William and Frances Smith, of Parndon

 

Smith’s wife, Frances Coape Smith (1758-1840), kept diaries; a few have come down to us and are published in the wonderful biography Progress by Persuasion: the Life of William Smith, 1756-1835. It is during the Smiths’ travels that we catch glimpses of Eleanor & Sarah:

1784, September:

“Mon Set off to visit Llangollen at half past 8 – …

The vale of Llangollen  dined at Inn called the Hand patronised by Miss Butler and Miss Ponsonby  visited their cottage…”

1792, late August:

“When the weather permitted we made a visit to the cottage of Lady Elinor [sic] Butler and Miss Ponsonby.”

As time went on, their daughters, too, began to travel with them and keep diaries. This next, a travel log, was kept by Fanny Smith (1788-1880), who was the mother of Florence Nightingale.

1800, July:

“Thurs. [sic: Tuesday] 29 we then proceeded on to the Vale of Llangollen  after dinner went to Lady Eleanor Butlers cottage  We drank tea here. Both Ly Eleanor and her friend Miss Ponsonby are very agreeable women

Wed 30  before breakfast walked up Catell dinas y bran. We then went to the cottage again {ie, Plas Newydd} for Patty to take the view…”

Patty was the Smith’s eldest daughter Martha. (1782-1870); I take the phrase “to take the view” to mean that Patty sketched it. I have looked in vain through the Hamwood Papers for these dates. Thank goodness for work done by Jenny Handley and Hazel Lake in rescuing these diaries (private property of the Cure family) from oblivion.

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  1. Trackback: Further Thoughts on Four Sisters | Two Teens in the Time of Austen

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