Life Afloat: Jane Austen & the Royal Navy

February 4, 2019 at 9:55 am (history, people, places, travel) (, , , )

Just reviewed (by Laurie Kaplan) in JASNA News – the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America: Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen.

Fanny Palmer Austen

This biography of Bermuda-born Francis FitzWilliams Palmer, Mrs. Charles Austen, relates her short, but adventurous, life (she died at the age of only 24); as well, it discusses Jane Austen’s “naval” novels (ie, Mansfield Park and Persuasion) and the second marriage of Charles Austen.

Six years after Fanny’s death, Charles married Fanny’s sister.

Author Sheila Johnson Kindred has uncovered letters and diaries that supplement the tale. It is harrowing to read Charles’ journal comments, as he continued to pine for his deceased first wife.

Now, Sheila has launched a new book website. Read about Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister on the site that will explore more about “Jane Austen’s Naval World”. Retailers for purchasing also listed.

A highly recommended biography.

I had a novel naval experience little more than a month ago: I visited the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship, at the Portsmouth Royal Navy Historic Dockyard. Reading Sheila’s book after that experience, has actually enhanced her discussions of life aboard ship for Fanny Palmer Austen.

HMS Victory

A tour – the next time you just happen to be in Portsmouth, England! – is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Royal Navy in the period of Jane Austen. For a taste, right now, see the “Things to See” section on the HMS Victory website. You can walk the Gun Deck, see “stunning views” from the Poop Deck, and (of course) see the Great Cabin and read the plaque pointing to the spot where Nelson fell in the Battle of Trafalgar. Two extra’s that enhanced the experience of “being there” are the Figureheads Exhibit (keep an eye open for Calliope, my favorite!), as well as related “Victory” exhibits downstairs. And climb the many stairs to see the fascinating history and presentation of the ripped and torn Victory Sail.

EXTRA:

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Fanny Price and Portsmouth

November 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm (history, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Author Charlotte Frost recently sent a link (which I’d like to share) to the HISTORY IN PORTSMOUTH website.

What I find most fascinating is the “Digital 3D Re-Creation of Old Portsmouth in 1860” project.

Working with a map, you can click on various buildings or streets, thereby obtaining details, drawings, photographs even of Old Portsmouth. Especially useful for readers of Mansfield Park are the discussions of what was razed (already or soon-to-be), which informs us about the Old Portsmouth as Jane Austen would have known it – as well, the Old Porstmouth Fanny Priced (re-)visits when visiting her “birth family”.

How about a “for instance” with the Fortifications to the South-West:

The text starts off with THE SQUARE TOWER – dating from 1494, but with “stonework” replaced in 1827 (ie, a decade after Austen’s death) and by 1860 in the “state that we recognize today.”

Discussion then turns to THE SALLY PORT BUILDINGS, “in an area that is today devoid of structures.” Some changes to the area took place as late as the 1970s. In this section, there’s some “Sherlock Holmes” extrapolations of evidence to figure out what had been in the area.

A FABULOUS picture of the KING JAMES GATE c1860 shows a HUGE structure dominated by nothing else. The fortifications were defensive in nature, and the King James Gate, of course, provided access. “The moat remained in existence well into the 19th century and appears more or less complete on the 1861 map. The photo [below] confirms the existence of the moat as it shows on the lower left the top of a set of stairs leading downwards from the northern side of the bridge. This could only lead down to the water.”

king-james-gate6

You can see what remains of this gate in a photo from 2009, where the central arch exists in a truncated form. (click the photo, then scroll down)

When on that page, scroll further and you’ll come to the 3D images. The smaller images above the photo is how you change between the (in this case) seven different views of the south-west Fortifications. A short capture beneath each will explain what you’re looking at.

“Navigation” at the bottom of the page will get you back to the main map, and another section of Old Portsmouth to discover! A highly recommend “tour” and website.

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Rev. Richard Seymour: 16 Feb 1832

January 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm (books, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Reading through letters and diaries for the early 1830s (I know, I know; I should be working about 15 years earlier than this!! I will get back to the 1810s…), I came across some exceptionally interesting news about Tring Church (St. Peter and St. Paul) and an 1832 connection with the four unmarried Smith sisters. This news I save for later, however…

But in looking through other diaries for the same year, I was searching through Richard Seymour’s published extracts (found in The Nineteenth Century Country Parson (1954), ed. by Hart and Carpenter), and just have to share two particular entries.

Richard, born in 1806, was therefore in his mid-20s in 1832; his diary shares many thoughts on the privileges his family enjoyed, contrasted to his desire to live a Christian life of duty and sacrifice. Was he idealistic, or simply young? His self-examinations can make for exhilarating reads, as in these entries (especially the second) from February 1832:

February 11: Drove Frances and Lizzy [his sisters] out to Codlington [sic: Cadlington]. Mrs. Morgan’s children’s dance. My conscience not at ease. Doubtful therefore whether I should have been there. I feel a great and I hope proper fear of being thought not to live up to what I preach. Shall avoid such things in future. May God mercifully guide me in my participation of those things which are perhaps lawful but not expedient.

February 16: While in the workhouse [his curate’s duty took him there] this evening the thought struck me, how different this scene from that of last night! [he had attended a ball at his father’s house in Portsmouth] There the handsome, well furnished and well lighted room. Here a cheerless, comfortless space with one small candle to throw its light on my book. There Youth and Beauty and affluence and careless hearts. Here the maimed, the blind, the halt, the aged, the sick, the deprived of reason, all, too, poor and destitute but for the aid of others. There the sound of music and revelry, mixed with the happy laughs. Here, the crying infant or the moan of the more aged. Most different indeed! His blessing upon my ministry, that these may become poor in spirit, as they are poor in this world’s goods, and that their heavenly and eternal prospects may grow brighter and clearer as their earthly hopes wax more dim and dismal.

Richard’s diaries are those which exist only on microfilm; I’ve blogged about them a couple times as they are among the great “missing” items; he married Emma’s sister Fanny in 1834. His sister Frances married Fanny’s brother Spencer the following spring; and eldest brother John (the Rev. Sir John Culme-Seymour, bart) later (in 1844) married the baby of the Smith of Suttons family, Maria. He and Fanny would live in the “remote” north — Warwickshire; Kinwarton to be specific.

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