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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.

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