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 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:


  1. Your blog on Jane is so enlightening, as are the links you provide. I'll stay with the blog until it's finished and only then reread Austen ' s novels. I'm sure the experience will then be much richer than before.