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[I append here the post I wrote in 2009 on this day]

July 18, 1817.  Just a short commemoration on this sad day…

No one said it better than her sister Cassandra who wrote

have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed,- She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is as if I had lost a part of myself…”

(Letters, ed. by Deidre Le Faye [3rd ed, 1997], From Cassandra to Fanny Knight, 20 July 1817, p. 343; full text of this letter is at the Republic of Pemberley)

There has been much written on Austen’s lingering illness and death; see the article by Sir Zachary Cope published in the British Medical Journal of July 18, 1964, in which he first proposes that Austen suffered from Addison’s disease.  And see also Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A life, “Appendix I, “A Note on Jane Austen’s Last Illness” where she suggests that Austen’s symptoms align more with a lymphoma such as Hodgkin’s disease.

The Gravesite:

Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral

….where no mention is made of her writing life on her grave:

It was not until after 1870 that a brass memorial tablet was placed by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh on the north wall of the nave, near her grave:

It tells the visitor that:

Jane Austen

[in part] Known to many by her writings,
endeared to her family
by the varied charms of her characters
and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety
was born at Steventon in the County of Hants.
December 16 1775
and buried in the Cathedral
July 18 1817.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

The Obituaries:

David Gilson writes in his article “Obituaries” that there are eleven known published newspaper and periodical obituary notices of Jane Austen: here are a few of them:

  1. Hampshire Chronicle and Courier (vol. 44, no. 2254, July 21, 1817, p.4):  “Winchester, Saturday, July 19th: Died yesterday, in College-street, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen formerly Rector of Steventon, in this county.”
  2. Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (vol. 18, no. 928, p. 4)…”On Friday last died, Miss Austen, late of Chawton, in this County.”
  3. Courier (July 22, 1817, no. 7744, p. 4), makes the first published admission of Jane Austen’s authorship of the four novels then published: “On the 18th inst. at Winchester, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.  Her manners were most gentle; her affections ardent; her candor was not to be surpassed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.” [A manuscript copy of this notice in Cassandra Austen’s hand exists, as described by B.C. Southam]
  4. The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle published a second notice in its next issue (July 28, 1817, p. 4) to include Austen’s writings.

There are seven other notices extant, stating the same as the above in varying degrees.  The last notice to appear, in the New Monthly Magazine (vol. 8, no. 44, September 1, 1817, p. 173) wrongly gives her father’s name as “Jas” (for James), but describes her as “the ingenious authoress” of the four novels…

[from Gilson’s article “Obituaries”, THE JANE AUSTEN COMPANION [Macmillan 1986], p. 320-1]

Links to other articles and sources:

Copyright @2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Governors house

My friend Suzanne is the Innkeeper at the Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont, where she four times a year holds Jane Austen Weekends for those of us who like to retreat into the early 19th century for a few days. She also offers an annual In-Character Weekend, where all manner of various Austen characters people the Inn and where one must remain in character for the whole time or risk being evicted… it is all in good fun, what with archery, and fencing, and quill-making and dancing and efforts to make bonnets and turbans , one easily forgets the call of the internet or the chatter of cell phones, and as long as a resident Lady Catherine or Mr. Collins, or a grave General Tilney do not ruin the festivities, one can really get quite lost in it all. One such weekend is coming up August 7-9, 2015 and you can read all about it here: Governor’s House-JA weekends.

But I write here today about Suzanne’s and my Love of London, discovered several years ago, and about which we have yet to stop talking… We have been there together, and alas! separately, and as she was in the UK this spring without me (I am struggling to forgive her…), I here offer a post that Suzanne wrote on her Innkeeper’s blog a few weeks ago about her latest trip and the rather alarming number of encounters she had with Jane Austen! – here is the first paragraph with a link to the rest of the post … a perfect trip for armchair travelers!

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Encountering Jane Austen

After a tough Vermont winter and a serious bout of flu what form of R and R would be good before getting back to the 24/7 business of running a small inn? As is so often the case, a little Jane Austen seemed like a good plan. I’d been noticing how amazingly often JA is mentioned in whatever I’m reading, from Mr. Churchill’s Secretary to a serious article in the Economist just last week. So I wondered how many encounters there might be as I did some walking in her part of England and decided to chronicle my adventures. And all I can say now is that it is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen truly is everywhere!

Day 1

SB-NPG-Image-61

Arriving in London after an overnight flight, I immediately set out for a walk. First stop was Hatchard’s, England’s oldest bookshop founded in 1797. JA’s writings were well represented and it’s always a great place to look for guides to Regency London and places with literary ties, but the appeal for me is the list of authors who were also customers. Next stop was the National Portrait Gallery for “Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends”, John Singer Sargent’s striking portraits of Monet, Rodin, Robert Louis Stevenson and others, but certainly not JA who’d lived a century earlier. But returning the long way down from the third floor ladies, I came to this wall of JA’s contemporaries surrounding the tiny portrait of her we know so well.

Day 2… Continue reading at Suzanne’s blog here: http://www.onehundredmain.com/encountering-jane-austen/

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You can read more about the In Character Jane Austen Weekend for August 7-9, 2015 here: http://www.onehundredmain.com/events/jane-austen-weekends/ – it is not too late to sign up to give the performance of your life, Mr. Collins anyone?? and all you closet Mrs. Allens (dare I say Mrs. Norris??) can come and rave about your fashions to your heart’s content…

Showing off the Regency style turbans they made that afternoon in Hope Greenberg’s workshop

Showing off the Regency style turbans they made that afternoon in Hope Greenberg’s workshop

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On another note of interest to members of JASNA-Vermont – Suzanne is hosting us at the Governor’s House for an Afternoon Tea on July 26, 2015, from 2-4, where we will hear my good friend Ingrid Graff speak on “A Home of Her Own: Space and Synthesis in Sense and Sensibility.” As a member of JASNA, Suzanne is offering us this Tea at minimal cost to us, $8. / per person – reservations are required, so please email or call – invitations are being emailed later today to all on our JASNA-Vermont mailing list. Hope to see many of you there!

[Images courtesy of Suzanne B. from her Governor’s House website]

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Janeite Deb:

Kelly McDonald spoke to us yesterday about her research project and the mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma [Emma Austen married Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh]. It was a great presentation taking us into the various avenues of her research into Emma’s family, and with terrific participation from all in the audience, we are now hooked on this not-yet-solved mystery and will await updates – there is a novel in here somewhere I know! Here are Kelly’s thoughts on it all… reblogged from her blog Two Teens in the Time of Austen, with thanks.

Originally posted on Two Teens in the Time of Austen:

I want to thank JASNA-Vermont for inviting me to speak at their June gathering yesterday – and for dipping with me in the waters of RESEARCH into the family of the Austens. So little time, so MUCH information! My illustrated talk entitled “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” was an “interactive” presentation – and people really spoke up, made observations, added comments, asked questions. It was GREAT! Later, one audience member even told me my “research reads like a thrilling mystery!” Heartening words, indeed. No one can ever guess the “desert” a writer *feels* to be stranded in, when the research is this intensive and taking years to produce something substantive.

pen and letters

I figure I’m closing in on a THOUSAND letters and several HUNDRED diaries – and more turns up. I just returned (after midnight, last friday…) from a research jaunt to New York City.

Very helpful staff at NYU…

View original 523 more words

How to annoy friends and loved ones: offering daily proof that all things come back to Jane Austen, no matter the context. There have been a good number of very funny and unexpected results to support this theory – I always surprised and delighted in these “sightings” of Austen in the strangest places – my friends? – they merely roll their eyes. But a discovery a few weeks ago while on an architectural walking tour of Savannah Georgia might be the most bizarre yet… As we trekked around the beautiful and history-laden downtown, the whole of it a National Historic Landmark, our guide was asked how James Oglethorpe was able to communicate with the Native Americans he encountered when he chose Savannah for his settlement.

James Oglethorpe - HistoryCentral.com

James Oglethorpe – HistoryCentral.com

This was in 1733 and much later than the earlier colonies in South Carolina, Virginia, and those in the north, when Oglethorpe, under a charter granted by King George II, founded Georgia on the spot of this small river town. He started out with the best of intentions – he designed one of the most interesting towns likely ever planned and only thankfully for the machinations of a group of women in the 1950s, this city of twenty-two squares remains largely intact today (there were originally 24 squares). But Oglethorpe saw perfection not only in his architectural plan of Savannah – he expected it of his fellow colonists: no slavery, no Catholics (due to the proximity to the Spanish-controlled area of Florida just south), and no liquor…all of these prohibitions were eventually lifted.  [There is an old-wives tale that lawyers were banned as well, but I shall leave that to the history writers to separate fact from fiction!]

SavannahCityPLan-1734

Savannah City Plan 1734
source: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/savannah-city-plan

[The original caption of this print by Paul Fourdrinier reads: “A View of Savannah as it stood on the 29th of March 1734. To the Hon[orable] Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America. This View of the Town of Savannah is humbly dedicated by their Honours Obliged and most Obedient Servant, Peter Gordon.” – Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries]

map_savannah_historicdistrict

Savannah Historic District map: see this link for a description of the 22 squares. http://sherpaguides.com/georgia/coast/northern_coast/savannah_historic_district.html

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My intention here is not to give you a full-blown accounting of the founding of Savannah, fascinating subject though it be – but merely to share this tidbit. Back to our walking guide: it seems that there was a Creek woman, married to an English trader, who lived comfortably in both her worlds and served as interpreter, translator, and facilitator to Oglethorpe and his band of colonists, and therefore was largely responsible for the peaceful establishment and development of Savannah. Her name? Mary Musgrove. Now I know the guide was in a quandary when I yelped aloud and burst out laughing (I did explain the outburst after the walk – but when I said that Mary Musgrove was the name of one of Jane Austen’s most infamous characters, I am quite sure he was even more baffled…)

But there you have it – Mary Musgrove in America and Jane Austen once again rears her brilliant head!

Oglethorpe, Mary Musgrove, and Chief Tomochichi

Oglethorpe, Mary Musgrove, and Chief Tomochichi – Courtesy of Ed Jackson*

Now I am not saying that Jane Austen knew of this Mary Musgrove of course – there is nothing in her hypochondriac self-absorbed character to link her to a Creek woman living in the colonies nearly a century before. But it gave me a start nonetheless – and there is always the slight chance that Jane Austen may have seen something in her history books. Oglethorpe returned to England in 1734 with the chief of the Yamacraw Tomochichi and others from the Creek tribe to meet the King, and Mary’s husband John Musgrove went along to serve as interpreter. Mary remained in the Georgia colony and ran the trading post – but she too traveled to England in 1754 with her third husband Thomas Bosomworth [now there’s a name…] to settle the twenty year-long dispute over her ownership of several of the Georgia sea islands. In the end, she was granted title only to St Catherines Island, where after several more years as interpreter between the colonists and the Creeks, she died around 1765. Could any of this very interesting history have been part of the Austen family dinner conversation?

[*Image above from Ed Jackson’s website with thanks: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Oglethorpe-Mary%20Musgrove-Tomochichi%201.htm ]

There is another important aside with respect to Oglethorpe and slavery. He was one of the earliest to speak out against it, his founding of the Georgia colony prohibiting slaves proof of his humanistic beliefs. It was he who brought Granville Sharp and Hannah More into the argument – and they, after Oglethorpe’s death in 1785, joined with William Wilberforce and others in fighting slavery in England, on the seas, and in the colonies. For those of us who see the subtext of the slavery issue in Mansfield Park, it is certainly a possibility that Jane Austen knew of Oglethorpe, his history in settling Georgia, and his anti-slavery sentiments – and maybe something perhaps about Mary Musgrove?

Musgrove-GAEncycl

Mary Musgrove (pictured with her third husband, the Reverend Thomas Bosomworth) –
From First Lessons in Georgia History, by L. B. Evans
Source: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/mary-musgrove-ca-1700-ca-1763

She was known as Coosaponakeesa among the Creek Indians, the daughter of an English trader Edward Griffin and a Creek Indian mother (the Creeks were a matrilineal society and children took the clan identities of their mothers). Living among both cultures she learned to speak both English and Muskogee (the language of the Creeks), and learned from her father the trading post business. Her marriage to John Musgrove, the son of a South Carolina trader and planter and a Creek mother, was settled to reinforce the peace treaty between the Native Americans and the English. They lived within the Creek culture until they established a trading post near the Savannah River, and where Oglethorpe found them in 1733. We know that Oglethorpe was appreciative of her efforts on the colonists’ behalf because in his will he left her £100 and a diamond ring from his finger … And Musgrove was important enough to the history of Georgia that in 1993 she was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement. http://georgiawomen.org/

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Sophie Thompson as Mary Musgrove (1995)

Sophie Thompson as Mary Musgrove (1995)

 Source:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/460844974341615969/

As for Austen’s own Mary Musgrove – here are a few of the priceless quotes:

“My sore-throats, you know, are always worse than anybody’s.” 

“If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it.” 

“So, you are come at last! I began to think I should never see you. I am so ill I can hardly speak.” 

“Yes, I made the best of it; I always do: but I was very far from well at the time; and I do not think I ever was so ill in my life as I have been all this morning: very unfit to be left alone, I am sure. Suppose I were to be seized of a sudden in some dreadful way, and not able to ring the bell!” 

“…. as long as I could bear their noise; but they are so unmanageable that they do me more harm than good. Little Charles does not mind a word I say, and Walter is growing quite as bad.” 

“… and it is so very uncomfortable, not having a carriage of one’s own.” 

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book-cover-barchas-mattersJanine Barchas in her book Matters of Fact in Jane Austen offers the possibility that Austen took the name from a small village in Somersetshire called Charlton-Musgrove and that this served as a real world setting for her imaginary Uppercross. In her geographical mapping of Persuasion, Barchas notes that this village as well as Lyme and Bath would be within the travel distances Austen lays out from her fictional “Uppercross” and “Kellynch Hall” [p. 235-6].

And this has nothing to do with any of this naming of characters, but I have always wondered why ever did Austen have Mary Elliot marry Charles Musgrove on December 16th, her very own birthday? Any thoughts?

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Further reading: [there is a great deal on Mary Musgrove – I take some of this bibliography from the online Georgia Encyclopedia] 

  1. Baine, Rodney M. “Myths of Mary Musgrove,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 76 (summer 1992).
  2. Fisher, Doris. “Mary Musgrove: Creek Englishwoman,” (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1990). 
  3. Frank, Andrew K. “Mary Musgrove (ca. 1700-ca. 1763).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/mary-musgrove-ca-1700-ca-1763 
  4. Georgia Women of Achievement: http://georgiawomen.org/2010/10/bosomworth-mary-musgrove/
  5. Gillespie, Michele Gillespie. “The Sexual Politics of Race and Gender: Mary Musgrove and the Georgia Trustees.” The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South. Ed. Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie. New York: Oxford UP, 1997.
  6. Green, Michael D. “Mary Musgrove: Creating a New World.” Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives. Ed. Theda Perdue. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.
  7. Hahn, Steven C. The Life and Times of Mary Musgrove. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2012.
  8. Irby, Richard E., Jr. “Mary Musgrove, Queen of the Creeks.” On the About North Georgia website: http://www.aboutnorthgeorgia.com/ang/Mary_Musgrove,_Queen_of_the_Creeks
  9. Perdue, Theda. “Native Women in the Early Republic: Old World Perceptions, New World Realities.” Native Americans in the Early Republic. Ed. Ronald Hoffman and Frederick Hoxie. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 1999.
  10. Sweet, Julie Anne. “Mary Musgrove: Maligned Mediator or Mischievous Malefactor.” Georgia Women: Their Lives and Times, Vol. 1. Ed. Ann Short Chirhart and Betty Wood. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2009.
  11. Wikipedia on Mary Musgrove: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Musgrove
  12. And even a YouTube! “Mary Musgrove: Georgia’s Own Pocahontas”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwy8dvPTPVo
  13. [Legal] indenture executed by Henry Ellis and Thomas [and] Mary Bosomworth [with sworn statements and opinion], 1760 Apr. 19 – Thomas and Mary Bosomworth (a.k.a. Mary Musgrove or Coosaponakeesa) and Henry Ellis (Royal Governor of Georgia, 1757-1760). The Bosomworths herein agree to cede the two islands of Ossabaw and Sapelo to the Crown in exchange for a sum of money and title to St. Catherine’s Island. Sworn statements given by Mary Bosomworth and her husband, Thomas, follow the indenture as does criticism, offered by an unknown author, relative to the negotiations between the Governor and Bosomworths. [WorldCat]

There is also a book for young people: published in 1997 with the title Call the River Home, a 2nd edition was published in 2011 as Mary Musgrove, Queen of Savannah:

bookcover-MaryMusgrove-Statham

And here we find Mary Musgrove very present in present-day Savannah:

IndianTradingPostsign

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

BookCover-Slothouber…and the winner is Nancy who wrote:

Quite fascinating. I am particularly interested in your comment that Edward had more land and less money than many thought then and today. I know there are those who revile Edward today for not doing more for his mother and sisters instead of praising him for what he did do. . I’d love to have a copy of that book as much for what it says about general conditions and Edward’s in particular. –  I have the impression that Mr. Knightley also had more land than cash on hand and that his brother John received an allowance or something from their estate.

Nancy, please contact me as soon as possible with your contact details, and Linda will get the book sent off to you right away.

Thanks all for your terrific comments, and to Linda for her generosity for the guest post and responding to all your questions. Those of you who didn’t win, I encourage you to do it the old-fashioned way and buy the book – it is worth every penny and more of the $11.95!

And apologies for delay in announcing the giveaway – the Holiday caught me up short!

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Very Exciting news just in! Sandy Lerner, the force behind the turning Chawton House, home to Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight, into the Chawton House Library, has been awarded an Honorary OBE – “honorary” being the term for the OBE presented to a non-UK national [read here about the OBE, Order of the British Empire]. Here is the info on the event and celebration that took place yesterday at Chawton House!

Sandy Lerner copyright Pal Hansen from 2013

CHL Founder Awarded Honorary OBE
for Services to UK Culture

Award recognises importance of our unique Library of women’s writing

Today at Chawton House Library a very special event took place: our founder and Chairman, Dr Sandy Lerner, was awarded an Honorary OBE.

As a foreign national, the award of an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen recognises the significance of Dr Lerner’s cultural contribution to the UK in restoring the house an estate and establishing the Library. Although such awards are usually recognised at the British Embassy in the recipient’s country of residence, when Dr Lerner was first advised of the award over a year ago, she requested permission to delay announcing the honour and wait to be presented with the award at Chawton House Library itself.

Hampshire’s Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Nigel Atkinson Esq, presented the award to Dr Lerner in the Dining Room where Jane Austen would have dined with her brother, Edward. Dr Lerner, like many avid readers, loves the work of Jane Austen.

Read the rest here at the CHL website: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?p=60082

And here are two pictures from yesterday’s celebration:

IMG_6262

Hampshire’s Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Nigel Atkinson Esq, with Sandy Lerner

IMG_6319

CHL Board of Trustees Members Richard Knight (descended from Edward Austen Knight), Gilly Drummond, and Len Bosack with Sandy Lerner and Nigel Atkinson

[Images courtesy of Chawton House Library, with thanks.]

We were very fortunate at JASNA-Vermont to have had Sandy visit us for our December tea in 2012 – she spoke about her book Second Impressions, a sequel of sorts to Pride and Prejudice. Here she is signing her book for our member Thierry Guerlain:

Sandy Lerner and Thierry Guerlain

All our members here in Vermont send our hearty congratulations to Sandy! – a very much deserved award for all her efforts on behalf of Jane Austen and the many other women writers too long neglected. They all have a “home of their own” at last.

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You can learn more about supporting the Chawton House Library by visiting their “Get Involved” page. You can:

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

BookCover-SlothouberGentle Readers: Today I welcome Linda Slothouber, author of Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community (Woodpigeon Publishing, 2015), the result of her research at Chawton House Library in 2013. As the recipient of a grant through JASNA’s International Visitor Program, Linda’s project was to research the management of the Chawton estate in Hampshire during Edward Knight’s [nee Austen] ownership and this recently published book presents her findings. It is a most interesting and informative read, giving insights into the life and character of Jane Austen’s brother, thereby showing us how knowledgeable Jane Austen was in creating her own Heroes as landlords [think Mr. Knightley and Mr. Darcy! Henry Crawford, not so much…] – she had a fine model in her very own brother! I cannot improve upon what Deirdre Le Faye has written, that this book is “an essential addition to the Austenian bookshelf.”

I asked Linda how she chose this topic, what prompted her to apply for the JASNA grant, and here is her response: “Having written about other businesses in Jane Austen’s time, such as Wedgwood and Richard Arkwright’s cotton-spinning empire, I was very interested in how the business of estate management worked, both in the real world and in Jane Austen’s fiction.  I made some preliminary inquiries and found out from Chawton House Library about the Knight Archive and other potential resources.  My original intention, when I applied to JASNA’s International Visitor Program, was to write a much shorter book, but each question I answered spawned two more, and I discovered some stories and information I just couldn’t bear to leave out.” She tells us more about it all in her post below.

Linda has generously offered us a copy of her book for a giveaway, so please leave any comments and questions for her after this post in order to be entered into the random drawing [details below].

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Edward Knight, Landlord
by Linda Slothouber

The number of books, websites, magazines, and television programs that aim to explain the world in which Jane Austen lived must number well into the hundreds.   Many of them give a broad view of historical events and cultural conditions, compressing decades of time and significant regional diversities into a notional Georgian/Regency England.

In researching my book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce and Community, I wanted to complement the more general histories by looking closely at specific people in a specific place.  My goal was to answer my own questions about the structure and economy of the English estate by looking at the experience of the estate-owner who would have been most familiar to Jane Austen:  her brother, Edward.  Adopted by rich relations, Edward inherited Godmersham Park in Kent; property in Chawton, Steventon, and elsewhere in Hampshire; and property in three other counties, changing his surname to Knight as a condition of the inheritance.  (Ronald Dunning gives more background on the Knight family here.)

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight – wikipedia

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight – wikipedia

I knew that the landed gentry made their money from renting and using their inherited lands, but how exactly did that happen?  How involved were landowners in estate management?  Jane Austen’s brother was an excellent case study.  I also wanted to explore how Chawton actually functioned as a community and get a better look at the people who lived in the cottages and farmhouses.  Who were the people that Jane Austen would have encountered during her years in Chawton?  When Chawton Great House was vacant or in the hands of tenants, what effect did that have on the estate and the village?

A View of Chawton @1740 by Mellichamp. Chawton House Library (BBC – Your Paintings)

My research into these questions was possible because of the availability of the Knight Archive, a treasure trove of several centuries’ worth of papers.  In 1961, 1986, and at various points in the 1990s, the Knight family gathered up record books, official documents, and random bits of paper from Chawton House and turned them over to the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester.  The HRO’s archivists created an index, but, because many entries refer to bundles of documents, the index can’t comprehensively describe everything in the archive.  The experience of going through one bundle after another, carefully unfolding 200-year-old papers to discover what each one contained, is something I will never forget!  Among the fascinating odds and ends I came across were the bills for Elizabeth Austen’s funeral and for the care of Jane and Edward’s brother George in his last weeks, the seating plan for the church in Chawton, and the list of poor old ladies to whom flannel petticoats were given after Edward Knight’s death.

Most of the documents in the Knight Archive concern the management of the Chawton estate and other Knight holdings.  While there are significant gaps, what has survived provides important insight into the Knights’ estate operations in Hampshire over a long period of time.  I read estate papers written by Elizabeth Knight and her steward in the early 1700s, and then turned to an estate wages book from the early 1900s, when Montagu Knight was the squire; some of the activities done on the estate remained remarkably constant, and some of the same surnames appeared on the lists of workers in both centuries.  As the focus of my research fell exactly between these two points, the range of documents provided an invaluable context for understanding Edward Knight’s period of ownership.

Excerpt from Edward Knight’s 1807 bank ledger, showing several deposits of estate income made by his steward, Bridger Seward, and forwarded through Henry Austen’s bank in Alton. (Courtesy of Barclays Group Archives)

The period between 1808 and 1819, encompassing the years when Jane Austen lived in Chawton, is, by chance, particularly well documented.  An estate accounts book has survived and is supported by bundles of vouchers documenting specific purchases and jobs done on the estate.  To pursue some questions, such as how much money Edward Knight earned from all his property in a typical year, I had to do some detective work, comparing the data found in the Knight Archive with that from other sources, including the Godmersham Heritage Centre, Barclays Group Archives (which holds Knight’s banking ledgers), and previously published sources such as Deirdre Le Faye’s Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family.

So what did I learn?  It turns out Edward Knight had more land, and less money, than has commonly been believed.  I estimate that his contemporaries would have spoken of him as having “7,000 or 8,000 pounds a year,” not the £15,000 his near-contemporary Mary Russell Mitford stated (admittedly based on hearsay) as his income.  Knight had to contend with a lawsuit that threatened his ownership of his Hampshire property – that much is well-known – but his wealth was also affected by changes in the national economy that affected land values and farming income, presenting problems that plagued him throughout the 1820s and seem to have had an effect on his health, as well.

Edward Austen Knight - CHL

Edward Austen Knight – CHL

Knight felt deeply his responsibilities to his family, to the community, and to his own posterity – his son and the future heirs of the Knight estates.  Throughout his life, he provided financial assistance to many members of his family, though his female relations received far less direct financial support than his brothers did, or received assistance in ways that were not recorded in bank ledgers.  As for the community, Knight’s support for education, health care, and housing for the poor made Chawton more stable and less miserable than many other villages at the time.  It may be tempting to criticize some of his actions and omissions from our 21st-century vantage point, but L.P. Hartley’s maxim holds true:  “The past is another country:  they do things differently there.”

Learning about Edward Knight’s history and experience in estate management is valuable in its own right, but adding to the body of knowledge about Jane Austen is always a goal.  By discovering more about the people she knew during her eight years in Chawton and comparing the facts of their lives with what she wrote about them, we may come a tiny step closer to understanding her views and feelings.

One individual she knew well is William Triggs, Edward Knight’s gamekeeper at Chawton.  Triggs was by far the most well-paid of the Chawton estate servants; his salary of £52 was nearly half that of the estate steward.  His primary responsibility was to protect game on the estate for Edward Knight’s sons and guests to shoot when they came to stay. Since this didn’t happen often, some of his time was spent overseeing hay-making and other projects on the land, paying workers, and selling hay and potatoes on behalf of the estate (all tasks a bailiff might have done, but Knight didn’t employ one at Chawton at the time).  He was trusted with the money required to carry out these tasks and he earned a commission on sales.  He had guns and dogs and a horse that was purchased with estate funds, as was his hat, which cost a guinea (four times the cost of a common laborer’s hat).  Gamekeepers at the time were often resented by villagers for their high-handed ways and for siding with landowners, and this may have been the case with Triggs.  I found only one record in Knight’s estate accounts of poachers being conveyed to jail, but I did find a mention of a charge of assault brought against Triggs, which was settled by the estate paying the large sum of 9 pounds to the victim.

Jane Austen mentioned Triggs several times in her letters.  She found in him a worthy subject of long-running jokes shared with several members of her family.   She ended one letter, written from Godmersham Park to Cassandra back in Chawton, “With love to you all, including Triggs.”  In another letter, she wrote of seeing Triggs scurry down the lane, laden with birdcages and luggage, to meet the coach—not the kindest observation surely, but it seems to me she took some delight in seeing Triggs lose his swagger and struggle with lowly tasks.  In 1817, an interesting meeting took place:  “Tell William [Edward Knight’s son] that Triggs is as beautiful & condescending as ever, & was so good as to dine with us today,” wrote Jane.  We must imagine Triggs, the servant who perhaps acted above his station, sitting down to dine with the Austen women, who were related to the squire at the Great House but living in much humbler circumstances.  How did Jane Austen feel about being condescended to by her brother’s employee?  She tried to make conversation with him, but was it the sort of conversation Mr. Bennet had with Mr. Collins at dinner?  Did she speak aloud, teasingly, what she later wrote in her letter, that Triggs must have looked “very handsome” in his green coat at a recent funeral procession?  By discovering more about the dinner guest at the cottage table, it becomes easier to at least formulate such questions, even if the answers remain elusive.

A final word:  Even a scrap of paper of no obvious significance, which might easily have gone in the fire 200 years CEA-3-JAHouseMuseumago, has its magic today:  the words, the spelling, the quality of signatures (or X’s marked down by the unlettered), and the amount of paper allocated to a particular purpose all tell us something.  If such ephemera is worth saving and studying, then how much more essential is it to preserve a unique document that is central to Jane Austen’s life story?  Right now, Jane Austen’s House Museum is engaged in a campaign to collect £10,000 to purchase the letter that Cassandra Austen wrote to her niece Fanny immediately after Jane Austen’s death.  To secure the letter, this sum must be collected within less than three months.  Please read about the letter and consider contributing to the fundraising campaign.   [ The letter is CEA / 3, dated July 29, 1817 – Le Faye, 4th ed., p. 363 – you can read the text here]

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About the Author:  A 20-year career in management and technology consulting, degrees in English and Administration, and a stint as JASNA’s International Visitor to Chawton in 2013 created the foundation for Linda to write her 2015 book, Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce & Community.  The book is available from Amazon, Woodpigeon Publishing, and Jane Austen Books in the U.S., and is available in the shop at Chawton House Library.  Linda blogs about new findings and supplemental research at chawtoncommerceandcommunity.blogspot.com. [Please note that Linda will be donating all profits from U.S. sales to the JASNA 2016 AGM.  For those of you attending JASNA-Vermont’s 7 June 2015 meeting, I will have copies for sale.]

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Book Giveaway:

BookCover-Slothouber

Thanks you so much Linda for your guest post on Edward Knight! Readers, please leave a comment or question for Linda in order to be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton: Commerce and Community. Deadline is next Friday May 22, 2015 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be announced on May 23. Limited to domestic mailings, sorry to say, but don’t let that keep you from commenting!

Chawton House Library today - cTony Grant

Chawton House Library today – cTony Grant

[Tony Grant and I visited CHL last May on a very rainy day –
his picture was better than mine so I use it here with thanks!]

c2105 Jane Austen in Vermont
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