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Today we visit the last of the rooms in George IV’s seaside folly, The Kings Private Apartments of the  Royal Pavilion at Brighton. His set of private apartments were originally to be found  on the first or Chamber floor, as we discovered in our last post in this series. However, as he aged, the King became rather fat and infirm.  Afflicted with gout, he found it increasingly difficult to negotiate climbing the stairs in the Gallery.  And so, in 1819 while he was still Prince Regent, he had John Nash create a new suite of rooms for him on the ground floor.

The rooms, which overlooked the gardens to the entrance front of the Pavilion, were a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the rest of the Pavilion, filled, as it was, with servants and guests. You can see the position of the rooms on this section of the ground floor plan of the Pavilion:

There are three rooms in the suite,  indicated by the three red arrows: The Kings Bedroom, his Private Library and Anteroom.

This is a photograph I took of the entrance front earlier this year,

and the King’s Apartments are to be found behind this screen, to the left of the porte-cochere:

This is a temporary screen while renovations to the stone work are being carried out.

The King’s Private Apartments are, stylistically, decorated in a  somewhat restrained manner, certainly when compared to the rest of the Pavilion. All three rooms are wallpapered in the same wallpaper,and this give the rooms a unifying feeling of peace and space. This is John Nash’s water-colour of the King’s Bedroom as it appeared in the 1820s (which can be enlarged if you care to click on it).

You can see the cooling and restful effect of the wallpaper. The design is still in the Chinoiserie style but it is more restrained .It conisits of pale pink dragons on a green ground. It was designed by Robert Jones. The bedroom still had enough luxuries to keep George IV in the style of which he had become accustomed: the desk is French and was once owned by Napoleon, England’s defeated adversary. There were three gib doors concealed in the walls of the room: one led from the fireplace wall to the Kings Bathroom, an innovation in the early 19th century to have possess a  room designated speifically for bathing. This room had a very large marble tub which was 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, and  which was filled with salt water taken from the sea and supplied to the  Pavilion by an ingenious series of pipes and pumping machinery. The two other gib doors led very different places. The first to the valet’s staircase and would have been used by the Princes’ valet. The other, more controversially, led to a small staircase which communicated directly with Lady Conynham’s apartments on the Chamber room floor, which were  directly above the King’s apartments. These of course, enabled the King’s mistress to visit him in privacy…I’m sure Jane Austen,who detested the Prince of Wales for his lax morals among other matters, would not have approved of this at all!

The Private Library and Anteroom lead from the King’s Bedroom: this is the view from the bedroom into the two other rooms:

Both these rooms were decorated with  a slightly different version of Robert Jones’ dragon damask wallpaper- it has a different border design across the top of the paper, as you can see from Nash’s watercolour,below, especially if you click on it and enlarge it:

You can see the pattern of the wallpaper more clearly in this picture below (and also see the delicate detail of the fan-vaulted columns):

My favourite aspect of these rooms are the beautiful sky ceilings…At this point in the early nineteenth century, libraries were used as the main living rooms in the homes of the rich. As Humphrey Repton noted  in 1816, The modern custom is to use the library as the general living-room. George IV inherited his father’s love of books. He gave most of his father’s scientific and topographical books to the British Museum,but he collected, instead, many many thousands of volumes of literature. I wonder if his set of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, which she reluctantly dedicated to him, were kept in this room?

The rooms had another unifying feature: nearly all the ornaments displayed in the rooms have a colour scheme of black and gold.

My poor picture, above, shows a wall light in carved, ebonised and gilt wood, which was  designed by that most influential arbiter of Regency taste in interior design, Thomas Hope (more on him next year!). The wall lamp dates from 1807. Here is a more detailed picture of it:

A similar design  was in fact included in his influential book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration,which was first published in 1807. Here is the frontispiece of that book, below:

And here is his design for a Drawing-Room, again, taken from my copy of that book:

You can clearly see the wall lights, which are very similar in style to those in the King’s apartments. Here is a close up for you to compare:

And that ends our tour of the Pavilion..or nearly so. The  Prince Regent Gallery is a new room in the Pavillion: an exhibition space where objects related to the King can be displayed to the public. My next two posts will deal with the current display; the first with details of  some of George IV’s fascinating clothes, the second will detail some items of clothing associated with his coronation, which have not been seen in public for many, many years. Do join me.

The National Portrait Gallery in London’s new exhibit,  The First Actresses  opens tomorrow and runs until the 8th January 2012. I hope I will be going to see it soon. I will ,of course, then let you know my impressions of it( you would be hard pressed to restrain me!). But today I thought you might like to read about the book that accompanies the exhibition, and you might consider purchasing it, especially if you cannot visit the exhibit in London in person.

The exhibition seeks to examine how these first actresses were portrayed, not only in the large-scale portrait but in caricatures, in prints  and on such diverse goods as china figures and tin glazed tiles, and how perceptions of  their reputations changed as a result. The book contains interesting essays on the lives of these early actresses. Of course, it has to be remembered that it was only after the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II (my hero!) in 1660 that women were allowed to become professional actress and appear on the stage. The way in which their reputations, good or ill, have been portrayed by artists is certainly an intriguing subject to examine in detail.  Many actresses were associated with lax morals and, indeed, outright prostitution. During Jane Austen’s era Sarah Siddons sought to establish a more serious, responsible and respectable persona for the female branch of the profession. But, of course, she shared the stage with actresses like Mary Robinson, shown above on the cover of the book, who was The Prince of Wales’ mistress, and  Dorothea Jordan, shown below in a portrait by  John Russell dating from 1801. She was famous for her marvellous pair of legs, revealed to the adoring public in “breeches roles” where cross dressing was allowed, even encouraged. She was also the long term mistress of the Duke of Clarence, the Prince of Wales’ brother, who pretty swiftly disposed of her servicesin the race to produce a legitimate hero to the throne after the death of George IV’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte in  November 1817, but only after she had bourne him ten children and supported him financially.

The great serious portrait , executed by an aspiring or famous artist and exhibited in public was one way in which actresses sought to convince the public that they were to be taken seriously. John Hoppner’s portrait of Mrs Jordan as the Comic Muse, below,  failed miserably in this regard as the attitude in which she was painted  was thought to be  too salacious and  many hostile reviews resulted. The great portrait was, for both parties involved, a two-way street. If it worked, not only did the actress enhance her reputation but  the artist gained fame and possibly more commissions as a result of portraying a celebrity successfully. Plus ca change….

The book contains potted biographies of the sitters included in the exhibition. The portrait of Mrs Inchblad, below, attributed to John Hoppner, is new to me and I think it is fabulous. She was, of course, not only an author in her own right but was also  the translator of Kotzebue’s play, Lover’s Vows, which Jane Austen used to spectacular and revealing dramatic effect in the Private Theatricals episode in  Mansfield Park.

 The Chapter entitled Star Systems Then and Now written by Gill Perry is perhaps my favourite section of the book. As well as considering actresses now and how they are portrayed by artists and photographers,  Gill Perry examines how non-professionals who took part in The Itch for Acting– private theatricals – an itch which infected the society in which Jane Austen lived, were portrayed by artists and the media of the day.

The painting by Daniel Gardner of The Three Witches from Macbeth, shows Elizabeth, Vicountess Melbourne, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Seymour Damer, as they appeared at the Richmond House private theatricals which were hosted by the Duke of Richmond at his London home in a specially built theatre, and where its aristocratic cast were coached by the professional actress Elizabeth Farren. She went on to marry one of them, the Earl of Derby.

Jane Austen  loved the theatre and was an acute critic of performances she attended in London and in Southampton.She would have enjoyed this book tremendously I’m sure, casting her critical eye over the many portraits, making caustic comments on them no doubt.

You ought to know that the NPG is currently offering the book at a reduced price currently: here is a link to the website should you wish to buy it from them directly, and take advantage of this offer. If you are interested in the theatre of Jane Austen’s era, then I am sure you will want to do so.

There are quite a few examples of talented female artists in Jane Austen’s novels. Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is portrayed as a girl who could both play instruments and execute good paintings and drawings:

The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained to be shewn. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy’s in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.

Chapter 43

And in Sense and Sensiblity it is Elinor who is the artist. Marianne plays the piano with passion, but the more emotionally restrained Elinor paints. Her drawings decorate the walls of the sitting room at Barton Cottage, and she, very kindly given all the circumstances, painted some screens for her dreadful sister-in-law,Fanny, which were nastily dismissed by the equally foul Mrs Ferrars:

 Before her removing from Norland, Elinor had painted a very pretty pair of screens for her sister-in-law, which being now just mounted and brought home, ornamented her present drawing room; and these screens, catching the eye of John Dashwood on his following the other gentlemen into the room, were officiously handed by him to Colonel Brandon for his admiration.

   “These are done by my eldest sister,” said he; “and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well.”

   The Colonel, though disclaiming all pretensions to connoisseurship, warmly admired the screens, as he would have done anything painted by Miss Dashwood; and the curiosity of the others being of course excited, they were handed round for general inspection. Mrs. Ferrars, not aware of their being Elinor’s work, particularly requested to look at them; and after they had received the gratifying testimony of Lady Middleton’s approbation, Fanny presented them to her mother, considerately informing her at the same time, that they were done by Miss Dashwood.

   “Hum” — said Mrs. Ferrars — “very pretty,” — and without regarding them at all, returned them to her daughter.

Chapter 34

So…the question naturally arises, what might these painting, by these accomplished ladies, have looked like? We have some examples that have survived from the early 19th century before us to examine. First, Diana Spurling’s quirky watercolours of life with her family in Regency Essex, as collected in the book, Mrs Hurst Dancing. Here we see her mother, Mrs Spurling and her accomplice , the maid,  murdering flies:

And we have the evidence of  a talented child’s efforts in the book,  A Picture History of the Grenville Family of Rosedale House, which contains the work of Mary Yelloly. She documented the lives of the members of her fictional family, the Grenvilles. Mary painted these interesting watercolours from the age  of eight to 11 years. Astonishing.

But there were more technically gifted examples, and I do like to think that both Elinor and Georgiana were artists of the more professionally accomplished kind. Certainly Georgiana would  have and the opportunity of being instructed by the best masters while living in Town. her brother would no doubt have seen to that. And possibly this would have been the situation with Elinor, until the Dashwood’s wealthy life style ended with the death of their father. Some examples of the best possible watercolours executed by accomplished ladies is currently on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is a small but exquisite display of botanical watercolours by Pierre-Joseph Redoute and his pupils, the kind of small but perfectly formed event that Fitzwilliam excels at producing on a regular basis.

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

Redoute is of course well-known for his watercolours of roses and lilies, commissioned by the Empress Josephine, and it is interesting to note that he was also patronised by Queen Marie Antoinette prior to the Revolution. His works  have become almost ubiquitous, and his Rosa Mundi rose, seen below, has been used on countless greetings cards and framed on many a bed and breakfast/hotel wall. As a result it is very easy to no longer “see” them as the exquisite works of art they are. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

However , the opportunity to rediscover these paintings by Redoute redresses this jaded view: his works on display in this exhibit are simply breath-taking. The skill on display is astounding. But I was most  intrigued to discover that, in addition to producing such beautiful watercolours, he also ran a school of painting in Paris. In 1822 he became Paintre du Roi, and began teaching members of the d’Orleans family as well as other students from Paris and from overseas. His school was based in the sale de Buffon in the Jardin des Plantes, and you can see him teaching, standing in the centre of the illustration  below:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

Note the overwhelming number of women students…Some were members of the Royal family or were aristocrats. This watercolour of a bunch of summer flowers is an example of the work of Eugenie-Adelaide-Louise d’Orleans, the sister of King Louis-Phillipe:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

But some students were more ordinary souls. This delicate watercolour of camellias was executed by one Sarah Bray:

©Fitzwilliam Museum,Cambridge

Sarah was an Englishwoman. Born in Sunderland she exhibited watercolors of flowers at the Royal Academy in 1821, but by 1835 she was the headmistress of a boarding school at Chaillot where she died in 1842.

If you can get to this exhibit, which closes on October 30th, then do. Entrance to it and the rest of the museum is free. A small but exquisite catalogue of the exhibits, with fascinating biographical details of the artists is available from the museum’s shop.  I would have happily paid to see these rare and exquisite examples of the work of amateur men and more importantly, women from nearly all classes who were painting, like Elinor Dashwood and Georgiana Darcy, in the early 19th century. It was  a rare opportunity to discover exactly what sort of work they may have been capable of producing.

If anyone was in doubt of Jane Austen’s continuing appeal, they only have to look at the proliferation, this year, of costume exhibits that try to recreate the clothes of her era. Here at Austenonly we have seen part of Dress for Excess exhibit at the Brighton Pavilion, and Fairfax House in York  is also to hold an exhibition of “Revolutionary” clothing in the autumn.

Now visitors to Liverpool’s Sudley House Museum are in for a treat- they are staging a costume exhibit which will feature men and women’s  fashion from 1790- 1850. The exhibit,  which is free to all visitors, will be held  from  8th July  2011 to the 7th  May 2012. IThe Museum hopes the exhibit will appeal to readers of Jane Austen and Mrs Gaskell…..from the photographic evidence, I don’t doubt it.

The Curator of the exhibit,  Pauline Rushton,  seen above with two dresses from the 1840 and 1850s, and below with a dress dating from 1810, said of the exhibit:

“We cover the period from 1790 to 1850 so it’s about a 60 year span and during that time there were a lot of changes in costume in terms of the style, as you would expect. There were political changes going on, economic changes and many social changes where people were rising through the social levels and fashion was filtering down for the first time.”

Liverpool was of course one of the great West Coast ports associated with the triangular Slave Trade, and the city amassed much wealth from the profits of that trade. The costumes on show reflect that wealth, proudly displayed by its citizens.  I often wonder if the heiress that got away ,Mary King in Pride and Prejudice, had any associations with the trade, her  uncle hailing from Liverpool as he did…..

If you go here you can see six more examples of the dresses on display : I adore the black evening dress made of net….I do hope some of you are able to visit this exhibit which looks lovely. And is free!

In this fifth part of our journey around the Royal Pavilion , Brighton, George IVs pleasure palace, which would no doubt have been an object of scorn for Jane Austen , as averse to him as she most decidedly was……we are now nearing the end of the tour of the rooms on the Steyne Front on the ground floor. (You can see the ground-plan of the Pavilion, above).  After leaving the Banqueting Gallery, we move into the Saloon, which is the central room on the facade, numbered “1” in red on the ground-plan above.

This room was being restored when I visited, and so to see the interior we shall take a look at another of the watercolours by John Nash, the Prince Regent’s favoured architect. This is his  view of the room as it appeared in the 1820s.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This room was originally decorated in the Chinoiserie style but from the 1820s it took on a different character, and was re-decorated in the Indian style.  The gilded canopies above the wall panels, the overmantle mirrors and above the curtains are all derived from Mogul architecture. The scheme was designed by Robert Jones.

This room leads directly into the Music Room Gallery, seen below. Again this room has undergone many changes in style: it was first divided into two rooms-aneating room and a library. This was when the Pavilion took the form of the Marine Pavilion, designed by Henry Holland in the 1780s. The room was then made into its current large size and the dividing wall was removed. It was decorated in the Chinoiserie style in 1803. It was then used as a billiards room. It then underwent another change and  was decorated in the Egyptian Style. Accordingly  it was known as the Egyptian Gallery. But in 1815 the Prince reverted to type and Chinoiserie again was designated as the theme for the room, and in 1821 it was eventually decorated in the style we see today and in Nash’s watercolour, below.

The elegant columns are made of cast iron and support the floor above. Some of the furniture from the Chinese Drawing Room in Carlton House in London, the place Jane Austen visited in 1815, made its way here before that building was demolished. .This room was often used for small musical gatherings.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

It is in this room that some of the Dress for Excess costumes are on display.  A lady’s pelisse circa 1825…

And here is a better picture of it, remember you can enlarge all these photographs simply by clicking on them…..

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Here is a close-up of the front detail of the pelisse

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

and here is a close-up photograph of the shoulder detail. I love the covered button detail……

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Also on display was a very elaborate spencer made of fine silk

and a uniform worn at the Battle of Waterloo……which is quite ironic as the Prince Regent was so impressed by the Allies victory at Waterloo in 1815 that by the end of  his life he had convinced himself that he was actually there taking part. Which he decidedly was not.


Next in this series, the magnificent Music Room.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Sarah Siddons birth in 1755. She is  shown below in a portrait by Opie, and so it is an appropriate opportunity to give you advance notice of an exhibition that would surely appeal to Jane Austen. The National Portrait Gallery in London  will be staging The First Actresses: from Nell Gwynn to Sarah Siddons  from the 230th October 2011 till the 8th January 2012.

The exhibition will examine the portraits and careers of actresses from the Restoration, when they were first legally allowed to appear on the professional stage to the early part of the 19th century. So, the exhibition will present information on and portraits of actresses such as Nell Gwynn, the Covent Garden orange seller, comedian and royal mistress of Charles II, through to Sarah Siddons, the most famous actress of the Georgian era, whose performances were said to be so intense that a co-star was once said to have been rendered speechless, while members of the audience fainted in awe. Jane Austen would have loved to have had the opportunity to do so: she was desperate to see Mrs Siddons perform but never quite managed it…though she was close on a few occasions.

The exhibition will feature portraits of 52 actresses, including Dorothea Jordan, renowned for her sweet nature, fabulous legs (she was famed for her “breeches ” roles, that is playing boys and young men) and for bearing 10 children by the Duke of Clarence, the future William IV. She is shown below,

and she was a favourite of both Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra:

I think you judge very wisely in putting off your London visit, and I am mistaken if it be not put off for some time. You speak with such noble resignation of Mrs. Jordan and the Opera House, that it would be an insult to suppose consolation required…
(Letter to  Cassandra Austen dated January 8, 1801)

It will also feature Mary Robinson, the actress and poet and yet another royal mistress, this time of the Prince of Wales, shown below in a portrait by John Hoppner, which is now owned by Chawton House Library;

© Chawton House Library, Hampshire

and Elizabeth Inchbald, who retired from acting and became a successful playwright, and whose version of Kotzebue’s Lovers Vows was used  spectacularly by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park to highlight the essential nature and ambitions of the main characters in her novel.

The portraits will include works by  Gainsborough, Reynolds, Hogarth and the caricaturist Gillray, so it will be a visual feast. I cannot wait to see it, for I am, as you are only too well aware, as enamoured of the 18th century theatre as was our Miss Austen.

This exhibition will have many resonances for readers of Jane Austen’s novels and letters, so once I have visited it I will be reporting back, of that you can be assured.

In this post, the fourth in this series, we are going to concentrate on only one room in the Pavilion at Brighton, The Banqueting Gallery.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This was the room used by the Prince of Wales’ guests after they had finished dining in the Banqueting Room. The ladies would first withdraw to the Red Drawing Room, below…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

marked 3 in red on the ground-plan of the rooms, below.

This room is not normally accessible to the public on the usual tour, as it is the room used for civil wedding ceremonies held at the Pavilion. The  ladies would then move back to the Banqueting Gallery, number 2 on the plan, when the gentlemen had left the Banqueting Room after their political and probably rowdy discussions. This room is marked number 1 on the plan.

Above is Nash’s View of the Gallery as it was in the 1820s, and you can see that it is very similar today, after the restoration projects of the 1950s and onwards. The Brussels weave carpet is particularly striking. If you enlarge the image ( which you can do by clicking on it-as you can for all the images in this post) you can just see the torcheres in the Banqueting Room which were made by Spode, in imitation of Servres,especially for the Prince’s quite overpowering dining room.

An interesting point is that this room, the Banqueting Gallery, encompasses the space that was all the original farmhouse , which in turn became part of the Princes’s Marine Villa and which finally and magnificently morphed into the Pavilion that we know now.

This is the first room in the Pavilion that contains clothes in the Dress for Excess exhibition. My photographs are, sadly, quite poor: the light levels in the room are understandably kept very low and there is only ambient artificial lighting. But the very kind staff at the Pavilion,  particularly Ellie Taylor, have arranged for me to use some of their professional photographs of the costumes, in order that you can see the details more clearly.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The first costume we see is a gentleman’s suit, made of fine silk, dating from circa 1760.

Here you can see it, along with a sack dress of the same era, in the setting of the Banqueting Gallery.

The sack dress was made of delicately embroidered silk…..

Here is the reverse view , showing the back detail

This photograph shows some of the detialing on the bodice….

I am always amazed at the tiny proportions of the gentlemen’s suits of this era: this one is rather small, and you would probably need to be a British size 6 woman to fit into it…

At the other end of the Gallery were some more costumes to view

Below is a Dandy’s outfit from circa 1825

This was accompanied by a very beautiful shawl backed dress circa 1790….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

And finally a white muslin dress with white on white embroidered detail and lace dating from 1825….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

These pictures of the shawl backed dress show the detail of the beautiful fabric used….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

If you click on them( and indeed any of the photographs in this post) they will open in a separate window and enlarge so you can see the detail.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The small sleeves are exquisitely made…..

It is interesting to be able to compare the two dress styles – only 30 years apart , but vastly different…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

If you enlarge this picture , above,you can see the lace and embroidery in some detail….

Next, some more costumes and the magnificent Music Room.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

In our last full post we studied  the exterior of that magical building,The Royal Pavilion at Brighton. A place Jane Austen would have truly detested for its associations with the Prince Regent, but still….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Today we are going to begin our tour of the interior. At this point I should sincerely like to thank, Sue Bishop and Ellie Taylor of the Royal Pavillion staff for all their help with my visit. Poor Ellie had to guide me around the Pavilion, and became my unofficial sherper bearer for the duration of my visit, carrying my heavy bags and coat to free me up for photography. The photographs I took were not of the highest standard. It is very , VERY rare to be granted permission to photograph the interior of the Pavilion and of course flash photography is not allowed. As you can see from the pervious posts, the day I visited was the darkest day of the year, and so ,even though these photographs were taken at noon, they tend to be rather dark. Ellie has rather wonderfully given me permission to use some of the Brighton Museums own photographs of the interior of the Pavillion and I will share them with you here as they do give a clear impression of the stunningly beautiful interiors to be found in the Pavilion.

Because the interiors are so special and unique I thought we’d take our time over our virtual trip and today and in our next post we shall visit some of the ground floor rooms and  then we will see some of the costumes on show on the ground floor. To help orientate you as we go on our tour, here, below,  is a close up of the ground plan of the Pavillion:

and here is it annotated in red with the route we are going to take today:  rooms numbers 1-4.

When you enter the Pavilion, you first enter a porte-cochere, ( number 1 in red on the plan) then the Octogon Hall,(number 2 in red on the plan)  so called because it has eight sides. Here you get the first intimation of the magnificent chinoiserie rooms that await you. Though the hall is quite plain compared with the rest of the building, it does have tiny bells that hang from the ceiling canopy …that would have tinkled in the breeze from the door….and a beautiful Chinese inspired glass lantern…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

It gives you a tiny intimation of what delights are to come. I have seen this room described as being like a charming garden pavilion in its own right , and I do think that is the impression it gives. The watercolour reproduced above was one from a book commissioned by the Prince Regent from John Nash, his architect, to commemorate the rooms in his wonderfully fantastical palace.He used to give away copies to every favoured guest….do enlrage the images to see the exquisite detail.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This is how the room looks like is not much changed, the bells still hanging from the ceiling and the burnished brass fireplace gleaming a very cheerful greeting to any visitors who had been ushered in here by the royal footmen. The room  also gives a glimpse into the next room, marked number 3 in red on the plan, the Entrance Hall proper…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This is Nash’s view of it in the 1820s. If you enlarge it you can see some privileged visitor arriving by carriage, a view through to the porte-cochere through the Octagon Hall.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This is how the room appears today. It still has its beautiful screen of painted glass and Chinese lanterns,and its decorating scheme of jade green

it is interesting to note that this room has always been carpeted. A departure from the norm, for most grand halls of great homes in the early nineteenth century had floors made of stone or marble. The Prince Regent was having none of that in his pleasure palace. He wanted comfort….and he got it.

This beautiful jade room then led to one of the most outstanding rooms in the Pavilion, the Long Gallery. This is numbered 4 on the plan above.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This is how it appeared in the 1820s again in a watercolour by Nash. The decorations were created by that famous Regency decorator Frederick Crace. Though its primary use was as a corridor linking the main rooms, you can see from the books and furniture on show- the ivoery veneered Chippendale style chairs were brough by the Prince Regent from the sale of his mother,Queen Charlotte’s effects after her death in 1819- it also functioned as a very pleasant room, lit from above and by the splendid Chinese glass lanterns.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

A lovely touch is that there are now gas fires lit in every fireplace in the Pavilion, giving the impression of life and  also adding some warmth for the attendants and visitors on cold wintery days.

The Long Gallery was used as a route from the Banqueting room to the Music Room , where after dinner entertainments were held. But before we go to the Banqueting room, lets visit below stair to the Great Kitchen.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This is Nash’s view of the room.And as you can clearly see it is a wonderfully practical and large kitchen( appropriately enough for the Prince who had a prodigious appetite) but that it also is in keeping with the exotically themed building: the cast iron columns supporting the roof are made in the form of palm leaves.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The Prince Regent often showed his visitors around the Pavilion himself and took great delight in taking them to visit his whimsical but up to the minute kitchen. The Comtesse de Boigne recorded that

“If he (the Prince Regent-jfw) happened to meet any newcomers to the Pavilion, he took great delight in showing them over the palace himself, a special point being his kitchens, which were entirely steam heated by a system at that time new,with which he was charmed”

He employed many of the great chefs of the day here, most famously the French chef, Marie-Antoine Careme.

You can see the good ventilation in this room- something a lot of Georgian kitchen were without.

The magnificent roasting spits were powered by smoke jacks

There is still, in one corner the largest mortar and pestle I have ever seen

and every modern convenicne…General Tilney would have no doubt approved..

Next we go into the small but fascinating Pages Room and then the Oriental splendour of the Banqueting Room. Do join me!

You may recall that a few months ago I went to see the Dress for Excess Exhibit at the magical Brighton Royal Pavilion. This is the Chinoiserie filled and Orientally inspired seaside home of the Prince of Wales in Brighton and was the centre of the fashionable Regency world. Before we go inside to see the interiors and the clothes on display, I think it might be helpful to have a post on the Pavillion itself and its history. Today we shall look at the exteriors and the development of this most extraordinary building.

When Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and had the wayward Lydia Bennet going quite wild in Brighton with all its attendant temptations, the Prince of Wales’ home there was at first a completely different, comparatively simple building than the one we know now. (Do remember all the images in this post can be enlarged, simply by clicking on them,and you can see all the delicious detail if you do…)

The building, at first, was merely a “very superior farmhouse” and consisted only of the building to the left of the illustration. In 1787 Henry Holland was commissioned to add the rotunda in the centre, which contained the Saloon, and then another extension, seen on the right,  to echo the original farmhouse. At this point it was known as the Marine Villa. The ground plan, above, shows what happened to it when it was enlarged in 1801-1802.

The exact point at which the Prince began to Orientalise the building is still a matter of debate, but it was probably after 1815. In any event John Nash, shown here, below,  painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence,

(©The Principal,Fellows and Scholars of Jesus College,Oxford)

gradually aggrandized the building and in 1821,  this, below, is how it appeared. You can see the ground plan of the pavilion, the dome shaped stable and riding school and the grounds, all  built along the Steyne in the centre of Brighton.

And here is a map of Brighton from 1823, showing the position of the pavilion:

built at right angles to the sea …

Here is the entrance front of the Pavilion as it appeared in the early 1820s

and this is the Steyne front, again in the early 1820s:

And now, having set the scene, for my photographs, taken on the darkest day in the spring!, but still….let’s look at them…

The magnificent entrance front…..

The pavilion is now painted a cream/stone colour,  but in my childhood in the 1960s it was painted a rather bright shade of aqua blue with the details picked out in white like a wedding cake…..

The onion domes are a feature of the building

and have been used on the later additions,such as this one on the gate leading  to the Steyne…

The outside of this fantastical palace gathers its inspiration from India: this is part of the entrance front, and you can clearly see the influence in the shape of the windows and their tracery….

The Stables and Riding school, can be seen from the entrance front….

and are set within the gardens that were designed by Humphrey Repton. The view back towards the Pavilion shows the jumble of domes and minarets…

Passing onto the Steyne front 

we see the magnificent, symmetrical facade with its jali screens,

dominated by the central onion dome over the saloon

This front is simply a tour de force…

and here is a short video showing you the whole of the facade

I do apologise for the traffic noise, but it was a very busy day in Brighton.

Next, the interiors and the costumes.

I received my copy of this book as part of my Mothering Sunday haul of books last weekend ( You didn’t expect I would receive flowers, did you? Not in this household…) It is, of course, the catalogue to a rather intriguing costume exhibition that was held last year in Milan.

Cristina Baretto and Martin Lancaster, independent researchers and textile consultants of the Napoleonic period, have collected clothing from that era (1795-1815) for many years. They wanted to stage an exhibition of their costumes, all perfectly accessorized, in order to explain why this style of clothing was adopted in France and what influenced its development and spread; they also wanted to exhibit a variety of clothes, as worn by the different echelons of society in order to put into the context the reason why this fashion was so revolutionary.  The resulting exhibition, Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion, showcased fifty-one of their magnificent items after they had first been fully restored to pristine condition. The object of the restoration was to have them appear as they would have done when they were first made, over 200 years ago. I’m not sure whether this is the politically correct thing to do, but you have to admit, from the photographic evidence in this catalogue, that the results are breath-taking. And the chapter on the restoration in the catalogue makes for fascinating reading. A new mannequin was also commissioned for the exhibition ( one that looks very like the actor, Phoebe Nichols, shown below, who played Elizabeth Elliot in Nick Dear’s Persuasion, to me…)

The new mannequin was ordered so that the clothes could appear to their best advantage, by being worn by a model whose body shape reflected the measurements of ladies of the era, all taken from the clothing and,  further, who looked as if she was wearing the corsets/undergarments  of the day. Using this new mannequin meant that something akin to the original effect of these clothes could be achieved.

The catalogue has,  apart from magnificent and plentiful reproductions of the clothes in the exhibition themselves, many reproductions of fashion plates of the day, mostly taken from the Journal des Dames at des Modes and Costume Parisien. These are  also  from the Lancaster /Barreto collection.

From comparing the examples of both clothing and prints you can see very clearly how the designs were interpreted by the dressmakers and subsequently worn by their customers.

There are interesting chapters on men’s clothing in the period, with the emphasis on the growth of tailoring, and how early 19th century men’s clothes eventually became  the basis for the present 3-piece suit, now worn in many societies all over the world

Though the emphasis is on French fashion, many English garments and accessories are included in the exhibition and, indeed, in the catalogue  there is a special chapter on Jane Austen and her attitude to fashion. This chapter also  contrasts English fashions and habits with French fashions of the day.

The catalogue contains  good explanatory chapters on life in early 19th century  France, how its society worked and how the clothes reflected this. And there is a fascinating chapter on Napoleon  and his manipulation and promotion of the French fashion industry,  all part of his intention to promote France as the leader of fashion industry in ther late 18th/early 19th centuries, thereby also stimulating  the French economy. All fascinating stuff, particularly regarding his proportion of the Jacquard loom and the wearing of linen.

The clothes exhibited in the catalogue range from the most sumptuous court dresses

and embroidered court trains

and wedding dresses

to the more comfortable and humbler clothes worn by women in pregnancy.

The catalogue is well written and very interesting, though I’m not sure I necessarily agree with all of its claims. For anyone who has the least interest  in the fashion of the period, it is a must buy. The exhibition has now closed but it’s website, accessible here, is still open. If you go here you have a chance to vote as to where the exhibition will next appear. I’ve already voted, and am prepared to go to France of London to see it! If you go here you can see hundreds of photographs of the exhibition taken by the photographer, Phil Thomason. And below is a short five minute video of the exhibition from YouTube:.

I know you are all going to enjoy this magnificent book and, if you are lucky in the ballot, will all rush to see the exhibition that inspired it.


The Philpot Museum in Lyme Regis has recently announced an interesting programme of events for May and June this year. I thought you might be interested to hear of those that relate to Jane Austen.

First,  some events inspired by Thomas Corum, whom we know from my posts on The Foundling Hospital in Brunswick Square and on their recent exhibit Threads of Feeling. Captain Corum was born in Lyme circa 1668. The Philpot Museum is to be host to the Foundling Museum’s touring exhibition on Thomas Corum’s life entitled, Foundling Voices. The Museum’s press release tells us:

This exhibition celebrates one of Lyme’s famous sons, Thomas Coram, who established the Foundling Hospital in London. Hear voices of former pupils of the Foundling Hospital recounting life before, during and after their time in the institution. Stories range from the heartbreak of leaving foster families to laughter of recalled childhood mischief; from the excitement and fear of going out into the world at the age of fourteen, to meeting unknown brothers and sisters and finding love and happiness with families of their own. This touring exhibition from London’s Foundling Museum will be in the ground floor gallery from 21 April to 31 May.

In conjunction with this exhibition on Thursday 5th May at 2.30 p.m.,  Anne Sankey will be giving a talk on  Thomas Corum and the Foundling Hospital, again at the Philpot.

On Thursday 12 May at 2.30 p.m. Diana Shervington will be giving  a light hearted talk entitled, JANE AUSTEN…WHY DIDN’T SHE MARRY? Diana Shervington is a Vice-President of the Jane Austen Society, and is a direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight of Godmersham, and I think this would be a fascinating talk to attend.

Continuing with the Jane Austen theme, on Thursday 26th May, again at 2.30p.m. David Coates will be giving a talk on LYME’S LITERARY LINKS. Over the past 200 years, Lyme has been associated with many great literary figures and his talk will be a comprehensive one, beginning with Jane Austen and ending with John Fowles who was of course not only an outstanding novelist but also the curator of the Philpot Museum.

Then on Monday 13th June an event I really would love to be able to attend, beginning at the lifeboat station in Lyme, a walk around the town entitled LYME REGIS –AS JANE AUSTEN SAW IT, conducted by Fred Humphrey in the guise of Admiral Croft from Persuasion.

I confess I would ADORE to take a walk around Lyme with Admiral Corft…..but I fear commitments may prevent me from being there. You, however,may be luckier than I …if you do go give the Admiral my love won’t you?

The Threads of Feeling exhibiton which has been so deservedly successful  and which is nearing the end ff its run at the Foundling Hospital, is now available to view online. My review of the exhibit can be accessed here.

If you go here you will be taken to a slide show, accompanied by a soundtrack of 18th century ballads which helps put the contents of the slides  into context. Each slide shows in great detail a piece of ribbon or fabric, one of the tokens which were kept in the Billet Books of the Foundling Museum and which were deposited by the mothers of the babies, just in case they were ever in a position to be able to return to retrieve their child and needed to identify it. Details of the fabric are also listed.

The quality of the photographs is stunning and every detail of the fabric can be seen. Do access it, especially if you have no hope of going to see the exhibit before it closes on the 6th March

This week, in order to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the First Publication of Sense and Sensibility, I’m taking a slightly different tack and am writing not about an edition of the book, or about literary criticism or illustrations( my main emphasis thus far) but about Dorset, a county that features in the book.

(Do remember you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them)

Jane Austen clearly had mixed feelings about the county. She appears to have despised the fashionable sea-side town of Weymouth, made famous by the visits of the Royal Family, in particular George III who visited the seaside resort to recover his health:

(This marvellously gaudy photograph of George III in Weymouth is reproduced here by kind permission of my Twitter friend Patrick Baty, the renowned Historical Paint Consultant)

Weymouth is altogether a shocking place I perceive without recommendation of any kind and worthy only of being frequented by the inhabitants of Gloucester…

(See Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 14th September 1804)

But she liked Lyme Regis immensely:

They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, 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.

Pesruasion, Chapter 11

She certainly approved if its country estates, for it is in Dorset  we find that Colonel Brandon lives, in Sense and Sensibility. His delightfully old-fashioned home, Delaford, is situated in that country. Mrs Jennings tells Elinor Dashwood and, of course, us of its quiet , old-fashioned charms:

Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country: and such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we were there! Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stewponds, and a very pretty canal; and everything, in short, that one could wish for: and, moreover, it is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh! ’tis a nice place! A butcher hard by in the village, and the parsonage-house within a stone’s throw. To my fancy, a thousand times prettier than Barton Park, where they are forced to send three miles for their meat, and have not a neighbour nearer than your mother…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 30.

The Delaford living is eventually given to Edward Ferrars and this is, of course, where he settles with his new wife, Elinor. A few months later, the marriage of Marianne Dashwood to the deserving Colonel Brandon reunites the sisters to live within a very small distance of each other:

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50.

Dorset therefore becomes the home county of four of the leading characters in the book. What did their new home  county look like? What did their neighbours look like? Was Dorset then a sleepy backwater or a hive of intellectual and industrial achievements Well, these questions are more can be answered by visiting an exhibition that is currently on show at the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester, Georgian Faces: Portrait of a County, curated by Gwen Yarker.

The exhibition attempts, and succeeds, in delineating a portrait of the county as it was in the 18th century. The idea for the exhibit resulted from the purchase of George Romney’s portraits of the Rackett family in 2008.

As Gwen Yarker comments in the preface to the exhibition catalogue:

I became aware , whilst researching the life of the Reverend Thomas Rackett and his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances, of just how formative the century (the 18th century-jfw) was in shaping the county and its institutions not least the Dorset County Museum itself.

The backbone of the exhibition is the Reverend John Hutchin’s History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset first published in 1774. The book contained detialed descriptions of 18th century Dorset. Hutchins surveyed and recorded  the country parish by parish. He wrote about the history,  the people and the topography of the county.

The exhibtion shows that

… Dorset was not an isolated rural county, but was aware of the latest thinking, ideas and intellectual developments coming out of London. This included rural centres such as Blandford Forum, where a circle of natural philosophers were based. They in turn returned to the capital with their local discourses in natural philosophy, antiquarianism and archaeology.

The portraits are grouped along social lines, downwards from the King and powerful landowners, through to the county’s prosperous merchants, the merchant princes of Poole with its lucrative trade to and from Newfoundland, the members of the Dorset Volunteer Rangers , a corps of light cavalry who were founded in 1794 to defend the county against French invasion, the scientists and antiquarians of the county, right down to rare portraits of servants and gamekeepers.

Only sitters who lived in or regularly  visited Dorset are included in the exhibition. Many of the portraits have  rarely been seen before in public, and the curator was successful in persuading a number of private collectors to agree to their portraits being shown to the public for the first time.

The Digby family group of portraits are one example of this. All save one had their portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They amply illustrate  the fate the 18th century assigned to them due to their birth order and potion in society, and the pattern of their lives represent exactly the society about which Jane Austen wrote.

The eldest, Edward 6th Lord Digby,  inherited the tile and estates, and employed Capability Brown to landscape the garden of the family seat in Dorset, Sherbourne Castle. Charitable  and kind he caught a fever whilst visiting the family’s estates in Ireland and died prematurely at the age of 27.

The second son,Henry, became an M.P.He succeeded to the ownership of the estates on the death of his eldest brother.The third son, Robert, entered the navy to eventually become  a Rear Admiral of the Red in 1780.

William the fourth son held the family living of Coleshill in Warwickshire. ,Stephen the fifth son was commissioned into the Army. Charles, the six son also went into the church and was given another family living in Somerset.

The exhibition is fascinating, and I thoroughly recommend it . For lovers of the 18th century it provides wonderful and detailed  insights into the people who lived in Dorset at this time, their homes and their occupations,

Interestingly, the research for the exhibition was begun on a budget of £1000 only,and unpaid volunteers did a lot of the ground work.What an innovative way to involve the local community and to beat budget cuts. Bravo to all concerned.

If, however, you can’t get to Dorchester to see it, then the catalogue of the exhibition, produced in paper back form is a very readable and interesting book in its own right. It is available to order by post from the Dorset Country Museum in Dorchester.

This is a great year for lovers of Thomas Rowlandson’s works (of which I am one). Here he is, above ,shown at the age of 58 in 1814, at the height of his popularity. An  exhibition of his work is currently available to view in the USA: and interestingly it will be on show at two venues . It is currently at the  Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University in Chicago until the 31st March, and then it will move to the Frances Lehman Boeb art Centre at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY state, where it will be on show to the public from the 8th April until the 11th June of this year.

Sadly I have no hope of seeing the exhibit at either venues( how I do despise the Atlantic!) and so I’m  pleased to be in receipt of the book that has been published to accompany the exhibit, and it is that book I am going to review today.

Rowlandson has been somewhat dismissed in the past as a prolific but crude and lewd artist. Immediately after his death his works fell into a critical decline. As Professor Vic Gatrell writes in his essay Rowlandson’s London which is contained in the book:

Manners were changing fast in the 1820s and by the time of his death in 1827 his robust humour was out of fashion. Thanks to the increasing assertiveness of the evangelical and upwardly mobile middle-class opinion makers, more domesticated and respectable tastes were gaining ground. So only one obituary noticed his passing and only Ackermann, Bannister and Angelo are recorded at his funeal.For half a century thereafter barely a handful of collectors even remembered his name.

This exhibition and book attempts to re assess Rowlandson and his work, as not only someone who was humorous, but who depicted social life in late Georgian england  with a satirical but nevertheless accurate eye. Someone who had a talent for spotting and reproducing the telling details of the raw side of life in the taverns,  streets and theatre of Georgian London.

Jane Austen certainly knew of Rowlandson’s works. In her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 2nd March 1814, she refers to his character Dr Syntax:

There are no good places to be got in Drury Lane for the next fortnight, but Henry means to secure some for Saturday fortnight, when you are reckoned upon. Give my love to little Cassandra! I hope she found my bed comfortable last night and has not filled it with fleas. I have seen nobody in London yet with such a long chin as Dr. Syntax, nor anybody quite so large as Gogmagoglicus.

Dr Syntax was, of course,  Rowlandson and William Combe’s satirical attack on William Gilpin and his books on the picturesque. The tours of the hapless Dr Syntax mimic Gilpin’s tours around the British Isles : Jane Austen appears to have been a reader and possible admirer of both. And of course if does have to be admitted that  Dr Syntax had a rather long chin….

The exhibition and the accompanying book edited by Patricia Phagan attempts to re-assess Rowlandson’s reputation, as an accurate depicter of social phenomena and the Georgian habit of mixing of social classes at entertainments in England :

The exhibition is organized around the chief forms that social life assumed in Rowlandons art: high society and politics; encounters in the street ,taverns and clubs, outdoor entertainments,the arts and sexual and romantic tangles and attachments.

He recorded a world, especially  of that  in London,that Jane Austen knew well, living as she did occasionally with Henry Austen at his home in Henrietta Street ,Covent Garden:

Rowlandson’s art emerged from a culture bound by a sense of irony, and independent minded society where social ranks mingled in public areas such as royal parks, pleasure gardens and in the theatrical and artistic realm of Covent Garden,but in which a hierarchy remained.

Patricia Phagan also notes that:

Rowlandson’s observations on society’s indulgent pleasures also vibrate with social tension and personal irony and it is this edge , along with his deft drawing style, that gives the artist’s work its commanding intrigue.

An essay by Vic Gatrell,author of City of Laughter (a marvellous book, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the prints of this era and which deals in part with Rowlandson’s satirical prints, gives great insights into Rowlandson and his intimate relationship with Covent Garden in  London.

Hhe also makes this plea which is at the heart of the exhibition and book:

The truth is that Rowlandson needs tobe rescued from the immense condescension of posterity. Critics and collectors over the past couple of centuries have always liked his watercolor drawings, but because they have been largely concerned with aesthetic  effects and conventionally reputable genres. They have generally ignored his comic prints and deplored his ‘coarseness’. The more snobbish have sniffed at the fact that much of  his market came to lie amongst people more vulgar than themsleves. Commcerically minded, indeed low-minded, Rowlandson rejected the artistic postures that would have enabled such people to approve of him more easily…

The exhibition  concentrates on Rowlandson prints, including his political ones.But does not cover in depth his landscape and topographical subjects, though  some , like his depiction of Winsor, below, are included.

The book includes very fine reproductions of 72 of his prints, all reproduced in full colour and having interesting and illuminating commentaries attached.

Sadly, there are few concrete facts surrounding Rowlandson’s life and the compilers of both the exhibition and this book acknowledge that did not have access to the latest research,  a new publication on Rowlandson’s life which was written by the acknowledged experts, Matthew and James Pyne. Entitled Regarding Thomas Rowlandson: His Life, Art and Aquaintance I will be writing about that book very soon.

I ought to warn that some of the images in the exhibition catalogue are, as is to be expected, explicit. But then the age in which he and Jane Austen lived was a far more robust  era than those that followed. Something that readers of Jane Austen find disconcerting sometimes; But if, like me, you find in Rowlandson’s drawings and prints an immediacy,which conveys something of what it was like to live in the late Georgian era, then this book is for you.

I leave you with Rowlandson’s view of Oxford undergraduates, men Jane Austen knew quite well, having two brothers, James and Henry, who were educated there ;)

I was lucky enough to  receive this book as a gift at Christmas, and since then I’ve been savouring its marvellous detail. Though it covers a longer period than the Long 18th century, there is ample information to interest us within its pages.

The book is in fact the catalogue of a new exhibition which is currently on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the acquisition by the museum of a major collection of European men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories. I have no hope of getting to Los Angeles to see it ( the exhibit runs untill 27th March, 2011) and so it is truly wonderful to be able to pore over the very good photographs- highlighting some wonderful details- and the interesting text, including a very intriguing Preface by fashion’s current enfant terrible, John Galliano.

Let’s have a look at some of the items that interest me. First a waistcoat which would surely have appealed to Mr Knightley, though it is actually French-  Shhh! Don’t tell him- as it’s subject matter is so rural:

Is this Harriet’s own dear welch cow?

And look at this beautiful dress form 1818, the overdress made of handmade lace, “Bucks” so-called because it was made in Buckinghamshire, a traditional area for bobbin lace making.

Here is a close-up detail of the lace:

In fact I am reading this book  it in conjunction with the Museum’s marvellous and most excellent website: some of the items in the book are available to view in greater detail on the internet. Let’s do it together now….

This is a gentleman’s three piece velvet suit dating from 1800. The close-up of the embroidery is breath taking. Some areas of the embroidery are padded slighty to add a raised area and  texture to the embroidery, almost like stumpwork. The dandelion heads are padded in this way.

If you go here however you can see more images of the suit and can zoom in on the details.

This beautifully detailed Spencer dating from 1815 is also available to view online here

So even if you can’t get to the exhibit, the museum’s excellent website and the book are beautifully presented and allow those of us sadly separated from it by thousands of miles to enjoy these wonderful clothes at one remove.

A final note: the website actually includes a wonderful free gift to talented needleworkers: free downloadable patterns which have been created from some of the garments in the collection. Go here to see. I love the banyan.

This is a lovely video(which brings back fond  memories of Art A level for me!) and it records how the Florella fabric, a scrap of which was kept as a token in the billet books of the Founding Hospital(see above) was recreated for the Foundling Museum’s Threads of Feeling exhibition by the London Printworks Trust, and which is still open to visit until the 6th March.

Here are some images of the fabric – you can do as I did and buy a sample of it at the Foundling Museum’s excellent shop-

and this is how it was used to recreate a late 18th century bed gown for the exhibition:

(© Coram)

John Styles the Curator of the wonderful Threads of Feeling exhibition currently to be seen at the Foundling Museum, and which I reviewed here, is going to give a talk about the exhibit, together with a questions and answer session at the Foundling Musuem, on Wednesday 2nd February from 7.30p.m till 8p.m.

This promises to be a fabulous event, as John is not only the curator of the exhibit but the author of the magnificent book, The Dress of the People which I reviewed here and which, in part, examined in detail the tokens of fabrics left in the billet books of the Foundling Hospital by the poor and disadvantaged of the 18th century. You can see an example of one above. The collection of fabrics is therefore the most complete collection of 18th century working class fabrics in the UK. Examining the collection gives amazing insights into how the poor actually dressed. So, if you have ever wondered how Jane Austen’s characters such as Fanny’s Prices morther and her servant Rebecca from Mansfield Park dressed in Portsmouth , or how Nurse Rooke in Persuasion was attitred, then this is the talk (and book) for you.

I am hoping to go to this (she said frantically re-arranging dates in her diary) and of course if I do get there I will report back to you in full. But I do hope others of you can go: if you go here you can access all the booking details .

Some events at the Foundling Museum have just been announced, and as they are being held in conjunction with the famed Threads of Feeling exhibition, I thought you might like to know about them.

First, a talk on the subject of Bonds of Love and Affection at the London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth-century by Dr Alysa Levene:

In conjunction with Threads of Feeling, Dr Alysa Levene explores the emotional experiences of the children left at the Foundling Hospital. Over 18,000 babies and young children were left at the Foundling Hospital between its opening in 1741 and the end of the eighteenth century. We know almost nothing about the emotional experiences of any of them .

However, we can tease out something of the emotional bonds that existed between these children and their parents by examining the letters and tokens left with them. Very few of these children were ever taken back by their families, but this was not the end of their experiences of family life. Most were sent to be wet nursed in foster homes in the countryside, and here too, we can see some evidence of their experiences via the letters written by the inspectors of nurses back to the hospital. Not all of these experiences were happy, but this talk will illustrate how much the Foundling Hospital records can tell us about mothering, nurture and the model of childhood in the eighteenth century.

Dr Alysa Levene is a Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and author of Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: ‘left to the mercy of the world’ (Manchester University Press, 2007). She was also the general editor Narratives of the Poor in Eighteenth-Century England (Pickering and Chatto, 2006).

This talk will be held on Tuesday 25 January, 7pm- 8.30pm (doors 6.30pm, includes pay bar) Tickets will cost  £12, concessions: £10.

On the 16th February renowned costume designer and historian Jenny Tiramani will give a talk on how Georgian women dressed. Here are the detials:

Here are some details of Jenny Tiramani’s work to entice you….

She was the Director of Theatre Design at Shakespeare’s Globe, London until 2005. She received the 2003 Olivier Award for her costume designs of TWELFTH NIGHT with that company. From 1979 – 1997 she was Associate Designer at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Jenny Tiramani has worked with director Mark Rylance and composer Claire van Kampen since 1991 – starting with their Phœbus’ Cart company production of THE TEMPEST at the Rollright Stone Circle, Corfe Castle and on the foundations of Shakespeare’s Globe. During Mark Rylance’s period as Artistic Director at the Globe, Jenny Tiramani worked with him researching into the original practices of Shakespeare’s actors, their clothing, properties and the possible decoration of the theatre itself.

Jenny Tiramani is currently completing an academic book on Elizabethan costume and is visiting professor at the University of Nottingham.

It sounds a tremendous evening…..I’m considering going, very seriosuly…but will the never-ending snow permit? Here is the link to the Foundling Museum should you want to contact them to buy tickets.

This review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph magazine and was copiously and beautifully illustrated. Sadly,  during its transition to the web version of the newspaper the article has been denuded of many of its wonderful illustrations of  the tokens, but I link it here for you to read in any case.

BBC World News has produced a beautiful and moving film of the exhibit, which I wrote about here . The film included footage of the remains of teh hospital in Brunswick Square and details the history of the Foundling Hospital.

Interviews with Professor John Styles and Lars Tharpp are inlcuded and there is the very moving and sad story of a recent inmate.

Go here to acess it ( hopefully all over the world).And above are some photographs of the exhibition that I’ve not published  here before.

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