Lady Northampton’s Aviary

October 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm (entertainment, jasna) (, , )


While staying at Louisville’s Galt House hotel, and traipsing DAILY back and forth from the JASNA AGM to our hotel room, I never realized the overpass, described by the hotel as their “conservatory”, was “Modeled after the Crystal Palace in London”.

Galt House

Their aviary of “exotic and colorful songbirds”, within the conservatory, however, fascinated me! You can just glimpse it in this “empty room” shot from the hotel’s website:

Galt House_interior

And even a dolt like me sees the Crystal Palace likeness, when I’m no longer rushing through it. Thank goodness I can say I breakfasted one day (Friday, the first day of the conference) under its arches.

As a child I had one pet: a dog. He spoiled me for ever contemplating a “replacement”. Other relatives had pets, among them a few dogs and the odd cat. I’m sure I had a goldfish at some point. But they never seem to last long, do they… Can’t say I recall any aquariums of vast size; or any caged birds. Maybe they were there, though.

In short, _I_ have often scoffed when reading about the Smiths & Goslings and Aviaries. Seemed like a “wealthy” kind of thing to have…, a fruitless “nothing”…, a “bauble” added to a room.

NOW I HAVE SEEN THE ERROR OF MY THINKING!

The hotel was busy-busy-busy. There was our conference – with over 800 Jane Austen enthusiasts. There was the Ironman Louisville Triathalon. And at least two other “groups” with conference space taken up in BOTH “towers” of the hotel. How wonderful it would be to sit, at leisure, and watch the little birds….

I remember one that swooped down, plucked up straw from the floor of the aviary, and brought it back up to the “basket”-like nest. I watched, amazed, as the straw piece was twisted and turned by the rapid movements of the little beak.

Only now do I wish I had “video”. But I post these photographs in order to share a little of my enthusiasm.

galt house birds1

galt house birds2

galt house birds3

galt house birds4

And from the letters, although I put my finger only on one comment by Lady Northampton about her aviary, I give you these snapshots of Smiths & Birds:

1804, Sarah Smith to Eliza Chute:

thank her [Mrs Bramston] for the kind offer of sending me a Canary Bird or two for the Aviary, Fanny [Lady Frances Compton] I am sure will be so good as to bring them with her

 

1807, Mamma to Augusta:

If the weather is as bad with you, as it is here, you cannot walk out much, & poor Grandmamma will be quite a prisoner; but you can always get to the Aviary, & there see a chearful scene.

 

1812, Maria Lady Northampton to her daughter:

my little birds are cheering me with their soft notes & appear pleased to see me

 

1825, Mamma to Maria:

my condolences on Valentine’s abominable behaviour [a Canary bird is written underneath]; the only excuse for such unnatural voraciousness is that she has been living constantly in the world w:h is a great trial to many people’s principles, you must not expect her to lay any more eggs this year.

and, a few months later:

Valentine is building another Nest, which excites Maria’s anxiety

I’ve now made a memo: The next estate that I buy must CERTAINLY come complete with an AVIARY!

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2 Comments

  1. ronalddunning said,

    Kelly, on the theme of aviaries you might find the following reminiscence on Edward (Austen) Knight’s daughter Elizabeth, by her granddaughter, interesting:
    http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/akin-to-jane/text/edward/051a.html

    Ron

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, Ron — thanks for recommending this. Interesting reading, indeed! (though she could have used an aviary! wonder how many cages there were, in the end??)

      You always have such good ideas and information!

      k

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