Marianne’s Square Piano

May 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2010, I wrote on film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, specifically asking (and noting) how various films treated Marianne Dashwood’s pianoforte. It has always bothered me that I scoffed at the idea of the piano being moved from Norland Park (the Dashwood estate now in the hands of their half-brother) to Barton Cottage by water. How could something so delicate (in my mind) be subjected to (perhaps!) a watery grave?

A new-to-me book, Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano, by Madeline Goold, brings home just how ingeniously-constructed these early pianos were. She purchased at auction an 1807 Broadwood “box” piano. This probably was the type of pianoforte the Goslings sisters first learned to play. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this Beechey portrait (below), identified as the Coventry Sisters, is VERY like the description of the Beechey portrait (still “missing”) of Elizabeth and Mary Gosling.

(You should also read the post, “Elations and Disappointments“…)

Early Music

(the periodical “Early Music” on JSTOR)

The piano, though, is what we want to pay attention to in this portrait. And that brings me back to Goold’s pianoforte. When she first found it – in “complete” condition (unlike one that was a hollow shell, latterly used for chickens!) – its legs were laying beside the keyboard’s “box. I certainly NEVER thought, when contemplating the removal of Marianne Dashwood’s piano, about disassembling it to the point of removing its legs, packing it in a deal box (a “box” within a box, if you will), thereby making it not only portable, but highly stable. Can’t tip over if it isn’t standing upon its legs, can it?

Goold’s book (which isn’t new – published in 2009) highlights the fascinating history of her auction purchase, and how she put together that history. I, too, have wished for a bit more of the backstory (even as an appendix) concerning the two-year restoration her Broadwood No. 10651 incurred. Goold’s story of the almost-accidental discovery of the pianoforte, in the early chapters, really spoke to me; so many of us would have loved to have made a similar discovery.

(I, alas, do not play…)

In March, 2017, I attended an Austen symposium at SUNY Plattsburgh, a Bicentenary Celebration of Art, Music, Austen. This was a wonderful gathering. Small and intimate, presenters made up a good deal of the audience. A FABULOUS mini-concert by mezzo Meagan Martin (with pianist Douglas Sumi) which presented her commissioned piece, “Marianne Dashwood: Songs of Love and Misery”. The weekend ended with an optional tour through Plattsburgh’s Kent-Delord House – and there, against the wall in one room, was their box (or square) piano. Alas! the vagaries of too many winters & summers had been quite unkind to it. Our docent pronounced it unplayable. Which was not to be the case with Goold’s auction find!

A sad fate for so many; a happy fate for too few – such as the Broadwood No. 10651.

The book includes information on the Broadwood business (the glimpse into their sales books is highly interesting), as well as the titular “Mr. Langshaw,” a piano teacher in the north of England who helped supply pianos to his students.

* * *

UPDATE: The blog Prinny’s Taylor posted in 2011 the “Adventures of a Pianoforte” which discusses (with pictures!) a restored 1809 Broadwood GRAND piano affiliated with author Charles Bazalgette’s ancestor, Louis Bazalgette. A fascinating use of the old ledgers of the Broadwood business. The Bazalgettes were especially active in having their piano moved and tuned. I must admit that I never _thought_ about WHO was tuning the pianos in the Smith and Gosling family. They make mention only a couple of times; but I’ve never thought about following such a lead – and wouldn’t have without Charles’ post.

 

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FREE Jane Austen course (online)

April 10, 2018 at 9:00 am (jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

A Facebook group I belong to, British History, Georgian Lives, had a link to a Jane Austen course, offered through the University of Southampton. Gillian Dow (a familiar name to JASNA members) and Kim Simpson are those guiding the course.

The course is set to start on April 23rd (though there IS a link that asks “Date to be Announced – Email me when I can join”). The course is called, Jane Austen: Myth, Reality, and Global Celebrity.

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The “Free” offers access to the course for four weeks (the length of the course plus fourteen days); a $49 (£32) upgrade offers unlimited access to materials – and a certificate at the end. Course duration is two weeks, three hours per week.

Click “Jane” to join!

(Or, just explore the course website….)

You can register via a Facebook log-in or a dedicated log-in. When I joined 922 were already in discussion about themselves! Offered through FutureLearn. A basic knowledge of Austen’s novels is suggested.

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Pride & Prejudice Austen Feast

March 16, 2018 at 12:18 pm (books, jane austen) (, , , )

Devoney Looser on visiting the Margaret Herrick Library, in Beverly Hills is a MUST-READ for those who LOVE (or love to hate) the Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier 1940 MGM film Pride and Prejudice.

I must admit, I’m a Greer Garson fan (she made some great films), and look past the fact that she and Elizabeth Bennet are farther apart in age than they should be. (Rather like overlooking her off-screen amour with her on-screen son from Mrs. Miniver.) I find Garson far more “charming” than a certain 1990s Elizabeth.

And who, after Rebecca, wouldn’t desire an Olivier-Darcy?

So I look past a lot (though haven’t seen the film in a few years; and that, I think, might have been watched via Archive.org).

But: back to Devoney Looser’s blog post.

It’s like a breadth from “Old Hollywood”! Especially when she’s describing the photographic stills. Had SUCH a laugh over the idea of someone masking a putto’s nakedness from the cameras! (Putto, the singular of Putti.)

Greer Garson

As to the LOVE of British actors for their tea — heard that one already from Susan Hampshire, when filming The Pallisers. Those damned big dresses get in the way when the tea passes through…

I must admit, I diverge a bit from Devoney’s thinking towards the end of her post, knowing how much TV and films are constantly “echoing” the last blockbuster or climbing aboard the current bandwagon. Lately, Primetime Game Shows, Superheroes, and lots of “extraordinary” doctors and sleuths (everybody’s got superior intelligence nowadays). Back then, it was the Cowboys and the Comedies. BUT: it’s also the era of British-literary films that made it BIG here in the States like David Copperfield (1935).

So I don’t think it so much the audiences who required some impetus for attending Pride and Prejudice (and the stage play would have helped make an audience – both for a film AND for the original novel).

pp_colin keith johnston

I think the heads of Hollywood wanted a sure-fire hit by producing the same they were used to producing, wanted a little of this and a bit of that to liven up a book they might never have read.

Let’s face it: some screen writers probably never READ Austen, and were not up to the task (and why their efforts were deep-sixed).

On a personal level, having been in Devoney’s shoes – though, with the exception of the Morgan, we’re walking into different libraries – I loved reading about the “wonderment” she experienced during her bus-trip and her entrance into the Herrick.

The post, of course, advertises her recent book, The Making of Jane Austen.

THANKS to the Facebook group “British History Georgian Lives” post by Alan Taylor, which alerted me to the Devoney Looser blog post.

EXTRAS:

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JASNA AGM on “Persuasion”

January 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

For those who are JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) members, and those have been thinking about becoming members, information for the Breakout Sessions is now up on the Annual General Meeting website. This year’s conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the end of September (2018).

Some exciting and engaging papers!

The AGM’s title is “200 Years of Constancy and Hope

persuasion

The themes that caught my eye:

  • “Jane Austen worked on Persuasion from August 1815 to August 1816, while she was also closely concerned with the publication and reception of Emma.” [Juliette Wells]
  • “The cancelled final chapters of Persuasion offer a glimpse of Austen transforming her own work.” [Marcia Folsom]
  • “Jane Austen’s chosen settings of the Cobb at Lyme, with the seaside and fossils, and the city of Bath… provide an underlying sense of hope and rebirth.” [Randi Pahlau]
  • “Naval portraiture both as personal mementos and markers of collective social identity.” [Moriah Webster]
  • “Although a family’s wealth generally belonged to men, the task of managing that money often fell to women.” [Linda Zionkowski]
  • “Austen’s descriptions of the Musgroves’ ancestral portraits and new furniture… allude to the era’s changing aesthetics in furnishings and clothing styles.” [Kristen Zohn]
  • “Anne Elliot struggles to believe herself deserving ….” [Mary Ellen Bertolini]

and many more!

It’s always a *thrill* to anticipate the next Annual General Meeting – Fresh thoughts on favorite novels.

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Add Jane Austen, and Ka-ching

January 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm (books, jane austen, people) (, , )

Over the weekend, looking for books once owned by Lady Frances Compton – the sister of the 1st Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s uncle), I found SEVERAL booksellers who added the JANE AUSTEN name to their posts. My Question is: WHY??

bookplate_Lady Frances

Here is Lady Frances’ bookplate. She was the daughter of an earl, and a formidable woman by the time I meet her, in the 1790s. She lived much of her early and later years in Switzerland. The early years, because her father had settled there after spending a fortune in trying to secure a parliamentary seat. The later years, it was obvious that she loved her Swiss surroundings.

I have never seen proof of any relationship between the sister of Mrs. Chute of The Vine, i.e., Lady Northampton herself, with the Austens. Her sister-in-law is even one remove farther away. So it was with EXTREME interest that I read some of these books descriptions . . . and prices.

On the low scale, of rhetoric as well as price, is an offer by Between the Covers, Rare Books, Inc:

  • Robert Bloomfield, Wildflowers; or, Pastoral and Local Poetry (1806)

“First edition. Contemporary speckled calf ruled, and spine heavily gilt. Spine rubbed, and some loss of leather at the corners, a handsome very good copy. Engraved bookplate of Lady Frances Compton on the front pastedown. Lady Frances was a friend of the Austen family and frequently visited and dined with them.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this volume: $375

Another seller, selling an 1812 copy, without any ‘Austen’ mention is selling it for $120.

At the opposite end of the scale, with some of the most explosive, out-on-a-limb speculations, is this on offer by Arroyo Seco Books:

  • Antony Ashley Cooper [3rd Earl Shaftsbury], Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, with a Collection of Letters, 3 vols. (1790)

“Basil [Basel]: J J Tourneisen / J L Legrand, 1790. Reprint . Speckled Calf / Boards. Very Good +. 8 1/2″ Tall. (Viii), 414; (Vi), 367; (Viii), 340, + Long Index To All Volumes At End. Published 1790. Original Or Very Early Spotted Calf, 6 Spine Compartments With Two Morocco Labels On Each Volume, Gilt Decorations And Borders On Spine, Over Marbled Paper Covered Boards, Spotted Calf Tips, Light Blue Endpapers. Lightly Used, Single 1/8″ Deep X 3/16” Long Chip At Top Of Spines Of Vols 2 And 3, Hinges Solid. Bookplates Of Lady Frances Compton; She Is Noted As A Visitor To The Household By Jane Austen’s Father In The Early 1790’S. An Interesting Association As There Is Speculation That Jane Austen Used Shaftesbury As A Source For Her Ideas Of Morality. Although There Is No Evidence That Austen Had Access To A Copy Of Shaftesbury, It Is Possible That She Discussed The Ideas With Lady Compton, Or Even That This Particular Set Was Made Accesible To Her.” [my emphasis]

The asking price for this set: $2,000

Although not quite as handsome along the spine, another 3-volume set currently for sale, without the Austen wishful thinking, is selling for $175.

signature_lady frances compton

What _I_ would dearly love to hear is, When Lady Frances dined with the Austens, and Where she sat down with Jane Austen to discuss ideas

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!

Ivanhoe

But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.

cushion_austen

a Jane Austen pillow

 

Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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A Jane Austen Birthday Present

December 16, 2017 at 11:04 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Every December, on Jane Austen’s Birthday (December 16th), JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America, celebrates by publishing their digital periodical, Persuasions On-Line. This a free to view periodical of scholarship centering on Austen, her novels, her life, her family.

I’m really thrilled to see an article on the “The Sitting with Jane Art Trail, Celebrating Jane Austen, Basingstoke, and Literary Tourism,” by Misty Krueger. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will recall a brief post I called “Jane Austen BookBenches“.

Dancing with Jane

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra AustenOther articles, some culled from the recent AGM (Annual General Meeting) in Huntington Beach, California, that caught my eye include:

  • “Persuasion: Why the Revised Ending Works so Well,” by Paul Wray
  • “‘My Fanny’ and ‘A Heroine Whom No One but Myself Will Much Like’: Jane Austen and Her Heroines in the Chawton Novels,” by Gillian Dooley
  • “‘I Have Unpacked the Gloves’: Accessories and the Austen Sisters,” by Sara Tavela
  • “Jane Austen’s Early Death in the Context of Austen Family Mortality,” by Christopher O’Brien
  • “The Immortality of Sense and Sensibility: Margaret’s Tree House, Edward’s Handkerchief, Marianne’s Rescue,” by Susan Allen Ford

There’s even a “Conversation with Whit Stillman,” who joined us at Huntington Beach for an evening that included discussion of his film Love & Friendship (based on Austen’s “Lady Susan”), which then played for the assembled audience.

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Portraits: Captain & Mrs Hawker

November 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

It was with GREAT surprise that I came across miniature portraits of Captain Edward Hawker and his wife (perhaps at the time, fiancée?) Joanna Naomi Poore.

Why do the young Hawkers concern us at Two Teens in the Time of Austen? Mainly, because Edward Hawker was the uncle of Fanny Smith’s husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour (son of Sir Michael Seymour and Jane Hawker.)

Therefore, Edward was also the uncle of Spencer Smith’s wife Frances Seymour; Maria Smith’s husband the Rev. Sir John Hobart Culme-Seymour; and Arthur Currie’s second wife Dora Seymour (the widowed Mrs. Chester).

In addition to Jane Hawker, another sister of Edward’s was Dorothea Hawker – who married Dr. William Knighton — another frequent name on this website, thanks to Charlotte Frost’s biography, Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician, the text of which she is offering “free” on her website Sir William Knighton.

Edward Hawker

Captain Edward Hawker has a fascinating naval history, including time spent in Bermuda, where he knew Captain Charles AustenJane Austen‘s youngest brother.

As you can see from the “detail” of the miniature, Edward is pictured in his naval uniform. No doubt one reason why the pair sold for £1700 (after an estimate – for the two – of £100 to £150).

What excites me is that his wife’s portrait is still paired with his!

Joanna Poore

Isn’t Joanna Poore a little treasure! If you click on her image, you will be taken to a site that deals with past auctions (The Saleroom), but you can also find information on them from Dominic Winter, the auction house, by clicking the next link.

The sale took place March 2, 2017; the Hawkers were Lot 231.

They now join the other “Family Portraits” that you can peruse – From Emma and Mary, down to aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, & siblings.

As readers know: I’d love to hear from anyone with further images — or family letters and diaries!!

 

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Visiting 11 Jane Austen Locations

October 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, travel) (, , )

My surprise came from seeing among the “11 Jane Austen Locations in the U.K. to Visit on Your Next Reading-Inspired Adventure” (a 2015 article) the one large estate most closely related to my Smith & Gosling research: Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire.

Castle Ashby was (and still is) the seat of the Marquess of Northampton. In Emma Austen’s youth this was “Uncle Northampton,” the 9th Earl and 1st Marquess of Northampton; the title then devolved to Emma’s cousin (the 1st Marquess’ only son), Spencer Compton – who usually appears in these blog posts under the title he carried while his father was still alive, Lord Compton. Compton married Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Both of them pop up in many Two Teens in the Time of Austen posts.

I visited the archives at Ashby in 2014, and (of course) have many of Emma’s “Castle Ashby” impressions and stories at my finger tips.

The Castle Ashby Gardens are open to the public, but the house is a private residence. So why include it on a to-do list of houses to visit for Jane Austen fans? Its appearance in an issue of Country Life holds the key.

Mansfield Park

Some sites, like Plymouth’s Saltram House, are on the list because of films.

The Jane Austen Center in Bath is a given, as one of the few “museums” dedicated to the author; ditto the Jane Austen’s House Museum and its neighbor Chawton House.

Stoneleigh Abbey has a “Leigh” family connection (the “Leigh” of the Leigh-Perrots, Mrs. Austen’s brother and sister-in-law), which Stoneleigh exploits quite a bit in tourist advertising and tours. Mrs. Austen’s letter home chatters on in great detail about the Austen visit to Stoneleigh in 1806.

  • NB: Leigh family papers at the Huntington Library (California) is completely online, in a very useful digital collection.

Also on Emma Oulton’s “11 Jane Austen sites” list (of course) is Austen’s grave, inside Winchester Cathedral.

Some sites come straight from the books: Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) mentions “the Island”, which to her indicates the Isle of Wight (much as Emma Austen and Lady Smith call London “Town”). Emma Woodhouse (Emma) visits Box Hill – a “vista” that a kind friend drove me to experience for myself in October 2016. Also on the list, Gretna Green – although Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) did not cross the border into Scotland, but remained (unmarried…) somewhere in London.

Then, the realm of “inspiration” and Oulton’s “must visit” list takes a bit of an unexpected turn: Tintern Abbey for its gothic inspiration. Chatsworth more for its supposed “Pemberley” inspiration than its film location persona. And this is where and how CASTLE ASHBY appears. All thanks to a Country Life article that got picked up by The Telegraph in 2015.

Ashby’s archivist had mentioned to me in 2014 that some Jane Austen scholar had “a theory about Ashby,” but it wasn’t until The Telegraph article got emailed that I tracked down the origin article. Relooking for this blog post, I found one blogger’s thoughts to be RIGHT ON target when it comes to writing and what could be behind any writer’s “inspiration”.

Mansfield Park2

Margaret C. Sullivan’sWill Jane Austen’s Real Inspiration Please Stand Up” specifically addresses issues concerning a writer’s “inspiration” and, obliquely, the theory Dr. Robert Clark (University of East Anglia) had set in motion.

Clark’s rationale is the genealogy of “Uncle Northampton” and Spencer Perceval, the member for Northampton who became Prime Minister and who has gone down in history as the only British Prime Minister assassinated while in office.

The Percevals (Spencer and his elder brother Lord Arden) were cousins of Lord Northampton. Lady Northampton (Emma’s aunt) was the eldest sister of Eliza Chute of The Vine; the Chutes were neighbors of the Austens – ergo: six degrees of separation and Jane Austen’s “inspiration” for Mansfield Park (the estate) was (fanfare, please: ta-da!) Castle Ashby.

You are invited to seek out Clark’s Country Life article (I do have an emailable PDF, if you’re really desperate; contact info under “About the Author” link); the Telegraph article can be found online (see next link).

But, first, several of Sullivan’s blog post thoughts:

  • “When I saw this article in the Telegraph …, I rolled my eyes a bit and prepared myself for silliness. We’ve had so much of this sort of thing: the Real Mr. Darcy, the Real Pemberley, etc., and it’s becoming tiresome…”
  • “I think it’s rare for writers, especially writers of Jane Austen’s genius, to be so literal about their inspiration…. Writers get inspiration from all over—the littlest thing to the biggest— … used however we need them to fit the plot.”
  • “tiresome … when five thousand Internet listicle sites pick it up like Moses brought it down from the mountain, and all our well-meaning friends send us links saying, ‘DID YOU SEE THIS?'”

I invite you to read Sullivan’s post in its entirety, for she makes some excellent points about Austen and Mansfield Park.

[By the way, Cottesbrook – which you’ll see in the comments section, is ALSO related to the Smiths & Goslings – home of the Langham family, relations of Elizabeth Gosling’s husband Langham Christie.]

My concern with Clark’s theory is less about “inspiration” and more about the veracity and depth of his familial research. Entitled, “Is this the Real Mansfield Park?” the sub-header entices Country Life readers by asking: “‘Are there hedgerows in Northamptonshire?Robert Clark has found compelling evidence to identify the country house on which Jane Austen based her novel Mansfield Park and to look at it in a new light.” A smaller-font teaser between paragraphs then asks, “Did the political and family connections of Castle Ashby draw Jane Austen to immortalize it in Mansfield Park?

Anyone who has read Mansfield Park will guess why Austen wanted to know if she could write about Hedgerows in the course of the novel. Austen’s query to Cassandra (letter of 29 Jan 1813) was, “If you c:d discover whether Northamptonshire is a Country of hedgerows, I sh:d be glad again.”

As I re-read Country Life, from their 2 September 2015 issue, these annoyances pop out:

  • Elizabeth Chute – this is more correctly applied to William Wiggett Chute’s wife. William Wiggett inherited The Vine after the deaths of brothers William and Thomas Chute, but only took possession of the Hampshire estate [there was also a Norfolk estate, as well] after the death of William’s widow ELIZA Chute. She may have been born an Elizabeth, but it is not the name she (or Claire Tomalin, in her Jane Austen biography, which the article cites) used.
  • Who the hell is “James Henry Austen-Leigh”? Typo or misprint is no excuse. The man’s name was James EDWARD Austen Leigh (and went by ‘Edward’). Austen scholars often abbreviate the Austen, and contract him to ‘JEAL’. So many writers seem unable to check their sources over James Austen and his son James Edward Austen (Leigh). [NB: Edward married my diarist Emma Smith]
  • The next section really is egregious: “Perhaps Austen-Leigh exaggerated [the intimacy of the Chutes and Percevals in his book on the Vine Hunt], as his wife was descended from another sister … and he wanted to affirm his kinship with the great, but the fact that he named two of his children — Spencer Austen and Edward Compton Austen — to commemorate the family relationships must lend weight to the suggestion….”

Emma had a brother Spencer, as well as cousin ‘Spencer Compton’. The two Compton siblings – Lord Compton and Lady Elizabeth Compton – were the ONLY first cousins the Smiths had. Clark’s concept of Edward Austen wishing to “affirm” kinship “with the great” might be altered if Clark had noted that Spencer Perceval had been William Chute’s fag at Harrow.

The Telegraph article by Hannah Furness brings other issues:

  • “Jane Austen’s fictional country house was based on the real-­life Castle Ashby, in Northamptonshire, the home of the family of Spencer Perceval.” [to me this sounds like Ashby was the Perceval seat; not so.]

Reactions of friends at the time of the Telegraph article, rather echoed the “letters to the editor”; they included:

  • “It’s a while since I read MP, but I got the impression that the house was quite contemporary, fairly recently built.  …. Castle Ashby is Elizabethan, and seems to me to be much grander than MP.
  • “Methinks that too many people are reading/trying to read too many things into not very much.”

My own response took the form of a (never published) Letter to the Editor:

Why Jane Austen should require “models” for the creation of characters or estates is a question few address; besides, it is fun to pose “what ifs” (“Sleuth’s trail to the heart and home of an Austen classic”, Sept 3).

I research the very persons Prof. Clark theorizes about: Eliza Chute’s family, into which James Edward Austen married on 16 December 1828. I agree with Prof. Richards (letters, Sept 11) that Castle Ashby and its Spencer Perceval connection seems too loose a thread for Austen to have woven its connotations into Mansfield Park. In the midst of re-reading Nelson’s Purse (Martyn Downer, 2004) as this story broke, I have an alternative suggestion from the same family: Swarland, owned by Alexander Davison. His involvement with Admiral Horatio Nelson; the family unit of Edmund and Fanny (Nelson’s father and estranged wife) against the mesmerizing newcomer; and a strong dose of Church, Navy, Portsmouth, and the West Indies all fall within Austen’s story.

Swarland was a neo-Palladian house, mid-eighteenth-century built, with substantial parkland – including a ha-ha and extensive walks á la Sotherton. It serves for house, grounds, and the extra-textural fare Clark seeks for the “cognoscenti reader”. Far north if left in situ (Northumberland), Swarland could have precipitated Jane Austen’s questions about hedgerows and Northamptonshire, if she prepared to “relocate” the action to a southerly county with a similar name.

See, even _I_ can play the game!

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Jane Austen BookBenches

October 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

Sitting with Jane” was a summertime (17 June-30 August) installation of artist-produced benches that created a 24-stop Jane Austen trail. Last month (15 September 2017) the benches were sold at auction, raising funds for The Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

WHERE will the Jane Austen Trail benches turn up next?!?

I wish I had found this project earlier! The “Trail” looks so fun…

If you’re an ‘app’-person, there’s an app for it: available (or was available…) on iTunes and Google Play. The rest of us can “follow” on an old-fashioned MAP.

Sitting with Jane logo

For those of us now having to let our eyes do the walking online, there ARE illustrations of the benches.

Dancing with Jane

This bench, entitled DANCING WITH JANE, by Michelle Heron, was situated outside the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke.

As you see, the benches were “open books” in design, and the artists got to embellish them any way they wished. Michelle Heron was “inspired by regency dancing and the balls that Jane and characters in her novels attended, with a backdrop of a manuscript from her last fully completed novel, Persuasion.”

JANE AND HER FORGOTTEN PEERS, by Amy Goodman, was situated near Winchester Cathedral – where _I_ have enjoyed several “dining with Jane Austen” meals (though not on the Jane Austen bench, of course). Caroline Fairbairne painted TWO benches, one located in Chawton (entitled CHAWTON WOODWALK); while the other graced the area of Steventon Church (DO YOU DANCE, MR. DARCY?).

Oakley Hall (home of the Bramstons in Jane Austen’s time) gave people the opportunity of WAITING FOR MR. DARCY (by Traci Moss). But I must admit to rather liking the refreshing joke behind Mik Richardson‘s ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY? at Worting House.

Are you sitting comfortablyPlease don’t sit on my book!

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