Sydney Smith’s Blue Plaque at York

June 21, 2020 at 10:35 pm (books, people, places) (, , )

sydney smith blue plaque

The Blue Plaque scheme of the United Kingdom brings the homes and haunts of the “famous” to the present-day masses. This April 2019 ceremony unveiled the Blue Plaque for the Rev. Sydney Smith at More House, Heslington, York. Known for his wicked wit, Sydney Smith supplies incisive reading to those lucky enough to grab any of the books based on his letters and published writing.

While awaiting the launch of the *new* website for the Sydney Smith Association, I was pleased to find this lengthy write-up for this dedication.

More House now houses the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of York. It was Sydney Smith’s vicarage from 1809 to 1814. Smith is connected to the Beach family, neighbors to Jane Austen’s family; the writer may have met Smith in Bath – but more on that story later!

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Art and Artifact in Austen

May 3, 2020 at 10:32 am (books, history, jane austen) (, , )

A new book, based on a SUNY-Plattsburgh Conference entitled, Jane Austen and The Arts: A Bicentenary Conference, which took place 23-25 Marcy 2017. I remember it being rather cold and even snowy up here, especially whenever I ferried across Lake Champlain to reach upstate New York. “Jane” always does seem to bring out the extremes of our Vermont weather in March….

Art-Artifact in Austen

Editor Anna Battigelli, the conference organizer, has included articles presented in 2017, as well as some c”omplimentary material, covering all aspects of “art” in Jane Austen’s writing and life.

I well remember this three-day conference. It remains *special* for several reasons: the size was perfect – the enthusiasm high – the scholarship thought-provoking. A highlight was the song cycle “Marianne Dashwood: Songs of Love and Misery“, an original piece commissioned and sung by Meaghan Martin (Douglas Sumi, piano). No CD with the book, I’m afraid! But a peek at the table of contents will give indication of the wealth of topics between the covers:

  • “Portraiture as Misrepresentation in the Novels and Early Writings of Jane Austen” (Peter Sabor)
  • “Jane Austen’s ‘Artless’ Heroines: Catherine Morland and Fanny Price” (Elaine Bander)
  • “Legal Arts and Artifacts in Jane Austen’s Persuasion” (Nancy E. Johnson)
  • “Jane Austen and the Theatre? Perhaps Not So Much” (Deborah C. Payne)
  • “Everything is Beautiful: Jane Austen at the Ballet” (Cheryl A. Wilson)
  • “Jane Austen, Marginalia, and Book Culture” (Marilyn Francus)
  • “Gender and Things in Austen and Pope” (Barbara M. Benedict)
  • “ ‘A Very Pretty Amber Cross’: Material Sources of Elegance in Mansfield Park” (Natasha Duquette)
  • “Religious Views: English Abbeys in Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Emma” (Tonya J. Moutray)
  • “Intimate Portraiture and the Accomplished Woman Artist in Emma (Juliette Wells)
  • “‘Is she Musical?’ Players and Nonplayers in Austen’s Fiction” (Linda Zionkowski and Miriam Hart)
  • “What Jane Saw—in Henrietta Street” (Jocelyn Harris)

You can read the “Introduction: The Intimate Ironies of Jane Austen’s Arts and Artifacts” online, when you click on “Look Inside”. I look forward to reliving some *warm* memories!

 

 

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“I felt an immediate bond with this diarist”

April 18, 2020 at 4:21 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, history) (, , , , )

As promised back in February, Margaret Bird’s monumental 4-volume “commentary and analysis” of The Diary of Mary Hardy, 1773-1809 is primed for release on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

I first found Mary Hardy following the 2013 publication of the full diary. Editor Margaret Bird now celebrates the completion of 32 years of work – on the four diary volumes (plus a single volume of entries not included) and now the four companions.

An excellent article on her passion, tasks, and triumphs is now online in the Eastern Daily Press article by Rowen Mantell, “Secrets of a Norfolk Diary revealed after almost 250 years.’ Says Bird of the diarist, “The best aspect for me is the way Mary Hardy depicts the social, economic and religious forces of the time.” Says Bird of her project, “I could see the diary’s significance just from short extracts.” Bird also comments on her affinity for and partnership (if I may call it such) with Mary Hardy: “I knew the church, the lanes, the waterways and the public houses familiar to her.” She confesses her “immediate bond” with Mary Hardy, and we get a fabulous snapshot of two pages from the diary itself.

As Mantell recognizes, “Margaret had no idea the project would take her more than three decades.” In the kind of dedication that _I_ can attest to, Margaret Bird has “given it [the Mary Hardy project] 10 to 15 hours a day, usually seven days a week, other than during our time on the boat on the Broads. When in Norfolk I carried out the fieldwork and worked in libraries and the record office.”

This link will give you several of the posts at Two Teens in the Time of Austen dedicated to Mary Hardy and Margaret Bird. I’ve also talked about the diaries in my blog Georgian Gems, Regency Reads & Victorian Voices, a site dedicated to letters and diaries – those primary materials that are so important to find and to celebrate.

mary-hardy vol 1 of the DIARIES

Read Margaret Bird’s latest Press Release, even with the disappointment of the 2020 Launch party (due to coronavirus closures and distancing), which would have taken place last evening, the article still ends with a “Clink” of champagne glasses! Scroll to the bottom of that page for information on both the DIARIES and the COMMENTARIES. The Companion volumes are ably described on this page, with links to further information on each volume.

A “Hardy” CONGRATULATIONS, Margaret, for your achievement!

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Travels with Lady Anne

April 11, 2020 at 3:45 pm (books, diaries, entertainment, travel) (, , , , )

Some time ago the mailbox contained the lovely biography of Lady Anne Barnard by Stephen Taylor entitled Defiance: in the U.S. the subtitle is “The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard“; in the U.K. its subtitle is the more enticing “The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard“. I love, too, the cover art – which includes a depiction by Lady Anne of life aboard ship.

Defiance_UK Defiance_US

But as my blog, Two Teens in the Time of Austen, deals so much with original letters and diaries, my main comments today will be about three volumes – available on the used book market – that have arrived in the past week or two.

Lady Anne Barnard diaries

These volumes, published by the Van Riebeeck Society, cover the the years this valiant, diary-keeping Scotswoman spent in South Africa. The dust jacket on the U.S. edition mistakes Lady Anne’s date of birth, which is 1750, making her nearing the age of 50 when she undertakes to follow her husband to the Cape of Good Hope.

The first volume (VRS second series No. 24) are Lady Anne’s own “revised” diaries, and are therefore called The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard, 1797-1798, edited by A.M. Lewin Robinson (with Margaret Lenta and Dorothy Driver), published in 1994 (for 1993). This is broken into three “journals,” which includes the sea journey (thus the drawing on the U.K. cover of Defiance); the “residence” ; and a tour into the “interior of Africa”. Extras include a literary assessment of Lady Anne’s work.

The two further volumes (VRS second series Nos. 29 & 30) publish her extant diaries: The Cape Diaries of Lady Anne Barnard, 1799-1800 (vols. 1 and 2), edited by Margaret Lenta and Basil Le Courdeur (1999 for 1998; and 1999). 

This far-away land is a fairly new departure for me — though for a later traveler to Africa, see the published diaries of Mabel Hall-Dare, a relation to the Smiths & Goslings.

I am looking forward to spending some down-time with the warm-hearted Lady Anne Barnard. Whether you start with Taylor’s biography, or end with it, the quartet makes for weeks of reading.

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My first blog post: Emma and Mary

April 2, 2020 at 2:10 pm (books, entertainment, introduction, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , , , )

My first post introduced Emma Smith and Mary Gosling, my TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN, on 1 June 2008. it was called:

WHY EMMA and MARY?

I called them ordinary English girls. And so they remain to me. And, yet, they are extraordinary in that they left personal writing – diaries and letters – behind. More extraordinary: so did one mother and several aunts; so did brothers, sisters, cousins (though SOME items I have not yet located). Most extraordinary, _I_ found these girls, and their families. And I located, on several continents, their literary (and artistic) remains.

Eliza-Chute-letters

Of course, over the years, I’ve blogged about some of those finds. I’ve also *dreamed* about locating other bits and pieces, certainly those bits that I know once existed, and hoping – always – for those pieces of their puzzle that I didn’t know were out there. Kind readers of TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN (thank you!!) have written to me over the years, some with a diary, others with a book, a couple with portraits, many with LETTERS, all of which I absolutely cherish. There’s no such thing as “enough”. One line in one letter potentially could ‘solve a mystery’. A relationship disclosed in a diary could point me to the next BIG STASH of stuff. And to be able to look at the faces of those who have penned their thoughts (and thereby penned their life stories): priceless.

Of course, the years of research also means that I’ve uncovered tidbits about MANY people – famous as well as extended family – with whom the Smiths and Goslings interacted. A VERY long list. Including members of the extended Austen – Austen Leigh – Knight – Lefroy families. Members of the British Royal Family. Many of these people I’ve listed on the CAN YOU HELP? page. Of course, since their names turn up in my research,  _I_ can help those looking for more information about people they research too.

I’m currently working on a book chapter, for the book “Women and Music in Georgian Britain,” edited by Miriam Hart and Linda Zionkowski. My chapter will cover the years 1815 to 1825, with a focus on Augusta and Emma Smith, the two eldest sisters. These were formative years for them; a decade of music masters, London concerts (the “London Season” was astoundingly busy), travel, and of friends with whom they ‘make music’. The decade culminates with a year-long trip to the Continent and stays in Rome and Naples. If the trip was a ‘high,’ of course, the return home – to the “same old way of life” – led to angst over hearing less and less from their new acquaintances left behind.

The possibility of a beau or two left behind was also of concern to the brothers and sisters who remained home for that year (June 1822-June 1823).

cover-twoteens

Several years ago I collected blog “essays” into a book-length Kindle: TWO TEENS IN THE TIME OF AUSTEN: RANDOM JOTTINGS, 2008-2013 – and that book is still available. Given the times we currently live in, it is readily available. All you need is your Amazon account. No mailman or -woman need be involved.

As new information slowed, so too did my dissemination of information. And so too did my enthusiasm for talking to people whom I couldn’t see. I wondered: Is Anybody there? / Does anybody care? I plugged away at transcribing, and searching & finding – but I didn’t talk about it as much. For later “finds” were hard-won, or they were family images, or they were items that I purchased and didn’t want to share.

Then came a recent Kindle sale. (Thank you, dear reader)

The picture’s linked to the US site; but there are other Amazons, including United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia.

The Kindle version includes a couple items not found on the blog; though disregard the “early” first chapter – the same thoughts are still extant, but the chapter has totally evolved. Every purchase helps support this research, so: THANK YOU!

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Dress in the Age of Jane Austen (review)

March 21, 2020 at 7:56 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

Hilary Davidson‘s exploration of Jane Austen’s silk pelisse fascinated (when first read in 2015) because of the thoroughness of its details. Her book, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, grew out of this initial research.

Upon receipt, even quickly flipping through the book, I could see this wasn’t the typical “soft soap” about Regency dress. It has text (plenty of it), political cartoons and portraits, and, most importantly, photographs of actual garments. I also liked the inherent progression indicated by the outline of chapters – Self, Home, Village, Country, City, etc. A VERY GOOD out-of-the-box reaction.

Davidson_Dress

First Impressions – a (long) preamble…

I quickly emailed a friend, and included a link to the google preview. We both had similar thoughts: ANY illustration on the cover but “Mrs. Q”!

  • “Mrs. Q” has been put forward as the work Austen referred to when commenting: “I was very well pleased (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy. …

Never judge a book by its cover, BUT the hackneyed illustration did put me off when Dress in the Age of Jane Austen turned up in a search for upcoming releases, months before receiving the book in the mail. There are so many books about “costume” and “Jane Austen.”

  • for instance: read an old review of Penelope Byrde‘s book (reprint edition)

My friend, looking at the text online, was the first to point out “the font is so pale, more suitable to captions than main text. Or is that my eyes??”

I had to reply, that it wasn’t her eyes playing tricks, or a bad scan into google books. When I first got the book, the evening was dark and the lights were on in the house, but I needed different light to read. Instead, I looked at the pretty pictures. The paper (very nice paper) is slightly shiny, which combined with the font’s SIZE and WEIGHT does not make this volume easy to read. My friend’s later response was, “The author hasn’t been well served by the book designer.”

Another blogger’s review (Austenprose) brought up the same difficulty: “My one disappointment will be minor to some and troublesome to others. The small text is difficult to read, amplified by the choice of swirly font in gray color. I struggled to read smoothly, even with glasses.”

Illustration captions are even smaller and greyer than the main text.

In early December I read some of the book. I wasn’t making much headway with the opening chapter (“Introduction”), but did get more out of the chapter (“Home”) on underwear.

***

A little ‘Sense’ please

Along with the font, my other complaint is the bare-bones information in the endnotes. Citations list author name and publication date, which means to really look up the source, the reader has to flip from the Notes to the Bibliography. Several times I had to flip from “Secondary” to “Primary” (or vice-versa), for the Bibliography is divided into two sections (no footer or header indicates the specific section).

For instance: pp. 102/103 had in the notes “Burney, 1905” [note 20; ‘Village’] and three notes later “Edgeworth, 1971”. The Burney is an early edition of Fanny Burney’s Diary and Letters; therefore, it is found in the Bibliography under ‘Primary’ Sources. The Edgeworth, also a ‘Primary’ source, is Christine Colvin’s edition of Maria Edgeworth, Letters from England, 1813-1844. I looked under secondary sources both times, because of the dates.

An intrusion on the reading experience.

Other than ease of accessibility (a 1905 book being online), I would have thought the authoritative Oxford University Press / McGill-Queens University Press series of Burney journals and letters preferable. I finally hunted down volume V of the 1905 edition (edited by Charlotte Barrett); the quote is on page 200 (not page 199, as cited), and, finally, the pertinent information: in a letter to Mrs Lock, dated 1793. BUT: in looking up this citation I now am bothered because the story is inaccurately retold…

This is Davidson (p. 102):

davidson p102 quote

Davidson’s 1905 source; Burney’s letter to Mrs. Lock (sic: Locke):

davidson p200 barrett quote

Miss Kitty and Mrs. Hamilton clearly are two different people!  They are ID’ed in Oxford’s Additional Journals and Letters (vol. 1), p. 60, as Mrs. Sarah Hamilton and her niece Miss Kitty Cooke, managers of Chessington Hall, Surrey, a boarding house. ‘Miss’ Kitty and ‘Mrs.’ Hamilton (both, unmarried ladies) were, in 1793, approximately 63- and 88-years-old. I had pictured the Captain following young Miss Kitty from room to room, when in actuality he followed the maid “too quick” and caught sight of the not-forewarned Mrs. Hamilton.

If such important, albeit slight, details got away from Davidson, I wonder about other statements, conclusions, and examples. Page 102 was picked at random, today, in an effort to finish this review today (21 March 2020). I wish I hadn’t unearthed this….

  • The same 1793 letter (snippet only) in Joyce Hemlow’s 1972 Clarendon Press edition, which I piece together and note that it is given the date 30 May 1793.

***

In need of some ‘Persuasion’

Davidson gives a LOT of information, but I don’t always find material well-presented. Sometimes a position is taken, but isn’t followed by explanation, enlargement, or argument/counter-argument. She moves on to another quote, another topic. I can’t call it going off on “tangents.” More, “Why include this here?”

For instance, Davidson talks about needing the services of a maid to make one’s dress “tight,” and includes a quote about the “looseness of … morning dress” when, at breakfast.

Davidson, p. 78:

davidson p79

I can see someone being “loose” in the Scarlett O’Hara corset sense, but I’m still unsure about being “tight.” I wanted more than just quote(s). After the novel heroine speaks of PINS — “I was again forced to comply, and stick pins into my cloaths.” — I hoped for answers. WHAT did Regency women DO with all those pins? My diarist Emma Smith (later Emma Austen Leigh) purchased many pincushions… I have images of women being as prickly as porcupines, done up with so many straight pins.

  • Regency Redingote” composed a lengthy discourse on pins – and, although it doesn’t clarify Davidson‘s commentary about being “tight” in one’s clothing, it does say what all those pins were used for during the Regency!

A stockingless, unbuttoned William Wordsworth creates its own, clear picture of a man’s “undress”; Miss Weeton, on the other hand, I determined to look up. I own the two-volume set (Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess), as well as the newer single-volume, Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller, by Alan Roby.

Miss Weeton had spent the NIGHT aboard ship. She had loosened garments because she slept in them. The quote continues, “I wrapped my coat round me, and threw my shawl over it; my hair uncombed, uncurled, my face wan, and eyes sunken. I presented no very beautiful picture.” Looking like something the cat dragged in, poor Miss Weeton needed to pass muster when asking for a room at an inn. Miss Weeton’s distress is missed; the poignancy of the original, lost. This reader became no more enlightened about Davidson’s point. The long communication was best presented by words in her first paragraph.

  • Re-reading these exacts, and comparing them, I’m confused: Did visitors wear “walking or visiting dresses” as mentioned on page 102, or were they in a state of “undress” when “paying morning visits,” as on page 78?

Another instance: In the chapter “Country,” which discusses outerwear and clothing adapted from the “field” or the “hunt,” there is, on the left-hand page, a full-page-wide (color) illustration of Alexander Carse’s “The Arrival of the Country Relations” (c1812). The text on the right-hand page (p. 145), referring to this, claims that the painting “contrasts two family groups, of urban and rural origins, through subtle clothing cues [endnote].” Davidson then quotes from a novel (Caroline Lismore).

I wanted to know more about the “subtle clothing cues”!

I looked up the citation – an author name and date; I looked up the Bibliography: a journal article…. I have no access to it.

Is the caption below the illustration meant to substitute for or enlarge upon the main text? “An elegant urban Edinburgh family welcomes relatives from the country. The differences in their styles of dress are subtle, but distinctly realized, the rural visitors favouring simpler, more covered clothing.

The directive of “look at this painting; see these clues” felt unfulfilled and under-developed.

  • Without seeing the SOURCE article, I can only theorize, from reading travel diaries, that “Covered” helped people stay warm, “Simpler” enabled them to shed road dust more easily; both may have benefited them at dubious coaching yards or in warding off highwaymen.

Davidson, sure and informative when discussing clothing styles, fabrics, construction, has a tendency to jump from quote to statement in a manner that did not always sweep this reader along. Often I found myself back-tracking, re-reading for something I might have missed.

Under the heading GETTING AND ALTERING CLOTHES (p. 116), the first paragraph brings up the following points:

  • clothes had a high valuation
  • clothes were “a considerable, infrequent investment” for the “middling and upper ranks”
  • clothes were planned and discussed (i.e., mentioned in letters)
  • garments were generally “bespoke”, but some were off-the-rack
  • towns and villages had tailors
  • for men who had “no woman to sew their linens,” ready-made or professionally-made articles “filled the gap”
  • a tailor from Preston, bankrupted in 1821, had an inventory of “645 garments and accessories, 219 were men’s shirts”
  • Women rarely undertook sewing “men’s outer clothing” because the skills required were not obtained by “sewing linens”
  • Mary Wordsworth, working on her husband’s “‘woolen waistcoat'” may have been “knitting or working on a flannel-type garment”
  • The Wordsworth women “spent a day” picking apart “his old coats for the tailor” (to serve as patterns for new garments).

There are so many topics within this single paragraph, many of which would have served the author well, if sorted out for more in-depth explanation – be it the cost of clothes (either through tailor/client records; or through criminal prosecution valuations); the use of tailors, seamstresses and others versus homemade; bespoke clothing versus the reuse of clothing (re-constructed by owner, as well as second-hand purchases) versus the good fit of a client’s well-worn piece (ie, used as patterns). Much outlined here does appear at greater length in various chapters. So why jumble, sentence upon sentence, everything in one paragraph? A red pencil, judicious rearrangement, and (self-)editing would have resolved many such annoyances.

A lack of argumentative development is especially true when a blanket historical statement is presented. If underlying, supportive facts are missing, such statements appear as generalizations, less ‘authoritative’ in tone, than the same statements supported and expanded upon.

Convoluted word order (clauses within clauses) would have benefited from being more carefully crafted: (p. 33) “Not only the bodies of Grant Tourists, but also print media – increasingly popular – disseminated ideas about classical form across Britain.” I know what the author wants to say, and means, but Davidson’s phrasing, in addition to the grey, swirly font, increased this reader’s frustration.

Long “lists,” like this on page 145, made my eyes skip lines:

“Farmers, ploughmen, carters, milkmaids, blacksmiths, beggars, ragmen, tinkers, pedlars, fishermen, thatchers, drovers, field hands, harvesters, millers, stone-cutters and -crushers, miners, coopers, masons, carpenters, chair-menders, joiners, fencers, cottagers, washerwomen and all the multitude of tradespeople…”

I usually give “less personal opinion” in a book review; there will be readers who find the authorial voice satisfactory, but I struggled, wishing for writing as engaging as the topic. Biographers sometimes pour between the covers every morsel of research unearthed, and I do wonder if the fractured flow I quibble over is a result of such “cramming.” Does it really matter what a street vendor cries out to attract customers?

If some of the verbiage had been cut, the font size could have been increased, and content and design would have united in a superior book. As it stands, it’s a bit of a Missed Opportunity. Wanting to be “all” to all comers and about all classes, from tinker to servant, from farm to manor, from city-dweller to court-regular, males and females, young and old, I do think Dress in the Age of Jane Austen an ambitious attempt. Who am I to criticize? It has so much going for it, that the pluses should outweigh the minuses.

If historical costume at all interests you, you might wish to put this book on your radar. Yale presents a 16-second “introduction”, but the best is the Google preview. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion is a sumptuous book, on a fascinating topic, filled with valuable information. It covers a broad geography and moves from intimate undergarments to all-weather outerwear. The Annie Burr Lewis Fund probably helped fund publication fees associated with the multitudinous illustrations, as well as the full-color printing. A suggested retail of US$40, Amazon currently sells it for $27 and change, which is a hardcover bargain.

A good book to ‘dip into’, I tried reading it cover-to-cover, which only increased the stress of articulating my negative thoughts about it. Very useful appendices (Austen family tree and list of characters for each novel plus two fragments, for those without other resources or prior knowledge); a stylistic Timeline of women’s gowns; a glossary. The index is almost too detailed – many entries have only one page number; for instance, I don’t foresee a need to look up hairstyle, blond. Austen’s characters should have been indexed on the page that outlines them.

Blonde, by the way, leads the reader to “Mrs. Q,” which cycles us back to the beginning of this far too long review.

three-and-a-half slightly leaking inkwells

 

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Amelia Rauser’s The Age of Undress

March 3, 2020 at 9:12 am (books, entertainment, fashion, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

In yesterday’s mail, a new book that will hit stores on St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2020: The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s, by Amelia Rauser (Yale University Press).

Age of Undress216 pages; 180 color illustrations

We’ve all seen the sheer muslin gowns – marveled over the audacity of such ‘nakedness’ – and laughed at the “cartoons” Gillray, Cruickshank, or Dent produced that ridiculed the latest fashion extreme. Rauser brings together portraits and sculpture, cartoons and fashion plates to pose questions and reveal answers about the relationship between Neoclassicism, Hellenistic ideals of the sculpted female form, and fashion trends that quickly surged (and subsided) in such fashion-forward places as Naples, Paris, and London, in the 1790s.

Very welcome is the concentration on a small timeline, an in-depth exploration of clothing seen (and probably worn) by the mothers and maternal aunts of my diarists, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith (also known by their married names: Lady Smith and Emma Austen Leigh), my Two Teens in the Time of Austen. This “parent generation,” the four Erle Stoke Sisters and their friends, were single women and young marrieds in the very time period Rauser discusses.

A full review in the near future.

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Austen Leigh’s Memoir in Woolfs’ Library

February 25, 2020 at 8:56 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, people) (, , )

Given the chapter on Virginia Woolf in the book Square Haunting [see previous post], it was a *thrill* to find this “Short Title Catalog” of books in the Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

Square Haunting

The thrill comes from seeing so many Jane Austen-related titles, including a 1926 “review copy” of Chapman’s edition of James Edward Austen Leigh‘s A Memoir of Jane Austen.

The Austen titles become quite the revelation. The list has several copies of Pride and Prejudice; also some tantalizing early 20th-century publications, like “Five Letters from Jane Austen to her Niece Fanny Knight” (1924); “Two Chapters of Persuasion … with a Facsimile” (1926) [one of the two copies on handmade paper]; “Volume the First” (1933); and even “Lady Susan” (1925).

Of course, the whole list of the Woolfs’ library is what gives a great deal of food for thought. Someone’s “library” drops so many clues about the interests of that person.

 

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Mary Hardy Commentaries – 2020 release date

February 11, 2020 at 9:56 am (books, diaries, history, news, people) (, , , )

mary-hardy

The Diary of Mary Hardy, covering the years 1773-1809, has been edited by Margaret Bird and published in four volumes (plus a “Remaining” volume). Burnham Press has announced the four companion volumes of commentary, under the title MARY HARDY AND HER WORLD, is to be released on 23 April 2020.

Mary Hardy and Her World offers more than 3000 pages (not including their indexes!) and covers topics relevant to the main diaries. See the Burnham Press for information on each volume:

Mary Hardy and Her World comprise the following:

The commentary will be available as a set or individually (as are the main Mary Hardy Diary volumes). The Burnham Press homepage has cover images of all Mary Hardy volumes.

You can keep up with the “Mary Hardy” news on this page.

To read more about Margaret Bird, the editor of the diary / author of the commentaries.

To read a sample of life as lived by Mary Hardy and her family, see Margaret Bird’s article “Supplying the Beer: Life on the road in late-eighteenth-century Norfolk” (The Local Historian – Journal of the British Association for Local History) [Oct, 2015]

Margaret Bird joined me in “conversation” in the early days of this blog, soon after publication of the Mary Hardy Diaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two new biographies

January 22, 2020 at 4:18 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

I am always thrilled to find biographies that concentrate on women. These two (one from mid-2019 and one just released – in Britain – January 2020) center on four sisters, in one case, and, in the other case, five women writers between the wars who lived in Mecklenburgh Square (Bloomsbury, London).

Noble Savages

Sarah Watling’s Noble Savages: The Olivier Sisters – Four Lives in Seven Fragments grabbed my attention from page one: The opening introduction describes a 1962 meeting between Noel Oliver (the youngest sister) and an intent Rupert Brooke biographer, Christopher Hassell. What did Hassell hanker after? Noel Olivier’s letters from Brooke, which, in nearly fifty years, she had not offered up to ANY writer on Brooke.

They were private, and kept until after Noel Olivier’s death; subsequent publication (in 1991) was by a grand-daughter.

I can see BOTH sides…

Noel’s property was Noel’s property; why should she have to yield it up to anyone, especially knowing it would be impossible to refuse publication once the letters got into Hassell’s hands.

And yet, to a researcher, to _know_ that something MORE exists, and to have no access to even a glimpse of it, is an exquisite torment.

It was a situation even James Edward Austen Leigh went through, when letters his aunt Cassandra Austen had saved (written to her by her sister Jane Austen – and given to a niece), could no longer be located. And no one else was offering up their Jane Austen memorabilia, beyond his own two sisters (Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen). Edward’s Memoir of Jane Austen was published without accessing at least two batches of letters (one of which ceased to exist about this time); he died before his cousin’s son published Jane Austen’s Letters.

Square Haunting

Francesca Wade’s biography Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars features one of my all-time favorite authors: Dorothy L. Sayers. The five women sharing Mecklenburgh Square as an address (not necessarily at the same time) include poet H.D.; Jane Harrison; Eileen Power; and Virginia Woolf. The book opens with the 1940 bombing of the area. As someone who works with diaries, it was an absolute *thrill* to read that Woolf dug out her diaries (evidently uninjured) from the rubble of her apartment.

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