One of our readers recently shared a project that he has been working on. Author and art historian, Alexander Chefalas also happens to be a 1/12 scale miniature enthusiast. On his blog, MyGreekMiniatures.com, he shares numerous Regency themed projects, and has offered to here detail, in English, the step by step process he undertakes in creating his windows into Jane Austen’s world.
As a true & loyal fan of Miss Austen I decided to make a roombox inspired by her last and beloved home at Chawton cottage.
Your kind Letter my dearest Anne found me in bed, for in spite of my hopes & promises when I wrote to you I have since been very ill indeed. An attack of my sad complaint seized me within a few days afterwards – the most severe I ever had – & coming upon me after weeks of indisposition, it reduced me very low. I have kept my bed since 13. of April, with only removals to a Sopha. Now, I am getting well again, & indeed have been gradually tho’ slowly recovering my strength for the last three weeks. I can sit up in my bed & employ myself, as I am proving to you at this present moment, & really am equal to being out of bed, but that the posture is thought good for me. How to do justice to the kindness of all my family during this illness, is quite beyond me!…… I have so many alleviations & comforts to bless the Almighty for! – My head was always clear, & I had scarcely any pain; my cheif sufferings were from feverish nights, weakness and Languor…as our Alton Apothy did not pretend to be able to cope with it, better advice was called in. Our nearest very good, is at Winchester, where there is a Hospital & capital Surgeons, & one of them attended me, & his applications gradually removed the Evil.– The consequence is, that instead of going to Town to put myself into the hands of some Physician as I should otherwise have done, I am going to Winchester instead, for some weeks to see what Mr Lyford can do further towards re-establishing my in tolerable health In short, if I live to be an old Woman I must expect to wish I has died now, blessed in the tenderness of such a Family, & before I had survived either them or their affection, – You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure. – But the Providence of God has restored me – & may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I sh’d have been now! – Sick or Well, beleive me ever your attached friend. J. Austen
Jane Austen to Anne Sharp
May 22, 1817
It is known that Jane Austen spent her final weeks of life in the college town of Winchester, seeking the aid of a Doctor Giles Lyford. During her time there, she lived in a few rooms of a modest brick home, nearby the Cathedral where she would soon be buried, “A building that she admired so much.” Much of what we know about her final days has been gleaned from the few letters the survive from this time, including one to her dear friend Anne Sharp (previously quoted) and another to her young nephew, James Edward Austen (the same nephew who would later write her first biography)
I know no better way, my dearest Edward, of thanking you for your most affectionate concern for me during my illness than by telling you myself, as soon as possible, that I continue to get better. I will not boast of my handwriting; neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sopha, ’tis true, but I eat my meals with aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another. Mr. Lyford says he will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, and have no doubt of redress from that pious, learned, and disinterested body. Our lodgings are very comfortable. We have a neat little drawing-room with a bow window overlooking Dr. Gabell’s garden. Thanks to the kindness of your father and mother in sending me their carriage, my journey hither on Saturday was performed with very little fatigue, and had it been a fine day, I think I should have felt none; but it distressed me to see uncle Henry and Wm. Knight, who kindly attended us on horseback, riding in the rain almost all the way. We expect a visit from them to-morrow, and hope they will stay the night; and on Thursday, which is Confirmation and a holiday, we are to get Charles out to breakfast. We have had but one visit yet from him, poor fellow, as he is in sick-room, but he hopes to be out to-night. We see Mrs. Heathcote every day, and William is to call upon us soon. God bless you, my dear Edward. If ever you are ill, may you be as tenderly nursed as I have been. May the same blessed alleviations of anxious, sympathising friends be yours: and may you possess, as I dare say you will, the greatest blessing of all in the consciousness of not being unworthy of their love. I could not feel this.
Your very affecte Aunt,
(May 27, 1817)
The following excerpts are quoted from a small booklet, Jane Austen in Winchester, written by Frederick Bussby and published by the Friends of Winchester Cathedral in 1969.
Jane Austen in Winchester Her Grave
One of the vergers in Winchester Cathedral in the middle of the nineteenth century was very puzzled why so many people enquired for the grave of Jane Austen. Was there, he asked, “anything particular about the lady?” If we read the inscription on her tomb in the eighth bay of the north aisle of the nave we read much about her virtues and her good qualities, but we learn nothing about the creative genius which has made her known throughout the world, and which has held captive innumerable admirers. Today probably more people seek the tomb of Jane Austen in the Cathedral than that of any person associated with Winchester. Then, it was one monument among many which extolled the merits of the departed; today it is the goal of many a pilgrimage for lovers of English literature. The inscription on her grave reads as follows:
In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Revd GEORGE AUSTEN
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County
She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection,
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in their deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
Jane Austen’s Final Days in Winchester
The question naturally arises, “Why is it that she has come to be so closely associated with Winchster, especially as she lived almost the whole of her life elsewhere?” Born in 1775, she grew up to enjoy ill health, like many of her contemporaries. Like them, she tried the benefits that might be derived from a visit to Bath. But in 1817, she resolved to put herself under the a Winchester doctor, Giles King Lyford, then surgeon in ordinary at the County Hospital , situated in Parchment Street in the centre of the city. She therefore left Chawton for the last time one wet Saturday at the end of May. Edward Knight placed his carriage at her disposal. Travelling with her in the carriage was her sister, Cassandra, and accompanying them on horseback was her brother Henry and her nephew William Knight. With the help of the Heathcote family she had fixed up to stay at Mrs David’s in College Street. The house, now belonging to Winchester College, is marked by an oval plaque in grey slate with white lettering, proved by the generosity of Mrs. Jack Read in 1956. The Inscription runs as follows:
Memorials to the David family used to be visible in the churchyard of the Cathedral opposite the east end of the Morely College, but these have now disappeared. The commemorated Matthew David, who died on August 13, 1833, aged 71; and Mary David, aged 85, who died on October 28, 1813. Was this Matthew David the husband of Jane’s new landlady? In her new home she had a “neat little drawing room with a bow window” Here Mr. Lyford attended her and here she spent most of the time on a sofa, only occasionally being able to move round her new home and only once being able to go out in a sedan chair. Her hopes of an excursion in a wheel chair were never fulfilled. But although she had great confidence in Mr. Lyford, she also consulted that “learned and pious body, the Dean and Chapter”, about a grave in the cathedral, a building which, as we know from her sister Cassandra, she greatly admired. The precise nature of this fatal illness has been the study of Sir Zachary Cope, who has studied the observations in Jane’s letters and concludes that she suffered from Addison’s disease. Those with medical interests can find the full details in the Journal of the British Medical Association for July 18, 1964.
We are also curious as to whether during Jane Austen’s final days in Winchester, was she still able to continue her writing. We know that she was deriving interest from money received from her previous novels. Thus from Hoare’s the Bankers on July 9 she received 15, interest on the “600 Navy per cents”. But she seems not to have written any more fiction. She did, however, very shortly before she died, write a poem to mark St Swithun’s Day, July 15, a day still observed in Winchester. She gave her poem the title Venta, the old name for Winchester and she composed it on July 15, the actual St Swithun’s Day, three days before she died.
Written in Winchester on Tuesday the 15th of July 1817
When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of St. Swithin
And that William of Wykham’s approval was faint.
The races however were fix’d and determined
The company met & the weather was charming
The Lords & the Ladies were sattin’d & ermin’d
And nobody saw any future alarming.
But when the old Saint was inform’d of these doings
He made but one spring from his shrine to the roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And thus he address’d them all standing aloof.
Oh subject rebellious, Oh Venta depraved!
When once we are buried you think we are dead
But behold me Immortal. — By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinn’d and must suffer. — Then further he said
These races & revels & dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighbourly Plain
Let them stand — you shall meet with a curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.
Ye cannot but know my command in July.
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers,
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers.
The events of the last two days of her life we can piece together from the letter and short biography left by Cassandra and Henry Austen. Says Henry: “She retained her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, her affections, warm, clear and unimpaired, to the last. Neither her love of God, nor of her fellow creatures flagged for a moment. She made a point of receiving the sacrament before excessive bodily weakness might have rendered her perception unequal to her wished. She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen became too laborious. The day before her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour (Venta, already quoted). Her last voluntary speech conveyed thanks to her medical attendant; and to the final question asked of her, purporting to know her wants, she replied, “I want nothing but death.”
Cassandra’s account of Jane’s last hours corroborates the more reserved account of her brother. Writing only three days after Jane’s death, she is naturally emotionally involved in the events she describes. She tells of her gratitude that she could be with her sister to the last. She gives poignant details of how she nursed her. She tells of some of her last words, “God grant me patience, Pray for me, oh Pray for me.” She describes that long last night as her dying sister rested her head on the pillow in her lap. And so she breathed her last, and on her face a “sweet serene air”. With overflowing sisterly love she writes: “I have lost such a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed—she was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow.”
On the following Thursday, July 24, the funeral took place in the Cathedral. The service was taken by the Reverend Thomas Watkins, Precentor of the Cathedral and Chaplain of Winchester College, where he had probably come to know members of the Austen family. The service took place in the morning of that day before Morning Prayer.
Commenting on the occasion, Jane’s brother observed that “in the whole catalogue of the mighty dead (the Cathedral) does not contain the ashes of a brighter genius or sincerer Christian”. Looking back on her life, he adds that “one trait only remains to be touched on. It makes all others unimportant. She was thoroughly religious and devout; fearful of giving offence to God and incapable of feeling it towards any fellow creature. On serious subjects she was well-instructed, both by reading and meditation, and her opinions accorded strictly with those of our Established Church.”
The Cathedral Burial Register records her death [and burial as July 16, however] it will be noted that there is a discrepancy in the Register over the date of burial. The entry seems to have been made by two different hands. The name, abode and July are in one hand and the remaining details in a second hand. Perhaps the Clerk wrote the first three items and that the Precentor wrote the remainder, perhaps some weeks after the funeral when precise dates had slipped from his memory. But whatever the explanation, the discrepancy is certainly there.
It was not until many years later that a full-dress biography of Jane Austen appeared. It was written by the Rev. J. E. Austen-Leigh. One result was that from the profits of his book a memorial brass tablet was placed on the north wall of the nave, near her grave, in 1872. It was the work of the well-known architect Wyatt, who had been employed by Austen-Leigh because of his work in his own parish church of Bray. By this time, the “something special” about Jane Austen was well known and the mural table records this as follows:
known to many by her
writings, endeared to
her family by the
varied charms of her
Character and ennobled
by Christian faith
and piety, was born
at Steventon in the
County of Hands Dec.
xvi mdcclxxv, and buried
in this Cathedral
July xxiv mdcccxvii
“She openeth her
mouth in wisdom
and in her tongue is
the law of kindness.”
Prov xxxi. v. xxvi
Over the table is a memorial window bidding us, in Latin, to remember in the Lord, Jane Austen who died on July 18, 1817. It was erected in 1900 by public subscription and was designed by C.E. Kempe. It consists of two rows of three figures. In the head of the window is Saint Augustine whose name, in its abbreviated form, is Austin. The top central figure is David playing his harp.
The central figure in the bottom row is St. John holding a book displaying on an open page the first words of his Gospel, again in Latin. The other two figures in the window represent the sons of Korah mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20:19. Korah and his sons are traditionally associated with Psalms 42 to 49, Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88. The figures carry scrolls on which are quotations form these psalms indicated the religious side of Jane’s character.
Additional details from Cassandra’s letters to her niece, Fanny Austen-Knight, serve to fill out the final details of Jane’s final days and hours.
Winchester, Sunday, July 20, 1817
My Dearest Fanny,
Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.
Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.
Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.
I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.
You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.
She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: “God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!” Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.
I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma — it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.
Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.
I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.
I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.
This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.
The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!
Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o’clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.
Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton to-morrow morning; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.
I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.
I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,
CASS. ELIZ. AUSTEN.
Chawton: Tuesday, July 29, 1817
My Dearest Fanny,
I have just read your letter for the third time, and thank you most sincerely for every kind expression to myself, and still more warmly for your praises of her who I believe was better known to you than to any human being besides myself. Nothing of the sort could have been more gratifying to me than the manner in which you write of her, and if the dear angel is conscious of what passes here, and is not above all earthly feelings, she may perhaps receive pleasure in being so mourned. Had she been the survivor I can fancy her speaking of you in almost the same terms. There are certainly many points of strong resemblance in your characters; in your intimate acquaintance with each other, and your mutual strong affection, you were counterparts.
Thursday was not so dreadful a day to me as you imagined. There was so much necessary to be done that there was no time for additional misery. Everything was conducted with the greatest tranquillity, and but that I was determined I would see the last, and therefore was upon the listen, I should not have known when they left the house. I watched the little mournful procession the length of the street; and when it turned from my sight, and I had lost her for ever, even then I was not overpowered, nor so much agitated as I am now in writing of it. Never was human being more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!
I continue very tolerably well — much better than any one could have supposed possible, because I certainly have had considerable fatigue of body as well as anguish of mind for months back; but I really am well, and I hope I am properly grateful to the Almighty for having been so supported. Your grandmamma, too, is much better than when I came home.
I did not think your dear papa appeared well, and I understand that he seemed much more comfortable after his return from Winchester than he had done before. I need not tell you that he was a great comfort to me; indeed, I can never say enough of the kindness I have received from him and from every other friend.
I get out of doors a good deal and am able to employ myself. Of course those employments suit me best which leave me most at leisure to think of her I have lost, and I do think of her in every variety of circumstance. In our happy hours of confidential intercourse, in the cheerful family party which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death-bed, and as (I hope) an inhabitant of heaven. Oh, if I may one day be re-united to her there! I know the time must come when my mind will be less engrossed by her idea, but I do not like to think of it. If I think of her less as on earth, God grant that I may never cease to reflect on her as inhabiting heaven, and never cease my humble endeavours (when it shall please God) to join her there.
In looking at a few of the precious papers which are now my property I have found some memorandums, amongst which she desires that one of her gold chains may be given to her god-daughter Louisa, and a lock of her hair be set for you. You can need no assurance, my dearest Fanny, that every request of your beloved aunt will be sacred with me. Be so good as to say whether you prefer a brooch or ring. God bless you, my dearest Fanny.
Believe me, most affectionately yours,
CASS. ELIZTH. AUSTEN.
from the reign of
Henry the 4th
to the death of
Charles the 1st.
By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian.
To Miss Austen eldest daughter of the Revd George Austen, this book is inscribed with all due respect by
N.B. There will be very few Dates in this History.
Henry the 4th
Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered. It is to be supposed that Henry was married, since he had certainly four sons, but it is not in my power to inform the Reader who was his wife. Be this as it may, he did not live for ever, but falling ill, his son the Prince of Wales came and took away the crown; whereupon, the King made a long speech, for which I must refer the Reader to Shakespeare’s Plays, & the Prince made a still longer. Things being thus settled between them the King died, & was succeeded by his son Henry who had previously beat Sir William Gascoigne.
Henry the 5th
This Prince after he succeeded to the throne grew quite reformed & amiable, forsaking all his dissipated Companions, & never thrashing Sir William again. During his reign, Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for. His Majesty then turned his thoughts to France, where he went & fought the famous Battle of Agincourt. He afterwards married the King’s daughter Catherine, a very agreable Woman by Shakespeare’s account. Inspite of all this however he died, and was succeeded by his son Henry.
Henry the 6th
I cannot say much for this Monarch’s Sense. Nor would I if I could, for he was a Lancastrian. I suppose you know all about the Wars between him & the Duke of York who was of the right side; if you do not, you had better read some other History, for I shall not be very diffuse in this, meaning by it only to vent my Spleen against, & shew my Hatred to all those people whose parties or principles do not suit with mine, & not to give information. This King married Margaret of Anjou, a woman whose distresses & Misfortunes were so great as almost to make me who hate her, pity her. It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived & made such a row among the English. They should not have burnt her — but they did. There were several Battles between the Yorkists & Lancastrians, in which the former (as they ought) usually conquered. At length they were entirely overcome; The King was murdered — & Edward the 4th ascended the Throne.
Edward the 4th
This Monarch was famous only for his Beauty & his Courage, of which the Picture we have here given of him, & his undaunted Behaviour in marrying one Woman while he was engaged to another, are sufficient proofs. His Wife was Elizabeth Woodville, a Widow who, poor woman! was afterwards confined in a Convent by that Monster of Iniquity & Avarice Henry the 7th. One of Edward’s Mistresses was Jane Shore, who had a play written about her, but it is a tragedy & therefore not worth reading. Having performed all these noble actions, his Majesty died, & was succeeded by his son.
Edward the 5th
This unfortunate Prince lived so little a while that nobody had time to draw his picture. He was murdered by his Uncle’s Contrivance, whose name was Richard the 3d.
Richard the 3d
The Character of this Prince has been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man. It has indeed been confidently asserted that he killed his two Nephews & his Wife, but it has also been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to beleive true; & if this is the case, it may also be affirmed that he did not kill his Wife, for if Perkin Warbeck was really the Duke of York, why might not Lambert Simnel be the Widow of Richard. Whether innocent or guilty, he did not reign long in peace, for Henry Tudor E. of Richmond as great a villain as ever lived, made a great fuss about getting the Crown & having killed the King at the battle of Bosworth, he succeeded to it.
Henry the 7th
This Monarch soon after his accession married the Princess Elizabeth of York, by which alliance he plainly proved that he thought his own right inferior to hers, tho’ he pretended to the contrary. By this marriage he had two sons & two daughters, the elder of which Daughters was married to the King of Scotland & had the happiness of being grandmother to one of the first Characters in the World. But of her, I shall have occasion to speak more at large in future. The Youngest, Mary, married first the King of France & secondly the D. of Suffolk, by whom she had one daughter, afterwards the Mother of Lady Jane Gray, who tho’ inferior to her lovely Cousin the Queen of Scots, was yet an amiable young woman & famous for reading Greek while other people were hunting. It was in the reign of Henry the 7th that Perkin Warbeck & Lambert Simnel before mentioned made their appearance, the former of whom was set in the Stocks, took shelter in Beaulieu Abbey, & was beheaded with the Earl of Warwick, & the latter was taken into the Kings kitchen. His Majesty died & was succeeded by his son Henry whose only merit was his not being quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth.
Henry the 8th
It would be an affront to my Readers were I to suppose that they were not as well acquainted with the particulars of this King’s reign as I am myself. It will therefore be saving them the task of reading again what they have read before, & myself the trouble of writing what I do not perfectly recollect, by giving only a slight sketch of the principal Events which marked his reign. Among these may be ranked Cardinal Wolsey’s telling the father Abbot of Leicester Abbey that “he was come to lay his bones among them,” the reformation in Religion, & the King’s riding through the streets of London with Anna Bullen. It is however but Justice, & my Duty to declare that this amiable Woman was entirely innocent of the Crimes with which she was accused, of which her Beauty, her Elegance, & her Sprightliness were sufficient proofs, not to mention her solemn protestations of Innocence, the weakness of the Charges against her, & the King’s Character, all of which add some confirmation, tho’ perhaps but slight ones when in comparison with those before alledged in her favour. Tho’ I do not profess giving many dates, yet as I think it proper to give some & shall of course make choice of those which it is most necessary for the Reader to know, I think it right to inform him that her letter to the King was dated on the 6th of May. The Crimes & Cruelties of this Prince, were too numerous to be mentioned, (as this history I trust has fully shewn;) & nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion himself be at so much trouble to abolish one which had for ages been established in the Kingdom. His Majesty’s 5th wife was the Duke of Norfolk’s Neice who, tho’ universally acquitted of the crimes for which she was beheaded, has been by many people supposed to have led an abandoned life before her Marriage — Of this however I have many doubts, since she was a relation of that noble Duke of Norfolk who was so warm in the Queen of Scotland’s cause, & who at last fell a victim to it. The King’s last wife contrived to survive him, but with difficulty effected it. He was succeeded by his only son Edward.
Edward the 6th
As this prince was only nine years old at the time of his Father’s death, he was considered by many people as too young to govern, & the late King happening to be of the same opinion, his mother’s Brother the Duke of Somerset was chosen Protector of the realm during his minority. This Man was on the whole of a very amiable Character, & is somewhat of a favourite with me, tho’ I would by no means pretend to affirm that he was equal to those first of Men Robert Earl of Essex, Delamere, or Gilpin. He was beheaded, of which he might with reason have been proud, had he known that such was the death of Mary Queen of Scotland; but as it was impossible that he should be conscious of what had never happened, it does not appear that he felt particularly delighted with the manner of it. After his decease the Duke of Northumberland had the care of the King & the Kingdom, & performed his trust of both so well that the King died & the Kingdom was left to his daughter in law the Lady Jane Grey, who has been already mentioned as reading Greek. Whether she really understood that language or whether such a study proceeded only from an excess of vanity for which I beleive she was always rather remarkable, is uncertain. Whatever might be the cause, she preserved the same appearance of knowledge, & contempt of what was generally esteemed pleasure, during the whole of her Life, for she declared herself displeased with being appointed Queen, and while conducting to the scaffold, she wrote a sentence in latin & another in Greek on seeing the dead Body of her Husband accidentally passing that way.
This woman had the good luck of being advanced to the throne of England, inspite of the superior pretensions, Merit & Beauty of her Cousins Mary Queen of Scotland & Jane Grey. Nor can I pity the Kingdom for the misfortunes they experienced during her Reign, since they fully deserved them, for having allowed her to succeed her Brother — which was a double peice of folly, since they might have foreseen that as she died without Children, she would be succeeded by that disgrace to humanity, that pest of society, Elizabeth. Many were the people who fell martyrs to the protestant Religion during her reign; I suppose not fewer than a dozen. She married Philip King of Spain who in her Sister’s reign for [sic] famous for building the Armadas. She died without issue, & then the dreadful moment came in which the destroyer of all comfort, the deceitful Betrayer of trust reposed in her, & the Murderess of her Cousin succeeded to the Throne. —
It was the peculiar misfortune of this Woman to have bad Ministers —— Since wicked as she herself was, she could not have committed such extensive Mischeif, had not those vile & abandoned Men connived at, & encouraged her in her Crimes. I know that it has by many people been asserted & beleived that Lord Burleigh, Sir Francis Walsingham, & the rest of those who filled the cheif Offices of State were deserving, experienced, & able Ministers. But oh! how blinded such Writers & such Readers must be to true Merit, to Merit despised, neglected & defamed, if they can persist in such opinions when they reflect that these Men, these boasted Men were such Scandals to their Country & their Sex as to allow & assist their Queen in confining for the space of nineteen Years, a Woman who if the claims of Relationship & Merit were of no avail, yet as a Queen & as one who condescended to place confidence in her, had every reason to expect Assistance & protection; and at length in allowing Elizabeth to bring this amiable Woman to an untimely, unmerited, and scandalous Death. Can any one if he reflects but for a moment on this blot, this ever-lasting blot upon their Understanding & their Character, allow any praise to Lord Burleigh or Sir Francis Walsingham? Oh! what must this bewitching Princess whose only freind was then the Duke of Norfolk, and whose only ones are now Mr Whitaker, Mrs Lefroy, Mrs Knight & myself, who was abandoned by her Son, confined by her Cousin, abused, reproached & vilified by all, what must not her most noble mind have suffered when informed that Elizabeth had given orders for her Death! Yet she bore it with a most unshaken fortitude, firm in her mind; Constant in her Religion; & prepared herself to meet the cruel fate to which she was doomed, with a magnanimity that could alone proceed from conscious Innocence. And yet could you Reader have beleived it possible that some hardened & zealous Protestants have even abused her for that Steadfastness in the Catholic Religion which reflected on her so much credit? But this is a striking proof of their narrow souls & prejudiced Judgements who accuse her. She was executed in the Great Hall at Fotheringay Castle (sacred Place!) on Wednesday the 8th of February — 1586 —— to the everlasting Reproach of Elizabeth, her Ministers, and of England in general. It may not be unnecessary before I entirely conclude my account of this ill-fated Queen, to observe that she had been accused of several crimes during the time of her reigning in Scotland, of which I now most seriously do assure my Reader that she was entirely innocent; having never been guilty of anything more than Imprudencies into which she was betrayed by the openness of her Heart, her Youth, & her Education. Having I trust by this assurance entirely done away every Suspicion & every doubt which might have arisen in the Reader’s mind, from what other Historians have written of her, I shall proceed to mention the remaining Events that marked Elizabeth’s reign. It was about this time that Sir Francis Drake the first English Navigator who sailed round the World, lived, to be the ornament of his Country & his profession. Yet great as he was, & justly celebrated as a Sailor, I cannot help foreseeing that he will be equalled in this or the next Century by one who tho’ now but young, already promises to answer all the ardent & sanguine expectations of his Relations & Freinds, amongst whom I may class the amiable Lady to whom this work is dedicated, & my no less amiable Self.
Though of a different profession, and shining in a different sphere of Life, yet equally conspicuous in the Character of an Earl, as Drake was in that of a Sailor, was Robert Devereux Lord Essex. This unfortunate young Man was not unlike in Character to that equally unfortunate one Frederic Delamere. The simile may be carried still farther, & Elizabeth the torment of Essex may be compared to the Emmeline of Delamere. It would be endless to recount the misfortunes of this noble & gallant Earl. It is sufficient to say that he was beheaded on the 25th of Feb:ry, after having been Lord Leuitenant of Ireland, after having clapped his hand on his Sword, and after performing many other services to his Country. Elizabeth did not long survive his loss, & died so miserable that were it not an injury to the memory of Mary I should pity her.
James the 1st
Though this King had some faults, among which & as the most principal, was his allowing his Mother’s death, yet considered on the whole I cannot help liking him. He married Anne of Denmark, and had several Children; fortunately for him his eldest son Prince Henry died before his Father or he might have experienced the evils which befell his unfortunate Brother.
As I am myself partial to the roman catholic religion, it is with infinite regret that I am obliged to blame the Behaviour of any Member of it; yet Truth being I think very excusable in an Historian, I am necessitated to say that in this reign the roman Catholics of England did not behave like Gentlemen to the protestants. Their Behaviour indeed to the Royal Family & both Houses of Parliament might justly be considered by them as very uncivil, and even Sir Henry Percy tho’ certainly the best bred man of the party, had none of that general politeness which is so universally pleasing, as his attentions were entirely confined to Lord Mounteagle.
Sir Walter Raleigh flourished in this & the preceding reign, & is by many people held in great veneration & respect — But as he was an enemy of the noble Essex, I have nothing to say in praise of him, & must refer all those who may wish to be acquainted with the particulars of his Life, to Mr Sheridan’s play of the Critic, where they will find many interesting Anecdotes as well of him as of his freind Sir Christopher Hatton. — His Majesty was of that amiable disposition which inclines to Freindship, & in such points was possessed of a keener penetration in Discovering Merit than many other people. I once heard an excellent sharade on a Carpet, of which the subject I am now reminds me, and as I think it may afford my Readers some amusement to find it out, I shall here take the liberty of presenting it to them.
My first is what my second was to King James the 1st,
and you tread on my whole.
The principal favourites of his Majesty were Car, who was afterwards created Earl of Somerset and whose name perhaps may have some share in the above-mentioned Sharade, & George Villiers afterwards Duke of Buckingham. On his Majesty’s death he was succeeded by his son Charles.
Charles the 1st
This amiable Monarch seems born to have suffered Misfortunes equal to those of his lovely Grandmother; Misfortunes which he could not deserve since he was her descendant. Never certainly were there before so many detestable Characters at one time in England as in this period of its History; Never were amiable Men so scarce. The number of them throughout the whole Kingdom amounting only to five, besides the inhabitants of Oxford who were always loyal to their King & faithful to his interests. The names of this noble five who never forgot the duty of the Subject, or swerved from their attachment to his Majesty, were as follows — The King himself, ever steadfast in his own support — Archbishop Laud, Earl of Strafford, Viscount Faulkland, & Duke of Ormond, who were scarcely less strenuous or zealous in the cause. While the Villains of the time would make too long a list to be written or read; I shall therefore content myself with mentioning the leaders of the Gang. Cromwell, Fairfax, Hampden, & Pym may be considered as the original Causers of all the disturbances, Distresses, & Civil Wars in which England for many years was embroiled. In this reign as well as in that of Elizabeth, I am obliged in spite of my attachment to the Scotch, to consider them as equally guilty with the generality of the English, since they dared to think differently from their Sovereign, to forget the Adoration which as Stuarts it was their Duty to pay them, to rebel against, dethrone & imprison the unfortunate Mary; to oppose, to deceive, and to sell the no less unfortunate Charles. The Events of this Monarch’s reign are too numerous for my pen, and inded the recital of any Events (except what I make myself) is uninteresting to me; my principal reason for undertaking the History of England being to prove the innocence of the Queen of Scotland, which I flatter myself with having effectually done, and to abuse Elizabeth, tho’ I am rather fearful of having fallen short in the latter part of my Scheme. —. As therefore it is not my intention to give any particular account of the distresses into which this King was involved through the misconduct & Cruelty of his Parliament, I shall satisfy myself with vindicating him from the Reproach of arbitrary & tyrannical Government with which he has often been charged. This, I feel, is not difficult to be done, for with one argument I am certain of satisfying every sensible & well disposed person whose opinions have been properly guided by a good Education — & this argument is that he was a Stuart.
Saturday Nov: 26th. 1791
This work is a parody of Oliver Goldsmith’s A History of England, required reading of English schoolchildren everywhere, including the young Austens. What makes it remarkable is that it was written by one so young. Jane was but 15 years old when she wrote it. The portraits, drawn by Cassandra, bear more of a resemblence to family members than the Kings they are set to portray.
According to the British Library, Jane Austen’s ‘The History of England’ ranks as one of the most precocious and engaging works of juvenilia ever produced by a leading literary figure. Written in 1791, the manuscript is illustrated with delightful medallion portraits of monarchs painted by Jane’s sister Cassandra.From the age of 12, Jane spent more of her spare time in literary composition than in serious study. She preserved 26 items of juvenilia, dating from around 1787 to early 1793, and later copied them into three notebooks entitled Volume the First, Volume the Second and Volume the Third. The ‘History of England’ appears in Volume the Second.
You are a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, & your Virtues innumerable. Your Person is lovely, your Figure, elegant, & your Form, magestic. Your Manners are polished, your Conversation is rational & your appearance singular. If, therefore, the following Tale will afford one moment’s amusement to you, every wish will be gratified of
Your most obedient
CHAPTER THE FIRST
CASSANDRA was the Daughter & the only Daughter of a celebrated Millener in Bond Street. Her father was of noble Birth, being the near relation of the Dutchess of —-‘s Butler.
CHAPTER THE 2d
WHEN Cassandra had attained her 16th year, she was lovely & amiable, & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet her Mother had just compleated, bespoke by the Countess of —-, she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from her Mother’s shop to make her Fortune.
CHAPTER THE 3d
THE first person she met, was the Viscount of —-, a young Man, no less celebrated for his Accomplishments & Virtues, than for his Elegance & Beauty. She curtseyed & walked on.
CHAPTER THE 4th
SHE then proceeded to a Pastry-cook’s, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away.
CHAPTER THE 5th
SHE next ascended a Hackney Coach & ordered it to Hampstead, where she was no sooner arrived than she ordered the Coachman to turn round & drive her back again.
CHAPTER THE 6th
BEING returned to the same spot of the same Street she had set out from, the Coachman demanded his Pay.
CHAPTER THE 7th
SHE searched her pockets over again & again; but every search was unsuccessfull. No money could she find. The man grew peremptory. She placed her bonnet on his head & ran away.
CHAPTER THE 8th
THRO’ many a street she then proceeded & met in none the least Adventure, till on turning a Corner of Bloomsbury Square, she met Maria.
CHAPTER THE 9th
CASSANDRA started & Maria seemed surprised; they trembled, blushed, turned pale & passed each other in a mutual silence.
CHAPTER THE 10th
CASSANDRA was next accosted by her freind the Widow, who squeezing out her little Head thro’ her less window, asked her how she did? Cassandra curtseyed & went on.
CHAPTER THE 11th
A QUARTER of a mile brought her to her paternal roof in Bond Street, from which she had now been absent nearly 7 hours.
CHAPTER THE 12th
SHE entered it & was pressed to her Mother’s bosom by that worthy Woman. Cassandra smiled & whispered to herself “This is a day well spent.”
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