Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Austen

October 30, 2019 at 8:50 pm (books, fashion, history, jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , )

In yesterday’s mail was a very welcome copy of Hilary Davidson’s Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion. Periodically, I search for new and upcoming releases of books, including about Austen, about England, about history. I remember the cover,

Davidson_Dress

Everyone will recognize “Mrs. Q.”

But had I paid it much attention? I hate to say, ‘No.’ But when it arrived in the mail (unexpectedly!) the surprise was as pleasant as the receipt. A great deal of text; photographs of actual garments, political cartoons, and period portraits. The table of contents spoke to me as one who researches young ladies of the same period, who certainly exhibited this same variety of fashion personae:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Village
  • Country
  • City
  • Nation
  • World

When I turned to the title page and saw Yale University Press my good impression was complete.

Who says that Mail only brings BILLS?!?

A full review in the near future.

In the meantime, Yale has a brief (16 seconds) YouTube film, showing the interior of the book. Elyse Martin has written a lengthy review on Historians.org called “Fashion Forward.” A brief review from Publishers Weekly. See also Hilary Davidson’s website. A nicely-lengthy preview is available on Books.Google.

Davidson has written on Jane Austen’s Pelisse and its construction and replication. It was an important re-read for me when writing about Cassandra and Jane Austen for the recent JASNA AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia. The pelisse illustrates a tall, thin woman – and my Emma, soon after her marriage to James Edward Austen, described Cassandra, whom she had recently met in person. But it wasn’t until distilling the words of Anna Lefroy (Edward’s elder half-sister) that it dawned: Anna recalled a game she played, in which she guessed “which aunt” belonged to “which bonnet.” Between Anna’s game and Emma’s description, the conclusion becomes that the same silhouette must describe Cassandra Austen as well as her sister Jane Austen.

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Bonhams: Jane Austen’s Letter 88

October 27, 2019 at 11:14 am (jane austen, news, Uncategorized) (, , , )

This is a further update to two posts:

Although I watched the auction online and was witnessing the climb and climb in price, the “at the hammer” price did NOT INCLUDE the premium paid to Bonhams. Now comes “news” (ie, not news at all) that the auction of Letter 88 of Jane Austen from the Dodge Collection “sold for a new record”: $200,075.

It is any wonder no one cared to forewarn entities like the Jane Austen House Museum, as Kathryn Sutherland advocated, in order to come to terms prior to a public auction?

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

From The Guardian article (7 Oct 2019):

“Sutherland said that ‘because of specific domestic details within it, it would have by far the greatest resonance inside the collection held by Jane Austen’s House Museum in the cottage where Austen lived and wrote’.

Earlier this year, the museum launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it raise the £35,000 it needed to buy a snippet of a letter written by Austen in 1814. …

Sutherland said it was particularly sad that publicly funded organisations like Jane Austen’s House Museum were unable to compete with international commercial buyers, ‘because so few Austen letters are retained for public benefit in British institutions’.

Considering that Britain has in the past disallowed artifacts to leave its shores, should the Dodge Austen letter be allowed to leave the U.S.? One entity that I thought should have partaken in the Battle for Letter 88 was The Morgan Library & Museum – the owner of a substantial collection of Austen letters. How about “retained for the public benefit in American institutions”?

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Deborah Yaffe commented on this idea of a “home country” for Austen letters, this one in particular, in her blog post “Going, going…”

That its cost beat the auction estimate – $80,000 to $100,000 – was a no brainer even as it was affixed to the catalogue. Austen is “hot property,” a growing phenomenon ever since Darcy’s wet shirt…

Even ratty Victorian paperbacks – I’m in the midst of reading Janine Barchas’ book The Lost Books of Jane Austen (purchased after the Williamsburg AGM after her “highlight” plenary presentation “The Lost Copies Northanger Abbey” – sell for much more than the proverbial “song” when they’ve got JANE AUSTEN attached to them.

Let’s face it, Austen is priced out of the reach of most institutions. Without knowing the depth of coffers (or generous donors) some like The British Library or Oxford University or, yes, the Morgan, have recourse to, it is guesswork only.

What I want to know is, Who Bought Jane Austen?

Maybe it was singer, TV host Kelly Clarkson! The letter sold for less than the ring AND it’s already in the U.S.

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Follow the Auction – Bonhams Online

October 23, 2019 at 12:00 pm (jane austen) (, , , )

Auction for the sale “Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Dodge Family Autograph Collection, Natural History, Travel and Americana” begins at 1 PM Eastern (US) Time.

Bonhams has a “watch live” link!

For the Sale in general – Bonhams link.

For the special “watch live” link – Bonhams watch live link.

Bonhams catalogue for the sale can be viewed online or downloaded or ordered(see bottom of page).

Austen is Lot 5. Will she sell? For how much? and most importantly: To Whom?

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

The amount of items is interesting, as is the Dodges’ areas of collection.

I recollect watching an auction in which a diary of an Austen (early) neighbor; the lots went by QUITE swiftly. Of course, I had JUST missed the lot I was interested in seeing (by the time I found the link and got it working). So, “start watching” early!

RESULTS (1.15 PM)

I joined the auction late – 1.08 PM; Austen was already in the spotlight!! (So I do not know the starting bid…).

Even at that moment, the bidding was standing at $90,000 – to an online bidder. According to the auctioneer, it was a Battle of TWO Online Bidders.

As mentioned, they move swiftly from lot to lot; with little chatter about each lot. Bidders can be in the room; on the phone; online; absentee.

As I watched the bids went up in increments of $10,000….

$90,000…

$100,000…

$110,000…

$120,000… [about this time we learned two bidders, both online]

$130,000…

$150,000… (I might have missed a bid here, not sure…)

Bonhams at the Hammer

$160,000… At the hammer – to paddle #5060. Of course, out-distancing its estimate ($80,000-$120,000). As was expected, by me at least.

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Jane Austen’s Letter 88 for SALE!

October 20, 2019 at 9:05 pm (history, jane austen, jasna, news, people) (, , , )

2019 must be a banner year for JANE AUSTEN letters.

Early this year came news of a snippet included in an autograph album (sold at auction in 2017); the album was on display at Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum.

During the Summer, the museum successfully concluded its purchase – thanks to funding from the National Lottery AND devoted fans – of a lengthier partial letter

NOW, in October, comes word of a New York auction conducted by Bonhams of a Jane Austen letter from a private collection coming onto the market, part of the DODGE FAMILY COLLECTION of Autographs.

The Guardian has a lengthy article on the (upcoming) October 2019 auction.

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Of course, every time, the same trope about how Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra destroyed the correspondence crops up. I’ve just spoken about this at the recent Jane Austen Society of North America’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, which took place this year at Williamsburg, Virginia. _I_ give thanks for those letters that have come down to us, rather than lament those that probably never were saved (but that’s a topic for another post).

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Jane Austen Letter: missing lines found

July 21, 2019 at 2:15 pm (history, jane austen, news) (, , )

Usually, the active Jane Austen vine twitches non-stop. If something sells for an outrageous sum… If a known letter goes on the chopping block, help us… If Jane sneezed and this handkerchief is what she once used…

Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera.

So it has been with extreme puzzlement that I’ve come across so little since the announcement in February 2019 of a missing snippet from a letter penned by Jane Austen in 1813 being found in an ‘autograph’ book (the album sold for the astounding sum of £16,000 in 2017, though probably for its cumulative items rather than one piece by Austen).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

The Telegraph broke the news, with the headline (17 Feb 2019):

Missing six lines from Jane Austen letter discovered after 200 years, and are revealed to be about laundry.

It was inevitable that one of the other news services would then quip, “Lost letter airs Jane Austen’s dirty linen in public.”

Let’s be SERIOUS! It is an interesting and valuable *find*.

Only Deborah Yaffe picked up the ball, in March, commenting on “Life imitates Northanger Abbey.”

This Italian site, dedicated to presenting and translating Austen’s letters, actually has attached the missing lines to its letter. The letter affected by the snipped off closing (and the autograph book does NOT include the signature) is Letter 87, written to Cassandra from Henrietta Street, 15-16 Sept 1813.

This manuscript was “seen” after Chapman’s edition of the letters went to press (link to the later 2nd edition; it is letter 82); corrections were made on the page proof against the manuscript, which Le Faye consulted for her subsequent editions. It’s possible more of the letter, after a sale or two and a death or two back in the early 20th century, exists in just such a manner — further cut up and pasted down. After all, someone else got the signature.

Jane Austen 1813 snippet

Chapman correctly assumed “about six lines and signature cut away from top of fourth leaf.” These now reinstated lines finish this thought from Jane to Cassandra:

Charming weather for you & us, and the Travellers, & everybody. You will take your walk this afternoon & [4] by the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey, — God bless you all. — I have given M:de B. my Inventory of the Linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire. — She has shewn me all her Storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same.–
Perhaps I may write again by Henry. —

Letter 87 is quite long, and how the snipped out section of page 4 affects page 3 hasn’t been touched on. Brabourne left out a paragraph, and it’s this paragraph (in Le Faye with no explanation; same for Chapman before her, and Brabourne before him) that reads “odd,” as if more text came before it. Rather than the ellipses used at the end (Chapman discloses the missing text; Brabourne does not), Brabourne evidently x’ed the entire paragraph instead:

This not seeing much of Henry, I have just seen him however for 3 minutes, & have read him the Extract from Mrs. F.A.’s Letter — & he says he will write to Mrs. Fra. A. about it…. [notes to letter 82, Chapman]

Le Faye puts in a period after “Henry”. But the sentence, as the start of a paragraph, still makes less sense than it should. Without the manuscript, we shall not know the original position of the (undisclosed) affected text.

That Brabourne – who transcribed the letters – had no ‘finish’ to this particular letter, indicates to me that Frank was not the only Austen to cut up letters in his possession for souvenir hunters.

Passing from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull), the only other person in a position to quench an autograph hound’s inquiry would be Fanny. If it had been Brabourne himself, he would have been smart to copy the sentences he was gifting away. Letters to the publisher Bentley indicate how quickly Brabourne thought about selling manuscripts (not just JA’s) in his possession. That he ultimately got Bentley’s go-ahead and publication happened, marking the collection up to the point at which they sold, is our luck. Some letters do ‘exist’ only in transcription.

Unlike the snippet of a sermon tipped into a copy of the Memoir, no discussion is being made to remove this piece from its pasting, to see what is on the underside. Not much discussion, either, on the autograph album as a whole, nor its “American buyer.” At the time of the original newspaper story, the album, open to the Austen page, was on display at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

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ESSENTIAL AUSTEN: Jane Austen Fashion

November 24, 2018 at 10:46 am (books, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

In two words, JANE AUSTEN FASHION is . . . a treasure! Concise and informative, its focus on Jane Austen – in comments from her letters as well as her novels – makes this little volume essential to every Austen collector.

fashion

Newly republished by Moonrise Press (Ludlow, England), author Penelope Byrde’s book on fashion is now in its second regeneration. Initially published in the 1980s as A Frivolous Distinction, it found a new lease on life in an expanded edition put out by Excellent Press in 1999. It has now been rescued from its consignment to used bookstores (if you were lucky enough to find a copy) by this paperback edition. May Moonrise Press profit from its belief in the continuing interest in this subject – fashion not only in Austen’s day but, more precisely, in Austen’s own life.

Analyzing this book, you sense just how little the average reader knows about the fashions, fabrics and even etiquette of Austen’s novels. ‘Those of her characters who … talk about it [dress] to an excessive extent are unfortunately those whose vacant minds or poor manners are underlined by this habit — women such as Miss Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey, Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Mrs Elton in Emma’ (13; my emphasis). This is not to imply that an interest in clothing was ‘unhealthy’, but to point up that Austen’s characters can be rude through the manner in which they discuss – dissect might be the better word – how their friend or relative looks. Readers delight in Catherine Morland’s musings over what to wear to her first Bath Assembly; yet, as Byrde points out, poor Marianne Dashwood is inquired of so sharply about her costumes and their cost that Miss Steele knew more of Marianne’s wardrobe than Marianne herself! Readers today might therefore see Miss Steele as inquisitive but Austen’s original readers would have known she was stepping over the bounds of propriety. Miss Steele ‘was never easy till she knew the price of every part of Marianne’s dress … and was not without hopes of finding out before they parted, how much her washing cost per week, and how much she had every year to spend upon herself’ (72; quoting S&S p. 249).

JANE AUSTEN FASHION (subtitled Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen) also proclaims the elegant characters of the novels, as portrayed through their clothing or pointed descriptions of their likes or dislikes. Along with the elegant Emma we also have young, noble Eleanor Tilney – whose proclivity for ‘white’ marks her natural elegance. Byrde calls Miss Tilney ‘perhaps the best-dressed of Jane Austen’s female characters’ (50).

Perhaps for the first time, today’s readers can imagine a piece of tamboured muslin, as in the gown Catherine Morland wears, when they are told what exactly tambouring meant: ‘The embroidery was worked on a frame with a fine hook which passed through the fabric and made a series of chain stitches. The work could be done quickly and was effective on lightweight fabrics…’ (111). Byrde can then also mention one character who employed the tambour frame, Mrs Grant in Mansfield Park.

Until her retirement in 2002, Penelope Byrde was a curator at the famed Museum of Costume in Bath. And it is with a deft hand that she presents the fashions and fabrics mentioned by Austen in her letters, and unravels the little mysteries of certain comments in the novels. She also gives an informative basic overview of the changing fashions from Austen’s girlhood through her adult years (1770s to 1817, the year of Austen’s death). After Byrde’s digression on the subject of ‘sleeves’, how clear becomes Austen’s own comment on the when-why-how of short-sleeves versus long-sleeves. ‘By 1814 long sleeves were beginning to be worn in the evening [formerly, they had been exclusive to daywear] and Jane Austen seems to have been determined to wear them herself…“I wear my gauze gown today,” she wrote in March 1814, “long sleeves & all…I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable.” But she goes on to say: “Mrs Tilson had long sleeves too, & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this”’ (24/27). Mrs Tilson, the wife of Henry Austen’s banking partner, would have been a woman who knew the London fashions well. And it is through letters that everyone would have gotten the latest news concerning the latest fashions. This exchange shows just how typical an observer of the world Jane Austen was.

Nothing escapes Byrde’s attention; there are sections on men’s fashions; sections that look at accessories, boots and shoes, hats-caps, muffs and parasols, hair-dressing, and clothes for special occasions (weddings, mourning, livery); a useful section on the ‘making and care of clothes’; and perhaps my favorite, a look at needlework – of course an occupation not only of Austen herself, but of most of her female characters. Byrde delves therefore into so much more than mere ‘fashion’. And all from an Austen point of view. Only Chapman, in his enthusiasm for Austen’s letters (when others thought their content of little interest to anyone), could have mined the letters so well for the cost of goods and the changing tastes in fashion. It is for such evidence that historians delve into diaries and letters, and they will want to delve into this book as well. To have all such aspects in one such complete package is a blessing. There is nothing ‘frivolous’ about the topic or its treatment, and this garners JANE AUSTEN FASHION a place in the Essential Austen collection.

JA Fashion

Note that there are SEVERAL editions of this book; the first image is the paperback I own (2008); the one above shows the cover of the 2014 re-issue. It began life under the title A Frivolous Distinction. It was later expanded and has again been reissued in 2014 – Jane Austen Fashion is available from the publisher, Moonrise Press (UK), if you wish to make sure your copy is the latest fashion.

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Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands

December 26, 2017 at 11:46 am (jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Over the holiday weekend I got an email from a friend who plans a future trip to the Shetland Islands! Oooohh…..

Islands have a lure for me – though I cannot say I have EVER visited any I’ve pointed to on a map. The Isles of Scilly remain merely read about. The Channel Islands, because they are on U.K. time, proved impossible to visit as a day trip from Paris, thanks to the ferry schedule. In Scotland, I did get to the Highlands, but never to any of the Islands.

In the back of my brain, however, I dug up the memory of once having ordered yarn (yes, I used to knit) from the tippy-top of Shetland – from Unst, if I recall correctly. I still have the sweater – a thin wool “jumper,” dark green, made to go with a Macdonald tartan skirt.

Oh, the memories! I’m looking at the Jamieson & Smith website. I remember when I used to look at books on historical knitting – and thought about building myself a JUMPER BOARD. If you’re a knitter, and don’t know what that is, click the link. The cost is 85 pounds (though not sure about the shipping…). GROAN: “currently unavailable.” (Ditto for the glove boards.)

IMAGINE: Mail order, in the days before the internet! I can’t be a 100% sure of the company or which island my goods came from, but I’m in the right neighborhood. I bet somewhere around the house is the original packing slip. I remember some fabric, from Scotland, and even Wales, too.

Those were GOOD days. I used to be so enthusiastic about sewing; and I actually designed my own knitwear. Not my own design, but one of my handiwork is this pair of socks:

stocking_clock

The photo was meant to show the “clock” that’s worked around the ankle, although this pattern is Austrian, and features a cable from ankle to knee.

So I’ve had an interest in Shetland patterns, and historical knits in general (I have a tidy little library of books on that subject). AND now I’ve a Highland Lady of my own – Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane – whom I have been writing about. Margaret married Emma Smith’s (Emma Austen Leigh’s) cousin, Lord Compton. On the death of his father (May 1828), she became the 2nd Marchioness of Northampton.

But Margaret was a Highland Bluestocking.

Torloisk, the Isle of Mull home she shared with her mother and two sisters, is an area I’ve recently looked at on google maps. So it wasn’t hard to look up the likes of Staffa, which Lord Compton visited in 1813 – and I’m beginning to think the Clephane ladies showed him around this island known for its basalt columns.

And not far off from there (on a map): the Shetlands – and that is how I discovered the footprints of Sir Walter Scott!

Margaret Clephane knew Walter Scott (he was her godfather, and her guardian) – and due to her intended marriage to Lord Compton (in 1815) he dropped by the Smith residence at No. 6 Portland Place and chatted an hour with Emma and Fanny Smith! (Mamma was not at home…)

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

Margaret & Marianne (her eldest daughter)

Walter Scott is behind the naming of JARLSHOF, a name he invented for his novel The Pirate (1822). At the southern tip of the Sheltland Islands, Jarlshof is an important archeological site.

Ian Mitchell has written about Scott’s adventures in the Shetlands; Scott visited these northern islands in 1814 – the year he published WAVERLEY, the novel Jane Austen was loath to like, though she “feared she must” like it. [aside: read David Groves, “Jane Austen in Scotland” in JASNA’s 1985 journal Persuasions.] Until that publication, Scott was known for his poetry – and Jane Austen, with three novels to her credit, teased her niece that Scott should have left the crowded field of novel-writing alone! Indeed, his works became fiercely beloved in his lifetime. Published anonymously, it’s rather surprising that Austen had already heard who the author of Waverley was; even Margaret Clephane was only guessing when she wrote to Scott about Waverley – teasing about how much she could have helped the “unknown” author with all things Scots Gaelic (a language Margaret spoke as well as English). She is the reason for a LOT of the Highland scholarship behind Scott’s historical novels. It’s all there, in her letters to him (his replies to her, of course, make up letters in the published Scott Correspondence).

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Dining with Jane Austen

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

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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Spencer Smith’s Brooklands

June 15, 2014 at 4:22 am (estates, history, jane austen, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , )

After much searching – for any information about the Hampshire estate called BROOKLANDS, I finally FOUND information, and a photo!

brooklands_20thcentury

So, here, is a c1915 photo of Brooklands – which is located very near the River Hamble in Sarisbury, Hampshire. Try searching merely for “brooklands” and you find a totally different place in a totally different county of England! The secret is to attach it to “hamble” or “sarisbury” or even “bursledon”.

buoyed by the photos I then uncovered, I began to look in the newspapers. I was never certain if Spencer Smith purchased the estate, or rented; never certain either quite when he and Frances relocated to Brooklands – even though he is known as “Spencer Smith of Brooklands“.

What turned up was this advertisement in the Hampshire AdvertiserNovember 1838:

BROOKLANDS
House and Gardens, with or without the Farm.

TO BE LET, by the year, or for a term of years, this handsome and elegantly furnished RESIDENCE, situate[d] at Sarisbury, midway between Southampton and Fareham, and bounded on one side by the Hamble River.
A Neat Chapel has been recently erected near the entrance to the park.
For terms apply (if by letter, free of postage) to Messrs. Barney and Moberly, Solicitors, or Mr. Perkins, Auctioneer, Southampton.

The house was up for sale a bit ago (asking price: £5.3 million), and the advertisement gave it a JANE AUSTEN connection. Though: Be skeptical; her letters mention the man and the place – but don’t really serve to indicate that a “JANE AUSTEN SLEPT HERE” plaque is deserving.

Although Jane Cooper’s husband was building Brooklands, Jane Cooper – who was Jane Austen’s close friend, as well as relation – died young.  [see Austen’s letters] I’ll let you look up references to Sir Thomas Williams, RN on your own, and decide for yourself whether Jane was a frequent visitor to Brooklands.

Still, no denying that the estate has a connection. And more, once Spencer settled in, in the 1830s, a connection to his Aunt Emma Smith – who lived at Sydney (another place I’m trying to track down! I must ask Charlotte Frost, who tipped me off about righting my lack of luck in locating Brooklands), and has left sketches of Bitterne and the surrounding area. [See the Macklin Album at the Wiltshire Museum.]

A family by the name of SHEDDEN are found at Brooklands after Sir Thomas Williams – I turn up both a Robert Shedden and a George Shedden. Messrs. Gils & Son advertised, three years before the TO LET notice, an auction of furnishings — though the sale ultimately did not take place. There’s a story – the Sheddens of Brooklands – waiting to be told.

As to Spencer Smith — at some point he took as a complete surname his entire name “Spencer Smith” – so that his children came to be differentiated from those offspring of Charles Joshua Smith of Suttons. The Spencer Smiths are still around today, if no longer at Brooklands.

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Deirdre Le Faye Interview

January 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm (books, jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , )

Maria, whose Fly High! site is hosting the book giveaway SIR WILLIAM KNIGHTON (see post below), has a Jane Austen Book Club blog as well. Her Christmas Gift to readers: A short interview with Deirdre Le Faye!

The book giveaway then was the *new* 4th edition of Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters; the book is gone, but the interview remains!

I had to chuckle over the “colds” comment –> read the interview to find out for yourself!

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