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Archive for June, 2010

News Alert from Utah:  from Utah Public Radio

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has become part of the canon of Western literature, and it has a huge fan following. Why does this story still speak to us today, in both the original novel form and its many adaptations? We’ll explore the subject with four guests: two who are BYU professors and two who are integrally involved with its production at this year’s Shakespearean festival. 

 You can listen here:  Classical 89: Thinking Aloud  [click on the P&P link for June 28, 2010] 

The Utah Shakespearean Festival is staging Pride & Prejudice through August 28th, with various Austen-related events during the “Jane Austen Week” of July 19-24.  [and the JASNA Utah Region is very much involved.]

With thanks to Janeite Sylvia for this information [her son is the director!]

[Posted by Deb]

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Laurel Ann at her Austenprose blog is currently posting a month-long group read through Pride & Prejudice – do visit and join in the discussion! – she is as always an insightful reader and discussion leader, and what better way to spend the first month of summer musing on P&P and the finer points of Austen’s magic!
 
The publishing history of P&P, Austen’s most popular book, then and now, is an interesting study in the book trade of early 19th century England.  First completed in 1797 [and called First Impressions] and rejected by the publisher her father took the manuscript to, Austen reworked P&P and submitted it to Thomas Egerton, the publishing house of her Sense & Sensibility, in 1812 [published January 28, 1813].   She sold the copyright outright for £110, and did not incur other expenses in its publication, as in the three other works published in her lifetime [see links below for more information.]  How we would love to know her thoughts on this road to publication! – how we would love to have her letters written while in the process of the writing to give us some idea of her imagination at work [where WAS the model for Pemberley?  was Mr. Darcy someone REAL?  was Elizabeth Bennet her alter ego? was MR COLLINS drawn from life?], or to have the letters to her brother Henry and his to Egerton – but alas! we have nothing, just a few comments scattered among the surviving letters. 
 
Austen does not give us much in her letters as to her writing practices or narrative theory [and thus such a disappointment when they were first published, criticized for their “mundaneness,” their focus on domestic nothings and neighborhood gossip!] – but if you dig for diamonds you will find them, and these scattered mentions are certainly diamonds – it is the feeling of having her right over your shoulder when you read that she is “disgusted” with the way her mother is reading her book aloud, or that she REALLY likes this earning money for her labors, or being miffed [but also full of pride!] with Henry for telling her Secret to one and all – we see Jane Austen here in her own words – the funny, ironic, brilliant Jane Austen – never enough, but this is as good as it is going to get. 
 
So in this post I offer all the references she makes to Pride & Prejudice, her “own darling Child” – read them and enjoy!
[NOTE:  page references are to Deirdre Le Faye, ed., Jane Austen’s Letters, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1997;  all abbreviations and spelling errors are retained]
 
Letter 17. January 8-9, 1799 to Cassandra, from Steventon
 
I do wonder at your wanting to read first impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago. [page 35]
 
[Le Faye notes that this is the first surviving mention of Austen’s literary work, this prototype of P&P having been finished in August 1797; Note, p. 366]
 
Letter 21. June 11, 1799,  To Cassandra, from Bath
 
I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & I am very glad that I did not leave it in your power. – She is very cunning, but I see through her design; – she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.  [p.44]
 
Letter 77.  November 29-30, 1812, to Martha Lloyd from Chawton
 
P.& P. is sold. – Egerton gives £110 for it. – I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should not chuse to hazard so much. – It’s being sold will I hope be a great saving of Trouble to Henry, & therefore must be welcome to me. – The Money is to be paid at the end of the twelvemonth. [p. 197]
 
 
Letter 79.  January 29, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton    
 
I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London; – on Wednesday I received one Copy, sent down by Falknor, with three lines from Henry to say that he had given another to Charles & sent a 3d by the Coach to Godmersham; just the two Sets which I was least eager for the disposal of.  I wrote to him immediately to beg for my own two other Sets, unless he would take the trouble of forwarding them at once to Steventon & Portsmouth – not having any idea of his leaving Town before today; – by your account however he was gone before my Letter was written.  The only evil is the delay, nothing more can be done till his return.  Tell James & Mary so, with my Love. – For your sake I am as well pleased that it shd be so, as it might be unpleasant to you to be in the Neighborhood at the first burst of the business. – The Advertisement is in our paper to day [the Morning Chronicle of January 28, 1813]. – 18s – He shall ask £1-1- for my two next, & £1-8 – for my stupidest of all. I shall write to Frank, that he may not feel himself neglected.  Miss Benn dined with us on the very day of the Books coming, & in the eveng we set fairly at it & read half the 1st vol. to her – prefacing that having intelligence from Henry that such a work wd soon appear we had desired him to send it whenever it came out – & I beleive it passed with her unsuspected. – She was amused, poor soul! that she cd not help you know, with two such people to lead the way [JA and her mother]; but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth.  I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know. – There are a few Typical errors – & a “said he” or a “said she” would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear – but “I do not write for such dull Elves” “As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.”  [from Scott’s Marmion] – The 2d vol. is shorter than I cd wish – but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a a larger proportion of Narrative in that part.  I have lopt & cropt so successfully however that I imagine it must be rather shorter than S. & S. altogether. – Now I will try to write of something else; – it shall be a complete change of subject – Ordination. [p. 201-2]
 
 
 
Letter 80.  February 4, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
 
Your letter was truely welcome & I am much obliged to you all for your praise; it came at a right time, for I had had some fits of disgust. – our 2d evening’s reading to Miss Benn had not pleased me so well, but I beleive something must be attributed to my Mother’s too rapid way of getting on – & tho’ she perfectly understands the Characters herself, she cannot speak as they ought. – upon the whole however I am quite vain enough & well satisfied enough. – The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling; – it wants shade; – it wants to be stretched out here & there with a long Chapter – of sense if it could be had, if not of solemn specious nonsense – about something unconnected with the story; an Essay on Writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or a history of Buonaparte – or anything that would form a contrast & bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness & Epigrammatism of the general stile. –  I doubt your quite agreeing with me here – I know your starched Notions. – The caution observed at Steventon with regard to the possession of the book is an agreable surprise to me, & I heartily wish it may be the means of saving you from everything unpleasant; – but you must be prepared for the Neighbourhood being perhaps already informed of there being such a Work in the World, & in the Chawton World! Dummer will do that you know. – It was spoken of here one morng when Mrs. D. [Digweed] called with Miss Benn. – The greatest blunder in the Printing that I have met with is in Page 220 – Vol.3 where two speeches are made into one. – There might as well have been no suppers at Longbourn, but I suppose it was the remains of Mrs. Bennet’s old Meryton habits. [p. 203]

Mrs. George Austen

 
I had a letter from Henry yesterday, written on Sunday from Oxford; mine had been forwarded to him… he says that copies were sent to S. [Steventon] & P. [Portsmouth] at the same time as the others. [p. 204]
 
 
Letter 81.  February 9, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
 
I am exceedingly pleased that you say what you do, after having gone thro the whole work – & Fanny’s praise is very gratifying; – my hopes were tolerably strong for her, but nothing like a certainty.  Her liking Darcy & Elizabeth is enough.  She might hate all the others, if she would. I have her opinion under her own hand this morning, but your transcript of it which I read first, was not & is not the less acceptable. – To me, it is of course all praise – but the more exact truth which she sends you is good enough. [p. 205]
 
Yes, I beleive I shall tell Anna – & if you see her, & donot dislike the commission, you may tell her for me.  You know I meant to do it as handsomely as I could.  But she will probably not return in time [p. 205, referring to telling her niece Anna that she is the author of S&S and P&P, note p. 414]
 
…- there is still work for one evening more. [p. 206, to finish reading P&P aloud, note p. 414]
 
 
Letter 85.  May 24, 1813, to Cassandra from London
 
…Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens.  It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased – particularly [pray tell Fanny] with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her.  I was in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy; – perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition which we shall go to, if we have time; – I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which now is shewing in Pall Mall & which we are also to visit. – Mrs. Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness.  She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I have always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her.  I dare say Mrs. D. will be in Yellow. [p. 212] 
 
 [Portrait of a Lady, by J.F.M. Huet-Villiers]
a.k.a. Mrs. Bingley
 
 
I am very much obliged to Fanny for her Letter; – it made me laugh heartily; but I cannot pretend to answer it.  Even had I more time, I should not feel at all sure of the sort of Letter that Miss D. would write… [p. 213, referring to a letter from Fanny written to and expecting a response from Georgiana Darcy – Note p. 417]
 
We have been to both the Exhibition & Sir J. Reynolds’, – and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like Mrs. D. at either. – I can only imagine that Mr. D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. – I can imagine he wd have that sort [of, omitted] feeling – that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy. [p. 213]
 
 Letter 86.  July 3-6, 1813, to Francis Austen from Chawton
 
You will be glad to hear that every Copy of S.&S. is sold & that it has brought me £140 – besides the Copyright, if that shd ever be of any value. – I have now therefore written myself into £250. – which only makes me long for more. – I have something on hand – which I hope on the credit of P. & P. will sell well, tho’ not half so entertaining… [referring to Mansfield Park] [p. 217]
 
 Letter 87.  September 15-16, 1813, to Cassandra from London
 
Lady Robert [Kerr, nee Mary Gilbert] delighted with P. & P – and really was so I understand before she knew who wrote it – for, of course, she knows now. – He [Henry] told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish.  He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny.  And Mr. Hastings – I am quite delighted with what such a Man writes about it. – Henry sent him the Books after his return from Daylesford – but you will hear the Letter too.  // Let me be rational & return to my two full stops. [p. 218]
 
I long to have you hear Mr. H’s [Warren Hastings] opinion of P&P.  His admiring of Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me. [p. 221]
 
 
Letter 89.  September 23-24, 1813, to Cassandra from Godmersham Park
 
Poor Dr. Isham is obliged to admire P.&P. – & to send me word that he is sure he shall not like Mde. Darblay’s new Novel half so well. - Mrs. C. [Cooke] invented it all of course. [referring to Frances Burney’s The Wanderer, published in 1814] [p. 227]
 
 
Letter 90.  September 25, 1813, to Francis Austen from Godmerhsam Park  
 
I thank you very warmly for your kind consent to my application & the kind hint that followed it. [asking Frank if she can use the names of his old ships in her her current work, MP] - but the truth is that the Secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the Shadow of a secret now – & that I beleive whenever the 3d appears I shall not even attempt to tell Lies about it. – I shall rather try to make all the Money than all the Mystery I can of it. – People shall pay for their knowledge if I can make them. – Henry heard P. & P. warmly praised in Scotland, by Lady Robt Kerr & another Lady; – and what does he do in the warmth of his Brotherly vanity & Love, but immediately tell them who wrote it! – A Thing once set going in that way – one knows how it spreads! – and he, dear Creature, has set is going so much more than once.  I know it is done from affection & partiality – but at the same time, let me here again express to you & Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shewn on the occasion, in doing what I wished. – I am trying to harden myself. – After all, what a trifle it is in all its Bearings, to the really important points of one’s existence even in the World!  [p. 231]

Henry Austen

 
There is to be a 2d Edition of S.&S. Egerton advises it. [p. 232, referring to her publisher]
 
 
Letter 104.  August 10-18, 1814, to Anna Austen from Chawton
 
Now we have finished the 2d book – or rather the 5th – I do think you had better omit Lady Helena’s postscript; to those who are acquainted with P.&P it will seem an Imitation. [p. 268, referring to Anna’s manuscript sent to JA for advice]
 
  
Letter 128.  November 26, 1815, to Cassandra from London
 
Mr. H is reading Mansfield Park for the first time & prefers it to P&P. [p. 301, referring to Mr. Haden, London surgeon, who brought good Manners & clever conversation]
 
  
Letter 132(Draft).  December 11, 1815, to James Stanier Clarke from London
 
My greatest anxiety at present is that this 4th work [Emma] shd not disgrace what was good in the others.  But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that whatever may be my wishes for its’ success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those readers who have preferred P&P. it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who preferred MP. very inferior in good sense… [p. 306]
 
 
Letter 134(A).  December 27, 1815, from the Countess of Morley to JA at Chawton
 
I am most anxiously waiting for an introduction to Emma…. I am already become quite intimate in the Woodhouse family, & feel that they will not amuse & interest me less than the Bennetts [sic], Bertrams, Norriss & all their admirable predecessors – I can give them no higher praise- [p. 308]
 
************************************
 [a letter-writing Fanny Austen-Knight by Cassandra]
Ah! indeed! – no higher praise…
 
 
Further reading:

[Posted by Deb]

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Just to share several sites / posts recently discovered / re-discovered:

Tony Grant at his London Calling blog has written another two posts on Jane Austen:  Jane Austen and the Vicars and The Cobb and the Undercliff at Lyme Regis, complete with great photographs and Tony’s commentary.  [Visit his blog and search “Jane Austen” for his other photographic treks to Austen sites.] 

Mr. Grant has recently joined the Jane Austen Today blog as a weekly columnist – he has written on Jane Austen being fit and the recent post on Jane Austen’s World Cup football team [and thankfully we tied with the UK in the first game, though they may have won if they had had Mr. Darcy as the “goalscorer supreme’!]

Tony also alerted me to the website Geograph Britain and Ireland – a collection of photographs that represent every square kilometer of the UK.  You can search any town relating to Jane Austen and find numerous current depictions of the area:  Steventon, Lyme Regis, London, Bath, Chawton, etc… [Tony has contributed a number of his photographs as well…]

Worting House in Hampshire

[see below for the Austen connection*] 

Janeite Marti sent me this link to the Two Nerdy History Girls  post on the history of chocolate – there is a link to a video from American Heritage Chocolate on how chocolate was made in Colonial Williamsburg… YUM! –  subscribe to the “two nerdy girls” [both historical fiction writers] blog for other great articles…

Here is a great blog idea – “letters written to fictional characters by actual people” – visit the blog at Letters with Character – visit here for two Austen-related letters:  one to Elizabeth and one to Mr. Darcy. [what would YOU write to an Austen character?? ]

When Masterpiece Theatre produced and aired the Jane Austen programs two years ago, they also created “The Complete Guide to Teaching Jane Austen” which is available in a 24-page pdf file on their website – a wonderful resource for viewing and discussing all the films, not just the 2008 versions.  Print it out and settle in for another marathon film adventure!

This guide offers ideas and tips on how to teach the works of Jane Austen, using film as another avenue into her world. The guide has been organized so it can easily be adapted for various needs. Sections that explore universal themes—Novel to Film, the Art of Adaptation, Self-Discovery, Society and the Self, Satire and Irony—provide questions and activities that can be used for any of Austen’s works. Before and After Viewing questions have been provided for each film so you can thoroughly explore whatever title you choose to teach. Other features include an essay about Austen’s continued popularity, biographical information, and an exploration of the role of biography in an author’s work.

[from the PBS / Masterpiece Theatre website]

The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton where Jane Austen danced away in the “Assembly Room” has been refurbished as the Mercure Southampton Centre.  There is a “Jane Austen function room” suitable for weddings, etc., if you would like to celebrate in the same space Austen did on her 18th birthday in 1793.  Austen lived in Southampton from 1805-1809 prior to her move to Chawton in 1809.

Robert Rodi at the Bitch in a Bonnet blog that I alerted you all to awhile back, has finished his summing up of Pride & Prejudice - lovely final words, worthy of a repeat:

Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I laugh.  It’s the laughter of philosophy; the clear, cold laughter of those who reside in the abyss but are untouched by its sweat-soaked, writhing tumult.  We laugh, because Austen lifts us above the fray and nimbly escorts us to a farther shore, where there are kindred spirits waiting.  We can’t stay there long; but we can return whenever we like…again, and again, and again, and again. 

…makes you want to run right to your bookshelf and begin it all again, doesn’t it?

And speaking of P&P, Laurel Ann at Austenprose starts her month-long reading [no mash-ups, zombies, vampires, slashing heroines for Laurel Ann – yea!! – back to the real thing for her, thank goodness…] – it all starts on June 16th, so begin your reading of chapters 1-7 NOW and join in the analysis and discussion…

Visit Gillray’s Printshop of Historical Absurdities of the 18th and 19th centuries – there are many of them, so an endless treasure chest of information…

And finally, for the fashion-conscious, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich Connecticut has a new exhibit on The Dressmaker’s Art:

The Bruce Museum’s major summer exhibition, The Dressmaker’s Art: Highlights from the Bruce Museum’s Costume Collection, organized by guest curator Adrienne Saint-Pierre, features twenty-four elegant gowns and dresses along with displays of lavishly embellished accessories and underpinnings such as taffeta and lace petticoats, primarily taken from the collection of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. Additional items are on loan from the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

[Ball gown, c1895, Worth, Paris]

The earliest gown is from 1820 and the exhibit displays fashions through the early 20th century – visit the Museum’s website for more information – a delight to have this exhibit here in New England!

*Jane Austen and Worting House:  A visit by Jane Austen, probably one of many unrecorded, paid on the evening of Thursday December 20 1798 and mentioned by her in a letter dated December 24 to her sister Cassandra. In it she described a ball of the Basingstoke Assembly for which the authoress to be, then in her dancing days, was staying at Manydown with her friend Catherine Bigg – one of Squire Bigg-Wither’s seven daughters.  She wrote:

I spent my time very quietly and pleasantly with Catherine. Miss Blachford is agreeable enough. I do not want People to be very agreeable as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.- I found only Catherine and her when I got to Manydown on Thursday. We dined together and went together to Worting to seek the protection of Mrs Clarke with whom Lady Mildmay, her eldest son, and a Mr and Mrs Hoare………. Our ball was very thin, but by no means unpleasant………There were 31 People and only 11 Ladies out of the Number, and but five single women in the room….There were twenty dances, and I danced them all, and without any fatigue………My black cap was openly admired by Mrs Lefroy, and I secretly imagine by everybody else in the room.

[Letter 15, December 24-26, 1798, Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, quoting the Bigg-Wither – Worting  House website]

[Posted by Deb]

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Three days left to listen to the BBC Radio 4 program of Jane Austen’s Ipod [first heard in January and now repeated] – here’s the link:

BBC Radio 4 Programme  – Jane Austen’s Ipod

A rare insight into the family life of Jane Austen through her favourite songs. She collected songs all her life, but many of them have only just come to light, in manuscripts inherited by one of her descendants. Jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert performs some of these songs.

Professor Richard Jenkyns inherited a pile of music manuscripts which are only just being looked at by the Austen scholars. He shows us what he found: some have been laboriously copied out by Jane herself – among the music manuscripts in Jane’s handwriting is a piano piece which he believes she composed.

David Owen Norris brings him together with scholars Deirdre Le Faye and Samantha Carrasco at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire. Together they cast a new light on one of our best-loved and most enigmatic writers.

Some of the songs included are:

  • A romantic song by Robert Burns, to which she changed the words, so that the final words referred to herself -“the charms of your Jane.”
  • A tragic French song, “Les Hirondelles”, which ends with imprisonment and death. Jane’s sister in law Eliza had lived in France, and her first husband was guillotined in the Terror.
  • “The Ploughboy” – a popular song of the time, witty, and with a politically subversive message about corrupt politicians who are only interested in money, and manage to buy their way into power.
  • “Goosey Goosey Gander” – Jane had a lot of nursery rhymes, and was constantly surrounded by boisterous nephews and nieces.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

[Image and text from the BBC site]

[Posted by Deb, with thanks to Janeite Kerri]

…AND if you happen to be around the University of Southampton on June 30th, don’t miss this Jane Austen program at Turner Sims:

Calling all Jane Austen enthusiasts!

Discover the music that influenced Jane Austen whilst writing her classic novels, as pianist David Owen Norris explores the nine newly-discovered volumes of the Austen family music collection. Entertaining Miss Austen is on Wednesday 30 June at 8pm.

David Owen Norris is Professor of Musical Performance at the University of Southampton, an Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, an Educational Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and an authority and leading performer on early pianos and rare piano concertos. Joined by soprano Amanda Pitt, David sheds unique light on the musical loves of Jane Austen and her family.

This fascinating recital includes favourite airs and dances – and the only piece of music actually mentioned in Jane’s novels; Kiallmark’s ‘Robin Adair’, which is performed expertly by Jane Fairfax in Emma.

Tickets are £10 and free to Friends of Turner Sims.

[from the Turner Sims website]

 

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YOU’RE INVITED TO WATCH JANE AUSTEN’S FAVORITE PASTIME …

 

YOU’VE READ ABOUT ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCING
IN AUSTEN’S NOVELS ~ 
YOU’VE SEEN IT IN FILMS LIKE  “PRIDE & PREJUDICE”~
NOW YOU CAN SIT ON STAGE TO LISTEN TO THE BEAUTIFUL LIVE MUSIC,
WATCH THE COSTUMED DANCERS
(MANY DRESSED IN AUSTEN-ERA GARB),
AND, IF YOU LIKE, INDULGE IN TASTY REFRESHMENTS AT THE BREAK

ACROSS THE LAKE
An English Country Dance Gala
on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain

SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 2010
8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Elley-Long Music Center
223 Ethan Allen Ave.
Colchester, VT
(in Fort Ethan Allen, off Route 15) 

Prompting by Orly Krasner
Music by Earl Gaddis ~ violin
Mary Lea ~ violin & viola
Jacqueline Schwab ~ piano
Wayne Hankin ~ woodwinds & more

SPECTATOR’S PRICE, AT THE DOOR:
$10 with sumptuous refreshments at break, $5 without

 

Website: www.burlingtoncountrydancers.org  
just click on Across the Lake for all the details!

[Image from the Hamilton English Dancers  website]

[From Janeite Val]

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The set of Jane Austen’s novels published by Bentley in 1833 and up for auction at Bonham’s sale today [June 8, 2010] has come under the gavel and has sold for £3,360  [= @ $4827.] [the estimate was for  £2000 – £3000 ]

Here are the details:

AUSTEN, Jane. Works, Bentley’s Standard Novel edition, 6 vol. in 5, 5 engraved frontispieces and additional titles, some light spotting to first and final few leaves, small corner tear to printed title “Pride and Prejudice”, without half-titles, ownership inscription of Eularia E. Burnaby (1856) on printed titles, bookplate of Henry Vincent, bookseller’s label of H.M. Gilbert, Southampton, uniform contemporary half calf, red and dark green morocco labels, extremities lightly rubbed [Gilson D1-D5], 8vo, R. Bentley, 1833

 Sold for £3,360 inclusive of Buyer’s Premium 

Footnote:

“No English reissue of JA’s novels is known after 1818 until in 1832 Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels” (Gilson, p.211). See illustration on preceding page.

  • See the Bonham’s site here for details and other auction items in this ‘Printed Books, Maps and Manuscripts’ auction [Sale No. 17809]
  • See Laurel Ann’s post analyzing this set [along with her super sleuthing as to the provenance!] at Austenprose

Someone has gone home very happy today!  [and hopefully this has gone to either a fine institution or a fine home with an Austen-loving owner…] 

[Posted by Deb]

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When I wrote the previous post on the Steventon Parsonage, I looked in vain for a copy of a pamphlet I have [or was sure I had!] titled Steventon and the Austens:  Jane Austen bi-centenary 1775-1975, written by Keith Irons.  This is the souvenir booklet and programme for the July 18- July 27, 1975 Jane Austen celebration in Steventon.  Well, I could not find it, and thus did not have much data on the new Rectory that was built by Edward Knight for his son William Knight, the rector who took over the curacy from Henry Austen in 1823, or the Manor House referred to in various sources. – but as always one finds things when not actually looking for the particular item madly searched for a week ago – and so here it is, on my reading table, and has been there for a bit, out of place, but now happily found…

So I can give more information on the new Rectory that was built in 1826 after the demolition of Austen’s own home, and the subject of the auction sale in the news article found in my book.  But as you will see, I am more confused than ever! I quote from this pamphlet directly:

Edward Knight remained in possession of the estate until 1855 [Edward Knight died in 1852] when he sold it to the second Duke of Wellington, who in turn sold it in 1877 to a Mr. Henry Harris.  Mr. Harris, a man of considerable wealth, farmed the estate himself and built a substantial new manor house of red brick with cottages surrounding it, and a new farm house and outbuildings now known as Home Farm.  Before this the estate had been farmed by the Digweed family who had been tenants and had lived at the old manor house for nearly 100 years.  The estate remained in the possession of the Harris family until 1910 when it was sold to Mr. Robert Mills.  In 1932 the brick manor house was damaged by fire with the residential quarters being completely gutted.  The then owner, Mr. Onslow Fane, decided to add a new wing to the old Tudor manor rather than to rebuild the Victorian one.  [This old Tudor manor was called Steventon Manor House, and the Digweeds lived here  – Edward Knight owned it as it was part of the estate…David Cecil has a picture of this house in his Portrait of Jane Austen, but it is also misnamed as the Chawton Great House (p.159)…] 

He [Mr. Fane] lived in it briefly before the house was requisitioned by military authorities during the war, but it was never reoccupied afterwards which contributed largely to its decay, leading to its eventual demolition [in 1970].  The servant’s wing of the Victorian manor, undamaged by the fire in 1932, still stands, but it is now used only as a machinery store and barn; although it will have one brief period of glory again when it serves as a threatre during the Jane Austen bi-centenary celebrations.  [Irons, Steventon and the Austens, 1975]

 Irons says the new rectory that Edward Knight built in 1826 was on the other side of the valley on an elevated site, so this is the reference as in the previous post that is the house for sale last October.  There is mention also of the cottages that “straddled the lane toward the village” and home to Mrs. Littlewort, Jane Austen’s Nanny and mentioned in her letters.  Anna LeFroy also sketched these cottages, but they, according to Irons “disappeared in the mid 1820s, demolished for spoiling the view from the new Rectory, it would seem.”  

 I also quote here Constance Hill’s description of Steventon, the Rectory and the Manor House, in her book Jane Austen, Her homes and Friends [London 1904] – [and also titled Jane Austen: her Houses and Haunts] – the full-text of the 1923 edition is available online at A Celebration of Women Writers – read this book if you can – it is a delightful account of traveling to various Austen sites, coupled with references to Austen’s letters and works:  here is a portion of the Steventon chapters, complete with drawings: 

Leaving the park, the road turns abruptly to the right, and we find ourselves entering the sunny village of Steventon, which lies in a gentle hollow. We alight from our chaise and walk between the gardens of pretty cottages that border the road. These cottages, it seems, form the village, and passing them we proceed along Steventon Lane. A knoll, on the left, is surmounted by the new rectory, and on the right, green fields and woods cover a hillside, on the top of which, we are told, we shall find the church. Presently we reach a meadow at the foot of the hill and notice that the ground slopes up to a grassy terrace. This is the place! We cannot mistake it. This is the site of the old parsonage-house where Jane Austen was born! For her nephew tells us that “along the upper or southern side of the garden ran a terrace of the finest turf.” There is the very terrace described! We know that the house stood between it and the lane, but what is the exact site? Can no one tell us? May there not be some person yet living who remembers the parsonage pulled down in 1826?

Inspired by this idea, we hurry back to the cottages and speculate upon each open door as to what might be gained from its dark interior. At last we see an old man leaning on his garden-gate.

“Can you tell us,” we anxiously inquire, “where the old parsonage stood in which the Austen family lived long ago?”

“Ay, that I can,” he exclaims: “maybe you’ve seen the field at the corner where the church lane cooms out o’ Steventon Lane? Well, if you saw that, did you notice a pump in the middle o’ the field?”

“Yes, yes!”

“Well, that pump stood i’ the washhouse at the back o’ the parsonage. There’s a well under the pump. The Austens got their water from that well. I was a little ‘un when the old house was pulled down, but I well recollect seeing all the bricks and rubbish lyin’ about on the ground.”

“The house faced the road, did it not?” we ask.

“Yes; and the gates o’ the drive were at the corner o’ the field, between the church lane and Steventon Lane. I remember when you could make out the line o’ the drive quite well, ’cause the grass grew poor and thin where the gravel had been.”

Presently we learn that our informant’s grandfather, whose name was Littlewart, was coachman to Mr. James Austen, Jane’s eldest brother.

” I used to hear a deal about the Austens when I was a lad,” continued our friend. “from my mother, for she was a god-daughter o’ Miss Jane’s. People tell me now that Miss Jane wrote some fine stories, and I’ve just seen her name in a newspaper. I’ll go and fetch the paper for you to see.” And the old man hurries into his cottage.

Whilst he is away I refer to a volume of Jane Austen’s Letters which I carry under my arm [don’t we all do this!], to see if, by chance, the name of Littlewart occurs in any of them. Yes! here it is in one dated November 1798. Jane is writing from Steventon to a sister-in-law, and after telling her that “their family affairs are somewhat deranged” owing to illness among the servants, she goes on to say “You and Edward will be amused, I think, when you know that Nanny Littlewart dresses my hair.” It was evidently this Nanny Littlewart’s daughter that was godchild to Jane Austen. So we have been actually talking to the son of her god-daughter!

After showing proper appreciation of the newspaper paragraph, we return to the meadow where the parsonage stood. My companion sits down on a bank to sketch the terrace and the pump, for the pump, barely noticed before, has become interesting now as the only visible relic of the Austens’ home.  Meanwhile I wander over the field endeavouring to

“Summon from the shadowy past
The forms that once have been.”

I can now picture to myself the exact spot where the parsonage stood, and can fancy the carriage drive approaching it “between turf and trees” from the gates at the corner of the two lanes. I can even fancy the house itself, being familiar with two old pencil views of it taken by members of the Austen family. These show that the front had a latticed porch, and that the back

                    STEVENTON PARSONAGE (FRONT VIEW)

had two projecting wings and looked on to the garden which sloped up to the terrace “walk.” In both sketches fine trees are introduced, and as I saunter about I notice some great flat stumps of elm-trees in the grass. The sight of these brings to mind a letter of Jane’s, written in November 1800, in which she says: “We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the fore part of this day, which has done a great deal of mischief among our trees. I was sitting alone in the dining-room  when an odd kind of crash startled me; in a moment afterwards it was repeated. I then went to the window, which I reached just in time to see the last of our two highly-valued elms descend into the Sweep!!!! The other, which had fallen, I suppose, in the first crash, and which was the nearest to the pond, taking a more easterly direction, sank among our screen of chestnuts and firs, knocking down one spruce fir, beating off the head of another, and stripping the two corner chestnuts of several branches in its fall. This is not all. One large elm, out of the two on the left-hand side as you enter what I call the elm walk, was likewise blown down; the maple bearing the weathercock was broke in two, and what I regret more than all the rest is, that all the three elms which grew in Hall’s meadow, and gave such ornament to it, are gone; two were blown down, and the other so much injured that it cannot stand. I am happy to add,” she continues, “that no greater evil than the loss of trees has been the consequence of the storm in this place, or in our immediate neighbourhood. We grieve therefore in some comfort.”[1]

The “elm walk” alluded to, which is sometimes called the “wood walk” in the “Letters,” extended from the terrace westward and led to a rustic shrubbery. The shrubbery has disappeared, but there are groups of trees on the slope of the terrace that may have shaded the “walk.” One group is especially beautiful. It consists of tall sycamores with their pale grey stems and dark green foliage, among which an old thorn has entwined its branches. We read in one of the “Letters” from Steventon: “The bank along the elm walk is sloped down for the reception of thorns and lilacs.”

Perhaps these features of her home may have been in the author’s mind when she described “Cleveland” in “Sense and Sensibility.” “It had no park, but the pleasure grounds were tolerably extensive . . . . It had its open shrubbery and closer wood walk . . . . The house itself was under the guardianship of the fir, the mountain ash, and the acacia.”

The ground between the house and the terrace “was occupied by one of those old-fashioned gardens in which vegetables and flowers are combined, flanked and protected on the east by one of the thatched mud walls common in that country, and overshadowed by fine elms.”[1] I look on the sloping grass “where once this garden smiled,” and fancy I see fruit-trees and flowers and that I even catch a glimpse of two girlish forms moving among them – those of Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra; that only sister so dear to the heart of Jane, of whom she spoke, “even in the maturity of her powers, as of one wiser and better than herself.”

We are told that a path called the “Church walk” started from the eastern end of the terrace and ascended the steep hill behind the parsonage to the church. It ran between “hedgerows under whose shelter the earliest primroses, anemones, and wild hyacinths were to be found.” Let us cross the meadow, gentle reader, where the path ran which the Austens must have trod each Sunday morning as they walked to church. Leaving the meadow, we enter a small wood, and, on emerging from this wood, find ourselves on high tableland. There above us stands the church, a modest edifice of sober grey, seen through a screen of great arching elms and sycamores. Behind us stretches a fertile valley fading into a blue distance. The only sounds that meet the ear on this still September day are the twittering of birds and the distant bleating of sheep. How often must Jane Austen have listened to these sounds as she passed on her way to church!

We follow a path which crosses the churchyard beneath the boughs of an ancient yew-tree, and enter the small silent church. Our attention is caught at once by the squire’s pew on the right of the chancel arch. Square and big and towering above the modern benches it stands – solid oak below, but with elegant open tracery above through which the occupants could see and be seen. In the Austens’ time a family named Digweed rented the Manor of Steventon. Its owner was Mr. Thomas Knight, a distant relative of the Rev. George Austen, but the Digweeds held the property for more than a hundred years.

After examining, with great interest, many tablets to Austens and Digweeds, we quit the dark church and step into the sunshine once more; and, passing through a wicket gate, find ourselves upon a wide spreading lawn adorned with great sycamores. Beyond the trees rises a stately mansion of early Tudor date, with its stone porch, its heavy mullioned windows, and its great chimney-stacks all wreathed with ivy – the old Manor House of Steventon.

The house is no longer inhabited, for the present owner, we learn, has migrated to a new mansion erected hard by, but the old building itself has suffered no alteration, as far as its outward walls are concerned, since the Digweeds lived there, when there was much intercourse between the squire’s and the rector’s families.

We sit down upon a grassy bank under the shade of tall limes and, looking to the right of the old grey building, we can see the corner of a gay flower garden, whose red and white dahlias and yellow sunflowers rise above a high box hedge. To our left is a bowling-green, across which the shadows of great trees are sweeping. Whilst my companion sketches the porch of the Manor House


THE OLD MANOR HOUSE

I turn over the leaves of Jane Austen’s “Letters” and my eye falls upon these playful remarks, written in November 1800 to her sister Cassandra: “The three Digweeds all came on Tuesday, and we played a pool at commerce. James Digweed left Hampshire to-day. I think he must be in love with you, from his anxiety to have you go to the Faversham balls, and likewise from his supposing that the two elms fell from their grief at your absence. Was not it a gallant idea? It never occurred to me before, but I daresay it was so.”

We are told that “Mr. Austen used to join Mr. Digweed in buying twenty or thirty sheep, and that all might be fair it was their custom to open the pen, and the first half of the sheep which ran out were counted as belonging to the rector. Going down to the fold on one occasion after this process had been gone through, Mr. Austen remarked one sheep among his lot larger and finer than the rest. ‘Well, John,’ he observed to John Bond (his factotum), ‘I think we have had the best of the luck with Mr. Digweed to-day, in getting that sheep.’ ‘Maybe not so much in the luck as you think, sir,’ responded the faithful John, ‘I see’d her the moment I come in and set eyes on the sheep, so when we opened the pen I just giv’d her a “huck” with my stick, and out a’ run.'”[1]

When evening approaches we leave the old manor house and its smooth lawns under the glowing light of the setting sun and descend the hill to Steventon Lane. There our chaise awaits us and we make our way, not back to Deane, but on to Popham Lane, the main road between Basingstoke and Micheldever, and establish ourselves at an old posting inn, called the Wheatsheaf, which we find will be within reach of many a place visited by Jane Austen as well as of Steventon.
[Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and her Friends, pp. 6-22]

**********************************

So one does need another trek to Steventon to place all these buildings in context – those still standing [what of the building used as the theatre in 1975?] and those now lost, but on the glebe maps to view. 

So a rather useless update here with just a little bit more information, a few more names, a few more buildings, a few lost buildings, and more questions…  anyone living in or near Steventon that sees this, please, please help me to fill in the gaps!

[Posted by Deb] 

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