You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.

I’m taking a little break with my family, unbelievably to places not related to Jane Austen (!), so there will be no new posts for the next two weeks.

In the meantime do enjoy the archives and let’s pray that this cold snap will evolve into more summery weather!

Our selection of Hugh Thomson’s illustration this week include some of his best efforts, in my very humble opinion.

The first is of that dreadful creation, John Dashwood, seeing his half sisters into Mrs Jennings’ carriage in Sackville Street. He is clearly only interested in meeting Mrs Jennings because she is rich. Odious man.

John Dashwood was really far from being sorry to see his sisters again; it rather gave them satisfaction; and his inquiries after their mother were respectful and attentive.

 Elinor found that he and Fanny had been in town two days.

 “I wished very much to call upon you yesterday,” said he, “but it was impossible, for we were obliged to take Harry to see the wild beasts at Exeter Exchange: and we spent the rest of the day with Mrs. Ferrars. Harry was vastly pleased. This morning I had fully intended to call on you, if I could possibly find a spare half-hour, but one has always so much to do on first coming to town. I am come here to bespeak Fanny a seal. But to-morrow I think I shall certainly be able to call in Berkeley Street, and be introduced to your friend Mrs. Jennings. I understand she is a woman of very good fortune. And the Middletons too, you must introduce me to them . As my mother-in-law’s relations, I shall be happy to shew them every respect. They are excellent neighbours to you in the country, I understand.”

 “Excellent indeed. Their attention to our comfort, their friendliness in every particular, is more than I can express.”

 “I am extremely glad to hear it, upon my word; extremely glad indeed. But so it ought to be; they are people of large fortune, they are related to you, and every civility, and accommodation that can serve to make your situation pleasant, might be reasonably expected. And so you are most comfortably settled in your little cottage and want for nothing! Edward brought us a most charming account of the place; the most complete thing of its kind, he said, that ever was, and you all seemed to enjoy it beyond anything. It was a great satisfaction to us to hear it, I assure you.”

 Elinor did feel a little ashamed of her brother; and was not sorry to be spared the necessity of answering him, by the arrival of Mrs. Jennings’s servant, who came to tell her that his mistress waited for them at the door.

 Mr. Dashwood attended them down stairs, was introduced to Mrs. Jennings at the door of her carriage, and repeating his hope of being able to call on them the next day, took leave.

Chapter 33.

The next illustration shows that meeting taking place….

His visit was duly paid. He came with a pretence at an apology from their sister-in-law, for not coming too; “but she was so much engaged with her mother, that really she had no leisure for going any where.” Mrs. Jennings, however, assured him directly, that she should not stand upon ceremony, for they were all cousins, or something like it, and she should certainly wait on Mrs. John Dashwood very soon, and bring her sisters to see her. His manners to them , though calm, were perfectly kind; to Mrs. Jennings, most attentively civil; and on Colonel Brandon’s coming in soon after himself, he eyed him with a curiosity which seemed to say, that he only wanted to know him to be rich to be equally civil to him .

Chapter 33

This is a masterly passage. Mrs Jennings’ uncomplicated kindness  is expressed perfectly in her statement that ” they were all cousins or something like that”… friendly and cordial relationships are what matter to her not the depth of someone’s pocket. And Thomson portrays this genial openness very well in the illustration,above.  For John Dashwood being kind and genial depended very much upon the material worth of the company before him. He is only now using his relationship with his sisters to expand his acquaintance of wealthy people. He really is detestable.


 

And talking of detestible…here we see that dreadful woman, Mrs Ferrars, who truly  is a sour, dried up, bitter fruit.

Mrs. Ferrars was a little, thin woman, upright, even to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect. Her complexion was sallow: and her features small, without beauty, and naturally without expression: but a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong characters of pride and ill-nature. She was not a woman of many words: for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas; and of the few syllables that did escape her, not one fell to the share of Miss Dashwood, whom she eyed with the spirited determination of disliking her at all events.

Chapter 34

This is  one of Thomson’s best illustrations in the book. He has captured this proud and hateful woman’s character perfectly.

And finally we see the sweet innocent nature of Marianne,perfectly captured in this illustration, who simply cannot understand why Edward wants to leave Elinor’s company. Whereas we know exactly why Edward just wants to run as fast as he can……to be as far away as possible from the woman with whom he is secretly engaged, Lucy, and the woman he truly loves….   Just look at the tension in Edward’s shoulders…

“Going so soon!” said Marianne; “my dear Edward, this must not be.”

   And drawing him a little aside, she whispered her persuasion that Lucy could not stay much longer. But even this encouragement failed, for he would go; and Lucy, who would have outstaid him had his visit lasted two hours, soon afterwards went away.

   “What can bring her here so often!” said Marianne, on her leaving them. “Could she not see that we wanted her gone! How teasing to Edward!”

   “Why so? — we were all his friends, and Lucy has been the longest known to him of any. It is but natural that he should like to see her as well as ourselves.”

   Marianne looked at her steadily, and said, “You know, Elinor, that this is a kind of talking which I cannot bear. If you only hope to have your assertion contradicted, as I must suppose to be the case, you ought to recollect that I am the last person in the world to do it. I cannot descend to be tricked out of assurances that are not really wanted.”

   She then left the room; and Elinor dared not follow her to say more, for bound as she was by her promise of secrecy to Lucy, she could give no information that would convince Marianne; and painful as the consequences of her still continuing in an error might be, she was obliged to submit to it. All that she could hope, was that Edward would not often expose her or himself to the distress of hearing Marianne’s mistaken warmth, nor to the repetition of any other part of the pain that had attended their recent meeting — and this she had every reason to expect.

Chapter 35.

The most excellent Yale Centre for British Art, more correctly the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, has recently launched a new website.

If you go  here   you can access it. You can now search the marvellous online collections and find the most wonderful treasures there, like this portrait of the artist, George Romney’s brothers…

or George Morland’s slightly sentimental view of The Squire’s Gate, circa 1790:

The date vase is searchable by many different terms-artist, time period or relevant subjects, i.e. house, poor, landscape etc. .

And what is even more wonderful, in a stunning act of generosity, all the images there are now considered to be in the public domain and  can be freely used on websites etc provided accreditation to Yale is given.

How wonderful, what a boon to non-profit website all over the world, and I would love other institutions to follow their lead.

In our last post we talked about the exteriors of the Old Rectory at Teigh in Rutland, used as the Hunsford Parsonage in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Today, let’s take a look at the interiors.

The Hall is a room we see mainly when Charlotte and Mr Collins are leaving ,with Maria to yet another scintillating evening at Rosings in the company of Lady Catherine.

Poor Elizabeth is glad to see them go so she can throughly make  herself miserable by re-reading all Jane’s letters to her, for she is now, coourtesy of  Colonel Fitzwilliam,  in possession of the knowledge that Darcy did intervene to prevent Bingley from forming too strong an attachment to her sister. Badly done Darcy.

This is the most beautiful room, currently used by its owner as a guest dining room

In the adaptation it was painted grey but Mrs Owen has since painted it a more cheerful yellow.

The plaster work is stunning,and sets this room apart architecturally from the rest of the house.

The ceiling is amazingly detailed

The Staircase Hall again has some beautiful plasterwork decoration

with plaster pilasters, which boast  wonderful Corinthian capitals,which flank the arched window.

If we go up another flight of stairs we come to the room that was used as Elizabeth Bennet’s Bedroom.

And which looks out onto the church to the side of the house

The bed is in a slightly different position,as you can see….

But one original feature  still remains…..the corner closet

which had been so thoughtfully kitted out by Lady Catherine with…

…shelves…

What an orginal thinker she was….

Sadly, the shelves are not  normally kept in the closet for it is used as a wardrobe..but you can see where they would have been…

And finally , down one flight of stairs, to the sitting room on the first floor, which was backwards, and used by Mrs Collins to insulate her from the irritations of her husband’s company…..

where she could receive welcome guests, such as Colonel Fitzwilliam…

and where Lizzy would receive, rather awkwardly, less than welcome ones…

who made insulting proposals of marriage while the clock on the mantle was stuck at 18:17….;)

This room is a delightful sitting room, used by guests to the Rectory.

It is still decorated in the same wallpaper, which makes the room so instantly recognisable to admirers of this adaptation.

It is very easy to reenact that dreadful proposal scenes in one’s head as you sit in the room…

..so vividly did that scenes impress itself on one’s memory.

And that ends our tour of the interiors…but fans of that adaptation will be pleased to note that you can actually stay at the Old Rectory for Victoria runs it as a thriving Bed and Breakfast business. If you go here you can access her website and make your booking. It is only 20 miles from Belton House, which was used as Rosings, and 16 miles from Stamford, the setting for Meryton in the other Pride and Prejudice, of 2005 with Matthew McFaddeyn and Keria Knightley. A perfect base for doing some adaptation based sight seeing;)

Last week I was lucky enough to be granted permission to photograph The Old Rectory in the village of Teigh in Rutland,which served as Mr Collins’ Rectory in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Today we shall look at the exteriors, and in the next post, the interiors.

We first see the Rectory in the adaptation when Elizabeth, Sir William Lucas and Maria Lucas visit the Collins’ in their home.

The gravelled drive sees the first meeting of Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte since her ruthlessly sensible marriage to Mr Collins.

And, it is, of course, the back ground to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s hasty retreat after his disastrous marriage proposal to Elizabeth, which was so roundly rejected.

It is interesting to note that while the church used as Mr Collins church was, in reality, on the Belton estate, the Belton parish church of  St Peter and St Paul…

…the parish church and the Old Rectory at Teigh are nearly 20 miles away. Luckily, the church has a tower that is very similar to the church at Belton and as you can see, it is very difficult to spot the difference, especially  during the small amounts of screen time either church was given.

This was, of course, one of the main reasons the production team chose the Old Rectory to serve as Hunsford Rectory. The owner, Victoria Owen confided to me  that  the reasons they chose her home was because of the church, the house was of the right period, and because it does have a parlour that faces “backwards” like Charlotte’s favoured room at Hunsford.

Elizabeth was thankful to find that they did not see more of her cousin by the alteration, for the chief of the time between breakfast and dinner was now passed by him either at work in the garden, or in reading and writing, and looking out of window in his own book-room, which fronted the road. The room in which the ladies sat was backwards. Elizabeth at first had rather wondered that Charlotte should not prefer the dining-parlour for common use; it was a better sized room, and had a pleasanter aspect; but she soon saw that her friend had an excellent reason for what she did, for Mr. Collins would undoubtedly have been much less in his own apartment had they sat in one equally lively; and she gave Charlotte credit for the arrangement.

Chapter 30.

More on that in the next post.

Teigh is a tiny, beautifully peaceful village in Rutland, England ‘s smallest county, set in some fabulously serene countryside. This is the view from the church over the surrounding fields…

The parish church at Teigh, Holy Trinity,  is ancient, but the interior, very suitably, dates from 1782. I have not taken any photographs of the interior, for it didn’t appear in the adaptation,  but if you go here you can see just how stunning this rare survivor of a church interior of the Georgian era truly is.

The church is very close to the Rectory as you can see from this photograph.

Perfect for filming.When I visited sheep were safely grazing in the churchyard, amid the ancient headstones…

and this delightfully friendly lamb made my acquaintance. Idyllic.

Next, the interesting interiors.

Sotheby’s, the London auctioneers, are to sell the manuscript of Jane Austen’s unfinished work The Watsons on July 14th this year.

This is, of course, one of the few manuscripts of her adult works remaining to us, the only others that remain being the cancelled chapters of Persuasion and her other unfinished novel, Sandition, which she worked on until just before her death. She put the manuscript aside on March 18th, 1817.

Written on paper watermarked “1803” , The Watsons was thought by Edward Austen Leigh to have been written in Bath before 1805. My research disagrees with this date, and I am of the opinion that the family tradition, held by Francis Austen’s descendants,  that Jane Austen began and ended her work on the manuscript in 1807, while she was living in reduced circumstances in Southampton, is more likely to be correct. It is thought that she failed to complete the novel because the heroine, Emma Watson’s impoverished circumstances  were too close  to the situation Jane Austen found herself in, both socially and financially, after the death of her father in Bath in 1805.

The manuscript has had an interesting history. It is now in two parts, the first twelve pages, on six leaves of paper, are owned by the Morgan library in New York, and can be seen here

 The next few pages,according to this report in the Guardian Newspaper, were inexplicably lost by Queen Mary College of the University of London which has had custody of the manuscript.

The college’s director of library services Emma Bull said it happened six years ago, before she arrived, and had resulted in a full investigation which, alas, “did not really come to any firm conclusions about what specifically happened.” There had been a hope that they would turn up, but clearly that is now highly unlikely.

The website, Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts tells us that

The manuscript descended from Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra to her niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805-1880), the younger daughter of their eldest brother James. It was in Caroline’s possession when first published in 1871 by her brother James Edward Austen-Leigh. It passed to Caroline Austen’s nephew, William Austen-Leigh, and he presented the first six leaves (a quire of two leaves and a quire of four leaves) to a charity sale in aid of the Red Cross Society at Christie, Manson, and Woods’s on 26 April 1915. Lot 1520, it sold for £65 to Lady Wernher. Page 1 of this portion of the manuscript bears the two red stamps of the Red Cross Society and the Order of St John. R. W. Chapman made the first and only close scholarly examination of the entire holograph manuscript in 1924, by which time these six leaves were in the possession of Lady Alice Ludlow.  Soon afterwards this smaller portion was with the London dealer C. J. Sawyer, who, after unsuccessfully trying to purchase the larger part of the manuscript from its then owners, Lionel Arthur Austen-Leigh and his three sisters (the nephew and nieces of William Austen-Leigh), offered the fragment for sale for £385. It was acquired in 1925 for £317.5s.6d by the Morgan Library, where it remains. The larger portion of the manuscript was in Austen-Leigh family ownership (though much of the time on deposit in the British Museum) until 1978 when it was sold at Sotheby’s London for £38,000, to the British Rail Pension Fund. It was again auctioned in 1988, at Sotheby’s London, and was sold for £90,000. Since 1988 it has been the property of Sir Peter Michael and is now on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London, where Sir Peter was once a student.

Southey’s are selling the larger part owned by Sir Peter Michael. They are, of course, delighted to be the auction house chosen to conduct the sale and Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, says without exaggeration, in my humble opinion:

“It is very exciting. This is the most significant Austen material to come on the market since the late 1980s.”

He also commented on Jane Austen writing style from the evidence of the manuscript:

“Writers often fall into two categories,” said Heaton. “The ones who fall into a moment of great inspiration and that’s it and then you have others who endlessly go back and write and tinker. Austen is clearly of the latter variety. It really is a wonderful, evocative document.”

If you would like to see the facsimiles of the pages to be sold , then please go here

I will of course keep an eye out for the result of this auction and will let you know what price the manuscript fetches and, if known,  the identity of the purchaser…I have a sneaking suspicion that unless it is a public institution, that information will remain a secret , …don’t you?

We are nearly at the end of our series of posts on the illustrations of Hugh Thompson the Ulster-born artist, for Sense and Sensibility.

This week’s illustrations are all very different, but they all show scenes that happen off -stage. The first is one of my favourites. It shows, in flashback, Mrs Jennings tending to her late but much beloved husband, who so enjoyed a glass of Constantia wine, especially when he was suffering from gout:

 In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired, she was soon joined by Mrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass, full of something, in her hand.

   “My dear,” said she, entering, “I have just recollected that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house, that ever was tasted — so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poor husband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his old cholicky gout, he said it did him more good than anything else in the world. Do take it to your sister.”

   “Dear ma’am,” replied Elinor, smiling at the difference of the complaints for which it was recommended, “how good you are! But I have just left Marianne in bed, and, I hope, almost asleep; and as I think nothing will be of so much service to her as rest, if you will give me leave, I will drink the wine myself.”

   Mrs. Jennings, though regretting that she had not been five minutes earlier, was satisfied with the compromise; and Elinor, as she swallowed the chief of it, reflected that, though its good effects on a cholicky gout were at present of little importance to her, its healing powers on a disappointed heart might be as reasonably tried on herself as on her sister.

Chapter 30.

Mr Jennings looks as if he really is being cosseted by his loving wife, his feet raised on a foot stool to try to ease the pain of the gout. She is treating him to a glass of the sweet dessert wine which used to be (and now still is) made near Cape Town in South Africa. It was a very popular drink  in early nineteenth century Engalnd..more on this soon….

The next illustration also shows a scene  that is reported to us: that when he still  thought quite well of him , Sir John Middleton had offered Willoughby one of Folly’s puppies. Sir John on hearing that Willoughby  was indeed a blackguard had a reaction that only he could have :

Her carefulness in guarding her sister from ever hearing Willoughby’s name mentioned, was not thrown away. Marianne, though without knowing it herself, reaped all its advantage; for neither Mrs. Jennings, nor Sir John, nor even Mrs. Palmer herself, ever spoke of him before her. Elinor wished that the same forbearance could have extended towards herself, but that was impossible, and she was obliged to listen day after day to the indignation of them all.

   Sir John could not have thought it possible. “A man of whom he had always had such reason to think well! Such a good-natured fellow! He did not believe there was a bolder rider in England! It was an unaccountable business. He wished him at the devil with all his heart. He would not speak another word to him, meet him where he might, for all the world! No, not if it were to be by the side of Barton covert, and they were kept waiting for two hours together. Such a scoundrel of a fellow! such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met that he had offered him one of Folly’s puppies! and this was the end of it!”

Here we have Sir John  with his rather servile looking groom, chatting amiably to Willoughby ,about the next litter one of his hounds. Typical of Jane Austen, she reveals the essential nature of the man in his enthusiasms. Sir John is a typical country gentleman who no doubt hunted, shot and fished. His disgust at Willoughby’s behaviour, is  now revealed, and is couched in his own terms of reference.  Folly’s puppy had, in his opinion, a great escape, comparable to Marianne’s. And this is of course not the first time Sir John  reacted in this way. When asked by Marianne about Willoughby’s character when they first met, Sir John could only wax lyrical about Willoughby’s pointer:

And is that all you can say for him?” cried Marianne, indignantly. “But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents and genius?”

   Sir John was rather puzzled.

   “Upon my soul,” said he, “I do not know much about him as to all that. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest little black bitch of a pointer I ever saw. Was she out with him to-day?”

   But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby’s pointer than he could describe to her the shades of his mind.

Chapter 9.

The third and final illustration this week, is another humorous one:

Here we have a glimpse of Nancy Steele’s “beau”, The Doctor, Dr Davies,who had accompanied Nancy and Lucy to London in a postchaise:

 “Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Jennings, “and how did you travel?”

   “Not in the stage, I assure you,” replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation; “we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we’d join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did.”

   “Oh, oh!” cried Mrs. Jennings; “very pretty, indeed! and the Doctor is a single man, I warrant you.”

   “There now,” said Miss Steele, affectedly simpering, “everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest; but for my part I declare I never think about him from one hour’s end to another. ‘Lord! here comes your beau, Nancy,’ my cousin said t’other day, when she saw him crossing the street to the house. ‘My beau, indeed!’ said I, ‘I cannot think who you mean. The Doctor is no beau of mine.'”

   “Aye, aye, that is very pretty talking — but it won’t do — the Doctor is the man, I see.”

   “No, indeed!” replied her cousin, with affected earnestness, “and I beg you will contradict it, if you ever hear it talked of.”

   Mrs. Jennings directly gave her the gratifying assurance that she certainly would not , and Miss Steele was made completely happy.

I love the simpering Nancy and the ever so slightly disapproving Lucy in this illustration. It has a lively feel, with the ostler’s men taking down the luggage from the post-chaise behind them. As ever I feel that Thompson works best when he can illustrate an amusing passage. What do you think?

© The Lyme Regis Museum Blog

Dr Andrew May of the Lyme Regis Museum took copious notes at Diana Shervington’s latest talk,  Jane Austen-Why Didnt She Marry?– which she gave there last Thursday, and was kind enough to give me the “heads up” notice of his report which can be found here at the Lyme Regis Museum’s excellent blog.

Do pop over and read it as it sounds as if it was a fascinating afternoon. I know of a lot of you wanted to attend but couldn’t so reading this report is the next best thing!

is the title of this BBC Radio 4 programme,available to Listen Again here, which was kindly bought to my attention by one of my correspondents after reading my Edward Ferrars and Hair Jewellery post.

Its an intesting programme ( only 30 minutes long) about the history of hair used as a symbol of remebrance, and I’m sure you will enjoy it,even if it does cover periods other than the time we are primarily intersted in here.

This is a short post to remind you that Diana Shervington, descendant of Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother who gave his sisters and mother the cottage at Chawton in which to live from 1809 onwards, is to give a talk tomorrow on the reasons why Jane Austen failed to marry. The talk will be held at the Philpott Museum in Lyme Regis at 2.30p.m.  I should love to be there, but as ever life has intervened….but if you are in the area, do go as it sounds like  it promises to be a very interesting and entertaining afternoon.

Continuing our series of posts to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, I thought it might be an opportune moment today to write about sentimental jewellery as worn by Edward Ferrars.

Poor Elinor Dashwood. She  has all her  hopes about a gently burgeoning, mutual and serious attraction between her and Edward Ferrars cruelly dashed, when it is revealed that a ring containing hair, one that he has suddenly taken to wearing, is made from a plaited lock, not of his sisters or even her own hair as Elinor had initially surmised, but of hair belonging to the scheming Lucy Steele to whom he is clandestinely engaged:

Elinor saw that it was his hand, and she could doubt no longer. The picture, she had allowed herself to believe, might have been accidentally obtained; it might not have been Edward’s gift; but a correspondence between them by letter, could subsist only under a positive engagement, could be authorised by nothing else; for a few moments, she was almost overcome — her heart sunk within her, and she could hardly stand; but exertion was indispensably necessary, and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression of her feelings, that her success was speedy, and for the time complete.

   “Writing to each other,” said Lucy, returning the letter into her pocket, “is the only comfort we have in such long separations. Yes, I have one other comfort in his picture; but poor Edward has not even that . If he had but my picture, he says he should be easy. I gave him a lock of my hair set in a ring when he was at Longstaple last, and that was some comfort to him, he said, but not equal to a picture. Perhaps you might notice the ring when you saw him?”

   “I did;” said Elinor, with a composure of voice under which was concealed an emotion and distress beyond anything she had ever felt before. She was mortified, shocked, confounded.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 22.

So, now we find Elinor, surrounded by the many proofs of the existence of the engagement between Lucy and Edward: earlier in this chapter Lucy had already produced a portrait miniature of Edward, a strong proof of an attachment as lovers often wore portraits of their love ( or his or her eyes) set in jewellery ;  then she produced a letter, proof, as the passage above indicates, of an engagement as during this period a correspondence between young men and women was only properly to be undertaken between engaged  men and women (there were other exceptions to the “no letter writing” rule, that is between relations or  correspondence about a matter business); and the coup de grace is the hair ring, a very intimate token of regard. Elinor,and we, the readers, can no longer doubt that Edward and Lucy are indeed engaged and involved intimately, albeit secretly.

Hair jewellery has been out of fashion for some time now. I am lucky to posses a few family pieces in my collection dating from the mid 18th century to the late 19th century. Some people find these items squeamish. I confess, I don’t.

The hair jewellery with which we are most familiar is, I suppose, mourning jewellery, which often contained a lock of hair of the deceased and would have been given to members of the deceased’s family as a memento. And indeed hair did not need to be made into jewellery to be treasured. Jane Austen’s hair was kept as a momento, see below,

as was a lock of her father’s hair, and both are kept in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum. Do note the label –My Father’s Hair– is written in Jane’s hand:

Here are two items of mourning jewellery containing hair from my collection:

a Georgian brooch, above, dating from 1816, containing a lock of hair held in a glass locket surrounded by pearls

and a later Victorian brooch dating from 1852, made of gold with black enamel decoration. The hair is plaited in the centre glass window of the jewel, as Lucy’s hair would have been plaited and set in Edward’s ring.

But, as we have now realised, some of these sentimental jewels were given as tokens of love and fidelity, often at the time of an engagement. They did not always denote memorials of death.

This, above is another  family piece, circa 1765, and it is obvious from the colour of the gemstone  used, -pink foiled tourmaline- that the brooch is not meant to symbolise memories of  death. Mourning jewellery most often used two colours- white and black -as these were permitted colours associated with the first and most severe period of mourning. It is interesting to note that white emanel used on a piece would often indicate that the deceased was unmarried at death.

The reverse of the brooch has a small compartment filled with lightly plaited hair , presumably taken from the beloved’s head. It is, of course not ,seen by anyone when the piece is being worn,as it is hidden next to the skin or clothes. I often wonder of this brooch commemorated a clandestine relationship ….I do wish it could talk.

The fashion for purely sentimental, or lover’s  jewellery  increased after the publication in 1761 of Rousseaus’ La Nouvelle Heloise as Diana Scarisbrick explains in her magnificent book,  Jewellery in Britain 1066-1837: a Documentary, Society, Literary and Artistic Survey:

Devotees of this novel extolling the virtues of the simple life and true love paraded their enamel crystal lockets of hair and the miniatures of loved one as proudly as they wore parues of rubies or diamonds. Mrs Delaney expressed the feelings which such jewels represented in her lines

All things but friendship such as your

Inconstant pass away

This lock the emblem of your love

Like that will ne’er decay.

Mrs Delaney’s poem alludes to the reason why hair was chosen as a memorial of  love: hair simply does not rot away…as everlasting regard or love should endure…

Both types of hair jewellery have been in the news this year, for in January a love token, not a memorial piece, containing hair supposed to be that of Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton, was sold in Salisbury by the auctioneer Wooley and Wallis of Salisbury.

It was a double sided locket. One side, above, allegedly showing a lock of Lord Nelson’s hair, together with an anchor worked in seed pearls and the initial “N” …

and the reverse of the locket , showing what is thought to have been Emma Hamilton’s auburn hair. When it sold the piece achieved the amazing figure of £44,000.

Last week a piece of mourning  jewellery commemorating Napoleon  was sold by the auctioneer David Lay of Penzance in Cornwall, for the rather more modest price of £4000

So, there you are, a little explanation of hair jewellery as worn by Edward Ferrars, which was, when Sense and Sensibility was composed and written, an up to the minute expression of regard, and denoted the true nature of his relationship with Lucy Steele. No wonder poor Elinor was depressed when confronted with the evidence of this ring and what it represented.


Last week I paid a long over due return visit to Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire, now maintained by the National Trust,but which was the home of those ever improving gardeners of the 18th century, Lord Cobham, Earl Temple and the Marquess of Buckingham,who employed only the best, Bridgeman, Vangburgh, James Gibbs, William Kent and Capability Brown,  in the making of their earthy paradise, filled with garden buildings replete with so many political allusions.

There is, believe it or not, a more or less direct link to Jane Austen from this garden and its owners, so I feel entitled to write about it on that score, but of course it is one of the most influential 18th century landscape gardens in England and we really ought to consider it on that point alone. I will be posting a full account of the garden in a few weeks time.

This week I wanted to concentrate on the ha-ha at Stowe, as it is most probably the mother of them all. The ha-ha was a sunken fence, a visually unobtrusive device to separate the livestock of the park from the ornamental pleasure gardens surrounding a great house. I have written about ha-has before, and of course they are important to Jane Austen studies as she used it as a magnificent metaphor for restraint, and forced improvement in a n unfortunate relationship in chapters 9 and 10 of Mansfield Park.

The ha-ha at Stowe has been magnificently restored over the past twenty years and is very important as it was most probably the first ha-ha in England, from which all the others including Mr Rushworth’s at Southerton have evolved.

This plan of the Stowe estate, below,  by Charles Bridgeman, executed in 1739, shows the garden proper, in the bottom left of the plan,  surrounded by an irregular pentangle shaped ha-ha:

Here is a close up of it:

To give you some idea of the scale, the garden enclosed by the ha-ha is 400 acres in area.

The ha-ha at Stowe is faced in stone,and was probably used by Lord Cobham as an allusion to the military earthwork fortifications he saw while on service during the Marlborough Wars in Europe. In his book, Temples of Delight: Stowe Landscape Gardens John Martin Robinson, clearly sets out the theory about the ha-ha and its origins:

An architect with a strong interest in  gardening, John James, had published his translation of the Parisian naturalist Dezallier D’Argenville’s ‘Theory and Practice of Gardening’ in 1712,and this had first given widespread currency to the idea of a sunken fence and helped to popularize the device in England.

(page 75)

This is the view of the ha-ha from behind the two east and west lake pavilions, looking east:

You can see the ditch,which deters any livestock in the surrounding parkland breaching the wall, thereby preventing them from getting into the garden

The stone edging is the only hint that the ditch is there when you approach it from the garden, and really does come as a surprise.Hence the term “ha-ha!”

This series of photographs, below, show the ha-ha which is the boundary to the Georgian Valley, at the opposite end of the garden:

You can clearly see the retaining wall,and the sort of pillar/gate that may have been in situ at Southerton,and which caused such trouble by being locked.

And this is a view of the magnificent stonework of the restored retaining wall

that would have been  familiar to the livestock in the park.

The BBC FOUR TV series, If Walls Could Talk concluded last night with a fascinating episode on the development of the kitchen throughout history.

I’ve not mentioned this programme to you before (recommended to me by Vancouver kitchen renovation contractors friends), because it is not primarily concerned with the era in which Jane Austen lived, being a general over-view of the development of key rooms in the house: the Living Room, the Bedroom, the Bathroom and in last night’s episode, the Kitchen.

The Kitchen, of course, developed apace during the 18th century and so I think you might like to see the interpretation of its history as it applies to our era, from last night’s show.

The series is presented by the rather endearing Dr Lucy Worsley who is the Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces. She has come in for quite a lot of criticism for her presenting style, in particular for her habit of donning historic dress in every episode. Having now seen all the episodes I feel that when she did this in the company of other historical reenactors it made sense. She would look out of place in the swanky Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall, black leading the grate in modern dress when all about her were in pink maids uniforms and flounced aprons. But then I didn’t understand the need to dress up in a Georgian sack dress, when she was in the company of other experts, such as Professor Amanda Vickery, who were sporting modern dress. Ah, well….to Georgian Kitchens.

The great technological developments in our era, cast iron ovens raised from the ground fueled by the more efficient coal were considered. Dr Worsley experienced the hot and hard work of being a turnspit (dressed as a boy) in the Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court, and then the programme jumped to our era to consider one of the most intriguing labour-saving devices of the 18th century, the turnspit dog.

In West Street Lacock ( or Meryton or Highbury, given your choice of favourite adaptation!) in Wiltshire there still exists a public house , the George Inn,

which has retained a working turnspit which was once powered by the special turnspit dog, a breed of dog now extinct, shown below:

During the 18th century and until the early years of the 19th century this special breed of dogs were used, particularly in Bath, to turn the spit to roast meat, while running on a wheel attached to a wall, a subject  that I’ve written about previously here. I wonder if any of the houses in which Jane Austen lived while in Bath had a similar contraption in their kitchens? I’ll bet they did….there is still one at Number 1 Royal Crescent.

Ivan Day, our friend of Historic Foods, was in charge of the operation.  The dog they used to replace the turnspit was a modern border terrier, Coco.

She was placed in the wheel, shown above on the side of the chimney in the pub, and fed sausages hidden on the ledges in the wheel. Needless to day,Ivan Day’s doubts, that as Coco was not bred to the job and had longer legs than the original breed of dog, did prevail and she did not perform the job at all efficiently.

Dr Worsely, had to take over the job of turning the spit by hand via the wheel.

( And do let me rush to confirm and assure you that no dogs were hurt at all by the filming process: Coco was fed rather a lot of spit roasted mutton as payment for her valiant and good natured attempts to turn the wheel  by Ivan who is a very lovely man and a confirmed dog lover!).

The next part of the programme took us up to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire,

Robert Adams’ stern confection of a house built for Lord and Lady Scarsdale in the 1760s. Here we met with the fabulous food historian Peter Brears, who explained that the layout of this grand , up-to-the-minute country house was so designed that no cooking smells would ever permeate the rest of the house from the kitchen.Heaven forfend that aristocratic nostrils should be assaulted by cooking smells, like lesser motals who lived among their cooking pots !

If you look at the floor plan of Kedleston, below, you can see that

©The National Trust

it was first envisaged that the house would have a central block with four pavilions connected to the house by  gently curved corridors, rather like the design for Holkham House in Norfolk.

Sadly only two pavilion wings were built.And you can see from the plan that the pavilion to the right housed the kitchen. This is now the National Trust tea room and in the programme though nearly everything tea room related had been cleared, you can just make out one of the large vending machines which was obviously plumbed-in in some way and could not be removed.

The kitchen with its stern warning shot to the  staff, above,

and its high ceilings and modern ventilation, above, was physically sufficiently far away from the dining room to prevent food odours from seeping into the other parts of the house.

The state dining room was decorated not with tapestries and carpets which would retain food odours, but with plain stuccoed walls and in the 18th century there would have been an oil cloth covering the floor. No aristocrat of this era wanted to be confronted with food smells unless the food was actually on his rather grand table.

And Robert Adam thoughtfully provided incense and pastille burners in the dining room to further cleanse the room of any lingering food smells.

Of course , it is a widely held belief that kitchens thus separated from dining rooms could only serve luke warm food at best.

Dr Worsley encouraged Mr Beares to run, while holding a tureen full of that Georgian staple, hot Pea Soup, along a route from the kitchen on the ground  floor upstairs to the state dining room ( see the route above on the annotated plan) in order for him to prove that the food would not have arrived cold. Quite a sight to see….


He speed up the stairs with a determined vigour and Dr Worsley served herself some still warm soup from the silver tureen.

This episode was one of the best of this series of four programmes. I’ve warmed to Dr Worsley’s presenting style as the series progressed, and hope you watch the four installments on series link on the BBC  I player, linked above in the first paragraph, if you have missed it.  Or look out for the DVD, which is sure to come. There is a book to accompany the series but I cannot comment on it as I’ve not read it, but do bear in mind that it covers periods before and after that in which we are interested if you have a mind to buy it.

No, not the Duchess of Cambridge’s beautiful dress, but Princess Charlotte’s ;)

The Historical Royal Palaces website has a wonderful blog and You Tube channel.

This video, produced in the run-up to last week’s royal wedding contains an interview with Dr Joanna Marschner on the styles, meanings and history of the royal wedding dresses worn over the last 200 years, from Princes Charlotte onwards.

There are some wonderful close-ups of the dress, showing the magical nature od the lama fabric, and the scallop shell decoration of the bodice, which is thought to be part of the original dress:

and during the interview with Dr Marschner, you can glimpse the Princess’ dress glittering away to the right of the frame:

There are some other blog posts which have relevance to us, most notably, the interesting post on the marriage of Princess Charlotte’s parents, the Prince of Wales and Caroline of Brunswick, entitled  The Worst Royal Wedding of All? Shudder…Jane Austen’s sympathies were all with the Princess you will recall, as expressed in this letter  she wrote to Martha Lloyd in 1813:

I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself `attached & affectionate’ to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. –” 

(See: Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated February 16th, 1813)

And finally I do have to say  thank you to all of you who have sent good luck wishes to my daughter who celebrated her 18th birthday last week, and yes,we did enjoy watching and celebrating the Royal Wedding on Friday. And look who turned up for lunch?

Very sweet of them considering how busy they must have been ;)

featured last night on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme.

This was the second programme filmed in Winchester Cathedral, and of course, it is in Winchester Cathedral that Jane Austen is buried.

Last night the programme’s presenter, Fiona Bruce, made mention of the pilgrimages that centre on Winchester. People still flock to the cathedral to see the shrines of ancient kings and saints,

but also to pay special literary pilgrimages to Jane Austen’s memorial plaque and window, above, and her tomb, below.

She gave a brief overview of Jane Austen’s life and works and then led us to the house in College Street, just outside the cathedral close…

where Jane Austen died in 1817.

Unexpectedly, we were then taken inside the house, to the room on the first floor where Jane Austen died.

This is the first time I have seen inside this house and it quite took me aback, I freely confess.

It is of course a private house at the moment and is not open to the public, so this was an extraordinary thing to have seen.

During the programme, Louise West, Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum bought Martha Lloyd’s cookery book to the Roadshow for an expert, in this case, Justin Croft, to appreciate and to value. Martha Lloyd was, of course, a lifelong friend of the Austen ladies and was sister to James Austen’s second wife, Mary. She eventually married Jane Austen’s brother, Frank Austen, in 1828.

We were shown some glimpses of some of the pages in the book..The Table of Contents with recipes for Pound Cake and White Custard,

and A Good Salve for Sore Lips

Louise pointed out that while it was not written by Jane Austen, its association could not have been closer , for these were the recipes she ate nearly every day at Chawton Cottage, during the last eight years of he life, and while Martha was in the kitchen making ink from this recipe in her book, below,

Jane was using it, writing and revising her books in the dining room of the same house, on the writing table we can still see there today.

The book was eventually valued at between £15-20,000 but as Louise rightly pointed out, it was priceless to the Museum and would never be sold. Oh, for a facsimile edition!

The programme is available to view for the next six days on the BBC I Player, or  if you go here. I do hope you enjoy this fascinating part of the programme.

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