Mr. Darcy the Bad Guy?


News alert!  our very own Matthew Macfadyen a.k.a. Mr. Darcy has been slated for the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Ridley Scott’s new Robin Hood [along with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Redgrave, William Hurt, Kevin Durand and Mark Strong] – but where oh where is Richard Armitage and the dastardly Guy of Gisborne??


[from Episode 5 of Robin Hood, Richard]

see this clip of Russell Crowe on Robin Hood

JASNA ~ Massachusetts Region ~ May 3, 2009

You are invited to join the JASNA Massachusetts Region Chapter at their next meeting scheduled for Sunday, May 3, 2009:

“Learning to Love a Hyacinth: Emotional Growth in Northanger Abbey”

with Ingrid Graff*


Wheelock College, Brookline Campus

43 Hawes St

Brookline, MA

2:00 pm

$5. / person [Mass Chapter members free]

For more information contact:  JASNA – MA, Nancy Yee, Regional Coordinator,  617-965-5699

[* Ingrid Graff is a great friend of mine – I heartily recommend that you attend if at all possible!]

Thoughts on P&P’s “White Soup”

From Judith:

The JASNA newsletter which I receive yesterday (April 21) mentioned that the Vermont chapter is interested in Nicholls’ “White soup.” There are several recipes available on line for this concoction, which is so called because no dark meat (that is beef or mutton) are used in making it, but only veal and or chicken. It is a very rich soup with anchovies, cream, egg and ground almonds added, as well as herbs and onion.

However, soup spoils readily, and it is possible that Nicholls was making a white portable soup, which is described at length in The Frugal Colonial Housewife. One takes a leg of veal, a LOT of chicken and a LOT of water and cooks it all down to a jelly, strains and boils down some more, until one winds up with what amounts to dry bouillon cubes, which, according to the cookbook, you can carry in your pocket. These could be reconstuted when wanted, and the fancier ingredients mentioned above added.

Incidentally–Nicholls is Mr Bingley’s cook, not his housekeeper. In a household of that level of wealth, there would be both, as indeed Mr Bennet’s also has, although we do not know the name of his cook. The Bennet’s housekeeper is Mrs Hill.

Those who do not receive JASNA News will need a bit of a filling-in: At the Pride & Prejudice Weekend held end-January/beg-February, our hostess Suzanne Boden (owner of The Governor’s House in Hyde Park, a B&B) had a quiz based on the novel. I am hopeless at such quizzes; as I’ve said before, I do not read Austen in order to retain minutae.

One question had to do with Who ‘Nicholls’ was–we’ll come back to that point in a moment–this person shows up twice in the novel, once just as a last name, and once designated “Mrs Nicholls” (or could they be two people?). Anyway, after reading the comment about ‘white soup enough’ – a requirement for Bingley to begin sending out invitations to the Netherfield ball, we did two things: looked up a recipe for ‘white soup’ and wondered among ourselves WHY the dance would depend so heavily upon this. Suzanne, as an excellent cook, of course could come up with a book that included a recipe for ‘white soup’ — but not being a cook, I didn’t read it thoroughly, much less retain it! So what Judith tells us is of great interest! Especially about the ‘portable’ soup!! Who knew?!

For Nicholls’ place in the household, I believe I deferred to Chapman (I had had the book with me that w/e); so will have to look further into the matter (Would Bingley allude to her merely as ‘Nicholls’ or would she always receive the title-treatment, Mrs Nicholls? Is Nicholls male, and has a wife who does the shopping??)

The relevant passages: in the 1918 edition online at Google, p. 56: “‘If you mean Darcy,’ cried her brother, ‘he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins–but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.’

The second mention of Nicholls, in VOL II of the first edition, p. 193: “‘You may depend on it,’ replied the other, “for Mrs. Nicholls was in Meryton last night; I saw her passing by, and went out myself on purpose to know the truth of it; and she told me that it was certain true. He comes down on Thursday at the latest, very likely on Wednesday. She was going to the butcher’s, she told me, on purpose toorder in some more meat on Wednesday, and she has got three couple of ducks, just fit to be killed.'”

Therefore, my BIG question was WHY: Why would the invitations (if that is what his “cards” allude to) depend upon Nicholls making ‘white soup enough’?? Was this a staple at a dance? did you nourish your visitors before sending them on their way at 2 or 4 a.m.? Was the staff, or townsfolk given this as a ‘thank you’ treat kind of thing?? It’s such a little sentence, but (as often in Austen) the author was pointing out something that was a ‘norm’ then — and just isn’t thought about (maybe known much about) now.

So thank you for your insights, Judith. I’m sure readers will have more to add regarding both white soup and the position of Nicholls within the Bingley household. And if anyone knows the ‘why’, as well, do write in!

Charlotte Bronte ~ April 21, 1816



Happy Birthday! to Charlotte Bronte, born April 21, 1816 in Thornton, Yorkshire. 

I just had the good fortune to finally visit Haworth and tour the Bronte Parsonage.  One of the special extras was the display of the various costumes worn in the latest BBC production of Wuthering Heights [but alas! no pictures allowed!] 

I append here a few of my photographs of the Parsonage as well as several links for further reading…








Main Street, Haworth

Main Street, Haworth



Further Reading:

The Bronte Blog, an excellent source for all things Bronte –  various links to the e-texts, other web sites, a bibliography of sources, etc.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum & Bronte Society

The Bronte Family

Hot off the Press!

persuasions-cover30Yesterday, a FedEx box left on my stoop prior to lunch yielded up a BIG surprise: my contributor’s copies of JASNA’s annual journal PERSUASIONS, vol. 30 (2008). A brief email to Susan Allen Ford, the journal editor, to congratulate her on an ‘awesome’ volume, was answered by an email which said she hadn’t received her copies yet! Vermont’s good fortune (and mine) to be located next door to New Hampshire — from where the packages seem to have originated…

The first article I read was Edith Lank‘s telling of her annotated Brabourne edition of Austen letters. One curious thing: how could the books languish EIGHT years on her shelves, unopened?! A used book never passes my threshold without a thorough perusal! There is more on Miss Lank’s edition in Persuasions-Online.

Joan Klingel Ray offers up an interesting look at Victorian era perceptions of Austen, though I must comment that to Edward — a nephew who was in his late teens when his aunt died — Jane would surely have remained, over the 50 ensuing years, his “dear Aunt Jane”. Joan and I take differently, I think, to James-Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen. Joan knows the descendents; but I’ve come to know Edward and Emma through their own words! So: a discussion to look forward to when Joan Klingel Ray visits Vermont in September (see our EVENTS page).

I would be telling a lie if I didn’t confess that the very first article I checked out was my own… Oh, the pictures look lovely! (They come via the collection of The British Museum.) I had been so worried after seeing the proofs. Susan Allen Ford has been very positive in her reaction (the anonymous reader, too) to this article, in which I examine an Emma Austen 1833 trip to Derbyshire in the steps of Elizabeth Bennet. The article was only improved by their wishes for a lengthier piece and some illustrations.

The Chicago AGM’s theme of Austen’s legacy brings up many fascinating ideas: Jocelyn Harris invokes Dr. Johnson; Deb will surely be interested in turning straightaway to Janine Barchas‘ article on Gaskell’s North & South (Deb highly recommends the new TV series, which she’s been watching) — but what will she think of the author’s assumption that it is a veiled recreation of P&P??? Sarah Parry‘s article on “The Pemberley Effect: Austen’s Legacy to the Historic House Industry” is surely next on my list.

A special ‘legacy’: the writing desk that once belonged to Austen, has been in the family, and now has been donated to The British Library. Freydis Welland‘s personal take on this piece of history opens the always pleasurable MISCELLANY section of Persuasions. Although I’ve not seen Lost in Austen, Laurie Kaplan‘s article which closes the journal has the oh-so-tempting title “‘Completely without Sense’: Lost in Austen“.

More comments than this — teasing tantalizers or tantalizing teasers, since the journal (according to the JASNA website) is schedule to mail out on May 1st — will have to wait. The one thing that keeps me from delving deep into my copy is an article I’m working on, and I must get back to work.

“Jane’s Fame” ~ the Reviews


The reviews are in on Claire Harman’s Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World [Canongate, 2009]


I list several of them for your perusal.  [I am fortunate indeed to have just been in the UK – I went into every Waterstone’s I came across until finally the date of release arrived and a very helpful shop-keeper found it sitting on a to-be-shelved cart!  – so I am almost finished and will post my thoughts shortly…]



The Telegraph, by Frances Wilson

The Independent, by Elspeth Barker

Times Online, by John Carey

The Guardian, by Kathryn Hughes

The Spectator Book Club, by Philip Hensher

The Literary Review, by Mark Bostridge

A preview of the book at Austenprose

My previous post at JAIV about the Jane’s Fame controversy

Austen on the Block ~ Bloomsbury Auctions

Bloomsbury Auctions-New York  announces the exhibition and auction of


The Paula Peyraud Collection, Samuel Johnson


 Women Writers in Georgian Society



Wednesday, 6 May, 2009 • 10:00 am


Bloomsbury Auctions, the world’s leading auction house for rare books and works on paper, announces The Paula Peyraud Collection, Samuel Johnson and Women Writers in Georgian Society with over 480 lots of books, manuscripts and paintings tells the fascinating story of English society in the middle and late Georgian periods. This extraordinary sale focuses on the artistic and literary women who came to the fore in the period 1750-1840.




 A highlight in the sale are the following five titles from Jane Austen: 


  • Emma-1816- 3 volumes: $8,000-12,000
  • Mansfield Park-1814- 3 volumes: $7,000-10,000
  • Northanger Abbey-1818- 4 volumes: $5,000-8,000
  • Pride and Prejudice-1813- 3 volumes Carysfort copy: $20,000-30,000
  • Sense and Sensibility-1811- 3 volumes: $25,000-35,000 


There are a total of 483 lots for sale, to comprise books, autograph letters, engravings and watercolors of the era:  Johnson and Boswell, and Walpole, etc., and many women writers are represented:  Frances Burney, Maria Edgewoth, Hannah More, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Charlotte Lennox, Charlotte Smith, Charlotte Bronte, Ann Radcliffe, Marguerite Blessington, to name a few.



And see this watercolor of Elizabeth Bridges, Austen’s sister-in-law:


Bloomsbury Auction - May 6, 2009 Lot No.127


127. [AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817)] – Thomas Hazlehurst (1740 – 1821). Portrait miniature of Elizabeth Bridges Knight wearing a white dress with a blue ribbon tied under corsage. Watercolor on ivory, oval.
2 1/2 x 2 inches (6.5 x 5 cm).
Initialed “T.H.” (lower right).
A fine portrait miniature of Jane Austen’s sister in law, Elizabeth Bridges (1773-1808) who married Edward Austen, the brother of Jane Austen. Edward took the name of his second cousin Mr. Knight on inheriting in 1812 his estates in Kent at Godmersham Park. They had 11 children.
This lot sold with an uncolored print of Godmersham Park by Watts.
Literature: Country Life. 27 July 1987, ill. p.111.  Est. $2000 – 3000.


Location:  Bloomsbury Auction Gallery, 6 West 48th Street New York 10019

Viewing hours:  

  • Friday May 1- By appointment
  • Saturday May 2- 10-5 p.m.
  • Monday May 4- 10-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday May 5- 10-5 p.m.

Bloomsbury Auctions is the world’s leading auction house for rare books and works on paper and is headquartered in London with salerooms in New York and Rome.


 For further information call Bloomsbury:  212-719-1000 or email at


You can view the full catalogue at the Bloomsbury website.