Bonhams: Jane Austen’s Letter 88

October 27, 2019 at 11:14 am (jane austen, news, Uncategorized) (, , , )

This is a further update to two posts:

Although I watched the auction online and was witnessing the climb and climb in price, the “at the hammer” price did NOT INCLUDE the premium paid to Bonhams. Now comes “news” (ie, not news at all) that the auction of Letter 88 of Jane Austen from the Dodge Collection “sold for a new record”: $200,075.

It is any wonder no one cared to forewarn entities like the Jane Austen House Museum, as Kathryn Sutherland advocated, in order to come to terms prior to a public auction?

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

From The Guardian article (7 Oct 2019):

“Sutherland said that ‘because of specific domestic details within it, it would have by far the greatest resonance inside the collection held by Jane Austen’s House Museum in the cottage where Austen lived and wrote’.

Earlier this year, the museum launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it raise the £35,000 it needed to buy a snippet of a letter written by Austen in 1814. …

Sutherland said it was particularly sad that publicly funded organisations like Jane Austen’s House Museum were unable to compete with international commercial buyers, ‘because so few Austen letters are retained for public benefit in British institutions’.

Considering that Britain has in the past disallowed artifacts to leave its shores, should the Dodge Austen letter be allowed to leave the U.S.? One entity that I thought should have partaken in the Battle for Letter 88 was The Morgan Library & Museum – the owner of a substantial collection of Austen letters. How about “retained for the public benefit in American institutions”?

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Deborah Yaffe commented on this idea of a “home country” for Austen letters, this one in particular, in her blog post “Going, going…”

That its cost beat the auction estimate – $80,000 to $100,000 – was a no brainer even as it was affixed to the catalogue. Austen is “hot property,” a growing phenomenon ever since Darcy’s wet shirt…

Even ratty Victorian paperbacks – I’m in the midst of reading Janine Barchas’ book The Lost Books of Jane Austen (purchased after the Williamsburg AGM after her “highlight” plenary presentation “The Lost Copies Northanger Abbey” – sell for much more than the proverbial “song” when they’ve got JANE AUSTEN attached to them.

Let’s face it, Austen is priced out of the reach of most institutions. Without knowing the depth of coffers (or generous donors) some like The British Library or Oxford University or, yes, the Morgan, have recourse to, it is guesswork only.

What I want to know is, Who Bought Jane Austen?

Maybe it was singer, TV host Kelly Clarkson! The letter sold for less than the ring AND it’s already in the U.S.

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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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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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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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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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British Postmarks (tutorial)

March 5, 2019 at 10:21 am (history, news, research) (, , , )

An interesting, because it’s so useful, “tutorial” (short: 33 slides) of early 19th century British Postmarks – and how to understand all you see when looking at a piece of “UK postal history”.

Mary Russell Mitford

It forms part of the Digital Mary Russell Mitford project — one of their project include digitizing and transcribing her letters!

As you can see from the “example” photo, the images help explain what exactly you are looking at. I couldn’t resist this image – with its identification of “delivery” and “mileage” stamps, the letter’s “franking,” its “seal,” and (especially) the “finger” of the person making the image!

Clicking on the photo above will take you to the second version (a bit longer than the first version) of THE POSTMARKS OF MITFORD’S LETTERS (by Greg Bondar, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg).

[Once you are on their site: click the [IN] icon (lower right-hand corner), which will allow you to access the full screen mode]

You will learn to recognize:

  • a MILEAGE stamp
  • a DUTY stamp
  • a DELIVERY stamp
  • CHARGE mark(s)
  • RECEIVING HOUSE stamp (for instance, the Two Penny post)

Some explanations, too, of rimmed and double-rimmed stamps; colors of ink; and – for 1812 – a list of postal charges (based on distance and “weight” [number of pieces of paper]).

Because the site is dedicated to Mary Russell Mitford, near the end of the slides are images of seals she used; paper types used (based on impressions in the paper). For those interested in the output of Mitford, the homepage of Digital Mitford is your place to start.

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Humphrey “Shop Album” @ Yale

March 3, 2019 at 9:38 am (british royalty, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , )

Gillray cartoon

This VERY recognizable cartoon is part of a “blue paper shop album” created by George Humphrey, nephew of the “famous” Hannah Humphrey and her shop of satirical cartoons.

Yale acquired the album in 2014 – and they have conserved and cleaned this delightful piece of political history, and now (press release dated 28 Feb 2019) invite scholars and students to see it in person. “Researcher from afar may browse images of the volume online.” They also say that each image has been catalogued in Orbis (Yale’s database of holdings), in which summary notes appear.

“This large folio album (approximately 66 x 50 cm [approx. 26 x 19.5 inches]) includes 130 early nineteenth-century prints, 117 of which were not previously represented in the Lewis Walpole Library collection. All are etchings and engravings with original, fresh publisher’s hand color, with more than a dozen of the titles not held by the British Museum.”

“Virtually all the prints are satires dedicated to the scandal over the trial of George IV’s divorce from Queen Caroline and the Queen’s alleged affair with Count Bergami. The album spans roughly one year of prints published from June 1820, when the Queen returned from Europe to London, through May 1821. She died shortly thereafter on August 7, 1821. The satires feature many major figures involved in the scandal. “

“The album is a rare surviving example of a volume that a print seller would put together in order to showcase for clients visiting the shop the satirical prints available for purchase either from existing inventory or to be printed to order from copper plates in the publisher’s stock. Most such albums are broken up and sold by later dealers. Further, the prints in the album are fine examples of prints with publisher’s hand coloring.”

In fall 2019, the Humphrey album will be featured as part of an exhibition project Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Scandal at the Yale Law Library (September 9 to December 20, 2019). The exhibition is a collaboration between Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Paintings, The Lewis Walpole Library, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian & Lecturer in Legal Research, Lillian Goldman Law Library. A conference is planned for the fall and a related online exhibition will feature brief essays by scholars from across disciplines.”

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New Website for Mary Hardy Diaries

February 28, 2019 at 9:24 am (books, diaries, history, news) (, , , , )

An email from Margaret Bird, who is in the midst of finishing the Companion volumes to her 4-volume edition of Mary Hardy Diaries, 1773-1809 [Burnham Press, UK], announced a new website has launched!

mary-hardyvol. 1 of Mary Hardy’s diaries

You can “preview” the four companion volumes Mary Hardy and her World, 1773-1809:

  • volume 1 A Working Family “will appeal to everyone interested in the home lives of the farming and commercial middle class in the eighteenth century.”
  • volume 2 Barley, Beer and the Working Year “analyses the way all the aspects of a family business hinged on one another. It goes to the heart of the industry in which the Hardys were engaged: farming, malting, brewing, sales to public houses, and the neglected subject of distribution.”
  • volume 3 Spiritual and Social Forces “chronicles and analyses a series of exciting developments in religion in an age often regarded as spiritually somnolent… Religion was increasingly no longer ‘the cement of society’…. Fractures were opening up, fast.”
  • volume 4 Under Sail and Under Arms “It is unusual to read in a woman’s diary allusions to such subjects as building a navigation (a canalized river), and to trade on the rivers and at sea. This volume also enters the world of politics…. Mary Hardy shows her absorption in the electoral process as a bystander.”

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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:

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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.

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