You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

My goodness, is it that time again? Well, yes, it is: the 3rd Anniversary of this site appearing on the web. I truly cannot believe it.

This year has gone by very quickly, and I have to say that I have really enjoyed it. It seems you have too as there has been twice as many visitors to this site this year than during last year.  Mansfield Park has featured heavily again- is someone trying to tell me something about this teasing novel? – and from the evidence of the statistics, you have all enjoyed posts about George III’s Jubilee,  The Contents of a Ladies Pocket Book, and, quite inexplicably  two older posts have proved very popular:  The Interesting History of White Soup and An Infamous Fraud: the Supper at the Crown in “Emma”.

I am really looking forward to next year’s bumper Year of Pride and Prejudice, when I plan to concentrate on celebrating the 200th anniversary of its first publication by journeying through all the places mentioned in it and delving into some arcane (but interesting, I promise!) social history points which arise from incidents in the text.  We will tackle two chapters per week ( or so) and I  do hope you will join me  for it, in a sort of informal but communal read. But, that is all to come..So, in order to celebrate with me I’ve assembled an intriguing grip of objects for this year’s giveawawy.

A Spineless Classics poster of Pride and Prejudice:

and yes, you really can read the text:

A Penguin procelain mug, decorated with the original Penguin cover of their paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice:

A Penguin Pride and Prejudice note book:

A copy of John Mullan’s excellent book, What Matters in Jane Austen:

and finally, a copy of Maggie Lane’s latest book on Jane Austen’s use of language Understanding Austen

The giveaway is open to everyone who comes to read the site, wherever you are in the world. If you take the trouble to comment on this post,wherever you are, then I think you ought to have a chance to receive these items. It is only fair. So please, do comment and then  you will be automatically entered into the draw, which will take place in two weeks time on the 14th November and will then be announced. (Note, I will not be replying to the comments yet in order to make the draw that much simpler!)

So, please do join in the giveaway, and allow me to share my continued luck in having such interesting and supportive readers. Thank you.

Lot 150 is a uniformly bound set of Jane Austen’s novels and is included in Christie’s sale of Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books, to be held on 21st November at their King Street premises in London.

©Christies

©Christies

The set includes  the 1813 second edition of edition of Sense and Sensibility, published by Egerton:

©Christies

©Christies

A first edition of Pride and Prejudice dating from 1813, again published by Egerton:

©Christies

©Christies

A first edition of Mansfield Park,published by Egerton:

©Christies

©Christies

A first edition of Emma published by John Murray:

©Christies

©Christies

and  a first  edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion:

©Christies

©Christies

The sale estimate is £30,000-£50,000. And would, I am sure you would agree,  make the perfect Christmas gift ! I’ll keep an eye on the sale and will report back to you with the results. I doubt they will make their way into my Christmas stocking but a girl can dream…

©Whyte's

Bentley’s 1833 Illustrated Edition of  Sense and Sensibility, part of Lot 531©Whyte’s

if the evidence from Whyte’s of Dublin’s auction last weekend is anything by which to judge.

The complete set of five volumes of  Bentley’s first illustrated editions of Jane Austen’s novels published in 1833 realised a sale price €3500. The pre-auction estimate was for €1300-1500, therefore you can see that the sale price was over double the estimate. Go here to see all the sale results, particularly that of the Austen novels, which were Lot 531. The books were from the stock of the late antiquarian book dealer,  James Fenning and the sale sadly signified the end to over a century of Dublin bookselling by the Fenning family.

Katherine Cahill was present at the sale and saw the set of Austen books before they were sold. She tells me that they were a beautiful little set, and were very faithfully described by the auctioneer.  Ah well, we can dream…

He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, — all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy… 

Chapter 33 Sense and Sensibility

I thought you might appreciate sight of these 18th century toothpick cases that were recently sold at auction by Cheffins Auctioneers of Cambridge at their  Antiques and Interiors Sale which was held on the 4th October.

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

As you can see they are both made of ivory:  one has a compass set into the lid, and has been converted to hold a thermometer…

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

while the other has a plait of hair set into the lid, which is surrounded by diamante studs on blue cabochons. The hinges are of gold metal.

©Cheffins

©Cheffins

No doubt these charming  examples might be too plain for Robert Ferrars, but I think they are quite lovely. They sold rather cheaply and reached a sale price of only  £100.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you are all aware, Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-1806. Her first home in the city was one she shared with her parents, the Reverend and Mrs Austen and her sister, Cassandra.  It was a fine house, Number 4 Sydney Place, which was then on the outskirts of Bath.  You may recall that last year I wrote about an apartment in this house that had come onto the market.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Austens favoured living here for the situation not only had the advantage of being near to the open countryside, so necessary to such a desperate walker as Jane Austen avowedly was, but the house also overlooked the Sydney Gardens, shown below in a view from the first floor apartment :

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The Sydney Gardens were a Vauxhall or pleasure garden where Jane Austen thought

It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens-we might go into the Labrinth every day…

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen,dated 21st January 1801)

and they are now a very pleasant open air space.  What was the Sydney Hotel is now the fabulous and vibrant Holburne Museum, which has recently re-opened after a marvellous programme of refurbishment and extension. The apartment on sale has now been purchased and has become available to all to rent as a holiday let from the holiday let company,Bath Boutique Stays.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

It has been substantially modernised but the original feature have been kept. It sleeps four people , and has two bedrooms.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

The owners have added some amusing “Austen” touches, as you can see  from the photographs they have provided for me:

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

As you may recall from her description in her book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1923), Constance Hill liked the  first floor of the house very much. There was a beautiful drawing-room, which was sunny, airy and light:

4 Sydney Place has four stories plus a basement The ground floor has an entrance hall and two rooms: the front room would  have been the parlour and dining room used for everyday entertainment and the rear room would most  likely have been Mr Austen’s study. On the first floor there is a magnificent drawing room covering the full area of the house which looks south over Sydney Gardens; the windows are large and it is a very sunny room.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

This is incorporated into the new apartment to let, and, as you can see from the photographs, it still enjoys that sunny aspect overlooking the gardens. I must admit, I’m considering re-jigging my travel plans for next year, as I would love the opportunity to actually stay, for however short a time, in a house where Jane Austen actually lived.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

Racking my memory, it would appear to be an almost unique prospect…..Steventon Rectory is now demolished, Chawton Cottage is now a museum, her home in Southampton no longer exists; Stoneleigh Abbey is a now series of private homes and Godmersham is the home of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians College…I don’t think any of the places she stayed in London apart from Henry’ Austens home in Upper Berkeley Street (which is now an hotel) are available for use as lets. And as for Bath, well, you can stay in a holiday let in Trim Street, but we do not know exactly where in Trim Street Jane Austen actually lived. Her home in Gay Street is a private house, and her home in Green Park West -where her father died in January 1805- was destroyed during bombing in World War II, though it has been rebuilt. So, this really is a fabulous opportunity to live for a short while in a place where Jane Austen spent nearly four years of her life.

©BathBoutiqueStays

©BathBoutiqueStays

According to reports in the press it is the singer, Kelly Clarkson. She also bought a first edition of Persuasion at the Sotheby’s sale in July

Jane Austen’s Ring, and Note from Eleanor Austen neé Jackson to Caroline Austen ©Sotheby’s

However it would appear that Ms. Clarkson cannot take it out of the UK yet, as an export license has not been granted. Will an appeal to keep it in this country  be raised? This is a story we need to follow closely don’t you think?

In our last post in this small series, we learnt how Anne Lefroy, Jane Austen’s most beloved friend died after a fall from her horse, Her memorial- a beautiful and elegant example of the early 19th century memorial mason’s art-  still stands in Ashe Parish Church, and is fulsome in its praise of her.  If we look at an image of Mrs Lefroy- go here to see a beautiful miniature of Mrs Lefroy by Richard Crosse from the collection of Philip Mould and co, which shows a woman who would seem the epitome of late 18th century elegance– then it is easy to gain the impression that she was elegant,beautiful and rather grand: a patrician woman who would never deign to get her hands dirty, but would most likely to be  found sitting all day quietly in her elegantly built rectory, reading and concentrating on her “work’ . How incorrect that impression would be…

Ashe Rectory ©Austenonly

Ashe Rectory ©Austenonly

To gather more information about her we can turn to the obituaries published in the press after her death. The first, which appeared  in the Reading Mercury on Monday 24th December 1804 throws some detailed light onto her character and accomplishments, some of which are decidedly unexpected :

On Sunday morning died, at Ashe, in Hampshire, in consequence of a fall from her horse, which she survived only twelve hours, Mrs Lefroy, wife of the Rev. George Lefroy, rector of that parish, and eldest daughter of the late Edward Brydges, esq; of Wootton, in Kent, by Gemima (sic), daughter and co-heir of William Egerton, L.L.D. grandson of John, 2nd Earl of Bridgwater. Of this lovely, accomplished, and most extraordinary woman, it is impossible to speak truly, without seeming to use terms of exaggeration. The splendour of her talent, her vivacity, her powerful and energetic language, the beaming and eager benevolence of her countenance and manners, her fondness for society, and her delight in making every one around her happy, were felt wherever she appeared.

But with all these worldly attractions, her religion predominated over all her excellencies, and influenced and exalted every expression and action of her life. How amiable and angelic she was in the domestic duties of daughter, wife, mother, and sister, they only can properly conceive who experienced her unequalled virtues in those situations, and who now have to mourn a loss beyond the power of words to describe and of any earthly advantage to repair. But it is not only to near relations and friends that her loss is irreparable; she has left a chasm in society which there is no second to fill; the whole division of the county in which she lived will feel her death most poignantly, and appreciate it with deep and unaffected concern. Above all, the poor will receive this affecting dispensation of providence with the keenest sorrow and lamentation: she fed, she clothed, she instructed them, with daily and never ceasing attention; in grief she soothed them by her conversation and kind looks; and in sickness she comforted them by medicines and advice.

She instituted a daily school of poor children in her own house, whom, in the midst of a thousand avocations, she never failed to instruct herself: She taught them not only to read and write, but, by her ingenuity, introduced among them a little manufactory of straw, by which they were enabled, at a very early age, to contribute to their own livelihood. When the vaccine innoculation was discovered, she soon convinced herself of its beneficial effects, and having learned the process, actually innoculated upwards of 800 poor with her own hand. Thus she seemed like a good angel, going about to dispense unmingled good in the world, when it pleased Providence, for its own inscrutable purposes, so suddenly to take her away; and her agonized and unfortunate friends must submit to the severe and unexpected blow with the best resignation they can command.

The Gentleman’s Magazine  of December 1804 also published an obituary of Mrs Lefroy, and, while it repeated much of what was written in the Reading Mercury, it added the following sentiments:

To do justice to the character of Mrs L would require a command of glowing and pathetic expression far beyond the powers of the writer of this article. She was alike the delight of old and the young, of the lively and the severe, the rich and the poor. She received from Nature an intellectual capacity of the highest order; her perceptions were rapid, her memory was tenacious; her comprehension was extensive; her fancy was splendid; her sentiments were full of tenderness; and her language was easy, copious, and energetic. It may be truly said of her that ‘She lisp’d in numbers, for the numbers came’…It was by the tenor of her amiable and virtuous life, by her lively and enchanting manners, by the overflowing benevolence of her disposition, by cloathing the naked, by feeding the hungry, by instructing the ignorant, by healing the sick, and by comforting the mourner, that she has won a more noble wreath of fame, and drawn over her grave the lasting tears of her agonized friends and numerous aquaintance, and the heart-broken and earnest prayers of the poor. It would be almost impossible to find an individual, in a private station, whose death will be more generally and deeply felt.

It is clear from reading these obituary notices that Mrs Lefroy would seem to have been someone who, in her daily life, carried out her responsibilities as a Christian and as a Rector’s wife with care, sensitivity, imagination and some verve.  And she was certainly someone who led by example and was not, it appears, afraid of undertaking hard or distressing work to accomplish her aims.

Founding a school where she taught the poor children of the locality is a practical response to poverty and ignorance.  I’m sure this aspect of her character must have been very attractive to Jane Austen for Austen had a certain appreciation for a good solid, practical education for girls as opposed to an education system for the rich that churned out fine ladies who possessed  little practical skill, which was of little practical benefit to them or to society.  This  is apparent when you read her descriptions of Bingley sisters in Pride and Prejudice  and of Charlotte Palmer in Sense and Sensibility .These young ladies were the products of an expensive town education, and as exemplars are not really good role models, being empty-headed or snobs.  The good, wholesome and practical education given by the likes of Mrs Goddard in Emma was much more preferable to Jane Austen,and indeed she seems to have benefited from such an education herself. She must surely have admired Mrs Lefroy’s personal effort in setting up and teaching at this school.

Mrs Lefroy also seems to have kept up to date with scientific developments,and appears to have been ready  to adopt what may, at first, have appeared to be alarming medical innovations.  She inoculated 800 souls following the advice of the Gloucestershire surgeon, Edward Jenner, regarding smallpox inoculations. Jenner discovered that inoculating with cow-pox would protect the recipient from  the possibility of contracting small pox, a deadly disease, which if the patient recovered from (which was rare) often resulted in terrible  facial scarring. His book An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae; a Disease Discovered in some of the Western Counties of England, Particularly Gloucestershire, and Known by the Name of The Cow Pox’ was published in 1798. From that date there was a huge demand for the vaccine in England and Europe and a year and a half later, the number of deaths caused by smallpox had dropped by two-thirds. By 1800, it is estimated that 10,000 people around the world had been vaccinated using his method. There was however some resistance to his ideas, and this was even satirised by the cartoonist Gillray, published on behalf of the “Anti-Vaccination Society” and which purported to show a vaccination session where the recipients of the vaccine sprout cows heads from the vaccination site .

James Gillray's print: The Cow-Pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!—vide. the Publications of ye Anti-Vaccine Society, published June 12, 1802 by H. Humphrey, St. James's Street. via Wikipedia Commons

James Gillray’s print: The Cow-Pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!—vide. the Publications of ye Anti-Vaccine Society, published June 12, 1802 by H. Humphrey, St. James’s Street. via Wikipedia Commons

This resistance does not seem to have been shared by Mrs Lefroy, who with her practical turn of mind seems to have wanted to protect as many of her husband’s parishioners as possible from the ravages of such a deadly disease. Indeed it is thought that the experience of living through an outbreak of smallpox while she and her husband were living in Basingstoke in 1781 prompted Mrs Lefroy  to such prompt and wide-ranging action. She knew of the hardships caused by this disease because of her husband’s attendance at Vestry meetings. When a cure came her way, twenty years later, it is interesting to see that Mrs Lefroy seems to have acted upon it without hesitation.

This part of her obituary is especially fascinating to me:

She taught them not only to read and write, but, by her ingenuity, introduced among them a little manufactory of straw, by which they were enabled, at a very early age, to contribute to their own livelihood..

Here we have the ever-practical and kind Mrs Lefroy doing something that has resonances of Nurse Rooke  and Mrs Smith in Persuasion: Nurse Rooke teaches Mrs Smith to knit so that she can sell her work to Nurse Rooke’s richer patients. Not wealthy herself, Mrs Smith nevertheless passes the profits from these transactions as charitable donations onto the poor of her neighbourhood in Bath:

And she,” said Mrs. Smith, “besides nursing me most admirably, has really proved an invaluable acquaintance. As soon as I could use my hands she taught me to knit, which has been a great amusement; and she put me in the way of making these little thread-cases, pincushions and card-racks, which you always find me so busy about, and which supply me with the means of doing a little good to one or two very poor families in this neighbourhood. She has a large acquaintance, of course professionally, among those who can afford to buy, and she disposes of my merchandise. She always takes the right time for applying. Everybody’s heart is open, you know, when they have recently escaped from severe pain, or are recovering the blessing of health, and Nurse Rooke thoroughly understands when to speak. She is a shrewd, intelligent, sensible woman. Hers is a line for seeing human nature; and she has a fund of good sense and observation, which, as a companion, make her infinitely superior to thousands of those who, having only received “the best education in the world,” know nothing worth attending to. Call it gossip, if you will, but when Nurse Rooke has half an hour’s leisure to bestow on me, she is sure to have something to relate that is entertaining and profitable: something that makes one know one’s species better. One likes to hear what is going on, to be au fait as to the newest modes of being trifling and silly. To me, who live so much alone, her conversation, I assure you, is a treat.”

Persuasion Chapter 17.

It is one thing thinking kind and benevolent thoughts. Jane Austen recognised that putting them into practice on a personal level was a very different matter. Anne Lefroy seems to have been an intelligent, kind woman who used her talents and her position to benefit her husband’s parishioners lives to the full. She did indeed enjoy entertaining at the Rectory, giving elegant balls and dinners, but her interest in people and their lives went much deeper than merely having a bright and interesting social life with the neighbouring gentry. Jane Austen certainly knew what a rector’s wife should be, and it would seem that Mrs Lefroy was a shining example. Austen’s depiction of the other side of the coin is shown in her portrayal of Mrs Elton, the vicar of Higbury’s wife in Emma. She is a very different type of person: obsessed with establishing her music society and with emulating the pretentious ‘elegance’ of the life style of  her sister and brother-in-law in their villa at Maple Grove and indulging in encouraging a petty rivalry with her servants and those at Donwell Abbey, rather than doing anything practical and good for the poor.(Unlike Emma).

These insights into Mrs Lefroy’s  character paint a very different picture than the one we may have gleaned from merely looking at this very elegant woman who lived in a very elegant home. Although she was undoubtedly well read  and intellectual, she was also possessed of  a down-to-earth, practical nature which allowed her to give much-needed help to those who were disadvantaged both socially and financially.  No wonder Jane Austen lamented her passing, and wrote this poem in her memory:

To the Memory of Mrs. Lefroy who died Dec:r 16 — my Birthday.

The day returns again, my natal day;

What mix’d emotions with the Thought arise!

Beloved friend, four years have pass’d away

Since thou wert snatch’d forever from our eyes.–

The day, commemorative of my birth

Bestowing Life and Light and Hope on me,

Brings back the hour which was thy last on Earth.

Oh! bitter pang of torturing Memory!–

Angelic Woman! past my power to praise

In Language meet, thy Talents, Temper, mind.

Thy solid Worth, they captivating Grace!–

Thou friend and ornament of Humankind!–

At Johnson’s death by Hamilton t’was said,

‘Seek we a substitute–Ah! vain the plan,

No second best remains to Johnson dead–

None can remind us even of the Man.’

So we of thee–unequall’d in thy race

Unequall’d thou, as he the first of Men.

Vainly we wearch around the vacant place,

We ne’er may look upon thy like again.

Come then fond Fancy, thou indulgant Power,–

–Hope is desponding, chill, severe to thee!–

Bless thou, this little portion of an hour,

Let me behold her as she used to be.

I see her here, with all her smiles benign,

Her looks of eager Love, her accents sweet.

That voice and Countenance almost divine!–

Expression, Harmony, alike complete.–

I listen–’tis not sound alone–’tis sense,

‘Tis Genius, Taste and Tenderness of Soul.

‘Tis genuine warmth of heart without pretence

And purity of Mind that crowns the whole.

She speaks; ’tis Eloquence–that grace of Tongue

So rare, so lovely!–Never misapplied

By her to palliate Vice, or deck a Wrong,

She speaks and reasons but on Virtue’s side.

Her’s is the Engergy of Soul sincere.

Her Christian Spirit ignorant to feign,

Seeks but to comfort, heal, enlighten, chear,

Confer a pleasure, or prevent a pain.–

Can ought enhance such Goodness?–Yes, to me,

Her partial favour from my earliest years

Consummates all.–Ah! Give me yet to see

Her smile of Love.–the Vision diappears.

‘Tis past and gone–We meet no more below.

Short is the Cheat of Fancy o’er the Tomb.

Oh! might I hope to equal Bliss to go!

To meet thee Angel! in thy future home!–

Fain would I feel an union in thy fate,

Fain would I seek to draw an Omen fair

From this connection in our Earthly date.

Indulge the harmless weakness–Reason, spare.–

 Next, Mrs Lefroy in her own words.

On Saturday, at their premises in Dublin, Whyte’s auctioneers will be auctioning a complete set of Richard Bentley’s 1833 edition of Jane Austen’s novels in five volumes:  four single volumes each containing one novel, that is, of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, and one volume containing the full text of both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

These books were the first edition of Jane Austen’s works to appear in the format of one volume per novel and to be illustrated. According to the publishing history of these books given in David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen, the publication of the novels was overseen by Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra and her brother, Henry. Jane Austen had, of course, died in 1817 and did not live to see these editions. In a letter dated 20th May 1831 written to John Murray, who was Jane Austen’s publisher at her death, Cassandra Austen

…makes it clear that she was then thinking of reissuing JA’s novels. Cassandra says that she does not wish to sell the copyrights, but asks about the size of the proposed edition, the number of volumes, price per set and date of publication; she also asks if Murray has approached the executors of Thomas Edgerton for PP. Since we hear no more of this, we must assume that Cassandra and John Murray could not come to terms( perhaps the latter insisted on buying the copyrights) Richard Bentley, a year later was more fortunate.

( Page xxxiv)

David Gilson also gives us the fascinating tale of the copyright of these novels:

No English reissue of JA’s novels is known after 1818 until in 1832. Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels. …a letter  to Bentley from Henry Austen dated 24th July 1832, accepting on behalf of his sister, Cassandra and himself Bentley’s offer of £250 for the copyrights of SS, MP,E and NA&P ( plus two copies of “the work”) but pointing out that for the copyright of PP Bentley should apply to the executors of Thomas Egerton. The private printed List of Bentley publications for the year 1833 give the payment to Henry and Cassandra ( for the copyrights-jfw) as £210, made on 20th September 1832… Mr. Francis Pinkney, Egerton’s executor was paid as late as 17 October 1833 a total of £40 for the remainder of the copyright of PP; Bentley presumably reduced the sum paid to Henry and Cassandra Austen by that amount. The Bentley list also states that the copyrights of SS, PP, and MP were for 28 years, expiring in 1839, 1841 and 1842 respectively, while those of E and NA&P, expiring in 1857 and 1860.

(Gilson, as above, page 211)

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

Here is the auctioneer’s description of Lot 531:

AUSTEN ( Jane ). Sense and Sensibility [with :] Emma. [and :] Mansfield Park. [and :] Northanger Abbey [and, Persuasion] [and :] Pride and Prejudice. Richard Bentley … (Bentley’s Standard Novels 23, 25, 27, 28 and 30), 1833FIRST ILLUSTRATED AND FIRST ONE-VOLUME EDITIONS, each volume with additional engraved title-page, engraved frontispiece and printed series title-page, 5 vols, small 8vo, contemporary deep olive green morocco, gilt, fully gilt and lettered spines, top edges gilt : light endpaper foxing and just a little elsewhere, the bindings just lightly rubbed but still attractive, and otherwise a very good set, rarely found complete. Complete sets of the five Jane Austen vols in this series have become notably rare.

They give an estimate of € 1500-1800….*sighs longingly* I should like to thank my good friend, Katherine Cahill of Mrs Delany’s Menus Medicine and Manners fame for sharing this tempting information with me. She will be attending the auction, has offered to act as my agent( Temptress!) and I’m sure she will be able to let us know the result of the sale.

This image appeared in my Twitter feed last week. It purported to be an illustration taken from a children’s board book which uses dolls to illustrate  key words/emotions from the tale of Pride and Prejudice

The image might show Darcy making his sneering remark about Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly , “She is not handsome enough to tempt me”  or is it his first disastrous proposal at Hunsford? In any case his behaviour is deemed to be the epitome of  “mean”.

I truly thought this was a spoof.

But today I discovered that you can actually pre-order this at Amazon (or at any other bookseller I presume) because it is a Cozy Classic board book edition of Pride and Prejudice intended for very small children,written by Jack and Holman Wang.

Here is the cover, showing Elizabeth Bennet galloping across the fields to Netherfield, her petticoat six inches deep in mud…

Other titles in the series are available to order and include War and Peace, Moby Dick and Les Miserables.  I have to see the rest of this book, I confess. Despise  me if you dare ;)

I am a frequent visitor to the Enlightenment Derbyshire website for, as many of you already know, I have a particular fondness for the history of the early years of the industrial revolution during the 18th century. I blame my engineer father who, when I was a tiny child, would take me around the old Birmingham Science Museum to admire their treasures, amongst which the massive Smethwick engine built and designed by James Watt when he was in partnership with Matthew Boulton ( my hero) was one of my favourites,especially when it was working. It is now  on display at the Thinktank Musuem in Birmingham and is still operational.

In particular I love to learn about the members of The Lunar Society  and  the development of the industrialisation of the  midland counties of England. We tend to forget, I think ,that Jane Austen lived at a time when the innovations of this technological revolution were part of her every day life. To give only two examples, the canal system was being developed throughout the country, and there were excavations very near to Jane Austen’s homes in Hampshire. The Basingstoke Canal was created in 1778 and the Andover Canal,which reached as far as Southampton, was built in 1789 . And she enjoyed the fruit of the Industrial Revolution’s labours when she ate and drank from the china Wedgwood designed and made when at her Chawton home, and when she was at her brother’s home at Godmersham in Kent.

A Plate made by Wedgwood for Edward Knight, Jane Austen's brother, adorned with the Knight coat of arms, on show at Jane Austen's House Museum ©Austenonly

A Plate made by Wedgwood for Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, adorned with the Knight crest, on show at Jane Austen’s House Museum ©Austenonly

The Derbyshire that was home to Fitzwilliam Darcy was likewise teeming with evidence of the industrial revolution, and a site that allows us some glimpses into that world is Enlightenment Derbyshire a website run by staff from the Belper North Mill, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and Derby Museum and Art Gallery  (and also with staff from Renaissance East Midlands). The Project is managed by Ros Westwood, the Derbyshire Museums Manager, who is based at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.   Other staff involved in the project include the lovely Anna Rhodes, the Enlightenment Assistant Collections Officer at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery who, I am proud to say, often comments here.

The project is funded by the heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Culture initiative, which was designed to help museums develop their collection of objects through strategic acquisition programmes. The Derbyshire Museums have chosen to share the news of their acquisitions though the medium of this site,and I think it is a wonderful way to keep up to date with developments and with the new items they have added to their collections.

Some have resonances with Jane Austen. A recent acquisition is the amazingly beautiful and rare second edition of  the Atlas Coelestis’ by John Flamsteed, which was published in 1753. Here is an illustration of part of it from their site showing the constellation of Cassiopea:

Part of John Flaxman's Star Atlas, showing the constellation of Cassiopeia ©Enlightenment Derbyshire

Part of John Flaxman’s Star Atlas, showing the constellation of Cassiopeia ©Enlightenment Derbyshire

This constellation is  of course, mentioned by Jane Austen in Chapter 11 of Mansfield Park as Fanny vainly tries to tempt Edmund to go star-gazing on the lawn only to find he is more attracted to the charms of Miss Crawford playing the pianoforte for the Mansfield Park Glee Group.

I love looking at the wonderful articles this group of museums are purchasing. Doing so via this site is a wonderful way to attract and inform very large audience, many of whom would find it difficult to visit Derbyshire to see them in person. A recent post about a visit to Lichfield the beautiful cathedral city birthplace of  Jane Austen’s beloved Dr Johnson and which is only a few miles from her cousin Edward Coopers home of Hamstall Ridware is fascinating. The article on William Wordsworth and his reaction to the beautiful Derbyshire scenery of Dovedale is a must read too.

So, I urge you to go and  explore this site. You will  be enthralled by its contents, as am I.

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels ©Maggie Lane

Understanding Jane Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels ©Maggie Lane

They say a sign of age is not being aware of the passage of time. I must indeed be getting very old for it has come as quite a surprise to me to realise that my favourite book on the subject of Jane Austen and her use of language is now over 21 years old. Myra Stokes’ book, The Language of Jane Austen (1991) appears to have gone out of print a long time ago, and has never been released in a second edition, as far as I am aware. Finding secondhand copies of it  today is a difficult task. Indeed, I can find only 6 copies available to purchase on the usual internet secondhand book sites.

The Language of Jane Austen by Myra Stokes ©Myra Stokes

The Language of Jane Austen by Myra Stokes ©Myra Stokes

Therefore I suppose there really is a need for a new book on the subject. How time flies. And indeed, as our language changes so subtly and so very quickly, it is very possible that readers new to Jane Austen may sometimes feel confused by her use of a term or word which differs from our  modern usage. I know I can easily be caught out by the language used my children and their friends. Using words such as “sick” and “bad” to  describe something that is apparently exactly the opposite is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent discussion in the family  prompted by the Diamond Jubilee, on the meaning of the word “royalist” as defined by teenagers of today, and the contrast with what I mean by that term has, I confess, quietly astonished me.

This book, Understanding Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels by Maggie Lane,  will therefore be a godsend to readers discovering Jane Austen for the first time, who may, for example wonder what she means by  her terms “air” and “address” . Examples of the key concepts covered in the book include words used by her to denote Genius,Wit and Taste, Elegance, Air and Address and A Nice Distinction. The book is written in a clear an non-academic style and is very accessible.

My only real gripe about this book is an editorial one. When discussing these concepts no references to page numbers in any edition of Austen’s works are given for any of the Austenian quotations taken from the novels. I don’t think it is necessarily wise to assume that the people to whom this book is directed-new readers, I suppose it has to be- are so familiar with the novels that they know exactly where these quotations appear. And, more crucially in a work of this type, there is no index of where the individual words studied in the text can be found. This would have been very helpful for the reader who simply wanted to clarify what a certain word meant while they were reading one of The Six. So, as a general read the book works: on a practical level and as a reference book to be accessed while reading the novels, it is less successful, in my opinion.

However, these problems aside, the book is an interesting read, and my copy of it will be included in my 3rd Anniversary Giveaway, bundle in a few week’s time. Do keep an eye open for it ;)

I thought you might care to see a post I wrote today on the Jane Austen’s House Blog about an item that has recently gone on display there: Charles Austen’s Sword. It is a very beautiful artefact, and takes my breath away each time I see it.

Bath in Winter

Bath in Winter ©Smithsonian Institute

Jacqueline Moen of the Smithsonian Insitute has asked me to give you news of a Jane Austen tour that the Smithsonian Journeys are organising this Christmas. And as someone who completed 80 % of her Christmas shopping last week, I have no shame in mentioning this Christmas tour to you in early October!

The tour, A Jane Austen Christmas, does sound very tempting and a lot of fun. The very cleverly planned itinerary is here for you to study and the tour has two beautiful bases, both closely associated with Jane Austen, the cities of Winchester and Bath. It takes place from the 20th -28th December. Here is an overview of what is on offer:

This Christmas join us for a unique holiday tour with a literary theme. Delve into Austen’s 19th-century world of English society as you explore the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, where she lived and socialized. Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a popular Smithsonian expert for literary and holiday tours. With Ros at your side, celebrate Christmas Day services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral, where a magnificent choir will sing sacred music accompanied by a historic organ with 5,500 pipes. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, and enjoy afternoon tea with Christmas mince pies and mulled wine. You’ll also follow the life and works of the English novelist, visiting Hampshire villages such as Steventon and Chawton, which shaped her life and stories, and residing in Winchester, where she spent her last years. Continuing to the World Heritage site of Bath, where Austen lived for five years, experience the epitome of Georgian society in such settings as the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms, which housed balls and public functions during Austen’s day. Literary fans will also learn more about the Regency period through a tour of the Fashion Museum and special meetings and events with experts from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and The Jane Austen Society in Winchester.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by this? And to add to the attraction, the price of the tour( which does not cover the cost of travel to the starting point of Winchester in the UK, do note) is now subject to a discount of $250 per person. If you want to take advantage of this offer, DO NOT BOOK ONLINE but contact their call centre on (001 )855-330-1542 to speak with a Reservations Specialist, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The call centre will be aware of the discount they are offering.

If any of you do go, please let us know how it went!

In our last post in this series,we looked at the exterior and the churchyard of the Parish Church of Holy Trinity and St Andrew in the tiny village of Ashe in Hampshire. This was the place of worship for Jane Austen’s great friend, Anne Lefroy. Her husband was the Rector of Ashe and they lived in an elegant Rectory , a few minutes walk away from the church.

As we discovered last time, the church was rebuilt in the late 19th century  due to its extremely bad state of repair, but a church appears to have been consecrated on this site since the mid 12th century. The interior does not therefore have the same appearance as it did during the time of the Lefroys, but I include a view of the Nave for you, all the same:

The Nave, looking East towards the Chancel and Altar, Ashe Parish Church ©Austenonly

The Nave, looking East towards the Chancel and Altar, Ashe Parish Church ©Austenonly

The Lefroy memorials, as I understand it, were originally installed in the Chancel. But since the restoration and re-build of the church, they have been moved, and are now on the North wall, near to the junction with the East wall. Indeed, you can see them immediately as you enter the church:

The Lefroy Memorials ©Austenonly

The Lefroy Memorials ©Austenonly

As ever, these memorials make for sad reading, particularly when you realise just how very quickly the members of this family, with whom Jane Austen was on very friendly terms, died in relation to each other.

This, below,  is the memorial to William Thomas Lefroy, Anne Lefroy’s third born son, who was nearly four years old when he died:

Below is the memorial to another of their sons, Anthony who was only 14 years old when he died, together with another son, Christopher Edward who was 71 years old at his death:

This memorial has a representation of the Lefroy arms underneath it. Here is a close-up photograph of them:

The magnificent memorial which dominates this section of the wall is dedicated to Anne Lefory and to her husband:

The Memorial to Anne Lefroy and her husband, and the Reverend Isaac Peter George Lefroy ©Austenonly

The Memorial to Anne Lefroy and her husband, and the Reverend Isaac Peter George Lefroy ©Austenonly

The wording on the memorial is rather difficult to decipher, but I hope I have transcribed it correctly for you: it is important because it tells another sad story:

The Rev’d Issac peter George Lefroy

late Rector of this Parish and of Compton

in Surry (sic) and formerly Fellow of All Souls

College,Oxford, Son of Anthony Lefroy,

esq: by Elizabeth his wife, was born Nov 1745

and died at the Parsonage House of this Parish

of a paralytic stroke on Monday Janr 13th  1806

Anne, wife of Rev’d George Lefroy 

and daughter of Edward Brydges Esq;

by Jemina his wife, was born March 1749

and died at the Parsonage House of this 

Parish in consequence of a fall from her

horse the preceding day on Sunday December

16th 1804.

Reader: The characters here recorded need no laboured panegyric; prompted by the elevate dictates

of Christianity, of whose glorious truths they are most firm believers, they were alike exemplary

in the performance of every duty, and amicable in every relationship of life; to their fervent piety

Their strict integrity, their active and comprehensive charity, and in short to the lovely and useful

tenor of their whole lives and conversations

Those amongst us who they lived, and especially the inhabitants of this parish, will bear ample and

Ready testimony, after a union of 26 years, having been separated by death scarcely more than 12

months, their earthy remains are together deposited in peace near this marble. Together to be raised. 

We humbly trust in glory when the grave shall give up her dead, and death itself be swallowed up in Victory 

Rev. 14 v. 13

Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, even so saith the spirit for they rest from their labours.

Poor Anne Lefory died as a result of a fall from a horse , on what was her friend, Jane Austen’s birthday, the 16th December 1804. An account of her death is given in the published Reminiscences of Caroline Austen, Jane Austen’s niece. Caroline was the daughter of James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother, who had succeeded his father as Rector of Steventon:

December 16th 1804: Died Mrs Lefroy of Ashe. On the 21st my father buried her. She was greatly lamented and her end was a sad one. She was riding a very quiet horse, attended by a servant, as usual. My father saw her in Overton, and she observed the animal she rode was so stupid and lazy she could scarcely make him canter. My father rode homeward, she staying to do some errands in Overton; next morning the news of her death reached Steventon. After getting to the top of Overton hill, the horse seemed to be running away-it was not known whether anything had frightened him-the servant, unwisely, rode up to catch the bridle rein-missed his hold and the animal darted off faster.He could not give any clear account, but it was supposed that Mrs Lefroy in her terror, threw herself off and fell heavily on the hard ground. She never spoke afterwards, and she died in a few hours.

Her husband died on January 13th  in 1806, poor man. Another untimely Lefroy death.  Indeed, this period 1804-1806 was a sad year for the Austens and the Lefroys together, for George Austen , Jane Austen’s father died on the 21st January  1805, and then on April 16th, in the same year, Mrs Lloyd the mother of Mary, James Austen’s wife, also died.

The final memorial I want to write about is dedicated to Benjamin Lefory and to his wife, Anna, who was Jane Austen’s niece and Caroline Austen’s half-sister:

As we learnt in our last post, Benjamin Lefroy succeeded his brother, John Henry George Lefroy, as Rector of Ashe  in 1823.  John Henry had been appointed Rector of Ashe after his father’s death in 1806. Sadly, John died aged only 41 in 1823. Benjamin was then appointed as Rector of Ashe and he and Anna came to live at the Rectory and remained there until Ben’s very untimely death in 1829.

Reading these memorials made me feel very sad: so many lives cut short. But they still do not give us much of a picture of what Mrs Lefroy was really  like, apart from paying tribute to her piety .We still do not know much of   her character or habits, one that was apparently so bewitching to Jane Austen and many others. For that we need to look at other sources: obituary notices, Jane Austen’s letters and, indeed,Mrs Lefroy’s own letters, which luckily for us have been preserved and published. More on this in my next post in this series.

Last night Jane Austen made an appearance in the first of Ian Hislop’s three-part essay on that interesting phenomenon: The Stiff Upper Lip. This is a series of three programmes chronicling an Emotional History of England, and which was broadcast by BBC 2.

The theme of the programmes is of a chronological history of the British and their emotions. In last night’s episode – Emergence– we were taken on a journey from medieval times(when we were known, both men and women, as ready to kiss each other and strangers at the drop of a hat) to the situation just after Waterloo, when all such soppy displays had ended. Ian Hislop’s argument was that the stereotypically British virtues of reticence and stoicism only began to assert themselves during this period: the stiff upper lip ( an American expression, apparently) had its beginnings as a reaction against the excesses of the French revolution and in our subsequent wars with Napoleon.  After Waterloo, the emotional excesses of the 18th century men of sentiment, as personified by the hero of Henry Mackenzie’s novel, The Man of Feeling (1771) were then not quite the thing. Nelson, the Nation’s hero after his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, was a far more openly emotional man than the Duke of Wellington. Between Trafalgar  and Waterloo, ten years later, the nation’s emotions had become far more reserved. And of course Jane Austen’s novels, with their emotionally restrained heroes and heroines demonstrates  this sea-change in our emotional life rather well…

On a visit to the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, Ian Hislop gave us some Austenian examples of British Reserve and that all important attribute, Politeness, at its best:

The meeting of George and John Knightley in Chapter 12  of Emma, was given as one of the prime examples of the new, restrained attitude that was then acceptable in the early years of the 19th century. Here, while the reception the brothers gave to each other may appear outwardly polite and indifferent, inwardly their mutual  love  and affection is acknowledged . We know that, despite this emotionally cool meeting, they would move heaven and each to help each other.

The discussion continued with Louise West ,who is the Curator of the Jane Austen’s House Museum. They argued that Austen produced a new type of romantic hero: the reserved, upright man, who only confesses his feelings of deepest love after a novel full of incident. This is very true of Darcy, Wentworth George Knightley and Edward Ferrers. It was posited that the most guarded of Jane Austen’s characters often display the deepest, most genuine feelings. Of the heroines, only Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility  gives way to excesses of sentiment, but even she is more sedate, reserved and sensible by the end of the novel. She has reformed to the state of  emotional restraint thought desirable by  late Georgian society.

I think we can all agree that Jane Austen respected rational beings of both sexes, to borrow as she did Mary Wollstonecraft’s phrase, and the argument that her novels are testament to her society’s admiration for certain aspects of The Stiff Upper Lip, and are, moreover, good examples of the era when an excess of sentiment was seen as something to be avoided, is an interesting one.

Two points did annoy me. That old chestnut, that Jane Austen never wrote about politics or  incidents in the wider world- the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Abolition etc etc- reared its ugly head yet again, in a reference to a letter written by Winston Churchill upon having had Pride and Prejudice read to him while he was convalescing from illness in 1943:

Does this view really still prevail? Really? Not in my opinion or on my website. And to be frank, I really did not see the point of its inclusion here. Perhaps I missed something crucial. And I did not appreciate the scenes in the Museum’s gift shop, where Ian Hislop wonders,  rather disapprovingly in my view, what Jane Austen’s reaction to the stock, in particular the “I Heart Darcy bookmarks” might be. I think she might be glad that the shop is contributing funds to the privately run Museum so that it can continue to celebrate her life and works….but then that’s just me being pragmatic, and not a little annoyed.

However, on the whole this was an interesting programme to watch, with plenty for those of us interested in the late 18th/early 19th century to ponder. You can go here to its website to see some clips and here to the BBC iPlayer to view the whole of Episode Number 1

(….and yes,we will get back to the Lefroys in my next posting!)

Before we get back to posting about the Lefroys and Ashe, I thought you might like to know that the play adapted by Tim Luscombe from Jane Austen’s novel, and which is currently touring southern England in a Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds production, is now available to purchase. It has been published by Oberon Books in  paperback form and it is also available on Kindle as an E-Book.

In addition to the text of the adaptation, the book includes details of the cast and crew, a note on the production by the director, Colin Blumenau, and a note on the process of adapting Jane Austen’s most complex novel by Tim Luscombe.

If you cannot get to see this production, you might care to read  it, as a substitute. I’m sure you are all imaginative enough to be able to join the dots….;)

Last Monday I was very lucky to see a performance of Elizabeth Inchbald’s play 1798, Lover’s Vows, at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. What made this performance very special was the cast: the actors were the members of the same cast which is currently appearing in the touring production of Mansfield Park, which I reviewed, here. As a result we saw Edmund play Anhalt, Mary Crawford play Amelia, Maria Bertram play Agatha, Fanny Price playing the Cottager’s Wife, Henry Crawford playing Frederick, and Mr Rushworth as Count Cassell. I am a firm believer that plays are better understood when seen rather than when merely read, and so it was with this production.

Cast List for Lover's Vows

Cast List for Lover’s Vows ©Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

It was, I hasten to add, a Script in Hand performance: one where the actors had had one read-though, then performed the play on stage, script in hand without benefit of costumes or scenery . I’ve seen an amateur performance of this play, but it was revelatory to see it acted by good hardened real professionals. In addition seeing it performed in the tiny Regency theatre at Bury St Edmunds was wonderful: the theatre is very intimate and suits this type of play-where there are many asides made directly to the audience. Another joy was that the theatre was kept illuminated during the performance, just as Georgian theatres were.We are all- actors ands audience, on view. A further layer of appropriateness was that Mrs Inchbald was born in a small village only five miles away from the town: she was born Elizabeth Simpson at Standingfield on October 15th 1753, and she knew Bury St Edmunds well. Her plays, along with most of the Georgian repertoire are very rarely performed these days. However, the restored Theatre Royal has established a very noble tradition, since its restoration in 2007, of performing these forgotten plays and attempting to “restoring them to the repertoire”. They have performed many of Mrs Inchbald’s plays, which is very appropriate given the local connection, and it is obvious that Colin Blumenau , the director of these two plays and once artistic director of the Theatre Royal, is a strong supporter and admirer of her works.

Engraving of Mrs Inchbald after a portrait painted by her friend, Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Engraving of Mrs Inchbald after a portrait painted by her friend, Sir Thomas Lawrence from “I’ll Tell You What” by Annabel Jenkins 

The play is, to modern eyes and ears, and odd mix of high drama and low comedy. And it is clear that the subject matter- the fate of a fallen woman who had given birth to an illegitimate son, and who was cast off by a noble family, combined with the love story of a young noble girl for her priest- is not at all suitable to be played by the unmarried and engaged Bertram daughters and Mary Crawford. It is really no surprise that Edmund is initially aghast to discover that this particular play was the one the Mansfield Players decided upon:

I cannot, before Mr. Yates, speak what I feel as to this play, without reflecting on his friends at Ecclesford; but I must now, my dear Maria, tell you, that I think it exceedingly unfit for private representation, and that I hope you will give it up. I cannot but suppose youwill when you have read it carefully over. Read only the first act aloud to either your mother or aunt, and see how you can approve it. It will not be necessary to send you to yourfather’s judgment, I am convinced.”

Mansfield Park, Chapter 15

If you would like to read the play you can, by clicking here. After the play had been performed, a question and answer session with the actors and the director, Colin Blumenau was fascinating.Their insights into the technique needed to successfully portray scenes where the actors are requited to switch abruptly from tragedy to comedy were compelling.

Since seeing the play, I’ve had the opportunity to consider it and  how Jane Austen used it in Mansfield Park. It is clear that she was very well acquainted with it. As a woman who was very interested in the theatre, she no doubt followed the news of its great success ( it was performed 45 times at its initial presentation at Covent Garden in London) and the controversy surrounding its translation from the German playwright, Auguste von Kotzebue’s play, The Natural Son. She many even have seen it performed, though she does not mention this in her letters. She did have the opportunity, for it was performed at least five times while she lived in Bath, IIRC. For her purposes it was the perfect vehicle for the young people at Mansfield.  From its first performance it was a controversial play- with its themes of illegitimacy, inappropriate love,and the decency of the lower orders as opposed to the arrogance and cruelty of the upper classes – and it suited her purposes not only to have the young people act in defiance of Sir Thomas’ strong sense of decorum but for them also to choose to perform the most unsuitable play that they possibly could. Its plot lines also gave them many opportunities to “act out’ their own secret passions and desires, to use the play for their own purposes.

But it goes deeper than that; by casting the play as she did, she subverted and even satirised her own characters. Let’s consider a few examples. Mr Rushworth, the dim but rich cuckold, is transformed into a boastful man about town, Count Cassell,who had made “vows of love to so many women that on his marriage with (Amelia) a hundred hearts will at least be broken. Maria, the adulterous wife who lived openly in sin with Henry Crawford and eventually is cast off by her family to live with Mrs Norris in

an establishment being formed for them in another country, remote and private, where, shut up together with little society, on one side no affection, on the other no judgment, it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment, 

Mansfield Park, Chapter 48

plays Agatha, who is welcomed back into the bosom of her lovers family with great pomp and circumstance, having previously been abandoned to shift for herself and her son. Fanny- who was finally coerced into agreeing to play the Cottagers Wife, though Sir Thomas’ return prevented it, is meek and kind but relatively powerless to do good until she is exiled to Porstmouth, when her little store of money provides food and intellectual stimulation for her siblings: the Cottager Wife is kind, taking Agatha into her home when no one would help, but sensible enough to eventually take the financial reward offered by Anhalt on Count Wildenheim’s behalf despite the protests of her husband. The Butler, Verdun, is a long comic role: his rambling poetic speeches with concluding morals( which were not written wholly by Mrs. Inchbald but by her friend and college, John Taylor) ramble on: in Mansfield Park , the Butler,Baddeley has only two speeches, and of these the second  is of vast significant for it indicates the extent to   which the odious Mrs Norris is held in contempt  below stairs at Mansfield Park:

Mrs. Norris called out, “Stay, stay, Fanny! what are you about? where are you going? don’t be in such a hurry. Depend upon it, it is not you who are wanted; depend upon it, it is me” (looking at the butler); “but you are so very eager to put yourself forward. What should Sir Thomas want you for? It is me, Baddeley, you mean; I am coming this moment. You mean me, Baddeley, I am sure; Sir Thomas wants me, not Miss Price.”

But Baddeley was stout. “No, ma’am, it is Miss Price; I am certain of its being Miss Price.” And there was a half–smile with the words, which meant, “I do not think you would answer the purpose at all.”

Mansfield Park, Chapter 32.

Mary Crawford, a woman of strong opinions which are fatally and morally flawed,  played Ameila , a girl of strong opinions, who was seen as outrageously  forward by some sections of its 18th century audience, but who is truly moral and kind, and prepared to marry and love a clergyman, which Mary Crawford, most definitely, was not.

The most striking contrast is found in the attitudes of the head of the households, Baron Wildenhaim, as opposed to Sir Thomas. The Baron,who had been forced by his parents to abandon the low-born Agatha and their son, Frederick, and despite having married and become a widower, regrets ever having to take such a drastic course of action. He assures his daughter, Amelia, that she would never be forced to marry without affection. Once he discovers the true nature of Count Cassell’s sexual offences and bragging, he forbids her to marry him, and eventually consents to her marrying his Chaplain, Anhalt,  whose strong moral advice has allowed him to recover Agatha and his natural son Frederick and, also, to give them  respectable positions in society, as his son and wife. Sir Thomas, though he offers to allow Maria an escape route from the marriage with Rushworth, failed  to allow Fanny the same advantage and punishes her for her “inexplicable” rejection of Henry Crawford, a morally flawed man,who can offer riches and status and, through his connection the Admiral, has arranged for the  promotion of her brother, William. There are many more parallels…but I’ll stop here.

As you can see, I’ve been thinking a lot about  this play and I now wonder how influential Lover’s Vows was in sowing the germ of the idea for Mansfield Park in Jane Austen’s head. I used to think she merely inserted it as an (in)appropriate play in the private theatrical section of the book, but now…I think the evidence is that its influence is much stronger and deeper with her than that. I do thank the Theatre Royal, its Restoring the Repertoire programme, and the cast of Lover’s Vows for their inspiring performance.

Scene from "Lover's Vows":illustrating the last stage direction in the play, wherein  Agatha and Frederick are re-united with Count Wildenheim, as Amelia and Anhalt  look on ©Austenonly

Scene from “Lover’s Vows”,from The British Theatre, Volume XXIII, illustrating the last stage direction in the play, wherein Agatha and Frederick are re-united with Count Wildenhaim, as Amelia and Anhalt look on ©Austenonly

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