My Jane Austen Book Stash ~ From the 2016 JASNA AGM on Emma

jasnabannerThere has been a good deal to write about this year’s terrific JASNA AGM in Washington DC on Emma – but while it always takes me a good while to re-emerge into the 21st century after these events, little time has been accorded me to actually write anything about it. But I did want to give you a quick summary of the books and other “stuff” I bought this year – less than usual because I bought a DRESS and a SPENCER, which did my pocketbook some serious damage…(see the image below*).

But to the matter at hand, here are the books, etc. – most would make fine holiday gifts for your favorite Austen follower, or for your own stocking for that matter… except this first one which would not in any way fit:

  1. cover-mp-harvardJane Austen. Mansfield Park: An Annotated Edition. Edited by Deidre Shauna Lynch. Harvard UP, 2016.

Very excited to have this, completing my collection of these beautiful Harvard editions. The book was released during the AGM and thankfully Jane Austen Books had copies. I have only skimmed through it, but it promises to live up to the other Harvard editions with an insightful introduction and notes by Lynch, and color illustrations throughout that give you the sense of time, place, and history that surround the adventures of Fanny Price. A must have and a perfect holiday gift for your Austen friends (and at $35, this is the best book deal out there, bar none…)

2. Alden O’Brien, et al. ‘An Agreeable Tyrant’: Fashion after the Revolution. Exhibition Catalogue. Washington DC: DAR Museum, 2016.

The catalogue that goes along with the fabulous exhibition at the DAR Museum that many of us at the AGM werecover-agreeabletyrant-dar privileged to see. Ms. O’Brien spoke at the AGM to take us through the history behind and the creation of this fashion exhibit – complete with characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice found in the “Pemberley Room” – it runs from October 7, 2016 – April 29, 2017 and is described on the website as: “…displaying men’s and women’s clothing from 1780 to 1825 in a dozen period rooms throughout the museum. It considers how Americans fashioned a new identity through costume; on the one hand, Americans sought to be free from Europe, yet they still relied heavily on European manufacturing and materials.”

The catalogue is quite lovely, showing full page color illustrations of fashions of the time as well as photographs of costumes in the DAR Museum collection. A must-have for every good Janeite with any fashion sense and perhaps in need of a new dress idea…it also contains various patterns in the back. You can purchase the book through the Museum’s website here. And my friend Kelly has written about the exhibit on her blog Two Teens in the Time of Austen.

Here are a few of my shots of the exhibit:

3. Chawton House Library – their new brochure and guide, text by Helen Cole, et al. CHL, 2016.cover-chl-db2

This is Lovely! It tells the history of the Chawton Great House, Jane Austen’s connection with it, the development of it as a learning centre for the study of early women’s writing from 1600 to 1830. There is much detail with fine illustrations of the house itself: the Library; the various rooms and staircases; exhibition and conference information; the furnishings, art and portraits; the gardens and grounds; and a bit of the history of women writers and their place in our literary heritage. For $12 you get to armchair-tour the house at leisure, and then you will add this to your next-trip-to-England itinerary, as well as a commitment to become a valued Friend of the Library (also a nice gift in a friend’s name).

[Note that the CHL online shop is currently experiencing the dreaded tech difficulties – if you would like a copy, please contact me and I will get one to you.]

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Portrait of Mary Robinson, by John Hoppner c1782 (at CHL)

Also from the Chawton House Library – their table at the AGM was jam-packed with goodies – I bought their collection of 8 botanical cards from Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal (frameable!) – you can also “Adopt” this book as a way to support the Library!

blackwellcards-chl

Also couldn’t resist this book-fan “The Rules for Love,” by book artist Angela Thames from Aphra Behn’s 1686 La Montre –  (you can read about Ms. Thames as artist-in-residence at CHL here).

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[Image from: a-n The Artists Information ]

cover-heyer-jasa-db4. Susannah Fullerton, Amanda Jones, and Joanna Penglase, ed. Georgette Heyer: Complete to a Shade: A Celebration. JASA, 2016.

Exactly what the title tells us and another must-have – a collection of essays from various JASA folk who have long-been or are new to the joys of reading Georgette Heyer, based on their conference on Heyer in August 2016. Complete with lovely contemporary illustrations, this was just off the press in time for the AGM – $12 (I think) – you can contact JASA for information on how to purchase.

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Alas! I was very disappointed not to find a single book on London that I didn’t already have at either of the book stalls – but did find a few oldies worth perusing:

  1. Lt. Col. W. P. Drury. A Regency Rascal. London: Collins, 1971.

The tale of Jack Peregrine, a regency rascal to say the least, who arranges a marriage of convenience for himself to helpcover-regencyrascal-db him through a financial crisis, and then finds himself the heir to an estate in Barbados – all based on the true story of Sam Lord and his Castle (most recently a hotel in Barbados*) – who cannot resist a story of such a man (Heyer couldn’t)! First published in 1937 by Hutchinson, it gives a glimpse of Regency-era life in both London and the Colonies. Will see if it lives up to the hype… [*The property was run as an exquisite hotel for many years but unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 2010 – it is currently being reconstructed and will open in 2018 as a Wyndham Grand Resort. The 450-room resort will feature 3 restaurants, meeting facilities and a luxury spa] – sign me up!

samlordscastle-barbados

Sam Lord’s Castle, Barbados, pre-fire

  1. J. Fairfax Blakeborough, ed. Legends of Highwaymen and Others. New York: Frederick Stokes, 1924.

Just because I am a sucker for carriages and highwaymen tales!

legends-page13-db

(now, doesn’t that peak your interest just a little?)

  1. Hazel Mews. Frail Vessels: Woman’s Role in Women’s Novels from Fanny Burney to George Eliot. U of London: Athlone Press, 1969.cover-frailvessels-dbWhy not? – adds to my collection on women writers – but it also had an inscription that I first thought read “Catherine Morland” and that cracked me up – heavy reading for Catherine! (it reads on close analysis “Catherine R. Harland”).

cover-ss-trollope-ab

8. Joanna Trollope. Sense and Sensibility. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Only because I haven’t read this first of the Austen Project retellings and my Vermont Jane Austen book group has scheduled an S&S re-read this year and thought we would try this to compare…(though I know we will likely be gravely disappointed…)

 

9.  Jack and Holman Wang. Jane Austen’s Emma [Cozy Classics]. Chronicle Books, 2013.

This to add to my other board books, and a generous gift from the author. He attended my talk on “Illustrating Emma” and I could not have been more embarrassed to have not included this cover in my talk! (caveat: I did not include any of the covers of the many recent renditions due to lack of time – I have added them to the talk for those times where I can speak longer than the time-constrained AGM) – so with hearty apologies to Mr. Wang – this is of course a simply delightful addition to anyone’s Austen collection!

cover-emma-cozyclassics

 

  1. cover-ladycyclingErskine, Miss F. J. Lady Cycling: What to Wear and How to Ride. The British Library, 2014. Originally published by Walter Scott in 1897.

I have a friend who recently gave a talk on women and bicycles and my daughter is an avid cyclist – I bought this at The Folger Library shop (there seeing the simply amazing Will & Jane exhibit) as a gift but am now loth to give it away! Women and bicycles have an interesting joint history – here is a worthy account of the whole phenomenon here: http://www.annielondonderry.com/womenWheels.html

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So, as usual, I have my reading cut out for me – I would love to hear what YOU bought at the AGM this year

*and here is my new costume – I am with my Good Buddy Marcia, who is wearing a Regency dress for the FIRST TIME!! (we bought our fabulous fashions at Matti’s Millinery & Costumes (visit their site here and have fun shopping!)

agm-marcia-deb-db

C2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post: Into the Shadowy World of “Regency Spies” ~ Sue Wilkes on The Cato Street Controversy

Join us today for a guest post by Sue Wilkes, as she shares one of her spy tales from her new book Regency Spies: Secret Histories of Britain’s Rebels & Revolutionaries (more information on the book below).

reg spies highrescover1

The Cato Street Conspiracy, 1820

The year 1820 began with grave news – the death of George III on 29 January, after years of illness. The King was buried a week later with great pomp and ceremony on 16 February. But his son George IV’s reign did not get off to a good start. A week later, news broke to an astounded British public of the arrest of ‘a gang of diabolical ruffians’ at Cato Street, in London. The conspirators, led by the ‘notorious’ Arthur Thistlewood, planned to kill members of the Cabinet (government ministers) while they dined at Earl Harrowby’s house in Mansfield Street (Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1820).

Arthur Thistlewood

This was no chance discovery, however. Thistlewood and his gang were well known to the authorities – the government’s spies had kept them under surveillance for years. Arthur Thistlewood, a brooding, dangerous man known to be deadly with a sword, led a group of revolutionaries called the ‘Spencean Philanthropists’.

The Spenceans were followers of the late Thomas Spence, who advocated the common ownership of all land – a truly anarchic idea in an unequal society rooted in land, wealth and property. Thistlewood first came to prominence in the Spa Fields riot of December 1816 in London. The riot was thought to be a ‘trial run’ by the Spenceans to see if they could get enough popular support to attack the Tower of London, Bank of England, and seize the city. Thistlewood and his friends were arrested and tried for treason the following year, but acquitted as most of the evidence against them was based on unreliable spy evidence.

After his release from prison, Thistlewood and his followers were constantly watched. In 1817 a spy called Shegoe reported, ‘They entertain the plan of assassination, and Lords Castlereagh, Sidmouth, Liverpool and Ellenborough have been marked as objects of their pursuit’. Some conspirators guessed that Shegoe was a spy, however, and his usefulness declined.

A new spy, George Edwards (code-name ‘W—r’ in the surveillance reports) infiltrated the gang and actively encouraged their plans. Edwards also recruited more conspirators: one of the people he ‘groomed’ was John Thomas Brunt, a shoe-maker. Another was Richard Tidd, who came from Thistlewood’s native Lincolnshire, and met Edwards through Brunt. Edwards’ actions and words were so ludicrously violent that several men he approached sent him packing, convinced that he was trying to entrap them.

Early in 1820, Edwards brought Thistlewood the news he had been waiting for: a Cabinet dinner was planned at Lord Harrowby’s house. Thistlewood and his gang rented a loft in Cato Street. They arranged to meet on Tuesday 22 February, bringing as many weapons as they could lay their hands on. But thanks to Edwards, the time and place for the planned assassination were already known to the police and Home Office. Everything was now set to nip the conspiracy in the bud.

Cato St execution - Newgate

On Monday 1 May 1820, Arthur Thistlewood, James Ings, John Thomas Brunt, Richard Tidd and William Davidson were executed guilty for high treason at Newgate. But was it really Thistlewood’s idea to kill the Cabinet – or was it the spy George Edwards’s plan, as Arthur claimed at his trial?

cato st gentmag may1820 exec1

An account of the death sentence passed by the judge, and the conspirators’ execution,
from the Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1820. (Author’s collection).

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About the book: [from the jacket]

reg spies highrescover1In her new book, Sue Wilkes reveals the shadowy world of Britain’s spies, rebels and secret societies from the late 1780s until 1820. Drawing on contemporary literature and official records, Wilkes unmasks the real conspirators and tells the tragic stories of the unwitting victims sent to the gallows.

In this ‘age of Revolutions’, when the French fought for liberty, Britain’s upper classes feared revolution was imminent. Thomas Paine’s incendiary Rights of Man called men to overthrow governments which did not safeguard their rights. Were Jacobins and Radical reformers in England and Scotland secretly plotting rebellion? Ireland, too, was a seething cauldron of unrest, its impoverished people oppressed by their Protestant masters.

Britain’s governing elite could not rely on the armed services – even Royal Navy crews mutinied over brutal conditions. To keep the nation safe, a ‘war chest’ of secret service money funded a network of spies to uncover potential rebels amongst the underprivileged masses. It had some famous successes: dashing Colonel Despard, friend of Lord Nelson, was executed for treason. Sometimes in the deadly game of cat-and-mouse between spies and their prey suspicion fell on the wrong men, like poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Even peaceful reformers risked arrest for sedition. Political meetings like Manchester’s ‘Peterloo’ were ruthlessly suppressed, and innocent blood spilt. Repression bred resentment – and a diabolical plot was born. The stakes were incredibly high: rebels suffered the horrors of a traitor’s death when found guilty. Some conspirators’ secrets died with them on the scaffold…

Sue Wilkes4About the author:

Sue Wilkes is the author of several works of social and family history: Regency Spies (Pen & Sword, 2016) and A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England (Pen & Sword, 2014), Regency Cheshire (Robert Hale, 2011), The Children History Forgot (Robert Hale, 2010), Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives (Tempus, 2007), as well as guides for family historians on tracing ancestors in various UK counties and towns.

Read her blogs at:

Book info:

Publisher: Pen and Sword (February 19, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1783400617 / ISBN-13: 978-1783400614
Price: $39.95 / £19.99
Pen & Sword: http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Regency-Spies-Hardback/p/11177
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Regency-Spies-Histories-Britains-Revolutionaries/dp/1783400617

Read another post by Sue here: Regency Explorer

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Thank you Sue for telling us about one your tales! This book is filled with such – I will be interviewing Sue in the coming weeks, so please return to learn more about this world of spies in Jane Austen’s time … my first question? Whatever would our dear Henry Tilney have to say about it all?!

NA-Brock-staircase-mollandsDear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”
[NA, Vol. II, Ch ix. Image: Mollands.net]

Image sources:

All four images from George Theodore Wilkinson, The Newgate Calendar Improved Vol. 5, (Thomas Kelly, 1836). Courtesy the Internet Archive, archive.org.

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen Sleuth! ~ Stephanie Barron’s “Jane and the Waterloo Map” ~ Excerpt & Book Giveaway

JANE AND WATERLOO - Blog Tour Horizontal

Amateur sleuth Jane Austen returns in Jane and the Waterloo Map,
the thirteenth novel in Stephanie Barron’s delightful Regency-era mystery series.

Gentle Readers: Today Jane Austen in Vermont is taking part in the ‘Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map’ blog tour that began on February 2, 2016 (see other tour stops below). Ms. Barron has done it again! – this time taking us into the Battle of Waterloo, but not before presenting our Jane with a body in the Carlton House Library! Read here an except from Chapter 8, followed by the details for the Giveaway – you can comment here or any of the other blog posts until February 29th.

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Waterloo cover x 350About the book:

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises. However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

 And now….

AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 8:
In which Jane discusses the Battle of Waterloo with one of its survivors,
Lieutenant James Dunross of the Scots Greys.

“I did wonder whether the Colonel’s final words had any connexion to his valor on the field at Waterloo.” I looked at the Lieutenant rather than my hostess’s rigid form. “I have heard him described as a Hero. Would it trouble you to speak of him—or might I persuade you to recount his actions on that glorious day?”

There was the briefest pause.

“James?” Miss MacFarland queried in a lowered tone, her gaze fixed on the glowing coals.

“My dear,” he replied.

“Will it distress you?”

“Naturally. But as I expect to be hearing of Waterloo for the rest of my life, I had as well become accustomed.” The Lieutenant’s aspect was light, but his voice betrayed his distaste. “I should not use the word glory, however, to describe it. Carnage is more apt.”

“No,” Miss MacFarland protested. She turned impulsively to face us. “It shall always be a day of glory to me, because you and Ewan were spared! I cannot tell you how incomprehensible it is, Miss Austen, that my brother survived that battle—only to end in the fashionable desert of Carlton House.  Incomprehensible!”

“The Colonel belonged to the Scots Greys, I believe?”

“He began military life in an hussar regiment, and saw years of active service in the Peninsula; but being better suited to heavy dragoon work, exchanged two years ago into the Greys. That is how we came to be acquainted with Lieutenant Dunross—James served in the regiment under my brother.”

Battle_of_Waterloo_1815-Sadler-wp

                               Battle of Waterloo 1815 – William Sadler [Wikipedia]

The gentleman forced himself heavily to his feet, and crossed with the aid of his cane to the draped window. He pulled aside the dark blue curtain and leaned into the casement, staring expressionlessly down at Keppel Street.“Are you at all familiar with the course of the battle?” Miss MacFarland asked.

“What little I learned from published accounts.”

“Then you will know that the cavalry was commanded by Lord Uxbridge.”

As who did not? Uxbridge had cut a dash among the Great for most of his life: He was an earl as well as a general; head of the Paget family; a darling of the ton; and Wellington’s reputed enemy. A few years since, Uxbridge ran off with the Duke’s sister-in-law, and embarrassed all their acquaintance. Divorce and outrage are nothing new to people of Fashion, however; and tho’ Uxbridge and Wellington might not sit down to whist together, once battle was joined with Napoleon, one was in command of the other’s cavalry. Some ten brigades, in fact.

“In the early afternoon of that wearing day, Wellington’s left was under serious attack from the French batteries,” Miss MacFarland said. I collected from her unvaried tone that she had told this story—or heard it told by her brother—many times. “General Picton was killed, and shells were exploding with horrific effect all along the British line. Our troops were giving way under the assault of d’Erlon’s columns. Uxbridge saw it as Wellington could not, being far down the right. The Earl threw Lord Edward Somerset and the Household Brigade into the thick of the fight, then galloped off to the Union Brigade.  This is composed, as perhaps you may know, of three regiments: the English, or Royals; the Scots Greys; and the Irish, or Inniskillings.”

“Ah,” I managed. I had never thought to consider which regiments comprised the Union Brigade.

“Sir William Ponsonby was in command.”

Another man of Fashion. The Ponsonbys had spawned Lady Caroline Lamb, one of most outrageous ladies I have ever encountered.

“And above Ponsonby was Uxbridge,” I said encouragingly, having got it all straight. “So Somerset and Ponsonby and Uxbridge—who might normally have met peaceably in a ballroom—charged off together on horseback to slaughter the French.”

“Indeed. Or at least, their gun batteries.” Miss MacFarland glanced almost unwillingly at Lieutenant Dunross, but the silent figure by the parlour window gave no sign that he was attending to our conversation.

“The Greys were supposed to be held in reserve,” she continued. “But in fact they attacked the longest—well after the Royals and the Inniskillings had given up.”

“Of their own volition? –Without waiting for the command to charge?”

“No Scotsmen would be left in the rear while the English and Irish attack,” Miss MacFarland said proudly. “And indeed, the Union Brigade succeeded in their object so well that the French were turned.”

“For a little while, perhaps,” James Dunross tossed over his shoulder. “A half hour, even. But as is so often true in the smoke and confusion of battle, the hunters became the hunted.”

“I am sure that Ewan regarded that charge as having won the day,” Miss MacFarland argued.

“So he may have done! But he was wrong, Georgie. The battle was won by Blücher and his Prussians, not the Scots Greys.” He turned abruptly from the window and stumped back to us on his cane, his countenance alight with anger. “You must apprehend, Miss Austen, that most of our commanders and cavalrymen know nothing of military science. Excellent fellows, to be sure—Uxbridge was an hussar in his youth, and could not be called green—but we are gentlemen first and soldiers a distant second.  What we know of cavalry manoeuvres was learnt on the hunting field. We are apt to get carried away by our own daring, as tho’ a confrontation with the French were a day’s hunting with the Quorn. Which is rather what happened at Waterloo.”

I stared at him frowningly. “You were distracted by a fox?”

“In our enthusiasm to have at Buonaparte, we charged too far,” Dunross explained, “and then could not get back again to the British lines. Most of us had never been in battle before.  Ponsonby was unhorsed—he’d left his best charger in the rear because he could not bear to expose so expensive a mount to enemy fire. When the hack he rode into battle failed him, he was shot dead where he stood. The French cavalry counterattacked with Lancers. Do you know of them?”

I shook my head.

“Quite a new thing in military circles, but utterly terrifying. They carry something like a jousting stick and can stab anything on two or four legs to death. One of them stabbed me as I lay on the ground, unhorsed after that celebrated charge.”

“The hunters became the hunted, as you say?”

He smiled thinly. “Our cavalry were broken up, cut off, surrounded, and destroyed.”

I glanced at Miss MacFarland. Her expression was grim, as tho’ it were physical pain to hear Dunross speak.

“You will admit, James, that the Greys showed the most dramatic charge of all, in the midst of a sunken lane between hedges, where they sabered the French to pieces?” she cried. “You will admit that they seized one of Napoleon’s Eagles–the most dreadful shame a Frenchman may know?”

“Certainly,” he returned. “And then the French threw themselves down and pretended to surrender to us. Being honourless rogues, however, they stood up and fired on us as we approached to disarm them.”

She threw up her hands. “I wonder you regard even my brother as worthy of your respect, James,” she cried.

“I must,” he returned. “I owe him my life. Such as it is.”

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Grand Giveaway Contest!!

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

Waterloo Map Blog Tour Prizes x 500

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Further reading:

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A review from Library Journal:

“Barron deftly imitates Austen’s voice, wit, and occasional melancholy while spinning a well-researched plot that will please historical mystery readers and Janeites everywhere. Jane Austen died two years after the events of Waterloo; one hopes that Barron conjures a few more adventures for her beloved protagonist before historical fact suspends her fiction.”

The Blog Tour: For more about Jane and the Waterloo Map, you can visit and comment on these other blogs throughout the month of February – there are reviews, interviews, guest blogs, and more excerpts, plus the fabulous giveaway opportunity. Join the fun! 

JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

Stephanie Barron headshot 2016 photo credit Marea Evans x 150About the Author:

Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

All the FACTS:

  • Title: Jane and the Waterloo Map (Being a Jane Austen Mystery)
  • Author: Stephanie Barron
  • Tour Dates: February 02 – February 22, 2016
  • Genre: Regency-era Mystery/ Historical Mystery/Austenesque Mystery
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (February 02, 2016)
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1616954253
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1616954260
  • Author’s website: http://www.stephaniebarron.com/books.php
  • Blog Tour page: http://stephaniebarron.com/blog-tour.php

Purchase options:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Waterloo cover x 350

 

 c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Fending Off Zombies, Jane Austen Style ~ A ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for a Modern World

cover-P&P&ZOk, so I should start this post by saying that I LOVE the movies and am easily entertained – if I take confession further, I also loved Roy Rogers, thought I WAS Dale Evans, and dressed exclusively as Annie Oakley for about four years – so please keep that in mind when I tell you I LOVED this movie…

But then I also liked the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, one among few at the JASNA AGM in Milwaukee . While most everyone was disgusted with the pigs in the kitchen, the Bennets having a sex life, and a Darcy with chest hair exposed at early dawn, I just sat there for two+ hours with a smile on my face – they got it! I thought – the sense of the story, albeit compacted, but in the end Austen’s tale, her characters, her wit was all there (I do think you had to like Keira Knightley to like the movie…and I do concede the American ending was atrocious). No one can duplicate the 1995 Ehle-Firth – it is brilliant and 20 years on, still nearly a perfect adaptation – but I think Joe Wright got it right enough in 2005, much like Clueless gave us a perfectly rendered Emma set 200 years later. How well Austen translates to different worlds, different tellings.

So Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? – does Austen translate into a world of the undead? Blood and guts amidst Regency gowns and an etiquette-proscribed society? I didn’t think so – as much as my early years of “Million Dollar Movie” trained me well (can re-watch Roman Holiday, An Affair to Remember over and over and still cry every time), such things as Mummies and Zombies and Vampires and Blobs, and any and all Creatures of the Deep were never my cup of tea. I much prefer spies and westerns and civilized space invaders to anything emerging from a decaying earth. But I did buy P&P&Z – every self-respecting Jane Austen collector should have it on their shelf, a must-have really, but alas! there it sits unread –  I couldn’t get past the first mention of  “a zombie in possession of brains,” whether universally acknowledged or not. Indeed the frontispiece alone told it all:

Frontispiece

“A few of the guests, who had the misfortune of being too near the windows, were seized and feasted on at once”

And that’s about all I needed to know – with 85% of the language from Jane, I felt creepily imaginative enough to fill in the other 15%… – so perhaps I am not a fair critic – I don’t know how much it follows the Grahame-Smith invention – but I went only to see a visual presentation of a P&P set in your everyday zombie-infested England – sort of a black plague on steroids… and what we really have here is the base story of P&P, a good solid dose of Austenian wit, a few drastic changes to the plot to make it fit into this rather gross world, and really just good plain fun.

But I must set the scene first: This was a spur of the moment decision to see this movie (a late matinee) – a quick email to my Jane Austen cohorts brought various no’s – other plans, hate zombies, etc., all good excuses, and there was no inducing my husband on this one – so I went alone, afraid the movie won’t be around here very long – and when I say alone, I mean ALONE – there was not another single soul in the theater! – a private screening (do they run a film if NO ONE shows up?) – I had no idea what to expect – I have purposely read no reviews, avoided all press on the movie, so I was there quite innocent of the oncoming mayhem – so I hunkered down and only briefly considered the gruesome truth that it was just me and the zombies, and me without a single weapon…

So here goes my checklist of a review, brief to avoid spoilers of any kind… and with my emphatic advice to just go see it…

Bella Heathcote (left) and Lily James star in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Bella Heathcote (Jane) and Lily James (Lizzie)

  1. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James): other than periodically confusing her with Natasha in the just-finished-the night-before War & Peace (some of the clothing strikingly similar – same time period so I guess it should), James makes a compelling Lizzie – those “fine eyes” are very present, she’s a terrific and fearless warrior, and I am sure that Andrew Davies must have had a hand here, or at least sat in a sub-director chair bellowing “more heaving bosoms please”… But this Lizzie is also Darcy’s equal in every way… and loved watching them find their way to each other… expertly slinging all manner of machetes along the way.
  2. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet  (Charles Dance and Sally Phillips): well cast, all the right lines there to clearly identify them as Austen’s parents, she ridiculous and he negligent (though Charles Dance, thankfully resurrected from Games of Thrones, and still hiding in his Library, did have the good sense to have his girls (and all FIVE are present and accounted for) trained as warriors). There is no embroidery or ribbons for these young ladies (though all are stunningly dressed!)- they spend their idle hours cleaning weapons – one feels safe in such a home as this.

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The Bennet Sisters, warriors all (youtube)

  1. Lady Catherine (Lena Headey, in Game of Thrones mode) – ha! – delightful – a black patch becomes her…

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Lena Headey as Lady Catherine (winteriscomingblog)

  1. Wickham (Jack Huston) – Huston was perhaps born for this role – Wickham’s evil side taken to new heights – I shall say only this so as not to give anything away – “pig brains.”

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Jack Huston as Wickham (finalreel.co.uk)

  1. Who knew that Charlotte Lucas snores?? – one can almost have sympathy for Mr. Collins… well maybe just a little…

     6. Ok, Darcy’s turn…

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Sam Riley as Darcy (screenrant)

Darcy, or “Fitz” as Wickham affectionately calls him (Sam Riley): I expect black leather great coats to become the latest fashion statement– too reminiscent of Nazi-Germany perhaps, but at least the costume here of the good guys. Riley shall be added to the Darcy roster, another name to check off in the endless “your favorite Darcy” polls – this Darcy, no idle aristocrat tending his own land, but fully armed with a small jar of dead-skin-detecting flies, is a Colonel in the Zombie-Annihilating Army, who like his black-clad not-so-distant cousin Batman, has the good sense to show up at exactly the right time, every time. (And obsessed Firth fans, have no fear – there is the barest glimpse of that essential piece of male wardrobe – the white shirt). Smitten with Elizabeth from the first look (after his initial requisite “she is tolerable” speech), his heartfelt but so hopelessly cringe-inducing proposal results in more than just Austen’s war of words – oh, most of the words are there, purists don’t worry, but if we line up all the available proposal scenes (such fun to do this – there are eleven I think, if you include Wishbone…) – this one shall surpass them all for pure energy and brilliant choreography… (and Davies was definitely here for this, coaching the proper removal of buttons…).

Here’s the rest of him:

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  1. All other characters terrific – Jane and Bingley, alas! Caroline given short-shift, Mr. Collins (Matt Smith) as good as any of his predecessors, a stone-like Anne De Bourgh…

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Matt Smith as Mr. Collins (craveonline)

  1. Fun things to look for: lots of Austen quotes from her various writings – it will keep the Austen-knowledgeables on their toes and give the Austen newbies a new found appreciation of her brilliance. They might even go on to read the real book, sans zombies. My favorite line: “…if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad” – and thus a zombie warrior is called to her destiny. [quiz: which novel?]
  2. The Zombies? – and Austen? If one is tempted to shake their heads in disgust and moan “Austen must be rolling over in her grave” – perhaps not an apt phrase for this particular story line – please go see it before you profess to know how Jane might feel. All told, this latest adaptation has a deep respect for the original text. It is not a “camp” over-the-top retelling but rather it seems to take the realities of this invasion of England very seriously – just another human-induced war of Good vs. Evil, no different perhaps than depicting Napoleon and the French army conquering the shores of England, a valid fear in Austen’s day. There are laughs to be sure – who cannot when a demure-looking Elizabeth suddenly hoists up her Regency finery to expose her sword-clad leg, grabs her weapons, and deftly slices off the head of a trespassing undead; or Darcy, in his frustration over Lizzie’s refusal, engaging in sword-play with most of Lady Catherine’s lovingly sculptured boxwood topiaries. Mr. Collins at the dance? – he’s perfect; the black-patched Lady Catherine (fashion or function? asks Mrs. Bennet) as the Queen of Zombie Warriors? – Game of Thrones trained her well…  So much of it all laugh-out loud (does one laugh-out loud if alone in a movie theater?)
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screenrelish.com

But no, not “camp” at all – this all just seems to be almost real, a straight-on approach to a real threat to life as we know it, no one’s tongue in their cheek (well, maybe a little). One must just let go and get into the spirit of the thing, beginning with the introduction, a clever illustrated story-book depiction of the past 100 years of the zombie epidemic. And wonderful to know that all of Austen’s characters seamlessly fit into this world  – I think she’d be far from a turn-over in her grave, appalled at yet another mash-up of her “light, bright and sparkling” tale – I think she’d be sitting up and shouting Brava! Bravo! to her Elizabeth and Darcy and everyone else involved. It is after all, not much removed from her very own Juvenilia.

And the zombies themselves? Rest assured, they are really not that bad (have you seen The Picture of Dorian Gray recently?) – a few gruesome faces with blood and snot and rot, but all thankfully quickly dispatched – heads removed, bodies kicked and stomped with boots (lovely boots) – and most of it done in a flash or just shy of camera-range – brilliantly done really – and I confess to only once or twice turning around in the empty theater to be sure I was indeed alone…

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One piece of advice – stay for the credits…

[Stay tuned for another post with links to reviews, etc.]

c2106 Jane Austen in Vermont

For your Bookshelf: “What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage?” by Alan Stockwell

Today a guest post by Alan Stockwell, author of What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage? A Theatrical Family of the Regency Era, as he tells us a bit about his new book. I shall add this to my TBR file – it has all the makings of a Regency era soap opera of the highest order, all the better because it is all true! Please comment below if you have any questions for Mr. Stockwell…

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What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage?
A Theatrical Family of the Regency Era

The lives of eminent London actors of the Regency period – Kean, Mrs Siddons, Kemble, Cooke, Macready, Grimaldi et al, are more than amply recorded. This book ploughs a more unusual, rarer, furrow.

It reveals the theatrical lives of a family of provincial players who tramped the highways and byways bringing the latest London hits and classic plays to unsophisticated audiences in tiny country theatres and large manufacturing towns. The author offers not a specialist tome for theatre historians – although they will find previously unknown material and new revelations here – but a beguiling story of a family of three thespian siblings, their spouses and their children.

This is a Regency world far removed from the novels of Jane Austen. There are highs and lows, riches and poverty, twists and turns, and extraordinary events as in the script of any modern television saga.  The marked difference being that – for the Jonas and Penley Company of Comedians – this was real life.

In Georgian and Regency times even the tiniest country town had its theatre visited regularly by travelling players. These companies were usually family based and my book is an account of one such troupe – more adventurous than most – the Jonas & Penley Company, grandiloquently self-styled “His Majesty’s Servants of the Theatre Royal Windsor”. The troupe under their indefatigable leader Sampson Penley comprised three siblings, their spouses and two dozen children.

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This picture from the Garrick Club shows Edmund Kean the brightest star of the Regency stage.  The man in pink on the left is Sampson Penley Jr of the once well-known Penley family of provincial players.
[Source: VesperHawk.com ]

I purposely divided the text into discrete biographies, allowing the narrative of each to flow. However, the subjects all being closely related, the parts form an inter-connected whole. So that their separate stories are easy to read, and are not interrupted by notes etc, all such things are grouped in appendices, which can be ignored if you are not interested in the research necessarily compiled for such a project as a historical biography. Although the book revolves around the theatre of the time there is much information on other aspects of social history – wages, transport, childbirth, postal system etc, which all impinged on the everyday life of players. Authors of Regency fiction may find such things of professional interest. Below is a brief look at the family members described:

  • Sampson Penley & his brother-in-law John Jonas and all their trials and tribulations setting up a circuit of theatres in south-east England during the Napoleonic Wars while touring with ever-enlarging families. Events include becoming lessees of the Windsor theatre and playing to the royal family; leasing a London theatre (a failure); the first English company to tour the continent in 1814 after the fall of Napoleon; the first English company to play in Paris since Elizabethan times and the riot that ensued; imprisonment for debt and bankruptcy.
  • Mr & Mrs William Penley who were Sampson’s brother and sister-in-law. For several years Mrs W P was the leading tragedy queen in the Jonas & Penley company while her husband was at Drury Lane theatre for ten seasons. Of outstanding interest is that George III’s queen “adopted” their six-year old son, had him educated at public school and provided £300 to facilitate his joining the Indian army where he ended up a major.  William became affluent and two of his sons became artists – Aaron of sufficient eminence to paint Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
  • Sampson Penley Jr who was a leading man at sixteen, joined Drury Lane where he was a principal member of the company for many years in spite of receiving the most consistently damning of reviews. He wrote several plays but only one success. He supported Edmund Kean in many plays and when he lost his place in London he became a manager in Windsor, Newcastle and Leicester. He fell in love at first sight and married after a whirlwind courtship, fled to Paris to avoid debts and died there far too young.
  • The three acting daughters of Sampson, Rosina, Phoebe and Emma Penley relate their careers in tandem. Rosina was the most important and she was the first British actress to be hailed by the intelligentsia of Paris for her Shakespearean performances. Rosina’s peregrinations as a respectable single woman travelling throughout the land, playing a multitude of parts in many towns and circumstances is very different from the typical lives of other women of the period whether rich or poor. Her sisters Phoebe and Emma played the same repertory of parts and on many occasions pairs of sisters acted together.
  • Sampson’s son Montague Penley who was an artist and drawing teacher (a pupil was Princess Augusta) as well as an actor, scenic artist and manager. He acquired the lease of the Lyceum theatre in London which resulted in a swift financial debacle and yet another Penley fleeing to France.
  • Belville Penley was Sampson’s youngest son who as a child acted in Brussels on the eve of Waterloo and afterwards with his family visited the battlefield. He did not become an adult actor but was a theatre manager. His wife was a singer whom he impregnated prior to marriage causing press condemnation. Belville went into partnership with the actor James Anderson at Leicester, Cheltenham and Gloucester. The partnership ended with another bankruptcy. Mrs Belville Penley went on to be a well-known singer of oratorio and religious works and her husband became lessee of the Roman Baths at Bath.
  • Cousins Maria Jonas and Frederick Jonas who also had substantial theatrical careers.

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What’s the Play and Where’s the Stage? is a hardback of 420 pages with an ISBN 978-0-9565013-6-3. You can visit my website for more information www.vesperhawk.com.

And what is the significance of the title? It is a quotation from an anecdote you will find on page 28!

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About the Author: Alan Stockwell MBE was a professional puppeteer for over forty years. Latterly, he has devoted much of his time to writing, and is the author of several books and many articles on the theatre, magic, circus and puppetry. He is a long-time member of the Society for Theatre Research and the Irving Society [that would be Henry, not Washington].  And has written on Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens (see website for more information).

Thank you Alan for sharing about your book! – Readers, please reply below if you have any comments or questions.

You can purchase the book here:

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

An Afternoon with Susan Wolfson and her Annotated Northanger Abbey

I welcome JASNA-Vermont member Margaret Harrington, who has written a few words on our last JASNA meeting. As part of the Burlington Book Festival, we were fortunate to have Susan J. Wolfson, Professor of English at Princeton University, speak on her annotated edition of Northanger Abbey (Harvard UP 2014). With many thanks to Champlain College for allowing us their fabulous space in Aiken Hall, to our hospitality team Hope Greenberg and Heather Brothers, and all our generous bakers for the usual delicious fare! We were all very honored for the opportunity to listen to and talk with Dr. Wolfson, who made us all love and appreciate Northanger Abbey all the more.

We at JASNA-Vermont also heartily thank JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) for graciously offering us a grant so we could bring Dr. Wolfson to Vermont for this Burlington Book Festival event – we could not have done it without them!

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Susan J. Wolfson spoke on “Jane Austen before She Became Jane Austen” at our JASNA-Vermont September 27th meeting which was also an event for the Burlington Book Festival.

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Dr. Wolfson gave a multi-layered talk centered on Northanger Abbey, the first book Jane Austen wrote and sold. In an engaging lecture the Princeton professor placed the book into the history of the time so that we, the audience and readers, could understand events behind the episodes of the novel. We gained new insights into what captured the young author’s imagination because we were given a lively narration of the London riots, Sir William Pitt’s system of surveillance, the social circus in Bath, and most of all, the template of the Gothic novel on which Austen based Northanger Abbey.

Wolfson’s talk wrapped the novel in the fabric of the society of the time so that we could understand the characters better, especially the dynamic between Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland. We also were given provocative ideas

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such as Northanger Abbey is about training the mind of the reader, and that Jane Austen was not really interested in married life yet her first book has a Meta marriage plot. We learned that although this was her first novel it was not published until after the author’s death and there were years when it sat on the publisher’s shelf prompting Jane Austen to sign her complaint to the publisher as Mrs. Ashton Dennis, an acronym for MAD.

book cover-NA-WolfsonAs I write this short report, I have before me on my desk the Jane Austen Northanger Abbey Annotated Edition edited by Susan J. Wolfson. It is a beautiful book to see, to touch, to open, to smell, and soon I will be reading it. This gives a whole new life to the book for me because I had reread it on my eBook before the lecture. How wonderful to look forward to this edition after attending such an insightful, interesting, accessible, engaging talk.

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Some photos from our event:

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Co-Rc Marcia M

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Hope G setting up food

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Heather B, Theresa R, and our youngest JASNA-Vermont member!

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Maryann P with more food

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Susan Wolfson with Champlain College student Kes S.

©2015 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and images by Margaret Harrington

Julie Klassen’s Lady Maybe Giveaway ~ and the winner is….

… Nancy M – who wrote on September 10th

I think I have all your books aside from the latest. And they sound very intriguing. I will be happy to get them both!

Cover-LadyMaybeNancy, please email me with your contact information (address, phone, email) and the book will be sent out to you directly from Julie’s publisher.

Thank you all so much for commenting – Sorry you couldn’t all win – but suggest you order Lady Maybe pronto…(and The Painter’s Daughter in December!)

And hearty thanks to Julie for sharing her love of England and for writing such delicious stories!

©2015 Jane Austen in Vermont