Happy New Year!!


Vintage Postcard

[Not quite Regency, but lovely all the same!]

  Kelly & I wish you all a very Happy New Year!!

Cheers, from Janeite Kelly & Janeite Deb

Round-up ~ All Things Austen

I have a mix of tidbits I have been gathering over the past week or so, awaiting a moment to post them…so apologies for late news or repeated items!

*Visit the Joanna Waugh blog: Ms. Waugh, author of regency historicals [the latest is Blind Fortune] has several posts on the Christrmas traditions during the Regency period

*A lovely post on Idolising Jane about Unacceptable Proposals, ending with a fine analysis of the Knightley – Emma proposal scene

*Persuasions On-line [Winter 2008, Vol.29, No. 1] has published one of the talks from the Chicago AGM that I had attended that was quite interesting:  “From Cover to Cover: Packaging Jane Austen from Egerton to Kindle” by Deirdre Gilbert, a discussion of the various covers and cover art that have housed Austen through the years.

*A new blog lately discovered: the Nature Diary of Colonel Brandon . Visit and enjoy!… written by “Colonel Brandon:”  “Perhaps, it is true, I am the kind of man whom everybody speaks well of & nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see & nobody remembers”…. but he has wonderful posts on nature and writing and is an ardent lover of Jane Austen!

*Ellen Moody’s article on Jane Austen’s Heroes has been posted on the Jane Austen Centre’s Online Magazine site [and check out the site for other articles of note…]

*A Regency needlework map of England and Wales, circa 1820 is for sale at auction at Christies London January 20-21 [to bid online click here]


*JASNA has announced that “The Beautiful Cassandra: the pictures, the music, the dance by Juliet McMaster et al from the Chicago AGM is now available on the JASNA.org site.


The Father, by Juliet McMaster


*A new edition of a book on London:  Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay and John Keay, editors  THE LONDON ENCYCLOPAEDIA
Completely revised third edition, 1,101pp. Pan Macmillan. £50 (US $99.50) [978 1 4050 4924 5]  [see this article in the Times online “Surveying London” by Rosemary Ashton]

enchanted-lives-enchanted-objectsSee Visual Arts Book Reviews   for a review of Enchanted Lives, Enchanted Objects: American Women Collectors and the Making of American Culture, 1800-1940. By Dianne Sachko Macleod. Berkeley: University of California Press, September 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-520-23729-2, $45.00




*My JAIV co-hort Janeite Kelly has just posted on a book “A Lady of Fashion: Barbara Johnson’s Album of Style and Fabrics” [1987] on her other blog Two Teens in the Time of Austen ~ a great find Kelly!

And of course, you must visit the “usual suspects” for the always entertaining and informative Austen-related blog posts ~ so many this week about the holidays, etc…

A Gift

“Happy Christmas” from Jane Austen in Vermont!

Our gift today shares short comments from a reader of Austen in 1836. Thanks to R.W. Chapman, we possess the reactions of family and friends that Jane Austen herself collected (printed in his volume of Austen Juvenilia). Here – in the diary of Ellen Tollet of Betley Hall (edited by Mavis E. Smith and newly published) – we see reactions to the novels from a reader with no ties to Austen. Miss Tollet perhaps treasured copies of the first edition, but likely came to read Austen because of the reprintings of the 1830s (for instance, see our 1833 copy of Sense and Sensibility). She does, however, mention “volumes” which indicates the sets – three volumes for all except Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (which appeared together in four volumes) – of the originals printed during Austen’s lifetime.

The first reference Miss Tollet makes of Austen is this entry of Saturday, 2 January 1836:

Cold, bad day – snow on the ground. Set Charles [her brother] to read ‘Mansfield Park’. How I delight in that book! I fancy all the people so well. I confess I think Edmund and Fanny too much alike to marry. I think he is something like W. Egerton [a family friend] though, of course, taller or more like a hero rather. [page 99]

Miss Tollet notes more Austen at the end of February:

Began to read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to Mary [her sister-in-law]. A very good book for the purpose, but I don’t like it so well as ‘Mansfield Park’ or ‘Persuasion’. It is a broad farce and the humour less delicate, and the story not so feeling or pretty. [p. 118: Thursday, 25 February 1836]

Days later she expounds on her views, and we perceive something of the reading habits of this young woman (born in 1812):

Read for the tenth time [!] the third volume of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. How excellent it is! Mr Bennet is enchanting, but Lydia’s disgrace far too bad. Great want of taste and delicacy towards her heroines. [p. 120: Tuesday, 8 March 1836]

In this day of television and film adaptations, it is refreshing to read (however short) comments about and reactions to Austen’s characters and situations (see also the post on Miss Russell Mitford). We invite readers to share with us their finds, among nineteenth century letters and diaries, revealing just what Austen’s early crop of readers thought and felt.

Merry Christmas One & All!



A very Merry Christmas to everyone!

From Kelly & Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont

Dickens and his “A Christmas Carol”

A Christmas Carol was first published on December 19, 1843.  I have posted a bit of information on the book on my Bygone Books blog, and so direct you there…and wish you all very Happy Holidays!


Mary Russell Mitford and Jane Austen

Many Austen fans know well the description of Jane Austen by writer Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855):

     “À propos to novels, I have discovered that our great favourite, Miss Austen, is my countrywoman; that mamma knew all her family very intimately; and that she herself is an old maid (I beg her pardon – I mean a young lady) with whom mamma before her marriage was acquainted. Mamma says that she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers; and a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of “single blessedness” that ever existed, and that, till ‘Pride and Prejudice’ showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now; she is still a poker – but a poker of whom every one is afraid. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers – neither very wise nor very witty: – but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any awe that may have been excited by their works. But a wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk, is terrific indeed!” [April 3, 1815 (vol. 1, pp. 305-7)]

Two generations of this family were Austen neighbors. The Rev. Richard Russell, Mary Russell Mitford’s maternal grandfather, was the rector of Ashe, a parish about two miles from Steventon. Upon his death in 1783, his widow and daughter moved to nearby Alresford – and it was in Alresford that Mary Russell Mitford was born – on 16 December 1787, two years after her parents’ marriage (17 October 1785).

Therefore, food for thought regarding the description of Jane Austen as “the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly” – “Miss Russell” would have been talking about Jane Austen as a ten-year-old (or younger) child! Remember Jane’s girlish scribblings found in the marriage register of Steventon!

sillhouetteReading the entire quotation over, one wonders if MRM truly meant to imply that Jane was ‘thin,’ as most critics take her comment to mean and then go on to compare it to the silhouette (at right). What if MRM wrote without any real emphasis on the words ‘thin upright piece of wood or iron’ and instead concentrated on the image painted by ‘that fills its corner in peace and quietness’? There is indeed a delightful picture in the thought of Austen as ‘a wit, a delineator of character’ who sits, watches — and then writes!

MRM continues, and begins to qualify the description of Austen:

     “After all, I do not know that I can quite vouch for this account, though the friend from whom I received it is truth itself; but her family connections must render her disagreeable to Miss Austen, since she is the sister-in-law of a gentleman who is at law with Miss A.’s brother for the greater part of his fortune. [original footnote: Every other account of Jane Austen, from whatever quarter, represents her as handsome, graceful, amiable, and shy.] You must have remarked how much her stories hinge upon entailed estates; doubtless she has learnt to dislike entails. Her brother was adopted by a Mr. Knight, who left him his name and two much better legacies in an estate of five thousand a year in Kent, and another of nearly double the value in Hampshire; but it seems he forgot some ceremony – passing a fine, I think they call it – with regard to the Hampshire property, which Mr. Baverstock has claimed in right of his mother, together with the mesne rents, and is likely to be successful.”

A trying time for all three of the Austen women: Mrs Austen, Jane and Cassandra; they were in danger of losing their home if Edward lost this case.

If we concentrate solely on vol. I of The Life of Mary Russell Mitford (ed. by Rev. A.G. L’Estrange, 1870) we read early comments on Austen’s work (and note here: they knew the identity of the author?!?) that are fascinating, untainted-by-the-movies reactions to Austen’s characters.

“The want of elegance is almost the only want in Miss Austen. I have not read her ‘Mansfield Park;’ but it is impossible not to feel in every line of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ in every word of ‘Elizabeth,’ the entire want of taste which could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy. Wickham is equally bad. Oh! they were just fit for each other, and I cannot forgive that delightful Darcy for parting them. Darcy should have married Jane. He is of all the admirable characters the best designed and the best sustained. I quite agree with you in preferring Miss Austen to Miss Edgeworth. If the former had a little more taste, a little more perception of the graceful, as well as of the humorous, I know not indeed any one to whom I should not prefer her. There is not of the hardness, the cold selfishness, of Miss Edgeworth about her writings; she is in a much better humour with the world; she preaches no sermons; she wants nothing but the beau-idéal of the female character to be a perfect novel writer; and perhaps even that beau-idéal would only be missed by such a petite maîtresse in books as myself…” [20 December 1814 (vol. 1, p. 300)]

What prompted this post was a footnote in a book on the Shaw-Lefevres (relatives of Emma Austen-Leigh): “Compare Harriet Martineau’s opinion of Mary Russell Mitford, in her Autobiography, ed. by Maria Weston (Boston, 1877): “I must say that personally I did not like her so well as I liked her works. The charming bonhommie of her writings appeared at first in her conversation and manners; but there were other things which sadly impaired its charm…. What concerned me was her habit of flattery, and the twin habit of disparagement of others. I never knew her to respond to any act of course of conduct which was morally lofty. She could not believe in it, nor, of course, enjoy it: and she seldom failed to ‘see through it’, and to delight in her superiority to admiration.” This delving to find someone to describe MRM was due to “Miss Mitford’s vitriolic attack” (in a letter of 1807 in L’Estrange’s Life) of the Lefevres. A Strong Supporting Cast, a Shaw-Lefevre biography by F.M.G. Willson, even calls MRM “a near but hostile neighbour”. And yet here is what MRM says about Emma:

“… go for amusement to Miss Edgeworth and Miss Austen. By-the-way, how delightful is her ‘Emma!’ the best, I think, of all her charming works.” [2 July 1816 (vol. 1, p. 331)]

Find out for yourself what MRM has to say about Austen and her novels: vol I; vol II; vol III.  [Note: vols I and III are the Bentley (London) edition; vol II is the last of a 2-volume set published in NY by Harper & Brothers. Once again Books.google doesn’t have all of a set!]

With new editions of diaries and letters appearing seemingly monthly, let us know what reactions to Austen or her novels YOU have come across from the pens of similar first-generation readers during the 1810s and 1820s!

On the Block ~ Byron’s Hair

Sothebys has just published the results of today’s auction [December 17, 2008, Sale L08411, London] of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations, with a final take of 901,913 GBP!   Literature by the likes of Shakespeare, Byron, Milton, Keats, Dickens, and Beatrix Potter seems to be alive and well (but alas! no Austen today!)  Here is the result for a lock of Byron’s hair.  I have posted a few other results at my Bygone Books Blog; but see the above link for all the results.

Lot 35.  A Lock of Byron’s hair, dark brown with some white strands: 

…cut from his head after his death at Missolonghi, coiled and tied with a pink ribbon, with an accompanying wrapper inscribed in the hand of Byron’s intimate friend John Cam Hobhouse (”a lock of hair cut from the head of Lord Byron after his death by Dr Bruno”), and with a later envelope recording that the lock was later presented “by Miss Leigh to Miss Marianne Gidely”   3,000 GBPbyrons-hair1

Jane Austen’s Letters~ Breaking news!

JASNA has posted the Winter edition of Persuasions On-Line [Vol. 29, No.1], and a most important article is included:  “List of Annotations in the Bellas Copy of  Lord Brabourne’s  Letters of Jane Austen.”

Edith Lank has compiled all the annotations in her copy of Lord Brabourne’s Letters, the notes largely written by the daughter of Austen’s niece Anna Austen Lefroy, Fanny Caroline Lefroy, and some by Fanny’s sister, Louisa Lefroy Bellas [who has until now been mistakenly considered the author of all the notes.]  Just the story of the provenance of this book is a fascinating read!   

Ms. Lank spoke on this at the Chicago 2008 JASNA Annual Meeting, and now has most graciously made all these notes in the book available to all.  A most hearty thank you to Ms. Lank!



And do look at the Table of Contents for this latest online edition for all the other terrific articles… a lovely Austen birthday gift to us!  Happy reading!

Happy Birthday Jane!

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, 233 years ago!  To quote her father in his letter to Mrs. Walter on Dec 17, 1775:

“You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassey certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and sends her love to you and my brother…” (Austen Papers, 32-3)


I have found “A Limerick for Jane Austen’s Birthday” by Lois White Wilcox,  published in Persuasions, No. 14, 1992 ~ this says it all!


For the 233rd birthday of Jane,   

Let us make it perfectly plain,

T’would be most sagacious

And not AUSTENtatious

To praise her achievements again.


You who see through the fake and the twit,

At your feet (by your fire), we will sit.

As Janeites we’ll boast

It’s our privilege to toast

Our mistress of wisdom and wit!




We had our Annual Jane Austen Birthday celebration last Sunday [and will write about this shortly] ~ Afternoon Tea and English Country Dancing ~ a fabulous time had by all! 

Buy Local!

I am posting the following from Roy Blount, Jr., the President of the Authors Guild [see the original post at Authors Guild.].  It is an all-out call to BUY BOOKS this holiday, especially from your local bookshop:

Holiday Message from Roy Blount, Jr.: Buy Books from your Local Bookstore,  Now

December 11, 2008. I’ve been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren’t known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don’t lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn’t in the cards.

We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let’s mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that’s just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they’re easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children’s books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they’ll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: “Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see…we’re the Authors Guild.”

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
President, Authors Guild

Addendum: Forward and Post!

December 11, 2008. The Guild’s staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We’re coming! And we’re coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We’re spelling BOOKS!