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…on the 7th March 2011, and is now available to “pre-order” on all the well-known sites.

This was one of my favourite TV series of last year, and Amanda Vickery fully lived up to the promise of the evidence of her live lectures, revealing herself  to be a vibrant, sensitive and authoritative guide to the domestic habits of the differing classes of people living in the 18th century.

The series is sumptuously filmed on location throughout England and Wales, and is invaluable as a companion to Professors Vickery’s best selling and most excellent book,Behind Closed Doors upon which the series was based.


At present there is no sign of this being bought by foreign TV stations so if you have a multi region DVD( a must!) then I recommend you order this DVD now.

My reviews of the three programmes are accessible, herehere and here. My interview with one of the directors of the series,Neil Crombie, is accessible here and my interview with Professor Vickery about the series is accessible here.

Amanda Vickery  very kindly agreed to let me interview her about her BBC TV series At Home with the Georgians,which is enjoying such great success on BBC2 presently. I thought you might like to read her fascinating replies to my mundane questions before the last episode of the series airs on BBC2 on Thursday evening…so here it is.

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The series is based on your book, “Behind Closed Doors” which I loved. Obviously you could not include all your real life characters in the 3 hour series so, when you were writing the series, what were your criteria for including a person’s story from the book?


The first challenge was to boil Behind Closed Doors (at a doorstopper 140,000 words) down to three one hour programmes. We carved it up into three big themes: Making Homes, Filling Homes & Protecting Homes. My key aim was to give each programme a strong over-arching theme. I had lots of meetings with Liz Hartford the series producer and Ross Wilson the executive producer from Matchlight films chewing over what would be the clearest thought-line – legible enough for non experts to enjoy without head scratching, but not so simplified as to do violence to the subtleties of history. However much I loved my characters if they didn’t serve the argument they didn’t make the cut. I especially regretted the loss of the rebellious Duchess of Grafton who strove to retain her standing in London as a separated wife. Alas. Another issue which governed our choices was whether there was enough visual material to support a TV case study. It is highly unusual for house, manuscripts and portraits to survive for individuals below the level of the greater gentry. Neil Crombie, the director of programme one ‘A Man’s Place’, was dismayed at first by the lack of beautiful well-preserved interiors in which to film. (John Courtney’s Beverly town house is no more; Wivenhoe is now a conference centre; Gertrude Savile’s Rufford Hall is a ruin etc etc.) But Neil and the wonderful researcher Eleanor Scoones were ingenious at finding ways around the absence.

They searched out the paintings hidden away in private collections of a mature Gibbs and Ryder – which I had never seen and encountered for the first time on camera. We went back to the manuscripts, the archives and I swanned about the surviving Georgian streets of Beverley and Exeter, Spitalfields and the Inns of Court. The dramatic reconstructions gave us visual diversity and a bit of relief from me talking to camera!

What was your favourite of all the stories you featured in the series and why?

For excruciating humour it has to be Dudley Ryder. We had over an hour of film of me pouring over the diary and responding to his ambivalences. I think barely 3 minutes were left in. As a feminist as well as a historian, and as a lover of realist novels, I have always felt it was important to understand the full humanity of men as well as women. Very few of the gents I have researched were the cardboard patriarchs of older theories. In fact, as bachelors they seem so self-conscious, gauche and half-baked it’s a wonder they ever headed up households.

Ryder went on to become solicitor general, but you would never have foreseen this from reading the diary he wrote in code aged 24. But I adore John Courtney too. In my mind’s eye he was something of a Mr Collins – deaf to female signals, desperate to be debonair and facing eight rejections with undiminished astonishment: “I was thunderstruck”.

What audience were you trying to reach with this series? Were you trying to reach people who are history nuts and have read your book or a completely new audience- for example, people who are fans of adaptations of Austen/Bronte/Gaskell novels not necessarily readers of the novel or indeed of serious history books?

I was asked to do the series by Janice Hadlow head of BBC2, who is writing her own 18th century history and who liked Behind Closed Doors as well as my first book The Gentleman’s Daughter. She enjoys characters, stories, details and arguments and thought viewers might too. The head of history at the BBC Martin Davidson hoped that I could make a series which would unlock a new audience for history programmes. All the surveys reveal that the current audience for history is predominantly male and middle-aged. Why should this be when women are the key audience for costume drama? Somehow a bifurcation of history has emerged on TV: putting it crudely, bonnets for the women and bombers for the men. I would love to reach an audience that wants to see a different sort of history (neither war nor Kings and Queens). I’m interested in producing documentaries which reflect what the history profession itself actually researches and teaches now. In BBC TV land, there is a vogue for “authoritative history” – i.e. history programmes written and presented by experts, rather than fronted by celebrities drafted in to go on a historical ‘journey’ of discovery or read a script written by the producer derived from textbooks. I was delighted to catch this wave.

Producers at radio 4 and BBC4 assume that the audience is keen on history. At BBC2 you can’t take that for granted. You simply cannot make programmes aimed just at 20,000 experts who have done all the background reading. The goal is entertainment and to draw a wide and varied audience into another world with colour and character, wit and pathos – all undergirded with a single driving argument. The BBC are thrilled with the result, as their investment in trailers testifies. What the audience makes of it is another matter of course. We have our fingers crossed that history refusniks as well as history buffs will switch on to discover that there’s more to history than tanks and tiaras. I am committed to a holistic history that embraces everywoman as well as everyman. I still sympathize with Catherine Morland. “Real solemn history I cannot be interested in… the quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing and hardly any women at all.”

How pleased were you with the end result?

I am delighted with three programmes – each reflects a collaboration with a different director, each with their own style and tone – ‘A Man’s Place’ with the theatrical and brilliant Neil Crombie (who shared my sense of humour), ‘A Woman’s Touch’ with the searching documentary maker Iain Scollay (who tried to catch me at my most honest and unguarded) and ‘Safe as Houses?’ with the stylish Phil Cairney (whose direction combined the formality of Neil’s and the observation of Iain’s). I also learnt a lot from the director of photography Dirk Nel, who had worked with several different history presenters. He instilled great confidence in me – which is half the battle – while training me to hit my mark. I will never forget him chanting “FIND the light, Amanda, FIND the light” before I set off on one of my rambles down a murky corridor. Almost everything was ad libbed to camera, so I am relieved that I came out with some coherent sentences. The aim of Dirk and all the directors was to capture my personality on camera. My friends say I am recognizably myself so in one key respect they have succeeded.

How much influence did you have in the choice of actors, locations and music?

The locations were driven by my research and availability, the actors were chosen by a casting director, Eleanor Scoones the researcher, Liz Hartford, the series director and Neil Crombie (who directed the reconstructions). All of them had read my book very closely – in the end I trusted to them. In an ideal world I would have directed the dramatic reconstructions myself! But even a control-freak diva has her moments of sanity and insight. The music was largely chosen by the directors, but I made my suggestions and had right of veto. Writing is a solitary process over which you exert total control, whereas TV is a collaboration with an army. You have to respect the talents and advice of your collaborators and accept that you are producing something which reflects them as well as you. Given my intellectual life (teaching apart) is quite hermetic, I loved working with a quick-witted and highly skilled production team. I am a gregarious person and relished the camaraderie. I also loved learning a new trade from them.

You allocated a whole chapter to Jane Austen in “Behind Closed Doors”. Do you consider her to have been an accurate recorder of late 18th early /19th century life? Did you find any of her plots/characters reflected in any of your real diarists’ lives?

I tried not to treat Austen’s work simply as descriptive evidence from which I could cherry pick juicy quotes to back up my arguments. Literary scholars are always accusing historians of simplistic cut and paste. But it is clear that Austen assumed that her readers were sensitive to the implications of taste and interior decoration. She relied on them to take domestic details (like Darcy’s gift of a piano to his sister, or General Tilney’s over-bearing choices of breakfast cups) as reliable signs of character. Even silly little tables had meaning.

Austen also relied on the social, economic and emotional importance her readers would attach to the drama of setting up home. When it comes to history, I hope my readers will make the same leap, and agree that domesticity is a universal subject, not a frivolous topic to be dismissed and patronized.

As for characters on TV, I rather enjoyed inserting Jane Austen herself into the narrative. She appears first as an anonymous spinster, living in what historians call a ‘spinster cluster’ in a small grace and favour cottage hard by the main road. Austen lovers will instantly recognize Chawton, but plenty of editors at the BBC were surprised when we revealed the impoverished sister to be none other than Austen herself. I wanted to show that however mocked by satire, the spinster’s life is no less heroic and productive than that of the smug marrieds.

Do you have another TV or radio project in the pipeline? If yes, can you tell us anything about it?

I am working on another Voices of the Old Bailey series with Elizabeth Burke of Loftus to be broadcast next summer on BBC radio 4, and we have been commissioned to produce a six part history of men and masculinity from the Medieval knight to the modern salary man. I am also working with BBC2 to develop longer span series which still aim to bring the Catherine Morlands of this world to an enjoyment of history. Floreat Clio!

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Floreat Clio indeed, and may I add Floreat Amanda because I really do think our understanding of the lives Jane Austen chronicled would be considerably impoverished were it not for her scholarly endeavours. I should like to thank her for her patience and kindness in supplying me with such fabulous replies to my questions,even though at one point our computers stubbornly refused to talk to each other!

The final episode of At Home With The Georgians Airs on BBC2 Thursday 16th December at 9 p.m. I will be watching as usual and posting my review on Friday. Do watch it if you can.  If you would like to embark on a reading project based around the programmes, Professor Vickery has kindly produced a short reading list, go here to see it (Do note many of the books will already be familiar to readers of this site!)

I do hope a DVD will soon be available, in the meantime enjoy: the series will remain available to “view again” for another week.

A confession. I do have to say from the outset that I truly adored this week’s episode. The series really came alive for me, Professor Vickery totally at home with some of her most interesting material, which she clearly relishes and she is obviously and authoritatively  in complete command of all the intricate detail.

The episode dealt with the new concept of taste, an idea imported from France, and how women’s interpretation of that sometimes dangerous conceit  influenced the interiors of homes rich and poor.

We began at Parham House in Sussex contrasting the Elizabethan, masculine Great Hall

with the 18th century feminised Drawing Room complete with harp. Mary Crawford would no doubt have approved.

The woman whose diaries provided Professor Vickery with much of her inspiration for this programme was Sophia, Lady Shelburne of Bowood House in Wiltshire and chatelaine of the most splendid town house, Shelburne House in Berkeley Square (now the Lansdowne Club)

In Professor Vickery’s words, Sophia was “a swot”, an intelligent, educated woman who became enamoured of the new fashion for neo-classicism

In search of inspiration in order to keep up with this new fashion, her diary entries show she  visited the Duke of Northumberland’s home, Syon House originally an Elizabethan building, but one that was completely overhauled by  the newly fashionable architect, Robert Adam…

to become a temple to the new taste….

incorporating detials from the evacuations at Pompei and Herculaneum in an impressive and sometimes exquisitely feminine manner.

When it came to designing their own town house/palace, the Shelburne’s commissioned Adam to design their dream home,a place suitably impressive for the politically ambitious Whig, Lord Shelburne,where he could entertain and impress supporters and government members alike.

We had a small trip to the architect, Sir John Soanes House Museum, full of its wonderful neoclassical collections(though it was not flagged up as Sir John’s house and it might have helped viewers unfamiliar with it,had it been…)

The consumerism of the 18th century one of Professor Vickery’s favourite topics-was examined. Matthew Boulton (my hero!)

and his genius for producing desirable goods for both the aristocracy and the middling classes was celebrated and we visited his home at Soho House in Birmingham.

He was shown to be a smooth operator when it came to selling and recognised that tapping into the female psyche guaranteed  profits and full order books.

Chippendale and his revolutionary Gentleman’s and Cabinetmakers Directory, the forerunner of catalogue selling was examined….

And his innovative designs for male and female pieces of furniture,thereby guaranteeing double sales, was admired.

The ingenious nature of Georgian metamorphic furniture, as in this cabinet bed at Temple Newsam near Leeds was discussed

And the trusty Ipad was used to great effect when looking at 18th century adverts for

furniture polish (again there is nothing new in this world)

And it was also used to illustrate the dangers that awaited someone overwhelmed by the new taste ,who didn’t know when to stop: incorporating neo-classicism,Gothic, Ionic Orders and Chinoiserie in their suburban villas was a sure way to ridicule.

One of my favourite chapters in Behind Closed Doors dealt with the Georgians use of wallpaper and how accurate a barometer it was for interior design and taste. We visited Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath (the home of Lord Mansfield)

to see the wonderful collection of delicate  fragments of 18th century wallpaper

including this scrap in the newly fashionable colour, yellow

and readers of Behind Closed Doors will recognise this fragment….

We saw Diana Spurlings women “doing it for themselves” on the Ipad

and visited Coles Wallpaper Manufactory where hand blocked and flocked papers are still made in the traditional manner, (a place I used to walk past on my way to catch the train to the office when I lived in London and used to peep through their open doors in the summer to see the magical process at work)

The new consumerism changed people’s social habits taking tea, for example,  where you could show off your new china and furnishings, became all the rage,a subject Professor Vickery deals with in detail in The Gentleman’s Daughter. Jane Austen knew this feeling well, especially when she was ordering her own and her brother’s Wedgwod china….

Lady Stanley, a sad case whose husband denied her decorating and visiting rights showed the other side of this Georgian coin…..poor lady,played very sensitively in this programme.

Women’s own efforts to decorate their homes was covered,and Professor Vickery visited the marvellous   Quilts exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum which I also visited earlier this year and wrote about here

The amazing work of a ten year old, above, was lauded…..

We visited one of my favourite eccentric houses ,the home of the spinster Parminter cousins,A La Ronde and saw its totally feminine design and decoration, a miraculous survivor into the 21st century

And made a moving visit to the billet books of the Foundling hospital, which I’ve written at length about here,where in this case, a woman’s patchwork was her link to her child( and this story and a happy ending for once)

Finally, we revisited Lady Shelburne’s magically feminine Robert Adam designed drawing room which is now installed in the Richard Rogers post modern Lloyds Building in the City of London. A lasting monument to the taste of the Georgians.

There has been some adverse comment on Professors Vickery’s style in the press and on the internet over the past week,especially regarding  her raw reaction to seeing a portrait of her hero, Dr George Gibbs . This was, in fact, a very funny part of last week’s programme, for having built him up to be her ultimate “hero”  in her mind, when he was revealed to be a rather ordinary looking chap, jowly jawed and all,  Professor Vickery was rather loud in her disappointment, failing to notice what the cameraman did, that Dr Gibbs’ descendant, who was showing the portrait , bore an amazing resemblance to his great grandfather how many times removed.  *snort*  In this week’s programme we get the impression that Professor Vickery became very attached to two of her lady diarists, and in particular to Lady Shelburne. For myself, I love to witness this aspect of Professor Vickery’s presenting technique, for I think it is this honest sympathy for her sources which enables Professor Vickery to fully understand them and to bring them to life for us. She is also not “too cool for school” an attitude I embrace myself and this is I think, a refreshing change from some of our more staid presenters.

Go here to watch episode two on series link at the BBC. Next week is the last in the series. I shall be bereft.

Neil Crombie ,the distinguished TV director, producer and writer, who has been involved with making some of the most interesting documentaries of the past ten years, such as the riveting documentary on Grayson Perry, Why Men Wear Frocks and one of my husband’s favourites series, Philosophy: a Guide to Happiness, recently very kindly consented to give me his thoughts on producing At Home with the Georgians and on working with Amanda Vickery. My questions(in bold) and his replies are set out below. I do hope you enjoy reading them. The second episode of the series, A Woman’s Touch, concerned with the 18th century concept of good  and bad taste, airs on BBC2 tonight- don’t miss it! And to whet your appetite, here is a link to the the trailer for episode two.

1) You were the producer and director  of “At Home With The Georgians”. What made you want to work with Amanda Vickery on this series?

I’d actually interviewed Amanda once before, for a documentary where she was one of the “talking heads”, so I knew she’d be an exciting person to work with. But it was reading her book that really clinched it for me. I just thought it was magical the way she’d use often quite dry and dusty scraps of information – non-famous people’s account books and letters and diaries -and from them conjure up real living breathin people, whose stories, dilemmas and conflicts – sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking – I could really relate to. I thought: this is a historian with a real novelist’s eye.


So many of the stories she tells reminded made me of little 18th century novels in miniature – the vivacious young woman who has to outwit the dragonish mother-in-law; the hapless young law student who dreams of a wife. As television material, it struck me as gold dust. So I very quickly realised that it’s be a rewarding challenge to help Amanda try to bring these people back to life.

2) What audience were you trying to reach?

Well, two of the bankers of British television schedules are the Sunday night costume drama (and obviously I’m thinking particularly of those Jane Austenadaptations we all love), and the property show.  And one of the ways to think about Amanda’s book is as an explanation of why that should be so. So we hoped we’d get as many of these genres’ audiences as possible. But also at the back of everyone’s minds on the series was the perception that history programmes on television are often very male in their language and focus. It’s always kings and wars and empires and weaponry and military derring-do. One of the things the Controller of BBC2, Janice Hadlow, who commissioned the series, was very clear about from the outset was that she hoped in some measure to redress that balance, and to see whether a more female audience might also be brought to history programmes. So it’ll be interesting to see whether that’s what happens. But certainly in my opinion it’s long overdue. It’s not just that Amanda is a bit different in her approach to the big male beasts of history television, the Starkeys and the Schamas. It’s more that the kinds of things she’s talking about – marriage, love, home, family, feelings, domestic politics, all the things Jane Austen talks about  – are a vital part of our history too.

3) One of the means by which this series is sightly different from the norm is in its use of actors to re-enact the lives of some of Amanda’s diarists from her book, “Behind Closed Doors”, and not just employing voice- overs. I
think it works well as a device and makes their stories  more immediate. Who was responsible for this decision? Was the casting of the actors difficult?

Before I’d come on board, the production company who made the series, Matchlight, had made the case to the BBC that there needed to be some sort of dramatisation. It just really helps you connect emotionally with the characters Amanda is talking about. But we all felt it was really crucial that we didn’t invent a single word – it had to be the unvarnished words of the diarists and letter writers she’d discovered.

And I hope your readers will agree that there’s a magic in seeing and hearing these ordinary people speak again in their own words from across the centuries. The difficulty in finding the actors wasn’t so much in casting people who could do it, but I was very aware that Amanda had lived with these people during her years of research and had very strong ideas of what they must have been like.  But I think everyone’s risen to the challenge.

4) The locations used in the series are stunning- from the grand  houses like Syon to the recreated workhouse. How did you choose which locations to include or exclude?

The choice of locations was very much led by the historical characters Amanda wanted to talk about. So yes, she does indeed take us into some amazing houses, but Amanda’s genius is to be able to relate them to the feelings and values and experiences of the people who lived there – and that’s what we’re all interested in.

But all of the dramatisations were in fact shot in four locations: two beautiful old early Georgian Huguenot weavers’ houses in Spitalfields, London, a little bit in Syon House, and also at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire (which sharp-eyed viewers may spot also
served as Buckingham Palace in the film Young Victoria).

5) For potential viewers in the US, Australasia, Europe  and the rest of the world who haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the programme, how would you sell it to them?Are there any plans to sell the series abroad? Are there
any plans to release a DVD of the series in the UK?

That’s really a question for the production company, Matchlight, but I’m sure they’ll be very keen to sell the series internationally, and it’s great to hear that you think there’s an appetite for programmes like this beyond Britain. So watch this space and we’ll keep you informed as and when we hear more.

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I should like to thank Neil for his patience with my mundane and pedestrian manner of questioning( Journalist- in- Training Daughter shakes her head at my efforts)and for his generosity and kindness in answering the questions so fully, with such delicious detail. I do hope you enjoyed this different take on the series and how it was made.

Professor Vickery , above on the right, has just sent me notice of this- her overview of her series in her own words;)

It makes very interesting reading, and frankly I cant wait for tomorrow’s first instalment. Enjoy!

Go here to see it. Enjoy!

Professor Vickery sent me this stunning graphic today …

(Simply click to enlarge it)

As you can see it is relatively self-explanatory. The good news is that  the programme will be shown on BBC2 at 9pm on the 2nd, 9th and 16th December, which is of course the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birthday. I’m so looking froward to seeing this programme.  The full trailer  for the programme can now be seen on BBC.  On seeing it last night  my teenage daughter was very much impressed, despite the History Appreciation Gene being absent from her DNA! Good job BBC and Professor Vickery,together we will make an historian out of her yet….

If you go here you can listen and watch a video recording of Amanda Vickery’s great lecture given last week at Gresham College, on the subject of “What Did Eighteenth Century Men Want“, a very  interesting view on 18th century marriage commitment and bachelorhood. Jane Austen would surely have understood and approved.

I hope you really have a great time enjoying listening to her brillianlty informative and amusing style, and viewing all her wonderful illustrations.

Scenes from Professor Amanda Vickery’s forthcoming BBC TV series, At Home with The Georgians, based on her stunning book, Behind Closed Doors, is included in the latest BBC History trailer in the blog post written by the Commissioning Editor for History at the BBC, Martin Davidson . Go here to access it on-line and let me know what you think about the snippet. I’m very excited about it. Dry as dust history this will not be.

And Professor Vickery has also written a very interesting defence of the study of women’s history . Go here to read it. I feel that readers of Jane Austen, who used her domesticity to such universally applicable effect, cannot but agree with Professor Vickery’s sentiments.

A wife?-if so what sort? A meek and obedient doll a la Lady Bertrum, sitting looking pretty on her sofa , or a strong and competent woman like Sophie Croft  A home- a leased estate like Netherfield, or a more permanent Pemberley or a rectory, part of a family living? Riches? A mistress?  All these questions and more are going to be discussed by Amanda Vickery in the  2010 Joint Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Annual Lecture to be given at  The Cruciform, University College London on Thursday 11th November at 6.30 p.m.

The blurb informs us that:

Such is the gloom that surrounds settling down today and the glamour that attaches to mature bachelor freedom, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when marriage represented the summit of a young man’s hopes.

In the 17th and 18th century, bachelorhood was a temporary and unprestigious state best solved by marriage.  The Batchelor’s Directory of 1694 was unequivocal –  ‘Matrimony – what can better agree with man and more exactly relate to his necessities?’  Even men who felt no attraction to the opposite sex had to marry to gain the full benefits of adulthood.

There were even proposals to levy a tax on mature bachelors as a deterrent and a punishment for their evasion of the burden of domestic government and social provision. Perpetual bachelors were the ‘vermin of the State’ pronounced the Women’s Advocate stonily.  ‘They enjoy the benefit of society, but Contribute not to its Charge and Spunge upon the publick, without making the least return’.

We associate the history of home and private life with women, but what did house and domesticity mean to men?  More than you might think….

This lecture is free and open to all, so if you would like to attend you can: go here to get all the relevant details. There may be a podcast/video of the lecture, which may be made avaialbe for those of us who cant get there, and if there is I’ll flag up the details next week.

More news from Amanda Vickery- the BBC2 TV series based on her book, Behind Closed Doors looks at the moment as if it is going to be scheduled to be broadcast in the UK from the 2nd December at 9p.m.    It is now going to be called At Home with the Georgians and if you go here you can read a little more about it on the BBC’s website. I saw a trailer for it last night and I simply can’t wait…. If you go here you can hear Professor Vickery talking about Behind Closed Doors, as part one of the Blackwell of Oxford’s Bookshop Podcasts. Very interesting stuff. I will say once again, if you have not brought this book yet, please do so (it’s now available in paperback in the UK and is a bargain) as it throws so much light on the domestic arrangements of families in our era, it is not to be missed, and should be part of every Janeites library.

So, on the presumption that you  done all your duties for today and have  either  queued up at the Estate Office to  pay your rent to your landlord, or have settled with the agent that you are to take Netherfield after all, depending on your whim…..it’s time for a little catching up re Amanda Vickery’s doings.

Throughout the summer she has been entertaining us on Twitter with snippets of information of the filming of Behind Closed Doors for the BBC, which has now been completed (above is the clapper board which was given to Amanda by the film crew as a present at the end of filming).Those of us who follow her on Twitter have virtually followed her to Ditcheley Park, designed by James Gibbs in the 1720s, shown below….

(© Adam Middleton and The Ditchely Foundation)

…where a lot of the filming has taken place, and also at

less grand surroundings such as houses in Spitalfields, above, and

the  Almshouses at the Geffreye Museum;as Professor Vickery noted, it was neat but frugal.

We have also met some of the actors playing the real life characters in the book, and discovered that, for actresses playing period women’s roles, The Gentleman’s Daughter also written by Professor Vickery has become an essential part of their research,a handbook to explain the lives their characters would have led in the late 18th /early 19th century. I’m glad about this as for years I have described it as required reading for anyone who wants to know more about  the background to the female characters in Jane Austen’s works. It’s nice to know that professional actresses agree!

Professor Vickery and I have been jealously coveting some of the hats on display…….

Do look at this fabulous creation worn by “Lady Margaret Stanley” seen with Professor Vickery in modern garb, above……It’s been great fun keeping up with it all. So do join Professor Vickery on Twitter  for as the broadcasting date nears there will be more snippets of information being bandied about I’m sure. At the moment there is a  debate at the production company as to want to call the series; Behind Close Doors sounds fine to me but an official alternative suggestion has been put forward , The Georgians An Intimate History…I confess I’m not keen on that one. Why not let Professor Vickery have your thoughts on the subject via Twitter?  No dates as yet from Professor Vickery as to when the series is to be broadcast but I promise to let you know the moment I’m made aware of them.

On to publishing.

Yale, whose London office are shown above, in a photograph taken by Professor Vickery while filming Behind Closed Doors, -and I would like to thank her for permission to use all these images- have now issued a paperback edition of  Behind Closed Doors in the UK (the USA paperback edition is to follow soon I understand)

This is a bargain. If you were wary of buying the full price hardback book, then  please do buy this version. It is a great read as well as being very informative. My review  accessible here might persuade you if you are wavering.

Professor Vickery is also to give the 2010 Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Annual Lecture on 11th November at Gresham College in London, entitled, What Did Eighteenth Century Men Want?, which promises to be fascinating. It may be made available as a podcast, and if so I will of course alert you all. In the meantime, here is another of Professor Vickery’s talks and this is one which IS available as a podcast now: go here to download her talking about  the role of the home in the long 18th century. Her talk is entitled Out of the Closet: Love, Power and Houses in Eighteenth Century England. You will enjoy it I’m sure.

I’ll post again when details of the broadcasting times for Behind Closed Doors are available and I will also be  reporting back soon from the exhibition curated by Professor John Styles, Professor Vickery’s husband, entitled Threads of Feeling which will open soon at the Foundling Hospital Museum in London.

There are some fascinating projects appearing on BBC TV and Radio concerning 18th century history in the next few months,and I thought I ought to give you all advance notice of the programmes, so you might not miss them.

The first to appear is  Amanda Vickery’s new BBC Radio 4 series, Voices from the Old Bailey which will begin to air next Thursday at 9 a.m on Radio 4. The blurb from the BBC tell us that:

In this new series Professor Amanda Vickery presents dramatised extracts from gripping court cases and discusses with fellow historians what they reveal about 18th century society and culture. Amanda Vickery was the presenter of the highly successful “A History of Private Life” on BBC Radio 4 last year.

The series begins with the voices of highwaymen in court,and was recorded on location at The Flask Tavern in Highgate Village,London one of Dick Turpin’s favourite inns.

During the programme, Professor Vickery will be taking to fellow historians Professor Robert Shoemaker of the University of Sheffield, Dr Helen Berry of Newcastle University and Professor John Mullan of University College London

All the histories referred to in the programme can be accessed in the Old Bailey Online website, a fantastic resource detailing hundreds of thousands of criminal cases,ranging from the most trivial to the more serious cases. Do explore it-  try searching on your own surname to see if any of your ancestors were unlucky enough to pass through its courtrooms…..

If you access the programme here via its webpage, then as I understand it,wherever you are in the world, you should be able to listen to it, even though the broadcast time has passed.

Professor Vickery is currently in the process of filming Behind Closed Doors for the BBC,and the series is due to be screened in November. You can follow her daily progress because she is now on Twitter, twittering  about locations and filming events. It all sounds madly interesting, if  hectic. Go here to access her Twitter page and follow her.

She has been in closed carriages careering through the Peak District (in the company of a burly cameraman) and has filmed at Chawton House and Jane Austen’s House Museum. She even managed ,after reading about it here, to go to the Georgian Gadets Sale at Crewkherne and play with the silver goodies on offer at Lawrences saleroom including the silver tongue scraper. I wonder if that scene will make the final cut?  Yesterday she was filming in London at Coles wallpaper company (whose ancient workshop I used to pass every day on the way to the office when I lived in London).She was trawling around the beautiful rolls of wallpaper

and getting covered in flock when she tried her hand at block printing


Later in the day she was at the Lansdown Club in Berkley Square,  originally called Lansdown House and  designed by Robert Adam .

It really is fascinating being able to follow her around the country as she films, so do follow her on Twitter for all the delicious details.

In early August a double CD of selections from her acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series,The History of Private Life is published,

and though it covers more than the era we are concerned with here I think you will all find it fascinating and a jolly interesting and totally enjoyable series of dramatised essays about the history of domestic life.(They kept me company in the school car park last autumn!)

Yale Publishing have also produced an informative website for Professor Vickery. If you go here you can access it,and if you go here you can view pages from Behind Closed Doors, listen to a podcast and read reviews. All good fun ;-)

Professor Amanda Vickery has just sent me details of a little glimpse of her forthcoming BBC TV series, Behind Closed Doors.

If you go here, and click on “View the History  on the BBC Showreel” you can watch the current BBC History Department showreel which contains some teeny tiny glimpses of her first programme in the series ( just over 1 minute 20 seconds into the reel).

She is still filming the programmes, and as yet has no date for when the series will be broadcast, but the showreel does give you a little taste of her very appealing TV style ;-) By the look of the reel, there are some interesting programmes coming up- particularly the series by Lucy Worsley!

When I get any more information I will pass it on ;-)

**Update**  The Yale London Blog has now begun to promote the series: go here to see

Yesterday, I had great fun at  Kelmarsh Hall’s second annual Country House Book Day.

Kelmarsh Hall, in Northamptonshire,  is a beautiful, small Georgian house,designed by Gibbs and Smith of Warwick, and has much in common stylistically and in size with its near neighbour Cottesbrooke Hall.

It is surrounded by parkland

a lake

the parish church

intimate gardens

and a walled kitchen garden in the process of being restored.

In addition to the fine surroundings yesterdays Book Day provided entertainment about houses and gardens with lectures being given by  leading garden writers and historians  to small but rapt audiences.

Amid these beautiful and fitting surroundings I went to listen to Amanda Vickery give her talk Out of the Closet: Love Power and Houses in the Eighteenth Century. It was as ever a virtuoso performance from Professor Vickery, author of the very interesting and rightly lauded book, BehindClosed Doors, and The Gentleman’s Daughter. She gave a talk full of riveting information and good humour. She told us about the universal need for a home,and what this need says  about us and about those who lived in the past ; how difficult it is to write about the home of the poor or even the middling sort for unlike the homes of the elite, few homes or artefacts from these classes survive into the 21st century; how responsibility for the different areas of a home were delegated between the sexes and how lack of a home was considered degrading for both spinsters and bachelors, those poor unmarried souls who had failed to achieve that most desirable  consumer object-a home of one’s own. She also discussed the concept of taste as defined in the 18th century and how this was viewed by the differing classes, ranging from the elite to the shopkeepers who supplied consumer goods to all classes. In all it was a marvellous bravura performance, totally enjoyable and very informative. If only all history lecturers were like this as my teenage daughter wistfully remarked  at the conclusion to Professor Vickery’s talk. Ah yes…if only….

 

If you go here you can downlad a podcast of a similar lecture Professor Vickery gave, the 2008 HarperCollins History lecture: I don’t think you need ITunes in order to play it, so I do hope many of you who cannot physically get to hear Professor Vickery talk will do this as it will give you a very good idea of her good humoured and intensely interesting style.

After the lecture I had the opportunity to take tea with Professor Vickery and amongst  other matters of important Austen-related gossip, she told me that she had been commissioned by the BBC to make a three-part television series based on Behind Closed Doors .I won’t give away details here but you can be assured that when  more information is available I will pass it on.

In all it was a wonderful day (and the English summer weather was kind for once!) and I am glad for this opportunity to share it with you.

…a place that has no connections with Jane Austen, save that it is not far from Cottesbrooke Hall which may or may not be the model for Mansfield Park, but which, ever year, holds a Country House Book Day, where lectures, demonstrations, wine tastings, book signings etc etc all take place in the house and gardens which are outstanding( having been restored under the tastefulk eyes of Nancy Lancaster, whose home was once Kelmarsh. She was the Virginian-born co-founder of the interior decorating firm of Colefax and Fowler.

I am finally (finally!!) going to hear Professor Amanda Vickery talk about her book, Behind Closed Doors, and I am looking forward to it very much.

I will of course be taking copious notes and photographs and will be reporting back soon :-)

I’ve just discovered a lovely podcast by Amanda Vickery on the subject of her latest celebrated book, Behind Closed Doors, and I thought I ought to share it with you.

If you go to Apple’s ITunes Store, search “Blackwell Online Podcasts”,  provided you have the ITunes  software on your computer, you can then download Podcast Number 54, which is a 12 minute talk  by Professor Vickery on the process of researching her book, and  on its contents-with a special section on the meaning of Georgian Wallpaper and an interesting comment on the colour green and Jane Austen !

And it is entirely free.

Enjoy!

UPDATE

Again available on  ITunes there is an Episode of the BBC History Magazine podcast series, which includes an interview with Professor Vickery on her recent BBC Radio 4 Series A History of Private Life. It was very wide ranging and engaging series,based on Behind Closed Doors but the series had a much wider scope in time.It begins 17 minutes into the podcast.

I will be attending Professor Vickery’s talk  at Kelmarsh Hall,Northamptonshire, on the 20th June,and I will be reporting back to you on that.

I am breaking into AustenOnly’s Easter Holiday( on Maundy Thursday and April the 1st of all days!) to give you some news that may excite my readers who live in the North Eastern US.

As you know Amanda Vickery,  author of The Gentleman’s Daughter has asked if I could keep you up to date with  her latest  events and the good news is that she  is to give a talk  on her latest book, Behind Closed Doors on Monday, April 12, 2010, at 6 p.m. at The Collectors Club, 22 East 35th Street, New York

But do note, reservations for the event must be made by the 5th April.

Here is a link to the website of the American Friends of the Georgian Group which give all the relevant details of the event and contact information.(Note, you need to scrioll down about a third of the way down the page to see the info)

Here is a link to the lovely Rae’s  account of her visit to hear Professor Vickery talk on this subject given at the home of the English Georgian Group at Fitzroy Square in London, which will  give a you a taste of what to expect.

I do hope some of you can get there to hear Professor Vickery. I have heard her give talks in the past and she is a very good and witty communicator.You won’t regret it , I promise!

Professor Vickery contacted me yesterday to say she had linked Rae’s lovely  review of her Fitzroy Square  lecture at her website.

She thought you might also like to know of her other forthcoming appearances, and so I list them here for you all to note.

She is doing a reading and holding a question and answer session  at the Geffrye  Museum in London on 4 March.

As I have already pointed out, and am hoping to attend, Professor Vickery is also  giving a lecture at  Fairfax House, York on the 18th March. Sadly, she thinks this event is now fully booked, but do note she is hoping to be able to do a repeat performance of the lecture the following morning,  the 19th March, as there are already 20 people on waiting list. Do phone Fairfax House  to see if they can book you a place, or put you on the waiting list  if you are keen on attending it.

On the 19th  May she is speaking on the subject of  on private lives at the Brighton Festival , and is  contributing to what looks like being a lovely interiors & garden history day at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire.

As to radio appearances, on Wednesay the 3rd March, Professor Vickery is appearing on BBC Radio 4 on Thinking Allowed, talking about 18th century servants with Laurie Taylor and Carolyn Steedman : this will be available on the Listen Again feature and as a podcast.

Finally I ought to  pass on Professor Vickery’s comments about our little community here:

I cannot tell you how cheering it is to know that there’s so much genuine and knowledgable enthusiasm for the 18th century out there.

I think that sums us up nicely!

Rae, a friend of AustenOnly,and someone who will be already known to some of you, was lucky enough to go to Amanda Vickery’s Lecture at the Georgian Group’s headquarters this week.  She kindly consented to write a report of it for me, and so I have great pleasure in posting it here for you all to read.

***************************************************************

Amanda Vickery ,23 February 2010

Amanda Vickery gave an animated and fascinating lecture based on her recent book ‘Behind Closed Doors‘ to a packed room at the Georgian group. She began by describing the ways in which the rituals of ‘visiting’ both transformed and reflected polite society in Georgian England.

(A Family at Tea circa 1725)

The role of tea and its associated paraphernalia was illustrated by slides of the range of teapots in circulation and a discussion of the commodification of that paraphernalia – the search by silversmiths in the early part of the century for ways to cash in on the drink’s popularity led to the disaster of silver handled pots and silver cups – and the development of what we now instantly recognize as the shape of a teapot.

Another lovely slide showed an accounting book for visiting, with all the socially important addresses in London and columns for the recording ‘in’ and ‘out’ of cards. I particularly enjoyed her description, in the Q&A session, of the ‘set dressing’ that went on for many households. Houses or apartments taken for the season might be freshly papered for tenants, and furniture could be rented by the season.

(An English Family at Tea by Jospeh van Aken circa 1720)

Beyond this, she provided an analysis of the gendered nature of domestic life, often made visible to us now through instances of the norms and expectations of marital relations being denied or failed; the sad letters of wives whose husbands did not allow them the expected authority to order either the home or the activities within it. More happily many other couples shared the rights and responsibilities of setting up home (a man’s seriousness and willingness in discussing such things before marriage was an omen for the future) and she reminded us that there was no suggestion of effeminacy in a man’s taking an interest in choosing and decorating the home.

The Dinner-Locust or the Advantages of a Keen Scent from “Behind Closed Doors”

Her work is particularly interesting for the way she explores masculinity, and an important insight she gives us is into the significance of marriage and the home to men. We are familiar with their importance in the lives of women, particularly those Austen women we all love and care about, but she reminds us that a bachelor’s lot was seen as a rather limited one, and that marriage, with its accompanying establishment of a home, was as much the gateway to adulthood for men as it was for women.

(James Farrell Phillips by Zoffany)

‘Behind Closed Doors’ is a joy of a book, full of detailed and evidenced insights (how could we not love a book which uses Jane Austen as a primary source?) and Amanda Vickery’s lecture was an excellent elaboration and discussion of its themes.

********************************************************************

Thank you so much ,Rae for your considered and detailed report of what must have been a fabulous lecture. Behind Closed Doors has very quickly become one of my favourite books on this era(I only wish it were available on Kindle then I’d have it with me always!)and I think you will join me in recommending it highly.

Thank you so much once again for allowing us all to share your wonderful experience.


I thought you might like to know that Amanda Vickery will be giving some lectures in England in relation to her new book, Behind Closed Doors. Here is a link to her web page where she has kindly included my review of her book among much more exualted reviewers!

There will be one next week at The Georgian Group premises at 6 Fiotzroy Square,(which some of you may recognise as being used for some of the location filming of the BBCs production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South )but sadly, this ,I a now informed , is fully booked.

Snow permitting I will be attending the one Professor Vickery is giving  at Fairfax House, York, on the 18th March which is part of the York Literature Festival and at the same time I hope to be able to undertake some research into the Knight family in and around South Yorkshire..

I have had the privilege of hearing Professor Vickery talk before and she is a marvellous speaker so if you can possibly get to the York venue I commend it. And as it is being held at Fairfax House which in itself is a treat, being a fabulously restored Georgian town house, you cannot fail to take every opportunity to enjoy yourselves, as Mrs Bennet might say ;-)

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