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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Another Idealized Image of Jane?

Online Texts and Journals, University of Pennsylvania

In closely viewing this rendering, I sense a “Victorian” influence around the lips and eyes. I am going on nothing more than my gut instinct and background in art.

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On Becoming a Gentleman: Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to his Son

Next to good-breeding is genteel manners and carriage, and the best method to acquire these is through a knowledge of dance. Now to acquire a graceful air, you must attend to your dancing; no one can either sit, stand or walk well, unless he dances well. And in learning to dance, be particularly attentive to the motion of your arms for a stiffness in the wrist will make any man look awkward. If a man walks well, presents himself well in company, wears his hat well, moves his head properly, and his arms gracefully, it is almost all that is necessary.

One can imagine that Mr. Darcy’s and Mr. Bingley’s deportment and good breeding in Pride and Prejudice reflected the etiquette and manners described by Lord Chesterfield in his letters to his sons dating from 1737. Although Samuel Johnson derided these letters for teaching “the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master,” their collections were published and became well known during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Influenced by his own neglect as a child, Lord Chesterfield began to write the letters to Philip, his illegitimate son by a Dutch governess, when the boy was only five years old. When Philip turned twenty-five, Lord Chesterfield’s godson (another Philip) was born. Lord Chesterfield continued to send advice to this boy as well. Though quite illuminating about a father’s expectations of his son’s deportment, these letters were private and were never meant to be read publicly. (Bartleby.com) However, Lord Chesterfield’s advice remains fascinating, and much of what he related in them still holds true today. Regardless of what one might think of the information contained therein, the letters provide a fascinating insight into the manners and etiquette of the a gentleman in the 18th century:

Many people lose a great deal of their time by laziness; they loll and yawn in a great chair, tell themselves that they have not time to begin anything then, and that it will do as well another time. This is a most unfortunate disposition, and the greatest obstruction to both knowledge and business. At your age, you have no right nor claim to laziness; I have, if I please, being emeritus. You are but just listed in the world, and must be active, diligent, indefatigable. If ever you propose commanding with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.

Read the letters and about Lord Chesterfield in the following links:

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I’ve written posts about the Prince Regent and his lavish lifestyle before. Click here, here and here to read a few of them. The Prince’s association with Jane Austen is minor but crucial: He admired her novels, and she dedicated Emma to him.

The conventional wisdom is that Austen tried to squirm out of the tribute to the Prince. Was it “incumbent on [her] to shew her sense of the Honour” by dedicating her forthcoming novel to His Royal Highness? she asked Clarke. “It is certainly not incumbent on you” to do so, he responded, “but if you wish to do the Regent that honour either now or at any future period, I am happy to send you that permission which need not require any more trouble or solicitation on your Part” (16 November 1815). – Colleen A. Sheehan, Jane Austen Society of North America

Aside from his admiration of Jane Austen, this extravagant, dissolute prince was known for sponsoring major building and park projects that transformed London, including the renovations of Carlton House in London and the sumptuous Pavilion at Brighton. Both were designed in the neoclassical and Gothic styles we’ve come to associate with the Regency era’s furnishings, fashion, and architecture.

Carlton House, sumptuously decorated in the height of fashionable Francophile taste in line with the prince’s Whig sympathies by the important architect Henry Holland (1745–1806), was the setting for a series of the extravagant parties which the prince so loved to give, culminating in the famous Carlton House fete in 1811 on his appointment as Regent. The dazzled Thomas Moore wrote to his mother about this fete, detailing the delights of the indoor fountain and the artificial brook that ran down the centre of the table, and concluding, ‘Nothing was ever half so magnificent. It was in reality all that they try to imitate in the gorgeous scenery of the theatre’ (quoted in Hibbert, 1973, p.371). (A Prince at Seaside, Learning Space)

(Image from Old London Maps)

You can view some of the rooms at Carlton Hose, such as the crimson drawing room, in this link to Decorative Arts and Design History in this link.

Blue Closet, Carlton House, The Royal Collection

The Prince Regent’s friends were also known as the ‘Carlton House Set.’ Read a detailed description of the Prinny’s high roller friends in this link: The Prince Regent and His Set from the Georgian Index.

From left to right depicted are the Earl of Sefton, The Duke of Devonshire, Lord Manners, “Poodle” Byng, Byng’s poodle (name unknown), and the Duke of Beaufort.

Post script: Today is the one-year anniversary of this blog! Since early April of this year, over 20,000 of you have dropped by to visit, and I want to thank you for your support.

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Rounds enjoy a wonderful tradition in music. One of my favorites is “Row, row, row your boat.” My most recent favorite round is the information going around the blogosphere about Jane Austen musicals. Here then are a few items of interest.

  • Jane’s Austen’s Emma Becomes a Musical, San Francisco Chronicle: Pride and Prejudice, the musical is mentioned at the end of this article: In Mill Valley, composer-lyricist Rita Abrams and author Josie Brown have put “Pride and Prejudice” to music and are using their Web site, http://www.prideandprejudicemusical.com, to attract a theatrical producer. The complete song available this week is Changing World, when Jane falls ill and must stay at Netherfield. The song is sung by Bingley and Jane, who are falling in love, and Darcy, who is bewitched by Elizabeth’s fine eyes, and Elizabeth, who is hopeful for Jane. It’s a lovely tune, full of the pathos of falling in love with a little fear and trepidation.

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Becoming Jane

This weekend I am going to see Becoming Jane, which has finally come to our city. In my small Janeite group people are skeptical about the film. “What are the chances that Hollywood’s take on her life will be accurate?” asked one. “I don’t see how they can make an entire movie about a minor youthful romance,” said another. “I didn’t like that last (2005) interpretation of Pride and Prejudice,” remarked a third, “so I don’t hold out much hope that this movie will be any better.”

“Anne Hathaway?”” I asked, my artist’s sensibilities slightly ruffled and offended at this mismatch of visual cues. Seeing Anne’s dramatic, gorgeous features disguised as Jane Austen, and watching her romp about the country side like a frisky young filly and making moon eyes at the actor playing Tom Lefroy in previews, well, it all seems anachronistic to me. In fact, to my eyes, watching Anne as Jane is like watching a parrot disguising itself as a thrush. Both birds are beautiful in entirely different ways.

I like my Jane Austen just as she is, thank you, no more and no less. In fact, I rather like the quiet, mysterious side of her and I don’t need to see her life glammed up by Hollywood types whose main mission in creating a film is the bottom line. So I will see this movie with some trepidation.

Nevertheless, I’ll try to see Becoming Jane with open eyes, since so many people are reporting that they like it and because it has garnered a number of good reviews, but something deep inside tells me to remember as I watch, “It’s only a movie.” As for my review of Becoming Jane, don’t expect to see it soon. I intend to see the film twice and will take my time digesting what I have seen before writing my opinion.

Links to Becoming Jane

Did you intend to jump onto the Becoming Jane bandwagon, only to have stumbled across my quiet site? Here are some important links:

  • Becoming Jane Fansite: An unabashed fan site of the film that contains an enormous amount of information about the movie and actors, and speculations about Jane’s romance with Tom.

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