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Archive for November, 2009

Gentle readers, I am taking a short hiatus from this blog for Thanksgiving week. Meanwhile, enjoy these images of people dining in days of yore…

Dining for most people was a simple affair and food was taken from the land. Many families, unless their house was large enough to accommodate a dining room, ate in the kitchen.

Notice in this image of a family sharing a meal by Thomas Rowlandson (from The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith), that the meal is eaten during the day and near the fire.

The rich could afford to eat by candlelight, as in this early 20th C. image of a Georgian dinner scene.

For some, like the Prince Regent, dinners were elaborate affairs.

For other families the meal was more basic and simple.

Family Meal

The hours in which people ate meals were changing:

In the beginning of the sixteenth century in England, dinner, the main meal of the day, used to begin at 11:00AM. Meals tended over time to be eaten later and later in the day: by the eighteenth century, dinner was eaten at about 3:00PM…By the early nineteenth century, lunch, what Palmer in Moveable Feasts calls “the furtive snack,” had become a sit-down meal at the dning table in the middle of the day. Upper-class people were eating breakfast earlier, and dinner later, than they had formerly done…in 1808…dinner was now a late meal and supper a snack taken at the very end of the day before people retired to bed. For a long time luncheon was a very upper-class habit; ordinarily working people dined in the early evening, and contented themselves as they had done for centuries with a mid-day snack…Supper now means a light evening meal that replaces dinner; such a meal is especially popular if people have eaten a heavy lunch - The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser [Penguid:New York] 1991 (p. 159-160) – Food Timeline

Meat made up a large part of the Regency diet, even for the middle class. For most people living in London, the animals had to be brought a long way to market. Due to the length of the journey, the quality of meat was often poor. In contrast, venison and game procured from country estates and served fresh was often considered prize meat.

The Breedwell Family, Thomas Rowlandson

Families tended to be large and extended. In this boisterous family scene by Rowlandson, the Breedwells obviously bred beyond “the heir and the spare.”

Desserts, Isabella Beaton

Desserts made up the last course of the meal. Even for the middle class this course was elaborate and plentiful, but for the rich it was spectacular.

Walled kitchen garden

Kitchen gardens provided fresh produce during the growing season. The very rich grew fruits and vegetables in hot houses, but most people ate meat, soups, or bread throughout the year. Fruit and vegetables were preserved, or, as in the case of apples and root vegetables, stored through the winter.

Seafood had to be served fresh and within hours of its harvest. Chances were that this tavern, where oysters were served on a platter, sits in a geographic area by the sea.

Life in Yorkshire

Elegant, or simple, the family meal meant togetherness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

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Inquiring readers, Over a week ago, Chris wrote a post about her blog and her personal journey in pursuing a course of study about Jane Austen, her novels, and the time she lived in. This is her second post about her year-long project.

Over here at ‘Embarking on a Course of Study,‘ I’ve been hard at work on the project. Having finished Sense and Sensibility, I asked people to weigh in on who they felt they were most like, Marianne or Elinor, and who they would like to have as a friend. The results so far are overwhelmingly in Marianne’s favor. If you haven’t posted your comment/vote, please do! I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve begun Mansfield Park again and have re-encountered, as I expected, another heroine I don’t much like (my other has always been Emma – I love her spunk, but she does too much damage). I forgot how dull Fanny is. Not that I think Mary Crawford is as fantastic as Lizzie Bennet, with whom I’ve read her compared. Mary is manipulative and racy. I enjoy how she pushes the limits, but not much more. The dynamics among the characters are the most fascinating for me, as are Austen’s insights and writing, of course.

I’ve been reading the Jane Austen Cookbook as well, to decide on something to contribute to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and have settled on Little Iced Cakes. As you’ll read in my blog, I had to choose something family would actually eat. I do want to make Things With Fun Names like ‘trifle’ and ‘syllabub’ at some point. I was tempted to go for something really foreign to us these days, like the ‘forcemeat balls,’ which would require the purchase (or capture?) of 2-3 pigeons, but just couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept of eating what struts around the streets of Baltimore on a daily basis. If you’d like to join me in the making of this dessert, the recipe is on my blog, along with a link to other recipes from the Jane Austen Cookbook.

If you’re in New York City any time before March 14th, there’s a wonderful new exhibit at The Morgan Library: A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy. Comprised of letters, drawings, films, and lectures, it promises to thrill the Austen lover. If you’d like to see the 15 minute documentary film entitled The Divine Jane, which “examines the influence of Austen’s fiction—and her enduring fame— through interviews with leading writers, scholars, and actors,” go to my blog.

Next week, I’ll post notes from my meeting with Professor Robin Bates at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s City, Maryland, who has been teaching a class on Austen for years, asking his students to read the books and poems mentioned in her novels, similar to my plan. I will also update you on my efforts to arrange an English Country Dancing class with an instructor from the Baltimore Folk Music Society. I have 8 ladies interested and am working on the venue. We’re all tremendously excited about learning some dances.

For those of you in the US, Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris Stewart

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In 1798, the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson drew The Comforts of Bath, a series of satiric drawings. The cartoons were used to illustrate the 1858 edition of the New Bath Guide, written by Christopher Anstey and first published in 1766.* Rowlandson depicted both the social and medical scene in Bath just before the period described by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and by Georgette Heyer in her Regency romances.

The Portrait, Comforts of Bath, 1798, Thomas Rowlandson

In this post I combined Rowlandson’s images with excerpts from an 1811 guidebook, A new guide through Bath and its environs By Richard Warner. The scenes depict the use of mineral water therapy for the invalids who flocked to Bath, a city whose fashionable post-Nash reputation was already well past its prime and whose medical men were generally regarded as quacks or, worse, “potential murderers”. The rotund gentleman in front and center of all these scenes (who undoubtedly suffered from gout, a painful rich man’s disease), was conjectured to be based after Tobias Smollet’s Mr. Bramble. In the pictorial’s subtext, notice how “Mr. Bramble’s” young wife (companion or daughter) flirts with the young officer who boldly woos her (Image above). Even while satirizing them, Rowlandson gets the social details just right. Underneath each image sits a quote from the guidebook.

King Bladud's Bath, Comforts of Bath, Rowlandson

It is fit for the patient when he goeth into the bath to defend those parts which are apt to be offended by the bath, as to have his head well covered from the air and wind and from the vapours arising from the bath, also his kidneys if they be subject to the stone, anointed with some cooling unguents as rosatum comitiffs infrigidans Galeni Santo linum &c. Also, to begin gently with the bath till his body be inured to it, and to be quiet from swimming or much motion which may offend the head by sending up vapours thither at his coming forth, to have his body well dryed and to rest in his bed an hour and sweat, etc.” – A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

The Pump Room, The Comforts of Bath, 1798, Rowlandson

The new Pump Room supplied water from a covered pump. Before the room was built, the populace drank the waters in the open air. But the new rooms allowed them to

…  take the exercise prescribed to them sheltered from the inclemency of the weather. The work was accordingly begun in 1704, finished two years afterwards, and opened for the reception of the company under the auspices of Mr Nash, who had just then become the Arbiter Elegantiarum of Bath…A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

Black and White detail of above print

In the year 1751 [The Pump] Room was enlarged. Accommodated with a beautiful Portico stretching from it in a northern direction in 1786, and adorned with superb Western Frontispiece in 1791, The Corporation further beautified the city in 1796 by taking down the old Pump Room entirely and building on its site the much larger and more magnificent edifice known at present by that name…A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

Public Breakfast, The Comforts of Bath, 1798, Rowlandson

Pertaining to the construction of  the Harrison rooms and the Assembly Rooms:

Temporary booths had hitherto been the only places in which the company could drink their tea and divert themselves with cards, but Mr Harrison, a man of spirit and speculation, perceiving that a building of this nature was much wanted and would probably make him a very suitable return, undertook at the suggestion of Mr Nash to erect a large and commodious room for the purpose of receiving the company.  The succes of this attempt induced a similar one in the year 1728, when another large room was built by Mr Thayer.  A regular system of pleasurable amusements commenced from this period, and the gay routine of public breakfasts, morning concerts, noon card parties, evening promenades, and nocturnal balls rolled on in an endless and diversified succession. - A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

Company at Play, The Comforts of Bath, Rowlandson

Rules card games:

That no persons be permitted to play with cards left by another party;  That no hazard or unlawful game of any sort be allowed in these Rooms on any account whatever nor any cards on Sundays...A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

The Concert, Bath Chambers, Rowlandson

For music sweet music has charms to controul; And tune up each passion that ruffles the soul; What things have I read and what stories been told; Of feats that were done by musicians of old – The New Bath Guide, 1779

Dinner, Comforts of Bath, 1798

Bath has little trade and no manufactures; the higher clafles of people and their dependents conftitute the chief part of the population, and the number of the lower clafles being but fmall…A New Guide Through Bath, 1811

Bath Races, Rowlandson

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I had just about given up on reading advance copies of Jane Austen sequels, prequels, and mash-ups, when A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson and published by Random House, arrived in my mailbox. A sigh of relief swept over me as I opened the mailer and saw that I had received a serious book about Jane Austen’s body of work – I would not be subjected to reading another mash-up of vampires and zombies, or a sequel with Mr & Mrs Darcy making babies.

I prefer to read literary appraisals written by professional writers. They often express their thoughts about other writers more clearly than academics, whose use of lofty terms, elaborate theories, and learned analysis in their critiques tends to befuddle all but a handful of their colleagues and students. Except for her own essay, editor Susannah Carson (a doctoral candidate) takes a back seat to Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Alain de Botton, Jay McInerney, Anna Quindlen, and Eudora Welty. Esteemed literary critic, Harold Bloom, wrote the foreword. As I read this new book, my gratitude towards these eloquent writers grew.

L-R: Alain de Botton, Anna Quinlan, Harold Bloom, Eudora Welty, E.M.Forster, and Virginia Woolf

Each of the book’s thirty-three essays gave me a new insight about Jane Austen’s novels. While I did not agree with every writer’s take on Jane’s work, I felt that I had been exposed to a variety of new ideas. I’m not sure Jane is quite the paragon of moral virtue as depicted by James Collins. Nor do her novels necessarily end happily ever after. (Witness the number of unsuccessful marriages in her books, and her newly engaged/married characters still have the majority of their lives to live.) Not all her mothers are awful, nor is Mr. Bennet an especially noteworthy father. Regardless of my disagreements, I felt after finishing the book that I had attended a two-day symposium in which bright literary minds discussed and debated my favorite author.

L-R: Benjamin Nugent, Amy Heckerling, C.S.Lewis, AS Byat, J.B. Priestley, & Margot Livesey

Ms. Carson chose essays from both classic and contemporary writers, all of whom are ardent admirers of Jane’s writing. Some essays are long, and some are short, a nice mix. I would have preferred to read essays from a few detractors as well, for unlimited admiration can sometimes seem treacly. Still, I was as thrilled with Eudora Welty’s observations on the “real secret of the six novels’already long life,” as with director Amy Heckerling’s adaptation of the movie “Clueless” from Emma. Amy Bloom, whose “Terrible Jane” was my favorite essay, asserted that Jane knew her own worth as a writer and that, far from being the mild and shy spinster her Victorian family tried to reinvent after her death, she was a witty, fallible, full-blooded, and clear-sighted woman who liked a good party, hated being poor, and was often unkind. (Cassandra did not quite succeed in cutting out all of Jane’s acerbic observations in her letters.)

In her introductory essay, Ms. Carson (r) asked the question: Why do we read Jane Austen? Why indeed? As I read the essays, I began to understand that above all, Jane Austen makes me smile, think and ponder, and reach eagerly for the next page. She created characters that I want to revisit over and over again. As I have aged and grown wiser (presumably), her novels revealed new layers of depth and insights that I had not noticed before. This book has enriched my enjoyment of Jane, and as far as I’m concerned that’s all that matters. I give it three out of three Regency fans.

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CassandraPretty Cassandra Austen, Jane Austen’s elder sister by two years, lived until the ripe age of 72 . This brief visual guide demonstrates how fashion changed during her lifetime. Wherever possible, I tried to represent Cassandra’s age and the clothes she would have worn during that period. I also used the paired women combination to evoke Cassandra and Jane, even in the years after Jane’s death. The last image shows the changes in the silhouettes of the gowns regarding waists, sleeves, skirts and trains.

Mrs. Thomas Bolling with children, 1773. One can see the style of clothes baby Cassandra and Mrs. Austen would have worn after her birth.

Madame Vigee and child, 1780. Cassandra was seven and Jane had turned five, somewhat older than the child depicted in this painting.

Isaac Cruickshank Sketch 1790. Jane Austen would have been 15 and Cassandra 17 years of age. This image is NOT of the Austen sisters.

Jane Austen was 20 and Cassandra 22 when Hoppner painted this image of the Frankland sisters in 1795

Chemise dress, 1799. Lovely lines, but the trains so popular during these years must have collected dust and dirt.

Afternoon dresses, Lady's Monthly Museum, 1802

Ingres drew the Harvey sisters in 1804 when Jane was 29 and Cassandra had turned 31

Belle Assemblee, English Costume 1807. Short trains are still fashionable.

Regency morning dress 1813

Walking dress 1817, the year Jane Austen died

Eliza Ridgely painted by Sully, 1818.

Ball gown, 1820. Notice the shorter dress length and the fancy hem.

Rust brown redingote, 1823

Morning and evening dresses in 1829. Notice how the elaborate hats and hairdos balance the large sleeves. The waistline is situated almost at its natural position and the hemlines reveal slippers and trim ankles.

Riding Habit, 1842

Would Cassandra have resembled this old woman in 1845, the year of her death?

Review of the changes in fashion silhouettes

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Another book review so soon on this blog? Well, yes. This book from Shire Publications, Victorian and Edwardian Horse Cabs by Trevor May, is short, just 32 pages long, but it  is filled with many facts and rare images of interest to lovers of history. In Jane Austen’s day most people walked to work, town, church, and market square, or to their neighbors. Six miles was not considered an undue distance to travel by foot one way. The gentry were another breed. They either owned their own carriages or hired a public horse cab. These equipages were available as early as the 1620′s.

Hackneys, or public carriages for hire made their first significant appearance in the early 17th century. By 1694, these vehicles had increased to such a number that a body of Hackney Coach Commissioners was established in London. The commissioners dealt out licences, which was a bit of a joke, for a mere four inspectors were responsible for over 1,000 vehicles.

Hackney Coach 1680

Most of these licensed hackney coaches were purchased second hand. All that an enterprising person needed to establish his own hackney coach business was enough money for a used carriage and three horses, two that worked in rotation, and one that could be used as a replacement in case of injury or illness. The death of a horse could lead to a cab owner’s financial ruin. Another important ingredient was housing for the horses.

Hackney Coach 1800. Image @Wikimedia Commons

By, 1823, the lighter horse cabs began to replace cumbersome hackney coaches in great quantity, and by the mid 1830′s, the hansom cab set the new standard for modern horse cabs. Aloysius Hansom, an architect, designed the first carriage. When Hansom went bankrupt through poor investments, John Chapman took over, designing an even lighter, more efficient cab, one whose framework did not strike the horses on their backs or sides whenever a carriage ran over an obstacle in the road.

Hansom Cab

Commercial cab firms tended to be small, even as late as 1892. Only one or two proprietors provided a large number or variety of equipages, like Alfred Pargetter, whose concern advertised removal carriages, cabs, and funeral coaches for hire. While cabs were licensed, their drivers were not and the road could present a dangerous obstacle course. The video clip below shows how adroitly horses and carriages managed to avoid each other with seemingly few rules (mostly towards the end of the clip). Notice how some lucky individual horses pulled relatively light loads compared to other horses forced to pull heavy carts.

These two video clips, one from 1903 and the other from 1896 (unbelievable!) show the end of an era, for by 1914, motorized vehicles were rapidly replacing the horse-drawn cart.

I recommend this book to anyone with an insatiable appetite for a pictorial history on a particular topic. Trevor May is an expert on the Victorian era, and he has managed to squeeze more information about horse-drawn cabs in this short book (more a thick pamphlet) than I have read before. The images are simply splendid.

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I read these words on the book flab of the excellent new compilation, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson, foreword by Harold Bloom, “For so many of us a Jane Austen novel is much more than the epitome of a great read. It is a delight and a solace, a challenge and a reward, and perhaps even an obsession.” How true. Susannah Carson has culled essays from the last one hundred years of criticism and juxtaposed a few pieces by today’s essayists and novelists in a book that I found to be more satisfying than attending a master class on Jane Austen. I consider this interview with Susannah to be among the better posts on this blog. Enjoy!

33Q: What were your criteria for choosing the essays? Would you give us an example of a writer whose essay you first considered and then decided not to include in the collection?

A: There have been so many excellent essays written on Jane Austen! Most of them endeavor to clarify some aspect of the novels—the what, when, how, etc.—and these can be extraordinarily helpful. But then there are other essays which tackle what is, in my opinion, the big question: the why. Not, for instance, how can we understand the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth in terms of gender relations, narrative technique, and cultural institutions, but why does their love continue to move us so?

David Lodge wrote an essay entitled “Jane Austen’s Novels: Form and Structure.” This is perhaps the most acute, elegant account of how the novels work. But it answers the “how” question, and so I chose to include his essay “Reading and Rereading Emma” instead, for there he is after the essential “why”.

Q. Did you have an order in mind when you arranged the essays and why?

A. Some of the essays are about one novel, some are about a couple or a few of her works, and some are about everything she wrote from the juvenilia to her unfinished novels to her letters. In the end, we decided to order them loosely: essays about a single novel appear in a series, and they are separated by two or three more general essays that are united by theme (e.g. morality, films). When I reread them through in this order, I was pleased to discover that the same thoughts would rise and fall in the smaller waves as well as throughout the length of the book. Austen’s vitalism, for instance: towards the beginning, Eudora Welty writes that Jane Austen’s novels are about “Life itself”; in the middle, later, Amy Heckerling notes that everyone is “BUSY” and Eva Brann observes that the heroines are full of “liveliness”; and in the penultimate essay, Virginia Woolf hears “the sound of laughter.”

Q: Do you agree with Benjamin Nugent’s observation that a Jane Austen novel is the “ultimate talky French movie,” because in essence nothing happens except for a series of conversations between characters?

A: I do agree. Austen’s use of dialogue is complex—she uses it to sketch character, but (as Diane Johnson notes in her essay) she rarely uses it to advance plot. And yet, at the same time, most of the climactic scenes are all about words—their use and misuse. In Pride and Prejudice, it’s Darcy’s hilariously misworded proposal; in Mansfield Park, it’s the drama surrounding drama, or the debate over whether or not to perform Lovers’ Vows; in Emma, it’s Emma’s slight of Miss Bates during the picnic at Box Hill; in Persuasion, it’s Wentworth’s letter written in counterpoint with the conversation he overhears between Anne and Harville. So words are at the center of whatever it is that they get wrong or right, whatever it is they need to learn in the course of the novel. Figuring out how words work in a social setting is, as Ben so astutely notes, part of a timeless coming-of-age process.

Q: James Collins made a number of powerful statements, saying that Jane Austen helped him clarify ethical choices and figure out a way to live his life with integrity. One of the reasons that she has credibility in his eyes is her total lack of sentimentality. C. S. Lewis comments on Austen’s hard core morality, and Amy Bloom paints a picture of a woman who sees the world around her through a clear pane of glass. These authors helped me to clarify why I am so drawn to Jane Austen. In your introduction you hope the reader will formulate an answer to the question: why do you read Jane Austen? I will reformulate your question: what was your reason for assembling this book and why are you drawn to Jane Austen?

A: It seems like there’s a whispered suspicion in our culture that Reading is dead—that we hardly ever read anymore and, when we do, we’re still not really reading. Hopefully this isn’t true, but the sublime Robertson Davies was certainly haunted by this fear when he issued his call to arms: “What I call for is a multitude of revolutionary cells, each composed of one intelligent human being and one book of substantial worth, getting down to the immensely serious business of personal exploration through personal pleasure.”

This collection of essays is intended to help people figure out how to really, really, really enjoy reading. There are different kinds of reading. There’s the light reading of a Jane Austen spin-off, and that provides a certain amount of fun. And then there’s the rich reading of a Jane Austen novel, and that provides not just quick delight but insight into how our hearts and minds work. We frequently think of reading as somehow separate from the act of living, but with the best literature—with Austen’s novels—reading becomes just as grand, if not grander, than the other bits and acts of life. So I read, and I read Austen, not only because it teaches me to think, imagine, and relate, but also because it’s a critically important and deeply indulgent pursuit.

Susannah Carson CREDIT Eric C CarterDizzy Pixel Inc SMALLERQ: Tell us a little about yourself! Your short bio on the book flap intrigues me. Unlike provincial Jane, whose life was quite circumscribed, you are truly a woman of the world.

Yes! It’s telling that Austen’s work continues to have something to say to modern women who are so very different from her in all sorts of quotidian details. I started off in much the same place, however; my first memories date from the years my family lived in Hockwold-cum-Wilton, a little village in East Anglia. We moved back to the Napa Valley when I was still small, and I grew up in the country where I could trek across the countryside to visit friends. The scope changed when I went away to college, for I found myself increasingly addicted to books: first philosophy, then literature. While I was writing an M.A. thesis for San Francisco State University on Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves, I fell head-over-heels in love with 17th C French novels. To read these rare novels in all their original mustiness, I moved to France. After a maîtrise at Lyon II, I did a D.E.A. (or M.Phil) at Paris III. In Paris, I lived in an apartment above a chocolaterie on the Ile St. Louis and walked around Notre Dame every day on my way to class at the Sorbonne. I then moved to New Haven to pursue a doctorate at Yale, and I’ve just returned to San Francisco to finish a dissertation on danger in French novels of the Ancien Régime.

What would Jane Austen’s life have been had she lived, read, and written today? Would she have traveled the world for her craft, or would she have been just as content with stationary flights of fancy? Would she have racked up degrees and indulged in “serious” study, or would she have stuck to her depictions of three or four families in a little village? No matter how we live it out, I think it’s inevitable that modern bluestockings somehow associate themselves with Austen: she was such an important pioneer, and it’s hard to say where we would be today had she never written.

Thank you for your insights, Susannah! It has been a pleasure talking to you. For the readers of this blog, I will post my review of the book soon.

More information about Susannah on Random House’s site: Susannah Carson is a doctoral candidate in French at Yale University. Her previous degrees include an M.Phil from the Sorbonne Paris III, as well as MAs from the Université Lyon II and San Francisco State University. She has lectured on various topics of English and French literature at Oxford, the University of Glasgow, Yale, Harvard, Concordia, and Boston University.  Order the book at this link.

Susannah’s site sits at this link:  Why Jane Austen


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collision

Douglas Henshall and Kate Ashfield as the investigative officers

“Oh,” I thought, when I began to watch Collision, the new film offering on PBS’s Masterpiece Contemporary, “This looks like a TV version of Crash or Intersection.” But as the story unfolded in flashbacks and real time, I could not wait to see how the rest of this mystery about a six-car crash on the A-12 highway outside of London would develop.  I watched nearly four hours of the screener in one sitting, sacrificing a perfectly lovely autumn afternoon for the sake of seeing the story uninterrupted from start to end. As PBS describes the plot:

Six cars collide on a superhighway outside London, leaving death, shattered lives, and profound mysteries. Why did some live and others die? Why did one driver disappear before rescuers got to him? And how will survivors, relatives, and others cope with a wrenching event that has unexpectedly far-reaching consequences?

collision 2 (2)

The collision

With a less talented director than Marc Evans, the convoluted story line could have turned into a melodramatic mess, but restrained acting and clear direction take this film to a satisfying but not too treacly a conclusion. There were a few story lines that seemed over the top, especially the one involving the mother-in-law, which seemed a bit off and was not needed to drive the plot.

lenora crichlow as alice jackson

Lenora Crichlow as doomed Alice Jackson

I agree with the reviewer who said that the plot of Collision reminded him of the old 70′s films, Airport and Hotel, in which viewers learn details about the characters’ lives that are only peripheral to the crash itself. Why the crash happened is the mystery. How the people involved in the crash came to converge at the same time on that highway is the real story. Superimposed on top of these story lines is the back story of John Tolin, the police officer placed in charge of the investigation. The father of Alice Jackson, the young black woman who died, is suing the department for racism, and John must find out if police chasing a speeding BMW with the black couple inside it caused her death. As John follows leads, he is haunted by his wife’s death in a car crash and his daughter’s injury, and he is increasingly unable to separate his emotions from his work.

david bamber as sidney norris

David Bamber as Sidney Norris, the piano teacher with a past

Douglas Henshall, who plays John Tolin, has the perfect face for this role: careworn, weary, sleep-deprived, and sad. He is forced to investigate the crash with former lover, Ann Stallwood (Kate Ashfield), who is equally uncomfortable with the idea of working alongside him.

lucie griffiths as jane tarrant (3)

Lucie Griffiths as a waitress whose life is boring

Add a young waitress who yearns for a better life, a piano teacher with a PAST, a mother-in-law from hell, a woman who has stolen company secrets, a man whose disappearance during the crash hides an awful secret, and you have the recipe for five hours of great TV. Many reviewers were not as kindly disposed towards this series as I am, but I have always secretly harbored a love for melodramatic films like Airport, Hotel, Backdraft, and The Poseidon Adventure. (Please do not share this awkward fact with others.)

nicholas farrell as guy pearson (2)

Nicholas Farrell as Guy Pearson, the expert who studies the crashed vehicles

People who missed watching the first episode or who want to see it again, will have two weeks to view it online on PBS’s site. The series concludes on Sunday, November 22.

    Watch a video interview with the cast in this YouTube clip:

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christineInquiring readers, Several weeks ago, Chris asked me to link to her blog. Looking at it and reading her posts, I asked her to keep me updated on her work, which she describes as a personal journey that she is doing “for the pleasure of pursuing a course of study in a structured manner, which I greatly miss from my time in graduate programs. And to have fun and explore, more deeply, the work of a writer I admire and the time period in which she lived.” Below are her thoughts, and a link to her blog, Embarking on a Course of Study, which I encourage you to visit.

Would you, if you could, spend a year entering ‘on a course of serious study’ as Marianne Dashwood vows to do at the end of Sense and Sensibility? If the answer is yes, please join me in an Austen-inspired project of that nature. Specifically, “A writer, reader, and Austen lover spends a year (or more) embarking on a course of study similar to that probably undertaken by Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, without the benefit of Colonel Brandon’s library and with room for diversions, digressions, and (hopefully) fun fieldwork.”

I’ve begun by rereading the novels (which has been both a joy and a frustration at times, and I’m sorry I waited so long to pick them up again!), and Austen’s letters. I’m contacting Austen scholars for reading suggestions and to interview them. So far the Chawton Library has been the most helpful. Sadly, JASNA, not so much.

I have my first interview with a professor at St. Mary’s College here in Maryland, who is offering a class on Austen that examines the important aspects of the time period in which they were written: poliltics, economy, social codes, etc.

I admit the fieldwork so far has been the most fun. I’ve been country dancing (a real thrill, but surprisingly hard to learn and hot/sweaty!), am working on a silk ribbon embroidery project, and am deciding between hat decorating and archery classes. I have the Jane Austen Cookbook, as well, and plan on cooking one or two items for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve promised my family not to make pigeon, which I admit I was not sorry to give up.

The reading list is growing and my goal is to alternate the serious with the silly. So – Mrs. Richardson then Sir Walter Scott, and on like that.

I hope to attend the festival in Bath next fall, so will probably need to find a seamstress to make me something fabulous or brave the process myself. Let’s see how well I do with the silk ribbon embroidery first!

This is not a project in the vein of a PhD dissertation or an intellectual discussion, though I welcome ideas, comments, and suggestions of all kinds. I’m trying to stay as true to Marianne as I can, but also see where this path leads me, personally.

Based on my post a few weeks ago (‘The Ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute’), that could be to a class in NYC on walking in heels at ‘Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls.’

You just never know where we’ll end up!

My latest post is on Elinor vs. Marianne. Who would you rather have as a friend? Who are you most like? Would love to hear from you.

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Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s flower prints are so lush and detailed that you can almost pick the flowers off the page. In the famous rose print below, a single drop of water rests exquisitely on a rose petal of the top rose. Born in a family of artists*, Pierre-Joseph became known as the premier botanical illustrator of his day (indeed, to this day). His influence spread far and wide and can be still felt in illustrations on cards, decorative boxes, books, wallpapers and prints, and calendars.

pierre-joseph-redoute

The watercolor images in this post were taken from his famous book of prints, Les Roses. Redouté, known as the “Raphael of flowers, mastered the technique of stipple engraving- in which he uses tiny dots, rather than lines, to create engraved copies of his watercolor illustrations. This new technique allowed him to make subtle variations in coloring (see the detail of the magnolia in the last image below).

4 faces of PJ Redoute

The four faces (and ages) of Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Redouté completed the three volumes of Les Roses, his best known work, between 1817 and 1824. His most popular illustrations are assembled in Les Liliacées (486 watercolors); and Les Roses (169 watercolors). Hand-colored stipple engravings, such as the magnolia sitting at the bottom of this post, were made from these watercolors. – Discovery Editions

Rosa gallica_maheka from Redoute's Les Roses 1817-1824 Huntington LibraryJosephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, was known for her spectacular garden at Chateau de Malmaison, where exotic plants were cultivated. The plants, acquired from around the world, were documented by France’s leading horticulturists and botanists, and painted by Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

Magnolia

Detail of the magnolia engraving below.

magnolia closeup

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Three years after Miss Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, Willoughby returns. She is thrown into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty, for she is hurt and jealous over the Colonel’s attentions towards Eliza, his ward. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with Marianne as ever. And the timing couldn’t be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back ….

Willoughby's returnJane, I have thoroughly enjoyed ‘Willoughby’s Return’. Your writing style is lovely and has matured since your first book. Was it easier to write a second novel?

Jane: Thank you Vic for inviting me onto your blog, and for your lovely comments; I am so thrilled that you enjoyed my novel. I did find it easier in some ways, yet I feel I still have so much to learn. Writing the first one teaches you so much, and I was able to draw on those experiences. Feeling confident to experiment a bit more was very helpful, I wasn’t so afraid to write the book as I wanted to – I’m always conscious that people are constantly comparing what I write to Jane Austen. It isn’t possible to emulate Jane, of course, but I try to retain the tone and flavour of her books, bearing in mind that I am writing for a modern audience.

How were you inspired to write this book? How did you come up with the plot? It was a stroke of genius to make Margaret Dashwood the heroine of your story and yet retain Marianne. They shared center stage much in the way that Elinor and Marianne did in Sense and Sensibility. Was this done on purpose?

Jane: Like a lot of people who have read Sense and Sensibility, I never felt completely convinced at the end of the book that Marianne would have fallen in love so easily with Colonel Brandon as we are told in the two paragraphs that Jane devotes to their courtship and marriage. I wanted to believe that they were right for one another, and this is what started me thinking about how he might have won her over, and about their relationship in general. Marianne is a passionate romantic, a little self-centred, and a firebrand. I imagined that although she might love the Colonel as much as she had Willoughby, it would have been quite a different courtship, and a complicated relationship, especially as they have both loved and lost in the past. The fact that Brandon is guardian to the daughter of his first love who is also tied to Willoughby as the father of her child, I felt would cause big problems. Marianne thinks only of others in terms of herself, I think she would be very jealous of Brandon’s relationship with his ward and her child. Starting with these ideas as a background, I wondered what might happen if Willoughby returned, and how he could be worked into the plot so that Marianne could not avoid him.

Jane Odiwe and Dracca2

Jane Odiwe, left front, at the Reform Club, London. Dominique Raccah, publisher with Sourcebooks, sits in back looking down, with her husband beside her.

I wanted to introduce an older Margaret, who we are told has a character very similar to her sister. The relationship between the sisters is an important part of the book – would Marianne be able to chaperone Margaret as Elinor might or would she indulge her sister, encouraging her to fall head over heels with the first love that comes along? Would Margaret make the same mistakes as her sister?

Finally, I’ve always wondered about Brandon’s sister that we hear Mrs Jennings mention in S&S. Why was she in France? I decided to bring her and her family back to Whitwell, and this gave me an opportunity to introduce one of the young men central to the story. I love all the twists and turns in the plots of Jane Austen’s books, and I spent a long time thinking about how I could achieve a few of my own. I had a lot of fun with the plot, which changed several times before I got to the end!

Mr. Wickham and Willoughby are central to the plots of your two novels. Do you have a penchant for bad boys? Or do you think they are more complex characters than Edmund Bertram or a Henry Tilney, let’s say?

Jane: I don’t have a penchant for bad boys as such, but I understand how such characters have a certain appeal for most women – I think most of us have probably come across a Willoughby at some stage when we were growing up – I am convinced Jane knew of one or two! Bad boys are central to Austen’s plots also, and what fascinates me is that these characters are always introduced as handsome, dashing young men on first acquaintance. But, I think what’s important about Jane’s writing is that even when it is found that they are far from the good characters they are initially painted, they are not caricatures, never wholly bad. Willoughby, for instance, does realise his mistakes by the end of the book even if he doesn’t suffer forever. The development of a character like Willoughby was something I wanted to bear in mind with my book. I love the fact that Marianne is his ‘secret standard of perfection in woman’ – wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Willoughbys spent the rest of their lives in such secret regret?

Jane Odiwe efford3

Photograph taken in the area of Efford House on the Flete Estate where Sense and Sensibility (1995) was filmed.

I also enjoyed the historic touches that you managed to weave into your plot. It is evident that you know the countryside well and that you are familiar with Regency customs. Tell me a little about your research. I know you have visited many of the places you describe.

Jane: Research is a favourite part of writing these books – I probably spend far too much time on it, and always end up with more than I need, but England at this time is so interesting. My book starts off in Devon and Dorset, counties I’ve known and enjoyed since I was a little girl. My father used to take cine films of us when we were little – I have film of me in Lyme when I am about seven, and I have very fond memories of holidays taken in the area. I had to include Lyme in the book for these associations and for those that Jane wrote about in Persuasion.

I also spent a lot of time wandering around London finding all the places where the characters spend the season, and deciding where Marianne and her Colonel might have their house. As you know, Vic, there is still so much to see of Georgian London!

Oh, yes! I envy your living so close to the places that I research and your proximity to London. You write, paint, oversee at least three blogs and a twitter account, and have a family. How do you find time for it all? I am curious how you still manage to paint, for I always found that to be the most time consuming of my talents and the easiest to drop when my schedule is hectic.

Jane: The truth is that I find it difficult to find time for it all, but I am an early riser, and get a lot done when everyone is still asleep. We always come together for meals in my family, that’s most important and, we spend time together in the evenings – sometimes we paint together. There are several artists in the family; I love it if we are all working round the table. My own painting has taken a back seat at present, but that’s more to do with the fact that writing has taken me over for the moment.

Jane Odiweefford1

Holbeton is the nearest village to the Flete Estate in South Devon, an area rich in natural beauty.

Any other thoughts about your book that you would like to share with our readers?

Jane: One of the themes in the book concerns that of love, lost and found. Both the Colonel and Marianne have been in love before, and their relationship is a second attachment. I wonder what your readers think of second attachments – and have they ever encountered or suffered at the hands of a Mr Willoughby?

Thank you so much for this interview and for the photos you supplied. I can’t recommend ‘Willoughby’s Return’ highly enough to people who love to read Jane Austen sequels.

Jane: Thank you for inviting me to talk to you about my book and for a fantastic interview with such thought provoking questions!

Want to talk to Jane or Dominique? Join Twitter!

Find other interviews and reviews of Willoughby’s Return at these sites:

Sourcebooks is holding a blog tour for author Jane Odiwe on other blogs. The schedule is as follows:

Follow Jane Odiwe’s adventure as an author on her blog, Jane Austen Sequels. By the way, today is Jane Odiwe’s birthday: Happy Birthday, Jane!

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Everything we now use is made [in] imitation of those models lately discovered in Italy. – Observation by an Englishman

diana sackville detail 1777

Diana Sackville, 1777

In the late 18th century, hairstyles for women took a dramatic turn from the pouffed-up and constructed hairdos of the earlier Georgian age to the simple hair styles inspired by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Curls now framed the face and chignons replaced the complicated, almost architectural concoctions that took hairdressers hours to create. Ancient statues and works of art brought back as spoils of war or as souvenirs from grand tours revealed classical hairstyles. Women began to wear simpler hairdos with long hair pulled back in chignons or simple pony tails, long curls trailing over the shoulder, and short ringlets framing the face. Hair ornaments consisted of flower wreaths, ribbons, jewelry, tiaras, and combs.

greek and roman influences

Hairstyles on statues from antiquity

Lady Caroline Lamb (lower left) sported a saucy short bob, whose influence can be seen from the portrait in the Roman mural at the Metropolitan Museum. Madame Recamier, whose hair is longer, achieves a similar effect with ringlets around her face. Her curly hair, gathered in back, allowed the ringlets to fall. At right, the Marchioness of Queenston achieved a very similar style to Madame Recamier’s, but her bandeau sat further back on her head and the ringlets framing her face were thicker.

Curly styles

Longer hair, while not as prevalent as the up-do’s, usually took the form of a long curl draped over the shoulder. At second to right, Mrs. Henry Baring wore a more casual “do”, with her locks streaming around her neck and shoulders.

long hair

The long curl

Straight, simple hairstyles with few ringlets and ordinary bangs, or a style simply parted in the middle were worn, but were not drawn or painted by artists or depicted in fashion plates as often as the curlier styles.

plain ringlet free

Fashion plates of the time show how these hairstyles looked with bonnets and hair ornaments with a (l – r) walking dress, ball gown, afternoon dress, or morning dress.

fashion plate

The hairstyles that Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson wore in Sense and Sensibility seemed to be particularly true to the period (in my opinion). Some of you may have noticed that I use Kate Winslet’s image of Marianne as my avatar.

hair styles

This image of a Roman statue (a copy of an earlier Greek statue) shows the hairstyle that would become prevalent in the later Regency/early Victorian era (1820′s to 1830′s).

marble head of a woman roman copy of greek statue

1st C. AD Roman bust

“We wore white crepe dresses trimmed with satin ribbon & the bodices & sleeves spotted with white beads. . . Thursday night, Pearl combs, necklaces, earrings, & brooches. . . Tuesday evening we had sprigged muslin. . . gold ornaments & flowers in our heads & Friday we wore yellow gauze dresses over satin, beads in our heads & pearl ornaments” – Fanny Knight Austen

Evening dresses, fronticepiece, The Mirror of Graces,, 1811

Fanny Knight wrote a vivid description of how women dressed and what sort of accessories were popular when she was a young woman. The 1811 fronticepiece to The Mirror of Graces (above) shows how simple and elegant the combination of Neoclassical hair, dress, and accessories looked.  Jewelry styles favored smaller, lighter forms of draped chains and classical motifs, which were reflected in hair ornaments. These days jewelry from the Georgian era is difficult to find, for many of the pieces were refitted or redesigned to reflect motifs of the neoclassical period. (Neoclassical Jewellery ). Ebay Guides can be extremely useful in researching information about this era, such as this one entitled,  Georgian and Regency Combs and Hair Accessories – 1800-1814. (Click here for the PDF document.)

tiaras and combs

Georgian tiara and combs, early 19th c.

In addition to gold and silver hair ornaments, such as tiaras and diadems, young women wore silk ribbons, strands of pearls, feathers and other fancy hair ornaments in their hair, most notably for balls and formal occasions. These hair jewels were a visible sign of a family’s or husband’s wealth. Bonnets, hats, or turbans were also worn on social outings. The second image from the right (above) is of a George III silver comb, 1807.  “Silver combs of this type appear to have been a speciality of Birmingham, where they were produced in a small quantity and in a collectable variety of forms.” (Cinoa)

As the Regency era progressed long hair became increasingly popular and full ringlets began to appear near the side of the face. Hair ornaments for balls included jewellery, bandeaux, turbans and wreaths of grapes and towards the latter end of the Regency era flowers, turbans and ostrich feathers were seen to adorn the hair. (Overseale House)

ornaments

These days we achieve curls and ringlets with a hot curling iron. The use of hot irons in the 19th century was tricky, for hair could easily be singed. Back then, curls were made with pomade, a hair gel, and curling papers. The lost art of the paper curl describes how a person today can make a similar curl using old-fashioned techniques.

Lydia is exposed to an unregency like cut

Perdita Weeks as Lydia Bennet in Lost in Austen

The transition from the structured hairstyles of the mid-18th Century to the Regency period was not achieved without its own set of complications, as this James Gillray cartoon shows. The cartoon was drawn in the earlier Neoclassical period, when round gowns were still worn.

gillray fashion cartoon

A lady putting on her cap, Gillray, 1795

The fashion plate below shows how charming and uncomplicated, yet classic, the combination of the 1802 hairstyles and afternoon dresses are together, whereas the 1811 fronticepiece showed how rich both hair and fabric can be made to look using similar principles of fashion design.

1802 Lady's Monthly Museum afternoon dress june Payne Milliner Old Bond Street

Afternoon Dress 1802 Lady's Monthly Museum

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