Today has been rather productive overall. I spent my time filming new vlogs (coming soon on my YouTube channel) and uploading a new video all about my work at Chawton House Library, which is available to see here. As much as I love sharing my work through a written form i.e. a blog post, a video allows me to think about my work in a different way. I need to tap into the reason why I am doing the work and explain it in a clear, efficient way. Also, if a picture tells a thousand words – video has the advantage of combining both words and image! But enough on that!
After a trip to the Jane Austen House Museum, where I spotted a very sleepy feline friend in the garden, I came back to Chawton to do some more work on a manuscript I have not as yet mentioned in my blog series. This manuscript is a journal written by Louisa Lushington, who was the daughter of Sir Henry Lushington (1812-1855), British ambassador to Naples. The journal commences on the 4th March 1821 with the family’s departure from Naples for London on board H.M.S. Active. Chawton House Library have a particular interest and connection to this manuscript as it describes a visit to Godmersham Park, where she stayed with Edward Austen Knight (former owner of Chawton House) and his family.
Throughout the journal Louisa discusses music in great detail, particularly on board the ship. Though it would seem that she did not partake in lessons herself while on board, she does note that her brother Frederick frequently had music lessons:
I then hear Frederick’s lessons, read, play the guitar, write music, draw, be sick, or go on deck, according to the state of the weather, the others pursue their different employments in the same manner, except that they go on deck more than I do (Lushington MS, 1821).
She doesn’t pretty up the realities of life at sea, with several mentions of just how sea-sick she felt. But, the fact that she notes music being performed on deck particularly on beautifully evenings is a strong suggestion that this activity served to brighten her time on board. Indeed, it would seem that she rarely ventured out of her cabin except when music was being performed.
After arriving in England, she continues to discuss the musical activities going on around her, including a performance she gave at a friend’s house.
We dined at Sir James’ & he had the guitar brought in the evening, but the coal fire, close shut, doors, & windows, of an English drawing room almost suffocated my musical powers (Lushington MS, 1821).
One might expect that Louisa was used to performing in a drawing room setting, but this quote would suggest the confined space and stuffy atmosphere created an unusual environment and did not have a positive affect on her performance. Was Louisa now used to the open space of the ship deck or was the setting for domestic music making in Naples very different to an English drawing room? More work will need to be done to find the answer to this question!