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Author Archives: Myretta

About Myretta

Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a major Jane Austen destination on the web. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta.

I’ve spent the last several weeks moving The Republic of Pemberley to a new server and a new platform. This is the fourth or fifth time our web site has moved since it started as a one-horse bulletin board on a small local server. This, however, is the first moved necessitated by the need to retrench and it made me think about the moves that Jane Austen made in her life, all them driven by the shrinking income as a result of her father’s retirement and then death.


Steventon Rectory

Jane Austen was born in 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire. The Steventon parsonage in which she was born and in which she spent her childhood is no longer standing, but St. Nicholas Church, where her father was vicar, is still there and still honors her memory. When George Austen retired and turned his church over to his son, James in 1801, he and his wife and two daughters moved to Bath.  They first leased 4 Sydney Place, a good location and fine building, but moved to Green Park Buildings in 1804.

4 Sydney Place, Bath

4 Sydney Place, Bath

When Jane Austen first looked at Green Park Buildings in 1801, she wrote to her sister: Our views on G. P. Buildings seem all at an end; the observation of the damps still remaining in the offices of an house which has been only vacated a week, with reports of discontented families and putrid fevers, has given the coup de grace. We have now nothing in view. When you arrive, we will at least have the pleasure of examining some of these putrefying houses again; they are so very desirable in size and situation, that there is some satisfaction in spending ten minutes within them. 

And yet, within three years, they had moved into them. At George Austen’s death in 1805, his income from the livings in Hampshire ceased and money became even tighter, forcing Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, and Jane to move from Green Park Buildings to 25 Gay Street.

At this time, Jane’s brothers began talking about supporting their mother and sisters. In 1807, the three Austen women moved from Bath to Castle Square in Southampton.

Chawton Cottage

Chawton Cottage

In 1809, Edward Austen Knight, offered the Bailiff’s cottage on his estate in Chawton to his mother and sisters. Jane Austen moved to Chawton cottage in July of that year and lived there until the year of her death, in 1817, when she spent May through July in Winchester at 8 College Street to be near her doctor.

Jane’s years in Chawton were a fecund period for her writing. There she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.

We hope that the Republic of Pemberley’s move with Jane Austen is as successful as her removal to Chawton. Please come visit us at our new home.

Posted in Jane Austen | 4 Replies

Things have been interesting and hectic around here in the past couple of weeks, so I hope you don’t mind if I take this opportunity to just give you a short summary of changes in the Robens household.

The big thing is that I finished my manuscript, did a first round of edits (see picture) and sent it to my agent. Woo Hoo!  That was way too long in getting done, but I’m pretty happy with it and looking forward to the next round of changes.

While I’m waiting to get notes from Louise, I have another big (and only peripherally greenjanerelated to writing) project. I am moving the Republic of Pemberley  web site to a new server and new platform. If you are familiar with this web site, you might have an idea of what a huge undertaking this is. I’m admittedly daunted, but it must be done. We are no longer the 10,000,000 page views a month site that required a dedicated server. We are down to about 3,000,000 that we hope, in conjunction with a more streamlined platform, will live happily on a smaller, less expensive, server.

gunnarAnd I have added to the family. In July, after several years of pining for a dog (as three cats are apparently not sufficient), I adopted Gunnar, a three-year-old rescue Corgi. He’s adorable, well-behaved, smart, and friendly. As you can see by the picture, he also thinks he’s a cat so fits right in with the rest of the family.

This is what’s going on in my life and why I have no research post for you today. Now I’m off to buff up my computer move project schedule. What are your plans for the weekend?

Private Theatre at Brandenburg House, Fulham

Private Theatre at Brandenburg House, Fulham

Private theatricals were all the rage during the late 18th century/ early 19th century. I have always had a hankering to write a story that takes place during a theatrical production at a house party. As Jane Austen recognized in Mansfield Park, this can lead to all sorts of interesting interactions.

From about 1770 genteel British society was affected by the urge to perform plays in private theatres.

And they had to be “private” and amateur; unlicensed public performances were illegal .The Licensing Act of 1737 stipulated a fine of £50 for anyone convicted of acting for “hire, gain or reward” in any play or theatrical performance not previously allowed by royal patent or Licensed by the Lord Chamberlain.

Program for private theatrical at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill

Program for private theatrical at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill

Marc Baer in his excellent book, Theatre and Disorder in Late Georgian London, theorizes that private may have been preferable to many of the upper classes who wished to avoid the riots which were so prevalent a part of theatre going, in the 18th century.

Also that it was a step by the upper classes to distance themselves from the increasingly plebeian nature of performances at the two Patent theatres in London. They were once concerned only with productions of “serious” plays and opera, but were increasingly incorporating elements of pantomine, and melodrama, burletta and pure spectacle into the evening’s entertainment. In short the evenings were becoming vulgar.

“It was beyond everything vulgar I ever saw…the people were hollowing and talking to each other from the pit to the gallery, and fighting and throwing oranges at each other. The play itself was a representation of all the low scenes in London… a sort of very low Beggar’s Opera, but it is impossible to describe the sort of enthusiasm with which it was received by the people who seems to enjoy a representation of scenes, in which, from their appearance, one might infer they frequently shared.”

(extract from a letter written by Mrs Harriet Arbuthnot, writing about seeing a performance of Life in London by Pierce Egan and George Cruickshank at the Adelphi Theatre in 1822.)

Some of the more prosperous amateur performers constructed very elaborate private theatres- some were decidedly amateur.

Paula Byrne writes in her book Jane Austen and the Theatre remarks;

Makeshift theatre mushroomed all over England from drawing room to domestic buildings. At the more extreme end of the theatrical craze member of the gentrified classes and the aristocracy built their own scaled down imitations of London playhouses. The most famous was that erected in the late 1770s by the spendthrift Earl of Barrymore, at a reputed cost of £60,000.

Barrymore’s elaborate private theatre was modelled on Vanburghs Kings Theatre in the Haymarket. It supposedly seated seven hundred

We know from records of the very elaborate and private theatricals at Richmond House- home to the Duke of Richmond (and his daughters, the Lennox sister, subjects of Stella Tillyard’s book Aristocrats) that these private theatricals could be very professional indeed.

This craze for theatricals was reflected in the literature of the time. Jane Austen was not the only author who used the craze in her work. Amanda Vickery in her book The Gentleman’s Daughter remarks;

The donning of disguise and the doffing of decorum might be thrilling for participants but it could be disquieting to attentive observers, as novels such as Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) Maria Edgeworth’s Patronage (1814) and Fanny Burney’s The Wanderer (1814) dramatically demonstrated.

In a note to this part of her text she adds;

The narrative possibilities inherent in amateur performance were seized on by novelists, but assessments of the morality of female exhibition differed. Fanny Price piously refuses to take part in Lovers Vows, which redounds to her credit…The pure and perfect Caroline Percy declines an invitation to take part in Zara, which in the event demonstrates the vanity of her rival, yet Caroline remains a sympathetic member of the audience…On the other hand, the “incognita” is allowed to give a dignified performance as Lady Townley in The Provoked Husband, which convinces many in the audience of her gentility:

Opinions as to the desirability and correctness of “polite” females appearing on the stage certainly varied as evidenced from these novels. A position certainly reflected by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park.

Certainly, members of the growing Evangelical Movement in the Church of England voiced grave concerns about such performances.

In his work An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex (1797),  Reverend Thomas Gisbourne took a stance very much against this type of theatrical performance. Actresses were still not quite “respectable” at this time in history, despite the success of actresses such as Mrs Siddons, who was a favourite with King George III and Queen Charlotte.

For some years past the custom of acting in plays in private theatres, fitted up by individuals of fortune, had occasionally prevailed. It is a custom liable to objection among others: that it is almost certain to prove, in its effects, injurious to the female performers. Let it be admitted that theatres of this description no longer present the flagrant impropriety of ladies bearing apart in the drama in conjunction with professional players. Let it be admitted, that the drama reflected will in its language and conduct always be reprehensible.  Let it even be admitted, that many theatrical talents will not hereafter gain admission upon such a Stage for men of ambiguous or worse than ambiguous character. Take the benefit of all these favourable circumstances; yet what is even then the tendency of such an amusement? To encourage vanity; to excite a thirst of applause and admiration of attainments which, if the are to be thus exhibited, it would commonly have been far better for the individual not to possess; to destroy diffidence, by the unrestrained familiarity with the persons of the other sex, which inevitably results from being joined with them in the drama; to create a general fondness for the perusal of plays, of which so many are unfit to be read; and for attending dramatic representations, of which so many are unfit to be witnessed.

Jane Austen read this work, on Cassandra’s recommendation, in 1805. She had expected to dislike it, but surprised herself by approving of it.

I’ve finished my manuscript and am knee-deep in second draft territory, so I’m going to take an easy route today and share some of my favorite links on the Georgian and Regency eras.

Sarah Siddons by Joshua Reynolds

Sarah Siddons by Joshua Reynolds

What Jane Saw – On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The popular show was the first-ever retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s celebrated portrait painter. Two centuries later, this e-gallery offers the modern visitor a historical reconstruction of that long-lost Regency blockbuster.

The Kyoto Costume Institute – Justifiably famous for its staggering collection of European costumes, the page representing the 18th early 19th century are totally awe-inspiring.


Nelson Exhibit at National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum – Wonderful searchable site for British naval history.

Dictionary of the English Language – 1822 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary at Google Books.

British Titles of Nobility – Laura Wallace’s excellent introduction and primer to the peerage.


Georgian Ices

Historic Food – Ivan Day is “the” historical food expert”. This site is fascinating,replete with recipes,fabulous illustrations and tempting details of his courses.

I’m sure some of these are familiar to you. I hope some of them are nice surprises.  And I’d love to hear about your favorite web sites on our period.

Almack'sI am thisclose to finishing the manuscript I’m working on, so rather than go off and do unrelated research, I am going to give you something from the first chapter.

My hero writes an anonymous fashion column and, here, he is framing it in his mind as he watches the guests at Almack’s

Almack’s glittered in its inimitable dingy way on Wednesday last. At least, let me say, that the attendees glittered, although some were more glittery than others. The handsome Miss S, London’s newest diamond showed the rest of the ton how an incomparable should look. Her sea foam green silk gown and silver net overdress – undoubtedly the work of Madame Cecily – was the perfect foil for Miss S’s silver-blonde hair and flawless skin. Her turn as a delectable sea creature did not go unnoticed by the formally-clad fisherman of Almack’s.

On the other side of the beach was Lady V, looking distinctly crab-like in her red satin panniers,  Do au courante ladies still wear panniers, I ask you? Someone should whisper the news in Lady V’s shell-like ear.

One could go on, but perhaps one shouldn’t, except to say that among the glittering throng, yours truly was the most glittering of all.

Simon does tend toward the nature metaphors, but he has quite a following among the ton.

I hope to have the last chapters completed before next week when, possibly, the research will continue.

Posted in Regency, Writing | 4 Replies
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