The Real Persuasion

May 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm (diaries, jane austen, news, people) (, , , )

Spent a little time in the local Barnes & Noble yesterday. Found two books that were of GREAT interest due to their topics (both were biographies of British women); but both became “maybe I’ll find them in the library?” after reading reviews. One – and I must confess, the one I thought most likely to be purchased – exhibits such an annoying writing style, that I rather prefer to revert to an old biography instead. Or, the lady’s letters. Both subjects were QUITE known for the high caliber of their writing….

But it was in looking up customer reviews that I found the soon-to-be released (July in the UK; November in the US) Amberley publication that should hold its interest: The Real Persuasion: An Intimate Portrait of a Real-Life Austen Heroine, by Peter James Bowman.

I’m less intrigued by parallels with Austen’s Anne Elliot of Kellynch Hall that Bowman promises to tease out, than with learning more about his diarist and letter writer Katherine Bisshopp. Thank goodness for the unusual spelling… I think I found some of his source material, thanks to The Diary Junction. According to this, born in 1791, Katherine’s diaries run from 1808 until 1834.

Even MORE intriguing now that I see her married name. Lady Pechell, Katherine’s future mother-in-law, actually turns up in diaries _I_ have access to. As do many other Pechells, including Capt and Mrs. Pechell.

And EVEN MORE intriguing once I look at a Pechell family genealogy published in the 1840s: there is a connection to Berkhamstead (which comes into play for the Two Teens in the Time of Austen with Sir John Culme-Seymour); a connection to the Smiths of Ashlyns Hall (Tring Park neighbors of Mamma Smith, Emma & Edward Austen); and a connection to the Thoyts of Sulhamstead House (the very estate that comes into the Wilder family).

I couldn’t get much closer to home, if I tried.

Real Persuasion_Bowman

So what is The Real Persuasion about?

According to the Amberley website, “Her father is a vain, foolish baronet, obsessed with his lineage but forced to quit his ancestral seat as a result of his own improvidence. Her sister is a fretful invalid with a good-natured husband and two disobedient sons. She herself falls in love with a handsome naval officer, and he with her, but his income and prospects are judged inadequate by her proud family. Heartbroken, the lovers part: he goes to sea while she leads a forlorn life at home. Years later he returns, having made a fortune in prize money, and after further misunderstandings he claims as his bride the woman he has never ceased to love“.

What intrigues me, though:

Using the sisters’ letters and journals, as well as other family correspondence, Peter James Bowman paints an intimate picture of life in a Regency family, and looks at the remarkable parallels between the true story of the Bisshopps and the fictional narrative of Jane Austen’s final novel. Whether their subject is daily life at the Bisshopps’ family seat of Parham; the social round in London, Brighton and elsewhere; or Katherine’s eleven-year courtship with George Pechell, the writers of these hitherto unpublished documents are brought to life through their own unaffected language, charmingly evocative of its time, and the author’s engaging insight into life in Jane Austen’s“.

Weighing in at 336 pages, Bowman has pages enough to expound upon, and hopefully expends more time on, the fascinating Bisshopps and Pechells, than on finding parallels to Austen’s novel, Persuasion. After all, Austen died in 1817 and the Pechells didn’t marry until 1826. As mentioned with the Hicks-Beach diary, “few will have heard of … but attach the name ‘Jane Austen’….” We shall see, once the book is released. For now, at least, I’m eagerly awaiting its release.

In the meanwhile, readers can dip into Bowman’s earlier biography, The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England – which tells the story of Prince Pückler-Muskau, who wrote of the Ladies of Llangollen as “The two most celebrated virgins in Europe”.

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