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Austenland: The Film

MV5BMjE2MTUzMjgyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjY4NDM4OQ@@._V1_SX214_We have viewed the approach of the release of Austenland with very mixed feelings. On the good side, the trailer looked like fun, and Jennifer Coolidge is usually a riot. On the other side, we read the book by Shannon Hale quite a while ago and had a hard time remembering much about it, other than we felt that for a book allegedly about an obsessed Janeite, we did not find the protagonist sympathetic or even likable. With the film coming out, that time seemed to have come to give it another try; and when an opportunity arose to see a preview of the film, it seemed even more pressing. We got through the prologue and part of the first chapter when we decided we had better stop reading until after seeing the movie.

We were hoping for better things from the movie, and were determined to go into the movie with an open mind. The cast looked pretty good, and the trailer made us smile. How bad could it be?

For those who haven’t read the book or kept up with the publicity (which is really quite extensive for a “small” film), the general plot is that the protagonist, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice–more P&P95 than the book, as far as we can tell, but at one point she volunteers that she memorized the first three chapters of the book when she was a teenager. Jane’s obsession with P&P seems to have affected her love life; she only attracts losers. Any “nice” men, we are shown, are turned off by her insistence on watching the pond scene rather than making out with them, and no doubt by the existence of a life-size Flat Darcy in her apartment. When a co-worker crudely hits on her in front of everyone, rather than report him to HR for sexual harassment, she spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, where she will have an “immersive Regency experience” and live like a Jane Austen heroine–complete with costumes, a Regency ball, and romance with one of the establishment’s hired actors. Continue reading Austenland: The Film

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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 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.

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Annotating Jane Austen: What Would Elinor Do?

  Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.
-Sense and Sensibility

When Laura McDonald, the publisher of Girlebooks, asked me to annotate a new edition of Sense and Sensibility, I immediately said yes, because it sounded like a lot of fun. (I am all about fun when it comes to Jane Austen.) It turned out to be a much larger task than I had imagined, though even more fun than I thought.

The philosophy of this new edition was not to create a super-scholarly edition for jaded Janeites; we wanted to create a book that would be useful, fun, and attractive for 21st-century Austen fans, who were using and enjoying the book in new ways, including digitally. I thought that the approach I took to The Jane Austen Handbook–to try to explain the things about Jane Austen’s world that puzzled me as a first-time Austen reader–would work well for a general edition. I also planned “extras” such as the inclusion of related books and films, and the best extra of all would be provided by my friend, collaborator, and co-conspirator, Cassi Chouinard: charming illustrations with Cassi’s inimitable sense of humor that is so well-suited to illustrating Austen.

I was also pleased at the prospect of being able to offer an inexpensive ebook edition of the novel that still offered so many extras. My fellow ebook devotees know how frustrating it is to download a free public domain book with formatting issues and poor scanning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) issues. I appreciate Girlebooks’ public domain offerings because they are so well-done. OCR issues are minimal, and the hand-formatted texts are attractive and very easy to use, with nicely designed covers–way more attractive than the many public domain editions from dodgy “publishers” on the various ebook platforms–as well as a proper table of contents and other formatting that makes navigating the ebook easy. I’ve made a few ebooks in my time, so I know how much work Laura puts into the site.

I thought it absolutely necessary to include a short biography of Jane Austen and suggestions for further reading about Austen’s life and work: books I have found useful and informative, and that I consulted while writing the annotations. I also thought that since we were making an edition for the 21st-century reader, a reflection of the more fun aspects of Austen fandom were also called for: lists of film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, and some of the many paraliterature titles inspired by the novel. The general perception is that Austen paraliterature is nearly all Pride and Prejudice inspired (and certainly the vast majority is so inspired) but I was surprised how many books were inspired by Sense and Sensibility.

The best part about the project was the opportunity to immerse myself thoroughly in Sense and Sensibility. Having never before annotated a novel, I didn’t realize how submerged in the text one becomes; and such a delightful text it is! Sense and Sensibility is a truly remarkable novel–screamingly funny, shockingly truthful, with just enough romance and a happy ending. The characters are uniformly charming.

After spending the summer with Elinor Dashwood (resulting in a lot of What Would Elinor Do? comments on Twitter on my part), she is now my favorite heroine. Elinor is the embodiment of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling (himself a Janeite): “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” Why then, you’ll be an Austen heroine, my dear! And yet Elinor is not annoyingly perfect; no picture of perfection to make us sick & wicked; and she has a wicked sense of humor to keep her from seeming priggish. In one of the best lines in any of Austen’s novels, when Robert Ferrars rattles on ridiculously about cottages, she “agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” Elinor sees people clearly and has little patience with their foibles–except for Marianne, of course–but she maintains her civil exterior and always treats people with polite kindness and scrupulous ethics, especially when it is deserved–and even, in the case of Lucy Steele, when it is not.

Hilarious minor characters abound: Miss Steele, Robert Ferrars, the Middletons, the Palmers, Mrs. Jennings; as well as purely nasty ones: Lucy Steele and Mrs. Ferrars; and one of the most romantic heroes ever, Colonel Brandon. I have long been a vocal member of Team Brandon–indeed, from the first time I read Sense and Sensibility; not being seventeen years old and overly romantic, I was not frightened off by the flannel waistcoat. I can even appreciate the much-maligned Edward Ferrars, who is not a stuttering fool as he is sometimes portrayed. He is a man who can appreciate the qualities of Elinor Dashwood, and that’s a high recommendation in my book.

Sense and Sensibility is a delight, and, I think, gets an undeserved bad rap in some quarters. If you haven’t read it in a while, why not give it another try? And when faced with a dilemma, you, too, can ask yourself: What Would Elinor Do? Because if you do, it’s hard to go wrong.

Along with annotating the Jane Austen Bicentenary Library Edition of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook and There Must Be Murder, a sequel novella to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. She also is the author of “Heard of You,” a short story inspired by Persuasion, in Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. Maggie is the Editrix of and the Jane Austen resource site She is slightly in awe of Elinor Dashwood, and trying hard not to be such a Marianne.


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Illustrating Jane Austen: The Artist’s Challenge

“These are done by [Elinor],” said he; “and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well.”
-Sense and Sensibility

Several years ago, Cassandra Chouinard worked with the Jane Austen Centre, to illustrate our comissioned novella, There Must be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan. Her charming illustrations brought Jane Austen (and Ms. Sullivan’s) characters to life and we were delighted when we heard that she had again illustrated an Austen novel– this time, Sense and Sensibility, for the online publisher, Girlebooks. Here, she tells us about the challenges she faced as she brought this novel to life.

Cassi, please tell us about your background in art.
I must have started drawing once I developed the manual dexterity required for holding a crayon instead of eating it because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing.  After many childhood years of appallingly crude and nonsensical scribblerish, I thought about becoming an artist (and not a cowgirl).  In high school, I practiced painting in oils with the guidance of my art teacher, Daphne Dain, and then I explored other media while not completing a degree in Fine Arts.  Mainly I’ve drawn a bunch of cartoons and portraits and animals.

Tell us about your background with drawing Jane Austen-related scenes. When did you first read Jane Austen? When did you first start drawing Austen-inspired art? Do you ever draw Jane Austen-inspired work for fun?
I used to draw a LOT of period subject matter, particularly clothing, but not just Regency.  I went through a deep Medieval/Renaissance obsession in my earlier teens, and then I immersed myself in the Victorian Era and touched the Regency Era, and then I doodled more of the latter while meandering through the 17th and 18th centuries for several years.   I also sewed and did some costuming;  I still have a yellow Empire dress I’d made.  About this time, I was drawing a little portrait series of famous people, including Jane Austen…I guess I was nineteen or twenty when I first drew her.

I’d first read her books a few years earlier while I was in high school; unfortunately I don’t remember which novel I read first, nor if it was a required reading or just something I’d picked up randomly, but I liked it and I skimmed through a few other Austen novels, including Sense and Sensibility.  I was an especially fast and careless reader as an adolescent mainly because I had to know asap if the heroine got her guy.  And, truth be told, I remember thinking then that Marianne was so amazing and there wasn’t too much wrong with Willoughby except that he was kind of bland and wishy-washy—I guess I’d completely skipped over the part about Eliza!  Actually, I found the whole book kind of bland then: my favourite was P&P even before the mini series with Colin Firth came out.  I loved Austen’s dialogue but those poor Dashwood girls did a lot of waiting around.  However, a lot of the humour was lost on me then and it was very interesting to finally notice it while rereading the novel umpteen years later.  It was like a completely different book!  I’d also initially failed to consider the horror of sitting in a room for hours at a time trying to make conversation with the same disagreeable people day in and day out.

What do you like and dislike about Sense and Sensibility?
I like the wit, and I dislike the relative paucity of breech-ripping derring-do action but only because I sometimes found it difficult to find exciting stuff to illustrate.  There is a lot going on in that book, many undercurrents of drama and satire.

How did you decide which scenes of Sense and Sensibility to illustrate? Is there anything about the novel that makes it easier or harder to illustrate?
To expand upon the previous answer: there are great subtleties to be observed among people conversing but I could have conveyed this better.  I’ve been thinking of how my illustrations could have been improved and I’ve decided that more close-ups would have been appropriate.

I drew what interested me.  I was a coward though because there were a few drawings that I wanted to draw but just couldn’t manage for whatever reason.  Either I couldn’t picture them, or I struggled with the composition and lost, or I felt that I couldn’t match the tone of the book.  And, by the end, I was just plain lazy.  There should have been a parting illustration of Elinor and Edward.  That’s the big one that got away.

Mr and Mrs John Dashwood

My main goals were to portray the confinement of Society juxtaposed with the expansiveness of the outdoor walks Marianne enjoyed, and to depict the waning of Marianne’s appearance.  For some reason, this fascinated me.  Elinor in many cases is the true heroine of the book but it is Marianne who changes most visibly.  Although, come to think of it, if I had drawn more detailed portraits, I could have depicted Elinor growing ever so slightly more anxious.  That would have been superb and I’m sorry I didn’t think of it at the time.  At any rate, I took great delight in extending Jane’s more cutting characterizations: the elder Miss Steele = vapid, Lucy Steele = rodent-like cunning, Robert Ferrars = ridiculous, and so on.


What inspired you visually for the illustrations? For instance, did you have a particular film adaptation or actor in mind at any point?
It had been a while since I’d seen Emma Thompson’s film adaptation and I decided to stay away from that, as well as previous illustrations as much as possible in order to thwart my quasi-plagiaristic sponge-like tendencies. I tend to remember stuff I’ve seen and then forget that I’d seen it and not imagined it. This can be very embarrassing.  Instead, I tried to glean as much as I could from the book itself and incubate my own vision of each character accordingly.   Admittedly, I have no doubt that some of the faces in the book were from anonymous people I’d seen in public.  I try not to stare at strangers, but it happens and so I’ve invested in some mirrored sunglasses.  Maybe one day many years ago, I was on a bus or subway or wherever watching an old woman with a pinched face scowling at some noisy child, and now she is Mrs. Ferrars.

Your “portrait” of Jane Austen is striking. What was your thought process behind the portrait?
I think that her sister’s portrait gives a surprisingly lot of information.  It’s not the most polished work, but it strikes me as being a compilation of spending many years with Jane, thousands upon thousands of conversations and shared moments rolled onto a piece of paper.   I sat and stared at it for ages, then I let it roll around in my mind for eons, then I drew what came out.  It was rather rough and I ended up having to do a lot of digital editing to make it presentable, although I feel that some of the raw energy was lost in this stage.  I used to draw a lot of portraits—for a couple of summers, I had a stall in an outdoor market and drew anybody who sat and paid, as well as plenty of people who didn’t–and out of hundreds (thousands?) of people I’ve drawn, there were a few people that I just couldn’t draw.  Their appearance depended more on their character and animation than actual bone structure and, in a few cases, I knew the person too well to step back and see their physical appearance clearly.  Cassandra’s portrait reminded me of that.

I imagine Jane Austen as this smallish fine-boned keen-eyed woman who had a very distinct expression at times (particularly when she was amused by something that very few others even noticed), but who was otherwise almost nondescript.  Unless you exchanged a glance with her, you would take a long time to notice her in an assembly.

Cassandra Chouinard is a Canadian artist who has drawn quite a few things ranging from people to pets to microscopic organisms.  She has enjoyed working on several collaborations with Margaret C. Sullivan, most recently a new edition of Sense and Sensibility.
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Publishing Austen in the E-Book World


“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”
“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader and has no pleasure in anything else.”
-Pride and Prejudice

Laura McDonald, founder of Girlebooks, a  publishing company specializing ebook versions of classic women’s literature, recently agreed to an interview regarding Girlebooks’ bicentenary edition of Sense and Sensibility. Here’s what she had to say about Austen, digital literature and of course, Girlebooks:

Laura, Tell us about your company. How did Girlebooks get started?
The idea germinated around 2005. My mom and I had been reading ebooks, mostly free ones from Project Gutenberg, on our PDAs for several years. This was before PG started offering ebooks in various formats, so we were stuck with with the plain text version of the ebooks, line breaks and all. I had formulated a method of turning these plain texts into nicely formatted ebooks, and I would share them with friends. I did this for a couple of years and in the meantime started a web development business with my husband. In early 2007 I had the idea of creating a website to share these formatted ebooks with more than just my friends. Since I read mostly classic literature by women authors, I decided to concentrate on this niche. I also decided to make an attractive presentation for browsing and finding new ebooks to read, something which I thought was lacking on the PG site. Thus was born Girlebooks!

What kind of books do you publish?
We publish ebooks with a concentration on women authors and classic literature. We’ve recently started publishing ebooks by contemporary authors.

Do you seek out authors or do the authors come to you?
Since the contemporary works are a new part of our business and we are still feeling our way around in it, we have been relying on authors coming to us. However, for the new Sense and Sensibility edition annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan and illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard, I approached them with the idea. They had made such a great pairing in our previous release There Must Be Murder that I thought it would be great to team them up again with some classic Jane Austen.

What made you decide to publish a 200th anniversary edition of Sense and Sensibility?
We offer all of our public domain ebooks for free, since free ebooks and sharing amongst friends was at the root of why I started the site. But I also want to add on value to these ebooks, give visitors some more options that they may not get at other ebook sites. So we’ve started offering illustrated and/or annotated versions of our ebooks for a small fee. It seemed natural to start with Jane Austen since she is the most popular author on the site. And since it was the 200th anniversary of the initial publication of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret Sullivan suggested that book would be a great place to start.

One of Cassandra Chouinard's illustrations of Sense and Sensibility.

What do you think sets the Girlebooks edition apart from other editions of the novel?
While we did put out a paperback version of the book, our edition of Sense and Sensibility is in its natural habitat on the ereader. I also believe it is the only edition that is both annotated and illustrated by a contemporary author/illustrator (as opposed to illustrations by Hugh Thomson for instance).

You publish other editions of all of Jane Austen’s books as well. How popular are they compared to other classic authors?
Jane Austen’s ebooks are definitely the most popular downloads, and all of her ebooks are in the top 20 of our highest rated. The Brontes and Elizabeth Gaskell aren’t far behind. Ann Radcliffe is very popular, mostly due to the influence of Northanger Abbey I’m sure.

How do you decide which classic novels to promote?
At the beginning it was easy to find new classic novels to publish. Now it’s getting a little harder since we have to dig pretty deep to find the gems we haven’t already published. But I really love digging and finding–it’s one of the things I love most about running the site. I read reviews by book bloggers who also love digging and finding, so I get a lot of ideas from them. If a blogger has written a great review, I will often ask if I can republish her review on our own blog when I publish the ebook.

Tell us a little bit about the process of creating an ebook.
We get most of our texts from Project Gutenberg. If we can’t find the text on PG, we have our own proofreading initiative to prepare them for submission to PG and our own ebook catalog. Once I have the text, I first format the book in Microsoft Word or Open Office. I then generate the PDF and Kindle/Mobipocket versions from that. From the Mobipocket version, I generate the ePub and LIT ebooks via Calibre. My method of creating the ebooks might be a little dated, but it works great for all the various ebook formats, especially PDF which remains the most popular ebook format.

How does the ebook process differ from creating a book for print?
Print requires a much higher resolution, so creating the book cover art is probably the most time consuming part. This is added to the fact that you need to create a front cover and back cover and spine and make them all line up perfectly so you don’t have the spine running onto the covers. Then you have the interior which is a bit easier than the cover to format but does require some additional formatting that is not required or necessary for ebooks. I basically have a lot more freedom with formatting ebooks. Print publishing is very picky, costly, and time consuming, and honestly I don’t have as much fun with it as I do with ebook publishing.

What do you think about the rising popularity of ebooks?
I am extremely happy about it since it allows me to share my love of ebooks with other people. For the longest time my mom and husband were the only other people I knew who read ebooks. I eventually convinced a few friends to read ebooks too. But now with big companies putting serious effort into marketing ebooks, we have so many more people reading and loving ebooks. I love it.

What do you say to people who insist that paper books are better?
If people really love reading paper books and hate ebooks, I have no problem with that. I’m not out to rid the world of paper books or to convince hard core paper book lovers that they are wrong. The people I want to get in touch with through the site are the people who love ebooks. We have visitors from all over the world, from many parts of the world where paper books are prohibitively expensive, and now they can read a PDF on their computer instantaneously instead of saving up money to buy a paper book that may or may not be available at their local bookstore. This is why I think PDF is still the most popular ebook format on the site. People reading our ebooks on dedicated ereaders (that generally don’t use the PDF format) are still a minority of our audience.

I also think that the quantity of people who insist paper books are better is diminishing. Ebooks are very different from paper books. Both have different applications for different needs. I believe more people are seeing that ebooks are just more convenient for a variety of situations. It’s not a black and white issue, and you don’t have to chose sides.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are your favorite novel and favorite Jane Austen novel?
Of course I love reading classic literature. It happens that my favorite books are written by women–I’m not sure why that is, but I think I’m not alone! My favorite novel is probably Jane Eyre--it could be that I have a nostalgic attachment to that novel simply from the number of times I have read it. It was also the first ebook I published for the site. My favorite Jane Austen novel: I’m going to have to be unoriginal again and say Pride and Prejudice. My attachment may also be nostalgic since this was the first Jane Austen novel I read, and I remember sharing my love of it with a group of friends who also couldn’t get enough of it (or the 1995 adaptation). Maybe strangely, I also have an attachment to Mansfield Park. I don’t like the prim and proper way it ended, but I do have a fascination with the two Crawford characters. I would love to see a sequel where they are somehow redeemed–I have hinted this to our Austenesque authors, and maybe we will see something come of that…

Aside from those books, over the years in digging up books for Girlebooks I have come to love epistolary novels which were a very popular format of novel in the late 1700s. I believe an early draft of Pride and Prejudice is said to have been epistolary. I think this format of novel should be resuscitated, however one has to be a very good writer to pull it off. I also love travelogues–there were many women adventurers who wrote down their stories, mostly in the form of letters back home (also epistolary!). Isabella Bird wrote enchanting letters from her travels to Hawaii and over the Rocky Mountains that were later compiled into books. Mary Kingsley traveled extensively through West Africa to many places never visited by a white man, much less a woman, and wrote about it in Travels in West Africa. Our next release is Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. A widowed mother, she left Denver to set up her own homestead in Wyoming and wrote to a friend about her experiences.

Without Girlebooks as impetus, I wouldn’t have discovered Elizabeth von Arnim or Florence Barclay or Jean Webster. These authors wrote what are now some of my favorite books, and I hope many others have learned about these authors as a result of the site.

Laura McDonald is a web developer by trade who enjoys long walks on the moors–er–hills of Central Texas.

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“What Would Elinor Do?” Bracelet Tutorial

“The bracelets are in my possession, and everything I could wish them to be…”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
December 9, 1808

Elinor Dashwood, the heroine of Sense and Sensibility, is Jane Austen’s model heroine; and yet she’s not a prig or annoying about it. She is scrupulously ethical, refusing to share Lucy Steele’s secret about her engagement, though it is painful to her to not be able to confide in her mother and sister, and the secret was only shared in the first place to hurt Elinor. Elinor is also dismayed when Anne Steele shares information she overheard by listening at a closed door, though the information is useful. When the news of Lucy’s secret engagement gets out (not through Elinor’s fault, but Anne Steele’s), Edward Ferrars shows he has earned Elinor’s trust and esteem by behaving exactly as she would have: staying true to his word, though she knows he now wishes he had not given it, and that no one would blame him for backing out. Elinor is the type of person everyone wants for a friend. She will listen to your problems, give you excellent advice, and never tell another soul if that is your desire; and she has a great sense of humor and will amuse you with her set-downs of the annoying people around you!

What Would Elinor Do? In almost any situation, it is probably the right thing. Give yourself a useful self-check for any question or problem by making this fun bracelet.

If you are experienced with beading and making jewelry, this tutorial will probably not teach you anything new (indeed, you might be able to teach the author a few things); but feel free to take it as an inspiration!

Supplies Needed
The main thing you need for this bracelet is the alphabet beads. We used 6mm round plastic beads, which are available in large packages of assorted letters at most craft stores. These beads are available in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and materials; some online bead stores have sterling silver and pewter varieties, if you want to make a really high-end piece.

You can use whatever other beads you like. We played around with our bead stash, trying different sizes and shapes and colors, and decided on a set of blue-green 6mm glass beads, silver barrel-shaped spacing beads, and 6/0 silver glass seed beads, along with the alphabet beads. Craft stores have large varieties of beads in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and online stores have infinite varieties of beautiful beads.

A crimping tool and a wire nipper are also handy. You might be able to purchase an inexpensive combined tool that has chain nose pliers (which can be used to crimp the beads) and a wire cutter. Check your local craft store–they have tools at all price ranges. All materials for this bracelet were purchased at Michael’s. (Check the website for coupons and sales, and you can save a little money purchasing your supplies. Michael’s also has a free smartphone app that has coupons and sale listings.)

Here is our supply list, which makes a 7-inch bracelet. You can add or subtract beads for a bigger or smaller bracelet.

  • 4 6mm round alphabet beads (W, W, E, D)
  • 12 6mm round glass beads in blue/green shades
  • 10 barrel-shaped silver spacer beads
  • 7 silver 6/0 glass seed beads
  • silvertone lobster claw clasp
  • 6mm silvertone split ring
  • 2 #1 silvertone crimp beads
  • bead stringing wire
  • Crimping tool and wire nippers (or a combination tool; see instructions)
  • optional: beading board

I find it helpful to lay out my beads on a beading board, as the little trenches keep the beads from rolling around. Also, you can play with different bead combinations until you find one you like, and then string the beads. These boards can be purchased at most craft stores that carry beading supplies.

However, a beading board is not necessary; a clean, light-colored terry cloth towel laid on your work surface will also keep the beads from rolling around and provide a good working surface against which the beads can easily be seen.

Once you get the beads arranged how you want for your bracelet, you’re ready to start stringing the beads.

Cut a 10-inch piece of wire.

String the wire through one of the crimping beads, through the split ring, and then back through the crimping bead.

Tighten the bead down against the split ring, leaving a little space for the ring to move around (otherwise, you may have a hard time putting on the bracelet).

Crimp, or flatten, the bead using the flat edge of a crimping tool or the flat edges of chain-nose pliers.

That will keep the ends of the wire together. Do not cut off the end of the wire!

Start stringing the beads as you have them laid out. Remember to string the first few beads over the folded end of the wire as well.

When you get to the alphabet beads, make sure the beads are strung in the proper order and in the right direction, or you might have a Hooked On Phonics Worked For Me moment! If they are strung properly, they can roll over on the wire and will still be in the right direction.

When you are finished stringing all the beads, string on the second crimp bead and the lobster claw clasp, and loop the wire back through the crimp bead.

Pull on the end of the wire to tighten the bead and clasp against the strung beads. Like with the split ring, leave a little room for the clasp to move around.

Crimp the bead as before, using the chain-nose pliers or crimping tool.

String the end of the wire back through several beads and trim the wire close to the end of the last bead through which the wire was strung. Be careful to not cut the main bracelet wire.

You’re done! Enjoy your new bracelet, and remember: What Would Elinor Do?



Along with annotating the Jane Austen Bicentenary Library Edition of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook and There Must Be Murder, a sequel novella to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. She also is the author of “Heard of You,” a short story inspired by Persuasion, in Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. Maggie is the Editrix of and the Jane Austen resource site She is slightly in awe of Elinor Dashwood, and trying hard not to be such a Marianne.

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Gothic Horrors: The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Castle of Otranto
by Horace Walpole

Otranto is the Gothic that inspired them all, establishing the common denominators of the genre: a greedy, controlling villain; a sweet, innocent heroine (or even two); a brave hero with a mysterious past; exotic medieval European locations; a castle with many secrets; and a plethora of supernatural occurrences guaranteed to keep audiences turning the pages, their hair standing on end the whole time.

The master of Castle of Otranto, Manfred, has a weakling son, Conrad, upon whom he has pinned all his hopes. He neglects his excellent wife and good daughter, and contracts a marriage for Conrad with the beautiful, rich orphan, Isabella. On the day of the marriage, Conrad is found in the courtyard of the castle crushed under a giant helmet. Could this have something to do with the mysterious ancient prophecy about Otranto, which stated that when the current family had grown too large for the position, they would fall from power? A young peasant suggests that the helmet looks like it came from a statue of Alfonso the Great, a former prince of Otranto, that stands in the village church. The helmet proves to be missing from the statue, and in his rage, Manfred accuses the peasant of using sorcery to crush Conrad with the helmet, and locks him up.

In order to secure himself an heir, Manfred determines to put aside his wife, Hippolita, and marry Isabella himself. Unwilling to go along with this plan, Isabella manages to escape the castle via a subterraneous passage to a neighboring church, assisted by a mysterious stranger. The stranger turns out to be the very peasant whom Manfred had locked up, and who had managed to escape. Manfred’s daughter, Matilda, notices that the young man greatly resembles the portrait of Alfonso the Great. Manfred sentences the youth to execution, and when Father Jerome arrives to hear the young man’s confession, he realizes that the young peasant is his long-lost son, Theodore.

Accidental murder, a prince thought to be dead, a love triangle, mysterious sightings of parts of the giant statue of Alfonso, and the true heir of Otranto are all sorted out, though not without the sacrifice of most of the characters.

List Price: £5.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Language English
ISBN: 0140437673
Click here to read the book online


The Mysteries of Udolpho
by Ann Radcliffe

Emily St. Aubert, the heroine of The Mysteries of Udolpho, is the sort of picture of perfection that makes everyone sick and wicked. She always thinks right and does right; scolds her maid for superstitious fears, whilst herself swooning when faced with anything even mildly strange or frightening, like a marriage proposal; plays her lute like an angel; writes sonnets to the glories of nature, such as a mountain climber plunging to his death in an Alpine crevice; and manages the very tricky heroine’s feat of staying true to her man even while spurning him when he shows some human weakness.

After the death of her parents, Emily goes to live with her aunt, who is married to the evil Count Montoni, at Castle Udolpho. Udolpho is a mysterious place full of black veils hiding dreadful things, moving corpses, and other fearsome supernatural phenomena, though Emily manages to find satisfactory non-mysterious explanations for everything (after she is revived from her inevitable swoon, that is).

In the best tradition of Gothic villains, Montoni locks up his wife until she dies. Since Emily inherited her aunt’s property, Montoni then turns his attentions to her. Emily manages to escape Castle Udolpho and meets up with Blanche de Villefort and her amusing and sarcastic brother, Henri. (If this sounds familiar to Janeites, we think it not entirely a coincidence.)

At this point, Emily retires centre stage to Blanche, who is a much more interesting character anyway, and Blanche embarks on her own romance. Radcliffe remembers Emily in time to allow her to inherit a fortune and marry Valancourt tho’ he has managed to gamble away his own fortune. And they all live happily ever after…

List Price: £7.99
Paperback: 728 pages
Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks
Language English
ISBN: 0192825232
Click here to read the book online

Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and AustenBlog, and shares more with Catherine Morland than an appreciation for horrid novels; namely, an appreciation for Henry Tilney.

Her upcoming novella, There Must Be Murder will be published exclusively on this website beginning in January, 2007.

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Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Diana Birchall

Five and twenty years after the close of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy watch their three children’s romantic adventures in this short novel. England hovers on the brink of the Victorian era, but the Darcys’ eldest son, Fitzwilliam, has distressingly profligate tastes. Henry, the younger son, about to take orders, is more satisfactory as a son, a brother and an Austenian gentleman, and Jane, the only daughter, is preparing for her first season in town. Mrs. Darcy, in a fit of dutiful amiability, invites her sister Wickham’s two daughters for a visit at Pemberley, hoping they will be companions for Jane: Bettina, the elder, takes after her mamma, but the younger, Cloe, is preternaturally wise and surprisingly mature–surprising for a daughter of Lydia Wickham, at least. Christmas approaches, and Pemberley counts as its inmates two young men and two young ladies; we shall let your imaginations take it from there.

Ms. Birchall treads similar ground to that covered by Elizabeth Aston in her recent Pride and Prejudice sequel, but on a much smaller scale. She keeps the story close to home; it takes place almost entirely at Pemberley. It is difficult to scruple at this, as one of Jane Austen’s guiding principles, by her own admission, was to write of “two or three families in a country village;” nonetheless, one longs for just a little more scope in this novel. Whether it is our modern sensibilities at work, or perhaps a Catherine Morland-like appreciation of a touch of melodrama in our fiction, we are not entirely certain. A little more character and plot development, we dare say, would have satisfied both Jane’s requirements and our own.

The writing style is very fine, particularly after one gets through the ponderous opening chapter, with its overly precious abundance of commas. Once Ms. Birchall settles into her story, the writing is all that we’ve come to expect from the authoress of In Defense of Mrs. Elton.

The plot is light as a feather, perhaps deceptively so; Ms. Birchall touches on some of the universal themes that Jane Austen explored so ably, but those touches are so light that we are left wondering whether they were purposeful. This lightness also has the unfortunate effect of making the story a trifle predictable. Only one character embarks on a journey of self-awareness, reminding one of Tom Bertram’s story. One could wish other characters were more developed, but they remain shallow ciphers throughout.

The secondary characters—the former Kitty and Lydia Bennet, as well as the Collinses and Lady Catherine de Bourgh—are well-drawn and recognizable as shades of their originals. Fans of Elizabeth and Darcy may be disappointed, as they are not the main characters, but part of a larger ensemble. We are fond of young Henry and Jane, a delightful brother and sister combination in the best Austen tradition.

We recommend Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma to those Janeites who dislike the type of sequel with unrecognizable characters, overwrought melodrama and nonsensical plots. It is the literary equivalent of a meeting with old friends, being deficient only in its briefness.

Paperback: 240 pages (May 17, 2004)
Publisher: Egerton House Publishing
List Price: £11.50/$20.50
ISBN: 190501600X

Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and AustenBlog, and shares more with Catherine Morland than an appreciation for horrid novels; namely, an appreciation for Henry Tilney.