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Today, I thought I might take the opportunity to launch a new website, Jane Austen’s Letters. As many of you already know, I LOVE studying Jane Austen’s letters. They inform, amuse, intrigue and sometimes madden. Her tone is sometimes affectionate, bantering, downright cruel or sphinx-like and unfathomable.

I love to discover all I can about the people and the places she mentions in them and that was the idea behind the new website:  to add informative links to the letters so that they are easier to understand and enjoy.

The site will, in time, contain the text of all Jane Austen’s letters. Each letter will be annotated with links to the Jane Austen Gazetteer ( the Gazetteer will also have linked added to it, to each of the letters) and to posts on this site, explaining points or places mentioned in the letters.

It is, of course, a work in progress and only the first year of Jane Austen’s letters -1796- is covered at the moment, but eventually all the known letters will be accessible there.

I do hope you enjoy visiting the site, which will always be accessible from the left hand column of this site, and from A Jane Austen Gazetteer.

This week the following places have been added to A Jane Austen Gazetteer, Austenonly’s sister site. Do click on the links, below, to be taken to each place’s page, which contain contemporary maps, engravings, a contemporary description( if available) and a list of Jane Austen references to each place.

Ashe, Hampshire

Dean Gate Inn Hampshire

Ibthorp, Hampshire

Litchfield, Hampshire

Manydown, Hampshire

Overton,Hampshire

Staines, Middlesex

Dover, Kent

Harden, Oxfordshire

Cork, Ireland

The West Indies

Barbadoes

I know this may seem at first like it is a random choice of places but all will be revealed next week, and it will finally make sense, I promise! In the meantime do enjoy yourselves clicking away at all the links!

or so the saying goes…..

I am about to confess some recent antiquarian book purchases to you. In my defence, I will, of course, be sharing the contents of them with you in due course, so I’ve not been that extravagant. In truth I haven’t …I managed to purchase these books at quite amazing prices considering the contents. Of course some of them are not in very good condition,but as it is the content that I seek, I simply don’t care about aesthetics.

The first is a very good world gazetteer, Geography Illustrated on a Popular Plan for the Use of Schools and Young Persons by the Reverend J. Goldsmith

This is fabulously intact, still illustrated with many maps and engravings of places mentioned in the text.

Above is its view Kamskatchkan travellers. Kamskatchka was of course  a place with which Jane Austen was very and amusingly familiar, using it as she did in her Plan of  A Novel, as possibly the furthest place from England that she could imagine. She  wrote her furious and funny attack as a result partly of receiving “helpful” suggestions of plots for novels from  the Reverend Stanier Clarke etc etc

At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himself on the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against holders of Tithes.

A real find in a local second-hand bookshop was this set of five volumes of the Middlesex volumes of The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton (1800-1815).

Ex-Library copies, their bindings are not the best, but they contain the most detailed descriptions of the topography and history of  the counties of England. Middlesex is a  marvellous county to have , for it included London and most of its environs in Jane Austen’s era, and so there are detailed descriptions of most of the places in London that  Jane Austen knew and wrote about in these volumes. I’m enjoying dipping into them at the moment….

Amazingly, because they command reasonable prices on the print market, most of the engravings are intact in these volumes. Here is one of the Herald’s College.

And finally, the last volume to be added to the AustenOnly library is the Reverend Richard Warner’s book, Excursions from Bath (1801).

This is an immensely interesting book, delineating four  excursions from the city of Bath, with very detailed and idiosyncratic descriptions of the interesting places to be found en route. Each of the four exclusions is illustrated by a charmingly naive map: this is the route of the  first excursion:

It also has great significance for those of us interested in the contents of Jane Austen’s library, for she actually owned a copy of this book. David Gilson in his Bibliography of Jane Austen describes the copy now owned by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at the Jane Austen House Museum, which was annotated bythe Reverend Geroge Austen and was probably given by him to Jane.

I shall enjoy reading these books with you here  and I shall be posting about them from time to time over the next few months. Do join me, won’t you?

this is

(Frontispiece from Humphrey Repton’s Memoirs)

A treat for you all ( at least I hope it is accessible to all…..fingers crossed, but I am never quite sure of the vagaries of the workings /accessibility of the BBC iPlayer). Today on Radio 4 there was a delicious programme presented by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on Humphrey Repton and the English countryside.

With thoughtful comments by Stephen Daniels of Nottingham University ( author of THE most authoritative book on Repton) and Jenny Uglow, this is a great 15 minute programme giving an over view of Repton and his attitude towards the countryside and his clients. Here, below, is one of Repton’s illustrations showing the before and after views from his own cottage from his book Fragments on the Theory and Practise of Landscape Gardening(1816)

Jane Austen is referenced: mainly because she referenced Repton in Mansfield Park, having second hand experience of Repton and his ways after he was instructed by the Leighs at Adlestrop in Gloucestershire,

and at Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire,  below, which I visited again this summer.

Luckily, in my opinion, his excessive schemes for Stoneleigh were not all executed, see the scheme from the  Red Book Repton prepared for the Leighs, below-do note the Gilpinesque grouping of cattle in the foreground to the left of the watercolour….

…but we shall return soon to Repton, Stoneleigh Abbey and Adlestrop as I think its very interesting to see exactly how he altered both places.

In the meantime, here is the link to the programme and I do hope you enjoy it. You have 7 days left in which to listen again :)

Over the past week the following pages have been added to A Jane Austen Gazetteer, Austenony’s siser site (Do click on the links to visit the different pages):

Canterbury

Charles Street, London

Covent Garden, London

Cork Street, London

Cornwall

Dorsetshire

Essex

Falmouth

Greenwich

Hythe

Kintbury

Margate

Nackington

Newbury

The Temple, London

The Cape of Good Hope

The sharp-eyed amongst you will be sensing that these seemingly random names are, in fact, all related. Can you guess what unites them, yet? ( Ha!) Final trance of additions to be released next week….with the answer to the riddle, so do keep tuned.

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