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To my shame I failed to review some very interesting books which were published last year, and so, before we begin our Pride and Prejudice adventure, do allow me to make amends.
The first book I wish to recommend to you this week is a biography of Uvedale Price by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell, published by The Boydell Press, as part of their garden and landscape history series. This is a series which is overseen by the doyen of British landscape history, Professor Tom Williamson of the University of East Anglia, whose books I admire very much, so we can be assured that the books in this series are going to be interesting and worthwhile
Attentive readers of Jane Austen’s works will note that she appears to have been very interested in the debate that raged in polite society during the 1790s regarding the “picturesque” as a result of a pamphlet war between Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight and Humphrey Repton. Conversations on this topic were often included in her works, illuminating aspects of her characters’ attitudes not only to landscape and beauty but to life in general. In Northanger Abbey , written between 1798-9, Henry and Eleanor Tilney speak the painterly language of the picturesque and of the adherents of William Gilpin while accompanying the wonderingly practical Catherine Morland on a walk around Beechen Cliff near Bath. Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood disagree as to the usefulness of a straight, well-grown tree as opposed to an old twisted tree looming on the landscape. And in Mansfield Park the relentless improvers are certainly not to be admired. Mr Rushworth ( who intends to employ Humphrey Repton like his friend, Mr Smith) is opposed in his schemes for Sotherton by the almost silent horror of Fanny Price:
“Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? ‘Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.’”
Edmund Bertram is resolutely practical in the face of Henry Crawford’s relentless plans for the improvement of his rectory at Thornton Lacy:
“And I have two or three ideas also,” said Edmund, “and one of them is, that very little of your plan for Thornton Lacey will ever be put in practice. I must be satisfied with rather less ornament and beauty. I think the house and premises may be made comfortable, and given the air of a gentleman’s residence, without any very heavy expense, and that must suffice me; and, I hope, may suffice all who care about me.
To understand the background to Jane Austen’s feelings and to those of her characters, it is not only necessary therefore to read the works of William Gilpin, and to understand why she was enamoured (ahem!)of him, but also to understand the debate that raged between Uvedale Price and Humphrey Repton in the 1790s. This book will amply reward any reading, especially if it is done with Mansfield Park in mind. It is the first biography of Uvedale Price to appear in print, and is fascinating.
Uvedale Price was born at Foxley, in the parish of Yazor, Herefordshire, where he was baptized on 14 April 1747. He was the eldest son of Robert Price, a gentleman artist, and his wife, Sarah. His work on his estate formed his ideas on landscape . He absolutely detested the work of Capability Brown, (and his imitators) whom he considered had inflicted a dire and unfortunate uniformity on the 250 plus estates he had “improved” by utilising the same landscaping elements -smooth lawns around the house, sweeping away ancient gardens; installing serpentine lakes; decorating this new landscape with similar types of clumps of trees- wherever the estates were throughout the country.
Price was convinced that an estate could be considered beautiful in all its parts, not merely the pleasure grounds around the main house, but also that the working parts- the farms, the woodlands etc. – could not only be domesticated, populous and productive parts of the landscape, but could also be attractive and beautiful. A notion Jane Austen appears to allow her character, Emma to espouse. See this scene from Chapter 42, when Emma surveys the beautiful but practical landscape of the Donwell estate in all its glory:
It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered, dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly followed one another to the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds. It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over a low stone wall with high pillars, which seemed intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to the house, which never had been there. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view which closed it extremely pretty. The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.
It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive
This book is fascinating, explaining in great detail the nature of these esoteric arguments which were taken up by polite circles in the latter part of the 18th and early part of the 19th century. Reading it sets in context Jane Austen’s attitude to landscape and estates and furthermore explains her attitudes towards certain of her characters and why, to her, improvers and Humphrey Repton are never quite “the thing”. And again proves that, despite being the relatively impoverished daughter of a clergyman, living an apparently quiet, domestic life, she routinely involved herself and her characters in the famous debates of the day, allowing them and herself to take part and immortalise them. Reading this book is an illuminating experience for any admirer of Jane Austen.
These books went on sale at auction today at Sotheby’s in London. The pre-sale estimate for Lot 86 was between £150,000-200,000. Bidding stopped at £142,000. It was ,therefore, unsold.
I have written about the intriguing history of this set of books before, here. This first edition set was sent to Jane Austen’s friend, Anne Sharp, directly from her publisher, John Murray, specifically at Jane Austen’s request.
The next lot, Lot 87, a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion once owned by Fulwar Craven Fowle, was also unsold.The biding on this item stopped at £3800.
I thought I would post a short update to let you know how some Austen-related lots fared at auction recently.
The uniformly bound set of five Jane Austen first editions plus the second edition of Sense and Sensibility which I wrote about, here was sold by Christies at their sale on the 21st November for £39,650. The sale estimate was between £30,000 and £50,000.
The first edition of Emma which was due to be sold by Bonhams on the 13th November,and which I wrote about here does not appear to have sold. Will this have any bearing on the forthcoming sale of Anne Sharp’s presentation copy of Emma at Sotheby’s? It remains to be seen…The Ackermanns all sold, as did the collection of mementos presented to Anne Percy, the Royal wet nurse, by the family of George III. This lot sold for £6000 including the buyer’s premium.
And finally, though it has little to do with the topic of this post, may I take this opportunity to wish all my US readers a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!
The Christmas Market is attracting some very interesting auction lots…ones that we ought to be interested in, certainly. As we have seen, there are some wonderful Jane Austen offerings to be had this year, but the one that I really covet is Anne Sharp’s first edition set of “Emma”, published by John Murray, which was presented to her by her friend, the authoress, Jane Austen. This set first came to my attention in 2008, when Christiaan Jonkers of Jonkers Rare Books bought the set for £180,000. *gulp* Then two years later, the BBC reported that it had sold for £325,000.*double gulp*
Now Sothebys are offering the same set for sale in their auction of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations to be held in London on the 12th December 2012.
Here is the condition report of Lot 86 from the online catalogue:
12mo, three volumes, first edition, presentation copy inscribed “From the author”in a clerk’s hand within volume one together with ownership signature of Anne Sharp in each volume, half-titles, contemporary half-calf with marbled boards, marbled endpapers, collector’s red morocco box, some light spotting, corners occasionally creased, bindings worn at extremities, some minor loss to calf, some splitting and loss to joints, slight loss to ends of spines, leaves trimmed.
The Catalogue notes record its history..up to a point…
One of twelve presentation copies recorded in the publisher’s archives and presented to Jane Austen’s “excellent kind friend”: the only presentation copy given to a personal friend of the author.
In a letter to the publisher John Murray dated 11 December 1815, Austen noted that she would “subjoin a list of those persons, to whom I must trouble you to forward a Set each, when the Work is out; – all unbound, with From the Authoress, in the first page”. Most of these copies were for members of Austen’s family. David Gilson in his bibliography of Austen lists these presentation copies, based on information in John Murray’s records, as follows:
two to Hans Place, London (presumably for Jane Austen and Henry Austen)
Countess of Morley
Rev. J.S. Clarke (the Prince Regent’s librarian)
J. Leigh Perrot (the author’s uncle)
two for Mrs Austen
Captain Austen (presumed to be Charles Austen)
Rev. J. Austen
H.F. Austen (presumed to be Francis)
Miss Knight (the author’s favourite niece Fanny Knight)
Miss Sharpe [sic]
Anne Sharp (1776-1853) was Fanny-Catherine Knight’s governess at Godmersham in Kent from 1804 to 1806. She resigned due to ill-health and then held a number of subsequent positions as governess and lady’s companion. Deirdre Le Faye notes that by 1823 she was running her own boarding-school for girls in Liverpool (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 572). She retired in 1841 and died in 1853.
In 1809 Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra Austen that “Miss Sharpe… is born, poor thing! to struggle with Evil…” Four years later Jane wrote to Cassandra that “…I have more of such sweet flattery from Miss Sharp! – She is an excellent kind friend” (which may refer to Anne Sharp’s opinion of Pride and Prejudice). It is known that Anne Sharp thought Mansfield Park ”excellent” but she preferred Pride and Prejudice and rated Emma ”between the two” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 573).
There is one known extant letter from Jane Austen to Anne Sharp, dated 22 May 1817. She is addressed as “my dearest Anne”. After Jane Austen’s death, Cassandra Austen wrote to Anne Sharp on 28 July 1817 sending a “lock of hair you wish for, and I add a pair of clasps which she sometimes wore and a small bodkin which she had had in constant use for more than twenty years”.
“In Miss Sharp she found a truly compatible spirit… Jane took to her at once, and formed a lasting relationship with her… [she occupied] a unique position as the necessary, intelligent friend” (Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen A Life, 2000).
Anne Sharp is known to have visited Chawton on at least two occasions: in June 1815 and in August-September 1820. Deirdre Le Faye notes that James-Edward Austen-Leigh described her as “horridly affected but rather amusing” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p.573)
However, what is interesting to me is the current auction estimate ….which is £150,000-£200,000…and which even I with my rudimentary grasp of maths can deduce means that someone may be anticipating they might be taking a hit on this set. Or not….it all remains to be seen. I will be watching this one….and reporting back, you can be assured.
Also for sale in the same sale is Lot 87, a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, published by John Murray. This also has another interesting connection to Jane Austen. The set is inscribed F C Fowle, and would appear to have been owned by Fulwar-Craven Fowle, the brother of Tom Fowle, who was engaged to Cassandra Austen but he sadly died in the West Indies before they could marry.
The catalogue notes:
It appears that this set was the property of the Revd Fulwar-Craven Fowle (1764-1840). He was a pupil of Rev. George Austen at Steventon between 1778 and 1781. He is occasionally mentioned in Austen’s letters; it appears he participated in a game of vingt-un in 1801 and sent a brace of pheasants in 1815. Fulwar-Craven Fowle’s brother, Thomas (1765-1797) had been engaged to Cassandra Austen in 1792.
Deirdre Le Faye notes that he had “an impatient and rather irascible nature” and “did not bother to read anything of Emma except the first and last chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, 1995, p. 525).
This has a sale estimate of £4000-6000, which is more affordable than Lot 86(well, everything is relative!) but I know which set I would prefer to own. I’ll report back.
I thought you all would appreciate advance notice of the Foundling Hospital’s next major exhibition. It is to be entitled, Fate, Hope and Charity, and will tell, for the first time the stores behind some of the Museum’s most famous tokens. These tokens were left behind by foundling children’s parents as identifiers.You may recall that the Threads of Feeling exhibition curated by Professor John Styles examined the fabric tokens that exist in the Museum’s collection. This was fascinating and a well deserved critical success. Threads of Feeling will soon be on display at Colonial Williamsburg and I do hope many of you will take that opportunity to see it.
The forthcoming exhibition in London concentrates on the physical tokens, and you can see some of them above and below.
This is what the Museum’s Press release has to say about the exhibit:
By reuniting the eighteenth century tokens with the foundlings to whom they belong, Fate, Hope & Charity uncovers stories, which are a testament to the grief of separation and ever lasting bond between a mother and her child. Tokens, small everyday objects, were left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as children’s charity Coram. Left between c.1741 -1760, tokens were a means of identification should the mother ever return to reclaim her child. Hundreds of these small items were removed from the Hospital’s admission records in the 1860s, severing links with their history-until now.
Now over 250 years later these incredible, heart wrenching stories are revealed. Each story offers a glimpse into the lives of the women in the eighteenth century who left their children at the Hospital. Most poignant of all is the story of Margaret Larney.
Under sentence of death in Newgate Prison in 1757, Margaret, falsely tried and found guilty of counterfeiting money, wrote a letter requesting the admission of her unborn child to the Foundling Hospital. Her newborn son was lucky and was admitted. Margaret was less fortunate. Immediately after the birth, she was taken to Tyburn where she was executed by “strangulation and burning”! Her astonishing letter of petition to the Hospital will be on display and is shown above.
Individual stories will be told through their tokens, which include coins, jewellery, buttons, poems, playing cards and a simple nut, together with art works and artefacts from the period. Many of the tokens address issues that are still current today; the hardship faced by military wives and widows and childbirth debates around the benefits of male doctors versus female midwives.
The stories behind these tokens have been unearthed by Janette Bright and Dr Gilliam Clarke, who are also the authors of the booklet, An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum, which I reviewed, here. The Museum’s Press Release tells us that:
A chance meeting in 2005 in the Hospital archive united textile artist, Janette, and social historian Gillian, whose earlier work on the Foundlings includes the time they spent with foster families outside London. Through their exhaustive detective work, orphaned tokens have been reunited with their foundlings. The new research reveals fascinating information about the tokens themselves, the circumstances surrounding the mother’s decision to give up her baby and the moving stories of the individual foundlings to whom the tokens belonged.
The Foundling Museum has also commissioned prominent artists, authors, songwriters and musicians to create new stories for these tokens in their chosen medium. Contributors will include artist, David Shrigley and DJ, poet and writer, Charlie Dark, folk group ,The Unthanks and poet and novelist, Jackie Kay. Collected in a special publication to coincide with the exhibition, these stories will shed new light on the small, poignant scraps of history that make up Fate, Hope & Charity which will be curated by Stephanie Chapman.
As you know I favour the theory that Jane Austen chose to reunite the star-crossed lovers, Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, in Brunswick Square as a nod to the Foundling Hospital’s existence, especially given Harriet’s status as the natural daughter of somebody, who was, at that point, unknown. She had a happy ending…others were not so lucky as she. I shall look forward to visiting the Museum to see their stories. The exhibition will run from Thursday 25 January – Sunday 19 May 2013
Yes, more sale news to tempt you. The Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale to be held at Bonhams at their Knightsbridge premises on the 13th November,2012 looks set to be a fantastic sale.
If I could I would buy it all lock, stock and barrel, so tempting are the contents of the catalogue. That’s not likely to happen, but perhaps you might like to see what I think are the highlights. First , Lot 13, a first edition of Emma, written by Jane Austen and published by John Murray, dated 1816.
The catalogue notes that the lot comprises:
Emma, 3 vol, FIRST EDITION, half-titles in vol. 2 and 3, spotting, one gathering working loose and blank lower margin torn away from advertisement leaf at end of volume 3, one front free endpaper near detached, bookplate of “John Hawkshaw, Esq., Hollycombe”, contemporary half calf, gilt lettering on spines, headbands frayed (volume 2 with small loss at head and foot of backstrip) [Gilson A8; Keynes 8], 8vo, John Murray, 1816
and the sale estimate is between £6000-8000.
Also on offer is a series of three lots of books published by that doyen of Regency publishers, Rudolph Ackermann. First, Lot 1
half-titles, engraved portrait, 95 hand-coloured aquatint or engraved plates after Pugin, Westall, Mackenzie, Unwins and Pyne, tissue guards, some offsetting onto text, bookplate of George Burnham Wells, contemporary calf gilt, upper covers with central coroneted monogram “MM” (identified in pencil as Maria Miquel of Portugal), g.e. [Abbey, Scenery 80; Tooley 4], 4to (335 x 270mm.), R. Ackermann, 1815.
The sale estimate is between £2000-3000 for this set. Ackermann employed some of the foremost illustrators of his age, and some of you know that I collect his books and illustrations. They give us a unique glimpse of what Jane Austen’s world looked like, and in this case, we get to see the Cambridge that was the alma mater of Geroge Wickham, for as Darcy tells us in his later to Eliabeth in Chapter 35 of Pride and Prejudice, his father financed his education there:
Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; — most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.
Lot 2, The Microcosm of London, 3 vol.,first edition, is a wonderful publication, of which I am lucky to possess a set. These books allow you gain some impression of what London was like when Jane Austen visited it in the early part of the 19th century. They are totally fascinating, and the plates, originally created by Pugin and Rowlandson, are lively and always full of detail and interest.
The sale catalogue description is as follows:
half-titles, wood-engraved pictorial titles, engraved dedication leaves, 104 hand-coloured aquatint plates after Rowlandson and Pugin (watermarked 1806-1808, 2 small tears repaired to blank margin of plate 65), some offsetting from plates to text, occasional light spotting (mostly to titles), contemporary russia gilt, sides with wide decorative borders, skilfully rebacked with gilt panelled spines[Abbey, Scenery 212; Adams 99; Tooley 7], 4to (340 x 275mm.), R. Ackermann, [1808-1810]
and it has a sale estimate of between £2500-3500
Lot 3 is also by Ackermann, The History of the Abbey Church of St. Peter’s Westminster,its Antiquities and Monuments, 2 vol., first edition (Westminster Abbey-jfw)
Perusing its pages would allow you to see what it was like when Dr Grant of Mansfield Park spent his last days on earth there:
Dr. Grant, through an interest on which he had almost ceased to form hopes, succeeded to a stall in Westminster, which, as affording an occasion for leaving Mansfield, an excuse for residence in London, and an increase of income to answer the expenses of the change, was highly acceptable to those who went and those who staid.
These books have a sale estimate of between £500-700.
There are other tempting lots but the last one I would like to share with you is Lot 68, a collection of mementos presented to the wet-nurse employed by George III and Queen Charlotte:
Presented in a display case the mementos include: George III’s Garter Sash in blue silk, the Duke of Cumberland’s white kidskin gloves, presented on 30 April 1771, the Prince of Wales’s Garter Sash in blue silk, presented on 12 May 1769, the Princess Royal’s cambric and lace mittens, presented on 12 May 1769, Prince William’s brown kid child-sized gloves, presented on the same day, the lace cap worn by the infant Prince Edward, and Prince Frederick, Duke of York’s Bath Sash in crimson silk; also framed with a piece of the christening bonnet of Prince Edward, embroidered in red silk with silver thread, labelled as given by Elizabeth Meade, daughter of Anne Percy, to Lady Cremorne; and a pair of tweezers given by the Prince of Wales to Anne Cleveland Percy.
Anne Percy, in addition to being the Royal Wet-Nurse was also the wife of the literary scholar Thomas Percy, future Bishop of Dromore. What a fascinating relict of the intimate life of the Royal Household.
There is much, MUCH, more of interest in this sale- a letter from Nelson to Emma Hamilton, wonderful topographical books etc from our era amongst many others- so I am sure you will enjoy looking at the on-line catalogue. I will keep an eye out for the results ;)
On Saturday, at their premises in Dublin, Whyte’s auctioneers will be auctioning a complete set of Richard Bentley’s 1833 edition of Jane Austen’s novels in five volumes: four single volumes each containing one novel, that is, of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, and one volume containing the full text of both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.
These books were the first edition of Jane Austen’s works to appear in the format of one volume per novel and to be illustrated. According to the publishing history of these books given in David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen, the publication of the novels was overseen by Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra and her brother, Henry. Jane Austen had, of course, died in 1817 and did not live to see these editions. In a letter dated 20th May 1831 written to John Murray, who was Jane Austen’s publisher at her death, Cassandra Austen
…makes it clear that she was then thinking of reissuing JA’s novels. Cassandra says that she does not wish to sell the copyrights, but asks about the size of the proposed edition, the number of volumes, price per set and date of publication; she also asks if Murray has approached the executors of Thomas Edgerton for PP. Since we hear no more of this, we must assume that Cassandra and John Murray could not come to terms( perhaps the latter insisted on buying the copyrights) Richard Bentley, a year later was more fortunate.
( Page xxxiv)
David Gilson also gives us the fascinating tale of the copyright of these novels:
No English reissue of JA’s novels is known after 1818 until in 1832. Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels. …a letter to Bentley from Henry Austen dated 24th July 1832, accepting on behalf of his sister, Cassandra and himself Bentley’s offer of £250 for the copyrights of SS, MP,E and NA&P ( plus two copies of “the work”) but pointing out that for the copyright of PP Bentley should apply to the executors of Thomas Egerton. The private printed List of Bentley publications for the year 1833 give the payment to Henry and Cassandra ( for the copyrights-jfw) as £210, made on 20th September 1832… Mr. Francis Pinkney, Egerton’s executor was paid as late as 17 October 1833 a total of £40 for the remainder of the copyright of PP; Bentley presumably reduced the sum paid to Henry and Cassandra Austen by that amount. The Bentley list also states that the copyrights of SS, PP, and MP were for 28 years, expiring in 1839, 1841 and 1842 respectively, while those of E and NA&P, expiring in 1857 and 1860.
(Gilson, as above, page 211)
Here is the auctioneer’s description of Lot 531:
AUSTEN ( Jane ). Sense and Sensibility [with :] Emma. [and :] Mansfield Park. [and :] Northanger Abbey [and, Persuasion] [and :] Pride and Prejudice. Richard Bentley … (Bentley’s Standard Novels 23, 25, 27, 28 and 30), 1833FIRST ILLUSTRATED AND FIRST ONE-VOLUME EDITIONS, each volume with additional engraved title-page, engraved frontispiece and printed series title-page, 5 vols, small 8vo, contemporary deep olive green morocco, gilt, fully gilt and lettered spines, top edges gilt : light endpaper foxing and just a little elsewhere, the bindings just lightly rubbed but still attractive, and otherwise a very good set, rarely found complete. Complete sets of the five Jane Austen vols in this series have become notably rare.
They give an estimate of € 1500-1800….*sighs longingly* I should like to thank my good friend, Katherine Cahill of Mrs Delany’s Menus Medicine and Manners fame for sharing this tempting information with me. She will be attending the auction, has offered to act as my agent( Temptress!) and I’m sure she will be able to let us know the result of the sale.
In her letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated 20th June, 1808, written from Southampton, Jane Austen appears to be rather upset by the news that a woman who had taken Holy Communion at the same Church service as her, was an adulteress:
This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. A hint of it, with initials, was in yesterday’s “Courier,” and Mr. Moore guessed it to be Lord S., believing there was no other Viscount S. in the peerage, and so it proved, Lord Viscount S. not being there.
The adulteress in question was Mary-Letitia Powlett, who was married to one of the Austen’s Southampton acquaintances, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Powlett. The news in The Courier confirmed that the Lieutenant Colonel was going to take an action for damages by way of a suit of Criminal Conversation against Viscount Sackville, who had committed adultery with Mary-Letitia.
Why was Jane Austen so outraged by this woman taking Holy Communion? The answer is, very probably, in her very serious attitude towards taking this sacrament, which was also indicated by her attachment to a now little-known book, The Companion to the Altar by William Vickers.
William Vickers’ book was one of the few books we know she actually owned, as opposed to books that were in her father’s library and merely available to her, or those she borrow from friend s and circulating libraries. David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen lists only 20 volumes known to have been the sole property of Jane Austen, including this book. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter Irene Collins tells us that:
On the 24th April 1794 she received a gift often bestowed on Confirmation Candidates: a copy of William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar, a guide to the private preparation to be undertaken in order to be worthy of receiving Holy Communion
(Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Page 72)
According to Gilson’s Bibliography, her copy of this book is now owned by Princeton University, and it shows many signs of being greatly used. Miss Florence Austen, Jane Austen’s great-niece, who along with her sister, Jane, sold the item, noted:
…this book of devotions always used by Jane Austen we used to be told so by my old Aunt Cassandra
(Gilson,page 445 . Note, this Cassandra was not Jane Austen’s elder sister, as she predeceased both the Misses Austen who owned the Companion)
Irene Collins again notes that:
According to members of Jane’s family, she cherished the Companion and made constant use of the prayers and meditations included in it. She was to take her participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously as a cleansing from sin and a repeated welcome into the company of the faithful.
(as above, page 72)
Jane Austen was 18 when she was confirmed, an age slightly older than our modern candidates often are. This can be explained because 18th century dioceses were very large, and, as a candidate could only be confirmed by a Bishop, it could take him some years to be able to visit the candidate’s local church in order to perform a confirmation service.
William Vicker’s book is not long, but it is extremely full of very, very detailed advice regarding the self-examination a candidate for communion had to perform in order to avoid:
those Fears and Scruples about Eating and Drinking unworthily and of incurring our own Damnation thereby..
It advises an extremely detailed self-examination prior to every occasion when Holy Communion was taken, and, as Irene Collins ruefully notes:
to carry out all William Vicker’s advice would have required several hours of meditation.
(as above 156)
Though Jane Austen’s copy of the book is a separate volume, in her lifetime this book was often bound together with volumes of The Book of Common Prayer. As a result the book was very influential, seeming to have “official” sanction of the Anglican church. And this is the case with my copy, which is contained in a small pocket-sized edition of the Book of Common Prayer, dating from 1783:
Here is the engraving from the Companion, showing the Last Supper, which of course, was the event that instated the sacrament of Holy Communion:
And here is the preface and first page of the book, and do note you can enlarge all of those images by clicking on them if you want to look at the detail:
The Book of Common Prayer sets out, in very clear terms, why it is very necessary to be thoroughly prepared, having repented and being free from sin before taking Holy Communion:
Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that Holy Table: lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of iniquities ands bring you to destruction of both body and soul.
The Companion places extreme emphasis on the need for a candidate to thoroughly examine their own lives and deeds and to be truly penitent before taking the sacrament. Look at this quote below:
The first Part then of a Communicant’s Duty is Self –examination: A Duty not only enjoined by human Authority, but likewise commanded by St. Paul…when we are employing our minds in the Duty of Self-examination, before the Communion, or at any other Time, we must discharge it as impartially as is possible for us, judging as severely of our own Actions as we would do of our greatest and worst enemy; or otherwise we shall but flatter and deceive ourselves in a Matter of the greatest Weight and Importance, namely the knowing the State and Condition of our Souls.
As evidenced by her wondering comment to Cassandra in the letter quoted above- This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. - the seriousness of taking the Sacrament and the rarity with which it was performed was certainly felt by Jane Austen, as a devout Anglican. That an adulteress, who was continuing in her sinfulness, should have put herself forward to take the sacrament, was shocking to her. Her contemporaries felt the seriousness of taking the sacrament too- many were noted for leaving Communion services prior to taking the sacrament, if they felt they were ill prepared for it. Jane Austen alludes to this in her comment in her letter to Cassandra, wherein she was surprised that Mrs Powlett, the adulteress
stayed the Sacrament
when she had the opportunity to absent herself from the church and not be a recipient of Holy Communion, for which she was obviously very ill-prepared.
Do note that while communicants these days are used to services of Holy Communion being made available to them on a weekly ( if not on a more frequent) basis, this was not the case for Jane Austen and her contemporaries. Being able to take part in a service of Holy Communion was rare: it was usually celebrated on only four occasions during each year. Anglicans very rarely celebrated it on days other than at Christmas, Easter,Whitsun (Pentecost) and as a service of thanksgiving after a successful harvest.
So, does this have any relevance to Jane Austen’ novels? I think it does. For example, Elizabeth Bennet really is blind to her faults and those of her family until she reads Darcy’s letter, which has a devastating effect upon her:
“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”
Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36
It is clear, I think that Jane Austen needs us to know how negligent Elizabeth has been, not only personally but as a Christian. Had she constantly examined her behaviour and motives as instructed by the Companion, she might not have been so blind and prejudiced against Darcy, and so taken in by Wickham and his lies.
Emma, too, is someone who would have benefitted from self-examination, for despite her proud boast to Harriet in Chapter 10;
“If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty.
she really did not know herself at all, being too proud of her abilities, and scornful of others. In Chapter 47, after Harriet has avowed she is in love with Mr. Knightley, Emma finally understands how stupidly and blindly she has acted:
Her own conduct, as well as her own heart, was before her in the same few minutes. She saw it all with a clearness which had never blessed her before. How improperly had she been acting by Harriet! How inconsiderate, how indelicate, how irrational, how unfeeling had been her conduct! What blindness, what madness, had led her on! It struck her with dreadful force, and she was ready to give it every bad name in the world. …
Jane Austen certainly understood how to set her characters up for one almighty fall. Similarly, Marianne Dashwood’s extreme penitence after returning home to Barton after her illness, is indicative of her previous blindness to her own faults:
They have borne more than our conduct. Do not, my dearest Elinor, let your kindness defend what I know your judgment must censure. My illness has made me think — It has given me leisure and calmness for serious recollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past; I saw in my own behaviour since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself, by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction. I did not know my danger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery, — wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died, in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister! — You, who had seen all the fretful selfishness of my latter days; who had known all the murmurings of my heart! — How should I have lived in your remembrance! — My mother too! How could you have consoled her! — I cannot express my own abhorrence of myself. Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Everybody seemed injured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent and unjust; with an heart hardened against their merits, and a temper irritated by their very attention. — To John, to Fanny, — yes, even to them, little as they deserve, I had given less than their due. But you, — you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet, to what did it influence me? — not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself. — Your example was before me: but to what avail? — Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone? No; — not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for whom I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake.”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 46.
Of course, Marianne, who is only 16 when the novel begins, may not have yet received her first communion, and may not, therefore, have been totally aware of her duty to examine her thoughts, words and deeds in such a severe fashion, to avoid possible Divine retribution. But the retribution her creator ensures she receives -severe illness- is exactly the punishment that the Companion fears will be the lot of someone who fails to prepare themselves properly when taking the sacrament of Holy Communion, thereby failing to live a Christian life through self-examination:
Note, this Word “Damnation” does not signify eternal Condemnation but on the contrary some temporal Punishment or judgment…such as Sickness or Death…
(The Companion,Page 8)
It is an interesting point to consider. But I think you will agree that it would appear that Jane Austen did place extreme importance on the ability to know yourself, truly, honestly and without prevarication, and this is reflected not only in her own conduct, but in her characters’ lives.
If you would like to read this interesting book for yourself, a copy of the Companion is available to read on Google Books: go here to see.
And that concludes for a while our small topic of Jane Austen and religion. I hope it has been interesting to you..
For a woman and novelist of such obvious( to me at least) religiously based moral authority, it might surprise you to realise that Jane Austen makes direct mention of the Book of Common Prayer (and, indeed, to the Kings James Bible) only very occasionally.
As we noted in the last post, Jane Austen would have been very familiar with the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England, of which she was a member, and of which her father and, eventually, two of her brothers were priests. I think we ought to consider how often Jane Austen would have read the Prayer Book, for then it may become clear how its phrases became part of her, and how this was reflected in her works. Do note that Jane Austen wrote three prayers, date of composition unknown. I will not be discussing them in detail here, as we shall concentrate on the influence of the Prayer Book in her novels.
The Book of Common Prayer provides Anglicans with all the basic texts they need for all their devotions, throughout their lives, in church and at home. The services include those for Sundays, Morning and Evening Prayers, the litanies, daily offices( that is, daily church services) and also for the special services that would have been performed throughout an Anglican’s life: that is, for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, death-bed communions and funerals. Each Prayer Book also contains a Psalter, which contains all the Psalms as translated by Miles Coverdale. They are included because the Psalms are- one or more of them- an integral part of the services.
The Prayer Book also contains the Collects. The Collects are short prayers which are used not only in sequence though out the liturgical year, but also are used in private devotions. The Lectoinary is also included: this is made up of the readings-the Lessons- from the Old and New Testaments which were designated to be read on particular days, on a three-year cycle which was devised by Thomas Cranmer. He intended, therefore , that the Prayer Book would not only be used in Church but at home in daily services held by the family, and also in private devotions. The Austens at Steventon, Southampton and Chawton seem to have kept the habit of morning and evening prayers . In her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated the 24th October 1808, written when she was looking after her nephews Edward and George Knight, who were staying with her at Southampton after the death of their mother, Elizabeth Knight who had died unexpectedly after giving birth, Jane Austen makes mention of their habit of evening prayers:
In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over.
The habit of saying daily morning and evening prayers, as well as regular sunday attendances at church though out her life meant that Jane Austen would have been wholly family with the text of the Prayer Book, I’m sure you will agree. And in that case, it might surprise you how few direct references there are to the contents of the Prayer Book in her works.
The first and most obvious reference, is to the rubrick to the Solemnization of Matrimony service. The rubric is the instruction to the clergy and the laity as to how the service is to be conducted. This reference appears in Emma, in Chapter 53, where Emma is coyly referring to her future marriage to Mr. Knightley:
“Impossible! I never can call you any thing but ‘Mr. Knightley.’ I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton, by calling you Mr. K. But I will promise,” she added presently, laughing and blushing, “I will promise to call you once by your Christian name. I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess where; — in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse.”
Here you can see the service for the Solmnization of Matrimony from John Baskerville’s Prayer Book of 1761, printed after the accession to the throne of George III( and do note you can enlarge all these pictures by clicking on them):
As you can clearly see, the two parties to be married are referred to throughout the service as N and M:
A more puzzling reference to one of the Psalms, Psalm 16, is made by Miss Bates, again in Emma, Chapter 21
”Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good to us. If ever there were people who, without having great wealth themselves, had every thing they could wish for, I am sure it is us. We may well say that “”our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.”"
Here Jane Austen has made Miss Bates, the impoverished daughter of the former vicar of Highbury, misquote the Psalm:
You can see that Verse 7 clearly states:
The Lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground: yea, I have a goodly heritage.
Margaret Anne Doody in her essay Jane Austen’s Reading, which is contained in the Jane Austen Handbook, (1986) edited by J. David Grey, explains this mistake as follows:
Miss Bates’s simple use of it point sot a misapprehension; she has no heritage-that is her problem. She is referring to charity, the only heritage the minister’s daughter may expect. Austen’s own relation to this truth may have tempted her in this instance to forsake her own custom ( of not referring directly or too closely to religious texts- JFW)
Other instances of indirect references to the Prayer Book can be found in her characters speech and in their letters. For they, like most of us and their creator, would have used phrases from the Prayer Book almost without knowing. Here are just three examples: there are more. The first is taken from chapter 57 of Pride and Prejudice: Mr Bennet relates the contents of Mr. Collins’ letter to Elizabeth and informs her that Charlotte is now pregnant;
The rest of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte’s situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch.
This is a reference to Psalm 128, verse 4
Thy children like the olive-branches round about thy table.
In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon obliquely refers to the Communion of the Sick, wherein the sacrament would be administered to a dying person:
Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a better preparation for death; and that was given. I saw her placed in comfortable lodgings, and under proper attendants; I visited her every day during the rest of her short life; I was with her in her last moments.”
The phrase preparation for death is clearly a reference to this service – the last rites if you like- where poor Eliza could ready and prepare herself for death. Colonel Brandon could do nothing more for her than to enable her to meet her end with dignity and in accordance with her faith;
The final example in this post comes from Chapter 23 of Persuasion, after Captain Wentworth is reconciled with Anne Elliot, and is considering her defence of her own conduct and of Lady Russell’s part in persuading Anne to reject his first offer of marriage:
He looked at her, looked at Lady Russell, and looking again at her, replied, as if in cool deliberation -
”Not yet, but there are hopes of her being forgiven in time. I trust to being in charity with her soon.
This is again a reference to the Communion service:
Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your signs and are in love and charity with your neighbours..Draw near with faith and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort
So…why didn’t Jane Austen make more open references to this book, with which she was wholly familiar? Perhaps the answer comes from her friend, Mrs Barrett of Alton, who had this to say about Jane Austen’s faith as expressed in her novels:
Miss Austen…had on all the subjects of enduring religious feeling the deepest and strongest convictions but a contact with loud and noisy exponents of the then popular religious phase made her reticent almost to a fault. She had to suffer something in the way of reproach from those who believed she might have used her genius to greater effect. But her old friend used to say, “I think I see her now defending what she thought was the real province of a delineator of life and manners and declaring her belief that example and not “direct preaching” was all that a novelist could properly afford to exhibit…
I know…an embarrassment of riches this week from good old Auntie Beeb.
Episode One of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, my favourite of all her works, was broadcast today, and Episode Two will be broadcast tomorrow. They will both be available to listen again to, to you all, wherever you are in the world, so do check the programme’s main page, here, for all the details.
This is an interesting adaptation starring Eve Best,
Robert Bathurst and David Bamber, and it was first broadcast in 2001 IIRC.
at Sotheby’s this afternoon for £ 126,000 (plus buyers premium of 20%, making a total purchase piece of £152,450) to a bidder, identity currently unknown, who was bidding by telephone.
An announcement was made prior to the sale to the effect that tests have revealed that the stone in the ring is in fact a natural turquoise, and not odontolite as previously thought.
The first edition of Pride and Prejudice sold for £ 18,000:
The first edition of Mansfield Park sold for £4,200
The first edition of Emma was unsold, and bids up to £7,500 were received for it.
The first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion sold for £3,200
The Trafalgar Sea Chest sold for £15,000.
Some other lots were unsold, notably a collection of letters written by William IV.Hmm…..
Post Script: Some of you have wondered if I was there, and the answer is no, I simply watched the auction online. Some of the comments made by the auctioneer were priceless. He seemed to be fascinated by internet bids, informing internet bidders that it is “against you, Mightly Internet” or “Internet , it is between you and your mouse”. One of the Jane Austen first editions had “some gatherings proud”, and he thought this was an entirely poetic way to describe a Jane Austen novel. Priceless. I can highly recommend watching these auctions online via Sotheby’s website.
Last night the BBC aired its latest edition of the Antiques Roadshow filmed last summer at the wonderful Stanway House, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire which has always been one of my favourite places in England to visit , with its magical garden, originally planned by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century,and which, since the 1980s, has undergone a process of extensive restoration.
At one point in the show we were treated to a Jane Austen fest. A lady who possessed some old looking editions of Jane Austen novels appeared. She owned rather tatty copies of Pride and Prejudice,Mansfield Park and Emma. She wanted to know if they were first editions and if it was worth having them rebound. She had inherited them from her father who had, in turn, inherited them from a godmother.
They were in pretty poor condition, as they had lived for 25 years in a suitcase in her attic.
However on closer inspection, and in my opinion, the binding shows them to have been originally owned by an earl, looking closely at the coronet on the bindings. An English earl is entitled to wear a coronet which has eight strawberry leaves (four are visible in depictions of it) and eight silver balls (or pearls) around the rim (of which five are visible in depictions).The bindings are also marked with the cypher “A. R.” .
I do hope the owner does some research into the original owner before she replaces the original bindings.
She was assured that they really were first editions and was delighted with this discovery. Some slightly dubious comments were made by the expert about anonymity, as to why Jane Austen didn’t put her name to her works, but I’ll gloss over that. He advised that all three novels( three volumes each, making 9 volumes in all) were worth being rebound, at a probable cost of £1000…
for he estimated their worth at £5000 each, a low estimate he hastened to add. I would say very low, frankly in the current market. But it was lovely to hear that the owner was a Janeite, almost word-perfect on the novels, and she was delighted to realise that she had in her possession, three (THREE!!!) first editions of books written by her favourite author. Good luck to her!
If you are able to access the BBC iPlayer, the programme is availabe to view for the next 6 days, and the item under discussion appeared approximately 40 minutes into the programme.
One of the items in my Second Anniversary Give-away ( which will be drawn on Sunday- so if you haven’t yet added your comment to the post, may I encourage you to do so if you’d like a chance of winning the prize) is a newly released CD of music from the Austen family’s manuscript music books.
Entertaining Miss Austen is the fruit of the labours of Professor David Norris of Southampton University, where he is Professor of Performance. You may however be more familiar with his work from the enjoyable historical iPod series of programmes on BBC Radio 4. In the first series we heard the supposed contents of Jane Austen’s iPod, and even the imagined content of the iPod which Emma Hamilton might have owned.
The new CD features music from the eight manuscript music books that were Jane Austen’s property.
This is one of them, open at the Duke of York’s March, which is an arrangement of Non pui andrai from TheMarriage of Figaro by Mozart. These books are part of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s collection in Chawton. But in addition, the CD contains a selection of music from a further nine music albums which were owned by various female relations of Jane Austen. For years they have been held in private collections but they are now held by the Chawton House Library. As Jeanice Brooks and Samantha Carrasco write on the Southampton University website:
These pieces are drawn from 17 music albums that belonged to Jane Austen and her female relations. Like many similar collections associated with gentry families of the period, this is a heterogenous set, including compilations of printed sheet music, manuscript albums copied into pre-ruled music books, compilations of separately copied manuscripts, and scrapbooks mixing print and manuscript items.
At least seven women from Jane Austen’s close family owned or copied music in the collection. Austen herself was responsible for a large portion, as was her sister-in-law Elizabeth Bridges, wife of Jane’s older brother Edward Austen Knight. One manuscript copied by Elizabeth was bound for her in August 1799, around the time when Jane herself spent many hours in music copying, an activity which apparently led to some teasing from her sister-in-law: in January 1799, Jane wrote to Cassandra, ‘Elizabeth is very cruel about my writing Music; – and as a punishment for her, I should insist upon always writing out all hers for her in future, if I were not punishing myself at the same time’.
Jane’s mother Cassandra Leigh, sister Cassandra, sisters-in-law Eliza de Feuillide and Eleanor Jackson (first and second wives of her brother Henry), and niece Fanny Knight also contributed material to the Austen collection. A few items (and in one case, most of a manuscript) came into the Austen family’s possession through more distant relationships: for example, from Ann Cawley, née Cooper, the sister of their uncle Cooper on their mother’s side, to whom Jane and Cassandra were sent for schooling in 1783; or from Mrs Henry Jackson, Eleanor Jackson’s mother. Several of the books were started by one family member and continued or used by another; many bring together several copyists’ hands or collectors’ signatures within a single binding. As a set, they are a rich illustration of family ties that domestic music-making and its material culture helped to sustain.
Music was an important part of Jane Austen’s life. She managed to scrape money together from a legacy from Mrs Lillingston a family friend, to have a pianoforte in Bath to replace her piano which had been sold when she and her parents left her childhood home at Steventon. Later, she played on her piano every morning at their Chawton cottage, and probably used this time as thinking time. Cassandra and Mrs Austen arranged their domestic route at Chawton around her, so it must have been important time for her and her imagination. Her letters are peppered with many references to music and playing, and of course, she used the love of music very effectively in her novels, often using it to represent a female character’s passionate nature.
The whole collection is now being studied as part of a major research project undertaken by Professor Jeanice Brooks again of Southampton University. Samantha Carrrasco, the pianist, is basing a thesis on the Austen books. Exciting times.
The CD was recorded at Hatchlands, above, a National Trust property in Surrey ,which also houses the famed Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments. The pieces were played by David Norris on an 1817 Broadwood Grand Piano. Jane Fairfax, you will recall is given an unexpected present of a Broadwood piano from her secret fiancé, Frank Churchill,in Emma:
That very dear part of Emma, her fancy, received an amusing supply. Mrs. Cole was telling that she had been calling on Miss Bates, and as soon as she entered the room had been struck by the sight of a pianoforté — a very elegant looking instrument — not a grand, but a large-sized square pianoforté; and the substance of the story, the end of all the dialogue which ensued of surprize, and inquiry, and congratulations on her side, and explanations on Miss Bates’s, was, that this pianoforté had arrived from Broadwood’s the day before, to the great astonishment of both aunt and niece — entirely unexpected; that at first, by Miss Bates’s account, Jane herself was quite at a loss, quite bewildered to think who could possibly have ordered it — but now, they were both perfectly satisfied that it could be from only one quarter; — of course it must be from Col. Campbell.
This particular piano has an additional link to Emma; it is signed and was owned by the composer, Johan Baptist Cramer. He is the only composer Jane Austen referred to by name in Emma:
“Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it? Cramer. And here are a new set of Irish melodies. That, from such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Col. Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shews it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done; nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it.”
The selection on this CD is fascinating.It includes a performance of the song, Robin Adair, by Kiallmark of Kings Lynn. In Emma Frank Churchill mischievously claims the song is Mr Dixon’s favourite as he and poor duped Emma listen to Jane Fairfax playing it in the Bates’ small apartment. It is, of course, a coded message of love to Miss Fairfax, to whom he is secretly engaged, for part of the lyrics to the song read:
Yet he loved so well
Still in my heart shall dwell
Oh I can ne’er forget
The CD contains three songs which Caroline Austen, Jane Austen’s niece, said were her aunts most particular favourites. The first is Que j’aime à voir les hirondelles,which is the song Caroline remembered her aunt singing the most. The other two songs were Songs from Burns, and The Wife’s Farwell . Also included on the CD are songs with lyrics by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,and the playwright, Richard Sheridan. He famously adored Pride and Prejudice even though he was unaware of it’s author’s identity.
The songs are sung by the soprano, Amanda Pitt and the baritone, John Lofthouse. I really like this CD, and think it is heads and shoulders above the other Jane Austen music CDs that I have in my collection. My only criticism is that in only a few instances is attribution made regarding the particular album from which the songs originate. This is a little confusing to my poor brain. Adding this information to all the songs on the CD sleeve would have been fascinating and helpful.
You can download the lyrics and some notes to the songs here. The CD is available from the publisher, Duttons and on Amazon. As someone who finds extending listening to the “bare” sound of early pianos rather trying, low be it spoken, I think it says a lot for the running order of this CD and the performances on it that I can happily listen to it without pause.
I can cheerfully recommend this CD to you. I look forward to more exciting finds, books and CDs when the research undertaken by the University of Southampton is completed.
Today we visit the last of the rooms in George IV’s seaside folly, The Kings Private Apartments of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. His set of private apartments were originally to be found on the first or Chamber floor, as we discovered in our last post in this series. However, as he aged, the King became rather fat and infirm. Afflicted with gout, he found it increasingly difficult to negotiate climbing the stairs in the Gallery. And so, in 1819 while he was still Prince Regent, he had John Nash create a new suite of rooms for him on the ground floor.
The rooms, which overlooked the gardens to the entrance front of the Pavilion, were a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the rest of the Pavilion, filled, as it was, with servants and guests. You can see the position of the rooms on this section of the ground floor plan of the Pavilion:
There are three rooms in the suite, indicated by the three red arrows: The Kings Bedroom, his Private Library and Anteroom.
This is a photograph I took of the entrance front earlier this year,
and the King’s Apartments are to be found behind this screen, to the left of the porte-cochere:
This is a temporary screen while renovations to the stone work are being carried out.
The King’s Private Apartments are, stylistically, decorated in a somewhat restrained manner, certainly when compared to the rest of the Pavilion. All three rooms are wallpapered in the same wallpaper,and this give the rooms a unifying feeling of peace and space. This is John Nash’s water-colour of the King’s Bedroom as it appeared in the 1820s (which can be enlarged if you care to click on it).
You can see the cooling and restful effect of the wallpaper. The design is still in the Chinoiserie style but it is more restrained .It conisits of pale pink dragons on a green ground. It was designed by Robert Jones. The bedroom still had enough luxuries to keep George IV in the style of which he had become accustomed: the desk is French and was once owned by Napoleon, England’s defeated adversary. There were three gib doors concealed in the walls of the room: one led from the fireplace wall to the Kings Bathroom, an innovation in the early 19th century to have possess a room designated speifically for bathing. This room had a very large marble tub which was 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, and which was filled with salt water taken from the sea and supplied to the Pavilion by an ingenious series of pipes and pumping machinery. The two other gib doors led very different places. The first to the valet’s staircase and would have been used by the Princes’ valet. The other, more controversially, led to a small staircase which communicated directly with Lady Conynham’s apartments on the Chamber room floor, which were directly above the King’s apartments. These of course, enabled the King’s mistress to visit him in privacy…I’m sure Jane Austen,who detested the Prince of Wales for his lax morals among other matters, would not have approved of this at all!
The Private Library and Anteroom lead from the King’s Bedroom: this is the view from the bedroom into the two other rooms:
Both these rooms were decorated with a slightly different version of Robert Jones’ dragon damask wallpaper- it has a different border design across the top of the paper, as you can see from Nash’s watercolour,below, especially if you click on it and enlarge it:
You can see the pattern of the wallpaper more clearly in this picture below (and also see the delicate detail of the fan-vaulted columns):
My favourite aspect of these rooms are the beautiful sky ceilings…At this point in the early nineteenth century, libraries were used as the main living rooms in the homes of the rich. As Humphrey Repton noted in 1816, The modern custom is to use the library as the general living-room. George IV inherited his father’s love of books. He gave most of his father’s scientific and topographical books to the British Museum,but he collected, instead, many many thousands of volumes of literature. I wonder if his set of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, which she reluctantly dedicated to him, were kept in this room?
The rooms had another unifying feature: nearly all the ornaments displayed in the rooms have a colour scheme of black and gold.
My poor picture, above, shows a wall light in carved, ebonised and gilt wood, which was designed by that most influential arbiter of Regency taste in interior design, Thomas Hope (more on him next year!). The wall lamp dates from 1807. Here is a more detailed picture of it:
A similar design was in fact included in his influential book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration,which was first published in 1807. Here is the frontispiece of that book, below:
And here is his design for a Drawing-Room, again, taken from my copy of that book:
You can clearly see the wall lights, which are very similar in style to those in the King’s apartments. Here is a close up for you to compare:
And that ends our tour of the Pavilion..or nearly so. The Prince Regent Gallery is a new room in the Pavillion: an exhibition space where objects related to the King can be displayed to the public. My next two posts will deal with the current display; the first with details of some of George IV’s fascinating clothes, the second will detail some items of clothing associated with his coronation, which have not been seen in public for many, many years. Do join me.
For Jane Austen hats were important items of clothing. She took great delight in wearing and purchasing them, as this arch extract from her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated 18th April 1811 clearly demonstrates:
Miss Burton has made me a very pretty title Bonnet- & now nothing can satisfy me but I must have a straw hat, of the riding hat shape, like Mrs Tilson’s; & a young woman in this Neighbourhood is actually making me one. I am really very shocking; but it will not be dear at a Guinea.
The admirable new Subject Index to the Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters has copious entries for mentions of bonnets, caps, hats and veils. Understanding the differences between the type of hat Jane Austen and her characters would have worn, how and where she would have bought such hats, for herself or on commission, has recently been addressed in a new book written by Serena Dyer of Dressing History.
This is a slim but well written-volume packed full of fascinating early 19th century hat facts and information. Do you know the difference between a Calash or a Capote? You will after reading this very informative book. The book is illustrated with black and white renditions of period fashion plates and very clear, helpful line drawing by Christine Dyer. Here is a Gypsy Hat such as may have been worn by the odious Mrs Elton on the day of the Strawberry Picking Party at Donwell Abbey:
Serena also gives a short account of Milliners and how their trade was carried out in the early 19th century. An interesting snippet she includes in their section is that many ladies paid to learn how to trim their own bonnets: a Miss Elizabeth Woodhouse ( no relation I’m sure)
who would become the wife of a Yorkshire vicar,paid her milliner, Miss Volans, ten pounds to instruct her in the art
This small book is very reasonably priced at £5.00 and is available direct from Serena herself, go here to buy it. Serena,who is now studying at the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at York University, is an accomplished milliner herself and trims a mean bonnet. You can buy some of her examples from her shop, go here to see. This is one of her confections, a straw poke bonnet:
Hard to resist isn’t it?
Only very recently a rather beautiful exhibit closed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A friend visited it and was able to confirm that this small exhibit ( not one of their blockbusters, you understand, but one of the many small exhibitions they run, year on year) was tiny but very sumptuous. Sadly ( Oh! How sadly!)I couldn’t make it to New York to see it myself, but was pleased to note that the Museum, in association with Yale Publishing have produced a small but beautiful book/catalogue of the exhibit, and that is what I am reviewing here.
Pastel portraits are wonderful things. I have for a long time loved this portrait in pastels of George III as a young man commissioned from jean Etienne Liotard by George’s mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales. This is still in the Royal Collection, and is simply a breathtaking piece of work:
And this sumptuous portrait of Horace Walpole by Rosalba Carriera, below, executed while he was on his Grand Tour was a highlight for me of the recent Walpole exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
During the 18th century, technological advances ment that for a short time, fashionable Europe became enamoured of these portraits. As Marjorie Shelly writes in the book:
The innovations that spurred the rising popularity of pastel were products of the Enlightenment, an era that held great respect for the manufacturing trades and crafts and had faith in the practical application of science and the arts to advance commerce and industry…In the spirit of fostering progress and the commercial advantages resulting from it, makers of crayons, paper and fixatives experimented with increasingly softer pastels, more tenacious supports and invisible nondarkening coatings…Practical infomration poured forth as well from encyclopaedias, dictionaries, journals and manuals on the artisanal aspects of pastel..the appeal of pastel was also one of economics and convenience. For artists crayon portraiture was a lucrative business that could compete in the same market place as oil painting. George Vertue, the engraver whose notebooks were the basis for Horace Walpole’s”Anecdotes of Panting in England”observed, for most practitioners pastels were “much easier in the execution than Oil colours” as the costs were lower and the handling more rapid.
And of course one of the most appealing aspects of pastel portraiture, as I do hope you can see by close examination of the portraits reproduced here ( if you click on them they will enlarge for you), was that these paintings in dry colour were able, better than any other medium, to portray their subjects skin and its texture. They could convey an idea of its bloom, that most desirable aspect of a person and especially a woman’s beauty, which defined her appeal to the 18th century eye.
As we know from Persuasion and the story of Anne Elliot and the early loss of her bloom, losing that sheen of youth from her skin had a devastating effect on her appeal and reflected her extreme depression:
A few months had seen the beginning and the end of their acquaintance; but, not with a few months ended Anne’s share of suffering from it. Her attachment and regrets had, for a long time, clouded every enjoyment of youth; and an early loss of bloom and spirits had been their lasting effect.
That devastating moment when she realised Wentworth thought her altered beyond recognition, is hard to bear, for both Anne and we readers:
”Altered beyond his knowledge!” Anne fully submitted, in silent, deep mortification. Doubtless it was so, and she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse. She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would. No: the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.
Luckily, happiness, the sea air at Lyme and escaping the confines of Kellynch brings back her bloom ( and not, do note is any of this due to the effects of applying Gowlands Lotion!) and with it, Wentworth’s admiration:
When they came to the steps leading upwards from the beach, a gentleman, at the same moment preparing to come down, politely drew back, and stopped to give them way. They ascended and passed him; and as they passed, Anne’s face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a degree of earnest admiration which she could not be insensible of. She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animations of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you, and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.”
The portraits produced did have some important drawbacks. They could not be permanently displayed, for constant exposure to light ruined them, and they had to be protected from the elements, dust and enquiring fingers by a sheet of glass. They could not be moved much either as vibration caused the pastel particles to detach from the paper surface, thus ruining the whole effect. These drawbacks meant that the fashion for pastel portraits began to wane during the 1770s.
By the late 1790s watercolour and conte crayon were being promoted by the art and philosophical societies and pastel had become “a style now quite unfashionable” Not until the 1870s would the medium be reintroduced in its full glory by the Impressionists.
However, some unfashionable souls still commissioned pastel portraits, and the catalogue includes quite a few from the dates 1790-1810. This portrait of the sculptor Antonio Canova ( 1790) by Hugh Douglas Hamilton is a fine example,
And this delightful work by John Russell of Mrs Robert Shurlock and her daughter Ann, dating from 1801, reminds me forcibly of Isabella Knightley and Little Bella.
This fascinating but small book is illustrated with 50 full colour pictures of the pastels in the exhibition, and among the artists whose work is inluded are not only Liotard and Carriera but also such luminaries as John Singleton Copley, Chardin, and Elizabeth Louise Vigee le Brun. The text provides a very full description of the manufacturing process of pastels, the history of teh craze for these crayons , how the crayons were used and applied. Each illustration has catalogue notes of some detail(enough even to satisfy me) The book is available at a very reasonable price(see here from the publisher’s website). I can throughly recommend it, and hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.
The British Library has recently lauched a currently free to purchase application for iPad, entitled The Historical Collection.
Its remit is 19th century books, and the collection is divided into various categories including, the History of Britain and Ireland, the History of Travel, History of Asia, the History of Europe, the History of Colonial North America and one that directly concerns us, Novels of the 18th and 19th Century.
The books are reproduced digitally as a whole, along with sometimes sumptuous bindings, as in this example, The Story of Captain Cook’s Voyages Around the World
and also include illustrations if there are any, again here is one from Captain Cook’s Voyages:
Currently two Jane Austen novels are included; the 1870 edition of Emma, published by Richard Bentley:
And the 1896 edition of Sense and Sensibility, published by Macmillan, illustrated by Hugh Thompson.
We are of course nearing the end of our series on his illustrations for this novel, so this is of extra interest to us.
The collection is going to be enlarged over time, and there will probably be a fee payable for access to some titles, as this passage from the British Library’s website suggests:
Currently the app features over a thousand 19th century books, but it will provide access to more than 60,000 titles by later this summer when details on pricing for the service will be announced. The books, which are all in the Library’s collection and in the public domain, span numerous languages and subject areas including titles such as ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley and ‘The Adventures of Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens.
Currently the app. is free and available from the ITunes App Store. This is a very intriguing collection, and I admit Im finding it very readable. Some of the titles have been curated and set into context, which is very helpful. I wonder if they will add more illustrated versions of the early editions of Jane Austen’s works? Lets hope they do, as teh originals are ferociously expensive today.
This has recently become one of my very favourite books. I received it from the publishers about six weeks ago and I have read it, and re-read it, since then. It now resides on my bedside table and I frequently take it up when insomnia strikes. It is simply one of the most well written and engaging books on Mrs Delany I have ever read. But it is so much more than that…but before I get carried away in my enthusiasm, let’s first deal with the basics.
In this book, Molly Peacock, the esteemed poet (shown above)has written a very detailed, readable and affectionate biography of that most accomplished woman, Mrs Delany. You will recall that last year I wrote about Mrs Delany, her accomplishments and her legacy to us of her copious and fabulously detailed correspondence, a boon for anyone studying domestic life of the 18th century, here
Mrs Delany is of course, now best remembered for her paper mosaiks of horticultural subjects. These amazingly accurate and detailed paper collages, now kept in the British Museum, were the work of her old age. She began making them when she was 72 and planned to complete 1000 of them. Sadly, her eyesight failed her and she put aside her work in 1783 having completed 985 of these astoundingly beautiful and accurate pieces of work.
The book is an exploration and appreciation of Mrs Delany’s life in Georgian England and Ireland. We learn all about her two marriages, the first an arranged loveless thing; the second, to Dean Swift’s friend, Dr Patrick Delany, below, which was a happier, fulfilling and companiable relationship. And then the years of her long widowhood and how her artistic gifts enabled her to live a life that was, despite the absence of her beloved Dr Delany, fulfilled and satisfying.
Molly Peacock has a immediacy in her writing so that in her company we swiftly and seamlessly time travel to the 18th century,taking in delicious details of coronations, the perils of 18th century travel,the world of the Bluestockings, and the last , productive years of the life of Patrick Delany’s widow, sympathetically befriended by George III and his wife Queen Charlotte.
But the book is also part memoir, a journey into Molly Peacock’s own life, both professional and personal. We learn of its parallels with Mrs Delany’s and how Molly’s fascination with these bewitching images has shaped the course of her life since she discovered them in the 1980s. More importantly, perhaps, she reveals to us how researching these images has affected her own attitude to life, her family, work and art. Without intending to sound too sentimental ( for this book most certainly is not prissy or sentimental at all) it is one of the most uplifting books I’ve read in years. Positive and creative. Attitudes that both Mrs Delany and Molly seem to share, and which ought to be examples to us all. To be frank I’m reminded of Miss Bates’s excellent attitude to life, as Jane Austen portrayed in Emma.If only she had had some artistic talent and a comfortabel pension….then she would not have been overlooked or patronised by anyone in Highbury society, and even our heroine might have paid her more due.
In less talented hands this could have been a disjointed, difficult book to read. But we travel effortlessly between detailed appreciations of the paper mosaiks, on to reminisces of Molly’s life, family and her journeyings(both mental and physical ); then to the minutiae of life in 18th century England and Ireland on to philosophical musings on the nature of modern life and contentment. It is an entirely satisfying and stimulating experience.
The book is also beautifully produced, reproducing 35 of Mrs Delany’s marvelous mosaiks in full colour. Link Beatrix Potter’s perfectly proportioned books, it sits perfectly in the hand and is very tactile: even the hard cover has been embossed poppy in its corner.(see above) I have adored living with this book it.
The publishers were kind enough to send me a copy, for it has already ben published in the U.S.A. but I had already ordered my own and it will be delivered when the book is published in the UK in July. As I am sure you will love this book I’m putting the publishers copy into the pile for the next Austen Only Annual Give Away in October. In the meantime,if you can’t wait for that, I urge you to buy it and savour every beautifully written word.
The Threads of Feeling exhibiton which has been so deservedly successful and which is nearing the end ff its run at the Foundling Hospital, is now available to view online. My review of the exhibit can be accessed here.
If you go here you will be taken to a slide show, accompanied by a soundtrack of 18th century ballads which helps put the contents of the slides into context. Each slide shows in great detail a piece of ribbon or fabric, one of the tokens which were kept in the Billet Books of the Foundling Museum and which were deposited by the mothers of the babies, just in case they were ever in a position to be able to return to retrieve their child and needed to identify it. Details of the fabric are also listed.
The quality of the photographs is stunning and every detail of the fabric can be seen. Do access it, especially if you have no hope of going to see the exhibit before it closes on the 6th March
This is a lovely video(which brings back fond memories of Art A level for me!) and it records how the Florella fabric, a scrap of which was kept as a token in the billet books of the Founding Hospital(see above) was recreated for the Foundling Museum’s Threads of Feeling exhibition by the London Printworks Trust, and which is still open to visit until the 6th March.
Here are some images of the fabric – you can do as I did and buy a sample of it at the Foundling Museum’s excellent shop-
and this is how it was used to recreate a late 18th century bed gown for the exhibition: