A delightful little booklet by Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) accompanied his invention of the Wonderland Stamp Case. From 1890, it makes amusing observations, which will strike the funny-bone of collectors and readers of Old Letters.
The title of this post comes from Carroll’s Ninth Rule of writing: “when you find you have more to say, take another piece of paper — a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but, whatever you do don’t cross! Remember the old proverb,’Cross-writing makes cross reading‘.
The booklet is entitled, Eight or Nine Words about Letter Writing – though, as you might guess by there being nine “rules”, the nine words should not be taken literally!
His GOLDEN rule (rule No. 1) is one the Mr. Bingleys and Lord Northamptons of fiction and life (respectively) should take to heart: Write legibly.
“A great deal of the bad writing in the world comes simply from writing too quickly. Of course you reply, “I do it to save time.” … but, what right have you to do it at your friend’s expense? Isn’t his time as valuable as yours? Years ago, I used to receive letters from a friend – and very interesting letters too – written in one of the most atrocious hands ever invented. It generally took me about a week to read one of his letters! I used to … puzzle over the riddles which composed it – holding it in different positions, and at different distances, till at last the meaning of some hopeless scrawl would flash upon me, when I at once wrote down the English under it…”
Highly recommended, if your funny bone needs some tickling OR you (like me) read Old Letters that are CROSSED and in an “atrocious hand”.
Although I was too late to actually WATCH (online) this London auction (1 PM GMT, 25 January 2017), I quickly could see what this exquisite little diary SOLD FOR, and listen to the rapid sale of other manuscripts and books.
The sale was enticing advertised as representing “Jane Austen’s England”:
Jane Austen’s England.- [Hicks Beach (Henrietta, wife of Sir Michael Hicks, later Hicks Beach, of Netheravon, Wiltshire and Williamstrip Park, Coln St. Aldwyn, Gloucestershire, 1760-1837)] [Diary & Account Book], printed in red with manuscript insertions, 88pp. excluding blanks, most entries in pencil, a few in ink, pencil sketches of furniture on a few pp., list of novels at beginning and provisions at end, 1f. loose, browned, inner hinges weak, original roan, rubbed, ink date “1789” on upper cover, lacks head of spine, 2 tears on spine, 12mo, 1789. ⁂ Includes numerous references to visits and dinners, including to the Chute family of The Vyne (a country house near Basingstoke), and their relatives, the Bramstones of Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, both families known to the Austen and Hicks Beach families. “Friday 6th February 1789 Mr W Chute came to Dinner…”; “Sunday 13 September 1789 went to the Vine to Dinner… Mr. T. Chute”. Also includes amounts lost and won at cards, payment for wages, items bought, money received from Mr. Hicks and paid to their son, Michael. Other names including, the Pettat family (Rev. C.R. Pettat became Rector of Ashe), Polhill, Musgrave etc. Jane Austen was 14 in 1789 when this diary was compiled. “The Beach and Wither families were well known, and frequently discussed by the Austens at Steventon. When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach… lost one of their babies, in 1796, Jane Austen was well enough acquainted with their romantic story to confide to her sister Cassandra, ‘I am sorry for the Beaches’ loss of their little girl, especially as it is the one so like me’ (9 January 1796).” – Chris Viveash. Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Vol. 24, 2002.
I suspect it was once owned by Chris Viveash. OH! how I wish I had gotten online in time to hear the auctioneer say, “Lots of interest in this lot”, (as he undoubtedly did!). The auctioneer goes through lots FAST, yet always the fair warning, which gives just enough time to put in a new bid, IF YOUR WALLET IS THICK ENOUGH.
The successful buyer must indeed have had deep pockets. The estimate was £400-600.
The selling price (which may NOT include the seller’s premium): £1,100!
Few will have heard of the Hicks Beach family – but attach the name “Jane Austen” and it was guaranteed to sell. Did it go to an internet buyer? phone buyer? or “In the Room” — would LOVE to know where it will be heading to, after today.
Would be WONDERFUL to learn that the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), which has some Hicks Beach materials, or The Vyne – which gets mentions in the diary – was a purchaser. Will we ever learn its fate??
Just back from an early evening showing of Love & Friendship, based mainly on Jane Austen’s “Lady Susan” – who is the title character (played with delicious archness by Kate Beckinsale). It is interesting (and I will get back to this point) that in adverts Chloë Sevigny shares top billing.
There are several decisive scenes in which the two ladies don’t so much as scheme, but rely upon the other to bolster flagging spirits when schemes don’t seem to be going as well as hoped. For instance Mrs. Johnson (Sevigny) has an older husband (Stephen Fry) who just isn’t giving in to gout and the grave as quickly as his young wife might wish.
There’s an obvious backstory that we never quite learn – the dreadful treatment Lady Susan has given her (obligingly dead) husband may include infidelity or simply ‘neglect’, but nothing is specifically mentioned. That her daughter is named Frederica and her in-laws have a son Frederick leads one to believe the two were named for the not-too-lamented Mr. Vernon.
Also referred to time and again – and, to the film’s detriment, hardly seen and not at all heard – is the “dashing” Lord Mainwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin). An additional ten or fifteen minutes, at the Mainwaring estate, laying out the events that caused the eventual ejection of Lady Susan would have been most welcome. More especially to allow viewers to see what Lady Susan saw: a lover worth scheming for although he was a married man.
Perhaps when it comes out on streaming video (a main title is emblazoned with the Amazon logo), a “director’s cut” will give a bit more. The mutual attraction of Lord and Lady would have helped the audience in rooting for the success of the Lady’s plan. Everyone loves a villainess.
The machinations of Lady Susan are not quite as blatantly devilish as those of the Marquise de Merteuil. Austen may have had a passing familiarity with Les liaisons dangereuses (published in 1782) thanks to cousin Eliza de Feuillide, who, with her impeccable French, could have come across the novel. Whit Stillman, the film’s writer/director seems to have lent the film a French texture (especially in some costumes) but could have pushed the edge in order to give the film and its (anti-) heroine that tad more sharpness. Like Jane Austen, Stillman kept sex behind the scenes, but a little smoldering attraction would have been welcomed.
The sexual rivalry of Valmont and Merteuil allowed for letters of confession and letters tipping their hands regarding future schemes. In Love & Friendship those confidences are given to two women who esteem each other – though we never quite learn why. Mrs. Johnson’s husband keeps threatening to ship his American wife back to America if she continues to see Lady Susan; still, even at the film’s end, he hasn’t moved her out of England and she hasn’t cut ties with Lady Susan.
Given the convoluted emotional ties between Lady Susan and Lord Mainwaring, which (spoiler alert:) evidently becomes a menage a trois, I began to embellish Lady Susan’s fictional story with one only too well-known: the menage in the Duke of Devonshire’s household. A husband with two wives; here, a wife with two husbands.
Speculation as to whether there is meant to be some “chemistry” between Lady Susan and her confidant Mrs. Johnson is an undertone that may be just me reading a bit of “history” into Stillman’s film (the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Elizabeth Foster). But the ladies rather relish the idea of being together once Mr. Johnson kicks the bucket. Perhaps she would be allowed in to the Mainwaring menage. And remember that double-billing I mentioned at the top of this blog post.
Viewers are also left to wonder if Frederica Vernon (Morfydd Clark) just happened to capture her mother’s ex, Reginald deCourcey (Xavier Samuel) – or, if she has a bit more of her mother in her than either would care to admit. I, for one, would like to think that young Frederica saw and got the man she wanted. She does succeed, like her mother, by moving into the household of her future lover.
End credits gave the clue that a behind the scenes featurette was made – so maybe some of the intentions will be made clearer. (I found a short one on youtube.)
- extra: Beckinsale on “Popcorn, with Peter Travers” [over 17 minutes]
Watching Love & Friendship was like spending the evening at the theater. The ‘feel’ of the film is highly theatrical (though not nearly as stylized as it could have been; viz, The Draftsman’s Contract, another film about sexual connivers). The movement of the actors across a room, down a passage, or up a staircase is slow and deliberate, providing time to show off gowns and location shots. The many footmen and maids seemed like so many stagehands, closing doors or removing clothes. Some viewers complained of the rapid conversational style, but I did not find it to be unintelligible – just in contrast to everyone’s slow pace, as if confined to a stage. The “introductions” to the characters, like a period handbill, were quite funny, as in “Sir James Martin: Her unintended”.
And “the stage” is the parting thought I’ll leave with. Late in the film the sound track introduces the exquisite trio from Così fan tutte, Soave sia il vento (though a short piece, the film abruptly truncates it by cutting out the middle) – Mozart’s moment of tranquility in an opera about shifting partners and the testing of (untrue) lovers. The trio reappears in the end credits. Knowledge of the opera, and performance ambiguities, added to the intrigue of this quiet film, leaving me with the impression that there’s more going on beneath its shiny surface. One almost wishes Stillman choose instead the subtitle of Austen’s juvenile “Love and Freindship” and called his film “Deceived in Freindship and Betrayed in Love”. (And, yes, Austen had “ie” and “ei” spelling problems.) It would be interesting to pick up Stillman’s novel, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon is Vindicated but I’ll have to settle for Austen’s original (which I deliberately did NOT read before seeing the film).
Have you ever read a book — an old book, especially — for which there’s just NO information on the author beyond a name? For me that bothersome bit has LONG circulated around the works of Lizzie Selina Eden.
I first came across her book My Holiday in Austria – I just LOVED her stories and travels in a country that I loved. Gosh! how long ago: it was a book I interlibrary-loaned — in the summer of 2003! Now you can find it at several sites, including through a site I have contributed to in the past: A Celebration of Women Writers.
The illustration reads “Lauffen, near Ischl – from a drawing by the author.”
Published in 1869, My Holiday in Austria was a palm-sized book, with lovely marbled papers. I remember being SO enchanted with the cover, the end papers. VERY colorful! And the smooth, buttery feel of the leather. You don’t get that from an online copy.
I then interlibrary loaned another book she published, A Lady’s Glimpse of the Late War in Bohemia (1867) – and this one I worked to get online at A Celebration of Women’s Writers:
Oh! how I wanted to know more about her. That Eden name; was she related to anyone “known”? It was early internet days; and she was just too obscure.
In Bohemia there were TANTALIZING clues to her identity:
- On Whit Monday, the 21st of May, we dined…with my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Eden. Mr. Eden was attaché at the English Embassy… (p 114)
- ….I showed him my name on my passport, and asked him if he knew the gentleman of that designation, who was acting as Minister now for England in Dresden, as he was my cousin… (p 277)
- Just as we had finished our dinner my cousin, Mr. C. Eden, with his pretty wife, drove up to see us and take leave. He was now acting as Chargé d’Affaires, as Sir C. Murray had left…. (p 290)
I could find a Sir Charles Murray — and wondered if a “Miss Eden” would have been writing him letters in 1847. I wondered if she were any relation to George Eden, 2nd Baron Auckland. I wondered if her C. Eden would have been Charles Page Eden (1807-1885), or Charles Henry Eden (1839-1900) or someone totally different.
Further queries and observations:
- really true (p. 3) that her family could call out “the horse guards or foreign secretary”??
- sister marries in NICE (in the “little English church”) March or April 1866 (“last summer”).
- sailed on the “Marco Polo” in “early April”, en route to Genoa.
I evidently knew she’d have been around 40-years-old in the mid-1860s, though it comes as a surprise now to learn that she was born in 1826.
Yes, after nearly ten years, I’ve appended Lizzie Selina Eden to a family tree!
Elizabeth, called Peg, was the eldest surviving daughter of Ann Maria Kelham (1792-1875) and her second husband Rev. Hon. William Eden (1792-1859). Indeed related to the Barons Auckland; and even writer Emily Eden, whose books I recently have re-read. Peg’s father and Emily Eden were cousins.
Lizzie Selina Eden died in 1899; the only notation is that she was buried in the “churchyard at Glemham, as are her brother Robert and sister Charlie.” GEDView gives dates for family weddings: sister Flora Jane Eden was the Bride in April 1866!
Finding Elizabeth Selina Eden online at The Peerage I see she was born 8 April 1826 (GEDView: at Beaksbourne, Kent) and died 20 August 1899, aged 73. NO mention of her books. Boo!
- A Lady’s Glimpse of the Late War in Bohemia (1867): Celebration of Women Writers; Books.Google; Internet Archive
- My Holiday in Austria (1869): Hathai Trust; Books.Google; Internet Archive
- Fairy Fancies. From the German (1870): Hathai Trust; Books.Google; Internet Archive
“My Holiday began on the hottest day
of the very hot June of the year 1868….”
— Lizzie Selina Eden, My Holiday in Austria (1869)
Ah, it’s after work. De-lic-ious. Made a tea — some Baker Street Blend, obtained from Upton Tea Imports. Baker Street Blend is described as “a bit of Lapsang Souchong blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift!”
Had a visit at Kleidung um 1800 — Sabine has been doing some spring cleaning, so this is the last time you will be seeing her now-outdated background illustration. Check out her new “look” — and her newest Spencer. Elizabeth Bennet would be happy to find this garment in her closet!
Sabine also always has some interesting blogs which she follows and I just had to click and find out more about The Grand Tour Nineteen Teen has been presenting — they are up to Part 6 and are now “Climbing over Mountains.”
So, grab your Spencer, let me get a second cuppa – and let’s join a Grand Tour!
In trying to upload a book jacket, and having a blank box appear instead it dawned on me that WordPress is experiencing one of those *rare* glitches – when all the image files become BLANK!
So I will save my post for later, but will comment here that I trust the illustrations (few that I use) will resume shortly…
I notice that suddenly all my photographs have disappeared – or are disappearing. This seems to be a WordPress problem, but be patient. Just hope I don’t end up having to download everything; some images I would have to search for all over again. YIKES! Damn upgrades…