My Dear Hamy

February 16, 2018 at 12:55 pm (books, british royalty) (, , , )

This book was reviewed in the latest JASNA News (the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America) by Susan Allen Ford (the editor of Persuasions, the journal of JASNA); I’ll post a link to the review once it gets posted on the JASNA website.

My copy came via The National Archives bookshop; the author’s website is also a source for mail order. Other avenues may tell you the book is “unavailable” (Amazon.uk, for instance).

My Dear Hamy

My Dear Hamy, by Martin Thomas, is the tale of Anne Hayman – the one-time sub-governess to Princess Charlotte of Wales. Anne Hayman’s longer role was as Privy Purse to Princess Caroline.

My Dear Hamy is a LARGE book – over 700 pages.

From the author’s website:

“This book is the story of the lives of three feisty women – Caroline and Charlotte, of the blood royal, and Anne herself, the common sensed commoner. The world was rocking on its axis as Napoleon led the French into war with Britain and Europe. But as her husband progressed from mistress to mistress and squandered a fortune on gambling and excess, Caroline’s household too rocked with hushed up scandals and indiscretions.”

Martin Thomas had access to letters written by Hayman, as well as documents by (and about) the Princess of Wales. In addition, Thomas lives in the Welsh house first occupied by Hayman in the early 19th century. That coincidence sparked his research!

I’m in the midst of reading – and enjoying – My Dear Hamy.

You can get a taste of the book by reading excerpts on the author’s site. One current online review is by Alistair Lexden.

A bit of judicious editing could have tightened the narrative, and eradicated the more egregious typos. As well, some analysis of the quoted passages from letters would have better guided the reader and, perhaps, kept the author from jumping to conclusions (without considering all possibilities) about the quite-intricate manoeuvering happening within the circle of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Princess Caroline’s story is an oft-told one, but Hayman’s life – and her position within the Princess’ household – is an area of research which is most welcome.

 

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Understanding Old English Money

February 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm (diaries, history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

12 pennies to the shilling (12d = 1s; also written as / ).

20 shillings (or 240 pence) to the pound. (20s = 1 l. and 240d = 1 l.)
To avoid confusion, I will typically use the modern pound sign online, £.

NB: A “guinea” was equal to 21 shillings (1 pound plus 1 shilling). Big ticket items (like a horse, for instance) might be quoted in “guineas.”

So if a letter cost 5d, then FOUR letters cost a shilling. If you had a “healthy” correspondence network, you might very well receive four letters in a DAY! (The recipient bore the cost.) Multiple deliveries in a week and that puts you up to 3 or 4 shillings a week. A heavier letter, or farther distance, and you pulled more coins from your purse.

The Smiths and Goslings frequently comment in their diaries about money spent.

What did a penny buy?

English Penny

Genuine English Penny from 1807

Even in the 1790s, evidently not much! So many items are in shillings and pence. “Pearl Needles” cost Mrs. Chute 6d. So did “a Song.” A pit-stop for the horses in the midst of a trip, for “Hay & water,” cost 6d. As did “a Glass for my watch: 6d.”

In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute’s typical generosity to a “Poor Man” or a “Poor Woman” was 2s; every once in a while it dips to a low of 6d. And sometimes hit the high of 2/6 (“2 and 6” or 2s 6d), for instance to a “Poor Sailor.” She was the most generous, in 1794, to a “poor French woman,” giving her 5 shillings.

Wages, sometimes, can be found among the costs.

The most telling:

In 1794, Mrs. Chute of The Vine notes the wages of a “Kitchenmaid” named Sally (no last name given) – “one’s year’s wages to Xmas” as 3£ 3s. She also notes “one year’s wages” to the unnamed Cook (to Michaelmas), 9£ 9s; to “Mrs. Bligh” (housekeeper; also to Christmas), 16£ 16s.

To an unnamed “kitchen girl” for an unnamed period of time: 2/6. To “the housemaid” in Albemarle Street (i.e., when on a visit), 10/6.

What goods did shillings purchase?

In Emma’s youth (1816), the Church Sacrament is typically 2/6. In the 1790s, Mrs. Chute (her aunt) would note that a “seat at church” cost 1 shilling. For the Sacrament, she gave 5s.

To put prices into perspective, some typical expenses (all from 1794):

To a letter: 8d

To Washing: 1s

To Letters: 1s

To seeing “Lord Abercorn’s house” 2s 6d

To Seeds: 3s

To 12 Tuberose roots: 3s

To a book: 3s

To a play: 6s

To “Simpson, hair dresser”: 6s

To a Week’s Washing: 6s 5d

To the opera: 12s

To “paper and pens”: 14s

A doctor’s visit: 1£ 1s; but another visit cost slightly less, 10s 6d

Five yards Muslin: 1£ 5s 0d

 

See Project Britain: http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm for slang and some history of English coins.

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Postman Always Rings II

January 29, 2018 at 9:01 pm (books, history, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Alan brought up the point of costs for letters in a comment to my last post (about the frequency and times of collection for the London Two-penny post in 1835). This chart comes from a 1798 diary. It mentions _new_ postal rates after the passing of an Act of Parliament (rates took effect in July of the previous year). Cost is undoubtedly _the_ reason for the existence of crossed text. If an extra piece of paper cost more, then simply put another layer of writing on the single sheet! (NB: a third layer – written diagonally – does sometimes occur.) Cost also accounts for the usage of a wrapper (another half-sheet of paper, folded around the folded-up letter) when a FRANK was used. It didn’t matter what a letter weighed when it was sent “free” thanks to the Member of Parliament’s signature.

  • What DID matter for a franked letter? That the “envelope” was written in the hand of the MP; the place and date [what you see across the top in the image below] was correct and current; and, of course, the MP’s “free” signature.

The last comment serves as a reminder: It was the RECIPIENT who paid postage. A frank, therefore, saved the recipient money rather than the sender (who sometimes went to a LOT of trouble to obtain a frank). Of course, franks should have been used only for an MP’s government-related business….

In the table, “single” refers to the single sheet of paper, folded so as to create its own envelope (perhaps the topic of another post).

free front1

 

Act for additional Charges on Postage of Letters, &c.

By the 37th of Geo. III. ch. 18. the following Rates for Postage shall be taken after the 5th of July, 1797, throughout England, Wales, and at Berwick upon Tweed.

For every single Letter,

                                    if not exceeding 15 miles from Office to Office – 0s 3d

                                    if above 15, and not more than 30                       – 0s 4d

                                    if above 30, and not above 60                               – 0s 5d

                                    if above 60, and not above 100                             – 0s 6d

                                    if above 100, and not above 150                           – 0s 7d

                                    if above 150                                                               – 0s 8d

                                    sent by Post within Scotland, an Addition of        – 0s 1d

N.B. Double, Treble, and Ounce Letters, pay two, three, and four times those sums.

For all single Letters to or From Portugal                                           – 1s 0d
                                         to or from British America                             – 1s 0d
N.B. The inland Postage to be added.

Single Letters to non-commissioned Officers, Privates, or Seamen   – 0s 1d

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The Postman Always Rings

January 28, 2018 at 9:43 am (history, london's landscape, World of Two Teens) (, , )

In the *first* of a series of posts (not necessarily all in a row), culling useful information about the World of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, is a short tidbit on the English Postal System.

So many times the Smiths and Goslings query each other:

  • When did you mail this letter? I received it only today.
  • How long did my letter take to reach you?
  • Should I use the route X rather than Y? Is it faster?
  • This letter took three days to reach me – why?
  • When did you post it?
  • I find, Today is not a post day.
  • The Postman is here, I must finish.

It, of course, is obvious that letters can travel through the hands of relatives – servants – as enclosures – via the family solicitor or banker, etc. etc. Some are franked; others hand-delivered next door or even inside the same house! Imagine yourself without your email…. “Why isn’t so-and-so answering me?” Things have not changed, it’s just the manner of the communication that differs.

(As well, the “historical” trail left behind! I Pity anyone studying the early 21st century 200 years from now…)

The Smiths and Goslings were as eager for news, as happy with a bit of a gossipy chat, as anxious about travelling loved-ones, as YOU are today. I was counting last night, and given the period from 1770s through the 1940s (stray letters at the beginning and the end, in a bell-curve fashion), and even discounting for wrappers alone or free-fronts (ie, NO letter inside) and for those copied from books, I have transcribed over two thousand letters. A *major* feat; though perhaps on par with finding them in the first place! The life stories that roll across the amassed pages is astounding. No wonder it’s taken ten years to come to grips with it all – and to see the materials for myself, when they are scattered from England to Italy, from Canada and the U.S. to Australia.

If I read a letter a day, EVERY day, it would take SIX-and-a-half YEARS to go through them, and that wouldn’t be counting any that are still out there, in someone’s closet or shoebox. And that doesn’t count the family diaries.

bright star_letter

So, what did I find? A schedule for the London Two-Penny Post in the year 1835, information among the printed matter at the front of “The Commercial LedgerAnnual Memorandum Book, used as a daily diary:

REGULATIONS OF THE TWOPENNY POST.

There are Six Collections and Deliveries of the Letters in Town, daily, (Sundays excepted), and there are Two Dispatches from, and Three Deliveries at, most Places in the Country, within the Limits of this Office.

The Hours by which Letters should be put into the Receiving Houses in town, for each Delivery, are as follow [sic]:

For Delivery in TOWN.
Over Night by 8 for the First
Morning ……… 8 …………. Second
                         10 ………… Third
                         12 ………… Fourth
Afternoon ……. 2 …………. Fifth
                          5 ………….. Sixth

For Delivery in the COUNTRY.
The preceding Even. by 5 for the First.
Morning ……………………… 8 …………… Second
Afternoon ……………………. 2 …………… Third.

But Letters, whether for Town or Country, may be put in at either of the Two Principal Offices an Hour later for each Dispatch.

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JASNA AGM on “Persuasion”

January 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

For those who are JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) members, and those have been thinking about becoming members, information for the Breakout Sessions is now up on the Annual General Meeting website. This year’s conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the end of September (2018).

Some exciting and engaging papers!

The AGM’s title is “200 Years of Constancy and Hope

persuasion

The themes that caught my eye:

  • “Jane Austen worked on Persuasion from August 1815 to August 1816, while she was also closely concerned with the publication and reception of Emma.” [Juliette Wells]
  • “The cancelled final chapters of Persuasion offer a glimpse of Austen transforming her own work.” [Marcia Folsom]
  • “Jane Austen’s chosen settings of the Cobb at Lyme, with the seaside and fossils, and the city of Bath… provide an underlying sense of hope and rebirth.” [Randi Pahlau]
  • “Naval portraiture both as personal mementos and markers of collective social identity.” [Moriah Webster]
  • “Although a family’s wealth generally belonged to men, the task of managing that money often fell to women.” [Linda Zionkowski]
  • “Austen’s descriptions of the Musgroves’ ancestral portraits and new furniture… allude to the era’s changing aesthetics in furnishings and clothing styles.” [Kristen Zohn]
  • “Anne Elliot struggles to believe herself deserving ….” [Mary Ellen Bertolini]

and many more!

It’s always a *thrill* to anticipate the next Annual General Meeting – Fresh thoughts on favorite novels.

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Victoria’s Costume Ball, 1842

January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm (entertainment, fashion, people) (, , , )

May 12, 1842 – and we are in the room with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at the Plantagenet-inspired Bal Costumé:

Victoria_Ball 1842_2

I had spent the weekend working, reading through letters from 1840 through 1843. This was the opportunity to refining the dating of a few letters, as well as fixing some portions of transcriptions.

One hitherto “undated” letter mentioned what I had read in two other letters: the Queen’s Ball. This helped to definitively date the third.

Playing in the background was the ITV (“Masterpiece”) presentation, Victoria – starring Jenna Coleman. When the TV show began to discuss a costume ball, my one thought was: Is that Maria’s “Queen’s Ball”?

I went back to 1842’s group of letters …

Emma Austen’s youngest sister Maria Smith was writing to middle sister Fanny from London:

“on Thursday Ev:g is the Queen’s ball, so we must return to see Eliza dressed in her old fashioned satin brocade dress – a present from Parsloes, & Mrs Leigh Perrot’s hoop … she has been a little perplexed what to wear on her head – weather a little black velvet hat – or what.”

When I first read this, the *thrill* was to think that Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s court “hoop” had long outlived her (James Edward Austen Leigh’s great aunt had died in 1836). And also a query as to WHY Eliza Le Marchant (Emma’s younger sister) had the use of it.

That the Fanshawes were staying with the Le Marchants explains the comment that Eliza’s dress was “a present from Parsloes,” which was the name of the Fanshawe estate in Dagenham. Mrs. Fanshawe had been born Catherine (or Katherine) Le Marchant.

When Maria next wrote to Emma (as far as extant letters go), she gave a description of Lord Alford (who had married Lady Marianne Compton and was therefore a close relation) costumed as “Caesar Borgia – duke of Valentia … from Raphael’s picture, with one striped black & white leg, & one slashed sleeve”.

Eliza wrote a lengthy letter describing the evening – but that letter is still “missing“.

Victoria_Ball 1842

Eliza and Denis Le Marchant planned to bring young Maria to the upcoming Drawing Room. Maria, who had met Queen Victoria before her marriage, wanted to attend a Drawing Room where Prince Albert was at her side. “In all probability this will be the last time in my life that I do anything so gay,” admitted Maria.

In my very first blog post (June 1, 2008) I described Emma and her sister-in-law Mary as “two ordinary girls”. Thank goodness that ordinary lives back in the 19th century included so many diaries and letters. And Fancy-Dress Balls!

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The Vyne (Hampshire) Appeal

January 19, 2018 at 12:06 pm (chutes of the vyne, estates, places) (, , )

The Vyne in Hampshire – former home of William and Eliza Chute, Emma Smith’s uncle and aunt – is looking a bit ‘denuded’ lately:

Vyne Tapestry Room under sheets

Seems the “water is running in” because the Tudor roof is in desperate need of repair.

You know the general story: VAST mansion in need of restoration, with exorbitant costs associated with BIG re-construction works. The Vyne is a National Trust property; thus, their appeal to help fund the £5.4 million project.

  • The roof is leaking
  • Structural instability due to winds and rain
  • Leaning chimneys
  • Interior water damage (thus, the tapestry room picture above, without tapestries)

Click on the photo to get to “The Vyne Appeal” website.

 

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Rescuing Family History

January 13, 2018 at 11:08 am (estates, history, people, research) (, , )

A most delightful story:

“Three of her daughters married. . . .

The second, Elizabeth, married in May, 1784, John Colchester of Westbury-on-Severn. Family tradition has it that Mr. Colchester was one day sitting in his summer-house at the end of his garden by the road, waiting to see the coach pass. One of the passengers was a beautiful young lady. I am tempted here to apply Wordsworth’s lines, only interchanging the pronouns:

‘She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon his sight.’

He arose in haste, followed up the coach to the Red Lion, where it had stopped, found out who she was, and never rested till he had married her.

The garden where this romantic incident is said to have happened, laid out in the old Dutch style, with long ponds, statues, and summer-house, can still be seen at Westbury…”

[NB to all you readers of Jane Austen novels & letters: I *must* say: This is one reason why YOUNG LADIES did not travel alone! When ‘strange men’ follow your carriage into the coach yard…, you should be happy to have a brother or a servant ready at your elbow to help.]

The mother of the trio of ladies was Elizabeth Dighton (née Hunter), a widow with nine children. The book, The Dightons of Clifford Chambers and Their Descendants (1902), places Mrs. Dighton in the wills of Lister Dighton of Clifford and also George Lucy of Charlecote (the eldest son also carried “Lucy” as part of his name).

It is the daughter, though, Eliza Colchester, who’s come under my radar. In Colchester genealogy she’s described as “the daughter of John Dighton, of Ascot Park, Oxon.”

The Dighton book, published in 1902, claims the “property at Ascot was sold, but I have not been able to trace the date of the sale [see ASIDE, below], after which James Lucy [J.L. Dighton, Elizabeth’s brother] went to India. It is thought he went as private secretary to Warren Hastings, but I have not found any allusion to this in Gleig’s life of the great Governor-General…” Warren Hastings, of course, appears in Jane Austen biographies because of his relationship to her aunt Philadelphia (Austen) Hancock and her daughter Eliza (best known under her married name of Eliza de Feuillide).

The Dighton/Colchesters have a GREAT India connection, and, indeed the one item that brought Eliza Colchester to my attention – an 1826 letter – makes mention of her family members who are living abroad. (In the letter, she also “gave joy” for the summer 1826 marriage of Sir Charles Joshua Smith [Emma’s brother] with Mary Gosling [my diarist].)

One letter, out of so many.

But it’s not in the collection of correspondence, per se, that makes me think along of the line of “rescuing” a family’s history – it’s the AMOUNT of material I’ve been able to pull together. Letters, diaries, drawings, books, portraits, just to name a few.

The REACH of the family is rather mind-boggling.

The Smith and Gosling family had a complex social network, an extensive correspondence network. Their friends network can only be guessed at. Until something like this letter, written by Eliza Colchester from The Wilderness to her dear friend Mrs. Judith Smith at The Grove in Stratford (greater London, not Stratford on Avon), surfaces, relationships remain unknown.

I describe this Colchester letter a little bit in an earlier post, before going on to discuss some Wymess-Colchester garden that had been rescued recently.

Being JANUARY, however, I’ve thought about what I’d like to share with Two Teens in the Time of Austen readers. This year, 2018, is actually the TENTH anniversary of this blog. (how time flies…) And once some of the MAIN “discoveries” were uncovered, there were things I took for granted that readers “knew”. But audiences come and go, and I plan a major push starting NOW to “reintroduce” some people, places, and things.

cover-twoteens

Random Jottings, my Kindle (and also paperback book) is still available. If the paperback interests you, contact me – but the Kindle is easily ordered at Amazon (and its overseas branches). It gathered together blog posts and ordered them in a way that introduces all of the family members and their estate-homes.

So, *upcoming*, will be further information about all the family, radiating outwards from the core duo of EMMA AUSTEN and Mary LADY SMITH. But I’m also HOPING for some additional sources to turn up; items like letters and diaries! Thus, the *need* to talk about people like Eliza Colchester. Not only might descendants exist, but letters (especially) circulate in collections of private individuals. Sometimes, ONE LETTER makes such a difference!

For instance. . . .

ONE letter described “Macklin” in such terms that I’ve now spent a good five years uncovering MORE information on Miss Macklin (also known as Amelia Wybault, her married name). This became SUCH a concentrated topic that I created a presentation around it called “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” (a bow to Dickens’s “unfinished” The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

ONE letter describes Augusta Smith’s feelings for the young Northamptonshire doctor her family was against her marrying in the 1820s.

ONE letter from a friend to “Aunt” (the Smith’s aunt Judith Smith, their father’s sister; “Aunt” is all they ever called her) uncovered a tiny SLICE of Aunt’s life – and that is EXCEPTIONALLY valuable to me.

So just one of anything – a letter, an envelope even, a diary, a picture – when gathered among everything else MATTERS greatly. Even finding that description of a youthful Eliza Dighton, when my own picture of her was of an elderly friend. Precious!

Some other aspects readers can look forward to finding out about during 2018:

Family members who exist in photographs. Obviously these are mainly the children of the siblings. And there will come pleas for information about items that surfaced… and then disappeared again. “To Where?” is the constant question.

The geography of the Smith and Gosling world is so extensive. They lived in England; travelled west, to Wales and Ireland; travelled east to places as far as Moscow; and south as far as Italy and Sicily. I’m still waiting for one archive in Rome so I can access thirteen letters from the 1820s. [The Lante delle Rovere papers are kept in the Borromini-designed library biblioteca Alessandrina, Sant’Ivo a la Sapienza, Archivio di Stato di Roma, closed since 2014 for renovations.]

I find the world of the Smiths & Goslings unendingly fascinating, and I hope to interest YOU.

* * *

ASIDE: According to an Oxfordshire “paper” (by John Sykes, Oxfordshire Building Trust, in 2012; link called: “History of Ascott Park”) on the estate of Ascot (or Ascott) Park, the contents of Ascot were dispersed on the death of Alice Dormer (aunt to the heir John Lucy Dighton) in 1780.  Ascot Park had been put up for sale in 1773, after James Lucy Dighton came of age (his father had died in 1761), but it failed to sell. The estate was ultimately sold to the Blackalls, a landed family “in the Great Haseley area” in 1795.

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Add Jane Austen, and Ka-ching

January 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm (books, jane austen, people) (, , )

Over the weekend, looking for books once owned by Lady Frances Compton – the sister of the 1st Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s uncle), I found SEVERAL booksellers who added the JANE AUSTEN name to their posts. My Question is: WHY??

bookplate_Lady Frances

Here is Lady Frances’ bookplate. She was the daughter of an earl, and a formidable woman by the time I meet her, in the 1790s. She lived much of her early and later years in Switzerland. The early years, because her father had settled there after spending a fortune in trying to secure a parliamentary seat. The later years, it was obvious that she loved her Swiss surroundings.

I have never seen proof of any relationship between the sister of Mrs. Chute of The Vine, i.e., Lady Northampton herself, with the Austens. Her sister-in-law is even one remove farther away. So it was with EXTREME interest that I read some of these books descriptions . . . and prices.

On the low scale, of rhetoric as well as price, is an offer by Between the Covers, Rare Books, Inc:

  • Robert Bloomfield, Wildflowers; or, Pastoral and Local Poetry (1806)

“First edition. Contemporary speckled calf ruled, and spine heavily gilt. Spine rubbed, and some loss of leather at the corners, a handsome very good copy. Engraved bookplate of Lady Frances Compton on the front pastedown. Lady Frances was a friend of the Austen family and frequently visited and dined with them.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this volume: $375

Another seller, selling an 1812 copy, without any ‘Austen’ mention is selling it for $120.

At the opposite end of the scale, with some of the most explosive, out-on-a-limb speculations, is this on offer by Arroyo Seco Books:

  • Antony Ashley Cooper [3rd Earl Shaftsbury], Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, with a Collection of Letters, 3 vols. (1790)

“Basil [Basel]: J J Tourneisen / J L Legrand, 1790. Reprint . Speckled Calf / Boards. Very Good +. 8 1/2″ Tall. (Viii), 414; (Vi), 367; (Viii), 340, + Long Index To All Volumes At End. Published 1790. Original Or Very Early Spotted Calf, 6 Spine Compartments With Two Morocco Labels On Each Volume, Gilt Decorations And Borders On Spine, Over Marbled Paper Covered Boards, Spotted Calf Tips, Light Blue Endpapers. Lightly Used, Single 1/8″ Deep X 3/16” Long Chip At Top Of Spines Of Vols 2 And 3, Hinges Solid. Bookplates Of Lady Frances Compton; She Is Noted As A Visitor To The Household By Jane Austen’s Father In The Early 1790’S. An Interesting Association As There Is Speculation That Jane Austen Used Shaftesbury As A Source For Her Ideas Of Morality. Although There Is No Evidence That Austen Had Access To A Copy Of Shaftesbury, It Is Possible That She Discussed The Ideas With Lady Compton, Or Even That This Particular Set Was Made Accesible To Her.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this set: $2,000

Although not quite as handsome along the spine, another 3-volume set currently for sale, without the Austen wishful thinking, is selling for $175.

signature_lady frances compton

What _I_ would dearly love to hear is, When Lady Frances dined with the Austens, and Where she sat down with Jane Austen to discuss ideas

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!

Ivanhoe

But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.

cushion_austen

a Jane Austen pillow

 

Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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