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A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy
November 6, 2009 through March 14, 2010

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James Gillray (1756–1815)
Etching, hand colored
Image 254 x 358 mm, plate mark 257 x 361 mm
[London]: Published by H. Humphrey, 27 St James Street, 25 October 1805
Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987; 1986.336

An unhappily married couple torment each other in the breakfast-room. The lady has left her seat to thump on the piano and sing loudly while her husband sits on the sofa with his hand over his ear, food stuffed into his mouth, reading the 'Sporting Calendar'. The pages of her open music-book are headed 'Forte'. Her song is: 'Torture Fiery Rage / Despair I cannot can not bear'. On the piano lies music: 'Separation a Finale for Two Voices with Accompaniment'; on the floor is ’The Wedding Ring - a Dirge’. A nurse hastens into the room holding a squalling infant, and flourishing a rattle. On the lady’s chair is an open book, ’The Art of Tormenting’, illustrated by a cat playing with a mouse. Under the man’s feet lies a dog barking fiercely at an angry cat, poised on the back of the sofa, and within a hanging birdcage two cockatoos screech angrily at each other, neglecting a nest of three young ones. Beside them on the wall is a bust of ’Hymen’ with a broken nose, and a thermometer that has sunk almost to ’Freezing’. On the chimney-piece is a carved ornament: Cupid asleep under a weeping willow, his torch reversed, the arrows falling from his quiver.

Paul Sandby (1731–1809)
View in a Park
Pen and black ink, watercolor, over faint indications in pencil, on paper.
10 3/8 x 18 1/8 inches (264 x 460 mm)
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows; 1963.1

In the eighteenth century, wealthy landowners commissioned artists to record the appearance of their estates, which were often a tribute to their personal taste. The exact location of Sandby's watercolor view is unidentified, but it is representative of the topography of the parks in which Austen's novels take place, such as Donwell Abbey in Emma, with its "abundance of timber in rows and avenues, which neither fashion nor extravagance had rooted up." Austen's brother Henry remembered, in his "Biographical Notice" (1818), published with the first editions of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, that his sister was "a warm and judicious admirer of landscape, both in nature and on canvas."

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.