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    This new exhibition at The British Library, “Georgians Revealed,” lasts from the 8th November 2013 until 11thMarch 2014.It has been curated by Moira Goff, head of British Collections (1501 to 1800) at The British Library.

    The Exhibition Guide
      I have just returned from seeing this exhibition. I came home on the tube, breathless with awe and stunned by the intensity and wide-ranging scope. It comprises an amazing collection of artefacts and documents, providing evidence of Georgian life. Arriving at the library in the Euston Road, the red brick structure that comprises the British Library is in such a location it  competes with the Victorian marvel that is St Pancras Station next door and the more simplistic, Italianate Villa style that is Kings Cross Station. In some ways the library building includes aspects of both these iconic railway stations, icons of Victorian design and technology. The Victorians were the immediate inheritors of the Georgian world which they continued to develop, the style, architecture, technology, science, literature, art and societies mores. In front of the library is the massive bronze statue depicting William Blake’s, Newton, naked, seated, bent forward, his concentration entirely focussed on the pair of compasses in his hand drawing perfect angles and lines; using logic. The exhibition inside provides a  far more complex view of the Georgian world from that of Blake’s depiction of Newton outside in the piazza. The exhibition gives us an oversight of  man’s creativity, science, art, and society in all its forms.

    Todd Longstaffe-Gowan's Georgian Garden

    The exhibition is trying to spill beyond the limits of the exhibition space. Before we even get inside there is a Georgian style, formal garden of perfectly symmetrical arched hedges which you can walk through and around, placed on a smooth lawn located on the piazza in front of the library entrance. Landscape designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan has created a Georgian garden entitled, “George Obelisk,” and which is loosely based on a design by Sir John Vanbrugh’s unexecuted entrance gate to the forecourt at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. The grass and the hedges are artificial but they create a Georgian ideal of the formal symbolic garden. As a centre piece to this garden is a tall pediment extending high in the air above the garden. On top of this thin, tall structure is positioned the head of George Ist. My first reaction was, what a strange thing to do. It immediately reminded me of those old prints depicting the Tudor and medieval London Bridge showing the severed heads of traitors stuck up on poles over the entrance to the Southwark side of London Bridge.

    George Ist examining a miniature portrait of Oliver Cromwell.

     Once I had entered the exhibition proper the first item I came across were a series of portraits depicting the four Georges who spanned the Georgian era, 1714 to 1830. The very first picture, a cartoon by William Hogarth, depicts George Ist, in profile, holding up a small miniature portrait of Oliver Cromwell in front of his eyes for perusal. He has a stoic expression but the message is obvious. Overthrow, civil war, revolution and perhaps execution is the message. All this was a possibility in turbulent times.  So the tall pediment with George Ist’s head surmounting it outside the libraries entrance contains some poignant messages. Those who guillotined the French aristocracy often held the severed heads up for display too.

    The Georgian period was marked by revolution and upheaval; The Jacobite Rising in Scotland 1746,

    The American War of independence 1775 to 1782, The French Revolution 1787 to 1799,

    The Napoleonic Wars 1799 to 1815, The Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, The Industrial Revolution, roughly between 1720 and 1830, and an Agricultural Revolution was continuing throughout the Georgian period. George Ist may well ponder the possibilities as portrayed in this opening picture.

    A great glass cuboid, basement to roof ,containing, The Kings Library.

     The British Library was founded on the book collection of King George III, who reigned from 1760-1820. As you walk into the library you are presented with a massive glass cuboid  column that plummets to the basement below and reaches up through all the floors of the building to the top. It encases The King's Library created for George III.  It is a soaring column of 18th century books, containing the knowledge of the world as understood when the library was created. The collection covers a vast range of subjects, from early printing and philosophy to architecture, topography and painting; from astrology and biology to agriculture and ancient languages. It included books by Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants. It made me think of a sort of glass Tardis a time travelling brain or perhaps a type of Egyptian obelisk, or even a cenotaph, although this is no empty tomb. It is filled solidly with knowledge and understanding. It encapsulates the Georgian mind. The, “Georgian’s Revealed,” exhibition is a mere few metres from this extraordinary column of books. It is as though the exhibition has been created next to this monstrous Georgian ,”brain,” its power and influence overshadowing what is being done in its name.

    The first thing I was handed when I presented my ticket at the entrance to the exhibition, which I had bought on the internet and printed off at home, was a copy of the exhibition guide. On the front is a scene from the ballroom at Brighton Pavilion, the Prince Regents south coast retreat from the attention of London society, overlaid by a William Hogarth sketch from the, “The Analysis of Beauty.” I unfolded the guide into one large A3 sized sheet. The front shows a diagram of the exhibition layout and a description of each part of the exhibition. The reverse side is covered by Thomas Tegg’s map of new London printed in 1830. The map picks out seven places, the site of the present British Library is number 1, Coram Fields is number 2 The Foundling Museum is number 3, Lincolns Inn fields is number 4, Sir John Soanes Museum number 5, The Hunterian Museum is 6 and  Woburn Walk, finally is 7. It as though the exhibition is already telling you to get out into the streets of London and see the Georgian world there.  Many Georgian houses and terraces survive. Sir John Soanes Museum is the home of the most prominent Georgian architect, the Foundling museum next to Corum Fields is where the poor children of London were taken  and cared for, Lincolns Inn Fields was one of London’s finest Georgian squares, the Hunterian, was where John and William Hunter changed the face of medicine in the Georgian period and Woburn Walk was London’s first pedestrianised shopping street. Jane Austen herself wrote to Cassandra from London in 1811, “I am getting very extravagant and spending all my money.” The temptation arose to proceed no further into the exhibition and turn tail and get out and follow this enticing map. However that was to be for later. The exhibition really did beckon.

    The entrance to Georgians Revealed.

    When you walk into the exhibition the visitor is presented with a room introducing us to the four Georgian Kings. Their portraits are prominently displayed. Above your heads are a myriad of posters suspended from the ceiling on wires. Each poster depicts a scene from Georgian life. All subjects, themes and situations are massed above. It gives the impression straight away that there is so much, so many complex facets of the Georgian world to discover. Then there is a short wide stone staircase to the floor below where the exhibition starts.

    It is interesting to note that the exhibition is designed on a simple square divided by partitions crossing the square from corner to corner like a Saint Andrews cross. Each triangular section displays one of the main themes of the exhibition, Section 1, Public places, private spaces, Section 2 Buying luxury, acquiring style, and finally section 3 Pleasures of society, virtues of culture. There is also a small room to one side that has its floor covered by an enlarged facsimile of Thomas Tegg’s new plan of London created in 1830. It occurs that this design is no whim. When you visit the Pleasures of society, section there are various types of dancing plans displayed.  Examples are displayed from the book, “For the further Improvement of dancing,” by John Essex, a celebrated dancing master during the early 1700s.  The simple pen and ink drawn dance designs  are reflected in the simple drawn plan of the exhibition.

    A stylised ballet.

    The first section is titled Public places, private spaces. It is about the homes and gardens of the Georgians. Some of the most exceptional items on display are the architectural pocket guides of William Paine (1730-1794) that include simple to follow floor plans and beautiful front, side and back elevation drawings. They were sold all over Europe and North America. There are examples of Sir John Soanes work and the work of Humphrey Repton, John Nash, and the designs for Stowe by Charles Bridgeman and later William Kent. This part of the exhibition continues, from the structures and designs of houses to what was put inside them. Drawings of Chippendale furniture, Wedgewood pottery, trade cards for wall paper hangings, cabinet maker’s book prices and reading materials including a 3rd edition of Fanny Burneys, Cecilia and a 1785 issue of The Lady’s magazine.

    William Kent's illustrations for a feature at Stowe.

    As a teacher it was interesting to see examples of books written for children. Some of them miniatures. These covered such erudite topics as wholesome sayings, and exhortations to work hard and practice minuets. It was evident that there was a debate in Georgian times as to how children learn; was it through play or reading? Often a mixture of the two was achieved. It just shows that the way we learn doesn’t change.

    The superb collection of flower prints captivated me. Explorers in the 18thcentury brought back seeds to be sold to the gentry. The wealthy wanted to develop the gardens on their grand estates and provide exotic vistas often designed to create moods. They also wanted beautiful sketches of these exotic flora. Robert John Thornton (1768-1837) tried to gain subscriptions for an ambitious project he had which was to produce artist quality prints of plants. An example in this exhibition is The Blue Egyptian water Lilly. Each print was to cost one guinea. Thornton financed the project himself. When he fell into difficulties he was able to get an act of Parliament to hold a lottery to raise finances. The Royal Botanical lottery was instigated. However it failed to raise the financial backing Thornton needed and he went bankrupt. His collection of drawings is still regarded as one of the most celebrated botanical books ever published.

    One of John Thornton's excellent plant illustrations.

    There is a whole section on Georgian shops. It was surprising to find that the Georgians had large department stores. Wedgewood’s Rooms and Harding, Howell &Co were vast shops if the illustrations of their interiors have anything to go by. There are examples of everything connected to shopping and much we would recognise today. There are hand bills advertising goods and shops, much larger advertising posters and numerous examples of sample cards. One particular salesman’s card I looked at had examples of his company’s lace products. Other sample cards had various pieces of silk, muslin and cotton swatches showing examples of the colours and designs a lady could buy.
    There is a magnificent drawing showing the length of Kensington High Street with each individual shop illustrated in detail. An aerial view is drawn below the head on view. One pair of drawings particularly took my attention. One showed Smithfield Market that is located just to the north west corner of the old city near the Barbican. It is an aerial view, perhaps drawn from a rooftop nearby but more probably from the artists imagination. It shows a crowded area full of penned cattle. However it was the Covent Garden market scene that really captured my attention. It shows Indigo Jones elegant market place dominated by St Paul’s church. The scene looks chaotic, stalls, people and fruit and vegetables, carts and horses. You can imagine the noise of shouting, calling, the clatter of horses and also the smells, human, animal and vegetable must have been pungent and sharp on the nose.

    Inigo Jones's Covent Garden. Henrietta Street is on the left towards the back.

     And then I focussed my look to the left of the print and towards the rear of the picture and there indeed, to one side of this mass of commercial activity is Henrietta Street and number 10, where Henry Austen lived and had his bank and where Jane, his sister stayed. Sometimes we forget that Jane Austen lived in London amongst mayhem, the dregs of humanity, prostitutes, hauliers, servants out shopping for their masters, horses and the ordure lying in the streets and smells that she must have smelled and the noise she must have had to endure. She only mentions in her letters the genteel friends who visited her and Henry in Henrietta Street .  However she joked about London having an adverse effect on her in a bawdy turn of mind writing to Cassandra.

    To Cassandra Austen

    Cork Street Tuesday 23rd August 1796

    “My dear Cassandra, Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted_”

     Looking at the picture of Covent Garden and knowing where Henry’s bank was. It begins to become evident who might have banked at Henry’s bank. All of humanity is there, seething about like some human cauldron. Jane could well have eaten food purchased from the interest on investments from prostitution. A thought anyway.

    The clothing fashion plates on display are wonderful but my favourite part of this section depicting Georgian fashion were a man’s red shoes. A pair of bright red shoes with cream coloured laces and silk lined interiors, tapered towards the toes that nearly reach a point stand out vividly from the glass case they are displayed in. They look soft in texture and were probably comfortable but perhaps not the best design for toes.

    A pair of red Georgian gentleman's shoes.

    Theatre and celebrity culture is thoroughly provided for. Drawings and paintings of theatres, portraits of actors   and actresses such as Sarah Siddons and Dorothy Jordan, theatre bills and posters, catalogues, theatre inventories and music sheets. Highway  robbers, such as Jack Shepherd and James MaCleane and courtesans like Fanny Murray became celebrities too. This material provides evidence for a good debate about celebrity culture and has it changed much since Georgian times.

    The Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

    Museums and galleries were becoming accessible to the public. Leisure and pleasure was important to the middle classes who could afford these sorts of things now. The pleasure gardens at Vauxhall are mentioned and Ranelagh, which was seen as a more upmarket version pleasure gorunds. The one that caught my attention was Bagnigge Wells Gardens. Bagnigge was located near the site of The British Library  and I think because of this it got more attention in this exhibition than the other perhaps more famous gardens. There were many posters and drawings of the pleasures on offer there. The point that was got across was that these gardens provided for the general public an experience that only the gentry and the rich could have experienced in the past within the confines of their own landscaped estates. The point is made that all the world could meet in these places, the beggar, the prostitute, the shopkeeper , wealthy merchants,  the gentry, the aristocracy and in the case of Vauxhall Gardens, even the monarchy. These new pleasure gardens were a leveller of society. They were places to see and be seen. Gossip would start, people would talk about who they had seen and with whom and this news might get into broad sheets sold on the streets. People could make a name for themselves in these pleasure gardens. Assembly Rooms were also being built in most towns where the local residents could attend balls and meet others strangers included.

    Bagnigge Wells Gardens

    The coffee houses of London and their importance to the development of the Georgian world of science, literature, banking and insurance is dealt with. Sports were developed along more organised principles in Georgian times. The rules for playing skittles and the rules for cricket are there to see. A hand bill showing the runners at Nottingham races during the month of August 1781 list the horses. Cock fighting and pugilism, stagecoach travel and tourism, spa towns and seaside resorts, European travel and travel to the wild and beautiful places of Britain, The Highlands of Scotland, the Lakes and the Welsh mountains; the Georgian period did indeed see the development of things that are now part of our own world and society.

    Amanda Vickery writing in the Guardian on the 25th October explains,

    “The Georgians revealed by the exhibition are elite and middling. The culture and consumerism of the polite predominates, while royalty, religion and the history of ideas, politics and protest, work and industrialisation are underplayed as themes. Nevertheless, that still leaves plenty of meat on which to chew.”

    It is true that the exhibition does not obviously portray the lives of the poor and the working class;  political unrest or the lives of those in industrial towns. These are more alluded to than shown. Shops must have had shop assistants, and the lace shops must have had workers working their looms. The working classes would have attended the rougher entertainments, boxing and pantomime. But Amanda Vickery is absolutely right, this exhibition is aimed at the middle classes who were becoming wealthier during the Georgian times.

    She goes on to write,

    “The exhibition wants to recommend the Georgians to a new public by stressing the recognisability of the age, from its coffee shops to its celebrity news. But make no mistake, the printing press is the real star of the show.”

    Well yes, this exhibition is situated in the British Library whose season for existing is the written word. They were bound to have this emphasise. I should imagine an Industrial Museum in Preston would have an entirely different set of artefacts to tell another aspect of Georgian life..

    Finally, there is a small part of the exhibition which is to one side of the four main themed areas. The floor of this cramped area is covered by an enlarged version of Thomas Tregg’s map of London printed in 1830. When I walked in I was met with the sight of a sober looking gentleman, middle aged, walking steadily and slowly along the winding course of the Thames. I smiled and looked nonchalantly at some of the prints on the walls depicting Georgian London Streets. The gentlemen reminded me immediately of children I have watched, in various schools I have taught in, following the sinuous twisting of a painted snake on the school playground or playing hop scotch. I hope he was getting as much fun walking the Thames as the children did walking the snake.

    Thomas Tegg's map of London.

    The map reminded me of my first thoughts when I was handed the exhibition guide.  It occurred to me that I really must begin on the, “Georgians revealed walking tour,” delineated in the guide. And so I did. I had to get back to Waterloo Station for the local train to Wimbledon so I decided to stop by the seven places highlighted on Tregg’s map. The only place I had not visited before was the Foundling Museum.

    Corum Fields where the Foundling Hospital was originally situated.

     I have walked past Coram Fields on occasions to get to Russell Square but never stopped to explore the park or the Foundling Museum. I have been to Sir John Soanes Museum a few times so I knew that well.  I walked along Burton Crescent which is next to Woburn Walk and enjoyed the Georgian terraced crescent which is a little like a smaller version of The Royal Crescent in Bath. Georgian terrace houses are easy to recognise when you are used to them. Their structure is dictated by the social hierarchy and designed to create a safe environment in the society of the day.

    This exhibition is rich and complex and full of wonderful things. I could easily pay another visit there. I might do that after Christmas, before it ends.

    Burton Crescent near Woburn Place. Examples of fine Georgian town houses.

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    238 today!!!!! 238 today!!!!!

    Happy Birthday Jane!!!!

    Have a great one.

    This is The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton where  on the 16th December 1793 Jane Austen celebrated her 18th birthday.

    Fifteen years later, after moving from Bath and whilst living in Castle Square Southampton,with her mother, Cassandra her sister , Martha Lloyd her best friend and her brother Frank and his wife Mary, she attended another ball at The Dolphin.It was probably on 8th December 1808 because on the 9th December she wrote to Cassandra about it.  It was eight days before her 33rd  birthday. 

    Writing to Cassandra, who was staying with Edward in Godmersham Park in Kent, she said,

    "Our ball was rather more amusing than I expected,Martha liked it very much,and I did not gape till the last quarter of an hour.-It was past nine before we were sent for,and not twelve when we returned.-The room was tolerably full,and there were perhaps thirty couples of Dancers;-the melancholy part was to see so many dozen young Women standing by without partners,and each of them with two ugly naked shoulders!-It was the same room in which we danced 15 years ago!-I thought it all over- and inspite of the shame of being so much older, felt with thankfulness that I was quite as happy now as then.-We paid an additional shilling for our Tea, which we took as we chose in adjoining,and very comfortable room.-There were only four dances and it went to my heart that the Miss Lances(one of them too named Emma!) should have partners only for two.-You will not expect to hear that I was asked to dance- but I was- by the Gentleman whom we met that Sunday with Captain D'auvergne."

    The ballroom in The Dolphin.

    Another view of the ballroom today.

    A view from one of the bay windows.

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    Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin as Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Darcy.

    I am a die hard Janeite, but one who reads the novels, reads and uses her letters in anything I write about her, reads the biographies for every insight and visits Steventon, Winchester, Chawton and London often. I live here and almost daily pass by London sites that are connected with Jane Austen. I do not as a rule watch Jane Austen films or TV adaptations, unless I am caught out.

    Last night I was caught out. I walked into our living room and Marilyn said, “sit down its just starting. You’ll want to see this.” “See what?” “Death Comes to Pemberley.” So I did, for what I thought would be a glimpse. The programme began, episode 2 of this three parter. The background music is understated and the scenery is what you would expect of a Jane Austen. All that is in place but I immediately got a sense of a darkness about the look of it all. The colours of this production are intense with a certain dark quality to them. I would have mistaken it for being filmed in Autumn for its sombreness. However, I am sure it was not.

    The filmic techniques are at first disorientating. Everything appears to be happening quickly. We are drawn into the picture with camera angles, close ups, low down shots, we intermingle with the characters and it makes us all part of the action, seeing as a character in the film would see. Its almost a three dimensional experience but it isn't. I immediately thought, how clever.

    And then, here we go I thought. I’ve seen all this before. Trevor Eve, an excellent actor, plays, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, a local magistrate who, because of the lack of any viable police force with a team of detectives in the early 19th century, plays the part of the detective for this murder mystery. And on one level this can be seen as a simple who done it, a straight forward murder mystery. Hardcastle comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful, worldly wise detective along the lines of an analytical Poirot or a mindful Miss Marples who goes through all the usual detective at a murder scene procedures.

    Well that’s it then, I thought. I don’t need to see any more, but suddenly I was caught irretrievably, hook line and sinker. This is so much more than a murder mystery. It is a fight for the whole continued existence of Pemberley and a struggle for the relationships that are developing and continuing. This is no keeping the characters in aspic, as they were when we first met them in Pride and Prejudice. These are developing lives and relationships in all their subtle rawness and insecurities.

    Matthew Rhys has a studied, dark, serious handsomeness. He is ideal for this Darcy.  Fitzwilliam Darcy is under pressure with the tensions and struggles in his relationship with Elizabeth, he is being torn asunder in his destructive relationship with Wickham, because of honour, family and the consequences to the many that Wickham is always on the verge of destroying or damaging.He is beset by the travails brought about by Wykham's misdemeanours real and supposed. The management of the vast unruly Pemberley estate, the continuance of his dynasty, and his own relationship with Elizabeth all weigh heavily. This relationship is no happy ever after marriage as might possibly be inferred at the end of Pride and Prejudice. He is married to an assertive as well, of course,a loving Elizabeth. .All these elements are intermingled and focus on Pemberleys existence and future development. Georgianas marriage involves the continuance of a strong Pemberley, Wykhams association with Darcy and Pemberley could mean the removal of credit at the bank for the estate, and Elizabeth is fighting for Darcy's soul.

    Elizabeth Darcy is played absolutely brilliantly by Anna Maxwell Martin. Nobody dare tell me she is too old for this part. She is magnificent, subtle, strong, gentle, perceptive, intelligent, all at the same time. She is almost  Jane Austen herself. She fights for the rights of women, well Georgiana Darcy’s rights as a free woman who is being coerced into a loveless marriage with Colonel Fitzwilliam, an honourable and wealthy man . She begins a struggle with Darcy over the whole question of  family and the rights of the individual. There are some perceptive flash backs to her own courtship with Darcy and its ups and downs. We see the tensions between a married couple ebb and flow with strong undercurrents and tides, especially between two from different strata of society trying to meld.

    Darcy under pressure.

     Lydia played by Jenna Coleman, is amazing, fantastic, grating, awful, depending on how your nerves stand up. She is the Lydia of Pride and Prejudice on steroids and I don’t mean the sort that build muscles. She is as sexy and gorgeous as ever but who on Gods earth would ever want to get near Coleman’s version of a pouting, ultra vain, over the top, attention seeking little hussy. Jenna Coleman has produced a virtuoso performance, but as I say, that opinion depends on your nerves.

    Jenna Coleman as Lydia

     Mrs Bennet, who is played excellently by Rebecca Front, grates on the nerves too, not quite so much as Lydia but, in the tradition of all great Mrs Bennets, she is a handful and the two of them, Lydia and Mrs Bennett, are put in a carriage and driven away from Pemberley for their own sakes, and I suspect for the audiences sakes too, just to provide a little respite you understand, while the murder is being dealt with.

    One can see why, and this is one of the many subplots, Wickham, in the words of Paul Simon in that wonderful song, The Boxer,  “I took some comfort there.”  produces an illegitimate child. One can only sympathise. His wife is a monster. Do two monster deserve each other?

    There are some laugh out loud comic scenes in this dark drama. The court scene set in a coaching inn yard  has humour and pathos and a certain comic rustic quality such as the mechanicals in Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Nights Dream. There are also the cottage scenes which could be straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel, The Return of the Native or perhaps Far From The Madding Crowd. The coaching inn yard is where Wickham is first tried. It is like a local magistrates courts deciding whether the case should go to the high court. The locals adamantly, vociferously and dramatically, in a country yokel sort of way, find him guilty of course. So to the high court Wickham must go.


    It matters not a jot if some of you worked out who the murderer is in the first episode. There are so many rich layers of relationships, references and meanings that swirl about this mini-series it is very very worthwhile. It is so much more than a murder mystery. Now as I have admitted at the start I am not one to watch TV and film adaptations, but this is good, very good and I bet, for those aficionados of the TV and the films, up there with one of the best and one of the most inventive.

    I have not seen the first episode. I will watch the second and final episode and then I WILL go back to BBC i-player and watch all three from the first to the last and that is something, coming from me.

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  • 01/06/14--08:01: CHEDDAR CHEESE

  • The Somerset countryside seen from the top of Glastonbury Tor. Dairy farming is prevalent.

    Cheddar Cheese is one of those staples on the shopping list of nearly every household, not just here in Britain but in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, the English speaking countries and probably far beyond. I am only going by my own experience so I don’t know very much about other countries and cultures experience of Cheddar Cheese. Suffice to say it is made throughout the world. There are a variety of Cheddar Cheeses in my local supermarket. I can buy, Cathedral City, Cave Aged Cheddar, Davidstow Cornish Mature Cheddar, Taw Valley, Maryland Farmhouse Vintage Cheddar, Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar, Seriously Strong Cheddar White, Canadian Vintage Cheddar, Mature British Cheddar and also a variety of medium and mild strength versions of these. Other supermarkets have some other varieties.

    My own experience of cheddar cheese is as part of a cheese board including a range of other cheeses which I have eaten on water biscuits or cream crackers and perhaps with a thin coating of butter to go on the biscuit or cracker first. A glass of wine to go with it adds to the pleasurable sensory experience. My cooking skills include a cheddar bake with grated cheddar cheese melted into a dish of pasta, I eat cheddar cheese sandwiches and of course I use cheddar cheese to make “Welsh Rare Bit,” which is sometimes called cheese on toast. Cheddar Cheese is connected with caves and witches, subterfuge and fraud, travel and adventure and of course with the county of Somerset and the village of Cheddar where it all began.

    In 1714 Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, went on a tour of Britain and wrote about his adventures describing the places he visited in a book called,


    Defoes journey through the British Isles.

    It was printed in 1715 by W. Mears at the Lamb, just outside of Temple Bar, one of the gateways into the City of London. It was sold at The Lamb and also by J. Stagg in Westminster Hall, G. Strachan in Cornhill and R. Franklin under Tom’s Coffee House in Covent Garden and also by S. Chapman and J. Jackson in Pall Mall. It must have had a wide readership. Those places mentioned were where the writers and businessmen, bankers, politicians and aristocracy  lived and met. It obviously reached those in power and those with influence. Cheddar Cheese has a prominent place in Defoe’s description of Somerset. He clearly describes how it fits into the nation’s economy.

    “.. every county furnishes something for the supply of London, and no county in England

    (Somerset) furnishes more effectual provisions, nor, in proportion, a greater value than this. These supplies are in three articles.

    1 Fat Oxen as large and good as any in England.

    2. Large Cheddar Cheese, the greatest and best of the kind in England.

    3. Colts bread in numbers in the moors……..”

    Daniel Defoe’s book would have been useful to politicians, bankers and businessmen. He is describing the wealth and industry of the country. He is taking on the role of  an economic and political observer.

    A cave under the Mendips. This one is called Wookey Hole.

    Defoe  describes the surrounding countryside and  Cheddar Cheese within that context.  Its value to the manufacturer and the consumer and hence its value to the country. It is worth reading what he wrote. It is easy flowing prose with an important message for his time. He provides a feel for  a place. He is clear and succinct in his descriptions.

    “In the low country, on the other side of the Mendip Hills lies Chedder, a village pleasantly situated under the very ridge of the mountains; before the village is a large green, or common, a piece of ground, in which the whole herd of cows, belonging to the town, do feed; the ground is exceeding rich, and as the whole village are cow keepers, they take care to keep up the good ness of the soil, by agreeing to lay on large quantities of dung for manuring and inriching the land.

    The milke of the town cows, is brought together every day into a common room, where the persons appointed, or trusted for the management, measure every mans quantity and set it down in a book, when the quantities are adjusted, the milk is all put together and every meal’s makes one cheese, and no more so the cheese is bigger or less as the cows yield more milk, or less milk. By this method, the goodness of the cheese is preserved, and, without all dispute, it is the best cheese that England affords, if not, that the whole world affords.

    As the cheeses are by this means very large for they often weigh a Hundred weight, sometimes much more, so the poor inhabitants, who have but few cows, are obliged to stay the longer for the return of their milk; for no man has any such return ‘till his share come to a whole cheese, and then he has it; and if the quantity of his milk delivered in, come s to above a cheese the overplus rests in account to his credit, ‘till another cheese come s to his share; and thus every man has equal justice, and though he should have but one cow, he shall, in time, have one whole cheese. This cheese is often sold for six pence to eight pence per pound, when the Cheshire cheese is sold but for two pence to two pence halfpenny. Here is a deep, frightful chasm in the mountains, in the hollow of which, the road goes, by which they travel towards Bristol.”

    The road is still there, winding through the, “deep, frightful chasm.” I drove through Cheddar Gorge last summer on the way to Wells and Bath. And we stopped to explore some of the caves dripping with stalagmites and stalactites and we actually saw some large barrel like cheeses in some of the caves maturing.

    Cheddar is still made in Cheddar and the fields in the surrounding countryside still have dairy cattle grazing in them. Their milk is used to make the local Cheddar Cheeses.

    The side of Cheddar Gorge in Somerset. Limestone cliffs.

    Cheddar Cheese is first recorded as being made in the town of Cheddar in the 12 th century.The cheese was named after the town. Cheddar is situated on the edge of The Mendip Hills which are mostly formed from limestone rocks. Cave formations have been formed from the action of springs and rainfall creating underground streams and rivers through the limestone. These underground passages and caves have a constant temperature and humidity that helps with the maturing of a good cheeses. Cheeses are stored in these caves for this reason.

    Cheddar Cheese is first mentioned in The Pipe Rolls of 1170. Pipe Rolls were a series of financial records kept by the treasury from the 12thcentury right up to 1833. They got their name, Pipe Rolls, because the paper or parchments they were written on were rolled up into tubes and stacked on shelves in this pipe like form. In 1170 the pipe rolls record that Henry II (1154-1189) purchased 10,240 pounds (4.6 tonnes) of cheddar cheese costing a farthing per pound. Prince John, his son, who became king in 1199 , kept up this cheese tradition. He bought Cheddar Cheese for royal banquets.

    The rolls during Charles I (1625 – 1649) reign, show that he bought Cheddar Cheeses even before they were made and gathered up all the available stocks. Cheddar Cheese it appears was only available at court during the Stuart period. ( Another excuse for a Civil War, perhaps.)

    An example of a pipe roll.

    Cheddar Cheese today is made all over the world. However the European Parliament has passed a law and given certain local versions of Cheddar Cheese , Protected Designation of Origin. Certain Cheddars can only be called “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar,” by law. There are only fourteen farmhouses in the West Country of England that are allowed to make this unique form of Cheddar. To qualify, the farmhouses making, “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar,” must be located in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset or Somerset. They can only use milk from local cows and dairies and they must use the traditional methods to make the cheese. The minimum age for a cheese must be nine months. This makes it a mature cheese. Cheeses made elsewhere make mild and medium cheeses which take from three months for mild to six months for a medium cheddar. Extra Mature takes about fifteen months and Vintage takes eighteen months or more to mature.

    Some of the farmhouse cheese makers use unpasteurised milk which tends to have rather more complex and stronger flavours. Others use pasteurised milk. Cheddar Cheese flavours vary also depending on the time of the year they are made and also it depends on the diet of the cows.

    A river going underground in The Mendips.

    Some of the creamery or industrially made cheddars around the world are increasingly being sold at older and older ages because peoples tastes are developing.

    Cheddar Cheese is unique, not only for its maturing process in caves but also because of a special cheese making process called, “cheddaring,” named after the cheese. Once made the cheeses are turned on a regular basis which allows the curd to be turned. They are also piled on top of each other which helps drain the whey. This process also stretches the curd which creates a hard firm cheese. As Cheddar matures its taste develops from creamy to more and more complex and sometimes nutty flavours which linger after eating.
    Cheddar Cheeses maturing in limestone caves beneath Cheddar Gorge.

    Apparently there was a controversy over the quality of cheese making in the 17th century. There may have been what we might term, fraud, going on. The University of Vermont has a cheese specialist. Yes, I will leave you to consider that academic headline for a moment or two….. right…. lets continue. Paul Kindstedt, cheese expert of The University of Vermont says that in the 17th century many English cheese makers realized that if they skimmed the cream off the milk before making the cheese they could make butter with the cream and add to their income and profits. However by skimming the cream off the milk before making the cheese the colour of the cheese was lost. They tried to trick their customers by adding colouring such as saffron, marigold and carrot juices. This returned the colour to the cheeses. They had in fact invented a low fat version of their cheeses which nowadays would sell perfectly well as a low fat cheese. But they didn’t know that then. The devious scoundrels.

    As part of my research into Cheddar I thought I should eat some. The cheese I have in front of me at this moment comes from my local ASDA supermarket. Many people will immediately react to that and think, well, not a promising start. I should imagine a few critics will say, that can’t be very good then. The packet label says, “EXTRA MATURE, Strong and Punchy, English Cheddar.”( love the use of the word, punchy, by the way. Somebody must have thought hard and long.) It is actually quite a pleasant sensory experience. It is has a pale creamy colour. It is dry and crumbly. It has quite a strong tangy smell. The taste is creamy with some strong tangy overtones. There are some sharp flavoured crystals within the chees which give some pleasant explosions of flavour and the taste is lasting, yes, for quite some time, while I continue to type this. I am not sure what my wife paid for it but it is markedly better than some supposedly strong cheddars I have bought in other supermarkets. Yes, not a bad experience at all. I will be eating more of that.

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    Part of a painting in The Tudor House Museum in Bugle Street. It shows the Marquis of Landsdownes house next to Castle Square. The house Jane lived in is just before it.

    We can refocus our view of Jane Austen's life and her novels  by seeing it through the prism of her stay in the maritime port of Southampton. It is so easy to ignore or pass by Jane's Southampton experiences but they were an integral part of her life.

    In 1782, Jane, at the age of seven, was sent to Mrs Crawley’s school in Oxford, with her sister Cassandra and her cousin, Jane Cooper. However a measles epidemic occurred in Oxford in 1783. Mrs Crawley removed her school swiftly to Southampton. Measles could be a killer in the  18th and 19thcenturys and removing her charges was the best thing Mrs Crawley could do. Jane was in Southampton only a short while before an infectious fever rampaged through Southampton, brought to the town by troops arriving from foreign fields. The three girls became very ill and although Mrs Crawley, for some reason, did not want to contact their parents and did not want them to write to their parents, Jane Cooper managed to get a message to her mother who was staying in Bath at the time along with Mrs Austen. The two mothers immediately travelled to Southampton and nursed their children to health before taking them back to Bath. Unfortunately Mrs Cooper caught the fever herself and died. So Jane’s first encounter with Southampton was not an auspicious one.

    The medieval entrance into Southampton, The Bargate. The site of the Costa coffee shop is the site of All Saints Church where Jane attended services given by  Dr Mant.

    Jane,visited Southampton again in 1793. She was nearly eighteen and arrived in Southampton to visit a cousin from her fathers side of the family from Tonbridge in Kent. Elizabeth Matilde Austen had married a Southampton gentleman with the surname Butler-Harris. He became the Sherriff of the town.They lived in the St Mary's district of Southampton, outside the ancient walls, on the site of the old Saxon town. Jane was asked to help her cousin because she was about to have a baby. While in Southampton Jane went to a ball at The Dolphin Hotel in the High Street to celebrate her 18th birthday.

    Her third experience of Southampton followed her time in Bath. In 1801, to the consternation of Cassandra and Jane, their father, George Austen, retired, and left the parish of Steventon, along with the rectory, to his son, James and his wife Mary. Jane was twenty five years old and had imagined she would lead the rest of her life at Steventon. She led a settled existence and had formed her writing habits  in these familiar rural surroundings. Suddenly all this was disrupted and she and Cassandra were removed to Bath for the next five years. George Austen died in 1805, the year of The Battle of Trafalgar and the following year, 1806, Cassandra, Jane, Martha Lloyd and their mother all moved to a house in Castle Square, Southampton. In 1806 Jane’s brother, Francis, married Mary Gibson. He was a naval officer and so had to go away to sea. He wanted his mother and sisters to live with his new wife and keep her company. Portsmouth, where Francis would sail from, was a place for sailors, a rough and colourful place, rife with the dens of iniquity. Southampton, nineteen miles away at the head of Southampton Water, was far more genteel and had been a successful spa town attracting the aristocracy. Jane and her family immersed themselves in the life of Southampton for two years, shopping, attending balls, going to the theatre, attending church services, visiting new acquaintances and receiving and entertaining nephews, nieces, brothers, friends, neighbours and sisters’ in-law. Jane observed many detailed aspects of her life in Southampton in her letters to Cassandra and also to other members of her family.

    The Assembly Rooms near castle Square.

    Jane Austen and her family moved to Southampton in 1806 and by this date she had already written, Susan, an early version of Northanger Abbey, Elinor and Marianne, an early version of Sense and Sensibility and First Impressions a first version of Pride and Prejudice. Later, after leaving Southampton for Chawton, she was to edit these early versions before publishing them and also to write, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion in their entirety. Southampton and her experiences there must have influenced her editing and her writing.  Jane Austen wrote about the world she knew and lived in. 

    This year, 2014, is the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park. One of the strands in Mansfield Park, that Jane Austen explores, is the clergy. The clergy feature strongly in Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park and to a greater and lesser extent in all her novels. Her father was a clergyman, James her brother was a clergyman and her brother Henry eventually became one. In many of her letters she mentions the clergymen she knew and this is evident in her letters written from Southampton.

    It is interesting to note that while living in Southampton, Jane and Martha Lloyd attended the services officiated by Dr Mant at All Souls Church in the High Street. There were other churches closer to Castle Square. St Michaels Church in St Michaels Square was a short distance from Castle Square and is the oldest church in Southampton, and also there was Holyrood Church, in the High Street. There is no mention of these churches in her letters. It seems that Jane Austen searched out Dr Mant and his sermons, to be challenged by his radical views.

    The Greek columned building on the right is All Saints Church where Jane Austen attended services with Martha Lloyd.

    Dr Mant was a leading biblical scholar. He was born in Havant in Hampshire in 1745 and died in 1817. He was one clergyman who wrote and delivered his own sermons, unlike Mary Crawford’s suggestion in Mansfield Park, that a sensible clergyman should rely on prepared sermons such as those of Blaire. Dr Mant wrote pamphlets and treatises and caused controversy and debate about,”Regeneration and Conversion.”

    In 1770 he had been the headmaster of King Edwards School, then situated in Bugle Street, Southampton. It appears that he was an ambitious clergyman who wanted to make a name for himself. We know he was interested in education and we know he took a very personal interest in his congregation although it can be debated what sort of interest.

    Wednesday 18th January 1809 (To Cassandra) Castle Square

     “Martha and Dr Mant are as bad as ever; he runs after her in the street to apologise for having spoken to a gentleman while she was near him the day before.-Poor Mrs Mant can stand it no longer; she is retired to one of her married Daughters.- “

    Tuesday 24th January 1809 (Castle Square)

    (referring to Martha’s ongoing relationship with Dr Mant)

    “As Dr M is a clergyman their attachment however immoral it is, has a decorous air…!”

    Mrs Mant was born Elizabeth Roe in Lambeth. Lambeth is the borough that Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leading Church of England cleric, is situated. We can conjecture she was the daughter of a high ranking cleric herself. Unfortunately It appears that her husband, Dr Mant, was a flirt and that Martha Lloyd was besotted with him.

    In Mansfield Park there is  a detailed discussion about the clergy. Edmund Bertram, the second son of Sir Thomas Bertram, has two parishes lined up for him to provide his living, when the time is ready. On the visit to Mr Rushworths estate, Sotherton, while visiting the family chapel, Julia Bertram expresses the idea that Edmund could perform the marriage of Maria to Mr Rushworth then and there, if only he had already taken orders. Miss Crawford, who knew nothing of Edmunds future ordination, exclaims,

    “Ordained!” said Miss Crawford; “what are you to be a clergy-man?”

    “Yes, I shall take orders soon after my father’s return- probably at Christmas.”

    Miss Crawford has to struggle to conceal her feelings, “rallying her spirits, and recovering her complexion.”Mary Crawford is obviously taken aback and we can sense her negative view of Edmund becoming a clergyman from her tone. Later she brings up the topic again. They are walking on the terrace and Miss Crawford finding the weather hot requests that they all  go for a walk in the cool shade of the ,”wilderness.” Once in the wilderness Miss Crawford returns to the subject of ordination again.

    “So you are to be a clergyman, Mr Bertram. This is rather a surprise to me.”

    Castle Square today showing the Bosuns Locker, the site of Jane's house.

    The idea that Edmund, who she had set out to capture as a husband, should be a clergyman had not occurred to her. A debate about the clergy continues between them. Mary Bertram argues that the youngest son in a family usually takes holy orders. The second son, in her understanding traditionally inherits from a wealthy grandfather. Edmund makes it clear that he has chosen this course. Maria Carwford  finds this difficult to understand. She thinks it a rarity that anybody should choose to be a clergyman.

    ”For what is to be done in the church?”…….. “A clergyman is nothing.” She argues.

    “”But I cannot call that situation nothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importance to mankind individually or collectively considered,” answers Edmund.

    “One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the sense to prefer Blair’s to his own? Do all that you speak of? Govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit.”

    Fanny, of course hearing this, admires Edmund all the more.

    ”There,” cried Miss Crawford, “you have quite convinced Miss Price already.”

    “I wish I could convince Miss Crawford too.”

    “I do not think you ever will,” said she with an arch smile.

    There are two other clergymen in the novel. Mr Norris, who is only spoken of but never makes an appearance, is the husband of Mrs Norris the officious, self-centred sister of lady Bertram. He dies early in the novel. He had the holding of the parish of Mansfield from his friend Sir Thomas. His greatest achievement in the novel apparently being his death. Mrs Norris recovers remarkably quickly after his death and gets on with being a busy body.  Then there is Dr Grant who takes over the parish after Mr Norris’s demise. He is the uncle to Mary and Henry Crawford. An amicable gentleman. Through the words of Mrs Norris we hear that the Grants buy expensive food and eat lavishly. These two clergymen sound like two ineffectual men who became clergyman to provide a living and no more. I am sure there were many of those sort in parishes in Hampshire. Jane must have known some.

    Jane takes us to the heart of the drama of being a clergyman, either real clergymen in her letters or fictitious ones in her novels. The clergymen in the novels always add an important element to the plots and the clergymen in real life add spice and intrigue to Jane’s everyday life.

    Jane s letters from Castle Square also provide some detailed insights into what a ball was like and the politics and manoeuvrings that a ball entailed

    Friday 9th December 1808 Castle Square to Cassandra

    “Our ball was rather more amusing than I expected, Martha liked it very much, and I did not gape till the last quarter of an hour.-It was past nine before we were sent for, and not twelve when we returned.-The room was tolerably full, and there were perhaps thirty couples of dancers;- the melancholy part was to see so many dozen young Women standing by without partners, and each of them with two ugly naked shoulders!-It was the same room we danced fifteen years ago!-I thought it all over-and in spite of the shame of being so much older, felt with thankfulness, that I was quite as happy now as then.-We paid an additional shilling for our Tea, which we took as we chose in an adjoining room.- There were only four dances, and it went to my heart that the Miss Lances, (one of them too named Emma) should have partners only for two.-You will not expect to hear that I was asked to dance- but I was- by the gentleman we met that Sunday with captain D’auvergene. We have always kept up a Bowing acquaintance since, and being pleased with his black eyes, I spoke to him at the ball, which brought me to this civility; but I do not know his name, and he seems so little at home with the English Language that I believe his black eyes may be the best of him. Captain D’auvergne has got a ship.”

    Nelson's Flagship, The Victory at Portsmouth.

    It appears that Jane was feeling her age at this ball. She is sanguine about the whole affair and obviously made the best of it. She even appears to have enjoyed herself. It, “was rather more amusing,” than she expected. “I did not gape,” presumably meaning that she did not yawn. The ball began at nine in the evening and went on past midnight. She was concerned for the women with no partners.  Women need partners, in more ways than one. It is interesting to find that young ladies in their quest to keep up with fashion will make some unsuitable dress decisions. Some fashions do not compliment all body shapes.“The two ugly shoulders,” reference points to a fashion issue. These women should not have showen off their shoulders. They appear to be keeping up with fashion no matter how painful the consequences.

    In her letter, Jane is reporting to Cassandra, in quite some detail, the goings on at the Dolphin ball. Who was there, who was not; how people interacted and her sensations and feelings about the ball. We have the preparation for the ball, the ball itself and the post ball analysis.

    All these elements too are in Jane’s description of the ball at Netherton in Pride and Prejudice and also the ball at Highbury, in Emma. In fact the ball at Highbury is held in an inn just as the Dolphin ball is. We can see some similarities and connections between the two locations. There is even a fireplace at the end of the ballroom in the Dolphin as there is a fireplace in the ballroom in Highbury. Similar themes and actions occur;expectations, anticipation of happiness, disappointments, unexpected occurrences, absences and surprise attendances, character analysis, detailed observations,  facial expressions, the tone of voices and eavesdropping on conversations and all the rules and formalities of a ball. Jane’s letter from Southampton and the two fictitious balls are closely connected in many ways.

    The Dolphin Hotel, Southampton.

    For Elizabeth, the Netherton Ball, certainly was not the smooth, elegant, enjoyable occasion she had probably hoped for.

    “Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.”

    Hearing her sister Mary  sing and then sing again, her mother talking in an  audible whisper about the expectations she had for her daughters, Jane with Mr Bingley and Elizabeth with Mr Collins. All the while Elizabeth was acutely aware that Darcy was overhearing her mothers speach. This caused Elizabeth agonies of embarrassment. Perhaps the displaying of “two ugly shoulders,” is not on a par with what Elizabeth suffered but the element of suffering and embarrassment is there.

    At the Highbury Ball in Emma, Miss Bates, who continually talks, keeping up what might seem a stream of ineffectual banter, is one of the most irritating of characters. She  is comical in some ways as well as irritating but she has a very important role to play for the reader if not the characters in the story. Jane Austen, in her letters to Cassandra about the Dolphin Balls is playing, in a much more subdued way, the part of Miss Bates. Jane and Miss Bates tell us the details, things we would never find out otherwise. Miss Bates enters the ball and,

    “every body’s words, were soon lost under the incessant flow of Miss Bates, who came in talking….”

    She constantly verbalises her feelings, her thoughts and what she sees about her. It is a fractured, flitting sort of speech. In one way she is a clown, a comic character but she has her serious side. We  learn a lot of the finer details about the event.  Miss Bates is anxious to recall the food that is set out so she can report back to her mother, soup , asparagus, baked apples and biscuits and a delicate fricassee of sweetbread.  We know Mrs Elton wore lace and the room was filled with candles and she virtually lists the names of everybody there in one virtuoso piece of constant talking.

    While in Southampton, the Austens got to know a family called the Lances. Jane attended balls with Mrs Lance and her daughters and visited Mrs Lance at her grand house overlooking the valley in which the Portsmouth Road wends its way from Southampton across Northam Bridge. All the social niceties, manners and rules of politeness are as much in  evidence in Jane’s letters as they are in her novels. Her visits to Mrs Lance could almost be scenes from her novels.

    The Lances House at Bitterne.

    Thursday 8th January 1807 to Cassandra.

    ”to the Berties are to be added the Lances, with whose cards we have been endowed, and whose visit Frank and I returned yesterday. They live about a mile and three quarters from S. to the right of the new road to  Portsmouth, and I believe their house is one of those which are to be seen almost anywhere among the woods on the other side of the Itchen. It is a handsome building, stands high, and in a very beautiful situation. We found only Mrs Lance at home, and whether she boasts any offspring besides a grand pianoforte did not appear. She was civil and chatty enough, and offered to introduce us to some acquaintance in Southampton.”

     At a later date Jane visited the Lances with Martha Lloyd.

    Friday 9th December 1808 to Cassandra.

    “Martha and I made use of the very favourable state of yesterday for walking to Chiswell- we found Mrs Lance at home and alone, and sat out three other ladies who soon came in.- We went by the ferry and returned by the bridge, and were scarcely at all fatigued.”

    The same rules of etiquette apply whether Mr Knightley is visiting Emma and Mr Woodhouse in Highbury or Darcy is visiting the Bennetts or the Bertrams are visiting Mr and Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park. The same tensions, politeness’s and finally the analysis and reaction and thoughts about the people visited.

    Northam Bridge taking the Portsmouth Road over the River Itchen.

    Any group wanting to visit the England of Jane Austen would do very well if they based themselves in Southampton. The Dolphin Hotel, where those balls were attended, is a Georgian building and a four star hotel.

    From The Dolphin Hotel a walk around Southampton might include, Castle Square and a pub lunch in The Juniper Berry (Bosuns Locker), on the site of Jane's Southampton home. Other sites mentioned in her letters are the theatre, the site of All Saints Church in the High Street and the location of the beach where the Austens ice skated in the winter. A short drive takes you to the site of the Lances estate at “Chiswell,” now known as Chessel, which is part of Bitterne, a suburb of Southampton. The gate house and the two pillars marking the entrance to the Lance estate are still remaining. Two roads are named after the Lances, Lances Hill and Little Lances Hill. A short trip outside of Southampton to the beautiful setting of the  ancient ruins of Netley Abbey would be an ideal spot for a picnic. Jane and her family had picnics at Netley. Near The Dolphin is Southampton pier where the ferry goes to the Isle of Wight. The Austens often took boat trips to the Island. You can visit Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s Summer residence near Cowes on the island.

    Southampton is within short drives of Winchester, Chawton, Steventon and Porstmouth with its Historic dockyard which features Nelsons flag ship, The Victory. Bath and Lyme are each a day trip away. London can be reached within an hour on the main line train from Southampton Central Station.

    Jane's grave in Winchester Cathedral.

    Southampton has many other attractions. There are numerous Titanic memorials and buildings connected with the White Star Line and places people, who journeyed on the Titanic, visited. An elegant Victorian pub called The Bunch of Grapes near the docks is where many of the boiler men drank before boarding the Titanic. South Western House was the grand railway hotel many of the wealthy, including the aristocracy, stayed the night before going on board the Titanic. You can stand outside the building in Canute Road that was formerly  the White Star offices. It was here that crowds gathered to receive news of their family members.

    Netley Abbey, south transept.

    Southampton itself is an ancient city going back to Roman times. It has  impressive medieval walls and a  medieval gateway called, The Bargate, leading into the High Street. There is also a memorial to The Mayflower. Some Southampton people went on-board the Mayflower to America and were amongst the founding fathers. In Shakespeare’s Henry V, before Henry’s army departs for France, two traitors are tried and hung in Southampton. This was a real historical event. The court room still exists where they were tried. It is a lovely timber frame pub called The Red Lion. It is within thirty or fourty metres of The Dolphin Hotel.

    The city has close relations with America. It was the main port for the trans-Atlantic liners, The Queen Mary and The Queen Elizabeth and it still hosts the largest cruise ships in the world. More than two million American troops passed through Southampton and the docks on their way to help liberate Europe after D Day.

     Southampton has some wonderful museums including The Maritime Museum, Tudor House Museum, which relates the history of Southampton, Southampton Art Gallery and Gods House Tower, situated in one of the ancient gateways into Southampton.It is an archaeological museum with artefacts going back to neolithic times. It has an extensive collection of Roman artefacts.

    The Tudor House Museum, Southampton.

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    Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning, Poetical Works Volume I, engraving.png

    Born: March 6th 1806 - Died: June 29th 1861 

                            How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
                                        by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
                                         How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
                                                I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
                                           My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
                                   For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
                              I love thee to the level of everyday's
                                        Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
                                        I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
                                            I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
                                 I love thee with a passion put to use
                                                  In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
                                       I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
                                                        With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
                                                           Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
                                      I shall but love thee better after death.

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    Apparently Shakespeare, in the guise of Romeo and Juliet, sells chocolate bars. I saw this advertising hoarding on Raynes Park Station, near Wimbledon,the other day.

    Here is Jane's effort!!! What do you think?

    Chapter 1

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a sweet tooth, must be in want of a delicious bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate.

    However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth of his chocolate cravings are so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered immediately, the rightful property of someone or other of their village sweet shops.

    "My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, between her sucking a crunchie bar and swooning over a chocolate flake "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

    Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

    "But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has seen crate loads of chocolate bars being delivered, and every one with wrappers advertising, offers. She told me all about it."

    Mr. Bennet made no answer.

    "Do you not want to know who is going to provide these inviting special offers with every chocolate bar?" cried his wife impatiently.

    "You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

    This was invitation enough.

    "Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man with vast boxes of Cadburys Milk Tray from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so gorging himself on a chocolate bar,   at the time, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his chocolate bars, in wrappers advertising the said free offers of e-books and Kindles and all kind of wonderful temptations will be  in the house by the end of next week."

    "What is his name and how do I get hold of some of his chocolate with the free offers?"

    "Bingley," and you must use your pinz nez to read the small print on his, "Mars."

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    I saw something amazing today.

    I was invited to teach at a school near Woking this morning. It was in a year six class. The children in year 6 are eleven year olds. I had a great morning with the children. We did grammar and punctuation together. The children also evaluated a topic about the Victorians they have just completed. They worked very hard with great enthusiasm.

    Break time came. The school has a small playground. The gardens of adjacent houses border each side. At one end of the playground there are climbing frames, a climbing wall and scrambling nets. Many of the children worked off their energy grappling with these constructions. There is a small area for football with a set of five aside goal posts at either end. Because of the size of the  area, the proximity of the houses and the nearness of the climbing frames the children are not allowed to use footballs to play football. Many would get hit by flying balls and the balls would invariably end up in the neighbours gardens. However, they are allowed to play football with one tennis ball.

    I was astounded. The speed of the game and the individual skills of the boys and girls, stunned me. They controlled long passes at speed with the outside of their feet. They shot first time with pinpoint accuracy. Their running on the ball was as smooth as a panther chasing its prey. High balls thrown out by the goalkeepers were controlled on the chest and brought to their feet with one deft action. Dribbling, side stepping, step overs,(with a tiny ball!!!!????) were achieved with heads up  and eyes looking for space and all the time the children were in perpetual motion.

    I have played football myself and coached school football teams for many years. I have never seen such effortless skills as these!!!!!!!!!

    (This might make you laugh. They all wore their school uniforms including collars and ties!!!!ha! ha


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  • 04/02/14--06:33: VIKINGS LIFE AND LEGEND

  • Exhibition poster displayed in the portico of The British Museum.

    Recently my brother Michael and I, who incidentally lives near Aarhus on Jutland, went to see the new Viking exhibition at The British Museum called, “Vikings Life And Legend.” My brother went to the first exhibition about the Vikings at the British Museum thirty years ago. He was interested this time to see how our view and knowledge of the Vikings and the Viking world has developed and changed. There have been many new discoveries, mostly through archaeological excavations, that have  developed our knowledge and informed our understating. The exhibition has been organised and curated by experts at three of Europe’s main centres for the study of the Vikings. Michael Eissenhauer at the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, Neil MaGregor at the The British Museum in London and Per Krisitian Madsen of The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen have all participated in producing this exhibiton. The exhibiton covers a number of themes, Warfare and Military Expansion, Power and Aristocracy, Belief and Ritual and Ships and the Viking.

    The entrance to the new Sainsbury Exhibition Centre in the British Museum where the Viking exhibition is located.

    When the name, Viking, is mentioned many people still have a preconceived idea of a savage, ruthless raider attacking peaceful farming communities, stealing, murdering, burning and pillaging all in their path. The 1958 film, produced by Richard Fleischer, starring Kirk Douglas and based narrowly on some of the Old Norse Saga stories, is many peoples idea of what the Vikings were like and what they got up to. That was a part of what they did but they were very much  involved in, meeting and trading with other people. They were traders, farmers and developed religious beliefs and what perhaps is more surprising to many and highlighted by this new exhibition is that they learned and adapted from other cultures often taking on new ideas and ways of belief.  We know they also settled and set up new communities because we have so much evidence here in the British Isles. But it was a turbulent history that went along with that.

    The Viking Age lasted roughly from the late 8thcentury to the late 11 th century. To put a more precise date on it, it lasted from about 800 Ad to 1066 Ad , in Britain anyway. 1066 was the year of the Norman Invasion in Britain and also the year of the last great Viking Invasion with an army under Harald Hadrada that was defeated by our last Saxon King, Harold Godwinson at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. Other countries might think of the Viking era extending beyond that period.

    The Peterborough Chronicle. One of the versions of the Saxon Chronicle that gives evidence about the Vikings in Britain.

    The word Viking itself is misleading. There was not a Viking country as such. The Vikings, or raiders,  came from an area of northern Europe which nowadays covers, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. These countries did not exist at the start of the Viking age. The word Viking comes from an old Norse word , vik, meaning inlet. The word viking or vikingr, means raiding party or even piracy. The Latin word , vicus, means a trading centre or emporium. An old English word, which can be found in place names today is ,wic, which might derive from the word Viking. We have places such as Norwich,  Keswick in The Lake District, and villages such as Scopwick in Norfolk. The English language has developed over more than a thousand years and includes Celtic, Roman, Saxon, Viking words, and French from the Normans. This rich development of our language has created some convoluted ways of spelling and ways of organising our grammar and so the history of Britain, including the period of the Viking invasions and settlements, can be found in names.

    The Viking world

    One of the main reasons for a somewhat biased view of the Vikings and an emphasis on their brutality has come down to us from the Anglo Saxon chronicles of the late 8th century. The monks of Lindisfarne were attacked and murdered, and the treasures in their church stolen by the ,”heathen,” hoards that came over from the north in their longships. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles, written later, were begun by King Alfred in Winchester during the late 9thcentury. Alfred wanted the history of England recorded. Various versions were written and distributed to a number of cathedrals around the country  to edit and keep up to date. The monks who wrote them show signs of prejudice , where a chronicle in one part of the country  mentions an event from one point of view, others might see it differently or decide to ignore it all together. The Saxon chronicles are therefore to be treated with an element of scepticism but also as a rich source of historical evidence. The chronicles are the first sources to mention the invasions and raids from the north.

    "AD. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter."Entry for the year 793 in the Anglo Saxon chronicle.

    A Viking axe head used for chopping wood and splitting skulls.

    Six years before Lindisfarne was raided the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records for A.D. 787. states that 

    "This year King Bertric took Edburga the daughter of Offa to wife. And in his days came first three ships of the Northmen from the land of robbers. The reve then rode thereto, and would drive them to the king's town; for he knew not what they were; and there was he slain. These were the first ships of the Danish men that sought the land of the English nation."

    Either this is the beginning of greater tribulation, or else the sins of the inhabitants have called it upon them. Truly it has not happened by chance, but it is a sign that it was well merited by someone. But now, you who are left, stand manfully, fight bravely, defend the camp of God."

    Alcuin (735-804)

    These Saxon extracts, are notable for a number of reasons. First they are written accounts by educated monks who saw their very existence and Christianity under attack. They show that there was a feeling of terror but also that they had a guilty conscience. Maybe they felt that they had done something wrong in the eyes of God to deserve this? These chronicles, are the first evidence in Britain for the Vikings. They are a biased account but as in all stories, whatever the source, there is truth too. It is understandable how a concept of savage heathens came to be the foremost opinion about the Vikings initially.

    The site of Lindisfarne Abbey in Northumberland.

    Michael and I walked into the exhibition amongst hundreds of other people. It is a very popular exhibition and as such this creates problems in viewing some of the exhibits. The archaeological evidence, after more than a thousand years, includes mostly metal objects, some wood, and of course ceramics, ivory and jewels. Many of the items are small and getting a good view amongst huddled onlookers, shouldering each other for space, was difficult at moments. The first displays showed artefacts belonging to children, women and men; brooches, axes, pins, and a sword hilt. These artefacts denoted wealth. To own any of them meant some level of success but the larger the item and the more intricate the designs displayed on them, showed increasingly greater wealth. So it appears size does matter, or amongst the Vikings anyway. I heard some muttered criticism as we went around that many artefacts appeared to be repeated. There were many sword hilts with various patterns and designs on them; there were numerous brooches, all of a similar shape and there were many shawl and kilt pins of a similar round design and pattern. However what was fascinating was that it appeared that these were not all the same. They came from different parts of the Viking sphere of influence which included all of  Europe,east into into Asia and stretched west to North America. They also came from different time periods. It was interesting to see that the overall construction and shape of these artefacts remained the same but the patterns differed extensively. There were Arab influences and Asian influences. These artefacts made it clear that the Vikings learned from and were influenced by other cultures. They were also evidence for the extent of Viking exploration.

    A Viking shawl pin.

    What enabled the Vikings to extend their range of influence across four continents were their long ships. The largest long ship ever excavated, Roskilde 6 (six longboats have been found in Roskilde harbour. They are of various sizes), takes pride of place in the large hall in the middle of the exhibition. It is thirty seven metres long and was excavated in Roskilde harbour in 1997 which is situated on Zealand, the main island of Denmark, not far from Copenhagen. Many of the keel planks are preserved. These preserved parts of the ship are displayed within a large steal cage  structure built in the shape of the original long ship. You can see that it was massive. What was important about these long ships was that they were designed with low keels so they could travel far inland along river systems which aided not only, their raiding parties but also more importantly their search  for trade. It also meant that if they wanted to establish a settlement in land they could  and not just be confined to the coast. The design of these ships, long and narrow, made them fast and they were also very manoeuvrable. We can tell this from the working reconstructions that have been built in recent years.

     Roskilde 6, in the exhibiton.The largest Viking long boat excavated so far.

    “It held up to 100 warriors and would have been part of a 100-strong battle group that would have terrified enemies.

    "This ship was a troop carrier," said Gareth Williams of the British Museum told the Guardian.

    "There are records in the annals of fleets of hundreds of ships," Williams said.

    "So you could be talking about an army of up to 10,000 men suddenly landing on your coast, highly trained, fit, capable of moving very fast on water or land."

    The dates suggest Roskilde 6 may have been built for King Canute, who according to legend set his throne in the path of the incoming tide, to prove to his courtiers that even a monarch could not control the force of nature,”

    Wrote Richard Alleyne in The Guardian.

    Roskilde 6 being conserved in Roskilde.

    The exhibition makes it clear that the Vikings , throughout their most active periods, were continuously extending their contacts and influence and they were interacting in many ways. One of the important ways  they interacted concerned religion. The Vikings began as pagans, or as the monks on Lindisfarne called them, heathens. They worshipped Odin, the father of their gods, and Thor, the god of war, but also Frey, the goddess of fertility and Freya the goddess of sex and Hel who ruled over the land of the dead. Most of the countries that bordered the lands that the Vikings came from were Christian and they started their contacts with these neighbours by killing Christians and burning their churches and monasteries but eventually even the Vikings turned to Christianity after three hundred years. This exhibition shows how the Vikings developed towards and finally embraced Christianity. It was a similar process to the Romans acceptance of Christianity. The Romans began to worship the Christian god alongside their other gods to begin with.  The Vikings followed a similar adaptive process.

    Viking runes.

    Apart from the written evidence recorded by the people they met, traded with or raided, there is not much written evidence from the Vikings themselves. There are many rune stones but these are mostly memorials to chieftains and their gods. As Christianity took hold some stones have prayers and crosses carved on them. They are not a record or history of the Viking times. The Vikings had an oral tradition of telling stories called sagas. They related stories about journeys and adventures, mainly focussing on one chieftain or important leader. These tell us some things about the Vikings and often give us hints about where they went. It is difficult to work out how much is fact and how much is fantasy. Although, runes, sagas and the chronicles of those peoples the Vikings met all give us insights and evidence about the Vikings It is down to artefacts and objects for solid evidence. This exhibition is full of solid evidence grouped and set out in an interpretation that is formed from the latest research and archaeology. If there is another exhibition in a further thirty years it will be interesting to find out how much more our understanding has moved on. When it comes to the Vikings it seems we will always be learning something new and adding to and adapting our understanding.

    Remains from a Viking ship burial.

    The Vikings still cause strong controversy and often our views of them are formed by geopolitical theories. Because of the long reach of the Vikings it is not true to say that they represent just the Scandinavian countries. They were Aryans and Hitler used them as an example of the strong, thrusting spirit of the Aryan race. Another name for the Vikings  in the eastern part of Europe were the Rus. Russia today gets its name from the Vikings who settled and traded there, but the present day Russians deny vigorously this northern European legacy. It undermines their view that they see themselves as a Slavic race.

    Gareth Williams , the  curator who curated the  British Museum version of the exhibition  writes in the  the exhibition book,

    “Interpretation of the past is inevitably informed by the character of the society making the interpretation…..”

    He does go on to say, with some hope,

     and the academic view of the Viking phenomenon since the late twentieth century has been less narrow for a number of reasons.”

    Viking axe head found in Russia.

    Other forms of research are being followed. The Vikings are generally not associated with a system of money. They traded using a system of barter and exchange. The use of coins was minimal. If the people who they traded with wanted some sort of monetary assurance then the Vikings would use gold or other precious things in exchange. However, as the Viking period progressed the exhibition shows they did form a monetary system. A study of numismatics therefore, helps us develop our view of the Vikings. Viking treasure hordes have been discovered with coins in them. Some coins from trading contacts were turned into jewellery, especially necklaces.  Place names and language help map where the Vikings settled and here in Britain, especially in the north of England where there was a Danish Kingdom that drove out the Saxons for a while, have many place names with a Viking origin. Advances in the detecting of DNA and the historic links that DNA provides shows the extent of the Viking urge to settle. Through DNA scientists can map the Viking world.

    Viking hoard discovered in York. There are some coins of Slavic origin amongst these.

    The exhibit that fascinated me the most was the reconstruction of a Viking ship burial. The conservators and curators have reassembled the artefacts and evidence exactly as they were found in one such burial. The shape of the boat was indented into the soil. The wood had disappeared because of age and the geological composition of the ground but all the iron rivets from the original boat still remained and these are laid out as they had been when they were excavated. The personal artefacts of the warrior are also laid in the position they had been found. A sword to one side, buckles and brooches placed in their exact positions. and a metal jar, positioned where the feet of the warrior would have reached with coins and other precious things inside. I got a sense of a Viking life.

    A mass burial of Vikings on the south coast near Weymouth. DNA testing has shown that these were young Viking men who had been decapitated.

    People wonder when the Viking period actually came to an end. This exhibition makes it clear that it didn’t really end as such. A couple of things happened. The states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were formed. Instead of being a series heterogeneous groups of scattered and very loosely connected communities, they became homogeneous, forming clear identities under one rule  like the other so called civilised countries around them. They also became Christians.

    The exhibition is excellent. If you are thinking of going I would suggest you book on line in advance. There a very few tickets available on the day and this exhibition is popular.

    It runs from 6th March until 22ndJune.

    Here is a link to the British Museum booking facility.

    A video link . Be afraid, be very afraid!!!!!!


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    Sometimes we all need a piece of pure rock music to clear the cobwebs. A vast drum kit, throbbing base, wailing lead and a singer to break your heart.  I certainly do. In my head it takes me back 40 years and I want to get up there and strut like Jagger or punch the air like Daltrey or sing out with that dry scraped voice of Eric Burdon or indeed Paul Rodgers,

     So stand up, turn this up VERY LOUD and do your thing.

    You will feel better I guarantee!


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  • 04/21/14--02:03: CHARLOTTE BRONTE
  • Charlotte Bronte was born 198 years ago today.

    Jayne Eyre is one of my favourite books.

    Charlotte Bronte, writing through the persona of Jayne Eyre:

    “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” 
    ― Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre

    and,on life in general.

    “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
    ― Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre

    The Bronte sisters at Haworth

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    Penguin Classics, Mansfield Park (Penguin New Zealand)

    The novel, Mansfield Park, is a portrayal of three conflicting social forces, the genteel, aristocratic world of Mansfield Park, the lowly life of Portsmouth and the corrupt life of London. These three forces interact, especially in the concept of family. Sir Thomas Bertram, the head of the family, is removed from the scene when he departs for Antigua to visit his plantations. The cornerstone of the family is absent. This unbalancing of Mansfield Park’s world enables some of these moral conflicts to be unleashed. The theatricals that are proposed and introduced at Mansfield Park by Henry Crawford, Mary Crawford and Tom Bertram’s friend, Mr Yates, are the vehicle for these moral conflicts.

    Penny Gay, from the department of English at Sydney University explains Mansfield Park in terms of a medieval morality play, encapsulating characters representing different moral positions. Tony Tanner, a Fellow of Kings College Cambridge, who wrote the introduction for the first Penguin Classic edition of Mansfield Park in 1966, stated, that Jane Austen used the theatricals in Mansfield Park,

    “as a vehicle to explore the profound implications of, “acting,” and “role playing,” for the individual and society.”

    Katheryn Sutherland, Professor Fellow in English Literature at St Anne’s College Oxford, explains in the most recent (1996) introduction to the Penguin Classics edition,

    “…the play poses questions which can only be construed as subversive of settled values and order.”

    Penny Gay, describes the characters in Mansfield Park as characters in a Medieval Morality Play.

    “we are encouraged to think, at least on one level of our reading, of the Crawford’s as the World and the Flesh (and possibly the Devil) the Bertram family as Pride (Sir Thomas), Sloth (Lady Bertram), Avarice (Mrs Norris, also Self Conceit),Lust (Maria), Envy (Julia, also Anger). (The minor character, Dr Grant is the incarnation of the least heinous deadly sin, Gluttony.) Tom Bertram embodies Dissipation…… Edmund or Everyman, who consciously tries to do good but is tempted and falls… and Fanny, the steadfast woman.”

    Morality play characters.
    Reproduced in H.W. Mabie, William Shakespeare (1900).

     The morality play is one of the three main types of vernacular drama produced during the Middle Ages together with the mystery play and the miracle play The action of the morality play centres on a hero, such as Mankind, whose inherent weaknesses are assaulted by such personified diabolic forces as the Seven Deadly Sins but who may choose redemption and enlist the aid of such figures as the Four Daughters of God (Mercy, Justice, Temperance, and Truth). It is easy to connect the name Mansfield with Mankind.

    Drama and theatre is really a much more positive and affirmative experience than Austen portrays it in Mansfield Park. In Mansfield Park she takes only one possible set of consequences. We know that Jane Austen and her family loved home theatricals. She also loved to go to the theatre when staying with her brother, Henry, at his address in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. She wrote enthusiastically in her letters to Cassandra about her visits to Covent Garden theatre. To act, a person is taking on a role, trying out situations, emotions and characterisations which might be alien to them. Love, hate, murder, aggression, humour, fear, wealth, poverty and the whole gamut of human experience can be play acted. Educationalists and psychiatrists think this a good thing. Theatre can be used to explore moral and life issues in a safe environment. People can confront mental issues and it can help them to recover. Children at school can explore moral and life issues safely which helps them to mature and develop as human beings.

    Middlethorpe Hall   (My idea of what the house in Mansfield Park might look like.)
    (Published in the Middlethorpe House website:

    Henry and Mary Crawford have been described as possessing loose morals. In morality play terms they are the seven deadly sins, a form of evil. The root cause of their dissolute attitude to life is suggested because of their damaged childhood and upbringing. They are left as orphans to be brought up by their libertine uncle, Admiral Crawford. As a result they have been open to many unsavoury influences. They have experienced the debauched social life found in London.  Henry seduces, Maria Bertram who is betrothed to the ineffectual Mr Rushworth. He flirts with Julia Bertram and then makes her life a misery with his rebuttals. He makes a concerted effort indeed for Fanny, who is unattainable to him and therefore the greater conquest if achieved. Mary Crawford plays the temptress to Edmund and almost achieves her goal. Their social skills may be described as play acting. It is no coincidence that Henry is described by Austen as the best actor in Mansfield Park and he himself exuberantly expresses his love of acting. Henry Crawford tells everybody that he loves acting.

    “I really believe,” said he, “I could be fool enough at this moment to undertake any character that ever was written, from Shylock or Richard III down to the singing hero of a farce in his scarlet coat and cocked hat. I feel as if I could be anything or every thing, as if I could rant or storm, or sigh, or cut capers in any tragedy or comedy in the English language.

    This is an impassioned declaration. We, the reader, are aware that he is the consummate actor. His whole life is an act. His pursuit of Maria, Julia and eventually Fanny, and then returning to Maria is a game to him, all an act. Richard III suave, sleazy, lizard like, cunning, highly intelligent, is Henry Crawford, isn’t he?

    King Richard III, by Unknown artist, late 16th century (late 15th century) - NPG 148 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
    Richard III  (The National Portrait Gallery)

    Fanny, and at first Edmund, only see wickedness and disaster in the whole prospect of the play. In Mansfield Park, the theatricals are used as a subversive element, not a positive thing. Austen reduces the theatrical experience to something detrimental for the sake of the novel. The characters and plot of Lovers Vows is unsuitable on a number of levels. The play is not merely going to allow them to enact hypothetical situations. The parts are closely allied to their own lives and secret and subconscious desires and so becomes subversive. 

    Various forms of reasoning and persuasion, by first, Tom and his friend Mr Yates, followed soon after by the Crawfords, encourage and persuade different characters to take part. Edmund uses reason to counteract their arguments, referencing what he thinks his father’s reaction might be. In a way he takes on the head of the household role. The role Tom should take with his father away.  Edmund believes that they are going to desecrate his father’s house. Maria Bertram, at first argues, when Edmund suggests that she declines to take part in the acting,

    ” I really cannot undertake to harangue all the rest upon a subject of this kind.-There would be the greatest indecorum I think.”

    But later she says, and shows her real base instincts. Her reasoning spectacularly loses all its moral high ground

     “If I were to decline the part, “said Maria, “Julia would certainly take it.”

    Jealousy, one upmanship, the fear of not acting intimately with Henry Crawford, Julia being with Henry instead, come to the fore in this last desperate unguarded statement. She no longer argues on the high ground.

    The greatest threat from the forces of persuasion are when the whole group, including now Edmund, target poor Fanny, the last remaining person without a part and who still does not agree to the play being staged. Even Fanny gets to the point where she is about to capitulate. In a way this is a foreboding of what is to come for Fanny. It is practice for the greater danger she has to face later; the powerful persuasive forces of Henry Crawford who attempts to marry her.

    The Mansfield theatre (Wikapaedia)

     In retrospect, the future course of each character is so strongly set, the eventual failure to perform the play merely delays the inevitable or even highlights what is inevitable.

    Lucy Morrison, Professor of English at Salisbury University, points out Austen’s more general use of  drama, playwriting and acting in her novels. For instance, she states,  Emma was derived from a drama based on the German playwright Kotzebue’s play, Reconciliation (1799). She mentions the strong links between the characters and the moral and social themes of the play and Austen’s novel. So it seems plays can be central to Austen’s stories.

    Lovers Vows, is a play by Mrs Inchbald, a celebrated 18thcentury female playwright who adapted, Das Kind der Liebe (Child of Love) by Kotzbue. It was first performed in England in 1798. The play relates the story of a character called Frederick. A local baron, Baron Wildenheim who seduced and abandoned a chambermaid, Agatha Friburg in his youth. The play begins with Agatha living in poverty when her illegitimate son, Frederick, a soldier, returns from war. She tells him his father is the Baron. Frederick goes out to beg so that he can help his mother. In desperation he attempts to rob the baron who he meets on the road. At first he doesn’t realise who his victim is. Frederick is arrested. While in prison he reveals his identity to the Baron and tells the Baron that his mother is still alive. With the aid of the pastor, Anhalt, he persuades the Baron, who is widowed, to marry his mother Agatha. Meanwhile the Baron’s daughter, Amelia, who is betrothed to Count Cassel a brainless fop, has fallen in love with Anhalt and wants to marry him. The Baron consents to his daughter’s marriage with Anhalt.

    The Georgian Theatre in Bugle Street Southampton during Jane Austen's time in Southampton.

    Some of the shocking aspects of this play which affect Fanny and Edmund, are firstly the illegitimacy of Frederick. This suggests lust and inappropriate behaviours on the part of the Baron and Agatha in the past. Also there is the weakening of social barriers which might be disapproved of. The Baron marrying Agatha and Anhalt, a mere clergyman marrying the Baron’s daughter, Amelia are relationships which cross the social divides between the aristocracy and the serving classes. The fact that Mansfield Park house is actually being transformed into a theatre and being physically changed is also a visual metaphor for social and moral disruption. Mansfield Park is no longer an ordinary home with ordinary values, all be it a wealthy home with a rich lifestyle. It is now a theatre where everything becomes unreal and social experiments of all kind can take place.

     Maria Bertram was to play the part of Agatha and Henry Crawford to play the part of Frederick. They have some intimate and emotional moments between mother and son which suggests a strange sort of role play for these two. They also have many scenes together. Baron Wildenheim was to be played by Mr Yates, Amelia by Mary Crawford , Anhalt, by Edmund  and Count Cassel by Mr Rushworth. The part of the Count for Mr Rushworth, ineffectual and slow to understand is obvious type casting. The parts of Amelia and Anhalt reflect Maria Crawford’s and Edmunds situation too. They have to act out their love scene using dialogue heavy with meaning which would provide more opportunities for Mary Crawford to entice and seduce Edmund. The fact that they both ask Fanny to help them rehearse their parts, Fanny taking the opposite part each time, has its psychological undertones.

    The whole acting affair comes to a dramatic end and turns almost into farce when Julia Bertram enters,

    “….the door of the room was thrown open and Julia appearing at it, with a face aghast, exclaimed, “My father is come! He is in the hall at this moment.” 

    A theatre poster for the production of Douglas  in Southampton.

    When the participants in this ,”drama,” are debating which play to choose and not being able to decide on any,  a few of Shakespeare plays are suggested, Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet. Other plays popular at the time Mansfield Park was being written were suggested too, such as, Douglas, The Gamester, The Rivals and The School for Scandal. It is evident that Jane Austen suggested these plays for a purpose. Imagine if they decided on Macbeth, the murders, the killing. Do any of them have thoughts and feelings about murder and dark satanic powers? It is almost an exaggerated suggestion. Hamlet might be a closer fit but then there is the killing too. Othello, involves subterfuge and betrayal. Who amongst the Mansfield players could be an Iago or a Desdemona? We might have our suggestions.  Is Jane Austen making a wicked joke about some deep psychological level the characters in Mansfield Park are not aware of?

    The play Austen mentions after listing the three Shakespeare plays is, Douglas. It was written by John Home who was a Scottish minister and writer. The plot includes the abandoned child of the nobility brought up by a lowly shepherd called Norval whose name the growing child takes. There is betrayal, suicide and murder involved along the way. There are some similarities with Lovers Vows but without the love element.

    The famed actress, Sarah Siddons, played Lady Randolph in Douglas.

     Douglas, incidently, was staged at the theatre in, Bugle Street, Southampton, near Jane’s Castle Square house. A theatre poster for the production states that on Friday evening of the 31st May 1811, Douglas was performed by the pupils of Dr Whittaker at the Theatre, Southampton, to  raise funds for, “The British Prisoners in France.”

    The two plays, The Rivals and The School for Scandal by Sheridan, have titles that at first would seem to offer an insight into the goings on at Mansfield Park,  even more so than Lovers Vows. The Rivals and the School for Scandal , are comedies that undermine the social mores of Georgian society. But, to tell the truth, Lovers Vows fits much more closely the scenarios being enacted in the characters real lives than any of these other plays. However, it would have been fun to see some of the others Austen lists, as the chosen production. To fit as closely the action, Macbeth would require Austens plot to be entirely different and if examined, the other plays, to be the right choice for Mansfield Park would also require a different story to be set as the , “the play within the play.” Austen is really having a joke with us all.

    Mansfield rehearsals.
    However, is Mansfield Park even closer to Shakespeare than just the mention of some of his plays in the suggested list? Is the story of Mansfield Park really a reformed, Midsummers Night’s Dream? It has been thought that Jane Austen’s novels centre on  dialogue. Jane Austen’s writing appears to be very close to play writing. We learn about her characters through what they say and how they interact and all the action is in the dialogue.

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    Strawberry Hill, the Twickenham retreat of Horace Walpole.

    "Heaven nor hell shall impede my designs," said Manfred, advancing again to seize the princess. At that instant the portrait of hisgrandfather ... uttered a deep sigh and heaved its breast. ... Manfred ... saw it quit its panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and melancholy air. “   Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764.)

    Challenging heaven and hell, preparing for damnation, seizing innocent young girls, receiving messages from the grave, floating pictures and a mood of melancholy. In this short passage Horace Walpole encapsulates all that we have come to understand as, Gothic Horror. Otranto, is regarded as being the first Gothic novel and a book that influenced the writing of Gothic novelists such Ann Radcliffe who wrote and published The Mysteries of Udolpho  (1794). Ann Radcliffe in turn was an influence on Jane Austen who wrote Northanger Abbey. Austen of course makes fun of the genre but she includes all the Gothic horror elements that Horace Walpole promoted in Otranto. The concept of all things Gothic is encapsulated in Horace Walpole’s building, Strawberry Hill that consists of light and dark, mystery and intrigue and all shades between

    Horace Walpole was a novelist but more importantly he was a letter writer and it is his letters that give so much information about people, events and places. He was an insatiable recorder of his times. His letters covered, politics, antiquarianism, literature and the social life of the time. He had a close group of correspondents. Each received letters covering a different theme. Walpole’s old school fellow, George Montagu received letters about social anecdotes. Sir Horace Mann, Britain’s representative in Florence, received letters about politics. The letters are, alongside Strawberry Hill House, his most important legacy. His letters are renowned for detailed opinionated description of places and people. He caused controversy amongst his close correspondents because of his often unflattering and all too realistic descriptions of famous and important people. He showed their inadequacies and unsavoury habits as well as recalling their talents and achievements.

    Horace Walpole

    Here is a description of Versailles in a letter to his friend Richard West, dated Paris, 1739. Horace Walpole was touring Europe with his school friend from Eton days, Thomas Grey, the poet.

    “They say, we did not see it to advantage, that we ran through the apartments, saw the garden en passant, and slubbered over Trianon. I say, we saw nothing. However, we had time to see that the great front is a lumber of littleness, composed of black brick, stuck full of bad old busts, and fringed with gold rails. The rooms are all small, except the great gallery, which is noble, but totally wainscoted with looking-glass. The garden is littered with statues and fountains, each of which has its tutelary deity. In particular, the elementary god of fire solaces himself in one. In another, Enceladus, in lieu of a mountain, is overwhelmed with many waters. There are avenues of water-pots, who disport themselves much in squirting up cascadelins. In short, 'tis a garden for a great child. Such was Louis Quatorze, who is here seen in his proper colours, where he commanded in person, unassisted by his armies and his generals, left to the pursuit of his own puerile ideas of glory.”

    This is not only a deprecating description of Versailles but also a character analysis of Louis XIV (le Roi Soleil) in not too flattering terms.

    Walpole’s style is personal and conversational. You get a strong sense of his interest, humour and enthusiasm; his feelings and thoughts are expressed vivdly in his letter writing. His personality comes to the fore.

    The Letters of Horace Walpole.

    Horace Walpole’s grand Gothic creation, Strawberry Hill House at Twickenham, could be said to encapsulate in brick and stone its creator’s personality too. I had the great privilege of walking around the rooms of Strawberry Hill House recently and so in the spirit of Horace Walpole here is my description of that visit.

    Strawberry Hill

    “Marilyn and I drove Emily to work. She has just completed her degree in International Business Studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University and has been taken on at Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s house, in the role of an internship. We arrived early on Sunday morning, the skies cloudless and blue. As we swept into the car park to the left of the house through the heavy oak framed gates with their deep dark red painted delicate filigree work in iron, of leaves and branches, the bright white walls of the castellated, turreted,  and perpendicular style of the Gothic windows met our gaze. It was breath-taking, awe inspiring. The glowing bright whiteness of the walls dazzled. Our imaginations soared. An air of fantasy, mystery, and whispers of a dark medieval, spiritual past pervades the whole. We entered the house on the ground floor at the back through archways reminiscent of an abbey’s cloistered arches and alcoves overlooking wide and distant stretching lawns. 

    Gloomy and mysterious corridors and landings.

    Emily lead us in single file through dim and narrow corridors to steep and winding stairs leading to a small landing with gothic arched doors leading to rooms. The shape of this small lobby with its asymmetry, sharp corners, niches and doors set at angles, disorientated, created a sense of mystery and even unease. The creator of a place like this must have enjoyed mysteries, playing with the subconscious and plumbing the darker depths of our personality, creating wonder and unease in equal measures.

    Blue plaque

    The first room we entered, emerging from this gloomy, moody, confined chamber was, The Gallery. If Walpole , with his dim , dark, mysterious corridors wanted to supress all expectations and put us in a gloomy state of mind  before revealing something fantastic and overwhelming, he couldn’t have done a better job. Entering, The Gallery, we emerged into light and space over canopied by a three dimensional ceiling of intricate shimmering golden webs. The ceiling is fan vaulted like the roof of Kings College Cambridge Chapel, the fantastic roof of Bath Abbey and the vaulted roofs of many chapter houses in medieval cathedrals across Britain. The gold is so bright, so shiny, so intricate, it astounds and lifts the spirits from the depths of gloom with such a rush we actually gasped. It is a long gallery and has three deep set alcoves interspersed evenly along its length. The centre alcove is also a fireplace. Each alcove is comprised of a canopy consisting of an intricate web of gold echoing the ceiling of the room. The alcoves also comprise mirrors and brightly painted portraits of Walpole’s family and friends. The ceiling is created with papier mache and the walls are hung with a rich crimson Norwich damask. The combination of the bright shimmering golden ceiling, the golden alcoves and the deep bright red wall covering creates a rich and emotional experience. The red almost creates its own warmth. Red is blood, anger, rage. Gold is wealth, power, a heavenly thing. All these overt messages were coming at us with such power and force.  We felt as though we were inside a Gothic dream and indeed we were.

    The Long Gallery

    From The Long gallery we walked from one breath-taking room to the next. Each room pulsated with its own power and emotions. The Tribune, was very special to Horace Walpole. It was the room where he kept his most precious objet d’art. He only allowed his closest friends to enter here. It is now empty of all Walpole’s artefacts but the decoration has been replaced and renovated. The shape of the room creates the feeling that it is round but it is not. A wide curved window recess in front of us as we entered immediately gives one the feeling that the room is round and equally wide and curved recesses to the right and left of this small room add to its round effect. However these recesses, although dominating the shape of the room are the sides of a square. The room is based on a square. It has a roof reminiscent of the domed octagonal shape of a cathedral chapter house which also adds to the round effect. At the apex of the domed ceiling is a glass flower shaped window, a sky light, with sixteen equal edges to its form. A hexadecagon flower.

    The Tribune

    There is an actual round room called, The Round Room, which is carpeted in crimson and also with the crimson Norwich damask wallpaper on its walls. It has a magnificent scagliola fireplace consisting of a creamy stone overlaid with green, brown and red branch and leaf motifs. The point that draws your eye in this room though is the window. It is set in a curved bay and has medieval motifs in stone and glass throughout it. Medieval kings look out from their glass badges. Coats of arms in stained glass are set between intricate and slender stone mullions.

    Other rooms that we visited briefly included The Library which once again is full of medieval religious motifs. The Great North bedchamber and the Holbein Chamber.

    We had entered the house from the back. Horace Walpole allowed people to visit his house and issued tickets on application to that effect. The visitor in Walpole’s time and nowadays also enter by the front door. This is an unusual entrance. Marilyn and I entered this way at the end of our visit. A large door is set in a white painted, stone, crenelated arch and meets the visitor first of all. High stone walls to the left and right of this entrance create a barrier that gives the sense that these walls are there to protect the house behind them, much as a castle’s outer walls protected the inner keep of the castle. 

    The front door.

    Once through this first door, we are lead down a narrow passageway with tall white walls either side. To the right, a narrow, cramped pathway, walled by the house on the left and the outer protective wall to the right, leads to, “the monastery garden,” set behind a delicately arched frieze. A small stone cell reminiscent of a monk’s cell or even a castle prison cell acts as a sort of sentry box before you reach the main door. A statue of a tonsured monk is placed on a pedestal inside this small stone room. The front door is an oak iron studded medieval facsimile above which a perpendicular arched window, leaded, with stained glass surmounts the entrance. The first surprise for a visitor would be once they enter the house. The entrance hall has subdued lighting. The walls look like medieval wood panelling but this is a wallpaper designed to give a three dimensional effect and look like carved oak. A grand staircase twist up to the floors above with a large metal stained glass lantern hanging from the top of the high stair well. It has red, yellow and blue glass in it and the three lions of England emblazoned in gold on one of its facets. We sombrely walked up this medieval extravagance of a staircase and saw how our tour should have started if Horace himself was our guide.

    The staircase.

    The last  word about our tour of his house should be provided by Horace Walpole himself.

    At the door, before you enter, is a wooden lectern with Horace Walpoles instructions displayed. They read....." Mr Walpole is very ready to oblige........"

                                                                 Horace Walpole instructs.   

    And of course , here is your ticket.

    Horace Walpole (1717- 1797) the 4th Earl of Orford was the seventh son of Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Britain who first came into power under George Ist. Robert was a Whig politician who believed in more power for parliament and in a limited extension of the franchise. He also believed in the promotion of talent over birth. In a way the Whigs were the forerunners of the Liberal party. Although he was never called a Prime Minister, Robert Walpole effectively became the prime minister when he was given the posts of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He dominated British politics for nearly thirty years. He was embroiled in political intrigue and accused of bribery and corruption. His own party, The Whigs, managed to get him to resign in 1742. He became The first Earl of Orford. Before leaving office Walpole managed to acquire various incomes for his offspring including some lucrative sinecure posts for his youngest son Horace, who never needed to work and earn money because of these lucrative endowments his father had provided. Horace was the Comptroller of the Pipe and Clerk of the Estreats. In his twentieth year he became the Usher of The Exchequer. He also had a share in the collectorship of customs. Altogether his income was nearly £3000 per year. He had to do absolutely nothing to obtain this income and he was provided with it for life. Horace Walpole was therefore able to pursue all his interests, including going into politics as the Member of Parliament for Kings Lynn, which had been in his family through his father’s connections. It was a was termed a, ”rotten borough.” A rotten borough was a borough in control of a local politician or member of the gentry. It had few and in the case of, Old Sarum, in Wiltshire virtually no voters. The Member of Parliament for a rotten borough was not elected as such. The parliamentary seat was given to somebody to gain influence. Horace Walpole was never at the centre of government but he knew all the powerful people. He was able to give a good account, in his letters to friends, of the political intrigues of the time. He especially was very good at describing the great and good detailing their personalities, habits and eccentricities. Things history does not often record.

    Horace Walpole was an historian, collector, social commentator and a writer. His fascination with history led him to collect Renaissance Maiolica.  Maiolica, was a refined, white-glazed pottery of the Italian Renaissance and was adapted to all objects that were traditionally ceramic such as dishes, bowls, serving vessels, and jugs of all shapes and sizes. It was also used as a medium for sculpture and sculptural reliefs, as well as floor and ceiling tiles. The latter were rectangular, laid side by side across specially adapted joists. Maiolica is distinguished by its white, opaque glaze, due to the presence of tin-oxide, a powdery white ash. Walpole also collected Holbein drawings, arms and armour and works by contemporary 18thcentury artists such as Joshua Reynolds.

    Over a period of forty years (1747 – 1790) Walpole turned a 17th century house in Twickenham into a Gothic masterpiece. It was named Strawberry Hill. In Walpole’s life it became a famous tourist attraction. Walpole designed the house, the interiors and the gardens himself with the help of friends such as Richard Bentley and John Adam, the architect.

    A room in Strawberry Hill.

    Strawberry Hill was built in stages between the late 1740’s to the 1790’s. It was used for entertaining and as a private retreat. The first phase of Starwberry Hill consisted of stone coloured Gothic interiors with old stained glass in the windows. The library built in 1754 encapsulated many Gothic principles. It was the centre of Walpoles Gothic ideas and the centre of Walpole’s antiquarian and scholarly endeavours. John Chute designed the bookcases based on a door in Old St Pauls Cathedral. The chimney piece drew ideas from tombs in Westminster Abbey.The rooms in the State Apartment provided large formal spaces for entertaining.  There were significant medieval influences but the overall decoration reflected modern state rooms in the classical style.

    For Walpole, physical objects were doorways to the past. Walpole's collection of ceramics was the largest and most varied in England. It ranged from ancient Greek pots, Renaissance Maiolica, and modern porcelain.

    Walpole believed that his collection of enamels and miniatures was the, 'largest and finest in any country'. By 1797, he owned around 130 miniatures, painted in watercolour on vellum or ivory, and nearly forty enamels.

    The monastery garden.
    From the 1770s, Strawberry Hill became famous for 'Works of Genius … by Persons of Rank and Gentlemen not artists', including amongst them the painter and designer Lady Diana Beauclerk and the sculptor Anne Damer.

    Horace Walpole's ,”Anecdotes of Painting in England, “published by the Strawberry Hill Press between 1762 and 1780, was the first history of English art. The Anecdotes included sections on sculptors, architects and engravers, and an 'Essay on Modern Gardening'.

    Emily, with Marilyn in the background as we toured Strawberry Hill.

    Horace Walpole died in 1797. He left Strawberry Hill to Anne Damer, a sculptress who was his cousin’s daughter. In 1811 it passed to his great niece Elizabeth Waldegrave. In 1839 her grandson John inherited the house . He married Frances Braham, the daughter of a famous opera singer. He, however died within a year of the marriage. Frances then married John’s brother, the seventh Earl Waldegrave. He was sent to prison by the Twickenham magistrate’s bench for riotous behaviour. When he was released he felt so annoyed with Twickenham that he decided to sell Walpoles collection in what was termed The Great Sale. He then let Strawberry Hill rot and decay. The Earl died in 1846. Frances married twice more. During her third marriage to Granville Harcourt she expanded Strawberry Hill. She enlarged the hall, added a new floor. She created the horse shoe entrance at the front of the house and pushed the main road back away from the house. She added a drawing room, dining room, billiard room and further accommodation for guests. She raised the tower and added Tudor style chimney pots in the style of Hampton Court. 


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    Readers absorb text differently when they use ebooks

    Apparently research shows that because of Kindles and e books our reading experience is becoming fragmented and superficial.We remember less  information or details of plot. We are  not so deeply engaged with the text.

    This also opens up a whole aspect of the publishing world, revealing perhaps more interest in making a fast buck than in the content of the literature they spew out. E-books are bought and received instantly like a can of beans off a supermarket shelf. The process of choosing  a book to read has changed because of this. Many people choose reading material because they are influenced by blogs, twitter groups and so called facebook friends, especially if they also associate and communicate with the writers on a self publishing site; for example, a Jane fan fiction site. The quality of most Jane fan fiction that is churned out is questionable but because people want to  be seen as part of the group and have become, "friends," with the writers, they are inspired to make nice comments and of course buy immediately their e-copy.

    Here is a link to the article in the Daily Telegraph.

    Post script.
     I have slept on the above comments. I have decided that all  you need to do is  watch somebody reading an e-book on a Kindle and then compare the occasion to  a time when you watched somebody read a paper back/hardback book.The difference  in how people engage and relate to  the two different written sources, is blatantly apparent, isn't it?   I don't think I have seen  anybody reading an e-book. Perhaps that says it all.

    Post post script.

    ….and another thing or two.

    The five star system that some blogs use to judge books by is awful. I wouldn’t judge a child’s writing on a five star system. Books are not hotels!!!!!! At least with hotels each star equates to a level of service and given expectations about the room. What does each star equate to in respect to a novel??

    The publishing world has become a sort of, “wild west.” It is a lawless, or rather, quality less, state. Anything goes. At one time, somebody could only get published if they sent their script to a multitude of publishing houses and often,in the process, receive a string of rejection notes, a humbling and salutary process. An editor, if the author was lucky, would read it. A decision would be made about whether the writing was of good enough quality to be published. I am sure various other processes were gone through as well and to get published was extremely hard. You had to be good, very, very good to get published. There appears to be a two track publishing system now.The good writers get published, probably through a process similar to the old system.However, the greatest volume of what gets published nowadays has no standards, because people can unfortunately self-publish. This is not helped by sub standard and somewhat subservient reviewing. So called vanity writers foist their poor quality writing on a world, which often finds it difficult to distinguish the good from the bad.  I have got nothing against anybody wanting to write novels, poetry, songs, plays whatever they feel like and are inspired to do so. It would however be wise to do as Jane Austen did when she began writing, just tell your family.In her case she was a genius and by a circuitous route came to the notice of the world.

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  • 08/30/14--04:01: A PENGUIN BOOK

  • A Penguin book using the original colour system.

    Marilyn went off to her usual Saturday morning car boot sale in Raynes Park this morning. When she came back she brought me two presents. First, a bar of Belgium chocolate made from coffee beans from Madagascar, which sadly, exists no longer, and secondly a copy of Claire Tomlin’s Jane  Austen :A life, she picked up from a second hand book stall. This edition was one of a series of books chosen to be republished in Penguins original format  to commemorate Penguin being the publisher of the year in 2007. I already have the original Penguin paperback version of Jane Austen: A life, with the pale green cover, a print of Steventon Rectory in the background and prominently to the fore, Cassandra’s sketch of Jane. I also have an e-book version on my i-pad for when I take friends to Jane sites so I can easily find quotes from Claire about the place we are at.

    This 2007 version of Tomlin’s biography of Jane is different from the 1997 edition. Penguins have used the cover system that they originated when Penguin was founded by Allen Lane in 1935. There are  many aspects of the style which are iconic. Penguin books and their distinctive covers were something I was used to when I was growing up in Southampton, so there is a strong element of nostalgia connected with this cover design. Penguin published only the very best in academic writing, in novel writing and writing of all types. They were also renowned for bringing on the best new writing talent and were never afraid to develop strange ideas and subjects. All this comes with feelings of comfort and memories of enjoying reading books from a youthful age. One of the key concepts that Allen Lane wanted to promote was the idea that the best writing should be accessed by the whole population. Penguins were first sold in places like Woolworths and W.H. Smiths for 6d.

    The style of my,” new,” edition of Jane Austen; A Life, is simple. The cover is divided into three broad horizontal bands of colour, from top to bottom, navy blue, white and navy blue. The title and authors name are printed within the white band, in a simple black and white print , created as a modern type face in the 1930’s. Below this in the lower blue band is the iconic Penguin symbol. The story goes that Allen Lane wanted a logo and name that would be attractive to all. A secretary at 8 Vigo Street, just off Regent Street where Allen Lane had his office,, overheard a conversation about using an animal logo. She suggested a penguin. Everybody liked the idea and Edward Young, the illustrator, was sent off to London Zoo where he spent a day sketching penguins in all sorts of poses.

    The colour bands were designed to denote what type of book they were.  The Claire Tomlin biography of Jane Austen is dark blue because biographys were dark blue. Green, was crime fiction, cerise, travel books, red, plays, yellow was used for that very important genre, miscellaneous, light purple were letters and essays and grey was world affairs. Allen Lane also developed his publishing house with brands called Pelicans and King Penguins.

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    The Mayflower
    The very term, Pilgrim Fathers, denotes a biblical patriarchy. They called themselves, pilgrims,  a religious term describing people who go on a religious journey to get close to their God. Father denotes male dominance.However, was it entirely like that?

    They sailed to the the province of Virginia to create a “new world,” based on their beliefs in 1620 during a period in English history that was full of turmoil and changing views about society and the individual.

    Elizabeth 1 died in 1603 unmarried and childless. James IV of Scotland, a great great grandson of Henry Tudor was Elizabeth’s closest living relative, and so he was asked to become King of England. He became James I of England. The Reformation had already caused a great upheaval in religion in England and had been the cause of many executions, both Catholic and Protestant. Although James was a protestant his mother, Mary Queen of Scots had been a devout catholic and James had catholic sympathies. The downtrodden Catholics in England had hopes for more toleration for their cause. In fact all aspects of the religious spectrum in England hoped for more toleration.

    This was not to happen. Plots were formed. Soon after James came to the English throne a group of disaffected Catholics lead by Robert Catesby tried to blow the King up and all his courtiers at the opening of Parliament on the 5th November 1605.  The plot was foiled and all the conspirators caught and eventually executed.

    The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators

    During the years 1605 and 1606 separatist or non conformist religious groups were being formed in various parts of the country. In Yorkshire, Richard Clifton, who was the rector at Babworth, was assisted by John Robinson from Sturton le Steeple in setting up non conformist groups at a village nearby called Scrooby. A similar congregation was begun by John Smyth at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. They were breaking the law because all English people had to attend services on a Sunday at their local Church of England parish church. It was an offence not to do so but these groups continued under duress.

    These non conformist groups were not lead by people who formed their ideas from pure imaginings. John Robinson had been the Dean of Corpus Christi Cambridge so he was an intellectual of the highest order. Groups of people throughout the country were reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves. This was termed as self-prophesising and from this process new ideas and philosophies emerged.

    John Robinson

    During Henry VIII’s reign the bible was translated into English for the first time. This was called The Great Bible. In 1568 came The Bishop’s Bible another English translation.  These bibles theoretically enabled every Englishman, or rather those who could read, access to the Bible and therefore enable them to interpret it. Henry had begun the Reformation in England in response to what he saw as the interfering authority of the Pope. He believed that the monarch had direct authority from God so he became the head of the Church in England. He began to remove the excesses of the Catholic Church, first by closing the monasteries and reorganising the church. However groups of people such as the Scrooby congregation wanted to go much further. They wanted to completely purify the church as they saw it. They became known as the Puritans. They wanted to cleanse the church of all it’s finery and catholic style services. They wanted to simplify it with the individual’s relationship to God paramount. Being able to interpret the Bible for themselves was an integral part of this. The Puritans were not happy with the first interpretations of the Bible. They were too catholic oriented. Between 1604 and 1611 James had a new interpretation of the Bible written. This was known as The King James Bible. This became the standard bible used by the Church of England for centuries to come and this was not enough for them either.

    The King James Bible

    Groups of non-conformists such as those at Scrooby in Yorkshire were not pleased with the pace of change in the church. The system of governing the church in England had not substantially changed since Catholicism. The King was the head instead of the Pope and the same hierarchy of Bishops and rectors was still in place. The individual was at the bottom of the pile and still had to follow the laws imposed from above. These groups were finding it harder and harder to exist and worship as they wanted. They were not tolerated. Between 1607 and 1608 the groups lead by Richard Clifton, John Robinson and John Smyth from Lincolnshire fled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. They joined groups lead by Francis Johnson and Henry Ainsworth. They wanted to pattern their life on their own interpretations of the New Testament. John Smyth died in 1612 and many of his followers joined the Mennonites. These were groups that had formed around the teachings of Menno Simons (1496-1561) Their beliefs were based on the belief and mission of the life of Jesus Christ. They were persecuted by both the Catholics and the Protestant churches in Europe so they had to retreat to the areas and states where they were accepted. Others in John Smyths group returned to England with Thomas  Helwys and John Marton and began what was termed The Baptist Church. John Robinson took his group on to Leiden. Leiden was experiencing economic expansion at the time. The cloth industry was growing rapidly there. The separatist groups in Leiden expanded and sympathisers from East Anglia, Kent and London joined them in Leiden. There was an English military garrison in Leiden and some of the soldiers of that garrison joined the separatist groups. Among the soldiers to join was Myles Standish. Theologically many of these groups were Calvinist. John Calvin lived  (1509 – 1564) The Calvinists differed from some of the other groups such as the Lutherans by not believing in the presence of Christ at the consecration and differed also in other religious beliefs and rules. Calvinists believed in predestination. This was a belief that every individual was already chosen at birth to go to heaven or hell. Other groups such as the Lutherans believed that the way we lead our lives could determine whether we went to heaven or hell.

    Within this atmosphere of the formation of  beliefs John Robinson formed his theology. He believed in predestination, (the Calvinist view), free will, lay prophesising ( the individual’s ability to interpret the Bible) and the analytical methods of Petrus Ramus and Giacomo Zaberella. This was a way of explaining the Bible and practicing it’s tenets through a form of logic. Ramus created a method for explaining Aristotles thinking. He described logic as including summaries . headings, citations and examples. He believed in a sort of binary tree system to explain knowledge.

    It was these ideas that Robinson used to give authority for his explanations of the Bible to his congregation. This use of logic is why people who followed him formed strong beliefs and followed Robinson first to the Low countries from England and eventually had the strength of faith in his teachings to follow him to New England. He believed in a practice of lay prophecy where all men including women were allowed to discuss possible interpretations of the bible. Robinson also shifted away from rigid separatism which existed between the Calvinists, the Lutherans and other separatist groups. He began to believe in a cautious toleration of religious dissent and a variety of practice.

    The Netherlands was becoming the home to many strands of separatist  groups. However a coup by Prince Maurice of Orange only recognised Dutch Reformed control making the various groups think that they would be forced to worship within one church again. From 1619 independent ministers were no longer allowed to discuss religion in their own private homes. The Netherlands were under threat therefore and not a safe haven for these new religious groups. This organisation of Protestantism under a national church, the Dutch Reformed Church  within the Netherlands was a powerful reason for Phillip II of Spain to try to reinforce his authority by revitalising the eighty years war. The Netherlands were part of  a Catholic dominated Empire. The Protestant English Government in response promised military assistance to Prince Maurice of Orange under the condition that the English Government would have supervision of all English language congregations in the Netherlands.

    The Pilgrim fathers walked down French Street to The Mayflower and Speedwell moored at the end of the street.

     The separatist groups felt under pressure in many ways. These adverse conditions created the climate in which Robinson’s congregation planned to move to Northern Virginia then beginning to be known as New England. English investors supported the Leiden group and enabled them to obtain a charter to found a colony in the mouth of the Hudson River. In 1620 they set sail on the Mayflower. The Pilgrims had purchased two boats, The Mayflower and The Speedwell. They sailed first to Southampton on the south coast of England. They purchased stores and other Pilgrims joined them. After setting sail from Southampton bad weather and the unsuitability of the Speedwell for an Atlantic crossing forced them to take refuge in Dartmouth in Devon.The Speedwell was repaired and they set sail once more. The Speedwell once more proved unseaworthy and they called  at Plymouth, also in South Devon. This  time all the pilgrims boarded the one ship, The Mayflower and set sail. There was no going back. 

    The Mayflower memorial Southampton.
    The memorial is on the site where The Mayflower would have been anchored.

     Arriving in Cape Cod in November 1620 the prevailing winds prevented them from reaching their intended destination. Some on board, because they had landed beyond the restrictions of the charter they had obtained from the English Government wanted to set up a colony free from England. The leaders of the Pilgrims responded by writing The Mayflower Compact which all signed binding them to England and the English Sovereign. The Compact also laid out that they should elect leaders democratically and enact laws that they should choose. This early document was the forerunner of the American Constitution and in fact some of its tenets were similar to the Constitution.

    The plaque on The Mayflower memorial

    It is easy to think that emigration to the New World was the answer for these separatist groups but it wasn’t the only answer. The majority of non-conformist groups remained in England suffering for their faith. It all came to a head twenty years later when Charles I closed parliament and ruled independently under the belief that only he had the divine right to rule. There were many non-conformist or Puritan groups now who wanted a much more democratic approach. This rift in belief and philosophy caused a split in the country between those who believed in the authority of a democratic parliament and those who supported Charles in his belief in the divine right of kings. This brought about the English Civil war which the parliamentarians lead by Oliver Cromwell defeated the King and beheaded him for treason to the English people. This brought about a situation where the Puritans set the tone for authority and the laws of the country. They became strict and austere themselves in   not allowing the freedoms they  had struggled for. They in their turn did not tolerate those who did not hold their beliefs. Some groups went even further in their interpretation of the Bible and, “pure,” way of living. One such group was termed The Levellers. They got their name from their belief that everybody should be equal or level. An offshoot of the Levellers were The Diggers who got their name from their ways of digging the land to grow their own food. The Diggers, were formed in 1649, the year after Charles II was beheaded. Gerard Winstanley was their leader. They settled first at a place called St Georges Hill in Surrey near Weybrdge. They later moved to land near Cobham, also in Surrey. Their beliefs and way of life was more extreme than most Puritans and they were persecuted for this in their turn.

    Gerrad Winstanley portrayed on a wall mosaic in Cobham Surrey

     Gerrad Winstanley wote,

    “everyone talks of freedome, butt here are few who act for freedome, and the actors for freedome are oppressed by the talkers and verball professors of freedome; if they wouldst know what true freedome is it lies in the community, in spirit and in the earthly treasures…” (A watch word to The City of London and the Armie 1649)

    Sentiments not far removed from what The Pilgrim Fathers might have stated.

    This is a hot cross bun reputedly amongst the stores that The Pilgrim Fathers were going to take with them from Southampton. The fact that it never made it to The Mayflower is interesting. Hot cross buns had been banned since the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was illegal to make them and be seen eating them. This continued into the reign of the Stuart kings. This was an illegal item. I can image a port official looking through the Pilgrim Fathers stores and finding the hot cross bun, 

    "Sorry sir, you can't take that with you to The New World. I'll have to take that with me."

    And so it has remained in Southampton for the last 400 years. A nice thought.

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  • 09/16/14--05:35: THE UNITED KINGDOM
  • The Union Jack fluttering above the beach in Lyme Regis on the South Coast.
    On Thursday 18th September in the year of 2014 the Scottish people are voting for independence.

    They are voting to separate themselves from the rest of the United Kingdom and go it alone as a separate political and economic entity. They could of course vote to stay as part of the United Kingdom too. However, at this moment, two days before this momentous vote, the decision of the Scottish people hangs in the balance.

    The people on these islands began to appear about 500.000 years ago and then the Ice Age came and they disappeared. About 12000 BC the climate warmed up and the ice melted. People returned. They could walk here because the land that later formed the British Isles was joined to Europe by a land mass. This land bridge, called Doggerland later disappeared under rising sea levels Evidence for hunter gathering has been found in the remains of bones and in cave drawings. To hunt, especially the larger animals like mammoths, bison,elk and  aurochs, people needed to group together. At this stage only small groups would be required to hunt and trap large animals. It is easy to see how small communities probably family sized communities  needed to work together and it is easy to understand that they would form traditions within families and also pass down family stories. The seasons and the weather patterns also ruled their lives.This early instinct to form small communities and work together developed through the centuries and millennia.

    We can look back at the vast expanse of the history of these islands starting from hunter gatherers and the requirements of their lifestyle  to the appearance from Europe  of people who had started to  farm and so formed static permanent communities and built houses and huts. The Neolithic period or New Stone age was the time people formed themselves into tribes and became far more powerful because of their numbers. Vast building projects like the  stone circles at Avebury and Stone Henge and giant mounds like Silbury Hill in Wiltshire , the hill forts such as the vast Maiden Castle in Dorset, used for protection from neighbouring kingdoms, were built. They required great technological ingenuity and the development of tools. The coming together of tribes into kingdoms required leaders, holy men , traditions, rituals and beliefs. They created strong powerful and increasingly wealthy communities. Later, metals began to be smelted naming the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Celtic tribes moved here from Europe in about 500 BC and brought new traditions and technologies.

    The Romans invaded in 43 BC, stayed a few hundred years and built  towns and roads and then left. Invaders from Europe came,. The Angles and Saxons and they formed Kingdoms like Mercia and Wessex. These kingdoms often fought each other. The Vikings came and invaded and took their part of the country mostly in the north in an area termed The Danelaw. The Saxons fought back under Alfred the Great and stemmed  the tide of Viking authority. William the Norman invaded in 1066  and took over a country  we could recognise today as England stretching from the South coast up to Northumberland and the borders of Scotland.

    Between 1282 and 1283 Edward I invaded Wales and built massive castles at Caernarvon in the north and Pembroke in the south and a whole range of other castles throughout Wales to keep it subjugated and placed it under English rule. During the 1290’s he turned his attention to Scotland. He didn’t manage to subjugate Scotland. There were defeats as well as successes but war was an expensive undertaking and Edward I had problems with taxation. His son Edward II continued the Scottish campaign but was unsuccessful too.

    Scotland began its joining with the United Kingdom when Elizabeth 1 died childless and the Tudor dynasty came to an end. Her cousin, James VII of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was invited to become King of England. He accepted and became James I of England.The crowns were united but the countries stayed separate until full union was achieved through the act of union in 1707. The forces of trade and influence within Empire brought us together. There was a need to be together for the greater good.

    The Tudors had tried to subjugate and rule Ireland but had not proceeded much beyond Dublin and The Pale.After the English Civil war Cromwell sent armies to Ireland to subjugate them. The Irish had been royalist in sympathy and would have caused a problem if they were not controlled. It was a severe and brutal campaign and Cromwell is hated in Ireland to this day. Ireland's joining the union was a parallel coming together with Scotalnd. It achieved its act of union in 1800. Differing forces of religion and trade played their part. Also in both cases Scotland and Ireland were seen as routes to invasion from England's enemies. It was better for all, economically and militarily to be together.

    The history of the United Kingdom, is therefore bloody and often cruel but it is also the history  of a coming together which enabled growth, industrial and agricultural revolutions, great art, music and literature.  This creative force occurred because of the forging together of four united countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland into a place that is so unique and special and has this deep shared history. It is in the gradual unifying of the whole that it has become an amazing and special place.

    It is easy for nationalists in Scotland, or England, Wales and Ireland to want to separate from the others because of a deep sense of remembered hurt, pride and belief in their traditions but they are not looking at the whole picture. They are being selfish and ready to damage the whole for their narrow beliefs and so doing they are going to diminish the strength and power that comes from being together rather than apart. The British Isles, The United Kingdom, is going to be a smaller place not just in land mass if the YES vote wins on Thursday. The strength derived from being together will be weakened. We will not be quite so amazing.

    Rather like those early hunter gatherers who needed each other to help bring down a woolly mammoth otherwise, as individuals they would not have been able to survive,  we all need each other now in our four countries to stay strong and grow. Within a group it is still possible to have individual traits, traditions and beliefs. Often strength and creativity is derived from the diversities within a whole. A synergy is formed. The history of our islands has been one of struggle, pain and war, but through the searing heat of that melding together it has made us unique and special.

    A piper in Princes Street next to Scott's monument. I hope we can call this bit of land part of The United Kingdom come Thursday!!!!

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    The results of the independence election in Scotland gave the YES voters 45% and the NO voters 55%. Scotland is to remain in The Union.
    Things, however, will never be the same. A whole batch of devolved powers have been promised Scotland. The three major parties, The Liberals, Labour and The Conservatives have made promises which now need to be enacted upon.

    Gordon Brown, our last Labour Prime Minister, in an impassioned speech arguing for a NO vote,, before the voting began on Thursday stated,

    "....the Scotland Act would establish a new rate of income tax, devolve stamp duty and create borrowing powers for the Scottish parliament."

    He said he expected to see other tax-raising measures, benefit levels and powers over transport handed to Holyrood.

    More powers have been promised The Welsh Assembly. Northern Ireland and its needs require attention too and now England itself, which has never before been thought of in terms of devolution needs to be considered as well. Our whole constitution will be examined and changes will be made.
    Should powers  be devolved to cities and rural counties? Will this create economic and industrial power houses of our cities? The process will be long and arduous. It is not the responsibility of one political party or one section of society.

    The discussion in Scotland and now the discussion in the rest of the United Kingdom is going to create a new constitution and a new union for the future. The United Kingdom is now in the process of recreating itself. This could be the boost needed to energise the UK and make it develop in innovative and creative ways. A very exciting time.

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      Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle ,Washington  and died on September 18, 1970 in the London Borough of Kennsington in the heart of London from reputedly a drugs overdose.

     Jane Austen was born in Steventon Hampshire on the  16th December 1775 – and died in Winchester on the 18th July 1817 reputdly from a disease called Addisons disease a problem with the immune system, which causes it to attack the outer layer of the adrenal gland (the adrenal cortex), disrupting production of steroid hormones aldosterone and cortisol causing a break down of the immune system. Not an unsimilar affect to Hendrix’s overdose. In both cases their bodies stopped. . One hundred and sixty nine years separated their births. That fact would have bothered neither of these two geniuses if they had ever met.



    They both spent time in London and enjoyed the metropolis and this might appear at first their only connection.  However, Hendrix  had a great respect and affinity with the 18th century especially in the person of the German Composer, who emigrated to England ,George  Frederick Handel, who also, like Hendrix,, came to London for fame and fortune. Hendrix loved The Messiah and Handels Water Music. Hendrix was a gatherer of all sorts of music which he then assimilated through his own creative mind into new and exciting compositions. He did it with the Beatles Sergeant Peppers anthem and also the sacred, Star Spangled Banner which he reinvented in his own style at the Woodstock Festival and gave it meaning to a new generation. Then of course there was all his own original compositions made about life’s many ,”Experiences.” 

    In comparing Jane Austens compositons with those of Jimi Hendrix,Cross Town Traffic has connections with Austen’s Northangar Abbey, The Gods Made Love, is comparable to the love of  Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Hendrix wrote Little Miss Strange and of course Austen had a few strange ladies portrayed in her novels, Fanny Price and Emma Woodhouse for two. Hendrix was concerned  with money matters, homes and relationships just as Austen was. There are many ideas and themes shared by the two. In many cases the same sentiments have been expressed by both.

    So one day, let us say,  Jimi Hendrix was walking along The Strand towards The Royal Courts of Justice. The reason,  let me reassure you, a mere matter of a minor smoking misdemeanour. Who should be advancing towards him from the other direction but Miss Jane Austen herself on the way to pay her tea bill at Twinings, also on The Strand.

    JH.  Hey is that you Jane? Did I ever tell you, I love Dylan, man?

    JA No Mr Hendrix I do not recall you ever telling me about that gentleman  Mr Dylan. 

    JH. I only met him once, Dylan that is,. back at the Kettle of Fish  on MacDougal Street in New York.

    JA Ah New York, named after that most delightful of Yorkshire cities. Such a shame it is no longer within the power of this realm.

    JH Yeh cool, man, whatever. Peace to all men.I met Dylan  before I went to England  do you dig that sis. I think both of us were pretty drunk at the time. No, no, I don’t mean you were drunk  I mean Dylan was, drunk at the time. Hey, hows things with you? Where are you hanging out  now girl? What you doin in London Jane?

    JA It is so delightful to see you again Mr Hendrix. I am here visiting my brother Henry, who live s a few hundred yards from this very spot, in Henrietta Street.  However, ordinarily,I am living with  my mother, such a nuisance but that is by the by and my sister inlaw in Southampton along with my best friend Martha. Martha is such a problem.  She chases after vicars you know. There is a Dr Mant in Southampton she just will not leave alone whatever I say to her and no matter how much I implore her. I tell her it will all end in tears.

    JH. Check that sis, hee hee hee. It’s the other way with me girl. I’m the one chasin the chicks round here. You dig!! But  hey Jane  Hennrietta Street, Its so cool. All those tourists  and  street musicians. I get inspiration for my song writing in places like that. Real cool man.

    JA We hope to visit the theatre while we are here. I know Kean is performing in Lear.By the way,I do like your miltary attire Mr Hendrix. I didn't know you were a military person. You quite remind me of my dear brothers . They look smart too in their Royal Naval uniforms.If I recall we met at The Marquee Club in Soho last was it not?  A gentleman most proficient on the guitar was playing, a rather strident number if I remember, called White Room. Mr Eric Clapton I think. He certainly played a virtuoso performance displaying much passion.I could feel my cheeks quite blush at all the energy he manifested in his bodily movements. His suggestion of a white room with black curtains has quite influenced us all in Castle Square as to our choice of décor. My ears didn't stop ringing  for days.

    JH.Long as I got blacked out windows too. I need head space Jane. Time to think. Time to create man. I live next to where that dude Handel lived. He was some musician.You, ever checked out his stuff?

    JA Yes, I have heard Mr Handels Messiah performed in St Pauls Cathedral. A most exhilarating experience. I sang so heartily with the chorus. I don’t like to complain but I must say, Mr Hendrix,  our house in Southampton is such a bother. Our garden is putting in order by a man who bears a remarkably good character, has a very fine complexion, and asks something less than the first.(Who was, in your parlance Mr Hendrix, not a cool cat ) The shrubs which border the gravel walk, he says, are only sweetbriar and roses, and the latter of an indifferent sort; we mean to get a few of a better kind, therefore, and at my own particular desire he procures us some syringas. I could not do without a syringa, for the sake of Cowper's line. We talk also of a laburnum. The border under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive currants and gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for raspberries.

    JH Hey Jane but that sounds cool . The way I’d like to live, because like I want to get up in the morning and just roll over in my bed into an indoor swimming pool and then swim to the breakfast table, come up for air and get maybe a drink of orange juice or something like that. Then just flop over from the chair into the swimming pool, swim into the bathroom and go on and shave and whatever.

    JA A swimming pool? I don’t think I have ever heard of one of those. It sounds very interesting.Is it like the baths in Bath? As far as the inside of our house goes the alterations and improvements within doors,  advance very properly, and the offices will be made very convenient indeed. Our dressing table is constructing on the spot, out of a large kitchen table belonging to the house, for doing which we have the permission of Mr. Husket, Lord Lansdown's painter -- domestic painter, I should call him, for he lives in the castle. Domestic chaplains have given way to this more necessary office, and I suppose whenever the walls want no touching up he is employed about my lady's face.

    JH. Hey Jane I love you’re your wit and charm.. I could do with a bit of that  in my songwriting. Hee Hee you didn’t mean that when you said,the painter was  doing things to  my lady’s face, now did you Jane?

    JA I most certainly did Mr Hendrix. I meant every word..

    May I ask, how is your latest musical endeavour proceeding Mr Hendrix? I must come and hear you when you next perform. I enjoyed the conflagration you started when you set your guitar alight last time I was at The Bag o Nails club, I think you told me it was called that. All that consternation and screaming. I wish we had balls like that  in Southampton and Bath. It was all so, humerous and enlightening. Such fun.

    JH I’m writng a number called Little Miss Strange.Its goin on my new album Electric Ladyland..

    JA Oh Mr Hendrix I do like that title. Electric Ladyland. All my novels have ladys in them who wish to acquire lands. I am not sure I understand the term electric though. You must tell me some time over a ,joint. That, is, what you called that stick of twisted paper with brown leaves all scrunched up inside, that I smoked with you? I really thought you were going to set me alight like you set your guitar alight. However, it did made me feel so good. I felt quite giddy and skittish. I went home afterwards and wrote a scene in my novel, Northangar Abbey, where Catherine Moorland, who is staying in the Abbey, begins to imagine all sorts of terrible things. I don’t think I could have created that scene without the profound influences that seemed to overcome my whole being smoking that joint. What an unusual name, joint.

    JH I’ve just remembered. I’m looking for pretty girls to appear on the album cover of Electric Ladyland. Jane. Would you like to pose?

    JA Oh Mr Hendrix, pose, I do not pose.But thank you anyway. I shall look forward to seeing the cover though.  It is a great delight to have met you once again. I do hope we shall meet again soon. Perhaps, as I said, at another of your concerts. Next time do refrain from smashing your guitar into the stage. You did look so aggressive and I know you are not at all like that.Such a sweet man.. I could almost write you into one of my novels. Now do keep the flaming guitar though. That is so jolly and of course heart-warming and the excitement it causes is so great. What, is that you do, by the way, with your instrument sticking up from between your legs? You look so excited as you seem to polish the shaft.I really must go now.I have to get to Twinings before he closes.

    JH I dig that Jane.

    Oh, my mind is so mixed up, goin' round 'n' round_
    Must there be all these colors without names,
    without sounds?
    My heart burns with feelin' but
    Oh! but my mind is cold and reeling.

    Is this love, baby

    or is it confusion?

    JA Oh Mr Hendrix, you are a one. I must go Mr Hendrix, Goodbye.

    And so our two geniuses part. One to pay a fine for drugs possession and the other to pay a bill for tea,

    As Jane crosses the road to Twinings door she mutters in a distracted sort of way.

    JA  Born Under A Bad Sign,

    Been down since I began to crawl

    If it wasn't for bad luck

    Wouldn't have no luck at all

    Oh my goodness. Now where did that come from?  It just popped into my head.I must tell Mr Hendrix about it next time I see him.


    The Official Jimi Hendrix website:

    Guitar World Jimi Hendrix's Final Interview from September 11, 1970

    Rolling Stone 1969 Sheila Weller interview with Jimi Hendrix  

    Jane Austens letters  Collected and Edited by Deirdre Le Faye

    Emma    by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)

    Northangar Abbey by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)

    Mansfield park by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)

    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)

    Persuasion by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)

    Sense and Sensibillity by Jane Austen (Penguin classics)

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    6,Platoon B Coy
    1/15 London Regiment
    My Dear Peter,
                            Thanks so much for your letter received today. I was jolly gla dto receive it as I have often wondered how you  were getting on.Really we are quite alright out here, heaps of grub,good billets and under the circs are very comfortable.
    Do you know Peter I haven't had a letter from home for eleven days and since my arrival in France six weeks ago I have had only two letters from them (Susie and William McGinn,mother and father) don't you think its jolly rotten of them. If you write to them please jog them up a bit for me.

    Dear Peter, I hope you will write often and I will write you as often as poss; You see sometimes we are very busy and haven't much time. To day I haven't time to write any more so must say good bye.
    Your loving brother,
    P.S. Love to Ettie (Peters girlfriend and future wife.)

    This letter was written by my great uncle, William McGinn, in 1918 from France.There is a sense that he was feeling pressured but trying to hide it. by blaming his mother and father for not writing to him. Reading Jill Knights account of the movements of the 1/15th Battalion London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles) for that period makes me think William was suffering stress when he wrote the letter. 

    There are two parts to the letter. Both parts begin with, Dear Peter. Perhaps they were written at different times in the day, between activities. The second part appears to be written in a hurry. The handwriting changes. It slants to the right and is more of a scrawl in parts. He finishes hurriedly,

    “ I haven’t time to write any more, so must say goodbye.”

    I found a calendar for 1918. On his way to France, after training, at probably the army camp on Wimbledon Common, where many of the rifle regiments trained before going over to France, he first wrote a postcard from Southampton.The date of the postcard  is dated Tuesday 5th February 1918.

    Once across the Channel and disembarked at Rouen, he wrote another postcard home.The postcard from Rouen, is not dated.

      William says in the letter, dated the Thursday 14th March, that he has been in France for six weeks. Between the Southampton postcard dated 5th February and the letter written on the 14th March it is exactly five weeks and two days. He must have sailed for France almost at the same time he wrote  the Southampton postcard.

    He died on Monday of the 1st April, two weeks and four days after sending the 14th March letter.

    Battalion names got complicated, especially as the war progressed towards its finale.

    Field Marshal Haig  restructured the Army in February 1918 in preparation for the expected German offensive. The 1/15th Battalion, London Regiment, which was The Prince of Wales Civil Service Rifles, became part of the 140th Infantry Brigade, London Regiment which was itself part of the 47th London Division. Many regiments and battalions were  disbanded and the soldiers were used to strengthen other battalions and brigades. The Civil Service Rifles continued to remain as a unit but it was connected to other groups.

    According to Jill Knights book,THE CIVIL SERVICE RIFLES IN THE GREAT WAR,(All Bloody Gentleman), the Spring of 1918 was wet. The Civil Service Rifles were deployed at Ribecourt and Flesquieres during the month of January. They saw little action in that time but there was continual shelling and aerial bombardment of their positions.

    In February they were brought up to full fighting strength with the arrival of one hundred men from the disbanded 6th London Battalion. Those reinforcements must have also included William. They spent most of their days hiding in dugouts and foxholes. Jill Knight states that sixty three men  reported sickness from gas attacks by the end of February.During the eleven weeks, from the start of January to the 19th March, only two men were killed however.

    On the 19th March the 1/15 London (Civil Service Rifles) were required to defend the right flank of the whole British Army and on the 21st March the Germans began their offensive. At one stage, because of gas attacks, they had to wear box respirators continuously for six hours. William was a member of B company but the whole of C company was surrounded and captured by the Germans and taken prisoner. Many of C company died in the assault. William was lucky to escape. The Germans were resisted and the British Army was kept intact.

    The Civil Service Rifles were withdrawn from the front line to rest for a while. They returned to the front on the 29th March at Aveluy Woods for three days. Aveluy Woods  is three kilometres north of Albert and a few kilometres south of Arras. They suffered fifteen casualties from shelling. William was one of those.
    William McGinn, my great uncle.


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