 under the title Political and Social Letters of a Lady of the Eighteenth Century, 1721-1771.

THREE Austen Leigh (Emma Smith) connections grabbed my attention: the Osborns were associated with CHICKSANDS, which Emma visited as a teenager; and Mrs. Osborn mentions the 1767 death of Lady Northampton (née Jane Lawton, mother of the 1st Marquess of Northampton, Emma’s uncle); and there is a Byng (the familial name of the Torringtons) and Bramston marriage in 1730. (The Bramstons of Essex being Smith of Suttons neighbors.) She is, of course, related to the 5th Viscount, who left us his delightful “tour diaries” [published in four volumes, 1934-38] (he was younger son of Mrs. Osborn’s brother).

 

FREE Book Giveaway: Possession

Possession

If you are a lover of history or a lover of mystery you’ll LOVE this double tale of  two “modern day” (1980s) academics investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. The novel hooked me from the opening sentence: “The book was thick and black and covered with dust,” as Roland Michell, in the London Library, touches a book that once belonged to his subject, Randolph Henry Ash. These researches will bring him into the life of Maud Bailey, a woman writing on the life and work of Christabel LaMotte. This foursome is at the heart of A.S. Byatt‘s tour-de-force, which drew upon her own years in academia.

This is a used paperback copy – has a few underlined sections and a chipped & dog-eared cover, but if you’ve heard about Possession: A Romance and never read it: Enter!

ASK questions – and enter below by adding a “comment”. The giveaway will be open through Wednesday 30 September 2015 (midnight, U.S. eastern time).

Paperback
Published October 1991
555 pages
“used”

Withdrawn due to lack of interest

The Carlyles at Home

Revisiting certain book sites over the past few days, I found that Persephone Books has produced a reprint edition of an old friend: The Carlyles at Home.

carlyles

It’s JANE WELSH CARLYLE (more than Thomas) who interests me immensely. There was a time when I bought several books on the women of their circle. So – of course! – sooner or later I found this highly-recommended “history” of the couple by Thea Holme.

carlyles2

Publisher / date: Oxford UP, 1965
pages: 204
Hardcover
genre: biography

Looking (briefly) I don’t really see many copies of the original printing (1965), so, in order to have a copy of the original Dust Jacket, I had to photograph my own copy. An owner of the current printing will be able to tell you if the illustrations by Lamb have been retained {it’s Book No. 32, in their catalogue}.

It’s been quite a number of years since I read this; but I remember enjoying it. Two nights ago, seeing that it was out in a reprinting, I pulled it off the shelf – read through the initial pages. And trotted back to the shelves to pull off the other book I have on Jane Carlyle: Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle (mine, bought at Monroe Street Books, in Middlebury, VT, is a 2-in-1 volume).

I must say a little of Holme’s star-shine got rubbed off when I spotted the exact same opening incident portrayed in both: the Carlyles’ move into their new Chelsea home on Cheyne Row! Including the amusing little story of Jane’s caged-bird.

Oh, well…

In truth, Holme’s narrative is so fetching, and the drawings by Lynton Lamb so endearing, that you can’t bash the book. (And we all work from our source material, if you’re lucky enough to base biography on a stash of letters.) So it’s nice to see that this volume has “new” life. I include some online reviews more recent, and therefore more informative, than anything I could say at present:

carlyles house

 

Persephone describes the book as “Each of the eleven chapters describes different aspects of the house, whether it is yet another builders’ drama or a maid giving birth in the china closet while ‘Mr Carlyle was taking tea in the dining-room…’.” Highly recommended.

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

World War I: A Nursing Sister’s Diary

Many archives are getting into blogging (many on WordPress!). It’s a GREAT way to gain awareness about items in their collections, AND a fabulous find some someone like me: one always on the hunt for MORE information.

Yesterday I found several informative posts at the blog attached to the Essex Record Office; this one concerning a World War I era diary – as some of you may know, such things are of GREAT interest to me (even if technically past the “Victorian” era).

This one concerns a nursing sister, Kate Luard (born 1872). She tangentially touches on my Smith & Gosling (Two Teens in the Time of Austen) research in that the Luards are later generations affiliated with the Bramstons of Skreens — and the Bramstons were neighbors to the Smith estate of Suttons (there was also a branch of the Bramston family in Hampshire – at Oakley Hall – neighbors to Eliza Chute at The Vyne and Jane Austen and family at Steventon & Chawton.

Two books are associated with Kate Luard, one is the Diary of a Nursing Sister, 1914-1915 (originally published anonymously in 1915)

diary luard

  • an interesting diversion from reading is having the book READ to YOU: Ruth Golding and a half-dozen others contribute to a LibriVox recording.

The Essex Record Office (ERO) has a few snippets culled from the book, focusing on the Spring of 1915 and an earlier post focusing on Kate Luard herself.

Kate is more fully discussed “on her own website“, with an announcement of a new edition (2014) of the book Unknown Warriors (originally published 1930), which covers Kate Luard’s letters from 1914 through 1918.

unknown warriors