Jane Austen-mania

August 21, 2017 at 11:11 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , )

I wish to draw to the attention of readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen an article in the LITERARY REVIEW for July 2017, by Lucy Lethbridge, entitled AUSTENMANIA.

Literary Review

Lucy is discussing and reviewing a HUGE pile of *new* Jane Austen books, including:

  • Jane Austen at Home: A Biography — by Lucy Worsley
  • Jane Austen the Banker’s Sister — by E.J. Clery
  • Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility — by Marian Veevers
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf — by Claire Sweeney
  • The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She is a Hit in Hollywood — by Paula Byrne
  • The Making of Jane Austen — by Devoney Looser
  • Jane Austen: A Brief Life — by Fiona Stafford

[whew!]

I must say, Lucy doesn’t think much of Jane and Dorothy – a book I recently ordered (it shipped today!) mainly because of Veevers’ connection to Wordsworth scholarship. Might be a while, but hopefully I’ll have something to say about reading it.

I’ve been VERY intrigued by the book that obviously discusses Henry Austen – he’s the banker in the family (and I like to think had some kind of connections with the firm of Goslings & Sharpe! the banking family _I_ am most closely associated with).

I must look at the book more closely, for I’m really confused by Lucy Lethbridge’s use of the word (IN quotes!) ‘cosmic’ – as in the sentence: the book “looks at her [Jane Austen’s] ‘cosmic’ connection with her brother”.

Although I’d LOVE to know more about Anne Sharp (Fanny Knight’s governess), I’m not all caring about the other authors.

I found Worsley’s TV show, Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors, of interest – but don’t care to read her exclamation-filled book (read Amazon reviews, and you’ll see some of the criticisms of her current writing style).

Lucy Lethbridge saves her highest praises for the two books that are from authors familiar to JASNA members. Byrne’s book is a revamped, expanded edition of her earlier book on Jane Austen and the “theatre”. I’m rather glad that, for once, a publisher allowed for updates rather than simply renaming, and re-dust-jacketing an old title.

And she’s put Devoney Looser’s book on the radar for me, especially by calling it a “lively account”. A decent price ($29.95) for a university press is also a PLUS.

I’ve grown rather tired of the same “life histories” of Austen, but I’d even like to take a look at Stafford’s stab at “A Brief Life”. At 184 pages, not as brief as the title made it originally sound. (obviously, the brief life refers to Austen’s life being brief)

Would welcome hearing from anyone (reader or writer) about these books, or if there’s something out or coming out.

*

NB: for those, like me, who wondered WHY the Lethbridge post’s URL was “Austenmania-2”; Austenmania was the original review (by Mark Bostridge, 2009) for Claire Harmon’s Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (alas! can only read it with a subscription to Literary Review)

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Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister

July 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna) (, , , , )

I just ordered a book I’ve waited several months for its publication (see what it is), and tonight I find another that “I can’t wait to read!”

Fanny Palmer Austen

We all will have to wait until OCTOBER – by which time it will be JASNA AGM time for those going to Huntington Beach, CA.

Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen, by Sheila Johnson Kindred is EXACTLY what I love to read – Fanny, the wife of Charles Austen (Jane’s youngest brother), was a “naval wife”. Letters exist which give voice to Fanny’s experiences in Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and (of course) England.

“Fanny’s articulate and informative letters – transcribed in full for the first time and situated in their meticulously researched historical context – disclose her quest for personal identity and autonomy, her maturation as a wife and mother, and the domestic, cultural, and social milieu she inhabited.”

“Enhanced by rarely seen illustrations, Fanny’s life story is a rich new source for Jane Austen scholars and fans of her fiction, as well as for those interested in biography, women’s letters, and history of the family.”

Hazel Jones (Jane Austen & Marriage) calls Fanny Palmer Austen an “unsung heroine” and she finds Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister “the first extensive study to focus on a man’s naval career from a woman’s perspective.”

To whet your appetite, sample some of Fanny’s letters in Deborah Kaplan’s book Jane Austen Among Women.

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reviews for JANE AUSTEN and the ARTS

January 24, 2017 at 11:11 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

Natasha Duquette, as one of the editors (along with Elisabeth Lenckos) of Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety and Harmony, has recent uploaded some reviews of the book. One, by Audrey Bilger in the journal Women’s Studies, mentions my contribution, the chapter entitled, “‘A Reputation for Accomplishment’: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers”.

ja and the arts

“Kelly M. McDonald examines Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse in terms of their skill as artistic performers and sees the primary lessons that each heroine needs to learn as being linked to their initial stance as artists: Marianne, who is ‘consumed with interior passions,’ must cultivate restraint; Emma ‘[c]onsumed with exterior experiences’ must develop deeper insight.”

This is a chapter that I have not revisited in the recent past, yet, given my 2016 topic for the JASNA Annual General Meeting that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the novel EMMA, the ‘art’ of Emma is definitely an ongoing preoccupation of mine. (My paper was entitled, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma”, also given to the Vermont JASNA chapter in December 2016.) I found, in revisiting the paper AFTER transcribing more Smith & Gosling family letters in October and November, that I had a few new points to make on the subject.

But to get back to Audrey Bilger’s review of Jane Austen and the Arts

Being an academic press (Lehigh University Press), Jane Austen and the Arts is currently selling for $30 (used; paperback) and up on Amazon. Bilger’s comments on the book as a whole, include:

  • “The editors perceive the arts in the broadest possible way, … encompassing painting, music, dance, and theater, … also judgment, taste, morality and ultimately reading and writing as aesthetically charged activities.”
  • “An excellent preface by Vivasvan Soni, ‘Jane Austen’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,’ explains the meaning of the book’s subtitle.”
  • “most of the contributions are theoretically nuanced, especially with regard to the history of aesthetics.”
  • “the book’s focus on the arts illuminates aspects of Austen’s work in fresh ways…. Readers familiar with the Austen canon will appreciate the book’s numerous close readings and textual analysis.”

Another review Natasha posted is by Marina Cano, for The Modern Language Review. Cano recognizes the volume as “a highly interdisciplinary and polyphonic study”. Cano is especially enthusiastic about Jeffrey Nigro’s “The Sister Artist: Cassandra Austen’s Portraits of Jane Austen in Art-Historical Context”: “he argues, here Cassandra was experimenting with the artistic conventions of her time”.

Cano concludes, “Jane Austen and the Arts is a valuable collection in its exploration of Austen’s involvement in the aesthetic concerns of her time and in its examination of little-studied materials.”

Looking today at books.google I see Jane Austen and the Arts listed as being in 204 libraries worldwide; maybe one of these is nearby, allowing you, too, to dip your toe. Would love to hear from readers on any and all aspects of the book (ie, you don’t even have to comment on my chapter!).

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Why I read Jane Austen

December 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm (books, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , )

Yesterday, 16 December 2016, being the anniversary of the birth of JANE AUSTEN, JASNA – the Jane Austen Society of North America – published their annual journal, Persuasions On-Line. It is interesting to see papers presented at the Washington DC AGM (annual general meeting) that _I_ sat in the audience to hear.

[NB: I did not submit my paper, “Sketching Box Hill with Emma,” for publication.]

The article I opened, however, was among the Miscellany: Gillian Dooley‘s article on “‘The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled’: Jane Austen’s ‘Courtship Novels’.” I think all fans of Austen have come up against the “dismissive” stares, shrugs, and “Who?” comments. Because I publish and speak on aspects of Austen and the early Austen Leighs (my research subject), I’ve mentioned “Jane Austen” in job interviews. Several interviewers had NO clue who she was, never mind what she had written. Others recalled “costumed fans” and, yes, ‘Courtship’ films.

Has it been film then that has created this atmosphere of Austen as a kind of ‘romance writer’? For, in many cinematic offerings, the dramatic underpinnings of her novels disappear in order to make a pleasing, coherent, and “short” adaptation. The one thing that is always in place (of course) is the heroine’s ‘romance’ storyline. And it’s the couples that fans remember and love to discuss:

elizabeth and darcy

Even those couples who might have been:

marianne-and-willoughby

But does that mean the films and even the novels are “Courtship”-based? I have long contended that I read Austen because they are slices of life, true windows into a time, place, milieu, that otherwise I only read about through history texts. The films may stick in the memory, but the novels are what I return to again and again. And, luckily, puzzling out the letters and diaries the Smiths and Goslings have left behind has allowed me to grasp small details that Austen’s original readers “knew” but which I have had to “learn” about.

So, this morning, I was musing over the MANY ‘romances’ of the story of my Two Teens. Would I term their lives – as any resultant writing must, out of necessity, condense their real histories – as center on ‘Courtship’ merely because courtships begin and conclude within the covers of a book about them?

To answer one question posed by Gillian Dooley, “There are courtships in the [Austen] novels, but are they in any overarching sense primarily ‘about’ courtship?” with a simplistic ‘No’ should, therefore, also cover the “history” of this large, extended family.

To take one “for instance”: The Colebrooke sisters, Belinda and Harriet, come into the circle of the Smith family in 1816/17. The basics of their history: Harriet dies young and Belinda marries Charles Smith (Emma’s brother). More can be deciphered about Belinda’s life because she married. And, it is her marriage that ended her life: Belinda Smith died in childbirth, before the age of 25.

It was all a “fact of life” back then.

Even today, we seek out a partner; live together; marry if we can. No one wants to be alone – and, given the cold world in which we live, a little human warmth within the home is something everyone can appreciate.

Carey Mulligan

(yes, I’ve long thought Carey Mulligan a quintessential Belinda)

I’ve recently found a lovely portrait (perhaps by her eldest sister-in-law, Augusta Smith) of Belinda Lady Smith. And even a tiny silhouette of her sister Harriet Colebrooke. Harriet was even younger, only 18 at her death. For the longest time her (ultimately) fatal illness was the focus for poor Harriet’s historical remembrance. She was an appendage; a younger sister who obligingly got out of the way; a dead sibling who made the “heroine” that much more attractive to the “hero”. And there was even an “over the top” drama-queen of a mother! Belinda, left on her own by her sister’s demise, was due to be “rewarded” by marriage to a good and very eligible young man.

To to my mind, however, it was hard not to think of Belinda as “the other woman”: Mary Gosling, the girl next door and Charles Smith’s second wife was the first diarist I unearthed (now, ten years ago).

Talulah Riley

Yes, young Talulah Riley, as Mary Bennet [above], put me in mind of Mary Gosling – rather tossed aside as a close friend, never mind as a potential love interest, once the doomed Colebrooke sisters came on the scene.

As an historian, I knew – nearly from the beginning – what the “end result” for EVERYone was. I knew when they were born; who they married (or didn’t); knew when they died. What I had to unearth was all the LIFE in between the pertinent “dates”.

And even now there comes surprises; welcome surprises, as it happens. Even someone like Harriet Colebrooke, on the scene for only a handful of years, takes on new importance.

“Why?” you might ask.

“Because, she had a fella!” A young man, who does appear in Emma Smith’s diaries, but who seemed just one of the crowd, was actually interested in, and pursued, Harriet Colebrooke.

Like her elder sister, Belinda, Harriet came to any relationship with a LOT of baggage. Charles Smith had the unenviable task of “approving” the young man, especially once he began to suspect that Harriet was transferring her affections to himself.

Harriet never lived long enough, of course, to see her sister married to Charles. I don’t even know if Charles ever really had to say, “I’m not interested”. That mystery is still inconclusive.

Which brings me back to Austen and the ‘Courtship’ Novel. In such a novel, there are often MANY vying for the hand of the heroine. There are those wholly unsuitable:

stillman2

There are those whom the observer hopes will win out in the end:

darcy

As Dooley asserts, “I would expect the heroine [of a courtship novel] to have one or more men actively playing court to her throughout the novel.  And I don’t think that any of Austen’s novels quite fit that standard.” She sums up by saying, “it is the assiduous attention of the hero to gain the heroine’s hand throughout the courtship novel that I think is the missing element.”

Just as in life.

Even when the “grass is greener” on the other side of that proverbial fence, as when Charles begins to suspect that Harriet’s interest in himself is pushing her interest in William Sumner (her beau) to one side. Here is no flat declaration of love, but a mystery: Does she? Doesn’t she? How do I handle it?

And everyone LOVES a mystery.

When Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal, few contemporary readers would have foreseen them ending up together at the novel’s end. There might even have been NO marriages at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Contemporary Readers were enjoying the ride, living in the moment with all the Bennets. Suffering their disappointments and, yes, rejoicing over their happiness. That ‘happiness’ included marriages, and those came within pages of the end is good fortune for readers who – metaphorically AND literally – could close the book at the end of a concluding chapter in the characters’ lives.

In a courtship novel, the marriage is the “be-all”. It has to end it all because little more was the novel’s focus. In Austen’s slices of life, the characters live on. The clues of the mystery behind attraction (even repulsion), love, loss, daily life in another land and another era, keep readers coming back for more.

If a MAN had written Austen novels, would we even be discussing “courtship” as their basis – or would it be treated, as courtship (without quotation marks) deserves to be treated: as a MOST INTERESTING part of life, something in which EVERY reader can sympathize.

Austen’s novels touch on economics (those with little funds as well as those with very fat purses, indeed); privations and sacrifices; sibling love and sibling rivalries; one’s role within society; the tumult of the times – even though, like today, one lives life somewhat disconnected (unless war comes to touch one personally). Austen’s novels help explain the minutiae I’ve seen discussed or recorded in the papers of the Smiths; and the Smiths explain what should be of more importance in Austen’s novels.

They are the perfect MATCH! History informing literature, and literature helping to inform biography.

colonel brandon and marianne

marianne and colonel brandon

And a coincidence, as could only happen in real life, that Emma Smith becomes (though eleven years after the author’s death) a niece by marriage to Cassandra and Jane Austen, Frank, Charles, and Henry Austen, and Edward Knight. That Emma Austen read Austen’s Emma prior to marriage, and with her intended, is a fitting close for that chapter of her life – one which can be said to have ended in marriage. Life is about so much more than birth-marriage-death, but as a fundamental courtship and marriage is a commonality that happens to most, and interests even those who do not experience it first-hand.

The “mysteries” of their lives keep me digging for more clues – even as some “new” clue only leads to further mystery. It is the pleasure derived from “digging” again and again, that Readers, who read Austen with a mind open to discovering new clues amid well-known strophes, enjoy as much as (if not more than) the ‘courtships’ with which each novel ends.

“[T]he plans and decisions of mortals,” to use the words of the narrator of Mansfield Park, forms the basis behind Two Teens in the Time of Austen, as well as the six novels of Jane Austen. “Courtship” is part of the story of life, and “courtship” may be the most human part in general. The need to feel connected, to someone (mate or friend), is a powerful emotion.

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Tales of the D.A.R.

October 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, news) (, , , )

Although I have been to WASHINGTON DC several times over the decades, I had never entered the fabulous building that houses the Daughters of the American Revolution. WONDERFUL “period room” exhibits, and for the JASNA group an added incentive: the costume installation entitled, “An Agreeable Tyrant: Fashion after the Revolution“, which opened October 7 (2016) and runs until April 2017.

Ann Lewis fecit2

With the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting (the JASNA AGM) having taken place this past weekend (21-23 October) in Washington DC – my own paper “Sketching Box Hill with Emma” being presented in the afternoon of the 22nd – there were a lot of costumes on parade in Washington. I don’t pretend to know much, but I have a stash of very useful books – for I would like to envision what my Emma and Mary would have worn. From a comment or two in the family correspondence, Mary (especially before she was widowed in 1831) was careful to look the part of a smart & stylish London Lady. The Gosling ladies had their step-mother’s shoes to step into: the Hon. Charlotte Gosling (née de Grey, related to the Barons Walsingham) was a serious society hostess in the 1810s. Every spring, during “the season” Mrs Gosling hosted routs, concerts, and parties. Her husband’s dinners are also found in the newspapers (yes, men gave ‘dinners’, but women gave other entertainments).

It still boggles MY mind that their parties could attract 300 to 600 people. How is that possible?? such a crowd in a small townhouse (No. 5 Portland Place, London).

But, to get back to the DAR.

JASNA members had morning “free”, and the DAR Museum was my one and only choice for a place to go. Thankfully, many other members had been already; for the most part I could look, read the brochure (one per room), and savor furnishings and costumes by myself. The room that stands out most is the one paneled in wood from the salvaged ship AUGUSTA. Jacobean in nature, with a lengthy table, the dark wood and colorful stained glass windows makes for a room that I’d happily spend time sitting in.

And the fact that the ship was called the AUGUSTA – the name of TWO of my ladies in the Smith family (Emma Austen’s mother and sister; never mind a slew of Augustas born in the 1820s and 1830s…).

But what really brought me to visit the DAR (free entry a big inducement) was the curator’s talk, which took place on the Thursday (the day I landed in DC) of last week.

I missed the first half of the talk, having to find the hotel, check-in, register for the conference, and get to the room – but was in time enough to hear the speaker Alden O’Brien toss off the intelligence that SHE WAS WORKING WITH A DIARY.

I pulled her aside at the end of her presentation to hear more, especially: Had she published it.

The answer to that burning question was ‘no’. The diarist – “Sylvia Lewis Tyler (1785-1851), an early nineteenth-century Everywoman, of Connecticut and Western Reserve Ohio” had left thirty years of diaries, and Alden didn’t believe ANY publisher would want that amount of material. Alden said the diary was akin to that which formed the basis of A Midwife’s Tale, the diaries by Martha Ballard [which is online at DoHistory; printed copies were also produced].

I truly do Hope She is Wrong. I can actually think of diaries that I’ve gotten copies of BECAUSE they were the “complete” set. But, in this day and age, it is a tough sell, to be sure.

Alden did say that she had published articles – and it was in looking that I found a her Common-Place post from 2011, all about her thoughts on SYLVIA’S DIARY.

Her comments, in the article, reminds me so much of a diary that I believe is being published in the spring 2017, concerning the diary of a Vermont woman that a friend (and former colleague) has been working on for over ten years. (More on that later.) Sylvia was a spinner and sewer. She lived in Bristol, Connecticut as a girl (her diaries begin at age 15), and textile & clothing is also an interest of mine – as far as production goes. I used to be a keen sewer and knitter; though I’ve never spun or weaved.

From the article: “I was taken aback when the archivist deposited nineteen manila folders before me, each containing a small, slim, hand-made volume.” Thirty years of Sylvia’s diaries. The title page (like that early diary of my Mary Gosling) claimed the diary in the name of SYLVIA LEWIS of BRISTOL.

Sylvia’s diary runs from 1801 (when she was 15 years old) to 1831 (aged 46); two years are missing and a couple of gaps exist. Alden even targeted another Bristol girl’s diary, belonging to an acquaintance! Thus are “projects” born…

Alden asks her readers, “Why did I leap into this project—and why did I stick to it?” Nearly ten years into my own project on Two Teens in the Time of Austen (Mary Gosling and Emma Smith, who – as sisters-in-law, both become related to Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh), I couldn’t wait to see what she said in reply!

  • an abiding fondness for the area (ie, Bristol & environs) and interest in its local history
  • Sylvia’s “records are richly informative” as regards social history
  • “Most of all, Sylvia herself drew me in.”

“Once I knew the cast of characters in the diary, the entries created a narrative, and I kept wanting to know what happens next.”

Amen, Sister!

I can say yes-yes-YES to the three points above, as regards Mary, Emma, and their (extensive) families and the English history and daily “mundane chronicles” they all have left behind.

An aside: a letter I just transcribed last night, written by Sir Charles Joshua Smith (bart.) [1800-1831], Emma’s eldest brother and Mary’s eventual husband, had this FABULOUS sentence that just called out to me:

“it is very flattering to one’s vanity to feel that there is some one who cares whether one is alive or dead”

If Charles could know how MUCH _I_ care about them all… his vanity would be HIGHLY flattered. And Sylvia Lewis Tyler must feel that same if she could know the loving care and attention her biographer Alden O’Brien is taking over bringing her own “herstory” to light.

I invite you to read Alden’s own words, and to savor 19th century Bristol, Connecticut by checking out this tale from the vault of the DAR. And should you be in the area of Washington DC, stop by – Alden O’Brien might be there!sylvia-lewis

The finding of Sylvia’s grave makes for truly SPOOKY reading! Enjoy…

also: Bringing Sylvia Lewis back to Life

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Living in Jane Austen’s World: 5 reasons to visit Montpelier

March 3, 2016 at 10:52 pm (diaries, entertainment, history, jasna, research) (, , , , )

The Jane Austen Society of North America, Vermont Chapter hosts their March 2016 meeting in Montpelier, Vermont, on the campus of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Several members of “Jane Austen in Vermont” travelled to Louisville, Kentucky to attend the JASNA AGM. I was lucky enough to present a paper, which will be re-presented for a home-audience:

ja world

“Who could be more prepared than she was”
True Tales of Life, Death, & Confinement:
Childbirth in 19th Century England

Kelly M. McDonald

Period letters and diaries present stories of Austen-related mothers-to-be.  Georgian women discussed among themselves what potentially preoccupied a woman’s life for twenty years and more: miscarriage, pregnancy, labor, childbed fever, lactation barriers, and rituals affecting a new mother up to (and including) “churching.”

Sunday, 13 March 2016
2:00 PM
Gary Library, 36 College Street
Vermont College of Fine Arts
Montpelier, VT

1. Learn & Discuss, “Living in Jane Austen’s World”

2. Illlustrations include images of actual letters & diaries

3. Meet others who read, watch, and love Jane Austen & England

4. Have a cup of tea and enjoy some munchies

5. It’s FREE and open to the public!

bright star_letter

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East India Company at Home (website)

February 28, 2016 at 2:30 pm (entertainment, estates, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , )

East India Company

In looking for more information on Elizabeth Sykes – only daughter of Lady Smith (née Elizabeth Monckton) and her first husband Sir Francis Sykes – I came across this WONDERFUL resource for families connected to the East India Company. This includes MANY in the Smith & Gosling greater family.

There are “case studies” which you can find by family or by estate. I found the Daylesford case study to have been done by Elisabeth Lenckos. Elisabeth spoke about researching Daylesford, the estate of Warren Hastings, at last year’s JASNA Annual General meeting in Louisville, one of the break-out sessions I attended. On the East India Company at Home, she likewise writes about the Ivory Furniture Hastings brought back to England. Daylesford, of course, was known to Jane Austen’s cousin (and eventual sister-in-law), Eliza de Feuillide.

Much food for thought is offer on the EICAH website. Highly recommended!

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Left at the Church Door

November 20, 2015 at 12:18 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

One point made in my October JASNA AGM paper at Louisville was the propensity for Jane Austen to close after the relevant couples departed the church. We are told little of Wedding Breakfasts, Honeymoons, or burgeoning of “twigs” on “family trees”.

elizabeth and darcy

BUT: In amongst the “happily ever after” intentions of the closing chapters is also the recent history of Mrs Weston (Emma’s former governess). Hers is a narrative arc that encompasses Spinster – Wife – Mother all in one novel. Mrs. Weston (or Mister Weston, for there are men in JASNA audiences!) was someone to keep in mind, as I went on to speak about Mothers-to-be preparing for confinements.

Let me mention here that anyone able to visit Montpelier, Vermont in March 2016 will be welcome to attend the same talk, “Who could be more prepared than she was? True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England”, thanks to JASNA-Vermont.

KM at agm_Steve(click pic for Steve’s photos from the Louisville 2016 AGM)

Just visible in the photo above is an image (lower corner) showing Emma and Mr Knightley, during a discussion of “due dates”. (You might just recall Mr. Austen’s comment that he and his wife had “in old age grown such bad reckoners” when Jane Austen failed to appear as predicted, in November.)

I can’t say I ever think of Austen’s characters as other than relatively happy couples and families – much like what I’ve seen played out over the course of fifty years (1790 to 1840) of family letters for Emma and her siblings. So, it was with great interest that I read Deborah Yaffe’s recent blog post HOW DARE YOU?, a refutation of the “long-term chances” of Austen couples like Emma & Mr. Knightly (deemed to have “So-So” chances) and Anne Elliot & Captain Wentworth (whose chances were assessed as “Dodgy”).

Yaffe

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Lady Northampton’s Aviary

October 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm (entertainment, jasna) (, , )

While staying at Louisville’s Galt House hotel, and traipsing DAILY back and forth from the JASNA AGM to our hotel room, I never realized the overpass, described by the hotel as their “conservatory”, was “Modeled after the Crystal Palace in London”.

Galt House

Their aviary of “exotic and colorful songbirds”, within the conservatory, however, fascinated me! You can just glimpse it in this “empty room” shot from the hotel’s website:

Galt House_interior

And even a dolt like me sees the Crystal Palace likeness, when I’m no longer rushing through it. Thank goodness I can say I breakfasted one day (Friday, the first day of the conference) under its arches.

As a child I had one pet: a dog. He spoiled me for ever contemplating a “replacement”. Other relatives had pets, among them a few dogs and the odd cat. I’m sure I had a goldfish at some point. But they never seem to last long, do they… Can’t say I recall any aquariums of vast size; or any caged birds. Maybe they were there, though.

In short, _I_ have often scoffed when reading about the Smiths & Goslings and Aviaries. Seemed like a “wealthy” kind of thing to have…, a fruitless “nothing”…, a “bauble” added to a room.

NOW I HAVE SEEN THE ERROR OF MY THINKING!

The hotel was busy-busy-busy. There was our conference – with over 800 Jane Austen enthusiasts. There was the Ironman Louisville Triathalon. And at least two other “groups” with conference space taken up in BOTH “towers” of the hotel. How wonderful it would be to sit, at leisure, and watch the little birds….

I remember one that swooped down, plucked up straw from the floor of the aviary, and brought it back up to the “basket”-like nest. I watched, amazed, as the straw piece was twisted and turned by the rapid movements of the little beak.

Only now do I wish I had “video”. But I post these photographs in order to share a little of my enthusiasm.

galt house birds1

galt house birds2

galt house birds3

galt house birds4

And from the letters, although I put my finger only on one comment by Lady Northampton about her aviary, I give you these snapshots of Smiths & Birds:

1804, Sarah Smith to Eliza Chute:

thank her [Mrs Bramston] for the kind offer of sending me a Canary Bird or two for the Aviary, Fanny [Lady Frances Compton] I am sure will be so good as to bring them with her

 

1807, Mamma to Augusta:

If the weather is as bad with you, as it is here, you cannot walk out much, & poor Grandmamma will be quite a prisoner; but you can always get to the Aviary, & there see a chearful scene.

 

1812, Maria Lady Northampton to her daughter:

my little birds are cheering me with their soft notes & appear pleased to see me

 

1825, Mamma to Maria:

my condolences on Valentine’s abominable behaviour [a Canary bird is written underneath]; the only excuse for such unnatural voraciousness is that she has been living constantly in the world w:h is a great trial to many people’s principles, you must not expect her to lay any more eggs this year.

and, a few months later:

Valentine is building another Nest, which excites Maria’s anxiety

I’ve now made a memo: The next estate that I buy must CERTAINLY come complete with an AVIARY!

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Further Thoughts on the JASNA AGM in Louisville

October 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm (jane austen, jasna) (, )

Searching for reactions, thoughts, and etc. from other participants, I bring to the attention of readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen the following useful “follow-ups” on the Jane Austen Society of North America’s recent annual general meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

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clicking on the image above will bring you to the facebook page for the AGM 2015. As many know, the Louisville region hosts a yearly Jane Austen Festival, at Locust Grove.

I had been told that it was writer Sharon Lathan‘s husband who acted as AGM “PRESS” Photographer. And Sharon has posted countless photos of speakers, events, companions, and even Louisville. If you couldn’t make it to Louisvile in October 2015, take a look at Sharon’s 2015 AGM Album.

If you were there: You might see yourself! Or, at the very least, “relive” the experience.

  • JASNA Central & Western New York has a nice blog post, complete with photos, that you might wish to visit. I kept hoping we’d see more, following their Saturday (Oct. 17) meeting at a local Barnes & Noble, but I’ve not yet seen any newer post.
  • Sophie’s Diary offers a brief “first-AGM” write-up called “Weekend with Jane”.
  • JASNA linked various Persuasions articles into a “sampling” of Reading about LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD. Two of my early publications are there: look for Elizabeth Bennet’s trip to Derbyshire; as well as Elizabeth Darcy’s wedding journey [both listed under “TRAVEL”]

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I’d like to address a personal aside:

On Saturday, October 10th (breakout session D), I gave my paper, “Who could be more prepared than she was”?  True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in early 19th Century England.

In the front row sat someone who seemed to photograph EVERY slide in my presentation. We’ve all been in an audience where some image grabbed our attention so much that we wanted to remember it, to keep it. But I have a vivid memory of changing images at one point quite rapidly – for some slides were “topic” cards (like the above). And it is that memory which I cannot shake: of a camera being lifted, and lifted again, and yet again.

It’s a harried atmosphere, when presenting a breakout paper at a JASNA AGM. My session came immediately after the plenary speaker Amanda Vickery. I had to hustle to my room, unpack the computer, my “script”, my couple of “show and tell” objects.

I had planned on an iPad app for keeping track of time. The last portion of the paper could run as long or as short as required. It was an Excel sheet comparing & contrasting “confinements” in Emma’s family, beginning with the confinement Claire Tomalin pointed to in her biography of Jane Austen: Lady Compton’s 1790 confinement with her son Spencer (the future 2nd Marquess of Northampton).

There’s a certain amount of material to get through; there’s a time limit — and I had three different people telling me when my time was running out (no two in sync). Waiting for the AV tech to arrive with the correct projector connection (HDMI), I neglected to even turn the iPad on (No room ON the lectern, it sat on a shelf below.)

My paper had specific references, letter and diary excerpts, that I wanted to introduce – to an audience who would have NO CLUE who Emma Austen or her family members were. I put a lot of effort into the slides that accompanied my words. So much so, that it felt as if I wrote two papers!

Only late into the paper did I spot the audience member taking “snaps”.

Even as I went through my Excel sheet of “confinements”, I saw the camera rise each time I moved the text on the screen.

My research – culled over nearly ten years now – is very dear to my heart. I’ve written and blogged and talked, always with the hope of exciting others about the “history” of people in another land at another time.

But to what end does someone photograph an entire presentation?

The images and the conclusions made while culling stacks of letters and diaries, was something I wanted to SHARE – with the people in the room.

Cell phones and cameras and selfies are too ubiquitous, for my taste. Nowadays, no one thinks about the possibility that I might have prefered NOT to have my presentation so faithfully reproduced.

It’s great for people to share their thoughts, their photographs; but please do not make assumptions about how I wish to share my work.

If this is a new trend in “note-taking”, I hope audience members will consider asking the speaker beforehand. I, for one, will be more guarded – both about what items I bring and what I include as images during a presentation.

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