Visiting the “Emma at 200” Exhibition at Chawton House Library ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant as he writes about his visit this week to the “EMMA 200” exhibit at Chawton House Library, he being my feet on the ground so to speak as I am woefully not able to be there myself. Hope those of you who are able to go will do so – and send me pictures and your thoughts when you do!

[Update: please read Tony Grant’s post about walking around Chawton at the “Jane Austen’s World” Blog]

Emma at 200 - CHL PR

EMMA 200: English Village to Global Appeal

(Chawton House Library 21st March – 25th September 2016)

On Wednesday 20th April I drove from Wimbledon to Chawton in Hampshire over the Hogs Back with views stretching across Surrey into the distance. It was a bright sunny day and seeing the Surrey countryside green and pleasant and shining in the bright sunshine under blue skies was appropriate for my adventure. I was driving to Chawton House Library to visit the “Emma 200 exhibition.” Emma is Jane Austen’s Surrey novel and this year is the 200th anniversary of its publication and it is entirely set within that county.

Emma-tp-wpEmma was published by John Murray II of Albemarle Street on the 23rd December 1815, although its title page reads 1816. This exhibition has items from Chawton House’s own collection and from the Knight family collection, as well as other items on loan. The exhibition covers the reception of Emma through the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries; it also considers the country setting of the novel and the places that were possible influences. It covers the global appeal of Emma. It has a large section about John Murray II and nineteenth century publishing practices through letters and comments made by Jane herself and fellow authoresses also published by Murray. It highlights authors mentioned in the novel and nineteenth century ideas about female accomplishments such as music, embroidery and painting. It shows the connection with Shakespeare and has a section about the reception of the novel. In particular, there is a letter written by Charlotte Bronte to her own publisher, W.S. Williams, discussing her thoughts about Emma and Jane Austen as a writer.

I arrived at the electronically operated gates early. The house opens at 1.30pm Monday to Friday. I was there promptly at 1.10pm. I decided to have a look around and inside of St Nicholas Church nearby, which is Chawton’s parish church and where Jane Austen and her family worshipped. The church we see today is not the church Jane knew. There was a fire sometime after Jane’s death and it had to be rebuilt, though some of the structure from the church that Jane knew remains. I read the memorials to the Austens and Knights within and then went round to the back of the church through an arbor of dark and gloomy ancient yew trees to see the side-by-side graves of Austen’s sister, Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, and mother, Cassandra Austen.

Two Cassandras

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The Great House

Chawton House Library

It was such a nice day and I still had about ten minutes left so I sat on a stone bollard near the entrance gate and watched a gentleman sitting on a motor mower mowing the grass verges along the drive. As I sat there I noticed a smartly dressed lady leaving the front entrance of the great house with a dog on a lead. She approached the gate and opened it, placing a notice board on a stand giving the times and prices of entry. I asked jokingly if this meant I can go in. I pointed out it was still ten minutes to half past. She laughed and said by the time I walked up the driveway I should arrive at the door on time. “Just knock and they will let you in,” she told me. I knocked on the door with five minutes to and it was immediately opened by a smiling lady who ushered me in. The house is staffed by volunteers except in the kitchens where the official housekeeper keeps her domain but more about that nice lady later. I found everybody so enthusiastic and full of smiles and really, extremely welcoming. I paid my entrance fee and one lady took me into the great hall on the left of the entrance and showed me a map of the house with the route marked by numbered rooms. It is a self-guided tour so I was given the map to hold as I went round. There are volunteers in every room who you can talk to and ask information of.

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The exhibition began in the great hall. A glass case displays some first editions dated 1816. There was an edition in French as well as one published by Mathew Carey a publisher in Philadelphia. Somehow Carey had read Sir Walter Scott’s review of Emma and obviously liked it. He sold his version at a much cheaper price than John Murray’s London version. He produced a card backed version printed on cheap paper for $2. Murray’s London version, which was a much better quality, was twice the price. Very few American first editions have survived as a consequence of the poorer quality and the copy in this exhibition shows signs of much yellowing of the paper and black mold spots. It looks an inferior book to both the French and English versions. I felt honoured to able to lean over the glass case and read the opening few lines of the Murray edition.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence:…”

There were no such things as copyright laws in those days and both the French and American versions, probably unknown to Jane Austen, brought her no income. Later in the nineteenth century Dickens went over to America and tried to do something about copyright laws in America but to no avail and to his great consternation. The fact that copies of Emma were being published abroad within the first year of its initial publication in England tells us something about publishing and the book trade at the time. Money could be made from books.

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John Murray - NPG (Wikipedia)

John Murray – NPG (Wikipedia)

John Murray II was the head of the foremost publishing company in Britain. He was a hard headed business man and if he could get an advantage, especially, it seems over the authors he published he would. I think Jane Austen had the measure of him. Her brother Henry who had dealt with publishers for Jane initially became ill and Jane took over negotiations with Murray herself. She was very direct and firm in her dealings. She said of Murray, “He is a Rogue, but a civil one.” In corresponding with Murray over the publication of Emma, for instance, on 3rd of November 1815, a month before the publication of Emma, she writes,

“…I am at the same time desirous of coming to some decision on the affair in question, I must request the favour of you to call on me here, on any day after the present that may suit you best, at any hour in the evening, or any in the morning except from eleven to one. – A short conversation may perhaps do more than much writing.”

It sounds as though Murray has been given his marching orders and she isn’t going to have any truck with being messed about. She is firm but polite with the “Rogue.” She knows the power of a face to face encounter. Some of her contemporaries were perhaps not quite so strong with Murray but learned a lesson.

Domestic Cookery, 1813 ed (Wikipedia)

Domestic Cookery, 1813 ed (Wikipedia)

One of the exhibits on display, putting Jane Austen’s publishing experiences with Murray in context, is a book called Domestic Cookery, published by Murray in 1806. It was very popular and made a lot of sales and presumably a lot of money for Murray. It was written by Maria Rundell. Rundell had been paid £150 by Murray. She regarded Murray as a friend but she was not aware at first that her book had become such a bestseller. When she found out she felt that Murray was not upholding the copyright agreement he had with her. Eventually Murray paid her £2100 but kept the right to continue publishing the book himself. Jane Austen’s comments about him being “a rogue but a civil one” come to mind. Murray was obviously a very astute business man and could make money from trouble.

Another exhibit displays copies of books written by the French authoress, Germaine de Stael. She wrote books about Rousseau, Revolutionary Politics and Marie Antoinette’s trial. She was virtually banned by Napoleon Bonaparte. He had her book, De L’Allemagne pulped. Murray saw a chance. He took her on. In 1813 he used three printers to publish the French original and English translations simultaneously. He relied on anti-French feelings to make Stael’s books best sellers.

Madame_de_Staël (Wikipedia)

Madame_de_Staël (Wikipedia)

Jane Austen had her critics who made both good and not so good comments about her work. She took notice of what people said about her books and noted down these various opinions. Sir Walter Scott, her illustrious contemporary, who was also published by John Murray, wrote of Emma,

“We bestow no mean compliment on the author of Emma, when we say that keeping close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life, she has produced sketches of such spirit and originality that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events, arising from the consideration of minds, manners and sentiments greatly above our own.”

Sir Walter Scott (Wikipedia)

Sir Walter Scott (Wikipedia)

It appears that Murray regularly sent copies of newly published books to other writers he published for their comments. This can be seen as eliciting positive comments from people who wanted to keep in with Murray. Jane Austen mentions in her letters to Murray how thankful she is for the copy of Waterloo he sent her to read and actually asks him if he has any more she can have a look at. This suggests she knows how to play the publishing game. She is as astute as Murray himself it seems. In one way Scott’s positive comments could be read as keeping in with Murray. If Murray and his publishing house does well and sells lots of books it can only benefit himself after all, but there is more to Scott’s review. I think he has recognized what is original in her writing. She is a realist. Her style is about everyday common occurrences and everyday people and she makes them heroic. People reading Jane Austen can see themselves and people they know in her writing. It is said that reading a novel is good emotional and psychological therapy, and Austen hit a powerful vein.

Bronte-Richmond-wp

Charlotte Bronte (Wikipedia)

The highlight of the whole exhibition for me, even more so than seeing and reading a first edition, is the actual letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her publisher, W.S. Williams, on April 12, 1850, in which she writes a lengthy paragraph about her thoughts on Jane Austen and Emma. I found it easy to read Bronte’s  small, thin, precise handwriting that flows clearly across the page.

I have likewise read one of Miss Austen’s works—Emma—read it with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable.  Anything like warmth or enthusiasm—anything energetic, poignant, heart-felt is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré and extravagant.  She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well.  There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting.  She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound.  The passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood…”

Bronte continues:

“What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death—this Miss Austen ignores. “

And she goes on. Charlotte Bronte is actually agreeing with Scott’s comments when he describes her writing as

“……close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life”

The difference is that Scott makes his view a positive while Bronte makes her view a negative. I agree with what she says. Austen writes about the ordinary. Bronte on the other hand and her sisters wrote about,

 “what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death”

Charlotte Bronte is actually describing the differences between their two styles. I have read articles published on some blogs where the writer tries to pit Charlotte Bronte against Jane Austen. Who do you like the best? Who do you think is the better writer? And so on. These are a childish approach to comparing two great writers. Two geniuses. Their styles are different. Every one of us reads different types of books for different reasons at different times to fit, very often , our different moods. We can read a poem by Wordsworth one day and on other days a romantic comedy, a ghost story, a swashbuckling adventure, a horror story or maybe a present day thriller. We can enjoy each genre for what it is and what it brings to us. Austen and Bronte are not enemies, they are not one better than the other. They are different and we can enjoy both. I can imagine how Bronte could be critical. She had a harder life than Jane Austen. Her novels and those of her sisters, were full of passion and deep feelings and filled with great moral uncertainties testing the moral status quo to the limit. Their ideas made their lives worth living and helped them live their short lives with feeling. Jane Austen had a much easier existence. I can see how Charlotte Bronte might not understand Austen’s standpoint. She probably could not bear to live the way Austen’s characters are portrayed. However, we can love them both.

CHL 2 -TG

The exhibition demonstrates many of the influences Jane Austen might have used in her writing of Emma. There is the suggestion, for instance, that the fictional places Highbury and Hartfield in Emma are modelled on Chawton and the local town Alton. These are in Hampshire but the novel is set in Surrey. Others I know would not agree. Some say Leatherhead in Surrey, which is near Box Hill, a major location in the book. Others suggest Highbury is a generic English village, and I think this more likely.

CHL 13 -TG

In Emma Jane Fairfax plays a tune called “Robin Adair” on the newly arrived pianoforte. There is on display a copy of “Binder’s volume of printed keyboard and harp music, 1780-1815,” annotated and autographed by Jane’s sister Cassandra. It includes the music to “Robin Adair.” [Ed. You can read this online here: https://archive.org/details/austen1677439-2001 ]

There is a bound set of The Ladies Magazine (1770-1832) which provides sewing patterns for young ladies. It is the sort of magazine that Jane Austen had access too. In Emma, sewing and painting are pastimes for young ladies.

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A final display cabinet shows the influences that Emma has had on culture over the centuries. There are various spin-off novels, including the latest modern version of Emma written by Alexander McCall Smith. There are play scripts written by various playwrights turning Emma into a stage version. These include plays by Gordon Glennan and Marion MacKaye. There are a number of radio adaptations. One read by Prunella Scales, another by Jeremy Northam. There are the film versions and the films influenced by Emma such as Clueless set in modern times. Spin-off novels are represented by a copy of the latest Stephanie Barron mystery The Waterloo Map. [Ed. Note that this latest Barron mystery has Jane visiting Carlton House where she meets with the Prince Regent’s Librarian – this all really took place on 13 November 1815; he “suggests” that she dedicate her newest book, Emma, to the Prince Regent – Barron has her also coming upon a dead body in the Library…]

CHL 10 -TG

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The exhibition is definitely worth seeing and just as much is the opportunity to walk around Chawton House where Jane Austen herself and her family lived and breathed. I also took the opportunity to take a walk in the gardens. I came across a snake lying across my path as I walked up to the walled gardens. I must tell you that in all my life I only recall seeing two other snakes in Britain in the wild. This was a grass snake and was totally harmless. The adder is the only poisonous snake in Britain and they are very shy creatures. I think I saw one once in the New Forest.

Harmless grass snake on the path

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CHL 11 -TG

“Portrait of a Lady” at CHL

The people who volunteer at Chawton are wonderful. They want to talk to you and tell you things. I had a very amusing moment with an elderly gentleman volunteer at the top of the great staircase. He was sitting on the landing. When I approached he showed me an information leaflet and we discussed its contents. One thing it mentioned was the original William Morris wallpaper. I looked around and couldn’t see any. “Well, then where’s the wallpaper?” I joked. He laughed and said “come with me.” We walked half way down the staircase and then turned and got on our hands and knees. There indeed, almost hidden behind the balustrade, was a patch of darkened William Morris print. He also kindly showed me the large 1714 map of London displayed on the folding panels of a screen.

CHL 6 -TG

We found Henrietta Street and other places associated with Jane Austen when she visited London. Then I went into the old kitchen which is used as a shop and cafe and met a lovely lady who told me she was the housekeeper. I had a delicious chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. All together I had a wonderful visit to the “Emma 200 exhibition.”

CHL 1 -TG

 

Further reading:

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CHL 12 -TG

[All photographs c2016 Tony Grant unless otherwise indicated]

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

“Curating ‘Will & Jane'” – Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub on their Folger Exhibition

will-jane

Eighteenth-Century Life has just published “Curating Will & Jane” by Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub. The article is an overview of their upcoming “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library (opens 6 August and closes 6 Nov).

Because of public interest in the show, Duke University Press has just made the article freely available for a whole year while Cedric Reverand, enthusiastic editor of Eighteenth-Century Life, made possible an unprecedented thirty-seven illustrations, many in color. It takes about 10 seconds to download.

Will-Jane-essaycover

Here is the link: http://ecl.dukejournals.org/content/40/2/1.full.pdf+html

See also the Folger website: http://www.folger.edu/exhibitions/will-and-jane

Those of us attending the JASNA AGM 2016 this October in Washington DC will have the opportunity to see the exhibition first-hand. Can’t wait!

 

The Women’s Writing Database “Orlando” ~ Free for the Month of March!

Orlando_tree-_blue_transparentOrlando, the subscription database from Cambridge University Press on “Women’s Writings in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present” – is available for free for Women’s History Month thoughout March.

The Orlando Project “provides entries on authors’ lives and writing careers, contextual material, timelines, sets of internal links, and bibliographies.”

You can access sit here:  http://orlando.cambridge.org/

Login: womenshistory2016
PW: orlando2016

If you are wondering about the symbol of the Oak Tree, here is the explanation from the website:

“. . . a little square book bound in red cloth fell from the breast of her leather jacket—her poem The Oak Tree.” —Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a Biography, 1928, inspires this work in literary history. Woolf’s biographical and historical fantasy explores the changing conditions of possibility for women writing in England from the time of Elizabeth I to her own day, and gives us a poet protagonist who is at work throughout the whole of this history on the composition of her poem “The Oak Tree”. The Orlando Project team sees in the oak tree a suggestion of the history of women’s writing in the British Isles, the growth of history from biography, and (in a kind of visual pun) the tree-like structure of our text encoding.

Fabulous resource – spend the month indulging in this feast of information!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

From the Archives ~ Jane Austen’s Very Own Scrooge

Emma - Christmas day paper doll3I pull this Christmas Eve post from the archives,
first posted on Dec 24, 2010

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas
from Everyone in JASNA-Vermont!

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It is a rare date that Austen mentions in her works, but one of them is today, December 24: Christmas Eve, “(for it was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December)” [Emma Vol. I, Ch. xiii]

While we usually associate Mr. Woodhouse with often curmudgeonly weather-obsessed behavior, here he is most eager to get all wrapped up and head over to Randalls:

Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than either of the others; too full of the wonder of his own going, and the pleasure it was to afford at Randalls to see that it was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it. [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]

Fig. 2

So it is not dear Mr. Woodhouse who is Scrooge this Christmas Eve, but Austen is adept at creating one, and long before Dickens ever did:

‘A man,” said he, ‘must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity — Actually snowing at this moment! The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home, and the folly of people’s not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it; — and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view or his feelings, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can; — here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man’s house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse; — four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home.” [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]

Well, “Bah! Humbug!” to you too, John Knightley!he is our Scrooge this Christmas Eve [indeed, I believe that Isabella has married her father!] and his ill humor continues throughout the evening – ending of course with his gloomy and overblown report of the worsening weather that sets off three full pages of discussion on the risks of setting out, on the possibility of being snowed-in, on the cold, on the danger to the horses and the servants – “‘What is to be done, my dear Emma? – what is to be done?’ was Mr. Woodhouse’s first exclamation…” and it all is finally “settled in a few brief sentences” by Mr. Knightley and Emma, certainly foreshadowing their success as a companionable couple.

Fig. 3 ‘Christmas Weather’

And this leads to one of Austen’s most comic scenes – the proposal of Mr. Elton, Emma trapped in the carriage alone with him believing that “he had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston’s good wine, and felt sure that he would want to be talking nonsense…” – which of course he does…

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, with much snow on the ground (but not enough to trouble your carriage), some song and wine (but not enough to induce unwanted and overbearing offers of love and marriage), and the pleasure of good company (with hopefully no Scrooge-like visitors to whom you must either “comply” or be “quarrelsome” or like Emma, have your “heroism reach only to silence.” )

P.S. – And tonight pull your Emma off the shelf and read through these chapters in volume I [ch, 13-15] for a good chuckle! – this of course before your annual reading of A Christmas Carol.

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Illustrations:

1.  Emma’s Christmas Day Paper Doll at Fancy Ephemera.com
2.  Dinner at Randalls at Chrismologist.blogspot.com
3.  ‘Christmas Weather’ at Harlequin Historical Authors
4.  Vintage postcard in my collection

JASNA-Vermont September Meeting ~ Susan Wolfson on Northanger Abbey

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s September Meeting

at the Burlington Book Festival 

Northanger Abbey: Jane Austen’s First Novel,
before she was ‘Jane Austen.’”

with

Susan Wolfson,* Professor of English at Princeton University,
and editor of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey: An Annotated Edition**

book cover-NA-Wolfson

Sunday September 27, 2015, 1:00 – 3:00 pm 

Morgan Room, Aiken Hall,
83 Summit Street
Champlain College, Burlington VT***

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Sponsored by JASNA-Vermont and Bygone Books,
funded in part by a grant from the Jane Austen Society of North America.

~ Free & open to the public ~ ~ Light refreshments served ~ 

For more information:   JASNAVTregion [at] gmail [dot] com
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.wordpress.com
Burlington Book Festival website: http://burlingtonbookfestival.com/ 

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S.Wolfson.2015*Susan Wolfson is Professor of English at Princeton University, where she is a specialist in British Romanticism, a field in which she teaches Jane Austen’s novels. She has recently produced the Harvard Annotated Northanger Abbey, a unique edition of the novel’s text that hews, with less intervention than standard editions, to the text of the 1818 publication, and as with other volumes in the Harvard series, includes page-by-page annotations, illustrations, and other supplementary materials. With her husband Ronald Levao, she has also edited Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the same series. And with her colleague Claudia L. Johnson, she edited Pride and Prejudice for Longman Cultural Editions, of which she is the General Editor, and in this capacity has supervised Emma (edited by Frances Ferguson), and Persuasion (edited by William Galperin). Her most recent book is Reading John Keats (Cambridge), about Keats as a reader as well as a writer, and about how this readerly quality shapes and stimulates how he is read (very Austenian in this way!). Susan Wolfson received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Rutgers University New Brunswick for 13 years, before her present appointment at Princeton. Widely published in the field of Romantic-era studies, she is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the ACLS, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

**The book will be available for purchase and signing
***Aiken Hall is located at 83 Summit Street [#36 on map]. Park on the street or in any College designated parking during the event: https://www.champlain.edu/Documents/Admissions/Undergraduate%20Admissions/Campus-Map.pdf

book cover-Keats

Hope you can join us!

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Dates for your Diary

December 6, 2015:
Annual Birthday Tea & Ball at the Essex Inn –
Celebrating 20 years of the 1995 Pride & Prejudice mini-series!
– details forthcoming
(Colin Firth is welcome if he is available and happens to be in Vermont…)

c2015, Jane Austen in Vermont

Shakespeare’s Influence on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park ~ Guest Post By Chris Sandrawich, Part II

Gentle Readers: Chris Sandrawich posts here today in Part II of his writings on Mansfield Park, here focusing on Shakespeare’s influence on Austen.

Shakespeare’s Influence on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park

by Chris Sandrawich

All of Jane Austen’s novels have direct quotations or echoes from Shakespeare’s plays but Jane Austen goes into overdrive with Mansfield Park.

The Wilderness and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: When they all go to Sotherton and stroll towards the Ha Ha, the barred gate and the wilderness beyond we see that various pairings are made, official or unofficial, and broken up, and reformed again, with Fanny as silent observer but only of part, and couples returning “from the woods” claim to have ‘been lost’ or have ‘forgotten time’ so there is more than an echo of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in amongst it all.

RushworthAtGate-CEBrock-mollands

[Source: Mollands]

There has been a mountain of interest displayed down the years in the prank played by Maria in wrong-footing the poor hapless Mr Rushworth who is sent away for a key whilst she takes an opportunity to squeeze through the bars and into the freedom of the wilderness beyond. Fanny’s pleas for patience and caution are ignored. On Mr Rushworth’s side of the fence we have his house and his mother, and all the feelings of restraint from manners, rules, etiquette and standards of behaviour to keep to. Gaining access to comparative freedom by an escape seemingly on an irresistible impulse takes Maria past the formidable barriers of the iron gates the bars of the fence and the Ha Ha, and even at the risk of tearing her clothes she effectively abandons herself to the freedom of being alone with Henry. Most commentators who wish for more “hanky panky” than is evident make a lot of this allusion to the renting of clothing. However, unlike the “great slit in my worked muslin gown” that Lydia in Pride and Prejudice wants Sally to mend – which is an actual slit and therefore an allusion to an event already taken place – Maria actually gets through unscathed. Acting with Mr Crawford’s encouragement Maria puts herself “out-of-bounds” and Henry follows immediately. It is significant that their first action is not to do what they claimed was their motivation and which would keep them in sight. They do not go up to the copse of trees so as to turn and survey the house from there. No, they disappear out of sight immediately. Every reader is free to think for themselves what Edmund and Mary on one side and Henry and Maria on the other actually get up to, all unobserved in the woods and wilderness and let us just leave it that time, opportunity and inclinations were all there for use and mischief. Certainly Shakespeare mentions the opportunities that present themselves with Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia, who are all discovered asleep together in the woods, and on waking have difficulty still in separating dream from reality. However, in Mansfield Park there is no after affect visible on person, clothing or behaviour and no future considerations are mentioned as affecting their various thoughts and feelings in later chapters. So we may conclude that very little happened, or at least I do! Others may disagree – and suggest quite a lot went on.

Three Daughters of King Lear, Gustav Pope - wikipedia

Three Daughters of King Lear, Gustav Pope – wikipedia

Plot Structure and King Lear: There are echoes of Alls Well That Ends Well in Mansfield Park but most critics would plump for King Lear as having most resonance. In both plot structures we have an authoritarian father who does not know his children, or anything else as he should, and who loses his authority by overestimating his eldest daughters and undervaluing the youngest (although Fanny is not Sir Thomas Bertram’s natural daughter she is to all intents and purposes being treated as such, accept by Mrs Norris). In King Lear, Regan and Goneril are rivals for the treacherous Edmund just as Julia and Maria are rivals for Henry Crawford. Cordelia rejects Lear’s auctioning of her affections and gets a “Nothing comes from nothing” response and Fanny rejects Sir Thomas’s encouragement to accept Henry Crawford. Both Cordelia and Fanny, the youngest daughters, are misunderstood, or not listened to properly and are certainly not trusted. They are accordingly banished in punishment. Both are accused of ingratitude.

Edmund at one stage advises Fanny to let Henry, “succeed at last” and she bursts out with, ”Oh! Never, never, never he will never succeed with me.” This is only one less never than from King Lear, “Thou’lt come no more. Never, never, never, never, never!” as the King addresses his dead daughter.

However, Fanny is recognised as the daughter he always wanted by Sir Thomas, who in the end has revised many opinions based on experience. The fates do not spare Cordelia or King Lear and they ‘enjoy’ grim ends.

General links to Shakespeare:

We have the Bertram brothers talking of plays they read as boys and list: Henry VIII, Julius Caesar and Hamlet when Tom tries to use them in claiming his Father’s encouragement to theatricals! Sir Thomas had instead thought of them more as an aid for diction and good material for young men to work with as useful preparation for speaking in public. Jane Austen shows her belief in the power of Shakespeare’s work by the conversation between Henry Crawford and Edmund in Mansfield Park. As Henry Crawford and Edmund seem to hardly agree on anything we can interpret their agreement on Shakespeare as being Jane Austen’s authorial voice showing through (in a similar fashion to the defence of the Novel in Northanger Abbey) as we hear Edmund say:

“That play must be a favourite with you”, said he; “You read it as if you knew it well.” “It will be a favourite I believe from this hour,” replied Crawford; – “but I do not think I have had a volume of Shakespeare in my hand before, since I was fifteen. – I once saw Henry VIII acted. – Or I have heard it from someone who did – I am not certain which. But Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is part of an English-man’s constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them every where, one is intimate with him by instinct. – No man of any brain can open at a good part of one of his plays, without falling into the flow of his meaning immediately.”

“No doubt, one is familiar with Shakespeare in a degree.” said Edmund, “from one’s earliest years. His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody, they are in half the books we open and we all talk Shakespeare use his similes and describe with his descriptions . . . . .”

And so Jane Austen is telling us that Shakespeare’s influence is all-pervading and that his plays are well-known to every educated person, whilst subtly giving doubtful sincerity to Crawford’s lines.

Critics in Jane Austen’s time made reference to Shakespeare when commenting on her novels. As Paula Byrne mentions, a critic in the Quarterly Review in 1821, just four years after Austen’s death, compared Jane Austen’s art to Shakespeare’s. “Saying as little as possible in her own person and giving a dramatic air to the narrative by introducing frequent conversation,” she created in her fictional world “with regard to character hardly exceeded even by Shakespeare himself.”

Yet another 19th Century writer, Thomas Lister, ascribed her genius to revelation of character through dramatic dialogue, “She possessed the rare and difficult art of making readers intimately acquainted with the character of all whom she describes . . . . . . she scarcely does more than make them act and talk and we know them directly.”

Henry Crawford’s Choices of Parts: When they get into the theatricals it is interesting just which characters Henry Crawford picks out as parts he could readily play bearing in mind he has a free choice. He starts with Richard III, then he suggests Shylock from The Merchant of Venice and finally the singing hero of a farce in his scarlet coat and cocked hat. Is this Jane Austen suggesting he will act as either the villain or the fool in this novel?

Before they settle upon Lovers’ Vows they look at and reject: Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth.

Henry VIII: Later we have Henry Crawford thrilling Fanny, and even stirring Lady Bertram (which I think all will agree takes some doing), with his reading of Henry VIII. Once again, is this a subtle hint from Jane Austen? Henry VIII, in this play wavers between the virtuous but passive Queen Katherine and the vivacious, lively Anne Boleyn; and so should we expect Henry Crawford to act the same way when comparing Fanny with Maria? We know which one the King ends up with, and that it doesn’t last.

Merchant of Venice: Fanny is standing by a window admiring nature and saying its delights are superior to music and art and draws Edmund away from the ‘Glee’ by saying as she looks at the stars, “In such a night as this” which matches a line from The Merchant of Venice and a conversation between Lorenzo and Jessica in Act 5 Scene 1 as they stand in the avenue before Portia’s house. The full passage is:

JessicaLorenzo-ShakespeareInternet

Illustrator: H.C. Selous. London: Cassell, 1830. [Internet Shakespeare]

LORENZO

The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls
And sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents,
Where Cressid lay that night.

JESSICA

In such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew
And saw the lion’s shadow ere himself
And ran dismay’d away.

LORENZO

In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea banks and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.

JESSICA

In such a night Medea gather’d the enchanted herbs
That did renew old Aeson.

LORENZO

In such a night
Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew
And with an unthrift love did run from Venice
As far as Belmont.

JESSICA

In such a night
Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well,
Stealing her soul with many vows of faith
And ne’er a true one.

LORENZO

In such a night
Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew,
Slander her love, and he forgave it her.

JESSICA

I would out-night you, did no body come;
But, hark, I hear the footing of a man.   [Enter STEPHANO]        

Now this allusion is very striking. Not only during this passage is the belling of “in such a night” very suggestive as we hear it eight times going through a listing of famous lovers. In almost all the pairings there is eventual betrayal by one or other and so they are all “star-crossed” lovers.

  • We have Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida, and Cressida albeit with some heavy persuasion agreeing to betray Troilus and become Diomede’s lover.
  • We have Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe, who grow up as neighbours and lovers even though their families are at war. This is a neat template for Romeo and Juliet. In each story the hero kills himself thinking his lover is dead and she finding him dead then kills herself too.
  • We have Virgil’s Dido and Aeneas: Henry Purcell created an opera from Virgil’s story of Dido Queen of Carthage who loved Aeneas a Trojan hero. Aeneas abandons Dido and sails away.
  • We have from Greek Mythology Medea and Jason, and Jason leaves Medea for the King of Corinth’s daughter. Later they get back together and Medea cuts Aeson’s (Jason’s father) throat and puts his corpse in a pot with herbs and with a few incantations overnight he re-emerges as a young man. But as Medea was the grand-daughter of the Sun God Helios then all things are possible, I suppose.

So, Jane Austen is alluding to the recurring theme of lovers and looming tragedy, and we therefore wonder what is in store for Shakespeare’s Lorenzo and Jessica as well as the love triangle of Edmund, Fanny and Mary Crawford.

Hassell-MP-pemberley

“It is a great while since we have had any star-gazing.” The glee began. “We will stay till this is finished, Fanny,”
said [Edmund], turning his back on the window.

[Joan Hassall, Mansfield Park – Pemberley.com]

So is it meant to be significant that rather than stay and enjoy the quiet contemplative joys with Fanny, Edmund chooses to withdraw back into the room drawn by the music the singing group and Mary Crawford’s more vivacious charms, leaving Fanny isolated at the window?

Going by the Shakespeare allusion is it this first pairing that will fail? Jane Austen leaves it to us to judge; that is if we’ve noticed!

Sources read as background or alluded to in this paper:

1. George Crabbe – The Parish Register
2. Paula Byrne – Biography of Dido Elizabeth Belle
3. Austen Family letters.
4. Transactions No’s 3 and 6 especially Nell Poucher “Jane Austen in the Midlands”
5. Stoneleigh Abbey The House, It’s Owners, It’s Lands edited by Robert Bearman
6. AustenOnly website maintained by Julie Wakefield
7. Shakespeare’s Plays
8. J K Rowling’s novels and website
9. Jane Austen’s novels

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Any comments or questions for Chris? – please reply below, and stay tuned for Part III, where Chris will share his thoughts on Mrs. Norris!

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont; text by Chris Sandrawich [originally published in JASM Transactions 25 (2014)], images as noted.

Preserving Jane Austen and Her Literary Sisters ~ Book Conservation at the Chawton House Library

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

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Conservation tools at the NEDCC

Conservation tools at the NEDCC

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*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