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This hefty volume arrived with the morning post, and I have spent the past  few absorbing hours comparing and contrasting it with my copy of the Third Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters (1995), also edited by Deirdre Le Faye and similarly published by the Oxford University Press. I cannot, understandably, give a full, detailed and considered review of the at this point, but want to share with you my first impressions of it (pun entirely intended), for I’m so pleased to find certain additions to the book.

The first item of note is a new preface written by the editor, shown above,  wherein she details the history of the publication of the letters. She also makes the point that the letters between the sisters, Jane and Cassandra Austen, are like long telephone calls. I think they might better be described today as comparable to a series of emails. I often wonder how Jane Austen would have adapted to use of the internet and computers: I feel that she would have loved the ease with which her manuscripts could have been saved and edited via word-processing, and I’m sure she would have been an avid emailer and texter. Back to the letters…what has captivated me, and has long been needed, desired and hoped for, is the wonderful new subject index. No longer will we have to try to cudgel our brains and try to remember in what year and in which letter Jane Austen mentioned orange wine, for simply by looking that subject up in the index we will find that it is in fact mentioned by her in Letter 55, written to Cassandra Austen on the 30th June, 1808, while Jane Austen was staying at her brother Edward’s home, Godmersham Park and that she mentioned Seville orange wine in her letter to her great friend, Alethea Bigg, dated 24th January 1817. All this is a boon.

No new letters have surfaced to be added to the number published in the Third Edition, but new explanatory notes have been added to some of the letters and to the Topographical and Biographical indices, making primary references to the excellent scholarship of members of the Jane Austen Society.

This is one book I can never be without. It would have to accompany me on my desert island. For while I can remember with pleasure many passages from The Six, the letters are so detailed they are hard to commit to memory. Dipping into them and studying them has been one of my greatest delights these past 30 years. This new edition is worth every penny of its price of £25 and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen’s work or of the period in time when she lived, without reservation or hesitation.

Today, I thought I might take the opportunity to launch a new website, Jane Austen’s Letters. As many of you already know, I LOVE studying Jane Austen’s letters. They inform, amuse, intrigue and sometimes madden. Her tone is sometimes affectionate, bantering, downright cruel or sphinx-like and unfathomable.

I love to discover all I can about the people and the places she mentions in them and that was the idea behind the new website:  to add informative links to the letters so that they are easier to understand and enjoy.

The site will, in time, contain the text of all Jane Austen’s letters. Each letter will be annotated with links to the Jane Austen Gazetteer ( the Gazetteer will also have linked added to it, to each of the letters) and to posts on this site, explaining points or places mentioned in the letters.

It is, of course, a work in progress and only the first year of Jane Austen’s letters -1796- is covered at the moment, but eventually all the known letters will be accessible there.

I do hope you enjoy visiting the site, which will always be accessible from the left hand column of this site, and from A Jane Austen Gazetteer.

Ashdown House is an exquisite 17th century house, situate in Berkshire, not far from the border of Berkshire with Oxfordshire. The house was designed for William, 1st Earl of Craven, most possibly by the Dutch-born architect Capt William Winde, in 1663. The Earl of Craven had  intended it to be used by  the object of his admiration, Elizabeth of Bohemia-  The Winter Queen– who was the then impoverished sister of King Charles I,  He knew of her desire to live in quiet in England, after living for many years in exile at the Hague in Holland. Sadly, it was not to be and before the house was completed Elizabeth died suddenly in February 1662, while visiting her nephew King Charles II in London.

The Craven family lived in Ashdown House until it was donated to the National Trust by Cornelia, Countess of Craven in 1956. The public has restricted access to the house: namely to the magnificent staircase which runs the height of the building and is rather like a magnificent picture gallery, and then up onto the leads and cupola from which spectacular views of the surrounding Berkshire countryside can be viewed. The rest of the house is leased from the National Trust,and recently the lease has changed hands, and has been sold to the musician, Pete Townsend of The Who. The contents of the house assembled by its old tenant are to be sold by Sotheby’s in another attic sale, to be held at their Bond Street premises on the 27th October this year.

So why should this interest us? Merely  because  Jane Austen’s family had some albeit distant contact with this chap.  Lord Craven(the 1st Earl of the second creation) was a kinsman and patron of the Fowle family of Kintbury: and it was on the ill-fated expedition to the West Indies in 1795, when he accompanied Lord Craven as his chaplain, that Tom Fowle, Cassandra Austen’s then fiance, tragically died.  Lord Craven also was a source of gossip for the neighbourhood, and this is evident in Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra Austen of the 8th January, 1801:

Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton & probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week.- She found his manners very pleasing indeed.- The little flaw of having a Mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park seems tobe the ony unpleasing circumstance about him…

At this time, by my calculations, Lord Craven,was involved with the very famous courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

She does not mention living with him at Ashdown Park in her memoirs  but what she does say about him is calculatedly cutting and rather dismissive:

I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble Lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify: or if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter…

I resided on the Marine Parade, at Brighton; and I remember that Lord Craven used to draw cocoa trees, and his fellows, as he called them, on the best vellum paper, for my amusement. Here stood the enemy, he would say; and here, my love, are my fellows: there the cocoa trees, etc. It was, in fact, a dead bore. All these cocoa trees and fellows, at past eleven o’clock at night, could have no peculiar interest for a child like myself; so lately in the habit of retiring early to rest. One night, I recollect, I fell asleep; and, as I often dream, I said, yawning, and half awake, “Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! Craven has got me into the West Indies again.” In short, I soon found that I had made a bad speculation by going from my father to Lord Craven. I was even more afraid of the latter than I had been of the former; not that there was any particular harm in the man, beyond his cocoa trees; but we never suited nor understood each other.

See: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Written by Herself, Volume 1, Chapter 1, Page 5).

Harriette was born on 22nd February 1786: she would therefore have been 15 years old in 1801. So it was most probably her to whom Jane Austen alluded in her letter, residing in immoral splendour at Ashdown Park. Lord Craven of course knew much about cocoa trees , I should imagine, as he had had first hand experience of them. He had visited the West Indies, as we know, in 1795 as Colonel to the 3rd Foot Regiment- The Buffs. He was sent to the islands as part of the convoy commanded by Admiral Hugh Christian escorting General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s 19,00 strong force to subdue French interference in the islands. Poor Lord Craven was obviously explaining to the bored Harriette of his battles on the islands She, a little like Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, seems only to have heard and understood one word in ten of his conversations. And  she wasn’t bored for long: she soon ran away from Lord Craven’s delights and his tales of cocoa trees to the protection of Frederick Lamb (1782-1853), later 3rd Viscount Melbourne.

Happily, Lord Craven eventually found his soul-mate:

In 1805 Lord Craven saw Louisa Brunton (?1785-186o), daughter of John Brunton (a greengrocer turned actor and theatre manager in Norwich), and now making a name for herself as a Shakespearean actress at Drury Lane-her principal parts included Celia in As You Like It, Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII, and Lady Anne in Richard III… Fanny Kemble’s mother remembered Louisa Brunton as ‘a very eccentric as well as attractive and charming woman, who contrived, too, to be a very charming actress, in spite of a prosaical dislike to her business, which used to take the peculiar and rather alarming turn of suddenly, in the midst of a scene, saying aside to her fellow-actors, “What nonsense all this is! Suppose we don’t go on with it.” This singular expostulation my mother said she always expected to see followed up by the sudden exit of her lively companion, in the middle of her part. Miss Brunton, however, had self-command enough to go on acting till she became Countess of Craven, and left off the nonsense of the stage for the earnestness of high life.”Miss Brunton, at the beginning of December 1807, with characteristic modesty, made her final curtsey on the stage’- and married Lord Craven in December his town house in London. Later gossip-writers recalled her as ‘tall and commanding and of the most perfect symmetry, and her face the perfection of sweetness and expression’.

(See  Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye,  page 512)

And this woman is the same Lady Craven whose opinion of Emma was collected by Jane Austen  in 1816.  She admired Emma very much, but did not think it equal to P&P. Don’t you find it interesting to think of the many characters who lived at Ashdown Park, in that beautiful House…I know I do, and I’m sure yet again the allure of such a house and its associations will add to the pieces of the lots of this sale. Time will tell and I’ll report back after the sale takes place on October 27.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 13th October 1808)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a sort of tribute to Jane Travers of the Jane Obsessed With Jane Blog,  whose homeland is Ireland,  I thought I would continue to post on a Jane Austen/ Irish theme this week.

As we already are aware, Eliza O’Neil was the Irish actress whom Jane Austen admired and who hugged Mr Younge Delightfully:

We were all at the Play last night, to see Miss o’Neal (sic) in” Isabella”… She is an elegant creature however and hugs Mr Younge delightfully.

(See letter from Jane Austen to Anna Austen dated 29th November 1814)

and Id like to share with you a short biographical article I found about her recently in a copy of  La Belle Assemblee , published in January 1816:

I’ve scanned the pages in and added them here.  And all you have to do to read them in comfort is to enlarge them.

I love the florid language of these magazines of the early 19th century. And it is comforting to realise that celebrity worship is not a new phenomenon ;-)

Mary Anning was a famous fossil hunter who lived in Lyme Regis, England – a part of the country that is today known as the Jurassic Coast. Her story has recently been fictionalized by Tracy Chevalier in a novel, Remarkable Creatures, which  I recently enjoyed reading:

And there is a slight Jane Austen link, so let’s continue her story.

Mary was the daughter of Richard Anning, a cabinet-maker of Lyme Regis. He had a supplementary string to his financial bow- he was a finder of curiosities-fossil as we would now call them- which could be found on the coasts -the cliffs and the beaches- around Lyme and Charmouth.

This is a view of the beach and cliifs of Charmouth,

and this is the view of Lyme from Charmouth beach: if you click on it to enlarge it, you can see the town, rushing down to the sea, with the arm of the Cobb  jutting out into Lyme Bay.

With the death of her father in 1810, Mary and her brother Richard were the sole survivors of ten siblings and her parents . Mary took over her father’s secondary trade of fossil hunting, desperate to support her now diminished family in the only way she knew.

She had a stall on the beach where she sold her finds to the middling- sort tourists who visited Lyme in the season. In fact it is thought by some that the tongue-twister,  She sells sea shells on the sea shore was inspired by Mary Anning and her finds.

Which were amazing.

In 1811, aged just 12, Anning discovered the fossilized skeleton of an Ichthyosaur Although Ichthyosaurs had been known from fragments since at least 1699, this was the first complete skeleton found . Mary first found the skull, and only later found the rest of the animal after a storm washed away the part of a cliff which contained it. Her later finds included a Plesiosaur in 1821, and the first complete specimen of a Pterosaur in 1828.

Her finds were immortalized by Henry de la Beche, in his watercolour: Duria Antiquior, A More Ancient Dorset, lithographs of which were sold for Mary’s financial benefit.

Mary’s patron and  supporter during her life time was Elizabeth Philpot, a genteelly impoverished daughter of a London lawyer who moved to Lyme with her other sisters in 1805, thereby missing Jane Austen by one year. Its tantalizing to think that they might have been attending the same assembly rooms in Lyme had Jane Austens family visited Lyme one more time….

Though both Mary and Elizabeth’s knowledge and talents  were widely admired in the scientific community and their finds were pivotal in allowing theories of evolution to develop, neither were ever eligible to join any scientific societies, such the  Geology Society. Which is thought provoking in itself…

So what does all this have to do with Jane Austen ? (which is of course the only reason for writing about anything here) Simply that Mary Anning’s father in his role of cabinet maker came into contact with Jane Austen when the Austen family stayed at Mr Pyne’s house

in the lower part of Broad Street in Lyme in 1804.

I have written to Mr Pyne on the subject of the broken Lid: it was valued by Anning here we were told at five shillings and as that appeared to us beyond he value of all the furniture in the room together We have referred ourselves to the Owner.

Oh,dear….Mr Anning does not appear to have been very good at his job: over estimating the cost of a broken lid and not impressing the shrewd Jane Austen at all.

The museum at Lyme is the Philpot Museum, named in Elizabeth Philpot’s honour by her nephew Thomas Philpot and it has interesting collections celebrating Mary Anningand Elizabeth Philpot.  And if you care to look at their events page you will see that there are some interesting talks and walks to be had about them in the forthcoming weeks.

But I find it  intriguing to think that Jane Austen probably met Mary’s poor incompetent cabinet-makerfather at Lyme, and I do wonder if one her undoubted walks along this coast  if she found any fossils and what she thought of them…

Ammonites from my son’s collection , collected on Charmouth Beach in 2006.

We now know what early 19th century fireworks looked like…but what about the illuminations?

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

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

Illuminations were often used in conjunction with fireworks, and were static structures lit by hundreds of small glass lamps fuelled with oil. The structures were often temporary things, but the illuminations (the small glass oil lamps) could also be affixed to “illuminate” more solid structures, as in this picture below by Rowlandson from Ackermann’s The Microcosm of London, showing the illuminated bandstand at Vauxhall Gardens( Do click on it to enlarge it to see the beautiful detail,and the effect of  the individual lamps)

The term could also refer to the strings of lamps illuminating the walks of the pleasure gardens as was the case at many of the gardens in England throughout the 18th century and  up to the middle of the 19th century.

At a time when  the brightness of electric light was unknown and  candles used en masse was terrifically and prohibitively expensive, the sight of coloured lights illuminating the gardens at night, among the trees,  must have been breath-taking.

An Irish gentlemen visiting Vauxhall Gardens in 1752, whose name is not recorded, wrote about  the  astonishing effect of the illuminations:

The garden strikes the eye prodigiously; it is set with many rows of tall trees, kept in excellent order, among which are placed an incredible number of globe lamps, by which it is illuminated, and when they are lighted the sound of the music ravishing the ear, added to the great resort of company so well dressed and walking about, would almost make one believe he was in the Elysian fields.

The method of lighting the lamps at Vauxhall was very dramatic. During supper a whistle was blown as a signal to a number of servants placed in strategic parts of the garden. Each servant touched a match to pre-installed fuses, and, instantaneously over a thousand oil lamps were illuminated, bathing the gardens in a warm light that would have been visible for miles around.

These illustration from the Duke of Richmond’s firework display also show  examples of illuminations:

Some illuminations were rather more elaborate than others.

This one designed by the architect, Robert Adam for King George III not only included 4,000 individual oil lamps but also two large transparencies pictures painted on gauze and lit from behind to produce a luminous effect:

This design is the more elaborate of the two proposals submitted by Adam for a temporary structure to be erected in the garden of Buckingham House in June 1763 at the time of the celebrations to mark the start of royal occupation of the house, purchased in the previous year. In the event Adam’s other design, for a much simpler structure, was used. A detailed description of the party, which took place at night and employed 4,000 lamps, is included in the Gentleman’s Magazine. It was arranged by Queen Charlotte as a surprise for the King, at the time of his twenty-fifth birthday. Adam also made perspective views of both versions of the screen,  which clarify the importance of the ‘transparencies’ (large back-lit pictures, within the main architectural features) in the design. The subject of the transparencies alluded to the King’s role as peace-maker – following the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the Seven Years War in the same year. This style of decoration had been popular on the continent for many years: in France, Rome and also in Mecklenburg, where a small-scale ‘illumination’ had been staged to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of the future Queen Charlotte in 1761. It appears that some of the materials used in Adam’s 1763 screen were reused by Chambers in 1768, for the pavilion erected in Richmond at the time of the visit of the King’s brother-in-law, Christian VII of Denmark.

(see George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage Collecting and Court Taste edited by Jane  Roberts).

Sadly we have no record of the type of illuminations which were in operation at the Sydney Gardens but we can be assured that because of their rarity and very special effect in a world where the light from a few wax candles was thought of as miraculous, Jane Austen was  quite right to be  impressed.

And that concludes this series of posts on Jane Austen in Bath.  I do hope you have enjoyed  our time travelling to this particular part of Jane Austen’s past.

To conclude the series of posts about the life of Jane Austen in Bath I thought I would lighten the mood by ending with  some details of the music, the type of fireworks and illuminations Jane Austen would have seen and heard at the galas she attended at the Sydney Gardens.

In her letter to Cassandra dated 19th June 1799 , written while Jane Austen was staying in Bath with her brother Edward and his family in Queen’s Square, she recorded her impressions of one such event:

Last night we were in Sidney Gardens(sic) again as there was a repetition of the Gala which went off so ill on the 4th–  We did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were  really beautiful and surpassing my expectations- the illuminations too were very pretty.

The Sydney Gardens usually held three Gala Evenings each season: one on the 4th June to celebrate King George III’s Birthday; one on the 12th August to celebrate the Prince of Wales birthday and another in July- a moveable feast – to coincide  with the Summer Horse Race Meeting at Bath.

The fireworks to celebrate the Kings Birthday on the  4th June-which went off so ill-were postponed due to bad weather.  They were rescheduled for the 18th June and that is the evening Jane Austen attended.

Here is an advertisement from the Bath Chronicle  giving details of the re- scheduled date:

( If you care to you can click on the illustration above to enlarge it, so that you can read the detail)

The gardens opened for the Gala at 5p.m. The food and drink available included :

cold ham, chicken, lamb, and tongue, wine, spirits, bottled porter, cider, perry all as reasonable as possible the prices of which will be affixed on the bills of fare and placed in every conspicuous part of the Garden.

The reason the prices were so conspicuously affixed throughout the gardens was  that this system  prevented the waiters overcharging, a problem that was prevalent in the London pleasure gardens of Vauxhall and Ranelagh.

You could eat in the Banqueting Room in the Sydney Gardens Tavern or in the canvas booths outside.

If you look carefully at the engraving above, (do enlarge it !) you can see people sitting in the booths to the right of the picture.  Those eating in the outdoor booths did have the option of staying in them the whole evening, and I would imagine on a chilly English summer’s evening this would have been a very tempting proposition!

The concert began at 7p.m. Note that Jane Austen managed to avoid it by arriving at 9p.m The galas generally went on till 10 p.m. which meant that  Jane Austen was only there for one hour, probably only to see the illuminations and the fireworks!

She appears to have disliked the music played there, for she made this caustic comment in her letter to Cassandra of the 2nd June 1799, when writing of the planned visit to the original gala:

There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens-A concert with Illuminations and Fireworks; to the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm with me, as the Gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound.

I would have thought that Bath with its rich orchestral and musical tradition-The Linley family begin just one example of the musicians attracted to living and working in Bath- had fine music and orchestras.

One of the musicians mentioned in the advertisement was Alexander Herscel,the violoncello playing brother  of William Herscel composer and amateur astronomer, who was appointed court astronomer to George III  in 1782  a year after he had discovered the planet Uranus.

He was the first person to accurately and correctly describe the Milky Way and  found two new satellite of Saturn in 1789.  Caroline Herscel in her Memoirs described her brother’s  playing on the violoncello as “divine”… dare we suggest she may have been biased?

Another performer  at the gala was  a Miss Richardson, a singer: she had performed at Vauxhall Gardens in London but this diary entry by John Waldie of Edinburgh from 1805 seems to hint she may have been,well,… not the  best singer in the world:

While the Minstrels were playing their weary staccato harmony all on one key I addressed myself to Mr Elliot, the singer, and we soon entered into conversation, which was to me highly entertaining and useful…We also discussed the merits of all the singers and composers. He agreed with me I thinking Braham, Harrison, Bartleman, Viganoni Mrs Billington, Mara, Banti ,Mrs Mountain and Storace the phalanx of vocal talent in the country.

He also much admires Grassini and Mrs. Tennant who I have not heard. Miss Daniel Miss Parke and Mrs Ashe are only second rate, and also Miss Sharpe and Miss Richardson

(See: The Journal of John Waldie Theatre Commentaries, 1799-1830: no. 13 [Journal 10] May 14, 1804-March 12, 1805)

Poor Miss Richardson…. I’m quite fascinated by Jane Austen’s comment and deliberate avoidance of the concert. I wonder what it was about the music that so irritated her apart from the possibility of them not being the best rate performances ? Did she not like  professional singers ? She made a similar comment about a performance of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes in her letter to Cassandra of 5th March 1814:

I daresay “Artaxerxes” will be very tiresome.

and later…after the performance

I was very tired of “Artaxerxes,” highly amused with the farce, and, in an inferior way, with the pantomime that followed. Mr. J. Plumptre joined in the latter part of the evening, walked home with us, ate some soup, and is very earnest for our going to Covent Garden again to-night to see Miss Stephens in the “Farmer’s Wife.” He is to try for a box. I do not particularly wish him to succeed. I have had enough for the present.

We shall in all probability never know what upset her so much…..?

Next post: Fireworks.

Before I post about Sydney Place, I thought it might be useful to see the quandary the Austens had  to face when they moved to Bath in 1801…Where, oh where to live in fashionable and expensive Bath on not a particularly large income , while still maintaining some semblance of status and  happiness?

Jane’s letter to Cassandra  Austenof the 3rd January 1801 details all the places she thought might or might not suit.

Here is the 1803 plan of Bath from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places by John Feltham annotated with the locations she mentions in the letter:

(Please do click on this to enlarge it so you can see all the details..)

And here is the extract from the letter:

There are three parts of Bath  which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them — Westgate Buildings,(A)

Charles Street,(B)

and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place (C)

or Pulteney Street (D).

Westgate Buildings,(A) though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.

Charles Street, however, I think, is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields

would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street(B) leads from the Queen Square Chapel (F)

to the two Green Park Streets (G).

The houses in the streets near Laura Place (C) I should expect to be above our price.

Gay Street (L) would be too high,

except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments.

But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row (H) , which opens into Prince’s Street (I).

Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street,(J)

although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.

We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Axford Buildings,(K)

but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.

You can cleary see Jane Austen’s preferences are for places that have the opportunity of open views…making her feel that she is not too far from the countryside, and importantly, with access to the hills for walking…The expense involved also weighs heavily on her mind. She also opts for those locations that were not so close to the Leigh Perrots to be uncomfortable. They were inevitably going to be part of their social circle in Bath, and no doubt were a very keen attraction for Mrs Austen to be retired near to her brother and his wife, but for Jane Austen I think, paraphrasing Elizabeth Bennet, it was possible for a woman to be settled too near her family….

This is a very elegant church and I’ve always loved seeing it on its hill, on the approach to Bath from the A4…

Here is its position in Bath,

shown on a section from this larger map of Bath in 1803 from John Feltham’s Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc

The church is number 1 on this map, which can be enlarged if you click on it. You can see the position of the church -marked as a black section of the top of the piece of land between Walcot and Cornwall Buildings: if you look carefully you can also see the site of the Walcot burial ground to the south-east  of the church.

This church holds very special Jane Austen associations, as it was the church where her mother and father married and also where the reverend George Austen was buried.

The building we can see now-still a functioning church

was rebuilt after the Austen’ wedding, because of the boom in the Bath population in the mid 18th century. The parish of St. Swithin’s decided to demolish the old medieval church on the site and to rebuild, employing the architect of  St James ,Bath, John Palmer as their architect for their more spacious and modern church.

This is how Walter Ison in his wonderful book, The Gregorian Buildings of Bath, describes the exterior and the interior of the building:

The exterior is adorned with a giant order of Ionic pilasters with plain shafts ,which rise from a deep plinth and divide the side elevations into six equal bays. The two tiers of widows, low segmental-headed lights to the ground floor and tall arched lights to the galleries, are framed by heavily moulded architraves. A plain strongcourse marks the gallery level and the fronts are finished with an entablature and plain parapet. Low wings containing vestries and staircases, flank the of the tower, which forms the centre of the west front…

The interior measure approximately 68 feet by 52 feet and is similar to that of St James’s Church except that here three widely spaced columns stand on each side of the nave and the gallery is independent of them. The alter stands in a shallow bay corbelled out over the lower road and the side walls are adorned with many interesting memorial tablets including one to the architect, John Palmer.

Back to Jane Austen…Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh was living in Bath at the time of her marriage to George Austen in 1764. Her father had retired to Bath in the early 1760s,  and had died there in January 1764, and was then buried in the subject of our post today, St Swithin’s Church.

The Austens married on the 26th April 1764 by special license at St. Swithin’s

This is a copy of the register recording their marriage, which you can enlarge as you can all the illustrations in this post, simply by clicking on it.

In a characteristically practical manner, Mrs Austen did not appear at church arrayed in any special wedding dress of fine embroidered silk. Instead she wore  a typical mid 18th century travelling dress -a habit-of red worsted wool.

Her dress must have been very similar to this one held by the Victoria and Albert Museum in their collection. If you go here you can see a 360 degree view of the dress and a short description of it.

This dress was indeed very practical garb for  the wife of a country rector. And it gave good service to the family for  when no longer fit to be worn as a dress, it was adapted as clothes for the Austen children.

Frank Austen , one of Jane’s sailor brothers, was by all accounts a fearless little boy and  had an instinctive  gift for horse trading. When he was seven years old he  bought a pony for £1, 11 shillings and 6 pence, which he trained and hunted and at the end of two years ownership sold  for £2 12 shillings and 6 pence, thereby making a profit of over one guinea. The wedding dress was finally used up to make Francis a jacket and a pair breeches so that he could appear in style in the hunting field as a child.

When Jane Austen was staying with Edward Austen at Queen’s Square in June 1799 she was of course commissioned by her sister, Cassandra, to buy  articles of clothing, and in particular to find out what the latest fashion was so that they could keep up with the times in rural Hampshire.

Bath was (and still is) a wonderful centre for shopping: it impressed the fashion-obsessed Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey :

“Bath is a charming place, sir; there are so many good shops here. We are sadly off in the country; not but what we have very good shops in Salisbury, but it is so far to go — eight miles is a long way; Mr. Allen says it is nine, measured nine; but I am sure it cannot be more than eight; and it is such a fag — I come back tired to death. Now, here one can step out of doors and get a thing in five minutes.”

Northanger Abbey,Chapter 3

But in Jane Austen’s case, the shops proved disappointing:

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in guest of something for you.

(See :Letter to Cassandra Austen dated June 2nd 1799)

The search for fruit in Walcot was not very productive: Jane Austen’s Aunt, Mrs Leigh Perrot typically sending Jane on a fools errand in search of cheap decorative fruit, sending her  to a cheap shop where annoyingly only flowers were to be had:

We have been to the cheap shop, and very cheap we found it, but there are only flowers made there, no fruit; and as I could get four or five very pretty sprigs of the former for the same money which would procure only one Orleans plum — in short, could get more for three or four shillings than I could have means of bringing home — I cannot decide on the fruit till I hear from you again. Besides, I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit. What do you think on that subject?

(See:  Letter to Cassandra Austen dated June 11th, 1799).

I tend to agree…flowers and not fruit  sprouting from the  head seems far more natural, but I am not sure exactly why…

The last Jane Austen association with St Swithin’s is rather poingnant: Jane’s father, Geroge Austen was buried there after his death  in Bath on the 21st January 1805, and this is a picture of the original  ledgerstone,  which indicated the place of his burial.

This was re-sited and renovated by the Bath and Bristol branch of the Jane Austen Society  in 2000, and a new sign recording George Austen’s associations with the church was erected:

You might like to note that Fanny Burney –one of Jane Austen’s favourite novelists-

and her husband who lived in Bath in the early 19th century, were also buried in the Walcot burial ground and at a later date a memorial  was erected near the church commemorating them.

but not the Deirdre Le Faye edition…..the Brabourne edition;-)

This may initially appear to you as a strange thing to include in a  book review, a set of books that have been out of print for over 100 years…but wait …you well probably be as surprised and pleased as I was to discover that Cambridge University Press have recently taken on the concept of print-on-demand books and have made it into something that has the potential to be very special indeed.

They are re-issuing scholarly out of print books from the unimaginably wide range of books in their libraries.

The edition of Jane Austen’s letters edited by Jane Austen’s nephew, Lord Brabourne, is among the first digitally reprinted books to be issued in the new series –The Cambridge Library Collection

It comes in the form of two very reasonably priced volumes, both in paperback editions.

They are facsimiles of the original books, first published in 1884 by Richard Bentley and Son.

The originals have become so expensive that I have long since put my reasonably-priced-when-bought-all those- years-ago volumes on The Not To Be Touched Shelf.

So now I am pleased to own these two volumes in this accessible form so that I can examine them once again without fear of breaking the spine, spilling tea over them  or otherwise damaging them in my usual klutzy way.

This Brabourne collection is, of course, available on-line, and has been superseded by the Le Faye Edition, but it still has some merits, the introductions by Lord Barbourne and interesting family documents etc, and there is a charm in examining the first proper selection of Jane Austen’s letters in its original form. Especially when the original volumes are now so scarce and…so ruinously and hideously expensive.  And despite, or rather because of being a fond Kindle owner, I find I do like to hold a book in my hands, rather than read one on line, especially if I’m doing it for prolonged periods of time. So this re-issue is wonderful.

My only gripe is that the two illustrations in the books are quite fuzzy and indistinct.

The portrait supposedly of Jane Austen as a child, commonly known as The Rice Portrait ,

is rendered (as in the original books) in black and white but as you can see, below, this version is very blurred :

The view of Godmersham from The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (1798) by Edward Hasted in Volume II of the letters is also not particularly clear…

…especially if you compare it with the original print , of which I have a copy

However this is nitpicking on my part, a minor quibble. It is the text that is important and these books deliver it in a perfectly legible way.

The Cambridge University Press have only just begun to reissue many titles on many subjects in this series. Follow this link here to read a general introduction, and this link here gives the current list, subject by subject

Below is a very lovely and informative video of the whole process-accompanied by heavenly music by William Byrd sung by the choir of Girton College. Just click on it to play….

I love the idea that they are open to suggestions for further reprints and  I am compiling a list with a few suggestions. Their own collection of books must be mind bogglingly immense, but if you suggest a title of  merit that they do not own or is not out of copyright  but out of print ,they will attempt to pursue the matter and try to produce their own edition of the books.

As someone whose ancestor was John Baskerville, who was commissioned to print books for  Cambridge University in the 18th century, I have always had an affection for the CUP. I can only laud this whole process, and urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to own your own copies of hard to find and sometimes impossibly expensive texts.

I have been unable to travel to New York (Begone dull and dreaded credit crunch! ) to see the much lauded Jane Austen exhibition currently on show at the Morgan Library. Luckily for me , one of my good friends and superb fellow blogger, Karen of Bookish NYC, undertook this onerous task and visited it this week, on my behalf, promising at the same time to write a reveiw of the exhibit for AustenOnly.

Before reading her review, may I formally introduce you to Karen? ( though I think some of you may already be visitors to her witty site. ) Her blog is about her life in New York and her reading habits. She is a voracious reader -a trait we share- a fellow lawyer, and all round good egg. Her wickedly funny Seen on the Subway feature, which appears very Friday, always brightens up my day with its keen observations of her fellow New Yorkers and their sometimes surprising reading material.

Do go and explore her blog- I am sure you will enjoy it and her ;-)

And now to her review……..


I finally got to see the superb exhibit at the Morgan Library  here in New York, entitled:  A Woman’s Wit:  Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy.   The Morgan, housed in a Renaissance-style palazzo specially built by Pierpont Morgan to contain his unparalleled collection of priceless manuscripts (later expanded and opened to the public by his son, J.P. Morgan), has amongst its many treasures the largest collection of Austen’s letters in the world.  (Scholars estimate that she wrote approximately 3,000; 160 survive; the Morgan owns 51.)

The title of this exhibition derives from Rosalind’s speech in the fourth act of As You Like It:

“Make the doors upon a woman’s wit and it will out at the casement; shut that, and ‘twill out at the keyhole; stop that, ‘twill fly with the smoke out of the chimney.”

Austen’s wit is in full evidence in the dozen or so of her letters that form the core of this exhibit.  The oldest letter in the Morgan’s collection dates from 15th September 1796, written from Rowling to her most constant correspondent, her sister Cassandra.  She write of a party at Nackington from which her party “return[ed] by Moonlight,” at which “Miss Fletcher and I were very thick, but I am the thinnest of the two – She wore her purple Muslin, which is pretty enough, tho’ it does not become her complexion.  There are two Traits in her Character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla, & drinks no cream in her Tea.”

(Do note- you can enlarge all the extracts and pictures in this post by clicking on them- jfw)

Another letter given pride of place in the exhibition is an example of a “crossed” letter, in which, in order to save paper, Austen filled a page, then turned it ninety degrees and wrote over the original text, rendering it impossible for this modern reader to decipher it!   (In Emma, Miss Bates refers to having received such a crossed letter from her niece, Jane Fairfax.)   Austen’s letter, dated 8-9 February, 1807, was written to Cassandra from Southampton.  She begins the letter lamenting that she has “nothing to say,” but manages to fill four sheets, crossing two, and concludes,

There, I flatter myself I have constructed you a Smartish Letter, considering my want of Materials.  But like my dear Dr. Johnson, I believe I have dealt more in Notions than Facts.”

Perhaps my favorite of the letters in the exhibit was that written by Jane to Cassandra on 24 May 1813, from London, where she had gone with her brother Henry to a picture exhibition where she was

“very well pleased – particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her; I went in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy; — perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibitions which we shall go to, if we have time;  . . . Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly like herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness.  She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favorite colour with her.  I dare say Mrs. Darcy will be in Yellow.”

This teasing letter, in which Austen imagines the appearances of two of her most loved characters (Jane and Elizabeth Bennett), is displayed next to another treasure from the Morgan’s seemingly bottomless collection – a pristine engraving of the very portrait that she viewed that reminded her of Mrs. Bingley – Portrait of Mrs. Q (Mrs. Harriett Quentin), by William Blake:

But this marvelous exhibit contains much more than Austen’s precious letters.  There are pristine – and no doubt priceless – first editions of each of “The Six” (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.)   Also displayed is a twelve-page fragment of a rough draft of The Watsons in Austen’s hand, full of revisions and cross-outs, and a fair copy, also in her hand, of the first six letters of the epistolary novel, Lady Susan.  (The Morgan has been able to date this copy to 1805, based upon the watermark of the paper on which it was written.)   I myself covet the exquisite 1907/08 edition of The Six with watercolor illustrations by Charles E. Brock, which was displayed in a case adjacent to the first editions.

One of my favorite aspects of the exhibit was the inclusion of several perfectly preserved cartoons by James Gillray from the Morgan’s collection.  Gillray, a contemporary of Austen’s, shared her satirical eye.  My favorite of these cartoons is a beautifully-colored three-parter satirizing the laboriousness of ladies’ fashions, entitled Progress of the Toilet:  The Stays, The Wig, and Dress Completed. The caption accompanying this display points out that Austen, while herself enjoying being as well-dressed as her limited budget would allow, had scant patience for those consumed solely by finery, such as the foolish Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey.

Regular readers of Austen Only may be familiar with the incident whereby Austen, after the publication of Emma, was urged by no less than James Stanier Clarke,

the domestic chaplain and librarian to the Prince Regent (despised by Austen), to write a new novel bearing a marked resemblance to Stanier’s own life.  The Morgan exhibit contains a Plan of a Novel, according to Hints from a Certain Quarter, dated 1816.  This document, in Austen’s hand, was obviously constructed as a fireside amusement, and in the margins indicates which of Austen’s friends and family suggested and/or improved upon certain plot points.  A wicked piece of fun!

The curator also decided to treat us to some Austen-related gems from the Library’s vast holdings.  There is a letter from William Butler Yeats to Lady Gregory, dated 14 June 1920, written while he was on a lengthy lecture tour of the U.S. “I read all Miss Austen in America with great satisfaction.”  Also featured are the original lecture notes of Vladimir Nabokov (of Lolita fame) while he was a professor at Cornell teaching a course entitled “Masters of European Fiction,” circa 1948.  His notes on Mansfield Park include his hand-drawn and detailed floor plans of both Mansfield Park and Sotherton, his sketch of a barouche (with a notation comparing it to a convertible), as well as a chronology of the novel.

The most poignant item in the exhibit is a letter from Cassandra Austen’s pen to Fanny Knight, relaying the details of Jane’s final hours.   Dated 20 July 1817, Cassandra laments her beloved sister as the

“sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow . . . “

The only fault of this otherwise faultless exhibition:  NO CATALOGUE!!  Not even so much as a flimsy pamphlet handed out in the gallery.  However, those who are interested in the exhibit but cannot make it in person may check out the Morgan’s website, on which one can watch a fifteen-minute film featuring various modern authors and Austen aficionados commenting on her work and what it’s meant to them.  This film was, frankly, the least interesting part of the exhibit, but does show a few of the original letters being handled in the Library’s archives.

The exhibit runs through March 14th  at the Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, New York.


Thank you so much, Karen. What a fabulous review- I almost feel as if I’ve been there ;-) I too lament the fact that no catalogue of any kind was published to commemorate this exhibit. And I daresay that I speak for deprived Janeites all over the world on that score. I’m sure it would have been a sure-fire best seller. Frankly, I’d have loved a facsimile edition of the Plan of a Novel etc.,  complete with scholarly introduction and explanatory notes… Ah, well.  Let’s see (D.V.) what 2017 will bring. Not too long to wait ;-)

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