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My goodness, it’s a very busy week Austen news-wise!
Here is a link to another BBC Hampshire News Report that you will all ( fingers crossed!) be able to see. It concerns the recent move of the Austen-related documents and books in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust which have been in the care of the Jane Austen Museum. They have now been removed to the care of the Hampshire Records Office for proper conservation, and-this is the really great news- they have now been digitized so that everyone can access them via a commuter terminal when on a visit to the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester. Go here to see some of the documents concerned
This move will help preserve these precious relics of Jane Austen and her family- the documents include some of her letters and the manuscript music books- for posterity and will also allow more of us to use them for research, without damaging the originals( always my fear when touching original documents, so clumsy am I!)
I have to say that all my dealings with the Hampshire Record Office have been fabulous - in person or by telephone – and I’m certain this is the best place to preserve them for the future.
The Jane Austen’s House Museum will still retain the right to show these items from this collection at the museum from time to time, so it would seem that everyone wins. Bravo to all concerned.
No, not the Duchess of Cambridge’s beautiful dress, but Princess Charlotte’s ;)
The Historical Royal Palaces website has a wonderful blog and You Tube channel.
This video, produced in the run-up to last week’s royal wedding contains an interview with Dr Joanna Marschner on the styles, meanings and history of the royal wedding dresses worn over the last 200 years, from Princes Charlotte onwards.
There are some wonderful close-ups of the dress, showing the magical nature od the lama fabric, and the scallop shell decoration of the bodice, which is thought to be part of the original dress:
and during the interview with Dr Marschner, you can glimpse the Princess’ dress glittering away to the right of the frame:
There are some other blog posts which have relevance to us, most notably, the interesting post on the marriage of Princess Charlotte’s parents, the Prince of Wales and Caroline of Brunswick, entitled The Worst Royal Wedding of All? Shudder…Jane Austen’s sympathies were all with the Princess you will recall, as expressed in this letter she wrote to Martha Lloyd in 1813:
I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself `attached & affectionate’ to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. –”
(See: Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated February 16th, 1813)
And finally I do have to say thank you to all of you who have sent good luck wishes to my daughter who celebrated her 18th birthday last week, and yes,we did enjoy watching and celebrating the Royal Wedding on Friday. And look who turned up for lunch?
Very sweet of them considering how busy they must have been ;)
Occasionally , on reading Jane Austen’s novels or letters, a reference jumps out at you …and you are puzzled. You simply have no idea what she is referring to… It niggles and niggles away …You have sleepless nights wondering what she was meant…You follow the paper trail and read copious books and manuscripts trying to find out what it was…then, sometimes, just sometimes, it comes a-right. The Holy Grail is discovered and explained.
This happened to me with the Merlin Swing in the Sydney Gardens, and I still remember the joy I felt when I discovered exactly what it was, though not how it looked ( go here to read about it ). The same with the tea board in Mansfield Park, and when I finally found an illustration of one (in a portrait of a rather self-satisfied West Indian merchant M.P.)another enigma was lopped from The Niggling List with relish.
And this passage from one of Jane Austen letters to Cassandra Austen has set me (and many others) on another hunt:
I am not to wear my white satin cap to-night. after all; I am to wear a mamaluc cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she lends me. It is all the fashion now; worn at the opera, and by Lady Mildmays at Hackwood balls. I hate describing such things, and I dare say you will be able to guess what it is like.
( Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 8th January 1799)
Well, no actually Miss Jane, I cannot guess what it is like…and so the hunt begins.
First, shall we see what Hackwood Park looked like and why it was a hotbed of up-to-date fashion?
This is a print of Hackwood which appeared in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions and Manufacture etc in September 1825. Below is a section from my copy of John Cary’s 1797 map of Hampshire which shows the estate’s position and dominance in the society centered around Basingstoke at the time Jane Austen was living near there at Steventon. The estate appears on the map as the large green lozenge shape to the right of the section, and I have annotated the map so that you can see its position clearly.( You can also enlarge the map, and all the other illustrations in this post, simply by clicking on it)
This is the description from Ackermann’s Respository:
Hackwood is a contraction of Hacking Wood the original name of this place. It was the sporting retreat and occasional residence of the Pawlet family and their numerous relatives, when Basing-House was demolished in 1645 after a long and remarkable resistance. A lodge was then built for the residence of John the fifth Marquis of Winchester. Charles’s son, first Duke of Bolton, erected a splendid mansion in 1688; considerable alterations and improvements have been added since. The present carriage front on the north side is adorned in the centre with a noble Ionic portico, ascended by a flight of steps,and bearing in the tympanum of the pediment the arms and supporters of the family. An equestrian statue of George I mounted on a lofty pedestal and presented to that monarch to the family, stands at a small distance in front. It is this view of the mansions which we present to our readers. The south front was executed by the present nobleman from designs by Lewis Wyatt Esq. The rooms are spacious and magnificent and peculiarly adapted for comfort as well as display. In the saloon is a superb piece of carving by Gibbons. The family portraits are numerous…there are likewise two fine views of the Colosseum and ruins at Rome by Pannini.
The pleasure grounds are extensive and beautiful particularly on the south. Within these few years great improvements have been and are still in progress under the direction of the present Lady Bolton,whose taste in landscape gardening is generally admired, and is strikingly manifested in these grounds. The wood is wild and luxuriant in appearance. In its centre is a space of about four acres called the Amphitheatre, bounded by elms closely planted, extending their branches over the sides and ends of the area, at the upper end of which are the ruins of a rotunda. The park is well stocked with deer.
At the time Jane Austen was writing about it, the house was owned by Lord and Lady Botlon. Lady Bolton, Jane Mary Powlett , was the illegitimate daughter and eventual magnificently rich heiress of Charles Powlett, the 5th Duke of Bolton. Her husband Thomas Orde-Powlett, took her name when she inherited the estate and others from the Duke. The Duke had failed to produce a son to inherit his title, and while the title could not be inherited by Jane due to her illegitimacy and sex, she could inherit the non entailed estates. She eventually inherited most of the Bolton estates on the death of her uncle,the 6th Duke who died without any legitimate male issue. Her husband was elevated to the peerage on 20th October 1797 by George III. He took the name of Baron Bolton of Bolton Castle in honour of his wife’s family. So I think we can assume that the latest fashions would have been worn at the virtual ducal home…
Which leads us to the conundrum in question…what exactly did Jane Austen’s mamalouc cap look like?
Constance Hill in her book, Jane Austen, Her homes and Her Friends (1923) made the first attempt at deciphering the riddle:
The word Mamalouc is given as Mamalone in Lord Brabourne’s “Letters of Jane Austen,” which is evidently a clerical error; the letters uc in the MS. having been mistaken for ne. The battle of the Nile, fought in the preceding August, had set the fashion in ladies’ dress for everything suggestive of Egypt and of the hero of Aboukir. In the fashion-plates of the day we find Mamalouc cloaks and Mamalouc robes of flowing red cloth. Ladies wear toupées, somewhat resembling a fez, which we recognise as the “Mamalouc cap.” Their hats are adorned with the “Nelson rose feather,” and their dainty feet encased in “green morocco slippers bound with yellow and laced with crocodile-coloured ribbon. (See page 76)
This was the explanation accepted by Dierdre le Faye in her edition of Jane Austen’s letters. However, in A Frivolous Distinction, a 1979 booklet about fashion in Jane Austen’s novels and letters, a slightly diffident description of the cap is given by its author, Penelope Byrde, who was the Curator of the Museum of Costume and Fashion Research Centre in Bath:
Caps worn in the evening could be quite elaborately trimmed like the one Jane Austen was altering in december 1798:
‘I still venture to retain the narrow silver round it, put twice round without any bow, and instead of the black military feather shall put in the coquelicot one as being smarter, and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this winter. After the ball I shall probably make it entirely black’.But a little later she adds, “I have changed my mind & changed the trimmings of my Cap this morning; they are now such as you suggested- I felt as if I should not prosper if I strayed from your directions”
Another cap familiar to us from her letters was a Mamalouc cap she was lent on one occasion and which she said in January 1799 ‘is all the fashion now’. The vogue for Mamalouc ( or Makeluk) caps robes and cloaks had appeared after the battle of the Nile in 1798. A fashion plate of 1804 illustrating a Mameluck cap shows a white satin turban trimmed with a white ostrich feather….
This doesn’t help us resolve the mystery does it? In fact it rather muddies the waters. As Marsha Huff, the past president of JASNA remarked in her review of the reissue of Penelope Byrde’s book, now in hardback and entitled Jane Austen Fashion:
I read “Jane Austen Fashion” hoping to learn more about the famous Mamalouc cap. I was, however, unable to reconcile Byrde’s description of a satin turban, trimmed with an ostrich feather, with that of Constance Hill (quoted by Deirdre Le Faye in the notes to her edition of Austen’s Letters), who wrote that a Mamalouc cap was a toupee, somewhat resembling a fez. Since Austen chose not to describe the cap she wore that January night in 1799, a fashion mystery remains.
I so sympathise with Ms. Huff’s frustration….But, perhaps the answer now presents itself to us. I have tracked down a reproduction of the fashion plate to which Penelope Byrde refers. It was published in the Costume Society’s report of their 1970 Spring Conference, on The So-Called Age of Elegance.
In an article, The Costume of Jane Austen and her Characters, written by Anne Buck, who was creator and the Keeper of the Gallery of English Costume at Platt Hall, part of the Manchester Art Galleries, and author of such influential books such as Dress in Eighteenth Century England, the mystery is finally resolved. In a note to the letter by Jane Austen which inspired our quest she writes:
The original of this letter, first published by Lord Brabourne was not traced by the editor who in a note to the letter gives Miss C Hill’s suggestion of mamlouc, one of the contemporary spellings of mameluke.This is no doubt what Jane Austen wrote.
And then, praise be, she included this illustration of a mameluke turban which appeared in The Fashions of London and Paris, in February 1804:
As you can see, the cap is a combination of two types of “oriental” headgear: the part of the hat immediately surrounding the face resembles a turban, and the crown of the hat is reminiscent of the conical shape of the fez, as referred to by Constance Hill.
So, finally we have it. The Mamalouc cap as worn by Jane Austen and by ladies of fashion at the Opera and at Hackwood Park. Another niggle is crossed off the list.
Ashdown House is an exquisite 17th century house, situate in Berkshire, not far from the border of Berkshire with Oxfordshire. The house was designed for William, 1st Earl of Craven, most possibly by the Dutch-born architect Capt William Winde, in 1663. The Earl of Craven had intended it to be used by the object of his admiration, Elizabeth of Bohemia- The Winter Queen- who was the then impoverished sister of King Charles I, He knew of her desire to live in quiet in England, after living for many years in exile at the Hague in Holland. Sadly, it was not to be and before the house was completed Elizabeth died suddenly in February 1662, while visiting her nephew King Charles II in London.
The Craven family lived in Ashdown House until it was donated to the National Trust by Cornelia, Countess of Craven in 1956. The public has restricted access to the house: namely to the magnificent staircase which runs the height of the building and is rather like a magnificent picture gallery, and then up onto the leads and cupola from which spectacular views of the surrounding Berkshire countryside can be viewed. The rest of the house is leased from the National Trust,and recently the lease has changed hands, and has been sold to the musician, Pete Townsend of The Who. The contents of the house assembled by its old tenant are to be sold by Sotheby’s in another attic sale, to be held at their Bond Street premises on the 27th October this year.
So why should this interest us? Merely because Jane Austen’s family had some albeit distant contact with this chap. Lord Craven(the 1st Earl of the second creation) was a kinsman and patron of the Fowle family of Kintbury: and it was on the ill-fated expedition to the West Indies in 1795, when he accompanied Lord Craven as his chaplain, that Tom Fowle, Cassandra Austen’s then fiance, tragically died. Lord Craven also was a source of gossip for the neighbourhood, and this is evident in Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra Austen of the 8th January, 1801:
Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton & probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week.- She found his manners very pleasing indeed.- The little flaw of having a Mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park seems tobe the ony unpleasing circumstance about him…
At this time, by my calculations, Lord Craven,was involved with the very famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson.
She does not mention living with him at Ashdown Park in her memoirs but what she does say about him is calculatedly cutting and rather dismissive:
I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble Lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify: or if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter…
I resided on the Marine Parade, at Brighton; and I remember that Lord Craven used to draw cocoa trees, and his fellows, as he called them, on the best vellum paper, for my amusement. Here stood the enemy, he would say; and here, my love, are my fellows: there the cocoa trees, etc. It was, in fact, a dead bore. All these cocoa trees and fellows, at past eleven o’clock at night, could have no peculiar interest for a child like myself; so lately in the habit of retiring early to rest. One night, I recollect, I fell asleep; and, as I often dream, I said, yawning, and half awake, “Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! Craven has got me into the West Indies again.” In short, I soon found that I had made a bad speculation by going from my father to Lord Craven. I was even more afraid of the latter than I had been of the former; not that there was any particular harm in the man, beyond his cocoa trees; but we never suited nor understood each other.
( See: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Written by Herself, Volume 1, Chapter 1, Page 5).
Harriette was born on 22nd February 1786: she would therefore have been 15 years old in 1801. So it was most probably her to whom Jane Austen alluded in her letter, residing in immoral splendour at Ashdown Park. Lord Craven of course knew much about cocoa trees , I should imagine, as he had had first hand experience of them. He had visited the West Indies, as we know, in 1795 as Colonel to the 3rd Foot Regiment- The Buffs. He was sent to the islands as part of the convoy commanded by Admiral Hugh Christian escorting General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s 19,00 strong force to subdue French interference in the islands. Poor Lord Craven was obviously explaining to the bored Harriette of his battles on the islands She, a little like Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, seems only to have heard and understood one word in ten of his conversations. And she wasn’t bored for long: she soon ran away from Lord Craven’s delights and his tales of cocoa trees to the protection of Frederick Lamb (1782-1853), later 3rd Viscount Melbourne.
Happily, Lord Craven eventually found his soul-mate:
In 1805 Lord Craven saw Louisa Brunton (?1785-186o), daughter of John Brunton (a greengrocer turned actor and theatre manager in Norwich), and now making a name for herself as a Shakespearean actress at Drury Lane-her principal parts included Celia in As You Like It, Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII, and Lady Anne in Richard III… Fanny Kemble’s mother remembered Louisa Brunton as ‘a very eccentric as well as attractive and charming woman, who contrived, too, to be a very charming actress, in spite of a prosaical dislike to her business, which used to take the peculiar and rather alarming turn of suddenly, in the midst of a scene, saying aside to her fellow-actors, “What nonsense all this is! Suppose we don’t go on with it.” This singular expostulation my mother said she always expected to see followed up by the sudden exit of her lively companion, in the middle of her part. Miss Brunton, however, had self-command enough to go on acting till she became Countess of Craven, and left off the nonsense of the stage for the earnestness of high life.”Miss Brunton, at the beginning of December 1807, with characteristic modesty, made her final curtsey on the stage’- and married Lord Craven in December his town house in London. Later gossip-writers recalled her as ‘tall and commanding and of the most perfect symmetry, and her face the perfection of sweetness and expression’.
(See Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, page 512)
And this woman is the same Lady Craven whose opinion of Emma was collected by Jane Austen in 1816. She admired Emma very much, but did not think it equal to P&P. Don’t you find it interesting to think of the many characters who lived at Ashdown Park, in that beautiful House…I know I do, and I’m sure yet again the allure of such a house and its associations will add to the pieces of the lots of this sale. Time will tell and I’ll report back after the sale takes place on October 27.
Today I’ve added some pages to the sister site to AustenOnly, A Jane Austen Gazetteer. Do click on the links below to explore them….
There will be more additions in the very near future, to tie in with a new site I’ve been planning about Jane Austen’s Letters, and I hope to be able to announce the grand opening(!) very soon. I’ll keep you all posted…
Jane Austen’s association with Winchester College, one of the oldest educational institutions in England, was through her nephews: Edward Austen Knight’s sons and James Edward Austen Leigh, son of James Austen and Jane’s first true biographer, were all educated there. She was living in Southampton, with Mrs Austen, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd when young Edward Knight first began his studies at the college and they were pleased to be close to him (Winchester being just over 13 miles away):
We shall rejoice in being so near Winchester when Edward belongs to it & can never have our spare bed filled more to our satisfaction than by him….
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated February 8th 1807)
Their closeness geographically and emotionally was a boon when unexpectedly Elizabeth, Edward Knight’s wife, died a year later in 1808. By this time young Edward had been joined at the school by his younger brother George and on first receiving the news of their mother’s death they had been removed from the school to Steventon to be with James Austen and his family for a period of compassionate leave. Jane Austen appears to have found this decision very difficult and in letters written to Cassandra, who was at Godmersham helping with Edward Knight senior’s grief-stricken family, she made her feelings known:
You will know that the poor boys are at Steventon, perhaps it is best for them ,as they will have more means of exercise and amusement there than they could have with us,but I am myself disappointed by the arrangement;-I should have loved to have them with me at such a time….
(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 13th October 1808)
Eventually, and for what reason it is uncertain, the boys were sent from Steventon to Southampton to Jane and Mrs Austen and she was able to look after them as she wished, and I want to quote extensively from the letter she wrote to Cassandra at this time as it is such an important one, demonstrating that she could indeed love children,despite the criticism often levelled at her that she often felt to a contrary feeling towards them:
Edward and George came to us soon after seven on Saturday, very well, but very cold, having by choice travelled on the outside, and with no great coat but what Mr. Wise, the coachman, good-naturedly spared them of his, as they sat by his side. They were so much chilled when they arrived, that I was afraid they must have taken cold; but it does not seem at all the case; I never saw them looking better.
They behave extremely well in every respect, showing quite as much feeling as one wishes to see, and on every occasion speaking of their father with the liveliest affection. His letter was read over by each of them yesterday, and with many tears; George sobbed aloud, Edward’s tears do not flow so easily; but as far as I can judge they are both very properly impressed by what has happened. Miss Lloyd, who is a more impartial judge than I can be, is exceedingly pleased with them. George is almost a new acquaintance to me, and I find him in a different way as engaging as Edward. We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed; and we mean to avail ourselves of our kind papa’s consideration, by not returning to Winchester till quite the evening of Wednesday. Mrs. J. A. had not time to get them more than one suit of clothes; their others are making here, and though I do not believe Southampton is famous for tailoring, I hope it will prove itself better than Basingstoke. Edward has an old black coat, which will save his having a second new one; but I find that black pantaloons are considered by them as necessary, and of course one would not have them made uncomfortable by the want of what is usual on such occasions…
I hope your sorrowing party were at church yesterday, and have no longer that to dread. Martha was kept at home by a cold, but I went with my two nephews, and I saw Edward was much affected by the sermon, which, indeed, I could have supposed purposely addressed to the afflicted, if the text had not naturally come in the course of Dr. Mant’s observations on the Litany: “All that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation,” was the subject of it. The weather did not allow us afterwards to get farther than the quay, where George was very happy as long as we could stay, flying about from one side to the other, and skipping on board a collier immediately. 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. Their aunt has written pleasantly of them, which was more than I hoped. While I write now, George is most industriously making and naming paper ships, at which he afterwards shoots with horse-chestnuts brought from Steventon on purpose; and Edward equally intent over the “Lake of Killarney,” twisting himself about in one of our great chairs.
The day began cheerfully, but it is not likely to continue what it should, for them or for us. We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay. I had not proposed doing more than cross the Itchen yesterday, but it proved so pleasant, and so much to the satisfaction of all, that when we reached the middle of the stream we agreed to be rowed up the river; both the boys rowed great part of the way, and their questions and remarks, as well as their enjoyment, were very amusing; George’s inquiries were endless, and his eagerness in everything reminds me often of his Uncle Henry. Our evening was equally agreeable in its way: I introduced speculation, and it was so much approved that we hardly knew how to leave off. Your idea of an early dinner to-morrow is exactly what we propose, for, after writing the first part of this letter, it came into my head that at this time of year we have not summer evenings. We shall watch the light to-day, that we may not give them a dark drive to-morrow.
They send their best love to papa and everybody, with George’s thanks for the letter brought by this post. Martha begs my brother may be assured of her interest in everything relating to him and his family, and of her sincerely partaking our pleasure in the receipt of every good account from Godmersham.
This letter, I think, shows Jane Austen at her best. Careful and solicitous of the boy’s feelings. Anxious to do what was right and correct for them but also keen to entertain them as best she could. She was a truly loving aunt.
Life continued, and the boys returned to Winchester where they were joined by cousins from the Deeds and Bridges part of their family and eventually James Edward Austen Leigh(though he had not the “Leigh ” part of his name at that time.)The Austen ladies and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton in 1809 and from their vantage point at Chawton Cottage were able to watch the coaches take the boys to and from Winchester.
“We saw a countless number of Postchaises full of Boys pass by yesterday morning-full of future Heroes, Legislators, Fools and Vilains(sic)
(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 15th July 1816)
Occasionally the Chawton ladies wer overrun by the boys on their way to school as this letter from Jane Austen to Martha Lloyd ruefully records:
We are going to be all alive from this forenoon to tomorrow afternoon: it will be all over when you recieve this & you may think me of as not sorry that it is so. George, Henry and William (Knight-JFW)will soon be here & are to stay the night-and tomorrow the two Deedes and Henry Bridges will be added to our party- we shall then have an early dinner and dispatch them all to Winchester…
(See Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February 1813)
The boys at while studying at Winchester would have worn this uniform, taken from Ackermann’s History of Winchester College (1815)
The history of the College is to be found in many different volumes but today we shall concentrate on one that was contemporary with Jane Austen: A Short View of the History and Antiquities of Winchester etc by the Reverend Dr Milner (1812) extracted from his 4 volume work on the city, while the coloured illustrations below are all from Ackermann’s history of the college of 1815.
THIS (the College-JFW) was founded by that illustrious and beneficent prelate William of Wykeham at the close of the 14th century for
“A warden, 70 poor scholars to be instructed in grammatical training, 10 secular priests, perpetual fellows, three priests chaplins, three clerks and 6 choristers and a schoolmaster and undermaster for the instruction of the scholars”.
Possession was taken of it March 28th 1393 and it was calculated by its founder to be a nursery for New College Oxon which he had just before completed in order to furnish his clergy with the highest branches of ecclesiastical learning.
There is a lofty tower to the street in which stands a large statue of the patroness, The Blessed virgin Mary. The same figure, with those of the angel Gabriel and of the founder upon his knees is seen on both sides of the second or middle tower.
The first court is intersected by a modern-built house for the use of the warden. The second court is bounded to the south by a magnificent Gothic chapel, ornamented by a rich and curious tower. The inside of the chapel is not less striking than the outside of it , being remarkable for its bold and lofty vaulting, enriched with beautiful tracery, for its large painted windows, for its beautiful and appropriate altar piece and for the ancient monuments and epitaphs of its warden and other members which occur in what is called the ante –chapel. A great number of these, equally curious with the former, are to be seen in the Cloisters, which are spacious and elegant. In the area of the Cloisters stand the Library, which is a neat Gothic structure having been originally built for a chantry or chapel in which prayers used to be offered for the surrounding dead.
The school is a noble modern building, adorned on the outside with the statue of bishop Wykeham; and in the inside, with suitable inscriptions and emblems. Besides the arts of the College already mentioned, the Refectory or Eating–hall, likewise the Kitchen and an allegorical figure of a Trusty Servant near it are generally shewn to strangers. A the close of the scholastic year the students break up with the solemn performance of the well known ode or song “Dulce Domum”. Adjoining to the College is a spacious modern building for the residence of the gentlemen commoners who live their under the inspection of the head-master and frequent the public school.
Jane Austen could joke with James Edward Austen of his record at school once he had left in 1816:
I give you Joy of having left Winchester. Now you may own how miserable you were there; now, it will gradually all come out-Your Crime and your Miseries-how often you went up by the Mail to London and threw away Fifty Guineas at a Tavern and how often you were on the point of hanging yourself-restrained only as some ill-natured aspersion upon old Winton(Winchester-JFW) has by the want of a Tree within some miles the City.
(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 16th December 1816)
Jane Austen’s final connection with the college was that she died within sight of it. The house in College street where she lived during her last illness is next door to the Warden, or Headmaster’s House ,as you can see from the photograph below:
In her last letter to James Edward Austen dated 27th May 1817 ,written from that house, Jane Austen gave a characteristically cheerful account of it and the view from it:
We have a neat little Drawing Room with a Bow Window over looking Dr Gabell’s garden.
Dr Gabell was the then headmaster of Winchester College (he was head from 1810 -1823). And this is a view of the Wardens (or Headmaster’s ) Garden again taken from Ackermann’s 1815 History of the college.
It is pleasant to think that though she may not have had a view of the countryside in her last illness, Jane Austen could at least look out onto this garden, part of Winchester College.
Winchester College is open to the public, and I can highly recommend a tour to anyone visiting Winchester, due to the interesting Austen family connections. If you go here you can find all the necessary details.
A confession: I have had this book on my To Be Reviewed Pile for far longer than I ought to have done. For months and months in fact(as you can tell by the rather battered front cover which I scanned, above) The paperback version is soon to be released in the UK…Goodness..How tardy. I do apologise. As we have been gadding about too much recently I decided to give you a book review on serious topic today, and leave the country houses till later in the week. A change is after all, as good as a rest…
In fact, this book was transferred from my To Be Read pile some months ago, for as soon as it arrived I devoured it. I am a complete fan of Dan Cruickshank’s works. His book on the buildings of a Georgian town and how they functioned, Life in the Georgian City, co-written with Neil Burton, is one of my favourite books on this era.
His latest book, The Secret History of Georgian London is a fascinating and very detailed history of the sex industry in the long 18th century in Georgian London. It is thoroughly readable and enjoyable- if enjoyable is entirely correct word for what I think is a tragic subject. And being an architectural historian he takes a lively interest in the buildings that housed the Georgian sex industry and the areas of London where they were mostly congregated. I’m not completely sure that he really proves his premise that the city was shaped by the development of the sex industry, but some of his conclusions will startle; for example, the number of people involved in it will undoubtedly shock many of you. He give us a very detailed account of that world, one that it is all too easy to forget existed side by side with the glamour we often first associate with the Georgian era-the beautiful houses and dresses etc
But what does all this have to do with Jane Austen, I hear you ask. She was actually very aware of the dangers to poor, unprotected women of the predatory nature of the London sex industry. As is evidenced from her novels and letters. In Pride and Prejudice, the spiteful old ladies of Meryton were also well aware to the fate reserved for those who publicly strayed from the strict moral path and were most disappointed when Lydia, happily living in sin with Wickham in London, was retuned, safely married, to the Longbourn fold.
The good news quickly spread through the house, and with proportionate speed through the neighbourhood. It was borne in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would have been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world, in some distant farm house. But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes of her well-doing which had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton, lost but little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such an husband her misery was considered certain.
The phrase “to come upon the town”, was of course referring to a woman involvement in prostitution, a fate to which many fallen women, without the support of the Bennet family and the perseverance and long purse of Darcy, were subject.
The melodramatic story of Eliza Brandon the sad, adulterous wife of Colonel Brandon’s less honourable brother in Sense and Sensibility, is one echoed in many tales of fallen women in this book.
Jane Austen was well aware of the reputation of London and its dangers: in her letter written to her sister Cassandra from London dated 23rd August 1796, she refers to London as
This Scene of Dissipation and Vice
And in her letter 18th September 1796, again written to Cassandra, this time from Rowling in Kent, Jane Austen makes this throw away remark, referring to her aborted plan to visit the Pearsons, the family of Henry Austen’s then fiancée, alone:
I had once determined to go with Frank tomorrow and take my chance etc; but they dissuaded me from so rash a step-as I really think on consideration it would have been : for if the Pearsons were not at home I should inevitably fall sacrifice to the arts of some fat Woman who would make me drunk with small beer…
She is here clearly referring to one of Hogarth’s prints of the seedier and dangerous die of London Life, as depicted in his series of prints The Harlots Progress
The first of these shown above depicts the arrival in London of an innocent country girl, here being befriended by, in Jane Austen’s own words, a fat Woman. This was none other than one of the most famous, or should I say, notorious procuresses of the Gregorian era, Elizabeth “Mother” Needham and this must be the source for Jane Austen’s interesting remark.
So, having established the London sex trade of the Georgian era as a legitimate topic of Austenian conversation, let’s now turn to the book in question.
There have been many ,many books on the Georgian sex industry published in the last few year, notably those written by Hallie Rubenhold,viz, The Covent Garden Ladies
and Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies: Sex in the City in Georgian Britain.
a fact ruefully acknowledged by Dan Cruikshank in his preface to his book.
His book adds, however, a different perspective, for being an architectural historian he has been able to research and describe the buildings and settings used by the sex trade. His chapter on Bagnios and how they operated is an eye opener. It is also very comprehensive, discussing moral and political attitudes towards prostitution as well as documenting the trade, its vicious ways, and the people engaged in it.
Though he is clearly primarily interested in the buildings , he never loses sight of the human stories trapped by the walls of these same edifices. He has a compassionate and vivid story telling manner and recounts the tale of many crimes, such as the stories of the murder of Anne Bellwith sense and compassion. He includes interesting chapters on mens’ then attitude towards women(very enlightening, indeed) and on the Evangelical campaign against prostitution. We are also shown the results of the trade on buildings and institutions: the human stories behind the founding of such institutions as the Foundling Hospital to take in the unwanted by-product of the trade-illegitimate babies, of the Lock Hospital for the treatment of venereal disease, and of the Magdalen Hospital built to house penitent ex-prostitutes.
The grand courtesans are not forgotten: we are given interesting descriptions of the lives and loves of Mrs Abington
and Kitty Fisher,
both associated with Sir Joshua Reynolds,who painted their portraits, above.
It is a marvelously detailed book, such as I have come to expect from Dan Cruickshank, and one that I can heartily recommend, as providing a vivid background to what we can often forget was a difficult life for the poor and the unfortunates: and was also the fate of those females-some elite women, note- who transgressed the strict moral code that prevailed in Jane Austen’s era and who had no supportive family or a Colonel Brandon or a Mr Darcy to rescue them, as well Jane Austen knew.
The Phillpot Museum of Lyme Regis in Dorset is to hold a special Mary Anning Weekend on the 23 and 24th October this year. Mary Anning was, of course, the daughter of Mr Anning with whom Jane Austen had to deal when she and her family stayed in Mr Pyne’s house in Lyme in 1804: I wrote about the connection in this post linked here a few weeks ago. Mary was notable as the woman who discovered vitally important fossils on the beaches and cliffs surrounding Lyme, in the early part of the 19th century.
Other special events scheduled to take place during the weekend include a talk by the renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, on the 23rd October, and a talk by Tracy Chevalier, author of the novel, Remarkable Creatures
which is a very interesting and moving fictionalised version of Mary Anning’s story, and a book I highly recommend.
Tickets for the events go on sale from the Museum and the Lyme Tourist Information Centre ( telephone number 01297 442138) on 16th August. They are bound to sell out, so do act quickly if you wish to go! I can’t make that weekend,but I’d love to be there at Lyme in the autumn , when you can really appreciate the atmosphere of the town as Jane Austen recorded it in Persuasion.
As a sort of tribute to Jane Travers of the Jane Obsessed With Jane Blog, whose homeland is Ireland, I thought I would continue to post on a Jane Austen/ Irish theme this week.
We were all at the Play last night, to see Miss o’Neal (sic) in” Isabella”… She is an elegant creature however and hugs Mr Younge delightfully.
(See letter from Jane Austen to Anna Austen dated 29th November 1814)
and Id like to share with you a short biographical article I found about her recently in a copy of La Belle Assemblee , published in January 1816:
I’ve scanned the pages in and added them here. And all you have to do to read them in comfort is to enlarge them.
Mary Anning was a famous fossil hunter who lived in Lyme Regis, England – a part of the country that is today known as the Jurassic Coast. Her story has recently been fictionalized by Tracy Chevalier in a novel, Remarkable Creatures, which I recently enjoyed reading:
And there is a slight Jane Austen link, so let’s continue her story.
Mary was the daughter of Richard Anning, a cabinet-maker of Lyme Regis. He had a supplementary string to his financial bow- he was a finder of curiosities-fossil as we would now call them- which could be found on the coasts -the cliffs and the beaches- around Lyme and Charmouth.
This is a view of the beach and cliifs of Charmouth,
and this is the view of Lyme from Charmouth beach: if you click on it to enlarge it, you can see the town, rushing down to the sea, with the arm of the Cobb jutting out into Lyme Bay.
With the death of her father in 1810, Mary and her brother Richard were the sole survivors of ten siblings and her parents . Mary took over her father’s secondary trade of fossil hunting, desperate to support her now diminished family in the only way she knew.
She had a stall on the beach where she sold her finds to the middling- sort tourists who visited Lyme in the season. In fact it is thought by some that the tongue-twister, She sells sea shells on the sea shore was inspired by Mary Anning and her finds.
Which were amazing.
In 1811, aged just 12, Anning discovered the fossilized skeleton of an Ichthyosaur Although Ichthyosaurs had been known from fragments since at least 1699, this was the first complete skeleton found . Mary first found the skull, and only later found the rest of the animal after a storm washed away the part of a cliff which contained it. Her later finds included a Plesiosaur in 1821, and the first complete specimen of a Pterosaur in 1828.
Her finds were immortalized by Henry de la Beche, in his watercolour: Duria Antiquior, A More Ancient Dorset, lithographs of which were sold for Mary’s financial benefit.
Mary’s patron and supporter during her life time was Elizabeth Philpot, a genteelly impoverished daughter of a London lawyer who moved to Lyme with her other sisters in 1805, thereby missing Jane Austen by one year. Its tantalizing to think that they might have been attending the same assembly rooms in Lyme had Jane Austens family visited Lyme one more time….
Though both Mary and Elizabeth’s knowledge and talents were widely admired in the scientific community and their finds were pivotal in allowing theories of evolution to develop, neither were ever eligible to join any scientific societies, such the Geology Society. Which is thought provoking in itself…
So what does all this have to do with Jane Austen ? (which is of course the only reason for writing about anything here) Simply that Mary Anning’s father in his role of cabinet maker came into contact with Jane Austen when the Austen family stayed at Mr Pyne’s house
in the lower part of Broad Street in Lyme in 1804.
I have written to Mr Pyne on the subject of the broken Lid: it was valued by Anning here we were told at five shillings and as that appeared to us beyond he value of all the furniture in the room together We have referred ourselves to the Owner.
Oh,dear….Mr Anning does not appear to have been very good at his job: over estimating the cost of a broken lid and not impressing the shrewd Jane Austen at all.
The museum at Lyme is the Philpot Museum, named in Elizabeth Philpot’s honour by her nephew Thomas Philpot and it has interesting collections celebrating Mary Anningand Elizabeth Philpot. And if you care to look at their events page you will see that there are some interesting talks and walks to be had about them in the forthcoming weeks.
But I find it intriguing to think that Jane Austen probably met Mary’s poor incompetent cabinet-makerfather at Lyme, and I do wonder if one her undoubted walks along this coast if she found any fossils and what she thought of them…
Ammonites from my son’s collection , collected on Charmouth Beach in 2006.
Today’s post has nothing to do with Sandition, although Laurel’s really fascinating Group Read of Jane Austen’s fragment continues at Austenprose.
But it does concern a seaside resort of which Jane Austen was fond, Lyme Regis, and the Lyme Regis Philpot Musem’s attempt to publish a manuscript “epic” poem about the town written in 1819. Mary Godwin ,the museum’s curator, has very kindly supplied me with some images and quotes from the poem so that I can share news of their project with you here.
The Lyme Regis Philpot Museum has had in its collection since 1978, a manuscript which was given to the museum by the artist, Laurence Whistler.
Called The Lymiad, or Letters from Lyme to a friend in Bath by a Unknown Gentlewoman, the manuscript consists of a series of eight letters all written in verse, about the town of Lyme and it inhabitants as they were in 1819.
Each letter describes in turn, the streets and lodgings, the sea and beach, the civil war siege and Monmouth, the assembly room,; the mayor and worthies of the town, theatrically entitled, the dramatis personae
the surrounding scenery and bad weather; and, finally, departure from the resort. All of which would have been familiar to Jane Austen who visited the town in September 1804.
The writer John Fowles who in 1978 had just started his ten-year stewardship of the Museum as its Honorary Curator, was very intrigued by the new addition to the collection. After reading it he was so impressed with The Lymiad that he regarded it as among the Museum’s most precious possessions.
He liked it for its wit and satirical humour and its vivid evocation of the manners and pastimes of a small Regency seaside resort:
Say, is there not the mostly group among,
One generous bard, one gentle “child of song”
To celebrate thy wonders, matchless Lyme!,
In all the wild luxuriance of rhyme? …
Each letter in turn looks at at the streets and lodgings; the sea and beach; the civil war siege and Monmouth; the assembly rooms; the mayor and worthies; scenery and bad weather; and finally departure from the resort by the narrator.
The Lymiad contains many vivid portraits of local residents: for example in this extract The Lymeiad’s author probably refers to the geologist, Henry de la Beche’s sailing boat:
That “Blood-red flag” which gaily floats
On the full-swelling breeze, denotes
The Conrad Sir Fopling Fossil’s pride;…
He is the most accomplished youth,
That is, if Madame Fame speaks truth;
And more than this I cannot tell,
But some who know Sir Fopling well,
Inform me he’s a F.G.S.
During the 1980s John Fowles made a transcript of the poem, prepared a general introduction and made some explanatory notes on local references within it.
In 1997 the manuscript, which was on display in the Museum, came to the attention of Dr. John Constable, then Professor of English Literature in Kyoto University. During consultations with John Fowles over the next few years, Professor Constable studied the transcript and wrote a substantial introduction to it. He considers that The Lymiad is
“a highly political and a thoroughly Whig poem, with some leanings towards the left of that party, though stopping short of Radicalism itself.”
In this extract the author is poking fun at the fact that Lyme was a “rotten borough” in the control of the Fane family, the most senior member of that family being the Earl of Westmoreland:
Know then my friend, since last I wrote,
Here hath been pass’d a day of note,
When ‘tis the fashion to declare,
Who next shall be our worthy Mayor.
This day is honoured every year
By presence of a noble peer,…
The town of voters hath but few;
So few, that at th’Election last…
Th’Electors, and elected too,
In one horse chaise appear’d to view:
Sadly, John Fowles died in 2005 before any publication of the poem could be undertaken. But now the Lyme Museum has decided to ask for subscribers so that a first and fully annotated edition can be published.
The Museum has already secured some grants towards the cost of producing the book from charitable foundations and other donors, but in order to complete the task of publishing this manuscript they now need to attract 100 subscribers, who will pledge £20 per volume, and whose names will be recorded in the publication itself.
Once sufficient numbers of subscribers have been received the publication project will be able to be got underway.
If you go here you will find a form that can be copied, filled in and sent to the present curator of the Lyme museum, Mary Godwin (and she will even accept subscriptions made by copying and pasting the form in an email: I know because that how I subscribed) .
If you would like any more details of the publication her email address is
replacing “at” and “dot” with the necessary to fool spammers ;-)
The Lyme Regis Museum’s publication of The Lymiad will rather fittingly and touchingly be dedicated to John Fowles’s memory.
Do note that the new edition will not be a facsimile of the original manuscript. Instead, it is being cleverly designed to appear as it might have done in had it been published in 1819 .It will have stitched pages and marbled card covers .
I understand that the edition will contain an essay by John Fowles on Lyme in the early 1800s which he revised in 2003, a general introduction and textual notes by John Constable, a transcription of the text complete with editorial notes by John Fowles, John Constable and Jo Draper and that it will be illustrated with pictures from the Museum’s wonderful collection, which have also been selected by Jo Draper.
I have already subscribed because I am absolutely fascinated by the thought of reading an insider’s view of the place Jane Austen visited and liked so much that she ensured that pivotal scenes from Persuasion occurred there . And also because I adore this museum, and try visit it every time I visit Lyme.
I do hope that some of you may be sufficiently interested to subscribe to this fascinating pubication project too.
We now know what early 19th century fireworks looked like…but what about the illuminations?
We did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were really beautiful and surpassing my expectations the illuminations too were very pretty.
(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 19th June, 1799)
Illuminations were often used in conjunction with fireworks, and were static structures lit by hundreds of small glass lamps fuelled with oil. The structures were often temporary things, but the illuminations (the small glass oil lamps) could also be affixed to “illuminate” more solid structures, as in this picture below by Rowlandson from Ackermann’s The Microcosm of London, showing the illuminated bandstand at Vauxhall Gardens( Do click on it to enlarge it to see the beautiful detail,and the effect of the individual lamps)
The term could also refer to the strings of lamps illuminating the walks of the pleasure gardens as was the case at many of the gardens in England throughout the 18th century and up to the middle of the 19th century.
At a time when the brightness of electric light was unknown and candles used en masse was terrifically and prohibitively expensive, the sight of coloured lights illuminating the gardens at night, among the trees, must have been breath-taking.
An Irish gentlemen visiting Vauxhall Gardens in 1752, whose name is not recorded, wrote about the astonishing effect of the illuminations:
The garden strikes the eye prodigiously; it is set with many rows of tall trees, kept in excellent order, among which are placed an incredible number of globe lamps, by which it is illuminated, and when they are lighted the sound of the music ravishing the ear, added to the great resort of company so well dressed and walking about, would almost make one believe he was in the Elysian fields.
The method of lighting the lamps at Vauxhall was very dramatic. During supper a whistle was blown as a signal to a number of servants placed in strategic parts of the garden. Each servant touched a match to pre-installed fuses, and, instantaneously over a thousand oil lamps were illuminated, bathing the gardens in a warm light that would have been visible for miles around.
These illustration from the Duke of Richmond’s firework display also show examples of illuminations:
Some illuminations were rather more elaborate than others.
This one designed by the architect, Robert Adam for King George III not only included 4,000 individual oil lamps but also two large transparencies pictures painted on gauze and lit from behind to produce a luminous effect:
This design is the more elaborate of the two proposals submitted by Adam for a temporary structure to be erected in the garden of Buckingham House in June 1763 at the time of the celebrations to mark the start of royal occupation of the house, purchased in the previous year. In the event Adam’s other design, for a much simpler structure, was used. A detailed description of the party, which took place at night and employed 4,000 lamps, is included in the Gentleman’s Magazine. It was arranged by Queen Charlotte as a surprise for the King, at the time of his twenty-fifth birthday. Adam also made perspective views of both versions of the screen, which clarify the importance of the ‘transparencies’ (large back-lit pictures, within the main architectural features) in the design. The subject of the transparencies alluded to the King’s role as peace-maker – following the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the Seven Years War in the same year. This style of decoration had been popular on the continent for many years: in France, Rome and also in Mecklenburg, where a small-scale ‘illumination’ had been staged to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of the future Queen Charlotte in 1761. It appears that some of the materials used in Adam’s 1763 screen were reused by Chambers in 1768, for the pavilion erected in Richmond at the time of the visit of the King’s brother-in-law, Christian VII of Denmark.
(see George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage Collecting and Court Taste edited by Jane Roberts).
Sadly we have no record of the type of illuminations which were in operation at the Sydney Gardens but we can be assured that because of their rarity and very special effect in a world where the light from a few wax candles was thought of as miraculous, Jane Austen was quite right to be impressed.
And that concludes this series of posts on Jane Austen in Bath. I do hope you have enjoyed our time travelling to this particular part of Jane Austen’s past.
Before I post about Sydney Place, I thought it might be useful to see the quandary the Austens had to face when they moved to Bath in 1801…Where, oh where to live in fashionable and expensive Bath on not a particularly large income , while still maintaining some semblance of status and happiness?
Jane’s letter to Cassandra Austenof the 3rd January 1801 details all the places she thought might or might not suit.
Here is the 1803 plan of Bath from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham annotated with the locations she mentions in the letter:
And here is the extract from the letter:
There are three parts of Bath which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them — Westgate Buildings,(A)
and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place (C)
or Pulteney Street (D).
Westgate Buildings,(A) though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.
Charles Street, however, I think, is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields
would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street(B) leads from the Queen Square Chapel (F)
to the two Green Park Streets (G).
The houses in the streets near Laura Place (C) I should expect to be above our price.
Gay Street (L) would be too high,
except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments.
But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row (H) , which opens into Prince’s Street (I).
Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street,(J)
although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.
We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Axford Buildings,(K)
but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.
You can cleary see Jane Austen’s preferences are for places that have the opportunity of open views…making her feel that she is not too far from the countryside, and importantly, with access to the hills for walking…The expense involved also weighs heavily on her mind. She also opts for those locations that were not so close to the Leigh Perrots to be uncomfortable. They were inevitably going to be part of their social circle in Bath, and no doubt were a very keen attraction for Mrs Austen to be retired near to her brother and his wife, but for Jane Austen I think, paraphrasing Elizabeth Bennet, it was possible for a woman to be settled too near her family….
This is a very elegant church and I’ve always loved seeing it on its hill, on the approach to Bath from the A4…
Here is its position in Bath,
shown on a section from this larger map of Bath in 1803 from John Feltham’s Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc
The church is number 1 on this map, which can be enlarged if you click on it. You can see the position of the church -marked as a black section of the top of the piece of land between Walcot and Cornwall Buildings: if you look carefully you can also see the site of the Walcot burial ground to the south-east of the church.
This church holds very special Jane Austen associations, as it was the church where her mother and father married and also where the reverend George Austen was buried.
The building we can see now-still a functioning church-
was rebuilt after the Austen’ wedding, because of the boom in the Bath population in the mid 18th century. The parish of St. Swithin’s decided to demolish the old medieval church on the site and to rebuild, employing the architect of St James ,Bath, John Palmer as their architect for their more spacious and modern church.
This is how Walter Ison in his wonderful book, The Gregorian Buildings of Bath, describes the exterior and the interior of the building:
The exterior is adorned with a giant order of Ionic pilasters with plain shafts ,which rise from a deep plinth and divide the side elevations into six equal bays. The two tiers of widows, low segmental-headed lights to the ground floor and tall arched lights to the galleries, are framed by heavily moulded architraves. A plain strongcourse marks the gallery level and the fronts are finished with an entablature and plain parapet. Low wings containing vestries and staircases, flank the of the tower, which forms the centre of the west front…
The interior measure approximately 68 feet by 52 feet and is similar to that of St James’s Church except that here three widely spaced columns stand on each side of the nave and the gallery is independent of them. The alter stands in a shallow bay corbelled out over the lower road and the side walls are adorned with many interesting memorial tablets including one to the architect, John Palmer.
Back to Jane Austen…Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh was living in Bath at the time of her marriage to George Austen in 1764. Her father had retired to Bath in the early 1760s, and had died there in January 1764, and was then buried in the subject of our post today, St Swithin’s Church.
The Austens married on the 26th April 1764 by special license at St. Swithin’s
This is a copy of the register recording their marriage, which you can enlarge as you can all the illustrations in this post, simply by clicking on it.
In a characteristically practical manner, Mrs Austen did not appear at church arrayed in any special wedding dress of fine embroidered silk. Instead she wore a typical mid 18th century travelling dress -a habit-of red worsted wool.
Her dress must have been very similar to this one held by the Victoria and Albert Museum in their collection. If you go here you can see a 360 degree view of the dress and a short description of it.
This dress was indeed very practical garb for the wife of a country rector. And it gave good service to the family for when no longer fit to be worn as a dress, it was adapted as clothes for the Austen children.
Frank Austen , one of Jane’s sailor brothers, was by all accounts a fearless little boy and had an instinctive gift for horse trading. When he was seven years old he bought a pony for £1, 11 shillings and 6 pence, which he trained and hunted and at the end of two years ownership sold for £2 12 shillings and 6 pence, thereby making a profit of over one guinea. The wedding dress was finally used up to make Francis a jacket and a pair breeches so that he could appear in style in the hunting field as a child.
When Jane Austen was staying with Edward Austen at Queen’s Square in June 1799 she was of course commissioned by her sister, Cassandra, to buy articles of clothing, and in particular to find out what the latest fashion was so that they could keep up with the times in rural Hampshire.
Bath was (and still is) a wonderful centre for shopping: it impressed the fashion-obsessed Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey :
“Bath is a charming place, sir; there are so many good shops here. We are sadly off in the country; not but what we have very good shops in Salisbury, but it is so far to go — eight miles is a long way; Mr. Allen says it is nine, measured nine; but I am sure it cannot be more than eight; and it is such a fag — I come back tired to death. Now, here one can step out of doors and get a thing in five minutes.”
Northanger Abbey,Chapter 3
But in Jane Austen’s case, the shops proved disappointing:
Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in guest of something for you.
(See :Letter to Cassandra Austen dated June 2nd 1799)
The search for fruit in Walcot was not very productive: Jane Austen’s Aunt, Mrs Leigh Perrot typically sending Jane on a fools errand in search of cheap decorative fruit, sending her to a cheap shop where annoyingly only flowers were to be had:
We have been to the cheap shop, and very cheap we found it, but there are only flowers made there, no fruit; and as I could get four or five very pretty sprigs of the former for the same money which would procure only one Orleans plum — in short, could get more for three or four shillings than I could have means of bringing home — I cannot decide on the fruit till I hear from you again. Besides, I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit. What do you think on that subject?
(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated June 11th, 1799).
I tend to agree…flowers and not fruit sprouting from the head seems far more natural, but I am not sure exactly why…
The last Jane Austen association with St Swithin’s is rather poingnant: Jane’s father, Geroge Austen was buried there after his death in Bath on the 21st January 1805, and this is a picture of the original ledgerstone, which indicated the place of his burial.
This was re-sited and renovated by the Bath and Bristol branch of the Jane Austen Society in 2000, and a new sign recording George Austen’s associations with the church was erected:
You might like to note that Fanny Burney –one of Jane Austen’s favourite novelists-
and her husband who lived in Bath in the early 19th century, were also buried in the Walcot burial ground and at a later date a memorial was erected near the church commemorating them.
but not the Deirdre Le Faye edition…..the Brabourne edition;-)
This may initially appear to you as a strange thing to include in a book review, a set of books that have been out of print for over 100 years…but wait …you well probably be as surprised and pleased as I was to discover that Cambridge University Press have recently taken on the concept of print-on-demand books and have made it into something that has the potential to be very special indeed.
They are re-issuing scholarly out of print books from the unimaginably wide range of books in their libraries.
The edition of Jane Austen’s letters edited by Jane Austen’s nephew, Lord Brabourne, is among the first digitally reprinted books to be issued in the new series –The Cambridge Library Collection
It comes in the form of two very reasonably priced volumes, both in paperback editions.
They are facsimiles of the original books, first published in 1884 by Richard Bentley and Son.
The originals have become so expensive that I have long since put my reasonably-priced-when-bought-all those- years-ago volumes on The Not To Be Touched Shelf.
So now I am pleased to own these two volumes in this accessible form so that I can examine them once again without fear of breaking the spine, spilling tea over them or otherwise damaging them in my usual klutzy way.
This Brabourne collection is, of course, available on-line, and has been superseded by the Le Faye Edition, but it still has some merits, the introductions by Lord Barbourne and interesting family documents etc, and there is a charm in examining the first proper selection of Jane Austen’s letters in its original form. Especially when the original volumes are now so scarce and…so ruinously and hideously expensive. And despite, or rather because of being a fond Kindle owner, I find I do like to hold a book in my hands, rather than read one on line, especially if I’m doing it for prolonged periods of time. So this re-issue is wonderful.
My only gripe is that the two illustrations in the books are quite fuzzy and indistinct.
The portrait supposedly of Jane Austen as a child, commonly known as The Rice Portrait ,
is rendered (as in the original books) in black and white but as you can see, below, this version is very blurred :
The view of Godmersham from The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (1798) by Edward Hasted in Volume II of the letters is also not particularly clear…
…especially if you compare it with the original print , of which I have a copy
However this is nitpicking on my part, a minor quibble. It is the text that is important and these books deliver it in a perfectly legible way.
The Cambridge University Press have only just begun to reissue many titles on many subjects in this series. Follow this link here to read a general introduction, and this link here gives the current list, subject by subject
Below is a very lovely and informative video of the whole process-accompanied by heavenly music by William Byrd sung by the choir of Girton College. Just click on it to play….
I love the idea that they are open to suggestions for further reprints and I am compiling a list with a few suggestions. Their own collection of books must be mind bogglingly immense, but if you suggest a title of merit that they do not own or is not out of copyright but out of print ,they will attempt to pursue the matter and try to produce their own edition of the books.
As someone whose ancestor was John Baskerville, who was commissioned to print books for Cambridge University in the 18th century, I have always had an affection for the CUP. I can only laud this whole process, and urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to own your own copies of hard to find and sometimes impossibly expensive texts.