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/

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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

Interview with David Shapard, Author of the Jane Austen Annotated Editions!

Gentle Readers: David Shapard, author of five annotated editions of Jane Austen’s novels – all but Mansfield Park, which is due out next year – will be joining the JASNA Vermont Region next week at the Burlington Book Festival. He will be speaking on “The World of Jane Austen and her Novels,” offering us a peek into the society of early 19th-century England that dominates her novels, with a focus on the position and customs of the controlling landed elite, and the role of women in this society.  I welcome David today for a Q&A about his love of Jane Austen and his excellent annotated editions. If you have any questions for him, please do comment at the end of this post – but better yet, if you are in the area next weekend, please join us at his talk – Saturday September 20, 2014, 1:30-2:45 at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College St, Burlington VT. [for more info: September 2014 flyer]

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So welcome David – thank you for being so gracious in answering all my questions! 

annot-S&SJAIV: To start off, why do you think Jane Austen still speaks to us 200 years after she first published her Sense and Sensibility in 1811? 

DS: I think Jane Austen interests us partly because she is so good, i.e. quality will out. I believe she is the best novelist in the English language, and that gives her a bedrock appeal, one she has had for a very long time (even if she has not always been the object of as much enthusiasm as today). With her you have well-constructed plots, brilliantly delineated characters, interesting and profound themes, and superb language – meaning excellence in all the major elements of a novel. One symptom of this is the variety of reasons people have for appreciating Austen: people, in giving their reasons, have cited, among other things, her comedy, her poignant romances, her keen insight into human psychology, her careful depiction of society, and her moral messages. With so many strong elements, she can appeal to an array of tastes and interests. Another reason is that, even though her novels are set firmly within her own time, she was looking at many matters that transcend that time. Her focus is on basic matters that people always have to deal with, whom to marry, how to relate to other people, how to judge right and wrong, how to cope with the difficulties of life. Her characters personality traits, feelings, relationships, and moral dilemmas are all ones that are still frequently found today, so the insights and lessons presented in her novels can still ring true today.

JAIV: Whatever got you so interested in Jane Austen to first take on annotating Pride and Prejudice (in 2004)? 

DS: I had long loved Jane Austen, for many of the reasons described in my previous answer. But there were several precipitating factors that spurred me to attempt an annotated version of her novel. In the six months or so preceding the decision I had begun to read and sometimes participate in an online forum devoted to Jane Austen, The Republic of Pemberley. This, in addition to being very enjoyable, helped me appreciate how much interest and discussion even very specific points in Austen could generate. That eventually gave me the idea of doing a running commentary on her novels, in which various passages would be examined and elucidated. One feature of Austen is that she is a very subtle author, who makes many of her points quietly and unobtrusively; she also is one who is especially good in the details. For this reason the standard format for analysis of a novel, an article or book examining it as a whole, and looking at the overall theme, would inevitably miss much of what makes her so worth reading. But these elements could be brought out through a more minute analysis of the entire novel. At that time this idea was simply one for the indefinite future. But soon after events occurred that convinced me that I was unlikely to procure a annot-P&Ppermanent, full-time position teaching at a college or university, the profession I had been pursuing for a number of years. I decided to turn to writing, which I had long seen as my principal alternative. I had a longstanding idea for a book, but work on it soon persuaded me that it was the great idea I had earlier thought. While casting around for other ideas I suddenly thought again of my Austen project. I had seen annotated versions of other classic works, and liked them. I also knew there was a large market for anything related to Austen. So I decided to try this, and I quickly realized that I had made an excellent choice.

JAIV: We think so too! ~ Which novel is your favorite? And why? And did your favorite change after your in-depth readings and the historical research?  

DS: Mansfield Park is my favorite overall. I like what I consider its density, the many story lines and the many different complex subjects it explores. At the same time, while the plot is very eventful, it does not rely at all on improbable coincidences, as others of Austen do to some degree. Finally, it has four different characters – Fanny, Edmund, Mary, and Henry – whose inner life is shown, who change over the course of the novel, and who experience serious inner conflicts. In other Austen novels there are only one or two characters about whom that could be said. This has not really changed because of my doing the annotated books. The main change that brought about was simply to increase my appreciation for each one; this was especially true for the four I consider her strongest, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma, and Mansfield Park (I am only part way through doing the last).

JAIV: Why the long gap before the next annotated edition came out, Persuasion in 2010? And when does Mansfield Park come out? 

DS: I had first done Pride and Prejudice because I knew it was by far the most popular. I held off doing others until I knew how well it did, and it took a number of years before it succeeded. I wasn’t able to sell it initially, then I self-published it, then somebody at Random House noticed it and approached me about signing with them. After that came out, and did well, my editor there approached me again about doing the other Austen novels. Mansfield Park will come out next year, probably late in the year. The gap between it and the previous one, Northanger Abbey, is the result of my having devoted much of the last year to working on a special enhanced version of Pride and Prejudice that is designed for an iPad. It comes out in a few weeks, and I am very excited about it, but it has significantly delayed Mansfield Park.

annot-EmmaJAIV: Does Jane Austen get anything wrong? 

DS: She got very little wrong. All I have noticed is a mistake on a date of a letter in Pride and Prejudice, and two specific events, one in Emma and one in Sense and Sensibility, that are probably wrong, based on what I have read about the history of the time. There are also at least a couple places where a quotation from a poem or other writing is off. But that is really a remarkable record, especially when you consider that she didn’t have a large library to consult for quotations or other references.  

JAIV: What do you think of the films? – do you have a favorite? Any that you find completely appalling? 

DS: I like the films overall. They are no substitute for reading the novels, since much of what is in there cannot be shown on film. But the films can do things the novels cannot, such as show houses and carriages and costumes, as well as specific places. That is something I have also done in my books, and the visual adaptations go even further in that direction. It is also nice to see the characters brought to life by real people, even though I inevitably judge them according to how well they correspond to the characters in the novel and often find them wanting, at least in certain respects. In terms of favorites, I would probably say the Sense and Sensibility written by Emma Thompson. I also like the Persuasion with Amanda Root and the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I did not like overall the series of TV adaptations that appeared a few years ago, and I thought the Mansfield Park of that series was the worst of any adaptation I have seen.

JAIV: Oh! I agree with you there, though the Persuasion with Anne running around the street in a panic while reading the annot-P&PCaptain’s letter is embarrassing to watch as well!  ~ Tell us something about your writing process: when and how? 

DS: I usually start by reading through the novel several times, and as carefully as possible; while doing so I note any possible point I might wish to make or passage I wish to explore further or think about. I also listen to audio versions with the same purpose in mind, for I find that in hearing it I sometimes notice things I don’t notice when simply reading it. Then for the historical references, which is what requires the most effort, I organized all the points or topics I want to look at by subject matter, and start reading, or rereading, various books related to those topics. I also, at some point, read through commentaries on the novel to see what additional insights they offer, re-examine Austen’s letters and other biographical material to see what’s relevant there, and look at the words I might need to define; I use here a pre-existing list of words with different meanings in Austen’s time, supplemented for what I may have noticed in addition through my reading. As I do all these things I often go ahead and write the annotations appropriate to what I’ve just found. When all that is done I begin to go through the book chapter by chapter and insert whatever points have not been made. After that it’s just a series of reading over again and making corrections, by myself and by my editor, until the text is finally settled, and also adding other material like illustrations and maps.  

JAIV: How do you think your annotated editions compare to the Harvard University annotated series that began in 2010 with P&P [their Mansfield Park is due out in the Fall of 2015, edited by Deidre Lynch] 

DS: I am not that familiar with these other annotated versions. I know they are in hardcover and are significantly larger (and therefore also more expensive); they also have some color pictures. In terms of the content, my sense is that they have fewer annotations. In the case of the one that I have read, the Pride and Prejudice, it does have fewer annotations overall. Some of its annotations, especially definitions of words, are similar to mine. The principal difference is that it focuses less on historical background – there are definitely fewer annotations there – and more on literary interpretations. It has a number of annotations that explore debates between different literary scholars regarding points in the novel, something mine does not do.  

JAIV: The covers for each work: did you choose them yourself? – and the idea of annotating them is a very good one – gets the reader right intoannot-NA ‘reading the annotations’ mode! 

DS: The publisher comes up with the cover, along with the overall design, though they always show it to me for my approval. They had the idea of doing annotations for the cover, but I am the one who comes up with the annotations themselves. That is also part of the process of agreeing on a cover picture: it has to be one that I think will be suitable for annotating.

JAIV: I know you mention “plot disclosures” at the beginning of the book to alert readers that some of your notes might contain “spoiler alerts” – did you get complaints about that when the first edition of your P&P first came out?

DS:  Yes, I did get some complaints about my first edition of Pride and Prejudice. I had envisioned the book being used by many people as a reference, one they would turn to whenever they were curious about a specific point; thus I didn’t worry so much about plot spoilers. But it seems that most people have simply read it through, as with most books, and that many are reading the novel for the first time. As a consequence, I have tried harder in later editions to avoid giving anything significant away. That has constrained me in some respects, because important points about a passage often relate to something that happens later, but I think it’s worth it to avoid spoiling the surprise for the reader. The one important exception here was in Emma: it centers around several mysteries, especially one big one, and I felt that a valuable feature of an annotated edition would lie in showing how all sorts of apparently minor and innocuous actions take on a completely different significance in light of what we find out in the end. So in the case of the annotations for those passages, I put “CAUTION: PLOT SPOILER” at the start to warn off any first-time readers who wished to preserve the surprise.

JAIV: Are you a book collector? And Jane Austen in particular? – if so, what is your favorite edition of any of her works, and why? 

DS: I like to buy books and I have a large library, but I am not a collector in the sense of seeking out rare or special editions. The editions of Jane Austen I have used are those that are most scholarly and authoritative: these are an Oxford edition that first came out in the 1920’s, and the even more exhaustive Cambridge editions (with many notes of their own) that have come out within the last decade. Oxford-Chapmanset-covers-dcb JAIV: You are nearly done with annotating the six novels – what’s up next? Will you annotate the minor works or any of the Juvenilia?

DS: I am close to being done with annotating the novels. It is possible the publisher will also want to do enhanced editions of other Austen novels; I’m sure that will be determined by how well the Pride and Prejudice about to appear does. I have thought about annotating other Austen works, but I am not sure if there is sufficient demand for that. I also have a few ideas for novels of my own, some related to Jane Austen. But right now I am keeping my options open and waiting to see what develops out of my existing books.

Brochure

Huntington Library Regency Exhibit

JAIV: Why do you think the modern reader should have a better understanding of the society of the Regency Period? and can the reader still enjoy Jane Austen without having to read annotated versions?

DS: I think that understanding the Regency period helps greatly in understanding Jane Austen. Of course, millions of people have enjoyed and appreciated Jane Austen over the years without having any particular knowledge of her period, beyond what they could pick up from the novels themselves. I know I was in that situation when I first read her. So such knowledge is in no way a precondition. But I think that if one understands the historical background, all sorts of important events in the novels become much clearer and more comprehensible, and all sorts of particular details, ones the reader probably passed over without much thought, become significant. The story then springs to life in a variety of new ways.

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David M. Shapard (c) Michael Lionstar

David M. Shapard (c) Michael Lionstar

Thank you David again for joining us here at Jane Austen in Vermont! We look forward to welcoming you to the real Vermont next weekend, where there will be an opportunity at the Book Festival to purchase all your Jane Austen annotated editions and have you personally sign them! I will also add here that David will be the leader on a tour next spring to Jane Austen’s England. The trip will be through Edventures, a tour group that offers educational trips to many parts of the world – or as they say, “Edventures – Adventure Travel That Educates.” You can read more about it here: http://goedventures.com/ – and click here for the flier with details: Huber-Jane Austen 2015 Itinerary April 21 Any questions for David? – please comment below! Further reading:

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen’s ‘own darling Child’

Gentle Readers: This year we have just entered upon will be a long and interesting 365 days of celebrating the 1813 publication of Pride and Prejudice ! There are festivals, conferences, blog postings, reading challenges, and already many newspaper and journal articles on this timeless work by Jane Austen.  I would like to start off my own celebration of this beloved classic with repeating a post I wrote two years ago, where I had pulled together all the references that Austen makes to this, her “own darling Child,” in her letters.  It makes fascinating reading to “hear” her…
pp-christies-12-7-12
The publishing history of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most popular book, then and now, is an interesting study in the book trade of early 19th century England.  First completed in 1797 (and called First Impressions) and rejected by the publisher her father took the manuscript to, Austen reworked her draft over time and submitted it to Thomas Egerton, the publishing house of her Sense & Sensibility, in 1812 (it was published on January 28, 1813).   She sold the copyright outright for £110, and did not incur other expenses in its publication, as she did in the three other works published in her lifetime [see links below for more information.]  How we would love to know her thoughts on this road to publication! – how we would love to have her letters written while in the process of the writing to give us some idea of her imagination at work – where WAS the model for Pemberley?  was Mr. Darcy someone REAL?  was Elizabeth Bennet her alter ego? was MR COLLINS drawn from life? – or to have the letters to her brother Henry and his to Egerton – but alas! we have very little, just a few comments scattered among the surviving letters.

Jane Austen’s ‘Own Darling Child’

Laurel Ann at her Austenprose blog is currently posting a month-long group read through Pride & Prejudice – do visit and join in the discussion! – she is as always an insightful reader and discussion leader, and what better way to spend the first month of summer musing on P&P and the finer points of Austen’s magic!
 
The publishing history of P&P, Austen’s most popular book, then and now, is an interesting study in the book trade of early 19th century England.  First completed in 1797 [and called First Impressions] and rejected by the publisher her father took the manuscript to, Austen reworked P&P and submitted it to Thomas Egerton, the publishing house of her Sense & Sensibility, in 1812 [published January 28, 1813].   She sold the copyright outright for £110, and did not incur other expenses in its publication, as in the three other works published in her lifetime [see links below for more information.]  How we would love to know her thoughts on this road to publication! – how we would love to have her letters written while in the process of the writing to give us some idea of her imagination at work [where WAS the model for Pemberley?  was Mr. Darcy someone REAL?  was Elizabeth Bennet her alter ego? was MR COLLINS drawn from life?], or to have the letters to her brother Henry and his to Egerton – but alas! we have nothing, just a few comments scattered among the surviving letters. 
 
Austen does not give us much in her letters as to her writing practices or narrative theory [and thus such a disappointment when they were first published, criticized for their “mundaneness,” their focus on domestic nothings and neighborhood gossip!] – but if you dig for diamonds you will find them, and these scattered mentions are certainly diamonds – it is the feeling of having her right over your shoulder when you read that she is “disgusted” with the way her mother is reading her book aloud, or that she REALLY likes this earning money for her labors, or being miffed [but also full of pride!] with Henry for telling her Secret to one and all – we see Jane Austen here in her own words – the funny, ironic, brilliant Jane Austen – never enough, but this is as good as it is going to get. 
 
So in this post I offer all the references she makes to Pride & Prejudice, her “own darling Child” – read them and enjoy!
[NOTE:  page references are to Deirdre Le Faye, ed., Jane Austen’s Letters, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1997;  all abbreviations and spelling errors are retained]
 
Letter 17. January 8-9, 1799 to Cassandra, from Steventon
 
I do wonder at your wanting to read first impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago. [page 35]
 
[Le Faye notes that this is the first surviving mention of Austen’s literary work, this prototype of P&P having been finished in August 1797; Note, p. 366]
 
Letter 21. June 11, 1799,  To Cassandra, from Bath
 
I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & I am very glad that I did not leave it in your power. – She is very cunning, but I see through her design; – she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.  [p.44]
 
Letter 77.  November 29-30, 1812, to Martha Lloyd from Chawton
 
P.& P. is sold. – Egerton gives £110 for it. – I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should not chuse to hazard so much. – It’s being sold will I hope be a great saving of Trouble to Henry, & therefore must be welcome to me. – The Money is to be paid at the end of the twelvemonth. [p. 197]
 
 
Letter 79.  January 29, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton    
 
I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London; – on Wednesday I received one Copy, sent down by Falknor, with three lines from Henry to say that he had given another to Charles & sent a 3d by the Coach to Godmersham; just the two Sets which I was least eager for the disposal of.  I wrote to him immediately to beg for my own two other Sets, unless he would take the trouble of forwarding them at once to Steventon & Portsmouth – not having any idea of his leaving Town before today; – by your account however he was gone before my Letter was written.  The only evil is the delay, nothing more can be done till his return.  Tell James & Mary so, with my Love. – For your sake I am as well pleased that it shd be so, as it might be unpleasant to you to be in the Neighborhood at the first burst of the business. – The Advertisement is in our paper to day [the Morning Chronicle of January 28, 1813]. – 18s – He shall ask £1-1- for my two next, & £1-8 – for my stupidest of all. I shall write to Frank, that he may not feel himself neglected.  Miss Benn dined with us on the very day of the Books coming, & in the eveng we set fairly at it & read half the 1st vol. to her – prefacing that having intelligence from Henry that such a work wd soon appear we had desired him to send it whenever it came out – & I beleive it passed with her unsuspected. – She was amused, poor soul! that she cd not help you know, with two such people to lead the way [JA and her mother]; but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth.  I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know. – There are a few Typical errors – & a “said he” or a “said she” would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear – but “I do not write for such dull Elves” “As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.”  [from Scott’s Marmion] – The 2d vol. is shorter than I cd wish – but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a a larger proportion of Narrative in that part.  I have lopt & cropt so successfully however that I imagine it must be rather shorter than S. & S. altogether. – Now I will try to write of something else; – it shall be a complete change of subject – Ordination. [p. 201-2]
 
 
 
Letter 80.  February 4, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
 
Your letter was truely welcome & I am much obliged to you all for your praise; it came at a right time, for I had had some fits of disgust. – our 2d evening’s reading to Miss Benn had not pleased me so well, but I beleive something must be attributed to my Mother’s too rapid way of getting on – & tho’ she perfectly understands the Characters herself, she cannot speak as they ought. – upon the whole however I am quite vain enough & well satisfied enough. – The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling; – it wants shade; – it wants to be stretched out here & there with a long Chapter – of sense if it could be had, if not of solemn specious nonsense – about something unconnected with the story; an Essay on Writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or a history of Buonaparte – or anything that would form a contrast & bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness & Epigrammatism of the general stile. –  I doubt your quite agreeing with me here – I know your starched Notions. – The caution observed at Steventon with regard to the possession of the book is an agreable surprise to me, & I heartily wish it may be the means of saving you from everything unpleasant; – but you must be prepared for the Neighbourhood being perhaps already informed of there being such a Work in the World, & in the Chawton World! Dummer will do that you know. – It was spoken of here one morng when Mrs. D. [Digweed] called with Miss Benn. – The greatest blunder in the Printing that I have met with is in Page 220 – Vol.3 where two speeches are made into one. – There might as well have been no suppers at Longbourn, but I suppose it was the remains of Mrs. Bennet’s old Meryton habits. [p. 203]

Mrs. George Austen

 
I had a letter from Henry yesterday, written on Sunday from Oxford; mine had been forwarded to him… he says that copies were sent to S. [Steventon] & P. [Portsmouth] at the same time as the others. [p. 204]
 
 
Letter 81.  February 9, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
 
I am exceedingly pleased that you say what you do, after having gone thro the whole work – & Fanny’s praise is very gratifying; – my hopes were tolerably strong for her, but nothing like a certainty.  Her liking Darcy & Elizabeth is enough.  She might hate all the others, if she would. I have her opinion under her own hand this morning, but your transcript of it which I read first, was not & is not the less acceptable. – To me, it is of course all praise – but the more exact truth which she sends you is good enough. [p. 205]
 
Yes, I beleive I shall tell Anna – & if you see her, & donot dislike the commission, you may tell her for me.  You know I meant to do it as handsomely as I could.  But she will probably not return in time [p. 205, referring to telling her niece Anna that she is the author of S&S and P&P, note p. 414]
 
…- there is still work for one evening more. [p. 206, to finish reading P&P aloud, note p. 414]
 
 
Letter 85.  May 24, 1813, to Cassandra from London
 
…Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens.  It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased – particularly [pray tell Fanny] with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her.  I was in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy; – perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition which we shall go to, if we have time; – I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which now is shewing in Pall Mall & which we are also to visit. – Mrs. Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness.  She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I have always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her.  I dare say Mrs. D. will be in Yellow. [p. 212] 
 
 [Portrait of a Lady, by J.F.M. Huet-Villiers]
a.k.a. Mrs. Bingley
 
 
I am very much obliged to Fanny for her Letter; – it made me laugh heartily; but I cannot pretend to answer it.  Even had I more time, I should not feel at all sure of the sort of Letter that Miss D. would write… [p. 213, referring to a letter from Fanny written to and expecting a response from Georgiana Darcy – Note p. 417]
 
We have been to both the Exhibition & Sir J. Reynolds’, – and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like Mrs. D. at either. – I can only imagine that Mr. D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. – I can imagine he wd have that sort [of, omitted] feeling – that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy. [p. 213]
 
 Letter 86.  July 3-6, 1813, to Francis Austen from Chawton
 
You will be glad to hear that every Copy of S.&S. is sold & that it has brought me £140 – besides the Copyright, if that shd ever be of any value. – I have now therefore written myself into £250. – which only makes me long for more. – I have something on hand – which I hope on the credit of P. & P. will sell well, tho’ not half so entertaining… [referring to Mansfield Park] [p. 217]
 
 Letter 87.  September 15-16, 1813, to Cassandra from London
 
Lady Robert [Kerr, nee Mary Gilbert] delighted with P. & P – and really was so I understand before she knew who wrote it – for, of course, she knows now. – He [Henry] told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish.  He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny.  And Mr. Hastings – I am quite delighted with what such a Man writes about it. – Henry sent him the Books after his return from Daylesford – but you will hear the Letter too.  // Let me be rational & return to my two full stops. [p. 218]
 
I long to have you hear Mr. H’s [Warren Hastings] opinion of P&P.  His admiring of Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me. [p. 221]
 
 
Letter 89.  September 23-24, 1813, to Cassandra from Godmersham Park
 
Poor Dr. Isham is obliged to admire P.&P. – & to send me word that he is sure he shall not like Mde. Darblay’s new Novel half so well. – Mrs. C. [Cooke] invented it all of course. [referring to Frances Burney’s The Wanderer, published in 1814] [p. 227]
 
 
Letter 90.  September 25, 1813, to Francis Austen from Godmerhsam Park  
 
I thank you very warmly for your kind consent to my application & the kind hint that followed it. [asking Frank if she can use the names of his old ships in her her current work, MP] – but the truth is that the Secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the Shadow of a secret now – & that I beleive whenever the 3d appears I shall not even attempt to tell Lies about it. – I shall rather try to make all the Money than all the Mystery I can of it. – People shall pay for their knowledge if I can make them. – Henry heard P. & P. warmly praised in Scotland, by Lady Robt Kerr & another Lady; – and what does he do in the warmth of his Brotherly vanity & Love, but immediately tell them who wrote it! – A Thing once set going in that way – one knows how it spreads! – and he, dear Creature, has set is going so much more than once.  I know it is done from affection & partiality – but at the same time, let me here again express to you & Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shewn on the occasion, in doing what I wished. – I am trying to harden myself. – After all, what a trifle it is in all its Bearings, to the really important points of one’s existence even in the World!  [p. 231]

Henry Austen

 
There is to be a 2d Edition of S.&S. Egerton advises it. [p. 232, referring to her publisher]
 
 
Letter 104.  August 10-18, 1814, to Anna Austen from Chawton
 
Now we have finished the 2d book – or rather the 5th – I do think you had better omit Lady Helena’s postscript; to those who are acquainted with P.&P it will seem an Imitation. [p. 268, referring to Anna’s manuscript sent to JA for advice]
 
  
Letter 128.  November 26, 1815, to Cassandra from London
 
Mr. H is reading Mansfield Park for the first time & prefers it to P&P. [p. 301, referring to Mr. Haden, London surgeon, who brought good Manners & clever conversation]
 
  
Letter 132(Draft).  December 11, 1815, to James Stanier Clarke from London
 
My greatest anxiety at present is that this 4th work [Emma] shd not disgrace what was good in the others.  But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that whatever may be my wishes for its’ success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those readers who have preferred P&P. it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who preferred MP. very inferior in good sense… [p. 306]
 
 
Letter 134(A).  December 27, 1815, from the Countess of Morley to JA at Chawton
 
I am most anxiously waiting for an introduction to Emma…. I am already become quite intimate in the Woodhouse family, & feel that they will not amuse & interest me less than the Bennetts [sic], Bertrams, Norriss & all their admirable predecessors – I can give them no higher praise- [p. 308]
 
************************************
 [a letter-writing Fanny Austen-Knight by Cassandra]
Ah! indeed! – no higher praise…
 
 
Further reading:

[Posted by Deb]

Book Review ~ “Jane’s Fame” by Claire Harman

book cover jane's fameMany of us who grew up in the late 40s – early 50s had our Jane Austen force-fed to us in high school (unless we were fortunate enough to be blessed with an Austen-loving mother or father!).  Pride & Prejudice was the standard text with little reference to the other works; followed by George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and / or Great Expectations, Shakespeare (hopefully!), and Hemingway, Steinbeck, Salinger for contemporary authors.  But I’ve often thought that Austen got a bum-rap with this “required-reading” status, the educational system’s way of compensating for what an early critic said in calling Austen “a critic’s novelist – highly spoken of and little read.” [p. 120]  And while I am the first to admit that Austen is not for everyone [their terrible loss!], I have long believed that this approach to Austen added to her suffering from the great reader-turnoff. 

For me, a voracious reader as a youngster and teenager, I went on to read some of her novels, but alas! not all, feeling more at home with Alcott, the Brontes, Dickens, and later Wilkie Collins, all those more accessible Victorian novelists.  So it was in later life that I returned to Austen – and I perhaps needed that distance of time (and some wisdom!) to re-appreciate her brilliance – the humor and irony, the language, that characterization, and of course, the age-old love stories.  So from my current vantage point I marvel at Austen’s ability to stay fresh, to speak to different generations, and to speak to each individual in different ways through one’s own life. And in these fifteen plus years of “re-Austenising” myself, I’ve gone much beyond the novels, to the biographies, criticism, her Regency / Georgian world, and the current surfeit of films, and sequels and continuations, and even the latest parodies, creating quite a book collection in the process – and I have really barely begun!  

So I was most excited to hear about the release of Claire Harman’s new book, Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World [Canongate, 2009], stirring up controversy even before it hit the bookstores [see my previous post, “Discord in Austen Land”].  [Harman has authored Fanny Burney: A Biography (Knopf, 2001) and works on Sylvia Townsend Warner and Robert Louis Stevenson].   It is an engaging read – historical, biographical, critical and anecdotal, all rolled into a capsule of Austen’s claim to fame – and just why was she so popular?  “the public whipped into a frenzy” [p. 243]  in the late nineteenth century and again in the late twentieth? – by “[James Edward] Austen-Leigh’s Memoir in the first instance, and in the second, a man in a wet shirt” [p. 243] [with thanks to Colin Firth!] – simplified reasoning perhaps, but a good chuckle and that glimmer of truth. 

Harman explains that

…this book charts the growth of Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for, or been made to stand for, in English culture over the past two-hundred years.  In the foreground is the story of Austen’s authorship, one of persistence, accident, advocacy, and sometimes surprising neglect.  Not only did Austen publish her books anonymously and enjoy very little success during her lifetime, but publication itself only came very late, after twenty years of unrewarded labor.  I have sought to reconstruct these pre-fame years in the spirit of uncertainty through which Austen lived them.  Her prized irony and famous manipulation of tone I believe owes much to it; part of the reason why she pleases us so much now is that she was, for years, pleasing only herself.  [p. 7-8]

Thus, Harman starts by placing Austen squarely in the context of her times – her family and friends as writers – her mother, brothers James and Henry, her friend Anne Lefroy’s brother Samuel Egerton Brydges, and her pride in her own quite delightful juvenile writings.  Incorporating a general account of Austen’s life [Harman assumes the reader brings much knowledge of Austen’s life and gives only a cursory telling], she presents us with a great summary of Austen’s writings, the publication history and early responses to each work, drawing heavily on Brian Southam’s Jane Austen, The Critical Heritage [London 1968], and emphasizing Austen’s literary ambitions. [for more on this, see Jan Fergus’s The Professional Woman Writer” in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, one of the earlier scholarly arguments to clearly see Austen in this light, far removed from the portrait painted by her brother Henry and later her nephew.]

Following Austen’s death in 1817, her copyrights still owned by Cassandra were sold to Richard Bentley and his issue of all six novels in 1833 did much to keep Austen in print; but her popularity waned, the rise of the Victorian novel sending Austen to the shadows, not to mention Charlotte Bronte’s dislike of Austen, quoted by Elizabeth Gaskell in her Bronte biography in 1857 [but ironically, how close is Gaskell’s North & South to Pride & Prejudice!]  So Austen remained largely unread until the Austen-Leigh Memoir of 1870, followed by various new editions of the novels and the selected letters in 1890. 

Harman explores in her chapter on the “Divine Jane” [quoting W.D. Howells] the publishing of these new editions and the illustrated versions that sought to “fix the characters in one’s mind” [p.159], the biographies, and critical analyses in this first burgeoning fame-fest, and her new status as darling of the intellectual snobbish-elite, championed by the likes of Leslie Stephen, Henry James, George Saintsbury, and Howells [and of course, not to leave out Mark Twain’s adamant dislike!] – all this culminating in R.W. Chapman’s Oxford edition of her works in 1923, “the first complete scholarly edition of any English novelist.” [p. 192]. 

In “Canon and Canonisation,” Harman chronicles the scholarly critical analysis that continues unabated to the present – the vast extent of academic and non-academic writing – on the one hand, Austen as a pleasure-read, the writer “who wrote so clearly and simply, and who was so small scale” [p. 200] – and on the other, the critical study of Austen’s “unconsciousness and brilliance” and here we see her “easy passage into English literature courses” [p. 201].  Austen makes critical literary history as manuscripts and contemporary memoirs became available for study – resulting in library collections, various illustrated editions, Jane Austen Societies, interest in her “homes and haunts,” more biographies from various standpoints, new paths of criticism taking into account the political, sociological and historical elements, and the many works on the manners and mores, fashion and handiwork, cookery and letter-writing – all things Austen indeed! [A friend visiting my home recently asked me what could all these Austen-related books on my shelves possibly be about when she only wrote six books!] 

And finally to film and what she terms “Jane Austen TM”, Harman again summarizing all that came before the “wet shirt” and after – the movies, the sequels, the internet and YouTube concoctions, the blogsphere , the Societies, the fan-fiction sites, the costume-driven fanatics, etc.  And Harman ends with the question, “What would Austen have made of all this? [p. 278] – in answer, she cites the differing views of D.W. Harding, Lionel Trilling, Henry James, and E.M. Forster to prove to us that “the significance of Jane Austen is so personal and so universal, so intimately connected with our sense of ourselves and of our whole society, that it is impossible to imagine a time when she or her works could have delighted us long enough.” [p. 281]

 One of the criticisms of Harman’s book has been her light non-academic approach to Austen [and perhaps her re-working of others’ ideas into this “popular” framework] – but it all works so well for what and for whom it is intended.  Harman’s gift is taking an inordinate amount of primary and secondary material and presenting it into a very readable, information-packed and anecdotal whole – everything you would ever want to know about Jane Austen all put together in a neat little package of 342 pages.  This of course may be its greatest shortcoming – too neat a package with strong authorial opinions thrown in [and a feeling to this reader of all being rather rushed at the end – “let’s wrap this up, throw in a few final tales and get it published” sort of feeling…] –  it must needs be leaving something out! [Indeed, the 2005 Pride & Prejudice barely gets a mention, either an oversight or the expression of the author’s opinion of that film – but no matter what your views of that adaptation might be, it has to be praised for bringing Jane Austen and P&P  to yet another generation who do not find Colin Firth’s wet shirt scene all that WE make it out to be – and thus it is a clear topic for Jane’s current and ongoing “fame.”] 

But as a resource, with a terrific reading list to be gleaned from the text and bibliography [though I do quibble with the number of un-sourced quotations and overly shortened citations that are unclear (especially in regard to the letters – a number and date would have been most helpful!)], Jane’s Fame should be required reading [not force-fed please…] for anyone interested in the facts of Austen’s writing life and how she has risen to such heights and commands such a presence in so many people’s lives.  And you will likely take away new and interesting tidbits such as finding what Katherine Mansfield had to say about Emma:  “Mr. Knightley in the shrubbery would be something!” [p. 247] [aah! indeed!]

4 1/2 full inkwells [out of 5]

 Further Reading: [all page citations above are to Janes’ Fame]

  • See my post on the various Reviews of Jane’s Fame
  • Copeland, Edward, Juliet McMaster, eds.  The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen.  Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Fergus, Jan.  “The Professional Woman Writer” in The Cambridge Companion, pp. 12-31, where Fergus summarizes and expands these arguments first presented in her Jane Austen: A Literary Life. London: Macmillan 1991.  These are must-reads…
  • Sutherland, Kathryn.  Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood. Oxford, 2005, pb 2007.  Note that it is Professor Sutherland who started the controversy that Harman essentially lifted her ideas – I have this book and have skimmed it only, so cannot comment fully – but just looking at the table of contents, one finds the similarities a little alarming, and the Sutherland book has far more depth to the notes and bibliography – but again, I emphasize the “popular” nature of Harman’s book. 
  • Todd, Janet, ed.  Jane Austen in Context.  Cambridge University Press, 2005, 2007 with corrections. 
  • Claire Harman’s website with cites to reviews of Jane’s Fame
  • Austenblog:  Mag’s review of Jane’s Fame

Posted by Deb

“Jane’s Fame” ~ the Reviews

book-cover-janes-fame

The reviews are in on Claire Harman’s Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World [Canongate, 2009]

 

I list several of them for your perusal.  [I am fortunate indeed to have just been in the UK – I went into every Waterstone’s I came across until finally the date of release arrived and a very helpful shop-keeper found it sitting on a to-be-shelved cart!  – so I am almost finished and will post my thoughts shortly…]

 

 

The Telegraph, by Frances Wilson

The Independent, by Elspeth Barker

Times Online, by John Carey

The Guardian, by Kathryn Hughes

The Spectator Book Club, by Philip Hensher

The Literary Review, by Mark Bostridge

A preview of the book at Austenprose

My previous post at JAIV about the Jane’s Fame controversy

Austen’s Manuscripts

Later Manuscripts [The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen], edited by Janet Todd and Linda Bree, Cambridge Universitry Press, January 2009, is now available.  Priced at $130.  but weighs in at a hefty 872 pages.

Contents include:

  •  Austen’s fiction:  Lady Susan, The Watson’s, and Sanditon
  •  Jane Austen on Fiction, to include her letters to friends and family on writing, her “Plan of a Novel”, and her collection of opinions of Mansfield Park and Emma
  •  Austen’s poems and charades
  • Appendices that include transcriptions of two of the manuscripts, “Sir Charles Grandison”, Prayers, attributed poems, and family poems.
  • Extensive explanatory notes

later-manuscripts-cambridge