You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.

I discovered the existence of these posters a little while  after Christmas. Imagine to yourselves my despair!  The chance to give a very different type of Jane Austen gift had slipped through my fingers…next year it will be remedied.

Spineless Classics are simply a wonderful idea. The concept is quite simple:  take a whole novel and print it on one page- legibly, mind- , as a wallposter, often with a silhouette in the design that is appropriate to the novel/book in question.

Pride and Prejudice has been given the Spineless Classics treatment, complete with a silhouette of Darcy and Elizabeth (inspired by the 2005 version with Keria Knightly, if I am not mistaken) set into the text…

Three other works by Jane Austen have been similarly treated. Mansfield Park, below, with a ghostly silhouette of “Mansfield House” hugging the bottom line of the design :

Emma, which contains the silhouette Of L’amiable Jane , a silhouette supposedly of Jane Austen that is now in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection;

and finally Persuasion:

I’ve not yet seen one of these poster in real life, but they are supposed to be legible, especially if you have 20-20 vision.

In addition to posters, the same company provide sets of postcards which have a complete short story printed on them; below we have the example of the tale of How the Camel got his Hump from the Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling…

And for a limited time they are selling an Alice In Wonderland jigsaw…I covet it.

Other authors than Jane Austen have had their titles given the Spineless treatment. My favourite  has to be Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie:

Ideally, I can envisage using these to wallpaper a small room….I thought you might like to share them too. Roll on next Christmas, as I’m sure some of my fellow Janeites will find these in their festive stockings.

“There! you see!” cried Mary, in an ecstacy; “just as I said! Heir to Sir Walter Elliot! I was sure that would come out, if it was so. Depend upon it, that is a circumstance which his servants take care to publish, wherever he goes. But, Anne, only conceive how extraordinary! I wish I had looked at him more. I wish we had been aware in time who it was, that he might have been introduced to us. What a pity that we should not have been introduced to each other! Do you think he had the Elliot countenance? I hardly looked at him, I was looking at the horses; but I think he had something of the Elliot countenance. I wonder the arms did not strike me! Oh! the great-coat was hanging over the pannel, and hid the arms, so it did; otherwise, I am sure, I should have observed them, and the livery too; if the servant had not been in mourning, one should have known him by the livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 12.

Last week I bored you all silly by my explanations of livery, the significance of livery colours and how they were worn in Jane Austen’s era by  certain servants of the rich. Today I’d like to consider livery and coaches, for it is an integral part of the livery story and we ought to discuss it for the sake of completeness.

The passage from Persuasion quoted above is so gloriously funny-I love the way this glimpse of William Walter sets Mary Musgrove on to long descriptions of  the Elliot Countenance –( shade of Mrs Austen and the Austen nose, perhaps?)but it draws our attention to how livery was used, and how significant it was. Because Mr Elliot’s servant is in mourning for Mr Elliot’s dead wife,  -he is wearing black, not the usual livery of a coachman-  Mary Musgrove is unable to recognise the orange cuffs and capes of the Elliot livery.  She was also frustrated in making a positive identification of her father’s errant heir by the fact that his Arms, painted onto the side panel of his curricle, are hidden from view by a great-coat.

If you were wealthy enough to afford a carriage and all its attendant expenses, and, of course, you were possessed of Arms, then you could have these painted on your coach to announce to the world just who was the owner of the vehicle.  Jane Austen’s father, George Austen, at one point owned a carriage when they lived at Steventon, and this was decorated with teh Austen crest. In Jane Austen : A Family Record by Deirdre le Faye, we find these comments:

It seems that by now Mr Austen’s income was reasonably good, because entries in his bank account suggest that in the summer of 1784 he brought a chariot- a small carriage drawn by two horses and carrying three passengers- for the benefit of his wife and daughters.

(Page 50)

Anna Austen, the daughter of  Jane’s eldest brother, James Austen, wrote about local rumours that spread about the carriage -which was either new or newly repainted-at the time of her uncle, Henry Austen’s marriage to Eliza de Feuillide in December 1797, and this is also quoted in Le Faye’s book:

About the time of  Mr Henry Austen’s marriage with his first Wife his father set up a carriage which not unnaturally, joe on its panels( pic) the family crest; namely a Stag on a Crown Mural. The latter circumstance was accounted for, in his own way, by a neighbouring Squire, who reported that “Mr Austen had put a coronet on his carriage because of his son’s being married to a French Countess”.

THis is one of George Austen’s bookplates, and it is decorated with the Austen crest,  quite as Anna Austen described it. This would have appeared on his coach, on the side door panel. The squire mentioned by Anna Austen- a Digweed?- obvious was not aware that Mr Austen was entitle to bear his own arms and crest. The glory of the Austen’s coach was short lived: in 1798 it was put away in storage for new taxes imposed on carriage owners made it far too expensive for George Austen to continue to maintain.

If we look at some images of carriage from the time, it will become clear as to where the Arms would have been on show. These images are all taken from my copy of William Felton’s Treaties on Carriagescomprehending coaches, chariots, phaetons, curricles, whiskeys, &c. : together with their proper harness (1794). Fenton was a London coachmaker and his book, in two volumes, gives us a mass of intricate detail as to how  carriages  in the late 18th century were made, complete with all their fittings.

The first we shall consider is a chariot, in this case a neat town chariot.

You can see, and do remember you can enlarge all these images by clicking on them, in order to examine the details, that the coat of arms of the owner and his crest are placed centrally on the door and side panel of the coach. You can appreciate  that the arms and crest of the owner are clearly visible and would be very noticeable to any passer-by.

And here, below, is  an image of an elegant Chariot, very elaborately decorated, but again with the arms of the owner clearly visible on the door panel.

Mr Elliot is riding from Lyme to Bath in a curricle, that smart gentleman-about-town’s vehicle so beloved of Charles Musgrove, who was eager to compare it with his own,

They had nearly done breakfast, when the sound of a carriage (almost the first they had heard since entering Lyme) drew half the party to the window. It was a gentleman’s carriage, a curricle, but only coming round from the stable-yard to the front door — somebody must be going away. It was driven by a servant in mourning.

Here is  Felton’s impression of a Proper Curricle:

The Arms of the owner are shown on the side panel.  These would of course be hidden from view if covered by a coat slung over the side as in Mr Elliott’s case at Lyme.

Here is Felton’s page illustrating the different ways in which Arms could be used to decorate a coach:

They range from the simple to the hideous in my very humble opinion.Here is his price list for adding such ornament to a vehicle :

So, that is why Mary Musgrove’s attempts to identify the owner of the curricle were stymied: in this case neither the arms nor the livery  of the servant could help her because neither were on show.

I ought to tell you, however that, had Mr Elliot been in a larger coach, and  had  he and his servant not been in mourning for his unlamented wife, there was another way to discern the identity of the owner. Hammer clothes, which covered the coachman’s seat and which could be very decorative items, were also another way to identify the family’s livery, as they were often made in livery colours and could be embroidered with representations of the family’s coat of arms. Here is Felton’s description of them:

Hammer-cloths are among the principal ornaments in a carriage; they are a cloth covering to the coachman’s seat, made to various patterns agreeable to the occupier’s fancy. The fullness of the plaiting of the cloth , its depth and the quality of the trimmings thereon proportions the expense (sic-jfw) to almost any amount…

And here are some very elaborate examples:

John Cussans , in The Handbook of Heraldry, tells us  that

The Colours of Hammercloths are regulated by the same laws as liveries.

Page 314.

Now, I have no reference for this but I doubt that a colourful hammer cloth covered in gold or silver lace and made in the heraldic colours of a family’s livery would be on show  at a time of full mourning. If the servant who normally would have worn  livery was dressed in black due to the custom of mourning, then I feel sure that a hammer cloth would also be subdued in hue. So if one had been on display it would still not have helped Mary Musgrove locate the owners identity in the inn- yard at Lyme. But as Mr Elliot was in a curricle and not a larger coach, no hammer cloth was to be seen. Poor Mary, therefore could only rely on her  interpretation of The Elliot Countenance, and the information supplied to them by the waiter.

On Sunday the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme highlighted two picture which have echoes of Sense and Sensibility for us, and so I thought you might like to see them.

They were early 19th century silk needlework pictures, circa 1800, set in mounts which were made of filigree work.

Here are close-ups of the figures in the picture on the right…

If you enlarge the image by clicking on it, you will see details of the embroidery, typical of the period.

And also note that the faces and arms of the figures are painted onto the background material, which is possibly of silk too.

The mounts are filled with filigree work, where the patterns are formed by massing together rolled pieces of paper to  give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.

For more detail on filigree work  and how it was made, go here. It was, of course, this type of work that Jane Austen referred to in Chapter 23 of Sense and Sensibility:

.“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.”

These crafts were the type of “accomplishments” that  were taught in the fashionable ladies academies. Such as the one that Jane Austen’s sister-in-law,Elizabeth Bridges, who married Jane’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, attended. In Jane Austen: A Family Record by Deirdre Le Faye, we learn that

She (Elizabeth-jfw) and her sister are all graceful, brown-haired beauties, who had been educated in London at the “Ladies Eton”,  the boarding school in Queen Square, Bloomsbury run by the Misses Stevenson exclusively for the Daughters of the nobility and gentry. The academic content of the curriculum was minimal and the pupils learned little more than French, music and dancing while strong emphasis was placed on social etiquette- an old coach was kept propped up in a back room so that the girls would practise the art of getting in and out of it in a modest and elegant manner.

Page 70.

Here is a trade card for one such school, this time in Chelsea, dating from 1797:

This is the type of establishment that Charlotte Palmer no doubt attended, and her silk picture landscape, hung in her old room at Mrs Jennings’ town house, is the only tangible result of all her “efforts” there:

The house was handsome and handsomely fitted up, and the young ladies were immediately put in possession of a very comfortable apartment. It had formerly been Charlotte’s, and over the mantlepiece still hung a landscape in coloured silks of her performance, in proof of her having spent seven years at a great school in town to some effect.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26.

Clearly, Jane Austen had a low opinion of such schools, and much preferred the type of “honest” education that she experienced at  the Reading Ladies Boarding School housed in the old Reading Abbey. This was the model for Mrs Goddard’s school in Emma. Mrs Goddard’s school was certainly not one of these smart seminaries. I often do wonder what Jane Austen’s sister-in-law made of Jane’s barbed attacks on the type of establishment she attended, for she repeated it in Pride and prejudice too: the Miss Bingley’s were also “educated’ at one of these places.

The edition of the Antiques Roadshow, the tenth in this series, filmed at Bletchley Park, is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, here – for another five days. The items appeared approximately 20 minutes into the show and were valued at £2000 for the pair.

Last week I reviewed Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg. That book, while fascinating, gigantic in size and scope, and well worth its price, is rather expensive and I wanted to point you in the way of a more reasonably-priced soft cover book on the same topic,  The English Pleasure Garden by Sarah Jane  Downing, published by Shire.

This is not a very large book, only 64 page in all, but it manages to be a comprehensive overview on the subject of those lost pleasure gardens, which  were such a feature of 18th /early 19th century life. It does not concentrate on one garden, but gives the reader a clear view of the rather short history of these gardens from their Stuart beginnings to their sad Victorian end.

There are chapters on the London gardens, and you may be interested to know that Vauxhall and Ranelagh were not the only gardens to visit. There were 64 pleasure gardens in London and its environs during this period. Here is a picture of one of the more rural pleasure gardens, Sadlers Wells, in Islington, then a small village just outside the city of London.

In the 18th century it was a place to take the waters, hence the name “wells”  but today it is rather more well-known as the site of a theatre famous for staging dance in all  its forms.

The seedier side of 18th century life that these gardens attracted is also addressed; here is an image from the late 18th century illustrating an intoxicated woman returning  home very late (or, more probably, early in the morning!) from a masquerade. This type of image illustrated the growing concern for the immoral effect of  masquerades, an entertainment that Ranelagh  was famous for  promoting.

A fascinating section of the book is its chapters on provincial pleasure gardens.  Sydney Gardens in Bath is included, of course, and we all know that Jane Austen lived opposite them at Sydney Place when she first moved to Bath from Steventon in 1801.

But is it very interesting to read of other, less famous gardens in  Norwich, Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-Tyne- so at least Lydia Wickham had one to attend to enjoy its weekly concerts!-and the lost pleasure garden of Duddeston in  Birmingham, seen below, in a very rare image:

In so small a book something has to give: and that is first, the size of the illustrations. However they are many  and varied and very useful. And the  details can be easily seen by the use of a magnifying glass. Second, citations. It would have been helpful to have more sources listed other than the occasional acknowledgement to a museum or library. But, that would had added to both the size and cost of the book. Some things we have to forgive.

Overall, it is a very useful starting point for understanding these lost but once magical places. I can throughly recommend this book to you.

The Chapel at Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, above,  has long been considered to have been Jane Austen’s inspiration for the chapel at Sotherton in Mansfield Park.  She visited the great mansion in 1806, which was inherited by her cousin, the Reverend Thomas Leigh, and I have written about her visit and the grounds before,  here and here.

The Chapel and its communion table were featured in Friday’s edition of Bargain Hunt on BBC One and  I thought you might like to see some pictures of both the Chapel and the table,  taken from that programme.

The Chapel is a most beautiful, austere double height room, with very little ornament, as you can see. This is the view from the family gallery. It is all very similar to the way Mr Rushworth’s Sotherton’s chapel was described in Mansfield Park:

Fanny’s imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above.

No wonder then that  Fanny, who had been imagining something more Gothic and dark, full of banners and ancient tombs, was rather  disappointed in the cool elegance of the Chapel at Sotherton:

“This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be ‘blown by the night wind of heaven.’ No signs that a ‘Scottish monarch sleeps below.’”

“You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. There you must look for the banners and the achievements.”

“It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed.”

Mansfield Park, Chapter 9

In 1763 Stoneleigh’s owner, the 5th Lord Leigh, decided to refurbish his mansion and engaged William Gomm, the cabinet maker of Clerkenwell in London, to provide 150 new pieces of furniture. The finest piece he made for the house was the communion, or altar table designed to stand below the beautiful reredos in the chapel, which can be seen below.

The table, which was created and delivered to Stoneligh in 1764,  is now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but is now on long term loan to Stoneleigh so that it can be seen and appreciated in its original setting:

The table is made of mahogany, thickly veneered over an oak carcass: you can see the underside of the table, below

It is beautifully carved…

in the rococo style…

The legs are festooned with garlands of flowers…

and all four legs are carved form a solid block of mahogany which would originally have been 15 inches wide, 15 inches deep and 32 inches high.

The central section of the table’s apron, which hangs below its top surface,  is dominated by a beautiful carving of a cherub, which very cleverly echoes the plaster-work cherubs

that decorate the Chapel. These are set around the organ which can be seen in the first floor family gallery. which over looks the main body of the chapel. There were made by the Worcester stuccoist, John Wright when the chapel was first built.

The intricate decoration on the legs and apron of the table was very calculatedly done: it was meant to be seen below, from the level of the floor, as people would have been kneeling before it, in order to take the sacrament. The table would have been elevated  on the slight dias as it stood  before the reredos. The view the congregation would have  had therefore was considered very carefully by Gomm.

The bill  for all the items of furniture made by Gomm is still in existence.

The total cost of the 150 pieces of furniture was an astounding £818 and 9 shillings…

and we know that the table cost £31, 10 shillings. This is an astounding amount, especially  when you consider that  in 1806 Jane Austen inherited £50  from a friend of the Leigh Perrots, and was consequently able to live well on that amount all through 1807, even being able to afford the luxury of hiring a piano for her use when she lived in Castle Square, Southampton. Taking all this into consideration, you can begin to gauge just how expensive that table was.

But it is virtually certain that Jane Austen would have seen this table and may even have taken communion from it, as the family used the chapel during the time they stayed there. The evidence from Mrs Austen’s letter to her daughter-in-law, Mary  dated August 13th, 1806 and which gives a great detail about their visit, tells us that:

At nine in the morning we meet and say our prayers in a handsome chapel, the pulpit &c now hung with black…

If you would like to see the original programme you can do so via the link on this page, if the BBC iPlayer is available to you. The programme is available to view for the next five days.

Liveried servants were the preserve of the rich, and were a status symbol. Their very presence in a household serving at the dining table,  answering the door etc, or more importantly, being visible outside the household- going on their masters’ errands in the street, or adorning a coach-  indicated wealth and status on the part of the employer. We have learnt about the heraldic and historic background to liveries in our last three posts.Today we shall look at these special uniforms as they developed throughout the 18th/early 19th centuries.

The uniforms were expensive, and  in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, they certainly stood out, for they were becoming archaic in style, harking back to a past era. Liveries of the early to mid 18th century still retained a relation to military uniforms and court drew, but that all changed as the century wore on:

At the start of the century the footman’s livery was still relatively close to its origins in military and court dress, evocative of the gentleman retainer.  As the century progressed fashions changed while livery ossified. ..By the 1790s..the kind of silver lace decorations that adorned a velvet livery coat stolen in London in 1795 was almost entirely confined, among civilians at least, to footmen. Livery had become a sartorial fossil albeit one that…was becoming increasingly elaborate and ostentatious in the second half of the century, a trend that may of some way to explain its fossilisation.

(John Styles, The Dress of the People, page 300-301.)

You can see this progression, from fashionable to arctic, in these illustrations, again, all taken from John Styles’ book.

Above is a painting by John Collet from 1763,  illustrating a scene from Townley’s 1759 play High Life below Stairs. Both male servants wear restrained liveries…

Above is a mezzotint from 1772 showing another  below-stairs scene in a grand household: the livery worn by the male servant, shown trying to impress the maid seated at the table, is  now much more elaborate, his waistcoat adorned with much gold lace, as are the facings on his coat, which also sports gold buttons.

And finally we come to our favourite, (well my favourite) debunker of pomposity , Thomas Rowlandson in 1799. Here were have two Country Characters being rather forcibly  “impressed’ by a fancy London footman in his full regalia, gold lace trimmed, note, topped with his powdered wig and bag.

This hair powder was an additional expense for the employer. As we have seen, footmen, in full regalia, wore powdered wigs. A tax on hair powder was levied between 1797 and 1869. This tax was introduced by Pitt  and it was originally envisaged that the tax would raise £200,000 per annum for the Treasury.  Virtually every man at that time either wore a wig which was powdered, or added powder to his own hair. Charles Fox, in opposition to Pitt, thought that the idea was delusional. He understood, quite rightly, that only half a dozen leaders of fashion needed to decide to change the mode of dressing their hair and the object of the tax would be frustrated. The effect of the introduction of the tax was quite dramatic, and was as Fox predicted: most people simply gave up wearing powder in their hair/wigs. Very soon only die-hards and liveried servants wore hair powder. Thus adding to the ever archaic appearance of servants in livery.

It might amuse you to know that  the political opposition ceased to wear hair powder immediately on the introduction of the tax, and took to calling those who still wore the powder “guinea pigs“( in reference to the fee payable to the Treasury). In 1796 the yield for the tax was £210,136 but from then on the number of registered tax payers fell dramatically. By 1855 only liveried servants wore the powder. In that year only 997 servants were registered to be taxed on their powder( 951 in England, and 46 in Scotland). The yield by that time was £100 per year and it was discontinued as being unproductive, and too expensive to collect.

(See : A History of Taxation and Taxes in England by Stephen Dowell).

Not only did the use of powered wigs in livery uniforms add to the archaic effect, it also, among  the ranks of the noveau riche, with their newly commissioned coats of arms, newly purchased houses in town and newly bought country estates, produced the desired effect of  being from ancient lineage and of old money.

In addition to the cost of the livery and the tax on hair power, from 1777 male servants were subject to a special tax. An annual tax of one guinea per male servant was levied by the government. This tax was originally intended to help finance the war against the American’s struggle for independence, but, not surprisingly, the tax was retained after that war had ended. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that it was not repealed until 1937.

So, you can see just how expensive it was for an employer to set up a household with liveried servants.The extra expense of the uniform and the additional taxes paid on them mad ether expensive walking status symbols. And before I end this small series on livery, I have to share with you a set of photographs of some outstanding and extravagant  livery,which explain all the elements I have tried to explain in the last four posts.

This set of livery was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham of Ashburnham Place, Sussex, in 1829 for his installation as Knight of the Garter at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Here are his footmen, in all their splendour, adorned  with their powdered wigs, and wearing a costume(what else can you call it, seeing how theatrical it is?!) based on the colours used  in his Arms- Gules(red)  and Vert (green); and in addition, the gold lace or trimming is replaced by a woven braid made of a repeating pattern of a depiction of  the Arms themselves.

You can see all the heraldic elements are very noticeably in place: he has taken the heraldic themes and run with them, to be brutally honest.

Even the braid festooned from the epaulettes has been woven in his heraldic colours. There is no mistaking that these servants are very definitely in his service, for they are walking advertisement for his ancient and costly lineage.

Yesterday we talked about coats of arms, heraldic colours and how important they were for determining the colours of liveries. Today, let’s look at the practical application of all we learnt.  We know that the colours on a family’s coat of arms (or, more simply,  Arms) were to be used as the colours of their livery uniforms, for…

A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely upon the tinctures upon his Escutcheon.

(J. Cussans, The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) page 314.)

But how did this work? Cussans tell us…

In both ( the Escutcheon and the livery-jfw) the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or as a tailor would call it, the trimmings – that is, the collar, cuffs,  lining and buttons) should be the colour of  the principal charge. 

So, Cussans now gives us some examples:

For example, a gentleman bears arms Azure( Blue-jfw) a Fess Or ( Gold-jfw); in this case the coats of the servants should be blue faced with yellow. But, supposing the tinctures were reversed and that the Field were “or”  and the Fess “azure”,  how then? Would the coat be yellow and the facings blue? No, custom has decided that we must not dress our servants in golden coats. Instead of yellow we should employ drab.

So, in George Austen’s case, had he ever possessed the resources to dress a footman in livery, we can see, from the Austen family coat of arms below,

his livery would  have taken the form of  a drab coat with red facings. This is  because,,on his coat of arms the field( the principal part) is  coloured Or (gold) and as we must not dress our servants in golden coats, the coat would be made in a coat of drab coloured cloth. Note that Drab was not just a single color, but rather a range of colors in the grey-brown family. It is originally thought to refer to the natural color of linen cloth. The Chevron on the arms  is gules(red) and so the facings of the Austen livery coat- the collar, cuffs etc would be red, for that is not the dominant but the secondary colour.

Cussans give us some more examples:

Argent ; a Lion rampant azure. Coat light drab; Facings, blue.


Gules; an Eagle displayed or, within a Bourdure argent Coat, claret or chocolate; Facings, yellow; buttons and Hat-band, silver.


Or; a Fess cheque argent and azure, bewteen a Mullet in chief gules, and a Crescent of the the third in base. Coat, dark drab; Facings, blue; Buttons and Hat -band, silver; and to represent the Mullet, the edges of the coat might be bound with red, or the rim of the hat looped up with red cord.

(Cussans, as above, page 315)

To get back to one of Jane Austen’s characters, we know that Sir Walter Elliot has orange cuffs on his livery:

”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 3

Therefore, applying the rules we now know,  this would indicate that the stain ( colour), Tenné ,which is similar to the untutored eye to the colour orange, was included in a secondary way on the Elliot coat of arms. Patric Baty tell us here that this Heraldic colour or tincture had a specific attribute; ambition. I suppose this is very fitting for the socially ambitious Sir Walter, as evidenced by his desperate attempts to be received by Lady Dalrymple in Bath.  I’m sure Jane Austen would be aware of what she was insinuating when she gave his livery orange cuffs and capes.

The details of the livery were also decided by heraldic rules.

Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively  to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them. 

(Cussans, as above, page 316)

Therefore, George Austen’s servants would wear gold coloured buttons and not silver. Here are some examples of Livery Buttons, from the early to mid 19th century:

It might interest you to note that there were special rules for widow’s servants liveries:

The uniform Livery of widows is white with black facings.

(Cussans, as above, page 315)

Im sure that Lady Russell’s liveried servants at Kellynch lodge would have worn this livery.

There are also special rules regarding the wearing of cockades by servants in their hats:

It is usually held that the privilege ( of a wearing cockades-jfw) is confined to the servants of officers in the Soverign’s service, or those who by courtesy may be regarded as such; the theory being that the servant is a private soldier, who, when not wearing his uniform retains this badge as a mark of his profession.  Doctors’ servants, though  frequently to be seen wearing Cockades, have no right to them whatsoever, unless their master’s names are to be found in the Army or Navy List.

The Cockade worn by the servants of military officers is composed of black leather, arranged in the form of a corrugated cone and surmounted by a cresting like a fan half opened ( fig 327, above). The servants of naval officers, deputy-lieutenants and gentlemen holding distinct offices under the Soverign bear a plain Cockade as at fig.328. In both cases the ribbon in the centre may be either black or of the Livery colours.

Epaulettes could also be part of the livery uniform: but they were only worn by servants of gentlemen who were entitled to have their servants wear Cockades.

The male servant in the double portrait above,  one Daniel Taylor, wears a livery coat of blue with yellow facings, silver buttons and epaulettes of gold. That would indicate that his master was a gentleman, in military service, whose arms had the dominant colour of Azure,(blue) with a secondary colour or Or ( gold) and with some use of Argent ( silver),and this would accord with the fact that his master was  John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (24 March 1745–19 July 1799), a rather dissolute character, but who never the less served teh Crown as an ambassador  and was as Lord Lieutenant of Kent.


This is a fascinating portrait  for it shows Daniel and another female servant, Elinor Low. She does not wear a specific uniform, note. It was painted in 1783 by Arnold Almond and is included in John Styles book, The Dress of the People.

Next, in this series, why servants dressed in liveries were seriously expensive status symbols ;)

In our last post we discussed the historical background to liveries. Today, we will look at the rules regarding the colour schemes of these liveries -uniforms if you like- for the footmen and coachmen in Jane Austen’s era.

It may interest you to know that the colours of a family’s livery was not a matter of choice:

A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate, but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely on the tinctures upon his Escutcheon. In both, the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or, as a tailor would call it, the trimmings- that is, the collar, cuffs lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal Charge.

(The Handbook of Heraldry etc., (1869,  John Cussans, Page 314.)

Lets examine how this works. First, in order to proceed, we are going to have a short heraldry terminology lesson. This is a ferociously complex subject, but for you to understand how livery colours were used, I’ve tried to simplify the essential descriptions / terms.  Do remember that most heraldic terms derive from Norman French or Latin.  An Escutcheon is a shield or shield-shaped emblem, which displays a coat of arms.

A Charge is any figure placed on a shield, which is then charged  with the device. There were two classes of charges, Ordinaries and Common Charges. Ordinaries can be incredibly simple, as in  the Chief-an ordinary which occupies the upper third of the shield, shown below:

or can range to the extremely complex: as in this example of a Gyron of eight, below: a Gyron is formed by a diagonal line bisecting a quarter bendwise.(see below)

Here is a page from Cussan’s book showing some of the more simple Ordinary Charges:

Common Charges are anything depicted on a shield other than the ordinaries. Anything animate ( lions, birds, fish, serpents) or inanimate (a castle keep, for example) : even imaginary creatures like Dragons qualify. Here are examples of Lions,  shown  Salient  (fig.144 : With both hind legs on the ground and fore paws elevated equally, as if he is about to spring on his prey), Sejant ( fig. 145:  Sitting down)

Heraldic colours, or Tinctures, are important,because there were so few of them.  There were two Metals, Or ( Gold ) and Argent ( Silver). The most commonly used were Gules(Red),  Azure (Blue),  Sable (Black ), Vert (Green) and Purpure ( Purple) There are two other colours, Stains, which were rarely used:  Tenné ( bright chestnut)and Sanquine (maroon)If you go here to the wonderful Patrick Baty’s page on Tinctures you can see exactly how these tinctures were used, and read about their attributes.(In addition, there was also  colurs or patterns called FURS: these were patterns suggesting ermine and other costly furs worn by the rich-we don’t need to worry ourselves about these here)

These colours were engraved in specific ways , so that expensive coloured paints and inks did not have to be used when depicting them, but that the depiction could still be accurate:

If we apply this to George Austen’s Coat of Arms (via Wikipedia):

you can see that the escutcheon- the shield-  (and I’m not giving a technically correct description, or blazon,  here , please do note!) is of Or ( Gold) with a Gules (Red) Charge in the form of  a Chevron. It also has three lions paws- Gambes or Jambes erased ( i.e.  cut off at the middle joint) coloured Sable( Black). You can see an example of this in Anne Austen’s ( neé Matthews) memorial in Steventon church:

Her arms, on the right are impaled ( that is, shown on the same shield)  with those of James Austen, her husband. He was George Austen’s eldest son and Jane’s eldest brother. His arms- of his branch of the Austen family – are on the left. You can see the gold background, the red chevron and the three black lions paws.

Next, how these colours were used in liveries.

 “He is rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.”

   “Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 3

My mention of liveried servants in yesterday’s review of the book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has prompted quite a number of you to contact me to enquire about liveries.There seems to be some confusion out there- some thinking the these were merely fancy costumes, picked out on a whim by employers-others not knowing what they looked like at all, so I’ve decided to write about them in the next few posts. I do hope you won’t be bored.

Liveries are mentioned by Jane Austen  in Pride and Prejudice and in Persuasion. What exactly were they ? For this answer we have to undertake a little history lesson. My authority for most of today’s content is The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) by John E. Cussans, and I’m using this mid-19th century book because it refers to the 18th century use of liveries, and also because changes in the world of Heraldry, like the mills of the Gods, grind exceeding slow:

This is a fascinating book; a well written, plain explanation of this rather complex subject. Today we will look at what it has to say about the history of livery uniforms.

The custom of distributing clothes -or what in the present day would be styled uniforms-  amongst the servants of the Crown- such as Judges, Ministers ,Stewards etc- date from a period nearly coeval with the Conquest.( circa 1066A.D.-jfw) This distribution was termed a “Livreé”: hence the more recent expression, “Livery”.

(Cussans,Page 311)

…the great feudal barons subsequently distributed liveries amongst their dependants and retainers. It must not be considered that the wearing of liveries was confined exclusively to the menial servants of the household, as at present, or was considered in any way more degrading than an officer of the Crown regards his distinctive uniform. The son of a duke would wear the livery of the prince under whom he served; and an earl’s soon might don the livery of a duke, without derogating from his dignity.

(Cussans,page 311)

The practice of allowing some servants to wear liveries eventually became the only example of such marks of distinction being worn:

The primary purpose Liveries were intended to serve has long since been forgotten amongst us, and our coachmen and footmen alone remain as representatives of the splendour which once marked the households of the feudal nobility.

(Cussans,page 314)

It ought to be remembered that during the late 18th century/early 19th century most household servants did not wear a distinctive  uniform, such as we are used to seeing in adaptations of fictional Edwardian households such as in Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Female servants wore what was practical, and often wore cast-offs from their mistresses, though moralists detested this practise.  Sophie von La Roche wrote, during her travels in London in 1786 of the serving girls she saw in the streets of London:

…the maids, women of middle class and the children. The former almost all wear black taminy petticoats and heavily stitched, and over these long English Calico or linen frocks, though not so long and close-fitting to the body as our tailors and taste cut and point them. Further they mostly wear white aprons; though the servants and working women often appear in striped linen aprons

Jane Austen’s kinswoman by marriage, and friend of her aunt and uncle, the Leigh Perrots, Mrs Lybbe Powys wrote in her diary of her visit to the Jackson family at Weasenham Hall in Norfolk in 1756, and of her astonishment in finding the female servants were actually wearing a uniform:

Never did a landlord seem so beloved, or indeed deserve to be so, for he is a most worthy man, and in however high a stile( sic-jfw) a man lives in in town, which he certainly does, real benevolence is more distinguishable in a family at their country -seat, and none do more good than where we now are. Then everything here is regularity itself , but the master’s method is, I take it, now become the method of the servants by use as well as choice.

Nothing but death make a servant leave them. The old housekeeper has now been there one-and-fifty years; the butler two or three-and-thirty……I was surprised to see them all ,except on Sundays, in green stuff gowns, and on my inquiring of Miss Jackson how they all happened to fix so on one particular colour, she told me a green camblet for a gown used for many years to be an annual present of her mothers to those servants who behaved well, and had been so many years in her family, and that now indeed, as they all behaved well, and had lived there much longer than the limited term, this was constantly their master’s New Year gift.

I thought this in Mr Jackson a pretty compliment to his lady’s memory, as well as testimony of the domestics still deserving of his good opinion.

See page 4, Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, OXON(1756-1808) edited by Emily Climenson (1899)

Some people,Daniel Defoe amongst them, thought that female servants should all adopt a modest uniform, as quoted in Anne Buck’s magnificent book , Dress in Eighteenth-Century England. Female servants very often received fine dresses as perks of the job. And many employers didn’t seem to object to those dresses being worn by the said female servants. As Anne Buck concludes:

Contact with well dressed women developed the eye and taste of many serving maids and helped them to dress with understanding of the fashion they followed. The absence of any uniform, on or off duty, left them free to follow fashions according to their own taste and means.

If they dressed too finely for their station they might be censured, but the readiness of women to pass on their own clothes to their servants shows there was no sharp division of dress, nor even a social convention against servants occasionally buying the same garment at the same time as their mistress :

“Nancy bought of Bagshaw this mornings…a very genteel Shawl at 10 shillings. Both my maids brought 2 Shawls the same as Nancy.”

Parson Woodeford records this as a fact without any judgement or comment

For some male servants, however as we have note, the situation was different and a uniform was provided by the employer. Footmen and coachmen wore liveries, if they were entitled to by the social rank of their employer. In our next post, we shall look at these uniforms and their colours in more detail.


I have been bewitched by the idea of an 18th century pleasure garden for years. Too many years to comfortably remember, if I’m painfully honest. I’ve visited the only remaining one in England –the Sydney Gardens in Bath– where Jane Austen used to love to walk when she lived opposite them at Sydney Place. I’ve collected books on them, and visited exhibitions, notably The Muse’s Bower held at Gainsborough House Museum in Sudbury, in Suffolk in 1974…

and the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo Exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1984.

I’ve even visited the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, in an attempt to sample something of the atmosphere of the original. Vauxhall on the Surrey bank of the Thames was the first and the most famous of them all. In fact, the term “Vauxhall” became the generic term for a pleasure garden, and its successful format was copied all over England, Europe and even in early 19th century America. A new book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has recently been published by Yale. It is published to  accompany an exhibition on the garden, which will open  later in the year at the Foundling Hospital Museum in Brunswick Square. Entitled The Triumph of Pleasure, I simply cannot wait to visit it ( and report back here).

This book is exactly what I have desired to find, after all these years. A comprehensive guide to EVERY aspect of the gardens: its history, the owners, The Tyers, shown below in a portrait by Francis Hayman…

The performers, especially the music and the musicians…

The art on show in the dining booths – it was the first contemporary art exhibit in the world open to the general ( paying) public…

The fashions worn there…

The way the gardens worked, the visitors..even details of the latrines or necessary houses……

it is all covered in exquisite detail, enough even to satisfy me. The book is co- written by David Coke past curator of Gainsborough’s House Museum (where he organised the Vauxhall Garden exhibit of 1978, and he also curated the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo exhibit at the Vand A in 1984), and by Dr Alan Borg.

They manage to capture the atmosphere of this magical place- lit by thousands of tiny coloured-glass oil lamps,where you could wander among the leafy groves, see and hear the latest art and music, and mingle with all classes of people who cloud afford to pay the entrance fee. The only exception being servants in livery- they were not admitted to teh gardens for as David Coke remarked to me yesterday,

Servants in livery were only excluded from Vauxhall because Tyers did not want any of his visitors to be seen as obviously subservient to any other visitor.  Of course, it also meant that wealthy visitors could not use their own servants to serve them supper, and had to use the Vauxhall waiters, but I’m sure this was a minor consideration.

This is all very well, I hear you say, and all very interesting, but did Vauxhall have any association with Jane Austen? It did. She wrote about it in Lesley Castle when she was 16 years old in 1791.  She may not have visited it personally, and there is no mention of it in her letters, but she may have known of it by repute or by reading other novels such as Evelina (1778) or Cecilia (1782) both written by  Fanny Burney, one of Jane Austen’s favoured authors, and which both mention the pleasure garden. In Letter the Seventh from Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley, Bristol 27th March, JAne Austen wrote:

In spite of all that People may say about Green fields and the Country I was always of the opinion that London and its Amusements must be very agreeable for a while, and should be very happy could my Mother’s income allow her to jockey us into its Public-places during Winter. I always longed particularly to go to Vaux-hall to see whether the cold Beef there is cut so thin as it is reported,  for I have a sly suspicion that few people understand the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef so well as I do: nay it would be had if I did not know something of the Matter, for it was a part of my education that I took by far the most pains with…

This is one of the things Vauxhall was infamous for- the thinness of the cold meat served in the dining booths. As we find in the book under discussion:

It is impossible to discuss the food without again mentioning the famous Vauxhall ham; this, like the beef, was always served in notoriously thin slices. Many stores circulated about it ,and it even made its appearance in contemporary comic poetry….eventually the thinness of the ham once picturesquely described as “sliced cobwebs” became proverbial; at homes all over London if any diner was feeling abstemious they would ask for their serving of meat to be carved “Vauxhaully”…

(Page 198)

It would seem that, unlike this country gentleman,  below,  Jane Austen,  living in rural Hampshire,  had heard all about it…

I can thoroughly recommend this well-written, witty, informative and scholarly book to you, if you are at all interested in the pleasure garden, its history or how it prospered then eventually closed in 1859. I cannot envisage having to buy another book on the subject, so comprehensive is this one. I will be reporting on the Foundling Hospital Museum exhibit in the summer. But if you want to explore a little on line then do go to Dr Borg and David Coke’s website, here, to experience a little of the Vauxhall Magic.

Last night the BBC aired its latest edition of the Antiques Roadshow filmed last summer at the wonderful Stanway House, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire which has always been one of my favourite places in England to visit , with its magical garden, originally planned by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century,and which, since the 1980s, has undergone a process of extensive restoration.

At one point in the show we were treated to a Jane Austen fest. A lady who possessed some old looking editions of Jane Austen novels appeared. She owned rather tatty copies of  Pride and Prejudice,Mansfield Park and Emma. She wanted to know if they were first editions and if it was worth having them rebound. She had inherited them from her father who had, in turn, inherited them from a godmother.

They were in pretty poor condition, as they had lived for 25 years in a suitcase in her attic.

However on closer inspection, and in my opinion, the binding shows them to have been originally owned by an earl, looking closely at the coronet on  the bindings. An English earl is entitled to wear  a coronet  which has eight strawberry leaves (four are visible in depictions of it) and eight silver balls (or pearls) around the rim (of which five are visible in depictions).The bindings are also marked with the cypher “A. R.”  .

I do hope the owner does some research into the original owner before she replaces the original bindings.

She was assured that they really were first editions and was delighted with this discovery. Some slightly dubious comments were made by the expert about anonymity, as to why Jane Austen didn’t put her name to her works, but I’ll gloss over that. He advised that all three novels( three volumes each, making 9 volumes in all) were worth being rebound, at a probable cost of £1000…

for he estimated their worth at £5000 each, a low estimate he hastened to add. I would say very low, frankly in the current market. But it was lovely to hear that the owner was a Janeite, almost word-perfect on the novels, and she was delighted to realise that she had in her possession, three (THREE!!!) first editions of books written by her favourite author. Good luck to her!

If you are able to access the BBC iPlayer, the programme is availabe to view for the next 6 days, and the item under discussion appeared approximately 40 minutes into the programme.

Today, we conclude our visit to the church where Jane Austen worshipped for the first 25 years of her life. Our first two visits are available to view here, and here.

Above is the view of the Nave from the Chancel.

This, below,  is the view of the Nave, looking towards the East window of the Chancel from the western end of the church.

You can see the early Victorian wall painting- in the style of William Morris- inside and above the arches.

To the right hand side of the nave is a small side chapel- opposite the pulpit- and here is a small display of tapestry kneelers

…all decorated with the church’s own design – a silhouette if you like- of Jane Austen, and this is  similar to the figure representing Jane Austen on the church’s notice board in the churchyard.

When Jane Austen worshiped in the church, the windows would have had plain glass, like this one below

But now there are some Victorian stained glass panels

There is a touching memorial to Jane Austen in the nave, which takes the from of an engraved  bronze plaque. This was donated to the church by  Emma Austen-Leigh in 1936. It reads:


Born December 16th 1775

Died July 18th 1817


This tablet was erected to her memory by her great grand-niece Emma Austen Leigh 1936

Emma Austen-Leigh was the author of Jane Austen and Steventon(1937) and in it she describes the ceremony that took place when the plaque was dedicated:

It was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday July 19th 1936, the day after the anniversary of Jane’s death, in the presence of many who thought of her with gratitude and affection. On this occasion the Lesson was read  by a great-grand nephew from a  Bible which had been in use in George Austen’s time and a short account of her life was given by Sir Frank MacKinnon.

A fireplace was discovered on the North wall of the Nave in 1988: in it are some finds that have been discovered on the site: they include a  medieval tile and a pattern, which would have been attached to shoes to raise the wearer above the mud and dirt. The fire screen attached to the opening was funded by the Ohio North Coast Chapter of JASNA.

The Vestry, now  on the south west corner of the Nave, is in fact the old Squires Pew. It was once in the south east corner of the Nave and was moved to its present position circa 1912. The Digweed family were the old Squires of Steventon,who lived in the Manor House which used to be  opposite the church. In 1932 it was destroyed by fire and only the stable block survived. This has now been converted into a large family home. It was first known as Steventon Manor Stables but is now known as Steventon Manor, though of course it is not the building with which Jane Austen would have been familiar. The pew dates from the 17th century.

The churchyard has some memorials to members of Jane Austen’s family, including the Reverend William Knight and his trio of daughters who so sadly succumbed to scarlet fever in 1845.

The memorials to the family are found in the north eastern part of the churchyard.

And probably the most important for Janeites is that of James Austen, Jane Austen’s eldest brother and his second wife, Mary Austen

Here is a close-up picture of the inscription on the stone, covered in moss

and the modern translation , which is affixed to the grave .

This side view of the church, taken form the south,  shows the steeple, which, of course, was not in situ when Jane Austen lived in the village, as her father George Austen did not replace it when it fell down in a storm in 1764.

However, you should always remember to look up at the steeple, for the weather vane is one last tribute to Jane Austen, for it takes the form of a quill.

Here is a close up of it for you…

This is, in my view, a very elegant and fitting tribute, for the quill was of course the instrument Jane Austen would have used when she was making her first attempts at composition when she lived at the rectory, just down the lane from the church.

The Rectory now longer stands, and only James Austen’s limes tree now marks the space where it stood. But archaeological studies have recently been and win an attempt to discover what teh Rectory like alike and an exhibition will be taking place soon,as I understand it,  in Basingstoke, of the findings of the excavations made. I will, of course, let you know all about this in due course, but I hope, in the meantime, you have enjoyed this short tour of Jane Austen’s church.

Next week, on the 18th January, Bonhams the auctioneers are holding an interesting sale at their London salerooms. The Gentleman’s Library Sale is offering some very eclectic items but some are of interest to us. There are four piece of Nelson Memorabilia, and I thought you might like to see them, especially as we know that Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother was very highly thought of  by the Admiral.

The first is a snuff-box thought to have been owned by Nelson and which was given by him to his secretary, George Unwin.

The box, made of tortoiseshell composition, is decorated with a view of the incomparable Amalfi coast, contains a note written by George Unwin’s son:

My Father had either lost his own snuff box on going ashore or in some shop in Palermo and upon mentioning the circumstances at Lady Hamilton’s table where Lord Nelson was one of the party his Lordship handed over to him this identical box and desired him to keep it until he could get a better one.

Next is another of those glass paintings, similar in style to the ones we saw commemorating the death of Princess Charlotte earlier in the week.

This one commemorates Nelson’s funeralTo be strictly accurate the glass painting shows Nelson’s coffin lying in state at Greenwich, prior to the funeral. The inscription on the painting is as follows:

Representation of the BODY of the Late Illustrious ADMIRAL LORD NELSON laying in STATE in the Painted Hall in Greenwich Hospital

The next item is one I covet: a small pearlware commemorative bowl, circa 1805:

It is inscribed with Nelson’s famous message to the fleet, given just before the Battle of Trafalgar:  England Expects Every Man To Do His Duty

And finally, a very special mourning ring:

This is reputed to have been given to Surgeon Beattie, the man who attended Nelson when he was dying on HMS Victory. The sale catalogue tell us that:

Beattie, a native of Eskdale was buried in Canonbie Churchyard in Dumfries. Acquired by Dr Carlyle of Langholm, Dumfries, from a patient and thence from him to Mr Alex Scott of Arkinholm and then by descent.

The catalogue also remarks that:

Some 58 original recipients are listed for these mourning rings, although slight differences in the style of examples surviving, suggest that more may have been made. Two similar examples are in the National Maritime Museum collection.

The sale estimate is between £8,000 and £12,000. Last March a similar ring sold at Bonhams for £14,400.

I made it to this exhibition with one day to spare.It closed on Sunday , but, my goodness, it was worth the wait.

The portraits on show chronicled the way actresses have been portrayed from the 1660s when they were finally allowed to perform legally on the stage, to the end of Mrs Siddons reign as Queen Tragedienne in the mid 19th century.  An exercise in spin if you like, yet again proving that nothing is new under the sun.

The early actresses, or, more correctly performers, for the exhibition also included images of dancers and singers, had to tread a fine line- for  to appear onstage, exposing aspects of their bodes and personalities was thought scandalous by many in the general pubic. Some led a scandalous off stage life and bad reputations stuck. For many, the perception was that to be an actress go the professional stage was analogous with being a prostitute. Some actresses tried to rectify this with portraits depicting them in serious poses, as very correct, classical muses. This might not succeed,  however if their private lives were not as exemplary as their images projected in these portraits. As a tactic of spin it often misfired. Dorothea Jordan ‘s attempt to be seen as a serious actress in Hoppner’s depiction of her as the Comic Muse was not at all successful . And of course she was also the Duke of Clarence’s mistress, bearing him many  children and supporting him financially.

Mrs Siddons changed all that. And for me the star turn of the exhibit was Sir Thomas Lawrence’s compelling deception of her from 1804.

A monumental canvas in many ways, not merely for its great size, she dominated the exhibit in her sober black dress, her intelligent eyes looking soberly at us, her audience. She stands, presumably turning the pages of a volume of Shakespeare: a powerful woman, famous for depicting powerful tragic roles.

I’d loved to have seen her Lady Macbeth on the strength of this powerful painting. Above, she is shown in this role in a mass-produced  Staffordshire flat back figure.  No wonder Jane Austen felt herself very unlucky to have not seen Mrs Siddons perform:

I have no chance of seeing Mrs Siddons.She did act on Monday but as Henry was told by the Boxkeeper that he did not think she would all the places and all the thought of it were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in Constance and  could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated, 25th April, 1811)

Other highlights for me were the depiction of Hester Booth, the dancer-actress, actually shown  in her stage costume as painted by John Elys circa 1772-3, which must be one of the earliest depictions of an actress in costume:

And I loved the small items of ceramics on show: Kitty Clive as The Fine Lady in Lethe from 1750

and this amazing set of  late 18th century tiles showing from the bottom up,

Mrs. Yates, Mrs. Buckley, Anne Barry and Susannah Cibber. Do note you can click on these images to enlarge them and see the details.

Though the exhibit is no longer available the book is. Go here to read my review of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition: being able to compare and contrast so many canvases in the intimate  temporary exhibition space at the NPG was a treat and a privilege. More please. Or should I say, Encore.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to visit this tiny but fascinating display at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Queen Victoria owed her whole existence to the fact that George IV’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in November 1817,and this display  is full of the images of both princesses.  The display in Room 16, next to the Regency Galleries, gave a chronological view of the short life and premature death of Princess Charlotte, her marriage, pregnancy and funeral, to be followed by the birth, early life and accession to the throne of Queen Victoria.

The small display is described on the NPG’s website as follows:

Featuring a range of portraits in wax, watercolour, and print, as well as commemorative images, it includes an engraving of Princess Charlotte’s last portrait from life by Sir Thomas Lawrence, completed posthumously. By bringing together these images, the display traces the idealised nature of the imagery used to represent a young woman in direct line to the throne at a time when the nation tired of the debauched Prince Regent’s rule.

Two of the items on show we are familiar with as I have my own copies, which I can reproduce here. The engraving of Princess Charlotte and her new husband, Prince Leopold  in their box at the theatre:

and their marriage image from the magazine La Belle Assemblee:

The other image that fascinated me were a 3-D representation of Princess Charlotte  in wax, which was I found quite bizarre, and a fabulously detailed colour representation of her torch lit funeral procession, which was of course, held at night.

The display continues to be open to the public until 9th September 2012 so if you are in the vicinity , and you want to visit the Regency Portraits, which of course, includes the only authenticated image of Jane Austen’s face known to us, then do pop into this small but exquisite display, entrance to which is free to all visitors. I can highly recommend it.

I really didn’t intend this week to be devoted to Princess Charlotte but that appears to be how it is turning out….I hope you are not bored. As yesterday’s post detailed some of the commemorative items that were produced in their thousands after Princess Charlotte’s premature death in 1817, I thought I might share with you a favourite antique dealer of mine  and some of his stock. Martyn Edgell Antiques deals in exactly the type of antiques I love, and has some wonderful examples of early Staffordshire and pearlware pieces.  Though he no longer has a shop,  you can buy items from him online and he also attends antiques fairs in the UK and in the USA. I have bought a few pieces from him in the past, and thought  you might like to know that  at present he has two items on sale which relate to the death of Princess Charlotte, and were obviously produced in the grief-stricken days after her death in 1817.

The are pictures painted on glass, both set into original stained pearwood frames. The first is a representation of her funeral procession:

The second shows Prince Leopold, Britannia and the Lion of England grieving at her tomb…

Princess Charlotte is buried in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel but the exquisite memorial to her and her child can be seen in the Urswick Chantry in the north-west corner of the Chapel. It was unveiled in 1824. You can see from this old postcard of mine , that it is entirely different:

There are also some ceramics commemorating Princess Charlotte’s mother, Queen Caroline of Brunswick, who died in 1821. They are obviously  all based on this print of Queen Caroline, which was produced after her death:

It was even printed on cotton to be used by the amateur seamstress. In this case it was incorporated as a centre piece of a quilt. Go here to see the original.

Here is a commemorative child’s plate, circa 1821, which uses the same image but in reverse:

And here is a similar plate made of Prattware, which attempts to replicate the print, but in an embossed form.

The stock online has many more interesting commemoratives: do go and look, but I warn you , you may be tempted beyond endurance!

Yesterday, a few hours after I’d posted about the new Brighton Pavilion exhibit on Princess Charlotte: The Forgotten Princess, I saw an edition of BBC One’s Bargain Hunt programme which I simply and to write about here, as it continues the theme.

Part of the programme, presented by the lovely Tim Wonnacott, included a trip to Croft Castle in Herefordshire, now a National Trust property but once the home of the Croft family.

The member of the Croft family who interests us is Sir Richard Croft, the 6th Baronet,  who lived from the 9th January 1762  until the 13th February 1818.

He was the accoucheur, the fashionable male midwife, who assisted Prince Charlotte during the birth of her still-born son, and  which was ultimately the cause of her premature death on the 6th November 1817.

Princess Charlotte was the popular heir presumptive to the English throne, being George IV’s only legitimate child.

Her mother was his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, shown with Princess Charlotte, below. Their marital troubles were the stuff of great scandal and publicity .

Jane Austen detested the Prince and took the part of, as she saw it, his much maligned wife. In her letter to Martha Lloyd dated 16th February, 1813, she declared:

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

Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld on 2nd May 1816, amid great celebrations.  I wrote about them, here. Croft Castle has some items of memorabilia relating to the wedding in its collection: here is a pearlware figure of Prince Leopold

and here is its pair, a pearlware figure of Princess Charlotte:

Her death caused the most terrible outpouring of public mourning, for, as the only legitimate heir to the throne, the succession was now in doubt. An unseemly race to produce the next heir took place between George’s brothers, and eventually on 24th May 1819, the Duke and Duchess of Kent had issue: Princess Alexandrina Victoria,who became the next heiress presumptive to the throne. She became Queen Victoria  on the death of William IV in 1837.

The exhibition of grief caused by the death of Princess Charlotte was extraordinary:  something that happens very rarely and was, I suppose,  comparable to the near  hysteria that beset many parts of the nation when Princes Diana died in tragic circumstances in 1997.

As a result of the grief in the wake of Princess Charlotte death, many commemorative  items were produced. I have written about my small collection before, but the Croft family have their own collection which was on show in the programme:

We were shown some of them in detail. The book, The Memoirs of the Princess Charlotte,

an edition that was rushed out in the last weeks of the year following her death in 1817, the frontispiece showing Prince Leopold prostrate with grief at her tomb.

Pearlware cups, saucers and plates…complete with portraits of Princess Charlotte and symbols of her status and of mourning.

And finally a very touching portrait:  Sir Thomas Lawrence’s sketch of Sir Richard, taken  by Sir Thomas shortly after Sir Richard had committed suicide in 1818.

He had an attended another traumatic birth, and it was too much for him.  Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait was taken in an attempt to console Sir Richard’s grieving sister.

The programme is available to view for another five days on the BBC  iPlayer: go here to access it. It is a fascinating little interlude, and it begins approximately half way through the programme around the 24 minute mark.

The Brighton Museum Press Office has just announced that a new exhibition on the short life of Princes Charlotte, is to be held in the sumptuous surroundings of her father’s seaside pleasure place/folly, The Royal Pavillion at Brighton. She was, of course, George IVs only legitimate child and heir presumptive to the English throne until her premature death in childbirth in 1817. As the Press Release reminds us:

A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth. Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.

The exhibition will be held for a year, from March 10th 2012 until March 10th 2013 in the Prince Regent Gallery. This is the Pavilion’s new exhibition space and was where some of the items in the Dress for Excess exhibit were on show( my last post on that exhibit will hopefully be published next week!). The exhibit will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware

Allow me to quote David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion:

“The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 “The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.

 “For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”

We have discussed the life, wedding and death of this poor Princess and her admiration for Sense and Sensibility before, here. The press release tell us that viewing the exhibition will be an opportunity to see some of the most important surviving items of clothing associated with Princes Charlotte:

Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection;(which can be seen in the portrait below-jfw),

(Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London).

Her silver and white evening gown, on loan from the Museum of London;

a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby’s shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum’s own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting.  These two gowns, above, will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, but they will be replaced in mid September

for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte’s wedding gown, above, on loan from the Royal Collection. 

It sounds fascinating, and you know that the Royal Pavillion, with its over-the-top Chinoiserie decoration is one of my favourite places. This new exhibition will be a powerful draw to Brighton, yet again, though I’m doubtful I will be able to get there to see it in person this year due to other commitments. If any of you do go please let us know your thoughts!

are now on sale at the iBook store on iTunes. Go  here to see all the titles made available thus far.

At present there are 16 eBooks are available to download, but it is envisaged that during the next two years 75 titles, all taken from the magnificent collection at the British Library, will be available to purchase.  I’m having to restrain myself, for I find I’ve already downloaded 4 titles…this could be ruinously expensive….but cheaper than ever trying to buy the originals( she writes to console herself)

For Jane Austen fans the treat has to be The History of England, Jane Austen’s manuscript book with Cassandra Austen’s illustrations, written when Jane was only 15 years old:

Not only are the books animated so that you can actually turn the pages, but some are also audio books. Touch the “listen” button and the page is read to you. The voice on the History is a rather chirpy female, who has delicious comic timing. I’ve yet to discover her identity….

This is a wonderful feature-especially if the manuscript as in this case- is sometimes difficult to read. You can also pinch and pull the pages to see closeups of parts that interest you.

One of the four (FOUR!!!) I downloaded  was The First Folio of Shakespeare’s works dating from 1623.  Apparently this eBook Treasures edition also includes several speeches from the play performed by actors using 17th century pronunciation, allowing you to hear the play as Shakespeare would. I’m looking forward to playing with this feature this evening.

The books available – which include Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Arundel, William Blake’s Notebooks,

Audubon’s Birds of America, Henry VIII’s psalter and the Tyndale New Testament are just fearsomely interesting For example, Henry VII’s psalter has annotations written in his own hand…

Oh dear…all this is not going to help my bank balance one bit, is it?

The debate regarding the supposed new portrait of Jane Austen and the quest for its authentication continues. I am amazed at the sheer number of visitors this topic has attracted to the site. You have come in your tens of thousands to view this one post about the BBC documentary since I wrote it last week. Amazed. So…I thought you all might appreciate a post about very new developments.

Go here for a sight of this thoughtful article written by Bendor Grosvenor, art historian, of Philip Mould and Company . Philip Mould is, of course, famous as an art historian and for discovering “sleepers”, that is, unknown or misattributed portraits. So you can understand why his firm and its employees would have an interest in this authentication process. In his article Dr Grosvenor makes some interesting points as to why he doubts the portrait is of our Jane Austen. I find his comments regarding the style of handwriting of the inscription “Miss Jane Austin “ which can be found on the reverse of the drawing totally fascinating.

Both he and his colleague, Emma Rutherford, who was also in the documentary, Jane Austen : the Unseen Portrait, have recently been sent high-resolution images of the drawing for their further consideration. Emma Rutherford is an expert on miniatures and in the programme explained the use of the plumbago technique and how it fell out of fashion in the early 18th century. You may also recall reading my review of her superb book, Silhouette: the art of the  Shadowhere.If you explore the miniatures on the Philip Mould website you will recognise that many of them were included in the Austen documentary.

If I interpret her tweets correctly, it would seem that Dr Byrne is now appearing to pursue the argument that the inclusion of Westminster Abbey in the drawing may be due to the fact that Jane Austen’s brother, Frank, was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1815,  something she thinks is missed by most Austen biographers. In  Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers( 1905), which was of course written by Frank’s grandson, John Henry Hubback and his daughter, Edith Charlotte Hubback, the award is clearly mentioned:

During these years on shore several honours fell to his (Frank’s-jfw) share. He had been awarded his C.B. in 1815 on the institution of that distinction. In 1825 he was appointed Colonel of Marines and in 1830 Rear- Admiral
(pp. 281-2)

The Order of the Bath is an ancient order of chivalry, the fourth senior order of the British orders of chivalry. It was organised into its modern form by George I in 1725 and during the 18th and 19th centuries it was primarily a military order. (Now senior civil servants are eligible to be honoured by membership of the Civil Division as opposed to the Military Division) The connection with Westminster Abbey is that Henry VII’s exquisite chapel, at the extreme east of the building, is the Chapel of the Order. Sadly from 1812 until 1913 it would appear that the orders association with the Chapel was in name only, for as the Abbey’s website explains:

The Order was enlarged in 1815 and three classes of knights were formed: Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Companions. A small number of distinguished civilians were also admitted at this time and in 1847 a civil division of Knights Commander and Companions was added. As a result of the increased numbers after 1812, due in part to the Napoleonic wars, no installations took place in the chapel until 1913 when George V revived the service and the erection of stall-plates, banners and crests was begun again.

So, if I interpret that correctly,  there would not have been any ceremony for the family to attend at the Abbey,and the association with that particular place would surely be lessened?

I also think we do have to concede that the connection with Westminster Abbey is Frank’s and not his sisters. Would a reference to the Abbey really have been inserted into a portrait of Jane Austen? And why, if this was the connection, was only the corner of Westminster Abbey’s west front shown (together with the tower of St Margaret’s) in the drawing? In any event if  Franks C.B. was the connection/allusion then would it not have been more appropriate to show the exterior of the chapel, which is at the eastern end of the building ( that is, on the opposite side of the Abbbey as recorded in this picture)?  Here is a plan of the Abbey as it was in 1894, from Wikipedia, which I have marked to show the position of Henry VII’s Chapel and the approximate view-point from which view in the drawing was taken. Do note you can click on it to enlarge it.

This morning,(and this something I have only just discovered, having written the last paragraph a few hours ago!) Bendor Grosvenor has slightly altered his original view of this, in light of the information regarding Frank’s honour, but still maintains that a puzzle remains. If the connection is to the Abbey then why is  the view shown in the portrait primarily that of St Margaret’s? Go here to see.

More evidence of the interchangeable nature the spelling of Austen as opposed to Austin has been discovered, for Frank Austen was gazetteered as Francis Austin in the London Gazette when he was awarded his C.B.

Meanwhile, Paula Byrne has appeared to alter her opinion as to who is the possible artist of the drawing, and now seem to consider it can no longer be  Eliza Chute.  It is now thought that the artist is some “low-end professional” and not a friend of Jane Austen’s. He/she would appear to charge 3 guineas for the drawing. This is a reference to marking on the rear of the backing board to the frame, as described in Bonham’s catalogue for the sale of the portrait last year:

Lot No: 6

[AUSTEN, JANE (1775-1817, novelist)]

[PORTRAIT] BY AN UNKNOWN ARTIST, half-length, wash and pencil, highlighted with chalk, on vellum, inscribed on the verso in a small contemporary hand ‘Miss Jane Austin’ (sic) and with the location or inventory number ‘A76’, contemporary gilt frame with attached identification label ‘Jane Austen B. 1775 – D. 1817’, chalk numbers on verso of frame ‘166 8234’ and inscribed on the old backing board in an early nineteenth-century hand ‘Price £3-3s 0d Frame £0 5s 0d.’ and with chalk mark ‘A68’, size of image 5¾ x c. 4½ inches (14. 5 x c. 12 cm), overall size 11¾ x 10½ inches (30 x 27 cm), no date [but ?1818]

Go here to see the full catalogue description and the catalogue’s footnote. It makes for interesting reading.

As you can see all this in unfolding before our eyes on Twitter and on the internet, on a daily and sometimes hourly basis . If you are on Twitter and want to watch the conversation, join in or even help Dr Byrne with any information you can- she was searching for a governess name Helen Carruthers who may be of importance to her theories yesterday – then go here to follow her.Dr Bendor Grosvenor’s Twitter account is here.

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