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You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago:  however last nightthe time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over.  We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion.  She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.  Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and send her love to you and my brother, not forgetting James and Philly…

[Letter from Mr. Austen to his sister Philadelphia Walter, December 17, 1775, as quoted from Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen, A Family Record, Cambridge, 2004, p.27.]

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pollogo

 

In celebration of Jane Austen’s birthday today, JASNA has published its annual Perusasions On-Line Vol.35, No. 1 (Winter 2014).  Click here for the Table of Contents to yet another inspiring collection of essays, some from the 2014 AGM in Montreal on Mansfield Park, and other “Miscellany” – all about Jane Austen…and perfect winter reading material…!

Here are the Contents:

The “Ordination” of Fanny Price: Female Monasticism and Vocation in Mansfield Park
Kathleen Anderson

A Distracted Seminarian: The Unsuccessful Reformation of Edmund Bertram
Br. Paul Byrd, O.P.

Why Tom Bertram Cannot Die: “The Plans and Decisions of Mortals”
Theresa M. Kenney

The Monstrous Mothers of Mansfield Park
Marilyn Francus

“Assisting the Improvement of Her Mind”: Chapone’s Letters as Guide to Mansfield Park
Susan Allen Ford

Fanny Price as Fordyce’s Ideal Woman? And Why?
A. Marie Sprayberry

“Favourable to Tenderness and Sentiment”: The Many Meanings of Mary Crawford’s Harp
Jeffrey Nigro

I Sing of the Sofa, of Cucumbers, and of Fanny Price: Mansfield Park and The Task; Or, Why Fanny Price is a Cucumber
Emma Spooner

The First Soldier [She] Ever Sighed for”: Charles Pasley’s Essay and the “Governing Winds” of Mansfield Park
Kathryn Davis

Mansfield Park vs. Sotherton Court: Social Status and the Slave Trade
Sarah Parry

Mansfield Park and the News
Robert Miles

“Delighted with the Portsmouth Scene”: Why Austen’s Intimates Admired Mansfield Park’s Gritty City
Christina Denny

“Bad Smells” and “Fragrance”: Reading Mansfield Park through the Eighteenth-Century Nose
Emily C. Friedman

Among the Proto-Janeites: Reading Mansfield Park for Consolation in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1815
Sarah Emsley and Sheila Johnson Kindred

Modernizing Mansfield Park at the Millennium: Reconsidering Patricia Rozema’s Film Adaptation
Nora Foster Stovel

MISCELLANY

A Treasured Possession: Jane Austen and the Chandos Letter
Karen Thomson

Jane Austen and the Subscription List to Camilla (1796)
Jocelyn Harris

Pride, Prejudice, and the Threat to Edward Knight’s Inheritance
Christine Grover

Spontaneous Composite Portraits of Jane Austen
Lance Bertelsen

First Impressions: The Control of Readers’ Cognitions in the First Chapter of Pride and Prejudice
Kevin Alan Wells

To Forgive is Divine—and Practical, Too
Robert Mai

The Importance of Servants in Jane Austen’s Novels
Natalie Walshe

Fanny Price and Lord Nelson: Rethinking the National Hero(ine)
Elaine Bander

Imagining Future Janeites: Young Adult Adaptations and Austen’s Legacy
Andrea Coldwell

Jane Austen Bibliography, 2013
Deborah Barnum

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c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

The Society of the Cincinnati, at its headquarters at Anderson House in Washington DC, currently has on exhibit  “Homeland Defense: Protecting Britain during the American War” – you can view the online exhibit to see a collection of prints and cartoons that depict the various camps, soldiers, the visits of the fashionable, and other items that reflect Britain’s concern with possible invasion. We must believe that Jane Austen had some of this history in mind when she was writing Pride and Prejudice, with her soldiers, and the mad for red coats frenzy of the younger Bennet girls – and Mrs. Bennet for that matter!

“My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do. I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well — and, indeed, so I do still at my heart; and if a smart young colonel, with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall not say nay to him; and I thought Colonel Forster looked very becoming the other night at Sir William’s in his regimentals.” (P&P, vol. I, ch. 7)

Doubleday1945-Wickham-Ball-2

Mr Wickham, by Robert Ball, Pride and Prejudice (Doubleday, 1945)

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If you can get to Anderson House in DC, all the better (the exhibit runs October 3, 2014 — March 14, 2015), but visit the online exhibit here if you cannot… http://www.societyofthecincinnati.org/exhibit/current

Plan-CoxHeath-SoCjournal

Isaak Jenher. ‘Plan of the Camp at Cox-Heath 1779′ [in Kent] (London, 1779)
[image: Cincinnati Fourteen, Fall 2014, Journal of The Society of the Cincinnati, vol. 51, no. 1.]

By the beginning of 1778, British hopes of an easy victory over the American rebels had vanished. The British army had seized New York City and Philadelphia, but American resistance had proven far more tenacious than anyone in Britain had expected. The costs of prosecuting the war were mounting. Shipping losses were increasing. Parliamentary opposition to the war was growing. The defeat at Saratoga had destroyed British confidence that the colonies could be conquered. Even Lord North, the prime minister, had lost hope of total victory in what he called “this damned war.”

Then in February, France completed an alliance with the rebels. For the first time in a generation, Britain faced the threat of invasion. With most of the regular army in North America, the ministry recruited militia “for the internal defence of this Country.” The army established special camps in southeastern England to train the militia along with regular soldiers, to protect the coastline, and to provide for the defense of London. A distant and increasingly unpopular war suddenly reached the British homeland.

Contemporary novels and plays about military themes, new songs and poems celebrating British strength, and popular prints depicting the camps reflected public anxiety about the threat of invasion. They also reflected contemporary British opinion about the army at a moment when failure in America exposed it to satire and ridicule. The camps had a wide–ranging influence on popular culture. Fashionable ladies, for whom visiting the camps was a part of the social whirl, sported riding habits modeled on regimental uniforms. Cartoonists, meanwhile, took delight in poking fun at preparations for a foreign invasion that never came.

[quoted from the website]

LadyandOfficer-walpole

John Collet. ‘An Officer in the Light Infantry, Driven by his Lady to Cox-Heath’ (London, 1778)
[image: Lewis Walpole Library]

 c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

“The summer of 1791 is so firmly fixed in my memory that I believe I can never forget it; every detail is as fresh and vivid as if it occurred only yesterday, and looking back, there are times when it seems as if my life never really began until that moment – the moment when I first met him.”

And so begins Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Gentle Readers: As part of her Holiday Blog Tour, Syrie James joins us today to answer a few questions about her latest book Jane Austen’s First Love. Syrie has based her tale on the real-life Edward Taylor, mentioned by Austen in her letters – he may have been her never-forgotten First Love and hence perhaps a model for her very own Mr. Darcy. Today Syrie tells us a bit about her research into Edward Taylor and his world and a few thoughts on her favorite Austen books in her own collection. Please see below for the Grand Giveaway Contest information…

JAFL Banner v6


JAIV:
As far as I can tell, there are three references to Edward Taylor in Jane Austen’s letters: 

-Ltr. 6 of Sept 15-16, 1796, where she writes ““We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated.” 

-Ltr. 14 of Dec 18-19, 1798, where she writes the news of Taylor’s possible inheritance; and 

-Ltr. 25 of Nov 8-9, 1800, on news of his possible marriage to a cousin and where she makes mention of “those beautiful dark Eyes” [he marries someone else in 1802] 

Can you tell us something of the “ah-ha” moment that prompted you to look into this “fondly doated” upon young man of the “dark Eyes” – and finding nothing much, decided to pursue an extensive research project to learn everything you could about him and his family?? When were you held captive by the idea that Jane Austen indeed could have fallen madly in Love with this young man?? 

SJ: Sure, Deb! The “ah-ha” moment occurred when I was re-reading the above-quoted letter that Jane wrote to her Edward Taylor for JA in Vermontsister Cassandra in Sept. 1796. When I read that line, I sat up in my chair in stunned excitement. Who was Jane talking about? What was Bifrons? Who was the “Him” she referred to? The way she phrased it, whoever it was, it seemed very clear that Jane had once been crazy in love with “Him.”

I quickly learned that the “Him” was a young man named Edward Taylor, and the “abode” was Bifrons Park, the estate in Kent he would one day inherit. To my frustration, there was almost no other information about Edward Taylor in Austen biographies, even though there were those two other mentions of him in later letters that also hinted at how fond she was of him. I knew Jane met him as a teenager while visiting in Kent, but that was about it. So I delved into extensive research—and I’m excited to say that I uncovered his true story. What I learned was groundbreaking. He was an extraordinary young man, and it became very easy to see why Jane fell head over heels for him.


JAIV:
I don’t want to ask many questions about the book so as not to give away too much of its plot [no spoilers here!], but I would like to ask, how difficult [or easy!] was it for you to enter into Jane Austen’s head and essentially become her at the age of fifteen? And to put on paper what would be this 15-year-old’s first-person narrative?

SJ: I had such fun writing about Jane Austen at age fifteen!  I started with all the qualities she clearly possessed as a grown woman: fierce intelligence, a great (and sometimes snarky) sense of humor, boundless imagination, a love of fashion (governed by a tiny budget), and a driven need to succeed, all tempered by sensitivity and deep affection for those she loved. I then imagined her as a young woman based on what I knew of her life: she grew up in a home filled with noisy, active boys, was educated by them side-by-side, and was included in their sports and games. The juvenilia she wrote as a teenager is also lively and hilarious, an indication of her youthful personality. As with all my other Austen novels, I re-read her work over and over during the composition of this book, to keep her voice in my head.

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JAIV: Your research interests me a great deal – I know you found previously unknown facts about what appeared to be a very shadowy figure in Jane Austen’s life, and were from there able to fashion a story of possible truth, a lovely weaving of fact and fiction – you have already written about this on several sites and blogs [including here at Jane Austen in Vermont: http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/guest-post-syrie-james-on-jane-austens-first-love-goodnestone-park-and-the-bridges-family/ ] …  so I’d rather ask you a few questions about your own Austen library: 

- What do you consider the best, the I-cannot-live-without, book by or about Jane Austen in your collection? 

Le Faye - Letters - 4th ed

SJ: That’s hard—I have hundreds of Austen-related books. But I guess the one I turn to the most is Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye. It’s the world’s best window into Jane Austen’s mind, heart, and soul.

JAIV: What book(s) would you say you especially treasure? In the two categories of older / collectible, and more recent works?

SJ: OLDER/COLLECTIBLE:

Title page of The Taylor Papers Jane Austen in VermontI treasure The Taylor Papers (1913), the rare book I discovered when researching Edward Taylor. A collection of memoirs and letters written by Edward’s brother, Sir Herbert Taylor, it filled in a wealth of details about the Taylor family and the children’s extraordinary and well-traveled childhood, enabling me to understand who Edward Taylor was when Jane Austen met him—and why she adored him.

I also dearly treasure my illustrated set of Jane Austen’s classics (1892, Little Brown & Company). Unfortunately it only includes five of her novels—it’s missing my favorite, Pride and Prejudice.

And I treasure The Brontes: Life and Letters (1908) edited by Clement Shorter, a two-volume work containing all of Charlotte Brontë’s correspondence—it was invaluable when I was writing my novel The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë.

MORE RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Among my favorites (they’re still all older books!) are a whole shelf full of hardcover annotated versions of a great many classics, from Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and Dracula, to the 3-volume set The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.

JAIV: What title would you most like to own, that either you have been unable to locate or find it is unattainable??

SJ: Pride and Prejudice, (1892, Little Brown & Company) to complete my illustrated set of Jane Austen’s classics.

JAIV: Ah yes! The elusive missing volume – I have a few of those myself! 

All this research, invaluable for your fictional tale, should be made available to Austen scholars! – do you intend to write an article about Taylor and his family for one of the Jane Austen publications? [you must!]

SJ: Actually I did write just such an article. Entitled “Jane’s First Love?” the six-page article with lovely images was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine.

Jane Austens Regency World Magazine Jul Aug 2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

JAIV: Yes, I read that article Syrie – I do hope everyone is able to read it as well.

Your novel tells of Austen before she met Tom Lefroy, the young man we most often hear as being her first and long-ForbiddenCoverLgForWebheld Love [and further rendered into “truth” by the movie ‘Becoming Jane’…]; your book The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen tells the tale of her mysterious love met at the sea-side in later life. Can you tell us what’s up next??  

SJ: I have a few other Austen-tales in mind! At the moment, though, I’m hard at work co-writing the sequel to Forbidden with my talented son, Ryan James.

JAIV:  Excellent news! 

 Now, I just have to ask Syrie, as I know you love the movies: if your book was to become a movie, who would you cast in the major roles?

SJ: For Jane Austen, I think Saoirse Ronan, Hailee Steinfeld, or Kaya Scodelario could be a good choice. For Edward Taylor I’d be thrilled to have the role played by Jamie Blackley (from the film IF I STAY) or Douglas Booth, who played Romeo in ROMEO AND JULIET  (2013.)

Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth

Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth

Jamie Blackley

Jamie Blackley

JAIV:  I can see that you have thought this through – and all very engaging choices – this book is a sure candidate for a book-to-movie venture, don’t you think?! – Anything else you might like to add Syrie??

SJ: Thank you so much for having me here today, Deb. I’m excited to share Jane Austen’s First Love with the world, just in time for the holidays! Readers, do you have any questions for me? Any specific thoughts about Jane Austen’s First Love, or my other books? I’d love to hear!

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Thank you Syrie for joining us today! If you have any questions or comments for Syrie, please respond in the comment box below to enter into the Grand Giveaway Contest – all information is below:

Book Blurb: In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honour of her brother’s engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door — the wealthy, worldly and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realises that there are obstacles — social, financial and otherwise — blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

QUICK FACTS: 


Syrie James headshot 2012 x 250AUTHOR BIO: 

Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.com, Facebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames.

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS: 

Grand Giveaway Contest: Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

JAFL Grand Prize x 420

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment here at Jane Austen in Vermont, or on any of the other blog stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour: http://www.syriejames.com/LatestNewsPageNEW.php

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie’s unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Announcing today the winners of the book giveaway of Sarah Ozcandarli’s Revisit Mansfield Park, How Fanny Married Henry – you can see the original post here.

Sarah has kindly offered two kindle copies of her book, and the winners are:

1.  Kerri Spennicchia, who wrote:

As one who has dated multiple Henry’s over the years, I have always agreed with Austen: that he should be tossed to the curb. (However, that doesn’t mean I think Fanny should be saddled with Edmund, after all, he too is a mess.)

I look forward to discovering what life would be like for Fanny should she have been persuaded to marry Henry. (Rather, I look forward to discovering how “you” think this story will progress if they had married.)

2. Allison Sullivan, who wrote:

Oh, I love reimagined classics! This sounds very interesting – going on my kindle wishlist right now! 

Congratulations to you both! – you are in for a treat! 

Please email me as soon as possible with your contact info and that you indeed have a kindle and Sarah will arrange for your free copy. If you don’t have a kindle, let me know and I will select someone else.

Thanks all for your comments and to Sarah for the giveaways!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Wishing you all a very Tasty, Friend-&-Family-filled Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving

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This is a repeat from last year, but worth a re-listen I think!  Just for fun! [alas! it has nothing to do with Jane Austen!]

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

UPDATE: The deadline to comment and win a kindle copy of  Revisit Mansfield Park, How Fanny Married Henry has been extended until next Sunday November 30, 11:59 pm due to the holiday – winner will be announced December 1st. Sarah has offered a second copy of her book as an incentive to comment! Happy Thanksgiving all!

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 Gentle Readers:  I invite today to ‘Jane Austen in Vermont’ Sarah Ozcandarli, who has written a story reimagining the ending of Mansfield Park, an ending about which all of us, including Jane Austen, have pondered the “what if…?” Her book is titled Revisit Mansfield Park, How Fanny Married Henry – I confess to not having finished the book as yet – it is now on my kindle awaiting a moment to give it the time it deserves (I will say that the first three chapters very nicely summarize the plot and characterizations of Mansfield Park).

Sarah contacted me a few weeks ago to say that a number of my links on the blog led to the dreaded oops! – where did you find such a link?” – because as all we bloggers know, who has time to go back and check all the links we ever have put out there, links that go nowhere – such a disappointment to the reader – I wonder always, where does this information go to? Some cyberspace default-filled world with thoughts and ideas and information no longer accessible – it is all quite daunting really, isn’t it?? – but I did go in and remove or edit some of these links Sarah told me about, and in our conversation she told me she had written a tale of Mansfield Park with the plot line that Fanny and Henry do end up together (no spoilers here, this outcome, as you see, is in the title!), as do Edmund and Mary – not an uncommon thought among those people largely disappointed with the lacklustre ending of Mary going off to London, Henry off with Maria and then on to his surely dissipated life (a life Fanny could have salvaged if she had only given him the chance he asked her for),  and Fanny and Edmund riding off into the sunset of boredom.  So I give you a post from Sarah about how her love of Jane Austen began, and what it was about Mansfield Park that made her want to change the ending. Please leave your comment or question for Sarah to win a kindle version of her book – see details below!

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First falling in love . . .

“You will not know the day or the hour”, says St. Matthew, but if the agent is Masterpiece Theatre in the year 1981, the day will Tuesday and the hour 8:00 pm. I was toiling through my last semester at university on that fateful night, when there were two contenders for my attention: Electricity & Magnetism II and the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice. I wanted to study E&M, but my housemates Meg and Laurie were determined that I should be acquainted with Jane Austen. They were two against one, but we were all winners, for I fell in love with Lizzy and Darcy and their creator about fifteen minutes into the program.

Once graduated, and free to read according to my own inclinations, Jane Austen quickly became my first favorite among writers and has never descended from that pedestal. I read all I could find about her life and family, I devoured her letters, but oddly enough, I never noticed the vast collection of Austen-related news, fact, and opinion on the internet. One day in 2012 I googled “white soup” and read through one blog, and then another, and realized that our respect for the greatest novelist in the English language need not prevent us from using her characters to people our own stories! 

Then writing a book . . . 

That being so, I could fulfill my wish (and Cassandra Austen’s as well) that in Mansfield Park Fanny Price should be allowed to marry Henry Crawford, instead of Edmund Bertram. After all Jane herself had written that if Henry had “persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward,” and with Jane’s and Cassandra’s opinions of Henry duly noted I was emboldened to write a different ending for Mansfield Park – a sort of Volume III(b) – with plans for a sequel to tackle Edmund and Mary’s problems.

The first difficulty of the story I wanted to tell was that Fanny justifiably disliked and distrusted Henry, and had no

CE Brock -Mansfield Park - Mollands

CE Brock -Mansfield Park – Mollands

conception that his interest in her was genuine until Sir Thomas informed her that Henry had made “decided proposals” for her. When Henry left Mansfield a few days later he had achieved very little in his quest to change Fanny’s opinion of him. When next they meet, Henry was in Portsmouth to visit Fanny, and as he took his leave of her, he nearly begged her to advise him to return to his work at Everingham. In Mansfield Park Fanny rather unkindly dismissed Henry’s plea; in my story Fanny observed that:

“Henry had said he would show Fanny by his constancy that he deserved her, and now, when all her friends at Mansfield, excepting perhaps her aunt, had forgotten her even more thoroughly than she had anticipated that they would, here was Henry Crawford, as constant as he had declared he would be, and asking her advice.”

Fanny’s judgment, though in all respects sound, was only once sought in all of Mansfield Park. Edmund asked Fanny to approve his participation in Lovers’ Vows – though Edmund was well aware that Fanny would not approve – and having gotten her opinion, he ignored it. Henry’s request was a much greater compliment, not least because he intended to abide by her advice; he truly wanted to be encouraged to do right by his responsibilities at Everingham. This, I think, is the pivotal moment for Henry and Fanny, when they will move forward together if Fanny tells Henry her opinion, or stall out if she does not.

A chance to win . . .

Dear Readers, please comment or leave a question for me to be entered into the giveaway of the Kindle version of Revisit Mansfield Park, How Fanny Married Henry. [see details below]

Revisit Mansfield Park for Kindle – It is available only in English, but can be purchased from Amazon in the USA, England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Australia, and may be read for free with the Prime or Kindle Unlimited Programs.

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picture of SOZAbout the author: Sarah Ozcandarli graduated in 1981 from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BS in Physics and English, and went back three years later for an MS in Industrial Administration. Her varied career took her to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles and Boston, where she sought and found her Mr. Darcy. They were married in 1996 and live near Boston with a large menagerie of wild and domesticated critters, some of which are now hibernating.

For more information, see Sarah’s facebook page or her goodreads page

kindle store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MKB0XRC

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Book Giveaway! Please leave a comment or question for Sarah by Sunday Nov 23, 2014, 11:59 pm to be entered into a random drawing to win the kindle version of Sarah’s book, available to all, but you must of course be a kindle user!

You might consider the question Sarah asks:  In your reading of Mansfield Park, have you ever thought that Fanny should have ended up with Henry Crawford and Edmund with Mary? And if so, why?

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant who has written for us a post on Box Hill. I had the pleasure this spring to spend a day with Tony, as he squired me around Southampton, Portsmouth and Box Hill – it was a rainy, quite miserable day, but the touring was grand, the company terrific! I’ve been to most of the Jane Austen sites – but not to anything we saw this day, from the Dolphin Inn to The Victory, and to the top of Box Hill – it was a world-wind tour of Jane, History, and Geology all rolled into one – Tony here tells of Box Hill, the infamous location that Austen chooses to place her Emma in one of her more self-illuminating “badly-done” scenes… with heartfelt thanks to Tony for the tour to the heart of it all…

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A view of Box Hill, Surrey - George Lambert

A view of Box Hill, Surrey – George Lambert

Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma

On Monday 26th May this year, Deb Barnum [a.k.a. Jane Austen in Vermont] and I drove up to the top of Box Hill. The quickest route is to come off The London Road, known as the A24, which sweeps past the base of Box Hill, paralleling the River Mole, which itself, arcs around Box Hill to the south and west. The A24 leads south from Epsom towards Dorking. A mile before Dorking we turned left at Rykas Café, which is a popular venue for motorcyclists. We took a small B road, overhung with trees. An old rusty sign leaning out of the hedgerow on the left pointed its finger to the summit of Box Hill. We turned into a wooded and high hedged lane which began to immediately rise steeply, bending towards the right. We passed a weathered red brick cottage on the left, set within a ragged, vibrant country garden surrounded by high, smoothly manicured hedges bulging and swelling outwards in billowing shapes. The road soon opened out onto steeply rising chalk grassland. A precipitous drop on our right formed and a steep incline to our left reached upwards.

Box Hill summit 1Mist and cloud swirled around us as we mounted the hill along the switch back road. The corners made us turn almost back on ourselves but always took us to steeper and higher levels. The drop to the right revealed hedges of box and scrub, clinging tightly to the side of the hill, interspersed with finely cropped grasses. Chalky outcrops appeared to our left as we rose higher and higher amongst the mist and low clouds. As we neared the summit, trees and woodland gathered around us again. The squat whitewashed National Trust shop and café appeared in front of us and a car park was situated on the left amongst Scots Pines and firs.

We parked the car and I showed Deb the way to the viewpoint we had come to see. We were seven hundred and thirty-five feet above the River Mole and Dorking town was to our right. We could see far into the distance across the

Town of Dorking below

Town of Dorking below

woodlands and fields of Surrey. I suggested Deb take the part of Emma Woodhouse, who in Jane Austen’s novel of that name, visited this very spot with her friends and neighbours but she would have nothing of it. She would be Mrs Elton and nobody else. Deb stood and acclaimed the world standing high on the stone viewing plinth Leopold Salomons had erected in 1914, arms wide to the sky.

It was very near here that Emma Woodhouse and Mrs Elton and their party of friends alighted to picnic at the top of Box Hill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. The groups from Highbury and Hartfield, in the novel, have an inauspicious start to their trip, an inauspicious execution of it and an inauspicious end to it. It is a turning point in all their lives. The surface veneer begins to slip from various relationships. Reality begins to poke through Emmas carefully stage managed attempts of conducting other people’s lives. Nothing becomes certain. The Sucklings do not arrive at Hartfield and Mrs Elton’s plan of visiting Box Hill to show the Sucklings the views seems to lose its purpose but she has another thought and becomes adamant about the trip going ahead. The Sucklings can go another time. Mrs Elton’s idea about a trip to Box Hill has an effect on Emma. Emma does not want to be outdone. She has never visited Box Hill before and decides that,

emma-picnic1

“she wished to see what everybody found so well worth seeing…”

She discusses the trip with the amiable Mr Weston. He is perhaps too amenable and accommodating. In discussion with Mrs Elton he gets the approval of that lady that the two parties, hers and Emma’s join together for one combined trip to Box Hill. Emma is unhappy with the arrangement but as they will all go in different carriages with the people of their own choice perhaps it will not be so bad, she reasons. It would have been better if the horse that was to pull Emma’s carriage had stayed lame of course and so preventing Emma from going, but a quick recovery from this condition, inconveniently perhaps, gave no excuse for Emma not to proceed. A lame horse is a rather lame Jane Austen joke, I think, sprung in the midst of such serious matters. Tongue in cheek comes to mind – a joke at Emma’s expense between Austen and the reader.

Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of unison, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties.

This is an interesting passage because Jane Austen seems uncertain. She lists a litany of possible causes for the lack of harmony. She can’t herself decide on one exact cause. This adds realism to the situation. We cannot explain everything in real life and neither can Austen in this scene in Emma.

Austen has Frank Churchill perpetrate, perhaps, a cruel joke, to divert attention from himself and Emma. He asks the ultimate psychoanalysts question, in Emma’s name of course. He whispers to her:

“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk….”

And then for all to hear,

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say that she desires to know what you are all thinking of.”

Emma immediately tries to nervously laugh the question off. She is taken unawares by this and denies she has anything to do with any such request. There is a desperation in her voice. There is almost fear. She knows she could not, “stand the brunt,” of such raw honesty.

“Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of.”

There are one or two perhaps, (glancing at Mr Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”

Who can or would want to express their real thoughts at the drop of a hat? Is it possible for anybody to express their exact thoughts as they are thinking them? Our relationships would be very strange and probably be put under incredible stresses if we did. Emma is naïve to think even that the thoughts of Mr Weston and Harriet would bear hearing. Our subconscious level is below manners and the social veneer we all carry. It would be delving into our primal depths. This is the sort of thing that Sigmund Freud tried to study and explore. Frank Churchill is being cruel and he knows that nobody would answer this, certainly not himself. Imagine what sort of story would be written if everybody told their thoughts? It is almost the final nail in the coffin of harmony and wellbeing amongst the group on Box Hill.

On the top of Box Hill

Deb as Mrs Elton

Deb and I certainly didn’t even approach such a question. Deb, as I said before was just happy to be Mrs Elton and of course Mrs Elton and Mr Elton walked away on their own at Frank Churchill’s question. I wonder what Mrs Elton thought about it?   Maybe Deb knows. As for my first suggestion to Deb to play Emma on the top of Box Hill; Emma is obviously an anti-hero. Neither Deb nor anybody else I have spoken to, would willingly be an Emma.

Geology:

Standing high on Box Hill you notice the thinness of the grass under your feet. You see flints sticking out of the pathways and white chalk is revealed in patches everywhere. Box Hill is a geological phenomenon. The cretaceous chalk that comprises Box Hill, was laid down as the microscopic calcareous bodies of plankton on the floor of a tropical sea between 100 and 65 million years ago. Globally chalk is a rare rock formation so it makes the North Downs, of which Box Hill is part, a unique geological area. Originally it was laid as a horizontal chalk platform of uniform thickness. During the period the Alps were formed, about 50 million years ago, upheavals in the Earth’s crust forced this chalk layer into a vast dome. The northern most edge was where the North Downs are now. The dome stretched over to France. The British Isles were joined to the mainland of Europe then. Chalk, being a porous and relatively soft rock, it has been eroded and worn down by the actions of water. All that remains are the North Downs stretching from Guildford in Surrey, just south of London into the northern part Kent and The South Downs stretching from a line formed by the Itchen River between Southampton and Winchester in the west to The Cliffs of Dover on the coast of Kent in the East.

 Box Hill Bridge, Dorking – by Alfred Charles Jerome Collins
image: Dorking Museum

On the steep chalk slopes of Box Hill, the 394 feet escarpment and on the sides of the surrounding valleys, downland plants flourish. Because chalk is porous it hardly ever dries out, even in drought conditions which might affect the surrounding landscape. This means plants always have a ready water supply. It is said that plants on chalk downland have a brighter richer colour because of this. Plants such as hawk weed rock rose, bird’s foot trefoil, milkwort, squinancywort and dwarf thistle all thrive in this environment. Box woodland, which is extremely ancient, grows on the steep chalky, thin soiled slopes. It is one of the only trees that will grow in these conditions. The escarpments and valley sides face southwards which means it is often a hot exposed environment. Box Hill derives its name from the box that grows on it. Box has been around since probably the end of the Ice Age and perhaps before that. The characteristics of chalk downland are unique to Box Hill’s geology. There are dry valleys cut into the north side of the hill. This is where the River Mole, which runs under the escarpment of Box Hill has cut its course in the past and where drainage streams and rivulets flowed into it, but because the rocks are porous any streams and rivulets that remain are no longer on the surface but underground. Chalk is easily eroded so it gives a gentle undulating quality to the general landscape. On the steep slopes there are patches of bare chalk and these can gleam white in the sunshine.

Chalk from the North Downs has been quarried in the past. Surrey County Council had a quarry at Brockham nearby to Box Hill. It was used to quarry chalk that could be burned in kilns to produce lime and cement. These quarries, many of them now abandoned have been left to regenerate, plants and wild life and some are now places of special scientific interest. The quarries, because they have sides cut into the chalk, show the structure of the chalk particularly well.

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep - Box HIll

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep – Box Hill

image: National Trust – Box Hill

Chalk Down land is a special type of grassland habitat that is actually man made. Over centuries, sheep and cattle have been grazed on them. This has deforested the downland to a certain extent allowed unique wild flowers and animals, only found on downland, to flourish. To keep Box Hill’s downland quality a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle are grazed on it. The sheep on Box hill are Black Welsh Mountain sheep. There are twenty eight sheep, which are moved around the hill on a rotation.  Because sheep are ‘nibblers’ they leave the grass short and even. There are also cattle, which graze very differently. Cows use their tongues to rip plants up, which leads to more tufted grassland. The breed used on Box Hill are called Belted Galloway cattle. They can be recognised by their fluffy black bodies with a thick white belt around their middles. Four males graze Box Hill and nearby Headley Heath is grazed by three males and nine females. The animals are moved around Box Hill all the time.  If it ceased to be a grassland habitat, trees and woodland would take over and cover it. This would occur through a natural process called succession. This downland supports a great diversity of invertebrates including fourty one species of rare butterflies. The soil is good for snails too. Snails require the calcium in the chalk to form shells.

Box Hill FortHistory:

Box Hill has a varied history. The old fort, that can still be seen at the top of Box Hill, was built in the 1890’s and is one of thirteen that were built across the North Downs, collectively known as the London Defence System.. They were to be the last defence of London if Britain was ever invaded. In the late 1890’s there was a treaty with France called the entente cordial but Germany was beginning to increase its strength and many of the stresses and strains that eventually lead to the first world war were beginning to stir. Previously, in the 1860’s, during Palmerstone’s premiership, many forts had also been built around the coast of Britain to defend from a perceived threat from France then. The forts on Box Hill and across the North Downs were never used. I have visited and actually stayed in one of the forts, the fort on The Hogsback just outside of Guildford. It is owned by Surrey County Council and is used for parties of school children to stay at to enable them to explore and study wildlife and local history. The fort on The Hogs back contained officers quarters just outside the ramparts of the fort and a barracks for a small contingent of soldiers inside. The forts were basically armouries for storing shells, and explosives. They comprised of strongly reinforced chambers with specially constructed shelving. The one on The Hogsback had a large area of flat land in front of it on which  artillery could be positioned if required. These forts were situated high on the downs,as much as  seven hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. The one on the top of Box Hill is dilapidated now and barred from entry. A rare breed of bats has lodged itself inside the fort and cannot be disturbed. To continue the military theme, there are stepping stones that cross the River Mole at the base of Box Hill. During the second world war they were removed to impede invading forces crossing the river. In the area you can also see examples of pill boxes, which were concrete bunkers installed with heavy machine guns and concrete tank traps. Interestingly at the top of Guildford High Street, next to the railway line cutting, hidden amongst dense trees, nowadays you can see a whole swathe of Second World War tank traps covered in ivy and moss.

Burford Hotel

Burford Hotel

Literary Connections:

JohnKeats1819_hires

John Keats in 1819, by Joseph Severn – wikipedia

Box Hill has inspired a number of classic authors, not just Jane Austen as I mentioned at the start. John Keats, Daniel Defoe, George Meredith and Robert Louis Stevenson all visited Box Hill. J. M Barrie used to sit on one of the slopes of Box Hill getting inspiration for Peter Pan.

The Romantic Movement, led by William Wordsworth, popularised communing with nature and Box Hill became a popular place to visit. John Keats completed his poem Endymion (1816) while staying at the Burford Hotel next to Box Hill. Its famous opening lines have inspired generations,

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us….”

John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived in the Swiss Cottage at the top of Box Hill. In the 1930’s he conducted his early experiments in television from the top to the valley below.

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird

The strangest individual connected with Box Hill is Major Peter Labelliere. He requested that he be buried upside down on the top of the hill. He believed that the world would go topsy-turvy and that one day he would be the right way up. His other dying wish was that youngest son and daughter of his land lady should dance on his coffin.

One thing you notice, as a driver, on Box Hill is when you descend, especially, winding along the switch back road on steep sided slopes and cliffs that the road surface has had strange, almost aboriginal markings painted on it. Here and there are the hoops of the Olympic movement. In 2012, The Olympics came to London. However, many events were not confined to the capital. The cycling road races were staged in the beautiful leafy, countryside of Surrey. Box Hill was the steepest part of the long distance cycling road race, hence the artistic markings that still adorn the road surface of the road..

On our way back to London, I drove Deb towards Kingston. We passed through an area called Malden Rushett, near the Chessington World of Adventures. There is a small industrial estate, farming land, a pub called The Blue Anchor and an extensive garden centre in Malden Rushett nowadays. The long straight road that passes through this area from Dorking to Kingston was a coaching road in the 18th century. Nothing apart from fields with cattle and maybe wheat growing would have existed there then. If you look on a map you can measure from Malden Rushett cross roads, seven miles to Box Hill, sixteen miles to London, twelve miles to Richmond and nine miles to Kingston – the exact distances from Highbury and Hartfield that Jane Austen reveals in Emma.   I mentioned this to Deb as we drove along. I think she was impressed.

the view we saw in the mist

the view we saw in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

The Esteemed Author

The Esteemed Author

All images c2014 Tony Grant unless otherwise noted.

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont
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