Sunday, January 6, 2019

Northanger Abbey - More Than Gothic

"The luxury of a...frightened imagination over the pages of Udolpho"
"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce? -- Have you a stout heart? -- Nerves fit for sliding pannels and tapestry?" 
Northanger Abbey chapter 20

Event:       JASNA CWNY January Meeting
Topic:       Northanger Abbey discussion led by Celia Easton
When:       Saturday January 19, 2019 at 1 pm
Where:      Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

We will have registrations available for our February meeting
The History of Chocolate (with samples)

More on that later. For now the registration form can also be found by clicking below

This is the year of Northanger Abbey. Although Northanger Abbey was originally published along with Persuasion in 1818, JASNA has made the novel the theme for the 2019 AGM in Williamsburg, VA. So, we begin our year with a discussion of Northanger Abbey led by Celia Easton. Bring along your thoughts and opinions about Northanger Abbey and chime in, or, if you prefer, just enjoy listening to “the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation”.

Northanger Abbey is most often interpreted as Jane Austen’s dissection of the Gothic novel. Catherine Morland’s fascination with gothic novels forms the backbone of the novel. It’s a fascination that leads her into plenty of trouble at Northanger Abbey.

However, one may ask, is there anything more to this novel? As with all of Jane Austen’s novels, the answer is yes. In her paper “Northanger Abbey: Money in the Bank” [1] Sheryl Craig interprets the novel in terms of the 1797 Restriction Act. The Restriction Act basically severed the connection between paper money and the gold that was supposed to provide the value behind paper money. Sheryl writes

“…the 1797 Restriction Act, [was] an event that had an economic impact upon everyone living in Britain at the time as it called into question the value of paper money, the reliability of the Bank of England, and the honesty of the British government.”

Viewed this way, Northanger Abbey is a story about truth, honesty, and reliability.

Celia Easton in “Jane Austen and the Enclosure Movement: The Sense and Sensibility of Land Reform”[2] takes on the issue of enclosure in Jane Austen’s novels. She points out that the issue of land enclosure turns up in many of Jane Austen’s novels. Celia writes,

“Northanger Abbey’s “kitchen garden” is walled, and includes numerous hot houses. Catherine believed “a whole parish to be at work within the inclosure”… Catherine’s immediate view romanticizes farm work: …The enclosed kitchen garden may be blissfully viewed with no evocation of the losses enclosure effected in rural villages. “

As always with Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey is about many things: economics, land use, and, of course, Laurentina's skeleton.

What do you find most interesting in Northanger Abbey? Is Henry Tilney your favorite Austen hero? Please do come and join us for a discussion of Northanger Abbey. We will keep the skeletons in the closet.

[1] Sheryl Craig, "Northanger Abbey: Money in the Bank", Persuasions, 32, p. 144, 2010.
[2] Celia Easton, "Jane Austen and the Enclosure Movement: The Sense and Sensibility of Land Reform", Persuasions, 24, p 71, 2002.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Jane Austen's Birthday Luncheon with Registration Form

Please join
the Central & Western NY Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America for our annual celebration of Jane Austen’s birthday

Saturday, December 8th 10:30 am 1:30 pm

Monroe's Restaurant
(Spring House)
3001 Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY 14618 Use the entrance in the back.

Registration is required by November 30 
Seating in larger room!

$30.00 JASNA members
$35.00 Non-JASNA members & Guests

Contact Regional Coordinator Marie McEneaney ( if you are unsure of your status.

A registration from can be downloaded by clicking on this link:

Monday, November 5, 2018

2018 AGM Review

HMS Pomone built 1805
Color lithograph by T. G. Dutton after painting by G.F. St. John

“We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” Persuasion chapter 8
Persuasion – 200 Years of Constancy and Hope

Event:       JASNA CWNY November Meeting
Topic:        Update on the recent JASNA AGM in Kansas City, MO
When:       Saturday November 17, 2018 at 1 pm
Where:      Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

Several members from our region attended JASNA’s 2018 Annual General Meeting in Kansas City on Oct. 28-30. At our November meeting we will share with you our impressions and experiences. The theme of the meeting was Persuasion – 200 Years of Constancy and Hope.

It’s an interesting choice of theme since Captain Wentworth appears anything but constant in his affection for Anne Elliot throughout most of the book. Indeed, he thinks himself ready for any foolish match.

"Yes, here I am, Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor, who has had no society among women to make him nice?" Persuasion chapter 7

He finally begins to notice Anne only when Mr. Elliot does.

“Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, "That man is struck with you, and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again." Persuasion chapter 12

Meanwhile Anne Elliot has all but given up any hope.

“They had no conversation together, no intercourse but what the commonest civility required. Once so much to each other! Now nothing! … there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.” Persuasion chapter 8

These two are in anything but smooth waters for much of the novel.  As Jane Austen makes clear in all of her novels, life is rarely about smooth sailing, but more about navigating the shifting shoals of the seas we sail. We must always be trimming the sails and adjusting the tiller. This can only be done by understanding the circumstances and people around us.

In the end, of course, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth come to understand each other. Wentworth asserts his constancy and Anne’s hope is restored.

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever… Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.” Persuasion chapter 23 (ok, you knew I would work in a quote from the letter)

Of Anne’s response “who can be in doubt”.

And we, as readers,  have a novel of hope and constancy that can be discussed for 200 years. Come and join us for a review of the AGM. You will also learn about the heroic exploits of JASNA CWNY's Team Benwick at the Pub Quiz.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Claire Bellanti
President, Jane Austen Society of North America
"Mary had had her evils; but upon the whole, as was evident by her staying so long, she had found more to enjoy than to suffer. ... there had been so many walks between their lodgings and the Harvilles, and she had got books from the library, and changed them so often, that the balance had certainly been much in favour of Lyme." Persuasion chapter 14

JASNA CWNY October Meeting
'You Can Get a Parasol at Whitby’s': Circulating Libraries in Jane Austen’s Time
Claire Bellanti, President of JASNA

Saturday October 20, 2018 at 1 pm
Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

Please join us as JASNA Central and Western New York welcomes Claire Bellanti, the current President of JASNA to our October meeting.

About the talk

“’You Can Get a Parasol at Whitby’s:’  Circulating Libraries in Jane Austen’s Time” is an illustrated talk about an 18th century social institution that was very important to Jane Austen in her own life and her fiction, the Circulating Library.   The talk provides a brief history of the circulating library, and includes citations from Austen’s novels and letters to explain the centrality of the circulating library and other forms of sharing books in Regency England. 

About Claire

Claire Bellanti holds an M.A. in History (UNLV) and an M.B.A (UCLA).  She is retired from a 35 year career as a library professional at UCLA.  She is currently President of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and has served in other capacities on the Board of JASNA SW and the Board of JASNA since 1994.  She has written and lectured frequently about the UCLA Sadleir Collection of 19th Century Literature, including the Jane Austen contents and Silver Fork portions of the collection.   

In Persuasion it is not entirely clear how much reading Mary Musgrove actually does, since she changed her books so often. Once her status is established, she seems more interested in walking and visiting. For Fanny Price in Mansfield Park books were far more important.

"...Fanny found it impossible not to try for books again. There were none in her father's house; but wealth is luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulating library. She became a subscriber; amazed at being anything in propria persona, amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books! And to be having any one's improvement in view in her choice!" Mansfield Park chapter 40

For Fanny, books and the circulating library are an important part of her developing identity.

Claire Bellanti will provide us with an insightful and illustrated look at the importance of libraries to Jane Austen and to Jane Austen's works. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Persuasion Fashion Show

"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse." Persuasion chapter 15

Event:       JASNA CWNY September Meeting
Topic:       A Persuasion Fashion Show that will be presented at the 2018 AGM by Lisa Brown, former Regional Coordinator
When:       Saturday September 15, 2018 at 1 pm
Where:      Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

Let other pens dwell on the fashions of the Regency. I certainly do not find the topic odious in any way, but I know better than to write on something about which I know very little. Fashion is much too important a part of Jane Austen's work to leave it in inexpert hands. Lisa will provide us with a sumptuous view of the fashions relevant to Persuasion.

Perhaps we will hear about a pelisse or a gown:

“"How is Mary looking?" said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humour. "The last time I saw her she had a red nose, but I hope that may not happen every day."

"Oh! no, that must have been quite accidental. In general she has been in very good health and very good looks since Michaelmas."

"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse."

Anne was considering whether she should venture to suggest that a gown, or a cap, would not be liable to any such misuse, when a knock at the door suspended everything.  Persuasion chapter 15

Or, maybe about boots:

"The rain was a mere trifle, and Anne was most sincere in preferring a walk with Mr. Elliot. But the rain was also a mere trifle to Mrs. Clay; she would hardly allow it even to drop at all, and her boots were so thick! much thicker than Miss Anne's..." Persuasion chapter 19

However, it must be acknowledged that the most pivotal moment in the book revolves around an article of men’s clothing, a pair of gloves in fact.

“Mrs. Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne know not how to understand it. She had the kindest "Good morning, God bless you!" from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!

She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs. Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to "Miss A. E.--," was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily.” Persuasion chapter 23.

Perhaps the gloves looked like the pair worn by this gentleman.

At any rate the question remains. Did Captain Wentworth actually forget his gloves or was this merely a ruse de guerre? Perhaps the gloves were left deliberately or maybe hidden up a sleeve. As a frigate captain Wentworth would have been familiar with many stratagems to cover his intentions. On the other hand, he was clearly in heavy weather with a lee shore emotionally. 

Please join us for what promises to be a glorious show of Regency fashions.