At Home – with Jane & Lucy

July 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , )

2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.

Worsley

We all know Worsley’s work from her many TV specials – “Tales from the Royal Wardrobe”, “Tales from the Royal Bedchamber”, “The First Georgians”, “A Very British Murder”, “Harlots, Housewives & Heroines”, etc. etc. I have certainly enjoyed her book The Courtiers: Splendour and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, which brought some refreshing storytelling.

courtiers

In its early stage provisionally entitled AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN (which already exists among the “Jane Austen” series of books by Kim Wilson), the biography tell Jane Austen’s “story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her”. Says Worsley’s  editor: “Lucy’s knowledge of the period makes her the perfect biographer and her wonderful writing style will truly bring Jane Austen and her world to life.”

Worsley used a Kensington Palace painting to open the oft-told history of the first Hanoverian King George. What will she use for Jane Austen? Will it look at Steventon, which is no longer existing, as well as Chawton and Bath? Chawton is a source for many items that belonged to Austen – for instance, her jewelry. Her writing slope is also on public display.

“… an everyday object that had been
important to her writing life.”

Paula Byrne’s book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, sought a similar approach away from the typical cradle-to-grave biography. It will be *fun* to see how Worsley works out the lack of any new discoveries. Will she recreate some of the homes, spaces, and places that Austen knew? Perhaps readers of If Walls Could Talk will have advance knowledge of the Worsley’s approach. Worsley has already been caught rubbing elbows with Regency dandies. And she’s even got a work of fiction, as well as her TV-tie-ins, on bookstore shelves. Lucy Worsley is one of four writers who back in April (2016) discussed Lizzy & Darcy and themselves.

The Hodder & Stoughton website gives the following information:

  • title (revised from above): Jane Austen at Home
  • projected pagination (nicely hefty): 352 pages
  • release date (it’ll be here before we know it): 18 May 2017

 

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Desperately Seeking “addressed to Lady Seymour”

May 23, 2016 at 8:56 am (history, news, people, research) (, , )

An internet search brought up the following for a former eBay auction – trouble is I have NO CLUE as to the date of the auction — recent? really old? The date of the letter is less in question, 1861 – though no day or month.

ebay auction

The original description read:

“Addressed to Lady Seymour. Stamp has been cut out leaving part Southampton cancel with Botley & part Berkhamsted CDS’s on back. 4 page partly cross hatched letter.”

Would LOVE images of the letter (so I can transcribe the contents) – in exchange for information on the recipient and/or writer. The “Lady Seymour” in question undoubtedly is Maria Culme Seymour (née Smith), Emma Austen’s youngest sister.

Maria L Seymour

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Naval Journal, 1858-1859

April 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm (diaries, history, news) (, , , )

rawson journal

As always, finding an item LONG after it’s been sold at auction. Today’s find was this journal, written by Harry Holdsworth Rawson, aboard HMS Calcutta. Of interest to ME because young Rawson (only fourteen years old) was under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Richard Seymour’s brother. Richard’s diary, of course, has mention of his seafaring brother (and the wife & children left behind in England) – but, like mentions of his father (also Sir Michael Seymour), they are mainly of leaves or letters.

I’ve heard a little about Michael on shipboard, mainly because some of the children of Richard Seymour and John Culme-Seymour were aboard with him. How thrilling to hear of such a precious relic.

Would be interested to hear if anyone knows the present whereabouts of this journal, sold at Bonham’s on 19 March 2014.

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In Memoriam: Alan Rickman

January 14, 2016 at 7:08 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, )

One of the delights of Jane Austen filmdom: Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon.

colonel brandon and marianne

He brought a gentleness to the role that really characterized the “second chance” at happiness.

marianne and colonel brandon

One of the few actors with a very distinctive and “calming” voice. He will be missed.

brandons

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“Independent” choices in Biography

December 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm (books, entertainment, news) (, , , )

Reading the monthly newsletter of BIOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION (BIO) is always informative, and often quite a delight, biography being a favorite area of shelf space (at home and in the stores).

Being the end of the year, ” BEST OF LISTS” are of course beginning to turn up. And the newsletter mentioned biographies that had made “the list” of the Independent. I was QUITE surprised to read that TWO Charlotte Brontë biographies were on the list! The first one was listed on the first line – ah, Claire Harmon has a new book! (NB: not out in the States until Spring 2016.) Although she was already known to me thanks to her biography of Fanny Burney (2000), Harmon undoubtedly gained LOTS of press when she published Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2011) – especially in light of Harmon’s treatise being called a populist take on the earlier “scholarly” Jane Austen’s Textural Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood (2005) by Kathlryn Sutherland. I’ll leave it to readers of both books to comment (should you so wish).

As my eyes scanned the rest of the *short* list (six book), it settled upon the second Brontë biography. It is HARDLY “new”: Catherine Gaskell’s biography! Frankly, reading the original article (though the headline says “six”) I’m stymied: Gaskell’s work seems there merely to introduce Harmon’s biography of the same person, using the “same papers”. Was the Independent really THAT hard up to name a sixth worthy biography to recommend for Christmas giving?

Another thing hard not to notice: Harmon’s book in the U.K. is titled, Charlotte Brontë: A Life – whereas the U.S. has been given a much more dramatic subtitle — Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart. The covers even look hot and cold, with their blue versus red motifs:

bronte

bronte_UK

Must admit, I don’t always understand the marketing strategies of the two countries, nor the time-lag in offering the same book to another English-speaking country. NB: where’s Harmon on Canada’s Amazon site??

For anyone waiting until the U.S. release – or wanting the rest of the clan too, might I recommend a duo by Juliet BarkerThe Brontës: A Life in Letters and her hefty biography of the family unit (even heftier in a 2013 updating), The Brontës.

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“poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend”

November 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm (estates, history, news, people, research) (, , , )

It was a cryptic sentence, written by Emma’s brother Spencer Smith:

“… the latter have been in town all the Autumn on account of poor John H, B. Gosling’s friend, who is I believe in almost a hopeless state from repeated epileptic fits.”

Trouble was, with Spencer’s scrawling, sprawling handwriting I wasn’t sure what the “H” stood for.

b gosling

 

Initially, I guessed Heraby? – fairly certain of the capital “H” (since it appeared also after the word John) and the ending “-by”. The lumps of the letters in between were rather up for grabs.

b gosling2

BECAUSE there is so little information on Bennett Gosling, the third (and youngest) of Mary’s elder brothers, his friend John H. grabbed out at me: IDENTIFY ME, and maybe find some letters – at the very least some momentary companions. Though Spencer’s letter was dated January 2, 1841. This, therefore, could indicate a LIFE LONG friend.

I toyed with various letters of the alphabet.

Heraby?  Heneby?

Hanby? Hornby?

Either of the last two seemed more probable for a last name – yet some British names can be complicated – like the one directly preceding this one: Cholmedeley. Don’t know about you, but not a name _I_ run across every day…

The man, if really so ill, probably died in 1841. And that was how I FOUND him: looking for a will among probate records. Working on the theory that the man could have been a Gosling neighbor, a London postal directory lead me to think that John HORNBY was more probable than John HANBY; but I tried both. When John Hunter Hornby, of Portland Place, Middlesex came up – and he had died in September 1841 – the tripartite name gave up more clues.

John Hunter Hornby was the second son of John Hornby of The Hook, Hampshire. Spencer’s letter, written from Brooklands (an estate new to him and Frances; read more about Brooklands here), discussed neighbors who were resident at the New Year. The Hook and Brooklands DID neighbor each other!

Knowing the family seat helped secure several siblings, for instance John Hunter Hornby’s sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jane. This last was especially interesting: her married name (mentioned in the father’s will) was JANE PERCEVAL. An unmistakable spelling… Surely, somehow related to the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated in the House of Commons in May 1812.

I already had TWO Jane Percevals – the widow of the P.M. and her eldest daughter had both been named ‘Jane’; though the mother had remarried within a few years. Lady Elizabeth Compton (aka, Lady Elizabeth Dickins), Emma’s cousin, had both women as correspondents.

Jane Hornby, Mrs. Perceval, turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Spencer Perceval’s brother, Lord Arden; her husband, George James Perceval, becoming the 6th Earl of Egmont.

George Perceval and Jane Hornby married in 1819. And it was during that period (if not even earlier) that Bennett Gosling can be connected to John Hunter Hornby. Both were graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Both were admitted to Lincoln’s Inn – Bennett in October 1817; John in February 1818. Bennett was the elder by two years.

On the hunt for “The Hook”, images turned up – including this hand-colored lithograph currently (November 2015) going for £115:

the hook_hornby

Ah, isn’t it a lovely looking place? Alas, it was a victim to FIRE in 1913. The grounds are still talked about, though the Hampshire Gardens Trust research skips over the Hornbys from this period. Sense of Place South East has a photograph (circa 1900) and news about the fire, calling it Hook House.

warsash ferry

Another missed opportunity, when I was last in Warsash at the behest of my host & hostess and we crossed the Hamble on the ferry. How near I was, not only to Spencer and Frances – but now also to John H. and B. Gosling!

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… but we have flowers

November 19, 2015 at 9:19 am (europe, history, news) (, , )

flower power 2015

A departure today, for I cannot forget this video of a little French-speaking boy and his father.

I’ve been reading about the assassination of Spencer Perceval – related to Emma’s cousins, the Comptons – in May of 1812. In another fifty years, the U.S. would lose its president to an assassin’s bullet – Why was Lincoln’s death shocking, while Perceval’s shocked his family but left others quite blasé. Lincoln became an obsession with historians, and Perceval seems to go down in history as one whose death in office was simply something that sometimes “happens”.

Yesterday, I finally looked up some newspapers of the incident. British newspapers of 1812 were only four-pages – sheets printed front and back, folded down the center like a letter. They were jam-packed with ads, notices for plays and routs, goings-on at court, and of course news of the day. I was quite surprised at the Perceval story in The Times. A LOT of talk about Members mulling around the Woolsack; it reads more like a trial transcript, with testimony, than the story of a statesman’s death. A more enlightening article was published the same day (12 May 1812) in The Morning Chronicle – which even included mention of Mrs. Perceval and the children.

And, for one only too confronted nightly with television images of soldiers and guns, the Chronicle‘s article touches on the mayhem in the streets of London. For crowds DID gather around the Houses of Parliament as word got out. “The deadful [sic] intelligence spread with amazing rapidity, and before six o’clock, the crowd collected on the outside was so great, that it was deemed prudent to close the doors of Westminster Hall, as well as to plant constables at all the entrances… Ingress was denied to all persons but Members and witnesses.”

The Horse Guards were called out, though the Chronicle uses the curious phrase “to ensure tranquility, and produce a dispersion of the mob”. The Foot Guards and the City Militia were also called upon. Other than people gathering to hear, first-hand, the latest news, there was never a need to hunt for Bellingham; the assassin had never left, and came forward within minutes.

The Chronicle hints at why Perceval never became an historian’s goldmine. Towards the article’s end, a lengthy paragraph reads (in part): “Thus has the existence of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval been terminated – a man of whom much good may and ought to be said, and who errors shall be, with his remains, consigned to the grave…. However mistaken may have been his political views, and however disastrous for his country the result, none have denied him the praise of integrity of intention.”

Then, rather like “the king is dead, long live the king” talk turns to the open seat (Perceval was Member for Northampton; Spencer Compton, Emma’s cousin, would be elected) as well as giving “the Prince Regent time to arrange a new Administration”.

In 1812, they were convinced Bellingham had acted alone, and for his own ends and grievances. “Sense” could (I presume) be made of a”senseless” act.

With so much misery in the world from so many sources, WHY impose more misery upon others so senselessly? I, too, take a bit of comfort in this father’s idea of Flower Power 2015.

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“Sexing-up” Mr Darcy

October 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, )

Devoney Looser has an article in The Independent entitled Mr. Darcy through the ages. Of course, the flight relies heavily on the Darcy of Colin Firth (and, quite evidently, writer Andrew Davies; he said as much at the Fort Worth AGM in 2011).

Quite eye-opening to read about the “early” attempts at presenting Pride and Prejudice on the stage. Sounds like one should seek more information on the pre-film Darcy, COLIN KEITH-JOHNSTON, who had the role on Broadway.

pp_colin keith johnston

(Olivier of course in the film, with Greer Garson)

As I read more and more of the article, I found myself thinking:

“A novel focused on men never has writers angsting over the smaller-roled women characters; but have a (wonderful!) novel focused on WOMEN and always the focus struggles not to shift to the off-to-one-side men.”

I don’t at all mean this as criticism of Devoney’s EXCELLENT article, but as a wake-up call about all the (never-ending) Darcy-centric-ness in general.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a LOVE STORY – and Lizzy must have her Darcy. BUT: Must women suffer getting paid LESS for comparable roles & work (read about Jennifer Lawrence) AND have the spotlight taken away, too, when they are the STAR?”

Think about it. It’s The King and I all over again: once Yul Brynner broke out as “quintessential” king, the role of Anna slightly dimmed forever.

Pride and Prejudice is Lizzy’s story – we see things through her eyes, and realize what she comes to realize, that this aloof young man is a worthy life-mate. Even in this highly VISUAL age (which I’m a bit disdainful of, at the present moment especially) — and _I_ understand as well as anyone how vital good looks and pleasing places and costumes are to a production (I’m as susceptible as anyone…) — ALL this blathering about Darcy (and especially the same ONE incarnation) seems unfair to my dear LIZZY!

So, my question is: IF this were a novel about DARCY, would there be as much ink spilled over the over-shadowing of Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Would screenwriters work hard to sex her up or give HER more screen time?

[certainly TV sexed up Fanny Price… totally ruining the television series of that novel..]

Would Lizzy’s LOOKS mean more than her inner integrity, wit, and intelligence? Aren’t women already OBJECTS? (especially in advertising).

Like Anna Leonowens, Lizzy Bennet seems now to have sunk into second place behind the man. Am _I_ the only one shouting, “ENOUGH about DARCY! Get back to the novel, and let’s lift Elizabeth Bennet back up to her starring role”???

It’s like our heroine has been elbowed out of the limelight.

And Lizzy’s toe-tapping means she’s getting rather TIRED of being treated as second banana in her own tale…

back to the bookBACK to the BOOK

darcy-lizzy together(where Darcy doesn’t over-shadow Miss E. Bennet)

lizzy bennet_noooo(Lizzy Bennet is NOT happy!)

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Leigh Letters @ The Huntington

September 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm (diaries, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , )

Several weeks ago (I always have GOOD intentions about posting *News*… then don’t do it!) I came across Geri Meftah‘s blog post from FEBRUARY 2015, mentioning the purchase of a letter book by the Huntington Library in California. I visit Geri’s delightful JANE AUSTEN blog (kleurrijkjaneausten) with some regularity, but am not (and never will be) one “on top of” new news….

Better late than never, right?

But one thing about being half a year behind the time: The Huntington has had time to DIGITIZE the collection!

kleurrijkjaneausten @ blogspot will fill you in on the background of the purchase – and has a link to The Guardian‘s article about it. The letter book was at the time described as “52 unpublished letters, poems and other material from six generations of the Leigh family”.

As you might imagine, I held my breath: Anything from the family in the nineteenth century? Indeed: YES! and two letters (though late for my research) from James Edward Austen Leigh!

edward austen letter snippet huntington

I see that the catalogue will be off-line on September 16th (2015), but before or after, do look through the images. The Huntington has made it exceptionally easy to read the LEIGH LETTERS online, or download images. [use search term: leigh family papers]

The above “snippet” is from the first Edward Austen Leigh letter, and is a DELIGHTFUL snippet of memories of his aunt, Jane Austen, and Stoneleigh Abbey.

The Huntington describes the small collection as “letters, poems and other manuscripts written by various members of the Leigh family and other people in their circle. The letters are mainly concerned with the intimate, mundane, playful and tragic aspects of family life from the early modern period until the middle of the 19th century”. They would be a wonderful addition to anyone reading Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family: Through Five Generations.

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Blogs, Books, & Pamphlets

August 19, 2015 at 12:05 pm (books, entertainment, europe, history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , , )

In yesterday’s mail the terrific-looking new book by Jenny Uglow (I have her humongous biography of Gaskell), “In These Times”: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815.

uglow

Nothing can be more up my alley! It’s about the Napoleonic era without being all about battles, and strategies, and War-War-War (to quote Scarlett O’Hara). I need information of the 1790s through 1810s, but I want to learn from it, not be BORED by it. (Yeah, war bores me. Though when I worked at a local college [uni-aged students for those of you in the UK], the POPULAR courses in history were Black Death and World War II. Still, I am what I am: more interested in social history and women’s history.)

I recognize a few names – for Uglow uses personal accounts to paint a full picture. There’s the Heber family (I adore the book Dear Miss Heber…); Lady Lyttleton (née Sarah Spencer); Jane Austen’s “sailor brothers”, Frank (Sir Francis Austen later in life) and Charles Austen; Betsey Fremantle (I’m still waiting from more from her current biographer, Elaine Chalus; though I have the complete set of three volumes published in the 1940s); Mary Hardy, the Norfolk diaristabout whom I have blogged before, at RegencyReads.

Can’t tell you much about the book, as I’m only in chapter 1 – but I’m enjoying it so far! Just the right amount of detail, and well-written. It opens with an idea VERY dear to my heart – for my own book (tentatively entitled The Brilliant Vortex, about my Two Teens during the Regency era, and all those London seasons, from 1814 to 1821.) discusses the same thing: the dissemination of news. Uglow, of course, looks at newspapers. I know, for instance, that Richard Seymour, in the 1830s, borrowed newspapers. So I already knew that some people had subscriptions, some people got papers passed on to them. And I LOVE Uglow’s descriptions of particular coffee houses:

“Visiting Glasgow in 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth found ‘the largest coffee room I ever saw’, in the piazza of the Exchange. ‘Perhaps there might be thirty gentlemen sitting on the circular bench of the window, reach reading a newspaper’ …. The linen-mill owner John Marshall also admired the room, brilliantly lit with candles, and rarely with fewer than a hundred people in it. ‘There are 1100 Subscribers to the Coffee Room at 28/- a year’.”

I remember back in the 1980s & 90s when VIDEO stores started out with yearly membership SUBSCRIPTIONS. Of course, the next store would open, offering LOWER rates – until ultimately the “membership” was free.

(And now every GROCERY store sports a RedBox!)

But I-M-A-G-I-N-E: 1100 subscribers at 28 shillings a year each! Sounds like it was a little goldmine! Marshall went on (and Uglow follows suit) with what the coffee house carried: “‘They take London & Edinburgh papers & journals, country papers & 9 copies of the Sun, Star & Courier & all the monthly publications.'”

Dissemination, of course, comes from MANY sources – including correspondence (my diarists’ chief avenue), and we all have heard of the dreaded PAMPHLET and the satirical CARTOON. No one reading about the French Revolution can get away from the ideas of salacious pamphlets against Queen Marie Antoinette; and no one reading about the Regency can escape the cartoons of Rowlandson (for just one example) skewering the Prince Regent.

I have a friend whose research has turned up a COUPLE different narratives. The conundrum: WHICH pamphlet is more truthful than the other?? That made me think of this conundrum from the writer’s point of view – and that made me think of James Boswell. For he put quite a lot into print (anonymous as well as with his name) during his lifetime. I’ve blogged a LOT about Boswell’s diaries and books about the Boswell Papers.

Then it HIT ME:

Pamphlets, in the 18th & 19th century, were to the likes of Boswell what BLOGS are to the likes of me TODAY! Those with a point-of-view, or even just “something to say”, stick it out there for anyone and everyone to see. Only, today, I don’t have to locate a printer and a bookseller – I just needed to stumble upon WordPress and have an internet connection!

boswellCan you IMAGINE: Boswell as Blogger?!?

(I sure can…)

My point to my friend was: Veracity wasn’t always on the minds of the pamphlet writer; so I find it wholly understandable that two versions of the same incident could exist. It’s like Twitter today: how many times do we hear about someone apologizing for BLASTING on social media, only to regret it later. Hard to do with a penny publication: not like you can go back and find everyone who bought your pamphlet – though a retraction, or even another pamphlet pointing out the errors (and thought to be by a DIFFERENT writer!) are not impossibilities to contemplate.

It’s that old adage back again: “Plus ςa change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they STAY THE SAME!

* * *

Since I’m talking BOOKS here, I’ll make brief mention: Readers interested in obtaining a FREE copy of Hazel Jones’s Jane Austen’s Journeys – please take a look at the giveway I’m running on RegencyReads. I’m taking names for a lengthy period: till the end of this month (August 2015). I had an extra copy, so it IS a book I’m keeping on my own shelves.

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