It’s a Long LONG way to publication

June 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm (books, jane austen, jasna, news) (, , , , , , , , , )

Three days ago I received notice that an edited, multi-author-submissions volume entitled

 

Elegance, Propriety, Harmony:

Jane Austen and the Arts

 

was given the green light by Lehigh University Press.

My own humble submission appears as chapter six, in the section “Artistic Elegance: Portraiture, Music, and Dance“. The focus of my chapter is outlined in its title:

A ‘Reputation for Accomplishment’:

Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse

as Artistic Performers

Ah, but the road has been long, and still there is only a glimmer of end in sight…

The chapter first saw light of day under a different title – and was submitted at the end of summer 2010 — two years ago. A year or more later, the middle was removed whereby the guts of my original idea was weakened. A new approach was required. That major rewrite brought about the current title, and only came about after much reading, researching, rethinking and (of course) re-rewriting. The editors have edited, the reviewers have read, and now the press exclaims We’ll publish. Comments were made about a gathering at the Pride and Prejudice– centered AGM in 2013.

  • three days ago: news
  • two years ago: first draft submitted
  • one year to go: book launch!

 whew…

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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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Friday evening: a Cuppa and a nice read

April 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm (news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ah, it’s after work. De-lic-ious. Made a tea — some Baker Street Blend, obtained from Upton Tea Imports. Baker Street Blend is described as “a bit of Lapsang Souchong blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift!”

Had a visit at Kleidung um 1800 — Sabine has been doing some spring cleaning, so this is the last time you will be seeing her now-outdated background illustration. Check out her new “look” — and her newest Spencer. Elizabeth Bennet would be happy to find this garment in her closet!

Sabine also always has some interesting blogs which she follows and I just had to click and find out more about The Grand Tour Nineteen Teen has been presenting — they are up to Part 6 and are now “Climbing over Mountains.”

So, grab your Spencer, let me get a second cuppa – and let’s join a Grand Tour!

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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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Mystery Men

June 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm (books, entertainment, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

So, to get back to the book I’ve been reading: Priviledge and Scandal, by Janet Gleeson tells the life story of Harriet Spencer, later Countess Bessborough. I remember when the book first came out (2006 in the US), and one reviewer was quite negative, calling it a rehash of Amanda Foreman’s biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire mainly because (since they were sisters) it covered much of the same territory. Poor Harriet; and poor Janet Gleeson. It is a very decent read; evidently quite what I am in the mood for, at present.

It helps that the time period is well in the period in which the Smiths (in general) lived and which I am writing about — the more I read, the more some small puzzle piece sometimes clicks into place.

Anyway, I was struck, reading about Granville Leveson Gower (Harriet’s lover, by whom she had two children) and also of his friendship with Henry Richard Vassell Fox, 3rd Lord Holland (nephew of Charles James Fox). Curious, I do wonder how much Jane Austen might have come across concerning either man, for their early friendship, as Gleeson tells of it, so reminds me of Darcy-Bingley.

I mentioned this in my earlier post, a little teaser. Read that one to get an idea of why I immediately thought “DARCY” when first encountering this description of how people sometimes thought him haughty.

And it’s also the description of his new-formed “Grand Tour” friendship with Holland that struck me. Read this description: “Holland had not until now numbered Granville among his close friends — Granville’s hauteur was alien to Holland’s outgoing ebullience. But being onboard ship for three months had smoothed Granville’s affectations and perhaps too make Holland less choosy about the company he kept. ‘I think Leveson much improved both in intellect manner etc., and has lost that reserve which however laudable and prudent always prevents my liking a man much — I fancy my reason for not liking in this instance … must originate from self love and that I cannot much esteem …’.”

So Leveson Gower got better upon acquaintance! Just like Darcy.

Now how much, and what type of information, Jane Austen might have heard about the man — men, if I include Lord Holland, which in his amiability rather reminded me of Mr Bingley, I perhaps can never say. A bit of a coincidence? Or, did some little news tidbit or  gossip once plant the seed for this seemingly unusual friendship between two “opposites”? Inspiration does come out of the blue sometimes…, and takes on consequences of its own, far outshining the original thought.

updated 6/26/11: Am reminded: From the mouth of Jane Austen, when asked if she had portrayed an individual: “she expressed a very great dread of what she called an ‘invasion of social proprieties.’ She said she thought it fair to note peculiarities, weaknesses and even special phrases but it was her desire to create not to reproduce ….” (See Deirdre le Faye Jane Austen : A Family Record p233)

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You Remind Me of Somebody

June 12, 2011 at 11:50 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

Am reading a biography published five years ago and just purchased used for $5; to give the title would be to give away my little game.

Within the illustration section is a portrait of a quite handsome man; I’ve read of him before; seen the portrait before. But this author had this to say about him mid-way in this biography (of quite another person):

“His manners were perfectly polished and he had an air of distinction about him that some thought bordered on hautiness and others attributed to shyness. As one later acquaintance described him, he was ‘…one of those men who, once seen, leave an impression on the memory…’.” The author later tells us that “as his mother’s only son … he had been much cosseted and lavished with praise.”

While on “The Grand Tour”, he encounters a compatriot who was “Friendly, jovial, and unaffected”; the one is now described as displaying a “hauteur” while the new friend is said to have an “outgoing ebullience”.

Now I would be the FIRST to say that Jane Austen’s characters were not modelled on, nor meant to represent, any given person — yet an author can’t help but be influenced by people met or read about, seen or gossiped about. An author takes away some little something — a trait, a look, a quirk, a tale — and adds that to the pot to create something wholly original.

But don’t these lines rather describe Darcy and Bingley? A tantalizing thought — even if untrue! More later.

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How does YOUR Garden grow?

November 27, 2010 at 11:56 am (books, estates, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

For quite some time now I’ve known of the existence of a letter from Humphry Repton to Charles Smith (the father) of Suttons. Yes, the “great” Repton had been consulted about the Smith Estate! The date of the letter is January 1808.

What was the Smith family like in 1808? Emma was just six years old, and would turn seven in September. Eliza (later Lady Le Marchant) was a mere babe in arms — born just 2 and 1/2 months ago. Augusta (Mamma) Smith’s letters written around this time are just a delight to read because, when written to the older children — Augusta, Emma — she talks so charmingly of the other children, her own parents, their Papa.

Anyway, yesterday I was looking up the online Austen ‘exhibit’ at the Morgan Library in NYC; and took a look at their online ‘exhibit’ for Humphry Repton. Now, Repton is a name known to me, but beyond the faint knowledge that he was hired at Suttons, I’ve not really (yet) delved into his side of the ‘business’. The Morgan changed all that!

Earlier this year they had two of Repton’s “Red Books” on display. These books are what cyber-viewers can now take a look at. I simply cannot imagine being wealthy enough to hire a man who produces such items in the hopes of gaining my business! But then I’m not from a “landed” family in 19th-century England. The above is taken from Repton’s Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, published in 1803 — you find Sutton’s mentioned on page 16. (The University of Florida has an online copy of this invaluable document.)

Hmmm…, Jane Austen has her Mr Rushworth, in vol. 1 of Mansfield Park discuss the improvements made to a “Mr Smith’s” property:

“‘I wish you could see Compton,’ said he, ‘it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach now is one of the finest things in the country. You see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison — quite a dismal old prison.’

…’Your best friend upon such an occasion,’ said Miss Bertram, calmly, ‘would be Mr. Repton, I imagine.’

‘That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day…. Smith’s place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand.'”

[read Austen’s Repton mentions: Mansfield Park, 1814 edition; a ‘by the way’: Compton, the name Austen gives Smith’s estate is a familial name belonging to the Smiths of Suttons… Coincidence?? or had she been remembering conversations with Mrs Chute of The Vyne?]

These “Red Books” are amazing! The drawings, the overlays that foretold what the proposed ‘improvements’ would look like. The prose, which lay out his thoughts and evaluations of your property.

Well, take a look for yourself: Repton at the Morgan.

Oh! I want just such a book about SUTTONS!!!!

Searching for more of these little red books, I find that the “Red Book” made in 1791 for Claybury (then owned by the Hatch family) still exists. The Smiths often visited the Abdys, who inherited, at Claybury. What a treasure Repton has left behind, never mind what pride he must have taken in presenting his work in this manner.

Needless to say, if anyone’s attic or closet turns up a little “Red Book” about Suttons, Essex, Seat of Charles Smith, esq — come find me!!

further readings:
See Repton at Dagnam (another estate the Smiths often visited).
Read about Repton and these “Red Books”; listed are several well-known properties, including Stoneleigh Abbey.
Sheringham Park has its “Red Book” on display (National Trust). It was published in facsimile in 1976 by Basilisk Press.
Oulton Hall’s Red Book is mentioned here as being in the West Yorkshire Archive, as well as some published in Country Life (1987).
A 24-page PDF of Hampshire’s Historic Parks & Gardens.

In the end I could not help but include this tidbit from the Hatchlands’ Red Book, for it so makes me think of Pride & Prejudice:

“In the situation of a house, its aspect ought to be the first consideration, and not the views it may command: a good aspect is a perpetual source of comfort to the inhabitant; while a fine view is rather a transitory subject of admiration to the stranger.”

Though I will say, even an ‘inhabitant’ enjoys the transitory admiration of a view every once in a while, I just think of Darcy and Elizabeth: a stranger perhaps when she views the park from the windows, but soon to become mistress of all she surveys! Little things sometimes explain volumes about a small, short passage in Austen’s novels.

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“White Soup Enough”?

March 22, 2010 at 9:31 pm (books, entertainment) (, , , , , , , , )

When writing about the Hyde Park Jane Austen Weekends, at the Governor’s House B&B – I queried the JASNA members reading JASNA News with the question: WHY was it that Mr Bingley could only have a ball once “Nicholls has made white soup enough”? We did receive some knowledge from our well-informed audience! But now I stumble upon this audio program at the BBC: Food writer Hattie Ellis prepares white soup, and Deirdre Le Faye tells why and what white soup was.

See the introductory article at the BBC; there is a link to the audio piece from October 2003 (opens on RealPlayer), and a white soup recipe! Bon appetit~

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Never too late

January 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm (news) (, , , , , , , )

Oh, I had had such plans, last month, for posting items to this blog; not much happened, did it? A couple of items are silly to talk about now, a month-plus later – but a couple things I will alert readers to now:

  • On 16 December 2009, Persuasions On-line published my last “Emma” article: Pemberley’s Welcome. The fun of the article comes from Emma Smith’s exuberant account of the homecoming of her cousin, Spencer (Lord Compton), in the summer of  1815. His bride was Margaret Maclean Clephane, ward (with her sisters) of the writer Walter Scott – a favorite author of James-Edward Austen.
  • I am thinking of teaching a course over a weekend in the summer focussing on Pride and Prejudice. No details of cost, dates, syllabus, etc. are yet available, but if this is something you’d be interested in obtaining information about, contact me through the email address on “the author” page.
  • Stowe Magazine ran a lovely article (great photographs!) on the Jane Austen Weekends held in Hyde Park. To get a taste for what goes on, there’s a PDF link on “the author” page.

If there was anything else I waited and waited to talk about, I’ve forgotten them and they’ll have to wait. Time to get off the internet and back to work.

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A True Tonic!

January 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm (a day in the life) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I am writing (thanks to wifi in my room!) from The Governor’s House in Hyde Park — a simply terrific bed and breakfast in Hyde Park, Vermont — where our last (of four) Pride and Prejudice “Jane Austen Weekend” is taking place (for more on the inn and the JA weekends, see this website). Two cancellations, one poor Florida woman still missing in action (did she decide not to come? is she stuck in some airport?), and there are left seven participants, nine with Suzanne (the owner) and myself. A wonderful little group!

Just coming through the door last evening – after a harrowing 360-degree spin around one icy curve (narrowly missed  hitting a guardrail and oncoming vehicles; my car and myself are fine!) – I felt an embrace of ‘welcome’ , and met two of our participants, from Montreal.

Must just say what a pleasure it is being with people who talk about the pleasures of life: travel, books, tv and movie films. One participant is even interested in WWI and WWII era books and movies (like myself). It’s taken me all night to recall Nella Last’s diary (and the subsequent TV movie; both are terrific), as well as think of Georgina Lee’s diaries (published as Home Fires Burning). By the way, her son married into the Spencer-Smith branch of the Smith of Suttons family (Orlando Spencer-Smith’s daughter). Small world.

It was a gab-fest last evening: we met in the parlor before 8; chat segued into my talk on Georgiana Darcy and roamed around many topics before people headed off to bed about 11. It was great fun!

An no one will know how happy it made me feel (unless they read this post!) to hear that participants liked the interactive “look” at these three women artists (Mary Yelloly, Diana Sperling [her work seen below], Lili Cartwright) from Georgiana’s time period (1800-1840s). Looking notes over last evening before the talk I experienced a distinct liking for my ideas on Georgiania, on the works of this trio of amateur artists. Sometimes problems, cares and worries just take over the creative juices… So I’m hoping this weekend away will help them regenerate!

One thing it brought was a new source book. I am staying in the “French Room” – a lovely, huge room with two sleigh beds (quite apropos for this wintry weather…), and it is a stone’s throw from the little video library Suzanne has amassed – and on a table in that alcove, The Making of “Pride and Prejudice” (ie, the A&E “Colin Firth” version). Their researcher remarks that she figured the Bennets would have had a staff of 11 – from Housekeeper to undergroom. The source book she found invaluable in answering the question of staff was published in 1825, and sure enough books.google has it: The Complete Servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams. (To get past the ‘ads’ advance to page 13 = the title page.) Should make for interesting reading — as the staffing of the likes of Suttons, in Mrs Smith’s day or in Lady Smith’s day (eighteen-teens vs eighteen-thirties), is very sketchy, with a few names in Mary’s diaries but only vague references in Mrs Smith’s letters to such as the collective “the maids”, which somehow manages to sound ever so numerous… maybe it was.

Last night, when discussing Georgiana Darcy and her £30,000, I had wanted to see what that in ‘today’s money’ might equate. Why? because of a great currency converter on the UK website for the Public Record Office/National Archives. For instance, when Mrs Smith’s father died, the family sold his Wiltshire estate for £219,000. Even in today’s money that sum sounds a vast amount to the likes of me! But with these two converters we can find (1) its equivalent in today’s money and (2) today’s money ‘buying power’ in (for instance) 1820:

calculation 1: “In 1820, £219,000 would have the same spending worth of today’s £9,180,480.” W-o-w! Nearly 10 million pounds, divided between the four daughters of Joshua Smith.

So what would Georgiana’s £30,000 equal today? Over one million pounds! (BTW, Mary — and I presume her sister Elizabeth as well, had £20,000 settled on her in 1826 when she married Charles Smith, according to a letter written by Eliza Chute [I’ve not yet looked into marriage settlements of the family].)

I hear the doors — Austen weekenders returning from their sleigh ride down in Stowe! It’s cold, but the sun is shining, which is RARE here in Vermont lately!

The making of P&P book also mentioned diaries held at “Cecil Sharpe House” – I’ve no idea what this is. Searching for it by name, I find bars and nightclubs – which doesn’t sound like a place that houses 19th-century diaries! The fuller quote (on p. 32 of the book) is: “I visited the library at Cecil Sharpe House. I had been asked to find out about a number of points, such as whether guests carried dance cards and whether they were given a full meal, sitting down. The library had a collection of women’s pocket books [ie, diaries] from the early 19th century.” If researcher Clare Elliott’s phrase “had a collection” is indeed in the past tense, any information on what happened to this collection would be of use to me. Though I do find that the English Folk Dance and Song Society website discusses the ‘complete overhaul’ of the archive spaces at Cecil Sharp House (no ‘e’ to his last name). When hearing about a stash of diaries it’s difficult not to wonder: Any from the Smith or Gosling family??

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