More Seward: Letters from 1796

Have posted some more of the Anna Seward letters — this time from the year 1796. These are full letters, taken from the six volumes published in 1811.

You can read more about my plans for correspondents by clicking on the main link “Correspondence & Correspondents“.

I’d love to hear comments: If any later publications of these letters (NOT reprints) were ever published? Do the original letters exist? We all know that some editing was usually done in publications of letters… See, for instance, the comments and replies on “Regency Reads”.


Silhouettes of Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler

We’ve seen comparable images a thousand times, but I highlight this silhouettenot on display at the National Portrait Gallery, yet found online (search for SARAH PONSONBY or ELEANOR BUTLER rather than the LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN) – because it is thought to have been done c1810-1823. During their lifetime! By whom? for whom? we shall never know. See the image and read about the silhouette by clicking the link. DO view it as a fuller-sized image. The detail is terrific! You can see the fluff of their hair, the folds of their skirts. Sarah has a frailty about her that, I think, puts the image later rather than earlier. She was certainly described by Anne Lister as being in poor health.

Some Reconstruction

Some of the “nuts & bolts” have been fixed! So take a look at the newly-improving pages for BIBLIOGRAPHY and WEBSITES & MORE.

A new find: An RTE Radio 1 presentation (from 2011) by Leeanne O’Donnell; the link has a permanent home on the Bibliography page.

I’ve also added information on the word “elope (find the post under “Flight”), and short new descriptions from old writings by Emily Kimbrough, Cornelia Stratton Parker, and Somerville & Ross.

Plas Newydd and Mary Gosling

The comment by Peter Alexander, curator of Plas Newydd, made me think: Why don’t you post Mary Gosling’s comments on the Ladies of Llangollen today (Feb 2nd) is Mary’s birthday and it was while on the chase for those very comments that I first met Mary… and Emma… and Mamma… and all the rest of the Smith&Gosling family.

This may — or may not — be a Beechey portrait of Mary a few years prior to her visit, in 1821.

The Gosling family — “Papa, Mamma, my Sister and myself” — had departed Roehampton on Monday, 27 August. They arrived in Llangollen on Monday, 3 September.

Nothing can be more picturesque than the situation of Llangollen, embosomed in the hills with the river Dee running at the foot of it,” was Mary’s immediate pronouncment.

This travel diary, containing little biographical information (other than the author’s name on the “title” page), covers six trips – the first taken in 1814; the last in 1824. Mary Gosling was born in 1800, to William Gosling and his first wife Margaret Elizabeth Cunliffe (yes, related to Sir Foster Cunliffe). Mary married in 1826. So these trips were all undertaken with her immediate family.

I found her diary through WorldCat — Duke University, which owns the diary, had Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler as “subjects” and the diary came up in a search. A kind Library Specialist xeroxed the relevant trip for me; I later visited Duke to transcribe the entire diary.

Did Mary Gosling have anything unusual to say about The Ladies? Sadly — not really! Here’s her entry:

“Wednesday [Sept 5th] morning at ten o’clock we went to Plasnewydd to pay a visit to Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby who have resided there 42 years, ever since 1778 in the course of the time having slept out of it but very few nights, they are now old women, the former being near 80 and the latter about 10 years younger, their cottage is beautifully neat and most elegantly fitted up, all the wood work of the exterior and interior is curiously carved, some of it being of later date {ie, earlier!} than the reign of Charles 1st. They have been four years in forming it the different pieces having been given them by several friends…”

My! reading this entry after several years, it is actually quite thrilling to see her comments about the house! Yet, I guess, when I first obtained these precious pages, I was hoping for descriptions. And Mary’s fit right in with those I was sick of seeing:

Their dress is very singular  they wear their {hair} cut short and powdered, men’s hats, and a sort of riding habit.”

With those words you have turned the page just prior to “hats” and the next sentence, seven words later, has the family departing from Llangollen! (The Goslings were headed to Ireland.) Interlude of the Ladies, over…

It was only after several re-readings, and seeing the trip, from Roehampton through North Wales, to Ireland and back, in its entirety, that I began to wonder Who Were These People? What began this line of inquiry was this comment of Mary’s:

nothing could equal their civility and attention, they {Sarah and Eleanor} shewed us all their curiosities and grounds which are very pretty: having spent four very pleasant hours there, we took leave with great regret, as they are very clever and well informed women.”

Wow! Both ladies showed the Goslings around; showed them around not only the grounds, but also the house — how many times had Eleanor written of people being admitted to the ground floor rooms, while she and Sarah stayed above (not meeting the “visitors”)? And the Goslings had stayed four hours!

(Contrast this to Louis Simond – who was turned away; a reading of the Hamwood Papers gives indication of how strangers, as opposed to people the Ladies were happier to meet, were typically treated.)

The questions flooded in…

Who were these Goslings? How did they gain such admittance and personal treatment?

William Gosling was a London banker (Goslings & Sharpe, on Fleet Street). His first wife, Eliza, had been known to James Boswell — who mentions Lady Cunliffe and her two daughters in a letter to Joshua Reynolds, who seems to have offered some art instruction to the girls. Mrs Thrale/Mrs Piozzi knew the family as well, and mentions the deaths of the daughters (Eliza in December 1803 and Mary in February 1804) in her correspondence. There are further connections, but I won’t bore you.

So, really, it was the unusual “civility” the Goslings experienced at the hands of the Ladies of Llangollen, which prompted my further researches into the Gosling family. And five/six years later, you can read about it on my main blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

In the meantime, I’m trying to put online all the early materials I unearthed about the Ladies. Patience is indeed rewarded.

* * *

Peter Alexander has alerted me to the Plas Newydd Twitter and Facebook accounts. Enjoy!


A little work done…

An FYI for the Ladies of Llangollen:

A few links have been fixed (damn those sites that “update” how they store items!) on the Websites & More page. The “excerpts” — which were on the old website, haven’t yet arrived here yet. Patience!

Looking for Miss Jenks’ tour, I found this interesting site, Ken Spelman Manuscripts — all because we both misspelled her last name! — which mentions items they’ve sold. LOVE the images:

Ladies & Llangollen: Websites & Books


A new addition — for which I apologize if links aren’t yet working: Websites & More. I put this together after travelling to this lovely part of the world! Some great book finds, and some useful websites.


Hello world!

A server snafu “ate” my website on The Ladies of Llangollen. No great loss — it was on the public server of a college where I formerly worked, and I had made sure to extract all files before leaving. Still, hard not to see in my mind’s eye my pink background and “Blackadder” script….

There was a LOT of information, which, being off the grid, got very little traffic. So I thought now a good time to switch over, reproduce as much as I could, and “blog” as little as possible.

Ah, here is my “file” copy of the old homepage:

I had actually found TONS of information on them – from early sources, books, articles. There’s more upstairs, waiting to be read, typed and included.

Lots of hard work, but *fun* ahead too, I hope. It’s going to take a back seat, however, to my research into Emma Austen Leigh and Mary Lady Smith, aka “Two Teens in the Time of Austen“.

Stay tuned!

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