Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brighton entertainments

The social round of events at Brighton was a major attraction for visitors. As an important pleasure resort Brighton boasted two sets of Assembly Rooms, which were based at the Castle Inn and the Old Ship Inn. Balls were held on Mondays and Thursdays respectively, card assemblies on Wednesdays and Fridays, a Promenade and Public tea on Sundays. The ballrooms were designed in Adam style, the Castle being considered the more elegant with its plaster mouldings, classical columns and friezes of Dawn and Night.
Captain Wade officiated for some time as master of ceremonies. Bath was mainly a winter resort and Brighton a summer one, so he was able to preside over both until he made himself unpopular at Bath. Apparently, he openly ridiculed an admirer’s love letters and as a result became unpopular, leaving Bath for good in 1770 to make his home in Brighton.
The circulating libraries provided entertainment in the day time. Not only could books be borrowed or bought, but trinkets, music, sketching materials and subscription tickets for the balls could also be purchased. Donaldson’s library was a timber-boarded building, painted white with an arched verandah under which ladies could sit and gossip. As it fronted the Steine, which was a popular place for parading, one can imagine there was plenty to talk about! Sometimes a band performed in the Rotunda, a wooden octagonal building, so gossip and music went hand in hand. Shops of all kinds along the Steyne tempted the passers by. China, tea, lace, muslins and without doubt, Lydia’s favourite, millinery and ribbons, had ladies parting easily with the contents of their pockets. St. James’s Street was compared to London’s Bond Street for its quality of shopping and variety.
Perhaps one of the most popular activities was the evening stroll upon the Steine within the sight of the sea –
Though in pleasing excursions you spend the long day,
And to Lewes or Shoreham, or Rottingdean stray;
Or to drink tea at Preston, to vary the scene,
At eve with new raptures you’ll fly to the Steine.

The print shows the Pavilion and Steine in 1806, Donaldson’s library is on the far right, facing the Castle Inn on the opposite corner. The Pavilion in its early form can be seen further along with a central dome. The Prince of Wales is on horseback just in front of the library.
Jane Odiwe

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Cassandra and Jane Austen
Jane Austen wrote and revised Pride and Prejudice over a period of sixteen or seventeen years. Known as First Impressions, she began working on the manuscript at Steventon in 1796 but her father's attempt to have the book published in 1797 was unsuccessful. It was only when she was happily settled at Chawton that she revised the book and following the success of Sense and Sensibility, offered it to the publisher Thomas Egerton. Pride and Prejudice was published on 28th January 1813. Jane wrote to Cassandra the next day.

I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London; - on Wednesday I received one copy.... I must confess that I think her (Elizabeth Bennet) as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.

Jane Austen received some favourable notices in journals but particularly delighted in collecting comments from friends and family. She was pleased to have Cassandra's approval. In a later letter to her sister she writes,

Your letter was truely welcome and I am much obliged to you for all your praise, it came at a right time,..

For those of you who have not read Pride and Prejudice and would like to know the background for Lydia Bennet’s Story, this will give you a brief idea of the plot and characters.
Charles Bingley, a man of large fortune moves to Netherfield Park, in the neighbouring vicinity of the Bennet family of Longbourn, near Meryton, Hertfordshire. Mrs. Bennet is anxious to have one of her five daughters marry him and when they meet him at the assembly ball they are delighted with him. They are less inclined to like his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich landowning gentleman from Derbyshire who appears to be proud, disagreeable and capable of snubbing Mrs. Bennet’s second daughter Elizabeth by refusing to dance. Mr. Bingley and the eldest daughter Jane soon form an attachment but his sisters and Mr. Darcy believe that Jane is of inferior birth and do not approve. Despite Darcy’s reservations about the family, he cannot help falling for Elizabeth’s charm, wit and ‘fine eyes’. Caroline Bingley does her best to try and steer his affections in her direction and criticises Elizabeth at every opportunity.

Elizabeth despises Mr. Darcy, believing him to be proud and disagreeable and is attracted to George Wickham, an officer in the local militia. Wickham tells Elizabeth that he grew up on Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, that his father worked for Darcy’s father and that he has not been given the promise of the living (clergyman’s position and income) that is due to him after old Mr. Darcy died. Elizabeth believes the charming Mr. Wickham wholeheartedly and dislikes Mr. Darcy even more as a result.

Meanwhile, the Bennet family’s cousin Mr. Collins visits them with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet girls. Mr. Bennet’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins and he will inherit Longbourn. His patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh has instructed him to marry and he proposes to Elizabeth. There are ructions when she refuses him but Mr. Collins swiftly turns to Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte Lucas and they soon marry.

Mr. Bingley and his party return to London, Caroline writes to Jane that she does not expect them to return and hints at a match between Bingley and Darcy’s sister Georgiana. Jane is naturally upset and Elizabeth believes it is a scheme to keep her sister and Bingley apart.
Elizabeth, Charlotte’s father and sister Maria go to Kent to visit Charlotte and Mr. Collins at home and they meet Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is Collins’s patroness and Darcy’s aunt. Darcy visits his aunt with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth cannot understand Darcy’s character, she believes he is responsible for dividing Jane and Bingley after she has a conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth is astounded and shocked by a surprise proposal from Mr. Darcy and refuses him outright. Darcy writes to her, outlining his role in influencing Bingley and tells her about Wickham’s infamous misconduct with Darcy’s sister, persuading her to elope with him. Elizabeth realises that Darcy is in the clear, she has been prejudiced by her own pride.

Elizabeth returns home and then goes on a trip to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. They visit Darcy’s home, Pemberley and meet him unexpectedly. They are all invited and Elizabeth meets his sister. She begins to see Mr. Darcy in a new light and her uncle and aunt find him charming.
Elizabeth is shocked to receive two letters from Jane telling her that Lydia has eloped with Mr. Wickham from Brighton, where Lydia has been staying with her friend Harriet Forster. Elizabeth leaves for Longbourn immediately. She believes that her chances of marrying Darcy are slim, now that she has fallen in love with him.
When Lydia and Wickham are found they marry but it is only later that we discover that if not for Darcy who settles all Wickham’s debts, the marriage would not have taken place at all.
Bingley returns to Netherfield to ask Jane to marry him and she accepts much to Mrs. Bennet’s delight.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh presents herself at Longbourn and demands of Elizabeth whether the rumour that she is engaged to Mr. Darcy is true and asks her to refuse him if he should ask. She makes it clear that there is an understanding between Mr. Darcy and her own daughter Anne and suggests that Elizabeth’s family are not good enough. Elizabeth refuses to co-operate and this gives Darcy renewed hope that she may accept him after all. His proposal is accepted at last and the eldest Bennet girls are married.

Elizabeth Bennet finally accepts Mr Darcy's proposal

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hertford - a possible setting for Meryton

Jane Austen set her wonderful novel, Pride and Prejudice, in Hertfordshire. The fictional town of Meryton, which is about a mile from Longbourn where the Bennets live, is likely to have been based on the real town of Hertford, according to Deirdre Le Faye. I am very lucky to live on the edge of London and yet am close to the countryside, in the market town of High Barnet in Hertfordshire. Hertford is a market town also and having been on shopping visits and research trips to the museum, I found it easy to picture the Bennet sisters wandering around the shops. It was very inspiring for imagining where the girls might have shopped and where Lydia might have visited her friend, Harriet Forster, the colonel's wife.
Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice between October 1796 and August 1797. Deirdre Le Faye mentions the fact that the Derbyshire Militia came to Hertfordshire in the winter of 1794-5 and that the troops were stationed in Hertford and Ware. We do not know whether Jane visited Hertford but her father had a cousin who lived there and he may have supplied her with information for her novel.Perhaps the Derbyshire connection inspired Pemberley to be set in that county.

'Such a pretty scene met Lydia’s eyes on their arrival in town that she didn’t know which way to look; at the ravishing bonnets in straw and silk in the milliner’s bow-fronted windows or at the figured muslins, crêpes and linens, ruched and draped across the width and length of the tall windows of the mercer’s warehouse. Vying for her attention was a highway teeming with those captivating visions in scarlet, officers everywhere, strutting the pavements and swaggering in step. A whole regiment of soldiers had arrived in Meryton several months ago, along with the changeable autumn winds, blowing every maiden’s saucy kisses like copper leaves down upon their handsome heads. Lydia and Kitty had been far from disappointed when line upon line of handsome soldiers and debonair officers had come parading along the High Street, a blaze of scarlet and gleaming gold buttons, laden with muskets and swords, clanking in rhythm as they marched. It had not been very long before both girls had made firm friends with all the officers, helped along by the introductions from their Aunt and Uncle Phillips who lived in the town.' Excerpt from Lydia Bennet's Story.
Jane Odiwe

Reference - Jane Austen, The World of her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye

Monday, January 21, 2008

Competition Result

Congratulations to Karen D who has won a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story and a pack of gift cards.

Thank you to everyone who entered! I enjoyed reading your comments. Most of the entrants got the answers right, so names were put into a hat and my daughter drew the competition winner. Jane Odiwe

Here is the correct answer in the right sequence:
Chasing officers, Dancing, Going to Meryton, Trimming a bonnet, Mending Mr Bennet's shirts

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review for Lydia Bennet's Story from Laura Boyle, The Jane Austen Centre web site

An Excellent Read! I finished it in two sittings!
19 Jan 2008 By Laura Boyle "Austentation" (Massachusetts, USA)

Presented as a novel interspersed with diary entries, Part one of Lydia's story retells the now familiar events of Pride and Prejudice through a new heroine's eyes, adding details which help explain some of her actions, shedding light on the motive behind others. As readers, we are wont to think of Lydia only as one of "the silliest girls in the country." Ms. Odiwe undertakes to teach us better.

A young teenager in love cannot be anything but thoughtless, but it does not stand that once the first bloom of romance has passed that she may not turn her mind towards the improvement of herself and her situation. It is not impossible to learn from one's mistakes. The moral of Pride and Prejudice is that first impressions are not the stuff of lasting relationships. Personalities can improve or disappoint on further acquaintance- from knowing one better, their disposition is better understood. This theme is carried further in Lydia Bennet's Story.

We accompany Lydia to Brighton with the Regiment and there experience firsthand her flirtation with Wickham. Unaware of his past indiscretions, she fancies herself in love with him. A midnight flight is planned and we follow the couple to London, stand with them at their wedding and from there travel with them to their new life in the north.

Part two begins where Pride and Prejudice leaves off, with the Wickhams in Newcastle and Jane and Elizabeth happily settled at their respective estates. Life has not been kind to the young couple, though it is perhaps what they deserve for beginning so badly. How they find their way towards a better understanding of each other, how the past is brought forward to determine their future...well--it is riveting reading.

New friends are introduced and old ones are revisited with grace and charm. Romances are concocted, and hearts are won and lost against a vivid background of Regency England. Brighton is brought forth in all its gaudy splendor; a whole camp full of soldiers with balls and parties every night. Newcastle becomes a real place, far more than just a northern banishment; a seaside city full of full of merchants and warehouses, shops and gossips. In Bath, all the familiar haunts from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are revisited; the Pump Room, the Upper Rooms, Queen's Square and even the Gravel Walk, so often the trysting place of young couples.

With an unexpected plot twist the story of young Lydia rapidly comes to its satisfying conclusion. Readers will not be disappointed by the creative way the author brings justice to all. Lydia's story is thoroughly entertaining. Despite the illicit nature of the Wickham's relationship at first, readers will find the matter delicately handled with no reason to blush. Lydia's voice is sweet and lively. Hers is not a nature to be weighed down by care or sorrow. A greater understanding of her nature and situation brings the reader a new compassion for her and an admiration for her overcoming spirit. It is a mature Lydia who writes at the end of the book, "If only I could have shown some control over my actions and curbed my obsession with George, perhaps my own great folly could have been avoided. Well, we have both come to a better understanding of life as a result... though first attachments, it would seem are not always the best".

Lydia Bennet was, indeed, born to an extraordinary fate, and I, for one, am grateful to Ms. Odiwe for sharing her story.

Visit Laura Boyle's web site for exquisite bonnets and Regency accessories -

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Competition: Win a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story

To celebrate the publication of Lydia Bennet's Story, Lydia has a copy of her novel and a set of seven Effusions of Fancy greetings cards for anyone who can put her favourite interests and pursuits in the correct order, beginning with her best-loved preference.
There are five to put in the right sequence:

Trimming a bonnet


Going to Meryton

Mending Mr Bennet's shirts

Chasing Officers

The competition is open for a week until 20 th January. Please send answers (don't forget to include your name) in order of Lydia's preference to the following e-mail address: effusions at btinternet dot com (say it out loud). The winner will be announced on Monday, 21st January.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lydia Bennet's Story - First extracts from Lydia's Journal

Lydia Bennet's Story begins with some of Lydia's thoughts from her journal - the following precedes Chapter One. Lydia's journal appears at intervals throughout the book; I had a lot of fun getting inside Lydia's head and 'seeing' her version of the events that take place. I hope you enjoy what follows - Jane Odiwe.

Tuesday, April 13th

I have quite worn out my silk dancing slippers at the Assembly Ball tonight by standing up with several very handsome officers for every country jig and figure. Indeed, on entering the Rooms I had barely cast my eye about before I was applied to by a string of gentlemen, though sadly, they were not all officers. I must say there is something about a soldier, which makes an excellent partner - I am quite giddy in their company!

I wore my tamboured muslin, which becomes me extraordinarily well and received so many compliments I was quite the belle of the ball. So smitten by my saucy looks were the officers of the Derbyshire militia, I swear I sat down not once! I danced the first two with Mr Maybury, then Mr Denny, Mr Wooton, Mr Blount and Mr Wooton again; then a simpering coxcomb, Mr Cavendish, followed by Mr Wickham. That gentleman danced and teased me by turns - he has a way of looking into my eyes, which I find most disconcerting. Mr Wooton begged to dance again but I was heartily sick of him, so as the supper bell rang, I affected a fainting seizure with an attack of the vapours, which had the opposite of the desired outcome, making him attend me all the more. It also meant that I missed dancing the Allemande, which I love - hateful man!!

Mr Blount took me quite unawares at the supper table, by presenting me with a small package. On closer examination, I guessed it had been sent from Mr Howett who was indisposed this evening. Enfolded in a piece of violet scented paper was what I can only imagine to be a lock of his hair, (nasty, wispy, sort of stuff) with a page of sentimental poetry, (clearly not of his own invention). As soon as I had the opportunity, I disposed of this unwanted gift, as I happened to be passing the huge chimneypiece on one side of the room. Unfortunately, I had not taken into consideration the stench a large lock of hair like that can make and the paper would smoulder and only half burnt. It caught the attention of my mother who is generally not so observant but she has a suspicious nature. However, I managed to convince her that it was merely a lock of my own hair that I had cut off because it was being unruly, wrapped in an old laundry bill. Fortunately, I am the apple of her eye and she is easily placated.

Mr Maybury asked me to take a turn with him in the grounds as he suddenly became overheated whilst conversing by the fire. No sooner had we stepped through the french doors than the naughty man was begging to steal a kiss and as I was thus constrained between a jagged wall and a rugged man I was forced to surrender. Note to myself - will hereafter forbear kissing gentlemen with whiskers - they tickle too much!

Mr Wootton is threatening to pay court and at the very least will call tomorrow. His eyes are too close together and he has damp palms, bad teeth and breath reminiscent of a stableyard privy. No doubt he will bring Mr Blount for my poor sister, Kitty. He is equally captivating, being two feet nothing, with more fat than a hind of pork and with eyes that squint out from a florid visage like a slapped behind. Mr Edwards will be dragged along in tow to plead their case - we must visit Aunt Phillips and escape the deputation.

His whiskers might tickle but he is so gallant. I long to see Mr Maybury again! Mrs Lydia Maybury – there, that looks very well!

Tuesday, April 22nd

As a result of certain incidents that have lately taken place, I have decided to reside quietly at home and forgo any trips to Meryton or flirtations with officers for a month at the very least. Likewise, when the time comes for me to step out into Meryton again, I will be more cautious in my choice of company and look for more than a handsome face amongst the gentlemen. I shall not let Mr Maybury know he has quite broke my heart - I dareswear I shall never look at a fellow again! He is a very sly young man and as Kitty pointed out, not only is his nose too long for sincerity of character, but I have also had a narrow escape from an alliance, which surely would never have been happy. She quite rightly says that I am none the worse for the experience, only she and Mr Wickham know of his dallying with my heart and I can trust both of THEM implicitly.
It is my greatest desire to fall in love and catch myself a husband, yet, whilst I am truly proficient in the art of becoming enamoured, so far finding my partner in life eludes me, however vigilant I have been in that endeavour. My fondness for an officer as befitting exactly what I require in a husband is so well established, that it would take a good looking man indeed to capture my affections, if he had not the added attraction of a scarlet coat. But to tell the truth, I am fast learning that not all soldiers are the marrying kind!

I have decided to devote the next few weeks to refining and polishing accomplishments, that for my good fortune I am already liberally blessed. I am to give more time and effort to preserving my Beauty, Health and Loveliness, whilst exercising a Graceful Attitude in Deportment and cultivating my Superior and Beautiful mind. Kitty and I have drawn up some ideas and instructions (gleaned from some Ladies books on the Art of Beauty and Accomplishments) for a new plan, and we have both agreed that we will not entertain any officers even if they should call!

Friday, April 23rd

Kitty and I have had a most wonderful day devoted to ourselves. Hill woke us at a little before five as requested but we decided it might be more fortuitous to our walk and our constitutions, if we could actually see where we were going. We had not considered the lack of daylight on a cold April morning, and so we determined to delay our ramble until eight, thereby shortening the time and distance to be covered and thus being duly returned by the breakfast hour. We set off in the direction of Holly Knoll but had only got half way, when the sun disappeared behind a black cloud and we had the misfortune to be caught in a sharp shower and were drenched through with rain. We have decided that in future we may just as well lie in bed and will postpone our brisk walking until June at least, as tramping through mud, rain and cowpats is strictly injurious to a graceful carriage of the body.
We sat down to breakfast at the appointed hour but it was a rather poor affair, toast and tea instead of the requested steak and ale. Mama was in ill humour.

It has to be said that Rebecca and Mrs Hill were not as delighted to see us in their kitchen as we might have expected but were very helpful, especially with the receipt for a face mask. Lord how we laughed; the breadcrumbs would keep falling off, despite the sticking effect of egg whites and vinegar. Finally, Rebecca suggested that we sit round, with our heads lain upon the table top. Just as we were made comfortable, Mr Hill came in and asked if he should cut off our heads to match the chickens that were lying on the other side awaiting plucking. We could not help but laugh at him, although his manner of speaking was such that if you didn’t know better, you might think he meant it.

Rebecca was sweetness itself, in making up our faces and declaring she had never seen such beauties. For her kindness, we returned the favour but I am not so sure that she was as pleased with our efforts as we were with hers. It has to be said that the canvas we were working on is no painting in oils and Kitty’s insistence on applying the ‘Liquid Bloom of Roses’ was rather too artistic. Rebecca looked more likely to be at home in Drury Lane but Ned the stable boy, seemed rather to like it and chased her around the kitchen begging for a kiss from her ruby lips!

We pressed on with our dancing practice and Kitty had the marvellous idea of asking Rebecca and Ned to join us. The poor boy was quite worn out before we had finished with him and played the part of the gentleman exceptionally well, though I had to scold him for his insolence. As Rebecca and Kitty were whirling one another round in a very dizzy fashion, he whispered in my ear that he had never seen such pretty ankles as mine in the dance. I did not like to admonish him too much, after all, I am sure what he says is perfectly true!
Still, our performances certainly cheered up mama who laughed and clapped and hummed songs for us until Mary deigned to give us a few tunes on the pianoforte.

We have spent the evening in refined conversation with papa who did not attend to a word we said, so just to vex him; we took turns about the drawing room, walking with great Fluidity and Elegance. Mama was in such excellent spirits that the workbox did not make an appearance and we three were all in high spirits. Kitty and I are determined to keep up our admirable routine, though we have been persuaded to venture out tomorrow by a missive from dear Harriet Forster who has promised news and gossip, not to be missed. I do not think I shall come to any harm just by strolling out to Meryton and have cause to think that a little exercise and company can only do me good!

Extract from Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe