Author and Regency history blogger Rachel Knowles came to visit us at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath recently, and she was kind enough to tell us a little more about her latest book, What Regency Women Did For Us, and about some of the amazing women of the Regency.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be uploading Rachel Knowles’ interview about Jane Austen, blogging and Regency women in regular episodes and then posting them all here. Enjoy!
Rachel Knowles introduces herself and explains how why the Regency appealed to her and is still relevant today:
“Mrs Edwards thinks you are a child still. But we know better than that, don’t we.”
So began the 2008 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility, with the cad Willoughby seducing the naïve ward of heroic Colonel Brandon. The atmosphere seductive with low-light and fireplace burning, ripping bodices and whispered words… In its review, the Telegraph described how viewers tuned in “with jaws dropped, to this unexpected opening for an Austen adaptation.” The question is, why? Why would viewers deem a sultry scene unexpected in an adaptation of the work of Austen? Austen appears to have a reputation for representing everything that is light and lovely, with the admiring Sir Walter Scott describing Pride and Prejudice (1813) as “a very pretty thing.” Austen herself seemed aware – and concerned – of her delicate reputation, stating her fear that the novel Scott so admired was “too light, and bright, and sparkling.” Whilst it is true to state that Austen was largely focussed on the lower gentry of which she was personally aware, it would be a disservice to her work to suppose she did not consider larger social influences or events, nor the more scandalous actions of those whose world she so accurately depicts. Within Austen’s novels are various themes that are often ignored or unseen when analysing her work, considered too sinister in the works of the purportedly genteel Jane Austen.
Mansfield Park (1814) tells the story of young Fanny Price, a girl able to rise above her station due to the wealth and goodwill of her extended family. The source of that power, however, is controversial due to the head of the household’s links to the slave trade. It would be an exaggeration to proclaim the novel as slavery prose – allusions to the system are rare and implicit – yet the very fact that Austen chooses to even subtly reference slavery is a bold move. The one direct reference to slavery comes as Fanny describes a family conversation with her cousins and uncle: “And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence. And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject.” Austen leaves it to the reader to deduce why Fanny’s family might be silent when discussing slavery – disinterest, embarrassment, shame, ignorance –and it is this empowerment of the reader in reaching their own conclusions which gives this brief passage weight. Austen does not preach to her readers, but allows them to make their own deductions. Sir Thomas Bertram’s years at his plantation in Antigua is what allows much of the action of the novel to occur – unloving marriages, flirtation and seduction – and the reader is not incorrect in supposing that Sir Thomas’s focus would have been better placed at home, rather than in underhand dealings abroad. Continue reading In Defence of Jane Austen
François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand ( September 4, 1768 in Saint-Malo – July 4, 1848 in Paris) was a French writer, politician, diplomat, and historian, who is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature. Descended from an old aristocratic family from Brittany, Chateaubriand was a royalist by political disposition; in an age when a number of intellectuals turned against the Church, he authored the Génie du christianisme in defense of the Catholic faith. His autobiography Mémoires d’outre-tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave'”, published posthumously in 1849–1850), is nowadays generally considered his most accomplished work.
Born in Saint-Malo, the last of 10 children, Chateaubriand grew up in his family’s castle in Combourg, Brittany. His father, René de Chateaubriand (1718–86), was a former sea captain turned ship owner and slave trader. His mother’s maiden name was Apolline de Bedée. Chateaubriand’s father was a morose, uncommunicative man, and the young Chateaubriand grew up in an atmosphere of gloomy solitude, only broken by long walks in the Breton countryside and an intense friendship with his sister Lucile.
Chateaubriand was educated in Dol, Rennes and Dinan. For a time he could not make up his mind whether he wanted to be a naval officer or a priest, but at the age of seventeen, he decided on a military career and gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the French Army based at Navarre. Within two years, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. He visited Paris in 1788 where he made the acquaintance of Jean-François de La Harpe, André Chénier, Louis-Marcelin de Fontanes and other leading writers of the time. When the French Revolution broke out, Chateaubriand was initially sympathetic, but as events in Paris became more violent he decided to journey to North America in 1791. He was given the idea to leave Europe by Chrétien-Guillaume de Lamoigon de Malesherbes, who also encouraged him to do some botanical studies.
In Voyage en Amérique, published in 1826, Chateaubriand writes that he arrived in Philadelphia on July 10, 1791. He visited New York, Boston and Lexington, before leaving by boat on the Hudson River to reach Albany. He then followed the Mohawk trail up the Niagara Falls where he broke his arm and spent a month in recovery in the company of a Native American tribe. Chateaubriand then describes Native American tribes’ customs, as well as zoological, political and economic consideration. He then lets believe throughout few pages that a raid along the Ohio River, the Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida took him back to Philadelphia, where he embarked on the Molly in November to go back to France.
This experience provided the setting for his exotic novels Les Natchez (written between 1793 and 1799 but published only in 1826), Atala (1801) and René (1802). His vivid, captivating descriptions of nature in the sparsely settled American Deep South were written in a style that was very innovative for the time and spearheaded what later became the Romantic movement in France. As soon as 1916, scholarship has cast doubt on Chateaubriand’s claims that he was granted an interview with George Washington and that he actually lived for a time with the Native Americans he wrote about. The veracity of entire sections of the itinerary Chateaubriand pretended to follow are questioned, notably his passage through the Mississippi valley, Louisiana and Florida.
Chateaubriand returned to France in 1792 and subsequently joined the army of Royalist émigrés in Coblenz under the leadership of Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé. Under strong pressure from his family, he married a young aristocratic woman, also from Saint-Malo, whom he had never previously met, Céleste Buisson de la Vigne. In later life, Chateaubriand was notoriously unfaithful to her, having a series of love affairs. His military career came to an end when he was wounded at the siege of Thionville, a major clash between Royalist troops and the French Revolutionary Army. Half-dead, he was taken to Jersey and exile in England, leaving his wife behind.
Chateaubriand spent most of his exile in extreme poverty in London, scraping a living offering French lessons and doing translation work, but a stay in Suffolk (Beccles) was more idyllic. Here Chateaubriand fell in love with a young English woman, Charlotte Ives, but the romance ended when he was forced to reveal he was already married. During his time in Britain, Chateaubriand also became familiar with English literature. This reading, particularly of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (which he later translated into French prose), had a deep influence on his own literary work.
His exile forced Chateaubriand to examine the causes of the French Revolution, which had cost the lives of many of his family and friends; these reflections inspired his first work, Essai sur les Révolutions (1797). An attempt in 18th Century style to explain the French Revolution, it predated his subsequent, romantic style of writing and was largely ignored. A major turning point in Chateaubriand’s life was his conversion back to the Catholic faith of his childhood around 1798.
Chateaubriand took advantage of the amnesty issued to émigrés to return to France in May, 1800 (under the French Consulate), Chateaubriand edited the Mercure de France. In 1802, he won fame with Génie du christianisme (“The Genius of Christianity”), an apology for the Catholic Christian faith which contributed to the post-revolutionary religious revival in France. It also won him the favour of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was eager to win over the Catholic Church at the time.
Appointed secretary of the legation to the Holy See by Napoleon, he accompanied Cardinal Fesch to Rome. But the two men soon quarrelled and Chateaubriand was nominated as minister to Valais (in Switzerland). He resigned his post in disgust after Napoleon ordered the execution in 1804 of Louis XVI’s cousin, Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d’Enghien. Chateaubriand was, after his resignation, completely dependent on his literary efforts. However, and quite unexpectedly, he received a large sum of money from the Russian Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna. She had seen him as a defender of Christianity and thus worthy of her royal support.
Chateaubriand used his new-found wealth in 1806 to visit Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt and Spain. The notes he made on his travels later formed part of a prose epic, Les Martyrs, set during the Roman persecution of early Christianity. His notes also furnished a running account of the trip itself, published in 1811 as the Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem). The Spanish stage of the journey inspired a third novella, Les aventures du dernier Abencérage (The Adventures of the Last Abencerrage), which appeared in 1826.
On his return to France, he published a severe criticism of Napoleon, comparing him to Nero and predicting the emergence of a new Tacitus. Napoleon famously threatened to have Chateaubriand sabered on the steps of the Tulieries Palace for it, but settled for merely banishing him from the city. Chateaubriand retired to a modest estate he called La Vallée aux Loups (“Wolf Valley”), in Châtenay-Malabry, 11 km (6.8 mi) south of central Paris. Here he finished Les Martyrs, which appeared in 1809, and began the first drafts of his memoirs. He was elected to the Académie française in 1811, but, given his plan to infuse his acceptance speech with criticism of the Revolution, he could not occupy his seat until after the Bourbon Restoration. His literary friends during this period included Madame de Staël, Joseph Joubert and Pierre-Simon Ballanche.
After the fall of the French Empire, Chateaubriand rallied to the Bourbons. On 30 March 1814, he wrote a pamphlet against Napoleon, titled De Buonaparte et des Bourbons, of which thousands of copies were published. He then followed Louis XVIII into exile to Ghent during the Hundred Days (March–July 1815), and was nominated ambassador to Sweden.
After Napoleon’s defeat, Chateaubriand became peer of France and state minister (1815). In December 1815 he voted for Marshal Ney’s execution. However, his criticism of King Louis XVIII, after the Chambre introuvable was dissolved, got him disgraced. He lost his function of state minister, and joined the opposition, siding with the Ultra-royalist group supporting the future Charles X, and becoming one of the main writers of its mouthpiece, Le Conservateur.
Chateaubriand sided again with the Court after the murder of the Duc de Berry (1820), writing for the occasion the Mémoires sur la vie et la mort du duc. He then served as ambassador to Prussia (1821) and the United Kingdom (1822), and even rose to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs (28 December 1822 – 4 August 1824). A plenipotentiary to the Congress of Verona (1822), he decided in favor of the Quintuple Alliance’s intervention in Spain during the Trienio Liberal, despite opposition from the Duke of Wellington. Although the move was considered a success, Chateaubriand was soon relieved of his office by Prime Minister Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, the leader of the ultra-royalist group, on 5 June 1824.
Consequently, he moved towards the liberal opposition, both as a Peer and as a contributor to Journal des Débats (his articles there gave the signal of the paper’s similar switch, which, however, was more moderate than Le National, directed by Adolphe Thiers and Armand Carrel). Opposing Villèle, he became highly popular as a defender of press freedom and the cause of Greek independence. After Villèle’s downfall, Charles X appointed him ambassador to the Holy See in 1828, but he resigned upon the accession of the Prince de Polignac as premier (November 1829).
In 1830, after the July Revolution, his refusal to swear allegiance to the new House of Orléans king Louis-Philippe put an end to his political career. He withdrew from political life to write his Mémoires d’outre-tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave'”, published posthumously in 2 volumes in 1849–1850), which is considered his most accomplished work, and his Études historiques (4 vols., designed as an introduction to a projected History of France). He also became a harsh critic of the “bourgeois king” and the July Monarchy, and his planned volume on the arrest of the duchesse de Berry caused him to be unsuccessfully prosecuted.
Chateaubriand, along with other Catholic traditionalists such as Ballanche or, on the other side of the political board, the socialist and republican Pierre Leroux, was then one of the few to attempt to conciliate the three terms of Liberté, égalité and fraternité, beyond the antagonism between liberals and socialists concerning the interpretation to give to the seemingly contradictory terms. Chateaubriand thus gave a Christian interpretation of the revolutionary motto, stating in the 1841 conclusion to his Mémoires d’outre-tombe:
Far from being at its term, the religion of the Liberator is now only just entering its third phase, the political period, liberty, equality, fraternity
In his final years, he lived as a recluse in an apartment 120 rue du Bac, Paris, only leaving his house to pay visits to Juliette Récamier in l’Abbaye-aux-Bois. His final work, Vie de Rancé, was written at the suggestion of his confessor and published in 1844. It is a biography of Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, a worldly seventeenth-century French aristocrat who withdrew from society to become the founder of the Trappist order of monks. The parallels with Chateaubriand’s own life are striking. Chateaubriand died in Paris during the Revolution of 1848 and was buried, as he had requested, on the tidal island Grand Bé near Saint-Malo, accessible only when the tide is out.
For his talent as much as his excesses, Chateaubriand may be considered the father of French Romanticism. His descriptions of Nature and his analysis of emotion made him the model for a generation of Romantic writers, not only in France but also abroad. For example, Lord Byron was deeply impressed by René. The young Victor Hugo scribbled in a notebook, “To be Chateaubriand or nothing.” Even his enemies found it hard to avoid his influence. Stendhal, who despised him for political reasons, made use of his psychological analyses in his own book, De l’amour.
George Brandes, in 1901, compared the works of Chateaubriand to those of Rousseau and others:
The year 1800 was the first to produce a book bearing the imprint of the new era, a work small in size, but great in significance and mighty in the impression it made. Atala took the French public by storm in a way which no book had done since the days of Paul and Virginia. It was a romance of the plains and mysterious forests of North America, with a strong, strange aroma of the untilled soil from which it sprang; it glowed with rich foreign colouring, and with the fiercer glow of consuming passion.
“We are convinced that the great writers have told their own story in their works”, wrote Chateaubriand in Génie du christianisme, “one only truly describes one’s own heart by attributing it to another, and the greater part of genius is composed of memories.” This is certainly true of Chateaubriand himself. All his works have strong autobiographical elements, overt or disguised. Perhaps this is the reason why today Mémoires d’outre-tombe are regarded as his finest achievement.
Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême (8 June 1784 – 12 January 1833) was an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as grande cuisine, the “high art” of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favoured by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered as one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs.
Abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, he worked as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board. In 1798, he was formally apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal. The post-revolutionary Palais Royal was a high profile, fashionable neighborhood filled with vibrant life and bustling crowds. Bailly recognized his talent and ambition. By the time he was prepared to leave Bailly, he could stipulate that he should be free to leave his new employer when a better offer came along. He opened his shop, the Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, which he maintained until 1813.
Carême gained fame in Paris for his pièces montées, elaborate constructions used as centerpieces, which Bailly displayed in the pâtisserie window. He made these confections, which were sometimes several feet high, entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan, and pastry. He modeled them on temples, pyramids, and ancient ruins, taking ideas from architectural history books that he studied at the nearby Bibliothèque Nationale, thanks to the enlightened attitude of his first employer Bailly. He is credited with the inventions of gros nougats and grosses meringues, croquantes, made of almonds and honey, and solilemmes.
He did freelance work creating pieces principally for the French diplomat and gourmand Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, but also other members of Parisian high society, including Napoleon. While working on his confections at many private kitchens, he quickly extended his culinary skills to main courses.
Napoleon was famously indifferent to food, but he understood the importance of social relations in the world of diplomacy. In 1804, he gave money to Talleyrand to purchase Château de Valençay, a large estate outside Paris. The château was intended to act as a kind of diplomatic gathering place. When Talleyrand moved there, he took Carême with him.
Carême was sent a test by Talleyrand: to create a whole year’s worth of menus, without repetition, and using only seasonal produce. Carême passed the test and completed his training in Talleyrand’s kitchens. After the fall of Napoléon, Carême went to London for a time and served as chef de cuisine to the Prince Regent, later George IV. Returning to the continent he followed the invitation of Tsar Alexander I to come to St. Petersburg, where he lived so briefly he never prepared a meal for the Tsar before returning to Paris, where he was chef to banker James Mayer Rothschild.
He died in his Paris house on the Rue Neuve Saint Roche at the age of 48, due perhaps to many years inhaling the toxic fumes of the charcoal on which he cooked. He is remembered as the founder of the haute cuisine concept and is interred in the Montmartre cemetery in Paris.
In his first major position, Carême worked as chef de cuisine to Talleyrand who actively encouraged Carême in the development of a new refined food style using herbs and fresh vegetable, simplified sauces with few ingredients. Talleyrand became a famous host during the Congress of Vienna—when the congress disbanded, not only the map of Europe but also the culinary tastes of its upper classes were thoroughly revised.
Carême’s impact on culinary matters ranged from trivial to theoretical. He is credited with creating the standard chef’s hat, the toque; he designed new sauces and dishes, he published a classification of all sauces into groups, based on four mother sauces. He is also frequently credited with replacing the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu) after he returned from service in the Russian court, but others say he was a diehard supporter of service à la française.
Carême wrote several books on cookery, above all the encyclopedic L’Art de la Cuisine Française (5 vols, 1833–34, of which he had completed three before his death), which included, aside from hundreds of recipes, plans for menus and opulent table settings, a history of French cookery, and instructions for organizing kitchens.
Le Pâtissier royal parisien, ou Traité élémentaire et pratique de la pâtisserie moderne, suivi d’observations utiles au progrès de cet art, et d’une revue critique des grands bals de 18
Le Maître d’hôtel français, ou Parallèle de la cuisine ancienne et moderne, considéré sous rapport de l’ordonnance des menus selon les quatre saisons. (Paris, 2 vols. 1822)
Projets d’architecture pour l’embellissement de Sainte Petersburg. (Paris, 1821)
Projets d’architecture pour l’embellissement de Paris. (Paris, 1826)
Le Pâtissier pittoresque, précédé d’un traité des cinq orders d’architecture (Paris, 1828; 4th edition, Paris, 1842)
Le Cuisinier parisien, Deuxième édition, revue, corrigée et augmentée. (Paris, 1828)
L’Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle. Traité élémentaire et pratique. (Volumes 1-5. [Work completed after Carême’s death by Armand Plumerey.] Paris, 1833–1847)
The royal Parisian pastrycook and confectioner ([From the original of Carême, edited by John Porter] London, 1834)
French Cookery, Comprising l’Art de la cuisine française; Le Pâtissier royal; Le Cuisinier parisien… ( [translated by William Hall] London, 1836)
Thomas Hope (30 August 1769 – 3 February 1830/1831), was a Dutch and British merchant banker, author, philosopher and art collector, best known for his novel Anastasius a work which many experts considered a rival to the writings of Lord Byron. His sons included Henry Thomas Hope and Alexander Beresford Hope.
The eldest son of Jan Hope, Thomas was descended from a branch of an old Scottish family who for several generations were merchant bankers known as the Hopes of Amsterdam, or Hope & Co. He inherited from his mother a love of the arts, which the efforts of his father and grandfather made possible by acquiring an enormous wealth. His father spent his final years turning his summer home Groenendaal Park in Heemstede into a grand park of sculpture open to the public. After he fled to London with his brothers to avoid the French occupation of the Netherlands from 1795–1810, he never returned.
In 1784, when young Thomas was fifteen, his father died unexpectedly in the Hague just after purchasing Bosbeek on the grounds of Groenendaal Park, the house that was to house his large art collection. He shared his art collection as part of the Hope & Co. partnership with his cousin Henry Hope. This cousin was just completing work on his Villa Welgelegen further up the road. Missing his father and grandfather, and preferring the company of his mother and brothers to his uncles in Amsterdam, Thomas did not enter the family business. Instead, at the age of eighteen, he began to devote more and more of his time to the study of all the arts, especially the architecture of classical civilisation, during a series of tours to other countries. During his grand tour through Europe, Asia and Africa, Hope interested himself especially in architecture and sculpture, making a large collection of artifacts which attracted his attention (e.g. the Hope Dionysus).
Thomas Hope returned to the Hague when his mother died in 1794. That same year, the three Hope brothers, along with their elder cousin Henry Hope, who was the executor of their mother’s will, fled to London before the oncoming French revolutionary forces marching on Amsterdam. In their haste to remove their art collections to the safety of London, the Hopes left their houses, summer homes and parks full of wall decorations, furniture, and heavy statuary. Later, after the French occupation, Thomas’s younger brother Adrian Elias would return to live at Groenendaal Park full-time and expand the gardens. Cousin Henry always hoped to return to his home, Villa Welgelegen, but he died in 1811 before King Willem restored Dutch sovereignty in 1814.
The Hopes established a residence in London in Duchess Street, Cavendish Square. Experienced from all his travels, Thomas Hope took to London like a fish to water, while his younger brothers missed their home in the Netherlands. He decorated the house in a very elaborate style, from drawings made himself with each room taking on a different style influenced by the countries he had visited. In essence, the combined art collections of Hope & Co., his parents and Henry Hope gave him the opportunity to further research the various art he had studied during his travels and he began to write books on decoration and furniture, the first of its kind. In the same way he had done with Villa Welgelegen, Henry Hope opened the house as a semi-public museum. The house museum included three vase galleries filled with South Italian vases the Hopes purchased from Sir William Hamilton’s second vase collection.
In this eclectic wealthy residence of bachelors, younger brother Henry Philip oversaw the gem collection (acquiring the Hope Diamond and the Hope Pearl), while cousin Henry busied himself with the banking business and the Louisiana Purchase, together with Barings. Thomas Hope did not settle in London, however. He took up his grand tour where he left off, and in 1795 he began his extensive tours of the Ottoman Empire which included visits to Turkey, Rhodes, Egypt, Syria, and Arabia. He stayed for about a year in Istanbul/Constantinople during which he produced some 350 drawings depicting the people and places he witnessed in the Ottoman Empire, a collection now to be found in the Benaki Museum, Athens. During these travels, he was given free rein by the Hope & Co. firm to collect many paintings, sculptures, antique objects and books, some of which were destined to be displayed for the public in Amsterdam in the branch offices on the Keizersgracht 444, and some of which were destined for his London house in Duchess Street in 1804.
After his marriage to Louisa de la Poer Beresford in 1806, Hope acquired a country seat at Deepdene, near Dorking in Surrey. Here, surrounded by his large collections of paintings, sculpture and antiques, Deepdene became a famous resort of men of letters as well as of people of fashion. Among the luxuries suggested by his fine taste, and provided to his guests, was a miniature library in several languages in each bedroom. He also gave frequent employment to artists, sculptors and craftsmen. Bertel Thorvaldsen, the Danish sculptor, was indebted to him for the early recognition of his talents, and he was also a patron to Francis Legatt Chantrey and John Flaxman; it was to his order that the latter illustrated the writings of Dante Alighieri.
He was the father of Henry Thomas Hope, art patron and politician and Alexander James Beresford Beresford Hope, author and politician.
Hope was eager to advance public awareness of historical painting and design and to influence design in the grand houses of Regency London. In pursuit of his scholarly projects, he began sketching furniture, room interiors and costumes, and publishing books with his accompanying scholarly texts.
In 1807 Thomas Hope published sketches of his furniture, in a folio volume, titled Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, which had considerable influence and brought about a change in the upholstery and interior decoration of houses. Hope’s furniture designs were in the pseudo-classical manner generally called “English Empire”. It was sometimes extravagant, and often heavy, but was much more restrained than the wilder and later flights of Thomas Sheraton in this style.
In 1809 he published the Costumes of the Ancients, and in 1812 Designs of Modern Costumes, works which display a large amount of antiquarian research. A Historical Essay on Architecture, which featured illustrations based on early Hope drawings, was published posthumously by his family in 1835. Thus Hope became famous in London’s aristocratic circles as ‘the costume and furniture man’. The sobriquet was regarded as a compliment by his enthusiastic supporters, but for his critics, including Lord Byron, it was a term of ridicule.
Yearning for a different type of literary acclaim as he approached the age of fifty, Hope began work on a novel with the enthusiastic encouragement of a few close friends. The result completed in 1819, Anastasius, was a work of such academic interest, raw excitement and descriptive power that the first edition released by fabled London publisher, John Murray, became an overnight sensation. A second edition sold out in twenty-four hours. Foreign translations in French, German and Flemish quickly followed.
The novel lifted a curtain of ignorance about the East without being a mere retelling of Hope’s own travels. The eponymous narrator-hero Anastasius was fearless, curious, cunning, ruthless, brave, and above all, sexy. As a newly converted Muslim mercenary soldier, Selim, his travels threw him among friends, lovers and enemies.
Hope’s descriptions revealed the lives of the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire and provided astonishing glimpses of the wars fought among the Turks, Russians and Wahabees. It also described many previously unknown details of Islamic culture: music, language, cuisine, religion, laws and literature.
Because of his modesty, Hope originally chose not to declare his authorship of Anastasius in the first edition. Ironically, given Hope’s mild reputation, the authorship of the dashing Anastasius was at first mistakenly attributed to Lord Byron, who, according to legend, confided to Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, that he wept bitterly on reading it.
“To have been the author of Anastasius, I would have given the two poems which brought me the most glory.”
These events prompted Hope to reveal his identity as author in later editions, adding a map of Anastasius’s travels and fine-tuning the text, although his authorship was initially greeted with incredulity by some journals.
Soon after Hope’s death in 1831, his widow Louisa remarried her cousin William Carr Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford. His family thereafter embraced conservative values, causing them to authorise the demolition of the writer’s legendary London home, disperse his fabled art collection, and distance themselves from his Oriental masterpiece. No substantial collection of Hope’s personal papers survived the family indifference and Anastasius, his magnum opus, became a victim of the sanctimonious morality of the Victorian age.
Nevertheless, it influenced the later works of William Thackeray, Mark Twain and Herman Melville. More recently, the noted Orientalist, Robert Irwin, wrote, “this book, one of the most important books of the nineteenth century, should be much more widely read.”
In addition to his other accomplishments, Hope was the author of an important philosophical work published posthumously, The Origin and Prospect of Man (1831), in which his speculations diverged widely from the social and religious views of the Victorian age. This volume, which has been cited by philosophy expert Roger Scruton, was a highly eclectic work and took a global view of the challenges facing mankind.
In his obituary published in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 17, No. 476, Saturday, 12 February 1831, it was written,
“We remember the opinion of a writer in the Edinburgh Review, soon after the publication of Anastasius. With a degree of pleasantry and acumen peculiar to northern criticism, he asks, ‘Where has Mr. Hope hidden all his eloquence and poetry up to this hour? How is it that he has, all of a sudden, burst out into descriptions which would not disgrace the pen of Tacitus, and displayed a depth of feeling and vigour of imagination which Lord Byron could not excel? We do not shrink from one syllable of this eulogy.’ “
Still commonly known among literary circles as “Anastasius Hope,” the combined artistic legacy of Thomas Hope is still of universal interest and importance.
In later years Hope cemented his position in society despite never obtaining a peerage. By the time of his death in 1831 his contribution to art and architecture had been widely recognised.
Sadly the two houses Hope created have been lost, Duchess Street demolished by his son in 1851 and the Deepdene in 1969. The only complete surviving structure built by Hope was the Deepdene mausoleum. Built in 1818, the structure was the first recorded work at the Deepdene and is Hopes final resting place. Permanently sealed in 1957 and buried in 1960 the structure has lain forgotten until now. The Mausolea and Monuments Trust has been working with Mole Valley District Council to rescue the structure and is running a campaign to excavate and repair it.
In an artistic irony against his Oriental legacy, Thomas Hope, the man who revealed the secrets of the Ottoman world, was recently incorrectly described by the writer Philip Mansel as being portrayed in his portrait as wearing the clothes of “a low ranking Greek sailor.”
However, because of studies undertaken in 2007, this 1798 portrait of Hope, done by William Beechey, can now be seen with a new appreciation. As proved by the noted Islamic scholar, Professor John Rodenbeck, the Beechey portrait depicts Hope dressed as a Turkish noble, not a Greek sailor. This discovery came about when Professor Rodenbeck carefully examined, then translated, the Arabic writing which is embroidered on the original waistcoat owned by Hope, which the author also wears in the Beechey portrait. The waistcoat and portrait, both of which are in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery reveal that Hope chose to have himself depicted as a rich Turkish Muslim standing before the most sacrosanct Islamic spot in Constantinople, the mosque of Abu Ayyub at Eyüp Sultan.
Information and images from Wikipedia.com except for where noted.
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.
Northanger Abbey: The Austen Project, by Val McDermid
From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
In the second installment of The Austen Project, bestselling Scottish crime writer Val McDermid takes a stab at a contemporary reimagining of Jane Austen’s most under-appreciated novel, Northanger Abbey. Written in the late 1790’s when Austen was a fledgling writer, this Gothic parody about young heroine Catherine Morland’s first experiences in Bath society and her romance with the dishy hero Henry Tilney is one of my favorite Austen novels. Fresh and funny, the writing style is not as accomplished as her later works but no one can dismiss the quality of Austen’s witty dialogue nor her gentle joke at the melodramatic Gothic fiction so popular in her day. I was encouraged by the choice of McDermid as author and intrigued to see how she would transport the story into the 21st century.
Our modern heroine, sixteen-year-old Cat Morland, is a vicar’s daughter living a rather disappointing life in the Piddle Valley of Dorset. Her mother and father seldom argued and never fought, and her siblings were so average she despaired of ever discovering any dark family secrets to add excitement to her life. Homeschooled, she can’t comprehend history or French or algebra, but delights in reading to fuel her vivid imagination, favoring ghost stories, zombie and vampire tales. After years of exploring the narrow confines of her home turf she craves adventure abroad. Rich neighbors Susie and Andrew Allen come to her rescue by inviting her to travel with them and attend the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland where Cat “is in her element, seeing potential for terror and adventure around every twist and turn of the narrow streets.”
Introduced to theater, art and books, and thanks to fashionista Mrs. Allen, Cat soon acquires a new wardrobe and dancing lessons where she partners with a charming and witty young attorney, Henry Tilney. After researching Henry on Facebook and Google she discovers that his father is the much-decorated general who made his name in the Falkland’s war before she was born. Even more interesting to Cat’s Gothic infused imagination, he owns Northanger Abbey, a medieval Borders abbey in Scotland. Cat also meets Mrs. Allen’s long-lost school friend Martha Thorpe and her three daughters, one of which is just Cat’s age. Bella, who recognizes the Morland last name, knows Cat’s elder brother Jamie who is attending Oxford with her brother Johnny. Before long they were “gossiping about the things that entertain young women of a certain age and type,” and becoming bff’s.
Blowhard Johnny Thorpe arrives in his racy red sports car with friend James Morland in tow. He attempts to court Cat but all she can think of is Henry and his sister Ellie. When Cat attends a céilidh, she anticipates dancing the Highland fling and hopes to encounter Henry Tilney again, who will surely save her from the unwanted attentions of crude Johnny Thorpe. As she and Bella scout the room they notice a beautiful, pale young woman dressed all in white:
“Who on earth was that?” Bella asked, “She acts like she’s in Pride and Prejudice.”
“That’s Henry Tilney’s sister Ellie.” Cat stared after the disappearing figure. There was something about Ellie, something out of time and out of style, like there would be if you were a two-hundred-year old vampire, she thought with a mixture of dread and delight.”
The story continues, mirroring the text of Northanger Abbey page for page, and scene for scene. Cat travels to Northanger Abbey as guest of the Tilney’s and the story turns Gothic and mysterious – just as Austen had devised.
McDermid made clever, creative and sensible choices in modernizing Northanger Abbey by moving the action from England to Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival easily replaces eighteenth century Georgian Bath allowing for a social hub similar in context: theater, shopping and country dancing. Later, we are treated to a really creepy medieval setting for a Scottish castle/Northanger Abbey. Cat is appropriately addicted to modern Gothic novels rivaling the famous Northanger Canon: Herbridean Harpies, Ghasts of Ghia and even Pride a Prejudice and Zombies! McDermid builds the vampire theme slowly, allowing Henry and Ellie to be pale in complexion, anachronistic in demeanor and just mysterious enough to trigger Cat’s imagination. Her characterizations are spot on: Henry is droll and swoon-worthy as ever, Cat a bit air-headed and impressionable, Bella a slick piece of work, and General Tilney deceptive and tyrannical.
The plot plays out as one would expect, and if you had not read Northanger Abbey before you would not notice that the author has really created a complete translation, scene for scene, and sometimes word for word—a No Fear Shakespeare version of Northanger Abbey. While I admired McDermid’s creative choices to bring the story into the modern world (cell phones, Facebook, language and culture), I was immediately puzzled by her choice of narrative style. This novel is really a retelling instead of the reimagining that it was advertised as. The downside of a translation is in its creative limitations, resulting in McDermid’s sentences being affected and unnatural. I just wanted her to break out of the stranglehold she had placed on herself and use the plot and characterization as a spring board, and not a noose. Limiting herself in this manner may have been her way of honoring Austen, but I think she has done a great disservice to her own writing. Having not read any of her acclaimed crime novels I have no idea of her real talent. I believe that Austen herself, who honed her craft so precisely, would be baffled at one author lessening their gifts at the expense of another.
Like the reaction to Joanna Trollope’s contemporary reimaging of Sense and Sensibility published last year, whenever you fiddle with the classics there are bound to be those who are open to the concept and those completely closed off. I read this novel in anticipation of enjoying it. In hindsight, I do not think that it was written for an Austen fan familiar with the original, but for the uninitiated who may view it in a completely different light.
Grove Press (2014)
Hardcover (368) pages
A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and Austenprose.com, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.
This review of Val McDermind’s Northanger Abbey originally appeared on Austenprose.com and is used here with permission.
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