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Aunt Jane’s Trial

Jane Leigh Perrot

The Trial of Mrs Jane Leigh Perrot – the Primary Sources

by David Pugsley

Discussions of Aunt Jane’s trial and the question whether she was innocent or guilty are normally based entirely on John Pinchard’s account, conveniently re-printed in MacKinnon’s Grand Larceny (1937), as if there was no other source of information and as if all the witnesses were telling the truth. However, there are other contemporary sources

 

I. The advertisements in the Bath Chronicle and other local newspapers

Jane Leigh Perrot

There is a series of advertisements in the Bath Chronicle for no. 1, Bath Street, near or opposite the King’s Bath: 14 May and 16 July 1795, Gregory & Co; 19 May 1796, 5 and 12 January 1797, W Smith; 11 May 1797, Smith, “Mrs Smith is also just returned with an elegant assortment of Millinery, etc”; 29 June 1797, Smith; 8 November 1798, 28 March and 4 April, 21 November  (“The Proprietor”) 1799, 6 February, 10 and 17 April, and 11 more dates in 1800; 10 dates in 1801; 12 dates in 1802; 10 dates in 1803, plus 8 and 15 December (death of W. Smith); 8 dates in 1804; 9 dates in 1805; 8 dates in 1806, including 18 December (“A vacancy for an apprentice at Christmas”); and 3 dates in 1807, ending on 19 March, all Mrs Smith.

Contrast Elizabeth Gregory’s evidence under cross-examination by Mr Dallas: “Witness said she had been in the shop nearly five years; kept it two years herself; is sister to Mrs Smith, who kept it before; Mr Smith in London 8th August; carried on business on her own account, not for the benefit of Smith and wife” (Pinchard, p. 10). Under further cross-examination: “Mrs Smith was not entitled to more of the profits than witness chose to give her … She bought and sold upon her own account and in her own name; it is customary and advantageous that the old name should be continued on shops, and it was sometimes done for years after a person had given up trade; Smith’s name was continued over the door with this view only” (Pinchard, p. 12).

(Were Elizabeth Gregory and Charles Filby taking advantage of Mrs Smith’s absence in Cornwall to try to make a little money for themselves?) Continue reading Aunt Jane’s Trial

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Jane and Cassandra: Extraordinary Sisters

Jane and Cassandra

by Caroline Kerr Taylor

Jane and Cassandra
Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway as Cassandra and Jane in the film ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007)

Jane Austen was born in December 1775, the seventh child of Rev. and Mrs. Austen. Mrs. Austen nursed each of her babies for the first few months before they were taken to a neighboring family (the Littleworths). Each child was looked after by this family for the first couple of years until the child could walk and talk. The parents visited regularly during this time, until the child was ready to be brought back into the Austen household. This was not a totally uncommon practice for the time, nor was it considered unfeeling. As long as the baby was well cared for, that was what mattered to the Austens. Knowing today what we know of the importance of mother/baby bonding it would have been extremely disrupting for a child to be taken from its mother after just a few months and placed with another family. (And then, later, wrenched from that family when the Austens felt the child was ready to rejoin their household.) This could be a significant reason why Jane became attached more deeply to her sister than to her mother.

Continue reading Jane and Cassandra: Extraordinary Sisters

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Jane Austen and Illness

Jane Austen and illness

by Margaret Mills

What reading material do you turn to if you are unwell?   The novelist Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell wrote a letter early in 1865 to John Ruskin, about one of her own books, in which she said: “whenever I am ailing or ill, I take Cranford and – I was going to say enjoy it (but that would not be pretty!) laugh over it afresh!”

For a couple of months last summer, my own life was temporarily disrupted because I was “ailing or ill”, and spent most of my time indoors.  No real hardship this, as I am, and always have been, a great reader, and at times like this I turn to one of my favourite authors, the divine Jane Austen.  Well or not, I can’t begin to estimate how many times I have read Jane Austen’s works over the years.  My favourites are probably Pride and Prejudice and Emma, but the reason I settled on Pride and Prejudice as my first selection rests partly on the first chapter alone:  the immediacy of the introductory paragraph plunges you straight into the story, and I have always adored the dry humour of Mr Bennet, the father of those “silly and ignorant” daughters! Continue reading Jane Austen and Illness

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The Formative Years of George Austen, Jane’s father

George Austin

A look at James Cawthorn, George Austen and the Curious Case of the Schoolboy Who Was Killed by Martin J. Cawthorne

George Austin

 

Jane Austen’s father, George Austen has many connections to the city of Bath.

On the 26th April 1764 he married, by special licence, Cassandra Leigh in St Swithin’s, Walcot.  The Austen family were regular visitors to Bath and in December 1800, after 35 years ministering in Steventon, George Austen announced his retirement and moved to Bath, where he spent his final years.  He died in the city on the 21st January 1805 and is buried at St Swithin’s Church where a memorial to him has been erected.

Jane Austen lived at home with her parents all her life and the Rev George Austen played a significant part in her life.  Apart from a brief period at boarding school, Jane was largely educated at home; George also provided writing equipment for her to develop her literary talent.  The Rev Austen features in Jane’s correspondence and as a result much is known about his adult life. Very little, however, has been written about George Austen’s early life, before he met and married Cassandra Leigh.  It is known that he was orphaned at the age of six before going to school in his home town of Tonbridge, Kent, from where he won a scholarship to study at St John’s College, Oxford.  However, very little has been written about these formative early years of his life – until now.

Continue reading The Formative Years of George Austen, Jane’s father

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The effects of the family’s misfortunes on Jane Austen’s death

Jane Austen's Death

By Caroline Kerr Taylor

Jane Austen's death

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She is one of the world’s most popular literary giants. It was a tragic loss that she died at 41, just as her star was gaining traction in the literary firmaments.

We will never know for sure the exact cause of her death. The medical community has conjectured Addison’s disease, an adrenal insufficiency, or some form of cancer such as lymphoma. Any one of these diseases would have been exacerbated by long periods of extreme stress. Though she enjoyed a good deal of literary success in her last years, there is much evidence that they were also filled with insecurity and worry.

Family was the centre of Jane’s world. As she never married, she lived her entire life within the family circle. George Austen, Jane’s father, was a member of the clergy and Oxford educated. Their family was part of local genteel society; however, financially they were barely inside the bounds of polite society. Women of her class did not work. Jane and her sister Cassandra, as unmarried women, continued to live with their parents. While Jane’s closest and deepest connection was to her only sister Cassandra, she also enjoyed a close relationship with her brothers. As the boys grew up they left home, had careers, and raised families of their own. They did, however, keep a close extended family connection with visits between families, and corresponding when apart.

George Austen retired in 1800 and gave the Steventon parish living to their oldest son James. The Austens, along with their daughters, then moved to Bath. Here they rented various temporary accommodations. After living in a large house in the country it was not an easy adjustment. Continue reading The effects of the family’s misfortunes on Jane Austen’s death

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An Interview With Helena Kelly, Author of Jane Austen the Secret Radical

Jane Austen the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly

An Interview With Helena Kelly, Author of Jane Austen the Secret Radical

Helena Kelly’s book, Jane Austen the Secret Radical,  began an interesting debate around the beloved Regency author when it was released in November 2016.  Kelly’s book explored Jane Austen as a radical, spirited and politically engaged writer, and this was a shock for
those people who’d only thought of Jane as a tranquil, smiling woman who spent her time penning purely romantic novels.

After receiving a review copy of this brilliant work, and after reading its original analysis, Jane Austen blogger Maria Grazia ended up with a few questions she wanted to ask Helena Kelly. So she wrote them down and was graciously granted the answers. Here’s the interview that resulted.

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Hello Helena and welcome to our online Jane Austen book club! My first question is … I’ve always thought Jane Austen was rather revolutionary, but now you’ve taken a step ahead of me: a radical? 

Hello, and thank you for inviting me! The title Jane Austen the Secret Radical isn’t actually mine, but it is a good choice for the book. I don’t know that Austen wanted to overturn things, but she did want to dig down and examine them, to show people New Jane Austen portraithow they actually worked, and that’s what radicalism is about, isn’t it, getting down to the ‘radix’, the root of things.

I totally agree with you, of course. But when and how exactly did you come to realize her novels are not simply grand houses, balls and dashing heroes? 

Much as I loved – and still love – the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, I was soon introduced to a very different side of Austen. We studied Mansfield Park for A-Level; a novel which has a very un-dashing hero, only one ball, and a heroine who doesn’t end up in the big house. I really struggled with Mansfield Park and I suppose I’ve been trying to bring those two very different sides of Austen into some kind of balance ever since! 

This is more a request for confirmation, then a real question. Something I want to discuss with you. I find that Jane Austen’s  stubborn wish to write and publish novels is her first political statement and her most revolutionary act as a woman living in that time and that place.  Then came her refusal to marry.  Weren’t those truly revolutionary acts?

Certainly Austen was stubborn about her writing; hugely stubborn. She had to endure a lot of disappointments – as you probably know, Susan (almost certainly Northanger Abbey) was accepted by a publisher in 1803 but didn’t appear. She wrote to the publishers in 1809, trying to persuade them to publish the novel and her letter is shockingly forceful and really quite aggressive. Jane Austen the Secret Radical begins with her writing that letter. But she was less of a maverick than people often think; she grew up reading quite a number of successful women novelists, several of whom published under their own names. Novel-writing was a reasonably acceptable occupation for women, though (like most female occupations) not highly-valued.

With regards to marriage, there’s not any real evidence for the one-night engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither; the ‘proof’ seems to have been pieced together by a niece who wasn’t even born at the time of the engagement. So it’s possible no one ever proposed to Austen at all! 

Would she have married if the right man had come along? Maybe. But she’d seen enough of the dangers of marriage and the demands of endless child-bearing to have made her cautious. 

Among the several serious subjects Austen dealt with in her major novels – feminism, slavery, abuse, poverty, power – which is the most revolutionary and dangerous of all in your opinion?

In Mansfield Park Austen doesn’t just confront the subject of slavery, but of the Church of England’s active involvement in slavery. To take the Church to task like this really was incendiary, and it’s no coincidence, I think, that Mansfield Park is the only one of her novels which wasn’t reviewed on publication. In fact, there seems to have been something of a conspiracy of silence about it.

Which is  her most revolutionary novel?  What about her most radical heroine, instead?

As above, Mansfield Park – it’s profoundly anti-establishment. The heroine Fanny Price, though, embraces Mansfield Park and everything it stands for. I think the most radical heroine is probably Elizabeth Bennet – she who loves to question, to debate, to laugh at power and challenge authority to justify itself.

I know you teach Austen to hundreds of people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. What about one or two  tips to poor me attempting to teach Austen – among other classics – to the most difficult audience one can expect, I mean teenagers and mostly boys? 

My students have been overwhelmingly female and I think even men who do enjoy Austen tend not to come to her until Wentworthsthey’re older. So many people already ‘know’ what they’re going to find in the novels (grand houses, balls, and dashing heroes, as you say above). I’m always a bit hesitant about telling other people how to teach, but since you’ve asked for advice, I reckon start them off with Persuasion, if at all possible – it has some really manly men in it, with all those naval officers and there’s a great adaptation of it starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds which really foregrounds the war. Go for the bits that aren’t at all romantic and work backwards from there. The popular image does get in the way of the text.

May I ask  you what you think of the great deal of  Jane Austen fan fiction and film adaptations of the recent years? Do they contribute to the popularity of her work or do they contribute to their misinterpretation? 

Both! I’m really torn on this question, to be honest.

As I said above, the popular picture of Austen does conceal the text. But many of adaptations and the continuations and sequels and so on are really fun and they make Austen accessible; those aren’t bad things. I’ve just finished reading a book called Lydia by Natasha Farrant which I very much enjoyed and which I think would be a great ‘gateway’ book into the original novels. And then, look at something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – it’s absurd but at the same time anyone reading it has read a good three-quarters of Austen’s novel. Plus, of course, it makes explicit the sense of external menace in the book, though Austen’s characters are bothered about the French, not the zombie hordes!

But, yes, I suppose I’d like to see less romance, and more of the grittier adaptations, like the 1999 Mansfield Park, directed by Patricia Rozema. The Jane Austen conjured up by the adaptions, etc. doesn’t bear all that much resemblance to the authoress of the novels!

So, in conclusion, why did you feel the need to write your “ Jane Austen The Secret Radical”? 

As your readers will know, the Bank of England is about to introduce a new £10 note next year, with Jane Austen on. Except it’s not really Jane Austen. It’s an idealized portrait that was commissioned fifty years after she died, and in the background is a picture of a big house which Austen never actually lived in. It’s such a reductive image of who she was and what her novels are doing that I thought it was time for a corrective!     

 

 

Helena Kelly holds degrees in Classics and English from Oxford and King’s College London. She teaches Austen at an Oxford summer school, and for a programme for American visiting students in Bath. She has taught Austen to hundreds of people, of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds. Jane Austen The Secret Radical is her first book.

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This interview was first published online on Maria’s My Jane Austen Book Club blog, and reproduced here with her kind permission.

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The Journal of Eveline Helm, Part Four – To the Regency Ball…

Dear Reader, 

I hope that this journal of my time in Bath should prove to be helpful to you. In reading it may you be spared the numerous faux pas and embarrassments that I was not. I truly feel that if this work should prevent even one other young lady from public ridicule in the Assembly Rooms of Bath then it will have been wholly worthwhile. 

Humbly yours, 

Eveline Helm.

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June 1797

The time is nearly upon us when my Aunt, my Uncle and myself will be making our first appearance at a ball at the Upper Rooms! I am at present experiencing such a mixture of emotions at this thought. Part of me is wild excitement at the prospect of at last being able to attend the grand frivolities I have so long dreamt of, ever since Miss Lucy Stevens mentioned them so many years ago when she had just lately returned from her first visit to the city. Another part of me is intense nerves – what if I should embarrass myself, as I did so thoroughly at the Pump Rooms this morning? What if everyone sees the new velvet ribbons which I have spent all afternoon sewing onto my best gown and, rather than focusing on what a fine rich emerald colour they are, look beyond them and instantly recognize that my best white muslin dress is not of this season? That it is in fact of the beginning of last season; with it’s more modest bust line and it’s lack of fullness at the sleeve shoulder! Who would ask a girl to dance who is so utterly behind the times in such a fashion conscious city?

My Aunt and I did visit the haberdashers this morning following our visit to the Pump Rooms, and we did order new dresses, but sadly, even with a premium paid so that they may be completed as a rush job, they would not be ready for two more days (an extravagance which I begged my Aunt not to undertake on my behalf, but she would not hear of my saying that she need not go to such an expense on my account).

“There is no need to worry my dear,” my Aunt said to me once this news was given us. “We can adapt what you have with new ribbons, and we may purchase some new gloves. Yes, I really am sure that we can make everything look most satisfactory! After all, tonight is only the dress ball and there shall be no one there in anything so very fine. That will be saved for the fancy ball on Thursday.”

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Bath, I have learnt, has rather more balls than in the country – as is only to be expected. At home we have a public ball at the local assembly rooms every Tuesday evening. In Bath however there is a dress ball every Monday night and a fancy ball every Thursday, for which everyone reserves their best gowns and most complex hair stylings, and for which I am hoping that we shall this week have our new gowns ready. Normally it would cost five shillings to go to a ball, but happily our subscription to them, which was purchased earlier at the Pump Rooms, allows us to attend for free. Although having said that, the subscription to each did cost fourteen shillings, which if you were not going to be staying in Bath for very long wouldn’t be worthwhile purchasing, but as it is we are planning to stay for a few weeks so as long as we go to every ball on offer we shall make our subscribing well worthwhile. This should not be a problem as my Aunt is just as keen to go to each and every ball there is as I myself am. Though I am relieved that we shall be starting with a dress ball as it is rather less stately affair than the fancy ball.

At the dress ball there are only country dances, and the complex cotillions are reserved for the fancy ball. I do hope when the time comes that my dance skills do not let me down and I am starting to regret not practicing more as my dancing master urged me to do. How was I to know then that I would be so tested! Though there is of course no guarantee that I shall be asked to dance a cotillion on Thursday if I do decide I am ready – I know no one in Bath besides my Aunt and Uncle, and who would chance making a fool of themselves by asking an unknown partner who may not know the steps to dance. I might well keep my bright white gloves in my reticule as a sign that I am not prepared to dance the cotillion this week; Aunt Charlotte has told me that that is the unspoken code in Bath – ladies who wish to dance a cotillion take the whitest of white gloves to wear to show that they are available, and then change them to a cream or ivory afterwards as not every lady feels comfortable dancing such a complex dance. My Uncle only increased my doubts about these dances earlier as we were making our way back from Milsom Street having made our purchases.

“I do remember there was an occasion last year when your Aunt and I were in town, and she had persuaded me to attend a ball.”

“No that he needed much persuading despite what he may say,” Aunt Charlotte interjected. My Uncle carried on:

“When a gentleman turned the wrong way in his set and stepped so hard on his partner’s foot that she was unable to continue the dance and a sedan chair had to be engaged to take her home early. The gentleman was unable to show his face in the Assembly Rooms for almost two weeks and felt obliged to call on her on a regular basis to enquire after her health. Thanks to this he very nearly found himself obligated to propose to her. Beware Eveline,” he had said stopping so that my Aunt and I who were one on each of his arms also had to stop. “If you dance a cotillion who knows what might befall you! You might muddle our footwork, trip, stumble into the arms of a gentleman as you fall and find you have to marry him for the sake of decency! You have been warned!”

“Well really, Mr Denison,” my Aunt admonished. “Don’t be so ridiculous.” I felt relieved that my Aunt thought that this was too extreme an outcome of a dancing mistake, until she continued: “As if Eveline would muddle her footwork!” My Uncle laughed lightheartedly.

“Of course! My mistake. You are right, my dear. Our Eveline is safe.”

I am certain that they were largely only teasing me, but nevertheless it hasn’t helped to settle my nerves for tonight.

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I have just checked the clock on the fireplace mantle. It is half past seven o’clock and as the balls start as soon after seven o’clock as is possible I believe we shall be leaving soon to arrive at a fashionable hour, and as such I ought to cease writing my journal and make my way downstairs. Especially as I do not know how long I can successfully avoid covering my fingers in ink while writing, since my current quill is not the newest or most clean writing implement.

However, I am unsure if James has managed to secure sedan chairs for us yet, but if he has not I am positive that he will be back shortly with some, as despite the fact that being situated so pleasantly as we are on The Paragon, barely five minutes’ walk from the Upper Rooms, it is nevertheless for the sake of appearances that we are to arrive in sedan chairs as most people who can afford to do so choose to. Riding in a sedan chair, by the by, is another thing which I have never done before, so this evening continues my day that is very much full with first experiences; which does rather explain why I am so nervous, and I feel a little more justified in being so given this fact. Nevertheless, I shall take my courage in both gloved hands, focus on my rising excitement, put my fears to the back of my mind, and make my way downstairs at this moment. (One final thought however; I do hope that the carriers of the chair don’t slip and drop me as I fear they might…)

webJenni Waugh HeadshotThe journal of Eveline Helm’s time in Bath has made its way online thanks to Jenni Waugh, one of our tour guides at the Jane Austen Centre.

She writes: “I couldn’t resist sharing Eveline’s exploits. I hope everyone else finds them as interesting and entertaining as I did!”

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Martha Lloyd: Jane Austen’s “Second” Sister

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With what true sympathy our feelings are shared by Martha you need not be told; she is the friend and sister under every circumstance.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square October 13, 1808

Martha Lloyd, by kind permission of private owners collection.
Second only to Cassandra, Martha Lloyd (1765-1843) seems to have been Jane Austen’s dearest friend. Not much is known of them though it is supposed that Mrs. Lloyd, daughter of the Royal Governor of South Carolina, the Hon. Charles Craven, met her future husband in Newbury, when she and her sister lived there with an aunt, who took them in after they had fled from a mother who, by some accounts treated them badly and by others was insane. Regardless of the situation, both sisters married obscure country parsons. The Lloyds settled down and had four children. Martha, the oldest daughter, was born in 1765 and her sister Mary in 1771. A few years later, a smallpox epidemic took the life of their brother and left the two older sisters scarred for life, though the youngest, Eliza, seems to have escaped relatively unharmed.

The Lloyd family had much in common with the Austens and from an early time, visits between the two families were frequent. Though no one knows quite how they met, the Austens and Lloyds shared many mutual friends and when the Rev. Lloyd died in 1789, his widow and her two oldest, single daughters were happy to move into the unused Deane parsonage offered by Rev. Austen. Their time there, only a mile and a half from Steventon, must have been a delight for young Jane, for though she was ten years younger than the oldest Lloyd daughter, Martha, they were, as Janes’ cousin Eliza de Feuillide remarked, “very sensible and good-humored.”

Three years later, when Jane Austen’s brother, James, married and assumed the parish of Deane, it was necessary for the Lloyds to move, this time to a home in Hurstbourne, called Ibthorpe. Though only 15 miles from Steventon, this separation must have seemed cruel to Jane, who had few friends nearby and no mode of transportation. It is clear from Jane Austen’s correspondence that her friend Martha was privy to her great secret– her writing. An early piece of Juvenilia, Frederick and Elfrida, is dedicated to her

As a small testimony of the gratitude I feel for your late generosity to me in finishing my muslin Cloak, I beg leave to offer you this little production of your sincere Freind and later writings prove that she had been allowed to see the manuscript for Love and Freindship, an early edition of Pride and Prejudice and an honor accorded to few.

In 1805 changes abounded for the Austen and Lloyd Ladies. Many years had now passed since James Austen’s first wife had died and he had remarried again, choosing the younger Miss Mary Lloyd to be his second wife. With the Austen’s removal to Bath in 1801, James had taken over both the Deane and Steventon holding and his growing family now lived in the Steventon parsonage.

It was while they were living in Bath that Mr. Austen finally succumbed to his long illness and not too many months later that Mrs. Lloyd also died. The women, being in a delicate financial state decided to combine housekeeping and all four (Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, Jane and Martha Lloyd) moved to Southampton to be with Jane’s younger brother Frank and his wife, Mary. As an officer in the Navy, Frank was often away from home and this joining of households not only helped him look after his widowed mother, but provided constant companionship for his soon pregnant wife. It seems to have been, by all accounts, an excellent arrangement.

On July 7th 1809, Jane Austen moved to a cottage in Chawton, together with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and their friend Martha Lloyd, at the invitation of her brother Edward Knight, on whose estate it lay. Their new house was a late 17th Century brick building with two sitting rooms, five bedrooms, kitchens, garrets, outbuildings, and about two acres of grounds. It had once been an inn, and stood at the junction where the Gosport and Winchester roads met and became the main road to London.

The family remained at Chawton Cottage, even after Jane Austen’s death in 1817. Martha Lloyd took on many duties as housekeeper for the family, though the work was divided among the three surviving women. Unfortunately for Frank, by now Sir Francis Austen, his happy home was broken up upon the death of his wife in 1823 after the birth of their 11th child. In 1828 he remarried, completing the family circle by this time, wedding Martha Lloyd. At sixty two, Martha was at last a bride, and more than that, Lady Austen.

Her role as Jane Austen’s friend and confidant cannot be undervalued and her contribution to what we know of Jane Austen’s life is significant. We have, not only letters written by Jane to Martha, but her collection of recipes used at Chawton were later were compiled into The Jane Austen Household Book and more lately, The Jane Austen Cookbook.

Martha Lloyd died in 1843.

*****

About the author of this article:

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe.

Sources for this article included:
Jane Austen: A Companion by Josephine Ross; Rutgers University Press; 2003
Jane Austen: Her Life by Park Honan; A Thomas Dunn Book; 1987