Monday, 14 January 2019
My latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World is on the 1812 food riots in the West Riding of Yorkshire. This year also saw the Luddite disturbances in the manufacturing counties, and you can find out more about the Luddites in my book Regency Spies, which is currently on offer at a special sale price on the Pen and Sword website.
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
|The Cobb, Lyme Regis.|
In Jane Austen's day, the most respectable houses were in the upper part of town. 'To be a person of consideration in Lyme, it is necessary to toil up hill, and to fix one's abode where it is in danger of being assailed by every wind that blows', (John Feltham, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-bathing Places for 1813, London, 1813). The houses in the lower part of town were rather 'mean', with 'intricate' streets.
|View from the Cobb.|
The Cobb was Lyme's 'harbour of a most singular construction...where ships ride in perfect safety'. And of course Anne Elliot, Captain Wentworth and the Musgrove girls enjoyed walking along it - except on the day of Louisa Musgrove's accident: 'There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth'.
However, there are some very ancient-looking ones (right) near the end of the Cobb which could also be the steps which Jane Austen meant (and which look easier to jump a young lady down from).
|Harville Cottage, Lyme Regis.|
Thursday, 1 November 2018
|Harrison's Propylea Gate, Chester.|
Thursday, 20 September 2018
pre-order here from Pen and Sword, or in the meantime, order one of the last few print copies here at Amazon, or order a Kindle copy.
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
This will be very interesting to watch as Davies will be able to make up his own ending! Filming is expected to begin some time next year.
Even though Jane was writing Sanditon when she was extremely poorly, there are some wonderful touches of humour in her novel set in the seaside. We can only imagine what the final novel would have looked like - what an immense loss. You can see facsimiles of Jane Austen's original manuscript of Sanditon here.
Illustration courtesy the Library of Congress.
Wednesday, 4 July 2018
|Eaton Hall, Cheshire.|
My book explores the scandals, sports and pastimes of the great county families such as the Grosvenors of Eaton Hall. Their glittering lifestyle is contrasted with conditions for humble farmers and factory workers. The gentry and mill owners created elegant new villas and beautiful gardens while workers huddled together in slums with inadequate sanitation. The Prince Regent and his cronies danced and feasted while cotton and silk workers starved.
In Regency Cheshire, I explore the county’s transport system and main industries: silk, cotton, salt and cheese. Stage coaches rattled through the streets, and packet boats and barges sailed down the canals.
Reform and revolution threatened the old social order. Blood was spilt on city streets during election fever and in the struggle for democracy. Balls and bear-baiting; highwaymen and hangings; riots and reform: Regency Cheshire tells the story of everyday life during the age of Beau Brummell, Walter Scott and Jane Austen.
Wednesday, 4 April 2018
My latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World magazine (Mar/April issue) is on the way Austen uses landscapes in her novels.
Jane Austen grew up during the great age of the ‘improvers’ like Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. Austen loved William Cowper's poetry. In his poem The Task, Cowper deplores the rage for 'improvement' which swept away the past:
Improvement too, the idol of the age,
Is fed with many a victim. Lo! he comes—
The omnipotent magician, Brown, appears.
Down falls the venerable pile, the abode
Of our forefathers, a grave whiskered race,
He speaks. The lake in front becomes a lawn,
Woods vanish, hills subside, and valleys rise,
And streams, as if created for his use,
Pursue the track of his directed wand
Sinuous or straight, now rapid and now slow,
Now murmuring soft, now roaring in cascades,
Even as he bids. The enraptured owner smiles.
This tension between the old and new is explored by Jane Austen in her last, unfinished novel, Sanditon. The enthusiastic Mr Parker has built a new home at the seaside: ‘Trafalgar House, on the most elevated spot on the down’. It is a 'light, elegant building, standing in a small lawn with a very young plantation round it’
He pours scorn on his wife's fondness for their old home, in a ‘little contracted nook, without air or view’.
Mrs Parker, more practical, reminds him 'It was always a very comfortable house'. Parker ripostes that ‘We have all the grandeur of the storm’ at Trafalgar House. His wife still longs for their old garden, however: ‘a nice place for the children to run about in. So shady in summer!'
Images from the author's collection:
Wooburn (Woburn) in Surrey, the seat of Philip Southcote. He designed it as a ‘ferme ornee’ (ornamental farm garden). The Universal Magazine c.1770.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore & Legend, Walter Scott, 1889