Glamorgan Pottery: Llangollen Plate

Author Norena Shopland – whose book Forbidden Lives: LGBT Histories from Wales is due out on 17 October 2017 (available for pre-order from Seren Books) – alerted me to an article she posted on a certain piece of Glamorgan pottery produced in the early 19th century.

The plate is in the collection of the Amgueddfa Cymru / National Museum Wales. Look closely and you see our two Ladies! click on the photo to read Norena’s article, “The Story of a Plate.”

Ladies Plate

Detail of blue plate showing an illustration of Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler © Norena Shopland

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Take a look: Brideoake’s new book

Google books has preview access for Fiona Brideoake‘s new book, The Ladies of Llangollen: Desire, Indeterminacy, and the Legacies of Criticism (Bucknell University Press / The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group; 2017). (Amazon Kindle: generous preview there too) [Kindle: $82.49; Hardcover: $110]

Brideoake_Ladies of Llangollen

To whet your appetite, here are the contents:

INTRODUCTION: Casting Butler and Ponsonby: Before “the Ladies of Llangollen”

1. “Sketched by Many Hands”: Narrating Butler and Ponsonby

2. Engendering the Ladies: Romantic Friendship, Gender Difference, and Queer Critical Practice.

 – “The Great Success Story”: Butler and Ponsonby and the Romantic Friendship Model

– Gender Trouble: Butler and Ponsonby and the Masculine/Feminine Dyad

– “Our Matchless Mary”: Mary Caryll’s Place at Plas Newydd

– Butler and Ponsonby and the New Queer History

3. Becoming the Ladies of Llangollen

– “Two Fugitive Ladies”: Ponsonby’s 1778 Travel Journal

4. “Keep Yourself in Your Own Persons, Where You Are”: Butler and Ponsonby’s Transformation of Plas Newydd

– On the Road with Butler and Ponsonby: “Liking One’s Own Sex in a Criminal Way”: Suspicions of Sapphism

– “The Saloon of the Minervas”: Butler and Ponsonby’s Private library

5. “The Spirit of Blue-Stockingism”: Were the Ladies of Llangollen “Blue”?

– A Bluestocking Genealogy

– The Ladies of Llangollen the Canonical Bluestockings

– Were Butler and Ponsonby Blue?

6. “Love, above the Reach of Time”: Butler and Ponsonby and the Performance of Romanticism

– The Romantics “Do” the Ladies

– Sir Walter Scott’s “Great Romance”

– The “Coy Scene” of Sapphic Sociability: Anna Seward’s “Llangollen Vale”

– Depth and Domesticity: William Wordsworth on Butler and Ponsonby

– “Doing the Ladies”: The Llangollen Ideals of Lord Byron and Anne Lister

7. “The Future Arrives Late” Butler and Ponsonby and Their “Spiritual Descendants,” 1928-1937

– “Deeds, Not Words”: The Fight for Women’s Suffrage

– Butler and Ponsonby and the Future That Is “to Be”

– Pursuing Butler and Ponsonby: Gordon’s Chase of the Wild Goose

– “The Future Arrives Late”: Ghosting the Ladies of Llangollen

There is also a bibliography and index, bringing the book up to 368 pages. Among the editorial reviews, included at Amazon:

  • Fiona Brideoake’s is by far the best account of the Ladies to have appeared in some time. It is generous with earlier accounts, deeply learned and engaged with all scholars of lesbianism and the history of sexuality. It also contextualizes the Ladies brilliantly and makes great sense of their choice of a house and how they decorated. I cannot imagine a more informed or more exhilarating account of the Ladies of Langollen. This will be a book that is treasured by students and scholars as well as anyone interested in the history of ‘romantic friendship’ between women. (George E. Haggerty, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Riverside)

The Ladies of Llangollen have not been the subject of a major study or biography since Elizabeth Mavor‘s publications from the 1970s and 1980s, nearly fifty years ago. I am excited to see Fiona Brideoake’s book is finally hitting the bookshops!

 

French Travellers @ Plas Newydd

French travellers visit the Ladies of Llangollen
at Plas Newydd
by HEATHER WILLIAMS

The Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), were famous for their Francophilia, among other things, and they were known to welcome French visitors to their home at Plas Newydd.

Louis Simond Poor Louis Simond, a Frenchman who had lived in America for twenty years before making his tour of Britain with his English wife, discovered this fact rather too late, as he recounts in his travelogue, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, during the Years 1810 to 1811, by a French Traveller (Edinburgh, 1815), which he quickly translated into French as Voyage d’un Français en Angleterre pendant les années 1810 et 1811 (Paris, 1816).

On arrival in Llangollen they sent a note requesting permission to visit Plas Newydd, making the mistake of announcing themselves as American travellers. But the ladies were cruel: ‘Les belles dames se sont montrées cruelles’ and they refused. Later on back at the inn Simond’s landlady remarked that they would probably have been let in if only the ladies had known that they spoke French:

‘La maîtresse à l’auberge, qui probablement nous avait entendu parler français, a remarqué que ces dames aimaient la langue française, et que si elles eussent su que nous la parlions, nous aurions été admis. L’avis était venu trop tard.’ (pp. 320-321)

Basile-Joseph Ducos (1767-1836) had more luck when he visited in 1826, and describes his guided tour of their property in his travelogue Itinéraire et souvenirs d’Angleterre et d’Écosse 1814-1826, vol 4 (1834):

‘Nous avions fait demander la permission de visiter leur domaine où elles accueillent volontiers les Français. Une pente douce y conduit. Nous y sommes arrivés par un chemin ombragé, sinueux, charmant. La maison n’est qu’une chaumière ornée. Des sculptures gothiques tant soit peu prétensieuses, surchargent la porte et les fenêters qui sont cintrées en ogive. La bibliothèque est éclairée par des vitraux coloriés. Une rotonde sert de laiterie. L’ordre, l’arrangement, les soins les plus minutieux se montrent partout, dans ce modeste ménage dont lady Élénora nous a fait gracieusement les honneurs. Il nous restait à voir les jardins. Leur étendue est médiocre, mais il y a tant d’art dans le dessin des sentiers qui les parcourent, que nulle part on n’en aperçoit les limites. Un point de vue est-il ingrat? Des massifs le dérobent. Aux endroits d’où l’on domine la rivière, les ravins, hérissés de rochers menaçans, les aspects romantiques de la contrée, des percées s’ouvrent et permettent de porter au loin les regards. Quelquefois on rencontre un berceau de feuillage et de fleurs. Là se trouve un banc confident muet des plus tendres épanchemens. Peut-être attend-il les deux causeuses. Craignons de nous rendre importuns, malgré les aimables propos de notre vieille cicérone. Aussi bien sommes-nous loin de la couchée que nous nous sommes prescrite.’, pp. 190-191.

[We had asked permission to visit their property where they are keen to welcome the French. A slight slope leads to it. We arrived there by way of a shaded, winding, charming route. The house is just a decorated cottage. Some slightly pretentious Gothic sculptures weigh down the door and windows with their pointed arches. The library is lit by stained-glass windows. A rotunda serves as dairy. Order, tidiness and attention to detail are to be seen everywhere in this modest household that Lady Eleanor graciously showed us around. The next thing was for us to see the gardens. Though their surface area is not great, there is such art in the design of the paths that run through them that there is no position from which their limits can be seen. Any view that is found unattractive is screened by banks of planting. From the parts that overlook the river, the ravines, studded with threatening rocks, the romantic aspects of the land, vistas open up and guide the gaze into the distance. Here and there are bowers of foliage and flowers, a bench, discreet confidant of the most tender of effusions. Perhaps it awaits the two lady conversers. We’re afraid of getting in the way, despite the kind words of our aged guide. Also we’re a long way from the accommodation that we had arranged.]

Plas Newydd grounds with figures

One French visitor who would surely have received a warm welcome was Louis Antoine Philippe d’Orléans, duc de Montpensier (1775-1807), the son of Louis Philippe (known as Philippe Égalité) and younger brother of Louis Philippe who became King in 1830. Montpensier was living in exile in Twickenham on account of what the Ladies referred to in their letters and diaries as ‘the horrors in France’, and came to Wales in summer 1806 in order to sketch the landscape and to console himself that his family had forbidden him to travel to Scotland to visit Elizabeth Forbes, with whom he was in love. He chronicled his travels in Wales in a series of letters addressed to Elizabeth’s mother, but intended for her: Correspondence to Mrs Forbes, Seaton House, Aberdeen MS 2358 University of Aberdeen. Wearied by so many society functions in Twickenham and London, he writes on the 20th September that he had intended to make just one visit in Wales, but abandons even that plan in order to avoid the risk of further engagements:

‘The only [visit] I had an idea and intention to pay was to the female hermits of Langollen, but having heard of some races taking place under the management of Sir W.W. Wynne, just in their neighbourhood, and at the very time I meant to call upon them, I gave up even that, knowing that it would have been very difficult for me in that case to disentangle myself from Sir Watkin’s kind invitation.’

Their most famous French visitor was novelist and educationalist Madame de Genlis (1746-1830), who was also in exile because of the Revolution. She describes her visit in her Mémoires inédits de Madame la Comtesse de Genlis, published over a quarter of a century later in 1825 (with an English translation – Memoirs of the Countess of Genlis – appearing in the same year), complimenting the Plas Newydd library: ‘très-belle’( p. 349), and the ladies’ French: ‘elles parloient français avec autant de facilité que de pureté’ (p. 348).

Madame de Genlis

If you know of other French visits or near misses, I’d love to hear from you! [Heather can be contacted via her own website, or email her at:
h [dot] williams [at] cymru [dot] ac [dot] uk]

Heather’s research was undertaken as part of an AHRC-funded project http://etw.bangor.ac.uk.

Happy 2016!

It is New Year’s Day, 2016. Best wishes to all Ladies of Llangollen readers!

Looking for something totally different, I came across Michael Freeman’s site about Wales & Welsh Travellers. It’s a Wordpress blog (called sublimewales)!

early tourists_wales

I was especially happy to find the page entitled Women Tourists, which made me look up the book Fragments in Prose & Verse by Miss Elizabeth Smith [no relation to the Smiths of Suttons; at least I doubt it…]

elizabeth smith

Miss Smith, at the very least, documented a visit with the Ladies of Llangollen in 1796 (she was in the Llangollen neighborhood in 1798, but they did not stop there). I’ve quickly put in the two quotes on the PLAS NEWYDD TIMELINE(s) for those years.

One early volume (1809), in inimitable books.google fashion, had pages missing; but of an 1811 volume – in TWO volumes, I find copies of volume I (different version; 1824 edition) and will link the 1809 Memoir of Klopstock (vol. II), which I hope is intact. Henrietta Maria Bowdler is the editor. She gives a TANTALIZING picture of “letters that used to be” when writing that Miss Smith had written a letter about her visit to the Ladies (in 1796) which was destroyed. A great loss, indeed!

For readers interested in “historical” travel to Wales, your New Year’s Resolution MUST include some of the books and/or manuscripts noted on Michael’s website.

 

Brideoake discusses Ladies of Llangollen

her campus_brideoake

“Her Campus” an online newsletter of American University, where Fiona Brideoake is a professor of literature, features an interview about her work on the Ladies of Llangollen. She expects her book, “The Ladies of Llangollen: Desire, Interdetermacy, and the Legacies of Criticism“, to hit shelves in the spring of 2016.

butler-and-ponsonbyreview of her 2011 NYU talk

Where GHOSTS Walk

On the heels of a visit in the footsteps of the Ladies of Llangollen, and in honor of TODAY being HALLOWEEN, I invite readers to take ten minutes and read the chapter entitled

Where Ghosts Walk

which is part of Marion Hartand’s series “The Haunts of Familiar Characters in History and Literature“. The chapter included on this site, of course, is her take on Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler and Mary Carryl.

image008

Harland’s piece is one of many culled from various books. Click on any of the list (at right, or also above), but also check out the whole BIBLIOGRAPHY. This includes not only biographical items, but also has a section on TRAVEL. Enjoy!

Happy Day for Women’s History

Through the ‘about’ page I received a WONDERFUL email from Lisa Unger Baskin, regarding her collection — including a sizable amount of Ladies of Llangollen-related material! — going to Duke University’s David M. Rubinstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The news (press release) can be read online at Duke Today (April 2015).

woolf desk

As one who uses primary materials, I find it exceptionally heartwarming to read a private collector’s feelings about “being delighted” over the prospect of “students, scholars, and the community” being enriched by access to these treasures.

I am hoping that Lisa herself will tell us about the *treasures* specific to the Ladies of Llangollen – in the meantime, you can read the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection overview here; and a short “teaser” about items relating to the Ladies. (You can explore the collection further by following the links on the right side, for instance – read about May Morris or Maria Sibylla Merian by clicking on the “artists” link.)

Women’s history, in general, is under Duke University’s Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture.  “The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture in Duke’s Rubenstein Library acquires, preserves and makes available to a large population of researchers published and unpublished materials that reflect the public and private lives of women, past and present.”

NB: The Rubinstein Library is currently closed, 1 July through 23 August (2015). They open (August 24) in a newly-renovated space!

Further reasons for visiting Duke, since the Rubinstein also houses the travel diary of my Mary Gosling (one of Two Teens in the Time of Austen).

Thank you, Lisa Unger Baskin, for “sharing” your invaluable collection!

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