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Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Hunting scene, Alken.
The horse took fright with Fanny.
Horsemanship was an essential skill for gentlemen, as horses were the chief means of transport for social, military and sporting activities. 

Hunting was a dangerous sport; it was not unknown for men to break their necks when jumping horses over hedges and ditches, so Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price felt alarmed instead of obliged to Henry Crawford when he lent her sailor brother William a horse. 
She was ‘by no means convinced... that he was at all equal to the management of a high-fed hunter in an English fox-chase. When it was proved, however, to have done William no harm, she could allow it to be a kindness’. 

 Although some ladies went fox-hunting, writers like Thomas Gisborne felt that 'the cruel spectacles of field-sports, are wholly discordant, when contrasted with the delicacy, the refinement, and the sensibility of a woman' (Enquiries Into the Duties of the Female Sex, 1797). 

Fanny Price learns to ride.
The ride to Mansfield Common.
For ladies, riding was a good way to exercise (Fanny Price's health went downhill when Mary Crawford borrowed her pony for several days so that she could learn to ride, too). 

Boys and girls learnt to ride at home on a steady pony, or perhaps (if they lived in town) at a riding school or academy.

Places like Bath had 'extensive and commodious...riding-schools' where ladies and gentlemen could take equestrian exercise indoors when the weather was too inclement to go riding about the countryside. If you did not already know to ride, lessons were 5s 6d each, or 3 guineas for 16 lessons (Pierce Egan, Walks Through Bath, 1819).

And if you wanted to see some amazing feats of horsemanship, Astley's Amphitheatre was the place to go.

Hunting scene, Henry T. Alken, The Chace, The Turf and The Road (2nd edition), John Murray, 1843. ‘The horse took fright with Fanny’. Illustration for Fatherless Fanny, G. Virtue, c.1819.
Fanny Price learns to ride with Edmund and the old grey pony. The ride to Mansfield Common. Hugh Thomson illustrations for Mansfield Park.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Visit To Carlton House

Pride & Prejudice’s Mr Darcy could not ‘comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these’. In 1815, Jane Austen was given a personal invitation to visit one of the most splendid libraries in Britain, which belonged to the Prince Regent. The Prince was a noted patron of the arts and literature and loved Austen’s work.  

At this time, Jane was helping nurse her brother Henry through a nasty illness when one of his doctors, who also attended the Prince Regent, realized that Jane was the author of Pride & Prejudice. One day he told Jane that the Prince ‘often’ read her novels’ and ‘kept a set in every one of his residences’.  Accordingly he had informed the Prince she was in London.  His royal highness asked the librarian of Carlton House, James Stanier Clarke, to call on her. 

Clarke duly appeared the next day and invited Jane to Carlton House, so that he could show her ‘the library and other apartments, and pay her every possible attention’. Although Jane disapproved of the Prince Regent’s immoral lifestyle, she felt unable to turn down this high honour.  During her visit, Clarke told her that the Prince had given her permission to dedicate her next novel (Emma) to him, and upon publication, Austen’s publisher John Murray sent the Prince a handsome copy of Emma for his library. Clarke and Jane had a very funny correspondence in which he sent her a series of suggestions for her next work.

Carlton House was the Prince’s primary London residence from about 1783 onwards. Sadly, it was knocked down in the late 1820s as Prinny (now George IV) wanted Buckingham House to be revamped into a splendid new royal residence – now Buckingham Palace. However, you can see some lovely colour images of Carlton House here on Patrick Baty’s website.
The Prince Regent, 1822. Engraving by William Darton.
Tom and Jerry visit the Throne Room in Carlton House. It had crimson velvet drapes ornamented with gold-lace fringes, and its splendid carpet was made in England, at Spitalfields. Engraving by George and Robert Cruikshank, Life in London, Pierce Egan, (John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, 1869.)
The front of Carlton House, and the Grand Staircase, Old and New London Vol. IV, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c.1878).
All images from the author’s collection.