Recovering Katharine Metcalfe, Jane Austen Editor ~ With Thanks to Janine Barchas

When I have given talks on the publishing history of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite editions to share is the little-known Pride and Prejudice edited by K. M. Metcalfe and published by Oxford University Press in 1912.

       Pride and Prejudice, ed. K M Metcalfe, Oxford, 1912

I first “discovered” this edition several years ago when reading an essay by Margaret Lane in her book Purely for Pleasure (London, 1966), a collection of biographical pieces that never quite made it into book form. In a chapter on R. W. Chapman, she writes of an edition of P&P published by Oxford in 1912, edited by K. M. Metcalfe – that is, Katharine Metcalfe, a young tutor at Oxford’s Somerville College [there is, for the trivia minded, a Lady Metcalfe in P&P!]. It was “a new, textually accurate edition of P&P” [Lane] – and included an introduction, an overview of Austen’s life and works; essays on social history, domestic life, and language in the Regency period; as well as criticism and textual notes. There are no illustrations…

R W Chapman in 1928 – OED

At some point in 1912, Metcalfe met Chapman, he an editor at the Oxford University Press – by all accounts it was a whirlwind courtship – they shared a love of book collecting! – and they married in 1913. Metcalfe clearly introduced Chapman to Austen and they planned to jointly produce an edited complete works.  All was cut short by the First World War in which Chapman served, and Metcalfe, now married with children (and thus required to give up her fellowship) “had little time or strength for editorial labours.” [Lane, 197].  Chapman’s Oxford set of the novels was published in 1923. But Metcalfe had also published her own Northanger Abbey four months earlier [see Gilson, E151, what Kathryn Sutherland calls “an unexplained oddity” in her Jane Austen’s Textual Lives (Oxford, 2005)[Sutherland, 43].  The interesting bit is that the text of her own P&P edition (as well as her Northanger Abbey) was used for Chapman’s edition – same pagination, etc. – yet he does not mention her anywhere. In his 1948 Jane Austen: Facts and Problems he pens grateful acknowledgments to those critics…, etc., etc. and “my wife” in his preface.

[photo courtesy of J Barchas]

In Chapman’s Jane Austen: A Critical Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), again there is no mention of Metcalfe, but he annotates her 1912 edition of P&P thusly:

“This unassuming edition is equipped with a perceptive introduction and notes, and anticipates the textual rigours of the next item.” [Chapman, 6

That next item is his 1923 edition of the novels! – which takes up a full page of annotation!

And he makes no mention at all of her 1923 Northanger Abbey!

Sutherland believes that Metcalfe essentially provided the model for Chapman’s editions – and she wonders at his public silence – I wonder what went on at their dinner table!! In studying Chapman’s papers, Sutherland does find that Metcalfe continued to work on editing the novels – there is a note in the margin of the Mansfield Park work in progress: “I want, oh so badly, to do it at least once with you.” [Sutherland, 44].

Don’t’ ever say that bibliography isn’t interesting!! – there is a novel in there somewhere!

So I have long had lingering questions – there has to be more to this story than just these few references in scholarly texts – who was she? what did she look like? how did Chapman seem to take over her earlier editing work? what really was Metcalfe’s influence on Chapman in the making of his great Oxford edition of Austen’s works, and what were her feelings about being surpassed as Austen’s editor, and barely referenced by her own husband for the work she did do.

Well, thanks to the diligent scholarly detective work of Janine Barchas, Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, and three years in the making, my questions, and yours, have finally been answered! Her essay has just been published online in The Review of English Studies: you will need access to their database – it will be in print in the next issue. [ link: https://academic.oup.com/res/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/res/hgw149/2999313/Why-K-M-Metcalfe-Mrs-Chapman-is-Really-the?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Finding many letters and notes in both the Chapman and Metcalfe papers at Chawton and the Bodleian, Barchas traces the complete history of Metcalfe’s editing and her hand in the subsequent work by Chapman.

Barchas found her own copy of this edition in an Australian bookstore – it is a presentation copy with Metcalfe’s inscription to her Uncle Hugh, sure proof of pride in her creation:

Presentation copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, edited by K. M. Metcalfe and inscribed by her to ‘Uncle Hugh’ (Oxford, 1912).  Photo courtesy of J Barchas

[You might like to note that Janine has just loaned this copy to the Chawton House Library, where it will be on display in their upcoming Austen/De Stael exhibition beginning in July 2017].

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At Chawton, Barchas discovers a letter addressed to the founder of the Chawton Cottage Museum (now the Jane Austen House Museum) where Metcalfe states “I was really the originator in the editing of Jane Austen (when I married my publisher in the process!)” (Letter to T. Edward Carpenter, 22 May 1954) [Barchas, 12].

Ferreting out the documented facts of the Metcalfe / Chapman collaboration, Barchas conveys the truth of the times:

“The mundane facts of the case may be sexist but it would be naïve and anachronistic to think these professional restraints surprising in historical context. Here is not a grand conspiracy but a commonplace wrong. Plenty of parallel examples exist in the history of editing where a woman’s scholarship became merely contributory to that of her male partner…” [Barchas, 7]

Find this essay however you can – it is brilliant in its recovery work of the woman who, long before Chapman, saw the importance of returning to Austen’s original editions to truly give the modern reader a pure printing of her work.

Katharine Marion Metcalfe, 1912. Photo was provided by the Chapman family for use in the RES article by J Barchas. This detail is used with her permission here.

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I treasure my copy of Metcalfe’s Pride and Prejudice, despite a fair amount of writing and it smells a tad off (!), but I am very happy to own it, flaws and all!  The introduction is a lovely meditation on Jane Austen and should be more readily available. Find this as well if and where you can. Hopefully the work now done by Professor Barchas might induce a publisher to issue an edition with Metcalfe’s insightful introduction. It should certainly stand proudly aside and before any of Chapman’s works.

About the author: Janine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813 and the “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796.” Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, recently curated an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity. (You can read more about that exhibition here.)

c2017, Jane Austen in Vermont

“Will & Jane” Exhibit at the Folger ~ Interview with Co-Curator Janine Barchas ~ Brochure Giveaway!

UPDATE #2: watch “Will & Jane: The Movie” – 6 minutes on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pevAsxvhts

UPDATE #1: new images from the exhibition have been added!

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Folger Exhibit Brochure

The Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library is garnering a good deal of press (as it should!). Apparently there are record crowds wanting to get a glimpse of their two favorite Literary Heroes and how they have shown up in popular culture for the past 200 years – and “The Shirt” is no small part of this (a.k.a. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) – no, no, don’t get your hopes up, Mr. Firth is not part of the Exhibit (though he would be most welcome…), but rather the shirt worn for the endlessly-youtubed scene of Darcy emerging from a pool of standing water at Pemberley is on display in a locked glass case where it can be on view but protected from the expected mass hysteria of, well, the masses… Kissing a glass case is not quite the same as stroking a cotton shirt, albeit hanging rather listlessly from a plastic form… but it is still a must see if you can get there! Grown women have been known to faint away, despite the message from a young Jane to “run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint…” I do hope the Folger is up to the task of a gallery full of shirt-mad persons… (and dare I add that though I am NOT one of the shirt-hysteric Janeites who think this scene is the best in all of the nearly 6 hour film, I do confess a strong interest in getting a glimpse of the actual shirt worn by Colin Firth…)

If you are able to attend the JASNA AGM this year, to be held in Washington DC, October 21-23  (but do allow extra days for all there is to see and do) – you will get a chance to go to the Folger and see what all the fuss is about – the two curators (Janine Barchas of the University of Texas at Austin, and Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon University) will be on hand to tell us all about it. If you are not at the AGM, the exhibit runs from August 6 – November 6, 2016 and admission is free. In the sad event you shall miss it entirely, there are also various articles to read – see the links below.

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18th-century Staffordshire porcelain of William Shakespeare (Folger) /
and 20th-century figurine of Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

Today however, I welcome Janine Barchas, who most graciously answered a few of my questions about how the idea of this Will & Jane grouping came about… if you have any questions, please comment below and she will get back to you. As an incentive, and especially for those of you unable to make it to the Folger, Janine has provided us a copy of the 18-page exhibit brochure – another piece of Jane Austen celebrity “stuff” we all like to collect! (see below for details)

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Will and Jane at Chawton Cottage

JAIV: Tell us how this exhibit came about?

JB: This was a case of classic academic one-upmanship. In 2012, Michael Witmore, the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, came to the University of Texas at Austin for a conference about the fate of books in a digital world.  Over a meal, I joked that Jane Austen was “giving Shakespeare a run for his money” and asked what he was planning to do about it.  As Mike and I continued to spar about the differences and similarities between the fan cultures around these two famous authors, an idea was born: “Will & Jane.”

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Busts of William Shakespeare (Folger) and Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

JAIV: How did you and Kristina Straub come to work on this exhibit together?

JB: Our partnership was the result of solid academic matchmaking! Mike Witmore was her former colleague at Carnegie Mellon University, so Kristina’s name came up right away in the context of her deep knowledge of Shakespeare’s reception in the 18th century.  She and I had never met before our work on “Will & Jane” even though we are both 18th-century scholars and know many of the same people in what is a smallish field.  This exhibition has been a full three years in the making, during which time we have grown very close.  I look at our publications and label text and cannot tell you what sentence began as mine and which was first drafted by Kristina.  Given that academics are known for their social awkwardnesses and a tendency to work best when alone, our partnership on “Will & Jane” has been an extraordinary intellectual experience – even outside of the unique content of the show.

Shakespeare bellows - Folger

Shakespeare bellows – Folger

JAIV: You mostly talk and write about Jane Austen, but also the book itself as part of the material culture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What was the biggest challenge in taking on this exhibit that largely deals with the artifacts of celebrity created and collected over the past 200 years?

will-jane-porcelain-figures-jb[2]Royal Worcester porcelain figurine of “Emma Woodhouse” (1998) from the collection of Joan Doyle / and a colored pottery tableau entitled “Othello Relates his Story (ca. 1880) from the collections of the Folger

JB: The dominance of non-book artifacts in this exhibition (ceramics, paintings, odd assortments of relics, tchotchkes, and souvenirs) may seem at odds with a serious library of rare books such as the Folger. However, although both Shakespeare and Austen are fundamentally admired for their great literary works, the history of their afterlives and the nature of their modern celebrity is not just about steady streams of new editions but about the material objects that ordinary fans crave and collect.  This exhibition took us out of the usual library stacks of books and into art vaults and collections of so-called “realia.”  Part of the challenge, then, of putting this exhibition together was for two academics who were used to talking about the language of plays and novels to learn how to think and talk about non-book and JABandages-Amazonwordless objects and the stories they can tell. Mixing high and low culture in this exhibition (books with bobble-heads, so to speak) has been both a joy and a challenge.  In practical terms, today’s objects that celebrate Jane Austen at her 200-year mark lack the historical patina of those Shakespeare “relics” and souvenirs that have been carefully preserved for two centuries.  And yet we wanted these authors to stand together as potential equals.  This meant that every juxtaposition of old and new objects, every comparison between the afterlives of Will and Jane, had to show similar impulses across centuries of fandom – in spite of any obvious differences between current market values of the materials shown.

JAIV: What most surprised you in your findings?

JB: We initially thought that in order to fill 20 large display cases, we might have to stretch the comparison a bit here and there. But we were amazed by the tight parallels between, for example, the public spectacles that celebrated Shakespeare around his 200 mark (e.g. a museum dedicated to the Bard and a Jubilee) and today’s BBC bonnet dramas that, in essence, do some of that same work to promote Jane Austen.  Also, we were genuinely surprised by the manner in which Henry and Emily Folger resembled, in their dedication to all things Shakespeare, the collecting impulses of Alberta and Henry Burke, the couple who amassed the world’s most significant Jane Austen collection (now split between the Morgan Library and Goucher College).  One thread across the exhibition is how these two American couples, collecting decades apart and focused on two very different writers, pursued their purchases in the same way.

JAIV: What do you hope visitors will take away from this exhibit?

W&JAction-Folgercard

Will and Jane at the Folger

JB: A sense of fun. We hope the combination of whimsy and scholarship is infectious and will help folks to see that even pop culture benefits from a larger historical framework.

JAIV: What has been the response so far?

A chalice made from the mulberry tree Shakespeare planted (Folger) /
a lock of Jane Austen’s hair (Jane Austen’s House Museum)

JB: A lively and lavishly illustrated review across two pages of the NYT weekend section on opening day surely helped to boost visitor numbers as well as raise our curatorial spirits.  The public seems genuinely curious about a show that pairs these equally famous but very different authors.  So far, we’ve had some record numbers in terms of daily visitors and received enthusiastic feedback from Folger docents.  The docents are the well-informed volunteers who lead daily group tours and have their finger on the pulse of true public reaction.  When they remain enthusiastic, you know a show is doing well.

JAIV: Who besides Shakespeare and Jane Austen has had such an impact on our celebrity-obsessed culture?

JB: Modern movie stars (and before them the starry thespians of the 18th-century stage) have glammed up both Will and Jane.  Our exhibition features a number of film actors who have their feet in both Shakespeare and Austen camps and whose own celebrity is in a symbiotic relationship with these authors.  From Laurence Olivier (photo stills and movie clips) to Emma Thompson (she loaned us the original typescript of her Sense and Sensibility screenplay), objects about and from movie stars adds a bit of Hollywood sparkle throughout the exhibition.

DarcyShirt-BBC

The Shirt – Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (BBC)

JAIV: What is your next project???

JB: Hopefully another project with Kristina. It will indeed also be very hard to go back to a steady diet of “just books” after this.   I suspect that odd bits of material culture will cling to all my research from now on.  I see both Will and Jane differently now.  They are each bigger than their written works alone.

Will-Jane-album-JB

This collector’s album for cigarette cards (London: Carreras Limited, ca. 1935) is one of many items in the exhibition showing Will and Jane being used to advertise non-book products

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Thank you Janine! – very much looking forward to seeing you and Kristina at the Folger in October!

If you would like to comment or ask Janine a question, please do so in the reply box below. Deadline will be Wednesday August 31, 2016 at 11:59pm – winner will be announced on Thursday Sept 1, 2016. Domestic only, sorry to say (our postal rates have soared).

barchas-janineJanine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813 and the “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796.” Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, is currently curating an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity.

Further reading:

“Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” runs August 6 through Nov. 6, 2016 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street S.E., Washington; 202-544-7077.

DarcyShirt-Folger

“The Shirt” at the Folger

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

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

will-jane

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

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

Will-Jane-essaycover

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

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

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

 

Janine Barchas on “Tastes of Home in Emma” ~ from Jane Austen Society Nederland

A great article on Emma by Janine Barchas:

emma-vintage

Tastes of Home in Emma

                                           by Dr Janine Barchas

Whereas Marcel Proust offers us one evocative madeleine, Jane Austen talks of pork, apples, and cheeses.

I was born in Holland, where I spent my childhood in Den Haag until the age of eleven. I now live in Texas and, like all displaced souls around the globe, know what it is like to crave foods whose tastes and smells convey a sense of home (for me that includes hagelslag, stroopwafels, oude kaas, pannekoeken met spek, and, of course, verse haring). Although my fancy local grocery store in Austin, Texas, now carries many of the Dutch foods from my youth (or the ingredients that would allow me to make them myself), part of me protests the very idea of relocated delicacies. Some foods are simply not going to taste the same in a different place. Eating imported stroopwafels in Texas (perversely made with honey instead of echte stroop) violates a palpable sense of authenticity and belonging.

In many respects, Emma is a novel about that sense of belonging to a certain place, which Austen rather grandly refers to as “amor patriae.” Remarkably, in Emma the central action never leaves Highbury, a small imaginary village in Surrey. All of Austen’s other heroines, whatever their financial or social dependence, traverse significant geographic distances, travelling by necessity or pleasure to multiple counties and towns, including fashionable cities like London and Bath, or seaside resorts like Lyme Regis. But the “handsome, clever, and rich” Emma Woodhouse has never seen the sea and admits that the picnic at celebrated Box Hill, a mere seven miles away, is her first-ever sojourn to even this nearby tourist spot. Critics are divided about the novel’s narrow focus, with some warming to Emma’s small-town setting as snug or consoling and others detecting an acute claustrophobia or constant dread of feeling trapped and boxed in (think of all those puns hiding in Box Hill and Boxing Day)….

Continue reading at the Jane Austen Society Nederland website – Barchas on Emma.

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barchas-janineJanine Barchas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813. Look for the upcoming “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796” on this website as well . Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, will be curating an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity – look for this in 2016.

c2015, Janine Barchas

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

A Little Jane Austen with Your Daily Hygiene? ~ Janine Barchas on “Sense, Sensibility, and Soap”

For those of you interested in the publishing history of Jane Austen, Professor Janine Barchas has recently published another of her fabulous bibliographical articles on Austen covers, this time in the journal Book History.  It discusses the little-known fact of a Lever Brothers soap marketing campaign that offered various giveaways, including hardbound editions of classic literature, Jane Austen among them.  I append here the beginning of the article, one of the many [and interesting!] illustrations, and a link to the rest of it … with thanks to Janine for alerting me to it!

Source: Janine Barchas. “Sense, Sensibility, and Soap: An Unexpected Case Study in Digital Resources for Book History.” Book History 16 (2013): 185-214.

Unrecorded in even David Gilson’s A Bibliography of Jane Austen is the little-known fact that soap manufacturer Lever Brothers published editions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice during the 1890s as part of a unique marketing campaign for Sunlight soap. The first English company to combine massive product giveaways with large-scale advertising, Lever Brothers offered a range of prizes in “Sunlight Soap Monthly Competitions” to “young folks” (contestants could not be older than seventeen) who sent in the largest number of soap wrappers. The Sunlight advertising blitz, targeted to working- and lower-middle-class consumers, proved such a boon to sales that Lever Brothers ran the competition for a full seven years, annually escalating the giveaways. Prizes included cash, bicycles, silver key-chains, gold watches, and—for the largest number of winners—cloth-bound books. For this purpose, Lever Brothers published and distributed its own selection of fiction titles by “Popular Authors” and “Standard Authors,” including cloth-bound editions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. By 1897, the year the competition closed, Lever Brothers had awarded well over a million volumes.

Continue Reading: Barchas-SSandSoap-BookHistory

S&S-LeverBros

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility in red cloth (Port Sunlight: Lever Brothers, n.d.).

For those of you with Project Muse access, here is the direct link: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/bh/summary/v016/16.barchas.html

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

“What Jane Saw” ~ Janine Barchas’s Tour of the 1813 Joshua Reynolds Exhibition …

…has launched today! – visit the website What Jane Saw and you can follow Jane Austen as she tours the exhibit!

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The perfect time-travel adventure – it is May 24, 1813 –  what do you see?…

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From the website: [ http://www.whatjanesaw.org/index.php ]

On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an important and  much-talked-about art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The show  was a retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s  celebrated portrait painter.

No visual record of this show is known to have survived, although it  attracted hundreds of daily visitors during its much-publicized three-month run.  However, many details of the exhibit can be reconstructed from the original 1813  “Catalogue of Pictures,” a one-shilling pamphlet purchased by visitors as a guide  through the three large rooms where hung 141 paintings by Reynolds. Armed with  surviving copies of this pamphlet, narrative accounts in nineteenth-century newspapers  and books, and precise architectural measurements of the British Institution’s exhibit  space, this website reconstructs the Reynolds show as Jane Austen (as well as any Jane  Doe) saw it.

I. Why reconstruct this museum exhibit from 1813?

In truth, even if Jane Austen had not attended this public  exhibit, it would still be well worth reconstructing. The British Institution’s show  was a star-studded “first” of great magnitude for the art community and a turning point  in the history of modern exhibit practices. The 1813 show amounted to the first  commemorative exhibition devoted to a single artist ever staged by an institution.  Although Reynolds, who had died a mere twenty-one years earlier, did not yet qualify as  an Old Master, he was already hailed as the founder of the British School and  celebrated as a model for contemporary artists to emulate. The preface to the exhibit  catalogue, written by Richard Payne Knight, treats the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds as a  national treasure in order “to call attention generally to British, in preference to  Foreign Art” (Knight, 9). Knight allows that some of Reynolds’ paintings are better  than others, likening the show to a pedagogical tool for artists and connoisseurs. He  also insists upon the show’s modernity, hailing “the genuine excellence of modern”  artists over the work of their forbearers (Knight, 9). In light of the coverage it  received in the popular press and the London crowds that attended, the British  Institution’s Reynolds exhibit presaged the modern museum blockbuster.

In the age before the photograph, portraits of the rich and famous were  often reproduced by engravers as inexpensive prints. These black and white  reproductions circulated Reynolds’ images of contemporary celebrities widely,  providing pinups to the middling consumer. In this manner, Reynolds’ works  functioned as the modern photographs of Annie Leibovitz do today, making it  hard to say whether he recorded or created celebrity with his art. Wherever  possible, the light-boxes in the e-exhibit therefore show an early engraving  as well as the original canvas. Reynolds’ portraits of “abnormally interesting  people” whom we now term celebrities offer concrete examples of just how  someone like Austen, who did not personally circulate among the social elite,  was nonetheless immersed in England’s vibrant celebrity culture (Roach,  1).

More questions are answered under the About WJS page:

  • Is there a connection between this exhibit and Jane Austen’s fiction?
  • Who, other than the Austens, attended this 1813 exhibit?
  • How did visitors in 1813 experience the British Institution?
  • Did the Catalogue function as a museum guide in 1813?
  • How historically accurate is this website?
  • Room for interpretation and improvement
  • Works Cited / Site Credits

It is a rainy weekend here in Vermont – what better way to spend a few hours but at such an exhibition as this!

Further reading:

reynolds - self-portrait detail - britannica

Sir Joshua Reynolds

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Janine Barchas is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  Her newest project is the website What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org).

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c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont