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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Elizabeth Chivers: Diary of a London Tourist, 1814

October 31, 2018 at 3:55 pm (books, diaries, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

The Museum of London has produced a spectacular illustrated account of the London tour of Elizabeth Chivers, a resident of Bath. In 1814, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth and her younger sister Sarah, accompanied by their unnamed uncle (in his own carriage), left home on March 14th. Readers travel with them through such familiar places as Devizes, Marlborough, Bray, and Hounslow Heath. We halt with them at their hotel in Covent Garden. Here, with Miss Chivers, we see London in 1814 through the eyes of an untiring tourist. The Chivers sisters also were doing a bit of sleuthing, turning up places associated with several uncles (“late” as well as present) and even where “Father and Mother first became acquainted.”

custom house_london

Custom House, London

What makes the presentation extra special? The illustrations from the collection of The Museum of London, with captions that tell a bit more about what Miss Chivers saw, and whether something no longer exists. Helpful notes as well tease out the places visited or seen.

walksthroughregencylondon

To actually walk in the footsteps of such Regency visitors – you might enjoy a copy of Louise Allen’s Walks Through Regency London. Great for the armchair traveller too.

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The Local Historian

October 21, 2018 at 10:56 am (books, history, Uncategorized) (, )

From time to time, I come across access to journals. The Local Historian is the publication of the British Association for Local History. It publishes in January, April, July and October (so a new issue due).

Local Historian

Issues cost £5, when published within the last three years. Older issues are available FREE of charge on their website. More can be read about each journal article when looking up the individual issue; for instance, Joyce V. Ireland’s “Quasi-Careers for ladies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Schools in Chester and Warrington” in the above issue.

The journal also features REVIEWS – which surprised me with a review of Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller, edited by Alan Roby. I have the 1970s reprint of Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess. Roby’s book is described as “a new edition,” and includes information about Nelly Weeton’s later life.

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Second Choice: Canceled Chapter, Persuasion (Jane Austen)

October 6, 2018 at 9:21 am (books, jane austen, jasna, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Having spent last weekend (Thursday thru Monday) at Kansas City, Mo, for the 200th celebration of Persuasion, of course the conversation turned from the wonderful chapter Jane Austen wrote to the chapter she canceled. I have the multi-volume set of Chapman’s third edition of the Novels and Works of Jane Austen – and knew he had included the canceled chapter in the volume dealing with Persuasion. A friend was interested in reading it.

all austen

Indeed, Chapman’s source is James Edward Austen Leigh‘s MEMOIR of Jane Austen (2nd edition).

At the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of JASNA I got to read a letter to James Edward Austen (as he was in 1828, the date of the letter), congratulating him on his engagement to Emma Smith (my diarist) [and therefore one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen]. But that is news for another post.

Clicking on the link above – or the picture of the books – will take you to Internet Archive (Archive.org), where you can find many of Chapman’s Austen volumes. I will include links on the Authentic Austen page. To me, Chapman’s volumes are just the right size, fitting comfortably in the hand and I prefer them over the large Cambridge edition of everything.

* * *

Some second thoughts myself: should you wish to read CHAPTER 9 before reading the canceled Chapter 10. The link is to volume IV of the 1818 first edition (ie, volume 2 of Persuasion). Links to ALL the first and early editions are on the Authentic Jane Austen page (above). Also included are Jane Austen Letters & the Morgan Library’s online exhibition that was formed around their holdings of Austen letters.

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I Spy: Lady M

October 4, 2018 at 8:39 pm (books, Uncategorized) (, , )

Always I am intrigued by a new book, and when this one popped onto my screen I was very interested:

Lady M

It’s not a book I’ve ordered yet, but the subject – Viscountess Melbourne (thus, the Lady M. of the title!), and the time period covered (1751 to 1818) are too tempting to stay away long. Must admit, I’m always hopeful (and usually disappointed) that I will find it locally and get to have it NOW rather than waiting for the mail.

And what a fetching cover portrait!

The subject is Elizabeth Milbanke (she was aunt to Byron’s wife Annabella Milbanke), later Lady Melbourne; watchers of the TV series Victoria will recall the young Queen Victoria calling Elizabeth’s son “Lord M.”

Read some REVIEWS:

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Boswell’s Presumptuous Task

September 4, 2018 at 9:12 pm (books, history, people) (, , , )

Being a three-day weekend, I took the opportunity to visit my favorite used bookstore, in Henniker, New Hampshire: Old Number 6 Book Depot. Check out this blog (Home Maid Simple) for TONS of photos of the shop – and you’ll see why I find it worth a three-hour drive.

I picked up a copy of Roger Pilkington’s Small Boat on the Meuse; I have many of his “Small Boat” books. This one dates to 1967, and the early volumes are the most entertaining.

Boswell_Sisman

But my “find” – which I am currently enjoying – is Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, by Adam Sisman. This is a “take” on the writer without spitting out Boswell’s words verbatim from the journals. Reading it has even made me take down my old paperback copy of the Hebrides tour by Samuel Johnson and (later) that published by Boswell himself. I especially welcome the narrow focus, pin-pointing Boswell and Johnson as well as Boswell writing about Johnson.

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen can add to their knowledge of James Boswell by looking up my article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal.” This is available free on Academia.edu – where you can see other articles in the series:

  • “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler”
  • “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters”

For other links to useful Boswell items, see my earlier blog post.

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Royal Archives: Sense and Sensibility sale, 1811

July 24, 2018 at 9:12 am (books, british royalty, history, jasna, news) (, , , , )

As a member of the Georgian Paper Programme – a group formed around the digital project that is presenting to the world the Georgian-era holdings of the Royal Archives in Windsor, notice came about a “JANE AUSTEN FIND“!

cushion_austen

“A graduate student working in the Royal Archives… came across a previously unknown 1811 bill of sale from a London bookseller, charging the Prince Regent 15 shillings for a copy of “Sense and Sensibility,” says a New York Times article. It is (of course) entitled “Jane Austen’s First Buyer?” The date of the transaction took place “TWO DAYS before the book’s first public advertisement – making it what scholars believe to be the first documented sale of an Austen book.”

Having studied letters, like Mozart’s to the Prince Archbishop, _I_ am less critical of Austen’s dedication to the Prince Regent in her novel Emma. One showed deference in writing such during the period. And everyone was (and is) entitled to their own opinions about the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales (Prince Regent) and his brothers. This, however, IS a GREAT highlight of a very useful collection – and rather unexpected, which is what makes it a true *FIND*. The NY Times names Nicholas Foretek, a first-year Ph.D student (history, UPenn), who was researching “connections between late-18th-century political figures and the publishing world.”

“‘Debt is really great for historians,’ Mr. Foretek said, ‘It generates a lot of bills.'” I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from Foretek in upcoming years, at JASNA AGMs.

* * *

READ: Nicholas Foretek’s blog post on the discovery of Jane Austen and the Prince Regent: The Very First Purchase of an Austen Novel [Sept19: updated link; but pictures might not load]
An alternate: Smithsonian magazine

WATCH: This recent Library of Congress Symposium features FOUR speakers talking about various aspects of the GPP (Georgian Papers Programme) project. (nearly 2 hours in length; includes an interesting Q&A session)

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Regency Fashion, L.A. Style

June 16, 2018 at 11:16 pm (books, fashion, history, news, research) (, , )

TESSA, the Digital Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, has FASHION PLATES!

Included are many from the likes of Ackerman’s [sic] Repository, British Lady’s Magazine, Columbian Magazine, Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine and oh so many more. These last two have images from the 1840s and 1860s; slightly earlier is Le Follet Courrier des Salons. Even Godey’s is represented. Averaging 50 images per page, there are 125 pages to display! Even Lady’s Magazine (subject of yesterday’s post) has some ‘contenders’ (though hard to winnow out, given that its very name is part of several other magazine names; note they sometimes search successfully using ladies).

TESSA_fashion platehttp://tessa.lapl.org/cdm/search/collection/fashion

Once on the website, clicking gets you a description of the plate, and will take you to the online viewer. You can zoom in & out, using the guides near the top; you can also download high-resolution images (bottom of page).

The above is from 1808 (The Lady’s Magazine) and described as,

Morning & ball dresses. The woman on the left wears a yellow tunic over an empire waist white round gown. She also carries a pink shawl and wears a white headband adorned with pink flowers. The woman on the right wears a purple coat trimmed in yellow over a white empire waist round gown with high collar. She also wears a purple turban with yellow plume and carries a large white fur muff adorned with a purple bow.

There is a particularly “pinkish” quality to the paper of the plates that gives them a certain soft charm, since the ladies are sometimes less “winsome” than those of Ackermann or Heideloff.

A note-to-self project is to collate the plate links at TESSA with the magazines (i.e., Ackermann’s,  La Belle Assemblée, and The Lady’s Magazine) from which they came. These at TESSA are by far suprior in the quality of image (and sometimes the books scans don’t even include the plates).

Here’s a sampling, grouped by year (note spellings):

1806 (lots of La Belle Assemblee)
1807 (several from Lady’s Magazine, Ladies’ Museum, others)
1808 (lots of Ladies’ Museum & Lady’s Magazine)
1809 (Ackerman (sic) well represented
1810 (many magazines, including Ladies (sic) Magazine)
1811 (lotta Ackerman)
1812 (includes Ladies (sic) Magazine, Mirror of Fashions)
1813 (lotta La Belle Assemblee)
1814 (ALL La Belle Assemblee)
1815 (several titles)
1816 (ditto)

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Lady’s Magazine

June 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , )

The Lady’s Magazine: “Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex appropriated solely to their amusement”.

If the magazine’s subtitle weren’t so deliciously amusing (200 years later), I’d be rather inclined to feel insulted.

Several blog posts feature the history of the magazine, from the University of Kent. See also this introduction, to the university’s project. The Eighteenth Century Journals website features the index compiled by the University of Kent’s project. At one time, the firm Adam Matthew had microfilm of issues beginning in 1801. Check WorldCat for holdings. My local university evidently carries the reels.

As is only too typical, Google book scans can be good – or crappy. Plates may be present – or missing. To bridge the gap, do check out Catherine Decker’s “Regency Fashion” page. And the National Portrait Gallery (in London) has a nice listing of Lady’s Magazine fashion plates. Here’s another NPG group sorted  by “artist” (features a lot from 1805, 1806, 1807).

I had already found some of the volumes – which helped compile this list (I will be updating that page shortly). A concerted search produced a few more of the “missing”. Though am rather “bummed” about not finding ALL of the first series. If you come across them, do let me know!

LadysMagazine Britannia_1808

The Lady’s Magazine

vol. 1 – 1770
vol. 2 – 1771
vol. 3 – 1772
vol. 4 – 1773
vol. 5 – 1774
vol. 6 – 1775
vol. 7 – 1776
vol. 8 – 1777
vol. 9 – 1778
vol. 10 – 1779
vol. 11 – 1780
vol. 12 – 1781
vol. 13 – 1782
vol. 14 – 1783
vol. 15 – 1784
vol. 16 – 1785
vol. 17 – 1786
vol. 18 – 1787
vol. 19 – 1788
vol. 20 – 1789
vol. 21 – 1790  [alternate copy NYPL]
vol. 22 – 1791
vol. 23 – 1792
vol. 24 – 1793
vol. 25 – 1794
vol. 26 – 1795
vol. 27 – 1796
vol. 28 – 1797
vol. 29 – 1798
vol. 30 – 1799
vol. 31 – 1800
vol. 32 – 1801
vol. 33 – 1802 [some fashion plates]
vol. 34 – 1803 [some fashion plates]
vol. 35 – 1804 [some fashion plates]

vol. 38 – 1807 [alternate site Archive.org] [alternate copy]
vol. 39 – 1808 [some fashion plates]
vol. 40 – 1809
vol. 41 – 1810 [see 12 fashion plates @ TESSA]
vol. 42 – 1811

“new series” (1819-1829):

1821

1829

“improved series” (1830-1832)

1830 [may be a different “new & improved” magazine]

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