Blog Tour! ~ “Godmersham Park” by Gill Hornby ~ Book Excerpt and Mini-Review
The Blog Tour for Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby began on October 24 and runs through November 7, 2022. A work of biographical historical fiction, it is a richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family. In 2020, Hornby published the acclaimed Miss Austen, about Cassandra Austen, and PBS /Masterpiece has recently announced it is to be a mini-series. We can only hope for the same about this newest work. I am hard at work on casting the major roles…who would you choose to play these characters??
Summary and Advance Praise:
On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess to Edward and Elizabeth Austen’s daughter Fanny, but also often expected to supervise the other children as well. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne’s arrival is all novelty and excitement.
The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.
When members of the Austen family come to visit, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.
Meanwhile Jane’s brother Henry begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from then on, Anne’s days at Godmersham Park are numbered.
- “This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub
- Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society
Godmersham Park begins:
“At half past six, in the bleak icy evening of 21 January in the year 1804, Anne Sharp arrived on the threshold of Godmersham Park.” [p.3]
Anne Sharp stayed for two years… In the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, Hornby writes of the known details of Sharp’s life after she leaves her post and her continued correspondence with Jane Austen and the occasional but all too rare visit. Nothing is known about Sharp’s life before her taking on her governess post, and this novel gives the reader a fine grounding in how life as a governess in a fine house would have played out – all this based on real contemporary biographies of young women thrust into a working life. Fanny’s daily diary entries gave Hornby the true details of the Edward Austen’s home-life, and she brilliantly weaves all into a more than probable tale of Anne Sharp’s time at Godmersham. It is an endearing and warm-hearted tale, at times a tad melancholy, brightened by the growing and real-life friendship between Austen and Sharp, both creative and spirited women. The sprinkling of literary allusions to Austen and other 19th-century writers makes it all the more delightful.
Without giving anything away, I will only add Austen’s own exclamation about her brother: “Oh! what a Henry” [Ltr. 102, 23 June 1814] – and leave it for you, dear reader, to find out what I mean!
What is known about Sharp is all pieced together from various sources – I’ll work up a bibliography of these for another post, as this book will surely peak your interest to know more about this dear friend of Austen’s. One bit to savor is that Sharp’s own copy of Emma, given to her by Austen through her publisher, was treasured by Sharp throughout her life – it just sold once again at auction for £375,000 [it had sold in 2008 for nearly £200,000 – a fine investment indeed] – this copy will be on display at Chawton House in 2023, thanks to the generosity of the anonymous purchaser. [You can read about this here.]
An Excerpt from Chapter XI [p 81-85]:
‘Miss Sharp!’ Fanny burst into the Godmersham attic. ‘Look!’ She brandished a letter. ‘All that time, I was expecting to hear by the morning post, and it came by the evening.’
They both studied the paper, weighed up its width and its quality, ran their eyes over it to judge the length of what was written upon it. ‘In my mind’s eye, I had seen myself receiving it at breakfast and reading it there, just as Mama does. I mean, like a proper young lady.’ She worried at her lip. ‘But now is just as good, is it not?’
‘I should say it is a fine time for the reading of letters,’ Anne reassured her. ‘A lovely end to the day. And remember, my dear, if this is to be a full correspondence, you can look forward to more in the future . . .’
Fanny breathed out. ‘You are so right. I am beginning to think, Miss Sharp, that you are in the habit of being right on all matters. So, what happens now?’
Anne was becoming a little concerned by her pupil’s over-keen sense of deference. If they went on like this, Fanny would soon be incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without appealing for guidance. ‘I suggest that you read it?’
‘Oh,’ Fanny gave a little laugh. ‘Of course! Shall we do so together?’
‘No, my dear,’ replied Anne, though she was not un- intrigued. ‘This is to you.’
Fortunately, Fanny – who was one of the world’s greatest sharers – chose to read it out loud:
My dear Fanny,
Your letter occasioned such joy among all in your Bath family – but in me, in particular. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such an honour – and nor can your superior aunt, my dear sister. When the post came for me, there was a danger that she might drop dead from sheer jealousy, but I quickly revived her with my shrewd observation – Cassandra is harder to spell and consumes too much ink. God bless my short, simple name!
We all marvelled at hearing your Godmersham news, and you have the advantage of me. How can my dull existence compare with the revelation that you have a new governess? It is clear she is a woman of substance for your pen was clear and the contents quite perfect. If you are so kind as to reply to me now, please do us the favour of addressing the following concerns. We all long to know what books you are reading – in particular, which poets? Your grandfather desires that you acquire a sound basis in Shakespeare and, as always – he cannot be helped – issues a plea on behalf of the Classics. Is your Miss S. – among her other perfections – strong in the Classics? If so, then she is truly a paragon.
As you know, your Grandmama has been most unwell and the worry and fear has kept us at home more than is usual. But I am here to report she is now well on the mend, and her spirits returned to their usual height. It cannot be long before we return to the social round. Though I am relieved that the illness is over, I cannot rejoice at being turned out of doors. The streets of Bath are made so dirty by this dreadful wet weather – it keeps one in a perpetual state of inelegance.
We all look forward to hearing from you again, and pray you send our love to all of the Godmersham family.
Your fond Aunt, Jane Austen.
Each expressed their delight in tones of great rapture and agreed it to be one of the greatest – possibly the best – letter yet to be written. Fanny read it twice more, so as to be thoroughly sure, before disappearing down to the library to share it anew. Anne, at last, was able to pick up her own pen, and then Sally came in.
The sullen maid of Anne’s first evening had warmed into a garrulous creature and now, while Anne sat alone working, Sally would work alongside her. Her clear philosophy was that, while the hands toiled at tidying and cleaning, the tongue should not idle.
‘What is it you’re up to there, miss?’ She was sifting through Fanny’s drawers and refolding the inexpertly folded. ‘Another letter, is it? You do write a lot of letters and no mistake.’ She came and looked over Anne’s shoulder. Anne covered her page. ‘Don’t worry about that, miss. All scribbles to me.’
‘You cannot read or write, Sally?’ Anne felt that glorious, prickling anticipation of a new project. ‘Would you like me to teach you? When is your afternoon off? I am sure I could spare a few hours every week.’ She was quite magnificent in her own generosity.
‘Ta, miss, but I’m right as I am.’ Sally went back to her work. ‘My afternoons off are my afternoons off, thanking you very much. I go out on the gad, then, with Becky.’ Anne picked up her pen again, crushed. Suddenly intrigued, she put it back down. ‘You must be most expert gadders to find any gadding to be had in Godmersham, surely?’ The village did not even have a shop, let alone a High Street. Anne had found no amusements beyond solitary walks. How does one even begin to gad in a field? ‘You’d be surprised, miss. There’s some new lads down at the tithe barn.’ Sally gave a little shriek. ‘Ooh, but we do like a laugh with them.’
‘And Mrs Salkeld does not object?’ Anne herself could never be so brave as to incur the wrath of the housekeeper.
Sally shrugged her thin shoulders. ‘If she does, she daren’t say so. We’re still young, miss. Got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? It’s only a job, after all. If they stopped me, I’d tell them to stick it.’
Anne paused to reflect on their relative positions. She was certainly paid more, but Sally – with her uniform and its upkeep provided – had fewer expenses. Sally enjoyed hours off in the day and the companionship of life in the servants’ hall; Anne belonged neither to staff nor family, was almost always on duty and, when not, entirely alone. It appeared that a maid could make an exhibition of herself abroad and it was tolerated, yet if a governess were to attract even the eye of a gentleman, she would face instant dismissal. The comparison provided food for thought on the question of privilege and the cost of its benefits.
About the Author: Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.
You can find her on:
TWITTER | FACEBOOK | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS
Where you can buy a copy:
- Publisher: Pegasus Books (November 1, 2022) – the US publisher
- Length: 416 pages
- Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
- ISBN: 978-1639362585
BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS | AMAZON
[Excerpt reproduced with permission of the author]
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont
Cover Reveal! “Bloomsbury Girls” by Natalie Jenner
A good many of you were enthralled by Natalie Jenner’s first novel and international bestseller The Jane Austen Society. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into the lives of Jenner’s cast of characters who populated that novel set in 1940s England. [You can read my review here]. Evie Stone was one of her most endearing, a young servant at Chawton House who takes a liking to the library and all the books in it – and spends her time there doing far more than the required cleaning. It was difficult to close the book on Evie and not want to know more about her life after Chawton, and obviously, it was hard for Natalie Jenner to let her go as well.
Her newest novel, titled Bloomsbury Girls, (not due out until May 2022!) gives us just what we could wish for – and not only the continuing story of Evie but also that of two other women caught up in life in a bookshop in the aftermath of World War II. How we shall wait until May 2022 is my biggest concern!
But this week, a group of bloggers headed by Laurel Ann at Austenprose, are giving you a small taste of what’s coming, starting with this Cover Reveal!
First, what’s it about?
“One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.”
The Internationally Bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
Author Natalie Jenner on Bloomsbury Girls:
“I never intended for Evie Stone to be a major character in my debut novel, let alone inspire my second one, Bloomsbury Girls. But as time went on, I found I could not leave her behind in Chawton with the other society members. And then one day I rewatched a favourite movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I remember thinking, there’s a whole other story in here still to be told, of an upstairs-downstairs motley crew of booksellers, and right away the figures came to life.”
“As with The Jane Austen Society, Bloomsbury Girls features multiple characters and storylines revolving around one very charming location: this time, the quintessential Dickensian-type bookshop.”
“If The Jane Austen Society was the book I wrote when I was coming out of sadness, Bloomsbury Girls was written when I was very happy, and I hope it provides a little cheer to readers during this difficult time.
Drum roll please … Cover Reveal!!*
About the Author:
Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY and BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best debut novel and historical fiction, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, a career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.
Where you can find her:
- Website: https://nataliejenner.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatalieMJenner
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010638227094
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authornataliejenner/?hl=en
- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18786953.Natalie_Jenner
- Title: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel
- Author: Natalie Jenner
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Publisher: St Martin’s Press (May 17, 2022)
- Length: (304) pages
- Hardcover ISBN: 978-1250276698
- Audiobook ISBN: 978-1250852311
- eBook ASIN: B09CNDV5GJ
Purchase Links for pre-ordering:
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250276691
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Bloomsbury-Girls-Novel-Natalie-Jenner/dp/1250276691/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=bloomsbury+Girls&qid=1629916389&sr=8-1
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bloomsbury-girls-natalie-jenner/1139985334?ean=9781250276698
IndieBound (for a US indie bookshop near you): https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250276698
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Natalie_Jenner_Bloomsbury_Girls?id=GbA9EAAAQBAJ
Cover Reveal Blog Schedule:
You can follow the Cover Reveal Book Blast at the other bloggers here: at Austenprose (scroll to the bottom).
*I love this cover! Like The Jane Austen Society, it has real people on the cover (with the appropriate footwear), a bookstore in the background, and the requisite floral accompaniment! Cannot wait to enjoy the inside!
©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen: Regency London
Jane Austen and London is a subject that should have its own shelf(ves). This is one of those down the rabbit hole in collecting that will either find you on a completely different path of book buying or become for you “the road not taken.” There will be many such roads if you embark on the adventure of collecting Jane Austen – as you all likely know, it is an endless morass…
Long before I began to collect Jane Austen, I started a collection of books on London – I love London for many reasons – my parents were born in England so I became an anglophile from an early age; I studied in London for a college semester (political science – don’t ask!); and during that semester met my husband, so it serves as a Romantic haven for me. I started collecting any books I could find on London – a heady task (almost as impossible as Jane Austen) – then narrowed it to children’s books about or set in London (many more than you would think) – then when Austen hit my radar I began to focus just on Regency-era London (a bit more manageable but larger than my pocket book or shelf space nonetheless). So I now have rather a mish-mash of various titles, some very collectible and some just commonplace treatises great for reference and beautiful pictures. When I began doing talks on Jane Austen and London, I found a real use for the books I had as well as an excuse to acquire more….and so you see my mighty fall into the Rabbit Hole of collecting….
Today I will just share three titles of the many, for no particular reason other than to show the diversity of what’s out there – I append at the end the very select bibliography handout for the talk I give, though is now a bit outdated and does not contain all the books I have – if you have any favorite books on London, please share the titles in the comments.
1. Regency London, by Stella Margetson. New York: Praeger, 1971 [London: Cassell, 1971].
Margetson wrote a few novels but also a number of books of English social history especially of the late 18th and the 19th-century. This book on Regency London is a short introductory text that covers the basics, with black and white contemporary illustrations throughout:
- Carlton House
- The Mercantile City
- Westminster and Government
- The Regent and the Architect
- High Society
- The Artists and the Writers
- The Populace
- Some Visitors to London [Jane gets a few pages on her stays in London]
- An Expanding City
FYI: Cassell / Praeger did a series of five books on London:
- Roman London, by Ralph Merrifield
- Medieval London, by Timothy Baker
- Elizabethan London, by Martin Holmes
- Regency London, by Stella Margetson
- Victorian London, by Priscilla Metcalf
2. The A to Z of Regency London, Introduction by Paul Laxton; index compiled by Joseph Wisdom. Lympne Castle, Kent: Harry Margary, in association with Guildhall Library, London, 1985.
This historical atlas is based on Richard Horwood’s survey of London in 1792-9 and updated by William Faden in 1813 – it shows the streets, lanes, courts, yards, and alleys, but also every individual building with its street number – the 40 sheets of the original Horwood have been photographically reduced, and the index for this edition expands the original by threefold.
The Horwood map is available online in various formats [a terrific one is here: https://www.romanticlondon.org/explore-horwoods-plan/#16/51.5112/-0.0747], but this is a treasure to have close at hand. One can easily trace Austen’s meanderings described in her letters, and follow the many characters in Sense and Sensibility – where they live, visit, and shop – her one novel where London is central to the plot (though it is also where the dilemma of Harriet gets sorted!)
For those of you who love maps, there are others to choose from in this series: The A to Z of Elizabethan London, Restoration London, Georgian London, Victorian London, and Edwardian London (there is also one for Georgian Dublin)
3. One Day in Regency England, by Alastair Scott. Brighton: Robert Tyndall, 1974.
This is a children’s book, and about all of England not just London – but it is a delightful introduction to the period and filled with color and black and white contemporary illustrations; the cover is designed by Gordon King.
The book presents the day of July 20, 1813 in the lives of several characters, starting in the home of Charles Henry Longhurst – we meet him and his family and their friends and his servants, the children in school, life in the country vs. the day in the City – all presented as what goes on in these individual lives in the Morning, Afternoon and Evening. It is skillfully and entertainingly done and in 48 pages takes us in to traveling carriages, cookery in the kitchen, a dinner party and then off to Vauxhall Gardens, all the while getting a glimpse of those doing all the work behind the scenes! It is quite an exhausting day!
As you can see in the bottom paragraph in the above page image, Scott writes that Longhurst’s daughter Amelia is quite taken with Jane Austen and reading Pride and Prejudice – when suddenly her attention is drawn to the arrival of a small chimney-sweep – and thus we are privy to that bit of history, of poor, young, soot-covered boys and the realities and dangers of that job.
[This Day Book Series also includes a number of other “One Day” adventures in a variety of time periods in England and elsewhere: Shakespeare’s England, Roman Britain, Victorian, Medieval, WWI, WWII, etc.]
As noted, this bibliography is very select but gives you an idea of the variety of works on London and specifically London during Jane Austen’s time – again, it is a bit outdated….
‘Jane Austen’s London in Fact and Fiction’: Select Bibliography
The A – Z of Regency London; introduction by Paul Laxton. London: Harry Margary / Guildhall Library, 1985.
Ackermann, R. The Microcosm of London, or London in Miniature. Rpt. ed. London: Methuen, 1904.
Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, 2000.
Allen, Louise. Walks Through Regency London. UK: Shire, 2013. [2nd revised ed. 2014]
Borer, Mary Cathcart. An Illustrated Guide to London 1800. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988.
Byrne, Paula. Jane Austen and the Theatre. London: Hambledon, 2002.
Cunningham, Peter. Handbook of London: Past and Present. New ed. London: Murray, 1850.
Easton, Celia. “Austen’s Urban Redemption: Rejecting Richardson’s View of the City.” Persuasions 26 (2004): 121-35.
Edwards, Anne-Marie. In the Steps of Jane Austen. 3rd ed. Newbury, UK: Countryside, 1996.
Elmes, James. A Topographical Dictionary of London and Its Environs. London: Whitaker, 1831. Google Book.
George, Dorothy. London Life in the XVIIIth Century. London: Kegan, Paul, 1925.
Hibbert, Christopher. London: The Biography of a City. London: Longmans, 1969.
Hill, Douglas. A Hundred Years of Georgian London from the Accession of George I to the Heyday of the Regency. London: MacDonald, 1970.
Hughson, David. Walks Through London. London: Sherwood, Neely and Jones, 1817.
Kaplan, Laurie. “Emma and ‘the children in Brunswick Square.’” Perusasions 31 (2009): 236-47.
Knight, Charles, ed. London. London: Charles Knight, 1841. Ebook, Tufts Digital Library < http://hdl.handle.net/10427/53832 >
Leigh, Samuel. Leigh’s New Picture of London. New ed. London: Leigh, 1827.
Margetson, Stella. Regency London. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Picard, Liza. Dr. Johnson’s London. London: Weidenfeld, 2000.
_____. Victorian London. London: Weidenfeld, 2005.
Porter, Roy. London: A Social History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.
Richardson, John. Covent Garden Past. London: Historical, 1995.
_____. London and Its People: A Social History from Medieval Times to the Present Day. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1995.
Quin, Vera. Jane Austen Visits London. Cappella Archive, 2008.
Saunders, Ann. The Art and Architecture of London: An Illustrated Guide. 2nd ed. Oxford: Phaidon, 1988.
Stabler, Jane. “Cities.” Jane Austen in Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. 204-14.
Summerson, John. Georgian London. New ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003.
Tannahill, Reay. Regency England. London: Folio Society, 1964.
Vickery, Amanda. Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009.
Watson, Winifred. Jane Austen in London. Chawton: JAS, 1960.
Whitfield, Peter. London: A Life in Maps. London: British Library, 2006.
Worsley, Giles. Architectural Drawings of the Regency Period, 1790-1837. London: Andre Deutsch, 1991.
Select Online Sources:
[some are no longer available; there have been many more sources added to the internet since I first compiled this]
Austenonly [Julie Wakefield]: http://austenonly.com/ ; http://ajaneaustengazetteer.com/
Bolles Collection: History of London. Tufts Digital Library: http://dl.tufts.edu/
British History Online: Survey of London: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/place.aspx?region=1
British Library: http://www.bl.uk/
Collage, City of London: http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app
Geograph Great Britain and Ireland. http://www.geograph.org.uk/
Georgian Index: http://www.georgianindex.net/
Georgian London: http://www.georgianlondon.com/
Jane Austen’s London blog (Louise Allen): http://janeaustenslondon.com/
Jane Austen’s World: http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/
JASA – Jane Austen Society of Australia. “Jane Austen in London” Conference. March 2001. http://www.jasa.net.au/london/index.htm [no longer available]
Lewis Walpole Library: http://www.library.yale.edu/walpole/
London Ancestor: http://www.londonancestor.com/
London Calling [Tony Grant]: http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/
London Lives 1690-1800: http://www.londonlives.org/
London Museum: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/
London’s Past Online: http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/londons-past-online
Nancy Regency Researcher: http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/ [no longer available]
Old London Maps: http://www.oldlondonmaps.com/
One London One blog: http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/
Pascal Bonenfant: http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/
Regency Encyclopedia: http://www.reg-ency.com/
The Republic of Pemberley: http://www.pemberley.com/
Romantic London: https://www.romanticlondon.org/ [an amazing new site!]
[Compiled by Deborah Barnum. 3-24-11 (partially updated 3/2016)]
©2021, Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen: The Letters
Jane Austen’s Letters are an absolute must-have in your collection. There is nothing like reading these late at night, Jane Austen hovering over your shoulder. Considered rather mundane by the scholarly world when they first appeared – filled as they are with local gossip, fashion and food news, the periodic snide comment about friends and neighbors, and very little about her reading and writing – they have in succeeding years been picked over, and picked over again, to find the minutest insight into Austen and her world.
I find them a pure delight – seeing Austen as she was, mostly in missives to her sister, but also to her brothers, her friends, and publishers – it is like being inside her head at any given moment as she shares her thoughts, observations, and very caustic wit about the goings-on around her – a participant, but always the objective, sometimes judgmental, observer…
One-hundred and sixty letters remain from what has been surmised to have been thousands Austen likely wrote. Cassandra’s “great conflagration” before her own death in 1845 saw the destruction of who knows what else Austen had to say about her own life – the gaps in dates give the reader such a sense of loss – what happened in those intervening days and years?? – and thus the fabric of novels is made. Of these 160 extant letters, most are scattered around various institutions or remain in private hands – location of each is noted in Le Faye’s exhaustive work.
This example of just her signature sold for over $16,000 in 2017!
So which of the published Letters to have??
Well, a true collector should have them all – you can find a good list in Gilson at G, a mere 8 pages (1982 ed.) with an additional three pages in the revised edition of 1997. While having them all would be a collector’s dream, you at least must have the 4th ed. by Le Faye if you are to understand anything at all about Jane Austen. But here is my list of the basic should-haves:
1. 1817: Henry Austen’s “Biographical Notice” postscript dated 20 December 1817 – Henry included a few extracts from her letters in this notice that appeared in the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (London: John Murray, 1818).
2. 1870: James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen (London: Bentley, 1870) – includes extracts and some letters in their entirety.
3. 1884: The Letters of Jane Austen, edited with an introduction and critical remarks by Edward, Lord Brabourne (London: Bentley, 1884). Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen, son of Austen’s niece Fanny Knight, published 96 of the letters left to him by his mother – mostly includes letters to Cassandra, but also to Fanny, Anna Lefroy, and the two letters written by Cassandra on Austen’s death.
You can read them all here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_of_Jane_Austen_(Brabourne)
or here: https://pemberley.com/janeinfo/brablets.html
For a fascinating history of an Austen family-owned and annotated copy of these Letters, you can read Edith Lank’s account of her copy here:
“Family and Scholarly Annotations in Lord Brabourne’s Letters: Adventures of an Amateur Academic,” by Edith Lank. Persuasions 30 (2008): 76-87 – citation only, full–text unavailable.
But Lank also made a list of all the annotations online in POL 29.1 (2008), which you can read here: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/lank.html
4. 1906: Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers, by John Henry Hubback and Edith Charlotte Hubback (London: John Lane, 1906) – this biography of Francis and Charles Austen includes for the first time Jane’s letters to her sailor brothers.
5. 1913: Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh (London: Smith-Elder, 1913) – quoted from all the letters known at that time.
6. 1924: Five Letters from Jane Austen to her Niece Fanny Knight, printed in facsimile (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924) – the full text of the letters from Austen to her niece (they were incompletely printed in Brabourne’s collection.
7. 1925: The Letters of Jane Austen, selected with an introduction by R. Brimley Johnson (London: John Lane, 1925) – a selection of 44 letters from the Brabourne Letters, The Sailor Brothers, and the Austen-Leigh Life.
8. 1932: Jane Austen’s Letters to Her Sister Cassandra, collected and edited by R. W. Chapman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1932) – the first definitive edition, printed from the actual manuscripts where possible with those letters not accessible taken from Brabourne. There was a 2nd ed. published in 1952 with the addition of 6 more letters but few other changes. Chapman also published a selection of the letters (about one-third) in 1955, and again in 1985 with an introduction by Marilyn Butler.
9. 1981: Five Letters from Jane Austen to Her Sister Cassandra, 1813, with an introduction by David Gilson (Brisbane: Lock’s Press, 1981) – a limited edition of 60 copies.
10. 1990: Jane Austen’s Manuscript Letters in Facsimile, edited by Jo Modert (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1990 – a reproduction of all letters that could be located – the introduction is invaluable and seeing each letter in its original state is fascinating.
11. 1990: My Dear Cassandra…a collection of Jane Austen’s Letters selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett (London: Collins and Brown, 1990) – letters selected from the Brabourne Letters, not complete, but it does include many fabulous contemporary illustrations.
12. 1992: “Seven letters from Austen to Francis and Charles” published as a keepsake for those at the JASNA AGM (Alto Loma: Bookhaven Press, 1992) – a miniature booklet limited to 300 copies, these were given to attendees of the 1992 AGM in Santa Monica, CA – the theme was “The Letters, Focusing on Travel and the Sea.”
13. 1995: Jane Austen’s Letters, New Edition, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995) – a 3rd edition of the Chapman Letters but with Le Faye’s ceaseless and energetic scholarship into those not fully identified by Chapman as well as the addition of 12 more letters – Le Faye’s notes are mine of information on provenance, current location of each letter (if known), every detail on people and places and allusions are noted; includes biographical and topographical indexes. The lacking full subject indexes found in Chapman were added into the 4th edition (see below)…
There is also a fine publication of this 1995 edition by the Folio Society:
14. 2004: Selected Letters [of Jane Austen], selected with an introduction and notes by Vivien Jones (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004) – based on the 3rd ed. of the letters by Deirdre Le Faye from 1995. You need these paperback editions so you have something to write-in and underline (!).
14. 2011: Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th ed., collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011; paperback ed. 2014) – no new letters have been discovered since the 1995 ed, but much additional information has been added regarding Austen’s life and her endless references in the letters. Indexes and notes have been updated, as well as the addition of the all-important Subject Index.
There are other editions out there – I also have the small Oxford World Classics blue hardcover of Chapman Letters with the dust jacket, not often seen – if you should find this, buy it immediately…
[Please note: Our house is being renovated and all my books are packed up – so while some of these images are mine, I had to also mine the internet for others!]
Do you have a favorite edition of the Letters??
©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen: ‘The Accomplished Lady’ by Noël Riley
“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”
“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”
“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”
“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.
“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”
“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
“Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?”
“I never saw such a woman. I never saw such capacity, and taste, and application, and elegance, as you describe united.”
[Pride & Prejudice, Vol. 1, Ch. 8]
And so, to truly understand what Mr. Darcy is driving at, to understand anything about Jane Austen’s world, you need to study this quite formidable lady, if indeed such a one existed! – and there is no better book on the subject than Noël Riley’s The Accomplished Lady: A History of Genteel Pursuits c.1660-1860 (Oblong, 2017).
“This is a study of the skills and pastimes of upper-class women and the works they produced during a 200-year period. These activities included watercolours, printmaking and embroidery, shell work, rolled and cut paper work, sand painting, wax flower modelling, painting on fabrics and china, leather work, japanning, silhouettes, photography and many other activities, some familiar and others little known.
The context for these activities sets the scene: the general position of women in society and the constraints on their lives, their virtues and values, marriage, domestic life and education. This background is amplified with chapters on other aspects of women’s experience, such as sport, reading, music, dancing and card-playing.” [from the book jacket].
Table of Contents:
1. A Woman’s Lot
2. Educating a Lady
3. Reading and Literary Pursuits [my favorite chapter]
4. Cards, Indoor Games and Theatricals
5. The Sporting Lady
6. Dancing and Public Entertainment
9. Threads and Ribbons
12. Nature into Art
14. Drawing and Painting
15. Creativity with Paints and Prints
19. Photography and the Victorian Lady
20. Sculpture, Carving, Turning and Metalwork
21. Toys and Trifles.
Includes extensive notes, an invaluable bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index.
I have mentioned before that in collecting Jane Austen, you will often go off into necessary tangents to learn about her Life and Times – this can take you in any number of directions, but understanding the Domestic Arts of the Regency period is an absolute must – and there are MANY books on the subject, cookery alone could fill shelves. But here in this one book we find a lavishly illustrated, impeccably researched study of all the possible activities a lady of leisure [no cookery for My Lady] can get herself caught up in….whether she becomes accomplished or not is beyond our knowing, but certainly Mr. Darcy would find at least ONE lady in these pages who might meet his strict requirements, despite Elizabeth’s doubting rant.
The Georgian Society of East Yorkshire offers a nice review here with a sample page: http://www.gsey.org.uk/post/992/book-review-the-accomplished-lady-a-history-of-genteel-pursuits-c-16601860-by-nol-riley
It is always a worthwhile effort to check the index of every book you pick up to see if Jane Austen gets a mention. And here we are not disappointed – Austen shows up on many pages, and five of her six novels are cited in the bibliography – all but Persuasion for some odd reason – one would think Anne Elliot’s skills at the pianoforte would have merited a mention?
This image of page 165 quotes Austen about patchwork when she writes to Cassandra on 31 May 1811:“Have you remembered to collect peices for the Patchwork?”
So, let’s stop to think about the varied accomplishments of Austen’s many female characters…anyone want to comment and give a shout out to your own favorite and her accomplishments / or lack thereof? Is anyone up to Mr. Darcy’s standards?
©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen ~ ‘Sermons to Young Women’ by James Fordyce
I shall take a little side road today with this discussion of must-haves in your Jane Austen collection – here an example of a book Jane Austen had read, referred to, satirized, and which then became the most interesting thing about Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice.
Part of collecting Jane Austen is to learn about and possibly add to your collection those books known to have been read by her, a fascinating list compiled from the many allusions in her novels and her letters. You can start with R. W. Chapman’s “Index of Literary Allusions, which you can find online.
Chapman’s list first appeared in the NA and P volume of the Oxford edition we looked at last week – more has been added to this – but this is a good start – you could spend the rest of your life just collecting “allusion” books and you will completely forget what you were collecting in the first place.
But Fordyce is one you must have, should read, for if nothing else it will give you a better idea of where Mr. Collins is coming from and what Austen has to say about both he AND Fordyce.
Sermons to Young Women, by Dr. James Fordyce, is certainly one the most well-known of all the various conduct manuals Austen would have had access to, published in London in 1766, “and by 1814, the year after Pride and Prejudice appeared, it had gone though 14 editions published in London alone.” [Ford, intro, i].
We all recall that in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins chooses to read Fordyce’s Sermons aloud to the Bennet sisters, Lydia especially unimpressed:
By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and, when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but, on beholding it (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with:
“Do you know, mama, that my uncle Philips talks of turning away Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town.”
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said:
“I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young cousin.” [P&P, Ch. XIV]
Collins, done with such young and frivolous young ladies, heads off for a game of backgammon with Mr. Bennet…
Illustrators of Pride and Prejudice have turned this scene into a visual treat:
Hugh Thomson, P&P (George Allen, 1894)
Chris Hammond, P&P, Gresham, 1900
Fordyce (1720-1796) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a poet, but is most known for his Sermons. He also published Addresses to Young Men in 1777. But would we even be talking about him today if it weren’t for Jane Austen??!
As for his poetry, this is the only poem to be found on the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive, attesting to Fordyce’s seeming obsession with Female Virtue…
The diamond’s and the ruby’s blaze
Disputes the palm with Beauty’s queen:
Not Beauty’s queen commands such praise,
Devoid of virtue if she’s seen.
But the soft tear in Pity’s eye
Outshines the diamond’s brightest beams;
But the sweet blush of Modesty
More beauteous than the ruby seems.
- For more information you can read this essay on Fordyce and P&P by Susan Allen Ford in Persuasions On-Line “Mr. Collins Interrupted: Reading Fordyce’s Sermons with Pride and Prejudice“ [POL 34.1 (2013)].
- Here are some images and commentary at the British Library: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/sermons-to-young-women
- Here’s the full text of a 2-volumes-in-one American edition from 1809 [the 3rd American from the 12th London edition] at HathiTrust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015008247788&view=1up&seq=5
- If your main concern is with “Female Virtue,” the University of Toronto has these two abstracts for your reading pleasure – From Sermon IV: On Female Virtue; and From Sermon V: On Female Virtue, Friendship, and Conversation: http://individual.utoronto.ca/dftaylor/Fordyce_Sermons.pdf
- As you will see in the comments below, A. Marie Sprayberry sent me this link to her excellent Persuasions On-Line essay on Fanny Price and Fordyce: “Fanny Price as Fordyce’s Ideal Woman? And Why?” http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol35no1/sprayberry.html
Much has been written about Austen and Fordyce – the point being, you need a copy. You can find it in one of its original editions on used bookstore sites for not over the top prices – or there are many, many reprints out there.
One of the best of these is the facsimile reprint of the 10th ed. of 1786 and published by Chawton House Press in 2012. Susan Allen Ford wrote the valuable introduction and it also includes a fine bibliography. This edition is unfortunately out-of-print and I am hoping that they will republish it in the near future. It was a best-seller in its time and again today! Who knew!
©Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen: Book Collecting 101
Gentle Readers: In an effort to offer weekly posts on collecting Jane Austen, I shall start with the basics of book collecting – this a general summary of things to consider with a few examples specific to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular. This will be followed by weekly posts on randomly chosen books in the various categories I list here that I think are essential to a Jane Austen collection.
Let’s start in the pages of Pride and Prejudice in the library at Netherfield where we find Elizabeth, Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Darcy:
[Elizabeth] walked towards a table where a few books were lying. He [Bingley] immediately offered to fetch her others; all that his library afforded.
“And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever look into.”
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.
“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”
“It ought to be good,” he replied; “it has been the work of many generations.”
“And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books.” [my emphasis]
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”
Chatsworth Library [British Magazine]
And so, here we have the permission of Mr. Darcy himself to buy as many books as we would like!
II. The Collecting of Books:
Terry Belanger, a veteran book collector and rare book librarian once famously said “you are a collector if you have more than one copy of a single title” –
So, I ask you, how many of you have more than one copy of any of Jane Austen’s novels? And how many of you already realize that to collect all copies of books by and about Jane Austen is surely an impossible task? Even focusing on one title, say Pride and Prejudice, we would find it an impossible undertaking!
So where to start?
1. The first rule of book collecting is Collect what you Love – so I can assume that any of you reading this all love Jane Austen, and so that will be our focus… and not only the books but also the myriad objects and ephemera. You can collect anything – my son collects Sneakers, only Nike Jordans, which leads to books about sneakers, etc…!
An amusing tale about collecting one title: In a used bookshop in England a few years ago I hit the mother-load of A Child’s Garden of Verses – a title I collect –
I brought five different editions to the register, manned by a young man obviously neither the owner nor all that well-versed in the vagaries of collecting – he hesitated for a moment, looked thoughtful, and finally blurted out “Do you know that all these books are the same?” [epilogue: I bought them all…]
2. Try to find the 1st edition (and by “first edition” I mean “first printing”), and how do we do that?
1st edition Pride and Prejudice [National Library of Scotland]
For most of us, Jane Austen first editions are beyond our pocketbooks – but you will need to know the basics of book collecting to understand why some books are harder to find, and why, when you find them, they can often be expensive.
It is here you will need to decide if you want the first edition in pristine condition or if you only need a reading copy, or not even a first edition at all – this is a question to ask at every purchase.
The most difficult aspect of book collecting is how to identify a first edition – every publisher did it differently and often changed their indicators over time. There are many guides to help with this.
This Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions by Bill McBride is the best starting point for a general understanding of the practices of various publishers. You can also find this information online at Quill & Brush Books: https://www.qbbooks.com/first_ed_pub.php
Then you will need more specific detail on the author/subject you are collecting, and thankfully for us Jane Austen enthusiasts, David Gilson, and Keynes and Chapman before him, have largely done this work for us…
The David Gilson A Bibliography of Jane Austen will be your Bible to collecting Austen, a must-have book – I have already posted about this here: https://janeausteninvermont.blog/2021/02/26/collecting-jane-austen-gilsons-bibliography/
3. The Anatomy of a Book:
If you want to understand book terminology, you must have John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors – the 8th edition by John Carter and Nicolas Barker. Oak Knoll Press / British Library, 2004.
It is now available online at ILAB: https://ilab.org/sites/default/files/2018-01/ABC-BOOK-FOR-COLLECTORS_0.PDF
Another easily accessible glossary is on Abebooks: https://www.abebooks.com/books/rarebooks/collecting-guide/understanding-rare-books/glossary.shtml
Most commonly used terms:
- 1st edition
- Spine head, spine tail
- Text block
- Half-title page
- Title page
- Copyright page
- Publisher’s cloth
- Catchword: “heard” at the bottom of the page is the catchword = the first word on the next page
Example of foxing: Dent 1908 reprint, illus. HM Brock
- Leather bindings: ¼, ¾, etc…
- Size terms: folio, quarto (4to), octavo (8vo), duodecimo (12mo), 16mo, etc
4. Determining value: supply and demand – Desirability+Scarcity=Value
- Is the book still in print?
- How many copies were printed?
- Is this the author’s first book? – Sense and Sensibility is the most valuable
- How did the book first appear? – binding, dust jacket? [value greatly reduced if lacking jacket: 75% – fiction, 20% – non-fiction]. Eg. S&S first published in boards is more valuable than the finest leather binding
S&S 1st ed in boards and leather bound]: estimated value: $200,000 / $50,000.
- Illustrations present? are they all there?
- Condition, Condition, Condition! – most important factor! [see more below]
- Where do you find values? There are many guides to consult:
- Allen and Patricia Ahearn. Collected Books: A Guide to Identification and Values. 4th ed. (2011); see also their author guides – one on JA from 2007
- American Book Prices Current: auction sales, so actual value
- Bookseller catalogues: what titles are selling for
- Author and subject bibliographies
- Internet: bookselling sites: be wary – prices all over the place
5. CONDITION is the most important issue: prices will vary depending upon condition – even if you have the 1st edition – if it is in deplorable condition that will affect the value.
Booksellers grade a book’s condition using the terms below, from “As New” down to “Poor”: for instance VG [for the book ] / VG [for the jacket] – anything less than a VG is really not collectible:
VERY FINE/NEW [VF / NEW]: As new, unread.
FINE: Close to new, showing slight signs of age but without any defects.
VERY GOOD [VG]: A used book that shows some sign of wear but still has no defects.
GOOD [G]: A book that shows normal wear and aging, still complete and with no major defects.
FAIR: A worn and used copy, probably with cover tears and other defects.
POOR: a mess really, but might have some redeeming qualities
READING COPY: any book less than VG
An interesting tale to demonstrate this: The rare bookseller Stuart Bennett [no relation to our esteemed Bennet family!] writes in his book Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles 1660-1800.
Alas! pre-Austen, but we find her in a NOTE: [an aside – always check indexes for Jane Austen – you will be pleasantly surprised to see how often she turns up and in the most amazing places!]
Bennett writes in a footnote on the issue of publishing in boards vs. the wealthy having their favorite books bound in leather:
What is certain is that wrappered and boarded popular literature was not part of the visual landscape of country house libraries. In my experience these books, when kept, found their way into cupboards underneath the display bookcases, or into passages or rooms used by servants. In my days at Christie’s I once spent hours in the pantry cupboards of a Scottish country house, searching through stacks of these wrappered and boarded books among which I found, virtually as new, Volume III of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility. When I found the other two volumes I remarked to the aristocratic owners that this was one of the most valuable books in the house, as exceptional survival in original condition, and doubtless so because one of their ancestors had bought Jane Austen’s first novel, read it, and hadn’t cared enough to send it to for rebinding, and never bought another. My ebullience was arrested by an icy stare from the Countess, who replied, “I am sure, Mr. Bennett, that our ancestors would never have felt that way about Jane Austen.” 
Stuart tells me: this S&S set the then-record auction price in 1977 or 1978 (he was the auctioneer!), and turned up about twenty or maybe 25 years later offered by a London bookseller for, as he recalls, $200,000. Then it disappeared again.
Question: Should you buy a less collectible book because you cannot afford the higher price? – do you just want a reading copy or need to fill a gap in your collection? – you can decide this on a case-by-case basis – what becomes available and when and how much you can spend…
6. Where to find Books:
“Beauty in Search of Knowledge” – Thomas Rowlandson
– Local bookstores: sadly less of them, but still the best resource of Jane Austen books – a bookseller who will know your likes, will buy with you in mind, someone to trust…
– Specific booksellers: those who specialize in Jane Austen and other women writers – shops, catalogues – you can find at book-fairs, being on their catalogue mailing list, and on the internet. For eg. Jane Austen Books https://www.janeaustenbooks.net/
– Auctions / auction catalogues
– The Internet: major used bookselling sites: you need to be an informed consumer!
- Abebooks [part of amazon, but separate]: www.abebooks.com
- Alibris: www.alibris.com
- Biblio: www.biblio.com
- ILAB: www.ilab.org/index.php
- Amazon: www.amazon.com
- Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/
- Ebay: www.ebay.com/chp/books
- Etsy: www.etsy.com/
- Book searching sites: [searches all used book databases]
- – viaLibri http://www.vialibri.net/index.php?pg=home
- – Bookfinder http://www.bookfinder.com/
- – AddALL: http://www.addall.com/
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Internet: I could write a very lengthy post just on this – so I will only emphasize the biggest positive – you have at your fingertips a Global marketplace – no longer dependent on a brick & mortar shop around the corner [sad as this is to me!]
Biggest negative: be in be-wary mode – who are you buying from? – how to decide which is the best copy with so many price and condition discrepancies? – my best advice? – choose a bookseller who knows what they are about: valid and complete descriptions and a price that seems reasonable in light of other copies on offer.
A word about EBAY: a Gigantic auction house always open! – an amazing resource but also the biggest potential for getting a bad deal – you need to be an informed consumer!
Best use of the internet: Want Lists – most book sites do this and auction houses offer “alerts” – you will be notified when an item becomes available…
7. Caring for your collection: lots of information here to consider…just not today.
II. What to Collect:
Now comes the hard part – with so much out there on Jane Austen, where do you even begin? The need to focus on one particular aspect [say just collecting copies of Pride and Prejudice], or by zeroing in on a certain illustrator you like [the Brock brothers], or only books with fine decorative bindings [so many] – this list covers the gamut of possibilities – you just need to choose what you are most interested in. You must however start with a core collection:
A. A Jane Austen Core Collection
1. The Works: the Oxford edition, ed. by Chapman (1923); the Cambridge edition, general editor Janet Todd, with each volume edited by a a different scholar; a set of reading copies of each novel – ones you can markup, underline, and make notes
2. The Letters – all editions [Brabourne, Chapman, Le Faye, Modert]
3. R. W. Chapman’s books on Jane Austen
4. Biography: the Memoir and everything since!
5. A Chronology of Jane Austen, Deirdre Le Faye (Cambridge, 2006)
6. The Bibliographies: Keynes, Chapman, Gilson, Barry Roth’s 3 volumes, and those continued annually in Persuasions; the Cambridge Bibliographies, etc…
7. Brian Southam. The Critical Heritage. Vol I. 1811-1870. Routledge, 1979; The Critical Heritage, Vol. II. 1870-1940. Routledge, 1987. – now available as digital reprints, 2009
8. Critical works: starting off point to further study – where to start?? The bibliographies; “Companions” – “Handbooks” – “Casebooks”
9. The World of Jane Austen: [endless material!]
- The Arts: Music, Art, Architecture; Interior Design and Decorative Arts; Landscape
- Georgian and Regency History: Political, Economic, Social, Religious
- Social life and customs: Etiquette; Gender / Class issues; Dancing; Costume and Fashion
- Domestic Arts: Cookery, Needlework, Women’s work, Family life, Home-life, Servants
- Medical History
- Military History: the Royal Navy, the Militia, The French Revolution, the American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812
- Geographical History and Maps
- Travel and Transportation: Carriages, Roads, Guidebooks, etc…
- Literary Theory, History of the Novel, Narrative Theory, Language
B. Collecting a specific Jane Austen novel: as an example Pride & Prejudice
- 1st editions
- American editions
- Specific Publishers: Bentley, Macmillan, Dent, Oxford, Folio Society, LLC, Penguin, etc.
- Translated editions
- Illustrators: also single illustrations
- Decorative bindings / cover art – to include paperbacks
- Critical editions: with scholarly editing and introductions
- Books where P&P shows up
- Association copies: e.g. Sarah Harriet Burney’s copy
- Books that influenced Austen: e.g. Frances Burney’s Cecilia
- Adaptations: Editions for young readers; Dramatizations; Films, Audiobooks
- Sequels! – endless potential!
- History / Social Life and Customs of the times, specific to P&P – fill your bookshelves!
- Ephemera and Physical Objects – P&P merchandise in popular culture, many to do with Colin Firth…(!)
Ok, now you know everything to know about Book Collecting – you can begin this lifelong fun-filled endeavor! Join me next week for the first of many [I hope] Jane Austen-related titles you must have on your shelves…all with Mr. Darcy’s approval. Any questions or suggestions, please comment.
©2021, Jane Austen in Vermont
Collecting Jane Austen ~ Gilson’s Bibliography
My plan: to post each week a book by or about Jane Austen that a collector should have in their growing library. The post that follows was first posted in August 2010, but I must start with this Gilson Bibliography because if your plan is to actively collect Jane Austen, this book is your starting point, an absolute must-have. I hope each week to give short snippets on the various books in my own collection, as well as books that never made it to my shelves but should be there…I welcome your comments on what your favorite books are, the essentials in your collection, or any questions you might have about how to go about starting such a collection. It’s a lifetime endeavor!
Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen. New Introduction and Corrections by the Author. Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies / New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1997.
I am often asked what I would consider the most important book to add to ones own “Jane Austen Library.” Primary sources of course, the Chapman Oxford set of all the novels, minor works, juvenilia, etc – these volumes remain the source for citation in any scholarly work. The new Cambridge edition is lovely [and now thankfully in paperback and more affordable], and this edition of the works has begun to supplant the Chapman for citation purposes – so, you really need both…[more on this in a future post].
But after that, what? I would choose and most highly recommend David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen. Originally published in 1982, Gilson had set out to revise and update the Sir Geoffrey Keynes’ 1929 Nonesuch Press Austen bibliography, after discovering the lack of information in the Keynes relating to the early American editions of Austen’s works. Gilson wrote about these and other discoveries of the various early translations in his articles for The Book Collector. At Keynes’ suggestion, Gilson began a second edition but found it best to present a whole new work based on Keynes but with much additional information and to include the work of Chapman in his 1955 Austen bibliography. The 1997 edition is not a revision of the 1982 work but does include a new introduction, corrections, some additions, and a brief bibliographic essay on material published since 1978. It is less physically attractive and lacks the frontispiece illustrations of the 1st edition, but I consider this very comprehensive work [at 877 pages!] the starting point for all Austen research. Gilson writes a very informative essay prefacing each of the twelve chapters, includes a chronological listing of editions and reprints and an exhaustive index that links back to all the entries.
I offer here a brief capsule of each of these chapters, essentially a list of what to collect:
A. The Original Editions: Gilson follows the principles set down by Philip Gaskell in his New Introduction to Bibliography  and the entry for each original edition is exhaustive: full bibliographical details of the physical book [title; collation; contents; technical notes on the paper, printing, headlines, chapter headings and endings, binding; etc]; its publishing history; reviews and contemporary comments; later publishing history; auction records [fascinating!]; listing of copies examined; and other copies known to exist. [I LOVE this stuff!]
B. First American Editions: as Austen mentions nothing about foreign editions of her work, Gilson assumes she knew nothing about the Emma that was published by Matthew Carey in 1816, a very rare edition, and unknown of by the earlier bibliographers – [Gilson B1]. Gilson again gives full bibliographical data as for the original editions, noting the textual variations in punctuation and spelling.
C. Translations: as Gilson states, despite that “JA’s opinion of the French seems not to have been high [citing her letter of Sept 8, 1816]…the French first paid her the compliment of translating her novels in 1813 and 1815.” [Gilson, p. 135] Same full bibliographic details here for the various translations.
D. Editions Published by Richard Bentley: no reissue of Austen’s novels is known after 1818 until 1832 when Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels [quoting Chapman]. The copyrights had been sold to him by Cassandra for £210 and the P&P copyright was purchased from Egerton for £40. [Gilson, p. 211] Covers all the Bentley editions through 1882, with bibliographical details.
E. Later Editions and Selections: lists “as far as it has been practicable” all other later editions of the novels from the 1830s onwards, with cursory bibliographical details and a focus on the statistical details for these editions, excepting the “textually significant edition edited by Chapman (E150)” [Gilson, p. 238] – there are 425 entries in this section.
F. Minor Works: great literary history here! – with complete bibliographical details for Lady Susan, The Watsons, Charades, Love & Freindship, Sanditon, “Plan of a Novel”, Persuasion chapters, Prayers, the Juvenilia, etc.
G. Letters: Brabourne, Bodley Head, Chapman editions, Le Faye coming later [the 3rd edition, in 1995, 4th ed. in 2011]
H. Dramatisations: Gilson states that in 1929 Keynes could only find three dramatic adaptations, but fifty are listed here, and only those that are published works, and surprise of surprises, P&P being the most popular. [Gilson, p. 405]
J. Continuations and Completions [there is no “I” section]: Gilson lists 14, adds a good number in his 1997 update, but since then the world has been inundated with all manner of sequels, prequels, and mash-ups – this chapter is a good starting point for some of the less known early sequels that have gotten lost in the back room library stacks – some are quite good [Brinton and Bonavia-Hunt for example]
K. Books Owned by Jane Austen: there is much evidence of what Austen actually read – in Chapman’s indexes and other studies on literary influences on her – but as Gilson states, “the actual copies prove more elusive” [p. 431], so these twenty entries listed are noted in some way to have been subscribed to by her or inscribed in some way – the essay here is very informative and great to learn of the provenance of some of these titles Austen owned and read. [Note: I have set up a page in the Bibliography section on this blog titled Jane Austen’s Reading ~ a Bibliography – a list of all the books that Austen owned or is known to have read, compiled from various sources – it makes a great reading list! ]
L. Miscellaneous: the ever-needed catch-all and quite a little find, as Gilson says “unclassifiable miscellanea (with yet a curious fascination of their own!) [p. 449] – for example, an Elizabeth Goudge short story “Escape for Jane”, a romanticized re-telling of the Harris Bigg-Wither episode (L24), a number of works adapted for children, and a few works on the Leigh-Perrot trial.
M. Biography and Criticism: everything from 1813 on, to include books, journal articles, reviews, etc, chronologically arranged and annotated [though not consistently], 1814 items in total, with a bibliographical essay in the updated version to touch on recent resources, ALL examined by Gilson personally. No words here to adequately explain this section – just an amazing piece of scholarship –
Appendix: a chronological listing of all editions, reprints and and adaptations of JA’s works recorded in the bibliography
Index: pp. 753-877 – exhaustive!
… but here of course is where any printed book falls short – before it hits the stands, it is outdated. Recent efforts to keep Austen bibliography current have been largely produced by Barry Roth in his three works:
- Roth, Barry and Joel Clyde Weinsheimer. An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1952-1972. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1973.
- Roth, Barry. An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1973-1983. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1985.
- __________. An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1984-1994. Ohio University Press, 1996.
The annual “Jane Austen Bibliography” in the JASNA journals Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line began in 1993, first by Patricia Latkin, then by Latkin and Barry Roth, then by Roth alone, followed by yours truly from 2007-2018, and since by Carol Grigas, Lise Snyder, and Claire Bellanti. Starting with the 2020 bibliography, Eileen Horansky has joined the team.
NEWS ALERT! JASNA has just made all of them easily accessible from one starting point – you can find all the bibliographies by year right here: http://jasna.org/publications-2/bibliographies/
The Internet gives us such immediate access to journals and books, tons of bibliographies, etc. – this has made all of us capable of being completely on top of everything every minute of the day – but for me, there is nothing quite like going to my Gilson to get back to those earlier days of bibliography, when a scholar such as he lovingly handled each work and made the effort to describe with such fullness each edition so it may become present before you and thus we are brought a little bit closer to the Austen we all love and admire – indeed, we can feel as excited as she did upon receipt of her own first copy of Pride & Prejudice as she exclaimed to Cassandra “ I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London “ [Le Faye, Letter 79, p. 201]
If you don’t have this book, get it – it makes for fascinating reading! [I confess to being a librarian and I know we are all a little bit weird about this bibliography and classification thing, but this book will give you much to ponder, trust me…]
- Chapman, R.W. Jane Austen: A Critical Bibliography. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
- Keynes, Geoffrey. Jane Austen: A Bibliography. NY: Burt Franklin, 1968 [originally published in London, 1929]
- The Roth bibliographies noted above
- JASNA annual “Jane Austen Bibliography”: http://jasna.org/publications-2/bibliographies/
- JAS Reports: many issues include an annual “Jane Austen Studies” and are now fully accessible online here at Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/@jane_austen_society
A few other sources, mostly Gilson [not a complete list]:
- Gilson, David. “Auction Sales,” in A Jane Austen Companion, ed. J. David Grey. NY: Macmillan, 1986. See also his “Editions and Publishing History,” “Obituaries, “ and “Verses” in this same volume.
- ____________. “Books and Their Owners: Some Early American Editions of Jane Austen.” Book Collector 48 (1999): 238-41.
- ___________. “The Early American Editions of Jane Austen.” The Book Collector 18 (1969): 340-52.
- ___________. “Henry Austen’s ‘Memoir of Miss Austen,” Persuasions 19 (1997):12-19.
- ___________. “Later Publishing History with Illustrations” in Jane Austen in Context, ed. Janet Todd. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- ____________. Putting Jane Austen in Order. Persuasions 17 (1995):12-15
- ____________. “Serial Publication of Jane Austen in French,” The Book Collector 23 (1974): 547-50.
- Latkin, Patricia. “Looking for Jane in All the Wrong Places: Collecting Books in Gilson’s Category J.” Persuasions 15 (1993): 63-68.
[Image from Ackermann’s via hibiscus-sinensis.com]
©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont
Mary Bennet’s Reading in “The Other Bennet Sister” by Janice Hadlow
In Janice Hadlow’s The Other Bennet Sister, a brilliant effort to give the neglected-by-everyone Mary Bennet a life of her own, Mary’s reading is one of the most important aspects of the book – we see her at first believing, because she knows she is different than her other four far prettier and more appealing sisters, that her prospects for the expected life of a well-married woman are very limited, and that she must learn to squash her passions and live a rational life. She also mistakenly thinks that by becoming a reader of philosophical, religious, and conduct texts that she will finally gain approval and maybe even love from her distant, book-obsessed father.
So Mary embarks on a course of serious rational study – and one of the most insightful things in the book is that she learns, after much pain, that this is no way to lead a life, to find happiness, to find herself. She rejects the novels like the ones Mrs. Bennet finds at the local circulating library as being frivolous, largely because James Fordyce tells her so…
So, I have made a list of all the titles that Hadlow has Mary reading or referring to – all real books of the time, and many mentioned and known by Jane Austen. Hadlow is very specific in what books she puts in Mary’s hands! And shows her own knowledge of the reading and the reading practices of Austen’s time. [If anyone detects anything missing from this list, please let me know…]
I am giving the original dates of publication of each title; most all the titles in one edition or another are available on Google Books, HathiTrust, Internet Archive, or the like – I provide a few of those links, if you are so inclined to become such a rational reader as Mary….
Anonymous. The History of Little Goody Two Shoes (show JA’s copy). London: John Newbury, 1765. Attributed to various authors, including Oliver Goldsmith. We know that Jane Austen has her own copy of this book, here with her name on it as solid proof.
Mrs. [Sarah] Trimmer. The Story of the Robins. Originally published in 1786 as Fabulous Histories, and the title Trimmer always used. You can read the whole book here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Story_of_the_Robins
Rev. Wetenhall Wilkes. A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady: Being a System of Rules and Informations: Digested Into a New and Familiar Method, to Qualify the Fair Sex to be Useful, and Happy in Every Scene of Life. London, 1746. Another conduct book.
Full text here: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/012393127
Catharine Macaulay. The History of England. 8 vols. London, 1763-83. A political history of the seventeenth century, covering the years 1603-1689. This was very popular and is in no way related to the later History published by Thomas Babington Macaulay. You can read more about this influential female historian in this essay by Devoney Looser: Catharine Macaulay: The ‘Female Historian’ in Context
Rev. James Fordyce. Sermons to Young Women. London, 1766. A conduct manual.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins chooses to read Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women aloud to the Bennet sisters, Lydia especially unimpressed: “Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him …’.
You can find it on google in later editions, but here is an abstract for 2 of the sermons to give you an idea.
And here an essay on Fordyce and P&P by Susan Allen Ford, who also wrote the introduction for the Chawton House Press edition of the Sermons (2012) : http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol34no1/ford.html
Frances Burney. Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. London, 1778. Hadlow gives Evelina a good hearing – in the discussion in Mr. Bennet’s library with Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth directly quotes Austen’s own words in defense of the novel that are found in Northanger Abbey. [Evelina, and Mary’s difficulty in coming to terms with such a frivolous story, is mentioned more than once].
Other Novels mentioned are:
– Samuel Richardson. The History of Sir Charles Grandison. London, 1753. 7 vols. Reported to be Austen’s favorite book, all seven volumes!
– Henry Fielding. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. 4 vols. London, 1749. Supposedly the reason Richardson wrote his Grandison. [Mentioned more than once] – I think we should read this book next for our JABC!
– Laurence Sterne. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. 9 vols. London, 1759-1767.
Hugh Blair. Sermons. Vol. 1 of 5 published in 1777.
You can view it full-text at HathiTrust.
Mary Crawford refers to Blair in Mansfield Park:
“You assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has been used to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the sense to prefer Blair’s to his own, do all that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit.”
William Paley. A View of the Evidences of Christianity. London, 1794.
Aristotle. The Ethics of Aristotle. [no way to know the exact edition that Mr. Collins gives to Mary – it’s been around for a long time!]
Mentions: all Enlightenment thinkers and heavy reading for Mary!
– John Locke
– William Paley (again)
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau
– David Hume
A Dictionary of the Greek Language – Mr. Collins gives a copy to Mary.
Edward Young. The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality. [Known as Night-Thoughts]. London, 1742-45. [No wonder Mr. Hayward suggested a lighter type of poetry!]
You can read the whole of it here, if you are up to it…: https://www.eighteenthcenturypoetry.org/authors/pers00267.shtml
William Wordsworth. Lyrical Ballads. London, 1798. Full title: Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge [Mr. Hayward does not mention Coleridge at all!], first published in 1798 and considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. Most of the poems in the 1798 edition were written by Wordsworth; Coleridge has only four poems included, one being his most famous work, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Here is a link to the full-text of “Tintern Abbey” that so moved Mary: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45527/lines-composed-a-few-miles-above-tintern-abbey-on-revisiting-the-banks-of-the-wye-during-a-tour-july-13-1798
William Godwin. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness. London, 1793. [Godwin, it is worth noting, married Mary Wollstonecraft and was the father of Mary Godwin Shelley]. Outlines Godwin’s radical political philosophy.
Machiavelli – is referred to by Mary, so assume she is familiar with his The Prince (1513).
****************William Wordsworth. Guide to the Lakes. [full title: A Guide through the District of the Lakes] – first published in 1810 as an anonymous introduction to a book of engravings of the Lake District by the Reverend Joseph Wilkinson. A 5th and final edition was published in 1835 – you can read that online at Romantic Circles here, along with a full account of its rather tormented publication history: https://romantic-circles.org/editions/guide_lakes
John Milton. Paradise Lost. A mention by Mr. Ryder who is defeated by its length, so we know Mary was familiar with it.
The Edinburgh Review / The Quarterly Review – brought to Mary by Mr. Ryder, and for which Mr. Hayward perhaps wrote his reviews. The Edinburgh Review (1802-1929); Quarterly Review (1809-1967, and published by Jane Austen’s publisher John Murray) – both were very popular and influential publications of their time…
The Other Bennet Sister is an enjoyable read – it is delightful to see Mary Bennet come into her own, that despite what she viewed as an unhappy childhood, she finds her way through a good number of books in a quest to live a rational, passionless existence. And that the development of some well-deserved self-esteem with the help of various friends and family, might actually lead her to a worthy equal partner in life, just maybe not with Mrs. Bennet’s required £10,000 !
- Here is an excellent review of the book at The Christian Science Monitor: https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2020/0408/The-Other-Bennet-Sister-focuses-attention-on-bookish-Mary
- And an interview with the author at NPR: https://www.npr.org/2020/04/09/830069319/elizabeths-more-serious-sister-mary-takes-the-spotlight-in-the-other-bennet-sist