Jane in 41 Objects — Exhibit 2017

Via JASNA email update — the Jane Austen’s House Museum in the U.K. — is holding a year long exhibit–called: Jane Austen in 41 objects.  Objects include her writing desk, topaz cross, and because of space limits they will be rotated through the year.

For more about the exhibit — here is a link/url to the museum’s web site:  https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/41-objects?platform=hootsuite


Joan Vredenburgh at JASNA, Mass., May 21, 2017

Today, attended an interesting lecture hosted by Mass. Chapter of JASNA, featuring a lecture by Joan Vredenburgh, who teaches at the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) in Newport, RI.  Her talk today focused and explored the perceptions of the different military branches, Army, Navy, and Marines during the Regency Era in England and connections/references in Austen’s novels. Enjoyed her talk very much, and on a somewhat different note — today was speaking to a colleague — a U.S. Navy veteran — he said that they cannot use blue ink, only black ink and officers must use red ink.  Found that really captivating and had to share!

Letter to Cassandra, September 5, 1796

Writing from Rowling, to her older sister Cassandra home in Steventon, Austen opens with a big query: “I shall be extremely anxious to hear the Event of your Ball, & shall hope to receive so long & minute an account of every particular that I shall be tired of reading it.”  Sounds like someone wanted the 411!

Austen’s insistence on details from Cassandra continue, as well as updates of her own social activities, noting that she opened the ball, and she gives her sister many details of her dancing partners, attendees, and

continues to recount activities, people seen and spoken to including this bit of clandestine news: “Mr. Richard Harvey is going to be married; but as it is a great secret, & only known to half the Neighborhood, you must not mention it.  The Lady’s name is Musgrove.”

This is pretty interesting, since Austen incorporates secret engagements into her narratives: including Sense and Sensibility (Lucy Steele and Edward), and Emma (Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax).  It seems then, that Jane Austen  was inspired by real life events.  Also worth to note the last name Musgrove — which Austen will use for one of her minor but important characters, Louisa Musgrove in her novel Persuasion — Louisa in full flirt mode takes a ill-timed fall off the Cobb (walkway) in Lyme.

Returning to Austen’s letter, she directly appeals to Cassandra for advice about a parting gifts to her hosts?  “I am in great Distress. — I cannot determine whether I shall give the Richis half a guinea or only five Shillings when I go away. Counsel me, amiable Miss Austen, and tell me which will be the most.”  Definitely seems, like Austen relied for Cassandra to give her direct and appropriate advice in handling the matter, protocol, and Jane Austen seemed to be concerned about not doing the right thing, or committing some sort of faux pas.

This letter closes with even more news, and another imploring of Cassandra: “Pray remember me to Everybody who does not enquire after me.”  Not sure if this another aspect of Austen’s wicked wit — I tend to think it is — sort of a private joke between sisters, because she ends with this: “Give my Love to Mary Harrison, & tell her I wish whenever she is attached to a Young Man, some respectable Dr. Marchmont may keep them apart for five Volumes.  Apparently, this reference to Dr. Marhmont a character the novel Camilla.  All cites/notes to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Digression: Anne with an “E”

Via Lithub I read an interesting essay/editorial at the Atlantic magazine online, which discussed the new Netflix series, adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.  The author talks about how after viewing the adaptation and then re-reading the book, she got more of a sense of the darkness.  In the new adaptation there will be more of a focus on Anne’s past via flashbacks — suggesting perhaps PTSD from her orphan years.  The author also sort of dismisses I think the beloved CBC’s adaption that ran on PBS for many years.

While I realize that Anne came from a dark and unstable background, I think it is her unending optimism that sets her apart — as misguided sometimes as it may be.  Kindred spirit has been part of my vocabulary since I read the first book, and also “getting into scrapes.”  For some reason I had a stretch of strange, little accidents and/or scrapes back in my late 20’s–which resulted in minor injuries and visits to the emergency room–on the last one I said to the nurse doing the intake interview, “I just keep getting into all these scrapes–thinking I’m going through this Anne of Green Gables phase or something.”

And without missing a beat she looked up at me and asked: “Well you didn’t try to climb up on the roof pole did you?”  Yes you know you live in a well-read city, when your ER nurse gets your Anne of Green Gable  reference.

Generally, these days I’m not sure about all these adaptions.  To be clear, I have nothing against book to film, or book to TV adaptions.  If done well they can be a nice companion of sorts to the original book.  But I feel like we are perhaps re-visiting  and recycling things a little too much and in the process to do this revisiting/recycling, putting darker/different shades of meaning on them — really moving away from the original books.  Full disclosure here, I don’t have Netflix or Hulu so I may not see any of these more recent literary adaptations unless they are rebroadcast later on regular cable/television — years later, etc.   Here is a URL if you want to check out the editorial/essay at the Atlantic:



Mrs. Austen & Mrs. Bennet

Today on this Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., I’m thinking about two ladies, both British — one fictional, mother of a beloved literary character, and the one was the mother of one of my favorite authors.

Of all of Austen’s maternal characters — probably think Mrs. Bennet is the most well known, if not iconic in her own way.  Tends to come off the page as obsessed with marrying off her many  daughters, a bit of a gossip and busy body — via mean and dismissive remarks about her neighbor’s the Lucas’, her sister Mrs. Gardener and her husband, and also as a bit of a hypochondriac.  This image has been cultivated and reaffirmed by many of the film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.

Reading through Austen’s collection of letters, there are many references to Mrs. Austen, chiefly about her health or more specifically comments about her health, complaints, and mostly if she felt she is improving or becoming ill — using the latter.

In these letters to her older sister Cassandra, Jane Austen almost always refers to “my mother” — which seems a little bit stiff or formal.  And realize there were conventions and civilities during this time, in personal correspondence and letters — still it seems strange she would not say or write: “our mother.”  Makes me think it was some sort of intimate code or signal between sisters.  But perhaps more likely, this is just my writerly imagination taking hold here.

All cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth edition, collected and edited by Deirdre LeFay, Oxford University Press, 2011