Merry Christmas Wishes

December 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm (diaries, entertainment) (, , , , , )

Just HAD to share some choice *nuggets* from the pen of Oscar Wilde, thanks to The Importance of Being Earnest.

miss fairfaxThe Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on a train.”

*

Miss Prism: “You must put away your diary, Cecily.  I really don’t see why you should keep a diary at all.”
Miss Cecily Cardew: “I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them”

*

miss cardewMiss Cecily Cardew:  “I think your frankness does you great credit, Ernest.  If you will allow me, I will copy your remarks into my diary.”  [Goes over to table and begins writing in diary.]
Mr. Algernon Moncreiff: “Do you really keep a diary?  I’d give anything to look at it.  May I?”
Miss Cecily Cardew:  “Oh no.”  [Puts her hand over it.]  “You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.  When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.”

Watch the 1952 film, with
Joan Greenwood & Dorothy Tutin

two diaries

Best Wishes!

KM

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Jane Austen’s (family) Portraits

December 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm (books, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

In a follow-up to the news of the Sotheby’s sale, I’ve pulled out the one source I have that discusses this very portrait’s “reason for being”: Deirdre Le Faye’s (2nd ed.) Jane Austen: A Family Record.

Near the end of the book, the genesis of James Edward Austen Leigh’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, is treated. It is a rather disappointing story, from the view of the Memoir‘s author: his two sisters were most giving and generous. However, his eldest sister, the former Anna Austen [born 1793] now long the widowed Mrs Lefroy, declared how little she remembered! But then, after sitting down with her pen and paper and exercising her recollections, she did come up with a highly entertaining narrative. Hard to be harsh with Anna: how many of us will recall people from our past, sixty years later?

Edward’s younger sister Caroline Mary Craven Austen [born 1805] also supplied her memories for her brother to incorporate as he wished. Her piece was later published as My Aunt Jane Austen.

Other sources were, of course, attempted. According to Le Faye, “Rather surprisingly, it seems that even at this late date Anna [Lefroy] still did not know that Cassandra had kept Jane’s letters and distributed some of them to the younger nieces, for she wrote to her brother [James Edward Austen Leigh, born 1798]: ‘The occasional correspondence between the Sisters when apart from each other would as a matter of course be destroyed by the Survivor — I can fancy what the indignation of Aunt Cassa. would have been at the mere idea of its being read and commented upon by any of us….'”

Anna also wrote to her brother, “‘You must have it in your own power to write something; & Caroline, though her recollections cannot go as far back even as your’s, is, I know acquainted with some particulars… [they] were communicated to her by the best of then living Authorities, Aunt Cassandra — There may be other sources of information, if we could get at them — Letters may have been preserved’.”

“As far as letters held by other branches of the family were concerned James Edward’s approaches met with only limited success.” Le Faye then details that one of Frank Austen’s son’s “knew that no letter to Henry had been kept”, and that Frank’s daughter Fanny Sophia “had destroyed [Jane’s letters to Frank], following his death in 1865, without consulting anyone else beforehand.” Martha Lloyd Austen’s (Lady Austen) letters had come into Frank’s hands, and “it was one of these that he sent to the Quincy family in 1852 — but how many more of them may have been in his possession at that date is unknown.”

Fanny Sophia was willing to let Edward look at the few letters she had retained, “but only on the condition that he did not publish any”. He evidently did not, therefore, take her up on the offer.

Then there comes the tale of Lady Knatchbull, the former Fanny Knight. “She was now drifting into querulous senility and could not — perhaps would not — remember where she had put her letters from Jane.” These, which Edward did not live to see published, came out in 1884 in the so-called Brabourne edition (vol. 1) [other works by Brabourne, including vol. 2 of Jane Austen’s letters, at Internet Archive].

Certainly, Edward Austen had done the best any biographer can try to do, in amassing all the known “primary materials”.

So what of the portraits?!?

“After these disappointments, the help which James Edward received from Cassy Esten, Charles’s eldest daughter, must have been particularly welcome. She allowed him to use those of Jane’s letters which she had inherited in 1845, and it was she who proffered the two simple watercolour sketches by Cassandra…” These two being the “Sketch” (now at the National Portrait Gallery” and the “Bonnet Portrait”, the view of Austen, sitting out-of-doors, where her face is obscured by her bonnet. “Anna thought there was ‘a good deal of resemblance’ in the figure of the latter, but that the former was ‘so hideously unlike’.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Henry had admitted “in 1832 when Bentley wanted a likeness [of Jane Austen] for his new edition of the novels” that “no professional artist has ever painted Jane’s portrait at any time in her life”. {But did Henry know “all” about his sister?}

“James Edward commissioned a local artist, James Andrews of Maidenhead, to redraw the Cassandra-portrait, working under the superintendence of himself and his sisters. They considered his version good enough to appear in the Memoir, and a stipple vignette was steel-engraved from this watercolour to use as the frontispiece.”

austen-watercolor

“Those members of the family who had known Jane best were on the whole rather disappointed by the frontispiece. Casey Esten [born in 1808] wrote ‘I think the portrait is very much superior to any thing that could have been expected from the sketch it was taken from. — It is a very pleasing, sweet face, — tho’, I confess, to not thinking it much like the original; – but that the public will not be able to detect…’  Caroline was equally lukewarm: ‘The portrait is better than I expected — as considering its early date, and that it has lately passed through the hands of painter and engraver – I did not reckon upon finding any likeness — but there is a look which I recognise as hers — and though the general resemblance is not strong, yet as it represents a pleasant countenance it is so far a truth – & I am not dissatisfied with it.’

NPG D1007; Jane Austen after Cassandra Austen

Lizzy Rice [born 1800], now a stately matriarch, wrote from Kent to James Edward: ‘I remember her so well & loved her so much & her books always were and always will be my delight … how well the portrait has been lithographed I think it very like only the eyes are too large, not for beauty but for likeness, I suppose making them so was Aunt Cassandra’s tribute of affection…’.”

Caroline agreed with the comment about the portrait’s eyes: “‘they are larger than the truth: that is, rounder, & more open – I am very glad she sees a general likeness tho’—‘.”

Mrs Beckford, the former Charlotte Maria Middleton, a Chawton neighbor, “considered that: ‘Jane’s likeness is hardly what I remember  there is a look, & that is all…’.” Le Faye records no comments – and perhaps none exist, from Emma or Edward Austen Leigh, regarding the portraits.

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Sotheby’s: Jane Austen Portrait

December 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm (jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

Got wind of a very informative article at ArtDaily.org – discussing the Austen portrait that sold at auction today. The BIG Mystery: Who purchased the portrait?!?

  • New York Times’ blog quotes that Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum felt they could not raise the required funds (estimated to fetch £150,000 to £200,000) after purchasing Jane Austen’s ring.
  • Death Threats over the £10 Bill portrait?
  • Lotta Jane Austen on the block!

The ArtDaily article offers a “behind the scenes” idea as to how Cassandra Austen‘s little drawing (now at the National Portrait Gallery, London) was used to produce the watercolor (ie, Sotheby’s auction item), which, in turn, was made into the etching that graced as frontispiece the Memoir of Jane Austen, written by her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh (husband to my Emma!).

austen-watercolor2

The watercolor portrait has been in family hands – and rarely seen. So, for me, it’s a thrill to see a decent image of the little portrait. Letters have recorded what Edward and his sisters thought of the work of watercolorist James Andrews. That discussion will be Part II – unless the mystery owner is revealed! Gotta wonder if the buyer – if outside the UK – is prepared for backlash. After the furor Kelly Clarkson’s purchase of the Jane Austen ring aroused, it is unlikely the portrait would not arouse the same.

  • If you owned this portrait – could you have sold it?

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Betley Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars

December 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm (books, diaries, research) (, , , , , , )

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen may know of my admiration for Mavis E. Smith’s book, Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall; for instance, I mention being “positively engrossed” in this book of Journals and Letters – when I first picked it up in 2008. Then came the publication of The Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. I have both! Now – in December – I find that Mavis Smith has another publication right up my alley (time-period-wise); alas, it came out this past spring:

betley soldiers

It’s a slim little booklet, only 28 pages, but only £2.50. I wish I could say more about its contents at present. It’s published by the Betley Local History Society, and I’ve a wonderful bookshop in the area, which I’ve ordered from before (very friendly and fast service): The Nantwich Bookshop. Treat yourself to a Xmas gift and get all three!

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Sarah Beeny’s “Great British Christmas”

December 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm (entertainment, europe, history, jane austen) (, , , , , )

It was with great anticipation, after hearing this show was to be broadcast this past Monday, that I searched online for “A Great British Christmas, with Sarah Beeny” (originally broadcast on UK’s Channel 4). I don’t know why, but I really believed this was a multi-part series, with the first “hour” dedicated to a Georgian Christmas. I so hankered for knowledge of what exactly “Georgian” Christmas rites and festivities were!

(I kept seeing “Series 1 – Episode 1,” which does make it sound like a lengthy “series”….)

My mistake; the 46-minute, single episode rushes through the Georgians to firmly trot onto the Victorian’s well-trod ground of family, children, toys, and trees. I’m afraid I stopped there, and by the time I got back to watching this particular link had disappeared…. So I missed out on the rest of the Victorian era (if much more remained), as well as all the “war-time” era and whatever of “today” was shown.

[NB: If you see any “video” at the end of my posts, those are WordPress Ads… I’ll try to make a concerted effort to have text and not a photo at the end]

great british xmas1

The show starts off with a lengthy introduction: the rehab project by Beeny and her husband at their Yorkshire property, Rise Hall. Channel 4 “advertises” that a show exists on this rehab project, so, given the length (and the focus) of this Christmas special, less would have been more (dare I use the word “padding”?): however, I’d LOVE to find Rise Hall’s “Restoration Nightmare” online… Will have to look.

great british xmas2

A useful segment on the Kissing Ball — still not sure if this was called a Kissing Bowl or Kissing Bough instead (rather like “Rise” Hall, I would have turned on closed-captioning if I’d been watching this on TV). Was it really only hung “downstairs”? LOVED that when you kissed you plucked off a Mistletoe Berry. And who knew that in churches (only in Britain?) Mistletoe is verboten – except at York Minster!

This is a pretty display; it rather looks, with its candles, very Advent Wreath-like to me (ah, those Germans… already!?)

great british xmas3

This makes me think of my childhood; not because _we_ had a fireplace, but because WPIX in New York City went off-air (can you imagine such a thing nowadays!) and the only picture on the TV was a burning Yule Log.

There was something about your Yule log lasting till Twelfth Night – but as my link isn’t working, I can’t go back and listen to this section of the show. HUGE log hauled in here; LOVE the fruit and cinnamon sticks!! What a scent they must have sent into the air.

It was here however that I rather wondered: who wrote Beeny’s script? Was there a researcher who plucked out of letters, diaries, whathaveyou the very “rites” of the Festive Season I was craving to learn about? Or, was there some secondary book on, say, Regency Christmases, that — right or wrong — was followed.

There is a book out there (which I confess I’ve never seen in the flesh) that may serve as the basis for an online LIST of GIFTS received by my Emma, used to conclude that large gift-exchanges occurred at this date. Trouble is, I’ve seen mention of items from this list: I suspect it’s Emma’s list of BIRTHDAY gifts (HRO did call them both; but I’m not sure); and one year it’s gifts bought by Charles Joshua Smith (her eldest brother) while on his Grand Tour.

I made one brief note at this point, and can’t relisten: there was talk of attending Church twice. This given as “proof” of the Georgian era’s “piety.” Trouble is, they ALWAYS (horrid weather permitting) went to Church twice on Sundays!

great british xmas4

On to food then – with this woman, whose name I did not note at the time. Now, _I_ (fussy eater that I am, and not a great lover of meat either) wouldn’t want to eat much of what was on offer either, but “been there before” with the turned-up noses and snide comments. Amanda Vickery’s Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice  “Netherfield” Ball special also had a culinary historian chief; that was, as I recall, quite informative. Pity that route wasn’t taken here.

But then, we were pressed for time, weren’t we…

great british xmas5

One “game” was discussed: that of plucking out raisins (were they?) from a flaming bowl. But my attention was caught instead by the Christmas Cake, and the short discussion of King / Queen for the Day. There is a delightful segment in the Letters of Abigail Adams (yes, Mrs John Adams, later President of the United States), when the couple was resident in Paris. Talk of “No Bean – No Queen,” which I remember to this day. John, alas, does not come off well in his wife’s tale!

I’ll see if I can hunt up an online version of this letter (one of my favorites!); written to her sister, it is not at the major site of Adams correspondence.

great british xmas6

Must confess to being rather disappointed. Of course the link I used to watch half thursday night was down by yesterday. A few comments of the “rude” Georgians and their kissing ball (bowl? bough? not sure what she said!), few more about their “crude” food and “rude” adult games (those flaming bowls). Then it was on to toys and kiddies, trees and “traditional” Xmas.

I will try to post about the “Christmas” I have found via the Smith-Gosling family – but, like many things, what they took for granted they did not always expressly comment about.

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English Christmas: Aunt at Stratford Grove

December 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people, smiths of stratford) (, , , , , , , )

Thanks to John, I’ve been given a glimpse of Aunt at home (Stratford Grove) – and have posted this delightful section of a letter at SoundCloud: new bride Augusta Wilder is sending Christmas greetings to “Aunt” (known to others as Mrs Judith Smith, sister of the late Charles Smith of Suttons).

soundcloud

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen know that one “great unknown” is the whereabouts of Aunt’s former home: Stratford (now known as Newham) is so close to London that the area Aunt knew has undergone tremendous changes. I’m always hoping to hear from readers that somehow Aunt’s “The Grove” still exists. This 1829 letter excerpt nicely describes The Grove’s exterior, with a “forecourt” and a path from door to the gate swept clean of snow.

english toffee

NB: if the recordings don’t work, try cleaning “cookies”; I don’t know why, but this seems a solution whenever I have a problem accessing them.

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Footprints left in “Hair Powder”

December 1, 2013 at 9:42 am (books, fashion, history, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Every once in a while I come across a *fun* piece of information. This one is not only fun it’s also a step back in time, a moment from the lives of the Smiths of Erle Stoke Park.

The year, circa 1795/6.

As governments still desire to do, the English Parliament needed money. But how to get it, where to get it? Some bright idea occurred to someone: Let’s tax something! Ah, yes… cast your mind back: The Stamp Act; a tax on Tea; how about paying tax based the number of windows in your house, or the number of dogs in your kennel.

In 1795 that brilliant idea served to tax that commodity so many used on a daily basis: Hair Powder.

gilray_powder tax

Unlike someone counting your windows or your dogs, this was based on obtaining a certificate. A tax of One Guinea gave you leisure to powder for the year (in this instance, through to 1 August 1796). Joshua Smith of Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire was a Member of Parliament; what choice did he have but to pay:

William Hiskins, under-butler to J. Smith, 11 April.
Augusta Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Emma Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Joshua Smith, housekeeper, 11 April.
Sarah Smith, wife of Joshua Smith, 11 April.
Alexander Struthers, footman to Joshua Smith, 11 April.

NB: See the page “Servants – Clerks – Governesses” for more household

My favorite portion of the announcement is a section, which reads: “… NO MORE IS TO BE DEMANDED OF ANY PERSON upon taking out a Certificate for using or wearing of Hair Powder, upon any Pretence whatever, except where there are more than two unmarried Daughters in a Family, in which Case a DOUBLE CERTIFICATE stamped with two Stamps, of One Pound One Shilling each, is required to be taken out.”

If you can locate a copy of Beryl Hurley’s booklet “The Hair Powder Tax, Wiltshire” (1997), you can read about the Smiths of Erlestoke yourself! Needless to say, powdering wigs and hair quickly went out of fashion…

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