Austen on the Block! ~ July 10 at Forum Auctions, and July 11 at Sotheby’s

There are a number of terrific Austen items on the block today at Forum Auctions in London: it’s happening as we speak… scroll up and down from this link and you will see the hammer prices.

And tomorrow, there are three of Jane Austen’s letters up for sale at Sotheby’s, all to her niece Anna Lefroy: go to the links provided to see images.

  1. Lot 82: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.82.html

Austen, Jane. AUTOGRAPH LETTER, WRITTEN IN THE THIRD PERSON, TO HER NIECE ANNA AUSTEN (LATER LEFROY)

a masterly comic jeu d’espirit, written as if to Rachel Hunter, the author of the verbose gothic novel Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy, asking her to thank Mrs Hunter for the “spirited sketches … of those more interesting spots Tarefield Hall, the Mill & above all the Tomb of Howard’s wife – of the faithful representation of which Miss Jane Austen is undoubtedly a good Judge, having spent so many summers at Tarefield Abbey”, assuring her that she has wept copiously over these affecting scenes, expressing her earnest hope that Mrs Hunter “would have the kindness to publish at least 4 vols more about the Flint family”, and closing with local news that “the Car of Falkenstein [the Alton-London coach] which was the pride of that Town was overturned within the last 10 days”, 3 pages, 8vo (184 x 114mm, partial “Horn” watermark similar to Heawood 2752-2762), integral autograph address panel (“Miss Austen | Steventon”), remains of a black wax seal impression, [Chawton, ?29-31 October 1812], original folds, very slightly discoloured at edges, remains of hinges where once probably mounted in an album.

Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Dierdre Le Faye (1995), no. 76 (edited from a copy).

2. Lot 83: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.83.html

Austen, Jane. SUBSTANTIAL FRAGMENT OF AN AUTOGRAPH LETTER, TO HER NIECE ANNA LEFROY (NÉE AUSTEN)…

with lively family gossip in the weeks after Anna’s marriage, including the comings and goings of Jane’s brothers Charles and Henry, regretting that she will not be able to see her and her husband Benjamin again before she leaves London, assuring her that the Austen party had enjoyed their visit to Anna’s new home in Hendon (“…We talked of you for about a mile & a half with great satisfaction, & I have been just sending a very good account of you to Miss Beckford, with a description of your Dress for Susan & Maria…”), and with revealing comments about a trip to the theatre (“…Acting seldom satisfies me. I took two Pocket handkerchiefs, but had very little occasion for either…”), 2 pages, 8vo, [23, Hans Place, London, 29 November 1814], weak at folds, small tear (c.15mm) at top not affecting text [with:] a later envelope recording family provenance.

Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (1995), no. 112.

  1. Lot 84: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.84.html

Austen, Jane. FRAGMENT OF AN AUTOGRAPH LETTER, TO HER NIECE ANNA LEFROY (NÉE AUSTEN),

describing a visit to her younger nieces at her brother Charles’s family home (“…Cassy was excessively interested about your marrying, when she heard of it …. She asked a thousand questions, in her usual way – what he said to you? And you to him?…”), ten lines, [23 Hans Place, London, 29 November 1814], with, on the verso, fragments of pen practices (“Miss J Austen | Hans Place | Sloane Street” etc.) and a black wax seal impression [with:] Mary Isabel Lefroy, autograph letter signed, to Richard Austen-Leigh, presenting him with this fragment, also mentioning a forthcoming visit to Cambridge to inspect the Sanditon manuscript that had been given to King’s College, 2 pages, 4to, 27 October [1931], with envelope.

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Charlotte Bronte ~ April 21, 1816

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[I first posted this in 2009 – here it is again, in celebration of Bronte’s birthday!]

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Bronte, born April 21, 1816 in Thornton, Yorkshire.

I just had the good fortune to finally visit Haworth and tour the Bronte Parsonage.  One of the special extras was the display of the various costumes worn in the latest BBC production of Wuthering Heights [but alas! no pictures allowed!]

I append here a few of my photographs of the Parsonage as well as several links for further reading…

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Main Street, Haworth

Main Street, Haworth

Further Reading:

Wishing Jane Austen a Very Happy Birthday!

austen-silhouetteThe first order of business today, on this 241st birthday of Jane Austen, is the annual publication of JASNA’s Persuasions On-Line Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2016). Click here for the Table of Contents to yet another inspiring collection of essays, some from the 2016 AGM in Washington DC on EMMA AT 200, “NO ONE BUT HERSELF” and other “Miscellany” – all about Jane Austen…and perfect winter reading material…

Here is the link: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol37no1/toc.html

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Here are the essays: (you might especially notice Gillian Dow’s essay on the Emma exhibition at Chawton House Library this year (website under redevelopment til Christmas) – for those of you who could not attend, this is the next best thing to being there!)

“The Encouragement I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault
Celia Easton

“Could He Even Have Seen into Her Heart”: Mr. Knightley’s Development of Sympathy
Michele Larrow

Emma’s “Serious Spirit”: How Miss Woodhouse Faces the Issues Raised in Mansfield Park and Becomes Jane Austen’s Most Complex Heroine
Anna Morton

“Small, Trifling Presents”: Giving and Receiving in Emma
Linda Zionkowski

Oysters and Alderneys: Emma and the Animal Economy
Susan Jones

Epistolary Culture in Emma: Secrets and Social Transgressions
L. Bao Bui

Divas in the Drawing Room, or Italian Opera Comes to Highbury
Jeffrey Nigro and Andrea Cawelti

Mrs. Elton’s Pearls: Simulating Superiority in Jane Austen’s Emma
Carrie Wright

Multimedia Emma: Three Adaptations
Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield

Jane Austen’s Emma at 200: From English Village to Global Appeal
Gillian Dow

MISCELLANY

Discerning Voice through Austen Said: Free Indirect Discourse, Coding, and Interpretive (Un)Certainty
Laura Moneyham White and Carmen Smith

“The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled”: Jane Austen’s “Courtship Novels”
Gillian Dooley

Courtship and Financial Interest in Northanger Abbey
Kelly Coyne

Curious Distinctions in Sense and Sensibility
Ethan Smilie

“If Art Could Tell”: A Miltonic Reading of Pride and Prejudice
James M. Scott

Looking for Mr. Darcy: The Role of the Viewer in Creating a Cultural Icon
Henriette-Juliane Seeliger

Replacing Jane: Fandom and Fidelity in Dan Zeff’s Lost in Austen (2008)
Paige Pinto

Fanny Price Goes to the Opera: Jonathan Dove’s and Alasdair Middleton’s Mansfield Park
Douglas Murray

Austen at the Ends of the Earth: The Near and the Far in Persuasion
Katherine Voyles

Jane Austen Bibliography, 2015
Deborah Barnum

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Let’s look at what Austen’s father wrote about her arrival on December 16, 1775:

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago:  however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over.  We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion.  She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.  Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and send her love to you and my brother, not forgetting James and Philly…

[Letter from Mr. Austen to his sister Philadelphia Walter, December 17, 1775, as quoted from Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen, A Family Record, Cambridge, 2004, p.27.]

Happy Birthday Miss Austen! – you continue to inspire, intrigue, and offer insights like no other!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Lecture Review: “Planting the Seed for the Austen Oeuvre ~ Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman” ~ Guest Post by Margaret Harrington

Gentle Readers: I welcome this guest post by JASNA-Vermont member Margaret Harrington, as she offers a review of the lecture at our last meeting by Vermont author Nancy Means Wright (I would have posted this sooner, but Hurricane Matthew and the JASNA AGM last week kept me from my duties! – thank you Margaret for this write-up, and to Nancy for her terrific talk – see below for links, etc.)

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“Planting the Seed for the Austen Oeuvre ~
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman”
Presented by Nancy Means Wright,
Sept 18, 2016 to JASNA-Vermont

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Nancy Means Wright
in the Morgan Room at Champlain College

 When Nancy Means Wright started off her talk by saying that Mary Wollstonecraft was her alter ego, I knew an extraordinary experience was in store. Nancy brought up her own life and work experiences comparable to Mary Wollstonecraft’s, such as leaving home at a young age, coming from an impecunious family, all the while emphasizing the strength needed to keep trouble at bay. She quoted Mary Wollstonecraft’s early dictum, “I shall live independent or not at all.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, by John Opie 1790-91 (Wikipedia)

Mary Wollstonecraft, by John Opie 1790-91 (Wikipedia)

Then by using Mary Wollstonecraft’s own words in her letters, books, and beautiful illustrations in the power point presentation, Nancy projected us into a thrilling portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft as a caring young woman who made tremendous sacrifices for her family and friends. Concurrently Wollstonecraft formulated her revolutionary thought based on her own life experiences, her intellectual depth and daring, and her intolerance for sham and injustice.

The members of the Irish family with daughters for whom Mary worked as governess were elites of the Protestant Ascendancy. Only a few years older than her pupils, Mary labored to teach the girls to think. In a society which demanded that women obey their husbands and breed more Protestants, this was a revolutionary idea and eventually cost her that job.

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William Blake frontispiece to “Original Stories from Real Life” (Wikipedia)

The moment when Nancy Means Wright brought up the William Blake illustrations for Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life* was when I knew I was captured by a masterful storyteller. Step by step Wright transported me into the thoughts and feelings of the founder of modern feminism. She vividly set the scene for Mary’s time in Paris when three hundred people a day passed her window on the way to the guillotine.

I am grateful to Nancy Means Wright who wove so beautifully the tragic facts of Wollstonecraft’s life into a living tapestry. A particularly moving account of Mary’s attempt to drown herself, after being spurned by her lover Gilbert Imlay, was enhanced by Wright’s reading of her own poem which evoked the sorrow which Mary herself did not write ( leaving the task to Nancy as alter-ego).

Later, participants from the audience talked about the slender but strong connection between Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft. Scholars weighed in on the lack of evidence that Austen had read or even had access to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. There was consensus that Wollstonecraft’s work magnified our understanding of the struggles of Austen’s women who are constrained in the class system of primogeniture and who use their wits to manage the inevitable marriage plot.

Wollstonecraft wanted women to take power, not over men, but over themselves. At the same time, in Wright’s words, “She herself couldn’t balance her principles with her passion.” There are so many deep thoughts that arise from Wright’s talk on the immortal, dynamic woman, Mary Wollstonecraft.

By Margaret Harrington, JASNA Vermont

You can find Margaret’s photos of the event on our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2094244057466958/permalink/2116252491932781/

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*Full title: Original Stories from Real Life; with Conversations, Calculated to Regulate the Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness – first published in 1788, with Blake’s illustrations in 1791. You can see all the illustrations at the Blake Archive here: http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/work.xq?workid=but244

You can find Nancy’s Mary Wollstonecraft mysteries here: http://www.nancymeanswright.com/index.htm#acts

  • Midnight Fires (2010) 
  • The Nightmare (2011) 
  • Wild Nights (2015) 
  • Acts of Balance: a Chapbook of Poems (2014) – featuring Mary Wollstonecraft
 c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen & The Arts Conference ~ March 23-25, 2017 at SUNY-Plattsburgh

John Broadwood & Sons square piano (1797), NY-MMA - 1982.76

John Broadwood & Sons square piano (1797), NY-MMA

Mark your calendars! The “Jane Austen & The Arts” Conference, scheduled for March 23-25, 2017 at SUNY-Plattsburgh has just announced its speaker line-up – a terrific group! – here they are alphabetically: (and note that our very own Hope Greenberg will be sharing her thoughts on Fashion!)

  • Elaine Bander (Dawson College, CA), “Austen’s ‘Artless’ Heroines: Catherine and Fanny”
  • Barbara Benedict (Trinity College, CT), “‘What Oft was Thought’: Wit, Conversation, Poetry and Pope in Jane Austen’s Works”
  • Natasha Duquette (Tyndale University College, CA), “‘A Very Pretty Amber Cross’: Material Sources of Austenian Aesthetics”
  • Tim Erwin (UNLV), “The Comic Visions of Emma Woodhouse”
  • Marilyn Francus (West Virginia University), “Jane Austen, Marginalia, and Book Culture”
  • Marcie Frank (Cornell), “Theater and Narrative Form in Austen’s Mansfield Park”
  • Hope Greenberg (University of Vermont), “Jane Austen and the Art of Fashion”
  • Jocelyn Harris (University of Otago, NZ), “What Jane Saw–in Henrietta Street”
  • John Havard (Binghamton University), “Jane Austen and Woody Allen”
  • Jacqueline George (SUNY New Paltz), “Motion Sickness: The Fate of Reading in ‘Modern’ Sanditon”
  • Nancy E. Johnson (SUNY New Paltz), “Jane Austen and the Art of Law”
  • John Lefell (SUNY Cortland), “The Art of Speculation in Austen’s Sanditon”
  • Ellen Moody (George Mason University), “Ekphrastic Patterns in Jane Austen”
  • Tonay J. Moutray (Russell Sage Colleges, NY), “Religious Views: Austen’s Picturesque and Sublime Abbeys”
  • Douglas Murray (Belmont University, TN), “Jane Austen Goes to the Opera”
  • Cheryl Nixon (University of Massachusetts), “Jane Austen and Family Law”
  • John O’Neill (Hamilton College), “Adaptation, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship”
  • Deborah C. Payne (American University), “Jane Austen and the Theatre? Perhaps Not So Much”
  • Peter Sabor (McGill University), Keynote Address: “Portrait Miniatures and Misrepresentation in Austen’s Novels”
  • Juliette Wells (Goucher College, MD), “‘A Likeness Pleases Everyone’: Portraiture, Ekphrasis, and the Accomplished Woman in Emma”
  • Cheryl Wilson (University of Baltimore), “Jane Austen and Dance”

More info here: https://janeaustenandthearts.com/

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

JASNA~Vermont Meeting ~ September 18, 2016 ~ Jane Austen & Mary Wollstonecraft

Photos can be viewed on the event facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2094244057466958/permalink/2116252491932781/

Thank you Nancy for a delightful talk!

~
You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s September Meeting
at the Burlington Book Festival 

“Planting the Seeds for the Austen Oeuvre:
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman.”
with
Nancy Means Wright*

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In an illustrated talk, Wright will describe 18th-century writer Mary Wollstonecraft’s traumatic and unconventional life in an era when women were victims of primogeniture and considered incapable of reason. She will discuss Mary’s groundbreaking Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and her Unitarian publisher’s circle of Dissidents; her years in revolutionary Paris when she lost her head to a feckless American captain – and her voyage to Scandinavia as a lone woman in search of a missing “silver ship.” She will also consider the ongoing question: Was Jane Austen influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft?

Sunday, September 18, 2016 2 – 4 pm
Morgan Room, Aiken Hall**
83 Summit Street
Champlain College
Burlington VT

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Sponsored by JASNA-Vermont and Bygone Books

~ Free & open to the public ~
~ Light refreshments served
 ~ 

For more information:   JASNAVTregion [at] gmail.com 
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.wordpress.com
Burlington Book Festival website: http://burlingtonbookfestival.com/ 

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*Vermont author Nancy Means Wright has published fiction with St Martin’s Press, Dutton, Perseverance Press, and elsewhere, including a trilogy of historical mysteries featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft. Her most recent works are Queens Never Make Bargains, a novel, and The Shady Sisters, a collection of poems. Short stories and poems appear in American Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, Carolina Quarterly, and others. Her children’s books have received an Agatha Award and a grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers. A former teacher and Bread Loaf Scholar, Nancy lives in Middlebury, Vermont, with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats. Her books will be available for purchase and signing.

**Aiken Hall is located at 83 Summit St – #36 on the map here: https://www.champlain.edu/Documents/Admissions/Undergraduate%20Admissions/Campus-Map.pdf  Parking is on the street or in any College designated parking during the event.
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[Britannica.com]

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Hope you can join us!

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen and Great Bookham ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Jane Austen and Great Bookham
by Tony Grant

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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!