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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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Catherine Anne Hubback (1818 -1877)

“Now that you are become an Aunt, you are a person of some consequence & must excite great Interest whatever you do. I have always maintained the importance of Aunts as much as possible…”
Jane Austen to her niece, Caroline Austen
October 30, 1815

Catherine Anne Hubback

Catherine Anne Hubback (nee AUSTEN) was the daughter of Sir Francis William Austen (1774 -1865), Admiral of the Fleet, and niece of  author Jane Austen (1775 -1817)

Catherine Anne Hubback was the eighth child and fourth daughter off the eleven children born to Sir Francis Austen and his first wife, Mary Gibson. Catherine never knew her “Aunt Jane” as she died the year before Catherine Anne was born, but she grew knowing her celebrated  aunt’s work through her Aunt Cassandra, Jane Austen’s sister who was a frequent visitor

Catherine met John Hubback (1811 -1885) , a barrister from a North country mercantile family at her father’s house, Portsdown Lodge, near Portsmouth. They were married in 1842 and had four children. The eldest, Mary, lived only long enough to be christened in 1843. They then had three sons, John Henry (1844 -1939), Edward Thomas (1846 -1924), and Charles Austen (1847 – 1924), perpetuating the great literary family name.  The couple lived at Malvern, then Wales, and later Birkenhead.  In 1847  John Hubback suffered a complete mental breakdown brought on by intense overwork and was committed to Brislington House Asylum in 1850 where he was to spend the rest of his life until his death in 1885. Catherine returned to her father’s house and to distract herself from perpetual anxiety, and in the hope of earning money to support herself and  three children, she started writing. In 1850 she published a version of Jane Austen’s  unfinished novel of 1803 -05, “The Watsons” , as “The Younger Sister”.  Catherine dedicated the novel to the memory of Jane Austen and wrote “ Though too young to have known her personally, was from early childhood taught to esteem her virtues and admire her talents”

Over the next thirteen years, nine more novels were published and Catherine Anne Hubback became a minor  novelist, much admired by “middle class young ladies”, among them the grandmother of American novelist Henry James. In the mid Victorian era some perverse judgements were made. “The Rival Suitors”, published in 1857 was called by one reviewer, “The best of all Mrs Hubback’s novels, and one which proves her to be nearly allied by genius as she is by blood to the first of English female novelists, Miss Austen”. Catherine clearly capitalised on her relationship with the famous aunt she never knew. She wrote to her son, John in 1871, “ I mean in future to have my name printed as Mrs C. Austen Hubback and make believe the A stands for that. I have written it at length so nobody knows and Austen is a good nom de plume”.

Catherine Hubback was a most ardent, spirited, and imaginative woman, “vivid”, was how her son John described her. In 1871 aged 53, she followed John to America where he had emigrated and become a prosperous grain merchant.

Catherine Anne Hubback died aged 59 on 25th February 1877 at Gainsville, Virginia at the home of her third son, Charley, who had also emigrated to the USA.

John Hubback died aged 74 at Brislington House Asylum on 24th February 1885 and is buried in St Luke’s Churchyard, Brislington, His gravestone in front of the West door reads:

“ALSO IN MEMORY OF CATHERINE ANNE ,HIS WIFE

DAUGHTER OF SIR F.W AUSTEN GCB, ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET

SHE DIED IN VIRGINIA,USA, 25TH FEBRUARY 1877”

“AND THERE WAS NO MORE SEA”


Jonathan Rowe wrote this piece as part of a talk on “Brislington’s Literary Associations” which was recently given for the Brislington Conservation & History Society in conjunction with an exhibition, currently showing at Wick Road Library in Brislington. One of our Society members is the grandmother of two of Jane Austen great nieces ( X 6!) descended from Edward Knight.

DID YOU KNOW?
The Duchess of Cambridge is Jane Austen’s 11th cousin, six times removed!

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A New Jane Austen Portrait by Melissa Dring

New Portrait of Jane Austen

A New Jane Austen Portrait

Jane Austen portrait
New portrait of Jane Austen

Just how do you begin a new portrait of the author so many years after her death? What did Jane Austen really look like?

Forensic artist Melissa Dring takes up a commission by David Baldock to use contemporary eye-witness accounts of Miss Austen’s features and character to produce an authentic Jane Austen portrait for the the many visitors interested in what the renowned author really looked like.

Melissa uses here experience of working with the police in facial reconstruction to put together an image that she says is as close as it can be to a definitive likeness. Her work has been internationally recognised and Melissa is in demand as a keynote speaker.

Creating the new Jane Austen portrait from forensic sources.

We know you want to see how she did it so follow the link below to a fascinating article which was first published in ‘Jane Austen’s Regency World’ magazine in early 2003.

New Portrait of Jane Austen

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Warren Hastings: First Governor of India

Warren Hastings

Warren Hastings: First Governor of India

Lady Robert is delighted with P. and P., and really was so, as I understand, before she knew who wrote it, for, of course, she knows now. He told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish. He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny. And Mr. Hastings! I am quite delighted with what such a man writes about it. Henry sent him the books after his return from Daylesford, but you will hear the letter too.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Sept. 15, 1813

Warren Hastings (December 6, 1732 – August 22, 1818) was the first governor-general of British India, from 1773 to 1785. He was famously impeached in 1787 for corruption, and acquitted in 1795. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1814.

Hastings was born at Churchill, Oxfordshire. He attended Westminster School before joining the British East India Company in 1750 as a clerk. In 1757 he was made the British Resident (administrative in charge) of Murshidabad. He was appointed to the Calcutta council in 1761, but was back in England in 1764. He returned to India in 1769 as a member of the Madras council and was made governor of Bengal in 1772. In 1773, he was appointed the first Governor-General of India.

In late 1752 or early 1753 George Austen’s sister, Philadelphia Austen was taken from her post, apprenticing to a Milliner, and sent off to India to “find a husband”. Both George and Philadelphia had been orphaned early in life and educated at the expense of an Uncle. Already in her twenties and without prospects in England, this trip was her last chance to marry. Six months after her arrival she married an elderly surgeon, Tysoe Hancock, who was a friend to Warren Hastings. Eight years later, a daughter was born to Philadelpia. Was she the product of a long and loveless marriage or was she, as some gossips of the time claimed, Warren Hasting’s “natural child”? We may never know for certain, but we do know that years later, Eliza named her only son Hastings and was left a financial legacy in Mr. Hasting’s will. The Austen family always felt a kinship to Mr. Hastings and Jane Austen sent him a copy of Pride and Prejudice.

During Hastings’ time as governor, a great deal of precedent was established pertaining to the methods which the British Raj would use in its rule over India. Hastings had a great respect for the ancient scripture of Hinduism and fatefully set the British position on governance as one of looking back to the earliest precedents possible. This allowed Brahmin advisors to mold the law, as no Englishman understood Sanskrit until Sir William Jones; it also accentuated the caste system and other religious frameworks which had, at least in recent centuries, been somewhat incompletely applied. Thus, British influence on the ever-changing social structure of India can in large part be characterized as, for better or for worse, a solidification of the privileges of the caste system through the influence of the exclusively high-caste scholars by whom the British were advised in the formation of their laws. These laws also accepted the binary division of the people of Bengal and, by extension, India in general as either Muslim or Hindu (to be governed by their own laws).

In 1781 Hastings founded Madrasa ‘Aliya, meaning the higher madrasa, in Calcutta showing his relations with the Muslim population. In addition, in 1784 Hastings supported the foundation of the Bengal Asiatik Society by the Orientalist Scholar William Jones, which became a storehouse for information and data pertaining to India.

As Hastings had few Englishmen to carry out administrative work, and still fewer with the ability to converse in local tongues, he was forced to farm out revenue collection to locals with no ideological friendship for Company rule. Moreover, he was ideologically committed at the beginning of his rule to the administation being carried out by ‘natives’. He believed that European revenue collectors would “open the door to every kind of rapine and extortion” as there was “a fierceness in the European manners, especially among the lower sort, which is incompatible with the gentle temper of the Bengalee”.

British desire to assert themselves as the sole sovereign led to conflicts within this ‘dual government’ of Britons and Indians. Moreover, the unsustainable levels of revenue extraction and exportation of Bengali silver back to Britain led to the famine of 1769-70, in which it is estimated that a third of the population died, led to the British characterising the collectors as tyrants and blaming them for the ruin of the province.

Some Englishmen continued to be seduced by the opportunities to acquire massive wealth in India and as a result became involved in corruption and bribery, and Hastings could do little or nothing to stop it. Indeed, it was argued, unsuccessfully, at his subsequent impeachment trial, that he participated in the widespread exploitation of these newly conquered lands.

Hastings resigned in 1784 and returned to England. He was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors by Edmund Burke, and Sir Philip Francis whom he had wounded in a duel in India. He was impeached in 1787 but the trial, which began in 1788, ended with his acquittal in 1795. Hastings spent most of his fortune on his defence, although the East India Company did contribute towards the end of the trial.

The city of Hastings, New Zealand and the Melbourne outer suburb of Hastings, Victoria, Australia were both named after him.