The “Original” Jane Austen Book Club

September 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

In reading about Jane Austen and the Plumptres of Fredville, I took down my copy of Jane Austen’s Letters to see for myself her mentions of the Plumptres.

I’ll blame it on the early morning, and the fact that my tea was still steeping; I turned to a letter that in the index was cited for its mention of the Papillons. Right letter of the alphabet, wrong family.

But I was sucked into this letter in an instant!

Jane is writing to Cassandra from Chawton, and mentions the reading she has been doing:

My Mother is very well & finds great amusement in the glove-knitting; when this pair is finished, she means to knit another, & at present wants no other work. — We quite run over with Books. She has got Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B.  & I am reading a Society-Octavo… by Capt. Pasley of the Engineers, a book which I protested against at first, but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining.”

Le Faye’s endnote explains that Jane Austen was part of “the Chawton Book Society, or reading club.”

Time and again the Smiths mention the purchase of books from the reading club, or attending club dinners. My assumption is that various members clubbed together, the purchased books made the rounds, and afterwards were up for sale – and purchased (or not) by the club members.

NB: I’d love to hear from anyone with specific news on how these reading clubs worked.

Jane later writes, “Yesterday moreover brought us Mrs Grant’s Letters, with Mr White’s Comp:ts,– but I have disposed of them, Comp:ts & all, for the first fortnight to Miss Papillon — & among so many readers or retainers of Books as we have here in Chawton, I dare say there will be no difficulty in getting rid of them for another fortnight if necessary.” [letter 78; 24 Jan 1813]

CAN YOU IMAGINE?! a place as small and intimate as Chawton, with all these readers?! Gosh, I would be in heaven to be among so many booklovers!! By the way, I found myself laughing at loud at so many of Austen’s turns of phrase. Just DELIGHTFUL!

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Texas Beckons – Long and Winding Road nears its end

October 12, 2011 at 8:03 am (jane austen, jasna, news, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Today marks the beginning of the JASNA AGM long and winding road: I leave for Manchester, NH and a Thursday flight for Dallas-Fort Worth.

It has, indeed, been long and winding…

Was last year about this time that I proposed a paper to the Annual General Meeting 2011 of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Then came the acceptance! Hurrah, was my first thought; but it’s been much work — and time away from my beloved Smiths & Goslings. In the last month, when I might have been living life in 1830s England, transcribing Richard Seymour’s diaries, I’ve been looking to fine tune some Jane Austen writings. I’ve read Austen because she would have been Emma’s “Aunt”; Emma, on visits to Chawton, when she describes Cassandra Austen or Edward Knight, might have been rubbing elbows with a woman whose books she read (there is a diary notation of Mansfield Park in 1818). I’ve certainly learned a lot about life, reading Austen’s novels; and also learned about obscure aspects of her novelistic world by studying the Smiths & Goslings. Yet, I’ll be glad to get back to “work” come November. I’m missing “my people”!

I’ve never been West – so this will be a bit of a treat. Going book-looking in New Hampshire (if all goes well) at my favorite used bookstore: Old Depot No. 6, in Henniker.

Not a lot of book room in the suitcase, should the JASNA Emporium beckon…

Hope to keep you up-to-date while I’m at the AGM!

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It’s a Small Jane Austen World

July 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In Friday’s post (hurray!) was the 2nd Sarah Markham book — really the one I wanted most because of its subject, which you can glean from its title: A Testimony of Her Times: Based on Penelope Hind’s Diaries and Correspondence, 1787-1838.

A slight aside: Penelope Loveday Benwell Hind was born in 1759 and died in 1846; so the title dates are NOT her lifespan!

When I found mention of this book online – and quickly located a nice (used) copy at a fair price, I awaited its arrival impatiently because of the time period and, also, I’m a sucker for any account based on an English woman’s life. Will say this of the book: EXCELLENT! Locate a copy ASAP, it will NOT disappoint.

There were MANY connections to other diary/correspondence/biography I have collected over the years: there were mentions of the Countess of Ilchester (the Talbot family) mentioned in A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter; the Byngs — see the Torrington Diaries — were relations of the Lovedays; the Berrys — ie, Mary Berry of the Walpole correspondence — comes in for frequent visits; Felbrigg Hall comes up once or twice (must admit to boredom so I never read more than the first book about the National Trust caretakers of the estate).  Then came this, on page 85; the Hinds are removing Pen’s sister Sarah to their home in Findon, Sussex:

“The first day’s journey was quite short as they spent the night at SPEEN HILL with a FRIEND, MRS CRAVEN, who had formerly lived at Chilton House…” There is then a footnote explaining about Mrs Craven — though with no mention of her Austen connection; that comes from JA’s Letters. Mrs Craven’s elder son was Fulwar Craven. (I’ll let you consult your own Letters to puzzle out the Fulwars-Cravens-Fowles-Austens.)

Of Mrs Craven, Le Faye writes: “1779 [married] Catherine Hughes, daughter of James Hughes of Letcombe, Berks., and had two sons and one daughter; lived at BARTON Court  and also at Chilton Foliat, Wilts” — which is where the Lovedays would have encountered her. Husband John Craven died in 1804; Mrs Craven in 1839.

Then this morning, MORE Austen connections. A great friend to Pen Hind’s first husband (William Benwell) was the Rev. James Ventris. He continued a friend and “since he had stayed with them [the Hinds] he had been presented to the living of Beeding, not far away, and lived at Beeding Priory. In May 1816 he married Jane Hinton, daughter of the former rector of CHAWTON, whom they liked very much.” Miss Hinton herself appears in JA’s Letters; and the family are in Le Faye’s Biographical Index. Mrs Ventris is the “Jane II” who lived 1771-1856. Her brother, John-Knight Hinton, joined the suit of James-Hinton Baverstock against Edward Austen Knight in 1814 “for possession of his Hampshire estates” (Edward settled in 1818, paying 15,000 pounds).

Mrs Ventris’ sister, Mary, had a daughter – Elizabeth Wells — who married the nephew of Pen Hind! Arthur and Elizabeth Loveday had a son, another Arthur (for Pen also had a brother Arthur). This family, who’s little history is coming up in Testimony, became related to the Lefroys when young Arthur married the youngest daughter of Anna Austen and Ben Lefroy! (Anna, of course, was elder sister to James Edward Austen Leigh and Caroline Mary Craven Austen.)

Have to wonder, with all the letters and diaries that could exist in the Loveday-Hind-Wells-Craven-Hinton etc circle, if there aren’t some uncovered mentions of the Austens… Jane included.

BTW: Happy 4th of July!

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Rick Steves meets Jane Austen?!

June 8, 2011 at 9:32 pm (entertainment, estates, jasna, news, people, places, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Yep, that’s the scoop! Direct from Cheryl Kinney at JASNA AGM central:

Dear All,

Thought you might enjoy this notice from the “Travel with Rick Steves” show!
 
We will be airing Rick’s interview with Andrew Davies about Jane Austen on the June 11/12 edition of Travel with Rick Steves.  The show will also include interviews with writer Bill Bryson (about his latest book, “At Home: A Short History of Private Life”) and with London tour guide Britt Lonsdale about enjoying afternoon tea in England.

We will be adding a link on our radio website to JASNA, and also providing details about the society’s October annual meeting.

For a complete list of stations and air times for our show, please see this page of our website: http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/whereitairs.htm

Beginning on June 12, the show will also be available to download any time from our website archives at this page: http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/archive.htm

 
Warmest regards,
Cheryl

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Emma Meets the Austens

September 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm (people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In summer 1829, Emma Austen met her Austen relations. Two letters from this period exist, one written to ‘Aunt’ (Judith Smith, the only remaining sister of Emma’s father); the other to her own sister, Fanny.

The Edward Austens had visited Ben and Anna Lefroy, Edward’s brother-in-law and half-sister. Emma met ‘Mr Knight’, ‘who changed his name from Austen to Knight for a fortune.’ She describes to Aunt my favorite of them all: ‘Mrs Cassandra Austen’, whom she calls ‘a very pleasing lady like person’.

Emma goes on to describe the visit: ‘We staid at Ashe till Friday — Mr William Knight has the living of Steventon & his father has built him a capital parsonage house with every convenience & luxury about it’. This convenience, of course, is why the Steventon parsonage that was Jane Austen’s birthplace no longer exists. Progress…

But rather than write about Emma’s impressions of the family, I want to touch on the fact that after her discussion of Steventon the rest of the letter is physically missing! More than half of the page is just gone. So much information, then a SNIP and some precious other bit is torn away.

It’s rather like Emma’s diaries. One queer thing about them is that whenever she gave birth to one of her children pages have been removed and a notation made as to which child was born when. Why??? Souvenir? hiding intimate thoughts? Were the Pieces destroyed? Were the Pieces kept? I’ve just no clue.

More about these letters, and Emma’s impression, in some later post.

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For Better, For Worse

August 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , )

Dear Miss Heber2Since January, when I came across advance information on Hazel Jones’ forthcoming book Jane Austen & Marriage, I’ve awaited its July release. For a fuller ‘review’ of it, please see Jane Austen In Vermont’s blog. Here, I merely want to point up the amount of information Jones has plucked from letters in the SMITH family! Not only does Eliza Chute (née Smith) and her mother Sarah come into the discussion of courting and matrimony, so does Eliza’s sister Maria (who marries the heir to the Earl of Northampton; her husband later becomes the first Marquess). James Austen — Jane’s eldest brother and father of James-Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) — is here also, with both of his wives. And source materials bring old friends like Miss Heber (pictured at left) and new friends like Dorothea Herbert (a book I am currently reading, with much enjoyment).

ja_and_marriage_coverJones’ chapter on “The Power of Refusal” (chapter 2) put a smile on my face: here she mentions that some suitors proposed in person — while others wrote letters or used an intermediary. Why the smile? The Rev. Richard Seymour, totally unsure of his reception (according to his own diaries), sent his elder brother John (another man of the cloth) to sound out Mrs Smith – who then sounded out daughter Fanny; it was good news from both. And wasn’t Richard happy!

The map of “Jane Austen’s Hampshire” (in B&W in the book, but reproduced in color on the back cover of the dust jacket) shows just how close The Vyne was situated to such Austen locales as Manydown House, Deane, Steventon, Chawton and Basingstoke’s Assembly Rooms.

This is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in Austen or her novels; the use of primary materials written by acquaintances, relations and autobiographers will appeal to historians researching early nineteenth-century mores in middle class England. Anyone interested in my research will enjoy the peeks into the lives of the few Smith-Gosling relatives.

Also worth a look – the author’s website, which includes information on the Austen courses she offers.

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