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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Block 13: Crosses & Losses for Charles Austen

13 Crosses & Losses for Charles Austen by Becky Brown 

Charles John Austen 1779-1852

Jane Austen’s youngest brother followed Francis Austen into the Royal Naval Academy in 1791 and into the French Revolutionary Wars three years later. The Austens were fortunate their sailor and soldier brothers survived the French wars without significant injury. Like Frank, Charles established a distinguished naval career in the early 19th century and rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral during the Victorian age.

Captain Frederick Wentworth's financial prospects
improved considerably due to prizes. Illustration by 
Hugh Thomson from the 1898 edition of Persuasion 

Charles's real-life story became plot in Jane’s novels Mansfield Park and Persuasion where sailors benefit financially from “prizes.” The British Navy encouraged enlistment and aggression through these bonuses, sharing the bounty of a captured ship with the underpaid sailors.

The Endymion, sketch by Admiral Sir Charles Paget in 1809. 
She was the fastest English ship of her day.

Charles was assigned to the British frigate Endymion, whose mission was to capture enemy ships, particularly privateers carrying trade goods (some of it captured from other ships). The goal was to board the ship and confiscate both ship and cargo for England. Ships might be sold or refitted as British vessels.

Charles’s early moment of glory came about 1800 in pursuit of French privateer Scipio, a new, swift ship that provided an "arduous Chace” until a storm came up. Charles was one of five who took advantage of poor visibility to sneak up on the Scipio in a small boat and capture her for England. Charles held the vessel overnight until the crew from the Endymion could back them up.

"Taken as a prize in the Revolutionary War from an English vessel."
Note stitched to the back of an 18th-century quilt now in the U.S.
See more:

Crosses & Losses by Bettina Havig

Charles's monetary prize from this adventure was rather small (the Scipio was carrying little cargo) but with his share the young man bought gifts for his older sisters.

Jane wrote to Cass:

"Charles has received £30 for his share of the privateer, and expects £10 more; but of what avail is it to take the prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters? He has been buying gold chains and topaz crosses for us. He must be well scolded."

Those gold chains and crosses can be seen at the Jane Austen Chawton House Museum. Persuasion's fictional sailor brother William Price gives Fanny Price a “very pretty amber cross.”

A French fashion plate shows similar jewelry
in 1814.

Later in the wars Charles was posted the West Indies from 1805 to 1811 where he continued to win prizes enabling him to afford marriage. In Bermuda he met the family of John Palmer, late attorney-general of the Island, and married Fanny Palmer in 1807.

Frances Fitzwilliam Palmer Austen,
Charles's first wife, painted 1809-10 by
Robert Field 

She lived at sea with him and died on a ship at 24 years of age after giving birth to her fourth daughter seven years later. The three surviving girls went to live with their Aunt Harriet Ebel Palmer. In 1820 Charles married Harriet.

Rear-Admiral Charles Austen
Charles died in what is now Myanmar of cholera 
during the 1852 world-wide epidemic of the 
often-fatal digestive infection.

Crosses & Losses by Becky Brown

We can celebrate France's loss of the Scipio to Charles Austen and his gift of jeweled crosses with Crosses and Losses, given the name by the Kansas City Star in 1929.

BlockBase # 1313

Cutting a 12” Block

A -  Cut 4 squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 8 triangles.

B – Cut 4 squares 3-1/2”.

C -  Cut 2 squares 6-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 4 triangles.


Crosses & Losses by Dustin Cecil

Read the account of the jeweled crosses and the Prize by Jane and Cassandra's nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh in his 1869 A Memoir of Jane Austen here:

The Endymion on the right

During the English/U.S. branch of the Napoleonic Wars known as the War of 1812, the Endymion engaged with the U.S. President in the 1815 battle in which American Commodore Stephen Decatur was killed. Charles was captain of another ship by then.

Read Sheila Johnson Kindred’s essay The Influence of Naval Captain Charles Austen’s North American Experiences on Persuasion and Mansfield Park by clicking here:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Block 12: Waves of the Sea for Francis Austen

 Block 12: Waves of the Sea for Francis Austen by Dustin Cecil

 Francis William Austin (1774-1865) in his early 20s

Jane Austen’s letters to her older brother Frank reveal a true affection although they spent much of their lives apart.

Johnny Newcome leaving home by 
Thomas Rowlandson, shows a boy setting off to sea
perhaps from a small parsonage.

In planning practical futures for their children the Austens chose the Royal Navy for their third son. Frank left the family at age 12 to attend the Royal Navy Academy.

 Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth

Waves of the Sea by Bettina Havig

Upon graduation in 1789 he sailed for the East Indies (India) for four years. With the rise of Napoleon he returned to England to defend the coast from French invasion. After their father's death Jane and Cassandra with their mother and friend Martha Lloyd moved to Southampton to live with Frank and his new wife Mary for two years.

Trafalgar by J.M.W. Turner, 1805

Frank succeeded well in a wartime navy, although he regretted missing the monumental Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 because Admiral Nelson had ordered his ship temporarily to Gibraltar. He continued in the Navy after the 1815 peace, rising to Admiral of the Fleet in 1863 two years before his death at 91.

A Knighting Ceremony
In his nine decades Frank sailed from
the Georgian age to the Victorian.

He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1860, "full of years and honours".

Vice-Admiral Sir Francis William Austin in the early 1860s

There was a time when Francis Austen was better known than his sister Jane. To recall the Admiral: Waves of the Sea.

Waves of the Sea by Becky Brown

BlockBase #1353

Waves of the Sea has been simplified from a Kansas City Star pattern

Cutting a 12” Block

A – Cut 2 contrasting squares 9-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 2 triangles.

B -- Cut 4 dark and 4 light contrasting squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 7 triangles.of each shade.  


Waves of the Sea by Becky Brown

Read a biography of Frank and his younger brother Charles in Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by Frank's descendant Edith Charlotte Hubback, 1906:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Block 11: Friendship Square for Catherine Knatchbull Knight

Block 11: Friendship Square by Becky Brown for 
Catherine Knatchbull Knight

Catherine Knatchbull Knight (1744-1812), painted by 
George Romney about the time of her 1779 marriage

Catherine Knatchbull, daughter of a clergyman, made an advantageous marriage to Thomas Knight II, soon to inherit "a large patrimonial fortune" according to his obituary. Her father-in-law Thomas, a distant Austen cousin, had acted as patron to Reverend George Austen. On her honeymoon Catherine visited the Austens in Steventon and was quite taken with a middle son, Edward---so taken they asked him to continue on the trip. Four years later the childless Knights adopted Edward as their heir.

Detail of Edward and Catherine
from the silhouette commemorating 
Edward's adoption in 1783.

Readers today feel a heart-tug when considering Cassandra and George Austen giving up their child, but the practice was relatively common. We are also confused by the idea of the Knights as patrons of the Austens. In Jane Austen's England, merit might advance one's status in the world but far more important was the grace and favour of a rich, aristocratic or well-connected patron. 

People with money (some people with money) felt an obligation to assist less fortunate relations. George Austen had his cousins the Knights and Uncle Francis Austen to thank for his well-being. On the other side of the family, Cassandra Austen Leigh received some grace and favour from her brother James Austen-Leigh and his wife Jane, but contrast between the generous Knights and the rather tight Austen-Leighs is evident.

John Dashwood and his half-sister Elinor by Hugh Thomsen

We get some insight into Jane Austen's opinion of a stingy, rich relation in her portrait of Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility:

Fanny and her husband John, discussing an annual endowment to John’s stepmother and half sisters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret:

"If you observe, people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them; and [Mrs. Dashwood] is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty. An annuity is a very serious business; it comes over and over every year…”
They talk each other into promising an occasional gift (a very occasional and very small gift.)

Catherine's husband Thomas Knight II

Thomas Knight died in 1794, leaving most of his money and estates to his wife. In a few years Catherine informed her adopted son that she was leaving Godmersham Park, moving to a small house in the city of Canterbury and signing over most of the inheritance to Edward, a remarkably generous gift from a woman in her early forties.

Godmersham Park interior by Ellen Hill in 1901

Friendship Square by Georgann Eglinski

Catherine Knight was also generous to Edward's sisters Jane and Cassandra. Their niece Fanny (who married another Knatchbull) recalled Catherine as fond of the sisters and kind to them, teaching them something of fashion and the ton (as sophisticated Regency society was known.)

In 1808 Jane told Cass of a visit to Canterbury where Mrs K was living:
"as gentle & kind & friendly as usual….This morning brought me a letter from Mrs Knight, containing the usual Fee, & all the usual Kindness [with an invitation to visit for a few days] & I believe I shall go."

1812 - an "autumnal pelisse," a fall coat

The "usual Fee" is believed to have been some kind of annuity or regular gift to the writer. The gift wasn't enormous. Jane said, "I shall reserve half for my Pelisse."  Mrs. K was not only a friend, she was Jane's patron. Some Austen experts think she advanced the publishing fee for one or more of Jane's early books.

Friendship Square by Bettina Havig
Bettina inked a bird and flourish.

BlockBase #2410

To remind us of the lovely Catherine Knatchbull Knight---Friendship Square given the name by the Kansas City Star in 1938.
Cutting a 12” Block
A – Cut 4 squares 3-1/2”.

B -- Cut 4 squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 8 triangles.

C – Cut 2 rectangles 1-7/8” x 9”.

D – Cut 2 rectangles 1-7/8” x 6-1/8”.

E– Cut 1 square 6-1/8”.


Becky's cutting up that center square again. If you want
to miter some stripes in there read her post:

Friendship Square by Dustin Cecil

See a pelisse that may have belonged to Jane by clicking here:

Read more about Catherine Knight here:

Read her husband's obituary here:

And read Dierdre LeFaye's account of patronage benefitting the Austens here: