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As we suspected the watercolour image of Jane Austen which was commissioned by James Edward Austen Leigh and was then engraved for use in his Memoir of his aunt will go on sale in London at Sotheby’s on 10th December, in their  English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations sale

Jane Austen by James Andrews ©Sothebys

Jane Austen by James Andrews ©Sothebys

Lot 283, described as the Property of a Lady has this description:

watercolour over pencil heightened with gouache on card, depicting the author with brown curly hair and hazel eyes seated and facing towards the right, in a white frilled bonnet with light blue ribbon and a white dress with a dark blue ribbon under the bust, a small section at the bottom of the portrait apparently unfinished, oval, 143 x 100mm (overall sheet size 170 x 125mm), 1869, series of pin-holes at the top and bottom of the card, pencil markings probably by the engraver, mounted, framed, and glazed, frame size 327 x 247mm, the frame being a reused lid from a casket or box, French or German, probably eighteenth century, walnut inlaid with boulle-style marquetry of flowers and scrollwork in brass, silver, ivory, and mother of pearl, loss to surface of portrait probably due to insect damage, mostly affecting the dress, slight discolouration at edges seemingly where previously mounted in a rectangular frame

The estimate is £150,000 to 200,000. Hmm…..

This image, though approved by those who knew Jane Austen, was not of course taken during her lifetime and is seen as controversial by some. It was based on Cassandra Austen’s sketch of Jane Austen which now is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Will this join it on display there? We will have to wait and see.

I’ve put the date of the sale in my diary. And you can too for it will be available to watch online from 2.30 GMT onwards.

Watch this space for further developments.

These books went on sale at auction today at Sotheby’s in London. The pre-sale estimate for Lot 86  was between £150,000-200,000. Bidding stopped at £142,000. It was ,therefore, unsold.

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

I have written about the intriguing history of this set of books before, here. This first edition set  was sent to Jane Austen’s friend, Anne Sharp, directly from her publisher, John Murray, specifically  at Jane Austen’s request.

©Sothebys

©Sothebys

The next lot, Lot 87, a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion once owned by Fulwar Craven Fowle, was also unsold.The biding on this item stopped at £3800.

Fascinating.

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

The Christmas Market is attracting some very interesting auction lots…ones that we ought to be interested in, certainly. As we have seen, there are some wonderful Jane Austen offerings to be had this year, but the one that I really covet is Anne Sharp’s first edition set of “Emma”, published by John Murray, which was presented to her by her friend, the authoress, Jane Austen. This  set first came to my attention in 2008, when Christiaan Jonkers of Jonkers Rare Books bought  the  set for £180,000. *gulp* Then two years later, the BBC reported that it had sold for £325,000.*double gulp*

Now Sothebys are offering the same set for sale in their auction of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations to be held in London on the 12th December 2012.

Here is the condition report of Lot 86 from the online catalogue:

12mo, three volumes, first edition, presentation copy inscribed “From the author”in a clerk’s hand within volume one together with ownership signature of Anne Sharp in each volume, half-titles, contemporary half-calf with marbled boards, marbled endpapers, collector’s red morocco box, some light spotting, corners occasionally creased, bindings worn at extremities, some minor loss to calf, some splitting and loss to joints, slight loss to ends of spines, leaves trimmed.

The Catalogue notes record its history..up to a point…

One of twelve presentation copies recorded in the publisher’s archives and presented to Jane Austen’s “excellent kind friend”: the only presentation copy given to a personal friend of the author.

In a letter to the publisher John Murray dated 11 December 1815, Austen noted that she would “subjoin a list of those persons, to whom I must trouble you to forward a Set each, when the Work is out; – all unbound, with From the Authoress, in the first page”. Most of these copies were for members of Austen’s family. David Gilson in his bibliography of Austen lists these presentation copies, based on information in John Murray’s records, as follows:

two to Hans Place, London (presumably for Jane Austen and Henry Austen)
Countess of Morley
Rev. J.S. Clarke (the Prince Regent’s librarian)
J. Leigh Perrot (the author’s uncle)
two for Mrs Austen
Captain Austen (presumed to be Charles Austen)
Rev. J. Austen
H.F. Austen (presumed to be Francis)
Miss Knight (the author’s favourite niece Fanny Knight)
Miss Sharpe [sic]

Anne Sharp (1776-1853) was Fanny-Catherine Knight’s governess at Godmersham in Kent from 1804 to 1806. She resigned due to ill-health and then held a number of subsequent positions as governess and lady’s companion. Deirdre Le Faye notes that by 1823 she was running her own boarding-school for girls in Liverpool (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 572). She retired in 1841 and died in 1853.

In 1809 Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra Austen that “Miss Sharpe… is born, poor thing! to struggle with Evil…” Four years later Jane wrote to Cassandra that “…I have more of such sweet flattery from Miss Sharp! – She is an excellent kind friend” (which may refer to Anne Sharp’s opinion of Pride and Prejudice). It is known that Anne Sharp thought Mansfield Park “excellent” but she preferred Pride and Prejudice and rated Emma “between the two” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 573).

There is one known extant letter from Jane Austen to Anne Sharp, dated 22 May 1817. She is addressed as “my dearest Anne”. After Jane Austen’s death, Cassandra Austen wrote to Anne Sharp on 28 July 1817 sending a “lock of hair you wish for, and I add a pair of clasps which she sometimes wore and a small bodkin which she had had in constant use for more than twenty years”.

“In Miss Sharp she found a truly compatible spirit… Jane took to her at once, and formed a lasting relationship with her… [she occupied] a unique position as the necessary, intelligent friend” (Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen A Life, 2000).

Anne Sharp is known to have visited Chawton on at least two occasions: in June 1815 and in August-September 1820. Deirdre Le Faye notes that James-Edward Austen-Leigh described her as “horridly affected but rather amusing” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p.573)

However, what is interesting to me is the current auction estimate ….which is £150,000-£200,000…and which even I with my rudimentary grasp of maths can deduce  means that someone may be anticipating they might be taking a hit on this set. Or not….it all remains to be seen. I will be watching this one….and reporting back, you can be assured.

©Sotheby's

©Sotheby’s

Also for sale in the same sale is Lot 87,  a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, published by John Murray. This also has another interesting connection to Jane Austen. The set is inscribed F C Fowle, and would appear to have been owned by Fulwar-Craven Fowle, the brother of Tom Fowle, who was engaged to Cassandra Austen but he sadly died in the West Indies before they could marry.

The catalogue notes:

It appears that this set was the property of the Revd Fulwar-Craven Fowle (1764-1840). He was a pupil of Rev. George Austen at Steventon between 1778 and 1781. He is occasionally mentioned in Austen’s letters; it appears he participated in a game of vingt-un in 1801 and sent a brace of pheasants in 1815. Fulwar-Craven Fowle’s brother, Thomas (1765-1797) had been engaged to Cassandra Austen in 1792.

Deirdre Le Faye notes that he had “an impatient and rather irascible nature” and “did not bother to read anything of Emma except the first and last chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, 1995, p. 525).

This has a sale estimate of £4000-6000, which is more affordable than Lot 86(well, everything is relative!) but I know which set I would prefer to own. I’ll report back.

According to reports in the press it is the singer, Kelly Clarkson. She also bought a first edition of Persuasion at the Sotheby’s sale in July

Jane Austen’s Ring, and Note from Eleanor Austen neé Jackson to Caroline Austen ©Sotheby’s

However it would appear that Ms. Clarkson cannot take it out of the UK yet, as an export license has not been granted. Will an appeal to keep it in this country  be raised? This is a story we need to follow closely don’t you think?

I thought you might like to take a look at the e-catalogues for the Chatsworth and Ashdown Attic sales, both houses having connections to Jane Austen as I explained in my posts here (Chatsworth) and here (Ashdown),  and which are now available to view online at the Sotheby’s website.

The Chatsworth e-catalogue is available here

and the Ashdown House e-catalogue is available here.

There has been tremendous press interest in the Chatsworth sale recently;  it has been featured in magazines, newspapers and TV news programmes. The sale will take place next week and I promise to broadcast some of the results here.

Be warned, you can lose many, many hours on-line gazing at the marvellous and varied contents. My imaginary bid list is getting longer by the day…

Ashdown House is an exquisite 17th century house, situate in Berkshire, not far from the border of Berkshire with Oxfordshire. The house was designed for William, 1st Earl of Craven, most possibly by the Dutch-born architect Capt William Winde, in 1663. The Earl of Craven had  intended it to be used by  the object of his admiration, Elizabeth of Bohemia-  The Winter Queen– who was the then impoverished sister of King Charles I,  He knew of her desire to live in quiet in England, after living for many years in exile at the Hague in Holland. Sadly, it was not to be and before the house was completed Elizabeth died suddenly in February 1662, while visiting her nephew King Charles II in London.

The Craven family lived in Ashdown House until it was donated to the National Trust by Cornelia, Countess of Craven in 1956. The public has restricted access to the house: namely to the magnificent staircase which runs the height of the building and is rather like a magnificent picture gallery, and then up onto the leads and cupola from which spectacular views of the surrounding Berkshire countryside can be viewed. The rest of the house is leased from the National Trust,and recently the lease has changed hands, and has been sold to the musician, Pete Townsend of The Who. The contents of the house assembled by its old tenant are to be sold by Sotheby’s in another attic sale, to be held at their Bond Street premises on the 27th October this year.

So why should this interest us? Merely  because  Jane Austen’s family had some albeit distant contact with this chap.  Lord Craven(the 1st Earl of the second creation) was a kinsman and patron of the Fowle family of Kintbury: and it was on the ill-fated expedition to the West Indies in 1795, when he accompanied Lord Craven as his chaplain, that Tom Fowle, Cassandra Austen’s then fiance, tragically died.  Lord Craven also was a source of gossip for the neighbourhood, and this is evident in Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra Austen of the 8th January, 1801:

Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton & probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week.- She found his manners very pleasing indeed.- The little flaw of having a Mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park seems tobe the ony unpleasing circumstance about him…

At this time, by my calculations, Lord Craven,was involved with the very famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

She does not mention living with him at Ashdown Park in her memoirs  but what she does say about him is calculatedly cutting and rather dismissive:

I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble Lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify: or if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter…

I resided on the Marine Parade, at Brighton; and I remember that Lord Craven used to draw cocoa trees, and his fellows, as he called them, on the best vellum paper, for my amusement. Here stood the enemy, he would say; and here, my love, are my fellows: there the cocoa trees, etc. It was, in fact, a dead bore. All these cocoa trees and fellows, at past eleven o’clock at night, could have no peculiar interest for a child like myself; so lately in the habit of retiring early to rest. One night, I recollect, I fell asleep; and, as I often dream, I said, yawning, and half awake, “Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! Craven has got me into the West Indies again.” In short, I soon found that I had made a bad speculation by going from my father to Lord Craven. I was even more afraid of the latter than I had been of the former; not that there was any particular harm in the man, beyond his cocoa trees; but we never suited nor understood each other.

(
See: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Written by Herself, Volume 1, Chapter 1, Page 5).

Harriette was born on 22nd February 1786: she would therefore have been 15 years old in 1801. So it was most probably her to whom Jane Austen alluded in her letter, residing in immoral splendour at Ashdown Park. Lord Craven of course knew much about cocoa trees , I should imagine, as he had had first hand experience of them. He had visited the West Indies, as we know, in 1795 as Colonel to the 3rd Foot Regiment- The Buffs. He was sent to the islands as part of the convoy commanded by Admiral Hugh Christian escorting General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s 19,00 strong force to subdue French interference in the islands. Poor Lord Craven was obviously explaining to the bored Harriette of his battles on the islands She, a little like Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, seems only to have heard and understood one word in ten of his conversations. And  she wasn’t bored for long: she soon ran away from Lord Craven’s delights and his tales of cocoa trees to the protection of Frederick Lamb (1782-1853), later 3rd Viscount Melbourne.

Happily, Lord Craven eventually found his soul-mate:

In 1805 Lord Craven saw Louisa Brunton (?1785-186o), daughter of John Brunton (a greengrocer turned actor and theatre manager in Norwich), and now making a name for herself as a Shakespearean actress at Drury Lane-her principal parts included Celia in As You Like It, Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII, and Lady Anne in Richard III… Fanny Kemble’s mother remembered Louisa Brunton as ‘a very eccentric as well as attractive and charming woman, who contrived, too, to be a very charming actress, in spite of a prosaical dislike to her business, which used to take the peculiar and rather alarming turn of suddenly, in the midst of a scene, saying aside to her fellow-actors, “What nonsense all this is! Suppose we don’t go on with it.” This singular expostulation my mother said she always expected to see followed up by the sudden exit of her lively companion, in the middle of her part. Miss Brunton, however, had self-command enough to go on acting till she became Countess of Craven, and left off the nonsense of the stage for the earnestness of high life.”Miss Brunton, at the beginning of December 1807, with characteristic modesty, made her final curtsey on the stage’- and married Lord Craven in December his town house in London. Later gossip-writers recalled her as ‘tall and commanding and of the most perfect symmetry, and her face the perfection of sweetness and expression’.

(See  Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye,  page 512)

And this woman is the same Lady Craven whose opinion of Emma was collected by Jane Austen  in 1816.  She admired Emma very much, but did not think it equal to P&P. Don’t you find it interesting to think of the many characters who lived at Ashdown Park, in that beautiful House…I know I do, and I’m sure yet again the allure of such a house and its associations will add to the pieces of the lots of this sale. Time will tell and I’ll report back after the sale takes place on October 27.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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