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Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year, All

Gentle Reader: Be safe and have a wonderful evening/night.

Should old acquaintance be forgot …

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The exhibit, A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, will be shown through March 14, 2010 at the Morgan Library in New York City. This week I had the distinct pleasure of seeing this unique presentation of Jane’s letters, the drafts of two of her novels (The Watsons and Lady Susan), several books, and images and cartoons of the Regency era.

I had taken a number of shots with my flip camera before a museum guard advised me that I could not take pictures. (Since it was possible to take pictures to my heart’s delight in The Louvre, it did not cross my mind that I could not do so at the Morgan Library). Interestingly, I had already taken numerous shots in full view of everyone before the guard stopped me.

The room is small; the riches contained within it are immeasurable

The actual exhibition area is contained within a small room, but there are so many letters and items of interest that I could have spent the entire day inside that space. Jane’s Life and Legacy were divided into three sections – her life and personal letters, her works, and her legacy. Over the next few weeks I shall write about my impressions from that exhibit, tying in other links and posts.

Entrance to new wing from Madison Ave

If you are not familiar with the Morgan Library and Museum, some information about its history might be of interest:

Interior of the new wing

A complex of buildings in the heart of New York City, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today it is a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. More than a century after its founding, the Morgan maintains a unique position in the cultural life of New York City and is considered one of its greatest treasures. With the 2006 reopening of its newly renovated campus, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan reaffirmed its role as an important repository for the history, art, and literature of Western civilization from 4000 B.C. to the twenty-first century. – Press Release information

Original entrance

The following links might also interest you:

 

Vaulted Ceiling

Happy New Year, All!

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Gentle Reader: This is Christine Stewart’s fourth post for this blog. Christine has embarked on a year-long journey on a Sense and Sensibility inspired project that she chronicles on Embarking on a Course of Study. During the recent snow storm on the East Coast, she made good use of her time by completing 100 pages of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

Okay, here’s my clever (I hope) new idea for the new year: dating a la Jane Austen via match.com.

What better way to test out the preferred behavior, character, and values of our favorite heroines (for me: Lizzy, Elinor, and Anne) that captivated their men? And what better arena than one of (or the) largest dating site on the Internet – arguably the biggest ballroom in the world?!

Let’s look at the necessary criteria:

  • I’m single and available – check.
  • I’m armed with an arsenal of advice Jane Austen style (see book list on my site) – check.
  • I’ve got a healthy sense of humor – check.
  • I’m willing to make a fool of myself – check.
  • I’m willing to learn something – check, check, check!

That’s what this blog is all about!

Though I consider myself a great catch, I’m an interesting (odd?) mix of come hither and cautious, which makes for some contradiction. I can flirt, but at heart I want someone grounded, centered, not necessarily old-fashioned, but someone with integrity and good manners to go along with his rockin’ sense of humor, his smarts, creativity, good heart, and sex appeal. I’ve really misjudged men in the past and accepted less than I deserved, sometimes ignoring my intuition, which was yelling Run! in favor of being with someone rather than being alone. Settling for Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right Always. Good grief – who hasn’t, right? It’s all part of growing up.
But still – ouch.

I took a break for a few years – focused on career and writing, friends, buying a house, and now this blog, but this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.
If you’d like to hear more and see the books I’m using (and take this challenge along with me), go to my site, Embarking on a Course of Study.

In a previous post a week or so ago, you can find a  link to listen to and/or download the entire ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho.’ Some readers of the sections are better than others. But it’s a delicious treat regardless.

I’m still doing my regular course of reading per Marianne Dashwood’s possible list. It’s sometimes slow going as there’s so much (!), but worth it.

Happy New Year!


Chris Stewart
http://www.embarkingonacourseofstudy.com
(A Sense and Sensibility inspired project)
http://www.pw.org/content/christine_stewart

Christine’s other posts for this blog:

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Laurel Ann, my blogging partner at Jane Austen Today, gave me a copy of Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute a thick, breathtaking book with color photographs of the institute’s extensive western fashion collection.

The Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI), founded in 1978, is the only institution in Japan to study Western fashion. Its collections include primarily Western costume and accessories, dating from the 18th Century to the present. Its website provides information about the KCI, its gallery and exhibition catalogues. The digital archive contains images of 200 objects from the collection, arranged chronologically. The site is available in both English and Japanese parallel versions. – Intute

This book holds a special place on my shelf. Its arrival tells me that Laurel Ann knows me very well! View some of the lovely images contained in the book at this site: Digital archive of the Kyoto Costume Institute

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I brought several books to read during my holiday hiatus. The first will come out in February, the second is a popular murder mystery series by Stephanie Barron starring Jane Austen as sleuth.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the second mystery book by Beth Patillo, author of the popular Jane Austen Ruined My Life. The book is based along similar lines as the first novel. A young woman without a job and with a neglectful boyfriend travels to Oxford to attend a Jane Austen seminar. The adventure begins when Jane Austen’s lost manuscript of First Impressions is found. The reader once again runs across The Formidables, who played such a prominent role in Ms. Padillo’s first book. I have finished the second chapter and cannot wait to finish the book. Click here to read my review.

My other choice for the holidays is Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Genius of the Place, the first book in a long, successful mystery series. I have started to read this first book on four occasions and never quite managed to get into the story. I am determined to read the book front to back this time to learn why two of my friends are die-hard fans.

Today is Boxing Day in England. May you and yours enjoy the lingering effects of this lovely holiday season.

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Happy Christmas from Jane Austen’s World



Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deemed the new born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.
And well our Christian sires of old.
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hail was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe,
Then opened wide the baron’s hail
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair!”
All hailed with uncontroll’d delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hail table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon: its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old, blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbon, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visor made
But oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
A poor man’s heart through half the year.

Sir Walter Scott, 1808, from Marmion

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My Dear Charlotte is a recent novel written in epistolary form by British mystery writer Hazel Holt, who uses Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra for her inspiration. The main character of the book and the writer of the letters is Elinor Cowper (pronounced Cooper), who lives in Lyme Regis with her parents. She writes faithfully to her older sister Charlotte in Bath. In the letters Ms. Holt includes all the minutia of daily life that Jane wrote down, such as purchasing cloth, refurbishing bonnets, exchanging recipes, and attending balls and assemblies. Jan Ferfus, Professor of English Emerita, Lehigh University writes in the introduction:

“Of course, you don’t have to love Austen to love this book. If you enjoy detective novels, you will find here a completely satisfying murder mystery, coupled with a romance (or more than one, in fact). My Dear Charlotte gives you, in addition to mystery and romance, a portrait of the world of the English gentry at around 1815, immediately after the defeat of Napoleon–its manners and its moral certainty. As in Austen, Napoleon is not directly mentioned, but his shadow is there: one brother of the heroine is a sailor and the other a junior diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. It’s the social world at home that is central, however, with its balls, visits, courtships, gossip, and of course murder, underlining the tensions and rifts within that apparently civilized society.

The book is based on the premise that Jane’s letters make for interesting reading. As the publisher says, “While the story is new, the details having to do with balls, dinners, and other social events are given in the words of Jane Austen herself.”  This excerpt describes events just after Mrs. Woodstock’s murder:

Of course it cannot be denied that Mr Woodstock himself will lead a happier life without his formidable spouse, though I do not believe that he could have summoned up the courage to dispose of her!

Mr Rivers will be glad to be rid of one who would have put obstacles in the way of his plans for the Barbados estate, but I do not think that may be considered a sufficient reason for an honourable man to take a life.

Mrs West, however, seems to me to lack such scruples if they stood in the way of her daughter’s advancement. I do not at present see how she could have brought about Mrs Woodstock’s demise, but no doubt, if I give my mind to it, I may presently think of something.

Poor John coachman also had reason to wish his mistress dead, since his whole happiness (and that of Sarah) depended upon keeping his position at Holcombe and if he had been turned away without a character his case would have been miserable indeed.

So you see, there are a number of people who will be happy at Mrs Woodstock’s death. Perhaps I should add myself to the list for the sake of those hours of tedium and the many irritations she has subjected me to!

Author Hazel Holt

The above passage represents the book at its most exciting because it concentrates on the plot.  As far as I am concerned, Jane Austen’s letters are not all that interesting when taken out of context. The letters to Cassandra are important because they reveal something (anything) about Jane’s life and thoughts. Those that I read from the Brabourne edition seem like watered down pap when compared to the tart and satiric observations of her novels. There were times when I stopped reading My Dear Charlotte, for the book was bogged down by the minutia of daily life instead of clues about the murder. The details were meant to give authenticity, but they should have been used more sparingly. I found the epistolary format also problematic, for it allowed for too much exposition and very little dialogue, and I felt that I was receiving my information third-hand. Instead of getting into Elinor’s head, I was reading about her recipes! In fact, Elinor reveals as little of her thoughts, ideas, and hopes in her letters to Charlotte as Jane did to Cassandra. I would have preferred that Ms. Holt had used the rich dialogue and language in Jane’s books for inspiration, rather than her uneventful life.

Hazel Holt would most likely disagree with my assessment of Jane’s letters. She describes the process of writing My Dear Charlotte in a recent interview, in which she revealed that she found Jane’s letters delightfully chatty:

I thought – holding my breath – that since they are such wonderfully informal, chatty letters, I might just manage to create a sort of facsimile of her world if I wrote my novel in the form of letters, inserting extracts of Austen’s where they would fit in with the story – the perfect, authentic background.

Ms. Holt DOES capture Jane’s ascerbic wit on a few occasions by directly quoting her and weaving these gems into the plot:

“Mrs Holder’s niece, Miss Porter, is recently come into the neighborhood but is not much admired; the good-natured world, as usual, extolled her beauty so highly, that all of Lyme have had the pleasure of being disappointed.”

“I do not remember if I told you that Mrs Heathcote wrote to tell us that Miss Blackford is married, but I have never seen it in the papers, and one may as well be single if the wedding is not in print.”

Perhaps I was expecting too much from the start and didn’t give this book the chance it deserved. As a successful mystery writer, I expected Ms. Holt to wow me from page one. To be fair, as the book progressed and as the characters were introduced and more fully formed, I found myself becoming more involved in the plot. Ms. Holt knows how to write a mystery, though I took a stab in the dark and guessed the murderer early on. Searching the Internet for reviews and comments about My Dear Charlotte, I discovered that many people liked it immensely and gave it rave reviews. As for me, I rate this book two out of three regency fans.

My Dear Charlotte: With the assistance of Jane Austens letters (Paperback), Hazel Holt. ISBN #’s
Standard: 978-1-60381-040-1
Large Print Books: 978-1-60381-041-8
sBook: 978-1-60381-042-5

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