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Dear Mrs. Elton

dear_mrs_eltonGentle readers: Good news! Mrs. Elton has returned, but with a twist. Diana Birchall and I hope that you’ll enjoy this interesting development in Mrs. Elton’s life. T’ill next time, and wishing you all the best of holidays … Vic (Toby) and Diana (Mrs. Elton)

15th August, 1818
Fairweather Plantation, Raleigh

To: Augusta Hawkins, Bristol

My dearest darling Augusta,

When we parted I pledged I would refrain from contacting you until I was WORTHY of your hand. Our ambitions have borne fruit, my Angel, and of such a magnitude that I can now hold my head high as I formally ask your father for your hand. Even as I write, my man of business has sailed ahead of me to arrange for a house and carriage in Bristol. I shall leave the choice of furnishing to you, my dearest, for your taste is as restrained and exquisite as The Prince Regent’s.

Lo, all these eight years I have worn your locket with its precious strand of your hair next to my heart, as you have kept my promise ring next to yours, I’ll warrant. The last sweet words you whispered in my ear before I set sail (forever etched on my brain – “Do not return until you can claim me openly”), your pledge of unwavering love, and your faith in my abilities have kept me strong even through the darkest and most trying times. There were agonizing moments when I despaired of ever seeing you again, for the New World is as you feared – a wild and dangerous place, where a man is just a hair’s breath away from meeting his MAKER. But fate has been kind and I have emerged triumphant! It is as you predicted, my dearest – my uncanny skills at the gaming table have made my fortune in the form of a fine and thriving tobacco plantation in the Carolinas.

Expect me on the next mail packet from the Americas, for I cannot wait another moment to see your fair face and hold you in my arms.

Your loving, faithful and obedient servant, “Toby”

Tobias Evander McKiddie

P.S. I did not for a moment believe the spiteful rumours that came my way of your marriage to a mere country vicar not a half year after my departure. “You slander my faithful Augusta!” were the last words one lying cur heard after I shot him dead. However, the curious rumour persists, and we must address its origin before it DEFILES your spotless reputation.

BeFunky_opie portrait of swift 1802

On receiving this letter at the post-office, yellowed, water-stained, and slightly torn, covered all over with American stamps, Mrs. Elton stood for a moment, silent. This was so odd a posture for her, that Mrs.Ford (for the post-office was in a corner of the store) asked if she was well.

“Oh! Perfectly, perfectly well, Mrs. Ford. I am only surprised. It is not every day that one receives a letter from America, you know.”

“I should say not, Mrs. Elton,” exclaimed Mrs. Ford. “That is why I fetched it down for you, when you came by. In the ordinary course of things I should have sent it with the post-boy on his donkey, and you would have had it by tea-time, but this seemed so very special.”

“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Elton, absently.

“And your man did not come for the post this morning, as he usually does. I had thought there might be illness at the vicarage, or some such.”

“Oh, dear no, Mrs. Ford. I was not expecting any thing, and did not think to tell Charles to fetch the letters this morning, when he went to the fishmonger’s. We are having a select little dinner to-night, you know.”

“Yes, I heard – the Westons and the Coles,” said Mrs. Ford, very interested. “My! I am sure you have your head full of cares to-day. No one in Highbury gives a more elegant dinner than you, Mrs. Elton. You are quite famous for it.”

“Not at all. It is only that I learnt at Maple Grove how things should be done in proper style. I do not allow any pitiful doings at my table. Meat and drink should be plentiful and wholesome, but with something more elegant, more recherche, when there is company. That was why I wanted to be sure to get the very best piece of fish the town affords…”

“To be ordering fish, and to find a letter from America!” said Mrs. Ford, laughing winningly and holding up her hands, but sticking to the subject that she was afire with curiosity to hear about.

But Mrs. Elton had recollected herself, and slipped the letter into her reticule, slapping it shut with finality. “Yes,” she said, “and I must hurry home and take it to Mr. Elton, for it is sure to be for him. A letter of business about church affairs – perhaps about converting the Indians,” she finished, in an effort of imagination.

“Well! Only think! America! Indians! But the letter,” Mrs. Ford pursued wisely, “is addressed to you.”

“That must be some mistake,” Mrs. Elton said firmly, “for I know no one in America. But my husband has such an extensive correspondence, I am sure he will not be at a loss.”

“I’ve never seen him get a letter from America before,” said Mrs. Ford skeptically, “nor anyone in this village for that matter.”

“There is always a first time. Good day, Mrs. Ford.”

Mrs. Elton prided herself on a stately glide, as befitted the vicar’s wife, when on foot, as she was today owing to the pleasant autumn weather. She now regretted not taking the carriage, as she was exposed to the eyes of the village, and she knew the story of the letter was circulating like wildfire faster than she could reach home. Accordingly, she walked as quickly as she dared, and the last few yards she might be said to be guilty of scurrying.

Not even taking off her bonnet and gloves, she stood in the entry way, tore open her letter, and read.

She only looked up, to see her husband come in, having walked back from Donwell where he had been conferring with Mr. Knightley on parish business.
“Why, Augusta, it must be true then,” he exclaimed cheerfully, “that must be the famous letter from America you are reading! John Carpenter told me of it, as I crossed the last field over from Martin’s.”

He noticed her stricken expression. “What is it, then?” he asked, concerned. “Is it really from America? What can America have to do with us?”

Mutely she put the letter in his hands. He read. Their eyes met for a moment, and he struck the letter to the ground. “That puppy!” he exclaimed.

“It is that puppy you told me about long ago – is it not?”

“Yes, Philip,” she said faintly.

He began to pace. “What insolence! Arrant nonsense. You were not engaged before we met – I know. You told me the whole story, long ago.”

Augusta found her voice. “Certainly not. You remember how I told you of my difficulty in – in getting rid of the young man. He presumed too much then, and you see it is apparent he still does – now.”

“I should say so!” Mr. Elton picked up the letter, smoothed it out thoughtfully, though his own brow was furrowed. “Augusta, this is a sort of thing that could cause some damage, if it became known.”

“Oh, Philip!”

“Never you worry. Do you know,” he concluded, folding it up again, “it looks to me as if this gentlemen intends mischief – a breach-of-promise suit or something of that sort. This is not about sentiment. He is after money, I’ll be bound.”

“What – what shall we do?”

“I am not exactly certain, not being a lawyer myself, but I tell you what, dearest,” he looked at her resolutely, “we cannot do better than to take this to Mr. Knightley.”

“Mr. Knightley!”

“Why, yes. He is the magistrate, and absolutely safe as houses, you know. A secret is a secret with him. And Mr. John Knightley, his brother, is the very person to consult about a delicate matter, and the law.”

“But – oh, Philip, what if he tells Mrs. Knightley? Or Miss Bates! Only think! It will be all over town in an hour!”

“Don’t be silly, my dear. Men of business do not behave in such a way. Yes, I am decided. Do not worry, I say. I will walk back over to Donwell this very moment, and secure Knightley’s advice. It is the best thing going.”

“I suppose you know best,” she agreed. “Oh, Philip, you are not – angry?”

“Not with you,” he answered briefly, and strode out of the house.

About Diana Birchall

Diana and her cat, Pindar

Diana and her cat, Pindar

Diana Birchall grew up in New York City, and was educated at Hunter College Elementary School, the High School of Music and Art, and C.C.N.Y, where she studied history and English literature. She has worked in the film industry for many years and is the “book person” story analyst at Warner Bros. Studios, reading novels to see if they would make movies. A lifelong student of Jane Austen, whom she calls her writing teacher, Diana is the author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, a charming and best-selling sequel to Jane Aust­en’s Pride and Prejudice. Originally published by Egerton House Press in England, it is now available in a new reprint edition from Sourcebooks. Diana’s comedy pastiche In Defense of Mrs. Elton,based on characters from Jane Austen’s Emma, was published by the Jane Austen Society in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. It forms part of the “compleat” Mrs. Elton Trilogy, which is collected in the volume Mrs. Elton in America, published by Sourcebooks. 

Read more about Diana in this link.

Inquiring readers:  CLD Stationery has been creating personalised stationery for over thirty years. Its staff has learned a great deal about the traditions and etiquette of stationery and letter writing through the ages, especially the history of personal correspondence, from beautiful writing instruments and the development of the quality of paper to the evolution of quality inks.  At my request, this post was written especially for Jane Austen’s World. Enjoy!

How many of us take pens and paper for granted? Correspondence is such an integral part of our daily lives and it has played such an important role in the history of our civilisation.

Jane Austen as we know well, was a prolific writer and not just of novels, she enjoyed writing many personal letters that are thankfully, still in existence today for us to enjoy.  In particular, there are many splendid examples of letters that Jane sent to her sister Cassandra that have been collected into this fascinating book.

“You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve” From a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1798

Her letters are delightfully witty and they are also beautifully written – despite her misgivings. When you think of how easy it is for us to write and edit our work today on a computer, it adds an extra dimension to her wonderful writing skills.  The image below shows a real excerpt in her own handwriting from the novel Persuasion.

http://www.janeausten.ac.uk/manuscripts/blpers/1.html

During Jane Austen’s life, metal pen nibs had already been invented but were still rare and much more expensive than using a quill pen.  The majority of people were still using feather quills for all their personal correspondence. Jane Austen at this time would be using a quill made from a large goose feather or perhaps even a crow’s feather for smaller text.  The most desirable and hiqh quality quills were made from swans or peacocks feathers.

The feather quill has the ability to hold a little ink, allowing for less dipping time than using a reed or fine brush, this accounts for its huge popularity.  Interestingly, the feather quill is still used today as the preferred choice for calligraphy experts, due to it’s flexibility. The quill is cut with a knife to vary the thickness of writing, creating the perfect bespoke nib for the writer.

“I must get a softer pen. This is harder. I am in agonies. … I am going to write nothing but short sentences. There shall be two full stops in every line.” From a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1813

The quill cannot just be taken from the goose and cut, it needs to be hardened and there is some skill needed in creating the perfect writing tool – as you can read from Jane’s frustrations with her own quill!

If, like Jane Austen, you are a prolific letter writer and you favour the personal touch of a handwritten letter, then do visit our CLD Stationery website where we have a great selection of personalised stationery, from invitations to correspondence cards.

Jane Austen was born and grew up at Steventon in Hampshire. That tiny village is still a place of pilgrimage for Jane Austen devotees from around the world – the house has gone, but the church she attended is still there.

Steventon Station, New Zealand

Steventon Station, New Zealand

However, on the other side of the world there is another Steventon, with interesting Jane Austen connections. Steventon station lies on the banks of the Selwyn River, in the foothills of the Southern Alps, in New Zealand’s South Island. It was a property of 9700 acres that was taken up by Richard Knight and Arthur Charles Knight, great-nephews to Jane Austen (they were the sons of William Knight, son of Jane’s brother Edward) and named ‘Steventon’ in honour of their childhood home in England. They bought the land in 1852, but before long Richard bought his brother out and in 1855 built a working homestead on the station.

In 1866 Richard Knight sold the property to Henry Hill and Frederick Napier Broome, both of whom had been his cadets and worked on the station. Frederick Broome and his wife, Lady Barker (she had been married before and in order to get her first husband’s army pension, had to keep his name) built a property called ‘Broomielaw’ and settled in, but terrible floods and a freezing winter which killed most of their sheep, resulted in them selling the station and returning to England. The house they built still stands. Lady Barker wrote a best-selling book, Station Life in New Zealand, as a result of her experiences at Steventon, and later she and her husband lived in Western Australia, when he was made Governor there (the town of Broome was named after them).

The Knight boys remained in New Zealand. Richard married and had two sons. He died in 1866. Arthur purchased land on Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch, married, and is said to have had twenty-one children, so there are many Knight descendents in New Zealand today. Arthur died in Christchurch in 1905.

Susannah Fullerton guiding her literary tour

Susannah Fullerton guiding her literary tour

On a visit to New Zealand a few years ago I took a literary tour group to Steventon station. It was a wonderful visit. The owners Gavin and Nathalie McArthur gave us a truly Kiwi welcome, provided us all with a home-cooked lunch, and took us on a tour of the station. Inside the house are many fascinating documents and photos of Lady Barker and her writings, and information about the Knights. It is a beautiful place, and we all enjoyed finding this Jane Austen connection in New Zealand.

Susannah Fullerton has authored two books this year – A Dance With Jane Austen and Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece (Coming out in January 2013). She is also President of JASA, tour guide, lecturer, mother and wife.

Inquiring readers: Paul Emanuelli, author of Avon Street (click here to view the book and order it), has contributed posts for this blog before about the City of Bath as a Character ,  Law & Order and Jane Austen’s Aunt,  Walking in Austen’s Footsteps, and Food – To Die For: Food Preparation in the Georgian EraHe 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!

Workhouses are thought to date back as far as the fourteenth century and the aftermath of the “Black Death.” The plague was merciless in Britain and outbreaks recurred at intervals throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As a result, the working population was decimated and the shortage of labour pushed up wages. To try and halt this, several Acts of Parliament were passed aimed at forcing all able-bodied men to work and to keep wages at their old levels, but their main effect was to create itinerant labourers who travelled around the country looking for areas where they could earn more.

bathmap1902-2500

Layout of Bath Workhouse in 1848

The Poor Law Act of 1388 tried to stop this by introducing regulations restricting the movements of all labourers and itinerant beggars. No one could leave their own parish to seek work elsewhere without the written permission of the local Justice of the Peace, and the poor were prohibited from begging and could only receive help from the Parish in which they were born. Alms houses were built for the destitute but the earliest known reference to the term “Workhouse” dates back to 1631, when the mayor of Abingdon (near Oxford) records:-

“wee haue erected wthn our borough, a workehouse to sett poore people to worke”

A further Poor Law Act in 1597 governed the care of the destitute right up until the 19th Century. This law required the local justices of the peace to appoint, annually, “Overseers of the Poor” to find work for those in need, to apprentice children, and to provide,

“the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind and such other being poor and not able to work”.

This Poor Law required poor rates to be charged as a local tax, replacing voluntary charitable funding. The rate of charge and arrangements for distribution were to be decided by the Overseers. Though most parishes had houses set aside for the old, infirm and destitute these were more like alms-houses than workhouses and most support was given in the form of subsistence payments known as “out relief.”

bath1

Aerial photo of Former Bath Workhouse taken in early 20th Century

The real growth in workhouses took place in the nineteenth century, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Hundreds of thousands of troops returned home to find there was no work for them. Most had been agricultural workers before the war and the new technology in farming had reduced the need for labour. At the same time a series of poor harvests had pushed up food prices and the Importation Act of 1815 had prohibited the importation of cheaper cereals from abroad. For most people, bread was the main part of their diet and yet they could no longer even afford bread. So many had become destitute and were starving by the early 1830s that the system could not support them. The Government sought a cheaper alternative to “out relief.”

Read the rest of Paul’s fascinating post and the workhouse in Bath at this link:

Click Here

In keeping with December, Charles Dickens’ anniversary, and a Christmas Carol, Paul sent this message:

 In “A Christmas Carol” the Spirit of Christmas Present reveals two children hidden under his robes. Scrooge asks him if they are his children and the Spirit replies that they are the children of Man – “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource.‘ asks Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons.‘ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.‘”

OliverTwistOliver Twist

Oliver Twist Workhouse image

The well known passage from Oliver Twist:

“Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.

‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’

More about Avon Street: Order the book

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (March 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752465546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752465548

miss-jane-austen (3)This is a review of Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to War) from the Great Novelist Herself, by Rebecca Smith.

2012 marks the year of Jane Austen advice books – The Jane Austen’s Guide to Life, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, and now Miss Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas. What makes this volume stand out from the others is that Rebecca Smith is Jane Austen’s great-niece (times five)! She was also selected as the first official writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. It is logical assume that Ms. Smith has an in-depth knowledge of her great x5 aunt, her life, thoughts, and environs.

This advice book is organized quite logically into 6 major topics: love & relationships; friends & family; work & career; fashion & style, home & garden; and leisure & travel.  The question sits on the top left of a two-page spread, which also contains pull out quotes or images.

To answer such questions as “Why am I still so intimidated by the barbies of the world?” “When should I tell my parents about my debts?”, “How do I make it clear that unmentionables should be unmentionable?”, “How do I say goodbye to a fair-weather friend?”, “I have an interview for the job of my dreams”, and “How can I be sure to put my best foot forward?” To answer the last question, Ms. Smith included facts from Jane Austen’s own work experience, and some quotes from her letters and novels. In this instance, she used this advice from Jane Austen: “…no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with.”

Miss Smith combines a mixture of modern common sense, which the iPad on the book’s cover illustrates, with old-fashioned common sense. To address the question: “To tattoo or not to tattoo?”, the author used Elinor Dashwood, who knew “that the wishes of parents and children are unlikely to coincide: “The old well established grievance of duty against will, parent against child, was the cause of all.” In other words, don’t be in a hurry to get a tattoo. Jane Austen would have said: “I consider it … one of the sweet taxes of youth to choose in a hurry and make bad bargains.”

One problem I had with the  book was with its fonts. My tired eyes found the text difficult to read. The book DOES come with the choice of an eBook edition. These days I prefer reading on my Kindle (I know, I know, book purists will disagree with me), but I appreciate choosing a larger FONT and the convenience of carrying my techie device everywhere. Both the Kindle and Nook versions are available for instant purchase!

Ms. Smith states in an interview:

I was actually quite surprised that I could answer every single dilemma with advice from Jane’s works and letters! Hundreds of dilemmas were suggested by family, friends and my students – there were too many to fit into the book – but, amazingly, all of them could be answered.”

The appendix includes a list of character summaries, biography of Jane Austen, bibliography, and useful websites (which *ahem* failed to include this blog).

tea cups ratingI give this book 3 ½ – 4  Regency tea cups out of five. If you cannot get enough of JA sequels, prequels and Austenesque advice, you will love this book. If you do not care for such publications, then Miss Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas is not for you.

More on the Topic:

An interview with the author on Tarcher books

You can purchase the book on

Recording The Young Jane Austen: How Crimson Cats produced an audio book of some of Jane’s Juvenilia by Michael Bartlett, Editor, Crimson Cats Audio Books.

“Madam, You are a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, and your Virtues innumerable.”

So begins the Dedication to The Beautifull Cassandra, a story that the 12-year old Jane Austen wrote for her sister. Jane’s Juvenilia may be less well known than her later novels but, although these stories lack the sophistication and polish of her adult writing, Jane’s acute observation and her wicked sense of humour are already apparent. Jane, the teenager, cast a very beady eye on the behaviour of grownups who squabbled, eloped and drank too much.

The cover of the audio CD

We decided to publish an audio book of some of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia because we wanted to bring them to a wider audience. The policy of Crimson Cats is to produce audio versions of books that are rather different from the mainstream and books which, as far as we know, have never been done in audio before.

The first stage was to choose the pieces we wanted to use. Crimson Cats publications are mostly all single CDs because this simplifies our production process, but it limits us to a maximum of 79 minutes of material. We wanted a reasonable variety but as some of the Juvenilia are very short (Mr Harley is less than a page long) that was fairly easily achieved.

Now we needed the text. It was not difficult to obtain a printed copy but although Jane Austen is, of course, long since out of copyright the problem with a published text is that if an editor has made changes for any reason, that version may be back in copyright. We did not know, so in the interests of safety we decided to work from the original manuscripts.

The manuscript of one of the pieces we wanted, The History of England, is held in the British Library and much of their material is now on-line. The design of their site and additional notes are, of course, not free to use, but Jane’s actual text is, so a quick download solved that one.

A sample of the script in Jane’s handwriting

The original manuscripts of the other 5 pieces we wanted to use are in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and that material was not then available on-line. The staff at the Bodleian were very helpful but, as with most large libraries, they needed to know the shelf reference number before they could help and that took some finding. Once we had it life became easier. For a modest fee they photocopied the material for us and so we had our text, albeit in Jane’s own handwriting which at times took some deciphering. The other stories we chose were The Beautifull Cassandra, Jack and Alice, Mr Harley, Henry and Eliza, and Amelia Webster.

With our script sorted out we turned our attention to the reader. I have been producing radio plays and book readings for many years (many of them with the BBC) so I know a lot of actors personally. For this book I needed someone who sounded young (Jane wrote these pieces when she was between the ages of 12 and 15) but someone who was really that age would not have the experience to read these stories as well as I wanted them done.

The answer was Teresa Gallagher, a very experienced actress and reader, who has the ability to adjust her voice to the young, breathy quality of a teenager but who can also deepen her voice for the older characters. Teresa has won awards for her audio book reading on both sides of the Atlantic and she liked these stories and agreed to record them for us.

We always try to include a brief audio introduction on our CDs to set the book in context and here we were fortunate enough to persuade Jean Bowden, retired curator of the Jane Austen House at Chawton in Hampshire, to write and record the opening track.

Next came the music. We don’t use a lot of music in our audio books as we feel the text is the most important thing. However, it is nice to have some to separate the different tracks and to create the right atmosphere. But what to use that was appropriate?

The Clementi Square piano from the Jane Austen House Museum (Chawton Cottage)

At this point Ann Channon, House Manager at the Jane Austen House, came up with a lovely idea. In the reception area at the House there stands a Clementi square piano, sadly not the one that Jane herself used but an identical one from the same period. A square piano has a wooden frame and so sounds very different from modern pianos. Also in the House they have copies of Jane’s music books containing a range of the pieces she would have played in the evenings. Ann suggested we could play some of this music on their square piano and we jumped at the chance.

We found an experienced pianist, Peter White, who was keen to try playing a square piano so one afternoon we all went down to Chawton. We could not actually record the pieces we wanted until after the House was closed so Peter used the afternoon to practise. It was not long before there was a little crowd of visitors gathered in reception listening to Jane’s favourite music being played on “Jane’s” piano. It was one of those magic moments. Once the House was closed we recorded a number of pieces from which I eventually made the final selection which we use on the CD.

There was one other bonus from that evening. We needed a picture to go on the front of the CD and one of Ann’s colleagues at the House suggested a picture of Jane’s niece, Fanny Knight, which was actually drawn by Jane’s sister, Cassandra. It shows a young woman sitting at a desk writing and was ideal. It was also owned by the House who gave us permission to use it so there was no copyright problem.

So now we had everything we needed. The actual production was very straightforward and most enjoyable because, as always, if you get the script right and find the right actor, then 90% of the creative work is done. The final job was to choose the short audio extracts to go on our web site so that anyone interested in the recording could hear some of it first.

One small problem emerged after publication. We gave the CD the overall title of The Beautifull Cassandra and other Early Writings by the young Jane Austen but we chose to spell “Beautifull” with a double “ll” at the end, which is the way that Jane herself spelled it. We thought this was a nice touch but it has caused endless problems with many people, with varying degrees of courtesy, pointing out our “spelling mistake”.

Even so The Beautifull Cassandra has proved to be one of our most popular titles. One of the things I personally like about it is that these stories are very funny. Jane wrote them to amuse her family and friends and, like all her work, they were written to be read aloud. Jane might have been over-awed by CD and download technology but I like to think that she would have enjoyed listening to this audio book.

The Beautifull Cassandra, like all Crimson Cats publications, is available as a CD or as an MP3 download from our web site: http://www.crimsoncats.co.uk

Michael Bartlett
Editor, Crimson Cats Audio Books
editor@crimsoncats.co.uk\

Receive a Special 15% Discount if you order the CD from this blog!!

If you buy from our website, Crimson Cat Audio Books,  (either the CD or the MP3 download) when you get to the first stage of the checkout you will see a Voucher box. Enter this code and you will have 15% taken off the price. Code: VIC15JA

Whenever I stay with my family in north Baltimore, I visit Hampton National Historic Site to walk along its extensive grounds. Construction on Hampton Hall began after 1783 and continued well into the 1800s. The Ridgely family once owned 25,000 acres of land, as well as a number of commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests that allowed them to live well and entertain lavishly. They were able to serve ice cream in July with stored ice, an expensive and time-consuming commodity in 19th century America and Great Britain.

Hampton Mansion. The ice house sits at the right (not visible in this image.) Image @vsanborn

Hampton Mansion’s ice house is located near the circular drive and in front of what once was the laundry. From a distance it resembles a grassy knoll.

Ice House at Hampton NHS. Image @vsanborn

Ice House entrance. Image @vsanborn

The entrance is open to visitors. I clambered down the steep stairs with Alan, a park ranger who kindly guided me down the dark pit.

Image @National Park Service

In winter, slaves or paid workers cut large blocks of ice from frozen ponds on the property. They handed them up the hill on sledges. The ice was shovelled through a hatch into the cone-shaped cavity that extends 34 feet below ground.” – Text, National Park Service

Steep stairs down the ice house. Image @vsanborn

Men entered the cavity through the passage and packed the ice down, often pouring water over it to make it freeze. As the ice melted the mass slid down the cone-shaped pit but stayed compact.” –  Text, National Park Service

When the Ridgelys needed ice, a servant would descend into the pit, chip off what was needed, and hoist or carry the load up a ladder and out the passage.” – Text, National Park Service

Cone shaped cavity, 34 feet deep. Image @vsanborn

At the top right oxen can be seen hauling ice to the ice house. A man is dropping big blocks of frozen ice down a hole. One presumes that no one is standing in the pit below. Image @vsanborn

“Ice” on the sideboard in Hampton Mansion’s dining room. Image @vsanborn

Alan, my guide into the ice house

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