Dorothy Gell of Hopton Hall

Dorothy Gell of Hopton Hall

Portrait of Dorothy Gell

More interesting discoveries from Chawton House Library! Copies of EthelindeCelestina and The Old Manor House contain various pieces of marginalia left by ‘Dorothy Gell’ or ‘D Gell.’ After some research, I believe that the Dorothy Gell to whom the books belonged could be the lady depicted above, Dorothy Gell of Hopton Hall. The Derbyshire Record Office holds a number of items relating to Dorothy Gell and the Gell family, including ‘Catalogues of books in the library at Hopton Hall and of books from Philip Gell’s library now at Mr Dakeynes, at Darley’ dating from the late 18th/early 19th centuries which would give us an idea of what the library looked like in her time.

More recently, however, there was a sale of the Hall’s contents in 1989 which listed printed books in some of the sales. In one Lot, I found Smith’s Ethelinde and The Wanderings of Warwick were sold together in a collection of works including Godwin’s Things As They Are and her translation of the Abbé Prevost’s Manon L’Escaut, among others. Another Lot lists CelestinaEmmeline, The Old Manor House and The Banished Man with Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife, Stephanie de Genlis’ Tales of the Castle, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther and others. A third lot contains Montalbert alongside Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote. The only novels that do not appear in the lots are Marchmont, Desmond, and The Young Philosopher. They may have been part of the library at some point but, without the catalogue from the Derbyshire record office, I do not know what the library held in Gell’s time. What we can infer from this 1989 sales catalogue, however, is that the copies at Chawton House of EthelindeCelestina and The Old Manor House did belong to the Dorothy Gell in the portrait.

There is, sadly, very little information available about her. Dorothy Gell, according to Amina Wright’s Joseph Wright of Derby, was part of ‘Wright’s set.’ He painted the above portrait of her. Amina Wright also notes that another of Joseph Wright’s sitters, Edward Becher Leacroft, dedicated a collection of poetry to Wright’s group, including Dorothy Gell. There is a little more available about her husband and her sons, who were military and political men, and Sir William Gell (her son) is noted as ‘the celebrated classical antiquary’ in the second edition of A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies John Burke and Bernard Burke (1841).

Despite the lack of information, however, it’s still a fantastic feeling to be able to put a name, details and even a face to the bits of marginalia I have been reading!


Errors and misbindings: The Case of Cadell and Davies

Errors and misbindings: The Case of Cadell and Davies


As mentioned in a previous post, I am privileged to be spending three weeks as a Visiting Fellow at Chawton House Library. While I am here, my aim is to study the use of paratext (footnotes, epigraphs, prefaces, notes, and any other bits of ‘outside information’) in Smith’s novels. This fixation on text outside of the narrative led to the post below on the publication of The Banished Man.

BL Banished Man Title Page
Title page of The Banished Man Vol I, ECCO digitised copy


Office Lens 20170410-111948
Title page of The Banished Man Vol I, Chawton House copy

In August 1794, Smith wrote to Thomas Cadell Jr complaining of errors in the copies she had received of her new novel, The Banished Man, noting that one copy had even been ‘bound wrongly.’¹ According to her letters, she had never had any issues of this kind before and it could have led to the atypical copy I found at Chawton House (pictured above). I found myself wondering why the errors and misbindings had occurred in the first place, so I looked into the history of the publishers, knowing that they had changed hands during the time Smith was writing and publishing. I wondered if, perhaps, the change from ‘T. Cadell’ to ‘T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies’ had had an impact on the publishing process.

My hunch was correct. In the summer of 1793, Thomas Cadell Sr retired, leaving the company to his son (Cadell Jr) and his manager (William Davies). According to Richard Sher, by the mid-1790s, around the time that Cadell and Davies became the new proprietors, the publishing firm had slipped down the ranks to become the second in London, overtaken by George Robinson. The business continued to deteriorate throughout the decade, and by 1802 (when Cadell Sr died) it was noted that it had ‘fallen into a state of comparative decreptitude.’ While Sher argues that this statement was, perhaps, overblown, a decade later the firm was nearly bankrupted by Davies’ liberal spending, and was bailed out by Andrew Strahan (Cadell Sr’s old partner) for £20,000.²

After the difficulties in the publication of The Banished Man, Smith looked elsewhere when she published her next two novels. By December 1794, she was already writing to Cadell and Davies about sending her next novel, Montalbert, to a new publisher (Sampson Low) in a pointed letter about the errors she had corrected in the first print run of The Banished Man.³ It was the last novel Smith published with Cadell and Davies until four years later in 1798 when she came to publish her final novel, The Young Philosopher.

¹  The Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith Judith Stanton ed. (2003)

² Richard B. Sher The Enlightenment and the Book (2006)

³ The Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith Judith Stanton ed. (2003)