36 free quilt blocks, one a week with a guide to Jane Austen's England and posts about the people in her life.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Block 8: Eliza's Star for Eliza Hancock de Feullide Austen

Eliza's Star by Bettina Havig for Eliza Hancock de Feullide Austen,
Jane's cousin and her sister-in-law.

 Bettina positioned a stripe along the edge of piece C to get the illusion of a double frame.

Eliza Hancock (1761-1813) in her teens 

Eliza Hancock was born in Calcutta to Jane’s Aunt Philadelphia Austen and husband Tsyoe Saul Hancock.

The Impey family in India by Johann Zoffrey

Painter Zoffrey captured the colonial life the Hancocks lived 
while in Calcutta.

Eliza's Star by Dustin Cecil

The family returned to England when Eliza was young.

Financial difficulties sent Hancock back to India when she was about seven. Mother and daughter remained in England, living fairly well on Hancock's dwindling accounts and the promise of a fortune from Eliza's godfather Warren Hastings. That trust fund and gossip of the time raises the unanswerable question: Was Hastings merely Eliza's affectionate benefactor or was he her natural father?

Eliza's Star by Becky Brown

Eliza’s official parents differed about whether Philadelphia should raise Eliza in Paris, where Hancock worried she might pick "up the levity or follies of the French." 

The French court carried fashion
and licentiousness to extremes

Hancock died when Eliza was fourteen and a few years later mother and daughter were enjoying life in the French society of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, a court that was “upon the whole one of the most magnificent in all Europe,” wrote Eliza. Hancock wouldn't have been pleased with the outcome. Her grand-nephew recalled Eliza as a “highly accomplished” flirt “after the French rather than the English mode.”

At 19 Eliza married a Captain in the Queen's Dragoons, a handsome man from southern France who called himself Count Jean-Fran├žois Capot de Feuillide. The marriage, arranged by her mother, was the typical trade of title and fortune, with both assets inflated to impress. Eliza's Hastings endowment was embellished and there is no evidence Feuillide really was a Count. His deception, however, gave Eliza permission to call herself the Comtesse de Feuillide for the rest of her life.

As France's long Revolution began, Eliza and the Count hopped from France to England, returning to his French estates when he thought it safe. Eliza, her mother and their child, named Hastings de Feullide after her godfather, spent most of their time in England.

In 1794 Capot de Feuillide fatally misjudged the temper of the times and was executed by guillotine. 

Mourning fashion

The widowed Eliza had 7-year-old Hastings as consolation, but her beloved boy had developmental disabilities, noted by various relatives in their letters. Eliza was always optimistic he was improving until he died at 13.

Aunt Phila, cousins Eliza and Hastings were welcome visitors to the Austens at the Steventon Rectory. Eliza endeared herself to Jane, fourteen years her junior, and beguiled brothers James and Henry, each of whom eventually proposed to their cousin. Eliza rejected both but after a long flirtation that began when Henry was in his mid-teens and Eliza in her mid-twenties, they married in 1797.

Eliza's Star by Becky Brown

That marriage seemed happy if unconventional, like everything Eliza did. Jane remained close to her cousin/sister-in-law and was at her side when Eliza died of breast cancer at the age of 51 in 1813.

Eliza's Star is perfect to recall the lively Comtesse de Feullide (she preferred that title to Mrs. Henry Austen.)

(BlockBase #2833)

The block was given the name by the small agricultural newspaper The Rural New Yorker in 1936.

Cutting a 12" Finished Block

A - Cut 4 squares 4-1/2" x 4-1/2".

B - Cut 2 squares for points and 1 for background 5-1/4" x 5-1/4". Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.

You need 12 triangles.

C - Cut 4 rectangles 1-7/8" x 6-7/8". Trim both ends to 45 degree angles.
D - Cut 1 square 3-3/8" x 3-3/8".


Eliza's Star by Georgann Eglinski

Austen authority Deirdre Le Faye has edited an edition of Eliza's letters. Click here to read more about
Jane Austen's 'Outlandish Cousin': The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Block 7: Philadelphia Block for Aunt Phila Hancock

The Philadelphia Block for Aunt Philadelphia Hancock
by Bettina Havig

Philadelphia Austen Hancock (1730-1792)

Jane’s Aunt Philadelphia was her father’s sister. Of good family with few prospects, she had no hope of inheritance or dowry and fewer options than her brothers to make her own way in Georgian England. As a young woman she prepared for the future with an apprenticeship learning millinery, a not-quite-acceptable vocation. 

Hat makers were assumed to be part-time prostitutes. 

In her early twenties Aunt Phila chose a practical escape from her sentence of slightly shady spinsterhood.  In 1752 she joined what was called the “Fishing Fleet” and sailed to India in search of a British husband serving the East India Company there. After a five-month voyage Philadelphia and nine other women landed in Madras (Chennai.) Six months later she wed Tysoe Saul Hancock (1723-1775), a physician with the East India Company.

The Philadelphia Block by Georgann Eglinski

The marriage may have been planned in advance as Hancock was a client of her Uncle Francis Austen, a prosperous lawyer.

Philadelphia's uncle Francis Austen (1697-1791) 
 portrait by Ozias Humphrey.
Francis's second wife Jane Chadwick 
Austen was Jane Austen's godmother.

Uncle Francis, who practiced law in Sevenoaks, was a family patron, assisting Jane's father by paying for schooling and purchasing him a living at the parish of Deane. Uncle Francis may have assisted Phila by paying her fare to India and arranging for a marriage. 

Philadelphia Hancock
Miniature painted by John Smart, set in a diamond ring,
establishing Phila's improved social status after marriage.

The purpose of the East India Company (a private company with its own army) was profit through trading in everything from chintz to opium. Hancock did well, accumulating a comfortable fortune. Close friends included Warren Hastings, on his way to becoming India's Governor and a very rich man. Phila had been friends in England with his wife Mary Elliott Buchanan Hastings. Mary and Warren Hastings had two children, George and Elizabeth, but wife Mary and baby Elizabeth died soon after Elizabeth's birth in 1759. 

The Philadelphia Block by Becky Brown

Two years later Philadelphia gave birth to her only child, another Elizabeth, and Warren Hastings was chosen as her godfather.

Hastings sent George back to England to the care of a newly married couple at Oxford, another arrangement made perhaps by Francis Austen. George and Cassandra Austen's first child was their foster son George Hastings who sadly caught a "putrid throat" [probably diphtheria] and died in 1764 the year before their son James was born.

Philadelphia Hancock lived in India for ten years
occupying the colonial role of British Memsahib.

About that time, the Hancocks and Warren Hastings returned to England to live well on their India money. But investments went awry and eventually Tysoe Hancock and Warren Hastings returned to India to trade into new capital. Philadelphia and Eliza stayed in England, often visiting the Austens and their children. Jane Austen was born in 1775 when Eliza was about 14, the year Tysoe Hancock died in India in his early fifties.

The French Court

The widowed Philadelphia had enough income to live at home in style, but France was cheaper and more daring than England. She and Eliza lived there from 1777 through the 1780s, enjoying the social life of the ill-fated French court of Marie Antoinette. Their connections to Warren Hastings, by then the Governor-General of Bengal, had much to do with their acceptance in such a rarefied atmosphere. After the French Revolution in 1789 Philadelphia and Eliza retreated to London.

Fashion Plate 1796

We know a good deal more about Eliza’s personality than her mother's but we can imagine that many of Eliza’s effervescent charms plus her faults---her flirtatious nature and her willfulness---were inherited from her pretty mother. Eliza also seems to have inherited a gene for breast cancer. Philadelphia died of the disease in 1792.

The Philadelphia Block by Dustin Cecil
Aunt Phila probably had more silk scraps around than calicoes.
Dustin's arrangement can remind us of her gold ring.

A second portrait ring by John Smart is thought to
be Philadelphia Hancock.

The Philadelphia Block by Becky Brown

The Philadelphia Block was named for the American city by the Chicago Tribune's Nancy Cabot quilt columnist in the 1930s. Philadelphia was not that unusual a name for a woman at the time. It's from the Greek, meaning fraternal love, a good name for George Austen's sister who remained close to him and his family.

BlockBase #2032

The Philadelphia Block was named for the Pennsylvania city in the 1930s by the Nancy Cabot quilt column in the Chicago Tribune

Cutting a 12" Finished Block

A - Cut 9 squares 2-7/8" x 2-7/8"
B - Cut 4 rectangles  2-7/8" x 7-3/4"
C- Cut 2 light and 2 dark squares 3-1/4" x 3-1/4". Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. 

You need 8 triangles.


British wedding in India early 20th century.

The East India Company paid the fares of the early fleets but as
the fishing became more successful the company began
to charge single women extra fare. Husband-hunting
went on until the mid-20th-century.

Read more about the marriage market in India in Anne De Courcy's book The Fishing Fleet. See a preview here:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Block 6: Empire Star for Napoleon Bonaparte

Block 6: Empire Star
for the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
by Becky Brown

Jane Austen lived in a cold climate of English/French wars from the time she was about 17 until the end of her thirties. Hostilities began during the French Revolution and accelerated as Napoleon Bonaparte rose from Army officer to self-declared Emperor of Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte

James Gillray: The First Kiss in Ten Years

Above, England embraces Napoleon to sign the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, a shaky peace lasting only two years when Jane was in her late twenties. This small window afforded English travelers a rare chance to visit France.

James Gillray: Pitt of England and Bonaparte of 
France carving up the globe. 

The French wars gave work to her brothers, two in the Navy, one in the Army, and made a widow of her cousin Eliza and a spinster of her sister Cassandra.

The Bennet girls meet Lt. Wickham in Pride & Prejudice,
illustration by H. W. Brock, 1895

Jane doesn't really refer to the wars in her novels but her characters and readers took that social context for granted. Trade was disrupted, taxes increased and soldiers were stationed all over England.

By 1808 Napoleon claimed most of Europe---the territory
pictured in yellow above. The British Isles in pink
(top left) considered themselves the last fortress of resistance
against a madman's ambition.

Napoleon's France was only 20 miles across the English Channel from Dover in Kent. Jane's brother Edward's family lived at Godmersham in Kent (the arrow on the right), where French threats of sea invasion kept the populace anxious for years. During the latter years of the Napoleonic Wars Jane lived at Chawton (the left arrow), not much farther from Boney's invaders. The British Navy kept Napoleon from carrying out any actual landings in England, much to the Austen family's pride and relief.

A world map from the Wikipedia
The green areas show the First French Empire and its allies (note the green U.S. during what we call the War of 1812). Blue areas represent the Coalition against Napoleon.

Empire Star by Becky Brown

Empire Star was given the name by Hearth & Home magazine in the first decades of the 20th century. It's a good block to remember Napoleon and the French wars, actually the first World War.

BlockBase #3222

Cutting a 12" Finished Block

A - Cut 2 squares 3-78" x 3-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. 

You need 4 triangles.

B - Cut 2 squares 7-1/4" x 7-1/4" of different colors. Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.

You need 8 triangles.

C - You need 4 parallelograms, 2 going one way and 2 flipped over. Cut 4 rectangles 2-5/8" x 7-5/8".
Trim to 45 degree angles. Trim 2 going one direction and 2 the other.

The rectangle should be 7-5/8" long before trimming.
And you could trim after sewing the first step below.

D - Cut 1 square 4-3/4" x 4-3/4".


UPDATE: Here's Dustin's block in Dupioni silks

Napoleon as Gulliver and King George III
as the King of Brobdingnag. 

Napoleon finally surrendered in 1815 when Jane was about 40.

#6 by Bettina Havig
Have you ever noticed that NOBODY around here follows the pattern?
Bettina has changed the composition.
But I know how to Photoshop.

Empire Star by Bettina Havig

This week's culprit.