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

Your Jane Austen Library: Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony

Another book to be added to your wish list, due out early December!

ja-and-arts

Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony
Edited by Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos.
Lehigh U P / Rowman & Littlefield, 2013

What makes this book so special to JASNA-Vermont is that one of the chapters is by our founding member Kelly McDonald! – see chapter 2 in the table of contents below, and her blog post on it here. Congratulations Kelly!

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About the book, from the Rowman & Littlefield website:

Contributions by Jessica Brown; Diane N. Capitani; Christine Colón; Alice Davenport; Deborah Kennedy; Kathryn L. Libin; Kelly McDonald; Belisa Monteiro; Jeffrey Nigro; J. Russell Perkin; Erin J. Smith; Vivasvan Soni; Melora G. Vandersluis and Frederick A. Duquette.

The essays collected in Jane Austen and the Arts; Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony examine Austen’s understanding of the arts, her aesthetic philosophy, and her role as artist. Together, they explore Austen’s connections with Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Madame de Staël, Joanna Baillie, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, and other writers engaged in debates on the sensuous experience and the intellectual judgment of art. Our contributors look at Austen’s engagement with diverse art forms, painting, ballet, drama, poetry, and music, investigating our topic within historically grounded and theoretically nuanced essays. They represent Austen as a writer-thinker reflecting on the nature and practice of artistic creation and considering the social, moral, psychological, and theological functions of art in her fiction. We suggest that Austen knew, modified, and transformed the dominant aesthetic discourses of her era, at times ironically, to her own artistic ends. As a result, a new, and compelling image of Austen emerges, a “portrait of a lady artist” confidently promoting her own distinctly post-enlightenment aesthetic system.

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Table of Contents:

Preface: Jane Austen’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment by Vivasvan Soni
Introduction by Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos

I.  The Fine Arts in Austen’s World: Music, Dance, and Portraiture

Ch 1. “Daily Practice, Musical Accomplishment, and the Example of Jane Austen”  – Kathryn Libin
Ch 2.”A ‘Reputation for Accomplishment’: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse as Artistic Performers” –  Kelly McDonald
Ch 3. “Miss Bingley’s Walk: The Aesthetics of Movement in Pride and Prejudice” – Erin Smith
Ch 4. “The Sister Artist: Cassandra Austen’s Portraits of Jane Austen in Art-Historical Context” – Jeffrey Nigro

II. Austen and Romanticism: Female Genius, Gothicism, and Sublimity

Ch 5 – “Portrait of a Lady (Artist): Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot, Madame de Staël’s Corrine, and the Woman of Genius Novel” – Elisabeth Lenckos
Ch 6 – “Jane Austen’s Comic Heroines and the Controversial Pleasures of Wit” – Belisa Monteiro
Ch 7 – “An Adaptable Aesthetic: Eighteenth-Century Landscapes, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen” – Alice Davenport
Ch 8. “Exploring the Transformative Power of Literature: Joanna Baillie, Jane Austen and the Aesthetics of Moral Reform” – Christine Colón
Ch 9. “Jane Austen’s Influence on Stephenie Meyer” – Deborah Kennedy

III. Austen in Political, Social, and Theological Context

Ch 10. “Aesthetics, Politics, and the Interpretation of Mansfield Park” – Russell Perkin
Ch 11. “Reflections on Mirrors: Austen, Rousseau, and Socio-Politics” – Melora Vandersluis
Ch 12. “‘So much novelty and beauty!’: Spacious Reception through an Aesthetic of Restraint in Persuasion” – Jessica Brown
Ch 13. “Augustinian Aesthetics in Jane Austen’s World: God as Artist” – Diane Capitani
Ch 14. “‘Delicacy of Taste’ Redeemed: The Aesthetic Judgments of Austen’s Clergymen Heroes” – Fred and Natasha Duquette

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Due out in December, you can pre-order the book here – the ebook will be available this month for a penny less!

978-1-61146-137-4 • Hardback -December 2013 • $80.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-61146-138-1 • eBook – November 2013 • $79.99 • (£49.95)

You can also pre-order it here for a little less at Amazon.

[Text and image from the Rowman website]

C2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

In Search of Austen in London ~ The Geffrye Museum

One of the best places to visit in London if you have any interest in English domestic life is the Geffrye Museum – this has been on my ‘to-visit’ list for several years and I just haven’t made it there on previous trips to London – so when I met up with Tony Grant  and he said said his favorite museum is the Geffrye – well, done deal, off we went! 

As mentioned above, I did not have my camera, and we got there late, spent too much time chatting over tea, and the place closed down before I could finish the tour on contemporary life and go to the shop – so I cannot offer much more than a link to their fabulous website, where you can take any number of virtual tours through the various rooms, and begin to imagine Jane Austen in her own time and place! 

From their website:

The Geffrye Museum depicts the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms. Its collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts are displayed in a series of period rooms from 1600 to the present day.

The displays lead the visitor on a walk through time, from the 17th century with oak furniture and panelling, past the refined splendour of the Georgian period and the high style of the Victorians, to 20th century modernity as seen in a 1930s flat, a mid-century room in ‘contemporary style’ and a late-20th century living space in a converted warehouse.

The museum is set in elegant 18th century almshouses with a contemporary wing surrounded by attractive gardens, which include an award-winning walled herb garden and a series of period gardens.

A parlour in 1790 – photography John Hammond

The use of the parlour remained much the same as earlier in the century; it was the room where the family would have gathered, received guests and taken meals. However, the way it was decorated and furnished had changed considerably.

In diaries, journals and letters of the time people often referred to rooms and furnishings that they liked as ‘neat’, which meant bright and stylish as well as clean and tidy. This taste required lighter colours and more delicate decoration. Wallpapered walls were particularly useful for achieving this effect, replacing heavily moulded panelling.  

In the museum’s room the wallpaper is a modern replica copied from a fragment dating to around 1780. The plaster frieze is copied from a house in Cross Street, Islington. Interest in classical design and decoration was increasingly widespread towards the end of the century.

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When you first walk in, you are faced with a series of chairs depicting each era – a wondeful way to see the changes in that most essential piece of furniture – the lofty chair.  And then you begin your tour through the period rooms, starting with a Hall of 1630.  Each room is arranged to look as though someone just got up and left – letters half written, chairs a bit askew, cards spread out.  Tony is a teacher and he said he loves bringing young people to this very hands-on museum – he would focus on a particular item or habit – for example, light – and have his students really think about how our use of and access to different kinds of light has changed through the years.  It is a marvelous way of really putting yourself in each room and seeing how one would have to function in that context.

A drawing room in 1830 – photography Chris Ridley

The Almshouse was not open when I visited, so here again from their website:

An almshouse room in 1880 – photography Morley von Sternberg

The 1880s room, situated on the upper floor, shows how a former governess living in the Geffrye almshouses during the 1880s may have furnished it.

The interior exemplifies the principle of genteel poverty. Within this context, the objects on display reflect many of the principal themes related to daily life during the nineteenth century, such as scientific and technological developments, moral and social trends, travel, and educational and artistic accomplishments.

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The Museum also houses elegant gardens from the 17th to 20th centuries; here is one from the 18th c – you can visit the website for lists of key plants:

18th century period garden – photography Jayne Lloyd 

A lovely visit, despite my lack of camera! –  and again my hearty thanks to Tony Grant for taking me there!

All the images posted here are from the website, where you can visit all the rooms, take virtual tours, shop*, and discover this magical world of the English home. 

*the shop has many books, such as The History of the Geffrye Almshouses, by Kathy Haslam. 

or gifts:

You can also visit them on Facebook here, where you can like them!

Copyright @2011 by Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

Regency England at the Huntington Library

The Huntington Library is hosting an exhibit “Revisiting the Regency: England, 1811-1820” from April 23 – August 1, 2011:

A new exhibition takes a closer look at a glittering yet turbulent era.  In October of 1810, England’s King George III slipped into that final madness from which only death would release him, nearly a decade later. The following February, Parliament authorized the king’s estranged and profligate eldest son, the Prince of Wales (the future George IV), to rule in his place as regent. Extravagant, emotional, controversial, and self-indulgent, the prince regent lent his name and many of his characteristics to a glittering era. 

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of this extraordinary decade, The Huntington presents an exhibition titled “Revisiting the Regency: England, 1811–1820.” Opening April 23 in the West Hall of the Library and continuing through Aug. 1, the exhibition draws on The Huntington’s extensive holdings of rare books, manuscripts, prints, and drawings documenting this historic era.

The term “Regency England” usually evokes Jane Austen’s world of graceful country-house living and decorous village society, the elegance of London’s fashionable elite, or the licentious activities of the prince and his aristocratic Carlton House set. Ladies followed the latest fashions in La Belle Assemblée while gentlemen copied Beau Brummell’s severe elegance. Readers found new works by a generation of England’s greatest poets and novelists: Austen, Lord Byron, John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Sir Walter Scott. Londoners enjoyed a rich theatrical and musical life, watching Edmund Kean’s premiere in Richard III or hearing the first English production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Art lovers followed the latest exhibits at the Royal Academy. Under the prince’s patronage, architect John Nash created the fantasy Royal Pavilion at Brighton and remade London’s West End with the new developments of Regent’s Park and Regent Street.

Yet underneath this ordered upper-class surface lay a far more complex and turbulent world: more than a century of intermittent war with France ended at Waterloo, but peace revealed wrenching poverty, social unrest, the strains of rapid industrialization, and growing calls for political reform. The first railroads, gas lighting, and other advances in technology altered the landscape of everyday life.

This rich cavalcade of people and events provided irresistible targets for a brilliant generation of visual satirists. The witty, savage, and iconic images of George Cruikshank and his fellow caricaturists, well represented in the exhibition, capture all the vagaries of an extraordinary decade in English arts, letters, science, and society.

[Text and images from the Huntington Library website]

Copyright @2011, by Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont

Travel in Sense & Sensibility ~ Part V ~ Carriages ~ Regency Sports Cars!

We have looked at travel and the various carriages of the Regency Period in four previous posts.  You can re-visit them here:

R. Havell – Roe, Sporting Prints

Now the fun part – on to the Regency sports cars! – those carriages that Austen assigns her young men and her rakes, those vehicles that Georgette Heyer made famous in her works, driven by all manner of her Regency bucks, and in many cases by her independent heroines.  We start with the Phaeton, the last of the four-wheeled vehicles but much more stylish than the larger, practical coaches we have looked at previously…    

 
 
 

 

Phaeton (Georgian Index)

 

The Phaeton:   termed “deliciously dangerous”

  • from the Greek “to shine” – in Greek mythology, the boy who tried to drive the sun chariot
  • a light 4-wheeled carriage with open sides in front of the seat; the front wheels were usually smaller that the rear
  • sleigh-like single body, for two passengers, luggage below
  • some had a folding top [a calash or callech = folding top] – a fair-weather carriage
  • for pleasure driving, it is owner-driven with no box or postillion
  • usually 1-2 horses or ponies
  • the largest and most varied of all pleasure carriages, the phaeton remained popular until the end of the carriage era
  • often called a “chaise” in England, a “cabriolet” in France
  • variations:  High-Perch Phaeton or “High-Flyer” – fast, sport driving with two horses – the favorite of the Prince Regent, later George IV who had six horses!  –  he used a low Phaeton after his weight increased to such a degree that he could not get into the high carriage!
  • Who in Austen?:  only Miss DeBourgh who has a pony phaeton; Mrs. Gardiner wants “a low phaeton with a nice little pair of ponies”  

Phaeton – NY Coachmakers

Two fashionable ladies in a “high-Perch Phaeton” driving about to see and “be seen”: 

 

High-Perch Phaeton

 

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The Curricle: [only English] – the “Regency sports-car”

  • name from the Latin: curriculum = running course, a (race) chariot
  • a two-wheeled vehicle driven by a pair of horses that are perfectly matched, a bar across the back of the horses to carry the pole
  • has a folding hood
  • owner-driven, holds two passengers
  • C-springs – after 1804, equipped with elliptical springs
  • the popular Regency show-off vehicle – for long distances or park rides
  • cost @ 100 pounds
Curricle

A picture of the Marquis of Anglesey:

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Curricle (Georgian Index)

 

In Sense & Sensibility: Willoughby has a curricle though he cannot afford it:

-Willoughby on Colonel Brandon:  “He has found fault with the hanging of my curricle…”     

-Narrator on the carriage drives:  …they might procure a tolerable composure of mind by driving about the country.  The carriages were then ordered.  Willoughby’s was first, and Marianne never looked happier that when she got into it.  He drove through the park very fast, and they were soon out of sight; and nothing more of them was seen till their return, which did not happen till after the return of the rest.   “Did not you know,” said Willoughby, “that we had been out in my curricle?” 
[Willoughby to Mrs. Jennings]

-then later, Marianne explains the impropriety to Elinor: “We went in an open carriage, it was impossible to have any other companion.”

Who else in Austen? – Mr. Darcy, Henry Tilney [sigh!], Charles Musgrove, Walter Elliot, Mr. Rushworth, and Charles Hayter; and Austen’s brother Henry Austen [see Letter 84, where Henry drives Austen back to London in his “Curricle”].

 

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The Gig:  

“Many young men who had chambers in the Temple made a very good appearance in the first circles and drove about town in very knowing gigs” 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Chair back gig

 

  • Similar to the curricle, but more popular and economical; women could easily drive
  • Two-wheeled, but pulled by one horse, two passengers, owner-driven
  • Better suspension, easy to turn, more sophisticated than a chaise [often called a “one-horse chaise”]
  • Had various names and modifications:  the Dennet, Tilbury, Stanhope
  • one common variation:   a single seat behind the box for a groom, or a tiger
  • cost:  about 58 pounds
  • Who else in Austen?  the Crofts in Persuasion– they offer Anne a ride in their 2-passenger seat; Mr. Collins, Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon  

Persuasion – Croft’s gig (Jane Austen’s World)

-and of course, John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, the most horse-obsessed character in all of English literature!

Brock – NA (Molland’s)

“I defy any man in England to make my horse go less than ten miles an hour in harness… look at his forehead; look at this loins; only see how he moves; that horse cannot go less than ten miles an hour: tie his legs and he will get on.  What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? a neat one, is not it?  Well hung; town built; I have not had it a month… curricle hung you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing boards, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron-work as good as new, or better… etc. on and on! 

-And the Narrator who must have her say, so we know just how Catherine and the Narrator feel about John Thorpe [and Henry Tilney!]:

“A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world…But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; – Henry drove so well, – so quietly – without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them; so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! – To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.”

[ Brock, Northanger Abbey (Molland’s)]
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In Sense & Sensibility, there are many instances where Austen does not name the specific carriage:  we can assume by the context that it was a post-chaise or owner-owned chaise:

-the Narrator on Colonel Brandon when he leaves to get Mrs. Dashwood: “The horses arrived before they were expected, and Colonel Brandon…hurried into the carriage; it was then about twelve o’clock” [he returns the following day sometime after 8pm]

When Willoughby travels from London to Cleveland, a distance of about 124 miles, he is in a chaise with four horses, it takes 12 hours, 8am – 8pm, a trip that would normally take two days:

-the Narrator on Elinor:  …she heard a carriage driving up to the house … the flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view.  By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.  – [and she runs downstairs to find it is Willoughby…!

 
 
 
 

 

 

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Other Carriage terms:  not all are found in Austen 

  • Hackney = for hire, often discarded carriages of the wealthy
  • Dog Cart = a gig with a ventilated locker for dogs; for 4 people, 2 behind the driver seat back-to-back
  • Sulky = driver-only – one passenger, one horse
  • Tandem = a two-wheeled carriage drawn by 2 horses one in front of the other – Sidney Parker in Sanditon 
  • Whiskey or Chair – an early chaise; a light 2-wheeled vehicle without a top, in The Watsons 
  • Sedan-Chairs  – a seat in a box with 2 poles 10-12 ft long, carried by two men. In efforts to lessen the crowded streets in London, but by 1821 there were only a half dozen public sedans, by 1830 there were none.

  • “Britzochka” = German origin, most common of all carriages, for traveling [ called a “Brisker” or “Briskey”]
  • “Droitzeschka” = “Drosky” – Russian origin, low to ground for “the aged, languid, nervous persons and children”

 And finally, what did Jane Austen have? 

  • At Chawton she had a donkey cart
  • Henry Austen had a curricle and a barouche:  

“The Driving about, the Carriage [being] open, was very pleasant. – I liked my solitary elegance very much, & was ready to laugh all the time, at my being where I was. – I could not but feel that I had naturally small right to be parading about London in a Barouche.”  [Ltr. 85, 24 May 1813, p. 213-14] 

I love to think of Austen “parading” around London and enjoying her “solitary elegance” and laughing all the while! – one of my favorite passages from her letters…

Final post:  a Carriages Bibliography ~ Stay tuned!

Copyright @ 2011, Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

Author Interview ~ David Selwyn on ‘Jane Austen and Children’

David Selwyn had graciously offered to answer my questions about his newest book, Jane Austen and Children (Continuum, 2010).  David is the current Chairman of the Jane Austen Society, editor of the Annual JAS Report since 2001,  and author of numerous works and articles on Austen.  His previous Jane Austen and Leisure (Hambledon Continuum, 1999)) is a must-read treasure trove of social and domestic activities that Austen engaged in and referred to in her novels. His current work is another must-read that weaves the historical, the factual and the fictional world of Austen and her works, all relating to children.  I will post a review of the book in a few days [after the 16th Birthday celebration] –  but I will say now that I most highly recommend this book, and suggest that you add this to your holiday “want” list and hope it may be found under your tree on Christmas morn…!

 Welcome David! 

JAIV:  I think when reading the novels, it is so very easy to overlook the number of children and how Austen’s presents them – but after reading your book one sees indeed how many children there are in her works and their importance to the narrative – is this what prompted you to write the book? the fact that too many people really do not see?

DS:      Yes, and I was struck by the fact that nobody had written on the subject, nor as far as I knew lectured on it. 

JAIV:  Jane Austen is often said to have not been particularly fond of children – was this another main reason in writing your book? – to show that as not the case? – 

DS:      As regards the novels, it always seemed to be assumed that her world was essentially an adult one (which I suppose largely it is) and the crucial role that children play in her exploration of it had been missed. As regards her own feelings about children, nobody who reads the letters can be in any doubt as to her fondness for her nephews and nieces.

JAIV:  Did anything surprise you in your research? 

DS:      How sensible she was about the bringing up of children – but then, I suppose one ought never to be surprised by JA’s wisdom on any matter!

JAIV:  And such extensive research! – the references in her letters, other family reminiscences, all the novels and minor works, and the historical context of child rearing in the long 18th century! – how long have you been working on this? 

DS:      For some years, but the editing of JEAL’s poems (Fugitive Pieces) intervened.

JAIV:  And this book presents such a seamless weaving of this real life, historical and fictional contexts – what are your working habits, writing process to achieve this?

DS:      I re-read the novels, minor works and letters, making notes of anything relevant in notebooks (one for each text) and highlight the notes in different colours according to theme. I did this for Jane Austen and Leisure and found that it worked. You’ll notice that at this stage I don’t use a computer. I also do a lot of background reading in social history, biography etc, and make notes on those books too of course.

JAIV:  You say that Jane Austen “makes use of her children to reveal aspects of her adult characters” – what is your favorite example of this?

DS:      It is difficult to choose, because each time she does it it is so wholly convincing. Annamaria Middleton and the naughty little Musgrove boy are the funniest, and the latter creates the most delicately balanced mood of comedy and emotion in any scene with children in it; but I love the little Gardiners, whose charming behaviour shows just how children should be brought up.

JAIV:  And then secondly, that Austen uses children as a means of advancing the plot – what is the best example of this?

DS:      It would certainly have been Charles Blake in ‘The Watsons’ had JA finished the novel.

JAIV:  There is much on Mansfield Park, perhaps because unlike the other heroines [other than the quick summary of Catherine Morland’s childhood], Fanny is presented to us as a child – but you seem to write most fondly of this novel, indeed, you end your book with thoughts on Fanny and Edmund making the best parents.  Is Mansfield Park your favorite among the novels? Or is this an unfair question! [who can ever choose!]

DS:      As you say, an impossible question. Yes, I do admire MP very much (and think that Fanny is often under-rated: she knows exactly what she wants and in the end gets it); but ultimately my favourite is Emma, partly because it is surely the subtlest and cleverest novel before Henry James, and partly because I think Miss Bates is, as well as being very funny, one of the most moving examples of human goodness in any literary work – JA touches us profoundly with the portrayal of a single woman who centres all the energy of a loving heart on her mother and niece (which is why the scene at Box Hill is so truly climactic – Emma’s thoughtless crushing of such a good heart is appalling, as she herself soon realises). By the way, another thing about Miss Bates: how brilliant of JA to be able to create such a wholly imagined voice that another character (Emma) can mimic it – flannel petticoats etc. 

JAIV:  It has always “troubled” me that Jane is the only child in this Austen family with only one given name – you speak of her having two godmothers both named “Jane” – do you think this is the reason? or do you have other thoughts? 

DS:      But she wasn’t: James, George and Edward had no second names, and nor did their parents. It may well be that the habit of giving two Christian names was becoming more fashionable during this period. 

JAIV:  One of the most famous child-based scenes in Austen is in Persuasion when Captain Wentworth helps Anne by the swift removal of her troublesome nephew – why is this scene so important to the plot? 

DS:      It brings Anne and Captain Wentworth intimately close for the first time in the novel – though JA is delicate enough to depict that intimacy with the child’s hands preventing direct physical contact between them.

JAIV:  Where much of The Watsons can be seen to appear in her other works, the most marvelous piece, when Emma Watson engages young Charles Blake in the dance, is nowhere to be found anywhere else [though it has been said that Mr. Knightley’s dancing with Harriet Smith is Austen’s reworking of this scene].  Do you think Austen could have placed this somewhere in her surviving novels? 

DS:     No, I don’t think she was ever to give a child quite such individual prominence again. 

JAIV:  You start your chapter on “Parents”: “In Jane Austen’s novels the parents best suited to bringing up children are dead.”  Who of the living parents do you think are the most effective? Who the least?  

DS:      The Gardiners are far and away the best. Sir Walter Elliot (though not of course the late Lady Elliot) is a disgrace to the Baronetage in which he takes such pride!

JAIV:  You so obviously love Jane Austen!  – when did this begin for you? 

DS:      In  picking up a stray copy of Emma when I was at home ill once, when I was a (music) student. But I was also thrilled to see a real live JA MS which used to be on display in the Pump Room at Bath (it is now safely tucked away in the offices of Bath City Council); it was the ‘headache’ poem, and it was hung in a hinged frame enabling you to see the reverse, on which there was one of the versions of the ‘Gill-Gell’ verse. I remember noting in the Minor Works volume that Chapman (re-edited by Brian Southam) said that he did not know where that particular version of the Gill’ Gell poem was, and I gleefully thought to myself, ‘I do – it’s in Bath!’ I seem to remember writing to OUP, but I didn’t get a reply.

JAIV:  You say that “it is highly unlikely that Jane Austen ever read a word of Mary Wollstonecraft (though she did read the novels of her radical husband, William Godwin)” – how are you so sure she did not read Wollstonecraft, and how so sure she did read Godwin? 

DS:      This is, I concede, speculation. JA refers to Godwin in a letter and Deirdre Le Faye suggests that she ‘was probably acquainted with Caleb Williams’; I am not sure she didn’t read Hannah More, but I think it unlikely.

JAIV:  One of the many things I took from your book in its focus, its seeing all through the lens of childhood, was a pattern of new themes emerging in all the novels – for instance, the theme in Emma of unconditional love, the love parents have for children, but in Emma, this love that Emma has for her father, Miss Bates for her mother and Jane Fairfax, Mr. Knightley for Emma – i.e. as you say “the unconditional love for people who may, consciously or unconsciously, require sacrifices to be made for them.” [p.111]. What are some other themes that became clearer for you since approaching the novels from this viewpoint? 

DS:      Not so much themes as procedures, and in particular the technique of introducing children not really for their own sake but as a contrivance for some aspect of plot or characterisation – and in the process, being JA, to bring them wonderfully to life.

JAIV:  One could read your book, re-read all of Austen, and get a very lucid and valuable instruction manual for good parenting! – did you have this perception yourself before reading and studying the books through this lens? 

DS:      No, it had never occurred to me that JA could be seen in such a light until I looked closely and specifically at what she says about children and parents.

JAIV:  Your book on Jane Austen and Leisure also offered a very valuable (and very enjoyable!) contribution to an understanding of Austen in the context of social history, her reading, her novels and her life and letters – again in many instances taking a few well-placed words in Austen and giving them such meaning.  What is up next for you?? 

DS:      I hope to do some more editing for a JA Society book. What a pity that JEAL’s sister Caroline destroyed the MSS of her poems; I should like to have brought those out.    

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Thank you so much David for answering all my questions!  Stay tuned for my review and a select bibliography on David Selwyn’s other Austen-related works. 

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