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Executed by Ozias Humphry R.A in 1788.

A  portrait, its provenance and history...

Executed by Ozias Humphry R.A in 1788.

A  portrait, its provenance and history...

The Rice Portrait of 

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General Provenance

The story of the Rice Portrait of Jane Austen begins in the summer of 1788, when the Rev. George Austen took his wife Cassandra, his daughter Cassandra (aged 15) and his daughter Jane (aged nearly 13) to visit their great uncle Francis Austen, who lived at The Red House in Sevenoaks, Kent.

 

Francis Austen was born in 1698, in the reign of William III. By 1788 he was an immensely rich and successful lawyer, a former Principal of Clifford's Inn and a major landowner in the counties of Essex and Kent. His speciality in law was the settling of large estates; his skill in this field had brought him as clients some of the wealthiest and most influential families in England, among them the Dorsets, the Berkeleys, and the Cravens. Like Francis Austen, all these

families patronized the portraitist Ozias Humphry.

 

In 1788 Francis Austen was 90 years old. His second wife Jane - Jane

Austen's godmother – had died some years earlier and Francis in his old

age had settled into the role of a benevolent family patriarch. Ozias

Humphry, an artist much favoured by Francis's principal employer John

Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, had already painted Francis

twice - once at the Duke's behest, and once at his own.

 

Francis Austen had always loved and protected his nephew George Austen.

We believe that in 1788 he commissioned the portraits of his great nieces,

Jane and Cassandra, George’s daughters, from Ozias Humphry, who had recently returned from an unsuccessful spell in India. Humphry’s customary terms for a portrait commission were half the fee in advance and half on completion. His 1788 accounts, now held at the British Library, list a bill on Francis Austen for 13 guineas as advance payment for work. In 1791 Humphry made a note of Francis Austen's death, implying that there was still money owed to him.

uncle Francis

The Rice family has always believed that after the portraits of Cassandra and Jane were commissioned in the summer of 1788,

Ozias Humphry stayed at Godmersham Park that autumn, at which time he executed sketches and drawings of backgrounds

in the park.  On the 7th of October that year Edward Austen-Knight was 21 years old, and again family tradition has it that

he had returned from the first leg of his Grand Tour for his coming of age celebrations with his adoptive parents. His own

portrait places him within the Godmersham grounds in front of a large oak tree, with the

Godmersham temple folly in the background.

 

Jane's background includes what we believe is the river Stour that flows to the left of the big house, and in both pictures the

same autumnal colours are used, as well as the depiction of stormy skies. It's interesting to note the stance of the subjects in

these portraits; the angles of Edward’s cane and Jane’s parasol being almost identical.

 

Ozias Humphry was originally trained as a miniaturist/portraitist by Richard Cosway in Bath, and perhaps because of

this he seems to have had difficulty in many of his later paintings with the execution of limbs painted in large. Note the

elongation of Edward's arm holding his hat, and Jane's elongated arm holding the parasol.

 

Like the rest of the inherited Austen artefacts and documents, over time the Humphry portraits of Jane, Edward and

perhaps Cassandra, passed to different family members. The last descendant in the Kippington Austen line, May Harrison,

is thought to  have owned the portrait of Cassandra. Mrs. Harrison lived out her final years in Grasse, France. On November

28th 1952 she wrote to R.W. Chapman, the reigning world authority on Jane Austen and Dr Johnson, saying she owned by

descent a portrait which she believed could be of Jane. Mrs. Harrison's nephew, Francis Dodgson, remembered  from

boyhood summers with his aunt in the South of France a painting of a girl dressed in white, but said it was not always hung

because she was in the habit of rotating her large collection of pictures. No one seems to have considered that this

could have been the portrait of Cassandra, but we  now believe it was the pair to the Rice Portrait.

 

As was his usual custom,  Ozias Humphry would have finished the three Austen portraits in his London studio (see his

account books held by the British Library) and would have kept them until he received payment for the second tranche of his work. Mr and Mrs  Thomas Knight we believe to have commissioned Edward's portrait; we know for certain that Ozias Humphry copied what is thought to be a Romney portrait, full length, of Thomas’s wife Catherine, producing  a small signed oval miniature that Thomas could carry with him when he was away from home.  Uncle Francis Austen, the family patriarch and rich protector, died in 1791, and the pair of portraits depicting  Jane and (we believe) Cassandra were inherited by his eldest son, Francis Motley Austen.

 

 

FRANCIS MOTLEY AUSTEN

 

Francis Motley Austen, Uncle Francis's eldest son by his wife Anne Motley who died in childbirth in

1747, was the second owner of the portrait of Jane and (we believe) Cassandra, his great nieces. In 1791

he inherited a substantial estate from his father,  including houses in Sevenoaks, Wilmington, and

Lamberhurst where he lived. In 1796 he foreclosed on Kippington Park, an estate adjoining the Duke of

Dorset’s Knole, and (having forcibly removed the previous occupants) moved his family in.

Kippington is a large house, and no doubt Francis Motley needed plenty of large pictures for the walls.

In 1796 he paid Ozias Humphry for pictures (a bill in his account books of Austen-Clarige - 'My bill

on you, for pictures at Kippington, 30 pounds, 7 shillings ‘). We believe, though we have no proof, that

the pictures in question were the Rice Portait and its pair, the portrait of Cassandra.

 

As well as the portrait of Jane, Francis Motley Austen inherited a collection of Italian paintings amassed by Uncle

Francis during his life, which also would have looked well at Kippington.

 

Francis Motley and his wife Elizabeth Wilson had 11 children. Their eldest son Lucius married, but had only two

daughters, then  went mad and was disinherited by Act of Parliament. His younger brother Thomas Austen eventually

inherited on his father's death in 1815, although he did not actually move into Kippington until his mother's death in 1817.

 

Thomas Austen’s marriage certificate shows that he married Margaretta Morland in 1803, in Bath, where he is described

as being a 'Resident of this Parish'. No doubt  he resided in the house that Francis Motley had inherited from Uncle Francis.

 

 

 

COLONEL THOMAS AUSTEN

                                                                   

Colonel Thomas Austen, (1775 - 1859), the third owner of the portrait, was Jane's second cousin, and a great friend

of Edward Knight, Jane’s brother. Both men were keen cricketers and played in the team assembled by the Duke of

Dorset, who was the founder of the MCC. They  called themselves 'The Gentlemen of Kent'. Elizabeth Austen,

my husband Henry's great, great grandmother, knew Colonel Thomas well. Her own and other family letters say that

he rode very well to hounds, was a fine shot, and played the violin. A distinguished army officer under Wellington, he

served as  temporary Governor of the Algarve during the Peninsular War.

 

In 1803, as his eldest brother Lucius was not stable and he himself stood to inherit  as a result, Colonel Thomas

married the obligatory heiress. This was Margaretta Morland, whose family had made a fortune from sugar and

rum in the West Indies. The couple married in Bath in 1803, and Margaretta was left behind at Kippington with

Colonel Thomas’s mother and father, whilst he was abroad at the wars. They had no children, and during her

husband’s long absences Margaretta turned a wing of Kippington into a small school, looking after the daughters

of friends who had died in childbed. Girls like this abounded in the eighteenth century. Elizabeth and Fanny

Austen, Edward  Austen-Knight's daughters, stayed with Margaretta, as did Elizabeth Hall, the only daughter of

another rich Jamaican plantation owner, Thomas Hall, a terrible hypochondriac,. (Thomas Hall and his daughter

are thought by the family to be the inspirations for  Jane Austen’s Emma and her father, Mr. Woodhouse. This is

borne out by archives which refer to a letter written to Hall by a friend telling him to pull himself together, think of his daughter and stop complaining about his health after his wife's death).

 

The motherless girls were referred to as Margaretta's 'protegées', and when the portrait of Jane was given to Elizabeth Hall on her marriage to Colonel Thomas Harding-Newman in 1818, her familiarity with Kippington as a pupil of Margaretta explain why she knew the Austen family and the portrait so well. According to the Rev. Dr Thomas Harding-Newman, his stepmother Elizabeth Hall was given it because she was 'a great admirer of the novelist'. Having lived at Kippington when she did, Elizabeth  must have known Jane personally and we take this quote to mean she was an admirer of not just of  Jane’s books, but of Jane personally.

 

Colonel Austen and Margaretta were always very close to Edward Knight's family, and therefore

also close to Edward Royd Rice, the direct ancestor of my own husband Henry Rice. Indeed,

during their engagement Edward injured himself in a fall from a horse and whilst he

recovered, Elizabeth went to stay with Colonel Thomas and Margaretta at Kippington, to be close

to him.

 

Colonel Thomas and Margaretta are known to have stayed at Godmersham Park for the wedding

of Elizabeth Austen to Edward Royd Rice,  on October 6th 1818, the day before Edward

Knight's birthday. The story goes that the bride of 18 raced around the tops of the garden walls in

her wedding dress, immediately after the ceremony. It must have been a wonderful party!

 

Colonel Thomas Austen died in 1859, by all accounts a much-loved patron and landowner.

 

 

MRS THOMAS HARDING-NEWMAN 1789-1831, AND THE REV. DR. THOMAS HARDING NEWMAN 1811 - 1882

 

Elizabeth Hall, who married Colonel Thomas Harding-Newman in 1818, was the fourth owner

of the portrait. She was Harding-Newman’s second wife and therefore acquired the Colonel’s

son by his first wife Elizabeth Cartwright, as her step-son. If it is true that Elizabeth was

indeed the model for Jane Austen's Emma, one might suppose her to have been a

managing and somewhat manipulative woman and a skilled matchmaker. In any case, she

was nineteen when she married; she died young, probably  in childbirth, in 1831. Her husband

took a third wife but on his death in 1856 the portrait was inherited by his eldest son, the

Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman, the fifth owner of the picture.

 

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman 1811-1882

The fifth owner of the portrait, an Oxford don and academic, was a lifelong bachelor. The

Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman hung the picture in his rooms at Magdalen College,and

by all accounts he was exceedingly proud of it. So proud, in fact, that he decided that the

portrait had been painted by Zoffany. The name Humphry is written across the right hand

corner of the painting, but rather indistinctly. He may have made a genuine mistake, or he

may just have chosen the smarter artist. Be that as it may, his mis-attribution caused major

difficulties in later years, for Ozias Humphry and Johann Zoffany were close friends; indeed

Zoffany is credited with having taught  Humphry how to paint muslins and draperies whilst

the two were together in India. Humphry also figures in Zoffany's famous painting 'Colonel Mordaunt's Cockfight', painted in India.

This only made the confusion worse.

 

Also up at Magdalen at the time, and friends of Harding-Newman, were the first cousins Lord Brabourne and Morland Rice, Elizabeth Austen-Rice's 4th son, an extremely clever and personable young man who became a close friend of the Rev. Harding-Newman. Harding-Newman always promised Morland that he would leave him the portrait in his will " ..as you are a relative of the lady". However, he died in 1882 without doing so officially. His nephew and heir Benjamin Harding-Newman, who knew of his uncle's wish, very honorably gave the picture to a friend of Morland Rice's, Dr. Bloxham, to deliver to him in 1883, the year after the Rev. Dr. Harding-Newman's death.

 

 

 

THE REV. JOHN MORLAND RICE, 1823 - 1897, AND ADMIRAL SIR ERNEST RICE, 1840 - 1927

 

Morland Rice, the sixth owner of the portrait, was the fourth son of Elizabeth Austen and Edward Royd Rice, who

had fifteen children in all. He was called Morland after his mother's 'dear friend from girlhood' Margaretta Morland,

and received the portrait in 1883. He wrote to various members of the family about it, and was told by the elderly

family historian Miss Fanny Caroline Lefroy (whose mother had known Jane Austen) that Fanny '…knew before of

the portrait in your  possession, and but for one or two difficulties would have no doubt about its authenticity'. She

also believed that 'the date on your picture is (she thinks) 1788 or 9, making her (Jane) not 14.'

 

She was correct – there is a date, 1788-9?,  on the front of Jane's canvas, now confirmed by Stephen Cole's image

analysis. Miss Lefroy had seen it herself, or someone else had seen it and told her about it. The single word ON tells

us so. In the latter year, Jane was not quite 14.

 

The other difficulty was that the Rice family had taken  Dr Harding–Newman’s Zoffany attribution at face value,

and thus were wondering if the portrait could have been painted in Bath, since Zoffany did not return to England from

India until 1791.

 

In 1884 Morland's first cousin Lord Brabourne, Fanny Knight's eldest son, published the first book of Jane Austen's

letters. He  discovered that Morland Rice possessed Jane's portrait and contacted Cholmondley Austen-Leigh, who

knew about it.  Lord Brabourne then wrote to his publisher, Bentley (also Jane Austen’s publisher, who acquired the rights to Pride and Prejudice from Cassandra Austen in 1832, as well as the other titles), as follows: 'Mr. Austen-Leigh writes that the evidence seems against the authenticity of the picture, which must be if authentic, of Jane when a young girl of 14 or 15.' Lord Brabourne then continues: 'Mr. Rice's letter, without communication with Mr. Austen-Leigh, says it is of a girl of  about 15, I incline to think therefore it is a true bill.'

 

He then published the portrait, half-length, as the frontispiece for his book.

 

Another letter describing Morland's enjoyment of the portrait was written by his niece, Marcia Rice:  "In  his drawing-room hung the portrait of Jane Austen by Zoffany - it was his great pride. Often did he relate the story of how Dr. Newman of Magdalen used to say to him - 'You ought to possess the portrait of your great-aunt, I shall leave it to you.' He had never the slightest doubt as to its authenticity to mar his joy in the possession of the portrait."  

 

Morland Rice married Caroline York in 1864 but died without issue in 1897, leaving the portrait to his younger brother's wife, his sister-in-law who had married Admiral Sir Ernest Rice.

 

Admiral Sir Ernest Rice 1840-1927

The seventh owner of the portrait, Sir Ernest Rice, rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy and at one point was

Governor of Malta. He is reputed to have been more than attached to the Queen of Greece, and although certainly

dashing, managed to run two of his ships firmly aground.

 

Lord Louis Mountbatten once asked my husband Henry Rice if the 'Ground Rice', who had taught him navigation, was

any relation. Henry replied in the affirmative,  adding that the family had never been greatly impressed by Sir Ernest’s

navigational skills, either.

 

Sir Ernest Rice received the painting from his wife, the sister of Morland Rice's wife, once both women were dead.

He hung it over the fireplace at his home at Sibbertswold House near Dover. Unfortunately, one cold December

night he burnt his house down. Although 80 at the time, he personally threw all the family portraits – including Jane’s -

out of the drawing room window while the fire was raging.

 

Tradition has it that Jane went first.  Her original 18th century oak frame (visible in the Emery Walker photographs

taken in 1910) was smashed when she hit the  ground outside the burning house.

 

Afterwards Sir Ernest cut the picture down to fit the portrait into a smaller, plainer Victorian frame.

 

Thus it was that Ozias Humphry's notes along the back of the top of the portrait were folded back and hidden under the stretcher and beneath a new lining. In his prime, Humphry ran a large and busy studio in London, and wrote on his pictures noting the name and the date, and often initializing these notes with his own distinctive OH monogram. He also did this on his miniatures and pastels.

 

My husband Henry Rice  sold a small portrait of Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s second brother, aged about ten, which had belonged to Elizabeth Austen, to Chawton House Museum. A member of the public later brought a sketch for this portrait that was clearly inscribed on the back with Humphry’s name and the date. The  portrait itself was painted in 1783, at the time of Edward’s adoption by the wealthy Knight family, and is also by Ozias Humphry.  Humphry is therefore directly associated with the Austen familyto which Jane belonged, from 1783 onwards.

 

On the death of Sir Ernest Rice  in 1927, his daughter Gwenlian, who was married to Lord Northbourne,  inherited Jane's portrait.

 

 

 

LADY NORTHBOURNE, NEE GWENLIAN RICE 1871-1952, AND HENRY EDWARD HARCOURT RICE 1864 - 1943

 

Lady Northbourne, the eighth owner of the portrait, gave the painting back to the main branch of the family,

in the form of Henry Edward Harcourt Rice (1864-1943), her first cousin. Her father, Sir Ernest, had considered

giving it to the National Portrait Gallery, but eventually decided his cousin should have it, as he still lived in

the large house, Dane Court, which had been bought by Edward Royd Rice and Elizabeth Austen on their

marriage in 1818.

 

Henry  Edward Harcourt Rice’s grandfather, Jane Austen’s contemporary, owned and captained a fast ship,

the 72-gun East Indiaman ‘Dutton’, which made three extraordinarily profitable voyages to India. This Rice can

be said to have been the founder of the Rice fortune through trade in tea, silks, and spices.; afterwards

he married ‘The Heiress of Dover’, Sarah Sampson, some say for a bet, and he was also known affectionately

as ‘The Pirate’, no doubt quite aptly. Sarah is mentioned in Jane Austen’s letters, as is her reprobate eldest son,

also called Henry (b. 1776), whose mother constantly paid his huge debts.

 

Gwenlian Northbourne stipulated as a condition of her gift  that Jane should no longer hang over the fireplace,

‘…as the smoke was spoiling her.’

 

Gwenlian Northbourne died in 1955.

 

Henry Edward Harcourt Rice (1864-1943 – I have to give the dates again, to avoid confusion between these

three Henrys),  was bequeathed the portrait in 1928. He was the ninth owner. He did not hang it over a hot

fire, but all the same presided over an odd episode in its history. (All the following can be checked in the

files on the ‘Rice Portrait’ in the National Portrait Gallery.)

 

In 1930, the National Portrait Gallery was expanding its stock of pictures, and the public were clamouring

for an image of Jane Austen. Indeed, this became the N.P.G.'s special priority at that time, because  they did not

possess such an image. They employed a  Mrs. Graveson to find one, and she tracked down a gentleman whom she described as a ‘delightful old Victorian’.

 

This was John Hubback, the grandson of Admiral Sir Francis Austen, Jane Austen’s third brother.

 

Mr Hubback was  86 years old in 1930 (b.1844). He and his mother Catherine Anne Hubback (nee Austen), the admiral’s daughter and Jane Austen’s  niece,  lived with Sir Francis,  Jane Austen’s brother, for twenty years, Hubback’s own father, the barrister John Henry Hubback, having been committed to an insane asylum.

 

John Hubback told Mrs. Graveson in 1930 that his cousins, the Rices, possessed ‘the only portrait of the authoress ever painted by a professional artist’.

This is  clearly recorded in the NPG archive. The family has always considered John Hubback’s statement to be primary and conclusive evidence that the portrait depicts Jane Austen. It is inconceivable that John Hubback’s grandfather, Admiral Sir Francis Austen, would  have misled him about his own sister’s likeness.

 

Mr Hubback visited Henry Rice, my husband’s grandfather, at Dane Court where the picture was hanging,  and was told  by his cousin that although he had no intention of parting with the portrait, he would consent to a copy of it being made for the National Portrait Gallery.

 

As it turned out, Sir Henry Hake, Director of the NPG, subsequently declined the offer of a copy, saying that the ‘N.P.G. does not deal in fakes’ – but asked for first refusal should the picture ever be sold. The NPG then acquired the tiny ‘scratch’ by Cassandra Austen and announced in The Times that they possessed the only portrait of Jane that could be authenticated. The Rice family, not unexpectedly, took this as a slight, as indeed it was; after all they had a perfect right to keep the  picture of  their great-great-aunt Jane if they chose.

 

However, in the 1940’s R.W. Chapman, a highly-respected  Jane Austen commentator of the period, correctly raised doubts over the Zoffany attribution, Zoffany having been in India until 1791, whilst Ozias Humphry had returned to England in the spring of 1788. Chapman then consulted Charles Adams,  assistant curator at the NPG (becoming director when Henry Hake died), who could not at that time unearth any contemporary 18th century picture of a girl wearing a comparable dress to the one in the Rice Portrait. Adams therefore gave it as his view that the dress was 19th century, not 18th century. In his defence, he did not have anything like the vast image resources available to everyone on today’s Internet, which would have quickly disabused him of this idea. Be that as it may, R.W. Chapman took Mr Adams’s pronouncement to be decisive evidence  against the portrait’s authenticity, and published it as such in a single fateful paragraph of his 1948 book  entitled Jane Austen: Facts and Problems  

 

We reproduce R.W. Chapman’s curt dismissal here, because we believe all the hostility to which the portrait has been subjected, to this very day, can be directly traced to its publication.  It is  nevertheless curious that neither Adams nor Chapman was aware of  so high profile a fashion event as Queen Marie-Antoinette’s gift of  a high-waisted muslin gown to the Duchess of Devonshire in the 1780’s. The Duchess wore this gown to a ball given by the Prince Regent, causing a huge sensation in England. It is now a fact established by numerous contemporary portraits  that children and young adolescent girls of all classes had been wearing this type of simple dress from at least the 1760’s and probably before. It was the forerunner of a fashion that adults like the Queen of France later adopted. Today, even the NPG has quietly dropped this seminal objection to the Rice Portrait.

 

'A 'portrait of Jane Austen the Novelist by Zoffany' was reproduced by Lord Brabourne in 1884 and (having been cleaned in the interval) and in the Life of 1912. It had a pedigree (see Life p. 63) that any layman may think watertight: but it cannot be Jane Austen. It is a portrait of a young girl dwhich can be dated by the costume to about 1805 ( When JA was thirty) or later.'

- Jane Austen: Facts and Problems (Clark Lectures, Trinity College Cambridge 1948) page 213,  by R.W. Chapman.

 

 

EDWARD RICE 1899-1973, AND HENRY RICE 1928-2010

 

‘Edward Rice 1899-1973

Edward Rice, my husband’s father,  inherited the portrait as the tenth owner on his father’s death in 1943. He married a

great heiress, Lord Curzon of Kedleston’s stepdaughter, Marcella Duggan, and built a ballroom onto Dane Court, which

was large, echoing, and rather draughty, though the painting looked well hanging there. Marcella and Edward Rice were

divorced in 1948,  having had three children. Edward married again, and on his death in 1973, his French second wife

stripped Dane Court, sending most of the contents to be sold by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and the rest to her native

France. Fortunately she was unable to remove the family portraits and the books. Dane Court and the estate  around it

were themselves sold  by my husband in 1975. We were married in the same year.  

 

Henry Rice 1928-2010

My late husband, Henry Rice, was the 11th owner of the portrait of Jane Austen, and it is because of his steady

conviction of its authenticity and his untiring efforts to establish that fact, that it is now known as the ‘Rice Portrait’.

Henry resented the slur on his family’s veracity as much as the impugning of his own truthfulness – as his old uncle

remarked plaintively, “They may not like you, Henry, but what on earth have they got against the rest of us?”

 

What indeed? I suspect the onslaught had something to do with Henry’s decision to sell the portrait; I believe now that if money had not been part of the equation things would have been easier. The N.P.G., having decided that their Cassandra sketch was the only authentic picture of Jane, did not wish to buy the portrait for the nation, although its provenance remained ‘impeccable’, as R.W. Chapman had to admit even when he was rejecting it out of hand. So when in 1991 Henry applied for an export license for the picture to be exhibited in the USA, it was readily granted, and later extended indefinitely. It was at about this time that Henry Rice discovered correspondence in the N.P.G. archive that revealed Sir Henry Hake’s attempts to buy the portrait from his grandfather in the 1930’s.

 

Henry was greatly assisted in his crusade by Brian Stewart, the Director of the Falmouth Art Gallery. Brian Stewart  and Mervyn Cutten were co-authors of ‘A Dictionary of English Portrait Painters’ in which they attributed both the Rice Portrait and the large oil of Edward Knight, Jane’s brother, to Ozias Humphry.

 

Brian Stewart’s attribution to Ozias Humphry was  confirmed by a Christie’s valuation made in 1985 by Conal McFarlane, which identified the monogram of Ozias Humphry and attributed the work to him in full. Brian Stewart wrote that the ‘.. brushwork, colouring, cherub lips, inconsistencies in drawing, and the characteristic habit of “topping and tailing” (saving the highest quality of finish for the head and lower legs) are typical of the artist.’ (Brian Stewart).

 

The other portrait thought to be Cassandra, which was  literally the ‘sister’ portrait, remained at Kippington and descended in the line of the Kippington Austens. Its first inheritor was John Austen, Colonel Thomas Austen’s heir and nephew. He left it to his  only child, Marianne,  who married a man by the name of Smith-Marriot. Marianne was a considerable heiress, and her husband was also wealthy; they emigrated to the South of France where they lived in Maganosc, at the Villa Mariquita on the Rue Auguste Renoir. They again had only one child, Charlotte Marianne known as May. Her first husband was a Mr. Dodgson, (a relative of Lewis Carroll,) by whom she had a much-loved son, Raymond. Her second husband, Mr. Harrison, died in the late 1940’s.

 

In 1951 May Harrison decided to return to her birthplace in France. Her only  son had been killed in Somalia in the early stages of the war, and the Knights of Chawton were her nearest living relations; indeed, they inherited Raymond’s estate on his death through the strange vehicle of an entail that had existed since the 17th century.. May Harrison, appalled by this injustice,  sent back some of her Austen collection to her Austen cousins, and also wrote to R.W. Chapman on November 28th, 1952 (see the Chapman archive in the Bodleian Library) saying she owned, by descent, a portrait which she believed could be Jane Austen, and asking for an opinion. He forwarded her request, along with a photograph of the picture, to R.A. Austen-Leigh asking for his opinion. The Austen Leigh family looked at the portrait (the letter is quoted below,) and returned Mrs. Harrison’s photograph to R. W. Chapman. We have never been able to track this photograph down. It never seems to have occurred to any the parties to this  communication that the portrait could have been Cassandra.

 

 

 

Extract from a letter written by R. A. Austen Leigh to Dr R. W. Chapman

 

November 28th 1952

Great Abshot

Titchfield

Hants

 

Mr Dear RWC                                              

 

Sunday

 

As to the portrait it is charming and Margaret would like to believe it is JA, but after careful consideration today, helped by Winifred Jenkins, we decided against it being JA and thought the picture was more like the Zoffany girl than like JA.

 

Indeed, as it comes via Mrs. Harrison from the Kippington (or Capel Manor) stable, the Zoffany one belonged to a Kippington Austen, there seems quite a probability of it and the Zoffany being the same person.

 

But perhaps Adams will say that they cannot be the same person owing to the costume!

 

Many thanks for your note about the Knight pictures. I knew they were coming up for sale – but not the actual date. But I don’t want to buy any and certainly haven’t got the money.

 

I return the portrait.

 

Yours ever

 

R. A. Austen Leigh

 

P.S. I return Mrs. Harrison’s letter

 

EdwardAusten2

Great Uncle Francis

Edward Austen

CatherineKnight1

Catherine Knight

F_MotleyAusten MrsFMAusten

Francis Motley Austen and Mrs. Francis Motley Austen. Reproduced by kind permission of the owner.

Lucius

Lucius Austen

Reproduced by kind permission of the owner

colTAusten2

Colonel Thomas Austen

 Reproduced by kind permission of the owner

god

Godmersham Park

ThomasHardingNewman RevdDrThomasHardingNewman

Thomas Harding Newman

reproduced by kind permission of Edward Harding-Newman

Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman

RevJohnMorlandRice

The Rev. John Morland Rice

AdmiralSirErnestRice

Admiral Sir Ernest Rice

Admiral&HenryRice

Admiral Rice and Henry Edward Harcourt Rice

EdwarddRice

Edward Rice

henryricepicture

Henry Rice