Thursday, December 1, 2016

Birthdays and Boots

Leather shoes 1798, British

"Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them." Emma chapter 1

On December 10,  JASNACWNY joyfully holds its annual Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon. Alicia Kerfoot, Professor of English at SUNY Brockport, joins us to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday and speak about Jane Austen’s use of shoes in her writing

Along with an intriguing speaker, we will have a grand luncheon complete with delicious popovers and a birthday cake. There will be a toast to commemorate our favorite author, and plenty of good conversation with “clever well-informed people”.

From boots to bonnets, Jane Austen knew how to use clothing to establish character, set a scene or move along a plot. Ever scheming to accomplish her matrimonial plans for Harriet, Emma literally stoops to using her boots in pursuit of her plan. 

“This would not do; she immediately stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to make in the lacing of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the footpath, begged them to have the goodness to walk on, and she would follow in half a minute.” Emma chapter 10.

Alas, it is not enough. Somehow she must contrive to get Harriet into Mr. Elton’s vicarage.

“They now walked on together quietly, till within view of the vicarage pales, when a sudden resolution, of at least getting Harriet into the house, made her again find something very much amiss about her boot, and fall behind to arrange it once more. She then broke the lace off short, and dexterously throwing it into a ditch, was presently obliged to entreat them to stop, and acknowledged her inability to put herself to rights so as to be able to walk home in tolerable comfort.” Emma chapter 10.

But it is all for nought. Mr. Elton is not yet ready to accommodate Emma’s scheme.

“The lovers were standing together at one of the windows. It had a most favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to the point. He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told Harriet that he had seen them go by, and had purposely followed them; other little gallantries and allusions had been dropt, but nothing serious.” Emma chapter 10

In Northanger Abbey Henry Tilney mentions shoes when he teases Catherine about what she may write in her diary.

“"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."” Northanger Abbey chapter 3.

In Pride and Prejudice we find that ladies must have the appropriate footwear to venture far outside.

“From his garden, Mr. Collins would have led them round his two meadows, but the ladies, not having shoes to encounter the remains of a white frost, turned back; and while Sir William accompanied him, Charlotte took her sister and friend over the house, extremely well pleased, probably, to have the opportunity of shewing it without her husband's help.” Pride and Prejudice chapter 28.

Perhaps they could have gone a bit further through the white frost, but the shoes provided a good excuse for the ladies to seek their own company inside the house.

These details are important in Jane Austen’s writing, and we will learn so much more from our speaker at the Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon. Here are the details:

Event:     JASNA CWNY Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon
Topic:     Jane Austen and Shoes
                  Alicia Kerfoot, professor of English at The College at Brockport
When:    Saturday December 10, 10:30 am.
Where:   Chatterbox Club, 25 Goodman St. N, Rochester NY 14607

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