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The Paperback Edition of "What Matters in Jane Austen" by John Mullan

The Paperback Edition of “What Matters in Jane Austen” by John Mullen

You may recall that this was one of my favourite books published last year. I gave it what was for me, a rather gushing review, but on reflection, and having re-read it over the past few days, I find my original thoughts still hold.  Reading it is akin to having a wonderful, thought-provoking conversation with a knowledgeable, Janeite friend.

It is not meant for those of you with a passing interest in Jane Austen and her novels, but, for once, this book panders to the obsessive Austen reader and our desire to examine, in minute detail, every aspect of her great books. My favourite chapter is still the last, How Experimental A Novelist is Jane Austen? Let me quote Professor Mullen to give you a taste of just  how wonderfully he explains how great and innovative a writer Jane Austen was, and yet how difficult it is, without constantly being on the watch, to “catch her in the act of greatness”. For example, we are now used to her presenting us with sprightly, opinionated, stubborn and sometimes shy heroines. But we forget just how innovative she was in rejecting “pictures of perfection”. John Mullan describes how she deliberately spurned the conventional literary device of a providing her readers with a heroine who was practically perfect in every way, and instead, of the first time, gave us realistic, fault-ridden heroines who are almost heroines in spite of themselves:

Austen’s interest in her heroines’ faults and errors was in itself something extraordinary in fiction. Yet the novelty went beyond this. She also developed techniques for showing the contradictoriness or even obscurity of her protagonist’s motivations…Austen gave her readers an entirely new sense of a person’s inner life, but throughout new kinds of narrative rather than new insights into human nature..The manning of the attraction between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy for instance is a triumph of technique as much as of psychological subtlety. Elizabeth Bennet is an unprecedented creation not just because of her wit and “archness” but because Austen is able to give us a sense of her self-ignorance...

If only all books of literary criticism were written like this. A vain hope…

But we are the lucky ones for we can enjoy this book, and can do it now by the expenditure of only a few of our hard-gotten gains. I really do urge you to buy this book. You will not regret it for one moment.

I’m sure many of you will be pleased to note that you can now order the Jane Austen Commemorative stamps which will  issued by the Royal Mail on the 221st February 2013 to celebrate the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice.  Cynthia of Jane Austen Castellano has very kindly informed me that you can now order the Jane Austen Commemorative Stamps directly from the Royal Mail via this link, here to their online shop.

ASjanelarge

In addition to the set of six stamps, above, there are four other items available to order:  the presentation pack

APjanelarge

which will also contains an essay by P.D. James.

Cards of the stamps:

AQjanelarge

a set of six cards showing enlarged versions of the illustrations.

And finally, two first Day Covers. First Day Covers for UK addresses which will be posted to you and will bear the postmark of Jane Austen’s birthplace: Steventon, Basingstoke.

AFjanelarge

and you may also order First Day Covers for posting to overseas addresses.

Some of you very keen souls have sent emails to me asking when I’m going to begin my celebratory Pride and Prejudice posts…so,to have a little mercy on your poor nerves, I thought I ought to tell you all that they are scheduled to begin on the 28th January, as that date marks the 200th anniversary of its first publication by Thomas Egerton.

Austenonly P+P 200 Logo

All the special Pride and Prejudice posts will have this logo, above, attached to them, and will have their own category/tag should you wish to search for them in the future once they have disappeared from the opening page of the site. I am so looking forward to beginning this series, as this book was my introduction to Jane Austen and her world, a situation common to many of you, no doubt,  and this interest has taken me down many unexpected and interesting alleyways all my life, since the age of twelve. I’m looking forward very much to sharing some of them with you this year, so  do mark the 28th of this month in your diary :)

Today in 1775, Jane Austen was born in Steventon. The Reverend George Austen, Jane’s father, wrote what I consider to be one of the nicest letters of announcement the following day:

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire and perhaps wondered a little we are in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy (Mrs Austen-jfw) certainly expected to have been brought to bed a  month ago: however last night the time came and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister, thank God is pure well after it and sends her love to you and my bother not forgetting James and Philly…

I thought you might like to know that today there have been some interesting announcements which might interest you…

Jane Austen House Musuem Blog

First the Jane Austen’s House Museum Blog is holding its First Anniverasry Giveaway. The prize is rather spectacular, and the Giveaway is open to everyone, wherever you are in the world. All the details can be found, here.

PandP_150px

And finally, in preparation for the year of Pride and Prejudice that is fast approaching, the Jane Austen’s House  Musuem at Chawton in conjunction with the Jane Austen Society, the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Jane Austen Society of Australia,  has just launched  a special website, Pride and Prejudice 200, which will be the repository  for all information about all the many and varied events that are going to be held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most celebrated novel. If you go here, you will be able to access it.

As  you all know I found out about the existence of this book a few weeks ago and was really taken with the concept. The authors and their publishers contacted me after reading my article, and very kindly sent the copy which I (rather reluctantly!) included in my Third Anniversary Giveaway last week.

Cozy-Classic's Pride and Prejudice by Holman and Jack Wang

Cozy-Classic’s Pride and Prejudice by Holman and Jack Wang

For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the book-a beautifully photographed board book- is a shortened version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It tells the story using key words and concepts from the novel, illustrated by photographs of felt figures acting out the episode. Obviously the book is intended for use by small children. As the adult reading the book with the child,  you are expected to explain the pictures and ” fill in the blanks”. And of course these explanations can get more elaborate as the child grows in understanding….till eventually they will want to pick up a copy of Jane Austen’s own text.

The authors, Holman and Jack Wang explained their vision for this series of books in their email to me:

This is the concept for the series: to revitalize the infant word primer genre by avoiding the tired concepts of counting, animals, shapes, etc., and introducing the idea of narrative or story. Each book tells a beloved tale through 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations. Of course, you are right that 12 words can only sketch out the most basic narrative arc. But as children grow, the books will hopefully become a storytelling vehicle that allows parents to spin a bedtime yarn with ever-increasing elaboration and detail (just like you have with the quotes from P&P in your blog post!). We think the concept and the artwork will not only appeal to children, but to adults as well.

Here are some examples from the book.

FirstFriends:  showing Darcy and Bingley standing before the famous text of  Jane Austen’s opening chapter:
Sisters: where we are introduced to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet:
and finally,  Read:  poor Elizabeth reading That Letter from Darcy:
I have to say I’m very taken with this idea. I loved reading to my children when they were small, and I know we would have enjoyed reading  this book together. The illustrations are so enchanting, I find them irresistible. And they are a blessed relief from the growing trend for the use of computer generated graphics in children’s books, which I find so impersonal and well, cold. My daughter has suggested that  there may even be a market for the beautifully crafted figures, and I agree with her. I have now ordered copies as Christmas gifts for all the small people in my life. They cannot be exposed to good literature soon enough, and this is a charmingly simple and easy way to do it.
If you would like to see more the Cozy Classics website is available to view here.

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

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

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

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

( Page xxxiv)

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

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

(Gilson, as above, page 211)

©Whyte's

©Whyte’s

Here is the auctioneer’s description of Lot 531:

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

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

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

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

I truly thought this was a spoof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated  20th June, 1808, written from Southampton, Jane Austen appears to be rather upset by the news that a woman who had taken Holy Communion at the same Church service as her, was an adulteress:

This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. A hint of it, with initials, was in yesterday’s “Courier,” and Mr. Moore guessed it to be Lord S., believing there was no other Viscount S. in the peerage, and so it proved, Lord Viscount S. not being there.

 The adulteress in question was Mary-Letitia Powlett, who was married to one of the Austen’s Southampton acquaintances, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Powlett. The news in The Courier confirmed that the Lieutenant Colonel was going to take an action for damages by way of a suit of Criminal Conversation against Viscount Sackville, who had committed adultery with Mary-Letitia.

Why was Jane Austen so outraged by this woman taking Holy Communion? The answer is, very probably, in her very serious attitude towards taking this sacrament, which was also indicated by her attachment to a now little-known book, The Companion to the Altar by William Vickers.

William Vicars' "Companion to the Altar" bound within the 1783 Prayer Book ©Austenonly

William Vicars’ “Companion to the Altar” bound within the 1783 Prayer Book ©Austenonly

William Vickers’ book was one of the few books we know she actually owned, as opposed to books that were in her father’s library and merely available to her, or those she borrow from friend s and circulating libraries. David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen lists only 20 volumes known to have been the sole property of Jane Austen, including this book. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter Irene Collins tells us that:

On the 24th April 1794 she received a gift often bestowed on Confirmation Candidates: a copy of William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar, a guide to the private preparation to be undertaken in order to be  worthy of receiving Holy Communion

(Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Page 72)

According to Gilson’s Bibliography, her copy of this book is now owned by Princeton University, and it shows many signs of being greatly used. Miss Florence Austen, Jane Austen’s great-niece, who along with her sister, Jane, sold the item, noted:

…this book of devotions always used by Jane Austen we used to be told so by my old Aunt Cassandra

(Gilson,page 445 . Note, this Cassandra was not Jane Austen’s elder sister, as she predeceased both the Misses Austen who owned the Companion)   

Irene Collins again notes that:

According to members of Jane’s family, she cherished the Companion and made constant use of the  prayers and meditations included in it. She was to take her participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously as a cleansing from sin and a repeated welcome into the company of the faithful.

(as above, page 72)

Jane Austen was 18 when she was confirmed, an age slightly older than our modern candidates often are. This can be explained because 18th century dioceses were very large, and, as a candidate could only be confirmed by a Bishop, it could take him some years to be able to visit the candidate’s local church in order to perform a confirmation service.

William Vicker’s book is not long, but it is extremely full of very, very detailed advice regarding the  self-examination a candidate for communion had to perform in order to avoid:

those Fears and Scruples about Eating and Drinking unworthily and of incurring our own Damnation thereby..

It advises an extremely detailed self-examination prior to every occasion when Holy Communion was taken, and, as Irene Collins ruefully notes:

to carry out all William Vicker’s advice would have required several hours  of meditation.

(as above 156)

Though Jane Austen’s copy of the book is a separate volume, in her lifetime this book was often bound together with volumes of The Book of Common Prayer. As a result the book was very influential, seeming to have “official” sanction of the Anglican church. And this is the case with my copy, which is contained in a small pocket-sized edition of the Book of Common Prayer, dating from 1783:

A Book of Common Prayer dating from 1783, from my collection. ©Austenonly

A Book of Common Prayer dating from 1783, from my collection. ©Austenonly

Here is the engraving from the Companion, showing the Last Supper, which of course, was the event that instated the sacrament of Holy Communion:

Engraving of The Last Supper ©Austenonly

Engraving of The Last Supper ©Austenonly

And here is the preface and first page of the book, and do note you can enlarge all of those images by clicking on them if you want to look at the detail:

Preface and First Page of the"Companion to the Altar" ©Austenonly

Preface and First Page of the”Companion to the Altar” ©Austenonly

The Book of Common Prayer sets out, in very clear terms, why it is very necessary to be thoroughly prepared, having repented and being free from sin before taking Holy Communion:

Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that Holy Table: lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of iniquities ands bring you to destruction of both body and soul.

The Companion places extreme emphasis on the need for a candidate to thoroughly examine their own lives and deeds and to be truly penitent before taking the sacrament. Look at this quote below:

The first Part then of a Communicant’s Duty is Self –examination: A Duty not only enjoined by human Authority, but likewise commanded by St. Paul…when we are employing our minds in the Duty of Self-examination, before the Communion, or at any other Time, we must discharge it as impartially as is possible for us, judging as severely of our own Actions as we would do of our greatest and worst enemy; or otherwise we shall but flatter and deceive ourselves in a Matter of the greatest Weight and Importance, namely the knowing the State and Condition of our Souls.

As evidenced by her wondering comment to Cassandra in the letter quoted above- This is a sad story about Mrs. P. I should not have suspected such a thing. She stayed the Sacrament, I remember, the last time that you and I did. –  the seriousness of taking the  Sacrament and the rarity with which it was performed was certainly felt by Jane Austen, as a devout Anglican. That an adulteress, who was continuing in her sinfulness, should have put herself forward to take the sacrament, was shocking to her. Her contemporaries felt the seriousness of taking the sacrament too- many were noted for leaving Communion services prior to taking the sacrament, if they felt they were ill prepared for it. Jane Austen alludes to this in her comment in her letter to Cassandra, wherein she was surprised that Mrs Powlett, the adulteress

stayed the Sacrament

when she had the opportunity to absent herself from the church and not be a recipient of Holy Communion, for which she was obviously very ill-prepared.

Do note that while communicants these days are used to services of Holy Communion being made available to them on a weekly ( if not on a more frequent) basis, this was not the case for Jane Austen and her contemporaries. Being able to take part in a service of Holy Communion was rare: it was usually celebrated on only four occasions during each  year. Anglicans very rarely celebrated it on days other than at Christmas, Easter,Whitsun (Pentecost) and as a service of thanksgiving after a successful harvest.

So, does this have any relevance to Jane Austen’ novels? I think it does. For example, Elizabeth Bennet really is blind to her faults and those of her family until she reads Darcy’s letter, which has a devastating effect upon her:

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36

It is clear, I think that Jane Austen needs us to know how negligent Elizabeth has been, not only personally but as a Christian. Had she constantly examined her behaviour and motives as instructed by the Companion, she might not have been so blind and prejudiced against Darcy, and so taken in by Wickham and his lies.

Emma, too, is someone who would have benefitted from self-examination, for despite her proud boast to Harriet in Chapter 10;

“If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty.

she really did not know herself at all, being too proud of her abilities, and scornful of others. In Chapter 47, after Harriet has avowed she is in  love with Mr. Knightley, Emma finally understands how stupidly and blindly she has acted:

Her own conduct, as well as her own heart, was before her in the same few minutes. She saw it all with a clearness which had never blessed her before. How improperly had she been acting by Harriet! How inconsiderate, how indelicate, how irrational, how unfeeling had been her conduct! What blindness, what madness, had led her on! It struck her with dreadful force, and she was ready to give it every bad name in the world. …

Jane Austen certainly understood how to set her characters up for one almighty fall. Similarly, Marianne Dashwood’s extreme penitence  after returning home to Barton after her illness, is indicative of her previous blindness to her own faults:

They have borne more than our conduct. Do not, my dearest Elinor, let your kindness defend what I know your judgment must censure. My illness has made me think — It has given me leisure and calmness for serious recollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past; I saw in my own behaviour since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself, by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction. I did not know my danger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery, — wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died, in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister! — You, who had seen all the fretful selfishness of my latter days; who had known all the murmurings of my heart! — How should I have lived in your remembrance! — My mother too! How could you have consoled her! — I cannot express my own abhorrence of myself. Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Everybody seemed injured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent and unjust; with an heart hardened against their merits, and a temper irritated by their very attention. — To John, to Fanny, — yes, even to them, little as they deserve, I had given less than their due. But you, — you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet, to what did it influence me? — not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself. — Your example was before me: but to what avail? — Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone? No; — not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for whom I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 46.

Of course, Marianne, who is only 16 when the novel begins, may not have yet received her first communion, and may not, therefore, have been totally aware of her duty to examine her thoughts, words and deeds in  such a severe fashion, to avoid possible Divine retribution. But the retribution her creator ensures she receives -severe illness- is exactly the punishment that the Companion fears will be the lot of someone who fails to prepare themselves properly when taking the sacrament of Holy Communion,  thereby failing to live a Christian life through self-examination:

Note, this Word “Damnation” does not signify eternal Condemnation but on the contrary some temporal Punishment or judgment…such as Sickness or Death…

(The Companion,Page 8)

It is an interesting point to consider. But I think you will agree that it would appear that Jane Austen did place  extreme  importance on the ability to know yourself, truly, honestly and without prevarication, and this is reflected not only in her own conduct, but in her characters’ lives.

If you would like to read this interesting book for yourself, a copy of the Companion is available to read on Google Books: go here to see.

And that concludes for a while our small topic of Jane Austen and religion. I hope it has been interesting to you..

Today BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour again considered what books you might read on holiday in their Summer Reading series. Today’s topic was Romantic Fiction. Alice Peterson, whose novel has beaten Fifty Shades of Grey from the Kindle Top Ten list, tells us her preferences, as does journalist, Tanya Grey. Classic romantic stories are discussed as well as modern.

Matthew Macfadeyn as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Matthew Macfadeyn as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Mr. Darcy, and Captain Wentworth appear in the conversation(as does Mr Rochester).

Ciaràn Hinds as Captain Wentworth in the BBC's  1995 production of Persuasion

Ciaràn Hinds as Captain Wentworth in the BBC’s 1995 production of Persuasion

And the erotic nature of Persuasion is discussed…. tempted? Of course you are…Go here to listen to the very short- eight minutes long- feature.

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….

For a woman and novelist of such obvious( to me at least) religiously based moral authority, it might surprise you to realise that Jane Austen makes direct mention of the Book of Common Prayer (and, indeed, to the Kings James Bible) only very occasionally.

As we noted in the last post, Jane Austen would have been very familiar with the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England, of which she was a member, and of which her father and, eventually, two of her brothers were priests. I think we ought to consider how often Jane Austen would have read the Prayer Book, for then it may become clear how its phrases became part of her, and how this was reflected in her works. Do note that Jane Austen wrote three prayers, date of composition unknown. I will not be discussing them in detail here, as we shall concentrate on the influence of the Prayer Book in her novels.

Frontispiece to the Book of Common Prayer 1761, printed by John Baskerville for the Cambridge University Press

Frontispiece to the Book of Common Prayer 1761, printed by John Baskerville for the Cambridge University Press

The Book of Common Prayer provides Anglicans with all the basic texts they need for all their devotions, throughout their lives, in church and at home. The services include those for Sundays, Morning and Evening Prayers, the litanies, daily offices( that is, daily church services) and also  for the special services that would have been performed throughout an Anglican’s life: that is, for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, death-bed communions and funerals. Each Prayer Book also contains a Psalter, which contains all the Psalms as translated by Miles Coverdale. They are included because the Psalms are- one or more of them-  an integral part of the services.

The Prayer Book also contains the Collects. The Collects are short prayers which are used not only in sequence though out the liturgical year, but also are used in private devotions.  The Lectoinary is also included: this is made up of  the readings-the Lessons- from the Old and New Testaments which were designated to be read on particular days, on a three-year cycle which was devised by Thomas Cranmer. He intended, therefore , that  the Prayer Book would not only be used in Church but at home in daily services held by the family, and also in private devotions.  The Austens at Steventon, Southampton and Chawton seem to have kept the habit of morning and evening prayers . In her letter to her sister, Cassandra dated the 24th October 1808, written when she was looking after her nephews Edward and George Knight, who were staying with her at Southampton after the death of their mother, Elizabeth Knight who had died unexpectedly after giving birth, Jane Austen makes mention of their habit of evening prayers:

In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over.

The habit of saying daily morning and evening prayers, as well as regular sunday attendances at church though out her life meant that Jane Austen would have been wholly family with the text of the Prayer Book, I’m sure you will agree. And in that case, it might surprise you how few direct references there are to the contents of the Prayer Book in her works.

The first and most obvious reference, is to the rubrick to the Solemnization of Matrimony service. The rubric is the instruction to the clergy and the laity as to how the service is to be conducted. This reference appears in Emma, in Chapter 53,  where Emma is coyly referring to her future marriage to Mr. Knightley:

Impossible! I never can call you any thing but ‘Mr. Knightley.’ I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton, by calling you Mr. K. But I will promise,” she added presently, laughing and blushing, “I will promise to call you once by your Christian name. I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess where; — in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse.”

Here you can see the service for the Solmnization of Matrimony from John Baskerville’s Prayer Book of 1761, printed after the accession to the throne of George III( and do note you can enlarge all these pictures by clicking on them):

The Solemnization of Matrimony  from the 1761 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, printed for Cambridge University Press by John Baskerville

The form of service of the Solemnization of Matrimony from the 1761 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, printed for Cambridge University Press by John Baskerville

As you can clearly see, the two parties to be married are referred to throughout the service as N and M:

A more puzzling reference to one of the Psalms, Psalm 16, is made by Miss Bates, again in Emma, Chapter 21

 “Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good to us. If ever there were people who, without having great wealth themselves, had every thing they could wish for, I am sure it is us. We may well say that “”our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.””

Here Jane Austen has made Miss Bates, the impoverished daughter of the former vicar of Highbury, misquote the Psalm:

You can see that Verse 7 clearly states:

The Lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground: yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Margaret Anne Doody in her essay Jane Austen’s Reading, which is contained in the Jane Austen Handbook, (1986) edited by J. David Grey, explains this mistake as follows:

Miss Bates’s simple use of it point sot a misapprehension; she has no heritage-that is her problem. She is referring to charity, the only heritage the minister’s daughter may expect. Austen’s own relation to this truth may have tempted her in this instance to forsake her own custom ( of not referring directly or too closely to religious texts- JFW)

Other instances of indirect references to the Prayer Book can be found in her characters speech and in their letters. For they, like most of us and their creator, would have used phrases from the Prayer Book almost without knowing. Here are just three examples: there are more. The first is taken from chapter 57 of Pride and Prejudice: Mr Bennet relates the contents of Mr. Collins’ letter to Elizabeth and informs her that Charlotte is now pregnant;

The rest of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte’s situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch.

This is a reference to Psalm 128, verse 4

Thy children like the olive-branches round about thy table.

In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon obliquely refers to the Communion of the Sick, wherein the sacrament would be administered to a dying person:

 Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a better preparation for death; and that was given. I saw her placed in comfortable lodgings, and under proper attendants; I visited her every day during the rest of her short life; I was with her in her last moments.”

Chapter 31.

The phrase  preparation for death is clearly a reference to  this service – the last rites if you like-  where poor Eliza could ready and prepare herself for death. Colonel Brandon could do nothing more for her than to enable her to meet her end with dignity and in accordance with her faith;

The final example in this post comes from Chapter 23 of Persuasion, after Captain Wentworth is reconciled with Anne Elliot, and is considering her defence of her own conduct and of Lady Russell’s part in persuading Anne to reject his first offer of marriage:

He looked at her, looked at Lady Russell, and looking again at her, replied, as if in cool deliberation –

   “Not yet, but there are hopes of her being forgiven in time. I trust to being in charity with her soon.

This is again a reference to the Communion service:

Prior to receiving the sacraments the priest advises his congregation to prepare themselves for it on these terms

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your signs and are in love and charity with your neighbours..Draw near with faith  and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort

So…why didn’t Jane Austen make more open references to this book, with which she was wholly familiar? Perhaps  the answer comes from her friend, Mrs Barrett of Alton, who had this to say about Jane Austen’s faith as expressed in her novels:

Miss Austen…had on all the subjects of enduring religious feeling the deepest and strongest convictions but a contact with loud and noisy exponents of the then popular religious phase made her reticent almost to a fault. She had to suffer something in the way of reproach from those who believed she might have used her genius to greater effect. But her old friend used to say, “I think I see her now defending what she thought was the real province of a delineator of life and manners and declaring her belief that example and not “direct preaching” was all that a novelist could properly afford to exhibit…

(“Jane Austen’s Friend Mrs. Barrett”, R. W. Chapman,  Nineteenth-Century Fiction , Vol. 4, No. 3 (Dec., 1949), pp. 171-174)
How very typical of her to realise that preaching would not influence people, only examples of lives lived well would do, and by making only glancing references to books she obvious considered serious, she did not diminish their worth, or their influence upon her.
Next, one of her  favourite books, William Vickers’ Companion to the Alter.
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

Back from holiday, still mesmerised by the bonkers but brilliant Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, I thought you might all enjoy looking at these two films about Hugh Thomson. He, of course, illustrated all six of Jane Austen’s novels at the turn of the last century. He created the most beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice, and my posts about his life and his work on Sense and Sensibility, which I wrote last year, still remain very popular with visitors to this site.

The first film is a short overview of Thomson’s life and works produced by Culture Northern Ireland, presented by Helen Perry:

The second is a longer and a very informative and detailed film on the life and works of Thomson, again presented and narrated by Helen Perry.  It concentrates on examining some of the 700 of  Thomson’s works which were recently  purchased for the Coleraine Museum with help for the Heritage Lottery fund.

If you go here you can also explore part of the Thomson archive for yourselves: 71 of his illustrations, book bindings and letters etc., are available to online visitors via the Coleraine Museum’s website. No Jane Austen illustrations are included as yet, but the exhibits are  interesting despite this, and I particularly admired the sumptuous  binding for Cranford by Mrs Gaskell.

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

Enjoy!

Well, to the interiors of Pemberley as seen in the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice ;)

My dear Twitter friend Adrian Tinniswood tells me that Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, which is owned by the National Trust,  is today giving a tour of the house with emphasis on its Pride and Prejudice theme.  They will be holding another group tour on this theme on the 30th June. Places are strictly limited, so if you want to book then do telephone the Hall on  01283 585337.

I’ve written about the interiors of Sudbury before, herehere and here…and so I know that on the tour you will see the elegant white and gold Salon where Darcy and Elizabeth had their rapprochement …

The Stair Case Hall where Mrs Gardiner began to understand that Wickham was not quite the thing

The Long Gallery where Elizabeth pondered the portrait of Darcy

and Mr Darcy’s bedroom itself!

 “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

My mention of liveried servants in yesterday’s review of the book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has prompted quite a number of you to contact me to enquire about liveries.There seems to be some confusion out there- some thinking the these were merely fancy costumes, picked out on a whim by employers-others not knowing what they looked like at all, so I’ve decided to write about them in the next few posts. I do hope you won’t be bored.

Liveries are mentioned by Jane Austen  in Pride and Prejudice and in Persuasion. What exactly were they ? For this answer we have to undertake a little history lesson. My authority for most of today’s content is The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) by John E. Cussans, and I’m using this mid-19th century book because it refers to the 18th century use of liveries, and also because changes in the world of Heraldry, like the mills of the Gods, grind exceeding slow:

This is a fascinating book; a well written, plain explanation of this rather complex subject. Today we will look at what it has to say about the history of livery uniforms.

The custom of distributing clothes -or what in the present day would be styled uniforms-  amongst the servants of the Crown- such as Judges, Ministers ,Stewards etc- date from a period nearly coeval with the Conquest.( circa 1066A.D.-jfw) This distribution was termed a “Livreé”: hence the more recent expression, “Livery”.

(Cussans,Page 311)

…the great feudal barons subsequently distributed liveries amongst their dependants and retainers. It must not be considered that the wearing of liveries was confined exclusively to the menial servants of the household, as at present, or was considered in any way more degrading than an officer of the Crown regards his distinctive uniform. The son of a duke would wear the livery of the prince under whom he served; and an earl’s soon might don the livery of a duke, without derogating from his dignity.

(Cussans,page 311)

The practice of allowing some servants to wear liveries eventually became the only example of such marks of distinction being worn:

The primary purpose Liveries were intended to serve has long since been forgotten amongst us, and our coachmen and footmen alone remain as representatives of the splendour which once marked the households of the feudal nobility.

(Cussans,page 314)

It ought to be remembered that during the late 18th century/early 19th century most household servants did not wear a distinctive  uniform, such as we are used to seeing in adaptations of fictional Edwardian households such as in Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Female servants wore what was practical, and often wore cast-offs from their mistresses, though moralists detested this practise.  Sophie von La Roche wrote, during her travels in London in 1786 of the serving girls she saw in the streets of London:

…the maids, women of middle class and the children. The former almost all wear black taminy petticoats and heavily stitched, and over these long English Calico or linen frocks, though not so long and close-fitting to the body as our tailors and taste cut and point them. Further they mostly wear white aprons; though the servants and working women often appear in striped linen aprons

Jane Austen’s kinswoman by marriage, and friend of her aunt and uncle, the Leigh Perrots, Mrs Lybbe Powys wrote in her diary of her visit to the Jackson family at Weasenham Hall in Norfolk in 1756, and of her astonishment in finding the female servants were actually wearing a uniform:

Never did a landlord seem so beloved, or indeed deserve to be so, for he is a most worthy man, and in however high a stile( sic-jfw) a man lives in in town, which he certainly does, real benevolence is more distinguishable in a family at their country -seat, and none do more good than where we now are. Then everything here is regularity itself , but the master’s method is, I take it, now become the method of the servants by use as well as choice.

Nothing but death make a servant leave them. The old housekeeper has now been there one-and-fifty years; the butler two or three-and-thirty……I was surprised to see them all ,except on Sundays, in green stuff gowns, and on my inquiring of Miss Jackson how they all happened to fix so on one particular colour, she told me a green camblet for a gown used for many years to be an annual present of her mothers to those servants who behaved well, and had been so many years in her family, and that now indeed, as they all behaved well, and had lived there much longer than the limited term, this was constantly their master’s New Year gift.

I thought this in Mr Jackson a pretty compliment to his lady’s memory, as well as testimony of the domestics still deserving of his good opinion.

See page 4, Passages from the Diaries of Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, OXON(1756-1808) edited by Emily Climenson (1899)

Some people,Daniel Defoe amongst them, thought that female servants should all adopt a modest uniform, as quoted in Anne Buck’s magnificent book , Dress in Eighteenth-Century England. Female servants very often received fine dresses as perks of the job. And many employers didn’t seem to object to those dresses being worn by the said female servants. As Anne Buck concludes:

Contact with well dressed women developed the eye and taste of many serving maids and helped them to dress with understanding of the fashion they followed. The absence of any uniform, on or off duty, left them free to follow fashions according to their own taste and means.

If they dressed too finely for their station they might be censured, but the readiness of women to pass on their own clothes to their servants shows there was no sharp division of dress, nor even a social convention against servants occasionally buying the same garment at the same time as their mistress :

“Nancy bought of Bagshaw this mornings…a very genteel Shawl at 10 shillings. Both my maids brought 2 Shawls the same as Nancy.”

Parson Woodeford records this as a fact without any judgement or comment

For some male servants, however as we have note, the situation was different and a uniform was provided by the employer. Footmen and coachmen wore liveries, if they were entitled to by the social rank of their employer. In our next post, we shall look at these uniforms and their colours in more detail.

 

Last night the BBC aired its latest edition of the Antiques Roadshow filmed last summer at the wonderful Stanway House, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire which has always been one of my favourite places in England to visit , with its magical garden, originally planned by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century,and which, since the 1980s, has undergone a process of extensive restoration.

At one point in the show we were treated to a Jane Austen fest. A lady who possessed some old looking editions of Jane Austen novels appeared. She owned rather tatty copies of  Pride and Prejudice,Mansfield Park and Emma. She wanted to know if they were first editions and if it was worth having them rebound. She had inherited them from her father who had, in turn, inherited them from a godmother.

They were in pretty poor condition, as they had lived for 25 years in a suitcase in her attic.

However on closer inspection, and in my opinion, the binding shows them to have been originally owned by an earl, looking closely at the coronet on  the bindings. An English earl is entitled to wear  a coronet  which has eight strawberry leaves (four are visible in depictions of it) and eight silver balls (or pearls) around the rim (of which five are visible in depictions).The bindings are also marked with the cypher “A. R.”  .

I do hope the owner does some research into the original owner before she replaces the original bindings.

She was assured that they really were first editions and was delighted with this discovery. Some slightly dubious comments were made by the expert about anonymity, as to why Jane Austen didn’t put her name to her works, but I’ll gloss over that. He advised that all three novels( three volumes each, making 9 volumes in all) were worth being rebound, at a probable cost of £1000…

for he estimated their worth at £5000 each, a low estimate he hastened to add. I would say very low, frankly in the current market. But it was lovely to hear that the owner was a Janeite, almost word-perfect on the novels, and she was delighted to realise that she had in her possession, three (THREE!!!) first editions of books written by her favourite author. Good luck to her!

If you are able to access the BBC iPlayer, the programme is availabe to view for the next 6 days, and the item under discussion appeared approximately 40 minutes into the programme.

After a week where we discussed the merits of a portrait of Jane Austen, I thought it highly appropriate to review this fascinating book, which has been recently published by Yale. It would make the prefect present for anyone interested in the history of the perceptions of female beauty, that ever-changing ideal that is almost  impossible for any one woman to attain. Aileen Ribeiro, Emeritus Professor at the Courtaluld Institute,  has written a thought provoking and carefully researched book on this most elusive of subjects. Though it deals with a long time period- from 1540 to 1940-  the detailed chapter on beauty in the Enlightenment period is worth the cover price of the book alone.

Jane Austen lived though a period when ideals of beauty changed almost 180 degrees. When she was born, in 1775, powdered and pomaded hair, teased fantastically high, above a powered, rouged and patched face was the fashionable norm. The picture, above, taken from a fan made in the 1770s is a satire of a fashionable woman at her toilette.  Jane Austen would surely have seen women who aspired to this type of beauty. Indeed, a small, delicate rouge pot is kept in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum which is thought to have been the property of her fascinating cousin and eventual sister-in-law, Eliza de Feuillide . You can see it below in one of my own photographs.( Note, this is not included in the book)

However, by the turn of the century , 1800, that had all changed.

The more natural elegance of Justine Recamier, above, though no less artful, was more favoured after the upheavals of the French Revioluton and the overthrow of the old order:

Compared with the Renaissance, the  eighteenth century was a period of personal comfort, of improved hygiene and of bodily intimacy, all of which turned the toilette into a high art, in which the theatre of dressing and undressing was an much an enjoyable entertainment as making up the face. The century regarded beauty as a whole, the body as well as the face…

Professor Ribeiro discusses in immense detail how (mostly) male writers sought to comment on women’s beauty and, by these means, also attempted to control their behaviour. Look at this passage about Jane Asuten’s favourite poet, William Copwer, with his somewhat familiar arguments agasint  the over use of cosmetics:

The poet William Cowper pursued the idea of deceit in make up by asking how far the eye was really deceived if the face was overly made up. In France, according to his argument, woman’s use of paint was not intended to mislead because the artifice was too obvious; Englishwomen, however, tried to mislead by more subtle make up, for they wanted “to be thought beautiful and much more beautiful than nature has made them” and so they were “guilty of a design  to deceive”

In the early 19th cnetury, neoclassicism and its emphasis on the natural look inspired by the Greek and Roman statuary , flourished, as personified by this portrait of Queen Louise of Prussia by Joseph Grassi ( 1804)

But it was a type of beauty that emphasised the young and the youthful. Professor Riberio notes that at this time:

Youthfulness was a crucial component of beauty-that is, a slim figure enhanced by light and simple dress and a youthful complexion that remained well beyond the juvenile age.

This print by Robert Deighton, Fashionable Lady in Dress and Undress dating from 1807 shows the sheer  amount of work and artifice that was necessary to present this appearance of youthful beauty as a woman aged…

As Professor Riberio wryly comments:

Even when the vogue for the  classical flourished at the  turn of the century, not every woman abandoned face paint or cosmetics; make up, like certain favoured styles of dress, is so much a part of sense of self that it is often retained beyond youth, when no longer fashionable. Many women, especially those of a certain age, must have felt more comfortable when dress assumed a natural waist level, when the arms were covered and when, by using cosmetics, they could ‘ baffle time in his invidious warfare against comeliness”

What I particularly loved was the detailed documentary on the cosmetics that women have used throughout the period covered by the book. All in the hope , sometimes a desperate and dangerous hope given the ingredients used, of appearing youthful and beautiful.

The foundation for a healthy and glowing face was unblemished skin, which was softened with a scented oil or a wax-based pomade…

The pomades which would give the appearance of a youthful skin were prepared and bought by women, rather in the way we buy age defying formulas today. Fascinating.

I can wholly  recommend this beautifully produced and sumptuously illustrated book to you. Professor Riberio has a great style which is entertaining, elegant and erudite. You will love this book, and reading  it will give you some insights into why Caroline Bingley was so dismissive of Elizabeth Bennet’s tan ,and why,  indeed, Darcy found her glowing complexion so compelling ;)

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.

Chapter 43

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.

Chapter 34

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.

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

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:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

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:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

But some students were more ordinary souls. This delicate watercolour of camellias was executed by one Sarah Bray:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

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.

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