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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just to interrupt our series on Jane Austen and her religion for a moment, it has just been brought to my attention that  the Blue John ornaments I wrote about in a previous post, Robbing Derbyshire of its Petrified Spars, made very interesting prices when they went up for auction this summer at Tennants salesrooms in Yorkshire.

Blue John is, as you will no doubt recall, a very beautiful mineral that was  found only in Castleton in Derbyshire, and examples of it or items made from it may have been one of the early nineteenth tourist trade items,  a  “petrified spar”,  that Elizabeth Bennet refers to in Chapter 42 of Pride and Prejudice:

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. “But surely,” said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.”

A Pair of Ormolu Mounted Blue John Obelisk Candelabra, 19th century, the mounts in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire ©Tennants

The first lot , a pair of Obelisk Candelabra achieved a hammer price of £11,000, which when all buyers premiums were paid, made a total selling price of £13,465.

The second lot, a pair of Blue John Urns….

A Pair of Ormolu Mounted Blue John Campana Shaped Pedestal Urns, 19th century, the mounts in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire ©Tennants

achieved a hammer price of £120,000, and the total price  when all tax and premiums were paid was £146,640. Phew……

According to Huon Mallalieu’s report in this week’s Country Life magazine, the auctioneer wished he had reversed the order in which the lots were sold for he considered that the Candelabra were the bargains of the sale. I can only  agree….

Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

It has been a pleasure to visit country houses this Diamond Jubilee Year, for most  I have visited have celebrated the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by creating displays of their own Coronation memorabilia. I visited Chatsworth some weeks ago for my annual treat, and yes, as expected, their displays were the best I saw this season. Chatsworth is, as you are no doubt aware, the Derbyshire home of the Duke of Devonshire, whose family name is Cavendish. And of course, Chatsworth is one of the places Elizabeth Bennet visited with the Gardiners  in Pride and Prejudice, and some would contend that it was the model for “Pemberley ( not me,however!) and so it holds a special interest for Janeites .

The West and South façades of the house have now been stunningly restored, and it was simply breathtaking to see it glinting- with all the newly re-gilded windows and stone ornaments on the roof- in the summer sunshine, and to enjoy the refreshing (and very welcome!) spray from the fountains.

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

In addition to having a display of the clothes worn by the 10th Duchess, the 11th Duke and Duchess and their son,who is now the 12th Duke, at the 1953 Coronation, Chatsworth also put on show the carriage that the 11th Duke  his Duchess and their heir used to travel to Westminster Abbey.  Their State Chariot, plus liveried footmencoachman and a phantom horse were on display, to great effect, in the wonderfully large Painted Hall. You might remember this room from the “Pemberley ” scenes in Joe Wright’s production of Pride and Prejudice of 2005, which I discussed some time ago, here.

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

This is the view of the Chariot display from the top of the stairs seen in the phonograph, above. It is testament to its great size that  having a carriage and “horse” set out in the Hall did not make it feel at all crowded.

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

As, quite unexpectedly, we seem to have been covering the theme of Jane Austen, Livery and Heraldry this year, I thought you might like to see photographs of this display, as they help to reinforce and explain various points that we have discussed before.

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

Though this Chariot may have been made slightly later than our period, (it came into the Cavendish family upon the marriage of the  8th Duke to the Duchess of Manchester in 1892) you can see, by comparing it to William Felton’s engraving of a Neat Town Chariot, below

"A Neat Town Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

“A Neat Town Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

and his engraving of an Elegant Chariot

An "Elegant Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

An “Elegant Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

that this version would have been very familiar to Jane Austen. The Devonshire State Chariot is, as we have now come to expect, decorated with many details which would make the identity of its owners easy for those “in the know” to recognise.

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

The door and side panels are decorated with the Cavendish coat of arms

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the Door of the Chariot

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the internal side  of the door of the Chariot

and with emblems associated with the family…

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

You can compare the painted example, above, to the example of the newly restored and painted stone version of the Cavendish Arms on the West Front of the House, below:

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The side panels of the Chariot were decorated with the Ducal coronet, with its strawberry leaves, and with the Order of the Garter (and its chain), the highest order of chivalry that can be awarded by the monarch in England and Wales. All the Dukes of Devonshire, with the exception of the current Duke, have been recipients of this very important Order .

The Cavendish Arms on the Side Panel ©Austenonly

Detail of the Side Panel: the Garter Badge and Chain ©Austenonly

Around the roof of the Chariot, silver versions of the Cavendish emblem, the coiled snake, can be seen…

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side Panels ©Austenonly

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side panels ©Austenonly

The Hammercloth, which you can see below, and which covers the coachman’s seat, is a  very extravagant affair and is made up in the colours to be found in  the Devonshire family’s coat of arms, that is, their heraldic colours. I must admit that I prefer these  to Sir Walter Elliot’s colour scheme:

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

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

Persuasion, Chapter 3

Here is William Felton’s  plate showing the different styles of Hammercloths from his Treatise on Carriages,etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton's Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton’s Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

As you can see, the Devonshire Hammercloth was also adorned with the Ducal coronet and with a version of the Cavendish arms,  in silver:

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The family’s heraldic colours were also used in the sumptuous interior decoration of the Chariot.

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

You can clearly see that the status of the family is reinforced at every point: the representations of their arms, emblems and heraldic colours advertise to the world exactly who  are its exalted and rich owners:

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The heraldic theme is even continued on the horse’s harness and reigns. Only one example was on show- on a ” horse” armature which reminded me of the animated horses in the National Theatre’s production of  War Horse!

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

Made of leather, the harness set is embellished with silver mounts, some which depict the Cavendish arms…

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

and some the Ducal Coronet:

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

You will recall that if a family were possessed of the right to bear arms, their servants-  the footmen and coachmen-, could, in Jane Austen’ era, wear uniforms made of colours dictated by the heraldic colours used in the family’s coat of arms:

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

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

Do note however, that these liveries were made, IMHO, at a later date than the mid 19th century, as the colour yellow- to represent gold( or more correctly, Or) was used, and that was not thought strictly correct at that time. The colour of the Coachman’s uniform of great-coat and tricorn hat,  was derived from the Cavendish family’s heraldic colours: the black hat decorated with silver thread, and his coat made to match the blue of the hammercloth

The Coachman's Uniform

The Coachman’s Uniform

The footmen’s livery again complied with the rules we have previously learnt: their bicorn hats were decorated with silver thread as were their jackets and waistcoats:

The Cavendish Footmen's Livery ©Austenonly

The Cavendish Footmen’s Livery ©Austenonly

The livery  jackets were yellow, but the cuffs, waistcoats and breeches were blue, again to comply with the rules regarding the use of heraldic colours . The silver buttons on the livery were also embossed with the Cavendish arms,not the crest:

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

(Cussans, as above, page 316)

You might care to note that, because he had admired them on visit to Chatsworth, the 11th Duchess sent a set of these 18th century silver livery buttons to President John F. Kennedy as his inauguration gift .

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

This rear view shows the step where the footmen stood while they travelled with the family, and also gives a good view of the detail of the back of their liveries. Here is a slightly closer view:

View of the Footmen's Livery

View of the Footmen’s Livery

This is, I hope you will agree, a wonderful example of the use of coaches and liveries to make a statement, according to the heraldic rules and regulations.

If you would like to see the clothes worn by the 11th Duke and Duchess ( and their son) at the Coronation, then do go here to my Pinterest Page on the Coronation of Elizabeth II. I won’t continue it here because it has precious little to do with Jane Austen, but you might like to know that the robe worn at the Coronation by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire was thought originally to have been a set worn by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and they are  quite breath-taking and very beautiful.

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

I shall be writing more about Chatsworth next year…in my celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice and I do hope you will join me.

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

In Chapter 42 of Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet finds that she is not to go north to The Lakes with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, but is to travel only as far  as Derbyshire and the Peak. She ruefully justifies her visiting Darcy’s home country thus:

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. “But surely,” said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.”

She was referring -by mixing two terms, petrified and spars– to the tourist trade in minerals and in petrified objects that  abounded in the area. Petrified objects- that is objects that have been “turned to stone”  by being hung in the path of the local water, and calcified as a result of calcium deposits collecting on the surface-were on sale in this part of Derbyshire during the 18th and 19th centuries for tourists to buy, together with  objects made from Derbyshire’s most famous and unique mineral, Blue John. Blue John  is a rare, semiprecious mineral found at only one location in the world, a hillside near Mam Tor, just outside Castleton, in the Derbyshire Peak District National Park. Here is a section of a map of Matlock and Buxton, taken from my copy of John Feltham’s Guide to All the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc (1805), which I have annotated for you.

Detail from the Map showing the area around Buxton and Matlock from John Feltham’s “Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc (1805)

Number 1 shows the position of Castleton, Number 2 shows Chatsworth, which Elizabeth and the Gardiners visited while they were staying at Number 3, Bakewell.

The name Blue John derives from the French, Bleu Jaune which literally means, Blue Yellow and refers to the beautiful colours in the mineral. Blue John is a form of fluorite and was discovered when miners were exploring the cave systems around Castleton for lead, and objects have been made from it since that discovery in the mid 18th century.

I will be writing much more, much more,  on this topic next year-The Year of Pride and Prejudice– when I will be concentrating on writing solely about the novel in a sort of very long group read;) -but for now you might be interested in seeing some very grand ornaments made of Tennant’s next Two Day Sale, to be held next week, in Leyburn in Yorkshire, which is  one of the handsomest sale rooms of my acquaintances. You might like to speculate if Elizabeth Bennet might have bought something like them, though she is unlikely perhaps to have bought items made by a French artist. There are two lots of ornaments made of Blue John to interest us. The first is Lot 986, a pair of Ormolu Mounted Blue John Obelisk Candelabra:

A Pair of Ormolu Mounted Blue John Obelisk Candelabra, 19th century, the mounts in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire ©Tennants

Also for sale are two neo-classical urns made of Blue John, in Lot 987:

A Pair of Ormolu Mounted Blue John Campana Shaped Pedestal Urns, 19th century, the mounts in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire ©Tennants

You can clearly see why the mineral merits the name: note the bands of purplish-blue interspersed with some of yellow/gold.  And I have no doubt Elizabeth Bennet and Mrs Gardiner would have bought some to take home :)
The sale has some other lots of interest to us and I will point out only two: the first, Lot 58, a Pearlware Jug which was produced to commemorate  the marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, circa 1816:

A Pearlware Jug Commemorating the Marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, circa 1816, of panelled oval form with scroll handle, moulded with titled bust portraits within leaf borders picked out in pink lustre and enamels, 11cm high ©Tennants

And there is this intriguing silhouette glass,circa 1790, Lot 35:

A Silesian Zwischengoldglas Silhouette Portrait Glass, circa 1790, by Johann Sigismund Menzell, ©Tenannts


Back to Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire for the final part of the series of posts on the rooms used for the Pemberley interior scenes in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Part 1 is accessible here and Part 2 is accessible here. The rooms under discussion in this post are both on the first floor of the Hall: you can see their positions clearly marked on the floor plan below: they are the Long Gallery and the Queen’s Room:

(©National Trust )

The Queen’s Room is found by climbing the Great Staircase and taking the door to the left of the stairs.

This room is the grandest bedroom in the Hall, and was originally the state bedroom, known as the Great Stairhead Chamber in the 1670s when the Hall was first built. Below, you can see the entrance to the room leading from the Great Staircase.

It was called the Queen’s Room after its royal inhabitant, Queen Adelaide, Queen Consort of William IV, who leased Sudbury Hall from Lord Vernon and lived there near the end of her life in the 1840s.

(Queen Adelaide by Sir William Beechey)

We see the room briefly in the BBC’s adaptation, on the morning after the evening at Pemberley when the Gardiners and Elizabeth Bennet had joined Darcy Georgiana, the Hurts and the Bingleys at dinner.

Mr Darcy is shown getting dressed in his own rather exact manner before the great bed and the magnificent fireplace, just prior to riding to Lambton to visit Elizabeth Bennet at the inn.

We are also shown his manservant hurriedly bringing a selection of jackets to him….

The bed is magnificent….

and the lustrous silk lining the walls was restored in 1969, the new silk copied from the 18th century fabric which then decorated the walls.

The great chimney-piece is made of alabaster and was carved by William Wilson, the Leicester born carver who also worked on Lichfield Cathedral(not far from a place Jane Austen knew well, Hamstall Ridware ) during its restoration in the 1660s.

The room is sumptuous and friendly despite its size. It is one of the least intimidating state bedrooms I know….

The final room on our journey around the virtual Pemberley is another favourite of mine: the Long Gallery.

This is simply a stupendous room. A relict of a past, even when it was built in the 1670s. originally long galleries such as this stunning example which can be found  at Aston Hall near Birmingham,

were used as places where exercise could be taken on a wet or wintery day and  many are found in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. It was unusual to add one to a house built in the 1670s. They were also places where family portraits could be exhibited with ease- all grouped together in one long room, a metaphor for the continuity and longevity of the family concerned. In the late 19th/ early 20th century the fashion was to use the rooms as long reception rooms, divided by clusters of furnishings and, in Sudbury’s case, bookcases.This is how the Long Gallery appeared in 1904.


The bookcases and collections of Greek and Etruscan vases have now gone and left in their place is this elegant room,with little to detract from the magical detail of the plaster decoration of the ceiling.

The ceiling is again the work of the London craftsmen, Bradbury and Pettifer (who also worked in the saloon). Its detail is astounding-there are even grasshoppers on the rosette above the central bay window.

We first see this room in the adaptation on the tour of Pemberley conducted by Mrs Reynolds.

The Gardiners and Elizabeth are shown along the gallery…

to the spot where Mr Darcy’s portrait hangs…

And Elizabeth Bennet again contemplates what might have been….

The portrait was especially commissioned by the BBC,and I understand that it was given to Colin Firth,who played Darcy,  as a gift at the end of filming: he in turn gave it to this mother….

But last year it was sold and the proceeds given to charity

Go here to read about it: it fetched am amazing amount of money…..

We also see the gallery lit by moonlight, in the scene where Darcy is on his way to the saloon in the company of his dogs,  remembering just how well his rapprochement with Elizabeth Bennet is proceeding….

And though it is never shown, here is the view from the Long Gallery to the gardens and lake below…

And that ends our tour of the interiors of this version of “Pemberley” : I do hope you have enjoyed it. Next in this series, Burghley House, the setting for Rosings in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice.

Sue S commented ruefully yesterday on this post here, that not many ordinary people would have been able to purchase items for the Chatsworth sale due to the vastly inflated prices the lots realised. This is most probably true, but at least the National Trust bought some items on our behalf which will be put on display at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

Emile de Bruijn, my jolly and very interesting correspondent, informs us via his fabulous blog Treasure Hunt of the successful real Treasure Hunt he recently conducted  to bring back to the  Hall two lots that were on offer to the public at the  Sale. Go here to read his article ‘From the Attic, in full.

©NTPL/Mike Williams

And the reason the Trust bought items from the sale? Hardwick Hallmore glass than wall– the magnificent Elizabethan country house designed by Robert Smythson, and once the home of an English She-Wolf, Bess of Hardwick, was owned until the 1950s (when it was given to teh nation by Andrew the 11th Duke in lieu of death duties) by the Cavendish Family and so to have some objects once owned by the Dukes to place into the rooms there was thought to be a desirable thing. I quite agree.

(But as the Earl of Hardwick was one of Mary Queen of Scots captors during her long imprisonment in England, I am not at all certain that Jane Austen would be equally enhusiastic…..)

The interim results are in – and yes-  once again the country house sale effect has resulted in massively inflated prices. The sale was expected to realise a total of £2.5 million from 20,000 lots. On the first day it raised £4.4 million, and a further £2.1 million on the second day, making a total of £6.5 million.

An item from the now demolished Devonshire House -shown above- that once stood in Piccadilly opposite Green park, attained the  highest sale price.

It was a white marble George II chimneypiece dating from circa 1755.

Here it is shown in situ, in the Saloon at Devonshire House circa 1900. It was probably designed by William Kent and carved by John Bosun. Estimated at between £200,00-£300,000 it sold for £565,250.

A magnificent mahogany bookcase dating from 1805-1810, attributed to the makers Marsh and Tatham after designs by Thomas Hope, shown below in his fashionable Ottoman Empire garb, in a portrait by Sir William Beechey dating from 1798, was also for sale.

It was commissioned by William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire in association with his then wife, Lady Elizabeth Foster, as part of their plan for remodelling the Duke’s bedroom at Devonshire house, and is  also sold well.

It has a central door that opens and is similar to  bookcases commissioned by the Prince Regent. Estimated for sale £60,000-90,000 it sold for £145,250.

The enamel, diamond and ruby brooch shown below, sold as the property of Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire,the present Duke’s mother and only surviving Mitford sister, was estimated at £80-100.

It eventually sold for £8,500. My goodness….now that’s what I call an attic sale.

Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire was used for the interior shots of Pemberley House in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We learnt  in our post here of the rooms used  by the BBC on the ground floor of Sudbury; the entrance passage, library and saloon, but today’s post concentrates on the last room on the ground floor to be used; indeed, it is the room that links the ground and the first floors of the house, The Great Staircase.

(©National Trust)

It is in the Great Staircase that Mrs Gardiner spots the miniature of Wickham, still on display, not on the walls of the family dining room, as in the book, but in a vitrine.

This is the approximate position of the vitrine, now taken by a 17th century side table.

And it is in the Great Staircase room that Mrs Reynolds learns that Elizabeth is already acquainted with Mr Darcy – a little– and Mrs Gardiner begins to suspect that something is not quite right with George Wickham…..

Which all makes for a thoughtful ascent of the Great Staircase itself.

The Great Staircase is probably the finest existing example of a late 17th century staircase in the country.

It was most probably designed by the Hall’s first owner, George Vernon. The carving of the balustrade was executed by Edward Pierce (1630?-1695) who had also been employed in the Saloon (go here to see his work there). Pierce was commissioned by Sir Christopher Wren to provide decoration for some of the new City churches which were  designed by Wren after the Great Fire of London,and the effect of the Great Staircase  is similar to that found in those churches.

The balustrade is carved in lime wood and the fruit and flower baskets in elm.

The plasterwork was entrusted to James Pettifer,who also worked in the Saloon. The plasterwork is sumptuous and encrusts the ceiling and the under slopes of the staircase.

The magnificently carved door-case, which leads from the Great Staircase to the Saloon, was created by Thomas Young a master carver from Chatsworth. Normally access to the the Great Staircase is forbidden to the general public, in order to try and preserve the detailed work from wear and tear and accidental damage,  but on the day I visited to take these photographs,we had to suddenly leave the building via that route from the first floor of Sudbury, as a fire alarm began to sound. I took this opportunity to take this somewhat blurred photograph of the door surround, to the horror of my children who were rather more keen that I vacated the building safely….

This is the view from the top of the Great Staircase…

The ceiling paintings were executed by Louis Laguerre and it is thought that George Vernon again was inspired by his neighbours at Chatsworth when he commissioned him, for Laguerre worked in the Great Painted Hall there too.

The Great Staircase was restored in 1969 and decorated by John Fowler in two shades of white paint on the panelling and balustrade,  and this distinctive yellow on the walls. I have always loved this effect but now it is questioned as to whether it is historically correct.

My Twitter friend Patrick Baty of the historical colourists,Papers and Paints has written this critique of John Fowler  and his work with the National Trust and it makes for very interesting and thought provoking reading.

But, whatever its demerits historically, I confess I shall always love the bright, light effect of this joyous colour in such a bravura room…despise me if you dare…

Next in this series, the remaining rooms at Sudbury which were used as Pemberley Interiors.

Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, once the home of the Vernon family and now administered by the National Trust, was used by the BBC as the location for the interiors of Pemberley House in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Erle.

The house was built in the 1660s by George Vernon: it is thought that the building took place between  1661-1701. It is in fact a strange mix of styles and some aspects of the building were positively old-fashioned for the era in which it was erected. It is built in an “E” shape, a style favoured by the  Elizabethans as a tribute to the Virgin Queen, and its external features-the pattern of the bricks, and the carved stone entrances, all hark back of the past, to the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The cupola is, however, a very typically Carolinian feature. The interiors were also  a mixture of the old and the new, and the inclusion of a Long Gallery,  running the whole length of the garden front on the first floor,was a decidedly odd and old-fashioned feature in a house of this period. But that all worked in Sudbury’s favour when the producers were sourcing an appropriate interior to use for the rooms of Pemberley House. The slightly old-fashioned but grand rooms of Sudbury easily conveyed the impression of the Darcys as a family  that was old-established gentry, not new money like the Bingleys, and the rooms were grand enough to reflect  the Darcy ‘s associations with the aristocracy and their great riches. Shall we apply to the housekeeper  to take our tour? Let’s ring the Bell, then….

Here is a plan of the rooms on the ground floor at Sudbury; do note that this and, indeed, all the other illustrations in this post can be enlarged by clicking upon them, in order to see the detail. The rooms that were used in the 1995 adaptation were the rooms to the  right of the entrance passage.

(Plan ©National Trust)

They are marked in red on the plan below as 1) The Entrance Passage, 2) The Library, 3) The Drawing Room and 4) The Saloon. The Great Staircase was also used in the production but we shall deal with that ,and with the other rooms, on the First Floor, that were used in the adaptation in our next post in this series.

The Entrance Passage is first seen in Darcy’s recounting of The Letter to Elizabeth as she reads it. We see a strutting George Wickham there, waiting to be paid off  by Darcy…..

And we also see him greeting the innocent Georgiana Darcy.

The Entrance Passage as you can see from the plan above, runs the whole width of the house. It has  a stone floor which was laid in 1671.

The day I visited , I’m afraid it was also very overcast outside, and so these photographs are a little dark. Do forgive me.

The next room on our tour is the Library. We see this in the tour of Pemberley conducted by Mrs Reynolds.Sadly, she  gives incorrect information at this point , telling us and the Gardiners that this room was the favourite of  the late Mrs Darcy. Of course as the daughter of an Earl, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mother would have been correctly referred to as the late Lady Anne Darcy, not a mere Mrs!

The desk in the room was the one used in the adaptation….

In the Letter sequence, this is where George Wickham is compensated for not wanting to be a clergyman…

The wallpaper in the room was copied by Coles of London, the famous wallpaper firm, from a remnant found behind one of the bookcases during the restoration of the room by John Fowler in 1969. More on the somewhat controversial aspects of John Fowler’s restoration in my next post on Sudbury.

This room has always been a favourite of mine-I’ve been visiting the house since it was opened to the public by the National Trust. It has a cosiness and warmth perfect for  contemplating books and engravings. The room that lies next to it on the plan is the Drawing Room, and this is glossed over in the  adaptation,The Gardiners and Elizabeth merely walk though it, and Mrs Reynolds doesn’t mention it.

She then welcomes them into what she calls The Music Room and is known at Sudbury as the Saloon, the most important of the reception rooms at Sudbury. When it was first built it was probably used as a dining room.

It has the most wonderful plaster work on the ceiling, executed by James Pettifer and Robert Bradbury engaged expensively  from London and the magnificent carving that  decorates the walls was by Edward Pierce, -look at the magnificent swags of cloth,fruit and flowers- and all were completed in the late 1670s.

The panelling  was made from trees grown on the Sudbury estate and was installed by Thomas Johnson in 1677.

Not that the carving and the panelling is highlighted in gilt…

Which gives  a beautiful effect in sunlight or in shade

it is of course while in this room that Elizabeth Bennet has her moment of regret: “And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress!

And this is the scene she looks out onto……except that it is not. She (and we) see the view of the grounds at Lyme Park in Cheshire, which provided the exteriors of Pemberley House and grounds.

If Elizabeth looked out of this window in the saloon at Sudbury-and this is the exact spot where she stood…

she would, in fact see this scene: a semi-formal garden…

leading down to the swans on the lake.

The fireplace is made of jasper and was added in the 1860s..but that didn’t prevent Miss Bingley from making her unfortunate remarks about Elizabeth Bennet’s tan whilst standing before it

And it was a useful place for Darcy to rest  his hopeful head when recalling the rapprochement between Elizabeth and himself…

achieved while Elizabeth was helping Georgiana to turn the pages of her music after having been “attacked ” by Miss Bingley on the subject of the militia.

The Saloon at Sudbury is one of my favourite rooms in any of the hundreds of country houses I’ve visited over the  years. And the rooms in the next post are also among my favourites: I do hope you will join me on Part II of our tour.

The catalogue to the Chatsworth Attic sale ,which I wrote about previously here, and which is to be held at Sothebys in London on the 5th -7th October landed on my doormat with a satisfyingly heavy thump yesterday. And while I have only had  time to scan through its 512 pages(!), I thought you might like to see what I think are some of the more unusual items for sale. The scholarly catalogue is organised Duke by Duke time wise and my favourite items all hail from the times of the 5th Duke, husband to the famous Georgiana, and of the era of his son,The Bachelor Duke. Items from the now demolished  Devonshire House, the Cavendish family’s London mansion and Chiswick House are included in the sale and it will be an architectural antique dealers paradise, so many great architectural pieces included, having been saved from the houses when remodelling or demolition took place.

First,a lot to outrage Marianne Dashwood:  Lot 347, a George III mahogany, ebony and boxwood strung satinwood banded piano, which has been adapted to serve as a writing desk. Can you imagine the horror! Id quite like it,however…. It was made by the London piano makers, Broderip Wilkinson of 13 The Haymarket , and dates between1798-1807. it was included in the Chatsworth Inventory of 1818. There is also a Broadwood square piano circa 1815, Lot 568…. was it a gift from Frank Churchill?…No, it was brought by the 6th Duke and is estimated at £2000-3000.

Lot 365 is a delicious George III ebonised and parcel gilt work table circa 1800,probably owned by the Countess of Burlington at her home in Compton Place, Eastbourne. Estimate £500-1000. Below is a selection of lots of object of virtu-I  covet Lot 451, the seed pearl brooch in the shape of a lyre, circa 1820 which has an estimate of £250-350.

Lot 301 is a miraculous survivor: a collection of 14 18th century turned oak canon ramrods. Nine have their original canvas bags which protect the sheepskin covered heads,and four have wrought iron sprial finials.Estimate £2,000 to £3,000. I would love to bid for these for my military history obsessed husband….

Lot 303 is a set of eight triangular wooden carriage stops(essential in the hilly surroundings of the Peak  where Chatsworth is set).Estimate £30-50.

More quirky objects can be found in the ceramics that are for sale. Lot 765 is a collection of seven rare English creamware Bourdaloues, two marked “Wedgwood”. These were used by ladies in the 18th century to relieve themselves when in church  or at the theatre. Named rather unkindly after the French Jesuit preacher Louis Boudaloue who gave long interminable sermons. These are estimated at £400-600

This trout head stirrup cup made by the Derby porcelain factory is delicious and dates from 1800. It has an estimate of £800-£1200

If I coud buy something,then I’d like these: early 19th century theatre lights used, one presumes, in the Bachelor Duke’s theatre at Chatsworth. I adore them.

I’m sorry, I just lied to you. Barefacedly. Forgive me. What I’d really like from the sale is this magnificent sleigh, with wrought iron runners and upholstered in leather which was acquired by the 6th Duke possibly when he was ambassador to Russia in  1817 .It is only estimated at £20o0 -£3000

Im sure the Mitford, Cavendish,Chatsworth associations are, as in the Althrop sale, going to make these estimates look exceeding low…when the auction takes place I’ll report back to you.

Following on from the Althrop Attic Sale held at Christie’s earlier in the year, the Chatsworth Attic Sale is now confirmed to take place between the 5th and 7th October at Sotheby’s in London. Mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as a place Elizabeth Bennet visited while on her tour of Derbyshire with the Gardiners, Chatsworth is a magnificent place, homes of the Dukes of Devonshire and their families since it was built in the late 17th century,and was even the location for the exteriors and some interior shots of Pemberley House in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly.

The grand viewing of the many, many articles on sale will take place  at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire betwen 1st and 4th October. Full details of the opening times, etc can be found here. Sadly, I won’t be able to get to the sale but I will be able to buy the catalogue, which you can also do by going here. Buying the catalogue gives you free admission to the viewing at Chatsworth, note.

The sale sounds stupendous: some of the items to be sold include a pair of George II simulated-stone, carved-wood brackets, circa 1735, based on a design by William Kent, estimated sale price of £20,000-30,000; forty meat and poultry covers, made from Sheffield Plate and Electroplate, dating from the 19th Century, together with an iron-bound oak plate chest, with a brass label engraved with “His Grace The Duke of Devonshire No. 1”, estimate sale price of £3,000-5,000; a ruby and diamond brooch, circa 1900, belonging to The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, estimated sale price of£80-100.

Sotheby’s  press release ( full details here) gives some further details of the individual lots:

The sale will have at its core a wealth of fine, rare architectural fixtures and fittings, the existence of which had been obscured by time. Discovered beneath layers of dust, these magnificent pieces – handsomely carved fireplaces, architraves, doors and shutters – were once part of the fabric of the many great houses that have featured in the Devonshire family’s extraordinary history, including Chatsworth itself, Chiswick House, Hardwick Hall, Lismore Castle, Compton Place, Bolton Abbey and, most of all, their palatial London residence, Devonshire House, on Piccadilly – for centuries the centre of London’s social, political and cultural elite.

Devonshire House on Piccadilly, opposite Green Park, now the site of an office block, has long been of interest to me: it is shown below as it appeared in the late 19th century.

– so sad that this palace in town was demolished in the 1920s. I would love to have seen it and its contents:

Devonshire House, Piccadilly, was the centre of London society in the 18th century – it was there that Georgiana (Duchess of Devonshire-jfw)

ran an alternative court – a hedonistic palace where fortunes and reputations were lost and won. The house contained the finest of all the family’s possessions, more than Chatsworth or any other properties of the estate; Devonshire House was a showroom through which the most influential figures of the day passed. Designed and built by William Kent in the 1730s, Devonshire House was demolished almost 200 years later in the 1920s, whereupon much of its interior, from doors and original furnishings to elegant, gilt chairs, was carefully removed to the attics of Chatsworth. A unique opportunity to re-create this “lost palace of London”, the surviving objects featured in the sale include all manner of architectural fixtures, furniture and objects of everyday life.

The sale comprises 20,000 objects in over 1,000 lots, ranging in estimated values from £20 to £200,000 .They trustees of the Chatsworth estate hope to raise what seems to me to be a rather modest sum £2.5 million from the sale.What is the betting that, like Althorp, the amount raised in total from the sale will be  much, much higher?

I’m visiting Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire next week, once the home of the Vernon family and now administered by the National Trust ( Not gadding again? I hear you say, probably in an exasperated manner: I know Dear Reader, I know, but I do love doing it and at least I can share the experience with you!) Sudbury is of interest to us here as it was used  for the interior shots of Pemberley House for the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice. A most fitting choice, in my opinion, and I will elaborate on this next week…when I return from gadding… however… back to the point of this post…..

I thought you might care to read about the famed decorator, John Fowler, and his work undertaken at Sudbury Hall in this intriguing blog post linked here. The debate about the authenticity of his work,and his choice of colour is fascinating (and is why the photographs I am using here are in black and white!)

The effects might not be seen as truly authentic now, but having stayed in old country houses where he has worked, I can confirm that his work was always very carefully considered and beautifully executed. Personally, I’ve always admired the colour schemes at Sudbury….


Last night I was lucky enough to go -along with 599 other people !- to a open air performance of the Illyria Touring Company’s sold out adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at Belton House.

This was an absolute tour de force-a bravura performance by only 5 very accomplished actors, on a small stage, with few props-to wit, two wicker chests, a painted bench, two chairs, some extravagant quill pens, a picture fame and two coconut shells, a few simple stage lights and no amplification whatsoever.

The cast, cleverly,  were their own orchestra, “humming” the dance music for the Netherfield ball and Meryton Assembly scenes.

The play lasted about 3 hours with one 15 minute interval. Virtually no action in the book was missed. Some scenes were shortened or combined but it was amazing to think that this very clever adaptation managed to cram in so much of the novel as possible into the performance -something that much longer adaptations have failed to achieve!  The actors of course had to double, treble and quadruple -up the parts. For example, Andrew Lindfield who played Mr Darcy, seen here enduring Caroline Bingley’s attentions at Netherfield….

was also a very O.T.T. Wickham

being here admired by the Bennet sisters when meeting with Denny in Meryton…..

and was also Mary, in green, sermonizing as only Mary can

and Kitty-rather upset at not being allowed to go to Brighton

and also played a squirm inducing Mr Collins  (seen here proposing to an appalled Elizabeth).  It all sounds preposterous ( and the cast continue the jokes in the cast list in the programme) but it truly worked and the staging,  simple but effective, was cleverly put together for the best comic or dramatic effect. The rather “loud” costumes also worked very well: they enabled the audience to quickly and clearly identify the character,even if, as was sometimes the case, it had to be played by one or more actors. Clever conceit.

Miriam Jay Allwright was Elizabeth and a very voluble Mrs Hill, wearing a  massive mop cap which possessed  a life  and very nearly a part of its own.

She was wonderful as Elizabeth:  clever, witty ,wise and just the sort of Elizabeth Bennet you would  like to be your best friend.

Becky George as  Jane, Lydia,

seen above imagining a whole campful of soldiers-with the emphasis on camp!- and Charlotte Lucas was perfect. Here she is  having second thoughts- alas too late !-after marrying Mr Collins.

Her Mrs Reynolds (in yellow silk below) was a truly amazing characterisation, and  had a wonderfully brisk way of walking around all those long corridors in Pemberley House ( to enable Andrew Lindfield chance to metamorphize  from the  ever grinning Wickham…

into  the  lovely Darcy’s portrait  in Pemberley’s Long Gallery

Robert Took as Mr Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr Gardiner, Caroline Bingley, seen here below “reading” her farewell letter to Jane

was also a very grand and

formidable Lady Catherine(seen above with the veiled and silent,  but sneeze ridden Anne de Bourgh).He was fabulous. I must say  that when Caroline Bingley gives you instructions  as to where the refreshments and lavatories are, you certainly play attention!

Ruth Cataroche was a supremely silly  Mrs Bennet

(above,  flanked by Mr Bennet and Kitty)…

a marvellously  mustachioed Colonel Forster

a sweet Charles Bingley ( above in the pink hat, Darcy is in the yellow)  and one of the girls that Wickham fooled around with during the dramatisation of The Letter.

Her Mrs Bennet was actually given the scene where she is told by Elizabeth that she is going to marry Darcy.

This is one of my favourite parts of  the book, and is a scene so often (and inexplicably ) omitted from many dramatisations of the book. She was a fabulously tipsy Mrs Bennet at the Netherfield Ball, gossiping with Mrs Long…putting paid to the family succeeding in currying favour at that point with Mr Darcy.

The carriage rides on the suitably squeaky wicker trunks, were a highlight Mr Darcy performing on the coconut shells as a set of carriage horses was a touch of genius.

Here are the Gardiners and Elizabeth suitably impressed with their first sight of Pemberley House, in their “carriage” with “horses” attached.

The adaptation was witty and wise: it even included a slight reference to the lake at Pemberley being a good place in which to swim-to cheers from the knowledgeable  audience. The actors were fabulous hosts- mingling with  the crowd, partaking of our picnic fare, taking photos of us all and of some individuals who came in full Regency Dress, selling programmes and creating a great atmosphere. I particlary admired the way Elizabeth Bennet called us to order at the commencement of act two !

The adaptation was written by Oliver Grey  who also directed it. The company’s admirable  attitude toward the production is neatly summed up in this extract  from Neill Thew’s article in the programme,When is a Mouse not a Mouse ? (Answer,when she is Jane Austen):

Given Austen’s extreme sharpness of mind and eye: her unstinting judgements on human nature; and her impatience with puffed up airs and graces,then the current fashion for overly reverent stage and television adaptations of her work-all Empire-line dresses and tea parties – misses the heart of her completely. Austen is a much tougher and,  frankly, gloriously bitchier author than that. At is that Jane Austen whose observations a will be brought to life tonight.

I have to say that we were held spell-bound by the whole production  and were sad but elated when it ended.

(The reconstructed Darcy proposing for a second time)

Needless to say  I would go and see another  of their productions at the drop of a hat (even a bright yellow one). Their  Pride and Prejudice touring schedule can be found here If  this production of Pride and Prejudice is coming near to you  my advice is to GO TO IT! You will have one of the best, fun-filled evenings ever. Indeed ,they are soon to be performing this version of Pride and Prejudice  at Kedleston Hall and I’d love to see the Derbyshire scenes acted out in  the wonderful countryside setting of that famed Derbyshire home.( I’ll bet they will ad lib a little too!)

(The Happy Couple)

Laurel of Austenprose has asked me to provide some background posts to her mammoth and laudable  Group Read of Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies. Today, I offer you my last contribution, a post about William Gilpin and Jane Austen, which I do hope you will enjoy and find informative.


Having read Henry Austen’s biographical notice of her, published in the posthumously printed first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and in subsequent editions, I knew, also from an early age, that Jane Austen was

enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque at a very early age…

so, when aged 15 or therabouts I found a copy of his Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland in what was then one of my favourite haunts, a second-hand bookshop in Dr Johnson’s home city of Lichfield, I bought it  immediately…But now comes a confession…Prepare yourself for something very dreadful… I didn’t read it for another 20 years.

I thought it would be deadly boring.

How wrong I was.

I should have trusted Jane Austen’s taste and judgement, and realised exactly why she was enamoured of him…..but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we explore his books and the reasons why I think she adored him, we ought properly to learn a little about William Gilpin’s life to find out who he was….

William Gilpin was born on 4 June 1724  near Carlisle, in  Cumberland. He was the son of Captain John Bernard Gilpin and a Matilda Langstaffe . Captain Gilpin was considered to be one of the best amateur painters of the time, and this artistic talent seems to have passed through to the next generation, for William was obsessed with  the correct way to view both pictures and landscape, and his younger brother, Sawrey Gilpin, was to become a famous animal painter and, indeed, later contributed some illustrations to William’s books.

After a typically indifferent education at Queen’s College Oxford,  William Gilpin was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1746, and was  subsequently appointed to the curacy of Irthington in Cumberland.

In 1747 he preached a sermon at Buckingham, and must while staying there have taken the opportunity  to visit Lord Cobham’s famous landscape gardens at Stowe.  For he then wrote, anonymously, the tract,  A Dialogue upon the Gardens of the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham at Stowe (1748) where, for the first time, he set out his theories on the distinctions to be made between beauty in natural scenery and in ruined buildings, theories which were to become the basis for all his later writings on the “Picturesque”.

In 1752 Gilpin married his first cousin, Margaret Gilpin, and by 1753 he had taken over the management of the  Cheam School for Boys, in Surrey, where for the past few  years he had been an occasional assistant teacher . He proved to be a very able teacher and an enlightened disciplinarian, replacing the school’s normal system of corporal punishment with a system of punishment dependant not on inflicting physical harm but on imposing detentions and monetary fines. Interestingly, the proceeds of the fines were put towards the maintenance and improvement of the school’s resources as well as to fund local charities.

In 1768 Gilpin published his book, Essay on Prints. It was published anonymously.  It received excellent reviews.

His aim, as the title-page of my copy of the second edition ,above, indicates, was to outline

the Principles of picturesque Beauty, the Different Kinds of Prints, and the Characters of the most noted Masters

The Essay defines ‘picturesque’ as

a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture

He went on to expand on this theory in his series of books on the British countryside.  In 1777 Gilpin left Cheam to become vicar of Boldre in the New Forest in Hampshire. The living gave him the very respectable income of £600 a year and, probably more importantly, some leisure time during which he  began to write seriously on his ideas of the “Picturesque”, the meaning of which he expounded upon  in his Observations on the Western Parts of England

(Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post merely by clicking on them)

Picturesque beauty is a phrase but little understood. We precisely mean by it that kind of beauty which would look well in a picture. Neither grounds laid out by art nor improved by agriculture are of this kind. The Isle of Wight is in fact, a large garden or rather a field which in every part has been disfigured by the spade ,the coulter and the harrow. It abounds much more in tillage than in pasturage; and of all species  of cultivation, cornfields are the most unpicturesque. The regularity of corn fields disgusts, and  is out of true with everything else….

Do note his tone..we will refer to it later on…

He began to work upon the sketches and copious notes that he had taken in his holidays during the period 1769-1776, in which he had made various tours throughout the British Isles. The books he subsequently produced were quite remarkable, influential and very popular.

As the entry for Gilpin in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records:

That challenge (to define exactly what was meant by the term “picturesque-JFW) was met in the series of books published between 1782 and 1809, all of which bore the same title format: “Observations on [various regions of Britain] relative chiefly to picturesque beauty.” He travelled widely in Britain, with his notebook and sketching materials, in order to identify locations which offered that particular kind of beauty in landscape ‘which is agreeable in a picture’. Picturesque tourism constituted ‘a new object of pursuit’, as he wrote in the first of these books, Observations on the River Wye (1782): the practice recommended was ‘that of not merely describing; but of adapting the description of natural scenery to the principles of artificial landscape’ (Wye, 2). Further picturesque books, with aquatint reproductions of Gilpin’s pen-and-wash drawings, included Observations on Cumberland and Westmorland (2 vols., 1786), the Scottish highlands (2 vols., 1789), south-west England and the Isle of Wight (1798), and theEeastern counties of England and north Wales (1809). Remarks on Forest Scenery (1791), illustrated with etchings by his brother, Sawrey, concentrated on the New Forest, where he lived. Three Essays of a more analytical kind, on the nature of picturesque beauty, picturesque travel, and on the sketching of landscape, together with a poem on landscape painting, appeared in 1792. In 1804 Two Essays described his methods and principles in making his sketches.

These were the books that so enamored Jane Austen, and into which we will now delve. And I confess they have now completely enamored me and I have almost a complete set-I’m lacking only the Eastern Counties and Welsh volumes-still looking for them though…

Now, My Patient Reader, you will recall that  I began this post by admitting that I had avoided reading Gilpin because I thought he was going to be boring. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He most certainly cannot be described in any way as  boring. He is a highly opinionated and vital writer; and such writers, like opinionated people, make for engaging companions, even if you don’t agree with their pronouncements or views. His opinions are expressed in such a forthright manner that you cannot but engage with him. Or be started. Or burst out laughing at the outrageousness of it all.

And I think it is this that captivated Jane Austen. His style is so terribly pompous and opinionated,  fixated on his search for the picturesque to the exclusion of everything else, even common sense: and that is why, to be brutal, some of his pronouncements(even when slightly modified )are of such monumental stupidity that they take your breath away.

Let me explain by quoting some examples. In his first Observations book,  Observations on the River Wye etc  he has this to say about Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire -a romantic ruin of a place that has inspired poets and prose writers alike. Note, I have emboldened the important part of this quote :

(Gilpin’s view of Tintern Abbey)

No part of the ruins of Tintern is seen from the river except the abbey church. It has been an elegant Gothic pile; but it does not make that appearance as a distant object which we expected. Though the parts are beautiful, the whole is ill-shaped. No ruins of the tower are left, which might give form and contrast to the buttresses and walls. Instead of this a number of gable ends hurt the eye with their regularity, and disgust it by the vulgarity of their shape. A mallet judiciously used (but who durst use it?) might be of service in fracturing some of them; particularly those of the cross-aisles, which are both disagreeable in themselves, and confound the perspective.

Do you see? He seriously suggests (even in a qualified form) that  by taking a mallet to a ruin and judiciously using it , it could be made more picturesesque. (Alert Sir Roy Stong and Prince Charles immediately!) He is of the opinion that the appearance of the abbey could be improved by bashing some more holes in the ruined structure. Goodness.  Written in all seriousness without a hint of humour.

And this I feel is the key to Jane Austen’s enamourment of him. He was so serious and preposterous she simply could not resist taking  pot shots at him throughout her works. Henry Austen’s Biographical Notice was subtle. It meant ,I am sure to imply, that Jane Austen was a cultivated woman who through her reading of Gilpin was possessed of the refined accomplishment  of appreciating landscape and painting. But I think that interpretation leads us astray. What she truly delighted in, in my humble opinion, was not slavishly adhering to Gilpin’s every  dicktat, but to pricking his jlittle puffs of pomposity, which clearly delighted her sense of the ridiculous. And now if we read his books given this knowledge, we are suddenly let in on the meaning of many of her subtle jokes.

For example, in her History of England by a partial prejudiced and ignorant Historian, the 16 year old Jane Austen obviously poked fun at Goldmsith’s rather prejudiced partial and selective  history text and  much more besides, including  a serous swipe at Gilpin at his most ridiculous. In the chapter on Henry VII she writes:

(Cassandra Austen’s drawing of Henry VIII for JAne Austen’s History of England)

The Crimes and Cruelties of this Prince were too numerous to be mentioned…& nothing can be said in his vindication, but that of his abolishing Religious Houses and leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was his principal motive for doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion be at so much trouble to abolish one  which had for ages been established in the Kingdom.

This is, in my opinion, a direct allusion and attack to the sentiments Gilpin expresses in this passage in his Observations on Cumberland and Westmorland when he is talking, quite seriously and not intending to be  satirical at all, about his birthplace,  Scaleby Castle near Carlisle:

(Gilpin’s view of Scaleby Castle, his birthplace)

At present one of the motes only remains. The other is filled up; but may still be traced. The castle is more perfect than such buildings commonly are. The walls are very intire; an great part of the tower which is square is till left. It was preserved its perfect form till the civil wars of the last century; when the castle, in too much  confidence of its strength, shut its gates against Cromwell ,then marching into Scotland; he made it a monument of his vengeance.

What share of picturesque genius Cromwell might have I know not. Certain however it is that no man since Henry the eight has contributed more to adorn this country with picturesque ruins. The difference between these two masters lay chiefly in the style of ruins, in which they composed. Henry adorned his landscape with the ruins of abbeys; Cromwell with those of castles. I have seen many pieces by this master executed in a very grand style; but seldom a fine monument to his masterly hand than this. He has rent the tower and demolished two of its sides; the edges of the other two he ash shattered into broken lines….

So here we have Gilpin seriously telling us we are to admire Cromwell for his artistic ability when destroying castles and that both he and Henry VIII adorned the landscape of England with ruins? As if they did this deliberately to create a  picturesque effect? That the English Civil War and the Dissolution of the Monasteries were contemplated merely for the decorative effect they would eventually bequeath the English countryside? “I think not ” I can hear the young Jane Austen say to herself as she  as she sharpened her pen….

Another example: in Northanger Abbey during Catherine Morland’s tour around Beechen Cliff near Bath  with the impeccably educated Tilneys,  Jane Austen cannot resist poking fun at these unthinking disciples of Gilpin.

They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing — nothing of taste: and she listened to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her. The little which she could understand, however, appeared to contradict the very few notions she had entertained on the matter before. It seemed as if a good view were no longer to be taken from the top of an high hill, and that a clear blue sky was no longer a proof of a fine day. She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance…

In the present instance, she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge, declared that she would give anything in the world to be able to draw; and a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in everything admired by him, and her attention was so earnest that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste. He talked of foregrounds, distances, and second distances — side–screens and perspectives — lights and shades; and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath as unworthy to make part of a landscape.

Northanger Abbey Chapter 14

Poor Catherine , going from ignorance to scholarly “erudition” in the space of one afternoon’s walk! So easily able to dismiss the  spectacular sight of Bath from the top of Beechen Hill: a sight which is surely “picturesque’ if any sight qualifies for that term.

Similarly  Marianne Dashwood’s preference for blasted trees in Sense and Sensibility is  surely based on Gilpin’s passages in his book, Remarks on Forest Scenery.

In this book he goes into the minutest detail of the picturesque nature of trees. His comments on the preference in the landscape for blasted trees ignore the practicalities required of the farmer or forestry men ,all in the name of the “picturesque”:

The blasted tree has often a fine effect both in natural and in artificial landscape. In some scenes it is almost essential. When the dreary heath is spread before the eye and ideas if wildness and desolation are required, what more suitable accompaniment can be imaged than the blasted oak, ragged, scathed and leafless; shooting its peeled white branches thwart the gathering blackness of some rising storm…..

No wonder Edward Ferrers, speaking with his creator’s voice perhaps, is able to demolish Marianne and Gipin’s fancy by the timely intervention of some sound practical principles:

“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.”

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 18

Apart from these examples where Jane Austen was, in my opinion reveling in her ability to ridicule Gilpin, there are clearly many other allusion she made to his works but these were of a more practical nature, due to her limited personal experience of the geography many parts of the British isles.  She travelled extensively in the south of England and possibly into Tenby in South Wales, but ventured only as far north as Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire on a visit in 1806.

In order to write about places she had never visited she needed a knowledgeable guide and she found an able one in Gilpin. For example the Juvenilia is peppered with references to places in Scotland –a country she certainly never visited-and I feel sure that  Jane Austen was able to use Scottish locations and references after reading his  Observations on the Highlands of Scotland

When it came to writing Pride and Prejudice, which ought really to be our focus here today, she again had to use Gilpin as a guide for I am quite certain that she never set foot in Derbyshire. The closest she may have go to it was viewing the country at a distance from Needwood Forest on her trip to her Cooper cousins in Staffordshire in 1806, as Mrs Caroline Lybbe Powys did in 1800.

In his Observations on the mountains an Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland Gilpin gives the reader an extremely detailed account of his trip though the county of Derbyshire and Jane Austen could by reference to his notes and observation describe the ideal  and imaginary  but definitely Derbyshire landscape of Pemberley:

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 43

(Gilpin’s view of Dovedale,Derbyshire)

By studying his book, combined with  her own knowledge of Warwickshire gained on that summer trip in 1806, Jane Austen  could also follow the route the Gardiners took into Derbyshire-

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, etc., are sufficiently known.

Chapter 42

(Warwick Castle by Gilpin)

-for that was also the well established tourist route that Gilpin described in his Observations of Cumberland and Westmorland, making many caustic remarks on the scenery and grand houses enroute.

I ought to remark that Jane Austen was not alone in finding Gilpin unintentionally amusing. He was ridiculed rather mercilessly  as Dr Syntax in a series of three books, Dr Syntax’s Three Tours: in Search of the Picturesque, Consolation and a Wife

These books were written by William Coombe and illustrated (without mercy) by Thomas Rowlandson. Here, for example, is the hapless Dr Syntax losing his money at the races at York….

And to bring this post to a close, let’s share one final Gilpin inspired joke with Jane Austen. In Chapter 10 of Pride and Prejudice, when out walking with Darcy, holding his arm, Caroline Bingley  rudely abuses Elizabeth and her connections. Mrs Hurst, arriving with Elizabeth, takes Darcy’s free arm, therby effectively and rudely separating Elizabeth from the “In-Crowd’ as the path “will not admit a fourth”:

At that moment they were met from another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Elizabeth herself.

“I did not know that you intended to walk,” said Miss Bingley, in some confusion, lest they had been overheard.

“You used us abominably ill,” answered Mrs. Hurst, “running away without telling us that you were coming out.”

Then, taking the disengaged arm of Mr. Darcy, she left Elizabeth to walk by herself. The path just admitted three. Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said, —

“This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.”

But Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination to remain with them, laughingly answered, —

“No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly grouped, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth. Good-bye.”

She then ran gaily off, rejoicing, as she rambled about, in the hope of being at home again in a day or two. Jane was already so much recovered as to intend leaving her room for a couple of hours that evening.

Here we have Jane Austen her allowing her heroine an opportunity for getting her revenge on the Bingley sisters for their continued rudeness to her. Elizabeth is quite clearly referring to a passage from Gilpin’s Observations on Cumberland and  Westmorland. In Volume II Section XXXI  he waxes lyrical on the picturesque qualities of the  domesticated animals normally to be found in the  English countryside; that is, horses, sheep and cows. This is what he has to say about the grouping of cows:

Cattle are so large that when they ornament a foreground, a few are sufficient. Two cows will hardly combine Three make a good group- either united- or when one is a little removed from the other two. If you increase the group beyond three; one of more in proportion must necessarily be a little detached .This detachment prevents heaviness and adds variety…

As you can see from his illustration of this group of cows, three is the magic number as far as he was concerned. A fourth has to be some distance off otherwise it spoils the picturesque.

By allowing Elizabeth to make this one little, seemingly innocent  remark (and escape from Darcy and the Bingley sisters in the process) Jane Austen  demonstrates that despite the efforts of Mrs Bennet to hinder her education, Elizabeth has, by the  advantage of her extensive reading, more awareness of the principles of the picturesque than of the expensively educated ladies before her. As a man of taste and education Darcy is most probably aware of the source for her reference and cannot but be impressed by it. He also knew that she was referring to them as a group of three….cows.

Game set and match to Elizabeth Bennet walking swiftly in the opposite direction…..

So that’s my take on Jane Austen and William Giplin. She was, as Henry Austen would have us believe,  enamored of him, I am certain, but not necessarily for purely innocent reasons. Like her creation Elizabeth Bennet, she found that Gilpin’s follies, nonsense, whims and inconsistencies diverted her tremendously, and she could not help but gently poke fun of him whenever the opportunity arose.

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