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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’s music’ Category

“We are to have a tiny party here tonight; I hate tiny parties–they force one into constant exertion.” — Jane Austen to Cassandra, May 21, 1801,  while visiting her Aunt Jane and Uncle James Leigh-Perrot in Bath

Drawing of a Regency woman writing a letter

Image by Isabelle Bishop, from the Morgan Library Exhibit of Life, Work, and Legacy of Jane Austen.

Inquiring readers, 

Tomorrow it will be December, a time for parties, celebrations, family gatherings, and Christmas activities, mostly  in Christian regions. During Austen’s time, people associated this period with the religious calendar, as well as with pagan traditions observed since ancient times. Celebrations during Austen’s life began on Dec 6th, St. Nicholas Day, and lasted until January 6th, or 12th night — the Feast of the Epiphany. 

Since 2009, this blog has posted many articles about British Christmas and New Year’s traditions, with food, dress, and customs during the Regency era and before. Austen described holiday festivities in her novels, and balls, such as the one at Netherfield Park, but none of her personal descriptions are as detailed as those mentioned in this letter to Cassandra, which tells of a large musical party that her brother Henry and sister-in-law, Eliza, held in their house in London ( 64 Sloane Street) on 25th April, 1811.

snip of the letter

Detail of Austen’s letter to Cassandra. Image: British Library Online.

The reason for Austen’s visit was to work on proofs for Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel. I chose this letter because musical parties and get-togethers were given frequently, regardless of the time of year. The songs, decorations, and fashions might have changed with the seasons, but Austen’s description of this large party, the musicians, and the guests must have seemed quite familiar to her contemporaries, despite her spare details.

NOTE: I’ve related only the details of the party in the letter. Read the full transcript at this link to The British Library.

The Letter 

  1. To Cassandra Austen (# From Deirdre Le Faye’s Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters)

Thursday, 25, April 1811

Sloane St Thursday April 25

Before the party:

My dearest Cassandra

… Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms, and vexations, beforehand, of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers, &c., and looked very pretty. A glass for the mantlepiece was lent by the man who is making their own. Mr. Egerton and Mr. Walter came at half-past five, and the festivities began with a pair of very fine soals. 

(Soals is an obsolete spelling for sole, a flat fish. Hannah Glasse described a recipe for Fricasee of Soles made with lemon soles or a larger, thicker plaice fish, which fed more people.)

In this passage, Jane described the usual hustle and bustle before a grand party that we all have felt in our own lives. In this letter, she provided more details for her sister than in her novels for her readers.)

Mr Egerton is the publisher who brought out Jane’s first novel, “Sense and Sensibility”.)

Events leading up to the party:

Yes, Mr. Walter — for he postponed his leaving London on purpose — which did not give much pleasure at the time, any more than the circumstance from which it rose — his calling on Sunday and being asked by Henry to take the family dinner on that day, which he did; but it is all smoothed over now, and she likes him very well.”

(This sentence is somewhat enigmatic. Why would his postponement not give him much pleasure? How was the situation smoothed over? Mollands.net says this about Mr. Walter: [He] must have been related to Jane through her grandmother (Rebecca Hampson), who married first, Dr. Walter; secondly, William Austen. Mr. Ronald Dunning wrote a post about  Rebecca Hampson for this blog just a week ago. 

As the festivities began:

At half-past seven arrived the musicians in two hackney coaches, and by eight the lordly company began to appear. Among the earliest were George and Mary Cooke*, and I spent the greater part of the evening very pleasantly with them. The drawing-room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting passage, which was comparatively cool, and gave us all the advantage of the music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer.”

Black and white drawing of a Hackney Coach drawn by two horses

Hackney Coach, ca 1800

(Two hackney coaches carried 6 people per coach, so we may surmise that at least 12 musicians arrived with their  instruments. 

Houses in town were listed as 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th rate, fourth being the largest and first being the smallest. Henry’s house, located on 64 Sloane Street, is today unrecognizable from its Georgian size and façade. At the time he and Eliza rented the house, it was a 3rd rate house (3 windows wide), worth between £ 350 and £ 850 with from 500 – 900 square feet of floor space.) Because Henry was a successful banker during this time and Eliza had considerable means of her own, we can surmise that the house they rented was most likely on the larger side of 500 – 900 square feet of floor space.

Austen comments on a few acquaintances:

I was quite surrounded by acquaintances, especially gentlemen; and what with Mr. Hampson, Mr.Seymour, Mr. W. Knatchbull, Mr. Guillemarde, Mr. Cure, a Captain Simpson, brother to the Captain Simpson, besides Mr. Walter and Mr. Egerton, in addition to the Cookes, and Miss Beckford, and Miss Middleton, I had quite as much upon my hands as I could do. Poor Miss B. has been suffering again from her old complaint, and looks thinner than ever. She certainly goes to Cheltenham the beginning of June. We were all delight and cordiality of course. Miss M. seems very happy, but has not beauty enough to figure in London.”

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(Fashion: While Austen did not describe the clothes worn by guests, Cassandra would have easily envisioned what people wore. Jane had a limited yearly budget for personal items. At a party held on Christmas, 1811, she would have refurbished a previously worn evening gown, from 1810 or before. The 1811 evening dresses had narrower skirts, mostly without trains, and hems cut at or above ankle length. Eliza de Fuillide, a woman of rank and fortune, would have worn the latest fashion. Henry Austen was quite prosperous when he rented the house at 64 Sloane Street and therefore was able to spare no expense in hosting this party.

Although Jane hated tiny parties because they required constant exertion, this musical party seemed to require as much of her attention as the former. Her wit was on full display in this letter.  Miss M., sadly, has not sufficient funds nor the looks to attract a possible husband, unlike Jane Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice” or Cassandra Austen, as described by Lucy Worsley in “Jane Austen at Home.”

Many of the people mentioned by Jane are identified by Deidre Le Faye. Find their descriptions at the end of this article.**

Cheltenham, whose famous mineral waters were founded in 1716,  was prominent during the Georgian era. (Christy Somers noted a short article by Carolyn S. Greet, in Jane Austen Reports for 2003, “Jane and Cassandra in Cheltenham. Diana Birchall wrote: 

“In the spring of 1816 Jane and Cassandra paid a visit to Cheltenham, primarily for the sake of Jane’s health. Other members of the family had previously visited the little town, including James and his wife Mary, as Jane had mentioned in a letter of 1813. Cheltenham was then in its fashionable heyday, with its attractions being both therapeutic and social. It was still small and rustic compared with Bath, and all the buildings were still grouped along the single mile-long High Street. It was not lit with gas until 1818, and had a single set of Assembly Rooms, theatre, libraries, shops, and lodging houses. There is a description of the saline wells, which people drank from in the morning, for a laxative effect.- Reveries Under the sign of Austen

Numbers Attending the Party:

Including everybody we were sixty-six — which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, and quite enough to fill the back drawing-room and leave a few to be scattered about in the other and in the passage.”

Jane had mentioned standing in the connecting passage, which was cooler than the two drawing rooms. The image below might be a facsimile of Henry’s and Eliza’s first floor, which typically consisted of two rooms for entertaining guests. One was larger than the other. A passageway connected the stairs to the two rooms. 

The first floor:

“It was held on the first floor in the octagonal rear salon and the front drawing room. Jane told Cassandra that she spent most of the time talking to friends in ‘…the connecting Passage, which was comparatively cool, & gave us all the advantage of the Music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer.’ There were glee singers, a harpist and floral decorations” – Walking Jane Austen’s London. Louise Allen, Bloomsbury Publishing10 Jul 2013 .

None of the above images showed fashions even close to those worn in 1811. Formal menswear had not changed much, however, and the illustrations do give us an idea of how these parties were held.

Sixty-six people in a Regency London townhouse would have presented quite a squeeze. Even on a cold day in December, the rooms, with candles burning in chandeliers and candelabras, and heat rising from the kitchen in the basement, would have already been hot. In April, when this letter was written, the heat would have been substantial. The large group of guests would have intensified the heat even more. We do not know if the 66 guests included the musicians and singer. As Cruikshank’s images showed, card tables were set up, a common practice that Jane does not mention. One wonders if they were set up on the ground floor, near the dining room, and the floor just above the kitchen. This level would also have been easier for older people to reach. One can only conjecture about these arrangements.

Deirdre Le Faye mentions Winnifred Watson’s description of the interior of 64 Sloane Street, but the few remaining copies of her small out of print booklet, “Jane Austen in London,” are above my budget (one was listed at over $260) and so I could not read it. London townhouses built after the great London fire followed strict guidelines in both design and materials. Henry and Eliza at this juncture in their lives could probably afford a 3rd rate house with a larger square footage of floor space, perhaps even 900 sq. feet. 

Using Jane’s description, and Deirdre Le Faye’s mention of this house, I found this image and quickly drew the other one very badly.

The Music:

The music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela”; and of the other glees I remember, “In peace love tunes,” “Rosabelle,” “The Red Cross Knight,” and “Poor Insect.” Between the songs were lessons on the harp, or harp and pianoforte together; and the harp-player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, though new to me. There was one female singer, a short Miss Davis, all in blue, bringing up for the public line, whose voice was said to be very fine indeed; and all the performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for, and giving themselves no airs. No amateur could be persuaded to do anything. “

This image of Regency guests listening to musicians sits on the Alamy website. Since I have not purchased it, please click on the  link to view it: https://www.alamy.com/thomas-rowlandson-a-little-evening-music-georgian-cartoon-of-a-fashionable-image9616736.html 

(Interestingly, the phrase “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela” was a special language that Jane used with her niece Fanny by placing a ‘p’ in front of every word. The only one I could decipher was Harp for Parp. https://bit.ly/3o8Nb97, Jane Austen, Her Contemporaries and Herself: An Essay in Criticism, By Walter Herries Pollock, 1899, Google Books.

Mollands.net adds:  Jane and her niece Fanny seem to have invented a language of their own–the chief point of which was to use a ‘p’ wherever possible. Thus the piece of music alluded to was ‘Strike the harp in praise of Bragela.’)

Miss Davis was a professional singer in London. Jane mentions that no amateur stepped up to play after listening to these fine players and singer.

About musicians during this time: 

“Amateur orchestras in city taverns or in gentlemen’s clubs competed with the professional concerts that began to sprout up in public places. (- The Rage for Music, Simon McVeigh) Local musicians would be hired for assembly balls in small towns. Musicians with a more professional background would be enlisted to play at more stylish events, like the Netherfield Ball. The lady asked to lead a set would choose the music and the steps, and relay her request to the Master of Ceremonies. “  https://janeaustensworld.com/2010/07/12/jane-austen-and-music/

Cities like London or Bath provided steady incomes for musicians. In order to make ends meet, those living in rural areas traveled from town to town to the different public assemblies or parties.

Glees

Glees were quite popular at this time. Jane mentioned glee songs in Mansfield Park. “Fanny Price was the only one of Austen’s heroines who never receives any musical training at all.” Fanny was unsuccessful in enticing Edmund to go outside to look at the stars. As soon as he hears singing, he says to her, “We will stay till this is finished, Fanny.” She was mortified.

Austen also mentioned glees in this letter to Cassandra, which during her time were songs for men’s voices in three or more parts, usually unaccompanied, popular especially c. 1750–1830. These songs, by the way, were nothing like the productions created for the TV series, Glee, which ran from 2009-2015. I found one glee recording on YouTube: Reginald Spofforth- 18th Century Glee Club: L’ape E La Serpe, from Vanguard Classics. 

In Peace Love Tunes the Shepherds Reed, the glee was meant for three voices, with words supplied by Walter Scott. Instrumentals were accompaniments for Piano Forte & Harp, or two performers on one Piano Forte. This glee was written by J. Atwood

This Rosabella score by John Wall Calcotte (1766-1821) in this link is for a cappella (originally). Piano accompaniment was added later by William Horsley. The lyrics were by Walter Scott.

The Red Cross Knight was written by Callcott, 1797. Also written by Callcott is the Poor Insect, a refrain from “The May Fly.”

Comforts of Bath-The Concert-Rowlandson-Google Art Project-Wikimedia Commons

Detail: The Concert, The Comforts of Bath, Thomas Rowlandson, 1798. Wikimedia Commons

At Party’s End:

The house was not clear till after twelve.” 

This party lasted a little over four hours. London had street lights that guided guests back to their lodgings and houses. In country houses, parties, which were scheduled under the light of the full moon, often lasted until the wee early hours. After a party at a country house, Jane would often spend the night as a guest at a friend’s house, at times with her dear friend Martha Lloyd if she could manage it. 

The following day:

Her party is mentioned in this morning’s paper.”  

“…in the Morning Post of 25 April, which must have been very gratifying, even if the newspaper spelled her name wrong: ‘Mrs H Austin had a musical party at her house in Sloane-street.” – http://what-when-how.com/Tutorial/topic-673689/London-A-Tour-Guide-for-Modern-Traveller-10.html  “Travel Reference In-Depth Information, Walk 1: Sloane Street to Kensington, A Tour Guide for the Modern Traveler.”

The guests:

* Cooke family of Great Bookham. Rev. George Cooke and his unmarried sister Mary. Their father, Rev. Samuel Cooke was Jane’s godfather. 

**

  • Mr. George Hampson was a baronet who chose not to use his title. He is one of Jane’s cousins through her relationship to her grandmother, Rebecca Hampson, whose second husband was William Austen.
  • Mr. William Seymour, Henry Austen’s friend and a lawyer, who, it was speculated, might have considered proposing to Jane, but he didn’t.
  • M. Wyndham Knatchbull, merchant in London, or Reverend Doctor Wyndham Knatchbull, the eldest son of Sir Edward Knatchbull, 8th Baronet. 
  • Mr. Guillemarde is probably John Lewis Guillemarde, who lived in London
  • Mr. Capel Cure, who lived in London. His father, George, had first married Elizabeth Hampson, daughter of Sir George Hampson, but she died childless. Capel is the son of George Cure’s second wife.
  • Captain John Simpson, brother of Captain Robert Simpson. 
  • Mr. Thomas Egerton, Austen’s first publisher. He brought out S&S, P&P, and the first edition of Mansfield Park. His presence at the party, and Jane’s purpose for visiting Henry and Eliza to complete work on Sense & Sensibility connects his attendance at the party in a marvelous way.
  • Miss Maria Beckford, unmarried, lived with the Middleton family as hostess for her brother-in-law, John Middleton. When in London for the season Miss Beckford lived at 17 Welbeck Street. (Le Faye, p 495)
  • Miss Middleford. No explanation by Ms. Le Faye.)

Additional sources:

Characteristics of the Georgian Townhouse , June 3, 2009 , Jane Austen’s World, Vic

Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th Edition, Deirdre Le Faye, 2011, Oxford University Press. 

Jane Austen’s visit to Sloane Street , Kleurijk Jane Austen, 9-2014

Jane Austen, Her Contemporaries and Herself: Walter Herries Pollock · 1899 – Explanation of “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela”

Georgian Terrace Houses, April 27, 2021, Random Bits of Fascination.com, Georgian Townhomes

Thank you, Tony Grant, for contributing the 3 current photographs of Hans Place (2) and of 64 Sloane Street (1).

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Inquiring readers: Today is the 203rd anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She lived from December 16th, 1775 to July 18, 1817, and managed to achieve more in 41 years than a majority of us in twice that time. My previous posts marking this occasion were somber. This one provides a more light hearted, science fictiony approach. The North American Friends of Chawton House sent a limited edition of Celebrity Jane, a bobblehead doll, after I made a contribution that qualified me for this gift. NAFCH challenges Celebrity Jane doll possessors to share photos of Bad Ass Jane, as I renamed her, in various locations in our lives. I chose home.

Image of Bad Ass Jane meeting her 18th century silhouette, as drawn by Mr. Rose at the 2019 AGM in Williamsburg

Bad Ass Jane meets her 18th century silhouette, as drawn by Mr. Rose at the 2019 AGM in Williamsburg

It was a dream. It must have been. I had been researching Jane Austen’s life in Steventon until I fell asleep. Then, when I awoke around 2 A.M., as I am wont to do, I saw a bad ass version of Jane Austen on my bookshelf, staring at a silhouette of herself. Only she wasn’t quite the spinsterish virgin that I knew and loved so well, Oh, no! She was Bad Ass! A Rocker Chick. A person who would have appealed to my rebellious younger self and my current, well, rebellious me.

She still wore her virginal cap, but from the neck down she wore a black tee, low rise jeans that bared her midriff, and leather boots! Best of all she carried a guitar. Regency Jane loved playing music every morning on her piano forte. Bad Ass Jane (BAJ) plays electric guitar at every opportunity. (How BAJ finds the time to write—heaven knows.)

I gruffed at this strange Jane, who wanted to discuss the books in my book shelf, most of which pertained to her life and history. I needed my beauty sleep and promised her a tour of my house and gardens the following morn, but she would have none of it. She desired my company NOW! Jane played a few tunes on her guitar, which woke me more efficiently than two cups of Moroccan coffee. She mesmerized me with her persistence, pluck, and talent.

Image of Bad Ass Jane meets Cassandra, her two children, and mother wearing pearls.

Bad Ass Jane visits Cassandra, her two children, and mother wearing pearls.

I pointed to a 5 foot tall doll house, in which my 7-year-old grand nieces played occasionally. “Here’s your family.” I gestured to the top floor of the house where two female adults and two children resided.

BAJ peered inside. “My family? They look strange and somehow not themselves. And the fashion! Oh, so revealing. Who are those children?”

“Dear Jane,” I said familiarly. “Recall that this is a dream and that this story is a mere figment of my imagination and the result of a host of wishes. Tom Fowle never died. He returned with Lord Craven from the West Indies healthy and hale and became the intended heir of a living in Shropshire. He and Cassy married and had two beautiful children. Your mama, Mrs. Austen, acquired a gorgeous necklace of pearls, brought back by Tom.”

Copy of Bad Ass Jane in the ficus tree

Bad Ass Jane in the ficus tree

“How strange,” BAJ muttered. She wandered from the doll house to our ficus tree lit with fairy lights.

 

She then visited the wine corner. Recalling that she had a fondness for a tipple here and there, I offered a glass. Savoring the wine (a nice Australian Shiraz), we discussed her family, my family (our fathers, with their dry wit and extensive libraries had much in common), and our writing. She was better than me. Way. And more successful. Way. I felt humbled in her presence.

When BAJ learned about her enduring fame–the JASNA Societies, the JA groupies, the Austenesque novels and stories–her bobble head bobbled. “Goodness, I’m famous! Did I become rich?”

I shook my head sadly. “Not you, but Cassandra and your ancestors benefited most generously.”

When dawn broke, we walked into my back yard. BAJ played her guitar in the morning, much as she played her pianoforte before breakfast. I was mesmerized. It was time to greet the sun.

Image of Bad Ass Jane at the bird feeders

Bad Ass Jane at the bird feeders

I pointed to my bird feeders, where my hungry hordes of wildlife shrieked for their breakfast: blue jays, red cardinals, musical wrens, and colorful goldfinches. The deer, chipmunks, and squirrels were silent but watchful. Their ferocious appetites challenged my meager resources weekly. All stood a respectful distance away as I filled tubs, tubes, platforms, and the ground.

An impatient BAJ wanted in on the action and hopped right on to the feeders. In an impeccable British accent, she asked, “Pray, where are they?”

birds-deer

The deer and their fawns and birds appeared as we stood still

“Gurl,” I said. “Your Bad Ass attitude must’ve scared them. Stay still and behold the magic.” Shy creatures appeared flock by flock and one by one from the forest within feet of us. BAJ noted with irony that the brown sparrows were as common in the U.K. as in my back yard.

We visited the flowers. “They’re nothing as fabulous as your English gardens,” I cautioned, and so we viewed several areas designed to be deer proof.

At the last, BAJ noticed a sign. “Pray, what is this?”

Image of BAJ posing with an American security sign

BAJ meets an American security sign

“The sign is for security,” I answered. “This deters burglars. We call in and help arrives within, well, whenever.”

She laughed and said, “Is not a dog more effective?,” and jumped into a West Highland Terrier planter.

Image of BAJ's Westie carriage

BAJ Westie carriage

I guffawed. Jennie, our Westie is all bark and no bite. Poof, my dream ended. Once again I missed the chance to ask BAJ the questions swirling in my head. I’d assumed that I had all the time in the world. Ah, well. The mystery that is Miss Jane Austen continues.

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Jane Austen’s Christmas Day at Godmersham Park, her brother’s estate in the English countryside of Kent, was a merry one. As described by Claire Tomalin in Jane Austen: A Life , “Christmas was celebrated with carols, card games, blindman’s bluff, battledore, bullet pudding and dancing.”

Austen herself described the gaiety and revelry of Christmas in Persuasion, Chapter 14:

On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were trestles and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of the noise of the others.”

The games mentioned by Tomalin in her excellent biography of Austen included Hunt the Slipper, which, when played by children, would be fun and boisterous, and when played by adults at a country house gathering could have a naughty connotation, as in the 1802 image in the Hunt the Slipper: A Story, (Peabody Essex Museum).

Game directions for Hunt the Slipper

Hunt the Slipper game directions. (Hunt the Slipper, The American Folk Song Collection,  Kodaly Center, Holy Names University.

Image of Hunt the Slipper by Francesco Bartolozzi, 1787, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (GMII): Image in the public domain. Wikimedia

Francesco Bartolozzi, 1787, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (GMII): Image in the public domain. Wikimedia

Hunt the Slipper reminds me of musical chairs, only the slipper is passed secretly to the players until the song ends. This simple but fun song/game is still played today. You can view the “Hunt the Slipper” image by Kate Greenaway,  who lived in the last half of the 19th century, then read the 2008 description of the game in The Guardian at this link: click here. The rules over the centuries are remarkably similar.

In her book, Claire Tomalin mentioned a second song and game that the Austen family (and other families of the era) played called “Oranges and Lemons.” References to this traditional song and nursery rhyme appeared as early as the 17th century.

The first published record of Oranges and Lemons dates back to 1744 in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, although it’s fair to assume it had been in circulation for some time before then. There is a reference to a square dance with the same name in a 1665 publication…– What is London’s Oranges and Lemons rhyme all about? by Benjamin Till, People Features, London, BBC Home, 13 November, 2014

Till discusses the many meanings of this song. In short, London’s churches, which are located in distinct districts within the city, are identified with certain trades.

References to “pancakes and fritters”, “kettles and pans” and “brick bats and tiles” tell us of bakers, coppersmiths and builders in areas around St Peter Upon Cornhill, St Anne’s and St Giles, Cripplegate respectively.” — Till, BBC Home

A version of the song can be heard on YouTube.

Many versions of this song exist, which makes one wonder which lyrics Jane Austen and her family sang. This is one version:

“Oranges and Lemons”

Two Sticks and Apple,
Ring ye Bells at Whitechapple,
Old Father Bald Pate,
Ring ye Bells Aldgate,
Maids in White Aprons,
Ring ye Bells a St. Catherines,
Oranges and Lemmons,
Ring ye bells at St. Clemens,
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey,
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch,
When will that be,
Ring ye Bells at Stepney,
When I am Old,
Ring ye Bells at Pauls

Here is another version, date unknown by me:

Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London town.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clements.

Bull’s eyes and targets,
Say the bells of St. Margret’s.

Brickbats and tiles,
Say the bells of St. Giles’.

Halfpence and farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

Pancakes and fritters,
Say the bells of St. Peter’s.

Two sticks and an apple,
Say the bells of Whitechapel.

Pokers and tongs,
Say the bells of St. John’s.

Kettles and pans,
Say the bells of St. Ann’s.

Old Father Baldpate,
Say the slow bells of Aldgate.

You owe me ten shillings,
Say the bells of St. Helen’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

Pray when will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

Chop chop chop chop
The last man’s dead!

This YouTube video of Oranges and Lemons from Gresham College performs the earliest known version of the song by Catherine King. The illustration of the dance for “Oranges and Lemons,” which is copyright free, is by Agnes Rose Bouvier (1842 – 1892).

One can imagine how much fun Aunts Jane and Cassandra must have had singing these popular songs while dancing and playing the games during the Christmas season with their nieces and nephews and the family in general.

As I end this post, Christmas day has nearly come to an end. I wish you all a happy holiday season and New Year’s celebration. May you all find joy, dear readers, in the gifts and love of your family, faith, and friends.

Sources:

Tomalin, Claire, 1999. Jane Austen: A Life. New York, Random House, First Vintage Books Edition.

What is London’s Oranges and Lemons rhyme all about? by Benjamin Till, People Features, London, BBC Home, 13 November, 2014

Other Christmas Posts on this Blog:

Click on this link for posts related to the topic

Games Regency People Play: Blind Man’s Bluff

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Jane Austen’s Music Library – Broadwood Junction in concert at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, New York City, October 28, 2017, with musicians Francis Liu; violin, Patrick T. Jones; fortepiano; Sarah Stone; cello and Lucy Dhegrae; mezzo soprano, by Patricia N. Saffran.

Broadwood junction2 copy

Photo courtesy of Broadwood Junction – at the square piano

The concert opened with a passage read from Jane Austen’s Emma which included the mysterious arrival of an expensive square piano, a gift from an unknown donor, to the Fairfax household that could not afford such a piano, “a very elegant looking instrument-not a grand, but a large-sized square piano-forte.” In the early 1800s, the instrument described would have been a tastefully decorated Broadwood square piano with a damper pedal and would have cost £35, or £2,408 today.

broadwood square piano

Broadwood square piano.

The musicians proceeded to explain that their own Broadwood square piano was out of commission and Patrick T. Jones would be playing on a borrowed German fortepiano. The group, which consists of alumni from Juilliard’s Historical Performance program, was formed when a Broadwood square piano from 1809 was spotted at an estate auction in Virginia, and they quickly snapped it up. Broadwood square pianos, with their quiet sound, had been mass produced for the home. Violinist Francis Liu then explained that the program would consist of Jane Austen’s own music books, some of which she copied herself in a refined readable hand from borrowed sheet music. Her music library is now on-line for the public to read at the University of Southampton, UK, website.

The first piece was George Kiallmark’s Robin Adair, Theme and Variations for Piano of the Scottish song, and with Lucy Dhegrae then singing Robin Adair.

Ignaz Pleyel’s Trio was next from 1793, originally scored for harpsichord. This was followed by Thomas Arne’s beautiful Cymon and Iphigenia, cantata for tenor originally, and instruments. In between pieces, the musicians read more passages from Jane Austen about music, from novels and letters.

Except for the popular and noisy “The Battle of Prague” by Frantisek Kotzwara, the remaining pieces by Joseph Wölfl, James Hook and several Anonymous vocal selections revealed a lack of musical development. This phenomenon was explained by Francis Liu, “This music is kitsch and entertaining. It was the music that people from good families could easily perform at home. Usually, there would be a girl with good posture at the piano singing. Rarely, a man would accompany her, perhaps on a flute, but not a violin which would have required more skill.”

It is curious that Jane Austen, one of the most sophisticated novelists of all time, would have been enamored of such simple music. When asked after the concert, Mr. Liu explained further, “In a good family, a girl couldn’t play like a professional musician. She wouldn’t have played music performed in the theaters.” That would have put her in the category of demi-monde. It was an aristocratic dictate in society that those from better families could not appear too professional. For gentlemen the exception was to be a  clergyman or an officer, such as a skilled soldier or cavalryman. Women would have been at risk of making a good marriage, a main theme in Jane Austen novels, if they revealed they had genuine musical talent.

Two lovely Jane Austen youtube selections are on YouTube-

 

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