Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Austen

October 30, 2019 at 8:50 pm (books, fashion, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , )

In yesterday’s mail was a very welcome copy of Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. Periodically, I search for new and upcoming releases of books, including about Austen, about England, about history. I remember the cover,

Davidson_Dress

Everyone will recognize “Mrs. Q.”

But had I paid it much attention? I hate to say, ‘No.’ But when it arrived in the mail (unexpectedly!) the surprise was as pleasant as the receipt. A great deal of text; photographs of actual garments, political cartoons, and period portraits. The table of contents spoke to me as one who researches young ladies of the same period, who certainly exhibited this same variety of fashion personae:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Village
  • Country
  • City
  • Nation
  • World

When I turned to the title page and saw Yale University Press my good impression was complete.

Who says that Mail only brings BILLS?!?

A full review in the near future.

In the meantime, Yale has a brief (16 seconds) YouTube film, showing the interior of the book. Elyse Martin has written a lengthy review on Historians.org called “Fashion Forward.” A brief review from Publishers Weekly. See also Hilary Davidson’s website. A nicely-lengthy preview is available on Books.Google.

Davidson has written on Jane Austen’s Pelisse and its construction and replication. It was an important re-read for me when writing about Cassandra and Jane Austen for the recent JASNA AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia. The pelisse illustrates a tall, thin woman – and my Emma, soon after her marriage to James Edward Austen, described Cassandra, whom she had recently met in person. But it wasn’t until distilling the words of Anna Lefroy (Edward’s elder half-sister) that it dawned: Anna recalled a game she played, in which she guessed “which aunt” belonged to “which bonnet.” Between Anna’s game and Emma’s description, the conclusion becomes that the same silhouette must describe Cassandra Austen as well as her sister Jane Austen.

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Jane Austen’s Letter 88 for SALE!

October 20, 2019 at 9:05 pm (history, jane austen, jasna, news, people) (, , , )

2019 must be a banner year for JANE AUSTEN letters.

Early this year came news of a snippet included in an autograph album (sold at auction in 2017); the album was on display at Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum.

During the Summer, the museum successfully concluded its purchase – thanks to funding from the National Lottery AND devoted fans – of a lengthier partial letter

NOW, in October, comes word of a New York auction conducted by Bonhams of a Jane Austen letter from a private collection coming onto the market, part of the DODGE FAMILY COLLECTION of Autographs.

The Guardian has a lengthy article on the (upcoming) October 2019 auction.

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Of course, every time, the same trope about how Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra destroyed the correspondence crops up. I’ve just spoken about this at the recent Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, which took place this year at Williamsburg, Virginia. _I_ give thanks for those letters that have come down to us, rather than lament those that probably never were saved (but that’s a topic for another post).

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Marriage of Lord Compton, 1787

August 15, 2019 at 9:14 pm (history, people, research) (, )

Going all the way back to 1787, in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine (which has this fetching cover):

Walkers Hibernian

was this ANNOUNCEMENT for the marriage of Maria Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith of Earl Stoke Park (Wiltshire), with Lord Compton.

Wedding announce Maria Smith Lord Compton

It reads: “— [August] 18 By Special licence, Lord Compton, son of the Earl of Northampton, to Miss Smith, eldest daughter of Joshua Smith, Esq; of Earl Stoke Park, county Wilts.”

 

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Jane Austen Letter: missing lines found

July 21, 2019 at 2:15 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , )

Usually, the active Jane Austen vine twitches non-stop. If something sells for an outrageous sum… If a known letter goes on the chopping block, help us… If Jane sneezed and this handkerchief is what she once used…

Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera.

So it has been with extreme puzzlement that I’ve come across so little since the announcement in February 2019 of a missing snippet from a letter penned by Jane Austen in 1813 being found in an ‘autograph’ book (the album sold for the astounding sum of £16,000 in 2017, though probably for its cumulative items rather than one piece by Austen).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The Telegraph broke the news, with the headline (17 Feb 2019):

Missing six lines from Jane Austen letter discovered after 200 years, and are revealed to be about laundry.

It was inevitable that one of the other news services would then quip, “Lost letter airs Jane Austen’s dirty linen in public.”

Let’s be SERIOUS! It is an interesting and valuable *find*.

Only Deborah Yaffe picked up the ball, in March, commenting on “Life imitates Northanger Abbey.”

This Italian site, dedicated to presenting and translating Austen’s letters, actually has attached the missing lines to its letter. The letter affected by the snipped off closing (and the autograph book does NOT include the signature) is Letter 87, written to Cassandra from Henrietta Street, 15-16 Sept 1813.

This manuscript was “seen” after Chapman’s edition of the letters went to press (link to the later 2nd edition; it is letter 82); corrections were made on the page proof against the manuscript, which Le Faye consulted for her subsequent editions. It’s possible more of the letter, after a sale or two and a death or two back in the early 20th century, exists in just such a manner — further cut up and pasted down. After all, someone else got the signature.

Jane Austen 1813 snippet

Chapman correctly assumed “about six lines and signature cut away from top of fourth leaf.” These now reinstated lines finish this thought from Jane to Cassandra:

Charming weather for you & us, and the Travellers, & everybody. You will take your walk this afternoon & [4] by the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey, — God bless you all. — I have given M:de B. my Inventory of the Linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire. — She has shewn me all her Storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same.–
Perhaps I may write again by Henry. —

Letter 87 is quite long, and how the snipped out section of page 4 affects page 3 hasn’t been touched on. Brabourne left out a paragraph, and it’s this paragraph (in Le Faye with no explanation; same for Chapman before her, and Brabourne before him) that reads “odd,” as if more text came before it. Rather than the ellipses used at the end (Chapman discloses the missing text; Brabourne does not), Brabourne evidently x’ed the entire paragraph instead:

This not seeing much of Henry, I have just seen him however for 3 minutes, & have read him the Extract from Mrs. F.A.’s Letter — & he says he will write to Mrs. Fra. A. about it…. [notes to letter 82, Chapman]

Le Faye puts in a period after “Henry”. But the sentence, as the start of a paragraph, still makes less sense than it should. Without the manuscript, we shall not know the original position of the (undisclosed) affected text.

That Brabourne – who transcribed the letters – had no ‘finish’ to this particular letter, indicates to me that Frank was not the only Austen to cut up letters in his possession for souvenir hunters.

Passing from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), the only other person in a position to quench an autograph hound’s inquiry would be Fanny. If it had been Brabourne himself, he would have been smart to copy the sentences he was gifting away. Letters to the publisher Bentley indicate how quickly Brabourne thought about selling manuscripts (not just JA’s) in his possession. That he ultimately got Bentley’s go-ahead and publication happened, marking the collection up to the point at which they sold, is our luck. Some letters do ‘exist’ only in transcription.

Unlike the snippet of a sermon tipped into a copy of the Memoir, no discussion is being made to remove this piece from its pasting, to see what is on the underside. Not much discussion, either, on the autograph album as a whole, nor its “American buyer.” At the time of the original newspaper story, the album, open to the Austen page, was on display at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

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Downshire House, Roehampton

July 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm (estates, history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Downshire House 2017

Interesting, if brief, post by Roehampton University on the history of one of their buildings, Downshire House. This was once owned by Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire. It was the widowed Marchioness who engaged James Crump – a man who later went to work as her neighbor’s butler – to accompany two sons on a Continental tour. The Hill family have a Jane Austen connection, one that at the beginning of this year (2019) had news of a surprising eBay find: a photo album now owned by Karen Ievers.

I have so far found no references (prior to the Knight-Hill marriages) to indicate any relationship between the Hills and the Goslings, despite being near neighbors. Perhaps the Marchioness did not “associate” with the family of well-off bankers… Perhaps her residency in Ireland and at Ombersley Court meant she was so rarely in town that the Goslings had few opportunities to entertain her. I am *hopeful* (and yet doubtful) of finding reference to them in the diaries of the Hill daughters – but their tale is kept for a later blog post.

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New ‘Jane Austen’ books coming

May 31, 2019 at 10:41 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , )

I am looking forward to seeing Helen Amy’s dual biography of Cassandra and Jane Austen, The Austen Girls (Amberley; release in June in the UK; November in US), and from time to time I actively search for ‘Austen’ in forthcoming books – to see what else I can look forward to in the further future.

TODAY I hit upon some VERY interesting forthcoming books!

This “searching” can be a bit of a crap shoot – too many Austen reprints; Austen novels reworked; Austen mysteries; Austen fantasies. My “Jane Austen” is the Chapman third edition, a nice leather-bound set [SEE them here] obtained at an eBay auction. For sentimental reasons, I’ve kept my first omnibus edition (which probably does have mistakes in the text). Most “knock offs” are just not my cup of tea. I really am interested in rigorous literary or biography texts.

The first I found is a short wait. Rory Muir, whose MONUMENTAL two-volume LIFE OF WELLINGTON is a newer purchase. Wellington turns up in my research, but I am not one to read in-depth about ‘war.’ After I found Muir’s exceptionally useful online “Commentary” for the books, I took vol. 1 out of the local university library (they did not purchase vol. 2), then bought both volumes. The commentaries are comprised of information which did NOT make the books, and are about as voluminous as the volumes themselves! Sorted by chapter (also searchable; AND downloadable in full), they are a _must_ for Wellington fans.

So it was with a bit of surprise, and true pleasure too, that his latest book turned up in my ‘Austen’ search, due to the subtitle: Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England (Yale; release in the UK in August; in US in September).

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune

A quick blurb says of the plot: “A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons – men of good family but small fortune.” My own research encompasses “eldest sons,” “younger sons,” even “ONLY sons” (I’m especially thinking of James Edward Austen, Emma’s husband).

Even more “hmmm…” is the intriguing idea of a biography of Anne Lefroy. Jane Austen’s Inspiration: Beloved Friend Anne Lefroy by Judith Stove (Pen & Sword History) is due in September (US release date; UK – revised release date: end July).

Anne Lefroy

As it happens, I have recently been reading Helen Lefroy‘s excellent, edited volume The Letters of Mrs. Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, and I’ve especially enjoyed the earliest letters that are rather diary-like in their recording of her day. (Read my review of Helen Lefroy’s book on JASNA’s website.)

I recently read a fascinating article by Janine Barchas; her latest book – due in October (Johns Hopkins University Press) – is The Lost Books of Jane  Austen.

Lost Books of Jane Austen

A unique field of study, the article serves as a preview of how research can turn a researcher into playing detective. Read the article yourself and you’ll be bitten by the bug.

I will also comment here (briefly) about the grave disservice done to the reading public by certain academic publishers when they price texts out of the range of most people’s wallets. [NB: none of the above are more costly than the average hardcover.] I mean, unless I _adore_ a book – there isn’t one I’d spend over $100 to read, no matter the subject matter – and there are a couple books that “if not for cost” would be of interest (if lucky: library; if not: used book market; if out of luck totally: no book). PLUS: I do remember an interesting subject ill-served by a horribly executed text (dry-dry-dry; and one of the campus’ professors, who taught the subject area, agreed with me…), that eighteen years ago was $$$$. Prices have only skyrocketed – and you can’t tell me that the authors get much in return (but that is a whole other blog post). “Print-on-demand,” in this scenario, IS a very worthwhile scheme; I applaud them. (Yet if Lulu can print a book on demand that retails for $40…)

During past similar searches, I found The Real Persuasion (Peter James Bowman) [I love his The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England] and Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister (Sheila Johnson Kindred) [now out in paperback].

I will also mention, though it’s a resource I take too little advantage of, the New Releases page on Regency Explorer (the site set-up must have changed slightly; now: one post, newest monthly releases at the top).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paper Conundrums

May 30, 2019 at 9:01 am (entertainment, history, research) (, , , , )

After reading about Karen Ievers’ Photo Album (once belonging to Lord George Hill) having some bound-in “manuscript” pages, I thought about all the paper bits I have seen.

It’s not usual for “paper” to be reused. As well as, of course, collected. Countless letters no longer exist, while their address panels were saved (often cut out). These are typically franked pieces, collected for their “signatures.” The *hard part* is when writing from the letter appears on the backside! Potentially “valuable” pieces of evidence, just gone.

Augusta Smith, Emma’s sister, was a talented artist. At least in her early years (ie, during the late 1810s), her portraits were often done on pieces of paper quite evidently cut out from programmes obtained at the Ancient Concerts. Augusta and Mamma attended the Antient Music concerts faithfully every week during the season.

(Full concert programmes have only been seen by me as bound sets, online on books.google)

Some of those pasted down squares show the portrait VERY CLOSE to the text of that evening’s performance – as if Augusta had taken her pencil from her reticle and sketched while she listened!

Others, although pasted down, you can see the heavily-imprinted text from the backside, as in the subscribers’ list below.

Here, the Goslings – mother, father and the two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary) – are found in the list of subscribers for 1823 (the above link):

goslings1823

The interesting thing about Augusta’s portraits is seeing the wealth of music offered in an evening. All the choruses, songs, glees, and concerti. These were the golden days of the Knyvetts, Miss Travis, and Miss Stephens, names which turn up in the Smiths’ diaries and correspondence with great regularity.

What I discovered recently (to my dismay) is that old letters could also be used for SILHOUETTE CUT OUTS. Turning one such cut out over, I could just detect handwrting. Old paper tends to be stiff, and obviously made a useful item to pillage when one ran out of silhouette paper. But like the franked letters above, and even the Antient Music programmes, a loss to posterity of the original.

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Did Mamma dabble with the Violin?

May 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm (entertainment, history, people) (, , )

The earliest diaries from the Smith family, as well as some of the earliest letters, date to the 1790s. That even-earlier diaries once existed can be extrapolated from written evidence.

I would give my eye teeth for items from the youths of the four Smith Sisters of Stoke Park. Especially from the years before they even moved to this Wiltshire estate….

I have _NO_ reason to think that this “Miss Augusta Smith” is my “Mamma” (ie, the Augusta Smith who married Charles Smith of Suttons in 1798), but it sure gets my antennae twitching: “If only!”

This listing is from the Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum (1909; vol. III).

Miss Augusta Smith_1784

Of course written for could mean MANY things: a composition for a student to play; a piece to honor a patron; something dashed off in thanks from a musician or composer.

It is possible that the Smiths knew of William Savage; she certainly had a love of listening to music – though, unlike her children, I have no evidence that she played an instrument. I kept finding the year “1774” attached, to this deposit, but seeing the page from the original book, I can see why that happened. I had to discount “1774” because my “Miss Augusta Smith” would have been too young. On the other hand “1784” makes this possible, though (you will concur) SMITH is too common a name to ever be sure.

A bit more of a description (say, daughter of Sarah and Joshua Smith) or some indication of where she lived is the kind of help I mean.

I always think of her as “Mamma,” to differentiate mother from daughter. Her eldest daughter, once also a “Miss Augusta Smith” became Augusta Wilder, or Mrs. Henry Wilder, of Sulham and Purley. Augusta Smith, senior was the third daughter of Sarah Gilbert and Joshua Smith, MP. She came behind Maria (Lady Compton; Lady Northampton, after 1796); and Elizabeth (“Eliza“) (Mrs. William Chute of The Vine/The Vyne); and ahead of Emma.

Born in January 1772, a composition for Miss Augusta Smith is possible. Though is it probable? I’d certainly LIKE to think so!

 

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Jane Austen @ LA Review of Books

May 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Another _very interesting_ piece of writing by Janine Barchas (author, Matters of Fact in Jane Austen [2013]; and The Lost Books of Jane Austen [Oct 2019]), who looks at “Marie Kondo’s Contributions to the Reception History of Jane Austen” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

As an avid purchaser of used books, I certainly have my share of those identified with former owner names. And there are those with inscriptions. You know the type of inscription I mean, “With love, from Grandma, Christmas 1922,” is one image used in the article, attached to a fine looking, highly colorful, embossed cover for Sense and Sensibility.

books_north country

Now, such information is being culled for the “reception history” of Jane Austen’s novels.

This section of Janine’s article REALLY fired my imagination:

“In recent years, … hard-lived survivors of old reprints have surfaced among the flotsam and jetsam of eBay offerings, charity shops, and second-hand bookstores. While these unwanted 19th-century books apparently failed to spark joy for some, for me they have opened new avenues of research into Austen’s early readers.

This is because some ownership signatures and gift inscriptions left behind in these copies can be traced. Resources such as Google and Ancestry.com have lowered the costs of provenance research so that bare names and dates can be more easily wrapped in biographical context. As a result, mundane copies can supplement the highbrow evidence by which scholars have traditionally tracked reception —”

Having so few books that I would actually resell, I had to laugh and then “oooh” over the true realization that, “The decluttering craze is democratizing reception history.” (I hate to add, the deaths of householders must also contribute to the resale of items: when relatives and friends just don’t know what to do with it all; and certainly they feel no sentiment towards what Grandma gave at Xmas in 1922…)”

Using census data, some of the ghost-readers can be fleshed out – including geographic information and sometimes even knowledge of their employment.  As one who _never_ claims her books half so fully as those mentioned in the article, the heartwarming (and even heartbreaking) tales culled from these books are AMAZING. I’m really looking forward, then, to Janine Barchas’ Plenary presentation at the JASNA – Jane Austen Society of North America – Annual General Meeting (AGM), being held this October (2019) at Colonial Williamsburg. Janine will speak on such “refound” volumes, concentrating on Northanger Abbey – the focus of the AGM, which celebrates the novel’s 200th anniversary of publication. Not attending the JASNA AGM? Look for the publication that month of The Lost Books of Jane Austen. “The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes.”

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Jane Austen’s Drawing-room Wall

May 6, 2019 at 12:02 pm (history, jane austen) (, )

Looking for something TOTALLY different, I stumbled upon news (and new news at that!) of a “small chunk” of the drawing-room wall of Chawton Cottage, from the period of Jane Austen’s habitation, returning to Chawton.

JA notice

Click on the photo or the link to be taken to the website for Jane Austen’s House Museum.

cushion_austen

Like the blog writer, who recounts two tales of “collected objects” – at a Normandy cathedral work site and via a flatmate with a fondness for nicking restaurant plates, I can add a tale of my own. My found object was a piece of Hampshire flint. Likewise from a bit of a demolition (within my landlady’s back garden). Unlike Jane Austen’s chunk of drawing-room wall, which has a provenance as well as a new acrylic jacket, my little piece of flint sits on the book shelf, not far from my Jane Austen Books!

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