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Inquiring Readers:

Chris Brindle, who lives in Colchester, England, is a prolific writer of music and books, and also a producer. Chris has written the following post (a compilation of information on his website and from the emails & materials he sent me.) He postulates that as Austen was dying in 1817, she deliberately wrote ‘Sanditon’ as a challenge and inspiration for other people in her family to finish, particularly her niece Anna (Lefroy) and nephew James-Edward (Austen-Leigh). Here, then, is Chris’s article.

Steventon Rectory. Image Wikimedia Commons

Steventon Rectory. Image Wikimedia Commons

Sanditon was Jane Austen’s last, partially completed, novel of around 24,000 words, written in 1817 between January 27th and March 18th. Jane’s niece Anna, the daughter of Jane’s eldest brother James, had been brought up in her youngest years at Steventon where her aunt, who was 18 years older, also lived. Anna remained at Steventon with her father until she married Ben Lefroy at 21. After a brief interlude, Anna moved back to Hampshire to live two miles away from Jane, then living at Chawton.

Jane Lefroy's biography pages by Chris Brindle in his book Hampshire, Vol 2, pp. 72-73. Image courtesy of Chris Brindle. His book is available via Amazon.

Jane Lefroy’s biography pages by Chris Brindle in his book Hampshire, Vol 2, pp. 72-73. Image courtesy of Chris Brindle. His book is available via Amazon.

Anna was surely the first ‘Janeite’ and harboured a life-long ambition to emulate and honour her aunt. In March 1845 she inherited Jane’s manuscript in the will of Jane’s sister Cassandra, and set about writing her continuation [of the unfinished novel], which is of similar length and is similarly unfinished.

By the time Austen put down her pen and finally her pencil, she had introduced all the characters that the story needed—apart maybe for a good villain, as Lefroy realised in her continuation, when she invented Mr Tracy as one of Sidney Parker’s friends (friends Austen told us would join Sidney at the Hotel). I don’t believe Austen intended Sir Edward Denham to be a villain, rather just a sexually frustrated character answering to Lady Denham’s will, who, as dowager, controlled Sir Edward’s estate.

When Austen realised she was dying, I believe she worked out a way in which her books and letters would not die with her, but would live on as the next generation took up the baton as her literary heirs. Her book and letters were her children and she wanted them to live forever.

This is the lyric in my ‘Song For Jane Austen’–YouTube link

When did you realise that your life would soon come to its end ?

Did you always know your life would be so short ?

What is a life, what is it worth ?

Is it what you leave behind you at the end ?

Your books and letters were your children

Left to others to inspire, and maybe carry on your work

Do you die if a little bit of you will live in others ?

Or memories of you will still remain ?

How do you spend your last few moments on this earth

When your journey has to come to its end

One last display of brilliance in three tiny booklets

Your sketches on a canvas for others to fill in

Your gift to God and to the world

And those you leave behind you at the end

In your pain you left us biting satire

A town built on sand in need of hope

But you left us characters who could save it

If in our imagination we could see how they would cope

May the Lord look on you with grace and favour

For this was the world you created

Reaching out for your future

A century or more away

When your pain was most intense

And your time was running out”

Anna Lefroy, whose mother died when she was two, was largely brought up with Jane at Steventon in her early years.  Thus she most probably earns the right to be known as Austen’s first fan. Anna’s life was devoted to an effort to emulate her aunt. We know most about Jane’s approach to writing from the exchange of letters between her and Anna, as Anna sent the latest piece of dialogue to Jane for her comments.  From the letters it was clear that Anna had no idea how to plot a novel, or to start with a strong enough idea to drive an interesting story, so Sanditon was most probably written as a starting place for Anna to complete the novel.

In 1817 Anna was starting a family and had no time to write. In any case, Anna would need to earn the right to be Austen’s literary heir by being a published author. Thus, after Jane’s death in 1817, all the letters and manuscripts went to her sister Cassandra. To keep Austen’s memory alive, it would be for Cassandra to decide who should get what. Anna Lefroy inherited the unfinished manuscript of Sanditon on Cassandra’s death in 1845.

I tell this story in my Documentary (YouTube link)  and how, although Anna failed to complete Sanditon (Click here to read her unfinished text), her half brother James Edward Austen-Leigh went one better and wrote the first biography of Austen. A Memoir of Jane Austen put the life of Austen together with her fiction and made her a mega-star. It was the competition that Austen created between her nieces and nephews that made the Memoir happen. (Click here to read the Memoir.)

I came to realise what Sanditon actually was when writing the illustrated story of the life of my great great great grandfather R.H.C. Ubsdell (1812-1887), the Portsmouth miniaturist, portrait painter and early photographer. Ubsdell had a studio and art gallery in Old Portsmouth opposite the theatre. He painted portraits of Jane Austen’s sailor brothers Charles and Francis (Frank) and the miniature of Anna Lefroy, delivered to her in the Autumn of 1845. He probably also drew the disputed portrait in graphite on vellum of Austen (the property of Paula Byrne) as an ‘identikit reconstruction’ for Anna Lefroy circa 1845 (probably to serve as a frontispiece for her intended completion of Sanditon together with her own portrait.)

'Unseen' Portrait of Jane Austen (Paula Byrne), Miniature of Charles Austen, and miniature of Anna Lefroy. Images courtesy of Chris Brinkle.

‘Unseen’ Portrait of Jane Austen (Paula Byrne), Miniature of Charles Austen, and miniature of Anna Lefroy. Images courtesy of Chris Brinkle.

These illustrated books, entitled Hampshire, are available on Amazon. Click on this link to view the books.

History of the Church and Rectory at Ashe

A page in Hampshire, a book by Chris Brindle. This one discusses the history of the church and Rectory at Ashe, a village close to Steventon. Image courtesy of Chris Brindle.

I think it is only when one puts the Lefroy continuation together with the Austen original that one truly understands why Austen wrote Sanditon. My conclusion comes from studying the life stories of Austen and Anna Lefroy, and Anna’s diary and life story that her daughters copied out. (One copy was kindly lent to me by descendant Helen Lefroy).  So perhaps one cannot complain if ITV chooses Andrew Davies to write a very modern ‘Love Island’ ‘take’ on the book.  Having invested our time in a couple of episodes, most people will probably want to know how it ends.

Sanditon, the ITV/PBS Masterpiece television mini-series

Davies does little more than take the names of some of the characters, however, whilst ignoring most of the content of Austen’s original fragment, niece Anna Lefroy’s continuation, and the financial relationships between the characters that Austen very clearly outlines, and which Lefroy clearly understood. Austen’s story should be about property speculation and money, inspired by her time in London with brother Henry, when the bank of which he was a partner, Austen, Maude & Tilson was collapsing because of their ill-considering loans.

Davies and the production studio also fail to present the main character properly–a South Coast English seaside resort in its earliest stages of speculative development. Trafalgar House (Tom and Mary Parker’s house) is not part of ‘New Sanditon’, a bold new development on the cliff, instead in the TV show it is stuck down in a very squalid looking village.

The other thing that is unsatisfactory about the ITV/PBS Masterpiece production is that it ignores the actual history and real-life detail of the development of the English seaside resorts such as Brighton, Worthing and Southsea. It wasn’t an accident that Austen chose the setting of an English Seaside Resort, because she saw that this was a character in its own right. From its infancy, Sanditon would grow up over time. Therefore, for any future ‘completer’ there would be so much actual historical detail of the financial machinations to draw upon.

Chris Brindle’s works and productions

I am very gratified that people looking for something more authentic have been viewing on YouTube my original solution to the completion clues that Austen and Lefroy left, my 2014 Play:

and my Documentary filmed in Hampshire in the same year that tells ‘The Story Behind Sanditon‘:

Austen left us so little of Sanditon that I think rather than rushing ahead and inventing new story lines I thought it might be better to look at Austen’s characters in more detail, using as many of her actual words as possible, and thus my idea for a musical was born. This built on the duet ‘Blue Briny Sea’ that I had written for the original stage show  (filmed at Chawton Great House) https://youtu.be/2gmrFrEdMBg

and  ‘Song For Jane Austen’ (filmed in Bath) that I had written for the 200th Anniversary of Jane’s death:

My first script for the musical was a grand stage musical with a cast of 19, which I then reduced to an actor musician musical performed by 11 players that I produced and filmed at ‘The Other Palace’ Theatre in London in July last year:-

In this musical the songwriter for a modern 21st Century Pop Band persuades the members of her band to take on Austen’s words, the characters in Austen’s novel, tell the story behind the novel, and reflect on what the novel means to them ‘200 Years Later’.  The carriage ride from Willingden to Sanditon then becomes this song as Tom & Mary Parker and Charlotte Heywood give their respective views on the resort:

Whilst an Austen story with modern popular music might seem a strange mix, another example of a musical doing very well on tour in the UK at the moment is “Pride & Prejudice” (Sort Of ), which features the Pride & Prejudice story told by the Bennet’s servants, but in broad Glaswegian with added karaoke songs!

Everything I’ve done has been on a tiny budget driven by my fascination for the subject matter.  I’m currently working on plans to develop the big stage production in the amateur sector.  More details can be found on my website www.Sanditon.info, which I’ve updated.

On my website you will find the links to

  • The texts of both the Austen and Lefroy fragments of ‘Sanditon’ (An entirely different perspective opens up if one asks oneself line-by-line, why did the author include ‘that bit’?  (If you read the Austen fragment in this way, Austen clearly leaves so many plot openers and clues in her work for future ‘completers’ to solve.  This is probably what is most unsatisfactory about the Andrew Davies / ITV dramatisation in that Davies chooses not to solve any of Austen’s clues and just ‘does his own thing’.)
  • My 2014 Film of The Play of Jane Austen’s and Anna Lefroy’s Sanditon.
  • My 2014 Documentary filmed in Hampshire & Berkshire with piano music by American Composer and JASNA delegate Amanda Jacobs
  • My 2019 Musical  “200 Years Later”  Jane Austen’s ‘Sanditon’ The Pop/Rock Musical as premiered at ‘The Other Palace’, Victoria London on 26th July 2019

Additional information from other sources

Photo of Chris Brindle

Chris Brindle 

Chris is a writer (see www.Ubsdell.com) and in 2014 produced a play, short film and documentary that completed and told the story of Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel Sanditon. Read more of his biography at this link.

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The plot goes on, the plot goes on
Twists keep pounding confusion to my brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Inquiring Readers,

I apologize for reworking Sonny and Cher lyrics and adding them to my recap of Sanditon: Episode Six, but when the Davies’ writing team had 19th century Charlotte saying “Anyway, she’s safe” in discussing Georgiana to a stranger named Susan at a London ball, I was instantly transported out of the Regency era to our own time. Like, you know. Wha’s up with dat?

Our classy Miss Jane did not have any characters say “anyway” in her novel fragment of Sanditon This phrase, uttered late in the episode by Rose Williams, an accomplished and very likable actress, stood out like a gluten-free, plant-based dish at a smoked meat barbecue. Am I nitpicking? Well, yeah. You betcha.

The production values of the ball were gaspingly beautiful, and I loved the dances, although the music was somewhat off putting. While I liked the folksy music at the assembly ball in Sussex, a rural area, I would think that a prestigious London ball would feature more sophisticated airs and the latest musical trends from the continent.

With all the plot twists and confusing goings on in this episode, I imbibed two glasses of pinot noir. Just now I’m having a hard time deciding which plot elements to cover and which to gloss over. I’m sure you’ll mention some I missed in the comments.

Bear with me as I condense 8 pages of notes into a short-ish review. At the start of the episode we see virginal 22-year old Miss Charlotte Heywood galivanting alone to London by stagecoach with only a vague idea of where to find her friend, Georgiana Lambe, who planned to run off with Mr. Otis Molyneux and free herself from the shackles of her guardian, Sidney Parker.

Never mind that no single 19th century lady like Charlotte (or Miss Lambe) would venture forth without a chaperone (recall that dastardly General Tilney cast Catherine Morland out alone from Northanger Abbey on a long journey home and how this appalled Henry and his sister). Disregarding conventions or the services of a maid, our stubborn and loyal heroine is determined to find her friend without an address in a city of a million people. Somehow, in a dark, dank alley, without a GPS, she *happens* to meet Mr. Sidney Parker. Plot-wise, this is not Deus Ex Machina. It is Deus Ex Coincidenta.

Sidney, after an awkward exchange with Charlotte in which he mentions that he despises slavery, suggest that they might find Mr. Molyneux at a meeting of the Sons of Africa, a movement to which he belongs. There they find him speaking at a pulpit. Deus Ex Coincidenta.

Here’s where the plot twists and bends It turns out that Mr. Otis Molyneux never received the letter from Georgiana stating where she would meet him. Someone else met her and abducted her. Speaking to Otis, they discover he owes gambling debts to a Mr. Beecroft.

Sidney and Charlotte rush over to Beecroft’s gambling den and learn that in order to satisfy Otis’s debt, Mr. Beecroft kidnapped Miss Lambe and sold her to a Mr. Howard, a repulsive and dangerous man. This individual, upon learning that Sidney is hot on his heels, absconds with Georgiana to Scotland in order to force her into marriage and gain full access to her fortune.

Sidney, along with Charlotte, chase after Howard in a scene reminiscent of a classic Hollywood movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Sidney’s horses heroically overtake Howard’s carriage, which allows our hero to jump onto the villain’s vehicle. The camera follows Sidney, not the horses, who have probably collapsed on the side of the road from exhaustion after their herculean efforts. It’s hard enough for two horses to pull a heavy vehicle for twelve miles at regular speed, but to ask them to run at a full clip with 2-3 people on board for however long, well, that’s zany. Why did Sidney not go on horseback alone and return with Miss Lambe after rescuing her? Oh, yes, I forgot. Stubborn Charlotte insisted on coming along.

At this point, Davies’ Sanditon, which many episodes ago had left the sophisticated structure of Austen’s unconventional forward-thinking novel fragment, goes backwards in time to gain inspiration from Austen’s fun but melodramatic Juvenilia stories, which were filled with outrageous characters, situations, and histories.

I reached for my second glass of wine while watching the drama unfold among the Denhams and Clara Brereton. As Lady Denham lies dying (she is as mean-spirited as ever), Edward searches for her will in every nook and cranny, room or desk he can think of. Papers are scattered everywhere (one would have thought a servant might have alerted their lady to this dastardly search, but Lady D probably alienated them too.)

In Jane’s novel fragment, Edward is a self-centered buffoon, one who quotes poetry and literature inspired by nature with doltish misunderstanding. In quoting his favorite poets and authors, he blathers reams of nonsense.

Sir E also fancies himself a ladies’ man and a seducer. His personality under Austen’s hand is that of an ineffectual dilettante, one without a fortune. To save himself from poverty, his hopes depend solely on an inheritance from Lady D or a marriage to an heiress. In Davies’ Sanditon, Edward is intentionally malicious. He is a villain, plain and simple – handsome and dangerous – but a plotting SOB.

My attitude towards Esther in Davies’ Sanditon has softened somewhat, since her treatment of Babbington in Episode 5 was not altogether atrocious, but she’s captive to her longing for Edward, which makes her a weak character. Still, I cannot forget her coarse conversations with Clara Brereton, more reminiscent of women in a brothel than maidens reared in privileged environments.

It’s not as if Esther has no prospects. Lady D is more than willing to team her up with Lord Babbington, Sidney’s friend, who possesses the trifecta of a title, estate, and fortune. Hormones have overpowered Esther’s common sense, however, and she prefers to moon over her stepbrother and wait for good fortune to save and unite them.

Jane Austen’s take on the situation differs from Davies’s. In Austen’s Sanditon, Lady D tells Charlotte about Esther:

Miss Esther wants me to invite her and her brother to spend a week with me at Sanditon House, as I did last summer. But I shan’t. She has been trying to get round me every way with her praise of this and her praise of that; but I saw what she was about. I saw through it all. I am not very easily taken in, my dear.”

&

“And Miss Esther must marry somebody of fortune too. She must get a rich husband. Ah, young ladies that have no money are very much to be pitied! But,” after a short pause, “if Miss Esther thinks to talk me into inviting them to come and stay at Sanditon House, she will find herself mistaken. Matters are altered with me since last summer, you know. I have Miss Clara with me now which makes a great difference.”

Then there’s Clara Brereton, Lady D’s companion, whose enviable skill is in her ability to keep Lady D happy. This is how Austen describes her:

…in selecting the one, Lady Denham had shown the good part of her character. For, passing by the actual daughters of the house, she had chosen Clara, a niece—more helpless and more pitiable of course than any—a dependent on poverty—an additional burden on an encumbered circle—and one who had been so low in every worldly view as, with all her natural endowments and powers, to have been preparing for a situation little better than a nursery maid.

Clara had returned with her—and by her good sense and merit had now, to all appearance, secured a very strong hold in Lady Denham’s regard. The six months had long been over—and not a syllable was breathed of any change or exchange. She was a general favourite.”

One critic compared Clara’s situation to Jane Fairfax’s. Both young women, dependent on the kindness of relatives and strangers, had to walk a tightrope in their respective situations. No hint of scandal could be attached to their conduct. Jane Fairfax was successful in hiding her romance with Frank Churchill, but in Davies’ Sanditon, Clara makes brazen movements towards Sir Edward. She’s seen by Charlotte giving him a hand job and in this episode the viewer is given the distasteful experience of watching her writhe with Edward on the floor after they found Lady D’s will and wrangled over their take of the inheritance. What if the servants had walked in on them? How stupid could a single woman with no fortune be?

Austen does hint at Edward’s desire to have Clara for a lover. She writes:

Miss Heywood, or any other young woman with any pretensions to beauty, he was entitled (according to his own view of society) to approach with high compliment and rhapsody on the slightest acquaintance. But it was Clara alone on whom he had serious designs; it was Clara whom he meant to seduce.”

What is Clara’s part in his plans for her seduction? Evidently, she wasn’t born yesterday. Jane describes the following:

Clara saw through him and had not the least intention of being seduced; but she bore with him patiently enough to confirm the sort of attachment which her personal charms had raised. A greater degree of discouragement indeed would not have affected Sir Edward. He was armed against the highest pitch of disdain or aversion. If she could not be won by affection, he must carry her off. He knew his business. Already had he had many musings on the subject. If he were constrained so to act, he must naturally wish to strike out something new, to exceed those who had gone before him; and he felt a strong curiosity to ascertain whether the neighbourhood of Timbuctoo might not afford some solitary house adapted for Clara’s reception.”

Sir Edward’s plans are ambitious and nonsensical, for he has not a sou to his name, and so Austen states:

But the expense, alas! of measures in that masterly style was ill-suited to his purse; and prudence obliged him to prefer the quietest sort of ruin and disgrace for the object of his affections to the more renowned.”

Austen’s rather extensive description of the Denhams in her short twelve paragraphs exceeds her description of Sidney Parker and Miss Lambe, to whom Austen had not given a first name. So the story of the Denhams and Clara Brereton as it unfolds in Davies’ Sanditon is partially Austen’s invention, but in the series’ explicit vulgarity it is all Davies’s.

Episode six ends with the ball. Weeks before, Lord Babbington entered Trafalgar House with invitations to a masked ball in Grosvenor Square, a high end Mayfair address in London. Tom Parker immediately seizes on the idea of taking his friends to the ball and asking them to advertise the regatta in Sanditon to all the ball goers they encounter. This is bad form, but Tom is desperate and his friends’ support might be his last hope for salvaging his finances and reputation.

In a Deus Ex Coincidenta moment, Charlotte meets a lovely older woman named Susan, who shows extraordinary interest in the artless young woman. As Charlotte leaves her new acquaintance, she spots Sidney Parker in deep conversation with a lady. Since Charlotte’s and Sidney’s adventure in rescuing Georgianna, they’ve bonded and become close. Their dance brought them even closer, so one can imagine her shock at seeing him so intimate with a strange woman.

Stay tuned for Episode 7 to see what develops. I, for one, am somewhat miffed that a new character has been introduced so late in the series.

What say you?

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sanditon-first-look-icon-01-3200x1800Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece exceeded my expectations in some respects and not in others. It seems that a mixed reaction to this mini-series is not unusual. Many viewers in the UK loved it. Many did not. Some loathed it. Reading and hearing the opinions of my Janeite friends overseas, I approached reviewing this series with some trepidation. I had an extreme reaction to Episode One at first, then viewed all the episodes in two days’ time. Seeing them back to back gave me a new perspective.

First, I wondered why Andrew Davies, the writer, used so little of Austen’s actual material. In my copy of Sanditon, the unfinished manuscript is 75 pages long. Austen completed the first draft of 11 chapters and began the 12th, where both Sidney Parker and Miss Lambe made their first appearances. Before that, the readers knew them only through conversations from other characters. Mr. Davies admitted that he devoted half of Episode One to Jane Austen’s plot as he did not think there was enough “story material” in her manuscript for more. Persuasion’s length was 24 complete chapters. Could Davies not have stretched Austen’s excellent material to two episodes? Instead he tossed aside the complex themes she was developing in favor of straightforward cinematic storytelling, which explains why so many Janeites were disappointed with the series.

As I watched the mini-series, I realized that it wasn’t an Austen adaptation. This televised tale was inspired by a tantalizing beginning that Austen did not complete. Davies used the unfinished novel merely as an outline for his plot. In online interviews he spoke about modernizing the story and sexing it up. In his foreword to the official companion book to the series, The World of Sanditon, Davies was forthright about rushing through the first three episodes as he worked against a deadline. He states:

I’m thrilled with what we have achieved: a period drama that feels utterly fresh and modern – Jane Austen, but not as you knew her.”

If you keep this statement in mind, you will watch the series for what it is and what it was meant to be – entertainment with many references to Jane Austen’s other novels and characters.

Rose Williams, who plays Charlotte Heywood, is adorable. She resembles an adolescent Austen heroine. Fresh-faced, yet wise and well-read, with a young-sounding voice, she has the qualities that I imagined for Charlotte Heywood and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. (Ms. Williams is 25 years old, but she looks and sounds much younger.)

I’ve read of complaints about Charlotte’s hair as being inauthentic in this series. At the assembly ball, however, and at formal gatherings, her hair and its accessories are appropriate for the occasion. I think that by keeping her hair loose and wild during walks, seaside outings, and less formal times, Davies is reminding viewers of her humble country origins. As a guest of the Parkers, she would have help from servants for formal occasions but would most likely be left on her own at other times.

Crystal Clarke as Miss Lambe, a woman of mixed-race, is given the delightful name of Georgiana, reminiscent of Mr. Darcy’s sister. Austen’s introduction of a West Indies heiress is a new development in her novels. The topic of mixed races and fantastic wealth achieved on plantations in Antigua is one she must have known well through her sailor brothers. I love the developing friendship between Georgiana and Charlotte.

I’ve not been as bothered by the music mentioned by some. Sanditon is located along the coastline of Sussex, a rural region, and the setting is not as fashionable or royal as Brighton, where fancy orchestras could find ample work. The folksy music complements the rustic, unfinished streets and buildings in Sanditon and supports the more modern treatment Davies sought.

The photography is lovely, the sets are lush, and I love how the costumes identify people by their wealth and status. Charlotte’s clothes are simple and homemade, although she owns more dresses than I though her parents with 11 children could afford. Miss Lambe, Miss Denham, and Clara Brereton wear clothes of a finer quality, and so forth.

Now we get to the part that I find problematic. I know Davies wanted to sex up the plot, but, really, a hand job? I was not amused. What if I wanted to introduce my young nieces to Jane Austen? How would I have explained that scene?

As to the nudity, male and female beaches were separated at the time. Both sexes knew the demarcation lines and where or where not to walk or swim. Charlotte happening upon Sidney Parker rising out of the ocean full frontal naked caused me to laugh, not out of embarrassment, but because the audience manipulation was so obvious. Jane Austen was no prude. A country woman, she had probably witnessed sex among animals, nursed her male relatives back to health, and helped family members and neighbors with birthing, but she was never crude. Ever.

Young Stringer, the foreman, is a likable character, but I thought almost from the start that he was created to be a “second stringer,” someone to throw us off in the romance department. His background and ambitions are suited to someone of Charlotte’s station, but Sidney Parker has been cast in the role of hero, and so Young Stringer’s purpose seems likely to go nowhere.

Theo James’s performance as Sidney Parker was quite good. He is a darkly handsome hero, one whose sparring with Charlotte in the first two episodes reminded me of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

To sum up this review, Davies chose to follow his own instincts in developing this miniseries If viewers watch the first two episodes of Sanditon on their own merit and not as an Austen adaptation, they’ll enjoy the experience.

Sanditon for streaming and binge watchers

The debut episode of the series will begin streaming on the MASTERPIECE PRIME VIDEO CHANNEL on January 12, with new episodes debuting Sunday of each following week. On February 23, fans can binge-watch the program in its entirety.

The subscription rate for the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel is $5.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. Every purchase helps supports public television for all.

See sidebar for links to PBS, a description of the full cast, and a link to the companion book.

Links to Music

 

 

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“Cheap books make good authors canonical.” – Janine Barchas

lost book of jane austen barchasThe Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas is a beautiful book – a bound hardcopy with almost one hundred color photographs of affordable, mass-produced novels that, outside of expensive hand pressed editions, contributed to Jane Austen’s ever-increasing fame. The detective work and scholarship that Dr. Barchas embarked on for a decade to find hundreds of inexpensive, disposable Jane Austen books to study their role in Austen’s rapidly growing popularity is awe inspiring.

Some readers may fear that such a well-researched, seemingly dry topic would be hard to follow. It is not. In fact,  Barchas’s tales about searching for unvalued books, many of which were tossed in a rubbish bin or shredded, and her forays in consulting census materials  and birth and marriage records to pursuit information about the books’ owners had me turning the pages.

After Jane Austen’s death in 1817, her popularity with the public lay fallow. In 1833, publisher Richard Bentley purchased the rights to her novels and introduced them at a lower price than the finer three-volume editions that were published during her time, when books cost as much as a week’s wages for ordinary people. The timing of these cheap publications coincided with the advent of train travel and innovations in the publishing business. Changes in printing, binding, paper making, and distribution led to inexpensive versions of Jane’s (and others’) novels.

During Austen’s life, print runs were large and costly, and not guaranteed to sell out. The new technology resulted in flat plates or stereotype plates that allowed for printing new orders as they were needed. Instead of publishing three volume novels, Bentley offered one book, which saved paper. By the 1840s, cheap paperback editions with advertisements printed inside targeted train travelers, bringing Austen’s work to the masses. (These days one can find paperback vending machines in public spaces abroad.)

In 1866, Bentley sold his plates at auction for all his standard novels. Stereotype plates were used by different publishers, since plates lasted 50 years or more. Interestingly, although the stereotype plates used in new publications remained the same, publishers like Routlidge proudly boasted that these were new editions, when only the book cover and papers changed. The interior print with layouts and page numbers remained the same, as chronicled by Barchas in her book. (Click to view slide show of page samples.)

Sense and Sensibility comparison pages of books printed decades apart from the same stereotype plate

Image 1.5, p. 18 – Opening page of central text of Sense and Sensibility in copies from figure 1.2 printed decades apart from the same stereotype plate.

Not all the economical books were tossed aside. Miss Sybil Daniell kept her copy of Sense and Sensibility, given to her by her father. Barchas traced details of the Daniell family through census and birth and death records. She also traced the lives of Miss Emma Morris, who owned a copy of Emma, and Charlotte M. Mills, the proud possessor of a copy of Northanger Abbey-Persuasion. Virginia Woolf was inspired by Austen’s words. She returned frequently to her heavily stained, cheap Austen novel copies for rereading. These are some of the books that lasted in private collections for Barchas to study.

The Lost Books of Jane Austen is so rich in history and detail that I could write a book reviewing it.  I’ll end this critique using my own cheap paper back copies, which I have preserved through eight moves since my purchase. My thoughts are inspired by the last chapter, “Pinking Jane Austen.”

Book covers of Emma, 1964 Washington Square Press Book. Pride and Prejudice, 1962, Airmont Book Classic. Persuasion, 1966, An Airmont Classic.

Emma, 1964 Washington Square Press Book. Pride and Prejudice, 1962, Airmont Book Classic. Persuasion, 1966, An Airmont Classic. Vic’s personal paperbacks.

After graduating from college, I was surprised to learn that there were male Austen fans, for during my youth and up to this day, aggressive niche marketing of Jane Austen novels targeted female students and women in general. Gender signaling used pink to subtly attract the female sex to Austen’s books, which were often found in the romance sections at bookstores. I had no idea I was being manipulated, since I thought I was reading the works of a masterful author. I kept these three so-called disposable paperback novels for the hours of pleasure they gave me in my youth. As you can see, the covers reflect the 1960’s – the era in which they were published. One might say they are tasteless. Elizabeth Bennet, looking like a glammed up Brontë heroine, wears heavy eye makeup, dark pink lipstick, and pink bows. A Victorian Emma sports painted pink cheeks and bright pink lips. Anne Elliot is a vision in Edwardian pink. Our mousy heroine has been given a dramatic make over, with heavy eye liner and luscious pink lips that would make a Kardashian drool. Her body is too enviable for words.

Inside all three books, the paper has yellowed and I’m afraid to open them for fear of breaking their spines. Nevertheless, these books will stay with me forever, which I think is one reason why Janine Barchas was able to find enough cheap books to trace over time – like me, many individuals who possessed them cherished them, regardless of their tawdriness.

I’ll keep Barchas’s lovely, informative book on my shelves for years to come. It’s the season for gift giving. I can think of no more appropriate gift for the bibliophile in your life than The Lost Books of Jane Austen.

Purchase Information

The Lost Books of Jane Austen, Janine Barchas, Johns Hopkins University Press

304 Pages

978-1-4214-3159-8 $35.00

Also available as an e-book

Purchase Links: Johns Hopkins University Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Image of author Janine BarchasAuthor Bio:

Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel. She is also the creator behind What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org).

Author articles:

Other reviews:

Tour schedule:

Monday, December 9th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, December 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, December 10th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, December 11th: The Sketchy Reader

Thursday, December 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, December 12th: Laura’s Reviews

Friday, December 13th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, December 16th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Monday, December 16th: Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

Tuesday, December 17th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews

Thursday, December 19th: Jane Austen’s World

Friday, December 20th: My Jane Austen Book Club

Friday, December 20th: Diary of an Eccentric

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Sanditon by Jane Austen book coverAs almost all Jane Austen enthusiasts know, her unfinished novel, Sanditon, has been adapted for a limited television series by Andrew Davies. It aired on ITV in Great Britain in the fall and will be shown on PBS Masterpiece Classics starting January 12, 2020. It seems that after the first episode, Mr. Davies deviated from the complex world Jane Austen created to insert his male sensibilities into the plot, but I am getting ahead of myself. (More to come in January.) The intent of this review is a plea for Jane Austen fans to read Sanditon before watching the PBS series. You will be doing yourself a favor.

Oxford World Classics has published a new edition of Sanditon, which was edited by Austen scholar Kathryn Sutherland. This slim volume contains 71 pages of the unfinished manuscript, an introduction and informative note on the text, also by Professor Sutherland, a helpful chronology of Jane Austen’s life and publishing history, and explanatory notes.

Austen began the novel fragment in Chawton Cottage, January 27, 1817. On March 18, when she reached Chapter 12, she laid the manuscript aside, too ill to continue. She died in Winchester on July 18, 1817. As she wrote Sanditon, she must have known that she had little time left, for in her haste to set her ideas on paper, her words tumbled over the pages. She failed to divide her sentences into paragraphs and scratched out words and added phrases as she went along. Her dashes and mid-sentence capitalizations are telling, as are her misspellings. As I read the facsimile of the manuscript online, I was in awe to view a master writer at work at the height of her power.

Page 1-Sanditon

Page of a digitized version of the novel fragment of Sanditon, Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts, Downloaded December 11, 2019

Sutherland edited Sanditon using Cassandra Austen’s copy of her sister’s handwritten manuscript. Cassandra had proofed her sister’s writing to some extent, inserting paragraphs, correcting the spelling (not all, for spelling rules were still fluid in the early 19th century), and generally cleaning the words up here and there. Sutherland kept much of Cassandra’s changes, but reversed a few of them. She describes this process in detail in her Notes to the Text, which I found utterly fascinating.

More fascinating is that Jane’s working title for the manuscript was The Brothers. There were three: Tom Parker, the eldest and an enthusiastic Sanditon sales promoter – to use a modern term – of the new seaside resort (based on Worthing, as some surmise); Sidney, the possible hero of the piece (the reader does not meet him until Chapter 12); and Arthur, the youngest brother and a confirmed but questionable hypochondriac who lives with his two sisters, Diana and Susan.

The reader meets Tom Parker first and he his the most fully fleshed brother of the three. While Sidney is described extensively by Tom and sister Diana, Austen does not provide the reader with a detailed description of the man, for she stopped writing her novel shortly after introducing him. The brothers are so different in character that it would have been fascinating to know how Austen intended to weave their story lines into her plot, or what her plot would have been, for that matter.

At the start of the novel we meet Tom and his wife, Mary. Tom is the dreamer who conceives of great prospects for Sanditon, a new and developing seaside resort. Mary is more sensible, but unable to temper her husband’s fanciful ideas and grandiose hopes for the future. When their carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere on their way to Sanditon, Mr. Parker twists his ankle. They encounter Mr. Heywood, a gentleman farmer, who helps the Parkers out of their dilemma by providing hospitality under his roof until Mr. Parker’s injury mends. During the Parkers’ stay at the Heywood’s farm, Austen nimbly contrasts the traditional, settled way of life that the Heywoods represent with the progressive, more modern, and speculative future that Mr. Parker envisions,.

To thank the Heywoods for their hospitality, the Parkers invite one of their daughters, Charlotte, to return with them to Sanditon. Her early role in the novel is as an observer. Her sensible estimations echo our thoughts as we learn about Mr. Parker’s fulsome, at times unrealistic ideas about Sanditon’s bright future and of the people she encounters, such as Lady Denham, an imperious and self-important woman in the vein of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I guffawed every time this rich woman, who owned a few asses, mentioned selling their milch for profit to new visitors to Sanditon.

Lady Denham’s nephew-in-law, Sir Edward Denham, is a vain, silly man who imagines he has exquisite literary taste, but Charlotte, the observer, concludes that the handsome Sir Edward does not by nature have a very strong head.  He does, however, consider himself a seducer and pursues Lady Denham’s comely companion, Miss Clara Brereton, a single woman of no means who must take care to preserve her reputation. Add to the mix Miss Lambe, a young West Indian heiress, who Jane introduces with tantalizing hints just before she laid the manuscript aside.

Finally, I was struck by Jane’s invention of Susan, Diana, and Arthur Parker, three hypochondriacs with the most ridiculous symptoms and “cures.” The satire in these passages is biting and without mercy. Diana, while suffering a variety of ailments, takes charge of situations, insinuates herself in other peoples’ concerns, and walks long distances vigorously in order to do both. One can only guess what went through Jane’s mind as she developed characters with imagined or exaggerated illnesses when her own medical situation was so dire. While writing these scenes, did she have her condition in mind, or her mother’s chronic ailments and physical complaints, a mother who ironically survived her by a decade?

This edition of Sanditon by Oxford University Press is a perfect gift for the Janeite in your life (or for yourself) this holiday season and I highly recommend it.

Look for more Sanditon posts in the near future!

Order the book:

Oxford University Press:

Sanditon, Jane Austen, Edited by Kathryn Sutherland, 2019 $5.95

Amazon: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback

Sanditon, Jane Austen, Edited by Kathryn Sutherland

Kathryn Sutherland is the editor of Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections and Jane Austen’s Teenage Writings for the Oxford World’s Classics. She has created a digital edition of Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts (2012), the print edition published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2017. She is the author of Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood (OUP, 2005).

PBS Masterpiece Theater: Sanditon. Click here for details.

First airing January 12, 2020

Also:

Jane Austen’s Satire on Hypochondria, Jocelyn Harris, Corpus: conversation about medicine and life, November 21, 2016

 

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Cover of Sanditon by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classics, and edited by Kathryn SutherlandInquiring readers, It is confirmed!! Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last unfinished fragment of a novel has been adapted for television as an 8-episode mini-series by Andrew Davies, who adapted 1995’s Pride and Prejudice for the small screen. Mr. Davies uses his talents and knowledge of Jane Austen and British history to finish the novel that Jane laid aside months before her death. The mini-series includes nude bathing (an historically accurate touch) and, to paraphrase Mr. Davies, is somewhat “sexed up.” (Town and Country Magazine.)

British audiences: Sanditon begins on ITV on Sunday 25th August 2019 at 9pm for 8 episodes.

U.S. audiences: The PBS Masterpiece Sanditon will air some time in 2020. Look for announcements later.

What is Sanditon? According to Oxford World Classics…”Jane Austen writes what may well be the first seaside novel: a novel, that is, that explores the mysterious and startling transformation that a stay by the sea can work on individuals and relationships.”

…”In this, her final, unfinished work, the writer sets aside her familiar subject matter, the country village with its settled community, for the transient and and eccentric assortment of people who drift to the new resort, the town built upon sand.”

Read about the novel, newly released by Oxford World’s Classics and edited by Kathryn Sutherlund at this link. Look for my review of the unfinished novel soon.

Tony Grant, a frequent contributor to this blog, has written a post in anticipation of the series:  SANDITON ( an unfinished novel by Jane Austen) is coming to our screens. What might we see?

View the trailer below on PBS’s site:

Sanditon: First Look on PBS Masterpiece: Click here

Sanditon on ITV: Click here

Additional Sanditon information:

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Good news for Janeites who live within striking distance of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD! At 7:00 PM EST on April 29th, the Bird in Hand, a cafe/bookstore, will be offering the first in a series of workshops on the last Monday of each month in the public humanities. Sponsored by the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore-based professors and students will share new work in the public humanities and oriented toward broader public audiences. The intimate setting is meant to encourage public feedback and critical dialogue. One guest lecturer will be Juliette Wells, author of ‘Reading Austen in America’ (see Project MUSE’s review of the book at this link and purchase the book at this link to Amazon prime.

Date: Monday, April 29, 2019 –
Time: 7:00pm,
Place: Bird in Hand, 11 E. 33rd Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

Excerpt from the advert from the Ivy Bookshop:

Just over a century after Jane Austen’s death in 1817, devoted readers sought out her letters and personal possessions, as well as first and rare editions of her novels. Alberta Hirshheimer Burke, Goucher College class of 1928, built the most extensive collection in the U.S. of Austen manuscripts, editions, translations, and ephemera–plus one famous relic, a lock of Jane Austen’s hair, which made international news when Mrs. Burke donated it to the Jane Austen House in Chawton, England. Second only to Mrs. Burke’s was the collection formed by Charles Beecher Hogan, Yale class of 1928, which included the topaz cross necklace owned by Austen. Drawing on new research in the two collectors’ personal archives, this presentation establishes the importance to Austen reception history of their pursuit of items that held great personal importance to them.

Event Topic (click on links):

 

Other posts on the topic of Jane Austen’s letters and personal possessions and Jane Austen scholars:

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Inquiring readers,

Today is Valentine’s day, a perfect time to revisit some of Jane Austen’s most romantic and memorable quotes.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own…I have loved none but you.” – Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

The driving force behind this quote was a talented and witty, yet ordinary-looking spinster. The sentiments expressed in her novels were remarkable given that Austen lived in an era when money and status were considered primary reasons for courtship and marriage.

This caricature, created in 1805, poked fun at the era’s courtship conventions, much like Jane Austen did through characters like Mr. Elliot, Mr. Collins, and Henry Crawford, all of whom followed current courtship conventions but misread their heroines exceedingly.

receipt image

Image in the public domain, U.S. Library of Congress

Receipt for Courtship – Text

Two or three dears, and two or three sweets;
Two or three balls, and two or three treats;
Two or three serenades, given as a lure;
Two or three oaths how much they endure;
Two or three messages sent in a day;
Two or three times led out from the play;
Two or three soft speeches made by the way;
Two or three tickets for two or three times;
Two or three love letters writ all in rhymes;
Two or three months keeping strict to those rules,
Can never fail making a couple of fools.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” – Mr. Darcy’s sarcastic comment to Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

1024px-1805-Gillray-Harmony-before-Matrimony

Image in the public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This 1805 caricature entitled “Harmony before Matrimony” of a courting couple would have the young lady assume that a proposal would soon be in the offing. The artist made sure that the viewer understood this through iconography: the cupid in the oval painting, which also shows two courting doves, the two roses in a vase featuring a Chinese couple, the two fish, the two playful cats, a wall sconce made of cupid’s arrows, the two flaming torches, and the butterfly reflected in the mirror making two. The couple sit on a carpet of roses, the music book, “Duets de L’Amour,” is held by the courting swain, while on the table lies an open copy of Ovid’s “Art of Love.” In this scene, all is harmonious, all is good, but those familiar with the caricatures of the engraver James Gillray know that not “all” is what it seems.
The second companion cartoon “Matrimonial Harmonics” depicts life after marriage: Cupid is dead in the funereal image, two parrots sit in their cage with their backs to each other, a dog barks at a hissing cat, the husband covers his ear as his baby screeches in the maid’s arms, and his wife sings alone at the piano forte. It is a scene of inharmonious conflict, one often described by Jane Austen (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, John and Frances Dashwood, Charlotte and Mr. Collins, Mr. Wickham and wife Lydia).

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” ― George Knightley, Emma

Jane’s Heroes were men of few words as this quote by Mr. Knightley attests. A number of Jane Austen’s heroes were men of few words, but Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Pricem two long-suffering heroines, also had difficulty expressing their emotions.

Thomas_Gisborne_Joseph_Wright_Derby

Image in the public domain, wikimedia commons.

This 1786 painting of The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne, of Yoxhall Lodge, Leicestershire by Joseph Wright of Derby depicts a sober couple much in the vein of Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars or Fanny Price and Edmund Bertrum. The year the portait was painted precedes Jane’s era, but the calmness of the scene and the sober mien of a couple who clearly come from the gentry class remind me very much of how I envisioned both couples. Neither seem to be the type to behave in in unseemly manner at an assembly ball.

In Jane’s novels, lovers who behaved badly often expressed good insights tinged with regret.

“Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of any body else. — Isabella, Northanger Abbey

and

Yes, I found myself, by insensible degrees, sincerely fond of her; and the happiest hours of my life were what I spent with her.— Mr. Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility

Johan Christian and his wife-Engelke Jens Juel 1797 Statens Museum for Kunst

Thumbnail of Johan and Engelke Christian, 1797, by Jens Juel



Older sensible couples who weathered married life and its vicissitudes and remained happy together play prominent roles in Austen’s plots. One senses that Admiral and Mrs Croft who befriend Anne Ellito in Persuasion must have observed the kind attention that Caption Wentworth paid her when he thought no one was looking.

The sensible older couple in Pride and Prejudice are Mr & Mrs Gardiner. He is silly Mrs. Bennet’s brother and a relation over whom Elizabeth did not need to blush. Their calmness and common sense helped to unite Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth after many missed opportunities.

An_old,_rich_couple_enjoy_the_latest_fad_in_baton-powered_en_Wellcome_V0011705

Wellcome Collection image in the public domain by G. di Cari?

Romantic gestures change for many older couples. Over the years they are comfortable with each other. With age, often physical comfort and health have priority over more youthful pursuits. In her novels Jane Austen ignored the prurient, yet she lived in the Georgian age where social and political cartoons or satire were often graphic. Families took care of each other in sickness and health. They bathed their sick and tended to their every need. One wonders what was in Jane’s private letters to Cassandra regarding the more ordinary tasks of life.

The above image shows the sweetness of an older couple enjoying in tandem the latest fad in Baton-powered enemas. They seem happy and content and at ease with each other!

Jane, however, never found such a mate for life.

To you I shall say, as I have often said before, Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last.” – Jane Austen’s Letter to Fanny Knight

Following Jane’s advice, Fanny married for keeps. She bore 9 children to Sire Edward Knatchbull a baronet, to whom she was married for 26 years until his death.

Jane’s heroines were astute about pledging their love. Elizabeth Bennet failed to see through Wickham’s falsehoods at first, but common sense prevailed. Anne Elliot was never quite enamored of slimy William Elliot, for her heart belonged to the infinitely superior Caption Wentworth. One of Anne’s more memorable quotes is:

“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” – Persuasion

One can only surmise that rather than settle for marriage to just any man, Jane Austen chose good company over a less than perfect union.

Jane’s heroes were equally steadfast and saw through foibles, insecurities, and prejudices of the women they loved, especially when their first impression was. They, like Mr. Darcy, waited patiently for the right moment to reveal their true feelings:

“My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me.”— Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

In my opinion, none of Jane’s true heroes and heroines were ridiculous or maudlin. They chose well and understood the meaning of true love.

More on the topic: 

 

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Dear Readers,

Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was as fabulous and unforgettable as mine. One of my favorite holiday gifts was a gift certificate from Barnes & Noble, which helped me to complete all six annotations by Harvard University Press of Jane Austen’s best known novels. I quickly purchased Northanger Abbey, which I’ve been perusing since receiving it a few days ago.

Image of the covers of Northanger Abbey (front) and Emma (back) by Jane Austen and published by Harvard University Press.
Susan J. Wolfson, professor in the Department of English at Princeton University, edited this edition, which has an extensive 60-page introduction. The book’s format follows the five other annotations – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion – with Jane Austen’s text in the center and the annotated commentary placed on the far right on uneven pages or far left on even pages.  Descriptive images of Bath, a poste chaise, or fashions of the day provide a visual punch to this annotation, as do the well-chosen images in the other books.

Image of Pages 112 and 113 with Jane Austen's text, annotations, and an image of Bath from a private road leading to Prior Park.

Two-page spread of pages 112 & 113 of Northanger Abbey, annotated edition.

For readers who were lucky enough to receive gift cards for books, I cannot recommend these gorgeous hard-cover books enough.

Image of a stack of Jane Austen's six novels, annotated editions by Harvard University Press.

More on the topic:

  • The Jane Austen Annotated Editions: Harvard University Press (includes information about all six editions)
  • This blog’s reviews of the Harvard University Press’s annotated editions of Jane Austen’s Novels: Click here

 

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Inquiring readers, Rachel Dodge has once again submitted a superb article. This time she describes the fathers in Jane Austen’s novels. This Sunday marks Father’s Day in the U.S. I lost my own father four years ago. This article once again proves that my father, in every way, was superior to those described by Jane, making me realize how lucky I am and how smart my mother was to choose him.

 

In life, Jane Austen enjoyed a close relationship with her father. After his death, Austen wrote these words to her brother Francis: “His tenderness as a father, who can do justice to?” (Austen-Leigh 18). In the same letter, she refers to him as “an excellent Father” and writes of “the sweet, benevolent smile which always distinguished him” (144).

But what of the fathers in Austen’s novels? While some of them show exemplary characteristics, others leave much to be desired.

In Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot is described as “a conceited, silly father” (5) and a “foolish, spendthrift baronet, who had not had principle or sense enough to maintain himself in the situation in which Providence had placed him” (248). He is more interested in his reflection in the mirror than in fathering his three daughters.

In Northanger Abbey, General Tilney runs a tight ship and dislikes delays. Walks cannot be put off, because he is “hurried for time” and mealtimes must be punctual: In one scene, he is “impatient when his eldest son is late” and expresses “displeasure . . . at his laziness” when he finally comes down to breakfast (154). In another scene, General Tilney is described as “pacing the drawing-room, his watch in his hand, and having, on the very instant of their entering, pulled the bell with violence, ordered ‘Dinner to be on table directly!’” (165).

Royalty free image of Mr. Bennet by illustrator Hugh Thomson

1985 edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Hugh Thomson and published by Macmillan & Co.

In the Bennet household, Mr. Bennet prefers the quiet of his library to the daily activities of family life: “In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room of the house, he was used to be free from them there” (71).

In Emma, though Mr. Woodhouse is good-natured and “everywhere beloved” (7), he is most comfortable at home. He’s described on one hand “as a most affectionate, indulgent father” (5), but we also learn that while Emma “dearly loved her father . . . he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful” (7). Austen further explains the intricacies of Mr. Woodhouse here: “He had not much intercourse with any families beyond that circle; his horror of late hours, and large dinner-parties, made him unfit for any acquaintance but such as would visit him on his own terms” (20).

In Mansfield Park, Sir Thomas Bertram is a “truly anxious father,” but he is not “outwardly affectionate” to his children (19). Austen tells us that the “reserve of his manner represse[s] all the flow of [his children’s] spirits before him” (19). Later in the novel, Sir Thomas sees “how ill he had judged” in raising his daughters and that he had “increased the evil by teaching them to repress their spirits in his presence” (463). He feels his “grievous mismanagement” and realizes that his daughters “had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice” (463). In his case, Sir Thomas reflects upon, softens, and corrects his own manner.

QUIZ: Which Father is Which?

Finally, the fathers and father figures in Jane Austen’s novels have plenty of interesting advice for their children and fascinating perspectives on the world around them. Test yourself to see if you can guess which father is represented in the following quotes (answer key below):

  1. On One’s Complexion: “I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months. [She] has been using it at my recommendation, and you see what it has done for her. You see how it has carried away her freckles.”
  2. On Matters of Love: “Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.”
  3. On Being Out of Doors: “It is never safe to sit out of doors, my dear.”
  4. On Early Marriages: “I am an advocate for early marriages, where there are means in proportion, and would have every young man, with a sufficient income, settle as soon after four-and-twenty as he can.”
  5. On the Dangers of Reading: As he had been “found on the occasion . . . with some large books before him, [they] were sure all could not be right, and talked, with grave faces, of his studying himself to death.”
  6. On the Subject of Daughters: “They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but [she] has something more of quickness than her sisters.”
  7. On a Father’s Role in Parenting: “[He] was a sportsman, [she] a mother. He hunted and shot, and she humoured her children; and these were their only resources. [She] had the advantage of being able to spoil her children all the year round, while [his] independent employments were in existence only half the time.”
  8. On the Care of Ladies in Crowds and Street Crossings: “Come, girls; come . . . come . . . take care of yourselves; keep a sharp lookout!”
  9. On Being Agreeable: “[He], though so charming a man, seemed always a check upon his children’s spirits, and scarcely anything was said but by himself; the observation of which, with his discontent at whatever the inn afforded, and his angry impatience at the waiters, made [her] grow every moment more in awe of him, and appeared to lengthen the two hours into four.”
  10. On Girls Receiving Letters from Lovers: “Whether the torments of absence were softened by a clandestine correspondence, let us not inquire. [Her parents] never did—they had been too kind to exact any promise; and whenever [their daughter] received a letter, as, at that time, happened pretty often, they always looked another way.”

As you reflect on Austen’s literary fathers, may these examples increase your appreciation of the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and mentors for whom you are most thankful today.

Answer Key: 1) Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion, 146. 2) Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 137-8. 3) Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, 48. 4) Sir Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park, 317. 5) Mr. Musgrove, Persuasion, 82. 6) Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 5. 7) Sir John Middleton, Sense and Sensibility, 32. 8) Mr. Price, Mansfield Park, 403. 9) General Tilney, Northanger Abbey, 156. 10) Mr. and Mrs. Morland, Northanger Abbey, 250.

About the Author

Rachel Dodge is a Christian author, college English instructor, and Jane Austen speaker. A true Janeite at heart, she loves books, bonnets, and ball gowns. For more of Rachel’s literary ramblings, you can follow her at http://www.racheldodge.com or on Facebook or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/kindredspiritbooks/).

Works Cited:

Austen, Jane, and R. W. Chapman. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Oxford UP, 1988.

Austen-Leigh, William and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh. Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, A Family Record. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006.

 

 

 

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Inquiring readers, Rachel Dodge and frequent contributor to this blog has written a wonderful post for you this Mother’s Day. Enjoy!

 

The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.” –Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen never had children of her own, and she never wrote a conduct manual for mothers, but her novels certainly speak volumes about her opinion on the state of motherhood in 18th-century England—and specifically that of the landed gentry.

In her novels, the majority of Austen’s mothers can be broken down into three general categories: The Spectator, the Matchmaker, and the Manager.

 

The Indulgent Spectator

[She] never thought of being useful to anybody.” –Mansfield Park

In this category, Austen presents us with lenient and uninvolved mothers like Lady Middleton, Lady Bertram, and Mrs. Price.

In Sense and Sensiblity, Lady Middleton is a mother described as having the “advantage of being able to spoil her children all the year round” (32). She insists on bringing her “troublesome boys” (55) with her to most of her social engagements, and their actions speak volumes: “Lady Middleton seemed to be roused to enjoyment only by the entrance of her four noisy children after dinner, who pulled her about, tore her clothes, and put an end to every kind of discourse except what related to themselves” (34).

In Mansfield Park, Austen says Lady Bertram is a mother who “might always be considered as only half-awake” (343). She is most often described as “indolent” (four times) and most often found sitting on the sofa (eight times). Lady Bertram spends “her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience” (19-20). As to the “education of her daughters,” she pays “not the smallest attention.” She is of little “service to her girls” in this regard, considering it “unnecessary” because they are “under the care of a governess, with proper masters, and could want nothing more” (20).

1985 edition of Mansfield Park, illustrated by Hugh Thomson and published by Macmillan & Co

1985 edition of Mansfield Park, illustrated by Hugh Thomson and published by Macmillan & Co

Lady Betram’s sister, Mrs. Price, is described similarly: “Her disposition was naturally easy and indolent, like Lady Bertram’s” (390). Upon visiting home, Fanny’s “disappointment in her mother was [great]; there she had hoped much, and found almost nothing” (389). In describing her home management, Austen says Mrs. Price’s days are “spent in a kind of slow bustle; all was busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways; wishing to be an economist, without contrivance or regularity; dissatisfied with her servants, without skill to make them better” (389). Mrs. Price, the mother of nine children, is termed “a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end . . .” (390). With such an aunt and such a mother, it’s a wonder Fanny turns out so well.

 

The Meddling Matchmaker

 the pains which they, their mothers (very clever women), as well as my dear aunt and myself, have taken to reason, coax, or trick [Henry] into marrying, is inconceivable!” –Mansfield Park

In this category, we find mothers like Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Jennings who live to make matches. Both women make the business of matchmaking the main focus of their lives.

Mrs. Bennet, from the 1985 edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Hugh Thomson and published by Macmillan & Co

Mrs. Bennet, from the 1985 edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Hugh Thomson and published by Macmillan & Co

For Mrs. Bennet, marrying off her daughters is the “business of her life” (5). With five daughters and an entailed estate, Mrs. Bennet is always on the look-out: “A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!” (3-4). Mrs. Bennet even comes up with elaborate schemes to achieve her goal, such as the day when Jane is invited to Netherfield and Mrs. Bennet sends her off on horseback, in the hopes that it might rain and she might be asked to stay the night. It all goes according to plan: “This was a lucky idea of mine, indeed!” (31). Only when Jane and Elizabeth marry well does Mrs. Bennet finally experience the joyful relief of sweet success: “Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters” (385).

In Sense and Sensibility, Austen gives us this description of Mrs. Jennings: “She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world” (36). In the role of matchmaking busybody, Mrs. Jennings is “zealously active.” Upon offering to take Elinor and Marianne to London, she says, “I have had such good luck in getting my own children off my hands that [your mother] will think me a very fit person to have the charge of you” (153). She takes her role as surrogate mother seriously while in London: “if I don’t get one of you at least well married before I have done with you, it shall not be my fault. I shall speak a good word for you to all the young men, you may depend upon it” (153-4).

 

The Business Manager

She took the first opportunity of affronting her mother–in–law on the occasion, talking to her so expressively of her brother’s great expectations, of Mrs. Ferrars’s resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to draw him in.” –Sense and Sensibility

The mothers in this category, such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Ferrars, possess money and power, and they use both to rule over their offspring. Lacking in motherly affection or compassion, their matchmaking is purely strategic.

Lady Catherine is described as “a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features” (162), the only living parent of Miss de Bourgh, the heir to the de Bourgh estate. As Mr. Darcy’s aunt, and “almost the nearest relation he has in the world,” she believes she is “entitled to know all his dearest concerns” (354). With both Pemberley and Rosings at stake, she takes her role quite seriously. She believes it’s her duty to “unite the two estates” by ensuring the marriage of her daughter to Mr. Darcy (83). For this reason, upon hearing news of Mr. Darcy’s probable engagement to Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine “instantly resolve[s] on setting off” to confront Elizabeth at Longbourn, that she “might make [her] sentiments known” and pressure Elizabeth into giving up Mr. Darcy (353).

Similarly, Mrs. Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility is a “very headstrong proud woman” (148) who uses money to try to control her sons. In order to pressure Edward to marry well, she “told him she would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax, brings in a good thousand a-year; offered even, when matters grew desperate, to make it twelve hundred” (266). When he won’t comply, she threatens his ruin: “his own two thousand pounds she protested should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far would she be from affording him the smallest assistance, that if he were to enter into any profession with a view of better support, she would do all in her power to prevent him advancing in it” (267). When Edward persists in honoring his engagement to Lucy, Edward is “dismissed for ever from his mother’s notice.” Mrs. Ferrars settles the estate “which might have been Edward’s” upon his brother Robert (268).

 

The Fond, Caring Mother

 With only these examples of motherhood, one might think Austen had nothing good to say on the topic of mothers. Thankfully, Austen’s novels do provide us with redemptive motherly moments as well.

In Emma, Austen tells us that Miss Taylor “had fallen little short of a mother in affection” in her care of young Emma (5). In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood is described as possessing “tender love for all her three children” (6). In Northanger Abbey, when Mrs. Morland worries that Catherine’s low spirits and inactivity stem from Catherine’s worldly experiences, she cautions her on that subject, saying, “there is a time for everything—a time for balls and plays, and a time for work. You have had a long run of amusement, and now you must try to be useful” (240). And Mrs. Gardiner is described in Pride and Prejudice as “an amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favourite with all her Longbourn nieces” (139). She gives mother-like advice to Elizabeth, “a wonderful instance of advice being given on such a point, without being resented” (145).

In Persuasion, Austen presents a handsome picture of motherhood in Mrs. Musgrove. She loves her own children, worries that her grandchildren are being spoiled, and cares for the Harville children while Mrs. Harville nurses Louisa. At Christmas, the Musgroves bring the Harville children home with them and “receive their happy boys and girls from school” (129). Austen describes Mrs. Musgrove’s home at Christmas as “a fine family-piece.” There, Mrs. Musgrove is surrounded by “the little Harvilles,” a group of “chattering girls” at a table “cutting up silk and gold paper,” and “riotous boys” holding “high revel” near “tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies” (134).

Finally, Austen gives us a glimpse into the future when she describes Jane Bennet’s natural motherly instincts: “The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way—teaching them, playing with them, and loving them” (239).

On a day when we celebrate mothers everywhere, let us thank all of the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and mentors who have guided and loved us through the various seasons of our lives. If you’d like to read further about Jane Austen’s own mother, Cassandra Austen, please visit these links: (link to a selection of Vic’s other articles on Cassandra Austen, etc.)

You can follow Rachel and her literary ramblings at www.racheldodge.com or on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/kindredspiritbooks/) or Facebook.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, and R. W. Chapman. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Oxford UP, 1988.

 

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Inquiring readers: One reason I love Tony Grant’s submissions is the wonderful original images that he takes of the sites he discusses – in this instance, Bath and Persuasion, Jane Austen’s final and arguably her best novel. Enjoy the article, as well as Tony’s photographic images.

I think Persuasion is Jane Austen’s most mature novel. It deals with patriarchy, misogyny, narcissism, snobbery, class structure, schemes to move up the class ladder, and the consequences of moving down the class ladder.  It also portrays the strength of a good woman. Persuasion begins to subvert the old ways of doing things. The novel covers the whole gamut of life and shows what it is to be a Georgian, with resonances for our own time in the status of women.

The Baronetage_internetarchive

The Baronetage from the Internet archive

Persuasion starts with Sir Walter Elliot perusing his favorite book, The Baronetage, which is about primogeniture – a system where the family’s fortune was left to the eldest son when the father died. Primogeniture lasted for centuries and was an example of patriarchy that encouraged misogyny, but society and the world were changing during Austen’s era.

The Elliot’s ancestry is described in The Baronetage and Sir Walter reads the entry concerning his family obsessively. He is exceedingly vain about his position in life and his looks. As Jane describes him: “Vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character.”

After Lady Elliot’s death, Sir Walter spends beyond his means, a foolish habit that will lead to his financial ruin if he does not curb his lifestyle. His agent, Mr. Shepherd, strongly advises Sir Walter to rent out Kellynch Hall and move to Bath to save what little of his inheritance remains. Once there, the ever vain and critical Sir Walter encounters few women who meet his exacting standards of beauty:

“He had frequently observed as he walked, that one handsome face would be followed by thirty, or five and thirty frights; and once as he stood in a shop in Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without their being a tolerable face among them.”

The Baronetage

Sir Walter’s social maneuverings in Bath are dictated by the principles laid out in The Baronetage. In Georgian society there was some movement within the middle classes and the lower aristocracy. Sir Walter is in danger of being reduced in importance because of his financial difficulties, brought about after his wife’s death. Lady Elliot had kept Sir Walter’s expenses in check and he soon faced financial ruin without her sensible influence.

The Baronetage lists a still-born son for Sir Walter and Lady Elliot. Ever conscious of the succession of his line, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anne count for nothing as far as inheritance goes.  Sir Walter, therefore, desires to renew relations with Mr. William Elliot, his godson and heir. This relationship, however, has a “very awkward history,” with Mr. Elliot, in a most ungentleman-like fashion, abandoning his courtship of his cousin Elizabeth in favor of marriage to an older, rich woman of no distinction. Consequently, the family ceased all contact with the presumptive heir.

Sir Walter also discovers that his cousin, Viscountess Dalrymple, has arrived in Bath. Because of a past misunderstanding – he had ignored the news of her husband’s death – he lost contact with her.  Sir Walter now thinks it an excellent idea to boost the importance of himself and his family by renewing contact with the Viscountess.  An association with her would elevate the Elliots in the eyes of Bath Society.

Sir Walter has no regard for people of no importance and with no influence. He pours scorn on his youngest daughter, Anne, regarding her friendship with an old school acquaintance, Mrs. Smith, who lives in a poor area of Bath. Anne has none of her father’s social ambitions. She would rather spend an evening with Mrs. Smith, who is widowed and impoverished. Mrs. Smith, who is careful with her limited finances, is a cheerful, intelligent and kind person, qualities that attract Anne but mean nothing to Sir Walter.  Anne continues her relationship with Mrs. Smith despite her father’s protestations, and doesn’t think associating with Viscountess Dalrymple a good idea at all.

Bath’s Urban Geography and Status

Urban geography plays an important role in Persuasion. When it comes to Bath, status depends on where you live and in what street.

Sir Walter Elliot and his three daughters, along with Mrs. Clay, the snaggle-toothed, widowed daughter of Mr. Shepherd, and a mere companion to Elizabeth, move to Camden Place, a fine Georgian terrace in the northern part of Bath. This terrace overlooks the rest of Bath, an ideal place for snobbish Sir Walter to look down upon the city. The geographic location fits Sir Walter’s belief in himself, both morally and emotionally.

Westgate Buildings are situated close to the Roman Baths at the bottom of the hill in town. Mrs. Smith lodges in two rooms amongst the shops and makes do in the hustle and bustle and turmoil of town noises and traffic.

Mr. Elliot and friends stay in Marlborough Buildings, a terrace of fine houses that slope down steeply from the west side of The Royal Crescent, the most salubrious address in Bath. Mr. Elliot visits Sir Walter in Camden Place after a visit in Landsdowne Crescent. Landsdowne Crescent is also one of the northern crescents above Bath, directly north of The Royal Crescent, to the west of Camden Place and on an equal footing to Camden Place.

Viscountess Dalrymple and her daughter, the Honorable Miss Carteret, stay in style in Laura Place. Laura Place is a set of four elegant terraces that surround a lozenge shaped “circus” with “Laura Fountain,” in the centre.

Great Pulteney Street leads off it towards Sydney Gardens and the Holbourne Museum. To the west of Laura Place is Pulteney Bridge, once known as Old Bridge, over which Lady Russell and Anne Elliot pass into Bath.

As one passes over the bridge and the River Avon, one almost immediately encounters Bath Abbey.

The Lower Assembly Rooms are a little to the left. Mrs. Smith’s lodgings in Westgate Buildings are also close to the Abbey, but in the town.

Laura Place is outside the town, on the opposite banks of The Avon, in an area of splendid elegance and wide avenues. Obscurely, Camden Place is high on the hills directly above Laura Place where Sir Walter can certainly keep an eye on things.

Lady Russell, an old friend of Lady Elliot, is a sensible, wise person who takes a sort of unofficial care of the Elliots after the death of their mother, especially of Anne, for whom she has a special fondness. She personally brings Anne to Bath after Sir Walter, Mary and Mrs. Clay have already settled in. Lady Russell, a widower, occupies a town house in Rivers Street, which is close to Camden Place. The street is comprised of elegant town houses, probably smaller than those of Camden Place. Rivers Street suits Lady Russell. It is a place of genteel comfort for a sensible person of means who lives according to her fortune and within her budget.

 

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Anne Elliot

Lady Russell is one of the more stable, pleasant and thoughtful characters in Persuasion. She is “… of steady age and character, and extremely well provided for.”

Anne Elliot, her protegee, had “an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with the father or sister: “

To Lady Russell Anne was “…a most dear and highly valued god-daughter, favorite and friend. Lady Russell loved them all; but it was only in Anne that she could fancy the mother to revive again.”

Compared to Anne, Viscountess Dalrymple and her daughter Miss Carteret “…were nothing. There was no superiority of manner, accomplishment or understanding. Lady Dalrymple had had acquired the name of,” a charming woman,” because she had a smile and a civil answer for everybody. Miss Carteret, with still less to say, was so plain and so awkward, that she could never have been tolerated in Camden Place if it were not for her birth.”

Self-serving Mr. Elliot recognizes Anne’s outstanding qualities. She smiled and said, “My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, that is what I call good company.”

“You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company…”

Persuasion and the changing order

There is something subversive going on in Persuasion. Underlying the novel is The Baronetage and Sir Walter’s rule of life, which lead to the cause of Elizabeth’s pain. Hereditary, class, position are the yardsticks by which Sir Walter lives, but adherence to the old order doesn’t do him or Elizabeth the best of service.

Anne, Mr. Elliot, Mrs. Clay, Mrs. Smith and the three naval captains, Wentworth, Harville and Benwick either overtly or inadvertently create the vision of a new world, where affection and love are the primary drivers. Ordinary people were being noticed. The Industrial Revolution 1760 to 1740 had social and economic ramifications far beyond its time. Wilberforce and his cronies were campaigning for the abolition of slavery. Science was making great bounds forwards. Gilbert White, who died in 1793 and who lived at Selborne, a mere three miles from Chawton, Austen’s final home, changed the course of science through his direct observations of wildlife in nature, which set the scientific strategy for Darwin’s first voyage on the Beagle in 1833, a mere 15 years after Jane Austen died. Persuasion seems to presage these developments through the relationships and views challenged and promoted in the novel.

Probably more controversial, especially for the time Jane Austen was writing, are the echoes of The French Revolution. Ideas espoused by the Revolution were bound to be heard and discussed in Britain by such men as Charles James Fox. But what about the women?

Louisa Musgrove’s jump from The Cobb in Lyme onto the cobbled pavement below and striking her head, rendering her unconscious, is suggestive of women like Anne Elliot taking charge and making a decisive contribution over and above men. This theme is similar to the political and social ideology women were advocating in France.

“Is there no one to help me?” were the first words which burst from Captain Wentworth, in a tone of despair, and as if all his own strength were gone.

“Go to him, go to him,” cried Anne [to Captain Benwick], “for heaven’s sake go to him. I can support her myself. Leave me and go to him. Rub her hands, rub her temples; here are salts,- take them, take them.” Captain Benwick obeyed…… everything was done that Anne had prompted…”

 

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Surely this scene is in the spirit of Charlotte Corday, Pauline Leon and Theroigne de Mericourt, who agitated for full citizenship for women. Three Royal Naval Captains who commanded Royal Naval men of war became helpless in this emergency, and only a woman, Anne Elliot, direct and assertive, took charge.

Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion was published in 1818 after her death. Anne Bronte’s novel, The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, was published thirty years later in 1848. Both deal with moral issues and patriarchy. The difference between the two is stark. Jane Austen holds a mirror up to society and says: this is the way things are. Nothing really terrible happens in Persuasion. Jane Austen portrays a very gentle revolution.  The Tennant of Wildfell Hall deals with misogyny, patriarchy, and the terrible abuse of a woman. Anne Bronte’s writing is disturbing and visceral; mind and heart changing. Jane Austen’s writing is gently comic, but it’s also getting us there.

Find Tony Grant’s blog, London Calling, at this link. http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/

 

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