Yesterday I received the spring edition of JASNA News. Some interesting reading, including about our own chapter! Alas, like interviews, things get jumbled or remain unprinted. So a mixed blessing to see the activities of our Chapter’s last half-year in the News. We draw members from several counties, so it is a misnomer to say Burlingtonians alone gathered for our organizational meeting. And we actually met in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, thanks to the efforts of Carol Madden in securing us the space. (For those who do not know Vermont geography, Montpelier, our state capitol, is about an hour‘s drive south of the Burlington area.) Our Austen Birthday tea, another event planned for the Montpelier area, indeed was blown by a strong nor’easter coming through the state the very weekend of December 15/16. However, we rescheduled, having a wonderful gathering in Deb Barnum’s Burlington home in February. There, members got to meet or renew acquaintance, and everyone read out a favorite passage from Austen. The company was most congenial, and the food and tea very appealing.

It was with great interest that I read Terri Hunter’s article JANE AUSTEN AND ME. I also applied for JASNA’s 2007 IVP (International Visitor Program). When that went unfunded, I searched high and low for affordable accommodation and lucked into a wonderful landlady in Kings Worthy. Therefore, I kept my plan to spend two months at Winchester’s Hampshire Record Office. JASNA’s Kerri Spennicchia had given me contact information for the previous year’s IVP, Alice White, who was back in Winchester for a few weeks; Alice in turn introduced me to Terri; they were both living at the dorms at Winchester University. Alice, a PhD candidate at USC, centers her research on Catherine Hubback; Terri was focusing on Chawton in the time of Austen, bringing together, as she says in her article, genealogy and history. Like others, I look forward to seeing the produce of these researches.

As I told Deb a week or so ago, one’s writing is affected by one’s reading. Reading good writing makes the words flow oh so much more easily! Having little money to spend, I’ve been combing my library for something entertaining. That’s when I picked up Evelina. But, like many a book of mine, the bookmark has remained stationary some many days… So, still searching, I took up a wonderful mystery by Rhys Bowen, the ninth in her Evan Evans series which is set in one of my favorite parts of the world: Wales. Evan Blessed whetted my appetite for more by Bowen, but South Burlington’s B&N isn’t exactly well stocked with her books. I’m really intrigued by her new series’ first entry, Her Royal Spyness. It sure starts off hilariously. (Amazon offers a sample of the first couple chapters.)

So what to read, what to read…?

I ended back in Burney territory; though – after pulling down Cecilia – not a novel by her, but a biography about her – Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of George III. Hester Davenport has concentrated on Burney’s years of service to Queen Charlotte, after Burney became Keeper of the Robes in 1786. With this narrow focus, this biography becomes one of the most interesting (and well-written) biographies I’ve read in a quite a while, presenting a picture of court life as lived by one rather reluctant to be there in the first place. It’s rather like Upstairs-Downstairs; it pulls you into the lives of those served as well as those serving. And, as a piece of women’s history, it is thought-provoking to read of Fanny Burney’s reactions to her position as a paid servant, as well as her interactions with the Royal Family and of court-life during the time of Austen’s own girlhood. So, I will now restart my CD of Charles Trenet “hits” and settle in with Burney back in the year 1787.

A last little ‘plug,’ for our blog’s own AUSTEN POLL: vote for your favorite Austen novel! (See the sidebar on the right.)