In such good company as this ~ the 2009 AGM!

The 2009 JASNA AGM ~  
Jane Austen’s Brothers and Sisters in the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia October 9-11, 2009

 AGM 2009 banner

The best-laid plans of course often go astray – so my hopes to do a close analysis of everything going on the 2009 AGM have been sadly reduced to a mild wish to present a quick summary… so here goes… 

The Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of JASNA has indeed put on a lovely event – the City of Brotherly Love opened its wide arms for all 550 of us obsessed Janeites, offering great tours, excellent hospitality, lively and elegant evenings, and fabulous sessions filled with all things Jane.  I always upon returning home have the worst time re-entering the 21st century – and this time more than ever.  And time spent with my best-AGM and travel buddy Sara, just adds to the treat … and this year the special treat of JASNA-Vermont friends Kelly and Carol…

 Day 1:  A tour of Winterthur on the Thursday, one of my favorite places through books only, was a living reality of the beauties of home and garden, what one man with a lot of money was been able to preserve for future generations.  I discovered that Electra Havemeyer Webb, the founder of the Shelburne Museum here in Vermont and one of the first collectors of American art and decorative arts, was the inspiration behind Henry du Pont’s veering away from the popular collecting of European antiques toward acquiring Americana.  It was a lovely day and a wonderful way to start that entry into the late 18th-century the rest of the weekend promised!  [only downside: I missed the talks on writing and Wedgwood.]



Thursday evening ~ “Elizabeth Garvie in Conversation with Dr. Elisabeth Lenckos” was a special offering this year and began with a short clip of the first proposal scene in the 1980 Pride & Prejudice.  Ms. Garvie, who most everyone knows as Elizabeth Bennet in that adaptation, and now an active patron of the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, charmed the audience with her engaging and honest responses to Dr. Lenckos’s questions: the realities of filming a television production in the late seventies; how she portrayed a sister with four sister siblings without any of her own [she had a mother with FIVE sisters!]; a few comments on deleted scenes [falling off the log during that outdoor reading of Darcy’s letter…]; how each new P&P adaptation has something to offer each new generation with a reinterpretation of Austen [though she didn’t like the pig in the 2005 movie either!]  She ended the talk with a very humorous reading from one of Austen’s juvenilia pieces, “The Three Sisters.”



Day 2:  Had breakfast with several Austen-L / Janeites participants [though I have been only a lurker for years!] – and ended up having a rousing discussion on Georgette Heyer!

An early visit to the Regency Emporium always ends with too many books and items that add to the weight of my suitcase [and those flying rules now are intimidating – even Austen cannot impel me to go over that 50lb limit!] – thankfully Jane Austen Books where I spent most of my time [and money] sends everything media mail after the conference, so I just set up a running account of sorts – almost guilt-free ~ and shopped happily away… The Emporium is great fun to catch up with many of the other regions, Chawton House Library [director Steve Lawrence was there], Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine [with editor Tim Bullamore], Austentation [two tables filled with regency accessories!] and a few other vendors with Austen-related goodies ~ I went back many times over the course of the conference…

 Off to a talk on tea by Mim Enck from the East Indies Company – and learned how to make the perfect “cuppa”…  and then a talk with visuals by Louise West, from the Jane Austen’s House Museum, on the exciting new addition to Chawton Cottage, the dreams, the funding, and the lovely reality.  The grand opening was in July – if you have been to Chawton, but not since this work was done, put it on your next Austen trip itinerary!

chawton cottage


Marsha Huff, current JASNA President, welcomed all to the first official gathering, giving over the podium to our very own Vermont member Lorraine Hanaway [who was there for the founding of JASNA in 1978] who introduced the first Plenary speaker, Jan Fergus.  I love Dr. Fergus’s talks  – she inspired a whole new way of looking at Austen in her “The Whinnying of Harpies”? Humor in Jane Austen’s Letters” [Persuasions 27 (2005)] and has continued to regale her audiences with the humor of Austen’s whines ever since!  Today she spoke on “’Rivalry, Treachery between sisters!’ Tensions between Brothers and Sisters in Austen’s Novels” –  and the various ways in which Austen’s fictional siblings either love and support or compete with one another. Some of this thinking is based on the conduct books of the 18th-century, but also the reader must have awareness of the problems that arose between siblings due to the inheritance laws of the time.  Fergus showed by example Austen’s use of humor as a form of criticism between characters and how a sense of humor or lack thereof is an important gauge in understanding Austen’s characters:  i.e Marianne lacks humor and openness, thus her lack of understanding Elinor’s humor causes friction between them; Mr. Woodhouse has no sense of humor, just doesn’t get it!; and finally an emphasis on Elizabeth and Jane and how their different personalities and use of humor causes an undercurrent of almost comic aggression on Elizabeth’s part.  I liked this differing view of Elizabeth, not so perfect but with a tendency toward jealousy…


One of the problems in the AGM is choosing between the breakout sessions – so much to hear, so many speakers – whichever one you choose leaves you knowing that you are, regardless of how great your chosen session might be, missing so much else.  One can only hope that many of the talks you miss will be in the next issue of Persuasions.  I am a voluminous note-taker – but alas! none of my friends are, so after a full day of events and all things Austen being bandied about, one is lucky to get a few intelligible sentences about a missed session – I know if I didn’t take notes, I would have trouble piecing this all together – and indeed even my notes leave me stupefied occasionally! – so I can only present a few thoughts of the four sessions I did go to, knowing full well I am only scratching the surface of the possibilities…

I went to hear Jocelyn Harris, author of ….Jane Austen’s Art of Memory and A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression:  Jane Austen’s ‘Persusaion’, who spoke on “Jane Austen:  Frances Burney’s Younger Sister”.  Harris’s emphasis is to move away from the biological interpretation of Austen toward an historical one, Austen being very connected to her historical and literary references.  In Persuasion, Austen shows her knowledge of the Navy, Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars, but Harris also shows how the two cancelled chapters of Persuasion are steeped in Frances Burney’s The Wanderer.  I confess to having read several books by and about Burney, but The Wanderer has sat upon my TBR pile for many a year, never opened, largely due to the negative contemporary reviews and all those succeeding.  But Dr. Harris has inspired me to finally pick it up, though she says herself it will be a bit of a “slog” – a perfect winter read perhaps…?


Then on to Susan Allen Ford’s “’Exactly what a brother should be’? The Failures of Brotherly Love”:  Again, with an emphasis on the contemporary conduct literature [and with a very helpful handout with bibliography and selected paragraphs], Ford reviews the examples of fraternal love in the various novels in the context of the time – issues of inheritance, personality differences, the role of women and the emphasis on them as daughters and mothers rather than sisters, the economic realities of the sister’s lives.  And while she says that “the fraternal role is difficult to define in Austen because the characters as brothers are not often in the foreground”, it was an interesting discussion on their varying degrees of success and failure:  John Dashwood as a brother [yikes!]; the parallels between Edward and Robert Ferrars; Tom Bertram, the prodigal son; the jealousy between Darcy and Wickham, but Darcy’s anxiety and his overriding concern to be a good brother; James Morland as a good brother who wrongly throws his sister into the hands of the Thorpes [yikes again!]; and Edmund, brother / lover who neglects Fanny once Mary appears on the scene [this is when one audience member graciously invited everyone to join the SLEUTH club = “SLap Edmund Upside The Head” – there were many joiners on the spot!] ~ Dr. Ford’s choices? – Edmund the biggest failure [he indeed has NO relationship with his sisters], and most successful? [drum-roll please!] HENRY TILNEY [Mags are you listening??] – and I couldn’t agree more! [love the Henry!] – but an interesting question – who would yours be??

 Then off to dinner with Sara and friends of hers who live in Philadelphia for a few short hours back in the 21st century – we went to an Israeli restaurant right across from the hotel [ Zahav ] and one of the best meals I have had in a good while – even the wine from the Golem Heights was superb!

Up tomorrow – Day 3 and 4…. meanwhile post a comment on your choice for the best and worst brother in Austen…

7 thoughts on “In such good company as this ~ the 2009 AGM!

  1. I hated missing the AGM this year and not meeting you. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been to Winterthur and loved it. So glad your time was well spent. Am all envy!!


  2. Oh how wonderful! Sounds like you made a ton of memories! I wished I lived closer as I would lurve to be transported back in time as well! lol Love, love, love that home on that estate – gorgeous!

    And to answer your question… Henry! (Sigh) He’s the best! Looking foward to the next installment!


  3. Hi all – thanks for visiting! – yes, i got carried away with my summarizing! – not sure I could DO too short a version – way too much to say and my head is till spinning with it all!


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