Posted on

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel – A Review

The pursuit of Mary Bennet

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel

Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Oh, Mary Bennet. What is there to say about her? Unfortunately, the most pedantic, priggish and un-proprietous Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice has not received the attention from Austenesque authors that her sisters have enjoyed so regularly: Jane is known for her beauty and kindness, Lydia and Kitty for their rambunctiousness, and of then of course there is the spirited and witty Lizzy. But where does poor Mary fit in? Perhaps you could say, “there’s something about Mary,” and now we have The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle to find out just what that something is.

the-pursuit-of-mary-bennet-by-pamela-mingle-2013-x-200

In Mingle’s new Pride and Prejudice sequel, we meet a Mary that has begun to change and move away from her lack of social graces displayed so humorously in P&P. Now older, she has become more mature and composed, but unfortunately her singing voice has not improved with age, much to the chagrin of those around her. Things soon change as the wild, thoughtless Lydia returns to the Bennet household pregnant and scandalously estranged from her husband. So, both Mary and Kitty are soon dispatched to their married sister Jane Bignley’s home to give Lydia more room to deal with the situation. There, Mary is introduced to Henry Walsh, a friend of Charles Bingley. Taken unawares by his attentions, and completely out of her element, she is quite uncertain of how to proceed. However, this may be the outlet and door to self-discovery that Mary desperately needs. How will she handle this new and exciting romantic opportunity?

First off, I’m so glad that we finally a book that focuses on Mary. I know she has gotten the short end of the stick as far as attention is concerned (well, Mr. Collins may actually have it worse, but I digress), so I’m glad that she can finally come into her own as an independent woman. Before I began reading, I had read that a few readers were slightly put off by Mingle’s choice to write the work in first person. After the first few chapters flew by, however, I was fully immersed in the story and not bothered by its format in the least. In fact, it was interesting to see things from Mary’s point-of-view directly, and I believe it added to her characterization and interactions with Henry and others. Speaking of Henry, he’s swoon-worthy for his love and defense of Mary. I love how mad he gets when he hears others speaking ill of Mary. He’s a perfect mate for her.

I think Mingle handled Mary’s characterizations in a fantastic way. I always love journeys of self-discovery and empowerment, and this one was a joy to read. The way in which Mary transforms from a woman who is only beginning to understand her new maturity to someone who is fully enveloped in love with another person is heartwarming. I couldn’t help but think that Austen and her penchant for happy endings would have been satisfied by this tale for Mary.  We’ve seen so much praise heaped on Lizzy and Jane especially, so if you were as curious as I was about how a work centered on “plain” Mary would shape up, wonder no longer. This is definitely one to try!

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle

  • William Morrow (2013)
  • Trade paperback (320) pages
  • Price: £10.99/ $14.99
  • ISBN: 978-0062274243

 


Kimberly Denny-Ryder is a self-professed book addict, who challenges herself to read 100 books a year. This eventually grew into a full-time blog entitled Reflections of a Book Addict where she (and an ever-growing staff) began reviewing books and writing about the effects books have on us. She is also a regular contributor at Austenprose, a Jane Austen themed blog that feeds her Jane Austen addiction. She is obsessed with Twitter, coffee, traveling, and cooking, and when she’s not reading or copyediting, you can find her in New Jersey watching old films and brewing beer with her husband, Todd, and their two cats, Belle and Sebastian. Follow Kim on Twitter as @lifeand100books and Facebook.

This review orginally appeared on Austeprose.com where it was reccommended as one of the “Top 10 Austenesque Historical Novels of 2013”. It is used here with permission. Visit Austenprose to read more from author Pamela Mingle.

Posted on

Mary, Countess of Belmore: Mistress of the Upper Rooms

Our Theatre has been well attended this week. On Wednesday evening the performances were patronized by Lieut-Col.Sturt and the Officers of the 59th Regiment, for the Benefit of Mr.Tockley. The house was fashionably and numerously attended. The Countess of Belmore bespeaks a Play and Farce to-morrow evening, when, without doubt, there will be an overflowing house.
The Salisbury and Winchester Journal
Weymouth, October 22, 1813

Bath’s famous Assembly Rooms, known to Austen readers as the Upper Rooms (the much older “Lower Rooms” burned to the ground in 1820 and were not rebuilt) opened in 1771, only a few years before Jane Austen’s birth. Here, as in the Lower Rooms, the fashionable of Bath came to see and be seen, attend balls, concerts and small theatrical events. Assemblies held here provided a public ball with dancing, dining and cards and flirtations galore for all who cared to purchase a ticket.

The official website for the rooms explains, “Bath’s magnificent 18th century Assembly Rooms were opened in 1771. Known as the New or Upper Rooms (to distinguish them from the older Assembly Rooms in the lower part of the town) they were designed by John Wood the Younger, the leading architect in the West Country.

There are four rooms: the Ballroom; the Tea or Concert Room; the Octagon Room (linking all the rooms), and a Card Room. The Ballroom is the largest 18th century room in Bath. Dancing was very popular and balls were held at least twice a week, attracting 800 to 1,200 guests at a time. The high ceiling provided good ventilation on crowded ball nights and windows set at a high level prevented outsiders from looking in.

The Tea Room was used for both refreshments and concerts in the 18th century (and was sometimes known as the Concert Room).During the evening entertainments there was an interval for tea, the cost being included in the price of a ball ticket. On Sundays there were public teas when admission cost sixpence per person.

The Ballroom and Tea Room are linked by the Octagon Room which was originally intended as a circulating space which could also be used for music and playing cards. On Sundays, when cards were not allowed, visitors could listen to the organ, which once stood in the musician’s gallery. A new Card Room was added in 1777 but the architect is not known.

The Octagon Room is dominated by Gainsborough’s portrait of the first Master of Ceremonies at the Upper Rooms, Captain William Wade. Bath’s most famous Master of Ceremonies, Richard “Beau” Nash, never knew this building as he died in 1761.”

Another who was often to be found at the Assembly Rooms was
Mary, Countess of Belmore

Born on 17 April 1755, Mary was, by all accounts, a relatively poor girl, with a dowry of only £2,000 when she became the Viscount of Belmore’s 3rd wife, marrying Armar Lowry-Corry, 1st Earl of Belmore in Bath in 1794. The daughter of Sir John Caldwell, 4th Baronet.

Through her marriage, Mary Anne Caldwell gained the title of Viscountess Belmore on 11 March 1794. She later obtained the title of Countess Belmore on 20 November 1797.

Armar Lowry-Corry was the son of a wealthy Irish landowner and Politician. When his father declined to run for re-election in 1763, he suggested that Armar run instead. He.was indeed elected, though at a cost of over £3,000, and sat for Co. Tyrone until his elevation to the peerage in 1781. The Earl’s other titles include Viscount Belmore (created 1789) and Baron Belmore (1781), both of which are in the Peerage of Ireland.

Armar was less fortunate in love marrying once in 1772 only to be widowed in 1775. His second marriage to Lady Harriet Hobart, daughter of the reigning Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, seemed more auspicious, but it also ended in tragedy. On 6 January 1781 Lowry-Corry was raised to the peerage as Baron Belmore, and on 15 June 1781 he and his wife entered into a deed of separation by which he agreed to pay her £1,000 a year. They were never reconciled and the marriage was finally dissolved by divorce in April 1793 (at a cost to Belmore in legal and parliamentary fees of well over £4,000.)

Fortunately for both, the third marriage was, by all accounts, a happy and content arrangement which lasted until the Earl’s death in 1802. The couple’s home, Castle Coole, is now owned by the National Trust.

Designed by James Wyatt and completed in 1798 for the first Earl of Belmore, Castle Coole’s interior was created by some of the leading craftsmen of the 18th Century. Marble chimney-pieces were carved by Westmacott, plasterwork created by Joseph Rose and scagioli columns the work of Bartoli. Magnificent State Rooms with their sumptuous Regency furnishings, include The State Bedroom prepared for a visit by George IV in 1821.

After the Earl’s death, Lady Belmore moved to Bath in 1805 and lived at 17 Royal Crescent for thirty years until her death on 13 December at the age of eighty-six. For a long time she presided over balls held in the Assembly Rooms; and it was here that Dickens must have encountered her, probably in 1835. He completed Pickwick Papers shortly afterwards, and immortalised the dowager countess as Lady Snuphanuph in the chapters of the novel that deal with Mr Pickwick’s experiences in Bath. (Chapter 35)

She is buried at Caledon, County Fermanagh, Ireland.

Today, the Assembly Room is owned by the National Trust and open for visitors. The basement houses Bath’s exquisite costume collection, featuring original items from a variety of time periods. Though #17 is not available, #1 Royal Crescent has been turned into a museum, showing what these apartments would have looked like in the19th century, at the height of their fashion.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica located at Wikipedia as well as from They Came to Bath.

Posted on

Jane Austen Word Search

Victorian Jane
WE

N

T

W

O

R

T

H

L

H

K

L

M

O

O

N

B

N

IL

B

O

O

K

L

K

E

E

E

N

O

A

B

R

O

E

E

LI

Y

C

O

L

U

I

N

S

N

A

V

R

E

C

I

R

P

LZ

L

A

D

Y

C

T

A

S

O

R

E

I

N

J

S

T

K

MA

R

Y

H

D

A

T

J

O

N

C

Y

A

N

O

A

R

N

AB

W

C

O

I

S

Y

C

R

A

D

S

N

E

H

U

A

I

NE

I

H

U

A

U

S

T

E

N

F

E

N

T

N

S

M

G

ST

C

A

S

O

U

P

L

T

I

L

N

E

Y

D

R

C

H

FH

K

P

E

W

R

I

T

E

A

A

S

F

E

N

E

H

T

IA

H

S

L

N

P

Q

A

E

T

N

I

E

L

U

P

A

L

EM

A

R

I

A

I

B

N

N

P

D

B

G

T

M

O

R

E

LA

M

K

N

C

I

R

N

E

A

P

I

R

O

D

O

L

Y

DD

R

T

O

A

B

B

E

Y

C

O

L

O

N

E

L

E

Y

FA

E

P

R

I

D

E

L

H

O

N

I

E

L

R

M

S

N

PR

E

J

U

D

I

C

E

V

T

P

T

G

A

O

G

M

N

NO

R

T

H

A

N

G

E

R

K

A

Y

T

K

O

I

L

A

AN

N

A

Q

F

R

E

D

E

R

I

C

K

E

M

R

A

F

PridePrejudiceSensibility

Emma

Mansfield

Park

Northanger

Abbey

Persuasion

Austen

ElizabethDarcyJane

Charles

Mary

Kitty

Lydia

Wickham

Bennet

Lucas

CaptainFrederickWentworth

Anne

Woodhouse

George

John

Knightley

Elton

Colonel

ElinorMarianneFanny

Price

Edmund

Bertram

Maria

Catherine

Henry

Tilney

Click Here for a printable page.

Enjoyed this? Then you will enjoy our Jane Austen Puzzle Book – An innocent diversion!

Created by Laura Boyle for Austentation.

 

Posted on

The History of England by Jane Austen

The History of England

The History of England

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

The Author

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.

Mary

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. —

Elizabeth

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.

Sharade
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.

Finis

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.

Posted on

Jane Austen’s Caustic Wit

caustic wit

Jane Austen’s Caustic Wit

 

I dearly love a laugh…but…I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. –But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.

Elizabeth Bennet

Pride and Prejudice

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

There are times when I think Jane Austen and her character Lizzie Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) are more similar than one might at first think. In letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane reveals instances of caustic wit in observations and remarks (aimed at provoking a few gleeful snickers) which are reminiscent of Miss Bennet, and almost downright nasty. Jane was not only a family wit, however, but subscribed to be the “family wit”–the justification behind the tongue-in-cheek observations that we all so love in Austen’s work. This justification, I believe, found its expression in Mr. Bennet and Lizzie–but I get ahead of myself.

It is not surprising that Jane disliked some of her acquaintance– don’t we all? But the degree to which she is unsympathetic makes us wonder if it was just to garner a laugh, or if her antipathies ran even deeper-a surprising conjecture for one who showed such great depth of understanding of human frailty in her novels. Let me share a few of the little pokes she took at others, which, mean in nature or not, do make one laugh. Jane, ever the wit, is fabulously expressive.

Lizzie Bond is just apprenticed to Miss Small, so we may hope to see her able to spoil gowns in a few years.

 

I believe I never told you that Mrs. Coulthard and Anne, late of Manydown, are both dead, and both died in childbed. We have not regaled Mary with this news.

[Mary was Jane’s sister-in-law, who was expecting at the time. Not to tell her was a kindness, but the way she words it here is definitely a “poke.”]

Note that she doesn’t say, “sad news”, or “poor Mrs. Coulthard and Anne.” This is the real Jane, speaking unguardedly to her sister and making no effort to “sound nice” for anyone else. She would probably have told the news quite differently to other ears. But this is the point: that within Jane’s family, one was quite expected to be a bit, well, cynical. Would the word, ‘jaded’ be going too far? Perhaps. Jane wanted to amuse her sister in her letters, and no doubt Cassandra is shaking her head with us, a knowing smile on her lips as she reads, but there is a very real streak of unrepentant glee in Austen’s treatment of some people.

Here’s another snippet:

Charles Powlett gave a dance on Thursday, to the great disturbance of all his neighbours, of course, who, you know, take a most lively interest in the state of his finances, and live in hopes of his being soon ruined.

In this case it is Mr. Powlett’s neighbors that Jane takes a stab at, but it must be noted that she does so with such sarcasm as to underscore her exaggeration. She is having fun while she writes, and one can only imagine all the little such gems and observations the two sisters shared when together in society, that are not written down.

Many of Jane’s letters were destroyed after her death by well-meaning relatives, leaving us bereft of perhaps hundreds of juicy quotes that should have both appalled and delighted us. This is an unmitigated shame. But here are more:

I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there; Lucy is to go…

 

I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.

On another occasion Jane is writing some very welcome news regarding the future promotions of her and Cassandra’s two brothers who are serving in the Navy: She starts with: “I have got some pleasant news for you which I am eager to communicate,….” and then shares the news. Her next sentence is just so, well–Jane. She says, “There! I may now finish my letter and go and hang myself, for I am sure I can neither write nor do anything which will not appear insipid to you after this.”

It was important to her to be amusing, informative or entertaining, besides merely keeping in touch with her much-loved sibling. The Austens were intelligent people, and goodness of character, though expected, was not emphasized to the point where it would discourage such delectably sassy thoughts. To some degree, this was a reflection of the times, as letter writing was considered an art, and wit a virtue. But Jane is not trying to form the perfect letter; she is writing to her sister with whom she was intimate and honest.

Intimations of the Austen’s familial influence of attitudes are seen in the Bennet family when Lizzie is in her father’s study, and Mr. Bennet is vastly amused by a letter which purports that Mr. Darcy is planning to offer for Elizabeth. “Are you not amused?” he asks, expecting his daughter to join in his appreciation of what he believes to be ignorant misinformation. Listen carefully to his next words: “Is that not what we live for?” he asks, completely in earnest. “To laugh at others and in our turn, be laughed at as well?” Lizzie nods weakly in agreement–she has always agreed with this in the past–but she is not at all in the state of mind to either laugh or be laughed at, anymore.

This penchant for garnering a laugh at other’s expense is so ingrained that when Mr. Darcy visits Lizzie (after the scandal involving Lydia and Wickham is famous), she guesses that he has come “to triumph over her.” No other motivation seems possible to her, when in fact, Mr. Darcy is there to do anything but.

Back to our author. At the end of a letter to her sister which she has written on Christmas Day, 1798, Jane says, “You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve…. God bless you!”

And yet, Jane, we love you anyway.

*****

Linore Rose Burkard is the author of Before the Season Ends, an Inspirational Regency Romance that readers love. She spent a great deal of time researching the period while writing her book. Coming soon from Harvest House Publishers: a new edition of Before the Season Ends, (Dec. 2008) followed by its sequel, The House in Grosvenor Square.( April, 2009) Visit her website to read more great articles, or to subscribe to her free monthly eZine, Upon My Word! Facts, Fashion and Figures of the Regency.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop

 

Posted on

Developements in Childbirth in Regency and Victorian England

Childbirth and Lying-In during the Regency

I have just received a note from James to say that Mary was brought to bed last night, at eleven o’clock, of a fine little boy, and that everything is going on very well. My mother had desired to know nothing of it before it should be all over, and we were clever enough to prevent her having any suspicion of it, though Jenny, who had been left here by her mistress, was sent for home. . . . James went to Ibthorp yesterday to see his mother and child. Letty is with Mary at present, of course exceedingly happy, and in raptures with the child. Mary does not manage matters in such a way as to make me want to lay in myself. She is not tidy enough in her appearance; she has no dressing-gown to sit up in; her curtains are all too thin, and things are not in that comfort and style about her which are necessary to make such a situation an enviable one. Elizabeth was really a pretty object with her nice clean cap put on so tidily and her dress so uniformly white and orderly.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
November, 1798

Jane Austen was a devoted daughter, sister and aunt, but never a wife and mother. Is it possible that her fear of the latter made the former relationship impossible? Many biographers suggest such. To be sure pregnancy during the Regency was a risky business with a nearly 20% mortality rate for the mother. Austen herself lost four sisters-in-law to childbirth. Perhaps that is why she preferred the safety of her writing, calling her books her “own, dear child[ren].”

Childbirth in our modern age is no longer a mystery. All of us, male and female, mothers or not, are familiar with the vocabulary of the process at the very least. We have all heard of epidurals, episiotomies, induced labour and dilation as well as horror stories of 24¬-36 hours of labour. All of these facts of modem childbirth were not the reality for mothers in the early 1800s. Indeed, childbirth was the greatest risk to a woman’s health and the single most common cause of death.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, all males were excluded from attendance in “lying-in rooms”. All decisions were made by female midwives who frequently were not well trained. According to reformist Doctor Charles White (1728-1813) a large fire would be built in the room and “by the heat of the chamber, amid the breath of so many people, the whole air is rendered foul, and unfit for respiration.” His objections to this practice continue: “As soon as she is delivered, if she is a person in affluent circumstances, she is covered up close in the bed with additional cloaths, the curtains are drawn around the bed, and pinned together, every crevice in the windows and door are stopped closed, not excepting the key hole, the windows are guarded not only with shutters and curtains, but even with blankets, the more effectually to exclude the fresh air, and the good woman is not suffered to put her arm, or even her nose out of bed, for fear of catching cold.” The diet for new mothers was tea and other warm liquors and frequently normal intestinal function would slow because of the lack of solid food and because the new mother remained in bed in a horizontal position for days, sometimes weeks. All these factors increased the risk of developing infection.

Medical treatment was harsh by the standards of our time. A famous obstetrician, Dr. Hugh Chamberlain (1630-1700) attended a woman that was “taken ill of a paine in her right side under her short ribb together with a great difficulty of breathing having but 14 weeks to go with child.” Her treatment was “in the space of nine days four vomits, four purges, and caused her to be bled three times to the quantity of eight ounces each time, then gave her something to raise a spitting after which swellings and Ulcers in her mouth followed; about 3 or 4 days after her taking this, she miscarryed, and she continued languishing until she dyed.” For this treatment, Dr. Chamberlain was found “Guilty of Mal Praxis” and was fined “Ten pounds of lawfull money of England.”

Not all of the medicine of the time was so appalling. In 1773, an illustrated account of the use of forceps was published. Another book Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery was first published in 1752 and detailed how “difficult delivery” could be helped. Any “normally skilled” midwife would know the “podalic version” which was to insert her hand into the womb, grasp the feet of the awkwardly placed infant and pull them down out of the uterus. This would require a great deal of physical strength and could be quite potentially harmful to both mother and child. The modern alternative to forced turning is often a caesarean section. In the 1800s, a caesarean section was always fatal to the mother because of the dirty, unaired and overheated lying-in rooms, lack of anesthetic and antibiotics. This operation was only performed as an attempt to save the child when the mother had died during the labour.

If the birth process did not prove fatal, the next greatest risk was a systemic infection that was called puerperal fever, or blood poisoning originating with birth or miscarriage. Often a portion of the placenta or “afterbirth” was retained and gangrene would then claim the life of the new mother. Doctor Charles White and Doctor Alexander Gordon (1752-99) both supported ideas of better ventilation and clean linen at the lying-in rooms but it was not until the anti-infection work of Dr. Semneelweis, a Hungarian doctor called “The Saviour of Mothers” that mortality rates from childbirth improved. He ordered all students who came from the dissection rooms to bathe their hands in a solution of chlorinated lime before they examined new mothers. Not surprisingly, mortality rates from childbirth decreased from over eighteen percent to less than six percent. This miraculous idea of hand washing did not come about until the 1840s.

Sadly, the death rate of children was appalling in the eighteenth century. “Two-thirds of the children born in the Metropolitan Area of London in the eighteenth century died before they were five years old and three out of four of these poor little victims failed to reach even their second birthdays.” From Domestic Medicine published in 1784, the death registry indicated that almost one half of the children born in Great Britain died under twelve years of age. As soon as a baby was born in the eighteenth century, it was forcibly fed a “pap”. A pap was bread or flour soaked in milk or water. Occasionally, the pap would be pre-chewed by the midwife. A pap was the basis of the diet of the infant until the child was weaned to ‘solid’ food. You can imagine how difficult this would be to digest! Affluent mothers simply did not breast feed their children and infections were passed to the infants by wet nurses who didn’t understand that cleanliness was vital to the new infant’s survival. Child mortality made a large family a necessity to beat the odds and have children, especially sons, grow to maturity. Not only was birth a risky proposition but if you had any affection for your spouse, you would be experiencing this blessed event every 18¬24 months, as no effective means of birth control existed. Any methods of birth control, however unreliable, were quite strongly frowned upon by the religious establishment.

Many modern advances that we consider commonplace were an impossibility for women of any class in the 1800s. Anaesthetic, in the form of chloroform or ether, was first used to assist in a difficult delivery on January 19, 1847 by a Scottish physician named James Simpson (1811-1870). Prior to this time, “natural” childbirth was the only option. In addition to the obvious pain of the process, the most common medical treatments of the time included purges and blood-letting as previously mentioned. With the absence of prenatal vitamins and nutrition, most women could be expected to be anaemic during pregnancy. The bleeding of a borderline anaemic mother-to-be was a recipe for disaster. Risks to her health included the possibility of post-partum haemorrhage or a raging infection from the retained placenta or contaminated hands of the midwife or physician. Remember that penicillin was not discovered until the 1920s and was not marketed until 1943! Is it any wonder that childbirth was so very risky?

Even after obstetrical anaesthesia was introduced, it was not universally accepted. The first objection was based on the lack of knowledge of how ether worked. The most common method of administering anaesthesia was to give a dose of chloroform on a cloth that was placed over the patient’s nose and mouth. Dr. Simpson gave a large dose that rendered the patient unconscious, in the same fashion as when a patient was to have an amputation or a surgery. The possibility that the infant could be harmed or labour would stop from this use of an anaesthetic agent is a debate that continues today. Some practitioners were also concerned about a possible detrimental effect to the woman even after labour as well. Dr. John Snow (1813-1858) used a method of anaesthesia similar to “conscious sedation” of modern times. He would administer the chloroform in a titrated dosage by placing only a few drops on the cloth that the patient then inhaled. This method allowed the patient to be free of pain but to have the ability to follow commands, move her legs and to push when the time came for delivery. Snow attended Queen Victoria’s last three deliveries and this method was very successful.

The chief opponent of obstetrical anesthesia was an American physician named Dr. Charles D. Meigs (1792-1869). He shared the view of many physicians of the time that did not feel that obstetrical pain was the same as surgical pain and that anaesthesia posed too great a risk. Some practitioners felt that the pain of labour was mandated by scripture and that anaesthesia was therefore objectionable. Dr. Simpson authored a pamphlet in December 1847, only eleven months after the initial use of anaesthesia in labour to refute this claim. His arguments were so convincing that Queen Victoria was persuaded to attempt anaesthesia with her next delivery and the custom gradually became more widely accepted.

How lucky we are to have the choices that we have today! While some of the debates regarding midwives or physicians, home birth or hospital, anaesthesia or natural birth are still continuing, we certainly owe a debt of gratitude to our ancestors. The courage of the women of only two hundred years ago paved the way for the relative comfort and safety we enjoy today.

Many other advances in birth practices began during or just after the Regency. The terminology of childbirth changed to increased euphemism: “breeding” became “in the family way” and “lying-in” became “confinement”. A rise in intervention during childbirth came after tragedy in 1817. Princess Charlotte died 5 hours after 50 hour labor and stillbirth. All Britain mourned and blame fell on Dr. Croft who later committed suicide Opponents of “man-midwifery” advocated the return of female midwives and the Medical establishment responded by advocating quicker use of the newly invented forceps. And finally, in 1828 an English physician suggested the word obstetrician from the Latin “to stand before” to be used to denote a specialist in childbirth instead of the more commonly used names of male midwife, man midwife, madman, accouter, and even androboethogynist.

*Lying-in is an old childbirth practice involving a woman resting in bed for a period of time before giving birth. Though the term is now usually defined as “the condition of a woman in the process of giving birth,” it previously referred to a period of bed rest required even if there was no medical complications. A 1932 publication refers to lying-in as ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months.

 

 

Reprinted by kind permission from Jane Austen’s Regency World. The first full colour print magazine about Jane Austen and her era. With additional information from Elena Green’s article, Pregnancy and Childbirth for the Histocial Author as well as Romance Reader at Heart and Wikipedia.

Kathleen Charon is a registered nurse and currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from nursing school in Michigan and works primarily in pediatrics.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk

Posted on

What makes Persuasion Unique?

persuasion

In an article entitled “A Masterpiece of Delicate Strength” Elizabeth Bowen asserts: “Not till she [Austen] came to write Persuasion did she break with her self-set limitations. Did something in her demand release, expression, before it was too late?” One cannot help but wonder after reading the novel what direction her writing would have taken had she lived past the age of 42. Perhaps Persuasion gives us an inkling. We sense a shift, a change.

In her famous essay, Virginia Woolf writes:


Vivacious, irrepressible, gifted with an invention of great vitality, there can be no doubt that she would have written more, had she lived, and it is tempting to consider whether she would not have written differently. The boundaries were marked; moons, mountains, and castles lay on the other side. But was she not sometimes tempted to trespass for a minute? Was she not beginning, in her own gay and brilliant manner, to contemplate a little voyage of discovery?
Continue reading What makes Persuasion Unique?