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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Block 26: Fanny’s Favorite for Fanny Knight

Block 26: Fanny’s Favorite for Fanny Knight by Bettina Havig

Frances Catherine Knight (1793-1882) 
Jane Austen’s eldest niece.

“I have always maintained the importance of aunts,” Jane wrote brother Edward Knight’s daughter Fanny. Surviving letters between Fanny and Jane reveal their close relationship.  Fanny was “almost another sister ... quite after one's own heart...."

Fanny by her Aunt Cass. Both were watercolorists.

Her mother, The Hon. Elizabeth Bridges Knight, died when Fanny was fifteen, leaving her eldest girl responsible for ten younger siblings and a grieving father. Aunt Cassandra, perhaps more tolerant of the company of young children, spent much time helping at the family home of Godmersham Park. On Aunt Jane’s shorter visits she read her manuscripts to her niece generating “peals of laughter,” according to one of the envious younger girls.

Godmersham Park, the Knight family estate. 
Fanny’s father Edward Austen Knight inherited land 
and  money from his adoptive parents.

Fanny's Favorite by Georgann Eglinski

After Aunt Jane died, Fanny married Sir Edward Knatchbull, 9th Baronet, a member of Parliament. Sir Edward was a widower with five children. He and Fanny, Lady Knatchbull, had nine more.

Political caricature of Sir Edward the 9th Baronet by 
Doyle, 1834. National Portrait Gallery

Fanny lived to be 89 years old, dying in the late Victorian age. By then her Aunt Jane was a famous personage, subject of several family biographies, for which Fanny wrote recollections of  Jane and Cassandra.

After marriage Fanny lived at Mersham Hatch, the Knatchbull estate in 
Kent, similar to her childhood home.

The fifty-year-old memories were rather blunt:  
“They were not rich & the people around with whom they chiefly mixed, were not all high bred…. [They] were brought up in the most complete ignorance of the World & its ways (I mean as to fashion &c)….”

Fanny's Favorite by Becky Brown

Many Janeites consider Lady Knatchbull  to be perfidious in that assessment of her fond aunts. She went on to say that were it not for their rich relatives the Knights, the aunts “would have been, tho’ not less clever & agreeable in themselves, very much below par as to good Society & its ways.”

Was Fanny’s characterization of her “unrefined” aunts an ungrateful betrayal or an honest assessment of the class system in Jane Austen’s England?

Lady Knatchbull by John Partridge. Fanny seems to have inherited her 
Grandmother Cassandra Leigh Austen’s nose, considered 
aristocratic in the Leigh family.

Fanny Knight was the granddaughter of Sir Brook William Bridges, 3rd Baronet Bridges of Goodneston, Co. Kent. (Goodneston is pronounced Gunston.) Her mother was entitled to be called the Hon. Elizabeth Bridges. Fanny married Sir Edward Knatchbull, 9th Baronet Knatchbull of Mersham Hatch, co. Kent. She herself was entitled to be called Lady Knatchbull.

Knatchbull family arms from a bookplate. 
Fanny’s adoptive grandmother Catherine Knight 
was born a Knatchbull. (see block 11).

The egalitarian United States was built in reaction to Europe’s class-bound aristocracy so it’s particularly hard for us Americans to understand the hierarchy of the British peerage and how it colored perception in the Regency and Victorian eras. 

About 1640 Sir Norton Knatchbull was created the first 
Baronet of Mersham Hatch.

Now, those who understand the ladder of “good Society and its ways” will tell me that Lady Knatchbull and her mother’s family were not actually of the peerage.  They were higher up the ladder than the commoner Austens but as daughters and wives of mere Baronets, the Knights were not peers. A Baronetcy was a hereditary “courtesy title,” Baronets did not sit in the House of Lords. They were far below Earls and Dukes---but far above wives and daughters of country rectors.  

Fashion Plate 1810

Fanny's Favorite by Becky Brown

Not only were Jane and Cassandra uninterested in aping their betters, they realized they could never be their equals (even if Jane had married one of Sir Brook William Bridges’s sons, which some think a rejected possibility.)

James Gillray ridiculed Farmer Giles and his family for
their pretensions.

We should give Fanny a break (to use one of our expressions) and not judge her from our perspective. Jane and her niece knew quite well they were of different classes, but affection overrode the boundaries.

BlockBase #1939

Fanny’s Favorite is the perfect block to recall the relationship between a niece and  a well-loved aunt. It was given the name by the Ladies Art Company pattern catalog in the early 20th century. 

Cutting a 12” Block
 A – Cut 8 squares 2”.

B  - Cut 8 rectangles 2” x  3-1/2”.

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

You need 16 small triangles.

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


You need 4 of the largest  triangles.

E – Cut 4 squares 3-1/2”. 

F - Cut 1 square 4-1/4”. Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.

You need 4  triangles.


Read more about Lady Knatchbull and her Austen memories here:

Read a review of Marilyn Sachs biography Almost Another Sister: Fanny Knight,  Jane Austen's Favourite Niece here:

Here's an explanation of the aristocracy:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Block 25: Anna’s Choice for Anna Austen

25. Anna’s Choice for Anna Austen, Jane’s Niece, by Becky Brown

Jane Anna Austen LeFroy (1793-1872)

Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Anne Mathew Austen died in 1795, leaving brother James with two-year-old Jane Anna, called Anna. In Jane Austen's England, single fathers were considered unqualified to raise young children, so Anna went to live with her Austen grandparents at the Steventon rectory. Jane and Cassandra were in their early 20s when Anna came to stay.

Fashion Plate, 1809

Jane was writing Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice in the two years that Anna lived with them. Anna later told her daughter she remembered the aunts reading the manuscripts aloud.  

Anna drew this picture of the Steventon Rectory from memory.
 Collection  of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.

When her father married Mary Lloyd, four-year-old Anna returned to their home. James and Mary had two more children James and Caroline. Mary may have favored her own children over her stepdaughter, another possible reason for Jane’s impatience with her new sister-in-law. (See Block 19.)

Anna later remembered her stepmother as "abrupt & sharp....She did not love her stepdaughter & she slighted her...."

Anna's Choice by Dustin Cecil

Aunt Jane’s letters to Anna survive and although she told her niece, “One does not care for girls till they are grown up,” Jane developed strong affection for her young niece. Anna took up novel writing as an adolescent and her Aunt Jane patiently criticized her drafts.

The Anna we see in letters earned a reputation as a difficult teenager. According to Aunt Jane, she had “much unsteadiness” in her temperament, becoming engaged at 18 against James and Mary’s wishes. The engagement was broken and the girl was sent off to her aunts in Chawton in 1813.

Anna's Choice by Georgann Eglinski

She soon contracted another engagement, this one to Ben LeFroy, who also fell short of her parents’ standards. Aunt Jane wasn’t enthusiastic either. The problem wasn’t Ben, the son of Jane's late friend Anna LeFroy of Ashe and first cousin to Jane’s one-time beau Tom LeFroy. Jane realized that dreams of writing would be lost in being anyone’s wife because of “the business of mothering.”  “Poor Animal, she will be worn out before she is thirty,” she wrote during Anna’s third pregnancy.  

Anna gave birth to eight children. After her husband's death when she was in her thirties, she became a published writer with a few novellas in periodicals. Anna, however, was never the author her aunt was (Who was?) so perhaps she made the right choice in the conventional choice of marrying Ben LeFroy.

BlockBase 1141a

Anna’s Choice was given the name in the Kansas City Star in 1941. It's pieced of one patch, a right-angle triangle in different shades.

A – Cut 16 squares 3-7/8” of four different shades. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.
You need 32  triangles.


A variation on Anna's Choice by Bettina Havig.
She likes the Y-Seams!

Read Mary Hamilton “by a niece of the late Jane Austen” at Google Books by clicking here:

And read more about Anna here:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Block 24: Wheel of Change for Capt. de Feullide

24. Wheel of Change for Jean-François Capot de Feuillide by Georgann Eglinski

A French Officer

Jean-François Capot de Feuillide (ca. 1750-1794) was an officer in the Queen’s Guards, the Queen being Marie-Antoinette. At the French court he met and married Eliza Hancock, Jane Austen’s first cousin, who was living in France with her mother. Aunt Philadelphia Hancock probably arranged the 1781 union of 19-year-old Eliza and the 30-year-old Count.

French court style under Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

The arrangement traded Eliza’s money for Jean-Francois’s title, a common reason for marriage in France as well as in Jane Austen’s England. But both parties were duped. Eliza hadn’t the fortune she was rumored to have and the Count was not an aristocrat.

He needed her inheritance to invest in improving land he was granted near Nérac in southern France northwest of Toulouse. The 5,000 acres were swampland, but if drained and developed could be profitable agricultural fields. He leased an impressive estate to add to the aristocratic illusion and he and Eliza retired from the court of Versailles.

Wheel of Change by Bettina Havig

Eliza returned to England to give birth to her only child, a son born in 1786. Although she visited Jean-François in France and he visited her and his son in England, they seemed to live quite contentedly with the English Channel between them.

Attacking the Bastille in 1789

Contentedness became a memory when the French Revolution began in 1789. For the next five years the Count changed locations and political opinions, hoping to keep his marshland and his head.

During the Reign of Terror under Robespierre, Eliza’s Count was accused of conspiracy and executed by guillotine in 1794.

BlockBase #1876b

Wheel of Change represents the horrible ups and downs of the French Revolution. It was given the name in 1935 in the Nancy Cabot column of the Chicago Tribune. The name may be a typo. Nancy Cabot might have meant to name it Wheel of Chance, which can also represent Jean-François Capot de Feuillide well. He seems to have been quite a gambler, betting badly on Eliza’s fortunes, clearing swamps and his odds of surviving the Terror.

Cutting a 12” Block

A – Cut 16 squares 3-1/4”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 32  triangles.

B – Cut 4 rectangles 2-7/8” x 5-1/4”.

C – Cut 1 square 2-7/8”.


Wheel of Change by Becky Brown

A Revolutionary Waistcoat

Read more about Eliza’s first husband here in Deirdre LeFaye’s Jane Austen: A Family Record