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Showing posts from October, 2017

A Production of The Beggars' Opera at Benham in 1805

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I am very grateful to Jill Kamp for sending me this fascinating and little-known picture of an entertainment at Benham Park, the Berkshire home of Elizabeth Craven, in 1805. 
        It is a drawing done by one of Elizabeth Craven's friends, John Nixon, a keen amateur actor who appeared in many of her productions at Brandenburgh House. This picture shows that she sometimes put on theatrical entertainments at Benham as well. The date, January 7th 1805, is very close to Twelfth Night and this must have been part of the Christmas fun that Craven loved to organize for her house-parties. The singers and actors were all guests of hers, and quite likely many of the musicians were too.
       John Gay's operetta The Beggars' Opera was written in 1728, so it was already a classic by the time Craven decided to revive it. The story is all about thieves, cut-throats, bawds and whores, so the choice indicates Craven did not care a hoot about her reputation or the notion that private thea…

Elizabeth Craven Book Launch At Benham Park, Berkshire

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Benham Park. in Berkshire, the former home of Elizabeth Craven, was the venue for a book launch event held last week to mark the appearance of a new literary biography of the late Georgian poet and playwright, Elizabeth Craven: Writer, Feminist and European.



The author, Julia Gasper, signed copies of the book and gave a short talk about Elizabeth Craven and her links to Benham, where she lived, wrote, welcomed many famous guests and staged some of her own plays as well as other theatrical performances. 

Craven was not just bold and adventurous in her travels, but also in her opinions, which were in some ways far ahead of her time.


The event was held by kind permission of the present owner, Mr Michael Fresson, who has meticulously restored the once-neglected mansion to its former beauty and splendour. Benham was designed by the distinguished architect Henry Holland, and its grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. The grounds still contain a Greek theatre built for Elizabeth Craven in the…

A Painting of the Berkeley Family at Berkeley Castle Gloucestershire

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This very unusual painting hangs at Berkeley Castle and is described as The Berkeley and Granard Family Group. Painted by Ozias Humphry, who did many portraits of the Craven family, both individually and collectively, it is dated 1780. An inscription in the top right corner names everybody in it. The painting shows us Elizabeth Craven, who was born a Berkeley, in company with her elder sister Georgiana and both of her brothers. And this is not merely a portrait, it is a scene where what is happening is amusing and very typical of Elizabeth Craven. 
      Paintings of Elizabeth's elder sister, Lady Georgiana Berkeley, Countess of Granard, are few and far between. This may be the only painting or drawing to survive, and shows us why she was regarded as a beauty. She is tall, fair-haired and commanding, with a perfect classical profile. But is there a touch too much rouge on those cheeks? Queen Charlotte thought so. The dress she is wearing is in the style known as "robe retrouss…

Caroline of Brunswick, the Queen who was never Crowned

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The greatest scandal of the entire Regency period was the behaviour of the Prince Regent towards his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick.

Caroline of Brunswick as a young woman
It was a scandal that went public and involved the entire nation rather like the unhappy marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in our own time. Although she married the heir to the throne, Caroline, like Diana, was never crowned Queen. Her unjust treatment gained her the sympathy of women as different as Jane Austen  - who wrote that she took sides with the Princess "because she is a woman"  - and Elizabeth Craven, the Georgian feminist writer. When Caroline was shipped over from Germany to marry George in 1795, he was aged 33 so he could hardly complain that she was 27.  She had endured a very strict, confined upbringing which was certainly not the case with George. He was the most pampered, spoilt brat in the world and would have been a nightmare husband to any wife. From the age of eightee…