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Charles Wesley: Methodist Minister

Charles-Wesley-preachingAs the daughter of an Anglican minister, Jane Austen would have grown up in a family whose daily life centered around the doings and needs of the church. As music was always important to her, she no doubt took an interest in the psalms and hymns sung during each service, and would probably have been familiar with the works of Charles Wesley.

Wesley, a contemporary of Jane’s father, was influential in the founding of the Methodist movement (a group Austen was aware of, considering Mary Crawford’s remarks in Mansfield Park.)

“A pretty good lecture, upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate you will soon reform everybody at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.”
-Mansfield Park

Continue reading Charles Wesley: Methodist Minister

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Shades of Milk and Honey: The novel Jane Austen might have written, had she lived in a world with magic.

A review by John Ottinger.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s, first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is a homage to Jane Austen, but with a fantasy twist. Kowal, the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo nominee, tells the story through the eyes of poor plain Jane. The daughter of a country gentleman, she is long of nose – not ugly, but not really attractive either. Having a beauteous younger sister to whom she is always compared does not help matters much. The future spinster has little to recommend her to eligible men save her talent at glamour and high intelligence. But in Georgian England, men prefer only want a woman to look pretty on their arm at social events and no talent or intelligence is likely to win them over. Jane’s pitiable state is only exacerbated by her unrequited love for her sister’s beau. When her sister Melody transfers her affections to a rake and scoundrel, Jane’s tidy little country family may be torn apart by jealousy.

Kowal really gets into the mindset of the early nineteenth century. Her characters are concerned, even obsessed, with social status. Spinsterhood is a fate worse than death for any woman of this era, and the catching of a good husband is essential. Jane has no prospects, although her father had ensured that he provided his two daughters a significant dowry. Even that enticement is not enough to attract a mate for Jane, and she is stoically resigned to her fate. Such concerns might seem petty to modern readers, but to the English aristocracy the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, such concerns consumed every waking moment. Kowal excellently captures the immediacy, the fear that individuals of that age felt. Even if intellectually and removed from the story it is easy for the reader to dismiss their motivations, they are rich and full of depth when surrounded by Kowal’s words.

In constructing the narrative, Kowal borrowed heavily from Austen, and long-time readers of her work (or even those who have only viewed BBC versions) will recognize many of the situations presented. The lovers sourrounding Melody will bring to mind Sense and Sensibility, Jane’s high-strung mother, her own attitude and the small-town society harken to Pride and Prejudice and Jane’s developing romance is drawn from Persuasion. The reader might think that this makes Kowal nothing more than a copyist, but the truth is that she adds her own flavor to the story, such that while there are obvious similarities to Austen, Shades of Milk and Honey does tread its own ground.

The story is also helped by Kowal’s attention to detail. Kowal even writes words in the manner which Austen uses. For instance “show” is spelled “shew” and though an American writer, Kowal uses the British spelling of words like “favorite”, which becomes “favourite” or “glamor” which is spelled “glamour” by most of the English speaking world. She captures the formality of Austen’s writing, but in way that appeals to the sensibilities of the modern reader.

Kowal’s distinct imprint, and the place where the story diverges from Austen, is in the magic system. Called glamour, the magic is of an illusionary kind, used mainly for artistic renderings and the addition of motion or vivacity to paintings or visuals for music. Glamour is an art form, rather than something used for power, although great skill can lead to higher status in society. Different people have different levels of skill, but for young ladies it is considered as essential for a well-rounded woman as playing the piano or sewing. Not just a tack-on to make this story a fantasy rather than historical novel, the magic of glamour is an essential plot device. Kowal uses glamour, and Jane’s skill in it, to provide both conflict and resolution for the story. It also provides Kowal an opportunity to talk about the nature of art (well-placed in dialogue, not exposition) in a way that adds profundity to the novel.

Shades of Milk and Honey could easily fit into Austen’s canon, except of course for the inclusion of magic. Kowal has captured both the style and content of an Austen novel, adding her own speculative fiction twist, and readers who enjoyed such novels as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell will find this novel appealing as well. Readers of period romances have a crossover novel into the speculative fiction genre, and casual (rather than critical) Austen readers have a book that hits all the high points of Austen’s dialogue and plotting while still having its own identity. Highly recommended reading for everyone and one I suspect will garner award nominations from several genres.

RRP: £16.14
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (3 Aug 2010)
ISBN-10: 076532556X
ISBN-13: 978-0765325563


This review by John Ottinger orginally appeared on Grasping for the Wind. It is used here with permission.

Mary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo nominee for her story Evil Robot Monkey. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year’s Best anthologies.

Visit www.maryrobinettekowal.com to read Chapter 1 of Shades of Milk and Honey

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John Playford: The English Dancing Master

Dancing Master John Playford

John Playford: The English Dancing Master

John Playford was born in Norwich in 1623, and died in London in 1686. His father

was a mercer, also named John. Local records show that he was one of a large family, many of whom were scriveners or stationers. While his brother Matthew was recorded at a grammar school, there is no record that John did so. It is likely that his education came from the almonry, or choir-school, which was attached to the cathedral, and it was here he probably acquired a knowledge of music and the “love of Divine Service”.

After his father’s death in 1639, Playford was apprenticed to John Benson, a London publisher of St. Dunstan’s Churchyard on Fleet Street. After seven years, he earned his freedom and became a member of the Yeomanry of the Stationer’s Company in 1647, which enabled him to trade as a publisher. Playford secured the tenancy of a shop in the porch of the Temple Church, the place from where all his publications were issued until his retirement in 1684. His publications included political tracts, miscellaneous non-musical works, music theory, lessons for various instruments, collections of songs, and psalms. His books had a ready market with the law students of the Inns of Court, or Law School, that passed his shop each day.

By personal inclination and family, Playford was a Royalist. One of his political tracts was The Perfect Narrative of the Tryal of the King, as well as others relating to the executions of royalist nobility. In November of 1649 a warrant was issued for his arrest as well as his associates. Nothing was heard of him for a year until, on November 7, 1650, a stationer’s register was entered for The English Dancing Master. Apparently things had cooled off enough for him to return.

While it was theoretically obligatory to register works, Playford registered so few of his music books before publication, it is not known whether The Dancing Master was his first music book or not. It was certainly not his last, for seventeen editions of that work alone were published.

As well as a bookseller and music publisher, in 1653 Playford was admitted clerk to the Temple Church, an office he held to the end of his life. He devoted himself to the repair and maintenance of the building, and also promoted the seemly ordering of the services there. He was also vicar-choral of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It was about this time he married Hannah Allen, daughter of Benjamin Allen, a publisher of Cornhill. The Playfords moved to Islington in 1655, where his wife established a boarding-school for girls. She maintained this school until her death in 1679, upon which Playford returned to London, taking a house in Strand.

An examination of the court books of the Stationer’s Company shows that in 1661, Playford was called to the livery. In 1681, the king wrote a letter to the master and wardens that Playford and others listed be admitted to the court of assistants. He retired in 1684 in favor of his son Henry and another young man, Richard Carr, although a number of books retained his imprint until 1686. Henry also published from the same shop in the Temple Church until 1690.

Playford’s will requested that he be buried in either the Temple Church or in St. Faith’s, the stationer’s chapel in the undercroft of St. Paul’s. Unfortunately no record of his burial is known in either place.

More about The English Dancing Master:

In 1651 Charles I was under arrest and about to be beheaded. People of Royalist leanings were persecuted. Between political unrest and the periodic outbreaks of plague that threatened the city of London, people were beginning to seek refuge, education and leisure either in their homes or away from the city. A do-it-yourself book on social dancing was long overdue.


It is fairly well known that John Playford was a bookseller and publisher, not a dancing master. It is also fairly well accepted that he did not write The English Dancing Master. Scholars have determined that six to eight different contributors actually wrote the book, some covering dances known for years, while others may have been penned specifically for the book. A fair number of typographical errors still cause confusion today, but for the most part, the steps are clear.

Playford published the first seven editions between 1651 and 1686, his son Henry published the eighth to twelfth editions, and John Young the remaining six. In A Musical Banquet, a 1651 Playford publication, The English Dancing Master is advertised “… to be played on the Treble Violl or Violin”.

Sources
Sadie, Stanley, editor. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London.

Keller, Kate van Winkle and Shiner, Genevieve. The Playford Ball, 103 Early English Country Dances. A Capella Books and the Country Dance and Song Society, Chicago.

Barlow, Jeremy. The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master (1651 – ca. 1728). Faber Music Ltd., London.

Millar, John Fitzhugh. Elizabethan Country Dances. Thirteen Colonies Press, Williamsburg, Va.

Written by Fidelico de Rocheforte for Volume 3 of Letter of Dance.

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Jane Austen Word Search

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