Jane Ellen Panton

I first heard about Jane Ellen Panton in Judith Flanders’s The Victorian House (2003, p. xl).

Flanders writes, “Jane Ellen Panton (1848-1923), a journalist and early exponent of the new concept of ‘interior design’, was the daughter of the immensely successful genre painter William Powell Frith.

“Her obituary in The Times said she was a ‘witty and outspoken conversationalist with the courage of her opinions, and under a naturally impatient temperament there lay a fund of real kindness‘. This, for an obituary in the 1920s, was shatteringly outspoken, and well described the startling rude woman of From Kitchen to Garret, her most successful book (by 1897 it had been through eleven editions).

“At various points she commented on ‘some friends of mine who had a [dinner] service with a whole flight of red storks on, flying over each plate, and anything more ugly and incongruous it is difficult to think of‘. . . . [She] suggested that women should write down what they wanted for Christmas and birthdays, ‘then one is sure of receiving something one requires, and not the endless rubbish that accumulates when well-meaning friends send gifts qua gifts [i.e. gifts for gifts’ sake] to be rid themselves of an obligation‘.

I gotta be honest, her directness is very refreshing. I think I would have liked her. Does anyone have any more stories about Panton? The ruder, the better.

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