Thursday, August 31, 2017

An AGM Preview

Charles Fox, leader of the Whig Party
By Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) -, Public Domain,
“In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet's visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining, from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.” Pride and Prejudice chapter 3

Event:      JASNA CWNY September Meeting
When:     September 16, 2017 at 1 pm
Where:    Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room 

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley is first seen by the Bennett sisters wearing a “blue coat and riding a black horse." In Jane Austen’s time, members of the Whig party often wore blue coats to demonstrate their political allegiance. Was Mr. Bingley a Whig? Was Jane Austen a Whig, a Tory, or perhaps totally apolitical?

Of course, we will probably never know for sure, although the question has been endlessly debated. What we do know for sure is that politics happened during Jane Austen’s lifetime. England was at war, and control of the government was bitterly contested by the Whigs and Tories.

At our next meeting we will learn more about the political climate in which Jane Austen lived and wrote. Alice Villaseñor will give us a preview of the talk she will be presenting at the upcoming Annual General Meeting entitled “Evidence from the Archives: Relating Jane Austen’s Novels to Austen Family Politics." In her talk Alice will explore the 1806 and 1807 Hampshire elections and the connections between these elections and Jane Austen’s novels “by studying news items from the Hampshire Chronicle alongside images of political artifacts from the Hampshire archives.” (AGM abstract)

We know Jane Austen took an active interest in politics. In a letter to Cassandra in April 1811 she wrote:

“I congratulate Edward on the Weald of Kent Canal-Bill being put off till another session, as I have just had the pleasure of reading.-There is always something to be hoped from delay.-

“Between Session and Session”
“The first Prepossession”
“May rouse up the Nation”
“And the villainous Bill”
May be forced to lie Still”
Against Wicked Men’s will.””

So politics and poetry can mix, at least when Jane Austen is writing.

This promises to be a fascinating look at one aspect of what was going on in Jane Austen’s life by someone who has studied the details. “Dr. Alice Villaseñor, a specialist in Jane Austen’s reception history, is Assistant Professor of English at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York.  A life member of JASNA, she has been a JASNA International Visitor and a board member of JASNA and JASNA-SW.  She has spoken at several AGMs and Regional Meetings.” (AGM bio). Except that she is now an Associate Professor. Congratulations are in order.

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