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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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.

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).

 

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

Diary of Mary Hardy, 1773-1809

mary hardy
Publisher / date: Burnham Press, 2013
pages: xxiv + 581
Hardcover
genre: diary

I’ve waited many months, since first seeing notice of this series of diaries covering the years 1773-1809 (there are four diary volumes; a fifth volume of entries not included in the foursome has also been published). Mary Hardy was an “average” Georgian-era woman, living in Norfolk, and writing about her daily life. The books were just released at the end of April, 2013. I took the chance and ordered the set of four from Amazon.uk (Amazon in the US thinks the books “out of print” — which is typically the case when books are released in the US or Canada…).

Editor Margaret Bird has researched the diaries for 25 years, and the level of her accomplishment comes out in these beautiful books. Each of the four is a hefty 500-plus pages, but the books are easy to handle — and lovely to read. Notes line the outer side of each page, making reference that much easier. They are copiously illustrated – with contemporary drawings, maps, portraits, and current photographs.

Two websites have been set up for the series:

the other volumes are,

  • 1781-1793: Beer Supply, Water Power and a Death (vol. 2)
  • 1793-1797: Farms, Maltings and Brewery (vol. 3)
  • 1797-1809: Shipwreck and Meeting House (vol. 4)
  • The Remaining Diary of Mary Hardy: entries 1781-1809 (168 pages)

hardy diariesI’ve posted a short (little over a minute) preview where you get to see volume one of The Diary of Mary Hardy on YouTube.

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My other YouTube videos are based on my research into the lives of Emma Austen Leigh (aka Emma Smith, 1801-1876) and Lady Smith (aka Mary Gosling, 1800-1842). I hope to add to my “readings” of letters and diary entries, so do check out my Smith & Gosling YouTube channel. Although Mary Hardy does not mention the family (although brief mention IS made of the de Greys of Norfolk, the family of Mary Gosling’s stepmother, Charlotte de Grey), Charles Smith (of Suttons) gained his fortune mainly through a distillery business, so reading about the Hardy brewery business is of great interest.

Upcoming on my channel will be other video-peeks at books you’ll see here on Regency Reads.

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UPDATE: See TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN for my “conversation” with Mary Hardy’s editor, Margaret Bird.

Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany

An “online” find – six volumes of letters from the 18th Century!

The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany,
edited by Lady Llanover.

First Series: 

Second Series:

Extensive INDEX located in the sixth volume.

If you want to first learn about Mrs Delany and her flower mosaics, read The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock.

More about Mrs Delany at Two Teens in the Time of Austen.