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

donderdag 10 juli 2014

England's privately owned pleasure gardens

In the eighteenth century, England's privately owned pleasure gardens hosted royalty, nobility and famous people of the day who promenaded through exquisite, classical vistas and artfully contrived ruins in a fairyland of tinkling fountains and glittering lights. They showcased the finest musicians and artists of the day, hosting Mozart's English debut, and exhibited fine art in a public setting for the first time. At a time when the city streets were unlit and impassable (as they perceived them) except by sedan chair, pleasure gardens offered well-to-do ladies a thrilling opportunity to meet people from beyond their proscribed circle of friends. The gardens were also the first truly egalitarian venue, where anyone was granted admission for the price of a ticket, regardless of class. In an age almost as celebrity-orientated as our own, with nobles replacing TV stars, the gardens were the place to see and be seen. They began to appear as England fell in love with fun again at the Restoration, and reached their height in the 1740s and 50s. In the halcyon days of the mid to late 18th century, the gardens were the backdrop to an endless parade of concerts, balls, public breakfasts, masquerades and firework displays.

For those who worked, holidays really were only single days, and before the railways made travel to the coast or countryside viable, a day at a pleasure garden on the outskirts of the city was the perfect way to unwind. By the Victorian era most pleasure gardens had lost their Arcadian chic. Offering family entertainments, balloon ascents, animal exhibits and ice-cream, they were the forerunners of the seaside or amusement park.

Tragically, little is left of such an important part of our history. Of the great London gardens, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens was entirely lost to Victorian property development until the blitz cleared a portion of the site, which was redefined as a park after the second world war. Now restored to the original name of Spring Gardens, it remains a public park off Kennington Lane in Lambeth, with part of the site on Tyers Street dedicated to Vauxhall City Farm and the Riding Therapy Centre. Ranelagh also all but disappeared, save for a small area where the Chelsea Flower Show is now held (Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea). The fate of the provincial gardens was generally more severe. Victims of civic and industrial expansion, almost all were gone by 1860, leaving only a district or street name to mark their passing.

On the photo: An entertainment in Vauxhall Gardens in c.1779 by Thomas Rowlandson. The two women in the centre are Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister Lady Duncannon. The man seated at the table on the left is Samuel Johnson, with James Boswell to his left and Oliver Goldsmith to his right. To the right the actress and author Mary Darby Robinson stands next to the Prince of Wales, later George IV

Sydney Gardens Vauxhall in Bath was possibly the greatest pleasure garden outside London. It boasted a labyrinth, where Jane Austen walked every day when she lived in Bath, as well as a picturesque folly of a ruined castle. Once Brunel's railway bisected the site, popularity began to wane, and by the end of the 19th century it was little more than a public park with concerts. Suffering further decline in the 20th century, there is little left apart from a bowling green and tennis courts to entertain visitors (Pulteney Road). However the space is set to return to its former glory with the current redevelopment of the Holburne Museum (bath.ac.uk/holburne) on Great Pulteney Street, once the Sydney Hotel and gateway to the gardens, and further plans to restore Sydney Gardens (Sydney Place).
• Sarah Jane Downing is the author of The English Pleasure Garden 1660-1860, published by Shire Publications, £5.99 pleasure-sydney-gardens-vauxhall-bath

On the photo: Sketch of the Fancy Fair at Sydney Gardens, Bath for the Relief of Distressed Seamen. Painted around 1836 by an unknown artist
In her letter to Cassandra dated 19th June 1799 , written while Jane Austen was staying in Bath with her brother Edward and his family in Queen’s Square, she recorded her impressions of one such event:
Last night we were in Sidney Gardens (sic) again as there was a repetition of the Gala which went off so ill on the 4th-  We did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were  really beautiful and surpassing my expectations- the illuminations too were very pretty.

She appears to have disliked the music played there, for she made this caustic comment in her letter to Cassandra of the 2nd June 1799, when writing of the planned visit to the original gala:

There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens-A concert with Illuminations and Fireworks; to the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm with me, as the Gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound.

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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Fashion - Regency 1

Edward Austen Leigh wrote down this description of Jane's appearence in the years just after the family left Southampton.

"She was tall and slender; her face was rounded with a clear brunette complexion and bright hazel eyes.

Her curly brown hair escaped all round her forehead, but from the time of her coming to live at Chawton she always wore a cap, except when her nieces had her in London and forbade it."

Henry Austen said of his sister, " Her stature rather exceeded the middle height; her carriage anad deportment were quiet but graceful; her complexion of the finest texture, it might with truth be said that her eloquent blood spoke through her modest cheek." Henry applied these lines to Jane: " Her pure and eloquent blood spake in her cheeks and so distinctly wrought that you had almost said her body thought."

Austen's niece Caroline recollected: "As to my aunt's personal appearance, hers was the first face I can remember thinking pretty. Her face was rather round than long, she had a bright, but not a pink colour—a clear brown complexion, and very good hazel eyes. Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally, it was in short curls around her face. She always wore a cap