By Heather Clarke Did Arthur Phillip meet Jane Austen in Bath? It is quite possible.
Phillip retired to Bath in 1793 to recover his health after five years as the governor of the colony of New South Wales. While on occasions he was obliged to live elsewhere, the elegant city of Bath continued to be his favoured place of residence for the rest his life.
Jane Austen first visited Bath in 1797 and dwelt there with her family between 1801 and 1806.
Bath was at the cultural heart of Georgian and Regency society. The most fashionable people flocked to Bath in the season to enjoy the curative powers of the mineral waters and to consort with the fine company gathered there. Central to this were the splendid Assembly Rooms, “the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom”2. Together with card-playing and concert-going, dancing was a key element to the experience. Dances were held every night, with at least two balls given each week during the season. These enchanting affairs were presided over by a master of ceremonies with the strictest decorum; however, the dances themselves encouraged a certain degree of flirtation. Balls began with minuets, followed by country dances, cotillions and reels.
Both Arthur Phillip and Jane Austen are known to have attended balls – did their paths cross? They certainly would have danced the same fashionable dances of the season. Every year collections of the latest dances were published; these invariably bore the inscription As they are performed at Court, Bath, and all Public Assemblies, highlighting the pre-eminence of Bath and the significance of dance in genteel society.
Comparing the lives and places Arthur and Jane frequented, it is clear they both trod in the same places, moved in similar circles and perhaps had a number of mutual acquaintances.
Although Phillip was mostly not a permanent resident in Bath at the same time as Jane (1801-1806), he did spend a considerable amount of time there and upon retiring in 1805 purchased “a large and commodious house at No 19 Bennett Street”. As befitted a person of Phillip’s standing, this was situated in one of the most prestigious areas of the city, a handsome new Georgian dwelling, just above the Assembly Rooms.
We had a great time unveiling our new Jane Austen waxwork to the assembled media folk on Wednesday 9th of July.
Reaction was overwhelmingly positive when the curtains were parted. The waxwork is now on public display. Developed from a forensic portrait of the author by Melissa Dring, the waxwork has been over 2 years in the making. Members of the team behind her creation, especially brought together for the project, were in attendance at the event, – the internationally-renowned sculptor, an FBI-trained forensic artist and a Bafta and Emmy award-winning costume designer. (See their biographies below) The novels of Jane Austen are known throughout the world, her heroes and heroines have been brought to life in many adaptations, and the industry which has built up around her name is significant. So whilst people happily associate Jane Austen’s characters with the actors who portray them, perhaps most famously Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, there remains a real desire to possess a likeness of the writer herself.
The only verifiable image of Jane Austen is a small watercolour painted by her sister Cassandra but it has been acknowledged by experts as a poor attempt and was described by her niece as ‘hideously unlike’ her aunt Jane. However, there are many contemporary descriptions of her by friends and this is where the Jane Austen Centre enters the picture. The chance reading in 2002 of an article about forensic artist Melissa Dring’s work in creating a likeness of the composer Vivaldi from eye-witness accounts spurred David Baldock, Director of The Jane Austen Centre, into action. David contacted and commissioned Melissa to create a new portrait of Jane. And then a year later, David engaged handwriting expert Patricia Field to reveal further aspects of Jane’s character through a ‘blind’ study of handwriting samples.
Inspired by the overwhelming positive response to these additional pieces of the jigsaw that is Austen’s life and to address the continuing, near insatiable demand for further revelations, David has now taken this process one step further and commissioned a three-dimensional, life-size wax figure. The Jane Austen Waxwork is based on the 2002 portrait and its creation has been undertaken by internationally-renowned portrait sculptor Mark Richards. The figure has been dressed in authentic-period costume by Bafta & Emmy award-winning designer Andrea Galer, while the finishing touches have been completed by ex-Madame Tussaud’s hair and colour artist Nell Clarke. The figure is to be displayed at a specially created space within the Jane Austen Centre, in Bath. As the popularity of her work and interest in her life has never been greater, and the modern-day Jane Austen fan (or Janeite) can be very opinionated to the point of over-protectiveness, with some going so far as to see themselves as the self-appointed guardians of her image, this figure is almost certain to provoke controversy. Ultimately though, the Jane Austen Waxwork will hopefully take admirers of her work that one step closer to finally revealing exactly what Jane Austen looked liked.
On a lovely sunny day, we were making the new Jane Austen Centre film with Adrian when during a break we took the opportunity to grab a few minutes to interview the ex Mr. Wickham.
You will see for yourself that Adrian is such a charming gentleman.
“I love playing cads. They’re more interesting and so many of them seem to have a special kind of power and aura about them.”
Adrian Lukis ought to know. With his dark good looks and easy charm, he has often been cast in the role of attractive rogue or upper-class bounder. “He has charm in spades,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph in a 2000 review of Lukis’s performance of Beach Wedding at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton.
Adrian Lukis, born in 28th March 1957 in Birmingham, is an actor who has appeared regularly in British television drama since the late 1980s. He trained at Drama Studio London. His most recent notable appearances have been as Sergeant Douglas ‘Doug’ Wright in the Police drama series The Bill, and as Marc Thompson in the BBC legal drama Judge John Deed.
He was a regular, playing Dr David Shearer, in Peak Practice between 1997-99. He also played Mr. George Wickham in the BBC’s 1995 adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Adrian had appeared in the ITV1 one-off drama Back Home and in the BBC rural drama series Down to Earth.
He had previously appeared in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (as Bennett in The Creeping Man), Maigret, Miss Marple and Prime Suspect. Adrian Lukis played Simon Avery in Silent Witness Series 15 Episode 2, Death Has No Dominion.
He is currently appearing as Carter in Bull at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
Lukis is descended from the Channel Islands archaeologist Frederick Lukis.