Thursday, December 10, 2015

On Stage

"I have been to the theatre, and secured a box for to-morrow night. ... I have engaged Captain Wentworth. Anne will not be sorry to join us, I am sure. We all like a play." Persuasion chapter 22

Yes, we all like a play, especially when it is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen's novels. Jane Austen loved going to plays, especially when she could sit in a private box. "I talked to Henry at the play last night. We were in a private box -- Mr. Spencer's -- which made it much more pleasant..." 

Of course, the production of a play is central to the story in Mansfield Park, where Jane Austen uses the appropriateness of the play and its production in the absence of Sir Thomas to demonstrate the moral differences between Fanny and, well, everyone else at Mansfield Park. Some of the story's most dramatic moments occur on the stage, as when Sir Thomas returns home after a long absence and finds his private study turned into a stage with an actor in full rant:

"He stepped to the door, rejoicing at that moment in having the means of immediate communication, and, opening it, found himself on the stage of a theatre, and opposed to a ranting young man, who appeared likely to knock him down backwards. At the very moment of Yates perceiving Sir Thomas, and giving perhaps the very best start he had ever given in the whole course of his rehearsals, Tom Bertram entered at the other end of the room; and never had he found greater difficulty in keeping his countenance. His father's looks of solemnity and amazement on this his first appearance on any stage, and the gradual metamorphosis of the impassioned Baron Wildenheim into the well-bred and easy Mr. Yates, making his bow and apology to Sir Thomas Bertram, was such an exhibition, such a piece of true acting, as he would not have lost upon any account. It would be the last--in all probability--the last scene on that stage; but he was sure there could not be a finer. The house would close with the greatest eclat." Mansfield Park chapter 19.

"A ranting young man..."
C. E. Brock

Given the importance of plays to Jane Austen and the role played by the theater in her stories, we are delighted that one of her novels is coming to the stage in our area. Students at Our Lady of Mercy High School will be presenting Jon Jory's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on December 17, 18, and 19. Come and watch Elizabeth and Darcy misunderstand and then rediscover each other's character while Mr. Wickham does all he can to muddy the waters.

The performance should be an excellent opportunity to experience one of Jane Austen's best loved stories up close. With a talented cast and crew, Pride and Prejudice on Mercy's stage should be one of the best events of the season. Event details are below:

Event: Pride and Prejudice performed on stage by students at Our Lady of Mercy High School
When: December 17, 18, 19 7:30 pm
Where: Our Lady of Mercy Performing Arts Center, 1437 Blossom Road, Rochester NY
Tickets: At the door $8 general admission, $5 students/seniors

Monday, November 30, 2015

Tea Time

Tea at Jane Austen 1812 weekend, Genesee Country Village (photo: Lisa Brown)

We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant.” 
Jane Austen Letters

When we think of the Regency, many images come to mind. Some think of the Royal Navy and imagine Nelson at Trafalgar. Others love fashion and picture Regency ladies and gentlemen in their finest attire. Still others are excited by the dance, music and art of the period. And everyone likes to imagine a nice cup of tea on a cold winter’s day.

Well, the Royal Navy has sailed, but the other aspects of the Regency can all be experienced at the Penfield Community Center this weekend where a Jane Austen Holiday Tea will be held.

More below the fold......

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Jane

"Edward Austen Presentation" 
by Unknown - Hill, Constance. Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends. Great Britain: Richard Clay and Sons, Ltd., 1901.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

"He is the best landlord, and the best master," said she, "that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw any thing of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men.” Pride and Prejudice, chapter 43

So what was it really like to be a member of the landed gentry in the Regency? Jane Austen gives us examples of several characters who are landowners. Some are better than others. Mr. Rushworth can’t wait to tear down Sotherton. John Knightly takes interest in all aspects of estate management from the “plan of a drain” to the “destination of every acre of wheat , turnips, or spring corn.” (Emma chapter 12).

Jane Austen’s brother Edward was her closest connection to the landed gentry. Edward was adopted by Thomas and Catherine Knight who had no children. Eventually, Edward inherited the Knight estates and took the Knight name. 

The Knight estate consisted of properties primarily in Hampshire, Kent and London. Jane Austen visited Edward’s primary residence Godmersham in Kent often and lived in a cottage in Chawton owned by Edward.

Godmersham, Edward Knight's primary residence
John Preston Neale [Public domain or No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

As a large landowner, Edward would have provided a clear lens for Jane Austen’s view of the characters who appear in her novels. So how did Edward Knight live? How did he manage his estates? What were his relationships with all the people who lived and worked on his property?

Fortunately we may have some answers. JASNA Central and Western NY is delighted to welcome Linda Slothouber to our Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon. Linda is a life Member and elected Board Member of JASNA. She comes to us from the Washington DC Metropolitan Region where she is co-coordinator of the 2016 AGM. She has had a career in management and technology consulting and has written on companies that were important in Jane Austen’s time such as Wedgwood and the cotton mills of Richard Arkwright. In 2013 she participated in the JASNA International Visitor Program, doing research on the management of Edward Knight's estate in Chawton.

As a result of her research, Linda has published a book detailing the operation of the estate. Jane Austen, Edward Knight, and Chawton: Commerce and Community is a delightful book that gives Jane Austen fans a close look at life on a country estate. If you haven’t already, please take a look at the review that appeared on your JANSNA CWNY blog here . 

Linda’s book is rich in the details of estate management, such as revenues and expenses, but it also delves into the character of Edward Knight and his relationships with many people in the community of Chawton. Linda will tell us much more, but for the moment imagine Darcy or Knightley rather than Rushworth or Crawford.

Please join us for this event. As always, there will be great food, great company, and a great speaker. The details are given below. Note that we ask you to pre-register by December 5. The registration form can be found at the link below.

Hope to see you there.

Event: JASNA CWNY Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon
When: Saturday December 12, 10:30 am.
Where: Chatterbox Club, 25 Goodman St. N, Rochester NY 14607
Registration: Registration Form here

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Collections and Recollections November Meeting

Edith Lank Shows her collection to Juliette Wells (Celia Easton)

“Mr. Knightley had done all in his power for Mr. Woodhouse's entertainment. Books of engravings, drawers of medals, cameos, corals, shells, and every other family collection within his cabinets, had been prepared for his old friend, to while away the morning; and the kindness had perfectly answered. Mr. Woodhouse had been exceedingly well amused. “   Emma, chapter 42

We love to collect. Coins, butterflies, seashells, campaign buttons, stamps,

Jane Austen stamps issued by the Royal Mail to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth 

you name it, somebody collects it. Of course, some prefer to simply collect cash.

Bank of England introduces Jane Austen on the ten pound note

Of course, fans of Jane Austen are fascinated collections of Jane Austen memorabilia. Some collections are very scholarly and rich, like the Bodleian Library, Oxford, or the Morgan Library in New York.

Letter to Cassandra 1808 from Godmersham

Draft manuscript of The Watsons purchased by the Bodleian Library for over £1,000,000

For those who really want to study Jane Austen’s work up close, there is even a digital collection of all the available Jane Austen manuscripts.

Close up of a scan of the manuscript for Sanditon

Manuscripts are very rare and priceless artifacts that properly belong in museums, but you don’t need to go to Oxford or New York to find Jane Austen memorabilia. Jane Austen fans like to collect lots of things, from old editions to greeting cards. Such collections can help us feel closer to the author who produced the six greatest novels in the English language (OK, just an opinion) and to her fans around the world.

Our own Edith Lank has an extensive collection of materials related to Jane Austen and you will have the opportunity to view some of that collection at our next JASNA Central and Western NY meeting.

Edith is planning to move parts of her collection to new homes, but before doing so she will bring many items to our next meeting so they can be viewed together one more time. The picture at the top of this article shows Edith showing her collection to Julliete Wells, whose Emma was just published by Penguin Books (I got a signed copy at AGM). Now you too can have a close up view. Please join us for our next meeting. Here are the details:

Event: JASNA CWNY Meeting
When: Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 1 pm
Where: Barnes and Noble, Community Room, Pittsford NY

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Exasperating Emma Binghamton Meeting

"EmmaTitlePage" by Jane Austen - Lilly Library, Indiana University.

It is such a happiness when good people get together--and they always do.Emma chapter 21. Spoken by one of the most exasperating characters in Emma.

Jane Austen’s Emma was published in 1816. As the title page attests, it was written by the author of Pride and Prejudice, but its main character, Emma Woodhouse, is not nearly as universally loved as the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet. Indeed, Emma is often considered as Jane Austen’s literary masterpiece, yet many people would rather read Pride and Prejudice. So how does the technically superior novel give way? Perhaps it is because, as Marie Sprayberry puts it, “its heroine, and many of her relatives and neighbors, are often thoroughly exasperating people?”

From the very beginning Emma and Elizabeth are presented differently. We first hear about Elizabeth from her father as “Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.” (Pride and Prejudice chapter 1). Later, after she is insulted by Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, Lizzy reacts. “She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.” (Pride and Prejudice chapter 3)

Lizzy is quick, spirited, lively, and playful.

"Come, Darcy," said he, "I must have you dance"
Spirited Lizzy Bennet deals with the proud Mr. Darcy. 
(C. E. Brock at

Then we read about Emma.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition,
The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments.” (Emma chapter 1.)

Handsome, clever , and rich to be sure, but also a tad arrogant and spoiled. It’s downhill from there.

"I planned the match from that hour"
Emma matchmaking 
(C. E. Brock at

Then there are Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, Mr. Woodhouse, and Miss Bates, all of them exasperating in some way. Frank is off to London for a haircut, Mr. Woodhouse wants everyone to eat thin gruel, Jane hardly speaks, and Miss Bates speaks far too much. Only the farmers, Mr. Knightly and Robert Martin, seem to make sense.

In the little village of Highbury, Jane Austen layers relationships on relationships; emotions and status mingle in a complex brew that leaves us wondering, as Marie Sprayberry puts it, “how can it all end happily?”.

Hypothetical map of Highbury by Penny Gay 

A story of “three or four country families,” Emma challenges us to truly understand some of the basic truths about character and relationships that can leave us a little uncomfortable.

It’s all a great theme for discussion. Please join us in Binghamton as Marie Sprayberry leads a discussion of Emma: Exasperating Characters. Here are the details:

Event:   Emma: Exasperating Characters a meeting of the former JASNA Syracuse region
Where: RiverRead Books, 5 Court Street, Binghamton
When:  Saturday, November 7, at 2 pm

It will be a great warm up for next year’s AGM. Marie will also discuss our recent reorganization. Rest assured, you will only discuss and not meet any exasperating characters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

JASNA AGM - Return to the Regency

It is such a happiness when good people get together…Emma, chapter 21

Last weekend was JASNA’s Annual General Meeting in Louisville Kentucky and Jane Austen was correct in noting that when good people come together happiness follows. The weekend was full of creative company, intriguing insights, fabulous food, and merry music.

On Saturday we will all have the opportunity to savor the highlights of the weekend as we review the AGM at our JASNA CWNY meeting. Please join us at the Barnes and Noble in Pittsford at 1 pm. To tempt you, here are just a few of the things we considered:

How did a naval surgeon treat his patients?

 Royal Navy Surgeon

Surgeon's Instruments

How proficient was Mary Bennet at the pianoforte?

"Hammerflügel Conrad Graf rem" by Andreas Praefcke

Who was George Wickham? Impoverished soldier or master spy?

"Pride and Prejudice CH 15" by C. E. Brock

How did a Regency lady dress for visiting friends?

Regency Dress

How did a Regency lady travel?

Sedan Chair

How much would Darcy’s £10,000 per year be worth today?

What is an AGM really like?

 Salad to start dinner at the AGM

Belle of Louisville outside our hotel

Where is the best place to rent or buy Regency goods?

Why Regency Rentals and A Lady's Maid of course.

Hope to see you on Saturday.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dollars and Cents and Sensibility

Edward Austen Knight

…as a farmer,…, he had to tell what every field was to bear next year,….The plan of a drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a tree, and the destination of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring corn, ..." Emma, chapter12

Generally, I don’t like to do book reviews. It is too much like homework, and, for me, the idea of reviewing a book detracts from the enjoyment of reading. However, I have just finished reading a book that deserves to be read by all those who are interested in Jane Austen’s life and times.

The book is Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton Commerce and Community by Linda Slothouber (1). This book is the result of work done by the author as  a participant in JASNA’s International Visitor’s Program. The purpose of that work and the book is to examine the finances of Edward Knight’s estate and use that information ”to provide a historical context for Jane Austen’s allusions to estate management in her novels, and to help those who study or visit the village of Chawton understand the estate economy there” (p. 2)

The book succeeds beautifully and provides a wonderful window into the lives of the landed gentry in Jane Austen’s time. Edward Knight was, of course, Jane Austen’s brother. He was adopted by wealthy relatives and became heir to a large estate primarily in Hampshire and Kent. He provided the home in Chawton where Jane Austen wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, and where she, perhaps, put Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility into their final forms. Jane Austen is also known to have visited Edward at his main residence at Godmersham Park in Kent. As her wealthiest relative, Edward would have provided Jane Austen with a close example of the land owning class in Regency England.

Godmersham Park, Home of Edward Knight 
Attribution: David Anstiss)

The book focuses on the finances of Edward Knight’s estate, but opens with a description of Edward Knight himself and his inheritance. Suffice to say, he was more Knightly than Rushworth and he took a great interest in the management of his estate. 

The book then focuses on the details of the finances and management of the estate. While the estate records are often incomplete, some of the best documented years are from 1808 to 1819, spanning the time of Jane Austen’s residence at Chawton. During this time the property in Hampshire generated an average income of £4,278. Income from Edward Knight’s other properties probably added about £3,800, for a total income of about £8,000. Mrs. Bennet would have been impressed. However, Edward Knight needed to be a careful steward since his income varied significantly over this period. The postwar years were especially difficult, as the income form the Hampshire properties fell to £3,722 in 1815 from a high of £4,909 in 1813.

Chawton House, Edward Knight's Residence in Hampshire, now Chawton House Library

Of course, Edward Knight wasn’t the only one living on the estate. Linda Slothouber also introduces us to all the others who lived around Chawton: the magistrate, justice of the peace, steward, estate servants, genteel tenants, farmers, and day laborers. We learn about how they lived, how much they earned and what roles they all played in the working of the estate.

Slothuber focuses on the finances of estate management, but if you are not inclined toward numbers, never fear. Slothouber’s clear prose and accessible style work to bring these characters to life. By the time I finished reading the book, I felt as if I had been living at Chawton for a few days, getting to know the people who lived there. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding Jane Austen’s world.

For me, the next step will be to open up a spreadsheet and start working with the numbers to better understand Regency economics.

1. Jane Austen, Edward Knight, & Chawton Commerce and Community, Linda Slothouber, Woodpigeon Publishing, 2015.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Then vs. Now - JASNA CWNY meets in Syracuse

                         Canary Wharf is one of the biggest financial centres in Europe.

Steventon rectory, as depicted in A Memoir of Jane Austen

JASNA Central and Western New York will hold a Michaelmas meeting for Syracuse area members on Saturday, September 26 at 2 pm in the Sargent Room of the Liverpool Public Library 310 Tulip St. Liverpool NY,  13088.

In line with the theme of the JASNA AGM in Louisville, which is "Living in Jane Austen's World", this meeting will be about "Living in Jane Austen's World: Pros and Cons". As Marie Sprayberry asks, "What aspects of life in 1815 England would you prefer, and what would you rather stay in 2015 America for?

The meeting will also feature a book swap. If you can, please bring at least one book by/about JA or of possible interest to Janeites, and come prepared to take at least one book.

Let's get the discussion started. What do you like about Jane Austen's England?

Elegant estates?

A panoramic view of Chatsworth House and Park, early 18th century (Pieter Tillemans)

Beautiful balls?

Meryton Assembly Dancers (Lisa Brown)

Or maybe just the bonnets and cravats.

Pierre Seriziat in riding dress, 1795.

Barb's Bonnets on display at Country Dance Rochester's Netherfield Ball (Lisa Brown)

And what might you prefer from 2015?

Running water?

running water
Matthew Bowden


Chemical Formula for Penicillin

Or beautiful balls?

Country Dance Rochester Turning of the Year Ball (Lisa Brown)

So, take your pick and please join us for a lively discussion of Then vs. Now.

Note from Marie: This year, September 26 will be the first day of the Liverpool Library’s “Down Under” book sale, to be held in the Library’s small underground garage. On the one hand, this may provide another incentive for book-loving Janeites to attend our meeting—but on the other hand, do allow some extra time to find on-street parking, since the garage will not be available and since the sale is likely to attract some extra traffic to the library.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Location, Location, Location

The Counties of England 

"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey.”
Pride and Prejudice ch. 32

From Devonshire east to Kent and from Hampshire north to Derbyshire, Jane Austen knew her way around England. Her novels span most of England. From seacoast and mountain, town to country, Jane Austen’s characters visited a wide variety of locales. 

But, of course, many of the main venues in Jane Austen’s novels are fictional. Part of Jane Austen’s genius was her ability to mix the real and imaginary in a way that makes the fictional locations seem so real. In Persuasion the scene moves from Uppercross (fictional) to Lyme (real) without missing a beat. With barely any description, Meryton and Highbury seem to be places we could visit on a day trip from London.

To make her places real Jane Austen provided all kinds of hints that her readers could use to imagine the settings. This is our own Carolyn Meisel’s topic for her JASNA AGM talk in Louisville this October. Her talk is titled “Locations for Jane’s Stories: Why were they chosen?  What clues did they give to her readers?  What have we missed?” and will be presented in Session B, Friday 3:50 pm.

But if you’re not going to AGM you can still hear Carolyn speak on this subject. JASNA CWNY is pleased to have Carolyn speak at our September meeting. She will preview her talk at AGM and give us insight into hints that distances, real locations ad old country names gave to Jane Austen’s readers. Using these clues Carolyn’s talk will give us a sharpened awareness of location in Jane Austen’s novels.

Join us on September 19th at 1 p.m. in the Barnes and Noble Pittsford store to find out where things really happened in Jane Austen’s novels.

As a bonus you might want to consider purchasing Edith Lank’s book Jane Austen Speaks to Women. There are only 54 copies left and Carolyn will be taking these to KY. So this may be your last chance. Copies are just $5 and will be available at Saturday’s meeting.

See you there.


(By Rob Bendall at

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Write Thing

“…his reading was capital, and her pleasure in good reading extreme.”
Mansfield Park ch. 34

Jane Austen well understood the power of reading aloud. Reading aloud was a favorite activity in her family. This year Medaille College is offering an exciting reading experience with an Austen connection. 

The Write Thing Reading Series begins on Tuesday, September 15 featuring Bella Poynton. Her science fiction play Speed Of Light can be seen in Buffalo at Road Less Traveled Theater from September 11-October 4. Readings from the play will be presented by the author and several actors. 

Jane Austen fans will especially appreciate the next two events in the series. Jack Wang, the co-creator of the Cozy Classics series of children’s board book series, headlines a reading on October 15. The Cozy Classics series includes Pride and Prejudice and Emma in its list of titles. Local JASNA members will remember that Jack spoke to our group about the production of Cozy Classics and won our hearts with the little felt figures. )

Next up is Amanda Jacobs on Thursday November 19. Amanda has always been a local favorite and now she is a national favorite with her work on Pride and Prejudice, A Musical. She has been a JASNA International visiting scholar. Last year she spoke to us about that project which was all about composing music for Jane Austen related prayers. The musical interludes left us wishing for more. )

The reading program continues in the spring semester with the author Ted Pelton on Thursday February 25 and the poet Christopher Deweese on April 7. Finally, the program wraps up on April 28 with an open mic event. So sharpen your pencils and prepare to step up to the mic and read.

The Write Thing Reading Series promises to be a lively and engaging program. It’s free and open to the public. Events are on the 4th floor of the main building at Medaille College. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information and directions see the event website at :

This should definitely take some of the chill off the winter.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Light, Bright and Sparkling

English Country Dancers sparkle at the Jane Austen Ball (author)

Just a quick reminder. If you would like to dance like Jane Austen, this weekend is your opportunity. Your JASNA CWNY and Country Dance Rochester are sponsoring a Netherfield Ball for novice dancers. There will be plenty of instruction, easy dances, delicious refreshments, and fine company. Now is the chance to relive some of the best moments from Jane Austen's novels.

The rocky coast of Maine sparkles in the morning sun (author)

The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade…or anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.” ( Jane Austen Letters )

As you may have guessed from the figure captions, the theme of this post is sparkle. The quote above  is probably the only thing Jane Austen wrote with which some of her readers might disagree. Pride and Prejudice is light, and bright, but it also engages real issues of, well, pride and prejudice.

As to sparkling, the novel sets the tone from the very beginning. Of all Jane Austen’s novels, Pride and Prejudice is the one that far and away begins with the most of Jane Austen’s bright, insightful, and witty dialog.

Here’s the beginning (as if I really need to quote it):

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

So much for historical background and moral philosophy. Jane Austen moves right into dialog.

“"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

"But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

"Do not you want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.

"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

This was invitation enough.”

Contrast this with the beginning of Sense and Sensibility:

“The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister.”

The history of the Dashwood family goes on from there. Other than a few of John Dashwood’s thoughts there is no dialog. In Pride and Prejudice we learn about The Bennets though their dialog. Thanks to Mr. Bennet’s rather pointed sense of humor this is some of Jane Austen’s wittiest dialog. 

"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."

"Is that his design in settling here?"

"Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."

"I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better; for, as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party."

So we learn about Mrs. Bennet’ obsession with marriage and how sarcastic Mr. Bennet can be.

In Sense and Sensibility we get the John Dashwood's character in a narrative form.

“He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made still more respectable than he was:--he might even have been made amiable himself; for he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife. But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;-- more narrow-minded and selfish.”

Of course we also learn about Elinor and Marianne.

“Elinor, this eldest daughter, … possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother…”
Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent.”

We learn about John, Elinor, and Marianne Dashwood through brilliantly composed, concise and sometimes devastating narrative rather than sparkling dialog. 

So Pride and Prejudice starts with light, bright dialog while Sense and Sensibility starts with a history lesson. Jane Austen’s other novels mix dialog and narrative in their first chapters (except Northanger Abbey), but none opens quite like Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen was a very talented and versatile writer. Her novels are unique and varied; each one is special in its own way. She may have thought Pride and Prejudice to be “too light and bright and sparkling” but she created it as such from the opening chapter and most readers would not have it any other way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dance Like Elizabeth Bennet

Jane Austen Ball Rochester NY

"There is nothing like dancing after all. -- I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies." Pride and Prejudice

Allison Thompson has written "Jane Austen was an enthusiastic dancer in her youth, and dancing forms an important part of all of her fictional heroine’s lives.  ...  In addition, when general readers learn more about the common dances of the period and the social conventions around them, they will be in a better position to understand some of the delicate nuances of the pivotal dancing episodes in each of the novels."

All Jane Austen fans recognize the importance of balls in Jane Austen's novels, but most fans do not have the opportunity to actually experience the kind of dancing done by Jane Austen and her characters. As Allison Thompson suggests, such an experience can enhance the appreciation of Jane Austen's work.

It's also a ton of fun.

Now Mr. Bingley has sent around his cards, and you are invited to a Netherfield Ball. Country Dancers of Rochester and our JASNA section (JASNA CWNY) are sponsoring a Netherfield Ball for novice dancers. Here are the details:

Event:    Netherfield Ball an assembly for novice dancers
When:   August 29, 2 - 6 pm
Where:  First Baptist Church, 145 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY 14618
Dress:    Comfortable, Regency will be admired but not required.
Cost:      $10

All dances will be called and there will be ample instruction. Be assured there are no concerns about hearing "The other way Mr. Collins". The finest gentry from the neighborhood will be there to help you learn.

There will also be sumptuous refreshments, live music, Regency vendors, and plenty of good company.

I have posted video from Country Dancers of Rochester before, but please allow me to show you one more because I can think of no better way to show you what dancing meant to Jane Austen and her characters, and how much fun it can be.

Yes, that is Shrewsbury Lasses, but you won't find yourself dancing with Mr. Collins. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jane Austen and the New Media Self

The title page of the Richard Bentley edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the first illustrated edition.

"Though they had now been acquainted a month, she could not be satisfied that she really knew his character." Persuasion, Chapter 17

The exposition of character has always been central in Jane Austen's novels. But how do we reveal our character in the age of new media?

Courtesy of Pemberley Digital we have an interesting TEDx talk that addresses this question (hat tip to Sharon Cassidy for finding this). The speaker is Julie Salmon Kelleher, a critical and creative writer who asks how new forms of media will shape how we perceive ourselves and how we will relate to others.

To answer this question, she uses Pride and Prejudice and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Pride and Prejudice is, of course, a written novel. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a series of video blogs presented on the Pemberley Digital website and onYouTube. Both tell essentially the same story of the struggle to comprehend human character.

Ms. Kelleher points out that the development of the printed word allowed the inclusion of much more individual detail than could be supplied in oral storytelling. Jane Austen took advantage of this to supply a highly detailed look into the thoughts of her characters. Her mechanism for doing this was free indirect discourse. If you have ever spent a sleepless night wondering what free indirect discourse is all about, then this video may be the answer, as Ms. Kelleher presents a succinct and clear explanation. In free indirect discourse we hear the thoughts of the character as they are occurring, narrated by a third person. Ms. Kelleher uses Elizabeth's reaction to Darcy's letter as an example.

"She perfectly remembered every thing that had passed in conversation between Wickham and herself in their first evening at Mr. Philips's. Many of his expressions were still fresh in her memory. She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy -- that Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but that he should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also, that till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal, it had been every where discussed; that he had then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy's character, though he had assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son." Pride and Prejudice, Volume 2, Chapter 13.

To modern readers this does not appear as especially surprising or novel, but, as the speaker points out, such intimate thoughts were generally not presented in early novels. Access to a character's inner thoughts had to be obtained through diaries or letters. So, Jane Austen adopted and perfected a new technique to bring us into closer contact with her characters.

In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lizzie also receives a letter. In this modern adaptation the letter becomes an artifact from the past. It is "hand written...with a wax cursive". Lizzie is as suspicious of the letter as Elizabeth had been, but on reading it her reaction is to turn off the camera, thereby preserving the trust Darcy had placed in her. Elizabeth's private thoughts are immediately exposed to us in Pride and Prejudice but must be hidden in the online world of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Ms. Kelleher concludes that readers have loved Pride and Prejudice for two hundred years because it is a beautiful story of an individual wrestling with herself and her prejudices and winning. That this was made possible by the development of the written story does not mean that we should leave it behind as we enter an age of new media. Instead, we may need to learn to maintain those individual characteristics as we present ourselves to a wider world.

The video is only about 15 minutes long and well worth a view.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Is It White Soup Yet?

White soup at the Hosmer Inn
(All photos courtesy of Lisa Brown)

“…as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.” 
Pride and Prejudice chapter 11

All Janeites are familiar with white soup, but it isn’t often that one has the opportunity to try white soup at a Regency dinner. Recently several of us from the Central and Western NY region had just that opportunity at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. The dinner was held at the Hosmer Inn which was originally built in 1818 near Avon NY and served customers traveling on the Ontario and Genesee Turnpike. It now serves traditional dinners at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

We arrived at 6 for dinner and were greeted by Mrs. Hosmer. 

Mrs. Hosmer at the door to the inn

After the entire party was gathered, Mrs. Hosmer gave us tour of the house. Upstairs we found a delightful ballroom occupying the front of the inn. Since several of us are avid fans of English Country Dance and members of the Meryton Assembly Dancers, we decided that dinner had to be accompanied by a ball. We applied to Mrs. Hosmer and she very graciously agreed to let us perform a demonstration of dance for the other guests in between courses.

The Inn has two dining rooms.

We chose the room set for eight which fit our party perfectly.

We began, of course, with white soup (above) and bath buns. There were many delicious dishes. Among my favorites were the following.

Cornish Game Hen and Torta of Herbs (also called quiche, vaguely French sounding)


Wine roasted gammon carved with military precision.

We also enjoyed our salad. 

Salmagundi with colored eggs and edible flowers.

Between courses we retired to the upstairs ballroom where the Meryton Assembly Dance representatives performed Kelsterne Garden for the entire party. A link to a short video showing the dance can be found here .

Following our short ball we went for a tour of several houses at GCVM, including the opera house, which could also serve as a ballroom and which provided some beautiful sunset views.

After the tour, we returned to the Hosmer Inn for dessert and spruce beer.

"But all this," as my dear Mrs. Piozzi says, "is flight and fancy, and nonsense, for my master has his great casks to mind and I have my little children." It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask, for we are brewing spruce beer again; but my meaning really is, that I am extremely foolish in writing all this unnecessary stuff when I have so many matters to write about that my paper will hardly hold it all. Little matters they are, to be sure, but highly important. Jane Austen Dec. 1808, in Jane Austen's Letters, Deirdre Le Faye p.162

Following dessert and some fine conversation, we departed into the evening, delighted with our experience.