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Written by Julie W
(Thursday, 15 January 2009, at 5:39 a.m.)
I am glad you recommended 'Gisborne', for having begun, I am pleased with it, and I had quite determined not to read it.
It seems that JA had a somewhat jaundiced view of Evangelical Anglicans. Cassandra appears to have been more "enthusiastic" or supportive of the movement, but JA always seems to provide grudging praise or acceptance. As here where Cassandra has recommended her to read Thomas Gisborne's book An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex
This is the title page from the 1813 edition-it was originally printed in 1797.
And here is Wright of Derby's portrait of Thomas Gisborne and his wife which was painted in 1786, and is now owned by the Yale Centre for British Art.
As a conduct book, Gisbourne's is less censorious than many: he and JA would appearto agree on quite a few subjects- for example, gaming .
In Austen's novels,small sums are played for in social games of cards, which is a very different matter from the high-stake gambling in certain London dens of vice referred to by the courtesy writers. An Inquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex emphasizes the same idea that moderate gaming may lead to excessive devotion to cards:"To devote the evening to cards when the stakes are high is manifestly to cherish a passion for gaming: when they are low , it is yet to encourage that passion in an inferior degree"(Gisborne, page 173). Gisborne does, however,admit that cards have their uses:"As the recreation of the old and infirm at times when the mind is too weak or too much fatigued to receive pleasure form a cheerful book or cheerful discourse,cards occasionally have their use...Cards too are celebrated for their efficacy in enlivening the dulness of a country visit(p174) Jane Austen and Eighteenth-Century Courtesy Booksby Penelope Joan Fritzer Page 44
I thought it might be useful for you to have some details of Gisborne's life, for he led an interesting one ;-)
Thomas Gisborne was born on 31 October 1758, and was the eldest son of John Gisborne and his wile Anne Bateman .The Gisborne family was rather well-to-do. The children were chiefly brought up at Yoxall Lodge in Needwood Forest, some ten miles south of Derby, in Leicestershire, a house which had been a hunting-lodge but which John Gisborne had rebuilt as a comfortable Georgian country house.
Thomas Gisborne's early career was somewhat outstanding. As a boy he was tutored for six years by Rev. John Pickering, then went to Harrow. In 1776 he entered St John's College, Cambridge where his lifelong friendship with William Wilberforee began.
Gisborne later recalled :
'My rooms and his were back to back, and often when I was raking out my fire at ten o'clock, I heard his melodious voice calling aloud to me to come and sit with him before I went to bed' See R. & S. Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce Vol, I, (1838), pp.10-11).
Gisborne left Cambridge as "sixth wrangler" in the Mathematical Tripos, also winning the Chancellor's Gold Medal for Classics and Sir William Browne's Gold Medal for a Latin ode. A brilliant career was predicted for Gisborne, and a parliamentary seat was offered to him him. He turned it down, preferring instead to take Holy Orders.
In 1783, the year he was ordained as a priest, Gisborne was presented to the perpetual curacy of the parish of St James, Barton-under-Needwood. The next year he married Mary, daughter of Thomas Babington of Rothley Temple, Leicestershire, and sister of Thomas Babington who had been at St John's with Gisborne and Wilberforce (Babington was to marry Zachary Macaulay's sister, and to become the uncle of the yet unborn historian Thomas Babington Macaulay).
Thomas Gisborne settled down with his wife at Yoxall Lodge, inherited from his father a few years earlier, together with a considerable amount of money.
Wright of Derby's 's double portrait of the couple(see above), dated 1786, was painted two years after the Gisbornes' marriage, when Thomas Gisborne was twenty-eight and Mary Gisborne ( who was born in 1760) was twenty-six.
Gisborne was an influential writer on many subjects, some which were dear to JA's heart. In his essay on The Clapham Sect, that band of philanthropists, evangelicals and campaigners for the abolition of slavery, Sir James Stephen included Gisborne (whom he knew) with Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay and others as members (see Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, (1849)Volume II, pp. 299-307).
Gisborne published his Remarks on the Decision of the House of Commons on 2 April 1792, respecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, shortly after that debate. His other publications (listed in DNB) include An Inquiry into the Duties of Men in the Higher Ranks and Middle Classes,( 1794 )and Cassandra's recommendation, An Inquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex,( 1797). He was a learned and eloquent preacher; several volumes of his sermons were published.
Yoxall Lodge, in the heart of Needwood Forest, surrounded by oaks and chestnuts and with no close neighbours except deer, gave the Gisbornes quietness and peace of mind. Gisborne celebrated the beauties of Need wood in Walks in a Forest, a slim volume of blank verse published in 1795, describing forest scenery at different times of the day and in different seasons. He became deeply interested in natural history and ornithology. Sir James Stephen described Gisborne's study as
a chamber which it might seem no dealer in household furniture has ever been permitted to enter, but where books and manuscripts, plants and pallets, tools and philosophical instruments, birds perched on the shoulder, or nestling in the bosom of the student, or birds curiously stuffed by his own hands, usurped the places usually assigned to the works of the upholsterer (As above P 305
William Wilberforce became a regular visitor to Yoxall Lodge from about 1794 and he made it his summer residence, arriving with vast amounts of papers, knowing that this was the one place in England where he could digest them in perfect peace
(See R.I. & S. Wilberforce ,as above p.278).
Mary Gisborne appears to have been an equally intelligent woman:
When he sat with the family sipping tea, and the words poured forth as his mind jumped from point to point in that bubbling spontaneous thinking aloud which captivated his hearers, she would seize a pad and afterwards present him with her notes See John Pollack, Wilberforce,( 1977)p.145.
Gisborne was himself an amateur artist, as the portfolio in the portrait suggests; there are examples of his work in the British Museum. He actually became a friend of the Rev. William Gilpin, high priest of the Picturesque and one of JA's favourite writers. Gilpin gave ,IMHO, a perceptive account of Gisborne in a letter of 17 September 1792
. . . You can enter his mind without lock or key. He is a man of considerable fortune; but went into orders, not with any view of preferment but merely, as it appears to me, to have a better pretence to be serious ... See Benedict NicholsonThomas Gisborne and Wright of Derby The Burlington Magazine 1965 pp58-62
I'm not surprised JA approved, really :he sounds just like her ideal of a clergyman ;-)
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