The popular Jane Austen film series returns in September to the Eudora Welty House and Garden. The 1995 adaptation of Persuasion, one of Austen’s best-known novels, will be screened on Friday, September 21. The film, directed by Roger Michell, was the theatrical debut for the British actress Amanda Root, who stars as the protagonist, Anne…
In this letter by Jane Austen to her older sister Cassandra, visiting their brother Edward at his Godmersham estate in Kent, Austen is supplying news from home in Steventon, placing order for fabric so she can plan clothes (gowns), and detailing more of the transition as the Austen’s plan to remove to Bath continues to evolve. “I have nothing to say about Manydown, but I write because you will expect to hear from me, and because if I waited another day or two, I hope your visit to Goodnestone would make my letter too late in its arrival.”
The first order of business is a discussion of gowns, “I shall want two new coloured gowns for the summer, for my pink one will not do more than clear me from Steventon. I shall not trouble you, however, to get more than one of them, and that is to be a plain brown cambric muslin, for morning wear; the other, which is to be a pretty yellow and white cloud, I mean to buy in Bath.” (Austen’s own spelling.)
Austen continues with her shopping request of Cassandra, providing certain details including a great description of color and choice of it: “Buy two brown ones, if you please, and both of a length, but one longer than the other–it is for a tall woman. Seven yards for my mother, seven yards and a half for me; a dark brown, but the kind of brown is left to your own choice, and I had rather they were different, as it will be always something to say, to dispute about which is prettiest. They must be cambric muslin.”
There is then a short weather update and relation of a story of Austen’s recent visit and run in: “I arrived at Ashe Park before the party from Deane, and was shut up in the drawing-room with Mr. Holder alone for ten minutes.” Per the notes, Austen mentioned him previously as being a bad loser at card games. “We met nobody but ourselves, played at vingt-un again, and were very cross.”
The letter precedes with dutiful relations of coming and goings including balls, and news of both family and friends with a dose of her wicked wit: “I would not give much for Mr. Rice’s chance of living at Deane; he builds his hope, I find, not upon anything that his mother has written, but upon the effect of what he has written himself. He must write a great deal better than those eyes indicate if he can persuade a perverse and narrow-minded woman to oblige those whom she does not love.”
And commentary on Cassandra’s upcoming trip to London, where she will be purchasing the fabric for the gowns: “I hope you will see everything worthy notice, from the Opera House to Henry’s office in Cleveland Court; and I shall expect you to lay in a stock of intelligence that may procure me amusement for a twelvemonth to come.”
All notes/cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 2011.
Many years ago, I worked with this one attorney who always used what I refer to as five (5) or ten (10) dollar words. He used them both in conversation and in his writing, which I learned covering for his regular legal assistant when she was out on leave. Once preparing a court brief for him, I highlighted the word: “August” which means: “marked by majestic dignity or grandeur.” He never acknowledged it and left it in the brief — so much for “Plain English.”
This was actually the second vocabulary incident we had between us. The rule of the office was if you arrived and the receptionist or the clerk were not in yet, you had to stay out front temporarily until one of them or the office manager/division manager arrived. One stormy morning, my dad drove me to the train and I arrived early, sitting there reading my book and he walked out of his office and said something like: “I had no idea you were here. Usually it’s so cacophonous out here.”
Must of looked at him blankly because who uses the word “cacophonous” in normal daily conversation? And I probably needed more coffee that early. I’m fine saying cacophony but cacophonous does not roll off my tongue, still to this day. While this was flickering through my mind he said — “It means noisy.” And I nodded in acknowledgement, but I think the phone rang or someone else walked in and saved me from having to make any kind of a vocal answer.
A few months later, his assistant was out sick and was I covering on an assignment for him that day. Waiting for him to review it and sign it I saw a paper weight on his desk with a stamp. So I asked him: “Are you a philatelist?” Yes I used the fancy, high end word for stamp collector on purpose.
He looked up, caught my eyes and said: “No it was a gift.” It was unsaid, because no one really said he was being affected using these high end vocabulary words, I think because he was and still is rather handsome — recently he was having a lunch/meeting in our cafeteria nearby, recognized me and we said a quick hello and wave as he left and all the ladies I was having lunch with were duly enchanted and asked: “Who was that?”
Now this all bothers me because recently I had vocabulary incidents where I used two (2) words to people, in their 20’s and 30’s, they were unsure what I meant. “Abscond” which I thought essentially means to steal, but the dictionary definition is: “to store up and conceal, to depart secretly and hide oneself,” and “copacetic” means: “very satisfactory.” Copacetic I used asking a new attorney — essentially if things were okay, if he was settling in at the end of a first week in the office. He laughed and looked the meaning up online and said/paraphrasing: “Like an SAT vocabulary word?” The SAT being the awful tests we take in the U.S. for college/university entrance, admission and scholarships, etc.
So I’m reworking how how I speak again, trying not to use words that are too affected or obscure even if I like them, or I am particularly fond of the sound of the word — which is kind of a thing with me and I thought perhaps with writers in general.
“Disingenuous” is a word I edited out of my rotation awhile ago. According to the dictionary definition it means: “lacking in candor also giving a false appearance of simple frankness, calculating.” I just think it tends to mean false, misleading and dishonest and I use those words instead — instead of the $5 or $10 word.
All cites for vocabulary words to: Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1987, a gift from Brown University, upon my high school graduation, their Brown University Book Award via the Brown University Club of Boston: “In honor of this student’s selection as the junior who best combines a high degree of ability in English expression both written and spoken with those outstanding personal qualities which, in the words of the Brown Charter of 1764, give promise that the student become one of the succession of men and women duly qualified for discharging the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.”
To note, and per full disclosure, I did not apply to Brown University, two (2) of my classmates did and attended. Honestly, they had much better scores and advance sciences in math and science than I did, although I held my own in English. I attended a small university on Long Island New York, that rewarded my AP English score with letting me opt out of the required Freshman English I and II, allowing me to take Linguistics and Sign Language. Sign Language was particularly great because the “gifted and talented kids” in grade school, had it as part of their curriculum but I was never selected for that program, again because of lower math and science scores.
So a couple of things digressing me today. Last December, Mass. JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America), had a lovely December meeting, concert and tea at Endicott House in Dedham, Massachusetts, US. There my friend and I purchased to benefit the Mass. Chapter, a 2018 Calendar full of Jane Austen trivia and factoids — I did not use it as a regular calendar and will keep it for reference.
This calendar notes that two (2) of Austen’s novels begin their stories in September: Sense and Sensibility and also Pride and Prejudice. This is interesting to me because I usually think of Sense and Sensibility as a “spring” book and I’ve said/posted this before, due to all the balls and parties, Pride and Prejudice a sort of holiday book re-reading it often in December, as a respite from all the winter holiday shopping, baking, etc.
To note, I just renewed my membership with JASNA which is national and allows me to receive email newsletters and both ebook and hard copy journals with interesting articles. Mass. JASNA covers all of Massachusetts and also I believe parts of New Hampshire and Rhode Island. For many years though they met in Boston, but it’s specifically not a Boston chapter, although one of the board members/officers had a connection teaching/working at Wheelock College in Boston. So when I started regular attending meetings/lectures, occasionally concerts/teas, they were all held at the beautiful George H. Wightman mansion in Brookline, Massachusetts where there was a small parking lot for the suburban members as well as easy access via Boston’s subway line for public transport commuters like myself.
Sadly, Wheelock College merged with Boston University. A few Mass. JASNA meeting were held in the fall of 2017 at a different Wheelock building with limited parking and amenities. This spring we were able to return to the original location in Brookline but now that the JASNA board member is retiring from Wheelock, that “sweetheart deal” does not stand and they are as Austen would say, “removing to Natick Massachusetts” to meet at a local community center there.
I am known as what is often referred to (usually disdainfully) as a bridge/tunnel commuter relying on public transportation, which in the Boston area is generally pretty good although the system is old and there are often mechanical issues especially during the extreme weather both cold and hot.
To reach the new JASNA Mass. meeting location, there is limited public transport a commuter train out of Boston although Sunday schedules are difficult and have less options on various timetables, and then there will be a fifteen minute walk–although like Austen I’m a dedicated walker but I don’t like walking highways, etc. so I will have to see about this because it may entail leaving the house at 10AM or earlier to make a 2pm meeting and then the reverse journey back.
Right now, I have a friend and fellow Janeite that will often attend meetings. I just renewed her membership as well for her birthday. And she has offered to drive to meetings so I will be able to attend with her on occasion and I will have to see if the commute can be done by train from the city and walking, etc.
Most of the Board members live in the central/west suburbs so I understand the removal, but also why I choose not to try to help with planning or join the board/steering committee, since logistically I can not travel out for meetings/organize JASNA events, but at least for a little while I will be able to attend some of the events. The rest time will tell.
First edition of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to be auctioned in New York City with an estimated value a little over $23K US. Here is a link to the Post’s article: https://nypost.com/2018/08/29/first-edition-of-pride-and-prejudice-is-going-up-for-auction
Here is a link to the discussion on Pictorial/Jezebel — quite a large range of view about Austen here positive, negative, neutral, etc. https://pictorial.jezebel.com/is-this-too-much-money-or-not-enough-for-a-first-editio-1828685753