Jane Austen’s Business

February 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Or, James Austen’s Shopping Spree:

A most useful account of soon-to-be new husband James Austen, eldest brother of Jane, when he was setting up a household with his first wife, Anne Mathew (mother of Anna Austen Lefroy), in 1792. The list (and costs) make for interesting reading.

The purveyor was RING BROTHERS of BASINGSTOKE; among their many clients: The Chutes of The Vyne. The company ledgers reside in the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), although this list is taken from the delightful article written by Edward Copeland entitled “The Austens and the Elliots: A Consumer’s Guide to Persuasion (in: McMaster & Stovel, eds., Jane Austen’s Business: Her World and Her Profession). Ring Brothers is the same firm from which came the beds Rev. Austen purchased for his two daughters, as well as a little writing table.

Among the furniture items listed for purchase by James Austen:

A 2-foot 10-inch Mahogany Pembroke table on casters (£1 18s)
An Oval Mahogany Card Table, lined in green cloth (£2 2s)
2 Mahogany Convenient Stools (£1 11s)
2 Mahogany beds on casters (£4 4s)
A 4-poster bed on casters (£1 18s 6d)

Household “necessities” include a Dumb waiter on casters (£2 2s)
2 Mahogany Face Screens on Claws (£1 1s)
flat irons
a twenty-gallon tub
a deal ironing-board
a nutmeg grater
and “other backstairs necessities” (costs: unspecified by Copeland)

Another day evident found James bringing home such items as:
Best Urn Topped Shovel Tongs & Poker (8s)

My favorites are the eventual “extravagances”:
a clock — “arch head’ model, with a walnut case (£7)
sopha – “with all the extras of covers, pads, pillows” (£7)

I can’t wait to delve more into the Ring Brothers’ files at HRO. Another item for my list!

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Secrets of The Vyne

April 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm (chutes of the vyne) (, , , , , )

Callie, in Montreal, who is a great traveller and soon heads to England, told me of a little video about The Vyne on the National Trust’s webpage for the estate. I post a link to the PAGE here, because I have problems viewing the video (is it security settings on my computer?) — the video “box” doesn’t even show up: it’s just blank space where, on other computers, the little “box” is. So if you can’t watch this, try what I did: Another computer (libraries might be a good place to start).

VERY interesting! They’ve a maid servant, MARY, who introduces you to the house through its masters and mistresses — including Eliza Chute (here called ‘Elizabeth’, which rather threw me off! I don’t think she’s ever called that by ANYONE!). You get to see rooms, and (especially close to my heart) some drawings done by Eliza, her sister Augusta and Miss Meen. I’m still not convinced (as the National Trust seems to be; why ARE they convinced?) that Miss Meen was their governess – but I’ve not delved into her life; not sure there is much beyond the letters and diaries (in which she is frequently mentioned, I must say, years and years later). As an artist, and one who taught Queen Charlotte and her daughters, I would think she earned money more by painting and giving lessons than being a governess. But more about thoughts on her later…

Two things picked up from this video: the pronunciation of CHUTE and SANDYS. In my head Sandys, the early owners of The Vyne, were pronounced with two syllables: San-dis. Not so! Sands… of course. And Chute? I always thought of them as Shute, in fact it seems they would have called themselves Chewt!

This video prompted me to look for others. And there is a second wonderful one on The Vyne on YouTube (pity this is not a full-length video, but I’ll take what I can get); the poster is obviously interested in the Tudors and therefore this section is highlighted by the Sandys family and their ‘Vine’; some lovely images of the Chapel – but that is the point at which the snippet ends. If anyone has the entire video and wants to share, do let me know.

I see the National Trust is offering GROUNDED tourists FREE entry to their properties! What a wonderful opportunity at such a stressful time. One friend, in Russia, was routed out of the ash’s way — which added three hours to his trip: but at least he got home!

Another, short, bit of interest to tales attached to The Vyne: I was flipping through volume two of Memoirs of a Highland Lady. Elizabeth at the end talks of giving birth to her first child, daughter Janey (named after her sister). Don’t I see something QUITE of interest as I leaf through:

“I daresay it was very good for me to try to wait upon myself, however as Mr Workman of Basingstoke, who was to attend me, was not easy about me, as he told Jane, a proper monthly nurse was sent for to town…”

Now as Elizabeth writes that he was “to attend her,” then she must mean him when she speaks of “The clever little strange Doctor” who “brought us both thro’.”

Why does this excite me? Why does this man, with no first name and who doesn’t even rate a mention in the index, leap from the page? (This index is NOT half as good as it could/should be, and this the “full” edition of the Memoirs! Lady Strachey’s edition cuts out ALL mention of him, by the way.) 

Why? Because surely the man is none other than Thomas Workman, who attended Caroline Wiggett (adopted daughter of the Chutes), and married her in September 1837! So here is a book, long in my possession, about a “Highland Lady” and she’s known TWO people in the Smith circle! Sometimes the world indeed IS a small one.

By the way, by excluding mentions of Mr Workman, Lady Strachey, as editor, also edited out that Elizabeth was in labor from Saturday the last day of June (when she “took ill”, as everyone called labor at the time) until Janey was born on 3 July. Poor woman! No wonder Elizabeth wrote of Workman saving the lives of mother and child even after her own sister seemed to give up hope of them coming through okay.

Short note: Internet Archive has Lady’s Strachey’s 1911 edition, which included several family portraits — including one of Elizabeth’s sister JANE (opposite page 318). Such an evocative portrait! (They also have the 3rd impression of the 1898 edition.)

So now I’ve more digging to do, though I would be surprised if Elizabeth’s Mr Workman and Caroline’s are two different people.

Reading about him brought me back to Caroline’s Recollections – and her wonderful memories of the Smiths, Goslings, Colebrookes and Chutes. Her thoughts on her own life are precious indeed — but I say that about all the tidbits I find about this circle of people. Caroline’s portrait (above) — done by Eliza Chute! — was snatched from the NT video (which is why it’s none too clear).

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Eliza Chute & Jane Austen in Basingstoke

January 26, 2009 at 11:08 pm (entertainment) (, , , )

A short announcement of a talk for those in the Basingstoke (Hampshire, England) area this summer:

The 2009 program of talks held at the Willis Museum will host Mrs G. Dunstan on July 16th. She speaks on “Eliza Chute, A Gentlewoman in local society in Jane Austen’s day — and after.’

All talks begin at 7:30; non-members will be asked to pay a nominal fee at the door. For the full schedule see http://uk.geocities.com/cullinghamchris/2009_programme_of_talks.htm. Mrs Dunstan is a NT steward at The Vyne.

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