Posts Tagged ‘London’

Spoiler Alert: Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.

As episode six opens, Moseley is handing out tickets for a tour of the Abbey in aid of the Downton Hospital Trust. BRING ALL THE FAMILY IN A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW THE STATEROOMS OF THIS GRAND MANSION! shouts a poster affixed to the Church’s outdoor bulletin board.

Mary and Tom have come up with a brilliant idea that neither the earl nor his fond mama find appealing.


Downton Abbey | Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

We’ve nothing to show them,” complains a grumpy earl, still abed after his vomitous projectile episode and sick of being sick. “Some dusty old portraits of relatives no one remembers … We sleep in a bed, eat at the table … What do we have to show them, except Lady Grantham knitting? They’ll do better taking the train to London and visiting the Tate.”

“People want to see a different sort of home, not the things in it. They want to see how the other half lives, where supreme calm, dignity, and propriety always reign,” says Lady Mary with a straight face.

“The Abbey is to be opened for one day for charity, nothing more,” adds Cora in a reassuring tone.

Tom says very little. He’s too busy calculating the amount the Abbey can rake in by multiplying the potential visitors, times the operating hours, times 6 d. admission per head, times the number of downstairs rooms that can be traipsed through, times the number of physically fit family members who can escort the hoi polloi at speeds calculated to make even a motor car driver like Henry Talbot dizzy. Since no member of the Crawley family has anything of historic interest to say about the Abbey, each paying customer should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete a 3-hour tour (complete with complimentary luggage and clothing for 3 years, courtesy of Madame Ginger of The Minnow Booking Agency). When Tom realizes what a treasure trove the Abbey represents, British pound signs begin to replace the pupils in his eyes.

But I digress. Let’s return to the earl’s bedroom, gentle readers, where Tom comes to himself long enough to say, “They have a curiosity about our way of life.”

Mary and Tom have made the decision,” says Cora with a finality that brooks no debate.

“I know well enough that when Mary has spoken, my opinion has little bearing on the matter. I still think it’s crackers,” Robert says peevishly.

Since his BLOODY episode at dinner, the earl’s been on a strict 500 calorie a day diet of broth and flavored gelatin. He’s hungry AND craving crackers, no doubt about it.

Two Friends Discuss Jane Austen

As an aside, conversations about visitors paying their hard-earned lucre to see an aristocratic pile of stone and its gardens are rather confusing for Jane Austen fans. It has been a grand tradition for housekeepers and butlers for centuries to show visitors around in great country estates for a moderate tip when the owners are away or at play. How else could Jane have contrived to place Elizabeth Bennet at Mr. Darcy’s great estate, Pemberley, and to have her meet him in the most embarrassing circumstances, only to discover that he’s a splendid fellow after all and that his house, reputation, and income aren’t all that shabby either? This well-known point was confirmed by Isobel, who sensibly reminds the unhappy Violet of this fact.

But why should they pay?” asks Lady Violet peevishly, “just to see an ordinary house?”

Ordinary, indeed. One wonders how our favorite dowager duchess would describe Chatsworth House or Castle Howard. She must regard her cozy dowager cottage as a mere hovel.


The Merge

The two hospitals will merge, as expected, and the post of president will be offered to Cora, Lady Grantham. Lady Violet will be “allowed” to step down after many years of service. Her demotion smacks of age discrimination, since, in the words of Dr. Clarkson, her once loyal ally, “She is not as young as she once was.”

Cora is gob smacked. She’s to step into her mama-in-law’s shoes and be given more responsibility! “Who will tell her?” she asks, with some trepidation, knowing it would be wiser to provoke a rabid dog than to inflame her mama-in-law.

Let’s have the hospital write her a nice letter of termination after we leave for America. We will be well out of the way by then,” Isobel says sensibly.

Cora is almost tempted. Instead, she invites her mama-in-law to a discussion in the earl’s bedchamber. Before they can inform the dowager of her reduced status, Lady Violet announces, “The patients are my priority. I shall be MAGNANIMOUS in victory.” She exits the room, not having learned of her firing.

I am woman hear me roar

I suppose you will want to accept the position,” Robert says peevishly. “I worry that this will be too much for you. You’re not like Isobel. You need your rest.”

“What do you mean?” Cora asks in too soft a voice. “I’m not old, Robert.”

“I didn’t say you were!”

“Didn’t you?”

The earl spends the next few minutes prying his foot from his mouth.


A Fond Sisterly Exchange, Part Two

Bertie Pelham wants to meet up here,” announces Edith.

“Is he worth it?” asks Mary.

“As opposed to your car mechanic?” asks Edith.

“Hey,” says Tom. “I’m one.”


Opening the Abbey’s Doors to Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Meanwhile, downstairs, Carson hates the idea of strangers poking and prying around the house. “What are the odds of them slipping a valuable bauble or two, or a first edition, in their back pockets?” he asks, which causes Bates to worry that he or Anna could be charged with theft should an unscrupulous visitor lift a few priceless items, what with their bad luck and all. The constable’s always breathing down their necks when anything of a CRIMINAL nature occurs and he’s tired of the man’s harassment.

tom and bertie

Tom and Bertie. Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

The day of the tours nears. Bertie Pelham, who has come for a visit with Edith’s family, asks sensibly, “Who knows about the history of the house?”

Only our librarian, Mr. Pattinson,” answers Edith. “But he won’t be here.”

“You’ll have to fake it,” says Bertie, less sure of their success.

“Do we need anyone knowledgeable?” asks Tom. “Can’t they just have a quick look before we push them out like cattle?”

“Not if you don’t want them to go out happy and leave what’s not theirs,” says a sensible Bertie. “We’ll have the servants sit in an inconspicuous corner to keep an eye on things.”

In due course it is decided that the public will be taken through the small library, then the big library, then through the painted room, the withdrawing room and smoking room, the great hall, in and out of the dining room, and back outside.

What about the back staircases and the gardens?” asks Bertie, who worries that the visit might be a tad rushed. And then he comes to the important question. “Who are the guides?”

“Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Grantham. I’ll sell tickets,” says Tom.

“Well, then, Lady Grantham, you and your daughters will take parties of 10 each with no more than 30 people in the house at a time,” says Bertie decisively.

“Crikey!” says Edith.

“Heavens,” says Cora.

‘Hell!’ thinks Mary.

long line

A line forms. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

The day of the house tour arrives, the ticket table is placed at the front door, a long line is forming, and our aristocratic trio of ladies are ready as they will ever be. They fail miserably as docents, of course, their knowledge of the priceless paintings and artifacts in the house being a smidgen above zero. How could they have known that people of humble origins would ask such impossibly intelligent questions?


Cora smiling instead of informing. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

As a group tours through the house with Lady Cora, she quickly reveals how little she knows about the saloon.

This room was medieval,” she ventures.

“Is that why it’s called Downton Abbey?”

“I guess so.”

A visitor points to a portrait. “Who painted that?”

“I’m not sure, but…” Cora gestures vaguely around the room… “This painting and that painting, and, oh, that one over there, well, they’re quite worth looking at. Don’t you think?”

“What are those blank shields on the mantelpiece?”

Cora peers closely. “I haven’t a clue.”


Edith reveals her ignorance. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

Lady Edith is not faring much better than her momma.

Tell us about that painting,” asks one visitor.

“They’re all rather marvelous, don’t you think? Truth be told, I haven’t looked at them in years. They’re part of the background…”

“Who is the architect?”

“Sir Charles Barry. He finished the Houses of Parliament and built lots of other lovely big buildings, or so I think. Well, I’m almost sure.”

In the library, Lady Mary reassures her group that the sitter in one portrait, “…might be the son or it MIGHT be the father…”

Before Lady Mary spews more inanities, Lady Violet barges into the library, not caring that there are 30 strangers in her son’s house. “WHERE IS SHE!!!” the dowager demands, looking for the traitorous USURPER. She has just found out about her amicable discharge from the hospital board and will not wait another second to speak her mind.

Lady Mary, wishing to deflect her grandmama from saying something untoward AND have her answer a question that has her stymied, asks Violet about who founded the library.

The library was assembled by the fourth earl. He was a great reader. He was also a collector of horses and women,” she says, charging out of the room.

The visitors realize that the dowager imparted more information in three curt sentences than the ‘docents’ had in 2 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, a bored Robert, in danger or developing bedsores from lying around too long, espies a cheeky little rascal peeking around his bedroom door.


Little visitor

Who are you?”

The boy looks up and around, curious. “Why is your house so big?”

Robert is taken aback. “I’m not sure really.”

“Why not buy something that’s comfortable. You must have the money,” the urchin says reasonably.

“You know how it is,” the earl sighs. “You like what you’re used to.”

Molesley appears at the doorway, sees the tyke, orders him out of the family quarters, and threatens to report him.

No,” the earl says, “he was more a philosopher than a thief.”

After Tom counts up the day’s till (minus the amount refunded to unhappy customers), he proposes that the Abbey should be opened for more tours in the future. This sets off a shrill protest among the docents, who quit en masse.

So much for family unity.


An Undelivered Letter

Some days later, as Mrs. Patmore tosses out some kitchen scraps, she finds a letter from Mr. Mason, which Daisy accidentally on purpose dropped in the rubbish bin.

Why is it opened?” Mrs. P. asks suspiciously, curling her nose at the odors emanating from the pages.

“I don’t know,” says Daisy, deliberately forgetting that Mr. Mason charged her to give Mrs. Patmore his missive.

“Did the letter grow legs and walk to the rubbish bin?”


“Did it somehow open itself?”


“Pah,” says Mrs. Patmore, thinking, ‘We’ll see about this.’

When Mr. Mason drops by with a basket of fresh veggies, ostensibly to thank Mrs. Patmore, but actually to see her sweet face again, Daisy turns even more childish.

You’ve already thanked her,” she says petulantly. “Besides, why bother? Have you seen the kitchen gardens here?”

Mrs. Patmore tries to be gracious, telling Mr. Mason that his carrots are tastier, his cabbages are bigger, and his onions make her cry harder. But all he can think of is finding the fastest way out of the kitchen before the hens start fighting over the rooster.


Charlie Sweet Talks Elsie


The look of love is in her eyes

Charlie would like his bride to have a talk with Mrs. Patmore about the art of making a proper cup of coffee for an occasional breakfast in their cottage, and perhaps arrange for the hall boy do some polishing and keep their home up to STANDARD.

I don’t see why not,” says Elsie, gritting her teeth.

“And you might ask one of the maids to make up our bed.”

“Is that not good enough EITHER?”

“Oh, it’s not bad, but I do like those sharp corners.”

Elsie reaches for a piece of paper. At the top of her to do list will be a visit to the parish priest about the procedures for annulling a hasty marriage.

Unaware of his beloved’s thoughts, Charlie keeps pressing the issue of dinner.

You’re not expecting a banquet, are you?” she asks suspiciously.

“No, just a delicious dinner prepared by the fair hands of my beautiful wife.”

While flattered, Elsie thinks, ‘I’m up a creek without a ladle.’


Flotsam and Jetsam

Thomas Barrow, meanie under butler, is trying to get back into everyone’s good graces without much success. Carson sums up Barrow’s future at Downton: 1) Lady Edith already manages without a maid, 2) probably not even one footman will be working in the Abbey in the future, and 3) Lady Mary will probably not replace Anna if she leaves. “The under butler,” he concludes, is a “post that is FRAGRANT with lost memories, unlike a butler. A house like Downton cannot be run without one.” This cheery discussion leaves Thomas even more despondent.

Mr. Moseley’s transformation from inept butler and first footman to a world class educator is almost complete. Mr. Dawes the school master, likes Moseley’s enthusiasm in helping Daisy study for her exam and wonders if he should harness his intellectual energy and take a test of general knowledge (of his own devising) at the same time that Daisy takes her test. Largely self-schooled, Moseley is unsure, but he is finally persuaded to take the test alongside Daisy. This results are so excellent that Mr. Dawes offers Mr. Moseley a teaching position. How sweet. It’s about time that our Mr. Moseley gets to shine!

Mrs. Patmore has bought a pretty little house with the money she inherited from her relative, and will transform into a bed and breakfast. She’ll continue to cook, while her niece will take over the day-to-day management of their little inn.

How will you attract lodgers?” Mrs. Hughes wonders.

Mrs. Patmore, 20th century entrepreneur, has a ready answer. “I’ve already placed an advertisement in the paper.”

“How will they contact you?”

“I’ve installed a telephone in the house,” replies our favorite cook and trail blazer.


Dickie, still intent on courting Isobel despite the execrable behavior of his two sons, brings a Miss Cruikshank around to meet her. This young lady is engaged to Larry Grey, the most venomous of Dickie’s boys.

I know you and Larry got off on the wrong foot,” Miss Cruikshank says sweetly.

“That’s one way of describing it,” says Isobel.

“Please know, not all of Lord Merton’s family feels the same way.”

‘Goodness,’ thinks Isobel, scrutinizing Dickie’s face for any sense of irony. ‘I might look like a gullible widow, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Something’s afoot and methinks I need to tread carefully.’


Back to the Newlyweds

How are we doing?” says Charlie as he waits for his meal at his cozy table in his cozy cottage for two.

Elsie, smiling, serves him smoked salmon with lemon. Only, there is no lemon. “I left two lemons at the Abbey,” she mourns.

Charlie then suggests that horseradish thinned with a little sour cream would hit the spot just fine.

“There’s none,” says Elsie sadly. She looks at her glass of … plain water. “What are we drinking with our meal?”

“What you see. His lordship cannot drink alcohol, ergo we shall not drink alcohol. Loyalty is solidarity,” he intones.

“Is that what’s making you grumpy?”

Charlie raises his impressive eyebrows. “I think not. What’s next?”


“Is the skin crispy like Mrs. Patmore’s does it. Did you ask her advice?”

“We certainly talked about what it’s like to cook dinner for you,” says Elsie, handing Charlie his plate and muttering under her breath, “She thinks you’re too old to be trained as a husband.”

Charlie, having found one tiny piece of crispy skin, bites into it and fails to hear his beloved.


The Sisters, Their Bachelors, Their Prospects

henry and mary_6

The rain, the man, the woman

Henry Talbot has a clear notion that his prospects with Lady Mary are modest at best, but he’s not deterred. He walks her back to her place in London after an ambush dinner. The weather cooperates and they must seek shelter from a rain storm. He takes her in his arms and kisses her.

Heaven’s Mr. Talbot.”

“You’re a great catch. You’re also a woman I happen to be falling in love with. Gosh, that sounds rather feeble doesn’t it?”

“No!” she says, thinking, ‘Frankly, you had me at…”You’re the boss.” ’

“Then will you come to Brooklands to watch me motor race?”

“You must realize that Matthew died in a car crash.”

“What if I promise I won’t…”

She shushes him, saying “Love mean never making promises you can’t keep.”

Meanwhile, at the Abbey Tom mentions to Robert, Cora, and Mary how much he likes Bertie after his buffo performance as grandmaster of the house tour.

“He seems to know a lot,” agrees Cora.

“But he’s an agent,” says the earl, “stuck somewhere up in Northumberland, managing someone else’s estate.”

Mary cuts to the chase as usual. “He’s boring to an Olympic degree. Edith’s so stupid to have saddled herself with a child. Marigold is sweet, but why would any man want to take her on?”

“What are Edith’s prospects?” says Cora, concerned about her daughter’s SECRET.

“With her magazine, she could develop into one of the more interesting women of her day. And he’s a gentleman. You cannot object on that score,” says the earl, finally seeing the gold and the attraction in his middle daughter.

Cora and Robert leave, giving Tom the opportunity to talk about Henry. Mary mentions going to Brooklands to watch the motor race.

“But, the cars…!” she adds, worried.

“Could this be love,” Tom wonders aloud.

“Oh, shut up!” says Mary.

In Conclusion:

My how time flies, except when you’re writing a recap and review. Six down, three to go. And then? I’ll get to write about Jane Austen again.

What did you think of this week’s developments, dear readers? Will Henry snare Mary? Will Edith reveal to Bertie that Marigold is her daughter any time soon? Will Robert start drinking port again? And how many top Yelp reviews will Mrs. Patmore’s little inn attract?
My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:



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Copyright @Jane Austen’s World. Written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

2010 Upstairs Downstairs cast

Last night, Tuesday 27th December, saw the final episode of the three-part revival of Upstairs Downstairs (2010). It was shown on BBC 1. This new reincarnation saw the action move on in time, from the final years portrayed in the original series, to the years between the two World Wars.

Front door. Image @Tony Grant

Upstairs Down stairs was the idea of two actress friends, Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins. Eileen Atkins was not able to take part in the original series because of acting commitments in the West End at the time. In this new version she plays the part of Lady Agnes, the dowager head of the household. Jean Marsh reprises her role as Rose from the original series. Now she has become the head of a servants letting agency.

Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh in Upstairs Downstairs 2010

The series portrays the lives of people from two different strata of society, the servants and the aristocracy. One of the main themes reveals how these two social groups are closely entwined and rely on each other. It is interesting to note the period, between the two wars, when the action takes place in this new series was the time when the relationship between the classes and indeed the classes themselves changed. One class serving another class that intimately was near its end. A new world was being born out of the necessities of war.

Harrods truck

My own roots lie with the working and servant classes of that era. My Great Aunt Kate, my Great Grandmothers sister, worked as a nanny for the Chamberlain family and lived in a flat in one of the Chamberlain family houses in Cheney Walk, Chelsea. Neville Chamberlain was the prime minister at the start of the second world war. Neville Chamberlain himself lived in a house in Eaton Square, the main square in Belgravia.

Transformation of Clarendon Square in Leamington Spa for Upstairs Downstairs 2010

My grandfather, on my father’s side, had been a guardsman fighting in France during the First World War. After the First World War he became the head barman of the Cunard Line, serving the famous and the elite on the transatlantic ships crossing to New York in the interwar years. My other grandfather, on my mother’s side, was a skilled draughtsman and worked in shipyards on the Tyne River in Newcastle upon Tyne and later, because of the depression, moved south to work in a shipyard in Southampton.

Belgravia and park. Image @Tony Grant

The action to Upstairs Downstairs is set in a house in Belgravia, number 165 Eaton Place.

West side of Belgrave Square, 1828. Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Belgravia, is the most salubrious address in the United Kingdom and one of the top addresses in the world to this day. The Duke of Westminster owns the land and many of the freeholds and leaseholds on the property in Belgravia. In the 1820’s the then Duke of Westminster, Richard Grosvenor, had as one of his titles, Viscount Belgrave, and it was this name he gave to the area.

Belgravia House. Image @Tony Grant

To the north is Buckingham Palace but to the east side is Victoria Railway Station with it’s grand railway hotel looking like an old French Chateaux. This symbol of steam and industrialisation represented the Victorians desire to see and conquer the world. From here the boat trains would leave London for the ferries at Dover and Folkestone and the route to Europe. Many of the rich who lived nearby in Belgravia would leave London on the Orient Express for Paris, Rome, Athens, and Istanbul, and take tours to The East. Victoria Station is a symbol of the growing desire for travel and to see the world. The Belgravia set got there first.

St. Peters, Eaton Square, Belgravia. 1827.

The Duke of Westminster employed Thomas Cubitt – who built mostly grand terraces with white stuccoed fronts – to develop the area. Construction was focused around Belgrave Square and Eaton Square.

Thomas Cubbitt, 1788-1855

From the start the super rich and the aristocracy bought properties in this area and used the land for their town houses. This part of London has remained exclusive to this day. The Queen lives in Buckingham Palace bordering the north part of Belgravia; and Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil oligarch, has a property in Lowndes Square. He is the owner of Chelsea Football Club and one the richest men in the world. The average price of a property in Belgravia today is £6.6 million pounds. But prices going up to and above £100 million pounds have been known. Apart from the very rich, many famous actors, film stars, writers and politicians have lived and still choose to live in this area.

Image @Tony Grant

Margaret Thatcher lives in Chester Square and Joan Collins lives in Eaton Place. Elle MacPherson, the model; Arcelor Mittal, the Indian Steal producer magnet; and Christopher Lee, the horror film star, all live in Belgravia.

Dame Edith Evans' house in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

In the past, both Mozart and Chopin stayed there. Other more recent tenants include: Dame Edith Evans;Vivien Leigh; Ian Flemming, the writer of the James Bond books and, indeed, Sean Connery himself; Roger Moore; Tennyson, the poet; Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein; Noel Coward; Henry Gray, famous for his Grays Anatomy; the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein – the list could go on.

Dress shop in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

After the Second World War many of the houses in Belgravia became embassies, company offices or the headquarters of charities, and the number of houses owned by a single family reduced. However, since the year 2000 many houses are now being converted back into family homes, a visible sign that the number of rich in the world has increased.

Mews houses in Belgravia. Image @Tony Grant

Mews houses sit behind the great terraced houses fronting the squares. When the properties were originally built in the 1820s, these were the stables that once housed the horses and carriages used by the rich for transport. As cars became fashionable, the mews were turned into garages. Nowadays many have been converted into very desirable homes. To own a mews house in Belgravia is nearly as posh as owning one of the grand terrace houses.

Belgravia through the trees. Image @Tony Grant

The area has not changed much since it was developed in the 1820’s. Except for modern transportation, the streets and house exteriors are the same.

Leamington Spa street transformed for Upstairs Downstairs 2010. Image @BBC

As you walk around Belgravia today, try and imagine the area as it was in the 1820’s. In your mind’s eye, you can still imagine the servants disappearing down the stone stairs behind the black ornate iron railings into the basements. You might be lucky enough to glimpse a Lord or Lady, or even Margaret Thatcher mounting the steps to her front door and seeing it opened by a starch-collared butler. Pick a door yourself, take the large black, iron hoop suspended from the jaws of an angry looking iron lion’s head, rap it smartly, and the door might be opened by Mr. Hudson himself.

Mr. Hudson, 1970s series

Upstairs Downstairs 2010 will be aired on PBS Masterpiece Classic in April, 2011. It was recently aired on BBC One in the U.K.

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Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Post written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

The pencil and watercolour picture Cassandra made of Jane Austen in about 1810, is in the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, just off Trafalgar Square. It is unique within the exhibits there because, although it is grouped with other 18th century portraits, it is displayed in a glass case on a plinth in the general concourse of room 18. It is not hung on the walls with her other contemporaries.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810

The portrait is also unique in another way. It is the only portrait within the gallery made by an amateur. All the other portraits are of famous politicians, the lords and ladies of the time, rich merchants and industrialists, and the powerful. They were painted for a particular purpose by professional artists, some of whom, like Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Lawrence, were the best, most sort after and amongst the most brilliant artists of their day. Cassandra, was an ordinary, lower middle class person dabbling in sketching and painting for her own interest and edification. A pastime, thousands of other ladies participated in, along with playing the pianoforte, singing and dancing. It was an important element in their home entertainment. We can only guess as to why Cassandra drew a portrait of Jane on that day in 1810 and for what purpose. The drawing and painting process, techniques and style of famous artists like Reynolds , Gainsborough and Lawrence can be found out through evidence and documents, expert analysis of their paintings and by charting their careers as painters. How Cassandra sketched can only be surmised. But one thing is for sure, you can look at her sketch of Jane carefully and there are no apparent errors or mistakes. There is no working out on the picture. It is a finished product. So how did Cassandra produce it and what does it tell you and I about Jane and Cassandra?

From where I live it is an interesting journey to The National Portrait Gallery. I go out of my front door, turn right and walk for five hundred yards, past the newsagents, butchers, chemist and green grocers in Motspur Park, to the station. Motspur Park being part of the London Borough of Merton and next to the town of Wimbledon. It’s famous for the London University playing fields and athletics track and it is home to Fulham Football Club’s training ground. The one-minute mile was nearly broken at the London University track here in the 1950’s.before it was eventually achieved at Oxford.

The train journey from Motspur Park, passing through, Raynes Park, Wimbledon, Earlsfield, Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Waterloo takes about twenty minutes. It is sixteen miles to the centre of London from where I live.

Waterloo Station. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Waterloo Station is an Edwardian masterpiece of acres of glass roof corrugated like a sea of glass waves. Beneath its roof, during the April of 1912, the rich and wealthy caught the boat train to Southampton Docks and then bordered The Titanic. Millions of soldiers between 1914 and 1918 caught troop trains to the same Southampton Docks to board troop ships for France and the trenches. In the Second World War, the same again. Millions of troops travelled from Waterloo to Southampton to sail to Normandy. In Waterloo the ghosts of the past begin to cling to your consciousness like suffocating cobwebs. The giant concourse clock hanging from the roof reminds you of the lovers trysts famously enacted beneath it’s ticking mechanism from the time the station began.

Villiers Street. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Walking out of Waterloo station on to the South bank and the breezes of The River Thames brings it’s ghosts too, of millennia’s of people, famous, infamous, notorious and where many events throughout history took place. You walk across the pedestrian path attached to Hungerford Railway Bridge across which Virginia Woolf walked and along Villiers Street next to Charring Cross Station and past where Rudyard Kipling lived when he came back from India, past the house where Herman Melville lived for a short while and past the house where Benjamin Franklin lived for many years with his common law wife and wrote, printed, invented and had revolutionary ideas.

Twinings. Image @Tony Grant

You go past where Charles Dickens had his office for Household Words, past the recumbent statue to Oscar Wilde, “I may be in the gutter but I’m looking at the stars.,” past Twinings, where Jane Austen bought her tea, past the present day protest outside Zimbabwe House to the atrocities that are happening, as I write, in that country, past St Martins in the Fields,…


Trafalgar Square. Image @Wikimedia Commons

… then into Trafalgar Square, Nelsons Column, Landseers giant lions and round the side of The National Gallery and into the entrance of The National Portait gallery in St Martin’s Place, opposite The Garrick Theatre. All those ghosts now thickly clinging about neck, arms, legs and hair, streaming like veils of gossamer as you walk, playing with the imagination.

Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery. Image @Tony Grant

The entrance to The National Portrait Gallery is inauspicious. It is arched and fine but doesn’t compare with the more grandiose entrance in Trafalgar Square of The National Gallery with it’s entrance on a raised platform, Ionic pillars, fine Greek portico and temple dome. Entering, The Portrait Gallery, is almost like going into the sombre muted entrance of a cathedral. Some arches, mosaic floor, heavy wooden doors to right and left and then up some limestone steps.

Escalator up to the second floor

Once at the top of the entrance staircase you enter into a modern, light and airy hall with a ceiling four floors high and a tall escalator reaching high, up to the second floor.

Looking down.

Open plan galleries , rows of computer screens and a library for research are to your right as you go up the escalator.

On the way to the second floor. Image @TonyGrant

Cassandras portrait of Jane is on the second floor in room 18. As you get to the top of the escalator turn left and you are soon in room 18.

Second floor of the National Portrait Gallery, Room 18

The walls have the rich and famous of the early 19th century hanging on them but just to left and almost as soon as you enter the gallery, there is a glass cube positioned on a plinth and the painting in it is about chest height. It is Cassandra’s portrait of Jane, set within a heavy, elaborate, gold frame.

Jane Austen's portrait framed and in situ.

The frame seems too heavy and wide for the small picture. It dominates the picture. The portrait is positioned so the back of it is towards you. You have to walk around it to see it.

Mezzotint print of Gainsborough's portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire

We can compare a portrait executed by Thomas Gainsborough, with Cassandra’s sketch of Jane. The portrait of Georgianna The Duchess of Devonshire done by Gainsborough in 1787, is nicknamed, “the large black hat,”and has many similarities to Cassandra’s portrait of Jane. Both show the sitter with their face in profile, Jane facing left and Georgianna facing right. Both have curled and ringletted hair, both have young smooth looking faces and both have their arms folded in front of them. Gainsborough’s portrait of Georgiana is about fashion, position in society, and has a beautiful and intelligent face. The way she is standing, side on, even with the luxurious folds , creases and layers of the expensive materials of the dress and bodice you can see the sensuous curve of her back, the relaxed slender manicured fingers of her left hand are resting on her right arm. Georgianna’s eyes are looking straight at the observer, inviting you to look back and admire, a slight whimsical glance and that mouth, sensuous, waiting to be kissed. The picture speaks of wealth, confidence, beauty, calmness, style, luxury and is executed by a master painter at the top of his profession.

Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen. Image @National Portrait Gallery

Cassandras picture on the other hand shows Jane, shoulders full on towards the observer. She looks solid and lumpy. The drawing is a pencil sketch. The four fingers of the left hand resting on her right arm is a claw, four talons, more appropriate on a hawk. What disappoints me most is that Jane is looking away. If Cassandra had got her to look at her and had drawn a direct look, I would have forgiven all the amateurism and lack of skill shown in the picture. That one thing would have had Jane Austen looking at us. We could have made contact, seen into her soul. That would have lifted the picture immeasurably. Georgiana looks at us and we immediately have a relationship with her. Cassandra keeps Jane away from us. She keeps her private. Maybe that one fact tells us about Jane and Cassandra’s relationship. Or, perhaps Cassandra was trying, merely, to keep to the conventions of portraiture too closely. It showed lack of imagination. The mouth is thin, small and tight. Not one to be kissed easily. There is some colour in her cheeks. Her face is given a three-dimensional quality by the deep, long, unattractive creases leading from the wings of her nostrils to the corners of her mouth. There is a long aquiline nose, smooth and thin. Her eyebrows are pronounced, dark thin curves above her wide-open intelligent eyes. In some way the eyes do save the picture even though you do not have eye contact. They show wide-open, hazel orbs, thoughtful and carefully looking. The pronounced fringe of curls and ringlets above her brow are what strike you most about the picture. Cassandra wanted to emphasise them for some reason. Maybe she could draw hair better than other things.

One other thing. This picture was made in 1810. Jane was thirty-five years old. The picture is of a girl no older than a teenager.

When sketching, a sketcher has to look and look and keep looking. They make many marks, some right and some wrong. A process of catching the subject happens on the paper. There is no sign of a sketching process going on in this picture. Either Cassandra drew without wanting to change anything so keeping mistakes, although I think that is impossible for an artist, or she did a series sketches first and then created this one from her rough attempts. I think she did make other sketches leading up to this finished product. Presumably, like many of Jane’s letters they were destroyed by Cassandra in later life.

Queen Elizabeth I, one of Jane Austen's neighbors.

This poor, amateurish and unsatisfying drawing of Jane Austen is in pride of place in room 18 of The National Portrait Gallery. There it is, amongst some of the finest examples of 18th and early 19th century portraits. It is one of the most popular pictures in the gallery. It is Jane Austen.

Gentle reader: This post was written by Tony Grant from London Calling. Except for the Wikimedia images, he provided all the images for this post.

More on the topic:

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Charing Cross 1807

Charing Cross 1807

The site, The Story of London: A History of England’s Capital, features articles and links on the history of that great city. Featured articles include Mayhew’s London Prostitutes and Crime and Punishment. Pepys in 1663 is another featured column on the sidebar. Registered users receive special privileges (registration is free.)

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Oh, how delicious! Look what I found online: Almack’s: A Novel, by Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson and published by Saunders and Otley in 1826. Almack’s, as all followers of the regency era know, was the exclusive establishment where ladies and gentlemen of the Ton could dance every Wednesday night during the London Season. The powerful patronesses of Almack’s were Lady Sarah Jersey (whose lover was the Prince Regent), Lady Castlereigh, Lady Cowper, Lady Sefton, Princess Esterhazy, and the Countess of Leiven. They decreed who could gain admittance to the assembly rooms and who could not, thereby exercising enormous social influence, as described in the novel:

That grand tribunal at Almack’s makes and unmakes fashionables, I understand. The six grand inquisitors decide upon the degree of ton of each of their followers, just as a committee of tailors would sit in judgment upon a cape or a collar.

The following two quotes provide more details from this vivid, digitized 413-page novel. The first is regarding a lady’s appearance:

Almack's Assembly Rooms


… after dinner a man’s heart naturally opens, sur tout au coin du feu: I have often observed, that a comfortable seat will hasten a declaration; men are such lovers of ease, so naturally sensual. I shall persuade the Baron not to order the carriage till eleven o clock, to give time. Pray put on your new white gown, my love, and those turquoise ornaments, with that pretty blue garland, it becomes your light hair so particularly; and a soupcon of rouge, just to give a glow – nothing more! what even Julia herself could not disapprove.”

Real Life in London, p. 148, Almack's

Real Life in London, p. 148, Almack

and this quote is about waiting for one’s carriage when it rains …

At this moment Lionel re-appeared. “Lady Birmingham”, said he, “it pours.  We must not lose a moment for there is sad confusion at the door, and I had great difficulty in getting your carriage up.” The bustle and agitation, the noise of the link boys, the oaths of the footmen, the violence of the coachmen, the kicking of the horses, and the blazing of the flambeaux effectually drove the Author of Waverley out of poor Lady Birmingham’s head; it was busied with other things. Had she ever read our friend Luttrell, she would have remembered that splendid description :

How in a rainy blustering night

The London coach maker’s delight …

Almack’s A Novel … By Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson, Charles White, 1826.

Almack's ExteriorMore Links:

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William Henry Pyne (1769 – 1843)

Many of the illustrations of London and the working class that we see of the regency era can be atttibuted to the artist and writer, William Henry Pyne. W.H. Pyne, the son of a leather seller and weaver, chronicled the working class in The Costumes of Great Britain. In his heyday he created a series of books for the publisher Rudolph Ackermann. Unfortunately, like James Gillray, Mr. Pyne’s illustrations ceased to be popular towards the end of his life, and he died in poverty.

    To learn more about W.H. Pyne, click on these links:

  • The World in Miniature: England, Scotland, and Ireland, edited by W.H. Pyne, containing a description of the character, manners, customs, dress, diversions, and other peculiarities of the inhabitants of Great Britain. In Four Volumes; illustrated with eighty-four coloured engravings, Volume 1, London, 1827, Printed for R. Ackermann, Repository of Arts, Strand.

Illustrations by Pyne: Blue Coat Boy, and Mail Coach from the Microcosm of London. Illustration of Bill Sticker from the World in Miniature.

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Life in London

Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted. – Jane Austen writing about London to Cassandra, August 23, 1796

Jane wrote her remark a quarter of a century before Pierce Egan published his book, Life in London: Or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis. The book, written four years after Jane Austen’s death, is largely a description of debauchery in the Great Metropolis during pre-Victorian days. In fact, George Cruikshank, artist and teetotaller, was so taken aback by the book that he allowed his brother Robert to complete two-thirds of the illustrations. Here’s what an early 20th century critique says of this book of vices:

The remainder [of the book] is mainly drinking, gambling, rioting, cock-fighting and other branches of debauchery, either practised or contemplated by the friends. It is significant that, of the three adventurers, the name of Corinthian Tom appears in the largest type upon the title-page. Tom, indeed, is the hero of the tale. He is the ideal “man about town”; and, however lavishly the author may praise his elegance and accomplishment, he remains the type of the polished blackguard, unworthy to associate with his country cousin, Jerry Hawthorn, the cheery fool to whom he shows “the pleasures of the town,” and only a shade more intolerable than the bestial creature, Bob Logic, who is intended for a model of good-humour and wit.

The following links provide more information about our dissipated heroes Tom and Jerry, and the licentious era to which later generations reacted:

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