Long, Winding Road… to Fort Worth

January 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm (jasna) (, , , , , , , )

A couple days ago the post delivered the cutest postcard to my address, from JASNA’s North Texas Region, the host of this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM):

As the backside reads: “Sense will always have an attraction for me.” (ch. x) And so doesn’t the novel, which I have been looking through (my library copy of Chapman’s third edition, pictured above, is over due by a day…)

We’ve grey-ish skies, but (so far) no snowfall (unlike yesterday’s giant flakes) so I for one can’t wait for October — and the beautiful skies of “horizonless” Texas! Thanks for sending the pick-me-up, North Texas volunteers.

**NEWS: Dr. Cheryl Kinney speaks on “Women’s Health in the Novels of Jane Austen” in February: find it online at www.soundmedicine.iu.edu. Dr. Kinney is one of the 2011 AGM coordinators, along with Rosalie Sternberg.

**BTW, here’s the original post, when I first learned this paper had been ACCEPTED!

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Portland now; next: Fort Worth!

October 30, 2010 at 9:45 am (books, jasna) (, , , , , , , , , )

This “Halloween” weekend, JASNA members and guests gather in Portland, Oregon for the Annual General Meeting; 2010’s Theme, as you can see, centers on Northanger Abbey.

Must admit, thinking about it, I still like my paper proposal which talked about bringing into society the two “Debs” of 1818: Catherine Morland, heroine of NA, and my own sweet Augusta Smith – who was presented at Court. Her sister Emma wrote extensively about Augusta’s court dress, as well as Mamma’s; and some conversation from the Queen (Charlotte, consort to George III) and the Princess Elisabeth — Augusta, Mrs Smith, Queen Charlotte and the princesses all had the same art teacher: Miss (later Mrs) Meen. They were instructed in the fine art of painting flowers. Catherine Morland’s debut, of course, came in entry into Bath society. Austen captures well the ‘crush’ of such social gatherings, as well as the hesitant demeanor of a young woman’s foray into society and the company of strangers.

But my thoughts don’t stay long with the 2010 AGM; no! 2011 — and my paper. The ideas swirl around, for I like audience interaction and want them to see and hear art and music from the period. One painting I will be sure to talk about: The Sisters, by Sir William Beechey (the Huntington Museum of Art, in West Virginia). Readers of this blog can find my posts about this work (post 1; post 2): for its description fits ALMOST perfectly a description of a Beechey work portraying Mary and Elizabeth GOSLING. But, the younger sister seated at the piano, the elder enjoying the moment of interaction with the viewer, this piece credibly could portray Elinor and Marianne Dashwood!

I’m surprised no publisher has planted The Sisters on an S&S cover yet…

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The Envelope, please…

October 16, 2010 at 11:10 am (news) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Such good news came in yesterday’s post, even if slightly damp and limp thanks to generous all-day rain:

From the Annual General Meeting committee, 2011 – Fort Worth, Texas. My paper proposal was accepted for the AGM covering “Jane Austen: 200 Years of Sense and Sensibility“!!

Must admit to coming up with a great topic, one very apropos for my likes and interests — and for which I must thank Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos; without their request for book chapters (mine on drawing, writing, and music in three Jane Austen novels), I would never have thought along the lines I did for this paper proposal.

The title says much about its content, and I include a short teaser description:

 “A House Divided? How the ‘Sister Arts’ Define the Dashwood Sisters”

In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen consciously chose for eldest sister Elinor Dashwood a desire to practice the art of drawing; for middle sister Marianne, that of making music. What does this simple choice of dividing the sister arts between sisters imply for their characterizations?

With the artistry of Elinor and Marianne manifested in Elinor’s drawings adorning walls and Marianne’s music-making filling the parlor, visitors to Barton Cottage (readers included) have treats for their eyes and ears; likewise audience members attending this talk will be treated to the sights and sounds of the early-nineteenth century.

So, members of the Jane Austen Society of North America, accept this early invitation to “Barton Cottage” (aka some small conference space in the Renaissance Worthington Hotel) to attend my talk! Yeee-ha!

***

An aside: the Kimbell Art Museum is in Fort Worth; it houses the wonderful self-portrait of perhaps my favorite artist: Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (view the portrait). The best Vigée Le Brun website is at batguano. TONS of information on the artist, her life AND work; just superb images culled from all over the world. Among the books on the site is the Kimbell Exhibition catalogue; I can recommend also the biography by Angelica Goodden (The Sweetness of Life) and her source material, Sian Evans’s translation of Madame Vigée Le Brun’s Souvenirs (“Memoirs”).

My last-spotted portrait is in the wonderful Museo de Arte de Ponce (a fabulous place! Puerto Rico’s gem!), the Comtesse de Chastenay.

My VERY FAVORITE portrait, which started this craze, is the evocative Countess Ecaterina Vassilievna Skavronskaya (thank you, Svetlana, for telling me about the Musée Jacquemart-André , Paris!)

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Willoughby & Marianne: What Opera?

August 25, 2010 at 8:46 am (books, people) (, , , , , , , , )

Coming in to work today, the radio announced the birthday of Leonard Bernstein, born in Lawrence, Mass in 1918. Who knew he was born in New England; not me (but then he was “big” when I was a kid, so put it down to that).

Anyway, tangled up with morning thoughts of work, reading (Sense and Sensibility, of course!), and Lennie — came a thought that I toyed with a few days ago, but now put out in the blog-o-sphere:

Near the end of Sense and Sensibility, when Willoughby has irrevocably left, and Marianne has survived her illness, she goes up to her pianoforte and fingers a piano reduction operatic score. So my question, and I’d love it if operaphiles and Janeites alike might give their thoughts:

What OPERA would Willoughby and Marianne have been likely to play through?

A comic opera? An English opera? A tragedy? Something old, like Handel; something totally new and playing in London the last season or two?

The entire quote (Chapman, 342):

“After dinner she would try her piano-forte. She went to it; but the music on which her eyes first rested was an opera, procured for her by Willoughby, containing some of their favourite duets, and bearing on its outward leaf her own name in his hand writing.”

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La luna

August 21, 2010 at 12:21 am (books, entertainment, goslings and sharpe, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I write at the end of a long, busy day.

Contemplating the use Austen makes of the pianoforte for young Marianne Dashwood, I have spent the week slowly watching the old (1980) BBC production of Sense and Sensibility. I must admit to being charmed by it. Oh, nothing is ever perfect…, but overall the right tone is struck so many times in this production, which stars Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne.

I was exceptionally surprised at the ending to this series (7 approximately 1/2 hour episodes), which has Marianne interested in talking literature with Colonel Brandon. My reaction was: That’s the end?!?

But then, immediately rewatching episode 1, the series not only ends in the midst of action unresolved, it also begins in the midst of the story: the three Dashwood women riding back from having looked at an unsuitable house (Fanny Dashwood, quite obviously, wants her in-laws gone from Norland).

So, thinking about it now, I find the beginning and ending quite novel (no pun intended).

I include this picture of Tracey Childs as Marianne, with Robert Swann as Colonel Brandon. This is the scene I’m writing about for an article, and this scene comes to mind tonight because of “the moon”. As in the novel, this series’ Sir John Middleton refers to the invitations he gave to the evening’s gathering — only to find everyone already booked. The novel is specific: “it was moonlight — and every body was full of engagements”. The moonlight here in Vermont was bright tonight too, as I drove back from St. Albans. Who realized that moonlit nights made for an increase in people going abroad in Austen’s era!?!

A find today, while checking out the stock at The Eloquent Page, St. Albans’ great little used book store, was a copy of volume 2 of a relevant biography: The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker (by E.H. Coleridge).  I might have bought it but for two things: firstly, no volume ONE; and this second volume wasn’t in the best shape (had it gotten wet once?). But the lucky thing about volume 2 is the index was in the back! Sure enough, a “Mr Gosling” was mentioned. The interesting thing about the citation (vol 2, p. 83) is the amount of money cited:

“Strand, 2nd December 1796

Sir, Mr Dent, Mr Hoare, Mr Snow, Mr Gosling, Mr Drummond and myself met to-day, and have each subscribed £50,000 . . . . I shall leave town to-morrow, having stayed solely to do any service in my power in fowarding this business, which I sincerely wish and hope my be the means of procuring peace on fair and honourable terms.

I am, Sir,

THOMAS COUTTS.

We have subscribed £10,000 in your name and shall take care to make the payments.”

Coutts’ correspondent was William Pitt. According to the index, the monies were contributed to a “loyalty loans” scheme. Robert Gosling (father to William, grandfather to my Mary) died in 1794, so he is not the Mr Gosling in question; that leaves Francis Gosling or perhaps my William himself. I always love finding such minute traces of these people…

As I drove the highway, the moon shone bright and nearly full — which made me think of this moonlight comment from S&S, and also (of course!) of the film Moonstruck, which I watched on TV a few weeks ago. Did Austen mean anything by the fact that she tells readers that the moon was big and bright on the very night Brandon meets Marianne at the Middleton residence? Or did it just provide a good excuse for inventing a small, intimate party??

Of course I got online trying to find the ENTIRE Coutts biography. And luck was with me: Internet Archive has both volumes: volume 1, volume 2.

I’ve looked, but find no mention of “Austen” in the Coutts index; of course Jane’s brother Henry was a banker for a while. The business went down the tubes, thanks to the economic crisis after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Pity Coutts made no mention of Henry Austen; that would have made for an interesting connection. I am actively trying to find any connection — banker to banker — between Henry Austen and William Gosling. (Last October, at the JASNA AGM, I had asked author Maggie Lane if she ever came across Gosling & Sharpe, when investigating Henry Austen’s business — but she had never heard of the Goslings’ firm).

When I arrived home I could see a large piece of mail in the mailbox: my extra copies of JASNA News had arrived!! Ah, how I had hoped the mail would come before I left the house, for I had a feeling it would come today. My article on the discovery of Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary, now owned by Mark Woodford, is included. (Interested in diary entries for this same year, I had started the day by reading Parson Woodforde’s diary; then moved on to some re-writes on the pianoforte article.) The one book review that I read soon after looking through the entire issue is Brian Southam’s of Young Nelsons: Boy Sailors During the Napoleonic Wars (2009), by D.A.B. Roland. Must see if I can locate a copy, for I am intrigued by the author’s use of diaries and letters — even if Southam finds some author errors and annoyances.

Hmm…, looking the Roland book up on Amazon.uk, don’t I find a second book on this subject (not yet published): The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy, by Ronald Pietsch. Popular subject! The Goslings knew Admiral Nelson and the Smiths married into the Seymour family, who had many naval men in their family tree.

It’s late, and before the moonlight fades, and I follow suit, I will say ‘good night’.

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Marianne’s Pianoforte

August 6, 2010 at 8:45 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

I am working on an article that features thoughts on Marianne Dashwood’s piano. Jane Austen is QUITE clear: the instrument is moved from Norland to Barton Cottage.

But do the movies and TV adaptations treat this most beloved instrument of a most beloved sister equally?? In the back of my mind I swear there’s at least one adaptation that has the pianoforte arriving as a “gift”. Am I dreaming?

UPDATE (Sunday): The Thompson screenplay does include this scene – very late in the film, once Brandon is “back in her favour” with Marianne (after she has recovered from her life-threatening illness). How could I forget, given that the “photo” of the family, gathered around this instrument, is used on the jacket to Sutherland’s book (see below).

Still blows the theory that Brandon watched Willoughby sing with Marianne. So either there are other versions out there, in which the instrument was Brandon’s gift, or of parties at Barton Park where Willoughby and Marianne duet, that I am thinking of. Alas, the only version of S&S I own is the Thompson version.

(I take the opportunity to include a YouTube clip of Marianne singing the first song, played for her Barton Park audience: Weep No More Sad Fountains. Can’t help but think of young Augusta Smith Wilder in scenes like this. BTW, how attentive Marianne’s audience is here in this film! In Austen’s novel, only Colonel Brandon impresses her because of his behavior; Sir John, for instance, while applauding loudly also talks loudly while she is playing! [Here, unlike the novel, there is no wife to discourage such behavior.] Makes me think of poor Mozart, when he commented about his chattering audience (never mind his chattering-teeth and frozen fingers, thanks to a very cold room), when ‘hired’ to give a private performance. Always, thus, for the performing artist — even in the theater, given the tales of talking and eating at the opera house which are legendary.)

I know what Austen wrote (ie, the instrument was Marianne’s and came from Norland); but what did other screenwriters think to do with the pianoforte?? Happy to read all comments! Thanks,  in advance, for the help.

UPDATE (Tuesday): I was hoping to find a YouTube extract of Brandon’s gift to Marianne — but the one scene that’s close is the scene before the piano gets carried up the hill; so: ends too soon!

Calista in Montreal has mentioned that the 1981 series (starring Irene Richard) simply shows Marianne playing; i.e., nothing is mentioned about the piano, and it certainly is no “gift”. She writes that it is in Episode Two we see for the first time Marianne — with Willoughby — at the piano.

BTW, I’ve switched out the banal DVD jacket photo for this gorgeous one of Kate Winslet at the piano. Just so evocative. Never really noticed how great the stills sometimes are on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).

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So much to do…

June 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm (news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The two days of a “weekend” just go so quickly. No wonder I never get anything “done”! I was up past 3 a.m. last night, working (don’t sleep well these days anyway…), and now NOON Sunday approaches

I’m still beavering away at Augusta’s 1798 diary, trying to get a fully readable and correct copy for Mark Woodford, along with some notes on who were many of the people. JASNA News will run a little story about Mark and his father Charles Woodford and the “finding” of Augusta when their next issue comes out in August. That will be nice – and a well-named month, huh?! Wish I could sit down and compare Augusta and Eliza Chute’s 1798s! But that means contacting the Hampshire Record Office, for I never completely transcribed Eliza’s diary, just looked for the periods during which she was in London — and meeting the Goslings (Eliza was particular friends with Eliza Gosling, Mary’s young mother). Actually, I was thinking of contacting HRO to see about Microfilming Eliza’s early diaries (as a start; though her diaries are less numerous than Emma’s!), when Mark contacted me with his diary.

Anyway, in the last few days I’ve gone from being in 1798 to being back in the 1830s and looking up Mary’s diaries once again. Why? a wonderful email from Jim in Liverpool — who has an interest in the Alexander Davisons because of his research into Lord Nelson. Funnily enough what becomes big news in Augusta’s diary towards the end of the year?Nelson’s Nile Victory! See how it all eventually dovetails, one item into another, one person’s thoughts or actions into another’s.

So I’ve spent a couple days pulling out old papers, looking up old computer files, relooking for internet information (especially on books.google and Internet Archive). And imagine what I found while “not” looking for it: A Birth Announcement for FANNY SMITH! (28 October 1803) My, that fits so well: I was looking to augment my little booklet on Fanny, before turning it into something available to the public, with illustrations!

I also have begun working up a new blog page on ESTATES & HOMES, which will feature images and some useful links. And I think something on all the churches these people either attended or were buried in will soon be in the works.

But all takes TIME, and working just to pay bills does NOT help give me that time. I’ve a book chapter to write, Augusta to finish (she goes back to her owner in a couple weeks!), and a proposal for funding to work up for mid-July. Some funding would be nice as I could then get some copies of what I know to be out there…

But: to get back to Mary. I was struck again, as I pulled out comments on the Davisons, their children and in-laws (a certain General White — who seems to have no given name!; and Captain Samuel Cook, who in 1840 took the name of Widdrington). I had forgotten that twin Percy Davison married twice; and hadn’t noticed that Maria Smith (Emma’s youngest sister) comments on the vivacity and broken English of Rosalie, the foreign-born wife of twin William Davison. Rosalie’s descendents come into play with the items sold at auction in 2002 — and written about in the book Nelson’s Purse. The catalogue is online, so here’s a link to that. The BBC reported on the “sky high” prices fetched at this auction. Yow! For instance, look at Lot 65: a letter from Nelson to Davison; short, little more than a half-page (though of  interest to me because of Nelson’s solicitations for Davison’s current battle against gout!); it sold for over 11,000 pounds (estimated at £1,000-1,500).

I’d rather see the letters from Frances, Lady Nelson to Davison; is there a book out there yet? Though, even then, I can imagine that she writes about herself – so to have the letters Alexander wrote in return would be the real prize! For people always write about themselves when writing to others, don’t we?

But: to get back to Mary. I’ve noticed this before, though never mentioned it in this blog: people in 18th/19th century England used the words “introduce” and “met” in separate, specific ways. I had long wondered if Edward Ferrars was really “introduced” to the Dashwood ladies in Sense and sensibility; indeed this evidently would have been the case, for Austen uses that word in chapter III: “…the brother of Mrs John Dashwood, a gentlemanlike and pleasing young man who was introduced to their acquaintance soon after his sister’s establishment at Norland…” Augusta, in 1798, uses this same manner of speech as she meets for the first time her in-laws and others of Charles Smith’s relations; Mary does the same in the 1830s when discussing the new cousins, the husbands of Elizabeth and Dorothy Davison. I guess Fanny never introducing members of her immediate family to the step-mother and half-sisters of her husband just adds fodder to the self-centered mentally she shows earlier, over the funds her husband could grant these women after his father’s death. You would NEVER see the Smiths or Goslings not hosting never mind not even knowing the siblings of any of their in-laws (of course it helps when sometimes those very relatives are your OWN relatives…).

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Of Horses and Carriages

September 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Over the Labor Day weekend, I visited one of my favorite used bookstores: Old Depot No. 6, in Henniker, New Hampshire. As usual, I spent most of my time upstairs, amid the British history and biography section of this very well-laid-out store. Among the ‘finds’ volumes one and two of the Torrington Diaries; I already had volume one, but was missing volume two thanks to an online store “selling, misplacing, losing, etc” the volume they had posted for sale. They were library copies, the first volume a bit worse for wear; but the price was one I would have paid for a single volume, never mind the two. I also got a dual biography of Wellington and the Arbuthnots; I have the Journals of Mrs Arbuthnot and was intrigued to see what someone researching to three had to say.

Then, standing at the register, I happened to spy a tiny little book entitled “Victorian Horses and Carriages” – which featured quaint and cute drawings done by William Francis Freelove. A precious find, indeed!

freeloveThere are some really funny little works; and I searched to find the entire set of drawings from the series – finally succeeding in coming across them in the Bridgeman Collection. Two of my favorites: the little poem which closes this copy of the drawings (at left),

Up hill urge me not,
Down hill hurry me not,
Along the level spare me not,
And in the stable forget me not.

How very apropos!

And one of my favorite drawings, not found in this little sampling of Freelove’s drawings, is one called Wedding Carriages. What an absolutely charming display of horses, happiness, carriages and church. This one especially speaks to me because of the article I am currently writing (for submission one last time to Persuasions, the Jane Austen Journal): “Pemberley’s Welcome” looks at Elizabeth Darcy’s arrival at Pemberley, based on the diary entry Emma Smith wrote about a similar ‘welcome home’ to the bridge of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton in 1815.

The following weekend after this ‘find’, I was speaking on “Georgiana Darcy and the ‘Naïve Art’ of Young Ladies”, at Hyde Park (see the Austen weekends at the Governor’s House). By the way, I must say this particular explanation of ‘naïve art’ is excellent: “Term applied to the work of non-professional artists who apply themselves to their art in a resolute and independent spirit.” (paraphrased from this website.) Anyway, in August one picture by young artist Mary Yelloly sparks a conversation about carriages – so, of course, I had to bring this little volume of Freelove’s with me to share with this new group.

At the same time, talking with Suzanne, the B&B’s owner, Sunday – with plans to offer talks on carriages or fashion when the topic of her weekends turn to Sense and Sensibility – I came up with a wonderful idea for a new article! As my Hyde Park talk centered on the minor character of Georgiana Darcy, this article will focus on the character of young Margaret Dashwood. Can’t wait to get started – and will share more about it later, once it finds a home!

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