Archive for March, 2007

A new Assembly Room and Hotel in the Mall (now the Clifton Club) was opened in 1811. This “spacious and elegant” building contained “a noble reception saloon and tea room, with convenient lobbies, a billiard room etc” and “every accommodation for both families and individuals, even to sets of apartments/drawing rooms, a coffee room, a shop for pastry and confectionery, with an adjoining room for soups, fruits and ices; hot, cold and vapour baths”. In all, the hotel had 70 bedrooms and 20 sitting rooms. (For the fascinating story of its architect see History – Clifton’s Famous and Infamous No. 1 on this website.) The man behind the development was John Lewis Auriol, a wealthy Huguenot, and it is his coat of arms that appears on the pediment.

The Assembly Rooms with its ballroom soon became the focal point for social life of Clifton society. Local artist Rolinda Sharples has captured for all time the atmosphere of a ball in the Rooms in about 1820.

From Clifton at Play

Self portrait of painter Rolinda Sharples with her mother

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Landed Gentry

Men who inherit the responsiblities of the landed gentry, like Edward Austen Knight, depicted above, (or a Mr. Bingley or Mr. Darcy), are mainly preoccupied in preserving their inheritance for their heirs. This requires continuous oversight on their part, and day-to-day adminstration of servants and farm workers, usually with the help of a land steward or bailiff.

A landholder’s duties include improvements on the manor house, estate lands, farms, cottages and other buildings and keeping them in good repair, collecting rents, draining land or damming streams and rivers, and deriving income from livestock or timber, or selling off portions of land if needed (though this was seldom done.)

The Chawton Estate

Note: Jane’s third eldest brother, Edward, had been adopted as a boy by rich relations with no children of their own. He took their name of Knight and in time inherited three large landed estates: Chawton and Steventon in Hampshire and Godmersham Park in Kent. Jane and Cassandra often visited Edward and his large family in Kent and enjoyed the social life of the Knights and their wealthy neighbours in beautiful mansions and houses. (From the Alliance of Literary Societies. Please click on bold words above.)

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Is this a life likeness of Jane Austen at 14 or 15 or isn’t? That is the question about the Rice Portrait of Jane Austen by 18th-century British artist Ozias Humphry. The painting will be auctioned on April 19 at Christie’s in New York for over a half million dollars.

The Rice family claims that this image of Jane,with her simple white muslin gown and simple yet elegant hairstyle, was painted around 1788 or 1789. Below sits an image of the Frankland sisters, which was painted in 1795, at least 7 years later than the Rice portrait. Notice that the waist sits lower than the empire waist, and that the sash displays a prominent bow. The sisters’ hair is curly, and quite elaborate. These characteristics show up in the next image as well.

This image of Marie Antoinette and her children in 1787 shows fashions that are not much different than those of the Langland Sisters. The waist sits lower than an empire waist, and the sash is wide, with a noticeably large bow tied in the back. Examine the hairstyles of both mother and daughter, the Duchesse d’Angouleme. Marie is wearing the powdered wig so popular during this period, while the Duchess’s hair is crimped and quite stylized.
The 1803 image below of a young girl by Louis Leopold Boilly echoes the purported image of Jane in this post. We know that children in those days wore fashions similar to adults, and I would say that this dress more closely resembles the one worn by the girl in the Rice Portrait than those worn by the Langland Sisters or Marie Antoinette. Observe the child’s relaxed curly hairstyle and her simple kid slippers.

So, gentle readers, you decide. Is the Rice portrait authentic? Provenance is important in determining a painting’s authenticity, but even if this portrait has remained in the family’s possession for over 200 years, who can prove that this is indeed an image of a very young Jane Austen?

I wish it were, but does wishing ever make anything come true? “Rice and his family never doubted the lively girl wearing a long white dress and carrying a parasol was their ancestor. Yet, in 1948, a leading Austen scholar dismissed the authenticity of the portrait, saying the style of costume the subject wears does not match the date.” (Quoted from the Yahoo article below).

Based on the wealth of paintings and drawings we have at our disposal, I would have to agree with this scholar, although obviously Christie’s auction house doesn’t. Read this article, “My Dear it is a Matter of Dress and Sensiblity,” written in 2003 by Jack Malvern in the Times Online. The author makes a clear case for authenticity.

So my question to you is: Do you think this is an early portrait of Jane?

Read more about the Rice portrait at these sites:

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/23/arts/design/23voge.html

Yahoo article:


Art Works Gallery: http://www.artworksgallery.co.uk/book.html

BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6484281.stm

Jane Austen Images on the JASNA website: http://www.jasa.net.au/images/austen.htm

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Seraphic Secret includes a quiz in their post, The Annoted Jane from a book titled So You Think You Know Jane Austen: A literary quiz book.
Take a partial quiz here.
And find the answers here.

Buy the book at Amazon.com.

Here is a quote from a March 16, 2007 New York Times article:

This challenging quiz book, intended for professional-grade Austen readers only, arranges questions, in four ascending levels of difficulty for each novel. Some questions are short, factual and to the point, like “How old is Darcy?” (The answer is 28.) Others require interpretation. Why, for instance, does Wickham elope with Lydia, since he is a mercenary cad and she has no fortune? The authors, John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye, need more than a page to answer this one.

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On the details of dress…

Ornaments and trimmings of silver are to be preferred before gold when intended for the fair beauty. The white lustre of the first of these costly metals harmonizes better with delicacy of skin than the glaring effulgence of the gold. By a parity of reasoning, gold agrees best with the brunette, as its yellow and flaming hue lights up the fire of her eyes, and throws her complexion in the brightest contrast.

Written by A Lady of Distinction, Mirror of Graces, 1811, p 129.

Read more on Rundell and Bridge Silver in the Georgian Index

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Found on the blogosphere, are these three Jane Austen related posts on Good Girl, Bad Boy, a blog by Dr. Stephen Ogden, English lecturer, British Columbia

On Jane Austen’s Popularity

Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice

British Class System


Jane Austen and Popular Culture

Jane Austen, Why the Fuss? (BBC)

An Unbecoming View of Jane Austen

There’s Something About Jane

Jane Austen’s Enduring Appeal

When Austen Was Cool

Recent Publications on Jane Austen

Spin Offs Keep Jane Austen Alive

Fitzwilliam Darcy, the Gentleman Series

The Persuasive and Provincial Jane Austen

Jane Austen: An Internet Bibliography from literaryhistory.com

Jane Austen: Classics Network

Recreating Jane Austen

A Romantic Classic

See Bridget Jones photos here.

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Jane Austen and her heirs could have made quite a comfortable living in commercial trade if she had lived in this day and age. Here are some wares you can purchase with her image.

Jane Book Bag from Lunimary Graphics in Purcelville, Virginia, not far from my neck of the woods.

Also find the J.A. action figure, finger puppet, mugs, little thinker, and J.A. cards.

Various Jane memorabilia can be purchased at:

Jane Austen Gift Shop

The Library of Congress Shop

Shakespeare’s Den

The Cafe Press

The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild

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Take this quiz from the Jane Austen Character Selector and find out.I predicted I would be most like Marianne Dashwood but I wanted to be Lizzy.

Well, I am not so far off. I will need to learn more about Catherine, since Northanger Abbey is my least favorite Jane novel.

But Lydia? Lydia! LYDIA! No!!!

Oh, and how did I get to be like Mr. Bingley/Jane Bennett?

Here are the top 6 results from my quiz:

#1 Catherine from Northanger Abbey

#2 Mariane Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility

#3 Lousia Musgrove from Persuasion

#4 Lydia Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

#5 Eliza Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

#6 Mr. Bingley /Jane Bennet from Pride & PrejudiceWhew, I took the quiz again, only this time I entered the level of importance for each question, and Marianne did come out on top. Yes folks, I admit it. I am a romantic, impestuous woman. But this is the difference between me and Marianne: I have always adored Colonel Brandon. Here are the second set of results. Whew. Double Whew. But what the heck is Lydia still doing there?

#1 Mariane Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility

#2 Mr. Bingley / Jane Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

#3 Catherine from Northanger Abbey

#4 Lousia Musgrove from Persuasion

#5 Lydia Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

#6 Eliza Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

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Darcy Fancy

Austentatious, and A Lady’s Diversions, two sister Austen blogs, mentioned an article titled Darcy Fancy. I clicked on their links to read it, but couldn’t find it. Here’s the text from a similarly titled article in The Times Union. Whether it is the same article or not, thanks, ladies, for leading me to it.

Darcy fancy: Leading man speaks and sells volumes

By AMY WILSON First published: Sunday, March 4, 2007

We’re literate women, and we’re kind of iffy on “happily ever after.”

With one exception.

He’s tall, brooding and loaded.

If he had ever really existed, he’d be long dead.

The shadow of his seldom-seen smile still lingers in the recesses of our little reader-girl brains.

It has, as well, stoked the romantic fantasies of generations of women worldwide.

To this day he is his own industry: in books, on TV, in movies.

To this day, dead or not, he looks darn good.

Mr. Darcy, how we love you.

That said, a thinking girl would eventually be forced to ask herself why she loves this character from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

There is proof aplenty out there of this can’t-get-enough premise. We give you the following in recent publication: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley,” “Darcy’s Diary,” “The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy,” “The True Darcy Spirit,” “Lord Darcy” and “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife,” to name a few. Plus, author Elizabeth Aston’s “The Second Mrs. Darcy: A Novel” comes out as a Touchstone Paperback on March 6.

We give you as well the new three-parter by Pamela Aidan — “An Assembly Such as This,” “Duty and Desire” and “These Three Remain” — a series of novels that takes on “Pride and Prejudice” as told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Then there’s a series of “Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries” — named, charmingly enough, “North by Northanger, or the Shades of Pemberley”; “Suspense and Sensibility, or First Impression Revisited”; and “Pride and Prescience, or a Truth Universally Acknowledged.”

And, so you know this is not about to end anytime soon, there’s “The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World” by Margaret C. Sullivan, which is already selling scads on Amazon.com and it doesn’t come out until May.

So, yeah, even though “Pride and Prejudice” was published in 1813, Mr. Darcy is still very much on our minds and in our hearts and on our lips.

Our hunger is not yet sated.

Reason 1: We are Elizabeth The most obvious reason for our allegiance: We see ourselves as “Pride and Prejudice’s” beautiful, interesting and sharp-witted Elizabeth Bennet, a woman who knows herself and makes no compromise even for security in a world where security is nothing less than everything.

Fantasy being no small motivator of book purchases aside, Reason 1 is a plausible one, as it works on our inner Cinderella and our outer Oprah.

Paula Marantz Cohen, author of “Jane Austen in Boca,” seems to agree. She sees that part of Darcy’s appeal “is that he is drawn to Elizabeth’s impertinence, not put off by it. He has the confidence to like a woman with character.”

Darcy thus falls for Elizabeth because she/we is/are behaving completely without guile. He loves this/us and fears that her/our first estimation of him — that he is no gentleman — has some basis in fact.

Reason 2: We like our brains

Lisa Zunshine is an associate professor of English in Lexington, Ky., who has written a book called “Why We Read Fiction.” She and others have, in the past decade, been studying ideational approaches to literature and culture.

What they’ve discovered is this: We are constantly trying to perfect our own ability to “mind-read,” or, rather, “to explain other people’s behavior in terms of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires.” It is called, in the high-science parlance, Theory of Mind.

And we do it unconsciously all the time. It is what underlies and props up all our real social interaction. It is how we manage to get by. And the better we do it, the more confidently we maneuver life.

And because our minds do not distinguish between real and fictional people, “fiction builds on our Theory of Mind,” Zunshine says.

Here is where Jane Austen and her Mr. Darcy come in.

Austen makes her reader work. Because the reader never actually knows what Mr. Darcy is thinking, we must constantly infer it from his actions, Elizabeth’s actions, their interplay, the actions of others, the misinterpretations of others, the evidence of their actions, the evidence of their actions to the contrary.

“In Jane Austen,” says Zunshine, “the minds of men are kept closed to us.”
So we look at the source of any piece of information about Darcy, and we have to keep “under advisement, if you will,” what we think of the truthfulness of that source, she says. And then we continue to process what is happening given everything else we know.

The upshot: Our brains are humming, investing Darcy with attributes, and then readjusting those conclusions constantly in light of new information.

We love him then, because Austin crafted — Reason 2 — the perfect puzzle.

Reason 3: It’s the mister

Last, like all fictional characters, Mr. Darcy’s teeth are always brushed and he never leaves his underwear on the bathroom floor. That indeed inspires loyalty.

Still, Austen has one-upped almost all other male fictional characters by constantly referring to the man as Mister, though he has a first name, Fitzwilliam.

Nevertheless, maybe part of the allure is that we never get so familiar with Mr. Darcy that we call the man anything but.

And he, in turn, will never call us Sugar Tush.

Amy Wilson writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Reporters Cheryl Truman and Jamie Gumbrecht of the Herald-Leader contributed to this story.

Romance begins with ‘Pride and Prejudice’

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 58 of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
After a short pause, her companion (Darcy) added: “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

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On Becoming Jane

This review on Becoming Jane is rather long but interesting. Be aware there are spoilers.

Here’s the trailer.

And here is the URL to the movie’s site: http://www.bvimovies.com/uk/becoming_jane/

If you haven’t visited the Discussion Board titled Jane Austen Fans, it’s worth a visit as well.

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Lady Caroline Lamb

Caroline Ponsonby married William Lamb in 1805 with the expectation of inheriting wealth and riches, but her father-in-law was still living at the time of her death in 1828.

A woman of independent character who rarely conformed to society’s expectations, “Caro” still provokes strong reactions to her life and work, and affair with Lord Byron in 1812.

“As a child she was a tomboy – and a spirit of recklessness and disdain for convention never left her. She had no formal education and was unable to read until late adolescence. But she was intelligent and witty; as an adult, she wrote poetry and prose and drew portraits. She was the first woman of Byron’s class to captivate the poet completely. He treated Caroline badly after the grand infatuation faded. But while it lasted, he was demanding and possessive, goading her to admit she loved him more than her husband. He pursued her with abandon, once planning to flee England with her. Caroline’s reaction to the break-up is understandable; Byron led her to believe he loved her. It was her sad fate to discover Byron’s interpretation of love – a mad, passionate obsession which is abandoned as soon as curiosity and desire are sated.” From English History net.

Byron described Caroline as “the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.” Their brief but intense affair lasted only from March until August 1812, but it was to have longer lasting consequences for both of them.



Melbourne Hall, Home of Lady Caroline Lamb

Lady Caro’s body of literary work has not fared well with critics over the ages. Of Glenarvon, her first novel in 1816, she wondered why “everybody wishes to run down and suppress the vital spark of genius I have, and in truth, it is but small (about what one sees a maid gets by excessive beating on a tinder-box). I am not vain, believe me, nor selfish, nor in love with my authorship; but I am independent, as far as a mite and bit of dust can be.” Those who have judged her novels and poetry have treated them as an extension of her personality: at best the production of a neurotic mind, and at worst a devious attempt to hurt Byron.



Lady Caroline Ponsonby Lamb)(dghtr of Henrietta Spencer and Frederic Ponsonby, erd Earl of Bessborough, spouse of William Lamb, 2nd Visc. Melbourne)-painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Lady Caroline certainly suffered when Byron ended their affair. She was threatened with a straitjacket several times subsequently. After Byron left England, however, her life did not devolve into complete histrionics. She published three novels, two accomplished parodies of Byron’s poetry, several poems in literary journals, and a number of songs — besides having worked up three other novel projects and a “pocket-diary” called Penruddock that she printed in England and sought to publish in Ireland. ”

According to Wikipedia, “In 1824, she accidentally came across Byron’s funeral cortège on its way to his burial place, and this incident drove her to a nervous breakdown, and rumoured insanity. She lived her last years in seclusion at Brocket Hall.”

Learn more about Lady Caroline here.

Caro: The Lady Caroline Lamb Website

Lady Caroline Lamb


The Literacy Encyclopedia

Lord Byron: Letter to Lady Caroline Lamb

Lady Caro’s letter to Lord Byron

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Royalty at Close Quarters

King George IV in his coronation robes.

If one of the key pleasures of metropolitan public life was the witnessing of royalty, nobility and greater gentry at close quarters, then the ultimate spectacle was obviously the royal court. After Whitehall burned down in 1697 the focus of court display was St. James’s Palace. Great ‘public’ festivities were held at court on the monarch’s birthday, and on the anniversary of the accession and coronation, while smaller drawing room assemblies were held every week in the Season…The royal family was also to be seen at prayer in the Chapel Royal – a conventional stop on tourist itineraries for over a century. Indeed, for all that the vigour and prestige of court society was in relative decline, and the fact that the pageantry of royal ceremonial varied from monarch to monarch, the ‘splendid appearance’ of royalty and nobility, was still greedily beheld by the genteel at every opportunity.

The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England, Amanda Vickery, P 228

St. James’s Palace

Coronation Procession of King George IV, 1821

For more about the Coronation of George IV, Georgian Index click here.

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