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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!
If you are in the vicinity of Hampstead next weekend, you might like to try turning you hand to making a Regency reticule or even a pocket. There will be a Regency Sewing Workshop at the Keat’s House Musuem, below, which was the home of the poet, John Keats from 1818 to 1820, and was, of course, the place where he met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne who was quite literally the girl next door.
The workshop runs for one day and you can find all the details here. Who knows, you might end up with an elegant item such as this one, below, “owned” by Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensbility.
If you’d rather make a Regency style dress, then there is a four day workshop at the Museum, commencing on the 7th July, which will help you make a delightful confection, perhaps something like this ball gown which was worn by Charity Wakefield (no relation!) as Marianne Dashwood in the BBC’s 2006 version of Sense and Sensbility. Go here to find all the details of the course.
Sadly the workshop where you could have made a Regency Bonnet, like the one below, worn by Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) to her sister Marianne’s wedding in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility
has already taken place, last weekend. But if you’d like to see more photographs of the Sense and Sensibility costumes which were on show at the Jane Austen House Museum last year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, then click here to see the hat and the reticule, and click here for the ball gown.
You might also be interested to see this ensemble, which was also on show, and which was worn by both Charity Wakefield and KAte Winslet, in both adaptations of the book.
Professor Amanda Vickery’s BBC 2 TV programme which was first screened at Christmas in the UK, has now been released on DVD and is available from all the usual outlets.
This was an enjoyable documentary, which I reviewed on its airing, here. Some commentators have since criticised its approach to the JASNA AGM at Fort Worth, especially as the programme did not show much of the serious presentations held at the meeting. However, if you want to see an interesting history of Jane’s Fame, then this is an interesting and enjoyable hour, in the company of a very engaging presenter. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure most of you will do so too, especially as I understand it has not yet been screened other than in the UK.
On Sunday the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme highlighted two picture which have echoes of Sense and Sensibility for us, and so I thought you might like to see them.
They were early 19th century silk needlework pictures, circa 1800, set in mounts which were made of filigree work.
Here are close-ups of the figures in the picture on the right…
If you enlarge the image by clicking on it, you will see details of the embroidery, typical of the period.
And also note that the faces and arms of the figures are painted onto the background material, which is possibly of silk too.
The mounts are filled with filigree work, where the patterns are formed by massing together rolled pieces of paper to give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.
For more detail on filigree work and how it was made, go here. It was, of course, this type of work that Jane Austen referred to in Chapter 23 of Sense and Sensibility:
.“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”
These crafts were the type of “accomplishments” that were taught in the fashionable ladies academies. Such as the one that Jane Austen’s sister-in-law,Elizabeth Bridges, who married Jane’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, attended. In Jane Austen: A Family Record by Deirdre Le Faye, we learn that
She (Elizabeth-jfw) and her sister are all graceful, brown-haired beauties, who had been educated in London at the “Ladies Eton”, the boarding school in Queen Square, Bloomsbury run by the Misses Stevenson exclusively for the Daughters of the nobility and gentry. The academic content of the curriculum was minimal and the pupils learned little more than French, music and dancing while strong emphasis was placed on social etiquette- an old coach was kept propped up in a back room so that the girls would practise the art of getting in and out of it in a modest and elegant manner.
Here is a trade card for one such school, this time in Chelsea, dating from 1797:
This is the type of establishment that Charlotte Palmer no doubt attended, and her silk picture landscape, hung in her old room at Mrs Jennings’ town house, is the only tangible result of all her “efforts” there:
The house was handsome and handsomely fitted up, and the young ladies were immediately put in possession of a very comfortable apartment. It had formerly been Charlotte’s, and over the mantlepiece still hung a landscape in coloured silks of her performance, in proof of her having spent seven years at a great school in town to some effect.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26.
Clearly, Jane Austen had a low opinion of such schools, and much preferred the type of “honest” education that she experienced at the Reading Ladies Boarding School housed in the old Reading Abbey. This was the model for Mrs Goddard’s school in Emma. Mrs Goddard’s school was certainly not one of these smart seminaries. I often do wonder what Jane Austen’s sister-in-law made of Jane’s barbed attacks on the type of establishment she attended, for she repeated it in Pride and prejudice too: the Miss Bingley’s were also “educated’ at one of these places.
The edition of the Antiques Roadshow, the tenth in this series, filmed at Bletchley Park, is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, here – for another five days. The items appeared approximately 20 minutes into the show and were valued at £2000 for the pair.
The Brighton Museum Press Office has just announced that a new exhibition on the short life of Princes Charlotte, is to be held in the sumptuous surroundings of her father’s seaside pleasure place/folly, The Royal Pavillion at Brighton. She was, of course, George IVs only legitimate child and heir presumptive to the English throne until her premature death in childbirth in 1817. As the Press Release reminds us:
A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth. Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.
The exhibition will be held for a year, from March 10th 2012 until March 10th 2013 in the Prince Regent Gallery. This is the Pavilion’s new exhibition space and was where some of the items in the Dress for Excess exhibit were on show( my last post on that exhibit will hopefully be published next week!). The exhibit will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware
Allow me to quote David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion:
“The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
“The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.
“For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”
We have discussed the life, wedding and death of this poor Princess and her admiration for Sense and Sensibility before, here. The press release tell us that viewing the exhibition will be an opportunity to see some of the most important surviving items of clothing associated with Princes Charlotte:
Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection;(which can be seen in the portrait below-jfw),
(Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London).
Her silver and white evening gown, on loan from the Museum of London;
a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby’s shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum’s own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting. These two gowns, above, will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, but they will be replaced in mid September
for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte’s wedding gown, above, on loan from the Royal Collection.
It sounds fascinating, and you know that the Royal Pavillion, with its over-the-top Chinoiserie decoration is one of my favourite places. This new exhibition will be a powerful draw to Brighton, yet again, though I’m doubtful I will be able to get there to see it in person this year due to other commitments. If any of you do go please let us know your thoughts!
is now scheduled to be broadcast on the 23rd December from 9 p.m.- 10 p.m. on BBC2
The Press Release for the programme gives us some hints of its content:
To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Professor Amanda Vickery, one of the leading chroniclers of Georgian England, explores the ebb and flow of Austen’s popularity and the hold her fiction has on us now.
In this 60-minute programme, Vickery considers what it is about her plots and characters that continue to delight, amuse, console and provoke. Her fans insist her current popularity is due to the timelessness of the fictional world Austen created, but for Vickery the question is: Why have her novels gone in, and out, of fashion?
What interests Amanda is how different periods and generations have looked for their own reflection in the characters and plots of the novels. She wants to work out what that says about them, as well as about Austen.
As you are aware, Amanda has spent much of the summer filming for this project all over the world, including at the Jane Austen House Museum, filming the sale of The Watsons manuscript at Sotheby’s, visiting JASNA’s AGM at Fort Worth in Dallas. She has also recorded her impressions of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has interviewed many experts, literary and non-literary, including Jocasta Millar, the Bronte scholar and author of one of my favourite books, The Bronte Myth.
I’m looking forward to it very much, and hope to be able to share my impressions of it with you, Christmas Preparations permitting!
It is Advent and Christmas is fast approaching…far too fast probably for all the preparations to be completed on time. But I’m feeling a little frivolous and so, in this anniversary year for Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to have a little fun and enjoy listening and reading about the actors from Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s film version of Sense and Sensibility from 1995 who have appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Desert Island Discs. This version of Jane Austen’s novel, with all its faults, omissions but many bonuses, is my favourite adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.
Desert Island Discs is a venerable radio programme, and was first broadcast in 1942. It has been running continually since then. For those of you unfamiliar with it, tt has a simple premise: imagine you are marooned on a desert island. You are allowed eight records, or recordings to accompany you. The Bible ( or your religious book of choice) and the Complete Works of Shakespeare are waiting for you too. You can choose to take another book and a luxury, which ought to have no practical use. The choices and the explanations for them are usually quite fascinating and illuminating.
Last week the Castaway was Robert Hardy- for the second time. Robert Hardy played a fabulous, lively Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film.
You can listen to Robert Hardy’s second tranche of choices here and read about his old choices, from 1978, here. Amongst other interesting snippets, it was fascinating to hear about his choice of subject to read at Oxford University. Originally wanting to read History he was persuaded to read English instead, on the basis that his tutors would be C. S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien. Wise choice.
I thought you might like to hear ( or read, if the programme is rather old) other programmes with a Sense and Sensibility connection, as many members of the cast of that adaptation have, at different times, appeared on the programme …so here is the episode for Dame Harriet Walter, which can be listened to again.
Dame Harriet Walter was a most avaricious and compelling Fanny Dashwood in the 1995 production, possibly the best and most malevolent but funny Fanny Dashwood I’ve ever seen.
Go here to listen to Emma Thompson’s programme. Emma Thompson not only starred as Elinor Dashwood but also wrote the screenplay of the film, for which she won as Oscar. Gemma Jones’ programme can be read about here. She was a rather wonderful Mrs Dashwood, with charm and a resemblance to Marianne in her manner.
Hugh Laurie, who portrayed a much more sympathetic Mr Palmer than is detailed in the text, in my view, gave his selection and choices for his desert island exile here.
Hugh Grant’s choices can be accessed here: he was of course a rather impossibly handsome Edward Ferrars in the film.
Imelda Stuanton’s programme can be listened to here : she was a really wonderfully irritating and brainless Charlotte Palmer in the film.
The archive for the programme is fascinating and a great prevarication tool. You never know whose choices are lurking there awaiting discovery. For example, here is the link to Colin Firth’s choices ,which can also be downloaded as a podcast to keep. You are most welcome ;)
In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.
Today we shall look at the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.
Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.
He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.
Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London – The Hindoostanee Coffee-House – at 34 George Street, Portman Square.
This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.
His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.
His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:
Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.
Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very exotic location in which to eat a meal.
Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:
To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.
(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))
The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade from its original premises at 34 George Street until 1833.
So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.
Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821
My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:
These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those who had resided in the East.
And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826
It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:
The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints
In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:
So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London. Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:
In Sense and Sensibility we are told that Colonel Brandon served in the East Indies and, for the British Army at that time, this most likely would have meant being on active service in India. In chapter 31 the poor Colonel recalls to Elinor Dashwood what happened to the woman he loved while he was away:
My brother had no regard for her; his pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon’s, was but too natural. She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation; and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight — was nothing — to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom, — even now the recollection of what I suffered — “
Living in the East it is entirely possible that Colonel Brandon might have developed a taste for eating highly spiced food. If, on his return to England he had wanted to continue eating curries, could he have expected his staff at Delaford to have been able to recreate one? The answer, rather surprisingly, is, yes. It is really interesting to note that the first recipe for curry published in an English cookery book appeared in 1747.
Above, is the frontispiece to the first edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, produced in facsimile by Prospect Books. It was in this edition of her famous book that Hannah Glasse gave this first printed recipe in English, for a curry:
You can enlarge this image along with all the others in this post, simply by clicking on them. The method given for this particular curry has a lot in common with a modern Biriani- with the rice being cooked in with the sauce, not served separately. But the most interesting point to note is the very few spices used in Mrs Glasse’s recipe. She uses only pepper and coriander seeds which have been toasted.
By the time Martha Lloyd complied her collection of household remedies and food recipes in her Household Book things had moved on a little. Martha Lloyd was, of course, Jane Austen’s great friend and one of the cluster of ladies who lived together with her at Chawton Cottage from 1809 onwards. This is a picture of her as an older woman and as Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother’s second wife:
Her book dates from the late 18th to the early nineteenth century, and is now in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where I took this photograph of it, last year:
Her recipe for curry is a far more complex item than Mrs Glasse’s version, and is called A Receipt to Curry after the Indian Manner:
Cut two chickens as for fricasseeing, wash them clean and put them in a stew pan with as much water as will cover them, with a large spoonful of salt sprinkle them and let them boil till under covered close all the time, skim them well; when boiled enough take up the Chickens and put the liquor of them in a pan, then out half a pound of fresh butter in the pan and brown it a little, put into it two cloves of garlic and a large onion sliced and let these all fry till brown often shaking the pan, then put in Chickens and sprinkle over two or three spoonfuls of curry power, then cover them close and let the chickens do till brown frequently shaking the Pan, then put in the Liquor the Chickens were boiled in and let all stew till tender. If acid is agreeable squeeze the juice of a Lemon or Orange into it.
The curry powder she refers to was most probably not a proprietary brand which could be brought in the shops, though Alan Davidson the food historian in his Oxford Companion to Food thought that:
Commercial mixtures had been available to cooks in Britain from late in the 18th century but seems not to have been a common article of commerce until later.
Certainly it is true that in the 1796 edition of Hannah Glasse’s book, the recipe for curry required curry powder to be added to it. But this does not mean that a commercially produced powder was always used, because recipes for curry powder exist in cookery compilations of the era. In Martha’s case she was most probably referring to another recipe in her book. Her recipe for curry powder appears to have originated from her aunt, Mrs Jane Fowle. Mrs Fowle was not only Martha’s aunt but was also the mother of Thomas Fowle, who had been engaged to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister. Sadly, he died in 1797 before they could marry, of yellow fever, while accompanying his kinsman, Lord Craven, on service in the West Indies.
Her recipe for Curry Powder, or as she terms it, Curee Powder, is as follows:
Take of Termeric (sic) Root and Galangal Root each half an oz. Best Cayenne Pepper a quarter of an oz. Let the Termeric and Galangal be reduced to a fine powered separately, then mix them with the other articles and keep for use. N.B. two oz of Rice powdered tone mixed also with the other ingredients.
Galangal root is a member of the ginger family, and it is fascinating to note that this exotic ingredient was available to purchase to these ladies living in the early 19th century. The roots of turmeric and galangal were most probably not bought fresh, as they can be today, but were more likely to have been bought already roasted and dried so that powering them could take place in a pestle and mortar.
An authentic curry powder originating from southern India was most likely to have included the following: coriander cumin and mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and the possible additions of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and chickpeas, all roasted and then ground to a powder. So you can see, by comparing the two , that the British attempts at curries in the early parts of the 19th century, were rather tame things. My family are curry aficionados and I have attempted to recreate Martha’s recipe. Using my own version of Mrs Fowle’s curry powder it produces a very nice, sweet tasting dish, but it is not very authentic, in my family’s rather strongly given opinion.
However, it is fascinating to me that as early as the late 18th century Jane Austen and the members of her family circles were eating such an exotic dish,and approved it so much that they took the trouble to write it down and most probably enjoyed it in the dining room at Chawton Cottage, seen below in one of my terribly short videos.
Next, where Colonel Brandon could have gone to eat a more authentic version than the one his cook at Delaford might have tired to recreate for him.
“And here is my sweet little Annamaria,” she added, tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise for the last two minutes; “And she is always so gentle and quiet — Never was there such a quiet little thing!”
But unfortunately, in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship’s head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be outdone by any creature professedly noisy. The mother’s consternation was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, and everything was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer. She was seated in her mother’s lap, covered with kisses, her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar-plums by the other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress, last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected. She was carried out of the room therefore in her mother’s arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the room had not known for many hours.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 21
Ah, Lady Middleton. The cold, manipulative, too doting mother of spoilt, awful children. Creating these characters gave Jane Austen free rein to be scathing about both spoilt children and their appallingly self-centered mother. Adding, no doubt, fuel to the fire to some of the claims that Jane Austen “hated children”. Not at all, the evidence from her other novels and from her letters show JAne Austen to have been very keen on and kind to well-behaved,well brought up children and their mammas. I think this passage illustrates that she simply detested spoilt brats and their oblivious parents.
In this passage the Miss Steeles- Nan and Lucy- the sycophantic fools, are immediately on hand to pander to Lady Middleton’s poor, little, desperately wounded but calculating child. They proffer sugar plums( more on that subject next week) and bathe her “would” with lavender water.
From Roman times lavender water has been recognised as something good with which to bathe wounds, as it has a naturally antiseptic effect. In Jane Austen’s era you could, if you had access to lavender plants,or essence of lavender, make your own lavender water, by following some of the many recipes for it in the cookery books and advice books of the day.
Mrs Rafffald in her recipe book A New System of Domestic Cookery, (below is the title page of my 1819 copy of her book)
gave the more traditional, complicated manner of making lavender water, by using a still to extract the essence of lavender:
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book which is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, contains a recipe for making lavender water. In A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes written by Peggy Hickman, published in 1977, the following recipe appears:
To one quart of the best rectified spirits of wine put 3/4 oz of essence of lavender and 1/2 scruple of ambergris; shake it together and it is fit for use in a few days
As you can see, Martha’s recipe is very similar to the simple method described in Mrs Rundell’s book, above. Martha was, of course, their life long friend and she lived with the Austen ladies in their Chawton home.
There was an alternative to making your own lavender water, of course, You could buy a proprietary brand.The brand that Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra seem to have preferred was Mr Steele’s Lavender Water. In her letter to Cassandra dated 14th January 1801 she commissions her, on behalf of Martha Lloyd, to purchase some of Mr Steele’s lavender water when she next visits london:
Martha left you her best love. She will write to you herself in a short time; but, trusting to my memory rather than her own, she has nevertheless desired me to ask you to purchase for her two bottles of Steele’s lavender water when you are in town, provided you should go to the shop on your own account, otherwise you may be sure that she would not have you recollect the request.
Mr Steele had his shop and lavender water producing workshop at 15 Catherine Street, London just off the Strand, near Somerset House. The approximate position of the shop is shown in these two sections taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)
The approximate position of the shop is shown by the red arrow on both the sections:
Mr Steel also had a small house and a lavender nursery at Feltham near Hounslow Heath on the outskirts of London, approximately six miles from the city. You can see the red arrow marking the position of Hounslow on the section of John Cary’s map of the Environs of London (1812) below:
He was also in business with his brother-in-law, one Mr Alley, who distilled the lavender into lavender water at the Catherine Street premises. And now prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful…Mr Steele met with an untimely end. He was murdered in 1802 while he was on Hounslow Heath. His murderer, John Holloway was eventually found guilty of the murder in 1807. If you go here to the magnificent Old Bailey On line website, you can read a full account of the trial. It is absolutely fascinating, and for me raises many, many questions. I thought, however, that you might like to read Mr Steels sad tale, which is a reminder that Jane Austen’s era was not all lavender water and lace, and that for some unfortunate souls, violence was not far from the surface ;)
Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly, has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.
The current exhibit is of some of his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.
The first is a superb Banyan:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Here is a close-up of the collar:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.
An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric, is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams. This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.
This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It is made from fine linen:
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches, in a slightly dated manner
The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36 Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall, where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where
Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.
Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.
This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake
©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden
The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.
The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.
Today I have a rare treat for you- a close look at a nearly forgotten ladies accomplishment: paper filigree work.
Poor Elinor Dashwood: in order to learn more of Lucy Steele’s entanglement with Edward Ferrars, she has to volunteer to join her in making a filigree basket for Annamaria Middleton, whom Jane Austen describes as a spoilt child:
“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23
Playing cards with the cold Lady Middleton or having heartrending talks with spiteful, scheming Lucy? Not much of a choice is it?
Rolledpaper work, filigree work, or as it is now known, quilling, was a popular pastime for accomplished young ladies in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. The first known forms of this type of decoration, which is made by decorating items with many, many rolled and pinched or crimped pieces of paper, set in pleasing patterns, date from the 15th and 16th centuries.Predominantly using gold and silver covered paper, filigree work was then used to decorate items with religious significance- pictures of saints etc.- however, shortly after the Reformation in England,when “idolatrous” objects were discouraged, the practice died out. In the mid 17th century the art was revised in England ,and was often used in conjunction with stump work embroidery to decorate mirrors and caskets. In the 18th century it became a popular pastime for young ladies. Most were content to work on small pieces, as in Annamaria’s basket, and pieces like this tea caddy dating from about 1800, below:
You can see that the patterns formed by the rolled pieces of paper give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.
Some ladies were more accomplished than others, and were more ambitious too. Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of George III,was known to have ordered and received a cabinet especially constructed so that she could cover it with filigree work. It was described as a box made for filigree work with ebony mouldings, lock and key and also a tea caddy to correspond…
A cabinet of this type of work still exists and that is what I would like to show to you now. It appeared on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt Programme on Wednesday 2nd November, and was chosen by the programme’s presenter,Tim Wonnacott formerly of Sothebys ,as the object he most coveted in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Cheshire.
Here is Tim, standing next to the cabinet, which dates from the last years of the 18th century:
It has a stand, and is 4 feet 10 inches tall, 2 feet wide and 1 foot 5 inches deep.
The exterior is decorated with prints, filigree work and freshwater pearls:
The prints have been coloured, then applied to the cabinet and then finally varnished to give the appearance of oil paintings. In the image above you can see that the side panels are decorated as well as the doors.
If you take a close look at the decoration on the doors, you can see the tightly rolled pieces of paper…
which have been affixed to the surface of the cabinet. Note that the pattern comes not only from the way the pieces have been rolled but also from the use of papers of different colours.
The doors are also decorated with strings of freshwater pearls…
which are set in the form of swags. They help “display” the varnished prints in a decorative manner…
..so that the pictures hang pendant from the swags:
The sides are decorated in a stunning pink pattern: butterflies dance among the whirls of paper
The programme showed us something that is not normally seen- the interior of the cabinet:
The interior is stunning. The colours are almost as they were when it was made 200 years ago, because, of course, they have been protected from attacks of the sun and dirt. The reverses of the doors were not shown to us in detail but I can tell you that they are lined with painted satin bordered with glass jewels.
The centre panel of the cabinet again contains a varnished print, but this time it is set around with cut steel pieces-a very fashionable material at the time for buckles and jewellery, for despite its dull sounding name , it actually sparkles like cut stones.
This would have glittered and shone in the candlelight of a late 18th century sitting room, such a wonderful effect.
The interior of the cabinet is furnished with many small drawers, all decorated with filigree work:
You can see them in these two illustrations:
Here are some close-ups of the filigree work patterns on the drawers:
…here you can see a pattern of pink leafage set amongst a ground of aqua coloured paper rolls
Another leafage pattern this time in pale green, plus a star pattern..or is it a flower?
Another complex star/flower pattern with green leafage
These patterns were not necessarily the brainchild of the woman working them. Patterns could be purchased and some were printed in women’s magazine of the time. This one, below, shows very similar leafage and flower designs to the ones used on the cabinet:
This was first published in The New Ladies’ Magazine for 1786. In the same magazine there was an advertisement for the finest filigree work which could be seen at the first shop in Mount Street by Berkeley Square.
A statement in the same magazine promoted the craft, noting that paper filigree work was thought eminently suitable for the “female mind”:
The art affords an amusement to the female mind, capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety ; it may be readily acquired and pursued at a very trifling expense.
Perfect for Lucy Steele then, a woman with a certain amount of native cunning but no great intellectual gifts. I wonder if Jane Austen’s ire had been raised by reading such pronouncements, and that is why she gave such an occupation to Lucy…it is entirely possible, don’t you think?
However that may be, I think the cabinet on show here displays staggering levels of expertise. I can agree with Tim Wonnacott that I’d love it in my own home.
My goodness…another year has come and gone. Not only is this the day on which, 200 years ago, Sense and Sensibility was reputedly first published, but it is also the second anniversary of this site.
It has been fun year, I do hope you will agree. So many more of you have visited: in fact over twice as many as came here in the first year, and I’ve really loved meeting you all. The most popular posts this year have been a varied bunch. In the year of another, very different Royal Wedding, my post on Princess Charlotte’s Wedding was, and is still, popular; The Premiere of Mansfield Park:The Opera at Boughton House has attracted many many thousands of visitors, The Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Royal Pavillion series is still proving very popular, and, appropriately enough in this anniversary year, Hugh Thomson’s Illustrations for Sense and Sensibility have been among the posts that have generated most traffic.
My sincere thanks, as ever, are due to some lovely individuals who have encouraged and supported me in my endeavours this past year.. For all their kind words, I would like to extend my thanks to Katherine Cahill, Amanda Vickery, Louise West, Ronald Dunning, Karen Robarge, Jane Odiwe and Farah-Naz for all their encouragement and support. They do say that the second year of writing articles on a website is the hardest. I must admit that this year I’ve found that I have had too much to write about, and some articles are being held over till next year in the schedule! Thank you for al your patience!
I should also like thank all of you who come and visit, and an especially warm thank you to all of you who take the trouble to comment. And now a confession. Prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful. I am appallingly bad at commenting on other websites. I mean to do it. Really, I do. Then my mind goes blank and I’m convinced others have already said what I’m proposing to say,or that what I’m going to say sounds banal. I never think this of the comments made here: obviously you are all far more erudite than I ;) But as part of today’s celebration I’m going to encourage you to comment to this anniversary post. In two weeks time I will pick, by random number generator related to the number of your comment in the list, one of the authors of a comment to be the recipient of the following gifts:
A Sense and Sensibility celebratory calico bag from the Jane Austen’s House Museum, bought during my visit to them this week:
A set of four cards, depicting scenes from Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility designed by the Scribes of Winchester Cathedral, where, of course, Jane Austen is buried:
A pack of cards printed with a design of a silhouette of Mr and Mrs Austen walking along the lane to church at Steventon, with all their children(save for poor George) in tow. These are only available to buy at St Nicholas’ Church, Steventon, where Jane Austen was baptised and worshipped, and where her father and brother, James, were rectors:
Because so many of you enjoyed the recent post I wrote about them and their designer, I’ve included a mint presentation pack of the 1975 Jane Austen commemorative stamps issued by the GPO:
The newly released Entertaining Miss Austen CD, which I will write about this forthcoming week:
A set of postcards produced by the National Portrait Gallery in London on conjunction with The First Actresses Exhibition (includes images of Mary Robinson and Sarah Siddons as well as Nell Gwynn!)
A copy of The Pocket Posh Jane Austen Quiz Book…a small pocket- sized book of amusing Jane Austen related puzzles( A perfect stocking filler!)
A set of twenty postcard of my copies of Hugh Thomson and C.E. Brock’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility
There are two of each image in the set plus envelopes…
They also include this image by Ackermann, again from my collection, of Pynes, the house in Devon thought to be the inspiration for Barton Park:
And finally, because it wouldn’t be an Austenonly Giveaway without one, an early 19th century bone gaming fish as used by Lydia Bennet:
I ought to stress that this Giveaway is open to everyone, wherever in the world you are. If you take the trouble to comment,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 13th November.(Note I will not be replying to the comments in order to make the draw that much simpler!)
And so… on to year three! I have some rather special Jane Austen related news, to be released around the time of the anniversary of her birthday on 16th December, and I hope it will prove to be very interesting to you all. I do hope you will continue to visit here , as it wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t!
Don’t forget to leave a comment, and Good Luck!
If you are lucky enough to be in the Lakes this half term week, you have the opportunity to see an exhibition of some of the most interesting costumes from recent costume drama films.The Reghed Centre near Penrith in Cumbria is hosting the Dressing the Stars exhibit, of award-winning British film costumes. Included in the exhibition are costumes worn by some Jane Austen related stars. On show will be Colin Firth’s uniform which he wore as George VI in The King’s Speech , and the wedding dress and wedding suit worn by Keria Knightley and Ralph Fines in The Duchess, in which they portrayed the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The most important news for us is that the wedding dress and uniform worn by Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet in Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility will also be on show, once again.
You will recall that I had the good luck to see these magnificent costumes last year at the Austen Attired exhibit of CostProp costumes from Austen adaptations at the National Trust’s magnificent Peckover House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
I confess was stunned by the exquisite workmanship in the very detailed costume worn by Kate Winslet, as Marianne Dashwood:
This was made all the more astounding as the costume appeared only fleetingly on the screen. The embroidery and straw-work on the coat was simply sublime and the imagery evoked by the use of straw had previously been undetected by me.
Alam Rickman’s regimentals, worn s he portrayed Colonel Brandon, were also lovely-and I really coveted his citrine fob…A full account of the exhibit, and a detailed look at these costumes (and many others from other adaptations!) can found here. The Dressing the Stars exhibition is in its last week of being open to the public: it ends on the 30th October, so I do hope that if you are in the area of the Reghed Centre you will take this opportunity to go and see these amazing costumes.
There are quite a few examples of talented female artists in Jane Austen’s novels. Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is portrayed as a girl who could both play instruments and execute good paintings and drawings:
The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained to be shewn. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy’s in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.
And in Sense and Sensiblity it is Elinor who is the artist. Marianne plays the piano with passion, but the more emotionally restrained Elinor paints. Her drawings decorate the walls of the sitting room at Barton Cottage, and she, very kindly given all the circumstances, painted some screens for her dreadful sister-in-law,Fanny, which were nastily dismissed by the equally foul Mrs Ferrars:
Before her removing from Norland, Elinor had painted a very pretty pair of screens for her sister-in-law, which being now just mounted and brought home, ornamented her present drawing room; and these screens, catching the eye of John Dashwood on his following the other gentlemen into the room, were officiously handed by him to Colonel Brandon for his admiration.
“These are done by my eldest sister,” said he; “and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well.”
The Colonel, though disclaiming all pretensions to connoisseurship, warmly admired the screens, as he would have done anything painted by Miss Dashwood; and the curiosity of the others being of course excited, they were handed round for general inspection. Mrs. Ferrars, not aware of their being Elinor’s work, particularly requested to look at them; and after they had received the gratifying testimony of Lady Middleton’s approbation, Fanny presented them to her mother, considerately informing her at the same time, that they were done by Miss Dashwood.
“Hum” — said Mrs. Ferrars — “very pretty,” — and without regarding them at all, returned them to her daughter.
So…the question naturally arises, what might these painting, by these accomplished ladies, have looked like? We have some examples that have survived from the early 19th century before us to examine. First, Diana Spurling’s quirky watercolours of life with her family in Regency Essex, as collected in the book, Mrs Hurst Dancing. Here we see her mother, Mrs Spurling and her accomplice , the maid, murdering flies:
And we have the evidence of a talented child’s efforts in the book, A Picture History of the Grenville Family of Rosedale House, which contains the work of Mary Yelloly. She documented the lives of the members of her fictional family, the Grenvilles. Mary painted these interesting watercolours from the age of eight to 11 years. Astonishing.
But there were more technically gifted examples, and I do like to think that both Elinor and Georgiana were artists of the more professionally accomplished kind. Certainly Georgiana would have and the opportunity of being instructed by the best masters while living in Town. her brother would no doubt have seen to that. And possibly this would have been the situation with Elinor, until the Dashwood’s wealthy life style ended with the death of their father. Some examples of the best possible watercolours executed by accomplished ladies is currently on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is a small but exquisite display of botanical watercolours by Pierre-Joseph Redoute and his pupils, the kind of small but perfectly formed event that Fitzwilliam excels at producing on a regular basis.
Redoute is of course well-known for his watercolours of roses and lilies, commissioned by the Empress Josephine, and it is interesting to note that he was also patronised by Queen Marie Antoinette prior to the Revolution. His works have become almost ubiquitous, and his Rosa Mundi rose, seen below, has been used on countless greetings cards and framed on many a bed and breakfast/hotel wall. As a result it is very easy to no longer “see” them as the exquisite works of art they are. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt.
However , the opportunity to rediscover these paintings by Redoute redresses this jaded view: his works on display in this exhibit are simply breath-taking. The skill on display is astounding. But I was most intrigued to discover that, in addition to producing such beautiful watercolours, he also ran a school of painting in Paris. In 1822 he became Paintre du Roi, and began teaching members of the d’Orleans family as well as other students from Paris and from overseas. His school was based in the sale de Buffon in the Jardin des Plantes, and you can see him teaching, standing in the centre of the illustration below:
Note the overwhelming number of women students…Some were members of the Royal family or were aristocrats. This watercolour of a bunch of summer flowers is an example of the work of Eugenie-Adelaide-Louise d’Orleans, the sister of King Louis-Phillipe:
But some students were more ordinary souls. This delicate watercolour of camellias was executed by one Sarah Bray:
Sarah was an Englishwoman. Born in Sunderland she exhibited watercolors of flowers at the Royal Academy in 1821, but by 1835 she was the headmistress of a boarding school at Chaillot where she died in 1842.
If you can get to this exhibit, which closes on October 30th, then do. Entrance to it and the rest of the museum is free. A small but exquisite catalogue of the exhibits, with fascinating biographical details of the artists is available from the museum’s shop. I would have happily paid to see these rare and exquisite examples of the work of amateur men and more importantly, women from nearly all classes who were painting, like Elinor Dashwood and Georgiana Darcy, in the early 19th century. It was a rare opportunity to discover exactly what sort of work they may have been capable of producing.
As this 200th anniversary year of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility draws to a close my conscience has got the better of me and I thought I ought offer to you some more detailed articles about points of the novel that interest me, for as you know this is my least favourite of all the novels and I do tend to drag my feet about it all. I apologise.
Today, I thought we might take a look at the discussion between Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood in Chapter 18, and discuss what it reveals about them and their creator’s views on blasted trees and other things Picturesque….
In Chapter 18 of Sense and Sensibility,we are given an acute illustration of Marianne Dashwood and Edward Ferrars differing personalities by their reaction to the landscape around them. Jane Austen was said to be an admirer of William Gilpin and his writings on the “picturesque”, which I have written about before in this post here. In Chapter 18 we get something of her views, I think, on both Gilpin, his followers and on beauty in landscape.
Edward Ferrers, professional, practical and not at all romantic especially in Marianne’s use of the word, professes to see the landscape in practical terms only and almost chides Marianne for her far more poetic approach:
Edward returned to them with fresh admiration of the surrounding country; in his walk to the village, he had seen many parts of the valley to advantage; and the village itself, in a much higher situation than the cottage, afforded a general view of the whole, which had exceedingly pleased him. This was a subject which ensured Marianne’s attention, and she was beginning to describe her own admiration of these scenes, and to question him more minutely on the objects that had particularly struck him, when Edward interrupted her by saying, “You must not inquire too far, Marianne — remember, I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of taste, if we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold! surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere. You must be satisfied with such admiration as I can honestly give. I call it a very fine country — the hills are steep, the woods seem full of fine timber, and the valley looks comfortable and snug — with rich meadows and several neat farm houses scattered here and there. It exactly answers my idea of a fine country, because it unites beauty with utility — and I dare say it is a picturesque one too, because you admire it; I can easily believe it to be full of rocks and promontories, grey moss and brush wood, but these are all lost on me. I know nothing of the picturesque.”
Interestingly, while Elinor Dashwood gently berates Edward for his boast of knowing nothing of the picturesque ( which in fact is not quite true, for in the speech in the quoted paragraph from Chapter 18, above, Edward demonstrates very clearly that he is perfectly aware of the language used by admirers of William Gilpin’s books: rather than knowing nothing about the picturesque, he seems to have read all about it ,thought about it and then rejected its tenets). Marianne, while despairing of Edward’s view, takes agin those who, unlike her, know nothing of real beauty in the landscape, but merely parrot Gilpin’s jargon, without thinking for themselves about the merits of their surroundings:
“It is very true,” said Marianne, “that admiration of landscape scenery is become a mere jargon. Everybody pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind, and sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense and meaning.”
In the end the debate between them is really about the poetic versus the practical:
“I am convinced,” said Edward, “that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower — and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”
William Gilpin wrote a book specifically about the beauty( or lack of it) to be found in trees, and it is very probable from the language used in this passage to suppose that Jane Austen read it and was referring to it here. In his Remarks on Forest Scenery , first published in 1791, he set out his principles of the picturesque as applied to the trees, hedges, copses and forests he knew. He did, of course, live for a long time in the New Forest in Hampshire and was basing his writings on years of observations. Born in the north, in the Lakes , an area then devoid of the plantations since made by individuals such as Thomas Storey and organisations such as the Forestry Commission, he moved south to Cheam in Surrey and then in 1777 Gilpin left Cheam to become vicar of Boldre in the New Forest in Hampshire. As he explains in the preface to his book:
The subject( of forest scenery-jfw) was new to me. I had been much among lakes and mountains; but I had never lived in a forest. I know little of it’s scenery. Every thing caught my attention; and as I generally had a memorandum book in my hand I made minutes of what I observed; throwing my remarks under the two heads of forest scenery in general and the scenery of particular places. Thus as small things led to greater, an evening walk or ride became to foundations of a volume…
So exactly what, for Gilpin, constituted a picturesque tree? He absolutely hated any manner of interference by man in the shaping of trees: for him only natural forms could be truly picturesque :
All forms that are unnatural displease.A tree lopped into a may pole, as you generally see in the hedgerows of Surry (sic) and some other countries is disgusting. Clipped yews,lime hedges and pollards for the same reason are disagreeable: and yet I have sometimes seen a pollard produce a good effect, when nature has been suffered for some years to bring it again into form; but I never saw a good effect produced by a pollard on which some single stem was left to grow into a tree. The stem is of a different growth: it is disproportioned;and always unites awkwardly with the trunk…
Above is the illustration of A Pollard on which a single stem has been left to grow into a tree.
He considered that a picturesque tree was one that possessed the following characteristics:
Lightness also is a characteristic of beauty in a tree : for though there are beautiful trees of a heavy as well as of a light form; yet their extremity must in some parts be separated and hang with a degree of looseness from the fulness of the foliage which occupies the middle of the tree, or the whole will only be a large bush…
A tree also had to be well balanced:
It may have form and it may have lightness ; and yet lose all its effect, by wanting a proper poise. The bole must appear to support the branches.We do not wish to see it supporting its burden with the perpendicular formless of a column. An easy sweep is always agreeable; but at the same time it should not be such a sweep as discovers one side plainly overbalanced
This is the illustration of an unbalanced tree bending over a road
To sum up:
Without these requisites therefore form,lightness and a proper glance no tree can have that species of beauty which we call picturesque.
However, Gilpin considered that trees growing wild often had “defects” caused by wind and weather and these “injuries” added to their beauty:
What is more beautiful for instance on a rugged foreground, than an old tree with a hollow trunk ? Or with a dead arm, a drooping bough or a dying branch? All which phrases I apprehend are nearly synonymous…
He was especially approving of the blasted tree (a phrase used by Edward Ferrars, note):
The blasted tree has often a fine effect both in natural and in artificial landscape. When the dreary heath is spread before the eye and ideas of wildness and desolation are required what more suitable accompaniment can be imagined than the blasted oak, ragged, scathed and leafless: shooting its peeled white branches athwart the gathering blackness of some rising storm?
It is interesting that in the debate with Edward, Marianne talks of Gilpin in these terms:
Everybody pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was.
She is clearly an admirer. It is those who pretend to understand him she despises. But did Jane Austen agree with her?I think she may have been poking fun at her creation, who at this point in the novel is unable to appreciate any other view than her own on almost any topic. On loving only once, on preferring the beauty of a blasted tree as opposed to a well-grown straight and productive piece of timber that would be worth money. Jane Austen was clearly a practical woman, who took great interest in the running of her brother Edward’s estate at Chawton. She, like Edward Ferrers, knew the value of well grown timber. I think she could poke fun not only at Gilpin but at his followers, who like Marianne, thought that only they knew true picturesque beauty when they saw it ,as opposed to other, less perceptive souls who while they thought they were following Gilpin’s dictates, were merely spouting jargon.
Despite having been described by her brother Henry in his Biographical Notice of her as being “enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque” and as seldom changing her opinions either on books or men, I think her admiration of Gilpin was not particularly slavish. I often wonder if Jane Austen’s admiration was tongue in cheek. I cannot but see her reacting against his rather overblown sentiments and forcefully stated opinions. Like Marianne he is quite dogmatic and really does not allow for differing opinions. Luckily for Marianne, her harsh life experiences mean that she eventually becomes more reasonable. We know that she changes her mind with regard to the important matter of second attachments, and I wonder if this maturing affected her view on the value of straight, productive trees ;)
Yesterdays episode of the BBC2 programme, The Antiques Road Trip, a spin-off from the BBC1 programme, Bargain Hunt, was partly filmed in Chawton,
and featured Jane Austen’s House Museum.
I thought you might like to see some images from it.
The programme is a gentle jaunt about the country in the company of two auctioneers/experts who buy and sell antiques on the way, all the profits to benefit charity. The programme makes stops at various spots of interest along the road trip route, and in episode 15 of the third series, Paul Laidlaw took the opportunity to pay a visit to the Jane Austen House Museum.
He was greeted at the door by Louise West, the museum’s curator…
and was taken to see the dining room…
where the tiny but very important table where Jane Austen sat, revised and wrote all six of her finished novels
was admired and wondered about.
He also visited the new study area in the museum- which used to house its tiny shop ( now in a much larger and better situation in the restored barn! ) where a first edition copy of Sense and Sensibility– appropriately enough in this its anniversary year- was on show.
If you can try and watch the programme on the BBC Iplayer- it is available for another six days and the Jane Austen House part of the programme is approximately 25 minutes into the programme. Paul Laidlaw was obviously quite taken with the museum and asked some interesting questions. Its well worth a look .
will be sold at Christies in New York in December as part of the sale of Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery and effects.
Why may Jane Austen have admired it? Because it is made of 18th and early to mid 19th century ivory theatre tokens.( Well, in truth she may not have admired it at all, but it gives me an opportunity to talk about theatre tokens with you, and you do remember how much I love the theatre of this period!)
Theatre tokens were used instead of paper tickets: paper was expensive and so permanent tickets in the form of these tokens were the preferred way of keeping track of the paying customers. They paid for their ticket, or token, and then surrendered them to the doorkeeper on the day of the performance. Above is a drawing of some metal tokens for the gallery at Drury Lane Theatre in London issued in 1790. It was, of course in the Lobby at Drury Lane where Sir John Middleton harangued Willoughby for his treatment of Marianne Dashwood in Chapter 44 of Sense and Sensibility :
“Last night, in Drury-lane lobby, I ran against Sir John Middleton, and when he saw who I was (for the first time these two months) he spoke to me. That he had cut me ever since my marriage, I had seen without surprise or resentment. Now, however, his good-natured, honest, stupid soul, full of indignation against me, and concern for your sister, could not resist the temptation of telling me what he knew ought to though probably he did not think it would , vex me horridly. As bluntly as he could speak it, therefore, he told me that Marianne Dashwood was dying of a putrid fever at Cleveland — a letter that morning received from Mrs. Jennings declared her danger most imminent — the Palmers all gone off in a fright, etc. I was too much shocked to be able to pass myself off as insensible, even to the undiscerning Sir John. His heart was softened in seeing mine suffer; and so much of his ill-will was done away, that when we parted, he almost shook me by the hand while he reminded me of an old promise about a pointer puppy…
I’m sure Sir John would have and a token such as these, though no doubt his would have been for a box, and would most probably have been ivory likes the ones in the necklace. Base metal was used for the lesser value seats, while those in the boxes or more expensive seats would have had tokens made from ivory. If you go here you can see the type of ivory token used for admission to the stalls at Drury Lane , now in the collection of the British Museum.
This photograph shows the reverse of the tokens. The necklace was first owned by the magnificent Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head. Elizabeth Taylor knew her from the time they both worked at MGM studios, and they had a very close and friendly relationship. apparently Dame Elizabeth was very taken with the necklace and Edith Head promised to leave it to her in her will. And she did.
It will be sold along with other items from Dame Elizabeth’s jewellery collection in New York on the 13th and 14th December to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. I’d love to buy it but I think that the sale estimate of $2,000 is going to be exceeded many times over. Owning the catalogues are my consolation!
It now forms part
Today we reach the end of our marathon series of posts, reading through Sense and Sensibility while studying Hugh Thomson’s interesting illustrations for the novel, which was first published by Macmillan in 1904. Do remember all the illustrations here can be enlarged, in order that you can examine the detail, simply by clicking on them.
For today’s final tranche of illustrations Mr Thomson is forced to confront some of the most dramatic moments in the novel. During thisseries, we have discerned that he is more at ease with those incidents in the novel that require a lighter touch, and that he much seems to prefer to illustrate the amusing incident in the book. But this week he has no option but to concentrate on the results of the abrupt ending ofMarianne and Willoughby’s affair, and with the unexpected climax to the novel with Willoughby’s sudden appearance at Cleveland, after hearing that Marianne was desperately ill.
Our first illustration shows Elinor discovering that someone had suddenly arrived at the house, quite late,on a dark and stormy night, in Chapter 43:
The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been convinced that at that moment she heard a carriage driving up to the house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did , in spite of the almostimpossibility of their being already come, that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window-shutter, to be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.
This illustration seems to have been more laboured than others.The figure of Elinor does not look as accomplished as other versions of her we have seen executed by Thomson. It is of course, Willoughby, who begs an audience with Elinor:
Elinor, starting back with a look of horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room, and her hand was already on the lock, when its action was suspended by his hastily advancing, and saying, in a voice rather of command than supplication —
“Miss Dashwood, for half an hour — for ten minutes — I entreat you to stay.”
The illustrations now come think and fast…during Willoughby’s explanation to Elinor of his behaviour to Marianne ,and the consequences for him of displeasing Mrs Smith when she discovered he had seduced and impregnated Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza. Thompson gives us a view of Mrs Smith’s dismissal of the cad, upon his refusal to marry the girl:
“She taxed me with the offence, at once, and my confusion may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality of her notions, her ignorance of the world — everything was against me. The matter itself I could not deny, and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my conduct in general, and was moreover discontented with the very little attention, the very little portion of my time that I had bestowed on her, in my present visit. In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I might have saved myself. In the height of her morality, good woman! she offered to forgive the past if I would marry Eliza. That could not be — and I was formally dismissed from her favour and her house.
We also see him in Mayfair, explaining how calculated he had to be in order to avoid a meeting with Mrs Jennings and the Dashwood sisters by dashing into any nearby shop:
You would be surprised to hear how often I watched you, how often I was on the point of falling in with you. I have entered many a shop to avoid your sight, as the carriage drove by. Lodging as I did in Bond Street, there was hardly a day in which I did not catch a glimpse of one or other of you; and nothing but the most constant watchfulness on my side, a most invariably prevailing desire to keep out of your sight, could have separated us so long.
So, here we have Thomson finally confronting drama: Willoughby looks very soft, and not as agitated as his speech to Elinor would suggest. I do however like the desperate stance and expression on his face as he darts into Bond Street shops to avoid a face to face meeting with Marrianne….and the contrast with his smart London clothes as opposed to his country garb.
The dramatic climax of the story over,Thomson turns to happier subjects: Marianne’s plan for restoring her health and peace of mind , back at Barton:
“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton Cross, and theAbbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading, at the Park; and there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours aday, I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want.”
But not all the drama is completely over. We have the awful moment to come when the Dashwood ladies suppose that Edward Ferrars has finally married Lucy Steele, all due to them misunderstanding and misinterpreting their manservant’s news:
Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as to the event of his errand, this was his voluntary communication —
“I suppose you know ma’am, that Mr. Ferrars is married.”
Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servant’s inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.
The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood’sassistance, supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself: and Elinor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.
Mrs Dashwood looks genuinely distressed as she takes some food from the proffered dish, and of course, while this moment is tragic fromElinor’s point of view it also has tones of the darkly comic. I can quite comprehend why Thomson chose this incident.
However, luckily for Elinor and the reader’s sake, we soon see Edward Ferrars appear on the scene, on his rather lovely horse:
Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she should hear more; — and she trembled in expectation of it. But — it was not Colonel Brandon — neither his air — nor his height. Were it possible, she should say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted; — she could not be mistaken; — it was Edward. She moved away and sat down. “He comes from Mr. Pratt’s purposely to see us. I will be calm; I will be mistress of myself.”
Of course, it might be said that this is the least dramatic view of the incident: the confusion in the household and Elinor’s reaction would have been a more dramatic choice to illustrate.Instead we get Edward and his steed.
The final illustration in the book is from Chapter 50, and does not show the two newly married couples. No, instead Thompson chooses to show Elinor again being rather insulted by her odious step brother John Dashwood, who really and truly regrets not being able to call Colonel Brandon,”Brother” but only for purely materialistic considerations, and who wants her to orchestrate an alliance between Marianne and the poor man:
“I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister,” said John, as they were walking together one morning before the gates of DelafordHouse — “that would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, everything in such respectable and excellent condition! and his woods! I have not seen such timber any where in Dorsetshire, as there is now standing inDelaford Hanger! And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him, yet I think it would altogether beadviseable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen — for, when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else — and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth; in short, you may as well give her a chance — You understand me.”
John’s wish is eventually granted:
With such a confederacy against her — with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness — with a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after it was observable to everybody else, burst on her — what could she do?
And so we end our series on Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for this fascinating novel.
I do hope you have enjoyed looking at the intricacies of his work. Next, some posts on Joan Hassell who illustrated the Folio Society’s editions of Jane Austen’s works.
This week the BBC has been repeating the 2002 documentary, The Real Jane Austen on BBC4, presumably as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of both the Regency and the publication of Sense and Sensibility.
This is a very engaging programme, an hour long, presented by the actress, Anna Chancellor. Ms. Chancellor is not only famed for her wonderfully catty performance as Miss Bingley in the BBCs 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, but also for the fact that Jane Austen was her eight times great-aunt.
It was also filmed at The Rectory at Teigh, which was used as the location for Mr Collins’ rectory in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.
The Rectory, which I have visited and written about here and here, was used as the location for the Steventon Rectory, where Jane Austen was born and grew up. The original building has long since been demolished, and I think, if you consider the original, shown below, that the rectory at Teigh is a fair replacement.
The hall at Teigh, shown below with its beautiful plasterwork, was also used as the drawing-room at Manydown, the scene of Jane Austen’s engagement and swift dis-enagagment to Harris Bigg Wither.
It uses an interesting device: all the main character are portrayed by actors,and not only do they re-enact various scenes from Jane’s life but give face to face interviews to the camera. The cast is very well chosen: John Standing is a sympathetic and kind Reverend Austen. Phyllis Logan, a sensible and straightforward Mrs Austen. My favourite was Jack Davenport as the ever so slightly arrogant Henry Austen, so sure his mother and sisters needed very little financial support upon which to live after the death of Mr Austen. Yes, well…
I do wish this were available to buy on DVD: it would make perfect viewing for GCSE students wanting a short, snappy but accurate overview of Jane Austen’s life and times.
I remember viewing it in 2002 and liking it: my opinion has not changed after seeing it again on Tuesday evening. It is not available to view on the BBC iPlayer, but it will be broadcast again on Sunday 11th September at 7.10p.m. and very early on Monday morning, the 12th September, at 1.50a.m. Go here for all the details.