Friday, November 24, 2017

A Harp and a Window

A Harp and a Window
"Mr. Bertram," said she, "I have tidings of my harp at last. I am assured that it is safe at Northampton; and there it has probably been these ten days, in spite of the solemn assurances we have so often received to the contrary…Henry, who is good-nature itself, has offered to fetch it in his barouche.” Mansfield Park chapter 6.

Event:       JASNA CWNY Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon
Speaker: Jennifer Staples on “The History of the Harp"
When:     Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 10:30 am
Where:    Monroe’s Restaurant, 3001 Monroe Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618

Our speaker and musician for the Birthday Luncheon is Jennifer Staples from Syracuse, NY. Many of you know Jennifer as an expert seamstress and producer of some of the very fine Regency period attire seen at our annual Jane Austen Ball. What may be less familiar to you is that she is also an expert on the harp.

The harp appears in most of Jane Austen’s novels. We are probably most familiar with Mary Crawford’s use of the harp to entangle Edmund Bertram.

“Miss Crawford's attractions did not lessen. The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour; for she played with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming, and there was something clever to be said at the close of every air….

A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment.”  Mansfield Park chapter 7.

Edmund’s a goner thanks to the harp and possibly the window.

However, Jane Austen used the harp not only as an instrument of seduction, but also as an instrument of consolation. In Persuasion, when Mrs. Musgrove learns that Captain Wentworth is to visit, she recalls that her unfortunate son Richard served with Captain Wentworth, and she is saddened by the remembrance of her lost son.

“That she was coming to apologize, and that they should have to spend the evening by themselves, was the first black idea; and Mary was quite ready to be affronted, when Louisa made all right by saying, that she only came on foot, to leave more room for the harp, which was bringing in the carriage.

"And I will tell you our reason," she added, "and all about it. I am come on to give you notice, that papa and mamma are out of spirits this evening, especially mamma; she is thinking so much of poor Richard! And we agreed it would be best to have the harp, for it seems to amuse her more than the piano-forte." Persuasion chapter 6

He may have “been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove”, but his loss is now painful, and the harp is there to soothe.

Jane Austen herself enjoyed a good harp concert. Writing to Cassandra from Sloane Street in 1811 she said:

“…the day of the party is settled – above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening and there is to be some very good music, 5 professionals…One of the Hirelings, is a Capital on the Harp, from which I expect great pleasure…”
Jane Austen’s Letters, Deirdre Le Faye, (ed.), 4th ed. p. 188

So our talk at the luncheon is about the harp. Mary Crawford was able to enlist Henry’s barouche to transport her harp from Northampton. Jennifer will be bringing three harps from Syracuse to help explain the history of this instrument which Jane Austen used both to soothe and to seduce.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Christmas in the Regency

"I remember last Christmas at a little hop at the park, he danced from eight o'clock till four..."
Sense and Sensibility chapter 9

A presentation by our own Lisa Brown

Event:   A Jane Austen Christmas: Yuletide Traditions During the Regency Period 
                 by Lisa Brown
When:   Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 7:00 pm
Where:  Fairport Historical Museum
                 18 Perrin Street
                 Fairport, NY 14450
Cost:       Free and open to the public

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Exile of Maria Betram Rushworth

Fanny Gets a Shock
Event:   JASNA CWNY November Meeting
Title:     The Exile of Maria Bertram Rushworth:
                Adultery, Separation and Divorce in Regency England by Lisa Brown
When:   Saturday, November 18 at 1 pm
Where: Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

In the illustration above, Fanny learns about the liaison between Maria Bertram Rushworth and Henry Crawford. She reads:

"it was with infinite concern the newspaper had to announce to the world a matrimonial fracas in the family of Mr. R. of Wimpole Street; the beautiful Mrs. R., whose name had not long been enrolled in the lists of Hymen, and who had promised to become so brilliant a leader in the fashionable world, having quitted her husband's roof in company with the well-known and captivating Mr. C., the intimate friend and associate of Mr. R., and it was not known even to the editor of the newspaper whither they were gone." Mansfield Park chapter 46

Fanny is shocked to her core.

The horror of a mind like Fanny's, as it received the conviction of such guilt, and began to take in some part of the misery that must ensue, can hardly be described. At first, it was a sort of stupefaction; but every moment was quickening her perception of the horrible evil. Mansfield Park chapter 46

Mr. Price had his own view of what should befall Maria.

"But, by G--! if she belonged to me, I'd give her the rope's end as long as I could stand over her. A little flogging for man and woman too would be the best way of preventing such things." Mansfield Park chapter 46

Jane Austen has a less physically abusive, but, perhaps, more emotionally difficult punishment for Maria.

It ended in Mrs. Norris's resolving to quit Mansfield and devote herself to her unfortunate Maria, and in an establishment being formed for them in another country, remote and private, where, shut up together with little society, on one side no affection, on the other no judgment, it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment. Mansfield Park chapter 48

Shocking as it was, these sorts of things did happen in Regency England. Marriages did not always succeed. What actually happened to women like Maria Rushworth? Did women, who had no legal existence, have any options? Come and hear Lisa Brown discuss all this in her talk "Adultery, Separation, and Divorce in Regency England."