Author of Decorating a Room of One’s Own, Susan Harlan, tells us more about how the book came into being, and compares the merits of two of the most iconic depictions of the Dashwood’s new home in Sense and Sensibility – Barton Cottage. *** I have always loved literary homes and Jane Austen. The Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice chapters in Decorating a Room of One’s Own were originally part of my column “Great House Therapy” for the wonderful feminist site The Toast. I had started with Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, but I knew that I wanted Austen to be a big part of the column: I would definitely write about Pemberley and Barton Cottage. And when I started to expand the column into the book, I wanted to squeeze in more Austen, if I could. I remember watching the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries with my friends Erika, Ania, and Kristina during our sophomore year in college at Columbia, all of us sprawled out on the two twin mattresses that I had set side-by-side on my dorm room floor (I don’t know how I managed to snag the extra one). We had rented the first DVD from the video store down the street, the magnificent and now-gone Movie Place on 105th Street, and the moment we finished it, we called and ordered the next one. Like everyone, we were obsessed with Colin Firth’s swimming Darcy, so I put a reference to this moment in Decorating (more…)
Why do Millennials Love Jane Austen? A guest blog by the wonderful people at Country House Library. A long dead 19th century author who wrote about the rather limited lives of women, in a time when success was defined by who you married, might seem a strange crush for the modern millennial, yet on Instagram the hashtag ‘#janeausten’ brings up over half a million hits and counting. Part of this is surely down to her abilities as a writer – powerful observations, smart and witty dialogue, and the kind of independent and intelligent female leads that Hollywood still hasn’t quite caught up with. However, that only explains her general appeal, whereas on my own book website, she continuously tops the bestseller lists amongst 18-30 year olds in particular. So what is it about her that appeals so much to young women today? She was a Woman Ahead of her Time “I was so intrigued and inspired by Jane’s life.” Sarah, 23 From many of the comments we receive it seems the attraction might well be Jane herself. As an author who generated her own income she was considered unconventional, to say the least, and simply outrageous to many. As was the fact she never married; in fact, Jane turned down a marriage proposal – an experience she drew on when writing Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzie Bennett turns down two of her own, even if she does end up marrying in the end. Jane would have been a Social Media (more…)
Jane Austen Nuncheon 10 Weird and Wonderful Things you Probably Don’t Know About her World For more than two hundred years, Jane Austen’s books have remained best-selling classics – smart and witty glimpses into the drawing room of the day that never seem to fall out of fashion. However, despite being renowned for her social commentary, as a novelist Jane Austen focused on the story and emotions of her characters, rather than the wider world they inhabited. She also worked on the rather modest assumption that her readership would consist entirely of women from her time and social class, all of whom needed very little contextual explanation. If only she knew! So, to coincide with the anniversary of her best-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, Country House Library thought we’d take a journey back to a time when women wore crinoline and men looked dashing on a horse, and explain a few of the things about her world that you might not know. The first of these: a Jane Austen nuncheon. 1) Breakfasts Were Large As it was common for Jane Austen’s contemporaries to get up at 8am and occupy themselves for a couple of hours before eating – for instance a man might work, whilst a woman might sew, breakfast usually didn’t happen until around 10 o’clock. When they did eventually sit down to eat it would also probably consist of leftovers from the previous day’s dinner, for example in Mansfield Park they start the day with, ‘cold pork bones (more…)
Author Rachel Dodge details the inspirations and process behind her new book Praying with Jane.
“Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane”
My first introduction to Jane Austen’s prayers, over a decade ago, happened by chance. I was in graduate school, working on my master’s thesis on Pride and Prejudice, when I found them at the back of the Chapman edition of Austen’s novels (in the Minor Works volume). At the time, I thought the prayers were beautifully written and wondered why I had heard so little about them.
Continue reading Rachel Dodge on Writing “Praying with Jane”
Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr My kids saw that scoundrel Willoughby at Chic-Fil-A last night. Or so they thought. We had just finished our chicken sandwiches and waffle fries and were headed off to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert, but all four kids stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the unsuspecting dark-haired, large-eyed teenage boy behind the counter. I could read their body language; if this was indeed Willoughby, as they frantically whispered in my ear, he would surely do something reprehensible at any moment. And they weren’t going to miss it. Much to their chagrin, we ushered them out the door, and the Willoughby look-a-like was left to finish his work without further danger of besiegement. In their overactive 10-, 8-, 7-, and 3-year-old minds, they had seen a villain behind the counter. The details of this poor boy’s true identity are of no consequence. The more important reality is that Jane Austen had captured their hearts and imaginations, and my children have not yet entered adolescence. This surely qualifies as a parental milestone. Now, I know the purists contend that the consumption of the screen portrayal should never precede the consumption of the written. I don’t hold to that particular standard (but undoubtedly have my own purist standards in other areas). As such, when we began the several-hour long 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, my kids were immediately enthralled and the questions came with great rapidity. With my finger (more…)
Historical Knotwork – A Naval CV of Sorts This sea chest becket (handle) is exactly the sort which would have been found on the naval chests used by sailors in Nelson’s Navy. Not only is it a beautiful item in itself, it’s also an object which would have worked as a sort of “knotwork CV” for any boy who wished to be hired. Nelson himself joined the Royal Navy in 1771 at the age of twelve. In that era, children of this age were old enough to take up training or apprenticeships and it was normal for boys to go to sea to train as officers and, if they passed the examination before the Commissioners of the Admiralty, they could expect to be lieutenants at the age of eighteen. If any boy (or trained sailor for that matter) needed to prove his worth to a prospective captain or other marine employer, then a sea chest becket such as this one would show his skill with ropes, and prove that he would be a skilled pair of hands to have aboard ship. However, usually they would not be done by the sailor, but would come already installed on the chest. Those with the skill to make them would get the chest with plain beckets and then replace them when he had the time. How is it made? This sea chest becket is made from a rope centre, spliced at either end, padded with canvas (or “pudding’d” to give it it’s technical (more…)
From Captain Wentworth’s Travel Journal: Visiting Victory is ‘one off the bucket list’ So Admiral Horatio Nelson has been something of a hero of mine for… well, for as long as I can remember. My hero worship started (believe it or not) with Star Trek’s very own Captain James Tiberius Kirk. When William Shatner accepted the role he had trouble getting into the head of the starship captain whose ship and crew were more important to him than his own life. He asked the shows creator Gene Roddenberry for help in finding the character’s motivation and Roddenberry suggested he read the Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester. Everything you need to understand Kirk resides with Hornblower – his courage, his self doubt, his sense of duty. From there it was a short hop to the wonderful Patrick O’Brien novels and more recently the phenomenal work of Julian Stockwin and Dudley Pope. From there further still, the real life stories of the men and women who served as inspiration to these novelists – Lord Cochrane, Edward Pellew, and of course Admiral Nelson. It is because of my naval history obsession that I was able to turn up for work on my first day at the Jane Austen Centre with my own historically accurate costume. An Admiral’s dress coat and white ‘smallclothes’, breeches, stockings, waistcoat appropriate to a Napoleonic officer. I was most fortunate to be ‘offered the part’ of Captain Frederick Wentworth. I put the badge on for the first time and (more…)