LADY MACNAGHTEN OFF THE EDDYSTONE LIGHTHOUSE
WILLIAM JOHN HUGGINS (1781-1845)
The painting is signed with these details:
“Lady Macnaghten Capt Wm Faith off the Eddystone Lighthouse, 1828”
Painting in oil of the three masted 588 ton carvel built ship
“Lady Macnaghten” sailing under reduced sail. In the original gilt frame.
The Lady Macnaghten was named after Letitia (nee Dunkin), wife of Sir Francis Macnaghten, Chief of the Macnaghten Clan and a judge of the Supreme Courts of Madras and Calcutta, who was also an Ulster patron of science and discovery. The ship was built at Howrah, near Culcutta, in 1824 of Indian teak, she was 122 ft 7 in long.
NINETEENTH CENTURY SHIPPING NEWS:
FINDING POETRY IN THE DETAILS
AND OTHER FRAGMENTS
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what my next post on Harthouse on Main might be. If it is to be Family History, it needs to be written, and there’s no time for that right now in my teaching season. Then this morning a chance act gave me an inspiration for a new category: using a “Found Text,” and my first entry came my way in odd circumstances, as I shall relate.
Recently my wife Denise Hart bought on ebay an antique watercolor portrait of an aging lady. Its ebay listing reads this way: “Antique Signed Dated 1828 Early American Folk Art Watercolor.” The portrait has some skill in rendering an aging lady wearing a lace cap and a dark dress with lace collar; a red shawl drapes loosely around her shoulders. She is seated in an armchair, and she is holding spectacles in her right hand. Her face shows stern features, and she faces the artist with an air of no-nonsense determination. She is indeed a lovely piece of folk art, a stellar addition to my wife’s collection. But I think now the seller is wrong in identifying her as American. She is English, and the evidence is in the fragments of aging newspaper glued onto the wooden backing board when the piece was framed in a gilt and mahogany veneer frame sometime in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the details and the words from the newspaper column create their own poetry for anyone who loves the Romantic associations inherent in listings of nineteenth century shipping news.
Old Lady in Bonnet.
(Copied from ebay, the image is much smaller than expected.)
This is a small portrait. The paper on which it is painted measures about 6.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches high. The artist added some pencil shading highlights and shadows in the lower corners and accentuated the folds of the shawl’s drapery with pencil. No amount of magnification allows me to accurately render the artist’s name correctly: An initial or abbreviated first name and a last name. But the penciled date of 1828 is quite clear. So after I read the details in the time-darkened newspaper fragments, that is why I settled on an 1828 portrait of a ship to illustrate this item. But the date is truly arbitrary now, because the lady’s portrait was not framed in 1828 after all. It was framed sometime after 1846. When one layer of newsprint flaked away, here is what could clearly be read on a layer underneath it, in a small classified ad at the edge of the board: “LIVERPOOL LOAN COMPANY, LIMITED. 87 LORD STREET. L’pool. Established 1846.”
So now let the details of the Shipping News speak for themselves, beginning mid-column and mid-page in a fragment dating from sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century:
Vascoma, s, from the River Plate at St. Vincent, C.V.
Mentana, from Akyab for the Loire, passed Belle Isle.
Callao, Annie Fish, Sappho, and Vicksburg, hence; and Tribute—at Bombay Sept. 23.
Pommerania, s, from Hamburg; Victoria, s, from the Clyde; Consul Platen, from Falmouth; and Chiara, from Limerick—at New York. PER BONNY, S, FROM WEST COAST OF AFRICA.
H.M.S. Foam, at Jellah Coffee and Quitta Aug. 30.
H.M.S. Decoy, at Accra Aug. 31.
Volta, s, at CapePalmas Sept. 4.
Jane, schooner, at Old Calabar Aug. 22.
Editna, and Rosalind, at Fernando Po.
Alligator, Dromo, and H.M.S. Spiteful and Merlin at Cape Coast Castle Sept. 1.
Bankside, Valliout, and Hercules, s—at Bathurst Sept. 10.
C. W. Cohen, Bella Maria, Annie Anderson, and E. E. Fisher—at Madeira Sept. 16.
Susan Bayley, Emulous, Celia, Sersimi, Hans, Advance, Selfida, Hans, s, and Eco, s—at Lagos Aug. 29.
Lady of the Lake, Rescue, Tropic Bird, Sir Arthur Kennedy, s, and Sherbro’ at Sierra Leone Sept. 7.
Bertha, from Petchora at Leith, has been beached, having sprung a leak.
Minstrel King, from Tocopilla, has put in leaky. —(Valparaiso, via Pernanibuco, by cable.)
Leader, from Cardiff for Lisbon, at Falmouth, with sails split.
Lucie Marie, brigantine, went ashore on Love Bar, Porthleven, and will probably break up; crew saved.
Archibald, from Fowey at this port, was towed up the river leaky, having been aground in the Crosby Channel. [This port, Liverpool – Merseyside]
Bwella (? Bwllfa), grounded entering Maryport harbour on Wednesday, and would remain until next tide.
Brittany, s, from Havre for Cardiff, has been towed into Falmouth with main shaft broken, by the Greenwood, s.
Ann Morgan, from Dantzic for Gloucester, at Deal, reports having lost part of deckload off the coast of Jutland during bad weather.
Louise and Triton, Dutch ships, have been in collision at Sourabaya, and sustained some damage.—(By telegraph from Rotterdam.)
Buona-Madre and an Italian brig were in collision at Cardiff, and former sustained serious damage and must dock.
Helene, from La Guayra at Bordeaux, experienced a severe gale on the 16th and 17th… which strained her deck, and it is expec…cargo will be damaged. [Edge of column torn off here.]
Snily, s, from New Orleans and . . . .
The next complete item in the column to the right of these shipping news items picks up below a two-line rule placed after the ending of a fragmented meeting report in which a Dr. Gill gave a statement about alterations to existing water-closets: “We must wait and see what the new process is.”
Found Text: Recalling Inflammatory
Nineteenth Century Journalism
I believe the following item appears in this unnamed Liverpool newspaper [from the shipping news I could determine the point of origin is Liverpool], citing a report from the Record. According to my online searches today, the Record is probably a Church of England newspaper of the day founded in 1828. The inflammatory nature of this short item caught my attention and made me determine to do this “found text” post.
“A correspondent of the Record points out that Mr. R. Pearsall Smith, who has recently been holding religious meetings throughout the country, has circulated a hymn book containing hymns written by Dr. Faber, a notorious pervert and bigoted Papist.”
Robert Pearsall Smith. Carte de visite by an unknown English photographer.
National Portrait Gallery.
Imagine my surprise today to google the names Dr. Faber and R. Pearsall Smith together, and I am led to the very book itself, digitized by Google Books: Hymns Selected from Faber [Frederick William Faber] by R. Pearsall Smith. Published by W. Isbister & Co. 56, Ludgate Hill, London. 1874. Yes, in 1874. This only means that our watercolor portrait of the aging lady was apparently given her present framing nearly 50 years after she was painted. And the found shipping news turns out to be from the later nineteenth century of the British Empire, rather than my first assumption of being ca. 1828, or from mid-century, sometime post-1846. It’s a twisty path revealed by a few scraps of darkened newsprint pasted onto the backing of a Victorian picture frame.
The next complete item is another piece of shipping news, and these two paragraphs about Smith and the Tagus are placed together without separation of rule or space:
“The cargo of the steamship Tagus, which arrived at Passage, Cork, is composed of about 8,000 stand of firearms, which were shipped at New York, intended, it is understood, for the Russian Government. The steamer is bound to Taganrog. The police authorities have sent a party of police on board, no doubt to ensure the safety of the arms while the steamer remains in harbour.”
This item is followed by one more news item which eventually disappears unfinished at the crumbled edge of the page:
“PRESENTATION TO CAPTAIN LEONARD SPEAR—Captain Leonard Spear, who was the marine, superintendent and senior officer of the White Star Line, having recently retired from that position to enjoy a well-deserved ease after an active life, the captains and officers of the White Star fleet and the heads of the shore departments more immediately connected with the working of the vessels, determined to present him with a token of their estimation of the manner in which he had discharged the duties of his very responsible office. The gift assumed the form of a very handsome silver epergne, value about 100 guineas, specially manufactured by Messrs. Elkington and Co., and accompanied by an illuminated address. The presentation was made at a dinner which took place at the Alexandra Hotel, Dale-street, on Wednesday evening, Capt. Kennedy of the s. s. Baltic, occupying the chair, and Mr. Hornsburg, superintending manager of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (the owners of the White Star steamers), filling the office of croupier. Mr. Eberle, the host of the Alexandra, had done everything for which he is famous to render the entertainment a . . . one, and to maintain the luxurious tra . . . the White Star fleet, Captain . . . .”
White Star Line poster
from the 1890’s.
And so it ends at the torn edge of the page.
To the left of these pieces is half of a torn column relating a story from court with only the right-hand halves of the sentences, and to the right of the items is a list of persons’ names and dates (occurring in the last 10 days of September) from the left-hand edge of that column. There is not sufficient context from any sentence to determine their significance, but my guess is that it’s probably a list of deaths occurring recently at that point of publication.
So, having been drawn to the associative suggestions of the ships’ names and destinations and the inflammatory remark about Dr. Faber and his hymns, I determined to piece these scraps together to see what might come of them. I’m still convinced our aging lady is English, and how or when her portrait came to America to eventually wash up on the shores of ebay and find her way to our house today in snowy Missouri will have to remain a mystery without a solution.
And, reader, if you are still with me at this point of conclusion, I thank you for your patience and hail in you a kindred spirit drawn to the “poetry” in the details that surfaced from reading a few columns of newsprint scraps pasted to the wood back of a picture frame that have managed to survive in their darkened, time tarnished state since 1874, although I had hoped when I first started out that I held a piece of 1828 in my hands.
Carpe diem—whatever day or year it is!
March 24, 2013
Post script for 1828
William John Huggins.
British Sailing Ship, 1828.