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.


If you can wait until November ~

This is a tad ahead of schedule, but Mark your Calendars! 

The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City will be hosting a Jane Austen exhibit to begin in November 2009:

Jane Austen
November 2009 through March 2010


 Jane Austen, Lady Susan, autograph manuscript, written ca. 1793–94 and transcribed in fair copy soon after 1805. The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased in 1947; MA 1226.






This exhibition explores the life, work, and legacy of Jane Austen (1775–1817), regarded as one of the greatest novelists in the English language. During the past two decades, numerous successful motion picture and television adaptations of Austen’s novels have led to a resurgence of interest in Austen’s life and work. This show provides a close-up portrait of Austen, achieving tangible intimacy primarily through the presentation of her autograph manuscripts and personal letters which the Morgan has not exhibited in a generation.

The Morgan’s collection of Austen’s autograph manuscripts and letters is the largest of any institution in the world, and includes the darkly satiric Lady Susan, the only surviving manuscript of any of Austen’s novels. The exhibition will also include first and early illustrated editions of Jane Austen’s novels and letters, as well as contemporary drawings and prints depicting people, places, and events of significance in Austen’s life.

Responding to the revival of interest in Austen’s life and work, the exhibition provides a deeper insight into Austen’s essentially enigmatic character and personality, the craft of writing, and the historical context in which she lived and wrote. The exhibition will explore not only Austen’s personal reading, and the literary influences that inspired and informed her work, but also the response to Austen by later writers as diverse as Scott, Bronte, Nabokov, Twain, Chesterton, and Auden.

[From the Morgan Library website]

Book Review ~ “Regency Buck” by Georgette Heyer


Georgette Heyer had a bit of a formula for many of her Regency novels – the established man in his mid-30s, often a fashionable dandy, and the younger woman he somehow becomes responsible for, and against all odds and all possible personality conflicts, they come together and all ends well.  Indeed, quite funny along the way, and filled with period details of such accuracy, the reader wonders how Heyer wrote these in the early 20th century and was not herself a “Lady of Quality” in early 19th century England!

So I began Regency Buck thinking I may have already read it – had to indeed check my list to be sure! – but a few pages in, I knew that, though it all seemed familiar enough, Heyer had succeeded yet again in setting a scene and telling a tale peopled with well-drawn characters [really, who can resist a character with the name of Mrs. Scattergood?], abounding in witty repartee, bringing the Regency period to life, and this time with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure.

The wealthy Judith Taverner, a feisty, independent almost-of-age beauty and her brother Peregrine, a year younger and the inheritor of a large estate, are on the way to London to settle in town after the death of their father to meet their unknown guardian, the Fifth Earl of Worth, and expecting one of their father’s gout-ridden comrades are shocked to discover Lord Worth to be a young handsome man of fashion and great friend to a select group of higher ups in London society .  Due to a previous encounter with him involving a hair-raising road accident and for Judith a less than appropriate embarrassing kiss, the young Taverners take an instant dislike to their guardian and he in turn makes it quite clear that he is not amused by suddenly having two wards foisted upon him. 

Here is Judith as we first see her~

She was a fine young woman, rather above the average height, and had been used for the past four years to hearing herself proclaimed a remarkably handsome girl.  She could not, however, admire her own beauty, which was of a type she was inclined to despise.  She had rather had black hair; she thought the fairness of her gold curls insipid.  Happily, her brows and lashes were dark, and her eyes which were startlingly blue (in the manner of a wax doll, she once scornfully told her brother) had a directness and a fire which gave a great deal of character to her face.  At first glance one might write her down a mere Dresden china miss, but a second glance would inevitably discover the intelligence in her eyes, and the decided air of resolution in the curve of her mouth.

And here is Lord Worth as first seen by Miss Taverner ~

From the first moment of setting eyes on him she knew that she disliked him…He was the epitome of a man of fashion.  His beaver hat was set over black locks carefully brushed into a semblance of disorder; his cravat of starched muslin supported his chin in a series of beautiful folds; his driving-coat of drab cloth bore no less than fifteen capes, and a double row of silver buttons. Miss Taverner had to own him a very handsome creature, but found no difficulty in detesting the whole cast of his countenance.  He had a look of self-consequence; his eyes, ironically surveying her from under weary lids, were the hardest she had ever seen, and betrayed no emotion but boredom.  His nose was too straight for her taste.  His mouth was very well-formed, firm but thin-lipped.  She thought it sneered….. His driving had been magnificent; there must be unsuspected strength in those elegantly gloved hands holding the reins in such seeming carelessness, but in the name of God why must he put on an air of dandified affectation?

And thus we are introduced.  Heyer serves up her usual mix of shenanigans, the endless clashing of wills, and the historically accurate Regency social life so well portrayed, such as this detailed description of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, that you, the reader are instantly transported ~


At first site it was all a blaze of red and gold, but after her [Miss Taverner] first gasp of astonishment she was able to take a clearer view of the whole, and to see that she was standing, not in some fantastic dream-palace, but in a square apartment with rectangular recesses at each end, fitted up in a style of Oriental splendour.  The square part was surmounted by a cornice ornamented with shield-work, and supported by reticulated columns, shimmering with gold-leaf.  Above this was an octagon gallery formed by a series of elliptical arches, and pierced by windows of the same shape.  A convex cove rose over this, topped by leaf ornaments in gold and chocolate; and above this was the central dome, lined with scale-work of glittering green and gold.  In the middle of it a vast foliated decoration was placed, from whose calyx depended an enormous luster of cut-glass in the shape of a pagoda.  To this was attached by chains a lamp made to resemble a huge water-lily, coloured crimson and gold and white.  Four gilded dragons clung to the under-side of the lamp, and below them hung a smaller glass water-lily… still more dragons writhed above the window draperies, which were of blue and crimson satin and yellow silk.  The floor was covered by a gigantic Axminster carpet where golden suns, stars, serpents, and dragons ran riot on a pale blue background; and the sofas and chairs were upholstered in yellow and dove-coloured satin….

We are treated to various episodes of cock-fighting, boxing, horse racing, and carriage rides of all sorts; fashion displays of the first quality; and gatherings with the real life characters of Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent himself!  and with further references to Byron’s poetry and Austen’s Sense & Sensibility!  we are truly comforted by the authenticity of the times. 


But danger lurks – the Taverner’s wealth make them both targets in their new London environment and Heyer juxtaposes the humor of the avaricious suitors for Judith’s hand [to include nearly every eligible young man within striking distance and a few skin-crawling efforts [to this reader!] by the over-zealous Prince Regent!] – all this set against the apparent attempts to murder Peregrine – who would most benefit from his death? – his own sister? a long-lost on-the-skids cousin who begins to fall in love with Judith? or their guardian’s brother Charles, the second son in the military with no money of his own who becomes immediately smitten with his brother’s comely and wealthy ward? or indeed, Lord Worth himself, with his expensive tastes and a penchant for gambling and horse-racing?

And who of the lot will capture the heart of the lovely Judith? and can she withstand her guardian’s efforts to keep her in line according to HIS rules of a lady’s behavior for the very long year before her 21st birthday?   Worth is insufferable and rude and nearly cruel on one too many occasions to keep this reader from cringing a bit with my feminist sensibilities on high alert…  but Heyer, as expected, brings it all to a fine conclusion,  all in fun and with a satisfying end where all are accorded their just dues, a great ride! … definitely add this gem of a read to your TBR pile!

 4 full inkwells [out of 5]

Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer.  Sourcebooks, 2008 [originally published in 1935]

[also available in the UK from Arrow Books, 2004]

For further reading, see my review of Faro’s Daughter, which appends reading lists, etc. about Heyer.

Happy Easter!!


[Raphael Tuck & Sons “Easter Post Cards”  Series, No. 700]

Happy Easter One & All!

An Austen Easter Basket: Today, a little potpourri from Janeite Kelly to join the beautiful illustration of Janeite Deb…

In the mail yesterday, when I expected nothing but junk mail, came the latest edition (Spring 2009) of JASNA News. My reviews of Carrie Bebris’ The Matters at Mansfield and Jane Odiwe’s Lydia Bennet’s Story are there (they should be posted at in some few months); as are reviews of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (continuing — or perhaps the correct word is beginning, since the first book in the series came out in 2005 — a Gothic connection to and from Austen’s works), Peter Graham’s Jane Austen & Charles Darwin: Naturalists and Novelists and Nora Nachumi’s Acting Like a Lady: British Women Novelists and the Eighteenth-Century Theater.

I can’t wait to sit with a cuppa and read the interview with Elizabeth Garvie (Elizabeth Bennet in the 1979 P&P); she is scheduled to appear at the October AGM in Philadelphia!

I loved Deirdre Le Faye’s forthright letter to the Editor about the bedrooms — and their possible distribution among guests — at Ibthorpe House. Just goes to show that we all use conjecture and educated guesses when reconstructing the past.

A lot of International “News” in this issue, but VERMONT gets its mention on the next to last page. I should clarify that the editor dropped what should be the full name of Suzanne Boden’s Hyde Park (Vermont) B&B: The Governor’s House in Hyde Park. Shortened to simple The Governor’s House, there may be readers who think we were actually entertained by the state’s sitting Governor! I will mention here (as I could not in the article) that there are two upcoming Pride & Prejudice weekends in 2009: August 14-16, and September 11-13. Those who come to the Friday ‘over dessert’ discussion of Georgiana Darcy are in for an interactive treat, as I am adding an audience participation component to the mix.

And this leads to the question posed in the News article: Why does sending out invitations to the Netherfield Ball depend upon Mrs Nicholls (Bingley’s housekeeper) making “white soup enough”?? As always with Austen, there are small details (that are easily overlooked) which obviously meant something to readers of her period. We did manage, that Sunday over brunch, to find a recipe for White Soup, so that is not the curious part; it is the ‘why’. Comments welcome!

An article on Lost in Austen brings up the possibility of a film (!) version, but why always the idea that something has to be adapted for an American audience?? Such absurd thoughts baffle me each and every time…

I leave readers with this little vignette found — well, I’ll reveal where it came from later:

“She smiled and blushed and hid her face. A porter and some other people were looking wonderingly on, so I thought it best to end the conversation. But there was an attractive power about this poor Irish girl that fascinated me strangely. I felt irresistibly drawn to her. The singular beauty of her eyes, a beauty of deep sadness, a wistful sorrowful imploring look, her swift rich humour, her sudden gravity and sadnesses, her brilliant laughter, a certainly intensity and power and richness of life and the extraordinary sweetness, softness and beauty of her voice in singing and talking gave her a power over me which I could not understand nor describe, but the power of a stronger over a weaker will and nature. She lingered about the carriage door. Her look grew more wistful, beautiful and imploring. My eyes were fixed and riveted on hers. A few minutes more and I know not what might have happened. A wild reckless feeling came over me. Shall I leave all and follow her? No — Yes — No. At that moment the train moved on. She was left behind. … Shall we meet again? Yes — No — Yes.”

So: A maudlin Victorian novel? A new knock-off of P&P? Or a real-life reaction to a pair of beautiful eyes, thereby making Darcy’s reaction to Elizabeth Bennet a bit less vague?? Answer revealed here Continue reading