Very “Real” Estate: Axminster

Axminster is a market town and civil parish of about 6,000 on the eastern border of Devon. The town is built upon a hill and overlooks the River Axe. The town dates back to around 300 BC. There was once a Roman fort on the crossroads at Woodbury Farm, south of the present town center. Axminster is one of only 15 British town on the Peutinger Map (also referred to a Peutinger’s Tabula or Peutinger’s Table). It is an illustrated itinerarium displaying the road network of the Roman Empire. It is a 13th C copy of a Roman original, drawn upon parchment. Aixminster lies on two major Roman roads: the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Seaton and the Dorchester to Exeter road. 

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Tabula Peutingeriana (section)—top to bottom: Dalmatian coast, Adriatic Sea, southern Italy, Sicily, African Mediterranean coast ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_Peutingeriana#/media/File:Part_of_Tabula_Peutingeriana.jpg

Aixminster was registered in the 1086 Domesday Book as “Ascanmynster,” meaning a monastery located near the river Axe. In 1210, the town was granted the privilege of holding a weekly cattle market. This weekly market continued until the 2006 UK foot-and-mouth breakout. The town was on the London to Exeter coaching route, and in 1760, a coaching inn named The George Hotel opened on the corner of Lyme and Chard streets. Nearly 20 coaches a day stopped at The George. 

 

 

The town has lended its name to a type of carpets, which are known worldwide. The carpets are consider among England’s finest. They were first made (1775) at Court House near the town church. The carpets in those days were hand tufted, and, traditionally, the completion of a carpet was marked by a peal of bells from the parish church. The bells celebrated the hard work put into the carpet, and the town folk would flock to the workshop to have a look at the latest production.

The inspiration for Thomas Whitty’s founding of Axminster Carpets is uncertain. Some claim he was inspired by watching several French carpetmakers at work in Fulham. Others say he saw a large Turkish carpet at the market in London’s Cheapside and was compelled to learn more of the workmanship. It is said he returned to Axminster and went to work creating a piece of similar quality. He invented and built a new type of loom to permit the hand knotting of carpets. Axminster carpets graced the floors of the Brighton Royal Pavilion, Saltram House, Warwick Castle, and Chatsworth House. It is said King George III and Queen Charlotte purchases Axminster carpets and even toured the small factory from which they came. 

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George III Axminster Carpet, England, by Thomas Whitty, late 18th century ~ This enormous late 18th century Axminster carpet was made by Whitty for the Music Room at Powderham Castle, 1798. Image @Eloge de l’Art par Alain Truong ~ https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/samuel-whitty/

 

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Large Axminster carpet, late 18th century. From Cowdray Park and Dunecht House, At Cowdray Park, West Sussex. Image @Christie’s. https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/samuel-whitty/

 

According to Axminster Heritage, “In order to support his young family, Whitty travelled to London to seek a fresh trade. Here, in the warehouse of a William Freke, he saw some carpets imported from Turkey. He marveled not only at their vibrant colours but also their size and the fact that they were seamless. For a long time he puzzled as to how they could be made.

A Turkey Carpet

After much thought, Whitty had some ideas that he wished to try out. On Easter Fair day that year (25 April 1755), as his employees were away at the fair, he conducted some trials and succeeded in making an eight-inch square of ‘Turkey’ carpet. Although excited by his success he realised that he did not know of a loom that would enable him to make them economically.

“Many years later, in a 1790 letter to his sons, Whitty described how he overcame this difficulty. By chance he saw an advertisement for a carpet manufactur- ing company in Fulham owned by Peter Parisot, a French immigrant. He tells how he went to an inn close to the factory with the hope of making the acquaintance of some of the workers. He started talking with a man whose son was an apprentice at the carpet factory and, through him, was able to gain access to the works. Whitty wrote: “Accordingly, I obtained a view of everything I wanted, by which every remaining difficulty was removed from my mind and I was thoroughly satisfied.”

“Although he had seen how to make his carpets at the Fulham factory, he knew that the carpets made there were much too expensive and a cheaper method of production needed to be found. Although he reduced the number of knots per square inch, the labour cost was still too high. Thus, when he started to make his first carpet on Midsummer’s Day 1755, it was his own children, under the watchful eye of their aunt Betty Harvey, who were his first workforce. Throughout his life, Whitty employed mainly girls of between ten and seventeen years. His competitors employed mainly men, so not only was he able to gain the advantage of lower labour costs, but the girls’ fingers were much more nimble than those of the men, giving him an edge in productivity.

“Thomas Whitty’s first carpet was to have been bought by a Mr Cook of Beaminster but was seen by the Countess of Shaftsbury, who insisted on having it herself. Further orders followed and, in 1757 the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (the forerunner of the Royal Society for the Arts) ran a competition for the best value carpet submitted to them. Although the carpet submitted by Thomas Moore of Moorfields was judged to be the finest carpet – being made of the highest quality materials – it was very expensive (forty guineas). The one made by Thomas Whitty was deemed the best value in proportion to its price (£15), and the prize was divided between them.

“Whitty’s prize-winning entry was bought by a William Crompton who, putting it on display in his warehouse in Charing Cross, received so many enquiries that he asked Whitty to supply as many carpets as possible for him to sell. In the following year a similar competition was held and again Whitty shared the prize – this time with a Claude Passavant of Exeter. Interestingly, Peter Parisot moved his Fulham factory to Exeter in 1755 and the following year sold it to Passavant. As Whitty had observed in Fulham, the carpets made in Exeter, although very fine, were much too expensive. (The one submitted for the competition was valued at eighty guineas).”

For some 80 years, until a fire in 1828 destroyed the weaving looms, Axminster produced the best hand-knotted carpets in Europe, and they made them with a small staff and only one workshop. Even today, some of the best homes have Axminster carpets. The largest of the carpets produced was for the Sultan of Turkey’s Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Made in 1822, it measures 74 feet by 52 feet. Alas, the palace is now a museum, but no one can account for the missing carpet. 

In 1835, Samuel Rampson Whitty, the grandson of the founder, declared bankruptcy, having never recovered from the fire seven years earlier. Blackmores of Wilton, near Salisbury, bought the remaining stock and looms and extended their business to include hand-knotted carpets, which are still called “Axminsters.”

 

 

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Nigel Lewis’s “The Cover Plan Conspiracy,” a Deception Created by the Allied Forces in WWII

On June 6 of this week, I posted an article on Exercise Tiger, which was a tragic rehearsal for D-Day. That article brought me to the notice of Nigel Lewis, who has written extensively on the subject. Therefore, I asked him to guest post with us. 

unnamed.pngThe Cover Plan Conspiracy takes a new look at a subject that I first wrote about in a book published thirty years ago. Its American title was Exercise Tiger, after the US landing-operation of that name held in the English Channel in late April, 1944.

Tiger is remembered for an incident in the early morning of April 28th, when the last of its eight convoys – Convoy T-4 – was set upon by German E-boats. Two of its landing-ships were sunk, and 639 Americans lost their lives. The incident is routinely mentioned in the histories of D-Day and the Normandy invasion, and readers might imagine that there is nothing new to be said about it. 

But there is. The T-4 incident is usually seen as a temporary setback in the Allied preparations for the invasion. Set in the final few weeks before D-Day,  The Cover Plan Conspiracy goes behind the scenes of the preparations and makes major discoveries about Tiger and T-4. I do not peddle some conspiracy theory. The book is based on hard evidence and years of research in the British National Archives. [Please note: The active part of Exercise Tiger, after the ships set sail, was divided into three phases, 1) the seaborne phase, 2) the landings, 3) the movement inland of the troops who had been landed. The piece below concerns only the seaborne phase (1). The landings were on Slapton Sands. The attack on T-4 was during the seaborne phase, and it occurred almost forty miles from Slapton Sands, off the county of Dorset.]

To the men on T-4 and the other convoys, Tiger was just another training exercise. Their commanding officers knew that it was also a dress rehearsal for the Utah Beach landing in Normandy. But there was something else that even their commanders didn’t know. One of my discoveries is that Tiger was tightly locked into the schedule of the invasion’s top-secret deception plan, Operation Fortitude, also known as the Cover Plan. In fact, the exercise was at the cutting-edge of the Plan, its so-called tactical threat delivered on April 24th, the day that Tiger began.

There was, then, a deceptive side to Tiger, which has been hidden by subtle distortions of its history. In 1944, for example, the Allied Naval Commander, Admiral Bertram Ramsay, claimed that the E-boats were on a routine reconnaissance sortie when they chanced to run into Convoy T-4. The Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, made the same claim in 1946. The claim is false and was known to be so. The E-boats did not simply happen upon their targets. Almost two days before the attack, the enemy had learned that there were about to be large-scale Allied amphibious operations in the west of the English Channel.

On the morning of April 26th, just hours before the first convoy put to sea, German photo-reconnaissance aircraft overflew Torbay, a natural harbour in the western Channel where ten of Tiger’s landing-ships lay at anchor. It would have been clear from the photos that the ships were combat-loaded, ready for action. The Germans did not know it was an exercise. To them, it looked like the long-expected invasion. Hitler himself anticipated that the invasion would be on April 26th.

Certain British officers in charge of the shore defences knew that the recce (Reconnaissance) had tipped off the enemy. But by disguising it in the intelligence bulletins as a harmless flight over the sea “off Dartmouth”, they concealed this vital piece of information. An even more disturbing discovery is that the Allied air forces paved the way for the reconnaissance. During exercises, it was considered “essential” that air-patrols should watch over the loaded ships while they were still in harbour. A few days later the even bigger D-Day rehearsal, Exercise Fabius, was patrolled by the RAF. The patrols for Tiger, however, were cancelled, leaving a wide-open window of opportunity for enemy aircraft to fly through.

Early that morning, the E-boats had arrived in Cherbourg, having moved there from Boulogne. Royal Navy intelligence knew that the move meant that E-boat operations in the west of the Channel were imminent. It also knew that the E-boats only put to sea after their targets had been identified by German air reconnaissance. A German message decrypted by the British code-cracking operation, Ultra, revealed that an E-boat sortie “northwestward” from Cherbourg was planned for the night of the 26th/ 27th, but postponed. Also decrypted by Ultra was a report on the air reconnaissance over Torbay. A copy of it was sent to the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham.

By lunchtime on the 27th, it was clear that E-boats were about to prowl the western Channel, and that great danger awaited Convoy T-4 – the only convoy still in harbour. Leatham had the power to stop it from sailing, but did nothing. Other evidence of underhand action and inaction by him is in Chapters 20 and 21 of my book. He could and should have allocated more warships to Tiger, and because he didn’t its convoys – all apart from the first one – were very weakly defended. 

What explains this devious behaviour by one ally towards another? The Cover Plan does. Fortitude was nothing if not devious. Its aim was to divert attention from the real area of the invasion, Normandy, by convincing the enemy that the Allies would land 150 miles away at the narrow, eastern end of the Channel, in the area known as the Pas de Calais. Historians have not appreciated how difficult it was to fit the far western end of the Channel – where the Americans were – into this plan. As I explain in Part 1 of my book, the fact that there were more invasion ports to the west than to the east, and the refusal of the Americans to take the Cover Plan seriously, only added to the difficulty.

The success of Fortitude was considered indispensable to the invasion, and the failure of the invasion was unthinkable. For all its make believe, Fortitude was a major operation of war, in which it was legitimate to take risks. It aimed to save Allied lives, but above all it aimed to expedite the invasion, even at the cost of incurring loss of life.

This all has a bearing on Tiger, in several ways. The key point is that because the Americans were too far away from the Pas de Calais to include them in the master-narrative of the Cover Plan, another story had to be found for them. We cannot be sure what the story was. But a “pretended diversion” to the west was probably part of it, and a provocative “mock-invasion” certainly was.

There is also the distressing possibility that Tiger was a sacrifice operation carried out to create an impression of Allied unpreparedness and weakness in the west. Tiger was not the first exercise to double as a deception, and unwitting Allied servicemen – and British civilians – were sometimes killed in deception operations. The sacrifice was usually on a comparatively small scale, but in late April the tactical threat allowed for great risks to be taken to safeguard the secret that Normandy was the Allied landing-area. The large presence of US forces in the west jeopardised the secret, and the high death-toll of Tiger may be an indication of how much it mattered to establish a fake “cover story” for the Americans.

The western alliance was supposed to be bilateral in its thinking, planning, and decision-making. But where the Cover Plan is concerned, the bilateralism broke down. Fortitude was almost entirely a British operation, and it was certainly the British who took the lead in hatching and implementing the scheme within Fortitude – a secret scheme that deserves to be called a conspiracy – that collaterally contributed to the deaths of 639 Americans in the E-boat attack. An unresolved question is the extent to which Supreme Allied Headquarters and some of its US generals, including Eisenhower, were aware of the scheme.

The English Channel in early 1944 was a highly dangerous place, and Tiger’s seaborne phase was made even more perilous by the lowering of the air and sea defences and the dissembling of the enemy air recce over Torbay. These were all intentional measures, and in my book I suggest that whether or not Tiger was used as the vehicle for a sacrifice operation, it “certainly became one”. I also say that the 639 who died were “sacrificial victims of the Cover Plan”.

I stop short of saying that a sacrifice on that scale was specifically intended. Before coming to that conclusion, I would want further evidence. Meanwhile, there is the evidence that we already have, of premeditation on the Allied side of the Channel. The deceptionists – as the deceivers called themselves – must have realised that their actions increased the odds that one of Tiger’s convoys would be attacked, ships sunk, and lives lost. They may, however, have gambled on the chance that there would be no attack, or, if there were one, that its death-toll would be low – an acceptable price to pay for the security of the invasion.

If so, the gamble did not come off.

Copyright © 2017, Nigel Lewis

Excerpts from The Cover Plan

        From Chapter 1 – Hesketh’s History

In Arlington Cemetery, Virginia, is a plaque to the memory of the men who died that night. Commending their sacrifice, it states that they died in “the Allied cause”. So they did, but the same may be said of any Allied soldier who died in World War II. In their case, the specific cause was deeply hidden. Caught without knowing it in a story designed to delude the enemy, they were sacrificial victims of the Cover Plan, whose ruthless demands were intrinsic to the catastrophe of T-4. The one operation – the training exercise – was mangled in the machinery of the other one: the deception structured around it.

British historian John Keegan’s description of the T-4 incident, “sad but subordinate”, no longer applies. It would be more accurate to say that it was made to seem subordinate. The emotive story of the doomed convoy turns out not to be random, after all. It can no longer be regarded as an optional add-on to the pre-D-Day history of the Normandy landings – it is right at the heart of that history. Nor can it be construed simply as a “sad” story, sad though it is. General Bradley, the commander of First US Army, rightly called it “one of the major tragedies of the European War”.

What happened to T-4 was monstrously unfair, but there is also a certain wartime inevitability to it, and it is a tragic inevitability. It seems incredible that hundreds of men could die merely for a story. But there were powerful forces at work in the background to Tiger, and the British too were prey to those forces, as we will see …

The deceptionists worked under a disadvantage. They were not responding to events so much as setting the scene for events yet to come, trying to mould an outcome that still lay in the future. Knowing that it was a successful outcome, we are less likely to be amenable to the idea that it might have been less successful if there had been no deception around Tiger, or that T-4 may have forestalled a greater tragedy. Those arguments now look frail and hypothetical. But the deceptionists lived with hypothesis on a daily basis. In trying to second-guess the enemy, they could only act on the basis of conjecture. The ramifications of this point will become clear as the story progresses.

The Cover Plan posed ethical dilemmas that most of us would find intolerable. But the deceptionists could not let the dilemmas detain them for long. They had to choose. They acted out of military necessity, as they saw it, and it is often hard to see how, in the circumstances, they might have acted differently.

But decisions that may have seemed inevitable to them at the time do not necessarily seem so to us in the present-day. There was, as we will see, an objective basis for the Tiger deception, but was it objectively necessary to go ahead with it? There can be no definitive answer to that question. It lies in the realm of “might-have-been” history. Objective necessity does not eliminate the human factor, however. That too had a part to play, as it usually does. Character-defects in some of the commanders make one suspect that the Tiger deception may have got out of hand and run away with itself. I am thinking of the stubborn pride and arrogance that the Greeks knew as hubris, and the misplaced “gung-ho” enthusiasm that is the fatal flaw of many a military disaster. Wartime deception is a dangerous game – the deceptionists may have played it too assiduously.

I will present the evidence known to me, and set the T-4 disaster in the context of the extreme and exacting circumstances in which the decision to weave a deception around Tiger seemed inevitable and right. Before the reader rushes to judgement, I ask that those circumstances be taken into account. It is not my intention either to blame the British en bloc, or to absolve them from blame. But it would be an over-simplification to take the story out of context and see it in black-and-white terms, with the British as the villains of the piece. Their judgements may be in doubt, but not their motives. They were not driven by narrow British self-interest. It was their duty to ensure the security of the invasion, and they took the decisions they did because they saw Allied advantage in taking them. They did not die in the Allied cause, but they did act in that cause. If this is immoral, it is the immorality of war itself.

The concept of the Tiger deception seems to have been British, and the operation was British-led, but readers should be aware from the outset that Americans too took part. The full extent of US participation is unclear, but there were certainly Americans active in carrying out the operation, and others who covered it up. It was eventually an Allied operation, as the Cover Plan was supposed to be. The story unfolds within a warring family – what Eisenhower called “the family relationship of SHAEF”. Americans and British were of course on the same side, not like the house of Atreus in Greek tragedy, warring with one another. It is well known, however, that they were not always as united in thought and deed as they liked to present themselves as being. T-4 – a secret grief of the western alliance – takes that knowledge to a new level.

From Chapter 6 – Sacrifice

Because of Allied protocol, the British could not directly intervene in the crisis in the west. But protocol could not be allowed to get in the way of the overriding operational need for a fully effective Cover Plan. Given US unwillingness to co-operate in the Plan, only the British could save the day by creating the “necessary false picture” in this area. They therefore had to intervene, but could only do so indirectly. Soon enough, Harold Kehm’s prediction of 1943 would come true, as the British took over the American share of the Cover Plan.

To repeat my earlier caveat, all the people in this story – British and American alike – were under the compulsion of the impersonal forces unleashed by war. It would be a mistake to interpret the story in wholly personal terms, to imagine, for example, that the British set out to settle a grudge and punish the Americans for their negligence and non-co-operation in the Cover Plan. That is not how it was. It was the misfortune of the Americans that they had the geographical bad luck of occupying the area that it was most problematic for the deceptionists to accommodate within the Cover Plan. At the same time, it was an Allied responsibility – which became a British responsibility – to ensure that the Overlord cover was watertight and comprehensive. Despite the high-level US reluctance to get involved in the Cover Plan, and despite the extreme difficulty posed by the West Country and the US forces concentrated there, leaving them out of the Plan was not an option.

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About the Books…

Set in England in the momentous final few weeks before the Normandy invasion of June 6th, 1944, this is the astonishing true story of the deadliest, best kept secret of the Anglo-American alliance of World War II.

The Cover Plan Conspiracy is a complete reappraisal of one of the most publicised but also most misunderstood episodes of the whole D-Day period. In the early morning of April 28, 1944, enemy torpedo-boats attacked an American troopship convoy in the west of the English Channel. Convoy T-4 was the final follow-up convoy of Exercise Tiger, a huge US dress rehearsal for the Normandy landings. The story ever since has been that the 639 Americans killed in the attack were the accidental victims of an unforeseen disaster in training.

The real story, told here for the first time, is devastatingly different. Nigel Lewis draws on extensive research and a wealth of fresh evidence to show that Exercise Tiger was secretly enmeshed in the Allied deception plan for Normandy, the invasion’s so-called “Cover Plan”. Without their knowledge, the men taking part in Tiger were entangled in Allied deception strategy, acting out a narrative designed to mislead the enemy before D-Day. The hundreds killed in the convoy disaster were secret sacrificial victims of the D-Day Cover Plan.

Shedding unprecedented light on Allied disarray and the secret war waged by the Allies before Normandy, this book breaks new ground. The Cover Plan was intended to fool the enemy for a few months. The cover-up of Tiger and T-4 has deceived the historians and peoples of two nations for more than seventy years.

The Cover Plan Conspiracy falls naturally into four parts – The Plan, ‘A Larger Plan’, The Operation, and The Cover-Up. All four parts are available here.

Please note, there are no maps in the book.

Part 1: The Plan sets the scene for the whole book and describes Anglo-American disagreements and other problems that led to the larger plan …

Part 2: ‘A Larger Plan’ shows the net closing around Tiger, and explains the circumstances in which the exercise got caught in the Cover Plan …

Part 3:  The Operation exposes the covert steps taken to weaken Tiger’s defences and tip off the enemy, culminating in the attack on its final convoy …

Part 4: The Cover-Up reveals what was done in 1944 and afterwards to conceal the Tiger deception and the real causes of the convoy disaster …

51ZWjGYSWRL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg   519ycaTho7L._SY373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg You might also check out…

Exercise Tiger: The Dramatic True Story of a Hidden Tragedy of World War II Hardcover – July, 1990 

(This book is only available from 3rd Party book sellers (starting at $3.95)

In the autumn of 1943, the United States armed forces, with the cooperation of the British government, evacuated seven villages and took over 30 acres of Devon to set up a high security camp where thousands of young American recruits could be trained for the forthcoming invasion of Europe. Known as Exercise Tiger, the operation included manoeuvres and rehearsals on landing craft in the English Channel. On the night of April 28th 1944, the landing craft had an inadequate escort of warships and seven German E-boats in the area moved in. At first, the Americans thought they were part of the exercise, but then they saw that their friends were being wounded and killed on several of the vessels, the order was given to abandon ship. Many of the soldiers who jumped, drowned soon after hitting the water.

unnamed-1.jpg Meet Nigel Lewis…

Nigel Lewis was born in Central America in 1948 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He was a journalist for twenty-five years, for the BBC and other outlets. The Cover Plan Conspiracy is his second excursion into the investigative history of World War II. His first book, Paperchase (1981), exposed a state secret of the Soviet bloc, the secret purloining, by Poland, of thousands of priceless musical and other manuscripts evacuated during the war from the Prussian State Library in Berlin. He is also the librettist of The First Commandment, the English version of an early Mozart opera.

In the late 1980’s he wrote a blow-by-blow documentary account of the E-boat attack on Exercise Tiger in 1944, published in the UK as Channel Firing and in the USA as Exercise Tiger. He is currently working on another book about the US presence in wartime Britain – Bugbear: the Americans and the Beaches of the West Country, 1943-1944. He lives in London, and spends part of the year in Italy. 

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Exercise Tiger, a Tragic Rehearsal for D-Day

Most of us know something of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.(Army.mil)

But what do you know of EXERCISE TIGER? Off Slapton Sands on the coast of Devon, 946 American servicemen perished during what was known a Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for what would be the D-Day landing on Utah Beach in Normandy, France. This occurred but nine days before the event mentioned above – on April 27, 1944. 

History.com describes Exercise Tiger thusly, “The dry run was designed to simulate the confusion and carnage of combat, but it became all too real after German torpedo boats stumbled upon the landing fleet and sank several of its ships. Despite the loss of some 750 American servicemen, the fiasco was initially covered up to ensure the D-Day mission remained secret. In the early morning hours of April 28, 1944, an Allied fleet slinked toward the coast of southern England. Along with a lone British corvette, the flotilla included eight American tank landing ships, or LSTs, each one of them filled to the brim with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s VII Corps. In just five weeks, these same troops were scheduled to land in France as part of Operation Overlord, the Allies’ secret plan to invade Nazi-held Western Europe. Overlord was integral to the Allied strategy for victory in World World II, and to ensure it went smoothly, military brass had organized a sweeping dress rehearsal codenamed ‘Exercise Tiger.””

Some 3000 residents from Slapton, Strete, Torcross, Blackawton and East Allington in South Devon departed their homes as part of the exercised designed by the American military. Slapton Sands reportedly resembled the Normandy coast line, and, therefore, it was chosen for the military simulation. 

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Troops involved in the action of Exercise Tiger ~ Credit: NARA

Historic UK tells us, “The beautiful and usually tranquil River Dart filled up with landing craft and ships for the operation. Nissen huts sprang up in Coronation Park in Dartmouth and new slipways and ramps were built on the river’s edge, all the way from Dartmouth up to Dittisham. Exercise Tiger was designed to be as realistic as possible and on 22nd April 1944 it began. Landing craft loaded with soldiers, tanks and equipment were deployed along the coast. However, unbeknown to the military, under cover of darkness nine German E-boats (fast attack craft) had managed to slip in amongst them in Lyme Bay. Two landing ships were sunk and a third badly damaged. Lack of training on the use of life vests, heavy packs and the cold water contributed to the disaster: many men drowned or died of hypothermia before they could be rescued. Over 700 Americans lost their lives.”

The exercise conducted upon Slapton beach also proved disastrous. It included a live-firing exercise creating what we now call “friendly fire” deaths from the naval bombardment. The losses occurring during this event were kept secret until long after the war had ended. 

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Lyme Bay, England ~ Wikimedia Commons

 

“Later that year on Sunday 4th June, the people of Dartmouth were ordered to stay indoors: tanks rolled through the town and troops converged on the harbour with its landing craft and ships. The following day 485 ships left the harbour, taking a full day to clear the mouth of the river and at dawn on the 6th June, the invasion of France began. Thanks to the training at Slapton, fewer soldiers died during the actual landing on Utah Beach than during Exercise Tiger, and so the training in Devon was not in vain.” (Historic UK)

Footnote:
Slapton was not the only site in Devon to be used by the American military during World War Two. The north coast around Woolacombe Bay was also used for practising amphibious landing assaults in preparation for the D-Day landings.

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Derbyshire and Well Dressings

The origin of the practice of what is known as “well dressings” is a bit of a mystery. Most believe the celebration dates back to the Celts, but few places, other than Derbyshire and Staffordshire, England, have kept the tradition. It is assumed that Derbyshire’s, in particular, remoteness kept the tradition from being usurped by the later Roman, Saxon, Danish and Norman invasions. Early Christians considered the decoration of wells as a pagan ritual, worshipping a water god. However, eventually, the churches relented. Today, most villages hold a church service to bless the well, which is followed by a carnival-like celebration. 

Tissington was the first village to re-introduce the practice, as far back as 1349. The celebration was to mark the fact that Tissington had escaped the Black Death. The Black Death was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. The clean water taps were decorated by the villagers.

In a “well dressing” ceremony, wells and springs decorated with pictures made from flowers and other natural materials. The pictures are constructed on a wooden frame, which has been soaked in a nearby river to make certain it is very wet. The frame has a wet clay backing to hold the flowers, etc. First, the outline of the image is made. Then the designer adds the more durable elements (those that do not dry up quickly). These are likely to be seeds, bark, pine needles, moss, etc. Finally, the flower petals are added. (In the U. S., much the same process is used to create the floats in the annual Rose Parade.) The items chosen for the image depend on the whether the celebration is a spring one or occurs in the autumn. 

 

 

WellDressing.com (which has a great section on the construction of the dressings) tells us, “In the early days, the dressing of wells would have taken the form of simple arrangements of flowers and other natural materials. In this form it takes place today in many parts of the world. The unique Derbyshire tradition of elaborate pictures made for the most part of individual flower petals pressed onto clay covered boards seems to date from Victorian times, when there were many movements afoot to revive and enhance old folk traditions. The earliest recorded examples are in Tissington, but the tradition quickly spread to other villages. Sometimes, as in Youlgrave, the Dressings appeared at the village taps (pumps or fountains) to celebrate the arrival of piped water; hence the reason why they are sometimes known as Tap Dressings.

“One example of Tap Dressing was in Endon in the mid-19th century, possibly as early as 1845. Endon is in Staffordshire, thus disproving the commonly held belief that Well Dressing beyond the boundaries of Derbyshire is a recent phenomenon. Like Tissington and Youlgrave, Endon continues the Well Dressing tradition to the present day.

“Another commonly held misconception is that Tissington is always the first Well Dressing of the year. This used to be true; Tissington has kept to the tradition of holding its Well Dressing Festival on Ascension Day, while the next group of dressings typically occurred at Whitsun. With the introduction of May holidays on fixed dates, however, a number of venues now hold their events in the early part of May. Because Ascension Day is a moveable feast, these can occur before of after the date of Tissington.

“Quite a number of town and villages have a long standing tradition of Well Dressing going back to the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Others have come and gone over the years, but the last few decades of the 20th century saw a great revival of the craft, with many villages in Derbyshire taking up the tradition. Villages in other counties did so too, often as a result of a former Derbyshire resident moving there. A kind of peak was reached with the Millennium Year when everyone seemed to pull out all the stops to make a great celebration. After that a slight malaise seemed to set in and a number of established venues disappeared from the calendar. Writing nearly a decade later, I am happy to be able to record another revival under way; although we may still be losing a few old established and much loved venues, many more new events are seeing the light of day each year.”

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Winter Well Dressing – Buxton ~ http://welldressing.com/extra.php

 

JeffersDT Note: I often use well dressing celebrations in my books. In one particular book, Darcy’s Temptation, Elizabeth and Georgiana purposefully dress in the same colors as the women in the winter well dressing depiction. It becomes a wonderful scene where Mr. Darcy’s learns a proper lesson regarding his new wife.

Resources: 

The Black Death

The Evolving Art of Well Dressing – Atlas Obscura (includes many wonderful images)

Visit Peak District

Well Dressing and Well Flowers – Historic UK

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, buildings and structures, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, publishing, real life tales, tradtions, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Characterization of Elinor Dashwood in Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”

Illustrated Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen book www.etsy.com

Illustrated Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen book http://www.etsy.com

Austen began writing Elinor and Marianne as an epistolary novel in 1795. It was published as Sense and Sensibility in 1811. The novel set the tone for many of Austen’s titles: defiance of the social and economic barriers to marriage and the desire of women to marry for love. In the novel, Elinor and Marianne possess parallel experiences: They both fall in love with men who cannot commit to them. Needless to say, Elinor Dashwood epitomizes the concept of “sense” in her dealings with with the world, while her sister Marianne models the concept of “sensibility.” In the novel, Elinor displays reason and propriety, while Marianne purports spontaneity, self indulgence, and a lack of decorum. 

One thing that is often confused by the modern reader is the contextual meaning of “sensibility” during Jane Austen’s time. “Sensibility” was a 15th Century word. Instead of meaning “an understanding of or ability to decide about what is good or valuable,” as we use it today, the word took on the meaning of a “peculiar susceptibility to a pleasurable or painful impression” or “refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste with especial responsiveness to the pathetic.” (Merriam-Webster

Austen’s novels criticized the novels of sensibility of the late 1700s. “The sentimental novel or the novel of sensibility is an 18th-century literary genre which celebrates the emotional and intellectual concepts of sentiment, sentimentalism, and sensibility. Sentimentalism, which is to be distinguished from sensibility, was a fashion in both poetry and prose fiction beginning in the eighteenth century in reaction to the rationalism of the Augustan Age.

Austen wrote her novel at the turn of the 19th Century between what is known as Classicism and Romanticism. Austen was always aware of those who came before her, and she acknowledges the 18th Century novels she read voraciously as having a distinct influence on her generation. The novel reflects the change in the literary landscape with the turn of the 19th Century. Austen does not draw the characters of Marianne and Elinor in straight lines. Elinor expresses reserve, but she has her passionate moments. Marianne is headstrong, but not totally lacking in sense. It is as if Austen is arguing for a balance of sense and sensibility in our lives and that being too much of one is an error. Elinor and Marianne learn from each other and achieve happiness in that manner. 

Sentimental novels relied on emotional response, both from their readers and characters. They feature scenes of distress and tenderness, and the plot is arranged to advance emotions rather than action. The result is a valorization of “fine feeling,” displaying the characters as a model for refined, sensitive emotional effect. The ability to display feelings was thought to show character and experience, and to shape social life and relations.” (Wikipedia)

Generally speaking, readers and film adaptations accept Elinor as displaying the acceptable manners of the time. In modern terms, some feel Marianne’s open expression of her feelings is healthier than Elinor’s suppression of emotions. One thing that REALLY drives me nuts in this novel is Elinor remains a static character throughout. As a teacher of English for some four decades, I taught my students that the main character is a dynamic one. It is almost as if Austen provides a bit of overkill of the concept of “sense” in the form of Elinor’s character. 

I know many remain interested in Elinor’s struggles to know happiness, but I find myself more concerned with Colonel Brandon’s “stuffiness.” When I first read the book (long after I read Pride and Prejudice), I was as irritated as Marianne with Elinor’s evaluation of Edward Ferrars. 

Sense and Sensibility (2008 miniseries) - en.wikipedia.org

Sense and Sensibility (2008 miniseries) –
en.wikipedia.org

“What a pity it is, Elinor”, said Marianne, “that Edward should have no taste for drawing.”

“No taste for drawing,” replied Elinor; “why should you think so? He does not draw himself, indeed, but he has great pleasure in seeing the performance of other people, and I assure you he is by no means deficient in natural taste, though he has not had opportunities of improving it. Had he ever been in the way of learning, I think he would have drawn very well. He distrusts his own judgment in such matters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion on any picture; but he has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste, which in general direct him perfectly right.”

Marianne was afraid of offending, and said no more on the subject; but the kind of approbation which Elinor described as excited in him by the drawings of other people, was very far from that rapturous delight, which, in her opinion, could alone be called taste. Yet, though smiling within herself at the mistake, she honoured her sister for that blind partiality to Edward which produced it.

“I hope, Marianne,” continued Elinor, “you do not consider him as deficient in general taste. Indeed, I think I may say that you cannot, for your behaviour to him is perfectly cordial, and if that were your opinion, I am sure you could never be civil to him.”

Marianne hardly knew what to say. She would not wound the feelings of her sister on any account, and yet to say what she did not believe was impossible. At length she replied —

“Do not be offended, Elinor, if my praise of him is not in everything equal to your sense of his merits. I have not had so many opportunities of estimating the minuter propensities of his mind, his inclinations and tastes as you have; but I have the highest opinion in the world of his goodness and sense. I think him everything that is worthy and amiable.”

“I am sure,” replied Elinor with a smile, “that his dearest friends could not be dissatisfied with such commendation as that. I do not perceive how you could express yourself more warmly.”

Marianne was rejoiced to find her sister so easily pleased.

“Of his sense and his goodness,” continued Elinor, “no one can, I think, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him in unreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them, you have from peculiar circumstances been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so. What say you, Marianne?”

“I shall very soon think him handsome, Elinor, if I do not now. When you tell me to love him as a brother, I shall no more see imperfection in his face, than I now do in his heart.”

Elinor started at this declaration, and was sorry for the warmth she had been betrayed into, in speaking of him. She felt that Edward stood very high in her opinion. She believed the regard to be mutual; but she required greater certainty of it to make Marianne’s conviction of their attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next — that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. She tried to explain the real state of the case to her sister.

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him — that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Marianne here burst forth with indignation —

“Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again and I will leave the room this moment.” Elinor could not help laughing.

There is a bit of Elizabeth Bennet in this passage. Elinor does not admit to be in love with Edward; she also does not permit herself to think she is in love with anyone. Edward is equally as reserved as is Elinor. Being reserved in nature is a subject Austen returns to in Emma. What the reader discovers is the “reserved” displayed by Elinor and Edward and by Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill is not real. 

Despite her vow not to love a man who does not love her in return, Elinor convinces herself that the ring he wears contains a lock of her hair. She does not openly mourn Edward’s loss, but she does think upon him often. 

Lucy Steele’s revelation that Lucy and Edward are engaged is enough to shake Elinor from her delusions of marriage to Edward. Elinor is wise enough to see through Lucy’s manipulations. Elinor continues to hide her feelings for Edward from all, especially Lucy, who would celebrate Elinor’s hopes being dashed. 

Unlike Marianne who openly flaunts her interest in John Willoughby by writing the man letters, Elinor hides her disappointment and devotes her attentions to Marianne’s misery.

Marianne chastises Elinor for the expectation of Marianne’s “sense.” Marianne claims her own despair superior to anything Elinor might feel for Edward’s betrayal. “Always resignation and acceptance! Always prudence and honor and duty! Elinor, where is your heart?”

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Colonel Matthew Locke, an Advocate for Universal Manhood Suffrage

On Friday, May 18, I presented with the celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. On Monday, May 21, I included an article on Captain James Jack, who was not as famous as Paul Revere, but just as heroic. Today, I have another Revolutionary War hero: Colonel Matthew Locke. 

300px-Locke-1591.jpg Colonel Matthew Locke was a Revolutionary War leader, as well as a member of Congress, who just happened to have been born in Northern Ireland. Like many in the present day North Carolina, Locke’s ancestors first settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A few years after his father died, his mother married a man by the name of John Brandon and moved to Anson County, North Carolina. Anson is the next county over from I live outside of Charlotte, and I can tell you there is LOTS of history to found in this area. Later, around 1752, the Brandons moved to Grants Creek, which was part of Mecklenburg County at that time, but is now part of Rowan County, North Carolina. 

Meanwhile, Matthew Locke purchased some 200 acres near his mother and step-father’s residence, where he began a trading business. Matthew and his brother Francis set up a trade line, including skins from the backcountry of Charles Town, South Carolina, and goods produced by the North Carolina Moravian settlements. He and his brother became quite wealthy in this venture. 

Locke’s first foray into public life came during the Regulator uprising. The Regulator Movement was a rebellion started by the backcountry (inland regions) residents of North Carolina (basically the western counties). These dissidents believed the royal government mistreated them by falsifying records and excessive fee. The less productive land of the western mountain ranges were taxed at the same rate as the rich coastal plain. These inland residents wished to “regulate” their own affairs. Although the Regulator Movement began with protests, eventually violence was involved. 

Locke became involved when the officers of Rowan County appointed Locke as one of four men to meet with the Regulators’ contingent to try to come to some sort of agreement. Through sometimes heated negotiations, Locke’s committee agreed to repay any unlawful fees to those bringing suit. Liking the taste of public office, Locke became a member of the colonial Assembly in 1771, where he served until 1775. 

During the Revolutionary War period, Locke joined the Patriot cause. He was named to Rowan County’s first Committee of Safety. The purpose of the Committees of Safety were to enforce the Continental Association banning all trade with Great Britain. These committees had the endorsement of the Second Provincial Congress of North Carolina and the North Carolina Assembly. They existed in late 1774 and early 1775. These committees oversaw military preparations, the control of the price of select items, especially those needed for war efforts, and the sell of seized imported goods. They also were involved in the return of slaves, punishment for those who went against the Continental Association’s dictates, and even regulated public morals. The Wilmington-New Hanover Committee of Safety managed to run then Governor Josiah Martin out of office, causing him to first seek refuge at Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River and then on the British warship Cruizer. The Committees of Safety were replaced by the Third Provincial Congress of North Carolina in August 1775. 

Matthew Locke was a delegate to the Third Provincial Congress. He was active in the financing of the case for liberty. He also saw to the militia stationed throughout North Carolina. Locke made the arrangements for governing the colony in Governor Josiah Martin’s abrupt absence until Governor Richard Caswell took over the office. 

Later, Locke was a member of the Fourth Provincial Congress (April 1776). This time the group met at Halifax. Out of their sometimes heated discussions came the Halifax Resolves, which was the first official action by one of British colonies calling for a break with Great Britain and the independence of all the colonies. 83 delegates to the Provincial Congress ratified the Resolves. They were then sent to the North Carolina delegation for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The Halifax Resolves served as the first call for action against Britain. Virginia followed with their own recommendations to the Continental Congress. These led to Thomas Jefferson’s penning The Declaration of Independence.

Locke then became involved with a group probing the activities of those not supporting a break from Great Britain. Reportedly, Locke led the arrest of John Dunn, the founder of Salisbury, and Benjamin Booth, both of whom were suspected of treason, because early on they had signed a document pledging loyalty to the King. 

queens-university-of-charlotte_8790753498_o.jpgCarolina’s first state constitution was drafted. He was in charge of the militia pay of six frontier counties. He procured supplies for the Continental Army. He served in the North Carolina House of Commons on and off from 1777 to 1793. He was known to support universal manhood suffrage, an idea to remove owning property as a right to vote and holding office, in other words, removing the stipulation of ownership of 50 acres of property or the payment of taxes as a prerequisite to vote. He also supported the endowment of Queen’s Museum (later Queen’s College and now Queen’s University) in Charlotte, which is considered the first institution of higher learning in North Carolina. [Just as a side note, my daughter-in-law earned her masters degree at Queens, and my son was an assistant track and cross country coach at the college. It is still a vibrant piece of Charlotte’s history.] In the vote to ratify the U. S. Constitution, Locke took a stand for the new country’s many farmers, who could not afford an expensive, nor oppressive, government. 

In 1793, Locke replace the unpopular Josh Steele, a Federalist, as the congressman for the Salisbury district. He was considered “the honest farmer” and took a leading role in the concept of Jeffersonian democracy in North Carolina. He remained in the NC House of Representatives until 1800, to another Federalist, Archibald Henderson. He died in 1801. 

8078741_120423862421

Gen Matthew Locke BIRTH 1730 Ireland DEATH 7 Sep 1801 (aged 70–71) Mill Bridge, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA BURIAL Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery Mill Bridge, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA ~ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8078741/matthew-locke

 

Following Locke’s death, an obituary in the Raleigh Register edited by Joseph Gales, a staunch Jeffersonian, bemoaned the passing and called him a “friend and fixed Republican” who had “served his state admirably in Congress.” He was buried in Thyatira Presbyterian Church cemetery in Rowan County.

Posted in American History, British currency, Declaration of Independence, England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, political stance, real life tales, research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Lack of “Reality” in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” ~ Does it Matter?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we often think of the story as being a depiction of the Regency era. But does it truly speak to the time? If so, would not Elizabeth Bennet be more sensitive to her family’s situation? Our heroine turns down two proposals, both of which would “save” her family. Is that realistic? Most of us who love this story consider Elizabeth Bennet a responsible, reasonable, pragmatic and mature young lady. Yet, Elizabeth’s actions prove her to be more like her father: self-centered and casually indifferent. 

Even if none of her other sisters found husbands, Elizabeth could have secured their futures with the acceptance of either Mr. Collins, who is set to inherit Longbourn, or Mr. Darcy, who owns one of the largest estates in England. Naturally, for us readers, we can never imagine our independent Miss Elizabeth with a buffoon of Mr. Collins’s nature, but should she not know a twinge of regret at having failed her family or displayed a bit of sympathy for her mother’s nerves at knowing disappointment. Obviously, Mrs. Bennet, and likely Mary and perhaps Kitty will be left without a home once Collins assumes control of Longbourn. If Elizabeth had married Collins, he would have been duty bound to provide for her mother and her unmarried sisters. Instead, Elizabeth has a jolly laugh, led on by her father, and at Mr. Collins’s expense and Mrs. Bennet’s chagrin. 

mr_collins_proposes_to_lizzie_pandp2005

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. — Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Elizabeth could not but smile at such a conclusion of such a beginning; but Mrs. Bennet, who had persuaded herself that her husband regarded the affair as she wished, was excessively disappointed.

giphy After Mr. Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth later attacks the man with a litany of his shortcomings: haughtiness, disdain for others, interference in Bingley and Jane’s courtship, open disapproval of her family, and his insults directed to others about her. 

And I might as well inquire why, with so evident a design of insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your better judgment. If I was uncivil, then that is some excuse. But I have other reasons, you know I have.

What reasons?

Do you think anything might tempt me to accept the hand of the man who has ruined, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister? Do you deny that you separated a young couple who loved each other, exposing your friend to censure of the world for caprice and my sister to derision for disappointed hopes, involving them both in misery of the acutest kind?

Darcy’s has his many faults; there is no denying them. The thing we readers love about him is he is willing to change for the woman he loves. Yet, even with the multitude of his shortcomings, would not it be more realistic (although not as romantic) for Elizabeth, at least, to pause and consider his offer of marriage? In the wealth-obsessed culture depicted in Pride and Prejudice, should not a hesitation exist if this is true to the society of the time? Given at this point in the story, her family is out on their collective keisters if something happens to Mr. Bennet, should not Elizabeth think about her mother and sisters. After all, Collins has married Charlotte Lucas, eliminating all chances of a Bennet sister to become the next mistress of Longbourn, and Mr. Bingley has been persuaded to abandon Jane Bennet, dashing any hopes of a wealthy husband in the form to save them. 

That being said, Elizabeth Bennet does not belong to reality. She is a “romantic” character. Therefore, she does ignore the peril in which her family exists, as do the readers. We would not wish to look upon our heroine as a Gold Digger. Otherwise, the readers might question the depth of their true love when Darcy and Elizabeth finally come together at the novel’s end. In a romance, there is always some form of “happily ever after (HEA).” 

 Romance-Literary Devices tells us, “Etymologically, romance comes from Anglo-Norman and Old French romanz, which means a story of chivalry and love. The word “romance” also refers to romantic love. As far as literature in concerned, the term has an entirely a different concept. It means romantic stories with chivalrous feats of heroes and knights. Romance describes chivalry and courtly love, comprising stories and legends of duty, courage, boldness, battles, and rescues of damsels in distress…. Romanticism is a specific movement and period in English literature during which poems, stories, and novels related to Romantic ideas were created. William Wordsworth, P. B. Shelly, Lord Byron, and John Keats are some of the most famous poets and writers of the Romantic period.”

prideprejudiceIn Pride and Prejudice, it is those crude characters who represent the farce—the comedic buffoonery—who speak of money and think money will solve all their woes. The novel parades the comedic characters across page after page. We have Mr. Collins, who definitely leads the way. He has good company in Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Anne de Bourgh, Lydia Bennet, Mary Bennet, Sir William Lucas, Caroline Bingley, Louisa Hurst, Mr. Hurst, and Kitty Bennet. The villain, Mr. Wickham, is absolutely obsessed with the idea of money. He goes from Georgiana Darcy’s dowry to the one belonging to Miss King to an elopement with Lydia Bennet to force Darcy into paying him off to save the foolish girl’s reputation, as well as the reputations of all the Bennet sisters. These characters all worry about their financial prospects.

prideprejudicejaneJane Bennet and Charles Bingley are our Cinderella and Prince Charming types. Their personalities are too good to be true. Jane and Bingley forgive Caroline’s and Darcy’s attempts to keep her and Bingley apart. There is nothing of realism in their relationship. They are less comedic than the ones mentioned above, but certainly there is something of silliness about their relationship. 

Only Darcy and Elizabeth come close to realism, and that is because they both possess their faults, prominent among them is “pride” and “prejudice.” Yet, even with the weakness in their character, readers identify with them. There are the romantic elements, separated from the satiric ones. Elizabeth earns the love of a superior man because she is the “superior” Bennet sister. All is well that ends well. Although Collins will one day inherit Longbourn, no one doubts that Darcy and Bingley will join forces to see to the comfort of Mrs. Bennet and any unmarried Bennet daughters. The estate may be lost to the conventions of the day, but the people will not suffer greatly. We have our happy ending, which is not realistic or true to form, but is desired by human kind, for we cannot exist without hope for a better tomorrow. 

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Posted in British history, historical fiction, Jane Austen, political stance, Pride and Prejudice, reading habits | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments