Tag Archives: Regency politics

Princess Esterhazy: The “Bonne Enfant” of Almack’s


Portrait of Prince and Princess Esterhazy with their children c. 1850

She was born Her Serene Highness, Princess Maria Theresia, Hereditary Princess of Thurn and Taxis on July 6, 1794. Her parents were Karl Alexander, the 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and Duchess Therese of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (a niece of the late English Queen Charlotte). She was their third child, and second daughter. Princess Maria Theresia was born in Regensburg, Bavaria. She maintained an attachment to the city of Regensburg throughout her life.

Princess Maria Theresia was married to Crown Prince Paul Anthony Esterhazy III (date of birth March 11, 1786) of Galantha on June 18, 1812 in Regensburg, not quite 18 years old to his age26. The prince’s father, Prince Nicholas II, travelled extensively and had lived for some time in England. From an ancient Hungarian family, Prince Paul Esterhazy had begun a diplomatic career young, serving under Louis, Prince of Stahremberg, in London. He was apparently liked and respected in English society as well as in diplomatic circles. It seems Princess Esterhazy was already active in London society and established as a Patroness of Almack’s by 1814, so it is obvious that she plunged right in to the social mainstream. After attending the Congress of Vienna in 1814 with Metternich, where Princess Esterhazy was much admired, Prince Paul was appointed to the Prince Regent’s court in 1815 as Austrian ambassador, at the Prince Regent’s request.

The youngest of the Lady Patronesses, Princess Esterhazy was an attractive young woman, based on the descriptions. She was apparently dark, plump, pretty and lively. Countess Lieven (later Princess) described her as “small, round, black, animated and spiteful”. She was very formal, and known to have a distaste for status seekers. Her love of ceremony and etiquette were attributed to her German background. As wife of the Austrian ambassador, Hereditary Princess of Thurn and Taxis in her own right, and connected with English royalty (cousin to Princess Charlotte, niece of the Duchess of Cumberland), Princess Esterhazy was at the top of the social strata from the beginning. Her knowledge protocol and of Austro-Hungarian, German and central European aristocracy would have been invaluable to her as a hostess for her husband.

Princess Esterhazy’s youth, personal attractiveness, and connections put her into a position of influence, had she chosen to use it. Supposedly Countess Lieven felt Princess Esterhazy to be a threat to her own position, at least initially. Information about Princess Esterhazy as a spiteful person appears in Countess Lieven’s letters to Prince Metternich. Countess Lieven was known for her efforts to influence European politics in Russia’s best interests, and apparently feared that the Austrian ambassador’s young wife would attempt to compete with her on the political stage as well as in society. It’s interesting to speculate that her malicious comments about Princess Esterhazy were an underhanded way to undercut Prince Paul’s position as Austrian ambassador. Ironically, there is no reference to Princess Esterhazy having any interest in political maneuvering. According to the Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne, Princess Esterhazy missed her home and was bored in London.

Princess Esterhazy was primarily associated with high society in her capacity as Lady Patroness of Almack’s. She was one of only two foreigners accorded this position (the other being Countess Lieven). As previously mentioned, she was a very high stickler. She was noted for her love of new dances, and was especially fond of waltzing. She was frequently partnered by Baron de Neumann, secretary at the Austrian Embassy.

Prince and Princess Esterhazy had 3 children, two daughters and a son, Nicholas Paul. It is interesting to note that their son was born in Regensburg in 1817, and married Lady Sarah Frederica Villiers, the daughter of Lord and Lady Jersey.

Her father-in-law passed away November 25, 1833, at which point her husband Paul became the 8th Prince Esterhazy of Galantha. Princess Maria Theresia’s full title became Princess Maria Theresia Esterhazy, Princess of Galantha, Princess of Thurn and Taxis. (The questions of lineage and title were apparently contributed to Countess Lieven’s dislike of Princess Esterhazy; her dislike appears to have been returned. When Count Lieven was made a prince in 1826, the now-Princess Lieven told Lord Grey that they were the only ones granted that title. Princess Esterhazy had no hesitation in showing her disdain for the Russian title, which did not endear her to Princess Lieven.) It is worth noting that the only source I found that dwells on Princess Esterhazy’s spiteful nature seems to be Princess Lieven.

Prince Esterhazy served as the Austrian Ambassador from 1815 to 1818, and again from 1830 to 1839. Prince and Princess Esterhazy also ruled Galantha from his father’s death and returned there in 1842. The Prince was active in political affairs for the Austrian empire and for Hungary, serving briefly as minister of foreign affairs to the King of Hungary, trying to mediate between the two governments. He left public life completely when Austrian and Hungarian relations broke down in 1848. I have found little data of Princess Esterhazy’s life after leaving England or during the years in Hungary. Sources indicate that Prince Esterhazy (and, by extension, Princess Esterhazy) had spent beyond his means, and that his last years were made difficult by money problems. He died May 21, 1866 in Regensburg (Maria Theresia’s much loved home city), at which time their son Nicholas became Crown Prince.

Princess Maria Theresia lived until August 18, 1874. She died in Huttledorf, Vienna, Austria. It is known that her son eased the family’s financial straits by selling the family’s famous art collection to the Austro-Hungarian Empire about 1870. Her rooms are the focus of an exhibition at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria. I requested more information about her from the Esterhazy Palace, but have yet to receive a reply. I will post an update with any additional information about her, when received.

Sources include:
Chancellor, E. Beresford. LIFE IN REGENCY AND EARLY VICTORIAN TIMES An Account of the Days of Brummell and D’orsay 1800 to 1850. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd. 1926.

Also by Chancellor: Memorials of ST. JAMES’S STREET and Chronicles of Almack’s. New York: Brentano’s, 1922.

Charmley, John. The PRINCESS and the POLITICIANS Sex, Intrigue and Diplomacy, 1812-1840. London: Penguin Group, 2005. [This is actually about Princess Lieven, but talks about her issues with Princess Esterhazy.]

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell. Reminiscences of Captain Gronow. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1862. Reprinted by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

King, David. VIENNA 1814 How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. New York: Random House, Inc. 2008
.
Kloester, Jennifer. GEORGETTE HEYER’S Regency World. London: William Heinemann, 2005.

Quennell, Peter, ed. THE PRIVATE LETTERS OF PRINCESS LIEVEN TO PRINCE METTERNICH 1820-1826. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1938.

Robinson, Lionel G., ed. LETTERS OF DOROTHEA, PRINCESS LIEVEN, during her Residence in London, 1812-1834. London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1902.

Candace Hern’s blog. “Leaders of Society and the Demimonde.” Princess Esterhazy (1794-?) http://www.candacehern.com/regency.htm

Unusual Historicals blog. “Fashionable People of the Regency- – Time for a Reassessment?” by Michelle Styles, posted 7/10/2012. http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2012/07/fashionable-people-of-regency-time-for.html

GoogleBooks.com. An Irish Beauty of the Regency by Frances Pery Calvert (the Hon. Mrs.) Great Britain: John Lane, 1911. Page 341. http://books.google.com/books?id=_LA_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA341&lpg=PA341&dq=princess+esterhazy+regency&source=bl&ots=VfO–gHncf&sig=dpn5TZy–v898ruToxfX9z2Q6pY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jw0gUe6vCpT09gTfzYHQCA&ved=0CDIQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=princess%20esterhazy%20regency&f=false

GoogleBooks.com. Memoires of the comtesse de Boigne, Volume 2. (1815-1819). by Louise-Eleonore-Charlotte-Adelaide Osmond Boigne (comtesse de). M. Charles Nicoulaud. London: William Heinemann, 1907. http://books.google.com/books?id=6VUoAAAAYAAJ&q=The+diplomatic+body+paul+esterhazy#v=snippet&q=The%20diplomatic%20body%20paul%20esterhazy&f=false

GluedIdeas.com. From “Chambers Encyclopedia 1880”, Vol. 5 Escitria to Fagging, ESTERHAZY entry. http://gluedideas.com/content-collection/chambers-5/Esterhazy.html

ThePeearage.com. “Maria Theresia Prinzessin von Thurn und Taxis.” Person #32081. http://www.thepeerage.com/p32081.htm#i320810; “Pal Antal Furst Esterhazy von Galantha.” Person 320811. http://www.thepeerage.com/p32082.htm#i320811

Wikipedia.com. “Princess Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=25561257
Image: Wikipedia Commons Prince Pal Antal Esterhazy and his Family c 1850 artist unknown http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Prince_P%C3%A1l_Antal_Esterh%C3%A1zy_and_his_Family_c._1850.jpg/595px-Prince_P%C3%A1l_Antal_Esterh%C3%A1zy_and_his_Family_c._1850.jpg

Advertisements

17 Comments

Filed under Almack's, biography, History, Lady Patronesses, Regency society

“Queen Sarah”

Best known as one of the feared Lady Patronesses of Almack’s, she was born Sarah Sophia Fane in March 3, 1785, the eldest daughter of John Fane, the 10th earl of Westmorland, and his wife Anne Child (or Sarah Anne Child), the only child of the banker, Robert Child. Disapproving of the marriage because Anne eloped at age 17 to Gretna Greene in 1782, with John Fane, her father Robert Child changed his will so that his estate would bypass her and go to either her second son or her eldest daughter.   Robert Child died the same year of his daughter’s marriage, so Sarah Sophia was born an heiress.  There is no indication of what Sarah Sophia’s relationship with her parents or siblings was.  Her mother died when Sarah Sophia was eight. 

Sarah Sophia married George Villiers, Viscount Villiers, on May 23, 1804, at home in Berkley Square.  However, there were several hints of an elopement to Gretna Green for her.  Many of the sources I found were careful not to cite the place of marriage.  (This may be a result of confusion with her mother, both being named Sarah.  It is also possible that Sarah Sophia and George did elope but also had a ceremony to satisfy family or convention.)  By all accounts, she held him in great affection.  George became the 5th Earl of Jersey and 8th Viscount Grandison in 1805. Sarah Sophia had inherited the Child fortune and property, including Osterley Park, at birth, and took control when she came of age in 1806. In an age of women as chattels, Sarah was unique in that her inheritance made her the senior partner of Child & Co., a position she held for over 60 years.    She took an active interest in the bank, visiting the premises, checking profit and loss statements, and intervening in employee issues.  The couple had five sons and three daughters, seven of whom survived to adulthood.

Sarah Sophia, also known as Sally, became a leader of the “Ton”, and wielded a great deal of influence in Society. Sarah Sophia was considered a great beauty.  She made a name for herself by being extremely rude and behaving theatrically. She chattered incessantly, acquiring the nickname of “Silence.” Determined to stand apart from her mother-in-law, the scandalous Frances, Lady Jersey, who was mistress of the Prince of Wales, Sarah Sophia made a great show of personal virtue, although she apparently throve on gossip. In spite of her affectations, she appears to have been regarded with affection by many of her peers.   In a letter written in 1816 to her brother, General Alexander Beckendorf, Princess Lieven described Lady Jersey as one of her “most intimate friends.”  (Princess Lieven also said in a later letter to Prince Metternich that “…Lady Jersey has the most dangerous tongue I know.”  Written in 1823, it would appear that there had been a falling out.)  Although she called herself Sally, one of her nicknames in Society was “Queen Sarah.”  When Lady Caroline Lamb published her novel GLENARVON in 1816, Lady Jersey was supposedly the inspiration for the character of Lady Augusta.  As a result, “Queen Sarah” banned Caroline from Almack’s, effectively ending Caroline’s social career. 

Sarah Sophia and her husband entertained at their home in Berkley Square, and Middleton Park in Oxfordshire.  They seem to have spent little time at Osterley Park in Middlesex.  Sarah Sophia is supposed to have introduced the Quadrille to Almack’s in 1815. She was a noted political hostess for her husband, who legally added the name of Child in 1819 to become George Child-Villiers, Earl of Jersey. An avid hunter and racing aficionado, her husband held offices in the households of William IV and of Queen Victoria.  Sarah Sophia was interested in politics, and not shy about expressing her opinions.  She apparently switched from Whig to Tory views by the 1820’s.  She supported Queen Caroline against George IV when he tried to divorce Caroline, wearing a portrait of Caroline in public.   Sarah  Sophia also spoke openly against the Reform Bill of 1832. 

George died October 3, 1859, followed shortly by their eldest son.   Her grandson (her oldest son’s son)   inherited the title.  After her husband’s death, she continued to entertain and take an interest in what was going on around her, especially charitable concerns including the establishment of schools on the family estates to assist tenants and laborers.  She died of a ruptured blood vessel, according to her obituary, at Berkley Square on January 26, 1867, at age 81, outliving her husband and six of her seven children.  Both Lord and Lady Jersey were buried at Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire.

Lady Jersey’s fame lived on after her, and she appears in Regency romance novels by many authors, including Georgette Heyer,  frequently as a character.  She will also be seen in my upcoming novel, due out later this year.

[This is an expansion of some information I posted on Goodreads on Oct. 20, 2011 in the Historical Info for Historical Fiction Readers group.]

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  Reminiscences of Captain Gronow. Originally published 1862: Smith, Elder & Co., London; republished by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

Quennell, Peter, ed. The Private Letters of Princess Lieven to Prince Metternich 1820-1826.  1938: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc. NY. (P. 283)

Robinson, Lionel G.  Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her Residence in London, 1812-1834. 1902: Longmans, Green, and Co. London. (P. 29)

“Child & Co, Bankers of London.”  http://www.hypatia.demon.co.uk/ost2006/historical_bank.html  

Find A Grave. “Sarah Sophia Fane Child-Villiers.”  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=91951396

“Osterley Park– A Brief History.”   http://www.hypatia.demon.co.uk/ost2006/historical_brief.html  

One London One blog.  “The Death of Lady Jersey in 1867.” By Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw.  Posted March 3, 2012. http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-of-lady-jersey-in-1867.html

The Peerage Online.  “Lady Sarah Sophia Fane.”  http://www.thepeerage.com/p2703.htm

RBS Heritage Online. “Sarah Sophia Child-Villiers.” http://heritagearchives.rbs.com/wiki/Sarah_Sophia_Child-Villiers

Regency History.  “Lady Jersey (1785-1867).” By Rachel Knowles, posted Nov. 4, 2011.  http://www.regencyhistory.net/2011/11/lady-jersey-1785-1867.html

A Web of English History.  “Sarah Sophia Child, Lady Jersey, 1785-1867.” Dr. Marjory Bloy.   http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/jersey.htm       

Image: from Wikimedia Commons- Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (née Fane) (1785-1867) by Alfred Edward Chalon, painted in the first half of the 19th century. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dc/Sarah_Sophia_Child_Villiers%2C_Countess_of_Jersey_%28n%C3%A9e_Fane%29_%281785-1867%29%2C_by_Alfred_Edward_Chalon.jpg/361px-Sarah_Sophia_Child_Villiers%2C_Countess_of_Jersey_%28n%C3%A9e_Fane%29_%281785-1867%29%2C_by_Alfred_Edward_Chalon.jpg

 

6 Comments

Filed under Almack's, biography, History, Lady Patronesses, Regency society

The “Infamous” Mrs. Drummond-Burrell

          Born in Edinburgh, Scotland May 5, 1786, Sarah Clementina (or Clementina Sarah) was the daughter of James Drummond, Lord Perth, Baron Drummond of Stobhall and the Honorable Clementina Elphinstone.  The Drummond family was a noble family of Perthshire, who were loyal to the Jacobite cause.  After the Rising in 1715, the 4th Earl Drummond was attainted and the estates and title were lost (although still considered valid by the Jacobites in exile).  Clementina’s father obtained restoration of the estates in 1787, but the title was not restored; he was created Earl of Perth by George III in 1797 (he was considered the 11th earl de jure).    Clementina was the only surviving child and heir.   A number of compositions for dances were named for her, including “Clementina Sarah Drummond”, a strathspey by John Bowie published in 1789, and “Miss Sarah Drummond of Perth”, another strathspey.  On her father’s death in 1800, she inherited a large fortune and estates in Perthshire. 

          On October 19, 1807, at age 21, Clementina married the Honorable Peter Burrell, who was the son of Sir Peter Burrell, 2nd Baronet Burell of Knipp and subsequently Baron Gwyndir, and Lady Priscilla Bertie, 21st Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and the daughter of the 3rd Duke of Ancaster.  His family had no money to speak of.  On November 5, 1807, the couple took the name of Drummond-Burrell by royal license.   This was supposedly at her father’s insistence but, since he died in 1800, this may have been a requirement of her marriage settlement or her own request.  (I also saw an indication that this may have been at his father’s request.)  In any case, the couple became Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell.  Initially, at least, they lived at Drummond Castle.

Priscilla, Lady Willoughby de Eresby, by Sampson Towgood Roch (after a miniature painted by Saunders 1810) -Mother of Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell

          Peter Drummond-Burrell was a great dandy, and a member of Brooks’s Club (a Whig stronghold), and had been working toward a political career.  He was elected Member of Parliament for Boston in Lincolnshire in April 1812, and usually voted with the opposition, although his attendance was not steady.  Clementina was an active hostess, noted for her parties.  By 1814, according to Captain Gronow, Clementina was one of the patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms.  She had the reputation of being the highest stickler, very proud, and very grand.  In FRIDAY’S CHILD, Georgette Heyer described her as “the most coldly correct of Almack’s patronesses….”   

          There are some implications that this was not a particularly happy marriage.  Peter Drummond-Burrell was expensive, and his father was in debt; Clementina’s reputation for grandeur and shrewdness would not indicate a “soft touch” for cash.  However, after 1808, they appear to be fixed in London and very busy with their social and personal lives.  The couple had five children:  Clementina Elizabeth, born Sept. 2, 1809 in Piccadilly, Westminster; Elizabeth Susan, born Sept. 21, 1810 in Westminster, Charlotte Augusta born Nov. 3, 1815 in Berkley Square; Frederick, born Feb. 4, 1818 in Middlesex; and Alberic born Dec. 25, 1821.  Two of the children died before their parents.  Frederick died May 17, 1819, and Elizabeth died Oct. 10, 1853.  It is worth noting (considering the time) that I did not run across any speculation about the paternity of their children.   I also did not run across suggestions that Peter had a string of mistresses.  (A dandy’s lifestyle, combined with political aspirations, does justify a high level of expenditure!)  This would indicate a couple who, if not madly in love, at least cared about and respected each other.

          Peter’s father died June 29, 1820, apparently significantly in debt, at which point Peter succeeded to his titles, becoming Lord Gwydyr.  His biography on THE HISTORY OF PARLIAMENT indicates he sold many family treasures and, rather than face another election, retired from politics to live in Paris by choice for a period of time.  How long he was in Paris, and whether Clementina went with him,  is unclear.  In any event, they were still a couple and in England fairly soon after this, as their fourth child Alberic was born December 25, 1821, and was christened at St. George’s, Hanover Square, December 30, 1821.   In 1828, his mother died, and he inherited her title, adding the 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby and Joint Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain to his list of titles, invested in the Privy Council.  The couple was known as Lord and Lady Willoughby de Eresby from this point on.   Although the duties of Hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain and Privy Counselor required Lord Willoughby de Eresby’s presence at court, they continued to spend time at Drummond Castle where they were involved in continuing improvements, especially in the gardens.  In 1842, Queen Victoria supposedly planted copper beech trees at Drummond Castle during a visit.

          Clementina died January 16, 1865 in Piccadilly, and was buried in St. Michael Churchyard, East Halton, Lincolnshire.  Peter died February 22, 1865, outliving her by only a month. 

          Clementina Drummond-Burrell was an influential society hostess, with the power to make or break a social career.  She had the reputation of being a high stickler, requiring a high standard of conduct in her protégés.  Certainly, I found no suggestion of scandal connected to her.   Her background as the only child of an earl, heiress to wealth and privilege, may have been a source of pride to her, and must surely have excited envy.  These things, however, do not necessarily require a cold, harsh personality.  Although in novels, she is portrayed as a rigid, implacable despot, the facts I found indicate an admirable person.  In REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW, “Society in London in 1814,” he describes Lady Castlereagh and Mrs. Burrell “de tres grandes dames”1  (very great ladies).  I can think of worse things for which to be remembered.

Notes:

  1. Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. P. 19

Sources:

Gronow, Captain Rees Howell.  REMINISCENCES OF CAPTAIN GRONOW. 1862: Smith, Elder & Co. Cornhill.  Published in the U.S . by IndyPublish.com, McLean, VA.

Candice Hern Romance Novelist website. “ Leaders of Society and the Demimonde.”  http://www.candicehern.com/regency.htm

A Web of English History website.  “Mr. and Mrs. Drummond-Burrell (1782-1865; 1786-1865). Posted by Dr. Marjorie Bloy.  http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/burrell.htm

The Peerage Online:  “Lady Sarah Clementina Drummond ”  and “James Drummond, 11th Earl of Perth.”  http://thepeerage.com/p2621.htm  , “Peter Robert Drummond-Burrell, 21st Baron Willoughby de Eresby.”  http://thepeerage.com/p2026.htm#i20260

Find A Grave website: “Lady Sarah Drummond Drummond-Burrell.”  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73477058

The History of Parliament Online.  “DRUMMOND BURRELL, Hon. Peter Robert (1782-1865), of Drummond Castle, Perth.”   http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73477058

Traditional Tune Archive website.  “MISS SARAH DRUMMOND OF PERTH[1].”  http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Miss_Sarah_Drummond_of_Perth_(1 

Community Trees Project.  “Individual Report for Clementina Sarah Drummond”   and “Individual Report for Alberic Drummond-Willoughby, Lord Willoughby of Eresby.”  http://histfam.familysearch.org

Regency Reader blog.  “Regency Villains: Mrs. Drummond Burrell.” Posted by Anne Glover, 2/24/2012.  http://anneglover.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/regency-villians-mrs-drummond-burrell/   

Image from Wikimedia Commons: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Priscilla%2C_Lady_Willoughby_de_Eresby.png

14 Comments

Filed under biography, History, Lady Patronesses, Regency society

WOMEN AND POLITICS IN JANE AUSTEN’S TIME PART II

     In Jane’s surviving letters, there are tantalizing hints of political awareness. It must be remembered that the surviving letters are a fraction of those actually written-Cassandra destroyed many more. It is a mistake to assume, based on the surviving letters, that Jane did not more fully express herself on political subjects and matters. In my opinion, it is also a mistake to assume a completely one-sided view on her part.
Let’s take a look for some hints at political views in Jane Austen’s surviving letters ( JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS, ed. Deirdre LeFaye):

Letter 29 (p. 69) Reference to a threatened act of Parliament as not an issue of concern: per Ms. LeFaye, this referred possibly to measures in regard to alleviating the distress of the winter of 1800-1801 (one such measure involved fixing the price of wheat, which was vigorously opposed.)
Letter 61 (p. 154) Reference to politics (electioneering, canvassing)-Jane reported that, although offered the opportunity to run unopposed, Mr. Thistlewaite declined to run due to previous electioneering costs.
Letter 72 (p. 186) Reference to Weald of Kent-Canal Bill-Jane congratulates Edward because she read that the bill was delayed. “There is always something to be hoped from Delay – .”
Letter 79 (p. 202) Jane asked Cassandra if she could find out if “Northamptonshire is a Country of Hedgerows….” – this is a reference to enclosure (common lands being acquired and enclosed, usually for sheep, which affected not only the livelihood of others no longer able to access this land for open field farming or shared grazing, but also affected tithing (land in lieu of yearly tithes). [Enclosure was bad if for superficial reasons, such as improving a view; good if it will increase profit or efficiency, per Celia Eston’s article in PERSUASIONS.]
Letter 96 (p. 252) Reference to Napoleonic War –Jane’s letter referred to speeches in parliament: 11/4/1814: Marquis Wellesley, in the words of Mr. Pitt, indicated that England saved herself and others; 11/8/1814: The House of Lords thanks to Marquis Wellesley for skill and ability in action subsequent to battle of Vittoria (this reflected the Tory desire to win the war); see also remarks about Lady B (Brooks or Bridges?).
Letter 106 (p. 273-274) Reference to the War of 1812 – Jane discussed Henry’s opinion that England would not defeat America, but that England was a nation improving in religion, which Americans don’t possess (Jane’s view). (This reflects Tory conservative religious views.)

     In my opinion, these letters indicate that Jane Austen was in fact politically aware, and had definite opinions on the political issues of the day. I believe that this reflects a strong probability that women in general shared these traits, even though women could not vote and were discouraged from participating in political debate or discussion at any level.
     A frequent criticism leveled at Jane Austen’s novels is her failure to mention current events or political issues. In JANE AUSTEN Women, Politics, and the Novel, Claudia Johnson said on page 10: “Considered from within the compelling rhetorical structures conservative novelists build, to suggest, as Austen among many others, frequently does, that fathers, sons, and brothers themselves may be selfish, bullying and unscrupulous, and that the ‘bonds of domestic attachment’ are not always sweet, is to attack the institutions which make morality possible and so to contribute to the dissolution of the government.” She also says, “If, as we have seen, women novelists [Jane Austen included here] were able to appropriate a reactionary type in order to advance modest but distinctly reformist positions about female manners, they developed other narrative strategies to examine Burkean premises about marriage and patriarchy while eluding the accusation that they favored a radical reconstitution of society.” To summarize, these novelists made their commentary subtle, to avoid being accused of attacking societal norms or of being desirous of radical change, thus making their works acceptable while still getting their opinions out there.
     There are many political clues in Jane Austen’s novels. Looking specifically at PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and PERSUASION, I will address a few of them.
     PRIDE AND PREJUDICE was supposedly the most free spirited of Jane Austen’s novels, but was actually the most conservative, i.e. truer to older values and social structure (Johnson). Mr. Darcy is identifiably a Whig, as a wealthy landowner of high standing, who spent significant time in London, etc. (away from Pemberly), rich, definitely “high society” (he had danced at the Court of St. James, though seldom). Early in the novel, Darcy is seen as the handsome, wealthy, powerful hero (true to Cinderella story) but he had flaws and had to change to become worthy of winning Elizabeth. (Jane Austen showed a certain reluctant reverence for society, wealth and position, with Tory-esque values for individual merit and reward also). George Wickham was a classic Whig villain: although he was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward, he was treated as a son of the house, sent to Cambridge, and had expectations, which he squandered. Wickham expected advantages to be handed to him. After frittering away his advantages, he became a predator.
     Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, is recognizably a Tory, whose father made a fortune in trade; his success allowed his children to move up in society and become landowners. Mr. Bingley’s sisters especially aspired to Society roles (Whig “wanna-be’s”), as shown by Caroline’s relentless determination to catch Darcy. Other sympathetic Tory figures were the Gardiners: Mr. Gardiner was successful in the City, yet the couple’s manners and deportment made them acceptable in society.
     The Bennets themselves reflect the political divide. Mr. Bennet was a landowner and gentleman (inherited entailed property) who had no occupation. He married beneath him socially (she had a pretty face, was not educated, and brought little to the marriage). He was occupied with his own interests and place. Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth and Jane had the intelligence and ability to be able to fit into higher strata of society, while Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls did not. Elizabeth, as a gentleman’s daughter of charm, wit and intelligence, was found worthy of Mr. Darcy, despite the disparity of fortune and status. (This is a suggestion that Jane Austen may have felt that reform of social order was needed to allow for individual merit, but the hierarchical structure still basically sound. (CAMBRIDGE COMPANION P. 156.)
     In PERSUASION, Jane Austen’s last novel, her opinions had clearly matured. Sir Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot, Lady Russell, the Dalrymples, Mary Musgrove are all classic Whig characters, convinced that  title, inherited wealth and property conferred status, regardless of personal merit. They did not perceive or readily value individual efforts to improve one’s circumstances. Of these, Lady Russell was the only one who really made an effort to value Capt. Wentworth as a man of merit because of her fondness for Anne. Anne Elliot was born a Whig, yet embraced the concept of earned value. Mr. Elliot was a Whig villain in the story: he was the heir to the title, the property entailed to him. Mr. Elliot lived in London “Society”, and married beneath him for gain. When his fortunes declined, he decided to reacquaint himself with Sir Walter and the family. His pursuit of Anne was predatory, to gain influence over Sir Walter, and to ingratiate himself. There are some striking similarities between Mr. Elliot and Wickham.
     Captain Wentworth, Admiral and Mrs. Croft, Captains Benwick and Harville represent a Tory ideal: they rose through their own merits; their personal worth made them acceptable and valuable. They embodied intelligence, hard work, and solid values and merit. Capt Wentworth being the hero and victorious suitor, combined Anne’s regard for his family and friends, show Austen’s solid Tory leanings and her ideas of the best company.
     Clearly, women’s interest in politics depended hugely on what issues had direct impact on them personally, and on the amount of information about the issues to which they had access. Literate women with access to print matter, including newspapers and gazettes, broadsheets, pamphlets, etc. would, for the most part, have been in households with the ability to provide the materials, and with the opportunity and time to read them. I submit that any woman who had family members participating in the war, or who had the opportunity or the ability to observe the effects of inequities in law (as in inheritance laws, debtor laws, civil penalties, etc.) would have some interest in political matters. Jane Austen, in particular, was encouraged to read widely and had multiple family issues, ranging from inheritance to war, which make it highly unlikely that she took no interest in politics. Although clearly having Tory sympathies, there are indications that she is not totally biased. There are hints of certain older establishment sympathies as well. I think it highly possible that Jane was actually of a moderate persuasion, perceiving the positive and negative of both the Whig and Tory positions. The glancing references in her letters and the subtle clues in her books assure us of her knowledge of these matters but only hint as to her opinions.
Bibliography:
Washington & Lee University, “The World of Jane Austen” 2009 Alumni College – Dr. Taylor Sanders- Lectures: ‘The British Empire at Full Attention (or Why were all those men in uniform?)’ on 7/21/09, and ‘The Court Jester: Was George III Truly Mad?: The Political Scene’ on 7/23/09; Dr. Marc Conner-Lecture ‘The Economies of Jane Austen: Wealth/Religion/Marriage’ on 7/24/09. (Outlines and my notes)
Austen, Jane. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. London: 1813.
PERSUASION. London: 1817.
Copeland, Edward and McMaster, Juliet, ed. THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO JANE AUSTEN. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. “Religion and Politics” by Gary Kelly, PP. 149-169.
Erickson, Carolly. ROYAL PANOPLY Brief Lives of the English Monarchs. “Epilogue: Historical Turning Points, ‘England in 1714’”, pp. 350-352. New York: History Book Club, 2003.
Johnson, Claudia L. JANE AUSTEN Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
LeFaye, Deirdre, ed. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Mitchell, Leslie. THE WHIG WORLD. London and New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2005.
PERSUASIONS, No. 24, 2002. “Jane Austen and the Enclosure Movement: The Sense and Sensibility of Land Reform,” by Celia Easton. PP. 71-89.
Pool, Daniel. WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
ELECTIONEERING (from Robert Southey’s “Letters from England,” written in 1802 [originally published in 1807])
On-Line Research Sources:
Bloy, Dr. Marjory. A WEB OF ENGLISH HISTORY – THE AGE OF GEORGE III. http://www.historyhome.co.uk
FIND A GRAVE http://www.findagrave.com
THE EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION ON POLITICS , http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/history/A0858818.html
GEORGIAN BRITAIN: British History Under George I/II/III/IV and William IV http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Britain/History/Georgian.htm
A WEB OF ENGLISH HISTORY: THE AGE OF GEORGE III http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/ministry/ldgrenmi.htm
THE GEORGIAN INDEX http://www.georgianindex.net/Election/election.html
REGENCY COLLECTION. “Whig or Tory?” http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~awoodley/regency/whig.html

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized