You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2010.
New Year is a time, inevitably, in my mind, associated with Scotland and Hogmanay, so I thought today’s post ought to have an appropriately Scottish theme.
References to Scotland in Jane Austen’s adult works are few, but she did make use of the different marriage laws in Scotland in three of her novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon had planned to elope to Gretna with his poor Eliza but was thwarted at the last minute by the folly of her maid exposing their plans. In Pride and Prejudice Wickham planned to elope with Georgiana Darcy to Gretna Green, but his dastardly plan was foiled by Georgiana’s confession to Darcy before they could set out on the road. Quite typically he had no such plans to take Lydia Bennet there ,though she was initially under the misapprehension that Gretna was to be their final destination. In Mansfield Park Julia Bertram and Mr Yates run off to Gretna to be married amid the turmoil of the adulterous goings on between Maria Rushworth and Mr Crawford.
Why Gretna Green? Gretna, or Scotland as Jane Austen mostly wrote when she used the term in her novels, was, in the late 18th century a place where couples thwarted in their plans to marry legally in England and Wales could resort, in order to marry legally without parental consent.
From the implementation of the Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753, it was impossible for anyone under the age of 21 years age to legally marry without their parents ( or guardians) consent. The Act, An Act for the better preventing of clandestine marriages,was moved through parliament by Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, ( shown below) and it is often referred to informally as Hardwickes Marriage Act. Do allow me to quote directly from it to give you some idea of its all encompassing edicts:
…from the and after the twenty- fifth day of March in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty-four all Banns of Matrimony shall be published in an audible manner in the Parish Church or some Publik chapel….according to the Form of Words prescribed by the rubrick prefixed to the Office of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, upon three Sundays preceding the Solemnization of Marriage during the time of Morning service, or of Evening Service (if there be no Morning Service in such Church or Chapel upon any of these Sundays) immediately after the second Lesson…
Provided always and be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Parson,Minister,Vicar or Curate solemnizing Marriages after the twenty-fifth day of March One Thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, between Persons,both or one of whom, shall be under the Age of twenty-one Years,after Banns published, shall be punishable by ecclesiastical Censures for solemnizing such marriages without Consent of Parents of Guardians, whose consent is required by Law…
The only way round these strictures was to travel out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales to marry. There are some reports of boats ready and able to take such desperate parties from the port of Southampton to Guernsey in the Channel Islands, which was outside the jurisdiction of the English courts and where theoretically they could legally marry ,but most desperate couples headed north to Scotland to try to evade parental control.
Gretna Green in Dumfries-shire, was, as you can see from this map of Cumberland, below, taken from my copy of John Cary’s book, Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc. (1812) the first stopping point on the main West Road as it crossed the border into Scotland, trailing off from the Great North Road which had in its turn travelled though Lancester,Penrith and Carlisle. It was described in the Traveller’s Companion as follows:
A village near the mouth of the river Esk.It has been much celebrated since the marriage-act as the resort of young people who chose to be married without the consent of their parents of guardians. The ceremony is now performed by a blacksmith.
Inn: Gretna Hall.
Here is a photograph of Gretna Hall in the early 20th century, by which time it had become a respectable hotel, but in the 18th century it was a posting inn,and many marriages are thought to have taken place on its premises.
Here is a close up of the section of the map showing the position of Gretna, and the blue arrow also points to its location:
The reason why Scotland had different marriage laws from England and Wales was that the Scottish Court of Sessions (the highest legal authority then in Scotland) refused to agree to overthrow the ancient Scottish marriage laws which permitted contract and private marriages. The result of not bringing Scottish law into line with English law was that the remedy for couples desperate to marry without parental consent was to travel to Scotland, nip over the border and marry there. The tiny village of Gretna then became famous, from the mid 18th century and for about 100 years, as a marriage mecca, catering to both the seriously intent and the casual visitor. However, it would be more accurate to say that the border area of Scotland became a mecca for clandestine marriages as many places other than Gretna were associated with clandestine marriages: the villages of Coldstream and Lamberton over the river Tweed and over the Eastern border with Scotland were places where such marriages took place, as were those of Annan and Lockerbie, both beyond Gretna in the direction of the town of Dumfries. But colloquially,the term Gretna, or Scotland when referring to marriages, became the all-encompassing name for the nearest place to England where clandestine marriages could be legally performed.
The loophole in the law that allowed clandestine marriages to be performed legally under Scottish Law was only closed in 1856, when a bill introduced into parliament by Lord Brougham was passed and made into law: the new act prevented marriage in Gretna from being legal unless the marriage had been preceded by three weeks residence in Scotland(enough time for desperate parents and guardians to find their run-away charges ). The main reason for the passing of this bill was the growth of the railway system which threatened to turn the trickle of clandestine marriages north of the border into a flood.
Today Gretna is a tourist town, its fortunes still built on the romantic vision of being married in Gretna, traditionally by a blacksmith,the service performed over his anvil, as shown in this cartoon of the 1820s.
Why blacksmiths? In Gretna Green Romances by Warren Henry (1926) the lie is given to that myth:
The shop at Headlesscross (near Gretna-jfw) was certainly and authentically the smithy of the village, and the ancient calling is still pursued there…A tenable conclusion is tha the mid 18th century occupants of the smithy were perforce involved in the arrival and return of the eloping parties and that an honest blacksmith in cases of haste and emergency would minister to man and maid as well as to the horse of the outfit. There was always money in it, time was often everything and breakdowns( of carriages-jfw) were of frequent occurrence and the knowledge and skill required to marry two unparticular fugitives were of the most elementary kind. There seems to remains no logical reason then why a blacksmith at Headlesscross should not have entered from time to time into this simple business. It is only necessary to re affirm that of all the known practitioners of the marriage “service” not one was a blacksmith by calling or repute. But it makes no matter. Teh forging of bonds and fetters was the essence of the whole undertaking and a contorted allusion to Vulcan and to the domestic hearth may well have helped to create the “blacksmith” tradition thus breeding out of a germ of truth a whole tissue of romantic nonsense…
If you go today you will still see, however, the famous blacksmith’s smithy ready and willing to be the host to many now very legal and correct marriages.
A place which does not appear to have changed much externally from the early 20th century,and possibly the early 19th century too if the evidence of this photograph taken by my grandparents is anything by which to judge ( they were “married” at Gretna over the anvil as a bit of fun in the 1920s):
Inside are reconstructions of the early 19th century marriage ceremony,
A smithy where marriages take place today…
The “original ” anvil safely on show in a glass case
Certificate of marriages under Scottish Law, this one dating from 1810:
An exhibition of period coaches, repaired by blacksmiths or not……
And a series of prints, A Trip to Gretna Green, dating from the 1820s telling an idealized version of the tale:
The Marriage and finally….
You can still marry at Gretna, and be surrounded by Scottish produce in the shops that surround the Smithy- fill of whisky, shortbread and tartans ….and can be serenaded by a piper as we were here:
And on that appropriately Scottish note, I shall take this opportunity of wishing you all, my Readers, a very healthy happy and prosperous New Year and I invite you to join me next year in 2011 to celebrate amongst other Austenian things the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility. Not my favourite of The Six, but I hope to entertain you with some posts on that subject nevertheless.
A Very Happy New Year to You All.
Its Christmas Eve, the carols are being sung and the mince pies are baked…the house is full and so its time to say Goodbye for a while and to Wish You All a Merry Christmas.
There will be no more new AustenOnly posts till New Year’s Eve, but to entertain you during the Christmas Break I will be posting some images each day from my 1906 edition of Christmas At Bracebridge Hall
This was the story that helped keep Georgian and older Christmas traditions alive in England, and which was written by the American author, Washington Irving. Go here to read an old post of mine about him and his links to England (and Maria Edgeworth ,obliquely!) The images are by C.E.Brock, whom many of you will know for his illustrations of Jane Austen’s works.
Today I give you his illustration of the Squire of Bracebridge Hall, toasting the company with his Christmas Toast:
“With A Hearty Wish of Merry Christmas to All Present”
This is the final part of my series of posts on a Christmas visit to Jane Austen’s House, her beloved Chawton Home. We have already seen inside, downstairs and upstairs and so now let have a look at the garden in winter and the outbuildings.
This is the view of the rear of the house. You can clearly see its basic “L’ shape , plus all the other additions made to the structure over the years.
The building that could be clearly seen from Jane Austen and Cassandra’s bedroom was the Bakehouse, a very important part of the Chawton Cottage domain.
Just outside the bake house was the well….which was needed to provide copious amounts of water
for the laundry,which was done in the Bakehouse too. This is the ‘copper’ :the bricks house a copper container. A fire would be lit underneath and the cottons boiled in the upper compartment, now covered with a wooden lid. I remember my grandmother -who had a similar room in her domestic offices- having her laundry done in this way by a team of people .As a tiny child I was allowed to watch the complex operation of boiling, mangling and starching. Seems a million years ago now…..
The baking for the Austen household took place here too…..
And the proximity of the well and the copper made the Bakehouse the perfectly practical place for boiling water for scalding the skins of slaughtered pigs. 18th century self sufficiency sounds delightful but having salted a pig once I can confirm it’s not something I’d like to do on a regular basis. Nor indeed is the time tyranny of always producing bread for a household something I’d like to revert to(I tried that once by hand for a few weeks and gave up:then I bought a bread maker!)
The other occupant of the Bakehouse is Mrs Austen’s donkey carriage which I have written about here in a previous post. Its interesting to note that Jane Austen in her final illness didn’t relish driving the cart, which would accommodate two not very large people. She had a saddle made for the donkey and prefered to use this as a sort of Georgian mobility scooter, and this enabled her to still walk with Cassandra around the lanes she loved so well, being a confessed “desperate walker”.
To the rear of the Bakehouse are new additions to the museum complex. New rooms where lectures and receptions can be held. The museum has been in need of these facilities for years and I am so glad that they now have a splendid space in which to raise funds and educate.
If we go under the great yew tree at the side of the house we then arrive at the garden proper…..
…past the entrance to the house and the Gothic window…..
To look out onto the garden, covered in snow… looking towards the lane that leads to Chawton House.
And the lovely Regency- style tree seat…a pleasant spot in summer but chilly now….
If we turn back toward the house, this time we shall enter by the door on the left……
…into the newly refurbished kitchen……
With its restored range
…where the Austen’s meals would have been prepared…..
And where the laundry would have been ironed…..
And the griddle where scores would have been made
Some early 19th century pearlware in the “Two Trees” pattern..waiting for some Twinings tea……
This is the view from the kitchen towards the Bakehouse and the old barn which is now the entrance to the museum and a wonderfully stocked shop,where certain purchases were made for next year’s AO Great Anniversary Giveaway (D.V.)
The kitchen was restored with the help and excellent advice of Peter Brears,whose new book about jellies I reviewed here last week. And there are some wonderful early 19th century jelly moulds on show in the kitchen on a small sideboard…
Including a lovely pineapple…….
Martha Lloyd’s recipe book is of course one of the treasures of the museum. Her recipes must have been prepared in this room. It’s all rather wonderful to think that her recipes and the room are now all in working order and available for us to see, food being such an important part of Jane Austen’s novels and letters.
If we leave the cosy kitchen and the garden we look out onto the road that now leads to the Selbourne road, with the Greyfriars pub on the right….
And we come to the front of the house ,where the Austen’s blocked up one of the windows in order to give them more privacy. And where there are now two plaques: one commemorating Mr Carpenter who gave the house to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.
And this rather beautiful tablet with its apt wording:
lived here from 1809-1817
and hence all her works
Were sent to the world
Her admirers in this country
and in America have united
to erect this tablet.
Such art as hers
Can never grow old
And that ends my Christmas jaunt around Jane Austen’s House Museum for this time. I thought you might like to see it in its winter and Christmas finery,a change from the summer pictures we see all the time. I am planning to go back next year,so there will be some more conventional images for you to see then ;)
Some events at the Foundling Museum have just been announced, and as they are being held in conjunction with the famed Threads of Feeling exhibition, I thought you might like to know about them.
First, a talk on the subject of Bonds of Love and Affection at the London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth-century by Dr Alysa Levene:
In conjunction with Threads of Feeling, Dr Alysa Levene explores the emotional experiences of the children left at the Foundling Hospital. Over 18,000 babies and young children were left at the Foundling Hospital between its opening in 1741 and the end of the eighteenth century. We know almost nothing about the emotional experiences of any of them .
However, we can tease out something of the emotional bonds that existed between these children and their parents by examining the letters and tokens left with them. Very few of these children were ever taken back by their families, but this was not the end of their experiences of family life. Most were sent to be wet nursed in foster homes in the countryside, and here too, we can see some evidence of their experiences via the letters written by the inspectors of nurses back to the hospital. Not all of these experiences were happy, but this talk will illustrate how much the Foundling Hospital records can tell us about mothering, nurture and the model of childhood in the eighteenth century.
Dr Alysa Levene is a Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and author of Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: ‘left to the mercy of the world’ (Manchester University Press, 2007). She was also the general editor Narratives of the Poor in Eighteenth-Century England (Pickering and Chatto, 2006).
This talk will be held on Tuesday 25 January, 7pm- 8.30pm (doors 6.30pm, includes pay bar) Tickets will cost £12, concessions: £10.
On the 16th February renowned costume designer and historian Jenny Tiramani will give a talk on how Georgian women dressed. Here are the detials:
Here are some details of Jenny Tiramani’s work to entice you….
She was the Director of Theatre Design at Shakespeare’s Globe, London until 2005. She received the 2003 Olivier Award for her costume designs of TWELFTH NIGHT with that company. From 1979 – 1997 she was Associate Designer at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Jenny Tiramani has worked with director Mark Rylance and composer Claire van Kampen since 1991 – starting with their Phœbus’ Cart company production of THE TEMPEST at the Rollright Stone Circle, Corfe Castle and on the foundations of Shakespeare’s Globe. During Mark Rylance’s period as Artistic Director at the Globe, Jenny Tiramani worked with him researching into the original practices of Shakespeare’s actors, their clothing, properties and the possible decoration of the theatre itself.
Jenny Tiramani is currently completing an academic book on Elizabethan costume and is visiting professor at the University of Nottingham.
It sounds a tremendous evening…..I’m considering going, very seriosuly…but will the never-ending snow permit? Here is the link to the Foundling Museum should you want to contact them to buy tickets.
This review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph magazine and was copiously and beautifully illustrated. Sadly, during its transition to the web version of the newspaper the article has been denuded of many of its wonderful illustrations of the tokens, but I link it here for you to read in any case.
BBC World News has produced a beautiful and moving film of the exhibit, which I wrote about here . The film included footage of the remains of teh hospital in Brunswick Square and details the history of the Foundling Hospital.
Interviews with Professor John Styles and Lars Tharpp are inlcuded and there is the very moving and sad story of a recent inmate.
Go here to acess it ( hopefully all over the world).And above are some photographs of the exhibition that I’ve not published here before.
Last week on the anniversary of Jane Austen’s Birthday we toured the ground floor of her Chawton home, now the Jane Austen House Museum. Shall we now mount these small stairs to visit the upstairs rooms? It’s allowed…Yes, let’s…
On the way up we pass this window looking out onto the Bakehouse and the garden to the rear of the house.
The central corridor leads you towards three rooms on the left and two rooms on the right. Let’s go first left…..
and into a room full (full!) of Austen family relics.
This fine portrait of John Austen hangs in pride of place over the fireplace. He was Jane Austen’s great- great- grandfather,and was remembered in the family for his miserly treatment of his windowed daughter…shades of Sense and Sensibility.
There are so many treasures in this room, I’ve decided to show you only a few…….this post will be long enough as it is and you are all busy people….
One of the most touching treasures is a small lock of the Reverend George Austen’s hair, taken after his death in Bath in 1805, and kept in a small parcel of paper labelled by Jane Austen as “My father’s hair”…
A book of Jane’s eldest brother, James’ poetry, in his own hand
Jane’s ivory cup and ball, at which she was very skilled, and some ivory spillikins,again a dexterous game at which she excelled….
Some baby’s caps……familiar items to the lady below…..
Susannah Sackree, “Caky”, the nursemaid to Edward Austen Knight’s children at Godmersham…..
…and a copy of her prayerbook….bound in red leather…
Silhouettes of General and Lady Jane Matthews, the parents of Anne Matthews who was James Austen’s first wife and mother to Anna Austen.
The wonderful receipt book of Martha Lloyd, completed in many different hands…..
Jane Austen’s copy of Mentoria,which she remembered when writing Mansfield Park.
Into the room opposite, facing the garden and not the road…..
With a short exhibit explaining all the different houses where Jane Austen lived in Hampshire and Bath
And glass cases holding more treasure….The needlecase which Jane Austen made for her niece, Louisa
Eliza de Feuillide’s rouge pot, a deliciously tiny porcelain pot decorated in gilt on a dark blue ground
A soft cream silk shawl,an expensive gift to Jane from Mrs Catherine Knight, Edward Austen’s adoptive mother ….
Then to another room across the corridor, overlooking the road, dedicated to the naval brothers….
With Frank Austen’s collapsible cabin bed…..
All neat , ship-shape and Bristol Fashion…..
As he was thought to be the insportaion for Captain Harville in Persuasion, some of his handiwork is on show…..
including a carved writing case thought to have been made by him…
All overlooked by his Admiral, Horatio Nelson, shown here in a commemorative plate dating from 1805.
Then into a tiny adjoining room that is kept in darkness for its contents are very precious. As you walk in a light is automatically switched on and you see the quilt Jane Austen made with her mother and Cassandra
Have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? We are now at a stand-still.
The window at the end of the corridor looks out onto the garden….
and to the road leading to Edward’s home,Chawton House…..
and the Winchester road…….the finger post marking the way….
But if we retrace our steps back along the corridor, we reach a special bedroom….
Jane’s Room, the room she shared with Cassandra from 1809 till she moved to Winchester in July 1817.
Here is a replica of one of the two beds that Mr Austen ordered for Cassandra and Jane in 1794 while they were still living at Steventon, and which has recently been installed at the museum.
The room faces the garden and looks down onto the bakehouse….which you can see with its open door below.
The closet contains a wash bowl and ewer
And the small fireplace has been decked out for the Christmas season….
A whited spotted muslin dress is on show here
A woman can never be too fine while she is in all white
Here is a short video of the room, which give you some idea of its dimensions, I think.
I do hope you enjoyed this second part of the tour. Next, the Gardens and Outbuildings.
This series has been throughly thought-provoking, and the final installment was no exception.
It realigned the balance of the series towards the other side of the seductive Georgian coin, and threw more light on the lives of the poor, the dispossessed and servants in this era.
It is all too easy to imagine that most Georgians lived in fine Palladian homes or wonderfully proportioned town houses or rectories,as we have seen in previous episodes, when, in fact, the urban poor lived hugger-mugger in the garrets and cellars of these houses, some fine, some distinctly not, and the rural poor lived in hovels, almshouses or, if they were desperately unlucky, in the dreaded workhouse with its dehumanizing system of operation. This programme was a discussion of mainly two parts: what were the property-owning Georgian ideas of privacy, what rights did these privileged property owners have, and to what lengths would they legally go to defend their homes? Second, what sort of privacy was allowed to the poorer members of society? How did they protect their property, such as they had? It demonstrated how the elegant architecture of the era reflected this strongly hierarchical society and its richer member’s new desire for privacy. And how servants and the poor had few resources open to them to maintain their dignity and property rights.
The lack of an effective police force and dependency on the watchman meant that many urban(and rural) homeowners defended their homes every Englishman’s Home was his Castle- to the nth degree. They used every legally defensive measure available to them,shutters and iron bars to secure their homes…
and the now thankfully outlawed mantraps, as used in the grounds of surburan villas in Kensington…
now in the collection of the Museum of London where they will do no more vicious harm.
And despite this being the Age of the Enlightenment and the rational age of reason, many homeowners were still afraid of the supernatural and the unknown enough to use charms and votive objects for added layers of protection( we think immediately of Mrs Norris and her use of” charms” in Mansfield Park!).In this Surrey household slippers and shoes were used as a supernatural lightening conductor to ward off evil…
The programme made a wonderful visit to one of my favourite “museums” (I search in vain for the right word to describe this place..an instalment…an experience?) Denis Severs House in Spitalfields,London.
A filmmaker’s dream,every still looked like a Chardin still life….
Even the dripping washing hanging in the Hogarthian garret was picturesque….
I shall restrict myself to only to three images…..but the point was made that the hierarchical Georgian society was reflected in these elegant buildings -the most remote and poorest accommodations available to only the poor and to servants….
The trusty iPad was again in use, here showing the degradation of life in garrets,where a whole family would eat, live and sleep all using the same communal “Jordan” or chamber pot. Squalid indeed.
A visit to Erddig House in Wales famous for its benign treatment of servants, was used to demonstrate the differences between servant accommodation and accommodation for their employers.The use of corridors,bells, separate servants wings , innovations of the 18th century, all combined to make servants lives more remote from their masters and increased their employer’s privacy…
(did you spot the spectacular sugar loaf in the kitchen at Erddig?)
Servant’s lives were prescribed not only by the architecture within which they lived, but by the rules imposed by their employers….
The ideal employer respected his servants privacy to certain degrees-they were still expected to obey the rules of the household within their own shared accommodation, but affairs with servants were seen as immoral and disquieting. The story of Benjamin Smith a Lincolnshire lawyer and his affair with his maid was pitiful in every respect.
We were shown a wonderful French secretaire dating from the 1770s which encapsulated the Georgian society of the time:beautiful but hiding its many secrets in hidden drawers- “for dirty diamonds and love letters”- all kept away from the prying eyes of servants ,whose ability to gather knowledge of their employers doings was feared, especially in Crim. Com and Divorce proceedings…shades of Mrs Rushworth senior’s maid,who had exposure in her power…..
The pocket collection of the Victoria and Albert museum was accessed, the theft of a pocket begin analogous to rape ,so intimate was this pice of clothing used to hold a woman’s most necessary and private articles…
The gilt was most definitely stripped from the gingerbread of Georgian elite women whose privacy was not respected by their husbands, the jealous husband of Ann Dormer of Rousham in Oxfordshire (famous for its magical landscape gardens designed by William Kent) made her life one of unbearable misery and torture. She was under surveillance every minute of her life…..
…her lack of privacy was a constant mental torment to her, her sad state likened to living under a not-at-all benign dictatorship.
We were taken to Professor Vickery’s home , to see in Virginia Woolf’s words, her ‘room of her own‘ -her study- which she felt was essential for her to complete her work. And she sympathised with women such as Ann Dormer who never attained the peace and contentment their own small private space would have afforded.
The late 17th century concept of the closet, a small personal, private space where ones religious devotions coud be attended to in peace was taken up by the Georgians and expanded…
…into a small room where socializing could take place,where tea, gossip, chocolate and pornography could be dispensed,and where affairs could be conducted.
The hallucinogenic bargello work on the walls of the closet of Chastleton House in Gloucestershire was used to illustrate one of these tiny, intimate spaces ,where privacy could be assured. The point was made that it was usually the male head of a household who had the prerogative to withdraw from family life, surely resonant of Mr Bennet (and possibly Darcy when Mrs Bennet came to call at Pemberley)
For the poor or for servants, their only privacy was most likely to be found not in a room of their own but in a lockable wooden box where their precious effects coud be safe from prying eyes of employer and /or fellow servants for it was unlikely that many servants had a “room of their own”.
Hogarth’s series of prints,The Harlot’s Progress, a series with which Jane Austen was familiar was used to illustrate how Moll, the fresh-faced girl up from the country with her box, marked with her initials
eventually came to grief after a career as a prostitute, having her box ransacked by her own maid, while she was dying from some sexually transmitted disease. A metaphor for how low she had sunk in life and death.
The concept of owning property was for the Georgians the key to so many things:respectability, the right to vote, to be a magistrate….but for the less well off in that society what happened when your rights of property had gone, and you no longer had the comfort and respect that derived from owning your own front door? If you were lucky you were cared for in a communal charity like the many almshouses that were set up around the country. Below we can see the almshouses that were a charitable institution established by the Ironmonger’s Company, and form what is now the Geffreye Museum.
And while the living was communal with all its attendant rules and regulations, married couples could still exist in their own Gerogian version of a bedsit, living with dignity, despite having no property to call their own.They were the lucky ones.
The destitute had to fall back on very cold charity: parish relief and the workhouse. The workhouse at Southwell in Nottinghamshire which I have always found to be an almost unbearable place of sorrow, was examined.
Here families were brutally separated and forced to live in a communal way,something that Georgian society found so very distasteful.Husbands were permanently separated from wives and children separated from their parents. The school room of the workhouse,below,with its moralising verses to be learnt by rote…
..had frosted glass in the window panes to prevent the children catching an unauthorised glimpse of their parents,should they be fellow inmates.
This would eventually have been the fate awaiting Miss and Mrs Bates in Emma. Mr Knightley was actuely aware that they were doomed to fall even futher from the genteel life they once knew in the Highbury vicarage, (a life which terminated socially and financially on the death of the Reverend Mr Bates)should their Highbury friends not support them financially. Just as Jane Austen knew of such desperate tales. Poor Miss Benn who lived in abject poverty in poor, rented accommodation Chawton was befriended by her during the years she lived in her Chawton home, a cosy, private, comfortable cottage by comparison, in the company of her mother sister and best friend. No wonder she counted herself lucky to live there on her brother Edward’s graceful charity. And no wonder when the threat of losing that home loomed in her final years, the resulting stress was most likely to have contributed to the cause of her untimely death.
But we ended on a high note……from the unhappy desperate diaries of Gertrude Saville in Episode One,
the unloved unwanted spinster sister living in sufferance in her brother home on his charity…to the end of her tale, when she suddenly and unexpectedly became mistress of all she surveyed and had not only a room but a home of her own…
This episode ,indeed the whole series, explains and amplifies concepts that were dear to Jane Austen, notably the search for one’s home, a place of one’s own. She saw the lot of women in her era with regard to this very clearly: the powerlessness or not of women in the search for a home of their own is central to many of her stories. For example, Fanny Price’s conflicting emotions between her Portsmouth her Mansfield homes; Jane Fairfax’s terror and bravery when faced with surrendering forever her status as a gentlewoman to become a governess, a servant living on sufferance in someone’s home ;and the deserving Miss Taylor who on marriage finally achieved accesss (and a key) to her own front door. Food for thought.
Professor Vickery has been a knowledgeable, amusing, sensitive and delightful companion though this journey into the Long 18th Century, discussing concepts of home,property and taste, all concepts with which we are now familiar but then were distinctly novel for the newly emerging middling classes.
I have throughly enjoyed watching each instalment of this series and am saddened that there were only three. I do hope it becomes available on DVD soon ,and I do hope that you, my readers from outside the UK will get a chance to view it in way or another ,as soon as possible.
…was sold at Sotheby’s yesterday in the same sale that witnessed Maria Edgeworth’s incomplete copy of Emma sell for £79, 250.
This surely was the better bargain of the two lots, not only taking into account its sale price £37,250 and completeness. but also because of its wonderful association with the Austen ladies great friend Martha,who lived with them in Southampton and Chawton. She was Jane Austen’s life long friend, was the sister to Jame’s Austen’s second wife and eventually became Francis Austen’s second wife.
I know which set I would rather have in my Christmas Stocking( but I think the likelihood of any First Editions of Emma appearing in this year’s stocking to be rather remote).
Here is the link to Sotheby’s website for all the details.
Good news for fans of the Foundling Hospital tokens in the US. The wonderful Threads of Feeling exhibition catalogue written by the curator of the exhibit, John Styles, is now available to purchase in the US direct from Burnley and Trowbridge, making considerable savings on mail order costs. . Go here to order it: you won’t regret it ;0
…sold yesterday at Sotheby’s in London for £79,250. This was towards the lower end of the estimate,which was originally £70,00-100,000. We talked about this sale previously here.
Even so, it was a pretty amazing price for something that was clearly not beloved or valued by its owner…..and for something that was not complete, Volume Two was missing from the set. It was sold by Professor Marylin Butler and her husband.
Go here to read the full story of the Lot on Sotheby’s website.
Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at Chawton, staying in the village that was so important to Jane Austen and her development as a writer, so I thought I’d write about it today, to celebrate the anniversary of the snowy day when she was born in 1775.
And of course I couldn’t visit Chawton without paying yet another visit ( can we ever get enough of this place?) to Jane Austen’s happy Chawton Home, the cottage that from 1809 gave her security and peace and stability. And enabled her to have a productive freedom for eight years. During this period she revised Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, totally created Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, and wrote her last piece of fiction, Sandition which was left unfinished at her untimely death in July 1817.
The Cottage was owned by her brother Edward Knight, who owned the Chawton estate. The house was built in the late 17th century, is “L”-shaped, modest in size, and had six bedrooms as well as attics for the staff and storage. It was originally an inn. Edward Knight spent £45 19 shilling on structural alterations to the cottage, and another £35, 6 shillings and 5 pence on plumbing works.
Here is a section from Edward Mogg’s map of the village of Chawton dating from 1814, which shows the position of Jane Austen’s House on the junction of the roads
and here it is with the position of the house marked in blue. (Do note you can enlarge the maps by clicking on them in order to see the detail)
The position of the house on the junction of the roads leading to Winchester, Gosport, and Southampton made it a busy place in the early 19th century, with carriage traffic passing to and from Alton which was the nearest post town…So much so that the Austen ladies (Jane, Cassandra and their mother),and Martha Lloyd who lived with them, decided to fill in one of the drawing room windows that looked out onto the road and added the delightful Gothic window, that you can see above and below.
Shall we go in? Yes, lets…….
The first real room you enter is the drawing-room, one of the two “parlours” that the Austen ladies had. The new Gothic window gave them a view over the garden, which was set to the side of the house, and the Winchester Road which bordered the garden was screened by a high wooden fence to give them more privacy from prying eyes in coaches travelling to Winchester and beyond.
One of my favourite things about visiting the house is that the staff always have appropriate flower arrangements in the house: in spring and summer they have simple small posies of flowers from the garden on show but at this time of the year they always decorate the house as the Austen ladies may have done for Christmas, in common with many other Georgian families. As you can see the drawing-room fireplace is decked with boughs of evergreens, ivy and yew , and some oranges studded with cloves have been added( though the Austen ladies may have preferred not to use oranges this way but to make their store of expensive oranges into wine…)
There is a tremendous atmosphere in the house. It is a mixture of peace and happiness. I love being there and this time I had it all to myself save for the staff on duty. Who are always friendly and knowledgable, but realise you might want just to be quiet and walk around drinking in the atmosphere. They are always very sensitive.
The house is decorated in a way to suggest life as it was lived there from 1809 onwards…..
With small pictures of family places added in a sightly rickety manner on the walls…..
And pieces of costuming often to be found, suggest that someone similarly dressed might have once stood in the room: this is a replica of a morning dress dating from 1810.
The Bookcase contains editions of Jane Austen’s works……I wonder what she would have thought, seeing them on show….
And there is a square piano. Not the one Jane Austen owned, but one similar to it….. From the Drawing Room you pass into the Hallway, with a glimpse of the dining room ahead……
Edward Austen Knight’s Grand Tour Portrait lived in the house for many years but has now been returned to his Great House at Chawton(which is now the Chawton House Library.)During it’s restoration it was found to be much larger than originally thought as the edge had been folded to fit a frame.
Here we can see the restored Edward Knight in his new home, with Steve Lawrence, CEO of Chawton House Library, Sandy Lerner, Chairman of the Trustees, and Richard Knight, Trustee (Photograph by kind permission of Chawton House Library)
A print of the now restored portrait hangs in the passage and it does look much brighter than is used to, and the beautiful detail of the background is clearly revealed, as you can see .
There are always treats to be seen in the display cases in this part of the house…this visit it was one of Jane Austen’s own manuscript music books….Her music notation is a thing of clarity and beauty….and of necessity.
But there is also a portrait of Edward Knight was a child hanging over the fireplace…….no wonder the childless Mr and Mrs Knight were taken with him…..
The Silhouette showing him being presented to them is also on show in this small space…..
Then you go into the cosy dining room……
and where Jane used to write, and revise and write…..her glorious works of art…
….on this humble and very small table……
An object I always find to be a very touching and resonant relict…if only it could talk…..what tales it could tell…
I made a short video of the room…do click on it below…you can hear the upstairs floorboards creak, as one of the attendants had kindly left me on my own to soak up the atmosphere in this room…and then the downstairs boards creaked as I walked about…the silence, however, in this house is not unfriendly. And I think I can understand how Jane Austen loved this place so much, a place which afforded her peace and a regularity of life so that she could write….
The dining table is now denuded of the Wedgwood China that Jane helped Edward Austen choose at Wedgwood’ s showrooms in London…for the set was to be sold today, but failed to reach its auction estimate…I hope some of it makes it back to the house……
The educational elements are sympathetically done: you can see in the pictures the very discreet information boards which are attached to the walls in the rooms……And there is always something new and entertaining to see. This visit there was an exhibition of Rex Whistler’s costume designs for the 1936 stage production of Pride and Prejudice written by Helen Jerome and starring Celia Johnson as Elizabeth Bennet
This is one of the designs for Lady Catherine (above)
And here is another of the designs made up and on display……
The room that used to be a very tiny but wonderfully stocked shop is now a lovely quiet area where you can sit and think….
and read lots of material about Jane Austen. ……and from this room leads to the staircase to the upstairs bedrooms…
…which we shall discover in part 2, in a few days time .
In the meantime, Happy Jane’s birthday to you, from an appropriately snowy Jane Austen’s House Museum.
Amanda Vickery very kindly agreed to let me interview her about her BBC TV series At Home with the Georgians,which is enjoying such great success on BBC2 presently. I thought you might like to read her fascinating replies to my mundane questions before the last episode of the series airs on BBC2 on Thursday evening…so here it is.
The series is based on your book, “Behind Closed Doors” which I loved. Obviously you could not include all your real life characters in the 3 hour series so, when you were writing the series, what were your criteria for including a person’s story from the book?
The first challenge was to boil Behind Closed Doors (at a doorstopper 140,000 words) down to three one hour programmes. We carved it up into three big themes: Making Homes, Filling Homes & Protecting Homes. My key aim was to give each programme a strong over-arching theme. I had lots of meetings with Liz Hartford the series producer and Ross Wilson the executive producer from Matchlight films chewing over what would be the clearest thought-line – legible enough for non experts to enjoy without head scratching, but not so simplified as to do violence to the subtleties of history. However much I loved my characters if they didn’t serve the argument they didn’t make the cut. I especially regretted the loss of the rebellious Duchess of Grafton who strove to retain her standing in London as a separated wife. Alas. Another issue which governed our choices was whether there was enough visual material to support a TV case study. It is highly unusual for house, manuscripts and portraits to survive for individuals below the level of the greater gentry. Neil Crombie, the director of programme one ‘A Man’s Place’, was dismayed at first by the lack of beautiful well-preserved interiors in which to film. (John Courtney’s Beverly town house is no more; Wivenhoe is now a conference centre; Gertrude Savile’s Rufford Hall is a ruin etc etc.) But Neil and the wonderful researcher Eleanor Scoones were ingenious at finding ways around the absence.
They searched out the paintings hidden away in private collections of a mature Gibbs and Ryder – which I had never seen and encountered for the first time on camera. We went back to the manuscripts, the archives and I swanned about the surviving Georgian streets of Beverley and Exeter, Spitalfields and the Inns of Court. The dramatic reconstructions gave us visual diversity and a bit of relief from me talking to camera!
What was your favourite of all the stories you featured in the series and why?
For excruciating humour it has to be Dudley Ryder. We had over an hour of film of me pouring over the diary and responding to his ambivalences. I think barely 3 minutes were left in. As a feminist as well as a historian, and as a lover of realist novels, I have always felt it was important to understand the full humanity of men as well as women. Very few of the gents I have researched were the cardboard patriarchs of older theories. In fact, as bachelors they seem so self-conscious, gauche and half-baked it’s a wonder they ever headed up households.
Ryder went on to become solicitor general, but you would never have foreseen this from reading the diary he wrote in code aged 24. But I adore John Courtney too. In my mind’s eye he was something of a Mr Collins – deaf to female signals, desperate to be debonair and facing eight rejections with undiminished astonishment: “I was thunderstruck”.
What audience were you trying to reach with this series? Were you trying to reach people who are history nuts and have read your book or a completely new audience- for example, people who are fans of adaptations of Austen/Bronte/Gaskell novels not necessarily readers of the novel or indeed of serious history books?
I was asked to do the series by Janice Hadlow head of BBC2, who is writing her own 18th century history and who liked Behind Closed Doors as well as my first book The Gentleman’s Daughter. She enjoys characters, stories, details and arguments and thought viewers might too. The head of history at the BBC Martin Davidson hoped that I could make a series which would unlock a new audience for history programmes. All the surveys reveal that the current audience for history is predominantly male and middle-aged. Why should this be when women are the key audience for costume drama? Somehow a bifurcation of history has emerged on TV: putting it crudely, bonnets for the women and bombers for the men. I would love to reach an audience that wants to see a different sort of history (neither war nor Kings and Queens). I’m interested in producing documentaries which reflect what the history profession itself actually researches and teaches now. In BBC TV land, there is a vogue for “authoritative history” – i.e. history programmes written and presented by experts, rather than fronted by celebrities drafted in to go on a historical ‘journey’ of discovery or read a script written by the producer derived from textbooks. I was delighted to catch this wave.
Producers at radio 4 and BBC4 assume that the audience is keen on history. At BBC2 you can’t take that for granted. You simply cannot make programmes aimed just at 20,000 experts who have done all the background reading. The goal is entertainment and to draw a wide and varied audience into another world with colour and character, wit and pathos – all undergirded with a single driving argument. The BBC are thrilled with the result, as their investment in trailers testifies. What the audience makes of it is another matter of course. We have our fingers crossed that history refusniks as well as history buffs will switch on to discover that there’s more to history than tanks and tiaras. I am committed to a holistic history that embraces everywoman as well as everyman. I still sympathize with Catherine Morland. “Real solemn history I cannot be interested in… 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.”
How pleased were you with the end result?
I am delighted with three programmes – each reflects a collaboration with a different director, each with their own style and tone – ‘A Man’s Place’ with the theatrical and brilliant Neil Crombie (who shared my sense of humour), ‘A Woman’s Touch’ with the searching documentary maker Iain Scollay (who tried to catch me at my most honest and unguarded) and ‘Safe as Houses?’ with the stylish Phil Cairney (whose direction combined the formality of Neil’s and the observation of Iain’s). I also learnt a lot from the director of photography Dirk Nel, who had worked with several different history presenters. He instilled great confidence in me – which is half the battle – while training me to hit my mark. I will never forget him chanting “FIND the light, Amanda, FIND the light” before I set off on one of my rambles down a murky corridor. Almost everything was ad libbed to camera, so I am relieved that I came out with some coherent sentences. The aim of Dirk and all the directors was to capture my personality on camera. My friends say I am recognizably myself so in one key respect they have succeeded.
How much influence did you have in the choice of actors, locations and music?
The locations were driven by my research and availability, the actors were chosen by a casting director, Eleanor Scoones the researcher, Liz Hartford, the series director and Neil Crombie (who directed the reconstructions). All of them had read my book very closely – in the end I trusted to them. In an ideal world I would have directed the dramatic reconstructions myself! But even a control-freak diva has her moments of sanity and insight. The music was largely chosen by the directors, but I made my suggestions and had right of veto. Writing is a solitary process over which you exert total control, whereas TV is a collaboration with an army. You have to respect the talents and advice of your collaborators and accept that you are producing something which reflects them as well as you. Given my intellectual life (teaching apart) is quite hermetic, I loved working with a quick-witted and highly skilled production team. I am a gregarious person and relished the camaraderie. I also loved learning a new trade from them.
You allocated a whole chapter to Jane Austen in “Behind Closed Doors”. Do you consider her to have been an accurate recorder of late 18th early /19th century life? Did you find any of her plots/characters reflected in any of your real diarists’ lives?
I tried not to treat Austen’s work simply as descriptive evidence from which I could cherry pick juicy quotes to back up my arguments. Literary scholars are always accusing historians of simplistic cut and paste. But it is clear that Austen assumed that her readers were sensitive to the implications of taste and interior decoration. She relied on them to take domestic details (like Darcy’s gift of a piano to his sister, or General Tilney’s over-bearing choices of breakfast cups) as reliable signs of character. Even silly little tables had meaning.
Austen also relied on the social, economic and emotional importance her readers would attach to the drama of setting up home. When it comes to history, I hope my readers will make the same leap, and agree that domesticity is a universal subject, not a frivolous topic to be dismissed and patronized.
As for characters on TV, I rather enjoyed inserting Jane Austen herself into the narrative. She appears first as an anonymous spinster, living in what historians call a ‘spinster cluster’ in a small grace and favour cottage hard by the main road. Austen lovers will instantly recognize Chawton, but plenty of editors at the BBC were surprised when we revealed the impoverished sister to be none other than Austen herself. I wanted to show that however mocked by satire, the spinster’s life is no less heroic and productive than that of the smug marrieds.
Do you have another TV or radio project in the pipeline? If yes, can you tell us anything about it?
I am working on another Voices of the Old Bailey series with Elizabeth Burke of Loftus to be broadcast next summer on BBC radio 4, and we have been commissioned to produce a six part history of men and masculinity from the Medieval knight to the modern salary man. I am also working with BBC2 to develop longer span series which still aim to bring the Catherine Morlands of this world to an enjoyment of history. Floreat Clio!
Floreat Clio indeed, and may I add Floreat Amanda because I really do think our understanding of the lives Jane Austen chronicled would be considerably impoverished were it not for her scholarly endeavours. I should like to thank her for her patience and kindness in supplying me with such fabulous replies to my questions,even though at one point our computers stubbornly refused to talk to each other!
The final episode of At Home With The Georgians Airs on BBC2 Thursday 16th December at 9 p.m. I will be watching as usual and posting my review on Friday. Do watch it if you can. If you would like to embark on a reading project based around the programmes, Professor Vickery has kindly produced a short reading list, go here to see it (Do note many of the books will already be familiar to readers of this site!)
I do hope a DVD will soon be available, in the meantime enjoy: the series will remain available to “view again” for another week.
The festive season is nearly upon us, and so I am prompted to write about festive things in the main for the next couple of weeks before the big day itself…and things don’t get much more festive than jellies, those stalwarts of many a children’s party. Even wunderkind chef, Heston Blumenthal used one in his Victorian Feast last year- this is a slightly -ahem-“adult” video, so do be warned……
And as I haven’t written a book review or about food in the past few weeks I thought I would combine the two now in a review of a newly published book, Jellies and their Moulds by the renowned food historian, Peter Brears.
References to jellies in Jane Austen’s works are few. They were obviously served at Fanny’ Price’s Ball at Mansfield Park, for Mrs Norris ‘spunges’ the leftovers the day after the ball, supposedly to feed an ailing housemaid (a likely story):
It was a heavy, melancholy day. Soon after the second breakfast, Edmund bade them good–bye for a week, and mounted his horse for Peterborough, and then all were gone. Nothing remained of last night but remembrances, which she had nobody to share in. She talked to her aunt Bertram— she must talk to somebody of the ball; but her aunt had seen so little of what had passed, and had so little curiosity, that it was heavy work. Lady Bertram was not certain of anybody’s dress or anybody’s place at supper but her own. “She could not recollect what it was that she had heard about one of the Miss Maddoxes, or what it was that Lady Prescott had noticed in Fanny: she was not sure whether Colonel Harrison had been talking of Mr. Crawford or of William when he said he was the finest young man in the room— somebody had whispered something to her; she had forgot to ask Sir Thomas what it could be.” And these were her longest speeches and clearest communications: the rest was only a languid “Yes, yes; very well; did you? did he? I did not see that; I should not know one from the other.” This was very bad. It was only better than Mrs. Norris’s sharp answers would have been; but she being gone home with all the supernumerary jellies to nurse a sick maid, there was peace and good–humour in their little party, though it could not boast much beside.
And recently when I was visiting the Jane Austen House Museum I was pleased to find this collection of early 19th century porcelain jelly moulds in the newly restored kitchen:
We are justified in writing about them, therefore. *The author heaves a sigh of relief*.
Having made 18th century jellies on Ivan Day’s Regency Food Course, I can confirm that in the Long Eighteenth century they were then a far more sophisticated and exciting food, and were used in many different ways, much more exciting than the pedestrian way we use jellies now, and this is a point that becomes immediately clear on reading the introduction to this book:
Jellies are unique in their range of physical properties. Although they are virtually tasteless, they can instantly absorb any chosen flavour drawn from fruits and spices, as well as readily dissolving sugars, wines and spirits throughout their mass. Having no texture of their own, they can take on those of creams ,cereals,fruits purees, ground nuts and many other things or they can be whipped into foams. They can also be used to embed fresh, preserved or candied fruits or still custards and other jellies of contrasting flavour and colour. Being colourless at the outset they immediately take on the widest variety of tones, tinctures and degrees of opacity as imparted by all manner of edible liquids and colourings. They have no shape of their own but take on the shape of any mould or vessel into which they are poured. This list of attributes is already impressive but has yet to include their most important and unique characteristics. The first of these is perfect transparency..the second is dynamic movement, the wobble factor always a delight to the eye. The third …is their capacity to slowly release their flavours and textures into the mouth, prolonging the pleasure and appreciation of ingredients which otherwise would be more rapidly swallowed.
This book, which covers the history of jellies from medieval era to the 20th century is part of Prospect Books’ superb English Kitchen series of books. Go here to see a wonderful 12 Days of Christmas Page of some of the books in the series,which are on offer . These are all reasonably priced, scholarly, interesting and readable books and Peter Brears’ book on jellies, the latest in the series, is no exception.
I had the extreme pleasure of hearing Mr Brears ( seen below in his black cap before an impressive array of jellies that he made in the kitchen at Petworth House) talk on the subject of the Georgian Kitchen and the Domestic Offices in a grand Georgian House at the Costume Society’s symposium on Life in a Georgian Town which was held in Bath in 2005. He is a superb communicator, and has a wonderful grasp of all the intricate detail of his subject. If you ever get the chance to hear him talk, my advice is to go. Just go.
The book is not solely concerned with our era, but the chapter on Georgian Jellies is 34 pages long and gives in great detail a plethora of recipes from the era for such wonderful and now sadly forgotten confections such as playing card jellies, a nest of eggs jelly, moon and stars in jelly and Oranges en Rubans or Jellies a la Bellevue. These are, in fact, small clementines or tangerine skins filled alternately with red wine jelly and white flummery, shown below in an illustration from the book….
…and below you can see, in one of my photographs of them taken by me on the Regency Cookery Course, just how these beautiful jellies are made, layer upon layer producing the striped effect,then once they are completely set, they are cut open to reveal the jolly stripes.
Peter Brears is also a very accomplished artist, and throughout the book has illustrated jellies and moulds in exquisite detail in black and white pen and ink drawings. In the Georgian Jellies chapter he gives detail information on wooden, tin and porcelain jelly moulds which were all in use throughout the era.
Below is his delicious drawing of a selection of jelly moulds made by Josiah Wedgwood (please do click on the illustration to enlarge it and see the amazing detail)
This is a suburb little book, an ideal and inexpensive stocking filler for anyone interested in the foods of the past, and especially for anyone interested in the very different and accomplished jellies of the Gregorian era. It is written in Mr Brears’ usual lucid, knowledgeable and enjoyable style. It is illustrated profusely and with brio. It is a gem. Buy it.
A confession. I do have to say from the outset that I truly adored this week’s episode. The series really came alive for me, Professor Vickery totally at home with some of her most interesting material, which she clearly relishes and she is obviously and authoritatively in complete command of all the intricate detail.
We began at Parham House in Sussex contrasting the Elizabethan, masculine Great Hall
with the 18th century feminised Drawing Room complete with harp. Mary Crawford would no doubt have approved.
The woman whose diaries provided Professor Vickery with much of her inspiration for this programme was Sophia, Lady Shelburne of Bowood House in Wiltshire and chatelaine of the most splendid town house, Shelburne House in Berkeley Square (now the Lansdowne Club)
In Professor Vickery’s words, Sophia was “a swot”, an intelligent, educated woman who became enamoured of the new fashion for neo-classicism
In search of inspiration in order to keep up with this new fashion, her diary entries show she visited the Duke of Northumberland’s home, Syon House originally an Elizabethan building, but one that was completely overhauled by the newly fashionable architect, Robert Adam…
to become a temple to the new taste….
incorporating detials from the evacuations at Pompei and Herculaneum in an impressive and sometimes exquisitely feminine manner.
When it came to designing their own town house/palace, the Shelburne’s commissioned Adam to design their dream home,a place suitably impressive for the politically ambitious Whig, Lord Shelburne,where he could entertain and impress supporters and government members alike.
We had a small trip to the architect, Sir John Soanes House Museum, full of its wonderful neoclassical collections(though it was not flagged up as Sir John’s house and it might have helped viewers unfamiliar with it,had it been…)
The consumerism of the 18th century one of Professor Vickery’s favourite topics-was examined. Matthew Boulton (my hero!)
and his genius for producing desirable goods for both the aristocracy and the middling classes was celebrated and we visited his home at Soho House in Birmingham.
He was shown to be a smooth operator when it came to selling and recognised that tapping into the female psyche guaranteed profits and full order books.
Chippendale and his revolutionary Gentleman’s and Cabinetmakers Directory, the forerunner of catalogue selling was examined….
And his innovative designs for male and female pieces of furniture,thereby guaranteeing double sales, was admired.
The ingenious nature of Georgian metamorphic furniture, as in this cabinet bed at Temple Newsam near Leeds was discussed
And the trusty Ipad was used to great effect when looking at 18th century adverts for
furniture polish (again there is nothing new in this world)
And it was also used to illustrate the dangers that awaited someone overwhelmed by the new taste ,who didn’t know when to stop: incorporating neo-classicism,Gothic, Ionic Orders and Chinoiserie in their suburban villas was a sure way to ridicule.
One of my favourite chapters in Behind Closed Doors dealt with the Georgians use of wallpaper and how accurate a barometer it was for interior design and taste. We visited Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath (the home of Lord Mansfield)
to see the wonderful collection of delicate fragments of 18th century wallpaper
including this scrap in the newly fashionable colour, yellow
and readers of Behind Closed Doors will recognise this fragment….
We saw Diana Spurlings women “doing it for themselves” on the Ipad
and visited Coles Wallpaper Manufactory where hand blocked and flocked papers are still made in the traditional manner, (a place I used to walk past on my way to catch the train to the office when I lived in London and used to peep through their open doors in the summer to see the magical process at work)
The new consumerism changed people’s social habits taking tea, for example, where you could show off your new china and furnishings, became all the rage,a subject Professor Vickery deals with in detail in The Gentleman’s Daughter. Jane Austen knew this feeling well, especially when she was ordering her own and her brother’s Wedgwod china….
Lady Stanley, a sad case whose husband denied her decorating and visiting rights showed the other side of this Georgian coin…..poor lady,played very sensitively in this programme.
Women’s own efforts to decorate their homes was covered,and Professor Vickery visited the marvellous Quilts exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum which I also visited earlier this year and wrote about here
The amazing work of a ten year old, above, was lauded…..
We visited one of my favourite eccentric houses ,the home of the spinster Parminter cousins,A La Ronde and saw its totally feminine design and decoration, a miraculous survivor into the 21st century
And made a moving visit to the billet books of the Foundling hospital, which I’ve written at length about here,where in this case, a woman’s patchwork was her link to her child( and this story and a happy ending for once)
Finally, we revisited Lady Shelburne’s magically feminine Robert Adam designed drawing room which is now installed in the Richard Rogers post modern Lloyds Building in the City of London. A lasting monument to the taste of the Georgians.
There has been some adverse comment on Professors Vickery’s style in the press and on the internet over the past week,especially regarding her raw reaction to seeing a portrait of her hero, Dr George Gibbs . This was, in fact, a very funny part of last week’s programme, for having built him up to be her ultimate “hero” in her mind, when he was revealed to be a rather ordinary looking chap, jowly jawed and all, Professor Vickery was rather loud in her disappointment, failing to notice what the cameraman did, that Dr Gibbs’ descendant, who was showing the portrait , bore an amazing resemblance to his great grandfather how many times removed. *snort* In this week’s programme we get the impression that Professor Vickery became very attached to two of her lady diarists, and in particular to Lady Shelburne. For myself, I love to witness this aspect of Professor Vickery’s presenting technique, for I think it is this honest sympathy for her sources which enables Professor Vickery to fully understand them and to bring them to life for us. She is also not “too cool for school” an attitude I embrace myself and this is I think, a refreshing change from some of our more staid presenters.
Go here to watch episode two on series link at the BBC. Next week is the last in the series. I shall be bereft.