Friday, April 30, 2010

Jane Austen's World - 1796 - 1805

1796: Fanny Burney publishes Camilla; Robert Burns dies; Jenner introduces a vaccination against smallpox; Napoleon marries Josephine.

1797: Edmund Burke dies; Ann Radcliffe writes The Italian; first copper pennies are minted in England and one-pound notes issued.

1798: French capture Rome; income tax of 10% of all incomes over £200 is introduced in Britain as a wartime measure.

1799: Napoleon overthrows the Directory, appoints Talleyrand as Foreign Minister, and becomes Consul. Balzac is born; Beaumarchais dies. Rosetta stone is discovered making the deciphering of hieroglyphics possible.

1800: Wm. Cowper dies; Maria Edgeworth publishes Castle Rackrent; Royal College of Surgeons founded in London; Napoleon defeats Austrians at the Battle of Marengo.*

1801: Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland; Thomas Jefferson is inaugurated as the third president of the United States; The Union Jack becomes the official flag of the UK.

1802: Two-year Peace of Amiens between France and Britain. Two powerhouses of French literature are born: Alexandre Dumas, Pere, and Victor Hugo. George Romney dies. Peerage is published in London by Debrett. The Baronetage (the only book that Sir Walter Elliot reads) is not published until 1808. West India Docks in London are built.

1803: Robert Emmet, Irish patriot, (Let no man write my epitaph.) is executed by British in Ireland; Benjamin West paints Christ Healing the Sick.

1804: Disraeli is born; Alexander Hamilton is killed in a duel with Aaron Burr.

1805: Turner paints Shipwreck; Paganini begins to tour Europe as violin virtuoso.

*The Battle of Marengo and Chicken: The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. The French defeated Austrian General Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy, and enhancing Napoleon's political position in Paris. According to tradition Napoleon demanded a quick meal after the battle and his chef was forced to work with the meager results of a forage: a chicken, some eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and crayfish. The chef cut up the chicken (reportedly with a sabre) and fried it in olive oil, made a sauce from the tomatoes, garlic and onions (plus a bit of cognac from Napoleon's flask), cooked the crayfish, fried the eggs and served them as a garnish, with some of the soldier's bread ration on the side. Napoleon reportedly liked the dish and (having won the battle) considered it lucky. Voila! Chicken Marengo! (Wikipedia)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jane Austen's World - 1786 - 1795

In 1788, New York is declared to be the capital of the United States. However, a decision will be made to move the capital south to a district carved out of Maryland and Virginia (Virginia later takes their part back because of a slavery issue) and to separate the financial and government centers of the U.S. The following year, George Washington is inaugurated as President. In England, George III has his first attack of mental illness causing a regency crisis. In 1791, Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution is ratified.

In 1789, in France, a Paris mob storms the Bastille. The French Revolution is on. Along with the Napoleonic Wars, these events will color the background of Jane Austen’s life. 1793: Louis XVI and his queen are executed. 1794: Danton, Robespierre, and St. Just are executed. Habeas Corpus Act is suspected in Britain. 1795: Bread riots and White Terror in Paris.

Between 1785 and 1795, the following artists flourished: William Cowper: John Gilpin; Robert Burns: Tam O’ Shanter; Schiller: Don Carlos; William Blake: Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience; Robert Southey: Poems;  Mozart: Don Giovanni and Magic Flute. Byron is born; Keats dies. Robert Adam and Joshua Reynolds die.

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, making cotton “King” in the South and insuring the continuation of slavery. First horse-drawn railroad in England. Daily Universal Register becomes The Times. The Observer is founded in London.

Marylebone Cricket Club is founded and moves to Lord’s cricket ground, and in Charleston, South Carolina, the Golf Club is founded.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jane Austen's World - The First Ten Years (1776 -1785)

In 1785, Jane Austen was ten years old, and in that short span of time, the world had experienced remarkable change. Scottish millwright, Andrew Meikle, invents the threshing machine that will start an agricultural revolution. Because fewer workers are required to work the land, many thousands will migrate to the cities or emigrate to the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and towns, such as Manchester and Birmingham, will become major manufacturing centers and experience explosive growth. Vincent Lunardi conducts the first balloon ascent in England. American, Ezekiel Reed, makes a nail-making machine. Just think about that one. Prior to 1785, nails had to be handmade one at a time.

In music, Mozart, Haydn, Paganini, and Salieri are composing, and in 1778, child prodigy, Ludwig von Beethoven, is presented by his father to the public. (Although Dad said he was six, he was actually eight.) Sheridan writes The School for Scandal, which is still performed on stages throughout the world. Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Washington Irving, Schiller, and Cowper are composing prose and verse. Joshua Reynolds paints Mary Robinson as Perdita, Canova sculpts a tomb for a pope, and the construction of the Brighton Pavilion is a work in progress.

In 1781, the American Revolution comes to an end with the defeat of the British at Yorktown in Virginia. Marie Antoinette is immersed in the Diamond Necklace Affair in 1785, which will be one rung on the ladder leading to the French Revolution, and William Pitt the Younger forms a government.

Jane Austen was an intelligent, curious child. How much did she know about the world around her? I imagine a great deal.

P.S. I hope you will read Southerner's comment on this post.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The World at the Time of Jane Austen's Birth in 1775

We are going to sneak up on what was happening in 1810 during Jane’s lifetime by beginning with her birth in 1775. She was born at a time when England was on the cusp of the birth of the modern world as well as dealing with the political upheaval in the American colonies which would lead to the revolution and American independence. (Pictures: Left: What a young girl would have worn in the Georgian and/or Regency Era. Right: Edward Austen being presented to the Knight family (who would adopt him) by Jane Austen's parents. Note men's hose and the fullness of the ladies's dresses.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Events leading up to the birth of Jane Austen (actually everyone's birth) - Part II

1510 – What a year for the Italians. Sandro Botticelli and Giorgione die. Raphael paints Triumph of Galatea, and Titian paints The Gypsy Madonna. Da Vinci designs the horizonal water wheel and introduces the principle of the water turbine.

Portuguese acquire Goa in India, and unintentionally provide Americans a place where they can live out their lives as 1960s hippies.

1610 – Henry IV of France is assassinated. He was a Protestant, but in order to become king, he had to convert to Catholicism, and famously said, “Paris is worth a Mass.”

Shakespeare writes A Winter’s Tale. Caravaggio (my favorite Renaissance painter) dies. El Greco paints The Opening of the Fifth Seal, while Rubens is finishing the Raising of the Cross.

The Stationer’s Company begins to send a copy of every book printed in England to Bodleian Library at Oxford. Excellent!

1710 – Future Louis XV, King of France, and grandfather of the doomed Louis XVI, is born. He becomes famous for his mistresses (Madame de Pompadour and Madame DuBarry, among a hundred others) and his furniture.

Christopher Wren designs Marlborough House, Westminster, London.

On a visit to London, Handel, completes in fourteen days the score of Rinaldo, and it is performed at the Queen’s Theatre.

Porcelain factory at Meissen, Saxony, is founded, and Tiffany’s in New York has a future supplier.

Next up: 1810. Jane lives!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Events that led up to the birth of Jane Austen

Did you ever wonder what happened 100 years, 200 years, 900 years ago in years that end in the number ten. No? Well, some people might. So for the benefit of those who do care, here is a brief glimpse of the past. P.S. Eventually, I will get to Jane Austen.

1110 – Earliest record of a miracle play. It was performed in Dunstable, England. Why Dunstable? Paraphrasing Wikipedia, “Until the 11th century, this area of Bedfordshire, was an uncultivated tract covered by woodlands. In 1109 Henry I responded to dangers to travelers by clearing the land and encouraging settlement with offers of royal favor.” (No Robin Hood?)

This blurb would seem to argue against Dunstable being the first in doing anything in the one year of its existence since being abandoned by the Romans a half of a millennium earlier. Sounds like a promising subject for a doctoral thesis, and you get to live in England while you are doing the research; that is, if you don't already live in England, and then it's not a big deal.

1210 – Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor, is excommunicated by Pope Innocent III. But as Edward Gibbons wrote in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the empire was neither “holy, Roman, nor an empire.”

Gottfriend von Strassburg wrote Tristan und Isolde, which is regarded as one of the great narrative masterpieces of the German Middle Ages (and a subject for future chick flicks). Through no fault of his own, Strassburg's work became a source of inspiration for Richard Wagner's operas.

1310 – Edward II is forced to appoint Lords Ordainers. The whole of Edward’s reign was a tragic, murderous, and grisly time in England’s history, and because this blog is often read by the fire during family gatherings, you must learn of his gruesome death on your own.

1410 – Jean Froissart, French poet and chronicler dies at the age of 73. Pretty darn good for the time. He was probably a beneficiary of the nutritional French paradox (clue: wine and cheese).

Monday, April 5, 2010

American v. British English

Ironically, I knew all of the British words, but missed most of the American ones. My age is showing.