‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: “Enamoured of the Picturesque at a Very Early Age”: William Gilpin and Jane Austen

Dovedale in the Peak district of Derbyshire from Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland etc, by William Gilpin (1786)

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Julie from Austenonly who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history in two posts during the event. Her second contribution is on travel writer William Gilpin whose influence upon Jane Austen is seen in Pride and Prejudice. Discover how she was able to describe the Derbyshire countryside even though she had never traveled there and why the use of the “picturesque” is a hidden joke in the plot.

Having read Henry Austen’s biographical notice of his sister, published in the posthumously printed first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, I knew from an early age, that Jane Austen was

enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque at a very early age…

and so when aged 15 I found a copy of his Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland in what was then one of my favourite haunts, a second-hand bookshop in Dr Johnson’s home city of Lichfield, I bought it  immediately…But now comes a confession…Prepare yourself for something very dreadful… I didn’t read it for another 20 years.

I thought it would be deadly boring.

How wrong I was.

I should have trusted Jane Austen’s taste and judgement, and realised exactly why she was enamoured of him…..but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we explore his books and the reasons why I think she adored him, we ought properly to learn a little about William Gilpin’s life.

William Gilpin was born on 4 June 1724 near Carlisle, in Cumberland. He was the son of Captain John Bernard Gilpin and a Matilda Langstaffe . Captain Gilpin was considered to be one of the best amateur painters of the time, and this artistic talent seems to have passed through to the next generation, for William was obsessed with the correct way to view both pictures and landscape, and his younger brother, Sawrey Gilpin was to become a famous animal painter and indeed later contributed some illustrations to Williams books.

Continue reading on Austenonly

Further Reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 17  July 10     Group Read: Chapters 50 – 56
Day 18  July 11     Top Ten P&P editions in print
Day 19  July 12     Music at the Netherfield Ball

2 thoughts on “‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: “Enamoured of the Picturesque at a Very Early Age”: William Gilpin and Jane Austen

  1. What a truly illuminating post by Julie! She certainly makes a strong case and it’s such a delight to discover another layer to Austen’s wit… another one of her many ‘inside jokes’… will certainly make my re-reads all the more rich and fun!

    Am beginning to realize that Austen put a lot of herself in Mr. Bennet, after all… just a lot better in discerning the line between too caustic and just enough. =)

    And will forever think of Miss Caroline Bingley as Miss ‘Bovine’ Bingley! =) What a fine picture that makes! =P

    Like

  2. Pingback: Jane Austen and Humphry Repton « Jane Austen in Vermont

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