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[Gentle Readers: On a hiatus for a bit, so reposting this from the archives – enjoy!]

“I do not write for such dull elves As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.”

Letters, No. 79

Jane Austen wrote the above to her sister Cassandra on January 29, 1813, the day after Pride and Prejudice is published:

There are a few Typical errors – & a “said he” or a “said she” would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear –  but “I do not write for such dull elves As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.” [the notes remark that this is from Scott’s Marmion: “I do not rhyme to that dull elf / Who cannot image to himself…”]

She could have as soon written “stupid” for her dull elves, as she does in another place in this letter:

The Advertisement is in out paper to day for the first time; – 18s – He shall ask £1-1 for my two next, & £1-8 for my stupidest of all.

I think Jane Austen liked the word “stupid” – it appears in all her writings: the juvenilia, the novels, the letters – and she uses it to great effect. But I would argue that today the word has a more negative connotation, especially when used to describe a person, as in “he is a really stupid man” vs. “this is a stupid movie.”  I have been re-reading Pride and Prejudice very SLOWLY and as always, even on this umpteenth read, I find things that amaze – and this time I find myself dwelling on Austen’s “stupids.”

Rowlandson -VADS online

Rowlandson -VADS online

Many of us can call quickly to mind a few of her more famous lines:  You can comment below in the “comments” section with:  Which book / who said it  / to or about whom: 1. “Not that ______ was always stupid — by no means; she learnt the fable of ‘The Hare and Many Friends’ as quickly as any girl in England.” 2. “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

etsy.com

[from etsy.com: http://www.etsy.com/listing/101749200/jane-austen-quote-pride-and-prejudice-no ]

3. “She is a stupid girl, & has nothing to recommend her.”

4.  “She had never seen _______ so silent and stupid.”

5.  “_____ is as stupid as the weather.”

6. “I feel quite stupid. It must be sitting up so late last night. _____, you must do something to keep me awake. I cannot work. Fetch the cards; I feel so very stupid. ”

7.  “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”

8.  “…that he had been sent to sea, because he was stupid and unmanageable…”

********************

And these are only a small sample of Austen’s ‘stupids’ – there are a number more in each novel – it has been interesting to see how and why she uses this term, more freely thrown about in her letters: – just these few here by way of example:

 -“We met not a creature at Mrs. Lillingstone’s, & yet were not so very stupid, as I expected, which I attribute to my wearing my new bonnet & being in good looks [Ltr. 36],

-“And now, that is such a sad, stupid attempt at Wit, about Matter, that nobody can smile at it, & I am quite out of heart. I am sick of myself, & my bad pens.” [Ltr. 53], and

-“I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there…” [Ltr. 14]

***************

PP-peacock cover

But today I will focus only on Pride and Prejudice, continuing my closer look at the novel throughout this bicentenary year.

We begin by going back to the source, the OED to see how it has been used and its meanings as Jane Austen would have seen it used: [Oxford English Dictionary: www.OED.com ]

Wit's Magazine - illus G. Cruikshank - Project Gutenberg

Wits Magazine – illus G. Cruikshank – Project Gutenberg

  1. Adj.

1. a.Having one’s faculties deadened or dulled; in a state of stupor, stupefied, stunned; esp. hyperbolically, stunned with surprise, grief, etc. Obs. exc. arch. (poet.). As in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale (1623): Is not your Father growne incapeable Of reasonable affayres? Is he not stupid With Age, and altring Rheumes? Can he speake? heare? Know man, from man?

1. b. Belonging to or characterized by stupor or insensibility. Obs. As in Keats Endymion (1818): “My sweet dream Fell into nothing—into stupid sleep.”

1. c. Of a part of the body: Paralysed. Obs.

1. d. Emotionally or morally dull or insensible; apathetic, indifferent. Const. to [compare French stupide à] – As in Steele in the Guardian (1713): “It was a Cause of great Sorrow and Melancholy to me…to see a Crowd in the Habits of the Gentry of England stupid to the noblest Sentiments we have.”

2. As the characteristic of inanimate things: Destitute of sensation, consciousness, thought, or feeling. Obs. As in 1722 W. Wollaston Religion of Nature (1722) – “Matter is incapable of acting, passive only, and stupid.”

3. a. Wanting in or slow of mental perception; lacking ordinary activity of mind; slow-witted, dull. As in J. Addison Spectator (1712) “A Man, who cannot write with Wit on a proper Subject, is dull and stupid.” And Frances Burney in Evelina (1778): “‘Why is Miss Anville so grave?’ ‘Not grave, my Lord,’ said I, ‘only stupid.’”

3. b.  Of attributes, actions, ideas, etc.: Characterized by or indicating stupidity or dullness of comprehension. As in J. Jortin  Sermons (1771): “Great reason have we to be thankful that we are not educated in such stupid and inhuman principles.”

3. c. Of the lower animals: Irrational. Also of an individual animal, its propensities, etc.: Lacking intelligence or animation, senseless, dull. Obs. As in Goldsmith History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774): “[The badger] is a solitary stupid animal.”

4.  Void of interest, tiresome, boring, dull. As in: Burney, Evelina (1778): “Of all the stupid places ever I see, that Howard Grove is the worst! there’s never no getting nothing one wants.”

5. Obstinate, stubborn. (north. dial.)

B. noun.  A stupid person. Colloq. As in Steele Spectator (1712): “Thou art no longer to drudge in raising the Mirth of Stupids…for thy Maintenance.”

******

If we look at the stupids of Pride and Prejudice, we see all of these definitions in their great variety, but the emphasis is on being tiresome, boring as in number 4 above:

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

1. “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.” [vol. I, ch. III]

britarmyuniforms

British Army Uniforms 1750-1835: from Book Drum

2. She had been watching him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street, and had Mr. Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one passed the window now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison with the stranger, were become ‘stupid, disagreeable fellows.’ [vol. I, ch. XV]

3. “ Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.” [vol. II, ch. IV]

from Georgian Index

from Georgian Index

4. When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card-tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold .… [vol. II, ch. VI]

5. “Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.” [vol. I, ch. IV]

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

6. The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance  [vol. I, ch. XXII]

7. But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage it was more difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of choice — a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself. He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what to make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s occasionally laughing at his stupidity proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him could not have told her… [vol. II, ch. IX]

8. Wickham will soon be gone; and therefore it will not signify to anybody here what he really is. Some time hence it will be all found out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in not knowing it before. At present I will say nothing about it.” [vol. II, ch. XVII]

9. Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains. …  Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. “If it were merely a fine house richly furnished,” said she, “I should not care about it myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the finest woods in the country.” [vol. II, ch. XIX]

pemberley-photo

And finally when Mr. Bennet asks Lizzy: “Lizzy,” said he, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man?” –  he could as well have called her stupid… [vol. III, ch. XVII]

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

Sources for the images as noted:

Note your answers to the eight non Pride and Prejudice quotes at the beginning of this post in the comment area below: how did you do?  we shall have no dull elves around here…

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Be on the lookout in your mailbox! – the March/April 2015 (issue 74) of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine is published this week and is being mailed to subscribers. In it you can read about:

cover-74

  • The Iron Duke: A major exhibition marks the Duke of Wellington’s triumph at the Battle of Waterloo
  • A Book’s Life: One of the rare books at Chawton House Library reveals all
  • Anyone for Pyms? Barbara Pym, the novelist who was known as the “Jane Austen of the 20th century”
  • Georgian Illnesses: Examining some of the ailments suffered by Jane Austen’s characters
  • From Daylesford to Delaford: Is there a connection between Warren Hastings and Sense & Sensibility?

*Plus News, Letters, Book Reviews and information from Jane Austen Societies in the US, UK and Australia

*To subscribe now click here - and make sure that you are among the first to read all the news from Jane Austen’s Regency World!

[Text and image courtesy of JARW].

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

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battered-books-2-CHL

Chawton House Library – books in need

When I was in Library School, one of my favorite classes was a study of book conservation and visit to the NEDCC (the Northeast Document Conservation Center) – this I thought was the place where the things I most loved were given the care they sorely needed. Sadly, I didn’t go into that field [hindsight is a dreadful thing!] – I was more into reading and making sure the right book got into the right person’s hands, believing that our system of free libraries was the grandest example of a free world. I remember as a 15 year-old page in our hometown library, roaming the shelves and discovering the Brownings, and rather than doing my job of re-shelving (I confess this now many years later), I was secretly discovering Poetry, finding Love and Words in the pages of these old books. I’ve never lost that love of an old book – the smell, the touch, the beauty of bindings and paper, the scribbled notes or bookplates or inscriptions of previous owners – not to mention the story being told. That I ended up a used bookseller was likely destiny at work – my favorite set of books in my home was an 1890 Encyclopedia Britannica! (I was not the most current student in history class!)

We now live in a world where the physical book is being rejected for the joy of carrying around 1500 titles on a small tablet that we can also use for all manner of interruptive connections to the real world. This escape into a book can be initiated wherever you are, whenever you want, without the inconvenience of lugging around poundage – I readily admit to loving my kindle! – But it is not the same, no matter how many people argue the point. I don’t remember the books I read this way – I don’t retain where such and such was on a particular page, I miss that smell, that touch, that communion with a physical object that has a history that somehow brings me closer to the author or a binder or papermaker or some previous owner or owners.

DentSet-dcb

[1898 Dent edition of Jane Austen’s novels – trivia: what is missing??]

I think, I have to believe that the book is not Dead, that an appreciation for the book as an object of beauty and worth may even be stronger than ever, fear of it all disappearing making it all the more valuable to us. And this then brings us to Book Conservation. Because if we don’t take care we shall be losing our very own heritage. I have had any number of books come across my desk that are in appalling states, either too well loved through the years, or just left to disintegrate in some old attic or basement – it is one of the saddest things to encounter really – a book of special significance that is rendered nearly worthless by its poor condition. Enter the conservationist! – Magic can happen! I have been fortunate in finding the most brilliant of these magicians, who has salvaged many a book for me and my customers … And though the value of a repaired work can be affected by such tampering, it is the return to its former state that is the end result, to preserve, protect and savor for the future… The digitizing efforts of so many of our libraries is a glorious thing – making so much accessible to all – I marvel at what is only a keystroke away – but preserving the original must and should be part of this plan.

Chawton House Library

Chawton House Library

And this brings us to Chawton House Library and their appeal for their book conservation program – they need our help!

The history of the Chawton House Library [CHL] is a well-known story, at least among most of my readers here, who perhaps have come to know of CHL because Jane Austen brought us there. Read its history if you don’t know it, and you will come away with unending gratitude to Sandy Lerner for making it all possible. If you have read Dale Spender’s classic Mothers of the Novel: 100 Good Women Writers before Jane Austen (Pandora 1986), and other various titles on the subject, you know that the entire literary tradition of women writers has been essentially silenced – if you are over 50, how many women writers did you read in college? How many did you even know about? The foundation and purpose of CHL has been to correct that horrible omission in our collective history, to give these women writers a home of their own, and to make sure none of them are ever again consigned to the neglected heap of second-class literature.

The CHL website offers a wealth of information on many of these women writers:

[for example: Aphra Behn’s The Rover; or, the Banish’d Cavaliers (1729), and Penelope Aubin’s The Inhuman Stepmother, or the History of Miss Harriot Montague (1770)]

Aphra Behn (1640-1689) - wikipedia

Aphra Behn (1640-1689) – wikipedia

Charlotte Lennox (c.1730-1804)

Charlotte Lennox (c.1730-1804)

  • The quarterly publication The Female Spectator is mailed to those who become Friends of the Library. Some of the past issues are available online from 1995 – 2010 here: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?page_id=55522

Female Spectator-frontis-wp

 Frontispiece, vol. 1 The Female Spectator, by Eliza Haywood (1744-46) – the title CHL now uses for its quarterly newsletter [image: wikipedia]
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Chawton House Library

More books in need at Chawton House Library

But the books themselves, the majority really, are in need of repair. Keith Arscott, the Development Director of CHL, in the kick-off for this fund-raising effort, writes:

Thanks to our first and biggest single donation to date – over $3,000 from the George Cadbury Quaker Foundation – we have been able to organise our first conservation skills training day for 10 of our library volunteers to be run by a professional conservator. The donation also covers the first purchase of materials to enable our first volunteers to make a start. And for those of you that don’t know, we also had two generous donations at the reception – one from a red rose and the other from a yellow! [the reception for CHL members at the JASNA AGM in Montreal – we were all given roses!] But it is only a start – the Book Condition Survey that we were able to commission after a number of successful funding initiatives concluded that the cost of such a conservation programme would be easily a very large six figure sum  – if all the conservation work was undertaken by professional conservators in studio conditions. However, the tremendous interest that our appeal has had with volunteers and their willingness to give their time to help with much of the work – means we have an appeal target in mind of something in the $90,000 range.

And so this is where your help is needed. Gillian Dow, the Executive Director, writes on the website that small amounts of money can make a very big difference to our programme” and outlines how any donation can contribute to protecting this unique collection:

  • £1 / $1.70 can buy document repair tape
  • £6 / $10 can buy unbleached cotton archival ribbon
  • £10 / $17 can buy an archival box to protect a fragile book
  • £100 / $162 can pay for a full set of conservation equipment including unbleached cotton archival ribbon, document repair tape and archival boxes
  • £300 / $486 can pay for a volunteer training day, giving a whole team the necessary skills to carry out vital conservation work
  • £500 / $809 can restore a complete volume

______

Conservation tools at the NEDCC

Conservation tools at the NEDCC

__________ 

*You can visit the CHL website to watch a film on the program:  http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?page_id=58943

*You can also find on the CHL blog this post by Giorgia Genco, “A Career in Book Conservation” where she writes about assisting in the training of volunteers in this new program: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?library_blog=a-career-in-book-conservation

*And here, some great PR from the BBC: last November, they visited CHL and produced a video on the appeal, where Frankenstein and Sense & Sensibility are featured among other titles: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-29949168

*For those of you near Chawton, there is an evening lecture on February 12, 2015 at 6:30 pm on “Conserving a Unique Literary Heritage at Chawton House Library” with library conservator Caroline Bendix – it is free, but donations graciously accepted! – and you must register [but alas! the event is fully booked!]: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?lectures_talks=conserving-a-unique-literary-heritage-at-chawton-house-library

A tattered 'Sense & Sensibility' at CHL

A tattered ‘Sense & Sensibility’ at CHL

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How to donate? For those of you living in the States, you can donate online directly to the North American Friends of Chawton House Library (NAFCHL) [NAFCHL is a U.S. 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are deductible for purposes of U.S. income taxes]. NAFCHL will acknowledge U.S. donations as being specifically allocated to our Book Conservation Appeal. See the link on the right sidebar on this page: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?page_id=58943 . [Everyone else can donate by visiting the same page and choosing the “Virgin Money Giving” link.]

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Mary Brunton (1778-1818) – Jane Austen writes about Brunton in her letters [image: wikipedia]

You will find if you spend a bit of time on the CHL website just how many of these women writers have been resurrected from their centuries-long oblivion. They are being studied more than ever as our female literary tradition finds its rightful place in the history of literature. The Chawton House Library has been and continues to be instrumental in finding and keeping these materials – the books, manuscripts, diaries, letters, and artifacts – and we need to preserve it all as best we can so that the Book as we now know it will be there for future generations of readers and scholars.  Any donation will be greatly appreciated…hope you can help!

Sources and further reading:

JA-letter-MorganJane Austen letter – the Morgan

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

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It only seems fitting to end 2014 with a final nod to Mansfield Park. My intention of course had been to spend the entire year discussing the various illustrators of this novel over the past 200 years, but alas! such best intentions are all I have to offer up – so here is the first and final post on illustrating Mansfield Park!

Emma1948-Gough

[Source: StrangeGirl.com]

When Macdonald & Co. (London) published its first volume of Jane Austen’s work in 1948, Emma was the chosen work, with Philip Gough as illustrator. It was the 4thvolume in the Macdonald Illustrated Classics series. It is a small book, under 8 inches, bound in red leatherette, with a frontispiece and six full-page plates of watercolor drawings by Gough. There is no introduction. Macdonald published its next Jane Austen in this series in 1951 – Pride and Prejudice, with illustrations again by Gough and again no introduction.  If you are lucky enough to have all the six volumes published by Macdonald, you will see that they appear to be a set, all with the same binding and all illustrated by Gough – but they were published over a period of years from 1948 to 1961 as follows – with the No. in the Macdonald series in ():

  • 1948 – Emma (No. 4)
  • 1951 – Pride & Prejudice (No. 23)
  • 1957 – Mansfield Park (No. 34); introduction by Q. D. Leavis
  • 1958 – Sense & Sensibility (No. 37), with Lady Susan and The Watsons; intro by Q. D. Leavis
  • 1961 – Northanger Abbey (No. 40); intro by Malcolm Elwin
  • 1961 – Perusasion (No. 41); intro by Malcolm Elwin

Not sure why Leavis did not do the other introductions – her essays on Jane Austen are magnificent, and a definite must-have for your Austen library. Her Mansfield Park introduction, after stating that MP is “now recognized as the most interesting and important of the Austen novels,” gives us a brief summary of Austen’s life and times, then writes of her theories that Lady Susan is the matrix of Mansfield Park, that Austen was “soaked in Shakespeare,” that the Sotherton sequence  is one of the “most remarkable in any English novel” where all the action is symbolic and how its pattern of events is “exactly and awfully repeated” in the final outcome of the book, and finally how Mansfield Park is really a tragedy “in spite of the appearance of a happy ending.”

****************

There is little known about Philip Gough and I cannot find much researching the internet other than he was born in 1908, illustrated a number of children’s books, this Jane Austen series from Macdonald, and a goodly number of dust jackets for Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels.

But it is worth noting that in the introduction to the 1961 Persuasion by Malcolm Elwin (and also quoted by David Gilson in his entry E327 on this edition), Elwin states that the drawings of Hugh Thomson are said to be “too Victorian in their sentimentality to suit the spirit and period of the novels” – and that “Mr. Gough has shown himself a student of the Regency period, and many sound critics have judged him to have succeeded in conveying the subtlety of Jane Austen’s satiric humour.” Gilson also notes a TLS review of this edition (10 November 1961, 810), quoting that “Philip Gough’s illustrations have their own brand of sentimentality, this time of the pretty-pretty sub-Rex Whistler variety.”

Now I confess to having to google Rex Whistler, and find that there was an exhibition of his works at the Salisbury Museum in 2013: http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/rex-whistler-talent-cut-short

Here is a Whistler drawing to better understand the “pretty-pretty” the TLS critic was referring to:

WhistlerInterior-guardian

 [Source: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/aug/25/rex-whistler-british-artist-exhibition ]

How easy it is to get off-track when researching!
-
Children’s literature
: Gough’s illustrations for children’s works range from Alice in Wonderland for the Heirloom Library to Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales:

Gough-Alice-Heirloom

[Source:  https://aliceintheinternet.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/alice-illustrated-by-philip-gough/ ]

Gough-Andersen FT-Abe

 [Source: Abebooks: http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=14347377033&searchurl =an%3Dhans+christian+andersen+philip+gough ] 

GoodReads has a starting list of books illustrated by Gough – this is not complete, as I find in a quick search on WorldCat a number of titles not listed, so if you know of others, please add to this GoodReads list!

********

Georgette Heyer: Philip Gough was one of Heyer’s favorite dust jacket illustrators (another was Arthur Barbosa) – you can see many of the jackets here.

But here are a few of your favorite Heyers – and clearly signed by Gough:

Illustrating Jane Austen:

Gough’s watercolors for the Jane Austen novels have a tendency toward “Pretty in Pink” (as they do for Heyer) – indeed I have always looked rather wide-eyed at the abundance of Pink in his Pride and Prejudice – especially in this portrait of Mr. Darcy at the pianoforte…!

MacDonald1951-Gough-e&d-dcb2
You can see all the Emma watercolors here, where again, and as evident in the Gough illustration opening this post, you see one dominant color  – it seems that Gough equated the Regency period and Jane Austen with the feminine Pink! https://www.fulltable.com/vts/aoi/g/emma/a.htm

But now to our Mansfield Park, with Gough’s illustrations in the order as they appear in the book:

1-Frontispiece-Gough1

Frontispiece

TitlePage-MP-Gough 2-ChapHeadV1C1-Gough 3-Carriage drove off-Gough 4-SpeakFanny-Gough (2) 5-ThorntonLacy 6-Astonished-Crawford-Gough 7-FannyIntroduce-Gough 8-FannyEdmundTrees-Gough

Now, go back and look at the illustrations and think about these questions [and comment below with your thoughts…]:

  • Do the illustrations tell the story?
  • Does Gough get the characters right?
  • Why do you think the illustrator chose these scenes to depict? Would you have chosen other scenes?
  • Do they give a sense of the time and place, the setting of MP?
  • Does anything in the illustrations give a clue to Gough’s time rather than the time of the novel?
  • Does Gough get anything really wrong?
  • Do you have another illustrated edition of MP that you think conveys the story better than these??

Please leave a comment on any and all of these questions – I am interested in your thoughts and welcome the chance to hear from you as we end this year-long celebration of Mansfield Park!

Wishing all a Very Happy New Year!

2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Santa-ThomasNast

[Vintage postcard, Thomas Nast illustration]

Wishing all of my Jane Austen in Vermont readers
a Very Merry Christmas,
and Festive and Joyful Holidays!

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And just to keep us in the Jane Austen spirit [what we are here for after all!],
here is a post from a few years ago on Jane Austen’s very own Scrooge! Can you guess who??

https://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/jane-austens-very-own-scrooge/

Emma - Christmas weather

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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austen silhouette

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago:  however last nightthe time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over.  We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion.  She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.  Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and send her love to you and my brother, not forgetting James and Philly…

[Letter from Mr. Austen to his sister Philadelphia Walter, December 17, 1775, as quoted from Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen, A Family Record, Cambridge, 2004, p.27.]

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pollogo

 

In celebration of Jane Austen’s birthday today, JASNA has published its annual Perusasions On-Line Vol.35, No. 1 (Winter 2014).  Click here for the Table of Contents to yet another inspiring collection of essays, some from the 2014 AGM in Montreal on Mansfield Park, and other “Miscellany” – all about Jane Austen…and perfect winter reading material…!

Here are the Contents:

The “Ordination” of Fanny Price: Female Monasticism and Vocation in Mansfield Park
Kathleen Anderson

A Distracted Seminarian: The Unsuccessful Reformation of Edmund Bertram
Br. Paul Byrd, O.P.

Why Tom Bertram Cannot Die: “The Plans and Decisions of Mortals”
Theresa M. Kenney

The Monstrous Mothers of Mansfield Park
Marilyn Francus

“Assisting the Improvement of Her Mind”: Chapone’s Letters as Guide to Mansfield Park
Susan Allen Ford

Fanny Price as Fordyce’s Ideal Woman? And Why?
A. Marie Sprayberry

“Favourable to Tenderness and Sentiment”: The Many Meanings of Mary Crawford’s Harp
Jeffrey Nigro

I Sing of the Sofa, of Cucumbers, and of Fanny Price: Mansfield Park and The Task; Or, Why Fanny Price is a Cucumber
Emma Spooner

The First Soldier [She] Ever Sighed for”: Charles Pasley’s Essay and the “Governing Winds” of Mansfield Park
Kathryn Davis

Mansfield Park vs. Sotherton Court: Social Status and the Slave Trade
Sarah Parry

Mansfield Park and the News
Robert Miles

“Delighted with the Portsmouth Scene”: Why Austen’s Intimates Admired Mansfield Park’s Gritty City
Christina Denny

“Bad Smells” and “Fragrance”: Reading Mansfield Park through the Eighteenth-Century Nose
Emily C. Friedman

Among the Proto-Janeites: Reading Mansfield Park for Consolation in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1815
Sarah Emsley and Sheila Johnson Kindred

Modernizing Mansfield Park at the Millennium: Reconsidering Patricia Rozema’s Film Adaptation
Nora Foster Stovel

MISCELLANY

A Treasured Possession: Jane Austen and the Chandos Letter
Karen Thomson

Jane Austen and the Subscription List to Camilla (1796)
Jocelyn Harris

Pride, Prejudice, and the Threat to Edward Knight’s Inheritance
Christine Grover

Spontaneous Composite Portraits of Jane Austen
Lance Bertelsen

First Impressions: The Control of Readers’ Cognitions in the First Chapter of Pride and Prejudice
Kevin Alan Wells

To Forgive is Divine—and Practical, Too
Robert Mai

The Importance of Servants in Jane Austen’s Novels
Natalie Walshe

Fanny Price and Lord Nelson: Rethinking the National Hero(ine)
Elaine Bander

Imagining Future Janeites: Young Adult Adaptations and Austen’s Legacy
Andrea Coldwell

Jane Austen Bibliography, 2013
Deborah Barnum

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c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant who has written for us a post on Box Hill. I had the pleasure this spring to spend a day with Tony, as he squired me around Southampton, Portsmouth and Box Hill – it was a rainy, quite miserable day, but the touring was grand, the company terrific! I’ve been to most of the Jane Austen sites – but not to anything we saw this day, from the Dolphin Inn to The Victory, and to the top of Box Hill – it was a world-wind tour of Jane, History, and Geology all rolled into one – Tony here tells of Box Hill, the infamous location that Austen chooses to place her Emma in one of her more self-illuminating “badly-done” scenes… with heartfelt thanks to Tony for the tour to the heart of it all…

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A view of Box Hill, Surrey - George Lambert

A view of Box Hill, Surrey – George Lambert

Box Hill in Jane Austen’s Emma

On Monday 26th May this year, Deb Barnum [a.k.a. Jane Austen in Vermont] and I drove up to the top of Box Hill. The quickest route is to come off The London Road, known as the A24, which sweeps past the base of Box Hill, paralleling the River Mole, which itself, arcs around Box Hill to the south and west. The A24 leads south from Epsom towards Dorking. A mile before Dorking we turned left at Rykas Café, which is a popular venue for motorcyclists. We took a small B road, overhung with trees. An old rusty sign leaning out of the hedgerow on the left pointed its finger to the summit of Box Hill. We turned into a wooded and high hedged lane which began to immediately rise steeply, bending towards the right. We passed a weathered red brick cottage on the left, set within a ragged, vibrant country garden surrounded by high, smoothly manicured hedges bulging and swelling outwards in billowing shapes. The road soon opened out onto steeply rising chalk grassland. A precipitous drop on our right formed and a steep incline to our left reached upwards.

Box Hill summit 1Mist and cloud swirled around us as we mounted the hill along the switch back road. The corners made us turn almost back on ourselves but always took us to steeper and higher levels. The drop to the right revealed hedges of box and scrub, clinging tightly to the side of the hill, interspersed with finely cropped grasses. Chalky outcrops appeared to our left as we rose higher and higher amongst the mist and low clouds. As we neared the summit, trees and woodland gathered around us again. The squat whitewashed National Trust shop and café appeared in front of us and a car park was situated on the left amongst Scots Pines and firs.

We parked the car and I showed Deb the way to the viewpoint we had come to see. We were seven hundred and thirty-five feet above the River Mole and Dorking town was to our right. We could see far into the distance across the

Town of Dorking below

Town of Dorking below

woodlands and fields of Surrey. I suggested Deb take the part of Emma Woodhouse, who in Jane Austen’s novel of that name, visited this very spot with her friends and neighbours but she would have nothing of it. She would be Mrs Elton and nobody else. Deb stood and acclaimed the world standing high on the stone viewing plinth Leopold Salomons had erected in 1914, arms wide to the sky.

It was very near here that Emma Woodhouse and Mrs Elton and their party of friends alighted to picnic at the top of Box Hill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. The groups from Highbury and Hartfield, in the novel, have an inauspicious start to their trip, an inauspicious execution of it and an inauspicious end to it. It is a turning point in all their lives. The surface veneer begins to slip from various relationships. Reality begins to poke through Emmas carefully stage managed attempts of conducting other people’s lives. Nothing becomes certain. The Sucklings do not arrive at Hartfield and Mrs Elton’s plan of visiting Box Hill to show the Sucklings the views seems to lose its purpose but she has another thought and becomes adamant about the trip going ahead. The Sucklings can go another time. Mrs Elton’s idea about a trip to Box Hill has an effect on Emma. Emma does not want to be outdone. She has never visited Box Hill before and decides that,

emma-picnic1

“she wished to see what everybody found so well worth seeing…”

She discusses the trip with the amiable Mr Weston. He is perhaps too amenable and accommodating. In discussion with Mrs Elton he gets the approval of that lady that the two parties, hers and Emma’s join together for one combined trip to Box Hill. Emma is unhappy with the arrangement but as they will all go in different carriages with the people of their own choice perhaps it will not be so bad, she reasons. It would have been better if the horse that was to pull Emma’s carriage had stayed lame of course and so preventing Emma from going, but a quick recovery from this condition, inconveniently perhaps, gave no excuse for Emma not to proceed. A lame horse is a rather lame Jane Austen joke, I think, sprung in the midst of such serious matters. Tongue in cheek comes to mind – a joke at Emma’s expense between Austen and the reader.

Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of unison, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties.

This is an interesting passage because Jane Austen seems uncertain. She lists a litany of possible causes for the lack of harmony. She can’t herself decide on one exact cause. This adds realism to the situation. We cannot explain everything in real life and neither can Austen in this scene in Emma.

Austen has Frank Churchill perpetrate, perhaps, a cruel joke, to divert attention from himself and Emma. He asks the ultimate psychoanalysts question, in Emma’s name of course. He whispers to her:

“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk….”

And then for all to hear,

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say that she desires to know what you are all thinking of.”

Emma immediately tries to nervously laugh the question off. She is taken unawares by this and denies she has anything to do with any such request. There is a desperation in her voice. There is almost fear. She knows she could not, “stand the brunt,” of such raw honesty.

“Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of.”

There are one or two perhaps, (glancing at Mr Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”

Who can or would want to express their real thoughts at the drop of a hat? Is it possible for anybody to express their exact thoughts as they are thinking them? Our relationships would be very strange and probably be put under incredible stresses if we did. Emma is naïve to think even that the thoughts of Mr Weston and Harriet would bear hearing. Our subconscious level is below manners and the social veneer we all carry. It would be delving into our primal depths. This is the sort of thing that Sigmund Freud tried to study and explore. Frank Churchill is being cruel and he knows that nobody would answer this, certainly not himself. Imagine what sort of story would be written if everybody told their thoughts? It is almost the final nail in the coffin of harmony and wellbeing amongst the group on Box Hill.

On the top of Box Hill

Deb as Mrs Elton

Deb and I certainly didn’t even approach such a question. Deb, as I said before was just happy to be Mrs Elton and of course Mrs Elton and Mr Elton walked away on their own at Frank Churchill’s question. I wonder what Mrs Elton thought about it?   Maybe Deb knows. As for my first suggestion to Deb to play Emma on the top of Box Hill; Emma is obviously an anti-hero. Neither Deb nor anybody else I have spoken to, would willingly be an Emma.

Geology:

Standing high on Box Hill you notice the thinness of the grass under your feet. You see flints sticking out of the pathways and white chalk is revealed in patches everywhere. Box Hill is a geological phenomenon. The cretaceous chalk that comprises Box Hill, was laid down as the microscopic calcareous bodies of plankton on the floor of a tropical sea between 100 and 65 million years ago. Globally chalk is a rare rock formation so it makes the North Downs, of which Box Hill is part, a unique geological area. Originally it was laid as a horizontal chalk platform of uniform thickness. During the period the Alps were formed, about 50 million years ago, upheavals in the Earth’s crust forced this chalk layer into a vast dome. The northern most edge was where the North Downs are now. The dome stretched over to France. The British Isles were joined to the mainland of Europe then. Chalk, being a porous and relatively soft rock, it has been eroded and worn down by the actions of water. All that remains are the North Downs stretching from Guildford in Surrey, just south of London into the northern part Kent and The South Downs stretching from a line formed by the Itchen River between Southampton and Winchester in the west to The Cliffs of Dover on the coast of Kent in the East.

 Box Hill Bridge, Dorking – by Alfred Charles Jerome Collins
image: Dorking Museum

On the steep chalk slopes of Box Hill, the 394 feet escarpment and on the sides of the surrounding valleys, downland plants flourish. Because chalk is porous it hardly ever dries out, even in drought conditions which might affect the surrounding landscape. This means plants always have a ready water supply. It is said that plants on chalk downland have a brighter richer colour because of this. Plants such as hawk weed rock rose, bird’s foot trefoil, milkwort, squinancywort and dwarf thistle all thrive in this environment. Box woodland, which is extremely ancient, grows on the steep chalky, thin soiled slopes. It is one of the only trees that will grow in these conditions. The escarpments and valley sides face southwards which means it is often a hot exposed environment. Box Hill derives its name from the box that grows on it. Box has been around since probably the end of the Ice Age and perhaps before that. The characteristics of chalk downland are unique to Box Hill’s geology. There are dry valleys cut into the north side of the hill. This is where the River Mole, which runs under the escarpment of Box Hill has cut its course in the past and where drainage streams and rivulets flowed into it, but because the rocks are porous any streams and rivulets that remain are no longer on the surface but underground. Chalk is easily eroded so it gives a gentle undulating quality to the general landscape. On the steep slopes there are patches of bare chalk and these can gleam white in the sunshine.

Chalk from the North Downs has been quarried in the past. Surrey County Council had a quarry at Brockham nearby to Box Hill. It was used to quarry chalk that could be burned in kilns to produce lime and cement. These quarries, many of them now abandoned have been left to regenerate, plants and wild life and some are now places of special scientific interest. The quarries, because they have sides cut into the chalk, show the structure of the chalk particularly well.

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep - Box HIll

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep – Box Hill

image: National Trust – Box Hill

Chalk Down land is a special type of grassland habitat that is actually man made. Over centuries, sheep and cattle have been grazed on them. This has deforested the downland to a certain extent allowed unique wild flowers and animals, only found on downland, to flourish. To keep Box Hill’s downland quality a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle are grazed on it. The sheep on Box hill are Black Welsh Mountain sheep. There are twenty eight sheep, which are moved around the hill on a rotation.  Because sheep are ‘nibblers’ they leave the grass short and even. There are also cattle, which graze very differently. Cows use their tongues to rip plants up, which leads to more tufted grassland. The breed used on Box Hill are called Belted Galloway cattle. They can be recognised by their fluffy black bodies with a thick white belt around their middles. Four males graze Box Hill and nearby Headley Heath is grazed by three males and nine females. The animals are moved around Box Hill all the time.  If it ceased to be a grassland habitat, trees and woodland would take over and cover it. This would occur through a natural process called succession. This downland supports a great diversity of invertebrates including fourty one species of rare butterflies. The soil is good for snails too. Snails require the calcium in the chalk to form shells.

Box Hill FortHistory:

Box Hill has a varied history. The old fort, that can still be seen at the top of Box Hill, was built in the 1890’s and is one of thirteen that were built across the North Downs, collectively known as the London Defence System.. They were to be the last defence of London if Britain was ever invaded. In the late 1890’s there was a treaty with France called the entente cordial but Germany was beginning to increase its strength and many of the stresses and strains that eventually lead to the first world war were beginning to stir. Previously, in the 1860’s, during Palmerstone’s premiership, many forts had also been built around the coast of Britain to defend from a perceived threat from France then. The forts on Box Hill and across the North Downs were never used. I have visited and actually stayed in one of the forts, the fort on The Hogsback just outside of Guildford. It is owned by Surrey County Council and is used for parties of school children to stay at to enable them to explore and study wildlife and local history. The fort on The Hogs back contained officers quarters just outside the ramparts of the fort and a barracks for a small contingent of soldiers inside. The forts were basically armouries for storing shells, and explosives. They comprised of strongly reinforced chambers with specially constructed shelving. The one on The Hogsback had a large area of flat land in front of it on which  artillery could be positioned if required. These forts were situated high on the downs,as much as  seven hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. The one on the top of Box Hill is dilapidated now and barred from entry. A rare breed of bats has lodged itself inside the fort and cannot be disturbed. To continue the military theme, there are stepping stones that cross the River Mole at the base of Box Hill. During the second world war they were removed to impede invading forces crossing the river. In the area you can also see examples of pill boxes, which were concrete bunkers installed with heavy machine guns and concrete tank traps. Interestingly at the top of Guildford High Street, next to the railway line cutting, hidden amongst dense trees, nowadays you can see a whole swathe of Second World War tank traps covered in ivy and moss.

Burford Hotel

Burford Hotel

Literary Connections:

JohnKeats1819_hires

John Keats in 1819, by Joseph Severn – wikipedia

Box Hill has inspired a number of classic authors, not just Jane Austen as I mentioned at the start. John Keats, Daniel Defoe, George Meredith and Robert Louis Stevenson all visited Box Hill. J. M Barrie used to sit on one of the slopes of Box Hill getting inspiration for Peter Pan.

The Romantic Movement, led by William Wordsworth, popularised communing with nature and Box Hill became a popular place to visit. John Keats completed his poem Endymion (1816) while staying at the Burford Hotel next to Box Hill. Its famous opening lines have inspired generations,

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us….”

John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived in the Swiss Cottage at the top of Box Hill. In the 1930’s he conducted his early experiments in television from the top to the valley below.

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird

The strangest individual connected with Box Hill is Major Peter Labelliere. He requested that he be buried upside down on the top of the hill. He believed that the world would go topsy-turvy and that one day he would be the right way up. His other dying wish was that youngest son and daughter of his land lady should dance on his coffin.

One thing you notice, as a driver, on Box Hill is when you descend, especially, winding along the switch back road on steep sided slopes and cliffs that the road surface has had strange, almost aboriginal markings painted on it. Here and there are the hoops of the Olympic movement. In 2012, The Olympics came to London. However, many events were not confined to the capital. The cycling road races were staged in the beautiful leafy, countryside of Surrey. Box Hill was the steepest part of the long distance cycling road race, hence the artistic markings that still adorn the road surface of the road..

On our way back to London, I drove Deb towards Kingston. We passed through an area called Malden Rushett, near the Chessington World of Adventures. There is a small industrial estate, farming land, a pub called The Blue Anchor and an extensive garden centre in Malden Rushett nowadays. The long straight road that passes through this area from Dorking to Kingston was a coaching road in the 18th century. Nothing apart from fields with cattle and maybe wheat growing would have existed there then. If you look on a map you can measure from Malden Rushett cross roads, seven miles to Box Hill, sixteen miles to London, twelve miles to Richmond and nine miles to Kingston – the exact distances from Highbury and Hartfield that Jane Austen reveals in Emma.   I mentioned this to Deb as we drove along. I think she was impressed.

the view we saw in the mist

the view we saw in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

top of Box Hill in the mist

The Esteemed Author

The Esteemed Author

All images c2014 Tony Grant unless otherwise noted.

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

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