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The Telegraph today included an interview with Amanda Vickery,as part of the publicity campaign for the tv series At Home With the Georgians which commences on BBC2 on Thursday. It is rather the best of the bunch, and so go here if you’d like to read it.
that women love to shop…..
I think even Jane Austen would have approved of this cheeky but stylish adaptation of her most famous opening line, keen shopper that she was.
I just had to share, in time for Christmas….
Go here to buy it from Emma Bridgewater, producer of wonderful treats for 25 years( 25 years!)
It became clear on reading some of the comments posted to my last article on Burghley House and Pride and Prejudice that the concept of the Ha-ha was something of a conundrum to a few of us, and so I’ve written this post to clarify what is meant by one.
Basically it was a hidden boundary, a sunken fence, separating park from garden on an estate. This is the very large one at Grimsthorpe Castle, which has since had its retaining wall raised a little for the safety requirements of the 20 and 21st centuries.
As you can clearly see, the installation of a ha-ah prevented the livestock in the park -cattle, deer, sheep- from encroaching on the more elegant and refined part of your estate. It kept nature at a respectful distance, if you like. You could still view your beautifully landscaped rolling acres from your house, but the inhabitants of that park would not bother you in your part of the garden, nor would they leave any evidence of their existence for you to tread in while wearing your expensive shoes,and offend your delicate sensibilities
The ha-ah is mentioned by Jane Austen, notably in Mansfield Park, during the chapters which deal with the revealing trip to Southerton. She uses the formal wilderness and its retaining ha-ha as a recurring liet motiv of restraint for the women in the novel, notably Fanny Price, who is forced to stay confined in that part of the garden within its retaining walls,
A few steps farther brought them out at the bottom of the very walk they had been talking of; and standing back, well shaded and sheltered, and looking over a ha–ha into the park, was a comfortable–sized bench, on which they all sat down.
…watching the goings-on of the two pairs of would-be lovers, Miss Crawford and Edmund Bertram
After sitting a little while Miss Crawford was up again. “I must move,” said she; “resting fatigues me. I have looked across the ha–ha till I am weary. I must go and look through that iron gate at the same view, without being able to see it so well.”
and then Maria Rushworth and Mr Crawford,who, had he been a Deb’s Delight in the 1920s, would no doubt have been dubbed N.S.O.K. ( Not Safe On Knolls)
Yes, certainly, the sun shines, and the park looks very cheerful. But unluckily that iron gate, that ha–ha, give me a feeling of restraint and hardship. ‘I cannot get out,’ as the starling said.” As she spoke, and it was with expression, she walked to the gate: he followed her. “Mr. Rushworth is so long fetching this key!”
It is an ingenious device precisely because it is virtually undetectable from the house.
This is the view from Boughton House in Northamptonshire looking towards a very large sunken fence or ha-ha. Can you spot it? I thought not.
If you care to look at this photograph above showing the view from one of the ha-has at Cottsebrooke Hall, the one which separates an old wilderness from the modern formal garden, you can see that, at close quarters, the ditch is noticeable but if you compare it with the Boughton picture, you can see that effect lessens the closer you are to the house. I confess was delighted when I found this ha-ha overlooking a formally planted wilderness because it seemed to reflect the state of affairs as described by Jane Austen at Southerton, and some people are of the opinion that Cottesbrooke was her inspiration for Mansfield Park itself. Of course my speculations were all dashed when I realised this ha-ha was a relatively modern creation and did not exist when Jane Austen was writing Mansfield Park in the early 19th century. Ah,well…..back to reality.
Do notice that the ditch gradient is constructed in such a way as to prevent the livestock being able to breech the gap between the park and the retaining wall, and therefore they are prevented from grazing near to the house.
This clever drawing by Felix Kelly of a side section of the construction of an ha-ha shows how the ground is scooped away from the retaining wall. The ground is then levelled off to be the same height as the retaining wall and, at a distance, the gap becomes less noticeable. And to some unobservant walkers, it must have come as something of a surprise, hence its name.
Before the introduction of the ha-ha, the only method of keeping livestock in the park separate from the gardens was by visually intrusive means of control, that is, fences and walls. But the beauty of the ha-ha, the almost invisible boundary ditch, is that looking out onto the gardens and further into the park surrounding a grand house you simply cannot notice it. It is not at all visually intrusive but it is totally effective in keeping the park animals away at a safe distance .
This is another much older ha-ha at Cottesbrooke Hall, and it separates the pleasure gardens surrounding the house from the park. Below is the view from the ha-ha looking out toward the park and surrounding village in the distance (please ignore the fabuous plant fair taking place in the foreground)!
Horace Walpole in his essay On Modern Gardening (1770) patriotically attributed the introduction of the ha-ha as a garden features to the English landscape to the famous gardener, Charles Bridgeman, partner of the equally famous Henry Wise (although the French might have something to say in dispute here: there is an example of an ha-ha at Versailles that predates Charles Bridgeman. It was also used elsewhere in landscape gardens in Europe) :
But the capital stroke, the leading step to all that followed was (I believe the first though was Bridgeman’s) the destruction of walls for boundaries, and the invention of fosses- an attempt then deemed so astonishing , that the common people called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk.
One of the first gardens planted in this simple though still formal style was my father’s at Houghton. It was laid out by Mr Eyre, an imitator of Bridgeman…I call a sunk fence the leading step for these reasons. No sooner was this simple enchantment made, than levelling, mowing and rolling followed. The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonised with the lawn within; and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prim regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without. The sunk fence ascertained the specific garden, but that it might not draw too obvious a line of distinction between the neat and the rude, the contiguous outlying parts came to be included in a kind of general design: and when nature was taken into the plan, under improvements, every step that was made pointed out new beauties and inspired new ideas….
You could, of course see it -the retaining wall was very noticeable- if you were walking in the park looking towards it (and the house) for the ground sloped sharply away from it as you can see in these photographs of the ha-ha at Burghley House .
Note this is not faced in red brick as at Cottesbrooke, but in the locally quarried limestone. Below is a close up of the wall, which was recently (and expensively ) renovated
Here you can see that the ha-ha at Burghley is curved
and that the ditch slopes dramatically away from the retaining wall, but then rises to its height…
The further away from the ditch you are, the less noticeable is the gap.
So you see, by adding an ha-ha to the landscape, the eye could rove freely beyond the immediate garden to the park onto the surrounding countryside,whilst keeping the animals away from the house and its pleasure gardens.
As we have seen in on our previous two posts about Burghley as the setting for Rosings in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly, Burghley House was used as the setting for Lady Catherine’s Drawing Room and her Dining Room.
The park was also used for one shot in the film. Burghley Park is a real park with herds of deer, so Mary Crawford would no doubt approve. The park wall is over 5 miles in circumference and the park has an acreage of 1,400 acres. It was landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability ‘ Brown whose intriguing portrait by Sir Nathaniel Dance, shown below, is part of the collection at Burghley House.
We see the West front of the house in the scene in Pride and Prejudice when an agitated Mr Collins is urging Elizabeth and Charlotte to hurry and not keep the formidable Lady Catherine waiting ….
This is the magnificent oak tree the trio are seen approaching in the park
And here is the West Front of the house…
With its Gilded Gates …..
Of course, in reality, the Collins party would have found it rather difficult to walk directly across the park to the West Front..because of the ha-ha that separates the ornamental gardens from the park…..
It sweeps round in a curve, separating the oak tree from the dangers of being eaten by the deer- still to be found wandering freely the other side of the ha-ha.
The main entrance to the house is protected by these fabulous wrought iron gates…
which are decorated with the gilded crest of the Cecil family
And they still maintain a sentry box…..which is truly redundant these days
for the gates are operated electronically,and not opened by a retainer,patiently waiting within it for guests to arrive, upon hearing the trumpet sound at a distant gate.
The ground to the north of the house slopes away quite dramatically towards the river Welland, and it was here on a bright sunny morning in 2004, that I in the company of my two children auditioned for parts as extras in the film. We didn’t get the parts and were sad. My daughter’s English Master was however, successful,and can be seen in the Meryton Ball screen wearing a spectacular painful and odd-looking wig.
However some time later I met the screenwriter of Pride and Prejudice, Deborah Moggarch, who consoled me in my failure to achieve fame on the big screen by explaining that the director wanted a certain “look” for the Meryton scenes. Hogarthian was the style he wished to promote. According to Deborah we were obviously too nice looking to be included in the rough rabble that made up the company at the Meryton Assembly (!) Needless to say my daughter took great delight in informing her English Master of this interesting snippet of information.
The entrance for visitors to the house which leads to the old kitchen, did have a small exhibit of costumes from Pride and Prejudice during the year the film was released.
Mr Darcy’s fine wool breeches and coat were on display as well as Elizabeth Bennet’s rather run down green linen dress…
This had a homemade tatting edging to the neckline and was darned and mended in many places.
Charlotte Collins’ grey linen dress was also on display and I was interested to see that the patterned fabric of her under dress was very similar to a real sample of an early 19th century fabric,
which can be found in Barbara Johnson’s Album of Styles and Fabrics, kept by the Victoria and Albert museum,and available as a facsimile.
This album is a magical survivor, a record kept by Barbara Johnson,of all her clothes from 1746 until 1821,with fashion plates inserted amongst the fabric samples. Her piece of a blue spotted muslin of 1812 is very similar to the design worn by Charlotte Lucas.
The park at Burghley is open to the public all year round,even when the house is not open. It is a wonderful place to walk,and indeed I am just back from a bracing walk there this morning. I do urge you all to visit Burghley even if you were not enamoured of Pride and Prejudice 2005. It’s a marvellous day out (and the Orangery restaurant is pretty good too)
Next in this series, Kirkby Hall as used in Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park.
Go here to see it. Enjoy!
I heard this BBC Radio 4 programme this morning. It was quite interesting. Professor Janet Todd and artist and writer Posy Simmonds were heard examining Jane’s manuscripts of the Juvenilia at the British Library. Anna Maxwell Martin read shortened version of “Frederick and Elfrida”, “Henry and Eliza” and “Love and Freindship” (sic) beautifully and some interesting observations on the youthful writer and her desire to entertain her older bothers and sister were made. . Here is a link again to Professor Todd’s article in last week’s Sunday Telegraph which gives you some idea of her thoughts on the Juvenilia as expressed in the programme.
In my very humble opinion, this programme would have been much more interesting and satisfying however, had it been expanded to a three part series, so that we could have heard more about the importance of these juvenile pieces, their inspiration and targets and, perhaps, have heard them read in their entirety. Perhaps when the bi-centenary of Austen’s death occurs in 2017, there will be more opportunities to hear something like this but in an expanded form.
One of my correspondents was searching though the Antiquarian Section of the Library here on this site recently and asked if it was possible to write a series of posts where extracts from the books are presented and commented upon. Your word, my dear reader, is my command. And therefore each week (D.V) or so I hope to take extracts from one book and comment on it. The first book my correspondent suggested we study is The Duties of a Lady’s Maid (1825),as we have not really considered Jane Austen and servants for quite some time.
Lady’s maids are rarely mentioned by Jane Austen in her works, probably on the assumption that her contemporary audience took it for granted that her wealthier characters would automatically employ one. But they are not totally invisible. Where they are mentioned is interesting:Darcy assumes that Elizabeth Bennet is travelling with her maid when she is overcome with grief at the news that Lydia has eloped while at the inn at Lambton in Pride and Prejudice. In Emma, our eponymous heroine has a maid,who is clearly a lady’s maid in its fullest sense, while the impoverished Bates family – mother and daughter employ only a maid of all work, a very different creature. The wealthy Mrs Jennings, with her ample portion, has a maid in Sense and Sensibility with whom she gossips when no other congenial soul is close at hand. Also in Sense and Sensibility poor Eliza has a treacherous lady’s maid who betrayed her plan to elope to Scotland with the brave and sensitive Colonel Brandon, prior to her disastrous wedding to the Colonel’s cruel brother. In Mansfield Park Lady Bertram’s maid, Mrs Chapman,was dispatched to assist Fanny in dressing her for her ball, but of course having sent her to Fanny with her usual characteristic negligence, Lady Bertram ensured that she arrived too late to be of any practical use. Oh,well, at least some semblance of caring thought was there… Also in Mansfield Park Mrs Rushworth senior’s maidservant who had exposure in her power, sold her story with the aid of her employer to the newspapers helping to bring shame and disgrace on the wayward Mrs Rushworth Junior (nothing changes in this world does it?)In Northanger Abbey both the elegant Miss Tilney and the fashoin obsessed Mrs Allen( naturally)have maids.
This is an interesting and rather rare book, its full title is The Duties of a Lady’s Maid with Directions for Conduct and Numerous Receipts for the Toilette . It was published by James Bulcock of 163 the Strand in London in 1825. I think it will be interesting to read it, little by little, and to compare it with other texts relating to the duties of lady’s maids, such as The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams also published in 1825, and with such examples of maid’s duties and conduct as appear in Jane Austen’s six complete novels.
The first half of the book,which contains 328 pages in all, is a conduct book with detailed instructions to the prospective ladies maid as to how to live her life as a servant:how her religion should direct her, how the qualities of honesty and probity ,diligence and economy are essential traits. How to maintain a correct amount of familiarity with her Superiors, keep family secrets and restrain her vanity in dress. It also contains chapters on which amusements are appropriate for a lady’s maid to pursue, how to speak correctly and avoid vulgarity in her manner of speech, how to deal with her current and prospective employers when considering a change of place and how to communicate the news of any little love affairs she may conduct(which, of course, only related to offers of marriage made to the maid, not to any lesser liaisons)
The second part of the book gives detailed instructions and practical information that a girl aiming to be the best possible lady’s maid in the universe might find essential. The subjects covered include taste in the colours of dress,(colour blind maids clearly need not apply), the use of artificial flowers,taste in the forms of dress,the dangers of stays and corsets, how to use padding and bandages to improve the figure, the most advantageous way to display the forehead, taste in headresses, taste in dressing the hair,practical directions for hairdressing, Cosmetics( with receipts), Paints, Rouge, The Use ands Abuse of soap,Dressmaking and Fancy Needlework,Care of the Wardrobe, the Method of taking out Stains and finally, some essential information….the correct Method of Clear Starching
Apart from the frontispiece there are no illustrations in the book; the lady’s maid who depended upon this volume was required therefor to posses a high degree of literacy and imagination if she is to successfully recreate some of the instructions in this book.
Next time we shall look at the actual duties required of a lady’s maid, and how her religion might help her in performing her tasks.
On Tuesday 22nd November there is a treat waiting in store for us on BBC Radio 4. Professor Janet Todd is presenting a programme based on Jane Austen’s juvenilia entitled Juvenile Jane.
Here is a link to the programme’s page on the BBC 4 website. It will, I hope, be available to listen to and to ‘listen again'( for one week only from the date of transmission) for all of us and not just those of us in the UK. Her co-presenters are Posy Simmonds, the writer and illustrator, and the actress, Anna Maxwell Martin who will give readings from Frederic and Elfrida, Henry and Eliza and Love and Freindship
Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Professor Todd describes in some detail her love of the juvenilia, which inspired the programme, and also comments on what makes Jane Austen’s crazed youthful writings so fantastical and different:
Jane Austen was inspired by what she saw, heard and read – and what she noticed others reading and sighing over, the invented world of romances. In her burlesques, the mundane and the fictional cliché both become magical by being speeded up, turned over, and mixed with fantasy. Some topics especially amused her: for example, ageing. Over and over again a lover will be 52 or 63 or 36, all equally absurd in the child’s eyes, or a gentleman of the village of Pammydiddle will exclaim at finding that, 12 months after being 54, he should become 55 and be so delighted that he decides to hold a masquerade to celebrate.
Go here to read the very entertaining article in full. Then put the date and time in your diary and enjoy.
Professor Vickery sent me this stunning graphic today …
As you can see it is relatively self-explanatory. The good news is that the programme will be shown on BBC2 at 9pm on the 2nd, 9th and 16th December, which is of course the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birthday. I’m so looking froward to seeing this programme. The full trailer for the programme can now be seen on BBC. On seeing it last night my teenage daughter was very much impressed, despite the History Appreciation Gene being absent from her DNA! Good job BBC and Professor Vickery,together we will make an historian out of her yet….
In it I drew your attention to one particular fabric “token” on show, that donated by the mother of Florella,a child admitted to the Foundling Hospital in 1758:
Inspired by this fragment, the London Print Works Trust recreated lengths of it for the exhibition, and some of it was made up into an example of an 18th century working class woman’s bedgown:
And sample lengths of the material are on sale in the Museum shop.
If you go here you can read about the processes involved in recreating the fabric, a type of rough linen that may have been worn by the likes of the poor whom Emma visited in order to provide them with some useful and practical charity. I think you might find the article interesting.
We know that Edward Knight, the Austen brother whom fortune favoured, went on a grand tour. He kept journals of his four-year jaunt abroad, and they make fascinating reading, not the least because they indicate that an inability to spell-Edward like Jane never appeared to master the “i before e ” rule,- was an Austen family trait…;)
Indeed, you can read extracts from his journals of the tours in a wonderfully intriguing book edited by Jon Spence called Jane Austen’s Brother Abroad and I highly recommend it to you.
It was of course while in Rome at the end of his tour that Edward’s elegant portrait was painted, and this has recently returned to his old home at Chawton House in Hampshire.
It is just possible that the young Fitzwilliam Darcy may have been able to go on one of these educational tours along the lines of Edward Austen’s route, accompanied by an appropriate retinue of tutors and companions, provided we take him to have been 28 at the time of the composition of First impressions and not as 28 at the time of publication of Pride and Prejudice in 1813. The problems attendant in travelling around war torn Europe curtailed the popularity of The Grand Tour as a method of providing polish and education to England’s aristocratic youth.
There are some fabulous books available to read about The Grand Tour, and I;ll be reviewing my favourite soon, but, however, if you would like to learn a little bit more about The Grand Tour on line, then the National Gallery in London has come to your aid. It has produced a beautifully illustrated micro website on the subject of the Grand Tour to provide some background to its current mouth-wateringly beautiful exhibition, Venice :Canaletto and his Rivals, which I was recently lucky enough to see.
Go here to see page one for a general introduction on the Grand Tour . Go here for details of the less than moral antics of some of the Grand Tour visitors. Go here for a simple explanation of the artistic education the tour offered and here to see some of the wonderful portraits painted by the Italian artist, Pompeo Batomi, of the English milords who visited Rome, including this one of the magically named, Sir Gregory Page Turner…
…..if only he’d written some books.
If you go here you can listen and watch a video recording of Amanda Vickery’s great lecture given last week at Gresham College, on the subject of “What Did Eighteenth Century Men Want“, a very interesting view on 18th century marriage commitment and bachelorhood. Jane Austen would surely have understood and approved.
I hope you really have a great time enjoying listening to her brillianlty informative and amusing style, and viewing all her wonderful illustrations.
Last week we talked about Burghley House and its fantastic Heaven Room which was used as the location for Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s drawing-room at Rosings in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Today we are going to consider another room at Burghley, whose rose garden is shown above and whose magnificent oriel window in the great hall is shown below….
The room that merits our attention this week is the Bow Room which served as Lady Catherine’s dining room at Rosings in the 2005 film.
This is another of Burghley’s many painted rooms. It was created in 1697 by Louis Laguerre, the French artist, who was also Louis XIV’s godson. He appears to have been an altogether more personable character than Verrio about whom we wrote last week, and, unlike Verrio, no tales of scandal and debaucheries are told about Laguerre at Burghley today.
The room is, as you can see, quite dark. It faces north and while these painted rooms worked well in sunnier climes, as seen, no doubt, by teh 5th Earl of Exeter on his Grand Tour of Europe, the decoration does cast rather a gloom in the cold Lincolnshire light. The room was originally designed by the 5th Earl as a State Dining Room, but its chilly aspect meant that it gradually fell out of use: the kitchens were a long way away and the food was invariably cold when it reached the hungry diners waiting in this room! Eventually it evolved into a second billiard room and then into a music room until 1990 when the painted surfaces of the room were extensively restored. The room is now fitted up for display and the dining table is set up as it would have been for a formal dinner during the Victorian era. The West wall, below….
And the East wall, compete with fireplace, again below, show scenes from the lives of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.
The south wall, which can be seen behind Lady Catherine when she sits at the head of the dining table depicts The Conduct of Scipio Towards His fair Captive
The room now contains articles that had to be removed or put out of shot during the filming of Pride and Prejudice: this bust, below, of the Duke of Wellington would have been highly anachronistic for a film set in 1796, when he was merely a colonel serving in the Netherlands and India.
And this magnificent 19th century silver racing trophy , together with, on the window sill, a silver model of the 3rd Marquess of Exeter as Colonel of the Northamptonshire Regiment, made in 1888, were not seen in the film.
We did see a plethora of footmen( just what exactly is the correct collective noun for a group of footmen?) which is reflective of this section from Chapter 29 of Pride and Prejudice that describes the initial dinner at Rosings attended by Elizabeth Charlotte and Mr Collins-but note, not Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam:
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater.
As to the dinner being exceedingly handsome, it was certainly very lavish in this production. And in what was most probably a deliberate move, the dinner is shown to be slightly old-fashioned. Do note the peacock pie to the right of Lady Catherine at the far end of the table, below:
Peacock pies were very popular throughout the 17th century till the mid 18th century, as part of courtly shows of expense and luxury. The one below made by Ivan Day of Historic Foods is typical of the 17th century : the head and tail feathers were always used to decorate such a pie, not only because they were spectacular, but because their presence also indicated what meat was to be found inside the pie.
The latest recipe I can find for a peacock pie is in John Thacker’s book,The Art of Cookery written in 1758
Here is the recipe which you can enlarge by clicking on it.
Thacker was the cook to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral and their hospitality was courtly, lavish and legendary. But ever so slightly old-fashioned by 1796 the date the film was set ( and also the date when Jane Austen wrote First Impressions which was to eventually become Pride and Prejudice in 1813).
Lady Catherine, who was played by Dame Judi Dench, is always shown in a sack dress( this purple confection was on show at Burghley House in the Bow Room tin 2005-6,and it was magnificent) which would also have be seen as old fashioned in 1796 . I can only conclude that the filmmakers wanted to depict Lady Catherine as grand and slightly set in her ways, which character traits were reflected in her choice of food and of dress. Qutie a clever conceit, bearing in mind how stubborn the old bat could be…..
Once again I should like to thank the Burghley House Preservation Trust , the House Manager and the Room Stewards for all their kindness and assistance shown to me when I visited Burghley to prepare this post.
…Margaret, who made her comment to the Competition post on the 6th November.
Congratulations, Margret! Please could you kindly contact me by email at
(replacing all the words with the usual punctuation)
and let me have your snail mail address. With the blessing of the postal service your prize will soon be winging its way to you.
If you want to register for a chance to win all the prizes shown below in my bumper first anniversary give away competition, then you have until end of play tomorrow to add a comment to this post linked here ( not this post mind!).
Copies of the Jane Austen Pocket Bible and Jane Austen’s Homecoming…
Postcards made from my collection of late 18th early 19th century images…
Map of Bath 1803,Wedgwood’s London Showroom, Box Hill, Gilpin’s cows, Lyme Regis……
And the header to this blog, Hampstead Heath…
An audio book on cassette of Elizabeth Jenkins biography of Jane Austen…
A CD and Song booklet of 18th century ballads created for the Threads fo Feeling Exhibition at the Foundling Museum…
Two mother of pearl gaming fish from the early 19th century…
I will announce the lucky winner on Monday 15th November.
or so the saying goes…..
I am about to confess some recent antiquarian book purchases to you. In my defence, I will, of course, be sharing the contents of them with you in due course, so I’ve not been that extravagant. In truth I haven’t …I managed to purchase these books at quite amazing prices considering the contents. Of course some of them are not in very good condition,but as it is the content that I seek, I simply don’t care about aesthetics.
The first is a very good world gazetteer, Geography Illustrated on a Popular Plan for the Use of Schools and Young Persons by the Reverend J. Goldsmith
This is fabulously intact, still illustrated with many maps and engravings of places mentioned in the text.
Above is its view Kamskatchkan travellers. Kamskatchka was of course a place with which Jane Austen was very and amusingly familiar, using it as she did in her Plan of A Novel, as possibly the furthest place from England that she could imagine. She wrote her furious and funny attack as a result partly of receiving “helpful” suggestions of plots for novels from the Reverend Stanier Clarke etc etc
At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himself on the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against holders of Tithes.
A real find in a local second-hand bookshop was this set of five volumes of the Middlesex volumes of The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton (1800-1815).
Ex-Library copies, their bindings are not the best, but they contain the most detailed descriptions of the topography and history of the counties of England. Middlesex is a marvellous county to have , for it included London and most of its environs in Jane Austen’s era, and so there are detailed descriptions of most of the places in London that Jane Austen knew and wrote about in these volumes. I’m enjoying dipping into them at the moment….
Amazingly, because they command reasonable prices on the print market, most of the engravings are intact in these volumes. Here is one of the Herald’s College.
This is an immensely interesting book, delineating four excursions from the city of Bath, with very detailed and idiosyncratic descriptions of the interesting places to be found en route. Each of the four exclusions is illustrated by a charmingly naive map: this is the route of the first excursion:
It also has great significance for those of us interested in the contents of Jane Austen’s library, for she actually owned a copy of this book. David Gilson in his Bibliography of Jane Austen describes the copy now owned by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at the Jane Austen House Museum, which was annotated bythe Reverend Geroge Austen and was probably given by him to Jane.
I shall enjoy reading these books with you here and I shall be posting about them from time to time over the next few months. Do join me, won’t you?
Scenes from Professor Amanda Vickery’s forthcoming BBC TV series, At Home with The Georgians, based on her stunning book, Behind Closed Doors, is included in the latest BBC History trailer in the blog post written by the Commissioning Editor for History at the BBC, Martin Davidson . Go here to access it on-line and let me know what you think about the snippet. I’m very excited about it. Dry as dust history this will not be.
And Professor Vickery has also written a very interesting defence of the study of women’s history . Go here to read it. I feel that readers of Jane Austen, who used her domesticity to such universally applicable effect, cannot but agree with Professor Vickery’s sentiments.
Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire was the location chosen to represent Rosings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s home in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It might at first appear to have been an odd choice. Rosings in the text is clearly referred to as a modern house-
It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground
-all done no doubt to subtly throw doubt on the age of Sir Lewis de Boughs “noble” origins. Burghley is so obviously an Elizabethan house, built in the late 16th century for Queen Elizabeth I’s loyal minister, William Cecil, and therefore could never have been thought of as “new” in 1796 ,when this adaptation was set.
However, it was convenient. It is to be found on the outskirts of the town of Stamford, which was the real town used as the setting for Meryton in the film (and which I have previously written about here and here)
In this first post of three about Burghley and Pride and Prejudice, I will write about one of the rooms used in the adaptation…the Heaven Room.
This was the setting for Lady Catherine’s drawing-room at Rosings…
where Elizabeth is introduced to a rather formidable Lady Catherine in the company of Charlotte and Mr Collins…and unexpectedly meets Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam , Lady Catherine’s nephews, who were also staying there…
…and where after dinner, we learn that Anne de Bourgh doesn’t play due to her delicate health…
But eventually Elizabeth is persuaded to play..though she does so very indifferently and with a very bad grace….not performing to strangers, indeed.
The Heaven Room,where these scenes were filmed is simply an astounding room. It is almost totally painted,
all the walls and ceiling,with roundels executed in grisaille over the entrances.
Seen in bright sunlight-as on the day I took my photographs- it all encompassing effect is almost overwhelming…
The gods and goddesses disporting themselves amidst tromp l’oeil columns and pediments, the sky seamlessly merging with the painted walls…
…a magically painted rainbow cutting through the scene on the right.
The room was painted by Antonio Verrio, the celebrated Italian muralist,who was patronised by Charles II (my hero)and James II, creating painted interiors at Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace but who later fell out of court favour with the accession to the throne of William III.
He stayed at Burghley for some considerable time, painting these magnificent rooms, becoming part of the 5th Earl of Exeter’s social circle, even joining an informal gentleman’s private drinking club known as the Little Bedlam Club, based at Burghley and whose other members included the portraitist Sir Godfrey Kneller and the Earl himself. The club was well named in Verrio’s case ( the rules of the club are still on display in the Billiard Room in the House) for he was(and still is!!) known for causing havoc in the nearby town of Stamford running up tremendous bar bills and gaming debts and “wenching” in a rather George Wickham-like manner. intriguingly he included a portrait of himself in this room, and here it is in close up below….
He is shown without his usual Baroque wig , sketching while sitting in the forge of the cyclops, which you can see to the right of the centre section, shown below the falling rainbow.
Obviously it was logically too hot to wear a wig in such circumstances…
Choosing such grand and Baroque interiors certainly contributed to the impression of the grandness of Lady Catherine’s social situation in this film, emphasising the social gulf between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy’s family and relations, though a modern interior for the time would have been more appropriate, in my opinion.
I should like to thank the Trustees of Burghley House Preservation Trust , Phillip Gompertz, the house manager and the room Stewards for all their assistance , kindness and for granting me permission of photograph the Heaven Room. And also for allowing me to reproduce images 2-5 in this post. Burghley is a magical house, with stunning interiors( more on these in the next post) marvellous grounds and above all a happy atmosphere throughout all the house and the parts of the estate open to the public. If you can, do go and visit, for its welcome is always warm and the contents are always amazing to see, with something new to discover on every trip.
Next in this series, The Bow Room, used as Lady Catherine’s dining room.
My fellow blogger and most elegant and erudite correspondent,Emile de Brujin of the National Trust’s Treasure Hunt blog has recently posted some interesting articles about Lyme Park in Cheshire, a place that has dual associations with Jane Austen.
The most obvious of the two is that it was used for the exterior shots of Pemberley in the 1995 BBC TV production of Pride and Prejudice,( my pictures above of the house and the sunken garden were taken by me ona visit in 20o6 when the magnificent facade of the house was being restored) The scenes featuring the house and estate included the infamous pond where Mr Darcy took his somewhat unlikely (in my humble opinion) dip into a stagnant pond….
The second is that the house was owned by the Cheshire branch of the Leigh family from whom Jane Austen’s mother’s branch of the Leigh’s was descended. Just like a certain Elliot family of Persuasion…..
Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family, in the usual terms: how it had been first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale, serving the office of High Sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II., with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome duodecimo pages, and concluding with the arms and motto — “Principal seat, Kellynch hall, in the county of Somerset,” and Sir Walter’s hand-writing again in this finale —
“Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.”
Here for your delight is Emile’s article on real and fictional aspects of viewing the house . Here and here are interesting Treasure Hunt articles on the restoration fo flock wallpaper in the Library at Lyme
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