Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|Letter 4: "I could die of laughter at it..."
Written by JulieW
(8/29/2005 9:57 a.m.)
The school in question was the Abbey House School Reading,Berkshire.
Above is a picture of it.
As you can see it was quite romantic and gothic, being set up in the gatehouse which was all that remained of the once enormuous monastery of Reading Abbey.
Anna Lefroy( nee Austen),Jane's niece recalled :
My Grandmother talking to me once (of) bygone times & of that particular time when my Aunts were placed at the Reading Abbey School,said that Jane was too young to make her going to school at all necessary, but it was her own doing ; she wold go with Cassandra;"if Cassandra's head had been going to be cut off, Jane would have her's cut off too".
The headmistress of the school was a very interesting eccedntric.
She called herself Mrs La Tournelle, but her real name was the more ordinary-sounding Sarah Hackitt.
She had apparently been engaged as a French mistress
She was reported to be a stout middle aged woman ,who was very active, although she had a false leg made of cork. No one ever knew how she lost her real leg. Le Faye in JA : A Family Record tell us:
Her domain was a wainscotted parlor hung round with chenille pieces representing tombs and weeping willows; a screen in cloth work stood in a corner and there were several miniatures over the lofty fireplace
This really does remind me of Mrs Goddard's parlour in Emma:
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School -- not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems -- and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity -- but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard's school was in high repute -- and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim on her to leave her neat parlour hung round with fancy-work whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.
Emma, chapter 3.
Mrs la Tournelle appears to have had an interesting past. She appears to have had some theatrical fascination - perhaps she ahd once been an actress?:
whenever she had the opportunity of holding forth , she spoke of plays and play-acting,and green room ancedotes,and the private life of actors....
p52,Ja: Family Record.
It seems to have been a very relaxed existence at the school for the girls.It was well equipped: there were magic lanterns , globes and some theatrical scenery.The male tutors from the boys school in Reading attended to give tutorials to the older girls.However, for most of the students the hours of study were not at all taxing:
..provided the girls attended for morning prayer and for mealtimes they were then free to spend the rest of the day chatting with their particular friends anywhere in the house or garden as they pleased...
JA:Family Record , p 52
No wonder JA had fond memories of it...
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.