Archive for August, 2007

Welcome to Jane Austen’s World!

I am in the process of migrating Jane Austen’s World from another blog platform and template. If you have found this blog, please bookmark this site, not the other. Thank you, and stay tuned for the changes to come!

To view my previous blog on Blogger, click here.

To view the Jane Austen’s World website, click here.

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Often a journey is more pleasant if one slows down and savors it. I had hoped to review Lori Smith’s book, A Walk With Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith, in one fell swoop, but my busy summer schedule would not allow it. This was to my benefit. Everywhere I went I took Lori’s manuscript with me, like a comfortable friend. I discovered that this is no facile book to be read quickly, for Lori investigates such important concepts as faith, morality, and the decisions that change one’s life and set one on a different path.

In fact, this book resonated deeply with me, a fallen Catholic girl. Like Lori, I stayed in a monastery. Last week I was a guest of the Benedictine nuns for two nights, and experienced the same sense of peace that Lori describes in Alton Abbey, the monastery she stayed in when she visited Steventon (above) and Chawton Cottage. But unlike Lori’s silent monks, my nuns chattered like magpies and lived in the moment, working in the real world to bring home the bacon.

Lori describes her visits to Jane’s homes vividly, including Edward Austen-Knight’s Wedgewood china (above) with its geometric pattern of purple and gold around the edge, which he chose in London when Jane was with him. In fact, Lori weaves the personal details of Jane’s life and the details of her own past and present seamlessly in her exquisitely crafted journal.

We learn about the love the two elder Austens had for each other, and what a close-knit family they had created; how Henry championed Jane’s career and bragged about his sister’s authorship; how Edward waited just a tad long to invite his mother and sisters to live in Chawton Cottage; how close Jane felt to Anne Lefroy, who was 27 years her senior; and which character flaws Jane might have had in common with the spoilt and indulged Emma, whose picnic at Box Hill (below) resulted in Mr. Knightley scolding her for humiliating poor Miss Bates.

My favorite section in Part II is Lori’s description of the British Library. Its fascinating contents were a revelation on her part (See the previous post), especially the variety of rare and original manuscripts. This section of the books ends with Lori’s visit to Godmersham Park (below). She describes a horrendous journey on the A road that ended with the kind gesture of a cabby and a breathtaking view of Edward’s fabulous mansion. Lori’s next stop is Winchester, which begins the last part of the book. I can’t wait to read it.

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Written by Jane Austen when she was only 15 years old, The History of England can be viewed at the British Library site using a flash player (which you can download for free).

Click on Jane Austen’s early work, and choose your connection speed. Then click on the arrow at the bottom. You can magnify each page or click on the audio and listen as you read along. Each page is available in manuscript form as well. The book is written in her hand and the illustrations are by her sister Cassandra. The History is delightful, full of sassy humor and wit, and is a foreshadowing of great things to come from Jane’s mighty pen.

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The Regency in Second Life

Have you ever entered Second Life, the virtual 3-D digital world? Nine million people have. This site provides its residents a virtual way to experience the world and to create their own environments.

Jenca Jewell is a Maid for All Seasons who goes from one “world” to another in Second Life. (In the graphic above, she sits in the Caledon library at the Victorian World.) Jenca heard that Caledon Regency was under construction, so she stopped by the Regency Era for a while to learn more about it.

Many professors and teachers are using Second Life to teach basic concepts to their students in a hands-on, experiential way. Jenca Jewell’s blogger, for example, is looking up historical sources for the sights she encounters in Second Life and posting them on her blog. The actual Caledon Regency world feels and looks Victorian at present. But over time I am sure the residents will get the details right as they learn the difference between the two eras. They are, after all, still learning, and having great fun while doing so, I am sure.

Brighton Pier in Second Life

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Here’s the new look of the Darcy Saga site. Well done, Sharon Lathan. You can also find a wealth of photos of the 2005 P&P in her picture album.

And if you don’t have time to read Jane Austen’s novels, why not listen to them on your computer or Ipod?

Find Emma and Pride and Prejudice on Page 2 of this Free Classics Audio Books site

Persuasion, an ongoing series of podcasts by Nikolle Doolin. She is a professional voice actor, and is reading the novel chapter by chapter. (From Austen blog)

How did I miss this interview last year? This 30-minute podcast from BBC in 2006 features a segment about A Rambling Fancy written by Caroline Sanderston. The broadcast provides a fascinating discussion about Jane’s life at Chawton Cottage and her travels throughout South Eastern England.

Last but not least, I love the covers on these Jane Austen books. My only problem is that the dresses on the book jackets are from the wrong era. Oh well. What’s a little historical accuracy these days when it’s the look that counts.

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  • A recent and personal account written by Lori Smith follows Jane Austen’s footsteps. Her A Walk With Jane Austen will be available in early October. Beautifully written, the book is worth the wait. You may pre-order the book at amazon.com.

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During Jane Austen’s time, the British adhered to a strict class system, but every once in a while (and much like a fantastic plot in a romance novel), a titled gentleman would marry a servant. According to the National Trust,

Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh… lived a prodigal life at Uppark entertaining lavishly and included the Prince Regent among his frequent guests. In 1810, however, he withdrew from society and devoted his attentions to discussing improvements to the house and grounds with Humphry Repton. At the age of over 70 he took the extraordinary step of marrying his dairy maid, and left the entire estate to her on his death in 1846. She, in turn, left it to her unmarried sister and together they made provision for the estate to pass, after the life tenancy of a neighbour, to the second surviving son of another friend and neighbour, the fourth Earl of Clanwilliam, on the condition that he should assume the name of Fetherstonhaugh.

The dairy at Uppark, Sussex (above) designed by Humphry Repton. When Sir Harry passed by one day... he heard the dairymaid’s assistant, Mary Ann Bullock, singing. Sir Harry presented himself and asked for her hand in marriage. Mary Ann Bullock, aged twenty-one, was sent to Paris to be educated before being married to Sir Harry in September 1825. (Household Management, National Trust, p 30. ISBN 0-7078-0241-5)

How is this tale connected to Jane Austen and her world? By the merest thread. In Mansfield Park, Mr. Rushworth discusses changes for Sotherton Court after he had toured Compton, where he had viewed the improvements of the grounds by Humphry Repton. This short scene illustrates “the popular and expensive trend of improving one’s grounds to give the appearance of wealth both outside and inside the country home.” (Kerrie Savage, JASNA)

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