This week The Telegraph newspaper published an online article about a house in Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire called The Vyne. The reason it caught the eye of the Jane Austen News is because it has been suggested that Jane Austen may have based her Mansfield Park heroine Fanny Price on Caroline Wiggett, who went to live at The Vyne in 1803 aged three, having been plucked from a pool of poor distant relations and adopted by the childless couple who lived there, William John Chute and his wife Eliza.
It is thought that Jane may have come into contact with the Chutes as her brother James Austen was appointed Rector of Sherborne St.John by William Chute, and so he moved in the same social circles as the Chutes and attend parties thrown at The Vyne. Certainly, Jane would at least have known about the family and the case of Caroline Wiggett’s adoption.
However, having said that, and just to play devil’s advocate, rich relations adopting a child from poor relations was by no means a rare occurrence which Jane could only have thought of by hearing of Caroline Wiggett. For one thing, another of her brothers, Edward Austen, was adopted by rich relations and went on to become a very wealthy landowner.
It’s an interesting house (following one of his regular visits there, The Vyne is also believed to have inspired Horace Walpole to build his 18th-century gothic castle in Twickenham, Strawberry Hill) and the Caroline Wiggett-Fanny Price connection is a fun speculation to explore at any rate.
As a pioneering female author we think that Jane would love this idea.
Penguin has teamed up with Waterstones to mark International Women’s Day by opening a pop-up store in East London. The bookshop will run from the 5th-9th of March and will sell only books written by women to “celebrate the persistence of women who’ve fought for change: those who fight, rebel and shout #LikeAWoman”.
The other unique aspect of the pop-up bookshop is the way in which it will be laid out. Rather than the typical “biography”, “fiction”, “sci-fi” categories, the books will be grouped by “the impact the author has had on culture, history or society”. The categories will range from “essential feminist reads”, to “inspiring young readers”, “women to watch”, and “changemakers”.
A series of literary events will also take place at the boo
Gary Saul Morson, the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University, and Morton Schapiro, a professor of economics and the president of Northwestern University have put forward an interesting question: could reading Tolstoy and Austen improve economic forecasting?
In their book, Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities, they argue that, while taking literature seriously will not completely transform the field of economics it will provide a real boost to accuracy and general understanding of why seemingly unlikely events are more likely than first assumed (recessions being a prime example). They believe that learning from literature, philosophy and the other humanities, along with history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, religion and the like, may lead economists to develop more realistic models of human behavior, increase the accuracy of their predictions, and come up with policies that are more effective and more just.
They particularly recommend reading some of the classic literary greats:
There is no better source of ethical insight than the novels of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Henry James, and the other great realists. Their stories distill the complexity of ethical questions that are too important to be entrusted to an overarching theory – questions that call for good judgment.
We wonder what Jane would make of this!
An essay going into more depth on the importance of literature and the humanities in economics can be read here.
..And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there… The Defence of Fort McHenry
Francis Scott Key
Although it would be difficult to discern, simply from reading her novels, the world Jane Austen lived in was one constantly at war. During her lifetime (1775-1817) she saw the American war for independence (known as the Revolutionary War) the French Revolution, Britain’s war with France (fighting Napoleon from 1803-1815) and the War of 1812, which is largely forgotten in light of the other, “major” wars which overshadow it, in both British and American history.
With the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (and no, the 1812 overture was not written for this war– it was written in Russia, in 1880, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, commemorating Russia’s battle and eventual triumph over Napoleon’s forces) and the introduction of the newest American Girl Doll, Caroline Abbott, interest has been renewed in this war which saw not only at British invasion of Washington D.C., with troops burning the White House, but also the battle which inspired the poem, The Defence of Fort McHenry, which would later be titled The Star Spangled Banner, and adopted as the United States’ national anthem.
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States and those of the British Empire. The United States declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain’s ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas, and possible American desire to annex Canada. Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British at first used defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and ended the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship. In the Southwest, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 on April 6, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large invasion armies. The British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed them to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed all three British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.
The war was fought in three principal theatres: (1) at sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships, while the British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war; (2) both land and naval battles were fought on the American–Canadian frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River; and (3) the American South and Gulf Coast also saw major land battles in which the American forces defeated Britain’s Indian allies and repulsed a British invasion force at New Orleans.
Both sides invaded each other’s territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other’s land, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.
Early 1800’s in the United States
In the United States, victories at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and in the Battle of Baltimore of 1814 (which inspired the lyrics of the United States national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”) produced a sense of euphoria over a “second war of independence” against Britain. Peace brought an “Era of Good Feelings” in which partisan animosity nearly vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity, having repelled multiple American invasions. Battles such as the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Crysler’s Farm became iconic for English-speaking Canadians. In Canada, especially Ontario, memory of the war retains national significance, as the invasions were largely perceived by Canadians as an annexation attempt by America seeking to expand US territory. In Canada, numerous ceremonies are scheduled in 2012 to commemorate a Canadian victory. The war is scarcely remembered in Britain today; as it regarded the conflict as sideshow to the much larger Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe. As such it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States.