The King’s Speech: Best actor, Best film, Best director, Best screenplay. Best all around.
Archive for February, 2011
Posted in Blake Ritson, jane austen, Jane Austen Novels, Jane Austen's World, Mark Strong, tagged Alan Cumming, Dominic Rowan, Emma Woodhouse, Gwynneth Paltrow, Harriet Smith, Louise Dylan, Mr. Elton, Mr. Knightley, Mr. Woodhouse, Romola Garai, Samantha Bond, Toni Collette on February 26, 2011 | 6 Comments »
In the early chapters of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, the reader learns that Emma “will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience”, and that none of her portraits had ever been finished (although she had made some progress in drawing, considering the little labour she had submitted to). Steadiness and practice had always been wanting, preventing her from becoming an expert in this area.
In Volume 1, Chapter 6, Emma paints a watercolor likeness of Miss Smith in an attempt to draw Mr. Elton closer to Miss Smith. In Mr. Elton’s mind, the painting sessions present him with an opportunity to spend more time with Emma and toady up to her. Recent Emma film adaptations have captured this scene wonderfully, as you can see from the images that accompany Jane Austen’s text.
Did you ever have your likeness taken, Harriet?” said she: “did you ever sit for your picture?”
Harriet was on the point of leaving the room, and only stopt to say, with a very interesting naïveté,
“Oh! dear, no, never.”
No sooner was she out of sight, than Emma exclaimed,
“What an exquisite possession a good picture of her would be! I would give any money for it. I almost long to attempt her likeness myself. You do not know it I dare say, but two or three years ago I had a great passion for taking likenesses, and attempted several of my friends, and was thought to have a tolerable eye in general. But from one cause or another, I gave it up in disgust. But really, I could almost venture, if Harriet would sit to me. It would be such a delight to have her picture!”
“Let me entreat you,” cried Mr. Elton; “it would indeed be a delight! Let me entreat you, Miss Woodhouse, to exercise so charming a talent in favour of your friend. I know what your drawings are. How could you suppose me ignorant? Is not this room rich in specimens of your landscapes and flowers; and has not Mrs. Weston some inimitable figure-pieces in her drawing-room, at Randalls?”
Yes, good man!—thought Emma—but what has all that to do with taking likenesses? You know nothing of drawing. Don’t pretend to be in raptures about mine. Keep your raptures for Harriet’s face. “Well, if you give me such kind encouragement, Mr. Elton, I believe I shall try what I can do. Harriet’s features are very delicate, which makes a likeness difficult; and yet there is a peculiarity in the shape of the eye and the lines about the mouth which one ought to catch.”
“Exactly so—The shape of the eye and the lines about the mouth—I have not a doubt of your success. Pray, pray attempt it. As you will do it, it will indeed, to use your own words, be an exquisite possession.”
“But I am afraid, Mr. Elton, Harriet will not like to sit. She thinks so little of her own beauty. Did not you observe her manner of answering me? How completely it meant, ‘why should my picture be drawn?’”
“Oh! yes, I observed it, I assure you. It was not lost on me. But still I cannot imagine she would not be persuaded.”
Harriet was soon back again, and the proposal almost immediately made; and she had no scruples which could stand many minutes against the earnest pressing of both the others. Emma wished to go to work directly, and therefore produced the portfolio containing her various attempts at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished, that they might decide together on the best size for Harriet. Her many beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, whole-lengths, pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn. She had always wanted to do everything, and had made more progress both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little labour as she would ever submit to. She played and sang;—and drew in almost every style; but steadiness had always been wanting; and in nothing had she approached the degree of excellence which she would have been glad to command, and ought not to have failed of. She was not much deceived as to her own skill either as an artist or a musician, but she was not unwilling to have others deceived, or sorry to know her reputation for accomplishment often higher than it deserved.
There was merit in every drawing—in the least finished, perhaps the most; her style was spirited; but had there been much less, or had there been ten times more, the delight and admiration of her two companions would have been the same. They were both in exstasies. A likeness pleases every body; and Miss Woodhouse’s performances must be capital.
“No great variety of faces for you,” said Emma. “I had only my own family to study from. There is my father—another of my father—but the idea of sitting for his picture made him so nervous, that I could only take him by stealth; neither of them very like therefore. Mrs. Weston again, and again, and again, you see. Dear Mrs. Weston! always my kindest friend on every occasion. She would sit whenever I asked her. There is my sister; and really quite her own little elegant figure!—and the face not unlike. I should have made a good likeness of her, if she would have sat longer, but she was in such a hurry to have me draw her four children that she would not be quiet. Then, here come all my attempts at three of those four children;—there they are, Henry and John and Bella, from one end of the sheet to the other, and any one of them might do for any one of the rest. She was so eager to have them drawn that I could not refuse; but there is no making children of three or four years old stand still you know; nor can it be very easy to take any likeness of them, beyond the air and complexion, unless they are coarser featured than any of mama’s children ever were. Here is my sketch of the fourth, who was a baby. I took him, as he was sleeping on the sofa, and it is as strong a likeness of his cockade as you would wish to see. He had nestled down his head most conveniently. That’s very like. I am rather proud of little George. The corner of the sofa is very good. Then here is my last,”—unclosing a pretty sketch of a gentleman in small size, whole-length—”my last and my best—my brother, Mr. John Knightley. —This did not want much of being finished, when I put it away in a pet, and vowed I would never take another likeness. I could not help being provoked; for after all my pains, and when I had really made a very good likeness of it—(Mrs. Weston and I were quite agreed in thinking it very like)—only too handsome—too flattering—but that was a fault on the right side—after all this, came poor dear Isabella’s cold approbation of—”Yes, it was a little like—but to be sure it did not do him justice.” We had had a great deal of trouble in persuading him to sit at all. It was made a great favour of; and altogether it was more than I could bear; and so I never would finish it, to have it apologised over as an unfavourable likeness, to every morning visitor in Brunswick-square;—and, as I said, I did then forswear ever drawing anybody again. But for Harriet’s sake, or rather for my own, and as there are no husbands and wives in the case at present, I will break my resolution now.”
Mr. Elton seemed very properly struck and delighted by the idea, and was repeating, “No husbands and wives in the case at present indeed, as you observe. Exactly so. No husbands and wives,” with so interesting a consciousness, that Emma began to consider whether she had not better leave them together at once. But as she wanted to be drawing, the declaration must wait a little longer.
She had soon fixed on the size and sort of portrait. It was to be a whole-length in water-colours, like Mr. John Knightley’s, and was destined, if she could please herself, to hold a very honourable station over the mantelpiece.
The sitting began; and Harriet, smiling and blushing, and afraid of not keeping her attitude and countenance, presented a very sweet mixture of youthful expression to the steady eyes of the artist. But there was no doing anything, with Mr. Elton fidgeting behind her and watching every touch. She gave him credit for stationing himself where he might gaze and gaze again without offence; but was really obliged to put an end to it, and request him to place himself elsewhere. It then occurred to her to employ him in reading.
“If he would be so good as to read to them, it would be a kindness indeed! It would amuse away the difficulties of her part, and lessen the irksomeness of Miss Smith’s.”
Mr. Elton was only too happy. Harriet listened, and Emma drew in peace. She must allow him to be still frequently coming to look; any thing less would certainly have been too little in a lover; and he was ready at the smallest intermission of the pencil, to jump up and see the progress, and be charmed.—There was no being displeased with such an encourager, for his admiration made him discern a likeness almost before it was possible. She could not respect his eye, but his love and his complaisance were unexceptionable.
The sitting was altogether very satisfactory; she was quite enough pleased with the first day’s sketch to wish to go on. There was no want of likeness, she had been fortunate in the attitude, and as she meant to throw in a little improvement to the figure, to give a little more height, and considerably more elegance, she had great confidence of its being in every way a pretty drawing at last, and of its filling its destined place with credit to them both—a standing memorial of the beauty of one, the skill of the other, and the friendship of both; with as many other agreeable associations as Mr. Elton’s very promising attachment was likely to add.
Harriet was to sit again the next day; and Mr. Elton, just as he ought, entreated for the permission of attending and reading to them again.
“By all means. We shall be most happy to consider you as one of the party.”
The same civilities and courtesies, the same success and satisfaction, took place on the morrow, and accompanied the whole progress of the picture, which was rapid and happy. Every body who saw it was pleased, but Mr. Elton was in continual raptures, and defended it through every criticism.
“Miss Woodhouse has given her friend the only beauty she wanted,”—observed Mrs. Weston to him—not in the least suspecting that she was addressing a lover.—”The expression of the eye is most correct, but Miss Smith has not those eye-brows and eye-lashes. It is the fault of her face that she has them not.”
“Do you think so?” replied he. “I cannot agree with you. It appears to me a most perfect resemblance in every feature. I never saw such a likeness in my life. We must allow for the effect of shade, you know.”
“You have made her too tall, Emma,” said Mr. Knightley.
Emma knew that she had, but would not own it, and Mr. Elton warmly added,
“Oh, no! certainly not too tall; not in the least too tall. Consider, she is sitting down—which naturally presents a different—which in short gives exactly the idea—and the proportions must be preserved, you know. Proportions, fore-shortening.—Oh, no! it gives one exactly the idea of such a height as Miss Smith’s. Exactly so indeed!”
“It is very pretty,” said Mr. Woodhouse. “So prettily done! Just as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders—and it makes one think she must catch cold.”
“But, my dear papa, it is supposed to be summer; a warm day in summer. Look at the tree.”
“But it is never safe to sit out of doors, my dear.”
“You, sir, may say any thing,” cried Mr. Elton; “but I must confess that I regard it as a most happy thought, the placing of Miss Smith out of doors; and the tree is touched with such inimitable spirit! Any other situation would have been much less in character. The naïveté of Miss Smith’s manners—and altogether—Oh, it is most admirable! I cannot keep my eyes from it. I never saw such a likeness.”
Mr. Elton expressed his extreme gratification by offering to ride to London in December to have the picture framed, leaving Emma with these happy but largely erroneous thoughts:
“This man is almost too gallant to be in love,” thought Emma. “I should say so, but that I suppose there may be a hundred different ways of being in love. He is an excellent young man and will suit Harriet exactly: it will be an ‘exactly so’ as he says himself; but he does sigh and languish, and study for compliments rather more than I could endure as a principal. I come in for a pretty good share as a second, But it is his gratitude on Harriet’s account.”
Posted in Fashions, jane austen, Jane Austen's World, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency style, Regency World, tagged Brighton, Dress for Excess, Regency Fashion, Royal Pavilion on February 25, 2011 | 15 Comments »
Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England, opened on February 5 and will run for a full year. The cost of the exhibition is free for those who purchase tickets to see the Royal Pavilion & Museums at Brighton.
The fashions look at the life of George IV as Prince, Regent and King through the clothes of the late Georgian period and how they have influenced fashions today. The king’s silk and velvet coronation robe, trimmed in ermine and over 16 feet in length, will be on public display for the first time in 30 years. Other clothes in the exhibition include a dandy’s costume, military uniform worn at the Battle of Waterloo, and neoclassical influenced silk and muslin gowns.
The costumes are displayed in rooms in the Royal Pavilion. The links below feature a number of beautiful examples in the exhibition. Lucky is the person who plans to visit Brighton within this calendar year!
- Dress for Excess photo stream.
- Brighton and Hove photostream
- Online Bookings to the Exhibit
- Regency Garments for Brighton Museum
- Dress for Excess: Austenonly
- The Brighton Magazine: Dress for Excess
- Making the Most of the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Posted in Book review, Historic Publications, History, Jane Austen's World, tagged 19th Century, American First Lady, Charles Worth, Julia Dent Grant, Madame Virot, Ulysses S. Grant on February 23, 2011 | 5 Comments »
The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant), edited by John Y. Simon, Southern Illinois University Press, on Amazon, a review by Patty of Brandyparfums.com
I’m rereading this fantastic, romantic book, and I thought of readers who should be acquainted with this literary gem. Any Regency reader would love Julia Dent Grant’s charming memoirs which due to failing eyesight she dictated to her son or secretary. Her eloquence is astonishing – at once dramatic and poetic. There are many references to things English since she and Ulysses met the Queen during their world tour. They also dined at Apsley House. Daughter Nellie married an Englishman and went to live in England. Here are some of the beautiful, moving passages:
“My first recollections in life reach back a long way, more than three-score years and ten now……..Dear papa, coming out with great pleasure, caught me, held me up in the air, telling me to look, the very trees were welcoming me, and, sure enough, the tall locust trees were tossing their white-plumed branches gleefully.”
“Such delightful rides we all used to take! The Lieutenant [Ulysses] rode a bonny brown steed with flowing wavy mane and tail. He called him Fashion. My horse was a beauty, a chestnut brown, and as glossy as satin, and such pretty ears and great eyes. She was part Arabian, and I named her Psyche. Such rides! in the early spring, the tender young foliage scarcely throwing a shadow…..he was always by my side.”
There’s information about Lincoln and the assassination that isn’t found in most history books. The day of the assassination, Julia was visited by one of the conspirators wearing “a shabby hat.” -
I thought it was the bellboy with cards. ‘What do you want?’ He reddened and, bowing, said, “This is Mrs. Grant?” I bowed assent. “Mrs. Lincoln sends me, Madam, with her compliments, to say she will call for you at exactly eight o’clock to go to the theatre.” To this I replied with some feeling (not liking either the looks of the messenger or the message, thinking the former savored of discourtesy and the latter seemed like a command), ‘You may tell Mrs. Lincoln that as General Grant and I intend leaving the city this afternoon, we will not therefore be here to accompany the President and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre.”
Later that afternoon at a late lunch in the Willard, the conspirators sit at a table starring at Julia -
He seemed to be intent on what we and the children were saying. I thought he was crazy.”
When the Grants hold their first few White House receptions, Julia wrote about the young peoples’ luncheon and it reminded me of a Heyer novel -
The young peoples’ luncheon is a memory of dimples, smiles, gleaming white shoulders, of lace and flowers and tender glances – a pleasant memory to me.”
The Grants go to the grand Apsley House for a dinner given by the second duke of Wellington. Julia wonders, “This great house was presented to Wellington by the government for a single victory at Waterloo along with a noble title which will descend throughout his line. As I sat there I thought, ‘How would it have been if General Grant had been an Englishman’ – I wonder, I wonder.”
While in Paris, Julia reveals her interest in fashion -
I had a splendid time shopping. [in Paris] Mr [Charles F.] Worth personally directed the fitting of my costumes, and Madame Virot attended me in person for any millinery I wished, and these were no small attentions, I assure you.”
Many more amazing passages may be found in Julia’s Memoirs. She was the first First Lady to write her memoirs but they weren’t published during her lifetime and appeared in 1973.
Posted in 19th Century England, Book review, Jane Austen's World, Northanger Abbey, Regency, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency World, tagged Austenblog, Henry Tilney, Interview with Margaret C. Sullivan, Janeites, Margaret C. Sullivan, The Jane Austen Handbook on February 21, 2011 | 10 Comments »
The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan, will be available for purchase on March 8. Ms. Sullivan, who many readers know as the editrix of Austenblog, has graciously consented to answer a few questions. Like her books and blog, her information is filled with wit and insight.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Margaret.
Hello to readers of Jane Austen’s World and thanks for having me!
1. How long did it take you to write The Jane Austen Handbook? Was it self-published at first? Who distributed the book? (I know that it sat proudly on the shelves of the gift shop at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath.)
It has always been published by Quirk Books! Just now it has a new cover. Also Quirk books are now being distributed by Random House. Before they were mostly in gift stores (Like the JA Centre–and my friend Julie Tynion sent me a photo of the book on the shelves of the gift shop at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. I think they heard my SQUEEEEE at the International Space Station.) The coolest place I think anyone told me they saw the book was the gift shop of the QE2, while she was still a cruise ship.
As to how long it took me to write it, I had six weeks between the offer and the due date for the first draft, so it was a pretty frantic time. However, the editor and I had worked out an outline so I wasn’t starting completely from scratch, and there were rewrites a little bit later, especially the section on dancing, which I think is my favorite and was greatly expanded in the rewrite stage.
I was working full-time while I was writing it as well, which in retrospect was not the smartest idea. At least near the end I should have taken some time off. I was worn out!
2. Did you approach Quirk Books or did they approach you in publishing this edition of your book?
They approached me. They already had a line of handbooks such as the Batman Handbook, the Spiderman Handbook, etc., which were usually geared towards big summer films. They wanted to do something more literary, and decided to do a Jane Austen Handbook to go along with the release of Becoming Jane. (And yes, I do realize that I am Irony’s Plaything in that regard.) The editor told me she found the blog and thought I would be a good candidate, and “stalked me online” for a few days before approaching me.
Jason Rekulak, Godfather of the Jane Austen Zombie Revolution (like I said, Irony’s Plaything), called me last year and said Random House was interested in re-releasing the book, and it was due for a reprint anyway, but they wanted a different cover. Et voila! Random House’s distribution is, I believe, more focused on traditional bookstores. Also, as a great enthusiast for ebooks, I’m really pleased that at last the Handbook will be available in digital, and I confess I’m also curious to see what the ebook will look like.
3. In regard to writing and publishing, what advice would you give a newbie writer?
As to advice for aspiring authors, I would say to always endeavor to be professional. Jane Austen was extremely professional in her dealings with publishers and fans. Then she abused them with great spirit among her friends. ;-) She was also very professional in the way she approached her craft. She worked at it and was an excellent self-editor, and knew what made a story enjoyable and what was good writing. It distresses me when authors let their emotions get the better of their professional demeanor. Bad reviews happen, and part of the job is learning to accept them, even when they hurt or don’t seem fair. Act like you’ve been there. Shoving your Published Author status in people’s faces seems vulgar to me. And once you arrive, help those who come after you!
4. You’ve been visible on the blogosphere since *cough* its dark ages. Am I right in thinking that your began Austenblog in 2004? What was being the queen of the Jane fandom like back then?
Yes! I created AustenBlog during the very hot July 4th weekend of 2004, and had an official launch later that month. Back then we were excited about a new film version of P&P! Once again: Irony’s Plaything!
I certainly wasn’t the queen of the Austen fandom then, nor am I now. ;-) I don’t think there is a queen. It’s much too anarchic a group. If they don’t like something or their desires aren’t being met, they’ll go make a website or online community of their own, especially now with all the great online tools available. Also nobody really knew about AustenBlog at first. It’s always been movies that attracted the most attention, so when the last bunch of films were being made and shown was when we first attracted a lot of attention. (Say it with me: Irony’s Plaything!)
5. Tell us about the changes in Jane fandom since then and what you think of future trends for Austen aficionados.
I think the main difference is that the fandom is becoming more diverse and I think as a whole not so “particularly friendly to very severe, very intense application,” as Mr. Tilney would say. Their Jane Austen fandom goes along with lots of other interests, some inter-related and some not. There are still obsessives as well, and I’m pleased to see more people having fun with their fandom and allowing themselves to be sometimes silly with it. It’s interesting, while JASNA tends to attract the more devoted fans, I’ve noticed a bit of a culture shift over the past ten years or so. The members are becoming a little more popular culture-oriented, or at least more aware of the popular culture aspects of the fandom, even if that’s not necessarily their cup of tea. Costuming has become a lot more popular. At my first AGM in 2000, only a handful of people dressed in period costume for at least part of the conference, and in the past couple of years it’s really taken off. I think the programs are becoming more diverse, too–there is something for everyone. Janeiteism is a big tent, and I celebrate it, even while I sometimes deplore the fringier groups. ;-)
6. Your love for Henry Tilney is well known. What are the qualities about this hero that attract you so? Which scene in Northanger Abbey in particular do you find memorable?
NA was the fifth of the six novels that I’d read (MP was last) and when this charming, funny guy showed up, I was instantly attracted to his obvious intelligence and wit and general coolness, but it seemed to me that in the other four novels I’d read, the funny, charming guy turned out to be the villain. Thus, I spent the whole book waiting for the other shoe to drop. Imagine my joy when I got to the end and realized it was not only fun to love Henry Tilney, it was the right thing to do.
Henry is not only charming, but honorable. He’s very human and really not as perfect as I’d like to pretend, but he is kind to Catherine, and besides his sister is practically the only person in the book who never condescends to her or treats her like she’s stupid or tries to trick her. If his conversation sometimes goes over her head, it’s paying her a compliment in a way–the compliment of rational companionship, if I may borrow a little from Miss Dashwood!
I have many favorite scenes, but I’ve picked one out, from Vol. II, Ch. I:
Henry smiled, and said, “How very little trouble it can give you to understand the motive of other people’s actions.”
“Why? — What do you mean?”
“With you, it is not, How is such a one likely to be influenced, What is the inducement most likely to act upon such a person’s feelings, age, situation, and probable habits of life considered? — but, How should I be influenced, what would be my inducement in acting so and so?”
“I do not understand you.”
“Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.”
“Me? — yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”
“Bravo! — an excellent satire on modern language.”
“But pray tell me what you mean.”
“Shall I indeed? — Do you really desire it? But you are not aware of the consequences; it will involve you in a very cruel embarrassment, and certainly bring on a disagreement between us.”
“No, no; it shall not do either; I am not afraid.”
“Well, then, I only meant that your attributing my brother’s wish of dancing with Miss Thorpe to good-nature alone convinced me of your being superior in good-nature yourself to all the rest of the world.”
Catherine blushed and disclaimed, and the gentleman’s predictions were verified. There was a something, however, in his words which repaid her for the pain of confusion; and that something occupied her mind so much that she drew back for some time, forgetting to speak or to listen, and almost forgetting where she was…
For all those who say that Henry isn’t really in love with Catherine, read that scene. He is not going to pay her profuse compliments that she might not trust to be real; and when he does pay her a compliment, he does it subtly, with humor, and with that “something” that gives Catherine the collywobbles. You can practically smell the pheromones flying back and forth. That man’s in love–and so is Catherine! I think in that scene her love for Henry turns the corner from a girlish crush to a deeper and more adult feeling.
7. My assumption is that you have been to England and visited a number of places that Jane Austen lived in and visited herself. Do you have any extraordinary memories that you’d like to share with us?
I traveled to the UK in October 2005 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar–I’m a big Age of Sail fan as well–with my Horatian buddies (we Hornblower fans call ourselves Horatians). While in Portsmouth I walked the ramparts, like Fanny Price, and saw the ruins of the Marine chapel where they went to church (and also was amused to see a hair stylist shop run by one Andrew Price in downtown Portsmouth–nice to see the Prices are still in town, even if they are in trade). I felt very close to Captain Wentworth and his friends there. In London, we went to the National Portrait Gallery to visit Jane’s portrait, and the British Library to see her writing desk and the manuscripts for History of England and the canceled chapters of Persuasion.
We also went to Bath, and it was a real thrill. I kept running into Jane’s characters around every corner, especially as my two favorite books are the two Bath books, Persuasion and NA. I remember walking up Milsom Street, getting to the top of the street, looking up, and seeing “Edgar’s Buildings” engraved on the wall. Walking through Laura Place, down Pulteney Street, out to see 4 Sydney Place where the Austens lived, were all amazing–especially to know that in many ways they were nearly the same as in Jane Austen’s time. I also loved going up to Camden Place and seeing how utterly perfect it was to be the home of Sir Walter Elliot. All of Bath was, quite literally, at his feet; and yet it was built on unsteady land, and did not have the proper neoclassical regularity–it was all off-center. Perfect! And a really funny moment was when we were taking the bus uptown, and asked the bus driver to let us know when we were near Camden Crescent. He looked at our cameras and, clearly not a Janeite, said, “Taking pictures, luv? You should go over to Lansdowne Crescent instead. For my money, it’s the prettiest crescent in Bath.” I wonder what Sir Walter and Miss would have said to that! It was such a delightfully Austenian moment.
And of course we went to Chawton and Steventon. They were the places I felt closest to Jane herself. Chawton was charming, so peaceful and quiet, and inspiring for a writer. Finding Steventon was not easy–it was kind of like trying to find Shangri-La. The GPS sent us to Berkshire, which of course is totally the wrong direction. We drove despairingly around Basingstoke trying to find a local who could direct us, but we were a mile away from Steventon at one point and locals just looked at us blankly when we asked if they could give us directions. Finally we found a helpful person who gave us excellent directions, and arrived at the church in late afternoon just as the rain was letting up. I loved both St. Nicholas’ churches, in Chawton and Steventon–I loved that they were both still obviously working churches, and not just tourist attractions. Jane would have really appreciated that, I think. (And thanks to Mike for driving and his lovely pianoforte playing at Chawton, and Kathleen for the companionship, snark, and hosting me in London! I should have just let you guys ring the churchbell at Steventon.)
Margaret, it was a pleasure to interview you! I’ve seen your book and intend to review it soon. I can’t wait to read it. Vic
Thanks for the interview! This was really fun!
More on the topic:
- Preorder The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England
- Review: There Must Be Murder by Margaret C. Sullivan, wherein the reader follows the escapades of Henry Tilney and his lovely wife Catherine in Bath
- Q&A With Margaret C. Sullivan of Austenblog: Facebook
- Review of The Jane Austen Handbook, Jane Austen Today
Posted in 19th Century England, Austenesque novels, Jane Austen Sequels, Jane Austen's World, Victorian Era, tagged Andrew Capes, Austenesque Short Story, Charlotte Collins on February 19, 2011 | 122 Comments »
Inquiring readers: Not often does news of great import come our way, such as this item unearthed from the depths of Andrew Capes’s crashed computer. His having retrieved it is nothing short of miraculous, for now he can share the rest of Charlotte Collins’ story with the world. If you found this news item as intriguing as I did, please let him know what you think of it in the comment section below! Article copyright (c) Andrew Capes.
Extract from the Hertfordshire Gazette, June 1876
Mrs Charlotte Collins of Longbourn Hall
We have been saddened recently to receive
notiﬁcation of the death at the end of May, at
the advanced age of 92 years, of Mrs Charlotte
Collins, née Lucas, widow of the late Reverend
William Collins, of Longbourn Hall, near
Meryton. Mrs Collins is survived by her only
son, Thomas Collins, his wife Mary (née
Bennet), and her grandson, the Rt Hon. Sir
Timothy Collins PC, all of whom continue to
reside at Longbourn Hall.
Mrs Collins’s funeral at Meryton was attended
by a distinguished gathering of friends and
relations, many of whom had travelled great
distances to be present. Several members of the
extended Lucas family were there, although
Mrs Collins had outlived all her immediate
relations, and there were also representatives
and descendants of the former Bennet family,
with whom the Collinses had maintained
intimate connections for a great many years.
Among the latter were Mrs Elizabeth Darcy,
widow of the late Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of
Pemberley in Derbyshire, and her niece, Mrs
Jane Lucas, daughter of the late Mr & Mrs
Charles Bingley of Freshﬁeld Park in Yorkshire,
who is also the late Mrs Collins’s sister-in-law.
The occasion was graced with the presence of
Lydia, Lady Wickham, widow of Lieutenant
Colonel Sir George Wickham, Bart., late hero
of the French, American, and Affghan
campaigns. The Dowager Lady Wickham has
recently returned from India to pass her
remaining years with her son, Sir Arthur
Wickham de Bourgh, at his family home,
Rosings Park in Kent.
Charlotte Collins was born in March 1784, the
eldest of ﬁve children of Sir William and Lady
Lucas, latterly of Lucas Lodge near Meryton in
Hertfordshire. There she met and married the
Reverend William Collins, a cousin of the
Bennet sisters, in January 1812. The couple lived
at Hunsford in Kent where their son, Thomas
Collins, was born in 1813. In 1823, upon the
death of Mr Frederick Bennet, the Reverend
Mr Collins inherited Longbourn-house, an
estate of which Mrs Collins was destined to
remain mistress for over half a century.
Upon their removal to Longbourn, Mr and Mrs
Collins were pleased to allow Mr Bennet’s
widow and daughter Mary to continue to live in
the house, and to treat it as their home. Mary
had been entrusted under the terms of Mr
Bennet’s will with the care of his extensive library,
and she immediately set about this task
with the greatest diligence, continuing to
pursue improvements to the collection, chieﬂy
through a series of judicious acquisitions,
almost without interruption from that time
until the present day. Upon that occasion also,
Mr Collins desired that the name of the house
be changed from Longbourn-house to
Longbourn Hall, to reﬂect the elevated status
with which he expressed the hope that it
would, in the course of time, become
Regrettably, however, within less than a year of
the Collins family’s installation at Longbourn,
the Reverend Mr Collins sustained a minor
injury whilst engaged in clearing undergrowth
from a small wilderness beside a lawn in his
garden, the resulting wound from which most
unfortunately became infected. The rapid
progress of this infection caused him to
succumb soon afterwards, his resulting death
thus sadly depriving him of anything more than
the briefest period of enjoyment of his newly
Mrs Bennet also died later that same year, and
Mrs Collins thereafter began to observe in
young Thomas the development of a strongly
studious character, carefully fostered by Miss
Mary Bennet’s solicitude towards him in her
combined role of cousin, mentor and librarian.
There gradually grew between these two
younger members of the household a ﬁrm
attachment, which eventually developed
beyond their previous cousinly aﬀection, this
being conﬁrmed by their marriage in 1833 and
the subsequent birth of a son, Timothy, in the
For above forty years since then, membership
of the Longbourn household underwent no
material alteration, until the recent death of
the elder Mrs Collins. This period has
nonetheless been punctuated by several notable
events associated with the family, perhaps the
most remarkable of which was the famous
Catherine (“Kitty”) Carter trial of 1862. Kitty
Carter was Mrs Mary Collins’s sister, and, in
deﬁance of social conventions, the elder Mrs
Collins allowed her to stay as a guest at
Longbourn Hall throughout the whole of that
protracted and scandalous aﬀair.
The details of the case are so well known, even
today, that it would be superﬂuous to recount
them here; suﬃce it to say that the verdict
eventually obtained vindicated the faith that
both Mrs Collinses had placed in their relation,
who duly acknowledged her debt to them in an
autobiographical memoir, published later that
year, through which her name became known –
some might say, notorious – around the world.
Some nine years previously, a considerable
change had taken place at Longbourn, with the
purchase by the Great Northern Railway of
part of the estate’s farming land, for the
construction of the line through Meryton to
Ware. The substantial sum thereby realised
enabled the elder Mrs Collins to throw out a
new self-contained wing from the earlier house,
with the intention of entertaining friends and
family without interfering with the orderly
conduct of the rest of the household. The
generous nature of her year round hospitality
beneﬁted in its turn from the improvements in
the means of travel provided by the new
railway, such that her visitors were now able to
reach Meryton from places as far aﬁeld as
Derbyshire and Yorkshire in a matter of hours,
rather than the days that had previously been
occupied in the completion of such journeys.
Mrs Collins retained few links with the Church
of England after the death of her husband,
although she did maintain friendships with
several of his former parishioners in and around
Hunsford for some time after her removal from
that part of the country. She was amused in her
later years to learn that the Rosings Estate, of
which the Hunsford rectory – where she spent
the ﬁrst ten years of her married life – formed a
small part, had passed into the hands of the
nephew of her daughter-in-law, when it was
inherited by Sir Arthur Wickham de Bourgh,
Bart, upon the death of his ﬁrst wife, Anne.
The concern that the elder Mrs Collins felt for
the education and welfare of her grandson, Mr
Timothy Collins, showed her to be
exceptionally solicitous on his behalf, and it
could be said with some certainty that his
successful parliamentary career, up to and
including his position in Mr Gladstone’s recent
administration, in the course of which he was
honoured with a knighthood, was the direct
result of the attention which she paid to his
upbringing. She also instilled in him the
passionate advocacy of many international
causes, foremost among which was that of
Italian unity, ﬁnding especial friendship and
fellow-feeling with the great Italian leader
Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was invited to
Longbourn Hall brieﬂy on the occasion of his
visit to London in 1864.
Mrs Collins had always taken a great interest
not only in her own family, but also in those
both of her lifelong friend Mrs Elizabeth
Darcy, and of Mrs Darcy’s sister, the late Mrs
Jane Bingley. It was with great pleasure that she
saw her own younger brother, John Lucas,
marry Mr and Mrs Bingley’s daughter, also Jane,
in 1832, thereby sharing her own extended
family of nephews, nieces and cousins with
those of the former Bennet sisters.
Mrs Collins was widely renowned and loved for
the care she took to include all her extensive
family and friends in her regular invitations to
Longbourn, and for her careful remembrances
of birthdays and anniversaries of even the
youngest members of the family, extending to
the third and fourth generations, always with
thoughtful and appropriate gifts.
Mrs Collins travelled extensively, both in the
United Kingdom and abroad, often, especially
in her latter years, accompanied by her lifelong
friend Mrs Elizabeth Darcy. They completed
their last foreign journey together, to Italy, only
ﬁve years ago, at the height of the war in
France, which contributed not a little to the
excitements and discomforts of that journey.
Mrs Collins retained her health and her
faculties, save for gradually failing eyesight, to
the end of her long life, and many will recall the
occasion of her 90th birthday celebrations
which brought people from all over Britain, and
some from further aﬁeld, at which she herself
expressed a wish for it to be considered as, in
some measure, a way of bidding farewell to all
her many friends and relations.
The request expressed by Mrs Collins, that her
remains be removed from Meryton and
interred alongside those of her husband in the
churchyard at Hunsford, was complied with
shortly after her funeral, and a small family
gathering attended the interment ceremony as
a ﬁnal farewell gesture to a well-loved and
notable ﬁgure who will be much missed, not
only here in Hertfordshire, but also much
NOTES ON THE OBITUARY OF MRS CHARLOTTE COLLINS
AS SHOWN IN THE HERTFORDSHIRE GAZETTE, JUNE 1876
This Obituary Notice was discovered in the archives of the (fictional, of course) Hertfordshire Gazette, a long defunct weekly newspaper which circulated (as its title implies) mainly in Herfordshire, during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth.
The piece was deliberately written without reference to any of the many continuations of P&P, even those attributed to Jane herself. I felt that a retrospective view from 63 years on would imply a much greater leap of the imagination than a mere ‘continuation’ of the novel would require.
Most of it needs no explanation for those familiar with the novel, though there are some things which might raise a question or two. Some of these are:
What was the ‘Kitty’ Carter trial?
The details are not recorded – but there WAS a notorious murder trial in 1862 – a nurse called Catherine Wilson was tried and found guilty of multiple murders for money; she was the last woman to be publicly hanged in London – some 25,000 people attended her execution. The ‘Kitty’ Carter trial was clearly much more ‘classy’ than that, involving scandal in very high places, and a very different outcome; it probably would not have involved murder. Carter, of course, was one of Wickham’s fellow officers.
Two of the marriages are with much older women. Is this not improbable?
Uncommon, but by no means improbable. It was certainly possible for an older woman to marry a younger man. I think the Mary/Thomas marriage entirely natural; and although the Arthur Wickham/Anne de Bourgh one might be a little more unlikely, Arthur would have inherited his father’s title (which was granted only a short time before his death in action in the First Affghan Campaign of 1837-39) when he was in his mid-20s and Anne was newly independent on the death of Lady Catherine.
What was Sir Timothy Collins’s post in the Gladstone cabinet of 1871-74?
He was Chairman of the Local Government Board, a new post created by Gladstone in 1871. He must have been promoted when he was quite young. In historical fact, the post of President of the Board went to Sir James Stansfeld, but I think Sir Timothy probably edged ahead of him at the time of the vote of no confidence in Stansfeld as Civil Lord of the Admiralty in 1864. Stansfeld, incidentally, was also a great supporter of Garibaldi.
Great Northern Railway – Meryton to Ware
No such line was actually built – the railway at Ware was built in 1843 by the Great Eastern Railway. However, the Great Northern did build a line from Welwyn to Hertford in 1858 which connected with the Ware line. The Great Northern main line would have made access from Yorkshire and Derbyshire to Meryton via Hitchin or Hatfield very much easier than it had previously been from about 1851 onwards.
Respectfully submitted by Andrew Capes. Your comments are most welcome.
Posted in 19th Century England, jane austen, Jane Austen's World, Regency Customs, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency style, Regency World, tagged Contracts Prof Blog, Jane Austen and contract law, Jane Austen on contracts to dance, Jeremy Telman, Regency contracts, Regency law, tortious interference on February 18, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Inquiring readers: Recently I ran across the Contracts Prof Blog, a member of the Blog Professor Blogs network. Professor Franklin G. Snyder kindly granted me permission to reprint in full a second post written by Professor Jeremy Telman of Valparaiso University on February 1, 2010. (See the first post at this link.) This post discusses the similarities and dissimilarities between a dance partnership and a marriage partnership in Northanger Abbey:
Thus the dashing Mr. Tilney addresses Catherine Morland, heroine of Northanger Abbey, upon discovering her in conversation with the odious Mr. Thorpe at the commencement of a dance:
That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he staid with you half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”
The conversation proceeds on the similarities and dissimilarities between a dance partnership and a marriage partnership. But if Catherine really wanted to impress Mr. Tilney, she would have pointed out that his real complaint sounded in tortious interference rather than in breach of contract.
Legal Definition of Tortious/Wrongful Intereference (in Business Relationship)
The theory of the tort or wrong of interference is that the law draws a line beyond which no one may go in intentionally intermeddling with the business affairs of others. So, a systematic effort to induce employees to leave their present employment and take work with another is unlawful when the purpose of such enticement is to cripple or destroy their employer rather than to obtain their skills and services in the legitimate furtherance of one’s own business enterprise.
It also becomes unlawful when the inducement is made through the use of untruthful means, or for the purpose of having the employees commit wrongs such as disclosing the former employer’s trade secrets. – ‘Lectric Law Library Lexicon
Posted in 19th Century England, jane austen, Jane Austen's World, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency society, Regency World, tagged Contracts Prof Blog, Jane Austen and contract law, Jane Austen and estoppel, Jeremy Telman, Regency contracts on February 17, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Inquiring readers: Recently I ran across the Contracts Prof Blog, a member of the Blog Professor Blogs network. Professor Franklin G. Snyder kindly granted me permission to reprint in full the post contributed by Professor Jeremy Telman of Valparaiso University on March 18, 2010. Professor Telman discusses a promise made in Chapter 22 of Persuasion:
Promise and Contract: Jane Austen’s Take
While thinking about the problems relating to promise and contract explored by Michael Pratt, I came across this scene from Chapter 22 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The setting, of course, is Bath. The characters are Charles Musgrove and his wife, Mary, the pathetic, self-pitying and miserable sister of Jane Austen’s protagonist, Anne Elliot. Charles has just announced, with something like triumph, that he had procured tickets for them all to go to the theater the following evening. His wife interrupts him:
Good heavens, Charles! how can you think of such a thing? Take a box for to-morrow night! Have you forgot that we are engaged to Camden Place to-morrow night? and that we were most particularly asked to meet Lady Dalrymple and her daughter, and Mr Elliot, and all the principal family connexions, on purpose to be introduced to them? How can you be so forgetful?”
“Phoo! phoo!” replied Charles, “what’s an evening party? Never worth remembering. Your father might have asked us to dinner, I think, if he had wanted to see us. You may do as you like, but I shall go to the play.”
“Oh! Charles, I declare it will be too abominable if you do, when you promised to go.”
“No, I did not promise. I only smirked and bowed, and said the word `happy.’ There was no promise.”
To me, this example illustrates the tension between our ordinary language sense of what it means to make a promise and Professor Pratt’s focus on promissory intent. As the doctrine of promissory estoppel recognizes, manifestations that could be reasonably expected to induce reliance and do induce such reliance can create a legal obligation. But we ordinarily think of promissory estoppel as an equitable supplement to contracts law that addresses our moral intuition that, even absent a contract, it is wrong to allow people to induce others to rely to their detriment on one’s representations. I substitute the word “manifestations” for “promise” here because I think Professor Pratt is right that what the law enforces are not “promises” but legal undertakings — that is, expressions of intent to be legally bound by a statement of future intention.
So, Charles Musgrove did not “promise” in Professor Pratt’s sense, but he may have promised in the sense of the law. His manifestations might also be regarded by others in his social circle as a promise, which suggests some tension between our intuitions about what constitutes promising and Professor Pratt’s understanding of that phenomenon. I think this places me in the camp that Professor Pratt labels “deflationist.” I suppose I’ve been called worse.
In short, we might use the word “promise” to describe both statements that bind us because through them we undertake a moral obligation and moral obligations that arise because others reasonably rely on our representations regardless of our intent. Professor Pratt thinks there are good reasons for keeping these different types of moral obligation separate, but I am not persuaded that anything is gained from the distinction.
Estoppel (definition from the Business Dictionary):
Legal rule of evidence (and not a cause of action) which (1) prevents a party from making an allegation or denial that contradicts what it had previously stated, or what has been legally established, as the truth, (2) supports a claim for damages of the party that had a good-faith reliance on a misleading representation of another party.
Posted in 18th Century England, 19th Century England, Jane Austen's World, Napoleonic Wars, Regency Life, tagged Admiral Nelson, British Navy in Regency times, Emma Hamilton, Horatio Nelson, Horatio Viscount Nelson, Merton, Merton Place, William Hamilton on February 15, 2011 | 20 Comments »
Towards the end of his life Horatio Nelson, the victor of Trafalgar, lived at Merton Place, an elegant country house set in 160 acres of landscaped grounds in what is now the London Borough of Merton in South London in an area more commonly known as South Wimbledon, where I live.
Nelson had gathered many honours for services to his country during his career. Horatio Nelson was known as 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte KB. The KB is the term for Knight of the Bath, which is a high-ranking knighthood. Knighthoods came and still come in different categories. Nelson’s knighthood was the top rank.
Nelson was born into a prosperous family in Norfolk on the 29th September 1758. His uncle, Maurice Suckling, encouraged him to join the Navy. His talent was recognised at an early age because he served with the leading naval officers of the time and he rose rapidly through the ranks. He obtained his first command in 1778 at the age of twenty. His reputation grew because of his courage and valour in battle and his ability to gather a firm grasp of naval tactics very quickly. Nelson was a sickly individual and often had periods of illness. After The Wars of American Independence he was laid off and was without a ship for a while.
With the onset of the French Revolutionary Wars, Nelson was called back into service to serve primarily in the Mediterranean theatre of war. He fought in various minor battles just off Toulon, at the Capture of Corsica, and then was given diplomatic duties with the Italian States. On 12 September 1793, he first met Lady Hamilton. At the time, Nelson was a 35-year-old post captain and she was the 28-year-old wife of Sir William Hamilton, the British Envoy to Naples. Emma was famous as a great beauty and a performer of ”Attitudes”, based on Ancient Greek statuary. She wore diaphanous floating materials for these poses but some , which left nothing to the imagination. (What an old buffer like Sir William Hamilton was doing with a party girl, as a wife is another story!)
In 1797, Nelson came to prominence again as captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St Vincent. Soon after he took part in the battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in which he was badly wounded and lost his right arm. He was forced to return to England to recuperate.
It is interesting to note, in the Georgian navy any badly damaged limb was always amputated. This was the only way they could prevent disease setting into the wounds. If ever you have the chance to visit HMS Victory at Portsmouth you can see the surgeon’s instruments laid out on the deal-operating table below decks. The surgeon had two assistant surgeons and used the help of the seaman’s mates to hold him down. They experimented with alcohol as an anaesthetic but discovered that getting the injured sailor drunk made the blood thin and it wouldn’t clot. The only thing they could do at that time was to strap him down and give him a piece of leather to grip between his teeth. A scalpel paired back the skin and flesh. A caffater was used to drain the blood. The arteries were severed and then a saw was used to cut quickly through the bone. A file was used to smooth the end of the bone. The arteries were tied. The flap of skin was sewn over the stump. The stump was dipped in tar and then and only then, the man was given rum, lots of it, to get drunk. All done and dusted in 90 seconds.
In 1798 Nelson returned to action and beat Napoleons navy at the battle of The Nile. One of Nelson’s greatest achievements. He remained in the Mediterranean to support the State of Naples against a French invasion. In 1801 Nelson was ordered to go to the Baltic and this time he defeated the Danes at The Battle of Copenhagen. The Danes to this day don’t like Nelson. The Danish fleet was in port and by attacking the fleet in port a lot of the bombardment also hit the city of Copenhagen and destroyed much of the city, killing many ordinary citizens.
After this encounter in the north Nelson took over the blockade of the French and Spanish fleets in Toulon. They escaped and Nelson chased them to the West Indies and back without bringing them to battle. He now began the blockade of the French and Spanish in Cadiz. The end game was approaching although nobody knew that at the time. He returned to England and Merton Place for some respite with his family that had become Lady Hamilton, her husband Sir William (who was living with them), Nelson and Emma’s daughter, Horatia. It was a scandalous arrangement for the time, but Sir William Hamilton appeared to be comfortable with the situation. That tells another story.
In October 1805, Nelson returned to action off Cadiz. He was a great national hero by this time, and he journeyed in triumph from Merton Place, cheered by villagers as he made his way to Portsmouth. Normally a sea captain or admiral would have been rowed by longboat to his ship waiting at sea from the hard at Portsmouth, which is next to the dockyard entrance.
However, massive crowds had gathered to see Nelson leave for Cadiz. Worried about safety, he asked to leave from Southsea beach, about three quarters of a mile east of Portsmouth. So it was Southsea he was rowed from, to a waiting ship that took him to HMS Victory off Cadiz harbour. A famous painting portrays Nelson’s departure from Southsea beach.
People talk about “the Nelson touch,” and the superiority of the British Navy. The British navy like the British army was and is a family. Officers knew each other personally and socialised together. Nelson was going to Cadiz to meet friends, the other naval officers commanding the ships under his overall command. They knew each other’s weaknesses and strengths and Nelson played to these. He knew who could do what, exactly. It was a, “well oiled machine.” Also British gun crews trained continuously in the using and firing of their guns. They were trained thoroughly. The whole fleet worked as a well-run unit.
The fact that the French and Spanish were a combined fleet made up of two navies had an inbuilt fault. Their gun crews were not so efficient. There were two languages to contend with and there was a matter of pride on each side that caused friction. The French and Spanish commanders did not know their men and captains as well as the officers in the British navy knew theirs. The British fleet was smaller but a much more efficient group. Nelson also utilised unconventional tactics. Because of the superior numbers of the opposing fleet Nelson decided not to go for a broadside attack where the two fleets would have passed each other firing side by side until one side gave in. He was outnumbered and this would not have faired well for the British fleet. Nelson decided to form his fleet into two parts, each forming a line, which sailed into the French and Spanish fleets, like two arrows fired perpendicularly to the line of French and Spanish ships.
This split the opposing force into three parts. Nelson’s fleet dealt with each part separately. The Spanish and French fleet was taken unawares with this tactic and many of their ships were not able to engage the British at first. This gave time for the British to pick off the enemy, slowly destroying them almost, one by one. Nelson was victorious. A sniper high in the rigging of the mizzenmast of the French ship Redoubtable picked out Nelson and Captain Hardy standing on the poop deck of the Victory and shot Nelson. The bullet passed through his shoulder, through his lungs and severed his spine. The ships surgeon later did an autopsy to find the cause of Nelson’s death and extent of his injuries. A marine called John Pollard revenged Nelsons death by shooting the French sniper dead. He was seen falling from the mizzenmast into the shrouds hanging from the Redoubtable.
To illustrate Nelson’s shear courage and perhaps bravado, minutes before he himself was shot, an officer standing next to him had been severed in half by a cannon ball from the French ship and the blood and body parts of this unfortunate had only just been cleared away when Nelson himself was struck.
Most injuries and deaths in a battle of this sort were from flying splinters of wood. Victory was made from 6000 trees, 90% of which were oak but some elm, pine and fir were used. When you see the Victory and some of the massive wooden elbows, struts and planks used in it’s construction you can imagine how great sharp pieces of wood could go flying about when hit by a cannon ball going at the speed of sound. The majority of fatalities were from splinters to the head.
Nelson was not the nicest of personalities. He was proud, vain, and authoritarian but he was also extremely brave, astute and a brilliant tactician. He was loved and admired by his men and the whole of the British nation.
If you go to The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich you can see the admirals coat Nelson was wearing when he was shot. The bullet hole is visible in the shoulder and the expensive white silk lining is heavily blood stained.
Nelson did not want a sea burial. He had the right to ask for a land burial. It would be months before The Victory would return to Portsmouth so the ships surgeon suggested they place Nelson’s body in a large cask of rum. They did this and the body remained in relatively good condition until Nelson’s state funeral and burial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. There is rather a gruesome story following Nelson’s funeral. The crew of HMS Victory are reputed to have drunk the rum Nelson’s body had been preserved in.
So, Nelson’s final journey to super stardom and the gratitude of an adoring nation started from Merton Place in South Wimbledon.
Merton Place no longer exists and the 160 acres of land Nelson owned around Merton Place have long been sold off and used for housing over various generations.
Roads of Victorian, Edwardian and more modern flats and housing now covers what was once Nelson’s idyllic estate of Merton. There is much evidence still existing though, if you take the time to look.
By 1801 Nelson had separated from his wife Fanny. He wanted to find a home where he could entertain his friends. Lady Hamilton found Merton Place situated next to the picturesque Wandle River and Nelson paid £9000 for it.
Nelson paid for the house’s development. Great changes to it took place in 1805. Nelson employed the architect Thomas Chawner to create a new layout. It became a double fronted house with a grand drive leading up to it.
Also a tributary from the Wandle River was dug leading up to the house. This was named The Nile, after Nelson’s famous victory. If you go to the site of Merton place to day there is a housing estate; houses and flats built in the 1960’s.
On the very site of, “Merton Place,” is a block of flats called, “Merton Place.” On the site of the entrance to the grand drive that lead up to the house from the London Road is a pub called, The Nelson Arms.
It is a spectacular Edwardian edifice with large tiled pictures of Nelson’s portrait and HMS Victory.
A few hundred yards form The Nelson Arms are some housing and flats that are on the site of a building that was called, The Gatehouse. The owner was a friend of Nelson’s, James Halfhide. Nelson often visited James in The Gatehouse. A little further along the London Road, leading into Tooting, is Wandle Park, the site of Wandle Park House. Lady Hamilton and Nelson are known to have visited the owner James Perry the editor and owner of the Morning Chronicle, the most successful London Newspaper in Georgian times.
A mile west of Merton Place is the church of St Mary the Virgin, where Nelson worshipped regularly on a Sunday. The pew he used is still there.
Not far from here is a newer church called St John the Divine. Built in 1914, it was designed by the architect C. Cage to mark the anniversary of the death of Nelson. The church was built on what was part of the western extension of Nelson’s lands as a memorial to Nelson, and was financed by funds collected from local people.
It has a stained glass window designed by the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones and was made at the William Morris works situated next to the Wandle River near Merton Place. The high altar is made from a piece of timber from HMS Victory.
Next to the church is a small park with a granite monument that has an inscription recalling Nelson. This stone is flanked by two cannons which stood at the entrance to the doorway into Merton Place.
A mile and a half south of Merton Place at Mitcham, is Mitcham Cricket club, which still exists today. Some excellent pubs surround the cricket green at Mitcham and it is very relaxing to sit out in front of one of the pubs on a balmy summers day, drinking a pint of local Youngs beer, watching white flannelled cricketers hitting leather on willow. It is one of the most famous and oldest local, amateur cricket clubs in England. Nelson watched cricket here.
Going west from Mitcham Cricket club back towards Merton is Mordern Lodge. It is set back from the road and set within some beautiful grounds. It is a private residence surrounded by lawns, shrubs and trees and can be just glimpsed from the road. Here lived in the 19th century Abraham Goldsmid, an eminent Jewish banker of Anglo Dutch decent. He was a senior partner in one of the Capitals most powerful brokerage firms, Goldsmid. He had friends in high places – The Prince Regent, Sheridan, the playwright William Pitt, and the prime minister were friends, and Nelson himself was a personal, close friend. They lived virtually next to each other.
After Nelson’s death, Abraham and a group of fellow trustees gave Emma Hamilton £3,700 to save her from spiralling debt.
A mile and a bit north of Merton Place are Wimbledon Village and Wimbledon Common. There is a very elegant and unusually designed house called Eagle House in the village, once owned by the Reverend Thomas Lancaster. Nelson visited when it was a school for young noblemen and gentlemen. After Nelson’s visit it was renamed “Nelson House School.”
Wimbledon and South London do not look the same as in Nelson’s day but he would recognise some of it. Wimbledon Common and much of the village has not changed much since his day. He would certainly recognise some buildings, but Merton Place, the house and grounds he loved so much, no longer exist. He would think he was in some alien landscape.
Written by Jane Austen’s World contributor, Tony Grant, London Calling.
More on the topic
- The Life of Horatio Nelson, includes a video and extensive images
- Nelson, Trafalgar: National Archives
- Navy Surgeons’ Stories
- Tria Juncta in Uno, The Nelson Society
- Nelson Trail, Merton Council
- St. Mary the Virgin, Merton
- Rowlandson’s caricature of Lady Emma Hamilton and her attitudes
Posted in Jane Austen's World, Masterpiece Classic, Movie review, PBS Movie Adaptation, tagged Any Human Heart, Gillian Anderson, Haley Atwell, Logan Mountstuart, Matthew Macfadyen, PBS Masterpiece Classic, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, William Boyd on February 14, 2011 | 28 Comments »
A good reviewer is not supposed to give the game away early, but I can’t help but gush: If you haven’t seen Any Human Heart when it aired on PBS, you will have an opportunity to watch the episodes online the Monday after its initial showing, from Feb 14 to March 22, and two more weeks to catch the last two episodes on screen (February 20 & February 27).
Some critics have dismissed this mini-series as another Forrest Gump story, wherein the fictional hero moves through the 20th century and rubs shoulders with famous people. I can assure you that this is the only trait that these two movies have in common, for one is filmed from the perspective of magic realism and the other is a gritty view of a man’s life and his failures and successes. I began to watch the first episode of Any Human Heart when I had the time to view the DVD from start to end. I was glad that I had five free hours, for I could not stop watching it. The opening credits had a similar feel to the opening of Mad Men, which clued me in that this mini-series would not offer a one-note plot (I have not read William Boyd’s book, but intend to), and that cigarettes would be used as a prop. I was right.
We meet Logan Mountstuart almost immediately in all of his personifications (in misty watercolor memories) – from childhood,
to young man,
to mature man,
to an old man reminiscing about his life.
“I’m all these different people,” he thinks as the camera pans to a misty scene of a river bank. ”Which life is truly mine?”
Logan rummages through the detritus of his life, burning memories (much as Cassandra Austen burned her sister Jane’s letters) and looking over his journals. “Your past never leaves you,” he says early on.
There are many reasons to watch Any Human Heart, not the least of which are the performances.
Logan is a flawed, egotistical man whose ambition to write his great novel eludes him. Too often he is ruled by his heart, not his head, and he is easily influenced by external events and his own and other peoples’ desires. Matthew captures this man perfectly. We see him happy and content only with Freya.
For the rest of his life he compromises, and it becomes a struggle. Not that his love story with Freya is without fault, for Logan leaves his wife and son to be with her. I am a child of divorce whose father never bothered to come and visit, and so I thought myself incapable of feeling much empathy for a man who abandons his son and sleeps with his friend’s girlfriend and wife, but Matthew MacFadyen’s performance had me riveted.
Logan’s character is complex, and Matthew portrays all his shades in such a way that, although I found Logan’s actions often repellent, I also felt sorry for the choices he made and how the plans of his youth unraveled. “Life has to be encountered with an ignorance of sheer faith.” Ah, Logan.
During the first two episodes, Broadbent’s role as Logan in old age is largely silent, but in this actor’s skilled hands, the viewer knows exactly what is happening and why.
When Broadbent finally takes center stage in the third episode, the final chapter of Logan’s life is told. Now old and bent and poor again (for his assignments as a reporter have dried up), he has taken to eating dog food to stay alive and selling newspapers for a radical group.
The older Logan reviews his life through the lens of knowledge and experience, and what he sees and remembers makes him wince. “We never stay the same person. We change as we grow older. It’s part of the story of our life.”
With The King’s Speech up for a gazillion awards, this is a propitious time to portray Wallis Simpson, and Gillian has taken on the part with gusto.
At any moment I expected her to morph into Gloria Swanson and say “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup” or perhaps Morticia, I can’t decide. Not a single person in my social group admires Wallis Simpson, for her reputation as a sexual predator and icy fashionista, and knowledge of her dominatrix control over David have preceded her. Neither the Duchess nor Duke of Windsor come off well in this production.
The viewer can think of their story line as Chapter 2, after David abdicated as king in The King’s Speech. As for Gillian, she is carving out quite a career for herself in these spectacular BBC and PBS dramas, and I can’t wait to see more from her. Her performance in this series is over-the-top dramatic, but then wasn’t Wallis herself?
The same goes for Kim, who has recently been flexing her acting muscles onstage in London and in substantial parts such as My Boy Jack and as Gloria Scabalius in this production. She (and Gillian for that matter) show no vanity, allowing themselves to be filmed with makeup that is too white and heavy, as middle aged women who were once beautiful are often wont to do, and play the parts of cougars.
In Kim’s case this is literal, as her character, Gloria, has the habit of leaving her mark on her men. She cheats on her husband (Peter Scabius, Logan’s friend), and goes after Logan like a heat-seeking missile.
Her final scenes with Logan are full of pathos. (I could not help but think of an ailing Liz Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor.) Perhaps Kim will shrug off the bad after effects of that excruciatingly awful film, Sex in the City 2, and accept only meatier roles from now on.
You just have to love an actor who is willing to play a weak, self-indulgent, and dangerous man, and capture that personality to a tee. Tom Hollander’s performance as The Duke of Windsor personifies what I think of the former king. As a teenager I read several biographies about the Windsors, thinking like so many others that the king’s willingness to abdicate his throne for the woman he loved was romantic. Well, it was not.
In this series we see the Windsors for what they are: willing to ruin other peoples’ lives and to use others in order to maintain their self-important but insignificant status. They were stupid and dangerous snobs who hobnobbed with carpet baggers, the nouveau riche and dangerous factions. Tom Hollander portrays the duke as a mighty mite, and he does it perfectly.
One can believe that a man can lose his head, senses, and heart to a woman as beautiful as Freya (Haley). She’s smart, totally in love with her man, and too good to be true. Plus, she smokes as much as Logan. (Some of the scenes were so Bette-Davis-1930′s, where the man offers to light the woman’s cigarette, and so much can be said cinematically through the gestures of a cupped hand touching the other and looks of longing behind curtains of smoke.)
I don’t think I have ever seen an actress look lovelier in 1940′s dresses than Haley, and in this role she is the personification of Logan’s idea of a perfect woman. As he said, ”Time away from Freya is time lost forever.”
The cast of Any Human Heart is so strong that I could continue gushing for another hour. I suppose this mini-series might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly will be watching it again. Simply put, I found it outstanding.
More on the topic:
- For a synopsis of this series, click on this link to PBS.
- Any Human Heart Features a Number of Jane Austen Characters
- Any Human Heart: William Boyd on Telling the Story of the 20th Century
Posted in 18th Century England, 19th Century England, Fashions, jane austen, Jane Austen's World, Regency Life, Regency London, Regency Period, Regency style, Regency Travel, Regency walk, Regency World, tagged 18th century shoes, 19th century shoes, pattens, Regency Fashion, Regency shoes on February 12, 2011 | 10 Comments »
She lost her pattens in the muck
& Roger in his mind
Considered her misfortune luck
To show her he was kind
He over hitops fetched it out
& cleaned it for her foot…
From the Middle Period Poems of John Clare (1820s)
It is commonly acknowledged that country roads in the day of Jane Austen became muddy and rutted in heavy rains, and therefore nearly impassable. In cities and towns, streets required constant sweeping of horse dung and dirt by street sweepers. Ladies wearing long white gowns and soft satin or kid slippers were constantly dodging dirt, protecting their hems from wet grass, and finding ways to walk on roads and cobblestones whose condition were poor at best.
Diana Sperling painted her delightful watercolor sketches between 1812 and 1823. In two of the paintings, she shows precisely how difficult it was for ladies (and gents) to walk over poorly maintained roads – or no roads at all! One imagines that Jane Austen and her family, who were country gentry like the Sperlings, encountered similar difficulties when walking.
In Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, one can see Marianne in particular holding up her skirts and daintily traipsing over a London street as the party walks from their carriage to the Dashwood’s ball in London. I found this scene particularly interesting, for this is one of the few films that depict how difficult it was for ladies to keep their garments clean as they walked down London’s streets. Regency women must have collectively heaved a sigh of relief when hemlines became fashionably short.
The problem of keeping one’s feet and skirts clean was solved by wearing pattens, although this practice was rapidly fading in the early 19th century.
In A Memoir of Jane Austen, her James Edward Austen Leigh wrote about his aunts Cassandra and Jane:
The other peculiarity was that when the roads were dirty the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defence against wet and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good society and employed only in menial work…
As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve, I add the following epigram written by Jane Austen’s uncle Mr Leigh Perrot, on reading in a newspaper of the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss Patten
Through the rough paths of life,
with a patten your guard,
May you safely and pleasantly jog,
May the knot never slip,
nor the ring press too hard,
Nor the Foot find the Patten a clog.
A patten was an oval shoe iron that was riveted to a piece of wood and then strapped to the underside of a shoe. This unwieldy and loud contraption served to raise the shoe out of the mud or a dirty street. Even a clean street would sully the hems of delicate white muslin gowns, and thus ladies would commonly wear pattens. However, these contraptions were loud. As Jane Austen described in Persuasion:
“When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint..”
Pattens had been banned from churches for some time. As early as 1390, the Diocese of York forbade clergy from wearing pattens and clogs in both church and in processions, considering them to be indecorous: “contra honestatem ecclesiae”*. An 18th century notice in St Margaret Pattens, the Guild Church of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, requested that ladies remove their pattens on entering; other English churches had similar signs, and in one case, provided a board with pegs for ladies to hang them on. One surmises that churches banned the use of pattens because of their loud clatter on stone floors.
Constance Hill, who with her sister followed in the footsteps of Jane Austen a century after Jane’s death, described the noise of these raised iron clogs:
It is true that in bad weather ladies could walk for a short distance in pattens, which were foot-clogs supported upon an iron ring that raised the wearer a couple of inches from the ground. But these were clumsy contrivances. The rings made a clinking noise on any hard surface, and there is a notice in the vestibule of an old church in Bath, stating that “it is requested by the church-wardens that no persons walk in this church with pattens on.” – Constance Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends
Pattens were clumsy platforms that raised the shoe a few inches from the ground. The most common patten after the 17th century was made from a flat metal ring which made contact with the ground. The ring was then attached to a metal plate nailed into the wooden sole. By the 18th and 19th centuries, men’s shoes had thicker soles and the wealthier gentlemen tended to wear riding boots, and thus pattens were worn only by women and working-class men in outdoor occupations. Soon, pattens were abandoned by ladies as well, and only the lower classes wore them as they went about their duties.
There were three main types of pattens: one with a wooden ‘platform’ sole raised from the ground by either with wooden wedges or iron stands. The second variant had a flat wooden sole often hinged. The third type had a flat sole made from stacked layers of leather.*
One can imagine the sad state of paths and roads the world over, which necessitated the use of such clumsy footwear in England, America, Turkey, and China, to name a few countries.
Images of pattens over the centuries:
- V&A 17th century shoes
- Early 18th century woman’s or girl’s patten, Museum of London
- 18th century overshoes, Met Museum
- 18th century shoe iron or patten, BBC History
- Shoes and pattens, Manchester City Gallery
- 18th century women’s shoes
- *Patten shoes. Ask.com
- 1799 pattens, V&A
- 1780-1820 pattens, V&A