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This week some of us, at least , will be interested in watching the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton(I freely confess, I’ll be watching for I do love ceremonial and an excuse to party!) A very different, much more private Royal Wedding took place in the last year of Jane Austen’s life and as one of the happy couple was a fan of Jane Austen’s novels (as, allegedly, was her father ) I thought you might like to consider it today.

The wedding of Princess Charlotte, only daughter of the Prince Regent and his wife Caroline of Brunswick and heiress presumptive to the Crown, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, shown above in their box at Covent Garden Theatre, took place on 2nd May, 1816.

Princess Charlotte appears to have been an admirer of Jane Austen’s works, and adored Sense and Sensibility.  From the comments contained in her letters she reveals herself to be a typical teenager (though the term would, of course, have been unknown to her!) and she certainly identified with the character of Marianne Dashwood, that drama queen of all teenagers, and with all her trials and tribulations. Princess Charlotte  was born on 7th January 1796 at Carlton House, the London home of the Prince of Wales. In 1812, when she read the novel, she would have been 16 years old. According to the evidence in her letters by 1st January 1812, she had” heard much” of the novel. By the  22nd January she had got a copy of the novel and had devoured it:

‘“Sence and Sencibility” (sic-jfw) I have just fin- ished reading; it certainly is interesting, & you feel quite one of the company. I think Maryanne (sic-jfw) & me are very like in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c, however remain very like. I must say it interested me much.’

(See page 26, and note 6 thereto of The Letters of Princess Charlotte, 1811–1817,edited by A.Aspinall (1949))

Our friend Joseph Ballard, above, an American visiting England, saw the Princess attend a service at the Chapel Royal on June 17th, 1815. From his description in the journal he kept of his travels, she certainly appears to have been a rather typical teenager in more ways than one….I find it rather amusing…

Having a desire to see Royalty I attended the Chapel Royal, St. James’ Palace, to see the Princess Charlotte, probably the future Queen of England . The chapel is in the courtyard of the palace. The entrance is through a small door into a dark and narrow passage which carried you to the chapel. This is quite a confined room and not at all elegant. The ceiling is panelled and ornamented with the coats of arms of the nobility. The Princess came in attended by several lords and ladies, and took her seat in the gallery opposite to where I stood. She has a pretty face and eyes, with the buxomness of a country lass. Her dress was purple pelisse edged with white, with a French fashioned bonnet and a wreath around it. She had not the least gentility of appearance and her manners were shockingly vulgar, particularly when she stood up. She had then a kind of rolling about, and kept her arms akimbo. She took very little notice of the service and seemed, from her uneasiness, to wish that it were ended….

The wedding took place at Carlton House, the Prince Regent’s London Palace, which Jane Austen had visited in 1815.

The service was held in the Crimson Drawing Room, shown below, as it appeared at the time of the wedding. The room was transformed temporarily into a chapel for the event. A temporary altar with a crimson velvet altar cloth was set up in front of the fireplace. Crimson cushions, prayer books, gold plate and some massive candlesticks were brought in from the nearby  Chapel Royal in  St James’s Palace.

The effect would have been overwhelming and rather suffocating, in my opinion. The  overly flamboyant Prince of Wales was, of course, responsible for the styling of the occasion. Interestingly, his daughter appears to have and  a lighter touch and her country home at Claremont near Esher in Surrey, was decorated in altogether a more restrained style.

So…as ever with these type of occasions the burning question of the hour was….what did the Bride wear ? This is a more vexed question than you would first realise, as we really have no definite answer. This engraving below, again from my collection, of the happy royal couple, was published in the June  1816 edition of La Belle Assemblee, a Regency magazine.

It had this gushing accompaniment (which sounds similar in tone to many of the press reports of the forthcoming wedding that I have read this weekend : plus ca change…)

In the edition of the same magazine for May 1816, this following description of the dress is given:

As we have been gratified with a sight of the wedding dresses of this amiable and illustrious female, a particular yet concise account of them cannot but be acceptable to our fair readers.

 The Royal Bride, happy in obtaining him whom her heart had selected, and whom consenting friends approved, wore on her countenance that tranquil and chastened joy which a female so situated could not fail to experience. Her fine fair hair, elegantly yet simply arranged, owed more to its natural beautiful wave than to the art of the friseur; it was crowned with a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves.

 Her dress was silver lama on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress …

A dress known as Princess Charlotte’s Wedding dress is now in the collection of the London Museum. It is clear that the dress as now seen does not agree with the contemporary descriptions, and examinations of the structure of the dress undertaken by the museum have revealed that it is now probably made up of pieces from two or even three, possibly different, dresses.

The bodice of the dress is very probably the only original part of the dress and is very elaborate. Kay Staniland , the author of In Royal Fashion: The Clothes of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Queen Victoria 1796-1901, an exhibition catalogue of an exhibition of Princess Charlotte’s and  Queen Victoria’s clothes held in 1997 at the Museum of London, and which I was lucky enough to see, is of the opinion that this bodice would not have been covered by a mantle. The right to wear a royal mantle- a long train made of red velvet and ermine which was worn on state occasions was a touchy point of royal etiquette. The account of the mantle’s story by Robert Huish in his biography of Princess Charlotte of 1819 throws some detailed light on the subject. One was  prepared for the Princess but because the Princess was only the granddaughter of a king and not a daughter of one at this point, as her ill grandfather George III was still very much alive though incapacitated, she was not entitled by her rank to wear such a mantle at public occasions. Not even her own wedding. Kay Staniand surmises that Queen Charlotte, the Princess’s grandmother, might have put into action the making of the mantle for Charlotte to wear but that

Given her husbands state of health and the fact that her son as Regent was acting in place of the King she may well have felt that Charlotte was almost the daughter of a king. Perhaps the Regent, occasionally more of a stickler for correct form than his mother, was the one tobe rigid about court etiquette in this instance. He was possibly also unwilling to allow such public acknowledgement of his daughters proximity to the throne.

It is almost certain that the artist responsive for the engraving in La Belle Assemblee, shown above, did not actually see the dress but had to rely on written descriptions of it. Kay Staniland , again in the In Royal Fashion catalogue, remarks

He(the engraver-jfew) was obviously not familiar with court dress and guessed incorrectly that the train was attached at the shoulders: it seems probable that he was confused by the use of the term “manteau” for a court train and translated it into the semblance of a state manteau”

(See: In Royal Fashion, Page 62)

If we have a close look at a part of the dress the part that is most probably original, the bodice- we can see the exquisite nature of the material from which the dress was made.

(Do note that you can clearly see the scallop shell design which was mentioned in the description in La Belle Assemblee.)

The bodice was made from Lama. Lama was a material formed by wrapping thin strips of plain or patterned silver of gold  thread through the net ground of the material. It was dreadfully and ruinously expensive, and time consuming to make, but must have glittered beautifully  in the candlelight radiating from those tall candlesticks in the Crimson Drawing Room. This was a very fashionable fabric in London at the time of the wedding, so the Princess was at the cutting edge of fashion. I wonder if this trend will be continued this week, or if the bride will set rather than follow a fashion? It will be interesting to see…

And did this royal bride and groom live happily ever after? Sadly , not in this case. The stress of living under the constant scrutiny of both the court, its observers and the press began to have detrimental effects on the health of both the Prince and the Princess. In August 1816 Claremont House near Esher in Surrey was brought for them, as a place of refuge in the country, not far from Town.

In David Hughson in  his Circuit of London(1807) described the house as follows:

Claremont was the seat of the late Duke of Newcastle, by whom, when earl of Clare, its present name was given; on which occasion Garth wrote his poem of “Claremont in imitation of Coopers Hill” .It was a small house built under an hill covered with wood by Sir John Vanburgh,of whom it was purchased by the Duke who was at great expence (sic-jfw) in beautifying the gardens; adding to the house a considerable amount of building in stile with the original; and a large room in which he entertained foreign ambassadors and held magnificent banquets. It was purchased by the late Lord Clive who pulled it down and erected a very elegant villa in a better situation. The park is distinguished by its noble woods, lawns , mounts etc. The summer house called the Belvedere on a mount on that side of the park next Esher, affords an extensive view of the country. This beautiful place is now the property of the Earl of Tryconnel.Claremont is the ony legitimate architectural offspring of Capability Brown; it cost Lord Clive £150,000.

(Page 365, volume 5).

©NTPL/David Sellman

This is the Belvedere, as mentioned in Hughson’s description. The stunningly beautiful landscape gardens at Claremont are now owned by the National Trust and are open to the public. Details can be seen here

Whatever happiness and tranquility the couple had living at Clermont was sadly short lived. The Princess died while in labour on 6th November 1817. Her baby, a son, was still-born. Sir Richard Croft, her accoucheur, was criticised in the press and unfairly blamed for the tragedy. He committed suicide some months later after attending another very similar and traumatic birth. Here is his portrait taken in death by a close family friend, Sir Thomas Lawrence.

The nation was consumed by an absolute agony of grief, something that really was not seen again till the untimely and tragic death of Princess Diana produced such extraordinary scenes in 1997. As a result  of Princess Charlotte’s death, the future of the monarchy was at risk, there being no legitimate heir to inherit the Crown in the next generation, though Prince George and his siblings had many illegitimate offspring. This dire situation was not resolved until the Prince Regent’s brother,the Duke of Kent married and had a daughter, Princess Victoria in 1819, who became heir presumptive to the throne after her uncles’ claims.

Princes Charlotte was interred at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on the 19th November 1817 with great ceremony. Her memorial there, shown below, which also is a memorial to her  still-born son,who can be sen in the arms of the Angel to the left of the memorial, is to my mind, incredibly moving, and was created by M.C.Wyatt

In another echo of the uproar caused by Princess Diana’s death, the memorial was paid for by pubic subscription, for so many people wanted to contribute something meaningful as a lasting memory to their Princess. The story of the subscription is related on the blog of The College of St Geroge’s and I quote from it here:

The money required to cover its cost was raised through private subscription as early as 1817, the same year as the Princess’s death. A list of subscribers who donated money was published in The Times newspaper in 1818. Subscribers were urged to write their names legibly on their subscription papers as mistakes were sometimes unavoidable when the newspapers were written and subsequently printed (The Times, 13th January 1818).

There were certain members of the public, however, who felt the money being raised could be used towards greater causes. One reader of The Times brought forward this suggestion in a letter to the editor: ‘The season is now approaching when the opera is to open: in support of its ballets, female children, from the age of 6 to 16, are brought forward: their remuneration for a season of 60 nights, is not more than 41.4s for each child: here is gain at the expense of eternal happiness, interdependent of the vice which is disseminated by their intercourse with those of their own age.’ (The Times, 25th December 1817). Another writer earnestly pleaded that the monument (whatever it turned out to be) should at least ‘…record in some measure the virtues of the distinguished personate to whose memory it is raised. It is not to be the mere mausoleum of her exalted rank, nor the funeral urn of her personal grace and accomplishments; – it is to express the esteem entertained for qualities of another order.’ (The Times, 13th February 1818).

Other cheaper commemorative items  were produced and I have collected a few, some of which I’ll share with you here:

The pieces  are both made of pearlware, with lustre decoration. This is a small saucer, which has suitable mourning symbols around a stylised portrait of the dead princess-weeping willows,and a rather illiterate motto and command : Britain Mourns Her Princes Weep!(sic)

The second is a much larger plate, again made of pearlware and decorated with a central panel full of mourning symbols…

Britannia , angels, etc.  all distraught before an elaborate tomb.For those of you who are interested in these things, this plate will soon be seen on television, in the forthcoming second series of the BBC’s show, Antique Master

These were cheaply produced in their thousands, to satisfy a very large market. They are still affordable antiques today, and are not hard to find.

And so ends a rather sad tale of a very short Royal Marriage.

I do hope this week’s marriage lasts longer and is happier, and the parallels with Princess Diana end at this point. I am going to be celebrating not only The Wedding but my dear daughter’s 18th Birthday over the next few days, so I’ll not be posting here again until next Saturday, and this explains my rather long post today to make uo for my lack of posts over the coming week.

I wish you all a Happy Week, whatever you are watching;) Adieu !

Where do I begin …how on earth do I review this magnificent and comprehensive book in a few words?

It is, let me stress from the outset, the book I have always wanted to read on the church in 18th century Britain. For it not only covers the history of the  fabulous new builds that took place during this century, and developments in architectural trends, with enough architectural plans to satisfy even me, but it also details the life of the church and churchgoers from cradle to grave, see the Funeral Ticket of Mrs Mary Thomas,below:

and the author writes in great and easily digested detail on how the church operated on a daily basis.

The author is a noted expert on the Anglican Church in the 18th century,and one of his earlier books is a favourite of mine, shown below, but I hesitated to reckoned it to you fearing it was of specialist interest only.

Not so with this latest book newly published by the ever excellent Yale.

This is a block buster of a book, comprehensively and beautifully illustrated and very well written. Its only down side is its massive weight (I’m very glad I and it delivered and didn’t have to carry it home, my apologies my local independent bookseller).

It concentrates on the Anglican church and its life within these magnificent buildings, but does include chapters on Catholic chapels,Dissenting chapels, churches in the United States,country house chapels, such as the one at Stoneleigh,whose magnificent plaster ceiling is shown below:

and the Gothick revival chapel at The Vyne, in Hampshire,both places Jane Austen knew well.

This book is invaluable, for references to the Church in Jane Austens works abound,and if you ever wanted to know more of country house chapels the parish churhces or even the architects she mentions, then this is the book for you.

The chapel at Southerton in Mansfield Park was most surely based on the cool Palladainism of the chapel at Stoneleigh,whereas Fanny Price’s sympathies were mor in tune with ancient structures.  The cover shows St Georges Parish Church,  Hanover Square the church where the ever fashionably-minded Mary Crawford imagines Fanny and Henry Crawford will marry…

I am at your service and Henry’s, at an hour’s notice. I should like the scheme, and we would make a little circuit, and shew you Everingham in our way, and perhaps you would not mind passing through London, and seeing the inside of St. George’s, Hanover Square. Only keep your cousin Edmund from me at such a time: I should not like to be tempted.
Mansfield Park, Chapter 43

The book even makes mention of one of Jane Austin’s possibly less favoured architects, the architect appointed by Robert Ferrars friend, Lord Coutland, Joseph Bonomi:

“For my own part,” said he, “I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me, and be happy. I advise everybody who is going to build, to build a cottage. My friend Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice, and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi’s. I was to decide on the best of them. ‘My dear Courtland,’ said I, immediately throwing them all into the fire, ‘do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage.’ And that, I fancy, will be the end of it.
Sense and Sesnibility, Chapter 36.

The book is massive – just under 800 pages- and very heavy,and comes with a CD ROM of documentation of the design and construction histories of 272 ecclesiastical buildings. An elegant solution to space constraints.

It is however packed, simply packed, with fascinating information, about the church, the churches,the people who commissioned them and built them,and the lives of the congregation and priests within the churches themselves.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in finding out more about the Church in Jane Austen’s day, its buildings and its operation, for she was  so intimately connected to it, through her own family and through the lives of her imagined character. This book clears up many misunderstandings or puzzles arising from her works. I would urge you to buy it or seek a view of it in your nearest library.

As it is Holy Week I thought it would be appropriate to write a little about Jane Austen related religious topics this week, and today I’d like to consider two religious paintings by Benjamin West which Jane Austen admired.

Jane Austen was a quietly devout Anglican. The daughter of a clergyman, George Austen, she came from a clerical family and two of her bothers were ordained as Anglican ministers-James and Henry. In addition, her maternal grandfather and great-uncle were both Anglican ministers,as were her godfather, an uncle and four of her cousins.

Her attitude to her faith was rarely expressed directly by her either in her novels or in her letters. Some of her prayers still exist and reveal her faith to have been sincere and deeply held. Her famous comment about the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, made to her niece Fanny Knight who was considering marriage to a religiously serious man and wondering if this was the right thing to do,was probably influenced by her admiration for the work of the the Evangelical Abolitionists,than anything else, in my view:

As there being any objection from his Goodness, from the danger of his becoming even Evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals and am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason and Feeling must be happiest and safest.
(See Letter to Fanny Knight dated 18th November 1814)

It is apparent that  she very much disapproved of the religious attitude of certain Evangelicals, most noticeably, her cousin, Edward Cooper, shown below,

a noted Evangelical preacher and publisher of sermons. Below is the frontispiece of one of his collections of sermons, published in 1825:

Writing to her sister, Cassandra after the death of their sister-in-law, Elizabeth, Edward Knight’s wife who had died after giving birth to her last child, Jane Austen clearly disapproved of Edward Cooper’s habit of writing letters to the newly bereaved that, while they were consistent with his beliefs, could cause distress:

 I have written to Edward Cooper, and hope he will not send one of his letters of cruel comfort to my poor brother
(See letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 15th October, 1808)

In a letter to Martha Lloyd written from Henry Austen’s home in Hans Place, London on the 2nd September 1814 we have some of her most interesting comments on religion, made on seeing some of the religious works of the American born artist, Benjamin West:

I have seen West’s famous painting and prefer it to anything of the kind I ever saw before. I do not know that it  is reckoned superior to his “Healing in the Temple” but it has gratified me much more and indeed is the first representation of our Saviour which ever at all contented me. His Rejection by the elders is the subject. I want to have You and Cassandra see it. 

So that you can fully participate in appreciating Jane Austen’s opinions of them, I have traced copies of these painting for you and reproduce them here. Below is a black and white reproduction of Christ Rejected, which was Jane Austen’s favourite:

(Do note that you can of course,enlarge this illustration by clicking on it,as you can for all the illustrations in this post.)

And below is Christ Healing the Sick, which is the other painting by West that Jane Austen mentioned in her letter to Martha Lloyd.

Christ Healing the Sick was a very large work by West and it was completed in 1811. It’s history is interesting, for it was created at the request of the officers of the Pennsylvania Hospital:

…the officers of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia …wrote to him in 1800 soliciting the gift of a painting. West consented to their request, and in 1801 he exhibited a sketch of ‘Christ Healing the Sick’ at the Royal Academy identifying it in the catalogue as for a large picture to be painted for the hospital. Despite this prompt and positive response , it took him a full decade to produce the large painting, doubtlessly because a work for which he did not expect to be paid had a low priority among his commitments. Ironically, however, when he finally completed it in 1811, he was paid and paid well, accepting an offer of 3,000 guineas for the picture from the directors of the British Institution. This meant that the Pennsylvanians still did not receive the painting they and asked for in 1800, but West did promise to paint a second version, and he eventually did complete a slightly larger and modified replica in 1815. After two more years of delay, it went off to Philadelphia in August 1817.

(See: The Paintings of Benjamin West by Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, page 142)

Christ Rejected (by the Elders in the Temple) was begun in 1801 and Benjamin West exhibited a sketch of the picture in that year. He didn’t finish the painting until 1811. Both paintings were exhibited by West in London and casued quite the sensation.  It is clear that Jane Austen saw them both on her visits to her brother, Henry Austen from the contents of her letter to Martha Lloyd.  As Helmut von Etrffa and Allen Staley write:

The sum of 3,000 guineas that West received in 1811( for Christ Healing the Sick-jfw) was not only more than he had previously received for any other single work, but at the time the highest price known ever to have been paid to any artist for any work and, coming from a public institution, which intended the purchase to be the commencement of a national gallery, it provided  concrete recognition of West’s stature in the profession. The price which was not kept secret, guaranteed the painting’s public success when it went on view in April 1811 at the British Institution, which made a profit on its investments from paid admissions and it inevitably led the artist to think of appropriate sequels. By July 1811 he had prepared an oil sketch for the even larger ‘Christ Rejected’ which he completed three years later, to be followed in its turn after three more years by Death on the Pale Horse, his last major work. These two painting he did not sell, although he was reported to have declined staggering offers for Christ Rejected and he exhibited them himself in special exhibitions at 125 Pall Mall a former home of the Royal Academy.(as above page 142)

Jane Austen therefore must have seen Christ Healing the Sick at the British Institution,and then three years later would have gone to Mr West’s Rooms to see Christ Rejected.  Both these exhibition rooms were in Pall Mall, and my copy of The Picture of London  for 1818

has this to say about The Gallery of the British Intuition:

This Institution was established in 1805 under the patronage of his Majesty for the encouragement and reward of the talents of British Artists and exhibits during half the year a collection of the works of living artists for sale; and during the other half  year, it is furnished with pictures painted by the most celebrated masters for the study of the academic and others in painting.

Mr West’s Rooms are described as follows:

Mr West’s Pictures at the East end of Pall Mall

Mr President West here exhibits  the chefs d’oeuvres of modern art in his  superior pictures of Christ rejected by the Jews and another of Death on the Pale Horse of inferior though of great merit. It is well known by his fine sketch which has been before the pubic some years in the original rooms of the academy…The rooms are also hung with some sketches and minor pictures of this unrivalled painter. The admission is one shilling.

Benjamin West, shown below in a magnificent portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence,

was, of course, the first American born artist to achieve international fame and stature. He was born in the then British colony of Pennsylvania in 1738. He rose to become Historical Painter to King George III and succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds to serve as second president of the Royal Academy in 1792. During his lifetime his reputation was almost unrivalled. He was the most prominent artist in the English-speaking world untill his death in 1820 at the great age of 81 years. He even achieved  fame in France:

…the French artists held Mr West in the highest esteem of an Artist and ..when David spoke of him..he was quite moved to tears. For other British artists they have no applause.
(See: The Paintings of Benjamin West by Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, page 1)

I love the fact that this tiny paragraph in her letter reveals Jane Austen to have been not only someone capable of sensible art criticism,but someone who was bang up to date with the latest developments in the art world. The image of her as a domestically minded spinster,content to stay at home occasionally writing the odd novel is far,far from the truth, to my mind. She was terribly interested in the latest developments in the world, be it  the latest fashions, poems or the latest artworks. I also find it vastly interesting that this is the image of Christ that most appealed to her.

This week we reach the high point of this passionate tale of first loves…but before we see poor Marianne at that terrible moment when she is about to be snubbed by Willoughby, we must first meet Elinor’s nemeis,Lucy Steele.

The first illustration this week is of the incident in Chapter 22 when Lucy reveals that she is engaged to Edward Ferrars:

   “I dare say you are, and I am sure I do not at all wonder at it. But if I dared tell you all, you would not be so much surprised. Mrs. Ferrars is certainly nothing to me at present — but the time may come — how soon it will come must depend upon herself — when we may be very intimately connected.”

   She looked down as she said this, amiably bashful, with only one side glance at her companion to observe its effect on her.

   “Good heavens!” cried Elinor, “what do you mean? Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars? Can you be — — ?” And she did not feel much delighted with the idea of such a sister-in-law.

   “No;” replied Lucy, “not to Mr. Robert Ferrars — I never saw him in my life; but,” fixing her eyes upon Elinor, “to his elder brother.”

   What felt Elinor at that moment? Astonishment, that would have been as painful as it was strong, had not an immediate disbelief of the assertion attended it. She turned towards Lucy in silent amazement, unable to divine the reason or object of such a declaration; and though her complexion varied, she stood firm in incredulity, and felt in no danger of an hysterical fit, or a swoon.

Here I think Thomson conveys Lucy’s sly sideways  glance toward Elinor well, but shows Elinor in some distress, putting her hand to her mouth which,  I think , betrays too much of her emotion. Jane Austen makes it quite clear that Elinor does not betray any of her deeply felt feelings,save for her complexion changing colour. What do you think?

The second illustration is from Chapter 24 where Elinor is again being taunted by Lucy, who is really playing with her like a cat with a mouse, telling her all the pertinent details of her engagement with Edward, while Anne Steele, Lady Middleton , Margaret and Mrs Jennings are playing cards neaby. Marrianne is, of course, playing the newly tuned pianoforte and does not hear then over the noise she is producing by playing her powerful, magnificent concerto.  Anne Steel hears them talking of Beaux and interrupts them…

Strangely Thomson only gives half the quote in the illsutration. This is what Mrs Jennings says in full:

 “I can answer for it that Miss Dashwood’s is not,” said Mrs. Jennings, laughing heartily; “for he is one of the modestest, prettiest behaved young men I ever saw. But as for Lucy, she is such a sly little creature, there is no finding out who she likes.”

Poor Elinor would surely have preferred Lucy to have remained silent on this point…..

The last illustration in this week’s article is my favourite of the three, for I think it reveals very subtly, the different reactions of the sisters.; the joy Marianne is feeling,and the caution that rules Elinor. It is of course, that fateful moment at the party  in Chapter 28 when Marianne spots Willoughby and thinks he has at last come to claim her as his own:

They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her, or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her; and then continued his discourse with the same lady. Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her sister caught hold of her.

   “Good heavens!” she exclaimed, “he is there — he is there — Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot I speak to him?”

   “Pray, pray be composed,” cried Elinor, “and do not betray what you feel to everybody present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet.”

Poor Elinor….trying desperately to have Marianne not betray her feelings for Willoughby to the whole room, and poor Marianne who is just about to have her heart broken not a thousand tiny pieces…..

Longwood House on the island of St Helena, Napoleon’s final home, shown above , is in vital ned of repair and the French Government has launched an appeal to raise money to fund  the restoration. The repairs and restoration of the house are estimated to cost approximately €1.5million, and the French Government is hoping that at least half of the funds needed will be funded by private sources and the public. If you go here you can find the link to the appeal and details of how to donate.

Jane Austen’s brother, Frank knew St Helena and visited it on duty in October 1807 while he was serving as captain on board HMS St Albans.

He wrote about it and his vivid  impressions of the island are included in the book, Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J.H Hubback and Edith C. Hubback. I shall quote them here as they make for fascinating reading. Do remember that at the time Frank was writing the island had no connection with Napoleon at all:

This island being in the hands of the English East India Company, and used by it merely as a rendezvous for its homeward-bound fleets, where during time of war they are usually met at stated periods by some King’s ship appointed to take them to England, has no trade but such as arises from the sale of those few articles of produce, consisting chiefly in poultry, fruit, and vegetables, which are beyond the consumption of its inhabitants, and a petty traffic carried on by a few shopkeepers, who purchase such articles of India and China goods, as individuals in the Company’s ships may have to dispose of, which they retail to the inhabitants and casual visitors at the island.

“The inhabitants are chiefly English, or of English descent, although there is a considerable number of negroes on the island, which with very few exceptions are the property of individuals or of the Company, slavery being tolerated here. It does not however appear that the slaves are or can be treated with that harshness and despotism which has been so justly attributed to the conduct of the land-holders or their managers in the West India Islands, the laws of the Colony not giving any other power to the master than a right to the labour of his slave. He must, to enforce that right, in case a slave prove refractory, apply to the civil power, he having no right to inflict chastisement at his own discretion. This is a wholesome regulation as far as it goes, but slavery however it may be modified is still slavery, and it is much to be regretted that any trace of it should be found to exist in countries dependent on England, or colonised by her subjects. Every person who is above the rank of a common soldier is in some shape or other a trader. A few acres of ground laid out in meadow, or garden ground, will seldom fail to yield as much produce in the year as would purchase the fee-simple of an equal quantity in England, and this from the extravagant price which the wants of the homeward bound India ships (whose captains and passengers rolling in wealth, and accustomed to profusion, must have supplies cost what they may) enable the islanders to affix to every article they raise. To such an extent had this cause operated, that a couple of acres of potatoes, or a garden of cabbages in a favourable season will provide a decent fortune for a daughter.”

All changed in 1815 when Napoleon was imprisoned on St Helena, living at Longwood House untill his death in 1821. He was first buried on the island but his remains were removed to the spectacular surroundings of Les Invalides in Paris in 1840.

After Napoleon’s death the ownership of Longwood  House reverted to the  East India Company , and then  some years later reverted to the British Crown. Napoleon III of France acquired it from the British Government in 1854, and his purchase included the  piece of land where Napoleon’s body had originally been buried.

I’m not sure what Jane Austen would make of this appeal, but  I thought you might be interested to hear of the appeal to restore the house where England’s great enemy during Jane Austen’s lifetime lived and died..

were all part of a sale held this week at Bonhams at Knowle, near Solihull.

Many of the lots dated from our period, so I thought you might be interested to see them (and the prices they raised).

The first is a lot is of  three 18th century baby’s caps and an 18th century baby’s vest decorated with Valenciennes lace: (do note, you can enlarge all these photographs by clicking on them)

This sold for £624 (all sale prices are shown inclusive of the buyers premium)

Lot 4 was an interesting apron dating from the early 19th century,which was tambour embroidered……

This lot sold for £600. Also included in the sale was a very lovely sampler, sewn in London by Margaret MacDowell…in 1813….I wonder if she had a copy of the then newly published Pride and Prejudice as her reward?

Sadly, this lot did not sell…….

And amongst the many, here are is one lot of 18th century fans….made of ivory and hand painted…

which sold for £1440. Here, below, are four late 18th century/ early 19th century Chinese brise fans…

which sold for £3,600.

The whole of the catalogue can be accessed here.….do enjoy trawling through it ;)

The Lyme Regis Museum has recently launched a fascinating blog. Yesterday they wrote about Jane Austen and Lyme for the first( but obviously not the last!) time and a little about the filming of Persuasion in 1994.

Here is an intriguing photograph taken while the filming was underway in the town:


I do hope there is more of this to come ;)

Literary  and artistic  topics of interest covered thus far are, apart from Jane Austen in  Lyme,  James McNeill Whister and G. K. Chesterton who both came under the town’s spell. An easy thing to do…As I know only too well…..;)

So do go and visit the new blog, as I sure you will find it interesting. I certinaly did.

We know that Trim Street in Bath was the last place the Austen ladies- Jane,Cassandra and Mrs Austen- lived while they were in Bath because of the evidence from a letter sent by Mrs Austen to Mary  her daughter- in -law. Here is a link to a post that I wrote about it last year.

Their Trim Street home was supposed to be very temporary accommodation in which to stay while they were  looking at other properties in which to settle on a more permanent basis. They arrived there in January 1806 but were still there in April, and most probably stayed there till they finally left Bath for Clifton and on to Gloucestershire,Warwickshire and Staffordshire in the summer of 1806.

Mrs Austen’s exasperation with her situation and inability to find more suitable lodging was expressed not only in the tone of her letter but in the way she wrote her address

Trim Street Still

The letter, part of which is quoted in Deirdre Le Faye’s book, Jane Austen: A Family Record, gives some hints of the trials of searching for lodgings which suited both their social aspirations and their much reduced pockets, for at this time Mr Austen had been dead for over a year, and they were very dependant upon the charity of the Austen sons. And remember when the family were first searching for lodgings in Bath in 1801 Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra that

In the meantime she (Mrs Austen- Jfw) assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.

(See Letter to Cassandra  Austen, 3rd January 1801)

So…why was Trim Street so exasperating? Well, last summer I had the very enjoyable but slightly odd experience of staying in Trim Street, in a Georgian house rented out as holiday let by a nearby hotel, and may have found some of the reasons which explain Mrs Austen’s desperation to move away.

This view of trim street shows the house where we stayed- on the bottom left by the parked car .It is a typical small, slightly narrow, single fronted  Bath town house, and it was rather plainly built with no internal architectural features of note.

But it had been altered into a wonderful suite of holiday accommodation on four floors,with a sleek modern kitchen, roof terrace, shown above, four bedrooms, excellent bathrooms and sitting room.

Above is the entrance hall…

The stairs…

One of the bedrooms….

And the sitting room on the first floor

This is the view from the sitting room looking out onto the most architecturally distinguished part of Trim Street, General Wolfe’s House.He was staying in Bath  at this house when Pitt the elder commanded him to lead his famous expedition to Quebec.

The street that runs parallel to Trim Street contains the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, which is now the National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases. It was founded in 1738 and was known as The Mineral Water Hospital.  It provided care for the many poor people who flocked to Bath  desperate for a cure for their illnesses from either bathing in or drinking the famed mineral waters.This was the other side of the coin  to fashionable Bath, the one that Mrs Smith in Persuasion was hovering above in genteel poverty in nearby Westgate Buildings.

As you can see from the map above, Trim Street is surrounded by other streets. When Baht is busy, this is a very busy street with many pedestrians cutting though on their way to the attractions of the main shopping area (then as now) -Bond Street

haunt of Sir Walter Elliot

and, of course…

Milsom Street, home to the status obsessed General Tilney…

are seconds away as are  the Pump Room

and the Bath complex and the Abbey.

Perfect for a holiday break today in a rather funkily decorated,  restored period house with all modern conveniences… except for some problems that would have been universal then as now.Do allow me to explain….

Trim Street is narrow and has rather tall buildings. As a result the rooms are sunny for a small period of time: once the sun moved over the rooms were not particularly light. Nor are there any views to be had save for other buildings. No trees, no greenery….and for someone like Jane Austen who seemed to crave the countryside, that would have been hard to endure.

And then there was the noise. The result of the tall buildings in a narrow street is that any noise is amplified and even one person walking along it echos intrusively  into the house. So…if lots of people are waking around,that equates to a lot of noise. Women walking on metal patterns on the cobbled street would be heard all over the house.

We also found the modern phenomena of Hen Partys and etc meant that we heard revellers into the very early ( or late!) hours of the morning, and most nights we didn’t have any peace until at least 3 a.m. Im sure drunken revellers are not just a 21st century phenomena.

And I could imagine that in the not particularly sanitary early 19th century, the air would not be particularly good in such a confined street……Pongs would hang about.

So,while we relished the thought that we were staying On The Street Where She Lived, and indeed it may even have been in that particular house(!) what we didn’t relish were the sort of inconveniences that I am sure would have been experienced by the Austens. No wonder after four months of living there Mrs Austen was quite desperate to get away…..

I received my copy of this book as part of my Mothering Sunday haul of books last weekend ( You didn’t expect I would receive flowers, did you? Not in this household…) It is, of course, the catalogue to a rather intriguing costume exhibition that was held last year in Milan.

Cristina Baretto and Martin Lancaster, independent researchers and textile consultants of the Napoleonic period, have collected clothing from that era (1795-1815) for many years. They wanted to stage an exhibition of their costumes, all perfectly accessorized, in order to explain why this style of clothing was adopted in France and what influenced its development and spread; they also wanted to exhibit a variety of clothes, as worn by the different echelons of society in order to put into the context the reason why this fashion was so revolutionary.  The resulting exhibition, Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion, showcased fifty-one of their magnificent items after they had first been fully restored to pristine condition. The object of the restoration was to have them appear as they would have done when they were first made, over 200 years ago. I’m not sure whether this is the politically correct thing to do, but you have to admit, from the photographic evidence in this catalogue, that the results are breath-taking. And the chapter on the restoration in the catalogue makes for fascinating reading. A new mannequin was also commissioned for the exhibition ( one that looks very like the actor, Phoebe Nichols, shown below, who played Elizabeth Elliot in Nick Dear’s Persuasion, to me…)

The new mannequin was ordered so that the clothes could appear to their best advantage, by being worn by a model whose body shape reflected the measurements of ladies of the era, all taken from the clothing and,  further, who looked as if she was wearing the corsets/undergarments  of the day. Using this new mannequin meant that something akin to the original effect of these clothes could be achieved.

The catalogue has,  apart from magnificent and plentiful reproductions of the clothes in the exhibition themselves, many reproductions of fashion plates of the day, mostly taken from the Journal des Dames at des Modes and Costume Parisien. These are  also  from the Lancaster /Barreto collection.

From comparing the examples of both clothing and prints you can see very clearly how the designs were interpreted by the dressmakers and subsequently worn by their customers.

There are interesting chapters on men’s clothing in the period, with the emphasis on the growth of tailoring, and how early 19th century men’s clothes eventually became  the basis for the present 3-piece suit, now worn in many societies all over the world

Though the emphasis is on French fashion, many English garments and accessories are included in the exhibition and, indeed, in the catalogue  there is a special chapter on Jane Austen and her attitude to fashion. This chapter also  contrasts English fashions and habits with French fashions of the day.

The catalogue contains  good explanatory chapters on life in early 19th century  France, how its society worked and how the clothes reflected this. And there is a fascinating chapter on Napoleon  and his manipulation and promotion of the French fashion industry,  all part of his intention to promote France as the leader of fashion industry in ther late 18th/early 19th centuries, thereby also stimulating  the French economy. All fascinating stuff, particularly regarding his proportion of the Jacquard loom and the wearing of linen.

The clothes exhibited in the catalogue range from the most sumptuous court dresses

and embroidered court trains

and wedding dresses

to the more comfortable and humbler clothes worn by women in pregnancy.

The catalogue is well written and very interesting, though I’m not sure I necessarily agree with all of its claims. For anyone who has the least interest  in the fashion of the period, it is a must buy. The exhibition has now closed but it’s website, accessible here, is still open. If you go here you have a chance to vote as to where the exhibition will next appear. I’ve already voted, and am prepared to go to France of London to see it! If you go here you can see hundreds of photographs of the exhibition taken by the photographer, Phil Thomason. And below is a short five minute video of the exhibition from YouTube:.

I know you are all going to enjoy this magnificent book and, if you are lucky in the ballot, will all rush to see the exhibition that inspired it.


The early 19th century was a very productive time for publishers of guides for the use of travellers who were discovering the joys of traveling in England and Wales. The restrictions on travel because of the wars with France meant that the domestic market was their only possible stamping ground..

As you know I  love these types of books and thought that you may like to see some of the guides to London that someone like the Steele sisters might use to plot their next move from Bartletts Buildings…dreaming of the fashionable West and all its elegance, compared with the bustle of the city….

If they wanted to learn more of the historical background to London and its landmarks then they might  refer to a set of publications like The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Braylake Brayley and John Britton.

I wrote about the Middlesex volumes here (they contain of course all details of London for in the ealry 19th century London was to be found in the county of Middlesex). While they are not Guide Books per se, they do contain very interesting historical information about London and its main buildings.

But if the Steele sisters and their ilk wanted to know a little more about the workings of London’s sights, so as not to appear totally ignorant and so very obviously newly up from the country, then they needed a different sort of guide. One of my favourites is The Picture of London.

This was first issued in 1802 and the last was published in 1818.

They are very detailed guides of want to see and do when in London.They give fantastically detailed information, so that the traveller who was new to London would not feel awkward or idiotic. This extract below, for example ,is the information the Picture of London(1802) gives for Astley’s Amphitheatre in Bridge Street near Westminster Bridge:

This Theatre is situated in the Westminster-road near the bridge, and is built on the very ground on which Mr. Astley, sen. formerly exhibited feats of horsemanship and other amusements in the open air; the success and profits of which enabled him afterwards to extend his plan and erect a building, which, from the rural cast of the internal decorations he called the ROYAL GROVE.

In this theatric structure, stage exhibitions were given, while, in a circular area, similar to that in the present theatre, horsemanship, and other feats of strength and agility, were continued. About seven or eight years ago, it was accidentally burnt down, after which the present theatre was erected under the appellation of the AMPITHEATRE of ARTS.

The interior of the building, though for a summer theatre somewhat heavy in its style, has been rendered truly elegant by its late additional decorations; and the stage and scenery are also greatly improved. The horsemanship, for which a circular ride is provided, is still continued, though it forms a much smaller portion of the evening’s entertainment than formerly.

This theatre always opens on Easter Monday; and its amusements continue till October or November. There are two tiers of boxes, a pit, and gallery.

The prices of admission are four shillings, two shillings, and one shilling. The doors open at half past five, and the performances begin at half past six.

It really does contain everything you really needed to know, don’t you think?

These books were illustrated with engravings of the buildings they described.The early editions with full-page illustration of a single buildings, then the later versions, as in this plate from The Picture of London for 1810 tried to illustrate at least four buildings on one  page, landscape form:

The last edition, of 1818, further simplified this by having four illustrations on one page all executed in a similar style,but placed them so that the book did not have to be turned to appreciate them:

These guides were all pocket-sized , 3 inches by 5 inches approximately, and could easily be carried around. They also included maps of London and sometimes of its environs, which folded out for ease of reference:

This is the map of London that was used in edition of The Picture of London from 1803 onwards.

One of the interesting things to note about these guides is that not much is known about the people who write and published them. The author of the Picture of London was John Feltham and try as I might I’ve not found any meaningful information about him.  I fear he may have been one of a number of hack writer that the publishers employed to write copy. And indeed such was the nature of their work that not many of them used their own name, preferring pseudonyms.

The publisher of these books, Richard Phillips is a slightly different matter. There is a little more information available about him, and his life makes for interesting reading. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography actually has an entry for him and his early life was common place enough:

….the son of a Leicestershire farmer, was born in London; his name at birth may have been Philip Richards. He was sent to schools in Soho Square and at Chiswick by his uncle, a brewer in Oxford Street, but his home surroundings were distasteful to him, and in 1786 he started on his own account as usher in a school at Chester. In 1788 he moved to Leicester, where he invested his small means in a commercial academy in Bond Street. A year later he opened a hosier’s shop, which he stocked with borrowed capital; but it was not until the summer of 1790, when he commenced business as a stationer, bookseller, and patent medicine vendor, that he found his proper vocation. He soon added a printing press, and, when his already heterogeneous business began to prosper, he expanded by selling pianofortes, music, caricatures, and prints, and running a circulating library.

He held somewhat unorthodox views on most subjects. For example, he really did believe that Newtons theory on gravity was idiotic. He was a radical and held strong republican political views and even served 18 months in Leicester gaol for publishing a copy  of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. For such a radical it is surprising to realise that he was knighted.  This event occurred in 1808 rather in the manner I have always thought  Sir William Lucas received his knighthood from the King:

At midsummer 1807 Phillips was elected a sheriff of London, and as the bearer of an address from the corporation to George III, he was knighted by the king on 30 March 1808. During his shrievalty Phillips established the sheriff’s fund for the relief of poor debtors, and placed the sponging-houses under better regulations. In this capacity he wrote and published A Letter to the Livery of London Relative to the Duties and Office of Sheriff (1808), and A Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Juries, and on the Criminal Laws of England (1811).

)(Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online version )

I do wonder if George III had a liking for people who were as eccentric as himself…?

Another London guide writer I can find no information about is David Hughson, Doctor of Law. He is sometimes referred to as David Pugh. It’s all very mysterious. In any event, his books are fabulously detailed and very worthwhile obtaining. One of the most useful for people visiting London was his two-volume work, Walks through London, a larger format series of books than The Picture of London.

This is a series of walks, each illustrated by a detailed map, as below of the area around the Tower of London (and please do remember you can enlarge these illustrations by clicking on them)

These maps were supplemented  by individual plates of interesting or notable buildings, as in this one of Fishmongers Hall

For the traveller interested in the then countryside around London, Hughson  also produced a series of books from 1805-1819 London being an accurate  History and Description of the British Metropolis and its Neighbourhood to Thirty Miles Extant

This was a part work, issued gradually and eventually it comprised six volumes, copiously illustrated with single plates, as in this one, below,  of Carlton House ,the London home of the Prince of Wales.

The engravings in these books are fabulous, very detailed and are by far my favourites of this type. Each includes a vignette of life in early 19th century London, and they have a charm not many other engravings possess. Such a pity I cannot find out anything about Dr Hughson..if indeed that was his real name.


Poor Blake Ritson has had to make his excuses and cannot now attend the evening in Chawton on Saturday the 9th April (which is this coming Saturday) as he is now committed to a days filming. But the good news is that Charity Wakefield will be able to attend in his stead and therefore this will be a marvellous opportunity to meet two of the Dashwood sisters as they were portrayed in the latest BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Hattie Morahan, shown below in her role as Elinor……

and Charity Wakefield, shown below portraying Marianne

will be meeting everyone  for a pre-performance gathering in the new Learning Centre at the Museum from 7 p.m., and then  they will give a talk followed by a question and answer session at Chawton village Hall. They are both marvellous actors and I’m sure this opportunity to put questions to the Dashwood sisters about their roles, and how they enjoyed playing and interpreting the differences  between the sisters etc  will be one not to miss. The two sisters and their relationships are one of the most interesting aspects of Sense andSensibility to me,and therefore this really is an opportunity not to be missed.

Tickets cost  £17.50 each,  concessions £15.00 (to include pre-performance glass of wine). Under 16 tickets will cost £10.00 each.

Places are very limited so please do telephone the museum to book on  01420 83262 as soon as possible to secure your place.

Today, I thought I might take the opportunity to launch a new website, Jane Austen’s Letters. As many of you already know, I LOVE studying Jane Austen’s letters. They inform, amuse, intrigue and sometimes madden. Her tone is sometimes affectionate, bantering, downright cruel or sphinx-like and unfathomable.

I love to discover all I can about the people and the places she mentions in them and that was the idea behind the new website:  to add informative links to the letters so that they are easier to understand and enjoy.

The site will, in time, contain the text of all Jane Austen’s letters. Each letter will be annotated with links to the Jane Austen Gazetteer ( the Gazetteer will also have linked added to it, to each of the letters) and to posts on this site, explaining points or places mentioned in the letters.

It is, of course, a work in progress and only the first year of Jane Austen’s letters -1796- is covered at the moment, but eventually all the known letters will be accessible there.

I do hope you enjoy visiting the site, which will always be accessible from the left hand column of this site, and from A Jane Austen Gazetteer.

This week the following places have been added to A Jane Austen Gazetteer, Austenonly’s sister site. Do click on the links, below, to be taken to each place’s page, which contain contemporary maps, engravings, a contemporary description( if available) and a list of Jane Austen references to each place.

Ashe, Hampshire

Dean Gate Inn Hampshire

Ibthorp, Hampshire

Litchfield, Hampshire

Manydown, Hampshire


Staines, Middlesex

Dover, Kent

Harden, Oxfordshire

Cork, Ireland

The West Indies


I know this may seem at first like it is a random choice of places but all will be revealed next week, and it will finally make sense, I promise! In the meantime do enjoy yourselves clicking away at all the links!

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Birds of Passage: Henrietta Clive's Travels in South India 1798-1801 edited by Nancy K Shields

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Enterprising Women and Shipping in the 19th Century by Helen Doe

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Over a Red Hot Stove edited by Ivan Day

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography

Coke of Norfolk 1754-1843: A Biography by Susanna Wade Martins

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830

Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain Edited by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow by Emma Rutherford

The Dress of the People by John Styles

The Dress of the People by John Styles

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, Chawton Edition

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell

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