Interview with Hazel Jones, author of “The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews”

Enquiring Readers: Today I welcome Austen scholar Hazel Jones in an interview about her newest book The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews. If you have been following my blog Reading with Austen: Returning the Lost Sheep of Godmersham, you have seen the several posts on the diaries of Charles Bridges Knight, i.e all the excerpts that Hazel shared with me of Charles’ references to his reading in the library at Godmersham Park, home to his father, and Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight [see below for links to these posts]. Hazel has been researching not only the life of Charles, but also the lives of the five other sons of Edward [all six in order are: Edward, George, Henry, William, Charles, and John]. Her recently published book just flows with tales of their childhood into manhood adventures. I highly recommend it, many of the stories worthy of an Austen novel!

So, Welcome Hazel!

JAIV: Can you give a brief summary of the book?

HJ: Jane Austen’s letters provide clear-sighted glimpses of her six Knight nephews as they grew up, but hers was not the only pen to record their privileged upbringing. Cassandra and Henry Austen commented on Edward Austen Knight’s indulgence of his sons and worried about the boys’ ability to cope with future adversity in the wider world; their affectionate sister Fanny noted key moments in their lives – birthdays, holidays, marriages; Charles kept a detailed diary throughout  the 1830s and 40s. The Other Knight Boys explores the character of each nephew in turn, their professional and personal circumstances, their close fraternal bonds as well as the difficulties and disappointments they encountered in adulthood. For five of the brothers, future dispossession of their beloved family home at Godmersham as a consequence of birth order was a reality they had to live with. How it affected the choices they made forms the story that the book attempts to tell.

 JAIV: How did you end up doing this research on Austen’s nephews, the six sons of her brother Edward?

HJ: Quite by chance, in 2010, I was in a small party on a guided tour of Trafalgar (pronounced Traffle-gar) Park near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The property featured as Hartfield in the 1996 ITV film of Emma [with Kate Beckinsale], as well as Barton Park in Emma Thompson’s Sense & Sensibility.  Originally known as Standlynch Park, it was acquired in 1813 by Parliament for Nelson’s brother William, the new 1st Earl Nelson and re-named Trafalgar Park. The Nelson family lived here until 1946. In 2010, the owner was Michael Wade, whose housekeeper conducted us around the ground floor rooms. In the saloon she pointed out a stunning full length portrait of William Nelson’s beautiful wife, Hilare. Wait a minute, I thought, wasn’t she subsequently married to one of Jane Austen’s Knight nephews? Next followed some very intensive sleuthing which uncovered baptismal records in Cornwall and three marriages – to a cousin, to Nelson and eventually to George Knight of Godmersham. The Kent History and Library Centre and the British Library supplied more biographical material and in a room not usually open to visitors at Chawton House, I found a portrait of George as a young man. My research turned into an article on the couple for the 2016 Jane Austen Society Annual Report. After that came the urge to write about the other five Knight boys and uncover as much as possible about the women in their lives. Charles of course never married, but he had close relationships with his father, his brothers and their spouses.

[Portrait of Hilare Countess Nelson, by George Sanders, 1829-34. Courtesy of Martyn Downer and Michael Wade] 

JAIV: Your research took you to materials scattered throughout southern England – “Kent, Hampshire, and beyond” as you say (3). Was most of this known or did you discover any untapped sources?

HJ: The archives in Hampshire Record Office and the Kent Archives at Maidstone have been scoured pretty thoroughly by Austen scholars across many generations, although even here I discovered one or two sparkling gems which had never appeared in any other text. Previously ‘untapped sources’ for me were the Winchester College Archives, the matriculation records held at St John’s and University College in Oxford, the Nelson archive at the British Library and the War Office records at the National Archive, Kew. Articles in the Jane Austen Society Annual Reports (now accessible online) also filled in a number of gaps and put me in touch with other Austen / Knight researchers such as Margaret Wilson, who then provided material I would not otherwise have found. Sophia Hillan, Linda Slothouber, Maggie Lane and Deirdre Le Faye were also happy to have their generous flow of scholarship ‘tapped’. Karen ievers, Andrew Bradford and Hampshire Cultural Trust allowed me to see and reproduce previously unseen images.  

JAIV:  Of the six boys-to-men you researched, was there more information available from sources on any one more than others? And if so, was that frustrating? For instance I know that Charles kept extensive diaries for years – did any of the others leave such behind them?

HJ: Edward’s life is well documented, given that he was the eldest son and lived at Chawton House, but there are few examples, beyond business letters, of his own personal voice. George’s facility with language shines through his amusing poems and articles on cricket written for The Sporting Magazine. His restless character is evidenced by Fanny’s reports of his comings and goings between England and the Continent, his inability to settle to a career in the law and Charles’s revelation of his brother’s wish to try his luck in America. Letters were written to Fanny by all of the brothers, she records their arrival in her daily diary entries, but where are they now? I wish I had found a greater number of letters from Henry to Lizzy Rice. He comes across as the most contentedly independent and self-sufficient of all the brothers; the harrowing nature of his early death tugs at my heart strings. One or two of William’s letters have survived, together with contemporary descriptions of his youthful exuberance and Fanny’s revelation of his affair with the Knatchbull governess. John is the brother about whom least is known and the hardest to pin down on the page, yet his moving account of the loss of Godmersham is the most revealing of all.

JAIV: Edward, of course, was the heir, and while he appears to have maintained a close and friendly relationship with each of his brothers, there had to have been some bad feelings about how he really dispossessed all of them from their Godmersham Park home. Do you feel sympathetic toward him? Did he have any choice?

HJ: Edward’s siblings must have understood that maintaining Chawton House and Godmersham Park was impossible. The drain of his first and second families on Edward’s finances would have been excessive. The sons from his first marriage were at the stage where they required cash, so when Edward Austen Knight died, money came their way via their father. What appears inexplicable is Edward’s expensive and architecturally unsympathetic alterations to Godmersham in 1853, shortly before he decided to lease the property for 20 years. I can understand his attachment to Chawton – it had been his permanent home since 1826, although his frequent and lengthy returns to Kent each year might have misled his brothers and sisters into believing he would eventually move back and continue to make Godmersham available to all the family. When he sold it in 1875, of the brothers only John was still alive.

Chawton House

JAIV:  Some great drama in the family! What is your favorite story? [then I’ll tell you mine!]

HJ: Difficult to choose one … Louisa Lushington’s* description on her visit to Godmersham of the boys somersaulting into the river fully clothed comes near the top of the list and I rather like the story Henry and George concocted, featuring Uncle Henry Austen’s imprisonment for poisoning his second wife. Scandal is always irresistible too … Fanny’s snide references to Fanny Jones, the consequences of Edward’s elopement with Mary Dorothea, William’s affair with the governess.

*[The Journal of Louisa Lushington (1821-22), with an introduction by Linda Slothouber, Chawton House, 2017]

Ok, so you mention my favorite! Edward’s elopement with his sister’s step-daughter is quite compelling, and definitely worthy of a novel – I cannot tell anymore, readers – buy the book!

Photograph of a lost portrait of Edward Knight,
held by Kent County Cricket Club, Canterbury.

 JAIV: There was so much tragedy in their lives: not unlike their father and uncles (excepting the youngest John, and Charles who never married), all suffered the loss of first wives in childbirth or illness. It is really wrenching to read – how do you think they all handled this?

HJ: Tragedies such as these are almost unimaginable in our modern age of effective remedies, reliable diagnoses and informed medical expertise. Death in childbirth happened so frequently that many women – judging by their correspondence – did not expect to survive, so perhaps their husbands anticipated the worst before it happened. As for the Knight husbands, they certainly grieved for a time, it’s difficult to tell for how long, but from Charles’s diaries we learn that Edward was decimated by the loss of Mary Dorothea and that William and Henry were emotionally affected on the first anniversary of their wives’ deaths. Two or three years later, they are all married again, and embarking on the creation of second families. Life went on. Perhaps a combination of strong religious belief, practical rationality and fraternal support carried them through the worst. 

Elizabeth Bridges Knight – Jane Austen blog by Kleurrijk

JAIV: Any sense that the death of their mother after the birth of her 11th child (Brook John, known as John) in 1808 (Edward was 14) had a long-lasting effect on any/each of them?

HJ: John would not have remembered his mother and Charles’s recollections were probably indistinct at best. The affection the brothers felt for each other, for their sisters, and for their father – and his for them – strengthened the familial tie after Elizabeth’s death. Their easy, happy life at Godmersham appears to continue much the same as before, with Fanny standing in as a very capable and loving presence. Male and female occupations and interests were largely separate and distinct, which perhaps helped to lessen the sense of loss at the time and later. Edward, George, Henry and William were away at school for most of the year, Charles and John were initially under Fanny’s care until the time came for them to leave. Any long term effect might have manifested itself in a very understandable anxiety when their own wives became pregnant.

JAIV: Was Jane Austen a big factor in any of their lives growing up (she died when Edward was 23 in July 1817)? But when she became more popular and James Edward Austen Leigh (James’s son) wrote her memoir in 1869 – did any of Edward’s children contribute to that?

HJ: According to Anna Lefroy, Jane Austen was not loved by the Knight children, although they appreciated her story-telling skills. Anna had her own reasons for holding this view, but the probability is that Jane was merely tolerated by the nephews while at Godmersham, especially as they grew older and beyond female influence. Given their hunting, fishing and shooting pursuits, Jane called it ‘sporting mania’, they would see little of her during the day and there is evidence that at and after dinner, she found their their male acquaintance and their talk of wholesale slaughter distasteful. Maria Bertram, bored silly by Mr Rushworth’s boast of game bagged and poachers apprehended, comes to mind. A spinster aunt casting disapproving looks across the table, however, would have had little effect on these confident, indulged young men.  At Chawton, out of the hunting season, the nephews appear to have proved more congenial company, especially Henry and William, whose visits to the Cottage in their aunt’s final year are recorded with great affection in her letters. In 1822, Henry Knight wrote to his sister Lizzy that he expected Chawton to feel ‘sadly unreal’, surely on account of Aunt Jane’s absence, when he next visited.

James Edward Austen-Leigh attempted to access Fanny’s letters from Jane Austen, but did not succeed. He stayed with William Knight at the new Steventon Rectory for a day and night, in order to walk the familiar lanes and remind himself of where the old rectory used to stand. At the time the Memoir was written, Henry, George and Charles were dead.

JAIV: In reading about Edward’s family, do you feel that at any time in her writing that Jane Austen was modelling a character after a real-life family member?

HJ: No. [ha! Love this very succinct answer!]

JAIV: What surprised you the most? – Something previously unknown to you or anyone else in the Austen research world?

HJ: A small discovery involved Henry’s attendance at University College, Oxford. There is no reference to this in other texts and it was even a surprise to Deirdre Le Faye. Another concerns George’s final years, after his wife’s death. I am intrigued by his relationship, whatever it entailed, with Fanny Jones. George’s sister Lady Knatchbull certainly suspected something untoward, especially when her brother moved to Hereford to share a house with Fanny and her husband. One that almost got away is the small sheet of paper, Plate 8 in my book, comprising poems written by Edward Knight II and his second wife Adela. It was listed in the HRO catalogue, but missing from the file. It had still not surfaced when my last day at the Record Office came, but in the three hours it took to drive home, the Archivist had located, photocopied and forwarded it.

Charles Bridges Knight

JAIV: For instance, Charles went to Cambridge not Oxford like the rest of his family – do you know why that was?

HJ: One of my theories is that he was sent to Cambridge to detach him from certain school friends who had involved him in a rebellion at Winchester College in 1818. A number of the expelled ringleaders went on to Oxford, with which Winchester was closely associated. His sister Fanny reveals that Charles was ‘intended for the Law’ at this point – maybe Cambridge had a better reputation for training lawyers. One can only speculate.

JAIV:  All the brothers had very interesting and novel-worthy love interests – some thwarted by parental involvement – but there were elopements, governess shenanigans, some intermarriage with cousins, etc., some of which you have mentioned above  – Charles was the only brother not to marry – was there any love interest found in his diaries?

HJ: From time to time, Charles expresses a lukewarm interest in what he calls ‘domestic happiness’ but he recognized at the same time that it would very likely result in a diminution of his income and the luxury it afforded. While living at Godmersham he attended balls with his sisters, usually reporting afterwards that he had found them ‘stupid’ or that he ‘had not been up to the mark’. He is open to the appeal of women and notes their beauty, or lack of it, and liveliness. In the summer of 1847, when Charles was forty-four, heavily inked deletions appear in his diaries, which appear to be linked to Lizzie Pole, a young woman he encountered at Wolverton Rectory. That Charles himself was not responsible for these obliterations is a possibility, since not all of the references to ‘dear Lizzie’ are removed. His end of the year summary for 1847 expresses ‘shame and sorrow’ at his unbecoming behaviour and ‘cold unfeeling heart’. What happened remains a mystery.

JAIV:  Charles’ diaries are quite detailed and extensive. Are you hoping to do more with them? Make them available to a larger audience? [You were terrific in sharing excerpts from the diaries about Charles’ reading while at Godmersham – see links below]

HJ: Yes indeed. See the answer below!

JAIV: Your previous books, Jane Austen and Marriage (2009, paperback 2017 by Uppercross Press), Jane Austen’s Journeys (2014) are both excellent and informative reads where you discuss the times Jane Austen lived in and how the understanding of that helps us understand her plots and characters. Did you enjoy researching the real people in Austen’s life more or less than delving into a subject?

HJ: I loved creating both of my previous books, but have found biographical writing fascinating and wholly compelling (for that, read obsessive). The Other Knight Boys was my first foray as a writer into this territory and I must admit I did find this kind of study more absorbing than focusing on a set subject. It’s something of a cliché to say it, but I did develop a strong sense of each nephew as a living breathing individual, and consequently able to make informed leaps into speculative musing where there were gaps in the records. Where the boys’ experiences overlapped – attendance at Henry and Sophia’s wedding, for example, or the visit to Ireland on their sister Cassandra’s death – deciding in which chapter or chapters to locate the material and at the same time avoiding unnecessary repetition, was a very complex but rewarding process, rather like solving a six-dimensional puzzle.

JAIV: Which leads us to: What’s up next?

HJ: I am currently working with Peter Sabor on the transcription and annotation of Charles Knight’s diaries – 1832 – 1851.

[The Sophia Hillan book May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland  (Blackstaff Press, 2011) covers the lives of Marianne (May), Louisa, and Cassandra Jane – much has already been written about Fanny, so what about Elizabeth (Lizzy) – is there a story to tell there?

M.C. Hammond’s Relating to Jane has already covered Lizzy Rice’s life.

[JAIV: Goodness, I have this book on my shelf and have never read it – more than half the book is on Lizzy Knight!:  Relating to Jane: Studies on the Life and Novels of Jane Austen with a Life of Her Niece Elizabeth Austen/Knight,  by M. C. Hammond (Minerva Press, 1998)].

JAIV: What is your favorite Austen and why? Your favorite character?

HJ: This reminds me of that question from a famous BBC Radio 4 programme: ‘Which book would you choose to take with you to your desert island?’ My answer would have to be ‘The Complete Works of Jane Austen’.  I find it impossible to single out for special notice one novel or one character. Heroines, heroes and minor characters, they are all perfectly realized and crafted.

JAIV: An absolutely perfect answer! So, what else do you like to read?

HJ: I love reading biographies, by Claire Tomalin and Hermione Lee in particular, also intelligent detective and thriller fiction – P.D. James, Ian Rankin, Stella Rimington, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Kate Atkinson; authors from other genres include Dorothy Whipple, Hilary Mantel, C.J. Sansom, Tracey Chevalier … I could go on.

JAIV: well. Thank you for that – a perfect reading list to add to my already toppling TBR pile! [and I see that many of Dorothy Whipple’s books have been republished by the incomparable Persephone Books.]

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A hearty Thank You! Hazel, for sharing so much about your book and research into the world of Austen’s nephews. You give a very loving picture of their varied lives, emphasizing their continued connection and affection for each other, and giving us a compelling view into this next generation of the Austen family. The amount of your research alone astounds me! And again, I highly recommend it to all. If you have any questions for Hazel, please comment below and I will forward them to her for answering.

Hazel Jones, Denman College, Oxfordshire

About the author:

Hazel Jones taught English at Exeter University’s Department of Lifelong Learning. She has lectured to Austen Societies in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands and contributed articles to a number of their journals. Since 1995 she has tutored residential courses on Jane Austen’s life, letters and novels in a range of locations. Her published books include Jane Austen and Marriage (2009) and Jane Austen’s Journeys (2014).

The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews, by Hazel Jones
Crediton, Devon, UK: Uppercross Press, 2020.

165 pages, color illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.

You can find Hazel’s book at:

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The blog posts on Charles Bridges Knight’s reading at Godmersham Park can be found here:

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

“Celebrity Jane” Wants YOU! Help Support Chawton House!


Like all museums around the world, Chawton House has had to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic – and like all of those places that so many of us love and visit regularly, Chawton House is dependent upon visitor fees, those now sadly lost. In order to remain on track and continue to offer its grand historic house and gardens to visit, a place to study early women writers, a place for exhibitions and lectures, a place to have tea!, Chawton House needs your support.

Their Emergency Appeal runs from April 20, 2020 through June 20, 2020:

  “Donate today to help make sure Chawton House keeps going through closure, stages a vibrant digital programme to inspire and entertain thousands of people staying at home, and re-open to welcome visitors later in 2020.”

You can read more here, where you will find the list of donation perks: https://chawtonhouse.org/covid-19-appeal/

You can follow the daily updates and what’s on offer:

Missing shopping?  Be sure to visit their new online shop (Bonnets to die for!): https://chawtonhouse.org/shop/

Watch for online exhibitions and talks: already they have launched Man Up! – about women who stepped into a man’s world (think dueling, gambling, soldiering, acting, pirating!) – a podcast is also available – https://chawtonhouse.org/the-library/library-collections/man-up-online-exhibition/introduction/

Coming up is their Lockdown Literary Festival planned for May 15-17, 2020.

And great news is the soon-to-be relaunch of the Chawton House newsletter, The Female Spectator. Stay tuned for that!

AND, you can participate in their online Forums: the Poetry Challenge and their Reading Group.

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For all our North American Friends of Chawton House, we too have a special initiative to spur on support: our very own Celebrity Jane! A must-have limited edition bobble-head of our dear Jane in full Rock & Roll garb, for anyone who donates $250 or more and while supplies last.

You can donate here: https://www.nafch.org/give-join

For your donation of $250 or more, the USPS will happily deliver Celebrity Jane to your door – and we’d like to ask that you send us a picture (or two or more!) of CJ in your house, in your garden, on your bookshelves, playing with your dog (or cat), participating in your latest Zoom gathering, really anything you can think of that shows CJ as part of your daily life (if only she could cook!)

Trooper loves Celebrity Jane (and NO! I am not a PUG!)

[Please email your photos to Kerri Spennicchia, a.k.a. CJ’s publicist on the NAFCH executive Board: spennke [at] gmail.com] – [additional photos on our facebook page and the website].

You can follow us on social media as well, where we are showcasing CJ in all manner of places and situations, with hearty thanks to our generous donors: Be part of the story!

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Start your collection today! If “Celebrity Jane 2020” proves popular, then you may expect another limited edition “Bobble-head Jane” in 2021 and beyond.  Hopefully our special limited-edition Janes will prove such outrageously popular collectibles that this leads to an annual fundraiser/giveaway campaign.

We thank you for your support! Chawton House is a very special place – let’s keep it that way…

(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mellichamp painting of Chawton House, c1740; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post by Tony Grant: Virginia Woolf Made a Reference to Jane Austen

Dear Janeites and Other Readers:  I welcome today Tony Grant. He has just read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and asked if I would post his review. Tony for a time wrote a blog on Virginia Woolf called “The Novels of Virginia Woolf” – he is hoping to do more on there now that he is re-inspired! There are endless resources out there on Woolf (see below for a few links), but here Tony is giving his personal view of what he learned in reading A Room of One’s Own, and how it relates to Jane Austen.

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“Virginia Woolf Made a Reference to Jane Austen,”
by Tony Grant.

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1929. Woolf was invited in 1928 to give a talk to the female undergraduates at Girton College, Cambridge on the theme of women and fiction. She came up with the title for her talk as, A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN. The premise of her argument was that women needed a room of their own and time to write, provided by an independent income. Virginia Woolf suggested £500 a year.

Coincidently that was the same amount that an Aunt, who died in India, left Virginia Woolf in her will, allowing her to be independent of her husband. She was allowed time to think and write without the constraints of the straight jacket of wife, mother, and organizer of a great man’s home. She could afford a room of her own in which to write undisturbed. She argued that women writers in history had been far and few between because of the restrictions a patriarchal society put on them, a society that actively discouraged, insulted, and humiliated women’s abilities. Men thought that women were not capable of writing great fiction or write intelligently on any subject.

She references Aphra Behn, a playwright, poet and translator who lived in the 17th century, as the first woman writer to make money from writing. She goes on to explain that later in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jane Austen, The Brontës and George Elliot began to show what brilliant writers women can be, even if hidden behind anonymity or male pseudonyms. These few, early, great women writers were however, limited in their scope by their circumstances. Virginia Woolf’s hope is that a “Shakespeare’s Sister,” will emerge one day.

We are introduced to Mary Beton, her aunt who left Virginia the £500 per year inheritance and provided the means for her to become a writer; Mary Seton, a wife and mother who is constrained by her circumstances and has no chance of becoming a writer; Mary Carmichael, an author who does not write particularly well – her sentence structures are not those of Jane Austen, from whom she should have learned, but nonetheless begins to write about women in an extraordinary way from a woman’s perspective and begins to portray the subtleties of womanhood uninfluenced by a patriarchal society. These three characters represent three aspects of the lives of women.

Virginia Woolf’s bedroom at Monk’s House

Virginia Woolf argues that intellectual freedom depends upon the possession of material things (a room of one’s own and £500 per year), a good education and well-connected families. She thinks the education the poor receive will not raise them to equality with the upper levels of society. She decries that they will have no chance of their voice being heard. Women’s lives and the poor in society are a downtrodden second class group.

Nowadays there is a sort of worship and fan cult associated with Jane Austen. Virginia Woolf would be bemused and not understand this I think. Austen is a great writer, especially in exploring the relationships between men and women which is acutely highlighted in her writing because of the patriarchy of the 18th and 19th centuries.

But because of the constraints placed on by the male members of her family, no “room of her own,” and no independent income, Austen’s world was a very narrow world of drawing rooms. There was not enough global experience of women writers and women in other aspects of society, equal to that of men’s for Austen to build on. She was and is impressive for what she achieved, but she had her limitations. Austen was timid and protective about her writing. She didn’t experience life outside of a strict set of patriarchal boundaries. It does seem extraordinary nowadays there is so much fuss over her.

The aim for women writers, in the words of Virginia Woolf, is to become “Shakespeare’s Sister.” It must be said that Shakespeare did not have a sister as far as we know. What Virginia Woolf means is that in her view Shakespeare was the greatest male writer. He had the perfect balance of the “male-female” brain, creative and fertile with ideas derived from a wide experience of the world, male histories, male experiences and male writing through the centuries. If Shakespeare’s Sister had been able to become the female version of her brother, employing the “female male” brain alongside a wealth of women’s experiences in writing and society, we would have a female writer of equal brilliance and scope.

Virginia Woolf’s presentation to the Girton Undergraduates is nothing if not meant to encourage them all to become writers, not just of fiction but scientific treatises, histories, biographies, poetry, and more besides, because as Woolf states “books talk to books,” and with a rich history of women’s writing to draw on this “Shakespeare’s Sister” can finally emerge.

Jane Austen was a step along the way to the emergence of this “Shakespeare’s Sister.” Mary Carmichael, perhaps a pseudonym for Virginia Woolf herself, represents another important step along the way. They are only steps.

“Be yourself” is a slogan Virginia Woolf leaves her young female audience with. She describes what women need to do to become writers and become themselves: “They need to build their ideas and thoughts on those of other women.” She points out how near impossible it is to achieve that without an immense struggle and everyone doing their bit. Even ninety years later, Virginia Woolf’s treatise has a freshness about it.

Virginia Woolf’s writing shed, Monk’s House

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Thank you Tony for sharing your thoughts on Woolf and Austen! You can visit Tony’s regular blog “London Calling” here: http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/

Would love to hear your thoughts on A Room of One’s Own – do you think Woolf’s ideas remain relevant today? Do you agree that there was a dearth of women’s writing because of the patriarchal society and its subjugation of women? Since Woolf’s time there has been an ongoing effort to re-discover the early women writers that have been long forgotten, also a result of that subjugation, and many of these Woolf would have known nothing about. [You can visit the Library at Chawton House to read about many of these early authors: https://chawtonhouse.org/ – and especially the biographies and online novels].

Woolf references Austen in more than just A Room of One’s Own – she refers to Austen in many of her writings, and wrote several full-length essays – here are two.

  1. “Jane Austen” in The Common Reader (1925): http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300031h.html#C11
  2. Woolf’s review of R. W. Chapman’s 1923 edition of Austen’s novels at The New Republic (1924): https://newrepublic.com/article/115922/virginia-woolf-jane-austen

For some commentary on Woolf’s opinion of Austen, see:

  1. This essay in Persuasions 12 (1990) by Judith Lee on Woolf reading Austen: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number12/lee.htm
  2. Another essay in Persuasions On-Line 29.1 (2008) by Emily Auerbach, “The Geese vs. the “Niminy Piminy Spinster”: Virginia Woolf Defends Jane Austen”: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/auerbach.html

I could go on… – there’s a veritable goldmine of information on Woolf and Austen out there!

Further reading:

[Images from Tony Grant]

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, 243 years ago!  To quote her father in his letter to his sister Mrs. Walter on Dec 17, 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 Cassey 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 sends her love to you and my brother… (Austen Papers, 32-3)

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In celebration of Austen’s birthday, we at the North American Friends of Chawton House Library announce the launching of the new website at https://www.nafch.org/. Please visit, read about our endeavors on the behalf of Chawton House, and by all means Donate – what better way to honor Jane Austen on her birthday than to give a little something in support of the “Great House” she visited often:

‘Let me thank you again and again’

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice (1813)

2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

 

Jane Austen Genealogy ~ The Knight Family Name ~ by Ronald Dunning

UPDATE:  new images have been added!*

Gentle Readers:  I welcome again Ron Dunning on a bit of Jane Austen ancestry – the Knight name of Chawton and Godmersham.  We know that Thomas Knight and his wife adopted Edward Austen as a child, and passed on to him the landed estates they had inherited, both Chawton and Godmersham.  The name of the family eventually became Austen-Knight, but Ron shows us here how far back this connection went – one wonders how much Jane Austen would have actually known of this…**

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Knight of Chawton and Godmersham

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight - wikipedia

Presentation of Edward Austen to Thomas and Catherine Knight – wikipedia

We all know the story of how, in 1779, the 12-year-old Edward Austen charmed Thomas Knight [our Thomas henceforth] of Godmersham, and his newly-married wife Catherine [Knatchbull], when they stopped at Steventon on their bridal tour – so much so that they asked his parents to allow them to take him with them for the rest of the trip. The Knights grew increasingly fond of him, with his sunny and uncomplicated nature, and followed on by inviting him to visit them in Godmersham. When, after a few years, it became apparent that they were unlikely to have any children of their own to inherit their property and fortune, they arranged with the Austens to adopt him, and to give him their surname. There was a family connection – our Thomas Knight and Edward’s father George Austen were second cousins, both descended from John Austen and Jane Atkins.

Thomas Knight, the younger, by Francis Cote – CHL  ~  Catherine Knatchbull Knight, print of portrait by George Romney

Godmersham 1779 - wikipedia

Godmersham 1779 – wikipedia

Transfers of property, fortunes, and surnames were already well established in the Knight Family and make it all very difficult to follow. So I have created the chart below to make it easier for me, and I hope that it helps others too.

So, looking at the chart [see below]:

Chawton House

Chawton House

Beginning on the left, the Knight family had been in possession of the manor of Chawton for some generations. It was inherited  by Dorothy Knight when the male line failed. According to the law of the time, her property, including the title to the estate, became the possession of her husband, Richard Martin. When they produced no children, it passed to Richard’s brother Christopher; when he too died, having remained unmarried, it was inherited by their sister Elizabeth and her two successive husbands. [Note that this line had all changed their name from Martin to Knight, before reaching our Thomas.]

Elizabeth left no children, and the property passed to a second cousin, Thomas Brodnax of Godmersham. In 1727, this Thomas changed his name by Act of Parliament to May, when he inherited property at Rawmere in Sussex from his mother’s childless cousin, Sir Thomas May. Then in 1736, on inheriting the Chawton estate, he changed his name again, to Knight.

Thomas Knight (a.k.a.Brodnax, May) – by Michael Dahl – CHL  ~  Jane Monk, by Michael Dahl

This Thomas Knight and his wife Jane Monk, who was an Austen descendant, produced at least ten children, of whom five were

Edward Austen Knight - austenonly

Edward Austen Knight – austenonly

boys. Only one, our Thomas (the second son of that name), survived childhood. Thomas enjoyed a long life of sixty years, and married Catherine Knatchbull [see portraits above]. When it became clear that they too would remain childless, they chose to adopt the young and affable Edward Austen, whose family were collateral descendants of Thomas’s great-great-grandparents, John and Jane [Atkins] Austen. On his death in 1794, Thomas Knight bequeathed Godmersham to Catherine, and all other properties to Edward; Catherine later moved to Canterbury and gave Edward the Godmersham estate at that time.

Confused? I too struggle to keep it all straight, so hopefully this chart helps.  There is one detail missing, which will necessitate some further research; that is the family connection between the Martin and the Brodnax families, who were said to be second cousins. Once the research is done I’ll amend the chart, but it won’t make any difference to the sequence of surnames and ownership as they are illustrated here.

It’s some time since I last added anything to the Jane Austen’s Family website. It struck me as a good idea to include a pedigree section; this is now the first chart:

knight-estates

 

It can be found at this link: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/pedigrees/knight/knight.index.html

 *****************

Thank you Ron! – if anyone has any questions [are you all sitting out there scratching your heads??], please ask Ron – he would be happy to answer anything you might put to him…!

Without all these family dynamics and the extensive trading of names and the adoption of Edward Austen, Jane Austen might never have had the chance to live and write at Chawton Cottage  [now the Jane Austen House and Museum]– and where would we all be without those six novels??

Chawton Cottage - astoft.co. uk

Chawton Cottage – astoft.co. uk

* The portraits of the Thomas Knights, Jane Monk, and Catherine Knight are all from Ancestry.com, with thanks to Ron for accessing these. You can read about the portrait artist Michael Dahl here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Dahl

** Ron has answered my question about whether Jane Austen knew about all these family connections:

Everyone – the Knights, Mr and Mrs Austen, Edward – knew incontrovertibly about the peregrinations at least back to the common descent from John and Jane Austen and, no doubt about the Mays too.  It’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t have discussed it all in front of Jane.

Do you have any questions for Ron?

c2014, Jane Austen in Vermont

Some Book Reviews of Note ~ All Things Austen

[These are some book notes and other Austen-related tidbits that I have picked up over the past few weeks ~ more book thoughts for holiday gift giving to be posted shortly, but this is a start]

samuel-johnson-coverTwo new books about Samuel Johnson are reviewed by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker in his article “Man of Fetters: Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale” ~ Peter Martin, Samuel Johnson [Harvard, 2008] and Jeffery Meyers, Samuel Johnson: The Struggle [Basic, 2008]

 

 

Reginald Hill, The Price of Butcher’s Meat [Harper, 2008] … NYTimes Book Review with Marilyn Stazio; Hill does Jane Austen in this story, a la Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon with a story about Sandytown- in Yorkshire, and with all the usual suspects and detectives.

reginaldhill-cover

Mrs. Beeton’s The Art of Cookery, noted on Regency Reader; another Mrs. Beeton read is the biography The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton, the First Domestic Goddess, by Kathryn Hughes [Knopf, 2006] and now available in paperback.  This study of Beeton also reveals much about the homelife of the Victorians.

beeton-cover

 

“Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: an intimate history of domestic life in Bloomsbury”  by Alison Light  [Bloomsbury Press, 2008].  Review at the NY Times by Claire Messud.

“Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners”(Random House; $30), by Laura Claridge, is the first full-length biography of the author to appear. (Post’s son, Ned, published an affectionate, ghostwritten memoir, “Truly Emily Post,” back in 1961.)  Here is a review in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert.

 

madame-de-stael-coverMadame de Stael:  the first Modern Womanby Francine de Plessix Gray [Atlas, 2008].  Reviewed at Slate. by Stacey Schiff.

 

 

 

 

And this Our Life: Chronicles of the Darcy Family Book 1, by C. Allyn Pierson, and published by iuniverse, another sequel to Pride & Prejudice starting where P&P leaves off with Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s engagement and their first year of marriage.  See this article at the Wall Street Journal online.

A found diary of a Victorian woman has recently been published:  Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall by Mavis Smith.  Tollet was an upper class woman who lived in North Staffordshire in the 1800s, and the diary runs from 1835-1890.  Mavis Smith found the 160-year old manuscript hidden in the Shropshire library archives;  click here for more information and how to obtain a copy [Waterstones, Amazon.uk and local museums]

A new book on the cultural history of Reading, England gives a nod to Jane Austen as she went to school there.  See this article in the BBC Berkshire site.

The University of Manchester Library announces the acquisition of the Gaskell – Green letters (link is to Rare Book Review), adding to their already extensive Elizabeth Gaskell collection.  “The Gaskell – Green family (Gaskell’s friend Mary Green and Mary’s daughter Isabella) letters offer fascinating insight into Cheshire town daily life, the place where Gaskell had grown up in the first half of the nineteenth century, and which she later immortalised in her novel Cranford.”

The short story competition sponsored by the Chawton House Library will have Sarah Waters, author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith(faboulous read by the way!), as the chair of the judging panel. “The competition is aimed at raising the profile of the library, which is home to a collection of books by early English women writers. The library is part of Chawton House, home to Jane Austen’s brother Edward.  The shortlisted stories will be published as an anthology, Dancing with Mr Darcy, by independent publishers Honno in October 2009. First prize is £1000 plus a week’s writer’s retreat at Chawton House.”

chawton-house-library

Chawton House

 [See this article at Bookseller.com as well as the Chawton House Library site for information on the competition.]

 Here are a few blogs of note, lately discovered:

  •  Idolising Jane authored by Old Fogey, asks some telling questions about Austen…see the blogfor some thoughtful posts [and with thanks to Ms. Place at Jane Austen Today]

 

  • Catherine Delors, historical novelist and author of Mistress of the Revolution, authors a wonderful blog titled Versailles and More, a visual feast of life during the French Revolution and 18th century France.  Today, Ms. Delors offers a post on Saint Nicholas, the True Santa Claus.