Archive for May, 2010

Juliette Wells (L) and Christine Stewart (R)

Gentle Readers: Chris Stewart has contributed her recent thoughts to my blog. She has Embarked on A Course of Study regarding Jane Austen, a most fascinating journey that has her interviewing Janeites, dancing country dances, studying Jane Austen’s life and novels, and interviewing Jane Austen Scholars like Juliette Wells. Here then is Christine’s most recent contribution:

(A post in which I complain about everything I’m reading.)

Sometimes I really love my job. And sometimes it sucks the life out of my life. Between it and the fact that more furloughs are on the way so I’ve decided to rent out my house, move in with my sister, and save money (travel to the UK is also on the agenda), my focus has been elsewhere. There’s work to do on the house, documents to file with the property manager, packing. I just haven’t felt like reading anything taxing. I wanted book candy, so I reread Shannon Hales’ Austenland. Which is just as fabulous as I remember. See? I am committed – even my fluff reading is Austen-related.

So back to why I love my job. Stick with me, I do have sort of a theme going here. I’m the program director for literary arts with my state’s arts council and that meant, last month, I was able to make a site visit to Frederick to hear Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) speak. It was hosted by an organization that may apply for funding and I needed to attend an event, get a feel for what type of events they present, what type of audience attends, etc.

Before I go further, let me say that I think I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t fall for Eat, Pray, Love. It was just too ‘precious’ a story and didn’t have enough grit. It was all just too perfect for me. And the book/trip was planned. It didn’t just happen. That takes the magic out of it.

It made me think that maybe the pilgrimage thing is now officially ‘done.’ I mean, there’s EG’s book, and there’s Lori Smith’s book, A Walk With Jane Austen. Thankfully, though, after reading Lori smith’s book, I realize it’s not ‘done’ when it comes to Austen.

I really wanted to like the book. Lori and I see things similarly sometimes; I often found myself thinking she was going to say something and she then said it. I think that’s good. Or it might be predictable. I can’t decide. I was leaning on the side of trying to connect with her as a good reader should.

But there’s very little joy in the book. Most of it is either about God (there’s A LOT of Christianity in this book), or regurgitating Jane Austen info that we can find anywhere, or dissecting a non-existent relationship with a guy named Jack, that she meets at the start of the trip. None of these are positive musings, except the Jane part, as we love Jane, but I would have preferred less rehashing of known info.

And there’s very little in the way of a sense of humor in this book – a ‘make the best of it, find the humor in it’ mentality. I mean, she’s in freakin’ England visiting Austen sites. What is there not to be happy about??? She has an ongoing illness, which I am sorry about, but if it was going to drag her down as much as it does physically, mentally, emotionally (and us with her), then maybe she shouldn’t have gone.

Tina Fey

She also makes a huge error in judgment in the beginning of the book with a man she meets, inexcusable in one who is supposedly so well versed in Austen’s novels, which I go into more detail about in my post.

I don’t really have a connection to Tina Fey here, except that she strikes me as a 21st century Austen in her medium – television. She’s the edgy, sarcastic, funny, sometimes bitter side of all of us. As Elizabeth Gilbert is the open, loving, spiritual, innocent side. I think we should do justice to both. Plus, my best friend swears Tina Fey reminds her of me. I’m taking that as a compliment.

Evelina by Frances Burney

I haven’t just been completely idle; I have started Evelina by Fanny Burney and have decided two things.

You’ll have to go to the website to find out what they are: Embarking on a Course of Study

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Inquiring readers: In March I learned from David Cordess that he had created a blog, Following Jane. The blog would be his journal as he read all of Jane Austen’s books in six months. David has completed Northanger Abbey and is now reading Sense and Sensibility.

Here are a few of his observations about NA (going backward):

I finished Northanger Abbey and can honestly say that I’ve discovered the depth and range of the female perspective. Jane sure does know how to encompass and present readers with a quality character. Perhaps that’s why she’s so loved…. Because readers can connect to her characters.

It was interesting to follow along in a story to a female’s perspective. The complexity of how she processes her life, love, and relationships was fascinating to read from a limited, almost 1st person, point of view

I never thought that I’d be romancing my wife and thinking about the validity of my relationships when I opened to page 1 of NA.

Austen has such a way of influencing, enticing, and inviting readers into this authentic and perspective world of society and life. Anyway… those are my thoughts for now.

Once Isabella breaks up w/ James, Catherine comes alive. I can see how pieces of the puzzle begin to connect and how her character makes a drastic leap forward in decisions, relationships, and truth of her own emotions and feelings. A woman coming into her own… Thanks Jane for finally giving your protagonist worth and validity.

Enough quotations from his blog . To actually read David’s progress, go to his website and follow him as he Follows Jane. I also want to share a wonderful comment left on my March post by a Dutchman named Henk (Henk actually left two comments – thank you):

The first four months of this year were dedicated entirely to Jane Austen. I finished with reading P&P a few weeks ago.
The first week of May we introduced good friends of us to England, by camping in the New Forest.
I had made clear before, that one day would be for me, to visit the Jane Austen House in Chawton and the cathedral in Winchester.

Standing at her grave 8 years ago put me on the feminine side of reading, and opened many windows for me, never to be closed again.

They went with us, including their two daughters, 18 and 20.
They were really interested, and because the oldest girl had expressed her recent interest in English reading, I bought P&P for her. ( The book ).

All this was not without emotion, I dare say.

I am 56, and have three sisters a bit older than me.
Somehow the presence of Jane was all around in the house, and how nice it would have been to make a cup of tea for Jane, while she was writing, or walk with her to the kitchen to talk while doing some cooking. The things that brothers do with sisters on the few occasions they meet each other.
I might have a spell till Fall doing other things not JA-related.
But one does not keep a Lady ( Susan ) waiting too long.

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The full unabridged text of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the DK Illustrated Classics Edition is a revelation. It is a heavy trade paperback, made with a substantially thick cover and white semi-gloss paper. And it is very attractive, filled with photographs of locations, dress, and paintings. The back cover boasts: “Classics designed for the modern reader”. Translation: “Classics designed for the visually spoiled person who needs some oomph to make traditional reading pallatable”. The book, short of providing podcasts and videos, offers everything else – background information for context; explanation of major themes; an illustrated glossary; timeline of the story; and a biography of Jane Austen. Questions for discussion were included at the very end. Within its pages, certain phrases and words are bolded and explained in more detail at the bottom.

Sample page, with colorful border on side and annotated explanations at the bottom.

Illustrated glossary

(Click on images for larger versions)

This edition of Pride and Prejudice is the perfect gift for someone who has fallen in love with the films but who has never read Jane’s words. I began the treasured opening sentence last night after ripping the package from the book seller open, and before I knew it I  was spellbound again,  immersed with the goings on of the denizens of Meryton.

I give this edition 3 out of 3 regency fans.

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Gentle Readers: Jane Austen has inspired many people to comment on her novels, including comic artists. The recent Jane Austen/Monster Mash Ups provide a fertile field for visual satire. Jane Bites Back and other mash-ups are the inspiration for “Austen’s Revenge” by Liz Wong. (Click on images to enlarge them.)

A comic inspired by the recent Jane Austen Paranormal trend (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monters, Jane Bites Back, The Immortal Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Mr. Darcy’s Hunger… yes, these are all actual published books…).

This is Jane’s revenge for taking such liberties with her work.
The ever popular Kate Beaton is well known for her historical satires, and I have showcased her work before. Most recently she jumped on the monster mash-up bandwagon! I must say that these are pretty funny.

Don’t forget that a new Sense and Sensibility graphic novel will be released by Marvel Comics on May 26th! Sonny Liew drew the illustrations for this new graphic treatment of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s story.

Read an interview with Nancy Butler, the master mind behind this comic and Pride and Prejudice, which was published last year and became a huge hit.

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This weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day, my thoughts turn to Cassandra Austen,  wife of Rev. George Austen and mother of Jane Austen. Cassandra was related to the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey.  In 1806, the recently widowed Mrs. Austen visited Adlestrop Rectory in Gloucestershire with her two daughters, where they stayed with her cousins Rev. Thomas Leigh and his sister Elizabeth.  During their visit,  Rev. Thomas Leigh learned that the Hon. Mary Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey had died and that he would inherit the great house, whose origins go back to 1154. The Austen women traveled with Rev. Leigh to Warwickshire. In the following letter, Mrs. Austen writes glowingly about their stay at the mansion:

“August 13, 1806.

“MY DEAR MARY, – The very day after I wrote you my last letter, Mr. Hill wrote his intention of being at Adlestrop with Mrs. Hill on Monday, the 4th, and his wish that Mr. Leigh and family should return with him to Stoneleigh the following day, as there was much business for the executors awaiting them at the Abbey, and he was hurried for time. All this accordingly took place, and here we found ourselves on Tuesday (that is yesterday se’nnight) eating fish, venison, and all manner of good things, in a large and noble parlour, hung round with family portraits. The house is larger than I could have supposed. We cannot find our way about it – I mean the best part; as to the offices, which were the Abbey, Mr. Leigh almost despairs of ever finding his way about them. I have proposed his setting up direction posts at the angles. I had expected to find everything about the place very fine and all that, but I had no idea of its being so beautiful. I had pictured to myself long avenues, dark rookeries, and dismal yew trees, but here are no such dismal things. The Avon runs near the house, amidst green meadows, bounded by large and beautiful woods, full of delightful walks.

Stoneleigh Abbey, 1808, Humphrey Repton

“At nine in the morning we say our prayers in a handsome chapel, of which the pulpit, &c. &c., is now hung with black. Then follows breakfast, consisting of chocolate, coffee, and tea, plum cake, pound cake, hot rolls, cold rolls, bread and butter, and dry toast for me. The house steward, a fine, large, respectable-looking man, orders all these matters. Mr. Leigh and Mr. Hill are busy a great part of the morning. We walk a good deal, for the woods are impenetrable to the sun, even in the middle of an August day. I do not fail to spend some part of every day in the kitchen garden, where the quantity of small fruit exceeds anything you can form an idea of. This large family, with the assistance of a great many blackbirds and thrushes, cannot prevent it from rotting on the trees. The gardens contain four acres and a half. The ponds supply excellent fish, the park excellent venison; there is great quantity of rabbits, pigeons, and all sorts of poultry. There is a delightful dairy, where is made butter, good Warwickshire cheese and cream ditto. One manservant is called the baker, and does nothing but brew and bake. The number of casks in the strong-beer cellar is beyond imagination; those in the small-beer cellar bear no proportion, though, by the bye, the small beer might be called ale without misnomer. This is an odd sort of letter. I write just as things come into my head, a bit now and a bit then.

Stoneleigh Abbey, Gatehouse. 1807

“Now I wish to give you some idea of the inside of this vast house – first premising that there are forty-five windows in front, which is quite straight, with a flat roof, fifteen in a row. You go up a considerable flight of steps to the door, for some of the offices are underground, and enter a large hall. On the right hand is the dining-room and within that the breakfast-room, where we generally sit; and reason good, ’tis the only room besides the chapel, which looks towards the view. On the left hand of the hall is the best drawing-room and within a smaller one. These rooms are rather gloomy with brown wainscot and dark crimson furniture, so we never use them except to walk through to the old picture gallery. Behind the smaller drawing-room is the state-bedchamber – an alarming apartment, with its high, dark crimson velvet bed, just fit for an heroine. The old gallery opens into it. Behind the hall and parlours there is a passage all across the house, three staircases and two small sitting-rooms. There are twenty-six bedchambers in the new part of the house and a great many, some very good ones, in the old.

Bedroom, Stoneleigh Abbey

There is also another gallery, fitted up with modern prints on a buff paper, and a large billiard-room. Every part of the house and offices is kept so clean, that were you to cut your finger I do not think you could find a cobweb to wrap it up in. I need not have written this long letter, for I have a presentiment that if these good people live until next year you will see it all with your own eyes.

Arch, Stoneleigh Manor, Repton, 1807

“Our visit has been a most pleasant one. We all seem in good humour, disposed to be pleased and endeavouring to be agreeable, and I hope we succeed. Poor Lady Saye and Sele, to be sure, is rather tormenting, though sometimes amusing, and affords Jane many a good laugh, but she fatigues me sadly on the whole. To-morrow we depart. We have seen the remains of Kenilworth, which afforded us much entertainment, and I expect still more from the sight of Warwick Castle, which we are going to see to-day. The Hills are gone, and my cousin, George Cook, is come. A Mr. Holt Leigh was here yesterday and gave us all franks. He is member for, and lives at, Wigan in Lancashire, and is a great friend of young Mr. Leigh’s, and I believe a distant cousin. He is a single man on the wrong side of forty, chatty and well-bred and has a large estate. There are so many legacies to pay and so many demands that I do not think Mr. Leigh will find that he has more money than he knows what to do with this year, whatever he may do next. The funeral expenses, proving the will, and putting the servants in both houses in mourning must come to a considerable sum; there were eighteen men servants.” – Letter, Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends

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Images: Plants info

Bedroom image: UK Student Life

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My book contest for Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen closed last month. The comments were outstanding and I loved every one of the quotes that were submitted. Every week, I will post another 5 – 10 until every quote has been featured. For those who cannot wait to read all 164 of them, click on this link.

Sami Abate: My favorite line would have to be what got me to read my first Austen novel, finally, in my thirties. It was a line from Emma I saw in a trailer for the BBC/PBS special…In the novel “then don’t speak it, don’t speak it. Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself.”

Elizabeth: “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” – Lady Catherine to Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

Jessica: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 14  (I love throwing this out there when ever someone tells me that I read too much or that I should stop reading.)

Cyn Hatmaker: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 1  (for me, this sums up the book in several points; some of which I’m still learning even after reading P&P more times than I can remember!)

aracir: “A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not.” ~ Capt. Wentworth

Blair: “Where youth and diffidence are united, it requires uncommon steadiness of reason to resist the attraction of being called the most charming girl in the world.”

Olivia: “… if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr Bingley, and under your orders.” – Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (It just says so much!)

Lauren: “It is not every one,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.” Sense and Sensibility (LOVE this giveaway! Book looks fab!)

Gehayi: My favorite bit ends in the middle of a sentence. “They came from Birmingham, which is not a place to promise much, you know, Mr. Weston. One has not great hopes from Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in the sound: but nothing more is positively known of the Tupmans, though a good many things I assure you are suspected; and yet by their manners they evidently think themselves equal even to my brother, Mr. Suckling, who happens to be one of their nearest neighbours.” – Chapter 36 of Emma

Barbara: ” Yes,” replied Darcy, who could contain himself no longer, “but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance.” -Darcy, speaking to Miss Bingley about Lizzie.


No,” he calmly replied, “there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is — ”

“Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.

“No — Mrs. Knightley; and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.” – Mrs. Elton and Mr. Knightly from Emma Chapter 42

Laurie :@ Little Blue Chairs  “I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”- Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

Raquel: …and feeling in herself the right of seniority of mind, she ventured to recommend a larger allowance of prose in his daily study… Persuasion, Ch. 11

Denise: I have several quotes that are my favorite. But I think this one below is very true towards myself.  “All the privilege I claim for my own sex… is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” –Anne Elliot

Elizabeth K: Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone.  – Northanger Abbey

Nikki Markle: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

Katherine : I love this quote from Persuasion, it’s so beautiful and heart wrenching:  “…There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so simliar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become aquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.”

Christine H.: I have so many! My current favorite: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?” ~Pride & Prejudice

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Adriana Zardini

Adriana Zardini,  founder of Jane Austen Society in Brazil (JASBRA),  and translator of Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility into Portuguese, was recently interviewed on TV with Celina Portocarrero, who translated Pride and Prejudice, to analyze the impact of the author today. The link to the  interview sits her at the blog.  Adriana writes about the experience:

During the interview I talked about Jane’s life, her parents and Cassandra too. The interviewer asked me about my first contact with Jane’s books and why I started a Jane Austen Society in Brazil. Well, the first time I read Austen was during my graduation. The teacher, Thais Flores from UFMG, asked us to read Emma and to explain the themes in the book. So, I really enjoyed reading this book and then read Sense and Sensibility. Last January, I finished a course about Jane Austen at University of Oxford and I wrote about the free indirect speech in Emma, I really enjoyed to study this book again!  [In the interview] we talked about the TV series and movie adaptions and Zombies! It was a really nice interview and an excellent way to show Jane Austen to Brazilians too!

Adriana started the Brazilian Society last year in June.” We decided to create the society to study Jane Austen’s works and to make friends too! This year, we’re going to have our Second Annual Meeting in Rio de Janeiro! I think more people will come, because it is easy for people to take flights or buses to Rio!

Adriana Zardini and Celina Portocarrero during the interview

Claufe Rodrigues interviews Adriana and Celina in the  Shopping Leblon book store

The video is in Portugese. The first part covers the recent Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York, A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, which recently ended in mid March. The following images are from the video and show more of the exhibit

The exhibit at the Morgan Library was small and intimate, much like Jane Austen’s life and works.

Jane’s novels were showcased, including Sense and Sensibility

One of three Isabelle Bishop Illustrations in the exhibit

The exhibit included many peripheral artifacts, like Rowlandson’s and Gillray’s satirical cartoons,

Crossed letter

Letter written backward for her niece

Jane’s novels illustrated by Brock

Another view of the exhibit

Adriana’s next video interview will be showcased in July.

My posts about the exhibit:

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