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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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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Women’s History 2020

March 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm (history, news, people, research) (, )

This month, the U.S. celebrates WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – touching on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the right for Women to Vote. Today, 8 March 2020, being celebrated as the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Women make up the bulk of my research (mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts), and certainly remain the focus of my interest.

Just last night I came across several young women whom Emma Smith meets, in 1821, in Wells – the Misses Frankland. Emma doesn’t specify how many of them, but her use of the word “some” is definitely more than two. She notes that they are daughters of one of the Canons – he being the Reverend Roger Frankland. And he is definitely the brother of the artist whose work illustrates this post, Ann(e) Frankland Lewis (though by 1821, she had married her second husband, Mr. Hare).

So many women, hidden from history and lost to posterity, right under our noses.

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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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“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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Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Austen

October 30, 2019 at 8:50 pm (books, fashion, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , )

In yesterday’s mail was a very welcome copy of Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. Periodically, I search for new and upcoming releases of books, including about Austen, about England, about history. I remember the cover,

Davidson_Dress

Everyone will recognize “Mrs. Q.”

But had I paid it much attention? I hate to say, ‘No.’ But when it arrived in the mail (unexpectedly!) the surprise was as pleasant as the receipt. A great deal of text; photographs of actual garments, political cartoons, and period portraits. The table of contents spoke to me as one who researches young ladies of the same period, who certainly exhibited this same variety of fashion personae:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Village
  • Country
  • City
  • Nation
  • World

When I turned to the title page and saw Yale University Press my good impression was complete.

Who says that Mail only brings BILLS?!?

A full review in the near future.

In the meantime, Yale has a brief (16 seconds) YouTube film, showing the interior of the book. Elyse Martin has written a lengthy review on Historians.org called “Fashion Forward.” A brief review from Publishers Weekly. See also Hilary Davidson’s website. A nicely-lengthy preview is available on Books.Google.

Davidson has written on Jane Austen’s Pelisse and its construction and replication. It was an important re-read for me when writing about Cassandra and Jane Austen for the recent JASNA AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia. The pelisse illustrates a tall, thin woman – and my Emma, soon after her marriage to James Edward Austen, described Cassandra, whom she had recently met in person. But it wasn’t until distilling the words of Anna Lefroy (Edward’s elder half-sister) that it dawned: Anna recalled a game she played, in which she guessed “which aunt” belonged to “which bonnet.” Between Anna’s game and Emma’s description, the conclusion becomes that the same silhouette must describe Cassandra Austen as well as her sister Jane Austen.

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Jane Austen’s Letter 88 for SALE!

October 20, 2019 at 9:05 pm (history, jane austen, jasna, news, people) (, , , )

2019 must be a banner year for JANE AUSTEN letters.

Early this year came news of a snippet included in an autograph album (sold at auction in 2017); the album was on display at Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum.

During the Summer, the museum successfully concluded its purchase – thanks to funding from the National Lottery AND devoted fans – of a lengthier partial letter

NOW, in October, comes word of a New York auction conducted by Bonhams of a Jane Austen letter from a private collection coming onto the market, part of the DODGE FAMILY COLLECTION of Autographs.

The Guardian has a lengthy article on the (upcoming) October 2019 auction.

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Of course, every time, the same trope about how Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra destroyed the correspondence crops up. I’ve just spoken about this at the recent Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, which took place this year at Williamsburg, Virginia. _I_ give thanks for those letters that have come down to us, rather than lament those that probably never were saved (but that’s a topic for another post).

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Marriage of Lord Compton, 1787

August 15, 2019 at 9:14 pm (history, people, research) (, )

Going all the way back to 1787, in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine (which has this fetching cover):

Walkers Hibernian

was this ANNOUNCEMENT for the marriage of Maria Smith, daughter of Joshua Smith of Earl Stoke Park (Wiltshire), with Lord Compton.

Wedding announce Maria Smith Lord Compton

It reads: “— [August] 18 By Special licence, Lord Compton, son of the Earl of Northampton, to Miss Smith, eldest daughter of Joshua Smith, Esq; of Earl Stoke Park, county Wilts.”

 

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Jane Austen Letter: missing lines found

July 21, 2019 at 2:15 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , )

Usually, the active Jane Austen vine twitches non-stop. If something sells for an outrageous sum… If a known letter goes on the chopping block, help us… If Jane sneezed and this handkerchief is what she once used…

Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera.

So it has been with extreme puzzlement that I’ve come across so little since the announcement in February 2019 of a missing snippet from a letter penned by Jane Austen in 1813 being found in an ‘autograph’ book (the album sold for the astounding sum of £16,000 in 2017, though probably for its cumulative items rather than one piece by Austen).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The Telegraph broke the news, with the headline (17 Feb 2019):

Missing six lines from Jane Austen letter discovered after 200 years, and are revealed to be about laundry.

It was inevitable that one of the other news services would then quip, “Lost letter airs Jane Austen’s dirty linen in public.”

Let’s be SERIOUS! It is an interesting and valuable *find*.

Only Deborah Yaffe picked up the ball, in March, commenting on “Life imitates Northanger Abbey.”

This Italian site, dedicated to presenting and translating Austen’s letters, actually has attached the missing lines to its letter. The letter affected by the snipped off closing (and the autograph book does NOT include the signature) is Letter 87, written to Cassandra from Henrietta Street, 15-16 Sept 1813.

This manuscript was “seen” after Chapman’s edition of the letters went to press (link to the later 2nd edition; it is letter 82); corrections were made on the page proof against the manuscript, which Le Faye consulted for her subsequent editions. It’s possible more of the letter, after a sale or two and a death or two back in the early 20th century, exists in just such a manner — further cut up and pasted down. After all, someone else got the signature.

Jane Austen 1813 snippet

Chapman correctly assumed “about six lines and signature cut away from top of fourth leaf.” These now reinstated lines finish this thought from Jane to Cassandra:

Charming weather for you & us, and the Travellers, & everybody. You will take your walk this afternoon & [4] by the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey, — God bless you all. — I have given M:de B. my Inventory of the Linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire. — She has shewn me all her Storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same.–
Perhaps I may write again by Henry. —

Letter 87 is quite long, and how the snipped out section of page 4 affects page 3 hasn’t been touched on. Brabourne left out a paragraph, and it’s this paragraph (in Le Faye with no explanation; same for Chapman before her, and Brabourne before him) that reads “odd,” as if more text came before it. Rather than the ellipses used at the end (Chapman discloses the missing text; Brabourne does not), Brabourne evidently x’ed the entire paragraph instead:

This not seeing much of Henry, I have just seen him however for 3 minutes, & have read him the Extract from Mrs. F.A.’s Letter — & he says he will write to Mrs. Fra. A. about it…. [notes to letter 82, Chapman]

Le Faye puts in a period after “Henry”. But the sentence, as the start of a paragraph, still makes less sense than it should. Without the manuscript, we shall not know the original position of the (undisclosed) affected text.

That Brabourne – who transcribed the letters – had no ‘finish’ to this particular letter, indicates to me that Frank was not the only Austen to cut up letters in his possession for souvenir hunters.

Passing from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), the only other person in a position to quench an autograph hound’s inquiry would be Fanny. If it had been Brabourne himself, he would have been smart to copy the sentences he was gifting away. Letters to the publisher Bentley indicate how quickly Brabourne thought about selling manuscripts (not just JA’s) in his possession. That he ultimately got Bentley’s go-ahead and publication happened, marking the collection up to the point at which they sold, is our luck. Some letters do ‘exist’ only in transcription.

Unlike the snippet of a sermon tipped into a copy of the Memoir, no discussion is being made to remove this piece from its pasting, to see what is on the underside. Not much discussion, either, on the autograph album as a whole, nor its “American buyer.” At the time of the original newspaper story, the album, open to the Austen page, was on display at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

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