Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘A Dance With Jane Austen’

Inquiring readers: Susannah Fullerton and I met in Brooklyn at the annual JASNA meeting, where she was promoting two books and gave two workshop presentations.  Here, then, is our share of our ongoing conversation:

Susannah, it was such a pleasure meeting you at the AGM in Brooklyn. I felt as if we had known each other for years, so instant was our connection. As we talked, I came to realize that you lecture, travel, act as guide, write, and have two books coming out in a HALF year, AND you are a wife, mother, and president of JASA (Jane Austen Society of Australia). At the conference you had boundless energy. How and where do you find the time to do it all and look so fresh and enthusiastic? I am in awe.

There’s a lovely quote in Emma when Miss Bates says, ‘It is such a happiness when good people get together – and they always do.” Vic, that’s how I felt when I met you in Brooklyn – an instant recognition that we had masses in common and would get on really well. I do have an incredibly busy life and it has been especially busy these last 2 years with 2 books to write. However, I do find it hard to say ‘no’ to lovely literary projects. I have been President of JASA for 17 years (I’m wondering if that should put me in the Guinness Book of Records?) and I have a fabulous committee, so running the society is a joy. Of course we are all very excited about next year’s big P & P anniversary. My literary tours are great fun. When you yourself get an incredible thrill from walking down the Gravel Walk in the footsteps of Anne Elliot and Capt. Wentworth, or seeing the topaz crosses at Chawton, or actually standing in the room where Jane Austen died (which I did on 2 of my literary tours) then it’s fantastic to be able to take other people on tours where they can share that same excitement. My tours are with ‘Australians Studying Abroad’, and I don’t only take tours to England but to France, Scotland and the USA as well. It’s all such fun that somehow I find the energy to do it all.

In reference to your interview on Jane Austen in Vermont, you mentioned that the time for a book about dance in Jane Austen’s time was right. I agree with you. What were some of the facts you uncovered that surprised you and that you were anxious to share with the world?

What really surprised me was that no-one had written a book on Jane Austen and dancing before now! I think what you find when you focus on one particular aspect of Jane Austen’s fiction is an increased awareness of how utterly brilliant she was. When I wrote Jane Austen and Crime I found that the tiniest bit of information about something like poaching was used by Austen in a way that had so many wider implications if you knew about the laws and perceptions of poaching at that time. In Mansfield Park Mr Rushworth boasts about his “zeal after poachers”, yet completely fails to stop Henry Crawford from ‘poaching’ his wife – the ‘poaching’ undercurrents in the novel are so brilliantly done. I found the same with dancing – when you learned exactly what behaviour was expected in a ballroom, you became so much more aware of the subtler nuances of dialogue and action. For example, it was not proper etiquette to compliment your partner on their dress or looks, because it was taken for granted that everyone would be nicely dressed at a ball. You shouldn’t praise someone for doing what it was assumed they would do anyway – ie, dress nicely. This gives extra point to Mrs Elton’s behaviour at the Crown Inn ball – of course, no-one compliments her on her dress because they are behaving properly, but Mrs Elton is desperate for such attention so she takes on the task herself: “How do you like my gown? How do you like my trimming? How has Wright done my hair?” etc. The more you delve into any aspect of Austen’s world, the more you find and you come away with an even greater awe of her incredible achievement!

Was there any information in A Dance With Jane Austen that you wished you had expanded upon but simply could not due to lack of space and time?

It could have been nice to have included more particular information about steps for individual dances, but unless you are a Regency dancer yourself, that information might be rather dull on the page – more fun to ‘do’ than to read about, I think.

Authors Diana Birchall (l) and Susannah Fullerton (r) at the Brooklyn AGM

When we were at the AGM, you were promoting your next book as well, Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece. Other authors must be as curious as I am: How did you find the time to write TWO books with such close deadlines? Did you lock yourself in a closet and have food passed to you through a grate?

Just last week I received the most wonderful parcel in the post – two copies of Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and two copies of Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece. These are the UK and American editions of my new book. They are both gorgeous and I was so thrilled I danced round the kitchen with the copies in my arms! The book is dedicated to my daughter “my dearest loveliest Elinor Elizabeth” and she is really thrilled about that. Yes, it was quite a task to finish 2 books so close together. I was just finishing A Dance with Jane Austen when Frances Lincoln suddenly took up my suggestion that a book about 200 years of P & P would be a good idea. I must admit I lay awake most of that night, wondering if I could manage to do it given the tight time frame. But how could I resist? Spending 6 months with Elizabeth and Darcy was pure bliss and no book has given me so much pleasure to write. There were days when I was so involved I forgot to think about cooking dinner. Part of the joy was learning as I went along – discovering new depths and brilliancies in the novel. Just as an example – when I was writing my chapter on Elizabeth Bennet, I stopped to think about how she is first introduced to the reader. Most of us know her so well that it feels she has always been a part of our lives, but what are Elizabeth’s first words in the novel?? I had to go and check because I couldn’t actually remember the very first words she gets to speak in the text. And they are words that contradict her mother! In that age of conduct-book heroines, females who were expected to be obedient to parents, meek, silent and submissive, Elizabeth arrives on the literary scene with a contradiction!! Instantly we know that this woman is going to be different – unlike any heroine before (and of course since as well).

What should readers expect from Celebrating Pride and Prejudice that will make your book stand out from other publications about this novel?

I have tried in my book to give an all-round picture of why this novel has lasted 200 years and goes from strength to strength. I tell of its beginnings; Jane Austen’s struggles to get it out into the world; initial reactions to the book and then reactions as the 19thC continued and went into the 20thC; I have a chapter about the first sentence and why it has become so justly famous; I look at the use of letters in the text; I discuss the translations and how badly the novel fared for a long time in other languages and I look at the challenges faced by translators (would Mr and Mrs Bennet say ‘vous’ or ‘tu’ to each other? They have shared a bed and had 5 children, but still call each other Mr and Mrs – a translator has to make that sort of decision); I look at the extraordinary range of film versions (Dutch, Mormon, Spanish, Italian, Israeli etc); I look at the illustrations it has had foisted upon it over the years – some lovely and some truly terrible (and I include some fabulous pictures as examples) and the different sorts of covers it has been enclosed in; I look at P & P tourism which is now a big industry; I explore the amazing range of merchandise from baby’s nappies to skateboards, cosmetics to clothes pegs, china to jewellery etc. Some of the chapters I most enjoyed writing were about the characters of the novel – I have separate chapters on Darcy and Elizabeth, but then also include chapters on ‘her Relations’ and ‘his Relations’, and one on the ‘Other Characters’. I found that grouping them into ‘his’ and ‘her’ relatives made me think about them in a new way and helped make it clear why hero and heroine had become the sort of people they are.

Anything else you wish to add?

There is a T-shirt which has printed on it “What do you mean Mr Darcy isn’t real??” I think I need to buy that T-shirt! Elizabeth and Darcy, Mr and Mrs Bennet, Mr Collins and Lady Catherine, and all the characters of Pride and Prejudice are as real to me as the people I see every day. There is so much to celebrate about this utterly wonderful book by Jane Austen. My way of celebrating was to write a book about why it is so brilliant, and of course I very much hope that many readers will want to buy and read my book to discover just why, 200 years ago, the world became a far better place!

As always, Susannah, it is a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you nothing but the best and hope to see you during your spring tour in the U.S.! - Vic

NOTICE: CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations Monica! Dear readers: Susannah is graciously giving away a free copy of A Dance With Jane Austen. Please leave your comment stating which Jane Austen character you would most like to dance with and why! The contest is open to all and closes at midnight November 27th, US Eastern Standard Time.

Susannah’s Books:

Preorder Celebrating Pride and Prejudice at this link.

Order A Dance With Jane Austen at this link

Order Susannah’s first book, Jane Austen and Crime, at this link

Read Full Post »

Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece, By Susannah Fullerton, published by Voyageur Press, USA 2013 (Published in the UK as Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) Available in January, 2013

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice: The Beginning

I was asked by Frances Lincoln, the UK publishing firm who published A Dance with Jane Austen (read review here) if I would write a book about 200 years of Pride and Prejudice. I had barely finished Dance and knew it would be difficult to meet the tight deadline, but how could I resist? What better way to celebrate 200 years of that wonderful novel than to write a book about what it has meant to me and to so many people and about the extraordinary afterlife it has enjoyed. And so I set to work and I can honestly say that no book has given me such joy to write. For months I was deeply immersed in the world of the Bennets, Mr Collins, Lady Catherine and Mr Darcy. I have always adored the novel, but as I wrote my own book about it, I came to appreciate it even more, to be more fully aware of its intricacies, skill and its amazing power to charm and enchant again and again and again.

Susannah Fullerton at JASNA AGM 2012 with her new book, A Dance With Jane Austen

My book looks at many aspects of the novel. We all know that it was originally turned down, but for how long did it languish before its author again tried to get it into print? It was not a best-selling book, but from the beginning it had its admirers – who were they, and what did they say about it? I loved writing a chapter about the first sentence. Would I find enough to say, I wondered, as I sat down to write – a whole chapter about a few lines?? Could it be done? In the end, the problem was having almost too much to say, and I hope that chapter will make my readers see clearly just why that first sentence has achieved such fame.

I then turned to the characters. Every reader loves Elizabeth Bennet (I think there must be something wrong with anyone who does not fall in love with Elizabeth!), but why do we love her so, and in what ways is she so radically different from every heroine who had come before? How does her creator skilfully introduce her to us, show her growing and learning as the novel progresses, and endear her to us so greatly? And what of Mr Darcy, that archetypal romantic hero, progenitor of so many tall, dark and handsome men in romantic novels? I loved writing chapters on heroine and hero. I also explore their families and relatives – the Bennets and Mr Collins on her side, Lady Catherine, Anne, Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam on his. How is each character revealed to us and what have 200 years done for them in the way of sequels and further careers?

Pride and Prejudice Translations

In the same year that Pride and Prejudice was published, the first translation appeared. It was published in a Swiss journal, written in French. Jane Austen never knew about it and received no money for it, which is probably a good thing – her own characters would have been almost unrecognisable to her in that Swiss ‘bastardisation’. Generally Pride and Prejudice fared badly for many decades in European translations, but things slowly improved and the non English-speaking world is now catching up on the delights of reading Jane Austen.

Pride and Prejudice, 1813 edition. Image @Sotheby’s

They say you should not judge a book by its cover, but many people still do, and Pride and Prejudice has had an extraordinary range of covers over 200 years. From the first edition, to the modern Chick-Lit covers, and much in between, it has been ‘packaged’ in a myriad of different ways. And as for illustrations, they range from the positively ugly (where Elizabeth isn’t handsome enough to tempt anyone at all!) to the gorgeously decorative. My book includes many of these illustrations from the familiar Hugh Thomson ones, to some that will be very new indeed to my readers.

Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice

We all know about the Greer Garson film version, the lovely Elizabeth Garvie TV series and the hugely popular Colin Firth BBC series, but did you also know about the Dutch TV version, the Italian one with a Mrs Bennet rather like Lucrezia Borgia, the Israeli version (modernised), and several old BBC adaptations? My chapter on the various films will tell you about those, plus modernisations such as Lost in Austen and Bride and Prejudice. And there’s a chapter on sequels. I knew there were lots of them out there, but until I began my research for this chapter I had no idea quite how many, or to what lengths some of them go. There are sequels, prequels, continuations which mix characters from all the Austen novels, modern re-tellings, zombie-infiltrated versions, and even pornographic sequels. You will be amazed at the afterlife of Darcy and Elizabeth in the minds of some sequel writers!!

Susannah Fullerton discussing Dirty Dancing in Jane Austen’s Ballrooms at the JASNA AGM 2012 Brooklyn, NY

Today Pride and Prejudice is big business. There is the tourism it has engendered – theme tours, sightseeing in houses where films were made, swimming in a certain lake, and travel to Jane Austen museums and centres. And there is marketing – you won’t believe what items Pride and Prejudice has inspired, from soaps to clothes pegs, skateboards to romper suits. Pride and Prejudice sells things, and manufacturers have given full vent to the fancy in creating literary merchandise from the novel.

And, finally, what of Pride and Prejudice in the future? In this age of kindles and Ipads, audio versions and information on the internet, what will the future of this adored novel be? I had to speculate of course, but see if you agree with me?

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece is, if I say so myself, a very beautiful book. The illustrations are just gorgeous and were chosen with great care, and the book is a pleasure to hold. I hope you will also love its content! I am thrilled that it has also been published by Voyageur Press, an American publisher and that I have been invited to do a lecturing tour in the USA next year to talk about it. I wrote this book for every person who has fallen in love with Pride and Prejudice , who has read and re-read it, discussed all the film versions, and who feels that Elizabeth and Darcy are a part of their lives. I do hope you will want to read it and will join me in celebrating the fact that Pride and Prejudice has lived ‘happily ever after’ for 200 years!

Susannah Fullerton
President, Jane Austen Society of Australia

Preorder the book at Amazon.

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press (January 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0760344361
ISBN-13: 978-0760344361

Read Full Post »

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters went to the Ball, Susannah Fullterton

“Ah”, I said, when I saw Susannah Fullerton’s book in my mail box. “Here’s just the book I need.” Some of the biggest gaps in my Austen reference library concern dance and music. Whenever I wanted to find out more about the social customs of balls and dancing, how ladies and gentleman conducted themselves, the food served at supper balls, the etiquette of a gentleman’s introduction to a lady before he could dance with her, precisely when the waltz became acceptable not only among the racy upper crust but with villagers in the hinterlands as well, and the difference between private balls and public balls, I had to consult a variety of books. This was time-consuming, and a bit frustrating, for there were variations in details that each source offered.

And now Susannah Fullerton has come to my rescue! Readers who have visited the Jane Austen Society of Australia (an excellent site) know that Ms. Fullerton is its president, and that she has written a previous book, Jane Austen and Crime. A Dance With Jane Austen is a compact illustrated book crammed with information, but written in a relaxed and accessible style. Topics include: Learning to dance, Dressing for the dance, Getting to and from a ball, Assembly balls, Private balls, Etiquette of the ballroom, Men in the ballroom, Dancing and music, ‘They sat down to supper’, Conversation and courtship, The shade of a departed ball, and Dance in Jane Austen films.

Ms. Fullerton culls information from Austen’s letters, novels, and historic texts, such as The Complete System of English Country Dancing, by Mr. Wilson, a dancing master of some renown and decided opinions. She also describes how Beau Nash, the influential master of ceremonies and taste maker in Bath, laid down a set of rules for Society to follow. Nash single-handedly changed a small, sleepy city into THE playground for the smart set with his dictums and innovations, which lasted well beyond his death.

The Five Positions of Dancing, Wilson, 1811

Jane Austen was no stranger to Bath’s public assemblies, or to dancing in private settings. She loved to dance and rarely said no when a man approached her for a set. Jane danced as often as she could, wryly observing to her sister when she was in her thirties and when partners became scarcer: “You will not expect to hear that I was asked to dance, but I was.”

Getting to a ball might be problematic for those who had no means to keep horses or carriages. It made little sense to walk miles in fancy garb over dirt roads to a social event, and so arrangements needed to be made for those who were going to a dance to piggy-back with individuals who were willing to take them. This meant arriving and leaving a dance on someone else’s schedule. Catherine Morland did not walk to the Assembly Rooms, but took a sedan chair, for private carriages were seldom used within Bath proper. Her journey from “Great Pulteney Street to the Upper Rooms would have cost her between one shilling and six pence and two shillings (one way) – an expensive luxury at the time.”

A Modern Belle Going to the Rooms at Bath, Gillray caricature

The dancing ritual was one of courtship, and Jane Austen took full advantage of a ball to set the stage for character development. In each novel she takes a different approach. Lizzie and Darcy tense relationship began at the Meryton Assembly Ball, a situation that was not helped at the private ball at the Lucas’s house nor at the Netherfield Ball, where Lizzie’s family behaved abominably. The dances in Mansfield Park serve to show how selfish the characters are, and to point out Fanny’s isolation from the neighbors. Dancing masters taught children to dance properly, and they received further practice at children’s balls, but Fanny had few opportunities for practice, and she felt tense when she was prominently displayed at her birthday ball. Jane Austen masterfully used the dances in Emma to show how Emma never quite loses sight of Mr. Knightley even as she dances with Frank Churchill, and one gets a good sense of the frustration Catherine Morland feels at not being able to dance at her very first ball in Bath, for there was no one to introduce her and Mrs. Allen properly, or the utter irritation she feels when John Thorpe ruins her well-laid plans to dance with Mr. Tilney at a later assembly ball. Austen also uses balls to demonstrate how outrageous Marianne Dashwood’s behavior is towards Willoughby, breaking many rules of etiquette and decorum.

A Broad Hint of Not Meaning to Dance, James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphreys

Ms. Fullerton sets aside a few pages to discuss dances in films. These elaborately staged scenes are highly popular with film buffs. The costumes are beautiful, as is the music, and the settings are often quite lavish. But be aware that most of the dances and music are often inaccurate and chosen for cinematic effect. (As an aside, I was glad to note that Susannah’s take on Pride and Prejudice 1940 was similar to mine.)

Susannah Fullerton

Insights such as these make this book a sheer pleasure to read. A Dance with Jane Austen will be a valuable addition on the book shelves of any Regency author, Janeite, and history buff. As Susannah Fullterton says about her book:

Dances in the Regency era were almost the only opportunity young men and women had to be on their own without a chaperone right next to them, and dancing provided the exciting chance of physical touch. ..Dances were long – one often spent 30 minutes with the same partner – so there was plenty of opportunity for flirtation, amorous glances, and pressing of hands. After the dance was over, there was all the pleasure of gossip about everything that had happened.”

A Dance with Jane Austen will be available in October. Readers who are lucky enough to go to the Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting in New York in a few weeks will have the opportunity to meet Ms. Fullerton! I give this book 5 out of 5 Regency tea cups.

Preorder the book at this Amazon.com link or at Frances Lincoln Publishers
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Frances Lincoln (October 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0711232458
ISBN-13: 978-0711232457

Please note: The blue links are mine; other links are supplied by WordPress. I do not make money from my blog. I do, however, receive books from publishers to review.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,319 other followers