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Archive for June, 2011

Gentle Readers: To celebrate the 3 millionth visitor to this blog, I will be giving away Tea With Jane Austen, a delightful and informative book by Kim Wilson. Deadline: The contest will end the moment my blog meter records 3 million or July 4th, whichever comes first! Contest Closed! Congratulations, Sherry, and thank you ALL for participating and leaving such excellent questions!

All you need to do is leave a comment and a way for me to reach you. Please address this question: If Jane Austen came over for tea, which burning question would you want to ask her?

Thank you all for visiting my blog and for making it such a joy to meet you online.

Page 16 of Tea with Jane Austen. Image @Amazon.com

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Imagine that your beloved husband or son suddenly disappeared after meeting friends at a neighborhood bar, and that you would not know for months what had happened to them. You fear that he has been taken by a pressgang.

Press gang taking unwilling men

Such was the case in Jane Austen’s time, when Great Britain fought long wars over land and sea. Since medieval times it had been the royal prerogative to impress free men into a seamen’s service. The custom was roundly condemned, except in cases of “necessity of the sudden coming in of strange enemies into the kingdom.”* During times of war, “the tempation of impressment” was “too strong to be resisted by Parliament.”* And so pressgangs would roam towns and the countryside to take men against their will to serve in His Majesty’s navy.

“The class on whom it fell, however, found little sympathy from society. They were rogues and vagabonds, who were held to be better employed in defence of their country, than in plunder and mendicancy. During the American war, impressment was permitted in the case of all idle and disorderly persons, not following any lawful trade or having some substance sufficient for their maintenance. Such men were seized upon, without compunction, and hurried to the war. It was a dangerous license, repugnant to the free spirit of our laws; and, in later times, the state has trusted to bounties and the recruiting sergeant, and not to impressment, — for strengthening its land forces.” - The constitutional history of England since the accession of George Third, 1760-1860, Volume 2 (Google eBook), Thomas Erskine May, 1866 p 261-262

Press Gang. Image @LIFE magazine

During the Napoleonic wars, the need for sailors was great, and larger numbers of free men (including Americans) were forced into service. They were taken in any way, usually at night, through violence, entrapment, and fraud. Before anyone could discover their absence, they were taken on board and locked up until the ship sailed from port. The captured men were often wounded and would die from lack of treatment.

Press warrant. Image @Nelson's Navy**

“Impressment was restricted by law to seamen, who, being most needed for the fleet, chiefly suffered from the violence of the press-gangs. They were taken on the coast, or seized on board merchantships, like criminals: ships at sea were rifled of their crews, and left without sufficient hands to take them safely into port. Nay, we even find soldiers employed to assist the pressgangs: villages invested by a regular force: sentries standing with fixed bayonets; and churches surrounded, during divine service, to seize seamen for the fleet.

The lawless press-gangs were no respecters of persons. In vain did apprentices and landsmen claim exemption. They were skulking sailors in disguise, or would make good seamen at the first scent of salt-water; and were carried off to the sea ports. Press-gangs were the terror of citizens and apprentices in London, of laborers in villages, and of artisans in the remotest inland towns. Their approach was dreaded like the invasion of a foreign enemy. To escape their swoop, men forsook their trades and families and fled, — or armed themselves for resistance. Their deeds have been recounted in history, in fiction, and in song. Outrages were of course deplored; but the navy was the pride of England, and every one agreed that it must be recruited. In vain were other means suggested for manning the fleet, — higher wages, limited service, and increased pensions. Such schemes were doubtful expedients: the navy could not be hazarded: press-gangs must still go forth and execute their rough commission, or England would be lost. And so impressment prospered. - The constitutional history of England since the accession of George Third, 1760-1860, Volume 2 (Google eBook), Thomas Erskine May, 1866 p 261-262

May’s words in 1866 seem a bit overwrought, but one can only imagine how awful impressment must have been for the families who did not know what happened to their men, and for the men who were bound into service against their will.

Towns people, including women, opposing the press gang, 1779

Although authorities would do all they could to prevent impressment, the Georgian police force was still primitive compared to what it would become in the Victorian era. Still, local townsmen would fight off the press gangs to save a hapless man from impressment.

George Hodge, sailor in Nelson's navy

Even sailors who had served their term of duty were in danger of being pressed into service again. It was not unusual for a sailor to join, be captured, find freedom, run from the press gangs, be impressed, and then join the navy of their own free will again.  George Hodge left a remarkable diary of his years as a sailor.

He was captured again in 1797, but was returned home and then spent months on the run from press gangs…But in 1798 he was caught and joined HMS Lancaster, which had 64 guns.   For the next nine years he served mainly along the west African coast. But he also went to Ceylon and the East Indies.

In 1808 he joined HMS Marlborough, 74 guns, and spent the years until 1812 mostly on blockade duty around Europe. - Daily Mail

George Hodge's remarkable diary

In 1795, William Pitt introduced a Quota Act, which stated how many men each county had to provide for service. Convicted men were given the option to serve out their harsh sentences in prison, or serve in the navy. While this Act did not end the practice of impressment, it served to reduce it. Impressment virtually ended with the Napoleonic Wars in 1814. By the mid-19th century the custom had disappeared.

Press Gang – words to the song

As I walked out on London Street
A press gang there I chanced to meet
They asked me if I’d join the fleet
On board of a man-o-war, boys

Come brother shipmates tell to me
What kind of treatment they give you
That I may know before I go
On board of a man-o-war, boys

When I got there to my surprise
All they had told me was shocking lies
There was a row and a bloody old row
On board of a man-o-war, boys

The first thing they done they took me in hand
They lashed me with a ‘tar of a strand’
They flogged me till I could not stand
On board of a man-o-war, boys

Now I was married and me wife’s name was Grace
‘Twas she that led me to shocking disgrace
It’s oft I’d curse her ugly face
On board of a man-o-war, boys

When next I get may foot on shore
To see them London girls once more
I’ll never go to sea no more
On board of a man-o-war, boys

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Early milliner shops were like our department stores, selling all manner of fashionable items. The image of a milliner shop in Paris shows the costumes we have come to associate with the era of Marie Antoinette. After the French Revolution, fashions changes drastically, for the French citizenry did not want to be reminded of the recent bloodshed or the ancient Regime. The rage in fashion was an imitation of the classical dress worn by the Greeks and Romans.

Dressmaker shop, 1775

The end of the 18th century witnessed a signal change in the style of women’s dress. The gown no longer consisted of two dresses, an under and an outer one. The formal styles which had prevailed throughout the century and brought into use stiff materials such as solid damasks, velvets, satins, and silks, were replaced by the fashion of the short-waisted clinging gown made of muslin and soft silk. This “Empire” mode characterized the dress of the first quarter of the 19th century. – The Encyclopedia Americana, Frederick Converse Beach, George Edwin Rines, 1902,  “costume”

Too Much and Too Little, or Summer Cloathing for 1556 & 1796

Parisians dressed in the new fashions were known as the “incroyables” (men) and the “merveilleuses,” (women.) These fashions were not at first admired and generally regarded as hideous. Caricaturists had a heyday making fun of these freaks of Fashion. British fashionistas shortly followed suit, as the cartoon by Gillray attests.

Monstrosities of 1799, Kensington Gardens, Gillray

Macaronis turned into dandies, and gently bred ladies wore clothes so thin and diaphanous, that the shape of their legs showed clearly through the skirts. The muslin disease (catching a serious cold or pneumonia) lasted for as long as fashionable young women wore thin muslin dresses with bare necks and arms in damp and drafty buildings.

Merveilleuse et Incroyable. The close up of the dress reveals how sheer the fabrics were.

In some instances, nothing was left to the imagination. In the satirical image below by Isaac Cruikshank, the ladies are shown wearing next to nothing. Satire took many forms in the late 18th century. The Lady’s Monthly Museum featured a dialogue between a lady visiting Paris and a man milliner. His answer is hilarious.

Caricature by Isaac Cruikshank

Dialogue Between a Lady and A Man Milliner at Paris

“Citizen, I am just come to town: –pray, have the goodness to inform me how I must appear, to be in the fashion.”
“Madame, ’tis done in a moment; in two minutes I shall equip you in the first style. –Have the goodness to take off that bonnet.”
“Well.”
“Off that petticoat.”
“There it is.”
“Away with these pockets.”
“There they go.”
“Throw off that handkerchief.”
“’Tis done.”
“Away with that corset and sleeves.”
“Will that do?”
“Yes, Madame, you are now in the fashion. ‘Tis an easy matter, you see.–To be dressed in the fashion, you have only to undress.” – The Lady’s Monthly Museum, February 01, 1801, pg. 126.

Definition of a man milliner: A man who makes or deals in millinery, that occupation having been at one time predominantly performed by women; hence, contemptuously, a man who is busied with trifling occupations or embellishments.

Louis-Léopold Boilly painted a gown so sheer that without a petticoat, her short chemise is easily visible under the delicate muslin.

The days of the Revolution (1789 – 1799) brought in simple fashions. Corsets were discarded, the waist became short and the skirt clinging, and cheap materials were used. During the Directoire, the women adapted the classic style, borrowing from both Greek and Roman fashions. These costumes were scanty, and frequently were split up the sides. The dresses were often transparent and worn without chemises. The gentlemen of this fantastic period were styled “Incroyables,” “Unimaginables”; the ladies, “Merveilleuses” and “Impossibles.”  The men wore an exaggerated copy of what had been previously called the English fashion.- Costume design and illustration,  Ethel Traphagen, 1918,  p 120.

Millinery shop in Paris, 1822

A milliner could carry possibly a thousand different goods, becoming the forerunner of the modern department store. At this point, the term “milliner” was tied to the Latin word “mille,” meaning thousand.

The 18th Century milliner might have offered a thousand goods but all shared the quality of being fashionable accessories. Wares could include shoes, jewelry, table service, clocks, hosiery, fabrics, shirts, aprons, cloaks, caps, hats, muffs and mitts. – The Millinery Shop, Colonial Williamsburg

Milliner doll catalog, 1820s. These dolls were dressed in the fashion of the day. Look at the above image for a sample size of a doll. Image @Christine LeFever: Dolls and Fancywork

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Gentle Readers, With this article we once again benefit from Tony Grant’s expertise as a tour guide in England. He has written a lovely post about Steventon Rectory and its influence on Jane Austen’s description of Barton Cottage in Sense and Sensibility.

Does Barton Cottage, the cottage that Mrs Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, retreat to and which is located in Devon, just north of Exeter, owe much to Steventon in Hampshire, Jane’s first home?

Elinor ( Emma Thompson) and Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) in front of Barton Cottage. Sense and Sensibility, 1995

I recently went to Steventon again, the birthplace of Jane Austen and where she spent her formative years until the age of twenty six. Steventon was where she thought she would spend the rest of her life. As soon as she was born she was sent to live with a family in the village. The mother of the household she was sent to became Jane’s wet nurse. Mrs Austen had nothing to do with her children as babies. This might provide an explanation for Jane’s aversion towards her mother as she grew older but it also explains that her attachment to Steventon was not just through her own family and the rectory but it was linked to the wider community and she had very close ties to some of the villagers.

Row of cottages in Steventon. Image @Tony Grant

Steventon is set in a small Hampshire valley about five miles south west of Basingstoke, the nearest large town. When you visit Steventon today there are a few cottages and houses, not dissimilar in number to Jane’s days and a cross roads that has a cluster of old cottages, some of them terraced, set in a beautiful verdant landscape of fields and trees and gently rising downland.

The Dashwood women see Barton Cottage for the first time. Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

“a view of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded and rich in pasture.”

The site of the Rectory at Steventon. You can see the fence that surrounds the pump in back of the tree. Image @Tony Grant

Take the fork at the cross roads along the valley and within a few hundred yards you come to a lane that branches off to the right, almost hidden by bushes and trees. If you can stop at this corner and look into the field on the right, there are two or three tall mature trees , sycamore and ash, and next to one tree is a rustic wooden fenced area with an old water pump in the centre. This is the site of Steventon Rectory, Jane’s old home. The pump is presumed to be the pump the Austens had in their back yard. This rectory had become derelict, and was demolished by Edward Austen Knight when his son, William Knight, took over as vicar of Steventon.  When George Austen retired, he moved Jane, Cassandra and their mother to Bath. James Austen became the new vicar until his death in 1819, when Henry Austen stepped into the position.

The pump. Relic at Steventon Rectory. Illustration by Ellen G. Hill, 1923.

Edward had the new rectory built in the valley in fields on the opposite side of the road.  It still stands today, a fine white house on the sunny side of the valley facing south east.

Steventon House, built by Jane's brother Edward c. 1820-22. Image @Jane Austen Today

Behind the site of the original rectory where Jane lived there is a grassy meadow sloping steeply upwards for a quarter of mile to where her father’s church, St Nicholas, is situated next to a large house where the Digweeds lived. Jane, Cassandra and her brothers often scrambled up the hill behind their rectory to play with the Digweed children.They were some of their childhood friends. There are cultivated fields, meadows and woody areas all around, especially on the top of the hill near the Digweeds home behind the rectory site.

Site of the Steventon Rectory today. The fenced in pump is at left.

“The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind, and at no great distance on each side; some of which were open downs, the other cultivated and woody.”

The rectory Jane lived in would have been quite spacious because at least seven children lived there, five of her six brothers, herself and her sister Cassandra as well as her mother and father, a couple of servants and for much of the year, sons of some of the local gentry who sent their boys to the Reverend Austen for education and entry to Oxford or Cambridge. Oxford had been the Reverend Austen’s university. Her brother George did not live with the family however because of his disabilities. He was virtually adopted by another family who cared for him. Whether it was for financial gain I am not sure. So the rectory must have been spacious.

“Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room about sixteen feet square; and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bedrooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house.”

Cottage of local stone. Image @Tony Grant

Barton cottage doesn’t resemble the rectory from this description but Jane must have used her knowledge of cottages in the area of Steventon. Jane is very precise about the size of the two sitting rooms, sixteen feet square. The cottage is used in a special way within the novel. She describes it as being , “defective.” This is symbolic of the situation Elinor, Marianne and their mother are in. They are experiencing fractured times and are out of place financially, socially and the cottage they have come to, places them in a different strata of society than they are accustomed to. From the exact dimensions of the sitting rooms Jane Austen gives us, aren’t those rooms too small to socialise in the manner they are used to? It is a,”defective,” place on many levels and it’s not like other cottages.

Cottage without honeysuckle. Image @Tony Grant

Jane would have been very familiar with the traditional country cottage but she makes Barton Cottage different, almost an eye sore, bare of climbing honeysuckle and green painted windows. Mrs Dashwood has plans for it, to change it and develop it. But can these come to fruition? Can the cottage be developed and grow? Can the Dashwood sisters adapt, develop and grow ? Does Barton owe much to Steventon? I would say so. Steventon formed Jane’s knowledge and experience of cottages and she used that knowledge of how cottages are and the meaning in social class and wealth different cottages might portray to incorporate the cottage at Barton into the fabric and meaning of Sense and Sensibility.

Cottage. Image @Tony Grant

Hampshire cottages:
If you ever visit Hampshire and pass through the countryside you will see a variety of types and styles of cottage. Cottages have always been built with local materials readily at hand.

Clay tile roofs. Image @Tony Grant

In the Cotswolds you will find most villages made from Cotswold stone and roofed with tiles sliced from the same stone. This is a creamy yellow colour. Climbing roses, wisteria, lichen and mosses have had plenty of time to insinuate themselves into and on these mellow warm coloured buildings.

Roses round the door. Image @Tony Grant

Hampshire, with its oak, elm and ash forests has many timber frame cottages. Great beams of wood cut from massive oaks have been merely incorporated into the frame and the spaces between the oak beamed framework filled with wattle and daub.

Cottage with wattle and daub. Image @Tony Grant

Wattle and daub being made from woven ash fencing and plastered with a mixture of cow dung, lime and straw. (Click here for a video.)

The oldest building in Winchester is made with wattle and daub. Image @Tony Grant

The roofs are thatched with reeds or wheat stalks. Some have clay tiles where local clay deposits provide the raw material and Hampshire brick works do the work of firing the tiles.

Thatched cottages. Image @Tony Grant

Many buildings are made of flint. Hampshire has large areas of chalk downland. Within the chalk are found nodules of flint.

Winchester College Shield erected on a wall made with flint building material. Click on photo for a larger image. Image @Tony Grant

Nobody is quite sure how flint is formed in the chalk but it is a very hard crystalline rock, glassy in substance. It has been one of the most versatile materials ever.

More thatched cottages. Image @Tony Grant

Stone age man used it for axes, arrow heads, scrapers and knives. It has been used and is still used to build strong walls. Flint lock muskets used tiny bits of flint fixed into their firing mechanism to create a spark which ignited the gunpowder to propel the musket ball down the barrel. Flint can be struck against flint or metal to create a spark to light a fire.

Chawton Cottage. Image @Tony Grant

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Caricatures from the late 18th- early 19th century always pique my interest. In this instance, Rowlandson’s apothecary (1801) is praying deeply. But what for? Skills to heal more efficiently and better, or for a slew of customers whose illnesses will help fill his coffers with lucre?

Knowing Rowlandson’s outrageous penchant for irony, I am willing to bet it is the latter. So I entered a few phrases into my trusty Google search bar and found this cached explanation of the prayer:

A prayer with a mischievous aim: This example is a sarcastic Apothecary’s Prayer, which was accompanied by a Thomas Rowlandson caricature. 12

“Oh mighty Esculapius! Hear a poor little man overwhelm’d with misfortunes, grant I beseech thee to send a few smart Fevers and some obstinate Catarrhs amongst us or thy humble supplicant must shut up shop…”

“and if it would please thee to throw in a few Cramps and Agues, it would greatly help thy miserable servant, for on the word of an apothecary, I have scarcely heard the music of Mortar these two month…”

“Physic those, I beseech thee, that will not encourage our profession, and blister their evil intentions, viz, such as their cursed new-invented waterproof…”

This was a weatherproof material which was expected to keep the wearer dry and hence free from colds and coughs and other diseases. - Wright, David. Some Prayers and Oaths from the History of Medicine, cached page.

The entire prayer:

O mighty Esculapius! hear a poor little man overwhelm’d with misfortunes, grant I beseech thee to send a few smart Fevers and some obstinate Catarrhs amongst us, or thy humble supplicant must shut up shop–and if it should please thee to throw in a few Cramps and Agues it would greatly help thy miserable servant, for on the word of an Apothecary I have scarcely heard the music of Mortar these two months.

Take notice also, I beseech thee, of the mournful situation of my neighbour, Crape the Undertaker, who suffers considerably by my want of practice, and loses many a job of my cutting out; enable him to bear his misfortunes with philosophy, and to look forward with new hope for the tolling of the bell.

Physic those, I beseech thee, that will not encourage our protection, and Blister their evil intentions, viz. such as their cursed new-invented waterproof; and may all the coats be eaten by the rats that are so made: But pour down the Balm of Gilead on the Overseers of the village, and all the Friends of Galen.

May it please thee to look over my book of bad debts with an eye of compassion, and increase my neighbours’ infirmities; give additional twinges to the Rector’s Gout, and our worthy Curate’s Rheumatism; but above all, I beseech thee to take under thy special the Lady of Squire Handy, for should the child prove an heir, and thy humble servant so fortunate as to bring the young gentleman handsomely into the world, it may be the means of raising me to the highest pinnacle of fortune.

I looked up the word Galen. He was the physician who succeeded Hippocrates and who described cancer as an excessive black bile.  Until the 17th century it was believe that the bile coursed throughout the entire body. Even if a tumor was removed, the black bile remained to create more tumors. Not a nice prayer, n’est-ce pas?

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Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London
An apothecary praying for a host of illnesses to descend on his customers so that he can make more money. Coloured etching by T. Rowlandson, 1801, after G.M. Woodward.
Coloured etching and text 1801 By: George Moutard Woodward after: Thomas Rowlandson
Published: R. Ackermann,[London] (101 Strand) :  30 July 1801
Printed: [E.] Spragg)(London :
Size: border 18.7 x 23 cm.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 11040
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html
Previous Ref: D5459/2/146

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I came across this print by Isaak Cruikshank and was instantly captivated. Instead sketching studies of rich and influential people, Cruikshank used the images of ordinary folks. The study of physiognomy goes back a long time, but as early as the 18th century, it was regarded as a dangerous “science.”

Click on image for a larger view.

Physiognomy was regarded by those who cultivated it as a twofold science: (i) a mode of discriminating character by the outward appearance, and (2) a method of divination from form and feature. On account of the abuses of the latter aspect of the subject its practice was forbidden by the English law. By Ihe act of parliament 17 George II. c. 5 (1743) all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy wore deemed rogues and vagabonds, and were liable to be publicly whipped, or sent to the house of correction until next sessions.1 The pursuit thus stigmatized as unlawful is one of great antiquity, and one which in ancient and medieval times had an extensive though now almost forgotten literature. It was Very early noticed that the good and evil passions by their continual exercise stamp their impress on the face, and that each particular passion has its own expression”. – The Encyclopedia Britannica, a dictionary of arts and sciences, Vol 21, Google eBook

Physiognomy studies, Charles LeBrun, 17th C

In About faces: physiognomy in nineteenth-century Britain, 2010 ,  Sharrona Pearl discusses the study of facial features and their relationship to character during Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ day. Caricaturists felt the license to distort and exaggerate features, much as Cruikshank did. Portrait artists especially “learned how to communicate internal character and lived experience, while adhering strictly to the viewed external appearance.”

While Cruikshank’s images represented a fascinating study that provided a handy visual bank of expressions and features for the caricaturist, the study of physiognomy could take people down a dangerous path of fostering stereotypes.  Hitler took to this practice to an extreme when he offered descriptions of ideal Aryan features and contrasted them to the facial features of the “typical Jew”.  LeBrun’s image (above) compared people’s facial features to animals. There was nothing fun or funny about such sketches, which were more about prejudiced viewpoints than a reflection of  reality.

Physiognomy Studies after Pierre Thomas Le Clerc, 1760

While it is hard for humans to escape first impressions and to be judged by looks alone,  one has to tread carefully in making assumptions based on regular or irregular features. In the hands of a talented artist, however, one can tell much about the sitter’s character through the skilled manipulation of features and expression. Norman Rockwell tells a delightful tale about the nature of gossip in this masterful 20th century caricature. He needed no words to tell his humorous story.

Click on image for a larger view.

First image: Eighty-four physiognomic caricatures of English eighteenth century types. Etching by I. Cruikshank after G.M. Woodward.
1796 By: George Moutard Woodward after: Isaac Cruikshank
Published: Allen & West,London (15, Paternoster Row) : 1 August 1796
Size: platemark 24.9 x 37.1 cm.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 9699
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales, see http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/indexplus/page/Prices.html

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Gentle readers, Tony Grant kindly rewrote an article that he had originally written for JASA (Jane Austen Society of Australia), adding more images and new information. Tony has also resurrected his blog, London Calling (thank you, Tony).

Jane Austen lived in Southampton between 1806 and 1809. She stayed in a rented house in Castle Square.

Southampton sea walls

In 1806 Francis Austen married Mary Gibson. As he was to be away at sea a lot he made the suggestion that Mary and his mother, Jane, Cassandra and Martha Lloyd should share a house together. Southampton was a good choice because it was near to Portsmouth, where Frank was based and was a pleasant town set within medieval walls. It was also surrounded by picturesque countryside.

Southampton High Street, 19th C.

Jane had been to Southampton twice previously. First when she was eight years of age to attend Mrs Cawley’s school with Cassandra and her cousin Jane Cooper. This was a disaster. Mrs Austen , in her wisdom, had decided to send Cassandra away to school to attend Mrs Cawleys academy in Oxford in the Spring of 1783. Jane didn’t want to be left out. She wanted to be with her beloved sister and insisted on going. What the reasoning of Mrs Austen was in allowing a seven year old to be away from home for an extended period of time is anybody’s guess. Mrs Cawley removed her school to Southampton that same year.

Reading Abbey, Mrs Cawley's school in Southampton

Unfortunately, because Southampton was a port it was often one of the first places that diseases and infections from abroad would first take hold. Cassandra, Jane Cooper and Jane became gravely ill. It was not until Jane Cooper, writing to her mother in Bath, alerted Mrs Cooper and Mrs Austen to the problem. Both mothers removed their children promptly and nursed them back to health.

How Southampton would have looked in Jane's time

The second time Jane stayed in Southampton when was when she was eighteen. She stayed with her cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Austen from Tonbridge had married money and moved to Southampton where her husband was…the Sherrif.” (from Claire Tomlin, Jane Austen A Life)

This branch of the Austen family lived in St Mary’s Street in the St Mary’s district of Southampton. While staying with their cousin, Jane and Cassandra attended a ball at the Dolphin Hotel.

Ball room at the Dolphin Hotel. Image @Tony Grant

Castle Square today consists of recently built housing, flats built in the 1960’s and some buildings built in the 1940’s and 1930’s. A pub, originally called The Juniper Berry later called The Bosun’s Locker and now renamed The Juniper Berry, is on the site of the house Jane lived in.

The Dolphin Hotel. Image @Tony Grant

To Cassandra Austen who was staying at Godmersham to help with the forthcoming baby: Friday 20 – Sunday 22 February 1807

“ We hear that we are envied our House by many people, & that the Garden is the best in Town.”

Jane Austen map of Southhampton

Jane also enjoyed the fact that the house in Castle Square had a garden. Something she had not been able to enjoy when living in Bath. She wanted to improve what was already there and the family hired a gardener. She didn’t think much of the roses that already existed,

we mean to get a few of a better kind therefore & the latter of an indifferent sort,—we mean to get a few of a better kind therefore & at my own particular desire he procures us some syringas…”

Jane also mentions getting a laburnum and having currants, gooseberry bushes and raspberries planted.

Site of the Itchen ferry in the 18th C.

Jane refers to, “The Beach,” in her letters from Castle Square to Cassandra. This was a stretch of land that bordered the Itchen River between the Town Quay and Cross House, which was a sort of Medieval shelter.

Cross House, a medieval shelter for Itchen ferry travelers. Image @Tony Grant

The shelter was built to shield passengers from inclement weather waiting to be rowed across the Itchen by ferrymen from The Itchen Ferry community situated on the Woolston side of the river. Jane probably sat here waiting for the ferrymen on the various trips she took on the river. (Click here to learn more about the fishermen and ferrymen at Itchen Ferry.)

Itchen Ferry cottages. Image @Tony Grant

“The Beach,” no longer exists. In the late Victorian period a large area of land was reclaimed stretching out into Southampton Water. Southampton Docks was built on this reclaimed land.

God's House gateway. Image @Tony Grant

The gateway through Gods House Tower, a medieval section of Southampton’s town walls, would have been the entrance through which Jane and her family accessed The Beach.

Southampton's town wall. Image @Tony Grant

On the 7th October 1808, Edward’s wife Elizabeth died soon after giving birth to her eleventh child. Ten days after this sad occurrence their two boys, Edward and George, travelled to Southampton to stay with their aunt Jane.

The Bosun's Locker, a pub that sits on the site of Jane's house. Image @Tony Grant

Jane did well in occupying their minds and played games with them and took them on excursions.

To Cassandra Austen at Godmersham: Wednesday 7 – Thursday 8 January 1807

We did not take our walk on Friday, it was too dirty, nor have we yet done it; we may perhaps do something like it today, as after seeing Frank skate, which he hopes to do in the meadows by the beach, we are to treat ourselves with a passage over the ferry.”

The Itchen has been industrialised now for a long time. The area was badly bombed during the war because there was a shipyard in that part of the river,called Thorneycrofts, which built minesweepers and destroyers. In Jane’s time Thorneycrofts were there but they built fishing boats and sailing boats, perhaps even the rowing boats Jane rowed in with her nephews.

Northam Bridge in the 18th C.

On one occasion Jane took Edward and George on the Itchen up as far as Northam Bridge where they saw a battle ship being fitted out.

To Cassandra Austen at Godmersham: Monday 24 – Tuesday 25th October 1808

“We had a little water party yesterday: I and my two nephews went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley today; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noon shine but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may go round from the ferry to the quay. I had not proposed doing more than cross the Itchen yesterday, but it proved so pleasant, and so much to the satisfaction of al, that when we reached the middle of the stream we agreed to be rowed up the river; both the boys rowed a great part of the way, and their questions and remarks, as well as their enjoyment, were very amusing; George’s enquiries were endless, and his eagerness in everything reminds me often of his uncle Henry.”

Netley Abbey, south transept. Image @Tony Grant

Netley Abbey appears to have been a popular place for the Austens to visit. This is a quote from Claire Tomlin’s “Jane Austen A Life.” Tomlin also quotes Fanny, who shows a great enthusiasm for Netley Abbey.

Netley Abbey, church nave. Image @Tony Grant

Claire Tomlin writes, “ There was a boat trip to Hythe and another to see the picturesque ruins of Netley Abbey; (Fanny is quoted as writing)

we were struck dumb with admiration, and I wish I could write anything that would come near to the sublimity of it.”

Chessel House, home of the Lances

During their time in Southampton they made new friends. Some did not make a good impression on Jane at first. A Mrs Lance, who lived at Chessel House on the other side of the Itchen, was not approved of. The Austens received cards from the Lances and presumed that they were acting on orders from Mr Lance of Netherton. Frank and Jane went to call on Mrs Lance. They would have got a ferry across the Itchen to the Itchen Ferry Village side and then would walked over Peartree Green, past the chapel on Peartree Green and along Sea Road to get to the Lance’s Chessel Estate at what is now Bitterne.

Peartree Church. Image @Tony Grant

The gate posts to the drive, which Frank and Jane would have walked through and the gatehouse to the estate which they would have walked past, are still there.

Little Lances Hill. Image @Tony Grant

The gate posts have been moved further apart to allow a modern road to pass through. Two of the local roads, Lances Hill and Little Lances Hill remind us of the Lance family.

Site fo the beach from God's House Tower gateway. Image @Tony Grant

To Cassandra Austen at Godmersham: Wednesday 7th – Thursady 8th January 1807:

“We found only Mrs Lance at home, and whether she boasts any offspring beside a grand pianoforte did not appear. She was civil and chatty enough, and offered to introduce us to acquaintance in Southampton, which we gratefully declined…………………They will not come often, I dare say. They live in a handsome style and are rich, and she seemed to like to be rich, and we gave her to understand we were far from being so; she will soon feel therefore that we are not worth her acquaintance.”

This does not turn out quite as Jane predicted. They did meet again. Mrs Lance visited Castle Square and the Lance daughters were part of their social circle at the Dolphin Balls. The importance of the pianoforte to Mrs Lance has echoes in Jane’s novel, Emma.

One, maybe slightly salacious story, emerges while Jane, Martha and her mother are in Southampton. Jane, perhaps a little teasingly, relates a relationship between Dr Mant, the rector of All Souls Church in the High Street and Martha Lloyd.

All Saint's Church, Southampton

Dr Mant was well known in Southampton. He had been the headmaster of King Edward VII’s Grammar School in the town . King Edwards Grammar School is now situated in the north part of the city. It has beautiful, extensive playing fields and an iconic, elegant, brick 1930’s style main building. It provides a very high standard of education and all pupils expect to go to university, many go on to Oxford and Cambridge and the other top universities in the country. In Jane’s day the grammar school was in French Street, very close to Castle Square, in a small medieval building. The ruins of it still exist. Dr Mant had also been a professor of Divinity at Oxford and written religious discussion pamphlets. He was a super star in the firmament of vicars. He was a very charismatic preacher too. Dr Mant had his following of inspired young ladies. Martha was apparently a besotted member of this clan.

Tuesday 17th January 1809 from castle Square to Cassandra.

“Martha & Dr Mant are as bad as ever; he runs after her in the street to apologise for having spoken to a Gentleman while she was near him the day before. – Poor Mrs Mant can stand it no longer; she is retired to one of her married Daughters.”

The Dolphin Hotel, which still stands today, was the venue for Balls in Jane’s time. The Dolphin is within easy walking distance of Castle Square and it would have taken no more that six or seven minutes to walk there.

The Dolphin Hotel, where Jane Austen attended balls

To Cassandra Austen at Godmersham: Friday 9th December 1808:

“ The room was tolerably full & there were perhaps thirty couples of dancers; The melancholy part was to see so many dozen young Women standing by without partners & each of them with two ugly naked shoulders! It was the same room we danced in fifteen years ago! – I thought it all over – & in spite of the shame of being so much older felt with thankfulness that I was quite as happy now as then.”

Quadrille, 1820

Also within easy walking distance of Castle Square was Southampton’s theatre. Jane is a little dismissive of the Theatre when she writes:

To Cassandra Austen at Godmersham: Sunday 20th November 1808:

Martha ought to see the inside of the Theatre once while she lives in Southampton & I hardly think she will wish to take a second view.”

Site of the Southampton Theatre where Jane took Martha Lloyd. Image @Tony Grant

Southampton was a place Jane preferred to Bath. She appears to have had some enjoyable experiences there. It was obviously not a place she felt settled enough to write. Although, I am sure she used her experiences there in her novels.

Tony’s article in the JASA Chroniclem December, 2007.

Click on image to enlarge.

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