Jane Austen and Great Bookham ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Jane Austen and Great Bookham
by Tony Grant

cassandraleighausten

Cassandra Leigh Austen

Cassandra Leigh was born on September 26th 1739 at Harpsden in Oxfordshire. She was the third of four children born to Thomas Leigh and Jane Walker. She had an older brother James and an older sister Jane and a younger brother Thomas. Her father’s brother, Theophilus Leigh, master of Baliol College Oxford, had a number of children also, including two daughters named Mary and Cassandra. This meant there were two Cassandra Leighs in the family. On April 26, 1764 George Austen, Proctor of St John’s College Oxford, and Thomas Leigh’s daughter Cassandra were married at St. Swithin’s Church in Bath, and just after that he became the Vicar of Steventon in Hampshire near Basingstoke. Theophilus Leigh’s daughter Cassandra married Samuel Cooke in June 1768. On the 13 April 1769, Samuel Cooke became the vicar of St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham, in Surrey.

George and Cassandra Austen had eight children, James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Francis, Jane and Charles. Jane was born 16 December 1775 at Steventon. She was to become the world renowned author Jane Austen.

Samuel and Cassandra Cooke had six children but only three survived: Theophilus Leigh Cooke, George Leigh Cooke and Mary Cooke. Anne and their other children with the same names as those who lived, Mary and Theophilus, all died in infancy and their burials are recorded in the St Nicholas parish register.

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Throughout Jane Austen’s letters there are numerous references to aunts, uncles and cousins. She had an extensive family. There were the Leighs of Adelstrop, the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey, the Brydges, the Turners, as well as the Cookes of Great Bookham in Surrey. Jane, her sister Cassandra, her brothers and her mother corresponded and visited all of them at different times. Jane Austen spent a lot of time travelling. She was a great walker, whether it was along the lanes around Steventon, walking up onto the hills around Bath, walking from Chawton to Alton or to Farringdon. She took carriages and coaches to London and Bath, as well as many other places, stopping at inns and hostelries or family along the way. Great Bookham, where the Cookes lived, was about fifty miles from Chawton on route to London. Carriages travelled at an average speed of no more than eight miles an hour at best. To get to Great Bookham took Jane Austen and her family about five hours from either Steventon or Chawton. The countryside was beautiful, especially in summer when birds and wild life and wild flowers were seen in abundance. It occurs to me that Jane Austen could have been a great travel writer and observer of nature. Maybe she was a close observer of the natural world but she didn’t record it. Human interaction was her thing.

The High Street, Great Bookham

The High Street, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Great Bookham is situated in Surrey a few miles from where I live. The area around Great Bookham inspired Jane Austen’s novels to quite an extent. It must have been while staying with her Aunt and Uncle and cousins Mary, George and Theophilus that she first visited Box Hill which is only a few miles away from where the Cookes lived . She probably used Great Bookham itself as well as Leatherhead and other villages and small towns nearby as sources to create Highbury, the fictitious town in her novel Emma. West Humble, a small settlement near the base of Box Hill, is reputed to be the small village outside of Dorking where the impoverished Watson family lives in Jane’s unfinished novel The Watsons. Of course Dorking itself, the setting for the Ball in The Watsons, is nearby too.

Jane’s Aunt, Mrs Cooke, was an aspiring writer herself. She wrote a novel called, Battleridge. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane writes:

[Sat 27-Sun 28 Oct 1798]

Your letter was chaperoned here by one from Mrs Cooke, in which she says that ‘Battleridge’ is not to come out before January; & she is so little satisfied with Cawthorn’s dilatoriness that she never means to employ him again.

Jane, and perhaps the rest of the Austens, did not always enjoy the prospect of travelling to Great Bookham to visit their cousins:

[Tue 8 Wed 9 Jan 1799]

I assure you I dread the idea of going to Bookham as much as you do; but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it; Theo has lost his Election at Baliol, & perhaps they may not be able to see company for some time. They talk of going to Bath in the Spring, & perhaps they may be overturned in their way down, & all laid up for the Summer.

Jane actually spent quite a lot of time with her relations at Bookham, up to a week or at times for longer stretches. Reading her references to the Cookes suggests that her aunt and uncle could be at times pompous and overbearing and perhaps liked to present a perfect view of life rather than a realistic one.

[Tues 10th– Wed 11th January 1809]

…Easter Monday, April 3rd is the day we are to sleep that night at Alton, & be with our friends at Bookham the next, if they are then at home;- there we remain till the following Monday, & on Tuesday 11th hope to be at Godmersham. If the Cookes are absent, we shall finish our journey on ye 5th-These plans depend of course on the weather, but I hope there will be settled cold to delay us materially.

If Jane isn’t corresponding with her aunt and uncle she is writing to and receiving letters from her cousins. She does appear to get on well with her cousin Mary.

[Mon 30th Jan 1809]

“…I had this pleasant news in a letter from Bookham last Thursday, but as the letter was from Mary instead of her mother you will guess her account was not equally good from home – Mrs Cooke has been confined to her bed some days by illness, but was then better& Mary wrote in confidence of her continuing to mend. I have desired to hear again soon.”

This extract does suggest that she gets the truth from Mary, and is suggestive of their warm relationship.

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Rectory painting

After his marriage to Cassandra Leigh, Samuel Cooke brought his new wife to Great Bookham and was installed as vicar on the 13 April 1769. At first they lived in the rectory, situated across the road from the entrance to the grounds of St Nicholas Church in Church Road. This is now the post office:

The first rectory now post office - c2016 Tony Grant

The first Rectory, now post office – c2016 Tony Grant

They later moved to a new, larger rectory set back from the road, built on a plot next to and immediately north of theoriginal rectory. This was the rectory that Jane Austen would have visited and stayed at. It no longer exists (see painting above). On its site there are a row of shops:

Shops on site of old Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Shops on site of old Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

From old photographs of the rectory we can make comparisons with another building just south of the post office. The sash windows in the still existing building are exactly the same design as those of the demolished rectory. The chimney stack is very similar and the front door and portico look like a miniature version of the rectory entrance -the pillars and canopy of look as though they are of identical design and pattern. (It is interesting to note that a maid servant who would have served Jane while she stayed with her cousins was named Elizabeth Bennet!)

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

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House with similar features to Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Similar features to Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

Before marrying Cassandra Leigh and becoming vicar of Great Bookham, Samuel was first educated at Blundell’s School in Devonshire and became Blundell’s Scholar at Balliol College Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1762 and gained his Master’s degree in 1764. From 1762 he was a Blundell Fellow at Balliol and became rector of Cottisford, Oxford. However, after settling in Great Bookham with Cassandra and producing a number of children he lived in Bookham for the rest of his life. He is, however, buried in Beckley in Oxford where his wife inherited a house through the Leigh family. He may have died while visiting Beckley.

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Frances Burney

Frances Burney

There is another connection between Great Bookham and Jane Austen’s literary career. A writer who influenced Jane Austen was Frances Burney (Madame D’Arbley). She wrote two novels that we know Jane Austen read, Evelina and Cecelia, Jane a subscriber to the latter.  At the time Jane was visiting her relations in Bookham and staying in Church Road to the west of St Nicholas Church. Burney and her husband, General Alexander D’Arbley, who fled to England after the rise to power in France of Maximillian Robespierre, were living in Fairfield Cottage, now named The Hermitage, a small cottage that still exists in Lower Road to the south of the church. Burney was introduced to the French emigres and D’Arbley by her sister Mrs Phillips – they met at Juniper Hall near Mickleham next to Box Hill. Jane Austen and Frances Burney must have been in close proximity on many occasions. Burney’s son Alexander was baptised in St Nicholas Church on April 11, 1795, by the Reverend Samuel Cooke. Burney herself mentions  Mrs Cooke in a letter to her father:

[Bookham, June 15, 1795]

Mrs. Cooke, my excellent neighbour, came in Just now to read me a paragraph of a letter from Mrs. Leigh, of Oxfordshire, her sister. . . . After much of civility about the new work and its author, it finishes thus:—“Mr. Hastings I saw just now: I told him what was going forward; he gave a great jump, and exclaimed, ‘Well, then, now I can serve her, thank Heaven, and I will! I will write to Anderson to engage Scotland, and I will attack the East Indies myself!’” F. D’A.

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Burney also mentions the Reverend Samuel Cooke in another letter to her father:

“ Mr Cooke tells me he longs for nothing so much as a conversation with you on the subject of Parish Psalm singing-he complains that the Methodists run away with the regular congregation from their superiority in vocal devotion.”

Claire Tomlin in her autobiography Jane Austen : A Life explains that Jane read Burney’s novels:.

Cecilia…..Nearly a thousand pages long. It too must have filled many winter evenings by the fire at Steventon, and taken its toll on Jane’s eyes, which at times became tired and troublesome. She admired Burney’s comic monsters and her dialogue, but most what she learnt from her was negative; to be short, to sharpen, to vary, to exclude. Also, to prefer the imperfect and human heroine to the nearly flawless one. What Burney had demonstrated with her first book- concise as none of the later ones were- was that there was a public for social comedy finely observed through female eyes.”

View of St Nicholas from Fanny Burneys cottage

View of St Nicholas from Burney’s cottage c2016 Tony Grant

While living in Fairfield Cottage in 1794, Burney began writing Camilla and finished a tragedy called Edwy and Elgiva. Sheridan presented this at Drury Lane with Mrs Siddons and Kemble. The play was a disaster, Burney putting it down to the cast being under rehearsed. Also while living in Bookham, Burney gave birth to a son on December 18, 1794 – he was baptized Alexander at St Nicholas Church by the Reverend Cooke. Many important French emigres attended the baptisim, all friends of General D’Arbley. The D’Arblays obviously knew the Cookes well, and it seems inconceivable that Jane Austen never met Burney – yet there is no evidence that she did.

I have discovered a few more things about Frances Burney, not related to Jane Austen but of interest to me, that give me the impetus to explore her world more. Burney’s father was a well-regarded composer and musician. He was a friend to Mrs Thrale, a great society hostess in the 18th century. Mrs Thrale lived at Streatham Park in a grand house where she entertained Dr Johnson, a close friend of her husband Mr Thrale. She encouraged and nurtured Frances Burney and many other famous people of the time such as James Boswell and the great artist Joshua Reynolds. Streatham Park, now a Victorian housing estate, is a mile from where I live. Chessington Hall, just south of me is where another friend of Burney’s father’s lived and where Frances often visited. It is said she began writing Cecelia while staying at Chessington. Yes, I have much to explore.

Also living in the area of Great Bookham at the time Jane visited, and close associates of Frances Burney, were Richard Brinsley Sheridan – living at the great house of Polesdon Lacey on the edge of Bookham – and Madamoiselle Anne Louise Germaine de Stael. She was a novelist too. Jane liked her Corinne ou L’Italie. De Stael owned Juniper Hall where French emigres including General D’Arbley were given shelter. We know that De Stael read Jane’s novels but pronounced them “vulgaire.” Jane avoided meeting De Stael, but this is another story entirely…

Interior St Nicholas - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior St Nicholas – c2016 Tony Grant

References:

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomlin ( Viking 1997)
  • Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Third Edition, Oxford University Press 1995)
  • The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arbley
  • Great Bookham at the time of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and R B Sheridan by William Whitman (Pub: The Parochial Church Council of St Nicholas, Great Bookham)

Want to visit Great Bookham? here’s how to get there on Google Maps.

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photographs by Tony Grant, with thanks!

Heraldry Windows at Chawton House Library ~ Part III: The Great Hall

Dear Readers: Today I am posting Part III on the Heraldic windows at Chawton House Library, this post giving details on the shields in the Great Hall, as well as two more family pedigrees, and a very short course on the meaning of the various colors in the heraldic crests.

And again I thank Edward Hepper, one of the Chawton House Library’s invaluable volunteers, for sharing with us his expertise on heraldry! Please comment if you have any questions or anything to add to any of these three posts.

Chawton-Library-CH-CHL

Chawton House Library and Church
[Image: DH and DigLibArts]

Part III: The Great Hall

Various painted shields show the arms of different branches of the family since the 17th century. Some of those above the fireplace include Knights and their wives from the early 20th century. They were probably painted for Montagu Knight in the years just before the 1st World War. [You can see portraits of these named in the previous two posts.]

CHL - Great Hall 1-EKnight-TKnight

Edward Knight (jr) & Adela Portal: Thomas Knight (jr) & Catharine Knatchbull

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CHL - Great Hall 2-CKnight-LKnight

Charles E Knight & Emma Patrickson (?): Lionel C E Knight & Dorothy Deedes

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CHL -Great Hall 3-JMonk-TKnight

Jane Monk; Thomas (Brodnax) Knight (sr)

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Pedigree: Knight Family

Pedigree 4a, Knights 19th to 20th centuries 1309 001

The Chawton Manor Succession:

Chawton Succn_Austen adoption

 

The Meaning of the colors: a brief summary, and please note that there is a wide variation in assigning a meaning to a color, with many experts disagreeing…

CHL-GreatStaircase-1-Landing

Great Staircase Landing

  • Blue: the use of blue in heraldry means truth and loyalty
  • Green: green symbolizes hope joy and loyalty in love
  • White:   White backgrounds usually refer to innocence and purity
  • Red: red or gules (a tincture with the color red) represents magnanimity and fortitude
  • Yellow/Orange: The orange represents, worthy ambition

CHL-Great Gallery-MonkKnight

Great Gallery

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The Austens had their own crest:

Austen coat of arms

[From Ron Dunning: JA’s Family Genealogy]

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If you have an interest in heraldry, you might like to visit some of these various sites: 

Here’s my very own“caro sposo’s”: (apologies for fuzziness – it is scanned under glass, but you get the idea…)

Starr-Crest

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c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont  

Heraldry Windows at Chawton House Library ~ Part II: The Great Staircase

Dear Readers: Today join me for Part II on the Heraldic windows at Chawton House Library, this post giving details on the two windows on the Great Staircase. [You can read Part I on the Great Gallery here] – And again I thank Edward Hepper, one of the Chawton House Library’s invaluable volunteers, for sharing with us his expertise on heraldry.

Chawton-House-Shire-Horse

Chawton House Library

Part II: The Great Staircase:

  1. The Landing window

The windows on the staircase landing and that at the foot of the stairs were modified by Sir Edwin Lutyens to display this collection of mid-Tudor heraldry. It probably came from the Manor of Neatham, on the other side of Alton, which came into the Knight family in the mid-18th century. Neatham had been owned by Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, and the heraldry fits with his prominent Roman Catholic allegiance – he was an Executor of Queen Mary’s will.

CHL-GreatStaircase-1-Landing

 

  1. Queen Elizabeth I
  2. Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
  3. King Henry II of France
  4. Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu [see note below]

Close-ups:

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

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Earl of Rutland

Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland

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King Henry II of France

King Henry II of France

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Anthony Browne, Viscount Montagu

Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu

[Note: Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu was a leading courtier, Roman Catholic, supported Queen Mary, attended the official wedding of Mary and Philip in Winchester Cathedral (though note that the DNB entry for Browne says Hampton Court Palace in which she stayed frequently but DNB for Mary and the cathedral’s own records state Winchester Cathedral), and was MP for Petersfield (DNB)]

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2.  The Window at the foot of the stairs:

CHL-GreatStaircase-2-footofstairs

 

  1. King Philip II of Spain (NB the punning arms of Leon, Castille and Grenada)
  2. Edward Knight (jr) & Adela Portal
  3. Queen Mary I

Close-ups:

King Philip II of Spain

King Philip II of Spain

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Edward Knight Jr & Adela Portal

Edward Knight Jr & Adela Portal

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Queen Mary I

Queen Mary I

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Notes:

  1. Edward Knight is the odd one out and his glass must be at least three hundred years later, perhaps bought or commissioned by Montagu Knight. They include Knight, Austen, Leigh and Portal.
  2. The arms of Queens Mary and Elizabeth are the same as those for English sovereigns from, Henry V to Elizabeth I. In this case, Elizabeth is labelled as such. Mary has to be Mary because of the provenance and context of the other arms shown.
  3. Similarly, Henry used the same arms as nearly all the French Kings but Henry II was the only one who was a Knight of the Garter – and so had the Garter encircling his shield.
  4. The difficulty was to see the reason why the 3rd Earl of Rutland was included as he was not a prominent Catholic, like most of the others. However, the 3rd (or bottom left quarter) in his and the Browne shields are the same, which points to a relationship between Rutland and Browne. Indeed, examination of their family trees points to a common descent from Edmund of Woodstock (son of King Edward II) via John, 1st Baron Tiptoft, and it is the Woodstock and Tiptoft arms that appear in this 3rd quarter.  A family tree or pedigree is available to show this connection.  Browne, being a relatively ‘new’ man was keen to show his historical and aristocratic credentials and so included as many quarterings as possible of related families (including Browne, FitzAlan, Maltravers, Neville, Monthermer, Woodstock, Tiptoft, Ingoldsthorpe, Bradston, de la Pole and Deburgh).  Rutland, being the 3rd Earl, was well established and so did not need so many quarterings (just Manners, Roos, Belvoir, Ross or Especk, FitzBernard, Woodstock and Tiptoft); however his presence in the window added to Browne’s prestige.
  5. Philip II of Spain is included because as Mary’s husband, he was King of England, during her reign. His arms include most of the European territories he ruled: Castille, Leon, Sicily, Aragon, Austria, Burgundy, Brabant, Flanders, Tyrol and Granada.
  6. There is more information available on the heraldry in the rest of the house (stained glass, wood carving, paintings and tilework).

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Mr. Hepper also sent along three family trees: here is the first one on the early owners of Chawton House (others to follow in next post)- (no worries, there will be no quizzes at the end…):

Early owners of Chawton House, pre-Knight Family, from 1066 – c1550

FamTree_1a096

Stay tuned for more, and with thanks again to Edward Hepper!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont, text and images by Edward Hepper

Heraldry Windows at Chawton House Library ~ Part I: The Great Gallery

Dear Readers: Today I am posting in response to a question on Tony Grant’s post about visiting the Emma exhibition at Chawton House Library a few weeks ago. One of Tony’s pictures at the end of the post was of stained glass windows at the Library, and “Lady L” inquired about them. Tony had not seen anything about the various windows and portraits, but he confessed to be solely focused on Emma to really pay close attention. I have since discovered that all the heraldic windows are indeed explained at CHL, and that one of the Library’s many terrific volunteers has researched the history and meaning of all of them. Edward Hepper has graciously sent me his write-ups along with pictures and with his and CHL Executive Director Gillian Dow’s permission, I share this with all of you. Mr. Hepper is a long-term member of the British Heraldy Society, http://www.theheraldrysociety.com/home.htm and is quite knowledgeable on the family coats-of-arms that grace the windows of CHL – you will see some connections to Jane Austen and her family…but there is much other British history in these windows as well!

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Chawton House Library

Chawton House Library

We will start today in the Great Gallery:

These three windows were commissioned by Montagu Knight from the London firm Powell, of Whitefriars. They were installed between 1910 and 1913. The first window, furthest from the Great Staircase, shows the families of the freeholders from the 11th century over the next five hundred years. They were all descendants from the de Ports, to whom William the Conqueror granted the estate, although sometimes the lack of a male heir meant that Chawton passed through the female line with a change of name and coat of arms. The last of this family was Leonard West, by whom Chawton was sold to the Arundels.

CHL - Great Gallery-1

  1. St John, successors to the DePorts
  2. St Philibert
  3. Poynings
  4. Bonville
  5. Fulford
  6. West (NB the punning ‘W’)

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Within a few years, they sold to Nicholas Knight, whose son John, started to build the present house in 1583. The Knight family have held the freehold ever since – over four hundred years, although it has several times passed through the female line to other branches of the family which have had to adopt the name and arms of Knight (usually slightly differenced).

The succeeding Knights are shown in the next two windows and the dates next to their names indicate the year in which each of them succeeded to the freehold.

CHL - Great Gallery-2

  1. John Knight & Mary Neale (1583)
  2. Stephen & Richard Knight  (1620, 1637)
  3. Sir Richard Knight & Priscilla Reynolds (1641)
  4. Richard & Christopher (Martin) Knight (NB punning martins) (1679, 1687)
  5. Elizabeth (Martin) Knight & William Woodward Knight (1702)
  6. Elizabeth (Martin) Knight & Bulstrode Peachey Knight (1702) [Elizabeth Martin Knight had two husbands: William Woodward and Bulstrode Peachey (you cannot make up a name like that…)]

Here are their portraits, to put a face to a name:

Sir Richard Knight    –    Richard (Martin) Knight

Christopher (Martin) Knight  –  William Woodward

Elizabeth (Martin) Knight – Bulstrode Peachey

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The third window brings us to Jane Austen territory:

CHL-Great Gallery-MonkKnight

  1. Thomas (Brodnax) Knight & Jane Monk (1637)
  2. Thomas Knight (jr) & Elizabeth Knatchbull (1781)
  3. Edward (Austen) Knight & Elizabeth Bridges (1794)
  4. Edward Knight (jr) & Mary Dorothea Knatchbull (1st wife) (1852)
  5. Edward Knight (jr) & Adela Portal (2nd wife) (1852)
  6. Montagu Knight & Florence Hardy (1879)

And their portraits:

Thomas (Brodnax) Knight  –  Jane Monk, wife of Thomas Knight (sr)

Thomas (Brodnax) Knight (jr)  – Edward (Austen) Knight (Jane Austen’s brother)

Edward Knight (jr)  –  Montagu Knight

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Hearty thanks to Edward Hepper for allowing me to post on this – stay tuned for more information on the other windows … And I will be conversing with Ron Dunning to make sense of all these names and their connections to Austen – see his Jane Austen Genealogy for starters…

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photos c Edward Hepper

Visiting the “Emma at 200” Exhibition at Chawton House Library ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant as he writes about his visit this week to the “EMMA 200” exhibit at Chawton House Library, he being my feet on the ground so to speak as I am woefully not able to be there myself. Hope those of you who are able to go will do so – and send me pictures and your thoughts when you do!

[Update: please read Tony Grant’s post about walking around Chawton at the “Jane Austen’s World” Blog]

Emma at 200 - CHL PR

EMMA 200: English Village to Global Appeal

(Chawton House Library 21st March – 25th September 2016)

On Wednesday 20th April I drove from Wimbledon to Chawton in Hampshire over the Hogs Back with views stretching across Surrey into the distance. It was a bright sunny day and seeing the Surrey countryside green and pleasant and shining in the bright sunshine under blue skies was appropriate for my adventure. I was driving to Chawton House Library to visit the “Emma 200 exhibition.” Emma is Jane Austen’s Surrey novel and this year is the 200th anniversary of its publication and it is entirely set within that county.

Emma-tp-wpEmma was published by John Murray II of Albemarle Street on the 23rd December 1815, although its title page reads 1816. This exhibition has items from Chawton House’s own collection and from the Knight family collection, as well as other items on loan. The exhibition covers the reception of Emma through the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries; it also considers the country setting of the novel and the places that were possible influences. It covers the global appeal of Emma. It has a large section about John Murray II and nineteenth century publishing practices through letters and comments made by Jane herself and fellow authoresses also published by Murray. It highlights authors mentioned in the novel and nineteenth century ideas about female accomplishments such as music, embroidery and painting. It shows the connection with Shakespeare and has a section about the reception of the novel. In particular, there is a letter written by Charlotte Bronte to her own publisher, W.S. Williams, discussing her thoughts about Emma and Jane Austen as a writer.

I arrived at the electronically operated gates early. The house opens at 1.30pm Monday to Friday. I was there promptly at 1.10pm. I decided to have a look around and inside of St Nicholas Church nearby, which is Chawton’s parish church and where Jane Austen and her family worshipped. The church we see today is not the church Jane knew. There was a fire sometime after Jane’s death and it had to be rebuilt, though some of the structure from the church that Jane knew remains. I read the memorials to the Austens and Knights within and then went round to the back of the church through an arbor of dark and gloomy ancient yew trees to see the side-by-side graves of Austen’s sister, Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, and mother, Cassandra Austen.

Two Cassandras

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The Great House

Chawton House Library

It was such a nice day and I still had about ten minutes left so I sat on a stone bollard near the entrance gate and watched a gentleman sitting on a motor mower mowing the grass verges along the drive. As I sat there I noticed a smartly dressed lady leaving the front entrance of the great house with a dog on a lead. She approached the gate and opened it, placing a notice board on a stand giving the times and prices of entry. I asked jokingly if this meant I can go in. I pointed out it was still ten minutes to half past. She laughed and said by the time I walked up the driveway I should arrive at the door on time. “Just knock and they will let you in,” she told me. I knocked on the door with five minutes to and it was immediately opened by a smiling lady who ushered me in. The house is staffed by volunteers except in the kitchens where the official housekeeper keeps her domain but more about that nice lady later. I found everybody so enthusiastic and full of smiles and really, extremely welcoming. I paid my entrance fee and one lady took me into the great hall on the left of the entrance and showed me a map of the house with the route marked by numbered rooms. It is a self-guided tour so I was given the map to hold as I went round. There are volunteers in every room who you can talk to and ask information of.

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CHL 5 -TG

The exhibition began in the great hall. A glass case displays some first editions dated 1816. There was an edition in French as well as one published by Mathew Carey a publisher in Philadelphia. Somehow Carey had read Sir Walter Scott’s review of Emma and obviously liked it. He sold his version at a much cheaper price than John Murray’s London version. He produced a card backed version printed on cheap paper for $2. Murray’s London version, which was a much better quality, was twice the price. Very few American first editions have survived as a consequence of the poorer quality and the copy in this exhibition shows signs of much yellowing of the paper and black mold spots. It looks an inferior book to both the French and English versions. I felt honoured to able to lean over the glass case and read the opening few lines of the Murray edition.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence:…”

There were no such things as copyright laws in those days and both the French and American versions, probably unknown to Jane Austen, brought her no income. Later in the nineteenth century Dickens went over to America and tried to do something about copyright laws in America but to no avail and to his great consternation. The fact that copies of Emma were being published abroad within the first year of its initial publication in England tells us something about publishing and the book trade at the time. Money could be made from books.

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John Murray - NPG (Wikipedia)

John Murray – NPG (Wikipedia)

John Murray II was the head of the foremost publishing company in Britain. He was a hard headed business man and if he could get an advantage, especially, it seems over the authors he published he would. I think Jane Austen had the measure of him. Her brother Henry who had dealt with publishers for Jane initially became ill and Jane took over negotiations with Murray herself. She was very direct and firm in her dealings. She said of Murray, “He is a Rogue, but a civil one.” In corresponding with Murray over the publication of Emma, for instance, on 3rd of November 1815, a month before the publication of Emma, she writes,

“…I am at the same time desirous of coming to some decision on the affair in question, I must request the favour of you to call on me here, on any day after the present that may suit you best, at any hour in the evening, or any in the morning except from eleven to one. – A short conversation may perhaps do more than much writing.”

It sounds as though Murray has been given his marching orders and she isn’t going to have any truck with being messed about. She is firm but polite with the “Rogue.” She knows the power of a face to face encounter. Some of her contemporaries were perhaps not quite so strong with Murray but learned a lesson.

Domestic Cookery, 1813 ed (Wikipedia)

Domestic Cookery, 1813 ed (Wikipedia)

One of the exhibits on display, putting Jane Austen’s publishing experiences with Murray in context, is a book called Domestic Cookery, published by Murray in 1806. It was very popular and made a lot of sales and presumably a lot of money for Murray. It was written by Maria Rundell. Rundell had been paid £150 by Murray. She regarded Murray as a friend but she was not aware at first that her book had become such a bestseller. When she found out she felt that Murray was not upholding the copyright agreement he had with her. Eventually Murray paid her £2100 but kept the right to continue publishing the book himself. Jane Austen’s comments about him being “a rogue but a civil one” come to mind. Murray was obviously a very astute business man and could make money from trouble.

Another exhibit displays copies of books written by the French authoress, Germaine de Stael. She wrote books about Rousseau, Revolutionary Politics and Marie Antoinette’s trial. She was virtually banned by Napoleon Bonaparte. He had her book, De L’Allemagne pulped. Murray saw a chance. He took her on. In 1813 he used three printers to publish the French original and English translations simultaneously. He relied on anti-French feelings to make Stael’s books best sellers.

Madame_de_Staël (Wikipedia)

Madame_de_Staël (Wikipedia)

Jane Austen had her critics who made both good and not so good comments about her work. She took notice of what people said about her books and noted down these various opinions. Sir Walter Scott, her illustrious contemporary, who was also published by John Murray, wrote of Emma,

“We bestow no mean compliment on the author of Emma, when we say that keeping close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life, she has produced sketches of such spirit and originality that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events, arising from the consideration of minds, manners and sentiments greatly above our own.”

Sir Walter Scott (Wikipedia)

Sir Walter Scott (Wikipedia)

It appears that Murray regularly sent copies of newly published books to other writers he published for their comments. This can be seen as eliciting positive comments from people who wanted to keep in with Murray. Jane Austen mentions in her letters to Murray how thankful she is for the copy of Waterloo he sent her to read and actually asks him if he has any more she can have a look at. This suggests she knows how to play the publishing game. She is as astute as Murray himself it seems. In one way Scott’s positive comments could be read as keeping in with Murray. If Murray and his publishing house does well and sells lots of books it can only benefit himself after all, but there is more to Scott’s review. I think he has recognized what is original in her writing. She is a realist. Her style is about everyday common occurrences and everyday people and she makes them heroic. People reading Jane Austen can see themselves and people they know in her writing. It is said that reading a novel is good emotional and psychological therapy, and Austen hit a powerful vein.

Bronte-Richmond-wp

Charlotte Bronte (Wikipedia)

The highlight of the whole exhibition for me, even more so than seeing and reading a first edition, is the actual letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her publisher, W.S. Williams, on April 12, 1850, in which she writes a lengthy paragraph about her thoughts on Jane Austen and Emma. I found it easy to read Bronte’s  small, thin, precise handwriting that flows clearly across the page.

I have likewise read one of Miss Austen’s works—Emma—read it with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable.  Anything like warmth or enthusiasm—anything energetic, poignant, heart-felt is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré and extravagant.  She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well.  There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting.  She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound.  The passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood…”

Bronte continues:

“What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death—this Miss Austen ignores. “

And she goes on. Charlotte Bronte is actually agreeing with Scott’s comments when he describes her writing as

“……close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life”

The difference is that Scott makes his view a positive while Bronte makes her view a negative. I agree with what she says. Austen writes about the ordinary. Bronte on the other hand and her sisters wrote about,

 “what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death”

Charlotte Bronte is actually describing the differences between their two styles. I have read articles published on some blogs where the writer tries to pit Charlotte Bronte against Jane Austen. Who do you like the best? Who do you think is the better writer? And so on. These are a childish approach to comparing two great writers. Two geniuses. Their styles are different. Every one of us reads different types of books for different reasons at different times to fit, very often , our different moods. We can read a poem by Wordsworth one day and on other days a romantic comedy, a ghost story, a swashbuckling adventure, a horror story or maybe a present day thriller. We can enjoy each genre for what it is and what it brings to us. Austen and Bronte are not enemies, they are not one better than the other. They are different and we can enjoy both. I can imagine how Bronte could be critical. She had a harder life than Jane Austen. Her novels and those of her sisters, were full of passion and deep feelings and filled with great moral uncertainties testing the moral status quo to the limit. Their ideas made their lives worth living and helped them live their short lives with feeling. Jane Austen had a much easier existence. I can see how Charlotte Bronte might not understand Austen’s standpoint. She probably could not bear to live the way Austen’s characters are portrayed. However, we can love them both.

CHL 2 -TG

The exhibition demonstrates many of the influences Jane Austen might have used in her writing of Emma. There is the suggestion, for instance, that the fictional places Highbury and Hartfield in Emma are modelled on Chawton and the local town Alton. These are in Hampshire but the novel is set in Surrey. Others I know would not agree. Some say Leatherhead in Surrey, which is near Box Hill, a major location in the book. Others suggest Highbury is a generic English village, and I think this more likely.

CHL 13 -TG

In Emma Jane Fairfax plays a tune called “Robin Adair” on the newly arrived pianoforte. There is on display a copy of “Binder’s volume of printed keyboard and harp music, 1780-1815,” annotated and autographed by Jane’s sister Cassandra. It includes the music to “Robin Adair.” [Ed. You can read this online here: https://archive.org/details/austen1677439-2001 ]

There is a bound set of The Ladies Magazine (1770-1832) which provides sewing patterns for young ladies. It is the sort of magazine that Jane Austen had access too. In Emma, sewing and painting are pastimes for young ladies.

CHL 9 -TG

CHL 3 -TG

A final display cabinet shows the influences that Emma has had on culture over the centuries. There are various spin-off novels, including the latest modern version of Emma written by Alexander McCall Smith. There are play scripts written by various playwrights turning Emma into a stage version. These include plays by Gordon Glennan and Marion MacKaye. There are a number of radio adaptations. One read by Prunella Scales, another by Jeremy Northam. There are the film versions and the films influenced by Emma such as Clueless set in modern times. Spin-off novels are represented by a copy of the latest Stephanie Barron mystery The Waterloo Map. [Ed. Note that this latest Barron mystery has Jane visiting Carlton House where she meets with the Prince Regent’s Librarian – this all really took place on 13 November 1815; he “suggests” that she dedicate her newest book, Emma, to the Prince Regent – Barron has her also coming upon a dead body in the Library…]

CHL 10 -TG

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The exhibition is definitely worth seeing and just as much is the opportunity to walk around Chawton House where Jane Austen herself and her family lived and breathed. I also took the opportunity to take a walk in the gardens. I came across a snake lying across my path as I walked up to the walled gardens. I must tell you that in all my life I only recall seeing two other snakes in Britain in the wild. This was a grass snake and was totally harmless. The adder is the only poisonous snake in Britain and they are very shy creatures. I think I saw one once in the New Forest.

Harmless grass snake on the path

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CHL 11 -TG

“Portrait of a Lady” at CHL

The people who volunteer at Chawton are wonderful. They want to talk to you and tell you things. I had a very amusing moment with an elderly gentleman volunteer at the top of the great staircase. He was sitting on the landing. When I approached he showed me an information leaflet and we discussed its contents. One thing it mentioned was the original William Morris wallpaper. I looked around and couldn’t see any. “Well, then where’s the wallpaper?” I joked. He laughed and said “come with me.” We walked half way down the staircase and then turned and got on our hands and knees. There indeed, almost hidden behind the balustrade, was a patch of darkened William Morris print. He also kindly showed me the large 1714 map of London displayed on the folding panels of a screen.

CHL 6 -TG

We found Henrietta Street and other places associated with Jane Austen when she visited London. Then I went into the old kitchen which is used as a shop and cafe and met a lovely lady who told me she was the housekeeper. I had a delicious chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. All together I had a wonderful visit to the “Emma 200 exhibition.”

CHL 1 -TG

 

Further reading:

CHL 4 -TG

CHL 12 -TG

[All photographs c2016 Tony Grant unless otherwise indicated]

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post: Into the Shadowy World of “Regency Spies” ~ Sue Wilkes on The Cato Street Controversy

Join us today for a guest post by Sue Wilkes, as she shares one of her spy tales from her new book Regency Spies: Secret Histories of Britain’s Rebels & Revolutionaries (more information on the book below).

reg spies highrescover1

The Cato Street Conspiracy, 1820

The year 1820 began with grave news – the death of George III on 29 January, after years of illness. The King was buried a week later with great pomp and ceremony on 16 February. But his son George IV’s reign did not get off to a good start. A week later, news broke to an astounded British public of the arrest of ‘a gang of diabolical ruffians’ at Cato Street, in London. The conspirators, led by the ‘notorious’ Arthur Thistlewood, planned to kill members of the Cabinet (government ministers) while they dined at Earl Harrowby’s house in Mansfield Street (Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1820).

Arthur Thistlewood

This was no chance discovery, however. Thistlewood and his gang were well known to the authorities – the government’s spies had kept them under surveillance for years. Arthur Thistlewood, a brooding, dangerous man known to be deadly with a sword, led a group of revolutionaries called the ‘Spencean Philanthropists’.

The Spenceans were followers of the late Thomas Spence, who advocated the common ownership of all land – a truly anarchic idea in an unequal society rooted in land, wealth and property. Thistlewood first came to prominence in the Spa Fields riot of December 1816 in London. The riot was thought to be a ‘trial run’ by the Spenceans to see if they could get enough popular support to attack the Tower of London, Bank of England, and seize the city. Thistlewood and his friends were arrested and tried for treason the following year, but acquitted as most of the evidence against them was based on unreliable spy evidence.

After his release from prison, Thistlewood and his followers were constantly watched. In 1817 a spy called Shegoe reported, ‘They entertain the plan of assassination, and Lords Castlereagh, Sidmouth, Liverpool and Ellenborough have been marked as objects of their pursuit’. Some conspirators guessed that Shegoe was a spy, however, and his usefulness declined.

A new spy, George Edwards (code-name ‘W—r’ in the surveillance reports) infiltrated the gang and actively encouraged their plans. Edwards also recruited more conspirators: one of the people he ‘groomed’ was John Thomas Brunt, a shoe-maker. Another was Richard Tidd, who came from Thistlewood’s native Lincolnshire, and met Edwards through Brunt. Edwards’ actions and words were so ludicrously violent that several men he approached sent him packing, convinced that he was trying to entrap them.

Early in 1820, Edwards brought Thistlewood the news he had been waiting for: a Cabinet dinner was planned at Lord Harrowby’s house. Thistlewood and his gang rented a loft in Cato Street. They arranged to meet on Tuesday 22 February, bringing as many weapons as they could lay their hands on. But thanks to Edwards, the time and place for the planned assassination were already known to the police and Home Office. Everything was now set to nip the conspiracy in the bud.

Cato St execution - Newgate

On Monday 1 May 1820, Arthur Thistlewood, James Ings, John Thomas Brunt, Richard Tidd and William Davidson were executed guilty for high treason at Newgate. But was it really Thistlewood’s idea to kill the Cabinet – or was it the spy George Edwards’s plan, as Arthur claimed at his trial?

cato st gentmag may1820 exec1

An account of the death sentence passed by the judge, and the conspirators’ execution,
from the Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1820. (Author’s collection).

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About the book: [from the jacket]

reg spies highrescover1In her new book, Sue Wilkes reveals the shadowy world of Britain’s spies, rebels and secret societies from the late 1780s until 1820. Drawing on contemporary literature and official records, Wilkes unmasks the real conspirators and tells the tragic stories of the unwitting victims sent to the gallows.

In this ‘age of Revolutions’, when the French fought for liberty, Britain’s upper classes feared revolution was imminent. Thomas Paine’s incendiary Rights of Man called men to overthrow governments which did not safeguard their rights. Were Jacobins and Radical reformers in England and Scotland secretly plotting rebellion? Ireland, too, was a seething cauldron of unrest, its impoverished people oppressed by their Protestant masters.

Britain’s governing elite could not rely on the armed services – even Royal Navy crews mutinied over brutal conditions. To keep the nation safe, a ‘war chest’ of secret service money funded a network of spies to uncover potential rebels amongst the underprivileged masses. It had some famous successes: dashing Colonel Despard, friend of Lord Nelson, was executed for treason. Sometimes in the deadly game of cat-and-mouse between spies and their prey suspicion fell on the wrong men, like poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Even peaceful reformers risked arrest for sedition. Political meetings like Manchester’s ‘Peterloo’ were ruthlessly suppressed, and innocent blood spilt. Repression bred resentment – and a diabolical plot was born. The stakes were incredibly high: rebels suffered the horrors of a traitor’s death when found guilty. Some conspirators’ secrets died with them on the scaffold…

Sue Wilkes4About the author:

Sue Wilkes is the author of several works of social and family history: Regency Spies (Pen & Sword, 2016) and A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England (Pen & Sword, 2014), Regency Cheshire (Robert Hale, 2011), The Children History Forgot (Robert Hale, 2010), Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives (Tempus, 2007), as well as guides for family historians on tracing ancestors in various UK counties and towns.

Read her blogs at:

Book info:

Publisher: Pen and Sword (February 19, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1783400617 / ISBN-13: 978-1783400614
Price: $39.95 / £19.99
Pen & Sword: http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Regency-Spies-Hardback/p/11177
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Regency-Spies-Histories-Britains-Revolutionaries/dp/1783400617

Read another post by Sue here: Regency Explorer

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Thank you Sue for telling us about one your tales! This book is filled with such – I will be interviewing Sue in the coming weeks, so please return to learn more about this world of spies in Jane Austen’s time … my first question? Whatever would our dear Henry Tilney have to say about it all?!

NA-Brock-staircase-mollandsDear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”
[NA, Vol. II, Ch ix. Image: Mollands.net]

Image sources:

All four images from George Theodore Wilkinson, The Newgate Calendar Improved Vol. 5, (Thomas Kelly, 1836). Courtesy the Internet Archive, archive.org.

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

The Women’s Writing Database “Orlando” ~ Free for the Month of March!

Orlando_tree-_blue_transparentOrlando, the subscription database from Cambridge University Press on “Women’s Writings in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present” – is available for free for Women’s History Month thoughout March.

The Orlando Project “provides entries on authors’ lives and writing careers, contextual material, timelines, sets of internal links, and bibliographies.”

You can access sit here:  http://orlando.cambridge.org/

Login: womenshistory2016
PW: orlando2016

If you are wondering about the symbol of the Oak Tree, here is the explanation from the website:

“. . . a little square book bound in red cloth fell from the breast of her leather jacket—her poem The Oak Tree.” —Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a Biography, 1928, inspires this work in literary history. Woolf’s biographical and historical fantasy explores the changing conditions of possibility for women writing in England from the time of Elizabeth I to her own day, and gives us a poet protagonist who is at work throughout the whole of this history on the composition of her poem “The Oak Tree”. The Orlando Project team sees in the oak tree a suggestion of the history of women’s writing in the British Isles, the growth of history from biography, and (in a kind of visual pun) the tree-like structure of our text encoding.

Fabulous resource – spend the month indulging in this feast of information!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont