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Posts Tagged ‘Regency England’

“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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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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Janeite Deb:

JASNA-Vermont’s Kelly McDonald has an article in the new issue of “Jane Austen’s Regency World”!

Originally posted on Two Teens in the Time of Austen:

Just thrilled to bits to see the release of the July/August issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine: my article on Margaret Meen is included:

Jane Austen Regency World_8-14

Margaret Meen – believed by some to have been governess to the four Smith sisters of Erle Stoke Park – AKA, Lady Northampton, Mrs Chute, Mrs Smith and Miss Smith – was definitely a painter (on vellum and paper) of botanicals, and a teacher. Including, as the JARW line suggests: to the Royal family of Queen Charlotte and her girls. I truly hope that I’ve uncovered a bit of “life” for this somewhat undiscovered artist — and invite you to seek out a copy of the full-color publication that promises to deliver “EVERYTHING that is happening in the world of Jane Austen“, including this tidbit of Smith & Gosling history.

View original 9 more words

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Lisa & Marie

Lisa & Marie

With hearty thanks to Lisa Brown for sharing her love of the Royal Navy with us Vermont Janeites, and to Marie Sprayberry for telling us of her shared-with-Jane rabid dislike of the Prince Regent and why, and displaying examples from her Georgian era royal collectibles – a most delightful day, despite the intense heat of Burlington’s heat wave and the Fletcher Free Library’s air conditioning on the fritz… [I have now successfully subjected our members and guests to one freezing December Tea where the computerized heating system refused to cooperate and we listened most intently to the two speakers, quietly shivering in our winter coats; and now the reverse of overheating the same members and guests with no air and loud fans in the skylight heated Pickering Room – as one guest bravely noted – “it was all a cost-free day in a sauna” ] – I find I have some control over these meetings, but alas! minus zero control over the weather and heating / cooling system snafus – I do apologize and thank you for your tolerance and good grace as an audience…

That said, extra kudos go to the models who courageously wore their wool-clad Royal Navy uniforms with elegance and style, as they paraded for us samples from Lisa’s wonderful collection.  Here are a few pictures with descriptions of each, with thanks to our fearless models for being such good sports:

able seaman-MH

 Marilyn as appropriately clad “able seaman”
[photo: c2014 M. Harrington]

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Jim in the green Sharpe’s uniform of the “95th Rifles”
[see: http://www.95thrifles.com/history-95th-p1.html ]
[photo: c2014 M. Harrington]

Jess-red

Jess and her redcoat from the Royal Welch Fusiliers

 Carol-USNavy

Carole in the blue and red uniform as a “US” Navy Lieutenant during the Revolutionary War

 Jay-rearIMG_3647

 Jay [a.k.a. Captain Wentworth] in an 1812 Royal Navy Captain’s uniform, deservedly admiring his epaulette
[see: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/71310.html ]
[top photo c2014 M. Harrington]

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And a group shot of us all with Lisa (minus the able seaman, who had left to swab the deck), and with yours truly in the quickly donned uniform of a French Navy Lieutenant.

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Marie’s talk on the Prince Regent was cut short near the end by the heat and near fainting attendees, which was too bad as we were all quite taken with her chat on the dastardly Prince and his wicked ways – you can read the rest of her talk here in Persuasions-OnLine 33.1 (2012):

“Sex, Power, and Other People’s Money: The Prince Regent and His Impact on Jane Austen’s Life and Work” http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol33no1/sprayberry.html

sprayberry-fig-6a-caro-jug

 “Long Live Queen Caroline!” ceramic jug (1820)
[from the collection of A. Marie Sprayberry and Edward R. Voytovich;
photo by E. Voytovich] [see the POL article for more images of Marie’s collection]

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All in all a great day, with a great audience, and a fun weekend with Marie and Lisa, here cavorting about at the incomparable Shelburne Museum… Marie (left) and Lisa (right) on a Vermont covered bridge:

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 Gaoled JASNA Regional Coordinators Marie and Lisa (hoping to be released in time for the Montreal AGM]

[All images c2014 by Deb Barnum, unless otherwise noted; and with special thanks to Margaret Harrington!]

  c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Guest post by JASNA-Vermont member Lynne H.

Our JASNA Vermont reading group recently discussed Georgette Heyer’s Frederica.  A skeptical member asked the question: why should we read Heyer?  Georgette Heyer is a prolific 20th century novelist known for writing Historical Fiction, Regency Romances, and Mysteries.  Frederica is one of the Regency Romances. (Think Harlequin not Hawthorne….)   So, why should a thoughtful group of Austen devotees choose a Heyer Romance?    Below are some of the answers from our group’s discussion.

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Reason # 7: It’s summer.  Let’s face it, we don’t have to read Tolstoy, Dickens, or even Austen all year.  Go to the beach and relax!

Reason #6: Heyer, as mentioned above, is prolific.  If you like one of her Regency Romances, you have 33 more to choose from.

Reason #5: Heyer researched and included wonderful Regency detail.  She described the carriages, dress, and food, for example, in specific detail.   You can read about phaetons and curricles, neck-cloths and laces, and jellies and sauces.  If you have any interest in the Regency period, it is both fun and informative to have such specifics included in the novels.

Reason #4: Ditto for Regency language, cant, lingo, etc.  Heyer used Regency cant in all of her Romances.  What does it mean if someone is a “nodcock”  or a “ninnyhammer”?  What about if someone is trying to “gammon” another person?  Usually the meanings of the expressions are clear from the context; however, members of our group also mentioned further Regency reading to fill in more information about the period.  Two of the books were Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and Carolly Erickson’s Our Tempestuous Day. 

Reason #3: Heyer’s dialogue.  She used dialogue extensively. Her dialogue is witty, but it is also artfully constructed to expose and develop character.

Reason #2: Heyer’s characterization.  While her main characters are usually from the aristocracy (these are Romances after all!), they are not two dimensional ladies and gentlemen.  Within the structure of the Romance, Heyer adeptly fills in the motivations, foibles, and flaws, of her main characters.  Her writing usually depends on the characters to move the books forward.  In the following excerpt, you can see both the characterization and dialogue at work.  This is from an early episode of Frederica in which Frederica and Lord Alverstoke have their first meeting.  Frederica begins by responding to him:

            “I see. You don’t wish to recognize us, do you?  Then there isn’t the least occasion for me to explain our situation to you.  I beg your pardon for having put you to the trouble of visiting me.”

            At these words, the Marquis, who had every intention of bringing the interview to a summary end, irrationally chose to prolong it.  Whether he relented because Miss Merriville amused him, or because the novelty of having one of his rebuffs accepted without demur intrigued him remained undecided, even in his own mind.  But however it may have been he laughed suddenly, and said, quizzing her: “Oh, so high!  No, no, don’t hold up your nose at me: it don’t become you!”

Reason #1: Her books provide both escape and solace.  One of our members mentioned that she read Heyer while she was undergoing chemotherapy.  She said that during this difficult time in her life, Heyer made her laugh and gave her a place to retreat to for comfort and solace.  For Janeites this is very familiar ground!

So…if your interest has been piqued by our reasons to read Heyer, we’d suggest that you start with Frederica.  Just about all of our group members enjoyed it.    And remember, unlike Austen, there are many, many more novels to choose from for those lazy summer days or for times when you just need to escape.  Don’t be a ninnyhammer, try one.

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Frederica
Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008
ISBN:  1402214766
[originally published 1965]


Further reading:

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book cover-Frederica1st

[Image: 1st edition cover, Bodley Head, 1965 – Wikipedia] – I love this cover!

What is your favorite Georgette Heyer? – i.e, after starting with Frederica, which Heyer would you recommend to our book group to read next?

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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…has launched today! – visit the website What Jane Saw and you can follow Jane Austen as she tours the exhibit!

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The perfect time-travel adventure – it is May 24, 1813 –  what do you see?…

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From the website: [ http://www.whatjanesaw.org/index.php ]

On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an important and  much-talked-about art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The show  was a retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s  celebrated portrait painter.

No visual record of this show is known to have survived, although it  attracted hundreds of daily visitors during its much-publicized three-month run.  However, many details of the exhibit can be reconstructed from the original 1813  “Catalogue of Pictures,” a one-shilling pamphlet purchased by visitors as a guide  through the three large rooms where hung 141 paintings by Reynolds. Armed with  surviving copies of this pamphlet, narrative accounts in nineteenth-century newspapers  and books, and precise architectural measurements of the British Institution’s exhibit  space, this website reconstructs the Reynolds show as Jane Austen (as well as any Jane  Doe) saw it.

I. Why reconstruct this museum exhibit from 1813?

In truth, even if Jane Austen had not attended this public  exhibit, it would still be well worth reconstructing. The British Institution’s show  was a star-studded “first” of great magnitude for the art community and a turning point  in the history of modern exhibit practices. The 1813 show amounted to the first  commemorative exhibition devoted to a single artist ever staged by an institution.  Although Reynolds, who had died a mere twenty-one years earlier, did not yet qualify as  an Old Master, he was already hailed as the founder of the British School and  celebrated as a model for contemporary artists to emulate. The preface to the exhibit  catalogue, written by Richard Payne Knight, treats the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds as a  national treasure in order “to call attention generally to British, in preference to  Foreign Art” (Knight, 9). Knight allows that some of Reynolds’ paintings are better  than others, likening the show to a pedagogical tool for artists and connoisseurs. He  also insists upon the show’s modernity, hailing “the genuine excellence of modern”  artists over the work of their forbearers (Knight, 9). In light of the coverage it  received in the popular press and the London crowds that attended, the British  Institution’s Reynolds exhibit presaged the modern museum blockbuster.

In the age before the photograph, portraits of the rich and famous were  often reproduced by engravers as inexpensive prints. These black and white  reproductions circulated Reynolds’ images of contemporary celebrities widely,  providing pinups to the middling consumer. In this manner, Reynolds’ works  functioned as the modern photographs of Annie Leibovitz do today, making it  hard to say whether he recorded or created celebrity with his art. Wherever  possible, the light-boxes in the e-exhibit therefore show an early engraving  as well as the original canvas. Reynolds’ portraits of “abnormally interesting  people” whom we now term celebrities offer concrete examples of just how  someone like Austen, who did not personally circulate among the social elite,  was nonetheless immersed in England’s vibrant celebrity culture (Roach,  1).

More questions are answered under the About WJS page:

  • Is there a connection between this exhibit and Jane Austen’s fiction?
  • Who, other than the Austens, attended this 1813 exhibit?
  • How did visitors in 1813 experience the British Institution?
  • Did the Catalogue function as a museum guide in 1813?
  • How historically accurate is this website?
  • Room for interpretation and improvement
  • Works Cited / Site Credits

It is a rainy weekend here in Vermont – what better way to spend a few hours but at such an exhibition as this!

Further reading:

reynolds - self-portrait detail - britannica

Sir Joshua Reynolds

barchas-janine

Janine Barchas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  Her newest project is the website What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org).

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c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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We have been both to the Exhibition & Sir J. Reynolds’, – and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like Mrs. D. [Darcy] at either. – I can only imagine that Mr. D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. – I can imagine he w’d have that sort [of omitted] feeling – that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy.- Setting aside this disappointment, I had great amusement among the Pictures…”

[Jane Austen, Letter 85, Monday 24 May 1813]

Those who have read Jane Austen’s letters are familiar with her comments on visiting London. It has been an ongoing project of mine to figure out where she went and what she did and how she uses the pieces of her London treks in her novels.  One of the more interesting and frustrating is her reference to the art exhibit of Sir Joshua Reynolds – what did she see there, other than not finding a portrait of Mrs. Darcy? It has been revealed today that we will now have a chance to see exactly that, sort of following Jane herself around the galleries, as Professor Janine Barchas of the University of Texas at Austin launches What Jane Saw – a complete reconstruction of that exhibit. You will surely want to bookmark this new website and mark your calendars to view the happening on May 24, 2013!

From the website:

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On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The popular show was the first-ever retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s celebrated portrait painter.  On 24 May 2013, two centuries to the day that Austen viewed the 141 paintings in that exhibit, this site will open its doors as a public e-gallery, offering the modern visitor a precise historical reconstruction of that long-lost Regency blockbuster.

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I will be posting more on this as we near the launch date – this is very exciting, so stay tuned!!

[image from What Jane Saw]

reynolds - self-portrait detail - britannica

Self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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