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Why I love Jane Austen, by Eva O’Flynn

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Criticise her all you will, it’s nothing to me; Jane Austen is my dearest friend.  Warning: I write this post sipping tea from my ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ mug, staring proudly at my new merch (can’t do it justice; see picture.)

Goodies just arrived from the Jane Austen Centre giftshop...
Goodies just arrived from the Jane Austen Centre giftshop…

The woman is perfection. She is a witty, dry, perceptive, insanely intelligent goddess.

As a 17 year old myself, I can only marvel at her epistolary novel ‘Lady Susan‘, which she wrote at my age.

Austen and I first met in 2005, when I was 8 and she 230. This was the year of the infamous portrayal of Elizabeth by Keira Knightley. Forgive me Reader, for I have sinned; that film holds a special place in my heart. It’s extravagant, Hollywood and inaccurate, but it was the first time I met the characters; I remember my young grin as the footman announced ‘a Mrs Bennett, Miss Bennett, Miss Bennett and a- Miss Bennett.’ (Innaccurate, of course but amusing nevertheless.) I’m not stubborn enough that my view of each character remains loyal to the film’s portrayal, but I do believe that the film captures their essence pretty well.

Kiera Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in 2005's Pride and Prejudice.
Kiera Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.

Later, in 2008 when ‘Sense and Sensibilty‘ arrived on the BBC, I fell in love with her plots all over again. I moved straight on to read ‘Pride and Prejudice‘. Admittedly, as an 11 year old still in primary school, much of the novel’s genius was lost on me. Nevertheless, I rooted for Darcy and Elizabeth, bickered with Lydia as if she were my own sister and detested Wickham (not to be confused with Willoughby!) with a burning passion. The confusion between names is something which continues to trouble me to this day: the more Austen you read, the more confusing it gets. Musgrove, for example, a name which features in both ‘The Watsons‘ and ‘Persuasion‘, for very different characters, had my opinions somewhat confused.

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Create Regency Style Acrostic Jewelry

Georgian ‘dearest’ ring. c. 1820  courtesy of The Spare Room Antique Jewelry.

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During the Regency, acrostic jewelry came into vogue. These brooches, rings and other ornaments used gemstones beginning with each letter of the alphabet to spell out sentimental sayings such as LOVE, DEAREST, of REGARD.

Georgian "Regard" brooch, circa 1810.
Georgian “Acrostic” brooch, circa 1810. Jewelers often used the French spelling of the gemstone name when creating their words and phrases, even when the phrases were in English.

First created by the Mellerio Jewelry company (they claim to be the oldest family company in Europe) in Paris in 1809, the idea was mentioned by Étienne de Jouy in an article in an 1811 edition of Gazette de France, which in turn led to the style being adopted in England.

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Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker

longbourn-by-jo-baker-2013-x-200Share this: Review by Syrie James What was happening below stairs in Pride and Prejudice? Who were the ghostly figures that kept both the storyline and the Bennet household going behind the scenes? That is the premise of Jo Baker’s engrossing novel Longbourn, which takes Jane Austen’s famous work, turns it upside down, and shakes out a fully realized and utterly convincing tale of life and romance among the servants. Although Longbourn begins slightly before Pride and Prejudice and continues beyond Austen’s ending, for the most part it matches the action of that novel, focusing almost exclusively on the domestic staff. The protagonist is the young, pretty, feisty, overworked housemaid Sarah, an orphan who turns to books for escape from the menial daily duties which repel and exhaust her. At first, reading about her duties repelled me as well, and I yearned to go back to the nice, clean world of Pride and Prejudice, where young ladies in pretty gowns dance at balls and engage in clever conversation with handsome gentlemen in frock coats and breeches. Longbourn reminds us that our perception of that world is highly idealized, and that the Bennets, the Bingleys, and the Darcys enjoyed a lifestyle which depended entirely on the hard work of people whose lives were anything but pretty: Sarah lifted his chamber pot out from underneath the bed, and carried it out, her head turned aside so as to not confront its contents too closely. This, she reflected, as she crossed the rainy (more…)
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Sailor’s Valentines: A gift of Love

"Tis Our Sailing Thing" Original Sailor's Valentine by Judy Dinnick.

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Let’s start this look at Sailor’s Valentines with a poem;
The distant climes may us divide
to think on you shall be my pride
The Winds and Waves may prove unkind
In me no change you’ll ever find.
A magic spell will bind us fast
And make me love you to the last
Let Cupid then your heart incline
to take me for your Valentine!

Sailor’s Valentine – “A Present/Think of Me”, shell, cedar, glass, metal, cotton, tintype, ca. 1895. Courtesy of Strong Museum.

Jane Austen’s brothers, Francis and Charles, often sailed in the East Indies. Is it possible that one of them might have brought back a ‘Sailor’s Valentine’ for his sweetheart or wife? It is thought that by 1820, the craze for these treasures had reached a peak that would last through the Victorian era.


A Regency needlework silk picture- “The Sailor’s Farewell”, depicting a Tar leaving a weeping woman in front of a domestic setting with stumpwork trees.

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Prada & Prejudice; Love, Lies and Lizzie; Enthusiasm: Three Reviews

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy HubbardShare this: Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard A review by Laurel Ann Nattress When fifteen year old heroine Callie Montgomery purchases a pair of red Prada pumps with sky-high heels she thinks her life will change from high school geek to A-list fashionista in one smooth step. She’s out to impress her savvy classmates while traveling on a school trip in London. Not only is Callie socially awkward, she is an admitted klutz. It only takes her three steps out of the Prada shop in her new shoes to trip and hit her head. When she wakes up, her surroundings have changed from city street, to country lane. She is taken in at Harksbury, a palatial country manor house where she is mistaken for an American cousin Rebecca Vaughn. Rebecca’s first visit to England is highly anticipated by Emily Thorton-Hawke, who warmly greets the cousin she has never met with open arms, and in full Regency era attire. Thinking that British people are very odd, Callie asks to use the telephone, but only gets blank looks. She plays along with impersonating Cousin Rebecca and gradually begins to realize that somehow she has traveled back in time to 1815. Her twenty-first century manners and memory of Regency history hamper her ruse, especially with the arrogant but dishy Lord Alexander Thorton-Hawke, Duke of Harksbury. He thinks she is outspoken and ill-mannered; she thinks if he wasn’t such a complete jerk, he’d be a great catch. A high-concept time travel fantasy, Mandy (more…)
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Rhymes with Rose

rosedrawingShare this: The Austen Family was known to be witty and loved the opportunity to engage in word play. Here are the results from various family members when challenged to write a poem that “Rhymed with Rose”. Mrs. Austen This morning I ‘woke from a quiet repose, I first rubb’d my eyes & I next blew my nose. With my Stockings & Shoes I then cover’d my toes And proceeded to put on the rest of my Cloathes. This was finish’d in less than an hour I suppose; I emply’d myself next in repairing my hose ‘Twas a work of necessity, not what I chose; Of my sock I’d much rather have knit twenty Rows.– My work being done, I looked through the windows And with pleasure beheld all the Bucks & the Does, The Cows & the Bullocks, the Wethers & Ewes.– To the Lib’ry each mourn, all the Family goes, So I went with the rest, though I felt rather froze. My flesh is much warmer, my blood freer flows When I work in the garden with rakes & with hoes. And now I beleive I must come to a close, For I find I grow stupid e’en while I compose; If I write any longer my verse will be prose. Miss Cassandra Austen Love, they say is like a Rose; I’m sure tis like the wind that blows, For not a human creature knows How it comes or where it goes. It is the cause of many (more…)
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The Adventures of Mr. Harly, Sir William Montague

Share this: The Adventures of Mr. Harley   A short, but interesting Tale, is with all imaginable Respect inscribed to Mr. Francis William Austen, Midshipman on board his Majesty’s Ship the Perseverance by his Obedient Servant The Author. MR. HARLEY was one of many Children. Destined by his father for the Church & by his Mother for the Sea, desirous of pleasing both, he prevailed on Sir John to obtain for him a Chaplaincy on board a Man of War. He accordingly cut his Hair and sailed. In half a year he returned & set-off in the Stage Coach for Hogsworth Green, the seat of Emma. His fellow travellers were, A man without a Hat, Another with two, An old maid, & a young Wife. This last appeared about 17, with fine dark Eyes & an elegant Shape; in short, Mr. Harley soon found out that she was his Emma & recollected he had married her a few weeks before he left England. Sir William Montague an unfinished performance is humbly dedicated to Charles John Austen Esq, by his most obedient humble Servant The Author Sir William Mountague was the son of Sir Henry Mountague, who was the son of Sir John Mountague, a descendant of Sir Christopher Mountague, who was the nephew of Sir Edward Mountague, whose ancestor was Sir James Mountague a near relation of Sir Robert Mountague, who inherited the Title and Estate from Sir Frederic Mountague. Sir William was about 17 when his Father died, and (more…)
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Love & Freindship

Share this: Letter the First from Isabel to Laura How often, in answer to my repeated intreaties that you would give my Daughter a regular detail of the Misfortunes and Adventures of your Life, have you said “No, my freind, never will I comply with your request till I may be no longer in Danger of again experiencing such dreadful ones.” Surely that time is now at hand. You are this day 55. If a woman may ever be said to be in safety from the determined Perseverance of disagreeable Lovers and the cruel Persecutions of obstinate Fathers, surely it must be at such a time of Life. Isabel. Letter 2nd Laura to Isabel ALTHO’ I cannot agree with you in supposing that I shall never again be exposed to Misfortunes as unmerited as those I have already experienced, yet to avoid the imputation of Obstinacy or ill-nature, I will gratify the curiosity of your Daughter; and may the fortitude with which I have suffered the many afflictions of my past Life, prove to her a useful lesson for the support of those which may befall her in her own. Laura. Letter 3rd Laura to Marianne AS the Daughter of my most intimate freind, I think you entitled to that knowledge of my unhappy story, which your Mother has so often solicited me to give you. My Father was a native of Ireland and an inhabitant of Wales; my Mother was the natural Daughter of a Scotch Peer by an (more…)