Northamptonshire Past & Present

November 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm (books, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , )

“…because the Work is too hard for Women, it requires more strength than they are capable of, to raise Walls of Defence about a Lady’s Shape.” 

— Robert Campbell, The London Tradesman (1747)

regarding the fact that “stay-makers were always men”. “Stays were made of buckram, a thick, heavily stiffened, linen, difficult to cut and sew.”

The owner of the stays in this instance was Lady Langham of Cottesbrooke. On March 26, 1774, Lady Langham wrote of paying £1 16s to “Harrison” for “a pr of Stays”. The summation of Lady Langham’s London expenditures turns up in the eye-opening article by Judith Hodgkinson.

It is one article in back issues – now digitized (and continuing to add volumes) – of the journal Northamptonshire Past & Present produced by the Northamptonshire Record Society. [This particular volume is No. 62, from 2009.]

Northamptonshire Past and Present

Of course, Northamptonshire has Two Teen in the Time of Austen connections in being the location of Castle Ashby, home of the aunt and uncle of Emma Smith (later Emma Austen; and still later Emma Austen Leigh) – Lord and Lady Northampton.

I’ve even located a couple of related articles!

The first, “George London at Castle Ashby,” by the estate’s prior archivist Peter McKay. These are very early doings, indeed: 17th Century gardens. [article appears in No. 61 (2008)]

The second, also by Peter McKay, is brand new – issue 70 (not digitized; though the volume for sale) – “The Grand Tour of James, Lord Compton, 1707-1709.

The current issue also discusses such as Boughton House and Burghley House; a couple of locals – John Cope and the Rev. Henry Jephcott; as well as “Suffragettes and Suffragists in Northampton”.

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ESSENTIAL AUSTEN: Jane Austen Fashion

November 24, 2018 at 10:46 am (books, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

In two words, JANE AUSTEN FASHION is . . . a treasure! Concise and informative, its focus on Jane Austen – in comments from her letters as well as her novels – makes this little volume essential to every Austen collector.

fashion

Newly republished by Moonrise Press (Ludlow, England), author Penelope Byrde’s book on fashion is now in its second regeneration. Initially published in the 1980s as A Frivolous Distinction, it found a new lease on life in an expanded edition put out by Excellent Press in 1999. It has now been rescued from its consignment to used bookstores (if you were lucky enough to find a copy) by this paperback edition. May Moonrise Press profit from its belief in the continuing interest in this subject – fashion not only in Austen’s day but, more precisely, in Austen’s own life.

Analyzing this book, you sense just how little the average reader knows about the fashions, fabrics and even etiquette of Austen’s novels. ‘Those of her characters who … talk about it [dress] to an excessive extent are unfortunately those whose vacant minds or poor manners are underlined by this habit — women such as Miss Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey, Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Mrs Elton in Emma’ (13; my emphasis). This is not to imply that an interest in clothing was ‘unhealthy’, but to point up that Austen’s characters can be rude through the manner in which they discuss – dissect might be the better word – how their friend or relative looks. Readers delight in Catherine Morland’s musings over what to wear to her first Bath Assembly; yet, as Byrde points out, poor Marianne Dashwood is inquired of so sharply about her costumes and their cost that Miss Steele knew more of Marianne’s wardrobe than Marianne herself! Readers today might therefore see Miss Steele as inquisitive but Austen’s original readers would have known she was stepping over the bounds of propriety. Miss Steele ‘was never easy till she knew the price of every part of Marianne’s dress … and was not without hopes of finding out before they parted, how much her washing cost per week, and how much she had every year to spend upon herself’ (72; quoting S&S p. 249).

JANE AUSTEN FASHION (subtitled Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen) also proclaims the elegant characters of the novels, as portrayed through their clothing or pointed descriptions of their likes or dislikes. Along with the elegant Emma we also have young, noble Eleanor Tilney – whose proclivity for ‘white’ marks her natural elegance. Byrde calls Miss Tilney ‘perhaps the best-dressed of Jane Austen’s female characters’ (50).

Perhaps for the first time, today’s readers can imagine a piece of tamboured muslin, as in the gown Catherine Morland wears, when they are told what exactly tambouring meant: ‘The embroidery was worked on a frame with a fine hook which passed through the fabric and made a series of chain stitches. The work could be done quickly and was effective on lightweight fabrics…’ (111). Byrde can then also mention one character who employed the tambour frame, Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park.

Until her retirement in 2002, Penelope Byrde was a curator at the famed Museum of Costume in Bath. And it is with a deft hand that she presents the fashions and fabrics mentioned by Austen in her letters, and unravels the little mysteries of certain comments in the novels. She also gives an informative basic overview of the changing fashions from Austen’s girlhood through her adult years (1770s to 1817, the year of Austen’s death). After Byrde’s digression on the subject of ‘sleeves’, how clear becomes Austen’s own comment on the when-why-how of short-sleeves versus long-sleeves. ‘By 1814 long sleeves were beginning to be worn in the evening [formerly, they had been exclusive to daywear] and Jane Austen seems to have been determined to wear them herself…“I wear my gauze gown today,” she wrote in March 1814, “long sleeves & all…I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable.” But she goes on to say: “Mrs Tilson had long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this”’ (24/27). Mrs Tilson, the wife of Henry Austen’s banking partner, would have been a woman who knew the London fashions well. And it is through letters that everyone would have gotten the latest news concerning the latest fashions. This exchange shows just how typical an observer of the world Jane Austen was.

Nothing escapes Byrde’s attention; there are sections on men’s fashions; sections that look at accessories, boots and shoes, hats-caps, muffs and parasols, hair-dressing, and clothes for special occasions (weddings, mourning, livery); a useful section on the ‘making and care of clothes’; and perhaps my favorite, a look at needlework – of course an occupation not only of Austen herself, but of most of her female characters. Byrde delves therefore into so much more than mere ‘fashion’. And all from an Austen point of view. Only Chapman, in his enthusiasm for Austen’s letters (when others thought their content of little interest to anyone), could have mined the letters so well for the cost of goods and the changing tastes in fashion. It is for such evidence that historians delve into diaries and letters, and they will want to delve into this book as well. To have all such aspects in one such complete package is a blessing. There is nothing ‘frivolous’ about the topic or its treatment, and this garners JANE AUSTEN FASHION a place in the Essential Austen collection.

JA Fashion

Note that there are SEVERAL editions of this book; the first image is the paperback I own (2008); the one above shows the cover of the 2014 re-issue. It began life under the title A Frivolous Distinction. It was later expanded and has again been reissued in 2014 – Jane Austen Fashion is available from the publisher, Moonrise Press (UK), if you wish to make sure your copy is the latest fashion.

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Second Choice: Canceled Chapter, Persuasion (Jane Austen)

October 6, 2018 at 9:21 am (books, jane austen, jasna, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Having spent last weekend (Thursday thru Monday) at Kansas City, Mo, for the 200th celebration of Persuasion, of course the conversation turned from the wonderful chapter Jane Austen wrote to the chapter she canceled. I have the multi-volume set of Chapman’s third edition of the Novels and Works of Jane Austen – and knew he had included the canceled chapter in the volume dealing with Persuasion. A friend was interested in reading it.

all austen

Indeed, Chapman’s source is James Edward Austen Leigh‘s MEMOIR of Jane Austen (2nd edition).

At the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of JASNA I got to read a letter to James Edward Austen (as he was in 1828, the date of the letter), congratulating him on his engagement to Emma Smith (my diarist) [and therefore one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen]. But that is news for another post.

Clicking on the link above – or the picture of the books – will take you to Internet Archive (Archive.org), where you can find many of Chapman’s Austen volumes. I will include links on the Authentic Austen page. To me, Chapman’s volumes are just the right size, fitting comfortably in the hand and I prefer them over the large Cambridge edition of everything.

* * *

Some second thoughts myself: should you wish to read CHAPTER 9 before reading the canceled Chapter 10. The link is to volume IV of the 1818 first edition (ie, volume 2 of Persuasion). Links to ALL the first and early editions are on the Authentic Jane Austen page (above). Also included are Jane Austen Letters & the Morgan Library’s online exhibition that was formed around their holdings of Austen letters.

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I Spy: Lady M

October 4, 2018 at 8:39 pm (books, Uncategorized) (, , )

Always I am intrigued by a new book, and when this one popped onto my screen I was very interested:

Lady M

It’s not a book I’ve ordered yet, but the subject – Viscountess Melbourne (thus, the Lady M. of the title!), and the time period covered (1751 to 1818) are too tempting to stay away long. Must admit, I’m always hopeful (and usually disappointed) that I will find it locally and get to have it NOW rather than waiting for the mail.

And what a fetching cover portrait!

The subject is Elizabeth Milbanke (she was aunt to Byron’s wife Annabella Milbanke), later Lady Melbourne; watchers of the TV series Victoria will recall the young Queen Victoria calling Elizabeth’s son “Lord M.”

Read some REVIEWS:

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Boswell’s Presumptuous Task

September 4, 2018 at 9:12 pm (books, history, people) (, , , )

Being a three-day weekend, I took the opportunity to visit my favorite used bookstore, in Henniker, New Hampshire: Old Number 6 Book Depot. Check out this blog (Home Maid Simple) for TONS of photos of the shop – and you’ll see why I find it worth a three-hour drive.

I picked up a copy of Roger Pilkington’s Small Boat on the Meuse; I have many of his “Small Boat” books. This one dates to 1967, and the early volumes are the most entertaining.

Boswell_Sisman

But my “find” – which I am currently enjoying – is Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, by Adam Sisman. This is a “take” on the writer without spitting out Boswell’s words verbatim from the journals. Reading it has even made me take down my old paperback copy of the Hebrides tour by Samuel Johnson and (later) that published by Boswell himself. I especially welcome the narrow focus, pin-pointing Boswell and Johnson as well as Boswell writing about Johnson.

Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen can add to their knowledge of James Boswell by looking up my article, “Boswell’s ‘my Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s Missing Chester Journal.” This is available free on Academia.edu – where you can see other articles in the series:

  • “Uncovering the Face of Hester Wheeler”
  • “Margaret Meen: A Life in Four Letters”

For other links to useful Boswell items, see my earlier blog post.

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Royal Archives: Sense and Sensibility sale, 1811

July 24, 2018 at 9:12 am (books, british royalty, history, jasna, news) (, , , , )

As a member of the Georgian Paper Programme – a group formed around the digital project that is presenting to the world the Georgian-era holdings of the Royal Archives in Windsor, notice came about a “JANE AUSTEN FIND“!

cushion_austen

“A graduate student working in the Royal Archives… came across a previously unknown 1811 bill of sale from a London bookseller, charging the Prince Regent 15 shillings for a copy of “Sense and Sensibility,” says a New York Times article. It is (of course) entitled “Jane Austen’s First Buyer?” The date of the transaction took place “TWO DAYS before the book’s first public advertisement – making it what scholars believe to be the first documented sale of an Austen book.”

Having studied letters, like Mozart’s to the Prince Archbishop, _I_ am less critical of Austen’s dedication to the Prince Regent in her novel Emma. One showed deference in writing such during the period. And everyone was (and is) entitled to their own opinions about the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales (Prince Regent) and his brothers. This, however, IS a GREAT highlight of a very useful collection – and rather unexpected, which is what makes it a true *FIND*. The NY Times names Nicholas Foretek, a first-year Ph.D student (history, UPenn), who was researching “connections between late-18th-century political figures and the publishing world.”

“‘Debt is really great for historians,’ Mr. Foretek said, ‘It generates a lot of bills.'” I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from Foretek in upcoming years, at JASNA AGMs.

* * *

READ: Nicholas Foretek’s blog post on the discovery of Jane Austen and the Prince Regent: The Very First Purchase of an Austen Novel

WATCH: This recent Library of Congress Symposium features FOUR speakers talking about various aspects of the GPP (Georgian Papers Programme) project. (nearly 2 hours in length; includes an interesting Q&A session)

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Lord Compton’s Sicily

June 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm (books, europe, history, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

An additional link to the same exhibition and book is available on YouTube, in which the “pages” are flipped in a 10-minute-plus video. The book is Viaggio in Sicilia: Il taccuino di Spencer Compton. My original blog post from 2014 discusses a bit more the actual sketchbook and the art exhibition.

viaggio3

I recently found a link in which each drawing can be examined, for those wishing to spend a bit more time with Lord Compton, on his tour of Sicily. Click the photo, and you will be brought to the site for the Fondazioni Sicilia.

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Touching Mrs. Dalloway

May 15, 2018 at 9:23 am (books, history, jane austen, london's landscape) (, , , )

Join the London Evening Standard in a “Behind the Scenes” look at the British Library. Yes, this is where you can see Jane Austen’s writing desk (on permanent loan).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

In the midst of the article comes the question: Why they let us touch “Mrs. Dalloway” (Woolf’s manuscript) without gloves?

I hate to say, but Have you ever LOOKED at the gloves typically handed out to handle materials? Rather disgustingly DIRTY! And, big. (I have neither small nor large hands).

Clean, dry hands is key.

In the article, not only is “Mrs. Dalloway” discussed, but also the “scary literary dungeons” – those areas DEEP in the bowels (six stories below!) of the facility – where manuscripts are kept in “special chambers filled with nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon.”

A rotating exhibition of “treasures” from the vault gives even frequent visitors to the British Library something *new* to see.

[I confess, I cannot see where there is a video, of the curators; I only see “today’s headlines and highlights”, but perhaps a different browser would help]

“Experience a sense of history,” says one curator; and that indeed is a well-expressed summation. To touch, to read, to digest the information culled from a manuscript (like the letters, diaries, and drawings I work from) is “to experience” in the highest sense of the phrase.

Click on Jane’s eyes to Look Behind the Scenes. And, if you’re heading to London (or lucky enough to BE in London), check out the Standard’s “London’s prettiest and most Instagrammable BOOKSHOPS” article for some “treasures” you can bring home.

(I think my favorite to seek out next time is the Dutch barge bookshop, Word on the Watermoored on Regent’s Canal.)

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Selina, Lady Heathcote

March 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm (books, diaries, estates, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , )

A couple of weeks ago I got a used copy (and so reasonably priced that the shipping was only a few pounds less than the book) of The Diary of Selina, Lady Heathcote, January 1841-June 1849.

This is a slim hard-bound book, but it packs a pleasing wallop. It opens with a short introduction, with portraits of both Selina (née Shirley) and Sir William Heathcote.

diary.jpg

William was a boyhood friend of James Edward Austen (my diarist Emma Smith’s eventual husband); they remained life-long friends – and the Austen Leighs (the ‘Leigh’ named added after the death of Edward’s great aunt, Mrs. Leigh Perrot) and their inherited estate Scarlets DO APPEAR in Selina’s diary!

An especially wonderful photograph: Selina’s open diary! Considering how “little” text takes up a manuscript page, the physical size of the diary must be about the size of those I’ve dealt with — which is as tall and as wide as the size of my hand. But the LOCK is, in comparison, SO stout!!

It was published in 1984 by IBM, which has a Hursley connection. Hursley was the Heathcote estate, and the book has a picture of that too. So it’s pleasingly illustrated, including maps showing trips the pair took.

For me, the shock was to read of the consistent ill-health of Sir William. He was older than his young second wife. He had children by his first wife, a daughter of Lord Arden – so related to the Northamptons, Lord Arden being the elder brother of Spencer Perceval, MP. So a couple of connection with my research! I’ve even seen letters (both before and after marriage) by Helena Perceval (also known as Helena Trench) (“French” in the book is a mis-transcription), who also appears in Selina’s diary, as does her daughter Maria.

William Heathcote’s mother was Elizabeth Bigg, who with her sisters – especially Althea Bigg – were great friends to Jane Austen. Mrs. Heathcote was widowed early; Althea Bigg never married. Both appear in Selina Heathcote’s diary. It was their brother, Harris Bigg-Wither (only the sons of the family took the ‘Wither’ name in addition to Bigg), who proposed to Jane Austen – who “famous” rescinded her acceptance after much thought.

Click the photo of the book cover to be whisked away to “The History of Hursley Park,” and see what Dave Key will tell you about the potential visit by Lady Heathcote to “Stratfield Saye [home of the Duke of Wellington] to meet the Queen & Prince Albert.”

EXTRAS:

 

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Food for Thought

March 11, 2018 at 9:52 am (books, research) (, , )

In A Guide to Documentary Editing (an online source!), by Mary-Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue, a chapter concerns “Transcribing the Source Text”. With few exceptions, I have done all transcribing myself — from tiny diaries the size of my hand to letters crossed so densely that deciphering became a real struggle.

As you might imagine, work done in the spring months of 2007 – working at the Archives (mainly, the Hampshire Record Office) with the actual documents – all the names and places were new; and Emma’s diaries (for example) mention a literal “community” of so many different people. A true “cast of thousands”.

But the one thing I’ve always been quite decided on: transcribe what you see. So I include crossings out as word(s) crossed out, insertions with an indication of what words were inserted; and I keep track of the organization on the page: be it paragraphing, pagination, crossed sections or additional correspondents on the same letter.

Obviously, I’ve gotten to know the “players” far better than I did then (ie, ten years ago).

So well do I know the main cast of characters, when someone once contacted me about a letter written to “Dear Ivy” I _really_ had no clue who the recipient might be. The letter existed only in transcription, and that done many years before, no access to the original letter by the transcriber (never mind me).

Only when another letter turned up, by which time, having read the contents, did the shoe drop: Ivy was actually Liz – which WAS a known person: Lady Elizabeth Compton. But, not knowing the people, the transcriber took the descending stroke of the last letter as a ‘y’ and the rest morphed into Ivy.

Another letter carries a similar story. This one WAS present in manuscript, but the name of the signature had been guessed at. The moment I saw the signature, the name told me exactly who it was: The woman who wished (with all her heart) that Maria Smith would consent to the marriage proposal of the woman’s son. (Which she did NOT do.)

And names are probably the HARDEST part of transcribing. A word, even if misspelled in the original, can be puzzled out; a name … unless you can track it down, an unknown name remains the longest with a question mark next to it.

signature_mary austen

So what REALLY grabbed my attention in “Documentary Editing” was the following section, before which was a discussion of keeping track of how the transcription is to be accomplished so that all transcribers do the work with the same constructs in place:

Theoretical as well as practical considerations argue for a careful record of transcription methods. Even solo editors responsible for their own transcribing are well advised to keep such a log, for transcribing sources is a learning process. As the editor-transcriber moves through the collection, he or she will inevitably learn to recognize meaning in patterns of inscription that earlier seemed meaningless or baffling. Only by keeping track of their hard-won knowledge of what matters and how it is to be translated can editors hope to be consistent or accurate. Drawing on her experience as the editor of Mary Shelley’s letters, Betty T. Bennett has suggested that “the transcription of the letters by the editor” be considered a “requisite standard” for all editors of correspondence. She points out that “the act of transcribing the letters may be one of the most valuable tools the editor has for reviewing the subject. In transcribing word after word, one comes as close to the act of writing the letters as possible and can consider words as they unfold into a thought” (“The Editor of Letters as Critic: A Denial of Blameless Neutrality,” 217).

That last section REALLY speaks to me! I’ve long said I prefer to _do_ the transcribing (which means a literal backlog of diaries and letters to do), but what a poetic way to think: that in transcribing one is close to “the act of writing the letters”.

Must admit, I’ve usually had thoughts (especially in those I struggled to decipher) more along the lines of how did they read this letter; must have been a sunny day… Or they handed it off to someone with good eyesight!

I’m luckier than most, as only in the diaries of Charles Joshua Smith (Emma’s brother, Mary’s husband) have I come across erratic spelling, contracted names and general words. Thankfully, I had just transcribed his wife’s diaries – so I had learned a lot about the family, their business, their concerns, their friends and neighbors.

mary_emma_entry

Mary Smith’s neat hand

Otherwise, letters carry the usual: would, could, should, with the first letter and a superscripted (often underlined) ending ‘d’; dear often followed the same rule. Xtian for Christian. You get the drift.

One thing that struck me, back in 2007: the usage by this English family of what I (an American) would think of as “American” spelling: neighbor rather than neighbour, for instance. But the speller and the auto-correct were not fans of words like ‘chearful’ (I got into the habit of [sic] just in case the auto-correction wasn’t caught AND it told me NOT to correct it, when I later read thru the text).

This chapter, “Documentary Editing,” also mentions something of interest to Jane Austen and her editor R.W. Chapman: “For a compelling discussion of the need to remember the effect of punctuation on oral patterns, see Kathryn Sutherland’s review of Chapman’s editions of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.” This followed a section on being attentive to prior-century usage, words, phrasing, creative spellings, etc. and the need NOT to “correct” what may in fact NOT be a “mistake.” [If I find more on Sutherland’s ‘review’, I’ll put up a link.]

 

 

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