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(©HM Queen/The Royal Collection)

Today is the 30th January and in Jane Austen’s lifetime it was known in the Anglican Church Calendar as the Feast Day of St Charles the Martyr. It referred to the beheading -the regicide- of King Charles the First in 1649.

This is The Calender of Saints and Feats Days from my copy of The Book of Common Prayer dating from 1761 and printed by John Baskerville for Cambridge University.

Jane Austen was a fierce Jacobite, as readers of her History of England know quite well. She was a strong supporter of the Royal House of Stuart, of which Charles I was a leading member. Indeed it was though his support of Charles I ,who was rescued entry into the city of Coventry that Jane Austen’s ancestor, Thomas Leigh of nearby Stoneleigh, shown below, was ennobled in July 1643, becoming thereafter known by the title, Lord Leigh. There can be no doubt, surely, that Jane Austen’s strong Jacobite feelings were influences by her family history.

The beheading of King Charles was seen by many of his supporters as a form of religious martyrdom. The Cult of King Charles the Martyr began not long after his death, with relics of his body being preserved and some of them were later reputed to have performed miracles and to possess healing powers. As Sophie Dicks wrote in the catalogue to an exhibition of relics of King Charles held at the jewellers,Wartski last year, The King’s Blood, and which she curated:

There are varying accounts of the crowds reaction to the execution( of King Charles-jfw) but what is certain is that relics were gathered and in the years following the king’s death his supporters would ascribe healing powers to them. Use of the relics was seen as a substitute for the healing power of the King’s Touch in life. There was certainly a brisk trade in vials and boxes said to contain his blood and hair varying from the magnificent to the humble and memorials were fashioned  from even the most obscure of material including peach stones…Andrew Lacey in his study of the cult of King Charles the Martyr has identifed  the king as ” the only post-Reformation monarch to be credited with healing powers after his death

Here is a memorial ring dating from the 17th century,which commemorates King Charles.

You can see that the reverse of the ring, below,  is enamelled with a skull and the  date of his death as 30th January 1648 due to the operation of teh Julian and not teh Gregorian calendar, ,and also has a quotation from Romans 8:37 “More than conquerors“.

Jane Austen as a devout Anglican would have taken part in the day of religious ceremonies commemorating his death. Before we look at the wording of these services, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves why he was commemorated.

The Monarchy was restored in 1660 when King Charles’ son, Charles II,  resumed the throne after the Interregnum. Charles I was canonised ( he was the last saint to be canonised by the Anglican church) and his name was added to the ecclesiastical calendar  for the anniversary of his death,  so that services could then be held to commemorate his death. The idea was to create a day that could be observed as a day of national mourning for the dead king who was considered by his supporters to have died in defence of his religion.

This situation continued until 1859 when the feast day was removed from the Calender in the Book of Common Prayer. The Society of King Charles the Martyr was formed not long after this took place and the aims of the society are to work for the reinstatement of the feast day in the Book of Common Prayer. As their website declares their main aim is to :

Work for the reinstatement of the Feast of S.Charles in the Kalendar of The Prayer Book from which it was removed in 1859 without the due consent of the Church as expressed in Convocation (The Feast was restored to the Kalendar in the Alternative Service Book of 1980 and a new collect composed for Common Worship in 2000).

Here are the pages from the 1761 Book of Common Prayer showing the forms of Morning  and EveningPrayer to be said in commemoration of Charles I, as they were said during Jane Austen’s life time. Do remember you can enlarge all these pages by simply clicking on them in order to read the fine print:

The day and services are still commemorated by members of the Society of St Charles the Martyr today. I thought you might be interested to see them,as they are rarely  performed today.

This week, in order to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the First Publication of Sense and Sensibility, I’m taking a slightly different tack and am writing not about an edition of the book, or about literary criticism or illustrations( my main emphasis thus far) but about Dorset, a county that features in the book.

(Do remember you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them)

Jane Austen clearly had mixed feelings about the county. She appears to have despised the fashionable sea-side town of Weymouth, made famous by the visits of the Royal Family, in particular George III who visited the seaside resort to recover his health:

(This marvellously gaudy photograph of George III in Weymouth is reproduced here by kind permission of my Twitter friend Patrick Baty, the renowned Historical Paint Consultant)

Weymouth is altogether a shocking place I perceive without recommendation of any kind and worthy only of being frequented by the inhabitants of Gloucester…

(See Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 14th September 1804)

But she liked Lyme Regis immensely:

They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing-machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood.

Pesruasion, Chapter 11

She certainly approved if its country estates, for it is in Dorset  we find that Colonel Brandon lives, in Sense and Sensibility. His delightfully old-fashioned home, Delaford, is situated in that country. Mrs Jennings tells Elinor Dashwood and, of course, us of its quiet , old-fashioned charms:

Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country: and such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we were there! Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stewponds, and a very pretty canal; and everything, in short, that one could wish for: and, moreover, it is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh! ’tis a nice place! A butcher hard by in the village, and the parsonage-house within a stone’s throw. To my fancy, a thousand times prettier than Barton Park, where they are forced to send three miles for their meat, and have not a neighbour nearer than your mother…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 30.

The Delaford living is eventually given to Edward Ferrars and this is, of course, where he settles with his new wife, Elinor. A few months later, the marriage of Marianne Dashwood to the deserving Colonel Brandon reunites the sisters to live within a very small distance of each other:

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50.

Dorset therefore becomes the home county of four of the leading characters in the book. What did their new home  county look like? What did their neighbours look like? Was Dorset then a sleepy backwater or a hive of intellectual and industrial achievements Well, these questions are more can be answered by visiting an exhibition that is currently on show at the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester, Georgian Faces: Portrait of a County, curated by Gwen Yarker.

The exhibition attempts, and succeeds, in delineating a portrait of the county as it was in the 18th century. The idea for the exhibit resulted from the purchase of George Romney’s portraits of the Rackett family in 2008.

As Gwen Yarker comments in the preface to the exhibition catalogue:

I became aware , whilst researching the life of the Reverend Thomas Rackett and his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances, of just how formative the century (the 18th century-jfw) was in shaping the county and its institutions not least the Dorset County Museum itself.

The backbone of the exhibition is the Reverend John Hutchin’s History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset first published in 1774. The book contained detialed descriptions of 18th century Dorset. Hutchins surveyed and recorded  the country parish by parish. He wrote about the history,  the people and the topography of the county.

The exhibtion shows that

… Dorset was not an isolated rural county, but was aware of the latest thinking, ideas and intellectual developments coming out of London. This included rural centres such as Blandford Forum, where a circle of natural philosophers were based. They in turn returned to the capital with their local discourses in natural philosophy, antiquarianism and archaeology.

The portraits are grouped along social lines, downwards from the King and powerful landowners, through to the county’s prosperous merchants, the merchant princes of Poole with its lucrative trade to and from Newfoundland, the members of the Dorset Volunteer Rangers , a corps of light cavalry who were founded in 1794 to defend the county against French invasion, the scientists and antiquarians of the county, right down to rare portraits of servants and gamekeepers.

Only sitters who lived in or regularly  visited Dorset are included in the exhibition. Many of the portraits have  rarely been seen before in public, and the curator was successful in persuading a number of private collectors to agree to their portraits being shown to the public for the first time.

The Digby family group of portraits are one example of this. All save one had their portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They amply illustrate  the fate the 18th century assigned to them due to their birth order and potion in society, and the pattern of their lives represent exactly the society about which Jane Austen wrote.

The eldest, Edward 6th Lord Digby,  inherited the tile and estates, and employed Capability Brown to landscape the garden of the family seat in Dorset, Sherbourne Castle. Charitable  and kind he caught a fever whilst visiting the family’s estates in Ireland and died prematurely at the age of 27.

The second son,Henry, became an M.P.He succeeded to the ownership of the estates on the death of his eldest brother.The third son, Robert, entered the navy to eventually become  a Rear Admiral of the Red in 1780.

William the fourth son held the family living of Coleshill in Warwickshire. ,Stephen the fifth son was commissioned into the Army. Charles, the six son also went into the church and was given another family living in Somerset.

The exhibition is fascinating, and I thoroughly recommend it . For lovers of the 18th century it provides wonderful and detailed  insights into the people who lived in Dorset at this time, their homes and their occupations,

Interestingly, the research for the exhibition was begun on a budget of £1000 only,and unpaid volunteers did a lot of the ground work.What an innovative way to involve the local community and to beat budget cuts. Bravo to all concerned.

If, however, you can’t get to Dorchester to see it, then the catalogue of the exhibition, produced in paper back form is a very readable and interesting book in its own right. It is available to order by post from the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester.

This is a great year for lovers of Thomas Rowlandson’s works (of which I am one). Here he is, above ,shown at the age of 58 in 1814, at the height of his popularity. An  exhibition of his work is currently available to view in the USA: and interestingly it will be on show at two venues . It is currently at the  Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University in Chicago until the 31st March, and then it will move to the Frances Lehman Boeb art Centre at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY state, where it will be on show to the public from the 8th April until the 11th June of this year.

Sadly I have no hope of seeing the exhibit at either venues( how I do despise the Atlantic!) and so I’m  pleased to be in receipt of the book that has been published to accompany the exhibit, and it is that book I am going to review today.

Rowlandson has been somewhat dismissed in the past as a prolific but crude and lewd artist. Immediately after his death his works fell into a critical decline. As Professor Vic Gatrell writes in his essay Rowlandson’s London which is contained in the book:

Manners were changing fast in the 1820s and by the time of his death in 1827 his robust humour was out of fashion. Thanks to the increasing assertiveness of the evangelical and upwardly mobile middle-class opinion makers, more domesticated and respectable tastes were gaining ground. So only one obituary noticed his passing and only Ackermann, Bannister and Angelo are recorded at his funeal.For half a century thereafter barely a handful of collectors even remembered his name.

This exhibition and book attempts to re assess Rowlandson and his work, as not only someone who was humorous, but who depicted social life in late Georgian england  with a satirical but nevertheless accurate eye. Someone who had a talent for spotting and reproducing the telling details of the raw side of life in the taverns,  streets and theatre of Georgian London.

Jane Austen certainly knew of Rowlandson’s works. In her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 2nd March 1814, she refers to his character Dr Syntax:

There are no good places to be got in Drury Lane for the next fortnight, but Henry means to secure some for Saturday fortnight, when you are reckoned upon. Give my love to little Cassandra! I hope she found my bed comfortable last night and has not filled it with fleas. I have seen nobody in London yet with such a long chin as Dr. Syntax, nor anybody quite so large as Gogmagoglicus.

Dr Syntax was, of course,  Rowlandson and William Combe’s satirical attack on William Gilpin and his books on the picturesque. The tours of the hapless Dr Syntax mimic Gilpin’s tours around the British Isles : Jane Austen appears to have been a reader and possible admirer of both. And of course if does have to be admitted that  Dr Syntax had a rather long chin….

The exhibition and the accompanying book edited by Patricia Phagan attempts to re-assess Rowlandson’s reputation, as an accurate depicter of social phenomena and the Georgian habit of mixing of social classes at entertainments in England :

The exhibition is organized around the chief forms that social life assumed in Rowlandons art: high society and politics; encounters in the street ,taverns and clubs, outdoor entertainments,the arts and sexual and romantic tangles and attachments.

He recorded a world, especially  of that  in London,that Jane Austen knew well, living as she did occasionally with Henry Austen at his home in Henrietta Street ,Covent Garden:

Rowlandson’s art emerged from a culture bound by a sense of irony, and independent minded society where social ranks mingled in public areas such as royal parks, pleasure gardens and in the theatrical and artistic realm of Covent Garden,but in which a hierarchy remained.

Patricia Phagan also notes that:

Rowlandson’s observations on society’s indulgent pleasures also vibrate with social tension and personal irony and it is this edge , along with his deft drawing style, that gives the artist’s work its commanding intrigue.

An essay by Vic Gatrell,author of City of Laughter (a marvellous book, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the prints of this era and which deals in part with Rowlandson’s satirical prints, gives great insights into Rowlandson and his intimate relationship with Covent Garden in  London.

Hhe also makes this plea which is at the heart of the exhibition and book:

The truth is that Rowlandson needs tobe rescued from the immense condescension of posterity. Critics and collectors over the past couple of centuries have always liked his watercolor drawings, but because they have been largely concerned with aesthetic  effects and conventionally reputable genres. They have generally ignored his comic prints and deplored his ‘coarseness’. The more snobbish have sniffed at the fact that much of  his market came to lie amongst people more vulgar than themsleves. Commcerically minded, indeed low-minded, Rowlandson rejected the artistic postures that would have enabled such people to approve of him more easily…

The exhibition  concentrates on Rowlandson prints, including his political ones.But does not cover in depth his landscape and topographical subjects, though  some , like his depiction of Winsor, below, are included.

The book includes very fine reproductions of 72 of his prints, all reproduced in full colour and having interesting and illuminating commentaries attached.

Sadly, there are few concrete facts surrounding Rowlandson’s life and the compilers of both the exhibition and this book acknowledge that did not have access to the latest research,  a new publication on Rowlandson’s life which was written by the acknowledged experts, Matthew and James Pyne. Entitled Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Aquaintance I will be writing about that book very soon.

I ought to warn that some of the images in the exhibition catalogue are, as is to be expected, explicit. But then the age in which he and Jane Austen lived was a far more robust  era than those that followed. Something that readers of Jane Austen find disconcerting sometimes; But if, like me, you find in Rowlandson’s drawings and prints an immediacy,which conveys something of what it was like to live in the late Georgian era, then this book is for you.

I leave you with Rowlandson’s view of Oxford undergraduates, men Jane Austen knew quite well, having two brothers, James and Henry, who were educated there ;)

During my last visit to Jane Austen House Museum, I was lucky enough to have  the place to myself, which gave me ample time to ponder the wonder that is her set of manuscript music books, one of which was on show.

I am only an amateur musician and play the piano very badly indeed, but have transcribed enough pieces by hand  during my music studies to know that Jane Austen’s transcribing gifts were great indeed.

As you can see from the photograph I took of  the book that was available to see, her musical notation is clear , neat and very beautiful. And of course this habit of transcribing was born of necessity, as sheet music was expensive to buy.

I thought you might like to know of two related on-going academic projects that are currently studying Jane Austen’s music collection.

The Australian soprano Gillian Dooley, who is also Honorary Research Fellow at Flinders University, has been transcribing and publishing online in pdf. form much of Jane Austen’s music that is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at the Jane Austen’s House Museum, or is in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office or the Chawton House Library, which currently holds the Jenkyns collection.

The collection is available to view  here. Pieces will be added to the site gradually.

As Gillian Dooley writes on the Flinders University website:

Most transcripts were made during a research trip to England in September-October 2010. Transcripts were made only from manuscript sources, and only when print versions of a manuscript were not available elsewhere. When the music in the collections was a printed score, a copy was requested.

Some transcripts were made previously from music sourced elsewhere and performed in earlier concerts. In these cases, the versions provided were checked against the versions in the Austen Music collections and any differences noted on the scores. Concert programs are also available as part of this Collection in the Flinders Academic Commons.

A major research project at Southampton University, led by Professor Jeanice Brooks, is studying these collections and their place in the wider musical culture of the period, and I am looking forward to reading the results of their research when it is published.

I have just spent a very happy and absorbing hour looking at the 35 pieces that are available to view, including the songs Here’s the Bower She Loved So Much by Thomas Moore and Queen Mary’s Lamentation by Tommaso Giordani, a song all about Mary Queen of Scots, one of Jane Austen’s heroines, lamenting her imprisonment in England.

I’m sure the musically minded amongst you will enjoy looking through these pieces too.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility I had promised to write at least one post  about the book each week. I failed in that vow last week, so there is much make up.

Today, I thought you might like to see what was in effect the first professional adaptation of a scene from Sense and Sensibility. It was written in 1911 by  Rosina Filippi, the actress,and was included in her book, Dualogues and Scenes from the Novels of Jane Austen arranged and adapted for Drawing Room Performance. The frontispiece is shown above.

Above is one of the few existing  photographs of the actress. She is shown on the left, in a performance of The Gay Gordans, together  with her fellow actor Seymour Hicks, and below  on the right in the same production.These are both Edwardian postcards I have in my collection.

She was an acclaimed actress, famed for her comedic roles, who also ran a drama school: Sir Felix Alymer was one of her most successful students.

She was obviously a fan of Jane Austen’s works, which prompted her, in part, to write the scenes, and in the Introduction to her book she comments :

Jane Austen as a novelist has won and maintained a place in the first rank, but as a writer of true comedy she has been too long unrecognised. She is essentially dramatic, and her characters assume shape, form and colour; her plots are human, her people are alive. No individual in any of her novels degenerates into caricature, yet there is not one but has a touch of the humourous in his or her composition.

How strange it seems now that Jane Austen’s humour was not fully appreciated by late 19th century readers!

Her dualogues and scenes are complete in themselves and in them one appreciates the maxim of Alexandre Dumas who declared that the only essentials for a play were  “une passion, deux personages et un paravent” (which translates as “an enthusiasm, two people and a screen”-jfw).

Her other motive for writing the book was the dearth of good duologues and one-act plays available and suitable for amateur performance at the time:

The acting rights of the best pieces being reserved, it is difficult for the uninitiated to obtain them: moreover it is expensive and so the orange covered book is sought and a play neither clever nor interesting selected simply because it is found to contain the requisite number of characters and has no elaborate scenery

She was very strict about how her scenes were to be performed: though they were intended for amateurs she was very insistent that proper costumes should be worn:

Keeping therefore to this rule, these scenes should be represented with no scenery whatever ( by scenery I mean stage,proscenium, footlights and curtain) but it is essential that the accurate costume of the day should be worn; for thought the  plot and sentiments throughly appeal to the modern mind, the language belongs to a past generation, and an incongruity would arise were it spoken in modern dress.

Indeed, she gave instructions for the exact type of clothes to be worn by the amateurs,which were inserted  in the text: and ensured that her illustrator, Margaret Fletcher,included a pen and ink sketch of the type of costume to be worn in each scene. This is what she recommended for the Sense and Sensibility scene, which involves only Mr and Mrs John Dashwood.

Here is Miss Fletcher’s sketch ( do note you can enlarge it by clicking on it):

The scene Miss Filippi chose to adapt for amateur performance from Sense and Sensibility is almost the whole of Chapter 2. This is the famous section where Fanny Dashwood attempts and succeeds in subverting John Dashwood’s rush of empathy for his step family. She succeeds in persuading him to forget  his deathbed wish made to his father and to  give the Dashwood ladies  no financial aid whatsoever.

Miss Phillip makes this point in the introduction about the difficulties of adapting scenes:

In order to make the plots clear and the dualogues intelligible to those of the audience who are unacquainted with the novles themselves, a few words in monologue form have sometimes been added to the text- the greatest care being taken however to keep as much as possible to the spirit of the original – while for dramatic effect and finish, the time or place of action has often been changed from a garden or street scene to that of an interior least the absence of scenery should be felt by the actors or audience.

She does get some tiny details wrong- Mrs Dashwood’s china and linen came from her previous home Stanhill,and was not part of the Norland estate for example- but in the main the character of Jane Austen’s masterful chapter is kept. Here is part of the text for you to have a small taste of the adaptation:

In order for you to get the full effect of the scene as adapted by Miss Filippi, I have created a page full of scans of the whole section of the book which you can access here ( note you can enlarge the pages by clicking on them)and from the AustenOnly Sense and Sensibility Page. I do hope you will enjoy reading them ,and advise you do so while also looking at  Chapter 2 of Sense and Sensibility so that you can easily compare the two

All in all I find these scenes to be mostly accurate and intriguing, giving us glimpses into how Jane Austen was first appreciated by a wider audience .The amateurs for whom this book was written were obviously highly  competent performers, in my humble opinion. This is a charming book, which gives us some indication of the growing craze  for Jane Austen’s works in the early 20th century, and I hope you enjoy reading the whole of its only  Sense and Sensibility scene .

I thought you might be interested to learn the  details of a talk to be given by Diana Shervington at the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum on Saturday 12th February, at 2.30p.m. It will be on the subject of Jane Austen and her two naval brothers, Frank, below

and Charles, also shown below.

The talk promises to be fascinating as Diana Shervington is a descendant of Jane Austen, and is also a patron of the newly formed South West branch of the Jane Austen Society.

If you do go you might be interested to also see the Museum’s new winter exhibition which is about Mary Anning , the great finder of fossils, who had as we have learnt , a slight connection to Jane Austen. The exhibition is entitled Mary Anning and the Men of Science and according to the museum’s website…

explores Mary’s relationships with the great men of science of her day – William Buckland, William Conybeare and Henry de la Beche. It includes unique Mary Anning material on loan from other museums and features the newly-conserved coprolite (fossil dung) table owned by Buckland.

For fun, there is a 3-D re-creation of de la Beche’s famous vision of ancient Dorset Duria Antiquior, created by artist Darrell Wakelam in partnership with local children.

It all sounds fascinating, don’t you think?

I posted a review of this book last year ,and I sadly had left it too late for you all to act on  as the hardback edition was already sold out in the UK and became sold out in the USA a few weeks later.

The good news is that it has recently been released in paperback form and is now freely available from the your local bookshop, main internet book sites and the publishers,Phillimore. I should like to thank my good friend, Rae, for this information.

As I noted in my review, linked above,  this is mainly a  gazetteer of 190 houses and villas built as country retreats around London from the 17th century onwards, and is written with great authority and verve by the distinguished architectural historian, Caroline Knight.

If you possibly can, do not miss this chance to buy this really fantastic book. As with any gazetteer it is meant to  be dipped into, not read at one sitting, and I have spent many an enjoyable evening virtually visiting  some grand houses all situated within the confines of the M25 orbital motorway.

It puts into context areas of London that are now almost totally urban in character but in Jane Austen’s era were rural places, villages separated from London by great estates like Osterley and Syon . It is a great help when reading Mansfield Park and Emma: I can thoroughly  recommend it to you. Get it while stocks last this time!

…on the 7th March 2011, and is now available to “pre-order” on all the well-known sites.

This was one of my favourite TV series of last year, and Amanda Vickery fully lived up to the promise of the evidence of her live lectures, revealing herself  to be a vibrant, sensitive and authoritative guide to the domestic habits of the differing classes of people living in the 18th century.

The series is sumptuously filmed on location throughout England and Wales, and is invaluable as a companion to Professors Vickery’s best selling and most excellent book,Behind Closed Doors upon which the series was based.

At present there is no sign of this being bought by foreign TV stations so if you have a multi region DVD( a must!) then I recommend you order this DVD now.

My reviews of the three programmes are accessible, herehere and here. My interview with one of the directors of the series,Neil Crombie, is accessible here and my interview with Professor Vickery about the series is accessible here.

Most of us are familiar with the architects of Bath – John Wood senior and elder- who planned Queens Square and the development of the Upper Town. Less well-known is the man who provided the raw material for these elegant squares and crescents,Bath Stone. He was Ralph Allen, and this small but very readable book by Diana Winsor, published by Polperro Heritage Press gives us a short but comprehensive account of his life. Diana Winsor  uses his extant correspondence but also invents extracts from his” diary” to fill in the blanks of his story for us.

Born in Cornwall in 1693, he moved to Bath in 1715. He had trained in the running of Post Offices at Exeter. He became Deputy Postmaster at Bath aged 19 and went on to reform the whole English postal system, winning a lucrative government contract to organise the post for many successive decades. He became Mayor of Bath in 1742, and was M.P. for Bath from 1757 untill 1764.

He invested his profits from the Post Office in the stone quarries that surround Bath high up on the downs . In conjunction with John Wood the Elder he promoted the use of Bath stone as an excellent building material, and the developments of Queens Square, Gay Street The Circus The Crescent and the Upper Town including the Assembly Rooms were built in this material. Bath stone is honey coloured when underground, but once mined and exposed to the air it becomes  pale, and grayer.  Anne Elliot  in Persuasion disliked its pale appearance very much:

Lady Russell, convinced that Anne would not be allowed to be of any use, or any importance, in the choice of the house which they were going to secure, was very unwilling to have her hurried away so soon, and wanted to make it possible for her to stay behind, till she might convey her to Bath herself after Christmas; but having engagements of her own, which must take her from Kellynch for several weeks, she was unable to give the full invitation she wished; and Anne, though dreading the possible heats of September in all the white glare of Bath, and grieving to forego all the influence so sweet and so sad of the autumnal months in the country, did not think that, every thing considered, she wished to remain. It would be most right, and most wise, and, therefore, must involve least suffering, to go with the others.

Persuasion, Chapter 5

Ralph Allen  was an entrepreneur and an innovator. He built his impressive home, Prior Park on the outskirts of Bath as  a testament to the excellent qualities of Bath stone as a building material and ornamented the surrounding landscape garden, which he designed with the help of “Capability” Brown and Alexander Pope, with delicious gardens features such as the famous bridge, below. All made of Bath stone, naturally.

© NTPL / Stephen Robson

The landscape garden is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.The mansion is now a boarding school and is not.

This book though small is an interesting read, and certainly filled in many blanks in my knowledge of this important figure in Bath history. The illustrations are mainly by Diana Windsor herself and I think are best in architectural pieces, as in this illustration of Ralph Allen’s town-house in Bath,

as her figures are, for me, sadly  not as convincing as the buildings she portrays:

This is an inexpensive and entertaining book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the life of one of the founders of Bath.

Today for the last of Lady Russell’s  Winter Pleasures posts (although there is one more tomorrow in this series,a book review) we are going to look at the Pump Room. The Pump Room in Bath was built in the lower part of the town, and was where those taking the “cure” would drink copious amounts of  the warm spring water in order to effect a cure.The first PumpRom was replaced in 1797 by the one which is still in existence today.

This is the description of it from Feltham’s Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc.,(1803):

FOR those who are unable or unwilling to join in more e and expensive amusements, the new Pump-room presents attraction unrivalled…

This noble room was built in 1797 under the direction of Mr. Baldwin, architect. It is 60 feet long by 46 wide, and 31. feet high. The inside is set round with three quarter columns of the Corinthian order, crowned with an entablature, and a covering of five feet. In a recess at the West-end is the music gallery, and in another at the East an excellent time-piece, over which is a marble statue of king Nash, executed by Hoare, at the expense of the corporation. In the Centre of the South-side is a marble vase from which issue the waters, with a fire-place on each side.

The exterior is furnished in a capital stile (sic) of architecture, having its architrave charged with the following inscription from Pindar, in gold letters which may be justly rendered,

“Bath-water is better than Bath-wine ;”

literally, water is, best.

This section of the map of Bath included in John Feltham’s book shows the position of the Pump Room,just opposite what was then the White Hart Inn in Stall Street.

This Victorian photograph, taken from the position of the White Hart shows the Pump Room in all its splendour

And this view, and engraving dating  from the late 18th century shows it and the colonnade, with the inn behind.

It is set in the Abbey churchyard, and you can see the marvellous Bath Abbey set at right angles to the Pump Room, above in a photograph I took last year

As you can clearly see with comparison with the 18th century print, not much has changed since the late 18th century, though the White Hart Inn is no longer there.

This is one of the ante rooms to the Pump room and is where you now gain access to the room.

The plan below again from Walter Ison’s magisterial book, The Georgian Buildings of Bath shows the setting of the Pump Room amid the complex of Bath; the Kings Bath, the New Private Baths and the Cross Bath which is situated at the termination of Cross Street, which in its turn is beautifully colonnaded, and will be recognised by fans of the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion as the street along which the reunited lovers-Anne and Captain Wentworth- strolled along once the Circus (and the infamous kiss) had gone away…..

This is the view from the Cross Bath to the New Baths and the Pump Room :

And this is a close up of the ground plan of the Pump Room.

The Pump Room was also, in the early days of Bath, where the book was kept, known as the Subscription Book. This was where new arrivals in the town would enter their names. Something Catherine Morland found useful when she was trying to ascertain if Henry Tilney was still in town:

As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in the pump–room to discover that the crowd was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company. Here Catherine and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets of friendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much, and with much enjoyment; but again was Catherine disappointed in her hope of reseeing her partner. He was nowhere to be met with; every search for him was equally unsuccessful, in morning lounges or evening assemblies; neither at the Upper nor Lower Rooms, at dressed or undressed balls, was he perceivable; nor among the walkers, the horsemen, or the curricle–drivers of the morning. His name was not in the pump–room book, and curiosity could do no more. He must be gone from Bath.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5

Once new arrivals and added their names to the book, the Master of Ceremonies would then know they were in town and it was time to pay a visit of visit of ceremony to them, to inform them of the ways of Bath, should they not know of them. Having consulted this book the names of the new arrivals would also be published in the Bath newspapers. The book was kept in the early 18th century by the redoubtable Sarah Porter, shown below,

who was known for her uncanny ability to ambush new arrivals to town to ensure that their names were entered in the book(and her tip was received ).Putting ones name in the Subscription Book could also involve the outlay of serious money, for putting ones name there also “entitled ” you to subscribe to the Assemblies and concerts in the Pump Room and the Assembly Rooms, and also to the circulating libraries and bookshops.

The fashionable time to visit the Pump Room was in the morning:

Her an excellent company of musicians perform every morning, during the full season and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen walking up and down in social converse during the performance, presents a picture of animation which nothing can exceed…

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc by J Feltham ,1803.

In the photographs above and below you can see the rounded apse and the musicians gallery within it:

The Pump Room is now a restaurant(and a pretty good one too!) and very often musicians play  there.

But nowadays they don’t play from the gallery, but on a raised dias.

This is the view towards the other end of the room….

With its magnificent Thomas Tompion timepiece

And statue of Beau Nash,the King of Bath and the original Master of Ceremonies.

Half way along the room, over-looking the Kings Bath is the King’s Spring

Where you can still purchase glasses of the water to drink,served to you by a porter. It is surprisingly warm (and no doubt that added to its purgative qualities when one was taking “the cure”)

Of course it was when she was over looking the Pump Room from the Musgrove’s Room at the White Hart Inn that Mary Musgrove discovered Mr Elliot meeting Mrs Clay in a rather clandestine manner:

They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each… with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.

Persuasion Chapter 22


“Do come, Anne,” cried Mary, “come and look yourself. You will be too late if you do not make haste. They are parting; they are shaking hands. He is turning away. Not know Mr. Elliot, indeed! You seem to have forgot all about Lyme.”

To pacify Mary, and perhaps screen her own embarrassment, Anne did move quietly to the window. She was just in time to ascertain that it really was Mr. Elliot, which she had never believed, before he disappeared on one side, as Mrs. Clay walked quickly off on the other; and checking the surprise which she could not but feel at such an appearance of friendly conference between two persons of totally opposite interests, she calmly said, “Yes, it is Mr. Elliot, certainly. He has changed his hour of going, I suppose, that is all, or I may be mistaken, I might not attend”; and walked back to her chair, recomposed, and with the comfortable hope of having acquitted herself well.

Persuasion, Chapter 22

Hmm… Mr Elliot, proving himself to be quite the slippery eel…..

Here is a link to another panoramic view of the Pump Room, if you go here and look on the right,click on “View the Pump Room Tour, it is almost as good as being there. Almost….

And that concludes this small series of Winter Pleasures posts. I do hope you have enjoyed them.

So…yesterday we had to pretend  that Lady Russell was a great dancer and enjoyed spending winter evenings at the Ball-Room at the Upper Rooms. It was fun though….I do hope you agree.

Today, we do not have to pretend for we know that she attended a concert at the Upper Rooms in Persuasion,and so would have visited the Tea Room which was where the subscription concerts were held. But before we get there we should really take a look at the Card Room or Great Octagon as it was known which separates the Ball Room from the Tea Room.

In the film of  Persuasion (1995) written by Nick Drear, this ,below, the Small Octagon or Octagon Anti-chamber, was where the Elliot’s stood waiting for Lady Dalrymple and her daughter and where Anne had the unexpected opportunity of meeting Captain Wentworth for a deliciously revealing conversation.

It was more likely that this meeting took place in the Octagon shown below.

When the Upper Assembly Rooms were first opened in 1771, this was used as the card room. A card room where gambling took place was one of the necessary rooms  in a suite of Assembly Rooms, for gambling by those not wishing to dance was entirely acceptable practise. Indeed Mr Allen retires to play cards,after he has safely deposited Mrs Allen and Catherine Morland at the Ballroom in Chapter 2 of Northanger Abbey. A separate card room was added to this room in 1777.

The Octagon was again set out for a wedding when I visited .It would be in this room that the actual wedding was performed. A quite spectacular setting, you must admit.

The chandelier in this room was made up of the remnants of the discarded chandeliers  that used to hang in the Ball Room and were made by Jonathan Collett. It is very beautiful, and it is a wonder that they were able to make something so beautiful out of wrecked pieces!

The portrait that dominates this room is one by Thomas Gainsborough of Captain William Wade . He was the first Master of Ceremonies of the Upper Rooms. He had to quit his post in 1777 after he was involved in

an affair of gallantry

as Pierce Egan in Walk’s Though Bath (1819) coyly describes it.

He had also been the Master of Ceremonies at Brighton since 1767 .After quitting Bath in 1777 he retired to Brighton  where he was Master of Ceremonies till he died in 1809. Mr James King whom we know as the Master of Ceremonies at the Lower Rooms, indeed, as the very gentleman who effected the successful introduction of Henry Tilney to Miss Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, became the Master of Ceremonies at the upper Rooms in 1805 until his death at Cheltenham in 1816.

From the Octagon we can progress directly into the  Tea Room. It was in this room  that refreshments were served during Assemblies and where Public Breakfasts were taken. And it  was also where the subscription concerts were held.

The three magnificent chandeliers in this room are the originals made by William Parker, supplier of chandeliers to the Prince of Wales at Carlton House.

This room is one of my most favourite rooms in the country. I love its restrained stone decoration.

And the gallery with its Corinthian Columns that run the length of the room,with the swags of flowers and fruit decorating the space in a quiet but very elegant way.

Again my photographs do not do justice to these wonderful chandeliers.They fail to capture the prisms of light that dart from the crystal…

The concerts in this room were first under the direction of Thomas Linley,shown below in a portrait painted by his friend, Thomas Gainsborough.

He was the father of the soprano  Elizabeth Linley, seen here with her sister, again in a portrait by Gainsborough( she is on the left)

She of course was infamous for marrying teh playwright Sheridan after a scandalous elopement. Thomas Linley Junior known as the English Mozart,also performed here

seen here  portrayed in a portrait by Gainsborough, above,and who perished in an untimely manner at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire in 1778.

From 1777 the Italian castrato and composer,Venanzio Rauzzini , below,was the director of the concerts. He was of course the man for whom Mozart wrote Exultate Jubilate.

In the Winter he lived in Bath in a town house Number 13 Gay Street, but in the summer he lived at nearby Widecombe and many famous musicians and composers were tempted to come to Bath to collaborate and perform with him. Possibly the most famous visitor was Joseph Haydn who on his visit in 1794 even wrote a canon in praise of Rauzzini’s deceased dog,Turk- “Turk was a faithful Dog“- while he was staying at Widecombe with the composer.

Here is an example of his work- a Sonata- Duetto, perfomred on a period instrument:

He died at his home in Gay Street, on 8 April 1810, while preparing for the Bath June music festival. Four days later the Bath Chronicle wrote:

In private life few men were more esteemed; none more generally beloved. A polished suavity of manners, a mild and cheerful disposition, and a copious fund of general and polite information, rendered him an attractive and agreeable companion. … In Mr. Rauzzini, this city has sustained a public loss.

He was buried in Bath Abbey, where there is a memorial to him erected by ‘his affectionate Pupils Anna Selina Storace and John Braham’.

Here is a copy of a programme for a subscription concert held in 1798. If you enlarge it by clicking on it  you can see that the lyrics of the arias are clearly printed on the programme sheet,and this explains why Anne Elliot was able to translate lyrics at the behest of Mr Elliot and Miss Carteret much to Captain Wentworth’s annoyance.

And this concludes Lady Russell’s Winter Pleasures at the Upper, the Pump Room.

So..when Lady Russell ventures from her elegant lodgings in Rivers Street,what pleasures could she seek in Bath? She could go a short journey along River Street to the New Assembly Rooms for a ball. Now, today you will have to indulge me on this, for there is no evidence in Persuasion that Lady Russell visited the Assembly Rooms for a ball, but she did of course go there for a concert (more on that next time).

As you can see from this annotated section of the map of Bath dating from 1803, taken from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham, The Assembly Rooms ,numbered “2”on the map,

and known in the early 19th century as the Upper Rooms in order to distinguish them from the Assembly Rooms in the older lower part of Bath near the river (the Lowers Rooms),were not far from Rivers-street.

This engraving of the imposing Upper Rooms, above, was taken from my copy of Walks though Baht by Pierce Egan (Do note all the illustrations in this post, as ever, can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

This is the floor plan of the rooms ,which were designed and built by John Wood the Younger between 1769 and 1771. This plan is taken from Walter Ison’s magisterial book on Georgian Bath, “The Georgian Buildings of Bath”, which I reviewed here.

But however reluctant Lady Russell may seem on dancing… let’s concentrate on the ballroom in this post…above is the entrance,with its severe portico…

Chairs were an important from of transport in Georgian Bath, for due to its very steep,hilly terrain, it was not easy for carriages to negotiate its steep and sometimes winding roads. So, Lady Russell may have arrived at the Upper Rooms by chair…as Catherine Moreland did, arriving at the Theatre Royal in Bath in one in Northanger Abbey.

This is a rather elegant and luxurious example which is on display in the vestibule of the Upper Rooms today.

To gain access to the ballroom, Laady Russell would first process along the vestibule having quitted her chair there, progress into the Small Octagon, and then turning left would enter the Ball Room.

When I visited the rooms to take this photographs this room was set up for a wedding reception: what a wonderful place to celebrate a marriage! However, it did limit the photographs I could take…I’ll jsut have to go back yet again(what a trial!) But if you go to the Fashion Museum website and click on the link on the bottom right here, View the Assembly Room Tours you will be able to virtually visit the Rooms,and especially to see the details of the ballroom with its wonderful musicians gallery which I was unable to photograph.

To give you some idea of the massive scale of this room, let me quote from Pierce Egan’s Walks though Bath, 1819 for a view of someone who visited it in the early 19th century:

The elegance of the ball-room astonishes every spectator, it is 100 feet 8 inches long, 42 feet 8 inches wide and 42 feet 6 inches high. ~The ceiling is beautiful ornamented with pannels(sic) with open compartments, and from which are suspended five superb glass chandeliers; and the windows from which the rooms receive daylight are on a ball night covered with boards painted with ornaments on them to correspond with the uniformity on the other side of the room. The walls are also painted and decorated in the most tasteful style; and the Corinthian columns and entablature resemble statuary marble. At each end of the room are placed in magnificent gilt frames, the most splendid looking glasses to give effect to the general brilliant appearance.

In its heyday, during the late 18th century, this room could hold as many as 800 dancers,the sort of crowds poor Catherine Morland had to contend with on her first visit there:

Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card–room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves. With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather to increase as they went on, whereas she had imagined that when once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and be able to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from being the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still they moved on — something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room.

Northanger Abbey, Chapter 2.

At the end of the season,the rooms could be quite deserted, as Jane Austen noted in her letter to Cassandra, dated 12th May 1801:

In the evening, I hope you honoured my toilette and ball with a thought; I dressed myself as well as I could, and had all my finery much admired at home. By nine o’clock my uncle, aunt, and I entered the rooms, and linked Miss Winstone on to us. Before tea it was rather a dull affair; but then the before tea did not last long, for there was only one dance, danced by four couple. Think of four couple, surrounded by about an hundred people, dancing in the Upper Rooms at Bath.

and by the time she wrote Persuasion, in 1816,the fashion was definitely shifting towards private parties not great formal assemblies open to all and sundry. And lest we think that these elegant places were always inhabited by decourous people, in the same letter, Jane Austen also noted drunken goings on:

Mrs. B. and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs. B. thought herself obliged to leave them to run round the room after her drunken husband. His avoidance, and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.

The chandeliers as Pierce Egan noted above, are spectacular. The orignal chandeliers were supplied to the Upper Rooms Furnishing Committee by Jonathon Collett,at a cost of £400 for the five which were to hang in the ballroom. In October 1771, a month after the rooms opened a disaster concerning them was luckily avoided. One of the arms of the chandeliers in the ballroom fell, narrowly missing (and injuring) Thomas Gainsborough the artist. The chandeliers were found to have severe defects, and were replaced by five commissioned from William Parker, supplier of chandeliers to The Prince of Wales, whose trade card is shown below.

He had already provided the Furnishing Committee with chandeliers for the Tea Room, and now was commissioned to make replacements. His work is simply amazingly and breathtakingly beautiful. It cost the owners of the Rooms £556, 3 shillings and 6 pence to provide candles and oil for the lamps in the other rooms, in the first season of 1771-2.

The assembles of the 18th century were new social phenomena.They allowed, in the main, people from different classes to mingle, the Master of Ceremonies entrusted to introduce previously unknown parties. Beau Nash, the first Master of Ceremonies in Bath drew up a series of rules for governing behaviour in assemblies which were adopted, in one way or another, as a good method of keeping order by nearly all the other assemblies in England.

The rules for the Assembly changed with each successive Master of Ceremonies-and I will be writing more on them in the next post .In 1816 the were as follows:

That the Balls at these Rooms do commence at eight o’clock in the evening; a quarter o f a hour before which time the Rooms shall regularly and properly be lighted up;and that the dancing shall cease at half -past eleven o’clock precisely, except on the night of the King’s Birthday and on the nights of the two balls given for the Master of Ceremonies when the time of dancing shall be unlimited.

That every person on admission to these Rooms on ball-nights shall pay sixpence for their tea.

That the three front benches at the upper end of the room be reserved for ladies of precedence, of the rank of Peeresses of Great Britain or Ireland

That a reasonable time shall be allowed between the minuets and Country-Dances for ladies of precedence to take their own places in the dance; and that those ladies who shall stand up after the dance shall have commenced must tale their places successively at the bottom

That no lady after she shall have taken her place in the set do permit another to come above her in the dance.

That ladies are to be considered perfectly free in regard to accepting or declining partners

That it is the positive order of the Committee that no servant whatever shall be admitted into the vestibule or gallery on any occasion or on any pretence whatever on ball-nights.

That no gentleman in boots or half boots be admitted into the Ball-Room on ball-nights except Officers of the Navy or of the army on duty in uniform; and then without their swords.

Trowsers(sic)or colored pantaloons not to be permitted on any account.

There wer also rules regulating the Master of Ceremonies and his duties:

That the Master of Ceremonies do attend at a quarter of an hour before eight o’clock on ball nights to receive the company.

That the Master of Ceremonies on observing or receiving information of any persons acting in opposition to these resolutions do signify to such person that as Master of Ceremonies it is his duty to see that proper decorum be preserved, and these orders obeyed; in the proper and impartial execution of which duty he will be supported by the subscribers at large

Resolved that these regulations be printed, framed and glazed and fixed in a conspicuous part of the Room for public information; not to be taken down on any pretence whatever on order that they may remain as a pubic document.

Here is an advertisement for a series of Subscription Dress Balls for the season 1811-1812

In my next post… Concerts and the Tea Room in the Upper Rooms( and which we can be certain that concerts are something that Lady Russell did attend !)

It is the bleak midwinter, cold and dark, and, siting here in Darkest Lincolnshire what I am really desiring is a little quiet cheerfulness. I could do worse than to emulate Lady Russell of Persuasion and take a little sojourn in Bath:

When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises which belonged to the winter pleasures: her spirits rose under their influence; and like Mrs. Musgrove, she was feeling, though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness.

However, I can’t to do this in reality as I have duties to fulfill,and so do you, I suspect. So, shall we shall visit Lady Russell’s (and Anne Elliot’s ) winter pleasures in Bath digitally. Shall we? Yes, let’s…

Lady Russell and Anne Elliot travelled to Bath from Kellynch Lodge which was probably near to the market town of Crewkherne in Somersetshire from the evidence in the text of Persuasion .Here, below,  is their most likely route, delineated in red, and which would have taken them from Crewkherne (1) to Bath (2) via Glastonbury and Wells. This map of Somerset by John Cary  is taken from my copy of his Travellers Companion of 1812: (Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations here by simply clicking on them)

The market town of Crewkherne  was probably the first place where Lady Russell’s carriage horses were changed on the journey. This would allow  her groom or other servant to take her  horses back to her stables at  Kellynch Lodge. Horses could be hired at inns along the route,and were probably changed every 20 or so miles. The next change would probably take place at Glastonbury, famed now for rock concerts, but then for its fine ruined abbey. Here it is below,taken from my copy of the Somerset volume of The Beauties of England and Wales by the Reverend J Nightingale (1813):

According to  Cary’s Travellers Companion(1812) there were two inns at  Glastonbury : the White Hart, opposite the Abbey, which dated from the 15th century and still exists, and the George Inn in the High Street. This is a view of the centre of the town also from The Beauties of England and Wales. It shows the George Inn, which also still exists( it is the building with the sign hanging  from it, on the left.

I wonder which inn Lady Russell chose ? I should imagine Anne Elliot liked the antiquity of the place…

This is a description of the town from the same volume:

THis town is situated in the Isle of Avalon so called from its apples or from Avallac a British chief said to have first pitched his residence here..Like Wells Glastonbury is indebted for its origin to its monastic institutions which claim the hour of having existed from a period nearly coeval with Christianity. According to the monkish annuals Glastonbury was first instituted by St Joseph of Arimathea who buried the body of our Saviour, and whom Phillip the apostle of Gaul sent to preach the gospel in Britain….

The next interesting place on their route would have been Wells, again the home of a famous abbey


The town of Wells situated in the hundred of Well’s-Forum, is said to have been at one time the first city in the county of Somerset. Even at this day though far inferior to Bath in splendour of appearance and fashionable elegance, it has considerable claims to the attention of the topographer and possesses many charms for the lover of social retirement…Wells is very pleasantly situated  under the Mendip Hills which recede from it in the form of an amphitheatre sheltering it to the north, while fertile and extensive meadows range themselves to the south…the Cathedral is in the form of a cross…

Leaving Wells, the journey to Bath would be a distance of about 20 miles. Anne Elliot and Lady Russell would approach the city from the south,  having the upper town before them as in this view taken from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by R. Phillips (1803).

They crossed the Old Bridge, the old medieval bridge shown below (as opposed to the new Pulteney Bridge which gave access to the new developments in Bathwick).

This is the immediate view of the bridge that  they may have seen from their carriage:

Here you can se the bridge crossing the River Avon on this section of the map of Bath dating from 1803

They then made their way through the noisy lower reaches of Bath till they reached the elegant Upper  Town,

where Anne Elliot was deposited at Camden Crescent , that place that held the  cold welcome of her odious father, sister and the foul Mrs Clay…..

while the luckier Lady Russell went back downhill to her solitary but elegant lodgings in Rivers Street, shown here looking towards the Upper Rooms in Bennet Street.

And when we and they are rested, we will visit some of the places that constituted their Winter Pleasures in Bath.

I was lucky enough to  receive this book as a gift at Christmas, and since then I’ve been savouring its marvellous detail. Though it covers a longer period than the Long 18th century, there is ample information to interest us within its pages.

The book is in fact the catalogue of a new exhibition which is currently on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the acquisition by the museum of a major collection of European men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories. I have no hope of getting to Los Angeles to see it ( the exhibit runs untill 27th March, 2011) and so it is truly wonderful to be able to pore over the very good photographs- highlighting some wonderful details- and the interesting text, including a very intriguing Preface by fashion’s current enfant terrible, John Galliano.

Let’s have a look at some of the items that interest me. First a waistcoat which would surely have appealed to Mr Knightley, though it is actually French-  Shhh! Don’t tell him- as it’s subject matter is so rural:

Is this Harriet’s own dear welch cow?

And look at this beautiful dress form 1818, the overdress made of handmade lace, “Bucks” so-called because it was made in Buckinghamshire, a traditional area for bobbin lace making.

Here is a close-up detail of the lace:

In fact I am reading this book  it in conjunction with the Museum’s marvellous and most excellent website: some of the items in the book are available to view in greater detail on the internet. Let’s do it together now….

This is a gentleman’s three piece velvet suit dating from 1800. The close-up of the embroidery is breath taking. Some areas of the embroidery are padded slighty to add a raised area and  texture to the embroidery, almost like stumpwork. The dandelion heads are padded in this way.

If you go here however you can see more images of the suit and can zoom in on the details.

This beautifully detailed Spencer dating from 1815 is also available to view online here

So even if you can’t get to the exhibit, the museum’s excellent website and the book are beautifully presented and allow those of us sadly separated from it by thousands of miles to enjoy these wonderful clothes at one remove.

A final note: the website actually includes a wonderful free gift to talented needleworkers: free downloadable patterns which have been created from some of the garments in the collection. Go here to see. I love the banyan.

It’s nearly Twelfth Night and the Christmas season is almost over for another year. It was, of course, at Christmas that Jane Austen’s family used to perform their own private theatrical at Steventon Rectory ,and thus it is highly appropriate that I make one final post about such Christmas activities. In December I had the extreme good luck to be able to travel  to Chawton House to watch a rare recreation of how Private Theatricals were played out in country houses during Jane Austen’s era. The students of the Drama Department of Royal Holloway College, University of London recreated a rehearsal performance of some scenes from a play inspired by the oriental tale of Nourjahad as written by Frances Sheridan. Frances Sheridan was the mother of Richard Sheridan,the playwright, and was a well known and respected author in her own right. The student authors of the play within the play were Samantha Wynn, Naomi Lawson, Lauren Buckley, Felix Clutson, Ben Hodson and Belinda Campbell.

This the frontispiece of my copy of Mrs Sheridan’s tale, and this edition was published in Dublin in 1802.

Sadly, I was not granted permission to take any photographs of this performance or its surroundings, so I will have to rely on images from my collection to try to relay to you want a successful event this was.

The students very cleverly took two parts-  characters in the play and those of the figures in the social circle of Elizabeth Craven,the Margravine of Anspach-  who in 1803 had performed The History of Nourjahad at her home, Brandenburg House  at Hammersmith, in honour of her husband’s birthday.

(©Chawton House Library)

The evening began with the audience -around 50 of us- congregating in the wonderfully restored kitchen at Chawton House.There we were treated to oriental inspired nibbles and hot mint tea-very welcome on so cold and icy an evening. The rehearsal scenes took place in the Great Hall at Chawton- cleared of all its sofas etc…

(©Chawton House Library)

and the Dining room was used by the Students as their Green Room. This echoed the event of 1803, for although the Margravine had a Gothic sham castle/ theatre at Brandenburg House, seen below in a print from my copy of The Beauties of England and Wales by John Britton,

she actually used the Great Gallery adjoining the Dining Room at her house for the performance. Here is a close up of her little theatre, below.

The tale of Nourjahad was fashionably oriental. The story was of the King of Persia’s favourite who was raised to glory , underwent trials of morality and finally was happily reunited with  his loyal wife and  admirers. As the programme produced by the students notes:

The Arabian Tale teaches the young courtier Nourjahad-and us- to be careful what one wishes for. Nourjahad quickly learns that unending youth and inexhaustible riches are not the recipe for happiness that he thought , and his increasing violence and depravity leads instead to punishment and remorse. Is there any hope of redemption for young Nourjahad?

Here are some scans of the text to give you some idea of its tone ( do note that you can enlarge all the images in this post by clicking on them):

The students wrote their play within a play themselves and very ingeniously managed to portray the petty and serious rivalries and tensions these private theatricals inevitably created, something that Jane Austen, who had  watched all the goings-on between her brothers, James and Henry and her cousin Eliza de Feuillide during the series private theatricals performed  at the barn at the Steventon rectory, re-created very successfully herself in Mansfield Park.

It was clear that the Margravine shown above, and played by  Louise Parker, was the star of the show even though she did not actually appear on stage during the rehearsal. Her direction was authoritative and woe betide anyone who dared to veer from her dictates or question her staging directions. Nourjahad was portrayed by William Beckford, the fabulously rich owner of Fonthill,that magnificent folly of a mansion  just outside Bath, and author of the gothic tale,Vathek. A member of the Margravine’s social circle, he was played suitably  languidly by James Potter.

As was the case with many of the grandest private theatricals produced by members of the English aristocracy a professional was on hand to give assistance to the amateur players. In this case it was Mrs Frances Abington, who was, of course, a very famous actress of the era and had been a long-standing member of the company at the Drury Lane Theatre in London.

Mrs Abington, played by Kayleigh Tremaine,was acting the role of the Sultan. She was most anxious that her talents were not being used to the full advantage of the company (and herself!) . She had hardly any scene and hardly any lines! And was most vocal on this point!

The Margrave, played beautifully by Felix Clutson, made an unepxected appearance bringing the rehearsal to a prompt halt…all in the search for his slippers, which had been misappropriated  as propos.

The harem girls were vain and all were a tempting to gain the most of the limelight…..there was fierce competition for possession of the best props and jockeying for the most advantageous positions on stage….

The hapless Miss Emily Graves, shy assistant to the Margravine played by Katie Harrison was hard pressed to correctly interpret the imperious Margravine’s wishes, or rather commands.

This was a most intriguing evening,and reflected many of the issues that the Mansfield Park theatricals exposed – feeling of pride,resentment  and jealousy in the performers. I was very privileged to have seen the rehearsal scenes performed in such suitable surroundings by the very talented drama students,who played their dual roles with such verve. Professor Judith Hawley and Dr. Elaine McGirr of Royal Holloway are to be congratulated for so successfully directing their talented charges,and for re-creating such a rare and elusive event.

This is a lovely video(which brings back fond  memories of Art A level for me!) and it records how the Florella fabric, a scrap of which was kept as a token in the billet books of the Founding Hospital(see above) was recreated for the Foundling Museum’s Threads of Feeling exhibition by the London Printworks Trust, and which is still open to visit until the 6th March.

Here are some images of the fabric – you can do as I did and buy a sample of it at the Foundling Museum’s excellent shop-

and this is how it was used to recreate a late 18th century bed gown for the exhibition:

Yes, I know…as some of you are well aware, it is my least favourite of The Six, but this year sees the 200th anniversary of its first publication and so I am going to endeavour to put aside my prejudice and be proud to celebrate all its good points.

Every week I plan to write a few posts devoted entirely to Sense and Sensibility…on its history,  explaining points in the text, providing recipes of some of the food mentioned, visiting places mentioned in the text, and hopefully visiting places used as some of the locations in the many adaptations-my favourite being the 1995 version directed by Ang Lee and written by Emma Thompson. And also I intend to review a few of the hundreds of editions of Sense and Sensibility that are available to buy and that I have in my collection.

I’m going to begin with the Heritage Club edition published in 1957.  My copy is a favourite because it was given to me by a dear American friend, and ( hurrah!) is typeset in Baskerville.  It is  illustrated by Helen Sewell( more on whom later, below) and rather wonderfully, has an introduction written by Stella Gibbons.

Stella Gibbons is of course most famous for her book Cold Comfort Farm, which was published in 1932. This was a books she felt compelled to write after feeling such disgust for the writings of Mary Webb, and in particular her novel, Precious Bane. In Cold Comfort Farm she skewered rather magnificently and with extreme precision, all the clichés of the melodramatic country based genre  that this  book contained, rather reminiscent of  the manner in which Jane Austen attacked Mrs Radcliffe and her ilk and the rage for Gothic novels in Nothanger Abbey.

An admirer of Jane Austen her thoughts on this novel in her Introduction are very illuminating ( if a little factually incorrect, but should not detract from the validity of her main points). To be perfectly truthful she articulates some of the reservations I feel about Sense and Sensibility and some of Jane Austen’s more, shall we say , priggishly upright creations( you know who they are….yes, that’s right, Edmund Bertrum, I’m looking at you). Let’s take a look at some of her ideas…

Jane Austen is an almost excessively detached novelist,and she is, above all, a writer of prose and supreme in the creation of comic situations and figures;ill at ease-though still completely the artist -in high tragic mood and anxious to leave it as quickly as possible and get out into the narrative sunlight again…

I do have a feeling this may be  true of her early works…too light and sparking.... let other pens dwell on misery...etc.etc.

Surprisingly,given her penchant for disliking melodramatic clichés, Stella Gibbons felt more sympathy for, in her opinion, the much better delineated character of Marianne than she could for the sensible, steady, restrained character of Elinor:

The story derives its fascination largely from the contrasted characters of the sisters… Marianne believes that love can be experienced only once in a lifetime and that grief should not only be indulged to the full but that consolation is for the coarse-grained,even the dishonourable. The follower of the cult of Sensibility owes a debt to what she believes in….while her creator is severe with Marianne’s follies,she has yet so filled her with life that we feel keenly with her in all she suffers and does and when she meets Willoughby a young man apparently as delightfully filled with Sensibility as herself, and falls headlong into love with him we share her raptures.

She reviews the text as a fellow author and perhaps detects that the young Jane Austen had difficulty in portraying upright characters as opposed to comical ones may be the stumbling block that some of us have in feeling affection for such scrupulously  correct  characters such as Elinor:

Elinor at nineteen is described as having”strength of understanding and coolness of judgement”. Her creator admitted she prefered her to Marianne but the preference must have been based upon approval rather than liking? Elinor not to mince matters, is what some have forthrightly called a stick and she bears those faint traces of having been worked at and over which not only make a character unsympathetic to the general reader but betray to another novelist  (however obscure a sister) that this person has been a bother to do…. We do not know whether Jane Austen ever had bother with her people. When her ease and mastery are considered it seems unlikely that she did but those years of perfectionist revision may have contained such difficulties. Perhaps bother only betrays itself in the stickishness of Elinor and the even stickisherness of her admirer(warmer word I cannot employ) Edward Ferrars, for Jane Austen is not noted for creating sticks.Perhaps she was less successful with those characters whom she designed to display some virtue than she was with those who she felt exhibited some folly or foible(the novelist who writes comedies commonly is; prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance are serious affairs). All this means Elinor is not easy to like….

I do think this is true-until Jane Austen developed as a writer, and produced Persuasion. For in Anne Elliot she created a character who was morally upright, good -all characteristics shared with Elinor, but by the end of her life  Austen had perfected the skill to make the good Anne someone who was also human, loveable and likeable.

Controversially, Stella Gibbons is one of those readers of Sense and Sensibility for whom the ending is not satisfactory:

The shapely story is guided to an ending which satisfies those readers(if such there be) who care whether Elinor is happy or not but which I dare to say,is very unsatisfactory to those who love Marianne….If I have not spoken of Colonel Brandon it is because I do not care to.

“Marianne could never love by halves;and her whole heart became in time as much devoted to her husband as it once had ben to Willoughby”

Oh , we believe it; her character compels us to.But we also believe that Jo March  married Professor Baer and was happy with him and it does not prevent us from wanting her also to have married Laurie: the situations are parallel and both are impossible for readers to accept until the day when that problem about eating and having cake shall find some fourth dimensional solution.

A lot of food for thought in this introduction,and I have only given you what I hope are tempting glimpses of it here.  If you can get hold of a copy I do urge you to read it. Amusing, affectionate but critical from a fellow professional writer’s point of view. I do wish she had written more on the other novels.

To the illustrations…This edition is illustrated in a very interesting, slightly Cubist manner by Helen Sewell. This was, as I understand it, her last commission before her death in 1957.  Helen Sewell was an interesting illustrator  and author of children’s books, one of her most important  commissions was to be the first to illustrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of the Little House on the Prairie books.  For Sense and Sensibility her style was, to my eyes  slightly reminiscent of Picasso’s work for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe in particular, the backcloth for Le train blue.

Here is a thunderously fugitive Mr Palmer hiding from his stupid wife…..

Marianne’s despair on receiving Willoughby’s cruel letter is clearly shown…

The last illustration in the book is this, above, of Edward and Elinor at the Delaford rectory…a place with ample glebe land if this picture is anything by which to judge. This woodcut has a charmingly naive but distinctly North American character, don’t you think?I can almost hear Simple Gifts playing in the background.

This is one of my favourite editions of Sense and Sensibility. I cherish it. And I hope this review has inspired you to seek out a second-hand copy of it.

(© Coram)

John Styles the Curator of the wonderful Threads of Feeling exhibition currently to be seen at the Foundling Museum, and which I reviewed here, is going to give a talk about the exhibit, together with a questions and answer session at the Foundling Musuem, on Wednesday 2nd February from 7.30p.m till 8p.m.

This promises to be a fabulous event, as John is not only the curator of the exhibit but the author of the magnificent book, The Dress of the People which I reviewed here and which, in part, examined in detail the tokens of fabrics left in the billet books of the Foundling Hospital by the poor and disadvantaged of the 18th century. You can see an example of one above. The collection of fabrics is therefore the most complete collection of 18th century working class fabrics in the UK. Examining the collection gives amazing insights into how the poor actually dressed. So, if you have ever wondered how Jane Austen’s characters such as Fanny’s Prices morther and her servant Rebecca from Mansfield Park dressed in Portsmouth , or how Nurse Rooke in Persuasion was attitred, then this is the talk (and book) for you.

I am hoping to go to this (she said frantically re-arranging dates in her diary) and of course if I do get there I will report back to you in full. But I do hope others of you can go: if you go here you can access all the booking details .

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