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Archive for the ‘Regency Travel’ Category

One of the most pivotal decisions in Pride and Prejudice was when Elizabeth Bennet agreed to visit Pemberley’s gardens and grounds with the Gardiners, only to suddenly encounter Mr. Darcy, who was not slated to return until the next day.

Such a visit to grand estates by the well-heeled and more common folk like Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle were quite common in the 18th century. They would have purchased an inexpensive guide book at a local inn or town, and read information about the paintings and objects inside the great houses, and a description of the gardens and their rustic buildings and ornaments.

Prospect of Stowe House by Benton Seeley

Stowe in particular was a destination point for visitors. Its magnificent gardens and grounds were a model and inspiration for other gardens of the Romantic era, which echoed the movement’s reverence for nature and aesthetic ideals. The blog of the current Duke of Buckingham and Chandos contains this passage:

“The house and gardens at Stowe, my family seat, were tourist attractions from around 1724, when my ancestor Lord Cobham set out the gardens. People came to visit the gardens and house, sometimes invited, often not. Topographical notes and poems were written. And in 1744 the first full guidebook to the house and grounds was published by Benton Seeley, a writing master in Buckingham. The guidebooks continued for a further 70 years and Seeley went on to become a printer and publisher, founding a business that wound up only in 1978.” – Duke of Buckingham and Chandos 

Seeley's plan of the house and gardens at Stowe.

Benton Seeley’s guidebook, Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens of The Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple, Earl Temple… Embellished with a General Plan of the Gardens, and also a separate Plan of each Building, with Perspective Views of the same, was published in the same year that Elizabeth Montague described Stowe’s gardens as “beyond description, it gives the best idea of Paradise that can be.” Visitors came away from viewing Stowe’s natural gardens inspired to implement changes to their own grounds. Seeley’s guidebook helped to spread Stowe’s influence throughout the 18th century as the model for the ideal English garden. (Today the original guidebook sells for close to $2,000.)

Thomas Jefferson owned at least two of Seeley’s guidebooks. In fact, Stowe’s reputation as a gardening attraction had spread beyond the British Isles:

“When well-heeled Americans traveled to England in the late eighteenth century, they often sought out famous gardens to inspire their own designs at home. As Benton Seeley’s Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens shows, the gardens at Stowe were particularly large and ornate, featuring temples, pavilions, and statues strewn about the grounds. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams visited Stowe together in 1786 in what Abigail Adams called their “journey into the country.”- Better Homes and Gardens, Stanford University

Corinthian Arch

Seeley’s Guide Book became historically significant. It went through seventeen editions between 1744 and 1797, continually undergoing improvements and revisions. The book’s influence was such that it helped to make the Stowe gardens among the most publicized and copied of the English landscape model. However, Seeley’s was not the only guidebook written for the famed Stowe gardens. In 1732 Lord Cobham’s nephew Gilbert West wrote a lengthy poem The Gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Viscount Cobham that is actually a guide to the gardens in verse form. Charles Bridgeman commissioned 15 engravings of the gardens from Jacques Rigaud, and these were published in 1739 (Wikipedia), five years before Seeley’s guide.

The Stowe gardens and grounds were extensive, offering planned vistas along a winding path, parterres, canals, large swaths of meadows, places for isolation and retreat, rustic buildings, and an emphasis on natural grandeur over formal symmetry. The 4th Baronet, Viscount Cobham, who married a rich brewery heiress, implemented the garden changes at Stowe in 1711. By 1724, the gardens rested on 24 acres and required the labor of 30 men. Garden maintenance cost the family 827 pounds in 1749-1750. Multiply that amount by 50, and you gain a quick idea of the cost in today’s terms. This sum represented almost all the spare money Lord Cobham could afford on the house and grounds.

The grotto was originally designed by William Kent in the late 1730s as a symmetrical, freestanding structure decorated with flints, colored glass, and shells. Soon covered over with earth, it was then described as a “romantic retirement.” By the 1780s, it was more deeply buried, resurfaced with tufa, and planted with vines and conifers for a cavernous effect.- Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design, 2010, The Morgan Library Museum

In “A fine house richly furnished: pemberley and the visiting of country houses,” Stephen Clarke, a London lawyer and architectural historian discusses the kind of information a guidebook owner could expect. A New Description of Blenheim by Mayor, 1811, offered the following General Information in its preface:

“BLENHEIM may be seen every afternoon, from three till five o’Clock, except on Sundays and public Days. On Fair days at Woodstock, likewise, it can be seen only by particular permission.

COMPANY who arrive in the morning may take the ride of the Park, or the walk of the Gardens, before dinner, and after that visit the Palace.

The CHINA GALLERY, PARK, and GARDENS, will, on proper application, be shewn at any hour of the day, except during the time of Divine Service on Sundays.”

In 1776, the Wilton visitors book showed 2, 324 visitors in the last year.

The housekeeper guides Elizabeth and the Gardiners through Pemberley's interior

As discussed on this blog in another post, The Housekeeper as a Guide to a Great Country Estate, housekeepers and other servants stood to make a great deal of extra money from tourists.

“The rapacity of housekeepers-and, in the larger houses, of the other staff–was a common complaint. At Blenheim during his tour of 1810-1811, Louis Simond was required to pay the porter at the gate, the woman showing the china collection, the woman showing the theatre, the woman showing the pleasure grounds, the gardener showing the park, and the upper servant showing the house–at a total cost of 19s. (qtd. in Ousby 81). There are similar complaints of Woburn, Chatsworth, and other great houses. Horace Walpole wryly remarked that he should have married his own housekeeper, who had grown rich on showing Strawberry Hill, as the only way of recouping some of his expense on the house (Walpole Correspondence 33, 411) –

At most houses, the traveller would send in his name to the porter or housekeeper to request access–at Hagley in 1800 Mrs. Lybbe Powys, (5) a perceptive visitor of country houses, noted that “we sent in our names for leave to walk round Lord Curzon’s [actually Lord Lyttelton’s] grounds, and he desired we would go into any part of it we chose, without being attended by his gardener” (Lybbe Powys 339). Elizabeth and the Gardiners were of course accompanied by the gardener in the park at Pemberley, as was normal. – A fine house richly furnished: pemberley and the visiting of country houses, Stephen Clarke

In the YouTube video below, one can get a sense of Stowe’s grounds and gardens in the first 3 ½ minutes. Enjoy the tour!

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Fans of Jane Austen’s fiction are familiar with the rising middle class, successful and enterprising tradesmen, upward mobility through marriage, the fragility of life (especially for fishermen, sailors and child-bearing women), and the difficulties of road travel. All these topics are touched upon in a short biography of Mr. Edward Innes, a successful baker and property man.

In this image, Mr. Innes is dressed as a gentleman, and is followed by a companion, Mr. James Cooper. As his position rose in life, his sensibilities must have become quite delicate, for as he passes a woman carrying a basket, Mr. Innes shields his face and nose from the offending stench that must have emanated from her basket.

Mr. Edward Innes and his second, James Cooper

Mr. Innes, if this account is to be believed, was a nonpareil, covering the distance to London in his carriage at the unheard of speed of 50 miles per day.

The progenitors of Mr Innes were farmers in the neighbourhood of Glencorse, but his father was a baker, and had his shop at one time at the head of the Fleshmarket Close. Latterly, the shop having been let without his knowledge to a higher bidder, he removed to his son’s property situated betwixt Marling and Niddfy’s Wynds. In his younger years, the old man was usually styled the handsome baker from his exquisite symmetry, and he was not less fortunate in his choice of a pretty woman for his wife. Isabella, or Bell Gordon, had been married to the captain of a vessel, who was drowned at sea only a few weeks after. The young widow then only in her eighteenth year, happening to be on a visit at the house of her brother in law, Mr Syme ,ship builder, Leith; the handsome baker was introduced to her acquaintance, and the result was a speedy union. Besides a daughter by her first husband, Mrs Innes had eight children, of whom the subject of our notice was the second eldest.

Mr Edward Innes, after serving his apprenticeship with his father, commenced as a baker on his own account in the High Street. In addition to his good fortune in business, he acquired considerable property by his wife, a Miss Wright of Edinburgh, by whom he had several children. Mr Innes kept a horse and gig, an equipage rather unusual for a tradesman in his day; and what was considered remarkable at that time, he drove to London on one occasion, accompanied by his wife, in eight days, a distance averaging fifty miles a day. The circumstance was much talked o,f and taking into account the then state of the roads, the performance was really one of no ordinary magnitude. – A series of original portraits and caricature etchings, Volume 2, Part 2 (Google eBook), John Kay, 1838, p 284.

Note: Considering the poor road conditions of the day, carriage horses averaged from 2-4 miles per hour; at breakneck speed, they could achieve a remarkable 6 miles per hour, but horses that pulled a carriage could keep up this pace for only a short distance. Thus Mr. Innes and his wife spent long hours on the road (10-12 per day) and had their horses frequently changed at stops along the way.

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She lost her pattens in the muck
& Roger in his mind
Considered her misfortune luck
To show her he was kind
He over hitops fetched it out
& cleaned it for her foot…
From the Middle Period Poems of John Clare (1820s)

It is commonly acknowledged that country roads in the day of Jane Austen became muddy and rutted in heavy rains, and therefore nearly impassable. In cities and towns, streets required constant sweeping of horse dung and dirt by street sweepers. Ladies wearing long white gowns and soft satin or kid slippers were constantly dodging dirt, protecting their hems from wet grass, and finding ways to walk on roads and cobblestones whose condition were poor at best.

Diana Sperling's watercolor of a walk to a neighbor's house in mud

Diana Sperling painted her delightful watercolor sketches between 1812 and 1823. In two of the paintings, she shows precisely how difficult it was for ladies (and gents) to walk over poorly maintained roads – or no roads at all! One imagines that Jane Austen and her family, who were country gentry like the Sperlings, encountered similar difficulties when walking.

Charles Sperling conveys a lady over wet grass, by Diana Sperling.

In Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, one can see Marianne in particular holding up her skirts and daintily traipsing over a London street as the party walks from their carriage to the Dashwood’s ball in London. I found this scene particularly interesting, for this is one of the few films that depict how difficult it was for ladies to keep their garments clean as they walked down London’s streets. Regency women must have collectively heaved a sigh of relief when hemlines became fashionably short.

 

Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) holds up her skirt, shawl, and reticule as she walks gingerly towards the ball.

 

 

In Rolinda Sharples' Clifton Assembly Room (1817), one can see the lady on the lower right changing her slippers in the cloak room.

The problem of keeping one’s feet and skirts clean was solved by wearing pattens, although this practice was rapidly fading in the early 19th century.

 

Lady wearing pattens in snow. Image @City of London

In A Memoir of Jane Austen, her James Edward Austen Leigh wrote about his aunts Cassandra and Jane:

The other peculiarity was that when the roads were dirty the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defence against wet and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good society and employed only in menial work…

As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve, I add the following epigram written by Jane Austen’s uncle Mr Leigh Perrot, on reading in a newspaper of the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss Patten

Through the rough paths of life,

with a patten your guard,

May you safely and pleasantly jog,

May the knot never slip,

nor the ring press too hard,

Nor the Foot find the Patten a clog.

18th century fragment, iron shoe patten

A patten was an oval shoe iron that was riveted to a piece of wood and then strapped to the underside of a shoe. This unwieldy and loud contraption served to raise the shoe out of the mud or a dirty street.  Even a clean street would sully the hems of delicate white muslin gowns, and thus ladies would commonly wear pattens. However, these contraptions were loud. As Jane Austen described in Persuasion:

“When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint..”

Early 19th century pattens

Pattens had been banned from churches for some time. As early as 1390, the Diocese of York forbade clergy from wearing pattens and clogs in both church and in processions, considering them to be indecorous: “contra honestatem ecclesiae”*. An 18th century notice in St Margaret Pattens, the Guild Church of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, requested that ladies remove their pattens on entering; other English churches had similar signs, and in one case, provided a board with pegs for ladies to hang them on. One surmises that churches banned the use of pattens because of their loud clatter on stone floors.

Early 19th century pattens. Image @Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Constance Hill, who with her sister followed in the footsteps of Jane Austen a century after Jane’s death, described the noise of these raised iron clogs:

It is true that in bad weather ladies could walk for a short distance in pattens, which were foot-clogs supported upon an iron ring that raised the wearer a couple of inches from the ground. But these were clumsy contrivances. The rings made a clinking noise on any hard surface, and there is a notice in the vestibule of an old church in Bath, stating that “it is requested by the church-wardens that no persons walk in this church with pattens on.” – Constance Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends

Pattens were clumsy platforms that raised the shoe a few inches from the ground. The most common patten after the 17th century was made from a  flat metal ring which made contact with the ground. The ring was then attached to a metal plate nailed into the wooden sole. By the 18th and 19th centuries, men’s shoes had thicker soles and the wealthier gentlemen tended to wear riding boots, and thus pattens were worn only by women and working-class men in outdoor occupations.  Soon, pattens were abandoned by ladies as well, and only the lower classes wore them as they went about their duties.

Pattens worn by a maid, 1773

There were three main types of pattens: one with a wooden ‘platform’ sole raised from the ground by either with wooden wedges or iron stands. The second variant had a flat wooden sole often hinged. The third type had a flat sole made from stacked layers of leather.*

18th century silk shoes protected by pattens. Image @Wall Street Journal

One can imagine the sad state of paths and roads the world over, which necessitated the use of such clumsy footwear in England, America, Turkey, and China, to name a few countries.

Late 19th century Chinese porcelain patten shoes

Images of pattens over the centuries:

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From Tony Grant, whose contributions to this blog are numerous: “Two years ago some of my friends wanted a weekend away so we decided on Lyme. Our wives went off to New York for the shopping. We tend to go to places more for the local beer than the literary connections, I must admit. Lyme has some very nice pubs and also we wanted somewhere where we could take a brisk walk. We thought of the Undercliff.”

The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Image @Tony Grant

It depends on the weather conditions but the Cobb at Lyme can look and behave like an evil spirited leviathan; a Moby Dick. It’s a savage beast. At other times it can be a gentle, peaceful and calm creature.

Jane Austen used the Cobb at Lyme for the setting of an integral scene in her novel, Persuasion.

The accident on The Cobb, to Louisa Musgrove, brings Anne Elliot to the fore. She is the one looked to by Captain Wentworth and the others to take charge.

John Fowles, who lived in Lyme for most of his life, used Lyme , The Cobb and The Undercliff as the settings for his novel ,The French Lieutenants Woman.Indeed these topographical elements of Lyme are like a group of brooding characters within the novel and shape the action as much as the human characters…” Read the rest of the post at Tony Grant’s blog, London Calling.

View of the Undercliff from the Cobb. Image @Tony Grant

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Copyright @Jane Austen’s World. Gentle readers, as you know, the northeast has been socked in by snow, ice, gale winds, and bitterly cold temperatures today.

George Scharf, Sketches of People in Snow. Some scenes of winter have never changed.

This is a perfect time for hunkering inside and drinking hot chocolate. Or is it?

Image @City of London. This young lady is wearing pattens to protect her shoes.

My nephew’s children will go sledding, others will go ice skating, and my dog will bound through the snow drifts with undisguised glee, as people have done for ages.

Winter Amusement, Hyde Park, after Ibbetson, 1789. Note the bare feet on the young child in rags. (Foreground)

As early as the 17th century, the noted diarist John Evelyn noted: ” Having seen the strange and wonderful dexterity of the sliders on the new canal in St James’s Park, performed before their Ma[ties] by divers gentlemen, and others with Scheetes, after the manner of the Hollander,s with what swiftnesse they passe, how suddainely they stop in full carriere upon the ice, I went home by water, but not without exceeding difficultie,s the Thames being frozen, greate flakes of ice incompassing our boate. Pepys entry is as follows: St James’s Park Dec 1 1662. “Over the Park where I first in my life it being a great frost did see people sliding with their skeates, which is a very pretty art.”

 

Dutch steamers on the frozen Zuyder Zee. The leather straps are quite visible on these skates.

Skating has been around since 3,000 BC or thereabouts and stone age skates have been uncovered in bogs. But it was the lowlanders who took to the sport with glee, using wooden platform skates with iron runners as early as the 14th century. At first, skaters strapped their skates around their shoes with leather straps and propelled themselves forward with wooden poles.

 

William Grant, The Skater, 1782

Then, the Dutch invented a narrower double-edged metal blade that allowed them to glide with their feet, and the poles became obsolete.

1824 Skating Dandies Showing Off

Many 19th century images exist of people skating on frozen streams and ponds, and sledding or sleighing.

 

1820. In the distance on the right, one can see a man chopping through the ice to allow his cattle to drink water. On the left, another man is spreading grain to feed his animals.

“..moderns sledges are used, which being extended from a centre by the means of a strong rope, those who are seated in them are moved round with great velocity, and form an extensive circle. Sledges of this kind were set upon the Thames during the hard frost in the year 1716 as the following couplet in a song written upon that occasion 1plainly proves:

“While the rabble in sledges run giddily round
And nought but a circle of folly is found” – The sports and pasttimes of the people of England

By the mid 18th century, Robert Jones described paired ice skating, or figure skating in A Treatise on Skating (1772).

 

The Timid Pupil, 1800. Both this ladies feet are placed together, as her escort gently leads her over the ice.

Sleds and sleighs have been used for centuries to transports logs, people, and good over frozen waters all over northern Europe for centuries.

 

Frozen river in The Netherlands with townsfolk skating and sledging using various forms of sleds pushed by people, and one pulled by a horse. By Vermeulen

Called coasting, sliding down hills and inclines on hand sleds or sledges provided hours of pleasure, as well as a practical way to get around over frozen landscapes and water. Wooden sleds pulled by a rope are still a familiar sight today.

19th century porcelain (figures in 18th century dress): man pushing woman on a sleigh

Fancy sleighs pulled by horses (or reindeer in the frozen north) transported groups of people, often in comfort, for their feet were placed upon footwarmers that were heated with hot coals, and their bodies were covered by thick furs or blankets.

 

Victorian sleigh. The travelers are protected from the cold by muffs and a thick blanket. Even the dog wears a coat. Note the bells on the horses.

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