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Archive for June, 2012

Sadler’s Wells Aquatic Theatre, 1813. copyright The V&A Museum. Click on image to view details.

Sadler’s Wells was a performing arts area located in Clerkenwell in the outskirts of London. Named after Richard Sadler, who opened a musick house there in the late 17th century, the region boasted well water thought to have medicinal qualities.

Sadler was prompted to claim that drinking the water from the wells would be effective against “dropsy, jaundice, scurvy, green sickness and other distempers to which females are liable – ulcers, fits of the mother, virgin’s fever and hypochondriacal distemper.” -Wikipedia

Six theatres have stood at this site since Sadler built his first theatre. A second theatre,  Sadler’s Wells, was constructed in 1765, which attracted summer theatre goers (the Theatre Royal offered performances only in the fall and winter.)

Interior of the theatre in 1810. One can see the water-filled tank on the stage.

In the early 19th century, Sadler’s Wells began to offer aquatic spectacles. The construction of a large tank (90x24x3 ft)  in 1804 by Charles Dibdin covered the entire area of the stage. It was flooded with water that was pumped from the nearby New River at the cost of 30 pounds per annum. This renovation allowed for the theatre to be used for naval melodramas, a popular theme, one imagines, in the days of the Napoleonic Wars and tales of Admiral Nelson’s heroism. The Siege of Gilbraltar, an ambitious spectacle, deployed 117 model ships created by the Woolwich Dockyard shipwrights and riggers, who used a scale of one inch to a foot in exact imitation of the slightest details, including the rigging. Children were cast as drowning Spanish sailors, and could be seen struggling in the waves.

Scenic artist at work, 1790. Image @British Museum

A beautiful drop scene that filled up all the area of the proscenium showed the English fleet drawn up in battle against France and Spain. The enormous painting was used to entertain the audience during a delay while preparations were made behind stage. In order to alleviate 20 minutes of boredom between scenes, the stage slowly rose to nearly the roof of the theatre in full view. A second water tank was built on the theatre’s roof to simulate waterfalls. (With the lack of temperature control in the 19th century and windows in the main area, one can imagine that the theatre’s interior developed a powerful moldy smell in the heat of summer!)

Audience watching a play at Drury Lane, Rowlandson, 1785

The behavior of the theatre goers at Sadler’s Wells left much to be desired. As early as 1711 it was observed that members of the audience were publicly drunk, and their behavior boorish and loutish. Karl Philipp Moritz, a German traveler in England in 1782, described in his travel diary the audience in a typical British play house. Not only was the crowd rowdy between scenes and before the performance (making a “noise and uproar”), but there was a constant pelting of orange peels, for oranges were “tolerably cheap”.

Besides this perpetual pelting from the gallery, which renders and English play-house so uncomfortable, there is no end to their calling out and knocking with their sticks till the curtain is drawn up…I sometimes heard, too, the people in the lower or middle gallery quarrelling with those of the upper one. Behind me, in the pit, sat a young fop, who, in order to display his costly stone buckles with the utmost brilliancy, continually put his foot on my bench, and even sometimes upon my coat. – Karl Philipp Moritz

Another view of the theatre. Fishing seems to have been a popular pasttime as well.

If the Sadler’s Wells theatre audience had a particularly rowdy reputation compared to theatres in central London, one can only imagine how truly awful the experience was. The theatre slowly lost its lustre during the first half of the 19th century, for it was located in the rural outskirts of London. Without street lights and an organized police force, travel at night was dangerous, and patrons of the theatre were provided escorts as they traveled back to central London.

 Pinero’s play Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ (1898), portrays Sadler’s Wells as outmoded by the new fashion for realism. The theatre declined until, by 1875, plans to turn it into a bath house were proposed and, for a while, the new craze of roller skating was catered to, as the theatre was converted into a roller-skating rink and later a prize fight arena. The theatre was condemned as a dangerous structure in 1878. – Wikipedia

Anglers at Sadler’s Wells.

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Inquiring readers: This article from frequent contributor, Patricia Saffran from Brandy Parfums, describes the exhibit at the British Museum, which opened in London on May 24. These exquisite works of art, along with others, will be on view through September 30th. With this exhibit, the upcoming Olympic Games, and the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, what a sterling year it has been thus far for Great Britain.

Queen Elizabeth’s love of horses is well-known. As part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration, an exhibition has been created in her honor on the history of the horse in civilization. Opening May 24, 2012 at the British Museum in London, the emphasis in this exhibition is on the domestication of horses and the revolutionary impact of horses on ancient civilizations. Artifacts and art from the Museum’s extensive collection, as well as various loans on display depict the horse in its early use in farming, hunting and warfare. In the exhibition, the role of horses in the history of the Middle East is examined with an emphasis on the breeding of the Arab as a foundation of the Thoroughbred. Britain’s long equestrian tradition figures prominently in the show.

253093: Fragment of carved limestone relief featuring the heads and foreparts of three horses drawing a chariot with reins, hands of
charioteer and whip, 9thC BC, Neo-Assyrian. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

The genus Equus, including all current species such as horses, asses and zebras, is native to North America. During the first major glaciations of the Pliocene, around 2.6 million years ago, certain species crossed the Bering Land Bridge. From there they spread out, some to Africa diversifying into zebras. Other species spread to Asia, the Mideast and North Africa as desert asses. The modern horse, equus caballus, migrated to Asia, Europe and the Mideast. Other Equus species drifted toward South America.

Due to the possible change in grasses, forage, or the threat of hunting, it is believed that horses, asses and zebras remaining in North and South America died out at the end of the last glaciations of the Pleistocene around 10,000 years ago, but there is no definitive proof. Some horses may have stayed and survived in the Great Plains or elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Horses were reintroduced into the Americas by the Spanish about five hundred years ago, and possibly before that by the Vikings and Asians.

90313: Three horses (white, black and chestnut) galloping across a bare landscape, chestnut horse has a lasso round its neck and white horse round its hind legs. mid-16thC, Persian. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

As horses moved toward the rich grasslands in the steppes of southern Russia around 5,000 years ago, their domestication occurred – the wild Przewalski’s horse in Central Asia is an exception.

Horses were introduced to the Ancient Near East in about 2,300 BC. Before this time donkeys, asses and oxen pulled crude carts in this area. Technological advances later on saw swifter carts and chariots pulled by horses, and the development of horseback riding. The history of conquest utilizing horses along with advancements in writing, art, architecture and agriculture were all part of the culture of these ancient lands.

The following are highlights of the exhibition with some of the history attached to the objects and art on display.

The famous standard of Ur, a Sumerian mosaic from 2,400- 2,600 BC with chariots drawn by equines is on display.

One of the earliest known representations of a horse and rider will be shown – a terracotta mould from Old Babylonia (Iraq) from about 2000-1800 BC. The rider sits well to the back of the horse where there is very little control. Later in the ninth century BC, Assyrian cavalrymen brought horses that may have been bred to be finer and faster. They sat forward on the horse for better maneuverability, and the calvary charge was born.

265010: Album leaf. A horse with elaborate saddle and harness being led by a groom. On paper. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

Horses were highly prized and given as gifts in the Ancient Near East around 2000 BC according to ancient texts. Also, around this time what appears to be an Arab type can be seen in Egyptian tomb paintings – horses with a short back, high tail and large eyes. In about 1,600 BC the use of the faster, superior chariot ushered in the Chariot age – which was to have a profound effect on warfare, even reaching later on to China and elsewhere. Particularly among the ancient Hurrians, between the Tigris and Euphrates, a system of royal patronage developed with an aristocratic military.

The Assyrians reveled in the horse as a source of prestige and created meticulously crafted horse trappings. A Neo-Assyrian carved relief from Nimrud(Iraq) from the 9th century BC shows the intricate detail in these chariot horse trappings.

The Achaemenid King Darius was known to hunt fast game like lions from a fast-moving chariot and a seal of this image is on display. Darius was better known for developing a system similar to the Pony Express where horses were changed at intervals to deliver mail along the improved Royal road, stretching 1000 miles long. It was Herodotus who wrote, “nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted range in the quickest possible time. Neither snow, rain, heat nor darkness.” (Sound familiar?) – Herodotus, the Histories, Book VIII, 5th century BC.

948688: Man on horseback, with a falcon, early 18th century, India. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

The Parthian Empire 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD, saw more developments in horse combat. They were famous for the “Parthian shot” – pretending to flee while on horseback, then turning around shooting an arrow backwards. We now use the expression, “Parting shot” that comes from this manoeuvre.

Under the Parthians and later Sassanian Dynasty in 224 AD horses and riders started to wear armor for battle. While we think of jousting as quintessentially European with its armored horses and riders, the sport was actually practiced early on by the Parthians and Sassanians.

The horse grew in importance in the world across what is now Arabia, India and Turkey with numerous depictions in paintings and ceramics. Lovely Mughal miniatures from the 7th century AD reveal the high status of horses. Many show an owner and his beloved horse with delicate detail. The famous
Furusiyya manuscript from the 14th century AD is on display with its text on horsemanship.

Fine horses in the Middle East are explored in the Abbas Pasha manuscript from the 19th century. This document is the main text to describe the lineage of the purebred Arabian horses acquired by Abbas Pasha (the viceroy of Egypt). The Arab is the result of deliberate selective breeding.

406001: The Godolphin Arabian, Butler, T, 1750-55: Copyright of the Royal Collection

This exhibition includes the famous painting of the Godolphin Arabian by Thomas Butler, painted around 1750- 1755. The Godolphin Arabian was one of three foundation stallions (the other two being the Byerly Turk and the Darley Arabian) brought to England in the 18th century and bred to native
English horses to eventually become the Thoroughbred. The majority of modern Thoroughbreds (95%) are descended from these stallions. Those readers who saw the fantastic exhibition, All the Queen’s Horses, at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2003, will be familiar with this painting, which is on loan from
the Royal Collection.

185544: Hambletonian and Diamond at Newmarket.1800, by John Whessell, Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum

Also from the Royal Collection is a silver Faberge sculpture of the race horse Persimmon who had been owned by the Queen’s great-grandfather, Edward VII. The horse created a sensation by winning the 1896 Doncaster, St. Leger and Epsom Derby, the Epsom Derby being shown around the world in an
early newsreel.

400997: Lady Laetitia, Stubbs, G, 1793: Copyright of the Royal Collection

Normally hanging in the private quarters of Windsor, a George Stubbs portrait of Laetitia, Lady Lade on horseback will be on display. Lady Lade was a somewhat controversial figure, who swore among other things, but who was a gifted horsewoman. This painting from 1793, was commissioned by George IV who was smitten with Laetitia, the wife of his racing manager. The pleasure-loving George IV was himself an expert horseman, whip and breeder of racehorses.

Discussing the exhibition, curator John Curtis told The Guardian, “There are probably horses somewhere in every gallery in the museum, from Assyrian sculptures to coins. They’re so familiar and ubiquitous they mostly go unnoticed. We want to bring them together and show their importance in
history. The horse was an engine of human development…..”

For more information: britishmuseum.org Admission is free. The exhibition runs from May 24 – September 30.
While in the Museum, be sure to see the Elgin Marbles, a must for horse enthusiasts.

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A Request from a Graduate Student: Hello Fellow Jane Austen Readers! Have you ever read a published sequel to a Jane Austen novel? Are you a fan of Jane Austen sequels?

My name is Cliff Bryant, and I am a graduate student at Virginia Tech, conducting a research project on readers of published sequels of Jane Austen?s novels. I want to find out how readers came to read the sequels, and whether or not you like them.

If you are interested in participating in my study, just click on the link, and take the survey. It will take less than 10 minutes, and I will release the results in a few weeks, so you can check back and see how you compare to other Jane Austen sequel fans. (Feel free to contact me with questions at cliffbryant@vt.edu.)

(Just to be clear, I am talking about actual published sequels to the novels, not web fan fiction, or mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – though maybe that will be my next project!).

If you choose to participate, thanks so much! Just click the link, review the consent information, then take the survey!

Thanks!

(LINK – https://survey.vt.edu/survey/entry.jsp?id=1339705453120)

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I am jumping a bit late on the Jane Austen bandwagon with news of this ring. Coverage by Austen Authors and Austenonly is quite detailed and interesting, and I have very little to add to their information other than to offer the text of the PDF document put out by Sotheby’s. The ring, as well as original editions of Jane’s books, will be auctioned on July 10th.

I will say that this cabochon ring is lovely and made of a semi-precious stone, which makes sense, considering Jane’s economic situation. Amazingly, no one knew of this possession until quite recently, when it came time to be sold. The £30,000 price tag will be realized quickly, no doubt, and the number of people who will bid on this rare item will push the price well past its original estimate. Does anyone want to bet for how much this ring will eventually go? Let’s hope it will find a home in a British museum.

PROVENANCE
Jane Austen (1775-1817); her sister Cassandra (1773-1845); given in 1820 to her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen (née Jackson), second wife of Rev. Henry Thomas Austen (d. 1864); given in 1863 to her niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805-1880, the daughter of Rev. James Austen); her niece Mary A. Austen-Leigh (perhaps first to her mother Emma Austen-Leigh, née Smith); her niece Mary Dorothy Austen-Leigh; given to her sister Winifred Jenkyns on 27 March 1962; thence by descent

LITERATURE
W. Midgley, ‘The Revd. Henry and Mrs Eleanor Austen’, Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society: 1976-85 (1989), 86-91

CATALOGUE NOTE
An intimate personal possession of Jane Austen’s, hitherto unknown to scholars, that has remained with the author’s descendants until the present day. The stone is probably Odontalite, a form of fossilised dentine that has been heated to give it a distinctive blue colour, which came into fashion in the early 19th Century as a substitute for turquoise. It is an attractive but simply designed piece, befitting not only its owner’s modest income but also what is known of her taste in jewellery. Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, is given a gold chain by her cousin Edmund “in all the niceness of jewellers packing”, with the comment that when making his choice “I consulted the simplicity of your taste” – in contrast to the more elaborately decorated chain that she had been given by Mary Crawford. Similar sentiments are found in one of Austen’s letters when she informed her sister Cassandra that “I have bought your locket … it is neat and plain, set in gold” (24 May 1813).

On Jane’s death her jewellery, along with other personal possessions, passed to Cassandra, and she appears to have given a number of pieces as mementos. After Jane’s death Cassandra wrote to Fanny Knight that Jane had left “one of her gold chains” to Fanny’s god-daughter Louisa (29 July 1817), and she appears to have given the best-known piece of jewellery known to have belonged to her sister, the topaz cross given to her by her brother Charles in 1801 (see her letter to Cassandra, 26 May 1801), to their mutual friend Martha Lloyd.

Three years after Jane’s death, Cassandra gave the ring to Eleanor Jackson, on hearing the news that she was about to marry her brother Rev. Henry Thomas Austen. Henry had been Jane’s favourite brother and was closely involved in getting her novels into print. He lived locally to Cassandra and was by this time a clergyman (curate of Chawton from 1816, appointed perpetual curate of nearby Bentley in 1824), having previously gone bankrupt as a banker. Eleanor, his second wife, was the niece of the rector of Chawton, Rev. Papillon, and seems to have been known to the Austen family for many years.

Eleanor kept the ring for many years, bequeathing it to her niece Caroline shortly before her death. Caroline’s brother, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, wrote A Memoir of Jane Austen, and Caroline herself assisted this project by committing her own childhood memories of her aunt to paper, for her brother’s use. Caroline never married and the ring passed in turn to James-Edward’s daughter Mary, at which point it passed beyond the generation who had personal memories of Jane.

Click here for the PDF document

Also for sale:

Pride and Prejudice, Edgerton, 1813

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Some books are so useful they are hard to pass up. Several months ago, I received the Kindle edition of Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest, author of the delightful Jane Austen’s Sewing Box. Behind Jane Austen’s Door takes you on a tour of a Regency house, room by room – the entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, dressing room, bedroom, and kitchen – to
explore the challenges and lives of Jane Austen’s women. Included is an appendix that provides a quick overview of the Regency era.

More accessible in tone and organization than the excellent Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery and If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley, which cover similar but more comprehensive territory, this book can be used as a quick reference by people who want immediate access to the purposes and functions of the rooms in a Georgian household. What distinguishes this book is its close association to Jane Austen and her novels (much like Jennifer Kloestler’s book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is associated with that author).

In these large houses [such as Pemberley], the women didn’t need to use the drawing room during the day. There were other rooms for use; they had their own office and other smaller parlors. The drawing rooms, and yes there could be more than one drawing room, in these big houses were just for receiving the morning visitors and for evening entertainment.

One gains close glimpses of a rich family as well as one of more modest means, such as the household that Jane Austen’s mother oversaw.

She works with the cook in preparing menus, sourcing food and caring for the vegetables, dairy and chickens. On washing day, she and her daughters work alongside the servants to get all the laundry completed: it was just so time consuming in the days before washing machines! A gentlewoman had to monitor the budget, find supplies and pay the bills for all those expenses, including the tea and wine. 

While much of the territory that Jennifer covered seemed familiar, it is arranged in such a pleasant and easy to use format that new authors to the Jane Austen genre or Regency romance will find it very useful, especially Jane Austen fans.

Jane Austen’s own mother used her dressing room at Steventon as a second sitting space, more casual and private than the drawing room. After five weeks of illness, Mrs Austen’s return to health allows a resumption of tea in the dressing room. “My mother made her entree into the dressing-room through crowds of admiring spectators yesterday afternoon, and we all drank tea together for the first time in five weeks … We live entirely in the dressing-room now, which I like very much; I always feel so much more elegant in it than in the parlour.” Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, Sunday 2 December 1798.

Oh, there will be people who say that they already know this information and that the book provides nothing really new, but readers who are just discovering Jane Austen and the Regency world will think otherwise. I, for one, am happy to have another source to turn to when checking my facts about meal times and the precise function of certain rooms and furniture. The book, which is a quick read, is available in e-book format. I found this quite convenient, for I can access it on all my mobile devices and computers. Also, at $2.99 for the Kindle version, it is quite a bargain. I give it four out of five Regency teacups!

About the Author
Jennifer Forest has a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Cultural Heritage Management. Jennifer is a museum curator with a love of beautiful old historic buildings. She lives in Australia, a country built by Regency England.

Blog: Behind Jane Austen’s Door

Print Length: 51 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
ASIN: B006YITPAS
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled

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Have you ever read a book that made you squirm, yell out loud, and want to smash fine china to release your frustration? I usually put such books down and don’t bother to finish them. In this instance I was listening to Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston in my car and kept punching the on and off button. While I HATED Georgina, the main protagonist, the plot retained my interest just barely enough to keep me going.

Let me say up front that Elizabeth Aston knows her Jane Austen history and has a way with dialogue that is modern, smart, and funny. She also creates vivid characters with names like Henry LeFroy and Mr. Palmer, and has them shopping in stores like Mr. Darcy’s in Bath.

So what is my beef with Writing Jane Austen, which was published in 2010? Simply put, its heroine, Georgina. (I cannot recall her last name and am unwilling to relisten to the first CD to find out.) If an author asks me to spend hours of my life with her heroine, she should provide me with a character that commands my respect and/or interest. I could muster none for Georgina – no respect, no empathy, and absolutely no concern for her well being. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful young Maude, Henry LeFroy’s sister, I would have stopped listening to the audiobook after the first CD.

It is my firm belief that no well-educated author is as stupid as Georgina, the young woman who has been picked (for no good reason that I can see) to complete Jane Austen’s long lost and unfinished 3,000 word manuscript entitled “Love and Freindship.” Writing Jane Austen makes fun of the publishing industry’s mania for JA sequels, prequels, and mash-ups, and there are moments when Elizabeth Aston gets it completely right. But then I realized that this novel is as cynical as the  industry it is lampooning, and with a defective heroine to boot. Either Elizabeth Aston has created dumb Georgina on purpose to ramp up her contempt for money-grubbing publishing houses who have jumped on the Jane Austen bandwagon in pursuit of the almighty dollar, or she actually thinks that her dumb-as-a-post heroine has a few redeeming qualities. Not.

So why do I dislike Georgina so acutely? She lacks intellectual curiosity, has a less than open mind, and repeatedly demonstrates an inability to be practical in the face of a situation over which, if she possessed a smidgen of self-awareness, she has full control.  She is immature and uninteresting, a lethal combination. Much of the plot hinges on the fact that Georgina must write a 120,000 word book in the style of Jane Austen within a few months. The problem? She has never read a Jane Austen novel and has no interest in doing so, for she assumes that Jane’s books are a classic version of light chic lit, a genre she despises.

At the novel’s opening, Georgina is between a rock and a hard place. Her first book, a gritty, grim and dark Victorian novel, was forgettable, and her second book has stalled at Chapter One. Her agent threatens to drop her unless she writes Love and Freindship, and she is broke. The publisher’s advance will stave off her creditors and buy her more time to live in England. So, what does Georgina do after she gives in and agrees to write the book?  Anything but read a Jane Austen novel. At this point I began to develop an extreme dislike for Georgina that bordered on hatred. How stupid can you get? Elizabeth Aston keeps the reader dangling with this weak plot point: is Georgina EVER going to read a Jane Austen novel and write the damned book?

This wait was stretched out for so long that I nearly spat at my CD player. At one point I yelled, “Enough already, you stupid woman! READ Jane’s books!” Even a brainless monkey would have known that this is the first step one should take when one agrees to mimic a famous author’s writing style. Georgina’s reasons for resisting did not resonate with me. In fact, when she finally picked up Pride and Prejudice and reacted with  predictable gooey Jane Austen adoration, the only reason I kept listening to the audiobook was because I was driving along a boring stretch of highway.

What happened next in the book was so totally predictable that I began to laugh: After reading all of Jane Austen’s novels back to back in record time, Georgina now feels inadequate to the task of completing the manuscript of Love and Freindship. And so she is paralyzed with inaction.

Like I cared.

The heroine wasn’t all bad, I grudgingly admit. There were poignant moments, as when Georgina is brought to tears as she recognizes Jane Austen’s genius, or when she sees her writing table in Chawton Cottage and is actually able to muster an insight with her pea brain – that Jane could do so much with so very little.

I could have done without the interminable expositions about writer’s block, and some of the more improbable situations, such as ghostly apparitions of costumed people and carriages that were not integral to anything, except that the author seemed to think it a good idea to plop them in here and there. It is to Ms. Aston’s credit that she kept me listening until, well, almost the very end, for I did not quite finish the book, leaving the last CD in its sleeve. That’s how little I cared about Georgina and her angst about finishing Love and Freindship.

Reading or hearing this novel is akin to watching a TV movie of the week: Here today, gone tomorrow. In 20 years or so, as the Jane mania recedes into memory, you will likely find it for sale for 25 cents on the shelves of a Salvation Army store, while Jane’s excellent novels will still be  selling and selling and selling. Thankfully, I borrowed my audio book of Writing Jane Austen from my local library and did not have to part with a cent. If you are still tempted to read the novel, I suggest you do the same.

I am giving this book One Regency Teacup (out of five). In the words of the all-knowing Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “I am most seriously displeased.”

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Inquiring readers, Patty Saffran from Brandy Parfums has followed up her lovely post on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee schedule with a report on the magnificent Household Cavalry Horse Escort. You are treated to a sneak preview of an article that will be published in the July issue of Horse Directory Magazine. Accompanying this post is the layout of her article . You might also be interested in a piece she wrote for us about the horses in Georgette Heyer’s novels. Thank you, Patty, for keeping us in the loop and updating us on these wonderful horses.

First page of the article. Click on image to view the photos in more detail.

The three-month-long elaborate celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee continued with the Household Cavalry in the spotlight on June 5, 2012. The Queen was first driven by car to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving. In the Cathedral, the Household Calvary State Trumpeters, wearing gold state dress, greeted the Queen by playing the powerful fanfares for which they are well-known. Upon leaving the cathedral, the Queen walked past an honor guard from branches of the military. Captain Alex Owen of the Household Calvary Mounted Regiment (HCMR) wrote, We had a six man step lining party outside the cathedral from HCMR. They were commanded by Captain Roly Spiller [Adjutant-HCMR] who was in overall command of the Tri-service step liners.

Mercury and his drummer, CoH Kent, ready to plod on down to Westminster.

The Queen was next driven to the Lord Mayor’s residence, Mansion House, for a reception and then on to the Palace of Westminster for a special luncheon. The event that all horse enthusiasts were waiting for came next. The Queen along with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall stepped into the 1902 State Landau pulled by six Windsor Grey horses from the Royal Mews. (This landau which was built for King Edward VII’s Coronation was in the news last year when it carried Prince William and his bride, Catherine, to Buckingham Palace after the royal wedding.) As the Duke of Edinburgh was in the hospital, the number of landaus was abbreviated to two instead of three. One other state landau pulled by two Cleveland Bays, also from the Royal Mews, followed the Queen with the heirs the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Originally many more carriages were to be included, but a decision was made to simplify this procession. This determination unfortunately reduced the number of beautiful ceremonial horses, a main element of the pageantry. Some wondered why the Queen chose not to use the ornate Gold State Coach built in 1762 for George III, which would have been more spectacular. The Gold State Coach was the Queen’s coach of choice for the 2002 Golden Jubilee. One opinion offered is that the Gold State Coach, built so long ago, has no shock absorbers and the Queen has a bad back (a common complaint from many who ride frequently.) The other reason given is that the Thames flotilla celebrating the Queen’s 60 year reign was so elaborate on June 3rd that they did not want to overdo the parade to the Buckingham Palace with too much splendor. Yet another reason a landau was used, and not an enclosed ornate coach, is that more people would see the Queen in the open State Landau. It is a pity that a more ornate coach was not used such as the Irish State Coach that the Queen rode in on May 9th to open Parliament this year. A larger procession of carriages would have made horse lovers and all other spectators enjoy the spectacle even more.

All disappointment about not having a grand procession of carriages disappeared when preceding the Queen’s landau and Sovereign’s Escort, the double Household Cavalry Mounted Band made up of 53 musicians and horses appeared on the parade route. In case readers are wondering, the band was not part of the royal wedding last year.

Military bands from various regiments had already marched down the Mall and positioned themselves along the route. The Irish Guards played near Buckingham Palace for the crowd near the Palace Gates.

Led by heavy horses Achilles and Mercury with their enormous double-sided silver drums and banners and with their riders in ultimate festive attire, the entire Household Calvary Mounted Band passed the thousands of cheering spectators lining the parade route. Achilles of the Life Guards and Mercury of the Blues and Royals had waxed handlebar moustaches. While on parade, the drum horses assume the rank of Major (!) (A fantastic Munnings painting that pays homage to the beauty of the drum horse was on display at the Kentucky Horse Park’s 2002 exhibition “All the Queen’s Horses”.)

The Queen’s landau and Sovereign’s Escort

Of particular interest to American horsemen, the Queen’s horses including the Royal Mews horses and race horses are trained according to Monty Robert’s methods (The Man who Listens to Horses). He has also been a consultant to the Household Cavalry and has started drum horses for them.

Captain Alex Owen of the Household Calvary’s Blues and Royals Squadron wrote to me that the horses on parade have a sense of the importance of the occasion and appear to walk with pride. Captain Owen also wrote that the riders may seem to be expert horsemen, but most learned to ride only recently as part of their military training. Many will be rotated back to Afghanistan after their participation in ceremonial duties.

Those who think perfect horse manoeuvres for the Jubilee came easily should realize that many rehearsals and much time was spent to make everything run smoothly. Leading up to the event, Captain Roly Spiller, Adjutant of the Household Calvary Mounted Regiment (HCMR) said, “He had Early Morning Rehearsal for the Queen’s Birthday Parade and were out early again for the Jubilee rehearsal on Friday (stables at 0330 hrs and 0230 hrs respectively!), having already been out early in the morning for further internal rehearsals, so it was a long week.”

Second page of the article, somewhat cropped.

From Westminster, the Sovereign’s Escort of four divisions of 116 men and horses of the Household Calvary escorted the Queen up Whitehall, through the Admiralty Arch and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. This was a longer route, which meant many more people could see the procession than the usual shorter route through the Horse Guards Parade to the Mall. Captain Roly Spiller wrote ,”Today (June 4th ) has been our final day of preparations for the Jubilee Procession tomorrow. We have been practicing for the Stair-Lining Party outside St Paul’s Cathedral this morning, as well as exercising the horses to ensure they are not too fresh for tomorrow’s parade. Unusually, we will be coming through Admiralty Arch, rather than Horse Guards, so I hope it will be a really impressive sight coming down the Mall.”

Drum Horses Achilles and Mercury and the Household Calvary Mounted Band

The Horse Guards Parade was the staging ground for the King’s Troop Gun Salute. Captain Roly Spiller of the HCMR wrote, As it turns out, the noise bowl [the bleachers at Buckingham Palace] was manageable, as the horses were more concerned about the Gun Salute that the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery was firing from Horse Guards. However, with some determined riding, everyone kept the Escort moving. All in all, we were pleased (and relieved!) with how it went.”

The King’s Troop of 53 horses and 71 troops that form the Queen’s Saluting Battery included six teams of six horses to position gun carriages with thirteen pounder state saluting guns from WWI. The Troops fired a sixty gun salute honoring the Queen in the Horse Guards Parade, which was what concerned the Household Calvary passing nearby. The King’s Troop were originally created by the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1947 to honor the role of the horse in pre-mechanized warfare.

Among those Household Calvary horses in the procession to Buckingham Palace was a troop favorite, Thomas. He is one of the oldest horses in the regiment. At 24, he is due to retire to the farm of one of the farriers right after the festivities. Thomas is well-liked among the Troopers because he rewards those who give him treats with a sloppy kiss.

The Queen escorted by the Commanding Officer on the rear right wheel.

Another favorite horse in the HCMR Blues and Royals Squadron who also participated in the procession is six-year-old Llamrei (pronounced Clam-Rye). He is named after King Arthur’s charger. Around the stable, Llamrei is affectionately called Sausage. Captain Owen wrote, “Llamrei joined the regiment in November. When he was only recently broke and after four months of training to carry the state kit, Llamrei has now started to earn his keep by helping the soldiers muck out in the mornings with a broom between his teeth.”

The popular drum horse Digger missed the procession this time. He was at the Defence Animal Centre in Leicestershire which trains animals and runs courses on animal handling for the military.

The beauty of the perfectly groomed Royal Mews, King’s Troops and Household Calvary horses in high gloss tack, and riders wearing gleaming brass and colorful uniforms made a superb display for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that millions will never forget.

Note to readers: A new book with beautiful photographs has just been published: “Uniquely British-Behind the Scenes with the Household Cavalry” by Christopher Joll, Edited by Lt. Col Dan E Hughes HCMR Commanding Officer. Tricorn Books, UK 29 Pounds Sterling. Available in the USA from about July 18, 2012 at http://www.amazon.com

All proceeds from this book go to the Household Calvary Central Charitable Fund for HCR and HCMR veterans and their families, and for the regimental horses. More about this charity can be found at http://www.operationalcasualtiesfund.co.uk

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Vintage book cover. The book had been purchased in the shop at Dove Cottage. Image @Grey Pony

Inquiring readers, frequent contributor, Tony Grant,  has done it again and brought the 19th century alive through his discussion of poetry. One can walk the paths along Grasmere in the Lake District with him and William Wordsworth, inhaling the clean crisp air and regarding the sad cautionary tale of Martha Ray, the woman in the scarlet cloak. Visit Tony’s blog at London Calling.

Saturday August 23rd 1798.

“ A very fine morning. Wm was composing all the morning. I shelled peas, gathered beans and worked in the garden till half past twelve. Then walked with William in the wood. The gleams of the sunshine, and the stirring trees, and gleaming boughs, cheerful lake, most delightful. After dinner we walked to Ambleside…”

Thus Dorothy Wordsworth describes the division of labour in the Wordsworth house hold at Dove Cottage, Grasmere in Cumbria. She did the labour and William her brother did the,” Romanticising.” But it shows the division of experience wasn’t as clear cut as might appear at first. Dorothy shows her emotional response to the world she inhabits too, as much as her esteemed brother does in his poetry.

Dorothy

Romanticism was a way of seeing and experiencing the world and which Wordsworth promoted in his poetry. It wasn’t necessarily about being romantic however. It was about an emotional response to the world that balanced a logical factual approach. It promoted the importance of feelings, myth, symbolism and intuition as well as taking into account the facts of a situation.

William Wordsworth by Henry Eldridge, 1807

”The Thorn,” written by William Wordsworth in 1789 is very melodramatic and tells the story of a solitary, rejected woman, Martha Ray, who’s baby has died and the mythology that builds around her.

Dove Cottage.

Wordsworth, in the opening stanzas introduces us immediately to the thorn describing it as , “so old and grey,” “stands erect,” “A wretched thing forlorn.” And takes the personification to a higher degree saying it is,” Not higher than a two year’s child.”

He is setting us up to respond to natural things in an emotional way.

Footpath around the lake. Image @A Year In the Lakes

He then balances this emotional approach with factual evidence as he gives us the thorns location ,”high on a mountains highest ridge,” and the minutest detail, telling us that three yards from the thorn is, “a muddy pond,” and close beside the thorn is,

“A beauteous heap, a hill of moss.
Just half a foot in height.”

A mixture of fact and emotion balanced.
Three things are described in close proximity and we wonder how they relate to each other.

Colour is very important. The mound of earth near the thorn has, “vermilion dye,” “lovely tints,” “olive green, “scarlet bright,” “green red and pearly white.” Vivid in our minds eye.

Then, “A woman in a scarlet cloak,” Martha Ray, is introduced into this setting and we are asked,

“Now wherefore, thus, by day and night,
In rain, in tempest, and in snow,
Thus to the dreary mountain top
Does this poor woman go?”

The question all the local villagers ponder too. Observation, and imagination create a myth. Many believe she has killed her baby and buried it next to the thorn but they don’t actually know that. Wordsworth keeps pulling us back to reality, tempering our emotional response, “I cannot tell; I wish I could; for the true reason no one knows.”

Cattle watering at Grasmere, near Ambleside, Cumbria, by John Glover.

Wordsworth also begins to use the personal pronoun. It is an egotistical device but we are with him. It is us as well as Wordsworth asking the same questions. He has got involved in this apparent tragedy and so have we.

Wordsworth relates to us the story of Martha Ray and what makes her mad.

“Full twenty years are past and gone
Since she (her name is Martha Ray)
Gave with a maidens true good will
Her company to Stephen Hill”

Stephen Hill, we are told, gets Martha pregnant but leaves her and marries somebody else. As result she has the baby but it is never seen by other people.

Then imagination intervenes again,

“For many a time and often were heard
Cries coming from the mountains head
Some plainly living voices were:
And other, I’ve heard many swear,
Were voices of the dead:
I cannot think, whate’er they say,
They had to do with Martha Ray.”

Wordsworth then draws us back to a cool scientific approach,

“But what’s the Thorn? And what the pond?
And what the hill of moss to her?”
And what the creeping breeze that comes
The little pond to stir?”

You can almost imagine Wordsworth and us being explorers into this mystery using investigative questions.
However, finally, myth is triumphant

“…but some will say
She hanged her baby on the tree
Some say she drowned it in the pond
Which is a little step beyond
But all and each one agree
The little babe was buried there
Beneath the hill of moss so fair.”

Fact, imagination, emotion, have combined to create a myth.

What use would this mythologizing be to those people in the hills and mountains of the Lake District? Would it help them make moral decisions? They wanted to bring Martha Ray to public justice based on what they thought and felt. Would it help them to create their own response to Martha’s predicament without having to experience it themselves? Is that the purpose of mythologizing? The purpose of fairy tales and myths have always been important to childhood and early emotional development and moral growth. Wordsworth has created an adult myth. So does the need for myths go beyond childhood and remain important to all?

……………………………………………………………………………………….

In a few weeks, a good friend of mine, Clive, is coming over from Canada for a reunion of old school friends. Some of us are reaching 60 this year and we are getting together for a celebration in Liverpool. Clive and I are going on further north into the Lake District for a couple of days. We will be staying in Ambleside, not far from Grasmere and Wordswoth’s Dove Cottage. We will visit Dove Cottage and I promise we will listen out for the cry of Martha Ray caught in the winds blowing about the peaks surrounding Grasmere and we will too be able to say,

“That I have heard her cry,
“Oh misery! Oh misery!
Oh woe is me! Oh misery!”

More on the topic:

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Inquiring readers: Paul Emanuelli has frequently contributed his comments on this blog. Little did I know that he was an author! He has graciously sent in his thoughts about Bath, the city in which he has set his historical crime novel. Paul writes about Bath in his own blog, unpublishedwriterblog. It is well worth a visit!

Beau Nash turned the city of Bath into the most fashionable resort in 18th-century England. In his role as Master of Ceremonies he organised the premier social events in the city and chose who should, and should not be invited. He established a select list of people who he defined as the cream of Society, and more importantly he changed the social conventions of the city.

Richard Beau Nash

Nash broke down the old order dominated by the nobility and gentry, and promoted the nouveaux- riches. Whereas in other cities the growing number of wealthy industrialists and tradespeople were still looked down on because of their background, in Bath, Nash welcomed them as elite members of society.

Bath in the 18th century at the time of Beau Nash

For years the city thrived on the wealth of visitors who stayed for the Season. The affluent tourists rented houses and apartments and all the trappings that went with them; crockery and cutlery, silver-ware and ornaments, horses and carriages, servants and attendants. Prominent architects designed fine buildings and the city grew. Milsom Street became one of the most prestigious shopping areas in the country.

Milsom Street and Bond Street with Portraits of Bath Swells.

By 1801, when Jane Austen moved to Bath, the city was the 9th largest in England, with a population of 33,000. Yet the city’s fortunes had already begun to decline. Bath had changed in character and atmosphere. It was becoming less fashionable and the wealthy were visiting less often, and their stays were becoming shorter.

Thomas Rowlandson’s caricature of the Comforts of Bath. The classes noticeably mingled as they awaited drinking the waters in the Pump Room. (Notice the patient in the wheel chair on the left and the sedan chair next to him, which was carried inside the room.) Nash’s statue is in the niche at the top right. You can still see it today.

Built in a bowl of seven hills, Bath’s ever-growing population was increasingly crowded into a relatively small area. It’s little wonder that when Jane Austen moved to the city, she wrote to her sister, Cassandra saying, “The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; … the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion.”

Coal soot darkened the creamy colored stone of the buildings.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that it seemed, “all smoke” when every household depended on coal fires for warmth, that it was “all confusion” when its roads were congested with carts and carriages. And in Georgian cities, once you set foot on the streets there was no escaping the poor drainage and lack of decent sanitation and sewerage systems. As Austen said in a letter to her sister, “We stopped in Paragon (a prestigious address where her wealthy uncle lived) as we came along, but it was too wet and dirty for us to get out.”

The Paragon, Bath.

By the time Persuasion was published in 1817, the larger part of Bath’s population was working class. Industry was thriving in the city, supplying the many fine shops in Milsom Street and drawing people from the countryside to fill the jobs created. Yet the people who worked in the factories and sweat-shops, the costermongers and shop-assistants, the building labourers and hotel staff were, for the most part, poorly paid.

Advertisement for B. Lautier Goldsmith Shop in Bath, 1848

The only housing they could afford was overcrowded and poorly maintained, and the slum areas around Avon Street were increasing in size, as quickly as they were deteriorating in quality and appearance. By 1850, the rookery of hovels and cheap boarding-houses in and around Avon Street were home to almost a quarter of the Bath’s population.

Bath had grown considerably by the 1850′s, the date of this illustration.

My novel, Avon Street is set in Bath in 1850. But Bath isn’t just a setting. It is a character in its own right. In writing Avon Street, I have tried to take the reader beyond the Georgian facades, and reveal a city, where wealth and elegance were never far from poverty and squalor. Bath was a city, where things were often not as they seemed, where people as Austen said, could “be important at comparatively little cost.” In short it is the ideal setting for a story of confidence tricksters and crime, intrigue and betrayal. A city where enemies can seem all-powerful, and friends are sometimes found where least expected.

Image of Avon Street.

In Persuasion Anne Elliot visits a friend in Westgate Buildings despite Sir Walter’s warning of its unsuitableness – “Everything that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations are inviting to you.” (Click here to see an image of Westgate Buildings in 1900.) It seemed only fitting that the first chapter of my book be set in the same location, on the borders of the Avon Street area.

Pickwick Mews, Avon Street, in 1923. Image @The Victoria Art Gallery

More about Avon Street and Paul Emanuelli: Why Avon Street?

Avon Street: Purchase information

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: The History Press Ltd (1 Feb 2012)

Language English

ISBN-10: 0752465546

ISBN-13: 978-0752465548

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This historical tidbit comes from a page designed by J.R. Burrows & Company, Historical-Design Merchants about historic carpet cleaning methods. One sees in films carpets being hung outside on a line and beaten with carpet beaters made of cane.

Elinor beats the carpet. Sense and Sensibility 2008

Some carpets were fitted and hard to remove. In such instances, druggets, or hard-wearing canvas cloths, came to the rescue.

The Young Trio, by E.V. Rippingille, 1829. Image @Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery.

One of the most common strategies of keeping carpets clean in the early nineteenth century was to use druggets, heavy woolen goods spread under tables to protect carpet from spills. They are sometimes called crumb cloths. In addition to dining rooms they were used in other areas of heavy wear. E.V. Rippingille painted The Young Trio in 1829 showing a drugget protecting carpet in a parlor where children are at play. - Historic Carpet Cleaning Methods in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

You can clearly see the drugget underneath the table in this classic print.

The Dinner-Locust; or Advantages of a Keen Scent’, Charles Hunt after E. F. Lambert, c.1823; hand coloured etching and aquatint. Image @The Geffrye Museum of the Home

Read more at these links:

A maid shakes a small carpet or a drugget from a second story window, as well as some trousers. If I recall, one of the actors walked through the door below her as she shook the cloth. Such scenes must have been common then. Sense and Sensibility, 1996.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and how true it is in this instance. George Scharf the elder, a popular genre painter of the early 19th century, was also a prolific drawer of ordinary scenes in his adopted city of London. One can study his drawing of the Mail Coach Bound for the West County, 1829, endlessly, imagining many tales while thinking back on the history of coach travel. This mail coach is being readied at the Gloucester Coffee House on Piccadilly, where so many mail coaches left at night. The horses are waiting to pull this heavily laden wagon. They will pull it for 15 miles before they will need to be changed. Even with improved roads, the coach will not be going much faster than 7-8 miles per hour. Scharf drew this scene in 1829, a year before the first passenger train would be introduced. By the mid-18th century this scene in Piccadilly would have changed dramatically.

West country mail coach leaving Piccadilly, George Scharf, 1829. Click on image to view a larger version.

I count 9 people on top the wagon, one passenger sitting next to the coachman, seven on top of the wagon (one is definitely a porter), and two passengers inside.  I imagine there are two more people seated inside that we cannot see, for the interior holds four passengers, and that the gentleman putting on the great coat is waiting for the porters to finish loading the packages before he takes his seat on top of the coach. The woman and child standing next to him must be waiting to see him off, for, if the rest of the mail bags, packages, and luggage are to be loaded, there won’t be room for them as well. If they are waiting to board, then I pity the four horses who will be pulling 13 people along with the mail.

Travel was quite costly back then.

Costs of travel:  [estimates for 1800]

  • Stage Coach:  2-3 pence / mile = 1.25 pounds from London to Bath / half-price if up top / outside [but remember the average income was about £30 / year
  • Hired post-chaise =  estimate about £1 / mile [i.e @1 shilling / horse / mile, to include the postillion] – Jane Austen in Vermont

For a family living on  £25 – £30 per year, such costs were prohibitive. The cheapest seats were on top and on the outside. One can see a woman holding her child wedged between straw baskets. Should the coach take a turn too fast or be involved in an accident, she and her babe could be flung off the vehicle or trapped underneath should it overturn. At best, they felt the wind and rain and arrived at their destination disheveled and covered in road dust if the weather was dry, or soaking wet with rain. One shudders at the thought of what it felt like to be an outdoor passenger in the winter.

Mail coaches were designed to carry the mail, not to carry passengers comfortably. A close look at Scharf’s image reveals this to be so. There is no wiggle room to speak of. Since travel was expensive and laborious, those who undertook the journey usually arrived in London with lists of things to purchase for friends and family. Jane Austen certainly did, and one can assume that her brother Henry, who lived in London, arrived laden with special requests when he visited his family. The packages being loaded are quite bulky. It is easy to imagine that they contain the ribbons, muslins, china ware, shoes, hats, teas, chocolate, and other assorted items that were special ordered back home. One even sees a recently slaughtered hare among the packages.

One wonders how many more pieces of luggage the mail coach could possibly take on. The packages must be heavy for the porter walking towards the coach is bent over. The male passenger’s great coat and hat are typical of men’s outer wear at the time. As I study the detail below, I am becoming more convinced that the woman and girl are waiting to board. She is wearing a veil, to protect her face from dust, no doubt, and both are covered in layers of outer wear, including a shawl over a cloak. Even so, the ride for exposed passengers would be cold. From the clothes, one can only assume that it is winter.

Mail coaches, while more expensive to ride, were faster than private stage coaches, more stable, and less laden with passengers.

The coach was faster and, in general, less crowded and cleaner. Crowding was a common problem with private stage coaches, which led to them overturning; the limits on numbers of passengers and luggage prevented this occurring on the mail coaches. Travel on the mail coach was nearly always at night; as the roads were less busy the coach could make better speed. – Wikipedia

[William] Hazlitt has thus described, in his own graphic manner, the scene presented on the starting of the old mail-coaches:—”The finest sight in the metropolis,” he writes, “is the setting off of the mailcoaches from Piccadilly. The horses paw the ground and are impatient to be gone, as if conscious of the precious burden they convey. There is a peculiar secrecy and dispatch, significant and full of meaning, in all the proceedings concerning them. Even the outside passengers have an erect and supercilious air, as if proof against the accidents of the journey; in fact, it seems indifferent whether they are to encounter the summer’s heat or the winter’s cold, since they are borne through the air on a winged chariot. The mail-carts drive up and the transfer of packages is made, and at a given signal off they start, bearing the irrevocable scrolls that give wings to thought, and that bind or sever hearts for ever. How we hate the Putney and Brentford stages that draw up when they are gone! Some persons think the sublimest object in nature is a ship launched on the bosom of the ocean; but give me for my private satisfaction the mail-coaches that pour down Piccadilly of an evening, tear up the pavement, and devour the way before them to the Land’s End.” - British History Online

Pollard, Gloucester Coffee House, Piccadilly, 1828

As I said at the beginning, this image is fraught with meaning. I wonder if, when he was sketching this scene,  Scharf knew he was recording the great coaching era at its peak.

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Inquiring Readers: All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith is now available through Sourcebooks. I will be reviewing this fabulous, intelligently written book later this week. Meanwhile, enjoy my interview with Ms. Smith about her Latin American adventure as she discusses Jane Austen’s novels en Español with Latin American book groups. All readers of this blog from any country can enter a contest to win a copy of this charming book. Please click on this link and leave your comment. Make sure to leave a way I can reach you. Contest is now closed!

Amy, I love that Jane Austen, a spinster who didn’t travel far or frequently in her lifetime, is so beloved the world wide over. Which country surprised you most in terms of her popularity there and why?

I found translations of Austen left and right in bookstores in Argentina. I met plenty of people there who’d read Austen and liked her or who’d seen film adaptations of her novels and enjoyed them. And the Jane Austen Society of Buenos Aires was the first Austen society in South America. But sometimes it’s hard not to be influenced by stereotypes about people — I’d heard that Chileans were “the English of South America,” so somehow I thought Austen would be popular in Chile. But when I was living in Santiago, the capital (which I absolutely loved), a number of people told me Austen’s not very well known in Chile.

As for Argentineans, I’d heard over and over from people in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and other places that Argentineans are, well, pretty arrogant. Other latinos kept passing on jokes like, “When Argentineans see lightening, what do they think is happening? They think it’s God, taking their picture!” So, I guess I got the idea that Argentineans might think Austen was stuffy or old fashioned or some such thing. But she’s popular, at least in Buenos Aires, according to my experiences.

What aspects of that particular culture do you think Jane would have enjoyed the most?

Bookstores, bookstores, bookstores. I had great experiences in bookstores all over Latin America, but Argentina — and Buenos Aires specifically — really is the bookstore capital of South America. It’s so easy for us now to take for granted that we can get our hands on just about any book we want, any time. We’ve got access to bookstores, next-day delivery with websites, and good public libraries. And electronic readers have made it easier than ever — just order whatever book you want, wherever you are on the planet! But imagine what it must have been like for an imaginative, inquisitive reader like Austen — how often did she ever set foot in a bookstore? How often could she afford to pay for books from a circulating library? How many books did her family or friends or neighbors actually own? I think Austen would have fainted from sheer pleasure at the sight of bookstore after bookstore on Avenida Corrientes in Buenos Aires.

Librerias Libertador: One of my favorite bookstores on Corrientes, in Buenos Aires

Jane Austen fans cross all religious boundaries. Can you identify any characteristics that Janeites share across the world, besides their obvious love for Jane Austen’s novels?

I honestly can’t speak for many places beyond Latin America (although I might try a next project in some other interesting countries!). But I suspect that there’s a kind of optimism that people — especially women — love about Austen. Her leading ladies find love, not in spite of being strong and intelligent, but because of it. That’s a pretty appealing idea in a world were, in many places, women are still told they’d better not appear too smart, or they’ll scare men off.

What were some of your most memorable experiences in writing this book?

I actually started the book while I was still traveling, although I didn’t finish it until after my trip was done. I wrote the first portion on Guatemala while I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I was living well away from the tourist area, renting a partially-finished house that had glass in only one or two windows, so it was pretty noisy — street vendors would cruise by with loudspeakers, selling ice cream, vegetables, you name it. The people across the street had a huge bird caged outside their house that shrieked and chattered like a demon. And animals would wander in at will — there was one very persistent cat that kept making me jump out of my skin by appearing under my writing table with no warning.

There were animals all over the place in that neighborhood — no leash laws for dogs, and some of the neighbors had roosters and other farm animals. When I wanted a break from writing, I’d wander out to buy groceries or take my clothes to the laundromat. I always carried them in a plastic bag, and there was this goat a few houses down from me that was only tied up about half of the time. When it was loose, it usually ignored me, but when I had that plastic bag with laundry, it would come bolting after me — maybe its food came in a plastic bag, and it thought I had something good to eat? Or maybe it knew I had laundry and really wanted to eat my socks. Who knows. Sometimes I actually miss that goat — laundry day’s not the same without it.

A friendly neighborhood rooster from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Thank you, Amy, for your wonderful insights and good luck with your book. (I just love the cover!) Is there anything else you would like my readers to know about All Roads Lead to Austen?

Amy Elizabeth Smith

I had two main sources of inspiration for this book — Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, and my own Jane Austen students at the University of the Pacific, in California. Readers can enjoy All Roads as a fun opportunity to sit back and be an armchair traveler, but I’d also love it if the book inspired some other international journey I could sit back and read about. Austen in China? Turkey? Belgium? Bora Bora? I’d love to see somebody else take on a journey like this with Jane. Even if they don’t want to write a whole book about it — I’d love to have people share reading-on-the-road stories on my website (http://allroadsleadtoausten.com/). Consider that an official invitation! And thanks so much for letting me visit here at Jane Austen’s World!

To Enter the Contest: Please make sure to leave your comment on Jane Austen Today at this link. The first two comments left on this post will be included in the random number generator drawing at midnight EST USA time on June 11. Please leave all other comments on Jane Austen Today. Make sure to leave a way I can reach you. 

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