The Pemberley Post, No. 2 (Jan 8-14, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More!

My round-up of the past week – so much of interest, from Dolley Madison to Vermont’s State House to Mike Myers!

Celebrating Rembrandt: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/the-year-of-rembrandt?&utm_campaign=uitnodiging&utm_medium=email&utm_source=20190107_Cultuurtoerist_ENG_jan

Jane Austen’s moving poem on the death of her friend Madam [Anne] Lefroy: https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/07/to-the-memory-of-mrs-lefroy-who-died-decr-16-my-birthday-a-poem-by-jane-austen/

A Jane Austen £10 note on ebay – for £49! (others available also at various prices)

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/LUCKY-10-NOTE-JANE-AUSTEN-TEN-POUND-BIRTHDAY-ANNIVERSARY-31-08-61-AUGUST-1961/323639434583?hash=item4b5a69dd57:g:eiwAAOSwGW9apceW:rk:11:pf:0

“How Dolley Madison Conquered the Nation’s Capital (with great images): https://www.montpelier.org/learn/dolley-madison-becoming-americas-first-lady

Mrs. Madison’s drawing room [image: Montpelier]

Another First Lady – Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming is the highest selling print book of 2018, and it was just released in mid-November! https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/78941-becoming-is-top-selling-title-in-2018.html

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The Broom Brigade (there were several in Vermont – who knew??): https://www.revolvy.com/page/Broom-brigade%20/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broom_brigade

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More Vermont: the Ceres statue stop the State House in Montpelier:

Ceres statue [image: ‘Vermont Woman’]

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London’s Gentlemen’s Clubs: https://londonist.com/london/drink/the-curious-world-of-london-s-gentlemen-s-clubs

Image: Image: The Gaming House, A Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth. An early depiction of White’s which was at this time a notorious gambling den [Londonist]

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A Guardian review of one of 2018’s best books – also has the hero immersed in Emma (how many real men are out there immersed in Emma I wonder…): https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/08/normal-people-sally-rooney-novel-literary-phenomenon-of-decade

A rare Monet to be auctioned for the first time! (with an estimate of $25-$35 million) – https://www.barnebys.com/blog/art/a-rare-claude-monet-landscape-goes-to-auction/17395/

A terrific book at Open Access on Victorian newspapers and periodicals: A Fleet Street in Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855-1900, by Andrew Hobbs – https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/835 [the pdf is a free download, all 470 pages!] – Hobbs has also set up a twitter account where he will post diary excerpts daily: https://twitter.com/HewitsonDiaries

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Birds of America – one of the world’s rarest books by the 19thc American artist and ornithologist John James Audubon has gone on display at Liverpool Central Library, with a “Mission Impossible”-like scenario to get it there! https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-merseyside-46820378/rare-audubon-bird-book-displayed-at-liverpool-library

The Frankenstein exhibit at the Morgan Library ends January 27, 2019: https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/frankenstein

Also at the Morgan online: two of Humphry Repton’s redbooks are available for your viewing pleasure: https://www.themorgan.org/collection/Humphry-Reptons-Red-Books

Repton Redbook [image: Morgan]

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Who knew? During a pre-Golden Globes auction, Mike Myers matched a £40,000 bid to split the prize of staying at Heckfield Place in Hampshire to get the ‘Jane Austen’ experience.’ See https://www.heckfieldplace.com/ – the story is here: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/8174350/man-utd-julia-roberts-qatar-world-cup-tickets/

January 13, 2019 7pm on PBS “I Hate Jane Austen,” with British columnist Giles Coren: http://www.gpb.org/blogs/mygpb/2019/01/11/whats-new-next-week-january-11-2019 [I’ve taped this but haven’t watched it yet – if you have, tell me what you think…]

The all-over-the-press account of the Austen family photos found in an album on ebay: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6580879/Extraordinary-photos-Jane-Austens-family-discovered.html

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Edward Hicks, Peaceable Kingdon [image: Wikipedia]

Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom” paintings at Christie’s: https://www.christies.com/features/Edward-Hicks-The-Peaceable-Kingdom-9632-3.aspx?sc_lang=en&cid=EM_EMLcontent04144A60D_1&cid=DM265864&bid=162201602

A collection of the wacky and weird, long before P. T. Barnum – Kirby’s Eccentric Museum, with thanks to The Gentle Author at “Spitalfields Life” (excellent images – one weirder than the next…): http://spitalfieldslife.com/2019/01/12/kirbys-eccentric-museum/

The beginnings of Bibliotourism: put your Library on here! https://libraryplanet.net/

A Slave Bible [heavily edited] on view at the Museum of the Bible: https://museumofthebible.org/exhibits/slave-bible

Slave Bible – Smithsonian

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And again from “Spitalfields Life” – Christopher Wren’s model of St. Paul’s Cathedral – awesome pictures! I had no idea this was there! http://spitalfieldslife.com/2019/01/13/inside-the-model-of-st-pauls-x/

Literary penguins! (Guess which Austen Hero gets his own penguin…): https://maryland.ourcommunitynow.com/baltimore/maryland-zoo-names-baby-penguins-after-literary-characters/

Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 14.2 (Fall 2018) is now online: http://www.ncgsjournal.com/issue142/issue142.htm

I have long collected Robert Sabuda’s delightful pop-up books [ http://robertsabuda.com/ ]– but here’s a new entry into the Pop-Up world – by Lego! https://shop.lego.com/en-US/product/Pop-Up-Book-21315

Happy Reading!

2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

The Pemberley Post, No. 1 (Jan 7, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More

When I first started this blog on March 31, 2008, I would post a weekly round-up of Jane Austen findings on the web. After a few years, Life got in the way of working on that weekly list, though I have continued to find things every day that I sometimes post on facebook or twitter, but now rarely even do that – there’s just SO MUCH information out there, and you all likely see and know more than I do on any given day. But I’ve decided to try my hand at sharing some weekly links – some about Jane Austen, others about books and reading, and a little bit of history thrown in – a mishmash really of things that interest me – and in hopes they interest you too. I am calling this round-up “The Pemberley Post,” the name of our no-longer-published JASNA-Vermont newsletter – just because I like the name (and “Highbury Gossips,” the best possible name ever is the title of JASNA-Montreal’s newsletter…)

I cannot promise I’ll do this every week, but shall make an effort, though some might be very short! – here is the first, for the week of January 1-7, 2019 – and as you can see, I am all over the map with information!

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The Broadview Press in December 2018 released their online “Jane Austen in Context.” For $9.95 you can access this research tool for its critical articles, visual materials, and interactive timelines and maps – and more is being added each week. Click here for more info: https://broadviewpress.com/product/broadview-online-jane-austen-in-context/?ph=36eb83021c2f2f534593bea0#tab-description

Laurel Ann at Austenprose – her favorite books from 2018: https://austenprose.com/2019/01/01/my-favorite-books-of-2018-by-a-partial-prejudiced-and-ignorant-jane-austen-fan/

What P&P teaches readers: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/12/what-jane-austens-pride-prejudice-teaches-readers/578872/

Classics now out of copyrighthttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/29/books/copyright-extension-literature-public-domain.html

And also this: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/public-domain-day-2019-what-books-can-you-now-read-for-free.html/

10 novels to beat the January blues (Mansfield Park? – who knew??): https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/best-books-to-read-new-year-novels-fiction-jane-austen-pg-wodehouse-literature-a8709196.html

5 best novels starring Jane Austen: https://www.vulture.com/article/five-essential-novels-with-jane-austen-as-a-premise.html

Favorite Romance novels of 2018 by Cailey Hall at LARB (many are YA novels, very often the best reads): http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/reviews/favorite-romance-novels-2018/

A Jane Austen Literary tour of England this summer 2019 (space is limited): https://betweennapsontheporch.net/jane-austen-fans-would-you-enjoy-a-literary-tour-of-southern-england/

Reviewing “Clueless, The Musical”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/11/theater/clueless-the-musical-review.html

Maria Sibylla Merian -JSTOR

The 17th-Century should-not-be-forgotten insect artist and early feminist, Maria Sibylla Merian: https://daily.jstor.org/the-metamorphosis-of-a-17th-century-insect-artist/

The ‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ – free podcasts each week: https://soundcloud.com/odnb – listen to this 15 minute piece on Jane Seymour (Henry VIII wife #3 – she at least didn’t lose her head…) – or this one on Elizabeth Parsons, the Cock Lane Ghost: https://soundcloud.com/odnb/elizabeth-parsons-the-cock-lane-ghost-17491807-imposter

Or this one at nearly 2 hours (and from 4 years ago), Jane Austen vs. Emily Bronte (with John Mullan and Kate Mosse): https://soundcloud.com/intelligence2/jane-austen-vs-emily-bronte

The literary photographs of Lotte Jacobi exhibit at the University of New Hampshire to open this January – think J. D. Salinger: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/1701/lotte-jacobi-1.phtml

Check your bookshelves for any old Mary Poppins: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/2018/12/the-return-of-mary-poppins.phtml

Susannah Fullerton’s (president of JASA) list of favorites read in 2018: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/my-2018-favourites/

Ellen Moody an Jane Austen’s friendship with Anne Sharpe (where she fleshes out and corrects the chapter on Austen and Sharp(e) in The Secret Sisterhood): https://reveriesunderthesignofausten.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/jane-austen-anne-sharp-she-is-an-excellent-kind-friend/

 

Gainsborough – NPG

Your last chance to see the “Gainsborough Family Album” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery (London) which closes February 3, 2019 (or buy the catalogue for £29.95): https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/gainsborough/exhibition/

A calligraphy exhibit at the Getty (through April 7, 2019) http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/artful_words/

How the Georgians stored their ice (no mention of martinis): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/london-archaeologists-unearth-subterranean-georgian-ice-store-180971146/

Set up your 2019 reading list with the help of the Modern Mrs. Darcy: https://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2019/

London’s Feminist Library has been saved from closing: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/03/feminist-library-saved-from-closure-as-supporters-raise-35000

Read:

– everything you ever wanted to know about Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding gown in The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson: http://www.jennifer-robson.com/writing/the-gown/

Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, by Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrated by Maira Kalman: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-women-who-won-the-right-to-vote

Julie Klassen has a new book out in her Ivy Hill series, The Bride of Ivy Green: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/the-bride-of-ivy-green-9780764218170

Publishers Weekly’s list of the favorite 2018 reads of booksellers…: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/78903-booksellers-favorite-titles-of-2018.html

Lots of reading lists – what’s on your TBR pile?

c2019, 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.

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Rectory painting

After his marriage to Cassandra Leigh, Samuel Cooke brought his new wife to Great Bookham and was installed as vicar on the 13 April 1769. At first they lived in the rectory, situated across the road from the entrance to the grounds of St Nicholas Church in Church Road. This is now the post office:

The first rectory now post office - c2016 Tony Grant

The first Rectory, now post office – c2016 Tony Grant

They later moved to a new, larger rectory set back from the road, built on a plot next to and immediately north of theoriginal rectory. This was the rectory that Jane Austen would have visited and stayed at. It no longer exists (see painting above). On its site there are a row of shops:

Shops on site of old Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Shops on site of old Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

From old photographs of the rectory we can make comparisons with another building just south of the post office. The sash windows in the still existing building are exactly the same design as those of the demolished rectory. The chimney stack is very similar and the front door and portico look like a miniature version of the rectory entrance -the pillars and canopy of look as though they are of identical design and pattern. (It is interesting to note that a maid servant who would have served Jane while she stayed with her cousins was named Elizabeth Bennet!)

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

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House with similar features to Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Similar features to Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

Before marrying Cassandra Leigh and becoming vicar of Great Bookham, Samuel was first educated at Blundell’s School in Devonshire and became Blundell’s Scholar at Balliol College Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1762 and gained his Master’s degree in 1764. From 1762 he was a Blundell Fellow at Balliol and became rector of Cottisford, Oxford. However, after settling in Great Bookham with Cassandra and producing a number of children he lived in Bookham for the rest of his life. He is, however, buried in Beckley in Oxford where his wife inherited a house through the Leigh family. He may have died while visiting Beckley.

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Frances Burney

Frances Burney

There is another connection between Great Bookham and Jane Austen’s literary career. A writer who influenced Jane Austen was Frances Burney (Madame D’Arbley). She wrote two novels that we know Jane Austen read, Evelina and Cecelia, Jane a subscriber to the latter.  At the time Jane was visiting her relations in Bookham and staying in Church Road to the west of St Nicholas Church. Burney and her husband, General Alexander D’Arbley, who fled to England after the rise to power in France of Maximillian Robespierre, were living in Fairfield Cottage, now named The Hermitage, a small cottage that still exists in Lower Road to the south of the church. Burney was introduced to the French emigres and D’Arbley by her sister Mrs Phillips – they met at Juniper Hall near Mickleham next to Box Hill. Jane Austen and Frances Burney must have been in close proximity on many occasions. Burney’s son Alexander was baptised in St Nicholas Church on April 11, 1795, by the Reverend Samuel Cooke. Burney herself mentions  Mrs Cooke in a letter to her father:

[Bookham, June 15, 1795]

Mrs. Cooke, my excellent neighbour, came in Just now to read me a paragraph of a letter from Mrs. Leigh, of Oxfordshire, her sister. . . . After much of civility about the new work and its author, it finishes thus:—“Mr. Hastings I saw just now: I told him what was going forward; he gave a great jump, and exclaimed, ‘Well, then, now I can serve her, thank Heaven, and I will! I will write to Anderson to engage Scotland, and I will attack the East Indies myself!’” F. D’A.

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Burney also mentions the Reverend Samuel Cooke in another letter to her father:

“ Mr Cooke tells me he longs for nothing so much as a conversation with you on the subject of Parish Psalm singing-he complains that the Methodists run away with the regular congregation from their superiority in vocal devotion.”

Claire Tomlin in her autobiography Jane Austen : A Life explains that Jane read Burney’s novels:.

Cecilia…..Nearly a thousand pages long. It too must have filled many winter evenings by the fire at Steventon, and taken its toll on Jane’s eyes, which at times became tired and troublesome. She admired Burney’s comic monsters and her dialogue, but most what she learnt from her was negative; to be short, to sharpen, to vary, to exclude. Also, to prefer the imperfect and human heroine to the nearly flawless one. What Burney had demonstrated with her first book- concise as none of the later ones were- was that there was a public for social comedy finely observed through female eyes.”

View of St Nicholas from Fanny Burneys cottage

View of St Nicholas from Burney’s cottage c2016 Tony Grant

While living in Fairfield Cottage in 1794, Burney began writing Camilla and finished a tragedy called Edwy and Elgiva. Sheridan presented this at Drury Lane with Mrs Siddons and Kemble. The play was a disaster, Burney putting it down to the cast being under rehearsed. Also while living in Bookham, Burney gave birth to a son on December 18, 1794 – he was baptized Alexander at St Nicholas Church by the Reverend Cooke. Many important French emigres attended the baptisim, all friends of General D’Arbley. The D’Arblays obviously knew the Cookes well, and it seems inconceivable that Jane Austen never met Burney – yet there is no evidence that she did.

I have discovered a few more things about Frances Burney, not related to Jane Austen but of interest to me, that give me the impetus to explore her world more. Burney’s father was a well-regarded composer and musician. He was a friend to Mrs Thrale, a great society hostess in the 18th century. Mrs Thrale lived at Streatham Park in a grand house where she entertained Dr Johnson, a close friend of her husband Mr Thrale. She encouraged and nurtured Frances Burney and many other famous people of the time such as James Boswell and the great artist Joshua Reynolds. Streatham Park, now a Victorian housing estate, is a mile from where I live. Chessington Hall, just south of me is where another friend of Burney’s father’s lived and where Frances often visited. It is said she began writing Cecelia while staying at Chessington. Yes, I have much to explore.

Also living in the area of Great Bookham at the time Jane visited, and close associates of Frances Burney, were Richard Brinsley Sheridan – living at the great house of Polesdon Lacey on the edge of Bookham – and Madamoiselle Anne Louise Germaine de Stael. She was a novelist too. Jane liked her Corinne ou L’Italie. De Stael owned Juniper Hall where French emigres including General D’Arbley were given shelter. We know that De Stael read Jane’s novels but pronounced them “vulgaire.” Jane avoided meeting De Stael, but this is another story entirely…

Interior St Nicholas - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior St Nicholas – c2016 Tony Grant

References:

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomlin ( Viking 1997)
  • Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Third Edition, Oxford University Press 1995)
  • The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arbley
  • Great Bookham at the time of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and R B Sheridan by William Whitman (Pub: The Parochial Church Council of St Nicholas, Great Bookham)

Want to visit Great Bookham? here’s how to get there on Google Maps.

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photographs by Tony Grant, with thanks!

Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant who has written for us a post on Box Hill. I had the pleasure this spring to spend a day with Tony, as he squired me around Southampton, Portsmouth and Box Hill – it was a rainy, quite miserable day, but the touring was grand, the company terrific! I’ve been to most of the Jane Austen sites – but not to anything we saw this day, from the Dolphin Inn to The Victory, and to the top of Box Hill – it was a world-wind tour of Jane, History, and Geology all rolled into one – Tony here tells of Box Hill, the infamous location that Austen chooses to place her Emma in one of her more self-illuminating “badly-done” scenes… with heartfelt thanks to Tony for the tour to the heart of it all…

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A view of Box Hill, Surrey - George Lambert

A view of Box Hill, Surrey – George Lambert

Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma

On Monday 26th May this year, Deb Barnum [a.k.a. Jane Austen in Vermont] and I drove up to the top of Box Hill. The quickest route is to come off The London Road, known as the A24, which sweeps past the base of Box Hill, paralleling the River Mole, which itself, arcs around Box Hill to the south and west. The A24 leads south from Epsom towards Dorking. A mile before Dorking we turned left at Rykas Café, which is a popular venue for motorcyclists. We took a small B road, overhung with trees. An old rusty sign leaning out of the hedgerow on the left pointed its finger to the summit of Box Hill. We turned into a wooded and high hedged lane which began to immediately rise steeply, bending towards the right. We passed a weathered red brick cottage on the left, set within a ragged, vibrant country garden surrounded by high, smoothly manicured hedges bulging and swelling outwards in billowing shapes. The road soon opened out onto steeply rising chalk grassland. A precipitous drop on our right formed and a steep incline to our left reached upwards.

Box Hill summit 1Mist and cloud swirled around us as we mounted the hill along the switch back road. The corners made us turn almost back on ourselves but always took us to steeper and higher levels. The drop to the right revealed hedges of box and scrub, clinging tightly to the side of the hill, interspersed with finely cropped grasses. Chalky outcrops appeared to our left as we rose higher and higher amongst the mist and low clouds. As we neared the summit, trees and woodland gathered around us again. The squat whitewashed National Trust shop and café appeared in front of us and a car park was situated on the left amongst Scots Pines and firs.

We parked the car and I showed Deb the way to the viewpoint we had come to see. We were seven hundred and thirty-five feet above the River Mole and Dorking town was to our right. We could see far into the distance across the

Town of Dorking below

Town of Dorking below

woodlands and fields of Surrey. I suggested Deb take the part of Emma Woodhouse, who in Jane Austen’s novel of that name, visited this very spot with her friends and neighbours but she would have nothing of it. She would be Mrs Elton and nobody else. Deb stood and acclaimed the world standing high on the stone viewing plinth Leopold Salomons had erected in 1914, arms wide to the sky.

It was very near here that Emma Woodhouse and Mrs Elton and their party of friends alighted to picnic at the top of Box Hill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. The groups from Highbury and Hartfield, in the novel, have an inauspicious start to their trip, an inauspicious execution of it and an inauspicious end to it. It is a turning point in all their lives. The surface veneer begins to slip from various relationships. Reality begins to poke through Emmas carefully stage managed attempts of conducting other people’s lives. Nothing becomes certain. The Sucklings do not arrive at Hartfield and Mrs Elton’s plan of visiting Box Hill to show the Sucklings the views seems to lose its purpose but she has another thought and becomes adamant about the trip going ahead. The Sucklings can go another time. Mrs Elton’s idea about a trip to Box Hill has an effect on Emma. Emma does not want to be outdone. She has never visited Box Hill before and decides that,

emma-picnic1

“she wished to see what everybody found so well worth seeing…”

She discusses the trip with the amiable Mr Weston. He is perhaps too amenable and accommodating. In discussion with Mrs Elton he gets the approval of that lady that the two parties, hers and Emma’s join together for one combined trip to Box Hill. Emma is unhappy with the arrangement but as they will all go in different carriages with the people of their own choice perhaps it will not be so bad, she reasons. It would have been better if the horse that was to pull Emma’s carriage had stayed lame of course and so preventing Emma from going, but a quick recovery from this condition, inconveniently perhaps, gave no excuse for Emma not to proceed. A lame horse is a rather lame Jane Austen joke, I think, sprung in the midst of such serious matters. Tongue in cheek comes to mind – a joke at Emma’s expense between Austen and the reader.

Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of unison, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties.

This is an interesting passage because Jane Austen seems uncertain. She lists a litany of possible causes for the lack of harmony. She can’t herself decide on one exact cause. This adds realism to the situation. We cannot explain everything in real life and neither can Austen in this scene in Emma.

Austen has Frank Churchill perpetrate, perhaps, a cruel joke, to divert attention from himself and Emma. He asks the ultimate psychoanalysts question, in Emma’s name of course. He whispers to her:

“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk….”

And then for all to hear,

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say that she desires to know what you are all thinking of.”

Emma immediately tries to nervously laugh the question off. She is taken unawares by this and denies she has anything to do with any such request. There is a desperation in her voice. There is almost fear. She knows she could not, “stand the brunt,” of such raw honesty.

“Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of.”

There are one or two perhaps, (glancing at Mr Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”

Who can or would want to express their real thoughts at the drop of a hat? Is it possible for anybody to express their exact thoughts as they are thinking them? Our relationships would be very strange and probably be put under incredible stresses if we did. Emma is naïve to think even that the thoughts of Mr Weston and Harriet would bear hearing. Our subconscious level is below manners and the social veneer we all carry. It would be delving into our primal depths. This is the sort of thing that Sigmund Freud tried to study and explore. Frank Churchill is being cruel and he knows that nobody would answer this, certainly not himself. Imagine what sort of story would be written if everybody told their thoughts? It is almost the final nail in the coffin of harmony and wellbeing amongst the group on Box Hill.

On the top of Box Hill

Deb as Mrs Elton

Deb and I certainly didn’t even approach such a question. Deb, as I said before was just happy to be Mrs Elton and of course Mrs Elton and Mr Elton walked away on their own at Frank Churchill’s question. I wonder what Mrs Elton thought about it?   Maybe Deb knows. As for my first suggestion to Deb to play Emma on the top of Box Hill; Emma is obviously an anti-hero. Neither Deb nor anybody else I have spoken to, would willingly be an Emma.

Geology:

Standing high on Box Hill you notice the thinness of the grass under your feet. You see flints sticking out of the pathways and white chalk is revealed in patches everywhere. Box Hill is a geological phenomenon. The cretaceous chalk that comprises Box Hill, was laid down as the microscopic calcareous bodies of plankton on the floor of a tropical sea between 100 and 65 million years ago. Globally chalk is a rare rock formation so it makes the North Downs, of which Box Hill is part, a unique geological area. Originally it was laid as a horizontal chalk platform of uniform thickness. During the period the Alps were formed, about 50 million years ago, upheavals in the Earth’s crust forced this chalk layer into a vast dome. The northern most edge was where the North Downs are now. The dome stretched over to France. The British Isles were joined to the mainland of Europe then. Chalk, being a porous and relatively soft rock, it has been eroded and worn down by the actions of water. All that remains are the North Downs stretching from Guildford in Surrey, just south of London into the northern part Kent and The South Downs stretching from a line formed by the Itchen River between Southampton and Winchester in the west to The Cliffs of Dover on the coast of Kent in the East.

 Box Hill Bridge, Dorking – by Alfred Charles Jerome Collins
image: Dorking Museum

On the steep chalk slopes of Box Hill, the 394 feet escarpment and on the sides of the surrounding valleys, downland plants flourish. Because chalk is porous it hardly ever dries out, even in drought conditions which might affect the surrounding landscape. This means plants always have a ready water supply. It is said that plants on chalk downland have a brighter richer colour because of this. Plants such as hawk weed rock rose, bird’s foot trefoil, milkwort, squinancywort and dwarf thistle all thrive in this environment. Box woodland, which is extremely ancient, grows on the steep chalky, thin soiled slopes. It is one of the only trees that will grow in these conditions. The escarpments and valley sides face southwards which means it is often a hot exposed environment. Box Hill derives its name from the box that grows on it. Box has been around since probably the end of the Ice Age and perhaps before that. The characteristics of chalk downland are unique to Box Hill’s geology. There are dry valleys cut into the north side of the hill. This is where the River Mole, which runs under the escarpment of Box Hill has cut its course in the past and where drainage streams and rivulets flowed into it, but because the rocks are porous any streams and rivulets that remain are no longer on the surface but underground. Chalk is easily eroded so it gives a gentle undulating quality to the general landscape. On the steep slopes there are patches of bare chalk and these can gleam white in the sunshine.

Chalk from the North Downs has been quarried in the past. Surrey County Council had a quarry at Brockham nearby to Box Hill. It was used to quarry chalk that could be burned in kilns to produce lime and cement. These quarries, many of them now abandoned have been left to regenerate, plants and wild life and some are now places of special scientific interest. The quarries, because they have sides cut into the chalk, show the structure of the chalk particularly well.

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep - Box HIll

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep – Box Hill

image: National Trust – Box Hill

Chalk Down land is a special type of grassland habitat that is actually man made. Over centuries, sheep and cattle have been grazed on them. This has deforested the downland to a certain extent allowed unique wild flowers and animals, only found on downland, to flourish. To keep Box Hill’s downland quality a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle are grazed on it. The sheep on Box hill are Black Welsh Mountain sheep. There are twenty eight sheep, which are moved around the hill on a rotation.  Because sheep are ‘nibblers’ they leave the grass short and even. There are also cattle, which graze very differently. Cows use their tongues to rip plants up, which leads to more tufted grassland. The breed used on Box Hill are called Belted Galloway cattle. They can be recognised by their fluffy black bodies with a thick white belt around their middles. Four males graze Box Hill and nearby Headley Heath is grazed by three males and nine females. The animals are moved around Box Hill all the time.  If it ceased to be a grassland habitat, trees and woodland would take over and cover it. This would occur through a natural process called succession. This downland supports a great diversity of invertebrates including fourty one species of rare butterflies. The soil is good for snails too. Snails require the calcium in the chalk to form shells.

Box Hill FortHistory:

Box Hill has a varied history. The old fort, that can still be seen at the top of Box Hill, was built in the 1890’s and is one of thirteen that were built across the North Downs, collectively known as the London Defence System.. They were to be the last defence of London if Britain was ever invaded. In the late 1890’s there was a treaty with France called the entente cordial but Germany was beginning to increase its strength and many of the stresses and strains that eventually lead to the first world war were beginning to stir. Previously, in the 1860’s, during Palmerstone’s premiership, many forts had also been built around the coast of Britain to defend from a perceived threat from France then. The forts on Box Hill and across the North Downs were never used. I have visited and actually stayed in one of the forts, the fort on The Hogsback just outside of Guildford. It is owned by Surrey County Council and is used for parties of school children to stay at to enable them to explore and study wildlife and local history. The fort on The Hogs back contained officers quarters just outside the ramparts of the fort and a barracks for a small contingent of soldiers inside. The forts were basically armouries for storing shells, and explosives. They comprised of strongly reinforced chambers with specially constructed shelving. The one on The Hogsback had a large area of flat land in front of it on which  artillery could be positioned if required. These forts were situated high on the downs,as much as  seven hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. The one on the top of Box Hill is dilapidated now and barred from entry. A rare breed of bats has lodged itself inside the fort and cannot be disturbed. To continue the military theme, there are stepping stones that cross the River Mole at the base of Box Hill. During the second world war they were removed to impede invading forces crossing the river. In the area you can also see examples of pill boxes, which were concrete bunkers installed with heavy machine guns and concrete tank traps. Interestingly at the top of Guildford High Street, next to the railway line cutting, hidden amongst dense trees, nowadays you can see a whole swathe of Second World War tank traps covered in ivy and moss.

Burford Hotel

Burford Hotel

Literary Connections:

JohnKeats1819_hires

John Keats in 1819, by Joseph Severn – wikipedia

Box Hill has inspired a number of classic authors, not just Jane Austen as I mentioned at the start. John Keats, Daniel Defoe, George Meredith and Robert Louis Stevenson all visited Box Hill. J. M Barrie used to sit on one of the slopes of Box Hill getting inspiration for Peter Pan.

The Romantic Movement, led by William Wordsworth, popularised communing with nature and Box Hill became a popular place to visit. John Keats completed his poem Endymion (1816) while staying at the Burford Hotel next to Box Hill. Its famous opening lines have inspired generations,

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us….”

John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived in the Swiss Cottage at the top of Box Hill. In the 1930’s he conducted his early experiments in television from the top to the valley below.

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird

The strangest individual connected with Box Hill is Major Peter Labelliere. He requested that he be buried upside down on the top of the hill. He believed that the world would go topsy-turvy and that one day he would be the right way up. His other dying wish was that youngest son and daughter of his land lady should dance on his coffin.

One thing you notice, as a driver, on Box Hill is when you descend, especially, winding along the switch back road on steep sided slopes and cliffs that the road surface has had strange, almost aboriginal markings painted on it. Here and there are the hoops of the Olympic movement. In 2012, The Olympics came to London. However, many events were not confined to the capital. The cycling road races were staged in the beautiful leafy, countryside of Surrey. Box Hill was the steepest part of the long distance cycling road race, hence the artistic markings that still adorn the road surface of the road..

On our way back to London, I drove Deb towards Kingston. We passed through an area called Malden Rushett, near the Chessington World of Adventures. There is a small industrial estate, farming land, a pub called The Blue Anchor and an extensive garden centre in Malden Rushett nowadays. The long straight road that passes through this area from Dorking to Kingston was a coaching road in the 18th century. Nothing apart from fields with cattle and maybe wheat growing would have existed there then. If you look on a map you can measure from Malden Rushett cross roads, seven miles to Box Hill, sixteen miles to London, twelve miles to Richmond and nine miles to Kingston – the exact distances from Highbury and Hartfield that Jane Austen reveals in Emma.   I mentioned this to Deb as we drove along. I think she was impressed.

the view we saw in the mist

the view we saw in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

The Esteemed Author

The Esteemed Author

All images c2014 Tony Grant unless otherwise noted.

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Quoting Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park ~ The Issue of Slavery and the Slave Trade

MP-VintageClassics2007-ebay

Over at Sarah Emsley’s blog tomorrow, I will be posting some thoughts on Mansfield Park and the issue of slavery by looking at Sir Thomas’s sentiments on the subject.  [This is now posted at Sarah’s blog: Jane Austen’s “dead silence” – or, How Guilty is Sir Thomas Bertram?]. Jane Austen gives us little to go on and there has been much conjecture as to Sir Thomas’s guilt as a slaver, as well as to Austen’s own sentiments about slavery and the slave trade.  As a starting place, we must begin with the text itself, and I compile here all the references to the slave trade, slavery, Antigua and the West Indies. Let me know if I have missed any – and please share your thoughts on what Austen may have been saying to her readers about slavery, a hotly-debated topic at the time of her writing Mansfield Park. Why does she introduce it into this novel?

[I include here a link to: “A Bibliography on Mansfield Park and the Issue of Slavery”: Bibliography – Mansfield Park and Slavery – Barnum ]

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Mansfield Park and Slavery:  specific references to the Slave Trade, Slavery, Antigua.

[Note: citations are to Chapman]

 

1. …as his [Sir Thomas’s] own circumstances were rendered less fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India Estate. [Narrator, 24]

2. “Why, you know Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened, if the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.” [Mrs. Norris to Lady Bertram who responds “Oh! that will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it, I know.” 30.]

SugarCanePlantation-USSlave

“Planting the sugar cane”
http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/05/antigua-and-barbuda.html

 

3.  Sir Thomas found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs… probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent. [Narrator, 32]

4. …the travellers’ safe arrival in Antigua after a favourable voyage. [Narrator, 34: with an account of Mrs. Norris’ hysteria.]

Map-Antigua-Davis

Map of Antigua (source: Gregson Davis article:
http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/bnccde/antigua/conference/papers/davis.html )

5. …unfavorable circumstances has suddenly arisen at a moment when he was beginning to turn all his thoughts towards England, and the very great uncertainly in which every thing was then involved… [Narrator, 38. Young Tom is sent home alone, Mrs. Norris’s hysterics again of “foreboding evil” and “dreadful sentiments.”]

6. Letters from Antigua… his business was so nearly concluded as to justify him in [returning home by November]… [Narrator, 107.]

 7. “…such an absence not only long, but including so many dangers.” [Edmund on his father in Antigua, to Mary Crawford, 108.]

 8.  Sir Thomas was to return in November, and his eldest son had duties to call him earlier home. [Narrator, 114.]

9.  “It would show a great want of feeling on my father’s account, absent as he is, and in some degree of constant danger….” [Edmund to all on acting, 125.] – and Tom responds [one of Austen’s funnier moments]: “.. for the expectation of his return must be a very anxious period to my mother… it is a very anxious period for her.” [Tom, 126.] – “…each looked towards their mother… just falling into a gentle doze…” !

10. “…I have been slaving myself till I can hardly stand…” [Mrs. Norris to Fanny, 166.]

MP-HMBrock-Norris-Mollands

Mrs. Norris by H. M. Brock [Mollands]

 11. …he was grown thinner and had the burnt, fagged, worn look of fatigue and a hot climate… [Narrator giving us Fanny’s thoughts on first seeing Sir Thomas, 178.]

 12.  His business in Antigua had latterly been prosperously rapid, and he came directly from Liverpool… [Narrator recounting Sir Thomas’ travel, 1787.]

13. …the alarm of a French privateer… [Narrator continuing Sir Thomas’ telling of his travels – such a vessel would have been armed, 180.]

FrenchPrivateer-Confiance_Kent_fight-wp

 [East Indiaman HMS Kent battling Confiance, a privateer vessel commanded by French corsair Robert Surcouf in October 1800, as depicted in a painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray – Wikipedia]

14. “I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together…” [Fanny to Edmund, 197.]

15. “But I do talk to him more that is used. I am sure I do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?”  [Fanny to Edmund, 198.]

“I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.” [Edmund to Fanny]

“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like – I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel.” [Fanny, 198. Edmund you will notice proceeds to only talk of Mary Crawford…]

SlaveShipDiagram-1790-wp

Slave ship diagram-1790-wikipedia

16. “…He [Edmund] knows that human nature needs more lessons that a weekly sermon can convey, and that if he does not live among his parishioners and prove himself by constant attention their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own.” [Sir Thomas to Henry Crawford and Edmund, 198.]

17. Sir Thomas …prolonged the conversation on dancing in general, and was so well engaged describing the balls of Antigua… [Narrator, 251.]

MP-CEBrocok-William--Mollands

Sir Thomas talking with William and Fanny, by C. E. Brock [Mollands]

18. ‘Advice’ was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power… shewing her persuadableness. [Narrator on Sir Thomas thoughts on sending Fanny to bed, 280.]

MP-CEBrock-SirT-Mollands

“Am I to understand,” said Sir Thomas, “that you mean to refuse Mr. Crawford?” ~ Vol. III, Ch. I [C. E.  Brock – Mollands]

 19.  The Narrator’s words describing Fanny’s feelings about a marriage to Henry: revolt, painful alarm, terror, formidable threat, sudden attack, misery, wretched feelings, aching heart, distressing evil. [Narrator, 357ff.]

20.  But he [Sir Thomas] was master at Mansfield Park. [Narrator, 370.]

 21. Henry Crawford as an absentee landlord at Everingham, with an “agent of some underhand dealing.” [Narrator on Fanny’s thoughts about Henry going to his estate, 404.]

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Quotes from other works:

Emma: this very telling dialogue between Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton [Vol. II, Ch. 17, p. 300-01)

Emma1996-Elton-Fairfax

 Emma 1996– Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton
source: Austen Efforts blog

When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long unemployed. There are places in town, offices, where inquiry would soon produce something — offices for the sale, not quite of human flesh, but of human intellect.”

    “Oh! my dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave-trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather a friend to the abolition.”

    “I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade,” replied Jane; “governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly, as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies.”

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Persuasion: we have Captain Wentworth in the West Indies and Santa Domingo; Mrs. Croft in the East Indies and Bermuda and Bahama; Mrs. Smith has an Estate in the West Indies.

P-CEBrock-AdmiralBaldwin-Mollands

  “So wretched an example of what a sea-faring life can do” ~ Vol. I, Ch. III – C. E. Brock [Mollands]

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Sanditon: we have the wealthy Miss Lambe, a mulatto, briefly mentioned: “A Miss Lambe too! A young West Indian of large fortune…” – and whatever Jane Austen intended for her, we cannot know…

book cover - sanditon

Your thoughts?

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont