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Archive for the ‘Bath’ Category

Inquiring readers,

Many of you have noticed my absence for a long time. If it weren’t for the efforts of Rachel Dodge and Tony Grant, this blog would have remained silent for most of the previous twelve months. Thank you, both, dear friends, for your contributions.

Two years ago I realized my heart and soul were no longer in my work and that it was time to retire.  Since then, I have been in the process of getting my house ready for sale, selling it, and packing my belongings to move to north Baltimore to be near family. Luckily or unluckily, I sold my house the moment my realtor planted the “coming soon” sign on my lawn. This meant that I had to move two months earlier than anticipated, since the new owners were anxious to move into my beloved abode.

My new place, however, was not ready. Currently, all my possessions, save for summer clothes and necessities, are in storage, and so I am living in limbo as a guest with friends until the end of August.

Starting September 1, I will be traveling between Richmond and Baltimore for four months, waiting for my new place to be approved by a house inspector and working remotely at a distance (with frequent travels via I-95 to attend bi-monthly meetings down south). January 1st is the date of my retirement. Ah, the modern life!

As I anticipate my schedule this fall and early winter, my thoughts often turn to Jane Austen. She had immense pleasure of living the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, a small village in Hampshire.

Outside there were fields where Mr Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane, possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. – http://www3.hants.gov.uk/austen/deane-parsonage/steventon-village.htm, Hantsweb, Hampshire County Council

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The Austens also ran a boarding school for young men out of the parsonage house to augment the reverend’s yearly income of £230. His extensive library of 300 – 500 volumes was amazingly large for that era, since books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Jane and her sister, Cassandra, to read from his library, an unusual encouragement for females in that time.

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, the British Library

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, The British Library

Jane enjoyed an extremely close relationship with her older sister, Cassandra, and they supported each other in their respective strengths and talents. Jane’s talent, as well as Cassandra’s, were nurtured by their doting family, as evidenced by the History of England, written by Jane and illustrated by Cassandra, and the plays and stories of juvenilia a young and playful Jane wrote for family gatherings.

At the age of 25, after enjoying a bucolic childhood that any woman of her era would have envied, Jane’s parents announced the Reverend’s decision to retire and leave Steventon. It was said that, upon hearing the news, Jane fainted. I can only imagine what went through her mind as she imagined the life she adored evaporating as she saw her family’s possessions reduced to the amount that one or several moving carts could hold.

(See slideshow of 18thcentury carts and wagons in Williamsburg of sample carts. I tend to think the blue covered wagon would be similar to one or two vehicles the Austen family would have contracted to move their belongings: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring09/carts_slideshow/)

These days I empathize with the painful decisions the Austen family must have made regarding their possessions. After paring my own book collection down from around 4,000 volumes to 600 and getting rid of or giving away 90% of my furniture, and after living almost 30 years near a beautiful river and leaving my favorite house, ever, I can imagine Jane’s despair as beloved friends and family and favorite walking paths and shops were left behind for a city she didn’t particularly love (or so Claire Tomalin surmised). As the moving wagon and carriage that carried the Austen family and their possessions turned the corner away from the parsonage, Jane must have been overcome with nostalgia, sadness, and a bit of fear all at once.

And so for the next five years Jane began a restless, peripatetic lifestyle, one that influenced her inability to write any meaningful work for a long time. (Houses in Bath Where Jane Austen Lived, KleurijkJaneAusten, May 28, 2011)

The Austen family’s first house in Bath was located at number 4 Sydney Place.

“No. 4 Sydney Place was a good, well-proportioned, newly build terraced house. It was well placed outside the crowded centre of Bath, but within easy walking distance over Pulteney Bridge.” – Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life

Canal and walks, Sydney Gardens 19th C.This address, opposite Sydney Gardens, allowed Jane easy access to the walking paths along its beautiful grounds, a sop to her country heart. (See image on the right.)

Map of Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place, Bath

Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place

Map of Bath

Main city of Bath, across the Pulteney Bridge from Sydney Place

“Whether you go to see, or to be seen, At Sydney Gardens you’ll be pleased, I ween, Whatever your taste, for prospects or good cheer, Cascades or rural walks, you’ll find them here…”
– Anon, 27 August 1795, poem in local newspaper
–“The History of Sydney Gardens” by Catherine Pitt, The Bath Magazine

Life in the city of Bath was vastly different from life in the country. In Steventon, Mrs Austen oversaw an extensive garden, and used fresh milk from a milk cow and fresh eggs from her chickens to create simple but good food from scratch. She worked alongside her servants in the kitchen and kitchen garden to provide wholesome meals for her family and young boarders, as well as clean clothes and a tidy house. She was a creative poet and a few of her recipes in verse still survive.

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses…

(Find the rest of this delightful recipe on this blog at https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-receipt-for-a-pudding-by-mrs-austen/)

Imagine the shock this country family felt at having to walk to the green grocer daily, acquire milk from cows kept in city stalls and that was often cut with water, all in an age before refrigeration.

 

“When proud pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Has put a spirit of youth in everything.”

yet for the rest of the year the coarse grass is carted to their stalls, or they devour what the breweries and distilleries cannot extract from the grain harvest. Long before “the unfolding star wakes up the shepherd” are the London cows milked; and the great wholesale vendors of the commodity, who have it consigned to them daily from more distant parts to the various railway stations in the metropolis, bear it in carts to every part of the town, and distribute it to the hundreds of shopkeepers and itinerants, who are anxiously waiting to receive it for re-distribution amongst their own customers. It is evident that a perishable commodity which everyone requires at a given hour, must be so distributed.

” –  — from A History of the Cries of London, Ancient and Modern, by Charles Hindley, Project Gutenberg, p 141

This situation for “not so” fresh milk, meat, and vegetables was as similar for the citizens of London as for a small city, like Bath. The Austen’s maid of all work and Austen women purchased “fresh” food on a daily basis, food that was both expensive and often past its “due date.” (Drinking Milk in Regency London, Jane Austen’s World, 2008)

Obtaining decent food supplies in Bath must have been costly for a family living on a parson’s pension. The incessant street cries of the baker, the milkmaid, and other food sellers, even across the Pulteney Bridge in a quieter section of town, must have cut into Jane’s peaceful hours. No wonder her creative juices stalled after her father’s death, as the family moved from place to place (after his pension to his family had been cut off), and before she and her mother and sister found refuge in Chawton Cottage. (Where Jane Lived, Gotta Keep Movin’ blog.)

I confess I possess not a smidgeon of Jane Austen’s writing genius, but the disruption in my life, starting with the years of my father’s slow dying and his death in 2014, and my sweet dog’s sudden fatal illness in 2016, blocked my creative input, both at work and at home.

To be near family, I am moving from a small city with many friends to the suburb of a much larger city., where I know few people. In the process, I am leaving my favorite, unique foodie haunts, small local theater productions, historic city neighborhoods, a short and easy ride to work, and white water rafting downtown on the James River to live in a land of manicured lawns, malls, congested traffic, and national restaurant chains.

Riverside Drive, Richmond, VA

My river walk along the James

Until I regain my footing in early 2019, I don’t anticipate devoting myself to this blog full-time just yet. Thank you, readers, for your understanding. Thank you, Rachel and Tony, for your support.

Vic

Sources:

 

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Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe.

Time travel has always presented a logical difficulty for authors: How to make such a romantic notion seem plausible? I have a way of dealing with time travel stories – suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Jane Odiwe’s new book speaks directly to one of my fantasies – to meet Jane Austen and to get to know her as a friend. Oh, if that were only possible!

I’ll admit that I have a fondness for Ms. Odiwe’s books. In this new endeavor she has outdone herself. After finishing Searching for Captain Wentworth I felt as if I had taken a trip to Bath and Lyme Regis, met Jane Austen, and been treated to a wonderful romance.

Not everything about the book is perfect. While the love affair between Charles and Sophia had me engrossed, the one twixt Josh and Sophie left me somewhat cold. The ending seemed rushed, and although loose ends were tied, much of the details didn’t make sense, as with all time travel stories. But logic is not the point of a time travel book: it is fantasy and wish-fulfillment.

This book has fantasy aplenty, backed up by history and Ms. Odiwe’s intimate knowledge of Jane Austen’s life and the environs of Bath. I had the privilege of visiting Bath and staying in a hotel near Sydney Gardens just off Great Pulteney Street, and the book kept conjuring up memories that I thought I had forgotten. Vividly described is the arduous but ultimately rewarding climb up Beechen Cliff. Ms. Odiwe uses this walk as a marvelous plot device while taking us on a guided tour of that famous J.A. landmark. She takes her characters to Lyme Regis as well, and has a knack for writing an original story while admirably following Persuasion’s plot.

I could write a longer review, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. Well done, Ms. Odiwe. This is one of the few review books that I read from start to finish. I give Searching for Captain Wentworth five out of five regency tea cups with this caution: If you are not a fan of romance novels, Austen sequels, or time travel tales, then you will wonder at my gushes.

This book can be purchased as an eBook as well as in the traditional format.

Jane Odiwe’s blog

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (September 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 095457222X
ISBN-13: 978-0954572228

Note: Green links are WordPress ads. The blue links are mine. I make no money from this blog.

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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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Gentle Readers, a few months I featured a new book, The Pump Room Orchestra: Three Centuries of Music and Social History, by Robert Hyman and Nicola Hyman, which you can order from Amazon.com. Recently BBC Radio 3 came to the Pump Room to do an interview with the Pump Room Trio. The review/feature will be on ‘Music Matters’ which starts at 12.15 pm on Saturday, December 10th. Nicola sent me a few images from the event. I do hope you will tune in on Saturday to listen to the interview! Meanwhile, enjoy these images.

The Pump Room Trio

Here’s the link to listen to the 12 minute program on Saturday! Fabulous.

Robert and Nicola Hyman

The gathering in the Pump Room. Note the breathtaking chandelier and the marble statue of Beau Nash carved by Joseph Plura that sits in an alcove above the clock.

Bath Minuet Company

The Bath Minuet Company

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The Comforts of Bath, Thomas Rowlandson.

Almost everyone who visits my blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page knows I’ve broken my foot in two inconvenient places. Even with modern medical advances the most pleasant way to describe my experience is that it’s been a … pain. Literally and figuratively. This lover of walking 3-4 times a day with her dog has been sidelined. I’ve been sitting or lying down for a month, watching my bum grow two sizes. I’m a bit more mobile now and can hobble wearing an unwieldy boot.

How did people deal with this situation two-hundred years ago? I wondered as I stared at the ceiling with my foot propped up higher than my head. It certainly could not have been easy. Mrs. Mapp, or Crazy Sally, as she was known, was a famous London bone setter in the early 18th century. While she was unlucky in love, she made her fortune with her strength, boldness, and wonder-working cures.

Besides driving a profitable trade at home, she used to drive to town once a week in a coach and four and return again bearing away the crutches of her patients as trophies of honour. – Mrs. Mapp: The Bone-Setter, Book of Days, Robert Chamber, 1864

I doubt Mrs. Mapp would have bothered setting my foot. There was really nothing to manipulate. All it needed was rest and a good calcium-rich diet. How did people get round and about when they were hobbled in days of yore?

In my estimation, crutches resembled torture instruments more than helpmeets.

Beggar with one leg and a crutch. Image @Risky Regencies

This 1850 crutch is similar to the one depicted in the image above. It was not adjustable, and rags were wound around the top to make the crutch less painful. Even with ample padding on the modern crutch, my underarms became sore. I can only imagine how much discomfort the old models offered.

Wheelchair, Barry Lyndon

Wheelchairs were invented early in the history of mankind. In 530 B.C. a wheeled child’s bed made an appearance on a Greek vase, and in 525 A.D. a wheelchair was depicted on a Chinese print. By the 17th century, the patient’s comfort began to be taken into account.

Paralytic woman in wheelchair, 1821. Image @Museum of London

During the 18th century the Bath chair was born. Invented by John Dawson, the three-wheeled chairs remained popular all through the 19th century.

3-wheeled Bath chair. Image @BBC

This Rowlandson caricature depicts the ill visiting the Pump Room to take the waters. Note the sedan chair at left being carried inside the room, the man in the wheelchair, and the man walking with two canes.

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I spent a lazy Sunday catching up on the many posts I am unable to read during the week. Imagine my delight when I landed on Madame Guillotine’s blog and read her impressions about her visit to the Fashion Museum in Bath.  With increasing excitement, I viewed her close up images of several of the most beautiful 18th and early 19th century gowns imaginable. Melanie graciously allowed me to showcase her posts. (I concentrated on the early 19th century examples.) Do rush over and view all her photos. They are simply amazing.

I have just got home after an amazing couple of hours spent studying some of the eighteenth century dresses in the vast collections (I think they said they have 80,000 pieces in their archives) of the Fashion Museum in Bath.

English, silk, 1770-73.

It was amazing seeing the hook and eye arrangements that they used to do up the bodices, the neat seam work and even the staining beneath the armpits which serves as a reminder that these are the real deal and not just mere costumes!

French, sacque gown, 1760-63. Image @Madame Guillotine

They were really keen on combinations of pink and green during the eighteenth century – a colour combination that seems to have vanished from fashion, alas.

A floral printed muslin from 1793-97. Image @Madame Guillotine

[This dress] is really is lovely – very floaty and romantic with a pretty floral print. You can really imagine Marianne Dashwood in this one!

Muslin dress, 1813-20. Image @Madame Guillotine

This dress was so beautiful but really worryingly see through! You forget this about muslin when you see them in period dramas…

Patterned muslin dress, 1815-20. Image @Madame Guillotine

This is the sort of thing that a Heyer heroine would have worn.

These images are just a foretaste of the many photos that Melanie took at the Fashion Museum. To read both her posts, click on the two links below:

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There Must Be Murder, a very nice story by Margaret C. Sullivan,

It is one year after Catherine has married her Henry. She still is sweet and naïve, but she now possesses the womanly knowledge that every bride with an adoring husband soon comes to know. Henry Tilney is as charming as ever and clearly loves his pretty Cat. The couple, only one year married, live in Woodston Parish with a cat named Ruby Begonia and an assortment of dogs, including a Newfoundland named MacGuffin. Catherine has redecorated the pretty parsonage, and the couple has a habit of cozying up together as Henry reads passages from The Mysteries of Udolpho. During one such occasion, Catherine fondly recalls her introduction to Henry in Bath by the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. King, and in no time Henry has arranged for a visit to that ancient city.

“Henry, you know perfectly well that I keep no journal. Besides, I did not know then that you were my future husband.”

“Some husbands would be injured at such an admission, but not I; after all, I did not know that you were my future wife. I remember that I was wandering about the Rooms like a lost soul, having no acquaintance there. The master of ceremonies, Mr. King, took pity upon me and asked if I would like an introduction to a clergyman’s daughter who was in need of a partner. In Christian charity, I could not decline; though from my past experiences of ladies described as ‘clergymen’s daughters,’ I expected to be presented to an elderly spinster with a squint. You may imagine my relief when Miss Morland turned out to be rather a pretty girl, and I considered myself fortunate that no other gentleman had already claimed the honour of dancing with her.”

Catherine’s eyes were shining. “You thought me pretty?”

“Indeed.” Henry reached for her hand and kissed it.

Margaret C. Sullivan, the author of this charming tale, deftly combines old characters (General Tilney and Henry’s sister, Eleanor) with the new – an apothecary named Mr. Shaw, a pretty but calculating woman named Judith Beauclerk, her mother, Lady Beauclerk, and Sir Philip, to name a few. Ms. Sullivan takes us on a sweet journey over familiar territory, paying homage to Jane’s characters while staying true to her own writing style. The book is illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Casandra Chouinard, which certainly enhance one’s enjoyment of the novella.

Catherine, Mr. King, and Henry Tilney. Image @There Must Be Murder

Fans of Jane Austen will recognize Margaret as the editrix of Austenblog, the longest surviving Jane Austen blog on the blogosphere, and as one whose knowledge of Jane and the Regency period is that of an expert. And thus the details set down in this tale are accurate and true to the time, including the use of arsenic in beauty potions. Margaret’s humor also shines through, and I found myself turning page after page until I had finished the story in one sitting.

Here’s her bio, with an example of her humor: Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of numerous Jane Austen sequels and editrix of AustenBlog. Her first book, The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World, will be in bookstores this spring. She likes to think that Henry Tilney would dance with her at the Lower Rooms, although she is an almost-middle-aged spinster with a squint.

If you are intrigued by my short review, you may purchase the book in several ways. Girlebooks, an excellent source of free Ebooks, now offers original eBooks that have never been published, such as There Must be Murder. You have a choice of several platforms in which to download the book or purchase a printed copy. It is available for $9.99 at Amazon paperback and for free at Smashwords at this link .

The novella was first commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre, and you may read the book chapter by chapter in this link.

Enjoy! I certainly did.

Book Giveaway (Closed – congratulations to winner, Cecilia): If you leave a comment, you have a chance to win my hard copy of the book with all its charming illustrations. The drawing (by random number) will be held on February 5th.

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