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Archive for July, 2012

Inquiring readers, One of the benefits of overseeing a long-lasting blog is the number of Jane Austen aficionados one meets via email and online. Ronald Dunning, a descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, Francis, recently emailed me to discuss his new genealogy site and Jane Austen family website. After I visited the sites and read Deb Barnum’s excellent post on the topic at Jane Austen in Vermont, I invited Mr. Dunning to explain how he managed to fill in so many members on his family tree. When all was said and done, what excited me most was when I saw the resemblance between Mr. Dunning and his illustrious ancestor. The Austens do indeed live on. Enjoy!

Sir Francis William Austen, Admiral of the Fleet, and descendant Ronald Dunning

Hi Vic! I’m a 4th-great-grandson of Frank Austen, and a committed genealogist. I’ve been working for quite a few years on an extended and inclusive genealogy of the Austen family, which can be seen at RootsWeb: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janeausten. It’s an ongoing project, subject to addition and revision, but has reached an advanced state of maturity. Various writers on the Austen family in England and the US have used it, and I’ve even found it cited as a reference source for biographies at Wikipedia.

Joan Corder

I’ve just posted a new website dedicated to Jane Austen’s Family, which was announced to the public at last week’s JAS AGM. The address is www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk. The first content is Joan Corder’s “Akin to Jane” – a 1953 manuscript listing as many descendants of George and Cassandra Austen as the author could find. Joan recorded something like 320 descendants of George and Cassandra Austen, which is very good going for 1953. The biographical detail in the manuscript makes it invaluable. She could never find a publisher and the book exists only in a couple of manuscript copies, one of which is at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton. When I first began working on the site, I wasn’t sure whether it would interest anyone – I was simply driven on by my obsession with family history – but it’s been well received, to my delight. The Museum is pleased that they can now retire Joan Corder’s fragile original.

Joan’s page on Jane Austen in Akin to Jane Austen. The fragile original has been replaced with interactive online pages.

With the benefit of modern genealogical facilities, I’ve increased the tally from 320 to over 1200 – all of whom are to be found on my RootsWeb site. I have to admit that I have included very little anecdotal information, it is mainly genealogy; and all details except the surname are withheld for anyone born after 1915, though I have them on my computer database.

Austen (l) and Austen-Leigh (r) family coat of arms.

You asked for an anecdotal example for Jane Austen’s World readers that would flesh out the details of my research. I immediately thought of James Brydges, 8th Baron Chandos of Sudeley and Elizabeth Barnard – Cassandra Leigh’s great-grandparents. Cassandra was of course Jane Austen’s mother.

Hearing Miss Barnard was engaged to a party with a fashionable conjuror, who showed the ladies their future husbands in a glass, he by a proper application to the cunning man beforehand, and by a proper position at the time, was exhibited in the glass to Miss Barnard: clapping her hands she cried, ‘Then Mr. Bridges is my destination, and such he shall be.’”

This lovely anecdote was recorded in a footnote, in The Complete Peerage,under the entry for James Brydges, the 8th Lord Chandos of Sudeley. The lady in question, Elizabeth Barnard, did become his wife. Elizabeth’s father Sir Henry Barnard was a “Turkey merchant,” a trader whose business interest was in importing from Constantinople. Her husband James Brydges was himself the Ambassador of the “Turkey Company” (properly the Levant Company) in Constantinople from 1680 to 1686.

Sir James Brydges (1642–1714), 8th Baron Chandos, Turkey Company Ambassador to Constantinople

Elizabeth gave birth to twenty-two children. We are familiar with the mortal threat to women’s lives from childrearing – three of Jane Austens’ sisters-in-law suffered that fate. Elizabeth survived her twenty-two deliveries and lived to the age of 77. Not all of her children fared so well – only fifteen were baptized, and of those, three sons and five daughters survived infancy. This was far from unusual – Antonia Fraser, in her study of 17th-century woman, The Weaker Sex, stated that it was normal for only a third of children born to a large family to survive. Their eldest child, Mary Bridges, was one of the survivors. The link to Jane Austen can now be traced within a few generations. Mary married Theophilus Leigh; they were Cassandra Leigh’s paternal grandparents and the parents of Theophilus Leigh, who served as Master of Balliol College in Oxford from 1726 until his death in 1785. Theophilus Jr.’s brother Thomas Leigh married Jane Walker, and they were Cassandra Leigh’s parents. Cassandra, who married George Austen, gave birth to eight children, including Jane Austen in 1775. (And she too survived to a ripe old age, outliving her daughter Jane by 10 years.)

Click on image for details. Image @A Reading Affair

I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of the information that my sites offer about Jane Austen’s family. Deb Barnum from Jane Austen in Vermont has interviewed me, and written a very thorough review and detailed explanation of how to find information on the sites.

More on the topic:

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Gentle Readers, author Colette Saucier has written a description of her journey on writing Pulse and Prejudice, a vampire adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Those of us who are fascinated with the vampire myth can relate to her journey! You can find more information about Colette and her book on Colette Saucier.com

This is a story of Mr. Darcy, Lord Byron, and vampires.

I love Pride and Prejudice. I have read it so many times, I cannot even remember a time before it was not part of my consciousness. Of course, I like all of Jane Austen’s novels, but the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth speaks to me in a way the others do not. I do not believe I am alone in this, as it set the standard for every romance novel and romantic comedy since its publication 200 years ago: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl hates boy, girl and boy like each other, misunderstanding/outside forces tear them apart, reunion, reconciliation, happily ever after.

Quite a number of years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing what I refer to as the Pride and Prejudice mutilation, the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Not only did they dress all of the Bennet girls as Southern Belles, Greer Garson was thirty-six. THIRTY-SIX! Three years older than Olivier. I won’t even go into the plot except to say they had no right to call it Pride and Prejudice. After that, I decided never again would I subject myself to any adaptation of my beloved Austen. I did not even see the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth when it premiered.

So what changed? First, I saw the movie Clueless. I enjoyed every moment of it, all the while thinking to myself, “This is Emma!” Sure enough, Amy Heckerling had updated my second favorite Jane Austen novel. Then, without knowing Helen Fielding had written it as a modern variation on Pride and Prejudice, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary. Well, after that, I had to see Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, and now I had a face to go with my Mr. Darcy. Thus ended my boycott of all things not-quite-Austen.

All of this, of course, occurred some fifteen years ago. Although my mind had been opened to the possibilities, I had no intention of writing any Austen adaptations myself. Then a little book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took off like wildfire and landed near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. I have never been a zombie fan myself, but I did love the film Shaun of the Dead. When I stumbled upon the zombie book in my daughter’s bedroom, I knew it was a parody, and I had hoped its approach would be similar to that film. I had never heard of a “mash-up” before, but now I know I do not like them. The (co)author had taken the complete text of Pride and Prejudice and just stuck zombies and ninjas between the paragraphs. Not impressed. The zombie book did, however, introduce me to the genre of Austen adaptations and variations, and an addiction was born. I ate them up like potato chips. Some were good, some were horrid, but many I found completely delightful. All of them allowed me to continue my literary love affair with Mr. Darcy.

Now to back up a bit, somewhere in the middle of my multiple readings of Pride and Prejudice (actual Austen, not adaptations), I learned about Lord George Gordon Byron. I had read some of his poems over the years, but after seeing the film Gothic, I became more interested in the man behind the words. That he was portrayed by a young Gabriel Byrne didn’t hurt! This film depicts the summer night when Byron and his pal Percy Shelley gathered with friends in Switzerland and told each other ghost stories, one of which became Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

That evening also inspired John Polidori to write The Vampyre – the original gentleman vampire. Although I never cared for zombies or werewolves or other monsters, I have always been a vampire fan. (To all of those publishers who rejected my manuscript because they believed the “vampire trend is over,” allow me to say, vampires will never of out of style. They’re immortal, after all!) I refer to the sensual, suave, and seductive variety of vampire, or the tortured souls such as Gary Oldman’s depiction in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That image of the mysterious and charismatic vampire originated that night in 1816 with Polidori and Lord Byron.

Austen’s Mr. Darcy struck me as a Byronic figure – intelligent but arrogant, sophisticated and cynical, introspective and conflicted. “That man of loneliness and mystery, Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh.” (The Corsair, I, VIII) Knowing that Polidori had based his Vampyre on Byron cultivated in my mind the idea that Darcy as a character – as well as Pride and Prejudice as a whole – lent itself well to a vampire adaptation; however, when I looked, I could not find the adaptation I envisioned. Yes, someone had published a vampire “mash-up,” but I have already expressed my opinion on those. I also found a vampire sequel told in gothic style. Regina Jeffers had written a fascinating novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice with Mr. Darcy as dhampir, battling against vampires while resisting the urge to become one himself.

I needed something more. I wanted Mr. Darcy to be an honest-to-goodness neck-biting, blood-drinking, night-walking vampire who could be healed in the moonlight as in the Polidori story. I felt the story must be told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view to explore that Byronic Hero aspect of his nature, which we only glimpse in Austen’s narrative, and allow the curse of vampirism to reveal further depths of character – an outcast, suffering, jaded . Because this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did not exist, I had no choice but to write it myself.

I threw myself full-force into researching Regency England, vampire folklore, and Pride and Prejudice itself. This paranormal adaptation had to remain faithful to Austen in style, plot, and characters. How would Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet react to vampires? That itself required a thorough analysis of Elizabeth to ensure in this adaptation she remained true to the original character under remarkable circumstances. The novel had to be historically accurate and free of any anachronisms. I wanted it to be as if Jane Austen herself had written the story of Mr. Darcy as vampire, and I think I have succeeded. Well, except I did add another section – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – to peek into the passion, lust, and desire between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that simmers just under the surface in the original. Jane Austen teases us with hints of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth, and I could not leave that territory uncharted.

Thus, after fifteen years gestation, Pulse and Prejudice was born – an authentic vampire variation of the beloved classic. I hope I have written the paranormal adaptation others want to read as well.

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Gentle readers: Penguin English Library is holding an Austen/Brontë smackdown on its Facebook page, with Jane Austen’s World and Christine from Bronte Blog providing the ammunition for discussion. An edited version of my smackdown sits on Facebook, the full version sits on this blog. I have added Christine’s edited defense of Charlotte Brontë below my defense of Jane. Do go over to Penguin’s Facebook page and leave your comment! You will have the chance of winning a Penguin library canvas bag! Enjoy.

Romola Garai as Emma dancing a country dance at the local assembly hall.

Vic’s Unedited Take:

I’ve been asked to participate in a smackdown, pitting Jane Austen, whose best-selling novel starts with the most memorable opening line in literature – “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” – against Charlotte Brontë, who begins Jane Eyre with a sentence that barely qualifies as a decent Facebook entry: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day”. Good lord. GO Team Austen!

I love smart and funny women who are quick with their tongues. If our dowdy spinster from Hampshire suddenly found herself at the Algonquin Round Table in post-World War One New York city, she would have jumped into the fray and easily held her own against such rapier wits as Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Edna Ferber and Harpo Marx. Charlotte Brontë would have sat slack-jawed amongst such august company, waiting for a lull in the conversation before daring to venture her opinion. Had Mark Twain materialized in front of Miss Austen and threatened to personally beat her skull in with her own shin-bone, she would have swiftly retorted, “Why I now fully understand, Mr. Twain, why Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed of a dead child, some weeks before she expected. T’was owing to a fright — I suppose she happened unawares to look at YOU.” Austen had teeth. No wonder Pride and Prejudice was chosen for the first Zombie mash-up!

A number of Brontë fans have accused Austen of writing sterile romance novel claptrap, which means that those poor souls don’t get Austen’s ironic take on life with its underlying passions at all. Can you imagine one of Brontë’s overwrought characters coming up with the cool line that Mary Crawford uttered in Mansfield Park? “Certainly, my home at my uncle’s brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears, and Vices, I saw enough. Now, do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.” I had been of legal drinking age for a number of years before I understood exactly what rears and vices meant!

Brontë supporters think Jane’s novels lack passion and give us no sense of the greater society in which she lived. Let’s debunk that myth, shall we? Willoughby got a girl pregnant, enticed Marianne to behave like a hoyden, then cynically married an heiress for money. Wickham attempted to seduce an underage heiress, then ran off with a lusty, empty-headed 16-year-old virgin with no intention of marrying her. Lucy Steele was a sadistic, mean, and spiteful little bitch. Mrs. Norris was a verbal abuser who could have taught Lucy a thing or two in the nasty department. Fanny Price’s mother married for love, and look where that got her – barefoot, too many times pregnant, and living like a slattern in a hovel. John Thorpe was a douche-bag, plain and simple, as was William Elliott. Then there were the silly ministers, and the neglectful husbands, like Mr. Bennet and Mr. Palmer. Last but not least, Jane handed the dreaded specter of poverty to Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Smith, whose cheerful demeanor belied her desperate state. Interwoven through Austen’s novels are her sparkling wit and clear observations of the human character. We are treated to strong heroines like Lizzie Bennet and Anne Elliot, and to alpha males like Mr. Darcy and Colonel Brandon, who, as men of few words, sprang into selfless action when heroism was required.

Idealized romanticized image of Jane Austen.

What does Charlotte Brontë offer us? That metrosexual cold fish, St. John Rivers. And then there’s Rochester, Mr. Sturm und Drang. He was a closet whiner and complainer, I’ll warrant, who, while holding all the power cards, forced poor plain Miss Eyre to listen to his incessant self-serving monologues. I bet he wandered around his cold stone house dragging the proverbial ball and chain in the form of the hidden insane wife, and wearing an expression that shouted to all but the blind: “Woe is me. Oh, woe is pitiful, loveless me.” As my dear friend, Lady Anne, told me, “Even Austen’s bad boys are more plausible than Brontë’s heroes.”

Where Mr. Darcy took his medicine with only a minor facial tick when Lizzie dressed him down after refusing his proposal, Rochester emoted suffering morning, noon, and night. Misery must have oozed out of his pores. Those obvious ploys for sympathy worked on me when I was 14 years old, but now that I am slightly longer in the tooth I am attracted to more mentally stable men, like Mr. Darcy. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know that Darcy’s a cool and reserved character, and a bit of a prig. Taming him would be a REAL challenge, one that Elizabeth Bennet took on with relish. Whatever you think of him, there’s no denying that Darcy’s passion for Lizzy simmered and sizzled throughout Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s writing style might be spare and cerebral, but the chemistry between her heroes and heroines leaps off the pages and keeps us enthralled.

Jane Austen’s writing desk

In closing (and here my imagination has taken over), one suspects that after their wedding, our young and virile Mr. Darcy gave Lizzie some extremely satisfying romps in bed, followed by a repeat performance or two, whereas poor Mr. Rochester – well, let’s face it – he was OLD, and his physical health was compromised by that pesky though fortuitous fire. (Deux ex machina, anyone?) My guess is that, after observing his manly duty with Mrs. Rochester, he most likely gave her a peck on the cheek before rolling to the other side of the bed and instantly falling asleep. As her husband snored contentedly, a frustrated (but romantically inclined) Jane was frequently left to lie in the dark and think of England.

Christine’s edited version: 

‘In Austen, sex is just a kiss on the hand. In the Brontës, everything happens’. So says a newspaper clipping kept at the Brontë Parsonage Museum Library. After hearing that, the Brontës would get a twinkle in their eyes that would belie their quieter, Northern-lasses-from-a-parsonage appearance.

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte herself, after reading Emma pronounced ”the passions are perfectly unknown to her, she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress.”

Which she corroborated after reading Pride and Prejudice: “An accurate daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses”.

It’s an easy choice: either you like opening a book and gazing at a quiet and ever-green meadow, nice and lovely but always nice and lovely, sometimes too nice and too lovely or you like opening a book and looking at an ever-changing moor, sometimes bleak, sometimes radiantly in bloom, never predictable, always engaging. If you choose the latter, remember that being Team Brontë is more than a mere liking. As another newspaper said (as early as 1916): “Miss Austen and Thackeray have admirers; Charlotte Brontë has worshippers”.

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Inquiring readers: Paul Emanuelli, author of Avon Street, has contributed a post for this blog before about the City of Bath as a Character. He has graciously sent in an article about crime and an incident involving Jane Austen’s aunt, Mrs James Leigh-Perrot. Paul writes about Bath in his own blog, unpublishedwriterblog. It is well worth a visit!

Arrest of a woman at night, 1800. Thomas Rowlandson. Image @The Proceedings of the Old Bailey

Apart from the Bow Street Runners in London there was no organised police force in 18th Century England. The capture and prosecution of criminals was largely left to their victims to deal with. Every parish was obliged to have one or two constables, but they were unpaid volunteers working only in their spare time. A victim of crime who wanted a constable to track down and arrest the perpetrator was expected to pay the expenses of their doing so.

Sometimes victims of crime hired a thief-taker to pursue the wrong-doer. Again, they were private individuals working much like latter day bounty hunters. Sometimes, thief-takers would act as go-betweens, negotiating the return of stolen goods for a fee. Many though were corrupt, actually initiating and organising the original theft in order to claim the reward for the return of goods, or extorting protection money from the criminals they were supposed to catch.

Covent Garden watchhouse. Image @The Proceedings of the Old Bailey

For the most part, unless a criminal was “caught in the act” (probably) by their intended victim it was unlikely they would be brought to justice. In the absence of a police force, the maintenance of “Law and Order” therefore came to depend more on deterrence rather than apprehension and the harshest penalty of all came to cover more and more crimes. In 1799 there were 200 offences that carried the death penalty, including the theft of items with a monetary value that exceeded five shillings.

In practice, judges and juries often recognised the barbarity of the punishment in relation to the crime. Juries might determine that goods were over-priced and bring their value down below the five shilling threshold. Defendants might claim “benefit of clergy” which by virtue of stating religious belief and reading out an oath allowed the judge to exercise leniency. In other cases the Government could review the sentence. Between 1770 and 1830, 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, but only 7000 executions were actually carried out.

Milliners shop, after Henry Kingsbury

On the 8th August 1799, Jane Leigh-Perrot was accused of stealing a card of white lace from a millinery shop in Bath. The Leigh-Perrots, a wealthy couple, were Jane Austen’s mother’s brother and sister-in-law (Jane’s Uncle and Aunt). The white lace valued at £1 was found in Mrs Leigh-Perrot’s possession together with a card of black lace that she had bought and paid for from the same shop. Mrs Leigh-Perrot denied stealing the lace, saying that the sales clerk must have given it her by mistake when he handed over her purchase. She was nevertheless arrested on a charge of “grand theft” and the lace she was said to have stolen was worth four times the five shillings that carried the death sentence.

Jane Cholmeley Perrot, aka Jane Austen’s Aunt Perrot

In practice it was unlikely (given her standing) that if she had been found guilty she would have been sentenced to death. The alternatives, however, included branding or transportation to the Australian Colonies with the prospect of forced labour for 14 years. Jane Leigh-Perrot was refused bail and committed to prison on the sworn depositions of the shopkeeper. Due to her wealth, social standing and age she was allowed to stay in the house of the prison keeper, Mr Scadding, at the Somerset County Gaol in Ilchester, rather than being kept in a cell. Mrs Leigh-Perrot still wrote though that she suffered ‘Vulgarity, Dirt, Noise from morning till night’. James Leigh-Perrot insisted on remaining with her in prison.

Mr James Leigh-Perrot. Image @JASA

During her trial Jane Leigh-Perrot spoke eloquently for herself. Several testimonials as to her character were also read out to the court. At the conclusion of the trial the jury took only 10 minutes to find her “Not Guilty.” It does, however, make you wonder how someone less well refined, less well-connected, less eloquent, less educated, less wealthy might have fared. The evidence of her guilt, might have been quite sufficient to send someone else to the gallows, or transported, or branded with a hot iron. She was after all caught in possession of the item and identified by the shop-keeper. In “Persuasion” Captain Harville asks Anne Elliot, ‘But how shall we prove anything?’ Anne replies, ‘We never shall.’

Mrs. Leigh-Perrot. Image @JASA

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Fire!

Can there be a more frightening word in Georgian London?  The great fire in 1666 changed the landscape of that city forever. Once a densely packed city riddled with overcrowded, wood-timbered houses and dark, narrow lanes, the fire led the way to a change in building regulations that ushered in brick and stone edifices, wider streets, and public squares. Even with improvements, a fire still presented a horrifically dangerous situation.

Thomas Rowlandson captures the scene with such realism in “Inn Yard on Fire” that one can smell the smoke and fear, and hear the horses neighing, people screaming, furniture breaking, and wagon wheels squealing as guests and staff run around trying to save themselves, their possessions, and each other.

Fire at the Inn, by Thomas Rowlandson

Panic and pandemonium ensue. A man contemplates tossing a mirror from the second story, another pours his ineffectual chamber pot over the flames. A side table has been tossed through the window, while an anxious woman descends a ladder.

People are in various states of dress and undress. Some help others, some are  overcome with panic. A disabled man is carried from danger in a wheel barrow, while a groom tries to calm two terrified horses.

Elements in Rowlandson’s cartoon show a direct association with classical language and Tobias Smollet. The young man saving the girl in distress is reminiscent of Giambologna’s statue of the Rape of the Sabine Women, as well as Peregrine Pickle’s heroic actions towards Emilia.

Rowlandson

Rape of the Sabine Women

Peregrine Pickle saves Emilia. Image @A World History of Art

Once a fire had gained as much ground as depicted in this illustration, there was little chance of saving the building. Rowlandson shows some people carrying out their belongings, while others were barely able to get dressed. By now an alarm had probably been sounded in the community. Bucket brigades, in which people were arrayed in long lines to the nearest well and passed buckets in a continuous motion, could probably put out a minor fire, but not one of this magnitude. In the 1800s, almost 150 years after the great fire, there was still no centralized fire brigade.

In 1680, a property developer named Nicholas Barbon introduced the first fire insurance, which initially insured buildings but not furniture, fittings, or goods.  Insurance companies began to proliferate and formed private fire brigades to protect their customers’ property.

Is this praying elderly couple trapped on the balcony?

In Rowlandson’s cartoon the most the inn keeper can hope for is that the brigade arrives in time to save his structure – if he is insured.  This was easier said than done, for many of London’s streets were not named, since many people could not read, and insured properties were difficult to find.

A couple on the second floor frantically attempt to save their belongings.

In the early 1800s the fire mark was developed. These plaques, sometimes brightly painted, would signal which properties were protected by insurance firms. Each fire brigade had its own unique plaque.

Fire mark on a building

If a fire started, the Fire Brigade was called. They looked for the fire mark and, provided it was the right one, the fire would be dealt with. Often the buildings were left to burn until the right company attended! Many of these insurance companies were to merge, including those of London, which merged in 1833 to form The London Fire Engine Establishment, whose first Fire Chief was James Braidwood. Braidwood had come to London after holding the position of the Chief Officer of Edinburgh Fire brigade. Edinburgh’s authorities had formed the first properly organised brigade in 1824. – History of the UK Fire and Rescue Service

There were quite a few fire brigades operating in London in the early 19th century and competition was keen. The companies hired sailors and watermen as part-time employees. An advantage of serving in this position was that these men were protected from being pressed into service, a not inconsiderable benefit during the Napoleonic wars.

Fighting the fire at the Customs House in February 1814.Image@British Museum

Buildings that had no insurance protection were left to burn, although attempts were made to save the surrounding buildings. Firemarks were essential to identify insured buildings:

Arrival of the fire engine, Thomas Rowlandson

Designs included, for Sun Fire Office: a large sun with a face; the Royal Exchange Assurance: their building; and Phoenix: obviously Phoenix rising from the ashes. Later fire marks were made of tin, copper, or similar material. These are more often called fire plates. They were more an advertising medium as most do not have a policy number stamped upon them. – Fire Marks: The First Logos of Insurance Companies

Illustration from Ackermann’s ”Microcosm of London” (1808) drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin. Firefighters are tackling a fire which has broken out in houses at the Blackfriars Bridge. Teams of men operate hand pumped equipment. Image @Wikipedia

In 1833 companies in London merged to form The London Fire Engine Establishment, the first step to the various fire brigades being taken over by local government.

The Burning of Drury Lane Theatre from Westminster Bridge 1809. Artist unknown.  Image property of the Museum of London.

Equipment was still very basic but in 1721, Richard Newsham patented a ‘new water engine for the quenching and extinguishing of fires’. The pump provided a continuous jet of water with more force than before. This new fire engine became a standard until the early 19th century.

Newsham’s wood pumper, ca. 1731.

The men used the handles to pump the water from a lead-lined trough in the main body of the equipment. The apparatus was quite heavy and difficult to maneuver, but it represented a huge step forward in fire fighting technology. People continually ran back and forth to a water source to fill the trough with water. You could also attach a hose to aim the water to a specific location. During this time, however, hose-making was still in its infancy and many leaked. Water buckets and axes to hack out trapped people and create fire free perimeters were still regarded as standard fire fighting equipment.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, 1834 by William Mallord Turner. Such an event must have provided a spectacular yet horrifying scene for onlookers.

Steam powered appliances were first introduced in the 1850s, allowing a greater quantity of water to be guided onto a fire. With the invention of the internal combustion engine, these appliances were replaced in the early 1900s.

James Pollard (British, 1797-1867) London fire engines: The noble protectors of lives and property, 1823. Image @Olympia Art Antiques

This image by James Pollard, and engraved by R. Reeve, shows several insurance brigades hurrying to a fire.

The firemen, of the time, had little training and wore brightly coloured uniforms to distinguish themselves between the different brigades. During large fires they would become very tired through continual pumping of the appliances, and would offer bystanders ‘beer tokens’ in return for their help. – Insurance Firemen and their Equipment

Each company provided different liveries for their men, so that the fire fighters could easily be identified with a particular firm.All insurance firemen wore a large badge on their shoulder to show which insurance company they worked for.

Three uniforms of insurance firemen. All wear a badge

More on the topic:

Cockburn’s theatre on fire, another dramatic caricature by Rowlandson.

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On July 18, 1817 Jane Austen died at the age of 41 of Addison’s disease, a diagnosis that remains largely disputed. Her last hours are described by her grieving sister Cassandra to Fanny Knight, Jane’s beloved niece. Other posts that Tony Grant and I have written on the topic sit below.

Isabel Bishop’s scene in Pride and Prejudice

My dearest Fanny,

Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.

Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.

Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

Cassandra’s watercolour of Fanny Knight

She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: “God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!” Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma — it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.

Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.

I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.

House on College Street in Winchester where Jane Austen died

I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.

This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.

The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!

Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o’clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.

Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton to-morrow morning; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.

I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.

I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,
Cass. Eliz. Austen

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Inquiring readers, Josh Kurz, an independent filmmaker, just finished a piece for the Chemical Heritage Foundation, A Distillations Explainer about tears. This funny yet educational two-minute segment features Elizabeth Bennet. Thanks, Josh, for pointing me to your video.

There is evidence to suggest that crying relieves stress. While Elizabeth Bennet is not some namby pamby miss, she does produce three kinds of tears: Basal tears, reflex tears, and emotional tears with added proteins. This short video will explain all three.

Elizabeth Bennet played by Carla Rosati. Brought to us by “Distillations: We Tell the Story of Chemistry”. Directed by Josh Kurz.

If women cry from emotion, it is to their benefit!

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