Digression: Holiday 2018 wrap up & drawing lesson.

Bit of a late holiday wrap up I know.  December was busy with the usual holiday preparations of gift shopping wrapping, shipping and mailing as well as baking and decorating and shuffling of the furniture and plants to make room. My two breaks were attending the Jane Austen tea and The Christmas at Pemberley performance.



My cousin visited from California with his wife and two daughters six and three (also my cousins), so we did a bit of extra holiday decorating and Rudy came down from the attic and stood watch at the front door.  And my mum has now touched up his “nose” with red paint.



They came and had Christmas Day dinner with us and returned on the Friday to have a bit of time with my mum in her art studio.  I set up the easels for them to use.

My mother did her “draw the Egyptian cat” lesson.


The older girl drew the cat.


The younger one just a lovely design.


It was wonderful time.  I wish I had all their energy but just as Austen enjoyed her younger relatives during visits so did I.


Digression: New Year and new seawall.

2018 was a trying year, during the winter there were six storms.  Our seawall began failing when my dad became ill in 2013.  In December 2015, the wall fell and our back yard continued to fall into the sea — as I applied for the required permits from our town, state and the federal governments to put in a new seawall — the project exceeded my repair permit and also did not qualify as an emergency repair. IMG_0121.JPG

Last year, we started out the six storms with a blizzard and record tide.  We lost our washer and dryer and our spare fridge in the cellar but thankfully not the furnace as I bailed water away from it set up high enough. My mom called out to neighbors across the street and they shoveled snow so she could put the car in the street — because the tide hit the street level fence on the beach next door, came to the top of our driveway.


Ice floes drifted in and it took myself and our landscaper several days to smash them and pitch the ice over the side.



Subsequent storms were not as bad but I still had several inches of water in the cellar–at the end of January and during storms in February and March 2018.

Without a seawall and a gaping hole facing out to sea it was difficult and Boston Harbor made one unwelcome visit after another.

Finally, I wrapped permitting this summer and sent out bids.  Our contractor, North Shore Marine, out of Salem, MA worked from October to December 2018, putting in our new seawall–which cost more than my undergraduate and graduate degrees.


The rest of the job fixing the yard and the driveway will be done in the spring and any repairs from further damage to the old part of the seawall — it took a beating over the two (2) years I went through permitting but I cannot afford to go through permitting again or to put in a new wall and replace it — so I’m hoping to keep repairing it the best we can, even though everyone is telling me it’s in bad shape.

The fence contractor came yesterday and then the ducks came to visit.


To be continued.

Letter to Cassandra, Wed. 11 Feb. 1801-Wed. Feb. 11, 1801–from Manydown to Marylebone, London. (Image courtesy/via Google/Expedia UK).

This letter is from Jane Austen writing from Manydown, to her older sister Cassandra who is staying in Marylebone, London presumably with their brother Henry.  Austen’s letter mainly contains various news items of their Navy seafaring brother Charles but also including a good dose of her wicked wit: “Charles spent three pleasant days in Lisbon–They were well satisfied with their Royal Passenger, whom they found fat, jolly & affable, who talks of Ly Augusta as his wife & seems much attached to her.”  Per the notes, Austen is noting at the Duke of Sussex, 6th son of George III contracting a “morganatic marriage” in 1793 with Judy Augusta Murray, the daughter of the Earl of Dunmore.

Sidebar and to note dictionary definition of Morganatic:  Of, relating to or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of the higher rank.”

Austen also mentions Charles plans to visit them along with a mixed reaction to the news most likely of their father retiring and their eventual removal: “He received my letter, communicating our plans, before he left England, was much surprised of course, but is quite reconciled to them, & means to come to Steventon once more while Steventon is ours.”  Austen mentions scheduling not just for Cassandra but also for Catherine Bigg as well as her own travel plans: “My visit to Miss Lyford begins tomorrow, & ends on Saturday, when I shall have an opportunity of returning here at no expence as the carriage must take Cath [Bigg] to Basingstoke.–She meditates your returning into Hampshire together & if the Time should accord, it would not be undesirable.  She talks of only staying a fortnight, & as that will bring your stay in Berkeley Street to three weeks, I suppose you would not wish to make it longer.” (Austen’s own spelling and grammar).

The address where this letter was sent to Cassandra was: Miss Austen, 24, Upper Berekely Street, Portman Square, London.  Via several online searches I found the Hadleigh Hotel in London W1H 7QH described as “budget hotel” in a “classic townhouse” located in Marylebone near the Marble Arch.  To note, not to be confused with a family run Hadleigh Hotel in Eastbourne, Sussex.

Cites to:  Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press 2011 and Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1987.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly — A lovely Holiday Play.

Last weekend, a Janeite friend treated me to a ticket for the play Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Massachusetts.  It was part of my holiday/Christmas present, and I had treated her to the JASNA December/Austen birthday tea a few weeks earlier. The cast was wonderful and it was a nice break to get away from the stress of work and holiday preparations.  Some spoilers follow.

The play was a lot of fun and enjoyable if you love Jane Austen and take it for what it is    — being a light derivation.  The playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon — I think did something interesting taking minor character and socially awkward Mary here and giving her some growth and character development.

The play focuses on Lizzy hosting her family for Christmas.  She in Darcy are quite in the bloom of love and the biggest glitch seems to be Elizabeth’s adopting a German custom of having a Christmas tree in their drawing room.  Which is a bit of a recurring gag.  I will leave the authenticity to the Regency history experts of which there are many, I’m not sure how common, or uncommon Christmas trees were in the upper class British society at that time.  To note, Austen often includes in her letters from her brother’s estate that they are dining fashionably late and/or at Steventon how they dine unfashionably early with my point being if having a tree was “trendy” the Darcys being affluent would not be so uncommon but then again this is all in the imaginary world extended by Austen and adopted by these two talented playwrights.

Jane is pregnant and Bigley is over the moon, both sisters discuss Mary’s growth — noting even though she sometimes says awkward things she is much more witty and appropriate — Elizabeth noting that Mary is a lot like her with her quips. Darcy also notes  to Mary enjoying conversations with her now — which Mary is pleased to hear since it’s sort of well known tie in here how Darcy puts up with a lot from the Bennets for his love of Lizzy.

The action also involved the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh who as passed away.  Apparently her efforts to see everything passed along to her daughter Anne is not legal, Anne will inherit her finances but not Rosings Park.  That manor, and stately estate will be passed along to an obscure male heir Arthur de Bourgh.  Arthur has a bit of that social awkwardness taking words too literally not understanding irony and he and Mary click right away on several levels.

Mixups ensure and I will note the playwrights include the idea of letters as Austen often did although there is some mischief tied in.   In our program, there was a short interview with Margot Melcom, one of the playwrights and dramaturg.  In this interview, Melcom admits the two came up with the idea of this play because and I’m quoting here now: “The impulse came from both a practical place — all theater companies need good holiday shows to produce, and there just aren’t that many to choose from — and a place of desire to see a different kind of holiday story.”

Now, many take issue with trying to pull Jane Austen into the overwhelming glare of the holiday/winter/Christmas season.  I recently read an article by academic/scholar/roller derby specialist Devoney Looser who had her own opinions about Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.  While I think Looser made some valid points about co-opting Pride and Prejudice, I think it’s unfair to roll the play in with a lot of other fare out there including as she noted, the latest batch of Christmas/made for TV movies most notably airing n the Hallmark channel.

Many of these original TV movies were made from books for the Hallmark Channel, now not so much. The two this year (2018) that I’ve seen were very watered down and while I think mash-ups can be a good idea —  in that they can get folks interested and hooked into eventually read the source material, i.e. Austen’s books.  I’m saying this year not so much — it feels like someone banged them out on a laptop at Starbuck’s making sure there were a few Austen references to provide some sort of a carrot/hook.

But again, I would not include this play with this other holiday/pop culture fare, but that is my opinion.  And for some reason, this is just me.  I do tend to think of Pride and Prejudice as a Christmas book for some reason, I guess because of it’s tone and their discussion of balls and parties.  Yes Austen has ball and parties in her other novels but it’s just the way Pride and Prejudice hits me I guess and I do tend to re-read it around this time of year.

Cheers to all and Happy Holidays!


Free Online Course about Jane Austen 1/14/19.

Text and Image below via Jane Austen Society of North America/JASNA Newsletter:

“Free Online Jane Austen Course Starts January 14

If you missed it the first time around, you now have a second chance to take the free online course “Jane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity.” Developed by specialists at the University of Southampton and available through FutureLearn, the five-week course will examine the influences that shaped Austen’s life and writing and the growth of her celebrity.

The course starts January 14, 2019, and will be taught by Gillian Dow, Associate Professor in English at the University of Southampton and Executive Director of the Library at Chawton House, and Kim Simpson, Chawton House Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-19) and lecturer in eighteenth-century literature at the University of Southampton.”

More information via the link below.