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In our last post we posited the entirely plausible theory that, had Colonel Brandon wanted to eat a curry at Delaford it was probable that his cook would have known how to prepare a British version of a dish he may have eaten in the East Indies.

Today we shall look at  the possibility of the Colonel enjoying a far more authentic version of curry, at what was most probably the first Indian restaurant in London. He could, had he so wished, eaten authentic Indian cuisine at  The Hindostanee Coffee House which was established at George Street, just off Portman Square in London in 1809 by Sake Dean Mohomet.

Dean Mahomet was born in India, at Patna in 1759. In 1769, aged 11, after his father’s death, Mahomet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army as a camp follower of Godfrey Baker who was an Irish Cadet.

He rose to the rank of subedar,which was the equivalent of the British rank of Lieutenant, but he let the army in 1782, aged 23 to accompany his patron, Captain Barker, who had been dismissed from the army. In 1784 Mahomet arrived at Dartmouth and then journeyed on to Ireland where he spent several years with the Baker family in Cork. It was here that he met his wife, Jane Daly, who was said to have been from an Irish family of “rank”. In 1786 they eloped, got married then returned to Cork where they set up home and had several children.

Mahomet moved to London around 1807 and took up residence in Portman Square which was then a fashionable area popular with Nabobs, who were the well off ex-British administrators in India returned to their homeland. In 1809 he opened what is now considered to be the first Indian restaurant in London – The Hindoostanee Coffee-House – at 34 George Street, Portman Square.

This is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) annotated with an arrow which shows the approximate position of the coffee-house.

His coffee-house, like many other so-called coffee houses of the day, did not serve coffee: no, he served what would then have been considered very exotic fare, Indian cuisine and, within his restaurant, he created an Eastern ambiance wich distinguished it from all the other coffee houses in town.

His advert for the restaurant which appeared in The Times described what he could offer to a discerning pubic:

Hindostanee Coffee-House No. 34 George Street Portman Square- Mahomed, East-Indian informs the Nobility and Gentry he has fitted up the above house , neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian Gentlemen, where they may enjoy Hoakha, with real chinese tobacco,and Indian dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures tone unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines and every accommodation, and now looks to them for their future patronage and support,and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Apparently, the Coffee house was decorated with a range of paintings including some of Indian landscapes, showing scenes of sporting activities. The sofas and chairs in the coffee-house were made of bamboo. With that and the presence of the hookas, for patrons to smoke tobacco mixed with Indian herbs, it must have been a very  exotic location in which to eat a meal.

Sadly, Dean Mohamet’s restaurant was not a total success. As Michael Fisher explains:

To be profitable… public houses either had to generate a loyal and substantial clientele, or to have a prime location, drawing many occasionally visitors…By the time Dean Mohamet began his enterprise the Jerusalem Coffee House (in Cornhill far closer to the City of London financial centre) already held the patronage of European merchants and veterans of the East Indies. The elite of the Portman Square neighbourhood, including the wealthy Nabobs, had their own private kitchens where their personal tastes would be satisfied; they could easily hire Indian servants or smoke in an Indian style regularly. Therefore the relatively exclusive location of the Hindostanee Coffee House and its novel and specialised cuisine and ambiance meant that its start-up costs exceeded Dean Mohamet’s limited capital.

(see The Travels of Dean Mohomet:An Eighteenth Century Journey through India, edited by Michael J.Fisher(1997))

The failure of the coffee house meant that Dean Mohamet  had to file for bankruptcy and had no further association with the business. The Hindostanee Coffee House continued to trade and eventually did manage to generate a loyal clientele. It is thought the it continued to trade  from its original premises at 34 George Street  until 1833.

So this may indeed have been somewhere that Colonel Brandon might have patronised, while staying in St James Street when on his visits to London.

Poor Dean Mohamet failed in this particular enterprise but this is not the end of his story. In 1814 he moved from London to Brighton where he and his wife eventually established Mahomed’s Baths on the sea front, shown below as it was in 1821

My copy of the Guide to the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1827) by John Feltham has this entry for his establishment:

Mahomed’s Baths

These baths are kept by a native of India, and combine all the luxuries of the Baths of the East. They are adapted either for ladies or gentlemen and the system is highly salutary in many diseases, independent of the gratification it affords, particularly to those  who had resided in the East.

And here is an advertisement for teh baths from Pigots National Directory of 1826

It was here that Dean Mohamet practised his Indian method of vapour baths and shampooing, which we would probably recognise now as some form of Indian Head Massage. He offered:

The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame less, aches and pains in the joints

In Brighton he was of course patronised by George IV who seems to have been fascinated by all things from the East. Dean Mohamet  was a warrant holder as Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and  his brother, William IV. Here is Dean Mohamet pictured in his court robes, depicted standing proudly  before the exotic facade of the Brighton Pavillion, George IV’s seaside folly, which you can just see to the left of the portrait:

So, there you are. The really intriguing story of Dean Mohamet and the first real Indian restaurant in London.  Dean Mohamet wrote a book of his experiences, The Travels of Dean Mohamet  published in 1794. And while this is a very interesting book, for me the sadness is that he  stopped writting once he arrived in Ireland. The story of his marriage, his business enterprises in London and Brighton are not chronicled, and his experiences in england and Ireland must have been extraordinary  It would have been fascinating to read of his experiences. You might like to note that the social importance of the Hindoustanee Coffee House has been recognised by Westminster Council and in 2005 a Green Plaque was placed on  the present building at 34 George Street to recognise and record its existence:

“And here is my sweet little Annamaria,” she added, tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise for the last two minutes; “And she is always so gentle and quiet — Never was there such a quiet little thing!”

   But unfortunately, in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship’s head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be outdone by any creature professedly noisy. The mother’s consternation was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, and everything was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer. She was seated in her mother’s lap, covered with kisses, her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar-plums by the other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress, last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected. She was carried out of the room therefore in her mother’s arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the room had not known for many hours.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 21

Ah, Lady Middleton. The cold, manipulative, too doting mother of spoilt, awful children. Creating these characters  gave Jane Austen free rein to be scathing about both spoilt children and their appallingly self-centered mother. Adding, no doubt, fuel to the fire to some of the claims that Jane Austen “hated children”. Not at all,  the evidence from her other novels and from her letters show JAne Austen to have been very keen on and kind to well-behaved,well brought up children and their mammas. I think this passage illustrates that she simply detested spoilt brats and their oblivious parents.

In this passage the Miss Steeles- Nan and Lucy- the sycophantic fools, are immediately on hand to pander to Lady Middleton’s poor, little, desperately wounded but calculating child. They proffer sugar plums( more on that subject next week) and bathe her “would” with lavender water.

From Roman times lavender water has been recognised as something good with which to bathe wounds, as it has a naturally antiseptic effect. In Jane Austen’s era you could, if you had access to lavender plants,or essence of lavender, make your own lavender water, by following some of the many recipes for it in the cookery books and advice books of the day.

Mrs Rafffald in her recipe book A New System of Domestic Cookery, (below is the title page of my 1819 copy of her book)

had a simple version:

The unknown author of the companion volume to Mrs Raffald’s work, also published by John Murray ( the man who published Emma, you will recall)

gave the more traditional, complicated manner of making lavender water, by using a still to extract the essence of lavender:

 

Martha Lloyd’s Household Book which is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, contains a recipe for making lavender water. In A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Recipes written by Peggy Hickman, published in 1977, the following recipe appears:

To one quart of the best rectified spirits of wine put 3/4 oz of essence of lavender and 1/2 scruple of ambergris; shake it together and it is fit for use in a few days

As you can see, Martha’s recipe is very similar to the simple method described in Mrs Rundell’s book, above. Martha was, of course, their life long friend and she lived with the Austen ladies in their Chawton home.

There was an alternative to making your own lavender water, of course, You could buy a proprietary brand.The brand that Jane Austen and  her sister Cassandra seem to have preferred was Mr Steele’s Lavender Water. In her letter to Cassandra dated 14th January 1801 she commissions her, on behalf  of Martha Lloyd, to purchase some of Mr Steele’s lavender water when she next visits london:

Martha left you her best love. She will write to you herself in a short time; but, trusting to my memory rather than her own, she has nevertheless desired me to ask you to purchase for her two bottles of Steele’s lavender water when you are in town, provided you should go to the shop on your own account, otherwise you may be sure that she would not have you recollect the request.

Mr Steele had his shop and lavender water producing workshop at 15 Catherine Street, London just off the Strand, near Somerset House. The approximate position of the shop is shown in these two sections taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

The approximate position of the shop is shown by the red arrow on both the sections:

Mr Steel also had a small house and a lavender nursery at Feltham near Hounslow Heath on the outskirts of London, approximately  six miles from the city. You can see the red arrow marking the position of Hounslow on the section of John Cary’s map of the Environs of London (1812) below:

He was also in business with his brother-in-law, one Mr Alley, who distilled the lavender into lavender water at the Catherine Street premises.  And now prepare yourself to hear something very dreadful…Mr Steele met with an untimely end. He was murdered in 1802 while he was on Hounslow Heath. His murderer, John Holloway was eventually found guilty of the murder in 1807. If you go here to the magnificent Old Bailey On line website, you can read a full account of the trial. It is absolutely fascinating, and for me raises many, many questions. I thought, however, that you might like to read Mr Steels sad tale, which is a reminder that Jane Austen’s era was not all lavender water and lace, and that for some unfortunate souls, violence was not far from the surface ;)

Today, the 21st October, is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  This decisive sea battle between the French (and their allies the Spanish) and English fleets took place  in 1805. Jane Austen lived through this perilous period, and makes one  direct reference  to this battle in Persuasion. It is in Chapter 3 when Anne Elliot, while helping Mr Shepherd explain who is destined to be Sir Walter Elliot’s  tenant, also reveals to us her keen interest in the fortunes of all the members of her beloved Frederick Wentworth’s family:

“And who is Admiral Croft?” was Sir Walter’s cold suspicious inquiry.

   Mr. Shepherd answered for his being of a gentleman’s family, and mentioned a place; and Anne, after the little pause which followed, added —

   “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.”

Chapter 3

Jane Austen, of course, was vitally interested in the fortunes of Nelson’s navy, not only as a patriotic Englishwoman, but because her brothers Frank and Charles were naval officers. Frank, below, served directly under Nelson as one of his captains. Indeed, Nelson wrote admiringly of him:

I hope to see [Captain Austen] alongside a French 80-gun ship, and he cannot be better placed than in the ‘Canopus’,  which was once a French Admiral’s ship, and stuck to me. Captain Austen I knew a little of before; he is an excellent young man.

(quoted in Jane Austen: A Family Record by DeirdreLe Faye, page 151)

For most of  1805 Frank was involved in chasing the French fleet and its commander, Admiral Villeneuve, across the Atlantic to the West Indies and then back again to the entrance of the Mediterranean  near the Straits of Gibraltar. Below is a scan of my copy of Kelly’s map of Spain and Portugal dating from 1816, which you can enlarge to see  the detail:

This is a section of it showing the position of Cadiz and the Straits of Gibraltar:

Villeneuve and his fleet were kept blockaded in Cadiz by the British during the whole month of September. Nelson arrived on The Victory on September 28th and then Frank was ordered to Gibraltar to “complete supplies”, and then on to Cartagena to help protect a convoy which was en route to Malta, further into the Mediterranean to the east.  As a result, he missed the action at Trafalgar, a circumstance he had feared might occur, as is revealed in this later to the woman who was his fiancée and future wife , Mary Gibson. Note this letter was actually written on the day of the battle:

Our situation is peculiarly unpleasant and distressing, for if they escape Lord Nelson’s vigilance and get into the Mediterranean, which is not very likely, we shall be obliged, with our small force, to keep out of their way; and on the other hand, should an action take place, it must be decided long before we could possibly get down even were the wind fair, which at present it is not. As I have no doubt but the event would be highly honourable to our arms, and be at the same time productive of some good prizes, I shall have to lament our absence on such an occasion on a double account, the loss of pecuniary advantage as well as of professional credit. And after having been so many months in a state of constant and unremitting fag, to be at last cut out by a parcel of folk just come from their homes, where some of them were sitting at their ease the greater part of last war, and the whole of this, till just now, is particularly hard and annoying.

“You, perhaps, may not feel this so forcibly as I do, and in your satisfaction at my having avoided the danger of battle may not much regret my losing the credit of having contributed to gain a victory; not so myself!

“I do not profess to like fighting for its own sake, but if there have been an action with the combined fleets I shall ever consider the day on which I sailed from the squadron as the most inauspicious one of my life.

And so it was: Frank missed the action, the decisive sea battle victory over the French, and regretted it bitterly, as he told Mary  in his next letter to her , dated 27th October, a letter which was first published in Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J.H. and E .C. Hubback:

Alas! my dearest Mary, all my fears are but too fully justified. The fleets have met, and, after a very severe contest, a most decisive victory has been gained by the English twenty-seven over the enemy’s thirty-three. Seventeen of the ships are taken and one is burnt; but I am truly sorry to add that this splendid affair has cost us many lives, and amongst them the most invaluable one to the nation, that of our gallant, and ever-to-be-regreted, Commander-in-Chief, Lord Nelson, who was mortally wounded by a musket shot, and only lived long enough to know his fleet successful. 

And that was the rub, the bitter in so much sweet. Nelson died as a result of injuries sustained in the battle. Frank Austen paid tribute to him in the same letter:

In a public point of view, I consider his loss as the greatest which could have occurred; nor do I hesitate to say there is not an Admiral on the list so eminently calculated for the command of a fleet as he was. I never heard of his equal, nor do I expect again to see such a man. To the soundest judgment he united prompt decision and speedy execution of his plans; and he possessed in a superior degree the happy talent of making every class of persons pleased with their situation and eager to exert themselves in forwarding the public service. As a national benefit I cannot but rejoice that our arms have been once again successful, but at the same time I cannot help feeling how very unfortunate we have been to be away at such a moment, and, by a fatal combination of unfortunate though unavoidable events, to lose all share in the glory of a day which surpasses all which ever went before, is what I cannot think of with any degree of patience; but, as I cannot write upon that subject without complaining, I will drop it for the present, till time and reflection reconcile me a little more to what I know is now inevitable.

Nelson’s body was returned to England, and lay in state at Greenwich. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, with all the pomp of a state funeral. This is a picture of his tomb in the crypt :

Today in Britain, Trafalgar Day is not celebrated as a public holiday as it was during the mid 19th century, though recently politicians have tried to revive the idea that  the Monday nearest the date be reinstated as a bank holiday. But the Sea Cadets do celebrate it on theSunday nearest the 21st October.  Members of the Sea Cadets all over the country parade in towns to celebrate the great sea victory still .In London 500 sea cadets parade in Trafalgar Square under the beady eye of Nelson’s statue on his column in the square. This square, and its commemorative column did not, of course, exist in Jane Austen’s day. But I daresay her sentiments regarding the battle, especially knowing that Frank escaped injury, may have been similar to how she expressed her feelings on hearing of deaths in battles in the Peninsular War

How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!

(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 31st May 1811)

The early 19th century was a very productive time for publishers of guides for the use of travellers who were discovering the joys of traveling in England and Wales. The restrictions on travel because of the wars with France meant that the domestic market was their only possible stamping ground..

As you know I  love these types of books and thought that you may like to see some of the guides to London that someone like the Steele sisters might use to plot their next move from Bartletts Buildings…dreaming of the fashionable West and all its elegance, compared with the bustle of the city….

If they wanted to learn more of the historical background to London and its landmarks then they might  refer to a set of publications like The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Braylake Brayley and John Britton.

I wrote about the Middlesex volumes here (they contain of course all details of London for in the ealry 19th century London was to be found in the county of Middlesex). While they are not Guide Books per se, they do contain very interesting historical information about London and its main buildings.

But if the Steele sisters and their ilk wanted to know a little more about the workings of London’s sights, so as not to appear totally ignorant and so very obviously newly up from the country, then they needed a different sort of guide. One of my favourites is The Picture of London.

This was first issued in 1802 and the last was published in 1818.

They are very detailed guides of want to see and do when in London.They give fantastically detailed information, so that the traveller who was new to London would not feel awkward or idiotic. This extract below, for example ,is the information the Picture of London(1802) gives for Astley’s Amphitheatre in Bridge Street near Westminster Bridge:

This Theatre is situated in the Westminster-road near the bridge, and is built on the very ground on which Mr. Astley, sen. formerly exhibited feats of horsemanship and other amusements in the open air; the success and profits of which enabled him afterwards to extend his plan and erect a building, which, from the rural cast of the internal decorations he called the ROYAL GROVE.

In this theatric structure, stage exhibitions were given, while, in a circular area, similar to that in the present theatre, horsemanship, and other feats of strength and agility, were continued. About seven or eight years ago, it was accidentally burnt down, after which the present theatre was erected under the appellation of the AMPITHEATRE of ARTS.

The interior of the building, though for a summer theatre somewhat heavy in its style, has been rendered truly elegant by its late additional decorations; and the stage and scenery are also greatly improved. The horsemanship, for which a circular ride is provided, is still continued, though it forms a much smaller portion of the evening’s entertainment than formerly.

This theatre always opens on Easter Monday; and its amusements continue till October or November. There are two tiers of boxes, a pit, and gallery.

The prices of admission are four shillings, two shillings, and one shilling. The doors open at half past five, and the performances begin at half past six.

It really does contain everything you really needed to know, don’t you think?

These books were illustrated with engravings of the buildings they described.The early editions with full-page illustration of a single buildings, then the later versions, as in this plate from The Picture of London for 1810 tried to illustrate at least four buildings on one  page, landscape form:

The last edition, of 1818, further simplified this by having four illustrations on one page all executed in a similar style,but placed them so that the book did not have to be turned to appreciate them:

These guides were all pocket-sized , 3 inches by 5 inches approximately, and could easily be carried around. They also included maps of London and sometimes of its environs, which folded out for ease of reference:

This is the map of London that was used in edition of The Picture of London from 1803 onwards.

One of the interesting things to note about these guides is that not much is known about the people who write and published them. The author of the Picture of London was John Feltham and try as I might I’ve not found any meaningful information about him.  I fear he may have been one of a number of hack writer that the publishers employed to write copy. And indeed such was the nature of their work that not many of them used their own name, preferring pseudonyms.

The publisher of these books, Richard Phillips is a slightly different matter. There is a little more information available about him, and his life makes for interesting reading. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography actually has an entry for him and his early life was common place enough:

….the son of a Leicestershire farmer, was born in London; his name at birth may have been Philip Richards. He was sent to schools in Soho Square and at Chiswick by his uncle, a brewer in Oxford Street, but his home surroundings were distasteful to him, and in 1786 he started on his own account as usher in a school at Chester. In 1788 he moved to Leicester, where he invested his small means in a commercial academy in Bond Street. A year later he opened a hosier’s shop, which he stocked with borrowed capital; but it was not until the summer of 1790, when he commenced business as a stationer, bookseller, and patent medicine vendor, that he found his proper vocation. He soon added a printing press, and, when his already heterogeneous business began to prosper, he expanded by selling pianofortes, music, caricatures, and prints, and running a circulating library.

He held somewhat unorthodox views on most subjects. For example, he really did believe that Newtons theory on gravity was idiotic. He was a radical and held strong republican political views and even served 18 months in Leicester gaol for publishing a copy  of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. For such a radical it is surprising to realise that he was knighted.  This event occurred in 1808 rather in the manner I have always thought  Sir William Lucas received his knighthood from the King:

At midsummer 1807 Phillips was elected a sheriff of London, and as the bearer of an address from the corporation to George III, he was knighted by the king on 30 March 1808. During his shrievalty Phillips established the sheriff’s fund for the relief of poor debtors, and placed the sponging-houses under better regulations. In this capacity he wrote and published A Letter to the Livery of London Relative to the Duties and Office of Sheriff (1808), and A Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Juries, and on the Criminal Laws of England (1811).

)(Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online version )

I do wonder if George III had a liking for people who were as eccentric as himself…?

Another London guide writer I can find no information about is David Hughson, Doctor of Law. He is sometimes referred to as David Pugh. It’s all very mysterious. In any event, his books are fabulously detailed and very worthwhile obtaining. One of the most useful for people visiting London was his two-volume work, Walks through London, a larger format series of books than The Picture of London.

This is a series of walks, each illustrated by a detailed map, as below of the area around the Tower of London (and please do remember you can enlarge these illustrations by clicking on them)

These maps were supplemented  by individual plates of interesting or notable buildings, as in this one of Fishmongers Hall

For the traveller interested in the then countryside around London, Hughson  also produced a series of books from 1805-1819 London being an accurate  History and Description of the British Metropolis and its Neighbourhood to Thirty Miles Extant

This was a part work, issued gradually and eventually it comprised six volumes, copiously illustrated with single plates, as in this one, below,  of Carlton House ,the London home of the Prince of Wales.

The engravings in these books are fabulous, very detailed and are by far my favourites of this type. Each includes a vignette of life in early 19th century London, and they have a charm not many other engravings possess. Such a pity I cannot find out anything about Dr Hughson..if indeed that was his real name.

 

You wil recall that last year we learnt a little about the actors that Jane Austen admired: Miss O’ Neil and Mr Young. As I have not written about Jane Austen and the Theatre for some time I thought today might be the day to resume our interest in matters theatrical.  Writing to her niece, Anna Austen, Jane Austen thougth that Miss O’ Neil was most elegant- one of her highest terms of praise for a female- but was not as good an actress as she had been led to believe:

We were all at the Play last night, to see Miss o’Neal (sic) in” Isabella”. I do not think she was quite equal to my expectation. I fancy I want something more than can be.  Acting seldom satisfies me. I took two Pocket handkerchiefs but had very little occasion for either. She is an elegant creature however and hugs Mr Younge  delightfully.

( Letter to Anna Austen, dated 29th November 1814, written from 23 Hans Place, London)

I have found another admirer of Miss O’ Neil, a contemporary of Jane Austen,  and thoguht you might like to share his impressions of her acting ability, to compare and contrast it with Jane Austen’s acute preception and theatrical criticism ;)

The person in question is one of my favouite diarists of the era, Joseph Ballard

Joseph Ballard  was a Bostonian, born in 1789 in Bromfield’s Lane, Boston, Massachusetts, where his father had a livery and hack business. In fact his father established the first hackney carriage business in Boston. Jospeh Ballard was mostly aself-educated man, but on his journey to England  and Wales in 1815 he kept what is now a fascinating journal, full of delicous detial of all he did and experienced, contrasting Amercian habits and customs with those he observed in England.

From his observations made in London, he was obviously a fan of theatre in America. So it is interesting to note his reaction to Miss O’Neil, with whom Jane Austen was ever-so-slighlty disappointed. And it is also interesting to note the tiny details he noticed and recorded, some that Jane Austen ignored, or just didn’t think necessary to note.

He first went to see Miss O’Neil on the 20th April 1815, when she was appearing in one of her most famous roles,Shakespeare’s Juliet. Here is his dairy entry for that night:

This evening attended Covent Garden Theatre. The outside as well as that of Dury Lane and the Opera is guarded by soldiers to keep proper order. The play was Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Miss O ‘Neil sustained the character of Juliet in a style which far surpasses our actresses as the celebrated Cooke did our actors.The funeral scene was extremely solemn; the friars and attendants were over sixty persons who chanted the service in the manner of the Romish church. The music and singing was very fine. The after-piece was ‘Lembucca’ a modern melodrama resembling ‘Tekeli’. The scenery and dresses to this were very handsome. There were frequently one hundred performers on the stage at once. The decorations of this house on the audiots parts ( in the auditorium-jfw) are not so elegant as those of Drury Lane yet I think the scenery more elegant.


There is always attending these theatres an immense number of women of the town( prostitutes-jfw). With the exception of the first boxes which are designated as dress boxes they go into all parts of the house and seat themselves as they please. I have often seen many of them in boxes with ladies and gentlemen apparently respectable. The streets are thronged with these miserable wretches who acost every person who passes along. Many of them  have no where to lay their heads and pass the night in the street in any corner which will afford them shelter.

At Covent Garden Theatre, Liston,( John Liston a noted comedian-jfw) one of the performers, is enuded with such comical powers of countanance  that one must have a perfect command of the risible powers to prevent himself from laughing before he utters a word.

(John Liston in 1817 by George Clint)

There are also some fine dancers at this house but these ladies are so thinly clad and throw themselves into such indecent postures that I think a New England audience  would not have tolerated them.

This is a much fuller and very different account of a night at Covent Garden that Jane Austen ever gives us, I am sure you will agree.

Then on 4th May, after having watched the procession of grandees arrive at St James Palace for a levee held by the Queen, Mr Ballard again went to Covent Garden to see Miss O’ Neil.

At night attended Covent Garden theatre to see Mr Kemble and Miss O ‘Neil in the play of ‘The Stranger’. The performances in this play were never in my opinion surpassesd for excellence. Kemble has a singular voice and I think is a little too formal and precise yet his acting is elegant. When I speak of Miss O ‘Neil I cannot find words to express sufficiently my admiration of her acting. It is said she excels Mrs Siddons when she first appeared opon the London boards. Her person is most beautiful. She posesses a fine tonic voice and a very expressive countnance.


I think we can clearly discern that Mr Ballard was rather taken with the elegant Miss O’Neil. Rather more so than Jane Austen,who was rather cool about her acting ability. But interestingly, he gives us far more detail of the evenings entertainment than Jane Austen ever did: a forgeiners eye picks up on details that Jane Austen most probably noticed but took as normal- the prostitutes-women of the town- sitting all around the theatres, the same poor wretches lying in squalor on the streets.

Mr Ballard has a lot more to say about Jane Austen’s England and so I think we can all profit by following him about. There will be more posts about his travels soon.Do join me, won’t you?

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.

The Foundling Museum whose exhibit Threads of Feeling I wrote about here, is situated in Brunswick Square. I thought you might like to know a little more about the museum, the original Foundling Hospital and the connection between that institution and the use of Brunswick Square by Jane Austen in my favourite of all her novels, Emma.

Here is a section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) which shows the original hospital buildings, which were, by that time, in the newly developed Brunswick Square.

The Foundling Hospital was founded by  Captain Thomas Coram, and it was the first home for abandoned children to be established in England, though on the continent there were many long established examples of such institutions. For example, the Conservatorio della Ruota, in Rome was one such home and was founded by Pope Innocent III in the thirteenth century. Thomas Coram retired to Rotherhithe in 1719 after achieving financial success in the New World, establishing a shipwright’s business in Boston, Massachusetts and later in Taunton, also in Massachusetts.

This is his magnificent portrait painted by William Hogarth, which is still on display in the Foundling Museum.

On his frequent walks through London on winter mornings, Coram was appalled at the sight of dead and dying babies abandoned on the streets. This tragedy spurred him into action. His petitioned the king for a charter to create a non-profit-making organization supported by subscriptions to house and educate such children,  but at first this idea was rebuffed, as the establishment , both church and politicians, were worried that such an institution would encourage wantonness and prostitution. Eventually George II’s consort, Queen Caroline, became sympathetic to Coram’s aims, having been impressed by the establishment of a similar institution in Paris which had received the support of many fashionable women of the day.

On 17 October 1739 the King signed a Royal Charter, bringing the Foundling Hospital into existence, a place established for the

‘education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children’.

The Governors and Guardians of the Hospital met at Somerset house in the Strand to receive the Charter on 20th November 1739. The group included many of the important figures of the day: dukes and earls, magnates and merchant bankers, such as George Arnold depicted by Hogarth below,

Dr Richard Mead, the foremost physician of the day, Captain Coram and Hogarth.

The Hospital was designed by Theodore Jacobsen as a plain brick building consisting as you can see, above, of  two wings either side a central chapel, built around an open courtyard. The western wing was finished in October 1745. An eastern wing was added in 1752 in order to house the girls separately from the boys.

The Foundling Hospital was first built on this site in the 1740s, known then as Bloomsbury Fields, in order to house the children in an area known for its good air, on the edge of London away from the insanitary and crowded conditions of the city.  The foundlings were originally housed in a building in Hatton Gardens, until the new building was ready to receive them.

William Hogarth and his wife Jane were very important patrons of the Hospital. A childless couple, they became  very involved with the day to day running of the hospital and were active fundraisers. Hogarth  designed the children’s uniforms,

the Hospital’s Coat of Arms, and he was an Inspector for Wet Nurses( the children admitted as babies were farmed out to villages surrounding London to be brought up initially by wet nurses in the good and clean air of the countryside before returning to the Hospital to be educated and made ready to be apprenticed out to a trade) William and Jane Hogarth  also fostered foundling children when they left the institution.

Hogarth also and very importantly donated works of art to decorate the walls of the hospital as the Governors were unwilling to spend money on such unnecessary ornaments He gave many works including this, The March to Finchley

which is still part of the Museum’s collection.

His example encouraged other artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Francis Hayman to donate paintings to the Founding Hospital, and the Court Room of the Hospital, shown below, became in effect the first Public Art Gallery in London, where playing customers could come to look at the magnificent art on display, their enthusiasm for art producing a significant income for the Hospital.

Though the  original Foundling Hospital Building no longer exists( it was demolished in 1926) the Court Room where these painting were originally  on display to the public, has survived. It was dismantled and stored and then  installed in the new Foundling Museum building at 40 Brunswick Square in 1937.

My Twitter Friend, Patrick Baty of Papers and Paints was involved in the restoration of the room, and discovered this magnificent ( in his words) ”mucky green” to have been the original paint colour on the walls. The room still is use as the Governor’s meeting room, and has a magnificent Rococo plasterwork ceiling created by William Wilton, and a marble overmantle by John Michael Rysbrack.

Here is Hogarth’s stunningly beautiful painting, Moses Brought to Pharaoh’s Daughter which was painted specifically to hang in the Court Room. The subject matter is, of course, entirely appropriate for the hospital, showing the moment when Moses is about the breach the tremendous gulf between his impoverished state as an abandoned child, to accepting  being helped by the magnificently attired Pharaoh’s daughter.

George Frederick Handel was also a patron of the hospital, donating the profits of his work, The Messiah to it. Concerts were also directed by him (The Messiah was performed annually) and performances open to the paying public were held in the chapel, the place where all the foundling children were baptized each Sunday after having been admitted to the hospital is shown below: this illustration comes  for my copy of The Micrcosm of London published by Rudolph Ackermann, and was executed by Rowlandson and Pugin, circa 1808.

He is celebrated on the top floor of the Museum where there is a room with comfortable chairs fitted with speaker where is it possible to sit and listen to  selections from his works. The Museum holds manuscript copies of many of Handel’s works including the Messiah.

The Governors of the Foundling Hospital decided to develop their land surrounding the Hospital in 1790 when they lost their very important Government grant, and they commissioned the builder, James Burton, to create a garden square surrounded on three sides by town houses. Construction began with the south side, which was completed in 1801. The square was named after Caroline of Brunswick, wife of The Prince of Wales.

The square was, as you can see from Smith’s map above, then on the very  outskirts of developed London and was still regarded as a place of “good air” when Jane Austen was writing Emma in 1814 .And it was here that Jane Austen chose to house John Knightley and his wife, the hypochondriacally inclined Isabella, nee Woodhouse.  JAne Austen as ever made her choice of their home very carefully. The square was not uber- smart like the developments in the west ,but  was, in truth, socially smart enough for that second son of the gentry, detester of High Society  and barrister, John Knightley, Significantly it was not far from the Inns of Court, where he would no doubt have had his chambers. And of course, being famous for its salubrious position enabled Isabella to be able to honestly reassure her health obsessed father in Chapter 12 of Emma that

“No, indeed — we are not at all in a bad air. Our part of London is so very superior to most others! You must not confound us with London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is very different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy! I should be unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town; — there is hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: — but we are so remarkably airy! Mr. Wingfield thinks the vicinity of Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air.”

And it was of course while staying with the Knightleys in Brunswick Square that Harriet Smith-the natural Daughter of Somebody– was finally reconciled with Robert Martin. How very appropriate. And I’m sure,very deliberately done on Jane Austen’s part.

The original building that housed the Foundling Hospital no longer exists: it was demolished in 1926. The Hospital moved the foundling children still in its care to a new school at Redhill in Surrey. In 1935 the school moved to a new purpose-built school at Berkhamsted, in Hertfordshire. Seven acres of the original site was purchased to be preserved as a playground for children in this now deprived inner city area of London and this eventually became administered by an independent charity, known as Coram’s Fields.

The Foundling Hospital bought back 2.5 acres of the land and in 1937 Number  40 Brunswick Square was built in the Square to serve as  the administrative headquarters for the Foundling Hospital and a museum, together with a Children’s Centre in 1939. The hospital then began a new life as the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, today known as Coram (insert link). Brunswick Square has subsequently been re developed and bears little resemblance to the  home of the cadet branch of the Knightley family ( all the original Georgian houses have been replaced over the years by modern University of London buildings including the School of Pharmacy and International Hall and also the Brunswick housing and retail complex). It still retains the garden in the centre of the square, which was  restored in 2009, and still has a beautiful plane tree as its centrepiece.

I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about the connections between the Foundling Hospital and Jane Austen, and that you might also visit the Museum one day.

As Jane Austen knew well, a house in town (London)  was the “pineapple of perfection”,   “Everything that is charming!” to quote Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, a distinctive social marker of the most financially secure of her male characters and the highest social aspiration for  many of her female characters( though I always feel that Austen herself preferred the safety and security of country society to that of town, that Scene of  Dissipation of Vice). As Professor Edward Copeland writes in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, in the chapter on Money:

In terms of consumer show any income over £4000 a year is characterised  by its ability to provide a house in London for the social season, the beguiling consumer temptation that brings romantic disaster to both Mary Crawford and Maria Bertram.

After the devastation of old London in the fire of 1666, the development of the fashionable west end of London- Mayfair and its surrounding districts-far away from the fire devastated City- saw a major period of building of grand town house, squares and crescents, with which we visitors to, or inhabitants of London are now totally familiar.  This building gradually spread northwards from the streets around St James’s Palace in the first decades of the eighteenth century, and by the mid 17690s there were extensive developments built to the west and north of Cavendish Square in Marylebone, in the streets bounded by Oxford Street, the New Road (which is now known as the Euston Road)to the north and Portland Place to the east. At the same time, the Bedford Estate was being developed with the establishment of the squares and streets of Bloomsbury, and there were other isolated developments, such as the Adelphi, south of the Strand near the river Thames, that were attracting fashionable tenants.

(Adam House Adam Street Adelphi,London a survivor of the ill-fated development designed by Robert and James Adam, circa 1770,and which the eaged -eyed amongst you will recognise as the location used for Mr and Mrs john Dashwood’s town house in the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility 1995)

Much of the land was owned outright by aristocratic families –The Russell’s of the Bedford estates, the Grosvenors of Mayfair etc.,etc.,- and was therefore entailed and could not be sold, or it was in the hands of corporate landowners who developed it to provide a long-term steady income: a result of this prime ownership was that most houses were held on leases and building was large-scale and uniform, despite the occasional individual house built for a very rich patron.

Rachel Stewart’s book, The Town House in Georgian London addresses the development of this  phenomenon from the view of the architect and his patrons, male and female. She explains with wonderful clarity the role of these houses, and why the  location, planning,  furnishing and  finish of a house was of vital importance, something with contributed seriously to the image of the owners/lesees.

The finances involved in buying and affording  a house in the West End is one of the most revealing and informative chapters in the book, and the financial crises of George III’s reign make for uncomfortable reading bearing in mind our current troubled times. She also includes fascinating chapters on 18th century architectural design and practices , explaining the use of pattern books and  the development of the design of the town house as an architectural entity in its own right, complete with is own characteristics and formulae:

The typical town house in practice was never the country house built small, but many pattern book designs for town houses  seem more or less interchangeable with those for country houses of equivalent size, both in external appearance and planning….A five bay house calculated for a large family town situation could  easily be taken for a modest country house with its pedimented central section and balanced disposition of rooms either side of a corridor running backwards a form the central entrance…Where authors suggest that the  same design can be used for a house in town or country, this interchangeability is often questionable.

The book is wonderfully produced by Yale Publishing and illustrated beautifully, generously and very appropriately. There are  enough reproductions of plans of houses to satisfy even me.

(Ground and first floor plans of Wynn House 20 St James’s Square designed by Robert Adam, 1771-4)

This is a readable and enjoyable book, full of interesting detail, and for those of us who have ever wondered  what Darcy’s house in town looked like, reading this book will enable our speculation to have some sound basis in fact. I highly recommend it.

I know…I reneged on my promise about Sense and Sensibility posts last week.So here is another to placate you.

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

About this time, the two Miss Steeles, lately arrived at their cousin’s house in Bartlett’s Buildings, Holborn, presented themselves again before their more grand relations in Conduit and Berkley Street; and were welcomed by them all with great cordiality.

Chapter 32

Let’s examine the place where the ambitious Lucy Steele usually stayed when she was in London, Bartlett’s Buildings.

This is a print by Thomas Shepherd circa 1838 but it in effect shows Bartlett’s Buildings as they were when Lucy was staying there.

Here is a map of the area where Bartlett’s Buildings were situated, in the commercial district of London,the City: this is a section taken from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809)

Here is the same section, annotated with the position of Bartlett’s Buildings:

This is a close up of the section showing Bartlett’s Buildings, just off Fetter Lane:

This is an appropriate location for the Steeles,  bearing in mind that Mrs Jenning’s husband’s  wealth had been made in the city though she lived in splendour in Berkley Street in the elegant west of London:

Though Mrs. Jennings was in the habit of spending a large portion of the year at the houses of her children and friends, she was not without a settled habitation of her own. Since the death of her husband, who had traded with success in a less elegant part of town, she had resided every winter in a house in one of the streets near Portman Square.Chapter 25

And Mrs Jennings, being Mrs Jennings, still kept up with her friends in the City despite the disapproval of  her daughter, the foul Lady Middleton. This map of London from my copy of The Picture of London (1803) by John Feltham shows the relative positions of Berkley Street  (1),Mrs Jennings home,  just off Portman Square and (2) Bartlett’s Buildings, just off Holborn.

Miles and social eons apart. This is a description of Bartlett’s Buildings by Constance Hill from her  book, Jane Austen : Her Homes and Her Friends:

Near at hand is Conduit Street, where the Middletons lodged, and, at no very great distance is Berkeley Street, leading out of Portman Square, where Mrs. Jennings’ house stood in which Elinor and Marianne visited her. The Miss Steeles, we remember, stayed in a less elegant part of the town – namely in Bartlett’s Buildings, Holborn. These Buildings are still to be seen, forming a quaint alley of dark brick houses with pedimented doorways and white window-frames. We have looked up at the windows and wondered behind which of them Edward Ferrars had his momentous interview with the avaricious Lucy, while her sister Nancy made “no bones” of listening at the keyhole to their conversation.

She visited  Bartlett’s Buildings and recorded her impressions  at the end of the 19th century. This illustration also from Contance Hill’s book and shows the old fashioned detailing around one of the entrance to the houses, recognisable from the Thomas Shepherd illustration above:

Bartlett’s Buildings in the early 19th century was known as a place where solicitors and attorneys  had their offices,and lived, together with some silver and gold merchants. It was not far from the Inns of Court, and indeed a medieval inn of court, Thavies Inn, had once  stood near to Bartlett’s Buildings.

It was very commercial, and not at all like the elegant, well-planned and prosperous streets surrounding Portman Square.  Boyle’s Court Guide for April 1811,the year Sense and Sensibility was published,

lists,out of the 11 people  living in Bartlett’s Buildings, five attorneys. Attorneys were the less fashionable section of the law,certainly not as smart socially as barristers, note. Remmber Miss Bingley’s sneering comments to Darcy in Pride and Prejudice about Elizabeth’s uncle , the attorney Mr Philips and this reflected the   differing  social scale within the legal profession at the time.

The same publication lists the residents of Berkley Street as being two earls( of Dunmore and Carysfort),the dowager Countess of Mansfield and and one baron,Lord Saye and Sele , all living in Berkley Street amongst non titled residents .Very different I’m sure you will agree. This is an engraving of Mrs Mongaue’s house (she was of course,the famous founder of the intellectual circle of women known as th Blue Stockings ) from the 1803 edition of A Picture of London.

It contrasts greatly with the rather crowded and old fashioned surroundings of Bartlett’s Buildings, and perhaps explains  part of Lucy’s determination to escape to the richer and more elegant surroundings of the west. In whatever way she could;-) It is a tiny  engraving and not in very good condition,but it shows the elegant houses and peaceful , leafy surroundings. Note the children running and the elegant people walking around. Jane Austen knew this area well; her brother, Henry lived at Number 24 Upper Berkley Street from 1801-1804.

You cannot visit Bartlett’s Buildings as Lucy Steele knew them, sadly.

They were bombed and totally destroyed in an air raid in 1941 during World War II. If you go here you can view three photographs of the bomb damage as well as some watercolours of the jumble of buildings that made up  the rear view of Bartlett’s Buildings.

So there you are, an illustration of the origins of Mrs Jennings wealth and the great gulf that separates Lucy from her goal. Mrs Jennings’ attachment to her friends in the city speaks volumes about her character as does Lucy determination to live up West. Yet again Jane Austen placed her characters with utmost precision and careful thought, reflecting their social conditions in their surroundings. Brilliant woman.

I do apologise for not having reviewed this book before. I received it as a present at Christmas and always planned to tell you all about it…I left it until now and, sadly, I find it is currently out of print in the UK but is available in the US. Go here  to visit the Amazon.com site where it can be purchased. I have found it is a very useful entertaining and delightfully produced book about the type of houses -country houses- that surrounded London from the 17th century until the present day.

The author, Caroline Knight has used a modern edifice, the M25 –the orbital motorway that encircles London – as the cut off point.

And it might surprise you to find that even in these days of crowded housing developments around the capital that she can find over 80 first class houses and over 30 minor country houses to chronicle within that circle, and that is still not exhaustive.

The first part of the book is a very readable and scholarly explanation as to why these houses were built; not far from London –within an easy distance- they provided a healthy country lifestyle to many rich merchant sand aristocrats, who though in possession of smart town houses also felt the need to escape to the nearby countryside as often as they could, without necessarily having to travel to their far-flung large country estates.

Caroline Knight also explains why many of the country houses fell foul of the growing suburbs of London and disappeared in the 20th century, as well as being demolished due to fortunes waning and the social change after the two world wars which left many families with no option but to sell.

But it is the Second and Third parts of the book that I adore: a parish by parish directory of the best houses ( Part Two) and in Part Three a selection of over 30 minor country houses organised on the same manner.

These brief vignettes are written with verve and style and it is the perfect book for dipping into.

You can learn all about Moor Park in Rickmansworth(above)  -where Mrs Norris’s apricot originated (or not as I do suspect Dr Grant was correct, and she, or rather Sir Thomas’s purse, was imposed upon)which is now a golf course

You can also see some of the types of houses -or more correctly villas that peppered the scenery around fashionable Richmond, where Mrs Churchill spent her last days in Emma


Or the type of house you could expect to find in Twickenham, like Marble Hill above, or Orelans House, below

Twickenham was of course where Mary Crawford’s evil uncle had a “cottage”.

The descriptions of the houses are very entertaining: each is given a concise history complete with many fine illustration, plans of estates , gardens and the ever absorbing( to me at least!) floor plans.

She also gives interesting details about the opening of these house to the public in our era. Osterly Park the home of the famously rich

(Osterly Park-  illustration not included in this book)

banking family, the Childs, was visited by Sophie von La Roche, a German visitor who recorded her visit in her diary as thus:

(The State Bedroom at Osterly Park)

A friend had sent her “ a ticket admitting five people.” She saw the gardens and all the state rooms but also went upstairs where she was shown Mrs Child’s aprtments. She nosed around the room and found “my “Sternheim” in English translation among Mrs Child’s books and on the fly-leaf I wrote down something of the joy and pleasure I had experienced at Osterly Park- in English too as well as I was able.” What did Mrs Child make of this, I wonder?

I’m certain Mrs Reynolds would not have tolerated such behaviour!

I really do recommend this fabulous book to you. My only gripe is that I would have preferred more illustrations to have been reproduced in colour, but this is a minor quibble.

I do hope it is either reprinted or issued in paperback soon, or that you an find it in your local library,and I apologise for my tardiness in recommending it to you.

To make amends for my shocking revelation last week that Sense and Sensibility is my least favourite Austen novel ( I did say “low be it spoken”!)I thought I ought to post a little more about it, and so I shall, during  this coming week.

As it is a beautiful Spring Sunday I thought you might like to learn a little more about Kensington Gardens, where Elinor Dashwood met with the gossiping and indiscreet Nancy Steele, on an equally beautiful Spring Sunday, though in the novel the month was March and not May:

The third day succeeding their knowledge of the particulars, was so fine, so beautiful a Sunday as to draw many to Kensington Gardens, though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and Elinor were of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys were again in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose rather to stay at home, than venture into so public a place.

Chapter 38

Here is a section from my copy of John Cary’s map of The Environs of London, showing the position of the then separate village of Kensington relative to London in 1812, one year after the publication of Sense and Sensibility:

(Do note you can enlarge all these illustrations by merely clicking on them)

Here is the same map annotated with the position of  (1) the fashionable West End of London where most of the rich characters live in Sense and Sensibility (the Dashwoods,the Middletons, Mrs Jennings, Willoughby etc); (2) shows the position of Kensington Gardens and Palace; and (3) shows the position of the city of London wherein Bartlett’s Buildings is situated …

And that is where, of course,  Lucy Steele lives while in London along side her cousins: all a long way both socially and geographically from the world the Ferrars, Jennings, Dashwood and Middleton families inhabit.  No wonder she was an ambitious little madam…

Back to the gardens.

Kensington was a separate village as we have seen. Daniel Lysons in his magnificent work The Environs of London , had this to say about the village:

The village of Kensington lies on the great western road, at the distance of about a mile and a half from Hyde-park Corner. The parish, which is in the hundred of Ossulston, is bounded by Chelsea, St. Margaret Westminster, St. George Hanover-square, Paddington, Wilsdon, Acton, and Fulham. The hamlets of Brompton, Earl’s Court, the Gravel-pits, and a part of Little Chelsea are in this parish. The palace at Kensington, and about 20 houses on the north side of the road, are in the parish of St. Margaret Westminster. On the south side, the parish of Kensington extends till after you pass the Gore.

The parish of Kensington contains about 1910 acres of land; about half of which is pasture and meadow; about 360 acres are arable land for corn only; about 230 in market gardens; about 260 cultivated, sometimes for corn and sometimes for garden crops; and 100 acres of nursery ground. At Brompton-park was a very celebrated nursery, first established about the latter end of the last century by George London and Henry Wise, Esquires, gardeners to King William and to Queen Anne. Bowack, who wrote an account of Kensington in 1700, speaks of the stock as almost incredible; and says it was affirmed, that if the plants were valued at but Id. a-piece, they would amount to 40,000l. This ground belongs at present to Messrs. Gray and Wear.

The gardens that Jane Austen mentioned in Sense and Sensibility surround Kensington Palace.

The palace, originally called Nottingham House, was then home of the Earl of Nottingham, but it was purchased and  enlarged and much enriched by the later Stuart monarchs. First William and Mary and then Queen Anne. The Hanoverians liked it , developed both the palace and the gardens greatly and all the Hanoverian monarchs lived there until George III ascended to  the throne in 1760. As John Feltham wrote in The Picture of London (1808)

This palace was made a royal residence by William III. The garden or park was originally but twenty-six acres; King William greatly improved them; Queen Anne added thirty acres; and Queen Caroline, consort of George IL extended their boundaries by 200 acres of park lands taken from Hyde Park. Their present circumference is about two miles and a half.

The palace is a large and splendid edifice of brick, and has a set of very handsome state apartments, and some beautiful staircases and ceilings, painted by Verrio and are also many highly curious pictures by Holbein, Albert Durer, and other early masters. William and Mary, Queen Anne, George I and George II made this palace their place of frequent residence. The Dukes of Kent and Sussex, and the Princess of Wales, have apartments here.

Near the palace, within the pleasure grounds, is a very noble green house, and adjoining are excellent kitchen and fruit gardens.

The whole may be seen any day except Sundays, by applying to the housekeeper,  for a trifling douceur.

George III did not like the place: it has been speculated that because his parents were estranged from his grandparents, George II and Queen Caroline, who lived at Kensington, this may have influenced him and prejudiced him against the palace. So, instead of living at Kensington, he purchased Buckingham House-The Queens House– for his new wife Queen Charlotte, preferring to live there and conduct matters of state at St James’s Palace, a little further down the Mall.

The gardens that surround the palace were open to the public. Here is a plan of them as they were circa 1733, which was executed by Charles Bridgeman.

In the annotated plan below, you can see the position of the Palace (1), the Serpentine (2), and the Round Pond (3)which still are features in the gardens today. You can also see the outlines of the allees radiating like stars (4) These features survived the improvements made by Capability Brown in the mid 18th century,when he swept away the more intricate formal plantings that you can see on this plan.

Here is a close up of Cary’s plan of the gardens in 1812: you can just discern the  Serpentine and the ride known as Rotton Row in Hyde Park which ran parallel to Park Lane. Hyde Park adjoined Kensington Gardens.

Being seen promenading in the gardens was the fashionable thing to do in Jane Austen’s era. In the 1818 edition of The Picture of London we are given a very precise  and detailed description of  the gardens and the promenade:

One of the most delightful scenes belonging to this great metropolis, and that which most displays its opulence and splendour  is formed by the company in Hyde Park and Kensington gardens in fine weather, chiefly on Sundays, from March till July.

The spacious gravel roads, within the park, are, on a fine Sunday, covered with horsemen and carriages, from two till five o’clock’jn the afternoon. A broad foot-path, that runs from Hyde Park corner to Kensington Gardens, is frequently so crowded during the same hours, with well-dressed people passing to, or retiring from the gardens, that it is difficult to proceed.

Before the stranger enters Kensington Gardens, we recommend him to pause on some spot in Hyde Park, from which his eye can command the entire picture of carriages, horsemen, and foot passengers in the park, all eager to push forward in various directions, and on the more composed scene of the company sauntering in the gardens. Such a spot will present itself more than once as he walks through the park but, perhaps, the best situation for this purpose, is the broad walk at the foot of the bason, as it may be called, of the river, where it falls into a narrower channel.

It has been computed, that 50,000 people have been seen taking the air at one time in Hyde Park and the Gardens. Nor is this a modern practice, for this spot has been equally resorted to for the same purpose during two hundred years past.

Do note that Jane Austen was once again scrupulous in her  use of the gardens in the novel. The description above tells us that fashionable society would promenade in the gardens especially on Sundays from March to July, just as she has her character do.

The Serpentine was known to freeze in the harsh winters of the early 19th century:

In severe winters, when the Serpentine River is frozen over, the ice is almost covered with people. In the winter of 1813-14, there were counted more than 6000 people at one time on the ice, chiefly skaters.

From the number of accidents which happen annually on this river when frozen over, the king gave the Humane Society a spot of ground on its banks, on which they have erected a most convenient receiving-house for the recovery of persons apparently drowned.

Though Hyde park was open all year round, Kensington Gardens had restricted access, and the details of these regulations make for interesting reading:

All the doors of Kensington Gardens are open only from spring till autumn; and from eight in the morning till eight at night. There are four gates belonging to these gardens: two that open into Hyde Park, open all the year; one opening into the Uxbridge Road; and another opening into a road belonging to the king, and leading from the palace into Kensington. The last of these gates, called the Avenue Gate, is open till nine at night, all the year. No servant in livery, nor women with pattens, nor persons carrying bundles, are admitted into the gardens. Dogs are also excluded.

How severe: no riff-raff indeed.

But they let Jane Austen in…what a relief. Her she is  writing to her sister ,Cassandra Austen, in her letter dated 25th April, 1811,when her mind was focused on Sense and Sensibility (how appropriate) and  a Sunday walk in Kensington Gardens:

No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of  “S and S”   I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your inquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s first appearance…..

Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.

Everything fresh and beautiful, indeed. I hope you too have enjoyed your jaunt around Kensington Gardens this fine Spring Sunday.

Dear, sweet Charles Bingley defending the connections of his new-found love from attack by his snobbish sisters in Chapter 8 of Pride and Prejudice…..unfortunately he has no means of refuting Darcy’s worldly wise but snobbish comment which ends this particular argument:

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,”

To this speech Bingley made no answer; but his sisters gave it their hearty assent, and indulged their mirth for some time at the expense of their dear friend’s vulgar relations.

So..what was wrong with Cheapeside  in the Bingley sisters eyes? Modern readers are sometimes led astray by the sound of the name, assuming that it must have been a slummy, run down, cheap area. This is completely wrong. Cheapside was a very fashionable shopping area in the City of London  during Jane Austen’s era, and its name actually derived from the Saxon word for market:

We now enter the rich and busy street, called Cheapside ,which received this name originally from the splendour and multitude of its shops, “Chepe ” signifying a market. This street was, in the year 1246 , an open field denominated from an inn at its east end, The Crown Field, at which period and for 200 years after it none of the street of London, excepting Thames Street and the space from Ludgate-hill to Charing Cross were paved. The view of Cheapside previous to its destruction by the great fire, represents it as spacious and beautiful.

(From: A Topographical and Statistical Description of Middlesex (circa 1810) by George Alexander Cooke)

Here is a section from  my copy of Smith’s New Map of London(1809) showing in detail the area of the City where Cheapside was:

And here is the same section, annotated with the relative positions of  (1) Cheapside and, (2) Gracechurch Street ,where the Gardiners, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet’s aunt and uncle, actually lived and ran their business:

Do remember you can enlarge all these illustrations by clicking on them ;-)

This is a map of London circa 1805 from A Picture of London by John Feltham,

and here it is again, annotated with the relative positions of (1) Grosvenor Street- the home of the Hursts and well within the Circle of Fashion where the most influential and rich people lived in London- and (2) Cheapside and (3) Gracechurch Street, the commercial heart of the city of London.

No wonder Elizabeth Bennet muses that

Mr. Darcy may, perhaps, have heard of such a place as Gracechurch Street, but he would hardly think a month’s ablution enough to cleanse him from its impurities, were he once to enter it…

Chapter 25

As you can see from this  print of Cheapside published in  Ackermann’s Repository of 1812, at the time Jane Austen was writing Pride and Prejudice, Cheapside was  a very elegant thoroughfare, with many fabulous shops, the now fashionable shopping areas of west London-Bond Street, Oxford Street etc, had not yet overtaken the shopping areas in the City of London-Cheapside Gracechurch Street and Ludgate Hill-as the places to shop and be seen. (Note the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral looming behind the smart shops). Ackermann’s description conveys some of the sumptuousness of these warehouses or shops:

The annexed engraving represents the western extremity of Cheapside …The first house on the left, which is supposed to stand on the site of the residence of Richard Tonstal, Lord Chamberlain to HenryVI, is Millard’s East India warehouse for every species of silk linen and cotton goods, the taste and elegance of which our monthly patterns bear ample testimony.the front has recently been fitted up in a very handsome style. The intermediate houses between Millard’s and the corner of St Paul’s Churchyard as exhibited in our view are occupied by Messrs Shapland, hosier;  Brown, gold and silversmith; Giesler,furrier; Stark and Son,patent retiring stove and grate manufactures; Bunn,silk mercer; Hawkins, trunk maker;Seabrook of the same profession and two or three others. In the back ground at the one corner of Paternoster-row appears Butler’s newly erected patent medicine warehouse adorned with a neat balcony and stone balustrade at the top; and at the other corner  Dunnetts long-established Tunbridgeware and toy shop,the recollection of which we do not doubt calls forth agreeable associations in the minds of many of our metropolitan readers…

Here is another contemporary description of the retail trade of London which shows the distinction between the great shopping area of the City of London and the emerging fashionable shopping area to the west of New Bond Street etc, from Felthams’ A Picture of London (1818 edition)

The extent and value of the retail trade of London have been already intimated. There are two sets of streets, running nearly parallel, almost from the eastern extremity of the town to the western, forming (with the exception of a very few houses) a line of shops. One lying to the south, nearer the river, extends from Mile End to Parliament Street, including Whitechapel, Leadenhall Street, Cornhill, Poultry, Cheapside, St. Paul’s Church Yard, Ludgate Street, Fleet Street, the Strand, and Charing Cross. The other to the north, reaches from Shoreditch Church almost to the end of Oxford Street, including Shoreditch, Bishopsgate Street, Threadneedle Street, Cheapside (which Street is common to both these lines) Newgate Street, Show Hill, Holborn, Broad Street St. Pauls’s, and Oxford Street. The southern line, which is the most splendid, is more than three miles in length ; the other is about four miles.

Besides this prodigious extent of ground, there are several large streets also occupied by retail trade, that run parallel to parts of the two grand lines, or diverge a little from them, or intersect them amongst the most remarkable of which are Fenchurch Street and Gracechurch Street, in the city of London ; and Cockspur Street, Pall Mall, St. James’s Street, the Hay Market, Piccadilly, King Street Covent Garden, and New Bond Street, at the west end of the town.

The Opulence of multitudes of merchants, traders, and shopkeepers, in this metropolis, and the easy circumstances of the larger part, are proofs of its prodigious commerce. To say that there are a few merchants and bankers whose revenues equal those of many princes, is no more than may be said of some towns on the continent. But our opulent traders are not confined to one class, or to a few fortunate individuals. Shopkeepers accumulate noble fortunes; which, in some instances indeed, form a singular contrast with the pettiness of the articles from which they are derived, a pastry-cook having been known to leave more than 100,000 to his heirs. And as to the number of the wealthy, they seem, from external appearances, to be the greater part ; and are, in truth, more abundant than auy imagination would picture, unaided by a knowledge of the country. To speak generally, it is by industry, and the employment of large capitals, that the London merchants and wholesale traders raise their immense revenues. The retail trade is, as may be expected, more lucrative. A shopkeeper, with a moderate capital, is, generally speaking, able to maintain a family in plenty, and even with a great share of the luxuries of Ibe, and at the same time provide a fund sufficient to enable his children to move with the same advantage in a similar sphere.

And that passage gives us some idea of Mr Gardiner’s riches: no wonder he could have all the trappings of a gentleman, even though he actually earned his money from trade.

So there  you are: the only problem with Cheapside ( and Gracechurch Street) was its association with Trade. Something of which the Bingley sisters were of course hyper aware -their own wealth being most firmly established from trade and not from income  derived from landed property. Snobbish, foolish girls. Luckily ,Mr Darcy manages to overcome his aversion to the Gardiners and at the end of the novel can acknowledge their superior qualities

Mr. Gardiner was a sensible, gentlemanlike man, greatly superior to his sister, as well by nature as education. The Netherfield ladies would have had difficulty in believing that a man who lived by trade, and within view of his own warehouses, could have been so well-bred and agreeable. Mrs. Gardiner, who was several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Philips, was an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn niece

Chapter 25

I’m so glad he managed to reconstruct himself….


“It is a very simple story. He went to town on business three days ago, and I got him to take charge of some papers which I was wanting to send to John. He delivered these papers to John, at his chambers, and was asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley’s. They were going to take the two eldest boys to Astley’s. The party was to be our brother and sister, Henry, John — and Miss Smith. My friend Robert could not resist… However, I must say that Robert Martin’s heart seemed for him, and to me, very overflowing; and that he did mention, without its being much to the purpose, that on quitting their box at Astley’s, my brother took charge of Mrs. John Knightley and little John, and he followed with Miss Smith and Henry; and that at one time they were in such a crowd, as to make Miss Smith rather uneasy.”

Emma, Chapter 54

and

“Harriet was most happy to give every particular of the evening at Astley’s, and the dinner the next day; she could dwell on it all with the utmost delight”

Emma, Chapter 55.

So all is well: Harrriet and her lover are reunited at Astleys.

But what exactly was Astley’s? And it may interest you to know that there was more than one in London…so which one is referred to here?

Let’s attempt to find out, shall we?

The most famous of Astley’s  theatres was Astley’s Amphitheatre which is pictured above. This print is by Rowlandson and Pugin, and is from my copy of  the Microcosm of London published by Rudolph Ackermann.

This theatre was built on the south side of the river Thames in London over Westminster Bridge,  opposite the houses of parliament. It was the property of the theatrical entrepreneur, Phillip Astley . Hopefully you can clearly see the position of the theatre in this  section from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London 1809:

Do remember – you can enlarge all these illustrations by clicking on them.

It was first opened in 1770 and  was originally merely an open air circus ring, surrounded by seats for the audience (which were mercifully covered to protect them from the elements). It became famous for its equestrian performances. By 1780 it boasted a compete roof and became known as The Amphitheatre Riding House. In 1794 the amphitheatre burnt down-a common hazard for early 19th century theatres.  It was rebuilt and when in 1796 Jane Austen visited it, it was performing elaborate spectacles, on a scale unknown in England before:

We  are to be at Astley’s tonight,which I am glad of...

(see: Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 23rd August 1796)

It was an unpatented theatre, which meant that it could only stay within the confines of the law regarding theatrical performances in the 18th/ early 19th centuries if it had a license  for performance, and also performed anything but plays. The 1737 Licensing Act (which was in effect a piece of legislation sponsored by the Walpole government to control and  censor the content of stage performances) confined  the professional , paid, performance of legitimate, spoken word theatrical performances ( plays, in short) to the two patent theatres in London: Covent Garden and the Theatre Royal,Drury Lane .They were the only theatres that had licenses to perform plays on a permanent basis in London.

The establishment – more by accident than design-  of Samuel Foote’s Little Theatre in the Hay ( as mentioned in Pride and Prejudice) did not  provide open competition to the two existing drama houses. Foote’s theatre was licensed to stage plays but they could only be performed in the summer,when the two other main houses were closed. As Drury Lane and Covent Garden concentrated on performing during the autumn, winter and spring, the Little Theatre in the Hay did not really compromise their monopoly of serious theatrical performance.

As one of the un-patented theatres Astleys was not therefore supposed to perform plays- performances of the spoken word. But it –along with the growing number of other “illegitimate” theatres in London-often tried to circumvent the law by adding straight plays in among the permitted equestrian exhibits and burlettas. Astley’s Amphitheatre operated only on a summer license obtained from the Lord Chamberlain, as is clear from this description of the theatre taken from my copy of  A New Picture of London 1803, one of the first tourist guides to London:

This Theatre is situated in the Westminster-road near the bridge, and is built on the very ground on which Mr. Astley, sen. formerly exhibited feats of horsemanship and other amusements in the open air; the success and profits of which enabled him afterwards to extend his plan and erect a building, which, from the rural cast of the internal decorations he called the ROYAL GROVE.

In this theatric structure, stage exhibitions were given, while, in a circular area, similar to that in the present theatre, horsemanship, and other feats of strength and agility, were continued. About seven or eight years ago, it was accidentally burnt down, after which the present theatre was erected under the appellation of the AMPITHEATRE of ARTS.

The interior of the building, though for a summer theatre somewhat heavy in its style, has been rendered truly elegant by its late additional decorations; and the stage and scenery are also greatly improved. The horsemanship, for which a circular ride is provided, is still continued, though it forms a much smaller portion of the evening’s entertainment than formerly.

This theatre always opens on Easter Monday; and its amusements continue till October or November. There are two tiers of boxes, a pit, and gallery.

To get a taste of the type of performances which were staged at Astleys, do  look at this description of a visit to Astley’s by one of my favourite diarists of this period, Joseph Ballard,  an American -a Bostonian-who visited England in 1815.

This extract from his diary  gives a vivid impression of  the type of entertainment Astley’s offered:

April 22nd:

This evening went to Astleys Amphitheatre near Westminster Bridge.

The interior is very pretty lighted by a splendid chandelier, which descends through the ceiling and when coming down makes a beautiful appearance.

The performances were of the pantomime and equestrian kind, the subject being the Life and Death of the high-mettle racer. During this piece there was a correct representation of a horse race. The pit was railed through the centre and the horses started from the back of the stage at a long distance from the audience and passed through the pit.

A fox chase was also admirably done, from the starting of the fox till his death, the dogs and horses in full speed after the little animal.

This was so illustrative that  the audience heartily joined in  the tally–ho of the huntsmen etc.

In the course of the harlequinade a curious transformation set the house in a roar.

A barber as carrying a wig box whereupon was written “Judge Wisdom’s Wig” The clown desiring to see it, he set it own and opened it, when a large wig (such as the judges in this country wear upon the bench) appeared. Harlequin struck it with his word and out marched a venerable owl who majestically stalked across the stage and made his exit. Such success has this piece met with that tonight was the one hundredth night of its representation.

There were in fact two Astleys theatres. And the second Astleys also tried to circumvent the law regarding spoken performances.

Astley opened another theatre on Wych Street near Newcastle Street , just off the Strand,  in London in 1806.

Besides the Amphitheatre, Messrs. Astleys have a very elegant Pavilion, for exhibiting amusements of a similar description, which they have lately erected, and fitted out in a most complete style, in Newcastle-street in the Strand, and named ASTLEY’S PAVILION. At this place the horses have displayed some feats of so wonderful a description, as could not easily be conceived unless they were seen. In this place eight horses have lately performed country dances, &c. in a manner that has astonished all the spectators. To this have been added divers horsemanships, the twelve wonderful voltigers, &c.

(See The Microcosm of London etc )

This was called the Olympic Pavilion, but it was as can be seen from the above quotation, known as Astley’s Pavilion, the Pavilion Theatre the Olympic Saloon, or simply, and confusingly,  Astley’s.

Phillip Astley staged equestrian performances here, and through the influence of Queen Charlotte,  managed to botain a license from the Lord Chamberlain also to perform musical perforamces, burlettas, including dance.

This buiding itself was very interesting as it as built from the  reclaimed timbers of naval ships– prizes -that Astley had bought. The deck of a ship was used to make the stage and the floors. The new theare was built just like a traditional playhouse compete with stage orchestra side boxes galleries and a pit  surrounding the ring:

One of Jane Austen’s favourite actors, Robert Elliston bought the license from Astley in 1812. He decided to make a concerted effort to break the monopoly on spoken drama held by the two patent theatres: initially he tried to rename Astley’s,  The Little Drury Lane Theatre.

Of course, objections to this name were made from the  legitimate parent holders, and he had to close. But he re-opened again simply as Astleys and introduced a programme of

“farce, melodramas, and pantomine-burlettas”

He also  managed to again circumvent the prohibition on licensed theatres from performing the spoken word by continuing to add plays to the programme of events. Obviously, what made it daring of Elliston to do this was the closeness of his theatre in the Strand to the patent theatres, Covent Garden and especially, Drury Lane.(You can see how close he was from the map above of the area)

Paula Byrne in her book, Jane Austen and the Theatre argues that Jane Austen probably approved of Elliston’s stance against the two patent theatres. She may be right – we will never know for sure, but we do know that the Austen family were not afraid to patronise the illegitimate theatres and often went to others apart from Astley’s : Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, in particular patronized illegitimate theatres. He had a box at the Pantheon on Oxford Street, which from 1812 also staged a mixed bill of burlettas and ballet to try to circumvent the law on  performing plays.

Paula Byrne is of the opinion that Jane Austen chose to reconcile Robert and Harriet at Astleys, because it was an illegitimate theatre, where performances were not of the most rarefied nature, and it was exactly the type of place where a yeoman farmer and a girl carrying the “stain of illegitimacy” could meet with and be seen in the company of  the gentry (the Knightley family) without raising adverse comment.  Perhaps.

But what is interesting to me is that  cannot be exactly certain at which of the two theatre Harriet and Robert Martin reconciled their differences.

The Amphitheatre on the south bank of the Thames was, as we have noted , a summer theatre, but also ,as we have seen, it could stage performances into September, October and sometimes even in November. The Astleys of  the Strand was not a summer theatre but began its season in September.

Though Jane Austen does not tell us exactly when Harriet’s fateful  trip to the theatre took place, it appears to  have been in late summer , possibly early September: it could not be late September as that was when Harriet was married to Robert Martin:

Before the end of September, Emma attended Harriet to church, and saw her hand bestowed on Robert Martin

Emma, Chapter 55.

Paula Byrne argues that it is the crowds that frighten Harriet which give the game away:

Given that the Austens patronized the Lambeth Amphitheatre Jane may well have intended the same theatre. On the other hand the genteel John Knightley’s visit Astley’s as a treat for their boys and Harriet on quitting their box is made uneasy by the size of the crowds. This suggest the superior Olympic Pavilion. The Lambeth Amphitheatre had its own  separate entrance for the  boxes and the pit with the gallery entrance fifty yards down the road, so it would be more likely that Harriet encountered large crowds  at the Olympic.

(Page 43)

I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the end , given the similarities between the two theatre, but its good to know I think,  that there were two different Astley’s. Given that there were two and that one fits the bill a little better than the other we can’t necessarily assume that the Westminster Bridge Astleys was The One. And fun to speculate which one was the location for  Harriet and Robert’s  romantic evening  of low comedy, equestrianism and burletta. And yes, its just this type of conundrum that keeps me awake at night…..

This post should really be entitled Martha Lloyd and London for reasons that  will soon become obvious…

Jane Austen possessed some Wedgwood china : let’s read this extract from her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 6th June 1811,wherein she articulates many  feelings common to modern mail-order purchasers :

On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving  our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think  they might have  allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this. One is apt to suppose that the Woods about Birmingham must be blighted.

There was no bill with the Goods-but that shall not screen them from being paid. I mean to ask Martha to settle the account. It will be quite in her way for she is just now sending my Mother a Breakfast set, from the same place. I hope it will come by the Waggon tomorrow; it is certainly what we want and I long to know what it is like: and as I am sure Martha has great pleasure in making the present,I will not have any regrets..

Such a sort passage for one letter: but such a lot of points to consider.

First to the showroom. This a print above is from my copy of Ackerman’s Repository of Arts for February 1809. I love this print. It gives us such a lot of detail about Wedgwood’s tempting wares and his method of selling them.

Let’s consider some of the detail;

Here is the manager showing his customer the ware….The manager of the Wedgwood showroom in Bath was of course  Mrs Radcliffe’s father ,and her uncles was Wedgwood’s business partner, Thomas Bentley…..

In 1771-2 Ann Ward stayed with her uncle Thomas Bentley in Turnham Green while her parents prepared for their removal to Bath, where her father was to manage the Wedgwood showroom, a position obtained for him by Bentley, who was Wedgwood’s partner and a man of refined taste.

.(see Mistress of Udolpho:The Life of Ann Radcliffe by Rictor Norton)

In the showroom are some  well-behaved children…

Tables laden with wares….

and a rather fagged lady  wanting to go home and drink tea from the wares and not to  have to look at any more cups and pots.

The showroom where Martha Lloyd placed her order, was just off St James’s Square in London, in  York Street. This was a very fashionable and smart address being not far from St James’s Palace  where  the court of the King (and the Prince Regent) held all its official levees etc.Wedgwood clearly wanted to appeal to the  highest classes of society.

This is a description of the showrooms from my copy of A Picture of London (1809), one of the early guidebooks to the Metropolis:

Upon the north side and near the middle of Pall Mall is St James Square, having a circular bason inclosed within an octagonal railing, in its centre; the houses surrounding this square are chiefly inhabited by nobility. The town residence of the bishops of London a large inelegant pile of brick building occupies along with its neighbour Norfolk House in which our present sovereign was born, all that portion of the eastern side of the square, intercepted between Charles Street and Pall Mall. At the corner of York Street an avenue leading from this street to Jermyn Street is the large house and manufactory of Mr Wedgwood in whose exertions much of the late reformations of public taste is to be ascribed. This house has been originally the habitation of the Spanish Ambassador to which was attached the adjoining chapel,which, upon his quitting this place was used as a place of worship by sundry sectarians and is at present in the possession of a Mr Proud one of the adherents to the singular tenets of an eccentric Swedish Baron Emanuel Swedenborough for an account of whose doctrine we must refer our readers to Evans’s useful comprehensive yet concise account of the various denominations of Christians.

Of course the wares would not be made in London: they were only retailed there. They were created in Staffordshire, which is where Jane Austen’s  knowledge of geography is shown to be slightly lacking in the letter I quote from  above. She is confusing Birmingham in Warwickshire with Burslem in Staffordshire where  Josiah Wedgwood and his descendant had their factory.

She might be doing so because  the Wedgwoods were famously a radical family and were part of the Lunar Society group based primarily in Birmingham-along with Richard Lovell Edgeworth( father of Maria) and Matthew Bouton, Joseph Priestly etc.  But who knows for certain?

This is a  picture of the Wedgwood works at Etruria as they appeared in the late 18th century. The pottery  industry was  of vital importance to the Staffordshire economy  in the late 18th /early 19th centuries as this extract from England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D. explains:

Staffordshire has long been noted, and is now particularly famous, for its potteries, the chief seat of which is near Newcastle, in a line of villages extending about ten miles. The neighbourhood affords abundance of the most bulky materials for this business, namely fire-clay and coals; but their finer clays are brought from Purbeck in Dorsetshire and other parts of that coast; and flints from the chalk pits near Gravesend, with some from Wales and Ireland. For the conveyance of these articles they have the benefit of water-carriage, either from Hull or Gainsborough, by means of the Trent which communicates with the southern extremity of the Staffordshire Grand Trunk Canal; or from Liverpool by means of the Mersey, and the duke of Bridgwater’s navigation, to the northern extremity of the same canal. The manufactured goods are sent away by the same conveyances. The perfection to which this manufacture has been brought, and the great elegance of the useful and ornamental articles of which it consists, have rendered it a very important object of commerce, both foreign and domestic.

Burslum was the site of Wedgewood’s Etruria Works,a name inspired by the classical vases, particularly those illustrated by Sir William Hamilton in his book “Etruscan Vases’, upon which Josiah Wedgwood  based his neoclassical designs. Look at this extract, again from England Described, and note that the whole area became known as The Potteries,a name that is still applied today even though the manufacture of pottery is sadly in decline there:

The principal place in the Potteries is Bruslem, lately raised  to the priviledge of a market town,and supplying the wants of a very populous neighbourhood, the inhabitants which have been drawn together by this demand are very numerous and are employed chiefly in various branches of manufacture.

Jane Austen tells us how these delicate and precious gods were  transported to her in Hampshire: by Waggon. The waggon system of  transporting goods  and livestock was operated by private contractors all over the country. Nearly every small town possessed a company which supplied waggons travelling to and from London,and delivering parcels of goods to their area.

While Jane Austen was living at Chawton the waggon services available in Alton, her nearest market town were as follows:

Coaches,Waggons etc. Collier’s Alton Coach from the Bell Savage Ludgate Hill, 3 times a week. A Southampton coach passes daily Sundays excepted to and from the same inn; also a Gosport dilligence daily to the White Horse Fetter-lane. Knight’s waggons leaves the New Inn, Old Bailey every Tuesday and Friday morning and arrives at Alton every Thursday and Saturday evening. Falkner and Lamport’s Farnham and Alton waggon leaves the George, Snows-hill every Tuesday and Friday and other waggons pass through the town almost every day.

(See the entry for Alton, Hampshire in  Crosby’s Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales (1807). NOTE : this was the same firm of publishers, owned by  Benjamin Crosby, who bought the copyright of Northanger Abbey, then known by the title “Susan”, in  1803 for £10 but never  published it.  Jane Austen eventually purchased  the manuscript back from them . The correspondence between them included her famous letter of April 5, 1809 which she wrote under the pseudonym of  Mrs Ashton Dennis thus enabling her to end the letter with the following phrase, I AM GENTLEMEN, MAD.)

Jane Austen and her mother were not the only fans of Wedgwood’s wares in the Austen family. Still extant at The Jane Austen House Museum is the set of Wedgwood ware that Edward Knight, Jane’s brother ordered, exactly  as Jane Austen described itThe pattern is a small Lozenge in purple,between lines of narrow Gold ; & it is to have the (Knight) crest

And so, there you have a little explanation of that small mention of Wedgwood ware in Jane Austen’s letter. We have seen the showroom in London, learnt about where the wares were made and just how Jane Austen would have received them form London via waggon.

I trust you have enjoyed this little excursion into the retail world of the early 19th century, and that your own excursions in the realms of 21st century Christmas shopping is as pleasant and satisfactory as were Jane Austen’s goods from The Potteries and St James’s.


On the 13th November, 1815 Jane Austen visited Carlton House,  the London home of the Prince Regent.  A random sequence of events surrounding the treatment of Henry Austen for an illness had  revealed her existence in London to the Prince. As he was an admirer of her works an invitation to dedicate her next book-Emma– to the Prince was issued as a consequence. Jane Austen’s extant correspondence on this point with John Murray , her worldly-wise publisher,  amply illustrates the delicate path she had to tread.

The reason for her discomfiture was that she could  not in any way be described as an admirer of the Prince or his political opinions and only  two years earlier had written of his treatment of his wife with distaste:

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

(See :Letter from Jane Austen to Martha Lloyd, 16 February 1813)

The situation was further complicated by the kind attentions of the Prince’s Librarian and Chaplain, James Stanier Clarke. The correspondence between the Reverend Clarke and Jane Austen make for an uneasy reading experience: Jane Austen’s  increasing frustration with the florid  language and direction of Mr Clarke is palpable.

James Stanier Clarke is probably best remembered now for his attentions to Jane Austen but he was an interesting character in his own right, being not only a courtier, but the founder with John McArthur of The Naval Chronicle , a  monthly publication established  in 1799, which included  details of naval engagements, battles, prizes and  included a Gazette which gave information about Naval Officers’ social lives. Here is a link to an edition of the Chronicle held at the Library of Kings College, London’s.

He was commanded by the Prince to give Jane Austen a tour around the library at Carlton House,and I thought you might like to see some details of that place, for it was demolished in  1827,and nothing of it remains on the site where it stood in London.

This is a detail from my copy of Smith’s New Map of London (1809) which shows the position of the palace:

You can see it was on a piece of land standing between Pall Mall and The Mall, not far from the then centre of Court Life,St James’s Palace.

Here is a clever adaptation of Richard Horwood’s map of London (1799) showing the details of the palace building and its grounds, coloured in red:

And this map shows the modern-day London-and the ghost of the building is again  indicated in red.

The problem for the Prince was that he was an inveterate collector of objets d’art and was limited as to space at Carlton House by the confined  site: additions to the buildings eventually became impossible, which is why it was demolished after he had moved to the more spacious surroundings of the Queen’s House ( now known as Buckingham Palace)  which was situated at the western end of the Mall, together with his home at the Brighton Pavillion and the royal residence of Windsor Castle. Here is the ground floor plan of the palace as designed by Henry Holland:

In 1814 the Prince waned to demolish it completely  and rebuild but lack of funds prevented him from doing so.

Here is a print of the entrance front of the palace:

This part of the palace fronted Pall Mall-where, of course, Edward Ferrars of Sense and Sensibility lived after the news of his engagement to Lucy Steele became public knowledge.

The gardens were designed and landscaped by Humphrey Repton( another of Jane Austen’s targets in Mansfield Park, probably for both his association with the Prince, and for his professional tendency  to  “improve” ancient landscapes) -this is his trade card, showing him surveying and overseeing improvements to a  landscape:

And here is a view from the palace, overlooking  St James’s Park as envisaged by Humphrey Repton : note  you can just see the towers of Westminster Abbey peeping above the trees.

The interiors were sumptuous and splendid.

The entrance hall gave no real hint of the magnificence to come, in my opinion: note the representation of the Prince of Wales wearing the Garter badge,  to the right of this print:

From this point, Jane Austen must have been led through the series of grand and opulent rooms: I can’t help but think they might have been too over-the -top for her taste, for she was surely not a fan of anything that smacked of being gaudy or uselessly fine…..if the comments of her creation, Elizabeth Bennet are considered.

Here are some prints by C Wild of some of the rooms she may have seen. First, The Grand Staircase:

The Golden Drawing-room:

The Circular Room:

The Throne Room:

The Blue Velvet Room:

The Gothic Dining Room:

And the Conservatory….

This is the  room which was satirised by James Gillray in one of his cartoons,when it was used to host a  fete for 2000 people on the 19th June 1811:

The part of the spectacle which so enraged Gillray was  a conceit of a “stream”, made into a central plateau which ran down the centre of the dining table. In its turn the table ran the length of the conservatory.  The plateau was raised to a height of 6 inches. At its head a large silver fountain supplied water by means of cascades into a circular “lake” bordered by a low colonnade. Between each arch of the colonnade stood small vases burning perfumes.

The “lake” flowed into a stream  which ran the whole  length of the 200 foot long table. The “banks” of the stream  were bounded by moss, water plants and flowers whilst small fish were tobe seen swimming in the stream. Lord Colchester who attended the party noted that all the grown up children at the fete were delighted by this table decoration .

The rooms of the palace were also stuffed full of treasures, most of which survive in the Royal collection today. Chinoiserie was a favourite style of the Prince Regent and so many pieces including this pot pourri vase by Serves:

and this  “Drummer Boy”clock, were on show.

He also had many pieces of armour displayed in a special armoury, and this small sword was  made for him by one Thomas Grey, jeweller of Sackville Street , London. Yes, Mr Grey, the same  jeweler who made a toothpick case for the revolting Robert Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, actually existed and had his premises at 41 Sackville Street,  a street just off Piccadilly.

Jane Austen  was certainly unimpressed by the unwanted advices regarding literary composition that James Stanier Clarke decided to bestow upon her.  Some people have suggested that he was “smitten” with Jane Austen,  but I prefer to think that he was a courtier,and was used to laying flattery on thickly with a trowel. However, he does appear to have been blind to the hints Jane Austen threw out that she was not impressed with his suggestions for future works: her frustration took its revenge in her Plan of a Novel According to Hints from Various Quarters(1816)

Her thoughts on this visit have not survived, and neither has the palace. There may be one tiny relict however, : here is a link to the Friendship book of  the Reverend Stanier Clarke which contains what some think maybe a portrait of Jane Austen, made when she visited Carlton House. I am no art historian/expert  so I shall merely link this interesting  survivor of James Stanier Clarke’s life  and leave it to yourselves to determine if that smartly dressed woman really is Jane Austen as she appeared on the 13th November 1815…….

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