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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.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 68

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Sense and Sensibility: The Bicentenary Edition

“I am never too busy to think of S. and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child. . .”
Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1811

When Girlebooks decided to publish a bicentenary edition of Sense and Sensibility, they were faced with the dilemma of how to make it “different”. Sure there were fewer ebook copies on the market than hardbound, but even a cursory search on Amazon.com offers over 2,000 Sense and Sensibility listings. How could they stand out in such a crowd?

Enter the combined creative talents of Margaret C. Sullivan and Cassandra Chouinard. Sullivan, no novice to the historical world of Jane Austen (she is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook) first collaborated with Chouinard when writing There Must be Murder, a sequel to Austen’s Northanger Abbey, set in Regency Bath. Laura McDonald, founder of Girlebooks, had recently prepared There Must be Murder for ebook publication and knew that Ms. Sullivan’s meticulous research abilities and smart, fun style were a “matchless match” with Ms Chouinard’s lively illustrations—a perfect pairing for a beloved classic.

And so, as Sense and Sensibility turned 200 years old, a fresh look was taken at the book. For the first time in years, new illustrations for an unabridged copy of the book were created. Characters come alive—not in a dated, Victorian tinted way, but with faces and expressions which display both sense and sensibility—along with charm, alarm and a variety of other emotions drawn from a book that seems at times to be “nothing but a succession of busy nothings.” Certainly most of the major activity happens off page, and yet, there is nothing boring or monotonous here. Ms. Chouinard has provided 23 large illustrations…and, in a nod to Hugh Thomson, a charmingly illustrated chapter header for each of the 50 chapters! These darling headers give a glimpse of “what’s to come” to even the most rapid reader, flying by the scenery in order to discover Willoughby’s secret and Marianne’s fate.

While Cassandra was busy sketching and drawing, Ms. Sullivan was hard at work, researching the allusions which would have been readily apparent to Jane Austen’s contemporary readers, but have been lost in the following centuries. Her plan was to read it with an eye towards the first time reader—not creating a scholarly treatise, so much as answering the questions that arise when considering Colonel Brandon’s supposed “nabobs, gold mohrs, and palanquins”, for instance. (Incidentally, I discovered that these are a: an Englishman who became rich by doing business in the Indies, b: an Indian coin, and c: a litter carried by four attendants and covered with a shade).

Sullivan’s insights also help reveal the depth of coquettish conniving betrayed by the Steele sisters in choosing to join the “Doctor” in a post-chaise all the way to London, for “it seems that the party was made up of just Anne, Lucy and the Doctor, and as a post-chaise seats only three, it would have been a very cozy party indeed.”

 “Not in the stage, I assure you,” replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation; “we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we’d join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly…everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest…”

Although it has been many years since I first read Sense and Sensibility, I confess that I learned more, and understand it more now, than I ever have before. It is one thing to view someone else’s impressions of the book on film, but reading the book again, this time with clever chapter notes (97 in all) which answer so many of my questions before I can even begin to ask them, I finally feel like I begin to understand the world that Jane Austen was writing in. Certainly, the book is far deeper and more complex—and better told—than any film adaptation to date.

Along with providing ample notes on the text, Ms. Sullivan has added to “the improvement of [our] mind by extensive reading.” Included in this edition are a biography of Jane Austen and inclusive bibliographies on subjects as diverse as “Biography and Criticism”, “Authors Having Fun with Jane” and “Fiction inspired by Sense and Sensibility”. There is also a complete list of Sense and Sensibility films—surely enough extended reading to satisfy even my enthusiasm for the subject!

Sense and Sensibility, the Bicentenary Edition: Illustrated and Annotated is available in paperback, as well as Kindle/Mobipocket PRC, Adobe Reader PDF, Microsoft Reader LIT and Epub editions from both Amazon and Girlebooks. Check out your favorite medium, today! All versions arrive with beautiful formatting and charming illustrations, making them instant favorites—easy to read and lovely to behold.

  • List Price: £9.57 Paperback/£1.91  Kindle
  • Paperback: 398 pages
  • Publisher: LibriFiles Publishing (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615568084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615568089

 


 

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.