Northamptonshire Past & Present

November 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm (books, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , )

“…because the Work is too hard for Women, it requires more strength than they are capable of, to raise Walls of Defence about a Lady’s Shape.” 

— Robert Campbell, The London Tradesman (1747)

regarding the fact that “stay-makers were always men”. “Stays were made of buckram, a thick, heavily stiffened, linen, difficult to cut and sew.”

The owner of the stays in this instance was Lady Langham of Cottesbrooke. On March 26, 1774, Lady Langham wrote of paying £1 16s to “Harrison” for “a pr of Stays”. The summation of Lady Langham’s London expenditures turns up in the eye-opening article by Judith Hodgkinson.

It is one article in back issues – now digitized (and continuing to add volumes) – of the journal Northamptonshire Past & Present produced by the Northamptonshire Record Society. [This particular volume is No. 62, from 2009.]

Northamptonshire Past and Present

Of course, Northamptonshire has Two Teen in the Time of Austen connections in being the location of Castle Ashby, home of the aunt and uncle of Emma Smith (later Emma Austen; and still later Emma Austen Leigh) – Lord and Lady Northampton.

I’ve even located a couple of related articles!

The first, “George London at Castle Ashby,” by the estate’s prior archivist Peter McKay. These are very early doings, indeed: 17th Century gardens. [article appears in No. 61 (2008)]

The second, also by Peter McKay, is brand new – issue 70 (not digitized; though the volume for sale) – “The Grand Tour of James, Lord Compton, 1707-1709.

The current issue also discusses such as Boughton House and Burghley House; a couple of locals – John Cope and the Rev. Henry Jephcott; as well as “Suffragettes and Suffragists in Northampton”.

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ESSENTIAL AUSTEN: Jane Austen Fashion

November 24, 2018 at 10:46 am (books, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

In two words, JANE AUSTEN FASHION is . . . a treasure! Concise and informative, its focus on Jane Austen – in comments from her letters as well as her novels – makes this little volume essential to every Austen collector.

fashion

Newly republished by Moonrise Press (Ludlow, England), author Penelope Byrde’s book on fashion is now in its second regeneration. Initially published in the 1980s as A Frivolous Distinction, it found a new lease on life in an expanded edition put out by Excellent Press in 1999. It has now been rescued from its consignment to used bookstores (if you were lucky enough to find a copy) by this paperback edition. May Moonrise Press profit from its belief in the continuing interest in this subject – fashion not only in Austen’s day but, more precisely, in Austen’s own life.

Analyzing this book, you sense just how little the average reader knows about the fashions, fabrics and even etiquette of Austen’s novels. ‘Those of her characters who … talk about it [dress] to an excessive extent are unfortunately those whose vacant minds or poor manners are underlined by this habit — women such as Miss Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey, Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Mrs Elton in Emma’ (13; my emphasis). This is not to imply that an interest in clothing was ‘unhealthy’, but to point up that Austen’s characters can be rude through the manner in which they discuss – dissect might be the better word – how their friend or relative looks. Readers delight in Catherine Morland’s musings over what to wear to her first Bath Assembly; yet, as Byrde points out, poor Marianne Dashwood is inquired of so sharply about her costumes and their cost that Miss Steele knew more of Marianne’s wardrobe than Marianne herself! Readers today might therefore see Miss Steele as inquisitive but Austen’s original readers would have known she was stepping over the bounds of propriety. Miss Steele ‘was never easy till she knew the price of every part of Marianne’s dress … and was not without hopes of finding out before they parted, how much her washing cost per week, and how much she had every year to spend upon herself’ (72; quoting S&S p. 249).

JANE AUSTEN FASHION (subtitled Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen) also proclaims the elegant characters of the novels, as portrayed through their clothing or pointed descriptions of their likes or dislikes. Along with the elegant Emma we also have young, noble Eleanor Tilney – whose proclivity for ‘white’ marks her natural elegance. Byrde calls Miss Tilney ‘perhaps the best-dressed of Jane Austen’s female characters’ (50).

Perhaps for the first time, today’s readers can imagine a piece of tamboured muslin, as in the gown Catherine Morland wears, when they are told what exactly tambouring meant: ‘The embroidery was worked on a frame with a fine hook which passed through the fabric and made a series of chain stitches. The work could be done quickly and was effective on lightweight fabrics…’ (111). Byrde can then also mention one character who employed the tambour frame, Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park.

Until her retirement in 2002, Penelope Byrde was a curator at the famed Museum of Costume in Bath. And it is with a deft hand that she presents the fashions and fabrics mentioned by Austen in her letters, and unravels the little mysteries of certain comments in the novels. She also gives an informative basic overview of the changing fashions from Austen’s girlhood through her adult years (1770s to 1817, the year of Austen’s death). After Byrde’s digression on the subject of ‘sleeves’, how clear becomes Austen’s own comment on the when-why-how of short-sleeves versus long-sleeves. ‘By 1814 long sleeves were beginning to be worn in the evening [formerly, they had been exclusive to daywear] and Jane Austen seems to have been determined to wear them herself…“I wear my gauze gown today,” she wrote in March 1814, “long sleeves & all…I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable.” But she goes on to say: “Mrs Tilson had long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this”’ (24/27). Mrs Tilson, the wife of Henry Austen’s banking partner, would have been a woman who knew the London fashions well. And it is through letters that everyone would have gotten the latest news concerning the latest fashions. This exchange shows just how typical an observer of the world Jane Austen was.

Nothing escapes Byrde’s attention; there are sections on men’s fashions; sections that look at accessories, boots and shoes, hats-caps, muffs and parasols, hair-dressing, and clothes for special occasions (weddings, mourning, livery); a useful section on the ‘making and care of clothes’; and perhaps my favorite, a look at needlework – of course an occupation not only of Austen herself, but of most of her female characters. Byrde delves therefore into so much more than mere ‘fashion’. And all from an Austen point of view. Only Chapman, in his enthusiasm for Austen’s letters (when others thought their content of little interest to anyone), could have mined the letters so well for the cost of goods and the changing tastes in fashion. It is for such evidence that historians delve into diaries and letters, and they will want to delve into this book as well. To have all such aspects in one such complete package is a blessing. There is nothing ‘frivolous’ about the topic or its treatment, and this garners JANE AUSTEN FASHION a place in the Essential Austen collection.

JA Fashion

Note that there are SEVERAL editions of this book; the first image is the paperback I own (2008); the one above shows the cover of the 2014 re-issue. It began life under the title A Frivolous Distinction. It was later expanded and has again been reissued in 2014 – Jane Austen Fashion is available from the publisher, Moonrise Press (UK), if you wish to make sure your copy is the latest fashion.

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Jane Austen: Used book buyer?

November 23, 2018 at 9:49 am (books, estates, history, jane austen) (, , )

In the appendix to JANE AUSTEN THE READER (2013), (a link provided by Springer [the publisher]), the quotation “‘new books were luxuries but not out-of-reach luxuries’” for the “all-female Austen household” may be too narrowly focused when discussing the possession of books by Jane Austen.

Why limit the idea of “books” to new books and think of them as luxuries?

Certainly, a gifted book could have come Jane Austen’s way, and Olivia Murphy (the author) accounts for such volumes. Evidence, however, leans heavily on the Godmersham Library collection of Jane and Cassandra’s brother, Edward Austen Knight. As with any intake of books, some might have duplicated Edward’s own, been rejected or “regifted”, or sold on.

It is the sold on that provides the clue to my current argument: There were also auctions, used book shops, and disbursed collections (which may include titles that were missing volumes).

With the death of Edward Austen Knight in November 1852, a valuation and reassessment of the Godmersham Library logically would have been undertaken. There does exist – and Murphy discusses this as part of her argument – evidence dated ‘1853’. That these books came from Cassandra Austen, either directly or through her niece Cassy Esten Austen, is perhaps a bit of a stretch. And, of course, what was once Cassandra’s may have come from her sister, which is the whole point of the appendix, which is entitled “What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?” To Murphy, the context of other titles housed in the Drawing Room (“the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer and the novels of Maria Edgeworth”) is more important than the changing of the guard in home-ownership.

JA Reader

Click on the link here and then on the PDF for the section “BACK MATTER” (pp. 177-231) to read: Appendix: What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?

* * *

A ‘rare’ instance of Jane Austen commenting on contemporary books, thru the parody of writing to “Mrs. Hunter of Norwich” (in actuality, Austen’s niece Anna Austen), in 1812, was up for auction in 2017. It sold for £162,500 (estimated by Sotheby’s to fetch £80,000-£100,000). A news story produced at the time (July 2017), “A Cache of Jane Austen’s Charming Letters.”

 

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Fanny Price and Portsmouth

November 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm (history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Author Charlotte Frost recently sent a link (which I’d like to share) to the HISTORY IN PORTSMOUTH website.

What I find most fascinating is the “Digital 3D Re-Creation of Old Portsmouth in 1860” project.

Working with a map, you can click on various buildings or streets, thereby obtaining details, drawings, photographs even of Old Portsmouth. Especially useful for readers of Mansfield Park are the discussions of what was razed (already or soon-to-be), which informs us about the Old Portsmouth as Jane Austen would have known it – as well, the Old Porstmouth Fanny Priced (re-)visits when visiting her “birth family”.

How about a “for instance” with the Fortifications to the South-West:

The text starts off with THE SQUARE TOWER – dating from 1494, but with “stonework” replaced in 1827 (ie, a decade after Austen’s death) and by 1860 in the “state that we recognize today.”

Discussion then turns to THE SALLY PORT BUILDINGS, “in an area that is today devoid of structures.” Some changes to the area took place as late as the 1970s. In this section, there’s some “Sherlock Holmes” extrapolations of evidence to figure out what had been in the area.

A FABULOUS picture of the KING JAMES GATE c1860 shows a HUGE structure dominated by nothing else. The fortifications were defensive in nature, and the King James Gate, of course, provided access. “The moat remained in existence well into the 19th century and appears more or less complete on the 1861 map. The photo [below] confirms the existence of the moat as it shows on the lower left the top of a set of stairs leading downwards from the northern side of the bridge. This could only lead down to the water.”

king-james-gate6

You can see what remains of this gate in a photo from 2009, where the central arch exists in a truncated form. (click the photo, then scroll down)

When on that page, scroll further and you’ll come to the 3D images. The smaller images above the photo is how you change between the (in this case) seven different views of the south-west Fortifications. A short capture beneath each will explain what you’re looking at.

“Navigation” at the bottom of the page will get you back to the main map, and another section of Old Portsmouth to discover! A highly recommend “tour” and website.

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Grinling Gibbons at Trinity College Chapel, Oxford

November 3, 2018 at 8:42 am (history, places, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

In the summer of 1814, Mary Gosling (one of my Two Teens) visited her two eldest brothers at Oxford University. On her last full day of touring the various buildings and quads, Mary and family visited Trinity College Chapel.

A fabulous online article from 2016, in the periodical OXFORD TODAY, covers the recent restoration of the chapel. Entitled, “Simply Divine: Trinity College Chapel is Restored to its Former Glory,” it showcases the Chapel’s artwork – including the very carvings by Grinling Gibbons which Mary wrote about seeing in her journal!

For me (and you, dear Reader) the thrill of SEEING and hearing about the Chapel is the next best thing to being there. According to the story by Olivia Gordon, the Chapel’s “dynamic integration of architecture, sculpture and painting is unrivalled among England’s surviving ecclesiastical interiors.” Studying the nineteenth century, with its sometimes harsh “upgrades,” it is heartwarming to read that the interior of the Chapel is now  “brought back to glory with a sympathetic restoration“. The “glory” originated in 1694.

Trinity College Oxford Chapel

I also found, in reading this article, that perhaps Mary got it RIGHT when she wrote about the Chapel being “finely finished in CEDAR by Mr Gibbons.” I have long presumed this to have been a misidentification on her part, knowing that Gibbons (and the craftsmen, like Tilman Riemenschneider, whose work is seen on the Continent) worked with LIMEWOOD. However, four pieces, by Gibbons, of the Evangelists, ARE indeed in “Bermudan Cedar, a wood which is no longer available.” Restoration of the Evangelists actually came via old furniture made of the same antique wood!

Another interesting point made refers to the “hands-on” approach taken by the Chapel’s Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Dr. Emma Percy. She even scaled scaffolding, obtaining an up-close view of a ceiling piece, undergoing restoration.

I must admit, reading about the wife/widow of the founder (Sir Thomas Pope) and how she attended service brings to mind how the Salzburg Prince-Archbishops got from the Residenz to the Cathedral (it’s a “secret” you learn about when on a guided tour of the Residenz).

Re-dedication occurred at Easter-time, 23 April 2016; the embedded video (less than 4 minutes) will give you a taste of the gigantic task behind the year-long (April to April 2015-2016) project. It also pinpoints several of the different types of artwork that required refurbishment. More videos and further information about the renovation process and practices are found on the Chapel website. This page, commemorating the Conservation Awards, includes a link to a fabulous 20-page booklet (PDF) on the fully-restored Chapel. (Also accessed via their Renovation page).

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