Guest Post ~ Nancy I. Sanders on Her New Book, “Jane Austen for Kids”

Good Morning Readers! Today I welcome Nancy I Sanders, author of the recently released Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Writings, and World. Designed for ages 9 and up, the book provides 21 enriching activities to help them gain a better understanding of daily life in the Georgia era: playing whist, designing a coat-of-arms, planting a kitchen garden, learning the boulanger, hosting a tea, playing cricket, sewing a reticule – all activities Jane would have participated in – and now we can too! Filled with pictures and much information of Austen’s life and works, this is a lively and engaging way to learn more about Jane Austen. I highly recommend that you add this book to your Austen collection, no matter your age – you might learn how to curl your hair just like Jane did!

Join Nancy as she takes us on a tour through Jane Austen country, where she was inspired to write this book!

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Our beloved Jane once wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra, “It appeared so likely to be a wet evening that I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably.”

Two centuries later, early in the afternoon on July 19, 2017, I rode with my husband Jeff and our JASNA tour group on the tour bus toward the Great House. My heart beat with excitement as we drove past quaint homes, many reflecting days gone by.

I had traveled all the way from Los Angeles here to Hampshire to treasure this experience today. As a children’s writer, I was researching and taking photographs for my newest book, Jane Austen for Kids. But for me as well as others in our group, today would be a highlight of our trip. I would get to visit Jane’s adult home, the church she attended with her mother and sister and other family members, and her brother Edward’s nearby mansion, known affectionately as the Great House.

Chawton House –  “The Great House”

We turned up the lane and I saw it. The Great House. Jane spent many a merry day here visiting her nieces and nephews…exploring the well-stocked library…meandering over the manicured grounds…drinking delightful teas…and, I dare say, collecting many ideas for her novels.

What a joy it was to explore the Great House. Now known as the Chawton House, its collections feature Jane Austen as well as other famous women writers. We visited its library room with collections of rare books. We saw the huge portrait painted of Edward Knight, Jane’s fortunate brother who was adopted by the childless Knights. The silhouette of this adoption was also here at the Great House. It was because of her brother’s adoption by Jane’s wealthy relatives that Edward eventually inherited this property and also the humble cottage that eventually was granted for Jane, her mother, and her sister Cassandra to live in.

In the dining room was the same dining table where Jane would sit down to eat when she visited her brother and her favorite niece, Fanny. We saw Jane’s favorite window overlooking the gravel driveway where Jane would sit and look out and imagine…

 

Finally it was time to leave. There were other memories to explore. We headed toward St. Nicholas Church, located next to the Great House.

Arriving at St. Nicholas Church, a peaceful pastoral scene greeted us. Its open gate beckoned us inside.

Later that day, I wrote in my travel journal of this experience:

As we walked down the golden gravel path, the gentle mist fell around us as the gentle mist of time melted away. We walked in the footsteps of Jane and her family on their way to church and to visit each other. Sheep bleated peacefully in the nearby pasture. Jane’s sister and mother are buried behind the church. Their tombstones stand as silent reminders that there are stories of our Jane still waiting to be told…

 

Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Chawton

 

We passed by tombstones, weathered by the rains and sunshines of time. Even though this church has been renovated and altered from its original design, it was still a remarkable site to see.

Inside was a simple magnificence.

A hushed stillness comforted our visit and filled us with awe.

I headed outside, paused for a moment to take a photo shot, then walked around in search of the graveyard.

More sheep grazed quietly near the old churchyard fence.

A giant tree, ancient silent sentinel, hosted a sign that pointed me toward the back.

And then I saw them. Standing side by side as markers of the two women who were perhaps most influential in Jane’s life. Her mother and her sister, both named Cassandra. The moss and ivy made delicate frames for this picturesque site. I lingered…savoring this moment…quiet…reflecting…the influence of these women reaching down through two centuries to influence me as a woman, as a reader, and as a writer.

But there was more to see, so I finally pulled myself away and headed back to the front of the church, out the gate, and down the gravel lane. I turned to take one last look at St. Nicholas and bid it farewell.

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Then down the gravel lane to the country road. Destination? Chawton Cottage, the home where Jane lived and wrote a large bulk of her novels. Today it houses Jane Austen’s House Museum.

We walked down the Jane Austen Trail….

The country land led us past moss-covered fence posts and ivy-covered trees. I must have brushed against the undergrowth because suddenly, the calf of my right leg was on fire.

Alas! That ancient culprit. Stinging nettle! I had become its victim just as in Jane’s day. Except for the pain, I had to smile. It was an unexpected souvenir of my day’s adventure.

We meandered past more quaint homes and delightfully overgrown gardens.

 

We turned the corner. And there it was. Chawton Cottage. Jane’s beloved home. Tea awaited us! Along with a glimpse into the daily life and heart of Jane.

Inside we found her writing table. The infamous door that squeaked. The bedroom she shared with Cassandra her adult life. The garden where she gathered flowers…but more than just things, we found rich treasures. Pearls and diamonds enough to fill our hearts to overflowing…yet never enough. Can one ever get enough of our Jane?

 

Once outside again, a surprise awaited us. This bench was one of many benches painted in commemoration of 200 years of Jane’s legacy to the world. They were scattered throughout Hampshire and we saw quite a number of them at various historic sites where Jane visited or stayed.

This beautiful bench brought me back from the 1700-1800s to my current day. It reminded me that I had a task to do. An exciting project that I would spend the rest of that year working on. My biography of Jane that would bring her life to young readers in a way no other book has done, focusing on Jane’s childhood and juvenile writings as well as including historic activities based on Jane’s life and times.

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Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Writings, and World
By Nancy I. Sanders
Official book’s website:  http://nancyisanders.com/jane-austen/

About the author:

Nancy I. Sanders was introduced to Jane Austen as a teenager when she read Pride and Prejudice aloud with her future sister-in-law. Since then she chose to follow in Jane’s footsteps to become a writer—although her published books mostly are enjoyed by younger readers (such as the rollicking fun picture book A Pirate’s Mother Goose). With over 100 books to her credit including bestsellers and award-winning titles, Nancy still enjoys reading Jane Austen with Persuasion being her current favorite. Nancy and her husband Jeff live in Norco CA near their two sons and their wives, and three grandchildren.

Credits:

  • “It appeared”: Jane to Cassandra Austen, 13 June 1814, in Chapman, Jane Austen’s Letters, 388.
  • Chawton House photos by author, courtesy of Chawton House
  • St. Nicholas photos by author, courtesy of St. Nicholas, Chawton
  • Chawton Cottage photo by author, courtesy of the Jane Austen’s House Museum

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

The Women’s Writing Database “Orlando” ~ Free for the Month of March!

UPDATE: The Women Writers Online database also has free access during the month of March – you can find it here: http://wwo.wwp.northeastern.edu/WWO

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theorlandoproject

Orlando, the subscription database from Cambridge University Press on “Women’s Writings in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present” – is available for free for Women’s History Month starting tomorrow and throughout March.

The Orlando Project “provides entries on authors’ lives and writing careers, contextual material, timelines, sets of internal links, and bibliographies.”

http://orlando.cambridge.org/svHomePage

Here is the login information: (no caps, no spaces)

Id: womenshistory19
pw: orlando19

As always, much new material has been added this past year: just as an example, Professor Isobel Grundy has shared with me that these four near-contemporaries of Jane Austen are now part of the database (or will be added shortly):

Mary Harcourt (later Countess Harcourt) (1750-1833), who was embedded with her husband while he commanded troops in the Low Countries during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, and wrote an account of her experience and her gradual development of strongly anti-war views; and

Eglantine, Lady Wallace (died 1803), a dramatist and conduct-writer, a Scots aristocrat of rather dubious respectability who got caught up in part of the same war and was very friendly with a revolutionary leader. [entry is under Eglinton Wallace].

Jane Loudon (1807-1858), who published a science fiction novel called The Mummy, unfortunately a few years too late for Austen to read it. [to be added soon]

Anna Gordon (Mrs. Brown) (1747-1810), a Scottish ballad-collector and singer. [to be added soon]

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If you are wondering about the symbol of the Oak Tree, here is the explanation from the website:

“. . . a little square book bound in red cloth fell from the breast of her leather jacket—her poem The Oak Tree.” —Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a Biography, 1928, inspires this work in literary history. Woolf’s biographical and historical fantasy explores the changing conditions of possibility for women writing in England from the time of Elizabeth I to her own day, and gives us a poet protagonist who is at work throughout the whole of this history on the composition of her poem “The Oak Tree”. The Orlando Project team sees in the oak tree a suggestion of the history of women’s writing in the British Isles, the growth of history from biography, and (in a kind of visual pun) the tree-like structure of our text encoding.

Fabulous resource – spend the month indulging in this feast of information!

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

The Pemberley Post, No. 8 (Feb 18-24, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More!

Welcome to my weekly round-up: from amorous footmen to Dickens’s shoddy treatment of his wife, the upstanding Mr. Knightley, and dieting with Jane; with further thoughts on the taxation of dogs, the Mona Lisa, dust jackets and Austen’s Sanditon – can one have a life without knowing all this??

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A new journal to be launched in April: The Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research‘s enthusiastic PhD students have just launched a fabulous new online, Open Access peer reviewed journal called Romance, Revolution and Reform: https://www.rrrjournal.com/

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If you’ve been watching Victoria on Masterpiece (and you should be…), here’s a real-life tale along the lines of The Footman and the Duchess: “The Amorous Footman”: https://penandpension.com/2019/02/20/the-case-of-the-amorous-footman/

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Mrs. Dickens (image: TLS)

So, it’s common knowledge now that Dickens left his wife for another woman – Ellen Tiernan the actress (fabulous book on this by Claire Tomalin: The Invisible Woman – if you have not read this, go out and buy it right now) – but letters recently discovered and studied by Professor John Bowen reveal that Dickens tried, like so many other men who had strayed and wanted out, to have his wife Catherine declared insane and institutionalized…https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2019/research/dickens-letters-asylum/

  • and also this at the Smithsonian:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/newly-analyzed-trove-letters-charles-dickens-180971545/

Harvard University [Image: University of York]

And more on Dickens (he loved decorating his home, worked from home, had no musical talent, etc…): https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/facts-charles-dickens-writer-children-family-home/

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Aunt Busy Bee’s New London Cries (Image: Spitalfields Life)

Lovely images – Cries of London: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2019/02/22/aunt-busy-bees-new-london-cries-x/

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An archived Austenonly post on Mr. Knightley, Magistrate: https://austenonly.com/2010/01/25/austen-only-emma-season-mr-knightley-magistrate/

New book out on Jane Austen: The Jane Austen Diet: Austen’s Secrets to Food, Health, and Incandescent Happiness, by Bryan Kozlowski. See the Jane Austen VOGUE (of all places!) for an article on the author, the book, and Jane as a nutritionist! (lots of meat, lots of walking…)

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Ever wonder why the Mona Lisa is so famous?? (I wonder about this every day…) – here’s the answer: http://www.openculture.com/2019/02/how-the-mona-lisa-went-from-being-barely-known-to-suddenly-the-most-famous-painting-in-the-world-1911.html

For you Bard-Lovers out there (and who isn’t?), how about starting a Shakespeare Book Club? https://shakespeareandbeyond.folger.edu/2019/02/19/shakespeare-book-clubs-austin-tichenor/

 

Into Dust Jackets? – here is an old essay in Publishers Weekly about a book on jackets from 1920-1970, published in 2017: (great covers here – even one by NC Wyeth): https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/75327-11-beautiful-vintage-book-covers.html

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A Cook Book we should all have, recently catalogued at the Lewis Walpole Library: https://lewiswalpole.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/the-complete-house-keeper-and-professed-cook/

Smith, Mary, of Newcastle. The complete house-keeper, and professed cook : calculated for the greater ease and assistance of ladies, house-keepers, cooks, &c. &c. : containing upwards of seven hundred practical and approved receipts … / by Mary Smith …Newcastle: Printed by T. Slack, for the author, 1772.

You can read it all here: https://archive.org/details/b21527404/page/n5

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Well, since we just got a dog (our 5th Springer Spaniel), I can’t resist passing this on from All Things Georgian – we all know of some of the ridiculous taxes imposed on the Georgians (think windows, candles, hair powder, and wallpaper, to name a few), but this one took forever to pass and was difficult to implement: Parliament going to the Dogs we could say:

https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/taxing-of-dogs-in-the-eighteenth-century/

Hayman, Francis; A Hound, a Spaniel and a Pug (A Portrait of a Mastiff); Norfolk Museums Service

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And because we always have to end with Jane: here are the wildly anticipated first photos of the filming of Andrew Davies’ Sanditon, Austen’s unfinished manuscript giving little direction with the plot and nearly no info on the possible Hero – so from what we DO know, who are these people??

https://www.burnham-on-sea.com/news/itv-jane-austen-drama-sanditon-filmed-brean-beach/

[Theo James here – do hope he is Sidney Parker, who I believe IS the Hero…] – your thoughts?? [image from Burnham-on-the-sea.com]

Have a good week all – send me your favorite finds on the internet!

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

For Your Reading Pleasure: JASNA’s “Persuasions On-Line”

Happy New Year One and All! If one of your Resolutions was to read more about Jane Austen, here is a great place to start!

The latest Persuasions On-Line is now available on the JASNA.org website:  http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions-online/volume-39-no-1/

Persuasions On-Line Volume 39, No. 1 (Winter 2018)

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2017: KANSAS CITY: PERSUASION: 200 YEARS OF CONSTANCY AND HOPE

  1. How the “Long War” Affected Jane Austen’s Family and Her Novels – Collins Hemingway
  2. “She Had Only Navy-Lists and Newspapers for Her Authority” – Hazel Jones
  3. Sailors in Fiction before Persuasion’s “Gentlemen of the Navy” – Susan Allen Ford
  4. Captain Wentworth and the Duke of Monmouth: Brilliant, Dangerous, and Headstrong – Jocelyn Harris
  5. The Grace to Deserve: Weighing Merit in Jane Austen’s Persuasion – Mary Ellen Bertolini
  6. A Tale of Two Captains: Whose Heart Is Worth Having? – Theresa Kenney
  7. Ivory and Canvas: Naval Miniature Portraiture in Jane Austen’s Persuasion – Moriah Webster
  8. “A State of Alteration”: Stylistic Contrasts in the Musgroves’ Parlor – Kristen Miller Zohn
  9. Revisiting Lake Louise 1993 – Juliet McMaster

MISCELLANY

  1. Three Pamphlets on the Leigh-Perrot Trial: Why Austen Sent Susan to Crosby – Margie Burns
  2. Where Jane Austen Sat: The “Austin” Box at Edmund Kean’s Shylock, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, March 5, 1814 – David Worrall
  3. Nonsense Elements in Jane Austen’s Juvenilia – Donna R. White
  4. Marianne Dashwood’s Repentance, Willoughby’s “Repentance,” and The Book of Common Prayer – Brenda S. Cox
  5. The Probable Location of Donwell Abbey in Jane Austen’s Emma – Kenneth Smith
  6. To be “esteemed quite worthy”: Fortunes, Futures, and Economic Language in Persuasion – Maria Frawley, Kaitlyn Nigro, and Gwendolyn Umbach
  7. “Even Miss Bates Has Mind”: A Cognitive Historicist Reading of Emma’s Miss Bates – Kathleen R. Steele
  8. Jane, Bingley, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Or, the Other Couple in Pride and Prejudice – Jenny Rebecca Rytting
  9. Jane Austen in the Nursing Classroom: A Tool to Expand Psychiatric Assessment Skills – Tawny Burgess
  10. Pride and Prejudice in Black and White: First and Last Impressions (1938–1967) – Reinier Wels
  11. Pride and Prejudice in Black and White: De vier dochters Bennet (1961–1962) – Reinier Wels
  12. Lost in Austen: A Postmodern Reanimation of Pride and Prejudice – Wim Tigges
  13. Jane Austen Bibliography, 2017 – Deborah Barnum

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The Table of Contents of Persuasions 39 (2017) is now online as well (alas! the essays are not – reason enough to become a JASNA member…): http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions/no-39/

Papers from the AGM 2O17: HUNTINGTON BEACH: JANE AUSTEN IN PARADISE: INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY

  1. Women of Genius: Jane Austen, Germaine de Staël, and the Nineteenth-Century Heroine – Gillian Dow (13-30)
  2. Godmersham Park Library: Jane Austen’s Paradise Regained – Peter Sabor (31-44)
  3. The Child Is Mother to the Novelist: From the Juvenilia to the Novels – Juliet McMaster (45-56 )
  4. Dirty Girls, Dirty Books, and the Breakdown of Boundaries in Jane Austen’s Fiction – Kathy Justice Gentile (57-69)
  5. “I Cannot Get Out”: The Self-Imposed Afterlife of Maria Bertram – Leta Sundet (70-77)
  6. Sanditon at 200: Intimations of a New Consumerist Society – Sara Dustin (78-87)
  7. Modernist Jane: Austen’s Reception by Writers of the Twenties and Thirties – Lisa Tyler (88-99)
  8. In and Out of the Foxholes: Talking of Jane Austen During and After World War II – Annette M. LeClair (100-111)
  9. Angela Thirkell and “Miss Austen” – Sara Bowen (112-125)
  10. After Jane Austen – Devoney Looser (126-146)
  11. JASNA and the Academy: The Anxiety of Affiliation – Elaine Bander (147-162)
  12. Becoming Catherine Morland: A Cautionary Tale of Manuscripts in the Archive – Emily C. Friedman (163-173)

MISCELLANY

  1. Jane Austen and Catharine Macaulay – Karen Green (177-183)
  2. A Third Publisher’s Advertisement for Susan Found: Why Didn’t Crosby Publish Jane Austen? – Margie Burns (184-202)
  3. The Watsons: Its Place in Jane Austen’s Development as a Writer – David Hughes (203-212)
  4. Deception with a Graceful Bow: Northanger Abbey’s General Tilney and Dance Semiotics – Sabrina M. Gilchrist (213-221)
  5. Jane Austen and Roman History – Herbert W. Benario (222-225)
  6. “She Heard All Mrs. Elton’s Knight-Errantry on the Subject”: Emma as Chivalric Romance -Tiffany Schubert (226-234)
  7. Mobility, the Outdoors, and Social Position in Persuasion – E. Holly Pike (235-242)
  8. Sanditon and the Pursuit of Health – Michael Biddiss (243-254)

That should keep you all busy for a good while…

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont; images courtesy of JASNA.org

For Your Reading Pleasure: Susannah Fullerton’s “Literary Reader’s Guides”

 

JASAs incomparable president Susannah Fullerton has the perfect gift for you or any of your best reading buddies. You can follow her along each month for the twelve months of 2019 with a new book to read, learn about, and discuss via email or in your own book groups. Called her “Literary Reader Guides,” you can sign up for the full year or just buy those Guides individually that interest you. This year Susannah will be doing Jane Austen’s Emma (in February) – Austen is surrounded in great company as you can see:

  • Jan – Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited 
  • Feb – Jane Austen and Emma 
  • Mar – Jerome K. Jerome and Three Men in a Boat 
  • Apr – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Hound of the Baskervilles 
  • May – Theodor Fontane and Effi Briest 
  • Jun – Guy de Maupassant and “The Necklace”
  • Jul – L. P. Hartley and The Go-Between
  • Aug – Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh
  • Sep – W. Somerset Maugham and Cakes and Ale 
  • Oct – Henry James and Washington Square 
  • Nov – Jean Rhys and Wide Sargasso Sea 
  • Dec – Wilkie Collins and The Moonstone

What a reading list! Your book group would be most content following this for the year ahead! Each guide features background information about the author, a publishing history of the title, many illustrations, and thoughtful discussion questions.

I signed on for the Guides last year, and found them most interesting and helpful in facilitating in the several book groups I belong to – I haven’t done all the featured books yet, but each of the monographs is downloadable and you can keep them for future use. The cost for 2019 for all 12 Guides is 40$AU (which is about 30$US, paypal accepted). You can also purchase previous Guides here: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/store/

You can read all about it here: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/come-with-me-on-a-literary-journey/

And visit Susannah’s blog where you shall find all sorts of literary gems: Notes from a Book Addict

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I append this letter direct from Susannah (where she is celebrating a very hot Christmas Down Under…!):

Dear JASNA Member,

I think Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ is the greatest novel ever written. Would you like to find out why I think that, and also learn more about its characters, themes and setting? I’d love to share with you my views on that most gorgeous of heroes, Mr Knightley, and my opinion of Emma herself. Is she really “faultless in spite of all her faults”?

Next year I am offering you not just my thoughts on ‘Emma’, but on 11 other fascinating literary works as well. Please consider joining this exciting literary journey via email. Let me share with you my insights about an author and what drove him or her to create the book. Let me guide you through the novel’s themes and inspirations, tell you about the memorable characters, and provide you with discussion questions to really make you think (or share with your book group).

My 2019 literary series contains an extraordinary short story (you can decide if it is the world’s best?), a book to make you laugh and one to make you cry, some mystery and detection, and some madness and adultery. I have chosen an intriguing mix of works from various parts of the world and from two different centuries. I hope you’ll get the feeling that I’m at your side, sharing my love for a thought-provoking work and discussing it with you and your friends. You can even talk it over directly with me via my website, I always love to hear from JASNA members.

2019 is JASA’s 30th birthday. I hope you will want to celebrate that special anniversary by joining me to discuss ‘Emma’ and other great books. The whole course is done via email, so you do not need to live in Sydney to be a part of it all. Please watch my short film to see just what I’m offering. Find out all about it here: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/come-with-me-on-a-literary-journey/

I hope that Christmas will bring you happy occasions with your family and time to re-read Jane Austen. Don’t forget that if you are planning a visit to Australia next year, JASA would love to welcome you.

Merry Christmas to you all,
Susannah Fullerton
President of JASA

Susannah Fullerton, OAM, FRSN
Literary Lecturer, Author and Literary Tour Leader
https://susannahfullerton.com.au/
President, Jane Austen Society of Australia
Patron, Rudyard Kipling Society of Australia

 
Works:

Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia
Jane Austen & Crime [one of my all-time favorite books on Austen!]
Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’
A Dance with Jane Austen
Jane & I: A Tale of Austen Addiction

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Sign up today – you will be most pleased!

c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post: “Praying with Jane,” by Rachel Dodge ~ And Book Giveaway!

UPDATE: the winner of the book giveaway is “artsresearchnyc” – please email me with your contact info and I will send the book to you right away. Congratulations! Thank you all for participating!

Good Morning all! – I am re-blogging this post by Rachel Dodge today as part of the Blog Tour for her book Praying with Jane – and now to include a book giveaway (there is also a book giveaway from Jane Austen’s World – Vic is hosting the blog tour – but I am also offering a giveaway, courtesy of the publisher Bethany House). Please comment or ask Rachel a question by next Monday, November 12 and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy (domestic mailing only, sorry to say…) – I will announce the winner on November 14th. It’s a beautiful book and one that should certainly be added to your Jane Austen collection. You can follow along with the blog tour by clicking on the links at the end of this post.

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Gentle Readers: I welcome today Rachel Dodge, who has just published (October 2nd!) her book Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, 2018). I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel at the JASNA AGM last week in Kansas City, MO, where we connected at her Emporium table, and where I purchased her book. In it, Dodge takes us through the three prayers that Jane Austen wrote, offers ten devotions per prayer, and weaves into each chapter pieces from Austen’s life and works. It is lovely and inspirational and edifying all at once, taking us into a very private Jane Austen.

As Dodge herself suggests in her introduction, “take time to settle yourself into a quiet spot with a cup of tea or coffee and your journal. This is your invitation to know Jane better…and the God she loved…”

 

Exploring Jane Austen’s Prayers in Praying with Jane

When an author friend asked me a few years ago if I’d ever thought of writing a book about Jane Austen, it made me smile. After writing and speaking about Austen for almost two decades, the thought of writing a book intrigued me. My friend suggested I write something about Austen’s faith. As soon as she said the words, my heart started beating a little faster. I leaned forward and said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book about her prayers.”

That was the start of an incredible journey to the writing and publication of my upcoming book, Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, October 2018). As I studied Austen’s prayers, read and reread every article and biography I could find on her faith and prayers, studied the original manuscripts at Mills College, and traveled back to her homes and churches in Steventon and Chawton, a picture of a faith biography formed in my mind. I wanted to honor Austen’s prayers and highlight the spiritual side of her life in a unique way.

As I read Austen’s prayers again and again, turning them over in my mind, listening to the cadence of her words, and reflecting on the meaning behind each line, I realized that simply reading Austen’s prayers in one sitting isn’t enough. Like her novels, Austen’s prayers are full of deep insights; they require a close, thoughtful reading. I began to look at the prayers in smaller chunks, reading them line-by-line. With that format in mind, I divided them into a month’s worth of entries and began work on a 31-day devotional book.

As I examined Austen’s prayers, I looked carefully at the meaning in each line and what writing them might have meant to her. Passages from her novels, her letters, and the Austen family memoirs came alive, and I wove them into each daily entry as illustrations of what the prayers can teach us.

Finally, the last step was to make Austen’s prayers practical and personal. As readers, students, and worshippers, we can either be passive or active. For me, the book couldn’t just be about her writing skill, the form the prayers take, or her use of language. It couldn’t even just be about her faith. It needed to also be about what her prayers can teach us. Thus, toward the end of each day’s entry, I include an area for personal reflection, a key Scripture verse, and a sample prayer. Praying with Jane is written as an exploration of Austen’s prayers and an invitation to join her in praying our own prayers.

Jane Austen’s Prayers

Besides her novels, juvenilia, and minor works, Jane Austen wrote three prayers. Cassandra folded them together and inscribed the words “Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane” on the outside. They were passed down by her family and kept safe for future generations. The three prayers echo the cadence and language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England. Each prayer includes thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. In them, she uses the pronoun “we,” indicating that her prayers were most likely meant to be read aloud in a group setting. They are believed to have been written for evening devotions because they include reflections on the past day.

George Austen

Austen’s father, Reverend George Austen, was a devoted Anglican clergyman, husband, and father. He taught his children to take time for private prayer in the morning and evening, to read devotional literature, and to read (and even memorize) famous sermons. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Irene Collins writes that Jane Austen “cherished” William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar and “made constant use of the prayers and meditations included in it” (72). The Austen family’s religious life extended far beyond the morning and evening church services they attended on Sundays. They shared in corporate family prayers in the morning and evening, they said their own private prayers when they woke up and went to bed each day, and they prayed as a family before meals and gave thanks afterward.

In the evening, the Austen family enjoyed reading out loud from novels, poetry, sermons, and the Bible. On one Sunday evening when the family was unable to attend church, Jane wrote in a letter, “In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home” (Letters). It’s likely that Jane shared her prayers during her family’s evening devotions.

Austen is thorough in her prayers, as in her life, and covers every part of the human plight with great care. I’ve included a few lines from each of her prayers to illustrate the range of topics she covers. (All of my quotes are from the original manuscripts that I carefully transcribed as faithfully as possible.) Her prayers show deep concern for her family and friends and for others who may need comfort or protection:

Be Gracious to our Necessities, and guard us, and all we love, from Evil this night. May the sick and afflicted, by now, & ever thy care; and heartily do we pray for the safety of all that travel by Land or by Sea, for the comfort & protection of the Orphan & Widow, & that thy pity may be shewn, upon all Captives & Prisoners. (Prayer One)

Her prayers also reveal a spirit of thankfulness. It appears that Austen understood the importance of practicing gratitude in even the minor details of life:

We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of Body & of Mind & for every other source of happiness which Thou hast bountifully bestowed on us & with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from Thy Fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them, than they have hitherto excited. (Prayer Two)

Furthermore, her prayers point to her desire for a humble spirit and a kind attitude toward others. As her letters and novels attest, she had a fine sense of humor and did not take herself too seriously. She was quick-witted and opinionated, yet she was also quick to admit her own faults:

Incline us Oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, & to judge of all they say & do with that Charity which we would desire from Men ourselves. (Prayer Three)

Austen’s prayers also reveal a tender reverence in regard to her faith and her family’s spiritual life. Writing Praying with Jane has been an immense privilege. Exploring Jane Austen’s prayer life has enhanced my own spiritual life and brought me great joy. I hope it will do the same for many others.

About Praying with Jane:

In Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, readers can explore Austen’s prayers in an intimate devotional format as they learn about her personal faith, her Anglican upbringing, and the spiritual truths found in her novels. Each daily entry includes examples from Austen’s own life and novels, as well as key Scripture verses, ideas for personal application, and a sample prayer.

To order your copy of Praying with Jane, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookseller. For a limited time, when you order a copy of Praying with Jane, you can visit RachelDodge.com to claim a free digital download of six printable Praying with Jane Prayer Cards. Each prayer card has a quote from Austen’s prayers and space to write your own prayers and praises.


About the author:

Rachel Dodge teaches college English and Jane Austen classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and Jane Austen groups, and is a regular contributor to Jane Austen’s World blog. A true “Janeite” at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns. She makes her home in Northern California with her husband and two children.

Works Cited

-Austen, Jane. Prayers. “Prayers Composed by my ever dear sister.” Manuscripts (two quarto sheets). The Elinor Raas Heller Rare Book Room, Mills College, Oakland, California.

-_____.  Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.

-Collins, Irene. Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.

You can visit Rachel:

at her website: https://www.racheldodge.com/
on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/racheldodgebooks/
on twitter: https://twitter.com/racheldodgebks

Stay tuned for an upcoming book giveaway!

Images courtesty of Rachel Dodge; image of the Rev. George Austen from Austenonly.
c2018 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour Dates:

October 31 – Praying with Jane, My changed Relationship with Jane, Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn

November 1 – Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge,  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton

November 2 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer (Review and Giveaway)Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold

November 3 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel Dodge, Burton Book Review, Marie Burton

November 4 – Blog Tour: Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel DodgeBLOGLOVIN‘, Sophia Rose

November 5 – Guest Post: Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge and Book Giveaway! Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum

November 6 – Calico Critic – Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge , Laura Hartness

November 7 – A Bookish Way of Life – Praying with Jane, Nadia Anguiano

November 8 – Diary of an Eccentric – Book Spotlight – Praying with JaneAnna Horner

November 9 – Review of Praying with Jane, Becoming, Nichole Parks, Nichole Parks

November 10 – Praying with Jane: A new devotional based on the prayers of Jane Austen, My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia

November 11 – Praying with Jane Blog Tour: Interview and Giveaways, My Love for Jane Austen, Sylvia Chan

November 12 – Laughing with Lizzie, Sophie Andrews

November 13 – Book Review – Praying with JaneBrenda Cox

Previous reviews:

Praying with Jane Blog Tour: https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/praying-with-jane-blog-tour/

Praying with Jane, Michelle Ule: https://www.michelleule.com/2018/09/28/jane-austen/

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JASNA-Vermont ~ Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea! ~ December 2, 2018

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s December 2018 Meeting

 ~ The Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea! ~

 

In celebration of the Bicentenary of Persuasion (1818)

Anna Battigelli*

“Landscapes and Soundscapes in Jane Austen’s Narratives”

How does Jane Austen convince us that we are sharing the experience of an individual immersed in society? In part, she does so by showing us what that individual overhears and sees. This talk examines Austen’s narrative technique for its construction of rich and compelling representations of inner life through soundscapes and landscapes.

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Sunday, December 2, 2018, 1 – 4:00 p.m.

Champlain College
Morgan Room, Aiken Hall
83 Summit St. Burlington VT** 

$35 / person ~ $30 / JASNA Members ~ $10 / student

Registration & advance payment required! ~ Register by 21 Nov 2018! 

December Tea flier: Dec 2018 flier-Tea-Battigelli
Registration form: Dec Tea 2018-Reservation form

Email: JasnaVtRegion [at] gmail [dot] com

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*Anna Battigelli is a Professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh and the author of Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind. She co-edited with Laura M. Stevens a double issue of Tulsa Studies in Literature on “Eighteenth-Century English Women and Catholicism.” Her edited collection of essays, Art and Artifact in Jane Austen’s Novels and Early Writing, based on the “Jane Austen and the Arts” conference she hosted at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2017, will be published in 2019.

**Aiken Hall is located at 83 Summit Street. #16 on Map: https://www.champlain.edu/Documents/Admissions/Undergraduate%20Admissions/Campus-Map.pdf – Park on the street or in any College designated parking lot during the event.

Please join us for an Afternoon of Tea and Jane Austen!