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This week, a portrait of the Prince Regent, a.k.a. Prinnie and later George IV, is up for sale at Skinner. Here is the chance you’ve been waiting for – to have his mighty visage staring down at you from your library walls! Whatever would Jane Austen say? – she was not, as we know, a big fan of the Prince. [for more information on Austen’s 1815 visit to Carlton House and the Prince Regent’s Librarian, click here.]

Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales

British School, 18th/19th Century ~ George IV as The Prince of Wales

Auction Details: 

Skinner 2754B European Furniture & Decorative Artshttp://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2754B
October 11, 2014 10:00AM, 63 Park Plaza, Boston

Lot 566: British School, 18th/19th Century ~ George IV as The Prince of Wales http://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2754B/lots/566

Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500 SOLD for $615.

Description:

British School, 18th/19th Century – George IV as The Prince of Wales

  • Unsigned, with labels including one from The Closson Art Galleries, Cincinnati, on the stretcher.
  • Oil on canvas, 28 1/4 x 23 3/4 in. (71.5 x 60.5 cm), framed.
  • Condition: Lined, retouch, fine craquelure, surface accretions.

N.B. The portrait is somewhat similar in feel to that painted by John Russell, RA, in 1789, now in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, which may have been the inspiration for this copy.

Stretcher incised “W.MORRILL/LINER” u.c. bar. Also with a label from Art Conservation & Services, San Francisco, California, on the stretcher. Other period labels on the stretcher are unattributed and variously inscribed with numbers. One more promising label is inscribed “S.Buckly & Co/8-5-21″

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See the full Auction catalogue for a stunning collection of fine silver, snuff boxes, paintings, porcelain, furnishings, and other decorative arts.

And here is the Prince later as George IV and what the caricaturists and his own profligate ways made of him:

A-voluptuary-wp

A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion (1792)
by  James Gillray  [Wikipedia]


c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Gentle Readers: David Shapard, author of five annotated editions of Jane Austen’s novels – all but Mansfield Park, which is due out next year – will be joining the JASNA Vermont Region next week at the Burlington Book Festival. He will be speaking on “The World of Jane Austen and her Novels,” offering us a peek into the society of early 19th-century England that dominates her novels, with a focus on the position and customs of the controlling landed elite, and the role of women in this society. 

I welcome David today for a Q&A about his love of Jane Austen and his excellent annotated editions. If you have any questions for him, please do comment at the end of this post – but better yet, if you are in the area next weekend, please join us at his talk – Saturday September 20, 2014, 1:30-2:45 at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College St, Burlington VT. [for more info: September 2014 flyer]

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So welcome David – thank you for being so gracious in answering all my questions! 

annot-S&SJAIV: To start off, why do you think Jane Austen still speaks to us 200 years after she first published her Sense and Sensibility in 1811? 

DS: I think Jane Austen interests us partly because she is so good, i.e. quality will out. I believe she is the best novelist in the English language, and that gives her a bedrock appeal, one she has had for a very long time (even if she has not always been the object of as much enthusiasm as today). With her you have well-constructed plots, brilliantly delineated characters, interesting and profound themes, and superb language – meaning excellence in all the major elements of a novel. One symptom of this is the variety of reasons people have for appreciating Austen: people, in giving their reasons, have cited, among other things, her comedy, her poignant romances, her keen insight into human psychology, her careful depiction of society, and her moral messages. With so many strong elements, she can appeal to an array of tastes and interests.

Another reason is that, even though her novels are set firmly within her own time, she was looking at many matters that transcend that time. Her focus is on basic matters that people always have to deal with, whom to marry, how to relate to other people, how to judge right and wrong, how to cope with the difficulties of life. Her characters personality traits, feelings, relationships, and moral dilemmas are all ones that are still frequently found today, so the insights and lessons presented in her novels can still ring true today.


JAIV: Whatever got you so interested in Jane Austen to first take on annotating Pride and Prejudice (in 2004)? 

DS: I had long loved Jane Austen, for many of the reasons described in my previous answer. But there were several precipitating factors that spurred me to attempt an annotated version of her novel. In the six months or so preceding the decision I had begun to read and sometimes participate in an online forum devoted to Jane Austen, The Republic of Pemberley. This, in addition to being very enjoyable, helped me appreciate how much interest and discussion even very specific points in Austen could generate. That eventually gave me the idea of doing a running commentary on her novels, in which various passages would be examined and elucidated. One feature of Austen is that she is a very subtle author, who makes many of her points quietly and unobtrusively; she also is one who is especially good in the details. For this reason the standard format for analysis of a novel, an article or book examining it as a whole, and looking at the overall theme, would inevitably miss much of what makes her so worth reading. But these elements could be brought out through a more minute analysis of the entire novel.

At that time this idea was simply one for the indefinite future. But soon after events occurred that convinced me that I was unlikely to procure a annot-P&Ppermanent, full-time position teaching at a college or university, the profession I had been pursuing for a number of years. I decided to turn to writing, which I had long seen as my principal alternative. I had a longstanding idea for a book, but work on it soon persuaded me that it was the great idea I had earlier thought. While casting around for other ideas I suddenly thought again of my Austen project. I had seen annotated versions of other classic works, and liked them. I also knew there was a large market for anything related to Austen. So I decided to try this, and I quickly realized that I had made an excellent choice.

JAIV: We think so too! ~ Which novel is your favorite? And why? And did your favorite change after your in-depth readings and the historical research?  

DS: Mansfield Park is my favorite overall. I like what I consider its density, the many story lines and the many different complex subjects it explores. At the same time, while the plot is very eventful, it does not rely at all on improbable coincidences, as others of Austen do to some degree. Finally, it has four different characters – Fanny, Edmund, Mary, and Henry – whose inner life is shown, who change over the course of the novel, and who experience serious inner conflicts. In other Austen novels there are only one or two characters about whom that could be said.

This has not really changed because of my doing the annotated books. The main change that brought about was simply to increase my appreciation for each one; this was especially true for the four I consider her strongest, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma, and Mansfield Park (I am only part way through doing the last).

JAIV: Why the long gap before the next annotated edition came out, Persuasion in 2010? And when does Mansfield Park come out? 

DS: I had first done Pride and Prejudice because I knew it was by far the most popular. I held off doing others until I knew how well it did, and it took a number of years before it succeeded. I wasn’t able to sell it initially, then I self-published it, then somebody at Random House noticed it and approached me about signing with them. After that came out, and did well, my editor there approached me again about doing the other Austen novels.

Mansfield Park will come out next year, probably late in the year. The gap between it and the previous one, Northanger Abbey, is the result of my having devoted much of the last year to working on a special enhanced version of Pride and Prejudice that is designed for an iPad. It comes out in a few weeks, and I am very excited about it, but it has significantly delayed Mansfield Park.

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annot-EmmaJAIV: Does Jane Austen get anything wrong? 

DC: She got very little wrong. All I have noticed is a mistake on a date of a letter in Pride and Prejudice, and two specific events, one in Emma and one in Sense and Sensibility, that are probably wrong, based on what I have read about the history of the time. There are also at least a couple places where a quotation from a poem or other writing is off. But that is really a remarkable record, especially when you consider that she didn’t have a large library to consult for quotations or other references.
 

JAIV: What do you think of the films? – do you have a favorite? Any that you find completely appalling? 

DS: I like the films overall. They are no substitute for reading the novels, since much of what is in there cannot be shown on film. But the films can do things the novels cannot, such as show houses and carriages and costumes, as well as specific places. That is something I have also done in my books, and the visual adaptations go even further in that direction. It is also nice to see the characters brought to life by real people, even though I inevitably judge them according to how well they correspond to the characters in the novel and often find them wanting, at least in certain respects.

In terms of favorites, I would probably say the Sense and Sensibility written by Emma Thompson. I also like the Persuasion with Amanda Root and the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I did not like overall the series of TV adaptations that appeared a few years ago, and I thought the Mansfield Park of that series was the worst of any adaptation I have seen.

JAIV: Oh! I agree with you there, though the Persuasion with Anne running around the street in a panic while reading the annot-P&PCaptain’s letter is embarrassing to watch as well!  ~ Tell us something about your writing process: when and how? 

DS: I usually start by reading through the novel several times, and as carefully as possible; while doing so I note any possible point I might wish to make or passage I wish to explore further or think about. I also listen to audio versions with the same purpose in mind, for I find that in hearing it I sometimes notice things I don’t notice when simply reading it. Then for the historical references, which is what requires the most effort, I organized all the points or topics I want to look at by subject matter, and start reading, or rereading, various books related to those topics. I also, at some point, read through commentaries on the novel to see what additional insights they offer, re-examine Austen’s letters and other biographical material to see what’s relevant there, and look at the words I might need to define; I use here a pre-existing list of words with different meanings in Austen’s time, supplemented for what I may have noticed in addition through my reading. As I do all these things I often go ahead and write the annotations appropriate to what I’ve just found. When all that is done I begin to go through the book chapter by chapter and insert whatever points have not been made. After that it’s just a series of reading over again and making corrections, by myself and by my editor, until the text is finally settled, and also adding other material like illustrations and maps.  

JAIV: How do you think your annotated editions compare to the Harvard University annotated series that began in 2010 with P&P [their Mansfield Park is due out in the Fall of 2015, edited by Deidre Lynch] 

DS: I am not that familiar with these other annotated versions. I know they are in hardcover and are significantly larger (and therefore also more expensive); they also have some color pictures. In terms of the content, my sense is that they have fewer annotations. In the case of the one that I have read, the Pride and Prejudice, it does have fewer annotations overall. Some of its annotations, especially definitions of words, are similar to mine. The principal difference is that it focuses less on historical background – there are definitely fewer annotations there – and more on literary interpretations. It has a number of annotations that explore debates between different literary scholars regarding points in the novel, something mine does not do.
 

JAIV: The covers for each work: did you choose them yourself? – and the idea of annotating them is a very good one – gets the reader right intoannot-NA ‘reading the annotations’ mode! 

DS: The publisher comes up with the cover, along with the overall design, though they always show it to me for my approval. They had the idea of doing annotations for the cover, but I am the one who comes up with the annotations themselves. That is also part of the process of agreeing on a cover picture: it has to be one that I think will be suitable for annotating.

JAIV: I know you mention “plot disclosures” at the beginning of the book to alert readers that some of your notes might contain “spoiler alerts” – did you get complaints about that when the first edition of your P&P first came out?

DS:  Yes, I did get some complaints about my first edition of Pride and Prejudice. I had envisioned the book being used by many people as a reference, one they would turn to whenever they were curious about a specific point; thus I didn’t worry so much about plot spoilers. But it seems that most people have simply read it through, as with most books, and that many are reading the novel for the first time. As a consequence, I have tried harder in later editions to avoid giving anything significant away. That has constrained me in some respects, because important points about a passage often relate to something that happens later, but I think it’s worth it to avoid spoiling the surprise for the reader. The one important exception here was in Emma: it centers around several mysteries, especially one big one, and I felt that a valuable feature of an annotated edition would lie in showing how all sorts of apparently minor and innocuous actions take on a completely different significance in light of what we find out in the end. So in the case of the annotations for those passages, I put “CAUTION: PLOT SPOILER” at the start to warn off any first-time readers who wished to preserve the surprise.

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JAIV: Are you a book collector? And Jane Austen in particular? – if so, what is your favorite edition of any of her works, and why? 

DS: I like to buy books and I have a large library, but I am not a collector in the sense of seeking out rare or special editions. The editions of Jane Austen I have used are those that are most scholarly and authoritative: these are an Oxford edition that first came out in the 1920’s, and the even more exhaustive Cambridge editions (with many notes of their own) that have come out within the last decade.

Oxford-Chapmanset-covers-dcb

 

JAIV: You are nearly done with annotating the six novels – what’s up next? Will you annotate the minor works or any of the Juvenilia?

DS: I am close to being done with annotating the novels. It is possible the publisher will also want to do enhanced editions of other Austen novels; I’m sure that will be determined by how well the Pride and Prejudice about to appear does. I have thought about annotating other Austen works, but I am not sure if there is sufficient demand for that. I also have a few ideas for novels of my own, some related to Jane Austen. But right now I am keeping my options open and waiting to see what develops out of my existing books.

Brochure

Huntington Library Regency Exhibit

JAIV: Why do you think the modern reader should have a better understanding of the society of the Regency Period? and can the reader still enjoy Jane Austen without having to read annotated versions?

DS: I think that understanding the Regency period helps greatly in understanding Jane Austen. Of course, millions of people have enjoyed and appreciated Jane Austen over the years without having any particular knowledge of her period, beyond what they could pick up from the novels themselves. I know I was in that situation when I first read her. So such knowledge is in no way a precondition. But I think that if one understands the historical background, all sorts of important events in the novels become much clearer and more comprehensible, and all sorts of particular details, ones the reader probably passed over without much thought, become significant. The story then springs to life in a variety of new ways.

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David M. Shapard (c) Michael Lionstar

David M. Shapard (c) Michael Lionstar

 

Thank you David again for joining us here at Jane Austen in Vermont! We look forward to welcoming you to the real Vermont next weekend, where there will be an opportunity at the Book Festival to purchase all your Jane Austen annotated editions and have you personally sign them!

I will also add here that David will be the leader on a tour next spring to Jane Austen’s England. The trip will be through Edventures, a tour group that offers educational trips to many parts of the world – or as they say, “Edventures – Adventure Travel That Educates.” You can read more about it here: http://goedventures.com/ – and click here for the flier with details: Huber-Jane Austen 2015 Itinerary April 21

Any questions for David? – please comment below!

Further reading:

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Jane Austens First Love by Syrie JamesHappy to announce the winner of the book giveaway for Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James!

schilds, who wrote on August 18:

“How did you find such wonderful letters? I love reading letters from the past. The style is so beautiful. It makes you see the reality of their time.”

Please email me within the next 36 hours with your contact info and the book will be posted to you directly from the publisher – with many thanks to Berkley for the giveaway.

Thank you Syrie for your wonderful post on these Fanny Bridges’ letters – and all your responses to the comments. Sending you very best wishes for the success of this, your latest book – I wonder what is next on your writing desk?!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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MP-VintageClassics2007-ebay

Over at Sarah Emsley’s blog tomorrow, I will be posting some thoughts on Mansfield Park and the issue of slavery by looking at Sir Thomas’s sentiments on the subject.  [This is now posted at Sarah's blog: Jane Austen's "dead silence" - or, How Guilty is Sir Thomas Bertram?]. Jane Austen gives us little to go on and there has been much conjecture as to Sir Thomas’s guilt as a slaver, as well as to Austen’s own sentiments about slavery and the slave trade.  As a starting place, we must begin with the text itself, and I compile here all the references to the slave trade, slavery, Antigua and the West Indies. Let me know if I have missed any – and please share your thoughts on what Austen may have been saying to her readers about slavery, a hotly-debated topic at the time of her writing Mansfield Park. Why does she introduce it into this novel?

[I include here a link to: “A Bibliography on Mansfield Park and the Issue of Slavery”: Bibliography – Mansfield Park and Slavery – Barnum ]

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Mansfield Park and Slavery:  specific references to the Slave Trade, Slavery, Antigua.

[Note: citations are to Chapman]

 

1. …as his [Sir Thomas’s] own circumstances were rendered less fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India Estate. [Narrator, 24]

2. “Why, you know Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened, if the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.” [Mrs. Norris to Lady Bertram who responds “Oh! that will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it, I know.” 30.]

SugarCanePlantation-USSlave

“Planting the sugar cane”
http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/05/antigua-and-barbuda.html

 

3.  Sir Thomas found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs… probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent. [Narrator, 32]

4. …the travellers’ safe arrival in Antigua after a favourable voyage. [Narrator, 34: with an account of Mrs. Norris’ hysteria.]

Map-Antigua-Davis

Map of Antigua (source: Gregson Davis article:
http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/bnccde/antigua/conference/papers/davis.html )

5. …unfavorable circumstances has suddenly arisen at a moment when he was beginning to turn all his thoughts towards England, and the very great uncertainly in which every thing was then involved… [Narrator, 38. Young Tom is sent home alone, Mrs. Norris’s hysterics again of “foreboding evil” and “dreadful sentiments.”]

6. Letters from Antigua… his business was so nearly concluded as to justify him in [returning home by November]… [Narrator, 107.]

 7. “…such an absence not only long, but including so many dangers.” [Edmund on his father in Antigua, to Mary Crawford, 108.]

 8.  Sir Thomas was to return in November, and his eldest son had duties to call him earlier home. [Narrator, 114.]

9.  “It would show a great want of feeling on my father’s account, absent as he is, and in some degree of constant danger….” [Edmund to all on acting, 125.] – and Tom responds [one of Austen’s funnier moments]: “.. for the expectation of his return must be a very anxious period to my mother… it is a very anxious period for her.” [Tom, 126.] – “…each looked towards their mother… just falling into a gentle doze…” !

10. “…I have been slaving myself till I can hardly stand…” [Mrs. Norris to Fanny, 166.]

MP-HMBrock-Norris-Mollands

Mrs. Norris by H. M. Brock [Mollands]

 11. …he was grown thinner and had the burnt, fagged, worn look of fatigue and a hot climate… [Narrator giving us Fanny’s thoughts on first seeing Sir Thomas, 178.]

 12.  His business in Antigua had latterly been prosperously rapid, and he came directly from Liverpool… [Narrator recounting Sir Thomas’ travel, 1787.]

13. …the alarm of a French privateer… [Narrator continuing Sir Thomas’ telling of his travels – such a vessel would have been armed, 180.]

FrenchPrivateer-Confiance_Kent_fight-wp

 [East Indiaman HMS Kent battling Confiance, a privateer vessel commanded by French corsair Robert Surcouf in October 1800, as depicted in a painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray – Wikipedia]

14. “I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together…” [Fanny to Edmund, 197.]

15. “But I do talk to him more that is used. I am sure I do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?”  [Fanny to Edmund, 198.]

“I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.” [Edmund to Fanny]

“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like – I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel.” [Fanny, 198. Edmund you will notice proceeds to only talk of Mary Crawford…]

SlaveShipDiagram-1790-wp

Slave ship diagram-1790-wikipedia

16. “…He [Edmund] knows that human nature needs more lessons that a weekly sermon can convey, and that if he does not live among his parishioners and prove himself by constant attention their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own.” [Sir Thomas to Henry Crawford and Edmund, 198.]

17. Sir Thomas …prolonged the conversation on dancing in general, and was so well engaged describing the balls of Antigua… [Narrator, 251.]

MP-CEBrocok-William--Mollands

Sir Thomas talking with William and Fanny, by C. E. Brock [Mollands]

18. ‘Advice’ was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power… shewing her persuadableness. [Narrator on Sir Thomas thoughts on sending Fanny to bed, 280.]

MP-CEBrock-SirT-Mollands

“Am I to understand,” said Sir Thomas, “that you mean to refuse Mr. Crawford?” ~ Vol. III, Ch. I [C. E.  Brock – Mollands]

 19.  The Narrator’s words describing Fanny’s feelings about a marriage to Henry: revolt, painful alarm, terror, formidable threat, sudden attack, misery, wretched feelings, aching heart, distressing evil. [Narrator, 357ff.]

20.  But he [Sir Thomas] was master at Mansfield Park. [Narrator, 370.]

 21. Henry Crawford as an absentee landlord at Everingham, with an “agent of some underhand dealing.” [Narrator on Fanny’s thoughts about Henry going to his estate, 404.]

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Quotes from other works:

-Emma: this very telling dialogue between Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton [Vol. II, Ch. 17, p. 300-01)

Emma1996-Elton-Fairfax

 Emma 1996– Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton
source: Austen Efforts blog

When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long unemployed. There are places in town, offices, where inquiry would soon produce something — offices for the sale, not quite of human flesh, but of human intellect.”

    “Oh! my dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave-trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather a friend to the abolition.”

    “I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade,” replied Jane; “governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly, as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies.”

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Persuasion: we have Captain Wentworth in the West Indies and Santa Domingo; Mrs. Croft in the East Indies and Bermuda and Bahama; Mrs. Smith has an Estate in the West Indies.

P-CEBrock-AdmiralBaldwin-Mollands

  “So wretched an example of what a sea-faring life can do” ~ Vol. I, Ch. III – C. E. Brock [Mollands]

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Sanditon: we have the wealthy Miss Lambe, a mulatto, briefly mentioned: “A Miss Lambe too! A young West Indian of large fortune…” - and whatever Jane Austen intended for her, we cannot know…

book cover - sanditon

Your thoughts?

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Just a reminder about the giveaway for Syrie James’s newest book, Jane Austen’s First Love. I am extending the deadline for another week, through the holiday weekend until Tuesday September 2, 2014, with the winner announced Wednesday September 3. Please either comment on this post or the original post where Syrie wrote about Lady Bridges’ letters on her daughters’ marriages – one of those daughters, Elizabeth, married Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen (later Austen-Leigh). (Sad to say, Elizabeth died at the age of 35 shortly after the birth of her eleventh child). These letters from Lady Bridges to her friend tell the tale of the desire to marry one’s daughters well – not unlike Mrs. Bennet!

Syrie’s new book is about Jane Austen’s acquaintance with Edward Taylor whom she met while visiting the Bridges’s home at Goodnestone Park in Kent. It is the imagined story of Jane Austen’s first love, based on extensive research. Syrie’s previous books on Jane Austen have been first class entertainments as she has taken us into the Regency world we all so love to visit! – and I highly recommend this new work, where we have real-life and fiction so beautifully intertwined.

Please comment or ask Syrie a question either here or on the previous post:

http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/guest-post-syrie-james-on-jane-austens-first-love-goodnestone-park-and-the-bridges-family/

Syrie James 72 dpiAbout the Author: Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

Best of luck in the giveaway – You have until September 3rd!

 

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Just a reminder about the giveaway for Syrie James’s newest book, Jane Austen’s First Love. I am extending the deadline for another week, through the holiday weekend until Tuesday September 2, 2014, with the winner announced Wednesday September 3. See below for Giveaway details!

Gentle Readers: I welcome Syrie James today with a post on a bit of her background research for her new 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. Syrie’s previous books on Jane Austen have been first class entertainments as she has taken us into the Regency world we all so love to visit – and I highly recommend this new work, where we have real-life and fiction so beautifully intertwined. – see details at the end of the post on how to win a copy of your own…

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Letters From Lady Bridges on the Engagements of Her Three Daughters

By Syrie James

 

“It is certainly a very singular instance of good fortune in One Family, that 3 Girls, almost unknown, should have attach’d to themselves three Young Men of such unexceptionable Characters.” —Lady Bridges of Goodnestone Park, July 10, 1791  

Sir Brook Bridges and Lady Bridges

The above was written by Lady Bridges, the former Fanny Fowler, wife of Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet of Goodnestone Park in Kent. Lady Bridges had eleven children including Elizabeth Bridges, who married Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen in December, 1791. That year must have been a very busy and happy one for the Bridges family, as sisters Elizabeth and Fanny became engaged within weeks of each other, and another sister Sophia became engaged a few months later—an unusual occurrence in any family at any time, as Lady Bridges gleefully notes. 

This remarkable circumstance in the Bridges family is one of several things which inspired me to write my novel, JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE. The book takes place during the summer of 1791, when fifteen-year-old Jane visits the Bridges family to join in a month of festivities celebrating their daughters’ engagements. While at Goodnestone Park, Jane meets and falls in love with devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to the nearby, ancestral estate of Bifrons. Edward Taylor is a real person who Jane adored in her youth, as mentioned in several of her letters to her sister Cassandra—references that made me eager to learn more about him, and to write about their relationship. 

Goodnestone in late 18th century

During my research, I uncovered a trove of information about the remarkable Edward Taylor and his family which was previously unknown to Austen biographers. He spent much of his youth living and traveling abroad, and was extremely well-read and accomplished, qualities which must have greatly appealed to the young Jane. Learning all this was exciting, and it helped me to bring him to life in my novel accurately and in vivid detail.

Another Austen fact that inspired JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE is that in 1791, Jane wrote a comedic short story, The Three Sisters, featuring characters named Fanny and Sophia. I felt certain that Jane visited Kent that summer, where she not only met the young ladies who inspired that story, but also met and became enamored of Edward Taylor—and that her experiences there greatly shaped her views forever after regarding love and marriage. 

During my research for the book, I was excited to come upon three letters which Lady Bridges wrote in 1791, announcing the engagement of her daughters Elizabeth, Fanny, and Sophia. The letters are little gems, providing us with a glimpse of that family’s history. Here are the letters in their entirety:

LETTER #1

To Mrs. Fielding, St. James’ Palace, London.

Goodnestone: (March 2, 1791)

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

Elizabeth Bridges

Elizabeth Bridges

I cannot leave to my Daurs the pleasure of informing you of an Event that gives us the greatest satisfaction. We had for some time observed a great attachment between Mr. Austin (Mr. Knight’s Relation) and our dear Elizth; and Mr. Knight has, in the handsomest manner, declared his entire approbation of it; but as they are both very young, he wish’d it not to take place immediately, and as it will not suit him to give up much at present, their Income will be small, and they must be contented to live in the Country, which I think will be no hardship to either party, as they have no high Ideas, and it is a greater satisfaction to us than if she was to be thrown upon the world in a higher sphere, young and inexperienced as she is. He is a very sensible,  amiable young man,  and I trust and hope there is every prospect of Happiness to all parties in their union. This Affair has very much agitated Sir B., and he has not been quite so well for some days past as he had been for a month before; but now it is decided he will, I make no doubt, be better again in a few days, but I have long observed that when his mind has been agitated he has had a return of cough and oppression. He has sent his case to Bath, and if he is encouraged to go there, we shall set out according to the time pointed out from thence, as he has desired to know when the Waters have most efficacy. Fatty is so good (as) to stay with my Girls during our absence, or I should be much distress’d at leaving them so long. She has been pretty well, upon the whole, ever since she has been here, and in remarkable good Looks and Spirits.

Adieu, my dearest Mrs. Fielding. All here unite with me in kindest love and compts: as due. My Daurs desire their duty to you.

Believe me ever yours affectionately, F. B.

 

[NOTES: “F.B” is Lady Bridges, whose Christian name was Fanny, the same as her eldest daughter. “Sir B” is Sir Brook, her husband. “Fatty” was Isabella, sister of Mrs. C. Fielding’s husband. A popular woman, she was known all her life as Fatty Fielding, and often visited at Goodnestone Park and Godmersham Park.]

edward-austen-knight

Edward Austen Knight

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LETTER #2

Goodnestone: (March 28, 1791)

 

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

I flatter myself you are so truly interested in the welfare of my dearest children, that I am not afraid of being troublesome in writing again so soon, but must inform you that my dearest Fanny has received an offer of Marriage from Mr. Lewis Cage, a Gentleman of this County of an unexceptionable good character. His proposal has our entire approbation. As you was so kind to express a wish to be acquainted with Mr. Austin, I inform’d him of it, in consequence of which he call’d at St. James’s, and was very much disappointed he was not so fortunate to find you at home, as his Time would not permit him to make a Second Attempt; indeed, I should be quite happy that your two future Nephews should be known to you, and I hope it will not be long before they have an opportunity of being introduced. My Daughters are going to-morrow to Godmersham for a Week; I do not accompany them, as Mr. Bridges is here. Sir Brook continues charmingly well, and is in very good spirits. I hope we shall get a glimpse of you as we pass through town to Bath the middle of next month, tho’ our stay will be very short. How is Miss Finch? I hope much recovered since she left Margate. I am quite delighted to hear such good accounts of Augusta,  and hope she feels no remains of her severe Illness, but that she and all the rest of your Family are well. All here unite with me in kindest Love to you all.

Believe me, ever yours affectionately, F. B.

[NOTES: “Miss Finch” was probably one of Mrs. Fielding’s three sisters. “Augusta Sophia” was the youngest daughter of Mrs. Fielding.]

A close-up of Goodnestone in Austen's Day

A close-up of Goodnestone in Austen’s Day

 

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LETTER #3

Brock St., Bath: (July 10, 1791)

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

After having wrote to you so lately you will be no doubt surprized at hearing again so soon, and not less so to find that the Cause of my addressing myself to you is to inform you that we have received proposals of Marriage from Mr. William Deedes for your God-daughter, our dear Sophia. He is a young Man of a very Amiable Disposition and universally beloved, and his Father has been so kind to approve his Choice. I hope it will meet with your approbation, and think she bids as fair to be happy with her Connection as her sisters with theirs. It is certainly a very singular instance of good fortune in One Family, that 3 Girls, almost unknown, should have attach’d to themselves three Young Men of such unexceptionable Characters, and I pray to God that their future conduct will ever do Credit to their Choice. Mr. William Deedes is gone with Mr. Knight on the Scotch Tour; he had been long engaged to accompany them, but did not choose to set out on so long an excursion till he had explain’d himself. As I have many letters to write I will not obtain you longer than to beg our best Love and good wishes to you and all your dear Family, and kind Compliments to Lady Charlotte and Miss Finch.

Believe me, ever affectionately yours,
F. B.

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Goodnestone Park today

Goodnestone Park today

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If you’d like to read more about my research for JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE, please visit my guest post on Austenprose. You’ll find more images of Goodnestone Park and its lovely gardens in my guest post on Laura’s Reviews. I hope you enjoyed Lady Bridges’s letters, and I hope you love JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE!

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Syrie James 72 dpi

About the Author: Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

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Thank you Syrie for sharing those wonderful letters with us – a perfect example of the marriage market of the late 18th century – such a happy year for these parents in 1791! And how interesting that you discovered these letters in your research into Edward Taylor. Readers, please either comment or ask Syrie a question about her new book and you will be entered into a giveaway for a copy of Jane Austen’s First Love.

Deadline is Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm (EST) – winner will be announced September 3rd. Limited to US residents, sorry to say – and with hearty thanks to the publisher Berkley for the giveaway.

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UPDATE:

I add this comment here from Janine Barchas who wished to send this along to Syrie James: the cover of a Mansfield Park (Philadelphia, circa 1900) with the image of Fanny Brydges as seen above. Thank you Janine for sharing this – always nice to bring Mansfield Park into the mix whenever possible!

MP1900-Barchas

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and images courtesy of Syrie James, with thanks.

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Gentle Readers: I welcome today Ron Dunning, author of the Jane Austen’s Family Website. Ron had written here before on Horsmonden in “Jane Austen and the Huguenots” – but today he tells of a hot air balloon ride he and his wife Helena took in 2008 where he took these wonderful pictures of Kent and the surrounding countryside – enjoy the ride!

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17 Sheep

Sheep

Horsmonden from on High

by Ron Dunning

For my birthday in the spring of 2008 Helena, my wife, bought me a ticket for a hot-air balloon flight. I preferred to share the pleasure, so I waited till her birthday a few months later, and bought one for her.  The weather that summer was very wet, and it wasn’t possible to book a flight until early October. We chose a launch site in Wadhurst, on the Sussex border with Kent, an area that we know and love, on what turned out to be a golden Indian summer’s afternoon.

The direction of a balloon’s flight is entirely dependent on the wind. I had given no prior thought to the fact that the Austens’ ancestral heartland of Goudhurst and Horsmonden lay only some ten miles away, but the wind took us, at 12 mph, precisely in that direction. I only realised that this was our on our route as we passed over St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia – Horsmonden’s parish church, with its collection of Austen graves and memorial brasses.

Till then I had simply been enjoying the wonderfully calm experience. (Even though a balloon flies a few thousand feet above ground level its passengers aren’t troubled by wind, since it is blown along at the same speed as the air.) Now I began to scan the horizon for Broadford, and possibly even Grovehurst, the Austen houses. I couldn’t find Broadford. It may have been possible to see it, but I wouldn’t have recognised it from the south, the direction from which we were travelling, since I’d only ever seen the front, which faces north.

Grovehurst lies at least a mile further beyond the village, in wooded country. The wind, and our so ground speed, had dropped. I spent the next fifteen minutes straining my eyes for a glimpse of the house, to no avail. Then, just as we were descending in search of a landing site in a friendly farmer’s field, and as the pilot was announcing a Gypsy site to the left, and as I had quite given up on spotting it, there was Grovehurst on the right. The pilot turned the balloon through 360 degrees (I don’t know how he managed that!) for everyone to see, and marked the Austen’s ancestral home on his map to show future passengers.

I don’t believe that there is any record of Jane Austen’s visiting Horsmonden, where her grandfather William Austen was born. His heroic mother, Elizabeth Weller, had to take a housekeeping job at Sevenoaks School in 1708 to keep her family together, and that broke the Austens’ relationship with the village. It would not be an anachronism to imagine Jane, if she had visited, seeing her ancestral home by air – on 19 September 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called ‘Aerostat Reveillon.’ The first manned flight came two months later on November 21, with a balloon made by two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier.

At that time, when the fastest land transport proceeded at the rate of a trotting horse, ascending in a balloon and flying with the wind would have struck most people as terrifying and mad. As it happens my wife, who is normally fearless, asked me if I too had been worried. I confess that my imagination is generally vividly aware of consequences – and there we were at 2000 feet, with no parachutes, in a wicker laundry basket! But I was so absorbed in reconnaissance that I had forgotten to give the danger any thought.

Arrival

Arrival

Still a Blank Slate

Still a Blank Slate

Taking Shape

Taking Shape I

Taking Shape

Taking Shape II

Inflation

Inflation

Inflation II

Inflation II

Firing up

Firing up

Rising Up

Rising Up

Rising Up II

Rising Up II

Lifting Off

Lifting Off

Aloft

Aloft

Neighbour

Neighbour!

Bayham Abbey Ruins

Bayham Abbey Ruins

Lamberhurst

Lamberhurst

Bewl Water

Bewl Water

St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia

St Margaret of Antioch in Pisidia

Horsmonden

Horsmonden

Grovehurst

Grovehurst

Kent

Kent

Groundlings

Groundlings

Pursuit Vehicle

Pursuit Vehicle

Landing Strip

Landing Strip

Skid Marks

Skid Marks

Packing Up

Packing Up

Stowing Away

Stowing Away

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Thank you Ron for this beautiful travelogue of Kent from the air!

I have to add that I have won a raffle only one time in my life, and that was for a hot-air balloon ride – it was quite the adventure, a totally unique experience of floating above the world without the usual noisy airplane sounds, so quiet and peaceful that I never wanted it to end – but we had a sudden wind pick-up and took off away from the tracer car [and my family who were following - my son, 7 years old at the time thought I had disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again; my nearly teenaged daughter was hoping beyond hope that was true!] and had a quite dramatic crash landing at a reservoir, all diving out of the basket to keep the balloon from falling into the water – but alas! my pictures, though quite lovely of the Connecticut countryside, are all on slides and do not, believe it or not, have anything to do with Jane Austen…

Anyone want to comment on Ron’s journey and photographs? or add any of your own ballooning adventures [whether Jane Austen-related or not!]?

Text and images copyright by Ronald Dunning, with thanks!

c 2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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