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Austen Only is a year old today.  Goodness, how time  flies by when you are having fun! As many of you are aware, I’ve been writing about Jane Austen’s life and times on the internet for over ten years now and it was a very big step to set up on my own, publishing my own endeavour.  I’m so glad however that that very frightening initial step was taken for I’ve really enjoyed sharing my vision of Jane with you all over the past 12 months.

So …what have we done over the past year?  Well, a glance at my site statistics tell me that you have most enjoyed virtually icing an authentic Georgian Twelfth Night Cake, virtually visiting Carlton House in the company of   Jane Austen and the Reverend Stanier Clarke, visiting Jane Austen’s Southampton, ogling some marvelous film and TV adaptation costumes at Peckover House, discussing John Style’s book, The Dress of the People, and joining in the speculation as to exactly what it was that ailed  Jane Fairfax. You also enjoyed visiting all the places Jane Austen lived in while in Bath and you loved playing with Lydia’s gaming fish…..

Of course any solo endeavour is difficult to begin and sustain without encouragement and praise. And now I think this is the appropriate moment for me to thank some very important people, who have been tremendously encouraging over the past year.

Special thanks have to go to Karen of BookishNYC and Elaine of Random Jottings who provided me with that very special thing- my first ever links to other websites. And extra special thanks to my  fellow Austen bloggers who have been most welcoming: my thanks go to Raquel of Jane Austen in Portuguese and Adriana of The Jane Austen Society of Brazil, Laurel of Austenprose,  Jane (Mrs Gorgeous) Odiwe of  Jane Austen Sequels, Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont and  Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn.

Thanks also has to be given to Louise West Chief Eduction Officer and Curator of the Jane Austen House Museum who has been a very supportive visitor to the site recommending it all and sundry, and also to Sheryl Craig of JASNA for her wonderful comments and constructive praise. I should also like to thank Professor Amanda Vickery for her gleeful encouragement, praise and generous sharing of information : its been fun talking about the Georgian era and gossiping with her this year.

And now a very special thank you to you, my readers, for it really wouldn’t be the same without you. I did wonder if anyone would come to visit me in my virtual library here, and,  indeed, only 23 precious visitors came on that first day 12 months ago… but now you come in your tens of  thousands each week, and in your hundreds of thousands over the year, you lovely individual unique visitors, you! You have borne with my typos, punctuation, dyslexia and paralysis like no other visitors in the world (to paraphrase Mr Knightley!)

I know some of you like to comment and thousands have done so, but…..I’d love it if more of you did. So to tempt you and as a thank you gift I would like to offer all the goodies below to one lucky commentator to this post.  All you have to do within the next two weeks is to add a comment to this post and I will pick a winner from the commentators by Random Number  Generator on  Sunday 14th November. As you visit from all the four corners of this world, do note that the competition is open to any of you, where ever you are. It’s only fair, after all :) So please, even if you have not commented before, do so now,and an interesting package might be making its way to you ;-)

The prize on offer is all of the items shown below: 10 postcards reproduced from my collection of 18th/early 19th century prints….all with Jane Austen associations…

The Pump Room in Bath, Chatsworth, Jane Austen’s School in Reading, and Eton…

A map of Bath, Wedgwood’s London showroom, Box Hill, Gilpin’s Cows and Lyme Regis

And Hampstead,which I’ve used for  my header and gravatar ;-)

Plus, The Jane Austen Pocket Bible,  a new and useful book,a guide to Jane Austen and her works by Holly Ivins, together with a beautifully illustrated book produced by The Jane Austen House Museum to commemorate the Bicentenary of Jane’s coming to live in Chawton in 1809.

The Threads of Feeling Song Book and CD of 18th Century Ballads as performed at the Foundling Museum

A Talking Book on Cassette of Elizabeth Jenkin’s biography of Jane Austen

Two early 19th century mother of pearl fish gaming counters as used by Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

and, as something in which to carry all this, a cotton shopper from the Jane Austen House Museum commemorating Jane Austen’s Bicentenary of coming to live in her Chawton home.

I hope many of you will join me in AustenOnly’s second year: amongst other things we shall be examining Jane’s History of England in detail,  going to Stoneleigh and Newstead Abbeys, visiting more film locations and seeing some interesting productions, including one on the subject of  Mrs Bennet’s nervous disorders! Do come along…it wouldn’t  be the same without you :)

Sotheby’s in London are to hold an auction – appropriately enough on the 16th December  this year, the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth – and among the lots on offer are two items with strong associations to her.

The first is the first edition copy of Emma in 3 volumes, that was presented to Maria Edgeworth in Ireland by Jane Austen through the offices of  her publisher, John Murray. Maria Edgeworth was of course a friend of Jane Austen’s aunt and uncle Mr and Mrs James Leigh Perrots, as I have perviously detailed here, and sadly she seems not to have valued her copy of Emma very much if at all, and also seems not to have initially understood that it was the Perrot’s niece who as the author. Her statement

‘The authoress of Pride and Prejudice has been so good as to send me a new novel just published, Emma’

was followed by this assessment of the novel in a letter to her half brother:

‘There was no story to it, except that Miss Emma found that the man whom she designed for Harriet’s lover was an admirer of her own – & he was affronted at being refused by Emma… and smooth, thin water-gruel is according to Emma’s father’s opinion a very good thing & it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth thin water gruel”

The sale estimate is £70-£100,000. I doubt it will find its way into my Christmas stocking this year, but a girl can live in hopes…

The second lot which is of interest to us is the set of Wedgwood china that was ordered by Edward Knight and his daughter Fanny, in the presence of Jane Austen,as a spot of retail therapy after a traumatic trip to the dentist, as she noted in her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 16th September 1813:

We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; – and it is to have the Crest.

I have written about Wedgwood and the Austen’s here ,and below is  a view of Wedgwood’s showrooms which were then situated  just off St James Square in London:

The sale estimate is £50 – 70,000. I do sincerely hope that this can be brought by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, which has some pieces from this service on display at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

I’m not sure if these pieces, seen in the dining room at Chawton Cottage above, are included in the sale but I will make enquiries and will report back to you.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit this exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London last week. It is a relatively small exhibit- certainly when compared to the blockbuster exhibits of the past few years in London-the Reynolds, Gainsborough,Hogarth exhibitions for example -but a fascinating exhibit none the less.

(Sir Thomas Lawrence, unfinished self portrait circa 1825 )

For people interested in the personalities of the late 18th and early 19th centuries,  Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portraits are familiar works of art. When I first began to take note of the fashions in the art world it was with some uncomprehending dismay that  I discerned he was rather despised. After a flash of brilliant popularity in his life time, after his death, Lawrence’s works were quickly and completely disparaged by fashionable society and art critics, most notably by Thackeray in Vanity Fair.

…The ladies of Gaunt House called Lady Bareacres in to their aid, in order to repulse the common enemy. One of Lady Gaunt’s carriages went to Hill Street for her Ladyship’s mother, all whose equipages were in the hands of the bailiffs, whose very jewels and wardrobe, it was said, had been seized by those inexorable Israelites. Bareacres Castle was theirs, too, with all its costly pictures, furniture, and articles of vertu–the magnificent Vandykes; the noble Reynolds pictures; the Lawrence portraits, tawdry and beautiful, and, thirty years ago, deemed as precious as works of real genius

(Vanity Fair, Chapter XLIX)

How he dammed Lawrence by this unfavourable  comparison to Van Dyke and Reynolds…..As a result of his works suddenly becoming unfashionable and unacceptable, many were sold from English collections, finding homes in American collections and further afield.

Michael Levey, the late Director of the National Gallery, who made a lifelong study of Lawrence’s works and life, wrote about Lawrence’s sudden fall from grace as follows:

Sir Thomas Lawrence is an artists  who has suffered a most unusual fate. His was a story of phenomenal talent as a portraitist, first revealed and recognised in early childhood; and during his lifetime he enjoyed phenomenal success- not only in Britain but all over Europe from Vienna to Rome. No British artist before him had travelled and worked so widely on the Continent or enjoyed such a warm reception at the courts of Europe. Highly intelligent, unusually literate and outstandingly handsome, with manners polished to a degree, he was almost as admired and successful personally as were his portraits. And yet from the moment of his sudden death in January 1830, reaction set in-reaction which bordered on revulsion and which has-at least in England never entirely vanished…

(See: Sir Thomas Lawrence by Michael Levey, page 1)

(W.M.Turners sketch of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1830)

The current  exhibition at the NPG seeks to address this situation and to re-establish Lawrence as an artist of the first rank. The 545 works on show are mostly  bravura works of art, massive portraits in the swagger tradition, but there are also quieter pieces which demonstrate very clearly that Lawrence was a fine draftsman capable of conveying great tenderness. In fact, I was drawn to these quieter exhibits far more than the bow-wow strain of the larger works, to paraphrase Sir Walter Scott (whom Lawrence painted, below, but who is not included in this particular exhibit.)

But before I get too carried away…what has this to do with Jane Austen? He never painted her and moved in much more fashionable circles than even Henry Austen could aspire to, so why  should Lawrence’s works interest us? Well, many of the people Lawrence painted were household names and Jane Austen would have been wholly familiar with them and no doubt  interested to view their portraits painted in such a vibrant manner. But something else connects Austen and Lawrence. Quite simply, he was one of her greatest admires, knew Sir Walter Scott (also an admirer)and received advance copies of popular novels from her publisher, John Murray. Here is an account of his literary tastes by Miss Elizabeth Croft which was contained in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Letter Bag published in 1906:

She wrote:

From the year 1810 to 1821, Sir Thomas was in habits of the most constant and intimate intercourse with me and my friends in Hart Street, dropping in at all hours, and especially of an evening when too much tired with the labours of the day to accept the invitations of gayer and more exalted friends…Frequently he would bring with him the novel or periodical of the day-and who ever read like him! Most of Sir Walter Scot’s works we had the delight of hearing from his lips and I can never forget the charm of his reading “Marmion” to us. They were all sent to him and a few other chosen friends by the author before they were published, and at the same time that a copy was sent to George the 4th. Thus we were enabled to laugh in our sleeve at persons who roundly reported that Walter Scot was not the real author…Many of Miss Austen’s novels he also read to us, and she was one of his favourite writers.

(page 246)

Miss Croft, you may care to note ,was the sister of Sir Richard Croft, the unfortunate accoucher to Princess Charlotte,who died in childbirth in 1817 when he was attending her. After attending another difficult birth in February 1818 he killed himself, and here he is recorded by Lawrence,

…the sketch taken as he lay in his coffin. The drawing was done  by Lawrence in an attempt  to console Miss Croft for her sudden and terrible loss.

Back to the exhibit…..

Lawrence was a talented child,whose father was quick to exploit his talents, showing him off to visitors to his inn, the Bear Hotel at Devizes, most of whom were  fashionable society folk who were en route to or from London or  Bath. Fanny Burney mentioned him in her diary, for example. The family eventually moved to Bath where he began to establish his reputation as a portraitist. On moving to London he began to attract large commissions, and in 1790 exhibited two great works at the Royal Academy: Miss Farren the actress who was to become the Countess of Derby (see the picture at the head of this post, advertising the exhibit) and above, Queen Charlotte. Recognising a precious talent, George III  pressed the Royal Academy to elect Lawrence as a member,and eventually he was admitted when of  age, and, in turn, became its president in 1820

A dispute between Caroline of Brunswick and the Prince of Wales about the right to posses Lawrence’s portrait of Lord Chancellor Thurlow( included in the exhibit) seems to have alienated the Prince of Wales and set him against commissioning further work from Lawrence. But that changed with Lawrence’s magnificent portrait of the Prince in the Garter robes, and eventually the Prince was one of Lawrence’s most important patrons. He commissioned the portraits of the political and military leaders concerned in the downfall of Napoleon which were to be hung in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle and this enabled Lawrence to travel across Europe, something no British artist of his stature had been able to do for years due to the wars and the attendant difficulties of travel. Below is his portrait of Tsar Alexander I (not in the exhibit).

And while these large, imposing portraits are mightily impressive, I found I was more drawn to the more domestic and intimate of Lawrence’s works. Below is his pastel of the poet Elizabeth Carter which I found exquisite.

His portraits of women are very sympathetic, and Lawrence had a reputation of being rather a ladies man, becoming romantically involved for example with the actress Sarah Siddon’s two daughters, much to her distress. His portrait of Rosamund Croker, below, is stunning.

And while he is famed for his portraits of children, I confess they mostly leave me cold (low be it spoken). But I do like this portrait of the Marchioness of Londonderry and her son Viscount Seaham because to me she looks ever-so-slighty fed up with her young son’s antics….

The exhibition catalogue, shown below, is published by Yale and is sumptuously illustrated and is also a very good read. Here, on the cover, is Princess Sophia, George IV’s favourite sibling, who had a tragic clandestine love-life in the stultifying atmosphere of her mothers court, giving birth to an illegitimate son in 1800.

But also to be recommended is Michael Levey’s outstanding work on the artist, also published by Yale and shown below. Full of incredible detail, and again sumptuously and comprehensively illustrated  I can highly recommend  it for anyone wanting to increase their knowledge of the man and his works.

The exhibit is small (and I hated the way the continuity of the exhibition was broken up by the presence of a shop between two of the main rooms) but it is worthwhile making the trip to London to see it ( or to New Haven when the exhibit moves there in 2011) It is wonderful to be given the opportunity to see and  reassess Sir Thomas’s works en masse. They are magnificent, sensitive  pieces of work, and he deserves to be rehabilitated, in my very humble  untutored eye and opinion.

The Foundling Museum whose exhibit Threads of Feeling I wrote about here, is situated in Brunswick Square. I thought you might like to know a little more about the museum, the original Foundling Hospital and the connection between that institution and the use of Brunswick Square by Jane Austen in my favourite of all her novels, Emma.

Here is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) which shows the original hospital buildings, which were, by that time, in the newly developed Brunswick Square.

The Foundling Hospital was founded by  Captain Thomas Coram, and it was the first home for abandoned children to be established in England, though on the continent there were many long established examples of such institutions. For example, the Conservatorio della Ruota, in Rome was one such home and was founded by Pope Innocent III in the thirteenth century. Thomas Coram retired to Rotherhithe in 1719 after achieving financial success in the New World, establishing a shipwright’s business in Boston, Massachusetts and later in Taunton, also in Massachusetts.

This is his magnificent portrait painted by William Hogarth, which is still on display in the Foundling Museum.

On his frequent walks through London on winter mornings, Coram was appalled at the sight of dead and dying babies abandoned on the streets. This tragedy spurred him into action. His petitioned the king for a charter to create a non-profit-making organization supported by subscriptions to house and educate such children,  but at first this idea was rebuffed, as the establishment , both church and politicians, were worried that such an institution would encourage wantonness and prostitution. Eventually George II’s consort, Queen Caroline, became sympathetic to Coram’s aims, having been impressed by the establishment of a similar institution in Paris which had received the support of many fashionable women of the day.

On 17 October 1739 the King signed a Royal Charter, bringing the Foundling Hospital into existence, a place established for the

‘education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children’.

The Governors and Guardians of the Hospital met at Somerset house in the Strand to receive the Charter on 20th November 1739. The group included many of the important figures of the day: dukes and earls, magnates and merchant bankers, such as George Arnold depicted by Hogarth below,

Dr Richard Mead, the foremost physician of the day, Captain Coram and Hogarth.

The Hospital was designed by Theodore Jacobsen as a plain brick building consisting as you can see, above, of  two wings either side a central chapel, built around an open courtyard. The western wing was finished in October 1745. An eastern wing was added in 1752 in order to house the girls separately from the boys.

The Foundling Hospital was first built on this site in the 1740s, known then as Bloomsbury Fields, in order to house the children in an area known for its good air, on the edge of London away from the insanitary and crowded conditions of the city.  The foundlings were originally housed in a building in Hatton Gardens, until the new building was ready to receive them.

William Hogarth and his wife Jane were very important patrons of the Hospital. A childless couple, they became  very involved with the day to day running of the hospital and were active fundraisers. Hogarth  designed the children’s uniforms,

the Hospital’s Coat of Arms, and he was an Inspector for Wet Nurses( the children admitted as babies were farmed out to villages surrounding London to be brought up initially by wet nurses in the good and clean air of the countryside before returning to the Hospital to be educated and made ready to be apprenticed out to a trade) William and Jane Hogarth  also fostered foundling children when they left the institution.

Hogarth also and very importantly donated works of art to decorate the walls of the hospital as the Governors were unwilling to spend money on such unnecessary ornaments He gave many works including this, The March to Finchley

which is still part of the Museum’s collection.

His example encouraged other artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Francis Hayman to donate paintings to the Founding Hospital, and the Court Room of the Hospital, shown below, became in effect the first Public Art Gallery in London, where playing customers could come to look at the magnificent art on display, their enthusiasm for art producing a significant income for the Hospital.

Though the  original Foundling Hospital Building no longer exists( it was demolished in 1926) the Court Room where these painting were originally  on display to the public, has survived. It was dismantled and stored and then  installed in the new Foundling Museum building at 40 Brunswick Square in 1937.

My Twitter Friend, Patrick Baty of Papers and Paints was involved in the restoration of the room, and discovered this magnificent ( in his words) ”mucky green” to have been the original paint colour on the walls. The room still is use as the Governor’s meeting room, and has a magnificent Rococo plasterwork ceiling created by William Wilton, and a marble overmantle by John Michael Rysbrack.

Here is Hogarth’s stunningly beautiful painting, Moses Brought to Pharaoh’s Daughter which was painted specifically to hang in the Court Room. The subject matter is, of course, entirely appropriate for the hospital, showing the moment when Moses is about the breach the tremendous gulf between his impoverished state as an abandoned child, to accepting  being helped by the magnificently attired Pharaoh’s daughter.

George Frederick Handel was also a patron of the hospital, donating the profits of his work, The Messiah to it. Concerts were also directed by him (The Messiah was performed annually) and performances open to the paying public were held in the chapel, the place where all the foundling children were baptized each Sunday after having been admitted to the hospital is shown below: this illustration comes  for my copy of The Micrcosm of London published by Rudolph Ackermann, and was executed by Rowlandson and Pugin, circa 1808.

He is celebrated on the top floor of the Museum where there is a room with comfortable chairs fitted with speaker where is it possible to sit and listen to  selections from his works. The Museum holds manuscript copies of many of Handel’s works including the Messiah.

The Governors of the Foundling Hospital decided to develop their land surrounding the Hospital in 1790 when they lost their very important Government grant, and they commissioned the builder, James Burton, to create a garden square surrounded on three sides by town houses. Construction began with the south side, which was completed in 1801. The square was named after Caroline of Brunswick, wife of The Prince of Wales.

The square was, as you can see from Smith’s map above, then on the very  outskirts of developed London and was still regarded as a place of “good air” when Jane Austen was writing Emma in 1814 .And it was here that Jane Austen chose to house John Knightley and his wife, the hypochondriacally inclined Isabella, nee Woodhouse.  JAne Austen as ever made her choice of their home very carefully. The square was not uber- smart like the developments in the west ,but  was, in truth, socially smart enough for that second son of the gentry, detester of High Society  and barrister, John Knightley, Significantly it was not far from the Inns of Court, where he would no doubt have had his chambers. And of course, being famous for its salubrious position enabled Isabella to be able to honestly reassure her health obsessed father in Chapter 12 of Emma that

“No, indeed — we are not at all in a bad air. Our part of London is so very superior to most others! You must not confound us with London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is very different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy! I should be unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town; — there is hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: — but we are so remarkably airy! Mr. Wingfield thinks the vicinity of Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air.”

And it was of course while staying with the Knightleys in Brunswick Square that Harriet Smith-the natural Daughter of Somebody– was finally reconciled with Robert Martin. How very appropriate. And I’m sure,very deliberately done on Jane Austen’s part.

The original building that housed the Foundling Hospital no longer exists: it was demolished in 1926. The Hospital moved the foundling children still in its care to a new school at Redhill in Surrey. In 1935 the school moved to a new purpose-built school at Berkhamsted, in Hertfordshire. Seven acres of the original site was purchased to be preserved as a playground for children in this now deprived inner city area of London and this eventually became administered by an independent charity, known as Coram’s Fields.

The Foundling Hospital bought back 2.5 acres of the land and in 1937 Number  40 Brunswick Square was built in the Square to serve as  the administrative headquarters for the Foundling Hospital and a museum, together with a Children’s Centre in 1939. The hospital then began a new life as the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, today known as Coram (insert link). Brunswick Square has subsequently been re developed and bears little resemblance to the  home of the cadet branch of the Knightley family ( all the original Georgian houses have been replaced over the years by modern University of London buildings including the School of Pharmacy and International Hall and also the Brunswick housing and retail complex). It still retains the garden in the centre of the square, which was  restored in 2009, and still has a beautiful plane tree as its centrepiece.

I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about the connections between the Foundling Hospital and Jane Austen, and that you might also visit the Museum one day.

(Frontispiece from Humphrey Repton’s Memoirs)

A treat for you all ( at least I hope it is accessible to all…..fingers crossed, but I am never quite sure of the vagaries of the workings /accessibility of the BBC iPlayer). Today on Radio 4 there was a delicious programme presented by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on Humphrey Repton and the English countryside.

With thoughtful comments by Stephen Daniels of Nottingham University ( author of THE most authoritative book on Repton) and Jenny Uglow, this is a great 15 minute programme giving an over view of Repton and his attitude towards the countryside and his clients. Here, below, is one of Repton’s illustrations showing the before and after views from his own cottage from his book Fragments on the Theory and Practise of Landscape Gardening(1816)

Jane Austen is referenced: mainly because she referenced Repton in Mansfield Park, having second hand experience of Repton and his ways after he was instructed by the Leighs at Adlestrop in Gloucestershire,

and at Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire,  below, which I visited again this summer.

Luckily, in my opinion, his excessive schemes for Stoneleigh were not all executed, see the scheme from the  Red Book Repton prepared for the Leighs, below-do note the Gilpinesque grouping of cattle in the foreground to the left of the watercolour….

…but we shall return soon to Repton, Stoneleigh Abbey and Adlestrop as I think its very interesting to see exactly how he altered both places.

In the meantime, here is the link to the programme and I do hope you enjoy it. You have 7 days left in which to listen again :)

I visited this exhibit on Wednesday, which is being held at the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square until the 6th March, 2011.  Brunswick Square was the home of the original London Foundling Hospital, a ground- breakingly original institution which cared for abandoned and illegitimate children who would otherwise have been left in the gutters to die. Founded in 1739, though the original building no longer exists in  Brunswick Square, the foundation  still performs sterling work in the form of the charity Coram,named after the Hospital’s founder, Thomas Coram.(More on the museum and the Hospital when I next post)

The children were deposited at the hospital by their desperate mothers (and,in an echo of Harriet Smith’s experience at Mrs Goddard’s school in Emma, sometimes by their fathers). Their parents knew that their child, once accepted, would have been given the best possible start in life (though the infant  mortality rates were still alarmingly high even for this section of society).

The Hospital tried, ab initio, to keep the most detailed records of the babies in its care. The billets, or registration documents which recorded the admission of a child to the hospital, often contained a token  left with the hospital by the mother as a meansof identifying her child should her circumstances improve and she could attempt to reclaim her child. In reality few managed to do this: between 1741 and 1760 only 152 children were reclaimed out of the 16,282 admitted to the institution’s care.

The tokens were sometimes tiny items of little worth:

But they could also take the form of a piece of fabric-a cap, or sleeve of a babies dress, or a piece of fabric from a gown owned by the mother. And it was the discovery of these fabric token which intrigued Professor John Styles.  He realised that it was an invaluable archive of working class fabrics and clothes, from which it was possible to make deductions about the type of clothing worn by the poor of the mid 18th century. Clothing of the poorest in society, is rarely, if ever, preserved. Worn till threadbare then used as rags, very little survives in clothing collections. So the archive of swatches of fabric collected in the ledgers of the Foundling Hospital Museum was in fact a mine of information awaiting discovery and interpretation. And this is what the exhibition, Threads of Feeling, curated by Professor  Styles sets out to do.

Housed in the basement exhibition area of the Museum, the  billet ledgers are displayed in  block display cases, the reverse sides  of which are decorated with large-scale reproductions of some of the pages of the ledgers…

together with comprehensive explanatory notes…whilst the other side of the cases

provides detailed note on all the fabric tokens in the exhibit ( there are over 6o tokens on display)

The billets and tokens are divided into different sections: ribbons- the love token of many a girl who had been taken “advantage of” and succumbed to the charms of  some swain at a fair. This flowered silver ribbon had attached to it a slip of paper with the inscription”This Silver Ribbon is desired to be preserved as the child’s mark for distinction”

Baby clothes-here is an example of a cockade made from silvered cotton dating from 1751. Emma Woodhouse, you will recall drew her nephew George wearing such an ornament(more on this in a later post) in Chapter 6 of Emma;

Here is my sketch of the fourth, who was a baby. I took him, as he was sleeping on the sofa, and it is as strong a likeness of his cockade as you would wish to see. He had nestled down his head most conveniently. That’s very like. I am rather proud of little George. The corner of the sofa is very good….

And this is a baby’s cap made of the linen material traditionally used for diapers, dating from 1753,a quite pathetically moving piece of clothing.

Some mothers left scraps of needlework-some fine,  some basic,but all most probably worked by themselves. Above is a piece of a sampler-that piece of work undertaken to prove above all that the child who had worked it was a “good”, industrious,religious soul- dating from 1759 which accompanied a boy into the care of the hospital.

Contrasting with the last token is this crudely sewn piece of blanket,edged in blanket stitch.

A lot of mothers donated tiny scraps of fabric  printed with buds, birds, acorns or other symbols of new life. This tny scrap shows a multicoloured flower. The scrap of paper accompanying it reads:

Florella Burney Born June 19th 1758. In the Parish of St Anns SoHo.Not Baptiz’d, pray Let particulare Care be taken’en off this Child As it will be called for again…

This tiny but colourful piece of  fabric was used as a template for a piece of clothing inspired by the exhibit. On the First Floor of the Museum, this outfit was on show:

It, in its turn, was inspired by the print The Female Orators by John Collet of 1768, showing street sellers in action.

The main character wears a short bedgown made of  material with a sprigged pattern, possibly printed onto a cream or yellow linen ground.

Close-up of the spotted fabric…..

Close-up of Florella….and below, a close up of the bright red underskirt…which all goes to prove, as Professor Styles assets here and in his book, The Dress of the People that  clothes for the poor of the 18th century were not monochrome and dull. They were as vibrant as any high street copy of couture clothes we see/buy today.

An installation by Annabel Lewis of the ribbon suppliers V V Rouleaux was also on display.

It began in the roof space of the stairwell of the museum just behind the bust of Handel,an original patron of the Foundling Hospital.

and hung down the stairwell…

right down to the ground floor….

….where it surrounded the statue of a foundling.

Very thought provoking.

The Florella fabric is on sale in the Museum shop

I bought some as a memento….

A wonderful way to remember this fine exhibit.

If you can’t make it to the exhibit then I recommend you buy the catalogue that accompanies the  exhibition which is available by mail order from Paul Holberton Publishing, all the details here. And if you want to read more on the subject then I can highly recommend Professor Styles’ book, The Dress of the People.

I should like to express my sincere thanks to professor John Styles for all his help in arranging for me to take photographs of the exhibition to share with you, and also to the Staff of the Foundling Museum for all their kindness.

This is a marvellous, thought provoking, once in a lifetime exhibit and experience. I can’t praise it highly enough. Go and see it: you will not regret it.

And a note to all frontier type re-enactors reading this post: thanks for visiting. Your comments have been very educational ;)

…but with a catch.  The exhibition at the Bodleian Library is open for one day only.

If you can make it to Oxford on Monday 25th October, you will be able to see a selection of Jane Austen’s manuscripts to include Volume the First (shown below),

which includes most of her very early writings and the manuscript of  Sanditon. Also on display will be Edward Knight’s set of his sister, Jane s novels.

The display is to coincide with the official launch of the Jane Austen Ficiton Manuscripts website which we have discussed before. This site will be fully operational and open to all from Monday, so even if you can’t travel to Oxford to see the manuscripts, etc, you can luxuriate in studying them from the comfort of your own computer, wherever you are in the world. I must confess I am already fining this site terribly useful for my own research, and  am so pleased it has been brought not existence before the advent of the culture of  vicious budgets cuts  in which we now seem to live .

Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University is the curator of the exhibit.  She writes:

Being able to view Austen’s original manuscripts reveals fascinating details about the mechanics and quirks of her handwriting. Her famous description of her way of working – “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour” is borne out by the tiny homemade booklets into which she wrote – her style is obsessively economical, in her formation of carets from recycled elements of other letters, and her layered punctuation (the merging of a caret with the down stroke of a ‘p’ and a semi-colon with an exclamation mark), and her near compulsive use of the dash to maintain a material connection between her thoughts and the paper.

She has given some interesting interviews recently to coincide with the launch of the website. The article in the Telegraph, though ever-so-slightly incorrect and with its misleading  and slightly sensational headline is of interest for it demonstrates that a close reading Jane Austen’s surviving manuscripts reveals her to be a very different person than usually portrayed, and certainly completely different from the carefully crafted image presented to the world by Jane Austen’s Victorian descendants, a process of “beatification” begun by Henry Austen in his Biographical Notice of  his sister, published posthumously in December 1817 in the first edition of Persuasion. view two exhibitions, Threads of Feeling at the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square

and Thomas Lawrence , Regency Power and Brilliance at the National Portrait Gallery.

I will of course be giving reports of my impressions of the exhibitions and their respective catalogues when I return, so I do hope you will then “virtually” join me  to talk about them in depth.

Back to Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire for the final part of the series of posts on the rooms used for the Pemberley interior scenes in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Part 1 is accessible here and Part 2 is accessible here. The rooms under discussion in this post are both on the first floor of the Hall: you can see their positions clearly marked on the floor plan below: they are the Long Gallery and the Queen’s Room:

(©National Trust )

The Queen’s Room is found by climbing the Great Staircase and taking the door to the left of the stairs.

This room is the grandest bedroom in the Hall, and was originally the state bedroom, known as the Great Stairhead Chamber in the 1670s when the Hall was first built. Below, you can see the entrance to the room leading from the Great Staircase.

It was called the Queen’s Room after its royal inhabitant, Queen Adelaide, Queen Consort of William IV, who leased Sudbury Hall from Lord Vernon and lived there near the end of her life in the 1840s.

(Queen Adelaide by Sir William Beechey)

We see the room briefly in the BBC’s adaptation, on the morning after the evening at Pemberley when the Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet had joined Darcy Georgiana, the Hurts and the Bingleys at dinner.

Mr Darcy is shown getting dressed in his own rather exact manner before the great bed and the magnificent fireplace, just prior to riding to Lambton to visit Elizabeth Bennet at the inn.

We are also shown his manservant hurriedly bringing a selection of jackets to him….

The bed is magnificent….

and the lustrous silk lining the walls was restored in 1969, the new silk copied from the 18th century fabric which then decorated the walls.

The great chimney-piece is made of alabaster and was carved by William Wilson, the Leicester born carver who also worked on Lichfield Cathedral(not far from a place Jane Austen knew well, Hamstall Ridware ) during its restoration in the 1660s.

The room is sumptuous and friendly despite its size. It is one of the least intimidating state bedrooms I know….

The final room on our journey around the virtual Pemberley is another favourite of mine: the Long Gallery.

This is simply a stupendous room. A relict of a past, even when it was built in the 1670s. originally long galleries such as this stunning example which can be found  at Aston Hall near Birmingham,

were used as places where exercise could be taken on a wet or wintery day and  many are found in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. It was unusual to add one to a house built in the 1670s. They were also places where family portraits could be exhibited with ease- all grouped together in one long room, a metaphor for the continuity and longevity of the family concerned. In the late 19th/ early 20th century the fashion was to use the rooms as long reception rooms, divided by clusters of furnishings and, in Sudbury’s case, bookcases.This is how the Long Gallery appeared in 1904.


The bookcases and collections of Greek and Etruscan vases have now gone and left in their place is this elegant room,with little to detract from the magical detail of the plaster decoration of the ceiling.

The ceiling is again the work of the London craftsmen, Bradbury and Pettifer (who also worked in the saloon). Its detail is astounding-there are even grasshoppers on the rosette above the central bay window.

We first see this room in the adaptation on the tour of Pemberley conducted by Mrs Reynolds.

The Gardiners and Elizabeth are shown along the gallery…

to the spot where Mr Darcy’s portrait hangs…

And Elizabeth Bennet again contemplates what might have been….

The portrait was especially commissioned by the BBC,and I understand that it was given to Colin Firth,who played Darcy,  as a gift at the end of filming: he in turn gave it to this mother….

But last year it was sold and the proceeds given to charity

Go here to read about it: it fetched am amazing amount of money…..

We also see the gallery lit by moonlight, in the scene where Darcy is on his way to the saloon in the company of his dogs,  remembering just how well his rapprochement with Elizabeth Bennet is proceeding….

And though it is never shown, here is the view from the Long Gallery to the gardens and lake below…

And that ends our tour of the interiors of this version of “Pemberley” : I do hope you have enjoyed it. Next in this series, Burghley House, the setting for Rosings in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice.

Brian Southam, the noted Jane Austen scholar, has died aged 79.

He was the author of  many important books on Jane Austen and her works, such as Jane Austen’s Literary  Manuscripts,

which was based on his thesis written at Oxford University, and  Jane Austen and the Navy

He was also wrote  many scholarly articels on her works (The Silence of the Bertrams being one of the most outstanding for me). He was also Chairman of the Jane Austen Society from 1990-2005, and during that time helped enlarge and transform the soceity,encouraging the growth of the regional branches.

The full text of his obituary,  published by the Daily Telegraph, can be accessed here.

I love reading Jane Austen’ Juvenilia. Anarchic,witty, cartoonishly violent, even….I find it fascinating and wondrous that it survived.  My favourite of the pieces is The History of England and so, in an openly self-indulgent act, I have decided to commence a new AustenOnly series where week by week we shall take an in-depth look at this witty, angry polemic against the history books of her era written by a 16 year old genius.

Do join me…



But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in… I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all — it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention. The speeches that are put into the heroes’ mouths, their thoughts and designs — the chief of all this must be invention, and invention is what delights me in other books

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 14

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings…….This damming pronouncement by Catherine Moreland of the sort of history she was taught at her long-suffering mother’s knee, must surely have echoed Jane Austen’s feelings too-she was after all her creator. And the evidence to support this argument can be found in her History of England, written to give vent to her frustrations and irritations with the conventional view of history that she and other late 18th century children were taught. Austen’s History is an anarchic work of genus, a monumentally clever 16 years old’s diatribe against the view of English history that she was taught and that she read as a child.

Jane Austen dated her dedication – to her elder sister Cassandra- on the 26th November 1791 (a date which much later  in 1813 became the night of the Netherfield Ball). As the work of a precocious 16 year old it is a breathtakingly brilliant and confident work of art.

I have loved this piece of Jane Austen’s juvenilia since I first bought a copy of it in 1977 in Warwick. It was a small book, illustrated not with Cassandra Austen’s equally anarchic original water colours, but with tiny black and white wood cuts and the bare, un-annotated text. I confess it was the size of the book and the illustrations that first attracted me, but the text soon caught my imagination. I found it intriguing and funny, the confident authorial voice ringing clearly in my ears. But to be truthful, I didn’t fully understand what her targets were( and there seemed to be many of these) and, more importantly, the reasons why she was on the attack. Were Jane Austen’s irritations with the monarchs themselves, or was it something else?

I had loved 1066 And All That by Sellers and Yeats both in the form of both the play and the book, and it was clear that Jane Austen’s history was written in the same manner- ridiculing the way history is taught, what history we can remember ( which is usually a garbled version of our lessons with very few accurate dates)  and contrasting  taught history- the wars, quarrels of Popes and pestilences– with what is of  “real “ importance or what aspects of history are really interesting.

In this new series of posts, I intend to look at each entry in the History of England, explain the jokes and the reasons Jane Austen’s targets were her targets. Without knowledge of the books/incidents/plays to which Jane Austen refers it is hard to understand exactly the points she was trying to make.

Today, in the first post of this series, let’s take a look at her title page, and what targets she was intending to attack from this innocent looking beginning…

Jane Austen’s main target was the standard history book of school children of the time, The History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II  by  Oliver Goldsmith.

(Title page of my 1819 edition, with continuation by Charles Coote)

Goldsmith’s book was terribly popular from when it was first published in 1771, and it continued to be published in many editions( with additional articles on the reigns of monarchs reigning after George II) till well into the 19th century.  Goldsmith had  also written another history book  in the form of a series of letters in 1764. The full title is, as you can see from the title page to the 1807 edition, below,  as follows:

(Title page of my copy of A History of England in a Series of Letters

from a Nobleman to his Son (1807) edition)

The Austen family had a copy of Goldsmith’s 1771 History, which was  published in four volumes, at their home at the Steventon rectory, and it is also quite possible that Jane Austen read Goldsmith’s other histories. The Austen’s edition  included miniatures of the monarchs heads which were executed by the famed Northumbrian wood engraver, Thomas Bewick, whose portrait taken in 1816 by James Ramsay, is shown below.

And it is surely these that inspired ( or perhaps even infuriated) Cassandra Austen,who illustrated The History of England for her sister. The woodcuts in the Austen family’s edition were all coloured in by some unknown Austen child, but family tradition, as recorded in David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen (1997), records that it was Jane Austen herself who was the prepetrator.  The same hand- or owner of the same watercolours!- has also decorated /highlighted  certain letters, words and phrases in Goldsmith’s book. More on these illustrations in later posts on the individual monarchs.

But there is no doubt that it was Goldsmith’s view of history that she was attacking in her own slim volume, as she was very familiar with it.

(Oliver Goldsmith by Joshua Reynolds)

The four volumes of the Austen family’s edition of Goldsmith’s history are all signed by James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother, and one front free endpaper is missing- which has made experts speculate that Jane Austens signature may have been recorded there and then torn out and given away to an early autograph hunter. The books were passed from James to his son and Jane’s nephew and first biographer, James Edward Austen Leigh.

By 1919 the books were owned by his daughter, Mary Augusta Austen Leigh, and they are still, as I understand it, in the possession of her descendants, a Mr L. A. Impey.  Mary Augusta is of interest to us for she was the first person to decipher the many comments made the margins of this book by Jane Austen and various other members of her family, and which were published in her book Personal Aspects of Jane Austen in 1920. Though The History of England was not  published until 1922, along with the rest of the contents of Volume the Second, the marginal notes made by Jane Austen- imperfect and incomplete as they were presented to the public- fascinated two esteemed authors. Virginia Woolfe wrote about them in her essay Jane Austen and the Geese (1920), where  she maintained that, for her, the marginalia were of tremendous significance for they easily refuted the concept, often taken as fact in the early 20th century, that Jane Austen was

Unemotional unsentimental and passionless.

Katherine Mansfield, in her essay Friends and Foes (1920) also found them fascinating, calling them Jane Austen’s

Fiery outpourings

Too, too true.

The marginalia made by Jane Austen appear mostly in the 3rd and 4th volumes of Goldsmith’s History. The first volume has no marginalia but does contain a summary of events and dates written by an infuriated Jane Austen (see below). In the second volume she restricted herself to inserting only one comment: she added the word “wretches” next to the passage describing the deaths of the Young Princes in the Tower, the sons of Edward IV who were murdered in the Tower of London in the late 15th century.

(The Princes in the Tower by Sir Edward Millais)

In the 3rd Volume her  marginal note commentary begins with the commencement of the English Civil War, when her beloved Stuarts were set against the Puritanical section of society and Oliver Cromwell. Her comments then continue until the end of Volume 4 with the death of George II in 1760.

Some of the notes were written in ink but most were made in pencil. Some of the pencil notes have faded with time and others have been overwritten in ink by some different (and unknown ) hand, but presumably, by someone who was still a member of the Austen family.

Continuing in the family tradition, James Edward Austen Leigh also added his own set of marginalia to the Austen family copy of Goldsmith’s History. Also peppered amongst the pages are doodles or sketches and some portraits of the monarchs. There are also some dates in the margins which scholars have interpreted as meaning that a few pages were allotted reading for the Austen children to study each day.

Back to that title page…..Jane Austen’s fiery outpourings are clearly evident in her admission, freely given on the title page to her work, that her history is written by a

partial prejudiced and ignorant Historian.

She was obviously irritated by the statements Goldsmith made within his History claiming to be impartial, when  his prose suggested he was anything but. His History of 1771 concluded with the following sentiment:

I hope that the reader will admit my impartiality

And at the beginning of his chapters on George I, Goldsmith wrote this about the character of the Old Pretender, James Edward Stuart:

The Jacobites had long been flattered with the hopes of seeing the succession altered by the new ministry…Upon recollection, they saw nothing so eligible in the present crisis ,as silence and submission: they hoped much from the assistance of France and still more from the popularity and councils of the pretender. This unfortunate man, seemed to possess all the qualities of his father; his pride, his want of perseverance and his attachment to the catholic religion. He was but a poor leader, therefore, to conduct so desperate a cause; and in fact all the sensible part of the kingdom had forsaken it as irretrievable.

Jane Austen’s appalled marginal note to this passage –she was, as we will learn, an ardent admirer and supporter of the Stuarts in all their guises- was as follows:

Oh! Dr Goldsmith Thou art as partial an Historian as myself!

The marginal notes make fascinating reading and, when read in conjunction with Jane Austen’s History of England, throw more light on Jane Austen’s criticism of Goldsmith’s works. They have all recently been translated in the latest Cambridge University Press edition of Jane Austen’s works and I shall included extracts from them, where appropriate, in this series of posts.

On the title page there is also the caustic comment by Jane Austen that:

N.B. There will be very few dates in this History.

This is again a clear and direct attack on Goldsmith. His first history, published, in 1764 contained no dates whatsoever. The four-volume history of 1771 contained a few more, -two in fact!-but they were unsystematically given, dotted about the test in no particular order. Jane Austen obviously disliked this feature, probably finding it frustrating and she most likely expected more of a book purporting to be used as a school text. Hence her deliberate warning for her prospective readers, and the reason why she had written the following dates on the front free endpaper of Volume I of the Austen family’s copy of the 1771 History, in semi-scholarly frustration:

Caesar landed                                 Ante Christ        8

Caractacus conquered by Ostorius Scupula      50

Romans left England                                             488

Alfred beat out the Danes                                     876

Battle of Hastings                                               1066

William Rufus came to the Throne                 1067 (in fact, wrong-he came to the throne in 1087-jfw)

Henry 1st came to the Throne                        1100

Stephen ditto                                                   1135

There, you see: at least she knew of these dates even if Goldsmith was not so forthcoming with sharing his knowledge with students…..*giggle*

To help enliven this series you can access a facsimile reproduction of Jane Austen’s History of Englanda Virtual Book– online at the British Library’s site, here. I do recommend it as it is a magical experience : you can “turn” the pages to see all the text and illustration as written by Jane Austen. I will be linking this every time I post on the subject,and I will also link to it on the AustenOnly Juvenilia page, accessible either through the header or the column to the left, and links to all the posts in this series and more will be accessible from there.

The History of England was bound into a collection of Jane Austen’s early works and was known in the Austen family as Volume the Second ( Jane Austen’s other juvenilia was collected in Volume the First and Volume the Third). The British Library acquired Volume the Second in 1977. Volume the First is now available to view online as a facsimile here, Volume the Second here and Volume the Third here, via the wonderful Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts site.

There is much more of this fascinating material to come, and I do hope you will join me on this voyage of discovery….into English history, how it was taught and the thought processes/reactions to it of our very special but partial and prejudiced narrator.

It might at first appear strange that I am reviewing a book that was first published in 1948, but it has recently been re-printed in facsimile foom by Spire Books Ltd in association with the Bath Preservation Trust (whose property, Number 1 The Royal Crescent, is used to illustrate the cover of this book)

Walter Ison’s book is in fact an established  classic and a deserves to be read and enjoyed by anyone who has visited Bath and has fallen under the spell of its Georgian Buildings; or, indeed, by anyone who has never been lucky enough to  visit but has likewise fallen under its spell after reading about the city in such books as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, where  the buildings and city of Bath are  essential elements of the book,  the city being a  character in its own right.

The first copy of this book that I owned was the edition that was revised and published  in 1980 (see below) where the photographs were embedded in the text.  The new edition is much more clearly set out, as was the original 1948 edition, with two distinct sections -text and line drawings in part one, then photographs and reproductions of contemporary engravings in part two: I much prefer it.

The new edition has an informative foreword by Michael Forsyth who is the Director of Studies in theConservation of Historic Buildings at the University of Bath and  is also the author of another book on the architecture of Bath, the Yale Pevsner Guide to Baht, an excellent work, which was first published in 2003.

Walter Ison was born in another spa town, Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in 1908.He became a draftsman in an architectural practice in London where he first read Mowbray Green’s study of Georgian Bath, “Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath“,which fired his imagination. It is no lie to say  that he became obsessed with the city and the history of its development and its buildings. Bath degenerated as a spa town from the mid to late 19th century. It was not until the 1930s that it was realised that something had to be done to stop the city decaying completely and such treasures as the Assembly Rooms were at last recognised as being buildings of merit and, as such, were deserving of restoration and protection. In 1934 the Bath Preservation Trust was established and in 1936-8 the Assembly Rooms were restored. The Second World War then intervened and Bath was badly damaged by the so-called Baedeker offensive of 1942: 400 lives were lost and 329 buildings were destroyed in those air-raids, including the newly restored Assembly Rooms. A further 732 buildings were demolished as a result of damage in later air raids,and another  20,000 buildings were recorded by the City Engineer as having been damaged in some way as a result of the attacks.

Ison moved to Bath after his war time service with the air force ended, on the encouragement of his wife, Leonora. She also donated an important personal legacy to him, so that he had the funds with which  to be able to research,write and finish his proposed book.  Taking his inspiration from earlier histories of the buildings of Bath, including John Wood the Elder’s own version(see above) his resulting book is a comprehensive history of the building of the city and all its major buildings, and the architects responsible. The book was rather touchingly and appropriately dedicated to his wife.

The book is divided into  chapters which deal with the development of the city, the pubic buildings,domestic buildings and representative buildings of the period 1700-1725, 1726-1750, 1750-1775, 1775-1800 and finally 1800-1830. The text of the book is also  studded with magnificent plans and line drawings of the important buildings. Above is his ground plan, section and elevation of the Hot Bath where Mrs Smith in Persuasion went to receive her treatment, living close by in the lowly Westgate Buildings.

The second part of the book is filled with contemporary engravings -such as this, above of the  Pump Room and the new private baths from Stall Street and photographs( all in black and white) taken mostly in the late 1940s

Now, it has to be remembered that when Jane Austen knew Bath the buildings were not yet blackened with industrial grime. This photograph of Great Pultney Street from Ison’s book shows the buildings as I first remember them from my first visit to the city aged 5 in the early 1960s. The soot and grime of the Victorian era -coal fires and grime from the nearby industrial town of Bristol- had turned most of the buildings black, and it was only from the mid 195os that a programme of cleaning and the effects of the Clean Air Acts  enabled them to be returned almost to the white glare of the newly recreated limestone buildings that so distressed Anne Elliot in Persuasion. But the photographs now have a period charm of their own-the cars and sometimes the 1940s fashions of the  people shown in them are now as fascinating to me as the sedan chair and muslins of the inhabitants of the 18th century prints and engravings

(My photograph of Pulteney Street taken this summer)

Interior views are also inlcuded: not only of the great public buildings like the Guildhall, but of more domestic settings as such as this first floor drawing  room of number 41 Gay Street: Jane Austen, remember, lived briefly at number 25 Gay Street after the death of her father, and in Persuasion it was the home of The Crofts.

The book is easy to read and comprehensively covers every aspect of the creation of the famed Georgian buildings in the city.  Walter Ison died in 1997, and this new edition ensures that his book will live on as a classic, in his memory. I can highly recommend this magnificent book, and do hope that some of you are tempted by this review to rush out and buy it.

As you know, the Threads of Feeling Exhibition at the Foundling Museum curated by Professor John Styles opens this week. Concentrating on the collection of 18th century fabrics preserved in the ledgers of the Foundling hospital, tokens left by foundling’s mothers, it throws a very revealing light on the type of clothing worn by ordinary people in that era, as was disclosed in Professor Styles wonderful book, The Dress of the People.

I thought you all might be interested in two recently published articles which give a little more  detail of the exhibition. The first, accessible here is published by the Arts and Humanities Research Council,who helped fund the exhibition.

(A fascinating “Playing Card” printed fabric, ©Coram)

The second, is a fabulous interpretation of the exhibition by historian Kathryn Hughes, the  author of two great books,The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and The Victorian Governess. Go here to access it

And here is a photograph of a section of the specially re-printed cotton to be used for recreating a garment in the exhibition.

This is called Florella after the child who was deposited with the original scrap of material.

Above is an image of the original ledger from the Foundling Museum showing the linen / cotton printed with dots and red flowers. The Foundling, a girl, was given the number 8959 and was admitted to the Hospital on the 19th June 1758:

The written inscription reads:

Florella Burney Born june the 19: 1758: In The Parish off St Anns SoHo. not Baptize’d, pray Let partiuclare Care be Taken’en off this Child, As it will be call’d for Again; …’

I find it fascinating to think that this might be the type of fabric worn by Harriet Smith’s unknown mother, or by the poor of Highbury who are visited by Emma,or even Hannah, the servant at Randalls who could shut doors with exquisite quietness…I have been very kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday but sadly cannot attend due to other commitments, but I promise to give a full report of the visit I am going to make to it  later in October.

Sue S commented ruefully yesterday on this post here, that not many ordinary people would have been able to purchase items for the Chatsworth sale due to the vastly inflated prices the lots realised. This is most probably true, but at least the National Trust bought some items on our behalf which will be put on display at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

Emile de Bruijn, my jolly and very interesting correspondent, informs us via his fabulous blog Treasure Hunt of the successful real Treasure Hunt he recently conducted  to bring back to the  Hall two lots that were on offer to the public at the  Sale. Go here to read his article ‘From the Attic, in full.

©NTPL/Mike Williams

And the reason the Trust bought items from the sale? Hardwick Hallmore glass than wall– the magnificent Elizabethan country house designed by Robert Smythson, and once the home of an English She-Wolf, Bess of Hardwick, was owned until the 1950s (when it was given to teh nation by Andrew the 11th Duke in lieu of death duties) by the Cavendish Family and so to have some objects once owned by the Dukes to place into the rooms there was thought to be a desirable thing. I quite agree.

(But as the Earl of Hardwick was one of Mary Queen of Scots captors during her long imprisonment in England, I am not at all certain that Jane Austen would be equally enhusiastic…..)

The interim results are in – and yes-  once again the country house sale effect has resulted in massively inflated prices. The sale was expected to realise a total of £2.5 million from 20,000 lots. On the first day it raised £4.4 million, and a further £2.1 million on the second day, making a total of £6.5 million.

An item from the now demolished Devonshire House -shown above- that once stood in Piccadilly opposite Green park, attained the  highest sale price.

It was a white marble George II chimneypiece dating from circa 1755.

Here it is shown in situ, in the Saloon at Devonshire House circa 1900. It was probably designed by William Kent and carved by John Bosun. Estimated at between £200,00-£300,000 it sold for £565,250.

A magnificent mahogany bookcase dating from 1805-1810, attributed to the makers Marsh and Tatham after designs by Thomas Hope, shown below in his fashionable Ottoman Empire garb, in a portrait by Sir William Beechey dating from 1798, was also for sale.

It was commissioned by William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire in association with his then wife, Lady Elizabeth Foster, as part of their plan for remodelling the Duke’s bedroom at Devonshire house, and is  also sold well.

It has a central door that opens and is similar to  bookcases commissioned by the Prince Regent. Estimated for sale £60,000-90,000 it sold for £145,250.

The enamel, diamond and ruby brooch shown below, sold as the property of Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire,the present Duke’s mother and only surviving Mitford sister, was estimated at £80-100.

It eventually sold for £8,500. My goodness….now that’s what I call an attic sale.

Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire was used for the interior shots of Pemberley House in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We learnt  in our post here of the rooms used  by the BBC on the ground floor of Sudbury; the entrance passage, library and saloon, but today’s post concentrates on the last room on the ground floor to be used; indeed, it is the room that links the ground and the first floors of the house, The Great Staircase.

(©National Trust)

It is in the Great Staircase that Mrs Gardiner spots the miniature of Wickham, still on display, not on the walls of the family dining room, as in the book, but in a vitrine.

This is the approximate position of the vitrine, now taken by a 17th century side table.

And it is in the Great Staircase room that Mrs Reynolds learns that Elizabeth is already acquainted with Mr Darcy – a little– and Mrs Gardiner begins to suspect that something is not quite right with George Wickham…..

Which all makes for a thoughtful ascent of the Great Staircase itself.

The Great Staircase is probably the finest existing example of a late 17th century staircase in the country.

It was most probably designed by the Hall’s first owner, George Vernon. The carving of the balustrade was executed by Edward Pierce (1630?-1695) who had also been employed in the Saloon (go here to see his work there). Pierce was commissioned by Sir Christopher Wren to provide decoration for some of the new City churches which were  designed by Wren after the Great Fire of London,and the effect of the Great Staircase  is similar to that found in those churches.

The balustrade is carved in lime wood and the fruit and flower baskets in elm.

The plasterwork was entrusted to James Pettifer,who also worked in the Saloon. The plasterwork is sumptuous and encrusts the ceiling and the under slopes of the staircase.

The magnificently carved door-case, which leads from the Great Staircase to the Saloon, was created by Thomas Young a master carver from Chatsworth. Normally access to the the Great Staircase is forbidden to the general public, in order to try and preserve the detailed work from wear and tear and accidental damage,  but on the day I visited to take these photographs,we had to suddenly leave the building via that route from the first floor of Sudbury, as a fire alarm began to sound. I took this opportunity to take this somewhat blurred photograph of the door surround, to the horror of my children who were rather more keen that I vacated the building safely….

This is the view from the top of the Great Staircase…

The ceiling paintings were executed by Louis Laguerre and it is thought that George Vernon again was inspired by his neighbours at Chatsworth when he commissioned him, for Laguerre worked in the Great Painted Hall there too.

The Great Staircase was restored in 1969 and decorated by John Fowler in two shades of white paint on the panelling and balustrade,  and this distinctive yellow on the walls. I have always loved this effect but now it is questioned as to whether it is historically correct.

My Twitter friend Patrick Baty of the historical colourists,Papers and Paints has written this critique of John Fowler  and his work with the National Trust and it makes for very interesting and thought provoking reading.

But, whatever its demerits historically, I confess I shall always love the bright, light effect of this joyous colour in such a bravura room…despise me if you dare…

Next in this series, the remaining rooms at Sudbury which were used as Pemberley Interiors.

I thought you might like to share a wonderful new resource I have found (and have just added to the “My Links Section” in the left hand column to this page), the Dressing History web-site owned and created by Serena Dyer.

Serena has been studying historical costume since 1999, developing her knowledge through reproduction and recreation of historical pieces. She has spent time in the Textiles department at Christie’s, as well as with the wonderful Snowshill Manor Costume collection.


She is currently working towards studying for a BA in History, which she hopes to develop into an MA in Fashion History. Her voluntary work with the National Trust has led to the development of her historical interpretation skills, which she now does regularly at Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge,appearing as various characters from the Hall’s history.


Serena makes and sells fabulously accurate reproductions of historic clothing for re-enactors, museums and the heritage industry.  She is able to supply thoroughly researched, highly accurate reproductions or recreations of historical garments from any era, and from a variety of social classes. Importantly she only uses natural fibres for the garments, and tries, wherever possible, to use authentically woven fabrics. Many of her pieces are based on original garments, portraits or fashion plates, and a research portfolio is available for each garment.

Here is her marvellous recreation of a 1797 open robe:

(All ©SerenaDyer)

For part of her dissertation on the dissemination of fashion in England c. 1770-1820 Serena made this dress-from beginning to end:


She explains that:

I am using this dress to explore how closely the best sorts of dresses owned by the ladies of ‘polite society’ followed the plates of the period. Unlike simply looking at extant garments, this process allowed me to emulate aspects of the process through which a contemporary lady would make her decisions.


Serena also gives talks, all vividly illustrated with her own reproduction garments. Her talks currently include Bonnets to Boots: A Regency Lady’s Wardrobe complete with garments reproduced from the 1810-1820 era which she recently performed at the 2010 Jane Austen Festival in Bath and, one for Henry Tilney, Knowing Your Muslin complete  with reproduction garments and fabrics from 1780-1820 which Serena performed at the 2009 Jane Austen Festival.


She also performs a talk which is of special interest to us, Dressing Jane Austen with reproduction garments representing the period 1780-1820. In Serena’s own words:

This presentation examines both Jane’s personal attitude to fashion, and her use of it as a literary device, using the portraits, letters and novels as evidence. Reproductions of gowns described in the letters and novels are also used, as well as an examination of the Pelisse which is believed to have belonged to Jane, providing the audience with a talk that is both visually interesting and provides an insight into how Jane viewed herself and others

Serena also provides an historical interpretation service, in which she portrays  a wide range of characters, both in third and first person, and covers the 16th to 19th centuries.

Many of the characters portrayed are real historical people, and are presented as my interpretation, after thorough research, of what that person was truly like. I can also offer more general services, using a constructed character of my own, for any era, or alternatively I can give various demonstrations. Please contact for details and fees applicable.

The characters available are:


Jane Austen (1790s, or 1800s),Charlotte Bronte (1830s), Jemima Yorke, Marchioness Grey (1740s), Lady Amabel Yorke (1770s), Marion Syratt (C16th),Molly Young, aMaid( C18th) and Mary Zouche (1540s)

I have to admit I am so very tempted to order one of Serena’s magnificently trimmed bonnets….


But when to wear it?…would it look at all eccentric if I gardened in it? Of course not (!!) Details of Serena’s bonnet trimming service is available here and if  you like to trim your own bonnet ( or like Lydia Bennet, just like to pull something to pieces) you can buy plain straw bonnets and ribbons from Serena too, here, in her Haberdashery section.

If you want to contact Serena to buy some of her wonderful merchandise, book her for a talk or interpretation or view her fabulously interesting website, then go here and she can also be contacted (and “liked”!) via Facebook.

I do hope I get the opportunity to hear one of her talks soon and I hope you have enjoyed reading about her.

Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, once the home of the Vernon family and now administered by the National Trust, was used by the BBC as the location for the interiors of Pemberley House in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Erle.

The house was built in the 1660s by George Vernon: it is thought that the building took place between  1661-1701. It is in fact a strange mix of styles and some aspects of the building were positively old-fashioned for the era in which it was erected. It is built in an “E” shape, a style favoured by the  Elizabethans as a tribute to the Virgin Queen, and its external features-the pattern of the bricks, and the carved stone entrances, all hark back of the past, to the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The cupola is, however, a very typically Carolinian feature. The interiors were also  a mixture of the old and the new, and the inclusion of a Long Gallery,  running the whole length of the garden front on the first floor,was a decidedly odd and old-fashioned feature in a house of this period. But that all worked in Sudbury’s favour when the producers were sourcing an appropriate interior to use for the rooms of Pemberley House. The slightly old-fashioned but grand rooms of Sudbury easily conveyed the impression of the Darcys as a family  that was old-established gentry, not new money like the Bingleys, and the rooms were grand enough to reflect  the Darcy ‘s associations with the aristocracy and their great riches. Shall we apply to the housekeeper  to take our tour? Let’s ring the Bell, then….

Here is a plan of the rooms on the ground floor at Sudbury; do note that this and, indeed, all the other illustrations in this post can be enlarged by clicking upon them, in order to see the detail. The rooms that were used in the 1995 adaptation were the rooms to the  right of the entrance passage.

(Plan ©National Trust)

They are marked in red on the plan below as 1) The Entrance Passage, 2) The Library, 3) The Drawing Room and 4) The Saloon. The Great Staircase was also used in the production but we shall deal with that ,and with the other rooms, on the First Floor, that were used in the adaptation in our next post in this series.

The Entrance Passage is first seen in Darcy’s recounting of The Letter to Elizabeth as she reads it. We see a strutting George Wickham there, waiting to be paid off  by Darcy…..

And we also see him greeting the innocent Georgiana Darcy.

The Entrance Passage as you can see from the plan above, runs the whole width of the house. It has  a stone floor which was laid in 1671.

The day I visited , I’m afraid it was also very overcast outside, and so these photographs are a little dark. Do forgive me.

The next room on our tour is the Library. We see this in the tour of Pemberley conducted by Mrs Reynolds.Sadly, she  gives incorrect information at this point , telling us and the Gardiners that this room was the favourite of  the late Mrs Darcy. Of course as the daughter of an Earl, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mother would have been correctly referred to as the late Lady Anne Darcy, not a mere Mrs!

The desk in the room was the one used in the adaptation….

In the Letter sequence, this is where George Wickham is compensated for not wanting to be a clergyman…

The wallpaper in the room was copied by Coles of London, the famous wallpaper firm, from a remnant found behind one of the bookcases during the restoration of the room by John Fowler in 1969. More on the somewhat controversial aspects of John Fowler’s restoration in my next post on Sudbury.

This room has always been a favourite of mine-I’ve been visiting the house since it was opened to the public by the National Trust. It has a cosiness and warmth perfect for  contemplating books and engravings. The room that lies next to it on the plan is the Drawing Room, and this is glossed over in the  adaptation,The Gardiners and Elizabeth merely walk though it, and Mrs Reynolds doesn’t mention it.

She then welcomes them into what she calls The Music Room and is known at Sudbury as the Saloon, the most important of the reception rooms at Sudbury. When it was first built it was probably used as a dining room.

It has the most wonderful plaster work on the ceiling, executed by James Pettifer and Robert Bradbury engaged expensively  from London and the magnificent carving that  decorates the walls was by Edward Pierce, -look at the magnificent swags of cloth,fruit and flowers- and all were completed in the late 1670s.

The panelling  was made from trees grown on the Sudbury estate and was installed by Thomas Johnson in 1677.

Not that the carving and the panelling is highlighted in gilt…

Which gives  a beautiful effect in sunlight or in shade

it is of course while in this room that Elizabeth Bennet has her moment of regret: “And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress!

And this is the scene she looks out onto……except that it is not. She (and we) see the view of the grounds at Lyme Park in Cheshire, which provided the exteriors of Pemberley House and grounds.

If Elizabeth looked out of this window in the saloon at Sudbury-and this is the exact spot where she stood…

she would, in fact see this scene: a semi-formal garden…

leading down to the swans on the lake.

The fireplace is made of jasper and was added in the 1860s..but that didn’t prevent Miss Bingley from making her unfortunate remarks about Elizabeth Bennet’s tan whilst standing before it

And it was a useful place for Darcy to rest  his hopeful head when recalling the rapprochement between Elizabeth and himself…

achieved while Elizabeth was helping Georgiana to turn the pages of her music after having been “attacked ” by Miss Bingley on the subject of the militia.

The Saloon at Sudbury is one of my favourite rooms in any of the hundreds of country houses I’ve visited over the  years. And the rooms in the next post are also among my favourites: I do hope you will join me on Part II of our tour.

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