Windows in Jane Austen’s Stories, a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

We, Janeites, know that windows are a thing in Jane Austen’s novels. One of Mr Collins’ most memorable scenes in Pride and Prejudice takes place when he and his wife are on the way to visit the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh alongside their visitor, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. This is what happens as they approach Rosings:

 Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.

Chapter 29, Pride and Prejudice

In Georgian times glass was expensive, and therefore, the more windows a building had, the more handsome the income of its owners. In other words, Mr Collins’ awe of the number of windows is in fact, admiration for the wealth of his patroness. 

Windows as an Expression of Wealth

Windows were so inextricably linked to riches that the end of the 17th century saw the introduction of a new tax based on their number in any given property. It was effectively a levy on light and air, but a privileged few did not care.

In Mansfield Park, Austen alludes to the tax when describing the visit to Sutherton, the family estate of rich Mr Rushworth: 

Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of any other use than to contribute to the window-tax, and find employment for housemaids, “Now,” said Mrs. Rushworth, “we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you will excuse me”. 

Chapter 9, Mansfield Park

Of course, many Georgians did mind about their window tax contributions, and bricking up the openings of a property became a way to minimise its tax burden.

In Edinburgh, where I live, the impact of the tax is still visible in many streets of the New Town, built between the late 18th and the mid 19th centuries. Here is an example of a building I often walk past on my way to the city centre:

Bricked-up windows in Dundas Street, Edinburgh
A Georgian building with bricked-up windows in Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Expectations and Reality

But windows in Austen’s novels communicate a great deal more than the wealth of their owners. For example, in Northanger Abbey windows illustrate Catherine Morland’s disappointment upon arriving in the Tilney family home. Her vivid imagination had pictured the Abbey to be gruesome and deliciously scary, but its windows announce it’s anything but:

The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved—the form of them was Gothic—they might be even casements—but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.

Chapter 20, Northanger Abbey

Poor Catherine, who finds shiny window panes instead of dusty, neglected and broken wall openings in the house she is visiting!

The Sash vs Casement Windows Issue

A conversation with a fellow member of the Scottish branch of the Jane Austen Scottish Society late last year also drew my attention to another windows-related fact in Austen.  You may remember that, in Emma, Mrs and Miss Bates occupy very modest dwellings in a brick house in Highbury. This is what Austen tells us about the place they call home: 

The house belonged to people in business. Mrs. and Miss Bates occupied the drawing-room floor; and there, in the very moderately-sized apartment, which was everything to them, the visitors were most cordially and even gratefully welcomed. 

Chapter 1, Emma

Later, in the letter from Frank Churchill to Mrs Weston, we read that the house has “sashed windows below, and casements above.” That is, sash windows on the ground floor and casements on the first floor, where the Bates ladies live. It’s an unremarkable mention, until you understand the context of windows during the Regency period.

A Tiny Detail, a Lot of Information

Sash windows consist of one or more panels assisted by weights, springs and pulleys hidden in the window frame that slide vertically to create openings. An innovation linked to improved glass manufacturing methods, the elegant proportions of sash windows were the perfect architectural feature for the new tastes of the Georgian era.

Such windows also provided better light levels and improved ventilation and were much easier to use. As a result, sash windows became very fashionable and replaced the older casement windows in most buildings. And therein lies the tiny detail that speaks of the Bates’ precarious financial situation.

Tamsin Greig, 2009

With just a few words, Austen informs us that the “people in business” that own the building have upgraded the ground-floor windows, but have not bothered to replace the windows on the floor above.

Perhaps they thought the investment wasn’t worth it, as they would never be able to recoup the money given the limited means of their tenants. In other words, the impoverished Bates ladies have to make do with the old, drafty and much more cumbersome iron casements, with lead latticework across the glass.  

It is quite wonderful: the more I read Austen, the more I marvel at her attention to detail and ability to make even the tiniest fragment of information a story upon itself. 

What are your thoughts on the topic of windows and Jane Austen? Are there any other situations in Austen’s works where windows, or any other apparently irrelevant detail, are in fact a lot more important than they seem at first sight? 

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Posted in architecture, Austen Authors, British history, buildings and structures, Emma, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, reading habits, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Debt-Ridden Inheritance During the Regency Era

In many Regency novels, either the hero inherits an estate/title that is deep in debt, not of his making, or the heroine’s father has died and left his family destitute, due to his gaming debts or his poor investments. Both situations play well into the hands of a skilled author of Regencies, and, although they are somewhat cliché, that does not mean a reader will not enjoy the twists and turns all over again. However, of late, I have noted on several of the Facebook groups that people are confused about a particular plot point that mentions a debt-ridden inheritance. Therefore, I am taking on the topic today. 

Property could be tied up by entails, previous wills, marriage settlements, deeds, and other conditions accompanying a deed—we usually speak of all of these as being “entailed” property, but each could have a different line of descent. For quite a long time real property could not be devised by a person’s last will and testament, but had to be done by deeds or other means of transfer.

As a general rule for fiction writers, if property was not otherwise tied, it could be left to someone by a will. If there was no will, all the property would either be disposed of according to the various deeds and settlements and entails tying it. The rest would be disposed of according to the laws of distribution in intestacy.

First, one must realize that there is actually a rule against perpetuity law (a restriction saying the estate cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor for a period beyond certain limits fixed by law) which addresses an entail that lasting more than the three lives (generally the grandfather who is the holder of the entailed property, his first born son, and his first born grandson) plus twenty-one years. Keep in mind that an entail can be renewed when the original owner’s son (meaning the first born son), as described above, becomes the grandfather, the original grandson becomes the father, and there is a new grandson.

The common rule against perpetuities forbids instruments (contracts, wills, and so forth) from tying up property for too long a time beyond the lives of people living at the time the instrument was written. For instance, willing property to one’s great-great-great-great grandchildren (to be held in trust for them, but not fully owned, by the intervening generations) would normally violate the rule against perpetuities. The law is applied differently or not at all, and even contravened, in various jurisdictions and circumstances. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule against perpetuities as “[t]he common-law rule prohibiting a grant of an estate unless the interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years (plus a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth) after the death of some person alive when the interest was created.” At common law, the length of time was fixed at 21 years after the death of an identifiable person alive at the time the interest was created. This is often expressed as “lives in being plus twenty-one years.” (Wells Law Blog http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/05/remember-the-rule-against-perpetuities/)

Another point to keep in mind is that property and peerages followed different rules of inheritance, so customarily matters were set up so that the family seat went along with the title.

Property was disposed of through deeds, marriage settlements, and wills. Trusts were established to hold property for the benefit of the real owners. The rules of descent and distribution of these trusts could be set up any way one wanted-—within reason, of course. If property was disposed of by a settlement that was in force for the three lives in being + 21 years (as described above), at the end of that time it would need to be resettled by creating a new entail. That is what many did. If the property was not resettled, or dealt with in a will, it descended by through PROPERTY LAWS, not by LAWS GOVERNING PEERAGES. As long as the  property went from father to son or from grandfather to grandson along with the title, all was well. However, if there suddenly was no male heir in the direct line, other provisions were established for disposing of the property. The title might go to a cousin twice removed, but the property could even go to a daughter or the offspring of a daughter.

Male heirs were preferred only because males, especially of the gentleman class, did not want the property to go to another family. Though daughters have as much family blood as a son, when a daughter married (at least, up until the 1870’s) her property came under the control of her husband. Her son would belong to a different family then.

The laws of descent and distribution and inheritance of real estate are complex. It should be remembered that property and peerage have different rules of descent. The family seat can be separated from the title. Property cannot be extinct though titles could be. Property was rarely forfeited to the Crown due to lack of heirs. Usually it was due to a criminal action.

The entail prevented a wastrel from selling off the family estate to pay his debts. An entail was defined by a deed of settlement (or) a strict settlement. The heir customarily received the land for his use ONLY in his lifetime. His rights ceased to exist upon his death.

Originally, many attempted to entail their properties until the end of the world, so to speak. However, the law would not permit infinity to stand. In practice, an entailed property only remained so until the grandson of the land owner making the settlement became of age at 21 years. Then, the heir could sell or give away the property. So, theoretically, the entail only held the land through the first and second generation of land owners. However, a little coercion often secured the land for future generations.

Most land owners (and their sons) held no other financial employment. If the property owners son wished to keep his allowance, he agreed to sign a new deed of settlement, which would assure the property remained in the family for the next two generations, etc., etc. This legal practice offered the landowner to see his property remain in tact for the “infinity” his family duties required. 

Sometimes we read where the aristocrat decides he does not want the property, but the law says otherwise. The title and the property are his. He can leave the country and never claim them, but they are his, and no one else has the right to have them as long as he is alive. If the property is entailed, it usually has trustees who hold it until the gentleman dies or he decides to claim it. They and the executors could deal with the debts. However, usually, the debts to the small shopkeepers are not so great that they cannot be paid from the estate coffers. 

The executor was supposed to see about paying all the legitimate debts. These were debts on which the stamps  were affixed and fees paid. If the deceased had mortgaged the property,  the company could continue the mortgage. If the property were entailed, it took something like an act of Parliament to foreclose and sell it. Gambling debts could not be legally enforced unless they were processed as legal loans and stamped and all fees paid.

Only registered debts like  mortgages  and those on which the stamps and fees had been paid were legally enforceable. The law of the time said an heir was only liable for  debts to the sum of the assets he inherited. Most mortgages could be continued,  just by paying the interest. As I said above, much of this depends on whether the land was settled or not— deeded to another, entailed, passed by settlements—as to what happened to it. If the man inherited by entail, then he was stuck with the property and the debt. If by will and deed, he could refuse to accept the inheritance and let it be as though the man had died intestate. Then the solicitors would be involved and  go looking for the heir while the executor dealt with the creditors.

If the man discards the gambling debts, he could work out a payment to the small creditors and work with the major ones. Most debts will not be signed and sealed ones. Usually it was only some debts, such as mortgages which were so considered. On the other hand, some mortgages of the time ran for a century. It depends on the time of year—rents and such will usually be paid at Michaelmas, which is income.

The book An Open Elite: England 1540 – 1880, by Lawrence and Jeanne Stone, contains a bit of information on debt-ridden estates. 

An Open Elite? sets out to test the traditional view that for centuries English landed society has been open to new families made rich by business or public office. From a detailed examination of the landed elites of three counties between 1540 and 1880, the authors come to radical new conclusions about the landed classes. They describe the strategies of marriage and inheritance evolved by older families to preserve their position, and establish that the number of newcomers was always relatively small. The resulting work is a major reassessment of the social, economic, and political history of England since the Reformation.
***This abridged edition of what was immediately recognized as a major work of historical scholarship was first published in 1986 and is now available in Clarendon Paperback with a new foreword by Lawrence Stone.

Mr. Joshua Williams, a barrister at Lincoln Inn (1845) in his Principles of the Law of Real Property says, “In families where the estates are kept up from one generation to another, settlements are made every few years for this purpose; thus, in the event of a marriage, a life-estate merely is given to the husband; the wife has an allowance for pin-money during the marriage, and a rent-charge or annuity by way of jointure for her life, in case she should survive her husband. Subject to this jointure, and to the payment of such sums as may be agreed on for the portions of the daughters and the younger sons of the marriage, the eldest son who may be born of the marriage is made by the settlement tenant-in-tail. In case of his decease without issue, it is provided that the second son, and then the third, should in like manner be tenant-in-tail; and so on to the others; and in default of sons, the estate is usually given to the daughters; not successively, however, but as ‘tenants in common in tail,’ with ‘cross remainders’ in tail. By this means the estate is tied up till some tenant-in-tail attains the age of twenty-one years; when he is able, with the consent of his father, who is tenant for life, to bar the entail with all the remainders. Dominion is thus again acquired over the property, which dominion is usually exercised in a re-settlement on the next generation; and thus the property is preserved in the family. Primogeniture, therefore, as it obtains among the landed gentry of England is as customonly, and not a right; though there can be no doubt that the custom has originated in the right which was enjoyed by the eldest son, as heir to his father, in those days when estates-tail could not be barred.” 

A person could not inherit gambling debts. Those are debts of honor incurred by the person doing the gambling, so basically a vowel being held by a gentleman who passes is no longer collected. A son might feel he wants to clear his father’s debts of honor to preserve his father’s name, but a more distant relation might not feel the same urge.

Also, a title cannot be debt-ridden, meaning a barony, earldom, marquisate, etc., does not include the debts. The estates might be encumbered by mortgages or might have been drained of resources so that they need cash in order to become productive again, but that fact does not affect the inheritance of a title. There is also the possibility that the title might show up without estates to support it. No land, during the Regency era, meant “the gentleman” had no way of making money, other than his going into trade or investing…or gambling.

If you want to read up on entailed property and mortgages (and fee tail), I might suggest The Practice of Conveyancing from William Hughes. You can read it at this link [Note this series has more than one volume.]: 

https://books.google.com/books?id=2VFDAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=entailed+estates+mortgages&source=bl&ots=0rN98VXd6g&sig=jzN5AteOMtU5dafw_PWs-e1CSmI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjByI-Kx__KAhURx2MKHcUtDQ0Q6AEIPzAH#v=onepage&q=entailed%20estates%20mortgages&f=false

Other Posts on My Blog Regarding Inheritance That Might Prove Helpful: 

Bride Inheritance? A Cultural Allowance for a Widow or a Means to Control Property?

The Common Practice of Primogeniture in Regency England

Discussion of Land Inheritance

The Effects of Primogeniture on Family Dynamics

Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition to Primogeniture

Inheritance and Illegitimate Heirs

Oh, Give Me Land, Lots of Land (or) the 19th Century Entail

Peerage, Abdication, Inheritance, and Questions of Legality

Primogeniture? Collateral Relatives? The First Laws of Inheritance…

Primogeniture and Inheritance and the Need for a Widow’s Pension in Jane Austen’s Novels

The Roots of Primogeniture and Entailments

Statute of Wills, Henry VIII’s Answer to Primogeniture

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Inheritance, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, primogenture, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Crisis of Conflict Reflected in Austen’s Novels

From Amazon: The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740, combines historical analysis and readings of extraordinarily diverse texts to re-conceive the foundations of the dominant genre of the modern era. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of its initial publication, The Origins of the English Novel stands as essential reading. The anniversary edition features a new introduction in which the author reflects on the considerable response and commentary the book has attracted since its publication by describing dialectical method and by applying it to early modern notions of gender.
Challenging prevailing theories that tie the origins of the novel to the ascendancy of “realism” and the “middle class,” McKeon argues that this new genre arose in response to the profound instability of literary and social categories. Between 1600 and 1740, momentous changes took place in European attitudes toward truth in narrative and toward virtue in the individual and the social order. The novel emerged, McKeon contends, as a cultural instrument designed to engage the epistemological and social crises of the age.

In the book, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740, Michael McKeon purports the idea that the “new” novel form emerging in the mid 1700s displays a Progressive Ideology and the Transvaluation of Honor (150-151). He states, “Evidence on many fronts suggests that the early modern period marked a critical turning point in the efficacy not only of romance but also of the social institutions with which we are likely to associate it, a point at which they began systematically to attest not to the concord but to the discord of internals and externals, of virtue, status, wealth, and power. Indeed, the very life span of some of these social institutions suggests that they are to be seen not aa the traditional tools of stability but as signs of a crisis of confidence.”

Unprecedented new wealth brought on the rapid change of land ownership. A slew of new titles were bestowed during the reigns of James I and Charles I. Each brought more riches for the Crown and each served as a “balance” in an unbalanced society. Some even believe that James’s excessive sale of honors was the basis for the rebellion against the monarchy, but I am not an expert on that time and do not pretend to support the idea. However, history will show the “dispensing of Honours” and the large number of new titles created brought many, without merit or family connections or fortunes, into the aristocracy. The controversy had Sir Edward Walker, who served Charles I and Charles II, most loyally, saying, the inflation of honours “took off from the Respect due to Nobility and introduced a parity in Conversation . . . the Curtain being drawn they were discovered to be Men that heretofore were reverenced as Angels.”

We view this concept to a lesser extent in many of Jane Austen’s novels. She speaks of it in Sense and Sensibility in the whole Colonel Brandon/Willoughby fiasco, but it becomes painfully clear in her satire of the Gothic novel, Northanger Abbey. Those of us who love Jane Austen’s works and have studied her writings, combing through every small detail, know Austen spoke to such important topics as social class, a woman’s role in society, the role of the clergy, inheritance, primogeniture, imperialism, and gender relationships and responsibilities.

Austen was able to take the “romance” novel and have it speak not only of romance but of the underlying issues of a society in transition.

In Austen’s Northanger Abbey, General Tilney is the perfect Gothic villain. He is an evil, patriarchal man. Whereas the novels that proceeded Austen’s works connected goodness and virtue to those of the aristocracy, Austen and those that closely followed her in developing a new novel form did not. Austen placed “honor” and “respect” in the person, not the title/rank. For example, Captain Frederick Wentworth is Persuasion displays much more honor than does Sir Walter Elliot.

Because Catherine Morland has been brought to think this long-established virtues are associated with wealth and patrilineage, she assumes General Tilney must possess honor and sense and caring. Essentially, General Tilney must be a good man. Austen describes the general as:

Soon after their reaching the bottom of the set, Catherine perceived herself to be earnestly regarded by a gentleman who stood among the lookers-on, immediately behind her partner. He was a very handsome man, of a commanding aspect, past the bloom, but not past the vigour of life; and with his eye still directed towards her, she saw him presently address Mr. Tilney in a familiar whisper. Confused by his notice, and blushing from the fear of its being excited by something wrong in her appearance, she turned away her head. But while she did so, the gentleman retreated, and her partner, coming nearer, said, “I see that you guess what I have just been asked. That gentleman knows your name, and you have a right to know his. It is General Tilney, my father.”

Catherine’s answer was only “Oh!”–but it was an “Oh!” expressing everything needful: attention to his words, and perfect reliance on their truth. With real interest and strong admiration did her eye now follow the general, as he moved through the crowd, and “How handsome a family they are!” was her secret remark.

Catherine does not understand when she is treated poorly by the Tilneys:

Catherine’s expectations of pleasure from her visit in Milsom Street were so very high that disappointment was inevitable; and accordingly, though she was most politely received by General Tilney, and kindly welcomed by his daughter, though Henry was at home, and no one else of the party, she found, on her return, without spending many hours in the examination of her feelings, that she had gone to her appointment preparing for happiness which it had not afforded. Instead of finding herself improved in acquaintance with Miss Tilney, from the intercourse of the day, she seemed hardly so intimate with her as before; instead of seeing Henry Tilney to greater advantage than ever, in the ease of a family party, he had never said so little, nor been so little agreeable; and, in spite of their father’s great civilities to her–in spite of his thanks, invitations, and compliments–it had been a release to get away from him. It puzzled her to account for all this. It could not be General Tilney’s fault. That he was perfectly agreeable and good-natured, and altogether a very charming man, did not admit of a doubt, for he was tall and handsome, and Henry’s father. He could not be accountable for his children’s want of spirits, or for her want of enjoyment in his company. The former she hoped at last might have been accidental, and the latter she could only attribute to her own stupidity. Isabella, on hearing the particulars of the visit, gave a different explanation: “It was all pride, pride, insufferable haughtiness and pride! She had long suspected the family to be very high, and this made it certain. Such insolence of behaviour as Miss Tilney’s she had never heard of in her life! Not to do the honours of her house with common good breeding! To behave to her guest with such superciliousness! Hardly even to speak to her!”

Catherine Morland first opinion of General Tilney is based on his position in Society. He must be a man of honor, for he is a man holding a respected position of authority. Instead, he proves to be less than virtuous and his reason for accepting Catherine is his misunderstanding of your family’s wealth. She is the perfect match for Henry Tilney until she proves not to possess a rich dowry, which will enhance the Tilney family’s coffers. Even when the General shows his true colors and sends her away, she finds his actions incomprehensible of a man of honour—of a well-bred gentleman.

I leave it to my reader’s sagacity to determine how much of all this it was possible for Henry to communicate at this time to Catherine, how much of it he could have learnt from his father, in what points his own conjectures might assist him, and what portion must yet remain to be told in a letter from James. I have united for their ease what they must divide for mine. Catherine, at any rate, heard enough to feel that in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty.

Henry, in having such things to relate of his father, was almost as pitiable as in their first avowal to himself. He blushed for the narrow-minded counsel which he was obliged to expose. The conversation between them at Northanger had been of the most unfriendly kind. Henry’s indignation on hearing how Catherine had been treated, on comprehending his father’s views, and being ordered to acquiesce in them, had been open and bold. The general, accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family, prepared for no reluctance but of feeling, no opposing desire that should dare to clothe itself in words, could ill brook the opposition of his son, steady as the sanction of reason and the dictate of conscience could make it. But, in such a cause, his anger, though it must shock, could not intimidate Henry, who was sustained in his purpose by a conviction of its justice. He felt himself bound as much in honour as in affection to Miss Morland, and believing that heart to be his own which he had been directed to gain, no unworthy retraction of a tacit consent, no reversing decree of unjustifiable anger, could shake his fidelity, or influence the resolutions it prompted.

Posted in Austen actors, book excerpts, British history, excerpt, film, film adaptations, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage customs, Northanger Abbey, reading habits, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Royal Academy of Arts + an Excerpt from “A Lively Companion,” a Guest Post from Corrie Garrett

This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 3 September 2020.

From your Regency readings, you may be familiar with Somerset House and the Summer Exhibition, a lavish and popular yearly art show. A catalog (and therefore entry) could be had for a shilling, and everyone who’s anyone in London would have gone to see the exhibition at some point!

While I haven’t used it as a location yet, I have used the Royal Academy of Arts, which was the group who put on the art show. (The original Somerset House was where Queen Charlotte was supposed to live if George III died before her. Instead, she was vested with Buckingham House, and they gave the new North Wing to the Royal Academy of Arts.)

Courtauld Gallery Staircase

Anyway, it was an art exhibition to which anyone could submit a painting. In fact, the founding group of the Royal Academy of Arts included two women, Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser! Which is pretty cool.

Self-portrait, J.M.W. Turner

However, more to the point for my story purposes, not everyone who joined the Academy and received the honor of displaying work in the Summer Exhibition was aristocratic. Joseph Mallord William Turner (abbreviated J.M.W. Turner) is a great example. (In fact, it was a post here on Austen Authors that introduced me to him when I was researching my last series!) Turner was from a middle class family in Covent Gardens, burdened with a Cockney accent but remarkable talent. He was admitted to the Academy when he was fourteen, and displayed his first work at Somerset at fifteen!

I practically rubbed my hands together and cackled like a villain. What’s this I see before me? A middle/lower-class man who gained success and (could have) interacted with the highest families through his skill with painting and portraiture? Yes, please! (William Turner even received a snuff box from the King Louis Phillipe I!) I wanted to put Darcy through the wringer with Georgiana’s romance, and this fit the bill perfectly. Acclaimed painters were received everywhere, particularly portraitists… but at the same time, they definitely weren’t members of the “Upper Ten Thousand.” How would Darcy handle it if Georgiana fell in love with a such an “accepted outsider?”

Eruption of Vesuvius, J.M.W. Turner

I only used the barest idea of J.M.W. Turner for my story (and his last name, since it is fairly common), but his actual life story is also quite interesting. After his mother went to a mental institution, he was sent to live with a maternal uncle (rather like Fanny Price), and it was there that he was able to make his first forays into painting. His father would proudly display his son’s sketches in his barber shop window.

Eventually he traveled and gained more acclaim, particularly for his seascapes and other dramatic paintings. A huge volcano erupted in Indonesia in 1815 (making 1816 the “Year with No Summer”) and Turner painted the incredible sunsets caused by the ash in the upper atmosphere. He witnessed the burning of Parliament in 1834 and made watercolors of it. Turner’s experiments with color and light would become precursors of impressionist and abstract painting.

Although he grew reclusive in

Venice, J.M.W. Turner

later life, he did (re?)gain a close relationship with his father, and lived with him for 30 years until his father’s death.

So with that as background, here is a short excerpt from A Lively Companion, when Georgiana and Lizzy meet a young, up-and-coming painter…


Lizzy watched the little boy, in his ruffled shirt and small jacket, squirm upon the picturesque lounge. The painter seemed inured to that sort of thing, and also to being discussed as if he were not present.

“My mother’s portrait was done by Sir Thomas Lawrence,” Anne told them proudly.

Lady Catherine was just returning to them with her friend Mrs. Winkleigh. “Indeed, it was. Unfortunately Sir Thomas is off painting generals and such on the continent now. It would have been as well for him if he had stayed; I should have strongly counseled him to stay. I must have Anne’s portrait taken soon.”

Mrs. Winkleigh performed the introduction to the painter while his subject took a break for refreshment.

Mr. John Wesley Turner was a youngish man, not very tall or handsome, Lizzy thought, but with an intelligent, good-humored look to his eyes and forehead. He showed his smudged hands and apologized for being unable to properly greet them. He joked with Mrs. Winkleigh about painting her son on a stallion someday and was “deeply honored” to be considered by Lady Catherine and so on.

As they were leaving, he asked Miss Darcy whether she was satisfied with the expression and shadows of the child’s face.

“Oh, yes,” Miss Darcy said, “I’ve attempted my cousin’s children and never captured so much character. Not that I mean to compare… You are a professional…”

He smiled quizzically. “You look rather familiar to me, Miss Darcy. I’ve never painted you before; I think I would remember that, but perhaps we’ve met?”

Georgiana paled. “You are, perhaps, thinking of Miss Climping’s School for Girls in Bath. I believe we met in passing there.”

“Of course!” he said. “The arts mistress is my aunt. She had me judge some of the schoolgirls’ pieces or some such thing before the summer term. I believe you won.”

“You must have an uncommonly good memory,” Miss Darcy said. “Only a week’s visit for you, I believe.”

He laughed. “I’m afraid I don’t remember your artwork, except that it was clearly superior to the rest and made my decision quite easy.”


That’s it for now!

So, do you enjoy these kinds of dramatic, impressionistic paintings? Or do you prefer more realistic?

41v2pPoPN1L.jpg  A Lively Companion: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

from Corrie Garrett

Lizzy Bennet is more insulted than flattered when Lady Catherine asks her to be a temporary companion to Miss de Bourgh. Yes, a visit to Tunbridge Wells would be an interesting diversion, but at what cost?

When her father unexpectedly supports the plan, wanting Lizzy to gain a wider acquaintance and knowing it won’t get easier than this, Lizzy reluctantly submits. Thus begins a springtime trip of misunderstandings, revelations, and unexpected proposals.

When Mr. Darcy realizes Lizzy is not going home as planned, he feels foolish for nearly proposing due to an arbitrary deadline. Determined to make up his mind one way or another, he accompanies the party to the Wells.

While Miss de Bourgh takes the famed waters, Lizzy stumbles feet first into a friendship with Darcy’s sister and cousins. Indeed, she enjoys nearly all Darcy’s friends and family. She almost likes him, when he’s around them.

But that only makes it more painful when she must resolutely reject the proud head of the family…

A Lively Companion is a traditional variation on Pride and Prejudice, celebrating the humor, poignancy, and surprising inconsistency of life.

Posted in art, Austen Authors, book excerpts, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, heroines, historical fiction, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dressmakers and Fashion and What Jane Austen Said of Both

A woman’s dressmaker, or “mantua maker,” as they were often known during the late Georgian era, were essentially paid to know what was the latest fashion trends. Most of us who are obsessed with the era, know something of fashion plates and La Belle Assemblée, but did you know many dressmakers had “fashion dolls” in their shop to allow customers to view the latest fashion in miniature. According to The Hidden Wardrobe, “Before Vogue and before The Sartorialist how on earth did Georgian ladies keep up with the fashions across the Channel?? Meet the Pandoras…the miniature dolls that were sent over from France in the eighteenth century to keep the Georgian fashion pack in the know about the latest trends, in every detail. These dolls were considered to be more accurate than word of mouth. They were invented as a means of conveying costume detail long before the technology of the woodcut and copperplate were available to create the fashion plate….”

Pandora from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Many fashionable women actually owned a pair of these dolls, one dressed grandly, which was known as the Grande Pandore, and one in en dèshabille, known as Petit Pandore. French fashions dolls could be found throughout Europe. Meanwhile, English fashion dolls were shipped to America. Paper dolls were also used to preview one’s choice of wardrobe or coiffure.

Before a new gown was commissioned or sewn, ladies were required to make decisions regarding the type of sleeve, flounces, a train, etc. Ladies sewing a garment at home did not have pattern books available to them. One might find full sized patterns of children’s garments, however. Most women took apart a gown they already owned and used it as the pattern. A dressmaker who hold a piece of paper or fabric up the lady and would shape and cut it. If the dressmaker used fabric in this process, that fabric would become the lining for the dress. A person could also purchase an item/dress to use as the pattern.

White gowns were elegant, but difficult to keep clean. Even colored fabrics could be problematic if not handled properly. The dye would wash away. Informal day wear could customarily be calico, chintz, etc. Evening wear was made from fine muslins, sarsenet, and satin.

A few dressmakers kept a stock of fabric in their shops, but as this was costly for them, this practice was rare. Customers, generally, provided their own fabric, which could be purchased at shop or from door-to-door peddlers, who sold fabric and drapery goods.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Jane Austen speaks often of fashion, dressmaking, and the like in her stories and in her letters. Check out these comments from her letters regarding fashion:

“We are busy making Edward’s shirts, and I proud to say I am the neatest worker of the party.” (1 September 1796)

“I have made myself two or three caps to wear of the evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hair-dressing.” (1 December 1798)

“I believe I shall make my new gown like my robe, but the back of the latter is all in a piece with a tail, & will 7 yards enable me to copy it in that respect?” (18 December 1798)

“I cannot determine what to do about my new Gown; I wish such things were to be bought ready made.” (25 December 1798)

“But I will not be much longer libelled by the possession of my coarse spot, I shall turn it into a petticoat very soon.” (25 December 1798)

“It is to be a round gown, with a jacket and a frock front, to open at the side. The jacket is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket holes –about half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in the body or the flap, the back is quite plain–and the side equally so. The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all ones handkerchiefs are dirty, which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and a half in the tail, and no gores–gores not being so much worn as they were. There is nothing new in the sleeves; they are to be plain, with a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath. Low in the back behind, and a belt of the same.” (January 1799)

My cloak is come home, I like it very much, and can now exclaim with delight, like J. Bond at hay harvest, ‘This is what I have been looking for these three years.’ I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only fourpence a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or areengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops.” (2 June 1799)

“I am quite pleased with Martha and Mrs Lefroy for wanting the pattern of our Caps, but I am not well pleased with Your giving it to them.” (2 June 1799)

“Though you have given me unlimited powers concerning Your Sprig, I cannot determine what to do about it, & shall therefore in this & in every future letter continue to ask you for further directions.” (11 June 1799)

“Mary has likewise a message—. She will be much obliged to you if you can bring her the pattern of the Jacket & Trowsers, or whatever it is, that Eliz[abe]th’s boys wear when they are first put into breeches—; or if you could bring her an old suit itself, she would be very glad.” (22 January 1801)

“I shall want two new coloured gowns for the summer, for my pink one will not do more than clear me from Steventon. I shall not trouble you, however, to get more than one of them, and that is to be a plain brown cambric muslin, for morning wear; the other, which is to be a very pretty yellow and white cloud, I mean to buy in Bath. Buy two brown ones, if you please, and both of a length, but one longer than the other–it is for a tall woman. Seven yards for my mother, seven yards and a half for me; a dark brown, but the kind of brown is left to your own choice, and I had rather they were different as it will be always something to say, to dispute about, which is the prettiest. They must be cambric muslin.” (25 January 1801)

“Gores not being so much worn as they were…” (6 May 1801)

“I find my straw bonnet looking very much like other people’s, and quite as smart. Bonnets of cambric muslin on the plan of Lady Bridges’ are a good deal worn.” (6 May 1801)

“Mrs. Tilson’s remembrance gratifies me, & I will use her patterns if I can; but poor Woman! how can she be honestly breeding again! (1 October 1808)

“[H]ow is your blue gown?—Mine is all to pieces.—I think there must have been something wrong in the dye, for in places it divided with a Touch.—There was four shillings thrown away.” (7 October 1808)

I am to be in Bombazeen & Crape, according to what we are told is universal here [Southampton]; & which agrees with Martha previous observation.” (15 October 1808)

“I can easily suppose that your [Cassandra’s] six weeks here will be fully occupied, were it only in lengthening the waist of your gowns.” (17 January 1809)

“Your letter came just in time to save my going to Remnants, & fit me for Christian’s where I bought Fanny’s dimity. I went the day before (Friday) to Laytons as I proposed, & got my Mother’s gown, 7 yds at 6/6.” (24 May 1813)

“I learnt from Mrs Tickar’s young Lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the Bosom up at all;—that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion. I was really glad to hear that they are not to be so much off the shoulders as they were.” (15 September 1813)

“I am glad you like our caps—but Fanny is out of conceit with hers already; she finds that she has been buying a new cap without having a new pattern, which is true enough.” (23 September 1813)

“Miss Chapman’s name is Laura & she had a double flounce to her gown. —You really must get some flounces. Are not some of your large stock of white morn[in]g gowns just in a happy state for a flounce, too short?” (14 October 1813)

“I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with black sattin ribbon just as my China Crape is.” (6 March 1814)

“I have been ruining myself in black sattin ribbon with a proper perl edge; & now I am trying to draw it up into kind of Roses, instead of putting it in plain double plaits.” (7 March 1814)

“I wear my gauze gown today, long sleeves & all; I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable.” (9 March 1814)

“Mrs Tilson had long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this.” (9 March 1814)

“I am amused by the present style of female dress; —the coloured petticoats with braces over the white Spencers & enormous Bonnets upon the full stretch, are quite entertaining. It seems to me a more marked change than one has lately seen. — Long sleeves appear universal, even as Dress, the Waists short, and as far as I have been able to judge, the Bosom covered. —I was at a little party last night at Mrs Latouche’s, where dress is a good deal attended to, & these are my observations from it. —Petticoats short & generally, tho’ not always, flounced. —The broad-straps belonging to the Gown or Boddice, which cross the front of the Waist, over white, have a pretty effect I think.” (2 September 1814)

Molland’s Circulating Library

Women in World History Review

For more of Austen’s wit and wisdom, I might suggest The Letters.

Posted in British history, England, fashion, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Use of the Word “Dowager” During the Regency Era

In the Regency, the word dowager was used in newspapers, letters, the Gazette,  and on letters. One was never addressed as a “Dowager.” One does not say, “Good day, Dowager Countess.” The woman is simply addressed as a “Lady So-and-So.”

books_peerage-compressor

The word “dowager” eventually began to attract negative emotions, and widows began avoiding the use of the word. However, it was in use in the Regency for widows of landed and usually titled men. Though today, widows prefer not to use Dowager, at the time, a widow of a man of property was a dowager, meaning entitled to “dower,” a widow’s share for life of her husband’s estate.

The grandmother usually became the Dowager Countess of Somewhere as soon as she was widowed. Until the woman’s son marries, it is her prerogative to leave off the Dowager and just be Lady Somewhere.

According to Debrett’s Correct Form:

“Officially the widow of a peer is known as the Dowager Countess (or whatever) of X, unless there is already a dowager peeress of the family still living. In the latter event, the widow of the senior peer of the family retains the title of Dowager for life, and the widow of the junior peer in that family is known by her Christian name, e.g., Mary, Countess of X, until she becomes the senior widow. . . . When the present peer is unmarried, by custom the widow of the late peer continues to call herself as she did when her husband was living, i.e., without the prefix of (a) dowager, or (b) her Christian name. Should the present peer marry, it is usual for the widowed peeress to announce the style by which she wishes to be know in future.” (Titles) This last bit is 20th century, and Black’s agrees: most widows do not use “dowager” at all anymore, and simply use the Mary, Countess of X option, announcing in the press the style they will be using. 

Invitations to court and the lady’s name in the newspaper or on formal lists (as in the list of those who attended a Queen’s birthday bash) would use dowager if there was another  one with her same title. If there was more than one widow, the first widow is the dowager and the others are Mary Countess of X.  The main purpose was to avoid confusion between or among ladies.  One never addressed the lady as a dowager in person. One only spoke of her as the dowager when it was necessary to distinguish her from any other living Countess of Someplace. As a twelve-year-old girl (Think how girls as young as 12 could marry) could actually be a dowager, the term was not connected to age. However, because older women were usually dowagers ( n the upper crust) and people spoke slightingly of sitting among the dowagers and chaperones, the widows decided they did not like the word. If a woman wanted to present her granddaughter at court, or her new daughter-in-law, she would  have to describe herself as a Dowager Countess, for instance. Ordinarily, though, she would not use the term, at all.

Technically, the definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary applies to: “A widow with a title or property derived from her late husband.” As in a widow who has estate or property left to her by her right of dower. In usage, it can be applied to any elder woman of status (a widow who has rank).

The more proper use is that: “…the widow of a peer may continue to use the style she had during her husband’s lifetime, provided that his successor, has no wife to bear the plain title. Otherwise, she more properly prefixes either her forename or the word Dowager, e.g. “Jane, Countess of Loamshire” or “Dowager Countess of Loamshire”.As with a lot of styling, it is up to the lady to set how she wishes to be addressed: She may not want to become a dowager just yet and so may resist that push.

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, language choices, Living in the Regency, Regency era, titles of aristocracy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Preview of My Next JAFF: “The Mistress of Rosings Park”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basis of the Tale: The story begins in late June 1813. Darcy and Elizabeth have not yet met. No Bingley, yet. Mr. Collins did propose to Elizabeth, but ended up marrying Charlotte. Elizabeth is making her first visit to Hunsford Cottage. Darcy has married Anne, but she only survived 7 months before passing. As Anne theoretically inherited Rosings Park at her majority, as her husband, Darcy inherits the estate (a legal precedence of the time period), and he means to have Lady Catherine removed as its mistress. 

KEEP IN MIND, THE ENTIRE STORY IS TOLD FROM ELIZABETH’S POINT OF VIEW. 

NOTE! The novel has not yet entered into the editing process. Overlook any typos, spacing errors, etc. 

Chapter One

Late June, 1813

“That dreadful man will arrive tomorrow,” Lady Catherine de Bourgh bemoaned. “And I have had no opportunity to remove to the dower house.”

“There. There,” Mr. Collins commiserated. “Mrs. Collins and I will assist you. Your situation, if I may be so bold to say, is a true travesty, my lady. A travesty indeed.”

From her position in a chair in the corner of the room, Elizabeth Bennet watched in mild amusement as her father’s cousin attempted to calm the latest round of hysterics displayed by the grand dame of Rosings Park. Mr. Collins, who continually genuflected before his patroness, was a comical creature without even attempting to be so. Elizabeth said a silent prayer of blessing that the man had not become her husband; yet, she again pitied her long-time friend, Charlotte Lucas, who had readily accepted the man’s proposal out of fear of becoming a burden to her family.

In truth, Elizabeth had been surprised to receive an invitation for a visit to Kent from the Collinses. She suspected Mr. Collins had agreed in order to prove to Elizabeth she had made a mistake in refusing the man. The situation had been poorly played by all, and her relationship with Charlotte had suffered greatly. Their bond had been badly shaken by her friend’s acceptance of Mr. Collins’s hand, a man who had proposed to Elizabeth and been rejected less than two hours prior to his proposal to Charlotte.

The scene of the man’s insolent superiority played through Elizabeth’s head as she watched Mr. Collins attempt to soothe Lady Catherine’s vexations.

“I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins with a formal wave of his hand, “that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favor; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am, therefore, by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.”

“Upon my word, sir,” Elizabeth had cried, “your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies, if such young ladies there are, who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world to make you so. Nay, were your friend, Lady Catherine, to know me, I am perfectly persuaded she would find me in every respect ill-qualified for the situation.”

Elizabeth had been correct. At home it was Jane and Mary who tended to their mother’s “nerves.” Elizabeth would certainly not be as solicitous to Lady Catherine’s vapors as were the Collinses. She was more likely to tell the woman to “buck up.” Even so, she understood the Collinses’ position in this melodrama. Earlier, Charlotte had explained that Rosings Park had passed to Lady Catherine’s daughter when the young woman reached her majority, although it appeared to Elizabeth as if her ladyship had continued to run the estate. Miss Anne de Bourgh had married and had  to her husband’s estate. Reportedly, Miss de Bourgh had passed within months of her marriage, and the property now belonged to the lady’s husband. However, Lady Catherine had yet to abdicate her rule over the estate, which was none of Elizabeth’s business, but, if anyone had been foolish enough to ask, she would agree the estate could use a different hand on the helm. Despite the manor house being a true showcase, on her short walk of the grounds yesterday after services, she had noted how the parkland and the formal gardens did not reflect the proper care.

Elizabeth instinctively glanced to the window which overlooked the undulating lawn. She would love to claim a long walk in the park, but, if Mr. Collins meant to tend to Lady Catherine’s hysterics, the possibility of doing so was slim. It was not as if she could simply pardon herself and leave for a stroll about the grounds while her cousin was thus engaged. She realized this was an important moment in Mr. Collins’s life, for, if Lady Catherine was no longer in control of Rosings Park, what became of Mr. Collins’s living? And what became of Charlotte’s future? Elizabeth would remain to see if she might be of service to her friend and mend the gap that had split their friendship nearly a year prior.

Her thoughts were so engaged on what she might do to assist Charlotte beyond taking over some of her friend’s duties at Hunsford Cottage when the “play” before her shifted with the entrance of new character.

“The Earl of Matlock, my lady,” the butler announced unexpectedly.

Along with the Collinses, Elizabeth scrambled to her feet to curtsey. She had never been presented to an earl, and the idea pleased her for she thought both her father and her sister Jane would find Elizabeth’s recollection of the encounter amusing. As the earl crossed the room, totally ignoring anyone but Lady Catherine, both Mr. Collins and Charlotte slowly and silently drifted toward the corner of the room which Elizabeth occupied. The earl’s ample figure filled the room with its stoutness and with the gentleman’s obvious importance. In Elizabeth’s opinion, there was a strong likeness between his lordship and Lady Catherine. They both had the same aristocratic features, the cut of their noses and jawlines more attractive on the gentleman than they were on her ladyship.

“What the deuce are you doing, Catherine?” he demanded of his sister without even an acknowledgement of Elizabeth’s or the Collinses’ presence in the room.

The invisible servant, Elizabeth thought. She had often heard her father say those words in a derisive manner when observing others’ treatment of the working class. Now, she fully understood his contempt. The earl completely ignored her presence in the room, marking her place in his esteem.

“I expected to discover you removed to the dower house,” the earl continued. “Never thought you would take it upon yourself to set up such an uproar.”

“I have not had enough time to make my move,” Lady Catherine protested.

“Nonsense,” the earl countered. “Anne, rest her soul, passed some fourteen months prior. Darcy has provided you more than enough time to vacate the manor house. Sir Lewis left everything to Anne. This house and estate has been your daughter’s, not yours, for some seven years. Rosings Park does not belong to you. It never has. From the day Anne met her majority, Rosings no longer was yours to oversee. You must come to terms with this situation. My God, you are a Fitzwilliam. We do not condone such hysterics. In her kindness, Anne erred in allowing you to remain in the role of the Mistress of Rosings Park, but, you must understand, legally, you cannot remain at the manor house. Darcy has the right to demand your withdrawal. If you do not comply, he can have the magistrate force you from your home. Save your dignity, Catherine, and do what is necessary. Such would be our father’s expectations for his eldest daughter.”

“Darcy,” Lady Catherine hissed. “I am certain I have learned to detest that name! How can it be lawful for him to claim everything simply because he was Anne’s husband? I am Anne’s mother. Should I not have some rights to a home I have nourished and cherished since my wedding day? Darcy has only visited Rosings when it was necessary. He holds no allegiance to the estate.”

“It was your wish for Darcy to marry your daughter,” the earl reminded his sister in cold tones. “You cannot deny that it was so. Darcy’s father denied the connection when he was still alive, but with George Darcy’s death, you again began to badger the boy into marrying Anne. You knew Darcy would never make Rosings Park his home seat when his ancestral home is in Derbyshire. You wanted Rosings for yourself. And that is exactly who you must blame for this fiasco.”

“He carried Anne off to Derbyshire, without even as much as a by your leave,” her ladyship argued. “Darcy was to protect her, not kill her. You know he poisoned Anne.”

Elizabeth could not disguise her gasp of surprise. However, before anyone took notice of her presence in the room, Charlotte caught Elizabeth’s hand and tugged her further along the passageway.

“You are to forget what you just heard,” Charlotte warned. “This is none of your concern. None of mine or Mr. Collins’s concern beyond our duty to Lady Catherine as her tenants. We owe my husband’s living to her ladyship.”

Although Elizabeth would not soon forget the remark, she understood the unspoken words: Mr. Collins’s living depended upon what occurred between Lady Catherine and the unknown gentleman by the name of Darcy. “Certainly, Charlotte,” she whispered. “You are correct. I shall do nothing to jeopardize your position in the neighborhood.”

“Mr. Collins and I will be expected to assist her ladyship,” Charlotte reiterated. “It grieves me not to be in a position to entertain you properly.”

Elizabeth dutifully said, “I shall be content to walk the park and to learn something of the Kentish countryside.”

Charlotte nodded sharply. “It shan’t be a total solitary endeavor. My brother John has been presented leave from his duties with the Dover militia. He thought to return to Hertfordshire, but I convinced him to visit with me instead. I hope you will not mind that I have asked him to spend time with us at Hunsford Cottage.”

Elizabeth prayed Charlotte did not mean to push for an alliance between Elizabeth and John. She knew her mother and Lady Lucas often connived to place Elizabeth in John Lucas’s way. She adored the young man, but only in a “brotherly” manner. She had not set her cap for him.

“Devilish rum business,” Lord Matlock’s voice reached them again before Elizabeth could respond. “But Darcy has his rights. You chose to force his hand, and, now, you must live with your manipulation. Our nephew married Anne. It is not his fault your daughter died in a little over half a year of pronouncing her vows. Even though they held nothing more than familial affection for each other, who is to say they might have made the best of it for the remainder of their days—mayhap they would have had a half dozen children. That might have satisfied you to have grandchildren about you. Might have softened your nature. However, I do not think such a marriage would have made either Darcy or Anne happy. Like it or not, Catherine, they did not suit. Darcy adored his parents, and, whether you wish to recognize it or keep fooling yourself, George Darcy and our younger sister Anne were happy together. They loved each other deeply. Your belief that he should have chosen you instead of Anne is what drove you to force Darcy and your daughter together. You made your bed, now, you must lie in it.”

“Why did you not say all this beforehand—before my Anne’s marriage?” Lady Catherine demanded.

“I did say it, as did Lady Matlock, and my sons. You simply chose not to listen because you wished to be mistress of Rosings Park and use your courtesy title of ‘Lady Catherine’ from your reign as the daughter of an earl, rather than become the Dowager Lady de Bourgh,” the earl clarified. “Demme it, Catherine, with Anne’s passing, you did not even need to take on that dreaded stigma of ‘dowager.’ You could have simply been ‘Lady de Bourgh,’ a baronetess in your own right.” A long silence followed before Lord Matlock asked with a hint of sympathy, an emotion missing earlier from his voice. “Darcy is not the vindictive type. The boy says he has plans for Rosings Park that will provide you additional funds as part of your widow’s pension for the remainder of your days. Permit Darcy to tend the estate. It is admirable how you have handled Sir Lewis’s holdings for so long, but the political environment has placed even the wisest of land owners in this great kingdom at a disadvantage. If you heard half of what I do in the House of Lords, you would gladly step back from this charge. Permit Darcy to shoulder the responsibility. Accept the use of the dower house and enjoy your days without all these duties hanging over your head. Better yet, choose Bourgh Hall and join Society in London. There was a time you enjoyed the Season and all it brings. Allow the boy to do the work and claim what is your due. You served your husband well. No one can say otherwise.”

“Do I possess a choice?” her ladyship grumbled in what sounded of sarcasm.

“None whatsoever,” Lord Matlock pronounced in cold tone. His lordship clapped his hands together as if the business was finished. “Should I summon your butler and your maid to assist in your removal to Bourgh House.”

“As yet, I have not one foot in the grave. I am capable of removing to the dower house without your supervision. My staff is quite efficient. Moreover Mr. and Mrs. Collins will make certain my orders are completed in a timely manner.”

“Mr. Collins?” the earl asked.

Charlotte shoved her husband toward the still open door just as Lady Catherine declared, “Mr. Collins.” As if she suddenly recalled their presence in the room, the mistress of Rosings Park called out, “Mr. Collins? Where are you?”

“Here, my lady.” Collins bowed deeply as he stepped into the framed doorway.

“Tell his lordship you mean to assist me in this ugly business,” Lady Catherine ordered.

Elizabeth watched in amusement as Mr. Collins swallowed hard. He bowed again, nearly falling over in his obeisance. “Mrs. Collins and my cousin Miss Bennet will consider it not only our Christian duty, but, also, our pleasure to be of assistance to Lady Catherine in whatever manner necessary.” Mr. Collins motioned Charlotte and Elizabeth to join him in the doorway.

Elizabeth was just in time to note how the earl rolled his eyes when Mr. Collins bowed a third time in less than a minute. Dutifully, Elizabeth followed Charlotte in a curtsey.

Having recovered some of her renown bravado, Lady Catherine said, “I have only been notified this very day that the necessary cleaning and painting at Bourgh House has been completed. As Darcy initially indicated I might remove at my leisure, I did not press the workers in their task.”

Elizabeth thought this a foolish stance to assume, but she made no comment where her opinion would not be welcomed.

Lord Matlock shook his head in a disapproving manner, however, confirming Elizabeth’s opinion without it being voiced.

Lady Catherine quickly added in excuse, “I have not heard from Darcy for nearly a month.”

Lord Matlock overrode her objection by saying, “I dare say Darcy means to be in Kent by tomorrow, and I doubt you are not aware of his arrival. The boy has not one spontaneous bone in his body. We both know Darcy is not the type to appear without notice. You were informed, but chose to ignore the message. You have wasted your time, your ladyship. You have acted in denial of the inevitable.”

“Yet, there is no means for me to leave Rosings for, at least, another week.”

“You cannot demand that Darcy stay at the local inn. It would be little minded to demand he do so. You will make everyone in the family uncomfortable, including you. Making them to choose sides will not be a wise choice if you cherish your dignity.” He returned his gloves to his hands. “Yet, I doubt you much care for the opinion of others. You never did. Therefore, as I am not required in this matter, I will return to London.”

“Will you not, at least, stay for tea?” her ladyship countered.

“My countess has a supper planned this evening. If I press my horses, I could be there in time for the first course.”

Lady Catherine drew herself up in obvious indignation. “Then you held no intention to be of service to me.”

“I would have stayed if you were not so headstrong, but I do not care to argue with you. You cannot be swayed. As to the supper, Lindale promised to assist his mother, but you know the nature of my eldest son.” With that, the earl brushed past Elizabeth and the Collinses without even a nod of his head in recognition. A quick glance to Lady Catherine noted a crestfallen expression for the briefest of moments, which was quickly replaced by aristocratic arrogance.

A pregnant moment passed before Charlotte found her voice and moved forward to curtsey again to Lady Catherine. “With your permission, your ladyship, I shall ring for tea, and we will assess how best to proceed in solving your dilemma.”

“Yes . . . yes,” her ladyship stammered. “You are very kind, Mrs. Collins. It appears even my own brother means to see me removed from the house that has been my home for nearly thirty years.”

Although she found Lady Catherine’s manners abhorrent, Elizabeth did not think it fair of this “Darcy” fellow to drive Lady Catherine from her home any more than it would be for her Cousin Collins and Charlotte to drive Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, and any remaining unmarried sisters from Longbourn when Mr. Bennet passed. Yet, she had no doubt Mr. Collins would arrive in Hertfordshire at break neck speed when Elizabeth’s dear “Papa” took his leave of this earthly life. At least, Mr. Darcy had allowed Lady Catherine a year to move to another house upon the estate. Mrs. Bennet would not be accounted any such dignity.

* * *

She had made herself as useful as she could be in an unfamiliar house with an unfamiliar staff. While Charlotte and Mr. Collins tended to Lady Catherine’s complaints and mild hysterics, Elizabeth had accompanied her ladyship’s maid to the dower house to gauge its readiness and to determine what should be done immediately and what could wait for a few days.

“It might be best to open a few windows to air out the rooms,” Elizabeth suggested. “I do not imagine Lady Catherine would appreciate the hint of fresh paint lingering in the air.”

“You would be correct, miss,” Mrs. Fischer said. “Her ladyship is quite particular on how things are done.”

Elizabeth surveyed the spacious rooms. She would be happy to live in such quarters for the remainder of her days. From her place along the entrance hall, the house appeared to have received a thorough cleaning, but she would examine the other rooms before she departed Bourgh House, for there was much disorder in its presentation. She suggested, “Although it is not my decision, it appears to me her ladyship should choose which rooms to address first. As it is my understanding that Mr. Darcy is to arrive by late afternoon tomorrow, it would be best to name the rooms essential to Lady Catherine’s immediate comfort.”

“Her ladyship’s quarters, obviously,” Mrs. Fischer said.

“Absolutely,” Elizabeth concurred. “A drawing room.”

“The morning room”

“The kitchen,” Elizabeth added. “That appears a large enough challenge for day one.”

“Even that will be daunting,” Mrs. Fischer agreed. “But anything less will further upset Lady Catherine.”

“Afterwards, at least one room per day until the house is set to right,” Elizabeth instructed. “Has it been decided which members of the Rosings Park’s staff will accompany her ladyship to Bourgh House? I am assuming there has been no new hires to be in service to Bourgh House. Am I correct?”

“Not to my knowledge on either issue of staff,” Mrs. Fischer confessed.

Elizabeth thought those decisions should have been made long before this day arrived. Mr. Darcy should not be made to hire a new cook and butler and housekeeper simply because Lady Catherine preferred to ignore her future and live in the past. “It is likely best if we make a quick inventory of what furniture is available, then we should return to the manor house and determine what pieces hold sentimental value to Lady Catherine and make arrangements for them to be transferred here. I shall ask Mr. and Mrs. Collins to temper her ladyship’s reluctance to participate in this process.”

“Do you suppose Mr. Darcy will deny Lady Catherine her choice of staff and furnishings?” Mrs. Fischer inquired.

Elizabeth chose her words carefully. It would upset the Collinses if Elizabeth’s opinions offended her ladyship. “I possess no means of knowing whether such discussions have passed between the gentleman and your mistress, but, from what little I know of the situation, I doubt such has occurred. While women believe a room should be filled with memories, men prefer to think of a room’s structural usage foremost.”

“I expect you are correct, miss. Even though I suspect this transition will cause a rift in the family, I pray otherwise.”  

Elizabeth suspected a rift in the family already existed: Did not Lady Catherine accuse her son in marriage of murder?

Posted in Austen Authors, book release, British history, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, heroines, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, reading, Regency era, romance, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Condemned by the Church of England and the Catholic Church, Yet … Famous Suicides in the Regency Era

Suicide was condemned by the Church of England, as well as the Catholic church during the Regency. In the late Georgian Era, one who was named as having committed suicide was to be buried naked, at the crossroads with a stake through his/her heart and his goods and money forfeited to the King for a year. Suicide was more a crime against God. It was more a religious thing about not being buried in consecrated ground. Supposedly, from some accounts, before the Reformation, after the suicide, the man’s goods went to the Church, and it was only after the Reformation that they went to the King.

Felo de se, Lating for “felon of him- or herself,” was applied against the personal estates (assets) of adults who committed suicide. Early on, English Common Law considered suicide a crime. Although dead, a person found guilty of the crime would have penalties, including forfeiture of property to the monarch and a shameful burial. Beginning in the 1600s, precedent and coroners’ custom gradually labeled “suicide” more of a temporary insanity than a crime against nature.  In the 17th and 18th centuries in England, as suicides came to be seen more and more as an act of temporary insanity, many coroner’s juries began declaring more suicide victims as non compos mentis (temporarily insane) instead. As such the perpetrator’s property was not forfeit (given to the Crown). MacDonald and Murphy write that “By the 1710s and 1720s, over 90 per cent of all suicides were judged insane, and after a period of more rigorous enforcement of the law, non compos mentis became in the last three decades of the century the only suicide verdict that Norwich Coroners returned. …Non compos mentis had become the usual verdict in cases of suicide by the last third of the century.” [Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England by Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy (1990). Chapter 4.]

Eventually, that period of “payment” was reduced to a year. After the year, the man’s property reverted to his heirs, but his family remained tainted by the act. Like the public hangings, the treatment of suicides was supposed to strike terror in the people, as well as show how the act would leave the family poor for a year to act as a deterrent. In England and Wales, the offense of felo de se was abolished by section 1 of the Suicide Act 1961

The burying at the crossroads with a stake through the heart was a bit of superstition left over from previous ages where it was thought the ghost of suicides would haunt people and  places unless pegged in place. Evil spirits could be made to stay in one place and not haunt people if a stake pinned them to the ground. A crossroads would misdirect the spirit, and it could no longer find its way home.

This punishment could be avoided if the verdict was “while balance of the mind was disturbed,” or the equivalent statement related to mental stability. Generally, the more prominent the man, the more likely it was that the verdict would be “balance of the mind was disturbed.”

Samuel Whitbread II by John Opie ~ Public Domain

In 1815, a Member of Parliament (MP), Samuel Whitbread, shocked society by committing suicide. The Coroner said that the heavy responsibility of being an MP at that time was too much for him. Whitbread was an MP for Bedford, a post he held for 23 years. He was a reformer—a champion of religious and civil rights and for the abolition of slavery. He was a proponent of a national education system, and, in 1795, sponsored an unsuccessful bill for the introduction of a minimum wage for workers. He was a close colleague of Charles James Fox, and became the leader of the Whigs upon Fox’s death. In 1805, he led the campaign to remove Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, from office. 

What most do not know of Whitbread was his admiration for Napoleon and French leader’s reforms in France and Europe. Whitbread strongly advocated for Britain’s withdrawal from the Continent during the war years. Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 was a devastating blow to Whitbread’s beliefs. He began to suffer from depression, and on the morning of 6 July 185, he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor. 

(c) National Trust, Croft Castle; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1818, Sir Richard Croft, 6th Baronet, the English physician to the British Royal family, who had attended Princess Charlotte and became famous due to his role in “the triple obstetrical tragedy,” killed himself when another patient died. 

When Princess Charlotte conceived in February 1817, Croft was chosen to attend her. Following medical dogma, Croft restricted her diet and bled her during the pregnancy. Her membranes broke on 3 November 1817. The first stage of labor lasted 26 hours. At the beginning of the second stage of labour, Croft sent for Dr. John Sims, who arrived 7 hours later. The second stage of labour lasted 24 hours. He had correctly diagnosed a transverse lie of the baby during labor; however, forceps were not used as they had fallen into disfavor in the British medical community. Eventually Princess Charlotte delivered  a stillborn 9-pound male. Five hours later she died. An autopsy ruled that Croft “had done his best.” However, the death of the Princess continued to weigh heavily on Croft, and on 13 February 1818, at age 56, he killed himself with a gun. Near his body a copy of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost was found open with the passage (Act V, Scene II): “Fair Sir, God save you! Where is the Princess?”

The website Prinny’s Taylor lays out more than one version of Sir Richard Croft’s death, including several conflicting reports in the Times and the inquest findings. If interested, you may read that report HERE.

Both Croft and his wife are buried at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. A memorial to them is found within the church.

CC BY-SA 4.0
File:A memorial to Sir Richard Croft, 6th Baronet, in St James’s Church, Piccadilly.jpg
Created: 31 January 2019

 

November 1818, Sir Samuel Romilly, a British lawyer, politician and legal reformer, died by cutting his throat. It was said that he was despondent over the death of his wife. From a background in the commercial world, he became well-connected, and rose to public office and a prominent position in Parliament. After an early interest in radical politics, he built a career in chancery cases, and then turned to amelioration of the British criminal law.

Sir Samuel Romilly by Sir Thomas Lawrence, painting, circa 1806-1810 ~ Public Domain

 

Romilly worked to reform the criminal law. He spent a dozen years of his life on the passage through Parliament of legislative reforms. In 1808, Romilly managed to repeal the Elizabethan statute which made it a capital offense to steal from the person. Successful prosecutions of pickpockets then rose. In 1809, three bills for repealing draconian statutes were thrown out by the House of Lords. Romilly saw further bills rejected; but in March 1812 he had repealed a statute of Elizabeth I making it a capital offense for a soldier or a mariner to beg without a pass from a magistrate or his commanding officer. Romilly failed to pass a law which would have abolished corruption of blood for all crimes, but in the following year he tried again and succeeded (except for treason and murder).  Also in 1814, he succeeded in abolishing hanging, as well as drawing and quartering. 

On 29 October 1818 Lady Romilly died in the Isle of Wight. A few days later, on 2 November 1818, Romilly cut his throat, and died in a few minutes, in his house on Russell Square in London. His nephew Peter Mark Roget attended him in his final moments.  His last words were written: My dear, I wish … presumably regarding his late wife.

Lord Byron was not at all kind to Romilly’s memory because of the part Romilly played in Byron’s separation from his wife. Though Byron’s solicitor had engaged Romily to act for Byron, Romilly and Lushington had  acted for Lady Byron. The case never went to court and Byron never forgave Romilly. When Romilly died, Byron did not mourn him. He said something to the effect that it was ironic that after separating Byron from his wife, Romilly cut his own throat when he lost his own wife. 

As was the custom of the time, he was given a proper burial. Romilly was buried on 11 November 1818 at the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Knill, Herefordshire, along with his wife Ann.

Marble bust of Castlereagh by Joseph Nollekens, 1821. Yale Center for British Art ~ Public Domain

Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, usually known as Lord Castlereagh, derived from the courtesy title Viscount Castlereagh was an Anglo-Irish statesman and another high-ranking person Lord Byron “skinned” in his poetry.

Posterity will ne’er survey

A nobler grave than this:

Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:

Stop, traveller, and piss.

Beginning in 1812, Castlereagh served as the British Foreign Secretary. He played a key role in managing the coalition that eventually defeated Napoleon. He was the principal British diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. He was also leader of the British House of Commons for the Liverpool government.

Despite his contributions to Napoleon’s defeat, Castlereagh was extremely unpopular in the country he served. His critics disliked how he constructed peace, allowing reactionary governments on the Continent to suppress dissent. He was also called out for his association with the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth’s repressive measures at home. Castlereagh chose to support the infamous Six Acts, which suppressed any meetings advocating political reform in order to remain in cabinet and diplomatic work.

The suicides who died due to “unbalance of the mind” were often buried in a separate section of the church yard or family plots on their own grounds. They were not buried in “holy” ground. 

For these reasons, Castlereagh appears with other members of Lord Liverpool’s Cabinet in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy, which was inspired by and heavily critical of the Peterloo Massacre:

I met Murder on the way –
He had a mask like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him
All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

In 1822, he began to suffer from a form of a nervous breakdown. He was severely overworked with both his responsibilities in leading the government in the House and the never-ending diplomacy required to manage conflicts among the other major powers. At the time, he said “My mind, is, as it were, gone.” Towards the end of his life, there are increasing reports, both contemporaneous and in later memoirs, of exceptionally powerful rages and sudden bouts of uncharacteristic forgetfulness. He surprised his friends by admitting his belief in ghosts and other supernatural beings, in particular the “radiant boy”, a figure which emerges from fire and is supposed to foretell death, which he claimed he had seen as a young man in Ireland.

He is said to have told the King during a meeting on August 9 that he was being watched by a servant who was tailing him everywhere. It is also reported that he told the King, “I am accused of the same crime as the Bishop of Clogher,” referring to Percy Jocelyn, the Bishop of Clogher who had been accused of homosexuality the previous month. Many later thought, after the suicide, that Castlereagh was being blackmailed.

The King surmised that Castlereagh believed he was being blackmailed for the same reason. It remains unclear whether there was some sort of extortion attempt, and if so, whether such attempt represented a real threat of exposure, or whether the purported blackmail was a symptom of paranoia. His friends and family were alarmed and hid his razor. Unfortunately, on 12 August, Castlereagh managed in the three to four minutes he was left alone to find a small knife with which he cut his own throat.

“A retrospective speculative diagnosis has linked various instances of (at the time) little explained illness to syphilis, possibly contracted at Cambridge. Stewart’s undergraduate studies were interrupted by a mysterious illness first apparent during the closing months of 1787, and which kept him away from Cambridge through the summer of 1788. Later, there were unexplained illnesses in 1801 and 1807, the first described by a contemporary as ‘brain fever”‘which would be consistent with syphilitic meningitis.” (Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

The Suicide of Lord Castlereagh by George Cruikshank, 1822 ~ Public Domain

The temporary insanity decree allowed Lady Londonderry to bury her husband in Westminster Abbey. The pallbearers included Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, Lord Sidmouth, the former Prime Minister, and two future Prime Ministers, the Duke of Wellington and Frederick Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich. Many viewed the verdict and Castlereagh’s public funeral as a damning indictment of the elitism and privilege of the unreformed electoral system. His funeral on 20 August was greeted with jeering and insults along the processional route, although not to the level of unanimity projected in the radical press. A funeral monument was not erected until 1850.

Soon there after, a carpenter or such who committed suicide and was to be buried naked at the cross roads with a stake in his heart.

“Crossroads burials ended with the increasing understanding of mental illness and depression, particularly after the suicide of Lord Castlereagh in 1822. Many Londoners were also shocked in 1823 at the crossroads burial of Abel Griffiths – a disturbed young man who had killed his father – at the junction of Eaton Street, Grosvenor Place and the King’s Road. Crossroads burials were abolished by an act of parliament the same year. Few objected, although one argument against abolition was that the disgrace of crossroads burial was a ‘deterrent’ to suicide.” [History Extra]

Even so, for the common man, the suicides who died due to “unbalance of the mind” were often buried in a separate section of the church yard or family plots on their own grounds. They were not buried in “holy” ground. 

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, political stance, Regency era, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Regency Militia, a Guest Post from Jann Rowland

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 24 June 2020. Enjoy! 

Last month I alluded to an upcoming work which will drive the topics I intend to talk about over the next few posts. That topic was the various levels of Regency gentlemen and how they interacted with other classes. For this post, I wanted to talk about another subject of which we hear so much, but most of us (raises hand) don’t know as much as we think we did: Regency militias.

Militias in Regency times were not part of a standing fighting force—in fact, they were raised in times of war or need, and their primary purpose was to defend the homeland, act as a policing force, and maintain order. Each shire was responsible for raising their own militia, and the companies were posted in other counties. This was to avoid any conflict within the company, for if they were required to put down unrest, it was possible they would sympathize with those to whom they were to bring order.

The men of the militia were not the caliber of those of the regulars. The militia was strictly a home force. There was not possibility of a militia company being sent overseas. As a result, their training was sparse, though the men were responsible for being familiar with their weapons and training was mandated.

Men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to make themselves available for service, but in practice, many had no wish to dedicate 5 to 7 years of their life to the militia. If a man did not wish to serve, he had the option of paying another to serve in his place. As this would cost the man £25 or more, which was a significant portion of what a man could make in a year, few could afford it.

As for the officers, they were not commissioned as were the officers of the regulars. Instead, a man had to own land of a certain value to qualify for a certain rank, or his father had to own the land, though usually if the man’s father owned the land, the value of the land had to be double what the man owned himself. For example, if a man wished to be a lieutenant, he had to possess land worth at least £50 a year, or his father needed to own land worth £100 per year.

In practice, it was often quite difficult to find enough men to fill the officers’ ranks, especially at the lower levels. This is why George Wickham, a man who possessed nothing more than the clothes on his back, was able to become a lieutenant, as the requirements were often ignored.

Generally speaking, the Lydia and Kitty Bennets of the world aside, the militia often possessed a difficult relationship with the surrounding populace. Not only were the populace required to host them in barracks and see to the financial needs of hosting a company, but they were often resentful of the militia’s tendency to leave without paying debts, not to mention the behavior of the men in their towns. The situation George Wickham left in Meryton when the militia regiment departed for Brighton was not uncommon.

It is little wonder that the officers often found themselves involved with mischief, for they were considered gentlemen, and engaged in local society as a result. Life in the militia was not an adventure, for there was little to do but drill, and most had little interest in such activities. The officers often spent their days in frivolity and society, flirting, gambling, and other unserious pursuits. Given these circumstances, it is little wonder girls such as Lydia Bennet found themselves infatuated with these so-called gallant men, who were at leisure to project whatever image they wished.

It would also be unsurprising if the militia companies got up to even greater mischief, for as the saying goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Perhaps I am giving a little away, but we shall see more than simple flirtation and debts.

 

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, George Wickham, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, military, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Jacob Rey (aka John King), a Jewish Money Lender in George III’s England

In A Touch of Love, book 6 in my highly popular Realm series, I  ventured into territory many Regency era writers avoid: the question of religious practices during the Regency. Georgette Heyer’s portrayal of Jews during the reign of George III has often been met with criticism as perpetuating stereotypes. [Note! This piece originally appeared on English Historical Fiction Authors in 2013.]

Over the years, the “backlash” regarding Georgette Heyer’s depiction of the Jewish faith in Regency England has become better known (See http://vacuousminx.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/jewish-stereotypes-in-georgette-heyers-novels/

and

http://vacuousminx.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/authorial-intrusion-and-reader-response-my-georgette-heyer-experience/ for examples of the reported offending passages and the changes the current publisher of Heyer’s works has made to those passages).

As I considered adding several Jewish characters to this book, I wished for a more honest portrait of not only the prejudice practiced against the Jewish race, but also the prejudice existing between the two “nations” occupying Georgian England. I sought the assistance of many of my Jewish friends and acquaintances for accurate portrayals of the Jewish experience. My novel addresses the question of conversion to the Church of England’s tenets.

250px-BoD_Master_Logo_CMYK.jpg That said, today, I mean to speak of the Jewish “influence” I avoided in this latest novel: the life of Jacob Rey, the “Jew King” and those like him. “Jewish money lenders” were the source of the criticism directed upon Heyer.

In 1800, London was the most populated city (900,000 people) in Europe. It offered an exceptional opportunity for the advancement of motivated Jews who had shed the limitations of traditional Judaism. At the time, there were few legal barriers to success in both the social and economic realms. London’s complex and largely unfettered patterns of municipal life permitted those ambitious enough to succeed a step up. There was a certain mutability present among those of various groups in the arena of social interactions. The wealthy landowners’ self-indulgent moral values resting in pleasure and entertainment made London a sanctuary for those who knew how to satisfy patrician needs and manipulate their weaknesses.

Jacob Rey (later known as John King, 1753-1824), a moneylender and radical writer well known in London society,  flourished as a non-interventionist moneylender during late-Georgian London. Although he was far from being a leader of the Jewish community, Rey was one of the more well-known Jews of the period (1780-1820). Truthfully, I do not think of King’s career as being representative of the period, but I do see his “maneuverings” as indicative of the culture perpetuated by English society.

Rey’s father, Moses, was a self-effacing street merchant. According to several sources, Moses referred to himself as “Sultan” and dressed in “Turkish” garb, leading to the assumption he was of North African ancestry. Other sources claim the elder Rey misspent his fortune and was forced to peddle “bawdy” wares across the English countryside. Unlike many of his fellow tradesmen, however, Moses continued to see to Jacob’s education, an advantage, which assisted Jacob’s efforts to move within English Society.

In 1764, Jacob entered the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish charity school. This Sephardic school offered its students instruction in both religious and secular subjects. English, for example, was taught and many of the traditional Hebrew writings were translated into English. When Jacob departed the school in 1771, the wardens of the charity paid a premium of five pounds to apprentice him as a clerk in a Jewish house in the City. Within a few years, Rey anglicized his name, going by John King. Such name changes were not usual business among the Jews of Georgian England, which indicates Rey meant to leave behind both his Jewish and his Spanish ancestries.

Following his clerkship, King became articled to an attorney for a short period. Attorneys were “men of business.” They were not attorneys in the modern sense in the U.S. They drew up wills, bills of exchange, mortgages, etc. They also operated an informal credit system, which brought creditors and debtors together. Remember there were no well-developed credit and investment institutions present at the time. King learned his lessons well with in apprenticeship.

By the age of one and twenty, King was a very active moneylender. In Profiles in Diversity: Jews in a Changing Europe 1750 – 1870, Todd Endelmann writes, “The association of Jews with money-lending was hoary, dating back to the High Middle Ages, when it was the single most important pursuit in the Jewish communities of England, northern France and Germany. Long after money-lending had ceased to play a critical role in the Ashkenazic economy, the myth of the Jew as grasping and usurious, hard-hearted and hard-dealing, remained alive. Even in so commercially sophisticated a society as Georgian England, critics of Jews continued to view them en bloc as usurers, sometimes literally but more often in the sense that they transferred the standards of usury to other trades in which they had become active.”

Whatever the “stigma,” King rose quickly as one of the Jewish communities most identifiable citizens. In 1775, he sent a donation of 100 pounds to the Sephardic charity school in appreciation for his education. In 1776, he married Sara, daughter of Benjamin Nunes Lara and sister of Moses Nunes Lara, future patron of the Sephardic synagogue.

One must understand lending money to aristocrats was a dangerous and very risky business. Gentlemen of the ton thought speaking and handling money matters quite disdainful. They also thought nothing of abandoning their commitments. Therefore, King contracted debts in an atmosphere which encouraged both borrower and lender to take advantage of each other’s weaknesses. We know little of King’s business practices other than the accounts of some of his “borrowers.” Charles James Fox, the Prince of Wales, the third Earl of Orford and the fourth Earl of Sandwich were among the well-known clients of Jewish money-lenders.

King frequently functioned as a money broker, rather than as a lender. Those with money to lend often wished a higher than legal interest rate (above 5%) in their transactions. King served as a middle man, who bargained loans for others, taking a fee for himself. To be successful in the role, King aggressively developed the social contact of members of the haut ton. He entertained copiously and regularly. King also had made a meticulous analysis of the peerage. He learned the names and connections of each family, the value of the associated properties, the mortgaged estates, and the impediments on the title.

King also operated money-lending offices and even advertised his business in the London newspapers, all under assumed “Christian” names, for example, Messrs John Dear and Company, an office in Three Kings Court.

King acquired a despicable reputation early on and was never able to shake it. He was known to take advantage of certain clients. He became entangled in numerous lawsuits stemming from his business ventures; his name appeared frequently in newspapers and journals, usually in an unflattering context. On two occasions, once in 1784 and again in 1802, he fled the country to avoid imprisonment. 

On Christmas Day 1790, The Times described King, with heavy-handed sarcasm, as “without any matter of doubt one of the most respectable characters in this country, and until the later attack on him, the breath of infamy never blew on his reputation. In all his dealings with mankind he has been the strict, upright, honest man. He never took advantage of the distresses of a fellow creature , in order to rob him of his property – he never extracted exorbitant interest for discounting a bill – he was justly paid every debt he contracted to the uttermost farthing; and in a domestic line of life has proved himself a fond – faithful – loving husband – a tender affectionate and praiseworthy parent, and a feeling steady and sincere friend. Chaste in all his actions – virtuous in every sentiment – and unsullied in his reputation as a Man, a Money Lender, a Jew, and a Christian.”

Although an unsavory reputation clung to King, he never suffered from a lack of clients. Gentlemen and ladies of the beau monde clamored for his services. Surprisingly, King’s Jewish background played little in his public persona. His ancestry was not held accountable for his wickedness. “Similarly, attacks on King did not degenerate into condemnations of Anglo-Jewry as a whole, nor did they call for the imposition of special laws to restrain Jews as a body, as had happened earlier in the century. Of course, King’s carryings-on reinforced the popular image of the Jew as untrustworthy in money matters, but they did not provoke generalized discussions of Jewish avarice or misanthropy. This may have been due, in part, to the relatively high degree of tolerance already enjoyed by English Jews, at least in comparison to conditions on the Continent, and, in part, to the absence of a rigorous code of commercial ethics at many levels of society. In short, King may have been thought of as a rogue among many, his Jewishness as incidental to his shortcomings, or, at least, as not responsible for them.”

CharlotteDacre.jpg

Note! King’s daughter, Charlotte Dacre, was an English author of Gothic novels, who first wrote under the pseudonym Rosa Matilda. Her father divorced her mother, Sara, née Lara, under Jewish law in 1784 before setting up home with the Dowager Countess of Lanesborough. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~
 The Realm has returned to England to claim the titles they left behind. Each man holds to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love and home, but first he must face his old enemy Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald. Mir will have the emerald’s return or will exact his bloody revenge..

Aristotle Pennington has groomed SIR CARTER LOWERY as his successor as the Realm’s leader, and Carter has thought of little else for years. He has handcrafted his life, filled it with duties and responsibilities, and eventually, he will choose a marriage of convenience to bolster his career; yet, Lucinda Warren is a temptation he cannot resist. Every time he touches her, he recognizes his mistake because his desire for her is not easily quenched. To complicate matters, it was Mrs. Warren’s father, Colonel Roderick Rightnour, whom Sir Carter replaced at the Battle of Waterloo, an action which had named Carter a national hero and her father a failure as a military strategist.

LUCINDA WARREN’s late husband has left her to tend to a child belonging to another woman and has drowned her in multiple scandals. Her only hope to discover the boy’s true parentage and to remove her name from the lips of the ton’s censors is Sir Carter Lowery, a man who causes her body to course with awareness, as if he had etched his name upon her soul. A cruel twist of Fate has thrown them together three times, and Lucinda prays to hold off her cry for completion long enough to deny her heart and to release Sir Carter to his future: A future to which she will never belong.

“The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout.”

Publishers Weekly

Posted in British history, business, Georgian England, Great Britain, history, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments