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.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

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!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Portraits: Jane Austen & Gilbert White

February 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

An old (May 2017) article on Smithsonian.com by Brigit Katz assesses the “Six Portraits” that were on display during the 200th anniversary year (1817-2017) commemorating Jane Austen’s death. It asks the question, Was Austen demure, sardonic or glamorous? (based on no one portrait looking like any other in the group) while acknowledging that actually the “Six Portraits Deepen the Mystery of Jane Austen.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Without going into the good / bad points of individual portraits,* I will outline the portraits that were displayed:

(*I briefly commented on “the wedding ring” image ten years ago; it continues in heavy usage. I did touch on several portraits, though, in 2013)

  • The pencil and watercolor sketch of Jane by her sister Cassandra Austen (circa 1810) [National Portrait Gallery]
  • the hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist from circa 1810- 15 [National Portrait Gallery], “L’aimable Jane
  • watercolor of Austen in blue dress, bonnet [rear view], also by Cassandra Austen, circa 1804
  • the 1869 James Andrews watercolor portrait [had been up for auction in 2013] and the frontispiece of her nephew’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1870, based on the Andrews watercolor
  • portrait said to represent Jane Austen, in album belonging to James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent
  • the ‘Byrne’ portrait

No clue as to why the ‘Byrne’ but not the ‘Rice’ portrait.

The lack of portraits – though not the lack of ‘contenders’ – depicting Jane Austen echoes the story of Gilbert White of Selborne, another late-18th century Hampshire resident.

A riveting 1987 article by J.E. Chatfield actually “summarises verbal descriptions of the Selborne naturalist, the Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793) by his contemporaries and discusses the background to each of the illustrations which have been suggested as possible likenesses of White.” After citing a group of portraits comes the notice (similar to what Jane Austen enthusiasts might typically read): “The only proven authentic likenesses of Gilbert White are two small pen and ink sketches drawn inside his copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad now in the British Library.”

It was the growing fame of his book The Natural History of Selborne that (naturally) made “further information on [White’s] life and personality” of interest to its readers.

Under Descriptions of White: “There are relatively few recollections of him from members of his own family, in spite of the vast numbers of nephews and nieces which Gilbert White refers to in his journals.” Also mentioned, that at the time of centenary editions of the National History of Selborne (originally published in 1789) “there was no suggestion or knowledge of any portraits or sketch of White.”

Sound familiar?

It was after the sale of The Wakes (White’s home) in 1844 to Prof. Bell, “who was working on his edition of The Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne,” that a White nephew passed on recollections. The “Reverend Francis White who remembered his uncle Gilbert well, although he was only twelve years of age when White died…., provided the information on White’s physical appearance – only 5 feet 3 inches in stature, of a spare form and remarkably upright carriage.”

Nineteenth-century editions of Selborne have included “Recollections of White by older villagers.” If only such a census had been made shortly after Austen’s lifetime! It was this kind of off-hand recollection that James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew and my diarist Emma’s husband) that Edward hoped to collate from those nieces and nephews still alive. His sources, however, proved a bit problematic. And some were quite uncooperative.

An interesting comment, from circa 1880, that could so easily be applied to Jane Austen: “‘White was thought very little of till he was dead and gone, and then he was thought a great deal of.'”

I invite you to read the Chatsfield article, look at the Austen portraits as well as Gilbert White’s, and reflect on the highly valid points made.

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Jane Austen’s London, 1815

February 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm (history, jane austen, london's landscape, research) (, , , )

During the Christmas holiday, author Charlotte Frost gave me a two-page spread from Art Quarterly that announced a FABULOUS purchase from Sotheby’s by the Museum of London. It is “an epic 20 feet wide panorama of London, painted around 1815 by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764-1823).”

The Museum is thrilled with their purchase, partly because it shows the Houses of Parliament pre-1834 (the year the buildings burned down; to be replaced by the Houses of Parliament we see today). Partly, also, because only one other Prévost panorama is known to exist – it’s of Constantinople, and is now housed in the Louvre.

So, the Westminster Panorama is HUGE, RARE, and a piece of HISTORY! An exciting part of the story is how the UK ART FUND came together with the Museum to help fund (with the aid of some individual donors) the bid.

  • The Guardian‘s story on the purchase, “Museum snaps up panorama of lost London landscape”
  • Wikipedia has put up a photograph and background information
  • Sotheby’s catalogue of the Prévost Panorama of London

“The illusion of depth, height and distance is testament to Prévost’s ability to work on such a large scale, and this complete, circular image, joined at Westminster Abbey, is one of the finest drawings of its type to have survived.” Mary Gosling (also known as Lady Smith, once she married, in 1826) and Emma Smith (also known as Emma Austen, after her marriage in 1828; and Emma Austen Leigh after 1835) – my Two Teens in the Time of Austen – have written about viewing various “Panoramas”. So it is a thrill to see what has survived from that period. This is a watercolor, a preliminary study for the canvas that would have hung in a panoramic theater (in this case, in Paris) for viewers like Mary and Emma to experience in the round.

What caught Charlotte Frost’s eye, though, was the proximity of Great George Street – where Emma’s grandfather, Joshua Smith MP for Devizes, lived. This section of the panorama:

Westminster by Prevost

Of the street running across the picture, the left-hand side shows the opening addresses along Great George Street. Charlotte’s *hope,* for me, was that one was Smith’s address. But he was at No. 29 Great George Street – which would be a few doors further down (and therefore hidden from view).

george street

No. 29 Great George Street, in the map above, is marked XIX.

However, No. 29 obviously must NOT have differed significantly from those townhouses beside it! So to see an approximation of its exterior is a decided thrill. Some photographs exist of the interior (see Collage; also BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE). I remember coming across some drawings of No. 29 interiors, done during the years the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) existed at this address (NPG’s first ‘home’). The National Portrait Gallery opened in January 1859. I do now wonder if Emma Austen Leigh would have visited…. One of these days I’ll go through her late and later diaries, and (hopefully) find out.

The Panorama of London, a book giving an overview of the city, circa 1830, mentions the Colosseum, Regent’s Park, “one of the most extensive exhibitions in the metropolis.” Although, obviously not the same artwork as the Westminster panorama, the description of the viewing of the Colosseum panorama is worth reproducing in full:

“The building is almost circular, with a large dome, and the front towards the park is ornamented by a noble Doric portico, with a large door in the centre. On entering the edifice by this door, a staircase on the right leads to a circular saloon hung with coloured drapery. This room, which is the largest of the kind in London, occupies the whole internal space, or the basement of the building, with the exception of the staircase leading to the summit, which rises like a large column from the centre. The circular saloon is intended for the exhibition of paintings and other productions of the fine arts. The wall of the [page 306] building, above this room, represents a panoramic View of London, as seen from the galleries of St. Paul’s cathedral. The view of the picture is obtained from three galleries, approached by the staircase before mentioned – the first corresponds, in relation to the view, with the first gallery at the summit of the dome of St. Pauls; the second is like that of the upper gallery on the same edifice; and the third, from its great elevation, commands a view of the remote distance which describes the horizon in the painting. Above the last-mentioned gallery is placed the identical copper ball which for so many years occupied the summit of St. Paul’s; and above it is a fac-simile of the cross by which it was surmounted. A small flight of stairs leads from this spot to the open gallery which surrounds the top of the Colosseum, commanding a view of the Regent’s-park and subjacent country.

An amazing part comes next, in describing how may visitors ascend:

The communication with the galleries is by staircases of curious construction, built on the outer side of the central column already mentioned. This column is hollow, and within it a small circular chamber is to be caused to ascend when freighted with company, by means of machinery, with an imperceptible motion, to the first gallery. The doors of the chamber will then open, and by this novel means of being elevated, visitors may avoid the fatigue of ascending by the stairs, and then walk out into the gallery to enjoy the picture. In extent or acuracy, the panorama is one of the surprising achievements of art in this or any other country. The picture covers upwards of 40,000 square feet, or nearly an acre of canvas; the dome of the building, on which the sky is painted, is thirty feet more in diameter than the cupola of St. Paul’s; and the circumference of the horizon, from the point of view, is nearly 130 miles. The grand and distinguishing merit of this panorama is the unusual interest of picturesque effect with the most scrupulous accuracy; and, in illustration of the latter excellence, so plain are the principal streets in the view, that thousands of visitors will be able to identify their own dwellings.

To read more about the Colosseum (including entrance prices), as well as the Diorama; Burford’s Panorama, Leicester-square; the Cosmorama, Regent-street; and other entertainments, see the book The Panorama of London, amd Visitor’s Pocket Companion, by Thomas Allen (1830).

It is no wonder then, that the Museum of London “snapped up” such a treasture as this panorama of Westminter. These entertainments simply no longer exist.

An Aside:

An interesting thought occurred to me, IF the Byrne portrait could be proved as being Jane Austen the author, then JA would have walked these very streets. For one of the last items I read was that the artist was housed with a studio overlooking Westminster Abbey.

Permalink 3 Comments

Rice Portrait’s Saga Continues

January 24, 2019 at 11:30 am (history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

The Guardian (23 January 2019) ran a story discussing a new piece of evidence about a portrait in the Rice family. The Rices have long contended that their portrait – seen as a frontispiece in two Austen-related books – is a youthful depiction of the writer Jane Austen.

The entire history is laid out in the website THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN.

ja_rice

I was asked last year if I had *any* idea who might have written a snippet found inside an envelope entitled “History of the portrait of Jane Austen”. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know that I deal with Emma Smith – who, in 1828 married James Edward Austen. It was their Austen Leigh children that I searched amongst for a matching handwriting sample. Most were wholly inconsistent; in fact, I told my correspondent at the time that I could more confidently say who had NOT written the history.

Running out of “contenders,” I wondered, while I typed, “Could it be a Lefroy.”

THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN came to the rescue: included was a small image of Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s handwriting (from a letter at the Hampshire Record Office), and there was the same handwriting!

The two letters are probably of an age. The snippet is undated. The letter is dated only by Month and date. A mention by F.C. Lefroy (as the letter writer signed herself) of her dashed hopes of having cousin Mary (probably Emma and Edward’s daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) to stay during “the Congress” surely dates the HRO letter to October 1883. The Church Congress, which moved around the country in different years, was held in Reading in 1883 – and Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s letterhead places her at “Uppercross” in a ‘suburb’ outside of Reading.

Some of the most interesting evidence comes under the website categories DRESS and OZIAS HUMPHRY.

I must say, the misattribution of the artist in the 19th century reminds me of the persistence of George Romney as the painter of Mrs. Drummond Smith – later restored to the catalogue of Joshua Reynolds.  Indeed, it hangs in the “Reynolds Room” at Castle Ashby, the estate of the Marquess of Northampton (during Emma Austen’s lifetime, her uncle [1st Marquess] and cousin [2nd Marquess]).

***

EXTRA:

Permalink Leave a Comment

eBay find: Knights at Chawton photo album

January 12, 2019 at 10:42 am (history, jane austen, news) (, , , )

A friend whom I just visited before the New Year sent a link to a Daily Mail article. An EXTRAORDINARY find, indeed!

News coming out of Ireland, where Edward Austen Knight’s daughters settled after marriage, concerns an eBay purchase of a Victorian photo album – bought for the research potential, by Karen Ievers.

Readers of Sophia Hillan‘s biography, May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland, will be familiar with the cast of characters whom Ievers has uncovered in these 19th century images. It also shows that publication can later bring important related material to light (though evidently NOT providing an inkling to the seller).

jas brother

There is even a later-in-life photograph of Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), as well as a host of the next generation – including a wedding at Chawton House!

I’ve written about the GOSLING link to the Hill family via JAMES CRUMP in this blog post.

More can be read about Edward Austen Knight and Chawton in Linda Slothouber’s book:

JA-EAK-Chawton

UPDATE:

It is likely the “manuscript pages” with the watermark were paper for letterwriting, used, and bound up with the photographs. For a book on Papermaking in Britain: A Short History, 1488-1988.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sorrows of Werther

December 8, 2018 at 10:16 am (books, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, jane austen, people) (, , , )

Last Saturday I was listening to the Met’s broadcast of Mefistofele (Boito); here, of course, is a subject who is undoubtedly better-associated with composer Charles Gounod.

Searching (as I always do!) for more on my Smiths & Goslings, I turned up a subscriber list for a book that, for DAYS, I believed was an English translation of that 18th-century smash-hit from Germany, Die Leiden des jungen WerthersThe Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe.

Pulling up the relevant book – this time having to SEARCH FOR IT (rather than stumbling upon it), I found that the text is a bit of a “hybrid” – a POEM, The Sorrows of Werter (sic): A Poem, by Amelia Pickering. It is, like the operas Mefistofele and Faust, based on source material, in this case “Founded on Goethe’s Novel.” It was published by Cadell in 1788.

No “Jane Austen” among the subscribers (famously, she IS listed as a Fanny Burney Camilla subscriber). But: a long list of names familiar to me as belonging to the wider Smith and Gosling circle.

When I spotted HENRY ADDINGTON (MP and PM), I wasn’t surprised when JOSHUA SMITH and MRS. SMITH turned up. The Smiths are Emma Austen’s maternal grandparents; Addington was Joshua’s fellow MP for Devizes.

The Duchess of Bolton would have been a name familiar to Jane Austen. There’s even a MRS. BENNET and a MRS. ELTON on the list!

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Several names occur in the Smith diaries – but I would have to dig about to ascertain whether they were the actual PEOPLE the Smiths and Goslings knew. Some BLACKWOODS, even an ABDY and a Mrs. BAKER of BEDFORD SQUARE. And who was the 1780s “Miss Ashley”???!! Two sisters of that name (but in the 1830s and beyond) were beloved by the Smith family.

There’s a BERTIE and a couple of BOSANQUETS. BLACKSTONES join the Blackwoods from further up the list. LADY CLIVE is prominent (in second position at the start of the ‘C’s’); Clive of India banked with the Goslings. Several CARTWRIGHTS and a couple of CARRS and COURTENAYS. Even “Mr. Cadell,” who (presumably) must be the publisher himself.

Well, you get the drift. So many people, so many readers.

In short, it’s so much fun to sort thru the names – especially when realizing that I am actually uncovering what volumes once belonged to a library or bedside table of relations to my Two Teens in the Time of Austen (ie, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith). The inclusion of The Sorrows of Werter: A Poem is a bit of a surprise, though they were a group who LOVED to read (and even write) verses.

Among family, joining the aforementioned Joshua and Sarah Smith are:

  • Robert Gosling, Esq.
  • Mrs. Gosling

(surely Mary’s paternal grandparents)

There are three Hornes and a Mrs. Hyde who may be Smith relations. The HICKS I suspect Jane Austen also to have known. There is a Countess Dowager of Northampton, related to Emma’s Castle Ashby cousins, but no one young Emma knew personally.

elizachute

The NORMANS were the cause of my search, and the reason I stumbled upon this book: TWO Mrs. Norman’s are listed; I lean a bit more towards the “Mrs. Norman, Henley” as being the woman _I_ want; but I’m not sure (the other has no identifying information attached to her name). I do believe, though, that her sons and daughter-in-law turn up as:

  • Richard Norman, Esq.
  • Mrs. R. Norman
  • George Norman, Esq.

The identify of Mrs. R. Norman is especially interesting – she was a daughter of Francis Gregg, and therefore a sister to Caroline Carr, née Gregg. Married in 1783, she evidently died in 1792 or 1793. Eliza Chute (then unmarried and still Eliza Smith) makes NO MENTION of the death of Mrs. Richard Norman (which would have been an enormous help, Eliza!), but neither did she mention the 1817 death of Jane Austen — and both events must have been known to her, and of interest to her.

It dawned on me in the night to ask: WHO was Amelia Pickering??

It was while trying to find something, anything about the author that I found a copy of this very book (!!) at a rare-bookseller’s site, for £1200 (!!!!).

The seller found a critique of the period by Mary Wollstonecraft:

4to., pp. xxii, 69, [1]; with half-title and a sixteen-page list of 961 subscribers; apart from slight fraying a very good copy, uncut, in original blue-grey wrappers and tan paper spine.

First edition. Amelia Pickering’s ‘melancholy, contemplative poem’ (Todd) was one of a spate of works in English and German founded on Goethe’s novel, including poems by Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson, both subscribers here. Pickering ‘gives to Charlotte a voice, if rather weakly moralistic, and to Werter suffering which is acute, credible and unhysterical’ (Feminist Companion citing ‘The Sorrows of Young Charlotte: Werter’s English Sisters’, Goethe Yearbook, 1986).

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, was not enthusiastic. ‘To pity Werter we must read the original … The energy … is lost in this smooth, and even faithful, imitation … Werter is dead from the beginning: we hear his very words; but the spirit which animated them is fled …’ (Analytical Review, January 1789).

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »