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As many of you know, recently research, most notably and most diligently undertaken by Janet Clark of the Jane Austen Society, has shown that Worthing in Sussex is most probably Jane Austen’s inspiration for the setting of Sanditon, her last, alas incomplete, work.
Jane Austen stayed in Worthing during the late summer, autumn and possibly winter of 1805, along with her mother, sister, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd, plus her brother, Edward Austen Knight and his wife, Elizabeth, their daughter Fanny, and her governess Anne Sharp. The cottage where she stayed, Stanford Cottage is now a branch of a nation-wide, well- known pizza chain and recently the Worthing Civic Society has erected a plaque there to commemorate Jane Austen’s happy and productive stay in the town.
While she was there Jane Austen seems to have soaked up the atmosphere and the personalities of the locals who were striving to promote a new, bustling watering-place, with an eye to profits . If you go here you can read some more of Janet Clarke’s discoveries,which I find fascinating. I took a trip round Worthing a couple of years ago to see the Austen sites, and while it is no longer the Regency resort of Jane Austen’s day, there are still a few places that she would have known and recognised.
How sad it is to hear, therefore, that one of these places is threatened, and public access to it may permanently cease.
Above is the space under discussion. It is, to use the old Sussex dialect term for it, a Twitten, that is, a small passageway between two walls, examples of which can still be found in some English towns. It is owned by Stagecoach, the nation-wide coaching company, and, as you can see, above, one end of the Twitten is accessed through their property, the local Stagecoach bus station. The other end of the Twitten leads to Library Place, where the circulating library that Jane Austen used in Worthing was situated. It is highly probable that she used this Twitten to visit it, as Stanford Cottage can be accessed via this Twitten and the station, and it is , in fact, a short cut.
This has been the subject of much dispute, and a planning meeting is to be held at the end of March to discuss it.
As Janet Clarke has told me recently, the Twitten
would have been a delightful short cut from her (Jane Austen’s-jfw) residence, in the autumn of 1805, through open land to the seafront and circulating library. It is wonderful for visitors today, to walk in Jane’s footsteps , especially as Stanford Cottage and part of the circulating library are still standing ( the pathway directly links the two as it has done for over 200 years ). Permanently stopping up the pathway would be very detrimental to the Jane Austen trail in Worthing, damaging our heritage and tourism, and diminishing the overall appreciation of Jane Austen’s Worthing for present and future generations.
I really do think that losing any part of our Austen heritage, however small, is just unthinkable. At a time when new discoveries about Jane Austen-related buildings are being made -see the Steventon rectory project- why on earth would a local council want to stop public access to a charming relic of Worthing that Jane Austen would have known and used ? And I would have thought that in these difficult financial times that any direct link to our greatest novelist should be preserved for the public to use and to attract tourism to the town. We are, after all, only five years from the bicentenary of her death in 1817, and interest in all things Jane has never been higher.
I am appalled to be frank, and am considering my response to the council. What do you think about this?
The Philpot Museum in Lyme Regis is holding a talk which may interest Janites in the area. It is to be given by John Dover on the 24th March at 2.30 p.m., and the subject is Thomas Hollis. He was the man who founded Lyme’s tourist industry in teh early to mid 18th century.
This is of interest to Janeites because it was probably due to his tourism promoting activities, that Jane Austen ensured that Mr Hollis, the first husband of Lady Denham in her last unfinished novel, Sandition, shares his name
Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was an interesting character. He was a political propagandist and a radical but also a supporter of the house of Hanover. He was a benefactor, amongst other institutions, of Harvard University and owned an estate of 3000 acres at Corscombe near Beauminster.
He kept, however, a suite of rooms in the original Three Cups Hotel at Lyme, the one shown above (and now sadly derelict)replaced it, and he bought up much of the slums and derelict property in Lyme in order to demolish them and improve the town. He created the first public promenade by purchasing land on the shore to create what Jane Austen would have referred to as The Walk ( it is now part of Marine Parade). He knocked down a series of warehouses to clear a site for the building of Lyme’s Assembly Rooms complex and these were completed in 1775 just after Hollis’s death. These are the Rooms that Jane Austen visited in 1804, and which I wrote about, here.
I do hope that some of you can go to listen to what promises to be a very interesting talk about a larger than life character, whose legacy made a strong impression on Jane Austen.
…but with a catch. The exhibition at the Bodleian Library is open for one day only.
which includes most of her very early writings and the manuscript of Sanditon. Also on display will be Edward Knight’s set of his sister, Jane s novels.
The display is to coincide with the official launch of the Jane Austen Ficiton Manuscripts website which we have discussed before. This site will be fully operational and open to all from Monday, so even if you can’t travel to Oxford to see the manuscripts, etc, you can luxuriate in studying them from the comfort of your own computer, wherever you are in the world. I must confess I am already fining this site terribly useful for my own research, and am so pleased it has been brought not existence before the advent of the culture of vicious budgets cuts in which we now seem to live .
Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University is the curator of the exhibit. She writes:
Being able to view Austen’s original manuscripts reveals fascinating details about the mechanics and quirks of her handwriting. Her famous description of her way of working – “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour” is borne out by the tiny homemade booklets into which she wrote – her style is obsessively economical, in her formation of carets from recycled elements of other letters, and her layered punctuation (the merging of a caret with the down stroke of a ‘p’ and a semi-colon with an exclamation mark), and her near compulsive use of the dash to maintain a material connection between her thoughts and the paper.
She has given some interesting interviews recently to coincide with the launch of the website. The article in the Telegraph, though ever-so-slightly incorrect and with its misleading and slightly sensational headline is of interest for it demonstrates that a close reading Jane Austen’s surviving manuscripts reveals her to be a very different person than usually portrayed, and certainly completely different from the carefully crafted image presented to the world by Jane Austen’s Victorian descendants, a process of “beatification” begun by Henry Austen in his Biographical Notice of his sister, published posthumously in December 1817 in the first edition of Persuasion.
Laurel at Austenprose asked me a couple of days ago to give a little back ground to sea bathing and the medical rewards( or not) of taking the cure-all of sea bathing in the early 19th century ,and here is the post I have written about it for her and you.
The Sea air and Sea Bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every Disorder…
Sanditon, Chapter 1
The process of dipping-sea bathing-in the early 19th century is so far removed form our experience of bathing in the sea, that it might be worthwhile looking at it in some detail.
The clothes (linen sifts or chemises covering the body from shoulders to ankles and not skimpy lycra swimsuits); the dipping itself (not swimming for ladies, note)aided by “dippers” ; all undertaken from enclosed bathing machines pulled by horses; the heath benefits-all are completely different to what we consider the benefits and joys of swimming by the seaside today.
One of the most thorough descriptions of the whole process of being dipped, is to be found in epistolary novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) by Tobias Smollett. In the letter from Jery Melford to Sir Watkin Phillips written from Scarborough in Yorkshire dated July 1st, we learn all we really need to know:
Betwixt the well and the harbour, the bathing machines are ranged along the beach, with all their proper utensils and attendants. You have never seen one of these machines.Image to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below.
The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end
The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water
After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land; so that he has nothing further to do,but to open the door, and come down as he went up
Should he be so weak or ill as to require a servant to put off and on his clothes, there is room enough in the apartment for half a dozen people. The guides who attend the ladies in the water, are of their own sex, and they and the female bathers have a dress of flannel for the sea; nay, they are provided with other conveniences for the support of decorum. A certain number of the machines are fitted with tilts, that project from the sea-ward ends of them, so as to screen the bathers from the view of all persons whatsoever
The beach is admirably adapted for this practice, the descent being gently gradual, and the sand soft as velvet; but then the machines can be used only at a certain time of the tide, which varies every day; so that sometimes the bathers are obliged to rise very early in the morning
First lets consider the bathing machines….
This picture- taken from the frontispiece to my 1816 edition of The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham show the “ tilt” –a modesty hood and -its presumably wicker framework over which it was stretched and held as the bather within was dipped into the water. This is a tiny engraving but if you do enlarge it, by clicking on it, you can see all the amazing detail.
This view of Margate show the machine being pulled out into the sea by horses and the sea looks rather as if it has rather a heavy swell.
You can also see the unused bahting mahines with tilts atatched, waiting to be used at the side of the beach.
Dippers or bathing machine women, who attended women in these machines, or Bathers (who attended men)were an interesting part of the whole process. In her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 14thSeptember 1804, Jane Austen mentions that her dipper at Lyme was a woman named Molly.
This is a picture of a rather famous dipper, Martha Gunn who operated a series of bathing machines from the beach at Brighton:
This caricature of Martha by the cartoonist Robert Dighton dating from 1801, shows her as a physically formidable woman before her bathing machines ranged on the Brighton beach. Dippers and Bathers had to be physically strong as their occupation required that standing in the water, they took their client in their arms as he/she descended the steps leading from the bathing machine, and to proceed to “dip” the bathers vigorously into the sea water, pushing them through the waves. Martha was famous for dipping the Prince of Wales, and this ditty was created in her honour:
To Brighton came he,
Came George III’s son.
To be bathed in the sea,
By famed Martha Gunn
She was also rumoured to be a procuress but we shall draw a veil over those activities for today.
Men often bathed naked and care was taken to segregate the sexes on beaches. The clothes women wore were similar to those worn at Bath: a long chemise made of flannel.
This acquatint by Rowlandson, taken from the Poetical Sketches of Scarborough (1813) shows ladies bathing at Scarborough naked. And it seems that in some places naked bathing by women continued into the early 19th century:
Men, with exceptions, continued to bathe naked until the 1870s but women began to provide themselves with bathing dresses towards the end of the 18th century, though nudity was braved by some during the first years of the nineteenth
(See English Costume for Spots and Outdoor Recreation by Phillis Cunnington and Alan Mansfield)
The whole process could be fun but exhausting. As Jane Austen herself discovered. Writing to Cassandra Austen from Lyme in Dorset in 1804, she remarked:
The Bathing was so delightful this morning and Molly so pressing with me to enjoy myself that I believe I staid in rather too long as since the middle of the day have felt unreasonably tired. I shal lbe more careful another time and shall not bathe tomorrow as I had before intended…
And what were the health benefits expected of sea bathing? William Buchan who wrote Domestic Medicine
and whose sensible advice on consumptive patients seems to accord with Jane Austen’s view of the disease as possibly manifested by Jane Fairfax, is helpful in giving us an insight into the mind of 18th century medical men. Remember that this time the medical profession was guided by the belief that health derived from a balance of the four humors in the body . Physicians and apothecaries focused upon restoring the system’s equilibrium or balance, usually by draining or purging the system of excess humors.
The theory that the body consisted of four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile derived back to Greek medicine practiced in ancient times. As the ancient Greeks considered that disease was caused by an imbalance of these humors, it was, therefore considered that the duty of a physician was to employ treatment that would restore this delicate balance.
Thus treatments consisted of curing the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. Prescribed therapies were limited to diet, exercise, rest, bath, and “heroic medicine.” Despite its name, heroic medicine was in my opinion,anything but. It consisted of purging, starving, vomiting, or bloodletting, and was thought to relieve the body of symptoms like fever or inflammation by relieving it of various excess humours.
Dr Buchan recommended sea bathing- cold immersions- for the following set of people and complaints :
The cold bath recommends itself in a variety of cases; and is peculiarly beneficial to the inhabitants of populous cities; who indulge in idleness, and lead sedentary lives. In persons of this description the action of the fluids is always too weak, which induces a languid circulation, a crude indigested mass of humours, and obstructions in the capillary vessels and glandular system. Cold water, from its gravity as well as its tonic power, is well calculated either to obviate or remove these symptoms. It accelerates the motion of the blood, promotes the different secretions, and gives permanent vigour to the solids. But all these important purposes will be more essentially answered by the application of salt water. This ought not only to be preferred on account of its superior gravity, but likewise for its greater power of stimulating the skin, which promotes the perspiration, and prevents the patient from catching cold.
It is necessary, however, to observe, that cold bathing is more likely to prevent, than to remove obstructions of the glandular or lymphatic system. Indeed, when these have arrived at a certain pitch, they are not to be removed by any means. In this case the cold bath will only aggravate the symptoms, and hurry the unhappy patient into an untimely grave. It is therefore of the utmost importance, previous to the patient’s entering upon the use of the cold bath, to determine whether or not he labours under any obstinate obstructions of the lungs or other viscera; and where this is the case, cold bathing ought strictly to be prohibited. The late celebrated Dr. Smollet has indeed said, that if he were persuaded he had an ulcer in the lungs, he would jump into the cold bath: but here the Doctor evidently shews more courage than discretion; and that he was more a man of wit than a physician, every one will allow. A nervous asthma, or an atrophy, may be mistaken for a pulmonary consumption; yet in the two former, the cold bath proves often beneficial, though I never knew it so in the latter.
But he did advise certain cautions:
As it is now fashionable for persons of all ranks to plunge into the sea, and drink the mineral waters, I was desirous of rendering this work still more extensively useful, by the addition of some practical remarks on these active and useful medicines. Finding it impossible to bring these observations within so narrow a compass as not to swell the book, already too large, into an enormous size, I resolved to confine myself to a few hints or cautions; which may be of service to persons who bathe, or drink the mineral waters, without being able to put themselves under the care of a physician.
No part of the practice of medicine is of greater importance, or merits more the attention of the physician, as many lives are lost, and numbers ruin their health, by cold bathing, and an imprudent use of the mineral waters. On some future occasion I may probably resume this subject, as I know not any work that contains a sufficient number of practical observations to regulate the patient’s conduct in the use of these active and important medicines….
People are apt to imagine that the simple element of water can do no hurt, and that they may plunge into it at any time with impunity. In this, however, they are much mistaken. I have known apoplexies occasioned by going into the cold bath, fevers excited by staying too long in it, and other maladies so much aggravated by its continued use, that they could never be wholly eradicated. Nor are examples wanting, either in ancient or modern times, of the baneful consequences which have arisen also from an injudicious application of the warm bath; but as warm baths are not so common in this country, and are seldom used but under the direction of a physician, I shall not enlarge on that part of the subject.
Immersion in cold water is a custom which lays claim to the most remote antiquity: indeed it must have been coeval with man himself. The necessity of water for the purposes of cleanliness, and the pleasure arising from its application to the body in hot countries, must very early have recommended it to the human species. Even the example of other animals was sufficient to give the hint to man. By instinct many of them are led to apply cold water in this manner; and some, when deprived of its use, have been known to languish, and even to die. But whether the practice of cold bathing arose from necessity, reasoning, or imitation, is an inquiry of no importance: our business is to point out the advantages which may be derived from it, and to guard people against an improper use of it.
In what is called a plethoric state, or too great a fullness of the body, it is likewise dangerous to use the cold bath, without due preparation. In this case there is great danger of bursting a blood vessel, or occasioning an inflammation of the brain, or some of the viscera. This precaution is the more necessary to citizens, as most of them live full, and are of a gross habit. Yet what is very remarkable, these people resort in crouds every season to the sea-side, and plunge in the water without the least consideration. No doubt they often escape with impunity, but does this give a sanction to the practice? Persons of this description ought by no means to bathe, unless the body has been previously prepared by suitable evacuations.
Another class of patients, who stand peculiarly in need of the bracing qualities of cold water, is the nervous. This includes a great number of the male, and almost all the female inhabitants of great cities. Yet even those persons ought to be cautious in using the cold bath. Nervous people have often weak bowels, and may, as well as others, be subject to congestions and obstructions of the viscera; and in this case they will not be able to bear the effects of the cold water. For them, therefore, and indeed for all delicate people, the best plan would be to accustom themselves to it by the most pleasing and gentle degrees. They ought to begin with the temperate bath, and gradually use it cooler, till at length the coldest proves quite agreeable. Nature revolts against all great transitions; and those who do violence to her dictates, have often cause to repent of their temerity.
Wherever cold bathing is practised, there ought likewise to be tepid baths for the purpose mentioned above. Indeed it is the practice of some countries to throw cold water over the patient as soon as he comes out of the warm bath; but though this may not injure a Russian peasant, we dare not recommend it to the inhabitants of this country. The ancient Greeks and Romans, we are told, when covered with sweat and dust, used to plunge into rivers, without receiving the smallest injury. Though they might often escape danger from this imprudent conduct, yet it was certainly contrary to sound reason. I have known many robust men throw away their lives by such an attempt. We would not however advise patients to go into the cold water when the body is chilly; as much exercise, at least, ought to be taken, as may excite a gentle glow all over the body, but by no means so as to overheat it. To young people, and particularly to children, cold bathing is of the least importance. Their lax fibres render its tonic powers peculiarly proper. It promotes their growth, increases their strength, and prevents a variety of diseases incident to childhood. The celebrated Galen says, that immersion in cold water is fit only for the young of lions and bears: and recommends warm bathing, as conducive to the growth and strength of infants. How egregiously do the greatest men err whenever they lose sight of facts, and substitute reasoning in physic in place of observation and experience! Were infants early accustomed to the cold bath, it would seldom disagree with them; and we should see fewer instances of the scrofula, rickets, and other diseases, which prove fatal to many, and make others miserable for life. Sometimes indeed, these disorders render infants incapable of bearing the shock of cold water; but this is owing to their not having been early and regularly accustomed to it. It is however necessary here to caution young men against too frequent bathing; as I have known many fatal consequences result from the daily practice of plunging into rivers and continuing there too long.
Interestingly he agrees that early in the morning is the best time to bathe:
The most proper time of the day for using the cold bath is no doubt the morning, or at least before dinner; and the best mode, that of quick immersion. As cold bathing has a constant tendency to propel the blood and other humours towards the head, it ought to be a rule always to wet that part as soon as possible. By due attention to this circumstance, there is reason to believe that violent head-achs, and other complaints, which frequently proceed from cold bathing, might be often prevented.
But he agrees with Jane Austen’s experience about the dangerous of too much bathing:
The cold bath, when too long continued in, not only occasions an excessive flux of humours towards the head, but chills the blood, cramps the muscles, relaxes the nerves, and wholly defeats the intention of bathing. Hence, by not adverting to this circumstance, expert swimmers are often injured, and sometimes even lose their lives. All the beneficial purposes of cold bathing are answered by one single immersion; and the patient ought to be rubbed dry the moment he comes out of the water, and should continue to take exercise for some time after.
When cold bathing occasions chillness, loss of appetite, listlessness, pain of the breast or bowels, a prostration of strength, or violent head-aches, it ought to be discontinued.
Though these hints are by no means intended to point out all the cases where cold bathing may be hurtful; nor to illustrate its extensive utility as a medicine; yet it is hoped, they may serve to guard people against some of those errors into which from mere inattention they are apt to fall; and thereby not only endanger their own lives, but bring an excellent medicine into disrepute.
So there you are the practise and benefits of early 19th century sea-bathing: the cure all ( or was it?)
Continuing the theme of Sanditon for Laurel’s Group Read at Austenprose, I thought you might like to know more about Worthing, the seaside resort in Sussex which may have been the inspiration for Mr Parker’s resort.
There has been much speculation about Jane Austen’s inspiration for the town of Sanditon: was the place completely imaginary or did she base it on a resort with which she was familiar? Eastbourne in Sussex has been mooted as a candidate, though as far as I am aware, Jane Austen is not recorded as ever having visited that town.
But she is recorded as having visited Worthing, another Sussex resort, and this definitely has possibilities for being her template for the developing resort of Sanditon.
Worthing distant fifty none miles from London and eleven westward of Brighton possesses many attractions which contribute to make it a desirable residence for those who wish to enjoy the benefits of sea-bathing or air…
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)
In the late summer of 1805, a sad year for Jane Austen during which her father died while they were living in Bath, she and her mother, her sister Cassandra and Martha Lloyd ( James Austen’s sister in law) visited Edward Austen Knight at his home at Godmersham in Kent and later in the season in September the Austen ladies and Martha together with Edward Austen and his wife, Elizabeth, his daughter Fanny
and her governess Anne Sharpe (with whom Jane Austen established a life long friendship) stayed for some time at Stanford Cottage in Worthing to take the sea air and cures and to enjoy the surrounding countryside.
Writing to Cassandra from Godmersham Park on 24th August 1805 when Cassandra was staying at nearby Goodnestone Farm with Marianne Bridges, Jane Austen confides some reasons for the planned visit to Worthing:
Little Edward is by no means better and his papa and mama have determined to consult Dr Wilmot. Unless he recovers his strength beyond what is now probable his brothers will return to School without him and so he will be of the party at Worthing. If sea-bathing should be recommended he will be left there with us ,but this is not thought likely to happen…
Her letter to Cassandra of 30th August indicates that she thought their plan to visit Worthing might have had to be cancelled due to a planned trip to London but in the end a merry party without little Edward, who must have recovered, eventually set out from Godmersham to Worthing on 17th September.
In a letter to her friend Miss Chapman Fanny Knight-who is our main informant for the details of this visit- writes:
Papa, Mama, Aunts C and Jane Miss Sharpe and myself set out on Tuesday for Worthing in Sussex where Miss S will stay some time for her eyes but Mama Papa and I return in about a week.
The trip to Worthing passed though some interesting places for Jane Austen, and indeed some are motioned in the text of Sanditon.She would certainly have passed though Hailsham, and
according to Fanny Knight’s journal, on the 17h September:
Papa, Mama, Aunts Cass and Jane and I set off from Godmersham for Battel(sic) where we arrived about 4 and finding no accommodations we proceeded to Horsebridge where we slept. We saw the Abbey at Battel
Then on September 18th:
We proceeded to Worthing at 9, spent 2 or 3 hours at Brighton and arrived there at 5.We walked on the sands in the evening.
Worthing at this time was a developing resort. According to my copy of John Feltham’s A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1803) :
Never was there an instance of the effects of public partiality more strongly exemplified than at Worthing In a short space of time a few miserable fishing huts and smugglers dens have been exchanged for buildings sufficiently extensive and elegant to accommodate the first families in the kingdom.
Worthing had begun its development as a resort in the late 18th century. In 1798 Princess Amelia the youngest daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte came to Worthing to take the sea-cure to treat a knee complaint. She stayed for 5 months. Then began the rush to share in Worthing’s acceptability as a town with royal favour, and visitors from the highest circles of society soon began to flock there.
In 1803 Worthing officially became a town in its own right, thus gaining independence from the village and parish of Broadwater, which in effect it was really a part until it outgrew its ‘parent parish”.
Worthing had one serious drawback- a tendency to flood. John Fletham records that:
The inhabitants express considerable apprehensions from the inroads of the sea, which they say, has been progressively gaining ground for the last thirty years and some even recollect when houses stood where the sea now flows.
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)
At high tides and during storms Worthing’s open drainage systems could not cope. And often the beach and along the walks next to the sea, large deposits of seaweed covered them.Unpleasant.. This was something that Jane Austen decided Sanditon’s rival resort, Brinshsore, should suffer from, to the delight of the competitive Mr Palmer:
But Brinshore, sir, which I dare say you have in your eye — the attempts of two or three speculating people about Brinshore this last year to raise that paltry hamlet — lying as it does between a stagnant marsh, a bleak moor and the constant effluvia of a ridge of putrefying seaweed — can end in nothing but their own disappointment. What in the name of common sense is to recommend Brinshore? A most insalubrious air — roads proverbially detestable — water brackish beyond example, impossible to get a good dish of tea within three miles of the place. And as for the soil — it is so cold and ungrateful that it can hardly be made to yield a cabbage. Depend upon it, sir, that this is a most faithful description of Brinshore — not in the smallest degree exaggerated — and if you have heard it differently spoken of — ” “Sir, I never heard it spoken of in my life before,” said Mr. Heywood. “I did not know there was such a place in the world.” “You did not! There, my dear,” turning with exultation to his wife, “you see how it is. So much for the celebrity of Brinshore! This gentleman did not know there was such a place in the world. Why, in truth, sir, I fancy we may apply to Brinshore that line of the poet Cowper in his description of the religious cottager, as opposed to Voltaire — ‘She, never heard of half a mile from home. ‘ “
Sanditon Chapter 1.
The facilities at Worthing did not include any assembly rooms, but there were circulating libraries:
The establishment of two very respectable libraries (Spooner’s and Stafford’s)at each of which the most popular newspapers are regularly received …
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)
The first official guide to Worthing published in 1805 by the Reverend John Evans is very proud of the superior type of books that the Worthing libraries afforded the visitors to the town. Aware as he was
…of the usual trash of circulating libraries I was pleasingly disappointed in finding so many volumes worthy of attention
In the Jane Austen Society Report of 2008 Janet Clarke discovered that his phrase is strikingly similar to Sir Edward Denahm’s assessment of circulating libraries:
Sir Edward, approaching Charlotte, said, “You may perceive what has been our occupation. My sister wanted my counsel in the selection of some books. We have many leisure hours and read a great deal. I am no indiscriminate novel reader. The mere trash of the common circulating library l hold in the highest contempt. You will never hear me advocating those puerile emanations which detail nothing but discordant principles incapable of amalgamation, or those vapid tissues of ordinary occurrences from which no useful deductions can be drawn. In vain may we put them into a literary alembic; we distil nothing which can add to science. You understand me, I am sure?”
Sandition Chapter 7
I wonder if Jane Austen read this Guide when she stayed at Worthing? She would probably find the overblown and pompous style irresistible.
Worthing also won over other resorts in that it was supposed to be warmer than other resorts on the coast and therefore that meant that sea bathing could take place nearly all year round.
It is surrounded at the distance of not quite a mile by the uninterrupted chain of the Sussex downs which forming nearly an amphitheatre completely exclude even in the winter months the chilling blasts of the Northern and Eastern winds. It is a very common thing to see a considerable number of bathers here even in the depth of winter, the thermometer being generally higher than at Brighton and upon an average, between 2 and 3 degrees above London.
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)
Fanny Knight bathed in the sea on the 19th September:
I went with Gmama (Mrs Austen-jfw) in the morning to buy fish on the Beach & afterwards with Mama and Miss Sharpe to Bathe where I had a most delicious dip…We dined at 4 and went to a Raffle in the evening, where Aunt Jane won and it amounted to 17 shillings
In addition Worthing had the advantage of an indoors warm bath-supplied with sea water for all year bathing.
..the erection of a very commodious warm baths (Wicke’s) sufficiently prove how far Worthing has risen in public estimation
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)
Cassandra Austen used these Baths on 20th September 1805:
Mama and I sat some time with Miss Fielding and I afterwards waited on the Sands for Aunt Cassandra coming out of the warm baths and then walked with Mama and me the Johnsons in the morning when I was walking with Gmama and again in the evening. We went to the Raffle in the evening.
The Knight party left on the 23rd September. The Austen ladies and Martha Lloyd remained at Worthing until sometime in November. They were certainly there on the 4th November for on that date Martha Lloyd swore an affidavit in relation to her late mother’s will before the Rector of Broadwater parish, The Reverend Peter Wood:
The affidavit was witnessed by Jane Austen and also by Elizabeth Knight, who must have returned to Worthing before the Austen ladies left for one more visit to the seaside.
And so there you are. It has to be admitted that Sanditon and Worthing certainly possess many similar attractions and characteristics. Jane Austen’s sojourn of 2 months there certainly gave her the opportunity to assess the developing resort and the people it attracted. We shall never know for certain, but it seems likely to me that her trip to Worthing provided her with much inspiration and food for thought, which she later put to good use when writing Sanditon.
Today’s supporting post for Laurel at Austenprose for her Sanditon GroupRead is made at her specific request. She knows I love to eat this plant, and so asked me to contribute a piece on Samphire.
He began, in a tone of great taste and feeling, to talk of the sea and the sea shore; and ran with energy through all the usual phrases employed in praise of their sublimity and descriptive of the undescribable emotions they excite in the mind of sensibility. The terrific grandeur of the ocean in a storm, its glass surface in a calm, its gulls and its samphire and the deep fathoms of its abysses, its quick vicissitudes, its direful deceptions, its mariners tempting it in sunshine and overwhelmed by the sudden tempest — all were eagerly and fluently touched; rather commonplace perhaps, but doing very well from the lips of a handsome Sir Edward, and she could not but think him a man of feeling, till he began to stagger her by the number of his quotations and the bewilderment of some of his sentences.
Sanditon, Chapter 7
Sir Edward Denham, in full flood, talking overblown and hackneyed nonsense about the sea to Charlotte Hayward, in order to punish Clara Brereton. Charlotte Haywood assesses his character correctly, I think:
She began to think him downright silly. His choosing to walk with her, she had learnt to understand. It was done to pique Miss Brereton. She had read it, in an anxious glance or two on his side; but why he should talk so much nonsense, unless he could do no better, was unintelligible. He seemed very sentimental, very full of some feeling or other, and very much addicted to all the newest-fashioned hard words, had not a very clear brain, she presumed, and talked a good deal by rote.
It would have been wonderful to see how this particular intriguing character played out throughout the novel: I think he may have been the anti-hero, rather in the manner of John Thorpe, possibly causing Charlotte Heywood some potential harm to her reputation, only for her to be “rescued” by the intervention of someone……but it is not to be. Sadly, we shall never know.
In his raptures about the sea he mentions samphire, a vegetable that is now found on the menus of the trendiest restaurants, but for centuries it was poor food, free to those who picked it, usually ordinary people living by the sea .Why he mentions it is probably indicative of his deliberately overblown “romantic” and sentimental manner. Let me explain.
There are two types of samphire that grow in the United Kingdom: Rock Samphire and Marsh Samphire.
The more common Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) is a member of the beet family ( chenopodium) and grows on salt marches and estuaries, watered by the sea. It was also known as glasswort, because the ashes of burnt marsh samphire ( known as burilla)were used in the process of manufacturing soda glass from as early as the 12th century : the plant is an abundant, easily collected (and free) source of soda.
For epicureans this is thought to be the inferior of the two species. In the Oxford Companion to Food Alan Davidson noted:
Marsh samphire is more salty than rock and does not have the same powerful aroma.
In most trendy restaurants in the UK, this is the sort of samphire you would now eat: a fashion for it began after it was served at the wedding breakfast of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer .Barrels of it were sent to London for the feast from the Norfolk estate owned by the Queen, Sandringham.
But this is not the samphire to which Sir Edward refers. He is talking of rock samphire.
Rock samphire ( Crithmum maritmum) is a member of the umbelliferae family and is a small woody shrub. It originated in the Mediterranean. Both the Romans and Greeks used it in their culinary traditions. The plant derives it common name , Samphire, from the French name herb de Sainte-Pierre: because it grows on rocks near the sea it obviously seemed natural to name it after the fisherman saint, Peter, whose name in Greek, Petros , means “rock”. It was most commonly found on the coasts of the south coast of England and on the Isle of Wight, and as you can see from, the picture below, of it growing high up on the Dorset “Jurassic”coast, that it grows in very inaccessible places.
It was an immensely popular pickle, and that eventually led to its demise(it was over picked): it is now rather rare.
In Flora Britannica ,Richard Mabey notes that:
In the early 19th century rock samphire from the Isle of Wight and from around the cliffs of Dover was so popular that it was sent in casks of brine to London where wholesalers would pay up to 4 shillings a bushel for it.
In most recipe books dating from the 17th century onwards sadly no distinction is made between the two sorts. We must assume therefore that they were both prepared in the same way.
This recipe is taken from my copy of Richard Brigg’s book The English Art of Cookery,(1794)
and is typical of the method of pickling samphire
The reason why Sir Edward probably mentions it is that it was once so popular (and free) that people risked their lives to gather it from the cliff faces where it grew and it has become a sort of literary cliche, so often is it mentioned in travel and botanical literature from the 17h century onwards. Most of these writers make reference to Shakespeare’s famous description of the harvesting processt in King Lear,(Act IV scene vi) where Edgar, intent on fooling his father, the now blinded Gloucester, that he is standing on the edge of the cliffs near Dover describes the imaginary scene:
Come on, sir; here’s the place. Stand still. How fearful
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
Diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge
That on the unnumbered idle pebbles chafes
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
This vibrant image was taken up by travel writers writing about the cliffs of southern England and the Isle of Wight -from the 17th century onwards.
(Map from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham)
For instance, Robert Turner writing about the method of gathering samphire on the Isle of Wight in 1664 noted that it was
Incredibly dangerous…yet many adventure it ,though they may buy their sauce with the price of their lives
(The British Physician or the Nature and Virtues of British Plants(1664).
Sir Edward is therefore hardly being original in his “impassioned ” speech to Charlotte. The falsely overblown baronet is merely reciting these somewhat hackneyed phrases and literary clichés of the sea to Charlotte in order to …what? Impress her with his knowledge? Indicate he is a man of sensibility-a man of feeling ? Oh yes. He is a slightly more sophisticated version of Mr Collins, not quoting conduct books this time, but any romantic poet or notion instead, in order to impress and maintain his ‘romantic” persona.*shudder*