You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2010.

A new addition to my library  is a copy of Bath and Bristol with the Counties of Somerset and Gloucester displayed in a Series of Views etc with original drawings by Thomas Shepherd and Historical and Descriptive Illustrations by John Britton.(1829) (Do note that you can enlarge all the illustrations here by clicking on them)

I shall be posting a series of posts inspired by this book, for though it is dated 1829 it contains much material of interest for students of Jane Austen, and has copious amounts of information on Bath, Bristol and the surrounding districts

Today I thought you might care to see the entry for Beechen Cliff, which was, of course, referred to in Northanger Abbey:

They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.

Chapter 14

and of course was known well by Jane Austen ( or indeed any inhabitant of Bath) especially when she lived within view of it at Green Park Buildings.

This map shows  the position of Beechen Cliff ,(marked by the blue arrow) as delineated in a section taken from my copy of John Cary’s map of the Environs of Bath taken from the map included in his

Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812)

This is the engraving by Thomas Shepherd which shows the cliff looming over Bath and the river Avon: virtually the view Jane Austen would have had of it from Green Park Buildings:

And here is John Britton’s description of it:

Beachen Cliff(sic)

The area enclosing the Hot Springs of Bath is surrounded by Stupendous Hills of a much quicker ascent to the south and to the east,than to the west and north; and the surface of the river Avon is, at this place, at least forty feet above that of the Severn sea towards which as it flows numerous streams are carried off to mills of various kinds. Beachen Cliff rises upwards of 360 feet above this river, on the southern side of Bath. This hiill appears from the city like a vast heap of earth, whose northern side has been undermined, and made to slip down, leaving a semicircular cliff above it; which is covered with wood. Its original name was Blake Leigh and this name is yet retained by the upper part of it. The ancient names of places were always significant; which is evinced by this instance , the name denoting fertile or cultivated land, in a bleak and exposed situation.

I’ve just been made aware of a new  Jane Austen digital project which sounds very exciting: Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts which aims to digitize all the extant manuscripts of Jane Austen’s works-which of course sadly do not include The Six-and for the first time since 1845,to hold them in a single accessible collection on-line.

The main aims of the project are, according to the website ,:

To create a digital resource reuniting all the known holograph surviving manuscripts of Austen’s fiction in an unprecedented virtual collection.

To provide for the first time full descriptions of, transcriptions of, analysis of, and commentary on the manuscripts in the archive, including details of erasures, handwriting, paper quality, watermarks, ink, binding structures, and any ancillary materials held with the holographs as aspects of their physical integrity or provenance.

To develop complex interlinking of the virtual collection to allow systematic comparison of the manuscripts under a number of headings representing both their intellectual and physical states.

The works which will be included in the project are:

Volume the First,

Volume the Second, Volume the Third, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Plan of a Novel’, ‘Opinions of Mansfield Park’ and ‘Opinions of Emma’ ,The Cancelled Chapters of Persuasion

and Sanditon

Eventually a print edition of facsimiles of all the works will be released.I think that will definitely go on my wish list…


is one of my favourite museums,and I’m off to visit it again in the summer…Hurrah!!!


Set in the magnificent Upper Rooms,a place Jane Austen and her characters knew very, very well, they  have a vibrant attitude, and they concentrate on all aspects of fashion, not just the past, though its early 19th century collection is unrivalled, in my humble opinion.

A forthcoming exhibit is Princes Diana’s Dresses:,whose death sparked similar responses to when Princess Charlotte died. As I saw her wedding dress when it toured the country after THE wedding of the year in 1981,I am looking forward to seeing these.

Here is a link to a small but funky  video which gives you a very good idea of what is on offer there- my personal favourite , the gloves collection features nicely!

Enjoy!

I know…I reneged on my promise about Sense and Sensibility posts last week.So here is another to placate you.

**********************

About this time, the two Miss Steeles, lately arrived at their cousin’s house in Bartlett’s Buildings, Holborn, presented themselves again before their more grand relations in Conduit and Berkley Street; and were welcomed by them all with great cordiality.

Chapter 32

Let’s examine the place where the ambitious Lucy Steele usually stayed when she was in London, Bartlett’s Buildings.

This is a print by Thomas Shepherd circa 1838 but it in effect shows Bartlett’s Buildings as they were when Lucy was staying there.

Here is a map of the area where Bartlett’s Buildings were situated, in the commercial district of London,the City: this is a section taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

Here is the same section, annotated with the position of Bartlett’s Buildings:

This is a close up of the section showing Bartlett’s Buildings, just off Fetter Lane:

This is an appropriate location for the Steeles,  bearing in mind that Mrs Jenning’s husband’s  wealth had been made in the city though she lived in splendour in Berkley Street in the elegant west of London:

Though Mrs. Jennings was in the habit of spending a large portion of the year at the houses of her children and friends, she was not without a settled habitation of her own. Since the death of her husband, who had traded with success in a less elegant part of town, she had resided every winter in a house in one of the streets near Portman Square.Chapter 25

And Mrs Jennings, being Mrs Jennings, still kept up with her friends in the City despite the disapproval of  her daughter, the foul Lady Middleton. This map of London from my copy of The Picture of London (1803) by John Feltham shows the relative positions of Berkley Street  (1),Mrs Jennings home,  just off Portman Square and (2) Bartlett’s Buildings, just off Holborn.

Miles and social eons apart. This is a description of Bartlett’s Buildings by Constance Hill from her  book, Jane Austen : Her Homes and Her Friends:

Near at hand is Conduit Street, where the Middletons lodged, and, at no very great distance is Berkeley Street, leading out of Portman Square, where Mrs. Jennings’ house stood in which Elinor and Marianne visited her. The Miss Steeles, we remember, stayed in a less elegant part of the town – namely in Bartlett’s Buildings, Holborn. These Buildings are still to be seen, forming a quaint alley of dark brick houses with pedimented doorways and white window-frames. We have looked up at the windows and wondered behind which of them Edward Ferrars had his momentous interview with the avaricious Lucy, while her sister Nancy made “no bones” of listening at the keyhole to their conversation.

She visited  Bartlett’s Buildings and recorded her impressions  at the end of the 19th century. This illustration also from Contance Hill’s book and shows the old fashioned detailing around one of the entrance to the houses, recognisable from the Thomas Shepherd illustration above:

Bartlett’s Buildings in the early 19th century was known as a place where solicitors and attorneys  had their offices,and lived, together with some silver and gold merchants. It was not far from the Inns of Court, and indeed a medieval inn of court, Thavies Inn, had once  stood near to Bartlett’s Buildings.

It was very commercial, and not at all like the elegant, well-planned and prosperous streets surrounding Portman Square.  Boyle’s Court Guide for April 1811,the year Sense and Sensibility was published,

lists,out of the 11 people  living in Bartlett’s Buildings, five attorneys. Attorneys were the less fashionable section of the law,certainly not as smart socially as barristers, note. Remmber Miss Bingley’s sneering comments to Darcy in Pride and Prejudice about Elizabeth’s uncle , the attorney Mr Philips and this reflected the   differing  social scale within the legal profession at the time.

The same publication lists the residents of Berkley Street as being two earls( of Dunmore and Carysfort),the dowager Countess of Mansfield and and one baron,Lord Saye and Sele , all living in Berkley Street amongst non titled residents .Very different I’m sure you will agree. This is an engraving of Mrs Mongaue’s house (she was of course,the famous founder of the intellectual circle of women known as th Blue Stockings ) from the 1803 edition of A Picture of London.

It contrasts greatly with the rather crowded and old fashioned surroundings of Bartlett’s Buildings, and perhaps explains  part of Lucy’s determination to escape to the richer and more elegant surroundings of the west. In whatever way she could;-) It is a tiny  engraving and not in very good condition,but it shows the elegant houses and peaceful , leafy surroundings. Note the children running and the elegant people walking around. Jane Austen knew this area well; her brother, Henry lived at Number 24 Upper Berkley Street from 1801-1804.

You cannot visit Bartlett’s Buildings as Lucy Steele knew them, sadly.

They were bombed and totally destroyed in an air raid in 1941 during World War II. If you go here you can view three photographs of the bomb damage as well as some watercolours of the jumble of buildings that made up  the rear view of Bartlett’s Buildings.

So there you are, an illustration of the origins of Mrs Jennings wealth and the great gulf that separates Lucy from her goal. Mrs Jennings’ attachment to her friends in the city speaks volumes about her character as does Lucy determination to live up West. Yet again Jane Austen placed her characters with utmost precision and careful thought, reflecting their social conditions in their surroundings. Brilliant woman.

A few days ago I wrote about the Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill exhibit at the V+A.

Here is a link to Yale’s excellent website, which contains a vitual tour around the Strawberry Hill House created by the Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University, illustrated with contemporary watercolours. It is absolutely fantastic. To tour the interior go here : note that if you click on items highlighted in the pictures, you will be taken to a page with full details of that item. Magnificent!

To tour the exterior and grounds, go here. What an inspired use of a website! Bravo to all concerned!

London Calling is a newish blog written by  General Southerner, aka Tony and while his blog is not Jane Austen specific, he does mention her enough to warrant our attention.

He has a lovely interesting account of a trip to Chawton

(this is the view from the stairs  taken from just outside Jane Austen’s bedroom at the rear of Jane Austen’s House Museum) and neighbouring Alton ,the small town where Frank Austen sometimes resided and where Jane would often walk to visit her friends.

A trip to Richmond in Surrey,where the rather demanding Mrs Churchill expired, and a trip to Lyme for a treacherous walk on the Cobb( re engineered in 1825, and overseen by one Captain Darcy ( no relation I’m sure),IIRC!) and much more.

I do recommend a visit over there to Tony’s blog:he is an occasional visitor here. I do hope you enjoy it. Frankly it’s refreshing to get a masculine take on things Jane, don’t you agree?.

I love visiting old assembly rooms. The large and glamorous sets, like the ones at Bath

or Lord Burlington’s magnificent set at York ( now part of the chain of Ask restaurants-they are very kind and will let you in for a peep without you having to buy a meal)

and smaller ones such as my local set, Stamford

(the Assembly Room is the building with the very pointed roof and tall chimneys)

(The entrance to the Assembly rooms – you can just see the magnificent chandeliers )

Teeny- tiny compared to the first two. But still built on the same plan,as you can see:-a long room for dancing plus a tea room where refreshments were served and a card room for those not wanting to dance:

It is the oldest surviving set in England.

But we can never visit the Assembly Rooms at Lyme Regis which Jane Austen visited in 1804, for they were demolished in 1928.

Jane Austen famously danced there on her visit in 1804:

The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up, but sometimes this lanthorn may be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the next two I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville’s son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the honbl. B.’s, who are son, and son’s wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme

(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 14th September 1804)

I’ve been scouting round my books and have found the following images and descriptions for you, so that we can try to piece together exactly what they were like:

Here is a description of the rooms from my copy of John Fletham’s early tourist guidebook,  A Guide to all the Watering and Seabathing Places dating from 1803, which is slightly apologetic in tone:

Lyme has a small Assembly-Room, Card-Room and Billiard-Table all conveniently ranged under one roof ; and had the Library been joined to it, all the amusements which the place can furnish would have been comprised in one building. The situation for this edifice is happily chosen, as it commands a charming marine view as far as the Isle of Portland, eight leagues off, and the interior is compact and well arranged. Magnificence is not essential to enjoyment: often more happiness is found in a cottage than in a palace; and the rooms at Lyme frequently exhibit as cheerful countenance as are to be seen at Bath or Brighton.

Here is a 1825 map of Lyme which shows you the position of the Assembly Rooms at the bottom of the town ( note, Jane Austen was staying at Mr Pyne’s house which is also shown on the map)


And here is a close up of the part of that map that allows you to see the position of the Assembly Rooms in more detail:

We have one description of the interior of the rooms, by Constance Hill in her book, Jane Austen :her Homes and her Friends first published in 1902. She managed to visit the Assembly Rooms at Lyme  before they were demolished, and recorded her impressions as thus:

The Assembly Rooms used formerly to be thrown open to company during the season twice a week, namely on Tuesdays and Thursdays…The ball-room is little changed since Miss Austen danced in it that September evening nearly a hundred years ago. It has lost its three  glass chandeliers which used to hang from the arched ceiling, but these may still be seen in a private house in the neighbourhood. The orchestra consisted, we are told, of three violins and a violoncello. We visited the room by day-light, and felt almost as if it were afloat, for nothing but blue sea and sky was to be seen from its many windows. From the wide recessed  window at the end, however, we got a glimpse of the sands and of the harbour and Cobb beyond.


Just outside this recessed window there is a steep flight of stone steps which leads from the Parade down to the beach. In former times this flight was much longer than it is now, part of it having been removed to make room for a cart track. On these steps the author of “Persuasion” effected the first meeting of Anne Elliot and her cousin, when his gaze of admiration attracted the attention of Captain Wentworth. Anne and her friends were all returning to their inn for breakfast, as the reader will remember, after taking a stroll on the beach.

The Assembly rooms were extended in  1866 . These are some old photographs of the exterior of the Rooms taken in the late 19th century:

Here the rooms are shown on the left of the photograph: you can clearly see the bay window as described by Constance Hill, and which looked out onto the sea. The rooms eventually ceased to function as assembly rooms and by 1900 they became a tea room:

If you enlarge this photograph you can see that all sorts of  delicious confectionary was on sale here.

Here is a picture taken of the rooms as they were being demolished

The site where the rooms were is now a car park (here is a picture of the site with filled construction plant)

And in this picture you can clearly see the gap where the assembly rooms once were:
The above photographs were taken from a smashing book,  Lyme Regis Past and Present by Jo Draper: it  is filled to the brim with very atmospheric photographs from the extensive collection held by the Lyme Regis Museum. It  is available  to purchase from Lyme Regis Books, a marvellous resource for books on the town and its literary history:

and it is a book I can highly recommend.

I find it so sad that we can no longer visit these rooms,where Jane Austen was accosted by her “Irish” gentleman….I do love to visit these smaller provincial sets of rooms as I feel they give a very different impression of the assemblies of the 18th century, than the glamorous and large sets in the large cities. For the majority of people who attended assemblies they were visiting much smaller places and I think we ought to remember that not every set as was glamorous or as large as the exiting set in Bath or York.

I do hope you have enjoyed this  little reconstruction of the Lyme Assembly Rooms.

As many of you are fully aware, I love visiting Jane Austen’s house. I once had it nearly all to myself a few years ago on the day I was invited to the celebrations for the opening of Chawton House Library.

I arrived in Chawton village a little early for the lunch and decided to spend  45 minutes at Jane’s house. No one else was there  save for the volunteers. Bliss.

I thought you all might like to read a first hand account  of what it is like to be a volunteer at Jane Austen’s house. So, may I introduce you to another wonderful blogger, Beth Bonini, who in her post, Dispatches from Jane Austen’s House from her blog, From the Desk of Bee Drunken, allows us some glimpses into what it is like to spend time volunteering at the museum and  to meet the visitors drawn there by a love of Jane…some with fascinating stories to tell.

I do hope you also take some time to enjoy the rest of this  fabulous  blog: it is well worth while exploring ;-)

I do apologise for not having reviewed this book before. I received it as a present at Christmas and always planned to tell you all about it…I left it until now and, sadly, I find it is currently out of print in the UK but is available in the US. Go here  to visit the Amazon.com site where it can be purchased. I have found it is a very useful entertaining and delightfully produced book about the type of houses -country houses- that surrounded London from the 17th century until the present day.

The author, Caroline Knight has used a modern edifice, the M25 –the orbital motorway that encircles London – as the cut off point.

And it might surprise you to find that even in these days of crowded housing developments around the capital that she can find over 80 first class houses and over 30 minor country houses to chronicle within that circle, and that is still not exhaustive.

The first part of the book is a very readable and scholarly explanation as to why these houses were built; not far from London –within an easy distance- they provided a healthy country lifestyle to many rich merchant sand aristocrats, who though in possession of smart town houses also felt the need to escape to the nearby countryside as often as they could, without necessarily having to travel to their far-flung large country estates.

Caroline Knight also explains why many of the country houses fell foul of the growing suburbs of London and disappeared in the 20th century, as well as being demolished due to fortunes waning and the social change after the two world wars which left many families with no option but to sell.

But it is the Second and Third parts of the book that I adore: a parish by parish directory of the best houses ( Part Two) and in Part Three a selection of over 30 minor country houses organised on the same manner.

These brief vignettes are written with verve and style and it is the perfect book for dipping into.

You can learn all about Moor Park in Rickmansworth(above)  -where Mrs Norris’s apricot originated (or not as I do suspect Dr Grant was correct, and she, or rather Sir Thomas’s purse, was imposed upon)which is now a golf course

You can also see some of the types of houses -or more correctly villas that peppered the scenery around fashionable Richmond, where Mrs Churchill spent her last days in Emma


Or the type of house you could expect to find in Twickenham, like Marble Hill above, or Orelans House, below

Twickenham was of course where Mary Crawford’s evil uncle had a “cottage”.

The descriptions of the houses are very entertaining: each is given a concise history complete with many fine illustration, plans of estates , gardens and the ever absorbing( to me at least!) floor plans.

She also gives interesting details about the opening of these house to the public in our era. Osterly Park the home of the famously rich

(Osterly Park-  illustration not included in this book)

banking family, the Childs, was visited by Sophie von La Roche, a German visitor who recorded her visit in her diary as thus:

(The State Bedroom at Osterly Park)

A friend had sent her “ a ticket admitting five people.” She saw the gardens and all the state rooms but also went upstairs where she was shown Mrs Child’s aprtments. She nosed around the room and found “my “Sternheim” in English translation among Mrs Child’s books and on the fly-leaf I wrote down something of the joy and pleasure I had experienced at Osterly Park- in English too as well as I was able.” What did Mrs Child make of this, I wonder?

I’m certain Mrs Reynolds would not have tolerated such behaviour!

I really do recommend this fabulous book to you. My only gripe is that I would have preferred more illustrations to have been reproduced in colour, but this is a minor quibble.

I do hope it is either reprinted or issued in paperback soon, or that you an find it in your local library,and I apologise for my tardiness in recommending it to you.

As most of you know I’m a big fan of Ivan Day’s historic cookery courses which he holds at his lovely farmhouse in Cumbria. I’ve been lucky enough to attend to three of them and feel the urge to go back…….

Fiona Lehey has just blogged about her experiences on the  Georgian Sugarcraft and Confectionary Course and I thought you might  like to share the experience. Go here to see some more visions of sugary loveliness, fit enough even for Mr Darcy’s table.

To make amends for my shocking revelation last week that Sense and Sensibility is my least favourite Austen novel ( I did say “low be it spoken”!)I thought I ought to post a little more about it, and so I shall, during  this coming week.

As it is a beautiful Spring Sunday I thought you might like to learn a little more about Kensington Gardens, where Elinor Dashwood met with the gossiping and indiscreet Nancy Steele, on an equally beautiful Spring Sunday, though in the novel the month was March and not May:

The third day succeeding their knowledge of the particulars, was so fine, so beautiful a Sunday as to draw many to Kensington Gardens, though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and Elinor were of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys were again in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose rather to stay at home, than venture into so public a place.

Chapter 38

Here is a section from my copy of John Cary’s map of The Environs of London, showing the position of the then separate village of Kensington relative to London in 1812, one year after the publication of Sense and Sensibility:

(Do note you can enlarge all these illustrations by merely clicking on them)

Here is the same map annotated with the position of  (1) the fashionable West End of London where most of the rich characters live in Sense and Sensibility (the Dashwoods,the Middletons, Mrs Jennings, Willoughby etc); (2) shows the position of Kensington Gardens and Palace; and (3) shows the position of the city of London wherein Bartlett’s Buildings is situated …

And that is where, of course,  Lucy Steele lives while in London along side her cousins: all a long way both socially and geographically from the world the Ferrars, Jennings, Dashwood and Middleton families inhabit.  No wonder she was an ambitious little madam…

Back to the gardens.

Kensington was a separate village as we have seen. Daniel Lysons in his magnificent work The Environs of London , had this to say about the village:

The village of Kensington lies on the great western road, at the distance of about a mile and a half from Hyde-park Corner. The parish, which is in the hundred of Ossulston, is bounded by Chelsea, St. Margaret Westminster, St. George Hanover-square, Paddington, Wilsdon, Acton, and Fulham. The hamlets of Brompton, Earl’s Court, the Gravel-pits, and a part of Little Chelsea are in this parish. The palace at Kensington, and about 20 houses on the north side of the road, are in the parish of St. Margaret Westminster. On the south side, the parish of Kensington extends till after you pass the Gore.

The parish of Kensington contains about 1910 acres of land; about half of which is pasture and meadow; about 360 acres are arable land for corn only; about 230 in market gardens; about 260 cultivated, sometimes for corn and sometimes for garden crops; and 100 acres of nursery ground. At Brompton-park was a very celebrated nursery, first established about the latter end of the last century by George London and Henry Wise, Esquires, gardeners to King William and to Queen Anne. Bowack, who wrote an account of Kensington in 1700, speaks of the stock as almost incredible; and says it was affirmed, that if the plants were valued at but Id. a-piece, they would amount to 40,000l. This ground belongs at present to Messrs. Gray and Wear.

The gardens that Jane Austen mentioned in Sense and Sensibility surround Kensington Palace.

The palace, originally called Nottingham House, was then home of the Earl of Nottingham, but it was purchased and  enlarged and much enriched by the later Stuart monarchs. First William and Mary and then Queen Anne. The Hanoverians liked it , developed both the palace and the gardens greatly and all the Hanoverian monarchs lived there until George III ascended to  the throne in 1760. As John Feltham wrote in The Picture of London (1808)

This palace was made a royal residence by William III. The garden or park was originally but twenty-six acres; King William greatly improved them; Queen Anne added thirty acres; and Queen Caroline, consort of George IL extended their boundaries by 200 acres of park lands taken from Hyde Park. Their present circumference is about two miles and a half.

The palace is a large and splendid edifice of brick, and has a set of very handsome state apartments, and some beautiful staircases and ceilings, painted by Verrio and are also many highly curious pictures by Holbein, Albert Durer, and other early masters. William and Mary, Queen Anne, George I and George II made this palace their place of frequent residence. The Dukes of Kent and Sussex, and the Princess of Wales, have apartments here.

Near the palace, within the pleasure grounds, is a very noble green house, and adjoining are excellent kitchen and fruit gardens.

The whole may be seen any day except Sundays, by applying to the housekeeper,  for a trifling douceur.

George III did not like the place: it has been speculated that because his parents were estranged from his grandparents, George II and Queen Caroline, who lived at Kensington, this may have influenced him and prejudiced him against the palace. So, instead of living at Kensington, he purchased Buckingham House-The Queens House– for his new wife Queen Charlotte, preferring to live there and conduct matters of state at St James’s Palace, a little further down the Mall.

The gardens that surround the palace were open to the public. Here is a plan of them as they were circa 1733, which was executed by Charles Bridgeman.

In the annotated plan below, you can see the position of the Palace (1), the Serpentine (2), and the Round Pond (3)which still are features in the gardens today. You can also see the outlines of the allees radiating like stars (4) These features survived the improvements made by Capability Brown in the mid 18th century,when he swept away the more intricate formal plantings that you can see on this plan.

Here is a close up of Cary’s plan of the gardens in 1812: you can just discern the  Serpentine and the ride known as Rotton Row in Hyde Park which ran parallel to Park Lane. Hyde Park adjoined Kensington Gardens.

Being seen promenading in the gardens was the fashionable thing to do in Jane Austen’s era. In the 1818 edition of The Picture of London we are given a very precise  and detailed description of  the gardens and the promenade:

One of the most delightful scenes belonging to this great metropolis, and that which most displays its opulence and splendour  is formed by the company in Hyde Park and Kensington gardens in fine weather, chiefly on Sundays, from March till July.

The spacious gravel roads, within the park, are, on a fine Sunday, covered with horsemen and carriages, from two till five o’clock’jn the afternoon. A broad foot-path, that runs from Hyde Park corner to Kensington Gardens, is frequently so crowded during the same hours, with well-dressed people passing to, or retiring from the gardens, that it is difficult to proceed.

Before the stranger enters Kensington Gardens, we recommend him to pause on some spot in Hyde Park, from which his eye can command the entire picture of carriages, horsemen, and foot passengers in the park, all eager to push forward in various directions, and on the more composed scene of the company sauntering in the gardens. Such a spot will present itself more than once as he walks through the park but, perhaps, the best situation for this purpose, is the broad walk at the foot of the bason, as it may be called, of the river, where it falls into a narrower channel.

It has been computed, that 50,000 people have been seen taking the air at one time in Hyde Park and the Gardens. Nor is this a modern practice, for this spot has been equally resorted to for the same purpose during two hundred years past.

Do note that Jane Austen was once again scrupulous in her  use of the gardens in the novel. The description above tells us that fashionable society would promenade in the gardens especially on Sundays from March to July, just as she has her character do.

The Serpentine was known to freeze in the harsh winters of the early 19th century:

In severe winters, when the Serpentine River is frozen over, the ice is almost covered with people. In the winter of 1813-14, there were counted more than 6000 people at one time on the ice, chiefly skaters.

From the number of accidents which happen annually on this river when frozen over, the king gave the Humane Society a spot of ground on its banks, on which they have erected a most convenient receiving-house for the recovery of persons apparently drowned.

Though Hyde park was open all year round, Kensington Gardens had restricted access, and the details of these regulations make for interesting reading:

All the doors of Kensington Gardens are open only from spring till autumn; and from eight in the morning till eight at night. There are four gates belonging to these gardens: two that open into Hyde Park, open all the year; one opening into the Uxbridge Road; and another opening into a road belonging to the king, and leading from the palace into Kensington. The last of these gates, called the Avenue Gate, is open till nine at night, all the year. No servant in livery, nor women with pattens, nor persons carrying bundles, are admitted into the gardens. Dogs are also excluded.

How severe: no riff-raff indeed.

But they let Jane Austen in…what a relief. Her she is  writing to her sister ,Cassandra Austen, in her letter dated 25th April, 1811,when her mind was focused on Sense and Sensibility (how appropriate) and  a Sunday walk in Kensington Gardens:

No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of  “S and S”   I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your inquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s first appearance…..

Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.

Everything fresh and beautiful, indeed. I hope you too have enjoyed your jaunt around Kensington Gardens this fine Spring Sunday.

…by one of my favourite Bloggers, Elizabeth Wix.

I have been following her blog since before I began to write one, tempted by her wonderful quirky images of one of my favourite cities, New York.

But this week she has been revisiting England, her birthplace, and her post today about the tour of Jane Austen’s House, which you can access by clicking here, entitled “A Charming House”, is full of exquisite photographs, typical of her imaginative and detailed style and is very atmospheric.

I adore it, and thought you might like to share it.

Dear, sweet Charles Bingley defending the connections of his new-found love from attack by his snobbish sisters in Chapter 8 of Pride and Prejudice…..unfortunately he has no means of refuting Darcy’s worldly wise but snobbish comment which ends this particular argument:

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,”

To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.

So..what was wrong with Cheapeside  in the Bingley sisters eyes? Modern readers are sometimes led astray by the sound of the name, assuming that it must have been a slummy, run down, cheap area. This is completely wrong. Cheapside was a very fashionable shopping area in the City of London  during Jane Austen’s era, and its name actually derived from the Saxon word for market:

We now enter the rich and busy street, called Cheapside ,which received this name originally from the splendour and multitude of its shops, “Chepe ” signifying a market. This street was, in the year 1246 , an open field denominated from an inn at its east end, The Crown Field, at which period and for 200 years after it none of the street of London, excepting Thames Street and the space from Ludgate-hill to Charing Cross were paved. The view of Cheapside previous to its destruction by the great fire, represents it as spacious and beautiful.

(From: A Topographical and Statistical Description of Middlesex (circa 1810) by George Alexander Cooke)

Here is a section from  my copy of Smith’s New Map of London(1809) showing in detail the area of the City where Cheapside was:

And here is the same section, annotated with the relative positions of  (1) Cheapside and, (2) Gracechurch Street ,where the Gardiners, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet’s aunt and uncle, actually lived and ran their business:

Do remember you can enlarge all these illustrations by clicking on them ;-)

This is a map of London circa 1805 from A Picture of London by John Feltham,

and here it is again, annotated with the relative positions of (1) Grosvenor Street- the home of the Hursts and well within the Circle of Fashion where the most influential and rich people lived in London- and (2) Cheapside and (3) Gracechurch Street, the commercial heart of the city of London.

No wonder Elizabeth Bennet muses that

Mr. Darcy may, perhaps, have heard of such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a month’s ablution enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were he once to enter it…

Chapter 25

As you can see from this  print of Cheapside published in  Ackermann’s Repository of 1812, at the time Jane Austen was writing Pride and Prejudice, Cheapside was  a very elegant thoroughfare, with many fabulous shops, the now fashionable shopping areas of west London-Bond Street, Oxford Street etc, had not yet overtaken the shopping areas in the City of London-Cheapside Gracechurch Street and Ludgate Hill-as the places to shop and be seen. (Note the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral looming behind the smart shops). Ackermann’s description conveys some of the sumptuousness of these warehouses or shops:

The annexed engraving represents the western extremity of Cheapside …The first house on the left, which is supposed to stand on the site of the residence of Richard Tonstal, Lord Chamberlain to HenryVI, is Millard’s East India warehouse for every species of silk linen and cotton goods, the taste and elegance of which our monthly patterns bear ample testimony.the front has recently been fitted up in a very handsome style. The intermediate houses between Millard’s and the corner of St Paul’s Churchyard as exhibited in our view are occupied by Messrs Shapland, hosier;  Brown, gold and silversmith; Giesler,furrier; Stark and Son,patent retiring stove and grate manufactures; Bunn,silk mercer; Hawkins, trunk maker;Seabrook of the same profession and two or three others. In the back ground at the one corner of Paternoster-row appears Butler’s newly erected patent medicine warehouse adorned with a neat balcony and stone balustrade at the top; and at the other corner  Dunnetts long-established Tunbridgeware and toy shop,the recollection of which we do not doubt calls forth agreeable associations in the minds of many of our metropolitan readers…

Here is another contemporary description of the retail trade of London which shows the distinction between the great shopping area of the City of London and the emerging fashionable shopping area to the west of New Bond Street etc, from Felthams’ A Picture of London (1818 edition)

The extent and value of the retail trade of London have been already intimated. There are two sets of streets, running nearly parallel, almost from the eastern extremity of the town to the western, forming (with the exception of a very few houses) a line of shops. One lying to the south, nearer the river, extends from Mile End to Parliament Street, including Whitechapel, Leadenhall Street, Cornhill, Poultry, Cheapside, St. Paul’s Church Yard, Ludgate Street, Fleet Street, the Strand, and Charing Cross. The other to the north, reaches from Shoreditch Church almost to the end of Oxford Street, including Shoreditch, Bishopsgate Street, Threadneedle Street, Cheapside (which Street is common to both these lines) Newgate Street, Show Hill, Holborn, Broad Street St. Pauls’s, and Oxford Street. The southern line, which is the most splendid, is more than three miles in length ; the other is about four miles.

Besides this prodigious extent of ground, there are several large streets also occupied by retail trade, that run parallel to parts of the two grand lines, or diverge a little from them, or intersect them amongst the most remarkable of which are Fenchurch Street and Gracechurch Street, in the city of London ; and Cockspur Street, Pall Mall, St. James’s Street, the Hay Market, Piccadilly, King Street Covent Garden, and New Bond Street, at the west end of the town.

The Opulence of multitudes of merchants, traders, and shopkeepers, in this metropolis, and the easy circumstances of the larger part, are proofs of its prodigious commerce. To say that there are a few merchants and bankers whose revenues equal those of many princes, is no more than may be said of some towns on the continent. But our opulent traders are not confined to one class, or to a few fortunate individuals. Shopkeepers accumulate noble fortunes; which, in some instances indeed, form a singular contrast with the pettiness of the articles from which they are derived, a pastry-cook having been known to leave more than 100,000 to his heirs. And as to the number of the wealthy, they seem, from external appearances, to be the greater part ; and are, in truth, more abundant than auy imagination would picture, unaided by a knowledge of the country. To speak generally, it is by industry, and the employment of large capitals, that the London merchants and wholesale traders raise their immense revenues. The retail trade is, as may be expected, more lucrative. A shopkeeper, with a moderate capital, is, generally speaking, able to maintain a family in plenty, and even with a great share of the luxuries of Ibe, and at the same time provide a fund sufficient to enable his children to move with the same advantage in a similar sphere.

And that passage gives us some idea of Mr Gardiner’s riches: no wonder he could have all the trappings of a gentleman, even though he actually earned his money from trade.

So there  you are: the only problem with Cheapside ( and Gracechurch Street) was its association with Trade. Something of which the Bingley sisters were of course hyper aware -their own wealth being most firmly established from trade and not from income  derived from landed property. Snobbish, foolish girls. Luckily ,Mr Darcy manages to overcome his aversion to the Gardiners and at the end of the novel can acknowledge their superior qualities

Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by nature as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well-bred and agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Philips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn niece

Chapter 25

I’m so glad he managed to reconstruct himself….


At last, a post that references Sense and Sensibility : yes it is my first, as I am afraid that is my least favourite of all Jane Austen’s works (low be it spoken).

If you have ever found the idea of duelling confusing or exasperating, as did Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility when she heard of Colonel Brandon’s duel with Willoughby :

“I have been more pained,” said she, “by her endeavours to acquit him than by all the rest; for it irritates her mind more than the most perfect conviction of his unworthiness can do. Now, though at first she will suffer much, I am sure she will soon become easier. Have you,” she continued, after a short silence, “ever seen Mr. Willoughby since you left him at Barton?”

“Yes,” he replied gravely, “once I have. One meeting was unavoidable.”

Elinor, startled by his manner, looked at him anxiously, saying —

“What? have you met him to — ”

“I could meet him in no other way. Eliza had confessed to me, though most reluctantly, the name of her lover; and when he returned to town, which was within a fortnight after myself, we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad.”

Elinor sighed over the fancied necessity of this; but to a man and a soldier, she presumed not to censure it.

“Such,” said Colonel Brandon, after a pause, “has been the unhappy resemblance between the fate of mother and daughter! and so imperfectly have I discharged my trust!”

…then you might find this radio programme, Pistols at Dawn,  which broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 4 ( and will be available for one week via the BBC’s “Listen Again” service) very useful.

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