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).

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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?

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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

Guest Post ~ “Encountering Jane Austen…”

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

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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

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)

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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

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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]

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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

My Jane Austen Book Stash from the 2014 JASNA AGM in Montreal!

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The JASNA AGM in Montreal was quite wonderful – five days immersed in Mansfield Park! – Fanny Price and Jane Austen were celebrated in style and received their just due in attention and adoration… The Montreal-Quebec Region outdid themselves in making us all comfortable [much more than “tolerable”!], entertained, and enlightened! I haven’t had a chance to post anything but start here with my annual compilation of book purchases at the Emporium [Jane Austen Books, Traveller’s Tales from Picton Ontario, and The Word Bookstore in Montreal] – successful as always with finding several goodies at the book stalls! – in no particular order…

1. Mudrick, Marvin. Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery. Berkeley: U of California P, 1968. [originally published in 1952 by Princeton UP].

One of the classic works of Austen literary criticism – I’ve always borrowed this from the library – now happy to have my own copy. Mudrick was one of the earliest to appraise the ironic aspects of Jane Austen – “her ironic detachment that enabled her to expose and dissect, in novels that are masterpieces of comic wit and brilliant satire, the follies and delusions of eighteenth-century English society.” In his preface, Mudrick writes “this book began as an essay to document my conviction that Emma is a novel admired, even consecrated, for qualities which it in fact subverts or ignores.” – and he goes on from there to apply his theory to all the novels, juvenilia and minor works. A must have for your Austen collection…

MrsBeetonNeedlework 2. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Needlework, Consisting of Descriptions and Instructions, Illustrated by 600 Engravings. London: Bounty Books, 2007.

A facsimile of the original 1870 edition by Ward, Lock and Tyler. Just because I didn’t have this, and do quite adore anything my dear Mrs. Beeton [despite being in the wrong period].

  1. 3.  Fleishman, Avrom. A Reading of Mansfield Park: An Essay in Critical Synthesis. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1967.

One of the few critical works just on an Austen novel, and in this year of celebrating MP, I wanted to add this to my collection… I have not read it other than in excerpts in other essays.

4.  Favret, Mary A. Romantic Correspondence: Women, Politics and the Fiction of Letters. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.

Has a chapter “Jane Austen and the Look of Letters” which examines the letters in Austen’s fiction as well as her real-life correspondence. A must-have…

5. Lamb, Charles. The Book of the Ranks and Dignities of British Society. London Jonathan Cape, 1924.

Marquis-Lamb

A reprint of Lamb’s 1805 edition published by William Henry for Tabart & Co. Includes 8 coloured plates and 16 in monochrome [the original edition has 24 in color]. I couldn’t resist, as you can see from this plate of “A Marquis.” The original seems to range upwards from $350.

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6.  Tristram, W. Outram. Coaching Days and Coaching Ways. Illus. Hugh Thomson and Herbert Railton. London: Macmillan, 1894.

Tristram-Coaching-Cummins

A 3rd printing of the 2nd edition [first edition published in 1888] – another must-have for anyone with an interest in travel and the carriages of Austen’s period – with the added plus of Thomson’s and Railton’s 214 illustrations. [You also must try to say the author’s name 10 times very fast …]

7.  Waldram, Richard. Overton in Regency Times. Illus. Rosemary Trollope. Overton, Hampshire: Parsonage Farmhouse, 2008.

OvertonRegency

From an exhibition during the Overton Regency Sheep Fair, 2008. With many illustrations of ephemera from the time. Overton was near Steventon and Basingstoke; Austen would have walked there and mentions it in her letters.

8.  The Knight Family Cookbook; Preface by Richard Knight. Introd. Gillian Dow. Chawton House Press, 2013. KnightFamilyCkBk-CHL

A Facsimile edition of the handwritten cookbook of the Knight Family, never published but dated circa 1793. Who can resist this family treasure so you too can make some of the recipes that were in use at Chawton House and Godmersham Park during Jane Austen’s time:

  • To Make Plumb Porridge (p. 70)
  • To Make Cracknails (p. 51)
  • To Make Hedge-Hog-Cream (p. 35)
  • To Make Tansy without Frying (p. 28)
  • To dress a Codds-Head (p. 111)
  • To Pickle Pigeons (p. 193)

There is even a handwritten index, but alas! I find nothing to help make Mr. Woodhouse’s famous gruel – just as well I think!

This book was published by subscription; i.e. if you had made a donation to Chawton House Library as a subscriber (just as Jane Austen subscribed to Frances Burney’s Cecilia), your name will be listed on the “subscriber” page. More information on this at the CHL website. Their next book is The Duties of a Lady’s Maid; with directions for conduct, and numerous receipts for the toilette (1825). Make a donation if you can and see your name in print!

9.  Simo, Melanie Louise. Loudon and the Landscape: From County Seat to Metropolis, 1783-1843. New Haven: Yale UP, 1988. LoudonLandscape

John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) was the designer of England’s first public park and inventor of the means to construct curvilinear glasshouses, and the first landscape gardener to address the problems of the modern city. A must-have study to have on your shelves next to your Humphry Repton, Capability Brown, and others. Illustrated with maps, photographs, and drawings.

10.  Prochaska, Alice and Frank Prochaska, eds. Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book. London: Pavilion / Michael Joseph, 1987.AcworthCkBk

The cookery book of a London housewife of the Georgian period, of which 90 recipes are transcribed and “updated” with modern ingredients and modern cooking practices by the Prochaskas. Lovely black and white and full-page color illustrations. The introduction offers biographical background on Acworth.

11.  Lucas, E. V. Mr. Punch’s County Songs. Illus. Ernest H. Shepard. London: Methuen, 1928.

A delightful book of poems by Lucas on each county in England with each on the recto, verso is blank. Shepard’s [of Winnie-the-Pooh fame] drawings get you into the spirit of each place, and the poems tell of history and story.

Lucas-Hampshire

 Here is the page on Austen’s own Hampshire

But I bought this solely for its page on London:

Though a Wren built St. Paul’s, sacerdotal and grey,

That fame is a stronghold of pigeons today:

They bill there and coo there and bring up their brood,

And swarm on the pavement at lunchtime for food. 

…. Etc.

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12.  Archbold, Rick. Last Dinner on the Titanic. Recipes by Dana McCauley. Introd. Walter Lord. New York: Hyperion, 1997.Archbold-TitanicDinner

Wonderful illustrations of the Titanic interior and the various recipes from the last meal. Why you ask? Well, I have been obsessed with the Titanic since I was a little girl. Both my parents emigrated from England as children, but my father was 11 years old in 1912, when his entire family boarded a ship to take them to America only a few months after the Titanic had taken its maiden and tragic voyage. I always thought that if my father had been on the Titanic I would not exist – I also have marveled at how brave they all were to do this crossing… so hence I have collected various Titanic things for years. I do not have this book and especially like it because it is signed by the author…

 13.  The Infant’s Grammar, or a Picnic Party of the Parts of Speech. London: Scholar Press, 1977. Reprint of the original 1824 edition by Harris and Son.

This picture says it all:

InfantsGrammar

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14. Rocque’s Map of Georgian London, 1746. Colchester, Essex, UK: Old House, 2013.

Nothing to say except that this is fabulous: here is the description from their website: http://www.shirebooks.co.uk/old_house_books/

RocqueMap1746

First published in 1746, it extends from Marylebone to Bow and from Vauxhall to Knightsbridge and Hyde Park. Reproduced here in four detailed sheets, it gives a fascinating glimpse of Georgian London in the early industrial age and is a perfect research tool for the historian and genealogist. As well as over 5,500 street and place names, the survey also includes: Markets, churches, barracks, parks, bridges, hospitals, workhouses, schools, prisons, asylums, theatres, inns and much more.

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15.  Crow, Donna Fletcher. A Jane Austen Encounter (#3 The Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries). Boise: StoneHouse Ink, 2013.Crow-JAEncounter

I haven’t read the previous two mysteries (about Dorothy L. Sayers and Shakespeare), but this one is about the married professors Elizabeth and Richard on a vacation trekking through Jane Austen country – they encounter murder and mayhem and a missing letter about The Watsons. Can’t wait to read this one…

16.  Jones, Will. How to Read Houses: A Crash Course in Domestic Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 2014.

I picked this up at the Musee des Beaux-Arts Montreal shop – a compact little guide to architecture with photographs and drawings and enlightening text to answer all your questions about the differences between Queen Ann and Georgian and Federal and all the various decorations…

Jones-Houses

17.  First Day of Issue – Royal Mint coin commemorating Charles and Diana’s wedding with stamps; and another First Day of Issue from the Falkland Islands with new stamps:

RoyalMint-FDOI

Stamps-FDOI-Falklands

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So, all in all, a goodly haul – this time I didn’t have to worry about luggage weight, only crossing through immigration from Canada into Vermont. They only seem to ask about alcohol, cigarettes and fruit! so Jane Austen passed through with nary a glitch… now to find room on the bookshelves and the added dilemma of time for reading…

What did you buy at the AGM??

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Reblogged from Nan Quick: The Chelsea Flower Show of 2014: Contemplating the Biggest Pop-Up Gardens in the World.

This is a lovely [and long!] post from Nan Quick with fabulous pictures on the Chelsea Flower show. I arrived in London on the last day of the show but didn’t get there – so this feels like I did after all! Thank you Nan for such an in-depth view!

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The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014  Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone. The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014
Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone.

Late July 2014.

September of 2008: As I was displaying my garden furniture in a rather grotty convention hall in Birmingham, England, I was invited by a representative of the Royal Horticultural Society to exhibit my designs at their next Chelsea Flower Show. And so, in May of 2009, I found myself and my creations arranged in an elegant tent, on the grounds that surround Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, in London. I’d…

View original post 7,436 more words

Museum Musings: The British Library ~ “Georgians Revealed”

Opening today! ~ “Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain” – 8 November – 11 March 2014 at the British Library

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I.R. and G. Cruikshank. ‘Tom & Jerry at a Coffee Shop near the Olympic’ – Pierce Egan, Life in London (London, 1823).

 Tasteful and polite, or riotous and pleasure-obsessed? Discover the Georgians as they really were, through the objects that tell the stories of their lives.

From beautifully furnished homes to raucous gambling dens, Georgians Revealed explores the revolution in everyday life that took place between 1714 and 1830. Cities and towns were transformed. Taking tea, reading magazines, gardening and shopping for leisure were commonplace, and conspicuous consumption became the pastime of the emerging middle classes.

Popular culture as we know it began, and with it the unstoppable rise of fashion and celebrity. Art galleries, museums and charities were founded. In this time of incredible innovation, ideas were endlessly debated in the new coffee houses and spread via the information highway that was mass print.

Drawing on the British Library’s uniquely rich and rare collections of illustrated books, newspapers, maps and advertisements, as well as loaned artworks and artifacts, “Georgians Revealed” brings to life the trials and triumphs of the ordinary people who transformed Britain forever.

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See this link for a short video on the exhibition by curator Moira Goff.

And check out the online shop where all manner of Georgian -related treasures are for sale, as well as a catalogue of the exhibition, another must-have for your Jane Austen collection!

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Rocque map of London fan, £8
A beautiful wooden fan, featuring a historic map created by John Rocque.
The fan has been created exclusively for the British Library. Wood/ canvas.

[Images and text from the British Library website]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen and the Huguenots ~ Guest Post by Ron Dunning

Dear Readers: I welcome today Ron Dunning, who wrote here last year about his Akin to Jane” website – today he shares with us an article he wrote for the Huguenots of Spitalfields newsletter “Strangers” – here expanded somewhat and with pictures – and see how Jane Austen connects to various families and traditions of Spitalfields life in London.

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Christ Church Spitalfields

[View looking down Brushfield Street toward Christ Church, Spitalfields – image from HofS facebook page, from Bishopsgate Institute]

Jane Austen’s Family and the Huguenots

To have lived in London for the past 40 years has been an immense pleasure. Now I’ve discovered a new one, and that is to be retired in London. I’ve always loved to explore, but was only able to appreciate the various parts of town for their ambience. Now there’s time to appreciate them more deeply, to learn about their associations with history, about interesting residents. Many have passed out of fashion and been built over – in which case there’s only the odd surviving building to stimulate the imagination – but in other areas, where the faded charm is obvious and where their economic value has not been great enough to attract the redevelopers, new residents have moved in to restore houses and revive the life of the community.

Spitalfields rooftops cRon Dunning

[Rooftops of Spitalfields, formerly the workrooms of the silk weavers and now gentrified – c Jeremy Freedman]

One such area that I’ve come to know much better is Spitalfields, just to the east of London’s old city walls. Its development by speculative builders was begun in the early 1700s, as a new suburb. Huguenot refugees from France and the Low Countries soon settled there, particularly those involved in the silk fabric trade. They brought their skills and their contacts from the continent and quickly restored their prosperity. Some 150 years later the mechanising of weaving, relaxation of tariffs on imports from France, and robust trade with China destroyed the Spitalfields silk trade.

silkweaving-spitalfields

 [Image from the Huguenots of Spitalfields Facebook page]

The houses had aged by the mid-19th century too, and to some extent Spitalfields became a slum, housing successive waves of immigrants – who each moved on once they became prosperous. By the 1970s, when the latest wave of new arrivals to the poorer streets was Bengali, city redevelopment was threatening to overtake it. Just in the nick of time young artists discovered the antique charm of the weavers’ houses, which could be bought for a pittance. They are now worth over £1,000,000.

jane-austen-frontispiece-1870I’ve been researching the Austen pedigree for long enough that it’s possible to link her family with almost anyone.  Though the worlds of the Huguenots and of Jane Austen would seem almost to inhabit separate universes, a surprising number of Huguenot families had close connections with hers. I’ve made a list of the most notable.

Anyone who has read Jon Spence’s book, Becoming Jane Austen (or seen the film Becoming Jane), will recognise the name of Lefroy. Antoine Loffroy, a native of Cambray, took refuge in England from religious persecution in the Low Countries in about 1587, and settled at Canterbury, where he and his family engaged in the business of silk dyeing. His descendant Tom Lefroy was the one young man with whom Jane was said to be truly in love. Tom at that point didn’t have an income with which to support a wife, and was quickly bundled off by his elders and betters. He rose eventually to become the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Ireland and, at the end of his life, remembered Jane with great affection. Ben Lefroy, from a later generation, did marry an Austen – one of Jane’s favourite nieces, Jane Anna Elizabeth.

The Portals were an ancient and noble Protestant family of Toulouse who stood firmly by the faith of their fathers, and several of them suffered death rather than recant it. They were among the Huguenots who introduced the art of fine paper making to England – Henry Portal established a mill at Laverstoke, on the River Itchen in Hampshire. He achieved such a reputation that the Bank of England awarded him the contract to produce bank notes. Living in Hampshire, the Portals had extensive social contacts with the Austens. Adela Portal married Jane’s nephew Edward Knight, while her sister Caroline married Edward’s brother William.

The Chenevixes were another distinguished family of Protestants, this time from Lorraine, who fled after the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. One branch settled in Ireland, and were much attracted to the military and clerical professions. Melesina Chenevix, the poet and diarist, and granddaughter of Richard Chenevix, the Anglican Bishop of Waterford and of Lismore, was the ancestor of a number of people linked to the Austen pedigree. Melesina had married Richard Trench – the de la Tranches were yet another family who had taken refuge in England shortly after the massacre of St. Bartholomew – and their descendants assumed the double-barrelled surname of Chenevix-Trench. Their granddaughter Melesina Mary Chenevix-Trench married Chomley Austen-Leigh, Jane’s great nephew. Melesina Mary’s sister Helen Emily married Arthur Blundell George Sandys Hill, another great nephew. Their brother Charles married Emily Mary Lefroy, a cousin of Tom Lefroy. Their cousin Melesina Gladys, as well as being the mother of the famous editor of the Daily Telegraph, Bill Deedes, was the grandmother of FitzWalter Plumptre, the Baron FitzWalter – who can also trace his pedigree to the family of Eleanor Bridges, the wife of Jane’s brother Edward.  Lord FitzWalter still lives at Goodnestone, the seat of the Bridges family, where Edward and Eleanor lived before they could move into Godmersham.

David Papillon, the first of his family to settle in England, had been sent with his mother and siblings by his father, to escape persecution. They were shipwrecked while crossing the English Channel, and his mother drowned. The story of the mingling of genes between David’s descendants and the Austens, through the Brodnaxes, is a bit too obscure to tell here, but one of them featured in Jane’s life – the Rev John Rawstorne Papillon. The living of Chawton parish was offered to him; should he decline, it was then to pass to Jane’s brother Henry. John did take it and became the rector of the village in which Jane lived during her final years. There is a neat bracketing of Huguenot suitors for her hand, from the beginning and the end of her adult life – Mrs Knight, the widow of Thomas Brodnax and elderly benefactor of both the Austens and the Papillons, suggested that the Rev John, a life-long bachelor, would make a suitable husband. With characteristic irony Jane remarked in a note to her sister: ‘I am very much obliged to Mrs Knight for such a proof of the interest she takes in me – & she may depend upon it, that I will marry Mr Papillon, whatever may be his reluctance or my own – I owe her much more than such a trifling sacrifice.’

I could end this essay here, but want to mention another resonance between the Huguenots and the Austens, and to return Spitalfields to the fore. Jane’s paternal ancestors, going back three generations and further, were clothiers of Kent – staunchly Protestant, fiercely independent, wool and woollen fabric merchants. The organisation of their business was very similar to that of the silk merchants in London. I was struck, while gazing up to the roofs of Spitalfields, by a parallel.  In both industries labour was organised by narrowly demarcated skills, and in both the weavers’ workplace was accommodated on the top floor of merchant’s houses. I was seized by a vivid impression of crabbed men and no doubt women, in both London and Kent, toiling for 14 hours a day in those garrets for a pittance!

Grovehurst House c Ron Dunning

Grovehurst House c Ron Dunning

[Grovehurst House:  one of the Austen houses at Horsmonden in Kent, which dates in parts from the 14th century –  I was struck by the resonance between Spitalfields and the Kentish Austens – they were clothiers, and their industry in wool was structured much like silk weaving in London.  My understanding is that the weavers worked in the loft of this house.]

Grovehurst4-initials

[Initials of John (Iohannes, presumably) Austen, over the middle window upstairs, cRon Dunning]

 Horsmondenhouse

 [Another Austen house (Broadford) at Horsmonden, Kent where the weavers laboured on the top floor]

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A brief history of the Huguenots

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations, followed by a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence, directed against the French Calvinist Protestants (known as Huguenots) during France’s Wars of Religion. The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598 by King Henry IV of France, granted them substantial rights in the interest of civil unity. In October 1685 Louis XIV, Henry IV’s grandson, revoked the Edict of Nantes with the Edict of Fontainebleau, and declared Protestantism illegal. As many as 400,000 Protestants chose to leave France, moving to Great Britain, Prussia, the Dutch Republic, Switzerland, South Africa, and the new French colonies in North America. This exodus deprived France of many of its most skilled and industrious individuals.

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bigweaveposter

The Big Weave c Jeremy Freedman

The Big Weave c Jeremy Freedman

Spitalfieldsrowhouses

Spitalfields, c Jeremy Freedman

Links and attributions, with thanks to all!

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont