Austen in August @ The Book Rat

August 9, 2014 at 11:28 am (books, jane austen) (, , , )

I invite readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen to The Book Rat for the FIFTH annual AUSTEN IN AUGUST — August 18 through 31. A Fest to Feast upon. Check it out!

AIA banner 2014

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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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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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JASNA AGM Revisited

December 17, 2011 at 11:40 am (jane austen, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , )

Here, on a Sunny (!!) Saturday in northern Vermont, I am transported back to the “summery” October days of Fort Worth, Texas:

I remembered this morning that December 16th also brought the publication of Persuasions On-Line! Of course, much of its contents center on the 2011 AGM, which focused on the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s first novel, Sense & Sensibility.

I’ve recently been asked, by the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, to write about my AGM experience; so how timely to also see some scholarship produced from the conference.

  • Juliet McMaster was a RIOT in person, and in P-Online you have her written presentation on duels. I love her book of diaries by Rosalie Hook, called Woman Behind the Painter: The Diaries of Rosalie, Mrs James Charles Hook. Don’t miss this, or Juliet’s AGM paper. Who else could have gotten Border officials to allow her to cross into the US from Canada with a sword!?!
  • Dear Peter Sabor once again writes about letters, a fascinating subject particularly dear to me. His was a very interesting talk, even if not accompanied with sword… or pen!
  • Jeffrey Nigro, who had a PowerPoint presentation, was one talk I attended that had catastrophic computer problems that ate up time — and jettisoned the talk at the point that I found it most interesting. Hurray for paper copies!
  • Kristen Miller Zohn was one paper I just HAD to attend: on Miniatures and Hairwork! I’ve still not followed-up on the contact she suggested for help in locating some Smith & Gosling items… But, can’t wait to read her paper. Pity: no miniatures in the flesh, though some excellent photography!

Of course the P-Online always includes a Miscellany section — so how interesting to see Laurie Kaplan‘s article on Teaching Jane Austen’s “London” Novels in situ. There will be more about London when I talk about a recent book arrival (thanks to Charlotte Frost): Walks Through Regency London, by Louise Allen. And Deb Barnum has provided two years’ worth of Austen Bibliography (2007 and 2010)

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Some “Jane Austen” Fans

October 20, 2011 at 7:47 am (fashion, history, jane austen, jasna, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

In my paper for the JASNA AGM (the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America), I made mention of the FIRE SCREENS passed around the London household of the Ferrars family. They had been gifts — painted by Elinor Dashwood for her sister-in-law Fanny — and were now under scrutiny by the formidable Mrs Ferrars!

My comment, too, was under scrutiny, for I of course concluded that Elinor’s fire screens were painted and probably wood — though the more I thought about the 183os Princeton letter, with a trip up North for the Smiths (and Caroline Austen!), I considered a good bet also that the material was papier mâché. The Smiths had toured just such a factory (and Maria, the letter’s author, so wished to buy something for Mamma – but the price was evidently beyond her pocketbook that day).

My questioner insisted the screens were embroidered. I said I would look into it, though we settled then and there — thanks to an audience member with the book in hand — that Elinor’s was “painted” and therefore embroidery was quite doubtful. I have a feeling the annotated edition of S&S makes mention of embroidery, but I’d not looked for a copy of the book yet. Chapman makes no mention.

Now, my assumption was of a small pole screen:

These were made so that the “shield” could slide up and down the “shaft”, turn a bit left or right. The back has a “ring” that you tighten — so I assume they come off their pole. Lifted off the “screen” itself could easily be passed around the room, until it lands in the hands of Mrs Ferrars.

The clue may lie in the fact that they had to be “mounted”; if that does not indicate the pole — which usually was nicely turned, and showed an inventive base and feet, “mounted” may indicate being placed within a frame and having a handle attached. For my JASNA roommate Sally believes Elinor’s fire screens to have been hand-held, fan-style FACE SCREENS, as seen below.

Click on the image to visit the website — this 1809 fan is FASCINATING!

NB: I will say I don’t quite believe in their “wax-based” cosmetics theory for the prevalence of face screens. Try sitting near a ROARING, BLAZING fire: you face feels the effects rapidly – dries out the eyes and mouth. You, too, would be happy to have a “screen”. But how prevalent cosmetics were within the Smith/Gosling circle is another question for another blog post!

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A Young Lady of some education

October 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm (books, diaries, history, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

In working on some ideas for Emma, I’ve been reviewing a book I bought a couple months ago (and which was delayed about a month, thanks to US Customs…), Diary of a Betley Governess in 1812. Editor Mavis E. Smith had won me over with her earlier book on the Betley Hall household with the publication of Ellen Tollet’s diary of 1835.

My Emma — Miss Emma Smith — began her diary-keeping in 1815. Or, at least that is the earliest so far found! I do live in hope of more items, so why not hope for earlier diaries written by Emma, too? There is certainly talk of the schoolroom, their governesses, “holidays” granted for birthdays or visitors. The Smiths seem a happy family, with well-liked (loved even) governesses.

Then you read a book like that based on the unnamed governess to the four Tollet daughters of Betley Hall! I don’t know who to pity more: the girls for having this governess; or the young {presume…} lady given the task of educating four rambunctious girls?

Mavis Smith clearly has opinions on the strict governess, for she asks once or twice if the woman might not be a bit “unbalanced”. Yet, reviewing Mamma Smith’s assessment of her youngest child, Maria, which Jacky in Maidstone is lucky enough to own, don’t I find some choice comments made about this little scholar by her governess. For instance, written in December 1820, “Maria has shown more violence of temper, more irritability & impertinence I thought had belonged to her character; Miss Pond {the governess} has made frequent & strong complaints of her”. Yet my beloved Mamma follows up with these thoughts, “She {Maria} is not yet seven years old, & one cannot expect reason to be all powerful at that age.”

Any wonder why Mamma Smith is just a delight to know? From her diaries, and especially her letters, I have experienced many moments of laughter. (Mike H. at Tring Park School knows her “humour” as she describes the next tenants of Tring Park with some choice words!)

* * *

Off on another topic: The end of this week sees the much-anticipated JASNA AGM and the discussion of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which was published 200 years ago (1811-2011). Wish me luck on presenting my paper! And I certainly hope I don’t get stuck at some airport, overnight, like I did last time I flew…

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Long, Winding Road: One Month to JASNA AGM

September 14, 2011 at 2:26 am (books, jasna, news, research) (, , , , , , , )

It’s getting to the point where I can “count down” to the JASNA AGM. October 13th is the flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. My paper gets presented on the following day. Eek!

I like what it says, however, about music and art, about Elinor and Marianne. My thoughts are usually “history” based, and I begin with a Beechey painting and segue into a short discussion of “accomplishments”. I have a feeling — being a bit of a craftsperson/artist — that I think differently than many JASNA speakers about the actions behind the term “accomplishments.”

Sometimes there is so MUCH you’d like to say, but: you have only 40 minutes…

Sometimes, you just have to say “enough” and be done adding information.

Still, as much as I love talking about the era, I’d much rather talk about my Smiths&Goslings! So I’m not sure about future AGM paper proposals.

Lately, I’ve been looking at sketches, somewhat in anticipation of speaking about Elinor, done by Fanny Smith, Emma’s middle sister. I’ll blog about those sketches later.

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Regency London

September 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm (books, fashion, london's landscape) (, , , , , , , )

Gotta love it when you’re reading a novel and suddenly you are transported back in time.

I have made mention before that Jane Austen’ s novels are a great source for “life as lived” by people like the Smiths and Goslings. Never mind that Emma Smith later (1828) married James Edward Austen, Jane’s nephew!

Anyway, in preparation for the JASNA AGM, I’ve been re-reading Sense and Sensibility — which was published 200 years ago (1811-2011) — and came across a couple of passages that seem to breath “life” into similar scenes that must really have happened. Recalling my post of Mrs Gosling’s party, it’s just thrilling to read about Marianne and Elinor:

They arrived in due time at the place of destination, and as soon as the string of carriages before them would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their names announced form one landing-place to another in an audible voice, and entered a room splendidly lit up, quite full of company, and insufferably hot. When they had paid their tribute of politeness by curtseying to the lady of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the heat and inconvenience, to which their arrival must necessarily add. “

Augusta Smith (Emma’s eldest sister) spoke of the press of people when she went to court to be presented; this passage from Sense and Sensibility ably targets the “wonder” of one’s arrival — but also what awaited in rooms filled with hundreds of people!

Read about Mrs Gosling’s parties here.

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A silhouette of Mary Lady Smith

August 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm (entertainment, jasna, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I hesitate to bring attention to this image, for it is my own “cutting” – and gosh I had such problems! But a quick look around two crafts stores and I’m convinced I have to either spend a good $20 on a small set of sheers, or half that on an Exacto-knife — but I’m on the fence about needing to cut on some surface…

Anyway: the drawing in Scenes from Life at Suttons, presummed to have been done by Augusta Smith (Augusta Wilder to give her married name), was of a type so convenient to be adapted as a silhouette that it is that image rather than Augusta’s sketch of her (very light, and oh-so-barely colored) that you will see presented here on this blog:

It really brings to home how much I loved the computer programs I had at my last place of employment — I could have Photoshopped this image to perfection. You’ll have to have patience (what an expensive program!) until I can get to a handy computer lab (the one I used to use has removed the scanner – which means a removal of Photoshop from the computer! a true loss: the lab was so quiet to use on a late Sunday morning…).

So Mary now joins Emma in being depicted on “their own blog”:

When I was researching at the Hampshire Record Office, there was one sketchbook of extremely FAINT outlines of people. They must have been outlines made in preparation of silhouttes. Alas! no identifyers were ever attached to these…, and how would they photograph? Nil, I would think.

Two years ago, at the JASNA AGM held in Philadelphia, my roommate had her silhouette cut by an artist who just observed and cut, but I know there were “machines” in use way back when; and Willoughby is depicted as getting his “shade taken” in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility — so this is a subject I will return to! But later…

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Austen’s Prose

January 31, 2011 at 9:36 pm (books) (, )

Celebrate the Bicentenary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility!

Find out more by visiting Austenprose: Although the “challenge” got underway on January 26th, you have until 1 March to sign up. Be sure to check out the prizes!

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