Location, Location…for Austen & Bronte

East Riddlesden Hall in Keighley, West Yorkshire was the setting for Lost in Austen, its 17th-century  interior updated for Regency era style.  The house will also be the setting for the upcoming TV-remake of Wuthering Heights, to be broadcast in early 2009.  Click here for an article on the house.

For information on the Bronte production, click here for IMDV.  There is also yet another  screen version on tap (or sort-of) … see the Bronte Blog for the latest news of this not-quite-happening-yet production.

Austen Letter No. 2 ~ “My Tears Flow…”

The Times Online in this Then and Now article re-publishes the Times Literary Supplement review of November 10, 1932,  E.M. Forster on Chapman’s edition of Austen’s letters.  It is a fascinating read.


And on that note, I continue my Austen Letters journey, here with Letter No. 2:

  • January 14-15, 1796 (Thursday, Friday)
  • Jane Austen (Steventon) to Cassandra Austen [Kintbury, Newbury: Rev, Fowle’s home]
  • Present ownership and location unknown

Austen begins with a response to Cassandra’s last letter, and feeling disappointed that their plans to be reunited have gone awry; she then talks of the upcoming ball at Ashe and the friends she will see there:  Edward Cooper, James, Buller, and of course Tom Lefroy.  This passage and the later one penned the next day have long been the subject of a wide range of conjecture in articles, essays, biographies, and movies.  Little did Jane suspect that these few lines would give rise to such a mass of words!…so I quote these directly:

…I look forward with great impatience to it [the ball at Ashe], as I rather expect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening.  I shall refuse him, however, unless he promises to give away his white Coat.

…Tell Mary that I make over Mr. Heartley & all his Estate to her for her sole use and Benefit in future, & not only him, but all my other Admirers into the bargain wherever she can find them, even the kiss which C. Powlett wanted to give me, as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I donot care sixpence….

Friday.- At length the Day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, & when you receive this it will be over – My tears flow as I write, at the melancholy idea.

 So much speculation on all this, coupled with Austen’s later reference to Lefroy in her letters, as well as other family references…one is not sure how to interpret Austen’s feelings for Lefroy.  The various biographers have their own opinions, from Park Honan, who says that Austen pursued Tom Lefroy and “fell deeply in love” and was “long obsessed with [him]” and equates Anne Elliot’s “we do not forget you” speech in Persuasion  with Austen’s not forgetting Tom Lefroy all those years later; Honan has a very romantic interpretation that Jane was very forward and suffered much in his leaving.  David Nokes in his Jane Austen: A Life [Farrar, 1997] emphasizes Austen’s love of flirtation and concludes that the attachment between Jane and Tom was very real.  Claire Tomalin in Jane Austen: A life [Viking 1997] states that Austen’s first extant letter is the “only surviving letter in which Jane is clearly writing as the heroine of her own youthful story” and that by Letter 2 she already has her defences up [p.119].  Tomalin believes that Austen’s reference to Fielding’s Tom Jones [in Letter 1] is a very provocative remark…Austen is making clear that “she doesn’t mind talking about a novel that deals candidly and comically with sexual attraction and sexual behaviors and she is telling Cassandra that she and Lefroy have openly discussed this book [p. 117].  But she is gravely injured in his leaving, and henceforth “her writing becomes informed by this knowledge of sexual vulnerability, running like a dark undercurrent beneath the comedy” [p.122].   

But the book and movie “Becoming Jane” has played upon the most romantic notions that stay with us in our hopes that Jane did have such a love and lost [see the references below that try hard to refute all this, especially by Joan Klingel Ray, who makes a strong case that Lefroy was already spoken for and realized he he was acting badly to Austen knowing she was “interested” in him…shades of Frank Churchill and Edward Ferrars?].  The Family Record makes it clear that as there was no further information as to what happened at the ball that last night, “it is unlikely he proposed or that Jane Austen thought that he would;” Tom was never asked there again as Madame Lefroy “did not like Tom because he had behaved badly to Jane”… but concludes that this was all a “temporary disappointment” as she shortly afterwords began her “bright and sparkling” story of “First Impressions” [later P&P]

Is Austen just evoking humor here to give Cassandra a laugh, offering up all her potential beaus to others, or does she really care something for Lefroy and really hurting at his going away?  Does the “offer” she refer to mean a marriage proposal or an offer to dance [as Ray suggests in her article]?  The fact that Cassandra did not destroy or edit these passages seems to indicate that they did not mean as much as “Becoming Jane” would like us to believe.  It is so easy to let our imaginations fill in the gaps that the letters leave for us.  So I put this out there for discussion… what do you think Austen means in these passages??  How much is she just playing and being facetious?

Though Austen speaks of Tom Lefroy in several places in this letter, there are other lines of interest:  one oft-quoted passage is “I am very much flattered by your commendation of my last Letter, for I write only for Fame, and without any view to pecuniary Emolument.”  Here is Austen at her very best!  And there are the usual references to friends and family, those whose names will appear again and again :  Eliza; Charles Fowle (“I hope he will be too hot for the rest of his life for it!” (regarding her stockings…); the Coopers, Anna; the Miss Biggs; Tom Fowle; the Rivers; and a comment to Cassandra that “I am very glad to find from Mary that Mr. & Mrs. Fowle are pleased with you…I hope you will continue to give satisfaction.”… and so on to Letter 3 for another day… with a huge jump from January 1796 to August 1796…

Further reading: (just a few of the many…)

  • Auerbach, Emily.  “Searching for Jane Austen: Restoring the ‘Fleas’ and ‘Bad Breath.’ ”  Persuasions, No. 27 (2005),  pp.  31-38.
  • Bander, Elaine.  “Jane Austen’s Letters:  Facts and Fictions.”  Persuasions, No. 27 (2005), pp. 119-129.
  • Fergus, Jan. ” ‘The Whinnying of Harpies’? – Humor in Jane Austen’s Letters.” Persuasions, No. 27 (2005) pp.13-29.
  • Wenner, Barbara. “Following the Trail of Jane Austen’s Letters.”  Persuasions, No. 27 (2005), pp. 130-141.
  • Ray, Joan Klingel.  “The One-Sided Romance of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy”  Persuasions Online Vol. 28, No. 1, Winter 2007.
  • Canal Academie: “The True Love Life of Jane Austen”  discusses the movie “Becoming Jane.”
  • Spence, John.  Review of Jane Austen: A Family Record  in JASNA News (Summer 2005), where Spence questions Le Faye’s interpretation of this letter about Tom Lefroy.
  • Huff, Marsha.  “Becoming Jane:  Sorting Fact from Fiction,” at JASNA.org.
  • Walker, Linda Robinson.  “Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy: Stories”  Persuasions Online, v.27, no 1 (Winter 2006)
  • ” ‘I was too proud to make any inquiries’ ” Jane Austen’s Eleventh Letter” at the The Loiterer
  • Nokes, David.  Jane Austen: A Life. Farrar, Straus, 1997.  See online,  Chapter 5 “Proflilgate and Shocking.”
  • Tomalin, Claire.  Jane Austen: A life.  Viking, 1997.
  • Honan, Park.  Jane Austen, her life.  St. Martin’s Press, 1987.
  • Austen-Leigh, William and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh.  Jane Austen: a Family Record; revised and enlarged by Deirdre Le Faye.  London, 1989.  See also the 2nd edition published by Cambridge University Press, 2003, which includes additions and corrections and a changed format.
  • The Becoming Jane Fansite, the go-to place for all things Jane & Tom.
  • Fashion and Fun in 1796 (from the Regency Fashion Page), for thoughts on what was going on when Austen wrote this letter.

Round-up week of Sept. 21…All Things Austen

Austenprose posts week 3 and week 4 of Virginia Claire Tharrington’s journal of her adventures as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath.

JASNA has Persuasions No. 9 (December 1987) now online; the 9th annual meeting featured Lady Susan and the Juvenilia.

JASNA has also announced its annual essay contest:  [see link for details]

Siblings abound in Jane Austen’s novels. Some siblings act as foils to each other; others are in competition; still others are mutually supportive and encouraging. Examine the importance of siblings in one or two Austen novels. Discuss how they function in the novel and how they embody larger themes. You may focus on one sibling relationship or you may compare relationships, either within a novel or between two novels.

Is Jane Austen Sophia Sentiment?  see this recapped post on the Becoming Jane website.

Elizabeth Inchbald’s play “Wives as they were, Maids as they are” is on stage at the Theater Royal Bury St. Edmonds (the only working Regency playhouse in the country)… click here for a review of the play, “a fabulous combination of Jane Austen, the Regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer and the best in BBC costume drama.” 

And if you are by chance off to Brighton for a few days, the New York Times travel section offers up  36 hours in Brighton

If, however, you find yourself instead in New York City, the NY JASNA Chapter is sponsoring an event with the Royal Oak Foundation on October 15, a lecture on ” ‘I Ask Only a Comfortable Home’: Jane Austen and Regency Domestic Interiors,” by Lisa White, Director, Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses, England.

Is Chawton or Bath Austen’s “true home”?  See this Telegraph article on the two towns and their fight over their right to the title… and see also Janeite Kelly’s comments right here.

There is so much “out there” on Lost in Austen, that I have decided to keep mum about it all until I have actually seen it…!

 And finally, I think that there is always so much delightful information on all the other well-known Austen blogs,  that I will just tell you to go to them each week and scroll down for the Austen feast on each of them:

 Book Reviews:

  • Austenprose on Carrie Bebris’s Matters at Mansfield

Sites & Blogs of note:

That’s all folks!  Happy reading all week… and prepare for the Northanger Abbey / Going Gothic event at Austenprose starting October 1st!

Essential Austen: Kirstin Olsen’s “All Things Austen”

Kirstin Olsen’s 2-volume work titled “All Things Austen” was published in 2005 and sells for $157.95 at Greenwood Publishing and at Amazon for the same, and not much less on any of the used book sites [but please note that Greenwood is at present having a sale on this 2-vol. set for $110. + shipping and taxes, so this is worth a look]

…so it is a with pleasure that I see that the paperback concise edition is in pre-release at Greenwood for $29.95 (available 10/30/08)…it was released in the UK on 8/30/08 and can be ordered on Amazon.uk [see Amazon.uk to order]; it is available on Amazon.com for pre-order, and also already available on several of the used book sites.  


Here is the product description of the softcover edition from Greenwood Publishing (see the listing for the hardcover edition for that description, as well as numerous reviews).  

 Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility) drives a curricle not a gig – what does this say about him? Captain Wentworth (Persuasion) and Fanny’s brother William (Mansfield Park) follow the ‘King’s Service’ at sea – what sort of life did they find there? Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice) is called Lady Catherine, not Lady de Bourgh – what does this very important distinction signify? Abridged from the critically acclaimed All Things Austen (Greenwood, 2005), this similarly formatted encyclopedia takes readers from the works of Jane Austen into her universe. More than 70 alphabetically arranged entries provide rich and fascinating historical details on the form and function of everyday and obscure objects that are mentioned in her novels. A selection of illustrations accompany the lively and often humorous entries that bring her fiction to life. Jane Austen’s first readers would have needed no help in understanding references to their everyday lives. But early nineteenth-century card games, dining habits, social etiquette, occupations and dozens of other topics are not immediately clear to her readers nearly two hundred years later. In this encyclopedia, students and devotees of Jane Austen will become familiar with what her characters ate, wore and did for recreation. Impeccably researched information is presented about domestic items, the social scene, the workplace, the church, special events and rituals, and everyday customs that constituted life in Jane Austen’s England. Included are entries on:          

  • Bath                                                                                                                   
  • Cards
  • Carriages and Coaches
  • Clergy
  • Entertainment
  • Food
  • Hats
  • Navy
  • Music
  • Servants
  • Tea
  • Teeth
  • West Indies
  • And Many More

Readers can find citations of specific works by Austen, or they can look up terms or concepts. A bibliography arranged according to broad subjects lists major works for further reading.

 I have not seen this new concise edition to compare the books and see what was left on the cutting room floor, but will let you know as soon as I get a copy and can review the book for you … but what I do know that this is an “essential Austen” title, without any doubt…

Further Reading:  see the review by Carrie Bebris of the 2-volume edition in the Spring 2006 JASNA News.

Tempests Brewing?

Kate in Norfolk today mentioned news hitting the Daily Telegraph: two battles just brewing, one over which place – Chawton or Bath? – can be said to deserve the title of Jane Austen’s ‘true home’; and the other being a tearoom propriator who wants to patent a ‘Jane Austen’ line of teas and coffees. Read the stories here – and check back periodically to see what more is happening, as these stories undoubtedly continue to unfold.

“Jezebel” on 75 Books Every Woman Should Read…

Another reading list!  “75 books every woman should read,Jezebel’s response to Esquire’s list of the same, but for men (and filled with “old white dudes” as Jezebel so aptly says.)  The initial list of twenty titles, posted at Jezebel.com on September 18th, generated 388 comments that add another 55 books to the list….and nice to know that Austen’s Pride & Prejudice made the original 20 list! [and see the Esquire slide show… it is a wonderful compilation that includes Faulkner, Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Raymond Carver, Kerouac, etc, but I find only ONE woman in the mix:  Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find.]

Austen Short Story Competition

News flash for all Austenesque writers!  check this link at the Chawton House Library about a Jane Austen short story competition in celebration of Austen’s move to Chawton in 1809.  Closing date for submitting entries is March 31, 2009. First prize: £1000 and two runners-up: £200; all three win a week’s writers’ retreat at Chawton House and publication! Fifteen short-listed authors will also see prize money and publication. Entry fee is £10 per story. Open to ALL ‘who have not had a full-length work of fiction published.’

John Turner’s Take on Jane Austen

At our last Jane Austen gathering, John Turner spoke to us on “Austen’s England.”  [This is available online at his website Word and Image of Vermont]  You will also find there a lovely tribute to Austen and her works (see under Archives – Fiction), and with John’s permission I quote that for you here:

 A friend recently began to read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. He had heard it was one of the greatest novels in English but as he got into it he was disappointed. It was all about shallow, frivolous people, he said. I’ve heard others make the same criticism. How can one care about the affairs of people who are so caught up in their own petty affairs they think about nothing else? It’s a question I’ve heard repeatedly. It strikes me that people don’t know what they’re asking when they put the issue that way. Truth is, if you can’t take an interest in people who are immersed in their own petty affairs, then you can’t take an interest in people, period. Jane Austen’s novels are about how one can deal with people in their ordinary modes and still retain sanity. And no larger question has ever been raised in the history of the world. Compared to it, the conundrums of philosophy and religion are trivia. I have often said, if you wish to know how to treat other people, go first to Jane Austen. If you find yourself doing things you know she would disapprove, then think long and hard about continuing them. I have never found more edifying books than her novels, and that alone makes them magnificent. But edification is only the beginning of their glories.

…the perfect response to those that say that “nothing ever happens in Jane Austen”….!

Random Thoughts on Lost in Austen

A friend, Kate in Norfolk (England), has been telling about Lost in Austen. She is such a witty and charming letter writer! Kate now allows us to post her comments. A few small spoilers might get mentioned along the way, so be warned:

Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2008
We have a new TV series here – Lost in Austen. Recorded the first part last night but haven’t seen it yet. The clips look lovely. It is something to do with a modern girl being transported back in time in a fictional way and living with the Bennets. I will report more in due course. Costumes etc. looked good.

Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008
You must tell them about our new TV series. I have seen the first episode now. It is quite fun as obviously the heroine is a 21st century girl and so there is the fish-out-of-water amusement. I am enjoying Mr Bennet played by Hugh Bonneville. He just seems mildly perplexed by all the women around him but largely ignores them. He also winds them up whenever possible! Mrs Bennet has been treated in a very interesting way. She is like a mad chicken. However, it becomes clear that the 21st century girl has caught Mr Bingley’s eye and she is incandescent with rage that her daughters have been bypassed. She takes the girl aside at one point and is really vicious, practically threatens her with violence if she doesn’t stand aside! The viewer would turn against her at this point I think, I was quite shocked at this display. However, this does open up some interesting considerations. Mr Bennet – does he care that once he is dead and gone his daughters will suffer financially etc. He seems determined to have a peaceful life and ignore what will happen after his death because then it won’t affect him….is he inherently selfish? Does he have his head in the sand? Does this mean that Mrs Bennet has had to take onto her shoulders all the worries about the future and her daughters’ happiness? So is she then a rather good mother doing her best for her family? She certainly seems driven by desperation, and events later in the book confirm this I think. What the TV show will do I can’t say! Elizabeth is stuck in the 21st century but we have seen nothing of her yet – maybe tonight’s episode…

Date: Sat 13 Sep 2008
I do agree that if you label anything with Jane Austen it will sell! That is why we have our strange time travelling Lost in Austen I guess. I have seen the second part now and we still don’t know how Elizabeth Bennet is managing in modern times. I am still undecided about the whole thing. Modern Heroine borrows clothes when she goes to balls but doesn’t put her hair up – there is no way she would have got away with that. There is a lot of suspension of belief necessary! Now Jane has married Mr Collins despite Modern Heroine having previously engaged herself to him in order to try and protect the Bennet girls. Modern heroine is extremely annoyed that the plot of P&P is not being adhered to and when she sees Bingley at the church looking on in horror as the wedding takes place she marches up to him and remonstrates with him for listening to Darcy’s reservations about the Bennets. She says:
“Badly done, Bingley, badly done”! So that amused me as I wondered how many viewers would recognise it!
Must stop telling you the plot in case you get to see it one day. Didn’t know it was based on a book – will have to investigate. I do have to say that Mr Darcy has smouldered in a very successful way!

Date: Mon 15 Sep 2008
Well, please feel free to use my Lost in Austen comments as you see fit! It is going down quite well over here. The acting is generally very good. I do like little Mary Bennet, they have made her almost a caricature with specs and a little plain face but she looks really sweet to me. Modern Heroine has already told Wickham that she knows all about him so he has spread gossip everywhere to the effect that her father is a fishmonger! People are rapidly backing away and making fishy comments! She keeps going back to the attic where there is a (firmly locked) “door” to her world, where Elizabeth is. She calls through to Elizabeth who fails to answer – “It’s all going tits up, Elizabeth” she yells. And she has kneed Mr Collins in the balls at a ball. It is almost as if you are reading the book and when you hate the very idea of Mr Collins, Modern Heroine assaults him for you! My mother is not yet convinced that the concept works.

Date: Thurs 18 Sep 2008
I have another Lost in Austen to watch and admit I am now hooked. The conversation is quite witty:
Modern Heroine upon sighting Wickham: “Oh No! You keep away from me Wickham, I know you”.
Wickham, perplexed: “But, Madam, I haven’t had the pleasure…”
Modern Heroine stomping off: “Get used to that”.
I think the series will bear a second watch because sometimes the conversation is fast and whilst chuckling at early chatter, later witticisms can be missed. I am now wondering whether they can do this for other novels! Imagine the Modern Heroine telling Marianne to buck up or advising Emma to stop interfering!

Date: Fri 19 Sep 2008
Yes, please do what you like with the Lost in Austen comments – I am quite happy for you put them on the blog. Apparently the viewing figures have fallen off possibly because the series doesn’t work if you don’t know P&P quite well. You need to know why Modern Heroine is unfriendly to Wickham and warns Lydia to stay away for instance. Best scene this episode is the meeting with Lady Catherine who instructs her daughter to sit next to Modern Heroine at dinner as it will do her good to learn to converse with those with whom she has nothing in common. Such strange plots twists now (Wickham didn’t seduce Darcy’s sister, twas the other way round!) that I can only assume it will all turn out to have been a dream in a shower a la Dallas. Which could make sense actually as the “time travel” occurred in Modern Heroine’s bathroom which is where we last saw Elizabeth. I am very happy with the casting of this series by the way. Jane could be a bit prettier but she is very delicate looking and has big frightened eyes (tho as she is now married to hideous Collins that is understandable; incidentally, he is on a celibacy kick (thank goodness) so she is as yet untouched so obviously there will be a plot device to send her into Bingley’s arms). Mr and Mrs B are great – Mr B very funny. Mary and Kitty moan that they are not in society like their Mother and Lydia and Mr B says that those two are quite enough for society has enough to cope with at the moment. Darcy, at first, seemed a bit odd, but have grown to like him (where have I heard that before!) – quite handsome. Mr Collins is foul so that works well! Miss Bingley is very snooty and conniving but in quite a witty and intelligent way. They all have such marvellous conversation and condescension.

More to come, as the series continues and concludes. Thanks, Kate!

BTW: here’s the Internet Movie Database link; ITV’s link; and author Emma Campbell Webster‘s page at Penguin.US and her own website.

Round-up…all things Austen, week of Sept. 14…

Lots out there this week, much about Lost in Austen (which I have not yet watched…oh woe is me!), and a few other tidbits of interest…

Fashion on Main, an exhibit at the University of Texas; see the site for a search-able database of the collection (though the “search” feature is under construction; you can browse the site), and references to other fashion resources.

 And more on fashion in the time of Marie Antoinette, read this post on the Queen’s modist (clothing creator) at the Paper Crown Queen Blog, where there is a host of information and pictorials on crowns.

And the ongoing saga of “Lost in Austen” and the many reviews and opinions thereof:  see Austenblog for its usual candid round-up of comments, and also today for Episode 3, and Jane Austen’s World Blog for a nice review of Episode 2, and another review at Austenprose.

See the Times-Picayune (LA) write-up of a Jane Austen Festival in Mandeville, LA on September 13 (alas! I missed it!….but there is another in March, so put it on your calendar if you happen to be in Louisiana): an Austen “Regency Revisited” Day at the Mandeville Trailhead Pavilion.  Organizers of the Jane Austen Festival host a morning of music, dancing, a fashion show and workshop, 10 a.m.-1. Period dancing with free lessons begins, at 10 a.m. The public is invited to bring costumes/outfits/accessories and experts will demonstrate how to convert them into Regency style apparel, appropriate for the festival in March. Free. For details, visit http://www.janeaustenfestival.org/. or call 985.624.5683.

And here is a journalist from the Herald.ie  who has had it with adaptations of classic literature, especially Austen “who has colonised television in a way that no other dead author has managed.”  But alas!  she informs the reader that the gorgeous Rupert Penry-Jones of Spooks (MI-5 in the U.S.) and the ITV Persuasion, will play in a new television version of John Buchan’s oft-filmed The Thirty-Nine Steps.  Can’t wait!

Austenprose continues to offer us the journaling of Virginia Claire Tharrington, the intern at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath:  see her first post and this week’s.  We are all SO envious!

Jane Odiwe tells of her newest book being published by Sourcebooks next year:  Mrs. Brandon’s Invitation, a sequel to Sense & Sensibility.

Several reviews of Marsha Altman’s The Darcys and the Bingleys, are sited at Austenprose; see Jane Austen Today for an interview with the author.

An article in Piecework Magazine is mentioned on Austenblog; also see the comment from the current President of JASNA, Marsha Huff, referencing a Persuasions article on the coverlet that Jane Austen, Cassandra and their mother made (the quilt now hangs in Chawton), so you, too, can make a replica of this quilt.  [See also my previous reference to the JASA article on this topic.]

Ms. Place at JA’s World continues the column with Marjorie Gilbert and her creation of a regency gown… this week is about the necessary regency undergarments.

Excellent sleuthing by Laurel Ann at Austenprose who writes “The Legend of the Lost Sequel“, about the publishing history of D.A. Bonavia-Hunt’s Pemberely Shades.  

See the article in the Western Daily Press about the Crazy for Jane movie premiere at the Bath JA Festival. The documentary tells the tale of contemporary publishers rejection of Jane Austen novels…shame on them!