Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago ~ Day 4

Diary ~ Day Four:  Brunch & Music & Darcy & Farewells / Final Thoughts 

Early morning RC meeting, another helpful gathering…I am returning home with a suitcase full of ideas (not to mention those books!) 

 

Off to Brunch and “A Conversation about Creativity, Collaboration, and Creaking Doors”

 JASNA announcements including awarding prizes for the Young Writers Workshop ~ you can see the list of winners and read the winning essays at the JASNA website…all excellent and insightful!  And then the Philadelphia entourage took the stage for a humorous skit and the passing of the JASNA banner from Chicago’s William Phillips to the coordinators of the next AGM, “Jane Austen’s Brothers and Sisters in the City of Brotherly Love October 9-11, 2009 in Philadelphia.  Mark your calendars!

Lindsay Baker & Amanda Jacobs

Lindsay Baker, Arlene Crewdson, Colin Donnell and Amanda Jacobs then thoroughly delighted the audience of rapt Janeites with the story of bringing Pride & Prejudice, the Musical to the Broadway stage.  A fascinating account of their collaboration on music and lyrics, their years of work and their efforts to remain true to Austen’s story – they returned over and over to the book throughout this musical journey (and a very well worn and loved copy it was!)

 

 The audience could not contain itself in wanting to see and hear from Colin Donnell (can his name REALLY be COLIN?!) – in their search for the perfect Mr. Darcy, they propped up all the head-shots of possibles on the kitchen counter and chose the one who most looked like Darcy to them…hoping fervently that he could SING!  Which he quickly showed us all that indeed he could!  Two songs from the show, Elizabeth’s “When I Fall in Love” and Darcy’s “Fine Eyes”gave us a taste of what is to come….just lovely, and everyone snapping pictures of this latest Darcy incarnation.  Mr. Donnell was all accommodation – though he did admit that standing before all of us obsessed Janeites was quite a “daunting” task!  [no worries, ” you had us at ‘hello’ “!]

 

 

 

The show is having its grand pre-Broadway debut on October 21 in Rochester, NY, the place where it all began.  See their website at http://www.prideandprejudicebroadway.com/ for updates and information  (and pictures!) about the cast.  (I append two pictures here that I was able to get of Mr. Donnell, albeit a disappointment (the picture, not him!), but I did get to ask him what his Mom thought about his being Mr. Darcy…he said she has been very supportive and having fun with the whole idea, so kudos to her!) [I am not sure I could handle my son being Mr. Darcy…though he could be, or so I am told; but I do know that nothing on earth would get him to put on those leggings!]

 

Final Thoughts upon departing Chicago ~ 

So off to the airport and a moment to reflect, and notes on a few of the Emporium tables not posted on above that you can visit online… 

A visit to the Chawton House Library table, manned by Gillian Dow, was the annual reminder of how important this resource library is, how much I love receiving their great publication The Female Spectator, and how even the smallest contribution is appreciated by them.  See their website to learn more about their collection of books on women’s writing in English from 1600 to 1830 and upcoming events.

 

The Goucher College table had paper dolls for sale – all the heroes of Austen’s novels, designed by Donald Hendricks.  I was most lucky to get there early, as my favorite Captain Wentworth was still available (though a tough choice between him, Darcy, and Henry Tilney!)  Amused to find the following day that they were all gone except one – 

Edmund Bertram rested alone on the table with no takers ~ perhaps it IS only Fanny who has eyes for Austen’s Mansfield Park hero!  (and hopefully someone rescued him before the end of the day…)

Mr. Hendricks Paper Doll Gallery at Legacy Designs has many of the characters from Austen’s novels, and many more besides (perfect for holiday gifts…!)

 

 

Another table of must-have treats was the Juvenilia Press, with Juliet McMaster – this collection of the youthful writings of Austen as well as other authors, accompanied by McMaster’s engaging illustrations, should be added to everyone’s Austen library.  See their website for information on ordering. 

                                                                                                                                                                  

The new publisher of Jane Austen’s Regency World MagazineTim Bullamore, was present to show us all the latest issue (Sept / Oct 2008) with its many changes.  He is offering a 20% discount to all JASNA members, and though it is costly when coupled with the shipping, it is well worth the investment and another fine addition to your Austen collection.  I will post more on this cram-packed issue, but in the meantime, you can read the free articles from previous issues available online at their website and news on the upcoming Nov / Dec issue.

 

So back to the real world!  I am most thankful to the Chicago Chapter and especially William Phillips, and JASNA President Marsha Huff, and all the many other volunteers who made this such a terrific AGM!  Four days of intelligent musings, good company, lovely fashions, laughter all around, tons of BOOKS and other Austen-inspired goodies, and time to ramble about in this bygone time…it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago ~ Day 3

Diary ~ Day Three:  Filled with Talks, Banquets & Balls (and a little side of Romance!)

The Plenary this morning featured Claudia Johnson, on Can We Ever have Enough of Jane Austen? Professor Johnson, chairman of Princeton University’s English Department and author of several books of Austen scholarship (and especially appreciated by this blog writer for her “Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel”), is always a delight at the AGMs and she did not disappoint in Chicago! Focusing on textual criticism, Dr. Johnson told of her experience in editing a new edition of Mansfield Park and the “dilemma of a comma” – in the two editions of MP published during Austen’s lifetime in 1814 and 1816, there is a discrepancy in the placement of a comma – is this the publisher’s handiwork, a printing error, or more importantly an editing change by Austen herself? In comparing this textual analysis to one of the many variants in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Johnson showed us the process of editing and the importance of a misplaced comma in the comprehension of a single sentence. Eventually Johnson “conjures” Austen herself, when in the quiet of her study, she hears “an intake of breath,” a ghostly Jane telling of the errant comma’s intended placement.

Johnson went on the discuss this “channeling Austen” and how the various biographers – Constance Hill in Jane Austen’s homes and haunts, Oscar Fay Adam’s view that Austen’s characters are alive, and how Janeites are often referred to as being “possessed” or “manical” and PROUD OF IT!, and how we strive to “collapse the distance” between us and Austen with our gatherings, our Regency balls, banquets and the making of reticules.

So much humor in this talk! – lost in translation I am afraid, but the packed house was nearly rolling in the aisles at some of her allusions! I was a tad spooked because my daughter had just left me phone message doing a little “channeling’ of her own – Austen in heaven most appreciative that I was at her conference and babbling on about her lively discussions with Shakespeare (in and out of bed I might add, though I shouldn’t!) and how heaven was indeed a grand place for these literary giants – (my daughter is a middle school English teacher and thus goes to great imaginative lengths!) – so how timely and unnerving to head into Johnson’s talk on conjuring Austen! Yikes! 

Next up another Breakout Session, this time to the talk on Shades of Jane Austen in Ian McEwan’s Atonement by Juliette Wells.As many of you might not know, the epigraph to Atonement is Henry Tilney’s “voluntary spies” speech to Catherine in Northanger Abbey. McEwan has said he has an affinity to Austen but cites no specifics in his works, so Wells tellingly does it for him: the likeness of Briony as Austen herself, the precocious child writer; the family theatricals; the play “The Trials of Arabella” had similar versions in Austen’s juvenilia; the name of “Tilney’s Hotel;” etc. Wells then discussed aspects of the film that also invoke Austen, and though there are no specific references, Austen pervades the movie in a number of ways, both visually and thematically: Joe Wright directed this and the 2005 P&P; Kiera Knightly stars in both; James McAvoy starred as Austen’s “boyfriend” in Becoming Jane; Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet and as Robbie Turner’s mother; both productions had the same costume designer and the same soundtrack composer (Dario Marianelli); similar kissing scenes; the appearance of the PIGS…all these visuals are very powerful with their oblique references.

I loved Atonement, both book and movie, and found this talk most interesting…I hope it is published in Persuasions, so those not there can enjoy it as well.

Off next to Poster Session 2 (I missed Session 1 due to meetings) – this is a new feature at the AGMs and quite wonderful. I visited several of the presentations: delighted to meet Maggie Sullivan of Austenblog, who had a board filled with Blogging Jane; Elaine Bander of Montreal had posted a series of thoughts on comparing Susanna Clarke’s 2004 fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell to Austen’s world (this book had been sitting on my bedside table for way too long- indeed because it IS way too long!…I now have the incentive to pick it up finally, despite its “dark forces of Magic”); loved the How Not to Write an Austen-Inspired Novel (see photo) by Karen Doornebos; and a pleasure to meet and discuss Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line with editor Susan Allen Ford; tons of photos to-be-adored of Colin Firth et.al in Mr. Darcy as an Actor by Katherine Zimolzak; and several others. I very much liked this poster session idea, though I quibble that the presenters had to get it all up and down within a 3-hour period…I realize there was a space problem, so for future AGMs it would be nice to have these set up and left for perusal during the 3 days with their creators needing to be there for only a few hours. They were too interesting a visual treat (not to mention a lot of work!) to not be enjoyed for longer (and so sorry that I completely missed the first group.) I understand that this was William Philips’s idea, so kudos to him for a very informative addition to the meeting!

Looking at Landscape with Austen in Her Time and Ours with Margaret Chittick and Vera Quin (author of the book Jane Austen in London) was the next session I attended…. great fun and so informative on Austen’s use of Gilpin and the “picturesque” in her works: Henry’s speech in NA (one of my favorites!) and Edward Ferrars in S&S on his ignorance of the Picturesque (Edward at his funniest and I think often overlooked in the general view that Edward is a bore); in P&P, Elizabeth’s journey to Derbyshire exactly follows Gilpin’s; how the description of Lyme Regis in Persuasion reads almost like a travelogue and so unlike Austen; how Austen’s character’s view of nature and the landscape conveys to the reader who they are almost as much as their dialogue; and finally, how all the successful proposal scenes are all OUTSIDE in the open air All was presented with visuals of the various landscapes, with back and forth talk and citing passages from the novels. Again, hoping this will appear in print!

 

Phew! On to the next…with barely a moment for a breath or lunch, but cannot miss a Plenary with the crowd-pleasing Joan Ray! Like Johnson, Ray never disappoints, and today she was a hoot! Fully dressed in Doctor garb, “ Doctor of Austenology” embroidered on her white coat, Ray launched into an update of the old board game “Operation” and in a play on her own book Jane Austen for Dummies, she regaled us with Jane Austen for Smarties! Working through some of the earliest writings on Austen, both biographical and critical, Ray singles out those who most understood Austen: George Lewes (whose blurb for Sense & Sensibility in an 1897 Bentley’s publisher ad was erroneously attributed to George Eliot); Margaret Oliphant, author of 98 novels and a foresighted feminist critic; Richard Simpson who early on detected Austen’s humor, irony and mockery and her emphasis on rational love over romantic love; Mrs. Humphey Ward; and of course Mark Twain, though often quoted for disliking Austen with a vengeance, does say how “every time I read P&P…”. Ray ends with summarizing her five points that if you understand this about Austen you will officially be a JA Smartie:

  • her skill in creating life-like characters
  • dramatic presentation: her characters are revealed through dialogue
  • her feminine cynicism her social criticism through satire – irony and humor
  • her self-restraint: she never wrote a throwaway line

and all this presented with the naked (though discreetly-covered!) “Operation” doll peering at us through the joys of Power-point!

Another breakout session (are you completely exhausted yet?…and my son always questions me “whatever can you talk about for 4 days when she only wrote SIX books?”)…can people not know that you can have a very powerful discussion on the mere placement of a COMMA?

So off to hear one of my favorites Elaine Bander from Montreal. I have attended Elaine’s talks at every AGM I have gone to because she is so accessible…she says what I am thinking, but so much better! Her talk today on The Challenge of Reading Jane Austen Reading posits that Austen’s genius as a writer was due to her being a reader, and understanding her works presumes a familiarity with those traditions. Austen’s books challenge us and either a careless reading of the novels or any of the film adaptations do not and cannot meet this challenge (excepting perhaps “Clueless” which succeeds in reimaging Emma.)

Austen came of age with the English novel and while invoking the conventions, she then undermines them: Northanger Abbey is her obvious teasing take on them all and introduces Catherine at the outset to undercut the expected work featuring the “beautiful modest heroine, the recognized hero, the obstacles in their way, the fall of the suitor, the melodramatic rescue, and the requisite happy ending.” The narrator reminds the reader that Catherine is not going to fulfill any of these conventions, all the while introducing them in part. We are given Willoughby, Frank Churchill, Henry Crawford and Wickham in her other works and are led to believe that they are the heroes, only to have romantic expectations played with (but even in S&S Elinor is still left feeling a pang for the cad Willoughby after his late-night confessing his love for Marianne); Emma is reading everyone’s lives but her own in a romantic cliché, with Harriet as the burlesque of the heroine – as Bander says so well, “Austen cuts her cloth on the bias.” And then finally, as everyone seems to do because they are so much with us, Bander refers to the films and their inability to convey this: with the loss of the narrative voice and the putting of these novel clichés back in to the visual telling, the films become standardized versions and we lose our own view of the story and the author’s intention. Bander references here Austen’s Plan of the Novel, her complete spoof on what she will not put to paper though all around her clamor for these traditions. It is quite funny and I suggest you all read it [linked here at the Republic of Pemberley]. And I concur with Bander that one must GO BACK TO THE BOOKS!

One of course is missing so many other sessions, equally interesting…a perfect example of needing to clone oneself. My friend Sara and I try to go to different sessions at these meetings so we can share our notes, but alas! at this AGM we found ourselves wanting to go to almost all the same sessions, and in the end a useless exercise as Sara does not take notes!

So the evening awaits! The Banquet and the Ball, a walk down Michigan Avenue and an Evening talk on Romance!

There were more costumes at this AGM than ever seen before (there were rentals available and many took advantage)… last year I promised that I would make a dress and pelisse but got only as far as purchasing the pattern, so perhaps next year?

So off to dinner, a lovely event with all the details of setting up an AGM all around us: the table settings, centerpieces, place-cards, etc… with the hours of work behind it all most appreciated… I scouted out Lorraine Hanaway, former JASNA president and lately at one of our Vermont meetings to share about the beginnings of the Society…I was so pleased to see her honored for being the “fourth” founding member of JASNA.

After dinner chat with seat mates, always a treat to reconnect and make new friends, and then off for the walk down Michigan Avenue. If anything could stop traffic in Chicago, it would be hundreds of Regency-costumed, Austen-crazed attendees promenading along this main thoroughfare, walkers and drivers all agape…it was quite the scene!  And I was lucky enough to spot the lovely “Jane Austen Addict” Laurie Viera Rigler!

 

Author Laurie Viera Rigler

Author Laurie Viera Rigler

Sara and I opted to skip the Ball, so after a short peek into the festivities we headed off to the evening session on Romance Fiction in the Wake of Austen, with a panel of four, Sarah Frantz, Eloisa James, Eric Selinger and Pamela Regis. I confess, along with Sara, of going in here with all my prejudices of romance fiction clearly apparent. Like sequels and continuations, I do not read romance novels. I own a used bookstore and when I had an open retail shop, I had mystery, science fiction and fantasy sections, but not a single “romance” and referred the (many I might add!) disappointed shoppers to another local store. I do admit to reading most of Victoria Holt over a two-month period, but I put this down to a backlash from working on my English Masters (too much Milton!) as well as being pregnant with my first child, and thus perhaps hormones had run amok….but this is all years ago and as a voracious reader I am always struck with the truth of “so many books, so little time” and romance novels are not even in the running. But I did go into this evening session with an open mind and after a very full glass of wine was prepared for anything!…and found myself in a nearly standing-room only crowd….

…and, all I can say is that I LOVED THIS TALK! (and Sara did too!) The panel selected and introduced by the most excellent Sarah Franz was terrific, starting with Ms. Franz herself, clearly stating her position that “it’s all about the men!” Myths about Austen not being a romance writer was her starting point and she didn’t let up until we were all convinced otherwise! [Franz, by the way has a terrific Persuasions article on Austen’s men in vol. 25 (2003) “Jane Austen’s Heroes and the great masculine Renunciation”.]

Pamela Regis, author of “The Natural history of the Romance Novel” (University of Pennsylvania, 2003 (hc), 2007 (pb)) says that P&P is the best romance novel ever written (we all concur!) and how it exhibits all of the eight elements of a romance. Eloisa James (i.e. English Professor and Shakespearian scholar at Fordham University Mary Bly) was just a delight in sharing with us her writing of her many historical “bodice-rippers” that she could not tell her colleagues about until after her fourth book came out…she told us all to “take the gift you have” and run with it, and that Austen was really the first to write about the man in a domestic novel being “wrong” and his needing to learn about himself in the course of the novel. She intersperses Shakespearian allusions and poetry throughout her books, reason enough to go out and get a few! And finally Eric Selinger, a poet, English professor at DePaul University, and founder of the collaborative blog about romance fiction called Teach Me Tonight discussed ways in which romance novels present the moral education of the characters, especially the hero, and unlike in Austen where the narrator is a separate character to lead us along; in contemporary romance novels there is a tendency toward psychological and therapeutic healing of the characters. The talk was followed by a rousing Q&A, a free book being given to each person who asked a question…there were many, and more discussion  on the various romance writers, the Harlequins, Mills & Boon, the “chick-lit” phenomenon, and a variety of suggestions as to where to start on your own romance-reading journey..

So the evening ended where it had started…conjuring Austen at every turn! I have never been shy in saying that along with everything else that Austen offers, her love stories are fabulous! So why does one always feel a little guilty saying this? like it is an apology, or an admission that you might just have not read the book deeply enough with a keen enough eye?  What a relief to be in a room of like minds and appreciate the romance! And another confession…I ran out as soon as I was home to pick up a few of those Eloisa James “Duchess” titles…[and of course awaiting my arrival at the used bookstore I sent all my romance-seeking customers to!] … one is always in need of a Shakespeare fix with a little romance on the side [now if I can just get past those covers!]
Day Four tomorrow….with huge apologies that this 4-day event is taking more than a week to relate!…life does get in the way of blogging!
 
Further Reading:
  •  See Sarah Franz’s own blog post on this evening on Teach Me Tonight
  • See the Eloisa James website for more information and a list of her works.
  • See Austenblog’s posts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4  and her final wrap-up (and offered in a more timely fashion!)…I admit to not yet reading her posts so as not to color my own….so I assume there might be duplication, aahh!  but “can we ever have enough Austen?” 

Cassandra & Jane (a review)

“When I am gone…,” Jill Pitkeathley’s Cassandra Austen muses on the letters written to her by her sister Jane. “When I am gone, perhaps before, they will want them, they will pour over them, examine them in detail and discuss them without limit.” Who would Cassandra’s they have been? She may immediately have thought of family, but how apt that they can be broadened to include, yes, this very reader. For ‘pour over’ and ‘examine’ is exactly what Austen-lovers do with her extant letters. James Edward Austen-Leigh utilized letters in his early biography; Lord Brabourne published (though not entirely verbatim) the letters in his possession; the son and grandson of Austen-Leigh included them in their family biography; Deirdre Le Faye brought out editions of both that biography and the letters themselves. Romanticists invent romances; writers cite Austen’s few references regarding writing and publishing; historians pluck from them pictures of England and London during the reign of George III and the Prince Regent. We all mine Austen’s letters for what they can tell us about what we most want to know, be it her life, her art, her world.

Continue reading

In Today’s Post

When I opened the door to go to the library today (I’m desperately in search of the audio version of Pride and Prejudice as read by Emilia Fox; damned thing is always CHECKED OUT!), I spied a large-ish padded manila envelope that had just gotten delivered with a few too many bills and junk mail… Anyway, while it wasn’t my long-long awaited CD from Oxford University with Drummond Smith letters, it was still a ‘gift’ from out of the blue: a book!

TWO GUYS READ JANE AUSTEN – and it’s written as letters between the two authors, Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill. What could be more of interest!

I grabbed the cover from Amazon, where there’s a 4-7 week wait; so you might want some publisher information: Robert D. Reed Publishers; P.O. Box 1992; Brandon, OR 97411. email: 4bobreed@msn.com; web: www.rdrpublishers.com. Its cover price is $11.95.

Let’s take a moment to dip inside it…

Page 47, the letter is from Steve to Terry (12 Dec 2007): ‘Sisters! A great song from the movie White Christmas … Sisters! (Jane Austen writes about complex family dynamics so well, so bitingly funny.) … So I remember my girls and what sisters they were and are to each other. How sweet it was and has been. And I agree with you, it’s a lot like Jane and Elizabeth in our book . . . maybe easier to do than brothers who are taught a more competitive approach. Scrapping for attention and approval.’

The back cover reads: This is the third book in the critically-acclaimed TWO GUYS series [the others being: Two Guys Read Moby-Dick and Two Guys Read the Obituaries]… This time the two guys take on the biggest challenge yet — Jane Austen. Follow their wild and often hilarious exchanges as they fly through Pride and Prejudice and the darker, more complex Mansfield Park.

Deb, for one, will undoubtedly welcome that they read Mansfield Park !

More to come…

Pride & Prejudice Discussion on Abebooks

Pride & Prejudice is the chosen book for the October Avid Reader Book Club at Abebooks.  You can go to the synopsis and reading guide as well as the forum discussion board to participate or just “lurk” at all the chatter…

Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago ~ Day 2

Diary ~ Day Two

A morning of Regional Chapter training, an excellent gathering with many ideas thrown about.  Kudos to the JASNA team for all their efforts in coordinating this…. I missed the dance classes but “duty called” and it was well worth it!

…and then on to the first Plenary with five North American scholars discussing “How Far Across Countries, Cultures and Disciplines does Jane Austen’s Legacy Reach?”

Elizabeth Lenckos, of the University of Chicago,  introduced the panel and then queried the audience -“are we the protectors of Jane Austen’s legacy?”, discussed her iconic stature, and lamented that in many adaptations, both books and movies, the “power of her voice” goes missing.

Inger Sigrun Brodey, of the University of North Carolina, emphasizing that Austen’s books are alive (versus the term “legacy” which denotes “dead”), spoke about the various translations of Austen, especially the popularity of Chinese and Japanese editions.

Gillian Dow of the Chawton House Library, spoke on Austen’s contemporaries:  Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More, Felicia Hemans, Ann Radcliffe, etc, as well as telling us about Isabelle de Montolieu’s translation of Austen’s Sense & Sensibility into French in 1815…though it was far from a direct translation with quite hysterical results, something akin perhaps to today’s many loose adaptations?

Paula Morantz Cohen of Drexel University and author of several scholarly works, but known mostly for her Jane Austen in Scarsdale / and Boca, spoke on the social realism and romantic idealism in Austen’s domestic novels – Austen’s greatest legacy being her ability to analyze homogeneous societies, and how that translates in today’s world to the social dynamics of a gated community in Florida (Boca), “Clueless” in a high school, or the British singles scene in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”

…and finally Peter Graham, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and author of the newly released Jane Austen and Charles Darwin: Naturalists and Novelists” – that Austen and Darwin were the two greatest empiricists of the 19th century; true knowledge = right reason, that Austen “got the scale of a study just right;” she wrote what she knew, her three or four families in a country village, observing all with a fine eye.

A lively discussion followed…

The Breakout Sessions were many and varied, and as always at the AGM, I was in a quandary as to which to attend- you can see all the options at JASNA.org and I do hope that many of the talks will be published in this December’s Persuasions, and so with that in mind I went for the visual treat of Deirdre Gilbert’s talk on “Covering Jane Austen.”  As a bookseller and collector I have long been interested in Austen’s illustrators, publishers and book bindings, so I was intrigued by this session.

Ms. Gilbert, an independent scholar, traced the history of covers and book jackets, focusing mostly on the British editions.  Starting with the cheap “yellowbacks” published by Routledge and sold in train stations, to such bindings by Macmillan in the early 20th-century as the “Peacock” edition with illustrations by Hugh Thomson, and on to the Burt’s Home Library Series, the Everyman Series, Dent’s publications, Penguin’s first Classics Series (with a dancing penguin!) sold in “Penguincubators” in train stations (this quite an amazing marketing tool!…see below,) the varied original art for dust jackets from the 1940s on, and to the present day with all the varied covers on all the novels with either period art reproductions or original contemporary designs.  A visual feast! 

 

 

  Next I was off to hear the always fabulous Edith Lank on “Louisa Sets Lord Brabourne Straight” – she delighted the huge crowd with pictures and stories about her Austen collection.  She started collecting any edition of Mansfield Park that she could find, and not setting out to be a book collector, she happily went along like this accruing all sorts of Austen-related works until she happened upon one of the Austen signatures that family members had cut from her letters to give to admirers…this letter accompanied by a letter from Francis Austen – Ms. Lank most generously handed this over to the audience who lovingly passed it from one to the next , each of us quietly “oohing and aahhing” and taking it all in…  She shared her lovely edition of Emma, and her tales of acquiring the many foreign translations she has, finding the world a smaller and friendlier place with the sharing of Austen’s words.  All this capped with her copy of the 1884 Brabourne edition of the Letters in which she discovered the notes of Louisa Langlois Lefroy (Anna Austen’s daughter and  wife of Septimus Bellas; Louisa is the author of the Bellas MS)… a quick finish to the talk (running out of time) left us with the tidbit that Eliza de Feuillide was indeed the daughter of Warren Hastings (Eliza had a son named Hastings with De Feuillide and later married Henry Austen) as the notes imply.  We all left wanting to hear more….!

The evening was filled with “Mysteries and Characters” with another lively panel that included Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Jennifer Hunter, and Steve Martin (no, not THAT Steve Martin, but THIS Steve Martin was most entertaining…)

Following a brief but inclusive history of the detective story, Mr. Martin took us through his formula for determining the nature of personalities in Austen’s novels…sort of a Briggs-Myers test for fictional characters:  the Good, True nature, Perceptive vs. the Bad, Facade, and Clueless.  The ideal union would be based on an “intelligent love,” a partnership of the mind, with Darcy and Elizabeth being the perfect match (likened to Holmes and Watson!)…this was all quite a fascinating study and I am not giving its just due…but it gave food for thought, especially on how to characterize Henry Crawford (BPS: bad, perceptive and selfish) or Frank Churchill (GCS:  good, clueless, and selfish)…get the idea?? [there was MUCH talk about Frank being “Good” !!]

Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mysteries, was asked why she chose Jane as the detective in her tales, rather than one of Austen’s characters… she explained that Jane is a “high analytic” with her reason predominant, she understands the human heart and motivation, and thus would make a perfect detective.  Carrie Bebris on the other hand has the Darcys as her detectives because she felt that in Pride & Prejudice both Elizabeth and Darcy were the solvers of the underlying mysteries and she wanted to take that further – she sees them as the 19th-century Nick and Nora Charles.  Both authors talked about their writing and revising techniques, use of language, and the incorporation of actual facts in Austen’s life and letters as starting points.

More on Day 3 tomorrow….  

The "Penguincubator"

Book News ~ “Life in the Country”

The British Library has just published ” ‘Life in the Country’‘ “a beautiful book featuring quotations by Jane Austen illustrated by charming silhouette drawings by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, producing an enchanting vision of Life in the Country filled with artistry and wit.

Jane Austen’s lively text and her nephew’s astute observations of nature combine in a way that uniquely illustrates life in the English countryside. Life in the Country was created by Freydis Jane Welland, the great great great grand-niece of Jane Austen, and owner of the silhouette album produced by James Edward Austen-Leigh.

Welland writes in the Preface to the book, “These delightful silhouettes have brought pleasure to the Austen family for generations… they retain the same freshness, vigour and charm that make Jane Austen’s writings so engaging.” Jane Austen herself said in a letter to her niece Caroline, written from Chawton in 1817: “We were happy to see Edward, it was an unexpected pleasure, and he makes himself as agreeable as ever, sitting in such a quiet comfortable way making his delightful sketches.”

Austen-Leigh later brought the fine art of silhouettes to perfection, creating wonderfully evocative images of landscapes and the creatures that live there. Life in the Country was originally produced as a limited edition fine-press book in 2005, with contributions by Maggie Lane, Joan Ray and Joan Austen-Leigh. This new hardback edition brings these lovely illustrations to a wide audience for the very first time.”

For further information, images or review copies, contact Ruth Howlett at the British Library Press Office: +44 ( 0 )20 7412 7112 or ruth.howlett@bl.uk

Life in the Country by Freydis Jane Welland, is published in hardback by the British Library, 2 October 2008, price £14.95 ( 112 pages, 220 x 195mm, 96 illustrations, ISBN 978 0 7123 4985 7 ).

Available from the British Library Shop ( tel: +44 ( 0 )20 7412 7735 / e-mail: bl-bookshop@bl.uk  ) and online at www.bl.uk/shop as well as other bookshops throughout the UK.

[Quoted from Media-Newswire.com]  You can also order it from your local bookseller.