It’s Arrived!

September 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


Today’s mail brought my long-awaited copy of David Selwyn‘s new book: Jane Austen and Children. Many thanks to JASNA News book review editor Sue Parrill for getting me this review copy.

Blog readers know that I thought Hazel JonesJane Austen and Marriage simply smashing. This combined information culled from Austen’s novels, her letters, letters & diaries & autobiographies from the period — including from the diaries and letters of my dear Eliza Chute of The Vyne. So I’m hoping for equally-stimulating reading from the well-known Selwyn.

The publisher is the same: Continuum. The layout of the books are similar: a timeline-chronology. In this instance Selwyn takes readers from the confinement of the mother, through infancy, childhood and into maturity. I’m hoping for a great ride!

Since the review is destined for JASNA News, I’ll only give some rough ideas on this blog about my thoughts (non-JASNA members will have to wait for the review to appear online: see www.jasna.org) — but reading the first pages and having Sense and Sensibility in mind, let me make a few comments that certainly will never find their way into a book review.

Blog readers will know my passion for anything “first-hand”, be it published letters, biography, autobiography — especially by women, British women, 18th and 19th century British women. One book I came across (which, being old and long out of print and very expensive now) was the oh-so-wonderful A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson’s Style Album. This album, which resides at the V&A, was published in full color back in 1987, edited by Natalie Rothstein. My original post on that book may be found here.

So how have I gotten from “children” to “fashion”??? Rothstein’s introduction to the life of Barbara Johnson introduced me to another book of interest: Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood, 1600-1900 (1997), by Morag Styles and Mary Hilton. That book discusses the mother of Barbara Johnson — and her thoughts on childhood education. These authors even comment on how education for the Johnson children could be considered in the light of a reading of Austen’s Emma. David Selwyn opens his book’s introduction with comments on books, toys and education for children. My mind immediately flew to Jane Johnson.

When Selwyn writes of children being viewed as “natural innocents,” how hard — having just finished Sense & Sensibility — not to wonder: Is that a good description of Marianne? at her young age, was she still a “natural innocent” until her rude awakening via Willoughby?

Certainly Eliza and Willoughby’s child — which Austen never reveals the sex of: boy or girl? — must be one that Selwyn would classify among those thought of as (according to the dust jacket) “children in the way”.

And, after S&S with its pointed play (and display!) between Proud Mothers Mrs John Dashwood and Lady Middleton, who could ever accuse Selwyn of wrong-mindedness when he writes of children being for Austen “a source of comedy”.

A great gift, a new book, to have for a holiday weekend. I know what I will be ‘laboring’ over.

BTW: To read my review of Jones, Jane Austen and Marriage click here.

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