A Contrary Wind by Lona Manning Jane Austen is one of the most popular authors in English literature, and for that reason there have been a huge number of books and stories written that have been based on her work. These have ranged from the excellent to the shockingly bad. Lona Manning’s A Contrary Wind falls firmly in the excellent category. A Contrary Wind picks up the story of Mansfield Park at the point which Fanny, her cousins, the Crawfords, and Mr Rushworth and Mr Yates are putting on a performance of Lovers’ Vows whilst her uncle is away. In Austen’s original Mansfield Park, Fanny’s uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, returns before the play can be performed and puts a stop to proceedings. In A Contrary Wind, Manning imagines what might have happened had Sir Thomas not returned and derailed the party’s plans. As the book continues this sees Fanny take hold of her independence and become a governess – leaving Mansfield Park and the demands of her Aunt Norris behind. Naturally this causes some members of the family to resent her for what is seen as ingratitude after all they feel they have done for her (aside from making her feel like a second class citizen within her own ‘home’), but nevertheless, Fanny forges ahead with her new life. For those Austen readers who consider Fanny Price to be too insipid and too timid to be a heroine whom they like, the more spirited side of Fanny Price shown in (more…)
In the Jane Austen News last week, we gave you a run-down of the week-long Fanny Price vs. Mary Crawford debate so far. The debate was a discussion between two Austen-inspired novelists, Kyra Kramer and Lona Manning, who were looking to answer who was the best heroine in Mansfield Park: Fanny Price, or Mary Crawford?
Lona was very definitely on Fanny Price’s side, and Kyra was defending the honour and actions of Mary. That trend continued on days four and five…
Question: Was Mary Crawford really Fanny Price’s Friend?
Kyra: It wasn’t JUST as a conduit to Edmund that she became a friend to Fanny, and in time Mary began to actually love her. Remember that Mary rejoiced when Henry declared his love for Fanny, not only because Fanny would make him a sweet little wife, but because she valued Fanny.
Lona: I have been accusing Mary of being insincere, of always having a hidden agenda with the things she says. But you praise her for being an honest person. She knew that her brother planned to make a small ‘hole in Fanny Price’s heart’ and she didn’t stop him or warn Fanny, hmmmm? She deceived Fanny about the origin of the necklace, hmmmm? Where is the honesty you keep telling me about?
Question: Who was the more shallow in character? Mary Crawford or Fanny Price?
Kyra: Fanny Price was much more aware of social status and money than she is commonly thought of as being. Fanny clearly preferred living with her moneyed relatives in Mansfield Park rather than with her lower-class parents. It is Mansfield Park that she thinks of as “home”, and she appears to love her rich relatives more than her parents. She is much more concerned about Aunt Bertram needing her than she is with staying to help her own mother. In fact, sweet, noble, unworldly little Fanny is willing to put up with a whole lot of crap – being her aunt’s dogsbody and unpaid companion, getting affection from no one but Edmund Bertram, being emotionally and verbally abused by Mrs. Norris – just to live in a mansion and walk in fancy shrubbery and wallow in general poshness. She sure doesn’t enjoy living like the lower class, with just one shabby servant and vile housing!
Lona: It’s so difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be so genteel that we couldn’t cook a meal or clean a household. But keeping house was a much rougher and dirtier business back then. Austen stipulates that Fanny was too frail to live in that environment. However, Fanny really loved books and the education she had received, more than the grandeur.
A hotly fought debate was most definitely had. Though, as with all good debates, the opinions of both were taken into account by the other party and it was a good clean argument. Although no clear winner emerged, a lot of salient points were raised and a good discussion was had by all. Links to each day of debates can be found at the end of this edition of the Jane Austen News.
We reported in a past edition of the Jane Austen News that Luckington Court, which is the manor house which was used as Longbourn for the BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, had gone on the market – with a hefty price-tag of £9 million. Well, despite its film credentials, the house is still up for sale (with a new lower price of £7.75 million), and is, it seems, being considered by Prince Harry and his girlfriend actress Meghan Markle, as their potential new home.
Meghan is due to move to the UK from Toronto when she finishes filming her last season of Suits next month, so she and Harry have been house hunting. An estate agent local to Luckington Court in the Cotswolds confirmed that the couple spent two hours looking at Luckington, though they haven’t made an offer yet. Having said that, according to the Express, a source close to Harry acknowledged that Prince Harry “loved” Luckington, which is only eight miles from Prince Charles’s home, Highgrove.
They both definitely want to be in the Cotswolds, they prefer it to Norfolk [where William and Kate have a house] and they are looking at a shortlist of properties – not too big or too showy, but obviously with the need for privacy and staff accommodation.
What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
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.”
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!’”
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.
By Lona Manning
A group of young people, passing the rainy weeks of autumn together in “a dull country house,” decide to entertain themselves by staging a play. So what’s so wrong about that, as the critic Lionel Trilling asks rhetorically in his 1954 essay?
The characters in Jane Austen’s great novel, Mansfield Park, devote a great deal of time to debating the question. The play chosen, Lovers’ Vows, is a real play, and Austen could have relied on the fact that her contemporary readers would be familiar with this play. A greater understanding of the play, and of the social milieu of Mansfield Park, will help modern readers understand why the novel’s hero and heroine — Edmund Bertram and his meek cousin Fanny Price — thought that yes, there was plenty wrong about that.
Lovers’ Vows has two storylines – one melodramatic and one comic. Frederick, a young soldier returning home, encounters his mother starving by the roadside. He also learns to his horror that he is illegitimate, and his father is the long-absent Baron Wildenhaim. A kindly local peasant, or Cottager, and his wife take his mother under their roof. Frederick accosts his father and is thrown in prison but matters are eventually sorted out and the remorseful Baron marries Agatha. Meanwhile, the Baron’s legitimate daughter, Amelia, is the lead in the comic storyline. She flirtatiously woos her tutor, the preacher Anhalt, while fending off a marriage proposal from Count Cassel. The entire action is commented on, in rhyming verse, by the Butler, another comic character.
In other words, the themes of Lovers’ Vows (in the original German, the play was called The Love Child) are extra-marital sex and seduction, albeit where sinners repent and Virtue triumphs in the end. Fanny thinks the two female leads, Agatha and Amelia, are “totally improper for home representation—the situation of one, and the language of the other, [are] unfit to be expressed by any woman of modesty.”
What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Pride and Prejudice is the Bishops’ Pick
A television channel owned by Italy’s conference of bishops and endorsed by the Pope is to broadcast BBC shows for the first time. Among the nine period dramas it has chosen to show are the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which considering the fact that it has that wet shirt scene in it, which has left women weak at the knees for years, it might not be quite the safe and genteel choice they think it is.
Usually TV2000, the name of the Roman Catholic station which is also known as “the Italian Church’s TV”, shows in a typical day’s schedule broadcasts of Holy Mass and the Holy Rosary from Lourdes, with occasional showings of Doris Day films.
Other programmes the channel has signed up for are adaptations of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, The Paradise, and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.
They’ve also asked for the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. However this adaptation was criticised after its original airing by the Jane Austen Society for “sexing up the story” by opening with a scene in which John Willoughby seduces a 15-year-old girl. Hopefully this won’t take away the bishops’ seal of approval from Jane Austen adaptations, which was also given to (through their purchase of) a 2009 version of Emma, starring Romola Garai, and a BBC feature film, Miss Austen Regrets, which charts the author’s later years.
Winning Illustrator Chosen
Darya Shnykina has been selected as the winner of The Folio Society’s 2017 competition to see who will illustrate The Folio Society edition of Mansfield Park. Darya, who is a student of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts, was one of 23 illustrators who were selected for the longlist of finalists. This year the entrants were asked to submit three illustrations and a binding design for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The new edition, featuring illustrations by the winner, will be published by The Folio Society in October 2017.
Darya was presented with the prestigious commission, worth £5,000, by eminent historian Lucy Worsley during a ceremony at House of Illustration on Thursday 23 February. The rest of the shortlist, who each receive a £500 prize, are; Natasa Ilincic (Italy), Katie Ponder (UK), Meizhen Xu (Germany), Alexandru Savescu (Romania) and Pedro Silmon (UK). The winner of the first ever Visitors’ Choice Award, which saw over 1,500 people voting, was Katie Ponder.
Darya did the perfect cover: fitting in beautifully with the rest of the series, charming to look at, clever with the layering, and bold. But we were equally charmed by her illustrations for inside which managed to suggest character and some of the powerful feelings in the novel, like anger and disappointment.
What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Jane Austen Fans – Lend Us Your Eyes!
The Jane Austen News is pleased to announce that over the next few weeks we will be publishing a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands.
Below is just a taster:
It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.
Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained.
We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments sections as it is published.
Meeting Young Jane Austen
This week the Jane Austen News heard from Cecily O’Neill; a writer, director and workshop leader based in Winchester. She had exciting news for us that the world premiere of her stage work, Meeting Miss Austen, is going to be performed at the Winchester Discovery Centre as part of the Winchester Festival this year.
In these plays, based on Austen’s Juvenilia, we hear the voice of the teenage Jane, exuberant, saucy and often surreal in tales of love, loss, vice and victuals…
‘The company partook of an elegant entertainment. After which, the bottle being pretty briskly pushed about, the whole party was carried home dead drunk.’ (Jack and Alice)
Cecily also treated us to a sneak peek at one of her most compelling characters – Lady Greville. You can read more about what Cecily had to say about her here.
The performances will be on Saturday 8 July 2017. 8:00pm and again on Sunday 9 July 2017 3:00pm.