You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 25, 2010.

Yesterday we looked at the health benefits of asses milk. Today we shall look at the use Jane Austen made of donkeys towards the end of her life at Chawton.

After Jane Austen had visited Chetleham in May 1816  it was obvious that her health was beginning to fail and a cure had not been effected. Chetlenham was an inland  spa famed, as reported in The Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc (1803),  for its mineral waters which were especially noted for treating

all bilious complaints, obstructions of the liver and spleen, dyspepsia, lost of appetite, in habitual costiveness, and obstinate obstructions.

She retuned to Chawton on 11th June. She must have begun to find it difficult to walk, and began to use her mother’s  donkey cart and donkey, so that she could remain mobile. She was famous for being a desperate walker, and to find her energy levels so depleted that she could no longer go for walks around  Chawton must have been devastating.

This is a picture of the cart that I took on my last visit to Chawton :

But if you go here you can see a picture of the donkey cart, together with modern occupant and donkey , in a photograph taken in the garden at The Jane Austen House Museum which gives you a better idea of the size of the carriage.

The firt mention of it in her letters is in one written to her nephew, James Edward Austen,  dated 9th July 1816;

May Jane and I have been wet through once already today, we set off in the Donkey Carriage for Farringdon as I wanted to see the improvements Mr Woolis is making, but we were obliged to turn back  before we got there but not soon enough to avoid a Pelter all the way back home……

By March 1817 however,  Jane Austen was further weakened by her illness and this mention of the donkey appears in her letter of 13th March written to Fanny Knight. It would appear that Jane Austen did not like driving the carriage and preferred to ride the donkey:

I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the Air; and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I get exercise enough. I have a scheme however to accomplishing more as the weather grows  springlike. I mean to take to riding the Donkey. It will be more independent and less troublesome than  the use of the Carriage & I shall be able to go about with Aunt Cassandra in her walks to Alton and Wyards.

In her letter of the of the 23rd March 1817 again written to Fanny Knight, Jane Austen announced with some understandable  excitement of the forthcoming arrival of the saddle for the donkey and her desperation to be out and about in the countryside and open air:

We are going to have Rain and after that very pleasant genial weather ,which will exactly do for me, as my Saddle will then be completed and ari and exercise is what I want….

The final mention of the donkey is  in her letter to Caroline Austen of 26th Marcy 1817:

I have taken one ride on the Donkey and like it very much-and you must try to get me quiet mild days that I maybe able to get out pretty constantly….

For the financially-challenged Austen ladies- by this time Henry Austen’s bank had failed  and the financial depression consequent upon the ending of the Napoleonic wars was causing them much distress- a donkey was an ideal means of transport , basically because it was the cheapest available .

This picture shows donkeys being kept by the Spurling family from Diana Spurling wonderful collection of watercolours published in the book, Mrs Husrt Dancing and Other Scenes form Regency Life 1812-1823

Donkeys cost very little to purchase and were easily fed. But the biggest saving was that unlike horses, donkey were not subject to tax.

This is a picture of  three donkeys learning to draw a carriage again by Diana Spurling.

Horse used for riding for pleasure  and for driving carriages were subject to tax in England from 1784 (agricultural horses and horses used in industry were taxed at lower rates and this tax was introduced in 1796,) Donkeys were exempt from this tax. Pleasure carriages however were subject to tax, and this was first imposed in 1747, but the donkey carriage, though subject to the tax, was subject to  the lowest form of it.

The donkey cart was a two wheeled affair as you can see from the photograph of Mrs Austen carriage, and was the cheapest form of carriage one could buy at the time :the equivalent today of the tiniest cheapest car. Anna and Been Lefroy- who were also in financially straightened circumstances having  little income and  many children-  had a donkey carriage too. I suppose Jane’s donkey was the early 19th century equivalent of a mobility scooter for her.

Donkeys were thought of as excellent animals for drawing carriages. This is what the agricultural  “improver” and commentator Arthur Young had to say about them, reporting about the Earl of Egremont’s experiments with them:

The problem with donkeys is that they  can be stubborn beings. And they do not make for a very elegant figure while riding one.

Which is something of which the townie Mrs Elton does not appear to a be aware when she wants to cut a dash riding to  the Donwell  Abbey Strawberry picking party in Emma by donkey:

“I wish we had a donkey. The thing would be for us all to come on donkies, Jane, Miss Bates, and me — and my caro sposo walking by. I really must talk to him about purchasing a donkey. In a country life I conceive it to be a sort of necessary; for, let a woman have ever so many resources, it is not possible for her to be always shut up at home; and very long walks, you know — in summer there is dust, and in winter there is dirt.”


Jane Austen knew all about them I’m sure: and as we can see from those touching extracts from her last letters, was grateful for the opportunity her donkey gave to her for affording her  some of her last glimpses of the Hampshire countryside that she loved so well.

Go here for a wonderful old film courtesy of Portmouth Historic Dockyards of the 1805 Royal Marines guard( in reconstruction)  changing guard with a modern marines (1930s )  during Navy Week in 1930.

Would make Mr Prices’s chest swell with pride…

If you are not a Wordpress member, just add your email here to subscribe to this site.

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Visit our sister site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: A Jane Austen Gazetteer

An Invitation to Visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen’s Letters

Visit our sister site: Jane Austen's Letters

Click on the image above to visit our Sister Site: Jane Austen's Letters

Join Austen Only on Twitter

Recently Tweeted

Austenonly on Pinterest

Follow Me on Pinterest

Categories

Copyright Notice

Copyright: This site and all images and information complied within are copyright Austenonly.com unless otherwise stated/attributed.No permission is given/implied for any use of this site, the information and images contained therein, for any commercial use whatsoever. No material may be copied in any form without first obtaining written permission of the author, save that extracts of posts may be used on other non-commcerial sites on the internet, provided that full and clear credit is given to Austenonly.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content( that is, a link must be provided to the original post/image with full attribution ). The existence of the RSS or ATOM feeds in no way authorises wholesale or part transmission of posts or parts of posts to another site without prior permission being given and attribution stated. Any sites using RSS or ATOM feeds in this way without obtaining prior written permission of the author of this blog will be subject to legal action.

Currently Reading

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas by Rebecca Smith

Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmasby Rebecca Smith

Recently Read

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

James Wyatt, Architect to George III by John Martin Robinson

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

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

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

"The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse, published by Prospect Books.

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels

The London Square by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

The London Square” by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

"What Matters in Jane Austen?:Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" by John Mullan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland by Sophia Hillan

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

An Introduction to the Tokens at the Foundling Museum” by Janette Bright and Gillian Clarke

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art by Aileen Ribeiro

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Johan Zoffany by Mary Webster

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear  by Serena Dyer

Bergere,Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headwear” by Serena Dyer

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons by Gill Perry with Joseph Roach and Shearer West

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Jane Austen's Letters (4th Edition) edited by Deirdre Le Faye

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Ice Cream by Ivan Day

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

Pastel Portraits of 18th Century Europe by Katharine Baetjer and Marjorie Shelly

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

The Eighteenth Century Church in Britain by Terry Friedman

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 by Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Acquaintance by Matthew and James Payne

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Omnipotent Magician:Lancelot "Capability" Brown by Jane Brown

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Second Edition.

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, edited by Patricia Phagan

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Ralph Allen, Builder of Bath by Diana Winsor

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Fashioning Fashion European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Jellies and their Moulds by Peter Brears

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Georgian Buildings of Bath by Walter Ison

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

The Catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic Sale

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

State Beds and Throne Canopies:Care and Conservation by Val Davies

 The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century by Timothy Brittain-Catlin

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital by Dan Cruickshank

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

London's Country Houses by Caroline Knight

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by Michael Snodin

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories by Sue Prichard

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicine and Manners by Katherine Cahill

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

Mrs Delany and her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 1)

The Brabourne Edition of Jane Austen's Letters at CUP (Vol 2)

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801

Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801 edited by Nancy K Shields

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography by Susanna Wade Martins

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain Edited by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

The Dress of the People by John Styles

The Dress of the People by John Styles

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

Austenonly Flickr

March 2010
M T W T F S S
« Feb   Apr »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
Protected by Copyscape plagiarism checker - duplicate content and unique article detection software.
Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.
UK Blog Directory
wordpress counter
%d bloggers like this: