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So..let’s begin our tour of the places in Pride and Prejudice in earnest.
Today, I thought we ought to have an overview of England and Wales, to ascertain just how the country was organised in Jane Austen’s day. Looking at modern maps with reference to Pride and Prejudice is not really acceptable to my mind because modern country boundaries have changed so much, and, indeed, some old counties to which Jane Austen refers have now disappeared during the numerous local government reorganisations that have taken place since she wrote her most famous novel.
It is much easier to orient yourself in Jane Austen’s world if you refer to a contemporary map.
And first an apology to you, my readers. I have again been the subject of theft: another person, who really should have known better, has used some of my images published here for commercial use, without my permission. So from now on my images will be watermarked to prevent theft. Or at least deter it. I have resisted doing this for nearly four years but my patience has now worn too thin. I do apologise and hope it does not detract from your enjoyment.
Back to happier topics.
Here, below, is a rather beautiful map, engraved by John Cary and hand coloured( by some poor child no doubt) which appears in my copy of his Itinerary of 1812.
You will see that I have annotated it to indicate all the historic counties in England that are mentioned by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice. And also to indicate that one spot in Scotland- Gretna Green – that receives an honourable( or should that be dishonourable?) mention in the novel.
The numbers relate to the counties as follows:
1. Gretna in Scotland ( Note this arrow does not indicate the precise location of Gretna.We will be coming back to it in due course)
2. The Lakes. The Lakes were situate in three counties in Jane Austen’s lifetime: Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland. Westmoreland and Cumberland no longer exist, and since 1974 they have formed the new country of Cumbria.
4. Somersetshire. Bath features in all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels and was found in this county.
7. Middlesex. London was found in this country. Since 1965 it no longer exists for official administrative purposes.
8. Surrey, spelt “Surry” by Jane Austen and many of her contemporaries.
12. Derbyshire, home of Mr Darcy
You will see that the novel roams far and wide over the country, which I think some of you may find surprising. Next in this series, we shall take a closer look at Hertfordshire, home of the Bennet family.
On Monday evening BBC 1’s The One Show had a typically different take on the celebrations for the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. They broadcast a small item, presented by the comedian Arthur Smith, about Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the type of food eaten by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.
Arthur visited what is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and was shown the Household Book on display there.
This recipes and remedies in this book were collected by Martha Lloyd, a long-standing friend of the family and who lived with the Austen ladies after her mother’s death. She eventually married one of Jane’s brothers, Francis. She was very close to Jane , and when reading Jane’s letters to her, the evidence is that she was, in my humble opinion, “almost another sister” and worthy of the epithet.
The book is a fascinating document. It is in manuscript, and the entries are written in many different hands. The book is full of recipes, household mixes and medicinal cures, and many Austen family members and friends contributed recipes to it. As a result we have a rather good idea of the type of food that was eaten at the cottage while Jane Austen was alive.
Arthur was given three dishes to eat, which were all prepared at the Pump Room in Bath, which now houses a restaurant, and was accompanied and advised by the food historian, Holly Newton.
Appropriately, he ate White Soup, as supplied by Mr Bingley to his guests at the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice
Jugged Beef Steaks with potatoes…….
and Gooseberry Tart. It was a good section of the programme, though brief, and was a welcome alternative to the diet of “wet shirt ” admiration that some programmes fed to us! it was quite seriously undertaken, and was not at all frivolous. Replete with details of Jane’s life and how differently food was prepared and eaten during the early 19th century, I confess, I enjoyed it.
You have five days left to view the item on the BBC iPlayer, here, and the item began at approximately 23 minutes and 30 seconds into the programme.
Most newspapers and news channels here carried an item about the celebrations for Pride and Prejudice 200, and I thought you might appreciate a look at some of them.
The BBC had some great pieces produced by their main news programmes. Will Gompertz did this lovely piece, with interviews with P.D. James and Helen Fielding: go here to see it and there was also this interview with Joanna Trollope on line ( which was filmed at Chawton yesterday for you can see “Jane Austen” (ahem) sitting at her desk in the background) A noted Janeite, I love Joanna Trollope’s passion for Jane Austen and the novels so eloquently expressed here.
Channel 4 News had a couple of entertaining pieces: go here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see them. There is also a discussion…Jane Austen as Chick lit (shudder)
My dear friend Jane Odiwe took part in the BBC Breakfast News’ celebrations: Go here to see an article which concentrates on sequels, and the Darcy “wet shirt” phenomenon.
There are lots more articles out there,as evidenced from the contents of my Twitter feed, but I liked these the best ;)
200 years ago today, Jane Austen’s most famous novel, was published in London by Thomas Egerton. Her own darling Child as she termed the final published form of her book, had a long gestation period. According to Jane’s sister, Cassandra Austen’s memorandum, Jane Austen began her novel, then called First Impressions, in October 1796, and finished it in August 1797. We have no idea what literary form this first version of this novel took: some have argued that the existence of so many letters in the finished book indicate it was an epistolary novel, written in a series of letters like Jane Austen’s earlier work, Lady Susan and the first draft of Sense and Sensibility. Sadly, as no manuscript of First Impressions or indeed the final version, Pride and Prejudice exists, we shall never know for certain. I’m not particularly convinced by that argument, to be frank, and I am more inclined to the view that the earlier version of this novel took a narrative form for if we know one thing about Jane Austen as a professional writer, it was that she didn’t rest on her laurels, but experimented and experimented, pushing the accepted boundaries of literary form. I think she would have moved on to a more exacting style…
Her wonderfully supportive father, George Austen, was an early fan. He took the extraordinary step of approaching a London publisher on Jane’s behalf. His letter to Thomas Cadell written in 1797 tells us all we need to know of his pride and not a little prejudice in favour of his talented daughter:
I have in my possession a Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols, about the Length of Miss Burney’s Evelina. As I am well aware of what consequence it is that a work of this sort should make its first appearance under a respectable name, I apply to you. Shall be much obliged therefore if you will inform me whether you chose to be concerned in it; what will be the expense of publishing it at the Author’s risk; & what you will advance for the Property of it, if on perusal it is approved of.
Should your answer give me encouragement, I will send you the work.
I am, Sirs Yr. obt. hble. Servt.
Steventon near Overton,
1st November 1797.
The publishers wrote on this letter, the fateful phrase, “Declined by Return of Post”
And thus Jane Austen suffered the fate common to many writers, a rejection. As it was of her own darling child she must have felt it acutely. And she must have felt some frustration for it is clear from the evidence of her letters that her close family and her great friend, Martha Lloyd loved it. In her letter to Cassandra Austen dated two years after this rejection, the 8th January 1799,two hers after being rejected professionally, it seems that this early form of the novel was still being read amongst the family and was popular within the Austen’s close circle, as evidenced by this typically ironic statement by Jane Austen:
I do wonder at your wanting to read First Impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago.
This is all borne out by another amusing reference to this novel being read and re-read within the family circle, in Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra written six months later:
I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & I am very glad that I did not leave it in your power. – She is very cunning, but I see through her design; – she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.
This all suggests that Jane Austen’s family valued her work and further that she kept her precious manuscript with her, alive and being read and appreciated, even though it had been turned down by a distinguished London publisher. I agree with Professor John Mullan that she knew she was a good writer and that her works were extraordinary. It surely takes strength of character to continue to write and hope that eventually you will be published: I believe she had that self belief.
She needed it would seem, peace, routine, freedom from domestic cares and security in order to be able to write creatively (“Composition seems to me impossible with a head full of joints of mutton and doses of rhubarb”) Her peripatetic and financially uncertain life after the death of her father in Bath in 1805 was, it would seem, not conducive to this at all, though I support the theory that she continued to “work” on her manuscripts if not on paper, then in her head, constantly revising ordering and collecting new material. (If only she has possessed a word processor) But in 1809 she moved to Chawton Cottage, which is now the Jane Austen House Museum, by the grace of her wealthy brother,Edward,and began revising her existing manuscripts in earnest.
Sense and Sensibility,which began life in the 1790s as Elinor and Marianne, was published in 1811. And Pride and Prejudice, as it eventually became, was published on this day in 1813.
A change of title was necessary because in the intervening 16 years quite a few publications had appeared under the title,First Impressions : Margaret Holford published a four volume novel called First Impressions in 1801, and Horatio Smith, one of Jane Austen’s favourite dramatists and satirists, had written a comedy called, First Impressions or Trade in the West. Her inspiration for the new title of Pride and Prejudice may have come from an author with whom she was wholly familiar and with whom she had some connection, Fanny Burney. Fanny Burney lived at Great Bookham in Surrey and there became great friends with the local clergyman, the Reverend Samuel Cooke and his family. He was rector of Cotsford in Oxfordshire and vicar of Great Bookham and, importantly for us, was married to Cassandra Leigh who was Jane Austen’s mother, Mrs George Austen’s cousin. The Reverend Cooke was Jane Austen’s godfather and, interestingly, his wife was a published authoress. Her novel, Battleridge was published anonymously in 1799 . The phrase Pride and Prejudice appears inFanny Burney’s book, Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782) which we know that Jane Austen read, and, if she did use the phrase with reference to Fanny Burney, it may have been as some sort of tribute to a fellow professional.
This novel has transfixed us for 200 years. For many of us, certainly for me, it was my entrée into Jane Austen’s world when I was aged 12 years old. A world which so captivated me I not only greedily read her other works, but began to explore, as far as I was able, books and museums to discover what her world really would have been like. As a result, over the intervening years, I have tried to recreate that world in my head with reference to artefacts, prints, maps and books of the early 19th century. This search to find out as much as possible about her world and the world her characters have inhabited has led me down many varied alleyways and paths and has enlivened my life ( and impoverished my pocket!) Thoughout this Year of Pride and Prejudice 200 I hope to be able to share some of this knowledge and artefacts with you on our Journey Through Pride and Prejudice. I do hope you will join me.
Next, The Places of Pride and Prejudice….
The articles and interviews have begun to flood the airways in celebration, and the first I heard today, was this interview with Janet Todd and P.D. James, below, on 200 years of Pride and Prejudice.
Go here to listen to it.The interview lasts for just over 7 minutes.
The news that reading Jane Austen is physical good for you – for it exercises areas of the brain not touched by other leisure activities- has been doing the rounds on the internet for some time. Today on BBC Radio 4’s bookshelf programme, Mariella Frostrup, above, discussed just how valuable it truly is to read Jane Austen, and what benefits we can derive from it with Professor Natalie Phillips, who has undertaken all this fascinating research via the use of brain scans by Michigan State University.
This extract from the programme’s blurb explains all:
What exactly is the human brain doing when we are enjoying the magical experience of reading a good book – and what difference does it make if we are reading for pleasure, or for study? Assistant Professor of Literature at Michigan State University Professor Natalie Philips undertook to find out exactly that by asking her students to read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in a MRI scanner in a series of experiments at America’s Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging. We discuss what the latest developments in literary neuroscience could mean for the way in which society as a whole evaluates the study of humanities and the liberal arts
This is a fascinating project, and the results thus far are stunning and very exciting. As someone who took part in developing the first MRI scanners in Cambridge (as a patient not a scientist, I hasten to add!) I find this such an interesting way to use the technology . Go here to listen again to the programme: the article about Jane Austen appears approximately 12 minutes 40 seconds in from the commencement of the programme.This will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, but is available to “listen again ” to for a year.
This morning, while eating my toast and marmalade, I heard this entertaining Audio Boo clip ,which was part of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme.
Written by the witty Sue Limb and performed by Timothy West,it is a three-minute long letter, giving us Mr Bennet’s perspective on 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, Austen mania ( and the never-ending related retail opportunities that seem to follow ) plus the effects of being married to Mrs Bennet for two centuries…..Go here to listen.
Tomorrow is the start of the celebrations.I will be posting here and all over the world celebrations will be taking place. A readathon of the novel will be taking place at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath ( though do note that there will also be one at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton on the 17th May, which I will be attending)… the excitement mounts…..here we go…
This week’s edition of BBC2’s The Culture Show, presented by the delicious Andrew Graham-Dixon, has a wonderful, small section( just over 5 minutes long) presented by Professor John. Filmed on location at Chawton House on a very snowy day, he talks about Pride and Prejudice and the different adaptations that have been made of the novel – all nine of them- and it is a thoughtful, sensible essay, pointing out that the adaptations, in the main, reflect the times in which they were made.
The whole episode of The Culture Show is available to watch via the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days (and sadly this will only be available to this of you in the UK) here, but… hurrah and huzzah… the BBC has provided a clip of the entire essay on Pride and Prejudice from the programme which can be accessed by everyone ( or so I assume) via this link on their website here , Our Love Affair with Pride and Prejudice. I do hope you will watch it and enjoy it.
The souvenirs commemorating Pride and Prejudice 200 are beginning to make themselves known to us, and I won’t be featuring all of them here as some are, in my opinion, hideous. One of the more elegant examples is this little enamel box produced in a very limited edition of 50 by Halcyon Days, the firm that was founded by the redoubtable Susan Benjamin in the 1950s. Mrs Benjamin first made her name by selling antique enamel boxes from her Brook Street, Mayfair, shop and then, as demand grew, she revived the fashion for new Bilston and Battersea enamel boxes which were made in the 18th century style.
The commemorative issue shows Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy coming to an understanding ;) It is, however, rather pricey at £195. If you would like more information about the box, then click here to be taken to the Halcyon Days site.
You may recall that this was one of my favourite books published last year. I gave it what was for me, a rather gushing review, but on reflection, and having re-read it over the past few days, I find my original thoughts still hold. Reading it is akin to having a wonderful, thought-provoking conversation with a knowledgeable, Janeite friend.
It is not meant for those of you with a passing interest in Jane Austen and her novels, but, for once, this book panders to the obsessive Austen reader and our desire to examine, in minute detail, every aspect of her great books. My favourite chapter is still the last, How Experimental A Novelist is Jane Austen? Let me quote Professor Mullen to give you a taste of just how wonderfully he explains how great and innovative a writer Jane Austen was, and yet how difficult it is, without constantly being on the watch, to “catch her in the act of greatness”. For example, we are now used to her presenting us with sprightly, opinionated, stubborn and sometimes shy heroines. But we forget just how innovative she was in rejecting “pictures of perfection”. John Mullan describes how she deliberately spurned the conventional literary device of a providing her readers with a heroine who was practically perfect in every way, and instead, of the first time, gave us realistic, fault-ridden heroines who are almost heroines in spite of themselves:
Austen’s interest in her heroines’ faults and errors was in itself something extraordinary in fiction. Yet the novelty went beyond this. She also developed techniques for showing the contradictoriness or even obscurity of her protagonist’s motivations…Austen gave her readers an entirely new sense of a person’s inner life, but throughout new kinds of narrative rather than new insights into human nature..The manning of the attraction between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy for instance is a triumph of technique as much as of psychological subtlety. Elizabeth Bennet is an unprecedented creation not just because of her wit and “archness” but because Austen is able to give us a sense of her self-ignorance...
If only all books of literary criticism were written like this. A vain hope…
But we are the lucky ones for we can enjoy this book, and can do it now by the expenditure of only a few of our hard-gotten gains. I really do urge you to buy this book. You will not regret it for one moment.
As you know, Serena’s research fascinates me. I thought you would all enjoy reading about this project.
The calash bonnet is perhaps one of the most intriguing eighteenth century accessories. It is simultaneously attractive and strange to the modern eye, appearing both extraordinary and intricate. The calash bonnet was worn throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for protection from both inclement weather, particularly wind, or sunny weather. It first came into use in the 1760s in the form of a supported, collapsible hood. This new style could protect the wearer, like its predecessor, the padded hood, without crushing the hairstyle, cap or headdress worn beneath.
Calash bonnets were usually constructed from green or black silk, and often lined with pinkish red linen, said to improve any complexion. They could also be brown, but very few other colours seen to have been particularly popular. It was given its concertina shape using cane or whalebone inserted into channels, and gathered rows. It was held in place with a…
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I’m sure many of you will be pleased to note that you can now order the Jane Austen Commemorative stamps which will issued by the Royal Mail on the 221st February 2013 to celebrate the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. Cynthia of Jane Austen Castellano has very kindly informed me that you can now order the Jane Austen Commemorative Stamps directly from the Royal Mail via this link, here to their online shop.
In addition to the set of six stamps, above, there are four other items available to order: the presentation pack
which will also contains an essay by P.D. James.
a set of six cards showing enlarged versions of the illustrations.
And finally, two first Day Covers. First Day Covers for UK addresses which will be posted to you and will bear the postmark of Jane Austen’s birthplace: Steventon, Basingstoke.
and you may also order First Day Covers for posting to overseas addresses.
Introduced to Brighton slightly late( 1816) for Lydia Bennet to have enjoyed them, but this is a fascinating post, and I think you will enjoy reading about Brighton’s “manflys”.
Update 2 April 2013: Tracy Anderson, who is currently researching the lives of the Pavilion’s servants, has discovered this picture and description of a fly from a volume of cuttings in the Brighton History Centre.
Two unassuming buildings in a Brighton backstreet have recently been identified as possibly the only surviving examples of early nineteenth century ‘fly stables’ in the country. The structures in 13A and 14 Stone Street have now been given Grade II listed status.
A fly was a small, covered, very low carriage drawn by a single horse, ideal for short distances, and looked not unlike a hansom cab. They were usually charged at the same tariffs. Flys were the cause of some debate in the early nineteenth century – mostly due to being numerous and because of complaints about variable rates, and so the town Commissioners, the local authority of the day, issued…
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If you would like to enter the Give-away Competition organised to celebrate the first anniversary of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s blog then you have until the end of today 17th January to enter. You can do so by adding a comment to this post linked here.
The lucky winner will be announced next week, and the prize is a beautifully presented facsimile first edition of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility.
Good luck to everyone who enters!
As part of their celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice BBC2 is commissioning a special programme during which a team of experts will recreate a regency ball- indeed, not any old ball but specifically the Netherfield Ball– as authentically as they can.
The programme ( working title, Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball) will be presented by Amanda Vickery and Alistair Sooke and they will be supported by a team of experts including our old friend, food historian Ivan Day; Professor Jeanice Brooks and Dr Wiebke Thormahlen, who will advise on the music and orchestral elements; and curator and expert on history of dress, Hilary Davidson. Stuart Marsden and Dr Anne Daye will choreograph the dancing and literary expert John Mullan, Professor of English at University College London, will be on hand to ensure the ball’s accuracy and authenticity to Austen’s work.
The programme is due to be of 90 minutes duration and will be filmed at Chawton House, Jane Austen’s brother’s home in Chawton village. More details can be found on the BBC’s website here, and I believe the programme will be broadcast at Easter. I will of course, keep you acquainted with any more information if and when it becomes available.
I thought you all might appreciate knowing that today there is a rare opportunity to hear a service broadcast live from Winchester Cathedral.
BBC Radio 3 regularly broadcasts choral evensong services on Wednesday afternoons, and today the programme is being broadcast from Jane Austen’s final resting place, Winchester Cathedral.
The programme is repeated on Sunday 20th January at 16.00 and lasts for an hour.
Here are details of the psalms, lessons and music that will be heard in today’s programme, which also can be accessed via the BBC’s iPlayer, after its first broadcast this afternoon:
Introit: Benedicamus Domino (Warlock)
Responses: Philip Moore
Psalms: 82, 83, 84, 85 (Crotch, Clark, Bairstow, Lloyd)
First Lesson: Genesis 2 vv4-end
Canticles: Collegium Regale (Wood)
Second Lesson: Matthew 21 vv33-end
Anthem: When Jesus our Lord (Mendelssohn)
Hymn: Songs of thankfulness and praise (St Edmund)
Organ Voluntary: Flourish for an Occasion (Harris)
Choral evensong is one of my favourite services to attend, and I have been lucky enough to experience it at this marvellously atmospheric cathedral quite a few times. I do hope you will be able to listen to this programme.
Yesterday’s edition of Radio 4’s Open Book Programme was devoted to Jane Austen and concentrated, of course, on her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, for the bicentenary of its first publication is fast approaching.
Presented by Mariella Frostrup, above, this was a lively, intelligent and affectionate overview of Jane Austen, her works and her influence, recorded at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton. The other guests were John Mullan, whose book, What Matters in Jane Austen, was one of my favourite books of last year; Paula Byrne whose biography of Jane Austen, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things will be published very soon, and Bharat Tandon, editor of Harvard University’s edition of Emma.
The programme, which is 28 minutes long, will be available to listen to via this link here. It will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, and, or so it seems from the evidence of the programme’s home page, that the episode will be available to listen to for a long time, well over the usual week. And as Adam Q reminded us yesterday, this radio programme will be available to listeners outside the UK. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
An abridged version of Paula’s book, which I will be reviewing next weekend, can be heard on BBC Radio 4 this week as it is to be featured as this week’s Book of the Week
The five episodes will be broadcast at 9.45 a.m every week day morning, and each will be repeated the following morning at the late ( or very early!) time of 12.30 a.m.
As you already know, the book is not a chronological narrative of Jane Austen’s life but each chapter centres around objects associated with her life. The first episode, broadcast tomorrow morning is entitled The Writing Box. This and the subsequent four episodes will be read by Emma Fielding, and will also be available to “listen again ” to on the BBC iPlayer.
This is a delightful book, one of many recently published “conduct books” based on moral lessons to be learnt from Jane Austen’s works and letters, but, in my opinion, it is one of the best.
It is written by Rebecca Smith who is Jane Austen’s great-great-great-great-great-niece. She teaches creative writing at Southampton University and the writer’s gene seems to have been passed down to her, for her style is clear, witty and very readable.
The dilemmas Rebecca chooses to solve using her ancestors wise words are very modern indeed, and I think are, in the main, addressed to a youngish audience: how to “unfriend” someone on Facebook ( very tricky in my experience), the problems or pleasures of dating an older man, and how to introduce your man to your (ahem) crazy family are some of the individual dilemmas she seeks to advise upon. I rather enjoyed the answers to very modern situations experienced by the more mature of us: the responses produced by “how to balance children and a career”, “how to make time for the gym” and “how to deal with an office dragon” are some of my favourites.
My only gripe with this book is its appearance. In the main the cream background supports a pale purple text, with quotations from Jane Austen’s works, letters and in one case, her will, set into purple inserts printed with deep purple print:
They were hard to read without good daylight or a book light, and I wish the publisher’s designer had kept to the clear( and witty) style of the illustration on the cover; a Regency lady despairing while holding her iPad. But this is me being very picky. I think most of you would enjoy seeing Jane Austen’s wise words and attitudes translated to apply to our 21st century problems, and so I would urge you to buy a copy.
This is another monumental (and heavy!) book by Yale but its subject matter amply deserves such a sumptuous celebration.
James Wyatt had a fascinating career: his early triumphs were overshadowed by a reputation for delay and a maddening inability to finish even the most pressing commissions.He had a geographically wide-ranging set of clients and appears to have been unable to refuse any of them. Dissatisfied clients by the score was the result when Wyatt was unable, and it appears to me, sometimes unwilling to finish work on his commissions. But when Wyatt did turn up on site he appears to have been universally loved and well liked. His extravagant personal life, allied with a tendency to drunkenness meant that his reputation became sullied. His papers were burnt or lost. Many of his commissions have now been demolished, and some of those that did survive have been vilified (his restoration work on some of our great cathedrals Westminster Abbey, Salisbury and Litchfield for example ) His death in 1813 in a carriage accident was, in a way, fortuitous, for it prevented him and his family having to suffer the disgrace of him being dismissed from the office of Surveyor -General and Comptroller of the Office of Works, where he had succeeded Sir William Chambers in the post. From the evidence of this book he seems to have been a man of sudden enthusiasms, unsuited to the steady, plodding work of a journeyman architect/committee member necessary for the sometimes no doubt mundane and regular work overseeing of the Office of Works. His neglect of his business and financial affairs eventually left his and his family’s finances in a precarious position.
John Martin Robinson’s book attempts to re-establish him as one of the most important architects of the late Georgian era. His reputation was first secured by his early triumph of the design for the Pantheon in London’s Oxford Street –the Winter Ranelagh ( above). Built in 1772 the building is examined in wonderful detail in this book- with floor plans enough to satisfy even me.And of course, in a different guise it had an association with Jane Austen for Henry Austen, her brother who loved living the high life, had a box there. Sadly this building no longer exists, and the prints which illustrate it in this book make one sigh in distress at no longer being able to visit it. Mundane note: a branch of Marks and Spencer now occupies its site.
Wyatt’s Gothick “ruined abbey” at Fonthill (above) designed for the eccentric William Beckford, the country houses he designed or embellished here in the UK or in Ireland, his wonderful buildings at Oxford, including the Ratcliffe Observatory and the exquisite Library at Brasenose College are all covered extensively in the text and are superbly illustrated.
Wyatt’s ingenious turn of mind is shown in the small silver articles his designed for Matthew Boulton( whom he drove almost to distraction when working on his Birmingham home, Soho House). The Adam brothers, architects supreme of the last quarter of the 18th century, haughtily declined to design such small items, but Wyatt produced wonderful designs for Boulton, see the example below:
New research by the author of this book has made one very interesting discovery: that the Hepplewhite designs for furniture, famous for two centuries and thought to be illustrative of George Hepplewhite’s designs, and which were posthumously published as The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide in 1788, 2 years after his death in 1786, were most probably not designed by any person called Hepplewhite but were Wyatt’s own work. As with any Yale production, this book is sumptuously produced, and I have enjoyed pouring over its pages over the Christmas holiday. The illustrations show an aspect of Late Georgian/Regency life -the works of James Wyatt-that have almost disappeared from view, and reading this wonderfully illustrated book restores Wyatt’s exquisite work to our notice.