Henry Austen & Cottesbrooke

September 27, 2011 at 8:40 am (estates, history, jane austen, jasna, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , , )


I am not one to speculate on Jane Austen’s novels — certainly not on what estates (IF any were in mind) might have served as prototypes for estates in her novels.

But Sunday (25 Sept 2011) our local JASNA-Vermont chapter hosted a talk given by incoming JASNA president, Iris Lutz. I first corresponded with Iris about five years ago when starting to think about getting up a chapter in the state — Iris was VP for Regions then. She put me in contact with Carol from Montpelier — who had had a similar idea and that was how JASNA-VT got off the ground.

Iris’ illustrated talk centered on the houses — in life and fiction — she had researched and/or seen in her travels. No mention of The Vyne, which was a bit of a surprise, seeing as it is highly accessible (it’s a National Trust property); but there were wonderful photos of the likes of Godmersham (the Knight estate in Kent) and Ibthorpe (home way back when to the Lloyd family; recently sold so it’s up in the air whether subsequent JASNA tours will be able to go visit the home). I thought a great talk could be made on Godmersham alone — the fabulous interior decoration in conjunction with Austen’s comments from her letters about the house or her stay(s) there.

Then an image flashed on that looked oh-so-familiar: It was Cottesbrooke! An estate that is a bit related to this blog’s research as it once was in the Langham family. And — as you might guess from the name — Langham Christie was  related to the Langhams of Cottesbrooke.

A friend to the Langhams of Cottesbrooke turns out to have been Henry Austen, Jane’s soldier-banker-clergyman brother.

Now, I always imagined some “knowledge” of Henry Austen by the Goslings — seeing as both were in banking. In Philadelphia, at the 2009 JASNA AGM, I had asked Maggie Lane, a writer on the Austens, if she had ever come across the Gosling name (or Goslings & Sharpe) when researching Henry; she had no recollection of the name.

Working on some separating writing (an Austen book chapter), I dug out my Le Faye copy of a bio on Austen cousin (and later Henry’s wife), Eliza de Feuillaide, I spotted Clive Caplan‘s 1998 article on Henry Austen as banker. So the hunt is on for this issue of the journal. Does Caplan find any Gosling & Sharpe? Does he mention the Langhams of Cottsbrooke? Time will tell.

Iris’ talk intimated that someone somewhere had the idea that Cottesbrooke might have served as a basis for Austen’s depiction of Mansfield Park. I personally doubt she “based” too heavily, although aspects might certainly have been used about ANY estate for any of her fictional places, but the idea is intriguing. Lots out there on the subject, I now find:

Facebook and AustenOnly are the main sources. Cottesbrooke Gardens get a nod from the Telegraph. You can find more mentions of the possible Mansfield Park-Cottesbrooke connection by searching for the two together.

* * *

 27 September 1801

on this day was born Emma Smith

who married James Edward Austen, later Austen Leigh

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2 Comments

  1. David Batterham said,

    I don’t think I can be of any help to you but you might be able to help me! I came on your websit while looking for information about the bank, perhaps to find there was a history of it or that its archives are still kept somewhere.
    My own reason for the search is that I have some account books from the bank in particular one for a man called Thomas Massa Alsager who had been the editor of The Times, perhaps a friend of John Keats and also of Mendelsohn (I have this from the internet). The books show transaction which involved hundreds of pounds* almost week and I am trying to fund out more about these and about some of the people involed in these financial dealings in particular a George Hicks for whom I also have another account book with the bank.

    *There is another notebook which records the payments for wages to various servants. Who seemed to be paid about a guinea a month (one hopes with board) Not likely any of them would end up with accounts at Gosling and Sharpes.

    With best wishes for your own researches David Batterham

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, David — what fabulous news to hear.

      I’m confused though: are you asking about Henry Austen’s banking firm, or Goslings & Sharpe? I may have some books and a source for you, if it’s Goslings that’s of interest.;

      k

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