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Georgians Revealed: Life,Style and the Making of Modern Britain

Georgians Revealed: Life,Style and the Making of Modern Britain

The British Library is currently holding what appears to be a fascinating exhibition on certain aspects of life in England under the reigns of the four Georges, that is from 1714 with accession of George I, to the death of George IV in 1830. Georgians Revealed is, no doubt, going to be the first of many exhibitions to be held in the forthcoming months to celebrate the 300th anniversary of George I ascending to the throne. The main premise of this exhibition is that much of our life today is directly influenced by the cultural developments that first occurred in the Georgian era and that direct comparisons between the two societies can made. According to the BL’s press release the exhibition provides

a fascinating insight into life in 18th and 19th century Britain and displaying never before seen artefacts that shed light on today’s popular culture.

The exhibition offers the chance to see the first ever British fashion magazines, enormous interior design portfolios by the likes of the Adam brothers, Britain’s first celebrity scandal in the press and the 1783 novel behind Pride and Prejudice, Fanny Burney’s Cecilia, which made the young novelist a household name.

Through over 200 historic objects, from rare and beautiful books from King George III’s personal library, to everyday objects and ephemera that are unique to the British Library’s collections, the exhibition reveals just how many of our current hobbies, occupations and interests were established and popularised by the Georgians, from leisure pursuits including fashion, shopping, gardening and sports, to more salacious pastimes including gambling, theatre, dance and celebrity gossip.

In the final room of the exhibition I understand that the floor covering is a massive reproduction of John Horwood’s celebrated map of London. Sounds fabulous. I doubt, however, that I will be able to see this exhibit, but …the exhibition catalogue is available and I have been devouring my copy this week. It has been lovely to be able to get the magnifying glass out to look at the detail of the images within it: playbills, caricatures, topographical engravings, fashion plates, plans of houses, interiors by Soane…it is an enthralling collection of items.

The catalogue, like the books and ephemera that make up the exhibition, is divided, into five different sections: Homes and Gardens, Shopping and Fashion, Culture and Ideas  and finally Leisure and Pleasure. The images and books shown are fascinating, and many are known to us already

Fashion Print of Kensington Garden dresses

Fashion Print of Kensington Garden dresses

but many more are not so familiar, and are intriguing.

The main essay in the catalogue is the Introduction written by Amanda Goodrich. In it she very clearly delineates, in some detail, the various developments in the Georgian era which have resonance for us today; these include the rise of print culture, the consumer society, an obsession with celebrities, philanthropy and charities, and public entertainments. A certain section of society -wealthy and well-to-do Georgian men- had, at this time in history, personal and political freedoms that were denied to many in Europe and the rest of the world. However, Goodrich does makes it quite clear that while for some the Georgian era was a magnificent time in which to be alive, for others it was dire:

Of course this was not a period of unadulterated progress, as so-called “Whig history” would have it. The contemporary belief in an inexorable journey towards the pinnacle of civilisation within the foreseeable future was , as time has shown, misplaced. Progress was uneven and as in all societies, there was a mix of innovation and continued adherence to hidebound tradition. Certainly there were still obstacles in the way of the sort of freedoms and the sense of modernity we take for granted today. In particular life for a large sector of society was “poor, nasty, brutish and short’ to misapply Thomas Hobbes “Leviathan”(1651), and democracy and equality of any sort were a long way off.

From what I have read about the exhibit I am not sure that the grittier side of Georgian life- the industrial revolution and the unrest caused by it, the life of the poor, poverty, food riots, rioting in general, the situation of women in society, etc., etc.,- is covered within it. And it is certainly true that the catalogue’s contents are more associated with the polite section of society than with any other. This may be a problem with the nature of the exhibition material itself, for I should imagine that the books, ephemera and images that survive from that time (and are preserved in the BL’s collection) probably do tend to be reflective of the middling to upper orders of society. As a result the exhibition has been criticised for presenting a too pretty, old-fashioned view of the Georgian era: Professor Amanda Vickery is quietly disturbed by it as you can plain hear (14 minutes 50 seconds into the programme ) in this edition of the Front Row Programme on BBC Radio 4But the introduction certainly redresses that balance and provides a solid counterpoint to all the Georgian gorgeousness. Amanda Goodrich makes it quite clear, for example, that women had a raw time:

The role of some in society represents another example of hidebound attitudes. While free to enjoy the benefits of the consumer society, women had few rights. The ‘rights of man’ meant just that: calls for universal suffrage meant universal male suffrage, and this domination was applied not just in politics but to life in general.This is not to say that women had no agency: many engaged with politics and commerce, owned businesses and wrote published texts. But such activities were circumscribed by law and invention and most, including Jane Austen, did not write under their own name…

Here is a rather arch video about the exhibit presented by Moira Goff, one of the joint curators:

The exhibition can even boast a pop-up Georgian inspired garden designed by Todd Longstaffe Gowan who wrote the wonderfully informative books,The London Town Garden and The London Square. You might also care to look at this fascinating blog entry written by the BL’s conservation department about the work they undertook on some of the exhibits

The exhibit will run until the 11th March 2014, but the catalogue is available to purchase now, and I would throughly recommend it for the Introductory essay alone which is a splendid commentary on the period. But you may also find yourself, as I did, enjoyably lost in the detail of the exhibits…

As you well know, I love the work of the 18th century artist, Paul Sandby.

Paul Sandby painted by Francis Cotes

Paul Sandby painted by Francis Cotes

Picturing Britain was the fabulous and comprehensive exhibition of his pictures which was held in 2010 at Nottingham and the Royal Academy in London. The accompanying exhibition catalogue is a wonderful prize, giving us a very evocative glimpse of the England Jane Austen knew.

Picturing Britain by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

Picturing Britain by John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels

So it is with great pleasure that I can tell you that another exhibition of his works will be held next year at The Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle from the 7th February until the  5th May 2014, which will comprise items taken from the Royal Collection.

The information on the Royal Collection website tells us:

Paul Sandby was ‘the father of English watercolour’.  With his brother Thomas, he produced dozens of watercolours that together comprise a fascinating visual record of Windsor Castle during the reign of George III.  Many of the works incorporate scenes of everyday life at the Castle, from soldiers on duty and deliveries being made, to the visiting public enjoying the Castle grounds. Nineteen of the Sandby brothers’ finest views of Windsor are displayed alongside a selection of rare 18th-century guidebooks, offering an intriguing comparison with the experience of visiting the Castle today.

Windsor Castle by Sandby

Windsor Castle by Sandby

The Prince of Wales, later George IV, was a collector of Sandby’s works. They include this view of Windsor, above, before it was aggrandized by Jeffrey Wyatville in the 1820s.  I am very excited by the idea of this exhibition and hope very much to be well enough to be to be able to travel to Windsor to see it. Fingers crossed. Go here to see all the current details of the exhibition, so that you can book a date in your diary.

Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

Chatsworth House and the Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

It has been a pleasure to visit country houses this Diamond Jubilee Year, for most  I have visited have celebrated the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by creating displays of their own Coronation memorabilia. I visited Chatsworth some weeks ago for my annual treat, and yes, as expected, their displays were the best I saw this season. Chatsworth is, as you are no doubt aware, the Derbyshire home of the Duke of Devonshire, whose family name is Cavendish. And of course, Chatsworth is one of the places Elizabeth Bennet visited with the Gardiners  in Pride and Prejudice, and some would contend that it was the model for “Pemberley ( not me,however!) and so it holds a special interest for Janeites .

The West and South façades of the house have now been stunningly restored, and it was simply breathtaking to see it glinting- with all the newly re-gilded windows and stone ornaments on the roof- in the summer sunshine, and to enjoy the refreshing (and very welcome!) spray from the fountains.

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

The Emperor Fountain ©Austenonly

In addition to having a display of the clothes worn by the 10th Duchess, the 11th Duke and Duchess and their son,who is now the 12th Duke, at the 1953 Coronation, Chatsworth also put on show the carriage that the 11th Duke  his Duchess and their heir used to travel to Westminster Abbey.  Their State Chariot, plus liveried footmencoachman and a phantom horse were on display, to great effect, in the wonderfully large Painted Hall. You might remember this room from the “Pemberley ” scenes in Joe Wright’s production of Pride and Prejudice of 2005, which I discussed some time ago, here.

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

The Chariot in the Painted Hall ©Austenonly

This is the view of the Chariot display from the top of the stairs seen in the phonograph, above. It is testament to its great size that  having a carriage and “horse” set out in the Hall did not make it feel at all crowded.

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

The view down onto the Chariot from the stairs in the Painted Hall

As, quite unexpectedly, we seem to have been covering the theme of Jane Austen, Livery and Heraldry this year, I thought you might like to see photographs of this display, as they help to reinforce and explain various points that we have discussed before.

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

The Devonshire State Chariot ©Austenonly

Though this Chariot may have been made slightly later than our period, (it came into the Cavendish family upon the marriage of the  8th Duke to the Duchess of Manchester in 1892) you can see, by comparing it to William Felton’s engraving of a Neat Town Chariot, below

"A Neat Town Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

“A Neat Town Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

and his engraving of an Elegant Chariot

An "Elegant Chariot" from Felton's "Treatise on Carriages etc." (1797)

An “Elegant Chariot” from my copy of Felton’s “Treatise on Carriages etc.” (1797)

that this version would have been very familiar to Jane Austen. The Devonshire State Chariot is, as we have now come to expect, decorated with many details which would make the identity of its owners easy for those “in the know” to recognise.

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

Side View of the Chariot, showing the Cavendish Arms on the Door Panel ©Austenonly

The door and side panels are decorated with the Cavendish coat of arms

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the Door of the Chariot

The Cavendish Coat of Arms painted on the internal side  of the door of the Chariot

and with emblems associated with the family…

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

Close-Up of the Cavendish Coat of Arms ©Austenonly

You can compare the painted example, above, to the example of the newly restored and painted stone version of the Cavendish Arms on the West Front of the House, below:

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The newly restored and coloured Cavendish coat of arms on the West Front of Chatsworth House ©Austenonly

The side panels of the Chariot were decorated with the Ducal coronet, with its strawberry leaves, and with the Order of the Garter (and its chain), the highest order of chivalry that can be awarded by the monarch in England and Wales. All the Dukes of Devonshire, with the exception of the current Duke, have been recipients of this very important Order .

The Cavendish Arms on the Side Panel ©Austenonly

Detail of the Side Panel: the Garter Badge and Chain ©Austenonly

Around the roof of the Chariot, silver versions of the Cavendish emblem, the coiled snake, can be seen…

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side Panels ©Austenonly

The Cavendish emblem of the Snake in silver, adorning the Chariot side panels ©Austenonly

The Hammercloth, which you can see below, and which covers the coachman’s seat, is a  very extravagant affair and is made up in the colours to be found in  the Devonshire family’s coat of arms, that is, their heraldic colours. I must admit that I prefer these  to Sir Walter Elliot’s colour scheme:

 ”He is rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.”

   ”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”

Persuasion, Chapter 3

Here is William Felton’s  plate showing the different styles of Hammercloths from his Treatise on Carriages,etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton's Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

Examples of Hammercloths from Felton’s Treatise of Carriages etc (1797)

As you can see, the Devonshire Hammercloth was also adorned with the Ducal coronet and with a version of the Cavendish arms,  in silver:

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The Cavendish Coat of Arms( in silver) on the Hammercloth

The family’s heraldic colours were also used in the sumptuous interior decoration of the Chariot.

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The Interior of the Chariot ©Austenonly

You can clearly see that the status of the family is reinforced at every point: the representations of their arms, emblems and heraldic colours advertise to the world exactly who  are its exalted and rich owners:

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Upholstered Interior of the Chariot

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The Leather-covered Folding Steps

The heraldic theme is even continued on the horse’s harness and reigns. Only one example was on show- on a ” horse” armature which reminded me of the animated horses in the National Theatre’s production of  War Horse!

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

The Harness, embellished with silver mounts ©Austenonly

Made of leather, the harness set is embellished with silver mounts, some which depict the Cavendish arms…

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

The Harness, embellished with silver ornament

and some the Ducal Coronet:

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

Detail of the silver embellishments on the reigns and harness ©Austenonly

You will recall that if a family were possessed of the right to bear arms, their servants-  the footmen and coachmen-, could, in Jane Austen’ era, wear uniforms made of colours dictated by the heraldic colours used in the family’s coat of arms:

A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate, but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely on the tinctures upon his Escutcheon. In both, the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or, as a tailor would call it, the trimmings- that is, the collar, cuffs lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal Charge.

(The Handbook of Heraldry etc., (1869,  John Cussans, Page 314.)

Do note however, that these liveries were made, IMHO, at a later date than the mid 19th century, as the colour yellow- to represent gold( or more correctly, Or) was used, and that was not thought strictly correct at that time. The colour of the Coachman’s uniform of great-coat and tricorn hat,  was derived from the Cavendish family’s heraldic colours: the black hat decorated with silver thread, and his coat made to match the blue of the hammercloth

The Coachman's Uniform

The Coachman’s Uniform

The footmen’s livery again complied with the rules we have previously learnt: their bicorn hats were decorated with silver thread as were their jackets and waistcoats:

The Cavendish Footmen's Livery ©Austenonly

The Cavendish Footmen’s Livery ©Austenonly

The livery  jackets were yellow, but the cuffs, waistcoats and breeches were blue, again to comply with the rules regarding the use of heraldic colours . The silver buttons on the livery were also embossed with the Cavendish arms,not the crest:

Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively  to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them. 

(Cussans, as above, page 316)

You might care to note that, because he had admired them on visit to Chatsworth, the 11th Duchess sent a set of these 18th century silver livery buttons to President John F. Kennedy as his inauguration gift .

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

The rear view of the Chariot ©Austenonly

This rear view shows the step where the footmen stood while they travelled with the family, and also gives a good view of the detail of the back of their liveries. Here is a slightly closer view:

View of the Footmen's Livery

View of the Footmen’s Livery

This is, I hope you will agree, a wonderful example of the use of coaches and liveries to make a statement, according to the heraldic rules and regulations.

If you would like to see the clothes worn by the 11th Duke and Duchess ( and their son) at the Coronation, then do go here to my Pinterest Page on the Coronation of Elizabeth II. I won’t continue it here because it has precious little to do with Jane Austen, but you might like to know that the robe worn at the Coronation by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire was thought originally to have been a set worn by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and they are  quite breath-taking and very beautiful.

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their son, The Marquess of Hartington on the way to the Coronation in 1953 ©Austenonly

I shall be writing more about Chatsworth next year…in my celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice and I do hope you will join me.

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

Chatsworth House from the south-east @Austenonly

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

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

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

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

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.

The Zoffany exhibition has now opened at the Royal Academy and I shall be (D.V.) going to see it in the next few weeks, and will, of course,  be reporting back to you here. The catalogue/book accompanying the exhibition  arrived with a thump on my door mat a few weeks ago and I thought you might like to hear my thoughts on it. Mary Webster’s magnificent monograph  on Zoffany has to be the main reference point for those wishing to delve into the minutiae of his life and works, but it is rather an expensive volume. If you have less cash to spare you might want to consider  this book as a more than acceptable alternative.

The book is, as you would expect of a Yale publication, superbly illustrated throughout. But the essays that make up the first part of the book are, in my very humble opinion, outstanding. Martin Postle’s opening essay on Zoffany’s life and reputation is fascinating, beautifully written and appropriately illustrated, and draws this  interesting comparison with Hogarth:

Zoffany’s art is often appreciated for its technical accomplishment and keen eye for detail. As with Hogarth it  is also distinguished by its incisive social commentary and irrelevant brand of humour. It provides a sophisticated and often guileful commentary, which challenges the parameters of hierarchical structures, national boundaries and social mores. Zoffany, was like Hogarth, temperamentally unsuited to follow the conventional career of the compliant “society” painter. However, like Hogarth, Zoffany proved two be a consummate painter of society 

Robin Simons’ chapter on Zoffany and the theatre is fascinating, providing the reader with tremendous detail of the workings of the 18th century theatres in London and the provinces,, which, with its patent theatres and performances censored by the Lord Chamberlain, was so different from our theatrical experience today. One of Zoffany’s earliest patrons was the actor David Garrick and this association guaranteed him many, many theatrical commissions. These theatrical portraits now can seem rather stilted and staged, to excuse a pun, but by careful study of the them and the scenes they are meant to represent it is clear that Zoffany took this genre by the scruff of its neck and developed it, becoming one of its greatest exponents and chroniclers. His portrait of Thomas King as Touchstone in As You LIke It from 1780, below, is a tour de force.

Zoffany’s great conversation pictures, like this one below of the Sharpe family, have become so ubiquitous we now rarely notice the details. But if you look closely enough there seem to be indications of something other than mere representations of family life being recorded. Kate Redford’s chapter on Zoffany and British Portraiture is, as ever, a wonderfully considered piece of writing, and places Zoffany’s work in its proper context, explaining that his conversation pieces were exception pieces of work, often employing subtle narrative devices which,when decoded, illuminate the witty,sometimes bawdy nature of 18th century society in England.

The Sharp Family, painted between 1779-81 shows the comfortably-off family  during one their Water Scheems, when they performed on their boats and barges. This family, one of whose members was Granville Sharp the abolitionist,  were renowned among society for both the expertise of their musical performances and  their conviviality.

However, in this central section, Zoffany plays visual jokes, an “in-joke” if you like, something that the Sharps, in common with many 18th century families indulged in. For example, they often signed letters using the musical notation for  “sharp” instead of writing their names .This word play was taken up by Zoffany, and interpreted visually.  Below, we can see Granville Sharp holding  his double flageolet, a difficult instrument to master, behind his brother’s, James’ head, so that it resembled the form of a cuckold’s horn.

James’ nickname was Vulcan, the farrier to the gods and husband of Venus, who cuckolded him after she fell in love with Mars.

Sitting above  are the wives of two of the brothers. James wife, Catherine wearing  a lilac dress and a black shawl and William Sharpe’s wife. Neither were very fond of music, and can be seen comforting each other rather in the manner of golf widows: they had musically obsessed husbands and paid the price ! This is all very clever, and the in -joke  was hopefully enjoyed by the Sharp family but as Kate Redford keenly remarks, this is an artistic approach that also had its dangers:

The appeal of these narrative devices probably relied on raillery; equivalent to a light-hearted banter that showed the sitter’s modest ability to laugh at themselves and that fitted the relatively more informal and lively milieu of the conversation piece tradition .Zoffany’s patrons no doubt enjoyed the wit of his clever juxtapositions and narrative conceits, although, on occasion, he must surely have sheen sailing close to the wind….

Luckily for Zoffany he was a friend of the Sharpes and  most probably enjoyed their clever company and conversation. He was also a keen musician who also took part in similar water parties and knew many professional musicians. The joke, which was at James Sharpe’s expense in a possibly offensive way, was probably allowable because Zoffany was part of their circle- a fact indicated by the presence of his dog, Roma, sitting in the foreground of the picture, to represent the artist. He was not so lucky with other, very prestigious clients and compositions. More on this after my visit to the exhibit.

So, to conclude, if you are unable to visit the Royal Academy to see the exhibition for yourself, tout are fascinated by these portraits and what they reveal about the nature of late 18th century society  in Britain (and beyond), I do hope you will purchase this fascinating, beautiful and very readable book. Zoffany’s appeal for me lies more in the canvasses he completed in late 18th century India, with all its Austen associations, and I am so looking forward to seeing many canvass that  are normally only on show in India.  Society Observed indeed.

You were very interested in  yesterday’s post, and rightly so because it is I think a fascinating project. It really will be fascinating to read of the discoveries being made on the site of Jane Austen’s birthplace,and what it reveals to us about the Austen family’s life style at Steventon. Apparently, interesting “finds” have been made every day of the dig

So, I’ve dug around ( groan!) and found some more information, which clears up some of the questions you raised in the comments, yesterday.

The work is being carried out by a Hampshire based firm, Archaeo Briton. They are a group of experienced archeologists, who have formed their own firm to undertake individual archaeological projects. The Steventon Rectory project is, according to their website, not only going to lead to an exhibition at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, but also to a publication,  Archaeology Greets Jane Austen.

The Rectory Project will research the home of the authoress Jane Austen to explore the factual lifestyle of the Austen family. Jane Austen was born at Steventon on 16th December 1775 and lived there with her family for 25 years. The “Rectory” was demolished to the ground during the 1820s and very little is factually known about the building or its contents. The project will use archaeological research methods to discover the material culture of the Rectory and the Austen family.

The project has been made possible financially by a grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and  also support from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation.  Maureen Stiller of the Jane Austen Society has been closely involved in the project. As have lots of volunteers  from the locality, which is wonderful.

If you go through this link, here, you can see a short BBC Hampshire film on the project.  I am so looking forward to the results of this research. And you can be assured I will keep you all informed of any developments.

If anyone is in the vicinity of The Divinity School at Old Bodleian Library on 1st March, then may I respectfully suggest you might like to rush there to take part in the events for World Book Day which are centred around Jane Austen.

For one day only there will be a display of Jane Austen’s manuscripts from the Bodleian Library collections. This will include the newly acquired handwritten manuscript of her unfinished novel, The Watsons, which the Bodleian purchased last year. As their website tells us,

Extensively revised and corrected throughout, the manuscript is a testimony of Jane Austen’s efforts to give shape to the earliest ideas as they pour onto paper, as she reviews, revises, deletes and underscores. The Watsons is the very genesis of fiction from one of Britain’s greatest and best-loved writers.

Also on show will be Volume the First, a manuscript of Austen’s juvenilia.

And if that is not enough to tempt you, the much discussed  portrait ” of Jane Austen, now owned by Paula Byrne  will be on display there, for you to ponder and discuss. Below is a shot of Deirdre Le Faye, Professor Kathryn Suthrland and Professor Claudia Johnson examining the picture in the recent BBC 2 documenatry, “The Real Jane Austen”. As you know I’m not convinced by the evidence put forward to “authenticate” the portrait thus far, but I can imagine if you are in the vicinity of the Library that you might care to see it for yourself.

And…can it get any more interesting? Well, yes it can… At lunchtime there will be a thirty minute lecture given by Kathryn Sutherland  who is  the Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism, St. Anne’s College, Oxford, on the subject of the Watsons entitled: The Watsons:Jane Austen Practising.

The lecture will take place at 1 p.m at the Convocation House, Bodleian Library. If you can’t make that lecture, you can hear some of her thoughts on The Watsons via a new Bodleian Library app for phones and iPads. Go here to read all about it.

I would love to go as I love to hear Professor Sutherland speak. But my family have suffered enough  with all my Austen-related jaunts ;) If you do go, do let us know who it all goes; we’d be delighted to hear from you.

This is the last post in my series on the costumes worn at the coronation of George IV in 1821, and the final post in the Dress for Excess exhibition series, and we are going to take a look at teh costume worn by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.

The Barons of the Cinque Ports  had a specific role in the coronations of the English monarchs: they  carried a canopy  over the heads of the monarch during the pre-coronation procession and during the coronation ceremony. The first time they are recorded as  participating in a coronation was in 1189 for the coronation of Richard I.

The Cinque Ports are a very old and interesting association, a confederation of ports on the Sussex and Kent coasts formed  by Royal Charter in the 12th century.  The confederation was very important historically, both for defence and for trade with mainland Europe, and had many rights and privileges in return for service to the Crown. The Cinque Ports Court of Admiralty still has jurisdiction over an extensive area of the North Sea and the English Channel, including the Straits of Dover which are amongst the busiest shipping lanes in the world, although the Court has not sat for many years. The Barons of the Cinque Ports part in George IVs coronation,

is detailed in my anonymous record of the coronation, shown above:

The first thing we observed on having entered the Hall( Westminster Hall where the participants in the coronation procession assembled prior to the Coronaiton ceremony- jfw ) was the canopy which was to be bourne over the King by the Barons of the Cinque Ports. This Canopy was yellow- of silk and gold embroidery, with short curtains of muslin spangled with gold. Eight bearers having fixed the poles by which the canopy was supported, which were of steel, with silver knobs, bore it up and down the Hall, to practise the mode of carrying it in the procession. It was then deposited at the upper end of the side table of the Hall, to the left of the Throne.  The canopy was very elegant in its form and was well calculated to add to the effect of the Procession…

The canopy was now removed from the side table where it has been placed, and was brought into the middle of the Hall. The Barons of the Cinque Ports were then marshalled two to each point of the support, they now bore the Canopy down the Hall by way of Practise…The Barons now took another march in the Hall.

The order of the procession was as shown in this extract from  the account  of the  Coronation:

Here is a close up of the  part that refers to  the Barons of the Cinque Ports and their  position, with their canopy:

However, some reports of the procession  back to Westminster Hall after the Coronation suggest that George IV walked in front of the canopy so that the onlookers could get a good sight of the newly crowned king . This  departure from the script was  obviously not discussed with the Barons , and an undignified sight ensued:

“At first all seems to have gone well, but on returning to Westminster Hall, the elderly bearers began to tire at their task, causing the canopy to sway from side to side. The King feeling nervous that it would descend on his head, thought it safer to walk slightly in front of it. This however, did not suit the stout hearts, though weak bodies, of the Barons, whose privilege and duty it was to bear the canopy exactly over the king, so they hastened their steps, the canopy swaying more and more with the increased pace. The King now became genuinely alarmed, and though of portly habits quickened his pace, and, as the canopy surged after him, as last broke into a somewhat unseemly jog trot, and in this manner they all arrived at Westminster Hall”

The costume worn by Thomas Lamb, who was the Lord Mayor of Rye at the time of the Coronation, is in the Brighton Museum collection and was on show in the Princes Gallery at the Royal Pavilion.

As you can see, it was yet  another costume that took its inspiration from the past. It is designed to look like a Tudor costume. The account  of the Coronation describes it as follows:

The dresses of the Barons were extremely splendid: large cloaks of garter blue satin, with slashed arms of scarlet and stockings of dead red.

This is a view of the front of the costume,with all its detailing, gold coloured buttons and gold lace:

I have to say that this costume, while impressive at a distance, is very much like a theatrical costume or , indeed, even a fancy dress outfit. It does not really give the impression of being very substantial, or of being made of fine and weighty fabrics. It is, in my humble opinion, a little bit flimsy.

The shoes worn by Thomas Lamb were also on show-: they were made of white kid leather decorated with red satin rosettes:

And so this ends my posts on the Dress for Excess Exhibit. I do hope you have enjoyed reading them. Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and the Brighton and Hove Musuem services for all their kindness and help with access and providing me with additional photographs.

George IV’s coronation included some details of ceremonial which were never repeated by any subsequent coronation. The Kings Herb-woman was one such element. This was a post that had first been created by Charles II on his restoration to the Crown in 1660. The first King’s Herb-Woman was one Brigit Rumney. She held the position from 1660 until 1671, and her family had close associations with service in the Stuart household, and had also remained faithful to them throughout the difficult years of the Interregnum.

The position was an important one in the Stuart Court for, in the days before proper sanitation, the Herb Woman’s main duty was to strew sweet smelling herbs and flowers around the King’s apartments to mask the rather foul smells that could then emanate from the dark corners of Whitehall Palace, from uncovered sewers and drains and from the London rivers, notably the Thames.

Bridgit received a salary of £12 per annum for being the

garnisher and trimmer of the chapel, presence and privy lodgings

She also received another £12 per annum for strewing herbs around the private apartments of Queen Catherine of Braganza, who was Charles II’s wife. It might interest you to know that in addition to her salary, the Herb-woman received two yards of superfine scarlet woollen cloth for a livery uniform.  The last full time Herb Strewer was  Mary Rayner, who was employed in the Royal Household from 1798 until 1836.

However, she was obviously not smart enough socially for Geroge IV, who, as we know, wanted to present his very particular vision of monarchy at his Coronation. He appointed a friend, Miss Anne Fellowes, to replace Mary Rayner as the Herbs-woman in the Coronation Procession. Miss Fellowes was  about 50 years of age at the time of the Coronation in 1821. One of her duties was to choose six young attendants, who would follow her in the Coronation procession.

In fact, the Herb-woman and her  attendants led the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. In my anonymous account of the Coronation, published in 1821 there is a description of the Herb-woman and her attendants  assembling in Westminster Hall, just prior to the Coronation taking place, and it give  us some idea of their appearance :

Soon after 8 o’ clock Mr Fellowes led into the hall Miss Fellowes who afterwards preceeded the procession on the royal platform as His Majesty’s Herb Woman; she was attended by Miss Bond, Miss G. Collier, Miss Caldwell,  Miss Hill,  Miss Daniel and Miss Walker, in the character of assistant maids. Miss Fellowes was attired in a magnificent dress of white satin with a mantle of the finest scarlet cloth, trimmed with gold and lined with white satin, and she bore a splendid gold badge and chain. The head dress was of gold wheat intermixed with grapes and laurel leaves. This was appropriate and elegant in the highest degree.

The attendant maids wore white crape dress over rich white satin, with an appropriate sash of flowers suspended from the shoulder to the bottom of the skirt and flowers tastefully arranged in the trimming, with Gabriel ruffs; the head dresses of these ladies  consisted of chaplets of flowers to correspond with the general designs of their dress.

Miss Fellowes carried a most beautiful basket, filled with the choicer and most rare flowers and the attendant young ladies bore, in pairs,  three baskets of elegant construction,  formed for two persons and filled with a similar profusions of Flora’s bounty. The flower baskets were brought into the Hall and placed opposite to the ladies, who were accommodated with chars at the extremity of the Hall.

Here from the same pamphlet, is the Order of the Coronation Procession, showing the Herb-woman and her attendants leading the way: One of the Attendant’s costumes was on show along with George IV’s Coronation Robe at the Dress for Excess Exhibit at the Brighton Pavilion which ended last Sunday:

It’s Gabriel Ruff, which echoed the costume of  the Tudor period, in keeping with George’s ” historic” theme,  is missing, but you can see that it accords early well with the description above .  

The delicate pleating of the crepe material can be seen in this photograph of the rear view of the costume.

The garland- with its pink fabric roses- is terribly delicate and I am amazed it has survived. This dress was worn at the  Coronation by Miss Sarah Ann Walker.

Though the Herb-woman no longer has any ceremonial or practical functions in the Royal Household, you might be interested to note that she still exists. Ms Jessica Fellowes, whom I believe is the niece of Julian Fellowes and is also author of the Downton Abbey book, claims the title by descent, and if you go here you can see her opening the Herb Society’s garden at Sulgrave Mnanor.

Regency ephemera buffs will also like to see this panorama roll of the Coronation , which shows some illustrations of the Herb-Woman’s attendants in the procession to Westminster Abbey, and which is in the collection of the South Australian Government. I covet it very badly.

Next, the costume worn at the Coronation by the Barons of the Cinque Ports.

Here is a short BBC local TV video of George IVs Coronation Robe, for those of you who didn’t get to see it while it was on show at the Brighton Pavillion. It includes an interview with Martin Pel who curated the exhibit.

The ferocious winter storm and the power cuts attendant upon it have meant that my little series on some of the costumes worn at George IV’s Coronation has been slightly delayed. But, now that power has been restored, here is the first post…

George IV’s coronation in 1821 was the most spectacular and certainly the most expensive English coronation up to that point in history. But knowing George and his extravagances as we do, it would have been surprising had it not been anything else. Jane Austen would no doubt have been horrified by it all. She was no admirer of George, his morals or his politics and she especially detested his treatment of his wife, Caroline of Brunswick. In a letter to her great friend, Martha Lloyd dated 16th February 1813 she wrote:

Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband

She would, I am sure,have been horrified by the fact that, despite still being his wife- albeit now estranged and discredited- Caroline was banned from the ceremony  and turned away from the doors of the Abbey itself.  However, this post is not meant to be a definitive account of the coronation- there are may of those available to read in print and on the internet- but merely to look at the some of costumes worn, and which were recently on display at George IV’s seaside folly, The Royal Pavilion at Brighton, in the Dress for Excess exhibition, which closed on Sunday.

Note I use the term “costumes” for however else can you really describe these items of clothing? They were not fashionable, contemporary clothes, but were extravagant costumes deliberately designed to give the onlooker the definite impression of watching the ancient customs of an ancient royal family. They were based on designs from the Tudor era to give the impression of antiquity.

Today we shall look at the sumptuous train that George IV wore. Here is George in his coronation robes and splendour, as painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence:

The reason for the references to past times was that George desperately wanted to out shine Napoleon’s coronation- a new comer to the scene- which had taken  place in Paris in 1804, and here is David’s spectacular  version of it ( in which Josephine very calculatedly steals the show!)  for you to compare  Napoleon’s neoclassical vision with George’s mock Tudor version:

Below is the engraving of George in his robes by James Stephanoff . One of the engravings for the illustrations which were included in Sir George Nayler’s commemorative book, The Coronation of George IV ( 1821)

This shows the King attired in the robe and train, and, as yet, uncrowned. He is followed by his attendants, depicted as they would have walked in the procession to Westminster Abbey, where the coronation took place, from their marshalling point in Westminster Hall. The King’s attendants were eight sons of Peers, and the Master of the Robes. The lucky eight peer’s sons were( from left to right) the Earl of Surrey, the Marquess of Douro, Viscount Cranborne, the Earl of Brecknock, the Earl of Uxbridge, the Earl of Rocksavage, the Earl of Rawdon and  Viscount Ingestre. The last figure is of Lord Francis Conyngham who was the Master of the Robes.

This is how  this part of the Coronation procession was described in an anonymous but contemporary report of the Coronation,  A Brief Account of the Coronation of His Majesty George IV, July 19th 1821″ :

The King in the Royal Robes wearing a cap of estate, adorned with jewels, under a canopy of cloth of Gold bourne by 16 Barons of the Cinque Ports. His Majesty’s train bourne by 8 eldest Sons of Peers, assisted by the Master of the Robes.

Note nothing was said about George’s luxuriant brown wig, which he also wore to give an impression of youth…

Here is a print  from that same account showing the Coronation procession snaking from Westminster Hall, past St Margaret’s Parish Church, on to the Abbey on the right of the print:

The train that George IV wore was kept in the Royal Collection until the 1830s when it was sold to Madame Tussauds. Here is a photograph of the train as it is now, and how it appeared on show in the Gallery at the Pavilion:

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

The train now measures 16 feet long and is beautifully embroidered in silver wire.  The border is made of  representations and trophys of the emblems of the United Kingdon, again in silver wire. The main body of the train is embroidered with stylised “Tudor” roses. The train is made of crimson velvet. Do please click on the photograph , which I have been given special permission to use by Brighton Museum Service, so that you can see the details of the embroidery.

So, while it is debatable that George managed to out-do Napoleon in splendour ( or indeed, taste),it is interesting to  know that French money- part of the reparations paid to Britain for the Napoleonic wars- was used to pay for this spectacle. Here is a scan of my copy of  an Account of the Money Expended  at His Majesty’s Coronation:

If you click on the image and enlarge it you can see that the furnishing and the decoration of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall, the Regalia ( which included the fabulous Hope Diamond and  12,314 “hired” diamonds from the firm of Rundell Bridge and Rundell of Ludgate Hill) ...the Dresses etc of the Persons attending and performing the various Duties..cost £111,172 9 shillings and 10 pence. An astounding sum of money.  The French money- some £138,238- had been paid to Britain as part of the reparations after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. Even so, the total cost of the Coronation was an eye watering  £238,238 and 2 pence. This is equivalent today to something between £9 and 18 million.

Next, the costumes of the Herb Women .

I have been bewitched by the idea of an 18th century pleasure garden for years. Too many years to comfortably remember, if I’m painfully honest. I’ve visited the only remaining one in England –the Sydney Gardens in Bath– where Jane Austen used to love to walk when she lived opposite them at Sydney Place. I’ve collected books on them, and visited exhibitions, notably The Muse’s Bower held at Gainsborough House Museum in Sudbury, in Suffolk in 1974…

and the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo Exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1984.

I’ve even visited the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, in an attempt to sample something of the atmosphere of the original. Vauxhall on the Surrey bank of the Thames was the first and the most famous of them all. In fact, the term “Vauxhall” became the generic term for a pleasure garden, and its successful format was copied all over England, Europe and even in early 19th century America. A new book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History has recently been published by Yale. It is published to  accompany an exhibition on the garden, which will open  later in the year at the Foundling Hospital Museum in Brunswick Square. Entitled The Triumph of Pleasure, I simply cannot wait to visit it ( and report back here).

This book is exactly what I have desired to find, after all these years. A comprehensive guide to EVERY aspect of the gardens: its history, the owners, The Tyers, shown below in a portrait by Francis Hayman…

The performers, especially the music and the musicians…

The art on show in the dining booths – it was the first contemporary art exhibit in the world open to the general ( paying) public…

The fashions worn there…

The way the gardens worked, the visitors..even details of the latrines or necessary houses……

it is all covered in exquisite detail, enough even to satisfy me. The book is co- written by David Coke past curator of Gainsborough’s House Museum (where he organised the Vauxhall Garden exhibit of 1978, and he also curated the Vauxhall Garden section of the Rococo exhibit at the Vand A in 1984), and by Dr Alan Borg.

They manage to capture the atmosphere of this magical place- lit by thousands of tiny coloured-glass oil lamps,where you could wander among the leafy groves, see and hear the latest art and music, and mingle with all classes of people who cloud afford to pay the entrance fee. The only exception being servants in livery- they were not admitted to teh gardens for as David Coke remarked to me yesterday,

Servants in livery were only excluded from Vauxhall because Tyers did not want any of his visitors to be seen as obviously subservient to any other visitor.  Of course, it also meant that wealthy visitors could not use their own servants to serve them supper, and had to use the Vauxhall waiters, but I’m sure this was a minor consideration.

This is all very well, I hear you say, and all very interesting, but did Vauxhall have any association with Jane Austen? It did. She wrote about it in Lesley Castle when she was 16 years old in 1791.  She may not have visited it personally, and there is no mention of it in her letters, but she may have known of it by repute or by reading other novels such as Evelina (1778) or Cecilia (1782) both written by  Fanny Burney, one of Jane Austen’s favoured authors, and which both mention the pleasure garden. In Letter the Seventh from Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley, Bristol 27th March, JAne Austen wrote:

In spite of all that People may say about Green fields and the Country I was always of the opinion that London and its Amusements must be very agreeable for a while, and should be very happy could my Mother’s income allow her to jockey us into its Public-places during Winter. I always longed particularly to go to Vaux-hall to see whether the cold Beef there is cut so thin as it is reported,  for I have a sly suspicion that few people understand the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef so well as I do: nay it would be had if I did not know something of the Matter, for it was a part of my education that I took by far the most pains with…

This is one of the things Vauxhall was infamous for- the thinness of the cold meat served in the dining booths. As we find in the book under discussion:

It is impossible to discuss the food without again mentioning the famous Vauxhall ham; this, like the beef, was always served in notoriously thin slices. Many stores circulated about it ,and it even made its appearance in contemporary comic poetry….eventually the thinness of the ham once picturesquely described as “sliced cobwebs” became proverbial; at homes all over London if any diner was feeling abstemious they would ask for their serving of meat to be carved “Vauxhaully”…

(Page 198)

It would seem that, unlike this country gentleman,  below,  Jane Austen,  living in rural Hampshire,  had heard all about it…

I can thoroughly recommend this well-written, witty, informative and scholarly book to you, if you are at all interested in the pleasure garden, its history or how it prospered then eventually closed in 1859. I cannot envisage having to buy another book on the subject, so comprehensive is this one. I will be reporting on the Foundling Hospital Museum exhibit in the summer. But if you want to explore a little on line then do go to Dr Borg and David Coke’s website, here, to experience a little of the Vauxhall Magic.

I made it to this exhibition with one day to spare.It closed on Sunday , but, my goodness, it was worth the wait.

The portraits on show chronicled the way actresses have been portrayed from the 1660s when they were finally allowed to perform legally on the stage, to the end of Mrs Siddons reign as Queen Tragedienne in the mid 19th century.  An exercise in spin if you like, yet again proving that nothing is new under the sun.

The early actresses, or, more correctly performers, for the exhibition also included images of dancers and singers, had to tread a fine line- for  to appear onstage, exposing aspects of their bodes and personalities was thought scandalous by many in the general pubic. Some led a scandalous off stage life and bad reputations stuck. For many, the perception was that to be an actress go the professional stage was analogous with being a prostitute. Some actresses tried to rectify this with portraits depicting them in serious poses, as very correct, classical muses. This might not succeed,  however if their private lives were not as exemplary as their images projected in these portraits. As a tactic of spin it often misfired. Dorothea Jordan ‘s attempt to be seen as a serious actress in Hoppner’s depiction of her as the Comic Muse was not at all successful . And of course she was also the Duke of Clarence’s mistress, bearing him many  children and supporting him financially.

Mrs Siddons changed all that. And for me the star turn of the exhibit was Sir Thomas Lawrence’s compelling deception of her from 1804.

A monumental canvas in many ways, not merely for its great size, she dominated the exhibit in her sober black dress, her intelligent eyes looking soberly at us, her audience. She stands, presumably turning the pages of a volume of Shakespeare: a powerful woman, famous for depicting powerful tragic roles.

I’d loved to have seen her Lady Macbeth on the strength of this powerful painting. Above, she is shown in this role in a mass-produced  Staffordshire flat back figure.  No wonder Jane Austen felt herself very unlucky to have not seen Mrs Siddons perform:

I have no chance of seeing Mrs Siddons.She did act on Monday but as Henry was told by the Boxkeeper that he did not think she would all the places and all the thought of it were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in Constance and  could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.

(See: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated, 25th April, 1811)

Other highlights for me were the depiction of Hester Booth, the dancer-actress, actually shown  in her stage costume as painted by John Elys circa 1772-3, which must be one of the earliest depictions of an actress in costume:

And I loved the small items of ceramics on show: Kitty Clive as The Fine Lady in Lethe from 1750

and this amazing set of  late 18th century tiles showing from the bottom up,

Mrs. Yates, Mrs. Buckley, Anne Barry and Susannah Cibber. Do note you can click on these images to enlarge them and see the details.

Though the exhibit is no longer available the book is. Go here to read my review of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition: being able to compare and contrast so many canvases in the intimate  temporary exhibition space at the NPG was a treat and a privilege. More please. Or should I say, Encore.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to visit this tiny but fascinating display at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Queen Victoria owed her whole existence to the fact that George IV’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in November 1817,and this display  is full of the images of both princesses.  The display in Room 16, next to the Regency Galleries, gave a chronological view of the short life and premature death of Princess Charlotte, her marriage, pregnancy and funeral, to be followed by the birth, early life and accession to the throne of Queen Victoria.

The small display is described on the NPG’s website as follows:

Featuring a range of portraits in wax, watercolour, and print, as well as commemorative images, it includes an engraving of Princess Charlotte’s last portrait from life by Sir Thomas Lawrence, completed posthumously. By bringing together these images, the display traces the idealised nature of the imagery used to represent a young woman in direct line to the throne at a time when the nation tired of the debauched Prince Regent’s rule.

Two of the items on show we are familiar with as I have my own copies, which I can reproduce here. The engraving of Princess Charlotte and her new husband, Prince Leopold  in their box at the theatre:

and their marriage image from the magazine La Belle Assemblee:

The other image that fascinated me were a 3-D representation of Princess Charlotte  in wax, which was I found quite bizarre, and a fabulously detailed colour representation of her torch lit funeral procession, which was of course, held at night.

The display continues to be open to the public until 9th September 2012 so if you are in the vicinity , and you want to visit the Regency Portraits, which of course, includes the only authenticated image of Jane Austen’s face known to us, then do pop into this small but exquisite display, entrance to which is free to all visitors. I can highly recommend it.

The Brighton Museum Press Office has just announced that a new exhibition on the short life of Princes Charlotte, is to be held in the sumptuous surroundings of her father’s seaside pleasure place/folly, The Royal Pavillion at Brighton. She was, of course, George IVs only legitimate child and heir presumptive to the English throne until her premature death in childbirth in 1817. As the Press Release reminds us:

A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth. Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.

The exhibition will be held for a year, from March 10th 2012 until March 10th 2013 in the Prince Regent Gallery. This is the Pavilion’s new exhibition space and was where some of the items in the Dress for Excess exhibit were on show( my last post on that exhibit will hopefully be published next week!). The exhibit will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware

Allow me to quote David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion:

“The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 “The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.

 “For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”

We have discussed the life, wedding and death of this poor Princess and her admiration for Sense and Sensibility before, here. The press release tell us that viewing the exhibition will be an opportunity to see some of the most important surviving items of clothing associated with Princes Charlotte:

Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection;(which can be seen in the portrait below-jfw),

(Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London).

Her silver and white evening gown, on loan from the Museum of London;

a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby’s shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum’s own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting.  These two gowns, above, will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, but they will be replaced in mid September

for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte’s wedding gown, above, on loan from the Royal Collection. 

It sounds fascinating, and you know that the Royal Pavillion, with its over-the-top Chinoiserie decoration is one of my favourite places. This new exhibition will be a powerful draw to Brighton, yet again, though I’m doubtful I will be able to get there to see it in person this year due to other commitments. If any of you do go please let us know your thoughts!

I was very kindly invited to an evening at the Lyme Regis Museum recently, to celebrate a very important gift ( or, more correctly, a series of gifts) that have been made to the Museum’s collection by Diana Shervington.

©The Philpott Museum Lyme Regis

Diana, pictured at the evening, above, is, as you know, descended doubly from Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight,( booth her grandmothers were his grand-daughters) and she has given many a talk at the museum using Austen family relics to illustrate them.  She has now decided to donate these items to the museum permanently, and they will be on show there as part of the permanent collection.

©The Philpott Museum Lyme Regis

The items she so generously donated include those in the photograph above: spectacles and their case which both belonged to Mrs Austen, Jane Austen’s mother; a set of “spilkins” a game at which Jane Austen excelled according to The Memoir of her written by her nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh;

Jane Austen was successful in everything that she attempted with her fingers. None of us could throw spilikins in so perfect a circle, or take them off with so steady a hand.

Chapter 5

A set of bone counters inscribed with the alphabet rather like the ones mentioned in the word game section of Chapter 41 of  Emma,and some gaming fish.

She also donated some bone counters and a box for the game of “Merelles”; a kerchief with lace edging and a very lovely and fine lace cap worn by ladies indoors during Jane Austen’s era. Go here to see all the items and read about the evening which I sadly could not attend due to previous commitments.

So…this very generous donation now gives us all another excuse to visit that lovely town in Dorset, with its remarkable situation:

… the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing-machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood.

Persuasion, Chapter 11.

and it is, of course, where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s love began to revive, and where Jane Austen herself appeared to have been so happy attending balls at the Assembly Rooms and renting Mr Pynes house.

I should like to thank the Museum for permission to use their lovely images in this post. 

A post I wrote about the Jane Austen Exhibition in Winchester Cathedral recently has been very popular, and I thought you all might like to know a little more about the artist who created the watercolours for it. So I asked Laura Haines, if she would mind giving us an interview about them and her attitude/thought processes regarding the work. Laura very kindly agreed to be inexpertly interviewed by me, and so here it is. (Her responses are italicised).


When I spotted the light boxes containing your wonderful illustrations in Winchester Cathedral recently I was very impressed. Can you let us know some more about the process of creating them?  Can you let us know what was the brief from the Cathedral?

The overall brief was to create four illustrations highlighting different points in Jane Austen’s life – starting with the Steventon church of St Nicholas, moving on to Bath, Chawton and later College Street, Winchester.  I completed preparatory sketches to give myself an idea of the composition of the images.  The text and pictures would then be laid out by a designer and placed inside the light boxes, and set out as 3D displays, hopefully having more of an impact than flat display boards.

2) Do you know why you were chosen?

I had done previous heritage themed illustration work for the Cathedral in a display about pests in the Cathedral library (hungry things like clothes moths, carpet beetle and silverfish!).  Part of the display involved an interactive element where visitors could design their own bugs, and there was a competition for the children to do this – which was very hard to judge as they were all good!  I have a real love for old buildings (especially from the 18th and 19th century) and local history and have previously done paintings for Kingston Museum in London, recording old buildings of historical note before they were demolished or renovated.  I also have a love of writing and reading and I was really keen to get to know Jane Austen’s work better and to do some research about her life and the places where she lived.

3) Can you describe the process you underwent when creating these pictures?

I generally create preparatory sketches where I can work out the composition before completing the final image.  I created the separate parts of the image on watercolour paper (painted using acrylics, pencil, conté crayon and watercolours) which were then scanned in and placed together on Photoshop – this meant that changes could be made easily and components taken away or added.  This is also better as it means I am quicker with my work, and I find that painting quickly makes the images more successful than when I take too long on them.

4) The illustrations are 3-D. How did this make the creative process different from creating two-dimensional pictures?

The images were designed almost a little like a pop-up theatre as it makes them stand out more to the viewer (literally!).  The various paintings were created separately and then parts were cut out on Photoshop (for example the people), rather than creating images that were all on one page and then put onto a flat display.  It is harder to create a 3D display as it is tricky to picture it until it has all been completed.  I didn’t use miniature pop up models in this case, but they can be useful sometimes to work out the composition.

5) How did you research the four places- Steventon, Bath, Chawton, Winchester- used in the exhibition?

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Steventon, Chawton and Winchester with Elizabeth Proudman, (a Winchester City Guide specialising in Jane Austen tours-jfw), who gave me some fascinating background information and Charlotte Barnaville of Winchester Cathedral  who drove us to the various sites. Elizabeth wrote the text for my illustrations.  I used to live near Bath and so I had been to the city many times and had some old photos I could use as inspiration.  I took new photographs from different angles of the various buildings (all except Bath) such as Steventon Church and then used my imagination to create the rest and to compose the scenes of different elements.  It was great to be able to see the site where Jane Austen first lived at Steventon and quite poignant that the house was no longer there.

6) What research into Jane Austen’s life did you undertake before and during the commission? Did you read (or re-read) any of her works? If so, which ones?


I became very interested in Jane Austen’s work and read ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’, which I both thoroughly enjoyed.  I haven’t read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but am very familiar with the story from television adaptations and films, though of course these sometimes stray from the original story!  I hope to read more Jane Austen in the future!

7) Were you a fan of Jane Austen before the commission? If not, are you now?

I was a fan of Jane Austen beforehand, but I was not very familiar with her work.  My sister studied her at school for her English GCSE, but we mostly looked at Shakespeare!  I am definitely now a fan having read some of her work.  I found it very witty and uplifting and I looked forward to reading it in the evenings.


Thank you so much, Laura for taking such trouble with your replies. I found reading them fascinating for the detailed  insights into your working process. Laura’s work is very fine,and I confess to be hankering after her painting of Silbury Hill. Do go and look at her paintings on her website as I’m sure you will enjoy them. And it is lovely to know she is a convert to Jane too ;)

Last week I paid another pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral.  As you no doubt know, she is buried in the North Aisle of the Cathedral, shown below,

…under a ledgerstone etched with the now familiar words written by her brother, Henry Austen.

The stone is by the brass plaque which was installed  in 1870, and was paid for from the proceeds of her nephew, Edward Austen Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt, and also by the memorial window, above the plaque, paid for by public subscription in 1900.

Winchester Cathedral has recently added some explanatory displays on Jane Austen’s life and her connections with the Cathedral, in the form of rather beautiful, ethereal 3-D effect light boxes, and I really want to share them with you here.  The boxes are simple but very lovely, set in blue ‘cupboards” complete with words written by Elizabeth Proudman, a Winchester Guide who has a special interest in the life of Jane Austen, and with watercolour  illustrations by the artist, Laura Haines.

There are four of them and they stand very unobtrusively near to Jane Austen’s Grave. The first illustrates Jane Austen’s early life in Steventon:

You can enlarge all the photographs in this post by clicking on them and I do recommend you do it to get the full effect of these lovely illustrations. The text gives a simple but accurate outline of Jane Austen’s early life:

Jane Austen was born on the 16th December 1775 in the parsonage house in Steventon near Basingstoke in Hampshire, where her father was Rector. The house no longer stands but you can still visit the little church where the family prayed each week and see the scattered rural community where she grew up…..

The Second Box deals with Jane’s time in Bath, showing her sitting on the banks of the Avon near to the Pulteney Bridge:

In 1801 Jane’s father,  Rev. George Austen, decided to retire and move the family to Bath where he had met and married Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh. Everything was sold ,even Jane’s books and her piano, and they left her beloved countryside to live in town…

The third box’s subject is Chawton:

This shows Jane Austen in the famed Donkey Cart, which she disliked using, and Chawton Cottage, now the Jane Austen’s House Museum:

…it is this house which we know as Jane Austen’s house today, where she lived for the last eight years of her life, and where she became a great writer. Upstairs she shared a bedroom with her beloved Cassandra and in the dining room she could write,  covering her work with a piece of blotting paper to avoid inquisitive eyes. ..

The fourth and last light box shows the house in College Street, just outside the Cathedral Close,  where Jane Austen died in 1817:

On 24th May 1817, Jane Austen said goodbye to her mother in Chawton, and she and Cassandra drove the 16 miles in pouring rain to Winchester. There were good doctors in Winchester and they hoped her illness could be cured. They took comfortable lodgings near the Cathedral in Mrs. David’s house at 8 College Street where Cassandra nursed her….

There can now be no confusion as to “who that lady is?” This was of course the famous question asked by a Verger of the cathedral to a visitor who wanted to visit Jane Austen’s tomb in  1850. I think it is a rather beautiful, unobtrusive  and very clever way of giving an accurate, interesting and visually pleasing display about Jane Austen’s life. Bravo Winchester Cathedral for having the imagination to make this small exhibit such a beautiful and fitting one.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Le Faye, as above,  page 30)

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

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

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

Persuasion, Chapter 8

and the place where Colonel Brandon saw active service;

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

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31.

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

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

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

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

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