Given on 4 May 2019 7.15 Green Park Underground
This was a London Walk’s walk. The walk takes in the area of the London section of Sense and Sensibility. This is where Jane Austen frequented when visiting her banking brother, Henry. He lived here during his ‘successful’ period, after resigning as a Captain in the Militia and setting up a bank to help soldiers pay for their commissions. He then did what all good bankers do – went bankrupt and ruined himself, family and friends. His uncle lost 10,000 pounds; his rich brother, Edward Knight lost £20,000. (that is 2/5ths of the fortune of Willoughby’s wife, and equal to the income of Darcy, 100 times the annual income of Mrs Austen after her husband died) i.e. a heck of a lot of money. Jane lost £13.
But this area was also the centre of the Ton – the wealthy elite of Regency London. It was here that the French Royal family, in exile, hung out, and the haunt of Beau Brummel and Prinny, the Prince Regent, loungers in chief who were so well satirised in the figure of Sir Walter Elliot. This is where the Dandies lounged, leered and shopped. Here the rich could get their guns, swords, cigars, snuff, hats, shoes, tailored clothes, uniforms, wine, prostitutes, lovers. They came to visit art galleries, see panoramas of European Cities, to ‘see’ the invisible women living in her glass jar, to choose their Wedgwood pottery.
And what is astonishing is that this is still where the megarich do exactly the same things: hang out and shop. All the top brands are here, and instead of people like John Willoughy are to be found Russian Oligarchs, and the rich of the Emirates, and every other country in the world. And most marvellously many of the shops survive into the present day. The same shops and shop fronts still in use. They catered to the stupidly wealthy of the 18th Century are now catering for the stupidly wealthy of the 21st Century. This is where you can buy luxury yachts.
So we follow Jane and Henry, and see the ghost traces left by immoral Willoughby, sensible Elinor, overwrought Marianne, dull but nice Edward Ferrars, dull and horrible Robert Ferrars, stolid Colonel Brandon, vulgar but kind Mrs Jennings and her unforgivably vulgar daughter Mrs Palmer with her despairing husband; the Middletons, the Steeles gals ruthlessly working their assets. Plus we have a little look at the relationship between Prinny and Beau Brummel, and the terrible childbed of Princess Charlotte.
Its a fascinating walk, watch out for in in the future, hopefully later this year.
It was a pub tour. We went to the King’s Head on Albermarle Street. Nice early 19th Century pub with an interesting basement bar. We finished the Golden Lion which is a delightful little wainscotted pub up an ally near St James Palace.