Quote Jane

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

zondag 4 april 2010

Portrait of Jane Austen from James Stanier Clarke, the Librarian of the Prince Regent

Following is a substantial extract from an article written by PROF. JOAN RAY, PRESIDENT OF THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA (JASNA) published in "Persuasions" No 27, The Jane Austen Journal. In this article, Professor Ray explains why she is now convinced the Clarke Portrait does indeed depict Jane Austen and should be recognised as such.


Joan Klingel Ray, Ph.D., has served as JASNA's President sicne 2000. She is Professor of English and President's Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and has published on Dr.Johnson, Mrs.Piozzi, Dickens, Austen, and others. Richard James Wheeler, now an octogenarian, flew with the RAF in WWII, after which he completed his qualifications as a Chartered Accountant, practicing his profession in business until the late 1980's. A lifelong bibliophile, he encountered Clarke's Friendship Book.

While researching my 2005 AGM Plenary Session talk at the British Library, I stumbled upon Richard James Wheeler's book about James Stanier Clarke's portrait of Jane Austen. Waiting for my book delivery, I typed "Jane Austen" into the library's computer catalogue and after scrolling down 400+ titles, I encountered his book on the Clarke portrait. Throughout his life, Richard Wheeler indulged his main avocation: books. His love of books led him serendipitously to the bookstore where he found Clarke's Friendship Book!

Admirers of Jane Austen are familiar with Cassandra Austen's small pencil and water-color sketch of her sister's face and its Victorian copies (Record, plate VIII, and accompanying illustrations between 128 and 129). Literary and art historians deem the Cassandra portrait, in the possession of London's National Portrait Gallery since 1948, as the only known authentic likeness of Jane Austen's face taken when she was an adult. But another portrait of the adult Jane Austen, also a sketch in pencil and watercolors and also small (6 inches by 4 inches) exists: the work of the Rev.James Stanier Clarke, Domestic Chaplain and Librarian to the Prince of Wales (later, George IV).

Clarke is known to Austenites for escorting the author through Carlton House, the Prince Regent's London residence, on Monday, 13 November 1815, when she went to see the Prince's Library, and then engaging her in an epistolary exchange in which he urged her "to delineate in some future Work the Habits of Life and Character and enthusiasm of a Clergyman who should pass his time between the metropolis & the Country … Fond of, & entirely engaged in Literature no man's Enemy but his own" (16 November 1815). If he had also described himself as a fine sketch artist, he might have been regarded by Austen biographers with greater seriousness, rather than as the comical man who was loath to give up having Jane Austen feature him in a romantic novel.

Richard Wheeler's finding the Clarke portrait of Jane Austen is almost the stuff of a romantic novel or at least the stuff of a novel about a lover of antique books. In 1955, a second-hand book dealer in Canterbury, Kent, found at the estate sale of a proverbial "little old lady" a small slip case containing an album bound in eighteenth-century green morocco leather decorated with gild. The gilded words Sacred To Friendship (hereafter called Friendship Book) appeared on the upper part of the spine; on the lower were the gilded initials "J.S.C." (Wheeler 6). Richard Wheeler came upon this book in the estate sale visitor's secondhand bookstore.

Within the covers, he found the paper watermarked, authenticating it as eighteenth-century paper. And on those pages, he discovered more than one hundred drawings, verses, and autographs by such celebrities as poet William Cowper, painter George Romney, novelists Charlotte Smith and Anna Seward, and actors Richard Brinsley Sheridan and John Kemble. Crayon and water-color sketches of two unnamed women appear in the book. The Tate Gallery assisted Wheeler in identifying one subject as Princess Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick: the likeness of the sketch to any number of portraits of the twenty-six year old German Princess is stunning. It also serves to show the artist's ability to capture in a quickly drawn sketch a true likeness of his royal subject. In March 1795, Clarke was a Royal Navy chaplain serving on board H.M.S. Jupiter, which was taking the Princess to England to be married to her cousin, the future George IV (Wheeler 20). Thus, Clarke would have certainly seen the royal passenger, particularly at the Services over which he presided as chaplain, enabling him to sketch a small portrait from memory. Unlike Emma Woodhouse, he did not need his subject to pose.

Richard Wheeler made the connection between the second woman depicted in Clarke's album with Jane Austen only after seeing a photo of Cassandra's sketch of her sister and its familiar Victorian round-eyed copy that Andrews made for the frontispiece of the Memoir and then reading in A Family Record what Mrs. Elizabeth "Lizzy" Austen Rice (Edward Austen Knight's daughter, born 1800) had written to her cousin, James Edward, after seeing the frontispiece picture of their Aunt Jane in his Memoir. "I remember her so well & loved her so much … how well the portrait has been lithographed! I think it very like only the eyes are too large, not for beauty but for likeness" (254). As Wheeler reports, when he observed "the similarities with the face of the lady in Clarke's Friendship Book," his attention was "jolted" (8).

The next step was to match the clothing worn by the figure with descriptions of clothes and accessories that Jane Austen mentions to her sister in her letters. The similarities are remarkable. For example, the picture shows the figure in a white gauze gown, mostly covered by a black cape, but the gown's décolleté neckline, dotted with black trim, is visible; its long sleeves are tucked into gloves that extend to the elbow. On 9 March 1814, Jane Austen wrote from London to Cassandra: "I wear my gauze gown today, long sleeves & all … I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable. I have lowered the bosom especially at the corners, & plaited black stain ribbon around the top." It appears that Jane Austen, herself, was as concerned about long sleeves as Mrs.Bennet is in Pride and Prejudice (140)!

In her previous letter to Cassandra, she also speaks of trimming her gown: "I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet [a fine smooth material] with black satin (sic) ribbon … Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath, & I dare say the fashions of the two places [i.e., Bath and London] are alike enough in that point, to content me" (8 March 1814).
If the lady in the picture looks dressed up, keep in mind that when Jane Austen visited Carlton House, she would have surely worn her best, dressiest clothes.
But the most convincing evidence that Clarke's portrait is, indeed, of Jane Austen, comes from two scientific sources. Richard Wheeler notes that the sketch possibly shows "a chilling augury" of her fatal illness, Addison's disease. Clara Lowry, M.D., an endocrinologist at St. Thomas's Hospital, London, who examined a photo of the Clarke portrait, observed:

"[T]here is an area of pigmentation below the lower lip in the centre of the face and there is an irregular area of pigmentation underneath the chin centrally as well. Her pigment can therefore be said to be very patchy … [T]he patient with Addison's disease will have a particularly striking pattern of areas with no pigmentation adjacent to areas of excessive pigmentation. I think it is just possible that this is what we are looking at in Jane Austen." (Letter, July 25, 1995).
At the JASNA Annual General Meeting in Wisconsin for 2005, two physicians, Cheryl Kinney, M.D. and Cynthia Lopez, M.D. confirmed Dr. Zachary Cope's 1964 diagnosis of Addison's disease, using not only the symptoms described in her letters, but also Regency and modern medical knowledge. In doing so, Dr. Lopez discounted Hodgkins Disease as the cause of Austen's death (Upfal).
Studies by physiognomist Alfred Linney of the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, University College, London, observed that the Cassandra and Clarke portraits show women with similar hairstyles and face shapes. He further noted resemblances between the faces in the two pictures to Jane Austen's brothers and father of whom we have portraits especially the so-called Greek noses shared by the Rev. George Austen and the novelist's brothers James and Henry. Most convincingly, he determined that the two female faces share the same vertical facial measurements and proportions from eye to nose to mouth to chin (wheeler 36-37).

Dr. Linney's findings regarding vertical facial measurements were corroborated using an Electronic Facial Identification Test, practiced by many police departments: the horizontal pixel lines for the faces in the Cassandra and Clarke portraits were identical. The forensic scientist who carried out the tests concluded, albeit with scientific defensive rhetoric, that "there is a strong probability that they are one and the same persons" (Wheeler 39). Another authority, Richard Neave, a medical artist at the University of Manchester who has worked on the reconstruction of ancient Egyptian skulls for the British Museum, cautiously determined that "Cassandra's picture reflects many of the strong family likenesses … Clarke's drawing is much idealized. As far as the face is concerned, it can be said to be of a type … 'a pretty doll like face'" (Wheeler 41). Ironically, he unknowingly echoed the description provided by the Rev. Fulwar Fowle, who described Jane Austen's face as "pretty … like a doll" (Record 246).

Karen Joy Fowler begins her novel The Jane Austen Book Club saying, "Each of us has a private Austen" (1). Likewise, each of us has a mental image of the physical Jane. As far as the Austen world knows, she never sat for a formal portrait as an adult. But the authors of this article believe that the woman painted in James Stanier Clarke's Friendship Book is indeed, Jane Austen. Granted, London's National portrait Gallery is unwilling to authenticate the Clarke portrait as Jane Austen. We speculate, however, that the Gallery's acceptance of R.W. chapman's suggestion that no one but Jane Austen could be the subject of the silhouette labelled "L'aimable Jane" in a second volume of Mansfield Park is founded more on faith than on the scientific investigation on which Richard Wheeler bases his conclusions (214).


Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.


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