|Jane Austen Society of Australia
Chawton Under Threat
Members will be shocked to hear of the proposed major development in Janes lovely village of Chawton.
We learnt of this from Jean Bowden, Archivist of the JA House Museum there. (See her Letter from Chawton.)
The construction of three large terraced houses immediately opposite the Jane Austen House would indeed change the entire ambience of this charming Hampshire village, altering the aspect from Janes house beyond recognition.
Winter in Chawton: looking along the side of Jane Austen House, through the front street entrance to the rolling, wooded hills opposite the house, as Jane would have seen them. The proposed development on the site where you can see the cars parked would block this view forever. Picture courtesy Jane Austen House Museum
As a Society, we have certainly added our voices of dissent to the project, as have over 150 of our concerned members. We are appalled that such a project should be considered, with the whole site actually being within the Chawton Village Conservation area, one of the earliest to be designated in Hampshire, the purpose of which is specifically to retain the aspect and appearance of the village which has survived almost unchanged since Jane Austens day. These proposed houses would completely block the view of the hill, woods and fields from the House the view that Jane Austen knew and loved and would also destroy the whole country village ambience.
Historically there has never been any building on this site, and the proposed development would completely and irreversibly change the environment in the very centre of this historic village, creating a major new building mass of full height where none had previously existed, dominating the centre of the village where, apart from Jane Austens House of 1690, there are also Pond Cottages built in the 1300s, and several of the 1500s too. Such a development would have a lasting adverse effect on what is a uniquely well-preserved example of a classic English village which is also of great importance to Englands literary and cultural heritage.
The developers say the buildings will be of Regency style faux regency, in Jane Austens village!!!
This important historical village is currently being much supported by the appropriate and well-researched renovation (not redevelopment) of the Great House of the village, Chawton House, and its library and research centre for early women writers. Their sympathetic renovations are a model for what can be done in such a village. The village should be retained, we believe, in its present most pleasant state.
Though the date for objections to the proposal has passed (30 November), we urge members still to write their views to the Council, at the address below, or to sign (and/or add a comment) to the appropriate place on the order form attached to this Newsletter, when you return your subscription or order.
The thought of a visit to a Chawton overshadowed and hemmed in by a heavy mass of new, unsympathetic construction should be enough to send every member rushing for their pens.
Letters, not emails or faxes, should be
Mr Keith Oliver,
Letter from the President
In this year of the Olympic Games, it seems to me appropriate that JASA should have its share of the medals. I therefore have great pleasure in awarding the following:
To all those who donated so happily and generously so that JASA could purchase a computer and maintain the high standard of publications that all members have come to expect. Your donations were the most wonderful vote of confidence in the Society and your performance was greatly appreciated by the committee and editor.
To all our speakers this year, who volunteered their time and expertise so that we could all increase our understanding, and therefore our enjoyment, of Jane Austens works and world.
Maggie Lane and Douglas Murray, having made marathon efforts to get to Australia, then delivered papers which made our weekend conference an especially memorable occasion. Amanda Jones tackled a subject of olympian difficulty and delighted us with her talk on Jane Austen and Sport. Pamela Whalan and Nora Walker, like true athletes, aimed for perfection in their team act, while John Wiltshire challenged us with the subject of Pride and Prejudice for a contemporary audience. Professor Angus Martin highlighted the difference in international styles and had us all in fits of laughter over what the French did to Sense and Sensibility. Kim Hicks bravely did a solo performance, taking Courtship to the JASA podium and enthralling us all. Our speakers left us marvelling at the power, flexibility, strength, grace and endurance of our favourite novelist.
To the committee of JASA, for yet another year of hard work, inspiration, dedication and staying power. You manage to leap all the hurdles, last the distance in arranging conferences, balance the finances beautifully on the beam between spending and saving, maintain the pace during marathon committee meetings and keep smiling through it all. You are, quite simply, the best ever!!!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all JASA
Current JASA Publications
You can read short extracts of each of the Sensibilities articles online. The articles in this latest issue of Sensibilities are:
the JASA 2000 Conference Papers:
Items from the Newsletter (and from Practicalities, JASA's news update sheet published in March and September) are reproduced on this website.
Most past issues of Sensibilities can be purchased for A$6.00 each. See the Sensibilities list of articles.
For another taste of what members enjoy in Sensibilities, the JASA refereed journal praised for its consistently high literary standards, read a longer extract from a talk by Penny Gay to a JASA meeting in 1994, as reported in a previous Sensibilities: 'Emma and the Battle of Waterloo'.
The Pursuit of Elegance
Wedgwoods fame and work spread widely. This is an idealised allegory of the infant (Australian) colony. Hope Encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, a medal made from the clay of Sydney Cove by Josiah Wedgwood. Picture: Mitchell Library & Dixson collections, Sydney, reprinted in Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore, Collins 1987.
The Elegance of Wedgwood
Fashion is infinitely superior to merit in many respects, Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) told his erstwhile business partner Thomas Bentley in 1779. This judgment was, of course, a purely commercial view and, in this sense, it remains substantially accurate to this day. Fashion has always played an important part in the marketing of pottery and porcelain, and has therefore been a major influence on design. Meissen had been the pre-eminent European porcelain factory, giving place to Sevres as the supreme leader of rococo porcelain, which in turn yielded the lead to Wedgwood as the master potter of the neo-classical style.
Jane Austen demonstrated her knowledge of these changes in this passage from Northanger Abbey:
While porcelain remained costly and its purchase represented a substantial investment that might be expected to be enjoyed by several generations of the family, fashion was slow to change. Mass production and reduced costs made china more vulnerable to sudden changes in fashion, and manufacturers were obliged to introduce larger numbers of new patterns while retaining in production ever larger numbers of those which earlier customers expected to be able to replace.
Josiah Wedgwood was at first reluctant to accept orders for crested or armorial ware, explaining to Thomas Bentley as early as 1766 - Crests are very bad things for us to meddle with ... plain ware, if it should not happen to be firsts (perfect) you will take off my hands as seconds (sell as substandard), which if crested would be as useless as most other crests and crest wearers are.
By 1776, however, he was obliged to admit that the painting of arms is now become serious business, and I must either lose or gain a great deal of business by it. However I must at all events come into it. As the crest order books preserved in the Wedgwood Museum testify, armorial ware became an essential, though always doubtfully profitable, part of the range of Wedgwoods Queens Ware, originally created in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
It is known that Jane Austen was very well acquainted with Wedgwood. She (or her family) seems to have had their own set, for on 6 June 1811 she wrote to Cassandra, on Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho I think they might have allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this... There was no bill with the goods but that shall not screen them from being paid. I mean to ask Martha (Lloyd, a great friend of the Austens, later the wife of Janes brother Francis) to settle the account. It will be quite in her way for she is now just sending my mother a breakfast set from the same place. I hope it will come by the Waggon tomorrow; it is certainly what we want, and I long to know what it is like. Unfortunately the Wedgwood Museum cannot trace either the first mentioned set or the breakfast set, nor has a picture of it been located.
On 16 September 1813, Jane was writing to Cassandra, this time from London: We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny (Edward Austen Knight and Janes favourite niece) chose a dinner set. I beleive the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow gold, and it is to have the crest. The Wedgwood Museum notes that the pattern is evidently our No. 424 in Josiah Wedgwoods first pattern book and adds the first order appeared in their books 18 September 1813 with a repeat order for exactly the same pattern and crest on 10 May 1827. The Museum still possesses the original copper plates (1956) from which the crest of Janes brother was printed.
Several pieces have been loaned by the descendants of Janes brother Edwards family to the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton. Jane spent weeks at a time at her brothers home and must have used, seen and eaten from these dishes many times. Illustrated here, pictured at Janes house, reposing on an early Regency dining table which was also hers, are a covered soup tureen, a large dish, one smaller dish and one large and one small plate, all edged, as Jane describes with a small lozenge in purple between lines of narrow gold, and with Edwards crest, the element Wedgwood had so reluctantly incorporated into his designs.
Part of Edward Austen Knights crested Wedgwood dinner set at the JA House Museum in Chawton. Picture: JA House Museum.
Poetry with some Prejudice
Pat Shepherds after dinner talk at the Conference included a feast of well chosen and presented poetry loved and used by Jane Austen, from which these are extracted.
The Austen family were addicted to poetry writing. They would burst into verse to celebrate family happenings, to accompany gifts. Janes brother James was the most prolific writer, about 40 of his poems being still extant. Mrs Austen was a poet from a very early age, and in her later years, after a serious illness which was treated by an apothecary called Bowen, she wrote the following:
Dialogue between Death and Mrs Austen.
I must risk the wrath of some members by saying I dont think Janes poetry particularly good, though in the following verse we can recognise her sense of humour:
On the marriage of Miss Camilla Wallop & the Rev HenryWake.
In her only surviving piece of serious verse she mourns the death of her friend, Mrs Lefroy, who was killed while riding on Janes birthday. Though her grief was undoubtedly genuine, the work seems to me too conventional and forced; I quote only the two opening verses and the final one:
To the Memory of Mrs Lefroy, who died Dec 16 my Birthday. Written 1808
Jane herself realised that her genius was for the novel, not poetry; when Sir Walter Scott began to write novels, she complained that he had
no business to write novels, especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet and should not be taking the bread out of other peoples mouths.
Who were the poets current in Janes lifetime? Among others, Scott, Cowper, Byron, Coleridge and Shelley. In 1798 Wordsworth and Coleridge published the first edition of Lyrical Ballads and started the great shift to the Romantic period. As many have commented, Jane Austens taste ran more to the 18th century, but she was quite familiar with the works of the Bad Lord Byron - as who was not? In Persuasion we have the bereaved Captain Benwick referring to The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos, reciting with tremulous feeling to Anne Elliot verses which reflect his emotions:
from The Giaour, by Byron
from The Bride of Abydos by Byron
That Anne feels something self-indulgent in his performance is shown by her gentle suggestion:
Her instinct is proved correct when his undying love for the late Fanny Harville starts to transfer itself first to Anne, then finally to Louisa Musgrove. A clear case of being in love with his own emotions.
In Sense and Sensibility Marianne Dashwood reveals a similar fervour regarding poetry; she complains of Edward Ferrars reading of Cowper as being spiritless and tame. and wonders how Elinor can listen so calmly. Again, in Sanditon, the words of Sir Edward Denham about Scott and Burns, and Charlottes reply reinforce our sense that Jane Austen had decided reservations about an over-emotional response to poetry.
Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon:
When we meet our heroine, Catherine Morland, in Northanger Abbey, her naive susceptibility to the Gothic novel is foreshadowed in Chapter 1; we are told that she is familiar with six literary quotations; four of these are misquoted but not, I suspect, by Jane Austen. This carelessness does suggest that Catherine has acquired these fragments, not from a genuine love of poetry, but because they are desirable in the eyes of society, like a little skill in music, a small dabble with a paintbrush. Mrs Elton is quick with the odd quotation; she quotes from Grays Elegy, from John Gay, from Milton in a fashion which caused Ronald Blythe, editor of the Penguin Emma to write:
Emma herself denies the Shakespearean edict that the course of true love never did run smooth, a splendid irony when we consider that she is in the process of ruining Harriet Smiths love-life and indeed, compromising her own. So some of Jane Austens creations reveal weaknesses in their response to poetry.
What of those characters who show a less emotional, more rational, more 18th century attitude? We are told that Janes favourite poets were Scott, George Crabbe and William Cowper. When Fanny Price expresses disappointment in the chapel at Sotherton, Mr Rushworths estate, she refers closely to Scotts Lay of the Last Minstrel:
from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Scott
The poem I would like to quote from Crabbe is a part of The Parish Register. To me it has an almost Chaucerian flavour:
from The Parish Register, George Crabbe (1754 - 1832)
Part 3 - Burials.
Surely that portrait would have delighted the creator of Lady Catherine de Bourgh!
And so we come to the favourite, William Cowper; most of the extracts are from his long blank verse poem, The Task, from which Mr Knightley quotes what better recommendation could we ask? One of the great names in landscape gardening, a popular activity among the landowners of Austens time, was that of Capability Brown, who is not totally approved by Cowper:
from The Task, by William Cowper
Elizabeth Bennets reaction to the grounds of Pemberley reflect a similar preference for a natural, rather than contrived landscape:
A similar feeling for nature is shown by Fanny Price when Rushworth proposes changes at Sotherton; she says, Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited. This was not a new thought from the poet; the same idea is expressed in an earlier poem, The Poplar Field:
The Poplar Field by William Cowper
The novels suggest that Jane certainly preferred the country-side to city life she did not want to live in Bath, any more than Anne Elliot did. The charming villains, the Crawfords, come from London to corrupt the peace of Mansfield Park. I have to admit the Gardiners also come from London, but not the fashionable part! And Cowper expresses some criticism of London in The Task (p415):
We know of Janes reluctance to dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent because of her dislike of his character; the following comments on heroes and kings in The Task would, one imagines, meet with her approval:
from The Task, by Cowper (p428)
Some people have said that Jane does not treat all members of the clergy respectfully. Certainly Cowpers words, his patrons pride lead us directly to Mr Collins and Lady Catherine. I believe that living so closely to the church and its affairs would inevitably make such a shrewd observer look with eyes unclouded by an automatic reverence for the clergy and their doings.
The slave trade is mentioned a couple of times in the novels; Mrs Elton accidentally discloses some of her trade origins when Jane Fairfax compares the situation of a governess with that of a slave. More seriously, the wealth and comfort of Mansfield Park is based on the sugar plantations of Antigua. Cowper states - even shouts - his opinion:
from The Task, by Cowper (p 418)
... My ear is pained,
The final selection shows Cowpers own feelings about being a poet; - a glimpse into the creative thought processes of the poet whom Jane Austen, that supreme creative artist, revered above all others:
from The Task by Cowper, p 426.
Right: Can you spot the hidden spades? The Four of Spades from an 1832 card deck by Baron Louis Athlin. (from www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/
Lives of Leisure at Mansfield Park
Study Day 2000
(See also the Mansfield Park crossword.)
What would entice 100 people to stay indoors on a beautiful autumn Saturday in May? The opportunity to learn about the various leisure activities of the gentle folk in Jane Austens time!
Mansfield Park, the book, not the controversial film that had been released shortly before, provided a wonderful focus for the days activities.
The groups were ably led by Pamela Whalan with Yvette Field, Janette Emmerson, Sheila Edwards and Judy Greenway making enlightening and delightful contributions throughout the day. The culmination was the excerpt from the play, Lovers Vows, the centre of controversy in Mansfield Park.
Yvette Fields introduction looked at the comfortable, elegant mansion of Mansfield Park, surrounded by its own parkland, providing the environment for the leisure activities and cultivated enjoyment for the wealthy Bertram family. She added ...
We tested some of the activities of this leisured class for ourselves the card game Speculation, musical entertainment, reading aloud, and amateur theatricals. Riding, horseracing, dancing and charades were a little ambitious for the day!
The first requirement for each group was what quickly became a quite hilarious discussion of vices and virtues of the Mansfield characters. Bertha McKenzie had suggested, on the basis of a lecture by Penny Gay some years ago, that in Mansfield Park many images of the characters at play correspond to the seven deadly sins. Lively discussion ensued as participants matched vice to character, citing a fondly remembered incident or quote. It was (almost) unanimously agreed that Fanny Price held all seven of the virtues listed. However, no character was evil enough to display all the vices in one person, although Mrs Norris came close!
The camaraderie established at each table by this activity changed once we had the chance to engage in the game of Speculation. Rules were provided and explained, and what seemed to be very complex turned into quite a simple game, once its principles were grasped. Amidst much laughter, there was serious gambling of plastic chips taking place in the church hall, with some people being consistent winners such as Geraldine Rawlings, Pam Nutt, Rodney Pyne and Jan Yelland, who followed the lead of Mary Crawford:
We were informed about the types of activities that were seasonal, May, June and July being the height of the social season of parties and balls on Wednesday and Saturday evenings in London. The seasons for grouse, partridge and pheasant shooting occurred from August to October. Men who could afford it, after instructing their steward or other servants, then had time to ride, shoot or hunt whilst in the country or attend the club when in town. We were even given a map of England showing the places mentioned in the text, with a presumed position of Mansfield Park, giving a clearer picture of how much time, energy and organisation were needed for what we would consider now to be quite short distances.
A map of England showing the places mentioned in the text, with a presumed position of Mansfield Park, giving a clearer picture of how much time, energy and organisation were needed for what we would consider now to be quite short distances.
After dinner it was usual for family and visitors to converse together, or play cards or parlour games. As books and candles were very expensive in Jane Austens time, reading aloud, singing and other activities that we now usually do individually, were much more sociable occasions. It was a social obligation to be a good reader or a good listener.
Pamela Whalan spoke on references to reading aloud in the novels, and particularly on the impact that Henry Crawfords excellent reading has on Fannys view of him...
Edmund watched the progress of her attention, and was amused and gratified by seeing how she gradually slackened in the needle-work, which, at the beginning, seemed to occupy her totally, how it fell from her hand while she sat motionless over it and at last, how the eyes which had appeared so studiously to avoid him throughout the day, were turned and fixed on Crawford, fixed on him for minutes, fixed on him in short till the attraction drew Crawfords upon her, and the book was closed, and the charm was broken.
Some of these same Shakespearean passages treated so well by Henry Crawford, from Act II of Henry VIII were read aloud to us by Jason Murdoch, of the Hunters Hill Drama Group. Yes, an intelligent reading does make a difference to comprehension and appreciation.
Even stargazing, which had obviously been a favoured leisure activity for Edmund and Fanny, was discussed. You will recall it was interrupted, to Fannys disappointment, when Edmund was irresistibly drawn away to Mary Crawford and the glee. Janette Emmerson, who discussed the incidence and importance of music in the texts, introduced a delightful glee of our own, sung in harmony by Judy Greenway, Sue Lack and friends. The glee however was not usually sung for an audience, but for the pleasure of the participants around the piano.
Stargazing interrupted... A woodcut for Mansfield Park by Joan Hassall.
A major highlight of the day was the re-enactment of Lovers Vows. To a modern audience it is melodrama a marvellous and completely over the top performance by Julia Redlich and the Hunters Hill Drama Group. However, Fanny Price was justified in her unease about its performance, and Sir Thomas Bertram finally took his rightful place as moral guardian of the family in his condemnation of it. There is much to consider about how the various characters in the book were involved and influenced by this play and the opportunities Jane Austen gives us to judge a persons worth. It was fitting to have the ending of this play as a conclusion to the day, but not an end to thoughtful reflection of what had been learnt. Of course there was always the crossword to complete at home if you had been too busy catching up with old friends and meeting new ones during the lunch break.
Being an English teacher, I loved the opportunity this day gave me to return to the text, to justify my opinions, refresh memories and, each time, to see another excellent example of Jane Austens craft. Thank you, Pamela, and everyone who so generously prepared the material and the day for us.
the elder ladies and
Rule VIII of Nashs RULES by general Consent determined. (from www.nwta. com/couriers/7-97/ polite.html)
Richard Beau Nash
During Maggie Lanes excellent talk at the Leura Conference on Bath, The Epitome Of Elegance, the name of Beau Nash (pictured left) was referred to. Being curious to know about the background of this unusual man, I decided to do a little reading on the subject. Although he died before Jane Austen was born he had such an influence on Bath that it is worth recording something about him.
Richard Beau Nash was born in 1674 in Swansea, Wales. His father, also Richard, was a partner in a glass-making factory. I could find nothing about siblings so he may have been an only child. Little is known about the young Richard except that he was reputed to have a natural vivacity.
At twelve he was sent to the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth in Carnarthen 20 miles north of Swansea where he distinguished himself as an athlete, particularly it seems at both forward and backward standing jumps.
From the Grammar School he went to Jesus College, Oxford, to read Law. He did not shine at his studies and was sent down some time later for becoming embroiled with too many women, probably of the wrong sort. With the financial backing of his father he then became an ensign in the Guards but soon found both the obligations of the Army and the lack of ready money a problem. He persuaded his father to let him revert to the study of Law, this time at the Inner Temple in London.
Nash was a dandy from a young age, sporting a velvet coat, ruffles, diamond buckles and a diamond brooch, and soon became aware that he possessed a certain style and manner which attracted people to him. He was not well off but supplemented his income by gambling, at which he appears to have been extraordinarily successful. He was by now a well-known young man-about-town and was welcomed into society.
Nash gradually lost interest in the Law and in 1705 decided to try his luck in Bath, which was just beginning to become popular as a health spa. He became acquainted with the then Master of Ceremonies, Captain Webster, and was soon appointed his assistant. Shortly afterwards the unfortunate Captain was killed in a sword-fighting duel and Nash, still in his early thirties, found himself elected by the Corporation of Bath as the new Master of Ceremonies. Because of the recent disaster Nash began his term by abolishing the wearing of swords and, ipso facto, the abandonment of duelling came about. He next insisted that all lodging houses, most of which were damp and dilapidated, must be renovated and he himself fixed a tariff for every room.
In 1708 Nash arranged for an Assembly House to be built and levied a subscription on all visitors to Bath. As Maggie Lane told us, he forbade all private parties (what power!) but invited everyone to the Assembly House for dinners, teas, breakfast concerts and balls. On the orders of the resident doctor who was concerned for the health of those who had come to take the waters, and with the concurrence of Nash, all balls began at 6pm and finished precisely at eleven.
A list of rules was drawn up and deportment at dances was strictly
regulated. Nash even forbade exhibitions of resentment from either gentlemen or
ladies, (who displayed it) on the grounds that someone had danced
Most things in Bath seem to have cost a great deal of money, e.g. a crown for pen and paper to write a letter and up to a guinea to borrow books from the bookseller. Amazingly enough there was no revolt against either the restrictions or the charges and it is reported that guests were pleased to obey.
Just prior to 1720 Nash arranged for a large ballroom to be added to the Assembly House. Later on he was involved in the encouragement and employment of architect John Wood who is famous for his wonderful Bath buildings. This was the beginning of the expansion of Bath as many more visitors, including artists and writers, members of the aristocracy and later royalty, started to arrive. It is of interest that Nash was famous enough to rate a mention in Henry Fieldings Tom Jones in the chapter called The History of Mrs Fitzpatrick. His name can also be come across in Georgette Heyers novels.
During the period 1720 to the 1740s Beau Nash lead a busy life. As well as other duties he organised the recreations of the day, arranged for the ringing of bells to announce the arrival of distinguished guests to Bath, visited the new arrivals to pay his respects, arbitrated differences between neighbours or visitors and solicited subscriptions for his latest plan, a hospital. In 1735 he was also installed as Master of Ceremonies at Tunbridge Wells where he enforced similar rules to those at Bath.
Nash was a prodigious gambler but went to a great deal of trouble to prevent others less experienced than he from losing all their money. He had long been a dandy and an arbiter of fashion, and it was said that his well-known white hat was awarded more respect than many a general. There is a lovely quote from Lord Chesterfield describing the Beau at a ball
He wore his gold-laced clothes on the occasion, and looked so fine that, standing by chance in the middle of the dancers, he was taken by many at a distance for a gilt garland.
Although an earlier law against gambling had been enacted, Nash and his fellow players, male and female, had managed to get around this by various means including the invention of new games. However in 1745 the anti-gambling law was tightened. Although the popularity of Bath continued this was a great drawback to Nash, not only because of being a successful gambler on his own account, but because he had awarded himself as Master of Ceremonies a percentage of all winnings. From this time on his fortunes and his influence gradually declined. He had been the epitome of the benevolent dictator, an imperious rule-maker who nevertheless showed great generosity to those who had come across hard times. He now found himself in the same predicament, and had to sell most of his possessions to survive. He died in straitened circumstances in 1762, aged 87.
Beau Nash never married but had a relationship of many years standing with one Fanny Murray. After she left him he took up with Juliana Papjoy who was his companion and who cared for him until his death.
The name of Richard Beau Nash is intricately entwined with that of Bath and it could be said that the city itself is his monument. It seems to me that here was a man who was able to use his talents in a way that suited him and who more than many of us, truly found his niche in life.
Notes taken from Beau Nash: Monarch of Bath and Tunbridge Wells, Willard Connely
A beautiful, indolent Lady B? From http://www.pemberley .com/ janeinfo/
Mansfield Park and Beauty
Knowing my interest in Professor John Sutherlands Puzzle books, (see page 29, June Newsletter) our Editor drew my attention to a chapter headed Pug: dog or bitch? (a debate mentioned in a previous Newsletter) in the volume entitled Can Jane Eyre be Happy?. Professor Sutherland quotes from Mansfield Park, asserting that in Chapter 2 we are told that Lady Bertram is a woman of little use & no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children. He goes on to say We are to assume that the un-beautiful & useless Lady Bertram, like other dog lovers, has come to resemble her pet.(!) Later on, in his notes on that chapter, he gives us the full text, which reads:
She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use & no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children.
He concedes that it could be the needlework which is of little use and no beauty (which has always been our reading) but says that he prefers to think that Austen meant Lady Bertram.
Our Editor and I are ready to agree with Professor Sutherland that Lady Bertram is of little use, but not with his conclusion that she is a woman of no beauty. In the very first chapter we are told that she was able to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, even though she had only £7000. One can only assume that he was captivated by her beauty, not by her mind or wit, and her claim to good looks is established when we learn that some of their acquaintances thought Miss Ward & Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria.
Of course, by the time Fanny arrives at Mansfield and we meet Lady Bertram ensconced on her sofa, she has been married for some years, with four children, the eldest 17 and the youngest 12. We are told that they are a remarkably fine family; the sons very well-looking and the daughters decidedly handsome and it is reasonable to assume that they have inherited at least some of their good looks from their mother. Despite her lethargy we can guess that Lady Bertram enjoys the best of health and the pampered ease in which she lives is surely the best preservative of youthful beauty. When she hears of Crawfords proposal, she looks at Fanny complacently and remarks: Humph we are certainly a handsome family. This does not sound like someone who has lost all traces of an early beauty.
When Fanny arrives in Portsmouth her mother greets her with kindness and with features which Fanny loved the more because they brought her Aunt Bertrams before her. Later on we hear that The Prices were now seen to advantage. Nature had given them no inconsiderable share of beauty and every Sunday dressed them in their cleanest skins & attire. Fanny thinks that her mother did not look so very unworthy of being Lady Bertrams sister as she was but too apt to look. We learn that it had often grieved her to think of the contrast between them to think that where nature had made so little difference circumstances should have made so much, and that her mother, as handsome as Lady Bertram and some years her junior, should have an appearance so much more worn and faded.
Knowing what we do about Lady Bertrams indolence and her tendency to drop off into a gentle doze at the slightest opportunity, I am ready to believe that her skill at needlework is on a par with her grasp of the rules of Speculation, and that her work was undoubtedly a thing of neither use nor beauty. As for her own person, that is quite another thing, and I am prepared to defend her, being equally ready to believe that she has retained much of the good looks which first ensnared the worthy Sir Thomas.
|Portrait of Cassandra
This portrait has also been acquired by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust in Chawton. Its provenance and similarities with the portrait of Jane painted by her sister Cassandra, suggest that this may in fact be a portrait of Cassandra.
It is believed (or hoped) to be the portrait mentioned by Lord Brabourne as being in his familys hands, in 1884 when he was about to publish a selection of Janes letters. Lord Brabourne was a descendant of Edward Austen Knight through his daughter Fanny, Lady Knatchbull.
We are much indebted to our Conference speaker Maggie Lane for bringing these Trust treasures to our attention.
|Cassandra's Silver Teapot
This attractive sterling silver teapot, hallmarked 1832, and bearing the Austen family stag crest has been donated to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at Chawton, and is believed to have been the property of Cassandra Austen.
The Trusts information is that when Cassandra died in 1845 she left much of her estate to their brother, Charles, whose daughter Cassy Esten Austen arranged distribution amongst their branch of the Austen family, this piece coming to Emma Florence Austen, grand-daughter of Charles, great niece of Jane & Cassandra Austen.
In 1926, in straitened circumstances, Emma Austen found it necessary to sell, and the piece came into the very safe hands of Dr R W Chapman, who added a broad knowledge of silverware to his recognised eminence in JA scholarship. It is through the Chapman family that the piece comes to the Memorial Trust.
It is fascinating to think that since Jane was the household member who cared for and served the precious tea in their Chawton home, she may well have used this herself. It is now returned to that Chawton home, now the Trusts museum, waiting for you to visit it!
Every once in a while it is beneficial to return to the roots of our involvement in the life and times of Jane Austen. At our September meeting Kim Hicks helped us to return to the elegance, intelligence and beauty of the works that Miss Austen wrote, not by giving us a literary critique or a talk on manners of the period, but by speaking the words that Austen wrote, and doing it extremely well.
A very simple stage was set a chair, a small table and several books. Dressed in a green and white round gown in the style of the early 19th century a dress any lady in a country village would have been happy to wear when visiting her neighbours Kim Hicks proceeded to charm the audience with an interesting selection from the works of Jane Austen based on the theme of courtship.
Her intelligent interpretation of familiar passages, and her very polished performance technique displayed the wit, the humour and the command of the English language for which Jane Austen is revered.
There were some very funny episodes from the Juvenilia, a number of readings from Pride and Prejudice including Mr Collins proposal a scene which brought out the absurdity of the situation but also showed the pomposity and presumption of the man in a way which, I am sure, would have delighted Miss Austen.
We were also treated to the tender scene in which Mr Knightley proposes in the novel Emma but I think that my very favourite was the scene from Northanger Abbey where Isabella Thorpe makes Catherine Moreland her accomplice in chasing the young men who happened to catch her eye in the Pump Room.
Kim Hicks gave us at least as much pleasure in good reading as Henry Crawford gave Fanny Price, for Fanny was forced to listen. Reading aloud was a form of domestic entertainment at the time when these works were written, and Austen would have been aware of the sound of her work as well as the word on the page. We, too, were delighted to listen to a truly dramatic reading for Kim Hicks is quite simply an excellent actress with a rare perception into Austens language, and she had her audience totally enthralled.
One of the delights of the afternoon was the audience itself. People familiar with the work, lips moving as the words were spoken, who knew when the punch line was to be delivered and knew exactly what that punch line was, were finding fresh delights and unexpected nuances in the work in Miss Hicks intelligent and loving presentation.
We felt encouraged to read again some of these passages, to look at them anew in the light of these readings. A most successful gathering of JASA.
The Fund-Raising Project
Our members are so generous!
As you will recall, changed circumstances demanded that the Society purchase a new computer, to produce our Sensibilities, Newsletter and Practicalities. The project was initiated at the Leura Conference in July, and continued by a letter to members immediately afterwards. We have been so touched by the extraordinarily generous response of members, and are delighted that you value your publications enough to support the Society in this way.
After the Conference a few members decided to form a fundraising committee, and it was this group who were responsible for arranging two theatre parties to Wildes The Importance of being Earnest with Patricia Routledge as Lady Bracknell, and with Pamela Whalan to the Genesians production of Agatha Christies Unexpected Guest. These functions are reported on page 35 of this Newsletter. Member Jill Rogers proved that the way to make a success of a theatre party was to make personal phone calls to members, and made a resounding success of the process and the function. (I hope she realises that any demonstration of skills such as this means inevitable future calls on her by the Society!)
Together they raised the marvellous sum of $1261.90. As a part of the fundraising push, Helen Cook also organised a Christmas Hamper, income for which will be finalised at the Xmas Lunch. Our sincere thanks to all of you for your considerable efforts.
We would like to acknowledge and thank publicly each of our generous members, but so many opted not to have their gift acknowledged in this way, that we were left with only a few who were prepared to be thus recognised, which would have produced an imbalanced picture, and gave us something of a quandary. We hope we have made the right decision therefore, in not publishing any names: our thanks are not less warm.
At the time of printing, including the above theatre party and hamper income, the total received was $5456.30, from a total 157 members. We sincerely thank you all. And wed better ensure that the standard of our publications is kept up!
We were also moved by the comments which came with your generous donations:
The publications are worth a great deal ... I hope you get the funds
needed ... Keep up the good work I couldnt survive without JASA
We spent a deal of time getting the right deal for the right computer,
and the Editor had enormous satisfaction over a couple of days in October setting up the
new equipment to do all the things we want it to do. This issue of Newsletter has
been produced on the new equipment: however, it is only if we hadnt been able
to get such equipment that members would notice a difference a distinct decline in
design and presentation. [One thing members confidence does is inspire a
determination to keep up and/or
JAS UK celebrates 60 years
This is Meeting quite in fairy-land. Emma: 3:2
New President of JASNA, Joan Klingel Ray, Professor of English at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, reports on the English Societys event of the year.
With 2000 being both the millennium and the sixtieth anniversary of the Jane Austen Society, our British friends decided to celebrate both events by expanding its 2000 AGM from their usual one-day JAS AGM at Chawton to three days, Friday to Sunday in July, and reaching from Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire to Box Hill in Surrey. Casual elegance is the phrase that comes to mind to describe the three days of Austen festivities.
On Friday there was a buffet lunch and series of presentations and tours to learn about and celebrate the progress made by Sandy Lerner and her energetic team in transforming the Knight familys former Great House into the Chawton Centre for the Study of Early English Womens Writing, planned to open in July 2003. After the main presentations by Sandy Lerner, the invited guests, including Isobel Grundy, Marilyn Butler, Maggie Lane, Jean Bowden, Deirdre Le Faye, and Tom Carpenter, were shown around the house and grounds by Professor Michael Wheeler (Executive Director of the Chawton House Library), and Jane Alderson (Director of the Chawton Estate), together with Richard Knight (President of the JAS, a descendant of Edward Austen Knight, and a Chawton House Library Trustee) and his daughter Cassandra Knight, the landscape architect.
The weekend opened on Friday with a special late afternoon tea and brief talk about Jane Austen in Winchester by JAS Chairman, Brian Southam, in the Cathedral refectory. After Evensong at Winchester Cathedral JAS members gathered around the Memorial Window near Jane Austens grave in the north aisle for readings from Jane Austens writings.
The next unrehearsed activity I suggest would have heartily amused Jane Austen as much as it did those of us who physically attended: the rosy-cheeked, blonde-haired two-year-old daughter of Mr Crispin Drummond, the Honorary Treasurer of the JAS, came forward, clutching a posy in her chubby little hand. With a cherubic smile on her face, little Miss Drummond proceeded to lay the flowers on every grave in the area except Jane Austens!
The Saturday AGM was hosted by JAS President Richard Knight with charm, good humour, and great élan. Held on the lawns of Chawton House, beneath a huge white marquee, it was the central point of a delightful day, with reports from the Society and its speakers, and members and visitors strolling and picnicking on the lawns, greeting old and new acquaintances.
The most charming moment of the morning came when Joan Austen-Leigh came to the podium in a smart beige suit and large hat looking very much the proper British lady and reminisced about her first visit to England as a teenager to attend school. Joan had not yet read an Austen novel, and so she spent the time onboard ship struggling through Pride & Prejudice, for it is a truth universally acknowledged that young Canadian nieces must read at least one work by their British ancestor before setting foot in the old country and encountering for the first time their Austen aunts.
Many strolled down to Jane Austens House, where the Clementi Pianoforte, refurbished and tuned with funds contributed by JASNA members, was being played the House had over 500 visitors that day! I had the pleasure of being invited to an elegant sit-down luncheon with Richard Knight, Claire Tomalin, Michael Wheeler, Joan Austen-Leigh, Brian Southam, and others.
The AGM Address was given by novelist Dame Joanna Trollope, OBE. Her talk had the tantalizing title, Still at Number Seven, which led to speculation: Was seven an address? Jane Austen died while writing her seventh novel, Sanditon, and so was her pen stilled at number seven? During her talk Joanna told us that she enjoyed having people puzzle over her title. As one novelist talking about another novelist, she reminded us that a good read needs a good narrative, a plot that keeps us turning the page. She then solved the puzzle for us: a popular British publication had recently printed its annual poll of its readers to name their favourite author. The top four vote-getters were writers of childrens books, including Roald Dahl and J K Rowling; slots five and six were occupied by popular novelists Catherine Cookson and Maeve Binchey; and still at number seven was Jane Austen, well ahead of Dickens and way ahead of Shakespeare.
While Austens wit and humour are regularly acknowledged, Trollope reminded us of how Jane Austen can pinpoint those exquisite moments of pain with which we can all identify: Marianne Dashwood callously treated by Willoughby; Emma at Box Hill reprimanded by Mr Knightley, etc. Having just read Trollopes The Men and The Girls, I knew this author understood her subject well. The talk reminded us why Jane Austen societies the world over attract both academic and non-academic members of great allegiance.
We concluded the day by ambling down the drive to St. Nicholas Church, Chawton, for Evensong. Some people also left flowers at the graves of Cassandra and Mrs Austen, near the south wall of the church.
Sunday, the third day of the AGM, saw us drive to Box Hill for a picnic, where I am pleased to report that everyone was clever, and no one uttered an insulting or unkind word. We were reminded of the irony of Emmas poor behaviour at Box Hill: she could view miles of landscape from here, but she was blind to her interior self and to the needs of those about her.
Kudos to Susan McCartan, the organiser of the three days of JAS AGM events, and I thank Richard Knight, Brian Southam, and Susan for their many kindnesses that made me feel so very welcome.
After I left Chawton on Tuesday, I headed to Bath to visit the newly opened Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street. This is a private enterprise, but the Jane Austen Society provided advice and help, and Maggie Lane gave great assistance in ensuring accuracy. The Centre has no artefacts, but I found it to be an excellent educational centre to introduce persons to Austen and her times. While in Bath I also had the opportunity for coffee and a chat with Kim Hicks, who performed Courtship in Australia and who will be performing it at JASNAs AGM in Boston in mid-October.
One of the very best things about being a member of a Jane Austen Society, whether in North America, England, or Australia, is meeting amiable persons from all over the world, with whom we share an interest Jane Austen! I look forward to meeting you at your July 2001 conference.
The exercise has, I believe, demonstrated the strength of the Society, as well as the generosity and commitment of the members.
A literary coup at work
Wills for the Austen and related families
As promised in the June issue of Newsletter, the current Sensibilities issue contains another in the series of Austen family wills, so generously shared with us by member Dr Jon Spence. Last time we published the Will of John Austen, from whom much of the Austen money came though not to Janes side of the family. This present Will is that of Theophilus Leigh of Adlestrop, great grandfather of Janes mother Cassandra (nee Leigh), who can be seen as the source of funds from the maternal side of the family.
There are, you might recall, more than a dozen of these Wills that Jon has collected, which add considerable insights to the biographical interpretation of Jane Austen and her family. As well as offering them free to our members by publishing them as a series in successive Sensibilities, we propose to ask members at the Annual General Meeting (17 February) to support a plan to publish them in book form, as a superb primary resource for Jane Austen academics.
The promotion of this new publication is the major task. We anticipate producing it on our new computer, so costs should only be for printing. We propose to use email to put the project before the universities and academics of the world (a very much cheaper process than printing and mailing), and would like to see this collected resource in the markets in the first half of 2001.
This is a giant step the Society is proposing, and one which will undoubtedly enhance JASAs reputation. From a research point of view we believe that these Wills should be published, and we are hopeful that we will receive members support for the venture. If you cannot attend the AGM, you may wish to voice your view on the attached Order Form.
News, Views & Titbits
Keen to meet with other Janeites but dont live in Sydney?
Members in Sydney are lucky enough to be able to attend the regular meetings every two months to talk about things Jane. It has been difficult for out-of-Sydney members to meet, apart from study days, conferences and other member events.
Such out-of-Sydney members may see some value in being put in touch with other members living in the same area, allowing them to meet informally from time to time if they wish. Specifically, were hoping to set up informal groups in Canberra, Brisbane, and the Blue Mountains.
JASA president, Susannah Fullerton, will willingly assist any such group with advice or a talk if they wish.
If you are interested in meeting with fellow Janeites from time to time and live in Canberra, you can contact Jessie Terry on (02) 6286 8665. If you are in the Blue Mountains, contact Elizabeth Lindsay on (02) 4399 2983. Otherwise, you can also contact me on (02) 9569 9823 after hours or email email@example.com.
Harry Potter & Jane Austen!
Curious to find out just why the Harry Potter books, by J K Rowling, have so enthralled young readers, I borrowed the first volume, Harry Potter & the Philosophers Stone from my young grandson.
Harry is a wizard and attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. The caretaker of that establishment, a sneaky, unpleasant character by the name of Filch, is always on the lookout for pupils who may be breaking the rules or simply doing something of which he does not approve. He has a cat - a scrawny, dust-covered creature, with bulging lamplike eyes, which he uses as a sort of deputy in his battles with the students Break a rule in front of her and shed whisk off for Filch, whod appear, wheezing, two seconds later.
The name of this nasty feline? Mrs Norris! How appropriate!
By the way, I have just borrowed the second book, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets and expect to enjoy it as I did the first, my pleasure enhanced by the knowledge that J K Rowling shares my passion for the works of Jane Austen.
As members would know, medicos now agree that Jane Austen died from Addisons Disease a complaint neither recognised nor named until some 40 years after her death. After contact here with a person suffering from this complaint, the Society decided to make a small donation to the Support Group for other sufferers, and to share some of the information the Group supplied.
Addisons disease is a severe or total deficiency of the hormones made in the external adrenal gland. There are normally two adrenal glands, the inner part of which produces adrenaline at times of stress, helping the body by raising the pulse rate, adjusting blood flow, and raising blood sugar. However, the absence of this gland does not cause disease.
It is the outer portion of the adrenal, the cortex, which is more critical. The adrenal cortex makes two important steroid hormones, which mobilise nutrients, stimulate the liver to raise the blood sugar, and help to control the amount of water in the body. Classical Addisons disease results from a loss of such hormones due to the destruction of both adrenal glands. Symptoms include physical fatigue, weakness, craving for salt, low blood pressure, pigmentation, weight loss, postural dizziness, and there may be black freckles over the head and shoulder areas. Later developments are nausea, dehydration from vomiting and diarrhoea, dizziness, cold intolerance, apathy, mental confusion, fever, and abdominal pain. Some of these symptoms are evident in letters and diary entries by and of Jane Austen.
When Dr Thomas Addison first described this disease in London in 1855, the most common cause was tuberculosis. By the middle of the 20th century antibiotics progressively reduced TBs incidence. Since then, the major cause of Addisons disease has been an auto-immune reaction. It is still, fortunately, a rare disease, and one with which even the medical profession is still all too unfamiliar.
All information derived from:
A self help group for people with this illness offers information, newsletters and contact with fellow members.
Australian Addisons Support Group
PO Box 2436, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450 Ph 02 6652 4761 or 6653 6340.
George Austens Grave
The Bath press (The Bath Chronicle, 9 October 2000, p12) reported the success of the project, assisted by JASA, to renovate Janes fathers grave, so that it would be more visible.
[Australia had another connection in the Bath press that day, reporting an annual ceremony celebrating the life and achievements of our Governor Arthur Phillip.]
The year 2000 has not been without excitement, but life here has slowly settled down into the usual fairly quiet routine after all the celebrations last year for our 50th anniversary. We have continued our programme of conservation of the exhibits, on-going work begun about fifteen years ago, with the aid of a grant from Hampshire County Council. We began with all the paper exhibits - drawings, water-colours and copies of letters, for example, and had them cleaned, re-mounted on acid-free board and re-framed. However tightly sealed pictures are, tiny insects (thunder bugs) get in during hot humid weather, and now we have special frames that can be opened up for cleaning. Nowadays special fixtures are available to make pictures thief-proof - isnt it sad that this is necessary?
Our conservation project this year has been the restoration of the square piano which has been in the museum for nearly fifty years. Although not Janes own piano, it is of the right period, a Clementi made in 1810. It has always looked rather sad, with wobbly legs, the pedal missing and, I have to confess, water marks on the top where we used to put vases of flowers! The piano was away for a few months while Peter Casebow, a specialist cabinet maker, restored the legs and the pedal and gently cleaned and polished the case. The hammers and strings were repaired and the ivory keys cleaned by Andrew Lancaster. The piano arrived back, looking sleek and well-cared-for, but still antique, just in time to be played in public on the day of the Jane Austen Societys AGM in July. Andrew told us that it is the sweetest-toned Clementi he has ever heard, and it is really nice to have it available now for musical events, and not to have to borrow the village hall piano! Just recently a recording was made of some of the pieces in Jane Austens music books for a Compact Disc, played on our Clementi, so that soon everyone will be able to hear its lovely tone.
The Jane Austen Memorial Trust has just been given a fine silver teapot with the Austen family crest on it. It is believed to have belonged to Janes sister Cassandra, and used by her on special occasions at Chawton. A water-colour portrait, possibly of Cassandra, has been lent to the Trust for a while. The head and shoulders are very well-drawn and painted, but it is obvious that another less talented hand has finished off, or even added, the dress. So far it has been impossible to prove that the sitter is in fact Cassandra, as there is a gap in the provenance, but who knows? One day someone may find the missing link. [Pictures of both the teapot and the possible Cassandra portrait appeared in our September Practicalities. Ed.]
The Memorial Trust has also been lent a wax impression of Mary, Queen of Scots. This seal was given to the wife of Jane Austens second cousin, Mrs J. Austen, by Earl Stanhope, and it is good to have this on display for a while, as Jane admired Mary so much - Im sure you have all read Janes account of her in The History of England, by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian! If not, you really should, as it is a good laugh, as the youngsters say these days.
We have also recently been lent a set of six late 18th century silver dessert spoons, with a very distinctive berry-fruit decoration and engraved with the Knight family crest. We understand that these spoons belonged to Janes brother Edward Knight, and that they were probably in use at Godmersham Park when Jane and Cassandra stayed there.
Initial recording of all the objects in the museum on to the MODES database commenced in July this year, and will be an on-going project, done by a student in holiday times. Austen scholar, Deirdre LeFaye, has searched all the Jane Austen Societys Annual Reports for information on objects which have been given or lent either to the Society or to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust (which owns and administers the museum) and now it is hoped to study all past correspondence, so that we can add notes on provenance to the MODES database.
Two new Trustees have recently been appointed to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust. They both bring valuable skills to the administration of Jane Austens House. Maggie Lane [key speaker at the July JASA conference in Leura], whom many of you know, and whose books I am sure you have read, will provide a link with the Committee of the Jane Austen Society, and has experience in education and research. Ann Pembroke is an active Society member who has much experience in the equivalent museums at the Dickens Trust, the Keats House and Dr Johnsons House.
A project of much concern to the Trustees, and to all those who work at Jane Austens House, has just arisen. A proposal has been made for a development of three large terraced houses to be built on the Grey Friar car park right opposite the House. If permitted, these buildings would completely change the whole aspect of Chawton village. The view from our windows has remained largely unaltered since Jane lived here, except for the 1960s extension to Cassandras Cup, the cafe opposite, which is in keeping and not too worrying when one is gasping for a cup of tea! Our opinion, and that of a large number of the villagers, is that that there should be no building development on that site. In the event of a formal application being submitted to East Hampshire District Council, we hope that members of all the Jane Austen societies, who feel that these houses would completely spoil the village, will write in with their objections to this plan. Please do give us your support!
With best wishes to you all,
Former curator and present archivist of the Jane Austen House Museum. [See Chawton Under Threat. Write to the JASA committee or direct to the Hampshire Council ASAP to voice your concerns.]
Mrs. Goddard's School
Jane Austen For Juniors
The group is looking forward to an outing on the Bounty early in 2001, with an emphasis on the novel Persuasion and what it would be like to live and work on Navy ships such as the Bounty at the time of Jane Austen. Other plans for 2001 are in train, and will be advised shortly.
Other Places, Other Societies
For contact details of other Jane Austen societies and links to other Jane Austen web sites see LINKS.
Many of the items in this segment have been organised (and/or written) by member Dianne Speakmann, who has recently been persuaded to act as Liaison Officer for external groups from whom we like to hear news. Much agonising followed over the tremendously important decision of the title for this position. Dianne, tongue firmly in cheek, has suggested the delightful Foreign Correspondent, which will probably stick.
Jane Austen in Holland
Het is een alom erkende waarheid dat een vrijgezelle man van stand een echtgenote behoeft.
Thats the Dutch version of It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. You recognised it at once, didnt you!!
It has come to us by courtesy of our first member in Holland, who has also been persuaded to answer some questions on the Jane Austen presence in her country. The questions (posed by our president) and the members answers are fascinating.
How old were you when you first read a JA novel and which one was it?
I must have been 16, and it was Pride and Prejudice. In order to get my exams I was supposed to read 25 books of English literature. Five of them had to be either 17th, 18th or 19th century. My choice wasnt an obvious one as Pride and Prejudice has a lot of pages and that was not the main objective in school. Nevertheless I was fascinated that I was actually able to read a book in another language and much impressed by what I recall as parody.
Did you read it in Dutch or in English?
I read it in English, but had a Dutch translation nearby. It was a kind of dual reading.
How easy is it to get JAs novels in Holland, in the original English and in Dutch translation?
It is very easy to get JA novels in Holland. Any reliable bookstore will have copies in both languages, both in paperback and those lovely hard copies. Pretty expensive though, published by Everyman.
Do school students studying English ever get given a JA novel to read?
Ive never been to university studying English, but I think its very likely that Jane is being studied.
Have all the film and TV versions of her novels been screened in Holland? Were they dubbed into Dutch and were they popular?
About two years ago there was a Jane hype, due to both the film and BBC TV version of Pride and Prejudice being screened. In Holland the films arent dubbed, but subtitled. The TV version of Pride and Prejudice was very popular, as was the film of Sense and Sensibility, primarily popular because of Hugh Grant.
Do you have any Dutch friends who also read and enjoy JA?
Im sorry to say that my friends are aware of my enthusiasm for Jane but cant understand it. They consider hers to be just romantic stories. Mind you most of them have read Pride and Prejudice because they were supposed to in school, but definitely not in English. The subtlety of her observations does tend to get lost in translation. Its my guess that the Brontë sisters are more popular.
Which famous English novelists are popular with Dutch readers?
You must bear in mind that Dutch literature is strongly influenced by both Flemish and American writers. Most Dutch dont really differentiate between American and English literature as it is English to them and translations will be read. I think that probably Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence and certainly E M Forster are well liked.
What is it you especially enjoy about JAs novels?
What appeals to me most are the keen observations Jane makes of her world. She has an awareness and detachment whilst at the same time being part of her world. As a woman I find the way she distinguishes gender and the way that materialises in her world fascinating even more so because she complies with this world, and feels no need to change it, but wonders why things are the way they are. That is a kind of acceptance I would like to find. When I visited her house [at Chawton] I was thrilled to find that they left the door creaking, so whenever Jane would be
writing it would give her time to put away her notes. She is also able to maintain her dignity and not give away her outlook on life. Finally I just love her sense of humour without any kind of malice just a subtlety, being aloof somehow without being condescending. I suppose in the end I admire her for her ability to remain aloof.
Is it easy to find a biography of JA in a Dutch book shop or library or would you need to order one from the UK?
It is easy to get a biography of JA in a Dutch book shop, although they will have only the most recent ones and not so many copies.
Which is your favourite JA novel? Why?
I find it hard to choose, but I suppose its still Pride and Prejudice because of Mr Bennet. I simply adore the way he doesnt want to be part of his own world and is dragged into the role he despises a considerate husband and a trustworthy father. He plays the part, because he has no choice, but would just love to spend his days studying literature and discussing the greater themes of life with the daughter he truly admires for her brightness. He is definitely disappointed not so much that she wants to be with Darcy but that now truly he will be on his own.
Anneka adds: The Dutch language simply does not have the finesse and sense for euphemism as English. Even in Janes day the Dutch were busy making money useful but on the whole it didnt contribute to the ability to observe, contemplate and reflect.
And just in case you were wondering, some of the titles as they translated to Dutch are:
Pride & Prejudice Trots en vooroordeel
Anneke Wassink, Interviewed by Susannah Fullerton
Pemberley, Sri Lanka
Dr Brendon Gooneratne and our Patron Professor Yasmine Gooneratne advise us that applications are now open for Residencies in 2001 at the Pemberley International Study Centre, Haputale, Sri Lanka, which so pleasantly hosted our president, Susannah Fullerton, this year.
The Pemberley International Study Centre is situated in the magnificent hills of Haputale in Sri Lanka, in a tea plantation with panoramic views 4,000 feet above sea level. Set in 12 acres of landscaped gardens, the Centre provides an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, a congenial milieu for scholars of all disciplines, writers and artists, in which research projects can be initiated or completed, and books or monographs planned and written. For 3 months in each year (July - September) it is open to Residential Scholars who have been chosen by the Governing Council and Advisory Board on the basis of the merit of their applications. Proposals for projects in all fields are welcome, but special consideration is given to projects in the fields of the Environment and Conservation, Jane Austen Studies, the Humanities, History, Archaeology, and Fine Arts. Residencies are normally awarded for a period of up to 4 weeks. During their stay, Residential Scholars are expected to pursue their individual projects, but would have opportunities for mutual cross-fertilisation of ideas with fellow-Residents from different disciplines, and are encouraged to make use of them.
The Centre is intended in particular for scholars from all parts of the world with established reputations and proven track records. Applications from outstanding younger scholars, scientists and artists would, however, receive consideration. The decision of the Trustees (based on recommendation by the Select Committee) is final.
Transport between Colombo and Haputale is provided, visitors from overseas being met at Colombo International Airport on arrival, and escorted there on departure. Resident Scholars (in groups of up to 10 at any one time) are provided during their stay with study-bedrooms, accommodation and meals, and are looked after by the Centres domestic staff. Facilities in the form of typewriters, computers, printers and photocopiers are available in the office for the use of Residents, and incoming faxes are received on their behalf, free of charge. Scholars are encouraged to bring their own laptop computers and printers with them. A spouse or partner could accompany the Resident Scholar, being treated as a Centre Scholar and liable for the same Registration costs. No other family members can be accommodated at the Centre. Pets are not allowed.
The closing date for applications for Residencies in 2001 is 31 January 2001. Application Forms for 2001 may be down-loaded from Pemberleys webpage at www.pemberleyhouse.com and are available also from the Centre, together with further information about location, accommodation, registration and research facilities. Please write to the Centres postal address:
Dr Brendon Gooneratne, Director, Pemberley International Study Centre, Pemberley
House, Viharagala Estate, Nikapotha P.O.via Haputale,
With a copy to:
The North Waltham, Steventon, Ashe & Deane History Society
This group has advised us of their web site (http://www.dutton.force9.co.uk/nwsadhs/stevchur.htm), which carries a wealth of detail about their area, from which this information about the church in Janes home village of Steventon was extracted. The site is well worth a visit.
St Nicholas Church, Steventon is recorded as a manor in Doomsday Book (1086): there was certainly a manor there in Saxon times, which may have been in existence for several hundred years. At the time of Doomsday there is no mention of a church there.
Dedicated to St Nicholas, the church is a small, simple, Norman building originally constructed around 1200. The first recorded evidence for the existence of the church at Steventon was in 1238 when it was arranged that Hugh de Wengham should present a clerk and on his death Phillip de Sanderville or his heirs should present a clerk ...
Many other local churches, including those at North Waltham, Ashe and Deane, were extensively rebuilt in the 19th century, but St Nicholas at Steventon has stayed remarkably the same since it was first built. The building, with walls over a metre thick in places, is in the main constructed from local flints set in a soft lime mortar and rendered over. Much of the stone for the corners and the various door and window surrounds came from Binstead in the Isle of Wight.
Steventon church is best known for its associations with Jane Austen. It is the single most important building left standing in Steventon which relates to her life when she lived there even the Rectory where she lived is now gone. This church was an everyday part of her life, and she would certainly have no problems in recognising it as the church in which she worshipped for the first 25 years of her life.
Her father George Austen, two of her brothers James and Henry, and her nephew William Knight (the son of her brother Edward Austen Knight) were all Rectors of Steventon. Prior to the Rev George Austen taking over the living, his cousin the Rev Henry Austen MA had been the Rector. Thus members of the Austen family were Rectors of Steventon for a period of 114 years, from 1759 to 1873, more than any other family in the history of the church.
Jane was baptised here as were four of her siblings. Her grandmother, her eldest brother James and both his wives, Anne and Mary, as well as Janes nephew William Knight and several members of his family are buried here, as are a number of her friends and acquaintances. Every memorial, bar one, inside the church, has a direct connection to Jane Austen.
A visit to this simple village church offers the same tranquil peace that no doubt Jane enjoyed.
JA in Argentina!
There is another Jane Austen society in the southern hemisphere a group has recently been established in South America. Anyone wishing to find out about their programme, or who would like to be in touch with them, should contact Patrick Orpen Dudgeon, Aguero 1881 PB "A", 1425 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As Adelaide winds down an interesting year and looks forward to the Birthday Lunch, we have a year of happy memories behind us.
We had a great lecture with Gordon Barret QC on Women and their rights in the time of JA that slid from 1810 right through to Adelaide in 1962 when SA women could first serve on juries.
We looked at Circulating Libraries in UK from 1850-1950, and followed with a court case defending the merits of Henry Crawford, with an articulate and silver tongued Barbara Bauldock as defence counsel, who impressed half the jury with promises of Faithful forever and left the other half in disbelief. The Judge nearly used the Black Cap, but sent him off not proven.
We are having a special talk from a member just returned from the Boston JASNA conference on P&P, with her impressions. The Birthday lunch looks like having a Mystery visitor to entertain and delight the audience.
We wish all members a Wonderful Christmas and New Year.
JA New Zealand ~ Report From Christchurch
Since the last Newsletter we have concentrated upon cyberspace in our quest for fresh material about Jane Austen and her writings. Have we anything to wish for, faced with a labyrinth of fascinating sites? We must admit that there are occasions when we would like a sign post such as this illustration by Ellen G Hill in Constance Hills Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends to speed us in the right direction!
Our focus upon the internet has been concurrent with the entry of Christene Evans into the ranks of cybersurfers. Many other JASA members will
recognise something of their own experiences in her short account of the ups and downs of a computer novice. Christene writes:
Buying a computer back in May has been the biggest decision of my year so far. A new world (www) has opened up to me since then. Thereve been times, however, when Ive wondered if Id ever understand its workings. My poor old octogenarian brain-cells hadnt worked so hard for years.
Luckily for me, my friend and fellow-JASA member, Ruth Williamson, her husband, Ian, and twelve-year-old son, Ross, came to my rescue. Without their encouragement, advice and constant readiness to smooth my path I would have been stumped on many a sticky occasion. Although I am still learning Ive at least reached the point where I can enjoy what my computer can do for me.
One of my pleasures is finding sites relating to Jane Austen and her works, such as JASAs own, plus Republic of Pemberley (www.pemberley.com) and The Pride and Prejudice Photo Album, (www.geocities.com/ehlenews/pride) which has 73 images- I counted em!
We prised ourselves from our PCs when Patricia Rozemas Mansfield Park reached our cinema screens here. Forewarned is supposed to be forearmed, and we had heard that it might endanger our health. Even so we harboured a lingering hope that the production might pleasantly surprise us. Alas, that hope perished before we had even warmed our cinema seats. We will not attempt a critique here but agree with Lorrie Clark in her review (Patricia Rozemas Mansfield Park: Lark Descending) that Rozemas heavy handed moral earnestness turns the movie into pure 20th-century Gothic melodrama. We suggest members wishing for a comprehensive analysis could do no better than to read this assessment.
We will only add that if a movie takes the title of a novel by Jane Austen it owes fidelity not only to the plot but also the characters and theme of the original material. This movie lacks such faithfulness and in our opinion it requires another title. We have thought of several, including Fanny Goes Gothic or Travesty of Mansfield Park.
It seems that film is far from being the only medium in which our contemporaries seek fame (or infamy, depending upon point of view) by reworking the novels or even the lives of literary icons. One James Tully has written a novel called The Crimes of Charlotte Brontë and as Ken Strongman, a reviewer in our local press comments, It is to be hoped that Tully never turns his criminological mind to Jane Austen. We can only echo that sentiment.
At the same time, as Christchurch media commentator Brian Priestley has written, it is delightful to see Jane Austen still very much in the public eye. [Some] years ago it was the habit of up and coming New Zealand writers to deride early British novelists. One woman writer (whose name I forget) was particularly scornful of her. Well, there is Austen and where are they? We can only guess.
We are also pleased to report other happenings with an Austen theme. In September a national NZ station broadcast an excellent British radio production of Lady Susan in ten episodes. It featured such well known voices as those of Harriet Walter, Maggie Steed, and Imelda Staunton. We highly recommend it.
Ruth also attended a local reading groups lively discussion of Emma recently. She was impressed by how well a number of first time readers of the novel had picked the clues about Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill and the piano. She does not recall having done so herself! With characters so well drawn that many of these readers found themselves picturing previous and subsequent lives for the inhabitants of Highbury, Ruth was delighted to note that this groups first venture into Austen country had won more devotees. Another of the six novels and the biography by Claire Tomalin are proposed for discussion by the group next year.
Ruth Williamson and Christene Evans
Chawton House Library, from The Female Spectator
The Library, located in Chawton near Jane Austens home, aims as you know to provide a research area for the study of the works of early English women writers and a collection of rare books. Among their many activities, the Library has begun a Novels-on-Line project. This project has involved a host of volunteers re-typing 17th and 18th century texts, and its planned that up to 14 novels will be on-line by the end of the year.
The first title is already published on-line. Called The Unexpected Legacy by Rachel Hunter (originally published in 1804), the novel is by all accounts a fairly rollicking read. The plot moves from Derbyshire and across the English Channel to Paris, and involves betrayals, captures, sacrifices, escapes, searches, journeys of all sorts and losses and reunions. Jane Austen described this novel to her niece Anna as one in which the heroine is always in floods of tears. Ripping!
The Unexpected Legacy is on-line at the Chawton House Library website at www.chawton.org
JASA members who attended the September meeting in Sydney and recall the performance of Courtship by Kim Hicks will be pleased to know that the Jane Austen Society of Melbourne also arranged a later performance by Kim.
Also at the recommendation of our president, Susannah Fullerton, the Melbourne society had the pleasure of hosting Maggie Lane as a special guest speaker in August. Maggie spoke on Eating and Entertaining with Elegance, as she had at our July conference.
The Australian Brontë Association
The Brontë Society Programme for 2001 has been tentatively set as follows:
Friday 23rd February, 6-7.30 pm
Saturday 7th April, 2-4 pm
Friday 22nd June, 7.30 - 10 pm
Saturday 1st September, 2-4 pm
September, Saturday 22 - Sunday 23
Saturday 8th December, 12 noon- 3 pm
For further information contact president Christopher Cooper on
Jane & the Internet
Down the Kennet & Avon Canal with Jane Austen
Think Jane Austen, think ... canals? Why not? This page of a canal-devoted website takes us on a journey from the Thames to Bristol, pointing out associations between Jane and various towns and sites along the route of the canal. Even if there is no direct evidence of Jane having travelled down the canal, its a delightful journey with more than enough possible links to Jane to make it worthwhile.
As JASA members with access to the internet will realise, the vast resources open to those who enter Jane Austens name into any search engine may even eclipse those of the indefatigable Mrs Elton herself! By using the lauded Google engine alone, a mere 81800 pages (and counting) are available.
A site JASA members may enjoy visiting for both old and new perspectives on our favourite writer is the JA Bulletin Board, www.geocities. com/ashdennis/table.html.
Those interested in reading about Austen-Mania may see the first of several related articles at www.salon.com/02dec1995/features/austen.html
There is also a very useful collection of URLs on the subject of JA at www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/9140/jane.htm
The internet is sometimes also a marvellous resource for information long out of circulation in the print media. One of JASAs NZ members, Christene Evans, has long treasured her copy of Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends (1901) by Constance Hill. She rescued it from a dusty shelf in an old curiosity shop, and has long wondered why an enterprising publisher has not reprinted it. Now, it is freely available to us all on the internet! It awaits readers at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hill/austen/homes.html.
The Year 2001
The JASA calendar for next year looks as imaginative and delightful as ever, with interesting speakers at our meetings, study day, country weekend, and one-day conference.
The 2001 Country Weekend, always a popular event of the JASA calendar, will be held at the Marist Retreat Centre in the Southern Highlands on 23-25 March. The centre was built in 1906 and even has its own vineyard, so sampling the local wines will be an added bonus of the weekend! It has a peaceful garden setting, surrounded by 200 hectares of gently rolling farm land (more active members can copy Catherine Morland and roll down the green slopes!), and offers tennis courts, table tennis and a chapel for Sunday service.
Accommodation for the weekend is dormitory style, so those wishing for something more upmarket should look for guesthouses, motels etc, of which there are plenty, in the area. All meals, from Friday dinner to Sunday lunch, are included in the price. The Marist Retreat Centre is situated 4 km from Mittagong. Those people travelling by public transport should let the JASA committee know, so that arrangements can be made to collect them from the station. The weekend actually commences with dinner and an after-dinner session on Friday.
The topic is Jane Austen and London, and in this rural setting we will be discussing a variety of aspects of the London Jane Austen knew. She visited the city often to see relatives, to confer with her publishers, to shop, to take her nieces to the dentist, to attend the theatres etc. She also, of course, sent several of her characters to London the Dashwood sisters, Mr Knightley, Mr Elton, Jane Bennet while other characters actually reside there the John Knightleys, the Gardiners, Mrs Jennings and the Thorpes. Where exactly did they live (in fashionable or unfashionable areas?), where did they go shopping, what were the advantages and disadvantages of London life? These questions will be answered during our weekend.
Book early to avoid disappointment.
The 2001 JASA Conference, as in every alternate year, is a day function, to be held on 14 July at the National Maritime Museum, where we have held previous conferences, and where the conference facilities are excellent. We are promised that this year the catering will also be excellent! With the subject theme of Jane Austen and Love, and some great speakers including the new President of JASNA, Joan Klingel Ray, whose report on the JAS UK AGM appears on page 23 of this Newsletter we have high hopes of a marvellous day. Numbers however are limited, so do book early.
Your membership Dont forget your renewal subscriptions are due. The Committee has cleverly managed to keep these fees the same as last year, so please get them in early. The order form attached should make the process easy for you.
JASA Committee 2001
A nomination form is included with this issue for the 2001 committee, which is to be appointed at the Annual General Meeting on 17 February 2001. You will note that five stalwarts are prepared to be re-nominated for their positions: they are our president, Susannah Fullerton (thank heavens); vice president Yvette Field; Treasurer Elizabeth Budge; Secretary Meghan Hayward, and membership secretary Brigitte Lucey. All members owe them a debt of gratitude for their continuing and considerable contribution.
Two members will not be re-nominating: Anne Harbers has been an excellent publicity officer for the Society for the past nine years, making her the longest serving committee member ever. She will be much missed maintaining an appropriate profile for the Society is an essential task. Dennise Harris has been with us for only a year, as special events assistant, but has added much common sense to our discussion. We thank them both most sincerely for their contribution to the Society.
These vacated positions must be filled, and members are asked to consider if they themselves can offer to assist, or persuade a friend to make such an offer.
Members go to the Theatre
Some 50 members attended the production of Agatha Christies Unexpected Guest at the Genesian Theatre, and met the cast afterwards. The production is excellent, with two extremely strong and professional leads, played by Loretta Tolnai and Andrew Trump, and Pamela Whalan was suitably matriarchal. Christies twists and turns of plot were a delight, and the final denouement was very well done one of her best.
Our thanks to Pamela Whalan and the Fundraising Committee for organising an excellent and enjoyable evening.
Members enjoyed the pleasant party to the Theatre Royal on 16 November to see Wildes The Importance of Being Earnest, on an extremely wet evening, and many expressed their appreciation of Jill Rogers organisation of the event.
The play however, to many, was a disappointment. Patricia Routledge, who has performed the role of Lady Bracknell in this play in London, could certainly have been more impressive, and apart from Cecily, one member reviewer says,
the actors seemed to feel it necessary to set up each of Wildes witticisms in the manner of the worst of music hall comedians. It must have been the waiting for the imaginary boom-tish from the percussion section that made their delivery uneven and the comic timing off. The set was OK. There were costumes.
Great outing, successful in its aims of creating an outing for members, and in raising funds for equipment. Pity about the production!
Our congratulations and warmest thanks to organiser Jill Rogers.
Annual General Meeting
of the Jane Austen Society of Australia Inc.
will be held on
Members are urged to attend.
28 December 2000