Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Jane at the Plate

Yes, Jane Austen invented baseball. Why do you ask?
Photo Credit: Marie Sprayberry
"... and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country... "
Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1

Event:   JASNA CWNY September Meeting
Topic:   "Play Ball! Team Austen and the History of Baseball and Cricket"
              A talk that will be presented at the AGM by Lisa Brown, former Regional Coordinator
When:   Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 1 pm
Where:  Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

It is a truth universally acknowledged (except in Boston) that come September the Yankees will be on top of the American League East division. Here in Western New York we take our Jane Austen and our baseball seriously, although, perhaps, we take our Jane Austen a bit more seriously. We all know Jane Austen invented baseball, and in October Lisa Brown will explain the connection to JASNA at the AGM. At our September meeting Lisa will preview her talk and give us insight into the origins of baseball in British sports.

In the meantime, I thought I would go back to a previous post in order to relive one of the greatest moments in baseball history. It's late in September and Mary Crawford's bat has carried the Mansfield Nine almost to a division championship. However, Mary still must face Fanny Price on the mound one last time.

(With apologies to Ernest Thayer. See the original here)

Mary at the Bat

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mansfield Nine that day;
the score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Henry died at first, and Aunt Norris did the same,
a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

Maria Bertram stood to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
they thought, if only Mary could get but a whack at that –
they'd put up even money, now, with Mary at the bat.

But Tom preceded Mary, as did also Johnny Yates,
and the former was so sickly and the latter would orate,
so upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
for there seemed but little chance of Mary’s getting to the bat.

But Tom let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
and Yates, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
and when the dust had lifted, and the crowd all saw what had occurred,
there was Johnny safe at second and Tom a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a buzz of bees;
it rumbled through the valley, and the Avenue of Trees;
it ran throughout the shrubbery and recoiled upon the flat,
for Mary, mighty Mary, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Mary’s manner as she stepped into her place;
there was pride in Mary’s bearing and a smile on Mary’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, she lightly doffed her bonnet,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Mary who was on it.

With lavender she took her bat and rubbed it all well down,
while staring at the pitcher perched high atop the mound.
And there was Fanny Price, alone, with the spheroid on her hip.
Defiance gleamed in Mary’s eye, a sneer curled Mary’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Mary stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the pretty batter the ball unheeded sped--
"Tis not my style," said Mary. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"A duel! A duel with him!" the Colonel shouted in the stand;
and it's likely he'd have killed him had not Mary raised her hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Mary’s visage shone;
she stilled the rising tumult; she bade the game go on;
she signaled to Miss Fanny, and once more the spheroid flew;
but Mary still ignored it, and the umpire said: "Strike two."

“Obstinate and Headstrong”*, all said it was a fraud.
but one scornful look from Mary and the audience was awed.
Those hands that played the harp so well were tight with stress and strain,
and they knew that Mary wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Mary’s lip, her teeth are clenched in hate;
she taps, just like a lady would, her bat upon the plate.
And now Miss Fanny holds the ball, and now she lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Mary’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and Edmund's heart is light,
and somewhere Janeites laugh, and somewhere children shout;
and there’s joy in Thornton Lacey for - mighty Mary has struck out.

*Contemporary accounts suggest the presence of many Mansfield fans from Derbyshire in the stands.

Please join us on September 21.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time

Watercolor by C. E. Brock
"It is amazing to me," said Bingley, "how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are."

"All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?"

"Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished." Pride and Prejudice chapter 8

Event:        JASNA CWNY May Meeting
Topic:        Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time by Sharon Buzard

When:       Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 1 pm
Where:      Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

In an era before photography, painting and drawing were the only ways to record a scene. Painting also served an important function in the decorative arts. References to the art of painting and drawing occur throughout Jane Austen's novels. According to Charles Bingley, painting tables was one of the prime accomplishments of young ladies. 

In Emma, Emma uses the taking of Harriet's likeness to further her scheme of uniting Harriet and Mr. Elton. 

"What an exquisite possession a good picture of her would be! I would give any money for it. I almost long to attempt her likeness myself. You do not know it I dare say, but two or three years ago I had a great passion for taking likenesses, and attempted several of my friends, and was thought to have a tolerable eye in general." Emma chapter 6

Emma, Harriet, and Mr. Elton look through Emma's past efforts and Emma decides on a full length watercolor.

She had soon fixed on the size and sort of portrait. It was to be a whole-length in water-colours, like Mr. John Knightley's, and was destined, if she could please herself, to hold a very honourable station over the mantelpiece. Emma chapter 6

Mr. Elton is delighted, of course, to watch Emma paint Harriet's portrait. 

While Emma uses painting to further Harriet's romantic interest. Lucy Steele, in Sense and Sensibility, uses the art of miniature painting as a weapon.

"Yes; and heaven knows how much longer we may have to wait. Poor Edward! It puts him quite out of heart." Then taking a small miniature from her pocket, she added, "To prevent the possibility of mistake, be so good as to look at this face. It does not do him justice, to be sure, but yet I think you cannot be deceived as to the person it was drew for.--I have had it above these three years."

She put it into her hands as she spoke; and when Elinor saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of its being Edward's face. She returned it almost instantly, acknowledging the likeness. Sense and Sensibility chapter 22 

At that moment Elinor must acknowledge to herself that Edward is committed to another. She will not show the pain, but she will feel it.

The Regency period produced a great many notable painters. Perhaps the greatest was J. M. W. Turner, who was born in the 1775, the same year as Jane Austen

J.M.W. Turner Self Portrait
By J. M. W. Turner - http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-self-portrait-n00458, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63864933
Turner was famous for his dramatic landscapes such as this watercolor of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

Eruption of Vesuvius by JMW Turner
At our May meeting Sharon Buzard will speak to us about the art of watercolor, providing a deeper appreciation for the art which is so important in Jane Austen's novels. Please join us for "Watercolors as a Lady's Past-time".