Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

June 29, 2015 at 11:36 pm (books, entertainment) (, , , )

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

OMGosh…

Am on a Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell high. Just watched the last (of 7) episode this EVENING. And finished the book this MORNING.

Shouldn’t have done that. Yet – episodes disappear quickly from our favorite video site (I don’t live in the UK), and don’t subscribe to cable. So what else was a girl to do?!?

LOVED this series. And, at the beginning, it finally induced me to take off the book shelf my first-edition copy of the book. Yeah, the _one_ thing I ever got in on at the ground floor. And the one book I even bought someone as a gift, rather than simply recommending it. The novel wasn’t for everyone – at the time (back in 2004), readers seemed to exist in two separate camps: those who loved the book and those who tossed it to one side in frustration.

How well I remember those days! Susanna Clarke joined readers (via Barnes and Noble) online for discussions…  I drove miles and miles to bookstores and libraries, trying to get copies of all of Clarke’s earlier short stories…  Adored her short story about Wellington (on her website back then), and was crazy to locate her contribution to The New York Times, a short about Mary Queen of Scots…  Then out came The Ladies of Grace Adieu – the collected shorts.

The one thing that struck me this morning, was how satisfying the novel’s end felt – this time. Back in 2004, I felt lost in all the “magic” that took place towards the end, and missed the “comedy” that rolled off the pages in the earlier sections. Was it that “seeing” the characters come to life (via BBC), I could now envision them and cared more about them? I do recall reading the last few hundred pages over a l-o-n-g train journey (more than 8 hours), between Vermont and Maryland. It IS a lot of “magic” to take in all in one sitting. Yet the book’s narrative is so compelling! A true “page-turner”. But I also think a lot has happened to me – as a reader; as someone interested in the Regency period; as someone working on her own decade-long project. And there’s that subtle connection to Jane Austen’s novels (here, one needs to refer to the book and not the mini-series for Mr Lascelles’ back-story).

So when the last page turned, and the cover closed – I was satisfied with the image I (as reader) left with.

As an addendum, I invite you to read Jo Walton’s post, as it wonders some “whys” about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Den of Geek’s review (spoilers!!) of the last episode and an overall reception to the mini-series, both by Louisa Mellor. And view artist Redreh’s envisionings of the characters. I, for one, can’t wait for August and the US release of the series on DVD. Hope they PACK it with “behind the scenes” info and extras!! Strong adaptation of an outstanding novel.

JS_MN2

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The Duchess of Richmond’s Waterloo Ball

June 14, 2015 at 7:38 pm (entertainment) (, )

After reading about Jane Austen’s pelisse, in looking for an article listed in Davidson’s bibliography and notes, I stumbled upon this website

duchess of richmonds ball

discussing a CURRENT recreation of the Waterloo Ball of 1815. In blogging about the Pelisse, and putting off the ball a day – I am too late! for it took place yesterday.

I will have to consult some diaries – see if ANYone my Smiths & Goslings knew attended…

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Recreating Austen’s Silk Pelisse

June 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm (fashion, history, jane austen, news, research) (, , , )

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve read as fascinating an article as Hilary Davidson’s “Reconstructing Jane Austen’s Silk Pelisse, 1812-1814” (available thru her Academia.edu account)

Originally published in Costume (vol. 49, no. 2, 2015), her uploaded articles includes all the illustrations under discussion in the article, and is a thorough piece of investigative writing. Taking into consideration not only the Jane Austen provenance (a indelicately-worded letter helped cast the shadow…), but also insights into construction and sewing, cost and “fashion”, the article should interest readers who want more information on

  • Jane Austen
  • Regency fashion
  • English fashion & textiles
  • costume construction
  • conservation & recreation strategies for museum pieces

And a TON of other topics.  In short, HIGHLY recommended!

fashion 1819

Seen only in photographs, I’ve never been super impressed with the Austen garment. After reading about it in a fair amount of depth – it perhaps does suffer “age and infirmity”. It just looks so crumpled.

Their reproduction, reinstating some closures the original must have had (but doesn’t any more), has a much greater stiffness – and is well served by a tall, exceptionally-thin young woman.

The Austen Pelisse is considered in conjunction with several theoretical and actual garments – including Barbara Johnson’s excellent “book” of fabrics and fashions (reproduced in commercial book form as A Lady of Fashion) and a lovely garment from the V&A.

_I_ was quite surprised to see that the original garment has been sewn using “nine stitches to the inch” – which seemed a surprisingly low number (when hand-quilting and piecing is considered…; a reason I used to stay away from hand-sewing or quilting!).

And how interesting to read about the shift in costs: in Austen’s day the labor was nothing… nowadays a greater consideration. But, read the chart (p. 217) and you will see along with me how pitiful the wages of someone making less than 8 shillings! (For, unless you owned the business, the money did not go solely to the sewer — rather like a car mechanic today [ie, expensive labor rates!].) £300 was the labor cost for their replica. A far cry from the 2008 “equivalent” of 8 shillings: £20.

austen pelisse

I don’t know what else to say about this incredibly-informative article – other than: READ IT for yourself.

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Belated Birthday Greetings: Hugh Laurie

June 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm (british royalty, entertainment) (, , )

Missed it by one day (June 11th):

blackadder

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Is Anybody There???

June 11, 2015 at 9:37 am (history, news, research) (, , )

Have been transcribing letters – little “holes” in the narratives of Sir Charles Joshua Smith, for one. The last letter of his transcribed, late last night, is a short one to “Aunt” (Judith Smith, Charles Smith senior’s only remaining sister). Charles is thanking her for the gift of a pencil (of all things!). Could it be a birthday gift? He was born at the end of May. If so, which birthday? The letter is undated.

Only one postal mark and that for PLACE (Chigwell) rather than a date (though a postal historian might be able to say “only in use during the years blah-to-blah”). My gut tells me it is earlier rather than later. Why? Because it’s address to Miss J. Smith / The Grove / Stratford rather than Mrs. J. Smith / Stratford / Essex – like a couple of later letters that I CAN date.

That’s my theory, anyway… (hint: Aunt never married, but at some point, like Cassandra Austen, took on “brevet rank” [to use Cassandra’s words].)

One other letter, newly transcribed (for I had got some images last December thanks to Emily), is precious: Charles’ reactions to the newly-announced engagement of Emma with Edward Austen!!

Austen_Emma

It’s tough – I read letters that delicately sprinkle FABULOUS news, like a light, refreshing summer shower. I put an un-ID’ed face next to one that HAS its identification and find more images of the same person, sometimes (thank, you, God) throughout a lifetime. Looking through pictures last night, it DAWNED on me: “Addie and Johnson” wasn’t a photography of Adela Smith with a child named Johnson; ADDIE WAS THE CHILD! and “Johnson” the nursemaid! So I had therefore pictures of Addie from about the age of 3 and up.

Wunderbar!

Except: WHO is around to share my excitement? It’s tough.

And that is where the “title” of this blog comes into play.

Most of my “contacts” are in England; I am in New England. People from work never write. My mother has sighed and rolled the eyes enough that I no longer tell her my finds, little or BIG. My father has taken to constantly asking, “Where the Book?” (Got three chapters, Daddy, but also a LOT of letters to go through.)

Chatting on Sunday (my talk for JASNA-Vermont, on Emma’s Aunt Emma), with Kirk – he mentioned enjoying my blog! I was honest: Truly, (I said), I’m never sure…

And he asked, “Have you ever heard 1776?”

I knew it WAS a film, but one I’ve never seen; never seen it on stage either. And Kirk then told me something which niggled at me the rest of the evening, until I looked it up (thank, you, YouTube!) next morning. “Is Anybody There?” sings John Adams, “Does anybody Care? Does anybody see what I see??” A sobering series of thoughts. Listen for yourself, to singer Randal Keith.

is anybody

Randal Keith

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Miss Mary A. Leigh

June 10, 2015 at 2:22 pm (news, people, portraits and paintings)

TWO years ago – and I *finally* got CONFIRMATION => in the shape of a companion photo, in an ALBUM, with an ID.

IT’S HER!!!!

Two Teens in the Time of Austen

mary augusta austen leighs

As mentioned a few days ago, Paul Frecker’s website includes a photo by Camille Silvy of a woman identified as “Miss Mary A. Leigh” — my immediate thought: Mary Augusta Austen Leigh?

Truthfully: I just don’t know!

On the left is Frecker’s sitter, ID’ed as sitting number 10,508 taking place on 10 July 1862 – which puts her in Silvy’s Daybook 8. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive “gallery” of the Daybooks. They, however, are not exceptionally enlightening on this young lady.

Mary Augusta Austen Leigh (right) was a younger daughter of Emma Smith and Edward Austen Leigh (see their portraits); she was born on 2 February 1838, her aunt Mary’s 38th birthday! It is a curious fact that Emma’s diaries all have pages cut out whenever she delivers a child. 1838 is no different. These pages are missing, and a small notation in pencil “2d Mary Augusta…

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Macklin & Aunt Emma

June 8, 2015 at 12:19 pm (books, diaries, history, jane austen, jasna, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

I want to thank JASNA-Vermont for inviting me to speak at their June gathering yesterday – and for dipping with me in the waters of RESEARCH into the family of the Austens. So little time, so MUCH information! My illustrated talk entitled “The Mystery of Emma Austen’s Aunt Emma” was an “interactive” presentation – and people really spoke up, made observations, added comments, asked questions. It was GREAT! Later, one audience member even told me my “research reads like a thrilling mystery!” Heartening words, indeed. No one can ever guess the “desert” a writer *feels* to be stranded in, when the research is this intensive and taking years to produce something substantive.

pen and letters

I figure I’m closing in on a THOUSAND letters and several HUNDRED diaries – and more turns up. I just returned (after midnight, last friday…) from a research jaunt to New York City.

Very helpful staff at NYU, where I spent most of the day, every day, Monday through Friday morning. And I am just *bowled over* by the staff of the Morgan Library – from the security guide near the door, to the gentleman who brought me up to the third floor reading room; and the library people – especially the ladies in the reading room = helpful – chatty – friendly. Just an exceptionally pleasant experience. Pity I ran out of time. BUT: I saw my LONG-AWAITED letter from Humphry Repton to Papa Smith => an even BETTER read than I had hoped. Repton was thanking Papa for paying him…, but also writing in SUCH a friendly manner, and even including Mamma in his thoughts. Pure GOLD!

repton

Now if only his RED BOOK for Suttons would turn up!

Then I turned my eyes to the special editions of Walter Scott works. My memory is that they were presented — by Compton and his sister Lady Elizabeth — to LORD Northampton; but I swear at least one of the volumes said LADY Northampton! Will have to revisit the Morgan’s catalogue, and also my notes. AND revisit the Morgan – for I ran out of time before I ran out of volumes.

The Scott works were not only specially bound for the Marquess / Marchioness, they included pen and ink drawings done by Lord Compton – his fiancée and then wife Margaret Maclean Clephane / Lady Compton – and Lady Elizabeth Compton. One volume, The Lady of Lake, included a “letter” (for lack of a better description) in which Compton (I think it was his handwriting) outlined ALL the drawings – and also who they were drawn by, as well as their source (if applicable). Imagine my SURPRISE to see that THREE were listed to have as a source “William Gosling, Esq”!!!

At first, glancing at the paper, I thought it said it INCLUDED drawings by William Gosling. ARGH! that that was NOT the case. But: this helps with a mini-mystery about William (described as “the banker of Fleet Street” in the citation I unearthed) drawing STOWE in circa 1814. These volumes for the Northamptons are of a similar period, and just the fact that the Compton children included the word “esquire” in his name indicates to me that they are saying drawings of the father rather than William Ellis Gosling, the son (though William Ellis Gosling of an age with Compton & Elizabeth, he was still at College in 1814).

The especially LOVED to illustrate Lake Katrine!

Lady of Lake

In one short word: WOW! is all I can say about having another clue that William Gosling (Mary’s Papa) was an accomplished artist – for if he was mediocre, the Comptons would not have wanted to “copy” his work, surely. And their own work is…. ASTOUNDING! such meticulous strokes; interesting compositions; accurate representation of things like crumbling castles.

I should perhaps remind readers that Margaret, Lady Compton, was a ward (along with her two younger sisters – altogether often referred to as the Clephane Sisters of Torloisk) of Walter Scott. Even Edward Austen Leigh adored the works of Sir Walter.

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