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!

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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!

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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!

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(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”).

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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!

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  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!)

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C2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Lecture Review: “Planting the Seed for the Austen Oeuvre ~ Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman” ~ Guest Post by Margaret Harrington

Gentle Readers: I welcome this guest post by JASNA-Vermont member Margaret Harrington, as she offers a review of the lecture at our last meeting by Vermont author Nancy Means Wright (I would have posted this sooner, but Hurricane Matthew and the JASNA AGM last week kept me from my duties! – thank you Margaret for this write-up, and to Nancy for her terrific talk – see below for links, etc.)

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“Planting the Seed for the Austen Oeuvre ~
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman”
Presented by Nancy Means Wright,
Sept 18, 2016 to JASNA-Vermont

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Nancy Means Wright
in the Morgan Room at Champlain College

 When Nancy Means Wright started off her talk by saying that Mary Wollstonecraft was her alter ego, I knew an extraordinary experience was in store. Nancy brought up her own life and work experiences comparable to Mary Wollstonecraft’s, such as leaving home at a young age, coming from an impecunious family, all the while emphasizing the strength needed to keep trouble at bay. She quoted Mary Wollstonecraft’s early dictum, “I shall live independent or not at all.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, by John Opie 1790-91 (Wikipedia)

Mary Wollstonecraft, by John Opie 1790-91 (Wikipedia)

Then by using Mary Wollstonecraft’s own words in her letters, books, and beautiful illustrations in the power point presentation, Nancy projected us into a thrilling portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft as a caring young woman who made tremendous sacrifices for her family and friends. Concurrently Wollstonecraft formulated her revolutionary thought based on her own life experiences, her intellectual depth and daring, and her intolerance for sham and injustice.

The members of the Irish family with daughters for whom Mary worked as governess were elites of the Protestant Ascendancy. Only a few years older than her pupils, Mary labored to teach the girls to think. In a society which demanded that women obey their husbands and breed more Protestants, this was a revolutionary idea and eventually cost her that job.

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William Blake frontispiece to “Original Stories from Real Life” (Wikipedia)

The moment when Nancy Means Wright brought up the William Blake illustrations for Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life* was when I knew I was captured by a masterful storyteller. Step by step Wright transported me into the thoughts and feelings of the founder of modern feminism. She vividly set the scene for Mary’s time in Paris when three hundred people a day passed her window on the way to the guillotine.

I am grateful to Nancy Means Wright who wove so beautifully the tragic facts of Wollstonecraft’s life into a living tapestry. A particularly moving account of Mary’s attempt to drown herself, after being spurned by her lover Gilbert Imlay, was enhanced by Wright’s reading of her own poem which evoked the sorrow which Mary herself did not write ( leaving the task to Nancy as alter-ego).

Later, participants from the audience talked about the slender but strong connection between Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft. Scholars weighed in on the lack of evidence that Austen had read or even had access to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. There was consensus that Wollstonecraft’s work magnified our understanding of the struggles of Austen’s women who are constrained in the class system of primogeniture and who use their wits to manage the inevitable marriage plot.

Wollstonecraft wanted women to take power, not over men, but over themselves. At the same time, in Wright’s words, “She herself couldn’t balance her principles with her passion.” There are so many deep thoughts that arise from Wright’s talk on the immortal, dynamic woman, Mary Wollstonecraft.

By Margaret Harrington, JASNA Vermont

You can find Margaret’s photos of the event on our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2094244057466958/permalink/2116252491932781/

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*Full title: Original Stories from Real Life; with Conversations, Calculated to Regulate the Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness – first published in 1788, with Blake’s illustrations in 1791. You can see all the illustrations at the Blake Archive here: http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/work.xq?workid=but244

You can find Nancy’s Mary Wollstonecraft mysteries here: http://www.nancymeanswright.com/index.htm#acts

  • Midnight Fires (2010) 
  • The Nightmare (2011) 
  • Wild Nights (2015) 
  • Acts of Balance: a Chapbook of Poems (2014) – featuring Mary Wollstonecraft
 c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…]

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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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“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.

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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.”

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Further reading:

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[All photographs c2016 Tony Grant unless otherwise indicated]

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

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

Chawton House Library News ~ Sandy Lerner Honored with the OBE!

Very Exciting news just in! Sandy Lerner, the force behind the turning Chawton House, home to Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight, into the Chawton House Library, has been awarded an Honorary OBE – “honorary” being the term for the OBE presented to a non-UK national [read here about the OBE, Order of the British Empire]. Here is the info on the event and celebration that took place yesterday at Chawton House!

Sandy Lerner copyright Pal Hansen from 2013

CHL Founder Awarded Honorary OBE
for Services to UK Culture

Award recognises importance of our unique Library of women’s writing

Today at Chawton House Library a very special event took place: our founder and Chairman, Dr Sandy Lerner, was awarded an Honorary OBE.

As a foreign national, the award of an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen recognises the significance of Dr Lerner’s cultural contribution to the UK in restoring the house an estate and establishing the Library. Although such awards are usually recognised at the British Embassy in the recipient’s country of residence, when Dr Lerner was first advised of the award over a year ago, she requested permission to delay announcing the honour and wait to be presented with the award at Chawton House Library itself.

Hampshire’s Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Nigel Atkinson Esq, presented the award to Dr Lerner in the Dining Room where Jane Austen would have dined with her brother, Edward. Dr Lerner, like many avid readers, loves the work of Jane Austen.

Read the rest here at the CHL website: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?p=60082

And here are two pictures from yesterday’s celebration:

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Hampshire’s Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Nigel Atkinson Esq, with Sandy Lerner

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CHL Board of Trustees Members Richard Knight (descended from Edward Austen Knight), Gilly Drummond, and Len Bosack with Sandy Lerner and Nigel Atkinson

[Images courtesy of Chawton House Library, with thanks.]

We were very fortunate at JASNA-Vermont to have had Sandy visit us for our December tea in 2012 – she spoke about her book Second Impressions, a sequel of sorts to Pride and Prejudice. Here she is signing her book for our member Thierry Guerlain:

Sandy Lerner and Thierry Guerlain

All our members here in Vermont send our hearty congratulations to Sandy! – a very much deserved award for all her efforts on behalf of Jane Austen and the many other women writers too long neglected. They all have a “home of their own” at last.

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You can learn more about supporting the Chawton House Library by visiting their “Get Involved” page. You can:

c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

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

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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.

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[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

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 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

Book Review: Nicholas Ennos’ Jane Austen: A New Revelation ~ “Conspiracy is the Sincerest Form of Flattery”

Dear Gentle Readers: I welcome today Janine Barchas with her review of the recently published Jane Austen: A New Revelation by Nicholas Ennos – his book tackles the question of who really authored Jane Austen’ s six novels and juvenilia…

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“Conspiracy is the Sincerest Form of Flattery”

Review of Nicholas Ennos, Jane Austen: A New Revelation (Senesino Books, Oct. 2013).  Pp. 372.  £25.  Available from Amazon.com as an e-book for Kindle for $10.99. 

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The litmus test of true literary achievement is whether your works are deemed so great that you simply could not have written them.

Janeites need no longer envy students of Shakespeare their intricate web of Renaissance conspiracy theories.  Whereas Shakespeare scholarship has long enjoyed the spectral presence of the Earl of Oxford, Austen studies can now boast a countess named Eliza de Feuillide.

The self-published Jane Austen: A New Revelation alleges that “a poor, uneducated woman with no experience of sex or marriage” could not possibly have written the sophisticated works of social satire and enduring romance that we traditionally attribute to Jane Austen.  The book’s author, Nicholas Ennos (the aura of conspiracy allows that this is not necessarily his/her real name), asserts that biographers have been leading everyone by the nose.  The true author of the Austen canon is, instead, Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide, born Eliza Hancock (1761-1813).  Eliza was the worldly and well-educated older cousin of Jane Austen who, after being made a young widow by the French Revolution, married Henry Austen, Jane’s favorite brother.  The sassy Eliza has long been pointed to as a model for the morally challenged characters of Lady Susan and Mary Crawford in the fictions.  To identify Eliza as the actual author was, Ennos explains, the next logical step.

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Shakespeare’s First Folio – Haverford.edu

Just so, and also about two centuries into his literary afterlife, William Shakespeare’s lofty literary achievements were judged incompatible with his humble origins, sowing seeds of doubt that a person so little known could have achieved so much.  Slowly, the man named Will Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon came to be considered by a small-but-articulate fringe to be a mere front shielding the genuine author (or authors) of the works written under the pen name of Shakespeare.  Austen’s genteel poverty, relative isolation, and biographical quiet allows for a similar approach.  For how, asks Ennos, can genius thrive with so little food of experience to feed it?

The arguments for Shakespeare reattribution rely heavily upon biographical allusions as well as the absence of works in manuscript.  Similarly, Austen critics who have been keen to spot biographical references to real places and family members in the fictions have apparently opened the door to skeptics who can now point to Cassandra’s “systematic destruction” of her sister’s letters as proof of a conspiracy.  Ennos also draws attention to the “suspicious” parallel fact that no Austen novel survives in manuscript.  The juvenilia, which does survive in Jane’s hand, is explained away as early secretarial work for Eliza during her visits to the Steventon household.

Eliza died in April of 1813, well before the publication of Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), or Persuasion and Northanger Abbey (Dec 1817).  The so-called Oxfordians overcame the timeline obstacles posed by Edward de Vere’s early death in 1604 by redating many Shakespeare texts, which (their logic dictates) must have been composed earlier than previously thought and squirreled away for later publication by an appointed agent.  So too is the Austen corpus deftly redated by Ennos—with husband Henry, cousin Cassandra, and amanuensis Jane as co-conspirators.  Some historians allow that Eliza was in all probability the natural daughter of politician Warren Hastings.  Ennos adds to this existing context of secrecy that Eliza’s illegitimacy was the “disgrace” that the Austens “were determined to cover up after Eliza’s death” and the reason that “the myth of Jane Austen’s authorship was invented.”

Readers of Austen will doubtless need some time to process the implications of these revelations.  For example, what of the presumed poignancy of Persuasion’s temporal setting?  The events in this novel take place during the false peace of the summer of 1814—a short reprieve in the Napoleonic wars that saw the premature return of Britain’s navy men after the initial exile of Napoleon to Elba.  Persuasion has been on record as composed between August 1815 and August 1816, in the full knowledge of both the false hopes of that summer and the true end to the war that came with the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.  Ennos moves the novel’s date of composition prior to April 1813.  Although he does not go so far as to urge Eliza’s historical prescience, he suggests that these features are merely evidence of judicious tweaks to manuscripts left in Henry’s care at Eliza’s death.

Eliza de Feuillide                 Frances Burney                 Jane Austen

This is not all.  Ennos further declares that the precocious Eliza also wrote the novels conventionally attributed to Frances Burney (1752-1840).  The resemblances between Evelina and Pride and Prejudice have long been acknowledged by scholars who have (mistakenly, according to Ennos) attributed this to Burney’s literary influence upon the young Austen.  Ennos reasons that Frances Burney’s lack of literary success after Eliza’s death, including her “truly dreadful” novel The Wanderer in 1814, is evidence of her being, in fact, an imposter.  While future stylometric analysis may eventually confirm that Jane and Fanny were one and the same Eliza, this method has not settled the authorship question irrevocably for Shakespeare.  Perhaps this is why Ennos does not turn to computer analysis or linguistics for help.  He does identify Elizabeth Hamilton, the name of another minor authoress, as a further pseudonym used by the talented Eliza—ever widening the corpus of works that might appeal to those already interested in Austen.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the novels attributed to Jane Austen were published anonymously during her lifetime.  Logically, any book written anonymously must be in want of a conspiracy.   The grassy knoll of this particular conspiracy is the biographical notice in Northanger Abbey, released simultaneously with Persuasion six months after Jane Austen’s death in 1817.  History has taken Henry Austen, a failed banker, at his word in identifying the author as his sister.  Ennos, who is not very gallant towards the species of academics and literary critics whom he dismisses as “simple souls,” suggests that Austen scholarship has been surprisingly gullible in accepting Henry’s attribution without question.

In the wake of the Ireland forgeries of the 1790s, generations of Shakespeare scholars offered dozens of different names for the man behind the mask of “Will Shakespeare.”  Although the Earl of Oxford has garnered Hollywood’s vote, Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe are next in popularity.  We can only hope that these allegations by Ennos prop open the doors of Austen authorship so that additional candidates can step forward to provide generations of graduate students with dissertation fodder.

Does the Eliza attribution theory expect to be taken seriously?  Or does this maverick publication deliberately mock established scholarship by means of cartoonish imitation?  I’m not sure it really matters.  If this project had ambitions to be a serious Sokal-style hoax, then it did not manage to convince a top publisher and, as a result, lacks the ability to wound deeply.  The prose is also too earnest and unadorned for an academic satire—devoid of the jargon that should dutifully accompany a spoof.  The resulting pace is too sluggish for irony.  That said, there are plenty of moments that even David Lodge could not improve upon.  For example, Ennos points to an acrostic “proof” of hidden clues in the dedicatory poem to Evelina (only visible if decoded into Latin abbreviations).  There is also the syllogistic central assertion that if the novels of both Burney and Austen resemble the Latinate style of Tacitus, then these could only have been written by 1) the same person and 2) someone schooled in Latin.  Ergo, Eliza is the true author behind both, since only she could have learned Latin from Reverend George Austen, Jane’s father (who might teach a niece but never his youngest daughter).  Finally, there are gestures towards wider bodies of knowledge: “In this respect the philosophy of both authors has been linked to the views of the Swedish philosopher, Swedenborg.”  Perhaps Ennos is simply angling for someone to buy the movie option.  “Anonymous” did well at the box office, so why not a film dubbed “Eliza”?

No matter what the intention, hearty congratulations are due to Jane Austen.  For her, this news makes for a strong start to the New Year.  Exactly two centuries into her literary afterlife, a doubting Thomas was the last requirement of literary celebrity still missing from her resume.  Austen can now take her seat next to Shakespeare, secure in the knowledge that her authorship, too, has begun to be questioned.

You know you’ve hit the big time when you didn’t write your own work.

— Reviewed by Janine Barchas

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Barchas is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins, 2012).  She is also the creator of “What Jane Saw”, an on-line reconstruction of an art exhibit attended by Jane Austen on 24 May 1813.   Recently, she has written for The New York Times and the Johns Hopkins University Press Blog.

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont; text c2014 Janine Barchas