Jane Austen @ LA Review of Books

May 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Another _very interesting_ piece of writing by Janine Barchas (author, Matters of Fact in Jane Austen [2013]; and The Lost Books of Jane Austen [Oct 2019]), who looks at “Marie Kondo’s Contributions to the Reception History of Jane Austen” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

As an avid purchaser of used books, I certainly have my share of those identified with former owner names. And there are those with inscriptions. You know the type of inscription I mean, “With love, from Grandma, Christmas 1922,” is one image used in the article, attached to a fine looking, highly colorful, embossed cover for Sense and Sensibility.

books_north country

Now, such information is being culled for the “reception history” of Jane Austen’s novels.

This section of Janine’s article REALLY fired my imagination:

“In recent years, … hard-lived survivors of old reprints have surfaced among the flotsam and jetsam of eBay offerings, charity shops, and second-hand bookstores. While these unwanted 19th-century books apparently failed to spark joy for some, for me they have opened new avenues of research into Austen’s early readers.

This is because some ownership signatures and gift inscriptions left behind in these copies can be traced. Resources such as Google and Ancestry.com have lowered the costs of provenance research so that bare names and dates can be more easily wrapped in biographical context. As a result, mundane copies can supplement the highbrow evidence by which scholars have traditionally tracked reception —”

Having so few books that I would actually resell, I had to laugh and then “oooh” over the true realization that, “The decluttering craze is democratizing reception history.” (I hate to add, the deaths of householders must also contribute to the resale of items: when relatives and friends just don’t know what to do with it all; and certainly they feel no sentiment towards what Grandma gave at Xmas in 1922…)”

Using census data, some of the ghost-readers can be fleshed out – including geographic information and sometimes even knowledge of their employment.  As one who _never_ claims her books half so fully as those mentioned in the article, the heartwarming (and even heartbreaking) tales culled from these books are AMAZING. I’m really looking forward, then, to Janine Barchas’ Plenary presentation at the JASNA – Jane Austen Society of North America – Annual General Meeting (AGM), being held this October (2019) at Colonial Williamsburg. Janine will speak on such “refound” volumes, concentrating on Northanger Abbey – the focus of the AGM, which celebrates the novel’s 200th anniversary of publication. Not attending the JASNA AGM? Look for the publication that month of The Lost Books of Jane Austen. “The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes.”

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The Monthly Nurse

January 17, 2019 at 10:32 am (diaries, history, jasna, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2015, at the JASNA Annual General Meeting (Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM) entitled LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD, I gave a paper that cited “True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England.” Everything was based on the many confinements relating to the family of Emma Austen Leigh and her sister-in-law Mary Smith (my “Two Teens,” now all grown up!). This spanned from the 1790s, with the recorded birth of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton, through the 1850s, when the last children born to Emma’s younger siblings were coming into the world. The treatment of mothers, in the post-natal period, throughout this span of sixty years, were remarkably consistent. One item that caused a LOT of ink to be expended concerned their use of the Monthly Nurse.

An audience member (at that talk) fairly recently asked me to remind her about the Monthly Nurse, so it was rather FRESH in my mind when I spotted, (on the website dealing with Emma’s son ARTHUR HENRY Austen Leigh), a late census report listing among the servants a Monthly Nurse!

HANNA HORSMEN, married, 55, female; birthplace: Thornbury, Gloucestershire; described in the census of 1881 as “servant Monthly Nurse”. She comes at the end of the listing of house-, parlour-, and nursery-maids. Unlike other domestics, she would not have been a “permanent” hire. (The “monthly” nurse really did only stay a month.)

And we can see, among the family members listed on the census, the reason behind the Monthly Nurse’s visit: the recent birth of Honor Caroline Austen Leigh. An interesting side note: Mrs. Hall-Say (reproduced as ‘Hallsay’), Mrs. Austen Leigh’s mother, was also visiting at the time of the census! (Census night was 3 April 1881.)

A quick internet search leads to the conclusion that many conflate “midwife” and “monthly nurse”. They are not synonymous.

(A Monthly Nurse also did not ‘nurse’ the child; if the mother had difficulty, a wet-nurse was sought.)

In my findings (albeit among generations of the same family), there was always a doctor (an accoucheur) attending the child’s birth; if “in time” (some mothers were wrong at their reckoning!) the Monthly Nurse might have been present, but her duties were mainly discharged during the month of postpartum recovery of the mother.

I can never forget the number of mothers in my 2015 JASNA audience who raised their hands, wishing they had had the services of a Monthly Nurse!

It is needless to say, the women I researched delivered in what we would think of as ‘home-births’; the Monthly Nurse ‘lived-in.’

Although I won’t list here every step taken during the month, there was a progression from being in bed to rising a few hours a day; to walking around one’s room, then walking more within the residence and coming downstairs for a meal; the end of the confinement was signaled by the comments of the mother being churched; the child being christened; the departure of the Monthly Nurse.

Side Notes:

  • In this period, children of Church of England parents were both Baptised and Christened; baptism took place soon after birth; christening occurred about the time of the mother being churched.
  • The youngest child of a family was typically referred to as BABY (although a name was given at the christening) — until the next baby came along!

royalsAs you might guess, concerning someone working so intimately with the new mother — although there were advertisements in the newspapers (see Pithers) by women offering their services (some would also offer care for the sick) – my ladies asked their circle of family and acquaintances for referrals and suggestions. They wanted their same Monthly Nurse from confinement to confinement when at all possible (Emma lost one jewel of a nurse to death).

Oddly, from the comment in one letter, it seems that the husband/father-to-be actually ENGAGED the Nurse, and PAID for her. But it was the women who were involved in finding suitable candidates.

The round of referrals doesn’t come as a surprise because the same could be said for more general servants. Letters consistently mention servants who were recommended to them by others, or by them if they were the ones who knew of someone in need of a position.

Letters have even sought comments (good or bad) from correspondents about prospective marital partners of friends. With the long tentacles that friends and family could reach, it was a remarkably effective system!

Along with the Monthly Nurse, letters make mention of “Baby Linen.” This was especially noted down in diaries – typically occurring in a list of names of women in the parish who were lent Baby Linen.

“Baby Linen” encompassed items for both ‘baby’ and ‘mother’. A fascinating list of the baby linen purchased and made for Elizabeth Austen, wife of Jane Austen’s brother (the future) Edward Austen Knight (mother of the children who show up in the George Hill photo album), in the 1790s, is included in the Brabourne edition of The Letters of Jane Austen (available online via Internet Archive); see pages 355-356 (vol. 2).

Emma’s Aunt, Mrs. Chute, had baby linen that could be given out on loan, according to her early diaries. And Emma followed suit, in the 1830s, in her diaries. How many sets each had available to lend out is unknown; lists typically do not show more than one woman at a given time. Mrs. Chute never had children of her own; I presume it was an additional set, rather than Emma’s own Baby Linen, that she offered other mothers and babies in the Parish of Tring Park (Hertfordshire), when she and James Edward Austen lived with Emma’s mother and younger siblings.

 

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Many meanings of Womanhood (Jane Austen)

December 9, 2018 at 9:44 am (books, jasna) (, )

A new book, released at the beginning of December (2018) is Jane Austen’s Women: An Introduction, by Kathleen Anderson.

Anderson_Jane Austens Women

Over the years, as a member of JASNA, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting and listening to Kathleen’s incisive talks and reading her publications. A production of SUNY Press, there’s a format for everyone: hardcover, paperback, ebook. You can get a taste of it content from the following:

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Second Choice: Canceled Chapter, Persuasion (Jane Austen)

October 6, 2018 at 9:21 am (books, jane austen, jasna, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Having spent last weekend (Thursday thru Monday) at Kansas City, Mo, for the 200th celebration of Persuasion, of course the conversation turned from the wonderful chapter Jane Austen wrote to the chapter she canceled. I have the multi-volume set of Chapman’s third edition of the Novels and Works of Jane Austen – and knew he had included the canceled chapter in the volume dealing with Persuasion. A friend was interested in reading it.

all austen

Indeed, Chapman’s source is James Edward Austen Leigh‘s MEMOIR of Jane Austen (2nd edition).

At the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of JASNA I got to read a letter to James Edward Austen (as he was in 1828, the date of the letter), congratulating him on his engagement to Emma Smith (my diarist) [and therefore one of the Two Teens in the Time of Austen]. But that is news for another post.

Clicking on the link above – or the picture of the books – will take you to Internet Archive (Archive.org), where you can find many of Chapman’s Austen volumes. I will include links on the Authentic Austen page. To me, Chapman’s volumes are just the right size, fitting comfortably in the hand and I prefer them over the large Cambridge edition of everything.

* * *

Some second thoughts myself: should you wish to read CHAPTER 9 before reading the canceled Chapter 10. The link is to volume IV of the 1818 first edition (ie, volume 2 of Persuasion). Links to ALL the first and early editions are on the Authentic Jane Austen page (above). Also included are Jane Austen Letters & the Morgan Library’s online exhibition that was formed around their holdings of Austen letters.

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Search for Jane Austen: Kansas City AGM

October 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm (jane austen, jasna, Uncategorized) (, , )

Returned Monday evening from the 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), held this year in Kansas City, Missouri. It was a very FILLED five days. This year’s core topic was the novel Persuasion – celebrating its 200th anniversary.

Some highlights:

  • Readings by actress AMANDA ROOT, from her production-era journal and from the novel Persuasion;
  • Kristen Miller Zohn, speaking on “‘A State of Alteration’: Stylistic Contrasts in the Musgroves’ Parlor,” which addressed costume as well as furnishings;
  • Sheryl Craig giving an inspiring lecture on “The Persuasion of Pounds”;
  • and, in a rare “virtual” presence (on the phone and over the speaker system), Gordon Laco informing a rapt audience about the Royal Navy, films, and his own naval history.

I shared lunches with colleagues and dinners with friends I hadn’t seen in a year (ie, the last AGM). It felt good to get back on track after a sabbatical from any research these last two months.

slate_austen

If any of the more than 900 (a record-breaking number attending a JASNA AGM!) members and companions come across this blog post – and you have a photo of self and “Jane Austen”, who was a life-sized cutout posted outside the banquet and ball room Saturday night, please let me know. A friend with intense interest in the “Rice Portrait” was told about it, but too late to see it for herself. The portrait purports to be an early (circa 1789) portrait of young Jane Austen. She “posed,” parasol and all, and had many who visited with her – so I know that Jane exists in many a selfie.

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Royal Archives: Sense and Sensibility sale, 1811

July 24, 2018 at 9:12 am (books, british royalty, history, jasna, news) (, , , , )

As a member of the Georgian Paper Programme – a group formed around the digital project that is presenting to the world the Georgian-era holdings of the Royal Archives in Windsor, notice came about a “JANE AUSTEN FIND“!

cushion_austen

“A graduate student working in the Royal Archives… came across a previously unknown 1811 bill of sale from a London bookseller, charging the Prince Regent 15 shillings for a copy of “Sense and Sensibility,” says a New York Times article. It is (of course) entitled “Jane Austen’s First Buyer?” The date of the transaction took place “TWO DAYS before the book’s first public advertisement – making it what scholars believe to be the first documented sale of an Austen book.”

Having studied letters, like Mozart’s to the Prince Archbishop, _I_ am less critical of Austen’s dedication to the Prince Regent in her novel Emma. One showed deference in writing such during the period. And everyone was (and is) entitled to their own opinions about the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales (Prince Regent) and his brothers. This, however, IS a GREAT highlight of a very useful collection – and rather unexpected, which is what makes it a true *FIND*. The NY Times names Nicholas Foretek, a first-year Ph.D student (history, UPenn), who was researching “connections between late-18th-century political figures and the publishing world.”

“‘Debt is really great for historians,’ Mr. Foretek said, ‘It generates a lot of bills.'” I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from Foretek in upcoming years, at JASNA AGMs.

* * *

READ: Nicholas Foretek’s blog post on the discovery of Jane Austen and the Prince Regent: The Very First Purchase of an Austen Novel

WATCH: This recent Library of Congress Symposium features FOUR speakers talking about various aspects of the GPP (Georgian Papers Programme) project. (nearly 2 hours in length; includes an interesting Q&A session)

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FREE Jane Austen course (online)

April 10, 2018 at 9:00 am (jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

A Facebook group I belong to, British History, Georgian Lives, had a link to a Jane Austen course, offered through the University of Southampton. Gillian Dow (a familiar name to JASNA members) and Kim Simpson are those guiding the course.

The course is set to start on April 23rd (though there IS a link that asks “Date to be Announced – Email me when I can join”). The course is called, Jane Austen: Myth, Reality, and Global Celebrity.

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The “Free” offers access to the course for four weeks (the length of the course plus fourteen days); a $49 (£32) upgrade offers unlimited access to materials – and a certificate at the end. Course duration is two weeks, three hours per week.

Click “Jane” to join!

(Or, just explore the course website….)

You can register via a Facebook log-in or a dedicated log-in. When I joined 922 were already in discussion about themselves! Offered through FutureLearn. A basic knowledge of Austen’s novels is suggested.

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JASNA AGM on “Persuasion”

January 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

For those who are JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) members, and those have been thinking about becoming members, information for the Breakout Sessions is now up on the Annual General Meeting website. This year’s conference takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the end of September (2018).

Some exciting and engaging papers!

The AGM’s title is “200 Years of Constancy and Hope

persuasion

The themes that caught my eye:

  • “Jane Austen worked on Persuasion from August 1815 to August 1816, while she was also closely concerned with the publication and reception of Emma.” [Juliette Wells]
  • “The cancelled final chapters of Persuasion offer a glimpse of Austen transforming her own work.” [Marcia Folsom]
  • “Jane Austen’s chosen settings of the Cobb at Lyme, with the seaside and fossils, and the city of Bath… provide an underlying sense of hope and rebirth.” [Randi Pahlau]
  • “Naval portraiture both as personal mementos and markers of collective social identity.” [Moriah Webster]
  • “Although a family’s wealth generally belonged to men, the task of managing that money often fell to women.” [Linda Zionkowski]
  • “Austen’s descriptions of the Musgroves’ ancestral portraits and new furniture… allude to the era’s changing aesthetics in furnishings and clothing styles.” [Kristen Zohn]
  • “Anne Elliot struggles to believe herself deserving ….” [Mary Ellen Bertolini]

and many more!

It’s always a *thrill* to anticipate the next Annual General Meeting – Fresh thoughts on favorite novels.

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Why are we still reading Jane Austen

December 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

While looking up a few sites for the post “Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands,” I came across this EXCEPTIONALLY interesting post from H.J. Jackson at Yale Books Unbound. It is especially apropos to read it as 2017 winds to a close – 200 years after the death of Jane Austen, in 1817, and it ties in oh-so-well with the most recent JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting, of the Jane Austen Society of North America). Our 2017 conference centered around “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality.” (The conference took place at the heavenly Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California.)

Jackson’s entire title is “Why Are We Still Reading Jane Austen (But not Mary Brunton)?” There must not have been room enough to include in the title “and hardly any Walter Scott.” For his early popularity pops up in the article as well.

It is Jackson’s look at two successful writers – both Scottish, as it happens – and comparing the current cool-burning flame that exists for both Brunton and Scott with the heat of Jane Austen’s fame that makes the article a damned good read.

Brunton lived nearly the same span of years as Jane Austen:

  • Jane Austen, December 1775-July 1817
  • Mary Brunton, November 1778-December 1818
  • Walter Scott, August 1771-September 1832

Jackson also comments about Austen on film; Brunton never made it to the screen and the heyday of films based on Scott novels were the heyday of Hollywood, though TV has offered a surprising number of Scott “mini-series”. I won’t count Lucia di Lammermoor et al: all those operas are too well-known!

Ivanhoe

But we all suspect that Austen mania began with Colin Firth’s Darcy – even Robert Taylor didn’t generate that kind of fervor! Unlike some readers Jackson mentions, I never came across Austen in school. DECADES later, the second I (re-)heard the theme music for the 1980s BBC production (with Rintoul, Garvey, and a great script), I knew: this was the prompt for my own purchase of an omnibus edition of Austen. So I can’t blame others for following suit, a decade later; but I can say “ENOUGH already!” to the never ending Darcy-mania. When women line up in droves to see Firth’s vacant white linen shirt, there’s a whole different fandom than for Austen and her works.

So _I_ hope, as the next hundred years since the publication of Austen novels has already gotten underway, that there will remain a serious core to the study of Austen, her life and her works. I really fear for the over-academic as well as deplore the overly-copied. It’s rather like A Christmas Carol – “done” so many times that (I personally) can’t even stand to hear the title.

But I won’t get off on a Darcy tangent… Jackson doesn’t even go there.

Jackson’s query, “What happened to Brunton — the gradual fading and extinction of her  name — could easily have happened to Austen,” is what makes the article so exciting. “Austen rapidly accumulated most of the tributes that the nineteenth century had paid to Scott (translations, adaptations, illustrations, pilgrimages) and garnered others unimagined by the Victorians, such as reenactments, academic conferences, the heritage industry, websites, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” [no comment on this last entry…]

[NB: the two things I can say against Jackson is that she forgets part of James Edward Austen Leigh’s name, when discussing A Memoir of Jane Austen, and the error of her claim that he – born in 1798 – “had never known her well.” To have known Jane Austen versus to remember stories of her fifty and sixty years later are vastly different “problems”. Even his own daughter depended on diaries and letters when writing about his life decades after his death. Most of Austen’s letters – those later published by Brabourne – were not made available to Austen Leigh.]

Jackson’s article is a short Christmas and New Year’s gift to Austen’s readership – one which offers much food for thought during these cold, dark days here in New England and elsewhere in the world.

cushion_austen

a Jane Austen pillow

 

Brunton, I think, gained much by having her portrait and correspondence published – after her death, along with Emmeline, her last novel. Such “publication” (in Brunton’s case, done by her widower) seemed feared within the Austen family (although Cassandra outlived her sister by several decades).

As someone culling all the Smith & Gosling family diaries and letters that I can find, to constantly hear that Cassandra is blamed for the lack of Jane Austen letters available to posterity is difficult to bear. Where, I ask, are Cassandra’s letters!?! I dearly wish we had those. But more importantly: Cassandra would NOT have been Jane Austen’s only correspondent. So, many others could have “kept” Jane Austen’s letters…. If “posterity” wishes to blame someone, wag a finger a little harder at the niece who destroyed her father’s property, rather than at the sister to whom letters were personally addressed. They were hers, to do with as she pleased.

But I won’t go off on a long “burn correspondence vs. keep correspondence” tangent either. We all must appreciate what we have, and be thankful for the insights others give us when sharing and discussing their thoughts, their ideas.

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A Jane Austen Birthday Present

December 16, 2017 at 11:04 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , )

Every December, on Jane Austen’s Birthday (December 16th), JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America, celebrates by publishing their digital periodical, Persuasions On-Line. This a free to view periodical of scholarship centering on Austen, her novels, her life, her family.

I’m really thrilled to see an article on the “The Sitting with Jane Art Trail, Celebrating Jane Austen, Basingstoke, and Literary Tourism,” by Misty Krueger. Readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will recall a brief post I called “Jane Austen BookBenches“.

Dancing with Jane

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra AustenOther articles, some culled from the recent AGM (Annual General Meeting) in Huntington Beach, California, that caught my eye include:

  • “Persuasion: Why the Revised Ending Works so Well,” by Paul Wray
  • “‘My Fanny’ and ‘A Heroine Whom No One but Myself Will Much Like’: Jane Austen and Her Heroines in the Chawton Novels,” by Gillian Dooley
  • “‘I Have Unpacked the Gloves’: Accessories and the Austen Sisters,” by Sara Tavela
  • “Jane Austen’s Early Death in the Context of Austen Family Mortality,” by Christopher O’Brien
  • “The Immortality of Sense and Sensibility: Margaret’s Tree House, Edward’s Handkerchief, Marianne’s Rescue,” by Susan Allen Ford

There’s even a “Conversation with Whit Stillman,” who joined us at Huntington Beach for an evening that included discussion of his film Love & Friendship (based on Austen’s “Lady Susan”), which then played for the assembled audience.

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