Friday, 24 September 2010

Jane Austen Quote of the Week - Week 127

It was the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath this week and I was fortunate enough to go for a two days and a night at the beginning of the week.
Bath is the most amazing city, so beautiful. I took part in two of the organised activities; on monday night I attended a regency food tasting evening presented by a Jane enthusiast and it was most entertaining. There were a few people there in regency dress which was exciting. On the tuesday morning I went on an organised walk around where Jane would have walked herself during her time living in Bath (between 1801 and 1806). There are many activities organised over the week period such as dance lessons and balls so I am certain that I am going to go back next year and do more. This was just a taster.

I have attached various pictures with associated description. I have many of Bath so if you are interested to see more then do email me.

I photographed some of the recipes mentioned at the food talk so that you could see some examples of what Jane would have eaten during this time.

The young lady who presented actually had made her own variations of these recipes to taste which I actually didnt think were too bad! She did mention a few times how at the turn of the 19th century there was very limited storage and meat therefore went rancid very quickly so the meals were very rich in spices to try to conceal the rotten taste of the meat! I also thought that the use of language and variations in spelling was very interesting. One point raised was that recipes were not documented how we are used to, i.e. with a list of ingredients, instead it was often just a paragraph of words with little punctuation as seen in these photographs.

She also gave us a couple of recipes to take home for White Soup and Gooseberry Tart (email me if you would like a copy) and also made me aware of a poem called "Puddings Without Rhyme or Reason" written by Cassandra Austen (Jane's mother). It can be read on the Jane Austen Centre website . It makes us aware that Jane was not the only talented writer in the family.

The walk on tuesday morning started in Laura Place (where Lady Dalrymple - Sir Walter's cousin in Persuasion- lived) and walked up Great Pulteney Street towards Sydney Place where Jane Austen resided. There are two interesting facts about Great Pulteney Street; William Wilberforce lived here during the same period and it was highly likely that Jane and Cassandra would have passed him frequently on their walks. Also, Great Pulteney Street actually converges with a Henrietta Street at Laura Place. The mystical me is ignited here as Henrietta Street in Dublin houses the Law Library of King's Inns which holds the Stained glass window of Thomas Lefroy coat of arms ! I like finding signs when most would say it is just sheer coincidence.

Great Pulteney Street, Bath

Next we walked into Sydney Place and saw where Jane Austen and her family lived. There is a plaque on the wall. It still is a stunning part of Bath. The tour guide was explaining that rental prices in Great Pulteney Street where William Wilberforce lived would have been highly expensive and probably more than what the Austen's could afford. By simply walking 1 minute off the main street meant that they could afford to rent but still in the very plush and highly popular area of Bath. It was very very strange to stand on the steps where Jane herself would have stood. It was an amazing sense of uplifting.

The Austen's lease on 4 Sydney Place ended in 1804 and they moved to Green Park Buildings (no longer exists) and Mr Austen died a few months later. Mrs Austen, Cassandra and Jane lost their income and moved to lodgings at 25 Gay Street, which unfortunately I did not photograph but it is the same street as where The Jane Austen Centre now stands (pic below). They left Bath for good in 1806 to go to Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his family.

The next photos are just of the beautiful landscape surrounding where she lived. It fascinated me to consider how far she would have walked so frequently. There are lots of hills around there and wonderful areas to walk. We know she loved walking and she must have spent a great deal of time strolling considering she was not spending her time writing over this time which poses the question of what was going through her mind during these years?

The picture on the right shows where Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion lived, Camden Place on the Crescent.

It is believed that Jane's uncle James Leigh-Perrot (her mothers brother) showed Jane the canal (seen in the picture on the bottom right)

The picture above left is of the pump rooms (next to the great Roman Baths) which Jane and her characters would have been very familiar with. Edward, Jane's brother, used the healing baths when he visited Bath as he was suffering from gout. Jane wrote in a letter to Cassandra...

'He was better yesterday than he had been for two or three days before...He drinks at the Hetling to bathe tomorrow.'
'Edward has been pretty well this last week, and as the waters have never disagreed with him in any respect, we are inclined to hope he will derive advantage from them in the end'.

I really like the lamp posts in Bath and I took care to take a photo with the one which had The Jane Austen Centre sign displayed. As mentioned above, The Jane Austen Centre is at 40 Gay Street, along the same street as Jane herself lived after her father died.

I ended my trip at St Swithin’s church, Walcot (below right), where Jane’s parents married and her father is buried.

I had a wonderful two days and I urge all of you to visit the wonderful city if you can. I end with my quote of the week, spoken by Catherine Morland to Mr Tilney in chapter 10 of Northanger Abbey:

"Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?"

Pics: Taken by myself 20th and 21st Sept 2010

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Answer to the Puzzle: Tom Lefroy's handwriting!

My dear friends, apologies for the very belated instalment of the puzzle. Thanks to Amy who has contributed the trivia and to Mimi who has wrecked her brain in trying to solve it (I wrecked my brain for 5min and gave up, hahaha!).

The above is the scanned image of a letter Amy posted to me, and this is the interpretation:

1st line: “Longford October …1836”

2nd line: “…Herries… &Co.”

3rd line: “St James St.”

4th line: “Lefroy London”

Amy’s note:
1. In the olden days, addresser was written on the left side
2. In 1836 , Messers Herries, Farquhar and Company was located on 16 St James Street, London. Some years later it was acquired by Lloyds Bank.

And the leading material that confirms that it was a letter from Thomas Langlois Lefroy (which we didn't post until now on purpose...):

“The Right Honble [Honourable] Thomas Lefroy”

Wikipedia entry of the University of Dublin confirms that "The Right Honourable" was Tom Lefroy's official title by 8 January 1835 (scroll down to 'Elections in the 1830s). The Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy page 120 noted that in 1830, Tom Lefroy was first elected as the Representative of the University of Dublin. He contested again for a general election on 7 May 1831 and 18 December 1832. He won those elections (wow!) but he had not had "The Right Hon." in his title by then. It seems that Thomas Langlois Lefroy received "The Right Honourable" title somewhere between 1832 and 1835.

Anyway, it seems to me that the letter was indeed written by our Tom Lefroy. Thus this letter might be a specimen of his hand-writing!

Hope the trivia is enjoyable!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Jane Austen Quote Week 126

A friend of my friends passed away last week, leaving many of them shocked because of his sudden departure. While I do not know the deceased in person, I have ever since learned that he was a very amiable gentleman with a great sense of humour, a great father, and a loving husband. To him I dedicated this quote, which was taken from The Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy page 386. The young Tom Lefroy was reminiscing the last moments of his late father’s life.

To the last he retained a cheerful and patient endurance under suffering which often elicited the astonishment and admiration of those who attended upon his sickness. I remember in his last illness (only two days before he was taken from us), after he had spent a very wearisome night from want of sleep, and great oppression of breathing, we closed the window-shutters in the morning, in the hope of his getting some sleep; just then the physician for whom an express had been sent, arrived from Dublin. After feeling his pulse, the doctor asked whether it would annoy him if the window-shutters were opened for a moment, when he replied with a cheerful smile, “not at all, doctor, I always like to have light thrown upon a subject.”

Apparently, Thomas Langlois Lefroy braced the last moments of his life in great courage and high spirit. May the friend of my friends also felt the same grace and spirit as Heaven opened up to him, and may he rest in peace.

Pic: the young Thomas Langlois Lefroy, private collection of Edward Lefroy

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Jane Austen Quote of the Week 125 by Linda

In Emma, Chapter 12, we find this quote:

"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a bad cold about a month ago."

"How sorry I am! But colds were never so prevalent as they have been this autumn. Mr. Wingfield told me that he had never known them more general or heavy, except when it has been quite an influenza."

"That has been a good deal the case, my dear; but not to the degree you mention. Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so heavy as he has very often known them in November. Perry does not call it altogether a sickly season."

What I find intriguing about this passage is the talk of “colds” and “influenza”. Without making an extensive research, it amazes me that such afflictions were around in those days. For some reason, I have assumed that they were ‘modern’ afflictions. However, one brief excursion into the book “The English Physician” (1814) found the mention of ‘colds’. Jane’s mention of such everyday events are things that are so easy to overlook. It makes me wonder what else we have missed.

Yrs aff’ly,
Linda the Librarian

Friday, 3 September 2010

Jane Austen Quote of the Week - Week 124

I am told that it is the national Father's day in Australia this weekend so I thought that it was a good opportunity to pick a quote relating to fatherhood.

I have selected a series of rather long quotes from chapter 1 of Persuasion but I think that all are necessary to capture the dynamics of the Elliot family.

“Sir Walter’s continuing in singleness requires explanation. Be it known then, that Sir Walter, like a good father, (having met with one or two private disappointments in very unreasonable applications), prided himself on remaining single for his dear daughters’ sake. For one daughter, his eldest, he would really have given up any thing, which he had not been very much tempted to do. Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother's rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His other two children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way - she was only Anne.”

“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society.”

“Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable; whose judgement and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards.--She had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself, had found enough in her duties, her friends, and her children, to attach her to life, and make it no matter of indifference to her when she was called on to quit them.”

I think that these quotes capture insights into a series of roles within the family. I am an only child so have not had to experience some of the emotions brought to our attention in the first quoted paragraph. The last line is the most poignant for me:
"her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way - she was only Anne."
To arrive at a state where it is easier to just give in than to fight for yourself and what you believe in is truly tragic. No-one should ever be made to feel this way.

The second quote makes us aware of the vanity and self-obsession that Sir Walter possesses. More interesting is the third quote which again paints a picture of a very familiar familial set up (both then and still in present society). Lady Elliot showed bravery and above all loyalty, demonstrated in the line: "she had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself."
Sir Walter's actions and personality allowed his daughter and his wife to feel deeply unhappy. I am sad for their situation but I marvel in the inner strength that both of these women clearly have to continue regardless with their head held high, as so many women must do.

Pic: Sir Walter and his daughters

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A puzzle

A friend from Singapore (Amy) sent us this piece of letter. Truly a piece of a letter, very old, and might be attributed to one of Jane's acquaintance, or even Jane Austen herself.

Guess what was written in this piece of paper? Try to type it on the comment section so that we can see which one has the best guess. No prize this time for the winner, but hey, it's a fun thing to do!

The answer will be posted (along with a rather long story of how Amy found this letter) next week, before the weekend.

Good luck and have fun! And thanks a lot Amy for contacting us!