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The Hours/Drama of Catherine and Jane

In 1430 Catherine of Cleves married Arnold of Egmond, becoming Duchess of Guelders. She was promised to Arnold at the tender age of six but didn't marry until she was thirteen, thereby giving her plenty of time to finish college, enjoy life. After six children their rocky marriage ended when Catherine refused to live with Arnold. Although separations can be volatile, Catherine and Arnold actually went to war, sparked by his disinheriting his only living son Adolf (apparently the lad accused his father of sodomizing him).

The soap opera continued when in 1465 Catherine and Adolf imprisoned Arnold, forcing his abdication. Adolf, now duke, spent six years battling his father’s supporters. In 1471 Arnold was freed and regained his title, switching places with Adolf, who was himself jailed. Arnold died in 1473, disinheriting both of them. Catherine died in 1476 before her son's release from prison, but Adolf’s freedom only lasted another year with his death.

Thankfully, Catherine, Duchess of Guelders and Countess of Zutphen, is also known for commissioning an exquisite book of devotions to guide her through her daily prayers. Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is now on view at the Morgan Library and Museum. The original book, which is part of the Morgan's extensive collection, included 168 pages of the traditional Hours of the Virgin and Office of the Dead, but it also includes unique Hours for every day of the week and devotions or petitions to individual saints; much more elaborate than other Books of Hours.

The anonymous artist, known only as the Master of Catherine of Cleves, created amazingly detailed images of domestic life, ornate textiles, farm scenes, and of course for those lucky souls on their way to damnation, some very creepy, clawing demons. All of the images are surrounded by elaborately detailed borders of plants, fish, crabs, snakes, butterflies, and even pretzels.

Of the 157 surviving pages, the Morgan is displaying 93 -- unbound, a rare treat. The original manuscript was split into two volumes at one point by a book dealer. The Library acquired both volumes, which after undergoing conservation efforts will be rebound.

For the Jane Austen fans, A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy is up through March 14. The exhibit explores Austen's life and times through personal handwritten letters, rare editions from the Morgan collection, and prints by James Gillray, a noted social satirist, who touched on many of the themes in Austen's work -- very funny stuff.

Many of the letters on display are written in normal form, but then to save paper Austen would begin writing vertically. They cover ailments, family, gossip, and dealings with her publishers. In one letter she complains of not being offered enough from a publisher for the copyrights to a book and considers self-publishing. She was paid £110 for Pride and Prejudice and for her most profitable book, Mansfield Park, £310 -- it sold 1,250 copies in six months.

In one note Austen wrote that she invested the profits of her first three published novels -- Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma -- in £600 worth of "Navy Fives," government stock that returned five percent interest annually, bringing her £30 each year. A memorandum of her personal expenditure in 1807 notes she spent over £42. That's lunch in London today.

A personal expense ledger kept by her cousin Elizabeth lists expenses for two green silk purses, muslin, Bergamont oil, and bleeding. Good times.

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