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Staying Sharp with Jane Austen

 Jane Austen Pencils!

Papa has given me half-a-dozen new pencils, which are very good ones indeed; I draw every other day.
Elizabeth Austen-Knight to Cassandra Austen
October 18, 1813

With school back in session, and the smell of apples, chalk dust and pencil shavings in the air, what could be more fun than taking a bit of Austen with you into class? We promise that a few of these Jane Austen pencils in your desk will make even calculus more appealing! Pair them with notecards or a journal to create a fun gift for any Austen lover or teacher.

jane austen pencils
Visit for a wide range of Austen themed items including gift baskets, holiday items, craft projects, and custom bonnets, reticules and accessories.

To begin, you’ll need:

  • pencils (any type, #2, preferably with white erasers)
  • sandpaper (optional)
  • Modgepodge or white glue
  • a few pages of Austen text (taken from a discarded copy of the book, or printed on a printer. I keep an old copy of P&P simply to upcycle pages for various projects)
  • Scissors
  • foam paintbrush
  1. Take your page and cut it so that it can be rolled around the pencil and lightly overlapped. The top edge should begin at the base of the metal “Cuff” which holds the eraser in place and the bottom should extend slightly beyond the end of the pencil (this is uusually about 7″ x 1″.)
  2. Lightly sand your pencil so that the glue will adhere more closely.
  3. Use the paintbrush to apply a thin coat of Modgepodge or white school glue to the backside of the paper.
  4. Roll the paper around the pencil and overlap. The paper should be snug and not slide. Flatten any air bubbles so that it sticks at all points to the pencil. If necessary, add more glue to the seam in order for it to lay flat and tight.
  5. Allow pencil to dry. Be sure that it won’t stick to anything while drying, by laying it on a baking rack or standing it up in a glass (you can use this time to complete more pencils)
  6. Once pencil has dried, add an additional coat of modgepodge or glue to the outside of the pencil. Let dry again.
  7. Trim the paper so that the end lies flush with the end of the pencil. Embellish with Austen stickers, if desired, sharpen and enjoy!

Pencils such as this can be purchased in gift baskets from Austentation, or individually from Creative Carmelina, on Etsy.

Laura Boyle is an avid Regency enthusiast. Find more fashion information and one of a kind Regency inspired accessories at her shop, Austentation: Regency Accessories

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19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools

Early boarding schools

19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools

As many Jane Austen fans know, Rev. George Austen ran a boarding school out of his parsonage house in Steventon to augment his £230 pr year income. In1793 he began to teach the sons of local gentlemen in his home to prepare them for university. His library was extensive for a man of modest means, from 300- 500 volumes, depending on the source, an amazing collection, for books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Cassandra and Jane to read from his library and supported budding author Jane in her writing. At some point, the Austens sent the girls to boarding school in Reading, for which he paid £35 per term, per girl, a not inconsiderable sum. He received around the same amount of money per boarder, and it is conjectured that the Austens hoped to replace their two daughters with many more pupils, which made economic sense. (See Linda Robinson Walker’s link below.) Mrs. Austen was not an indifferent bystander. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and clucked over the boys like a mother hen, and was involved in their maintenance in a hands-on and caring way, acting as a surrogate mother.

In his Travels Through England in 1782, German traveler Karl Phillip Moritz describes learning academies, head masters, and boarding schools. From his observations, one gains a sense of what life must have been like for the Austens and their pupils:

A few words more respecting pedantry.  I have seen the regulation of one seminary of learning, here called an academy.  Of these places of education, there is a prodigious number in London, though, notwithstanding their pompous names, they are in reality nothing more than small schools set up by private persons, for children and young people.

One of the Englishmen who were my travelling companions, made me acquainted with a Dr. G– who lives near P–, and keeps an academy for the education of twelve young people, which number is here, as well as at our Mr. Kumpe’s, never exceeded, and the same plan has been adopted and followed by many others, both here and elsewhere.

boarding school

18th Century school room. One imagines a less formal setting for Rev. Austen’s school.

At the entrance I perceived over the door of the house a large board, and written on it, Dr. G–’s Academy.  Dr. G– received me with great courtesy as a foreigner, and shewed me his school-room, which was furnished just in the same manner as the classes in our public schools are, with benches and a professor’s chair or pulpit.

The usher at Dr. G–’s is a young clergyman, who, seated also in a chair or desk, instructs the boys in the Greek and Latin grammars.

Such an under-teacher is called an usher, and by what I can learn, is commonly a tormented being, exactly answering the exquisite description given of him in the “Vicar of Wakefield.”  We went in during the hours of attendance, and he was just hearing the boys decline their Latin, which he did in the old jog-trot way; and I own it had an odd sound to my ears, when instead of pronouncing, for example viri veeree I heard them say viri, of the man,exactly according to the English pronunciation, and viro, to the man.  The case was just the same afterwards with the Greek.

Mr. G– invited us to dinner, when I became acquainted with his wife, a very genteel young woman, whose behaviour to the children was such that she might be said to contribute more to their education than any one else.  The children drank nothing but water.  For every boarder Dr. G– receives yearly no more than thirty pounds sterling, which however, he complained of as being too little.  From forty to fifty pounds is the most that is generally paid in these academies.

I told him of our improvements in the manner of education, and also spoke to him of the apparent great worth of character of his usher.  He listened very attentively, but seemed to have thought little himself on this subject.  Before and after dinner the Lord’s Prayer was repeated in French, which is done in several places, as if they were eager not to waste without some improvement, even this opportunity also, to practise the French, and thus at once accomplish two points.  I afterwards told him my opinion of this species of prayer, which however, he did not take amiss.

After dinner the boys had leave to play in a very small yard, which in most schools or academies, in the city of London, is the ne plus ultra of their playground in their hours of recreation.  But Mr. G– has another garden at the end of the town, where he sometimes takes them to walk.

After dinner Mr. G– himself instructed the children in writing, arithmetic, and French, all which seemed to be well taught here, especially writing, in which the young people in England far surpass, I believe, all others.  This may perhaps be owing to their having occasion to learn only one sort of letters.  As the midsummer holidays were now approaching (at which time the children in all the academies go home for four weeks), everyone was obliged with the utmost care to copy a written model, in order to show it to their parents, because this article is most particularly examined, as everybody can tell what is or is not good writing.  The boys knew all the rules of syntax by heart.

boarding school

Reading Abbey, where Jane and Cassandra Austen were sent to boarding school

All these academies are in general called boarding schools.  Some few retain the old name of schools only, though it is possible that in real merit they may excel the so much-boasted of academies.

It is in general the clergy, who have small incomes, who set up these schools both in town and country, and grown up people who are foreigners, are also admitted here to learn the English language.  Mr. G– charged for board, lodging, and instruction in the English, two guineas a-week.  He however, who is desirous of perfecting himself in the English, will do better to go some distance into the country, and board himself with any clergyman who takes scholars, where he will hear nothing but English spoken, and may at every opportunity be taught both by young and old.

Source: Moritz, Karl Philipp, 1757-1793. Travels in England in 1782 by Karl Philipp Moritz (Kindle Locations 645-656). Mobipocket (an company).

Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs. This article about 19th century learning academies and boarding schools was written for Jane Austen’s World and is used here with permission.

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Madame LaTournelle and the Abbey School

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies.

Jane Austen’s neice, Fanny Catherine Lefroy, speaks of a school at Reading, to which, at an earlier date, her aunts Cassandra and Jane were sent. The school adjoined the remains of the ancient Abbey of Reading, and was called the Abbey School.

“This school at Reading,” writes Miss Lefroy, “was rather a free and easy one judging by Mrs. Sherwood’s account of it when she was there some years later (than the Austens), and when several French émigrés were among its masters. In Cassandra and Jane’s days the girls do not seem to have been kept very strictly, as they and their cousin, Jane Cooper, were allowed to accept an invitation to dine at an inn with their respective brothers, Edward Austen and Edward Cooper.”

We seem to see the merry faces of the five young people and to hear their eager chatter as they sat at table in the old-fashioned inn parlour enjoying their holiday feast! Jane was very young at that time, for she was sent to school

“not because she was thought old enough to profit much by the instruction there imparted, but because she would have been miserable (at home) without her sister; her mother observing that ‘if Cassandra were going to have her head cut off, Jane would insist on sharing her fate.'”

Did the Abbey School, we wonder, serve as a model for Mrs. Goddard’s school in Emma? Mrs. Goddard “was a plain motherly kind of woman,” we are told, whose school was “not a seminary, or an establishment, or anything which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems, and where young ladies, for enormous pay, might be screwed out of health and into vanity; but a real honest old-fashioned boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education without any danger of coming back prodigies.” Mrs. Goddard “had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands.”

Mrs. Sherwood (then Miss Butt), who went to the Reading school in 1790, a few years after Jane Austen had left it, tells us that “the greater part of the house was encompassed by a beautiful old-fashioned garden, where the young ladies were allowed to wander under tall trees in hot summer evenings.” Around two parts of this garden was an artificial embankment, from the top of which she says, “we looked down upon certain magnificent ruins, as I suppose, of the church begun by Henry I., and consecrated by Becket in 1125.” The abbey itself consisted partly of the remains of an ancient building, once the abode of the Benedictine monks, and “the third in size and wealth of all English abbeys,” and partly of additions made to the structure in more modern times. Mrs. Sherwood speaks of “an antique gateway with rooms above its arch, and with vast staircases on either side, whose balustrades had originally been gilt.” This gateway “stood without the garden walls, looking upon the Forbury, or open green, which belonged to the town, and where Dr. Valpy’s boys played after school hours.” We have been fortunate in discovering an old print of this same “antique gateway,” which also shows a part of the school-house itself. Beyond the Forbury there “rose the tower of the fine old church of Saint Nicholas,” while, near at hand, was “the jutting corner of Friar Street” and the “old irregular shops of the marketplace.”

The abbey, with its past history and its relics of ancient grandeur, must have been a delightful abode to the child Jane Austen, and may it not have suggested to her mind in later life some of the features of Northanger Abbey?

The school was run by a Mrs. Latournelle (her given name was Sarah Hackitt), an Englishwoman, but widow of a Frenchman. She had first entered employment as a French teacher, however, Dierdre LaFaye, in her recent book Jane Austen, A Family Record, notes that, “She could not speak a word of French, but wherenver she had the opportunity of holding forth, she spoke of plays and play-acting, and green-room anecdotes,and the private life of actors . . . She was only fit for the giving out of the clothes for the wash, making tea, ordering dinner and, in fact doing the work of the housekeeper.” Little else is known of her.

Mrs. Sherwood tells us that Mrs. Latournelle “was a person of the old school – a stout person hardly under seventy, but very active, although she had a cork leg. She had never been seen or known to have changed the fashion of her dress. Her white muslin handkerchief was always pinned with the same number of pins, her muslin apron always hung in the same form; she always wore the same short sleeves, cuffs, and ruffles, with a breast bow to answer the bow in her cap, both being flat with two notched ends.”

“Mrs. Latournelle received me,” she writes, upon her first arrival at school, “in a wainscoted parlour, the wainscot a little tarnished, while the room was hung round with chenille pieces representing tombs and weeping willows. A screen in cloth-work stood in a corner, and there were several miniatures over the lofty mantel-piece.”

Mrs. Sherwood describes her sojourn at this school as a “very happy one,” remarking that “from the ease and liveliness of the mode of life” it “had been particularly delightful” to her. Before she left, the school had passed into the hands of a Monsieur and Madame St. Quintin (the former being a French émigré), while Mrs. Latournelle acted chiefly as their housekeeper. A few years later Monsieur and Madame St. Quintin removed to London and started a boarding-school in Hans Place. Thither Miss Mitford went as a pupil in 1798. Many of the traditions of the Reading school were continued in London. Mrs. Sherwood speaks of the theatrical entertainments with which the school terms closed in her day, and possibly these were introduced even earlier. The Austens, as a family, were fond of acting and excelled in it; and though Cassandra and Jane, when they were at school, would have been too young to take the direction of such matters, they would gladly have taken part in them. We read in Miss Mitford’s Life: “Before the pupils went home at Easter or Christmas there was either a ballet, when the sides of the school-room were fitted up with bowers, in which the little girls, who had to dance, were seated, and whence they issued at a signal from Monsieur Duval, the dancing-master, attired as sylphs or shepherdesses, to skip or glide through the mazy movements, to the music of his kit; or there was a dramatic performance, as when the same room was converted into a theatre for the representation of Hannah More’s ‘Search after Happiness’; and an elocution-master attended the rehearsals and instructed the actors in their parts.”

On one occasion Miss Mitford had to recite the prologue, but before doing this it was considered necessary by the dancing-master that she should perform an elaborate curtsey – a curtsey that should comprehend in its respectful sinking, turning in a semicircle and rising again, the whole audience. This manoeuvre was practised at the last dress rehearsal again and again under Monsieur Duval’s vociferous instructions, the pupil secretly longing to effect her escape, when suddenly there appeared on the stage the professor of elocution, “a sour pedant of Oxford growth,” who denounced the curtsey as ridiculous. Whereupon a scene ensued between the gentlemen much like that in the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme” between the Maître de Philosophic and the Maître de Danse – which happily ended in a verdict that the elaborate curtsey should be abolished and that three short bends of the body should be given in its place.

From: Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends (John Lane The Bodley Head, 1923) by Constance Hill.

More information about the Austen’s time at the Abbey School can be found in Jane Austen: A Family Record by Dierdre LeFaye and William Austen-Leigh (Cambridge University Press; 2003).

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A Lady’s Education

Had she possessed greater leisure for the service of her girls,
she would probably have supposed it unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess,
with proper masters, and could want nothing more.
Mansfield Park

Excerpted from The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World
Most young women were educated by a combination of teachers, all working towards the ultimate goal of producing an elegant creature who would take the ton by storm—or at least escape becoming a spinster. Here are some of those responsible for her lessons:

In some households, a girl’s mother taught her to read and write and do basic arithmetic, and perhaps some rudimentary French. Her father also might have been involved in her instruction, particularly if he were a member of the clergy. This may have been all the formal education a young woman received, unless her parents hired a governess or sent her to school around age ten.

A Governess
A good governess taught a young lady history, geography, and languages; to write in and elegant hand; to draw, sew, and do fancy needlework; to play the pianoforte and possibly the harp; and to carry herself with confidence and elegance. The governess stayed with the family until all the young ladies of the house were married, and sometimes she remained in a family’s employ as a companion to the mother or unmarried daughters.

Visiting masters supplemented a young woman’s education with advanced instruction in music, drawing, language, and dancing. The very best masters were found in the city, but even country neighborhoods usually boasted a few masters who tended to the young ladies in the area.

If her parents preferred no not engage a governess, or if a young woman was orphaned or otherwise in need of a settled place to live, a girl might have been sent away to school from age ten to around age eighteen (if she was deemed ready to make her debut in society, she could be withdrawn as much as two years earlier). Schools in London or Bath, often known as young ladies’ seminaries, tended to be more formal and fancy. A young lady educated in such an establishment could command an impressive array of accomplishments, including music, drawing, fancy needlework, and a polished and fashionable way of dressing, moving, and behaving. This polish sometimes came at the expense of the young lady’s health or gave her a falsely inflated sense of self-worth. The luckiest girls were sent to a good old-fashioned boarding school that provided a less stringent education, but from which they were more likely to emerge healthy and happy and good natured—such women could always catch up on their education with extensive reading in their father’s library.

Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World, a handbook to life during the Regency. The topics covered in this book range from How to Become an Accomplished Lady to How to Run a Great House, How to Indicate Interest in a Gentleman Without Seeming Forward, How to Throw a Dinner Party and How to Choose and Buy Clothing, among others. They are written in an informative style (as to a young gentleman or lady) with examples drawn from Austen’s novels and interspersed with historical information like that shown above. Each section is punctuated with original illustrations by Kathryn Rathke. A myriad of further information is included in the appendix, from a biography of Austen and summaries of each of her works, to suggested reading and helpful websites.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at

The Jane Austen Hanbook is published by Quirk Books and available for purchase from and; ISBN-10: 1594741719, RRP: £9.99.

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John Keats

John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was the latest born of the great Romantic poets. Along with Byron and Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the movement, despite publishing his work over only a four-year period. During his short life, his work was not well received by critics, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen was significant. The poetry of Keats was characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes which remain among the most popular poems in English
literature. The letters of Keats are among the most celebrated by any English poet.

What is most interesting to Austen scholars is the apparent link between Jane Austen’s work and the influence it may have had on Keats’ poetry.
The lives of both these writers overlap almost perfectly and as Katie Mastrucci writes in An Imitation of Spenser—comes in 1814, when Keats was
nineteen. In 1815, Keats registered as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital (now part of King’s College London). Within a month of starting, he
was accepted for a “dressership” position within the hospital—a significant promotion with increased responsibility and workload, taking up
precious writing time and increasing his ambivalence to working in medicine. Strongly drawn by an ambition inspired by fellow poets such as Leigh Hunt and Byron, but beleaguered by family financial crises that continued to
the end of his life, he suffered periods of deep depression. His brother George wrote that John “feared that he should never be a poet, & if he
was not he would destroy himself”. In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence but before the end of the year he announced to his guardian
that he had resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon.

Though he continued his work and training at Guy’s, Keats was devoting increasing time to the study of literature. In May 1816, Leigh Hunt,
greatly admired by Keats, agreed to publish the sonnet O Solitude in his
magazine The Examiner, a leading liberal magazine of the day. It is the first appearance of Keats’s poems in print and Charles Cowden
Clarke refers to it as his friend’s “red letter day”, first proof that John’s ambitions were not ridiculous. In the summer of that year he went
down to the coastal town of Margate with Clarke to write. There he began Calidore
and initiated the era of his great letter writing.

In October, Clarke personally introduced Keats to the influential Hunt, a close friend of Byron and Shelley. Five months later Poems, the first volume of Keats
verse, was published. It was a critical failure but Hunt went on to publish the essay Three Young Poets (Shelley, Keats and Reynolds),
along with the sonnet on Chapman’s Homer, promising great things to come. He introduced Keats to many prominent men in his circle, including
editor of The Times Thomas Barnes, writer Charles Lamb, conductor Vincent Novello and poet John Hamilton Reynolds, who would become a
close friend. It was a decisive turning point for Keats. He was established in the public eye as a figure in, what Hunt termed, ‘a new school
of poetry’. At this time Keats writes to his friend Bailey “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of
the imagination — What imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth”. This would eventually transmute into the concluding lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ – that is all / you know on
earth, and all ye need to know”.

Endymion, on its eventual publication, was also damned by the critics, giving
rise to Byron’s quip that Keats was ultimately “snuffed out by an article”. One particularly harsh review by John Wilson Croker appeared in the
April 1818 edition of The Quarterly Review:

…It is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius – he has all these; but he is
unhappily a disciple of the new school of wha

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