JASNA-Vermont ~ Next Meeting July 29, 2018 ~ Shelburne Museum Carriages

UPDATE! Go to our facebook page at “Jane Austen in Vermont” for some pictures of yesterday’s visit to the Shelburne Museum: https://www.facebook.com/groups/50565859210/

Most of the photos are of those few who dressed for the occasion, though there were many others there – our dressed ladies created quite a stir among other visitors to the Museum – perhaps we should all visit every weekend!

With thanks Margaret H for the photos!



JASNA-Vermont will be taking a field trip!* On July 29th we will be visiting the Shelburne Museum for a curated tour of their Carriage Collection, many from Jane Austen’s era. The tour will be followed by lunch (all together but on your own) at the Museum Café (prepared by The Skinny Pancake!)

This is one of many in their collection – will post more photos after the event…

As a teaser, here is the King George IV low phaeton owned by Lila Vanderbilt Webb:

Stay tuned for more!

*[This event requires RSVPs]

c2018 Jane Austen in Vermont

Travel in Sense & Sensibility ~ Part V ~ Carriages ~ Regency Sports Cars!

We have looked at travel and the various carriages of the Regency Period in four previous posts.  You can re-visit them here:

R. Havell – Roe, Sporting Prints

Now the fun part – on to the Regency sports cars! – those carriages that Austen assigns her young men and her rakes, those vehicles that Georgette Heyer made famous in her works, driven by all manner of her Regency bucks, and in many cases by her independent heroines.  We start with the Phaeton, the last of the four-wheeled vehicles but much more stylish than the larger, practical coaches we have looked at previously…    



Phaeton (Georgian Index)


The Phaeton:   termed “deliciously dangerous”

  • from the Greek “to shine” – in Greek mythology, the boy who tried to drive the sun chariot
  • a light 4-wheeled carriage with open sides in front of the seat; the front wheels were usually smaller that the rear
  • sleigh-like single body, for two passengers, luggage below
  • some had a folding top [a calash or callech = folding top] – a fair-weather carriage
  • for pleasure driving, it is owner-driven with no box or postillion
  • usually 1-2 horses or ponies
  • the largest and most varied of all pleasure carriages, the phaeton remained popular until the end of the carriage era
  • often called a “chaise” in England, a “cabriolet” in France
  • variations:  High-Perch Phaeton or “High-Flyer” – fast, sport driving with two horses – the favorite of the Prince Regent, later George IV who had six horses!  –  he used a low Phaeton after his weight increased to such a degree that he could not get into the high carriage!
  • Who in Austen?:  only Miss DeBourgh who has a pony phaeton; Mrs. Gardiner wants “a low phaeton with a nice little pair of ponies”  

Phaeton – NY Coachmakers

Two fashionable ladies in a “high-Perch Phaeton” driving about to see and “be seen”: 


High-Perch Phaeton



The Curricle: [only English] – the “Regency sports-car”

  • name from the Latin: curriculum = running course, a (race) chariot
  • a two-wheeled vehicle driven by a pair of horses that are perfectly matched, a bar across the back of the horses to carry the pole
  • has a folding hood
  • owner-driven, holds two passengers
  • C-springs – after 1804, equipped with elliptical springs
  • the popular Regency show-off vehicle – for long distances or park rides
  • cost @ 100 pounds

A picture of the Marquis of Anglesey:



Curricle (Georgian Index)


In Sense & Sensibility: Willoughby has a curricle though he cannot afford it:

-Willoughby on Colonel Brandon:  “He has found fault with the hanging of my curricle…”     

-Narrator on the carriage drives:  …they might procure a tolerable composure of mind by driving about the country.  The carriages were then ordered.  Willoughby’s was first, and Marianne never looked happier that when she got into it.  He drove through the park very fast, and they were soon out of sight; and nothing more of them was seen till their return, which did not happen till after the return of the rest.   “Did not you know,” said Willoughby, “that we had been out in my curricle?” 
[Willoughby to Mrs. Jennings]

-then later, Marianne explains the impropriety to Elinor: “We went in an open carriage, it was impossible to have any other companion.”

Who else in Austen? – Mr. Darcy, Henry Tilney [sigh!], Charles Musgrove, Walter Elliot, Mr. Rushworth, and Charles Hayter; and Austen’s brother Henry Austen [see Letter 84, where Henry drives Austen back to London in his “Curricle”].



The Gig:  

“Many young men who had chambers in the Temple made a very good appearance in the first circles and drove about town in very knowing gigs” 



Chair back gig


  • Similar to the curricle, but more popular and economical; women could easily drive
  • Two-wheeled, but pulled by one horse, two passengers, owner-driven
  • Better suspension, easy to turn, more sophisticated than a chaise [often called a “one-horse chaise”]
  • Had various names and modifications:  the Dennet, Tilbury, Stanhope
  • one common variation:   a single seat behind the box for a groom, or a tiger
  • cost:  about 58 pounds
  • Who else in Austen?  the Crofts in Persuasion– they offer Anne a ride in their 2-passenger seat; Mr. Collins, Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon  

Persuasion – Croft’s gig (Jane Austen’s World)

-and of course, John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, the most horse-obsessed character in all of English literature!

Brock – NA (Molland’s)

“I defy any man in England to make my horse go less than ten miles an hour in harness… look at his forehead; look at this loins; only see how he moves; that horse cannot go less than ten miles an hour: tie his legs and he will get on.  What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? a neat one, is not it?  Well hung; town built; I have not had it a month… curricle hung you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing boards, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron-work as good as new, or better… etc. on and on! 

-And the Narrator who must have her say, so we know just how Catherine and the Narrator feel about John Thorpe [and Henry Tilney!]:

“A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world…But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; – Henry drove so well, – so quietly – without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them; so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! – To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.”

[ Brock, Northanger Abbey (Molland’s)]
In Sense & Sensibility, there are many instances where Austen does not name the specific carriage:  we can assume by the context that it was a post-chaise or owner-owned chaise:

-the Narrator on Colonel Brandon when he leaves to get Mrs. Dashwood: “The horses arrived before they were expected, and Colonel Brandon…hurried into the carriage; it was then about twelve o’clock” [he returns the following day sometime after 8pm]

When Willoughby travels from London to Cleveland, a distance of about 124 miles, he is in a chaise with four horses, it takes 12 hours, 8am – 8pm, a trip that would normally take two days:

-the Narrator on Elinor:  …she heard a carriage driving up to the house … the flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view.  By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.  – [and she runs downstairs to find it is Willoughby…!





Other Carriage terms:  not all are found in Austen 

  • Hackney = for hire, often discarded carriages of the wealthy
  • Dog Cart = a gig with a ventilated locker for dogs; for 4 people, 2 behind the driver seat back-to-back
  • Sulky = driver-only – one passenger, one horse
  • Tandem = a two-wheeled carriage drawn by 2 horses one in front of the other – Sidney Parker in Sanditon 
  • Whiskey or Chair – an early chaise; a light 2-wheeled vehicle without a top, in The Watsons 
  • Sedan-Chairs  – a seat in a box with 2 poles 10-12 ft long, carried by two men. In efforts to lessen the crowded streets in London, but by 1821 there were only a half dozen public sedans, by 1830 there were none.

  • “Britzochka” = German origin, most common of all carriages, for traveling [ called a “Brisker” or “Briskey”]
  • “Droitzeschka” = “Drosky” – Russian origin, low to ground for “the aged, languid, nervous persons and children”

 And finally, what did Jane Austen have? 

  • At Chawton she had a donkey cart
  • Henry Austen had a curricle and a barouche:  

“The Driving about, the Carriage [being] open, was very pleasant. – I liked my solitary elegance very much, & was ready to laugh all the time, at my being where I was. – I could not but feel that I had naturally small right to be parading about London in a Barouche.”  [Ltr. 85, 24 May 1813, p. 213-14] 

I love to think of Austen “parading” around London and enjoying her “solitary elegance” and laughing all the while! – one of my favorite passages from her letters…

Final post:  a Carriages Bibliography ~ Stay tuned!

Copyright @ 2011, Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

Travel in Sense & Sensibility ~ Part IV ~ Carriages, cont’d

Finally, the next part of my post on travel and carriages in Sense & Sensibility!

You can re-visit the first three posts here:


Now on to the specific types of coaches of the Regency era, the great coaching age of travel, pre-steam, pre-railroad, an age where the roads saw improvement, carriages became more comfortable [slightly, that is!], and the higher classes traveled more easily from place to place – it is good to remember that the majority of people still traveled by foot.   Austen knew her carriages and is often very specific in what type of carriage a character has – as stated before, we know in just learning a little about the costs of carriages, the cost of horses and their upkeep, that Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility is living far beyond his means by owning a curricle, that his giving a horse [Queen Mab] to Marianne is outrageous, not only in its impropriety but also its lack of fiscal responsibility.  Austen does this throughout her works, and even if she does not specifically tell us the type of carriage or the exact income, we understand, as the readers of her day would have understood, another piece of the puzzle about any given character.

The last post ended with the generic term “Coach” – so now some specific types:

The Stage Coach:

  • very colorful
  • four passengers inside, up to eight outside
  • stopped at various pre-appointed stages, usually every 10 miles to pick up / drop-off passengers and to change horses

Stage Coach


The Royal Mail Coach:  [after 1784] – there were 50 mail coaches in 1784, 700 in 1835

  • set paint color:  red wheels, maroon doors and lower body; black upper body; royal arms on each door
  • speed and excellence of Royal Mail service, usually six horses – faster because there were no tolls
  • held four inside passengers, and up to eight outside
  • Guard – a 3′ tin horn
  • cost about 1 penny / mile more than the stage coach but safer for passengers because of the guards

Royal Mail Coach


Private Coaches: 

  • simple color schemes with coat of arms on doors and boot
  • a fine carriage with owner livery, postilions, etc
  • expense:  coachman, postilions, under coachman, stable boys, footmen
  • not common because of the expense:  taxes on carriages and horses; even the wealthy often borrowed carriages and rented horses
  • cost in 1796 @ 130 pounds
  • in Sense & Sensibility:  Elinor and Mrs. Jennings visit Kensington Gardens by carriage, where Elinor connects with Miss Steele:   Miss Steele to Elinor:   “Mrs. Richardson was come in her coach to take one of us to Kensington Gardens”; and “He [Mr. Richardson] makes a monstrous deal of money, and they keep their own coach.”
  • who else:  the Bennet’s, the Musgroves [both large families]

Town Coach



  • an enclosed 4-wheel carriage, almost 1/2 the size of a full coach, seating up to three people, making this very tight, with one forward-facing seat, and often with a pull-out seat to add 2 more people
  • no coach box, driven by a postilion [rider mounted on one of the horses, the rear or left horse], usually two horses
  • cost @ 93 pounds in 1801 
  • In Sense & Sensibility:  Mrs. Jennings, the John Dashwoods; Robert Ferrars
  • a note on Mrs. Jennings’s carriages:  she has a chaise and a chariot, but did she have two carriages or as Chapman suggests, was Austen being uncharacteristically forgetful?  

“It will only be sending Betty by the coach and I hope I can afford that, we three will be able to go very well in my chaise.” 

Narrator:  Thomas seeing Mr. Ferrars and Lucy Steele ~“They was stopping in a chaise at the door of the New London Inn.”

  • who else?:  Mr. Bingley [ chaise & four]; General Tilney [a chaise & four]; Lady Catherine; Lady Bertram; Sir William Lucas;  and Mr. Gardiner

The Post Chaise = a chaise used with rented horses; always yellow; overlap with “hack-chaise”;

  • often a larger chaise with four horses with postilions on both lead horses and left near horse; you had more control over your trip rather than on the Stage Coach
  • a traveler who owned a carriage and horses would travel the first stage with them and then send them home with servants and rent horses the rest of the way

In Sense & Sensibility:  when Mrs. Jennings asks the Miss Steeles on their arrival in London: “Well my dear, how did you travel?”   Miss Steele to Mrs. Jennings:  “Not on the stage I assure you,” replied Miss Steele with quick exultation; “we came by post all the way and had a very smart beau to attend us.  Mr. Davies was coming to town, and we thought we would join him in a post chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did.”


Post Chaise


Chariothas the same body as the chaise, the difference is the addition of a coach-box and driver.

  • driver’s box, with four horses, four passengers, two seats facing forward like an automobile 
  • a classy vehicle, lighter than a coach, comfortable, speedy 
  • In Sense & Sensibility:  Mrs. Jennings, John Dashwoods:  Narrator on Fanny Dashwood:  …the great inconvenience of sending her carriage for the Miss Dashwoods [we know that the John Dashwoods have a chariot]
  • who else?:  Mrs. Rushworth


  • member of the coach family, a medium-sized, heavy 4-wheeled coach with two seats facing each other for four people with a folding top that covers only the rear seat
  • four horses with a driver box on outside for two people
  • aristocratic vehicle, for dress occasions, mainly used in town 
  • In Sense & Sensibility:  Palmers [her second carriage], though the narrator on Fanny about Edward:  It would have quieted her ambition to see him driving a barouche.  But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. 
  • others:  Lady Dalrymple, Henry Crawford 




Landau [coach family]: 

  • a four-wheeled light carriage, two seats facing each other
  • two or four horses
  • high driver’s seat
  • two soft folding tops that close and lock in the middle [often made of leather], a low door
  • expensive to build and maintain:  cost @ 185 pounds, but it was popular due to its versatility in all weathers
  • In Sense & Sensibility: no one




  • landau for two passengers only; cost @ 156 pounds
  • In Sense & Sensibility:  no one
  • who else?  Anne Elliot Wentworth in Persuasion



Barouche-Landau:  “approach in awe”!

  • features of both, but not very popular 
  • a high driving seat
  • a rumble for two servants 
  • in Austen:  the only specific carriage named in Emma – Mrs. Elton’s sister, Mrs. Suckling
  • Chapman in the 1954 edition of Minor Works  finally supplies the illusive illustration [from Beau Monde, 1806] 


Up next:  the sports cars of the Regency Period… [i.e Willoughby and friends!]

Copyright @2011, Deb Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont

Travel in ‘Sense & Sensibility’ Part III ~ Carriages

We will now [finally!] get to how they traveled ~ you can review the previous posts on ‘Travel in Sense & Sensibility‘ here:

There is much that we do not know about Jane Austen, and the much that we do “know” has been pieced together from letters and family remembrances and historical contexts. But one thing we know for sure is that Austen was familiar with ALL the carriages of her day.  This is best illustrated by her Juvenilia piece “The Memoirs of Mr. Clifford: an Unfinished Tale” [MW 43],  written between 1787-90, when Austen was 12 – 15 years old:  this is what she says:

Mr Clifford lived at Bath; and having never seen London, set off one Monday morning determined to feast his eyes with a sight of that great Metropolis.  He travelled in his Coach & Four, for he was a very rich young Man & kept a great many Carriages of which I do not recollect half.  I can only remember that he had a Coach, a Chariot, a Chaise, a Landau, a Landaulet, a Phaeton, a Gig, a Whiskey, an Italian Chair, a Buggy, a Curricle & a wheelbarrow.  He had likewise an amazing fine stud of Horses.  To my knowledge he had six Greys, 4 Bays, eight Blacks & a poney. 

[what! no barouche!!] 

Austen used carriages in her novels as a way to indicate income and social status but also as a way to delineate character – for example, we know most everything about John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey by just listening to the way he describes his horse and carriage! [Thorpe has been called the most horse-obsessed character in all of literature!]; we know that Willoughby cannot afford the carriage and horses that he has, that he is a fast driver, and that his driving a large chaise with four horses to visit Marianne when he thinks she is dying show how much he wants to get there and quickly, at any cost [but of course he is now married to Miss Gray, so cost does not matter to him…]. 

Coaching Inns:

Austen would have also known the Coaching Inns of her day – she would have stayed in them during her own numerous travels. But in Sense and Sensibility there are only two mentions:  Edward staying at an Inn when he leaves London after he is disinherited, and Robert and Lucy Ferrars at the New London Inn in Exeter following their marriage.  But all the characters would have stayed at Inns for any of the longer trips, as was explained in the previous post.  


There are numerous specifically noted carriages in S&S.  “Carriage” is a general term: there were many variations in nomenclature and design, and big discrepancies even among the same “named” vehicle.  There were differences in “construction, function, size, speed and appearance.” [Rogers]  And there was a full class-system of horse-drawn vehicles; the wealthy often had unique designs made to order.  

Some understanding of the parts of a carriage helps to identify a particular type:  see this link at The Georgian Index for a glossary of carriage terms, as well as this diagram:

So, just a few carriage part terms:  

1.  C-Springs:  a curved spring of C-shape, made up of several overlapping plates or leaves. They where introduced in the late 18th century (shortly after the S-Spring) and replaced the primitive wooden pillar attached to the axle, from which braces extended to the coach body. 

2.  Elliptical spring: Carriage spring made up of two sets of overlapping steel plates or leaves bolted together in elliptical or semi-elliptical form. It was invented by Obadiah Elliot in England (1804) and made the ride much smoother and the carriages more stable.

3.  Lights:  called “moons” [as per Chapman]:  for dress carriages: the simplest were wax candles in tin tubes in a circular casing; for traveling coaches –  lamps with oil in square casing [Adams]

In the country, social engagements were dependent upon the moon, traveling at night unsafe:  for example in S&S, Sir John Middleton has asked other neighbors to join their party, but “it was moonlight and everybody was full of engagements.”

A few definitions about the people of the horse and carriage era:

1.   Postilion or post boy: a person who rides the leading nearside horse of a team or pair drawing a coach or carriage, when there is no coachman 

2.  Groom:  a male servant employed to care for horses; at times accompanying an owner’s carriage 

3.  Ostler:  a groom or stable boy employed at an Inn to take care of guest’s horses 

4.  Tiger:  a boy or small man employed as a groom on the back of a curricle or other small carriage.  Name derived from the yellow and black striped waist coat worm by the groom  [OED:  A smartly-liveried boy acting as groom or footman; formerly often provided with standing-room on a small platform behind the carriage, and a strap to hold on by; less strictly, an outdoor boy-servant. obs. slang. ] 

5.  Livery:  historical- distinctive dress or uniform worn by an official, retainer, or servant (and given to him or her by the employer) [term from c1290 in Old French] – a footman’s livery of two suits would cost about £20, as much as his year’s wages 



And now to the carriages ~ I will post about each type and how and where they appear in Austen’s works over the next several days:


1.  Long Wagon:  

-similar to the American covered wagon

-carried goods and passengers – did “the practical work of the nation” with 6-8 draft horses

-not specifically mentioned in Austen, except off stage

 2. Carts

 3.  the Coach:  “Kings of the Road” – called the most dignified of moving objects 

•           a large, enclosed 4-wheeled carriage, a fixed head, doors and windows

•           pulled by at least four horses, for long-distance travel, traveled @ 7 miles / hour

•           4-6 passengers, in two seats facing each other; also passengers on top

•           C-springs helped as shock absorbers

•           public use OR persons of wealth or high rank

[the term “hackney coach”  is what we would call a modern day taxi, and were most often cast-off coaches from the original owners]

Coach builders

Stay tuned for various types of coaches…

Tiger in carriage





Thoughts on Travel in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ ~ Part II

Part II.  A Study of Character’s Movement in Sense and Sensibility

Fig. 1. Sense & Sensibility map

A startling fact! – there are 49 mentions of movement and 46 mentions of carriages [to include a few referring to travel by horseback] – and people say that nothing happens in Jane Austen!  That is a great deal of  traveling in what I have just described in the previous post as a not easy or inexpensive world to travel in!

To begin, let’s place the characters where they live and their income if known:

A.  Where the characters live:  see the map of England’s Counties below, and the map of places, both real and fictional above

  • Counties = Sussex, Somerset, Dorset, Devon
  • London [“Town” = London], largely Mayfair

The Dashwoods:

  • Henry Dashwood – Norland, Sussex
  • Mrs. Henry Dashwood – Norland, moves to Barton Cottage, Devonshire – £7000 = £350 / yr
  • Mrs. Dashwood’s mother – Stanhill [Sussex]
  • John and Fanny Dashwood –  Norland, Sussex; Harley St, London [renting?]; purchase East Kingham Farm, near Norland – £5,000 – £6,000 / year
  • Elinor / Marianne / Margaret:  Norland, Sussex, move to Barton Cottage, Devonshire; each have £1000 capital from their uncle = £50 pounds each annual income = £500 total for the four of them  [150 + 350 = £500]



Colonel Brandon:  Delaford in Dorset; St. James St, London –  £2000 / year

  • Eliza Williams, his ward – Avignon [Brandon’s sister] – where? – found her in London
  • Brandon’s brother-in-law:  Whitwell,  near Barton


The Ferrars:

  • Mrs. Ferrars – Park St, London
  • Edward –  his mother’s house; Pall Mall, London, after leaving home; Oxford; Edward and Elinor after marriage will have £350 / year (though this will increase to £850 with Edward’s inheritance of £10,000 from Mrs. Ferrars, reluctantly given!)
  • Robert – his mother’s house? later London with Lucy Steele
  • Fanny Ferrars Dashwood [see above]

Cavendish Square, London

John Willoughby – Combe Magna, Somerset; Bond St, London –  about £600-700 /yr 

  • Mrs. Smith, Willoughby’s Aunt – Allenham Court, Devonshire
  • Miss Gray, Willoughby’s wife – £50,000 = £2,500 /yr

The Jennings / Middletons / Palmers:

  • Sir John and Lady Mary Middleton [Mrs. Jennings daughter]:  Barton Park, Devonshire; Conduit St, London
  • Mrs. Jennings:  Berkeley St, London,  near Portman Square, otherwise she is visiting her daughters
  • Mr. Thomas Palmer and Charlotte Palmer [Mrs. Jennings’ daughter]: Cleveland, Somerset; Hanover Square, London [renting?]

Hanover Square, London

The Steeles:

  • Lucy and Anne [Nancy] Steele – Bartlett’s Buildings, London
  • Mr. Pratt  [the Steele’s Uncle] –  Longstaple [near Plymouth]

Miss Morton:
 Edward’s intended, London somewhere – £30,000 = £1500/yr 

Fig. 2. England Counties


 B.  Movement of characters – a quick summary:

1.  The novel starts out with Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters moving from Norland Park [Sussex] to Barton Cottage [Devonshire] – their furniture goes by way of the water [i.e. canal system]

 2.  The Elinor and Marianne go to London with Mrs. Jennings [and most everyone else], then return to Cleveland, then back to Barton Cottage, where they await their destiny, both ending up at Delaford.

 3.  Colonel Brandon lives in Delaford, but he is quite often at Barton Park, he goes to London to see his ward, later moves to London with everyone else, and when staying in London, he goes back and forth to Delaford “a few times”, and then later returns home via Cleveland and has to fetch Mrs. Dashwood in the middle of the night back and forth from Cleveland to Barton Cottage, and then finally seems to be at Barton Park / Cottage an awful lot…

Barton Cottage

4.  Edward Ferrars visits Barton Cottage and later we find that he was actually first in Plymouth – he travels a few times back and forth to London to his mother’s, then off to an unnamed Inn somewhere after he is disinherited, then to Oxford, then back to London settling in Pall Mall, and then of course to Barton to visit then marry Elinor, and they move to the parsonage at Delaford and we expect will live happily ever after…

5.  Willoughby lives in London, has his estate home at Combe Magna in Somerset, visits his Aunt in Allenham Court [Devonshire], leaves for London when HE is disinherited; he later visits Cleveland [Somerset] to see the dying Marianne, and then back to London to live with his boring, but wealthy wife


6.  The Middletons live at Barton Park [Devonshire], but travel to London with everyone else…

7.  The Palmers live at Cleveland [Somerset], they visit Barton Park [Devonshire], then back to Cleveland and then to London with everyone else; return to Cleveland and then leave again as Marianne falls ill.

8.  Mrs. Jennings, of course, lives in London but travels all over to visit her children at Barton Park and Cleveland

9.  the Miss Steeles live in Plymouth with their Uncle, visited Exeter and then to Barton Park, then to London where they stay with first the Middletons, then the John Dashwoods, then Lucy with her now husband Robert Ferrars leave London for Dawlish, then return to London to live unhappily ever after, while her abandoned sister has to borrow money from Mrs. Jennings to catch a coach back to Plymouth [in the endless, hopeless search of her Doctor…]

10.  Mrs. Dashwood is taken to Cleveland by Col. Brandon to see Marianne at Cleveland [Somerset]; she is the only character who does not go to London.

11.  As noted above, Everyone but Mrs. Dashwood goes to London, and while there they travel for their daily visiting calls and excursions around Town.

12.  And of course, Mrs. Ferrars stays put, selecting / de-selecting her heir from her comfortable seat in London – BUT the book ends with her visiting Elinor and Edward: ‘She came to inspect the happiness which she was almost ashamed of having authorized.”

Fig. 3. 1812 Cary map England

And how did they travel?? –  stay tuned for Part III:  Carriages in Sense and Sensibility


Sources:  Fig. 1 and 2 maps from the JASNA.org website; Fig. 3 Cary map from Pemberley.com

Thoughts on Travel in ‘Sense and Sensibility’

Sense & Sensibility is about so many things, but there is an emphasis on income, inheritance and money, and how the world of the late 18th, early 19th century figured in the lives of Austen’s characters, especially the women in her novels.  But one of the things one notices after a number of readings is the amount of movement in this novel – the constant  comings and goings of the characters, with their visiting, travels to London, moving from one end of England to the other.  On first reading, you might almost miss the extent of this movement, after all, nothing really ever happens in Austen, isn’t that what we always hear?!  But take a look at the map on the JASNA.org site for Sense and Sensibility and you will see what I mean. And if you know anything about travel in late 18th – early 19th century England, you will be know how arduous such travel was.  I am going to chart the movement of characters in the novel and the means whereby they moved from place to place, or as Mrs. Jennings so aptly asks of the Misses Steele:  “How did you travel?”  

Austen knew first-hand the travel issues of her day [read her letters!] – and she was very knowledgable and consistent in writing about it in her novels – often not necessarily specific but there are clues all around!   But alas!, there is so much to discuss about travel: carriages and their parts; the history of the postal system; the history of coaching and the turnpike system; the economics of the time – taxation, income and inheritance – all these; but I will in the next several posts offer a brief outline of the travel in Regency England, its difficulty and costs with a few thoughts on economics; then a discussion of movement in S&S; the types of carriages in use in Regency England and those used by Austen’s characters; and finally a few words on the London of S&S – it has the most mention of any of her novels, and interesting to see where each character was housed in Town.  And at the end of this series of posts, I will provide a bibliography and further reading references.

 Part I:  Travel in Regency England  

[English Counties: Map from JASNA.org]

  • -The difficulty of travel due to the condition of the roads – each parish was responsible for its own roads but they were largely dirty and muddy, and dangerous
  • -most people traveled by foot:  certainly true of the lower classes, but recall Mrs. Dashwood: 

 …his [Mr. Middleton’s ] repeated assurances of his carriage being always at their service, the independence of Mrs. Dashwood’s spirit overcame the wish of society for her children; and she was resolute in declining to visit any family beyond the distance of a walk.  

  •   -traveling in vehicles in the daytime or only in the nights with bright moonlight, little travel in winter, no travel on Sunday
  • -improper for women to travel alone [if you read Austen’s letters, you will see that she was completely dependent upon her brothers to visit anyone or travel any distance; and how outrageous that Northanger Abbey’s Catherine Morland was put on that coach all alone!]
  • -for overnights at coaching inns, travelers often brought their own linens or silverware…
  • -travel vehicles were uncomfortable and dangerous due to the road conditions and highwaymen
  • -despite all this, the late 18th-century saw a great improvement in the roads, and one could travel great distances more quickly [and if they had the money!].   Paterson’s British Itinerary, a travel guide had 17 editions between 1785-1832 – it outlined the roads used by the stage and mail coaches, the tolls, the bridges, etc.   

[Image from Georgianindex.net]

A quick review of travel times [varies depending upon vehicles]:  

  • – Mr. Darcy:  8 miles/hr –  recall his famous line to Elizabeth:  ‘what is 50 miles of good road? little more than half a day’s journey’
  • -the Stage Coach [and General Tilney]:  7 miles /hr
  • -average travel time:  4-6 miles / hr
  • -100 miles = 2 days of travel [and remember, no travel on Sunday]
  • -in 1800, London to Edinburgh took 60 hrs; London to Norwich, 19 hrs 

The estimated mileages in Sense and Sensibility: [this is in todays distances] 

  • London to Bristol = @ 106 miles
  • London to Bath = @ 97 miles
  • London to Exeter = @ 157 miles
  • London to Plymouth = @ 192 ,iles
  • Exeter to Honiton = @ 16 miles
  • Honiton to Weymouth = @ 35 miles

[Map of S&S: from JASNA.org]

Cost of living ~ some basic facts: 

The economy in Britain during this time was very unstable – hard to effectively calculate the meaning of what the cost of living was in the early 19th century and to compare it with ours today; also some items cost more in Austen’s times than they do today, some less.

One 1988 article calculated that one pound in 1811 = $33., so Darcy’s income of 10,000 = $330,000.  The following month another article said that to compare 1810 with 1990, one should multiply today’s average per capita income by 300 [in 1990 this was $20,894.] = $6,300,000. would be Darcy’s income in today’s language.  Another article:  the pound in 1800 = $100. , so Darcy’s 10,000 = 1 million! – to be honest I just got dizzy with this whole thing!  [There are various websites where you can play around calculating these amounts, such as Measuring Worth, and the National Archives Currency Converter]

And remember that Austen often tells you exactly what someone is worth – this was common knowledge at the time and was not considered rude to talk about it.  But when there is a reference to money, for the men, she is referring to their annual income [Darcy 10,000; Bingley 5,000; Brandon 2,000; etc], but when referring to a woman, the reference is to her total assets, i.e. this money would be invested at 5% and she would earn the income from that each year, so Miss Gray’s 50,000 [Austen’s richest woman] is not her income, but rather the income from that, so £2,500 / year to live on.  [note that this is not always consistent, but is largely a general rule in Austen]

 So rather than trying to figure out what something would be worth today, it is better to look at the cost of living, i.e. what things cost in Austen’s time,  so to gain some perspective, keep the following in mind:

  • the world that Jane Austen writes about and the world we see visually in the film adaptations portrays a very small minority of the population, the “Polite World”, the upper 10,000; Austen might give various clues in each novel to that other world, but it is easy to forget it when reading about the romance and balls and carriages and fashion, etc.   
  • Edward Copeland, an Austen scholar who has written much on the economics of Austen’s world, and says she was “meticulous” in presenting these economic truths, states that this economic world in S&S is presented in terms of the power that money brings with it, and the frightening aspect of this for the women in the novel, where it seems that the “wicked, foolish and selfish” are rewarded.  
  • in 1799, in order to support and pay for the war with France, the British Government imposed a tax of 2s / pound on all income over £200; there were also taxes on windows, on malt, sugar, tea, coffee [considered a luxury tax], etc… 

Some hard economic facts ~ in a world where the lowest “respectable” income would be about £50 / year: 

  • a common laborour:  £25 / year – this to maintain himself, his wife, and 6 children in food, lodgings, clothes and fuel 
  • governess:  £25 / year 
  • curate w/ house and garden:  £40 / year  
  • average gentleman = £150 /yr
  • for a gentleman in 1825 with an income of £250 – for himself, his wife, three children and a maidservant, food cost a little over £2.5 / wk = £135 /yr.
  • £370 /yr – will support 2 servants 
  • £500 /yr – will support two servants, a boy, an occasional gardener  [Mrs. Dashwood and three daughters] 
  • Edward & Elinor when married will have £850  [after his mother gives him money – they would have married with only 350 – see Copeland in Cambridge Companion.]
  • £800 – 1200 will support a carriage  [hence Willoughby is living way beyond his means, as we shall see…]
  • £5000+ – the minimal income needed to partake of the “London Season” – [The John Dashwoods, etc] – renting and running the household, elegant parties, stabling horses, clothing, etc.

So if Austen doesn’t tell us directly about a character’s income, you can figure it out by inference:  London? any carriage? how many servants? 

 Costs of travel:  [estimates for 1800] 

  • Stage Coach:  2-3 pence / mile = 1.25 pounds from London to Bath / half-price if up top / outside [but remember the average income was about £30 / year 
  • Hired post-chaise =  estimate about £1 / mile [i.e @1 shilling / horse / mile, to include the postillion] 

Costs of Horses: for hunting, racing, riding, pleasure drives

  • -expensive to buy and maintain:  cost = 100 pounds; annual maintenance 120 pounds to stable in London
  • -costs of the carriages [discuss later] – but there were also taxes on private carriages and horses; toll roads
  •  -for perspective:  in 1801, 8 million population in England; in 1814, there were 69,200 taxed carriages [i.e. less than 1 / 100]:  23,400 four wheeled; 27,300 two-wheeled; 18,500 “tax-carts” [basic springless vehicles] [quoting All Things Austen]

 The economic realities in S&S ~ remember that Mrs. Dashwood could not keep a horse or a carriage after the loss of their inheritance:  

1.  Narrator on the Henry Dashwoods: 

…the horses that were left her by her husband had been sold soon after his death, and an opportunity now offering of disposing of her carriage, she agreed to sell that likewise at the earnest advice of her eldest daughter.  [and she had 500 pounds a year!]

 2.  Narrator on Willoughby’s gift of a horse to Marianne [his irresponsibility – the realities of owning a horse]:  

 …Willoughby had given her a horse, one that he had bred himself on his estate in Somersetshire, and which was exactly calculated to carry a woman.  Without considering that it was not in her mother’s plan to keep any horse, that if she were to alter her resolution in favour of this gift, she must buy another for a servant, and keep a servant to ride it, and after all, build a stable to receive them…

 3.  Marianne on a competence:  she wants 2000 pounds a year: 

I am sure I am not extravagant in my demands. A proper establishment of servants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported on less.   [the irony being that that is exactly the income of Colonel Brandon!]  – and of course, Elinor responds:

TWO thousand a year! ONE is my wealth!

4.  Fanny Dashwood in the infamous scene talking down the inheritance: 

Their housekeeping will be nothing at all.  They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind!

 And on that happy note, I will pause ~ next up:  what is the income of the characters in S&S, where do they live, and to where do they travel in this novel of many travels?


[Posted by Deb]

A Jane Austen Weekend in Vermont!

The Governor’s House in Hyde Park will be hosting another Jane Austen event this coming weekend August 13 -15, 2010  ~ topic is Sense and Sensibility.

 Jane Austen Weekend: Sense & Sensibility
The Governor’s House in Hyde Park
Friday to Sunday, August 13-15, 2010

802-888-6888, tollfree 866-800-6888 or info@OneHundredMain.com

 Reservations are required! 

A leisurely weekend of literary-inspired diversions has something for every Jane Austen devoteé. Slip quietly back into Regency England in a beautiful old mansion. Take afternoon tea. Listen to Mozart. Bring your needlework. Share your thoughts at a discussion of Sense & Sensibility and how the movies stand up to the book.  Attend the talk entitled ~ “Making Sense of Jane Austen’s World” * ~  Test your knowledge of Sense & Sensibility and the Regency period and possibly take home a prize. Take a carriage ride. For the gentleman there are riding and fly fishing as well as lots of more modern diversions if a whole weekend of Jane is not his cup of tea. Join every activity or simply indulge yourself quietly all weekend watching the movies. Dress in whichever century suits you. It’s not Bath, but it is Hyde Park and you’ll love Vermont circa 1800. 


* “Making Sense of Jane Austen’s World” – Inn owner Suzanne Boden will be talking on the architecture, furnishings and other decorative arts of the Regency Period; Deb Barnum of JASNA-Vermont [yours truly] will be talking about travel in the late 18th and early 19th century – the horse and carriage era – and how Austen’s characters travelled in Sense & Sensibility – [and there is a lot of moving about in this book!]

*Or come for just an afternoon or evening and choose from these activities:

  • Informal Talk with Coffee and Dessert, Friday, 8:00 p.m., $14.00
  • Afternoon Tea, Saturday, 3:00 p.m., $20.00
  •  Book Discussion and Dinner, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., $35.00
  •  Jane Austen Quiz and Sunday Brunch, Sunday, 11:30 a.m., $15.00
  • All four activities: $75.00

The Governor’s House in Hyde Park
100 Main St
Hyde Park, VT 05655
802-888-6888, tollfree 866-800-6888 or info@OneHundredMain.com

**If you cannot make this weekend, make a note on your calendars of the  following dates as well:

series 3: Sense and Sensibility
Friday evening talk: Making Sense of the Regency World

Friday – Sunday, September 10 – 12, 2010
Friday – Sunday, January 7 – 9, 2011


and for your 2011 calendar:

series 4: Persuasion
Friday evening talk: Captain Wentworth’s Royal Navy
Friday – Sunday, January, 28 – 30, 2011
[other dates TBA]