Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jane Austen in Bath

In 1799 Jane Austen travelled to Bath with her mother, brother Edward and his wife, Elizabeth. The following is an extract from a letter she wrote to her sister.

I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only 4d. a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers', but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in quest of something for you. I have never seen an old woman at the pump-room.

Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza's, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .

I imagined Jane rushing around the shops looking for adornments for her bonnet and painted her striding along Bath Street, against a backdrop of gossips catching up with the latest news.

Here is another photo of yours truly standing in front of the Pump Rooms. You can just glimpse a magnificent chandelier through the window.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

It doesn't look as though there will be much opportunity for donning our Easter bonnets here in the UK. It feels more like Christmas and we've had snow flurries today. Wherever you are in the world I hope you all have a chance to have a lovely weekend, whether you are celebrating Easter or not. And, whatever the weather, dust down that bonnet and give it a whirl!

Jane Odiwe

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Pump Room, Bath

The Pump Room at Bath has always been a place for social gathering, where people take the water dispensed by the pumper who stands behind a bar and fills glasses with the warm spa water. If you have ever been to Bath, you will know that you can still sample the waters today in the Pump Room.

This extract from Lydia Bennet's Story takes place in Bath. Lydia is accompanied by her friend Isabella and brother Alexander who have promised to help her discover the real truth behind some dreadful news. Isabella's beau, Mr Freddie Rowlandson and his sister Eleanor have just arrived in town.

They planned to start the day with a trip to the Pump Rooms but Isabella was clearly more excited than she had been previously at the thought of meeting Mr Rowlandson. They hastened down to the town, with Alexander in tow, urging them both to slow down and were instantly gratified to see their friends already there and waiting for them under the clock. The usual felicitations preceded a request from Miss Rowlandson to take a turn about the room. She latched onto Isabella and pulled Lydia over to her other side.

“We must walk together so, we will cause a little stir, will we not? See, how the gentlemen cannot help but be drawn in our direction.”

Lydia glanced behind her to see Alexander and Freddie deep in companionable chatter and could have laughed out loud. It was clear they were not impressed by the ladies’ efforts to attract the notice of young men and were completely oblivious to their charms.

“We are planning to go to the Upper Rooms tomorrow evening,” said Eleanor. “I confess I am excited at the prospect. Will you be going too?”

“I am not sure if we will be able. Mrs Wickham is here for her health and has been quite unwell, I do not think she will be up to dancing,” answered Isabella, conscious that Lydia, for all her brave words might prefer to remain at home.

“Nonsense,” Lydia cried. “I insist that you go, Isabella, and besides, I am sure I shall enjoy some dancing. It will be good for my spirits. I am determined to enjoy my holiday and am feeling much better, I assure you.”

“Can you guess who else is in town?” Eleanor said, but did not wait for an answer. “Ralph Howard, that lovely man who danced with me at Netherfield is here and not far in Laura Place; which is as elegant as it is exclusive. He has called a few times at HighCross recently and mentioned he was coming here for a couple of weeks but I daresay we will not see him.”

“I am sure you will,” cried Lydia, as she and Isabella exchanged glances. Her mention of Ralph Howard calling at HighCross had not been missed by either of them. “Bath is a big town but it seems everyone follows the same pursuits, just like they do in Brighton.”

“Oh, I should like to go to Brighton,” Eleanor declared, “but there is never enough money for too many expeditions.”

“What are you talking of, my dear?” asked her brother Freddie.

“I was just saying I should like to go to Brighton, but visits are so expensive, it is impossible to go everywhere one should like.”

“Aye,” said Freddie, “but you were as keen to come to Bath as I, were you not, Eleanor?”

She blushed at his words and quickly turned the conversation to join Lydia and Isabella who were discussing the morning gowns of the fashionables.

A very old pic of me with Martin the Pumper

Monday, March 17, 2008

'My Idea of Good Company'

I am very lucky to consider amongst my friends two writers who are not only very talented but are achieving the success they deserve. Kathryn L. Nelson has been nominated for an award in the Jane Austen's Regency World Awards for best new fiction for her novel, Pemberley Manor. There are many nominations for all sorts of categories including awards for adaptations. You can vote by clicking here.
Diana Birchall's novel, Mrs Darcy's Dilemma, has been taken up by Sourcebooks for international publication and is now available across the US in Barnes and Noble stores.
Both these writers have written fabulous sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and it's lovely to see their work being deservedly recognised for excellence.
You can order both books online from Sourcebooks Inc. Click here for Pemberley Manor.
Click here for Mrs Darcy's Dilemma

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another letter from Lucy to Lydia!

My dearest Lydia,

La, I meant to write sooner, but the social whirl has me thinking of nothing but dresses and balls and handsome officers! To be sure Brighton is nothing like London at this time of year, but one would never know it for all the parties and dances we have been invited to attend. My mama has had the seamstress make up three new ball dresses, and I am simply dying to show them to you.

Sir William Lucas has written my papa another letter. Is it true? Is Charlotte Lucas to be married? Goodness, but Meryton is a more exciting place to live than I once thought. Please, do tell me what has happened, and if there is a gentleman waiting in the wings for you.

Oh, and do tell - is your sister Jane engaged to Mr Bingley? When are they to be wed?

Your loving friend,


Dearest Lucy, 

It seems such an age since you last wrote - I cannot tell you how jealous I am to hear of your new ball gowns - you are very lucky to have a family who spoil you. I've told you before - I quite despair of mine; though perhaps if my name were Jane or Lizzy I would enjoy more frippery. 

Anyway, what can I say in reply to your queries? You think Meryton exciting but you do not know the half of it! We have had high drama and laughs to last us six months together - you cannot imagine. My cousin Collins, (the rattling rector I call him, because he never ceases prattling,) came for a visit and made such a song and dance about making eyes at Lizzy to the point of even proposing! Lizzy would not have him, my mother was livid and threatened to disown her, but papa said he would never see my sister again if she did consent to the match. Lord! How Kitty and I laughed, I thought my sides would split.

Then - what do you think happened next? My cousin bumped into Charlotte Lucas in the lane and before Lizzy had drawn breath with the relief of a lucky escape, Collins proposed to Miss Lucas and she accepted him!!!! I could not believe it and thought Sir William was having a joke when he came with the news! Everyone in the village is excessively diverted by the 'Lovebirds of Longbourn' as Kitty and I have taken to calling them - I cannot help feeling sorry for Charlotte - you and I will never be so desperate for a husband I am sure!

But - that is not all - my poor sister Jane who had such high hopes of becoming engaged to Mr Bingley has been left high and dry! He has gone to town and if you ask my opinion; that is the end of it. No doubt, his nasty sister Caroline will throw floozies in his path - I am so sorry for Jane - she will end an old maid!

As for myself, there are several young men who are intent on catching my eye - Mr Denny, Mr Pratt and Captain Carter, to name but a few. However, there is one particular officer I am very partial to or would be if my sister Lizzy would let me have my share of conversation and dancing. Mr Wickham is one of the most handsome men you ever saw - Oh! Lucy, he looks so well in scarlet! Kitty and I are just going into Meryton,

Write again soon, not forgetting to tell me of your beau,

Affectionately yours,


Thank you once again Ms Place for your entertaining letter from Lucy. We're having a lot of fun writing these; I hope you are enjoying them. Ms Place can be found at Jane Austen Today by clicking here


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bath - First Impressions

If you have ever been lucky enough to go to Bath, to see the places that inspired two of Jane Austen's books, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, you will know how easy it is to feel that you have stepped back in time. I love visiting Bath and being able to trace Jane Austen's footsteps. I could not resist having Lydia spend some of her time there. Although it is often said that Jane Austen disliked Bath, I cannot agree completely with this viewpoint as she chose it as the place for two of her heroines to fall in love.

Here are some first impressions of Bath.

Catherine Morland visits Bath with the Allens. From Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.

Anne Elliot's first view of Bath reveals a different reaction. From Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anne.... persisted in a very determined, though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her when she arrived?

Jane Austen wrote to her sister about her journey to Bath. Here is an extract from a letter.

13, Queen's Square, Friday (May 17) 1799

My Dearest Cassandra,

Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us. We found the roads in excellent order, had very good horses all the way, and reached Devizes with ease by four o'clock. I suppose John has told you in what manner we were divided when we left Andover, and no alteration was afterwards made. At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.

Well, here we are at Bath; we got here about one o'clock, and have been arrived just long enough to go over the house, fix on our rooms, and be very well pleased with the whole of it. Poor Elizabeth has had a dismal ride of it from Devizes, for it has rained almost all the way, and our first view of Bath has been just as gloomy as it was last November twelvemonth.

Finally, in Lydia Bennet's Story, circumstances make it necessary for Lydia to travel to Bath. These are her first impressions.

Tuesday, May 17th

Though we are not come to be merry, Isabella wants to show me all the delights of Bath and from what I have observed so far, I am as thrilled with it all, as if I were a young girl in my first season. I am very pleased with my little bedroom on the first floor, which is neatly fitted up with a bed, a cupboard, the sweetest dressing table all draped in muslin and ribbon and a view giving a glimpse of Queen Square, not the most fashionable district, but splendid, nevertheless. I have been standing at the window, to witness the afternoon sun shining on the passers by, conveyed on foot, or by carriage, phaeton or gig. Two ladies in gauze cloaks caught my eye, the fringe on their parasols swinging in rhythm, their white muslin dresses fluttering back, outlining their pretty figures. A gentleman in a green coat swaggered along on the opposite path and hailed them with a wave of his hat and a bow. The constant clattering of the horses’ hooves, the rumble of coaches and the cries of tradespeople can be heard all around and I cannot help but be fascinated by all I see. If only circumstances were different, I might enjoy myself in Bath immensely.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lydia Bennet's Story - a new publication!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Sourcebooks, the US publishers, are publishing Lydia Bennet's Story in the States in October. My book will be available in bookshops as well as online, so it goes without saying that I am very excited! I wish to thank everyone who has bought my book so far and for all the support you have given me, you've really helped to make my dreams come true!
I am also very lucky because I have had the fantastic advice of two fabulous writers who have been an inspiration and instrumental in my book realising publication. Diana Birchall and Amanda Grange are selfless in their efforts to help new writers and I am indebted to them for their guidance and expertise, which they gave with such generosity. Diana Birchall's book, Mrs Darcy's Dilemma, is about to hit the shelves again in the US in a new publication, (more details next week) and Amanda Grange's latest book, Edmund Bertram's Diary, is currently available on Amazon. If you enjoy reading books inspired by Jane Austen, don't miss these!
Last, but certainly not least, the current edition of my book would not have appeared without the incredible talents of my wonderful husband and I want to thank my children, family and friends, who have put up with many hours of listening to me reading large chunks of my book to them!

Jane Odiwe

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Maria Fitzherbert

Maria Fitzherbert at 27, was twice married and widowed before she met George, Prince of Wales, then aged 22, in 1784. He became quickly besotted with her but as a deeply religious person and a Roman Catholic, she resisted his attentions at first. It was impossible for them to be married because of her religion (the Act of Settlement made it impossible for the heir to marry a Catholic) and because he needed permission from his father to marry (the Marriage Act). One night he sent two of his friends and a surgeon, Mr Keate, to fetch Mrs Fitzherbert to Carlton House in London, where they said the Prince lay dying, having stabbed himself in despair over his love for Maria. Mrs Fitzherbert agreed to visit him, but took the Duchess of Devonshire to accompany her. They found the Prince lying on a sofa covered in blood and crying that nothing would persuade him to live unless she agreed to marry him. Maria consented, but convinced she had been tricked, decided to leave for France where she knew the Prince could not follow her. He wrote impassioned letters begging her return, even offering to renounce his throne.
Early in December she returned to England and they were secretly married a few days later on the 15th, 1785, at a ceremony conducted in her house in Park Street, London.
That summer, the pair arrived separately in Brighton to honeymoon, but rumours about their marriage were rife. Remaining together until 1794, it became necessary for the Prince to marry Caroline of Brunswick, a Protestant Princess, partly to keep his father happy who helped relieve him of his extravagant debts and to gain relief from his creditors.
From 1799-1801 the Prince and Maria were re-united, living together in Brighton where Mrs Fitzherbert had her own establishment on the Steine. They finally parted for good in 1809; Maria continuing to live mainly in Brighton much respected by society and members of the Royal family. She died 27th March 1837.
The Prince never forgot what Maria had meant to him, and had her portrait round his neck when he died.
In Lydia Bennet's Story, the Prince and Mrs Fitzherbert arrive to enjoy all the pleasurable pursuits of the season. Although Lydia does not really move in the same circles, a surprising event gives her an opportunity to meet the illustrious pair!

Maria Fitzherbert's house on the Steine