A Postscript to Syrie James’ Jane Austen’s First Love ~ Guest Post by Ron Dunning

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie JamesSyrie James’s new work, Jane Austen’s First Love, tells the tale of one Edward Taylor as a possible first love, pre-Tom Lefroy, for Jane Austen. It is fiction, but there is too much truth in the story, based largely on the few comments Austen made in letters to her sister Cassandra and James’ in-depth research into Taylor’s life, to have us shelve this book as merely a pretty fiction.

You can read Syrie’s post about it here at Jane Austen in Vermont and on various other blogs [see the full list here]

Syrie also wrote in more detail about Edward Taylor here: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/12/edward-taylor-of-bifrons-jane-austens.htmlRon Dunning, of Jane Austen genealogy fame, on reading about Syrie’s book, did some research into this Edward Taylor and has found some amazing connections to Jane Austen’s family – you will see that though Jane may not have had Edward Taylor for herself, future generations saw the Austen and Taylor families very much entwined… so here is Ron to tell us all about it. And thank you Ron for sharing this with us!

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A Postscript to Jane Austen’s First Love, by Ronald Dunning

Jane Austen may have been unlucky in her love for Edward Taylor, but four members of his family were more receptive to the attentions of hers. It can be illustrated in a drop-chart of the descendants of Edward Taylor’s parents, Edward Taylor the elder, and Margaret Taylor, to be found on the following link [and see below for an abbreviated version so you can follow the generations]: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=janeausten&id=I17370

BifronsParkKent

Bifrons Park, Kent

The number given to each person indicates the level of descent, with the elder Edward and Margaret in the first position. Their daughter Charlotte [JA’s Edward Taylor’s sister] married the Rev. Edward Northey, a Canon of Windsor, and two of that couple’s daughters married sons of Edward (Austen) Knight.

I.  The first, Charlotte Northey, married Henry Knight [son of JA’s brother Edward], after his first wife, Sophia Cage, had died. Poor Charlotte had a very short married life too, dying three years later. Their one daughter, Agnes Charlotte Knight, married Narborough Hughes D’Aeth. Agnes had the good fortune that her mother lacked, and lived a long life of ninety years, during which she bore at least thirteen children.

Rev Edward Northey

Rev Edward Northey

[you can read about the Northey family here]

The surname D’Aeth is pronounced Death by the family. I’m told that during the Second World War a Commander D’Aeth of the Royal Navy was promoted to Captain, but his men refused to serve under a Captain Death – so he felt it was best to change his surname. [One plug, if I may – the names Narborough and Cloudesley were given to many boys born to the D’Aeth family, and the reason is interesting. I wrote about it in an article, to be found here: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/articles/longitude.html]

II.  Returning to the chart, Charlotte Northey’s sister, Mary Northey, married Henry Knight’s brother, the Rev. William Knight. Mary was, like her sister, a second wife, and more than twenty years younger than William. She became the step-mother to his eight children, and bore three daughters of her own, those on the chart. Unfortunately she too was visited by tragedy – the daughters, aged between two and five, all died within a week of one another, from smallpox.

III.  There were two further connections, both among the descendants of Jane Austen’s fondly-doted-upon Edward Taylor. (Edward is half-way down the chart, the second person with the generational number 2.) His great-granddaughter Dorothy Mary Deedes (generation 5) married Lionel Charles Edward Knight, a great-grandson of JA’s brother Edward Austen Knight. Fortunately, there is no need to report a family tragedy here, since she lived into ripe old age.

IV.  The fourth connection is less obvious – still a descendant of the younger Edward Taylor, but not a person who married a Knight. Nevertheless she brings the story full circle. Dorothy Mary Deedes’s brother, Herbert William Deedes [so Edward Taylor’s great-grandson, but also the great-great-nephew of Edward Austen Knight’s wife Elizabeth Bridges – confused enough now??], had a daughter who is simply identified in the chart as ‘Living Deedes,’ because she is still living. She is the dowager Lady FitzWalter of Goodnestone Park – whence Lady Bridges wrote to announce the betrothal of her daughters, one of them her daughter Elizabeth who married Edward Austen Knight! [see Syrie’s post here on Lady Bridges’ letters] Goodnestone in Austens Day With the Austen pedigree, where one story ends, another begins – Lord and Lady FitzWalter were cousins, both descended from the Bridges. But let’s leave it for another time …

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Thank you Ron for this! – I append here a portion of the genealogy chart that shows these connections – please visit Ron’s genealogy page http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=janeausten&id=I17370  for the full chart and links from each name – it is all quite daunting, and why I am showing here only the names that connect Taylor and Jane Austen!

The Edward Taylor Sr Genealogy:

1 Edward TAYLOR of Bifrons; Rector of Patrixbourne b: 26 AUG 1734 [JA’s Edward Taylor’s father]

+ Margaret TAYLOR (LATER PAYLER) b: ABT 1743 d: 27 APR 1780    

2 Charlotte TAYLOR d: 19 FEB 1837 [Edward Taylor’s daughter]

+ Edward NORTHEY MA, Canon of Windsor b: 22 OCT 1754 d: 18 FEB 1828        

3 Charlotte NORTHEY d: 28 JUN 1839 [Edward Taylor’s grand-daughter]

+ Henry KNIGHT b: 27 MAY 1797 d: 1843 [son of Edward Austen Knight, JA’s brother]

4 Agnes Charlotte KNIGHT b: 1837 d: 1927 + Narborough Hughes D’AETH of Knowlton Court, Kent; JP, DL, MA b: ABT 1821 d: 1886

5 Lewis Narborough Hughes D’AETH b: 13 MAR 1858 d: 21 OCT 1920

+ Eleanor Frances SNEYD b: ABT 1866         

3 Mary NORTHEY b: ABT 1820 d: 07 DEC 1854 [Edward Taylor’s grand-daughter]

+ William KNIGHT Rector of Steventon b: 10 OCT 1798 d: 05 DEC 1873 [son of Edward Austen Knight, JA’s brother]

4 Mary Agnes KNIGHT b: 1843 d: 15 JUN 1848

4 Cecilia KNIGHT b: 1844 d: 09 JUN 1848 4 Augusta KNIGHT b: 1845 d: 09 JUN 1848

Edward Taylor   2 Edward TAYLOR Esq., of Bifrons, co. Kent; MP for Canterbury (1807-1812) b: 24 JUN 1774 d: 22 JUN 1843 [this is JA’s Edward Taylor, brother to Charlotte Taylor – her daughters Charlotte and Mary each married Jane Austen’s nephews Henry and William as shown above]

+ Louisa BECKINGHAM

3 Emily Octavia TAYLOR

+ William DEEDES of Sandling Park, co. Kent; JP, DL, MP for East Kent b: 17 OCT 1796 d: 30 NOV 1862

4 Louisa DEEDES
4 Emily DEEDES
4 Mary DEEDES
4 William DEEDES b: 11 OCT 1834

4 Herbert George DEEDES King’s Royal Rifle Corps; of Saltwood Castle b: 28 SEP 1836 d: 05 MAY 1891
+ Rose Elinor BARROW   

5 Dorothy Mary DEEDES [great-grand-daughter of Edward Taylor]

+ Lionel Charles Edward KNIGHT b: 13 NOV 1872 d: 29 JAN 1931 [great-grandson of Edward Austen Knight, Jane Austen’s brother]

6 Elizabeth Margaret KNIGHT b: 12 MAY 1909 d: 1996
+ Ian Charles Rose ROSE d: 11 DEC 1962

5 Herbert William DEEDES of Galt, Hythe, co. Kent, and formerly of Sandling Castle and Saltwood Castle
+ Melesina Gladys CHENEVIX-TRENCH JP b: 11 SEP 1884 d: 16 JAN 1966

6 William Francis DEEDES Lord Deedes of Aldington (Kent); Editor of the Daily Telegraph b: 1913 d: 2006     

6 Living DEEDES [dowager Lady FitzWalter of Goodnestone Park]
+ FitzWalter Brook PLUMPTRE 21st Baron FitzWalter b: 15 JAN 1914 d: 14 OCT 2004

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Is your head spinning yet??! If you have questions, please ask away – and any comments on Syrie’s original post will qualify you for the Grand Giveaway – deadline is tonight December 21 at 11:59pm. And just to make your head continue in its spin, here is a portrait of “The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park,” by John Closterman, 1696? [from the National Portrait Gallery] – one of these boys is presumably Jane’s own Edward Taylor’s grandfather Herbert Taylor [though he seems to have been born in 1698, so perhaps the dating of the portrait is off?  – more questions to ponder!]

 

NPG 5320; The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park by John Closterman

2014 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

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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

What Jane Knew ~ A 1329 Darcy – De Bourgh Marriage in Jane Austen’s Family Tree

Enquiring Readers: Ron Dunning has previously posted here at Jane Austen in Vermont about his invaluable Jane Austen genealogy website. As he continues to research the connections, he is discovering amazing coincidences and some very familiar names.  Today he gives some insight into a marriage that took place between a Darcy and a de Burgh in 1329 and speculates on whether Jane Austen could possibly have known about this…

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jane-austen-frontispiece-1870

What Jane Might Well Have Known, and What She Couldn’t Possibly Have Known, About Her Ancestors

I’m against making any assumption based on slim evidence, but I’m about to make two; first of all, concerning a great coincidence about which Jane can’t have known anything. In 1329 a marriage took place between John Darcy, 1st Lord Darcy of Knaith, and Joan de Burgh. (The spelling doesn’t matter – even up to the 18th century spellings hadn’t been fully standardised.) Joan’s father Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, was a direct ancestor of Mrs Austen through her brother John.

Last summer when my Akin to Jane [ www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk ] website was launched one or two people, with admirable perseverance, trawled through my separate family tree [ http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janeausten ] and on discovering this marriage, insisted that Jane must have known. I was never in any doubt that she couldn’t possibly have known. This was also the opinion of the only other person who has studied the Austen pedigree extensively, Anielka Briggs.

Dugdale Baronage - Skinnerinc.com

Dugdale Baronage – Skinnerinc.com

While Baronetages were readily available in the late 1700s, the dignity having been created only in 1611, there were very few studies of the Peerage and all of those were very primitive. William Dugdale’s Baronage of England of 1675 covered only England. (Remember that Joan’s father John de Burgh was the Earl of Ulster; the marriage in question is said to have taken place in County Kildare.)

The Rev. Barlow’s Complete English Peerage was printed in 1772, so might just have been in George Austen’s library, but again deals just with English peerages. Another possibility, Arthur Collins’s Peerage series*, was first published in 1709, with reprints every few years and frequent new editions. Even he appears not to have included Irish peerages, and in the eight editions that I was able to search, not a single de Burgh featured in the indexes.

Barlow Peerage - Open Library

Barlow Peerage – Open Library

A further obstacle in the way of Jane’s knowing (or for that matter anyone at the time) is that there was no direct male descent from the de Burghs to the Austens – the surname soon disappeared from Jane’s pedigree, through a series of female links. Traditional pedigrees concentrate on the direct male line.

However, John Darcy did himself play a role in the Austen pedigree – he was a many-greats-grandfather of Charles Austen’s wives, the sisters Frances and Harriet Palmer. John and his first wife, Emmeline Heron, were the ancestors of four generations of male Darcys; Elizabeth Darcy, in the fifth generation, married James Strangeways; and that surname continued down to the Palmer girls’ paternal grandmother, Dorothy Strangeways. In Charles’s children, the Darcy and the de Burgh lines were finally united.

My second assumption concerns what Jane might well have known. Janine Barchas, in her Matters of Fact in Jane Austen, speculates that she, in choosing the names of Darcy, Wentworth, Woodhouse, FitzWilliam, Tilney, etc., was alluding “to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates.” In the words of Juliet McMaster in the blurb, she was “a confirmed name dropper who subtly manipulates the celebrity culture of her day.” On page 118 Janine Barchas wrote, “Cassandra Willoughby (…) the supposed ancestor of Mrs Austen.”  Yes – she’s almost got it.  Cassandra was Mrs Austen’s 1st cousin, twice removed.

book-cover-barchas-matters

I think that Jane may well have known about the family relationship and its relevance. Cassandra’s mother Emma (Willoughby and then Child, née Barnard) was Cassandra Leigh’s great-great-aunt; it was Emma’s sister Elizabeth (Brydges, née Barnard) who was her great-grandmother.  Elizabeth was also the mother of James Bridges, the Duke of Chandos, who married Cassandra Willoughby – the two were cousins. Emma’s first husband was the noted naturalist, Francis Willoughby; after his death she remarried, to Sir Josiah Child – supreme governor of the East India Company, an early monetarist, and a rapaciously wealthy financier to 17th century royalty.  Emma and Sir Josiah’s son Richard Child became the Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, and one of his great-granddaughters was Catherine Tylney-Long.

Barchas speculates that Jane, in naming her Catherine Tilney, had this other Catherine in mind. This lady had inherited a vast estate and fortune in 1794 at the age of 5, and at 18 was reputedly the richest commoner in England. Catherine Tylney was Jane Austen’s 4th cousin.  Very few of us have any idea about our fourth cousins, but based on the following circumstantial evidence, I suspect that Jane did know that they were distantly related.

Catherine Tylney-Long - Wanstead House

Catherine Tylney-Long – Wanstead House

Wanstead House

Wanstead House

[Image: Wanstead House ]

Mrs. Austen

Mrs. Austen

There is a strong tradition in the Warwickshire village of Middleton, the seat of Francis Willoughby, that Jane visited there on the trip to Staffordshire in 1806 with her mother and sister. Middleton certainly lies in a direct line, as the crow flies, from their stop at Stoneleigh to Hamstall Ridware, where her cousin was the Rector. If they did visit, it may have been because Mrs Austen knew of the family relationship – she was certainly considered to have been proud of her aristocratic ancestors. The Austens preserved a letter written by Elizabeth Brydges in the 1680s from Constantinople, giving advice to her daughter who had been left behind; I think it likely that she’d have known about Elizabeth’s sister Emma’s illustrious marriages, and have told her daughters.

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Thank you Ron! for all this information [my head is spinning!] – I do wonder what Lady C might say to all this – would she be concerned about the “Shades of Pemberly [being] thus polluted” by any of these illustrious ancestors?

If you have questions for Ron, please comment below.

Ed. Note: * Collins Peerage:

Collins Peerage - 1812 ed.

Collins Peerage – 1812 ed.

Just again to prove once again that all roads lead back to Jane Austen, it is interesting here to note that Egerton Brydges edited this 1812 edition of the Collins Peerage – this is Jane Austen’s very own Mr. Brydges, brother to her friend Madame Lefroy. Austen makes much of his novel Arthur Fitz-Albini (1798) in her letter of 25 November 1798:

We have got Fitz-Albini; my father has brought it against my private wishes, for it does not quite satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed. That these scruples, however do not at all interfere with my reading it, you will easily believe. We have neither of us yet finished the first volume. My father is disappointed – I am not, for I expected nothing better. Never did any book carry more internal evidence of its author. Every sentiment is completely Egerton’s. There is very little story, and what there is [is] told in a strange unconnected way. There are many characters introduced, apparently merely to be delineated. We have not been able to recognize any of them hitherto except Dr and Mrs Hey and Mr. Oxenden, who is not very tenderly treated…. [Letters, No. 12]

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Further reading:

1.  Ron Dunning’s Jane Austen websites:

2.  Janine Barchas links:

3. History of Catherine Tylney-Long at Wanstead Park website: http://www.wansteadpark.org.uk/hist/the-owners-of-wanstead-park-part-10-1784-1825/

4.  Wanstead Wildlife.org [information and above image]: http://www.wansteadwildlife.org.uk/index.php/home/list-of-people?id=101

5. William Dugdale Baronage [above image]: https://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2526B/lots/212

6. Frederic Barlow. Complete English Peerage (London, 1775): [complete text and above image]: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL24241621M/The_complete_English_peerage

7. Collins’s Peerage of England: [complete text and above image]: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL7054900M/Collins’s_peerage_of_England_genealogical_biographical_and_historical.

8. A nice introduction to Charles Austen at Austenprose.

  c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Spencer, and Canonbury Tower ~ Guest post by Ron Dunning

Enquiring Readers: Last week I had posted a comment about Macbeth during the hoopla about Richard III; Ron Dunning [of the Jane Austen Family Tree fame] and I have been in communication since about how everything it seems comes back to Jane Austen, further evidenced by a recent tour he took of Canonbury Tower…. read on for yet another connection to Jane Austen!

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Canonbury on the map: Londontown.com

Canonbury on the map: Londontown.com

Our esteemed [blush…] blogiste and editrix remarked a few days ago, in reference to the fact that Macbeth’s victim Duncan I was an ancestor of Jane Austen, that “ALL in life that one thinks or does comes back to Jane Austen”.  It’s true – it does.  Earlier in the week, I went on a guided tour of Canonbury Tower, in the Islington area of London, with my accomplice in exploration, Catherine Delors. [Ed. note: Catherine is the much moreso esteemed historical novelist who blogs at Versailles and More].  For all we knew, it would be no more than a fascinating view of one of London’s few remaining precious Tudor residences, little suspecting that there would turn out to be an Austen connection.

Canonbury_Tower wp

Canonbury Tower – wikipedia

Canonbury was a Saxon manor, and after 1066 was awarded by William the Conqueror to the de Berners family.  It was only a brief horse ride from the centre of London, and even walkable, so it became the residence of various abbots and other dignitaries.  In the late 1500’s the manor was owned by Sir John Spencer (d. 1610), a very wealthy merchant and sometime Lord Mayor of London – who had a pretty young daughter, Elizabeth.More to the point, she was worth £40,000 on her marriage – some five million pounds today.  Her father had promised her to several men, in consideration of the usual dynastic criteria, but she met and fell in love with the spendthrift William Compton, Lord Compton (and later to become Earl of Northampton, d. 1630).  John Spencer was vehemently opposed to this match, not least because William owed him money.  She managed somehow to elope with William, one version of the story claiming that he disguised himself as a baker’s boy and smuggled Elizabeth out of the house in a blanket.

John Spencer refused to be reconciled to this marriage, until Queen Elizabeth intervened.  When he and his wife died intestate (not without suspicions of subterfuge on that score), William and Elizabeth inherited the entire estate, then valued at between £300,000 and £800,000.  William immediately spent over £70,000 on horses and gambling, and it appears that Elizabeth had no qualms about spending money, either.

spencer,elizabeth(effigy)

Elizabeth Spencer: effigy on her parents’ tomb in St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.
[Image: “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women” – a fabulous site!]

So far, I haven’t told you what the Austen connection was.  I knew that William and Elizabeth were in my Austen database but with 13,500 people in it, I couldn’t remember their connection.  Checking when I got home I realized that they were ancestors of Adela Portal, the wife of Edward Knight (the younger), Jane’s nephew.  Among others, the current doyenne of the Austen family, Diana Shervington, is a descendant of that line.

There is a further literary connection, in that William and Elizabeth were also the ancestors of Vita Sackville-West.  The time has long since passed when I was surprised that almost anyone that you could name was connected with the Austens, but the particular individuals and their stories continue to fascinate!

Ron Dunning outside Canonbury Tower

Ron Dunning outside Canonbury Tower

[image: c2013, Catherine Delors]

Catherine Delors

Catherine Delors

Wish I had been there with the two of you! Thank you Ron for your continued insights on all things in the Austen family!

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Further reading: the problem with these sort of postings is that one can spend an inordinate amount of time researching all these new connections! – here are a few places to start, Elizabeth Spencer having quite the interesting story!

Canonbury-tower - Hone

Interesting bits:

  • Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, lived in Canonbury Tower from 1533. His residency ended abruptly in 1540 when he was beheaded by King Henry VIII. Cromwell has been the subject of Hilary Mantel’s critically-acclaimed Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.
  •  Sir Francis Bacon, King James I’s Lord Chancellor, lived in Canonbury Tower, 1616-1626.
  • Charles Dickens set one of his Christmas stories in Canonbury Tower, titled The Lamplighter: you can read it here.

Compton room-canonbury

Chimney-piece and panelling in the Compton Oak Room, late 16th-century. Image: ‘Plate 102: Islington: Canonbury Tower’,
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London,
Volume 2: West London (1925), pp. 102. British History Online.

And finally, and again from the William Hone (1780-1842) archive:

Those who have been before and not lately, will view “improvement” rapidly devastating the forms of nature around this once delightful spot; others who have not visited it at all may be amazed at the extensive prospects; and none who see the “goings on” and “ponder well,” will be able to foretell whether Mr. Symes [the resident when Hone visited] or the tower will enjoy benefit of survivorship.

To Canonbury Tower

As some old, stout, and lonely holyhock,
Within a desolate neglected garden,
Doth long survive beneath the gradual choke
Of weeds, that come and work the general spoil;
So, Canonbury, thou dost stand awhile:
Yet fall at last thou must; for thy rich warden
Is fast “improving;” all thy pleasant fields
Have fled, and brick-kilns, bricks, and houses rise
At his command; the air no longer yields
A fragrance—scarcely health; the very skies
Grow dim and townlike; a cold, creeping gloom
Steals into thee, and saddens every room:
And so realities come unto me,
Clouding the chambers of my mind,
and making me—like thee.

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And so here we are almost 200 years later, still visiting Canonbury Tower!

Ron at window

[Image: c2013, Catherine Delors]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

An Interview with Ron Dunning on his Jane Austen Genealogy ~ The New and Improved Jane Austen Family Tree!

Some of you may be familiar already with the Ancestry.com Jane Austen Family Tree created by Ronald Dunning.  It is quite the amazing compilation of ancestors and descendants of “Dear Aunt Jane” – a resource for Austen fans and scholars alike the world over.

So we are happy to announce that Mr. Dunning has continued with his Austen genealogical work and his new and improved website is to be “unveiled” at the Jane Austen Society meeting tomorrow (21 July 2012) at the Chawton House Library [an article about the history of the website will appear in the next JAS Report] – details of the meeting are here: http://www.janeaustensoci.freeuk.com/pages/AGM_details.htm.

The link to the new website is here: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/  where you will find new content, the complete transcribed text of the manuscript of Akin to Jane, and links to the original RootsWeb site noted above [see below for information on how best to access the data.]

Ron has been very kind to answer a few of my questions about how and why he took on this monumental research project, so hope you enjoy learning more about it – then you must take some time to search the database – it is great fun to poke around in when you might have an extra minute or two on any given day – you might even find that somewhere deep in the listings some of your very own relatives share a connection to Jane!

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A hearty welcome to you Ron – with thanks for sharing with us the history of your website!

JAIV:  What prompted you to get involved with this Austen family research project to begin with? 

RD:  I grew up in Toronto, a city, and a wonderful city it is, whose civilised history only goes back for two centuries. All of my grandparents were English, but the thought of having interesting ancestors would have seemed too ridiculous to entertain. My paternal grandmother was the sort who wrote regularly to every English member of her and my grandfather’s families, and was always nattering about their current situations. In 1972, aged 25, I left Toronto to find work as a classical musician, and the idea of going to England, where there would be a ready-made family, was deeply appealing. Just before my departure, my grandmother told me that we had some sort of connection with the Austens, though she didn’t know what.

We must have been almost the only branch of descendants who’d lost sight of it!  I was pleased to be able to tell her, before she died, that Frank Austen [Jane’s brother] was her great-great-grandfather.  It was difficult to get much further back than that in the 1970s, so I gave up the search to get on with work, and to raise my own brace of descendants. In 1998 my wife bought a computer for our kids and, Luddite that I am, I grumbled and scowled in the background – till I thought that I might just see what it’s like.

I was soon drawn back to family history. The kids were old enough that they preferred neglect to parental attention, though we did meet occasionally to fight over whose turn it was to use the computer. At the time I thought that it would stand to reason that the Austen genealogy had been exhausted, so for the next five years I worked through the seven non-Austen great-grandparents’ lines, and just copied the charts in the backs of Jane Austen biographies.

When that was thoroughly exhausted I was addicted, and needed a fix! Simultaneously it became evident that the authors of the biographies had all copied the family charts from one another, and there was a lot further to go.  In particular they mainly recorded the male lines, dishonouring the women. I’ve found that not just Cassandra Leigh but George Austen too had eminent ancestors, which means that their records go back, potentially, to the beginning of recorded history.

Now I have a lifetime’s supply of fixes, and in retirement, a full time job.  Do not call it a hobby.  And don’t say that I’m obsessed. Oh well, all right, perhaps I am. This study means a lot more to me than just a growing collection of names – it makes me feel organically connected, not just to the Austen family (and I don’t feel at all proprietorial about Jane) but to the whole of English history.

JAIV: Tell us something about Joan Corder and her manuscript, Akin to Jane – how and when and where did you first come upon it – what a find! – and why did she not publish her research? 

RD:  Joan Corder was born and lived through her life in the English county of Suffolk. She served as a young woman, during World War 2, in intelligence as a plotter, then moved back home to look after her widowed mother. She didn’t marry. Over the course of her life she became a distinguished herald and genealogist; Akin to Jane was her first big project.

It was to her enduring disappointment that she couldn’t interest a publisher – so only two copies of the manuscript were made. One was presented to the Jane Austen Society and can be seen at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, where it has been, presumably, consulted by most if not all of Jane Austen’s later biographers.

With use, the manuscript has become increasingly fragile; people still visit the Museum to inspect it. My Austen cousin Patrick Stokes scanned the work to help preserve it for posterity, and it’s his scans that are displayed on the website. The museum curator is pleased that she can now refer interested parties to the web, and retire the original.

[Ron says on the website: “I would like to acknowledge and thank my Austen cousin, Patrick Stokes, who first brought the manuscript of Akin to Jane to my attention, and gave me a copy.”]

Joan Corder

 

JAIV:  What, of all the discoveries in your research, surprised you the most?

RD:  So many discoveries! They constantly amaze, but no longer surprise.  I’ve been making a list, and intend to write articles about them. Here is a sample and though many of them seem improbable, they are all true.

Direct Ancestors

1.  William IX, Duke of Aquitaine.  William was a leader of the 1101 Crusade.  He is best known today as the earliest troubadour – a vernacular lyric poet in the Occitan language – whose work has survived.  Grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Jane Austen’s 19th-great-grandfather.
2.  Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales. Shakespeare’s Owen Glendower. Jane’s 13th-great-grandfather.

Owain Glyndwr – the BBC

3. John King, Bishop of London, from 1611 (the year of the King James Bible) to 1621. John King ordained John Donne. Jane’s  4th-great-grandfather.

John King, Bishop of London (1611-1621)

4.  Faith Coghill, the wife of Sir Christopher Wren. The  1st cousin once removed of George Austen.

5. Lizzie Throckmorton, the wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. A distant cousin of Cassandra Leigh.

Elizabeth Throckmorton

[image from Peerage.com]

6.  Katherine Leigh, the wife of Robert Catesby, the Gunpowder plotter, another distant cousin.

7.  Both of Jane’s parents were descended from royalty. Cassandra was descended from John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III, so every previous English king, back to William the Conqueror, and some beyond, was her ancestor.  For George we have to go back two generations further, to Edward I.

8.  Some Scottish royalty – the real-life Duncan I of Scotland who was either murdered by his cousin, the real-life Macbeth, or killed in battle against him.  Macbeth, as we know, succeeded him as King.  Duncan was Jane’s 21st-great-grandfather.

9.  By the way, we all know from Jane’s juvenilia that she “preferred” Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Elizabeth. Well – not only was she related to both, but in Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers she is quoted favourably comparing her brother Frank with Queen Elizabeth.

Cassandra Austen’s Mary Queen of Scots – The History of England


JAIV:  This is all wonderful! 
But I must ask, any real gossip – things hidden for generations?

RD:  Ooh – I’d be banished from the family if I revealed any of those!

JAIV: Oh, but the story of Elizabeth and Herbert is quite an interesting one! All hidden from the family and worthy of a Victorian novel! –  or at least akin to the writers of Victorian novels, as the lives of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins can attest! [see below for the link!]

JAIV:  Where do you go from here? 

RD:  I began the web project thinking that I would be producing a revision of Akin to Jane , but it eventually became obvious that the plan was unworkable. I want the reader to be drawn to my research, and not to think that Joan Corder’s work was the end of it. She managed to record a little over 300 of George and Cassandra Austen’s descendants, and gave ancestors no attention. My genealogical database contains more than 1200 descendants – that is, another 900 – and another ten thousand people, who include ancestors, collateral families, and families of social connections. The address of that, by the way, is http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janeausten.

There is a link beneath each individual in Akin to Jane to that database, but in the long run I plan to organise things better. I’ll spend next winter learning the html to create a proper design (you won’t know it, but the current one is improper), and intend to do wondrous things with a sidebar. That will take care of technicalities. I have only just begun thinking beyond the current content, and have decided that I will add more original family history source material. I believe that one can jinx plans by talking about them too soon, so I’ll do that when I know that the material can be used.

JAIV:  Is there a book in the works?

RD: I’m sorry. No book. Articles, yes. Though I’ve really enjoyed building the Jane Austen’s Family website, it has absorbed an immense amount of time – time taken away from research, my first love.

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

Thank you Ron for joining us here today! [well, really you are at the JAS meeting at the Chawton House Library, and I am here in Vermont, but we can pretend, can’t we?] – it has been delightful getting to know you via emails! and I very much appreciate you sharing all this with us. What a gift of research you have given the Jane Austen world…

Now Dear Readers, it is time for you to journey through these ancestry files, both those of Joan Corder’s Akin to Jane manuscript, now transcribed for all to see on the website, as well as the expanded genealogical research at the Ancestry.com site that Ron has lovingly put together over these past how many years?!   Ron makes it clear that this is still a work in progress [isn’t everything?] and he will continue to make changes to the set-up and continuously add content.  But it is best to just dive in and see all that is there – [as an aside, so please forgive the intrusion, I must say that I put in several of my family names (both my parents were born in England, so I knew there was a chance of some connection somewhere), and find that the mother of Sir Christopher Wren has my maiden name, and his wife, mentioned above [Faith Coghill] was a direct cousin to George Austen! – now I have some serious sleuthing to do to find the exact connection – but I have been quite annoying to friends and family these past few days since my discovery – and not sure in any given minute whether to sit down and write a Novel, or get out my drafting table and design a Cathedral – this genealogy stuff can be quite daunting!]

So back to the matter at hand – let’s head into the Austen genealogy: to begin, go first to the main page: where you will see these links:

1. Akin to Jane – Joan Corder’s original and transcribed manuscript – click on this and you will find these links:

Akin to Jane title page

  • Jane Austen’s Family– Index of Names, and Lists: Corder’s notes on the Austen family, indexed by Austen family members, all surnames of the extended family – you will find links to:

1.  Jane’s family and their descendants: George and Cassandra Austen; James Austen; George Austen; Edward Austen, later Knight; Henry Thomas Austen; Cassandra Elizabeth Austen; Francis William Austen; Jane Austen; and Charles John Austen

2.  Index of people by surname: Austen Family; Austen-Leigh; Bradford, Hill and Hubback; Knatchbull; Knight; Lefroy and Purvis; and Rice

  • Highlights page – oh! much here and much more to be added:

“There is good reason for the general reader to delve into this manuscript. One of Joan Corder’s informants, Miss Marcia Rice, who was 84 in 1954 when the work was written, was the granddaughter of Edward Knight’s daughter Elizabeth, and her husband Edward Royd Rice. Miss Rice wrote extensive memoirs of her family, which Joan Corder copied. Her recollections of her distant childhood were refracted through the most rosy of tinted spectacles; few could read those for her grandmother without needing the discreet use of a tissue. Here is a direct link to Elizabeth.

Please don’t stop with Elizabeth – Miss Rice didn’t. She left a wonderful record immortalising her entire Rice family, from aunts who could be quirky or intellectual, to uncles who could be courageous or reckless. For many of them there are links in the text to portraits. Be sure not to neglect reading Miss Rice’s personal memories, on page 115; and those following, on her great-aunt Marianne Knight.” –

  • Heraldry – Eleven Coats of Arms: these are worthy of a website all their own!

Austen Coat-of-Arms

  • Joan Corder – author of Akin to Jane: information on the author of the original family tree.
  • Author’s and Editor’s Notes: notes from both Corder and Dunning with explanations on how to use the Akin to Jane database and links to Dunning’s Roots Web database.
  • Contact Me – Ronald Dunning: he would love to hear from you!

Ron Dunning

2.  Recent Research – Ron’s explanation of his research that continues that of what is in Akin to Jane at the Jane Austen Family Tree website at RootsWeb:
http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=janeausten

3.   Articles – there are three articles now, more to be added:

  • “An Unconventional Love Match”
  • “The Last Welsh Prince of Wales – Jane Austen’s Welsh Ancestry”
  • “Latitude and Longitude”

Be sure to read all the extra links – these often explain the contents and how the database works; and do not miss all the illustrations that appear throughout the website:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/akin-to-jane/text/illustrations-and-portraits.html

Vice Admiral Francis William Austen

Now the fun part: you really do need to explore – but I shall give you this start – the wonderful story noted on the “Highlights Page” above of Elizabeth Austen [later Knight], daughter of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, from her grand-daughter Marcia Alice Rice, as written for Joan Corder in 1953:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/akin-to-jane/text/edward/051a.html

 Image of Elizabeth Austen-Knight Rice and her husband Edward Royd Rice

and then this quite romantic tale that I mentioned above of another Elizabeth and her husband Herbert: Herbert was the last child of Fanny Catherine Austen Knight Knatchbull (Jane Austen’s favorite niece – quite the mouthful! – and later on they added Hugessen to the name!) –  here we have a tale of a secret marriage, he and his wife Elizabeth living under an assumed name, Herbert never telling his mother, never telling his colleagues in Parliament, having many children – all right out of a Victorian novel! : you can find it here on the ancestry.com website:

http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=janeausten&id=I3046

and you can read Ron’s take on the story and his research here:

http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/articles/unconventional-love-match.html

So just dig around – click on any link of interest – there are treasures to be discovered lurking behind those links! – whatever would Jane Austen make of all this do you think? – would she be absolutely appalled to discover she was related to Queen Elizabeth?? I now wonder after all if even I am related to Queen Elizabeth … and maybe you are too!

If you have any questions for Ron, please leave a comment here – he is happy to respond to any queries or suggestions…

c2012, Jane Austen in Vermont