Jane Austen and Astley’s Amphitheatre ~ What She Saw…

Dear Readers: Here is an update to the Astley’s Amphitheatre bit I mentioned in yesterday’s “Pemberley Post” – our esteemed co-regional coordinator for the Vermont region (Hope) was by complete coincidence doing some research in the 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers and found some relevant tidbits to add to our understanding of Astley’s and what Jane Austen might have exactly seen – Hope left a comment on the blog post, but I have put it in here as its own post in order to see some of the newspaper images to best advantage…

*****

Austen mentions Astley’s in a letter to Cassandra on 23 August 1796:

“Edward and Frank are both gone out to seek their fortunes; the latter is to return soon and help us seek ours. The former we shall never see again. We are to be at Astley’s to-night, which I am glad of.”

And in Emma: He [Robert Martin] delivered these papers to John, at his chambers, and was asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley’s. They were going to take the two eldest boys to Astley’s… and in the next chapter: Harriet was most happy to give every particular of the evening at Astley’s, and the dinner the next day…

*****

From Hope:

What a coincidence. I was just looking in an online newspaper database from that period and had noticed some Astley’s news. So, I looked up the dates around Jane’s letter [August 23, 1796, Letter 3]. Astley’s changed their program every Monday (for Tuesday’s performance). If Jane had read the advertisements Tuesday morning for the performance that night she would have seen that the program included:

The West India Heroic Spectacle, Mechanical Fireworks, Hydraulic Devices, a new comic ballad by Mr. Johannot, called “The Nine Musical Taylors, or, A Sure way to get rich (arranged, compiled, written and composed by Mr. Astley, Sen.), Mr. Johannot also singing New Cries of London (also by Mr. Astley, Sen.), a Pantomimical Dance (composed by Mr. West) called “New Wheat; or, The Mill’s Agoing, a new dance called The Provincial Sailors, Chemical experiments with Signor Romaldo, Professor of Natural Philosophy, Equestrian activities as a Minuet by two horses, a Hornpipe by another, and a variety of military pantomimes, all concluding with a Grand Pantomime “The Magician of the Alps” with a “most beautiful  and magnificent Aerial Vertical Colonnade and Brilliant Transparent Celestial Temple, the whole of which are in motion.”

– Attendees were adjured to arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 and could, if they so desired, send their servants in at 5:00 to save their seats as long as they had spoken first with Mrs. Connell.

– Tickets cost 4s for Boxes, 2s if space available after 8:00; 2s. For Pit, 1s as available after 8:00; and 1s. for the Gallery, 6d after 8:00.
– Jane may have also compared her reaction to the show with some “reviews” touting the fine entertainment to be had at Astley’s, or even have learned that on the same day she went, the traveling version of the show, led by “Young Astley” was playing in Manchester to great acclaim, Manchester being filled with troops preparing for a review two days hence.

1) Morning Chronicle (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 8380. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


****

A similar notice appeared in:

2) Morning Post and Fashionable World (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 7625. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

***

3) Another can be found in Times (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 3666. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

4) St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London, England), August 20, 1796 – August 23, 1796; Issue 6033. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


Note that this one announces some changes to the program, including the intriguing notice that: “Ballad Singer, Mr. JOHANNOT, who will sing the NEW CRIES of LONDON; written and composed by Mr. Astley, Sen.”

***

5) Those changes were also duly noted in:

Whitehall Evening Post (1770) (London, England), August 20, 1796 – August 23, 1796; Issue 7168. (2949 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

In slightly abbreviated form in:

Times (London, England), Monday, August 22, 1796; Issue 3668. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

6) On the morning that Austen mentions they will be going to Astley’s, they could have found the latest version with the above changes at:

– Daily Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 21131. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
– Oracle and Public Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 19 407. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
– Star (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 2504. (2372 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

Throughout the year reviewers made sure to mention the fact that Astley changed the program every week, and to praise the results. Here are some examples.

7) True Briton (1793) (London, England), Saturday, August 20, 1796; Issue 1140. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

***

8) Star (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 2504. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

***

9) True Briton (1793) (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 1142. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

***

10) And this one, referring to the end of that week’s program:

***

11) Meanwhile, from Manchester, we learn that:
Star (London, England), Saturday, August 27, 1796; Issue 2508. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

The same “letter” also appears in:
Star (London, England), Saturday, August 27, 1796; Issue 2508. (1080 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

**************

Thank you Hope for all this information – certainly proof that Astley’s was as great a source of entertainment as it was of journalistic interest!

17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers is housed at the British Library and is available through Gale Cengage on a subscription basis – your library might have access.

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

The Pemberley Post, No. 6 (Feb 4-10, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More…!

This week finds me jumping from Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Fanny Austen, to crazy bibliophiles, Rossetti’s wombats, the Coloring craze, Princess Margaret, and on to London, muons (whatever they are…), and more of course – it’s a mad world of information out there…

A new website and blog by Sheila Johnson Kindred, where she will explore Jane Austen’s naval world. Kindred is the author of Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen: https://www.sheilajohnsonkindred.com/

*

This made me laugh: always great stuff on The Londonist

https://londonist.com/london/outside-london/london-paris-comparison

*

The Yale Law School Library has a new exhibit on its rare bindings: https://library.law.yale.edu/news/new-exhibit-legally-binding-fine-and-historic-bindings-yale-law-library

*

So, who doesn’t love a wombat?! https://publicdomainreview.org/2019/01/10/how-the-pre-raphaelites-became-obsessed-with-the-wombat/

Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s frontispiece, complete with wombat, for his sister Christina’s long poem Goblin Market

*

A new blog on Early Modern Female Book Ownership (how nice we were allowed to have books…): https://earlymodernfemalebookownership.wordpress.com/

Frances Wolfreston

-which led me to this: https://franceswolfrestonhorbouks.com/, a blog by Sarah Lindenbaum, who is seeking to reconstruct the book collection of Frances Wolfreston (1607-1677), a gentrywoman from the English midlands with an expansive library; over 200 books have been identified thus far.

*
Have you gotten caught up in the coloring book craze? Here’s some history: it’s nothing new – https://publicdomainreview.org/2019/02/06/filling-in-the-blanks-a-prehistory-of-the-adult-coloring-craze/

Image: The page from the University of Oklahoma’s colored version of Leonhart Fuchs’ De historia stirpium commentarii insignes

This is an example of how finding one interesting link leads to more and you might never get up from your desk again…

-The Folger also is into the coloring craze: Color Our Collections (was available to download Feb 4-8, 2019): https://folgerpedia.folger.edu/Color_Our_Collections?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ShakespearePlus6Feb2019&utm_content=version_A&promo=

–…which leads you to the Folgers whole collection of British Book Illustrations from the 17th century:
https://britishbookillustrations.folger.edu/?_ga=2.137070000.1247254353.1549814122-1754199278.1548275325#explore

—…which leads you to this illustration from the color week in 2017: Louis Rhead, Romeo & Juliet, for Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb—-and then back to #colorourcollections on twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23colorourcollections&src=tyah

—–and on to facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/search/str/%23colorourcollections/keywords_search?epa=SEARCH_BOX

I’m exhausted and I haven’t even begun to color yet…

Back to Jane, for a minute: A nice review of the latest Pride and Prejudice redo, Unmarriageable, set this time in Pakistan: https://writergurlny.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/unmarriageable-a-novel-book-review/

*

The Museum of London has acquired an 1815 panorama of London painted by Pierre Prévost; Kelly McDonald on her Two Teens in the Time of Austen blog writes all about it: https://smithandgosling.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/jane-austens-london-1815/

*

A new exhibit at the V&A on Christian Dior: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/dior-designer-of-dreams – and https://secretldn.com/inside-va-dior-exhibition/

The exhibit includes Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress – read more at this Smithsonian article:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/princess-margarets-iconic-21st-birthday-dress-goes-displaystains-and-all-180971404/

*

 

A new chamber in the Great Pyramid? If you know what a “muon” is, you might know that the use of muon technology has revealed an as yet undiscovered chamber in the Great Pyramid, where remaining treasures may lie: https://blog.oup.com/2019/02/power-mysterious-muon/

*

Here’s a bit of a head-scratcher: with thanks to Tony Grant:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/transcribe-old-documents-unreadable-handwriting

The article shows a letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra that Ms. Watson has transcribed; but she states: “You can actually see how they have changed their manuscript – how Jane Austen changed Pride and Prejudice as she’s writing it… That blows my mind a bit. You see it, and you think – that’s so much better after she’s edited it than before.”

Well, I’m sorry but as far as I know there are no manuscripts of Pride and Prejudice, or any of the other 5 novels other than the cancelled chapters of Persuasionso this is very interesting if she has been transcribing a P&P manuscript??

      An 1800 letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra

You can see and read all of Austen’s actual fiction manuscripts here: https://janeausten.ac.uk/index.html

*

And finally, for your reading pleasure – I love finding something rather obscure: https://www.victoriansecrets.co.uk/book/dorotheas-daughter-and-other-nineteenth-century-postscripts/

“Dorothea’s Daughter is a stunning new collection of short stories based on novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. They are postscripts, rather than sequels, entering into dialogues with the original narratives by developing suggestions in the text. The authors’ conclusions are respected, with no changes made to the plot; instead, Barbara Hardy draws out loose threads in the original fabric to weave new material, imagining moments in the characters’ future lives.”

The stories are:

  • Twilight in Mansfield Parsonage (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)
  • Mrs Knightley’s Invitation (Emma by Jane Austen)
  • Adèle Varens (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)
  • Lucy Snowe and Paulina Bretton: the Conversation of Women (Villette by Charlotte Brontë)
  • Edith Dombey and Son (Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens)
  • Harriet Beadle’s Message (Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens)
  • Lucy Deane (The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot)
  • Dorothea’s Daughter (Middlemarch by George Eliot)
  • ’Liza-Lu Durbeyfield (Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy)

Has anyone read this? It was first published in 2011. I’ve just ordered it and will let you know my thoughts…

Thanks for visiting… and Happy Reading…

ps: just a note as to why I leave in the full url of each link: if an imbedded link goes bad or far off into cyberspace, it is easier to find it if you have the details in the url – it doesn’t look as pretty, sorry to say, but more helpful in the end..

C2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

JASNA-Vermont Next Meeting! June 3, 2018 with Professor Peter Sabor

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s June Meeting 

Professor Peter Sabor

‘Reading with Austen’:
the Godmersham Park Library Goes Digital
 

Sunday, 3 June 2018, 1 -3 pm

Morgan Room, Aiken Hall,
83 Summit Street, Champlain College, Burlington VT

********

About a dozen letters sent by Austen from her brother Edward’s estate at Godmersham Park survive, recording her impressions of life at the great house and her time in its extensive Library. A research project spearheaded by Professor Peter Sabor of McGill University called Reading with Austen, will create a virtual version of what was in this Library, showing the books exactly as they were on the shelves. Edward’s handwritten 1818 catalogue of the library lists nearly 1,300 books, a third of which are extant today in the collection of Richard Knight and now on loan to the Library at Chawton House. A global search continues for the remaining titles. Come join us for a history of the Library, this digital project, how and where books are being found, and a sneak-peek into the website to be launched this July.

 

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

For more information:   JASNAVTregion [at] gmail [dot] com
Please visit the blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.blog

 *********************************** 

Peter Sabor, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is Professor of English and Canada Research Chair at McGill University, Montreal, where he is also Director of the Burney Centre. A Life Member of JASNA, he coordinated the 1998 JASNA conference in Quebec City, and has spoken at several JASNA conferences and Regional events. His publications on Jane Austen include an edition of her early writings, Juvenilia (2006), The Cambridge Companion to Emma (2015), and Manuscript Works (2013).

Hope you can join us!
~~

Godmersham Park image: by John Preston Neale, 1824 (Wikipedia)

c2018 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen’s Signature ~ Sells for 12,500 GBP = $16,111 !

Yikes!! ~ Just sold today (7-12-17) at Christies:

AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817). Signature (‘Yours very affec[tionate]ly, Jane’), cut from a letter, n.d.

Price realised GBP 12,500 (Estimate GBP 1,000 – GBP 1,500)

AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817). Signature (‘Yours very affec[tionate]ly, Jane’), cut from a letter, n.d.
22 x 91 mm. [With:] A later envelope, inscribed with provenance notes.

Provenance: Fanny Catherine Knight, Lady Knatchbull (1793-1882, niece of Jane Austen), given to – ‘H.P. Hope’, who, according to the endorsement on the accompanying envelope, dated 15 November 1858, ‘says “Lady K would have sent the entire letter, had it not contained family matters”’.

A tantalising fragment from one of the most elusive hands in English literature: Jane Austen’s signature, cut from one of her letters written to her favourite niece, Fanny Catherine Knight, apparently containing ‘family matters’. Any Austen autograph item is rare at auction: only four have sold in the last twenty years (ABPC/RBH).

2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

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

Austen on the Block! ~ Sotheby’s 13 December 2016

A few Austen-related lots shall appear at Sotheby’s London on December 13, 2016: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and IllustrationsIt is worth browsing. I list below the six Austen items, but please note that the images do not copy from the Sotheby’s website – I have taken pictures from elsewhere (and so noted) to show each lot. 

1816-1stedtitlepage-blackwellsLot 125.  Austen, Jane. Emma: A Novel. John Murray, 1816.

Estimate: £8,000 – 12,000 / $9,814 – 14,720

3 volumes, 12mo, FIRST EDITION, half-titles supplied in facsimile, paper watermarked “1815 | H”, “Budgen 1815” and “J Budgen 1815”, 1p. publisher’s advertisements on verso of the final leaf of text in volume 3, later full calf, gilt border, flat spine gilt, titled in gilt on red labels, volume numbers and dated in gilt on green labels, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, together in collector’s brown slipcase, many leaves strengthened at gutter, some spotting and browning, some repairs to page edges.

Lot 126. Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey: and Persuasian (sic). Johnna-tp-wp Murray, 1818.

Estimate: £6,000 – 8,000 / $7,360 – 9,814

4 volumes, 12mo, FIRST EDITION, half-titles (between the preliminary leaves and first page of text in each volume, as issued), paper watermarked “AP | 1816 | 2”, later full calf, gilt border, flat spine gilt, titled in gilt on red labels, volume numbers and dated in gilt on red and green labels, all edges speckled, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, titles and a few leaves strengthened at gutter, some spotting and browning.
_________

The provenance states: J.C. Fowle, ownership signature on title of each volume – one wonders if there is a connection to the Fowle family that Cassandra was intended to marry into – I find no names in the biographical index in Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters (4th ed.) under the Fowle family where a “J. C.” would work…

A snarky (a la Austenblog) aside: I hate it when auction catalogues get it wrong: first there is the Persuasion typo, then this:  ” [Northanger Abbey] was finally brought out after Austen’s death in July 1817 alongside Persuasion, which was completed by Austen over the summer of 1816, shortly before she was forced to stop writing due to ill health.”– so somehow all her efforts on Sanditon have been relegated to the trash heap… especially odd when the next lot is…

Lot 127. [Austen, Jane]. Lefroy, Anna. Autograph Manuscript Continuation of Austen’s Unfinished Novel Sanditon 

Estimate: £20,000 — 30,000 / $24,534 – 36,801

annalefroy-borgantiq2Description: The working manuscript with extensive revisions, mostly with interlinear revisions but partially written on rectos only with revisions and additions on facing versos, two pages entirely cancelled and pasted over with revised text, in three stab-stitched fascicules respectively composed of 8, 11 (lacking final blank) and 8 bifolia, the third with an additional leaf stitched in, with a final section of 11 loose bifolia and one single leaf (the conjugate leaf torn away), on unwatermarked wove paper with indistinct blind stamp in upper left corners, altogether 113 pages, plus blanks, 8vo (180 x 110mm), probably 1840s, light spotting

[with:] Two autograph manuscript reminiscences of Jane Austen: retained copy of a letter to her brother James Edward Austen-Leigh when he was preparing his Memoir of Jane Austen, 9 pages, c.1864; further reminiscences (commencing “I cannot remember distinctly the face of either Aunt…”) in two draft texts, one incomplete, 5 pages; 8vo (180 x 110mm) [also with:] Autograph manuscript note on the manuscript of Sanditon (“I have in my possession a few pages of M.S. the last effort of my dear Aunt’s pen…”), 2 pages, 8vo (205 x 132mm), with a later subscription in the hand of Lefroy’s grand-daughter M. Isabel Lefroy.

Provenance: Sotheby’s, 13 December 1977: “The Property of the great-great nephews of Jane Austen”

[Image: Anna Lefroy, from Borg Antiquarian]

Lot 128. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. George Allen, 1894. Illus. by Hugh Thomson.

Estimate: £3,000 — 5,000 / $3,680 – 6,133pp-allen-1894-pinterest

Description: 8vo, FIRST EDITION THUS, half-title, frontispiece and illustrations by Hugh Thomson, full pictorial teal morocco gilt by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, motif of peacock standing on an urn on upper board with morocco onlays, within a border of peacock feathers, single red jewel for peacock’s eye, spine gilt in compartments with designs of peacock feathers and butterflies, all edges gilt and gauffered, teal and purple morocco doublures, silk endpapers, collector’s slipcase, spine slightly rubbed, front free endpaper coming loose.

The peacock design of this sumptuous binding evokes Hugh Thomson’s design for the original cloth binding, as well as the peacock motif on the title page. The book contains 160 line drawings by Thomson, including headpieces, tailpieces, ornamental initials and the wholly drawn title page, which he began in the autumn of 1893. The book was published in October 1894.

[Image: Pinterest]

Lot 123. [Austen, Jane]. Cup-and-Ball Game (Bilbocatch) – believed to have been Jane Austen’s

Estimate: £20,000 — 30,000 / $24,534 – 36,801

Description: height 175 mm, ball c.60mm diameter, ivory with modern string, possibly English, c.1800, chipped at base, hairline cracks. Cup-and-Ball, or bilbocatch (from the French bilboquet) was a popular domestic game at which Jane Austen excelled. She gives a good indication of the game’s part of daily routine in a letter to Cassandra of 29 October 1809: “We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed; and we mean to avail ourselves of our kind papa’s consideration, by not returning to Winchester till quite the evening of Wednesday.”

This Cup-and-Ball game, which has always remained in the family of Jane Austen, has always been associated with the author including on the rare occasions when it has been publicly exhibited…

SONY DSC

[Image: the same bilbocatch that was on display at the Jane Austen House Museum: https://www.janeausten.co.uk/bilbocatch-old-fashioned-ball-and-cup-fun/ ]

 Lot 124. Austen, Jane. Autograph Letter Signed (“JA”), To Her Sister Cassandra, 8-9 Nov 1800

Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000 / $49,068 – 73,602

ja-lettercorrected-nov1800-blDescription: 4 pages, with interlinear postscript added upside down to first page, 4to, Steventon, 8-9 November 1800, integral address panel and postal marks, seal tear, fold tears, professionally conserved. Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (1995), no. 25.

Letter on family affairs and local news, with a charming account of new furniture acquired for the rectory at Steventon, news of Earle Harwood, their neighbour’s son then serving in the army (“…About ten days ago, in cocking a pistol in the guard room at Marcau [St Marcouf], he accidentally shot himself through the Thigh…”) and currently in hospital in Gosport, with a terse account of a ball attended by her brother James when visiting Earle Harwood (“…It was in general a very ungenteel one, & there was hardly a pretty girl in the room…”), describing a quiet evening spent with friends in a neighbouring village (“…Sometimes we talked & sometimes we were silent; I said two or three amusing things, & Mr [James] Holder made a few infamous puns…”), Also mentioning the state of health of Harris Bigg-Wither, whose proposal of marriage Jane was to accept briefly in 1802, with three postscripts, the first including news of their brother Charles’ capture of a Turkish ship and the second, written in the evening, describing the dramatic effects of a storm earlier in the day (“…I was sitting alone in the dining room, when an odd kind of crash startled me – in a moment afterwards it was repeated; I then went to the window, which I reached just in time to see the last of our two highly valued Elms descend into the Sweep!!!!!…”).

ja-letter2-nov1800-bl

[Image: this letter is on the British Library website and has been on loan to them since 1936]

[All text excepting my commentary is from the Sotheby’s catalogue]

Happy bidding!

C2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

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.

*************

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

****

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!