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.’