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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Metropolitan Opera (NYC) nightly streams

March 23, 2020 at 6:00 pm (entertainment, news) (, , , )

The Met

From the vaults of the Metropolitan Live in HD broadcasts come NIGHTLY Met Opera streams. Tonight (beginning 7:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time in the US) is TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, starting off a week of Wagner. New opera every day at the same time; each available for 23 hours.

Homebound opera-lovers take note!

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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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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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Sanditon purloins “Lord Compton” portrait

January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Last night, the heroine of ITV’s Sanditon Charlotte Heywood (and viewers peeking over her shoulder) first encounter love interest Sidney Parker by gazing upon this portrait:

Sanditon

I had to do a double-take!

This isn’t any fictional character – it’s Spencer, Lord Compton (Emma’s cousin).

This well-known portrait that has already graced the cover of a Georgette Heyer novel. Now it’s purloined for the Andrew Davies television series.

You judge the similarities for yourself:

Spencer-Sidney Sanditon

 

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“Saving Brinton” – a delight to watch

December 18, 2019 at 12:53 pm (entertainment, history) (, , , )

The film Saving Brinton ran last night (18 Dec 2019) on Vermont Public Television. I was clicking channel after channel, waiting for commercials to be done, when I came upon it – paused – and stayed. What a delight to watch!

At the heart are the Brintons – husband and wife Frank and Indiana Brinton – who were involved in a number of concerns, including early (late 19th and early 20th century) Silent-era FILM exhibition. At the heart, also, and what grabbed my attention, is the collector / saver of the Brinton treasure trove, Michael Zahs.

Saving Brinton

The vintage films are FASCINATING – and you can find more about them online, thanks to the University of Iowa Libraries. With their use of astonishing film techniques (no ‘CGI’) and stunningly-vivid hand-coloring (done, of course, frame-by-frame), the films are indeed treasures from the vaults of early cinematography.

A finding aid (same link, above) will help those interested in learning more about the overall collection. And the Brinton collection IS unique – as it includes original equipment, handbills, glass slides, memorabilia, diaries and press clippings. Estimated at 9,000 items, at one point in the documentary, a reporter (?) asks, How many items; and either mishears or doesn’t take in that Zahs says “thousands”. I found myself nodding in agreement when the reporter leaves, and Zahs mutters, Thought he’d stay longer. Me, too!

Which is why I want more about Michael Zahs, as well as the collection! His history with the items is touched upon very lightly, but what resonated with me is how many YEARS went by where he seemed the only one interested in what he was preserving. Saving Brinton shows how that became no longer the case, with visits to professors, preservationists, even the Library of Congress; and finally enthusiastic audience members sitting in Bologna’s city square and in the World’s Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater, “The State Theater,” in Washington, Iowa.

One should never discount the filmmakers – Tommy Haines, John Richard, and Andrew Sherburne. Their interest in bringing the Brintons & Zahses to a wider audience must be warmly applauded.

As someone with my own (minor, in comparison) project, it is the interest of others giving a tremendous BOOST to Zahs that offered the most compellingly-heartfelt moments. There are always cinephiles in awe over early films; but to have – finally – a home for this collection at the University of Iowa, felt like vindication of Zahs’ dedication over (now nearly) forty years. His wife, too, putting up with the saving and hoarding (let’s face it…) that goes along with collecting. The ‘secret history of cinema,’ as one review claimed for Saving Brinton, the documentary also touches upon the ‘secret history of saving’. Sometimes it only takes one person, picking up the baton from another one person in the past, to ignite a passion in others. “Doesn’t really interest anybody but me” is something we all can say about our “object” of a passion. It sure is nice to come across other like-minded people, isn’t it?

footnote: I’ve just realized (reading a review of the 2018 theatrical release) that Saving Brunton is 90-minutes in length. The PBS series, America Reframed, has evidently edited this down to 55 minutes. Cutting a third is a disservice to this film. It may explain why I thought I had “missed things” by momentary inattention. Vimeo (stream or download) or Amazon (disc or stream) offer the full “directors’ cut” of the documentary. Note the Amazon reviewer who says “it’s at least 30 minutes too long”… I’d like to be able to judge for myself.
An interesting read is the original Kickstarter campaign for Saving Brinton.

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New ‘Jane Austen’ books coming

May 31, 2019 at 10:41 am (entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , )

I am looking forward to seeing Helen Amy’s dual biography of Cassandra and Jane Austen, The Austen Girls (Amberley; release in June in the UK; November in US), and from time to time I actively search for ‘Austen’ in forthcoming books – to see what else I can look forward to in the further future.

TODAY I hit upon some VERY interesting forthcoming books!

This “searching” can be a bit of a crap shoot – too many Austen reprints; Austen novels reworked; Austen mysteries; Austen fantasies. My “Jane Austen” is the Chapman third edition, a nice leather-bound set [SEE them here] obtained at an eBay auction. For sentimental reasons, I’ve kept my first omnibus edition (which probably does have mistakes in the text). Most “knock offs” are just not my cup of tea. I really am interested in rigorous literary or biography texts.

The first I found is a short wait. Rory Muir, whose MONUMENTAL two-volume LIFE OF WELLINGTON is a newer purchase. Wellington turns up in my research, but I am not one to read in-depth about ‘war.’ After I found Muir’s exceptionally useful online “Commentary” for the books, I took vol. 1 out of the local university library (they did not purchase vol. 2), then bought both volumes. The commentaries are comprised of information which did NOT make the books, and are about as voluminous as the volumes themselves! Sorted by chapter (also searchable; AND downloadable in full), they are a _must_ for Wellington fans.

So it was with a bit of surprise, and true pleasure too, that his latest book turned up in my ‘Austen’ search, due to the subtitle: Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England (Yale; release in the UK in August; in US in September).

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune

A quick blurb says of the plot: “A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons – men of good family but small fortune.” My own research encompasses “eldest sons,” “younger sons,” even “ONLY sons” (I’m especially thinking of James Edward Austen, Emma’s husband).

Even more “hmmm…” is the intriguing idea of a biography of Anne Lefroy. Jane Austen’s Inspiration: Beloved Friend Anne Lefroy by Judith Stove (Pen & Sword History) is due in September (US release date; UK – revised release date: end July).

Anne Lefroy

As it happens, I have recently been reading Helen Lefroy‘s excellent, edited volume The Letters of Mrs. Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, and I’ve especially enjoyed the earliest letters that are rather diary-like in their recording of her day. (Read my review of Helen Lefroy’s book on JASNA’s website.)

I recently read a fascinating article by Janine Barchas; her latest book – due in October (Johns Hopkins University Press) – is The Lost Books of Jane  Austen.

Lost Books of Jane Austen

A unique field of study, the article serves as a preview of how research can turn a researcher into playing detective. Read the article yourself and you’ll be bitten by the bug.

I will also comment here (briefly) about the grave disservice done to the reading public by certain academic publishers when they price texts out of the range of most people’s wallets. [NB: none of the above are more costly than the average hardcover.] I mean, unless I _adore_ a book – there isn’t one I’d spend over $100 to read, no matter the subject matter – and there are a couple books that “if not for cost” would be of interest (if lucky: library; if not: used book market; if out of luck totally: no book). PLUS: I do remember an interesting subject ill-served by a horribly executed text (dry-dry-dry; and one of the campus’ professors, who taught the subject area, agreed with me…), that eighteen years ago was $$$$. Prices have only skyrocketed – and you can’t tell me that the authors get much in return (but that is a whole other blog post). “Print-on-demand,” in this scenario, IS a very worthwhile scheme; I applaud them. (Yet if Lulu can print a book on demand that retails for $40…)

During past similar searches, I found The Real Persuasion (Peter James Bowman) [I love his The Fortune Hunter: A German Prince in Regency England] and Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister (Sheila Johnson Kindred) [now out in paperback].

I will also mention, though it’s a resource I take too little advantage of, the New Releases page on Regency Explorer (the site set-up must have changed slightly; now: one post, newest monthly releases at the top).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paper Conundrums

May 30, 2019 at 9:01 am (entertainment, history, research) (, , , , )

After reading about Karen Ievers’ Photo Album (once belonging to Lord George Hill) having some bound-in “manuscript” pages, I thought about all the paper bits I have seen.

It’s not usual for “paper” to be reused. As well as, of course, collected. Countless letters no longer exist, while their address panels were saved (often cut out). These are typically franked pieces, collected for their “signatures.” The *hard part* is when writing from the letter appears on the backside! Potentially “valuable” pieces of evidence, just gone.

Augusta Smith, Emma’s sister, was a talented artist. At least in her early years (ie, during the late 1810s), her portraits were often done on pieces of paper quite evidently cut out from programmes obtained at the Ancient Concerts. Augusta and Mamma attended the Antient Music concerts faithfully every week during the season.

(Full concert programmes have only been seen by me as bound sets, online on books.google)

Some of those pasted down squares show the portrait VERY CLOSE to the text of that evening’s performance – as if Augusta had taken her pencil from her reticle and sketched while she listened!

Others, although pasted down, you can see the heavily-imprinted text from the backside, as in the subscribers’ list below.

Here, the Goslings – mother, father and the two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary) – are found in the list of subscribers for 1823 (the above link):

goslings1823

The interesting thing about Augusta’s portraits is seeing the wealth of music offered in an evening. All the choruses, songs, glees, and concerti. These were the golden days of the Knyvetts, Miss Travis, and Miss Stephens, names which turn up in the Smiths’ diaries and correspondence with great regularity.

What I discovered recently (to my dismay) is that old letters could also be used for SILHOUETTE CUT OUTS. Turning one such cut out over, I could just detect handwrting. Old paper tends to be stiff, and obviously made a useful item to pillage when one ran out of silhouette paper. But like the franked letters above, and even the Antient Music programmes, a loss to posterity of the original.

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