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Inquiring readers,

Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen, Rachel Dodge, and a bookmark with the quote

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, Rachel Dodge, Bethany House, 2018

A “Praying With Jane” blog tour will begin October 31st on this blog. I am privileged to showcase Rachel Dodge’s deeply felt first book, which centers around three prayers Jane Austen wrote that have miraculously survived, given the destruction of so much of her original papers.

A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!” – Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Many readers of this blog have come to know Rachel in the past year and a half through her blog post contributions, her exquisite writing style, and her extensive knowledge of Jane Austen’s life. This book is a labor of love for Rachel. Divided into 31 days, readers are guided for one month to a daily examination of sections of the three prayers until, at the end of the book, they have thoroughly studied Jane’s prayers.

My sister-in-law, Carol, who read Pride and Prejudice years ago and knows little of Jane Austen’s novels and characters, other than the movies she’s seen, has read the book for me.

I was skeptical about the book at first, because I know so little about Jane Austen, but I found Rachel’s choice of scriptures to be inspiring,”

Rachel includes two scriptures per day. An example of one is included in the samples of the first day of prayer below:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn youth unfailing kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As mentioned, the blog tour begins here October 31st! Other blogs on the tour (in random order) are:

Diary of an Eccentric | So Little Time…| Laura’s Reviews | Calico Critic | Jane Austen in Vermont| My Love for Jane Austen | A Bookish Way of Life | Burton Reviews | My Jane Austen Book Club | Delighted Reader Book Reviews | Laughing With Lizzie | Becoming |(and, of course,) Jane Austen’s World

Please join us as we examine this lovely addition to the canon of works by Jane Austen’s ardent admirers!

Information about Praying With Jane is available at

Rachel  Dodge’s posts on this blog

Follow Rachel Dodge at www.racheldodge.com

 

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Inquiring readers,

Many of you have noticed my absence for a long time. If it weren’t for the efforts of Rachel Dodge and Tony Grant, this blog would have remained silent for most of the previous twelve months. Thank you, both, dear friends, for your contributions.

Two years ago I realized my heart and soul were no longer in my work and that it was time to retire.  Since then, I have been in the process of getting my house ready for sale, selling it, and packing my belongings to move to north Baltimore to be near family. Luckily or unluckily, I sold my house the moment my realtor planted the “coming soon” sign on my lawn. This meant that I had to move two months earlier than anticipated, since the new owners were anxious to move into my beloved abode.

My new place, however, was not ready. Currently, all my possessions, save for summer clothes and necessities, are in storage, and so I am living in limbo as a guest with friends until the end of August.

Starting September 1, I will be traveling between Richmond and Baltimore for four months, waiting for my new place to be approved by a house inspector and working remotely at a distance (with frequent travels via I-95 to attend bi-monthly meetings down south). January 1st is the date of my retirement. Ah, the modern life!

As I anticipate my schedule this fall and early winter, my thoughts often turn to Jane Austen. She had immense pleasure of living the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, a small village in Hampshire.

Outside there were fields where Mr Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane, possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. – http://www3.hants.gov.uk/austen/deane-parsonage/steventon-village.htm, Hantsweb, Hampshire County Council

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The Austens also ran a boarding school for young men out of the parsonage house to augment the reverend’s yearly income of £230. His extensive library of 300 – 500 volumes was amazingly large for that era, since books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Jane and her sister, Cassandra, to read from his library, an unusual encouragement for females in that time.

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, the British Library

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, The British Library

Jane enjoyed an extremely close relationship with her older sister, Cassandra, and they supported each other in their respective strengths and talents. Jane’s talent, as well as Cassandra’s, were nurtured by their doting family, as evidenced by the History of England, written by Jane and illustrated by Cassandra, and the plays and stories of juvenilia a young and playful Jane wrote for family gatherings.

At the age of 25, after enjoying a bucolic childhood that any woman of her era would have envied, Jane’s parents announced the Reverend’s decision to retire and leave Steventon. It was said that, upon hearing the news, Jane fainted. I can only imagine what went through her mind as she imagined the life she adored evaporating as she saw her family’s possessions reduced to the amount that one or several moving carts could hold.

(See slideshow of 18thcentury carts and wagons in Williamsburg of sample carts. I tend to think the blue covered wagon would be similar to one or two vehicles the Austen family would have contracted to move their belongings: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring09/carts_slideshow/)

These days I empathize with the painful decisions the Austen family must have made regarding their possessions. After paring my own book collection down from around 4,000 volumes to 600 and getting rid of or giving away 90% of my furniture, and after living almost 30 years near a beautiful river and leaving my favorite house, ever, I can imagine Jane’s despair as beloved friends and family and favorite walking paths and shops were left behind for a city she didn’t particularly love (or so Claire Tomalin surmised). As the moving wagon and carriage that carried the Austen family and their possessions turned the corner away from the parsonage, Jane must have been overcome with nostalgia, sadness, and a bit of fear all at once.

And so for the next five years Jane began a restless, peripatetic lifestyle, one that influenced her inability to write any meaningful work for a long time. (Houses in Bath Where Jane Austen Lived, KleurijkJaneAusten, May 28, 2011)

The Austen family’s first house in Bath was located at number 4 Sydney Place.

“No. 4 Sydney Place was a good, well-proportioned, newly build terraced house. It was well placed outside the crowded centre of Bath, but within easy walking distance over Pulteney Bridge.” – Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life

Canal and walks, Sydney Gardens 19th C.This address, opposite Sydney Gardens, allowed Jane easy access to the walking paths along its beautiful grounds, a sop to her country heart. (See image on the right.)

Map of Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place, Bath

Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place

Map of Bath

Main city of Bath, across the Pulteney Bridge from Sydney Place

“Whether you go to see, or to be seen, At Sydney Gardens you’ll be pleased, I ween, Whatever your taste, for prospects or good cheer, Cascades or rural walks, you’ll find them here…”
– Anon, 27 August 1795, poem in local newspaper
–“The History of Sydney Gardens” by Catherine Pitt, The Bath Magazine

Life in the city of Bath was vastly different from life in the country. In Steventon, Mrs Austen oversaw an extensive garden, and used fresh milk from a milk cow and fresh eggs from her chickens to create simple but good food from scratch. She worked alongside her servants in the kitchen and kitchen garden to provide wholesome meals for her family and young boarders, as well as clean clothes and a tidy house. She was a creative poet and a few of her recipes in verse still survive.

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses…

(Find the rest of this delightful recipe on this blog at https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-receipt-for-a-pudding-by-mrs-austen/)

Imagine the shock this country family felt at having to walk to the green grocer daily, acquire milk from cows kept in city stalls and that was often cut with water, all in an age before refrigeration.

 

“When proud pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Has put a spirit of youth in everything.”

yet for the rest of the year the coarse grass is carted to their stalls, or they devour what the breweries and distilleries cannot extract from the grain harvest. Long before “the unfolding star wakes up the shepherd” are the London cows milked; and the great wholesale vendors of the commodity, who have it consigned to them daily from more distant parts to the various railway stations in the metropolis, bear it in carts to every part of the town, and distribute it to the hundreds of shopkeepers and itinerants, who are anxiously waiting to receive it for re-distribution amongst their own customers. It is evident that a perishable commodity which everyone requires at a given hour, must be so distributed.

” –  — from A History of the Cries of London, Ancient and Modern, by Charles Hindley, Project Gutenberg, p 141

This situation for “not so” fresh milk, meat, and vegetables was as similar for the citizens of London as for a small city, like Bath. The Austen’s maid of all work and Austen women purchased “fresh” food on a daily basis, food that was both expensive and often past its “due date.” (Drinking Milk in Regency London, Jane Austen’s World, 2008)

Obtaining decent food supplies in Bath must have been costly for a family living on a parson’s pension. The incessant street cries of the baker, the milkmaid, and other food sellers, even across the Pulteney Bridge in a quieter section of town, must have cut into Jane’s peaceful hours. No wonder her creative juices stalled after her father’s death, as the family moved from place to place (after his pension to his family had been cut off), and before she and her mother and sister found refuge in Chawton Cottage. (Where Jane Lived, Gotta Keep Movin’ blog.)

I confess I possess not a smidgeon of Jane Austen’s writing genius, but the disruption in my life, starting with the years of my father’s slow dying and his death in 2014, and my sweet dog’s sudden fatal illness in 2016, blocked my creative input, both at work and at home.

To be near family, I am moving from a small city with many friends to the suburb of a much larger city., where I know few people. In the process, I am leaving my favorite, unique foodie haunts, small local theater productions, historic city neighborhoods, a short and easy ride to work, and white water rafting downtown on the James River to live in a land of manicured lawns, malls, congested traffic, and national restaurant chains.

Riverside Drive, Richmond, VA

My river walk along the James

Until I regain my footing in early 2019, I don’t anticipate devoting myself to this blog full-time just yet. Thank you, readers, for your understanding. Thank you, Rachel and Tony, for your support.

Vic

Sources:

 

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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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you want to hear about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all behaved charmingly.” –Emma

My husband and I were invited to a family wedding in England last June. The venue: Sherbourne Park, a Grade II Georgian house on a large estate dating back to 1730, just a few miles from Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon. From the moment I first saw photos of Sherbourne Park, I felt a bit like a heroine in one of Jane Austen’s novels. I imagined myself walking the beautiful grounds, toasting the happy couple, and exploring as much of the house as possible.

Sherbourne House Exterior

Sherbourne Park. Image 1 by Rachel Dodge

You can imagine the added thrill I felt when I discovered we were also invited to stay the night at the “great house” after the wedding. My response was similar to that of Catherine Morland’s when she received her invitation to visit Northanger Abbey:

[Sherbourne Park]! These were thrilling words, and wound up [my] feelings to the highest point of ecstasy. [My] grateful and gratified heart could hardly restrain its expressions within the language of tolerable calmness. To receive so flattering an invitation! To have [my] company so warmly solicited! (NA 140)

With Sherbourne Park “on my lips,” I penned a quick “Yes!” on the reply card and began planning our trip.

 

Dressing the Part

Dress and hat at the wedding at Sherborne

Image by Rachel Dodge

As one of the “California relatives,” I certainly didn’t want to wear the wrong thing and open myself up to comments such as Mrs. Allen’s: “There goes a strange-looking woman! What an odd gown she has got on! How old-fashioned it is! Look at the back” (NA 23). Though I agree that a “woman can never be too fine while she is all in white” (MP 222), I knew I should leave that to the bride. Having “the greatest dislike to the idea of being over-trimmed” like Mrs. Elton, I decided that “a simple style of dress” would be “infinitely preferable to finery” (E 302).

My aim:

“nothing but what is perfectly proper” (MP 222).

The Question of Hats

Like Austen herself, I decided to wait until I arrived in England to “begin my operations on my hat, on which . . . my principal hopes of happiness depend[ed]” (Letters 17). Our English relatives assured us that many women would wear hats or fascinators. In Warwick, I found a small millinery shop filled with a variety of hats and fascinators. With the help of the capable shopkeeper, I found the perfect fascinator to match my gown. And unlike Lydia Bennet, I did not feel the need to “pull it to pieces” to see if I could “make it up any better” (PP 219).

Sherbourne Park

Sherbourne house exterior 2

Sherborne Park exterior image 2 by Rachel Dodge

The day of the wedding, we dressed in our finery and drove to Sherbourne Park, a 2,000-acre estate in Warwickshire. Tucked far back from the main road, the entrance was difficult to find, but at last we found the long, tree-line driveway. Much like Elizabeth Bennet, I “watched for the first appearance of [Sherbourne Park] with some perturbation” (PP 245). When “at length” we came out of the trees, my “spirits were in a high flutter.” I found that my mind was not “too full for conversation,” and I “saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view,” exclaiming at every new sight. When I finally saw the house, I “felt that to be mistress of [Sherbourne Park, once upon a time] might be something!” (245).

 

The Church

Shelbourne All Saints Church of England

Shelbourne-All Saints Church of England. Image by Rachel Dodge.

The wedding ceremony was held in Sherbourne-All Saints Church of England, built in 1864, and was complete with Scripture readings and hymns on the organ. I wished to see if the bride had chosen to “put on a few ornaments,” since a “bride, you know, must appear like a bride” (E 302) and “longed to know if [the groom] would be married in his blue coat” (PP 319). The bride was as beautiful as could be and the groom was indeed in navy blue tails.

I found the “church spire . . . remarkably handsome” (MP 82).

However, unlike Maria Bertram, I was quite happy to find the church situated “so close the Great House,” only a short walk through the garden. I did not find the bells “annoying” at all! In fact, at the end of the service, as the newlyweds led the way out of the church, the church bells added much joy to the occasion. They continued for at least ten minutes and made a glorious clamor.

The Garden

Images of the gardens at Sherbourne Park by Rachel Dodge

A “taste for flowers is always desirable . . . as a means of getting [us] out of doors, and tempting [us] to more frequent exercise than [we] would otherwise take.” (NA 174)

Following the ceremony, we moved into the garden and gathered by the pool house for cocktails, appetizers, and ice cream. The garden at Sherbourne Park boasts beautiful flower beds, flowering trees and bushes, and many pretty paths to explore. “It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered, dispersed way, scarcely any three together” (E 360), we made our way toward the house and found “[s]eats tolerably in the shade” (359).

During the course of the afternoon, we heard that a member of the wedding party had actually fainted due to the warm weather. I thought perhaps someone should call for the local “Mr. Perry,” but another guest assured us that he “popped right back up” and we need not worry.

The Wedding Breakfast

Image of the wedding breakfast

The wedding breakfast. Image by Rachel Dodge.

 [Y]ou shall all have a bowl of punch to make merry at her wedding.” (PP 307)

If Mr. Woodhouse couldn’t believe the “strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands” (E 19), he could never have approved of the sublime variety (or amount) of food we enjoyed during the formal wedding breakfast. As we worked our way through multiple courses of delicious food and drink, a gentleman at our table leaned over and said, “It’s best to pace yourselves.” I took his advice and was quite happy with the results.

Though many of the mealtime formalities Jane Austen knew are no longer in use, I found one matter of wedding meal etiquette intriguing: During the wedding breakfast, all of the women kept their hats on. Later, after the speeches, the Mother of the Bride took off her hat, and the rest of the ladies in attendance followed suit.

The Great House

Sherbourne Park exterior image 3

Sherbourne Park exterior image 3 by Rachel Dodge.

Interior 1

Interior of Sherborne Park. Image by Rachel Dodge

Interior 2

Interior of Sherborne Park. Image by Rachel Dodge

After an evening of dining and dancing, we entered the grand entrance hall of the great house with our luggage, found our rooms, and said goodnight. I thought of the description of Catherine Morland’s chamber in Northanger Abbey as I entered our room: “The walls were papered, the floor was carpeted; the windows were neither less perfect nor more dim than those of the drawing-room below; the furniture, though not of the latest fashion, was handsome and comfortable, and the air of the room altogether far from uncheerful” (NA 163).

Though I felt quite at ease sleeping there, I later found out that my sister-in-law felt a bit more like Catherine as she tried to fall asleep in the dark, creaking old house.

In the morning, we came downstairs to tea and toast in the large, formal dining room. Again, I was reminded of the descriptions in Northanger Abbey: Sherbourne Park’s

“dining-parlour was a noble room [. . .] fitted up in a style of luxury and expense” (NA 165-6).

While we were eating, the current owner of Sherbourne Park, Robin Smith-Ryland, came down from his residence upstairs and told us about the history of the estate. The Ryland family has held it for over 200 years, and they now run the house and grounds as a venue for corporate events, weddings, and hunting/fishing outings. Smith-Ryland gave us a tour of the house, which can accommodate up to 15 guests. The drawing room, morning room, open fireplaces, and multiple bedrooms were laid out most invitingly.

After brunch in the garden, we moved into the drawing-room to visit with our relatives and enjoy the aftermath of the wedding day. Alas, later in the morning, we packed our things and began to say our goodbyes. We waved as “the bride and bridegroom set off . . . and everybody had as much to say, or to hear, on the subject as usual” (PP 146).

All in all, it was a beautiful wedding weekend. The best part truly was spending the long weekend with my family. I can only hope that we’ll be invited back for the bride’s younger brother’s wedding one day because as we all know, “the expectation of one wedding” always makes “everybody eager for another” (PP 360).

You can follow Rachel Dodge at www.racheldodge.com or on Twitter, Instagram (@kindredspiritbooks), or Facebook.

Works Cited

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

Austen, Jane. Jane Austen’s Letters. Edited by Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed., Oxford UP, 2011.

 

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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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Inquiring readers: While I meant to write a post about muslin caps, my thoughts went in quite a different direction. My lovely mom just celebrated her 93rd birthday and she and Jane Austen have been much on my mind lately.

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)

Jane Austen, painted by her sister Cassandra

Ladies during Jane Austen’s time were as thrifty and resourceful as my great aunts and great grandmother were in repurposing their clothes and fabrics. My mother, who endured first-hand the horrors of World War II, (one grandfather and two uncles died in a Japanese concentration camp), and subsequent years of poverty as an exile from her home country, is as thrifty as Jane’s mother, Cassandra, ever was – saving every button and piece of scrap, be it paper or cloth, recycling and repurposing clothes, darning woolen socks and stockings, knitting and sewing with scraps, and making ends meet until the fabric could be used only as a rag for cleaning. (Even then, that rag was used until its very useful end.)

Mom

Mom in the early 50s.

I recall my single mom during my childhood in The Netherlands, tired after a day’s work, bent over her knitting and sewing in the evening, making sure that my brother and I were properly clothed. Oh, how I envied my cousin in California, who wore a variety of beautiful bespoke clothes! My sweaters were reworked from old yarn and I recall feeling self-conscious and, well, second-hand, compared to my dazzling relative.

These days I revere my mother for her fortitude in facing a multitude of challenges with an unwavering eye towards the future. Since those hard times, she has led a blessed life and bestowed on my brother and me the love and strength of family and a perfect father who adopted us and loved us as if we were his own. As a family, we’ve led the charmed life of successful immigrants in the U.S. and will always be grateful for the opportunity this country gave us.

Lately I have come to realize that I am an avid Jane Austen fan because of my mother’s example. One Christmas when I was 14, my mom gave me a copy of Pride and Prejudice and I fell instantly in love with Elizabeth Bennet and her creator. Not only did Mom introduce me to Jane Austen, but I was inspired by how my mother’s life’s struggles and sense of humor in so many ways echoed Jane’s.

Jane’s life as a spinster in an age when spinsterhood meant real hardship and worry for women of her class echoed Mom’s struggle as a divorcee in an age when divorce was unacceptable. Jane’s peripatetic wanderings after her dear father died reminds me of Mom’s constant search for a safe and affordable place to live. Mom moved us so much, across three continents every few years, that people mistook us for army brats. Jane’s constant worry over money and her courage in pursuing her craft and honing her talent remind me of my mother, who had the temerity to leave my biological father in favor of a better life and to pursue, single-mindedly, a goal that her friends and relatives felt was impossible for a single mother without a high school education to realize. They tried to dissuade her from what they considered an unreachable goal – one that we as a family surpassed beyond, as Mom states to this day, “our wildest dreams.”

Could Jane Austen have described her posthumous fame any better?

Ever the optimist, Mom bucked the system alone (afraid but with nothing to lose). She has a native intelligence and an eye for human nature – a gentle eye filled with humor. We always laughed – at the table, in the car, at and with others. Her second husband, my real father, had the dry sarcastic wit of Mr. Bennet, but Mom was/is raucously funny and insightful. People from all walks of life are attracted to her bright, sunny, and somewhat irreverent disposition. And, so, through her, I was introduced to the panoply of human kind – to the sort of characters who inhabit Jane Austen’s novels – to the many foibles Miss Austen understood and described in her novels and which I instantly recognized, even at 14. Dad was Mr. Bennet, but Mom was Jane Austen.

When my ex left our 26-year marriage, accusing me, among other things, of being “just like your mother,” he did not realize how honored I felt at hearing a comment that was meant to be a stinging barb. Frankly, I wish I were more like my mom. For now, I’ll just worship her and Jane Austen and count myself lucky for knowing both, one intimately and one at a distance.

One last comparison to Jane Austen I must mention is my mom’s faith, which imbues her life. While we know of at least 3 prayers Jane wrote, we also can divine, given she was a minister’s daughter and a woman of her time, that her faith was extremely important to her and quite personal in nature…just like my mother’s.

IMG_0154

Mom today surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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