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Staying Sharp with Jane Austen

 Jane Austen Pencils! Papa has given me half-a-dozen new pencils, which are very good ones indeed; I draw every other day. Elizabeth Austen-Knight to Cassandra Austen October 18, 1813 With school back in session, and the smell of apples, chalk dust and pencil shavings in the air, what could be more fun than taking a bit of Austen with you into class? We promise that a few of these Jane Austen pencils in your desk will make even calculus more appealing! Pair them with notecards or a journal to create a fun gift for any Austen lover or teacher. Visit Austentation.com for a wide range of Austen themed items including gift baskets, holiday items, craft projects, and custom bonnets, reticules and accessories. To begin, you’ll need: pencils (any type, #2, preferably with white erasers) sandpaper (optional) Modgepodge or white glue a few pages of Austen text (taken from a discarded copy of the book, or printed on a printer. I keep an old copy of P&P simply to upcycle pages for various projects) Scissors foam paintbrush Take your page and cut it so that it can be rolled around the pencil and lightly overlapped. The top edge should begin at the base of the metal “Cuff” which holds the eraser in place and the bottom should extend slightly beyond the end of the pencil (this is uusually about 7″ x 1″.) Lightly sand your pencil so that the glue will adhere more closely. Use the paintbrush to apply a thin (more…)
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19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools

Early boarding schools19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools As many Jane Austen fans know, Rev. George Austen ran a boarding school out of his parsonage house in Steventon to augment his £230 pr year income. In1793 he began to teach the sons of local gentlemen in his home to prepare them for university. His library was extensive for a man of modest means, from 300- 500 volumes, depending on the source, an amazing collection, for books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Cassandra and Jane to read from his library and supported budding author Jane in her writing. At some point, the Austens sent the girls to boarding school in Reading, for which he paid £35 per term, per girl, a not inconsiderable sum. He received around the same amount of money per boarder, and it is conjectured that the Austens hoped to replace their two daughters with many more pupils, which made economic sense. (See Linda Robinson Walker’s link below.) Mrs. Austen was not an indifferent bystander. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and clucked over the boys like a mother hen, and was involved in their maintenance in a hands-on and caring way, acting as a surrogate mother. In his Travels Through England in 1782, German traveler Karl Phillip Moritz describes learning academies, head masters, and boarding schools. From his observations, one gains a sense of what life must have been like for the Austens and their pupils: A few words more respecting pedantry.  I have seen the regulation of one seminary (more…)
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Madame LaTournelle and the Abbey School

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Emma Jane Austen’s neice, Fanny Catherine Lefroy, speaks of a school at Reading, to which, at an earlier date, her aunts Cassandra and Jane were sent. The school adjoined the remains of the ancient Abbey of Reading, and was called the Abbey School. “This school at Reading,” writes Miss Lefroy, “was rather a free and easy one judging by Mrs. Sherwood’s account of it when she was there some years later (than the Austens), and when several French émigrés were among its masters. In Cassandra and Jane’s days the girls do not seem to have been kept very strictly, as they and their cousin, Jane Cooper, were allowed to accept an invitation to dine at an inn with their respective brothers, Edward Austen and Edward Cooper.” We seem to see the merry faces of the five young people and to hear their eager chatter as they sat at (more…)
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A Lady’s Education

Had she possessed greater leisure for the service of her girls, she would probably have supposed it unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess, with proper masters, and could want nothing more. Mansfield Park Excerpted from The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World Most young women were educated by a combination of teachers, all working towards the ultimate goal of producing an elegant creature who would take the ton by storm—or at least escape becoming a spinster. Here are some of those responsible for her lessons: Parents In some households, a girl’s mother taught her to read and write and do basic arithmetic, and perhaps some rudimentary French. Her father also might have been involved in her instruction, particularly if he were a member of the clergy. This may have been all the formal education a young woman received, unless her parents hired a governess or sent her to school around age ten. A Governess A good governess taught a young lady history, geography, and languages; to write in and elegant hand; to draw, sew, and do fancy needlework; to play the pianoforte and possibly the harp; and to carry herself with confidence and elegance. The governess stayed with the family until all the young ladies of the house were married, and sometimes she remained in a family’s employ as a companion to the mother or unmarried daughters. Masters Visiting masters supplemented a young woman’s education with advanced instruction in music, drawing, (more…)
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John Keats

John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was the latest born of the great Romantic poets. Along with Byron and Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the movement, despite publishing his work over only a four-year period. During his short life, his work was not well received by critics, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen was significant. The poetry of Keats was characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. The letters of Keats are among the most celebrated by any English poet. What is most interesting to Austen scholars is the apparent link between Jane Austen’s work and the influence it may have had on Keats’ poetry. The lives of both these writers overlap almost perfectly and as Katie Mastrucci writes in (more…)