You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2011.

Last week I wrote about an auction of vintage clothes held by Kerry Taylor Auctions, that included some gems from the 18th and early 19th century. I thought you might like to know that

the gold brocaded dress a la Francaise had a sale price of £3,400. The marvellous banyan

was sold for the magnificent sum of £24,000 and the early 19th century Honiton lace dress

was sold for £1400.  Do note that all prices quoted above are the hammer price and do not include the buyer’s premium.

Princes Diana’s replica shoes realised the sum of £30,000. Must get  mine out of storage….

It is Advent and Christmas is fast approaching…far too fast probably for all the preparations  to be completed on time. But I’m feeling a little frivolous and so, in this anniversary year for Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to have a little fun and enjoy listening and reading about the actors from Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s film version of Sense and Sensibility from 1995 who have appeared on the BBC Radio 4  programme, Desert Island Discs. This version of Jane Austen’s novel, with all its faults, omissions but many bonuses, is my favourite adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Desert Island Discs is a venerable radio programme, and was first broadcast   in 1942. It has been running continually since then. For those of you unfamiliar with it, tt  has a simple premise: imagine you are marooned on a desert island. You are allowed eight records, or recordings to accompany you. The Bible ( or your religious book of choice) and the Complete Works of Shakespeare are waiting for you too. You can choose to take another book and a luxury, which ought to have no practical use. The choices and the explanations for them are usually quite fascinating and illuminating.

Last week the Castaway was Robert Hardy- for the second time. Robert Hardy played a fabulous, lively Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film.

You can listen to Robert Hardy’s second tranche of choices here and read about his old choices, from 1978, here.  Amongst other interesting snippets, it was fascinating to hear about his choice of subject to read at Oxford University. Originally wanting to read History he was persuaded to read English instead, on the basis that his tutors would be C. S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien. Wise choice.

I thought you might like to hear ( or read, if the programme is rather old) other programmes with a Sense and Sensibility connection, as many members of the cast of that adaptation have, at different times, appeared on the programme …so here is the episode for Dame Harriet Walter, which can be listened to again.

Dame Harriet Walter was a most avaricious and compelling Fanny Dashwood in the 1995 production, possibly the best and most malevolent but funny Fanny Dashwood I’ve ever seen.

Go here to listen to Emma Thompson’s programme. Emma Thompson not only starred as Elinor Dashwood but also wrote the screenplay of the film, for which she won as Oscar. Gemma Jones’ programme can be read about here. She was a rather wonderful Mrs Dashwood, with charm and a resemblance to Marianne in her manner.

Hugh Laurie, who portrayed a much more sympathetic Mr Palmer than is detailed in the text, in my view, gave his selection and choices for his desert island exile here.

Hugh Grant’s choices can be accessed here: he was of course a rather impossibly handsome Edward Ferrars in the film.

Imelda Stuanton’s programme can be listened to here : she was a really wonderfully irritating and brainless Charlotte Palmer in the film.

The archive for the programme is fascinating and a great prevarication tool. You never know whose choices are lurking there awaiting discovery. For example, here is the  link to Colin Firth’s choices ,which can also be downloaded as a podcast to keep. You are most welcome ;)

A post I wrote about the Jane Austen Exhibition in Winchester Cathedral recently has been very popular, and I thought you all might like to know a little more about the artist who created the watercolours for it. So I asked Laura Haines, if she would mind giving us an interview about them and her attitude/thought processes regarding the work. Laura very kindly agreed to be inexpertly interviewed by me, and so here it is. (Her responses are italicised).

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When I spotted the light boxes containing your wonderful illustrations in Winchester Cathedral recently I was very impressed. Can you let us know some more about the process of creating them?  Can you let us know what was the brief from the Cathedral?

The overall brief was to create four illustrations highlighting different points in Jane Austen’s life – starting with the Steventon church of St Nicholas, moving on to Bath, Chawton and later College Street, Winchester.  I completed preparatory sketches to give myself an idea of the composition of the images.  The text and pictures would then be laid out by a designer and placed inside the light boxes, and set out as 3D displays, hopefully having more of an impact than flat display boards.

2) Do you know why you were chosen?

I had done previous heritage themed illustration work for the Cathedral in a display about pests in the Cathedral library (hungry things like clothes moths, carpet beetle and silverfish!).  Part of the display involved an interactive element where visitors could design their own bugs, and there was a competition for the children to do this – which was very hard to judge as they were all good!  I have a real love for old buildings (especially from the 18th and 19th century) and local history and have previously done paintings for Kingston Museum in London, recording old buildings of historical note before they were demolished or renovated.  I also have a love of writing and reading and I was really keen to get to know Jane Austen’s work better and to do some research about her life and the places where she lived.

3) Can you describe the process you underwent when creating these pictures?

I generally create preparatory sketches where I can work out the composition before completing the final image.  I created the separate parts of the image on watercolour paper (painted using acrylics, pencil, conté crayon and watercolours) which were then scanned in and placed together on Photoshop – this meant that changes could be made easily and components taken away or added.  This is also better as it means I am quicker with my work, and I find that painting quickly makes the images more successful than when I take too long on them.

4) The illustrations are 3-D. How did this make the creative process different from creating two-dimensional pictures?

The images were designed almost a little like a pop-up theatre as it makes them stand out more to the viewer (literally!).  The various paintings were created separately and then parts were cut out on Photoshop (for example the people), rather than creating images that were all on one page and then put onto a flat display.  It is harder to create a 3D display as it is tricky to picture it until it has all been completed.  I didn’t use miniature pop up models in this case, but they can be useful sometimes to work out the composition.

5) How did you research the four places- Steventon, Bath, Chawton, Winchester- used in the exhibition?

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Steventon, Chawton and Winchester with Elizabeth Proudman, (a Winchester City Guide specialising in Jane Austen tours-jfw), who gave me some fascinating background information and Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral  who drove us to the various sites. Elizabeth wrote the text for my illustrations.  I used to live near Bath and so I had been to the city many times and had some old photos I could use as inspiration.  I took new photographs from different angles of the various buildings (all except Bath) such as Steventon Church and then used my imagination to create the rest and to compose the scenes of different elements.  It was great to be able to see the site where Jane Austen first lived at Steventon and quite poignant that the house was no longer there.

6) What research into Jane Austen’s life did you undertake before and during the commission? Did you read (or re-read) any of her works? If so, which ones?

 

I became very interested in Jane Austen’s work and read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’, which I both thoroughly enjoyed.  I haven’t read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but am very familiar with the story from television adaptations and films, though of course these sometimes stray from the original story!  I hope to read more Jane Austen in the future!

7) Were you a fan of Jane Austen before the commission? If not, are you now?

I was a fan of Jane Austen beforehand, but I was not very familiar with her work.  My sister studied her at school for her English GCSE, but we mostly looked at Shakespeare!  I am definitely now a fan having read some of her work.  I found it very witty and uplifting and I looked forward to reading it in the evenings.

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Thank you so much, Laura for taking such trouble with your replies. I found reading them fascinating for the detailed  insights into your working process. Laura’s work is very fine,and I confess to be hankering after her painting of Silbury Hill. Do go and look at her paintings on her website as I’m sure you will enjoy them. And it is lovely to know she is a convert to Jane too ;)

In keeping with this weeks unexpected theme of antique clothing, I thought you might like to view this ever changing treasury of wonderful vintage clothes: Kerry Taylor Auctions.

I’ve been fan of this site for some time(I can’t trust myself to go to one of the auctions for fear of the bankruptcy court!). Kerry Taylor is a consultant at Sotheby’s, where she trained, and after a specatular career at that auction house, set up on her own account in 2003. As her website states:

In her career, Kerry has worked on historic, landmark auctions such as the wardrobes of Duke & Duchess of Windsor, the stunning haute couture wardrobe of Princess Lilian of Belgium (where early 50s Diors looked as fresh as the day they were made complete with matching accessories), the historically important wedding suit of King James II and VII of 1673 which now form part of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

Since Kerry Taylor Auctions was established the firm has handled the collections of style icon – the Honorable Daphne Guinness, supermodels Jerry Hall and Marie Helvin, the actress Leslie Caron’s collection of Haute Couture including 1950s Givenchy and 60s Saint Laurent. We have also sold landmark collections of gowns by Audrey Hepburn (the largest group of garments ever to come onto the open market) and the historic Emanuel Royal Archive which included the black dress worn by Lady Diana Spencer on her first public engagement with Prince Charles in 1981 for a record £192,000.

Her auctions are always happy hunting grounds for those amongst us who are interested in the  history of clothing. Her current auction has these amazing goodies on offer, amongst other treasures:

Lot 28:  A fine gentleman’s banyan, circa 1730-40, of blue Chinese damask, woven with large-scale repeats of Chinese censors on stands, amid acanthus scrolls and exotic fruits, of simple kimono-like construction, lined in blue taffeta, with fold-back cuffs, no fastenings, the back panel formed from a single 28in, 71cm wide loom width with additional silk to form the side skirts, the front panels with the woven pattern showing upside down, chest 143cm, 56in.

Lot 25: the remains of a luxurious gold brocaded lampas robe à la Française, mid 18th century, the silk circa 1730-40 with large-scale design of foliate palmettes in predominantly gold with deep salmon satin and lime brocade highlights, comprising: complete back and front sections, unpicked and re-sewn hip sections, but lacking sleeves.

Lot 31: A Honiton bobbin appliqué gown, circa 1800, but later altered for fancy dress, the bobbin net ground sprigged with Honiton leaves,

the neck similarly edged with deep Honiton border to the hem, relined in the 1930s in blue crepe, bust 82cm, 32in.

This action is to take place next Tuesday, and Im eagerly watching it to see what prices these items raise.

Although not strictly  relevant to Jane Austen’s era, you might be intestate to know of some other items in the sale. In this year of a rather lovely Royal Wedding(and wedding dress!) Kerry Taylor is auctioning the replica wedding dresses made for Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and The Countess of Wessex, form the collection of Madame Tussards. I remember being very disappointed with the overall appearance of Princes Diana’s wedding dress on the actual wedding day, but when I saw her shoes (when the wedding dress made a tour of museums later in the year) I was entranced. The replica shoes are included in the sale. And I now confess that my own wedding shoes were based on this design ;)

And on that wistful note may I take this opportunity to wish all my reader in the United States a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for all your comments and your many visits :)

Amanda Vickery brought this site to my attention, and I thought you would all love to add it to your sources list. The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative online project, based in New South Wales, and its aim is to collate information about dress and costume dating between 1770 and 1945.

As its website states:

Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.

At present the scope is limited to New South Wale and by date, but the organisers hope to expand this. From the results I’ve seen thus far I fervently hope they do.

You can examine individual garments by searching on a keyword or by clicking on the interactive time line. Clothes that survive from our era are few, but fascinating. Australia was a penal colony during Jane Austen’s life time and, in my opinion,  she would have been acutely aware of it. Her aunt, Jane Leigh Perrot faced possible transportation to Australia had she been found guilty of stealing an amount of lace from Mrs Gregory’s shop in Bath in 1799. She stood trial for larceny and was acquitted. But I’m sure the family must have been fully aware  of her possible fate. We know they were very supportive of her, for we know that Mrs Austen wrote to her bother and his wife suggesting Jane and Cassandra accompany them while they were being kept on remand at Ilchester Gaol. Her cousin, Montague Cholmeley of Easton in Lincolnshire wrote this letter to her in January 1800, which gives a summation of that extraordinary offer:

You tell me that your good sister Austen has offered you one or both of her daughters to continue with you during your stay in that vile place, but you decline the kind offer, as you cannot procure them accommodation in the house with you, and you cannot let those elegant young women be your inmates in a prison, nor be subjected to the inconveniences which you are obliged to put up with.

What is wholly absorbing to read on the website are the stories behind the clothes. It is fascinating and humbling to realise that these ladies, who lived genteel lives in this new and, to them wholly alien country, still wanted desperately to “keep up appearances”. That is what distinguishes this site from many others: the sheer amount of information attached to each garment. For not only does the site contain many good photographs of each garment, from an overview to close-ups of important details, but, as far as they are able, a detailed history of the person who wore the clothes is added too. Notes on the individual pieces of clothing which place them in their historical context are full and fascinating. Allow me to show you two examples. Below is Anna King’s evening dress dating from 1805

From the site we learn that Anna King was the wife of the Governor, and most probably wore this dress at receptions at Government House.

Above is Elizabeth Marsden’s pale green silk wedding dress which she wore on the occasion of her marriage to the Reverend Samuel Marsden in Hull, Yorkshire in 1793. They emigrated to New South Wales where the Reverend Marsden was Chaplain to the colony.The dress was later remade into the dress we see now for their daughter, Ann’s marriage in 1822.

What is fascinating about this dress is that not only are we given marvellously detailed photographs of it and an intriguing history of its owners, but also included are photographs of some of her other clothes. An unexpected bonus are images of Elizabeth Marsden and some of her clothes. I find all this detailed information stunning.

I have so enjoyed reading this absorbing and fascinating website and really strongly recommend it to you, if you are at all interested in the costume of our period.

In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.

Today we shall look at  the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at  The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.

Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.

He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.

Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London – The Hindoostanee Coffee-House – at 34 George Street, Portman Square.

This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.

His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.

His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:

Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very  exotic location in which to eat a meal.

Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:

To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.

(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))

The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet  had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade  from its original premises at 34 George Street  until 1833.

So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.

Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821

My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:

Mahomed’s Baths

These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those  who had resided in the East.

And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826

It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:

The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints

In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet  was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and  his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly  before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:

So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London.  Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet  published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he  stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary  It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on  the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:

In Sense and Sensibility we are told that Colonel Brandon served in the East Indies and, for the British Army at that time, this most likely would have meant being on active service  in India. In chapter 31 the poor Colonel recalls to Elinor Dashwood what happened to the woman he loved while he was away:

My brother had no regard for her; his pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon’s, was but too natural. She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation; and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight — was nothing — to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom, — even now the recollection of what I suffered — “

Living in the East it is entirely possible that Colonel Brandon might have developed a taste for eating highly spiced food. If,  on his return to England he had wanted to continue eating curries, could he have expected his staff at Delaford to have been able to recreate one? The answer, rather surprisingly, is, yes.  It  is really interesting to note that the first recipe for curry published in an English cookery book appeared in 1747.

Above, is the frontispiece to the first edition of  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, produced in facsimile by Prospect Books. It was in this edition of  her famous book that Hannah Glasse gave this first printed recipe in English, for a curry:

You can enlarge this image along with all the others in this post, simply by clicking on them. The method given for this particular curry has a lot in common with a modern Biriani- with the rice being cooked in with the sauce, not served separately. But the most interesting point to note is the very few spices used in Mrs Glasse’s recipe. She uses only pepper and coriander seeds which have been toasted.

By the time Martha Lloyd complied her collection of household remedies and food recipes in her Household Book things had moved on a little. Martha Lloyd was, of course, Jane Austen’s great friend and one of the cluster of ladies who lived together with her at Chawton Cottage from 1809 onwards. This is a picture of her as an older woman and as Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother’s second wife:

Her book dates from the late 18th to the early nineteenth century, and is now in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where I took this photograph of it, last year:

Her recipe for curry is a far more complex item than Mrs Glasse’s version, and is called A Receipt to Curry after the Indian Manner:

Cut two chickens as for fricasseeing, wash them clean and put them in a stew pan with as much water as will cover them, with a large spoonful of salt sprinkle them and let them boil till under covered close all the time, skim them well; when boiled enough take up the Chickens and put the liquor of them in a pan, then out half a pound of fresh butter in the pan and brown it a little, put into it two cloves of garlic and a large onion sliced and let these all fry till brown often shaking the pan, then put in Chickens and sprinkle over two or three spoonfuls of curry power, then cover them close and let the chickens do till brown  frequently shaking the Pan, then put in the Liquor the Chickens were boiled in and let all stew till tender. If acid is agreeable squeeze the juice of a Lemon or Orange into it.

The curry powder she refers to was most probably not a proprietary brand which could be brought in the shops, though Alan Davidson the food historian in his Oxford Companion to Food thought that:

Commercial mixtures had been available to cooks in Britain from late in the 18th century but seems not to have been a common article of commerce until later.

Certainly it is true that  in the 1796 edition of Hannah Glasse’s book, the recipe for curry required curry powder to be added to it. But this does not mean that  a commercially produced powder was always used, because recipes for curry powder exist in cookery compilations of the era.  In Martha’s case she was most probably referring to another recipe in her book. Her recipe for curry powder appears to have originated from her aunt, Mrs Jane Fowle. Mrs Fowle was not only Martha’s aunt but was also the mother of Thomas Fowle, who had been engaged to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister. Sadly, he died in 1797 before they could marry, of yellow fever, while accompanying his kinsman, Lord Craven, on service in the West Indies.

Her recipe for  Curry Powder, or as she terms it, Curee Powder, is as follows:

Take of Termeric (sic) Root and Galangal Root each half an oz. Best Cayenne Pepper a quarter of an oz. Let the Termeric and Galangal be reduced to a fine powered separately, then mix them with the other articles and keep for use. N.B. two oz of Rice powdered tone mixed also with the other ingredients.

Galangal root is a member of the ginger family, and it is fascinating to note that this exotic ingredient was available to purchase to these ladies living in the early 19th century. The roots of turmeric and galangal were most probably not bought fresh, as they can be today, but were more likely to have been bought already roasted and dried so that powering them could take place in a pestle and mortar.

An authentic curry powder originating from southern India was most likely to have included the following: coriander cumin and mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and the possible additions of cinnamon, cardamom,  cloves and chickpeas, all roasted and then ground to a powder. So you can see, by comparing the two , that the British attempts at curries in the early parts of the 19th century, were rather tame things. My family are curry aficionados and I have attempted to recreate  Martha’s recipe. Using my own version of Mrs Fowle’s curry powder it produces a very nice, sweet tasting dish, but it is not very authentic, in my family’s rather strongly given opinion.

However, it is fascinating to me that as early as the late 18th century Jane Austen and the members of her family circles were eating such an exotic dish,and approved it so much that they took the trouble to write it down and most probably enjoyed it in the dining room at Chawton Cottage, seen below in one of my terribly short videos.

Next, where Colonel Brandon could have gone to eat a more authentic version than the one his cook at Delaford might have tired to recreate for him.

We celebrated Trafalgar Day only a few weeks ago, and a few days ago a  Nile medal,  shown below,  was sold at  Peter Wilson auctioneers, of Cheshire, for £9,000. I thought you might like to know some more about this medal and the association with the battle of the Nile, which took place in the summer of 1798, for the battle has connections with Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother.

The medal that was auctioned was a sliver medal, one of the kind awarded to officers. This particular example was awarded to Thomas Atkinson.  Mr Atkinson was the Master of H.M.S.Victory at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. He also served in the Battle of the Nile and this made him eligible to be one of the recipients of the Nile Medal. The auctioneers website gives his history, and I will quote a little from it:

The Nile medal was given to Thomas Atkinson, Master of Nelson’s flagship the Victory. Atkinson joined the Navy at the age of 20 in 1787 and rapidly promoted to Ships Master. In 1797 Atkinson became Master of the Theseus and served under Nelson during a failed assault on Santa Cruz, where Atkinson by family legend is said to have supported Nelson whilst his arm was amputated.  The Theseus acted in the Battle of the Nile 1798 where she was fourth ship to round the French van and attack them from an inshore position. In 1799 Atkinson distinguished himself when he helped prevent an onboard fire caused by an accidental explosion at Acre in Egypt which killed the ship’s Captain. In 1801 Atkinson was Master of the St George which performed in the Battle of Copenhagen. Here Atkinson earned written praise from Nelson recommending him as ‘one of the best Masters I have seen in the Royal Navy’.

Before the Battle of Trafalgar Nelson wrote to Atkinson requesting he be Master of the Victory. During the Battle a shot destroyed the wheel of the Victory rendering her without steering, Atkinson went below deck and with the help of John Quilliam steered the ship from the gun room throughout the battle, rigging up ropes so the tiller could be used again from the deck. Before the battle of Trafalgar Nelson promised Atkinson promotion, however this promised couldn’t be fulfilled due to the untimely death of Nelson. Atkinson brought back Nelson’s body from Trafalgar and wrote the full account of his death in the ship’s logbook which was sold by the Atkinson family at Sotheby’s in 1911. In 1809 Atkinson was appointed King’s Harbour Master of Portsmouth, a post he held until his death in 1836. Atkinson is represented (top right beside the signal flag) in the painting ‘The Death of Nelson’ by Benjamin West, 1806, (Walker Art Gallery Liverpool)  

Here is a link to that portrait, and here is  the Key to it. The Master of the Victory is marked as being figure number 51 ( do click on this to enlarge it: I am having difficulty locating the figure of Mr Atkinson but the key does assure us that he is there!)


The medal was not awarded by a grateful government. No, its design and distribution was the brainchild of  Alexander Davison, below. He was  a friend of Nelson and his family. He was also the man who was appointed by Nelson as sole prize agent after the battle of the Nile in 1798, after which he made a considerable amount of money . According to the account in the fascinating book, Nelson Purse by Martyn Downer, his impulse to create and award a “thanksgiving medal ” was not wholly philanthropic:

Davison who was eager to cement his relationship with Nelson and to bathe publicly in his friends glory,launched into  a truly spectacular round  of present- giving. First he arranged for prints to be made after his portrait of Nelson by Lemuel Abbott. Copies were presented to the king, the royal princes, Nelson’s “gallant” captains and the heads of all official departments:” to show them the sense I have of your friendship towards me”.  Cheaper versions sold like hot cakes on the  Strand.

Davison then proposed a far grander scheme, one which appealed in equal measure to his patriotism, his philanthropy and his self-interest. He approached the government with an offer to pay for medals to be struck for every man- all six thousand of them-who fought in the battle alongside Nelson.This novel and eye-catching idea was attractive to a government keen to make political capital out of Nelson’s victory without setting an expensive precedent for future actions; so Davison’s offer was accepted, on condition that the government was involved in the design of the medal….On the face of it this arrangement seemed to consign Davison to the role of mere paymaster.But it gave the medals valuable official standing while enhancing Davison’s own reputation by publicly binding him closer to government,the fount of his wealth. He hoped too that so extravagant a gesture might purchase loyalty intern fleet the next time a large agency was awarded.

The medals were tone struck by Matthew Boulton

at his famed Soho manufactory in Birmingham

Davison’s original design was full of Masonic imagery. He was a freemason and wanted to included as many references to Freemasonry in the medal as possible, possibly as a means of providing some helpful propaganda for the movement. His original designed was

Obverse: Hope crowned with Oak and Laurel with the Olive Branch in her right hand and the medallion of Lord Nelson supported by her left, as it appears in the design, and her forefinger pointing to his bust.The anchor should appear exactly also as it is sketched; the foot of the figure in a sandal, should also be seen and the drapery to fall in the most graceful manner.Hope should also appear to be standing on a rugged shore…

Davison wanted the reverse of the coin to show the French fleet at anchor on the Bay of Bequeire and the British fleet under sail, advancing to the attack.

Matthew Boulton  gave the task of improving on Davison’s sketch to Robert Clevely  who was a marine artist in London. It’s interesting to note that there is much dispute about the correctness of the naval scene that was actually engraved. The die of the medal was cut by Boulton’s best engraver, Conrad Kuchler. Here is a gold version of the final medal:

Davison wanted the medal to be produced in five different medals: one for each of the four classes of officers and one for the ordinary seamen. His original order to Boulton confirmed this:

Of 7,000 medals, 25 would be in gold, 150 in silver, 300 in copper gilt, 525 in copper and 6,000 in “bronze” meaning copper applied with Boulton’s special purple-brown “bronzed” finish.

It is interesting to note that as he needed only 15 gold medals for the captions involved in the battle, the other ten were for Davison’s personal use. Eventually the scheme was simplified and after many, many quarrels with Davison about the design Matthew Boulton insisted on a very simple wording on the medal, for, as he tartly observed to his client:

A man may be a Johnson a Pope or a Dryden and yet he many not be a critic in the language of medals.

The wording eventually greed upon was as follows On the Obverse:

EUROPE’S HOPE AND BRITAIN’S GLORY. Above: REAR-ADMIRAL LORD NELSON OF THE NILE.

On the Reverse:

ALMIGHTY GOD HAS BLESSED HIS MAJESTY’S ARMS. In exergue: VICTORY OF THE NILE/AUGUST.1.1798.

Around the edge was inscribed:

FROM ALEXr. DAVISON ESQr. St. JAMES’S SQUARE- A TRIBUTE OF REGARD.

This is all very well, I hear you say in your accustomed manner…but what of Frank Austen? The Battle of the Nile was important for him because his first command, The Canopus, was one of the ships captured from the French in that battle. As we are told in Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J.H and Edith C Hubback:

For a little over a year Francis Austen was Flag-Captain in the Canopus. This ship, which had been captured from the French at the Battle of the Nile, had originally been called Le Franklin, and was one of the best built vessels in the Navy of that day, carrying eighty guns.

This is the order of sailing, written by Nelson,  in 1805 for the British Fleet,who were engaged in chasing Admiral Villeneuve across the Atlantic before the Battle of Trafalgar. You can clearly see The Canopus under the command of Frank. This is also taken from my copy of the Hubback’s book

So there you are, Frank’s ship with all  its strong associations with the battle of the Nile , all bought to mind by the sale of this medal, with its intriguing history.

This morning, I made the draw for the winning comment.

Please note that as Laura had commented twice, I counted both her comments as one so that no one had an unfair advantage.

In truth my steam-driven computer made the draw using a Random Number Generator programme ….

The winning number was 38, and the corresponding comment was by Susan Scott Holloway.

Congratulations Susan! If you will let me have your snail mail address I’ll post these goodies to you and hope they arrive at your home very soon!

Thank you all, very much,  for taking the trouble to comment.  My next task is to go and answer each of you…this may take some time ;)

A s you all know, a few weeks ago I paid another visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum.

This is always a treat, but this autumn, which has been long and very beautiful, it was an extra special time  to pay a visit to the stunning Hampshire scenery of the countryside around Chawton.

The autumnal colours of the gently rolling and wooded Hampshire countryside ( while nothing to the colours of a New England autumn ) were very lovely this year. I’ve written about the interior of the house before, so I thought this time I’d share with you my photographs of the garden. As some of you already know, I’m a very keen gardener,and, in fact, began my blogging life with a garden blog, so I always enjoy sitting and looking at this small but beautifully in-keeping and well-tended space.

The garden is to the left and to the rear of the house. On leaving the house the garden beckons, the last roses in bloom around the door invite you to wander…

The day I visited an autumnal cleaning up of the garden was taking place.

I like to see the garden actually being tended and used on a visit: it brings it alive.

The Austen ladies had a view of the garden from the ground floor of the house: the Gothic window on the garden side of the house was opened up and installed for them. You can see it on the left of the house, below.

The old drawing-room window was blocked up before they arrived to take possession of the house..

Chawton Cottage was of course, part of Edward Austen Knight’s  Chawton estate and it was due to his beneficence that  from 1809, the Austen ladies finally lived in a settled home.

The garden is not now how it was when the Austen ladies lived there, but care is taken by the Museum to try to include only plants that would have been available to them.

The view from the house looks out onto an oak tree surrounded by a Regency style tree seat.  This is in fact a seedling from a tree that was originally planted by the Austen ladies when they took possession of Chawton Cottage. Two trees were planted by the wall that forms the boundary of the garden and the road.

These have now been felled due to disease,but Elizabeth Bowden, who was the then curator of the museum on the 1980s, found a seedling from one of the trees near the wall and replanted it here. It is an English oak-Quercus ruber.

A display of plants used in the dying process is also near to the house…

Onions grown for their skins….wihch produce a yellow or rust coloured dye.

Tickseed… which produces a yellow, green or rust coloured dye..

and Madder..which prduces a red dye.

In keeping with the pre-Victorian theme of the garden, the planting includes such cottage garden stalwarts as hollyhock , below…

and fuchsia. Fuchsia magellanica, below, was first introduced into England in 1788,

so it is entirely plausible that  such a plant might have grown in the Austen ladies garden.

To the rear of the garden the herbaceous border sweeps round and on the lawn there is always plenty of comfortable seating.

This is a smashing position in which  to sit in the summer. Quite often the number of summer visitors to the small house  can be rather overwhelming, and it is good to sit here in the garden and take stock.

The beech hedge divides the public from the working part of the garden.

To the rear of the house is a great yew tree, which must surely date from at last the time of the house. At this time of year the red fruits of the yew are very visible

Hers is a very short video of the garden. You will be pleased to note I am taking delivery of a MUCH better camera this week and so, on my next visit,  the photographs and  videos(especially the videos!) will be of a much higher quality. If only the operator were more talented ;)

So that’s it : a short autumnal visit to the garden at Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen’s much-loved Chawton home.

I do hope you have  enjoyed it .

One of the items in my Second Anniversary Give-away ( which will be drawn on Sunday- so if you haven’t yet added your comment to the post, may I encourage you to do so if you’d like a chance of winning the prize) is a newly released CD of music from the Austen family’s manuscript music books.

Entertaining Miss Austen is the fruit of the labours of Professor David Norris of Southampton University, where he is Professor of Performance. You may however be more familiar with his work from the enjoyable historical iPod series of programmes on BBC Radio 4. In the first series we  heard the supposed contents of Jane Austen’s iPod, and even the imagined content of the iPod which Emma Hamilton might have owned.

The new CD features music from the eight manuscript music books that were Jane Austen’s property.

This is one of them, open at the Duke of York’s March, which is an arrangement of  Non pui andrai from TheMarriage of Figaro by Mozart. These books  are part of the  Jane Austen’s House Museum’s  collection in Chawton. But in addition, the CD contains  a selection of music from a further nine music albums which were owned by various female relations of Jane Austen. For years they have been held in private collections but they are now  held by the Chawton House Library. As Jeanice Brooks and Samantha Carrasco write on the Southampton University website:

These pieces are drawn from 17 music albums that belonged to Jane Austen and her female relations. Like many similar collections associated with gentry families of the period, this is a heterogenous set, including compilations of printed sheet music, manuscript albums copied into pre-ruled music books, compilations of separately copied manuscripts, and scrapbooks mixing print and manuscript items.

At least seven women from Jane Austen’s close family owned or copied music in the collection. Austen herself was responsible for a large portion, as was her sister-in-law Elizabeth Bridges, wife of Jane’s older brother Edward Austen Knight. One manuscript copied by Elizabeth was bound for her in August 1799, around the time when Jane herself spent many hours in music copying, an activity which apparently led to some teasing from her sister-in-law: in January 1799, Jane wrote to Cassandra, ‘Elizabeth is very cruel about my writing Music; – and as a punishment for her, I should insist upon always writing out all hers for her in future, if I were not punishing myself at the same time’.

Jane’s mother Cassandra Leigh, sister Cassandra, sisters-in-law Eliza de Feuillide and Eleanor Jackson (first and second wives of her brother Henry), and niece Fanny Knight also contributed material to the Austen collection. A few items (and in one case, most of a manuscript) came into the Austen family’s possession through more distant relationships: for example, from Ann Cawley, née Cooper, the sister of their uncle Cooper on their mother’s side, to whom Jane and Cassandra were sent for schooling in 1783; or from Mrs Henry Jackson, Eleanor Jackson’s mother. Several of the books were started by one family member and continued or used by another; many bring together several copyists’ hands or collectors’ signatures within a single binding. As a set, they are a rich illustration of family ties that domestic music-making and its material culture helped to sustain.

Music was an important part of Jane Austen’s life. She managed to scrape money together from a legacy from Mrs Lillingston a family friend, to have a pianoforte in Bath to replace her piano which had been sold when she and her parents left her childhood home at Steventon. Later, she played on her piano every morning at their Chawton cottage, and probably used this time as thinking time.  Cassandra and Mrs Austen arranged their domestic route at Chawton around her, so it must have been important time for her and her imagination. Her letters are peppered with many references to music and playing, and of course, she used  the love of music very effectively in her novels, often using it to represent a female character’s passionate nature.

The whole collection is now being studied as part of a major research project  undertaken by Professor Jeanice Brooks again of Southampton University. Samantha Carrrasco, the pianist, is basing a thesis on the Austen books. Exciting times.

The CD was recorded at Hatchlands, above, a National Trust property in Surrey ,which also houses the famed Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments. The pieces were played by David Norris on an 1817 Broadwood Grand Piano. Jane Fairfax, you will recall is given an unexpected present of a Broadwood piano from her secret fiancé, Frank Churchill,in Emma:

That very dear part of Emma, her fancy, received an amusing supply. Mrs. Cole was telling that she had been calling on Miss Bates, and as soon as she entered the room had been struck by the sight of a pianoforté — a very elegant looking instrument — not a grand, but a large-sized square pianoforté; and the substance of the story, the end of all the dialogue which ensued of surprize, and inquiry, and congratulations on her side, and explanations on Miss Bates’s, was, that this pianoforté had arrived from Broadwood’s the day before, to the great astonishment of both aunt and niece — entirely unexpected; that at first, by Miss Bates’s account, Jane herself was quite at a loss, quite bewildered to think who could possibly have ordered it — but now, they were both perfectly satisfied that it could be from only one quarter; — of course it must be from Col. Campbell.
Chapter 26

This particular piano has an additional link to Emma; it is signed and was owned by the composer, Johan Baptist Cramer. He is the only composer Jane Austen referred to by name in Emma:

“Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it? Cramer. And here are a new set of Irish melodies. That, from such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Col. Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shews it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done; nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it.”
Chapter 28

The selection on this CD is fascinating.It includes a performance of  the song, Robin Adair, by Kiallmark of Kings Lynn. In Emma Frank Churchill mischievously claims the song is Mr Dixon’s favourite as he and poor duped Emma listen to Jane Fairfax playing it in the Bates’ small apartment. It is, of course, a coded message of love to Miss Fairfax, to whom he is secretly engaged, for part of the lyrics to the song read:

Yet he loved so well
Still in my heart shall dwell
Oh I can ne’er forget
Robin Adiar

The CD contains three songs which Caroline Austen, Jane Austen’s niece,  said were her aunts most particular favourites. The first is Que j’aime à voir les hirondelles,which is the song Caroline remembered her aunt singing the most. The other two songs were  Songs from Burns, and The Wife’s Farwell .  Also included on the CD are songs with lyrics by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,and the playwright, Richard Sheridan. He famously adored Pride and Prejudice even though he  was unaware of it’s author’s identity.

The songs are sung by the soprano, Amanda Pitt and the baritone, John Lofthouse. I really like this CD, and think it is heads and shoulders above the other Jane Austen music CDs that I have in my collection. My only criticism is that in only a few instances is attribution made regarding the particular album from which the songs originate. This is a little confusing to my poor brain. Adding this information to all the songs on the CD sleeve  would have been fascinating and helpful.

You can download the lyrics and some notes to the songs here. The CD is available from the publisher, Duttons and on Amazon.  As someone who finds extending listening to the “bare” sound of early pianos rather trying, low be it spoken, I think it says a lot for the running order of this CD and the performances on it that I can happily listen to it without pause.

I can cheerfully recommend this CD to you. I look forward to more exciting finds, books and CDs when the research undertaken by the University of Southampton is completed.

“And here is my sweet little Annamaria,” she added, tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise for the last two minutes; “And she is always so gentle and quiet — Never was there such a quiet little thing!”

   But unfortunately, in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship’s head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be outdone by any creature professedly noisy. The mother’s consternation was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, and everything was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer. She was seated in her mother’s lap, covered with kisses, her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar-plums by the other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress, last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected. She was carried out of the room therefore in her mother’s arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the room had not known for many hours.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 21

Ah, Lady Middleton. The cold, manipulative, too doting mother of spoilt, awful children. Creating these characters  gave Jane Austen free rein to be scathing about both spoilt children and their appallingly self-centered mother. Adding, no doubt, fuel to the fire to some of the claims that Jane Austen “hated children”. Not at all,  the evidence from her other novels and from her letters show JAne Austen to have been very keen on and kind to well-behaved,well brought up children and their mammas. I think this passage illustrates that she simply detested spoilt brats and their oblivious parents.

In this passage the Miss Steeles- Nan and Lucy- the sycophantic fools, are immediately on hand to pander to Lady Middleton’s poor, little, desperately wounded but calculating child. They proffer sugar plums( more on that subject next week) and bathe her “would” with lavender water.

From Roman times lavender water has been recognised as something good with which to bathe wounds, as it has a naturally antiseptic effect. In Jane Austen’s era you could, if you had access to lavender plants,or essence of lavender, make your own lavender water, by following some of the many recipes for it in the cookery books and advice books of the day.

Mrs Rafffald in her recipe book A New System of Domestic Cookery, (below is the title page of my 1819 copy of her book)

had a simple version:

The unknown author of the companion volume to Mrs Raffald’s work, also published by John Murray ( the man who published Emma, you will recall)

gave the more traditional, complicated manner of making lavender water, by using a still to extract the essence of lavender:

 

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book which is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, contains a recipe for making lavender water. In A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes written by Peggy Hickman, published in 1977, the following recipe appears:

To one quart of the best rectified spirits of wine put 3/4 oz of essence of lavender and 1/2 scruple of ambergris; shake it together and it is fit for use in a few days

As you can see, Martha’s recipe is very similar to the simple method described in Mrs Rundell’s book, above. Martha was, of course, their life long friend and she lived with the Austen ladies in their Chawton home.

There was an alternative to making your own lavender water, of course, You could buy a proprietary brand.The brand that Jane Austen and  her sister Cassandra seem to have preferred was Mr Steele’s Lavender Water. In her letter to Cassandra dated 14th January 1801 she commissions her, on behalf  of Martha Lloyd, to purchase some of Mr Steele’s lavender water when she next visits london:

Martha left you her best love. She will write to you herself in a short time; but, trusting to my memory rather than her own, she has nevertheless desired me to ask you to purchase for her two bottles of Steele’s lavender water when you are in town, provided you should go to the shop on your own account, otherwise you may be sure that she would not have you recollect the request.

Mr Steele had his shop and lavender water producing workshop at 15 Catherine Street, London just off the Strand, near Somerset House. The approximate position of the shop is shown in these two sections taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

The approximate position of the shop is shown by the red arrow on both the sections:

Mr Steel also had a small house and a lavender nursery at Feltham near Hounslow Heath on the outskirts of London, approximately  six miles from the city. You can see the red arrow marking the position of Hounslow on the section of John Cary’s map of the Environs of London (1812) below:

He was also in business with his brother-in-law, one Mr Alley, who distilled the lavender into lavender water at the Catherine Street premises.  And now prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful…Mr Steele met with an untimely end. He was murdered in 1802 while he was on Hounslow Heath. His murderer, John Holloway was eventually found guilty of the murder in 1807. If you go here to the magnificent Old Bailey On line website, you can read a full account of the trial. It is absolutely fascinating, and for me raises many, many questions. I thought, however, that you might like to read Mr Steels sad tale, which is a reminder that Jane Austen’s era was not all lavender water and lace, and that for some unfortunate souls, violence was not far from the surface ;)

I thought you all would love to know that Serena Dyer has a new project : a blog. Serena is a dress historian, the owner of the Dressing History Website, author of the fabulously interesting (and affordable) book ,”Bergere Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth Century Headware

and is currently a member of York University’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.This is a wonderful, well-respected institution, and is somewhere I have enjoyed  attending lectures and conferences on the long 18th century.

I am so pleased we can now follow her work on a blog. She has a Facebook page and is on Twitter, but I love the scope the blog platform will give her to tell us all her news. Her first post details her impressive CV and the work she has undertaken, including that at the recent Revolutionary Fashion exhibit at Fairfax House in York.

©SerenaDyer

Here she is , above, with some of the period clothes on show at Fairfax House.

I do hope you will join my example and follow her blog. I am so looking forward to reading future posts, for Serena’s work is wonderfully detailed, and I’m sure we are going to enjoy reading about her research, and looking at the clothing she works with and creates.

Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly,  has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.

The current exhibit is of some of  his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these  in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.

The first is a superb Banyan:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Here is a close-up of the collar:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.

An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric,  is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams.  This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.

This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is made from fine linen:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase,  Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a  follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches,  in a slightly dated manner

The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36  Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion  that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers  tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along  with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still  practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall,  where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where

Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.

Chapter 33

Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden

The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.

The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent  his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.

We celebrated Trafalgar day just over two weeks ago, and Simon Chorley auctioneers of Gloucestershire are offering for sale a rather intriguing etui with a possible Nelson connection, so I thought you might like to read about it. An etui was, of course,  a case or box used to contain articles of personal use. These cases were compact and portable; many were made in luxurious materials during  the 18th and 19th centuries. This one appears to have a direct connection to Lord Nelson and his mistress, Emma Hamilton.

It dates from 1801 and it was therefore made during the reign of George III. As you can see,  the etui is in the famous “cutlery box ” shape and is covered in shagreen. Shagreen was usually the name given to the skin of a shark or ray that had been filed down and dyed to give it its distinctive mottled appearance.

The hasp of the case is inscribed  with the initials H.N to E.H. and  is dated  1801:

Inside the etui  there are a pair of scissors and, as you can see from the photographs, below, the scissor handles are  inscribed Horatio Nelson

and Lady Hamilton.

The etui  also contains two glass scent bottles with porcelain stoppers in the shape of birds, possibly originating from the Chelsea or more probably, in my humble opinion, the Derby factory given its date.  There are also some needles, a spoon, an ivory aide memoir and a penknife.

I think we can assume that, given Jane Austen’s attitude to taking mistresses, she would not have approved of the gift, giver or recipient. But it is an interesting item and I wonder how much it will fetch at auction when it is offered for sale on the 10th November? Its estimate is £1,800-2,200 which, given its possible history, seems cheap enough to me ( not that I’m going to be bidding!)

Today I have a rare treat for you- a close look at a nearly forgotten ladies accomplishment: paper filigree work.

Poor Elinor Dashwood: in order to learn more of Lucy Steele’s entanglement with Edward Ferrars, she has to volunteer to join her in making  a filigree basket for Annamaria Middleton, whom Jane Austen describes as a spoilt child:

“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23

Playing cards with the cold Lady Middleton or having heartrending talks with spiteful, scheming Lucy? Not much of a choice is it?

Rolledpaper work, filigree work, or as it is now known, quilling, was a popular pastime for accomplished young ladies in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. The first known forms of this type of decoration, which is made by decorating items with many, many rolled and pinched or crimped  pieces of paper, set in pleasing patterns, date from the 15th and 16th centuries.Predominantly using gold and silver covered paper, filigree work was then used to decorate items with religious significance- pictures of saints etc.- however, shortly after the Reformation in England,when “idolatrous” objects were discouraged, the practice died out. In the mid 17th century the art was revised in England ,and was often used in conjunction with stump work embroidery  to decorate mirrors and caskets. In the 18th century it became a popular pastime for young ladies. Most were content to work on small pieces, as in Annamaria’s basket, and pieces like this tea caddy dating from about 1800, below:

You can see that the patterns formed by the rolled pieces of paper  give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.

Some ladies were more accomplished than others, and were more ambitious too. Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of George III,was known to have ordered and received a cabinet especially constructed so that she could cover it with filigree work. It was described as a box made for filigree work with ebony mouldings, lock and key and also a tea caddy to correspond…

A cabinet of this type of work still exists and that is what I would like to show to you now. It appeared on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt Programme on Wednesday 2nd November, and was chosen by the programme’s presenter,Tim Wonnacott formerly of Sothebys ,as the object he most coveted in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Cheshire.

Here is Tim, standing next to the cabinet, which dates from the last years of the 18th century:

It has a stand, and is 4 feet 10 inches tall, 2 feet wide and 1 foot 5 inches deep.

The exterior is decorated with prints, filigree work and freshwater pearls:

The prints have been coloured, then applied to the cabinet and then finally  varnished to give the appearance of oil paintings. In the image above you can see that the side panels are decorated as well as the doors.

If you take a close look at the decoration on the doors, you can see the tightly rolled pieces of paper…

which have been affixed to the surface of the cabinet. Note  that the pattern comes not only from the way the pieces have been rolled but also from the use of papers of different colours.

The doors are also decorated with strings of freshwater pearls…

which are set in the form of swags. They help “display” the varnished prints in a decorative manner…

..so that the pictures  hang pendant from the swags:

The sides are decorated in a stunning pink pattern: butterflies dance among the whirls of paper

The programme showed us something that is not normally seen- the interior of the cabinet:

The interior is stunning. The colours are almost as they were when it was made 200 years ago, because, of course, they have been protected from  attacks of the sun and dirt. The reverses of the doors were not shown to us in detail but I can tell you that they are lined with painted satin bordered with glass jewels.

The centre panel of the cabinet  again contains a varnished print, but this time it is set around with cut steel pieces-a very fashionable material at the time for buckles and jewellery, for despite its dull sounding name , it actually sparkles like cut stones.

This would have glittered and shone in the candlelight of a late 18th century sitting room, such a wonderful effect.

The interior of the cabinet is furnished with many small drawers, all decorated with filigree work:

You can see them in these two illustrations:

Here are some close-ups of the filigree work patterns on the drawers:

…here you can see a pattern of pink  leafage set amongst a ground of aqua coloured paper rolls

Another leafage pattern this time in pale green, plus a star pattern..or is it a flower?

Another complex star/flower pattern with green leafage

These patterns were not necessarily the brainchild of the woman working them. Patterns could be purchased and some were printed in women’s magazine of the time. This one, below, shows very similar leafage and flower designs to the ones used on the cabinet:

This was first published in The New Ladies’ Magazine for 1786. In the same magazine there was an advertisement for the finest filigree work which could be seen at the first shop in Mount Street by Berkeley Square.

A statement in the same magazine promoted the craft, noting that paper filigree work was thought eminently suitable for the “female mind”:

The art affords an amusement to the female mind, capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety ; it may be readily acquired and pursued at a very trifling expense.

Perfect for Lucy Steele then, a woman with a certain amount of native cunning but no great intellectual gifts. I wonder if Jane Austen’s ire had been raised by reading such pronouncements, and that is why she gave  such an occupation to Lucy…it is entirely possible, don’t you think?

However that may be,  I think the cabinet on show here displays staggering  levels of expertise. I can agree with Tim Wonnacott that I’d love it in my own home.

will be given this weekend, on Sunday 6th November at 2.30 p.m by Diana Shervinton, whom you can see in the photograph below,

and who is a direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother Edward. Her talk is on the perennially fascinating topic to we Janeites of  Jane Austen and the Navy.  The talk is free, and promises to be very interesting, so if you are in the area, please do go.

The talk is part of  the Maritime Lyme celebrations which have been on–going throughout the year.

I cannot tell you how desperate I and to go and hear one of these talks! I think its high time I paid another visit to Lyme, the last time I was there was three years ago….far too long a period of time.

Last week I paid another pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral.  As you no doubt know, she is buried in the North Aisle of the Cathedral, shown below,

…under a ledgerstone etched with the now familiar words written by her brother, Henry Austen.

The stone is by the brass plaque which was installed  in 1870, and was paid for from the proceeds of her nephew, Edward Austen Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt, and also by the memorial window, above the plaque, paid for by public subscription in 1900.

Winchester Cathedral has recently added some explanatory displays on Jane Austen’s life and her connections with the Cathedral, in the form of rather beautiful, ethereal 3-D effect light boxes, and I really want to share them with you here.  The boxes are simple but very lovely, set in blue ‘cupboards” complete with words written by Elizabeth Proudman, a Winchester Guide who has a special interest in the life of Jane Austen, and with watercolour  illustrations by the artist, Laura Haines.

There are four of them and they stand very unobtrusively near to Jane Austen’s Grave. The first illustrates Jane Austen’s early life in Steventon:

You can enlarge all the photographs in this post by clicking on them and I do recommend you do it to get the full effect of these lovely illustrations. The text gives a simple but accurate outline of Jane Austen’s early life:

Jane Austen was born on the 16th December 1775 in the parsonage house in Steventon near Basingstoke in Hampshire, where her father was Rector. The house no longer stands but you can still visit the little church where the family prayed each week and see the scattered rural community where she grew up…..

The Second Box deals with Jane’s time in Bath, showing her sitting on the banks of the Avon near to the Pulteney Bridge:

In 1801 Jane’s father,  Rev. George Austen, decided to retire and move the family to Bath where he had met and married Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh. Everything was sold ,even Jane’s books and her piano, and they left her beloved countryside to live in town…

The third box’s subject is Chawton:

This shows Jane Austen in the famed Donkey Cart, which she disliked using, and Chawton Cottage, now the Jane Austen’s House Museum:

…it is this house which we know as Jane Austen’s house today, where she lived for the last eight years of her life, and where she became a great writer. Upstairs she shared a bedroom with her beloved Cassandra and in the dining room she could write,  covering her work with a piece of blotting paper to avoid inquisitive eyes. ..

The fourth and last light box shows the house in College Street, just outside the Cathedral Close,  where Jane Austen died in 1817:

On 24th May 1817, Jane Austen said goodbye to her mother in Chawton, and she and Cassandra drove the 16 miles in pouring rain to Winchester. There were good doctors in Winchester and they hoped her illness could be cured. They took comfortable lodgings near the Cathedral in Mrs. David’s house at 8 College Street where Cassandra nursed her….

There can now be no confusion as to “who that lady is?” This was of course the famous question asked by a Verger of the cathedral to a visitor who wanted to visit Jane Austen’s tomb in  1850. I think it is a rather beautiful, unobtrusive  and very clever way of giving an accurate, interesting and visually pleasing display about Jane Austen’s life. Bravo Winchester Cathedral for having the imagination to make this small exhibit such a beautiful and fitting one.

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