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If you would like to enter the Give-away Competition organised to celebrate the first anniversary of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s blog then you have until the end of today 17th January to enter. You can do so by adding a comment to this post linked here.

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The lucky winner will be announced next week, and the prize is a beautifully presented facsimile first edition of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

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.

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!

He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, — all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy… 

Chapter 33 Sense and Sensibility

I thought you might appreciate sight of these 18th century toothpick cases that were recently sold at auction by Cheffins Auctioneers of Cambridge at their  Antiques and Interiors Sale which was held on the 4th October.

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

As you can see they are both made of ivory:  one has a compass set into the lid, and has been converted to hold a thermometer…

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

while the other has a plait of hair set into the lid, which is surrounded by diamante studs on blue cabochons. The hinges are of gold metal.

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

No doubt these charming  examples might be too plain for Robert Ferrars, but I think they are quite lovely. They sold rather cheaply and reached a sale price of only  £100.

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.

Back from holiday, still mesmerised by the bonkers but brilliant Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, I thought you might all enjoy looking at these two films about Hugh Thomson. He, of course, illustrated all six of Jane Austen’s novels at the turn of the last century. He created the most beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice, and my posts about his life and his work on Sense and Sensibility, which I wrote last year, still remain very popular with visitors to this site.

The first film is a short overview of Thomson’s life and works produced by Culture Northern Ireland, presented by Helen Perry:

The second is a longer and a very informative and detailed film on the life and works of Thomson, again presented and narrated by Helen Perry.  It concentrates on examining some of the 700 of  Thomson’s works which were recently  purchased for the Coleraine Museum with help for the Heritage Lottery fund.

If you go here you can also explore part of the Thomson archive for yourselves: 71 of his illustrations, book bindings and letters etc., are available to online visitors via the Coleraine Museum’s website. No Jane Austen illustrations are included as yet, but the exhibits are  interesting despite this, and I particularly admired the sumptuous  binding for Cranford by Mrs Gaskell.

If you are in the vicinity of Hampstead next weekend, you might like to try turning you hand to making a Regency reticule or even a pocket. There will be a Regency Sewing Workshop at the Keat’s House Musuem, below, which was the home of the poet, John Keats from 1818 to 1820, and was, of course, the place where he met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne who was quite literally the girl next door.

Keats’ House,Hampstead © Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The workshop runs for one day and you can find all the details here. Who knows, you might end up with an elegant item such as this one, below, “owned” by Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensbility.

Elinor Dashwood’s reticule, as used by Emma Thompson in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility ©JaneAusten’sHouseMuseumBlog

If you’d rather make a Regency style dress, then there is a four day workshop at the Museum, commencing on the 7th July, which will help you make a delightful confection, perhaps something like this ball gown which was worn by Charity Wakefield (no relation!) as Marianne Dashwood in the BBC’s 2006 version of Sense and Sensbility. Go here to find all the details of the course.

Marianne’s Ball Gown from the BBC’s 2006 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility @JaneAusten’sHouseMusuemBlog

Sadly the workshop where you could have made a Regency Bonnet, like the one  below, worn by Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) to her sister Marianne’s wedding in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility

Elinor Dashwood’s Bonnet as worn by Emma Thompson in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility ©JaneAusten’sHouseMuseumBlog

has already taken place,  last weekend. But if you’d like to see more photographs of the Sense and Sensibility costumes which were on show at the Jane Austen House Museum last year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, then click here to see the hat and the reticule, and click here for the ball gown.

You might also be interested to see this ensemble, which was also on show, and which was worn by both Charity Wakefield and KAte Winslet, in both adaptations of the book.

The ensemble worn by both Kate Winslet and Charity Wakefield in their adaptations of Sense and Sensibility ©JaneAustenHouseMuseumBlog

Click here to see more photographs of it.

This delightful object was featured on a recent edition of BBC One’s programme, Bargain Hunt.

It comes from the collection of the Grey family who lived at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire, shown below. The property is now in the care of  the National Trust.

As you can see it, the decoration on the tea caddy  is made of filigree work – which can be known as rolled paper work or quill work. I’ve written about it before, here, as it was of course mentioned by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility: Lucy Steele, attempting to curry favour with the Middletons, in particular with Lady Middleton, creates a filigree work basket for the Middleton’s spoilt daughter, Annamaria:

“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23

The structure of the tea caddy is made from wood, and has internal compartments for two different types of tea:

But it is the outside decoration which is so stunning. The decoration on the lid of the caddy has sadly faded as it has been kept  in sunlight:

You can see that only the slightest trace of colour remains in the rolled paper pieces:

However the side panels , which have escaped the ruinous effects of the sun, are a different matter. You can see from this series of photographs  how very beautiful the decoration is. Do note that the individual side panels are differently decorated : one incorporates  a print or engraving…

and some include pieces of mica, set behind some of the quilled decoration. Mica is a mineral known as sheet silicate which gives a very shiny effect. The term  “mica” is derived from the Latin word mica, probably and very appropriately derived from the verb by micare, which means “to glitter”.

You can also see that some of the quills were made from gold, foiled papers.

If you would like to see this object on the programme you can do so by accessing it here via the BBCs iPlayer for the next five days. You will need to access the programme at 20 minutes in, in order to see the item about Nunnington Halk. Sadly this is not, I fear, available to  any of you resident outside the UK.

However, in spite of that restriction, I thought you might like to see another example of the type of work with which Lucy Steel was attempting to ingratiate herself into the Middleton household :)

is now scheduled to be broadcast on the 23rd December from 9 p.m.- 10 p.m. on BBC2

The Press Release for the programme gives us some hints of its content:

To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Professor Amanda Vickery, one of the leading chroniclers of Georgian England, explores the ebb and flow of Austen’s popularity and the hold her fiction has on us now.

In this 60-minute programme, Vickery considers what it is about her plots and characters that continue to delight, amuse, console and provoke. Her fans insist her current popularity is due to the timelessness of the fictional world Austen created, but for Vickery the question is: Why have her novels gone in, and out, of fashion?

What interests Amanda is how different periods and generations have looked for their own reflection in the characters and plots of the novels. She wants to work out what that says about them, as well as about Austen.

As you are aware,  Amanda has spent much of the summer filming for this project all over the world, including at the Jane Austen House Museum,  filming the sale of The Watsons manuscript at Sotheby’s, visiting JASNA’s AGM at Fort Worth in Dallas. She has also recorded her impressions of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has interviewed many experts, literary and non-literary,  including Jocasta Millar, the Bronte scholar and author of one of my favourite books, The Bronte Myth. 

I’m looking forward to it very much, and hope to be able to share my impressions of it with you, Christmas Preparations permitting!

It is Advent and Christmas is fast approaching…far too fast probably for all the preparations  to be completed on time. But I’m feeling a little frivolous and so, in this anniversary year for Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to have a little fun and enjoy listening and reading about the actors from Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s film version of Sense and Sensibility from 1995 who have appeared on the BBC Radio 4  programme, Desert Island Discs. This version of Jane Austen’s novel, with all its faults, omissions but many bonuses, is my favourite adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Desert Island Discs is a venerable radio programme, and was first broadcast   in 1942. It has been running continually since then. For those of you unfamiliar with it, tt  has a simple premise: imagine you are marooned on a desert island. You are allowed eight records, or recordings to accompany you. The Bible ( or your religious book of choice) and the Complete Works of Shakespeare are waiting for you too. You can choose to take another book and a luxury, which ought to have no practical use. The choices and the explanations for them are usually quite fascinating and illuminating.

Last week the Castaway was Robert Hardy- for the second time. Robert Hardy played a fabulous, lively Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film.

You can listen to Robert Hardy’s second tranche of choices here and read about his old choices, from 1978, here.  Amongst other interesting snippets, it was fascinating to hear about his choice of subject to read at Oxford University. Originally wanting to read History he was persuaded to read English instead, on the basis that his tutors would be C. S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien. Wise choice.

I thought you might like to hear ( or read, if the programme is rather old) other programmes with a Sense and Sensibility connection, as many members of the cast of that adaptation have, at different times, appeared on the programme …so here is the episode for Dame Harriet Walter, which can be listened to again.

Dame Harriet Walter was a most avaricious and compelling Fanny Dashwood in the 1995 production, possibly the best and most malevolent but funny Fanny Dashwood I’ve ever seen.

Go here to listen to Emma Thompson’s programme. Emma Thompson not only starred as Elinor Dashwood but also wrote the screenplay of the film, for which she won as Oscar. Gemma Jones’ programme can be read about here. She was a rather wonderful Mrs Dashwood, with charm and a resemblance to Marianne in her manner.

Hugh Laurie, who portrayed a much more sympathetic Mr Palmer than is detailed in the text, in my view, gave his selection and choices for his desert island exile here.

Hugh Grant’s choices can be accessed here: he was of course a rather impossibly handsome Edward Ferrars in the film.

Imelda Stuanton’s programme can be listened to here : she was a really wonderfully irritating and brainless Charlotte Palmer in the film.

The archive for the programme is fascinating and a great prevarication tool. You never know whose choices are lurking there awaiting discovery. For example, here is the  link to Colin Firth’s choices ,which can also be downloaded as a podcast to keep. You are most welcome ;)

In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.

Today we shall look at  the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at  The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.

Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.

He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.

Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London - The Hindoostanee Coffee-House - at 34 George Street, Portman Square.

This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.

His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.

His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:

Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very  exotic location in which to eat a meal.

Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:

To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.

(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))

The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet  had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade  from its original premises at 34 George Street  until 1833.

So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.

Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821

My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:

Mahomed’s Baths

These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those  who had resided in the East.

And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826

It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:

The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints

In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet  was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and  his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly  before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:

So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London.  Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet  published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he  stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary  It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on  the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:

In Sense and Sensibility we are told that Colonel Brandon served in the East Indies and, for the British Army at that time, this most likely would have meant being on active service  in India. In chapter 31 the poor Colonel recalls to Elinor Dashwood what happened to the woman he loved while he was away:

My brother had no regard for her; his pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon’s, was but too natural. She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation; and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight — was nothing — to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom, — even now the recollection of what I suffered — “

Living in the East it is entirely possible that Colonel Brandon might have developed a taste for eating highly spiced food. If,  on his return to England he had wanted to continue eating curries, could he have expected his staff at Delaford to have been able to recreate one? The answer, rather surprisingly, is, yes.  It  is really interesting to note that the first recipe for curry published in an English cookery book appeared in 1747.

Above, is the frontispiece to the first edition of  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, produced in facsimile by Prospect Books. It was in this edition of  her famous book that Hannah Glasse gave this first printed recipe in English, for a curry:

You can enlarge this image along with all the others in this post, simply by clicking on them. The method given for this particular curry has a lot in common with a modern Biriani- with the rice being cooked in with the sauce, not served separately. But the most interesting point to note is the very few spices used in Mrs Glasse’s recipe. She uses only pepper and coriander seeds which have been toasted.

By the time Martha Lloyd complied her collection of household remedies and food recipes in her Household Book things had moved on a little. Martha Lloyd was, of course, Jane Austen’s great friend and one of the cluster of ladies who lived together with her at Chawton Cottage from 1809 onwards. This is a picture of her as an older woman and as Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother’s second wife:

Her book dates from the late 18th to the early nineteenth century, and is now in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where I took this photograph of it, last year:

Her recipe for curry is a far more complex item than Mrs Glasse’s version, and is called A Receipt to Curry after the Indian Manner:

Cut two chickens as for fricasseeing, wash them clean and put them in a stew pan with as much water as will cover them, with a large spoonful of salt sprinkle them and let them boil till under covered close all the time, skim them well; when boiled enough take up the Chickens and put the liquor of them in a pan, then out half a pound of fresh butter in the pan and brown it a little, put into it two cloves of garlic and a large onion sliced and let these all fry till brown often shaking the pan, then put in Chickens and sprinkle over two or three spoonfuls of curry power, then cover them close and let the chickens do till brown  frequently shaking the Pan, then put in the Liquor the Chickens were boiled in and let all stew till tender. If acid is agreeable squeeze the juice of a Lemon or Orange into it.

The curry powder she refers to was most probably not a proprietary brand which could be brought in the shops, though Alan Davidson the food historian in his Oxford Companion to Food thought that:

Commercial mixtures had been available to cooks in Britain from late in the 18th century but seems not to have been a common article of commerce until later.

Certainly it is true that  in the 1796 edition of Hannah Glasse’s book, the recipe for curry required curry powder to be added to it. But this does not mean that  a commercially produced powder was always used, because recipes for curry powder exist in cookery compilations of the era.  In Martha’s case she was most probably referring to another recipe in her book. Her recipe for curry powder appears to have originated from her aunt, Mrs Jane Fowle. Mrs Fowle was not only Martha’s aunt but was also the mother of Thomas Fowle, who had been engaged to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister. Sadly, he died in 1797 before they could marry, of yellow fever, while accompanying his kinsman, Lord Craven, on service in the West Indies.

Her recipe for  Curry Powder, or as she terms it, Curee Powder, is as follows:

Take of Termeric (sic) Root and Galangal Root each half an oz. Best Cayenne Pepper a quarter of an oz. Let the Termeric and Galangal be reduced to a fine powered separately, then mix them with the other articles and keep for use. N.B. two oz of Rice powdered tone mixed also with the other ingredients.

Galangal root is a member of the ginger family, and it is fascinating to note that this exotic ingredient was available to purchase to these ladies living in the early 19th century. The roots of turmeric and galangal were most probably not bought fresh, as they can be today, but were more likely to have been bought already roasted and dried so that powering them could take place in a pestle and mortar.

An authentic curry powder originating from southern India was most likely to have included the following: coriander cumin and mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and the possible additions of cinnamon, cardamom,  cloves and chickpeas, all roasted and then ground to a powder. So you can see, by comparing the two , that the British attempts at curries in the early parts of the 19th century, were rather tame things. My family are curry aficionados and I have attempted to recreate  Martha’s recipe. Using my own version of Mrs Fowle’s curry powder it produces a very nice, sweet tasting dish, but it is not very authentic, in my family’s rather strongly given opinion.

However, it is fascinating to me that as early as the late 18th century Jane Austen and the members of her family circles were eating such an exotic dish,and approved it so much that they took the trouble to write it down and most probably enjoyed it in the dining room at Chawton Cottage, seen below in one of my terribly short videos.

Next, where Colonel Brandon could have gone to eat a more authentic version than the one his cook at Delaford might have tired to recreate for him.

“And here is my sweet little Annamaria,” she added, tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise for the last two minutes; “And she is always so gentle and quiet — Never was there such a quiet little thing!”

   But unfortunately, in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship’s head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be outdone by any creature professedly noisy. The mother’s consternation was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, and everything was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer. She was seated in her mother’s lap, covered with kisses, her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar-plums by the other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress, last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected. She was carried out of the room therefore in her mother’s arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the room had not known for many hours.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 21

Ah, Lady Middleton. The cold, manipulative, too doting mother of spoilt, awful children. Creating these characters  gave Jane Austen free rein to be scathing about both spoilt children and their appallingly self-centered mother. Adding, no doubt, fuel to the fire to some of the claims that Jane Austen “hated children”. Not at all,  the evidence from her other novels and from her letters show JAne Austen to have been very keen on and kind to well-behaved,well brought up children and their mammas. I think this passage illustrates that she simply detested spoilt brats and their oblivious parents.

In this passage the Miss Steeles- Nan and Lucy- the sycophantic fools, are immediately on hand to pander to Lady Middleton’s poor, little, desperately wounded but calculating child. They proffer sugar plums( more on that subject next week) and bathe her “would” with lavender water.

From Roman times lavender water has been recognised as something good with which to bathe wounds, as it has a naturally antiseptic effect. In Jane Austen’s era you could, if you had access to lavender plants,or essence of lavender, make your own lavender water, by following some of the many recipes for it in the cookery books and advice books of the day.

Mrs Rafffald in her recipe book A New System of Domestic Cookery, (below is the title page of my 1819 copy of her book)

had a simple version:

The unknown author of the companion volume to Mrs Raffald’s work, also published by John Murray ( the man who published Emma, you will recall)

gave the more traditional, complicated manner of making lavender water, by using a still to extract the essence of lavender:

 

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book which is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, contains a recipe for making lavender water. In A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes written by Peggy Hickman, published in 1977, the following recipe appears:

To one quart of the best rectified spirits of wine put 3/4 oz of essence of lavender and 1/2 scruple of ambergris; shake it together and it is fit for use in a few days

As you can see, Martha’s recipe is very similar to the simple method described in Mrs Rundell’s book, above. Martha was, of course, their life long friend and she lived with the Austen ladies in their Chawton home.

There was an alternative to making your own lavender water, of course, You could buy a proprietary brand.The brand that Jane Austen and  her sister Cassandra seem to have preferred was Mr Steele’s Lavender Water. In her letter to Cassandra dated 14th January 1801 she commissions her, on behalf  of Martha Lloyd, to purchase some of Mr Steele’s lavender water when she next visits london:

Martha left you her best love. She will write to you herself in a short time; but, trusting to my memory rather than her own, she has nevertheless desired me to ask you to purchase for her two bottles of Steele’s lavender water when you are in town, provided you should go to the shop on your own account, otherwise you may be sure that she would not have you recollect the request.

Mr Steele had his shop and lavender water producing workshop at 15 Catherine Street, London just off the Strand, near Somerset House. The approximate position of the shop is shown in these two sections taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

The approximate position of the shop is shown by the red arrow on both the sections:

Mr Steel also had a small house and a lavender nursery at Feltham near Hounslow Heath on the outskirts of London, approximately  six miles from the city. You can see the red arrow marking the position of Hounslow on the section of John Cary’s map of the Environs of London (1812) below:

He was also in business with his brother-in-law, one Mr Alley, who distilled the lavender into lavender water at the Catherine Street premises.  And now prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful…Mr Steele met with an untimely end. He was murdered in 1802 while he was on Hounslow Heath. His murderer, John Holloway was eventually found guilty of the murder in 1807. If you go here to the magnificent Old Bailey On line website, you can read a full account of the trial. It is absolutely fascinating, and for me raises many, many questions. I thought, however, that you might like to read Mr Steels sad tale, which is a reminder that Jane Austen’s era was not all lavender water and lace, and that for some unfortunate souls, violence was not far from the surface ;)

Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly,  has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.

The current exhibit is of some of  his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these  in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.

The first is a superb Banyan:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Here is a close-up of the collar:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.

An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric,  is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams.  This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.

This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is made from fine linen:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase,  Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a  follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches,  in a slightly dated manner

The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36  Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion  that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers  tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along  with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still  practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall,  where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where

Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.

Chapter 33

Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden

The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.

The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent  his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.

Today I have a rare treat for you- a close look at a nearly forgotten ladies accomplishment: paper filigree work.

Poor Elinor Dashwood: in order to learn more of Lucy Steele’s entanglement with Edward Ferrars, she has to volunteer to join her in making  a filigree basket for Annamaria Middleton, whom Jane Austen describes as a spoilt child:

“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23

Playing cards with the cold Lady Middleton or having heartrending talks with spiteful, scheming Lucy? Not much of a choice is it?

Rolledpaper work, filigree work, or as it is now known, quilling, was a popular pastime for accomplished young ladies in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. The first known forms of this type of decoration, which is made by decorating items with many, many rolled and pinched or crimped  pieces of paper, set in pleasing patterns, date from the 15th and 16th centuries.Predominantly using gold and silver covered paper, filigree work was then used to decorate items with religious significance- pictures of saints etc.- however, shortly after the Reformation in England,when “idolatrous” objects were discouraged, the practice died out. In the mid 17th century the art was revised in England ,and was often used in conjunction with stump work embroidery  to decorate mirrors and caskets. In the 18th century it became a popular pastime for young ladies. Most were content to work on small pieces, as in Annamaria’s basket, and pieces like this tea caddy dating from about 1800, below:

You can see that the patterns formed by the rolled pieces of paper  give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.

Some ladies were more accomplished than others, and were more ambitious too. Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of George III,was known to have ordered and received a cabinet especially constructed so that she could cover it with filigree work. It was described as a box made for filigree work with ebony mouldings, lock and key and also a tea caddy to correspond…

A cabinet of this type of work still exists and that is what I would like to show to you now. It appeared on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt Programme on Wednesday 2nd November, and was chosen by the programme’s presenter,Tim Wonnacott formerly of Sothebys ,as the object he most coveted in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Cheshire.

Here is Tim, standing next to the cabinet, which dates from the last years of the 18th century:

It has a stand, and is 4 feet 10 inches tall, 2 feet wide and 1 foot 5 inches deep.

The exterior is decorated with prints, filigree work and freshwater pearls:

The prints have been coloured, then applied to the cabinet and then finally  varnished to give the appearance of oil paintings. In the image above you can see that the side panels are decorated as well as the doors.

If you take a close look at the decoration on the doors, you can see the tightly rolled pieces of paper…

which have been affixed to the surface of the cabinet. Note  that the pattern comes not only from the way the pieces have been rolled but also from the use of papers of different colours.

The doors are also decorated with strings of freshwater pearls…

which are set in the form of swags. They help “display” the varnished prints in a decorative manner…

..so that the pictures  hang pendant from the swags:

The sides are decorated in a stunning pink pattern: butterflies dance among the whirls of paper

The programme showed us something that is not normally seen- the interior of the cabinet:

The interior is stunning. The colours are almost as they were when it was made 200 years ago, because, of course, they have been protected from  attacks of the sun and dirt. The reverses of the doors were not shown to us in detail but I can tell you that they are lined with painted satin bordered with glass jewels.

The centre panel of the cabinet  again contains a varnished print, but this time it is set around with cut steel pieces-a very fashionable material at the time for buckles and jewellery, for despite its dull sounding name , it actually sparkles like cut stones.

This would have glittered and shone in the candlelight of a late 18th century sitting room, such a wonderful effect.

The interior of the cabinet is furnished with many small drawers, all decorated with filigree work:

You can see them in these two illustrations:

Here are some close-ups of the filigree work patterns on the drawers:

…here you can see a pattern of pink  leafage set amongst a ground of aqua coloured paper rolls

Another leafage pattern this time in pale green, plus a star pattern..or is it a flower?

Another complex star/flower pattern with green leafage

These patterns were not necessarily the brainchild of the woman working them. Patterns could be purchased and some were printed in women’s magazine of the time. This one, below, shows very similar leafage and flower designs to the ones used on the cabinet:

This was first published in The New Ladies’ Magazine for 1786. In the same magazine there was an advertisement for the finest filigree work which could be seen at the first shop in Mount Street by Berkeley Square.

A statement in the same magazine promoted the craft, noting that paper filigree work was thought eminently suitable for the “female mind”:

The art affords an amusement to the female mind, capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety ; it may be readily acquired and pursued at a very trifling expense.

Perfect for Lucy Steele then, a woman with a certain amount of native cunning but no great intellectual gifts. I wonder if Jane Austen’s ire had been raised by reading such pronouncements, and that is why she gave  such an occupation to Lucy…it is entirely possible, don’t you think?

However that may be,  I think the cabinet on show here displays staggering  levels of expertise. I can agree with Tim Wonnacott that I’d love it in my own home.

My goodness…another year has come and gone. Not only is this the day on which, 200 years ago, Sense and Sensibility was reputedly first published, but it is also the second anniversary of this site.

It has been fun year, I do hope you will agree. So many more of you have visited: in fact over twice as many as came here in the first year, and I’ve really loved meeting you all. The most popular posts this year have been a varied bunch. In the year of another, very different Royal Wedding, my post on Princess Charlotte’s Wedding was, and is still, popular; The Premiere of Mansfield Park:The Opera at Boughton House has attracted many many thousands of visitors, The Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Royal Pavillion series is still proving very popular, and, appropriately enough in this anniversary year, Hugh Thomson’s Illustrations for Sense and Sensibility have been among the posts that have generated most traffic.

My sincere thanks, as ever, are due to some lovely individuals who have encouraged and supported me in my endeavours this past year.. For all their kind words, I would like to extend my thanks to Katherine Cahill, Amanda Vickery, Louise West, Ronald Dunning, Karen Robarge, Jane Odiwe and Farah-Naz for all their encouragement and support. They do say that the second year of writing articles on a website is the hardest. I must admit that this year I’ve found that I have  had too much to write about, and some articles are being held over till next year in the schedule! Thank you for al your patience!

I should also like thank all of you who come and visit, and an especially warm thank you to all of you who take the trouble to comment. And now a confession. Prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful. I am appallingly bad at commenting on other websites. I mean to do it. Really, I do. Then my mind goes blank and I’m convinced others have already said what I’m proposing to say,or that what I’m going to say sounds banal. I never think this of the comments made here: obviously  you are all far more erudite than I ;) But as part of today’s celebration I’m going to encourage you to comment to this anniversary post. In two weeks time I will pick, by random number generator related to the number of your comment in the list, one of the authors of a comment to be the recipient of the following gifts:

A Sense and Sensibility celebratory calico bag from the Jane Austen’s House Museum, bought during my visit to them this week:

A set of four cards, depicting  scenes from Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice  and Sense and Sensibility designed  by the Scribes of Winchester Cathedral, where, of course, Jane Austen is buried:

A pack of cards printed with a design of a silhouette of Mr and Mrs Austen walking along the lane to church at Steventon, with all their children(save for poor George) in tow. These are only available to buy at St Nicholas’ Church, Steventon, where Jane Austen was baptised and worshipped, and where her father and brother, James, were rectors:

Because so many of you enjoyed the recent post I wrote about them and their designer, I’ve included a mint presentation pack of the 1975 Jane Austen commemorative stamps issued by the GPO:

The newly released Entertaining Miss Austen CD, which I will write about this forthcoming week:

A copy of Serena Dyer’s exquisite book on hats in Jane Austen’s era:

A set of postcards produced by the National Portrait Gallery in London on conjunction with The First Actresses Exhibition   (includes images of Mary Robinson and Sarah Siddons as well as Nell Gwynn!)

A copy of  The Pocket Posh Jane Austen Quiz Book…a small pocket- sized book of amusing Jane Austen related puzzles( A perfect stocking filler!)

A set of twenty postcard of my copies of Hugh Thomson and C.E. Brock’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility

There are two of each image in the set plus envelopes…

They also include this image by Ackermann, again from my collection, of Pynes, the house in Devon thought to be the inspiration for Barton Park:

And finally, because it wouldn’t be an Austenonly Giveaway without one, an early 19th century bone gaming fish as used by Lydia Bennet:

I ought to stress that this Giveaway is open to everyone, wherever in the world you are. If you take the trouble to comment,wherever you are, then I think you ought to have a chance to receive these items. It is only fair. So please, do comment and then  you will be automatically entered into the draw, which will take place in two weeks time on the 13th November.(Note I will not be replying to the comments  in order to make the draw that much simpler!)

And so… on to year three!  I have some rather special Jane Austen related news, to be released around the time of the anniversary of her birthday on 16th December, and  I hope it will prove to be very interesting to you all. I do hope you will continue to visit here , as it wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t!

Don’t forget to leave a comment, and Good Luck!

Yesterday an exhibition devoted to examining the life and works of the 18th century painter, Johan Zoffany, opened at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. Johan Zoffany R.A: Society Observed will run there until the 12th February 2012, and then it will transfer to London to the Royal Academy, where it will be on show from the 10th March until the 10th June 2012.

Mary Webster, who has made a very special study of the life and works of Zoffany has written an amazing book to accompany the exhibit, and this has also been published by Yale.

 

I can’t review the exhibit yet, but I can write about the book, as I’ve been reading it for the past couple of months. Zoffany was born in 1733 near Frankfurt am Maim. His family was associated with the local court and then moved to Regensburg. Zoffany received his art education in Rome, which he visited on two occasions and then became court painter to the elector of Trier. Below, is his self portrait:

After his marriage in 1760 he moved to London to try his luck as an artist. He set up a studio in Covent Garden, where he  came to the notice of the leading actor of the day, David Garrick. Other actors flocked to his studios to be immortalised in oils.The patronage of Garrick brought him to the attention of the powerful and the great, most notably The Earl of Bute who gave him many family commissions. The Earl was the young George III’s prime minister, and so it was probably through this link that Zoffany began to receive court commissions. It also helped that he spoke German as a first language,and he received many commissions and help from Queen Charlotte, George III’s wife, who was, of course, German.

His paintings of the royal family are very familiar- and so I will not comment on them here. What I found interesting, on reading the book, were his portraits of lesser known individuals, as below in his portrait of Charles Francois Dumergue, then London’s most fashionable dentist. Mr Dumergue, who was born in France , was Dentist to the Royal Family. The painting dates from 1780-81:

His official title was  Court Operator of the Teeth. He was also dentist to the Prince of Wales from 1785 until 1814. He was a great friend of Zoffany and their friendship lasted all their lives. He was also great friend with Matthew Boulton and James Watt the inventors and engineers, and also with Sir Walter Scott. This portrait by Zoffany, below, of Sophia Dunmergue , Mr Dumergue’s daughter, dates from the same period:

Zoffany’s great conversation pieces, painted in London, are also well-known and my favourite is of the Sharpe family:

Here they all are, on a musical water party sailing on the Thames near Fulham. The family is shown as the sort of people you would love to meet: talented, musical, interesting, fun. The family included Granville Sharp ,the lawyer : he is shown holding a sheet of music for his sister,Elizabeth Prowse, who is playing the fortepiano. You can see them in the centre of the picture. Granville Sharp was of course,the principal agent in fighting the very famous  case of James Somersett, the black slave, wihc was heard  before Lord Mansfield, and as Mary Webster remarks:

It was in this case that Mansfield in 1772 pronounced his famous verdict that Somersett must go free since no English law sanctioned slavery. Sharp consequently founded the Society for the Abolition of Slavery…

This is all very well, I hear you say, but is there any more to Zoffany to make him an object of interest to we Janeites? The answer is, yes. Empahtically, yes.  For,  in 1783 he travelled to India to paint there. Professional disappointments and a lack of commissions forced him to look elsewhere than England for work. And he looked to the world of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal, shown below, in a portrait with his second wife, Marian,  and her Indian servant:

Warren Hastings gave Zoffany his enthusiastic patronage. And this is the interesting link, for Hastings had many associations with Jane Austen’s family. He had known Jane’s mother’s family, the Leighs of Adlestrop since childhood. He entrusted the care of his son from his first marriage to Mr and Mrs Austen, when they were first married and living at Deane in Hampshire. Seven year old George Hastings was the Reverend Austen’s first pupil, sent back to England from India to be educated. Sadly, he died while in their care, in 1764 of a “putrid throat”.His death affected Mrs Austen dreadfully. Mrs Austen had become so much attached to him that she always

declared that his death had been as great a grief to her as if he had been a child of her own

(Quoted in Jane Austen: A Family Record by Deirdre Le Faye, page 18)

Mr Austen’s sister, Philadelphia also knew Hastings. A poor but genteel woman, she travelled to India to find a husband in 1752 and married the elderly  Tysoe Hancock in 1753. Both she and her elderly husband were  close friends with him. He was godfather to their only daughter, Eliza, known to us all as the glamourous Countess de Feuillide, and then wife of Jane Austen’s brother, Henry . Sadly, hurtful gossip surrounded this group of friends:

The close friendship between Hastings and the Hancock’s coupled with the fact that the latter had been childless for so long before Betsey’s birth, gave scope for spiteful gossip to suggest that she was not Hancock’s daughter. The rumour was spread by the malicious Mrs Strachey, whose husband was secretary to Lord Clive and her slander was successful in so far as Clive wrote to his wife in the late summer of 1765: “In no circumstances whatever keep company with Mrs Hancock for it is beyond a doubt that she abandoned herself with Mr Hastings, indeed I would rather you had no acquaintance with the ladies who have been in India, they stand in such little esteem in England that their company cannot be of credit to Lady Clive”

(Le Faye, as above,  page 30)

Whatever the case regarding the parentage of Eliza, Zoffany’s works painted while he lived in India give us a rare glimpse into the strange world that Philadelphia Austen moved to in order to survive : and the world the the Crofts in Persuasion inhabited:

“What a great traveller you must have been, ma’am!” said Mrs. Musgrove to Mrs. Croft.

   “Pretty well, ma’am, in the fifteen years of my marriage; though many women have done more. I have crossed the Atlantic four times, and have been once to the East Indies and back again, and only once; besides being in different places about home: Cork, and Lisbon, and Gibraltar. But I never went beyond the Streights, and never was in the West Indies. We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies.”

Persuasion, Chapter 8

and the place where Colonel Brandon saw active service;

But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. 

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31.

This is a fascinating portrait by Zoffany of the Blair family , painted in 1786-7. Colonel William Blair was originally of Balthayock in Perthshire, but ,when painted with his family, was then Colonel of the Bengal Army and commandant of the garrison of Chunar 20 miles above Benares.

This is another conversation piece of the Impey family dating from 17883. Sir Elijah Impey was a lawyer and judge. Note the Indian band in the background, and just how exhausted poor Mrs Impey looks in the heat.

The chapters dealing with Zoffany’s life and work in India are fascinating.Mary Webster’s exquisite research into the lives of the sitter and the servants provides us with a wonderful and detailed view of word of the English and servants of the East India company in India. I am throughly enjoying savouring this very new topic, espaillaly as it is something that seems to have held a stung hold on the young  Jane Austen’s imagination: she  wrote about life in India  in both her juvenilia and her adult works.

This book is worth  having for the joy of reading  these Indian chapters, but , as you can see from this cursory review, there is  much, much more to be enjoyed. Mary Wester’s prose is very readable and informative. She gives fascinating details of late 18th century life to answer the questions that natually arise when studying Zoffany’s works in detail. It’s a heavy tome, and very expensive at £75, but I can truly  recommend it to you

If you are lucky enough to  be in the Lakes this half term week, you have the opportunity to see an exhibition of some of the most interesting costumes from recent costume drama films.The Reghed Centre near Penrith in Cumbria is hosting the Dressing the Stars exhibit, of award-winning British film costumes. Included in the exhibition are costumes worn by some Jane Austen related stars. On show will be Colin Firth’s uniform which he wore as George VI in The King’s Speech , and the wedding dress and wedding suit worn by Keria Knightley and Ralph Fines in The Duchess, in which they portrayed the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The most important news for us is that the wedding dress and uniform worn by Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet in Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility will also be on show, once again.

You will recall that I had the good luck to see these magnificent costumes last year at the Austen Attired exhibit of CostProp costumes from Austen adaptations at the National Trust’s magnificent Peckover House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

I confess was stunned by the exquisite workmanship in the very detailed costume worn by Kate Winslet, as Marianne Dashwood:

This was made all the more astounding as the costume appeared only fleetingly on the screen. The embroidery and straw-work on the coat was simply sublime and the imagery evoked by the use of straw had previously been undetected by me.

Alam Rickman’s regimentals, worn s he portrayed Colonel Brandon, were also lovely-and I really coveted his citrine fob…A full account of the exhibit, and a detailed look at these costumes (and many others from other adaptations!) can found here.  The Dressing the Stars exhibition is in its last week of being open to the public: it ends on the 30th October, so I do hope that if you are in the area of the Reghed Centre you will take this opportunity to go and see these amazing costumes.

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