Museum Musings: “Cut! Costume and the Cinema” ~ with a little bit of Jane Austen

Cut! Costume and the Cinema has been showing at the Columbia Museum of Art since November and closes today February 19, 2017. The exhibit takes us chronologically through the various fashions made for the movies by COSPROP, a London-based designer of authentic period costumes.

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Step into the exciting world of costume design with CUT! Costume and the Cinema. Through more than 40 period costumes we will expose the art of making costumes for film. The exhibition will reveal how film costumes set the scene and establish authenticity in films. These perfectly crafted costumes uncover clues about a character’s status, age, class and wealth as well as their role in the story.  The films represented in the exhibition depict five centuries of history, drama and comedy with period costumes worn by famous film stars Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, Uma Thurman, Angelica Huston, and many others. In all, more than 30 actors will be represented from 26 films…

World-renowned British costumer Cosprop Ltd. earned its first Academy Award for Costume Design in 1986 in A Room with a View.  Since then, the costumier has been nominated more than a dozen times. In 2007 three of the five Oscar nominees came from the Cosprop shop, only to be topped by winning the following year for The Duchess. Like their period prototypes, these opulent costumes are crafted of sumptuous fabrics and decorated with intricate embroidery and lace.

[From the distributor’s website: http://www.exhibitsdevelopment.com/Cut!.html]

Watch this youtube of the exhibit when it was at the BYU Museum of Art:

This exhibition has been traveling for the past ten years and finally made it to South Carolina. Joyful that I could take pictures (no flash), and as alas! there is no exhibition catalogue, I here offer a good sampling of what was on view. A picture cannot nearly capture the exquisite detail of these fashions – they must be seen up close and personal. And quite amazing to see how tiny some of these actresses (and actors) actually are! It also offers a terrific list of must-see movies, some that had somehow fallen through the cracks and others to be revisited with a new-found appreciation for the costumes.

The costumes are arranged chronologically. And YES, there is a Jane Austen, but alas! only one … we begin in the Renaissance period with this stunning dark green velvet: (you can click on any picture to enlarge it and see more detail)

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Angelica Huston in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)

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Heath Ledger in Cassanova (2005)

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Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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Shirley Henderson as Catharine of Braganza “The Last King: The Power and the Passion of Charles II” (2003)

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The Georgians: outlandish (and to-die-for) fashions from The Duchess (2008):

And a close-up of Keira Knightley’s Whig-inspired outfit, and this helpful description from the “Family Guide” to the exhibition:

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Finally Jane Austen!  Kate Winslet as Marianne in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

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Victorian times with Dickens:

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“Little Dorrit” (2008) with Claire Foy

and Bronte:

The wedding dress in the 1996 Jane Eyre (with William Hurt)

And the all important hoop for Victorian ladies:

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Phantom of the Opera (2004) gives us these two stunning outfits, worn by Emmy Rossum and Minnie Driver:

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We now head into the later 1880s and beyond with this from Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, here a dress worn by Nicole Kidman (I want this!)

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and this worn by Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige (2006)
– one of my favorite movies…

Renee Zellweger as Miss Potter (2006):misspotter

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Finding Neverland (2004) with Kate Winslet yet again and Rahda Mitchell as Mrs. Barrie (look at the detail in this dress!)

We’ll give the men a short nod here with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes (2009):

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[click on picture for info]
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A stunning Emma Thompson in Howards End (1992):howardsend-thompson

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In Love and War (1997) with Sandra Bullock (left) and
Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

And finally, the costume that headlines all the publicity, this from The Land of the Blind, a movie I confess to knowing nothing about other than it starred Ralph Fiennes and had this gorgeous dress!

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Movies included in the exhibition but my pictures were not worth posting (all movies worth seeing!):

  • Hamlet (1996), with Julie Christie, Kenneth Branagh, and Kate Winslet (!)
  • Gosford Park (2001), Maggie Smith pre-Dowager Lady Grantham…
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1997) with Vanessa Redgrave 
  • The New World (2006) with Colin Farrell as Captain Smith and Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas
  • The Golden Bowl (2000), with Kate Beckinsale,,Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam

Join the discussion: What are some of your favorite fashions from period movies or TV?

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont, all photos by the author

Jane Austen & The Arts Conference ~ March 23-25, 2017 at SUNY-Plattsburgh

John Broadwood & Sons square piano (1797), NY-MMA - 1982.76

John Broadwood & Sons square piano (1797), NY-MMA

Mark your calendars! The “Jane Austen & The Arts” Conference, scheduled for March 23-25, 2017 at SUNY-Plattsburgh has just announced its speaker line-up – a terrific group! – here they are alphabetically: (and note that our very own Hope Greenberg will be sharing her thoughts on Fashion!)

  • Elaine Bander (Dawson College, CA), “Austen’s ‘Artless’ Heroines: Catherine and Fanny”
  • Barbara Benedict (Trinity College, CT), “‘What Oft was Thought’: Wit, Conversation, Poetry and Pope in Jane Austen’s Works”
  • Natasha Duquette (Tyndale University College, CA), “‘A Very Pretty Amber Cross’: Material Sources of Austenian Aesthetics”
  • Tim Erwin (UNLV), “The Comic Visions of Emma Woodhouse”
  • Marilyn Francus (West Virginia University), “Jane Austen, Marginalia, and Book Culture”
  • Marcie Frank (Cornell), “Theater and Narrative Form in Austen’s Mansfield Park”
  • Hope Greenberg (University of Vermont), “Jane Austen and the Art of Fashion”
  • Jocelyn Harris (University of Otago, NZ), “What Jane Saw–in Henrietta Street”
  • John Havard (Binghamton University), “Jane Austen and Woody Allen”
  • Jacqueline George (SUNY New Paltz), “Motion Sickness: The Fate of Reading in ‘Modern’ Sanditon”
  • Nancy E. Johnson (SUNY New Paltz), “Jane Austen and the Art of Law”
  • John Lefell (SUNY Cortland), “The Art of Speculation in Austen’s Sanditon”
  • Ellen Moody (George Mason University), “Ekphrastic Patterns in Jane Austen”
  • Tonay J. Moutray (Russell Sage Colleges, NY), “Religious Views: Austen’s Picturesque and Sublime Abbeys”
  • Douglas Murray (Belmont University, TN), “Jane Austen Goes to the Opera”
  • Cheryl Nixon (University of Massachusetts), “Jane Austen and Family Law”
  • John O’Neill (Hamilton College), “Adaptation, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship”
  • Deborah C. Payne (American University), “Jane Austen and the Theatre? Perhaps Not So Much”
  • Peter Sabor (McGill University), Keynote Address: “Portrait Miniatures and Misrepresentation in Austen’s Novels”
  • Juliette Wells (Goucher College, MD), “‘A Likeness Pleases Everyone’: Portraiture, Ekphrasis, and the Accomplished Woman in Emma”
  • Cheryl Wilson (University of Baltimore), “Jane Austen and Dance”

More info here: https://janeaustenandthearts.com/

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Immersed in Sense and Sensibility! ~ the Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC-Chapel Hill ~ Guest Post by Margaret Harrington

Dear Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Margaret Harrington, a member of JASNA and happily for us, the Vermont Region. Margaret recently returned from her immersion in Sense and Sensibility at the Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC Chapel Hill, June 12-15, 2014. She shares with us her thoughts with pictures – looks to have been a delightful adventure!

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The Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC ~
Sense & Sensibility Revisited”

by Margaret Harrington, JASNA Vermont member

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Jane Austen’s juvenilia play “Jack and Alice” given a lively performance

[Note: JASP has graciously made this production available online – you can view it here:
http://janeaustensummer.org/2014/06/30/2015-jasp-video-of-theatricals-jack-and-alice/ ]

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I experienced blissful immersion in Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility during this four day conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From the gracious reception at the UNC Friday Center throughout the days and evenings of serious enjoyment, I conclude that this was a wonderful personal adventure. There were lectures, teas, regency dancing, a play, movies, intense conversations about Jane Austen, and some thunder storms. The conference offered study of the book itself, provided insight into the culture in which it was written, and even gave a pleasant glimpse of one or two aspects of contemporary culture in the American south.

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A warm welcome from Emma, Emily and Rachel at the UNC Friday Center

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‘Elevenses’ of clotted cream and scones dished up by Gisele Rankin of JASNA North Carolina

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 Lunch on the lawn with kite flying and shuttlecock

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The ‘Sense and Sensibility’ Ball at Gerrard Hall, UNC

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 Drama at the Sense and Sensibility Ball

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Dr. James Thompson of UNC-Chapel Hill co-hosted the event and set the tone for the conference as both formally educational and informally warm and welcoming.

 

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Inger Brodey

The initial lecture by his co-host Dr. Inger Brodey, also of UNC-Chapel Hill, entitled “Making Sense of Sensibility” placed us in the Regency world of the philosophers and other writers who influenced Jane Austen’s concepts. I gleaned from this opening lecture that to interpret the novel as a dichotomy between sense and sensibility or as a tension between the two mind sets of Marianne and Elinor is to limit perception.  Professor Brodey opened up a whole world of ideas which were accessible to Austen and evidenced in her writing and showed me that Sense and Sensibility has a richness of texture I had not been aware of prior to the lecture.

In fact the days were planned to deepen understanding of the novel with 15 minute context corners on the subjects of Law and Inheritance, Childhood and Education, Medicine and Illness, and the Clergy and the Church. These were followed with 45 minute Context Response sessions during which we, the participants, exchanged ideas. Then of course there were ‘Elevenses’ with scones and clotted cream. There were boxed lunches on the lawn with kites, battledore and shuttlecock as period entertainment. There were dance workshops to prepare us for the Regency ball. There was an amusing and informative lecture by Colgate University Professor Deborah Knuth Klenck on: “Jane Austen’s School of Rhetoric: Style, Substance and ‘Delicacy of Mind.’”

 

 

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Jade Bettin, UNC-Chapel Hill, demonstrates (on a willing participant) the way to corset up properly during her lecture “‘But he talked of flannel waistcoats’: How Clothing Makes the Men and Women of S&S.”

 

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 Ruth Verbunt of the North Carolina Regency Assembly after her insightful talk “Mourning in the Time of Jane Austen”

[see also their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/regencyassembly.ofnorthcarolina ]

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Dr. Robert Clark, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, author of The Literary Encyclopedia, was an amazing speaker in the two lectures he gave to expand and deepen our understanding of Sense and Sensibility. In the first he concentrated on the economic facts that drove Jane Austen’s world, such as The Inclosure Act of 1773, which diminished the number of people who could own land to under 500 in all of England, entitling an oligarchical society to the prestige and privileges Austen’s characters scramble so hard to hold onto in her novels. In his second lecture entitled “The White Glare of Bath,” Professor Clark made Jane Austen’s playground of intrigue, balls, and shopping come alive up from the ground in the white stones and mortar and rubble that savvy developers offered to the rich for their recreational homes. In his remarkable lecture I could see Jane Austen moving about Bath, shopping and promenading, visiting, plotting her novels.

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 Dr. Robert Clark relaxes a moment after his talk on Bath

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All in all my experience was totally wonderful and I’d recommend it to Janeites everywhere. Next year’s conference is entitled “Emma at 200.”

Imagine that!

I leave you with a picture of Janeite Maureen O’Connor who attended the conference from far away Brooklyn and dressed authentically for every occasion:

Maureen O'Connor

Maureen O’Connor

Text and images by Margaret Harrington, with thanks!

I suggest we all mark our calendars now for next June 18-21, 2015! info is here: http://janeaustensummer.org/

 c2014, Jane Austen in Vermont

Austen on the Block! ~ Lounging around as Mr Darcy, or Maybe Maximus?

UPDATE:  Mr Darcy’s [a.k.a Laurence Olivier] jacket sold for $6,500. – estimate was $1500. – $2000. (this price is not yet verified by the auction house) – more to come later today re: Gladiator!

 There is a Hollywood auction taking place today in California – the Profiles in History auction house has a number of Hollywood artifacts being offered at their Hollywood Auction 56, the costumes for the Sound of Music movie for starters. But here is one item of interest to Jane Austen followers, a pure piece of Austen and movie memorabilia to grace anyone’s closet:

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Lot 422: Laurence Olivier screen-worn “Mr. Darcy” jacket from Pride and Prejudice.

Estimated Price: $1,500 – $2,000   starting bid: $1,500

Description:

Laurence Olivier screen-worn “Mr. Darcy” jacket from Pride and Prejudice. (MGM, 1940).

A beautiful smoking jacket, screen-worn by Laurence Olivier as “Mr. Darcy” in the epic film adapted from the classic Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice. Consisting of crimson, corded silk jacket with wide quilted satin lapels, black braid brocade loop and cloth-covered button front closure, integral sash with black fringed ends, crème-colored pleats peeking from sleeve cuffs and dark maroon satin lining throughout. MGM internal bias label on inside collar with “Larry Olivier” handwritten in black ink. This striking costume exhibits barely detectable age and wear. Fabric remains fresh with colors vibrant. Overall in vintage fine condition.

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and view the various other pieces of Hollywood history that are available, 988 lots in total, from Marilyn Monroe to the Von Trapps – the catalogue itself a work of art and collectible for any movie nut. Here is the link to the flipbook – Mr. Darcy’s jacket is on page 141, right next to Gary Cooper’s costume from Sergeant York and opposite Judy Garland Wizard of Oz posters…

It all goes live this morning 11:00 am. PST!

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p.s.: do you think Mr Darcy SMOKED??

p.s. 2: just so you don’t think that my other fantasies are not touched on in this auction, if you go to page 298-300, you will find the following:

Maximus tunicRussell Crowe-Gladiator

Lot 803: Russell Crowe’s Maximus tunic from Gladiator.

Estimated Price: $2,000 – $3,000

Description:

Russell Crowe’s Maximus tunic from Gladiator. (DreamWorks, 2000) This tunic was worn by Russell Crowe as “Maximus” in Gladiator. The sleeveless, knee-length tunic is constructed from studio-distressed, unbleached cotton homespun fabric and lined with a light weight muslin reinforcement lining. A bias tag with “Max” written in black ink is sewn under the muslin lining at the back of the neck.  “Max” wears this tunic when he is abducted from his destroyed home by Roman slave traders and taken to Zucchabar, a Roman city in North Africa. There, he is bought by the trader “Proximo” and forced to become a gladiator. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from the costumer.

[Note: Bidding for this item begins on July 29, 2013, 11:00 am PST]

I might just have to buy this catalogue!

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Can you forbear laughing

Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions

Click for larger image

“A lady stands at her dressing-table (right), her hair in an enormous pyramid decorated with feathers torn from a peacock, an ostrich and a cock. A young girl wearing a hat holds the peacock by a wing; another wearing a cap tugs hard at one of its tail feathers (which are very unlike peacock’s feathers). An ostrich (left), which has lost most of its tail feathers, is about to pluck out those which ornament the lady’s hair. A cock stands in the foreground (right), having lost almost all its tail feathers, many of which lie on the floor. A black servant wearing a turban stands on his mistress’s right, handing feathers from a number which he holds in his left hand. The lady, who faces three-quarter to the right, is elaborately dressed in the fashion of the day. Her pyramid of hair is decorated with lappets of lace and festoons…

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Guest post: Susannah Fullerton on her A Dance with Jane Austen and book giveaway!

The AGM in Brooklyn brought many pleasures, and one of the most pleasurable was meeting and talking with Susannah Fullerton.  I have long been an admirer – she is the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and a quick perusal of their website shows the extent of what she and her organization do, from annual meetings to conferences and the JASA publications Sensibilities and The JASA Chronicle.  Susannah also leads a number of literary tours for ASA Cultural Tours  [Australians Studying Abroad], and lectures on Austen around the world. And I must add that she was perfectly cast as the close-to-hysterical Marianne in the “Austen Assizes” script by Diana Birchall and Syrie James staged in Brooklyn!

Susannah has written many articles and a few books, one on which remains an all-time favorite, Jane Austen and Crime (Jones Books, 2004), wherein Ms. Fullerton gives us the real world that Jane Austen alludes to in all her works, the realities of such pieces in the narrative as Willoughby as serial seducer, Lydia’s “elopement,” and even the gypsies in Emma.  In her newest work, A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters went to the Ball (London: Frances Lincoln, 2012), Fullerton offers up the same detailed analysis of what Austen so off-handedly tells us, most of which we don’t quite “get” as 21st-century readers – the dressing for the dance, getting to the Ball, the various types of balls, proper etiquette, the music, the conversation, the Men! – all of it to enhance our understanding of Austen’s time and therefore her stories…

I have asked Susannah to join us today to tell us a little about her book, and her publisher has generously offered a copy for a giveaway – please see the information below on entering to win!

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SF:  Some years ago I was having dinner with Joan Strasbaugh of Jones Books, the publishing firm which had brought out the American edition of my book Jane Austen and Crime, when Joan suggested that a book that really needed to be written was a book about Jane Austen and Dance. I was taken aback for a moment! Surely, with dances playing such a vital role in Jane Austen’s fiction, that subject had already been covered. But when I stopped to think, I realised it had not. Many Austen scholars have written about her dance scenes as part of other works, but there was no one book devoted entirely to that subject, a book that explored the social etiquette of the ballroom, the vital role dance played in courtship, the suppers served and the music played. Would I be interested, Joan asked, because if so, she could recommend the project to Frances Lincoln UK Ltd. And so I started writing.

image: Republic of Pemberley

What I wanted to do, I decided, was to follow Jane Austen’s characters to a ball. Had I been Jane or Elizabeth Bennet, what would the whole process of going to a dance have involved? How did a heroine get to a ball in the first place if her family had no carriage (the case for Emma Watson), how did she dress for the occasion, what rules governed her behaviour while there, and what differences did she find between assembly balls and private balls? When she stood up with a young man, what were the possibilities for flirtation and courtship, and how does Jane Austen show this happening with Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, Emma and Mr Knightley, Catherine and Henry, Marianne and Willoughby, when they are dancing with each other? Poor Fanny Price suffers the day after the Mansfield ball when she has no suitable confidante with whom to talk it all over, but for luckier young ladies often the ‘post-ball discussion’ was almost as much fun as the event itself.

Jane Austen loved to put on her satin slippers and go off to dance. In my book I wanted to provide information about the balls she attended, from the Basingstoke assemblies of her youth when she danced happily with neighbours and family friends, to the later balls where she chaperoned nieces and preferred to sit by the fire with a glass of wine rather than dance. She too enjoyed courtship in a ballroom when she danced with Tom Lefroy; she too knew the excitement of being asked by the right man, and the challenges of avoiding the wrong one.

As I wrote my book I discovered patterns in Jane Austen’s use of dances in her fiction. Several of the novels have one informal dance and one more formal one, and she uses each to progress her themes, characterisation and relationships. In some novels what happens is romantic, as is the case when Darcy and Elizabeth are partners and you can almost see the sparks between them, but in Mansfield Park everyone always seems to be dancing with the wrong person and balls in that novel illustrate selfishness, not romance. Jane Austen makes a great deal happen at a ball!

image: Brock illus Mansfield Park, Mollands

A Dance with Jane Austen is beautifully illustrated with contemporary pictures or illustrations from the novels. I include a brief chapter about dances in the film versions, but decided not to make this extensive because so often film-makers get it wrong and put in a dance, such as Mr Beveridge’s Maggot, which Jane Austen would not have danced. However, there are some lovely pictures from some of the movies that I chose to include.

For the past 17 years I have served as President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia. In that time I have lectured extensively about Jane Austen and her works, and have seen the joy that her books give to readers around the world. I hope that my book will increase the enjoyment of those readers by taking them into the ballrooms to discover that there is “nothing like dancing after all.”

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JAIV: One question I would ask Susannah is ‘What is your favorite dance scene in a Jane Austen novel and why?’

SF:  My favorite dance scene is the Crown Inn ball in Emma. This is the evening when Emma first starts to view Mr. Knightley as an attractive male, rather than as an old friend and family connection. She watches his “erect” figure move about the room, sees him rescue Harriet Smith from the embarrassment of being rejected as a dance partner, prods him into asking her to dance with him, and can hardly take her eyes off him all night! Jane Austen achieves so much in all her dance scenes – she gives a sense of a full community of living people, progresses courtships, reveals character and shows faults and foibles – but this scene is particularly rich. The moment when Emma reminds Mr. Knightley that they are “not really so much brother and sister as to make (dancing together) at all improper” and he replies “Brother and sister! No, indeed!” is one of the most erotic moments in all of Jane Austen’s fiction. It thrills me every time!

image: theloiterer.org

Oh I agree – I love this scene! Thank you so much Susannah for sharing your love of Jane Austen and dance with us!

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Gentle Readers!  please ask any question you might have for Susannah Fullerton or post a comment here and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy of A Dance with Jane Austen. Please do so by 11:59 pm, Sunday November 4th, 2012. Winner will be announced on Monday Nov. 5th – Worldwide eligibility!

For a review of the book, please visit:

About the author: 

Susannah Fullerton is President of JASA, and author of Jane Austen – Antipodean Views, Jane Austen and Crime and the forthcoming Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece (due out Jan. 2013) – note that the UK title of this work is Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

A Dance with Jane Austen
Frances Lincoln, October 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0711232457

Upcoming book: (Feb. 2013)

US edition title and cover

UK edition title and cover

A Jane Austen Weekend! ~ Guest Post by Tess Quinn

Dear Readers, 

As many of you as Jane Austen in Vermont blog readers know, The Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont offers Jane Austen weekends throughout the year (you can visit their website to see upcoming  events). This past August Innkeeper Suzanne B. held another of her annual Character Weekends, wherein participants are to choose an Austen character from any of her works [alas! only one of each character allowed – who could take an entire weekend with not only one but perhaps FIVE of a fawning Mr. Collins! And one chatty Miss Bates is certainly enough ….] and play the role all weekend, through all the various activities of reading, chatting, needlework, writing, eating, dancing, horse adventures, and sport [the likes of archery and fencing!] – perhaps only giving up the role for a few hours of contented sleep!

This year a full-weekend I could not do, so I went for several hours on the Saturday and had the pleasure of chatting with the various characters, practicing a bit of archery, watching fencing matches, eating a sumptuous Regency-era meal, and dancing the night away with Val and Tom of the Burlington Country Dancers.  I came home well-satisfied indeed, and in Jane’s own words,  “[I] smiled & whispered to [myself] ‘This [was] a day well spent.'” 

One of the guests was Tess Quinn, who recently wrote a post on this blog about her experience at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville – Tess has kindly offered to write another post about her weekend here in Vermont, along with many fine pictures! Thank you Tess for sharing this with us! [and it was great to see you again!]

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A fair prospect

How often have Jane Austen readers wished they could experience Regency life as her protagonists do – at least the romanticized notion of it we derive from her books?  I can’t be the only one, or there would not be such a market for the myriad books published that deal with Austen fans, disillusioned with modern society, who suddenly find themselves transplanted in time and place to inhabit the body of an Elizabeth Bennet (e.g. Lost in Austen) or some other early 19th century character – for a day, a month or an eternity.  These books and films appeal because, for a little while, they take us away from mortgage payments and term papers and our children’s math homework; they sweep us off into a world our imaginations sketch as more genteel, more polite, less frenetic – more romantic.

Yes, literary time travel has huge appeal, no matter the book genre or historical era in question.  Readers well versed in Jane Austen’s society as depicted in her books must ‘experience’ the Regency in their imaginations; for as far as I know, a working time travel machine has not yet been perfected.  We cannot practically turn the clock back two hundred years… or can we?

I recently vacationed in Vermont where we came close to doing just that!  The Governor’s House at Hyde Park formed a distinguished setting for a gathering of ladies to come together and experience Jane Austen’s era for themselves—or rather, by adopting the personas of her characters for a few days.  The Governor’s House (formerly belonging to the gentleman who provided its name, and now a bed and breakfast inn) was built in the Victorian era but as a reproduction of a Colonial house.  As such, it reflects both periods in its ambience, yet gives one enough of the ‘feel’ of bygone days to transport one’s mindset to Regency England.

Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont,
the setting for a Jane Austen Character Weekend,
and the whole of the experience was delightful.

We gathered first on Friday evening for introductions, each participant in turn describing something of her background until correctly identified.  Most of the books were represented.  Present were Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt Mrs Gardiner, along with Miss Charlotte Lucas.  Anne Elliot attended in the company of her sister, Mary Musgrove and her friend, Lady Russell; as well as a recently-arrived tenant of Kellynch Hall, Mrs Croft.  Eleanor Tilney appeared quite affable in the absence of her father the General.  And Emma Woodhouse came, being in company with both her former governess, Mrs Weston and her nemesis, Mrs Elton; as well as a most entertaining trio – Miss Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates and the elder Mrs Bates, the latter making her presence felt all the weekend though she uttered not a word.

Lady Russell – Miss Tilney – Mrs Weston

Introductions accomplished, we became friends over refreshments, followed by moving to the card tables for an evening of Whist.  I was grateful to find myself at one of the less competitive tables; we did not play deep, but we laughed deeply.

At the Whist table

As most of us had travelled long that day, we retired after a few rounds, but gathered early on Saturday for breakfast in order to make the most of the day’s activities.  We began with a most excellent fencing master, Vivica Fox, who after providing us some historical information on the sport, led the group through the proper positions and stretching exercises.

Viveca Fox

Throughout the morning, then, Miss Fox gave private lessons to each of us who ventured so boldly.   The moves appear so graceful and natural when one observes accomplished fencers; but after many attempts to combine form, technique and strategy all at once in lunges, parries and ripostes, my best accomplishment was a greater appreciation for the skill and difficulty involved.  I was highly intrigued by my session, however, and would love to continue my training.

While several took advantage of the individualized fencing lessons, others of us moved to the back garden to take up bows for archery.

Archery lessons for Lady Russell and Emma Woodhouse

I am delighted (relieved) to report that a grand time was had by all, the target often was struck, and no dogs were dispatched.

Miss Fairfax, archer

The morning had begun with a fine hot sun which continued throughout our activities; fans and parasols were employed assiduously.  A number of our party, after archery, chose to retire to the shade of a large porch with their books or embroidery, rather than be kept in a continual state of inelegance.

Mary Musgrove driving Judge

But for some, a short journey to a horse farm brought the next adventure: learning to drive a gig!

The head groom very graciously allowed us to assist in harnessing Judge, an extraordinarily gentle animal (one could hardly call him a beast) – although of course, as ladies we would never perform this task for ourselves in the usual manner of things.  We then began by walking Judge around the paddock.  This was to become accustomed to working with him, especially for any of us who were no horsewomen.  Once each had achieved some comfort with the reins, a lovely small carriage was attached and off we went through a park land of varied prospects.  (I must confess that I saw little but the posterior of the horse in my turn, so concerned was I lest I steer poorly and hit a post which might have overturned us.)

Just as we bid adieu to our mount and made to leave, another group from our party arrived for a carriage ride.  We bade them a lovely tour and made our way back to the Governor’s House.  There we enjoyed a light fare set out by our hostess – since we had breakfasted so early – to tide us over until the dinner hour.

The last hours of our morning were passed again in satisfying retirement on the back porch; for as we all know, to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.  Some ventured to trundle a hoop, or play the Graces.  Most found contentment in a cool libation and the company of clever, well-informed people who had a great deal of conversation – the best company!

Finding shade

Charlotte Lucas

Reading Jane Austen

Lawn Ladies

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Quite soon, it seemed, the time came to dress for dinner and we dispersed to don our fashions.

Mrs. Elton in full fashion!

Jane Fairfax – Mrs Bates [there in spirit!] – Miss Bates

Our repast for the evening was a full course, enlivened by so much entertaining discourse and laughter that we all remained at the table right up until the arrival of visitors who had been invited to join us for the hour of tea!   Mr and Mrs Bennet with their daughter Lydia were presented, the latter immediately pronouncing that what the party required for success was… dancing!

Of course, all were amenable to this particular proposal! Immediately, furniture was shifted and carpets rolled and removed, the music struck up and Mrs Bennet, an accomplished English Country Dance caller (sometimes peculiarly addressed as Val Medve), led us through an evening of dances with only a short ‘supper break’ to regain our breath.  Most invigorating, indeed!

When finally the night ended, few I think did not drift into sleep the moment they fell into their beds.

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A Turn about the Estate

Sunday dawned as bright and promising as had the previous day.  Following our breakfast, some of the party went off to ride, others for a lengthy turn about the estate (such prospects to enjoy) and still others preferred the sedentary nature of their work in the elegant parlour.   But soon activity called once more.

Walking Ladies

Since letters are the lifeblood of communication in the world we were visiting, we learned to cut our own quill pens and then practice our hand, writing letters on parchment.  No blotting here!  And following this, we employed our fingers in an alternative manner – in learning to tat with yet another master of the art.  I should like to boast of having made the sample you see below; but in truth I had not the talent.  My fingers did not fly through the string with anything like accomplishment.  This is indeed one art in which no excellence can be achieved without constant practice.

Instruction in tatting for Miss Lucas, Mrs Weston, and Emma

Tatting sample

Sunday noon found us gathering around the dining table for the last time together.  A lovely luncheon may have passed serenely but for the introduction of one final pastime, one perhaps not quite of the Regency period but relating to it.  It was a Quiz!  Questions to test our newly-experienced knowledge of Regency life.  Our hostess had gone to some effort to challenge us and had risen admirably to the occasion.  I would like to say we responded in kind; and so I will.  Our answers as a rule, when we discussed them collectively, were creative, humorous, clever and entertaining.  What matter if they were seldom correct?

This capstone event marked the end of our journey to Jane Austen’s time.  When we had laughed our fill, ladies slowly drifted off to supervise the packing of their trunks by their maids.  All ventured fare wells to friends old and new amid the exchange of addresses and promises to post pictures at facebook.  (Whatever can they have meant by such strange speech?)

I retired to my room as I would not leave until the following morning.  There my mind was most agreeably engaged in meditating on the very great pleasure which a gathering of fine characters from the pages of Miss Austen’s novels can bestow.

Emma Woodhouse – Lizzy Bennet

Lady Russell

Mary Musgrove – Charlotte Lucas – Mrs Elton

Miss Bates – Mrs Bates – Miss Fairfax

Miss Tilney – Mrs Croft – Miss Lucas

Sunday morning parlour

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About the Author: Tess Quinn (a nom de plume) read Pride and Prejudice years ago at the age of thirteen, and has been hooked on Jane Austen – and Mr Darcy, unsurprisingly – ever since. She has read all the novels multiple times and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Some time ago she was introduced to Austen-based fan fiction and, unsatisfied with some of the depictions and approaches, took up her own pen to try to carry on beloved characters in a manner consistent with Miss Austen’s originals. In 2011, her first short story was published in an anthology called A Road to Pemberley. With that encouraging milestone she is hoping shortly to publish another anthology, all her own stories, tentatively titled Pride Revisited. She has two completed P&P based novels (awaiting final edits and a willing publisher); and is nearing completion on her own darling child, a retelling of P&P from Georgiana Darcy’s perspective.

Descending into dinner

Tess, in her lovely evening dress, is on the left; do you agree that Mrs. Elton is looking rather miffed?? – perhaps we have caught her unawares displaying her displeasure at not being first into the dining room …

c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont