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Bath in Winter

Bath in Winter ©Smithsonian Institute

Jacqueline Moen of the Smithsonian Insitute has asked me to give you news of a Jane Austen tour that the Smithsonian Journeys are organising this Christmas. And as someone who completed 80 % of her Christmas shopping last week, I have no shame in mentioning this Christmas tour to you in early October!

The tour, A Jane Austen Christmas, does sound very tempting and a lot of fun. The very cleverly planned itinerary is here for you to study and the tour has two beautiful bases, both closely associated with Jane Austen, the cities of Winchester and Bath. It takes place from the 20th -28th December. Here is an overview of what is on offer:

This Christmas join us for a unique holiday tour with a literary theme. Delve into Austen’s 19th-century world of English society as you explore the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, where she lived and socialized. Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a popular Smithsonian expert for literary and holiday tours. With Ros at your side, celebrate Christmas Day services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral, where a magnificent choir will sing sacred music accompanied by a historic organ with 5,500 pipes. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, and enjoy afternoon tea with Christmas mince pies and mulled wine. You’ll also follow the life and works of the English novelist, visiting Hampshire villages such as Steventon and Chawton, which shaped her life and stories, and residing in Winchester, where she spent her last years. Continuing to the World Heritage site of Bath, where Austen lived for five years, experience the epitome of Georgian society in such settings as the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms, which housed balls and public functions during Austen’s day. Literary fans will also learn more about the Regency period through a tour of the Fashion Museum and special meetings and events with experts from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and The Jane Austen Society in Winchester.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by this? And to add to the attraction, the price of the tour( which does not cover the cost of travel to the starting point of Winchester in the UK, do note) is now subject to a discount of $250 per person. If you want to take advantage of this offer, DO NOT BOOK ONLINE but contact their call centre on (001 )855-330-1542 to speak with a Reservations Specialist, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The call centre will be aware of the discount they are offering.

If any of you do go, please let us know how it went!

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She died on the 18th July 1817 in a rented house, Number 8 College Street, Winchester, where she had gone from Chawton in order to seek better medical attention.

The house in which Jane Austen died on the 18th July, 1817

Mr Curtis, the apothecary in Alton, the small town near to Chawton, who had treated Jane Austen, had admitted he no longer knew how to deal with her illness. She therefore moved to Winchester on 24th May, and there she was attended by Mr Giles King Lyford. He was the Surgeon-in-Ordinary at the Country Hospital in the city. At first his ministrations seemed to be effecting a little improvement in her condition. She wrote to her nephew, James Edward Austen on the  27th May,1817:

Mr Lydford says he will cure me & if he fails I shall draw up a Memorial & lay it before the Dean and Chapter & have no doubt of redress from that Pious, Learned & Disinterested Body.

Sadly, Mr Lydford did not cure her, and this plaque marks the spot where she died:

The Plaque which denotes the house in which Jane Austen died in College Street, Winchester

She was -as she almost foresaw in her ironic remark to James Edward- buried in Winchester Cathedral: College Street was(and still is) just outside the  walls of the Cathedral close.

Winchester Cathedral from the South West.

She was buried in the North Aisle. But there are not one, but three memorials to her in this part of the cathedral, an extraordinary situation, and it is interesting to discover how and why these memorials proliferated.

The North Aisle in Winchester Cathedral

For years this sombre gravestone, below, was the only memorial to her, and it failed, quite spectacularly, to mention her genius or her works:

Jane Austen’s Grave in Winchester Cathedral

The words on the gravestone were composed by Jane Austen’s brother, Henry Austen.  No one knows why he failed to mention her genius here, for he certainly mentioned it in the obituary  notice of her which he is thought to have written and which appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of the 28th July 1817:

On Friday the 18th inst., died in this city, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev.George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in this county, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Sensibility. Her manners were most gentle, her affections ardent, her candour was not to be suppressed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.

Eventually a second memorial was erected in the cathedral to her memory. The profits from James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir of his aunt, published in 1870,  paid for a brass memorial tablet to be created and installed near to Jane Austen’s Grave in the north aisle:

The Memorial Brass dedicated to Jane Austen’s memory

The brass plate was designed by James Wyatt,and finally made a small mention of her writings.  But this was still not enough, it seems, to fittingly commemorate her. In 1898 a request for donations by way of public subscription, with an individual limit of 5 guineas, was made in a letter to The Times, and it was signed  by the Earl of Selborne, Lord Northbrook, W.W B Beach and Montague G. Knight of Chawton, in order that a memorial window could be erected in Jane Austen’s memory in addition to the two existing memorials.  This window  was designed by Charles Eager Kempe,  and was installed in the north wall directly above Jane Austen’s memorial tablet:

The Memorial Window Dedicated to Jane Austen in Winchester Cathedral

The imagery in the window is astounding, and I should imagine, for many visitors to the Cathedral, difficult to interpret today.  At the head of the window is a figure of St. Augustine, whose name in its abbreviated form is St Austin. It is therefore a visual pun on Jane Austen’s surname. The central figure in  the top row of the window is King David playing his harp. Directly under him is St John, who displays his Gospel, opened at the first words: “In the beginning was the Word…”  A latin inscription to Jane Austen is also included, and this can be  translated as follows:

Remember in the Lord Jane Austen who died July 18th A.D. 1817.

The figures in the four remaining  lights are the sons of Korah who each carry a scroll upon which are inscribed sentences in Latin which allude to the religious nature of Jane Austen’s character. How interesting that even in this window the references to her genius are oblique by today’s standards. And I do often wonder how many visitors to her grave notice the window, for there is only a small notice to the side of the brass tablet which explains it significance. How fascinating to see how, as her fame rose, the memorials to her got greater in size, but were not necessarily plain acknowledgments of her genius.

I suppose, however, that her true memorials are her works, and her words, for which I give daily thanks.

P and G Wells, Booksellers, in College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

P and G Wells, Booksellers, in College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

Keeping to the theme of Jane Austen’s Bookshop…if you click here you will be taken to a page on the Winchester Bindery site to some photographs of the shops in College Street, Winchester which is now P. and G. Wells booksellers. During Jane Austen’s life time it was owned by John Burdon, and was the bookshop where Jane and her family had an account.

There is one photograph, taken circa 1860, which shows the shopfront as I imagine it must have appeared at the time when Jane Austen and her family knew it, in the late 18th early 19th century. Fascinating  to see,  and also to compare and contrast it with the modern shop front. The black and white photographs showing the interiors are astounding.

I was lucky enough to visit this very fascinating exhibition at Chawton House Library on Friday.

Chawton House Library

It is based around a the discovery of a fascinating document, the sale catalogue of the bookseller, John Burdon who had premises in College Street, Winchester. When he died in 1803 , his sons failed to carry on his business and thus his entire stock was sold at auction in 1807.  By studying the catalogue- which lists over 5,000 individual titles- we can deduce what reading material was available to his customers in Winchester and the surrounding area.

We can also deduce what Jane Austen might then have read and had access to, in addition to the books we know she referenced in her novels and letters.Burdon was entitled to be called the Austen family’s bookseller, because it would appear they had an account at the shop. In her letter to Cassandra Austen, her sister, of the 25th November 1798 she makes the following comment, referring to her father’s account at Burdon’s bookshop:

We have got “Fitz Albini”; my father has bought it against my private wishes, for it does not quite satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed. That these scruples, however, do not at all interfere with my reading it, you will easily believe. We have neither of us yet finished the first volume. My father is disappointed — I am not, for I expected nothing better. Never did any book carry more internal evidence of its author. Every sentiment is completely Egerton’s. There is very little story, and what there is is told in a strange, unconnected way. There are many characters introduced, apparently merely to be delineated. We have not been able to recognise any of them hitherto, except Dr. and Mrs. Hey and Mr. Oxenden, who is not very tenderly treated…We have got Boswell’s “Tour to the Hebrides” and are to have his “Life of Johnson”; and, as some money will yet remain in Burdon’s hands, it is to be laid out in the purchase of Cowper’s works. 

The exhibit very carefully leads the visitor around the story of what could be available to purchase in a provincial booksellers like Burdons. And the choice was surprisingly vast and varied:  local authors, international big hitters, travel journals, political treaties, theological works, poetry, fiction, plays. And not all of this material was produced in London and distributed locally by the bookshop, after ordering them from catalogues. Burdon was a producer as well as a supplier. He supplied newspapers, pamphlets, single volumes, and lavishly produced multi volume sets. Neither was he alone: Winchester had several booksellers, stationers, bookbinders, private libraries and circulating libraries. The press that printed the weekly-produced Hampshire Chronicle from 1778 was on show in the Oak Room,which you can just make out in the photograph below, to the right.

The Display in The Oak Room at Chawton House Library

The exhibit was set out in two rooms at Chawton House: the Oak Room, where part of the room was set up as a Gentleman’s Library of the period…

The Table Display in the Oak Room

…his desk chair  left momentarily empty as he is seemingly suddenly called away from his books…

The Table Display in the Oak Room

And then the Map Room….

The Displays in the Map Room

The “hands-on” Table Display in the Map Room

where, in addition to the intriguing displays set around the walls, the central table was invitingly set with some 18th and early 19th century  examples of the books that the Austens might have read. Such as the  works of the poet, William Cowper, the purchase of which was anticipated by Jane Austen in her letter to Cassandra, above.

Poems by William Cowper in Two Volumes

And the table was also set with the wonderfully refreshing invitation to Touch the Books

An Encouraging Notice in the Map Room

Each book was accompanied by a laminated card printed with thought-provoking statements and  questions relating to each book.

The Young Misses Magazine

One of my favourite books on show was the Winchester College Borrowers Book, below

The Winchester College Borrowers Book

The Librarian at the College would carefully record each book borrowed by each Fellow, making it possible for the researchers to attempt to discern the individual reader’s taste and habits. The page was open at the page recoding the borrowings of George Isaac Huntingford,who seems mostly to have preferred theological works. The catalogue of Mr Burdon’s stock was on display via a slideshow on a monitor in the Oak Room: I was glad to see  John Baskerville well represented ( and do note you can enlarge any of these photographs, in order to read the details, simply by clicking on them):

The Digital Slide Show of a “Catalogue of the Stock in Trade of the Late Mr Burdon, Bookseller (1807)”

I do hope this is available either to purchase or view online soon, as it would be wonderful to speculate about the type of books Jane Austen might have purchased and not mentioned in her letters….

And in the famous alcove in the Oak Room,  The Winchester Bindery, which operates from the current P. and G. Wells bookshop in Winchester, where Mr Burdon had his premises in the late 18th century…

The famous alcove in the Oak Room where Jane Austen is reputed to have enjoyed sitting

produced an explanatory display about the bookbinders art, which included some 18th century tools – see the mind-blowingly large set of card cutters, below:

Display of Bookbinding Tools and Materials, including the enormous Card Cutters

How many children were employed in the use of these, I wonder ?…The exhibition,which runs until Friday afternoon does have a simply produced but very informative catalogue, which is  reasonably available at the cost of £1.

The Exhibition Catalogue

I do hope some of you will manage to get to this exhibition. It is very illuminating, and shows that though a family like the Austens might live in a remote and tiny village like Steventon, provided they had some spare money for books, they could keep up to date with the latest fashions in literature and be kept well supplied with news items. They would not want for variety, and would not have to rely upon London booksellers to supply their wants.
I really enjoyed the exhibit, and would like to thank Eleanor Marsden for her hospitality and Christopher Knight who was a very sensitive, patient and kind steward of the rooms as I wondered around the displays, squeaking
( very quietly, mind)  in delighted surprise at the depth and inviting nature of the exhibits.

Chawton House Library is currently staging an intriguing exhibition entitled, Jane Austen’s Bookshop.

A result of a joint research project by the University of Winchester, California State University Long Beach and Chawton House itself, the exhibition provides a detailed look at the stock of John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester, which was open for business during Jane Austen’s life time in College Street, Winchester.  As the University of Winchester website tells us:

The exhibition provides, for the first time, a snapshot of a complete catalogue of printed material which was available at John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester during Jane Austen’s lifetime. Burdon’s was used by the Austen family as well as other influential writers of the period and was based in College Street, now the home of Wells Bookshop.

P and G Wells is a favourite bookshop of mine. They have always stocked rare to find Jane Austen-related material, and in the dark days before the online buying of books was easily transacted, you could always reply on them to send books to you via their excellent mail order service.

P and G Wells Bookshop,College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

One of those rare survivors, an independent bookshop, P. and G. Wells still offer a fine service to their customers, all over the world, and, of course, an additional link to Jane Austen is that their premises are situated on College Street in Winchester, a few doors away from the house where it is thought that Jane Austen died, below…

Number 8, College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

and  they are also in the same street as Winchester College, below, where many of Jane’s nephews were educated:

Winchester College,College Street, Winchester. ©Austenonly

The big breakthrough which inspired much of  the research was made by Dr. Norbert Schürer, a visiting Leverhulme Fellow at Winchester who specialises in studying the work of women writers of the eighteenth century.  He found the bookseller’s catalogue which dates from 1807.  As he explains:

I was researching eighteenth-century print culture in Winchester.One of the first things I did was to identify Burdon’s bookshop by putting research from other critics together. Then quite by chance, I discovered that the bookshop had been sold in 1807 with a complete catalogue, giving us the name of every single book in the store.

The catalogue apparently contains details of all the books stocked by John Burdon in 1807 : they include novels, biographies, travel narratives as well as travel guides, journals and periodicals, theological literature, sermons, poetry and a wealth of other reading matter. The exhibition will explore how readers and writers in Winchester shared printed material in the early 19th century, and it focuses on publications made by scholars at Winchester College, annual reports from the County Hospital, and advertisements and reviews in local newspapers like the Hampshire Chronicle.  It is open weekdays, 10am-4pm, from Tuesday 19 June to Friday 6 July.

I am lucky enough to be in Chawton this weekend, and if I manage to get to the exhibition, I will, of course, report back to you, but I should think that many of you in the area will be making plans to visit it. It sounds totally fascinating.

Literary Winchester is  a fascinating new website, and for anyone who loves the city and is interested in its literary connections, it will prove invaluable. Written- and beautifully so- by Keiren Phelan, it is the repository for his views on the literary figures associated with Winchester and also for publishing parts of his collection of Winchester related books and articles. Eventually he hopes to write and publish a book on this subject and this would be a useful item to own, while wandering around the city.

Jane Austen, of course, receives a lot of attention. His article on her is interesting, and his comments regarding the possibility of her dying in a building other than that normally thought to be her final resting place-Number 8 College Street- are intriguing:

Number 8 College Street, Winchester.©Austenonly

Other literary figures included so far in his site include Charlotte M. Younge,

and John Keats. It will be fun to watch this site grow and grow. I look forward to it, and to the eventual book. I hope you enjoy it too.

During my holiday  a few items related to Jane Austen and Fashion have been brought to my attention, and I thought you might like to share them. Here goes…

First , Andrea Galer continues to sell some of her Austen adaptation costumes from her very stylish site, which is now linked from Austen only in the links section to the left of this page. Currently on sale ( in addition to Matthew MacFaddeyns waistcoat from the BBC adaptation of Trollope’s novel, The Way We Live Now) is this Spencer which was worn by Rosamund Stephen in ITVs adaption of Persuasion (2007). She played Henrietta Musgrove in the film.

Also for sale is this outfit worn by the marvellous Oliva Williams who portrayed Jane Austen in the BBC’s bio of Jane Austen’s last few months in Miss Austen Regrets.

The outfit consists of the dress, blouse and spencer, all which were worn in the programme. Now wearing that outfit would certainly be a talking point at the next Bath Festival Promenade, don’t you think?

Next, Winchester Fashion Week is fast approaching, and they have a new blog  to keep everyone informed of events and developments. Jane Austen had, of course, many associations with Winchester, and the blog has a new post which discusses her links with the city and  her interest in fashion.

If you go here you can read this interesting article written by Alys Key “Sense, Sensibility and Style:Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen. This post includes an interview with Louise West, the Curator of the Jane Austen House Museum. I think you will all find it a fascinating read.

The Tourist Office at Winchester have produced a new Jane Austen Trail leaflet and website to celebrate this years 200th Anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility.  They are both very interesting and will be very useful for visitors to Hampshire this summer who want to visit the main Jane Austen sites, for not only does the trail and website give historical data but much-needed travel information: this will be invaluable to Austen-tourists not familiar with the area.

The trail  plots the Jane Austen’s life in Hampshire chronologically, and includes information on Chawton Cottage, her family home from 1809 until 1817 and now the Jane Austen House Museum, which was of course where she composed and revised her six marvellous adult novels, and her final, unfinished work, Sandition.

I might quibble with about the veracity of a few of the statements in the leaflet, but then that’s just me being über picky ;) It is in fact generally very helpful, and I do like that it includes detail not only on the well-known Jane related sites such as Steventon, Chawton and Winchester, but also Southampton and Portsmouth (However, sadly I note that the Coastal Jaunts part of the website is not accessible to me : too many redirects)

The website is accessible here and the leaflet can be downloaded as a pdf. document here.

(The College as seen from the Water Meadows, from Ackerman’s History of Winchester College 1815)

Jane Austen’s association with Winchester College, one of the oldest educational institutions in England, was through her nephews: Edward Austen Knight’s sons and  James Edward Austen Leigh, son of James Austen and Jane’s first true biographer, were all educated there. She was living in Southampton, with Mrs Austen, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd when young Edward Knight first began his studies at the college and they were pleased to be close to him (Winchester being just over 13 miles away):

(A section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire (1805) showing the route from Southampton to Winchester, which can be enlarged if you click on it))

We shall rejoice in being so near Winchester when Edward belongs to it & can never have our spare bed filled more to our satisfaction than by him….

(See Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated February 8th 1807)

Their closeness geographically and emotionally was a boon when unexpectedly Elizabeth, Edward Knight’s wife, died a year later  in 1808. By this time young Edward  had been joined at the school by his younger brother George and on first receiving the news of their mother’s death they had been removed from the school to Steventon to be with James Austen and his family for a period of compassionate leave. Jane Austen appears to have found this decision very difficult and in  letters written to Cassandra, who was at Godmersham helping with Edward Knight senior’s grief-stricken family, she made her feelings known:

You will know that the poor boys are at Steventon, perhaps it is best for them ,as they will have more means of exercise and amusement there than they could have with us,but I am myself disappointed by the arrangement;-I should have loved to have them with me at such a time….

(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 13th October 1808)

Eventually, and for what reason it is uncertain, the boys were sent from Steventon to Southampton to Jane and Mrs Austen and she was able to look after them as she wished, and I want to quote extensively from the letter she wrote to Cassandra at this time as it is such an important one, demonstrating that she could indeed love children,despite the criticism often levelled at her that she often felt to a contrary feeling towards them:

Edward and George came to us soon after seven on Saturday, very well, but very cold, having by choice travelled on the outside, and with no great coat but what Mr. Wise, the coachman, good-naturedly spared them of his, as they sat by his side. They were so much chilled when they arrived, that I was afraid they must have taken cold; but it does not seem at all the case; I never saw them looking better.

They behave extremely well in every respect, showing quite as much feeling as one wishes to see, and on every occasion speaking of their father with the liveliest affection. His letter was read over by each of them yesterday, and with many tears; George sobbed aloud, Edward’s tears do not flow so easily; but as far as I can judge they are both very properly impressed by what has happened. Miss Lloyd, who is a more impartial judge than I can be, is exceedingly pleased with them. George is almost a new acquaintance to me, and I find him in a different way as engaging as Edward.  We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed; and we mean to avail ourselves of our kind papa’s consideration, by not returning to Winchester till quite the evening of Wednesday.  Mrs. J. A. had not time to get them more than one suit of clothes; their others are making here, and though I do not believe Southampton is famous for tailoring, I hope it will prove itself better than Basingstoke. Edward has an old black coat, which will save his having a second new one; but I find that black pantaloons are considered by them as necessary, and of course one would not have them made uncomfortable by the want of what is usual on such occasions…

I hope your sorrowing party were at church yesterday, and have no longer that to dread. Martha was kept at home by a cold, but I went with my two nephews, and I saw Edward was much affected by the sermon, which, indeed, I could have supposed purposely addressed to the afflicted, if the text had not naturally come in the course of Dr. Mant’s observations on the Litany: “All that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation,” was the subject of it. The weather did not allow us afterwards to get farther than the quay, where George was very happy as long as we could stay, flying about from one side to the other, and skipping on board a collier immediately. In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over. Their aunt has written pleasantly of them, which was more than I hoped. While I write now, George is most industriously making and naming paper ships, at which he afterwards shoots with horse-chestnuts brought from Steventon on purpose; and Edward equally intent over the “Lake of Killarney,” twisting himself about in one of our great chairs.

The day began cheerfully, but it is not likely to continue what it should, for them or for us. We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay. I had not proposed doing more than cross the Itchen yesterday, but it proved so pleasant, and so much to the satisfaction of all, that when we reached the middle of the stream we agreed to be rowed up the river; both the boys rowed great part of the way, and their questions and remarks, as well as their enjoyment, were very amusing; George’s inquiries were endless, and his eagerness in everything reminds me often of his Uncle Henry. Our evening was equally agreeable in its way: I introduced speculation, and it was so much approved that we hardly knew how to leave off. Your idea of an early dinner to-morrow is exactly what we propose, for, after writing the first part of this letter, it came into my head that at this time of year we have not summer evenings. We shall watch the light to-day, that we may not give them a dark drive to-morrow.

They send their best love to papa and everybody, with George’s thanks for the letter brought by this post. Martha begs my brother may be assured of her interest in everything relating to him and his family, and of her sincerely partaking our pleasure in the receipt of every good account from Godmersham.

This letter, I think, shows Jane Austen at her best. Careful and solicitous of the boy’s feelings. Anxious to do what was right and correct for them but also keen to entertain them as best she could. She was a truly loving aunt.

Life continued, and the boys returned to Winchester where they were  joined by cousins from the Deeds and Bridges part of their family and eventually James Edward Austen Leigh(though he had not the “Leigh ” part of his name at that time.)The Austen ladies and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton  in 1809 and from their vantage point at Chawton Cottage were able to watch the coaches take the boys to and from Winchester.

We saw a countless number of Postchaises full of Boys pass by yesterday morning-full of future Heroes, Legislators, Fools and Vilains(sic)

(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 15th July 1816)

Occasionally the Chawton ladies wer overrun by the boys on their way to school as this letter from Jane Austen to Martha Lloyd  ruefully records:

We are  going to be all alive from this forenoon to tomorrow afternoon: it will be all over when you recieve this & you may think me of as not sorry that it is so. George, Henry  and  William (Knight-JFW)will soon be here & are to stay the night-and tomorrow the two Deedes and Henry Bridges will be added to our party- we shall then have an early dinner and dispatch them all to Winchester…

(See Letter to Martha Lloyd, dated 16th February 1813)

(A section from John Cary’s Map of Hampshire (1805) showing the route from Chawton to Winchester)

The boys at while studying at Winchester would have worn this uniform, taken from Ackermann’s History of Winchester College (1815)

The history of the College is to be found in many different volumes but today we shall concentrate on one that was  contemporary with Jane Austen: A Short View of the History and Antiquities of Winchester etc by the Reverend Dr Milner (1812) extracted from his 4 volume work on the city, while the coloured illustrations below are all from Ackermann’s history of the college of 1815.

THIS (the College-JFW) was founded by that illustrious and beneficent prelate William of Wykeham at the close of the 14th century for

“A warden, 70 poor scholars to be instructed in grammatical training, 10 secular priests, perpetual fellows, three priests chaplins, three clerks and 6 choristers and a schoolmaster and undermaster for the instruction of the scholars”.

Possession was taken of it March 28th 1393 and it was calculated by its founder to be a nursery for New College Oxon which he had just before completed in order to furnish his clergy with the highest branches of ecclesiastical learning.


There is a lofty tower to the street in which stands a large statue of the patroness, The Blessed virgin Mary. The same figure, with those of the angel Gabriel and of the founder upon his knees is seen on both sides of the second or middle tower.


The first court is intersected by a modern-built house for the use of the warden. The second court is bounded to the south by a magnificent Gothic chapel, ornamented by a rich and curious tower. The inside of the chapel is not less striking than the outside of it , being remarkable for its bold and lofty vaulting, enriched with beautiful tracery, for  its large painted windows, for its beautiful and appropriate altar piece and for the ancient monuments and epitaphs of its warden and other members  which occur in what is called the ante –chapel. A great number of these, equally curious with the former, are to be seen in the Cloisters, which are spacious and elegant. In the area of the Cloisters stand the Library, which is a neat Gothic structure having been originally built for a chantry or chapel in which prayers used to be offered for the surrounding dead.

The school is a noble modern building, adorned on the outside with the statue of bishop Wykeham; and in the inside, with suitable inscriptions and emblems. Besides the arts of the College already mentioned, the Refectory or Eating–hall, likewise the Kitchen and an allegorical figure of a Trusty Servant near it are generally shewn to strangers. A the close of the scholastic year the students break up with the solemn performance of the well known ode or song “Dulce Domum”. Adjoining to the College is a spacious modern building for the residence of the gentlemen commoners who live their under the inspection of the head-master and frequent the public school.

Jane Austen could joke with James Edward Austen of his record  at school once he had left in 1816:

I give you Joy of having left Winchester. Now you may own how miserable you were there; now, it will gradually all come out-Your Crime and your Miseries-how often you went up by the Mail to London and threw away Fifty Guineas at a Tavern and how often you were on the point of hanging yourself-restrained only as some ill-natured aspersion upon old Winton(Winchester-JFW) has by the want of a Tree within some miles the City.

(See Letter to James Edward Austen dated 16th December 1816)

Jane Austen’s final connection with the college was that she died within sight of it. The house in College street where she lived during her last illness is next door to the Warden, or Headmaster’s House ,as you can see from the photograph below:

In her last letter to James Edward Austen dated 27th May 1817 ,written from that house,  Jane Austen gave a characteristically cheerful account of it and the view from it:

We have a neat little Drawing Room with a Bow Window over looking Dr Gabell’s garden.

Dr Gabell was the then headmaster of Winchester College (he was head from 1810 -1823). And this is a view of the Wardens (or Headmaster’s ) Garden again taken from Ackermann’s 1815 History of the college.

It is pleasant to think that  though she may not have had a view of the countryside in her last illness, Jane Austen could at least look out onto this garden, part of Winchester College.

Winchester College is open to the public, and I can highly recommend a tour to anyone visiting Winchester, due to the interesting Austen family connections. If you go here you can find all the necessary details.

On Friday the 18th inst. died,

in this city,

Miss Jane Austen,

youngest(sic) daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in this county,

and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Her manners were most gentle, her affections ardent,

her candour was not to be surpassed,

and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.

Notice of Jane Austen’s death that appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal on the 28th July, 1817

written by Henry Austen her brother.

July 15th is St Swithin’s Day and legend has it that if it rains today it will rain every day for 40 continuous days…as it is raining as I write it is goodbye to summer,then.

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St Swithun’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ’twill rain na mair

St Swithun was a 9th century Bishop of Winchester (his name is more often spelt “Swithin” today,as Jane Austen did).  He died on 2 July 862 and tradition has it that he asked to be buried in a humble manner , outside the cathedral in the surrounding precincts. His original grave was situated just outside the west door of the Old Saxon minster, a place where people would inevitably walk over it on their way into the cathedral.

However, on 15 July 971,  Swithin’s remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral on the orders of  Bishop Ethelwold.  This became the saint’s day because  miracles were attributed to the saint on this day. However, the removal of Swithun’s remains into the cathedral was also accompanied by ferocious and violent rain storms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights . People (rightly or wrongly) attributed this to the fact that the saint was obviously angry at being moved. This is probably the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithin’s feast day, the rain will continue for 40 more days.

Which brings us to Jane Austen’s poem about this day. She wrote it on the morning of Tuesday 15th July 1817, two days before she died on 18th July.  Here it is:

When Winchester races

When Winchester races first took their beginning

It is said the good people forgot their old Saint

Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin

And that William of Wykeham’s approval was faint.


The races however were fixed and determined

The company came and the Weather was charming

The Lords and the Ladies were satine’d and ermined

And nobody saw any future alarming.–


But when the old Saint was informed of these doings

He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof

Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins

And then he addressed them all standing aloof.


‘Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved

When once we are buried you think we are gone

But behold me immortal! By vice you’re enslaved

You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said


These races and revels and dissolute measures

With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain

Let them stand–You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures

Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o’er July

Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers

Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry

The curse upon Venta is July in showers–‘.


Winchester( the Roman name for the city was “Venta“, note)  had its racecourse on Worthy Down, four miles from the town. There was an oval course with a stand at the western end and booths to the south. As we learnt from our Stamford Assembly Rooms post, the provincial Races Weeks of the 18th and early 19th centuries were considerable events. Much socialising- concerts assemblies and of course the races,when the genteel and aristocratic-who usually were great patrons of the sport- dressed in their  finery came together in great numbers to see the races, spend  and gamble money  etc. So  in her poem Jane Austen was playfully admonishing the many who flocked to the Winchester Races -held on St Swithin’s Day-and imagines the saint cursing them, promising that henceforth, all their race meetings will be accompanied by rain. As someone who has experienced downpours at Ascot, Newmarket and Warwick race courses,I can say that it did mar the  fun considerably;-)

This poem was of curse quietly glossed over by Jane Austen’s early biographers, most notably James Edward Austen Leigh’s “Memoir” : probably because they thought the subject matter  was too disreputable  -horse racing with all its connotations-especially bearing in mind  the image of  the pious, devoted, domestically minded spinster aunt, that they were studiously creating and promoting. At a time when she was near to death it is obvious that they were disquieted that  she should write an amusing poem and probably thought she ought to have been contemplating more serious subjects. Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, in his Biographical Notice published with the first editions of   Persuasion and Northanger Abbey referred to her composing

Stanzas replete with fancy and vigour

the day before her death, but failed to mention the subject matter.

It was first published in the first edition of  Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J H and E C Hubback in 1906.

I don’t find it irreligious at all:she is after all portraying St Swithin as being outraged that the races take place on his saint’s day, and punishes the racegoers accordingly….

What is disturbing is that it occurs to me  that  as Jane Austen was dying at the time of the Winchester races, this  surely means that she was dying in a very busy noisy town: not much peace to be had even in the small house, 8 College Street where she died . That’s not a pleasant  thought to contemplate.

However, I find it remarkable that her sense of humour and mischievousness were still with her almost to the end, and thought you might like to read the poem on this St Swithin’s Day.

I thought you might like to see this picture of the bible once owned by the Reverend George Austen which is to be used at the Evensong  Service at Winchester Cathedral tomorrow, which is to  commemorate the life and works of Jane Austen.

Here we can see Winchester Cathedral’s Canon Precentor Michael St John-Channell holding the bible near Jane Austen’s ledgerstone in the Cathedral. The Reverend  George Austen’s bible is normally kept at St Nicholas Church, Steventon, the church where he was rector. Jane Austen was born in the nearby Rectory at Steventon-now sadly demolished- in 1775.

Winchester Cathedral have just sent  me details of the special Evensong Celebration of Jane Austen’s life  which is to take place next weekend.

Here they are for you to  share:

A special service to mark Jane Austen’s burial at Winchester Cathedral will feature her father’s 200-year-old bible.

The bible dates from 1793 and was used by the Rev George Austen while he served in his Hampshire parish. Readings will be taken from the bible during the service.

It is intended the May 1 event, which is to celebrate the opening of the Cathedral’s Jane Austen exhibition, will also redress the fact that only four people were at her funeral and none were women.

The celebration will see some of her descendents attending and taking part in the Evensong service. Jane remained very close to Hampshire throughout her life and the celebration at the Cathedral reflects her life story. Family from her close friend Mrs Lefroy will also be at the Cathedral for the service.

“This Evensong is the perfect celebration of the opening of our exhibition and Jane’s life,” comments Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral. “By bringing her family descendents and supporters to her graveside, and reading from her father’s bible, we are making a wonderful connection with the past and recognising just how influential Jane’s contribution to our literary history continues to be.”

The family will be invited to process to Jane Austen’s grave in the Cathedral at the end of the service and be given the opportunity to pay their respects to one of Hampshire’s and the UK’s most famous daughters.

I have been invited to attend but sadly a long standing  prior appointment forced me to decline the very kind invitation. I would have loved to have been able to share the details of the service with you.

From the description above, it certainly does  look like it is going to be a very moving event and I wish all participants the happpiest of times commemorating Jane.

Winchester  Cathedral is of course where Jane Austen was buried, after dying near to it in College Street  on the 18th  July 1817. To begin commemorate the 200 anniversary of her death the Cathedral has decided to  open a new permanent exhibition about Jane Austen and her life. They have contacted me with details of the events and I have great pleasure in  sharing them to you here:

As the bicentenary decade of Jane Austen’s heyday and early death approaches, a new permanent exhibition at her resting place in Winchester Cathedral opens on 10 April 2010 to unveil the life and times of the renowned author like never before.

The exhibition, which will document Jane’s home and social life, will be supported by a mix of permanent and rolling exhibits borrowed from collections around the world. From 10 April until 20 September items from Winchester Cathedral’s and Winchester College’s archives will be on display. Some of these items have rarely, if ever, been displayed publicly before and include her burial register, first editions and fragments of Jane’s own writing.

In addition to the exhibition,  new guided tours, specific special exhibitions and talks will take visitors through her life and works to mark her legacy and set the stage for Jane’s bicentenary.   Some of the events planned to take place are as follows

1st May: Special Evensong to mark Jane Austen’s life, and place in the Cathedral’s history

16-18 July: Jane Austen Weekend (including Regency Dinner) which coincides with the Jane Austen Society AGM

5-6 August: Outside theatre production of Pride and Prejudice

Extended tours which take visitors beyond the Cathedral to see Jane’s final home just beyond the Cathedral Inner Close.


Charlotte Barnaville, the Cathedral’s Marketing Officer, and a team of specialist advisors have created the exhibit. Charlotte comments:

“Hampshire offers Jane Austen admirers a wonderful window into her life, at her birthplace of Steventon, where she lived at Chawton and in Winchester, her final resting place. The Cathedral provides the perfect space to bring together each element of Jane’s life through the public exhibition and to give prominence to her ledgerstone, which lies quietly in the north nave aisle and often goes unnoticed.

“Our focus will be on Jane Austen the person, her life, family and friends. So much of daily life during the regency period is so different to today, and we know this will reveal a totally different side to Jane Austen’s fans and followers.”

The exhibition will be open during Cathedral visiting hours, and visitors will be able to enjoy the rest of the Cathedral’s treasures during their visit. There is a small charge to visit the Cathedral, and an annual pass costs just £10.  But note if you are making a special visit to Winchester to visit the Cathedral that it is always wise  to contact the Cathedral in advance, as occasionally services and events may limit access to the exhibition.

I do hope some form of catalogue will be  available for this exhibit-  as yet I have no news about  one- as it would make a touching souvenir for those  Janeites amongst us who may not be able to  physically attend any of the commemorations for her death in the city where she died.

If I have any more news on this or other exhibits regarding the celebrations commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s death I will of course share them with you.

So.. continuing from our last post on Music in the Sydney Garden wherein we discovered that Jane Austen did everything in her power to avoid listening to it…for whatever reason…(which she did not share with us )…we now turn to the fireworks…..which we know she did enjoy :

We did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were really beautiful and surpassing my expectations- the illuminations too were very pretty.

(See Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 19th June, 1799)

The advertisement for the evening states that:

There will be a most

CAPTIAL DISPLAY OF FIREWORKS

By Signor INVETTO

Who will exert the utmost of his ingenious skill to produce new and astonishing effects;to enumerate the particulars would be too long for an advertisement

Signor Invetto was one of a few itinerant firework masters who traveled around England  creating firework displays at the pleasure gardens in different towns during the 18th and 19th centuries.

I thought you might be interested to see this advertismentle from the Norfolk Chronicle of 1782, which gives us a little more background to the firework master from Milan who seems to have made a good living in England by supplying fireworks to various pleasure gardens .

At BUNN’s Pantheon, On Tuesday, June 18, 1782, (being Guild-Day, will be performed a Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music.

First Violin, Mr Abraham STANNARD, jun.

The Vocal Part, by Mr LEVI, (After the Manner of Mr LEONI, of the Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden.) Act.1. “Auld Robin Gray” Act 2. The Soldier’s Tir’d, etc ” The Evening to conclude with a Brilliant Display of Fire-Works, by Sig. Baptista PEDRALIO; Consisting of many new Designs, Emblematical and Picturesque, beautifully ornamented with all the various coloured Fires, representing Suns, Cascades, Rockets, illuminated Balloons, Horizontal, Vertical, Pigeon, and Balloon Wheels, etc etc.

The Concert to begin at Eight o’Clock.

Admittance One Shilling; Sixpence to be returned in Liquor, etc QUANTRELL’s Gardens Will be illuminated on Tuesday, June 18, (being Guild-Day) when there will be a Concert of Martial Music; the Evening to conclude with a capital Display of Fire Works, by Sig. Antonio INVETTO, from Milan, who has had the Honour of exhibiting in the Presence of the principal Part of the Nobility and Gentry in these Kingdoms, and likewise at QUANTRELL’s Gardens on the 4th Instant, and gave more Satisfaction than any Person that has exhibited there for nine Years past. In the Course of the Fire-works will be exhibited the Battle and Capture of Count DE GRASSE by the gallant Admiral RODNEY, executed in a Stile (sic) far superior to any thing ever seen in this City.

Admittance at the Gate One Shilling; Sixpence to be returned in Liquor, etc.

Note. The Artist makes and sells all Sorts of Fire-works for Rooms, Wholesale and Retale (sic), in a neater and genteeler Manner than any Person in this City, and on the most reasonable Terms.– Enquire at the Gardens.

Certainly from 1780 at the pleasure gardens in England the firework displays were a prominent feature. For most of these the “ingenious Signor Invetto, the celebrated Italian Artist from Milan,” was responsible, and invariably each successive exhibition was ” the most superb display ever exhibited in this City.”

The advertisment for the postponed gala sadly does not give details of the fireworks Signor Invetto produced. However this advert, again from the Bath Chronicle of 1799, for another Sydney Gardens gala ( this time to be held to coincide the Bath Races on July 16th ) gives details of the type of fireworks which Signor Invetto, the Italian who supplied fireworks to the Sydney Gardens might have used when Jane Austen was there:

(Please do enlarge it by clicking on it in order to see the detail)

And if we cross reference these with both 18th century illustrations and descriptions in a contemporary book on fireworks  – Artificial Fireworks Improved to the Modern Practice from the Minutest to the Highest Branches (1776) by Captain Jones -we should be able to get a fairy good idea of the type of fireworks Jane Austen would have seen at the Sydney Gardens that evening.

The picture above is of  the firework display held by the Duke of Richmond at Richmond House near the Thames in Whitehall, London and shows both the whole effect of all the fireworks and also, very interestingly, gives individual details of the individual fireworks which made up the whole display.

The “frame” of the picture shows details of the  individual fireworks.

The ones that  tally with Signor Invetto’s display at the Sydney gardens are as follows:

1. Marrons and Battery of Marrons


These were named from the French word for chestnuts, because of their size and shape before they burst open. They burst into fire with a loud report. The firework was a small box of flash powder covered with a base of flame powder. As a result they flared brilliantly before they burst and exploded.

The illustration above shows a battery( i.e. more than one) of Marrons.

Captain Jones advises these are useful in musical displays:

If well managed will keep time to a march or a slow piece of music. Marron batteries are made of several strands with a number of cross rails for the marrons, which are regulated by leaders, by cutting them of different lengths and nailing them tight or loose according to the time of the music. In marron batteries you must use the large and small marrons and the nails of the pipes must have flat heads.

3. Fixed Sun (a brilliant sun fix’d)


This was a circular firework, which was fix’d to a pole and blaz’d like the sun.

This was spectacular but very dangerous: Captain Jones warns:

To make a sun of the best sort  there should be  2 rows of cases which will shew a double glory and make th rays strong and full The frame must be very strong…In the centre of the block of the sun drive a spindle on which put a small hexagonal wheel whose cases must be  filled with the same charge as the cases of the sun…a sun thus made is called a Brilliant Sun because the wood work is intierly covered with fire from the wheel to the middle so there appears nothing but sparks of a brilliant fire…

3. Pots de Bruin


These were rolls of paste board filled with basic gunpowder which shot vertically into the air many showers of stars, snakes, rains and crackers.

Captain Jones advises:

A number of these are placed on a plank thus: having fixed on a plank 2 rows o wooden pegs in the bottom of the plank cut  a groove the whole length under each row of pegs;  though the centre of each peg, bore a hole down to the grove and on every peg fix and glue a pot whose mouth must sit tight on the  peg…

2 or 300 of these pots fired together make a very pretty show by affording a great variety of fires…

4. Sky Rockets


Self explanatory!



but the illustration above also shows Water rockets: which look terribly difficult to manage…

5. Pigeon

These were small rockets propelled along an horizontal rope, and sometimes they were used to ignite other parts of the display.

6. Chinese Fire

This was gunpowder which was mixed with fine cast-iron filings .The effect produced was a very brilliant and intense flame.

The recipe is as follows( but please do not try this at home…)

Saltpetre 12 oz, meal powder 2 lb, brimstone 1 lb 2 oz and beat iron( cast iron fillings-jfw) 12 oz

7. Serpents

These were small rockets without rods, so that they rose obliquely and descended in a zig-zag manner. They could also be added to the charge inside a large rocket, so that they would explode at the summit of the rocket’s climb, thus heightening the effect.

So there you are, and I hope this has enabled you to enjoy as Jane Austen did some extraordinary early 19th century fireworks.


A new month- a new site…..

I would like to introduce you all to a new project, one I have been working on for years- a Jane Austen Gazetteer.

The aim of the site is to allow you  to virtually visit all the places associated with Jane Austen and her family. Though we can still visit many of those places to day, they have changed irrevocably in the intervening 200 years. Looking at them via the medium of  maps, engravings and descriptions all contemporary with Jane Austen brings us closer to the places as she knew them.

At present only the main locations associated with Jane Austen have been completed, but in time I hope the site will grow to become a comprehensive guide to Jane Austen’s world as she would have known it.

Each page on the site gives details of a one particular location, and will usually  contain a contemporary description, a map and possibly an engraving. In addition external links to current websites are provided where appropriate, together with details of all Jane Austen’s references to those places, for example details of  all her letters which document that particular place,etc.

I do hope you will enjoy exploring the site, a glimpse into Jane Austen’s world .

Enjoy!

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