Friday, February 16, 2018

Nella Fontaine Binckley: "Odds and Ends from an Artist's Life," Chapter II, Part 2

(Fairfax) Episcopal Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1862. Attributed to Mathew Brady (Wiki Commons) 
Nella Fontaine Binckley, "Odds and Ends from an Artist's Life," Chapter II, part 1. From a transcription annotated by Patricia D'Arcy Binckley of typewritten original, February 25, 2005. Original "written some time after 1941 by Nellie F. Binckley, 1860-1950 or 51." Notes in brackets are mine, unless followed by the initials "P.D.B." Occasionally, additional paragraph breaks inserted for easier reading. 

Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy, Sally Young and Sue Davis for their ongoing research collaboration; specifically to William for providing a scan of the original document (and of the photograph of Harvey Mitchell/Harvey Michel), and in turn many thanks to Peter Binckley and Patricia D'Arcy "Trish" Binckley (1951-2007), at the source.]

We were Episcopalians, and my two godmothers were both girlhood friends of Mothers.' One was Miss Linsley. I've forgotten her first name. I never knew her, as she died very young, when I was a baby. She was a wealthy girl and in her will left me her jewels and laces. In those days all laces were real -- handmade. No gentlewoman would dream of wearing any other. When I was a little girl, machine made laces began to become popular. I remember Grandmother's contempt for them. They were fit only for cools and housemaids. Cotton lace! I never got my legacy. Miss Linsley's family made such a fuss about it that Mother never claimed it for me. 

My other godmother was Rose Stettinius. She became Mrs. Gray and went away. [So] I never knew her till many years later. She was the loveliest of women.

My godfather was a young clergyman, James Grammer, whom Mother had known when he was a divinity [student] at the Seminary at Alexandria. By the way, he was my fist suitor. I had reached the tender age of three months when he formally asked my hand in marriage from my father. I'm afraid it was a second hand kind of proposal however as he had wanted to marry Mother, and failing that, declared he would like to at least marry her daughter. Father gave his consent on two conditions: he must be a bishop and meanwhile marry a rich old widow, who would be expected to obligingly die by the time I was grown up. (He did neither.)

Grandfather died when I was about three [closer to five] years old. My recollection of him is that he used to give me the sugar in the bottom of his glass when he drank his daily mint julep, after the custom of the Virginian gentlemen of his day. By all accounts he was a delightful person. Mother used to say that he was just like F. Hopkinson Smith's Colonel Carter of Cartersville. He was a Harvard man, noted there for his extraordinary agility, especially in high jumping.
Harvey Mitchell, aka Harvey Michel.
Aunt Charlotte [his daughter by his first wife -- P.D.B.] had a beautiful miniature of him, painted in his youth. She also had a photograph taken in his old age, with a long gray beard, but still a very handsome man, tall, slender and stately. He had a keen sense of humor and loved to exaggerate. This shocked grandmother, who was inclined to be literal. She used to say, reproachfully, "Now, Harvey, you know it was not that big." And he would reply contritely, ["]But Jane, I always see things so big!"

Once, when Grandmother was [holding] over him the possibility of not going to heaven when he died, he (who was not at all irreligious, but had rather more than a spice of the usual American irreverence) was goaded into retorting, "It don't look very attractive, anyhow, sitting around on a damp cloud through all eternity, twanging a harp!"

He had a gift for inventing and spent some of his spare time at it. It was he who invented what is known as the Hooe printing press. Being the soul of honor himself, he could not imagine any of his friends being otherwise. Richard Hooe was his friend. He showed him the model and Hooe patented it in his own name -- and made a great deal of money thereby, I've always understood.

[Ellen/Nellie/Nella Fontaine Binckley (September 1, 1860-April 27, 1951). Family names and dates were whimsically tweaked by their owners during their lifetime, adding mystery and sometimes causing confusion. For Binckley's "Artist's Life," I'm opting for the full artist's signature name, Nella Fontaine Binckley. 

Harvey Mitchell/Michel (1799-1866).
Grandmother = Jane Johnston Mitchell/Michel (1811-1892).

Mother = Mary Louisa/Louise Mitchell/Michel Binckley (1838-1930).

John Milton Binckley (circa 1831-1878).
Grandma = Charlotte Stocker Binckley (1788-1877).

Rose Stettinius = See "Diary of Rose Stettinius Gray (Mrs. John B. Gray), written 1883-1888, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1908, 1914, 1916, 1918-1920," transcribed by Gale Burwell et al 1883-1920, 1993. St. Mary's College of Maryland Archives. Link to website here.

James Grammer = he served for some time as a minister in Buckingham County, Virginia.
F. Hopkinson Smith = Francis Hopkinson Smith (1838-1915).
Aunt Charlotte = Charlotte Elizabeth Griffin Mitchell/Michel (1829-1921).
Richard Marsh Hoe (1812-1886).]

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