I drove the cabriolet from Wellington

May 15, 2011 at 8:21 am (carriages & transport) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The title comes from the diary of Emma SmithAunt Emma to my Emma (her mother’s sister). The year is 1792 and Emma and her two sisters, Augusta and Elizabeth (not yet Mrs Charles Smith [1798] or Mrs William Chute [1793]), are on holiday:

“We left Stoke at a quarter before eight on Saturday the 28th of July. Mama & Eliza in the cabriolet; Papa, Augusta and myself in the Phaeton; and Richard and Spencer on horseback”.

At the end of her entry for July 30th, as she describes the joyous sights (and sites) of Somersetshire, she appends the words “I drove the cabriolet from Wellington.” When encountered by such a phrase, it rather takes one by surprise: how many women could “drive”? It’s possible that all Sarah Smith’s daughters did; and it was merely Emma’s turn in the cabriolet with Mama. Later in the trip, eldest sister Maria (Lady Compton at this present moment) sits with Mama.

Anyway, reading these early diaries once again this week (a second is from 1794), I thought to begin a series about CARRIAGES. This stems from two things: a tiny book I happened across a couple years ago (at my favorite New Hampshire used bookstore, Old Depot No. 6) – Victorian Horses and Carriages: A Personal Sketch Book by William Francis Freelove and an AGM talk by James Nagle entitled in part “Coaches, Barouches and Gigs, Oh My!”

The book is a later edition, reworked, of An Assemblage of 19th Century Horses & Carriages by Jennifer Lang; both feature the wonderful drawings of William Francis Freelove. (see my prior post about Freelove; and view the drawings at Bridgeman Art.) I now own both, but somehow, the smaller book is more precious to me.

So: What was a CABRIOLET?

In pictures, both that I thought most illustrative date from c1830. I just love this piece, by William Joseph Shayer – The Cabriolet in Hyde Park:

A cabriolet is pretty unanimous described as:

A two-wheeled, doorless, hooded, one-horse carriage; may come from the French cabriole, an indication of its light, bounding motion. A cabriolet can be driven by someone seated in the carriage. The design is intended to accommodate two comfortably. The collapsible leather hood allows passengers to enjoy sunny weather or shelter from rain.

London’s Science Museum has this specimen (photo from Encyclopedia Britannica):

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Of Horses and Carriages

September 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Over the Labor Day weekend, I visited one of my favorite used bookstores: Old Depot No. 6, in Henniker, New Hampshire. As usual, I spent most of my time upstairs, amid the British history and biography section of this very well-laid-out store. Among the ‘finds’ volumes one and two of the Torrington Diaries; I already had volume one, but was missing volume two thanks to an online store “selling, misplacing, losing, etc” the volume they had posted for sale. They were library copies, the first volume a bit worse for wear; but the price was one I would have paid for a single volume, never mind the two. I also got a dual biography of Wellington and the Arbuthnots; I have the Journals of Mrs Arbuthnot and was intrigued to see what someone researching to three had to say.

Then, standing at the register, I happened to spy a tiny little book entitled “Victorian Horses and Carriages” – which featured quaint and cute drawings done by William Francis Freelove. A precious find, indeed!

freeloveThere are some really funny little works; and I searched to find the entire set of drawings from the series – finally succeeding in coming across them in the Bridgeman Collection. Two of my favorites: the little poem which closes this copy of the drawings (at left),

Up hill urge me not,
Down hill hurry me not,
Along the level spare me not,
And in the stable forget me not.

How very apropos!

And one of my favorite drawings, not found in this little sampling of Freelove’s drawings, is one called Wedding Carriages. What an absolutely charming display of horses, happiness, carriages and church. This one especially speaks to me because of the article I am currently writing (for submission one last time to Persuasions, the Jane Austen Journal): “Pemberley’s Welcome” looks at Elizabeth Darcy’s arrival at Pemberley, based on the diary entry Emma Smith wrote about a similar ‘welcome home’ to the bridge of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton in 1815.

The following weekend after this ‘find’, I was speaking on “Georgiana Darcy and the ‘Naïve Art’ of Young Ladies”, at Hyde Park (see the Austen weekends at the Governor’s House). By the way, I must say this particular explanation of ‘naïve art’ is excellent: “Term applied to the work of non-professional artists who apply themselves to their art in a resolute and independent spirit.” (paraphrased from this website.) Anyway, in August one picture by young artist Mary Yelloly sparks a conversation about carriages – so, of course, I had to bring this little volume of Freelove’s with me to share with this new group.

At the same time, talking with Suzanne, the B&B’s owner, Sunday – with plans to offer talks on carriages or fashion when the topic of her weekends turn to Sense and Sensibility – I came up with a wonderful idea for a new article! As my Hyde Park talk centered on the minor character of Georgiana Darcy, this article will focus on the character of young Margaret Dashwood. Can’t wait to get started – and will share more about it later, once it finds a home!

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