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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers!
 Images from the author's collection: 'The Robin', and  'Saturday Night' - a humble family studies their Bible. The  Affectionate Parent's Gift, and Good Child's Reward, T.Kelly, 1827.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Jane Austen was born on a snowy winter’s night at Steventon Rectory at Hampshire, on 16 December 1775. She was the daughter of clergyman George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, who had eight children: James, George, Edward, Henry, Francis (Frank), Cassandra, Jane and Charles.
The rectory at Steventon had a front door which opened into a small parlour, where Mrs Austen sat busily making and mending clothes. A dining or common sitting-room was at the front of the house, and George Austen had a study overlooking the garden. 
Steventon Parsonage.

Jane was very happy living at Steventon. She had the run of her father’s extensive library (over 500 volumes), and her family encouraged her to write - Austen’s juvenilia and early satirical works are full of fun. Early versions of her novels Sense & Sensibility (Elinor and Marianne), Pride and Prejudice (First Impressions), and Northanger Abbey (Susan) were all written at Steventon. 
Jane shared a bedroom with her sister Cassandra upstairs, where there was another small sitting-room or ‘dressing-room’ which, Jane’s niece Anna Lefroy recalled, ‘opened into a smaller chamber in which my two aunts slept. I remember the common-looking carpet with its chocolate ground, and painted press with shelves above for books, and Jane’s piano, and an oval looking-glass that hung between the windows; but the charm of the room with its scanty furniture and cheaply painted walls must have been... the flow of native wit, with all the fun and nonsense of a large and clever family’ (W. & R.A. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, Smith, Elder & Co., 1913). 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Hyde Park

In Jane Austen’s day, at about five o’clock in the afternoon, in London people of fashion loved to promenade in the public parks such as Hyde Park. In June 1806 ladies paraded with ‘hats and tiaras of white satin and various coloured silks’, and ‘turbans, bonnets and straw hats...‘tastefully ornamented’ with roses, lilac and hyacinths, according to La Belle Assemblée. Kensington Gardens were popular, too, but St James’s Park was no longer fashionable.

The very ‘best’ society like the Prince Regent and his friends drove their carriages there. Captain Gronow (1794–1865 recalled that after the Peninsular War, many ladies were seen driving in Hyde Park ‘in a carriage called a vis-à-vis, which held two persons. The hammer-cloth, rich inheraldic designs, the powdered footmen in smart liveries, and a coachman who assumed all the gaiety and appearance of a wigged archbishop, were indispensable’. 
The crowds headed home again about three o’clock.