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Now, in the seventh part to this series-which you may be glad to hear is nearing its end!- we leave the ground floor to go upstairs to the bedrooms on the first floor of the Pavilion, George IV’s pleasure place in the then very fashionable seaside town of Brighton. A place he made fashionable by adopting it as his summer home, away from the influence of his parents rather staid courts in London, Kew and Windsor. In order to reach the first floor we have to leave the Music Room and enter into the Gallery again.

You can see from the floor plan, below, that the Gallery has two identical staircases:

The Gallery and the Staircases are marked by the red arrows on the plan.

As you may recall, the Gallery connects the Banqueting Room and the Music Room and is an almost overwhelming confection of pink Chinoiserie…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

You can catch a glimpse of one of the staircases in this picture. This is how John Nash recorded it for the Prince Regent in the 1820s

If you enlarge the print you can see all the delicious detail…and also see one of the staircases at the far end of the Gallery, leading to the Banqueting Room.

This watercolour also by Nash, shows the staircase nearest the Music Room.

If you look closely, you can just glimpse the Prince Regent, accompanied by two ladies,walking towards the mirrored doors that lead from the Music Room into the Gallery and its staircases.

The mirrored doors are used to give the impression that the stairs are larger than they really are: the reflection gives the impression that they return in two more flights behind the real ones. Clever.

The stairs continue the Chinoiserie theme…..as you would expect…

The balustrades look as if they are made of bamboo. In fact, they are made of cast iron, and the painted handrail is made from carved mahogany.

You can see that the bamboo effect is very cleverly done. Not only is the iron very carefully cast to resemble the shape of bamboo, the balustrade and handrail are painted very carefully to mimic it, complete with knots and joints.

The Staircase is lit by stained glass windows painted with Chinese figures.

This is the slightly different set of stained glass windows used in the staircase which is at the other end of the Gallery. Again lamps lit and placed behind these windows would be used to illuminate the window at night: the effect must have been spectacular.

And in the ceiling, more stained glass, painted in the Chinese style, throws a subtle, beautiful light onto the staircase.

This colour scheme of pink and blue can be thought startling by some, but I love it. The light in their stairwell is diffuse and beautiful.Its a small part of the Pavilion,but one of the most successful rooms, in my humble opinion. The attention to detail as found in the balustrade and handrail is amazing and  exquisite. But then teh spendthrift Prince,whom Jane Austen so detested, would not have had it any other way….

well to be precise, a set of six Hanoverian stamps has recently been issued by the Royal Mail:

I thought you might like to see them as they are of course of interest for our period, for Jane Austen lived entirely during the long reign of George III, below:

And she was subject to the Regency of his son, from 1811 till her death in 1817. The Prince Regent eventually became George IV in 1820 on his father’s death. He is shown on his stamp, below:

Like the Hanoverians, Jane Austen has also  been the subject of a series of British stamps. They were  issued by the Post Office in 1975 to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth on 16th December 1775 ( though the stamps were actually  issued as a set on the 22nd October 1975). My relatives all over the country were put on the alert and, in addition to the mint set,  I received 15 first day covers: here is one of them, sent from Petworth by my two dear maiden great aunts, with my childhood address digitally removed( for sanity’s sake!)

The stamps, a set of four, were designed by Jeffery Matthews, the famed postage stamp designer,and the images war drown by Barbara Brown, the illustrator.

They show Mr Darcy, Emma and Mr Woodhouse, The Crawford siblings and Catherine Morland.

The notes accompanying the stamps –Portraits from the Jane Austen Gallery– written by Alan Martin Harvey, are interesting to look back at now, as they are ever-so-slightly incorrect and are somewhat dated in their view of the novels as only romances, in my humble opinion…I doubt the next set of commemorative stamps to be issued commemorating Jane Austen will be accompanied by such simple interpretations of the novels…

Mr Darcy…

The most important events in Pride and Prejudice ,it has been said, are that a man changes his manners and a young lady changes her mind. It is Elizabeth Bennet who changes her mind , but it takes Mr Darcy a long while to persuade her to do so by changing his arrogant manners. In Chapter 58, however, she consents to become his wife and the mistress of Pemberley, his stately home.

Yes, well……

Mary and Henry Crawford…

When the London sister and bother, Mary and Henry Crawford , invade Mansfield Park, country home of the Bertram family, trouble enters with them. Henry attempts the seduction of Fanny Price, the Bertrams’ poor relation. Failing in it, he elopes with their unhappily married daughter. Mary fancies the ordinand Edmund, heir to the estate, but he rejects her in favour of poor Fanny. The profound contrast, social and moral, between the worlds of Mary and Fanny , is what, in the main, what Mansfield Park is about.

Can you spot the deliberate error in this paragraph ? Had Edmund been there heir to Mansfield Park  I think the story would have taken a very different turn, don’t you?

Emma and Mr Woodhouse…

Superficially , Mr Woodhouse, father of Emma is an “old pet”. Scratch him, however and you find a throughly selfish old man. In Emma herself, the emotional progress from brittle head to tender heart is slow but, finally, she persuades her father by a wile to accept as a son-in-law, the patient Mr Knightley.

Really? I think I may have read a different version….

Finally, we have Catherine Morland…

Northanger Abbey is a sly burlesque of the Gothic extravaganzas- typified by the Mysteries of Udolpho- popular when it was written. Catherine Morland, an engaging young hoyden, entertains romantic hopes of a visit to the Abbey, but she is sent home disillusioned, to find consolation in the arms of Henry, second son of the odious General Tilney.

And I thought Catherine had left her tomboyishness behind her she left the schoolroom….

What Jane Austen would have made of these stamps we cannot tell: she of course would have found the concept of postage stamps alien as they were not available for her use during her lifetime. They were invented by Rowland Hill in 1837 and first issued for sale in 1840. I have always loved the stamps for, at the time, commemorative issues by the Post Office were very rare and  special events. These stamps were terribly popular with the public. If I recall correctly even the children’s television programme, Blue Peter featured them! It was a real achievement to have stamps issued by the Post Office commemorating and event or a person. Despite some reservation on the colours used, as they appear to be from a very 1970s palette now that  I look back at them, and a sadness that only four were issued,  I treasure my sets ( despite grinding my teeth about the comments on the accompanying card). Jane Austen was, in fact the first female literary figure to have a dedicated set of stamps issued in this way- the three Bronte sisters (with Mrs Gaskell) were next to be commemorated in 1980. I do hope that in 2017 we get another set, and that this time all six completed novels are included.

will be sold at Christies in New York in December as part of the sale of Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery and effects.

Why may Jane Austen have admired it? Because it is made of 18th and early to mid 19th century ivory theatre tokens.( Well, in truth she may not have admired it at all, but it gives me an opportunity  to talk about theatre tokens with you, and you do remember how much I love the theatre of this period!)

Theatre tokens were used instead of paper tickets: paper was expensive and so permanent tickets in the form of these tokens were the preferred way of keeping track of the paying customers. They paid for their ticket, or token, and then surrendered them to the doorkeeper on the day of the performance. Above is a drawing of some metal tokens for the gallery at Drury Lane Theatre in London issued in 1790. It was, of course in the Lobby at Drury Lane where Sir John Middleton harangued Willoughby for his treatment of Marianne Dashwood in Chapter 44 of Sense and Sensibility :

“Last night, in Drury-lane lobby, I ran against Sir John Middleton, and when he saw who I was (for the first time these two months) he spoke to me. That he had cut me ever since my marriage, I had seen without surprise or resentment. Now, however, his good-natured, honest, stupid soul, full of indignation against me, and concern for your sister, could not resist the temptation of telling me what he knew ought to though probably he did not think it would , vex me horridly. As bluntly as he could speak it, therefore, he told me that Marianne Dashwood was dying of a putrid fever at Cleveland — a letter that morning received from Mrs. Jennings declared her danger most imminent — the Palmers all gone off in a fright, etc. I was too much shocked to be able to pass myself off as insensible, even to the undiscerning Sir John. His heart was softened in seeing mine suffer; and so much of his ill-will was done away, that when we parted, he almost shook me by the hand while he reminded me of an old promise about a pointer puppy…

I’m sure Sir John would have and a token such as these, though no doubt his would have been for a box, and would most probably have been ivory likes the ones in the necklace. Base metal was used for the lesser value seats, while those in the boxes or more expensive seats would have had tokens made from ivory. If you go here you can see the type of ivory token used for admission to the stalls at Drury Lane , now in the collection of the British Museum.

This photograph shows the reverse of the tokens. The necklace was first owned by the magnificent Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head. Elizabeth Taylor knew her from the time they both worked at MGM studios, and they had a very close and friendly relationship. apparently Dame Elizabeth was very taken with the necklace and Edith Head promised to leave it to her in her will. And she did.

It will be sold along with other items from Dame Elizabeth’s jewellery collection in New York on the 13th and 14th December to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. I’d love to buy it but  I think that the sale estimate of $2,000 is going to be exceeded many times over. Owning the catalogues are my consolation!

It now forms part

Today we return to our tour of the Brighton Pavillion, the magnificent seaside palace which was the darling child of Jane Austen’s most detested Prince Regent.  She would most certainly have not approved of him or his excesses, but as evidence of his world has survived, I see no reason for us not to take a look (and secretly enjoy it all!)

Today I am going to concentrate on only one room, as it is so magnificent: The Music Room. You can see its position in the building by looking at the  ground floor plan of the rooms in the Pavillion, below. This floor plan shows the Pavillion as it was in the 1820s and the Music Room’s position on the Steyne Frontage of the building is indicated by the red arrow:

This is how it appeared in the 1820s…

This watercolour by John Nash, who then was the Prince Regent’s favoured architect and who was responsible for the design of the building, shows the Prince sitting to the left of the picture. He is depicted  sitting between his mistress of the time, Lady Conyngham and her daughter.

 

It is thought that the couple opposite them on the far right of the picture are the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

 

The orchestra-The Royal Band- is shown standing before the magnificent organ, and it is thought that the conductor may even be Gioachino Rossini who visited the Pavilion on the 20th December 1823 to conduct and direct the members of the royal band in playing selections from his operas for the entertainment of the Court. His operas were,of course ,the big musical hits of the day…We do have to note that the Prince, later George IV was a man who wanted the best…of everything…all the time….

 

This room is, as you can see, splendid in every way.

 (©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

You can clearly see the organ in the rear centre of the photograph above, and in my photograph, below. The organ was the largest and most powerful domestic organ made in England at the time…Well, of course it was….

The Prince was terribly fond of music and its importance to him is shown in the decoration of this astounding room. All the Chinoiserie decoration was the work of  three people, John Nash and the decorators, Frederick Crace and Robert Jones. It took nearly two years to complete it; work began on the room in March 1818 and ended in January 1820.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The deep and dramatic colors are an indication that this room was primarily intended for use in the evening, after the company had eaten in the Banqueting room and then processed along the Gallery. Then, in the dark, the colours would glow and the room and the lighting would-be seen to best advantage. The gaolers, which are chandeliers powered by gas, which was introduced as a power source to the building  from 1821, are in the shape of waterlilies.

And the clerestory windows, which you can see in the photographs above and  below, were like the windows in the Banqueting Room, designed to be lit from behind at night, to add to the overall splendour.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Robert Jones designed the chimney piece-at a cost that would have impressed even Mr Collins- £1684, and the Spode Pagodas-four of which are over 15 feet high- are now in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The French artist, Lambelet was responsible for the wall panels painted in imitation of Chinese lacquer, and which depicted scenes from Sir George Staunton’s book, An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by William Alexander, which was published in 1796.

In accordance with the general over the top Chinoiserie theme, Dragons abound…holding chandeiliers…

Their tails curling sinuously down the curtains…..

This is just a magnificently over the top room- and what is even more interesting is that this room’s current state of preservation is a miraculous work of restoration as it was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1975. While Jane Austen may not have approved of it, I find it absolutely entrancing.The stuff of dreams.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

You may like to know that this exhibition has recently been awarded the Sussex Fashion Outstanding Achievement Award 2011. we shall see more of the costumes in the next post in this series.

The quest to explain to you exactly what the effect of an Ha-ha looks like continues. I posted about the history of Ha-ha some time ago, here, and on the Ha-ha at Stowe, here but earlier this week one of my correspondents emailed to ask me to explain again as he had not quite grasped the concept, and had difficulty envisaging one when he recently re-read Mansfield Park. I am happy to oblige….

I visited Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, above, a few weeks ago. This is the magnificent Adam designed home of the Curzons now owned by the National Trust and the images of the ha-ha that exists there might finally do the trick. So here goes…

The ha-ha runs around the whole of the house and its pleasure grounds, creating a sort of island within the parkland.

As we know, the ha-ha is a sunken fence, one that very importantly prevents livestock from entering the formal gardens of the great house. It is a ditch, sunk beyond a retaining wall, and the great advantage of this type of border enclosure is that, visually,  the view from the house is uninterrupted by walls fences or hedges. This allows the owner or visitor to the house to gaze over the acres of parkland, in the safe and secure knowledge that  the livestock -cattle, deer and sheep- are being prevented from grazing close to the house.

At the formal entrance to Kedleston there is an ironwork fence attached to the retaining we all of the ha-ha, which you can see above

But this, as you can see from this picture take from the entrance to the house, is not particularly visually intrusive. Note the sheep are firmly kept the other side of the ha-ha.

The Ha-ha continues around the pleasure gardens, and from this point on does not have the additional railings found a t the formal entrance facade.

This, above, and below is part of the retaining wall beyond the stables.

You can clearly see how the land has been cut away from the retaining wall: the bench on the right is almost level with the top of the retaining wall.

The rear of the house has views over lawns to the rising hills of the parkland…

You can see the ha-ah- but only by noticing the difference in the grass colour. The cultivated lawns as opposed to the less well tended parkland (complete with sheep) are of a slightly different hue .

But this difference lessens the further away from the ha-ha you are, as you can see from this photograph:

A small summer-house has been built upon the ha-ha at one point in the garden.

You can see the parkland (and a sheep!) beyond it….

This is a delightful building, and when you enter it, you can, by looking through the windows,see the slope of the ha-ha falling away dramatically from the retaining wall :


This, above, is the view from the right hand window looking out onto the parkland.

You can see how dramatically the parkland falls away from the wall: this prevents any animals in the park begin able to jump over the retaining wall and enter the pleasure gardens.

And of course, it is really the view from the house that is important: this view is of the lawns at the rear of the house, leading towards the ha-ha onto the rising hills of the parkland

The ha-ha is virtually invisible.

I do hope this helps you visualise exactly what is the effect of the ha-ha on the landscape,and how ingenious it was.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York held a really interesting, small exhibit earlier this year, and while the exhibit has closed( it ended in July this year) its catalogue is still available to purchase, and that is the book under review here today.   The title of the catalogue (and the exhibit) is self-explanatory: Rooms with a View: the Open Window in the 19th Century . The exhibit still has a page on the museum’s website, accessible here, and here is a page of images from the exhibition and catalogue. And now a confession. Prepare yourself for something truly dreadful. While these picture have much artistic merit, I throughly enjoy looking a them for not only do the majority of them date  from our period          ( 1800-1829)  they also give us tantalising glimpses of what homes of the period looked like. I am by nature a very nosy person ( not with malicious intent, note!) and glimpsing the interiors of homes as I pass by, on foot or when travelling by trian or bus, is one of my secret pleasures. You are probably appalled by this confession, but I love that moment in the year when darkness falls and people illuminate their homes but don’t pull back the curtains, as then I can sneak a glimpse of other rooms and other lives….. This exhibit allows us to do the same , but in rooms similar to those that Jane Austen and her characters would have known, and without any attendant accusations of voyeurism. I will show you a few of the pictures contained in the exhibition and the catalogue: the catalogues is 204 pages long and has detailed critical entries on 70 paintings, 115 illustrations including 110 in full and sumptuous colour. The first  one I find fascinating for the view it gives us of the effect of candlelight in a room. This painting, Man Reading by Lamplight, is by the German artist Georg Friedrich Kersting and it dates from 1814. The chap’s room is lit by a Bouillotte lamp which was first developed in the late 18th century in France to illuminate card players tables in the dark evenings.This chap is using his for a much better purpose, for reading. His room and its furniture is fascinating. Look at the bookcase with its attached reading stand. He has a green window blind. Jane Austen would no doubt approve… The next picture is also by Kersting but is nearly a decade later in execution, dating from 1823. It shows  a woman embroidering by the light of an Argand lamp. Argand lamps were popular from teh late 18th century onwards because they produced a very bright, even light and no smoke. They were powered by oil. Perfect for our seamstress/embroideress here. This painting also by Kersting shows Louise Seidler,the artist. She is embroidering at an open window, the light good enough for the task but her privacy is screened by the plants growing on the windowsill. I am intrigued by the painting on the wall festooned with ivy(?)…and I love the window dressing. We move to Paris for the next paining, executed by Louise -Adeone Drolling circa 1820. it is most probably a self-portrait of the artist in the studio she shared with her brother, the artist, Michael Martin Drolling who also had pictures in this exhibition. I like to think this may be the type of activity Fanny Price may have attempted in her room of her own…tracing a flower by holding it against the pane of glass in the window. The final picture puts me in mind of Anne Elliot and Captain Harville in Persuasion, shown during their vital discussion at the White Hart Inn: Again by Kersting its date is exactly  in keeping with Persuasion, 1817. This is a wonderful catalogue, I have found myself looking thought it again and again since it arrived in the post, wondering whether the rooms were like those inhabited by Mr Knightley and Emma, Fanny Price and Anne Elliot. I can highly recommend it to you.

Today we reach the end of our marathon series of posts, reading through Sense and Sensibility while studying Hugh Thomson’s interesting illustrations for the novel, which was first published by Macmillan in 1904. Do remember all the illustrations here can be enlarged, in order that you can examine the detail, simply by clicking on them.

For today’s final tranche of illustrations  Mr Thomson is forced to confront some of the most dramatic moments in the novel. During thisseries, we have discerned that he is more at ease with those incidents in the novel that require  a lighter touch, and that he much seems to prefer to illustrate the amusing incident in the book. But this week he has no option but to concentrate on the results of the abrupt ending  ofMarianne and Willoughby’s affair, and with the unexpected climax to the novel with Willoughby’s sudden appearance at Cleveland, after hearing that Marianne was desperately ill.

Our first illustration shows Elinor discovering that someone had suddenly arrived at the house, quite late,on a dark and stormy night, in Chapter 43:

 The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been convinced that at that moment she heard a carriage driving up to the house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did , in spite of the almostimpossibility of their being already come, that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window-shutter, to be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.

This illustration seems to have been more laboured than others.The figure of Elinor does not look as accomplished as other versions of her we have seen executed by Thomson. It is of course, Willoughby, who begs an audience with Elinor:

Elinor, starting back with a look of horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room, and her hand was already on the lock, when its action was suspended by his hastily advancing, and saying, in a voice rather of command than supplication —

   “Miss Dashwood, for half an hour — for ten minutes — I entreat you to stay.”

Chapter 44

The illustrations now come think and fast…during Willoughby’s explanation to Elinor of his behaviour to Marianne ,and the consequences for him of displeasing Mrs Smith when she discovered he had seduced and impregnated Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza.  Thompson gives us a view of  Mrs Smith’s dismissal of the cad, upon his refusal to marry the girl:

“She taxed me with the offence, at once, and my confusion may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality of her notions, her ignorance of the world — everything was against me. The matter itself I could not deny, and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my conduct in general, and was moreover discontented with the very little attention, the very little portion of my time that I had bestowed on her, in my present visit. In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I might have saved myself. In the height of her morality, good woman! she offered to forgive the past if I would marry Eliza. That could not be — and I was formally dismissed from her favour and her house. 

We also see him in Mayfair, explaining how calculated he had to be in order to avoid a meeting with Mrs Jennings and the Dashwood sisters by dashing into any nearby shop:

 You would be surprised to hear how often I watched you, how often I was on the point of falling in with you. I have entered many a shop to avoid your sight, as the carriage drove by. Lodging as I did in Bond Street, there was hardly a day in which I did not catch a glimpse of one or other of you; and nothing but the most constant watchfulness on my side, a most invariably prevailing desire to keep out of your sight, could have separated us so long. 

Chapter 44.

So, here we have Thomson finally confronting drama:  Willoughby looks very soft, and not as agitated as his speech to Elinor would suggest. I do however like the desperate stance and expression on his face as he darts into Bond Street shops to avoid a face to face meeting with Marrianne….and the contrast with his smart London clothes as opposed to his country garb.

The dramatic climax of the story over,Thomson turns to happier subjects: Marianne’s plan for restoring her health and peace of mind , back at Barton:

“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton Cross, and theAbbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading, at the Park; and there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours aday, I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want.”

Chapter 46

This is a very sweet illustration showing the Dashwood sisters talking to the children who live at the nearby farm. Classic Thomson territory, as we have discovered.

But not all the drama is completely over. We have the awful moment to come when the Dashwood ladies suppose that Edward Ferrars has finally married Lucy Steele, all due to them  misunderstanding and misinterpreting their manservant’s news:

Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as to the event of his errand, this was his voluntary communication —

   “I suppose you know ma’am, that Mr. Ferrars is married.”

   Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servant’s inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.

   The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood’sassistance, supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself: and Elinor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.

Chapter 47

Mrs Dashwood looks genuinely distressed as she takes some food from the proffered dish, and of course, while this moment is tragic fromElinor’s point of view it also has tones of the darkly comic. I can quite comprehend why Thomson chose this incident.

However, luckily for Elinor and the reader’s sake, we soon see Edward Ferrars appear on the scene, on his rather lovely horse:

 Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she should hear more; — and she trembled in expectation of it. But — it was not Colonel Brandon — neither his air — nor his height. Were it possible, she should say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted; — she could not be mistaken; — it was Edward. She moved away and sat down. “He comes from Mr. Pratt’s purposely to see us. I will be calm; I will be mistress of myself.”

Chapter 48

Of course, it might be said that this is the least dramatic view of the incident: the confusion in the household and Elinor’s reaction would have been a more dramatic choice to illustrate.Instead we get Edward and his steed.

The final illustration in the book is from Chapter 50, and does not show the two newly married couples. No, instead  Thompson chooses to show Elinor again being rather insulted by her odious step brother John Dashwood, who really and truly regrets not being able to call Colonel Brandon,”Brother” but only for purely materialistic considerations, and who wants her to orchestrate an alliance between Marianne and the poor man:

 “I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister,” said John, as they were walking together one morning before the gates of DelafordHouse — “that would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, everything in such respectable and excellent condition! and his woods! I have not seen such timber any where in Dorsetshire, as there is now standing inDelaford Hanger! And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him, yet I think it would altogether beadviseable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen — for, when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else — and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth; in short, you may as well give her a chance — You understand me.”

John’s wish is eventually granted:

 With such a confederacy against her — with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness — with a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after it was observable to everybody else, burst on her — what could she do?

And so we end our series on Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for this fascinating novel.

I do hope you have enjoyed looking at the intricacies of his work. Next, some posts on Joan Hassell who illustrated the Folio Society’s editions of Jane Austen’s works.

This week the BBC has been repeating the 2002 documentary, The Real Jane Austen on BBC4, presumably as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of both the Regency and the publication of Sense and Sensibility.

This is a very engaging programme, an hour long, presented by the actress, Anna Chancellor. Ms. Chancellor is not only famed for her wonderfully catty performance as Miss Bingley in the BBCs 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, but also for the fact that Jane Austen was her eight times great-aunt.

The documentary was filmed on location, at Chawton Cottage, now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and Jane’s beloved peaceful home for the last eight years of her life.

It was also filmed at The Rectory at Teigh, which was used as the location for Mr Collins’ rectory in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.

The Rectory, which I have visited and written about here and here, was used as the location for the Steventon Rectory, where Jane Austen was born and grew up. The original building has long since been demolished, and I think, if you consider the original, shown below, that the rectory at Teigh is a fair replacement.

The hall at Teigh, shown below with its beautiful plasterwork, was also used as the drawing-room at Manydown, the scene of Jane Austen’s engagement and swift dis-enagagment to Harris Bigg Wither.

It uses an interesting device: all the main character are portrayed by actors,and not only do they re-enact various scenes from Jane’s life but give face to face interviews to the camera. The cast is very well chosen: John Standing is a sympathetic and kind Reverend Austen. Phyllis Logan, a sensible and straightforward Mrs Austen. My favourite was Jack Davenport as the ever so slightly arrogant Henry Austen, so sure his mother and sisters needed very little financial support upon which to live after the death of Mr Austen. Yes, well…

I do wish this were available to buy on DVD: it would make perfect viewing for GCSE students wanting a short, snappy but accurate overview of Jane Austen’s life and times.

I remember viewing it in 2002 and liking it: my opinion has not changed after seeing it again on Tuesday evening. It is not available to view on the BBC iPlayer, but it will be broadcast again on Sunday 11th September at 7.10p.m. and very early on Monday morning, the 12th September, at 1.50a.m. Go here for all the details.

I’ve been doing some research on musical projected that involve Mansfield Park since I went to see Heritage Opera’s version written by Jonathan Dove, earlier this summer.

The most interesting and intriguing nugget of information I have found is that Benjamin Britten contemplated writing a version of Jane Austen’s novel in the 1940s.

Apparently, circa 1946, it was while Britten was working at the Sussex country house opera company, Glyndebourne, on his opera, The Rape of Lucretia that  John Christie, the owner, suggested that he might like to write a new chamber opera for the company which could be performed there the following year. Initially Britten and the librettist with whom he had worked on Lucretia, Ronald Duncan, were interested in writing an operatic version of the history of the medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise, or of Chaucer’s classics,The CanterburyTales, but they soon realised that neither subjects were suitable for the chamber opera format.

Benjamin Britten also wanted to write a work that would have been suitable for the English contralto Kathleen Ferrier,

but it was to another singer, the soprano Joan Cross, shown below in Britten’s opera about Elizabeth I, Gloriana,

to whom Britten was eventually indebted, for she suggested  that Mansfield Parkmight make a suitable vehicle for them all, with Kathleen Ferrier perfect for the role of Fanny .

Indeed, she went to nearby Brighton to buy a copy of the novel for Ronald Duncan to read and work upon. In  Letters From a Life : The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten,  the librettist noted that:

As usual Ben (Britten-jfw) was excited by the idea especially because the story was suitable for Kathleen with a good part for Joan too. They were both anxious to get  Jane Austen’s elegant urbanity onto the operatic stage..

A hint about the form of the opera is given in its title Letters to William– which surely would indicate that the opera would be dominated by Fanny writing to William of her experiences at Mansfield Park and Portsmouth, in a scene that would probably have as much impact as that of Tatyana’s famous later writing scene in Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin. In November 1946 it was suggested to Benjamin Britten that John Betjeman, the poet,  would be just thepersons to collaborate with on this project. Nothing came of this,,…and in factnothing came of the project at all.

Benjamin Britten wrote a synopsis of his vision of  the opera and Ducnan produced a hand written libretto of Act One of Letters to William. However, Duncan was dismayed to discover that Britten had dropped the project, apparently without thinking  to tell his librettist:

A couple of months later I went to London on some other business and Marion Sten told me the t Ben was already working on another opera, Albert Herring with Eric Crozier…I was dumfounded…I confronted Ben.  He admitted the position, looked sheepish but gave no explanation.

A copy of  Mansfield Park is still in the archive of the Britten-Pears Foundation. It is the Macmillan edition of 1926 and apparently is from a set owned by Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten’s partner and collaborator.

It contains some annotations on the characters written by Pears, and this interesting cast list written by Britten, suggesting that  Britten did take the project seriously at one point:

Sr Thomas Bertram :  Owen Brannigan

Lady B  :  Mabel Ritchie

Mrs Norris : Joan Cross

Mary C  : Nancy Evans

Henry C  : ?

Fanny  : Kathleen Ferrier

Maria   : Anna Pollak

Edmund  : Peter Pears

Rushworth :             ?

And so the opera never materialised. Which is sad, as with that cast and withBritten talents it would surely have been a fascinating addition to the repertoire.

One last interesting snippet. The relationship between John Christie and Benjamin Britten was awkward for while John Christie was impressed by his talents, he did not approve of Britten’s  homosexualtiy. John Christie’s wife, Audrey  was on more cordial terms with Britten, and was reported to have been absolutely delighted when he told her, in the first flush of enthusiasm for theobject that her beloved pug would be appearing in the opera as LadyBertram’s gender confused pet!

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