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Hello! Long time no see, hear or indeed anything. I thought you might be interested in this….


Janet Clarke of the Jane Austen Society has contacted me so that I can let you know of Worthing’s very exciting WOW (World of Words) exhibition which will take place between the 23rd May and the 7th June this year.
As you know Jane Austen stayed at the seaside town of Worthing, Sussex in 1805 and Janet Clarke has undertaken extensive research on her stay there. The WOW Festival includes lots of special events celebrating her stay there. The exhibition website relates:

A major new exhibition celebrating the link between novelist Jane Austen and Worthing is to take place next month.
The exhibition, in association with Community First and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), runs from 23 May to 7 June and, among many activities, will give visitors the opportunity to experience the town as the author herself would have, atop a horse drawn carriage.

Jane Austen stayed in Worthing in 1805 and is said to have based many parts of her unfinished last novel Sandition on the town.

Exciting activities in the exhibition will include a free family day with arts and crafts, children’s tours, a Georgian trio of musicians, a Regency dance display and an Indian-themed special screening of Bride & Prejudice; the Bollywood version of the Austen classic. The screening will include Indian food.

For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, two guided walks will take place; one in the centre of town and the other in Broadwater, both areas closely linked with Austen.

The exhibition will run from 23 May – 7 June at the Chatsworth Hotel, Steyne Gardens Worthing, West Sussex BN11 3DU and is open daily from 10am – 3pm.

Writers and Artists note: the organizing committee is looking out for an Artist and Writer in Residence….anyone interested is advised to contact Melody on by the 24th April. For more details of the exhibition please go here.

It all sounds fascinating, and I hope Janet will furnish us with some pictures of the exhibition, which would be lovely.

As many of you know, recently research, most notably and most diligently undertaken by Janet Clark of the Jane Austen Society, has shown that Worthing in Sussex is most probably Jane Austen’s inspiration for the setting of Sanditon, her last, alas incomplete, work.

Jane Austen stayed in Worthing during the late summer, autumn and possibly winter of 1805, along with her mother, sister, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd, plus her brother, Edward Austen Knight and his wife, Elizabeth, their daughter Fanny, and her governess Anne Sharp. The cottage where she stayed, Stanford Cottage is now a branch of a nation-wide, well- known pizza chain and recently the Worthing Civic Society has erected a plaque there to commemorate Jane Austen’s happy and productive stay in the town.

While she was there Jane Austen seems to have soaked up the atmosphere and the personalities of the locals who were striving to promote a new, bustling watering-place, with an eye to profits . If you go here you can read some more of Janet Clarke’s discoveries,which I find fascinating. I took a trip round Worthing a couple of years ago to see the Austen sites, and while it is no longer the  Regency resort of Jane Austen’s day, there are still a few places that she would have known and recognised.

How sad it is to hear, therefore, that one of these places is threatened, and public access to it may permanently cease.

Above is the space under discussion. It is, to use the old Sussex dialect term for it, a Twitten, that is, a small passageway between two walls, examples of which can still be found in some English towns. It is owned by Stagecoach, the nation-wide coaching company, and, as you can see, above,  one end of the Twitten is accessed through their property, the local Stagecoach bus station. The other end of the Twitten leads to Library Place, where the circulating library that Jane Austen used in Worthing was situated.  It is highly probable that she used this Twitten to visit it, as Stanford Cottage can be accessed via this Twitten and the station, and it is , in  fact, a short cut.

This has been the subject of much dispute, and a planning meeting is to be held at the end of  March to discuss it.

As Janet Clarke has told me recently,  the Twitten

would have been a delightful short cut from her (Jane Austen’s-jfw)  residence, in the autumn of 1805, through open land to the seafront and circulating library. It is wonderful for visitors today, to walk in Jane’s footsteps , especially as Stanford Cottage and part of the circulating library are still standing ( the pathway directly links the two as it has done for over 200 years ). Permanently stopping up the pathway would be very detrimental to the Jane Austen trail in Worthing, damaging our heritage and tourism, and diminishing the overall appreciation of Jane Austen’s Worthing for present and future generations.

I really do think that losing any part of our Austen heritage, however small, is just unthinkable. At a time when new discoveries about Jane Austen-related buildings are being made  -see the Steventon rectory project-  why on earth would a local council want to  stop public access to a charming relic of Worthing that Jane Austen would have known and used ? And I would have thought that in these difficult financial times that any direct link to our greatest novelist should be preserved for the public to use and to attract tourism to the town. We are, after all, only five years from the bicentenary of her death in 1817, and interest in all things Jane has never been higher.

I am appalled to be frank, and am considering my response to the council. What do you think about this?

The Philpot Museum in Lyme Regis is holding a talk which may interest Janites in the area. It is to be given by John Dover on the 24th March at 2.30 p.m., and the subject is Thomas Hollis. He  was the man who founded Lyme’s tourist industry in teh early to mid 18th century.

This is of interest to Janeites because it was probably due to his tourism promoting activities, that Jane Austen ensured that Mr Hollis, the first husband of Lady Denham in her last unfinished novel, Sandition, shares his name

Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was an interesting character. He was a political propagandist and a radical but also a supporter of the house of Hanover. He was a benefactor, amongst other institutions, of Harvard University and owned an estate of 3000 acres at Corscombe near Beauminster.


He kept, however, a suite of rooms in the original Three Cups Hotel at Lyme, the one shown above (and now sadly derelict)replaced it, and he  bought up much of the slums and derelict property in Lyme in order to demolish them and improve the town. He created the first public promenade by purchasing land on the shore to create what Jane Austen would have referred to as The Walk ( it is now part of Marine Parade). He knocked down a series of warehouses to clear a site for the building of Lyme’s Assembly Rooms complex and these were completed in 1775 just after Hollis’s death. These are the Rooms that Jane Austen visited in 1804, and which I wrote about, here.

I do hope that some of you can go to listen to what promises to be a very interesting talk about a larger than life character, whose legacy made a strong impression on Jane Austen.

…but with a catch.  The exhibition at the Bodleian Library is open for one day only.

If you can make it to Oxford on Monday 25th October, you will be able to see a selection of Jane Austen’s manuscripts to include Volume the First (shown below),

which includes most of her very early writings and the manuscript of  Sanditon. Also on display will be Edward Knight’s set of his sister, Jane s novels.

The display is to coincide with the official launch of the Jane Austen Ficiton Manuscripts website which we have discussed before. This site will be fully operational and open to all from Monday, so even if you can’t travel to Oxford to see the manuscripts, etc, you can luxuriate in studying them from the comfort of your own computer, wherever you are in the world. I must confess I am already fining this site terribly useful for my own research, and  am so pleased it has been brought not existence before the advent of the culture of  vicious budgets cuts  in which we now seem to live .

Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University is the curator of the exhibit.  She writes:

Being able to view Austen’s original manuscripts reveals fascinating details about the mechanics and quirks of her handwriting. Her famous description of her way of working – “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour” is borne out by the tiny homemade booklets into which she wrote – her style is obsessively economical, in her formation of carets from recycled elements of other letters, and her layered punctuation (the merging of a caret with the down stroke of a ‘p’ and a semi-colon with an exclamation mark), and her near compulsive use of the dash to maintain a material connection between her thoughts and the paper.

She has given some interesting interviews recently to coincide with the launch of the website. The article in the Telegraph, though ever-so-slightly incorrect and with its misleading  and slightly sensational headline is of interest for it demonstrates that a close reading Jane Austen’s surviving manuscripts reveals her to be a very different person than usually portrayed, and certainly completely different from the carefully crafted image presented to the world by Jane Austen’s Victorian descendants, a process of “beatification” begun by Henry Austen in his Biographical Notice of  his sister, published posthumously in December 1817 in the first edition of Persuasion.

To round up my posts on Sanditon, written to coincide with Laurel’s Group Read of Jane Austen’s unfinished fragment at Austenprose, I thought I might take the opportunity of writing about Jane Austen and donkeys , or asses as they were  then called.

In Sanditon we hear much of Lady Denham’s asses and her money-making plans for them:

Well, Mr. Parker, and the other is a boarding school, a French boarding school, is it? No harm in that. They’ll stay their six weeks. And out of such a number, who knows but some may be consumptive and want asses’ milk; and I have two milch asses at this present time…Going after a doctor! Why, what

should we do with a doctor here? It would be only encouraging our servants and the poor to fancy themselves ill if there was a doctor at hand. Oh! pray, let us have none of the tribe at Sanditon. We go on very well as we are. There is the sea and the downs and my milch asses.


Now if we could get a young heiress to be sent here for her health — and if she was ordered to drink asses’ milk I could supply her — and, as soon as she got well, have her fall in love with Sir Edward!”

Unfortunately for her, the stout defensive attitude of Mrs Griffiths pours cold water on her plans for her asses milk:

Lady Denham had other motives for calling on Mrs. Griffiths besides attention to the Parkers. In Miss Lambe, here was the very young lady, sickly and rich, whom she had been asking for; and she made the acquaintance for Sir Edward’s sake and the sake of her milch asses. How it might answer with regard to the baronet remained to be proved but, as to the animals, she soon found that all her calculations of profit would be vain. Mrs. Griffiths would not allow Miss Lambe to have the smallest sympton of a decline or any complaint which asses’ milk could possibly relieve. Miss Lambe was “under the constant care of an experienced physician,” and his prescriptions must be their rule. And except in favour of some tonic pills, which a cousin of her own had a property in, Mrs. Griffiths never deviated from the strict medicinal page.

Why was asses milk thought  good for invalids particularly consumptives?

Lets turn to William Buchan and his book Domestic Medicine

which was a very popular home reference book in the early 19th century, and one I think Jane Austen may have read., or at least had access to.

This is what he has to say about the use of asses milk, in particular in relation to consumptive patients:

Next to proper air and exercise, we would recommend a due attention to diet. The patient should eat nothing that is either heating or hard of digestion, and his drink must be of a soft and cooling nature. All the diet ought to be calculated to lessen the acrimony of the humours, and to nourish and support the patient. For this purpose he must keep chiefly to the use of vegetables and milk. Milk alone is of more value in this disease than the whole materia medica.

Asses milk is commonly reckoned preferable to any other; but it cannot always be obtained; besides, it is generally taken in a very small quantity; whereas, to produce any effects, it ought to make a considerable part of the patient’s diet. It is hardly to be expected, that a gill or two of asses milk, drank in the space of twenty-four hours, should be able to produce any considerable change in the humours of an adult; and when people do not perceive its effects soon, they lose hope, and so leave it off. Hence it happens that this medicine, however valuable, very seldom performs a cure. The reason is obvious; it is commonly used too late, is taken in too small quantities, and is not duly persisted in.

I have known very extraordinary effects from asses milk in obstinate coughs, which threatened a consumption of the lungs; and do verily believe, if used at this period, that it would seldom fail; but if it be delayed till an ulcer is formed, which is generally the case, how can it be expected to succeed?

Asses milk ought to be drank, if possible, in its natural warmth, and, by a grown person, in the quantity of half an English pint at a time. Instead of taking this quantity night and morning only, the patient ought to take it four times, or at least thrice a day, and to eat a little light bread along with it, so as to make it a kind of meal.

If the milk should happen to purge, it may be mixed with old conserve of roses. When that cannot be obtained, the powder of crabs claws may be used in its stead. Asses milk is usually ordered to be drank warm in bed; but as it generally throws the patient into a sweat when taken in this way, it would perhaps be better to give it after he rises.

It was also thought to be helpful whenever a patient presented with a persistent cough, coupled with other complaints such as smallpox:

When a cough, a difficulty of breathing, or other symptoms of a consumption, succeed to the small-pox, the patient must be sent to a place where the air is good, and put upon a course of asses milk, with such exercise as he can bear.

Or measles:

Should a cough, with difficulty of breathing, and other symptoms of a consumption, remain after the measles, small quantities of blood may be frequently let at proper intervals, as the patient’s strength and constitution will permit. He ought likewise to drink asses milk, to remove to a free air, if in a large town, and to ride daily on horseback. He must keep close to a diet consisting of milk and vegetables; and lastly, if these do not succeed, let him remove to a warmer climate.

Mrs Rundell, in her section of recipes for invalids in her book A New System of Domestic Cookery, ( my 1819 edition) advises the use of  asses milk too.

In actual fact it has now been proved scientifically that  all these old “cures” may have some truth behind them. Ass’s milk has been found to contain less solids than any other sort of milk. It is richer in sugar than other sorts (except for human milk). It is constituted with less curd and fat than other milks and it is consequently easy to digest. A rather good thing for ill people to consume therefore.

For an ass to produce milk of course the Jenny or female donkey had to have produced a calf, which is why Lady Denham is rather proud to have two milch asses and is eager to make the most of their milk producing period. The Jennys were usually milked twice a day, and usually gave up between half a pint to a pint at each milking. Milch donkey could be hired at the cost of one guinea a week, plus expenses of transport ,and no doubt this was Lady Denham’s plan.

But if you could not obtain fresh asses milk then you could make a substitute.

My copy of The Family Receipt Book,

a fanatically detailed and comprehensive encyclopedia of domestic knowledge circa 1810, gives this recipe for artificial asses milk:

And even Mrs Rundell obliged with three alternatives to fresh asses milk:

Some of the ingredients these recipes used may now seem odd to us –snails?– but some are now  virtually unknown.

Eringo root is perhaps the most  puzzling ingredient. It is in fact the roots of the Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum

(Photograph from Wikipeadia Commons)

which have been candied or picked.

Sea Holly is in fact no relation at all to evergreen holly trees but is a tall, bluish-green evergreen perennial found growing wild on coastal areas in England. It is in fact a member of the umbellifer family of plants ( which includes parsley, carrots and parsnips).

Here are some which have been candied by Ivan Day of Historic Foods.

You can see I think the resemblance they have to parsnip tips.

It was fantastically popular sweetmeat in the 17th and 18th centuries and  used not only as a sweet addition to artificial asses milk , but as an aphrodisiac.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare,  Falstaff calls for them:

Let the sky rain potatoes;

let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeves,

hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes ,

let there come a tempest of provocation…

(See: Falstaff, Act 5, scene v,)

and I suppose at his advantaged age he might have needed them.

Next onto the other use for asses a means of transport and of  which Jane Austen made much use  in her last months at Chawton .

Laurel at Austenprose asked me a couple of days ago to give a little back ground to sea bathing and the medical rewards( or not) of taking the cure-all of sea bathing in the early 19th century ,and here is the post I have written about it for her and you.


The Sea air and Sea Bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every Disorder…

Sanditon, Chapter 1

The process of dipping-sea bathing-in the early 19th century is so far removed form our experience of bathing in the sea, that it  might be worthwhile looking at it in some detail.

The clothes (linen sifts or chemises covering the body from shoulders to ankles and not skimpy lycra swimsuits); the dipping itself (not swimming for ladies, note)aided by “dippers” ; all undertaken from enclosed bathing machines pulled by horses; the heath benefits-all are completely different to what we consider the benefits and joys of swimming by the seaside today.

One of the most thorough descriptions of the whole process of being dipped, is to be found in epistolary novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) by Tobias Smollett. In the letter from Jery Melford to Sir Watkin Phillips written from Scarborough in Yorkshire dated July 1st, we learn all we really need to know:

Betwixt the well and the harbour, the bathing machines are ranged along the beach, with all their proper utensils and attendants. You have never seen one of these machines.Image to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below.

The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end

The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water

After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land; so that he has nothing further to do,but to open the door, and come down as he went up

Should he be so weak or ill as to require a servant to put off and on his clothes, there is room enough in the apartment for half a dozen people. The guides who attend the ladies in the water, are of their own sex, and they and the female bathers have a dress of flannel for the sea; nay, they are provided with other conveniences for the support of decorum. A certain number of the machines are fitted with tilts, that project from the sea-ward ends of them, so as to screen the bathers from the view of all persons whatsoever

The beach is admirably adapted for this practice, the descent being gently gradual, and the sand soft as velvet; but then the machines can be used only at a certain time of the tide, which varies every day; so that sometimes the bathers are obliged to rise very early in the morning

First lets consider the bathing machines….

This picture- taken from the frontispiece to my 1816 edition of The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing  Places by John Feltham show the “ tilt” –a modesty hood and -its presumably wicker framework over which it was stretched and held as the bather within was dipped into the water. This is a tiny engraving but if you do enlarge it, by clicking on it, you can see all the amazing detail.

This view of Margate show the machine being pulled out into the sea by horses and the sea looks rather as if it has rather a heavy swell.

You can also see the unused bahting mahines with tilts atatched, waiting to be used at the side of the beach.

Dippers or bathing machine women, who attended women in these machines, or Bathers (who attended men)were an interesting part of the whole process. In her letter to Cassandra Austen  of the 14thSeptember 1804, Jane Austen mentions that her dipper at Lyme was a woman named Molly.

This is a picture of a rather famous dipper, Martha Gunn who operated a series of bathing machines from the beach at Brighton:

This caricature of Martha by the cartoonist Robert Dighton dating from 1801, shows her as a physically formidable woman before her bathing machines ranged on the Brighton beach. Dippers and Bathers had to be physically strong as their occupation required that standing in the water, they took their client in their arms as he/she descended the steps leading from the bathing machine, and to proceed to “dip” the bathers vigorously into the sea water, pushing them through the waves. Martha was famous for dipping the Prince of Wales, and this ditty was created in her honour:

To Brighton came he,

Came George III’s son.

To be bathed in the sea,

By famed Martha Gunn

She was also rumoured to be a procuress but we shall draw a veil over those activities  for today.

Men often bathed naked and care was taken to segregate the sexes on beaches. The clothes women wore were similar to those worn at Bath: a long chemise made of flannel.

This acquatint by Rowlandson, taken from the Poetical Sketches of Scarborough (1813) shows ladies bathing at Scarborough naked. And it seems that in some places naked bathing by women continued into the early 19th century:

Men, with exceptions, continued to bathe naked until the 1870s but women began to provide themselves with bathing dresses towards the end of the 18th century, though nudity was braved by some during the first years of the nineteenth

(See English Costume for Spots and Outdoor Recreation by Phillis Cunnington and Alan Mansfield)

The whole process could be fun but exhausting. As Jane Austen herself discovered. Writing to Cassandra Austen from Lyme  in Dorset in 1804, she remarked:

Friday Evening:

The Bathing was so delightful this morning and Molly so pressing with me to enjoy myself that I believe I staid in rather too long as since the middle of the day  have felt unreasonably tired. I shal lbe more careful another time and shall not bathe tomorrow as I had before intended…

And what were the health benefits expected of sea bathing? William Buchan who wrote Domestic Medicine

and whose sensible advice on consumptive patients seems to accord with Jane Austen’s view of the disease as possibly manifested by Jane Fairfax, is helpful in  giving us an insight into the mind of 18th century medical men. Remember that this time the medical profession was guided by the belief that health derived from a balance of the four humors in the body . Physicians and apothecaries focused upon restoring the system’s equilibrium or balance, usually by draining or purging the system of excess humors.

The theory that the body consisted of four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile derived back to Greek medicine practiced in ancient times. As the ancient Greeks considered that disease was caused by an imbalance of these humors, it was, therefore considered that the duty of a physician was to employ treatment that would restore this delicate balance.

Thus treatments consisted of curing the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. Prescribed therapies were limited to diet, exercise, rest, bath, and “heroic medicine.” Despite its name, heroic medicine was in my opinion,anything but. It consisted of purging, starving, vomiting, or bloodletting, and was thought to relieve the body of symptoms like fever or inflammation by relieving it of various excess humours.

Dr Buchan recommended  sea bathing- cold immersions- for the following set of people and complaints :

The cold bath recommends itself in a variety of cases; and is peculiarly beneficial to the inhabitants of populous cities; who indulge in idleness, and lead sedentary lives. In persons of this description the action of the fluids is always too weak, which induces a languid circulation, a crude indigested mass of humours, and obstructions in the capillary vessels and glandular system. Cold water, from its gravity as well as its tonic power, is well calculated either to obviate or remove these symptoms. It accelerates the motion of the blood, promotes the different secretions, and gives permanent vigour to the solids. But all these important purposes will be more essentially answered by the application of salt water. This ought not only to be preferred on account of its superior gravity, but likewise for its greater power of stimulating the skin, which promotes the perspiration, and prevents the patient from catching cold.

It is necessary, however, to observe, that cold bathing is more likely to prevent, than to remove obstructions of the glandular or lymphatic system. Indeed, when these have arrived at a certain pitch, they are not to be removed by any means. In this case the cold bath will only aggravate the symptoms, and hurry the unhappy patient into an untimely grave. It is therefore of the utmost importance, previous to the patient’s entering upon the use of the cold bath, to determine whether or not he labours under any obstinate obstructions of the lungs or other viscera; and where this is the case, cold bathing ought strictly to be prohibited. The late celebrated Dr. Smollet has indeed said, that if he were persuaded he had an ulcer in the lungs, he would jump into the cold bath: but here the Doctor evidently shews more courage than discretion; and that he was more a man of wit than a physician, every one will allow. A nervous asthma, or an atrophy, may be mistaken for a pulmonary consumption; yet in the two former, the cold bath proves often beneficial, though I never knew it so in the latter.

But he did advise certain cautions:

As it is now fashionable for persons of all ranks to plunge into the sea, and drink the mineral waters, I was desirous of rendering this work still more extensively useful, by the addition of some practical remarks on these active and useful medicines. Finding it impossible to bring these observations within so narrow a compass as not to swell the book, already too large, into an enormous size, I resolved to confine myself to a few hints or cautions; which may be of service to persons who bathe, or drink the mineral waters, without being able to put themselves under the care of a physician.

No part of the practice of medicine is of greater importance, or merits more the attention of the physician, as many lives are lost, and numbers ruin their health, by cold bathing, and an imprudent use of the mineral waters. On some future occasion I may probably resume this subject, as I know not any work that contains a sufficient number of practical observations to regulate the patient’s conduct in the use of these active and important medicines….

People are apt to imagine that the simple element of water can do no hurt, and that they may plunge into it at any time with impunity. In this, however, they are much mistaken. I have known apoplexies occasioned by going into the cold bath, fevers excited by staying too long in it, and other maladies so much aggravated by its continued use, that they could never be wholly eradicated. Nor are examples wanting, either in ancient or modern times, of the baneful consequences which have arisen also from an injudicious application of the warm bath; but as warm baths are not so common in this country, and are seldom used but under the direction of a physician, I shall not enlarge on that part of the subject.

Immersion in cold water is a custom which lays claim to the most remote antiquity: indeed it must have been coeval with man himself. The necessity of water for the purposes of cleanliness, and the pleasure arising from its application to the body in hot countries, must very early have recommended it to the human species. Even the example of other animals was sufficient to give the hint to man. By instinct many of them are led to apply cold water in this manner; and some, when deprived of its use, have been known to languish, and even to die. But whether the practice of cold bathing arose from necessity, reasoning, or imitation, is an inquiry of no importance: our business is to point out the advantages which may be derived from it, and to guard people against an improper use of it.

In what is called a plethoric state, or too great a fullness of the body, it is likewise dangerous to use the cold bath, without due preparation. In this case there is great danger of bursting a blood vessel, or occasioning an inflammation of the brain, or some of the viscera. This precaution is the more necessary to citizens, as most of them live full, and are of a gross habit. Yet what is very remarkable, these people resort in crouds every season to the sea-side, and plunge in the water without the least consideration. No doubt they often escape with impunity, but does this give a sanction to the practice? Persons of this description ought by no means to bathe, unless the body has been previously prepared by suitable evacuations.

Another class of patients, who stand peculiarly in need of the bracing qualities of cold water, is the nervous. This includes a great number of the male, and almost all the female inhabitants of great cities. Yet even those persons ought to be cautious in using the cold bath. Nervous people have often weak bowels, and may, as well as others, be subject to congestions and obstructions of the viscera; and in this case they will not be able to bear the effects of the cold water. For them, therefore, and indeed for all delicate people, the best plan would be to accustom themselves to it by the most pleasing and gentle degrees. They ought to begin with the temperate bath, and gradually use it cooler, till at length the coldest proves quite agreeable. Nature revolts against all great transitions; and those who do violence to her dictates, have often cause to repent of their temerity.

Wherever cold bathing is practised, there ought likewise to be tepid baths for the purpose mentioned above. Indeed it is the practice of some countries to throw cold water over the patient as soon as he comes out of the warm bath; but though this may not injure a Russian peasant, we dare not recommend it to the inhabitants of this country. The ancient Greeks and Romans, we are told, when covered with sweat and dust, used to plunge into rivers, without receiving the smallest injury. Though they might often escape danger from this imprudent conduct, yet it was certainly contrary to sound reason. I have known many robust men throw away their lives by such an attempt. We would not however advise patients to go into the cold water when the body is chilly; as much exercise, at least, ought to be taken, as may excite a gentle glow all over the body, but by no means so as to overheat it. To young people, and particularly to children, cold bathing is of the least importance. Their lax fibres render its tonic powers peculiarly proper. It promotes their growth, increases their strength, and prevents a variety of diseases incident to childhood. The celebrated Galen says, that immersion in cold water is fit only for the young of lions and bears: and recommends warm bathing, as conducive to the growth and strength of infants. How egregiously do the greatest men err whenever they lose sight of facts, and substitute reasoning in physic in place of observation and experience! Were infants early accustomed to the cold bath, it would seldom disagree with them; and we should see fewer instances of the scrofula, rickets, and other diseases, which prove fatal to many, and make others miserable for life. Sometimes indeed, these disorders render infants incapable of bearing the shock of cold water; but this is owing to their not having been early and regularly accustomed to it. It is however necessary here to caution young men against too frequent bathing; as I have known many fatal consequences result from the daily practice of plunging into rivers and continuing there too long.

Interestingly he agrees that early in the morning is the best time to bathe:

The most proper time of the day for using the cold bath is no doubt the morning, or at least before dinner; and the best mode, that of quick immersion. As cold bathing has a constant tendency to propel the blood and other humours towards the head, it ought to be a rule always to wet that part as soon as possible. By due attention to this circumstance, there is reason to believe that violent head-achs, and other complaints, which frequently proceed from cold bathing, might be often prevented.

But he agrees with Jane Austen’s experience about the dangerous of too much  bathing:

The cold bath, when too long continued in, not only occasions an excessive flux of humours towards the head, but chills the blood, cramps the muscles, relaxes the nerves, and wholly defeats the intention of bathing. Hence, by not adverting to this circumstance, expert swimmers are often injured, and sometimes even lose their lives. All the beneficial purposes of cold bathing are answered by one single immersion; and the patient ought to be rubbed dry the moment he comes out of the water, and should continue to take exercise for some time after.

When cold bathing occasions chillness, loss of appetite, listlessness, pain of the breast or bowels, a prostration of strength, or violent head-aches, it ought to be discontinued.

Though these hints are by no means intended to point out all the cases where cold bathing may be hurtful; nor to illustrate its extensive utility as a medicine; yet it is hoped, they may serve to guard people against some of those errors into which from mere inattention they are apt to fall; and thereby not only endanger their own lives, but bring an excellent medicine into disrepute.

So there you are the practise and benefits of early 19th century sea-bathing: the cure all ( or was it?)

Continuing the theme of Sanditon for Laurel’s Group Read at Austenprose, I thought you might like to know more about Worthing, the seaside resort in Sussex which may have been the inspiration for Mr Parker’s resort.


There has been much speculation about Jane Austen’s inspiration for the town of Sanditon: was the place completely  imaginary or did she base it on a resort with which she was familiar? Eastbourne in Sussex has been mooted as a candidate, though as far as I am aware, Jane Austen is not recorded as ever having visited that town.

But she is recorded as having visited Worthing, another Sussex resort, and this definitely has possibilities for being her template for the developing resort of Sanditon.

(Do note you can enlarge all the illustrations in this post by clicking on them in order to see the detail)

Worthing distant fifty none miles from London and eleven westward of Brighton possesses many attractions  which contribute to make it a desirable residence for those who wish to enjoy the benefits of sea-bathing or air…

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)

In the late summer of 1805, a sad year for Jane Austen  during which her father died while they were living in Bath, she and her mother, her  sister Cassandra and Martha Lloyd ( James Austen’s sister in law) visited Edward Austen Knight at his home at Godmersham in Kent and later in the season in September  the Austen ladies and Martha together with Edward Austen and his wife, Elizabeth, his daughter Fanny

and her governess Anne Sharpe (with whom Jane Austen established a life long friendship) stayed for some time at Stanford Cottage in Worthing  to take the sea air and cures and to enjoy the surrounding countryside.

Writing to Cassandra from Godmersham Park on 24th August 1805 when Cassandra was staying at nearby Goodnestone Farm with Marianne Bridges,  Jane Austen confides some reasons for the planned visit to Worthing:

Little Edward is by no means better and his papa and mama have determined to consult Dr Wilmot. Unless he recovers his strength  beyond what is now probable his brothers will return to School without him and so he will be of the party at Worthing. If sea-bathing  should be recommended he will be left there with us ,but this is not thought likely to happen…

Her letter to Cassandra of 30th August indicates that she thought their plan to visit Worthing might have had to be cancelled due to a planned trip to London but in the end a merry party without little Edward, who must have recovered, eventually set out from Godmersham to Worthing  on 17th September.

In a letter to her friend Miss Chapman Fanny Knight-who is our main informant for the details of this visit- writes:

Papa, Mama, Aunts C and Jane Miss Sharpe and myself set out on Tuesday for Worthing in Sussex where Miss S will stay some time for her eyes but Mama Papa and I return in about a week.

The trip to Worthing passed though some interesting places for Jane Austen, and indeed some are motioned in the text of Sanditon.She would certainly have passed though Hailsham, and

according to Fanny Knight’s journal, on the  17h September:

Papa, Mama, Aunts Cass and Jane and I set off from Godmersham for Battel(sic) where we arrived about 4 and finding no accommodations we proceeded to Horsebridge where we slept. We saw the Abbey at Battel

Then on September 18th:

We proceeded to Worthing at 9, spent 2 or 3 hours at Brighton and arrived there at 5.We walked on the sands in the evening.

Worthing at this time was a developing resort. According to my copy of John Feltham’s A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1803) :

Never was there an instance of the effects of public partiality more strongly exemplified than at Worthing In a short space of time a few miserable fishing huts and smugglers dens have been exchanged for buildings sufficiently extensive and elegant to accommodate the  first families in the kingdom.

Worthing had begun its development as a resort in the late 18th century. In 1798 Princess Amelia the youngest daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte  came to Worthing to take  the sea-cure to treat a knee complaint. She stayed for 5 months. Then began the rush to share in Worthing’s acceptability as a town with royal favour, and visitors from the  highest circles of society soon began to flock there.

In 1803 Worthing officially became a town in its own right, thus gaining independence from the village and parish of Broadwater, which in effect it was really a part until it outgrew its ‘parent parish”.

Worthing  had one serious drawback- a tendency to flood. John Fletham records that:

The inhabitants express considerable apprehensions from the inroads of the sea, which they say, has been progressively gaining ground for the last thirty years and some even recollect when houses stood where the sea now flows.

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)

At high tides and during storms Worthing’s open drainage systems could not cope. And often the beach and along the walks next to the sea, large deposits of seaweed covered them.Unpleasant.. This was something  that Jane Austen decided  Sanditon’s rival resort, Brinshsore, should suffer from, to the delight of the competitive Mr Palmer:

But Brinshore, sir, which I dare say you have in your eye — the attempts of two or three speculating people about Brinshore this last year to raise that paltry hamlet — lying as it does between a stagnant marsh, a bleak moor and the constant effluvia of a ridge of putrefying seaweed — can end in nothing but their own disappointment. What in the name of common sense is to recommend Brinshore? A most insalubrious air — roads proverbially detestable — water brackish beyond example, impossible to get a good dish of tea within three miles of the place. And as for the soil — it is so cold and ungrateful that it can hardly be made to yield a cabbage. Depend upon it, sir, that this is a most faithful description of Brinshore — not in the smallest degree exaggerated — and if you have heard it differently spoken of — ” “Sir, I never heard it spoken of in my life before,” said Mr. Heywood. “I did not know there was such a place in the world.” “You did not! There, my dear,” turning with exultation to his wife, “you see how it is. So much for the celebrity of Brinshore! This gentleman did not know there was such a place in the world. Why, in truth, sir, I fancy we may apply to Brinshore that line of the poet Cowper in his description of the religious cottager, as opposed to Voltaire — ‘She, never heard of half a mile from home. ‘ “

Sanditon Chapter 1.

The facilities at Worthing did not include any assembly rooms, but there were circulating libraries:

The establishment of two very respectable libraries (Spooner’s and Stafford’s)at each of which the most popular newspapers are regularly received …

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)

The first official guide to Worthing published in 1805 by the Reverend John Evans  is very proud of the superior type  of books that the Worthing libraries  afforded the visitors to the town. Aware as he was

…of the usual trash of circulating libraries I was pleasingly disappointed in finding so many volumes worthy of attention

in them.

In the Jane Austen Society Report of 2008 Janet Clarke  discovered that his phrase is strikingly similar to Sir Edward Denahm’s assessment of circulating libraries:

Sir Edward, approaching Charlotte, said, “You may perceive what has been our occupation. My sister wanted my counsel in the selection of some books. We have many leisure hours and read a great deal. I am no indiscriminate novel reader. The mere trash of the common circulating library l hold in the highest contempt. You will never hear me advocating those puerile emanations which detail nothing but discordant principles incapable of amalgamation, or those vapid tissues of ordinary occurrences from which no useful deductions can be drawn. In vain may we put them into a literary alembic; we distil nothing which can add to science. You understand me, I am sure?”

Sandition Chapter 7

I wonder if Jane Austen read this Guide when she stayed at Worthing? She would probably find the overblown and pompous style irresistible.

Worthing also won over other resorts in that it was supposed to be warmer than other resorts on the  coast and therefore that meant that sea bathing could take place nearly all year round.

It is surrounded at the distance of not quite a mile by the uninterrupted chain of the Sussex downs which forming nearly an amphitheatre completely exclude even in the winter months the chilling blasts of the Northern and Eastern winds. It is a very common thing to see a considerable number of bathers here even in the depth of winter, the thermometer being generally higher than at Brighton and upon an average, between 2 and 3 degrees above London.

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)

Fanny Knight bathed in the sea on the 19th September:

I went with Gmama (Mrs Austen-jfw) in the morning to buy fish on the Beach & afterwards with Mama and Miss Sharpe to Bathe where I had a most delicious dip…We dined at 4 and went to a Raffle in the evening, where Aunt Jane won and it amounted to 17 shillings

In addition Worthing  had the advantage of an indoors warm bath-supplied with sea water for all year bathing.

..the erection of a very commodious warm baths (Wicke’s) sufficiently prove how far Worthing has risen in public estimation

(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Fletham)

Cassandra Austen used these Baths on 20th September 1805:

Mama and I sat some time with Miss Fielding and I afterwards waited on the Sands for Aunt Cassandra coming out of the warm baths and then walked with Mama and me the Johnsons in the morning when I was walking with Gmama and again in the evening. We went to the Raffle in the evening.

The Knight party left on the 23rd September. The  Austen ladies and Martha Lloyd remained at Worthing until sometime in November. They were certainly there on the 4th November for on that date Martha Lloyd swore an affidavit in relation to her late mother’s will before the Rector of Broadwater parish, The Reverend Peter Wood:

The affidavit was witnessed by Jane Austen and also by Elizabeth Knight, who must have returned to Worthing  before the Austen ladies left for one more visit to the seaside.

And so there you are. It has to be admitted that Sanditon and Worthing  certainly possess many similar attractions and characteristics. Jane Austen’s sojourn of 2 months there certainly gave her the opportunity to assess the developing resort and the people it attracted. We shall never know for certain, but it seems likely to me that her trip to Worthing  provided her with much inspiration and food for thought, which she later put to good use when writing Sanditon.

Today’s supporting post for Laurel at Austenprose for her Sanditon GroupRead is made at her specific request. She knows I love to eat this plant, and so asked me to contribute a piece on Samphire.


He began, in a tone of great taste and feeling, to talk of the sea and the sea shore; and ran with energy through all the usual phrases employed in praise of their sublimity and descriptive of the undescribable emotions they excite in the mind of sensibility. The terrific grandeur of the ocean in a storm, its glass surface in a calm, its gulls and its samphire and the deep fathoms of its abysses, its quick vicissitudes, its direful deceptions, its mariners tempting it in sunshine and overwhelmed by the sudden tempest — all were eagerly and fluently touched; rather commonplace perhaps, but doing very well from the lips of a handsome Sir Edward, and she could not but think him a man of feeling, till he began to stagger her by the number of his quotations and the bewilderment of some of his sentences.

Sanditon, Chapter 7

(View of Sanditon by Joan Hassell from The Folio Society’s Edition of  Jane Austen’s Works)

Sir Edward Denham, in full flood, talking overblown and hackneyed nonsense about the sea to Charlotte Hayward, in order to punish Clara Brereton. Charlotte Haywood assesses his character correctly, I think:

She began to think him downright silly. His choosing to walk with her, she had learnt to understand. It was done to pique Miss Brereton. She had read it, in an anxious glance or two on his side; but why he should talk so much nonsense, unless he could do no better, was unintelligible. He seemed very sentimental, very full of some feeling or other, and very much addicted to all the newest-fashioned hard words, had not a very clear brain, she presumed, and talked a good deal by rote.

It would have been wonderful to see how this particular intriguing character played out throughout the novel: I think he may have been the anti-hero, rather in the manner of John Thorpe, possibly causing Charlotte Heywood some potential harm to her reputation, only for her to be “rescued” by the intervention of someone……but it is not to be. Sadly, we shall never know.

In his raptures about the sea he mentions samphire, a vegetable that is now found on the menus of the trendiest restaurants, but for centuries it was poor food, free to those who picked it, usually ordinary people living by the sea .Why he mentions it is probably indicative of his deliberately overblown “romantic” and sentimental manner. Let me explain.

There are two types of samphire that grow in the United Kingdom: Rock Samphire and Marsh Samphire.

The more common Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) is a member of the beet family ( chenopodium) and grows on salt marches and estuaries, watered by the sea. It was also known as glasswort, because the ashes of burnt marsh samphire ( known as burilla)were used in the process of manufacturing soda glass from as early as the 12th century : the plant is an abundant, easily collected (and free) source of soda.

For epicureans this is thought to be the inferior of the two species. In the Oxford Companion to Food Alan Davidson noted:

Marsh samphire is more salty than rock and does not have the same powerful aroma.

In most trendy restaurants in the UK, this is the sort of samphire you would now eat: a fashion for it began after it was served at the wedding breakfast of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer .Barrels of it were sent to London for the feast from the Norfolk estate owned by the Queen, Sandringham.

But this is not the samphire to which Sir Edward refers. He is talking of rock samphire.

Rock samphire ( Crithmum maritmum) is a member of the umbelliferae family and is a small woody shrub. It originated in the Mediterranean. Both the Romans and Greeks used it in their culinary traditions. The plant derives it common name , Samphire, from the  French name  herb de Sainte-Pierre:  because it grows on rocks near the sea it obviously seemed natural to name it after the fisherman saint, Peter, whose name in  Greek, Petros , means “rock”. It was most commonly found on the coasts of the south coast of England and on the Isle of Wight, and as you can see from, the picture below, of it growing high up on the Dorset “Jurassic”coast,  that it grows in very inaccessible places.

It was an immensely popular pickle, and that eventually led to its demise(it was over picked): it is now rather rare.

In Flora Britannica ,Richard Mabey notes that:

In the early 19th century rock samphire from the Isle of Wight and from around the cliffs of Dover  was so popular that it was sent in casks of brine to London where wholesalers would  pay up to 4 shillings a bushel for it.

In most recipe books dating from the 17th century onwards sadly no distinction is made between the two sorts. We must assume therefore that they were both prepared in the same way.

This recipe is taken from my copy of Richard Brigg’s book The English Art of Cookery,(1794)

and is typical of the method of pickling samphire

The reason why Sir Edward probably mentions it is that it was once so popular (and free) that people risked their lives to gather it from the cliff faces where it grew and it has become a sort of literary cliche, so often is it mentioned in travel and botanical  literature from the 17h century onwards. Most of these writers make reference to Shakespeare’s famous description of the harvesting processt in King Lear,(Act IV scene vi) where Edgar, intent on fooling his father, the now blinded Gloucester, that he is standing on the edge of the cliffs near Dover describes the imaginary scene:

Come on, sir; here’s the place. Stand still. How fearful

And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!

The crows and choughs that wing the midway air

Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half way down

Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!

Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.

The fishermen that walk upon the beach

Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,

Diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy

Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge

That on the unnumbered idle pebbles chafes

Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more

Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight

Topple down headlong.

This vibrant image was taken up by travel writers writing about the cliffs of southern England and the Isle of Wight -from the 17th century onwards.

(Map from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc (1803) by John Feltham)

For instance, Robert Turner writing about the method of gathering samphire on the  Isle of Wight in 1664 noted that it was

Incredibly dangerous…yet many adventure it ,though they may buy their sauce with the price of their lives

(The British Physician or the Nature and Virtues of British Plants(1664).

Sir Edward is therefore hardly being original in his “impassioned ” speech to Charlotte. The falsely overblown baronet is merely reciting these somewhat hackneyed phrases and literary clichés of the sea to Charlotte in order to …what? Impress her with his knowledge? Indicate he is a man of sensibility-a man of feeling ? Oh yes. He is a slightly more sophisticated version of Mr Collins, not quoting conduct books this time, but any romantic poet or notion instead, in order to impress and maintain his ‘romantic” persona.*shudder*

Laurel at Austenprose is  conducting a Group Read of Jane Austen’s last, unfinished composition, Sanditon, this week,and I have been honoured to have been asked to provide a few background pieces to compliment the Group Read. This first post is set out below….on the subject of Jane Austen and Seaside Resorts

(Dover circa 1820-please note you can enlarge all these illustrations merely  by clicking on them in order to see the detail)

Jane Austen’s unfinished fragment, Sanditon, is set in a small Sussex seaside resort, a place that is being ruthlessly and relentlessly “improved” by Mr Parker, a man obsessed with his creation and the money-making opportunities it affords:

Mr. Parker`s character and history were soon unfolded. All that he understood of himself, he readily told, for he was very openhearted; and where he might be himself in the dark, his conversation was still giving information to such of the Heywoods as could observe. By such he was perceived to be an enthusiast — on the subject of Sanditon, a complete enthusiast. Sanditon, the success of Sanditon as a small, fashionable bathing place, was the object for which he seemed to live. A very few years ago, it had been a quiet village of no pretensions; but some natural advantages in its position and some accidental circumstances having suggested to himself and the other principal landholder the probability of its becoming a profitable speculation, they had engaged in it, and planned and built, and praised and puffed, and raised it to something of young renown; and Mr. Parker could now think of very little besides…

Sanditon, Chapter 2

(Sussex from John Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.,(1812)..)

Sanditon is also under the patronage of Lady Denham, the wealthy widow of Mr Hollis and a baronet, a social climber though marriage and a woman rather in the mould of  Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Pride and Prejudice,. Here she is described by Mr Parker:

“There is at times,” said he, “a little self-importance — but it is not offensive — and there are moments, there are points, when her love of money is carried greatly too far. But she is a good-natured woman, a very good-natured woman — a very obliging, friendly neighbour; a cheerful, independent, valuable character — and her faults may be entirely imputed to her want of education. She has good natural sense, but quite uncultivated. She has a fine active mind as well as a fine healthy frame for a woman of seventy, and enters into the improvement of Sanditon with a spirit truly admirable. Though now and then, a littleness will appear. She cannot look forward quite as I would have her and takes alarm at a trifling present expense without considering what returns it will make her in a year or two. That is, we think differently. We now and then see things differently, Miss Heywood. Those who tell their own story, you know, must be listened to with caution. When you see us in contact, you will judge for yourself.” Lady Denham was indeed a great lady beyond the common wants of society, for she had many thousands a year to bequeath, and three distinct sets of people to be courted by: her own relations, who might very reasonably wish for her original thirty thousand pounds among them; the legal heirs of Mr. Hollis, who must hope to be more indebted to her sense of justice than he had allowed them to be to his…

Sanditon, Chapter 3

In this satire on developing seaside resorts, commercial greed, hypochondria and the type of people these place attracted, it is perhaps no mere coincidence that Jane Austen ensures that Mr Holllis, the first husband of Lady Denham, shares the name of the man who began the development of Lyme Regis from small fishing village to a seaside resort.

Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was an interesting character. He was a political propagandist and a radical but also a supporter of the house of Hanover. He was a benefactor, amongst other institutions, of Harvard University and owned an estate of 3000 acres at Corscombe near Beauminster. He kept, however, a suite of rooms in the Three Cups Hotel at Lyme and bought up much of the slums and derelict property in Lyme in order to demolish them and improve the town. He created the first public promenade by purchasing land on the shore to create what Jane Austen would have referred to as The Walk ( it is now part of Marine Parade).He knocked down a series of warehouses to clear a site for the building of Lyme’s Assembly Rooms complex and these were completed in 1775 just after Hollis’s death. These are the Rooms that Jane Austen visited in 1804.

(Lyme Regis from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc (1803)by John Feltham)

The growth of these seaside resorts and the surrounding industry of health tourism from the mid 18th century onwards coincided with the growth but ultimate decline in the inland spas. The pursuit of heath and taking the “cure” -taking the waters-(both mineral and sea) and sea bathing – was perceived as a health benefit and something to be encouraged.

The cessation of hostilities with France in 1815 also added impetus to the habit of visiting towns on the coast : the threat of invasion had been very real, as Jane Austen knew only too well from the experience of her brother Frank Austen at Ramsgate and his service there with the Sea-Fencibles. Kent was especially vulnerable to the threat of invasion due to its closeness to France.

This is a view of the Kent coast facing France at Hythe circa 1820: you can clearly see the rows of Martello towers, defensive towers equipped with cannon and they had been built to defend the Kent coast from invasion: they lined the coast. This daunting prospect had now subsided and the coast could be considered a place of recreation not a means of defence. Resorts proliferated and grew apace as a result

Sea Bathing was promulgated as a serious benefit to a good heath regime from the late 17th century. Though he was by no means the first to do so, Dr Richard Russell, a native of  Lewes in Sussex who practiced medicine in nearby Brighton, was foremost in promoting this development.

From the 1740s, and perhaps even before, Dr Russell was prescribing bathing and even the drinking of sea-water for many ailments, and the popularity of sea-bathing rapidly increased.

Here is a picture of the frontispiece of  the first Irish edition of his influential work, the Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the diseases of the Glands particularly the scurvy, Jaundice, Kings-evil, Leprosy and the Glandular Consumption:

The fashion for sea bathing rapidly caught on. Bathing machines –used to preserve the decency of bathers- were first used at Margate and Scarborough (which also had the benefits of  being able to offer spa water to its visitors)

(Rowlandson’s view of the spa -spelt “spaw”- at Scarborough, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough,1813)

In Sanditon the pompous would-be seducer Sir Edward Denham extols the virtues of sea bathing, quite indelicately, to Charlotte Haywood, the heroine:

To plunge into the refreshing wave and be wrapped round with the liquid element is indeed a most delightful sensation”, he assured them. “But health and pleasure may be equally consulted in these salutary ablutions; and to many a wan countenance can the blush of the rose be restored by an occasional dip in the purifying surge of the ocean. Not, he hastened to add, trying to bow to them both at the same time, “that either of my fair listeners would need the rose restored to their lovely cheeks.”

Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza de Feuillide used sea bathing at Margate in Kent during the winter of 1790 as a desperate attempt to improve the health of her sickly child, Hastings. Sea bathing in the winter was especially recommended for the good of one’s health:

You will find by the date of this I am still the inhabitant of M (Margate-jfw) for  altho’ much pressed to spend by Christmas in Surrey, the inconvenience of removing so numerous a family and the great Benefit Hastings has received and still reaps form Sea bathing made me think it better for us to all to remain where we were and putting off jaunting for another year… I had fixed on going to London the end of this Month, but to shew You how much I am attached to my maternal duties, on being told by one of the faculty whose Skill I have much opinion of that one month’s bathing at this time of the Year was more efficacious than six at any other & that consequently my little Boy would receive the utmost benefit from my prolonging my stay here beyond the time proposed, like a most exemplary parent I resolved on foregoing the fascinating delights of the great City for one month longer … Was not this heroic?

(See Letter from Eliza de Feuillide to Phylly Water dated 7th January 1791)

(Margate from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc 1803)

The fashion for sea-bathing eventually overtook in popularity the fashion for taking the waters at inland spas. In his poem Retirement, written in 1791, William Cowper,  Jane Austen’s favorite poet, commented somewhat sourly on the craze for sea-bathing and the hypochondria it encouraged:

But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife

Ingenious to diversify dull life

In coaches, chaises, caravans and hoys

Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys

And impatient of dry land agree

With one consent to rush into the sea

Jane Austen seems to have agreed with him on this as in most things: Mrs Bennet –the malade inaginaire of Meryton- and her pathetic squeal for attention in the guise of taking the  sea cure in Pride and Prejudice that

“A little sea-bathing would set me up for ever.”

echos this.

Though she was careful in Sanditon, in the case of the longed for heiress, Miss Lambe -( as she was in the case of Mrs Smith in Bath  in Persuasion )- not to ridicule those who were truly ill and were bravely putting a good face on their situation be they rich or poor,  Jane Austen obviously had little time for those who were unnecessarily obsessed with their own health, and in Sanditon she presents to us the healthily–built, freakishly heath-obsessed Arthur Palmer as the object of her scorn:

In Miss Lambe, she decided, Arthur had encountered someone quite unique in his experience — a genuine invalid, who despised her own weakness, disliked talking about her symptoms, and overtaxed her strength in her eagerness to lead a normal life whenever she was capable of it. And Arthur, who did not usually spare much thought for anybody’s comfort but his own, had lately been forced into recognising the difference between selfish indulgence and necessary prudence. He wanted Miss Lambe’s sketches of seaweed and she was very willing to execute them; but he had begun to realise that health, which he had always regarded as an excuse for behaving exactly as he liked, could also intervene in one’s pleasures and prevent one from carrying out a favourite scheme, His sisters had always encouraged Arthur to discuss his minor ailments at such length that it astonished him when Miss Lambe denied having a headache, pretended to feel better than she really did and made so few complaints as to seem almost ashamed of her condition.

In Sanditon, Arthur Parke is portrayed mercilessly as a supreme hypochondriac, and a voluble one at that: Jane Austen obviously did not approve. Her poor heroine Charlotte Haywood clearly didn’t either, viewing his “health related” antics with much astonishment:

Arthur was heavy in eye as well as figure but by no means indisposed to talk; and while the other four were chiefly engaged together, he evidently felt it no penance to have a fine young woman next to him, requiring in common politeness some attention; as his brother, who felt the decided want of some motive for action, some powerful object of animation for him, observed with considerable pleasure. Such was the influence of youth and bloom that he began even to make a sort of apology for having a fire. “We should not have had one at home,” said he, “but the sea air is always damp. I am not afraid of anything so much as damp.” “I am so fortunate,” said Charlotte, “as never to know whether the air is damp or dry. It has always some property that is wholesome and invigorating to me.” “I like the air too, as well as anybody can,” replied Arthur. “I am very fond of standing at an open window when there is no wind. But, unluckily, a damp air does not like me. It gives me the rheumatism. You are not rheumatic, I suppose?” “Not at all.” “That’s a great blessing. But perhaps you are nervous?” “No, I believe not. I have no idea that I am.’ “I am very nervous. To say the truth, nerves are the worst part of my complaints in my opinion. My sisters think me bilious, but I doubt it.” “You are quite in the right to doubt it as long as you possibly can, I am sure.” “If I were bilious,” he continued, “you know, wine would disagree with me, but it always does me good. The more wine I drink — in moderation — the better I am. I am always best of an evening. If you had seen me today before dinner, you would have thought me a very poor creature. Charlotte could believe it. She kept her countenance, however, and said, “As far as l can understand what nervous complaints are, I have a great idea of the efficacy of air and exercise for them — daily, regular exercise — and I should recommend rather more of it to you than I suspect you are in the habit of taking.” “Oh, I am very fond of exercise myself,” he replied, “and I mean to walk a great deal while I am here, if the weather is temperate. I shall be out every morning before breakfast and take several turns upon the Terrace, and you will often see me at Trafalgar House.” “But you do not call a walk to Trafalgar House much exercise?” Not as to mere distance, but the hill is so steep! Walking up that hill, in the middle of the day, would throw me into such a perspiration! You would see me all in a bath by the time I got there! l am very subject to perspiration, and there cannot be a surer sign of nervousness.” They were now advancing so deep in physics that Charlotte viewed the entrance of the servant with the tea things as a very fortunate interruption. It produced a great and immediate change. The young man’s attentions were instantly lost. He took his own cocoa from the tray, which seemed provided with almost as many teapots as there were persons in company — Miss Parker drinking one sort of herb tea and Miss Diana another — and turning completely to the fire, sat coddling and cooking it to his own satisfaction and toasting some slices of bread, brought up ready-prepared in the toast rack; and till it was all done, she heard nothing of his voice but the murmuring of a few broken sentences of self-approbation and success…

Referring back to Cowper’s tone in his poem, we can see that it also reflects something of Jane Austen’s ambivalent attitude to these places of “health” and fashion themselves. At the time she was writing Sanditon, she was in the midst of her own critical health problem, and only a few months from death. She had tried taking the waters at Cheltenham, sadly to no avail.  In my view, her clear sighted view of quackery and the cures offered by resorts such as Sandition is obviously influenced by her own experience.

Though she found a certain amount of happiness at Lyme (despite realizing it was not one the first rate places and the people it attracted reflected this) and the small resorts of the West Country, she certainly seems to have violently disliked seaside places which were large and fashionable. She seems especially to have regarded the resorts that were associated with certain members of the Royal Family as places to be avoided at all costs for the moral good of her characters. Worthing, thought to be Jane Austen’s inspiration and model for Sanditon, was patronized by Princess Amelia , fifteenth child of George III and the Prince of Wales’s sister. Brighton-the then centre of the fashionable British world- she appears to have detested as much she did its royal patron, The Prince of Wales.

(The Prince of Wales’s Marine Pavilion from The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive of Each County Embellished With Engravings : Sussex (1813) by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton.)

Brighton is, of course, the scene of Lydia Bennet’s downfall in Pride and Prejudice, and her Lady Lesley in Lesley Castle goes there specifically because it is one of her

favourite haunts of Dissipation

Weymouth too she disliked :

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

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

(Weymouth from The Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) by John Feltham)

And of course it was at Weymouth that Jane Fairfax met Frank Churchill in Emma; while there, under its unsteadying influence no doubt, this moral, sensible and intelligent woman consented to a secret engagement that was very nearly her undoing.

Even small time and comparatively retired places like Ramsgate in Kent

(Ramsgate from A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc (1816) by John Feltham)

could be deceptively dangerous places in Jane Austen’s world. For it was at Ramsgate that Wickham nearly succeeded in eloping with the young and trusting Georgiana Darcy.

I suspect that it was the character of the people that these places attracted that truly irked Jane Austen, rather than the places themselves. And that disdain was not only reserved for hypochondriacs and the scoundrels on the make, but was also felt by her for those would exploit The Company– ill or only perceived to be ill-  for purely mercantile reasons. The development of these coastal towns was also seen by many entrepreneurs as a sound commercial opportunity not to be missed: a situation exploited by the keen eye of Jane Austen in Sanditon.

In Sandition Mr Parker knows that in addition to the usual amusements of sea-bathing, circulating libraries filled with tempting goods for  rich patrons to buy etc., he has to attract rich patrons  so that others will flock to his resort, drawn by the  glamour of possibly being able to associate with such people. Lady Denham is also acutely aware that the success of their resort depends largely upon the quality of The Company there:

And if we could but get a young heiress to Sanditon! But heiresses are monstrous scarce! I do not think we have had an heiress here — or even so since Sanditon has been a public place. Families come after families but, as far as I can learn, it is not one in a hundred of them that have any real property, landed or funded. An income perhaps, but no property. Clergymen maybe, or lawyers from town, or half-pay officers, or widows with only a jointure. And what good can such people do anybody? Except just as they take our empty houses and, between ourselves, I think they are great fools for not staying at home. Now if we could get a young heiress to be sent here for her health — and if she was ordered to drink asses’ milk I could supply her — and, as soon as she got well, have her fall in love with Sir Edward!”

The people who patronized these seaside places were indeed, at first, from the very highest echelons of society, but as the 18th century wore on and the 19th century began, and as  Lady Denham disappointedly noted,  members of the middling sort- families of the professional and mercantile classes- were very much to the fore. (Note the working classes and the poor were not part of this scene until the growth of the railway system and the development in the provision of the concept of paid holidays for workers in the mid to late 19th century).

In Sandition we are given a glimpse of exactly the sort of Company a small and yet-to-become-fashionable resort attracted. How sad it is for us that illness prevented Jane Austen from continuing and completing this fascinating fragment: for it might have thrown even more light on her attitudes to seaside resorts and the people who inhabited them for health or other reasons. Like Charlotte Heywood’s thoughts on Sir Edward Denham

The future might explain him further.

Jane Austen’s sadly shortened future did not allow enough time for her to explain Sanditon fully to us.


I do hope this short introduction has given you a little of the background to the fragment which will enable you to continue to enjoy Laurel’s Group Read.

Next at AustenOnly, a post about Samphire, the now trendy  plant that was lauded by Sir Edward Denham.

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