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You may recall that last year I raved about Jack and Holman Wang’s board book for children based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. They promised to introduce more Austen titles and they have been true to their word. Their new title, the second in their Austen series, is Emma, my favourite Austen novel.  I have fallen in love with the so very expressive felt characters in this book and their simple way of re-telling Austen’s classic tale in only ten words. Screenwriters please take note.

Emma by Jack and Holman Wang

Emma by Jack and Holman Wang

Here is the synopsis of the tale from the Cozy Classics website:

Convinced of her own talent for matchmaking, Emma Woodhouse tries to make a match for her young protégé, Harriet Smith. Harriet’s past is sketchy, but Emma believes she deserves to marry a gentleman and sets her sights on Mr. Elton, the village vicar. Harriet receives an offer of marriage from Robert Martin, a prosperous farmer, but Emma persuades Harriet to turn him down and pursue Mr. Elton instead.

Cozy Classics' Mr Knightley

Cozy Classics’ Mr Knightley


Mr. Knightley,(above) the wealthy owner of Donwell Abbey and a trusted family friend, believes Robert and Harriet would have made a fine match and is furious at Emma for her meddling. He’s proven right when Mr. Elton professes his love for—Emma! Later, Harriet is saved from a swarm of gypsy beggars by Frank Churchill, a new face in the village of Highbury. Emma now sets her sights on setting up Harriet and Frank.
One day at a picnic on Box Hill, Emma makes fun of Miss Bates, a poor spinster, for being long-winded.

Cozy Classics' Miss Bates

Cozy Classics’ Miss Bates

Mr. Knightley is angry at Emma for being so unkind. Emma not only feels sorry but also realizes she has always loved Mr. Knightley—and Mr. Knightley feels the same! Once it’s discovered that Frank is engaged to someone else, Harriet is free to pursue the feelings she’s always had for Robert, and everyone is happy!

The illustrations are so cleverly and intricately created from a tableau of felt characters, it is entirely possible ( for I have done it! )to recreate, by reading the book to a child, a simple version of Austen’s clever novels, and to then discuss, in detail, what is happening to the characters. The illustration of Miss Bates being mocked by Emma and Frank Churchill is heartrending. It illuminates the word “laugh”, and will give a child a very different perspective form that he /she usually experiences.( or so open hopes).These books present a perfect introduction to understanding books and the process of reading, in my very humble opinion. The illustrations are very cleverly executed, with much character in the faces and expression in their attitudes. I loved this book, and yes, it is going to be given to the small people in my life this Christmas ( and to some not-so-small people too!)

Slightly off the Austen track, there is now available a Cozy Classic version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Cozy Classics Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte

Cozy Classics Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte

This is quite as successful, in my opinion, as the Austen titles tackled thus far,for it really does manage to condense the main elements of that epic tale in ten words. Which is some achievement. They are perfect stocking fillers for fans of literature and of children’s illustrated books. Here is a short time lapse video of the Making of the Miniature Mr. Rochester:

I’d not object to him being found in my Christmas Stocking either;)

To my shame I failed to review some very interesting books which were published last year, and so, before we begin our Pride and Prejudice adventure, do allow me to make amends.

The first book I wish to recommend to you this week is a biography of Uvedale Price by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell, published by The Boydell Press, as part of  their garden and landscape history series. This is a series which is overseen by the doyen of British landscape history, Professor Tom Williamson of the University of East Anglia, whose books I admire very much, so we can be assured that the books in this series are going to be interesting and worthwhile

"Uvedale Price: Decoding the Picturesque" by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell

“Uvedale Price (1747-1829): Decoding the Picturesque” by Charles Watkins and Ben Cowell.

Attentive readers of  Jane Austen’s works will note that she  appears to have been very interested in the debate that raged in polite society during the 1790s regarding the “picturesque” as a result of a pamphlet war between Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight and Humphrey Repton.  Conversations on this topic were often included in her works, illuminating aspects of her characters’ attitudes not only to landscape and beauty but to life in general.  In Northanger Abbey , written between 1798-9,  Henry and Eleanor Tilney speak the painterly language of the picturesque and of the adherents of William Gilpin while accompanying the wonderingly practical Catherine Morland on a walk around Beechen Cliff near Bath. Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood disagree as to the usefulness of a straight, well-grown tree as opposed to an old twisted tree looming on the landscape. And in Mansfield Park the relentless improvers are certainly not to be admired. Mr Rushworth ( who intends to employ Humphrey Repton like his friend, Mr Smith) is opposed in his schemes  for Sotherton by the almost silent horror of Fanny Price:

“Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? ‘Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.’

Chapter 6

Edmund Bertram  is resolutely practical in the face of Henry Crawford’s relentless plans for the improvement of his rectory at Thornton Lacy:

“And I have two or three ideas also,” said Edmund, “and one of them is, that very little of your plan for Thornton Lacey will ever be put in practice. I must be satisfied with rather less ornament and beauty. I think the house and premises may be made comfortable, and given the air of a gentleman’s residence, without any very heavy expense, and that must suffice me; and, I hope, may suffice all who care about me.

Chapter 25

To understand the background to Jane Austen’s feelings and to those of her characters, it is not only necessary therefore to read the works of William Gilpin, and to understand why she was enamoured (ahem!)of him, but also to understand the debate that raged between Uvedale Price and Humphrey Repton in the 1790s. This book will amply reward any reading, especially if it is done with Mansfield Park in mind. It is the first biography of Uvedale Price to appear in print, and is fascinating.

Uvedale Price was born at Foxley, in the parish of Yazor, Herefordshire, where he was baptized on 14 April 1747. He was the eldest son of Robert Price, a gentleman artist, and his wife, Sarah. His work on his estate formed his ideas on landscape . He absolutely detested the work of Capability Brown, (and his imitators) whom he considered had inflicted a dire and unfortunate uniformity on the 250 plus estates he had “improved” by  utilising the same landscaping elements -smooth lawns around the house, sweeping away ancient gardens; installing serpentine lakes; decorating this new landscape with similar types of clumps of trees- wherever the estates were throughout the country.

Price was convinced that an estate could be considered beautiful in all its parts, not merely the pleasure grounds around the main house, but also that the working parts- the farms, the woodlands etc. – could not only be domesticated, populous and productive parts of the landscape, but could also be attractive and beautiful. A notion Jane Austen appears to allow her character, Emma to espouse. See this scene from  Chapter 42, when Emma surveys the beautiful but practical landscape of the Donwell estate in all its glory:

It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered, dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly followed one another to the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds. It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over a low stone wall with high pillars, which seemed intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to the house, which never had been there. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view which closed it extremely pretty. The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.

It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive
Chapter 42

This book is fascinating, explaining in great detail the nature of these esoteric arguments which were taken up by polite circles in the latter part of the 18th and early part of the 19th century. Reading it sets in context Jane Austen’s attitude to landscape and estates and furthermore explains her attitudes towards certain of  her characters and why, to her,  improvers and Humphrey Repton are never quite “the thing”.  And again proves that, despite being the relatively impoverished daughter of a clergyman, living an apparently quiet, domestic life, she routinely involved herself  and her characters in the famous debates of the day, allowing them and herself to take part and immortalise them. Reading this book is an illuminating experience for any admirer of Jane Austen.

These books went on sale at auction today at Sotheby’s in London. The pre-sale estimate for Lot 86  was between £150,000-200,000. Bidding stopped at £142,000. It was ,therefore, unsold.

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

I have written about the intriguing history of this set of books before, here. This first edition set  was sent to Jane Austen’s friend, Anne Sharp, directly from her publisher, John Murray, specifically  at Jane Austen’s request.

©Sothebys

©Sothebys

The next lot, Lot 87, a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion once owned by Fulwar Craven Fowle, was also unsold.The biding on this item stopped at £3800.

Fascinating.

I thought I would post  a short update to let you know how some Austen-related lots fared at auction recently.

©Christies

©Christies

The uniformly bound set of five Jane Austen first editions plus the second edition of Sense and Sensibility which I wrote about, here was sold by Christies at their sale on the 21st November for £39,650. The sale estimate was between £30,000 and £50,000.

©Bonhams

©Bonhams

The first edition of Emma which was due to be sold by Bonhams on the 13th November,and which I wrote about here does not appear to have sold. Will this have any bearing on the forthcoming sale of Anne Sharp’s presentation copy of Emma at Sotheby’s? It remains to be seen…The Ackermanns all sold, as did the collection of mementos presented to Anne Percy, the Royal wet nurse, by the family of George III. This lot sold for £6000 including the buyer’s premium.

And finally, though it has little to do with the topic of this post,  may I take this opportunity to wish all my US readers a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

The Christmas Market is attracting some very interesting auction lots…ones that we ought to be interested in, certainly. As we have seen, there are some wonderful Jane Austen offerings to be had this year, but the one that I really covet is Anne Sharp’s first edition set of “Emma”, published by John Murray, which was presented to her by her friend, the authoress, Jane Austen. This  set first came to my attention in 2008, when Christiaan Jonkers of Jonkers Rare Books bought  the  set for £180,000. *gulp* Then two years later, the BBC reported that it had sold for £325,000.*double gulp*

Now Sothebys are offering the same set for sale in their auction of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations to be held in London on the 12th December 2012.

Here is the condition report of Lot 86 from the online catalogue:

12mo, three volumes, first edition, presentation copy inscribed “From the author”in a clerk’s hand within volume one together with ownership signature of Anne Sharp in each volume, half-titles, contemporary half-calf with marbled boards, marbled endpapers, collector’s red morocco box, some light spotting, corners occasionally creased, bindings worn at extremities, some minor loss to calf, some splitting and loss to joints, slight loss to ends of spines, leaves trimmed.

The Catalogue notes record its history..up to a point…

One of twelve presentation copies recorded in the publisher’s archives and presented to Jane Austen’s “excellent kind friend”: the only presentation copy given to a personal friend of the author.

In a letter to the publisher John Murray dated 11 December 1815, Austen noted that she would “subjoin a list of those persons, to whom I must trouble you to forward a Set each, when the Work is out; – all unbound, with From the Authoress, in the first page”. Most of these copies were for members of Austen’s family. David Gilson in his bibliography of Austen lists these presentation copies, based on information in John Murray’s records, as follows:

two to Hans Place, London (presumably for Jane Austen and Henry Austen)
Countess of Morley
Rev. J.S. Clarke (the Prince Regent’s librarian)
J. Leigh Perrot (the author’s uncle)
two for Mrs Austen
Captain Austen (presumed to be Charles Austen)
Rev. J. Austen
H.F. Austen (presumed to be Francis)
Miss Knight (the author’s favourite niece Fanny Knight)
Miss Sharpe [sic]

Anne Sharp (1776-1853) was Fanny-Catherine Knight’s governess at Godmersham in Kent from 1804 to 1806. She resigned due to ill-health and then held a number of subsequent positions as governess and lady’s companion. Deirdre Le Faye notes that by 1823 she was running her own boarding-school for girls in Liverpool (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 572). She retired in 1841 and died in 1853.

In 1809 Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra Austen that “Miss Sharpe… is born, poor thing! to struggle with Evil…” Four years later Jane wrote to Cassandra that “…I have more of such sweet flattery from Miss Sharp! – She is an excellent kind friend” (which may refer to Anne Sharp’s opinion of Pride and Prejudice). It is known that Anne Sharp thought Mansfield Park “excellent” but she preferred Pride and Prejudice and rated Emma “between the two” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 573).

There is one known extant letter from Jane Austen to Anne Sharp, dated 22 May 1817. She is addressed as “my dearest Anne”. After Jane Austen’s death, Cassandra Austen wrote to Anne Sharp on 28 July 1817 sending a “lock of hair you wish for, and I add a pair of clasps which she sometimes wore and a small bodkin which she had had in constant use for more than twenty years”.

“In Miss Sharp she found a truly compatible spirit… Jane took to her at once, and formed a lasting relationship with her… [she occupied] a unique position as the necessary, intelligent friend” (Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen A Life, 2000).

Anne Sharp is known to have visited Chawton on at least two occasions: in June 1815 and in August-September 1820. Deirdre Le Faye notes that James-Edward Austen-Leigh described her as “horridly affected but rather amusing” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p.573)

However, what is interesting to me is the current auction estimate ….which is £150,000-£200,000…and which even I with my rudimentary grasp of maths can deduce  means that someone may be anticipating they might be taking a hit on this set. Or not….it all remains to be seen. I will be watching this one….and reporting back, you can be assured.

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

Also for sale in the same sale is Lot 87,  a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, published by John Murray. This also has another interesting connection to Jane Austen. The set is inscribed F C Fowle, and would appear to have been owned by Fulwar-Craven Fowle, the brother of Tom Fowle, who was engaged to Cassandra Austen but he sadly died in the West Indies before they could marry.

The catalogue notes:

It appears that this set was the property of the Revd Fulwar-Craven Fowle (1764-1840). He was a pupil of Rev. George Austen at Steventon between 1778 and 1781. He is occasionally mentioned in Austen’s letters; it appears he participated in a game of vingt-un in 1801 and sent a brace of pheasants in 1815. Fulwar-Craven Fowle’s brother, Thomas (1765-1797) had been engaged to Cassandra Austen in 1792.

Deirdre Le Faye notes that he had “an impatient and rather irascible nature” and “did not bother to read anything of Emma except the first and last chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, 1995, p. 525).

This has a sale estimate of £4000-6000, which is more affordable than Lot 86(well, everything is relative!) but I know which set I would prefer to own. I’ll report back.

Foundling Hospital Tokens © The Foundling Museum, London

Foundling Hospital Tokens © The Foundling Museum, London

I thought you all would appreciate advance notice of the Foundling Hospital’s next major exhibition. It is to be entitled, Fate, Hope and Charity, and will tell, for the first time the stores behind some of the Museum’s most famous tokens. These tokens were left behind by foundling children’s parents as identifiers.You may recall that the Threads of Feeling exhibition curated by Professor John Styles examined the fabric tokens that exist in the Museum’s collection. This was fascinating and a well deserved critical success. Threads of Feeling will soon be on display at Colonial Williamsburg and I do hope many of you will take that opportunity to see it.

The forthcoming  exhibition in London concentrates on the physical tokens, and you can see some of them  above and below.

Foundling Hospital Tokens © The Foundling Museum, London

Foundling Hospital Tokens © The Foundling Museum, London

This is what the Museum’s Press release has to say about the exhibit:

By reuniting the eighteenth century tokens with the foundlings to whom they belong, Fate, Hope & Charity uncovers stories, which are a testament to the grief of separation and ever lasting bond between a mother and her child. Tokens, small everyday objects, were left by mothers with their babies at the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as children’s charity Coram. Left between c.1741 -1760, tokens were a means of identification should the mother ever return to reclaim her child. Hundreds of these small items were removed from the Hospital’s admission records in the 1860s, severing links with their history-until now. 

Now over 250 years later these incredible, heart wrenching stories are revealed. Each story offers a glimpse into the lives of the women in the eighteenth century who left their children at the Hospital. Most poignant of all is the story of Margaret Larney.

Margaret Larney's Letter ©The Foundling Museum

Margaret Larney’s Letter ©The Foundling Museum

Under sentence of death in Newgate Prison in 1757, Margaret, falsely tried and found guilty of counterfeiting money, wrote a letter requesting the admission of her unborn child to the Foundling Hospital. Her newborn son was lucky and was admitted. Margaret was less fortunate. Immediately after the birth, she was taken to Tyburn where she was executed by “strangulation and burning”! Her astonishing letter of petition to the Hospital will be on display and is shown above.

 Individual stories will be told through their tokens, which include coins, jewellery, buttons, poems, playing cards and a simple nut, together with art works and artefacts from the period. Many of the tokens address issues that are still current today; the hardship faced by military wives and widows and childbirth debates around the benefits of male doctors versus female midwives. 

The stories behind these tokens have been unearthed by Janette Bright and Dr Gilliam Clarke, who are also the authors of  the booklet, An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum, which I reviewed, here. The Museum’s Press Release tells us that:

A chance meeting in 2005 in the Hospital archive united textile artist, Janette, and social historian Gillian, whose earlier work on the Foundlings includes the time they spent with foster families outside London. Through their exhaustive detective work, orphaned tokens have been reunited with their foundlings. The new research reveals fascinating information about the tokens themselves, the circumstances surrounding the mother’s decision to give up her baby and the moving stories of the individual foundlings to whom the tokens belonged.

The Foundling Museum has also commissioned prominent artists, authors, songwriters and musicians to create new stories for these tokens in their chosen medium. Contributors will include artist, David Shrigley and DJ, poet and writer, Charlie Dark, folk group ,The Unthanks and poet and novelist, Jackie Kay. Collected in a special publication to coincide with the exhibition, these stories will shed new light on the small, poignant scraps of history that make up Fate, Hope & Charity which will be curated by Stephanie Chapman.

As you know I favour the theory that Jane Austen chose to reunite the star-crossed lovers, Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, in Brunswick Square as a nod to the Foundling Hospital’s existence, especially given Harriet’s status as the natural daughter of somebody, who was, at that point, unknown. She had a happy ending…others were not so lucky as she. I shall look forward to visiting the Museum to see their stories. The exhibition will run from Thursday 25 January – Sunday 19 May 2013

Yes, more sale news to tempt you. The Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale to be held at Bonhams at their Knightsbridge premises on the 13th November,2012 looks set to be a fantastic sale.

If I could I would buy it all lock, stock and barrel, so tempting are the contents of the catalogue. That’s not likely to happen, but perhaps you might like to see what I think are the highlights. First , Lot 13,  a first edition of Emma, written by Jane Austen and published by John Murray, dated 1816.

©Bonhams

©Bonhams

The catalogue notes that the lot comprises:

Emma, 3 vol, FIRST EDITION, half-titles in vol. 2 and 3, spotting, one gathering working loose and blank lower margin torn away from advertisement leaf at end of volume 3, one front free endpaper near detached, bookplate of “John Hawkshaw, Esq., Hollycombe”, contemporary half calf, gilt lettering on spines, headbands frayed (volume 2 with small loss at head and foot of backstrip) [Gilson A8; Keynes 8], 8vo, John Murray, 1816

and the sale estimate is between £6000-8000.

Also on offer is a series of three lots of books published by that doyen of Regency publishers, Rudolph Ackermann. First, Lot 1

A History of the University of Cambridge, its Colleges, Halls, and Public Buildings, 2 vol.

©Bonhams

©Bonhams

half-titles, engraved portrait, 95 hand-coloured aquatint or engraved plates after Pugin, Westall, Mackenzie, Unwins and Pyne, tissue guards, some offsetting onto text, bookplate of George Burnham Wells, contemporary calf gilt, upper covers with central coroneted monogram “MM” (identified in pencil as Maria Miquel of Portugal), g.e. [Abbey, Scenery 80; Tooley 4], 4to (335 x 270mm.), R. Ackermann, 1815.

The sale estimate is between £2000-3000 for this set. Ackermann employed some of the foremost illustrators of his age, and some of you know that I collect his books and illustrations. They give us a unique glimpse of what Jane Austen’s world looked  like, and in this case, we get to see the Cambridge that was the alma mater of Geroge Wickham,  for as Darcy tells us in his later to Eliabeth in Chapter 35 of Pride and Prejudice, his father financed his education there:

Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; — most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.

I have some loose leaves from this publication,but I don’t own the whole set. 

Lot 2, The Microcosm of London, 3 vol.,first edition, is a wonderful publication, of which I am lucky to possess a set. These books allow you gain some impression of what London was like when Jane Austen visited it in the early part of the 19th century. They are totally fascinating, and the plates, originally created by Pugin and Rowlandson, are lively and always full of detail and interest.

©Bonhams

©Bonhams

The sale catalogue description is as follows:

half-titles, wood-engraved pictorial titles, engraved dedication leaves, 104 hand-coloured aquatint plates after Rowlandson and Pugin (watermarked 1806-1808, 2 small tears repaired to blank margin of plate 65), some offsetting from plates to text, occasional light spotting (mostly to titles), contemporary russia gilt, sides with wide decorative borders, skilfully rebacked with gilt panelled spines[Abbey, Scenery 212; Adams 99; Tooley 7], 4to (340 x 275mm.), R. Ackermann, [1808-1810]

and it has a sale estimate of between £2500-3500

Lot 3 is also by Ackermann, The History of the Abbey Church of St. Peter’s Westminster,its Antiquities and Monuments, 2 vol., first edition (Westminster Abbey-jfw)

©Bonhams

©Bonhams, 

Perusing its pages would allow you to see what it was like when Dr Grant of Mansfield Park spent his last days on earth there:

Dr. Grant, through an interest on which he had almost ceased to form hopes, succeeded to a stall in Westminster, which, as affording an occasion for leaving Mansfield, an excuse for residence in London, and an increase of income to answer the expenses of the change, was highly acceptable to those who went and those who staid.

Chapter 48.

These books have a sale estimate of between £500-700.

There are other tempting lots but  the last one I would like to share with you  is Lot 68, a collection of mementos presented to the wet-nurse employed by George III and Queen Charlotte:

©Bonhams

©Bonhams

Presented in a display case the mementos include: George III’s Garter Sash in blue silk, the Duke of Cumberland’s white kidskin gloves, presented on 30 April 1771, the Prince of Wales’s Garter Sash in blue silk, presented on 12 May 1769, the Princess Royal’s cambric and lace mittens, presented on 12 May 1769, Prince William’s brown kid child-sized gloves, presented on the same day, the lace cap worn by the infant Prince Edward, and Prince Frederick, Duke of York’s Bath Sash in crimson silk; also framed with a piece of the christening bonnet of Prince Edward, embroidered in red silk with silver thread, labelled as given by Elizabeth Meade, daughter of Anne Percy, to Lady Cremorne; and a pair of tweezers given by the Prince of Wales to Anne Cleveland Percy.

Anne Percy, in addition to being the Royal Wet-Nurse was also the wife of the literary scholar Thomas Percy, future Bishop of Dromore. What a fascinating relict of the intimate life of the Royal Household.

There is much, MUCH, more of interest in this sale- a letter from Nelson to Emma Hamilton, wonderful topographical books etc from our era amongst many others- so I am sure you will enjoy looking at the on-line catalogue. I will keep an eye out for the results ;)

On Saturday, at their premises in Dublin, Whyte’s auctioneers will be auctioning a complete set of Richard Bentley’s 1833 edition of Jane Austen’s novels in five volumes:  four single volumes each containing one novel, that is, of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, and one volume containing the full text of both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

These books were the first edition of Jane Austen’s works to appear in the format of one volume per novel and to be illustrated. According to the publishing history of these books given in David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen, the publication of the novels was overseen by Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra and her brother, Henry. Jane Austen had, of course, died in 1817 and did not live to see these editions. In a letter dated 20th May 1831 written to John Murray, who was Jane Austen’s publisher at her death, Cassandra Austen

…makes it clear that she was then thinking of reissuing JA’s novels. Cassandra says that she does not wish to sell the copyrights, but asks about the size of the proposed edition, the number of volumes, price per set and date of publication; she also asks if Murray has approached the executors of Thomas Edgerton for PP. Since we hear no more of this, we must assume that Cassandra and John Murray could not come to terms( perhaps the latter insisted on buying the copyrights) Richard Bentley, a year later was more fortunate.

( Page xxxiv)

David Gilson also gives us the fascinating tale of the copyright of these novels:

No English reissue of JA’s novels is known after 1818 until in 1832. Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels. …a letter  to Bentley from Henry Austen dated 24th July 1832, accepting on behalf of his sister, Cassandra and himself Bentley’s offer of £250 for the copyrights of SS, MP,E and NA&P ( plus two copies of “the work”) but pointing out that for the copyright of PP Bentley should apply to the executors of Thomas Egerton. The private printed List of Bentley publications for the year 1833 give the payment to Henry and Cassandra ( for the copyrights-jfw) as £210, made on 20th September 1832… Mr. Francis Pinkney, Egerton’s executor was paid as late as 17 October 1833 a total of £40 for the remainder of the copyright of PP; Bentley presumably reduced the sum paid to Henry and Cassandra Austen by that amount. The Bentley list also states that the copyrights of SS, PP, and MP were for 28 years, expiring in 1839, 1841 and 1842 respectively, while those of E and NA&P, expiring in 1857 and 1860.

(Gilson, as above, page 211)

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

Here is the auctioneer’s description of Lot 531:

AUSTEN ( Jane ). Sense and Sensibility [with :] Emma. [and :] Mansfield Park. [and :] Northanger Abbey [and, Persuasion] [and :] Pride and Prejudice. Richard Bentley … (Bentley’s Standard Novels 23, 25, 27, 28 and 30), 1833FIRST ILLUSTRATED AND FIRST ONE-VOLUME EDITIONS, each volume with additional engraved title-page, engraved frontispiece and printed series title-page, 5 vols, small 8vo, contemporary deep olive green morocco, gilt, fully gilt and lettered spines, top edges gilt : light endpaper foxing and just a little elsewhere, the bindings just lightly rubbed but still attractive, and otherwise a very good set, rarely found complete. Complete sets of the five Jane Austen vols in this series have become notably rare.

They give an estimate of € 1500-1800….*sighs longingly* I should like to thank my good friend, Katherine Cahill of Mrs Delany’s Menus Medicine and Manners fame for sharing this tempting information with me. She will be attending the auction, has offered to act as my agent( Temptress!) and I’m sure she will be able to let us know the result of the sale.

In her letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated  20th June, 1808, written from Southampton, Jane Austen appears to be rather upset by the news that a woman who had taken Holy Communion at the same Church service as her, was an adulteress:

This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. A hint of it, with initials, was in yesterday’s “Courier,” and Mr. Moore guessed it to be Lord S., believing there was no other Viscount S. in the peerage, and so it proved, Lord Viscount S. not being there.

 The adulteress in question was Mary-Letitia Powlett, who was married to one of the Austen’s Southampton acquaintances, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Powlett. The news in The Courier confirmed that the Lieutenant Colonel was going to take an action for damages by way of a suit of Criminal Conversation against Viscount Sackville, who had committed adultery with Mary-Letitia.

Why was Jane Austen so outraged by this woman taking Holy Communion? The answer is, very probably, in her very serious attitude towards taking this sacrament, which was also indicated by her attachment to a now little-known book, The Companion to the Altar by William Vickers.

William Vicars' "Companion to the Altar" bound within the 1783 Prayer Book ©Austenonly

William Vicars’ “Companion to the Altar” bound within the 1783 Prayer Book ©Austenonly

William Vickers’ book was one of the few books we know she actually owned, as opposed to books that were in her father’s library and merely available to her, or those she borrow from friend s and circulating libraries. David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen lists only 20 volumes known to have been the sole property of Jane Austen, including this book. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter Irene Collins tells us that:

On the 24th April 1794 she received a gift often bestowed on Confirmation Candidates: a copy of William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar, a guide to the private preparation to be undertaken in order to be  worthy of receiving Holy Communion

(Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Page 72)

According to Gilson’s Bibliography, her copy of this book is now owned by Princeton University, and it shows many signs of being greatly used. Miss Florence Austen, Jane Austen’s great-niece, who along with her sister, Jane, sold the item, noted:

…this book of devotions always used by Jane Austen we used to be told so by my old Aunt Cassandra

(Gilson,page 445 . Note, this Cassandra was not Jane Austen’s elder sister, as she predeceased both the Misses Austen who owned the Companion)   

Irene Collins again notes that:

According to members of Jane’s family, she cherished the Companion and made constant use of the  prayers and meditations included in it. She was to take her participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously as a cleansing from sin and a repeated welcome into the company of the faithful.

(as above, page 72)

Jane Austen was 18 when she was confirmed, an age slightly older than our modern candidates often are. This can be explained because 18th century dioceses were very large, and, as a candidate could only be confirmed by a Bishop, it could take him some years to be able to visit the candidate’s local church in order to perform a confirmation service.

William Vicker’s book is not long, but it is extremely full of very, very detailed advice regarding the  self-examination a candidate for communion had to perform in order to avoid:

those Fears and Scruples about Eating and Drinking unworthily and of incurring our own Damnation thereby..

It advises an extremely detailed self-examination prior to every occasion when Holy Communion was taken, and, as Irene Collins ruefully notes:

to carry out all William Vicker’s advice would have required several hours  of meditation.

(as above 156)

Though Jane Austen’s copy of the book is a separate volume, in her lifetime this book was often bound together with volumes of The Book of Common Prayer. As a result the book was very influential, seeming to have “official” sanction of the Anglican church. And this is the case with my copy, which is contained in a small pocket-sized edition of the Book of Common Prayer, dating from 1783:

A Book of Common Prayer dating from 1783, from my collection. ©Austenonly

A Book of Common Prayer dating from 1783, from my collection. ©Austenonly

Here is the engraving from the Companion, showing the Last Supper, which of course, was the event that instated the sacrament of Holy Communion:

Engraving of The Last Supper ©Austenonly

Engraving of The Last Supper ©Austenonly

And here is the preface and first page of the book, and do note you can enlarge all of those images by clicking on them if you want to look at the detail:

Preface and First Page of the"Companion to the Altar" ©Austenonly

Preface and First Page of the”Companion to the Altar” ©Austenonly

The Book of Common Prayer sets out, in very clear terms, why it is very necessary to be thoroughly prepared, having repented and being free from sin before taking Holy Communion:

Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that Holy Table: lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of iniquities ands bring you to destruction of both body and soul.

The Companion places extreme emphasis on the need for a candidate to thoroughly examine their own lives and deeds and to be truly penitent before taking the sacrament. Look at this quote below:

The first Part then of a Communicant’s Duty is Self –examination: A Duty not only enjoined by human Authority, but likewise commanded by St. Paul…when we are employing our minds in the Duty of Self-examination, before the Communion, or at any other Time, we must discharge it as impartially as is possible for us, judging as severely of our own Actions as we would do of our greatest and worst enemy; or otherwise we shall but flatter and deceive ourselves in a Matter of the greatest Weight and Importance, namely the knowing the State and Condition of our Souls.

As evidenced by her wondering comment to Cassandra in the letter quoted above- This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. -  the seriousness of taking the  Sacrament and the rarity with which it was performed was certainly felt by Jane Austen, as a devout Anglican. That an adulteress, who was continuing in her sinfulness, should have put herself forward to take the sacrament, was shocking to her. Her contemporaries felt the seriousness of taking the sacrament too- many were noted for leaving Communion services prior to taking the sacrament, if they felt they were ill prepared for it. Jane Austen alludes to this in her comment in her letter to Cassandra, wherein she was surprised that Mrs Powlett, the adulteress

stayed the Sacrament

when she had the opportunity to absent herself from the church and not be a recipient of Holy Communion, for which she was obviously very ill-prepared.

Do note that while communicants these days are used to services of Holy Communion being made available to them on a weekly ( if not on a more frequent) basis, this was not the case for Jane Austen and her contemporaries. Being able to take part in a service of Holy Communion was rare: it was usually celebrated on only four occasions during each  year. Anglicans very rarely celebrated it on days other than at Christmas, Easter,Whitsun (Pentecost) and as a service of thanksgiving after a successful harvest.

So, does this have any relevance to Jane Austen’ novels? I think it does. For example, Elizabeth Bennet really is blind to her faults and those of her family until she reads Darcy’s letter, which has a devastating effect upon her:

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36

It is clear, I think that Jane Austen needs us to know how negligent Elizabeth has been, not only personally but as a Christian. Had she constantly examined her behaviour and motives as instructed by the Companion, she might not have been so blind and prejudiced against Darcy, and so taken in by Wickham and his lies.

Emma, too, is someone who would have benefitted from self-examination, for despite her proud boast to Harriet in Chapter 10;

“If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty.

she really did not know herself at all, being too proud of her abilities, and scornful of others. In Chapter 47, after Harriet has avowed she is in  love with Mr. Knightley, Emma finally understands how stupidly and blindly she has acted:

Her own conduct, as well as her own heart, was before her in the same few minutes. She saw it all with a clearness which had never blessed her before. How improperly had she been acting by Harriet! How inconsiderate, how indelicate, how irrational, how unfeeling had been her conduct! What blindness, what madness, had led her on! It struck her with dreadful force, and she was ready to give it every bad name in the world. …

Jane Austen certainly understood how to set her characters up for one almighty fall. Similarly, Marianne Dashwood’s extreme penitence  after returning home to Barton after her illness, is indicative of her previous blindness to her own faults:

They have borne more than our conduct. Do not, my dearest Elinor, let your kindness defend what I know your judgment must censure. My illness has made me think — It has given me leisure and calmness for serious recollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past; I saw in my own behaviour since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself, by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction. I did not know my danger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery, — wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died, in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister! — You, who had seen all the fretful selfishness of my latter days; who had known all the murmurings of my heart! — How should I have lived in your remembrance! — My mother too! How could you have consoled her! — I cannot express my own abhorrence of myself. Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Everybody seemed injured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent and unjust; with an heart hardened against their merits, and a temper irritated by their very attention. — To John, to Fanny, — yes, even to them, little as they deserve, I had given less than their due. But you, — you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet, to what did it influence me? — not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself. — Your example was before me: but to what avail? — Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone? No; — not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for whom I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 46.

Of course, Marianne, who is only 16 when the novel begins, may not have yet received her first communion, and may not, therefore, have been totally aware of her duty to examine her thoughts, words and deeds in  such a severe fashion, to avoid possible Divine retribution. But the retribution her creator ensures she receives -severe illness- is exactly the punishment that the Companion fears will be the lot of someone who fails to prepare themselves properly when taking the sacrament of Holy Communion,  thereby failing to live a Christian life through self-examination:

Note, this Word “Damnation” does not signify eternal Condemnation but on the contrary some temporal Punishment or judgment…such as Sickness or Death…

(The Companion,Page 8)

It is an interesting point to consider. But I think you will agree that it would appear that Jane Austen did place  extreme  importance on the ability to know yourself, truly, honestly and without prevarication, and this is reflected not only in her own conduct, but in her characters’ lives.

If you would like to read this interesting book for yourself, a copy of the Companion is available to read on Google Books: go here to see.

And that concludes for a while our small topic of Jane Austen and religion. I hope it has been interesting to you..

For a woman and novelist of such obvious( to me at least) religiously based moral authority, it might surprise you to realise that Jane Austen makes direct mention of the Book of Common Prayer (and, indeed, to the Kings James Bible) only very occasionally.

As we noted in the last post, Jane Austen would have been very familiar with the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England, of which she was a member, and of which her father and, eventually, two of her brothers were priests. I think we ought to consider how often Jane Austen would have read the Prayer Book, for then it may become clear how its phrases became part of her, and how this was reflected in her works. Do note that Jane Austen wrote three prayers, date of composition unknown. I will not be discussing them in detail here, as we shall concentrate on the influence of the Prayer Book in her novels.

Frontispiece to the Book of Common Prayer 1761, printed by John Baskerville for the Cambridge University Press

Frontispiece to the Book of Common Prayer 1761, printed by John Baskerville for the Cambridge University Press

The Book of Common Prayer provides Anglicans with all the basic texts they need for all their devotions, throughout their lives, in church and at home. The services include those for Sundays, Morning and Evening Prayers, the litanies, daily offices( that is, daily church services) and also  for the special services that would have been performed throughout an Anglican’s life: that is, for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, death-bed communions and funerals. Each Prayer Book also contains a Psalter, which contains all the Psalms as translated by Miles Coverdale. They are included because the Psalms are- one or more of them-  an integral part of the services.

The Prayer Book also contains the Collects. The Collects are short prayers which are used not only in sequence though out the liturgical year, but also are used in private devotions.  The Lectoinary is also included: this is made up of  the readings-the Lessons- from the Old and New Testaments which were designated to be read on particular days, on a three-year cycle which was devised by Thomas Cranmer. He intended, therefore , that  the Prayer Book would not only be used in Church but at home in daily services held by the family, and also in private devotions.  The Austens at Steventon, Southampton and Chawton seem to have kept the habit of morning and evening prayers . In her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated the 24th October 1808, written when she was looking after her nephews Edward and George Knight, who were staying with her at Southampton after the death of their mother, Elizabeth Knight who had died unexpectedly after giving birth, Jane Austen makes mention of their habit of evening prayers:

In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over.

The habit of saying daily morning and evening prayers, as well as regular sunday attendances at church though out her life meant that Jane Austen would have been wholly family with the text of the Prayer Book, I’m sure you will agree. And in that case, it might surprise you how few direct references there are to the contents of the Prayer Book in her works.

The first and most obvious reference, is to the rubrick to the Solemnization of Matrimony service. The rubric is the instruction to the clergy and the laity as to how the service is to be conducted. This reference appears in Emma, in Chapter 53,  where Emma is coyly referring to her future marriage to Mr. Knightley:

Impossible! I never can call you any thing but ‘Mr. Knightley.’ I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton, by calling you Mr. K. But I will promise,” she added presently, laughing and blushing, “I will promise to call you once by your Christian name. I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess where; — in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse.”

Here you can see the service for the Solmnization of Matrimony from John Baskerville’s Prayer Book of 1761, printed after the accession to the throne of George III( and do note you can enlarge all these pictures by clicking on them):

The Solemnization of Matrimony  from the 1761 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, printed for Cambridge University Press by John Baskerville

The form of service of the Solemnization of Matrimony from the 1761 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, printed for Cambridge University Press by John Baskerville

As you can clearly see, the two parties to be married are referred to throughout the service as N and M:

A more puzzling reference to one of the Psalms, Psalm 16, is made by Miss Bates, again in Emma, Chapter 21

 “Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good to us. If ever there were people who, without having great wealth themselves, had every thing they could wish for, I am sure it is us. We may well say that “”our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.””

Here Jane Austen has made Miss Bates, the impoverished daughter of the former vicar of Highbury, misquote the Psalm:

You can see that Verse 7 clearly states:

The Lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground: yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Margaret Anne Doody in her essay Jane Austen’s Reading, which is contained in the Jane Austen Handbook, (1986) edited by J. David Grey, explains this mistake as follows:

Miss Bates’s simple use of it point sot a misapprehension; she has no heritage-that is her problem. She is referring to charity, the only heritage the minister’s daughter may expect. Austen’s own relation to this truth may have tempted her in this instance to forsake her own custom ( of not referring directly or too closely to religious texts- JFW)

Other instances of indirect references to the Prayer Book can be found in her characters speech and in their letters. For they, like most of us and their creator, would have used phrases from the Prayer Book almost without knowing. Here are just three examples: there are more. The first is taken from chapter 57 of Pride and Prejudice: Mr Bennet relates the contents of Mr. Collins’ letter to Elizabeth and informs her that Charlotte is now pregnant;

The rest of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte’s situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch.

This is a reference to Psalm 128, verse 4

Thy children like the olive-branches round about thy table.

In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon obliquely refers to the Communion of the Sick, wherein the sacrament would be administered to a dying person:

 Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a better preparation for death; and that was given. I saw her placed in comfortable lodgings, and under proper attendants; I visited her every day during the rest of her short life; I was with her in her last moments.”

Chapter 31.

The phrase  preparation for death is clearly a reference to  this service – the last rites if you like-  where poor Eliza could ready and prepare herself for death. Colonel Brandon could do nothing more for her than to enable her to meet her end with dignity and in accordance with her faith;

The final example in this post comes from Chapter 23 of Persuasion, after Captain Wentworth is reconciled with Anne Elliot, and is considering her defence of her own conduct and of Lady Russell’s part in persuading Anne to reject his first offer of marriage:

He looked at her, looked at Lady Russell, and looking again at her, replied, as if in cool deliberation -

   “Not yet, but there are hopes of her being forgiven in time. I trust to being in charity with her soon.

This is again a reference to the Communion service:

Prior to receiving the sacraments the priest advises his congregation to prepare themselves for it on these terms

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your signs and are in love and charity with your neighbours..Draw near with faith  and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort

So…why didn’t Jane Austen make more open references to this book, with which she was wholly familiar? Perhaps  the answer comes from her friend, Mrs Barrett of Alton, who had this to say about Jane Austen’s faith as expressed in her novels:

Miss Austen…had on all the subjects of enduring religious feeling the deepest and strongest convictions but a contact with loud and noisy exponents of the then popular religious phase made her reticent almost to a fault. She had to suffer something in the way of reproach from those who believed she might have used her genius to greater effect. But her old friend used to say, “I think I see her now defending what she thought was the real province of a delineator of life and manners and declaring her belief that example and not “direct preaching” was all that a novelist could properly afford to exhibit…

(“Jane Austen’s Friend Mrs. Barrett”, R. W. Chapman,  Nineteenth-Century Fiction , Vol. 4, No. 3 (Dec., 1949), pp. 171-174)
How very typical of her to realise that preaching would not influence people, only examples of lives lived well would do, and by making only glancing references to books she obvious considered serious, she did not diminish their worth, or their influence upon her.
Next, one of her  favourite books, William Vickers’ Companion to the Alter.

I know…an embarrassment of riches this week from good old Auntie Beeb.

Episode One of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, my favourite of all her works, was broadcast today, and Episode Two will be broadcast tomorrow. They will both be available to listen again to, to you all, wherever you are in the world, so do check the programme’s main page, here, for all the details.

This is an interesting adaptation starring Eve Best,

Eve Best ©BBC

Robert Bathurst and David Bamber, and it was first broadcast in 2001 IIRC.

at Sotheby’s this afternoon for £ 126,000  (plus buyers premium of 20%, making a total purchase piece of £152,450) to a bidder, identity currently unknown, who was bidding by telephone.

Jane Austen’s Ring, and Note from Eleanor Austen neé Jackson to Caroline Austen ©Sotheby’s

An announcement was made prior to the sale to the effect that tests have revealed that the stone in the ring is in fact a natural turquoise, and not odontolite as previously thought.

The first edition of Pride and Prejudice sold for £ 18,000:

Pride and Prejudice, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s

The first edition of Mansfield Park sold for £4,200

Mansfield Park First Edition ©Sotheby’s

The first edition of Emma was unsold, and bids up to  £7,500 were received for it.

Emma, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s

The first edition of  Northanger Abbey and Persuasion sold for £3,200

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion First Edition ©Sotheby’s

The Trafalgar Sea Chest  sold for £15,000.

Battle of Trafalgar Sea Chest ©Sotheby’s

Some other lots were unsold, notably a collection of letters written by William IV.Hmm…..

Post Script: Some of you have wondered if I was there, and the answer is no, I simply watched the auction online. Some of the comments made by the auctioneer were priceless. He seemed to be fascinated by internet bids, informing internet bidders that it  is “against you, Mightly Internet” or “Internet , it is between you and your mouse”. One of the Jane Austen first editions had “some gatherings proud”, and he thought this was an entirely poetic way to describe a Jane Austen novel. Priceless. I can highly recommend watching these auctions online via Sotheby’s website.

I thought you would all be very interested in Sotheby’s English Literature,History,Children’s Books and Illustrations sale which will be held in London on the 10th July. The reason? There are quite a few items related to Jane Austen..so, get your cheque books ready…

There is almost a complete set of  first editions for sale, all from the collection of Bridget Mary Owen:

Lot 57, Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s


has a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000

Lot 55, Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park First Edition ©Sotheby’s

has a pre-sale estimate of £3,000 – 5,000

Lot 58, Emma

Emma, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s

has a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000, and Lot 56,  Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion First Edition ©Sotheby’s

Has a pre-sale estimate of £2,500-3,500.

Continuing the navel themes of Persuasion, Lot 20, is a sea chest owned by George Lewis Browne who served on H.M.S. Victory, Nelson’s flagship, during the Battle of Trafalgar:

Battle of Trafalgar Sea Chest ©Sotheby’s

This has a pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000 And finally, Lot 59: a piece to make every Janeite’s heart leap, Jane Austen’s Ring:

Jane Austen’s Ring, and Note from Eleanor Austen née Jackson to Caroline Austen ©Sotheby’s

This has a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000. It has a rather touching history, which is contained in the note that accompanies the ring, shown below:

Note written by Eleanor Austen, Née Jackson to Caroline Austen in 1863 ©Sotheby’s

The ring was Jane Austen’s and on her death it became to property of her sister, Cassandra. Three years after Jane died, in 1820,  Henry Austen, her brother, married for the second time, Eleanor Jackson. She was well known to the Austen family, and was a niece of Mr. Papillon, the Rector of Chawton(who was in turn the subject of a joke: Mrs Knight the adoptive mother of Edward Austen, often wished Jane Austen had married him).

Deirdre Le Faye in the Jane Austen Society’s Report  of 1989 wrote about Eleanor and Henry:

The last of the nine sisters-in-law was Eleanor Jackson, Henry’s second wife. Jane had always expected that Henry would marry again, and before his bankruptcy in 1816 there had been several ladies in his circle of wealthy London friends to whom he seemed equally attracted and on whom he sought Jane’s sisterly opinions. However, his sudden reduction to near-poverty meant that any thoughts of re-marriage had to be indefinitely postponed, and it was only his succession to the Steventon living in 1819,  following James’ (Austen’s jfw) death, which enabled him to support a wife once more. Not much is known about Eleanor, save that she was the niece of the Reverend John Papillon, Rector of Chawton at the time the Austens were living there; her home was in Chelsea, so Henry could have met her in either place. It is not certain whether Jane ever knew her, but it seems probable she is the “Eleanor” mentioned in Letter no. 75 in January 1813.  In 1819 she was referred to in family correspondence as having ‘a very good pair of Eyes”  but no other description or picture of her is known. Persumably she was intelligent- one cannot imagine Henry choosing a dull, stupid woman-and they were married in 1820. Despite her ill-health, (by the 1830s she had developed a semi-crippling ailment, probably something rheumatic,) Henry was devoted to Eleanor:”one dearer to me than life and for whose comfort I am solicitous beyond my own existence “. Cassandra was happy to think that he had found such an excellent wife to support him in his last role in life and an impoverished country clergyman. It is thanks to Eleanor that the miniature of Mrs Hancock, now on display at the Cottage survives; after Henry’s death in 1850 one of Frank’s granddaughters came to live with Eleanor and was in turn bequeathed the little picture( see below- jaw). It descended in that branch of the family until Mr Edward Carptenter was able to acquire  it  on behalf of the Jane Austen Society.

(pp.161-162)

Miniature of Philadelphia Hancock by John Smart

According to the note in Eleanor’s hand, when Cassandra learnt that Henry was to marry Eleanor, she gave her Jane’s ring. Eleanor in turn gave it to Caroline Austen, Jane’s niece, as the note explains. It has since descended through the family: Caroline left it to her niece, James Edward Austen Leigh’s daughter, Mary, who gave it in turn to her sister, Winifred Jenkyns,and it has since descended though that branch of the family .

The ring looks as if it’s stone is of turquoise, but in fact it is odontolite, which was commonly known as Bone Turquoise.It is, in fact a fossilised tooth, that was heat-treated  to turn blue, so that it could be used in imitation of the more expensive semi precious stone, fashionable in the Regency period.

I have then feeling that this ring will make far more than its estimate: I will, of course, watch out for the results of the sale for you, and report back. I confess, this is one item I would love to own.

UPDATE: Deirdre Le Faye has contacted me to correct the information given by Sotheby’s in their catalogue about the date in Eleanor Jackson’s note which accompanies Jane Austen’s Ring:

Eleanor Jackson’s note CANNOT be dated November 1869 (NINE), because she died on 3rd May 1864 (FOUR) and probate of her Will was granted 27th June 1864 (FOUR) – no doubt about that, therefore. The note must be ‘November 1863 (THREE) – with the final figure being written in a very tight, cramped fashion. I have written to Sotheboys to tell them this – too late now that the catalogue is printed, but I trust they will make an announcement in the room when the lot comes up. Best wishes to all interested readers, Deirdre Le Faye

 

As you know I’ve long been fascinated by the history of the Foundling Museum, and am convinced it was partly due to its presence in Brunswick Square that Jane Austen effected the reconciliation of Robert Martin and the near foundling Harriet Smith there in Emma.

The Museum is a fascinating place, and its raison d’être  of accepting unwanted children is poignant. Recently they have published a small booklet on the subject of their famous Tokens, which form part of the Museum’s collection. They very kindly sent me a copy and it is that copy which is under review here today.

The tokens are small items that were left behind with children when they were accepted into the care of the hospital, and were used as identifiers, should the child’s parent wish to reclaim it. We have looked at the fabric tokens before, in my account of the Musuem’s Threads of Feeling exhibition, curated by John Styles. This booklet does mention them, but concentrates on the other, mostly  tiny objects, that were left with the children. As the director of the museum, Caro Howell, writes in the forward to the book:

In telling the story of the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, the Foundling Museum can draw upon a wonderful collection of art by Hogarth and his contemporaries; eighteenth century interiors, furniture and artefacts; archival material relating to the life and work of Handel; and the testimonies of both former pupils and looked-after children today. Yet for many  visitors it is the tokens that leave the biggest impression.

The tokens were usually sealed within the billet , that is,  the admission document written for each child. They were kept on deposit a the Hospital and were not opened again unless the child was claimed, and the token was used as a means of identifying the parent who had given the child up to the Hospital’s care. At the point when the child was accepted by the Hospital all its family links were severed, and it was given a new name, hence the need for its identifying object for future reconciliations.  In 1858 John Brownlow,  the then Secretary of the  Hospital, brought the existence of these tokens to the notice of the Committee of Governors. They decided to take some of the tokens from the billets and place them on display. Interestingly Brownlow had once been a foundling at the Hospital, and it has been suggested that it was Charles Dickens’regard for him, that made him adopt the name of Brownlow for Oliver Twist’s benefactor, and the man who finally proved Oliver’s identity. Brownlow the foundling  eventually rose above his humble beginnings to become the Hosptial’s Secretary, historian and archivist

Sadly, though this action brought the world’s attention to these tokens (and, of course, the stories of the children and their parents that the tokens represented) separating them from their billets meant that the original links with the children were broken and lost, and it has been a mammoth task for the authors of the booklet to try to  reunite the tokens with their original billets, in order to decipher the human story and significance of the token donated with the child. So far it has taken them eight years,and the research into the tokens is on-going.

The tokens can be classified into three main categories- written, halved and tangible tokens. Some are combined into more than one category- for example, playing cards, often used as a token were tangible objects, something that could be written on and also something that could be halved( the parent keeping one half, the other was deposited with the Hospital). The authors of the book have researched the links back to the children and have also worked hard to identify the identifiers, some of which are very small, damaged or so obscure as to be virtually unknown to the modern eye.

For example, this engraved piece of mother of pearl was one identifying object. It was inscribed with the words:

James son of James Concannon Gent , law or now of Jamaica 1757

The authors have discovered that James’ billet entry reveals he was two months old when he was admitted to the Hospital.

A note in educated hand writing states he was born on the 18th September 1757 , baptised and registered at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London on 4th september and “put in the house on 23rd November” his unusual surname enabled the record of his baptism at St Sepulchre to be found which names his parents as James and Elizabeth Concanon.

He may have been left behind while his mother accompanied his father on military service in the West INdes, for the authors of the book have discovered that a Lieutenant James Concannon served in the Royal Artillery  at that time. James was renamed “Raymond Kent” and he survived and was placed by the Hospital as an apprentice with a Farmer and Slater at Thorpe Hesley in Yorkshire.

One of the more famous tokens which has some resonance for we Janeites- is the gambling fish, which Jane Austen  mentioned in Pride and Prejudice.

The child connected to this ivory gambling token was a five week old boy, who was  named John Cox by the Hospital. The authors of the book have had to become expert on these tiny objects- coins, jewels, fabrics, etc – in order to try and understand why they were left with children and what they might tell us about the parent and their circumstances. The research  really does make for absorbing reading.

This booklet  is a slim volume-32 pages long, but it is a fascinating story- part historical, part detective,-of the reuniting of these very moving tokens with the identity of the child  whose parents deported them- for whatever reason-into the care of the Foundling Hospital. I can throughly recommend it to you.

You can purchase the book  directly from the Museum Shop : go here to find all the details of this and other publications issued by the Museum, and for details of how to order by mail.

Today we visit the last of the rooms in George IV’s seaside folly, The Kings Private Apartments of the  Royal Pavilion at Brighton. His set of private apartments were originally to be found  on the first or Chamber floor, as we discovered in our last post in this series. However, as he aged, the King became rather fat and infirm.  Afflicted with gout, he found it increasingly difficult to negotiate climbing the stairs in the Gallery.  And so, in 1819 while he was still Prince Regent, he had John Nash create a new suite of rooms for him on the ground floor.

The rooms, which overlooked the gardens to the entrance front of the Pavilion, were a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the rest of the Pavilion, filled, as it was, with servants and guests. You can see the position of the rooms on this section of the ground floor plan of the Pavilion:

There are three rooms in the suite,  indicated by the three red arrows: The Kings Bedroom, his Private Library and Anteroom.

This is a photograph I took of the entrance front earlier this year,

and the King’s Apartments are to be found behind this screen, to the left of the porte-cochere:

This is a temporary screen while renovations to the stone work are being carried out.

The King’s Private Apartments are, stylistically, decorated in a  somewhat restrained manner, certainly when compared to the rest of the Pavilion. All three rooms are wallpapered in the same wallpaper,and this give the rooms a unifying feeling of peace and space. This is John Nash’s water-colour of the King’s Bedroom as it appeared in the 1820s (which can be enlarged if you care to click on it).

You can see the cooling and restful effect of the wallpaper. The design is still in the Chinoiserie style but it is more restrained .It conisits of pale pink dragons on a green ground. It was designed by Robert Jones. The bedroom still had enough luxuries to keep George IV in the style of which he had become accustomed: the desk is French and was once owned by Napoleon, England’s defeated adversary. There were three gib doors concealed in the walls of the room: one led from the fireplace wall to the Kings Bathroom, an innovation in the early 19th century to have possess a  room designated speifically for bathing. This room had a very large marble tub which was 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, and  which was filled with salt water taken from the sea and supplied to the  Pavilion by an ingenious series of pipes and pumping machinery. The two other gib doors led very different places. The first to the valet’s staircase and would have been used by the Princes’ valet. The other, more controversially, led to a small staircase which communicated directly with Lady Conynham’s apartments on the Chamber room floor, which were  directly above the King’s apartments. These of course, enabled the King’s mistress to visit him in privacy…I’m sure Jane Austen,who detested the Prince of Wales for his lax morals among other matters, would not have approved of this at all!

The Private Library and Anteroom lead from the King’s Bedroom: this is the view from the bedroom into the two other rooms:

Both these rooms were decorated with  a slightly different version of Robert Jones’ dragon damask wallpaper- it has a different border design across the top of the paper, as you can see from Nash’s watercolour,below, especially if you click on it and enlarge it:

You can see the pattern of the wallpaper more clearly in this picture below (and also see the delicate detail of the fan-vaulted columns):

My favourite aspect of these rooms are the beautiful sky ceilings…At this point in the early nineteenth century, libraries were used as the main living rooms in the homes of the rich. As Humphrey Repton noted  in 1816, The modern custom is to use the library as the general living-room. George IV inherited his father’s love of books. He gave most of his father’s scientific and topographical books to the British Museum,but he collected, instead, many many thousands of volumes of literature. I wonder if his set of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, which she reluctantly dedicated to him, were kept in this room?

The rooms had another unifying feature: nearly all the ornaments displayed in the rooms have a colour scheme of black and gold.

My poor picture, above, shows a wall light in carved, ebonised and gilt wood, which was  designed by that most influential arbiter of Regency taste in interior design, Thomas Hope (more on him next year!). The wall lamp dates from 1807. Here is a more detailed picture of it:

A similar design  was in fact included in his influential book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration,which was first published in 1807. Here is the frontispiece of that book, below:

And here is his design for a Drawing-Room, again, taken from my copy of that book:

You can clearly see the wall lights, which are very similar in style to those in the King’s apartments. Here is a close up for you to compare:

And that ends our tour of the Pavilion..or nearly so. The  Prince Regent Gallery is a new room in the Pavillion: an exhibition space where objects related to the King can be displayed to the public. My next two posts will deal with the current display; the first with details of  some of George IV’s fascinating clothes, the second will detail some items of clothing associated with his coronation, which have not been seen in public for many, many years. Do join me.

The Threads of Feeling exhibiton which has been so deservedly successful  and which is nearing the end ff its run at the Foundling Hospital, is now available to view online. My review of the exhibit can be accessed here.

If you go here you will be taken to a slide show, accompanied by a soundtrack of 18th century ballads which helps put the contents of the slides  into context. Each slide shows in great detail a piece of ribbon or fabric, one of the tokens which were kept in the Billet Books of the Foundling Museum and which were deposited by the mothers of the babies, just in case they were ever in a position to be able to return to retrieve their child and needed to identify it. Details of the fabric are also listed.

The quality of the photographs is stunning and every detail of the fabric can be seen. Do access it, especially if you have no hope of going to see the exhibit before it closes on the 6th March

This is a lovely video(which brings back fond  memories of Art A level for me!) and it records how the Florella fabric, a scrap of which was kept as a token in the billet books of the Founding Hospital(see above) was recreated for the Foundling Museum’s Threads of Feeling exhibition by the London Printworks Trust, and which is still open to visit until the 6th March.

Here are some images of the fabric – you can do as I did and buy a sample of it at the Foundling Museum’s excellent shop-

and this is how it was used to recreate a late 18th century bed gown for the exhibition:

Some events at the Foundling Museum have just been announced, and as they are being held in conjunction with the famed Threads of Feeling exhibition, I thought you might like to know about them.

First, a talk on the subject of Bonds of Love and Affection at the London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth-century by Dr Alysa Levene:

In conjunction with Threads of Feeling, Dr Alysa Levene explores the emotional experiences of the children left at the Foundling Hospital. Over 18,000 babies and young children were left at the Foundling Hospital between its opening in 1741 and the end of the eighteenth century. We know almost nothing about the emotional experiences of any of them .

However, we can tease out something of the emotional bonds that existed between these children and their parents by examining the letters and tokens left with them. Very few of these children were ever taken back by their families, but this was not the end of their experiences of family life. Most were sent to be wet nursed in foster homes in the countryside, and here too, we can see some evidence of their experiences via the letters written by the inspectors of nurses back to the hospital. Not all of these experiences were happy, but this talk will illustrate how much the Foundling Hospital records can tell us about mothering, nurture and the model of childhood in the eighteenth century.

Dr Alysa Levene is a Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and author of Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: ‘left to the mercy of the world’ (Manchester University Press, 2007). She was also the general editor Narratives of the Poor in Eighteenth-Century England (Pickering and Chatto, 2006).

This talk will be held on Tuesday 25 January, 7pm- 8.30pm (doors 6.30pm, includes pay bar) Tickets will cost  £12, concessions: £10.

On the 16th February renowned costume designer and historian Jenny Tiramani will give a talk on how Georgian women dressed. Here are the detials:

Here are some details of Jenny Tiramani’s work to entice you….

She was the Director of Theatre Design at Shakespeare’s Globe, London until 2005. She received the 2003 Olivier Award for her costume designs of TWELFTH NIGHT with that company. From 1979 – 1997 she was Associate Designer at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Jenny Tiramani has worked with director Mark Rylance and composer Claire van Kampen since 1991 – starting with their Phœbus’ Cart company production of THE TEMPEST at the Rollright Stone Circle, Corfe Castle and on the foundations of Shakespeare’s Globe. During Mark Rylance’s period as Artistic Director at the Globe, Jenny Tiramani worked with him researching into the original practices of Shakespeare’s actors, their clothing, properties and the possible decoration of the theatre itself.

Jenny Tiramani is currently completing an academic book on Elizabethan costume and is visiting professor at the University of Nottingham.

It sounds a tremendous evening…..I’m considering going, very seriosuly…but will the never-ending snow permit? Here is the link to the Foundling Museum should you want to contact them to buy tickets.

This review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph magazine and was copiously and beautifully illustrated. Sadly,  during its transition to the web version of the newspaper the article has been denuded of many of its wonderful illustrations of  the tokens, but I link it here for you to read in any case.

…was sold at Sotheby’s yesterday in the same sale that witnessed Maria Edgeworth’s incomplete copy of Emma sell for £79, 250.

This surely was the better bargain of the two lots, not only taking into account its sale price £37,250 and completeness. but also because of its wonderful association with the Austen ladies great friend Martha,who lived with them in Southampton and Chawton. She was Jane Austen’s life long friend, was the sister to Jame’s Austen’s second wife and eventually became Francis Austen’s second wife.

I know which set I would  rather have in my Christmas Stocking( but I think the likelihood of any First Editions of Emma appearing in this year’s stocking to be rather remote).

Here is the link to Sotheby’s website for all the details.

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