Jane Austen Letter: missing lines found

July 21, 2019 at 2:15 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , )

Usually, the active Jane Austen vine twitches non-stop. If something sells for an outrageous sum… If a known letter goes on the chopping block, help us… If Jane sneezed and this handkerchief is what she once used…

Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera.

So it has been with extreme puzzlement that I’ve come across so little since the announcement in February 2019 of a missing snippet from a letter penned by Jane Austen in 1813 being found in an ‘autograph’ book (the album sold for the astounding sum of £16,000 in 2017, though probably for its cumulative items rather than one piece by Austen).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The Telegraph broke the news, with the headline (17 Feb 2019):

Missing six lines from Jane Austen letter discovered after 200 years, and are revealed to be about laundry.

It was inevitable that one of the other news services would then quip, “Lost letter airs Jane Austen’s dirty linen in public.”

Let’s be SERIOUS! It is an interesting and valuable *find*.

Only Deborah Yaffe picked up the ball, in March, commenting on “Life imitates Northanger Abbey.”

This Italian site, dedicated to presenting and translating Austen’s letters, actually has attached the missing lines to its letter. The letter affected by the snipped off closing (and the autograph book does NOT include the signature) is Letter 87, written to Cassandra from Henrietta Street, 15-16 Sept 1813.

This manuscript was “seen” after Chapman’s edition of the letters went to press (link to the later 2nd edition; it is letter 82); corrections were made on the page proof against the manuscript, which Le Faye consulted for her subsequent editions. It’s possible more of the letter, after a sale or two and a death or two back in the early 20th century, exists in just such a manner — further cut up and pasted down. After all, someone else got the signature.

Jane Austen 1813 snippet

Chapman correctly assumed “about six lines and signature cut away from top of fourth leaf.” These now reinstated lines finish this thought from Jane to Cassandra:

Charming weather for you & us, and the Travellers, & everybody. You will take your walk this afternoon & [4] by the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey, — God bless you all. — I have given M:de B. my Inventory of the Linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire. — She has shewn me all her Storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same.–
Perhaps I may write again by Henry. —

Letter 87 is quite long, and how the snipped out section of page 4 affects page 3 hasn’t been touched on. Brabourne left out a paragraph, and it’s this paragraph (in Le Faye with no explanation; same for Chapman before her, and Brabourne before him) that reads “odd,” as if more text came before it. Rather than the ellipses used at the end (Chapman discloses the missing text; Brabourne does not), Brabourne evidently x’ed the entire paragraph instead:

This not seeing much of Henry, I have just seen him however for 3 minutes, & have read him the Extract from Mrs. F.A.’s Letter — & he says he will write to Mrs. Fra. A. about it…. [notes to letter 82, Chapman]

Le Faye puts in a period after “Henry”. But the sentence, as the start of a paragraph, still makes less sense than it should. Without the manuscript, we shall not know the original position of the (undisclosed) affected text.

That Brabourne – who transcribed the letters – had no ‘finish’ to this particular letter, indicates to me that Frank was not the only Austen to cut up letters in his possession for souvenir hunters.

Passing from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), the only other person in a position to quench an autograph hound’s inquiry would be Fanny. If it had been Brabourne himself, he would have been smart to copy the sentences he was gifting away. Letters to the publisher Bentley indicate how quickly Brabourne thought about selling manuscripts (not just JA’s) in his possession. That he ultimately got Bentley’s go-ahead and publication happened, marking the collection up to the point at which they sold, is our luck. Some letters do ‘exist’ only in transcription.

Unlike the snippet of a sermon tipped into a copy of the Memoir, no discussion is being made to remove this piece from its pasting, to see what is on the underside. Not much discussion, either, on the autograph album as a whole, nor its “American buyer.” At the time of the original newspaper story, the album, open to the Austen page, was on display at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

Advertisements

Permalink 1 Comment

New ‘Jane Austen’ books coming

May 31, 2019 at 10:41 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , )

I am looking forward to seeing Helen Amy’s dual biography of Cassandra and Jane Austen, The Austen Girls (Amberley; release in June in the UK; November in US), and from time to time I actively search for ‘Austen’ in forthcoming books – to see what else I can look forward to in the further future.

TODAY I hit upon some VERY interesting forthcoming books!

This “searching” can be a bit of a crap shoot – too many Austen reprints; Austen novels reworked; Austen mysteries; Austen fantasies. My “Jane Austen” is the Chapman third edition, a nice leather-bound set [SEE them here] obtained at an eBay auction. For sentimental reasons, I’ve kept my first omnibus edition (which probably does have mistakes in the text). Most “knock offs” are just not my cup of tea. I really am interested in rigorous literary or biography texts.

The first I found is a short wait. Rory Muir, whose MONUMENTAL two-volume LIFE OF WELLINGTON is a newer purchase. Wellington turns up in my research, but I am not one to read in-depth about ‘war.’ After I found Muir’s exceptionally useful online “Commentary” for the books, I took vol. 1 out of the local university library (they did not purchase vol. 2), then bought both volumes. The commentaries are comprised of information which did NOT make the books, and are about as voluminous as the volumes themselves! Sorted by chapter (also searchable; AND downloadable in full), they are a _must_ for Wellington fans.

So it was with a bit of surprise, and true pleasure too, that his latest book turned up in my ‘Austen’ search, due to the subtitle: Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England (Yale; release in the UK in August; in US in September).

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune

A quick blurb says of the plot: “A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons – men of good family but small fortune.” My own research encompasses “eldest sons,” “younger sons,” even “ONLY sons” (I’m especially thinking of James Edward Austen, Emma’s husband).

Even more “hmmm…” is the intriguing idea of a biography of Anne Lefroy. Jane Austen’s Inspiration: Beloved Friend Anne Lefroy by Judith Stove (Pen & Sword History) is due in September (US release date; UK – revised release date: end July).

Anne Lefroy

As it happens, I have recently been reading Helen Lefroy‘s excellent, edited volume The Letters of Mrs. Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, and I’ve especially enjoyed the earliest letters that are rather diary-like in their recording of her day. (Read my review of Helen Lefroy’s book on JASNA’s website.)

I recently read a fascinating article by Janine Barchas; her latest book – due in October (Johns Hopkins University Press) – is The Lost Books of Jane  Austen.

Lost Books of Jane Austen

A unique field of study, the article serves as a preview of how research can turn a researcher into playing detective. Read the article yourself and you’ll be bitten by the bug.

I will also comment here (briefly) about the grave disservice done to the reading public by certain academic publishers when they price texts out of the range of most people’s wallets. [NB: none of the above are more costly than the average hardcover.] I mean, unless I _adore_ a book – there isn’t one I’d spend over $100 to read, no matter the subject matter – and there are a couple books that “if not for cost” would be of interest (if lucky: library; if not: used book market; if out of luck totally: no book). PLUS: I do remember an interesting subject ill-served by a horribly executed text (dry-dry-dry; and one of the campus’ professors, who taught the subject area, agreed with me…), that eighteen years ago was $$$$. Prices have only skyrocketed – and you can’t tell me that the authors get much in return (but that is a whole other blog post). “Print-on-demand,” in this scenario, IS a very worthwhile scheme; I applaud them. (Yet if Lulu can print a book on demand that retails for $40…)

During past similar searches, I found The Real Persuasion (Peter James Bowman) [I love his The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England] and Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister (Sheila Johnson Kindred) [now out in paperback].

I will also mention, though it’s a resource I take too little advantage of, the New Releases page on Regency Explorer (the site set-up must have changed slightly; now: one post, newest monthly releases at the top).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Jane Austen’s Drawing-room Wall

May 6, 2019 at 12:02 pm (history, jane austen) (, )

Looking for something TOTALLY different, I stumbled upon news (and new news at that!) of a “small chunk” of the drawing-room wall of Chawton Cottage, from the period of Jane Austen’s habitation, returning to Chawton.

JA notice

Click on the photo or the link to be taken to the website for Jane Austen’s House Museum.

cushion_austen

Like the blog writer, who recounts two tales of “collected objects” – at a Normandy cathedral work site and via a flatmate with a fondness for nicking restaurant plates, I can add a tale of my own. My found object was a piece of Hampshire flint. Likewise from a bit of a demolition (within my landlady’s back garden). Unlike Jane Austen’s chunk of drawing-room wall, which has a provenance as well as a new acrylic jacket, my little piece of flint sits on the book shelf, not far from my Jane Austen Books!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Portraits: Jane Austen & Gilbert White

February 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm (history, jane austen, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , )

An old (May 2017) article on Smithsonian.com by Brigit Katz assesses the “Six Portraits” that were on display during the 200th anniversary year (1817-2017) commemorating Jane Austen’s death. It asks the question, Was Austen demure, sardonic or glamorous? (based on no one portrait looking like any other in the group) while acknowledging that actually the “Six Portraits Deepen the Mystery of Jane Austen.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Without going into the good / bad points of individual portraits,* I will outline the portraits that were displayed:

(*I briefly commented on “the wedding ring” image ten years ago; it continues in heavy usage. I did touch on several portraits, though, in 2013)

  • The pencil and watercolor sketch of Jane by her sister Cassandra Austen (circa 1810) [National Portrait Gallery]
  • the hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist from circa 1810- 15 [National Portrait Gallery], “L’aimable Jane
  • watercolor of Austen in blue dress, bonnet [rear view], also by Cassandra Austen, circa 1804
  • the 1869 James Andrews watercolor portrait [had been up for auction in 2013] and the frontispiece of her nephew’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1870, based on the Andrews watercolor
  • portrait said to represent Jane Austen, in album belonging to James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent
  • the ‘Byrne’ portrait

No clue as to why the ‘Byrne’ but not the ‘Rice’ portrait.

The lack of portraits – though not the lack of ‘contenders’ – depicting Jane Austen echoes the story of Gilbert White of Selborne, another late-18th century Hampshire resident.

A riveting 1987 article by J.E. Chatfield actually “summarises verbal descriptions of the Selborne naturalist, the Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793) by his contemporaries and discusses the background to each of the illustrations which have been suggested as possible likenesses of White.” After citing a group of portraits comes the notice (similar to what Jane Austen enthusiasts might typically read): “The only proven authentic likenesses of Gilbert White are two small pen and ink sketches drawn inside his copy of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad now in the British Library.”

It was the growing fame of his book The Natural History of Selborne that (naturally) made “further information on [White’s] life and personality” of interest to its readers.

Under Descriptions of White: “There are relatively few recollections of him from members of his own family, in spite of the vast numbers of nephews and nieces which Gilbert White refers to in his journals.” Also mentioned, that at the time of centenary editions of the National History of Selborne (originally published in 1789) “there was no suggestion or knowledge of any portraits or sketch of White.”

Sound familiar?

It was after the sale of The Wakes (White’s home) in 1844 to Prof. Bell, “who was working on his edition of The Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne,” that a White nephew passed on recollections. The “Reverend Francis White who remembered his uncle Gilbert well, although he was only twelve years of age when White died…., provided the information on White’s physical appearance – only 5 feet 3 inches in stature, of a spare form and remarkably upright carriage.”

Nineteenth-century editions of Selborne have included “Recollections of White by older villagers.” If only such a census had been made shortly after Austen’s lifetime! It was this kind of off-hand recollection that James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew and my diarist Emma’s husband) that Edward hoped to collate from those nieces and nephews still alive. His sources, however, proved a bit problematic. And some were quite uncooperative.

An interesting comment, from circa 1880, that could so easily be applied to Jane Austen: “‘White was thought very little of till he was dead and gone, and then he was thought a great deal of.'”

I invite you to read the Chatsfield article, look at the Austen portraits as well as Gilbert White’s, and reflect on the highly valid points made.

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Jane Austen’s London, 1815

February 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm (history, jane austen, london's landscape, research) (, , , )

During the Christmas holiday, author Charlotte Frost gave me a two-page spread from Art Quarterly that announced a FABULOUS purchase from Sotheby’s by the Museum of London. It is “an epic 20 feet wide panorama of London, painted around 1815 by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764-1823).”

The Museum is thrilled with their purchase, partly because it shows the Houses of Parliament pre-1834 (the year the buildings burned down; to be replaced by the Houses of Parliament we see today). Partly, also, because only one other Prévost panorama is known to exist – it’s of Constantinople, and is now housed in the Louvre.

So, the Westminster Panorama is HUGE, RARE, and a piece of HISTORY! An exciting part of the story is how the UK ART FUND came together with the Museum to help fund (with the aid of some individual donors) the bid.

  • The Guardian‘s story on the purchase, “Museum snaps up panorama of lost London landscape”
  • Wikipedia has put up a photograph and background information
  • Sotheby’s catalogue of the Prévost Panorama of London

“The illusion of depth, height and distance is testament to Prévost’s ability to work on such a large scale, and this complete, circular image, joined at Westminster Abbey, is one of the finest drawings of its type to have survived.” Mary Gosling (also known as Lady Smith, once she married, in 1826) and Emma Smith (also known as Emma Austen, after her marriage in 1828; and Emma Austen Leigh after 1835) – my Two Teens in the Time of Austen – have written about viewing various “Panoramas”. So it is a thrill to see what has survived from that period. This is a watercolor, a preliminary study for the canvas that would have hung in a panoramic theater (in this case, in Paris) for viewers like Mary and Emma to experience in the round.

What caught Charlotte Frost’s eye, though, was the proximity of Great George Street – where Emma’s grandfather, Joshua Smith MP for Devizes, lived. This section of the panorama:

Westminster by Prevost

Of the street running across the picture, the left-hand side shows the opening addresses along Great George Street. Charlotte’s *hope,* for me, was that one was Smith’s address. But he was at No. 29 Great George Street – which would be a few doors further down (and therefore hidden from view).

george street

No. 29 Great George Street, in the map above, is marked XIX.

However, No. 29 obviously must NOT have differed significantly from those townhouses beside it! So to see an approximation of its exterior is a decided thrill. Some photographs exist of the interior (see Collage; also BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE). I remember coming across some drawings of No. 29 interiors, done during the years the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) existed at this address (NPG’s first ‘home’). The National Portrait Gallery opened in January 1859. I do now wonder if Emma Austen Leigh would have visited…. One of these days I’ll go through her late and later diaries, and (hopefully) find out.

The Panorama of London, a book giving an overview of the city, circa 1830, mentions the Colosseum, Regent’s Park, “one of the most extensive exhibitions in the metropolis.” Although, obviously not the same artwork as the Westminster panorama, the description of the viewing of the Colosseum panorama is worth reproducing in full:

“The building is almost circular, with a large dome, and the front towards the park is ornamented by a noble Doric portico, with a large door in the centre. On entering the edifice by this door, a staircase on the right leads to a circular saloon hung with coloured drapery. This room, which is the largest of the kind in London, occupies the whole internal space, or the basement of the building, with the exception of the staircase leading to the summit, which rises like a large column from the centre. The circular saloon is intended for the exhibition of paintings and other productions of the fine arts. The wall of the [page 306] building, above this room, represents a panoramic View of London, as seen from the galleries of St. Paul’s cathedral. The view of the picture is obtained from three galleries, approached by the staircase before mentioned – the first corresponds, in relation to the view, with the first gallery at the summit of the dome of St. Pauls; the second is like that of the upper gallery on the same edifice; and the third, from its great elevation, commands a view of the remote distance which describes the horizon in the painting. Above the last-mentioned gallery is placed the identical copper ball which for so many years occupied the summit of St. Paul’s; and above it is a fac-simile of the cross by which it was surmounted. A small flight of stairs leads from this spot to the open gallery which surrounds the top of the Colosseum, commanding a view of the Regent’s-park and subjacent country.

An amazing part comes next, in describing how may visitors ascend:

The communication with the galleries is by staircases of curious construction, built on the outer side of the central column already mentioned. This column is hollow, and within it a small circular chamber is to be caused to ascend when freighted with company, by means of machinery, with an imperceptible motion, to the first gallery. The doors of the chamber will then open, and by this novel means of being elevated, visitors may avoid the fatigue of ascending by the stairs, and then walk out into the gallery to enjoy the picture. In extent or acuracy, the panorama is one of the surprising achievements of art in this or any other country. The picture covers upwards of 40,000 square feet, or nearly an acre of canvas; the dome of the building, on which the sky is painted, is thirty feet more in diameter than the cupola of St. Paul’s; and the circumference of the horizon, from the point of view, is nearly 130 miles. The grand and distinguishing merit of this panorama is the unusual interest of picturesque effect with the most scrupulous accuracy; and, in illustration of the latter excellence, so plain are the principal streets in the view, that thousands of visitors will be able to identify their own dwellings.

To read more about the Colosseum (including entrance prices), as well as the Diorama; Burford’s Panorama, Leicester-square; the Cosmorama, Regent-street; and other entertainments, see the book The Panorama of London, amd Visitor’s Pocket Companion, by Thomas Allen (1830).

It is no wonder then, that the Museum of London “snapped up” such a treasture as this panorama of Westminter. These entertainments simply no longer exist.

An Aside:

An interesting thought occurred to me, IF the Byrne portrait could be proved as being Jane Austen the author, then JA would have walked these very streets. For one of the last items I read was that the artist was housed with a studio overlooking Westminster Abbey.

Permalink 3 Comments

Rice Portrait’s Saga Continues

January 24, 2019 at 11:30 am (history, jane austen, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

The Guardian (23 January 2019) ran a story discussing a new piece of evidence about a portrait in the Rice family. The Rices have long contended that their portrait – seen as a frontispiece in two Austen-related books – is a youthful depiction of the writer Jane Austen.

The entire history is laid out in the website THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN.

ja_rice

I was asked last year if I had *any* idea who might have written a snippet found inside an envelope entitled “History of the portrait of Jane Austen”. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know that I deal with Emma Smith – who, in 1828 married James Edward Austen. It was their Austen Leigh children that I searched amongst for a matching handwriting sample. Most were wholly inconsistent; in fact, I told my correspondent at the time that I could more confidently say who had NOT written the history.

Running out of “contenders,” I wondered, while I typed, “Could it be a Lefroy.”

THE RICE PORTRAIT OF JANE AUSTEN came to the rescue: included was a small image of Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s handwriting (from a letter at the Hampshire Record Office), and there was the same handwriting!

The two letters are probably of an age. The snippet is undated. The letter is dated only by Month and date. A mention by F.C. Lefroy (as the letter writer signed herself) of her dashed hopes of having cousin Mary (probably Emma and Edward’s daughter Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) to stay during “the Congress” surely dates the HRO letter to October 1883. The Church Congress, which moved around the country in different years, was held in Reading in 1883 – and Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s letterhead places her at “Uppercross” in a ‘suburb’ outside of Reading.

Some of the most interesting evidence comes under the website categories DRESS and OZIAS HUMPHRY.

I must say, the misattribution of the artist in the 19th century reminds me of the persistence of George Romney as the painter of Mrs. Drummond Smith – later restored to the catalogue of Joshua Reynolds.  Indeed, it hangs in the “Reynolds Room” at Castle Ashby, the estate of the Marquess of Northampton (during Emma Austen’s lifetime, her uncle [1st Marquess] and cousin [2nd Marquess]).

***

EXTRA:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Many meanings of Womanhood (Jane Austen)

December 9, 2018 at 9:44 am (books, jasna) (, )

A new book, released at the beginning of December (2018) is Jane Austen’s Women: An Introduction, by Kathleen Anderson.

Anderson_Jane Austens Women

Over the years, as a member of JASNA, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting and listening to Kathleen’s incisive talks and reading her publications. A production of SUNY Press, there’s a format for everyone: hardcover, paperback, ebook. You can get a taste of it content from the following:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sorrows of Werther

December 8, 2018 at 10:16 am (books, chutes of the vyne, entertainment, history, jane austen, people) (, , , )

Last Saturday I was listening to the Met’s broadcast of Mefistofele (Boito); here, of course, is a subject who is undoubtedly better-associated with composer Charles Gounod.

Searching (as I always do!) for more on my Smiths & Goslings, I turned up a subscriber list for a book that, for DAYS, I believed was an English translation of that 18th-century smash-hit from Germany, Die Leiden des jungen WerthersThe Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe.

Pulling up the relevant book – this time having to SEARCH FOR IT (rather than stumbling upon it), I found that the text is a bit of a “hybrid” – a POEM, The Sorrows of Werter (sic): A Poem, by Amelia Pickering. It is, like the operas Mefistofele and Faust, based on source material, in this case “Founded on Goethe’s Novel.” It was published by Cadell in 1788.

No “Jane Austen” among the subscribers (famously, she IS listed as a Fanny Burney Camilla subscriber). But: a long list of names familiar to me as belonging to the wider Smith and Gosling circle.

When I spotted HENRY ADDINGTON (MP and PM), I wasn’t surprised when JOSHUA SMITH and MRS. SMITH turned up. The Smiths are Emma Austen’s maternal grandparents; Addington was Joshua’s fellow MP for Devizes.

The Duchess of Bolton would have been a name familiar to Jane Austen. There’s even a MRS. BENNET and a MRS. ELTON on the list!

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Several names occur in the Smith diaries – but I would have to dig about to ascertain whether they were the actual PEOPLE the Smiths and Goslings knew. Some BLACKWOODS, even an ABDY and a Mrs. BAKER of BEDFORD SQUARE. And who was the 1780s “Miss Ashley”???!! Two sisters of that name (but in the 1830s and beyond) were beloved by the Smith family.

There’s a BERTIE and a couple of BOSANQUETS. BLACKSTONES join the Blackwoods from further up the list. LADY CLIVE is prominent (in second position at the start of the ‘C’s’); Clive of India banked with the Goslings. Several CARTWRIGHTS and a couple of CARRS and COURTENAYS. Even “Mr. Cadell,” who (presumably) must be the publisher himself.

Well, you get the drift. So many people, so many readers.

In short, it’s so much fun to sort thru the names – especially when realizing that I am actually uncovering what volumes once belonged to a library or bedside table of relations to my Two Teens in the Time of Austen (ie, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith). The inclusion of The Sorrows of Werter: A Poem is a bit of a surprise, though they were a group who LOVED to read (and even write) verses.

Among family, joining the aforementioned Joshua and Sarah Smith are:

  • Robert Gosling, Esq.
  • Mrs. Gosling

(surely Mary’s paternal grandparents)

There are three Hornes and a Mrs. Hyde who may be Smith relations. The HICKS I suspect Jane Austen also to have known. There is a Countess Dowager of Northampton, related to Emma’s Castle Ashby cousins, but no one young Emma knew personally.

elizachute

The NORMANS were the cause of my search, and the reason I stumbled upon this book: TWO Mrs. Norman’s are listed; I lean a bit more towards the “Mrs. Norman, Henley” as being the woman _I_ want; but I’m not sure (the other has no identifying information attached to her name). I do believe, though, that her sons and daughter-in-law turn up as:

  • Richard Norman, Esq.
  • Mrs. R. Norman
  • George Norman, Esq.

The identify of Mrs. R. Norman is especially interesting – she was a daughter of Francis Gregg, and therefore a sister to Caroline Carr, née Gregg. Married in 1783, she evidently died in 1792 or 1793. Eliza Chute (then unmarried and still Eliza Smith) makes NO MENTION of the death of Mrs. Richard Norman (which would have been an enormous help, Eliza!), but neither did she mention the 1817 death of Jane Austen — and both events must have been known to her, and of interest to her.

It dawned on me in the night to ask: WHO was Amelia Pickering??

It was while trying to find something, anything about the author that I found a copy of this very book (!!) at a rare-bookseller’s site, for £1200 (!!!!).

The seller found a critique of the period by Mary Wollstonecraft:

4to., pp. xxii, 69, [1]; with half-title and a sixteen-page list of 961 subscribers; apart from slight fraying a very good copy, uncut, in original blue-grey wrappers and tan paper spine.

First edition. Amelia Pickering’s ‘melancholy, contemplative poem’ (Todd) was one of a spate of works in English and German founded on Goethe’s novel, including poems by Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson, both subscribers here. Pickering ‘gives to Charlotte a voice, if rather weakly moralistic, and to Werter suffering which is acute, credible and unhysterical’ (Feminist Companion citing ‘The Sorrows of Young Charlotte: Werter’s English Sisters’, Goethe Yearbook, 1986).

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, was not enthusiastic. ‘To pity Werter we must read the original … The energy … is lost in this smooth, and even faithful, imitation … Werter is dead from the beginning: we hear his very words; but the spirit which animated them is fled …’ (Analytical Review, January 1789).

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink 2 Comments

Jane Austen: Used book buyer?

November 23, 2018 at 9:49 am (books, estates, history, jane austen) (, , )

In the appendix to JANE AUSTEN THE READER (2013), (a link provided by Springer [the publisher]), the quotation “‘new books were luxuries but not out-of-reach luxuries’” for the “all-female Austen household” may be too narrowly focused when discussing the possession of books by Jane Austen.

Why limit the idea of “books” to new books and think of them as luxuries?

Certainly, a gifted book could have come Jane Austen’s way, and Olivia Murphy (the author) accounts for such volumes. Evidence, however, leans heavily on the Godmersham Library collection of Jane and Cassandra’s brother, Edward Austen Knight. As with any intake of books, some might have duplicated Edward’s own, been rejected or “regifted”, or sold on.

It is the sold on that provides the clue to my current argument: There were also auctions, used book shops, and disbursed collections (which may include titles that were missing volumes).

With the death of Edward Austen Knight in November 1852, a valuation and reassessment of the Godmersham Library logically would have been undertaken. There does exist – and Murphy discusses this as part of her argument – evidence dated ‘1853’. That these books came from Cassandra Austen, either directly or through her niece Cassy Esten Austen, is perhaps a bit of a stretch. And, of course, what was once Cassandra’s may have come from her sister, which is the whole point of the appendix, which is entitled “What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?” To Murphy, the context of other titles housed in the Drawing Room (“the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer and the novels of Maria Edgeworth”) is more important than the changing of the guard in home-ownership.

JA Reader

Click on the link here and then on the PDF for the section “BACK MATTER” (pp. 177-231) to read: Appendix: What Happened to Jane Austen’s Books?

* * *

A ‘rare’ instance of Jane Austen commenting on contemporary books, thru the parody of writing to “Mrs. Hunter of Norwich” (in actuality, Austen’s niece Anna Austen), in 1812, was up for auction in 2017. It sold for £162,500 (estimated by Sotheby’s to fetch £80,000-£100,000). A news story produced at the time (July 2017), “A Cache of Jane Austen’s Charming Letters.”

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »