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Ozias Humphrey (1742-1810)

Ozias Humphrey (8 September 1742 – 9 March 1810) was a leading English painter of portrait miniatures, later oils and pastels, of the 18th century. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1791, and in 1792 he was appointed Portrait Painter in Crayons to the King (i.e. pastels). Born and schooled in Honiton, Devon, Ozias Humphrey was attracted by the gallery of casts opened by the Duke of Richmond and came to London to study art at Shipley’s school. He also studied art in Bath (under Samuel Collins, taking over his practice in 1762); in Bath, he lodged with Thomas Linley. As a young artist, his talent was encouraged by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, among others. His problems with his sight, the result of a fall from his horse in the early 1770s, which ultimately led to blindness, forced him to give up miniature painting and paint larger works in oils and pastel. Ozias Humphrey travelled to Italy in 1773 with his great friend George Romney, stopping en route at Knole, near Sevenoaks in Kent, where the Duke of Dorset commissioned several works from him. His stay in Italy lasted until 1777. On his return, his numerous subjects included George Stubbs (1777), fellow academician Dominic Serres, and the chemist Joseph Priestley. He compiled a fifty-page manuscript, A Memoir of George Stubbs, based on what Stubbs had related to him; it is the only contemporary biography of the “Painter of the English Enlightenment”. This was edited and privately (more…)
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Jane Austen’s Brothers

Jane Austen’s brothers “A Family of [Eight] children will always be called a fine family, where there are head and arms and legs enough for the number. ” -Jane Austen Jane Austen had six brothers– each with different talents, each contributing to her work in some way. James (1765-1819) Often thought by the family to be the “literary one” (see his poem on Sense and Sensibility), one of Austen’s brothers James followed in his father’s footsteps attending Oxford university at the age of 14 in 1779. After his ordination in 1787, he and his brother Henry edited a university magazine called The Loiterer, which ran for sixty issues. (Some issues of The Loiterer are available on-line.) After his marriage, he became his father’s curate at Deane, and after his retirement, He took on the duties of the Steventon as well. James was not Jane Austen’s favorite brother, though she did call him “good and clever”. He seems to have had a bit of melancholy about him, uncharacteristic of the other Austens. Perhaps it was turning from the excitement of Oxford to the retired life of a country Vicar. Perhaps it was seeing his literary pretensions lived out through his sister or the wealth acceded to by his younger brother. It is true that his life was not untouched by sorrow, as well. His first wife died when their daughter, Anna (1793-1872), was but two years old. Anna was the first niece and a favorite of Jane Austen’s. She also had (more…)
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A Poem to Francis Austen on the Birth of his Son

Jane Austen was, by all accounts, a doting Aunt. This letter, written in verse form to her brother Francis Austen, celbrates the birth of his son on July 26, 1809. My dearest Frank, I wish you joy Of Mary’s safety with a boy, Whose birth has given little pain, Compared with that of Mary Jane. May he a growing Blessing prove, And well deserve his Parents Love! Endow’d with Art’s & Nature’s Good, Thy name possessing with thy Blood; In him, in all his ways, may we Another Francis William see! — Thy infant days may he inherit, Thy warmth, nay insolence of spirit; — We would not with one fault dispense To weaken the resemblance. May he revive thy Nursery sin, Peeping as daringly within, (His curley Locks but just descried) With, ‘Bet, my be not come to bide.’ Fearless of danger, braving pain, And threatened very oft in vain, Still may one Terror daunt his soul, One needful engine of controul Be found in this sublime array, A neighbouring Donkey’s aweful Bray! — So may his equal faults as Child Produce Maturity as mild. His saucy words & fiery ways In early Childhood’s pettish days In Manhood shew his Father’s mind, Like him considerate & kind; All Gentleness to those around, And eager only not to wound. Then like his Father too, he must, To his own former struggles just, Feel his Deserts with honest Glow, And all his self-improvement know. A native fault may thus give birth (more…)
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Wentworth Makes His Bones: The Battle of St. Domingo: February 4, 1806

WentworthWentworth Makes His Bones: The Battle of St. Domingo: February 4, 1806 In Volume I, Chapter IV of Persuasion, Jane Austen mentions that Captain Wentworth had been “made commander in consequence of the action off St Domingo, and not immediately employed, had come into Somersetshire, in the summer of 1806,” (26) where he met and wooed the lovely young second daughter of Sir Walter Elliot. A tantalizing reference; the contemporary audience for whom Jane was writing would of course know all about that battle, but what about modern Janeites, reading the novel nearly two centuries later and wondering how this obscure action fits in between Trafalgar and Waterloo? Jane Austen’s legion of biographers have already recorded that her brother Francis Austen participated in the Battle of St. Domingo on 6 February 1806 as captain of HMS Canopus, an 80-gun ship of the line under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir John Duckworth. We have the Canopus’ log book entries, which describe the battle with military terseness; we also have Frank’s letter to his fiancée Mary Gibson, assuring her of his safety and giving a more descriptive account of the action. Austenian scholarship usually stops there, if it makes any mention at all of Frank’s participation in the battle; a frustrating exercise for the Janeite seeking information about the fictional Wentworth’s career. The Battle of St. Domingo is mentioned only in passing in naval histories, while the Battle of Trafalgar, which occurred only a few months before, has entire books written about (more…)