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Posts Tagged ‘Francis Austen’

I’m sure most of Jane Austen’s fans have already heard of a remarkable purchase from eBay – a treasure trove of photographs of Jane Austen’s nieces and nephews. The album was assembled by Lord George Augusta Hill who “married two of Austen’s nieces, both daughters of her older brother Edward.” – The Telegraph.

I have previously viewed photographs of Austen’s brothers and her friend, Martha Lloyd in their advanced age and often wondered what Jane Austen truly looked like. She died a decade before the first photograph was ever taken.

Jane Austen portrait by Cassandra Austen at the National Portrait Gallery

Jane Austen portrait by Cassandra Austen, National Portrait Gallery

The reason for my curiosity is that only one authenticated watercolor portrait of her (painted from life by her sister Cassandra) exists. There are other portraits purported to be of Jane, but their provenance is not 100% certain. Even Austen’s famous silhouette, used on many websites and in publications, might or might not be of her. The original was tucked in the back of an 1814 edition of Mansfield Park, Volume 2, and inscribed with “L’aimable Jane.”

“As her biographer, R.W. Chapman, said ‘Who would insert, in a copy of Mansfield Park, a portrait of any other Jane than its author?’” – National Portrait Gallery

At best, this statement and the placement of the silhouette is circumstantial proof of the image’s authenticity.

Sadly, modern readers can never view a photographic image of Jane Austen, but we can, due to this photographic find, see one of her favorite niece. Fanny Austen Knight. Fanny was born in 1793, when Jane was 17. Cassandra Austen painted a watercolor of a lovely Fanny when she must have been in her teens.

 

 

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The photo is of a mature Fanny, now Lady Knatchbull, wearing stodgy Victorian garb. Fanny lived a long and privileged life, having married a wealthy baronet. She bore him nine children and lived until the age of 88.

Jane was, by all accounts, a pretty and vivacious girl when she was on the “marriage mart.” We think of her as a country spinster wearing a variety of hand-sewn caps, but her lively intelligence shone through her sparking eyes and bright complexion.

For years I’ve been struck by how closely many people resemble their ancestors, even generations down the line. Anna Chancellor, who played Caroline Bingley in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice, is an Austen descendant who can trace her lineage maternally to Edward Austen Knight of Chawton, the very same Edward who offered Chawton Cottage rent free to his mother and two sisters. Jane is Anna’s eight-times great aunt.

Francis "Frank" Austen, brother

Francis Austen,  brother

Jane Austen portrait by Cassandra Austen at the National Portrait Gallery

Jane Austen

Anna Chancellor as Caroline Bingley, 1995

Anna Chancellor, descendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These images of Jane, Francis, and Anna show a marked familial similarity in dark, piercing eyes, set of mouth and jaw, and hair color. I often look at Anna’s photos and imagine how Jane would have aged. (Nicely.)

I can’t wait until this album is examined by experts and curated for a future exhibition. Let’s hope this will be sooner rather than later.

Sources:

Lost photographs of Jane Austen’s nieces discovered on eBay reveal how author foretold their lives in plots of her novels, Helena Horton, 11 January 2019 News, The Telegraph. Click on this link.

Possibly Jane Austen, Overview Extended Catalogue Entry, National Portrait Gallery. Click on this link.

In Jane Austen’s Own Words: Advice to Fanny Knight About Love, Jane Austen’s World, March 27, 2009. Click on this link.

Jane Austen: A Family Photo Album, Tony Grant, London Calling. Click on this link to read more about the photographs, view another photo of Fanny Knatchbull and read excerpts from Jane’s letters.

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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.

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Gentle Readers, Tony Grant’s latest contribution to this blog centers around Jane Austen’s two sailor brothers. What a delightful read just before the Holidays. His blog, London Calling, is worth visiting.

Horatio Nelson as a midshipman (middie) in the year Jane Austen was born, 1775

Francis was the older of Jane’s two brothers who joined The Royal Navy. He was twelve years old in 1786 when he travelled to Portsmouth from Steventon, a mere twenty miles away, to be enrolled at The Royal Naval Academy.

Young midshipman going off to sea. Would such a scene have been reenacted in the Austen household? Image @The Joyful Molly

His father thought it would provide a good education for Francis. The Royal Naval Academy provided a very formal education. He was taught, navigation, mapping, how to use and handle sails, the construction and architecture of ships and gunnery, ropework, communications, maritime law, weather, meteorology and watch standing. He needed a thorough knowledge of mathematics to be able to be proficient at all these skills. The mathematics he had to learn and become adept at included pure mathematics, stations, elongations of an inferior planet, reflection at plane surfaces and reflection at two plane surfaces, Euclid, algebra and trigonometry. Future officers were also taught politics and diplomacy alongside fencing, French and dancing. It was thought that these skills were needed in diplomacy and often officers of ships, arriving at far-flung parts of the world, were required to act as diplomats for Britain.

Life for middies on board ship. Image @The Joyful Molly

Jane’s brother Charles joined The Royal Navy five years after Francis and followed a similar course of education.

Life at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth was tough. We might say more than tough, in these enlightened times. Claire Tomlin, in her biography , Jane Austen A Life, writes,

“…and Francis was at the naval school in Portsmouth. The regime there was tough, not to say brutal; discipline was maintained with a horsewhip, and there were complaints about bullying, idleness and debauchery.”

From our point of view, in the Britain of the 21st century, horse whipping and a very rigid regime of rules and punishments might be termed as abuse and a criminal offence, damaging individuals for life. I don’t think it was seen like that in the 18th century.It is difficult for us to get into the minds of people in the 18th century but the Christian religion in the form of the Anglican church as part of the state, primarily possessed the minds, hearts and actions of people in very authoritarian and draconian ways. What was written in the Bible was law. Man’s baser instincts and proclivity for the seven deadly sins of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony could be legitimately beaten out of them through pain and fear. Hence the horsewhipping. This obviously created the opposite scenario too. The secret lives of people in the 18th century, particularly those who could afford it, created a world of brothels and the prostitutes of Covent Garden and the affairs and licentious living that took place in a city like Bath. It just shows that fear and pain do not create the noble perfect man, they create somebody with two diverse sides to their personality . But of course in the 18th century psychiatrists and behaviourists had not been invented . A hundred years later,the story of Jekyl and Hyde was trying to grapple with this more overtly, and Darwin was beginning to challenge the viewpoint of religious status quo through science. With the fear of wrongdoing and the prospect of going to hell, at the back of peoples minds it took strong intelligent characters to question and be creative in their views about life and living.

Claire Tomlin goes on to explain that Jane’s two brothers did not appear to mind this strict regime of corporal punishment. They were both bright and intelligent and so succeeded. They probably avoided being punished because of their abilities and being successful and probably also, as we say, by“keeping their heads down.”

Middie sleeping on duty. Image @The Joyful Molly

The two brothers, during their careers saw action and provided a diplomatic service in many places across the globe including, the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Indian Ocean, the North and South Atlantic, the China Seas, the Caribbean and in South American waters.

Frigate before the wind

The Royal Navy provided a very rigid hierarchical career structure. Once an officer had progressed past midshipman to Lieutenant, their career was often guaranteed. They progressed because of age and endurance. As people above them advanced, they moved in to fill their positions. Nowadays the Royal Navy and every professional and modern navy promotes their officers depending on their abilities. In the 18th century ability was not taken into account. Skilled people like Admiral Nelson or Jane’s two brothers rose through the hierarchy, but not because they were necessarily deemed as more able than others. Officers were in the navy virtually until they died, and as long as they stayed alive they progressed up the career ladder.

Francis Austen

Francis and Charles both rose through the ranks. Francis eventually became a full admiral and was the Commander in Chief of The North American and West Indian fleet. He became the Senior Admiral of the Fleet in 1868 when he was 89 years old. That seems ridiculous to us now. Unfortunately, Francis, did not have a very good opinion of Americans. He disapproved of the men spitting and didn’t like the flippant attitude of the women. The American women were not as cultured and sedate as his dear sister, Jane.

Charles Austen

Francis was unhappy about his career. Many things passed him by or were too slow in coming,  such as the position of Senior Admiral of the Fleet. His deepest regret was that he missed being at The Battle of Trafalgar with Nelson. His ship was there, but at the time he was ordered to perform another duty ashore.

Barringtons action at St. Lucia 1778

Jane Austen includes Royal Naval characters in her novels, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. She had a great deal of affection for her brothers and knew a lot about the navy through them. Like her brothers, her naval characters were honest and chivalrous.

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