Posted on

Rereading Jane Austen’s Novels: Emma

This time round, they didn’t seem so comic. Mama is foolish, dim or dead. Papa’s a sort of genial, pampered lunatic. No one thinks of anything but class. Talk about rural idiocy! Imagine a life of teas with Mrs. and Miss Bates, of fancywork and Mr. Elton’s sermons! No wonder lively girls get into states — No school! no friends! A man might dash to town just to have his hair cut in the fashion, while she can’t walk five miles on her own. Past twenty, she conceives a modest crush on some local stuffed shirt in a riding cloak who’s twice her age and maybe half as bright. At least he’s got some land and gets a joke — but will her jokes survive the wedding night? The happy end ends all. Beneath the blotter the author slides her page, and shakes her head, and goes to supper — Sunday’s joint warmed over, followed by whist, and family prayers, and bed.     This poem, by Katha Pollitt, was published in The New Republic, August 7 & 14, 1989. Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk   (more…)
Posted on

An Apt Analogy for the Declining Year

Anne Elliot accompanies her sister Mary, Charles, Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove and Captain Wentworth on a walk over the November fields, and finds the world of nature reflects her mood of melancholy resignation. At some unspecified time after her sister’s death, Cassandra Austen took a pencil and wrote beside a certain passage in her own copy of Persuasion ” Dear, dear Jane! This deserves to be written in letters of gold”. And the sentence so singled out for attention reads “She had been forced into prudence in her youth, but she learnt romance as she grew older – the natural result of an unnatural beginning.” Cassandra’s comment has sparked much fresh debate in its own right. What did she – or Jane – mean by that weasel word, “romance”? Originally it comes from the French roman, meaning work of fiction, and it remains the modern French term for a novel. Today, we use the term loosely to mean any aspect of the perennial quest for a partner. The romantic novel, dealing with the game of love, traditionally ends after several reversals with blissful union – or else an equally satisfying grand tragedy. So can we call Jane Austen a “romantic” writer in our modern sense of the word? Well, yes. The fuel that drives her plots is what publishes call the “love interest”. And for all her rationality, all her sharpness, she remains essentially an optimist. In her shrewd analysis of the middle-class marriage market of her day, the novels (more…)
Posted on

Jane Austen’s Christmas:

The Festive Season in Georgian England
by Maria Hubert


With a bright holiday cover featuring Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet) of Pride and Prejudice fame, Jane Austen’s Christmas promises to be a delightful read. However, like Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, this book is not so much Austen as a vignette of one aspect of the Regency. It contains suppositions and outright falacies (for example, one of the first illustrations – that of a young girl, pen in hand – is labeled “Jane Austen”. There are only two officially recognized portraits of the author- this is neither.)

That said,
this is a delightful account of the Christmas season in Georgian England. Be aware that this book primarily refers to the middle class and their celebrations that cannot neccesarily be attributed to upper or lower class life. If you are doing research or simply looking for an enjoyable holiday read, this is a great place to start. It does include many period resources and writings, just be sure to check your facts. Continue reading Jane Austen’s Christmas:

Posted on

The Janeites

Janeites

Janeites
This more than just a book on Jane Austen, this is a book on Jane Austen Fans. They are called ‘Janeite’s’ after Rudyard Kipling’s famous short story “The Janeites” about a group of soldiers recovering from injuries in the First World War – and the secret, almost Mason-like, society that has been formed in the world by her fans. If only this were true!

Deidre Lynch has collected together nine essays on Austen. The collection deals with the rise and fall of Jane’s popularity as an author with the public and with literary critics through the ages and in different countries. Some of these authors are at the foremost of Austen research. William Galperin, Chapter 4, is one of the names I recognise best from my past reading. His essay on Austen’s earliest readers is a fascinating historical perspective that blends in well with Claudia Johnson’s essay (chapter one in this book). Continue reading The Janeites

Posted on

Jane Austen On-Line: Begin your Search

In this age of technology and high-speed access, it is possible to find nearly anyone and anything on-line. When a recent internet search using the phrase “Jane Austen” revealed more than 124,000 related websites, it was clear to see that Jane Austen was not only on the web, but there to stay. With literally thousands of sites to choose from – pages created by everyone from novice fans to museums, organizations and official academic research sites, it may be a bit daunting to know where to start. These next four articles will attempt to categorize some of the many websites available profiling this author and review some of the best sites relating to Jane Austen’s biography, her works, Regency fashions and that time period.  One of the most entertaining and certainly the most popular place to start a search for Jane Austen related information is the Republic of Pemberley. This site- or rather, community- was created in 1996 by a small group of hard-core Janeites. Moved to it’s own server in 1998, they have continued to maintain and update a “Haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen.” They currently run over 20 message boards (on all topics including each of the novels, the movies, history, sequels, advice and the “Bits of Ivory” board- a place to post your own continuations of the books, such as a recent Uppercross Chronicles, detailing the lives of the next generation of Wentworths and Musgroves), a chat room, a widely respected (more…)
Posted on

What’s a Guy like you doing in a place like this?

I guess I should start by explaining why an American male would decide to throw himself almost obsessively into the study of an English woman that lived 200 years before his time. Well, at the age of 13, most boys fall in love with celebrities and super models, but by some act of fate or the funny curriculum of an American public school at that pivotal moment, when I should have formed a crush on Debbie Gibson, all my time was occupied in struggling through Pride and Prejudice. Instead of a youth enthralling pop-star, I fell in love with the vibrant and charming Lizzy Bennet.     I now see Lizzy with a critical eye, which was focused in college, but her faults are almost as endearing as her perfections. My progress as an English major eventually brought me here to England and to the Jane Austen Centre. Before starting, I feared they would throw me in front of a room crowded with top notch Janeites who would batter me with obscure, impossible questions. Instead, they gave me the time to absorb the author. Whenever I am at the centre- with employees who study and talk about Austen, with visitors inquisitive about Austen, and with shelves of books just itching for a browsing- I learn by submersion. Finally having gained some confidence and expertise, I began to introduce the exhibit. This involves a 15 minute talk about the biography of the author. I was nervous, but it was made easier (more…)
Posted on

January in Regency Bath

In Jane’s day, of course, the winter was the time to gather for the Bath season. Rather than wallowing in the moist heat of July and August in the city’s south-facing bowl, they preferred Bath at a time of year when the buildings can be seen through the bare branches, and when the post-Christmas grey skies bring out the honey-yellow of the Bath stone. On this iron-grey winter morning, we’re slipping and sliding from Marlborough-Buildings to 40, Gay Street, and wishing we had more leisure to enjoy the beauties of Bath – architectural as opposed to human. For a cruel frost has followed fast on the heels of yesterday’s sprinkling of snow, and the air is sharp – as sharp as the younger Miss Austen’s quill. Hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of such a frost. We’re afraid our noses are becoming as red as Mary Musgrove’s, but, like Sir Walter Elliot, “I hope that may not happen every day.” In fact, we hope to avoid the critical scrutiny of such men as Sir Walter, for he will be sure to scold us for neglecting to use Gowland’s lotion each night. “I advise the constant use of Gowland’s, nothing but Gowland’s, during the winter months.” At least as modern women, we don t have to set out to capture a rich husband as a sole route to financial security. My face is my fortune, sir, she said. Poor Jane. Thank goodness we don t live like (more…)