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|Letter 36 :The Sale at Steventon.
Written by JulieW
(9/19/2007 9:58 a.m.)
I thank you for your Sunday's letter, it is very long and very agreeable. I fancy you know many more particulars of our sale than we do; we have heard the price of nothing but the cows, bacon, hay, hops, tables, and my father's chest of drawers and study table. Mary is more minute in her account of their own gains than in ours; probably being better informed in them.
Grrr.......Mary didn't even have the deceny to tell the Austens , miles away in Bath, how their sale of their property went!! Grrr........
OK: now that's off my chest, lets look at the sale in some detail.
When the Austen family moved to Bath in May 1801 the contents of their home at Steventon Parsonage were offered for sale by auction.
We know that the only items which they intended to take with them were their beds, although ':
We have thought at times of removing the side-board, or a pembroke table, or some other peice of furniture- but upon the whole it has ended in thinking that the trouble & risk of the removal would be more than the advantage of having them at a place, where everything may be purchased.' (Jane's letter to her sister Cassandra, 3 January 1801).
The original intention seems to have been to entrust the sale to Mr Bayle of Winchester who , ironically enough, had supplied them with some new furniture only two months previously, although the transaction was less than satisfactory:
'James called by my father's desire on Mr Bayle to inquire into the cause of his being so horrid. - Mr Bayle did not attempt to deny his being horrid, & made many apologies for it; - he did not plead his having a drunken self, he talked only of a drunken foreman &c &c, & gave hopes of the Table's being at Steventon on Monday se'night next.' (Letters, 25 October 1800).
Mr Bayle came to appraise the contents on 9 January :
'but had only time to finish the four sitting-rooms; the rest is deferred till the spring is more advanced & the days longer.'
It seems likely, however, that Mr Bayle once again let them down for the sale was eventually conducted by one Benjamin Stroud, an appraiser and auctioneer of Newbury.
Mr Stroud first gave notice of the sale of the 'Valuable Effects at Steventon Parsonage' in the Reading Mercury and Oford Gazette of 13 April 1801, promising 'particulars in next week's Paper'. No sale catalogue has yet been discovered but the following advertisement which appeared in the Reading Mercury of 20 April 1801 and the two subsequent editions (27 April and 4 May) throws some interesting light on the interior of Jane Austen's earliest home.
Steventon Parsonage, near Overton, Hants.
To be SOLD by AUCTION By Mr STROUD, On the premises, on Tuesday the 5th of May, 1801, and two following days, at eleven o' clock.
The neat HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, well made Chariot (with box to take off) and Harness, 200 volumes of Books, Stump of Hay, Fowling Pieces, three Norman Cows & Calves, one Horse, and other Effects.
The furniture comprises four-post and field bed-steads, with dimity, moreen and other furnitures, fine feather beds and bedding, mattresses, pier and dressing glasses, floor and bedside carpets, handsome mahogany sideboard, modem set of circular dining tables on pillar and claws, Pembroke and card ditto, bureaus, chests of drawers and chairs, a piano forte in a handsome case (by Ganer), a large collection of music by the most celebrated composers, an 18-inch terrestrial globe (by Adams), and microscope, mahogany library table with drawers; bookcase with six doors, eight feet by eight feet; a smaller ditto, tea china, a table set of Wedgwood ware, eight-day clock, side of bacon; kitchen, dairy and brewing utensils, 13 ironbound casks, an end of hops, set of theatrical scenes &c. &c.
The cows, nag horse, carriage and hay will be sold on the first day. To be viewed on Monday the fourth. Catalogues may be had at the Excise Offices, Basingstoke and Winchester; Dean Gates; Inns at Overton; White Hart, Whitchurch; Angel, Reading; Hare and Hounds, Beenham; Hind's Head, Aldermaston; Anchor, Kingsclere; place of sale, and of the Auctioneer, Newbury.
A separate sale was held later in the year to dispose of Mr Austen's farm stock and implements. It was advertised in the Reading Mercury of 14 September 1801:
Steventon, near Overton, Hants.
TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr. STROUD, On the premises, Friday Sept. 18, 1801, at 11 o'clock, All the Valuable Live and Dead FARMING-STOCK, and Fine Meadow Hay Rick, about Ten Tons, belonging to
The Rev. GEORGE AUSTIN [sic], Sen. Comprising five capital cart horses, three sows, 22 pigs, and seven stores, three market waggons, two four-inch wheel dung-carts, two narrow wheel ditto, one grass cart, four ploughs, eight harrows, two drags, two rollers, troughs, timber bob, shovels, prongs, useful plough timber and iron, &c.
May be viewed any time previous to the sale.
Charles Powlett ( the swine!) went to the Steventon sale and recroded this in his journal :
Terrys and ourselves went to the Auction at Steventon.
There is no note of him or his vulgar wife buying anything: do you suppose they just went along to be nosy?
Poor Henry Rice bought one of the cows for 24 guineas. I say "poor" for this cow died sudenly a few months later and so she turned out to be rather a bad bargain.
The Chariot, which was a four-wheeled closed carriage like a chaise, with the addition of a driver's box , must be the one that Mr Austen found he could n olonger afford to keep " on the road" " and it was put into store in the winter of 1798. This carraige , you will probalby recall had the Austen family crest emblazone on it.
I find it intersting to not that the Austen seem to have had a penchant for Wegdewood china: note the table set of Wedgwood ware
Jane visited thefirms London shop in 1811 to order some replacements, which arrived at Chawton in June. 'It all came very safely, & upon the whole is a good match, tho' I think they might have allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a Year of fine foliage as this.' (Letter, 6 June 1811).
On another London visit two years later 'We then went to Wedgwoods where my Br [Edward Knight-JW] & Fanny chose a Dinner Set. - I beleive the pattern is a small-Lozenge in purple,between Lines of narrow Gold; - & it is to have the Crest.'
The theatrical scenes were obviously left over from the family's private theatricals whihc took place in the 1780s and early 1790s. The fact that they actually had painted scenes suggests that their productions, though presumably not approaching the grandeur of the intended performance at Mansfield Park(!), were of a fairly ambitious nature.And i find it incredibly sad that James (grrrr) didnt want to retain them at all.
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