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Jane Austen News – Issue 55

The Jane Austen News has a new book on its to read list

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Jane Austen at Home (with Lucy Worsley)    

Some of our guides, and we’re sure other Austen/history fans, have been enjoying watching Lucy Worlsey’s new series British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worlsey, and considering how good Lucy is at uncovering the unusual facts and anecdotes that bring history to life, at the Jane Austen News we were very excited to read that her new book Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, has its official UK release date on May the 18th (US release July 11th).

In this new biography of Jane Austen, Lucy takes a trip back to Jane’s world and the many places she lived. Lucy visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses – both grand and small – of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Lucy discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a ‘life without incident’. Lucy examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to Jane, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. Lucy shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom – a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

We’re looking forward to getting our hands on a copy!


Welsh Austen Fans: Win Tickets to Pride and Prejudice

Calling Welsh Jane Austen fans!

The Penarth Times newspaper has teamed up with the Wales Millennium Centre to offer one lucky person the chance to win a pair of tickets to see Pride and Prejudice.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice, which recently visited Bath (during which time some of the cast came to see us at the centre!), will be at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre from Tuesday, February 21st to Saturday, February 25th. To celebrate the newspaper is offering any reader within its area of publication two tickets for the opening night on February 21st.

To enter you need to answer the question: What is the name of the family with the five unmarried daughters?

 Answers are to be sent with your name, address and telephone number to the Pride and Prejudice web competition, Penarth Times, c/o South Wales Argus, Cardiff Road, Maesglas, Newport, NP20 3QN, or emailed to penarthtimes@penarthtimes.co.uk putting Pride and Prejudice web competition in the subject box.

Closing date for entries is Monday, February 13.

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Jemima Nicholas, Heroine of Fishguard

“This woman was called Jemima Fawr or Jemima the Great from her heroine acts, she having marched against the French who landed hereabout in 1797 and being of such personal powers as to be able to overcome most men in a fight. I recollect her well. She followed the trade of a shoemaker and made me, when a little boy, several pairs of shoes.”

Samuel Fenton, Vicar of Saint Mary’s, 1832

The battle of Fishguard has been memorialized in The Last Invasion Tapestry, the work of more than 70 women, who stitched for over 2 years to complete the project.

Jemima Nicholas (also spelled Niclas; baptised 2nd March 1755– died July 1832), also known as Jemima Fawr, was a Welsh heroine who led the women of Pembrokeshire into battle in what is known as the last invasion of Britain. When the contingent arrived, she reached for a pitchfork and captured 12 French soldiers who were drunk at the time. They surrendered shortly afterwards at the Royal Oak. She died at the age of 82, and a plaque in Fishguard is dedicated to her.
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The Battle of Fishguard

Another moment sufficed to explain the mystery. A dress of very elegant materials, but of very simple form, was drawn forth by the dainty hands of Mrs. Selby, and displayed before the wondering eyes of her mistress. It consisted of a very full short petticoat, the fabric of which it was composed being very rich satin, but the colour of that dark, sombre tint of which the homely duffle garments of the west-country peasants were generally made, before the high-pressure cotton-mills had caused all local peculiarities of costume to give place to their patterned calicos. The upper part of the dress was of very delicate cambric, and bore a picturesque approximation to the short-sleeved under-garment of the females of all lands.

But the most remarkable feature of the dress was a small red cloak, such as little Red Riding-Hood has made immortal throughout the world of Romance, but which has the more solemn stamp of historical renown accorded to it in the Duchy of Cornwall. The head-dress was a somewhat fantastical little black hat, fastened under the chin by a blue ribbon, while the dainty and diminutive black shoes, though the material was black satin, had buckles high up on the instep, and heels that marked a very remote period in the art of shoe-making, lint the whole dress, such as it was, would decidedly have required an interpreter, had it not been made familiar to the London world by a very popular picture recently exhibited, which bore in the catalogue the title of—”The Cornish Heroine.”

Mrs. Cuthbert certainly contemplated this dress with more surprise than satisfaction. She was by no means ignorant of the tradition which attributed the safety of the Cornish coast, at a moment of threatened invasion, to the imposing appearance of a multitude of red cloaks, so arranged as to make the wearers mistaken for cohorts of the stouter sex; but she could trace no connection between this old story, and her present position as the honoured mistress of a mansion favoured by the presence of the Sovereign.
-The days of the Regency, George the fourth; or, Town and country
By Frances Trollope, 1857

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Scraps

To Miss Fanny Catherine Austen

My Dear Niece

As I am prevented by the great distance between Rowling and Steventon from superintending Your

Education Myself, the care of which will probably on that account devolve on your Father &

Mother, I think it it my particular Duty to prevent your feeling as much as possible the want

of my personal instructions, by addressing to You on paper my Opinions & Admonitions on the

conduct of Young Women, which you will find expressed in the following pages. —

I am my dear Neice
Your affectionate Aunt

The Author

 

The Female Philosopher —
A Letter

 

My Dear Louisa


Your friend Mr. Millar called upon us yesterday in his way to Bath, whither he is going for

his health; two of his daughters were with him, but the oldest & the three Boys are with their

Mother in Sussex. Though you have often told me that Miss Millar was remarkably handsome, you

never mentioned anything of her Sisters’ beauty; yet they are certainly extremely pretty. I’ll

give you their description. — Julia is eighteen; with a countenance in which Modesty, Sense,

& Dignity are happily blended, she has a form which at once presents you with Grace, Elegance,

& Symmetry. Charlotte, who is just Sixteen, is shorter than her Sister, and though her figure

cannot boast the easy dignity of Julia’s, yet it has a pleasing plumpness which is in a

different way as estimable. She is fair & her face is expressive sometimes of softness the

most bewitching, and at others of Vivacity the most striking. She appears to have infinite wit

and a good humour unalterable; her conversation during the half hour they set with us, was

replete with humorous Sallies, Bonmots & repartees; while the sensible, the amiable Julia

uttered Sentiments of Morality worthy of a heart like her own. Mr. Millar appeared to answer

the character I had always received of him. My Father met him with that look of Love, that

social Shake, & cordial kiss which marked his gladness at beholding an old & valued friend

from whom thro’ various circumstances he had been separated nearly twenty Years. Mr. Millar

observed (and very justly too) that many events had befallen each during that interval of

time, which gave occasion to the lovely Julia for making most sensible reflections on the many

changes in their situation which so long a period had occasioned, on the advantages of some, &

the disadvantages of others. From this subject she made a short digression to the instability

of human pleasures & the uncertainty of their duration, which led her to observe that all

earthly Joys must be imperfect. She was proceeding to illustrate this doctrine by examples

from the Lives of great Men, when the Carriage came to the Door and the amiable Moralist with

her Father & Sister was obliged to depart; but not without a promise of spending five or six

months with us on their return. We of course mentioned you, and I assure you that ample

Justice was done to your Merits by all. “Louisa Clarke (said I) is in general a very pleasant

Girl, yet sometimes her good humour is clouded by Peevishness, Envy, & Spite. She neither

wants Understanding nor is without some pretensions to Beauty, but these are so very trifling,

that the value she sets on her personal charms, & the adoration she expects them to be

offered, are at once a striking example of her vanity, her pride, & her folly.” So said I, &

to my opinion everyone added weight by the concurrence of their own.

your affectionate
Arabella Smythe



A Letter from a Young Lady, whose feeling being too Strong for her Judgement, led her into the

commission of Errors which her Heart disapproved. —

Many have been the cares & vicissitudes of my past life, my beloved Ellinor, & the only

consolation I feel for their bitterness is that on a close examination of my conduct, I am

convinced that I have strictly deserved them. I murdered my father at a very early period of

my Life, I have since murdered my Mother, and I am now going to murder my Sister. I have

changed my religion so often that at present I have not an idea of any left. I have been a

perjured witness in every public tryal for these past twelve Years; and I have forged my own

will. In short, there is scarcely a crime that I have not committed. — But I am now going to

reform. Colonel Martin of the Horse guards has paid his Addresses to me, & we are to be

married in a few days. As there is something singular in our Courtship, I will give you an

account of it. Col. Martin is the second son of the late Sir John Martin, who died immensely

rich, but bequeathing only one hundred thousand pound a piece to his three younger Children,

left the bulk of his fortune, about eight Million, to the present Sir Thomas. Upon his small

pittance the Colonel lived tolerably contented for nearly four months, when he took it into

his head to determine on getting the whole of his eldest Brother’s Estate. A new will was

forged & the Colonel produced it in Court — but nobody would swear to it’s being the right

Will except himself, & he had sworn so much that nobody beleived him. At that moment, I

happened to be passing by the door of the Court, and was beckoned in by the Judge, who told

the Colonel that I was a Lady ready to witness anything for the cause of Justice, & advised

him to apply to me. In short, the Affair was soon adjusted. The Colonel & I Swore to its’

being the right will, & Sir Thomas has been obliged to resign all his illgotten Wealth. The

Colonel in gratitude waited on me the next day with an offer of his hand. — I am now going to

murder my Sister.

Yours Ever.

Anna Parker



A Tour through Wales —
in a Letter from a young Lady —

 

My Dear Clara

I have been so long on the ramble that I have not till now had it in my power to thank you for

your Letter. — We left our dear home on last Monday month; and proceeded on our tour through

Wales, which is a principality contiguous to England and gives the title to the Prince of

Wales. We travelled on horseback by preference. My Mother rode upon our little pony, & Fanny &

I walked by her side or rather ran, for my Mother is so fond of riding fast that She galloped

all the way. You may be sure that we were in a fine perspiration when we came to our place of

resting. Fanny has taken a great many Drawings of the Country, which are very beautiful, tho’

perhaps not such exact resemblances as might be wished, from their being taken as she ran

along. It would astonish you to see all the Shoes we wore out in our Tour. We determined to

take a good Stock with us & therefore each took a pair of our own besides those we set off in.

However we were obliged to have them both capped & heelpeiced at Carmarthen, & at last when

they were quite gone, Mama was so kind as to lend us a pair of blue Sattin Slippers, of which

we each took one and hopped home from Hereford delightfully —

I am your ever affectionate

Elizabeth Johnson

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Touring with the Gardiners

Before they were separated by the conclusion of the play, she had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.

“We have not quite determined how far it shall carry us,” said Mrs Gardiner, “but perhaps to the Lakes.”

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. “My dear, dear aunt,” she rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing…Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation.
–Pride and Prejudice

Just as summer vacation trips are popular today, “touring the countryside” was a popular activity during Regency Summers. When the weather was hot, those that could retreat to countryside estates would. If you didn’t own such a place, visiting a cooler climate and touring grand estates was the next best thing.

In Emma, Boxhill is beset by summer travelers, some travelling in an “Irish car”….which, by the way, is not a car at all, but a particular type of carriage arranged with two rows of seats facing outward.

Of course, the most famous instance of summer travel is that of the Gardiners, in Pride and Prejudice who first decide to tour the Lake District, and when circumstances prevent that, settle on the Peaks, taking in, on their way, a tour of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate.

Early visitors to the Lake District, who travelled for the education and pleasure of the journey, include Celia Fiennes who in 1698 undertook a journey the length of England, including riding through Kendal and over Kirkstone Pass into Patterdale. Her experiences and impressions were published in her book Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall:

As I walked down at this place I was walled on both sides by those inaccessible high rocky barren hills which hang over one’s head in some places and appear very terrible; and from them springs many little currents of water from the sides and clefts which trickle down to some lower part where it runs swiftly over the stones and shelves in the way, which makes a pleasant rush and murmuring noise and like a snowball is increased by each spring trickling down on either side of those hills, and so descends into the bottoms which are a Moorish ground in which in many places the waters stand, and so form some of those Lakes as it did here.

In 1724, Daniel Defoe published the first volume of A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain. He commented on Westmorland that it was: the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales itself; the west side, which borders on Cumberland, is indeed bounded by a chain of almost unpassable mountains which, in the language of the country, are called fells.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the area was becoming more popular with travellers. This was partly a result of wars in Continental Europe, restricting the possibility of travel there. In 1778 Father Thomas West produced A Guide to the Lakes, which began the era of modern tourism. West listed “stations” – viewpoints where tourists could enjoy the best views of the landscape, being encouraged to appreciated the formal qualities of the landscape and to apply aesthetic values. At some of these stations, buildings were erected to help this process. The remains of Claife Station (on the western shore of Windermere below Claife Heights) can be visited today.

The Lake District is intimately associated with English literature in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thomas Gray was the first to bring the region to attention, when he wrote a journal of his Grand Tour in 1769, but it was William Wordsworth whose poems were most famous and influential. Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, remains one of the most famous in the English language. Out of his long life of eighty years, sixty were spent amid its lakes and mountains, first as a schoolboy at Hawkshead, and afterwards living in Grasmere (1799-1813) and Rydal Mount (1813-50). Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey became known as the Lake Poets.

William Wordsworth published his Guide to the Lakes in 1810, and by 1835 it had reached its fifth edition, now called A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England. This book was particularly influential in popularising the region. Wordsworth’s favourite valley was Dunnerdale or the Duddon Valley nestling in the south-west of the Lake District.

The poet and his wife lie buried in the churchyard of Grasmere and very near to them are the remains of Hartley Coleridge (son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge), who himself lived for many years in Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere. Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate and friend of Wordsworth, was a resident of Keswick for forty years (1803-43), and was buried in Crosthwaite churchyard. Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived for some time in Keswick, and also with the Wordsworths at Grasmere. From 1807 to 1815 John Wilson lived at Windermere. De Quincey spent the greater part of the years 1809 to 1828 at Grasmere, in the first cottage which Wordsworth had inhabited.

In addition to these residents or natives of the Lake District, a variety of other poets and writers made visits to the Lake District or were bound by ties of friendship with those already mentioned above. These include Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Hugh Clough, Henry Crabb Robinson, Thomas Carlyle, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Felicia Hemans, and Gerald Massey.

The time fixed for the beginning of their Northern tour was now fast approaching; and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent.

Mr Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour; and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county, there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity, as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.
–Pride and Prejudice

The Peak District in Derbyshire and Staffordshire offers incredible views. The dramatic landscape ranges from percipitous valleys edged in loose stones in the Dark Peaks to lush valleys with limestone outcrops in the White Peaks all bisected by streams. Birds and wildflowers abound.

Dovedale is a meandering, deeply-cut two mile valley on the River Dove in the Peak District. The River Dove originates in the high moorlands of Axe Edge and joins the River Trent after a 45 mile circuitous journey through a series of spectacular limestone gorges: Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale, Milldale, and finally Dovedale. Dovedale is best enjoyed on a walking tour in which the views of valleys and rock spires are gradually revealed.

The Peak District and Dovedale are the result of extensive erosion of limestone [White Peaks] beds by waters rich in debris at the end of the ice age. The erosion cut through a conglamerate limestone resulting from a river delt overlaying an older limestone bed laid down in a shallow tropical sea 350 million years ago. The harder coral reef limestone remained. The ice age scouring revealed the coral islands as the Peaks from which the district derives its name.

Mr. Gardiner may well have stopped for a day of fishing in Dovedale. Trout fishing in the valley was made famous by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton who wrote The Compleat Angler in the 17th century. Elizabeth must have greatly enjoyed the scenery.

Located on the Gardiner’s path to Pemberley in Derbyshire, are two of the most famous great houses in England: Blenheim and Chatsworth. While it may seem odd today to visit a private home, uninvited, and ask for a tour, such goings on were fairly common place two hundred years ago. It was a mark of hospitality to allow travelers, however unexpected, to drop in and request a tour of the housekeeper, who, no doubt, knew the history and the house better than the inhabitants. She would usually be given a monetary tip for her troubles.

While it is not mentioned whether Elizabeth and the Gardiners toured these homes on their journey, it has long been thought that Chatsworth was Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley.

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Adapted from Sharon Wagoner’s article on The Georgian Index.net. Additional information from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

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The Regency Dessert Course

When the dessert and the wine were arranged, and Mrs Dashwood and Elinor were left by themselves, they
remained long together in a similarity of thoughtfulness and silence.
Sense and Sensibility

In the 18th and 19th century, a formal dinner was looked upon as more than a fine meal. It was a sort of grand show. The finale of the meal–dessert–was the most elaborate and expensive course of the dinner; and it required a knowledgeable confectioner to create the spectacular dessert displays of the day. The dessert fare included biscuits in great variety and macaroons served for dipping into sweet wines and liqueurs. Sugar biscuits that were closely related to meringues and gimblettes de fleurs d’orange that were large knotted biscuits were popular.

The most fashionable dessert–ices–were presented in little serving cups known as tasses à glaces and came in a variety of flavors including: pistachio, barberry, and rye bread.

The table was decorated with sugar-paste (pastillage) sculptures in forms such as cherubs and architectural shapes that recreated a garden or exotic locale in miniature. The display might decorate the dinning table throughout the dinner or grace a special dessert table in another room. This centerpiece was known as a plateau. It was generally placed on a mirror to increase the light and would include such items as temples and all the features usually found in a garden such as decorative pattern hedges (parterres) and flowers all created in sugar.

The sugar-paste sculptures might be made by pressing the sugar mixture into elaborately carved wooden molds or by carving. Thus the confectioner would own an array of molds and special carving tools.

 

In addition to the table centerpiece decorations, each guest would find a tiny molded-sugar basket filled with bonbons or ‘jeweled fruit’ beside their place setting. Even the place card might be a sugar sculpture, often in the form of the coat of arms of the guest.


The confectioner’s expensive and ethereal sugar-paste art began to be replaced by durable unglazed porcelain, known as biscuit, which looked
very like sugar-paste. The French Vincennes/Sèvres porcelain factory began producing biscuit table figurines around 1751. By 1790, the Danish court owned a collection of 850 pieces of porcelain meant to decorate the dessert table ranging from the ubiquitous pavilions, statues, and urns to cascades and warships.

The Prince of Wales had a separate confectioner’s kitchen in his Brighton Pavilion and kept three confectioners on his staff so that he could entertain in the finest style.


Sharon Wagoner is Curator of The Georgian Index.
Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!

Suggested reading: Feast: A History of Grand Eating by Roy Strong


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