“My idea of good company, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
[Jane Austen, Persuasion]
Well, just another summer weekend, lounging around in a lovely old Inn – a Victorian reproduction of a Georgian style house – in a sleepy Vermont town surrounded by mountains; being waited on by the Inn’s owner and most excellent cook for lavish breakfasts, a full Afternoon Tea, and a dinner reminiscent of the repast at the Netherfield Ball [lacking ‘white soup’ of course but that is saved for winter gatherings!]; and all this with lively discussions of Jane Austen and Sense & Sensibility late into the evening – Absolutely Perfect!
The Governor’s House in Hyde Park Vermont has been hosting these Jane Austen Weekends for the past few years – I have been to a few of the evening events and have stayed for those weekends where I was speaking – each event is made more special by the participants, people from all over who have found their way, for their very different reasons, to mingle with complete strangers and talk about Jane. This past weekend brought a full house of fourteen people [sixteen to include Suzanne and me…] –
*A mother celebrating her 50th birthday, her only wish for her two daughters [one still in high school, the other in college] and her two sisters to share in her love of Austen – none of them [except the Mom!] Austen readers in the least. After being subjected to a nine-hour car ride listening to a BBC audio of S&S ALL the way, they arrived bleary-eyed and just FULL of S&S, and now I can safely say, all ready to go home to read the book! [love these convert stories!] – they win the “We’ll do anything to keep peace in the family [and this S&S thing isn’t so bad after all]” Award!
*A couple from Minnesota [the husband one of the best sports I have yet to encounter!] – he created a complete notebook of his wife’s ‘Jane Austen Collection’ – a bibliography of all her books, resources on the Regency period and Austen’s life, and a collection of all the emails received on their Minneapolis Region events – what a gift, a surprise no less! – and he actually really seems to be quite taken with Jane himself – though not so far as appearing in a superfine waistcoat [nor flannel for that matter!], pantaloons and hessians! – hopefully next time! – and his wife, a joy to see another so taken with Austen, re-discovering her, as so many do after the kids have left the house and there is time to reflect and savor – and she is enjoying all the recent sequels [with perhaps the exception of P&P and Zombies, a gift to her, that like me, she cannot quite get beyond that first page!] – they win the “Couples who read Austen together have a finer understanding of Love” Award!
*Another family, “dragged” away for the weekend by the elder Austen-loving daughter, good sports all – her Mother, her Aunt, and her younger sister – all cramming the reading of S&S into their busy lives over the past month [we did discover that those who were still cramming their S&S the night before the quiz, fared far better than those of us who actually have read the thing ten times!] – the Aunt came from a distance so a family reunion of sorts – they win the “Now will you finally believe me when I keep saying how wonderful Austen is” Award! [I think they believe her now…] – AND First Prize in the “Love to dress up in Regency” Award!
[two Austen-quoting friends with Suzanne pouring Tea]
*Two young women who love Austen, can recite most lines from the books AND movies on command [my son can do this with Caddyshack – and my goodness, how much more enjoyable to hear the quotes from Austen!], brought along the sister of one of them whose husband dropped them all off so he could mountain bike Vermont for a few days – they did their knitting and needlepoint and completed the very difficult Jane Austen puzzle in no time at all – [[but alas! the Regency dress made by hand by one of the sisters was not quite finished – she promises to wear it next time!] – they win the “We LOVE Jane Austen and want to shout it to the whole world” Award!
And the conversation? – Suzanne talked about the “lay of the land” during this Regency period – the government, town and village life, domestic life, AND the proper serving of Tea; I spoke on traveling in S&S – the economics, the distances, and the carriages of each of the characters [Willoughby and his curricle getting far too much attention] – and much discussion on who is “sense” and who is “sensibility” and what does “sensibility” mean anyway, and how does the first sentence compare to the opening line of Pride & Prejudice, and a most gruelling but laughter-inducing quiz with fabulous prizes, and of course the MOVIES – so many different opinions on each of the adaptations – Hugh Grant is to die-for to Hugh Grant is a wimp; Colonel Brandon is way cool in his waistcoat to Marianne is quite right to be disgusted with his aches and pains; Mr. Palmer we all agreed is the best of the comic characters, his wife a silly fool and more the pity for him [and Hugh Laurie got well-deserved high marks] – and though it was an S&S weekend, Colin Firth, a.k.a. Mr. Darcy was never far from the table conversation [as is quite proper] and the 2005 rendition causing quite the heated talk – endless chat, not one thought really completed, but certainly all agreeing that a more delightful weekend would be hard to come by!
On a personal note, one always finds at these gatherings how very small the world is – one group from a small town in New Jersey “I would never have heard of” which turned out to be where my college roommate grew up and I had visited it a number of times; and the mother of the other mother-daughter group was in the Army at the same place and same time that my husband and I were in the early 1970s – we were nearly neighbors!
And of course, great kudos and a hearty thank you to Suzanne who runs these weekends so beautifully, bringing so many people from all parts of the country together – new friends found in this resplendent world of Jane Austen – a step back from the 21st century for a few short days that energizes and soothes at the same time – Jane would approve, I have no doubt – she was there, after all…
… the Austen-era feeling certainly was helped along with a
leisurely morning carriage ride through the Stowe Vermont woods…
… and letter-writing exercises with quills
[but alas! no Darcy to mend our pens] …
…and mulling over that very difficult quiz!
… and reading up on carriages, bonnets in hand awaiting an outing …
series 3: Sense and Sensibility
Friday evening talk: Making Sense of the Regency World
Friday – Sunday, September 10 – 12, 2010
Friday – Sunday, January 7 – 9, 2011
Click here for more details and here for the Governor’s House website
[Posted by Deb]