By Anna Mercer
Image via John Cairns/University of Oxford.
Thanks to the generous support of BARS and the Stephen Copley Research Award, I am freshly returned from a glorious week’s worth of rummaging through the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. My PhD examines the narrative function of the horse-drawn carriage in Jane Austen’s fictions, and investigates its cultural significance in wider Georgian society. I support my literary enquiries with a few key contemporary trade sources on the design and construction of carriages, but as I’ve discovered over the course of my research, eighteenth-century coach-makers were a fiercely secretive bunch and frustratingly little archival evidence survives today. In comes the John Johnson Collection’s boxes and boxes of carriage related trade ephemera!
Print and visual depictions of private carriages, stage and mail coaches, driving disasters, stately processions and everything in between abound in libraries and archives, the carriage seems to have been a favourite target for eighteenth-century cartoonists and novelists alike to publicly lampoon. Whilst I relish the fact my doctoral work means I get to study …read more