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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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J

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usten

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The Second Primary Evidence

 

The Second piece of Primary evidence that pinpoints the total authenticity of the Rice portrait of Jane Austen.

 

This is the evidence given by Admiral Sir Francis Austen, James’ sailor brother to his grandson, John H. Hubback. Sir Francis’ daughter, Catherine, married a gentleman called Hubback and had by him a son, John Henry Hubback. Sadly, Hubback went insane and was put away, and so Sir Francis’ daughter and her son were welcomed back to their father’s house. John Hubback lived between his grandfather’s house in Hampshire and his naval college. He wrote and published a book in 1906 called ‘Cross currents in a Long Life’ and the first page, published below, explains his close relationship with his grandfather, hence the importance of his evidence.

 

In the 1930s, 1932 to be exact, the National Portrait Gallery were trying to find a portrait of Jane Austen, as there was great public demand for one. A Mrs Agnes Graveson was deputed by Sir Henry Hake, the then director to find one if possible. She applied to John Hubback, then 90 years old and in full possession of his faculties, as the letters below show.

 

John Hubback told Mrs Graveson that his cousins, the Rices, owned the only professionally executed painting of the authoress, (his only mistake was also attributing it to Zoffany as his cousins believed this to be the case). He obviously knew of the portrait, he had lived in his grandfather’s house for 20 years, and surely Admiral Sir Francis would have been unlikely to tell him it was of his great Aunt, the Admiral’s own sister, if it had not been.

 

 

The family has always felt that this is the earliest, strongest and clearest primary evidence for the portrait that exists. All the letters published below, are in the files of the National Portrait Gallery and can now be read at will.

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CROSS CURRENTS IN A LONG LIFE

 

CHAPTER I

 

All the world’s a stage

 

MY BOYHOOD was passed alternately at the Royal Naval School at New Cross and the Hampshire residence of my grandfather, Sir Francis Austen (a brother of Jane Austen), one of the last survivors of Nelson’s captains, his ‘Band of Brothers’, and in my days Admiral of the Fleet. From him I learnt to play chess, some eighty years ago now. A curious link with bygone centuries is provided by his life. As a boy at Steventon Rectory, before he went to sea in 1788, he was a great favourite with another Francis Austen, his grandfather’s brother, a frequent visitor of the Rectory. This Francis was born in 1699, and here I am, two hundred and thirty-five years later. Sir Francis’ life and intimacies touched both his own great uncle’s life and my own.

The square pew in Wymering Church whither he used to conduct us in his pony carriage on Sunday mornings has reverted to the original purpose, as a side chapel, part of a general restoration. I had the privilege of arranging for a family tablet in his memory just above his special corner of the whilom pew, when he became invalided by rheumatism and kept to the house he deputed me to read the service and lessons to him; he was very strict as to pronunciation, and I still find it easier to use the formal –ed conclusions of the participle, always insisted on by Sir Francis.

Among my earliest definite memories are those of visits to Portsmouth Dockyard under his guidance; one such visit in particular when he inspected the 131-gun line of battleship Duke of Wellington, then recently launched with the name of Windsor Castle, which was altered just after the death of the great Field Marshal and statesman in 1852. The carved and painted likeness of Windsor Castle itself was still in position above the Stern Gallery. Sir Francis was the originator of the floating bridge to Gosport.