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Archive for April, 2012

Coming soon to your mailbox! ~ the new issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World (May/June 2012, No 57):

  • Mozart’s Sister: a stunning new film tells of the talented musician eclipsed by a famous brother
  • Oops, I did it again: drink, drugs, sex and gambling… lax morals prevailed in Georgian England
  • Taking a tour around Steventon, birthplace of Jane Austen
  • Rage against the machine: how the Luddites sought to protect their jobs and their families
  • Exploring the character of Elizabeth Bennet

Plus … all the latest news from the world of Jane Austen, your letters, round-ups from the Jane Austen Society of the UK and the Jane Austen Society of North America, book reviews and quiz!

AND: Watch out for the new JARW website and BREAKING NEWS pages – coming soon to www.janeaustenmagazine.co.uk

You can subscribe here - a most enjoyable treat to show up in your mailbox every other month…

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Congratulations! to Danielle, who has won the random drawing for The Perfect Visit by Stuart Bennett. The interview with Mr. Bennett can be found at these two posts: Part I, and Part II.

Danielle, please email me the address you would like me to send the book to, and I will get it off to you right away …

Thank you all for your comments! – I do hope that you will all buy a copy of the book, either in the paperback edition or as an ebook on your kindle – I promise you an enjoyable read!

Copyright @2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Today I again welcome Stuart Bennett, for Part II of our interview where we discuss his new book The Perfect Visit, a time-travel tale, a romance, and a pure escape into the Regency world of Jane Austen and the Elizabethan world of William Shakespeare! [Please go to this link for Part I of the interview.]

You can enter the book giveaway by commenting on either post before 11:59 pm 15 April 2012.  Winner will be announced on Monday April 16, 2012. [worldwide eligibility]

Talking about the Feminist Question: [because I always have to ask…] 

JAIV:  Vanessa is in all ways a 21st century woman, yet when she finds herself stranded in the early 19th century England she is “visiting” she must, I assume, “just fit in” – she even goes to the lengths of wanting marriage for protection alone – she cannot earn a living as she would have done here in the present – she is trapped and at times just so incredibly sad. You do have her debating women’s rights and voting and the realities for women publishing, and she does stand up for herself innumerable times – and you did create Meg, a lovely character, true to her time and herself – but I am perhaps taking Vanessa and her story too much to heart here? -  she feels very real to me [and I thought only Jane Austen’s characters are really real!] – and I felt that if I were there, I would be pushing Wollstonecraft’s Vindication on every passer-by, screaming for equality, hanging out with the bluestockings! – yet you have her taking such a back seat in these socio-political conversations of the day.  I just see that as a difficult issue for you as a writer – making her a very modern woman living in an earlier time and not scaring all the people around her! Did you feel this in creating her? – needing to make her an almost “invisible” being, with your own time travel rules at play to not change things, to lay-low so to speak, to not bring too much attention to oneself? …  And did you find her enforced silence painful as well? Or is this more my response as a female reader moved by her inability to speak out – more so than even for you who created her? [you might just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and head on to the next question!]

[Image: wikipedia]

SB:  It is tempting just to say “yes” and move along.  But a question that shows such close and sympathetic reading deserves better than that.  Vanessa is young at the beginning of The Perfect Visit.  Resourceful and tough as she is, she still has to deal with the triple-whammy of being trapped in another time, imprisoned, and ill.  Without Meg (and other interventions which I hope readers will discover for themselves) Vanessa would surely have died. 

And so she does her best to lie low, to get by, to fit in.  And at times it all makes her feel like she is about to explode.  This is the Vanessa who came alive for me, and as a writer it brings me joy to know that she came alive for you too.  Thank you!
 

Talking about Books

 

JAIV:  All references to book titles, authors, prices, etc. are you say valid – in your words, you may have “tinkered a little with history, but I have done my best not to tinker with bibliography.” [p.341] – and this book abounds in Bibliography! I love to come away from such a story with pages of things, people and places, and books to research! – And I thank you for your “Historical postscript – the truth in Jane Austen’s life and her fiction, and the amalgamations of real people to create your heroine and hero and all the various booksellers… [though I did miss the Godwin reference I am ashamed to say! – so clear after reading your postscript…]  

So I would ask, can your story be enjoyed by the non-Austen aficionado? The non-bookseller? The person little acquainted with Shakespeare bibliography? – What can you tell us about your basic plot without all these fabulous extras that give the book such depth and meaning…? 


SB:
  I suspect most authors, like me, have readers they can count on for honest opinions.  Several of my readers, warned that the typescript was on its way, voiced advance worries about the time-travel, others about the bibliographical elements.  Virtually all reported that neither got in the way of what I wanted above all to be a romance: a romance for those who wish we could meet the authors we love, and for those who love (or wish they could love) someone as bookish as they are.  The rest of the novel could perhaps be seen as illustrating the old adage “be careful what you wish for. . . .” 

JAIV:   The value of Jane Austen’s books today either seems outrageous [to those who know that she received so little for her labors] or a fair accounting of what the market will bear… what are your thoughts on this, as a bookseller and an author?

 [Pride and Prejudice - 1st edition, 1813.  Sold for $35,000, Sotheby's, June 17, 2011]

SB:  First, I don’t think Jane Austen fared too badly in the context of the commercial publishing world of her day.  It may have helped (here comes the gender discrimination again) that she had her father and brothers on her side in dealing with publishers, and she certainly had the last laugh when in 1816 (through her brother Henry) she bought back the manuscript and copyright of what became Northanger Abbey, for the same ten pounds a neglectful publisher had paid for it in 1803.  The net proceeds to JA’s heirs from the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion amounted to a hefty £453.14.11 – somewhere (by my rough reckoning) on the order of £35,000 in today’s money.

Second, I suppose if JA’s first editions are selling at today’s hefty prices (a nice Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, the two most difficult first editions, might well appear on the market for the same £35,000 I just mentioned) then those prices must surely be judged a fair accounting. 

But I’m not sure those prices are sustainable.  When I was selling J.A. first editions in the early 1980s, auction prices were normally in the mid-hundreds of pounds, and my copies – almost never more than £1,000 – flew off the shelf.  When the modern movies came along prices went up, and up, and up – and now many high-end antiquarian booksellers have copies of the first editions that have lingered for years.

JAIV:   You have published the book Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles (2004), which surely comes into this story with the variety of publishers and booksellers and Vanessa’s publication of children’s books. What were the realities of publishing in the Regency period? And how different from today? …

 Oak Knoll Press, 2004

Indeed, you created your own press [the aptly named Longbourn Press!] to publish your book, as well as offer it as a kindle ebook.  Did you try to publish with a traditional publisher? And how is this form of publishing any different from what was available to Jane Austen as a first time novel-writer [sell her copyright outright or pay for printing and marketing costs herself, etc.]? 

SB:  I’ve given a couple of clues about Regency publishing in my previous answer.  “How different from today?”  Well, today’s publishing, with Kindle etc., seems to me to be reverting more to the Regency model than otherwise, with those able to pay for self-publication able to get their books printed and distributed more easily than in the last half-century or so.

Regency publishers were, of course, always on the lookout for potential blockbusters, especially if they could buy the copyrights outright (often for small sums, like the ten pounds originally paid for Northanger Abbey – then titled Susan).  Many women writers, often publishing anonymously, produced novels and other works, especially children’s books, at their leisure; others were desperate for money and sold manuscripts and copyrights for whatever they could get.  Those (men and women) able to pay the cost of their own publications could negotiate commissions with commercial publishers.  John Murray took only ten percent of the net proceeds of Jane Austen’s later novels, a deal which if available to J.K. Rowling might have made her a whole, whole lot richer than the Queen of England.  

The Perfect Visit had wonderful literary agents in London and New York who offered the manuscript to commercial publishers in the even-darker-than-usual publishing days of early 2009.  There were no takers; one London publisher described it as a nice “potential mid-list” novel, but not the blockbuster they were looking for.  But some wayward typescripts kept bringing notes and e-mails, and when a couple of enthusiastic ones came from perfect strangers as far away asAustralia, I decided to consider the Amazon route.  Another bonus, as a much-published friend observed: printing the book meant I had to stop revising.

JAIV:   Well, I for one am certainly glad you listened to those perfect strangers!  And yes, it is interesting to read about Austen’s publication history – very ironic that the only work for which she sold the copyright outright was Pride and Prejudice, always her most popular and enduring work.

One question I have about the story:  what might the ethical issues be about this bringing of old manuscripts and books into the present to sell? even if the resulting profit is for a good cause?

SB:  I think any reader’s guess is as good as mine.  Would it be unfair to the original author? If so, how?  Certainly if I could go back to Jane Austen’s time (not to mention Shakespeare’s) and buy new copies of her first editions to bring back to sell in 2012, I could also undercut the prices of my high-end bookselling colleagues.  Does caveat emptor apply in such circumstances? 

But of course the paramount ethical issue involves time-travel itself.  Surely time-traveller appearances would change the past, à la Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder,” and so skew subsequent history.  People who should have been born might not be, and vice versa.  

Someone once wrote an apocalyptic story where only the very rich could afford to travel back in time to escape the end of the world.  Against those kinds of fantasy possibilities, surely sneaking a few otherwise-vanished books and manuscripts out of their own times seems comparatively harmless.  Or not? 

JAIV:  Yes, it is an interesting question – one way to look at it is to believe you might be preserving a work that would have been destroyed in a fire or such, and otherwise lost to posterity…. [and I do have to remember, this is a fiction, after all!]

Here is a very specific question about a book you mention: You place your heroine in a library reading The Invisible Gentleman – I had to research this one I confess – written in 1833 by J. Dalton, author of Chartley the Fatalist, and The Robber, all published by Edward Bull of Holles St, London… you call it “a heavy-handed historical romance set in the twelfth century” [p. 312]… no wonder Vanessa tossed it aside! – So I ask, why this book for that scene?? –


SB:
  Because Vanessa wished she were invisible – and because I found it on an 1833 list of novels “just published” and couldn’t resist. 

JAIV: Oh good! glad I don’t have to add this to my TBR pile! 

Can you share anything about your writing process? – When, Where, and How [and maybe even Why?] – any advice for budding writers? 

SB:  I don’t think this is any kind of advice for budding writers, but here’s the truth behind my Perfect Visit process.  I’d written a couple of non-fiction books, lots of magazine articles on rare books and auctions, and during the 1980s attempted and abandoned a couple of novels.  I knew a little bit about sitting down and writing, and even writing with deadlines.  This helps.

 But the inspiration for The Perfect Visit and its (unpublished) sequels came as a surprise.  I have George R.R. Martin to thank – and if your readers aren’t sure who he is, the ubiquitous advertisements for the television version of his Game of Thrones gives the clue. 

[SPOILER ALERT re: Game of Thrones] At the beginning of 2006 I started reading Martin’s “Fire and Ice” series (Game of Thrones is Book One).  Initially I was hooked, but I started having doubts somewhere in Book Two.  By the middle of Book Three (I’ve repressed the books’ individual names) I felt like I was being had, that the author had realized he was onto a cash cow and decided to turn what might have been a trilogy into a five-parter (is there a name for that?)  

And Martin also killed off the one character I felt close to, whose name happened to be Ned.  Sometime towards the end of January 2006 – I remember the moment – I flung Martin’s Book Three across the room, stood up, and said “I’m going to write a book I’d want to read.”  The result was The Perfect Visit, central male character by name of Ned Marston. 

I should add, in case I appear delusional, that I am in no doubt Mr. Martin’s formula has a much broader appeal than mine. 

Are there any nuggets of gold here for budding writers?  I don’t know.  All I can say is that once I started, my characters took over large parts of my life.  They woke me up in the middle of the night with their dialogues; I started walking to work with bits of paper in my pockets so I could write down what they were doing and more of what they had to say.  And I would scribble, or clatter away on the computer most mornings, until I thought I’d done them some kind of justice.  Then I’d work at my business until the characters interrupted all over again.  The original typescript of The Perfect Visit went on, and on. . . . 

JAIV:  I love this story of your inspiration! [I have always thought a really good blog post would be to question people about the one book they most remember throwing across the room!]  I have not read the “Fire and Ice” books but do admit to being quite absorbed with the Game of Thrones on HBO, and like you, stunned at the outcome of Book I – indeed the only character I liked as well [being Sean Bean helps too!] 

You mention above other books revolving around The Perfect Visit. Can you tell us more about these? A sequel to this tale, or another time-travel book to another time? And if so where would you next most like to go? 

SB: Oh yes, there are a couple of sequels, one close to finished, and a kind of “part-prequel” set in 1823 in which Vanessa discovers the “truth” behind a lost episode in Jane Austen’s life.  There’s even, for better or worse, a half-written (maybe “half-baked” would be a better term) prequel about Ned Marston’s adventures in classical Greece. 

JAIV:  Can’t wait! 

And finally, in your answer to my question on London  – because it was so convoluted and actually contained four questions, so no guilt please for missing it! -  I asked what is your favorite London haunt, other than perhaps the British Library? 

SB:  I confess I love the London Library more than the British.  It’s climbing around in the stacks that does it, and all the books you find that way that you’d otherwise never known existed.

London Library - Geograph.uk

London Library label – wikipedia

But you asked my favorite London haunt, and I have to confess a hopelessly bourgeois affection for the Wolseley restaurant on Piccadilly.  I take myself there for breakfast whenever I can, all alone, reveling in perfectly-cooked bacon and eggs, and the best pastries in the universe.  People-watching there brings me as close as I can get to the way I think Vanessa must have felt at Molland’s Tea-Rooms in Bath.

The Wolseley, London

JAIV:  You make me want to go back to 1833! Just for a cup of tea!

Thank you Stuart for answering all my questions – you have been a gentleman and a scholar and I appreciate it!

Readers, please ask any question you might have for Stuart or leave a comment on either this post or the Part I post, and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy of The Perfect Visit. Please do so by 11:59 pm, April 15, 2012. The winner will be announced on Monday April 16, 2012 – all are welcome to particpate, i.e. worldwide eligibility.

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Stuart Bennett was an auctioneer at Christie’s inLondon before starting his own rare book business. He is the author of the Christie’s Collectors Guide How to Buy Photographs (1987), Trade Binding in the British Isles (2004) which the London Times Literary Supplement called “a bold and welcome step forward” in the history of bookbinding, and many publications on early photography, auctions and auctioneers, and rare books. He currently lives and works near Boston, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

  The Perfect Visit, by Stuart Bennett
Longbourn Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780615542706

For more information:

C. E. Brock. illustration for Persuasion, image from Molland’s

Copyright @2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

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The Perfect Visit (Longbourn Press, 2011) is, no way to say it otherwise, a perfect treat – who of us would not want to spend a few days [or pull an all-nighter!] in the company of a time-travelling couple who are each in turn lovers of books, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and just possibly each other? –

Today I welcome the author Stuart Bennett for a blog interview where we talk about how a rare bookseller became a writer of a first novel that brings to life both Jane Austen and Shakespeare, takes us on a whirlwind tour of their times, regales us with book history as we trek about the bookstalls of London and Bath, and all this in a mere 342 pages, a book sure to take a prime spot on your bookshelf.  So join us today for Part I of the interview, stay tuned for Part II this weekend, and enter the Book Giveaway by commenting or asking a question on either post before 11:59 pm 15 April 2012. Winner will be announced on Monday April 16, 2012 (worldwide eligibility).

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Welcome Stuart!  Thank you so much for joining us here at Jane Austen in Vermont. I have known of you for a good number of years as a rare bookseller and for a time president of the ABAA [Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America] – needless to say when I discovered you had recently published this book on Jane Austen [the title even comes from Emma: “It was a delightful visit; - perfect in being much too short.” [Vol. I, Ch. XIII]] – I saw my two worlds colliding in the most marvelous of cosmic alignments! I was so greedy to begin, I immediately downloaded it on my kindle, my hardcopy order far too slow to arrive, and was happily transported to the various times in your tale. So lets talk a bit about your background as a rare bookseller, your love of Jane Austen and Shakespeare [and how you dared to put both in the same tale!], the history of books, the time-travel bits, the woman-issue, and of course, just the sheer pleasure of a really nice romance…

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Talking about the story:

JAIV: To start, please explain the premise of your tale – a time-travel, book-loving love story that you say was first titled “A Bibliographical Romance” – so tell us about “The Project,” or at least a quick synopsis without giving too much away!

SB:  It starts as the tale of two bibliophiles planning to go back in time to rescue lost books and manuscripts. Vanessa decides on Regency England; Ned goes to Shakespeare’s. But they both have their own agendas as well.  Vanessa wants to rewrite history. And Ned wants to meet the Bard himself. 

Vanessa falls foul of the law, transported from Jane Austen’s genteel world to the dark underbelly of a Regency prison. 1607 London shows an equally black side to Ned when he antagonises one of Shakespeare’s rivals, escaping with his life only to find that an accident of time takes him only halfway home.

Talking about Jane Austen: 

“It was a delightful visit; – perfect, in being too short.” [Emma, vol. 1, ch. 13]

JAIV:  I know of your background as an antiquarian bookseller and former ABAA president - you have spent most of your life in books published before 1850.  So why Jane Austen for you? And why Shakespeare? Why not Frances Burney or Chaucer? Is it their times or their works, their continuing popularity today? 

SB:  Jane Austen and Shakespeare are central to my book because I love them.  A bookseller writing a “bibliographical romance” is committing a self-indulgent act – the more so with the presence of time-travel – and these two authors are part of it.  Frances Burney is intriguing, but I confess that had Jane Austen never written (could I have written any kind of  Perfect Visit without J.A.? – I doubt it) I might have been more tempted by Maria Edgeworth as a character.  Or maybe Hester Lynch Piozzi.  Chaucer and his world needs a true mediaevalist: I don’t have the knowledge of or empathy to go there.

JAIV:  You say in your postscript: “It is a presumption of a very high order to bring both Jane Austen and William Shakespeare into a single work of fiction, let alone a first novel … of the two, somehow Jane Austen intimidates me more, even though Shakespeare is perhaps the greater genius.” Explain your thoughts on the intimidating Miss Austen!

SB:  Wonderful question.  What is it that’s so intimidating?  I think it may be that, compared to Shakespeare, we really know quite a bit about Jane Austen’s life, notwithstanding the wholesale destruction of her letters by her sister and niece.  And what we know seems domesticated and uneventful. 

So how and why did she become, as I see her, the greatest novelist ever to write in English?  One could ask a similar question about Shakespeare and his plays: how did the grammar-school boy from provincial Stratford manage those.  And of course the fact that we know so little about Shakespeare’s life allows those in Shakespeare-denial (Oxfordians and similar snobs) scope for their own inventions. What we have of Jane Austen’s personal history is secure. 

As a novelist it’s a relief to have no sense of what Shakespeare was like as a man, let alone as a conversationalist.  I could invent quite freely.  The real Jane Austen, on the other hand, survives in family memoirs and letters, and I considered it my job to try to be true to her.  All I felt confident about at the time went into The Perfect Visit , but she haunts me still, and features much more largely in one of the two sequels/prequels to P.V. which are complete in first drafts but still have a long way to go.

JAIV:  How and when did you first discover Jane Austen? – as a reader or a collector or as a bookseller?  Or was your name [despite that extra “t”!] the impetus behind reading and writing about Jane Austen?! 

SB:  No to the last – I didn’t know there was a character in Jane Austen with my name mis-spelled until I was in my early twenties.  J.A. wasn’t quite the household name she’s become in the last thirty years, and I think I was lucky in being no younger than twenty-one, at university in England, when first introduced to the novels via Emma.  I couldn’t put it down.  

(I should add, however, that I take comfort in the fact that my spelling of “Bennett” is the same as the street in Bath.  Perhaps J.A. – or so I like to think – was recollecting the street as a good character name and simply forgot the last “t”.)

JAIV:  I don’t like to ask this question because who can ever work through such a dilemma, but I always do because the answers are so enlightening – but first I would ask if Persuasion is your favorite Austen novel? – it figures prominently in your story: Ned’s reading Persuasion; he and Vanessa are in Bath and literally take a Persuasion tour [which was great fun!]; and their romance has echoes of the Anne / Wentworth story.  ….

SB:  Your question – I’m sure this won’t surprise you – contains its own answer.  All the elements you describe in my book derive from my love of Persuasion. which seems to me to express most clearly Jane Austen’s own longings and losses, as the most autobiographical of all her novels.

JAIV:  A lovely answer! Persuasion is my own favorite, and it is wonderful how you weave Anne Elliot’s tale into your own. 

Is it every antiquarian bookseller‘s dream to actually visit the time of their literary hero[es]? To meet them as Vanessa meets Jane Austen and Ned William Shakespeare – is this your own vicarious dream? And has this time-travel story been in your head for the longest time?  I know you have written non-fiction works on book collecting, but have you written other yet-unpublished novels or fictional pieces?

 SB:  I think I may have answered the salient points of this great question in the course of dealing with other questions, but I would add this:  The most successful antiquarian booksellers I know don’t spend time dreaming about time-travel.  Instead they get to the auctions and flea-markets I didn’t know existed, woo wealthy collectors, and have healthier bottom lines. 

JAIV:  Yes! That bottom line does get in the way of day-dreaming and novel-writing, doesn’t it?! Jane Austen’s very own problem as well! 

 We find, along with your heroine, that we are soon to be in Jane Austen’s presence: 

“The first response to Vanessa’s knock was a rustle of papers, receding footsteps, and the creak of an interior door.” [p.5] 

– and we know we are in Jane Austen’s house in Chawton! … and we are there almost holding our breath as Vanessa first meets her, describes her – how difficult was she to create on your page, knowing readers all have their very own Jane Austen in their head?

Chawton Cottage

SB:  I did my very best to describe the physical J.A., and also Martha Lloyd, that emerge from contemporary accounts.  As to that first conversation, as well as later ones, the Jane Austen I hear is graceful, a little shy, with a ready wit and even sarcasm, but fundamentally kind.  Can any J.A. aficionado really demur to that?

JAIV:   Your heroine Vanessa Horwood is what Mr. Darcy would call an “accomplished woman” – even your Jane Austen character says “I have, it seems, in one young woman a literary critic, a musician, a financier, and an apothecary.”  [p. 7]. Is it fair to ask a male writer with a female protagonist, for a good part of the book at least – are you a little bit in love with your Vanessa?

SB:  All’s fair, and of course I am.  But I was also a little taken aback when many who know me best said that my Vanessa reminds them of me, and not always my most lovable side.

JAIV:  Aah – you have created your own better half it seems! 

 The description of clothing is very exact! – may I ask if you tend toward Henry Tilney in “understand[ing] your muslins, sir”?

Morning Dress @1819, R. Ackermann [wikicommons]

SB:  I hope so.  But Ackermann’s Repository and other contemporary sources are a great help too, not to mention the modern books by the Cunningtons, e.g. Handbook of English Costume in the Nineteenth Century

JAIV:    As you mention above, these times had heavy realities that Austen kept in the background for the more astute reader to find – but they are there – your heroine is jailed for forgery and will likely hang or will be transported – so this part of your story tells this darker side, the underbelly of Regency life, especially for women.  What was prison like and what resources did you use to make this seem so real? 

Newgate Prison - eb.com

SB:  I’ve read, and also bought and sold, so many accounts of English malefactors and their punishments in Regency and earlier times that I can’t really cite many of the sources that contributed to my sense of what a prison must have been like at that time.  Did I get it right?  Perhaps partly so, but I suspect the reality of most female penitentiaries was worse than I describe.  

Two essential sources for the Regency period are those to which Elizabeth Fry (who makes an appearance in The Perfect Visit) contributed: Notes on a Visit to some of the Prisons in Scotland and the North of England with Elizabeth Fry (this was published by Elizabeth Fry’s brother Joseph John Gurney) and Observations, on the Visiting, Superintendence and Government of Female Prisoners.

 

Elizabeth Fry, by Charles Robert Leslie - wp

 
Talking about Time-Travel:

 “Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” [Twelfth Night, Act V, Sc. 1] – [p. 113]

JAIV:  This is a time-travel book: and filled with “Rules of Time –Travel” – are these of your own creation for this story or from other sources? A few of the “rules” for example: 

  • -you cannot kill anyone
  • -cannot play modern music [in this case Vanessa playing Rachmaninoff if anyone is present]
  • -only organic clothing and material will pass through the time portal, so books, coins of the times, etc. will go, but no illuminated manuscripts
  • - the loss of the language of our 21st century life
  • -can only go the past, no travel into the future

SB:  As a child I watched, and was haunted by an episode of The Twilight Zone in which (as I recall from my single viewing close to fifty years ago) a criminal transports to the past, remains a criminal, and murders his own grandfather. 

Was it in the Wild West?  I’m not sure.  But what I remember is the image at episode’s end where the onscreen modern criminal dissolves saying something like “If I’ve just killed my grandfather, then how” [more dissolve] “can I” [almost gone] “exist?”  That was the origin of the first rule.  The others I developed as I sought consistency

JAIV:  Yikes! I remember that Twilight Zone episode! [also quite a faded memory!]. My other favorite was the 2-part Star Trek tale when Captain Kirk goes back in time and falls in love with Joan Collins – her character dies in “real life” and he must watch this and not step in to help so as not to completely alter the socio-political history of the future – I think I’ve seen that show 10 times! And it breaks my heart every time… 

So, I must assume you are a fan of time-travel literature? Your favorite? 

SB: As a kid I loved Robert A. Heinlein’s Door into Summer.  And Ray Bradbury wrote perhaps the greatest of all time-travel short stories, “A Sound of Thunder,” from which “the butterfly effect” has become a scientific term of art.  Alison Uttley’s Traveller in Time is a children’s book that transcends the genre (but then so do many of the best children’s books).  More recently I sobbed my way through The Time Traveler’s Wife (too bad about the movie though).

JAIV:  I haven’t watched the movie because I heard it was so dreadful – and yes, the book was sob-city-central! 

Shakespeare’s time reads like a gazetteer of London as Ned tours around looking for booksellers and all things Shakespeare, with detailed street names and historical sites and bookseller stalls – You must be familiar with London, so I must ask what is your favorite book on London? And London during the Elizabethan period?  The Regency period? And your favorite London haunt? [other than perhaps the British Library?!]

[Map of London 1593 - Internet Shakespeare Editions]

SB:  Oh dear, I didn’t want to sound like a gazetteer.  I lived more than ten years in London, and three in Bath, so much of what I wrote was from recollection.  Then I went back, retracing my characters’ steps with period maps and other clues to get the street names right, and to remove bridges and buildings that weren’t there at the times I was writing about.  I consulted all kinds of odd books, especially Regency ones, that I’d put aside during the course of my bookselling.  Pierce Egan’s Walks through Bath (1819) is a good example, and a useful one too.  For a modern book on London in Shakespeare’s time, the Oxford compendium Shakespeare’s England, first published in 1916, is still (I think) as good as it gets

JAIV:   On no! I meant that your book reading in parts like a gazetteer was a GOOD thing! I love the old London maps and had great fun following Ned around! 

The topic of carriages interests me very much, and the question of calculating distances and times is a difficult one: you say a coach traveling to London from Winchester in 1817 [50 miles] took 7 hours.  What sources did you use for those calculations?

SB:  Contemporary travel guides are not easy to come by, and sometimes even give conflicting information, but quite a few of the Regency and later guides to London have appendices of travel times.  I did the best I could with several of these.

JAIV:   I love the little bit about Fanny Dickens, Charles’s oldest sister, though you do say you muddled the dates a bit  – why Fanny and not other characters from the London or Bath of the time?

SB:  My brain accumulates trivia, and from somewhere or other I knew Fanny Dickens was a talented pianist.  That scene in Perfect Visit (I love it too – thank you) unexpectedly wrote itself one afternoon in the London Library where I was supposed to be doing other things.  I couldn’t let go of that scene, even when I found out I’d muddled the dates.  But with Fanny, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Fry, John Payne Collier, et al., already in the Regency parts of the novel, I felt that cluttering it up with even more celebrities would be too much of a good thing. 

JAIV:  Your Part III and IV are set in September 1833 [I will not ruin the plot and tell anyone the how and why!] – so without giving too much away, why this date? 

SB:  Touché!  September 1833 imposed itself on an early draft of the novel when I was trying to figure out a way to get Ned to the early 19th century.  My justification seemed compelling at the time, and then, quite suddenly, didn’t much matter at all.  But I’d gone to a lot of trouble getting the topography and costume of 1833 London as close to right as I could, so I kept Ned there.  I could invoke other reasons too, but I agree they would spoil the plot.

***************************** 

Thank you Stuart! – we will continue our conversation this weekend – Gentle Readers, please ask any question you might have for Stuart or leave a comment on either this post or the Part II post, and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy of The Perfect Visit. Please do so by 11:59 pm, April 15, 2012.

Stuart Bennett was an auctioneer at Christie’s in London before starting his own rare book business. He is the author of the Christie’s Collectors Guide How to Buy Photographs (1987), Trade Binding in the British Isles (2004) which the London Times Literary Supplement called “a bold and welcome step forward” in the history of bookbinding, and many publications on early photography, auctions and auctioneers, and rare books. He currently lives and works near Boston, Massachusetts.

The Perfect Visit, by Stuart Bennett
Longbourn Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780615542706

For more information:

Copyright @2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

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From the SunLive website: New Zealand is a tad far, so had to share this with you ….

Two damaged books destined for the recycling bin have been given a glamorous new life as a Jane Austen inspired frock.

The Tauranga Library promotions assistant Katherine Tham created the eye-catching display currently on show in the city library’s window, in collaboration with the Tauranga Art Gallery to promote their latest exhibition, A La Mode.


Mmmm… somthing new to do with used books!

[images from the SunLive website]

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The Female Spectator, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Winter 2012) , the newsletter of the Chawton House Library is out!
Here are the contents to whet your appetite:    

  • “Some Treasures in the Chawton House Library Collection” - by Margaret S. Yoon, about her “discovery” at the CHL of two very important books for her studies. 
  • “The Suit for a Case; Or, A Case for a Suit” – by Eleanor Marsden – on the recently restored suit belonging to Edward Austen Knight, and the need for a conservation-grade display case.  [Lovely to see that JASNA member Sue Forgue of the JASNA-Greater Chicago Region, and author of the website Regency Encyclopedia , has already made a generous donation to the cause!] – if your are interested in helping, please email the Development Director at eleanor.marsden@chawton.net
  •  “The Sheridan Trial” – by Helen Cole – an account of the 1787  Trial of Mrs. Lydia Sheridan, wife of Major Henry Sheridan, for adultery with Francis Newman, Esq., and the inclusion of an engraving in the CHL copy that does not seem to fit the tale…
  •  “A Conference of Our Own: On the 20th Anniversary of the BWWA” – by Pamela Corpron Parker – on the upcoming conference of the British Women Writers Association, June 7-10, 2012 at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  See here for more details: http://www.bwwc2012.com/
  •  “Second Impressions by Ava Farmer: A History of a Novel” – by Sandy Lerner – on the writing and publication of her recently published Second Impressions, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and 26 years in the making…[see more at the Chawton House Press website
  • “‘Poetry of Taste and Refinements’: Consumer Literature in Nineteenth-Century Annuals” - by Serena Baiesi – on the fashionable gift-books with their collection of engravings and literary pieces, published between 1822 and 1850. 
  • And, “The Chawton Chronicles” – the letter from the CEO Stephen Lawrence [with the very exciting news that Dr. Gillian Dow will be taking on a broader role at CHL as Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Research!]; this issue’s “Faces of Chawton” column on Ray Clarke, the Maintenance Technician at CHL and his appreciation of CHL for his own and future generations; and the always-depresses-me because-I-live-over-here-and-not-over-there “Dates for your Diary” feature of upcoming lectures, tours, and conferences [you can look here on the website for upcoming events: http://www.chawton.org/news/index.html ]

You can visit the Chawton House Library here  and their blog here

If you are interested in membership, you can look here if you are in the US [North American Friends of the Chawton House Library] and here is you are in the UK [Friends of Chawton House Library.

Pickering & Chatto header

Note that Pickering & Chatto is re-publishing a number of the rare books housed in the Chawton House Library collection in new scholarly editions.  This Chawton House Library Series is organized into three areas: Women’s Memoirs, Women’s Travel Writings, and Women’s Novels.  How lovely it would be to buy at least ALL the 10 novels for $675  / £395 ! 

Copyright @2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

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