“Now I must give one smirk, then we may be rational again”

A guest-post from JANEITE MAE, a JASNA-Vermont member, who writes most happily of our June 22 meeting on Northanger Abbey and the history of JASNA:

What a merry party we were at the Vermont chapter meeting on Sunday. Several members having sent their apologies (it is the summer, after all), twenty-four Vermont (and New Hampshire) Janeites gathered in the Conference Room at the Hauke Family Campus Center, Champlain College, for an afternoon of lively discussion, camaraderie, and just plain fun.

The activities began with former JASNA president Lorraine Hanaway’s presentation on the beginnings of JASNA in the late 1970’s. It was interesting to hear about how it all started. (Who knew that JASNA’s formation was due in large part to the urgent need for restroom privileges at Chawton?) Then we were treated to 94-year-old Mildred Darrow’s musings on being a long-time Janeite. How many of us could disagree with her observation that “my favorite Austen novel is the one I just finished reading”?

The dramatic readings from Northanger Abbey were a lot of fun. Janeite Deb provided accessories and props for the readers to help them get into character. Could anyone resist a chuckle at Catherine’s innocence, or a smirk at Henry’s teasing?!

Following the readings, we joined in a group discussion of Northanger Abbey. Topics included:  What does Henry see in Catherine?  How does the voice of the narrator in Northanger Abbey differ from that of Austen’s other novels? and, of course, what people thought of the two television films adapted from the novel.

An interesting twist to the discussion came when Lorraine shared with us her idea that Amy Heckerling, screenwriter of the film Clueless, could write a fun screenplay of Northanger Abbey as an animated film. Lorraine suggested that John Thorpe should be a walrus and Catherine a goose. Personally, I found this an intriguing idea. I wondered which animal should represent Isabella? (Some suggested a cat.) And what about Mrs. Allen? Imagine the possibilities! Imagine the fun! Imagine John Thorpe as a walrus. (Perhaps you already have?)

All kidding aside, though, I was very pleased to finally attend a gathering in my home state of people who share a love of Jane Austen. It was the realization of a long-time wish. And what a surprise to bump into Debbie L. upstairs at Barnes & Noble on the very next afternoon. We looked quizzically at each other and said at the same time, “Weren’t you at JASNA yesterday?” Debbie said it best: “It was wonderful to be in the same room with so many people who were so knowledgeable about Jane Austen’s novels,” to which I replied, “And no one thought we were strange.”

[ Submitted by Janeite Mae ]

A Signed “Emma” on the block…

I append the following story from BBC News:   

“From BBC News:  Record price for inscribed Austen

An inscribed first edition of Jane Austen’s novel Emma has fetched a record £180,000 at a London auction.  The three-volume set inscribed on behalf of Austen to Anne Sharp, her friend and governess to her niece, was sold at Bonhams to a telephone bidder.  Of 12 presentation copies sent by Austen’s publisher, it was the only one given to a friend of the author. The book, first published in 1816, tells the story of Emma Woodhouse and her matchmaking exploits.  The price was a new world record auction price for a printed book by Austen. 


The British vendor, who wants to remain anonymous, is descended from a family that married into the family of Richard Withers, who was left property belonging to Ms Sharp when she died. They said: “The family are delighted with the price fetched today. The novel had been sitting in my family library for at least three generations.”


‘Slightly spoiled’

Austen gave nine presentation copies of Emma to family, one to the library of the Prince Regent and one to a countess. Ms Sharp’s was the only one given to a personal friend – a demonstration of the bond between the two women.  They became friends while Ms Sharp was working as governess to the author’s brother Edward, and remained close for many years.  For the novel, Austen created a governess character called Miss Taylor.  Set in Regency England, the novel’s heroine, a young woman aged 21, is described in the opening paragraph as “handsome, clever and rich”, but also “slightly spoiled”.


In March, Bonhams sold a rare, inscribed first edition of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit for a world record-breaking £60,000.  And in November last year, it sold a first edition of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for £114,000. “

Story from BBC NEWS:

See also:  Laurel Ann’s wonderful post on Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship on “Austenprose” for more information and a list of resources about Austen’s friendship with Anne Sharp.

His Cunning or Hers: A Postscript to PERSUASION

Checking out the JASNA website (www.jasna.org) I was treated to the delightful online edition of “His Cunning or Hers“, an AGM Publication (Lake Louise, Alberta; 1993) by June Menzies, with illustrations by Juliet McMaster. Brew a cup of tea, and settle in…

June 22, JASNA-Vermont meeting on “Northanger Abbey”


June 22: 2-4 pm

Northanger Abbey
~ Dramatic Readings and Discussion
& JASNA ~ A Short History (roundtable discussion)

Place:  Champlain College, Hauke Center, Maple St, Burlington, VT

We open with a roundtable discussion of JASNA’s beginnings. Lorraine Hanaway and Mildred Darrow both joined JASNA in its earliest years; Lorraine also served as president (1984-88). JASNA-VT members will then dramatize three scenes from Northanger Abbey and general discussion follows. We end with our Northanger Abbey QUIZ (see our page on Northanger Abbey with links to the novel and articles; the Quiz is at the end.) 

This meeting will be very informal. Light refreshments, and lots of time to meet, greet and talk. Free and open to the public.  Please contact us if you have questions. 

Austen’s Last Wishes

Some may think this morbid, but: Searching the Public Record Office, I came across a ‘sample’ will – and it was that belonging to JANE AUSTEN! So I just had to put a link in the blog, for those who might be interested in seeing the actual document.

A really interesting page is that which explains wills (never before knew of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, until I came across it in a will), and also a section on deciphering the handwriting you might find if you order a will. The glossary is useful.

In the mailbox…

Finally, on Tuesday, PERSUASIONS (the annual journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America) hit the mailbox. And what a wonderful array of articles – with so many more online!

I’ve not had a lot of time, and definitely haven’t read the journal cover to cover, but a few interesting tidbits have already surfaced. On page 10, Marcia Huff alludes to 2006’s AGM (in Tucson), which of course was on Mansfield Park. In just a few sentences, she has made me reassess Fanny Price and her role in this novel. Living in Vermont, which has its corn crop and apple crop, as well as the celebrated maple-sugaring season, I was most intrigued to see how Shannon Campbell would ‘vindicate’ Jane Austen’s allusion to an apple orchard in blossom in July (for which Jane’s brother took her to task) — but what an entertaining article! It must, indeed, have been fascinating to work with the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale. And I personally am grateful to have some hints of where to look for meteorological information on London in 1814…

I met Alice Villaseñor in Winchester last summer, and was particularly interested to read about her finds at the Chawton House Library; she studied the contents of the Knight Collection, which is currently housed there; it formed part of the library of books owned by Jane’s brother, Edward Knight. I had a chuckle over the conclusions drawn by Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer – though I ask: must everyone be diagnosed with some syndrome nowadays??

One of the most noteworthy of the articles read so far has to be Douglas Murray and his routing out several ‘portraits’ of George, the Prince of Wales in the novel dedicated (reluctantly?) to him: Emma. Fascinating. And, very a propos to our June 22nd meeting: a persuasive article by Tenille Nowak on one of the ‘horrid novels’ in Northanger Abbey. Recommended reading for anyone planning to attend our meeting in a couple weeks.

I am in the middle of an eye-opening look at Mr Knightley written by Theresa Kenney. And next up, I think, must be Margie Burns‘ look at ‘George and Georgiana’, aka: Mr Wickham and Miss Darcy.

While I hesitate to toot my own horn (but who else will, if I don’t?), I do want to say that I hope readers find some interest in the courtship of Emma Smith and James-Edward Austen (Jane’s nephew), as well as Emma’s possible involvement, a la Emma Woodhouse, in the courtship of her own brother Sir Charles Joshua Smith and his second wife, Mary Gosling. The article is ‘Edward Austen’s Emma Reads Emma.’ I’ve just begun a blog of my own, relating to Emma and Mary, as I try to track down more diaries and letters of all the families involved (Emma and Mary both came from substantial families).

A full table of contents for Persuasions, vol. 29 (2007) is available online at JASNA. And don’t forget the offerings at Persuasions-Online, including the ‘new’ vol. 28, No. 2 issue: Global Jane Austen. There is also Barry Roth’s 2006 Jane Austen bibliography, if you’re looking for something new to read on JA.

* * *

Also in the mailbox: a copy of Jane Odiwe‘s Lydia Bennet’s Story. Right now, Lydia has just hit the town of Brighton – and she seems to have an eye for a certain young man who is NOT Mr Wickham… It is fun to read the little hints of what has been going on in Pride and Prejudice (so I would say a knowledge of that book is useful), but Ms. Odiwe goes her own direction with this storyline and it can certainly be enjoyed on its own terms. Will post a full review of the book once it’s been read.

Housewife, 49

Not really having anything to do with Jane Austen, I write today about Housewife, 49 – which I first heard about when actress and writer Victoria Wood won a BAFTA for her role as Nella Last just about this time last year. (The show also took the best drama award.)

Housewife, 49 tells the true story of Nella Last, a woman who sent in diary entries to the Mass Observation Archive, as part of a government effort to hear the voices of the average people on the homefront. This has truly moving performances by all the actors (especially Wood; David Threlfall as her taciturn husband; Christopher Harper as their younger son), and a nicely-observed script by Wood. There is a JA connection in that Sylvestra Le Touzel, who plays Nella’s rather ferocious Mrs Lynch, played Mrs Allen in the 2007 Northanger Abbey — which book, of course, is a focal point at JASNA-Vermont’s next meeting, on June 22nd.

If you love British drama, enjoy wartime stories, and are wanting to see something very uplifting in the transformation of dear Nella over the war years, then I heartily recommend Housewife, 49. Can’t wait for the book to be returned to the library…