Tag Archives: Persuasion

A Pattern for a Patten – Protection and Punishment

What’s a patten?

Well, here is a wet London day described by Dickens, and no one described a wet day better;

The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour. In the street, umbrellas were the only things to be seen, and the clicking of pattens and splashing of rain-drops were the only sounds to be heard. (Pickwick Papers)

Wet under foot.

Pattens were wooden soles on metal rings that raised the foot above the wet ground, they were usually worn by women, and the noise they made was a feature of urban life in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. (Jane Austen, Persuasion)

It was the noise they made that was probably the reason they were banned from churches.

Trent, St Andrew, patten notice
Trent Church, Dorset

As the nineteenth century progressed the patten, which had been worn by women of all classes, gradually moved down the social scale. Though it remained in use in country districts until the end of the nineteenth century.

A fashionable woman in pattens in 1783

A woman had to learn to walk in pattens, wearing them was similar to a child wearing stilts, indeed child sized pattens were made so a girl could learn to wear pattens almost as soon as she learnt to walk. In 1872 Miss Berry Dallas and her sister Helen came to live with their uncle and aunt in rural Dorset. She not only kept a diary, but it was copiously illustrated and, on the first page, she shows how they learnt to walk in pattens.

Patten - Winterbourne St Martin 1

A teenaged Miss Berry helped to stand by an elderly gentleman

Patten - Winterbourne St Martin 2
Miss Helen smugly managing to stay upright.

Pattens were not just used to walk outside in wet weather, but were essential when wet jobs were to be done around the house, especially on washing days.

How are you off for soap

A cartoon of 1816, Vansittart was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who had just put a tax on soap!

There were other uses for pattens, Charles Dickens describes, at the end of Barnaby Rudge when the unpleasant Miss Miggs gets her dream job of a female turnkey (jailer) for the County Bridewell (jail).

Among other useful inventions which she practised upon offenders and bequeathed to posterity, was the art of inflicting an exquisitely vicious poke or dig with the wards of a key in the small of the back, near the spine. She likewise originated a mode of treading by accident (in pattens) on such as had small feet; also very remarkable for its ingenuity, and previously quite unknown.

Whilst in 1723 it was reported in the London Journal, that:

Some Days ago a Female Duel was fought at Greenwich, in which one of the Combatants kill’d her Antagonist with her Patten. The Coroner’s Inquest having sate upon the Body of the Deceased, brought in their Verdict Manslaughter.

I understandably wanted to get hold of one of these useful devices, but as something that was never really valued, I doubted that I ever would. How I managed to I will describe in my next blog.



Filed under Charles Dickens, Georgian, Historical Reconstructions, Jane Austen, Victorian

Jane Austen the apt Nomenclator

This is the first of my series of blogs, Five things you might not know about Jane Austen.

Like many writers Jane Austen was a nomenclator, in that she is the first recorded user of particular words or phrases. In her case the Oxford English Dictionary credits her with four neologisms.

This would not be unusual, however what is unusual is that all of the terms she pioneered are very apt for the ‘domestic’ nature of her works. In most cases the nature of the authors work has nothing to do with the type of word they used for the first time. For example one of the words credited to Johnathon Swift in Gulliver’s Travels is a term for the measurement of agricultural land.

The four words or phrases credited to Jane Austen are;

Double-bedded 1798 In a letter dated 24th October. ‘We have one double-bedded and one single-bedded room.’


Illustration to Emma by Hugh Thompson

Sponge-cake, 1808 In a letter dated 17th June. ‘You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.’


Illustration to Sense and Sensibility by Hugh Thompson

Dinner-party, 1816 In Emma ‘He was much out of humour at not being able to come even to Hartfield for forty-eight hours without falling in with a dinner-party.’


Illustration to Sense and Sensibility by Hugh Thompson

Door-bell, 1817 In Persuasion ‘Lady Russell could not hear the door-bell.’

So if you ever leave your double bedded room, ring the doorbell to be admitted to a dinner party, where you enjoy a sponge cake. You can thank Jane Austen.


Filed under Georgian, Jane Austen, Regency

Chance Meeting

Charli Mills from the Carrot Ranch prompts us thus this week
August 17, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a fossil or uses the word in its variant forms (fossilize, dino bones, petrification, gastroliths, ichnofossils, etc.). Dig into your imagination and go where the fossil record leads you. So here is another of my historical retellings.

“What have you there, child?” The tall lady smiled at the little girl.
“It’s a curtsy miss.” She replied. It was black and shiny, shaped like a coiled snail.
“She means a curiosity,” said her companion, “They are found in the cliffs, no one knows what they are.”
“What are you going to do with it?” asked Jane.
“Take it to father, he sells them.”
“Will you sell it to me?” The girl nodded, shyly.
“But she is Anning’s daughter, he overcharged us for that cupboard.”
“But she isn’t overcharging me.” The coin changed hands and a legend began.

In 1804 Jane Austen and her family visited Lyme Regis, in a letter to her sister she tells how they had been overcharged by a local carpenter, Robert Anning. As well as woodwork Robert also sold fossils that had been found in the local cliffs. His daughter, Mary Anning, the greatest fossil hunter of the age was his daughter, in 1804 she would have been five. Legend tells how she began her career as a little girl, selling a fossil she had found, to a lady she met on the beach. I have just brought Lyme Regis’s two most famous residents together.


Filed under Historical Reconstructions, Historical tales, Jane Austen, Regency

The Identity of a Sequel

When you finish a novel, do you ever wonder what happens next? Do you create scenarios in your mind? The journey might have ended in lovers meeting but then? I suppose we all do, it’s fun. But, unless you are the original author, I wish people wouldn’t write them down.

I am a great fan of Jane Austen, I love her works and am fascinated by the period when she lived and wrote. But she only wrote six novels (seven if you include Lady Susan), left two unfinished and a bundle of bits and bobs she wrote whilst training to be a writer. Unfortunately generations of writers have wanted to remedy this lack of material and have written hundreds of sequels and continuations of the novels. The majority of which I find dreadful. As you might guess I am one of those irritating people who spot anachronisms in films and books. They ruin my appreciation of the work, mainly because they tell me that the author just hasn’t done their research properly.

Another issue that arises with Jane Austen is that people are constantly trying to identify the ‘real’ Mr Darcy, or claim that Chatsworth is the inspiration for Pemberley.  Despite the fact that Jane Austen herself said that her characters were all invention, and that she had too much respect for them to suggest they were based on real people.

The names she chose are another matter, authors will collect names for characters, my brother looks on gravestones for example, and if you look in Hampshire papers of the early nineteenth century you will find many of the names that appear in Jane Austen’s novels. Here is one I found a little while ago.

Featured image The steps where Louisa Musgrove fell

The Cobb in Lyme Regis, a remarkable ancient harbour, has a key role in Persuasion, Louisa Musgrove falls from steps on the Cobb, suffers severe concussion and changes her affections from one character to another. Alongside the steps, which it is almost certain Jane Austen meant in her description of the accident, is a plaque detailing repairs to the Cobb in 1793 by Captain D’Arcy! I suspect it has absolutely no connection whatsoever with the hero of Pride and Prejudice.

Featured image

The inscription celebrating the work of Captain D’Arcy

Now where is this taking us? Well, at the end of Persuasion readers will recall that the villain, William Elliot, who is also the cousin of the heroine and heir to her father’s baronetcy, is revealed to have been involved in some shady financial dealings which ruined the husband of Anne Elliot’s friend, Mrs. Smith.

Now if you were to write a sequel to Persuasion, you might set it ten years later, when Sir Walter Elliot has died, leaving his title (and not much else) to Sir William. The new baronet is still having financial problems, and hasn’t paid his taxes. Under those circumstances one might imagine his agent receiving a letter like this.

Tax Office

Jedburgh 15th Dec 1826


I cannot retain Sir William Elliot of Stobs’ Receipts for Taxes without giving them over to our Collector of Arrears in Hawick unless they are paid on or before the 26th inst. I hope you will save Sir William the additional expense which must be incurred if this is not done.

I am


Your most ob serv

Geo Scott

Apart from the fact that the letter is real!

Featured image

A little while ago I bought an early nineteenth century letter as material for a project I am working on provisionally entitled, “Picking Darcy’s Pocket”, of which more another time.

A complete coincidence, but, I think, a great one.


Filed under Jane Austen, Picking Darcy's Pocket, Regency