Better Late than Never

Long over due are many comments on VARIOUS Austen (or Austen-related) topics. I have been so lazy in completing my online thoughts on the Austen Symposium in Lennoxville, Quebec (March!), and when at lunch with Janeite MKay, and she asked about the play, I had the thought: Well, better late than NEVER! So thoughts on that, and the last talk will come — I promise!

A little closer in time are two JASNA meetings. Our own JASNA-Vermont chapter hosted HOPE GREENBERG in Montpelier on June 7th; and Montreal/Quebec City’s chapter hosted a ‘Donwell Abbey’ strawberry picking at Elaine Bander’s Montreal home.

Before I forget – since Donwell Abbey reminds me – David from Montpelier, who attended our meeting on the 7th (he is a JASNA member! Yeah, David!!), spoke about reading P.D. James. This brought up James’ JAS (Jane Austen Society; in Britain) lecture a decade-plus ago. I just happened to have a copy of that the year’s “Report” (as JAS’s journal is called). So in digging it out for David, I re-read it myself. She brings up some points (since she treats Emma as a detective novel) about ‘clues’ in the novel that is unique and thought-provoking. But for me the more startling ideas were thoughts fired by her comments on Mr Knightley! James painted a picture of an exceptionally strong man, one who not the namby-pamby many name him to be. Makes me want to pull the novel out again — and soon!

HopeGreenberg_orange-regencyHope’s illustrated lecture on Fashion was one of the most comprehensive I have ever had the priviledge to listen to. The amazing amount of pictures – drawn from paintings, clothing (who knew Burlington’s Fleming Museum had so much in their ‘attics’!!), period drawings, etc. – as well as the lovely gowns Hope had on display (including the one she wore!), all brought to our capacity audience, visually and virtually, the fashion in Austen’s era. Thank you, Hope.

One JASNA-Vermont couple, Jim and Carol, had this to say about the presentation: Sunday was delightful …We enjoyed the presentation, especially once the sound was turned up a bit [Hope was microphoned]. I thought the visuals were very effective and useful for someone who is not at all versed in the subtleties of Regency fashion. Indeed, I have been most impressed with the intellectual content and professionalism of all three presentation we have attended. We look forward to our next meeting!”

Thanks, Jim! Great to hear such words of encouragement.

David wrote succinctly: “Thank you for hosting such a nice event…It was the largest attendance I have yet seen at a lecture, although it was only my third.”

We do have a growing and attentive audience in the Montpelier region! ‘Thanks,’ to everyone who attended Sunday.

And David shared his opinion that to bring Austen elsewhere in the state would greatly increase our presence; he writes about having some thing in St. Johnsbury — someday.

For the Montreal JASNA meeting, I went in order to meet their guest speaker, Jan Fergus. Jan’s book on 18th century publishing in Britain utilized the 1730-40 ledger (held at the Bodleian) belonging to Robert Gosling — Mary Gosling’s great-grandfather (my diarist; see, my research blog). Jan decried the sloppiness of Norton’s recent Austen publications; she ‘would proof them for free’, she exclaimed, as she showed the handwritten notes in the rear cover of her copy. Her lecture was a preview of her AGM lecture – on Brothers and Sisters in Austen’s novels, of course (Jan centered Sunday’s talk on Jane and Elizabeth Bennet).

The food was plentiful – and the strawberries sweet and delicious! Elaine has a lovely home, and I’m sure everyone was grateful for the invitation to visit her perfumed garden (peonies!). The weather held off just enough to make the day quite pleasant.

Two of the Montreal members are off to England, Elaine Bander herself; and Peter Sabor gives a paper at the Chawton Conference. Someday I hope it’s me that is able to hop a plane and have people anticipate some talk I’m about to give…

Which reminds me again, and I will close with this thought, of my lunch with MKay. We got to discussing – what else! – P&P films (1980, 1995 and 2005), as well as Lost in Austen. And that brought around a discussion of Darcy and Mr Collins. Between this lunch and Jan Fergus’s talk, I am convinced more than ever that 1995 (and, by extension, the Lost in Austen series) got poor Mr Collins ‘wrong’; that Charlotte was never a martyr to her marriage (a match made in heaven? perhaps not; but NOT a match made in hell either…); and that there is more to the Darcy-Collins pairing than people are willing to admit (MY paper proposal for Chawton; not accepted, of course.)

Time’s a tickin’ and Sunday morning’s winding down; so I will get off my soap box and get back to my book – a fascinating look at Virigina Woolf’s servants: Mrs Woolf and the Servants, by Alison Light. A ‘souvenir’ from my Montreal trip…

Still haven’t heard if my registration for the AGM puts me in among the 550 members going to Philadelphia… I see the numbers, as of 6/19, now stand at 503.

And JASNA’s website announces the inclusion of Persuasions vol. 3 – published in 1981. We must applaud JASNA’s dedication (and those who put these journals online for all) in making these invaluable resources available, and for free!

3 thoughts on “Better Late than Never

  1. I have never thought Knightley to be anything but a strong, straight-forward character. As I happen to be re-reading Emma now, I can’t imagine how anyone could construe his character as namby-pamby. This is a discussion I eagerly await.


  2. Dear Marcia,

    If you *like* Knightley, you must LIKE Emma, the novel. There are those who dislike Emma. (I do not rank among them; I think it perhaps Austen’s most brilliantly-written and perfectly-paced novel.)

    Perhaps I need to look up ‘namby-pamby’; maybe it means more than I meant to infer! However, there are readers (I’m not talking ‘critics’) who find Knightley to be one-dimensional, a moralizer, a ‘kill-joy’ where Emma is concerned, a cipher, a stock romantic hero.

    (I’ve heard similar applied to Austen’s “hero” characters in general; men especially seem to think along these lines — but perhaps this perception comes from the chick-flick films, more than the books??)

    I won’t even TOUCH the ideas of those who clamp on to Knightley’s long-standing love for Emma … and claim he shows tendancies of pedophilia. There are LOTs of ill-begotten musings out there.

    Personally, I find Austen’s leading men, while they may lie light upon the page, to be more fleshed out than many believe them to be. To me, they ARE flesh and blood men, who come off as many men do in diaries and letters of the period.

    Perhaps her characters are akin to the P&P Derbyshire journey which Elizabeth Bennet takes: no NEED to describe at length because her readers knew well the world described, be it trips to the north of England or Squire-Gentlemen.

    A for-instance:

    One segment of Lost in Austen that struck me as quite FALSE was the scene where our time-travelling Miss commented on Darcy’s doing NOTHING; his response was that a Gentleman does do nothing… Come on! with estates to run, tenants and farms to oversee, accounts and estate managers to deal with; never mind the typical duties of sheriff and/or magistrate that many were called to do over the years, seeing to the poor of the district and perhaps even the poor house, as well as a land-owner’s involvement in the church. Austen’s early readers knew what being a ‘gentleman’ entailed; nowadays, readers see the ‘they do nothing’ aspect (for both men and woman in Austen’s novels) – because she does not DESCRIBE them as ‘doing’ normal, every day things – and few look beyond, to the real world as lived by such people 200 years ago.


  3. Hi Kelly & Marcia – ooh! I love this talk about Knightley! I agree Kelly that “Emma” is Austen’s most perfect novel – and there are those who are critical of his character being a kill-joy and who dislike the proposal scene where Austen, as always, defers to the reader’s imagination – I have never agreed with either of these- I think the proposal scene is quite powerful and emotional – and yes, those who talk of Knightley’s pedophilia are quite ridiculous – he just loves her alot earlier than even he admits and there are many clues to this on a close reading.

    I will quibble with your reference to LIA on the gentleman “doing nothing” – I think we all know that the landed gentry were very busy with their duties [there are more clues to this in Emma than any of the other books- Knightley is a magistrate as well as a landlord and all that is referred to, albeit briefly] – but I think that in LIA, the point is a JOKE, rather than a truth, as indeed most of the movie is – and I think that alot of the humor is in the knowing that it IS a joke. But there is also that small kernal of truth on the leisure of the Regency gentleman – they were not ALL men with property to oversee – and they were the ones who drank and gambled and paraded around Hyde Park with not much to do but spend their annual income.

    Kelly, we still need to continue our point-counterpoint on LIA! – I have watched it again with my daughter, largely to see her reaction to it – and though she knows Austen and P&P quite well, she is not up on all there is to know about “Jane Austen’s world” – she thought is was hysterical – so I need to post on that.

    Thanks Marcia for visiting and defending Knightley – a worthy cause!


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