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On Monday evening BBC 1′s The One Show had a typically different take on the celebrations for the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. They broadcast a small item, presented by the comedian Arthur Smith, about Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the type of food eaten by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.
Arthur visited what is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and was shown the Household Book on display there.
This recipes and remedies in this book were collected by Martha Lloyd, a long-standing friend of the family and who lived with the Austen ladies after her mother’s death. She eventually married one of Jane’s brothers, Francis. She was very close to Jane , and when reading Jane’s letters to her, the evidence is that she was, in my humble opinion, “almost another sister” and worthy of the epithet.
The book is a fascinating document. It is in manuscript, and the entries are written in many different hands. The book is full of recipes, household mixes and medicinal cures, and many Austen family members and friends contributed recipes to it. As a result we have a rather good idea of the type of food that was eaten at the cottage while Jane Austen was alive.
Arthur was given three dishes to eat, which were all prepared at the Pump Room in Bath, which now houses a restaurant, and was accompanied and advised by the food historian, Holly Newton.
Appropriately, he ate White Soup, as supplied by Mr Bingley to his guests at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice
Jugged Beef Steaks with potatoes…….
and Gooseberry Tart. It was a good section of the programme, though brief, and was a welcome alternative to the diet of “wet shirt ” admiration that some programmes fed to us! it was quite seriously undertaken, and was not at all frivolous. Replete with details of Jane’s life and how differently food was prepared and eaten during the early 19th century, I confess, I enjoyed it.
You have five days left to view the item on the BBC iPlayer, here, and the item began at approximately 23 minutes and 30 seconds into the programme.
I’m going to interrupt our series on the Brighton Pavilion for a moment, because today I’ve been made aware, via my alert conveyancing solicitor of a husband, that a property which has strong associations with Jane Austen is currently for sale.
This house, above, in Ibthorpe Hampshire, was the home of the Lloyds, who were, of course, great friends with the Austen family. Mrs Lloyd, the widowed mother of Mary Lloyd, James Austen’s second wife and of Martha Lloyd, who was Jane and Cassandra Austen’s great friend, all lived there from 1792 until the death of Mrs Lloyd in 1805. The house is now for sale with the agents, Frank Knight, at a guide price of £3.5 million.Go here to see all the details.
The house has many, many associations with Jane Austen.When she lived at Steventon she would often visit the Lloyds at Ibthorpe, travelling sometimes on her own via the nearby town of Andover, and it is mentioned in many of her letters. The Lloyd’s lodger , Mrs Stent, poor deaf Mrs Stent, was often remarked upon too.
“Poor Mrs. Stent! it has been her lot to be always in the way; but we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs. Stents ourselves, unequal to anything & unwelcome by everybody”
And of course it was from Ibthorpe that a young Jane Austen made her debut into society in 1792. She was staying at Ibthorpe with the Lloyds when she attended her first dance as an adult at Enham House near Andover.
I was lucky enough to visit this house in 2006,and have lunch there in the company of friends, all courtesy of the house’s most generous present owner, Sabina ffrench Blake. Mrs. ffrenchBlake was very proud of her home’s association with Jane Austen and was very welcoming and gracious to others who had a genuine interest in seeing a place with such happy associations with our favourite author.
She was convinced that it was in the quiet of Ibthorpe, away from the hurly burly of life at the rectory at Steventon, with all the Austen family and their troop of live- in scholars, that Jane Austen would find the peace she needed to compose her early works. Mrs. ffrench Blake would show the dining room, below, which in Jane Austen’s time served as the sitting room,
and, of course the bedroom, seen below, where Jane Austen stayed while she visited the Lloyds.
The house has other literary associations, notably with the Bloomsbury set. The artist, Dora Carrington lived there before the first World War and used this tiny garden building, below in one of my photographs, as her studio.
She lived there with the writer, Lytton Strachey and was often visited by other writers associated with the Bloomsbury set, notably Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf. Mrs. ffrench Blake related to me an interesting anecdote told to her by Nigel Nicholson, who was the son of Vita and Harold Nicholson. While visiting Dora there with his mother, aged about 8, he had been interrogated by Virginia Woolf and Dora Carrington as to what he was going to do with his life. He coud hardly think of any profession, so formidable were the women asking him the questions!
Yet another property I wish I could buy…Ah, well….let’s hope the next owner is just as welcoming to Jane Austen aficionados.
featured last night on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme.
This was the second programme filmed in Winchester Cathedral, and of course, it is in Winchester Cathedral that Jane Austen is buried.
Last night the programme’s presenter, Fiona Bruce, made mention of the pilgrimages that centre on Winchester. People still flock to the cathedral to see the shrines of ancient kings and saints,
but also to pay special literary pilgrimages to Jane Austen’s memorial plaque and window, above, and her tomb, below.
She gave a brief overview of Jane Austen’s life and works and then led us to the house in College Street, just outside the cathedral close…
where Jane Austen died in 1817.
Unexpectedly, we were then taken inside the house, to the room on the first floor where Jane Austen died.
This is the first time I have seen inside this house and it quite took me aback, I freely confess.
It is of course a private house at the moment and is not open to the public, so this was an extraordinary thing to have seen.
During the programme, Louise West, Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum bought Martha Lloyd’s cookery book to the Roadshow for an expert, in this case, Justin Croft, to appreciate and to value. Martha Lloyd was, of course, a lifelong friend of the Austen ladies and was sister to James Austen’s second wife, Mary. She eventually married Jane Austen’s brother, Frank Austen, in 1828.
We were shown some glimpses of some of the pages in the book..The Table of Contents with recipes for Pound Cake and White Custard,
and A Good Salve for Sore Lips
Louise pointed out that while it was not written by Jane Austen, its association could not have been closer , for these were the recipes she ate nearly every day at Chawton Cottage, during the last eight years of he life, and while Martha was in the kitchen making ink from this recipe in her book, below,
Jane was using it, writing and revising her books in the dining room of the same house, on the writing table we can still see there today.
The book was eventually valued at between £15-20,000 but as Louise rightly pointed out, it was priceless to the Museum and would never be sold. Oh, for a facsimile edition!
The programme is available to view for the next six days on the BBC I Player, or if you go here. I do hope you enjoy this fascinating part of the programme.
…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.