Category Archives: Jane Austen

London Library

The London Library was founded in 1841 and is now the largest independent lending library in the world. In 1845, it moved to its present location in St James’s Square and has over a million titles, mostly on open access and available for loan. The library’s website is full of fascinating information, and there are details about membership. A display in an external window in Mason’s Yard is being used to mark the contribution of its members to the literary and creative life of the nation Continue reading

Sweet F.A.

The expression ‘Sweet F.A.’ or ‘Sweet Fanny Adamas’ has been used since late Victorian times, though the meaning of ‘Sweet F.A.’ has altered over the years. It actually originated in the brutal murder of Fanny Adams by Frederick Baker in 1867 in the normally quiet town of Alton in Hampshire. A few decades earlier, Jane Austen had written some of her best-loved novels in the nearby village of Chawton, and she frequently walked to and from Alton to do shopping.

The abduction

In the early afternoon of Saturday 24th August 1867, 8-year-old Fanny Adams was with her friend Minnie Warner and her sister Elizabeth Adams, who was a year younger. The three girls, according to the Hampshire Chronicle newspaper, were ‘of respectable parents, residing in Tan House-lane, Alton, [and] were playing in Flood Meadow, at the back of Mr. Jefferie’s tan yard, distance from their residences about 400 yards’. At the inquest and subsequent trial, many witnesses gave sometimes contradictory statements. What seems to have happened is that Frederick Baker went up to the girls and gave Minnie some coins Continue reading

Waterloo Teeth

Two lots of 200 years

The year 2014 saw the 200th anniversary of the ending of the long wars with Napoleon. Like VE Day in 1945, the celebrations in 1814 were especially joyful after more than a decade of war. As we mentioned in our newsletter for Newsletter 39 (under ‘The Start of the Hundred Days’), Napoleon escaped from exile and returned to France in early 1815, only to be defeated once and for all at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium in June 1815, giving us yet another 200th anniversary.

Dentures

The French dead and wounded amounted to around 30,000, while the British suffered around 17,000 casualties and their Prussian allies about 7,000 – a total of approximately 54,000 dead and wounded. Major Harry Smith of the 95th Rifles wrote: ‘I had been over many a field of battle, but Continue reading

Jane Austen Down Under

A wonderful blog about books is called ‘Read Me: great books to read’. Each month Louise Owens in Australia reviews 10 books “that are fantastic and inspiring reads”, and she also interviews many authors. Book themes include Design and Architecture, Fashion, Biographies and much more. Louise only reviews books that she loves and is so informative and positive that you want to drop everything in order to read them all. We strongly recommend this blog (and you can sign up to the ‘Read Me newsletter’).

In December, the theme was ’10 Great Books about History and Culture’, and we were very pleased that Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England was one of those chosen. “There were many wonderful ‘Ah!’ moments for me reading this book,” Louise writes, “when things were explained that I had always wondered about or were mystified by such as the fact that Continue reading

Jane Austen’s Christmas Heaven

TWO CENTURIES AGO

The striking circumstance about Christmas two centuries ago is what was missing – no Christmas trees, no decorations apart from some holly and ivy, no Christmas cards, no Christmas cake, no Christmas crackers, no Christmas pudding – apart from plum pudding. This was mainly a time for giving charitable gifts. Jane Austen and her contemporaries would not recognise today’s huge commercial Christmas. But if we try to imagine her being teleported into today’s world, then after recovering from the shock, surely she would approve of books being given as gifts? Books were then very expensive – Emma was originally published in three volumes costing one pound and one shilling (£1 1s), about a month’s wage for an agricultural labourer or servant. Today, Emma can be purchased for the price of a cup of coffee.

Holly

WHAT TO BUY?

What Jane Austen would find totally unbelievable is that not only are her own books available to buy some two centuries later, but also numerous books about her and her era. By now, you would imagine Continue reading

A Southampton Church

STOREHOUSES OF HISTORY

There are so many churches in Britain that their role as storehouses of history is often overlooked. Many date back to the early medieval period, and some were built before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Frequently altered, repaired and enlarged, the very fabric of these buildings is a record of constant use over the last millennium. Within and outside every church, various monuments also have their own history, and objects with no other obvious home are frequently stored in the local church or placed there for protection, so that some churches are like small museums. Most churches have at least one interesting story to tell, but the ruined Holy Rood Church in Southampton, Hampshire, probably has more than most.

THE AUSTENS IN SOUTHAMPTON

Medieval Southampton was completely enclosed by fortified town walls, large parts of which survive today. For a brief period Jane Austen was at school in Southampton, then a small port at the head of Southampton Water, and although she nearly died of typhus there, this did not deter her Continue reading

In Paperback in North America!

Our latest book is now available in paperback in the United States and Canada. It is published there by Penguin, ISBN 978-0143125723, and the jacket design is much the same as that of the hardback, using the wonderful embroidery by Sarah Cline. This time, though, even the Penguin motif has been embroidered!

US Paperback

The hardback in the US was called simply Jane Austen’s England, but the paperback has the added subtitle ‘Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods’. The hardback can still be purchased (ISBN 978-0670785841), and it is also available in all e-book formats.

In the UK, the identical book is called Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England (ISBN 978-0349138602), and it recently received a generous review in Jane Austen’s Regency World (no. 70, July/August 2014). This is the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and is distributed to subscribers worldwide. The review starts off: ‘A marvellously entertaining catalogue of early 19th-century English life, Roy and Lesley Adkins’s bestseller is now out in paperback – and deserves a place on any Austen aficionado’s bookshelf.’ The review ends: ‘It’s a rich brew – I challenge anyone to pick it up and not still be reading an hour later, delighted by such a vivid and entertaining portrait of an era.’ Do pass the word on to any Austen aficionados who you know!

Mr Darcy’s Wet Shirt

It is tempting to imagine that Jane Austen may have made use of some of the tales that she heard Captain Benjamin Clement recounting at dinners and other social events at Chawton in Hampshire, making us grateful that he was rescued from drowning at the Battle of Trafalgar (see our blog post below on Mansfield Park 200 years). Many people in England were unable to swim, though it was becoming popular at seaside resorts, usually for health reasons.

Sea bathing using a bathing machine

Sea bathing using a bathing machine

Swimming was certainly not encouraged in the Royal Navy for fear of unhappy seamen swimming off to freedom. But the most famous scene in the 1995 BBC TV series of Pride and Prejudice is where Continue reading

Mansfield Park 200 years

Mansfield Park was published in May 1814. This was one of two naval novels that Jane Austen wrote – both Mansfield Park and Persuasion have significant naval themes and characters.

Title PageTitle page of Mansfield Park

Her inspiration and knowledge came from two of her brothers, Frank and Charles, who were in the Royal Navy, and also from those officers who were her neighbours or within her social circle. One of those neighbours was Benjamin Clement.

THE CLEMENT MEMORIAL

The chancel of the church of St Nicholas in the village of Chawton in Hampshire has a stained glass window commemorating Benjamin Clement and his wife. The dedication within the glass at the bottom of the window reads: ‘In memory of Benjamin Clement, Captain RN. Born March 29th 1785. Died Nov. 5th 1835. Also of Ann Mary his wife. Born Septr. 22nd 1787. Died Aug. 30th 1858.’

Clement, Chawton

The memorial window of Benjamin Clement

It is thought that this couple, along with Ann-Mary’s sister, Catherine-Ann Prowting, are referred to in perhaps the very last letter Continue reading

Jane Austen talks

We are giving three illustrated talks in July. The first one is at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington in Devon. Our talk is “Why Jane Austen Loves a Sailor”, concentrating on the themes of Mansfield Park (which is 200 years old this year), in particular the Royal Navy. The talk is on Monday 7th July 2014 in the Barn, 10am, tickets £10. See www.wayswithwords.co.uk.

Ways With Words 2013 for blog

The next talk is on “Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England” at the Penzance Literary Festival on Thursday 17th July, at 2.30pm, in the gorgeous Morrab Library, Morrab Gardens, Penzance, TR18 4DA. This festival has really cheap tickets for its events, and our event there costs just £3, and £1 for concessions! Tickets can be booked here.

We are also giving our “Why Jane Austen Loves a Sailor” at the huge English Heritage “History Live!” festival, which takes place on the weekend of 19th and 20th July at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire. Over 2,000 re-enactors and performers will bring the story of England to life, including battles, talks, live music, a historic market and a real-ale bar. Our talk is at 10.30am on Saturday 19th July.The talk will look at Mansfield Park, naval history and Jane Austen, and we hope you will find it fascinating, even if you hate Jane Austen! For further information, see here – the talks are always popular, so you need to pick up a free ticket at the BBC History Magazine tent once you arrive. The English Heritage Events Guide gives the prices of the entrance to the event, and these range from £13 for a day pass for an English Heritage adult member (£23 for non-members) to £53 for a family weekend pass (£100 for non-members).