Jane Austen in California

October 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm (jasna, travel) (, , , )

I returned Monday morning from a week in California – including the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The theme was

“Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality”. The resort hotel chosen, the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach proved a FANTASTIC find. Just walking from the conference building to my room, the eye was greeted at every glance, every turn with fountains, “birds of paradise” in flower, places to sit and enjoy a “fire”. If there was a downside, it was the “sound quality” coming from the speakers especially in the larger rooms. Even our guest, Whit Stillman, commented (more than once).

In reviewing my notes, I have a feeling that because so many attendees were “first-timers” they would disagree with what I’m about to say: too many sessions were “too basic”. I’ll mention two that I attended because I thought they would be “useful”.

“Reading Jane Austen through the Lens of the Law” was a two-part, two-speaker session. The first speaker talked a lot, but didn’t have much to say that was ‘new’ or ‘unknown’. The second speaker was better, but “the historical” context was missing. And neither managed to actually answer someone’s question of “What was a Jointure?”

The other disappointment was the session entitled “Jane Austen’s Earthly Sendoff to Paradise”. Right out of the gate came information that I knew to be a mistake: People were NOT buried within two to three days of death. A review of primary materials for the correct “historical” context would have nipped this deadly mistake in the bud.

One thing I did _learn_ was to think of Tumblr (a platform I am not on) as a 21st Century “Commonplace Book”. THAT _WAS_ exciting to think about! I had been looking at Commonplace Books on eBay…. So it was rather timely as being already on my mind.

I spent a day in San Francisco, since I had never been to California before. It was the “Autumn Moon Festival” in Chinatown:

I can’t say that I “left my heart in San Francisco”…. But the Blue Angels and Snowbirds certainly did:

It was “Fleet Week 2017” – and somebody was up there, practicing.

 

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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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Dining with Jane Austen

August 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

A few evenings ago, I attended a “delicious” lecture, sponsored by the Vermont Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).

Julienne Gehrer has created, in photos and text, “a culinary adventure” through the “life and works” of Jane Austen. It’s called Dining with Jane Austen.

Dining with JA_Gehrer

Lay your white gloves aside, and dip into recipes from Martha Lloyd’s Household Book and the Knight Family Cookbook. Julienne has had unprecedented access to photograph at both Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House Museum (ie, Chawton Cottage) – making the book a feast for the eyes as well!

Julienne has “tested” and updated recipes from the two manuscript books – recipes which Jane Austen herself may very well have tasted. I whet your appetite with a sample page; more available on the book’s website (click the picture or Dining with Jane Austen).

Trifle with whipt syllabub

UPDATE: I totally forgot to mention: Proceeds are earmarked for Chawton House Library AND Jane Austen’s House Museum. So you also get to “fund” two Jane Austen sites, as well as “feed” you need for books and sustenance.

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Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s Scarlets for Sale

June 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm (history, jane austen, places) (, , )

You, too, could inhabit the world of Jane Austen: her aunt’s house is For Sale:

Scarlets for sale

This is how the house looks on SAVILLS’ website.  Note that the property includes:

  • 4 reception rooms
  • master bedroom suite
  • 5 further bedrooms
  • 2 family bathrooms
  • 2 reception rooms to second floor
  • kitchen/breakfast room
  • cellar with bar/games room & wine store
  • detached double garage and office
  • gardens of about 1.25 acres

Oddly, the property seems to have acquired an extra ‘t’ – Scarletts – over the years. From the website’s “history”:

Scarletts is the major portion of a magnificent Grade II listed Georgian property built, in the 1760s for Mr & Mrs James Leigh Perrot, the maternal uncle and aunt of Jane Austen. They are reported to have formed part of an inner circle of relatives with whom the Austens regularly exchanged letters and visits. …. The house has a wealth of period features including high ceilings, original fireplaces, deep skirtings and ornate cornicing. It is elegant and beautifully presented throughout.

The front door, with fanlight over, opens to a handsome panelled entrance hall, which has a limestone floor and underfloor heating. The oak panelling is dated 1610 and is decorated with coats of arms of cathedral cities. This opens to a magnificent reception hall with an original oak parquet floor and sweeping staircase with oak balustrade, ornate spindles and risers. The main reception rooms are a delight and are light and airy with large sash windows and working shutters, original fireplaces with gas log effect fires, built-in shelves and cupboards, wood flooring, ornate plaster cornices, wall panels and ceiling roses. Double doors from the drawing room open to an orangery which was added in 2007 and has underfloor heating and doors opening to a wide stone terrace and ornamental pond.

The so-called guide price is £3.5 million, for over 7,000 square feet of space.

Scarlets_Austen Leigh

My interest, though, comes in the 1830s, when Edward and Emma Austen, newly named “Austen Leigh” moved in after Edward’s inheritance from his great-aunt Leigh Perrot. “Talk” of Edward’s inheritance became serious once Mrs. Leigh Perrot met his intended bride, falling in love with dear Emma and the Smiths – perhaps especially her Aunt Northampton (the Marchioness of Northampton).

Emma Austen, nee Smith

 

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Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen

June 14, 2017 at 8:14 pm (entertainment, jane austen) (, , )

worsley austen 1

Jane Austen (Gwendolen Chatfield) invites visitors “Behind Closed Doors” in a charming presentation by Lucy Worsley.

Nice to step through the door at places like Godmersham Park or envision vanished places, like Manydown Park:

worsley austen 2

One even gets a look at the seaside! Beaches and Cobbs are still around, but homes are a bit more transient; houses, like the one Worsley is pointing out in this painting of Southampton, can sometimes only be deduced in other ways.

worsley austen 3Very useful to have “visiting” historians and even an archaeologist. The quotes from Austen’s letters spoken on camera by Ms. Chatfield was refreshing. Highly recommended (and you know where to find it online; search worsley austen).

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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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Austenised: a Visit to The Vyne

November 13, 2016 at 11:17 am (chutes of the vyne, estates, jane austen) (, , )

In August, Anna, on the blog AUSTENISED, wrote about her visit to The Vyne – the Hampshire estate of the Chute family. I invite you to walk in Anna’s footsteps:

austenised

I cannot subscribe to a theory of “hostility” between Jane Austen and Eliza or William Chute, but welcome the beautiful shots of the house and its interior.

Aside:
As to Jane and the Chutes: The crux lies in the liberal use at the time of the word ‘civil’, and I take into account Jane Austen’s wry humor – especially when writing to her sister. The sentence typically quoted is not a damning one, in my opinion. That Eliza Chute was drawn to James Austen (The Vyne’s local clergyman) must also be seen to play a part in the Austen family dynamics. Still, the Austen sisters did visit The Vyne; as well, the Chutes paid visits (as Jane’s comment attests) to the senior Austens at Steventon.

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Book an Evening with Jane Austen

August 10, 2016 at 10:49 pm (entertainment, jane austen, news) (, , , )

Another Charlotte Frost Find – author Catherine Curzon’s new book Life in the Georgian Court plays a featured role in a September 2016 “Jane Austen” evening of music at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion. “Soloists” include Adrian Lukis (Mr. Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) and Caroline Langrishe, who will perform “dialogues”, and harpist Camilla Pay and soprano Rosie Lomas. Catherine will perform introductions, as well as sign copies of her book during the interval.

life Georgian Court

Read more Catherine Curzon at her blog A Covent Garden Gilflirt’s Guide to Life while awaiting her book!

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Articles @ Academia.edu

July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm (history, research) (, , , , , )

A reminder for some, and a “poke” for those new to the SMITH & GOSLING blog: I post “original” articles on Academia.edu, a website dedicated to papers, books, classes, etc. relating to academics and independent scholars.

Academia

These currently include:

Combine Jane Austen, Eliza Chute, and “Sense and Sensibility” with a true-life courtship and abandonment. Mrs. Wheeler, a woman taken in by the Chutes of The Vyne, left an orphan daughter, Hester, who left deep impressions on both Caroline Wiggett and Caroline Austen.

The flower painter Margaret Meen also taught painting: pupils included Queen Charlotte and the Royal Princesses; the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park: Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma. Little about Meen’s life has been uncovered — until now. Four letters lead to some surprisingly-full biographical details of the life of a woman artist in Georgian England.

{NB: “Miss Meen” appeared in the July/August 2014 issue No. 70 of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine as “Flowering in Four Letters”. The link, above, is the original article submitted to JARW. To purchase the magazine, please go to BACK ISSUES on the JARW website}

JARW

Links to ACADEMIA articles can always be found in the navigation at right.

And, soon, these two articles will be joined by a new treatise!

Early in the history of this blog, I dangled the idea that JAMES BOSWELL was one of the “famous” names connected with the Smiths & Goslings. So watch my Academia page for the upload (coming shortly) of “Boswell’s ‘Miss Cunliffe’: Augmenting James Boswell’s missing Chester Journal“.

Academia.edu will ask you to sign in to view articles (Google and Facebook are two alternatives to creating an Academia account); articles are PDF.

 

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