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If you would like to enter the Give-away Competition organised to celebrate the first anniversary of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s blog then you have until the end of today 17th January to enter. You can do so by adding a comment to this post linked here.


The lucky winner will be announced next week, and the prize is a beautifully presented facsimile first edition of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

I thought I would post  a short update to let you know how some Austen-related lots fared at auction recently.



The uniformly bound set of five Jane Austen first editions plus the second edition of Sense and Sensibility which I wrote about, here was sold by Christies at their sale on the 21st November for £39,650. The sale estimate was between £30,000 and £50,000.



The first edition of Emma which was due to be sold by Bonhams on the 13th November,and which I wrote about here does not appear to have sold. Will this have any bearing on the forthcoming sale of Anne Sharp’s presentation copy of Emma at Sotheby’s? It remains to be seen…The Ackermanns all sold, as did the collection of mementos presented to Anne Percy, the Royal wet nurse, by the family of George III. This lot sold for £6000 including the buyer’s premium.

And finally, though it has little to do with the topic of this post,  may I take this opportunity to wish all my US readers a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!

He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, — all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy… 

Chapter 33 Sense and Sensibility

I thought you might appreciate sight of these 18th century toothpick cases that were recently sold at auction by Cheffins Auctioneers of Cambridge at their  Antiques and Interiors Sale which was held on the 4th October.



As you can see they are both made of ivory:  one has a compass set into the lid, and has been converted to hold a thermometer…



while the other has a plait of hair set into the lid, which is surrounded by diamante studs on blue cabochons. The hinges are of gold metal.



No doubt these charming  examples might be too plain for Robert Ferrars, but I think they are quite lovely. They sold rather cheaply and reached a sale price of only  £100.

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..

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.

I recently purchased the 1818 edition of this book, The Life of Princess Charlotte, and I thought you might be interested to see some scans form it.

Frontispiece of “The Life of Princess Charlotte” 1818

Princes Charlotte was, of course, the ill-fated only legitimate child of the Prince Regent, below,

The Prince Regent from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, below.

The Princess of Wales from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

A fan of Jane Austen’s works, she loved Sense and Sensibility. In 1812, when she read the novel, she would have been 16 years old. According to the evidence in her letters by 1st January 1812, she had” heard much” of the novel. By the  22nd January she had got a copy of the novel and had devoured it:

‘“Sence and Sencibility” (sic-jfw) I have just fin- ished reading; it certainly is interesting, & you feel quite one of the company. I think Maryanne (sic-jfw) & me are very like in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c, however remain very like. I must say it interested me much.’

Princess Charlotte and the first page of “The Life of the Princess Charlotte”

(See page 26, and note 6 thereto of The Letters of Princess Charlotte, 1811–1817, (1949) edited by A.Aspinall )

In 1816 she married Prince Leopold , shown below,

Prince Leopold from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

Their first meeting is shown in this imagined plate from the book:

The First Interview from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

They married on the 2nd May 1816, and the scene is also captured in the book, again an imaginary scene as the engraver would not have been present:

The Solemnization of the Marriage from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

Their future seemed assured, with the couple settling into a quiet life away from the court at Claremont in Surrey.

Claremont from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

Unhappily Princess Charlotte  died, in childbirth, in 1817. Her baby son was still-born. This plate from the book shows her funeral procession at Windsor:

The Funeral Procession from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

Her death saw an outpouring of grief that was probably unprecedented in English history-and was unrepeated untill the somewhat hysterical scenes that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Commemorative items -jugs,plates,figurines etc showing images of  Princess Charlotte were sold in their thoudsands.This book was published as a result of the communal grief…and probably a desire to cash in on the situation. The reason for all this upset? With her death and that of her son, the succession to the English throne was no longer secure. As her parents were violently estranged there was no hope that they would produce another child, a direct heir. The King,  poor George III, shown below, had such poor health that he lived in seclusion at Windsor, blind, deaf and mentally disturbed.

George III from “The Life of Princess Charlotte”

Charlotte’s death saw the beginning of a rather unseemly scramble amongst The Prince Regent’s brothers to marry and provide a legitimate replacement for poor Charlotte and her son. Princess Victoria, the daughter of the Duke of Duchess of Kent  was the first child to be produced and survive in this unseemly contest. She was born on the 24th May 1819, and became the heiress presumptive to the throne. She, of course, became Queen after the death of her uncle, King William IV in 1837.

The book is really a very poorly written article, proving that habits regarding commemorative books have  changed very little over the years( You will understand what I mean if you have tried to read any of the commemorative books produced for the Diamond Jubilee, or last year’s Royal Wedding) However, it’s an interesting piece of social history and I’ve always want to have a copy; this was the first I’ve found I could afford. If you would like to read the whole of the book, it is available as an e-book on Google BooksGo here to read it. The description of Princess Charlotte’s wedding  and funeral are fascinating, and are probably based on newspaper reports of the time.A lot of the descriptions of the Princess are sugared to the max. The speculations as to who might inherit the throne on the death of the Prince Regent.,especially the calculations on page 565-6 regarding life spans of the candidates, are fascinating. The Odes and Laments published in her honour are, to be truthful, overblown and laughable. You have been warned.

This delightful object was featured on a recent edition of BBC One’s programme, Bargain Hunt.

It comes from the collection of the Grey family who lived at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire, shown below. The property is now in the care of  the National Trust.

As you can see it, the decoration on the tea caddy  is made of filigree work – which can be known as rolled paper work or quill work. I’ve written about it before, here, as it was of course mentioned by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility: Lucy Steele, attempting to curry favour with the Middletons, in particular with Lady Middleton, creates a filigree work basket for the Middleton’s spoilt daughter, Annamaria:

“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23

The structure of the tea caddy is made from wood, and has internal compartments for two different types of tea:

But it is the outside decoration which is so stunning. The decoration on the lid of the caddy has sadly faded as it has been kept  in sunlight:

You can see that only the slightest trace of colour remains in the rolled paper pieces:

However the side panels , which have escaped the ruinous effects of the sun, are a different matter. You can see from this series of photographs  how very beautiful the decoration is. Do note that the individual side panels are differently decorated : one incorporates  a print or engraving…

and some include pieces of mica, set behind some of the quilled decoration. Mica is a mineral known as sheet silicate which gives a very shiny effect. The term  “mica” is derived from the Latin word mica, probably and very appropriately derived from the verb by micare, which means “to glitter”.

You can also see that some of the quills were made from gold, foiled papers.

If you would like to see this object on the programme you can do so by accessing it here via the BBCs iPlayer for the next five days. You will need to access the programme at 20 minutes in, in order to see the item about Nunnington Halk. Sadly this is not, I fear, available to  any of you resident outside the UK.

However, in spite of that restriction, I thought you might like to see another example of the type of work with which Lucy Steel was attempting to ingratiate herself into the Middleton household :)

Hello ! and belated Easter, Passover or General Spring and Chocolate Eating Festival Greetings from me. I’m sorry for my recent absence but I’m back refreshed and ready to share more Austen related news with you. Let’s get on, shall we….

You may recall that Montacute House near Yeovil in Somerset, above, was used as a location in Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility. It is a beautiful Elizabethan house, built in the latter part of the 16th century for the rich lawyer, Sir Edward Phelips. It is now in the care of the National Trust. In the 1995 film it was used as the location for Cleveland, the country estate of the Palmers, and was, of course, the place where Marianne Dashwood became dreadfully ill with a putrid fever after catching a cold, wandering around the grounds past the “brain ” hedge,  as Ang Lee described this marvellous yew hedge in the grounds, below.


Andrew May who writes the lovely Lyme Regis Musuem blog, has just informed me that he is helping out with the new blog for Montacute house., and I thought you would all be interested to see it and perhaps follow it. Go here to see it.

I freely confess, I love to hear ‘back stage’ stories from country houses which are open to the public, so this  blog is a real treat to read. The blog is packed with interesting information about the day to day running of the house, and its grounds and contents.

For example, the blog has recently published  a series of fascinating posts about a portrait of James I by John de Critz. This portrait  has been purchased by the Trust for the house, which is highly appropriate as it was its original home. It was believed to have been given by the King to Edward Phelips. The posts are fascinating, especially those that deal with the respiration which was undertaken after the portraits purchase, and I’m sure that Jane Austen as a fervent supporter of the Stuarts would approve ;)

The National Trust has realised, I think, that visitors to these houses like to glean a lot of information about them and that more informal methods of communicating- via websites or blogs – can not only spread the word but can also foster a community of supporters for individual properties. It is not possible to have backstage tours at  many of their houses, or to allow physical visitors to see everything that goes on. Sharing news and information with virtual visitors via these blogs and the newly-designed web pages for each property is  a low-impact but very effective way of allowing us to feel involved and in touch with the developments at these fascinating places. Monatcute is one of my favourites ( for, as you know, I am rather partial to Elizabethan and Jacobean houses) and I’m so glad I can keep  “in touch”  with it  and its doings in this way. I think it is an initiative that should be applauded and I hope it spreads to my other favourite properties. A blog can be hard work and time consuming but it is a wonderful means of communicating, and allows visitors who cannot always physically be there- for many reasons- the opportunity to feel involved and relevant. Which can only be good news for the Trust and its properties in in the long-term. Bravo.

is now scheduled to be broadcast on the 23rd December from 9 p.m.- 10 p.m. on BBC2

The Press Release for the programme gives us some hints of its content:

To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Professor Amanda Vickery, one of the leading chroniclers of Georgian England, explores the ebb and flow of Austen’s popularity and the hold her fiction has on us now.

In this 60-minute programme, Vickery considers what it is about her plots and characters that continue to delight, amuse, console and provoke. Her fans insist her current popularity is due to the timelessness of the fictional world Austen created, but for Vickery the question is: Why have her novels gone in, and out, of fashion?

What interests Amanda is how different periods and generations have looked for their own reflection in the characters and plots of the novels. She wants to work out what that says about them, as well as about Austen.

As you are aware,  Amanda has spent much of the summer filming for this project all over the world, including at the Jane Austen House Museum,  filming the sale of The Watsons manuscript at Sotheby’s, visiting JASNA’s AGM at Fort Worth in Dallas. She has also recorded her impressions of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and has interviewed many experts, literary and non-literary,  including Jocasta Millar, the Bronte scholar and author of one of my favourite books, The Bronte Myth. 

I’m looking forward to it very much, and hope to be able to share my impressions of it with you, Christmas Preparations permitting!

It is Advent and Christmas is fast approaching…far too fast probably for all the preparations  to be completed on time. But I’m feeling a little frivolous and so, in this anniversary year for Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to have a little fun and enjoy listening and reading about the actors from Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s film version of Sense and Sensibility from 1995 who have appeared on the BBC Radio 4  programme, Desert Island Discs. This version of Jane Austen’s novel, with all its faults, omissions but many bonuses, is my favourite adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Desert Island Discs is a venerable radio programme, and was first broadcast   in 1942. It has been running continually since then. For those of you unfamiliar with it, tt  has a simple premise: imagine you are marooned on a desert island. You are allowed eight records, or recordings to accompany you. The Bible ( or your religious book of choice) and the Complete Works of Shakespeare are waiting for you too. You can choose to take another book and a luxury, which ought to have no practical use. The choices and the explanations for them are usually quite fascinating and illuminating.

Last week the Castaway was Robert Hardy- for the second time. Robert Hardy played a fabulous, lively Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film.

You can listen to Robert Hardy’s second tranche of choices here and read about his old choices, from 1978, here.  Amongst other interesting snippets, it was fascinating to hear about his choice of subject to read at Oxford University. Originally wanting to read History he was persuaded to read English instead, on the basis that his tutors would be C. S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien. Wise choice.

I thought you might like to hear ( or read, if the programme is rather old) other programmes with a Sense and Sensibility connection, as many members of the cast of that adaptation have, at different times, appeared on the programme …so here is the episode for Dame Harriet Walter, which can be listened to again.

Dame Harriet Walter was a most avaricious and compelling Fanny Dashwood in the 1995 production, possibly the best and most malevolent but funny Fanny Dashwood I’ve ever seen.

Go here to listen to Emma Thompson’s programme. Emma Thompson not only starred as Elinor Dashwood but also wrote the screenplay of the film, for which she won as Oscar. Gemma Jones’ programme can be read about here. She was a rather wonderful Mrs Dashwood, with charm and a resemblance to Marianne in her manner.

Hugh Laurie, who portrayed a much more sympathetic Mr Palmer than is detailed in the text, in my view, gave his selection and choices for his desert island exile here.

Hugh Grant’s choices can be accessed here: he was of course a rather impossibly handsome Edward Ferrars in the film.

Imelda Stuanton’s programme can be listened to here : she was a really wonderfully irritating and brainless Charlotte Palmer in the film.

The archive for the programme is fascinating and a great prevarication tool. You never know whose choices are lurking there awaiting discovery. For example, here is the  link to Colin Firth’s choices ,which can also be downloaded as a podcast to keep. You are most welcome ;)

In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.

Today we shall look at  the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at  The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.

Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.

He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.

Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London – The Hindoostanee Coffee-House – at 34 George Street, Portman Square.

This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.

His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.

His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:

Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very  exotic location in which to eat a meal.

Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:

To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.

(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))

The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet  had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade  from its original premises at 34 George Street  until 1833.

So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.

Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821

My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:

Mahomed’s Baths

These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those  who had resided in the East.

And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826

It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:

The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints

In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet  was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and  his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly  before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:

So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London.  Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet  published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he  stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary  It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on  the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:

In Sense and Sensibility we are told that Colonel Brandon served in the East Indies and, for the British Army at that time, this most likely would have meant being on active service  in India. In chapter 31 the poor Colonel recalls to Elinor Dashwood what happened to the woman he loved while he was away:

My brother had no regard for her; his pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon’s, was but too natural. She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation; and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me,” he continued in a voice of great agitation, “was of trifling weight — was nothing — to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom, — even now the recollection of what I suffered — “

Living in the East it is entirely possible that Colonel Brandon might have developed a taste for eating highly spiced food. If,  on his return to England he had wanted to continue eating curries, could he have expected his staff at Delaford to have been able to recreate one? The answer, rather surprisingly, is, yes.  It  is really interesting to note that the first recipe for curry published in an English cookery book appeared in 1747.

Above, is the frontispiece to the first edition of  The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, produced in facsimile by Prospect Books. It was in this edition of  her famous book that Hannah Glasse gave this first printed recipe in English, for a curry:

You can enlarge this image along with all the others in this post, simply by clicking on them. The method given for this particular curry has a lot in common with a modern Biriani- with the rice being cooked in with the sauce, not served separately. But the most interesting point to note is the very few spices used in Mrs Glasse’s recipe. She uses only pepper and coriander seeds which have been toasted.

By the time Martha Lloyd complied her collection of household remedies and food recipes in her Household Book things had moved on a little. Martha Lloyd was, of course, Jane Austen’s great friend and one of the cluster of ladies who lived together with her at Chawton Cottage from 1809 onwards. This is a picture of her as an older woman and as Frank Austen, Jane Austen’s brother’s second wife:

Her book dates from the late 18th to the early nineteenth century, and is now in the collection of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where I took this photograph of it, last year:

Her recipe for curry is a far more complex item than Mrs Glasse’s version, and is called A Receipt to Curry after the Indian Manner:

Cut two chickens as for fricasseeing, wash them clean and put them in a stew pan with as much water as will cover them, with a large spoonful of salt sprinkle them and let them boil till under covered close all the time, skim them well; when boiled enough take up the Chickens and put the liquor of them in a pan, then out half a pound of fresh butter in the pan and brown it a little, put into it two cloves of garlic and a large onion sliced and let these all fry till brown often shaking the pan, then put in Chickens and sprinkle over two or three spoonfuls of curry power, then cover them close and let the chickens do till brown  frequently shaking the Pan, then put in the Liquor the Chickens were boiled in and let all stew till tender. If acid is agreeable squeeze the juice of a Lemon or Orange into it.

The curry powder she refers to was most probably not a proprietary brand which could be brought in the shops, though Alan Davidson the food historian in his Oxford Companion to Food thought that:

Commercial mixtures had been available to cooks in Britain from late in the 18th century but seems not to have been a common article of commerce until later.

Certainly it is true that  in the 1796 edition of Hannah Glasse’s book, the recipe for curry required curry powder to be added to it. But this does not mean that  a commercially produced powder was always used, because recipes for curry powder exist in cookery compilations of the era.  In Martha’s case she was most probably referring to another recipe in her book. Her recipe for curry powder appears to have originated from her aunt, Mrs Jane Fowle. Mrs Fowle was not only Martha’s aunt but was also the mother of Thomas Fowle, who had been engaged to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister. Sadly, he died in 1797 before they could marry, of yellow fever, while accompanying his kinsman, Lord Craven, on service in the West Indies.

Her recipe for  Curry Powder, or as she terms it, Curee Powder, is as follows:

Take of Termeric (sic) Root and Galangal Root each half an oz. Best Cayenne Pepper a quarter of an oz. Let the Termeric and Galangal be reduced to a fine powered separately, then mix them with the other articles and keep for use. N.B. two oz of Rice powdered tone mixed also with the other ingredients.

Galangal root is a member of the ginger family, and it is fascinating to note that this exotic ingredient was available to purchase to these ladies living in the early 19th century. The roots of turmeric and galangal were most probably not bought fresh, as they can be today, but were more likely to have been bought already roasted and dried so that powering them could take place in a pestle and mortar.

An authentic curry powder originating from southern India was most likely to have included the following: coriander cumin and mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and the possible additions of cinnamon, cardamom,  cloves and chickpeas, all roasted and then ground to a powder. So you can see, by comparing the two , that the British attempts at curries in the early parts of the 19th century, were rather tame things. My family are curry aficionados and I have attempted to recreate  Martha’s recipe. Using my own version of Mrs Fowle’s curry powder it produces a very nice, sweet tasting dish, but it is not very authentic, in my family’s rather strongly given opinion.

However, it is fascinating to me that as early as the late 18th century Jane Austen and the members of her family circles were eating such an exotic dish,and approved it so much that they took the trouble to write it down and most probably enjoyed it in the dining room at Chawton Cottage, seen below in one of my terribly short videos.

Next, where Colonel Brandon could have gone to eat a more authentic version than the one his cook at Delaford might have tired to recreate for him.

“And here is my sweet little Annamaria,” she added, tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise for the last two minutes; “And she is always so gentle and quiet — Never was there such a quiet little thing!”

   But unfortunately, in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship’s head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be outdone by any creature professedly noisy. The mother’s consternation was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, and everything was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer. She was seated in her mother’s lap, covered with kisses, her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar-plums by the other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress, last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected. She was carried out of the room therefore in her mother’s arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the room had not known for many hours.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 21

Ah, Lady Middleton. The cold, manipulative, too doting mother of spoilt, awful children. Creating these characters  gave Jane Austen free rein to be scathing about both spoilt children and their appallingly self-centered mother. Adding, no doubt, fuel to the fire to some of the claims that Jane Austen “hated children”. Not at all,  the evidence from her other novels and from her letters show JAne Austen to have been very keen on and kind to well-behaved,well brought up children and their mammas. I think this passage illustrates that she simply detested spoilt brats and their oblivious parents.

In this passage the Miss Steeles- Nan and Lucy- the sycophantic fools, are immediately on hand to pander to Lady Middleton’s poor, little, desperately wounded but calculating child. They proffer sugar plums( more on that subject next week) and bathe her “would” with lavender water.

From Roman times lavender water has been recognised as something good with which to bathe wounds, as it has a naturally antiseptic effect. In Jane Austen’s era you could, if you had access to lavender plants,or essence of lavender, make your own lavender water, by following some of the many recipes for it in the cookery books and advice books of the day.

Mrs Rafffald in her recipe book A New System of Domestic Cookery, (below is the title page of my 1819 copy of her book)

had a simple version:

The unknown author of the companion volume to Mrs Raffald’s work, also published by John Murray ( the man who published Emma, you will recall)

gave the more traditional, complicated manner of making lavender water, by using a still to extract the essence of lavender:


Martha Lloyd’s Household Book which is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, contains a recipe for making lavender water. In A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes written by Peggy Hickman, published in 1977, the following recipe appears:

To one quart of the best rectified spirits of wine put 3/4 oz of essence of lavender and 1/2 scruple of ambergris; shake it together and it is fit for use in a few days

As you can see, Martha’s recipe is very similar to the simple method described in Mrs Rundell’s book, above. Martha was, of course, their life long friend and she lived with the Austen ladies in their Chawton home.

There was an alternative to making your own lavender water, of course, You could buy a proprietary brand.The brand that Jane Austen and  her sister Cassandra seem to have preferred was Mr Steele’s Lavender Water. In her letter to Cassandra dated 14th January 1801 she commissions her, on behalf  of Martha Lloyd, to purchase some of Mr Steele’s lavender water when she next visits london:

Martha left you her best love. She will write to you herself in a short time; but, trusting to my memory rather than her own, she has nevertheless desired me to ask you to purchase for her two bottles of Steele’s lavender water when you are in town, provided you should go to the shop on your own account, otherwise you may be sure that she would not have you recollect the request.

Mr Steele had his shop and lavender water producing workshop at 15 Catherine Street, London just off the Strand, near Somerset House. The approximate position of the shop is shown in these two sections taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

The approximate position of the shop is shown by the red arrow on both the sections:

Mr Steel also had a small house and a lavender nursery at Feltham near Hounslow Heath on the outskirts of London, approximately  six miles from the city. You can see the red arrow marking the position of Hounslow on the section of John Cary’s map of the Environs of London (1812) below:

He was also in business with his brother-in-law, one Mr Alley, who distilled the lavender into lavender water at the Catherine Street premises.  And now prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful…Mr Steele met with an untimely end. He was murdered in 1802 while he was on Hounslow Heath. His murderer, John Holloway was eventually found guilty of the murder in 1807. If you go here to the magnificent Old Bailey On line website, you can read a full account of the trial. It is absolutely fascinating, and for me raises many, many questions. I thought, however, that you might like to read Mr Steels sad tale, which is a reminder that Jane Austen’s era was not all lavender water and lace, and that for some unfortunate souls, violence was not far from the surface ;)

Brighton Pavilion, George IV’s seaside folly,  has a wonderful new exhibit space, The Prince Regent Gallery which will be used to house exhibits relating to the Prince’s rather extravagant life and times.

The current exhibit is of some of  his clothes, to coincide with the Dress for Excess Exhibition, which I have covered extensively in the past few months. Some of the items on display relate to his Coronation in 1821, and I will be writing about these  in a few weeks time. The others garments are more personal item of clothing, and it is these clothes I am going to be writing about today.

The first is a superb Banyan:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It dates from between 1770-1780. It is made of a beautiful Indian cotton printed with a floral design very typical of the late 18th century. The fabric has been quilted for extra warmth:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Here is a close-up of the collar:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

and here is a closeup of the Banyan showing the way the banyan jacket fastens, with silk frogging:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Banyan was worn in informal situations in George’s homes, similar really to a dressing gown. At the Pavillion it would most likely to have been worn in the Kings Private apartments than in the public rooms.

An interesting feature of this banyan is that a waistcoat, made of the same fabric,  is attached to the jacket of the banyan, inside the side seams.  This would have allowed the banyan to be worn open, with its front pieces tied back, thus giving the appearance of wearing a coat and a waistcoat.

This is a nightshirt which was worn by George IV circa 1830, near the end of his life.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is made from fine linen:

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Embroidered on the right hand side of the nightshirt in red silk is the Royal cypher- the crown, together with the initials G. R .(which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase,  Georgius Rex-, which translates as King George) and the date.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Both the night-shirt and these breeches, below, give a good indication of just how corpulent George IV became towards the end of his life. Always prone to weight gain, these breeches, made circa 1827, measure 55 inches around the waist.

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

It is interesting to note that by this date trousers and become fashionable but George , once a  follower of fashion and disciple of Beau Brummel’s diktats, still clung to wearing breeches,  in a slightly dated manner

The label inside the breeches reveals them to have been made by Jonathan Meyer, the famous Regency tailor. An Austrian by birth he first specialised in making military uniforms. His premises were at 36  Conduit Street in Mayfair in London. He began making clothes for Beau Brummel and then for The Prince Regent in 1800. He was awarded a Royal warrant by George IV when he ascended the throne in 1820. interestingly, he pioneered the fashion for wearing trousers and was instrumental in the design of that garment, though. as we have seen. this was one fashion  that George IV was loath to adopt. Jonathan Meyers  tailoring business survives today, under the name Meyer and Mortimer,which was the firm he established in the 1830s along  with John Mortimer of Edinburgh who was also a tailor to the royal family. They still  practise bespoke tailoring at their premises of 6 Sackville Street, Mayfair in London.It is in this street, of course you will recall,  where Grey’s the jeweller also had premises, a fact that is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. This was the place where the dandy, Roberrt Ferrars, ordered a toothpick case, and where

Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.

Chapter 33

Greys was also patronised by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

This is a picture of the beeches, taken in the Gallery with, from left to right, Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Councellor David Smith, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and designer and tailor, Gresham Blake

©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photographer Jim Holden

The final piece of clothing is in fact an undergarment: a replica of the body belt or corset that George IV wore circa 1824.

The replica has been made form a card pattern made by one of George IVs tailors. It was worn as part of his undergarments. He famously wore one at his coronation in 1821 and he nearly fainted as a result of the combination of severe constriction caused by wearing the corset and with the great weight ( and heat) caused by wearing his magnificent and opulent  his coronation robes. And we shall be discussing them in the next post in this series. I do hope you have enjoyed looking at theses extraordinary garments as much as I did.

Today I have a rare treat for you- a close look at a nearly forgotten ladies accomplishment: paper filigree work.

Poor Elinor Dashwood: in order to learn more of Lucy Steele’s entanglement with Edward Ferrars, she has to volunteer to join her in making  a filigree basket for Annamaria Middleton, whom Jane Austen describes as a spoilt child:

“Perhaps,” continued Elinor, “if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible, I think, for her labour singly, to finish it this evening. I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow me a share in it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 23

Playing cards with the cold Lady Middleton or having heartrending talks with spiteful, scheming Lucy? Not much of a choice is it?

Rolledpaper work, filigree work, or as it is now known, quilling, was a popular pastime for accomplished young ladies in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. The first known forms of this type of decoration, which is made by decorating items with many, many rolled and pinched or crimped  pieces of paper, set in pleasing patterns, date from the 15th and 16th centuries.Predominantly using gold and silver covered paper, filigree work was then used to decorate items with religious significance- pictures of saints etc.- however, shortly after the Reformation in England,when “idolatrous” objects were discouraged, the practice died out. In the mid 17th century the art was revised in England ,and was often used in conjunction with stump work embroidery  to decorate mirrors and caskets. In the 18th century it became a popular pastime for young ladies. Most were content to work on small pieces, as in Annamaria’s basket, and pieces like this tea caddy dating from about 1800, below:

You can see that the patterns formed by the rolled pieces of paper  give a similar effect to filigree work made from strings or threads of precious metals such as gold or sliver, hence its name.

Some ladies were more accomplished than others, and were more ambitious too. Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of George III,was known to have ordered and received a cabinet especially constructed so that she could cover it with filigree work. It was described as a box made for filigree work with ebony mouldings, lock and key and also a tea caddy to correspond…

A cabinet of this type of work still exists and that is what I would like to show to you now. It appeared on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt Programme on Wednesday 2nd November, and was chosen by the programme’s presenter,Tim Wonnacott formerly of Sothebys ,as the object he most coveted in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Cheshire.

Here is Tim, standing next to the cabinet, which dates from the last years of the 18th century:

It has a stand, and is 4 feet 10 inches tall, 2 feet wide and 1 foot 5 inches deep.

The exterior is decorated with prints, filigree work and freshwater pearls:

The prints have been coloured, then applied to the cabinet and then finally  varnished to give the appearance of oil paintings. In the image above you can see that the side panels are decorated as well as the doors.

If you take a close look at the decoration on the doors, you can see the tightly rolled pieces of paper…

which have been affixed to the surface of the cabinet. Note  that the pattern comes not only from the way the pieces have been rolled but also from the use of papers of different colours.

The doors are also decorated with strings of freshwater pearls…

which are set in the form of swags. They help “display” the varnished prints in a decorative manner… that the pictures  hang pendant from the swags:

The sides are decorated in a stunning pink pattern: butterflies dance among the whirls of paper

The programme showed us something that is not normally seen- the interior of the cabinet:

The interior is stunning. The colours are almost as they were when it was made 200 years ago, because, of course, they have been protected from  attacks of the sun and dirt. The reverses of the doors were not shown to us in detail but I can tell you that they are lined with painted satin bordered with glass jewels.

The centre panel of the cabinet  again contains a varnished print, but this time it is set around with cut steel pieces-a very fashionable material at the time for buckles and jewellery, for despite its dull sounding name , it actually sparkles like cut stones.

This would have glittered and shone in the candlelight of a late 18th century sitting room, such a wonderful effect.

The interior of the cabinet is furnished with many small drawers, all decorated with filigree work:

You can see them in these two illustrations:

Here are some close-ups of the filigree work patterns on the drawers:

…here you can see a pattern of pink  leafage set amongst a ground of aqua coloured paper rolls

Another leafage pattern this time in pale green, plus a star pattern..or is it a flower?

Another complex star/flower pattern with green leafage

These patterns were not necessarily the brainchild of the woman working them. Patterns could be purchased and some were printed in women’s magazine of the time. This one, below, shows very similar leafage and flower designs to the ones used on the cabinet:

This was first published in The New Ladies’ Magazine for 1786. In the same magazine there was an advertisement for the finest filigree work which could be seen at the first shop in Mount Street by Berkeley Square.

A statement in the same magazine promoted the craft, noting that paper filigree work was thought eminently suitable for the “female mind”:

The art affords an amusement to the female mind, capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety ; it may be readily acquired and pursued at a very trifling expense.

Perfect for Lucy Steele then, a woman with a certain amount of native cunning but no great intellectual gifts. I wonder if Jane Austen’s ire had been raised by reading such pronouncements, and that is why she gave  such an occupation to Lucy…it is entirely possible, don’t you think?

However that may be,  I think the cabinet on show here displays staggering  levels of expertise. I can agree with Tim Wonnacott that I’d love it in my own home.

My goodness…another year has come and gone. Not only is this the day on which, 200 years ago, Sense and Sensibility was reputedly first published, but it is also the second anniversary of this site.

It has been fun year, I do hope you will agree. So many more of you have visited: in fact over twice as many as came here in the first year, and I’ve really loved meeting you all. The most popular posts this year have been a varied bunch. In the year of another, very different Royal Wedding, my post on Princess Charlotte’s Wedding was, and is still, popular; The Premiere of Mansfield Park:The Opera at Boughton House has attracted many many thousands of visitors, The Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Royal Pavillion series is still proving very popular, and, appropriately enough in this anniversary year, Hugh Thomson’s Illustrations for Sense and Sensibility have been among the posts that have generated most traffic.

My sincere thanks, as ever, are due to some lovely individuals who have encouraged and supported me in my endeavours this past year.. For all their kind words, I would like to extend my thanks to Katherine Cahill, Amanda Vickery, Louise West, Ronald Dunning, Karen Robarge, Jane Odiwe and Farah-Naz for all their encouragement and support. They do say that the second year of writing articles on a website is the hardest. I must admit that this year I’ve found that I have  had too much to write about, and some articles are being held over till next year in the schedule! Thank you for al your patience!

I should also like thank all of you who come and visit, and an especially warm thank you to all of you who take the trouble to comment. And now a confession. Prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful. I am appallingly bad at commenting on other websites. I mean to do it. Really, I do. Then my mind goes blank and I’m convinced others have already said what I’m proposing to say,or that what I’m going to say sounds banal. I never think this of the comments made here: obviously  you are all far more erudite than I ;) But as part of today’s celebration I’m going to encourage you to comment to this anniversary post. In two weeks time I will pick, by random number generator related to the number of your comment in the list, one of the authors of a comment to be the recipient of the following gifts:

A Sense and Sensibility celebratory calico bag from the Jane Austen’s House Museum, bought during my visit to them this week:

A set of four cards, depicting  scenes from Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice  and Sense and Sensibility designed  by the Scribes of Winchester Cathedral, where, of course, Jane Austen is buried:

A pack of cards printed with a design of a silhouette of Mr and Mrs Austen walking along the lane to church at Steventon, with all their children(save for poor George) in tow. These are only available to buy at St Nicholas’ Church, Steventon, where Jane Austen was baptised and worshipped, and where her father and brother, James, were rectors:

Because so many of you enjoyed the recent post I wrote about them and their designer, I’ve included a mint presentation pack of the 1975 Jane Austen commemorative stamps issued by the GPO:

The newly released Entertaining Miss Austen CD, which I will write about this forthcoming week:

A copy of Serena Dyer’s exquisite book on hats in Jane Austen’s era:

A set of postcards produced by the National Portrait Gallery in London on conjunction with The First Actresses Exhibition   (includes images of Mary Robinson and Sarah Siddons as well as Nell Gwynn!)

A copy of  The Pocket Posh Jane Austen Quiz Book…a small pocket- sized book of amusing Jane Austen related puzzles( A perfect stocking filler!)

A set of twenty postcard of my copies of Hugh Thomson and C.E. Brock’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility

There are two of each image in the set plus envelopes…

They also include this image by Ackermann, again from my collection, of Pynes, the house in Devon thought to be the inspiration for Barton Park:

And finally, because it wouldn’t be an Austenonly Giveaway without one, an early 19th century bone gaming fish as used by Lydia Bennet:

I ought to stress that this Giveaway is open to everyone, wherever in the world you are. If you take the trouble to comment,wherever you are, then I think you ought to have a chance to receive these items. It is only fair. So please, do comment and then  you will be automatically entered into the draw, which will take place in two weeks time on the 13th November.(Note I will not be replying to the comments  in order to make the draw that much simpler!)

And so… on to year three!  I have some rather special Jane Austen related news, to be released around the time of the anniversary of her birthday on 16th December, and  I hope it will prove to be very interesting to you all. I do hope you will continue to visit here , as it wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t!

Don’t forget to leave a comment, and Good Luck!

Yesterday an exhibition devoted to examining the life and works of the 18th century painter, Johan Zoffany, opened at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. Johan Zoffany R.A: Society Observed will run there until the 12th February 2012, and then it will transfer to London to the Royal Academy, where it will be on show from the 10th March until the 10th June 2012.

Mary Webster, who has made a very special study of the life and works of Zoffany has written an amazing book to accompany the exhibit, and this has also been published by Yale.


I can’t review the exhibit yet, but I can write about the book, as I’ve been reading it for the past couple of months. Zoffany was born in 1733 near Frankfurt am Maim. His family was associated with the local court and then moved to Regensburg. Zoffany received his art education in Rome, which he visited on two occasions and then became court painter to the elector of Trier. Below, is his self portrait:

After his marriage in 1760 he moved to London to try his luck as an artist. He set up a studio in Covent Garden, where he  came to the notice of the leading actor of the day, David Garrick. Other actors flocked to his studios to be immortalised in oils.The patronage of Garrick brought him to the attention of the powerful and the great, most notably The Earl of Bute who gave him many family commissions. The Earl was the young George III’s prime minister, and so it was probably through this link that Zoffany began to receive court commissions. It also helped that he spoke German as a first language,and he received many commissions and help from Queen Charlotte, George III’s wife, who was, of course, German.

His paintings of the royal family are very familiar- and so I will not comment on them here. What I found interesting, on reading the book, were his portraits of lesser known individuals, as below in his portrait of Charles Francois Dumergue, then London’s most fashionable dentist. Mr Dumergue, who was born in France , was Dentist to the Royal Family. The painting dates from 1780-81:

His official title was  Court Operator of the Teeth. He was also dentist to the Prince of Wales from 1785 until 1814. He was a great friend of Zoffany and their friendship lasted all their lives. He was also great friend with Matthew Boulton and James Watt the inventors and engineers, and also with Sir Walter Scott. This portrait by Zoffany, below, of Sophia Dunmergue , Mr Dumergue’s daughter, dates from the same period:

Zoffany’s great conversation pieces, painted in London, are also well-known and my favourite is of the Sharpe family:

Here they all are, on a musical water party sailing on the Thames near Fulham. The family is shown as the sort of people you would love to meet: talented, musical, interesting, fun. The family included Granville Sharp ,the lawyer : he is shown holding a sheet of music for his sister,Elizabeth Prowse, who is playing the fortepiano. You can see them in the centre of the picture. Granville Sharp was of course,the principal agent in fighting the very famous  case of James Somersett, the black slave, wihc was heard  before Lord Mansfield, and as Mary Webster remarks:

It was in this case that Mansfield in 1772 pronounced his famous verdict that Somersett must go free since no English law sanctioned slavery. Sharp consequently founded the Society for the Abolition of Slavery…

This is all very well, I hear you say, but is there any more to Zoffany to make him an object of interest to we Janeites? The answer is, yes. Empahtically, yes.  For,  in 1783 he travelled to India to paint there. Professional disappointments and a lack of commissions forced him to look elsewhere than England for work. And he looked to the world of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal, shown below, in a portrait with his second wife, Marian,  and her Indian servant:

Warren Hastings gave Zoffany his enthusiastic patronage. And this is the interesting link, for Hastings had many associations with Jane Austen’s family. He had known Jane’s mother’s family, the Leighs of Adlestrop since childhood. He entrusted the care of his son from his first marriage to Mr and Mrs Austen, when they were first married and living at Deane in Hampshire. Seven year old George Hastings was the Reverend Austen’s first pupil, sent back to England from India to be educated. Sadly, he died while in their care, in 1764 of a “putrid throat”.His death affected Mrs Austen dreadfully. Mrs Austen had become so much attached to him that she always

declared that his death had been as great a grief to her as if he had been a child of her own

(Quoted in Jane Austen: A Family Record by Deirdre Le Faye, page 18)

Mr Austen’s sister, Philadelphia also knew Hastings. A poor but genteel woman, she travelled to India to find a husband in 1752 and married the elderly  Tysoe Hancock in 1753. Both she and her elderly husband were  close friends with him. He was godfather to their only daughter, Eliza, known to us all as the glamourous Countess de Feuillide, and then wife of Jane Austen’s brother, Henry . Sadly, hurtful gossip surrounded this group of friends:

The close friendship between Hastings and the Hancock’s coupled with the fact that the latter had been childless for so long before Betsey’s birth, gave scope for spiteful gossip to suggest that she was not Hancock’s daughter. The rumour was spread by the malicious Mrs Strachey, whose husband was secretary to Lord Clive and her slander was successful in so far as Clive wrote to his wife in the late summer of 1765: “In no circumstances whatever keep company with Mrs Hancock for it is beyond a doubt that she abandoned herself with Mr Hastings, indeed I would rather you had no acquaintance with the ladies who have been in India, they stand in such little esteem in England that their company cannot be of credit to Lady Clive”

(Le Faye, as above,  page 30)

Whatever the case regarding the parentage of Eliza, Zoffany’s works painted while he lived in India give us a rare glimpse into the strange world that Philadelphia Austen moved to in order to survive : and the world the the Crofts in Persuasion inhabited:

“What a great traveller you must have been, ma’am!” said Mrs. Musgrove to Mrs. Croft.

   “Pretty well, ma’am, in the fifteen years of my marriage; though many women have done more. I have crossed the Atlantic four times, and have been once to the East Indies and back again, and only once; besides being in different places about home: Cork, and Lisbon, and Gibraltar. But I never went beyond the Streights, and never was in the West Indies. We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies.”

Persuasion, Chapter 8

and the place where Colonel Brandon saw active service;

But can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her, (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps — but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. 

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31.

This is a fascinating portrait by Zoffany of the Blair family , painted in 1786-7. Colonel William Blair was originally of Balthayock in Perthshire, but ,when painted with his family, was then Colonel of the Bengal Army and commandant of the garrison of Chunar 20 miles above Benares.

This is another conversation piece of the Impey family dating from 17883. Sir Elijah Impey was a lawyer and judge. Note the Indian band in the background, and just how exhausted poor Mrs Impey looks in the heat.

The chapters dealing with Zoffany’s life and work in India are fascinating.Mary Webster’s exquisite research into the lives of the sitter and the servants provides us with a wonderful and detailed view of word of the English and servants of the East India company in India. I am throughly enjoying savouring this very new topic, espaillaly as it is something that seems to have held a stung hold on the young  Jane Austen’s imagination: she  wrote about life in India  in both her juvenilia and her adult works.

This book is worth  having for the joy of reading  these Indian chapters, but , as you can see from this cursory review, there is  much, much more to be enjoyed. Mary Wester’s prose is very readable and informative. She gives fascinating details of late 18th century life to answer the questions that natually arise when studying Zoffany’s works in detail. It’s a heavy tome, and very expensive at £75, but I can truly  recommend it to you

As this 200th anniversary year of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility draws to a close my conscience has got the better of me and I thought I ought offer to you some  more detailed articles about points of the novel that interest me, for as you know this is my least favourite of all the novels and I do tend to drag my feet about it all. I apologise.

Today, I thought we might take a look at the discussion between Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood in Chapter 18, and discuss what it reveals about them and their creator’s views on blasted trees and other things Picturesque….


In Chapter 18 of Sense and Sensibility,we are given an acute illustration of Marianne Dashwood and Edward Ferrars differing personalities by their reaction to the landscape around them. Jane Austen was said to be an admirer of William Gilpin and his writings on the “picturesque”, which I have written about before in this post here. In Chapter 18 we get something of her views, I think, on both Gilpin, his followers and on beauty in landscape.

Edward Ferrers, professional, practical and not at all romantic especially in Marianne’s use of the word, professes to see the landscape in practical terms only and almost chides Marianne for her far more poetic approach:

 Edward returned to them with fresh admiration of the surrounding country; in his walk to the village, he had seen many parts of the valley to advantage; and the village itself, in a much higher situation than the cottage, afforded a general view of the whole, which had exceedingly pleased him. This was a subject which ensured Marianne’s attention, and she was beginning to describe her own admiration of these scenes, and to question him more minutely on the objects that had particularly struck him, when Edward interrupted her by saying, “You must not inquire too far, Marianne — remember, I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of taste, if we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold! surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere. You must be satisfied with such admiration as I can honestly give. I call it a very fine country — the hills are steep, the woods seem full of fine timber, and the valley looks comfortable and snug — with rich meadows and several neat farm houses scattered here and there. It exactly answers my idea of a fine country, because it unites beauty with utility — and I dare say it is a picturesque one too, because you admire it; I can easily believe it to be full of rocks and promontories, grey moss and brush wood, but these are all lost on me. I know nothing of the picturesque.”

Interestingly, while Elinor Dashwood gently berates Edward for his boast of knowing nothing of the picturesque ( which in fact is not quite true, for  in the speech in the quoted paragraph from Chapter 18, above, Edward demonstrates very clearly that he  is perfectly aware of the language used by admirers of William Gilpin’s books: rather than knowing nothing about the picturesque, he seems to have read all about it ,thought about it and then rejected its tenets). Marianne, while despairing of Edward’s view, takes agin those who, unlike her, know nothing of real beauty in the landscape, but merely parrot Gilpin’s jargon, without thinking for themselves about the merits of their surroundings:

“It is very true,” said Marianne, “that admiration of landscape scenery is become a mere jargon. Everybody pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind, and sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense and meaning.”

In the end the debate between them is really about the poetic versus the practical:

“I am convinced,” said Edward, “that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower — and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”

William Gilpin wrote a book specifically about the beauty( or lack of it) to be found in trees, and it is very probable from the language used in this passage to suppose that Jane Austen read it and was referring to it here. In his Remarks on Forest Scenery , first published in 1791, he set out his principles of the picturesque as applied to the trees, hedges, copses and forests he knew. He did, of course, live for a long time in the New Forest in Hampshire and was basing his writings on years of observations. Born in the north, in the Lakes , an area then devoid of the plantations since made by individuals such as Thomas Storey and organisations such as the Forestry Commission, he moved south to Cheam in Surrey and then in 1777 Gilpin left Cheam to become vicar of Boldre in the New Forest in Hampshire. As he explains in the preface to his book:

The subject( of forest scenery-jfw) was new to me. I had been much among lakes and mountains; but I had never lived in a forest. I know little of it’s scenery. Every thing caught my attention; and as I generally had a memorandum book in my hand I made minutes of what I observed; throwing my remarks under the two heads of forest scenery in general and the scenery of particular places. Thus as small things led to greater, an evening walk or ride became to foundations of a volume…

So exactly what, for Gilpin, constituted a picturesque tree? He absolutely hated any manner of interference by man in the shaping of trees: for him only natural forms could be truly picturesque :

All forms that are unnatural displease.A tree lopped into a may pole, as you generally see in the hedgerows of Surry (sic) and some other countries is disgusting. Clipped yews,lime hedges and pollards for the same reason are disagreeable: and yet I have sometimes seen a pollard produce a good effect, when nature has been suffered for some years to bring it again into form; but I never saw a good effect produced by a pollard on which some single stem was left to grow into a tree. The stem is of a different growth: it is disproportioned;and always unites awkwardly with the trunk…

Above is the illustration of A Pollard on which a single stem has been left to grow into a tree.

He considered that a picturesque tree was one that possessed the following characteristics:

Lightness also is a characteristic of beauty in a tree : for though there are beautiful trees of a heavy as well as of a light form; yet their extremity must in some parts be separated and hang with a degree of looseness from the fulness of the foliage which occupies the middle of the tree, or the whole will only be a large bush…

A tree also had to be well balanced:

It may have form and it may have lightness ; and yet lose all its effect, by wanting a proper poise. The bole must appear to support the branches.We do not wish to see it supporting its burden with the perpendicular formless of a column. An easy sweep is always agreeable; but at the same time it should not be such a sweep as discovers one side plainly overbalanced

This is the illustration of an unbalanced tree bending over a road

To sum up:

Without these requisites therefore form,lightness and a proper glance no tree can have that species of beauty which we call picturesque.

However, Gilpin considered that trees growing wild often had “defects” caused by wind and weather and  these “injuries” added to their beauty:

What is more beautiful for instance on a rugged foreground, than an old tree with a hollow trunk ? Or with a dead arm,  a drooping bough or a dying branch? All which phrases I apprehend are nearly synonymous…

He was especially approving of the blasted tree (a phrase used by Edward Ferrars, note):

The blasted tree has often a fine effect both in natural and in artificial landscape. When the dreary heath is spread before the eye and ideas of wildness and desolation are required what  more suitable accompaniment can be imagined than the blasted oak, ragged, scathed and leafless: shooting its peeled white branches athwart the gathering blackness of some rising storm?

It is interesting that in the debate with Edward, Marianne talks of Gilpin in these terms:

Everybody pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was.

She is clearly an admirer. It is those who pretend to understand him she despises. But did Jane Austen agree with her?I think she may have been poking fun at her creation, who at this point in the novel is unable to appreciate any other view than her own on almost any topic. On loving only once, on preferring the beauty of a blasted tree as opposed to a well-grown straight and  productive piece of timber that would be worth money. Jane Austen was clearly a practical woman, who took great interest in the running of her brother Edward’s estate at Chawton. She, like Edward Ferrers, knew the value of well grown timber. I think she could  poke fun not only at Gilpin but  at his followers, who like Marianne, thought that only they knew true picturesque beauty when they saw it ,as opposed to other, less perceptive souls who while they thought they were following Gilpin’s dictates, were merely spouting jargon.

Despite having been described by her brother Henry in his Biographical Notice of her as being “enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque” and as seldom changing her opinions either on books or men, I think her admiration of Gilpin was not particularly slavish. I often wonder if Jane Austen’s admiration was tongue in cheek. I cannot but see her reacting against his rather overblown sentiments and forcefully stated opinions. Like Marianne he is quite dogmatic and really does not allow for differing opinions. Luckily for Marianne, her harsh life experiences mean that she eventually becomes more reasonable. We know that she changes her mind with regard to the important matter  of second attachments, and I wonder if this maturing affected her view on the value of straight, productive trees ;)

Today we reach the end of our marathon series of posts, reading through Sense and Sensibility while studying Hugh Thomson’s interesting illustrations for the novel, which was first published by Macmillan in 1904. Do remember all the illustrations here can be enlarged, in order that you can examine the detail, simply by clicking on them.

For today’s final tranche of illustrations  Mr Thomson is forced to confront some of the most dramatic moments in the novel. During thisseries, we have discerned that he is more at ease with those incidents in the novel that require  a lighter touch, and that he much seems to prefer to illustrate the amusing incident in the book. But this week he has no option but to concentrate on the results of the abrupt ending  ofMarianne and Willoughby’s affair, and with the unexpected climax to the novel with Willoughby’s sudden appearance at Cleveland, after hearing that Marianne was desperately ill.

Our first illustration shows Elinor discovering that someone had suddenly arrived at the house, quite late,on a dark and stormy night, in Chapter 43:

 The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been convinced that at that moment she heard a carriage driving up to the house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did , in spite of the almostimpossibility of their being already come, that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window-shutter, to be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.

This illustration seems to have been more laboured than others.The figure of Elinor does not look as accomplished as other versions of her we have seen executed by Thomson. It is of course, Willoughby, who begs an audience with Elinor:

Elinor, starting back with a look of horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room, and her hand was already on the lock, when its action was suspended by his hastily advancing, and saying, in a voice rather of command than supplication —

   “Miss Dashwood, for half an hour — for ten minutes — I entreat you to stay.”

Chapter 44

The illustrations now come think and fast…during Willoughby’s explanation to Elinor of his behaviour to Marianne ,and the consequences for him of displeasing Mrs Smith when she discovered he had seduced and impregnated Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza.  Thompson gives us a view of  Mrs Smith’s dismissal of the cad, upon his refusal to marry the girl:

“She taxed me with the offence, at once, and my confusion may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality of her notions, her ignorance of the world — everything was against me. The matter itself I could not deny, and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my conduct in general, and was moreover discontented with the very little attention, the very little portion of my time that I had bestowed on her, in my present visit. In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I might have saved myself. In the height of her morality, good woman! she offered to forgive the past if I would marry Eliza. That could not be — and I was formally dismissed from her favour and her house. 

We also see him in Mayfair, explaining how calculated he had to be in order to avoid a meeting with Mrs Jennings and the Dashwood sisters by dashing into any nearby shop:

 You would be surprised to hear how often I watched you, how often I was on the point of falling in with you. I have entered many a shop to avoid your sight, as the carriage drove by. Lodging as I did in Bond Street, there was hardly a day in which I did not catch a glimpse of one or other of you; and nothing but the most constant watchfulness on my side, a most invariably prevailing desire to keep out of your sight, could have separated us so long. 

Chapter 44.

So, here we have Thomson finally confronting drama:  Willoughby looks very soft, and not as agitated as his speech to Elinor would suggest. I do however like the desperate stance and expression on his face as he darts into Bond Street shops to avoid a face to face meeting with Marrianne….and the contrast with his smart London clothes as opposed to his country garb.

The dramatic climax of the story over,Thomson turns to happier subjects: Marianne’s plan for restoring her health and peace of mind , back at Barton:

“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton Cross, and theAbbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading, at the Park; and there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours aday, I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want.”

Chapter 46

This is a very sweet illustration showing the Dashwood sisters talking to the children who live at the nearby farm. Classic Thomson territory, as we have discovered.

But not all the drama is completely over. We have the awful moment to come when the Dashwood ladies suppose that Edward Ferrars has finally married Lucy Steele, all due to them  misunderstanding and misinterpreting their manservant’s news:

Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as to the event of his errand, this was his voluntary communication —

   “I suppose you know ma’am, that Mr. Ferrars is married.”

   Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servant’s inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.

   The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood’sassistance, supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself: and Elinor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.

Chapter 47

Mrs Dashwood looks genuinely distressed as she takes some food from the proffered dish, and of course, while this moment is tragic fromElinor’s point of view it also has tones of the darkly comic. I can quite comprehend why Thomson chose this incident.

However, luckily for Elinor and the reader’s sake, we soon see Edward Ferrars appear on the scene, on his rather lovely horse:

 Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she should hear more; — and she trembled in expectation of it. But — it was not Colonel Brandon — neither his air — nor his height. Were it possible, she should say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted; — she could not be mistaken; — it was Edward. She moved away and sat down. “He comes from Mr. Pratt’s purposely to see us. I will be calm; I will be mistress of myself.”

Chapter 48

Of course, it might be said that this is the least dramatic view of the incident: the confusion in the household and Elinor’s reaction would have been a more dramatic choice to illustrate.Instead we get Edward and his steed.

The final illustration in the book is from Chapter 50, and does not show the two newly married couples. No, instead  Thompson chooses to show Elinor again being rather insulted by her odious step brother John Dashwood, who really and truly regrets not being able to call Colonel Brandon,”Brother” but only for purely materialistic considerations, and who wants her to orchestrate an alliance between Marianne and the poor man:

 “I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister,” said John, as they were walking together one morning before the gates of DelafordHouse — “that would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, everything in such respectable and excellent condition! and his woods! I have not seen such timber any where in Dorsetshire, as there is now standing inDelaford Hanger! And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him, yet I think it would altogether beadviseable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen — for, when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else — and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth; in short, you may as well give her a chance — You understand me.”

John’s wish is eventually granted:

 With such a confederacy against her — with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness — with a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after it was observable to everybody else, burst on her — what could she do?

And so we end our series on Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for this fascinating novel.

I do hope you have enjoyed looking at the intricacies of his work. Next, some posts on Joan Hassell who illustrated the Folio Society’s editions of Jane Austen’s works.

This week we have a varied and interesting group of illustrations to consider. The first, above, from Chapter 38, illustrates Nancy Steele’s conversation with Elinor Dashwood in Kensington Gardens after all has been discovered. And of course, all was discovered due to her attempt to tell Fanny Dashwood all about Lucy and Edward:

“I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do anything else for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and put in the feather last night. There now, you are going to laugh at me too. But why should not I wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it is the Doctor’s favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he did like it better than any other colour, if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me! I declare sometimes I do not know which way to look before them.”

Chapter 38

I confess that, to me, the choice of subject is odd: why, amongst all this drama -Lucy raging,Nancy being cowed, possibly, – did Thompson decide to show Lucy placidly trimming a bonnet for Nancy? It’s a pretty picture, but an odd choice, in my humble opinion.

The next is far more apt: it shows Nancy Steele’s prefered information gathering technique: listening at doors.

“No indeed! not us. La! Miss Dashwood, do you think people make love when anybody else is by? Oh! for shame? — To be sure you must know better than that.” (Laughing affectedly.) — “No, no; they were shut up in the drawing-room together, and all I heard was only by listening at the door.

Chapter 38

Upright Elinor is appalled by her behaviour, but we are amused. I think this illustration -again a comic incident in the plot- suits Mr Thompson’s style. He is far happier showing the comic and not the tragic,as ew have discovered. This week’s illustrations certianly reflect that discovery.

The next picture is perfect: it illustrates the moment when Mrs Jennings and Elinor finally begin to understand each other, at a point in their friendship where neither is ready to take offense. Mrs Jennings has assumed that all the comings and goings with Colonel Brandon are indications that he wants to marry Elinor, and is courting her, not that he is kindly giving the impoverished Edward Ferrars the  living at Delaford. Elinor has to correct her. The result is “considerable amusement” .

“My dear ma’am,” said Elinor, “what can you be thinking of? — Why, Colonel Brandon’s only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars.”

“Lord bless you, my dear! — Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!” The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation immediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusement for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, for Mrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another, and still without forfeiting her expectation of the first.

Chapter 40

A darkly comic moment also succeeds: this illustrates the moment Elinor received a very backhanded compliment from John Dashwood. He imports to her the rather insulting news that Mrs Ferrars would have been far less vexed had Edward marry Elinor and not become engaged to Lucy. How charming are this section of the Ferrars family.

“Of one thing, my dear sister,” kindly taking her hand, and speaking in an awful whisper — “I may assure you: and I will do it, because I know it must gratify you. I have good reason to think — indeed I have it from the best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwise it would be very wrong to say anything about it — but I have it from the very best authority — not that I ever precisely heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself but her daughter did , and I have it from her — That, in short, whatever objections there might be against a certain — a certain connection — you understand me — it would have been far preferable to her, it would not have given her half the vexation that this does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light — a very gratifying circumstance, you know, to us all. ‘It would have been beyond comparison,’ she said, ‘the least evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound now for nothing worse.’ But, however, all that is quite out of the question — not to be thought of or mentioned; as to any attachment, you know — it never could be — all that is gone by. But I thought I would just tell you of this, because I knew how much it must please you. Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well — quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately?

Chapter 41

Elinor’s expression says it all…..and the sycophantic nature of John Dashwod is also revealed in his stance. The sting on the tail being that he and the Dashwoods are attempting to be pleasant to Elinor now they think that she might be on the point of marrying the well-to-do Colonel Bradnon.  Disgusting toads.

The next illustration is again a puzzling one: in the midst of the passage from Chapter 42 about Marianne Dashwood torturing herself by walking  about the grounds of Cleveland to catch a glimpse of Willoughby’s home, Thompson decided to ignore the drama and draw a sweet picture of Charlotte Palmer showing her baby to her housekeeper.  All technically fine but ignoring the main drama at this point in the story is a baffling decision to me. I think it does show that Thompson was far more comfortable dealing with pleasant or comic scenes. And of course Jane Austen’s stories can be thought to contain only those,but , as we know, they offer far more to the careful reader than that. And in this case not even the careful reader, as the main part of the text is concerned very much with Marianne Dashwood and her sufferings, self inflicted or otherwise:

Marianne entered the house with an heart swelling with emotion from the consciousness of being only eighty miles from Barton, and not thirty from Combe Magna; and before she had been five minutes within its walls, while the others were busily helping Charlotte shew her child to the housekeeper, she quitted it again, stealing away through the winding shrubberies, now just beginning to be in beauty, to gain a distant eminence; where, from its Grecian temple, her eye, wandering over a wide tract of country to the south-east, could fondly rest on the farthest ridge of hills in the horizon, and fancy that from their summits Combe Magna might be seen.

Chapter 42

The last picture is, I suppose, justified in the text.  Charlotte Palmer is, of course, a hopeless mistress of her home, finding everything too amusing for rational thought, and on her return from London she listens to her gardener’s Lamentations Upon Blights – for we gardeners always have lamentations, but especially about blights-with much amusement and very little comprehension.

She returned just in time to join the others as they quitted the house, on an excursion through its more immediate premises; and the rest of the morning was easily whiled away, in lounging round the kitchen garden, examining the bloom upon its walls, and listening to the gardener’s lamentations upon blights, — in dawdling through the green-house, where the loss of her favourite plants, unwarily exposed, and nipped by the lingering frost, raised the laughter of Charlotte, — and in visiting her poultry-yard, where in the disappointed hopes of her dairy-maid, by hens forsaking their nests, or being stolen by a fox, or in the rapid decease of a promising young brood, she found fresh sources of merriment.

Chapter 42

And that ends what I think will be the penultimate post in this series. Next week, the final tranche.

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