Alicia Catherine Mant, the Cottage in the Chalk-Pit, and Jane Austen

This Christmas, my grandmother gave me a very cool present: a copy of The Cottage in the Chalk-Pit by Alicia Catherine Mant.

The Cottage in the Chalk-Pit was first published in London in 1822 (under the name Catherine Alicia Mant) by Harvey and Darton on Gracechurch Street. Basically a morality tale for Regency children, it is the story of a rich middle-class family that loses its fortune and how each of the four children conquers their vices to become industrious, responsible mini-adults before their father’s wealth is restored. While a little heavy-handed in morals, Alicia Catherine Mant does a good job of portraying engaging, lovable characters and contriving interesting circumstances in which they can learn their lessons.

The book isn’t just cool because it’s old, though. It turns out that Alicia Catherine Mant is the sister to my great-something-grandfather, Bishop Richard Mant. As if being the descendant of a novelist (a female novelist in pre-Victorian England!) isn’t awesome enough, there’s more: Alicia and Richard grew up in Southampton as the children of Reverend Richard Mant, rector of All Saints. When Jane Austen moved to Southampton to live with her brother Frank, she attended the All Saints church with Mant as her reverend, as mentioned in some of her letters.

Though Jane Austen died several years before The Cottage in the Chalk-Pit was published, I like to think that she and Alicia sat around tea discussing characters, plot-lines, and the woes of getting one’s stories printed just as my friends and I do now (only we substitute the tea with chocolate). In any case, I hope that talent is an inheritable trait.

2 thoughts on “Alicia Catherine Mant, the Cottage in the Chalk-Pit, and Jane Austen

  1. hi
    I read your blog from your Dad’s status on Facebook, and found it very interesting. May I introduce myself, I am one of the cousins several times removed from the UK. Dee is my Grandmothers sisters daughter.. work that one out!!
    Dr Richard Mant doesn’t impress Jane Austen that much. I fear she saw the clergy as being hypocritical and supercillious, and in a letter she wrote to Cassandra on 17th-18th January 1809, she comments on Dr Richard Mants behaviour with her maidservant Martha, which proved too embarrassing for Mrs Mant who went to stay with a married daughter. I assume that married daughter was her eldest Elizabeth who was married in 1809 to a chap called Postlethwaite. Alicia didn’t marry till 1835 and then to a chap considerably younger than her called James Russell Philpott, I believe he was also a reverend, and who she outlived.
    But that is by the by, I am glad you have read her book, I believe she wrote a couple, and understandably quite moralistic as she was a reverends daughter. It would be satisfying to think that she met Jane Austen and discussed plots and characters with her.
    My best wishes
    Penny Hacking (nee Gower)

    • Thank you for sharing, Penny! Since Jane Austen’s clergymen often aren’t the nicest characters in her novels, I was afraid that might be the case. Still, perhaps she didn’t hold that against Alicia, especially since she was the daughter of a clergyman herself!

      Hope all is well in England!

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