Finding Jane Austen in the Most Unlikely Places: Savannah, Georgia

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

Museum Musings: London During the American Revolution – Exhibit at The Society of the Cincinnati

The Society of the Cincinnati, at its headquarters at Anderson House in Washington DC, currently has on exhibit  “Homeland Defense: Protecting Britain during the American War” – you can view the online exhibit to see a collection of prints and cartoons that depict the various camps, soldiers, the visits of the fashionable, and other items that reflect Britain’s concern with possible invasion. We must believe that Jane Austen had some of this history in mind when she was writing Pride and Prejudice, with her soldiers, and the mad for red coats frenzy of the younger Bennet girls – and Mrs. Bennet for that matter!

“My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well — and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other night at Sir William’s in his regimentals.” (P&P, vol. I, ch. 7)

Doubleday1945-Wickham-Ball-2

Mr Wickham, by Robert Ball, Pride and Prejudice (Doubleday, 1945)

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If you can get to Anderson House in DC, all the better (the exhibit runs October 3, 2014 — March 14, 2015), but visit the online exhibit here if you cannot… http://www.societyofthecincinnati.org/exhibit/current

Plan-CoxHeath-SoCjournal

Isaak Jenher. ‘Plan of the Camp at Cox-Heath 1779’ [in Kent] (London, 1779)
[image: Cincinnati Fourteen, Fall 2014, Journal of The Society of the Cincinnati, vol. 51, no. 1.]

By the beginning of 1778, British hopes of an easy victory over the American rebels had vanished. The British army had seized New York City and Philadelphia, but American resistance had proven far more tenacious than anyone in Britain had expected. The costs of prosecuting the war were mounting. Shipping losses were increasing. Parliamentary opposition to the war was growing. The defeat at Saratoga had destroyed British confidence that the colonies could be conquered. Even Lord North, the prime minister, had lost hope of total victory in what he called “this damned war.”

Then in February, France completed an alliance with the rebels. For the first time in a generation, Britain faced the threat of invasion. With most of the regular army in North America, the ministry recruited militia “for the internal defence of this Country.” The army established special camps in southeastern England to train the militia along with regular soldiers, to protect the coastline, and to provide for the defense of London. A distant and increasingly unpopular war suddenly reached the British homeland.

Contemporary novels and plays about military themes, new songs and poems celebrating British strength, and popular prints depicting the camps reflected public anxiety about the threat of invasion. They also reflected contemporary British opinion about the army at a moment when failure in America exposed it to satire and ridicule. The camps had a wide–ranging influence on popular culture. Fashionable ladies, for whom visiting the camps was a part of the social whirl, sported riding habits modeled on regimental uniforms. Cartoonists, meanwhile, took delight in poking fun at preparations for a foreign invasion that never came.

[quoted from the website]

LadyandOfficer-walpole

John Collet. ‘An Officer in the Light Infantry, Driven by his Lady to Cox-Heath’ (London, 1778)
[image: Lewis Walpole Library]

 c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Quoting Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park ~ The Issue of Slavery and the Slave Trade

MP-VintageClassics2007-ebay

Over at Sarah Emsley’s blog tomorrow, I will be posting some thoughts on Mansfield Park and the issue of slavery by looking at Sir Thomas’s sentiments on the subject.  [This is now posted at Sarah’s blog: Jane Austen’s “dead silence” – or, How Guilty is Sir Thomas Bertram?]. Jane Austen gives us little to go on and there has been much conjecture as to Sir Thomas’s guilt as a slaver, as well as to Austen’s own sentiments about slavery and the slave trade.  As a starting place, we must begin with the text itself, and I compile here all the references to the slave trade, slavery, Antigua and the West Indies. Let me know if I have missed any – and please share your thoughts on what Austen may have been saying to her readers about slavery, a hotly-debated topic at the time of her writing Mansfield Park. Why does she introduce it into this novel?

[I include here a link to: “A Bibliography on Mansfield Park and the Issue of Slavery”: Bibliography – Mansfield Park and Slavery – Barnum ]

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Mansfield Park and Slavery:  specific references to the Slave Trade, Slavery, Antigua.

[Note: citations are to Chapman]

 

1. …as his [Sir Thomas’s] own circumstances were rendered less fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India Estate. [Narrator, 24]

2. “Why, you know Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened, if the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.” [Mrs. Norris to Lady Bertram who responds “Oh! that will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it, I know.” 30.]

SugarCanePlantation-USSlave

“Planting the sugar cane”
http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/05/antigua-and-barbuda.html

 

3.  Sir Thomas found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs… probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent. [Narrator, 32]

4. …the travellers’ safe arrival in Antigua after a favourable voyage. [Narrator, 34: with an account of Mrs. Norris’ hysteria.]

Map-Antigua-Davis

Map of Antigua (source: Gregson Davis article:
http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/bnccde/antigua/conference/papers/davis.html )

5. …unfavorable circumstances has suddenly arisen at a moment when he was beginning to turn all his thoughts towards England, and the very great uncertainly in which every thing was then involved… [Narrator, 38. Young Tom is sent home alone, Mrs. Norris’s hysterics again of “foreboding evil” and “dreadful sentiments.”]

6. Letters from Antigua… his business was so nearly concluded as to justify him in [returning home by November]… [Narrator, 107.]

 7. “…such an absence not only long, but including so many dangers.” [Edmund on his father in Antigua, to Mary Crawford, 108.]

 8.  Sir Thomas was to return in November, and his eldest son had duties to call him earlier home. [Narrator, 114.]

9.  “It would show a great want of feeling on my father’s account, absent as he is, and in some degree of constant danger….” [Edmund to all on acting, 125.] – and Tom responds [one of Austen’s funnier moments]: “.. for the expectation of his return must be a very anxious period to my mother… it is a very anxious period for her.” [Tom, 126.] – “…each looked towards their mother… just falling into a gentle doze…” !

10. “…I have been slaving myself till I can hardly stand…” [Mrs. Norris to Fanny, 166.]

MP-HMBrock-Norris-Mollands

Mrs. Norris by H. M. Brock [Mollands]

 11. …he was grown thinner and had the burnt, fagged, worn look of fatigue and a hot climate… [Narrator giving us Fanny’s thoughts on first seeing Sir Thomas, 178.]

 12.  His business in Antigua had latterly been prosperously rapid, and he came directly from Liverpool… [Narrator recounting Sir Thomas’ travel, 1787.]

13. …the alarm of a French privateer… [Narrator continuing Sir Thomas’ telling of his travels – such a vessel would have been armed, 180.]

FrenchPrivateer-Confiance_Kent_fight-wp

 [East Indiaman HMS Kent battling Confiance, a privateer vessel commanded by French corsair Robert Surcouf in October 1800, as depicted in a painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray – Wikipedia]

14. “I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together…” [Fanny to Edmund, 197.]

15. “But I do talk to him more that is used. I am sure I do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?”  [Fanny to Edmund, 198.]

“I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.” [Edmund to Fanny]

“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like – I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel.” [Fanny, 198. Edmund you will notice proceeds to only talk of Mary Crawford…]

SlaveShipDiagram-1790-wp

Slave ship diagram-1790-wikipedia

16. “…He [Edmund] knows that human nature needs more lessons that a weekly sermon can convey, and that if he does not live among his parishioners and prove himself by constant attention their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own.” [Sir Thomas to Henry Crawford and Edmund, 198.]

17. Sir Thomas …prolonged the conversation on dancing in general, and was so well engaged describing the balls of Antigua… [Narrator, 251.]

MP-CEBrocok-William--Mollands

Sir Thomas talking with William and Fanny, by C. E. Brock [Mollands]

18. ‘Advice’ was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power… shewing her persuadableness. [Narrator on Sir Thomas thoughts on sending Fanny to bed, 280.]

MP-CEBrock-SirT-Mollands

“Am I to understand,” said Sir Thomas, “that you mean to refuse Mr. Crawford?” ~ Vol. III, Ch. I [C. E.  Brock – Mollands]

 19.  The Narrator’s words describing Fanny’s feelings about a marriage to Henry: revolt, painful alarm, terror, formidable threat, sudden attack, misery, wretched feelings, aching heart, distressing evil. [Narrator, 357ff.]

20.  But he [Sir Thomas] was master at Mansfield Park. [Narrator, 370.]

 21. Henry Crawford as an absentee landlord at Everingham, with an “agent of some underhand dealing.” [Narrator on Fanny’s thoughts about Henry going to his estate, 404.]

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Quotes from other works:

Emma: this very telling dialogue between Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton [Vol. II, Ch. 17, p. 300-01)

Emma1996-Elton-Fairfax

 Emma 1996– Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton
source: Austen Efforts blog

When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long unemployed. There are places in town, offices, where inquiry would soon produce something — offices for the sale, not quite of human flesh, but of human intellect.”

    “Oh! my dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave-trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather a friend to the abolition.”

    “I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade,” replied Jane; “governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly, as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies.”

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Persuasion: we have Captain Wentworth in the West Indies and Santa Domingo; Mrs. Croft in the East Indies and Bermuda and Bahama; Mrs. Smith has an Estate in the West Indies.

P-CEBrock-AdmiralBaldwin-Mollands

  “So wretched an example of what a sea-faring life can do” ~ Vol. I, Ch. III – C. E. Brock [Mollands]

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Sanditon: we have the wealthy Miss Lambe, a mulatto, briefly mentioned: “A Miss Lambe too! A young West Indian of large fortune…” – and whatever Jane Austen intended for her, we cannot know…

book cover - sanditon

Your thoughts?

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont