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|Why was Mrs Reynolds
Written by JulieW
(6/5/2007 9:20 a.m.)
I think the answer again comes from William Gilpin and his book Observations etc On Cumberland and Westmoreland.
Interestingly, especially for those who are of the opinion that Chatsworth in Derbyshire is the model for Pemberley, the references to Chatsworth in Gilpin’s book give us a clue, IMO, as to why JA chose the name Reynolds for Darcy’s Housekeeper.
Here is the relevant section of Gilpin’s account of his tour of Derbyshire: note, he is not very complimentary of this great building at all :
Not far from hence lies Chatsworth, in a situation naturally bleak; but rendered not unpleasant by it's accompaniments of well grown wood.
Chatsworth was the glory of the last age, when trim parterres, and formal water-works were in fashion. It then acquired a celebrity, which it has never loft; tho’ it has now many rivals. A good approach has been made to it; but in other respects, when we saw it, it’s invirons had not kept pace with the improvements of the times. Many of the old formalities remained. But a dozen years, no doubt, have introduced much improvement.
The house itself would have been no way striking; except in the wilds of Derbyshire. The chapel is magnificent. It is adorned, on the whole of one fide, by a fresco, representing Christ employed in works of charity.
There are few pictures in the house. A portrait of the late duke of Cumberland by
Talk about damming with faint praise.
I can, however ,see this reference to the painter of the best painting in the house, in a place known for the magnificance of its collection of works of art appealing to JA’s sense of humour. And that is why I think she chose the name of “Reynolds”.However tha its just my opinion and you certainly do not have to agree with me;-).
Gilpin’s pomposity is quite priceless and I can see her enjoying reading his works as much as Mr Bennet enjoyed reading Mr Collins’ letters.
To end this post, I thought you might like to see a real “Mrs Reynolds”
This is a portrait of Mrs Garnett ,the housekeeper at Kedleston Hall, again in Derbyshire from 1766-1809.
The portrait was painted by Thomas Barber, of Nottingham. She is shown
It was an important part of the business of house servants , and generally the task fell to the housekeeper , to show respectable visitors around notable houses
There are many refernces to this extraordinary housekeeper in diairies and travel journeals of the time. In1777 she took Samuel Johnson and James Boswell around the house:
Our names were sent up, and a well-drest elderly housekeeper, a most distinct articulator, shewed us the house . ... We saw a good many fine pictures . ... There is a printed catalogue of them which the housekeeper put into my hand; I should like to view them at leisure.
Two years earlier, Mrs Garnett had made an equally favourable impression on William Bray:
The uncommon politeness and attention of the housekeeper, who shewed it, added not a little to the entertainment.
James Plumptre's ecstatic account in 1793 implies how different Mrs Garnett was from most of her kind:
We entered the House at the Servant's Hall, by a door under the Portico, put down our names, and were then shewn up into the Grand Hall, where the Housekeeper joined us. Of all the Housekeepers I ever met with at a Noblemans Houses , this was the most obliging and intelligent I ever saw. There was a pleasing civility in her manner which was very ingratiating, she seem'd to take a delight in her business, was willing to answer any questions which were ask'd her, and was studious to shew the best lights for viewing the pictures and setting off the furniture.
Note that Mrs Garnett is shown holding the official guide to the house and pictures. Instead of meeting such well informed guides as Mrs Reynolds , often the 18th century tourist was faced with tellers of tall, invented tales.
Horace Walpole, who was particularly interested in portraits, has many a cautionary tale about not leaving sufficient information about paintings shown to the public.
At Petworth, in Sussex, in 1764 the 'Proud' 6th Duke of Somerset,
having survived all the servants that were possessed of accurate lists of the paintings .... refused to grant new lists, or copies, to the new servants, so that when he died, half the portraits were unknown by the family.
At Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, in 1736 his visit was frankly farcical:
On the great staircase is a picture of the Duchess of Kent; I said 'twas very like: "Oh dear, Sir", said Mrs. Housekeeper, "it's too handsome for my Lady Duchess; her Grace's chin is much longer than that."
To counteract such ignorance the smart Georgian Great-Houseowner took two steps: to inscribe the identities of portraits on the pictures themselves (labels on frames are a mid 19th-century invention), as the most passionate portrait collectors did , or to have a regular catalogue printed.
At Kedleston from 1769 onwards there was such a guide, which went through at least two more editions in the same format up until about 1790, to take account of the successive expansions of the collections.
Mrs Garnett, as I have stated ,is shwon holding a copy of this catalogue, ready to 'put it into the hand' of the next enquiring visitor.
It was quite rare for servants like Mrs Garnett to be painted. The artist the Curzon family picked to immortalise their servant,Thomas Barber, was a local man based in Nottingham but he was no provincial ,cheap artist.He did have a considerable practice among the local aristocracy, and one by no means restricted to portraits of servants (though one of his finest performances is Two Park Keepers at Wollaton, painted for Lord Middleton). There are a number of portraits by him at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire and Shugborough in Staffordshire, as well as at Kedleston.
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