A good many of you were enthralled by Natalie Jenner’s first novel and international bestseller The Jane Austen Society. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into the lives of Jenner’s cast of characters who populated that novel set in 1940s England. [You can read my review here]. Evie Stone was one of her most endearing, a young servant at Chawton House who takes a liking to the library and all the books in it – and spends her time there doing far more than the required cleaning. It was difficult to close the book on Evie and not want to know more about her life after Chawton, and obviously, it was hard for Natalie Jenner to let her go as well.
Her newest novel, titled Bloomsbury Girls, (not due out until May 2022!) gives us just what we could wish for – and not only the continuing story of Evie but also that of two other women caught up in life in a bookshop in the aftermath of World War II. How we shall wait until May 2022 is my biggest concern!
But this week, a group of bloggers headed by Laurel Ann at Austenprose, are giving you a small taste of what’s coming, starting with this Cover Reveal!
First, what’s it about?
“One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.”
The Internationally Bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
Author Natalie Jenner on Bloomsbury Girls:
“I never intended for Evie Stone to be a major character in my debut novel, let alone inspire my second one, Bloomsbury Girls. But as time went on, I found I could not leave her behind in Chawton with the other society members. And then one day I rewatched a favourite movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I remember thinking, there’s a whole other story in here still to be told, of an upstairs-downstairs motley crew of booksellers, and right away the figures came to life.”
“As with The Jane Austen Society, Bloomsbury Girls features multiple characters and storylines revolving around one very charming location: this time, the quintessential Dickensian-type bookshop.”
“If The Jane Austen Society was the book I wrote when I was coming out of sadness, Bloomsbury Girls was written when I was very happy, and I hope it provides a little cheer to readers during this difficult time.
Drum roll please … Cover Reveal!!*
About the Author:
Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY and BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best debut novel and historical fiction, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, a career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.
You can follow the Cover Reveal Book Blast at the other bloggers here: at Austenprose (scroll to the bottom).
*I love this cover! Like The Jane Austen Society, it has real people on the cover (with the appropriate footwear), a bookstore in the background, and the requisite floral accompaniment! Cannot wait to enjoy the inside!
So I am back from an RV trek up north – finally able to get to Vermont and visit with family and friends – almost SEVEN weeks with no stable or reliable internet connection on any given day – and I actually survived the deprivation. Thankfully Trooper was not writing his usual journal of this trip [ https://trooperslog.wordpress.com/ ] so did not need to be uploading all his commentary and pictures every day.
But now back home with access to my shelves and resuming posts on “Collecting Jane Austen” with a short post on one of my favorite sets of Jane Austen’s novels: The Macdonald Illustrated Classics (London, 1948-61), with illustrations by Philip Gough and introductions by various scholars for four of the six volumes.
When Macdonald & Co. (London) published its first volume of Jane Austen’s work in 1948, Emmawas the chosen work, with Philip Gough as illustrator. It was the 4thvolume in the Macdonald Illustrated Classics series. It is a small book, under 8 inches, bound in red leatherette, with a frontispiece and seven other full-page plates of watercolor drawings by Gough. There is no introduction. Macdonald published its next Jane Austen novel in this series in 1951 – Pride and Prejudice, with illustrations again by Gough and again no introduction. If you are lucky enough to have all the six volumes published by Macdonald, you will see that they appear to be a set, all with the same binding and all illustrated by Gough – but they were published over a period of years from 1948 to 1961 as follows – with the No. in the Macdonald series in ():
1948 – Emma (No. 4)
1951 –Pride & Prejudice(No. 23)
1957 – Mansfield Park (No. 34); introduction by Q. D. Leavis
1958 – Sense & Sensibility (No. 37), with Lady Susan and The Watsons; intro by Q. D. Leavis
1961 – Northanger Abbey (No. 40); intro by Malcolm Elwin
1961 –Perusasion (No. 41); intro by Malcolm Elwin
Not sure why Leavis did not do the other introductions – her essays on Jane Austen are magnificent, and a definite must-have for your Austen library. Her Mansfield Park introduction, after stating that MP is “now recognized as the most interesting and important of the Austen novels,” gives us a brief summary of Austen’s life and times, then writes of her theories that Lady Susan is the matrix of Mansfield Park, that Austen was “soaked in Shakespeare,” that the Sotherton sequence is one of the “most remarkable in any English novel” where all the action is symbolic and how its pattern of events is “exactly and awfully repeated” in the final outcome of the book, and finally how Mansfield Park is really a tragedy “in spite of the appearance of a happy ending.”
All of the novels were published with a stiff clear mylar wrapper with the title and “Illustrated by Philip Gough” in mustard yellow, and “By Jane Austen” in blue, with nothing on the spine but the gilt titles on the red backstrip showing through. These wrappers are nearly impossible to find. I only have the one for my Emma volume.
There is little known about Philip Gough and I cannot find much researching the internet other than he was born in 1908, illustrated a number of children’s books (Alice in Wonderland, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales are two examples); this Jane Austen series from Macdonald; and a goodly number of dust jackets for Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels (see below). There is a list of 14 books on Goodreads illustrated by him but this list is not complete – Jane Austen is not listed!) [ https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/1981672.Philip_Gough ]
It is worth noting that in the introduction to the 1961 Persuasion by Malcolm Elwin (and also quoted by David Gilson in his entry E327 on this edition in his A Bibliography of Jane Austen), Elwin states that the drawings of Hugh Thomson are said to be “too Victorian in their sentimentality to suit the spirit and period of the novels” – and that “Mr. Gough has shown himself a student of the Regency period, and many sound critics have judged him to have succeeded in conveying the subtlety of Jane Austen’s satiric humour.” Gilson also notes a TLS review of this edition (10 November 1961, 810), quoting that “Philip Gough’s illustrations have their own brand of sentimentality, this time of the pretty-pretty sub-Rex Whistler variety.”
Each of the novels begins with a chapter I heading drawing in black and white as well as a drawing on the title page. Emma as the first published of the novels is an exception – there are chapter heading illustrations for each of the odd-numbered chapters; all the other novels have only the one heading chapter I as well as the title page. Each novel has 7 watercolors (Sense and Sensibility only has five; there is one watercolor each for Lady Susan and The Watsons and each begins with a black and white drawing.) I find these watercolor illustrations a little too precious – there is a tendency toward “Pretty in Pink”– as you will see in these examples from each novel in the order of publication below. There is also some rather odd scenes of what Gough chose to illustrate and they are often placed so far from the actual text being quoted that they serve more as a distraction rather than illuminating the story. But these are quibbles – I love this set and am privileged to have it on my shelf – it is almost impossible to find as a full set, and each volume can be quite expensive when located (Emma is the most elusive) – my advice is to buy them when you see them and grin and bear it.
So now for a few examples of Gough’s illustrations from each of the novels:
Emma (1948): Gough definitely equated the Regency period and Jane Austen with the feminine Pink – and in Emma there is a good deal of it!
Chapter heading from Ch. I of Persuasion: you would think this should be Kellynch Hall at the start of the novel – but this is certainly not grand enough for Sir Walter! We find on page 42 that it is Uppercross Cottage and here we see it in full color:
We shall end with Captain Wentworth, because, why not – we see him neither in a navy uniform (this is for another post – how many illustrators portray the good Captain in uniform??), nor is he in Pink, but an odd color nonetheless!
Gough cover illustrations for Georgette Heyer – some examples (I LOVE these!):
Jane Austen and London is a subject that should have its own shelf(ves). This is one of those down the rabbit hole in collecting that will either find you on a completely different path of book buying or become for you “the road not taken.” There will be many such roads if you embark on the adventure of collecting Jane Austen – as you all likely know, it is an endless morass…
Long before I began to collect Jane Austen, I started a collection of books on London – I love London for many reasons – my parents were born in England so I became an anglophile from an early age; I studied in London for a college semester (political science – don’t ask!); and during that semester met my husband, so it serves as a Romantic haven for me. I started collecting any books I could find on London – a heady task (almost as impossible as Jane Austen) – then narrowed it to children’s books about or set in London (many more than you would think) – then when Austen hit my radar I began to focus just on Regency-era London (a bit more manageable but larger than my pocket book or shelf space nonetheless). So I now have rather a mish-mash of various titles, some very collectible and some just commonplace treatises great for reference and beautiful pictures. When I began doing talks on Jane Austen and London, I found a real use for the books I had as well as an excuse to acquire more….and so you see my mighty fall into the Rabbit Hole of collecting….
Today I will just share three titles of the many, for no particular reason other than to show the diversity of what’s out there – I append at the end the very select bibliography handout for the talk I give, though is now a bit outdated and does not contain all the books I have – if you have any favorite books on London, please share the titles in the comments.
1. Regency London, by Stella Margetson. New York: Praeger, 1971 [London: Cassell, 1971].
Margetson wrote a few novels but also a number of books of English social history especially of the late 18th and the 19th-century. This book on Regency London is a short introductory text that covers the basics, with black and white contemporary illustrations throughout:
The Mercantile City
Westminster and Government
The Regent and the Architect
The Artists and the Writers
Some Visitors to London [Jane gets a few pages on her stays in London]
An Expanding City
FYI: Cassell / Praeger did a series of five books on London:
Roman London, by Ralph Merrifield
Medieval London, by Timothy Baker
Elizabethan London, by Martin Holmes
Regency London, by Stella Margetson
Victorian London, by Priscilla Metcalf
2. The A to Z of Regency London, Introduction by Paul Laxton; index compiled by Joseph Wisdom. Lympne Castle, Kent: Harry Margary, in association with Guildhall Library, London, 1985.
This historical atlas is based on Richard Horwood’s survey of London in 1792-9 and updated by William Faden in 1813 – it shows the streets, lanes, courts, yards, and alleys, but also every individual building with its street number – the 40 sheets of the original Horwood have been photographically reduced, and the index for this edition expands the original by threefold.
The Horwood map is available online in various formats [a terrific one is here: https://www.romanticlondon.org/explore-horwoods-plan/#16/51.5112/-0.0747], but this is a treasure to have close at hand. One can easily trace Austen’s meanderings described in her letters, and follow the many characters in Sense and Sensibility – where they live, visit, and shop – her one novel where London is central to the plot (though it is also where the dilemma of Harriet gets sorted!)
For those of you who love maps, there are others to choose from in this series: The A to Z of Elizabethan London, Restoration London, Georgian London, Victorian London, and Edwardian London (there is also one for Georgian Dublin)
3. One Day in Regency England, by Alastair Scott. Brighton: Robert Tyndall, 1974.
This is a children’s book, and about all of England not just London – but it is a delightful introduction to the period and filled with color and black and white contemporary illustrations; the cover is designed by Gordon King.
The book presents the day of July 20, 1813 in the lives of several characters, starting in the home of Charles Henry Longhurst – we meet him and his family and their friends and his servants, the children in school, life in the country vs. the day in the City – all presented as what goes on in these individual lives in the Morning, Afternoon and Evening. It is skillfully and entertainingly done and in 48 pages takes us in to traveling carriages, cookery in the kitchen, a dinner party and then off to Vauxhall Gardens, all the while getting a glimpse of those doing all the work behind the scenes! It is quite an exhausting day!
As you can see in the bottom paragraph in the above page image, Scott writes that Longhurst’s daughter Amelia is quite taken with Jane Austen and reading Pride and Prejudice – when suddenly her attention is drawn to the arrival of a small chimney-sweep – and thus we are privy to that bit of history, of poor, young, soot-covered boys and the realities and dangers of that job.
[This Day Book Series also includes a number of other “One Day” adventures in a variety of time periods in England and elsewhere: Shakespeare’s England, Roman Britain, Victorian, Medieval, WWI, WWII, etc.]
As noted, this bibliography is very select but gives you an idea of the variety of works on London and specifically London during Jane Austen’s time – again, it is a bit outdated….
‘Jane Austen’s London in Fact and Fiction’: Select Bibliography
The A – Z of Regency London; introduction by Paul Laxton. London: Harry Margary / Guildhall Library, 1985.
Ackermann, R. The Microcosm of London, or London in Miniature. Rpt. ed. London: Methuen, 1904.
Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, 2000.
Jane Austen’s Letters are an absolute must-have in your collection. There is nothing like reading these late at night, Jane Austen hovering over your shoulder. Considered rather mundane by the scholarly world when they first appeared – filled as they are with local gossip, fashion and food news, the periodic snide comment about friends and neighbors, and very little about her reading and writing – they have in succeeding years been picked over, and picked over again, to find the minutest insight into Austen and her world.
I find them a pure delight – seeing Austen as she was, mostly in missives to her sister, but also to her brothers, her friends, and publishers – it is like being inside her head at any given moment as she shares her thoughts, observations, and very caustic wit about the goings-on around her – a participant, but always the objective, sometimes judgmental, observer…
One-hundred and sixty letters remain from what has been surmised to have been thousands Austen likely wrote. Cassandra’s “great conflagration” before her own death in 1845 saw the destruction of who knows what else Austen had to say about her own life – the gaps in dates give the reader such a sense of loss – what happened in those intervening days and years?? – and thus the fabric of novels is made. Of these 160 extant letters, most are scattered around various institutions or remain in private hands – location of each is noted in Le Faye’s exhaustive work.
Well, a true collector should have them all – you can find a good list in Gilson at G, a mere 8 pages (1982 ed.) with an additional three pages in the revised edition of 1997. While having them all would be a collector’s dream, you at least must have the 4th ed. by Le Faye if you are to understand anything at all about Jane Austen. But here is my list of the basic should-haves:
1. 1817: Henry Austen’s “Biographical Notice” postscript dated 20 December 1817 – Henry included a few extracts from her letters in this notice that appeared in the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (London: John Murray, 1818).
2. 1870: James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen(London: Bentley, 1870) – includes extracts and some letters in their entirety.
3. 1884: The Letters of Jane Austen, edited with an introduction and critical remarks by Edward, Lord Brabourne (London: Bentley, 1884). Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen, son of Austen’s niece Fanny Knight, published 96 of the letters left to him by his mother – mostly includes letters to Cassandra, but also to Fanny, Anna Lefroy, and the two letters written by Cassandra on Austen’s death.
4. 1906: Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers, by John Henry Hubback and Edith Charlotte Hubback (London: John Lane, 1906) – this biography of Francis and Charles Austen includes for the first time Jane’s letters to her sailor brothers.
5. 1913: Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh (London: Smith-Elder, 1913) – quoted from all the letters known at that time.
6. 1924: Five Letters from Jane Austen to her Niece Fanny Knight, printed in facsimile (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924) – the full text of the letters from Austen to her niece (they were incompletely printed in Brabourne’s collection.
7. 1925: The Letters of Jane Austen, selected with an introduction by R. Brimley Johnson (London: John Lane, 1925) – a selection of 44 letters from the Brabourne Letters, The Sailor Brothers, and the Austen-Leigh Life.
8. 1932: Jane Austen’s Letters to Her Sister Cassandra, collected and edited by R. W. Chapman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1932) – the first definitive edition, printed from the actual manuscripts where possible with those letters not accessible taken from Brabourne. There was a 2nd ed. published in 1952 with the addition of 6 more letters but few other changes. Chapman also published a selection of the letters (about one-third) in 1955, and again in 1985 with an introduction by Marilyn Butler.
9. 1981: Five Letters from Jane Austen to Her Sister Cassandra, 1813, with an introduction by David Gilson (Brisbane: Lock’s Press, 1981) – a limited edition of 60 copies.
10. 1990: Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile, edited by Jo Modert (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1990 – a reproduction of all letters that could be located – the introduction is invaluable and seeing each letter in its original state is fascinating.
11. 1990: My Dear Cassandra…a collection of Jane Austen’s Lettersselected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett (London: Collins and Brown, 1990) – letters selected from the Brabourne Letters, not complete, but it does include many fabulous contemporary illustrations.
12. 1992: “Seven letters from Austen to Francis and Charles” published as a keepsake for those at the JASNA AGM (Alto Loma: Bookhaven Press, 1992) – a miniature booklet limited to 300 copies, these were given to attendees of the 1992 AGM in Santa Monica, CA – the theme was “The Letters, Focusing on Travel and the Sea.”
13. 1995: Jane Austen’s Letters, New Edition, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995) – a 3rd edition of the Chapman Letters but with Le Faye’s ceaseless and energetic scholarship into those not fully identified by Chapman as well as the addition of 12 more letters – Le Faye’s notes are mine of information on provenance, current location of each letter (if known), every detail on people and places and allusions are noted; includes biographical and topographical indexes. The lacking full subject indexes found in Chapman were added into the 4th edition (see below)…
There is also a fine publication of this 1995 edition by the Folio Society:
14. 2004: Selected Letters [of Jane Austen], selected with an introduction and notes by Vivien Jones (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004) – based on the 3rd ed. of the letters by Deirdre Le Faye from 1995. You need these paperback editions so you have something to write-in and underline (!).
14. 2011: Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th ed., collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011; paperback ed. 2014) – no new letters have been discovered since the 1995 ed, but much additional information has been added regarding Austen’s life and her endless references in the letters. Indexes and notes have been updated, as well as the addition of the all-important Subject Index.
There are other editions out there – I also have the small Oxford World Classics blue hardcover of Chapman Letters with the dust jacket, not often seen – if you should find this, buy it immediately…
[Please note: Our house is being renovated and all my books are packed up – so while some of these images are mine, I had to also mine the internet for others!]
“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 screens, 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.”
“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”
“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.
“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”
“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?”
“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe united.”
[Pride & Prejudice, Vol. 1, Ch. 8]
And so, to truly understand what Mr. Darcy is driving at, to understand anything about Jane Austen’s world, you need to study this quite formidable lady, if indeed such a one existed! – and there is no better book on the subject than Noël Riley’s The Accomplished Lady: A History of Genteel Pursuits c.1660-1860(Oblong, 2017).
“This is a study of the skills and pastimes of upper-class women and the works they produced during a 200-year period. These activities included watercolours, printmaking and embroidery, shell work, rolled and cut paper work, sand painting, wax flower modelling, painting on fabrics and china, leather work, japanning, silhouettes, photography and many other activities, some familiar and others little known.
The context for these activities sets the scene: the general position of women in society and the constraints on their lives, their virtues and values, marriage, domestic life and education. This background is amplified with chapters on other aspects of women’s experience, such as sport, reading, music, dancing and card-playing.”[from the book jacket].
Table of Contents:
1. A Woman’s Lot 2. Educating a Lady 3. Reading and Literary Pursuits [my favorite chapter] 4. Cards, Indoor Games and Theatricals 5. The Sporting Lady 6. Dancing and Public Entertainment 7. Music 8. Embroidery 9. Threads and Ribbons 10. Beadwork 11. Shellwork 12. Nature into Art 13. Paperwork 14. Drawing and Painting 15. Creativity with Paints and Prints 16. Japanning 17. Penwork 18. Silhouettes 19. Photography and the Victorian Lady 20. Sculpture, Carving, Turning and Metalwork 21. Toys and Trifles.
Includes extensive notes, an invaluable bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index.
I have mentioned before that in collecting Jane Austen, you will often go off into necessary tangents to learn about her Life and Times – this can take you in any number of directions, but understanding the Domestic Arts of the Regency period is an absolute must – and there are MANY books on the subject, cookery alone could fill shelves. But here in this one book we find a lavishly illustrated, impeccably researched study of all the possible activities a lady of leisure [no cookery for My Lady] can get herself caught up in….whether she becomes accomplished or not is beyond our knowing, but certainly Mr. Darcy would find at least ONE lady in these pages who might meet his strict requirements, despite Elizabeth’s doubting rant.
It is always a worthwhile effort to check the index of every book you pick up to see if Jane Austen gets a mention. And here we are not disappointed – Austen shows up on many pages, and five of her six novels are cited in the bibliography – all but Persuasion for some odd reason – one would think Anne Elliot’s skills at the pianoforte would have merited a mention?
This image of page 165 quotes Austen about patchwork when she writes to Cassandra on 31 May 1811:“Have you remembered to collect peices for the Patchwork?”
So, let’s stop to think about the varied accomplishments of Austen’s many female characters…anyone want to comment and give a shout out to your own favorite and her accomplishments / or lack thereof? Is anyone up to Mr. Darcy’s standards?
Of all the Jane Austen sets, this Dent publication is probably the most well-known because of the Brock brothers illustrations – they have continued to be published over and over again, and the ones we think of when we think of “Jane Austen illustrated.”
The Novels of Jane Austen, J. M. Dent, 1898 [Molland’s]
1892 was a watershed year for Austen and the beginning of the many Dents – but today we will focus on this set published by J. M. Dent in 1898 in 10 volumes and edited by R. Brimley Johnson – it was the first to offer Jane Austen in color. You can find all the interesting information in Gilson at E90. But a quick summary and a few pictures will surely entice you to want this on your shelves – and if the set is hard to come by or beyond your price range, a fine adventure is trying to put a set together yourself, as individual volumes are often available.
Dent had originally published Austen’s novels in 1892, also edited by Johnson, but with sepia-toned illustrations by William C. Cooke [more on this set in another post]. But in 1898, Dent used the same text plates but deep-sixed the Cooke illustrations and took on the Brock brothers to render Austen in livelier watercolors reproduced by 6-color lithography with each volume having 6 illustrations. Charles Edmund Brock did Sense & Sensibility (vols. 1 and 2), Emma (vols. 7 and 8), and Persuasion (vol. 10). Henry Matthew Brock did Pride & Prejudice (vol. 3 and 4), Mansfield Park (vols. 5 and 6), and Northanger Abbey (vol. 9).
[You can read about the Brocks here at Molland’s with an excellent essay by Cinthia García Soria here: http://www.mollands.net/etexts/other/brocks.html ] You can also google their names and many of the Jane Austen blogs have posts on the Brocks and other illustrators.
The Brocks owned a number of Regency era furnishings and decorative arts, as well as a large collection of fashion prints – they had many costumes made, having family and friends model for them and perhaps why their illustrations seem so very authentic! Laura Carroll and John Wilshire call these Brock-illustrated editions “Chocolate-box” – gift-book quality, beautiful inside with delicate pen or brush drawings, and outside with gilt embossing and Arts and Crafts inspired design; another critic refers to the Brocks’ work as “delicate teacup and saucer primness”! [See their essay “Jane Austen, Illustrated” in A Companion to Jane Austen, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 62-77.]
C. E. Brock had previously illustrated Pride and Prejudice with black and white line drawings – this was published by Macmillan in 1895. He would go on in the years 1907-09 to illustrate all the novels for another Dent publication, their Series of English Idylls (with 24 watercolor illustrations in each volume; they were all later published as a set with fewer illustrations in each volume.) To compare CE Brock’s two very different styles in these two editions is an interesting way to spend at least an afternoon! Here is one example from Emma, the infamous romance-inducing umbrella scene:
To follow all the wild publishing of Austen at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th requires a degree in bibliography, or at least a great deal of patience – and certainly you must have Gilson by your side. There were many, many reprints with many variations as to the number of illustrations, the quality of the reproductions, and binding types – it is great mess for the book buyer / collector – and all I can say is do your homework and buyer beware…!
American printings are another great mess, various publishers over a span of years, with varying number of illustrations, and in many cases a poorer reproduction quality. The most important thing to remember is that the earliest edition will have the higher price but also better quality printing and illustrations. As an example, compare these HM Brock 1898 and 1907 printings of Darcy giving Elizabeth his letter in Pride & Prejudice:
[this doesn’t show up very well in the scan – but there is a huge difference in the detail, color, and quality of the print]
Here are a few illustrations: I have various volumes and parts of the green cloth 1898 set, but also this 1898 set bound in leather – this one my favorite, but alas! it is missing something very important!
Dent 1898 – red leather – my set, lacking the all-important what? P&P!
CE Brock, Persuasion, 1898: The Fall! / The Letter!
One of my favorite scenes in Pride & Prejudice is Elizabeth “in earnest contemplation” – here we can see CE Brock’s line drawing for Macmillan in 1895 and HM Brock’s in 1898, and CE Brock’s in 1907 [are you sufficiently confused yet??]
CE Brock, Macmillan, 1895 / HM Brock, Dent, 1898
CE Brock, Dent, 1907 [though this is not exactly the same quote you get the idea…]
The Brocks are most often compared with Hugh Thomson: there are various critical interpretations of these two most popular Austen artists, some more approving of Thomson’s humor and his almost caricatured characters, while others preferring the more effective facial expressions and body language of the Brocks that seem more realistic despite the rather overdrawn borders and settings – do notice the detail in the fashion, the furnishings, and landscape, and what scenes are chosen – we can compare these to Thomson in future posts. The point is, you need them both…
I shall take a little side road today with this discussion of must-haves in your Jane Austen collection – here an example of a book Jane Austen had read, referred to, satirized, and which then became the most interesting thing about Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice.
Part of collecting Jane Austen is to learn about and possibly add to your collection those books known to have been read by her, a fascinating list compiled from the many allusions in her novels and her letters. You can start with R. W. Chapman’s “Index of Literary Allusions, which you can find online.
Chapman’s list first appeared in the NA and P volume of the Oxford edition we looked at last week – more has been added to this – but this is a good start – you could spend the rest of your life just collecting “allusion” books and you will completely forget what you were collecting in the first place.
But Fordyce is one you must have, should read, for if nothing else it will give you a better idea of where Mr. Collins is coming from and what Austen has to say about both he AND Fordyce.
Sermons to Young Women, by Dr. James Fordyce, is certainly one the most well-known of all the various conduct manuals Austen would have had access to, published in London in 1766, “and by 1814, the year after Pride and Prejudice appeared, it had gone though 14 editions published in London alone.” [Ford, intro, i].
We all recall that in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins chooses to read Fordyce’s Sermons aloud to the Bennet sisters, Lydia especially unimpressed:
By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and, when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but, on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with:
“Do you know, mama, that my uncle Philips talks of turning away Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town.”
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said:
“I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young cousin.” [P&P, Ch. XIV]
Collins, done with such young and frivolous young ladies, heads off for a game of backgammon with Mr. Bennet…
Illustrators of Pride and Prejudice have turned this scene into a visual treat:
Hugh Thomson, P&P (George Allen, 1894)
Chris Hammond, P&P, Gresham, 1900
Fordyce (1720-1796) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a poet, but is most known for his Sermons. He also published Addresses to Young Men in 1777. But would we even be talking about him today if it weren’t for Jane Austen??!
Much has been written about Austen and Fordyce – the point being, you need a copy. You can find it in one of its original editions on used bookstore sites for not over the top prices – or there are many, many reprints out there.
One of the best of these is the facsimile reprint of the 10th ed. of 1786 and published by Chawton House Press in 2012. Susan Allen Ford wrote the valuable introduction and it also includes a fine bibliography. This edition is unfortunately out-of-print and I am hoping that they will republish it in the near future. It was a best-seller in its time and again today! Who knew!
Here is how David Gilson annotated this edition in his Bibliography under the year1923:
E150. The Novels of Jane Austen: the text based on collation of the early editions by R. W. Chapman. With notes, indexes and illustrations from contemporary sources. 5 volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923. 1000 sets …
And then goes on for 5 pages [p. 296-300].
Gilson notes an undated memorandum in the files of the Clarendon Press: “The publishers are bitterly opposed to any imaginative illustrations, and would cheerfully have no illustrations at all. But they would be in favor of a few objective illustrations.”
“They” were perhaps responding to Henry James who had famously complained that the public’s enthusiasm for Jane Austen was being aided and abetted “by a body of publishers, editors and illustrators who find their dear, our dear, everybody’s dear, Jane, so infinitely to their material purpose, so amenable to pretty reproduction in every variety of what is called tasteful, … and what proves to be saleable form.”
Chapman did choose “objective” illustrations – from contemporary sources that Jane Austen would have been familiar with: the landscape, art, architecture, fashion, carriages, etc. of the time period. The lists of appendices (essays on the times, Austen’s language, chronologies and Index of Characters, etc.) and the illustrations found in all 5 volumes are repeated in each volume.
Here is the list of all the illustrations:
Only 1000 sets were printed, 950 for sale – the value of this 1st edition set is about $1,500 and is described as the “Large Paper Edition” by booksellers. The set pictured above included the 1934 2-volumes Letters and sold for $5,500 a few years ago [not to me unfortunately!]
Some of the contemporary illustrations that Chapman chose we are all now quite familiar with – here are just 3 examples:
There are various re-printings of this Oxford set and buyer beware as to what you are getting – here’s a quick analysis:
The set was reissued in 1926 and though called a “Second edition,” it was really just a reprint on cheaper paper and less elaborate illustrations. A note to this edition and some additional notes by Chapman are included.
In 1933, the 5 volumes were re-printed again as a “Third edition” but the text was printed from the same plates, so not officially a 3rd ed at all.
After various re-printings [see Gilson’s notes on these], the Oxford set was issued in 1965-66, now called the official 3rd edition – same text but with alterations to notes etc. by Mary Lascelles based on Chapman’s notes. Chapman had issued the Minor Works volume in 1954, and the set has been the 6 volumes ever since.
Just to give you an idea of the confusing publishing history and the possible printings out there, here is the copyright notice in one of my sets, the 1988 printing you see above:
This Chapman set was the first to offer complete scholarly notes and textual analysis for an English author and has been the source for citation ever since. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, with Janet Todd as General Editor and each of the novels edited by a different Austen scholar, began publishing in 2005 [it is now complete in 8 volumes with Juvenilia and Later Manuscripts included.] This has begun to supersede the Oxford set for citation purposes. You really need them both, as daunting as that might be! More on this Cambridge set in another post.
How Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women
by Jasmine A. Stirling
Author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice
Readers looking for a little escapism might pick up a Jane Austen novel in search of light romantic comedy, not realizing how iconoclastic the beloved author’s books truly were.
This is in fact, by design. First of all, Austen’s work is above all, great art. It’s manifold purposes are intentionally disguised in delightfully fun and witty prose, designed to propel us through the story and entertain while also educating readers.
Secondly, Austen was writing at a time when women’s roles were strictly circumscribed. She knew that any overt critique of the patriarchal culture in which she and her characters lived would likely prevent her from being published, reviewed, and/or widely read. The trick was never to be too explicit about anything, so as not to alert the powers that be (wealthy men) that she might be poking holes in the system from which they derived their many privileges. Austen found a way to do just that in her novels—without transgressing the bounds of decorum, of good taste, of sound judgment, and equanimity.
But Austen’s critiques are there, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Let’s explore how Austen’s six beloved novels revolutionized the way the world viewed women.
Jane Austen’s heroines challenged the prevailing notion of the ideal woman as decorative, passive, emotional, and morally perfect.
When reading Austen, it is important to keep in mind that the ideal Regency lady was about as different from Lizzie Bennet as you can imagine. As one author wrote of the Regency ideal:
“The feminine ideal . . . may best be deﬁned as an interesting compound of moral perfection and intellectual deficiency . . . She was required to be before all things a “womanly woman” meek, timid, trustful, clinging, yielding, unselfish, helpless and dependent, robust in neither body nor mind, but rather “fine by defect and amiably weak.” [She has not] laid aside the poetry of languor and the seductive debility that invested her with the allurement of a convalescent flower.”
Or, as Scottish moralist John Gregory instructed his daughters in the 1770s: “Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess . . . if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men.”
In addition to being morally perfect and intellectually deficient, the ideal Regency bride was very young, and came with a large fortune—which her husband would take possession of immediately after the wedding.
It is not surprising, then, that in this time period (as in our own), female characters—written overwhelmingly by male authors—were often portrayed in one dimension. After all, as Anne Elliot wryly observed, “The pen has been in their hands.” In most novels and plays, women were caricatures: morally loose and wicked; virginal, demure, and sweet; saintly and motherly; scheming and power-hungry.
Not so Jane Austen’s heroines. Seen in this light, Lizzy Bennet is not only an incredibly charming, lovable leading lady filled with quirks and flaws; she is downright subversive. “When Austen allows Elizabeth to express critical attitudes,” scholar Judith Lowder Newton writes, “to act upon them without penalty, when she endows Elizabeth with the power to alter her lot, Austen is moving against traditional notions of feminine behavior and feminine fate.”
In fact, in one way or another, all of Austen’s heroines buck gender norms or fall far short of the Regency ideal. Yet are all rewarded handsomely at the end—with love and riches. Lizzy is cheeky and opinionated, Emma is insensitive and meddlesome. Elinor and Marianne are frightfully poor, while Fanny is both poor and low-born. Catherine is obsessed with novels, and Anne Elliot is old and no longer pretty. Most of Austen’s heroines (Emma being an exception) are intellectual and well-read.
Furthermore, it is taken absolutely for granted by Austen that each of her heroines is, or can become, able to make her own life decisions—without any reference to men, her parents, or her social betters. This alone is a radical assumption, coming from a culture in which gender, family honor, and class dictated nearly everything a woman was permitted to say, do, and think.
But Austen didn’t stop there. She also used humor to challenge notions of ideal femininity. In Mansfield Park, Lady Bertram is so passive that she is unable to rise from the sofa, let alone form her own thoughts. Entertaining, frivolous characters like Lydia Bennet and Mary Crawford are viciously satirized. Traditional Georgian accomplishments such as “netting a purse” are ridiculed. Furthermore, Austen’s most desirable male suitors have no interest in the ideal Regency woman. Mr. Darcy, for example, requires that his mate possess “the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
In fact, I am hard pressed to point to heroines in today’s novels, films and TV shows that shine quite as brightly or depict women quite as realistically as Jane Austen’s did more than 200 years ago.
By raising up complicated, unique, bright, obstinate, and flawed women, then showing us their struggles and journeys of transformation, and finally rewarding them with love and happiness, Jane Austen obliterated unrealistic (and frankly, disturbing) notions of perfect, monolithic femininity, forever upending the way the world viewed women.
Jane Austen’s heroines helped readers experience first-hand the shockingly precarious and brutally inhumane status of women in Regency England.
During the Regency period, marriage required a woman to give up everything to her husband—her money, her freedom, her body, and her legal existence. Husbands were legally permitted to beat their wives, rape them, imprison them, and take their children away without their consent.
Divorce in the Regency era could only be achieved by a private act of Parliament, and was exceedingly rare. Lower classes could sell their wives in the marketplace, which functioned as a form of divorce. The woman was led to market with a halter tied around her neck and sold to the highest bidder.
The laws of primogeniture and entailed property dictated that, upon his death, the bulk of a man’s inheritance typically be handed down to his eldest son or closest living male relative. If a woman inherited anything after her husband died, it was arranged at the time of the marriage and based on the assets she brought to the union. Often she got little or nothing at all.
Opting out of marriage was not a viable option for most women. Because most people believed that females were vastly intellectually inferior to males, there were no universities for women, and nearly all professions were reserved exclusively for men. A spinster often faced a life of poverty, ridicule, and dependence on the charity of her male relatives.
As a result, for Austen, “a story about love and marriage wasn’t ever a light and frothy confection.” Hidden in all that effervescent prose are subtle but seething critiques of Regency society, laws, and gender norms. Austen used romantic comedy to expose the incredibly high stakes of the marriage game for women who had no other options. She helped readers see the precariousness, anxiety and vulnerability of real women—showing the brutality of their situation more poignantly, entertainingly, and intimately than any political treatise could have achieved.
In Sense and Sensibility, we feel the injustice of inheritance laws when Henry Dashwood dies and his wife and children are forced to leave their home and live at the mercy of the heir, Mrs. Dashwood’s stepson, John. John chooses to give them little help, and overnight, Mrs. Dashwood goes from living in splendor to barely scraping by.
In Pride and Prejudice, the key context for the story is that the Bennet family home, Longborne, is entailed to the insufferable Mr. Collins. If his daughters do not marry before their father dies, they will be left to depend on the charity of their male relatives (a situation Austen knew well, as it was hers after her father died).
Although Austen’s heroines find both love and riches, unhappy and loveless marriages far outnumber happy ones in her novels. Wickham is bribed into marrying Lydia; she will have to endure a lifetime of his womanizing ways. Willoughby rejects Marianne, opting for Miss Grey’s £50,000. Charlotte Lucas, twenty-seven years old and superior in character, temperament, and intellect, to the pompous and revolting Mr. Collins, accepts his offer of marriage because “it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune,” thereby relieving her brothers of the burden of providing for her as an old maid. In fact, Charlotte “felt all the good luck of it.”
In these and many other examples, the reality of women’s narrow options, their shocking lack of personal freedom, and their extreme financial vulnerability ring loud and clear. For the first time in history, Austen’s novels humanized and personalized women’s issues in a revolutionary way, adding fuel to the fire for radical new ideas that were just beginning to circulate about women’s rights, education, and opportunities.
Jane Austen championed the radical idea of the ideal marriage as a match between two rational and emotional equals.
While the bleak fates of many of Austen’s female characters illustrate the limited options facing women in the Regency era, happy endings await her heroines. These happy endings also challenged mainstream Regency notions of marriage, which typically looked very unlike that of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
A middle or upper class Regency marriage was often a male-dominated exchange, dictated by two families coming together to consolidate their fortunes. When she married, a woman passed from the control of her father to that of her husband. She might have the opportunity to reject a suitor, or choose from a number of suitors; or she might be a passive participant in this exchange, depending on her circumstances and family culture. In either case, her submissiveness after the wedding was considered crucial to its success. Austen rejected this model of marriage as ideal in her novels and in her life, writing to her niece that “nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love.”
Notions of marriage were changing rapidly in Austen’s era, inspired primarily by the Romantics—poets, authors and philosophers who believed that marriage should be fueled exclusively by romantic love—but Austen also rejected this ideal.
While the Romantics insisted that choosing a partner should be about unleashing one’s most passionate feelings, Austen championed the classical, Aristotelian philosophy of balance between emotion and reason when choosing a partner for life. The successful coming of age of an Austen heroine hinges on her learning to discern the true nature of a suitor, not simply the appearance he projects. It also often requires that she look beyond her emotional impulses and fall in love with a man’s character and temperament—as in the case of Marianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet, who are initially attracted to handsome, romantic rakes.
Indeed, flashy romantic suitors like Mr. Wickham and John Willoughby often prove to be wicked, scheming, and insincere. By contrast, more subdued men like Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth attempt to restrain their emotions in order to preserve the honor of the women they admire, and wait to betray their feelings until they are certain they are ready to propose.
Furthermore, Austen’s heroines, although driven by love, do not neglect to consider the practical implications of marrying well. After all, it is only after seeing Pemberley with her own eyes that Lizzie finally relents and accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal, famously thinking as she looks across the valley at his vast estate: “To be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”
In all of these respects, Austen was, and still is, a fresh voice on the topic of marriage. Our own era is still firmly in the grip of the Romantic frenzy—emotional love songs, extravagant courtships and proposals, an emphasis on being swept away in one’s feelings, and fairy tales with happy endings dominate popular culture.
For Austen, a classical reverence for balance—equal parts reason and emotion—reigned supreme, especially on the part of the woman, who had far more to lose in marriage than her male counterpart. Too much reason, and you have Elinor Dashwood, a woman who is initially a little too selfless and withdrawn. Too much emotion, and you have her sister Marianne, a woman who follows her feelings straight into the arms of a charlatan. To grow, each sister must learn a little bit from the other.
In this way, Austen again challenged the way the world viewed both marriage and a woman’s journey of self-discovery on her path towards finding love.
Jane Austen often compared herself to a miniature painter. In her work every situation, character name, snippet of dialogue, and location—matters. It is in these mundane details that Austen’s revolutionary ideas are expressed; it is here that we find the clues to the world Austen dreamed that women would one day occupy.
Viewed in this manner, Austen’s novels become much more than a parade of clever stories about romance and balls. They become, instead, a series of novels in which a brilliant, snarky woman unmasks the culture in which she lives—in ways that were, and still are, revolutionary.
In the end, Austen manages to write both about the real world—a world filled with greed, injustice, deceit, and hypocrisy—in which women’s roles are suffocatingly and terrifyingly limited—and a world of her own making—in which right prevails, and the smart, sassy, headstrong woman gets everything she could ever dream of, and more.
About Jasmine A. Stirling
Jasmine A. Stirling is the debut author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, a picture book biography of Jane Austen about persistence and creative mastery. Jasmine lives on a cheerful street in San Francisco with her husband, two daughters, and their dog. From a young age, she loved to write poems and stories and worked her way through nearly every children’s book (and quite a few for grownups, too) in her local library. When she’s not writing, Jasmine can be found hiking in the fog, singing songs from old musicals, and fiddling with her camera.
Jasmine first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where she read her favorite of Jane’s six masterful novels, Persuasion. A Most Clever Girl is her dream project, done with her dream team—award-winning illustrator Vesper Stamper and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing. Jasmine also has a YA/New Adult history of the women’s suffrage movement out soon, titled We Demand An Equal Voice.
Visit www.jasmineastirling.com to get a free Jane Austen paper doll kit with the purchase of A Most Clever Girl. While you’re there, enter to win a Regency tea party gift basket!