Friday, April 26, 2013

Miss Smith

How many Misses Smith have there been in this world? It is a common name, but this Miss Smith created a thing of great beauty--a book of botanical art.
From The Literary Gazette November 1817
We know almost nothing about Miss Smith. The very ordinariness of her name precludes us from tracing her. There was a Miss J. Smith who did botanical work in the 1790's--she might or might not be the same woman. Miss Smith's home, Adwick Hall, had been the residence of the Washington family in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was demolished in the early 19th century, presumably not too long after Miss Smith published her book.
We do know that Miss Smith had artistic talent. And in 1817, she decided to publish a book of flower studies. But it was not just a pretty book, it was also a useful book. It contained not only the finished plates of Miss Smith's flower illustrations, but outline plates as well, which the purchaser could colour. Smith included directions on preparing colours, and their best use, as well as general drawing instruction. It was, essentially, a teaching manual. The illustration of fuschia below shows an outline partly coloured.
From University of Wisconsin Special Collections
The flowers Miss Smith illustrated were, she states, from the 'botanic garden of Mr. W. Crowder of Doncaster'. (In 1834, Henry and Michael Crowder of Thorn road, Doncaster were listed in the Pigot's Directory as nursery and seedsmen.) Mr. Crowder was growing some very fine specimens, as evidenced by Miss Smith's art.
Smith's Peony Rosa Arborea
Miss Smith self-published her book. This was a common practice at the time. Publishers were few, and the monetary returns from publication by them were small. Many authors published a prospectus and collected subscriptions to pay for their own publication. It appears that about 100 people subscribed to Miss Smith's book. Mr. Ackermann (of Repository of Arts fame) ordered ten copies! A complete copy of Studies of Flowers from Nature could be had for five guineas. But it could also be purchased in parts, as the Literary Gazette above states--in 'ten monthly numbers'. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for May 1818 lists publication of the first part at a price of 10s.6d.
Smith's Rosa Mundi
Miss Smith's Studies of Flowers from Nature was dedicated to 'her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth', a sister of the Prince Regent. The princess was an amateur artist who assiduously applied herself to her craft. Royal sponsorship of such a publication was not uncommon.
Smith's Heart-leaved Geranium
Miss Smith's Studies was only one of a genre of floral copybooks which was fashionable and popular in the early 19th century. Very few of them have survived; they may have been discarded after their owners completed their own colouring. A copy of Studies sold at Christie's some ten years ago for over $2000.

Spring is very late coming here to western Canada. Miss Smith's beautiful drawings have brightened some very cold days for me. My own garden is still under snow, but Miss Smith has given me hope!

'Til next time,


Information on Miss Smith's Studies of Flowers from Nature can be found at
and the pictures above, unless otherwise noted, are from

Friday, April 19, 2013

Everything you need to know about English titles

No, I'm not going to try to give you all the details about English rank and aristocracy, about precedence, and honours, and dignities. Four years ago, I did a post listing some resources for information on titles. But now I have found two books from 1809 and 1828 which will tell you everything you do need to know, from the horse's mouth, as it were.
Crowns and Coronets of England from The Manual of Rank and Nobility
The 1828 book containing the above illustration is:
Hopefully its information is accurate and can be used without concern, for it does cover everything. The book has no illustrations other than the one at the top of the page, but it does have such arcane details as
The book contains lists of all the current (1828) title holders in Great Britain, and the origins and legalities of terms such as duke, earl, baronet, etc. etc. It also includes articles such as "Privileges of the Queen", "Maxim that the King never dies" and "Embalming Royal Bodies"!

The other book is from 1809 and is declared to be a children's book:
It contains twenty-four charming illustrations, and two excellent tables of precedence--one for men and one for women--at the book's end.

There is no table of contents or index which makes use a little challenging, but the information offered is fascinating. I find children's books such as this as a worth-while starting point for facts, particularly as the material is laid out so clearly. For the beginner, this book, followed by the Manual of Rank and Nobility, should supply every need.
 As well as peers, it also covers the army and navy, the church and various posts of officialdom, with their duties, and often details of costume.
Even court dresses receive a mention:

It is, of course, always best when undertaking research to look for primary source materials. I regard these two books as primary source, and I hope you find them as interesting as I have. They are both available for download from Google Books.

'Til next time,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wroxton Theatricals 1816

Country house theatricals were an integral part of the entertainments undertaken for visitors to the great houses of Britain in the 19th century. Particularly a winter and/or Christmas activity, some houses were particularly known for their theatricals.

Such a house was Wroxton Abbey. Built in the 17th century on the remains of a 13th century priory, it was long the homes of the Lords North--later Earls of Guilford.
Wroxton Abbey in 1830 from
In the April 1816 issue of The European Magazine and London Review mention was made of the 'Wroxton Theatricals', as follows:

The Theatrical Entertainments at Wroxton Abbey, the Seat of the Earl of Guilford, having been very highly applauded, we have obtained one of the Play-bills, which we insert for the gratification of our readers.
The "Heir at Law," which was the play selected for the amusement of the social party in the house, and of a numerous and fashionable audience composed of the nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood, was performed in all its parts with uncommon force and effect. A Prologue written expressly for the occasion, by Mr. Colman, the author of the play, was admirably delivered by the Hon. Heneage Legge. The noble Earl himself, and his sister Lady Charlotte Lindsay, performed the characters of Lord and Lady Duberly with their accustomed excellence, and in the true spirit of comedy; Mr. John Dawkins, of established fame as a first rate Amateur Performer, was inimitable in the Pedant Tutor Doctor Pangloss; and Mr. Joseph Madocks and Miss Spencer, as Zekiel and Cicely Homespun sustained those interesting characters with genuine simplicity and warmth of feeling.
The after piece, judiciously pruned and cut down from one of Steele's plays, was also performed in a style rivalling the performance of the play.
Francis North, the 4th Earl of Guilford (born in 1761), died the year after these theatricals took place. He had been an officer in the British Army, but was also a playwright, his play "The Kentish Baron" having been successfully produced at the Haymarket Theatre. His sister, Lady Charlotte Lindsay (nee North) was in her mid-forties in 1816 and had been a Lady of the Bedchamber to Caroline, Princess of Wales. Heneage Legge was a son of the Earl of Dartmoor and was considerably younger than his hosts at twenty-eight. He was later a member of Parliament.

The Kembles mentioned--Mr. Kemble was present, although only Mrs. Kemble is listed on the play-bill--were probably Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kemble of the famous acting family. The rest of the cast has passed into obscurity but for Captain Raigersfeld who acted the part of John in "The Heir at Law". It would appear he is the same Captain Baron de Raigersfeld whose portrait hangs in the National Maritime Museum of Britain.
It must all have been great fun. I am writing a new book titled "The Possibility of Scandal", based in the provincial theatres of the Regency. So all things theatrical are of interest to me right now. The country house tradition of theatrical performance was one that lasted down to the early years of the 20th century. Those plays and performances must have given many a budding amateur thespian the thrill of a lifetime.

'Til next time,


Friday, April 5, 2013

An Almanac of the Exhibitions and Amusements of London:

Today, we are returning to The Picture of London for 1809; (being a Correct Guide to all the Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibits, Public Establishments, and Remarkable Objects, in and near London; with a Collection of Appropriate Tables; Two Large Maps, and several other engravings.)

On February 22 of this year, we looked at The Picture for January and February. Now we'll see what March held, and what delights April will bring.

March seemed to be the month for anniversary dinners:
1   Saint David's-day, Anniversary of the Welch Charity, which after service at St. Andrew's church, Holborn, dines at the Crown and Anchor.

1   Anniversary of the Westmoreland Society

4   Ditto of the Marine Society, at the London Tavern.

17 Ditto of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick at the Crown and Anchor.

30 Ditto of the Asylum, for Female Orphans, at the Freemason's Tavern.
Three notes accompanied the March listings:
 Maunday Thursday. His Majesty's bounty is distributed to the poor at Whitehall-chapel, by His Majesty's Almoner.
 Towards the end of this month, and during most of the spring and summer, are to be seen reviews, and other military spectacles, in Hyde Park, generally two or three mornings in the week. Notice of these may be had at the offices of the Commander-in-Chief, or of the Adjutant-general, at the Horse-guards, Whitehall.
Every morning a pleasing spectacle is displayed on the Parade, behind the Horse-guards, about ten o'clock, where the stranger will likewise be entertained with a charming concert of martial music.
 from Walks Through London 1817
April shows the beginnings of the social season, and hints of the spring and summer activities to come. There are still anniversary dinners:
1   Anniversary Dinner of the Literary Fund for the relief of authors in distress, at the Freemasons Tavern.
7   Ditto of the Freemason's Charity, for educating Female Children, at the Crown and Anchor.
5   Ditto of the Society for the Refuge of the Destitute.
10 Ditto of the Institution at Bermondsey, for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, where they are taught to speak and read articulately, write, etc., held at the London tavern.
27 Anniversary of the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, City of London Tavern.
Easter, with its variable dates, brings a variety of events.

Easter Monday and Tuesday, are days of great frolic and revelry, in Greenwich-park, and there are scenes deserving of notice.

On Easter Monday and Tuesday, the Lord-mayor, Aldermen, etc. go in state to Christ-church, and attend divine service; after which on Monday, a grand dinner is given at the Mansion-house, and a splendid and numerously attended ball in the evening Tickets to be had of the Lord-mayor.
"Easter Term begins the third Wednesday after Easter Sunday, and lasts twenty-six days." and again there is celebration:

In the first Sunday of Easter Term, the Lord-mayor, Sheriffs, and Judges, go in state to St. Paul's Church, and afterwards partake of a grand dinner.
But the arts are stirring:
Easter Monday, the following Summer Theatres open: Sadler's Wells, Ampitheatre of Arts (Astley's), The Royal Circus.
From the 18th of April:
Exhibition of the Painters in Water Colours, Old Bond-street.
Ditto of the Associated Artists in Water Colours, No. 20, Lower Brook-street.
And finally, the great display of the Beau Monde is underway:
In this month, and during the summer, every day, but particularly on Sunday, from two o'clock till five, Hyde Park is a great resort of persons on foot, on horse-back, and in carriages. Kensington-gardens form also, during the same time, a great fashionable promenade, unequalled in any part of the world.
Kensington Garden Promenade Dresses June 1806

Happy Spring!
'Til next time,