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.

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).

 

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

OverREADERS Anonymous?

Perusing HOUZZ yesterday, this article’s very title compelled me to read it:

not my books!

The story of “Not my Precious Books!” begins with a conversation:

“Years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance, and she referred to a weekly meeting she attended without naming it. I asked her what it was.

‘Overreaders Anonymous,’ she said.

I froze. I had no idea there was such a 12-step group, but if anyone was an overreader, I knew I was. And then my auditory memory caught up with my fervid imagination, and I realized she had actually said, ‘Overeaters,’ and I resumed breathing.”

Like author Alison Hodgson, reading is my drug of choice. I must say, in my defense, much that has been amassed over the years interests me still: favorite authors, authoritative texts on history, fascinating biographies. For the most part, my books ARE books that I cherish and dip into, and yes (sometimes) re-read.

But what of those “lesser” books, those piled and hidden out of sight; unwelcomed gifts; or really-wrong purchases. Why are those still in my house?!

Now, I don’t consider myself a HUGE hoarder of books. Probably because I know a couple of people far, far worse! One book-loving friend can – like Hodgson, once – count books in the thousands. She and her book-loving husband amassed a room’s worth on the third floor of their condo, and also had shelving in the dining room, living room, office, and probably places I’ve never even seen. Mine is a quite modest collection, in comparison. (My mother, who owns few books, would beg to differ, but that’s a whole other blog post.) And I wouldn’t give them up for the world. There IS no library nearby with the FULL 6-volumes of The Letters of Mrs Piozzi, for instance. Plus, I’ve painstakingly built up this set over the years to have it “complete”. I have several sets, some purposely bought because they were sold as a unit (not many such sales out there), others are in the act of being built up as volumes come on the used-book market. (A must-must-must-have: dust jackets!)

piozzi letters

So, Alison Hodgson’s list of “Reasons for Holding on to Books” resonates, especially “Reason No. 3“:

It was part of a set. If you are a book collector, you know what I’m talking about.”

Indeed, I do. There’s something about the completeness of a series published in two or four or ten volumes that grabs my attention when I see them on a shelf. I can think of at least two series where I found a “volume one” or “volume two” locally, and hunted for its “matching” companion online. Had I read the book from cover to cover? Possibly not… I just knew I’d want the “set”!

Or, one can take the word “set” loosely: an author pumping out several tomes in succession can also constitute a “set” in my opinion. Think “All Creatures Great and Small” –> you just gotta have ’em all!

But remember, I’ve those piles beside an upstairs chair; another pile beside a set of shelves (actually, I think that one became tall enough to be divided into two piles, side-by-side). Those books are not parts of sets; I don’t think many of them were gifts; quite a few were remaindered hardcovers (i.e., bargains too good to pass up); one has an author’s signature.

There are a few that sounded good… But here I must confess a story behind the keeping of those: On vacation, in Paris, a decade or more ago, I had brought along a book (as I always do) — I just could not get past the first couple of pages. A year or so later, I took the book off the shelf; this time I devoured it! A fabulous read, well-written, fantastically-researched. The history of a handful of letters that opened up the life-story of a 19th century Frenchwoman. (Post a comment, if you wish to know the title & author.)

So, among these books that I’ve hated… perhaps one really IS a jewel in the rough – and I was just missing that interest-of-the-moment which sparks the reader-to-book connection.

Or else it is just a dud, taking up space, collecting dust.

But: I remember a travel book, set in the 1950s or 1960s, that I picked up for a song at a local used bookstore. It was “o-kay”. Nothing more. Didn’t I see it later, in a catalogue that I used to love receiving in the mail because of the spotlight it put on books that the press sometimes reprinted. There was that same travelogue! Reprinted (i.e., in paperback; mine was the original hardcover printing), and selling for 1000% more. As I write, I relive the moment in my mind’s eye, when I dipped into the paperbag of discards and retrieved that book: if it was good enough to reprint decades later, perhaps it was a better book than I originally thought. (Confession No. 2: I’ve never cracked it open again…)

I have to chuckle over Hodgson’s Reason No. 2 for keeping books: Sentimentality. She, like me, has the first copy of Pride and Prejudice that she ever read. I remember its purchase well because I bought it after watching the 1980 BBC version, with Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul (still a favorite); one unwieldy volume with all the Jane Austen novels. Lovely drawings, like subtle silhouettes, herald the start of each novel. Who could part with such a treasure, even as I move on to the complete set (note that phrase!) of the Chapman edition of Jane Austen novels.

Alison Hodgson asks,

  • Do I love it?
  • Will I read it again?

To that I would add: “Would I be tempted to buy it again, not remembering that I read it already because I got rid of it?” If the answer to that question is “yes” – then save yourself some money, and pull the chair a little further from the wall (nice hiding place). Remember, too, that while it’s better to give than receive, you’ll possibly only receive a limp “buck” for that hardcover you paid full-price for. Far better to donate! Find a good cause.

To All Readers,
Best Wishes for a Book-filled 2014!

Upcoming and Noteworthy

A short note to say “Welcome, 2013” and “Happy New Year” to readers of Regency Reads.

I’ve posted a new page, Exciting & New, which features books unread (most are yet-to-be published) that have gained my attention. Want to tout a book (new or old!): Do make contact. I haven’t devoted a lot of time to this blog, but I’d love to make it a real source for those desiring their British history to have a primary-source focus.

mrs creevey

Creevey and Croker

Sorry to duplicate some of what you will today find on my main blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen, but today’s post really does BELONG here too:

I was letting my fingers do the walking through my downstairs bookcase – and plucked an old paperback “selection” of Thomas Creevey’s papers. Gosh! I remember when I first bought this: I hankered after the THREE books it was based on. Guess what? you can pretty much find them online now… Ah, it had taken at least some dusty stacks grabbing (if not storage…) to find the Maxwell edition. A lot of work to find them back then.

So here I’m posting links, including those of a “rival” John Wilson Croker.

Thomas Creevey (left) left letters – and if he DID leave diaries, they’ve not been traced and may have been “swallowed up” by those not wanting his thoughts and opinions to leak out.

My paperback is a reprint edition edited by John Gore, called Thomas Creevey’s Papers, 1793-1838.

I was reading Gore’s introduction last evening. Gore’s 1944 compilation had been preceded by Sir Herbert Maxwell’s 1904 2-volume set. Gore had worked not to duplicate items. Gore writes of Maxwell’s work “taking Edwardian London by storm”. We should all be so lucky…

  • The Creevey Papers, edited by Sir Herbert Maxwell: vol I, vol II – this is via Internet Archive, but is a Google book. It looks like both volumes are in one. Another link; here’s a two-volume set: vol I; vol II. I like the “set” because vol II has a portrait of MRS Creevey (right) – and you know I’d rather read about the ladies.
  • Creevey’s Life and Times, edited by John Gore seems not online — yet?!

In reading the introduction, I was reminded of John Wilson Croker (below)- his works cover nearly the same period.

I can’t say much about either man – never read Croker and it’s been years since I’ve dipped into Creevey. I based a character in two short-stories on his sister. Should look into getting those stories published…