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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Book Bindings: the Edwardses of Halifax

September 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm (books, history, research) (, , )


To piggyback on my previous blog post (on the Electronic British Library Journal), I spent last night reading this FASCINATING account of book binding in the (mainly) eighteenth century. I felt a bit at a loss, not SEEING the book bindings and having little idea, for I lack the grasp on the terminology the author assumes, but that makes _me_ want to seek out more information and give it another read. How I’ve love to see their vellum technique, especially. And the book described that was made for Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire sounds exquisite!  I’ll update this post as I find pertinent links to either images or book binding terms. Or: if YOU know of some, let me know!


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Electronic British Library Journal

September 15, 2015 at 3:58 pm (research) (, )

In seeking information on a new book just coming out from the University of Toronto Press – The Edwardses of Halifax: The making and selling of beautiful books in London and Halifax, 1749-1826, by G.E. Bentley, Jr. – I stumbled upon this very apropos article in the British Library Journal. That find opened up an entire WORLD of journal articles, from 1975 to today!


“The eBLJ is the journal of scholarly research into the contents and history of the British Library and its collections. It is the successor to the British Library Journal, which appeared in twenty-five volumes between 1975 and 1999. Its purpose is to advance knowledge of the British Library’s collections by demonstrating their wealth and the ways in which they are used by researchers. It is available free to all users of our website.”

As you might guess, eBLJ is wide-ranging in topic as well as time-period. You can search by year or author; pity there is no subject or “search” capability. So much information, given the amount of publishing they’ve done! You can, however, put the journal title AND a search term (I used ‘austen’) into a search engine and see what comes up. (After all, that was how I found the Edwards article in the first place!) This won’t necessarily give you an article on (for instance) Austen, but finds all instances of your search term(s) within articles. The first on the list for ‘austen’ was a 2006 article entitled LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (by Morna Daniels), which “hit” because of a mention of Northanger Abbey and “Gothic romances”.

A second “hit” was an article (from 2014) by Christina Duffy (THE DISCOVERY OF A WATERMARK ON THE ST CUTHBERT GOSPEL…), which cites Jane Austen’s letters in the Morgan Library as being a large deposit which has recorded watermarks.

Another “hit” – which was a mistake (for the publication location AUSTIN, cited within the article) – was Miles Johnson and A.D. Harvey’s POLITICAL VERSE IN LATE GEORGIAN BRITAIN: POEMS REFERRING TO WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (1759-1806) [2004].

Goes to show, though that a “search” is possible and the plethora of material covered in the journal articles. Happy hunting!


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Jane Austen Book Raffle

March 6, 2011 at 11:00 am (books, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Time to post a bit of a *PLUG* for the giveaway:

One lucky winner will be gifted with this SIGNED copy of the delightful Life in the Country. Let’s take a quick look inside!

A little history, as my Emma would say, of the book:

This copy came direct from the U.K. (purchased by a friend). I brought it with me to the 2009 JASNA AGM in Philadelphia. Joan Ray, who spoke in Vermont in September of that year, had already signed the book. In Philadelphia, I tracked down Maggie Lane after her AGM presentation (I also wanted to see if she had heard of the Goslings, as a banking firm; unfortunately, she was unfamiliar with them). Freydis Welland, who is the daughther of Joan Austen-Leigh, I sought out because I wanted to meet her — she’s my Emma’s family, after all! Freydis and her sister were most kind in their remarks about my research, and Freydis consented to sign the copy of this book. Thus, only Eileen Sutherland is missing in this line-up.

The essays, like the one pictured — “Jane Austen and her Family” (Maggie Lane’s contribution) — make for a nice read. The bulk of the book are made up of wonderful silhouettes cut by my James Edward Austen Leigh!

My online review of the book has this to say about Life in the Country: “Most reviews of Life in the Country focus on its Jane Austen connection; while her name will create media coverage and open consumer wallets, it is the silhouettes themselves that will keep this book at hand. Although noted a bit late, there is acknowledgement at the back that virtually all the silhouettes are presented in their original size. The level of intricacy, especially in the more complicated scenery pieces, is astounding and the skill necessary to have produced them freehand is truly amazing.”

To read the entire review, see Jane Austen in Vermont (the JASNA-Vermont blog):

The Jane Austen Raffle is simple and costs only $1:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Book Raffle: Life in the Country (autographed)

February 2, 2011 at 1:35 am (books, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

To Celebrate the birthdays of
Mary Gosling and Charles Joshua Smith,
Two Teens in the Time of Austen
announces its first book raffle.
The gift that’s up for grabs?
An autographed copy of the British Library edition of

 Life in the Country: with Quotations by Jane Austen
& Silhouettes by her nephew
James Edward Austen Leigh

**This copy is signed by Joan Klingel Ray, Maggie Lane and Freydis Jane Welland**

**This copy is signed by Joan Klingel Ray, Maggie Lane and Freydis Jane Welland**

Edited by Freydis Jane Welland and Eileen Sutherland, book contents include:

“Jane Austen and Her Family”
Maggie Lane

“The Silhouette Art of James Edward Austen Leigh”
Joan Klingel Ray

James Edward Austen Leigh

Jane Austen

 with an afterword by Joan Austen Leigh

— To enter —

Read the rest of this entry »

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Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

November 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm (news) (, , , , , )

Today unveils the Digital Archive of Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts:

This features manuscripts from the Juvenilia, unfinished novels, cancelled Persuasion chapters and such like; formerly found online, the History of England, though you see Cassandra’s pictures on this website, you will still find online at the British Library. (I love their presentation!)

Check out the website at:

How about such a site with all the FAMILY letters… now that would be something to have digitalized!

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A little birdie told me

September 12, 2009 at 12:18 am (books) (, , , , , )

After a bit of a search, a dear friend in Britain has come across one of the British Library’s Austen items — the Jane Austen Desk Diary — and our two figures have been identified!


The disappointing part is that, while profusely illustrated (with silhouettes by JEAL [James Edward Austen Leigh] as well as BL illustrations), there are no other people-silhouettes in the book [mentally insert a sad face here…].  See my previous post for some theories and hypotheses.

So who, according to my dickie bird, are these people?? The man – who I thought just might be Edward Austen Knight (Jane’s brother who was ‘adopted’ when a youth) – turns out to be James Edward Austen-Leigh! From the pictures I have of him – a couple paintings and one photograph taken in old age, I simply would not have guessed it was him.

And the girl I had so hoped was Emma’s sister Fanny?? Seems this is a silhouette of Caroline Wiggett, the adopted daughter of the Chutes of The Vyne! I kept thinking ‘no way!’ all day – but looking at my cache of pics just now I see that the silhouette I recalled in my mind’s eye and thought was a young Caroline Wiggett is actually of Caroline Austen (JEAL’s sister). No wonder they look nothing alike!

So mystery solved, as far as published pictures of the family goes. What the Austen-Leighs of today may have in their possession (and which may have been thought not as interesting as the silhouettes Edward cut for his children) remains to be seen (literally and figuratively). Evidently the British Library did not try to attribute the silhouettes to anyone. Could they possibly be the work of Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta?? I would LOVE to think that!

In Emma’s diaries there are MANY mentions of Augusta’s ‘shades’; she evidently was quite the adept at producing good likenesses. From Caroline’s “Reminiscences” (not published, but available in manuscript copy at the Hampshire Record Office), Augusta and Caroline were fast friends. Nice to believe, therefore, that the threesome were occupied one quiet evening, perhaps while everyone visited The Vyne, in creating what has come down to us via this lovely cover art.

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Freydis’ Family??

February 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm (portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

austen-desk-diary1Freydis Welland, daughter of Joan Austen-Leigh, published silhouettes cut by James-Edward Austen-Leigh in the book Life in the Country. Now comes some Austen journals, diaries from The British Library – but WHO are the silhouettes found on the covers???

Set for publication in mid-2009, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The woman does not match that of Emma Austen-Leigh, for Joan included a silhouette described as Emma’s in her Persuasions article “My Aunt, Jane Austen” (nabbed from that site, it’s posted below).

I have always known I would have to contact the family — seeing Edward’s drawing of Stoneleigh Abbey, which was done during his 1833 tour taken with Emma and her family (the basis for my article in the upcoming issue of Persuasions [July 2009: this article is available online at]) included in Life in the Country, convinced me yet again of that task this past fall. But seeing these silhouettes!

emma-smith_silhouette1Once the camera came into being, there would have been little need to create silhouettes, so surely Edward and his sisters-in-law practiced making shades of family and friends during the 1820s and 30s, when all the siblings were together and the children were young.

And if the silhouettes are identified….Oh, happy day indeed!!

It is difficult not to wonder, Could the above show Fanny Seymour? Why her?? — There is something reminiscent of a portrait of her by Augusta, which I found in the collections at HRO in Winchester.

The man doesn’t look like a Smith — they all seem to have had quite prominent noses!


 (“Emma Smith,” from Joan Austen-Leigh’s Persuasions article)

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Eliza Chute in Silhouette

October 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm (chutes of the vyne, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

A busy weekend; have one article in the proof stage and another that needed some revision (and got a bit expanded — all to its benefit, if I say so myself). Last night I was so wide awake that I pulled out the newest book to land in my mailbox: A Life in the Country (British Library, 2008). This may have Jane Austen quotes, but I wanted it for the silhouettes done by James-Edward Austen-Leigh! So what a couple superb bonuses… an intriguing painting of Edward in the days near his marriage to Emma. The cleft chin is depicted but why does his hair seem a bit thinning? (As an older man he had quite the full head of hair, as one photograph attests.) For the first time I see a portrait of Emma and Edward’s daughter, Mary Augusta – who authored the memoir of JEAL that comes in handy to anyone looking into the lives of the Smith sisters; and a lovely silhouette of a young Caroline Austen, Edward’s sister.

But it is ELIZA and WILLIAM CHUTE which interested me, and, as I discuss Eliza quite a bit (and have so much more to say about her) I include here this lovely silhouette.

I will have more to say about the book (the British Library was kind enough to send a review copy), though probably on Jane Austen in Vermont’s blog. I will just say that it is wonderful to see it in a so-called trade edition, for I could never had afforded the limited edition copy. But JASNA-News ran a nice review of that when it first came out in 2005.

BTW, poor Edward deserves a bit more of the credit, don’t you think?? Yet it’s JANE AUSTEN’s name that sells a book nowadays… Hope we can change that. For the Austen-Leighs are fascinating, as are the Smiths and Goslings and all the in-laws — as can be seen from the comment on the Le Marchants! They all lead such ordinarily extraordinary lives.

Thank God people saw fit to save their portraits, letters, diaries and ephemera!

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