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The Rev A H Austen-Leigh
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Kelly MacDonald of Vermont, USA, a Jane Austen Researcher, sent me some notes in May 2013 that she had transcribed from Emma Austen-Leigh's (nee Smith) 1836 Diary - the year Arthur Henry was born. So I'm delighted to be able to feature details of the early weeks of Arthur Henry's life. Even more interesting are the details of Emma's diaries (she started her first diary at age thirteen) so I'm publishing the notes Kelly sent me.

The Mystery of the Mutilated Diaries!

Kelly MacDonald's notes:
Picture of the daily journal close-up picture of the daily journal
 Emma was pretty consistent and I believe all the diaries I saw were written in a pre-printed series then on sale:
entries in the journal
I have page images of Mary's diaries (they were on microfilm) and the second is a two-image spread - so forgive the overlap but you see what a full set of pages looks like. Emma was very like Mary - most information written on the left page with some overflow on the right page; seldom (if ever) used for accounts.

I had Mamma Smith's 1798 diary in my possession for transcription a couple of years ago and this was also the same type journal. I have a picture of it which shows the size fairly well (but did I ever MEASURE it: probably not! It fits in the hand very well something like 4-inches across and 5-inches down is a guess. They are TINY when you think of them -- though rather like a published book (those 3-volume Austen novels!) of the period.

Picture of the diary cover

It's a rather nice size, but if you've a lot to say or are a sloppy writer, woe betide the reader!
They are leather, with the strap to close it that you see in the photo. A place for a slim pencil (?) in the 'spine' area; and "pockets" in both covers - think of a little accordion file, the pocket "opens" like that and there were items - now removed and catalogued separately - in these areas. Sometimes calling cards, a lock of hair, a letter, a newspaper report, etc. They are fun to look through - and must have been especially so when "intact" and you could retrieve the items placed there (though did they necessarily BELONG to that particular year, is another thing...).

The puzzling question about diaries of this time is that they have been mutilated.
In the case of Emma, EVERY time she has a child, pages are missing. Now did SHE cut them out (doubtful, frankly...). Was it a child or grandchild who - uber-Victorian - couldn't stomach some comment about how long in labour or whatever... I've seen diaries for Richard Seymour and seen passages crossed out that concerned his wife's labour (Fanny, she was Emma's younger sister). Nothing even remotely graphic -- and typically not crossed so terribly that you couldn't read it; earlier portions of his diaries however have had passages and page excised. Again: why? and by whom?). I suppose if the handwriting could be identified - someone wrote in who was born during the time of the missing pages - it would help solve the mystery.

But more than the 'who' I wonder the 'what happened to the pages?' - kept for a souvenir before "gifting" the diaries to Hampshire Records Office; or destroyed because of the light they shed on a woman having given birth?
I've not looked up EVERY child she had, but all the early ones I ran into were treated like this.

I'd love to know if ANYone ever says they know why pages were missing from Emma's diaries. I've some inkling of what must have been there (that's why I wonder: a souvenir doled out to each child? you never know) as Emma would write about Fanny's first confinement. Richard Seymour also has sections out of his diary (cut out), as well as parts crossed and other sections crossed-out. Those are fairly legible - and don't contain graphic details. So, truly, I just don't get it. But, without knowing the WHO how can one ever know the WHY?"