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Home Life in Jane Austen's Time
Fri 19 May 2017, 17:30 – 18:30 BST
No Happy Ending? At Home with Miss Bates in Georgian England by Professor Amanda Vickery, academic and broadcaster.
Selwyn College, Cambridge - The 2017 annual lecture will be given by professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London, Amanda Vickery – who is also well known as a writer, radio and television presenter.
Pemberley, Mansfield, Norland, Uppercross, Northanger, Randalls…. These are magical names which conjure an entire social landscape, a constellation of houses, each one different in human makeup, material appointments and emotional climate.
Of course, the parsonage was the kind of house Austen knew inside and out. It is worth remembering that Jane Austen was poorer than all her heroines, with the exception of Fanny Price. As the unmarried daughter of a widowed mother, dependent on familial favour, Austen had much more in common with poor Miss Bates than blessed Miss Woodhouse.
This lecture sets Austen in the material context of female households of declining status. This type of household - known as ‘the spinster cluster’ in the academic literature - is largely neglected in the history of the family, which has devoted itself to marriages and nuclear units. Nor have these modest units figured much in the architectural history of houses or decorative arts scholarship on interiors, both of which prefer the grand and glamorous. But life was no less vivid in two room lodgings, and objects no less meaningful in crowded rented houses. This lecture opens the door of real Barton cottages to colour the walls and stock the wardrobes. It is interested in the real women who, whether by chance or design, had to make a home without the protection, or government, of men.