Meet me in LOUISVILLE – JASNA AGM 2015

February 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm (jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , , )

The list of breakout speakers for the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA is up. Under the banner title of “LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD”, breakout speaker topics are diverse, and fascinating.

ja world

In the appropriately-named novel Emma, Jane Austen wrote of a marriage – that of Miss Taylor (Emma Woodhouse’s governess and dear friend) to Mr Weston, that resulted in the birth of a child! and a woman’s lying-in or “confinement” is the topic of my breakout talk, taking place in the Saturday, October 10th “D” session.

As before, that means _I_ miss some great speaker, such as: Sheryl Craig (whom I know) on “William Wickham”; Kristen Miller Zohn (whose AGM talk on miniatures I so enjoyed) on “silhouettes”; and Sue Forge on “London High Society” – which readers of this blog will know, I consider my Smiths & Goslings to be, if not “movers and shakers” in society, at least “prevalent” among the party-goers. And here’s why:

Of course, as an AMG participant, I must also pick speakers to hear. Too many to choose among!

Do I hear about Jane Austen’s ideas on being “Past the Bloom” (Stephanie Eddleman) or “A Quack or Dr. House” (Sharon Latham)?? When, equally, I’d dearly love to learn about Embroidery (which I used to enjoy) (Julie Buck)… or Estate Tenants (Linda Slothouber)… or Austen family cookbooks (Julienne Gehrer)… or Village Life (Sara Bowen)… or the treatment of poor George Austen, Jane Austen’s sometimes-forgotten brother (Bridget McAdam).

And that’s only the FIRST session!  Good thing there are several months to think over the possibilities.

I’ll say more, at a later date, about my topic — “Who could be more prepared than she was?”  True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in early 19th Century England — at a later date, but will take the time to say that many of the letters & diaries excerpts come from the copious examples of this Smith & Gosling research. From the “bantling” born in 1790 — the future 2nd Marquess of Northampton (Emma’s cousin “Lord Compton”), to the Confinements of Emma Austen herself.

And, no, I won’t forget Mrs Weston!

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An “Emma” Riddle

February 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm (books, jane austen) (, , )

JAustenI remember well Mr Elton’s charade on Court-Ship, and Mr Weston’s “two letters … that express perfection“; I’m hoping blog readers can tell me where in Emma the following occurs:

“Riddles and puns are used with great effect to exploit the comic misunderstandings between Emma and Mr Elton (his riddle on ‘woodhouse’ is blithely misinterpreted by Emma), but with the arrival of Frank Churchill we see a master game-player.”  [The Real Jane Austen, p. 254]

What riddle on ‘woodhouse’??

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The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (review)

May 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm (books, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Review copies of books often yield atrocious reads — no wonder “reviews” need to be sought out…. So when I was offered a copy of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor (Regnery Publishing) I was skeptical, … and reluctant. Ultimately, I said “what the hell” and gave my mailing address.

Marketing links The Jane Austen Guide to the self-help genre; one dust jacket review even terms it an “advice book”. This is definitely a misnomer for this erudite and thought-provoking treatise on Austen’s novels and the exploration of relationships within those novels. Kantor has given readers a detailed and well-argued dissection of relationships, and the comparison with today’s marriage and dating market not only serves to point up what might be missing in our current hustle-bustle living arrangements, but also to give point of reference to readers who may have little background knowledge of the early-nineteenth-century English gentry Austen writes about. Certainly, buy this book if you wish to change your current dating pattern. Better yet, buy this book and pull out your Austen novels; explore the novels with Kantor, and if you happen to live a bit more happily ever after, count that as a bonus.

Indifferent to The Jane Austen Guide’s effect as self-help advice, why recommend this volume take up precious space on your bookshelf beside your collection of Austen novels? From the introduction onwards, Kantor’s sly humor is evident, whether she’s discussing Bridget Jones’s Diary or her own relationship disasters. The quality of the writing and the discourse make this a delightful read.

“[Jane Austen’s] ideals are all about rational balance, not about running screaming from one extreme only to fall off the edge on the other side. If you’ve escaped from a fire, it’s still not a great idea  to jump off a bridge and drown yourself.”

Beneath this effervescent surface, which does keep pages turning, are nuggets that will have Janeites reaching to take the novels off the shelf (as opposed to turning on the DVD). All the characters are there: from level-headed Lizzy Bennet, to boy-crazy Lydia; from Maria Bertram who “sells herself for ‘an escape from Mansfield’ and a ‘house in town’” to Charlotte Lucas, who wants to be assured of “three square meals a day” and discussions of why proud Darcy makes a better mate than the jocular, popular Wickham. No matter which novel, which couple, is your favorite, you will find a whole variety of characters given center-stage. Even the Juvenilia come under consideration, whenever a story involves love, happiness, and marriage. Love and Freindship’s heroine Laura “is proud of herself for allowing her life to be governed by intense emotions at the expense of common sense and even common decency. She falls in love in the approved Romantic manner, at first sight: ‘No sooner did I first behold him, then I felt that on him the happiness or Misery of my future Life may depend.’” Instantly, a precursor to Austen’s better-known Marianne Dashwood is established, and this makes for more correlations between Marianne and today’s reader – much as there would have been correlations felt by Austen’s original audience for Sense and Sensibility.

Male characters come under Kantor’s scrutiny as well. For instance, she nails down Wentworth’s character with this short portrait: Wentworth “was honor-bound to wait and see if his attentions to Louisa Musgrove had made Louisa expect to marry him. It was ‘dreadful,’  Wentworth tells Anne, ‘to be waiting so long in inaction.’ He never stops to think that he’s complaining about six weeks of terrible suspense to a woman who waited for him for seven years.” The crux behind Edmund Bertram’s stars dropping from his eyes is given as briefly and succinctly: “Mary’s reaction to this adulterous affair {Maria Rushworth running off with Mr. Crawford} finally opens Edmund’s eyes. He can hardly believe that the woman he wanted to marry thinks that Maria’s only real mistake in her affair with Henry was … getting caught.” Nowadays, that is the typical reaction; the ramifications of how this affair would have affected an entire family, like the disappearance of Lydia Bennet with Wickham, sometimes needs to be reasserted for less tutored readers. Kantor accomplishes that tutoring with ease, especially when she can equate past behavior with today’s behavior. For instance, in Mary Crawford’s handling of Edmund Bertram in a most “calculating way–as if the dating game were some kind of competition in looks, money, and status.” To Kantor much of Austen’s character-actions have “a very familiar flavor.”

Families, living arrangements, even “elbow room” then and now, help readers to see historically and rationally Austen’s milieu and how our own compares. “[C]olleges building new dorms with only ‘singles’ to accommodate freshman classes full of kids who’ve never shared a room in their lives; cell phones so ubiquitous that it’s becoming awkward even to ask a stranger the time”. Such comments cull current information for points of study that will make readers think about life today, i.e., what we might be missing as our lives continue to become more insular — as well as more insulated by parents and society. Food for thought, on many levels.

“[L]iving in the eighteen-teens, you pretty much had to learn to live with other people in a way that twenty-first-century people can mostly avoid. …. To hear music, you had to actually collect live musicians in one place. Games were with fellow guests around a card table, not at your solitary screen. And getting to a ball often meant having to be grateful to more well-to-do neighbors for a place in their carriage.”

In the end, Kantor recognizes, “It does make it dangerously easy for us to fall out of the habit of getting along with other people at close quarters. … And yet, ironically, we also find independence so compelling that we avoid putting ourselves in situations where we’re likely to form those kind of {i.e., close} friendships.”

Kantor’s delivery will delight younger-adult readers, and her lines of thought should provoke Austen scholars to think outside the box. Run to your nearest bookstore and buy your own copy of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After.

four filled-to-the-brim inkwells.

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Hope Came in Costume

January 28, 2012 at 10:46 am (books, fashion) (, , , , , )

Well known to me for a few years is the costume specialist, Hope Greenberg. Hope gave an excellent talk to our JASNA Vermont group a couple years ago; and last night enthralled our group of Emma-readers with late-18th and early-19th century dress for men and women.

Hope was in a lovely maroon gown last night; and “dressed” for breakfast today too!

Don’t you wish you were here?

(Where’s “here”? The Governor’s House in Hyde Park!)

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Mozart’s Birthday / Jane Austen Weekend

January 27, 2012 at 11:13 am (books, entertainment, jane austen) (, , , , , , , , , )

Something out of the ordinary this 27 January — while I listen to a lovely Mozart piano concerto, I’m also thinking of this evening’s “treat”: a Hyde Park bed & breakfast weekend centered around the Theme of Emma.

Just last night (thanks to Cathy Kawalek — more on Cathy later!) I was reading Clive Caplan’s biography on Henry Austen as “Jane Austen’s Soldier Brother”; and came across a notation that Jane must have used her knowledge of Henry’s thoughts and desires for his military career when it came to the writing of Emma. How so, you may ask… Because Austen put Mr Weston in a certain regiment that was then posted to Yorkshire — where he met his wife and begat his son, Frank Churchill.

Must admit I never really thought about Mr Weston’s earlier exploits much and through what means he might have met his wife. But how fortuitous to read Clive’s comment now, right before our Emma weekend!

More later, for my computer travels with me…

 

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First Edition Jane Austen Novels

January 11, 2012 at 7:07 am (books, history, jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Readers of Two Teens in the Time Austen have probably come to realize that I *ADORE* anything that is “old” and “authentic” and “original”.

So a while back I S-E-A-R-C-H-E-D high and low for pages images (not text) or the early editions of Austen’s novels. I’m still searching for a couple of volumes. These multi-volumes for one title are a killer! So if anyone comes across the missing volumes do let me know…

In the meantime, enjoy the “originals”.

These can also be accessed by using the page link at the right –> Authentic Austen, Scott & Waldie. I like my Austen with a cup of tea; how about you??

Sense and Sensibility
(the first edition is missing vol. III though…; let’s hope all the pages are present in the others)

*1811 edition vol. I; vol. II; vol. III
*1833 Bentley edition (books.google.com)   (complete)

Pride and Prejudice
          *1813 edition vol. I; vol. II; vol. III   (vol. 2 & 3: complete)

Mansfield Park
          *1814 edition vol. I; vol. II; vol. III   (all: complete)
          *1816 (2nd) edition vol. I; vol. II; vol. III   (all: complete)

Emma
          *1816 edition vol. I; vol. II; vol. III   (all: complete)

Northanger Abbey & Persuasion
          *1818 edition vol. I (inc: biographical notice); vol. II; vol. III; vol. IV 
            (vol. 2 & 4: complete)

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December 16th Birthdays

December 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm (jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , , )

Listening to the radio this morning, there were announcements for the birthday of Noel Coward (in 1899). The interesting comment attached to this was that at one point he had to “reinvent” himself. Ah, aren’t we all having to do, just to keep treading water, sometimes.

The radio station’s next comment on Coward’s birthday also included Beethoven’s birthday (1770). More a Mozart fan, I must admit to forgetting the birth dates of other composers. Discussion of him, and a piece played by composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, just transported me back to Vienna. Oh, gosh! to be able to travel! I’ve not seen Vienna in fifteen years… And my German was almost “decent” back then.

When I reached work, after having been out a couple days, I was greeted with “Happy Jane Austen’s birthday”. I hope Jane did have some happy birthdays. But no one can ever know the ups and downs she may have experienced over her lot in life. Yet her writings show that for those who need to express themselves in words, they will always find a way to do so. Austen was among the lucky: she saw her works printed. Even if she didn’t have a long life, even if she didn’t make a lot of money, she saw her works go out beyond her family.

Imagine Beethoven, who in the end couldn’t hear his own compositions. Coward was probably the luckiest of them all: he saw his works give him riches and fame. Though most artists might be happy just to have to the ability to perform the art they love doing — a livable wage and a responsive, encouraging audience.

A lot can be said about the thoughts behind the word ENCOURAGEMENT. Home, sick, the last few days, I’ve had a LOT of time to think. Wish there had been some one person, in a position to help, who took the time to encourage me. Those of you out there who feel the guiding hand of a mentor are perhaps the luckiest of everyone.

In my own research there is no December 16th birthday, but there is a December 16th wedding: Emma Smith and James Edward Austen. I know that in the early days of their engagement (a few months before their wedding), they were reading Emma together. What might have suggested that book? I have no definitive clues that the Smith girls read much Austen until after 1817 — although they had known James Edward quite some years, running into him at The Vyne, the estate of their Aunt and Uncle Chute. In the 1820s, one letter mentions a left-behind volume of Pride and Prejudice and some slim comments about characters the letter-writer found particularly worthy of comment (the usual suspects being singled out: Mr Collins and Mary Bennet!).

When Edward brought Emma around Winchester — and they visited the Cathedral — they must have stopped at Aunt Jane’s graveside; but, again, they have left no concrete clue.

But: Was December 16th just a convenient date, or was there some significance for bride or groom in marrying on that date?

It’s funny little questions like that which keep the attention slowly burning, for who doesn’t like a puzzle in need of solving?

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Old Friends

November 3, 2011 at 7:44 pm (diaries, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Monday, after sending off a book chapter — and now that it’s two weeks beyond the JASNA AGM, I found myself with nothing that HAD to be done. BUT: I wanted to work, to read and see my dear Smiths & Goslings. Being in the midst of some hunt, I ended up in Emma’s 1828 diary. And a few entries sent me back to the beginning of the year and a complete read-through.

My thoughts came right from the mouth of Sweeney Todd

These are my friends…
Speak to me friend — Whisper,
I’ll listen.
I know, I know — you’ve been locked out of sight all these years…
(My faithful friends)
I’ve come home to find you waiting.

I include this link to Johnny Depp singing this song on YouTube.

I was oh, so happy to welcome back my old friends! It’s been three months of intense work on other things; even my newest diaries — those of Richard Seymour — were barely touched.

And what a treat Emma’s life in 1828 is: she even ended the year reading Emma and getting engaged to James Edward Austen.

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Living In: Emma

July 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm (books, fashion) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Happy July! and to celebrate today (Canada Day for those north of the Border from me in VT), I post this link to a fabulous “continuing” series of LIVING IN found on Design*Sponge, and written by Amy Merrick. This one was posted for the First Day of Summer, and particularly targets the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma and its picnic scenes:

LIVING IN: Emma

Reading through the comments, it is AMAZING how many people just love Austen’s novel and her heroine! (Must admit, at least at present, Emma is my favorite.)

Amy has included a “shopping list” of items you might like for your own picnic: English Willow Picnic Basket and Cheshire Cheese, to Floppy Straw Hat and Chloe Ballet Flats (expensive!!)

Amy confesses that her “all-time favorite Austen adaptation” is Thompson’s Sense & Sensibility — and you can find that film’s LIVING IN here.

Be sure to check out other films based on books; among my favorites are DANGEROUS LIAISONS and JANE EYRE. And having just talked of AMELIE with a Montreal friend, I include the link to that one also!

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New Find – Old Book

December 27, 2008 at 11:00 am (books, fashion) (, , , , )

johnson3This fascinating page is from A LADY OF FASHION: BARBARA JOHNSON’S ALBUM OF STYLE AND FABRICS (Natalie Rothstein, ed; 1987). Miss Johnson kept an album describing the cloth purchased (and its price per yard!), with clippings of fashion plates for the period from 1746, when she was eight-years-old, until her death in 1825. Can you imagine anything more useful in studying the lives of Emma Smith and Mary Gosling!?! The original album is owned by the V&A.

The Study of Dress History (2002) has this to say about the album: “This is a curious object because it is simply an old accounts ledger, but one into which one woman pinned samples of fabric of all the dresses she wore and then noted alongside details of price, date and occasion for which the dress was made. Even more astonishing is the fact that Miss Johnson did this over a period of nearly eighty years…. The album came up for auction at Christie’s in 1973 and after some desperate fund raising it was purchased for the Victoria and Albert Museum. Natalie Rothstein, then Keeper of Textiles, has since then been able to identify Miss Johnson as a fashion consumer moving on the fringes of London society within the circle of a well-off clerical family. She spent time in London, Norfolk and Bath and never married.

Turning over the pages of this album is almost like hearing Miss Johnson’s voice speaking about her clothes, whether they were for weddings, funerals or visits to smart relatives in London and Bath. The note written carefully in black ink alongside a small sample of medium-weight cotton printed with a tiny speckled repeat design in grey and mauve, reads: ‘A Stormont Cotten gown and petticoat, ten yards, two shillings a yard. April 1788, mourning for Aunt Johnson.’  This modest little print is indeed in the exact etiquette-correct colours of half mourning. Another mourning fabric chosen twenty years later is described as ‘a black Chambery muslin, seven yards, half a crown a yard. Made in Bath. June 1808, mourning for my dear friend Mrs Wodhull.’ This little note tells us that even when elderly, Miss Johnson was still keeping up with the latest fashion fabrics by turning to the lighter silk and cotton materials fashionable in the early nineteenth century.” [pp. 7-8]

Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood, 1600-1900 (1997) (which looks to be of use all on its own!) is a bit more forthcoming about the life of young Barbara. Authors Morag Styles and Mary Hilton first identify the family, with this memorial inscription:

” ‘Sacred to the memory of the Revd Woolsey Johnson clerk who died April 21 1756 in the sixtieth year of his age, and Jane his wife daughter of Richard Russell esq. of Warwick, who died February 9 1759 in the fifty second year of her age. Also of George William Johnson, esq. eldest son of the above Woolsey Johnson and Jane his wife who died February 8, 1814, in the seventy fourth year of his age. Through life beloved.’

Nearby in the same cemetery is buried George’s brother, the Rev. Robert Augustus Johnson (1745-99), who became rector of a nearby parish and was the only child of Jane’s who had children of his own. The remaining son Charles became vicar of the village church in Witham-on-the-Hill.

Barbara (1738-1825) was the eldest child in the family. She never married but remained close to childhood family friends of Lincolnshire and London. She became a member of moderately prominent social circles in London and often visited Witham-on-the-Hill, as well as the family homes of her brothers, especially Robert, with whom she maintained a frequent correspondence until his death in 1799. It is from her letters and memorabilia that we can draw many inferences about the kind of mother Jane Johnson must have been. Barbara kept throughout her life an album of her own fashions and occasions for acquiring and wearing many pieces of her apparel. She also tucked into her album pages and plates she had torn from various Pocket Books, leather-covered calendar books popular with women in the second half of the eighteenth century. Barbara’s complete album, along with brief quotes from letters recalling moments of her childhood, is reproduced in A Lady of Fashion….

We may safely assume that Barbara’s mother was educated primarily at home, but perhaps also at some nearby girls’ school in music, reading and in manners befitting a lady of a country manor similar to that of females portrayed in the century by novelist Jane Austen. Emma (published in 1815) in particular gives considerable insight into the education of such women three-quarters of a century later: ‘light’ but considerable reading, facility with the piano and needlework, ‘elegant, agreeable manners’, and a range of knowledge about how to run a household and estate, and to entertain guests. We may assume that Jane Johnson was perhaps not quite so wealthy and comfortable as Jane Austen’s heroine Emma Woodhouse, but she was certainly not so dependent on a vicar’s salary as Mr Elton in the same novel. Emma reports conversations, thoughts, and perceptions of the characters of her countryside society. She also lets her readers in on their leisure reading of books and letters and pastimes of playing games with handmade alphabet cards created by women of the household for word games.

We know from the letters of Barbara and Jane that the Johnson children and their friends must have had much in common with Jane Austen’s Emma. They too had books, wrote and received letters, played alphabet games, and had sets of cards and small handmade books created for their pleasure…. As children, Barbara and her brothers were expected to be performers, listeners, reading audience, and reading and writing partners. The children wrote, did paper cuttings, painted, told stories, sang, and created a range of types of written and artistic records of their lives, many of which have been lost but receive mention in letters written by Jane to her children….” [pp. 18-20]

See the Bodleian Library’s Jane Johnson & family papers.

The website Wigs on the Green (which has miniatures, silhouettes, etc. for sale, but is especially recommended for its pictures and lovely bibliography) says of the Album and its originator: “this fashion-conscious lady kept a swatch of fabric from every garment she had made and pinned it into her album noting how much it cost and what it was used for. Alongside she pasted in the fashion plates from the ladies’ magazines which inspired her wardrobe. The pages from her album are reproduced in full-size and in colour: the fabrics are so vivid you imagine you should be able to feel their texture. This book is out of print and can be pricey but for anyone interested in 18th century costume it’s well worth the investment.” Looking online – after a look at local libraries (not on their shelves…) – yes, pricey: a median cost is $200. Dartmouth College (a bit of a drive, but doable at under two hours) has a copy — but it’s JUST been taken out (and obviously by faculty): the damned thing’s not due back until 22 December 2009!

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