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
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 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 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.’
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