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Jane Austen News – Issue 68

The Jane Austen News was in shock!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Mind the Ha-Ha! – Mansfield Park is Deciphered

  
David M. Shapard is an American historian with a longstanding interest in Austen and her world. He graduated with a Ph.D. in European History from the University of California at Berkeley (his specialty was the eighteenth century), and he has gone on to devote many years of his life to painstakingly annotating each of Jane’s novels. Now, his sixth and final work, The Annotated Mansfield Park has just published, and is a whopper! It’s 932 pages long and has over 2,300 annotations. Although it does have to be said that as Mansfield Park is the longest of Jane’s novels, adding 372 to the original 560 page novel (Penguin Classics version) is still quite impressive!

An annotated classic may not sound like big news, after all, most classic novels now have annotated versions, but this one we at the Jane Austen News feel is newsworthy because of how thorough it is in its explanations. Also because the annotations themselves are rather fun to read, at the same time as, of course, being informative. For example:

Until the late 18th century brought cups with handles, tea was served in bowllike dishes. The term “dish of tea” lingered, “especially among those, like Mrs. Price, who were less affluent and thus slower to purchase items in the newer style.”

and

A “ha-ha” is a sunken fence, developed in the 18th century for the landscaped grounds of grand houses, designed to keep livestock away from the grass while not interfering with the view. The name may have arisen “because people could see the trench only when they were almost on top of it, leading to surprised exclamations of ‘ha-ha!’”


 A Discussion on Jane’s Teenage Work   

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, Oxford University Press has published Teenage Writings; the combined content of the three notebooks of Jane Austen’s teenage writings which still survive to this day. The earliest pieces probably date from 1786 or 1787, around the time that Jane was aged 11 or 12, and show a more tongue-in-cheek side of Jane than that which we’re used to today. The stories include the likes of plays in which we never learn what’s going on, and heroines who leave home only to return again, dissatisfied with the world, by the same evening. Drunkenness, brawling, sexual misbehavior, theft, and even murder prevail.

To accompany the release, Professor Kathryn Sutherland and Doctor Freya Johnston (editors of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Teenage Writings) discuss in this video Jane’s early writings, and how they reflect the novelist she would become.

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A Dangerous Intimacy: Mansfield Park and Playing at Love

Contrary Wind

Contrary WindBy Lona Manning

A group of young people, passing the rainy weeks of autumn together in “a dull country house,” decide to entertain themselves by staging a play. So what’s so wrong about that, as the critic Lionel Trilling asks rhetorically in his 1954 essay?

The characters in Jane Austen’s great novel, Mansfield Park, devote a great deal of time to debating the question. The play chosen, Lovers’ Vows, is a real play, and Austen could have relied on the fact that her contemporary readers would be familiar with this play. A greater understanding of the play, and of the social milieu of Mansfield Park, will help modern readers understand why the novel’s hero and heroine — Edmund Bertram and his meek cousin Fanny Price — thought that yes, there was plenty wrong about that.

Lovers’ Vows has two storylines – one melodramatic and one comic. Frederick, a young soldier returning home, encounters his mother starving by the roadside. He also learns to his horror that he is illegitimate, and his father is the long-absent Baron Wildenhaim. A kindly local peasant, or Cottager, and his wife take his mother under their roof. Frederick accosts his father and is thrown in prison but matters are eventually sorted out and the remorseful Baron marries Agatha. Meanwhile, the Baron’s legitimate daughter, Amelia, is the lead in the comic storyline. She flirtatiously woos her tutor, the preacher Anhalt, while fending off a marriage proposal from Count Cassel. The entire action is commented on, in rhyming verse, by the Butler, another comic character.

In other words, the themes of Lovers’ Vows (in the original German, the play was called The Love Child) are extra-marital sex and seduction, albeit where sinners repent and Virtue triumphs in the end. Fanny thinks the two female leads, Agatha and Amelia, are “totally improper for home representation—the situation of one, and the language of the other, [are] unfit to be expressed by any woman of modesty.”

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Jane Austen News – Issue 58

The Jane Austen News is Darcy in Italy

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Pride and Prejudice is the Bishops’ Pick     

A television channel owned by Italy’s conference of bishops and endorsed by the Pope is to broadcast BBC shows for the first time. Among the nine period dramas it has chosen to show are the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which considering the fact that it has that wet shirt scene in it, which has left women weak at the knees for years, it might not be quite the safe and genteel choice they think it is.

Usually TV2000, the name of the Roman Catholic station which is also known as “the Italian Church’s TV”, shows in a typical day’s schedule broadcasts of Holy Mass and the Holy Rosary from Lourdes, with occasional showings of Doris Day films.

Other programmes the channel has signed up for are adaptations of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, The Paradise, and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

They’ve also asked for the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. However this adaptation was criticised after its original airing by the Jane Austen Society for “sexing up the story” by opening with a scene in which John Willoughby seduces a 15-year-old girl. Hopefully this won’t take away the bishops’ seal of approval from Jane Austen adaptations, which was also given to (through their purchase of) a 2009 version of Emma, starring Romola Garai, and a BBC feature film, Miss Austen Regrets, which charts the author’s later years.


Winning Illustrator Chosen 

Darya Shnykina has been selected as the winner of The Folio Society’s 2017 competition to see who will illustrate The Folio Society edition of Mansfield Park. Darya, who is a student of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts, was one of 23 illustrators who were selected for the longlist of finalists. This year the entrants were asked to submit three illustrations and a binding design for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The new edition, featuring illustrations by the winner, will be published by The Folio Society in October 2017.

Darya was presented with the prestigious commission, worth £5,000, by eminent historian Lucy Worsley during a ceremony at House of Illustration on Thursday 23 February. The rest of the shortlist, who each receive a £500 prize, are; Natasa Ilincic (Italy), Katie Ponder (UK), Meizhen Xu (Germany), Alexandru Savescu (Romania) and Pedro Silmon (UK). The winner of the first ever Visitors’ Choice Award, which saw over 1,500 people voting, was Katie Ponder.

Darya did the perfect cover: fitting in beautifully with the rest of the series, charming to look at, clever with the layering, and bold. But we were equally charmed by her illustrations for inside which managed to suggest character and some of the powerful feelings in the novel, like anger and disappointment.

Lucy Worsley

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Jane Austen News – Issue 56

The Jane Austen News gets set to vote

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Jane Austen Fans – Lend Us Your Eyes!     

The Jane Austen News is pleased to announce that over the next few weeks we will be publishing a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands.  

Below is just a taster:

Dear Jane

It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments sections as it is published. 


Meeting Young Jane Austen

This week the Jane Austen News heard from Cecily O’Neill; a writer, director and workshop leader based in Winchester. She had exciting news for us that the world premiere of her stage work, Meeting Miss Austen, is going to be performed at the Winchester Discovery Centre as part of the Winchester Festival this year.

In these plays, based on Austen’s Juvenilia, we hear the voice of the teenage Jane, exuberant, saucy and often surreal in tales of love, loss, vice and victuals…

‘The company partook of an elegant entertainment. After which, the bottle being pretty briskly pushed about, the whole party was carried home dead drunk.’ (Jack and Alice)

Cecily also treated us to a sneak peek at one of her most compelling characters – Lady Greville. You can read more about what Cecily had to say about her here.

The performances will be on Saturday 8 July 2017. 8:00pm and again on Sunday 9 July 2017 3:00pm.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 46

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   Jane Austen’s Mother Not a Fan of All Her Work…      Mansfield Park is probably Jane’s least popular novel, and it appears that readers of today are not the only ones to hold that opinion. From January 2017 the British Library will put on display Austen’s handwritten notes of what friends, family and correspondents thought of the novel. They’re not all complimentary. Of the documents on display is one which shows that Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra, thought that Mansfield Park was not as good as Pride & Prejudice and found the heroine, Fanny Price, “insipid”. On the upside, Jane’s sister Cassandra was “fond of Fanny” and “delighted much in Mr Rushworth’s stupidity”. That’s not the worst review of Mansfield Park on display though. Other writings of Austen’s show that she recorded the thoughts of a lady called Augusta Bramstone, who thought Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice “nonsense … but [she] expected to like M.P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst”. Poor Jane! We can’t help but feel at the Jane Austen News that it’s a little ironic, given these reviews, that Mansfield Park was the novel which made her the most money within her lifetime!  Jane Austen Could Make You £20,000    There was a lot of buzz around the first batch of the Winston Churchill £5 notes which were released back in September, but they’re out now so it would make sense (more…)
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Inner voices: The voices of Anne and Austen in Persuasion

By Camilla Magnotti Komatz with illustrations from Persuasion by C.E. Brock Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last finished novel, is probably the one in which the narrative voice and the protagonist’s voice are most interwoven. Jane Austen’s opinions and visions of the changing times are much similar to those of Anne Elliot. The activity of the story encompasses the period of peace between the signing of the Treaty of Paris in June 1814 and Napoleon’s escape from the island of Elba and subsequent return to Paris in February and March of 1815. It was a period when society went through significant changes and, as Jane writes, “many a noble fortune [had] been made during the war.” Captains and admirals had made their fortune and so achieved a high place in society. Jane Austen’s experiences are also closely related to those experienced by Anne. Like Anne, she too spent some time in Lyme, and in many of the places Anne visits and passes through she follows Austen’s footsteps. Two of Austen’s brothers, Francis and Charles, joined the navy and were a great source of information to her. Austen’s and Anne’s opinions on the navy are the same, and, indeed, the two women have been much compared. Regarding Austen, Ann Barret states that “Anne…was herself; her enthusiasm for the navy, and her perfect unselfishness reflect her completely” (Morrison). However, Austen described Anne as “almost too good for me”, suggesting a distance between her feelings and actions and those of the protagonist. In that sense, (more…)
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Sicilian Amber— Amber Cross

Amber CrossIn Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Fanny Price’s brother William, who is in the navy, gives her an amber cross from Sicily. …the almost solitary ornament in her possession, a very pretty amber cross which William had brought her from Sicily… –Jane Austen, Mansfield Park Chapter 26 Pieces of a rare type of amber called simetite are found on some of Sicily’s beaches. It is often said that Jane Austen never mentions the Napoleonic Wars. However, I would ask, why did she choose to mention Sicily? A 15th century map of Sicily. Jane and Cassandra received topaz crosses from their sailor brother Charles (top). Below, a piece of amber. Surely the gift inspired Fanny’s cross in Mansfield Park. Sicily was of major strategic importance during the Napoleonic Wars. It was a source of a mineral that was an ingredient in a compound that was of vital importance to the British war effort–gunpowder. Sulfur is one of the components of gunpowder. Gunpowder is a mixture of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulphur, and charcoal in the ratio 6:1:1. The British interest in Sicily was rooted in the largest Sulphur deposits in Europe. Sulphur was mined at several locations on the island. By 1800, Sicily was the source of most sulphur used by the British government. On the other hand, at that time, saltpeter was produced most efficiently under hot, humid environmental conditions. Ample firewood and inexpensive labour also rounded out the necessities for saltpeter production. A navigable river to enable large scale loading and (more…)
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Laurence Sterne: Giving Voice to Tristram Shandy

Laurence Sterne, a contemporary of Jane Austen’s own clerical father, George Austen (1731-1805) was a well known voice to the Austen family. Letters both to and from Jane allude to his writings, and Maria Bertram actually quotes from his Sentimental Journey in chapter 10 of Mansfield Park. Sterne’s most familiar work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759) shares themes with another famously comic novel, Henry Fielding’s 1749 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, which Jane Austen was also familiar with. How these two (sometimes shocking) novels influenced her own writing is difficult to say. Portrait of Laurence Sterne by Joshua Reynolds, 1760 Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption. Sterne was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary. His father, Roger Sterne, was an ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk, which was disbanded on the day of Sterne’s birth. Within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire, and in July 1715 they moved back to Ireland, having “decamped with Bag & Baggage for Dublin”, in Sterne’s words. The first decade of Sterne’s life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout Ireland. During (more…)