Blog Tour: “A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice” ~ Guest Essay by Jasmine A. Stirling and Book Giveaway! Part II

Dear Readers: Yesterday I posted a book review of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, by Jasmine A. Stirling; illustrated by Vesper Stamper. Today, I welcome Jasmine with her guest essay on Jane Austen. Please see below for the book giveaway guidelines.

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How Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women

by Jasmine A. Stirling

Author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

Readers looking for a little escapism might pick up a Jane Austen novel in search of light romantic comedy, not realizing how iconoclastic the beloved author’s books truly were. 

This is in fact, by design. First of all, Austen’s work is above all, great art. It’s manifold purposes are intentionally disguised in delightfully fun and witty prose, designed to propel us through the story and entertain while also educating readers. 

Secondly, Austen was writing at a time when women’s roles were strictly circumscribed. She knew that any overt critique of the patriarchal culture in which she and her characters lived would likely prevent her from being published, reviewed, and/or widely read. The trick was never to be too explicit about anything, so as not to alert the powers that be (wealthy men) that she might be poking holes in the system from which they derived their many privileges. Austen found a way to do just that in her novels—without transgressing the bounds of decorum, of good taste, of sound judgment, and equanimity. 

But Austen’s critiques are there, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Let’s explore how Austen’s six beloved novels revolutionized the way the world viewed women.

Jane Austen’s heroines challenged the prevailing notion of the ideal woman as decorative, passive, emotional, and morally perfect.

When reading Austen, it is important to keep in mind that the ideal Regency lady was about as different from Lizzie Bennet as you can imagine. As one author wrote of the Regency ideal:

“The feminine ideal . . . may best be defined as an interesting compound of moral perfection and intellectual deficiency . . . She was required to be before all things a “womanly woman” meek, timid, trustful, clinging, yielding, unselfish, helpless and dependent, robust in neither body nor mind, but rather “fine by defect and amiably weak.” [She has not] laid aside the poetry of languor and the seductive debility that invested her with the allurement of a convalescent flower.”

Or, as Scottish moralist John Gregory instructed his daughters in the 1770s: “Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess . . . if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men.”

In addition to being morally perfect and intellectually deficient, the ideal Regency bride was very young, and came with a large fortune—which her husband would take possession of immediately after the wedding.

It is not surprising, then, that in this time period (as in our own), female characters—written overwhelmingly by male authors—were often portrayed in one dimension.  After all, as Anne Elliot wryly observed, “The pen has been in their hands.” In most novels and plays, women were caricatures: morally loose and wicked; virginal, demure, and sweet; saintly and motherly; scheming and power-hungry.

Not so Jane Austen’s heroines. Seen in this light, Lizzy Bennet is not only an incredibly charming, lovable leading lady filled with quirks and flaws; she is downright subversive. “When Austen allows Elizabeth to express critical attitudes,” scholar Judith Lowder Newton writes, “to act upon them without penalty, when she endows Elizabeth with the power to alter her lot, Austen is moving against traditional notions of feminine behavior and feminine fate.”

In fact, in one way or another, all of Austen’s heroines buck gender norms or fall far short of the Regency ideal. Yet are all rewarded handsomely at the end—with love and riches. Lizzy is cheeky and opinionated, Emma is insensitive and meddlesome. Elinor and Marianne are frightfully poor, while Fanny is both poor and low-born. Catherine is obsessed with novels, and Anne Elliot is old and no longer pretty. Most of Austen’s heroines (Emma being an exception) are intellectual and well-read.

Furthermore, it is taken absolutely for granted by Austen that each of her heroines is, or can become, able to make her own life decisions—without any reference to men, her parents, or her social betters. This alone is a radical assumption, coming from a culture in which gender, family honor, and class dictated nearly everything a woman was permitted to say, do, and think.

But Austen didn’t stop there. She also used humor to challenge notions of ideal femininity. In Mansfield Park, Lady Bertram is so passive that she is unable to rise from the sofa, let alone form her own thoughts. Entertaining, frivolous characters like Lydia Bennet and Mary Crawford are viciously satirized. Traditional Georgian accomplishments such as “netting a purse” are ridiculed. Furthermore, Austen’s most desirable male suitors have no interest in the ideal Regency woman. Mr. Darcy, for example, requires that his mate possess “the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

In fact, I am hard pressed to point to heroines in today’s novels, films and TV shows that shine quite as brightly or depict women quite as realistically as Jane Austen’s did more than 200 years ago. 

By raising up complicated, unique, bright, obstinate, and flawed women, then showing us their struggles and journeys of transformation, and finally rewarding them with love and happiness, Jane Austen obliterated unrealistic (and frankly, disturbing) notions of perfect, monolithic femininity, forever upending the way the world viewed women.

Jane Austen’s heroines helped readers experience first-hand the shockingly precarious and brutally inhumane status of women in Regency England.

CE Brock – S&S, 1908

During the Regency period, marriage required a woman to give up everything to her husband—her money, her freedom, her body, and her legal existence. Husbands were legally permitted to beat their wives, rape them, imprison them, and take their children away without their consent. 

Divorce in the Regency era could only be achieved by a private act of Parliament, and was exceedingly rare. Lower classes could sell their wives in the marketplace, which functioned as a form of divorce. The woman was led to market with a halter tied around her neck and sold to the highest bidder.

The laws of primogeniture and entailed property dictated that, upon his death, the bulk of a man’s inheritance typically be handed down to his eldest son or closest living male relative. If a woman inherited anything after her husband died, it was arranged at the time of the marriage and based on the assets she brought to the union. Often she got little or nothing at all.

Opting out of marriage was not a viable option for most women. Because most people believed that females were vastly intellectually inferior to males, there were no universities for women, and nearly all professions were reserved exclusively for men. A spinster often faced a life of poverty, ridicule, and dependence on the charity of her male relatives.  

As a result, for Austen, “a story about love and marriage wasn’t ever a light and frothy confection.” Hidden in all that effervescent prose are subtle but seething critiques of Regency society, laws, and gender norms. Austen used romantic comedy to expose the incredibly high stakes of the marriage game for women who had no other options. She helped readers see the precariousness, anxiety and vulnerability of real women—showing the brutality of their situation more poignantly, entertainingly, and intimately than any political treatise could have achieved.

In Sense and Sensibility, we feel the injustice of inheritance laws when Henry Dashwood dies and his wife and children are forced to leave their home and live at the mercy of the heir, Mrs. Dashwood’s stepson, John. John chooses to give them little help, and overnight, Mrs. Dashwood goes from living in splendor to barely scraping by.

In Pride and Prejudice, the key context for the story is that the Bennet family home, Longborne, is entailed to the insufferable Mr. Collins. If his daughters do not marry before their father dies, they will be left to depend on the charity of their male relatives (a situation Austen knew well, as it was hers after her father died).

Although Austen’s heroines find both love and riches, unhappy and loveless marriages far outnumber happy ones in her novels. Wickham is bribed into marrying Lydia; she will have to endure a lifetime of his womanizing ways. Willoughby rejects Marianne, opting for Miss Grey’s £50,000. Charlotte Lucas, twenty-seven years old and superior in character, temperament, and intellect, to the pompous and revolting Mr. Collins, accepts his offer of marriage because “it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune,” thereby relieving her brothers of the burden of providing for her as an old maid. In fact, Charlotte “felt all the good luck of it.”

In these and many other examples, the reality of women’s narrow options, their shocking lack of personal freedom, and their extreme financial vulnerability ring loud and clear. For the first time in history, Austen’s novels humanized and personalized women’s issues in a revolutionary way, adding fuel to the fire for radical new ideas that were just beginning to circulate about women’s rights, education, and opportunities.

Chris Hammond, P&P, Blackie 1904


Jane Austen championed the radical idea of the ideal marriage as a match between two rational and emotional equals.

While the bleak fates of many of Austen’s female characters illustrate the limited options facing women in the Regency era, happy endings await her heroines. These happy endings also challenged mainstream Regency notions of marriage, which typically looked very unlike that of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  

A middle or upper class Regency marriage was often a male-dominated exchange, dictated by two families coming together to consolidate their fortunes. When she married, a woman passed from the control of her father to that of her husband. She might have the opportunity to reject a suitor, or choose from a number of suitors; or she might be a passive participant in this exchange, depending on her circumstances and family culture. In either case, her submissiveness after the wedding was considered crucial to its success. Austen rejected this model of marriage as ideal in her novels and in her life, writing to her niece that “nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love.” 

Notions of marriage were changing rapidly in Austen’s era, inspired primarily by the Romantics—poets, authors and philosophers who believed that marriage should be fueled exclusively by romantic love—but Austen also rejected this ideal.

While the Romantics insisted that choosing a partner should be about unleashing one’s most passionate feelings, Austen championed the classical, Aristotelian philosophy of balance between emotion and reason when choosing a partner for life. The successful coming of age of an Austen heroine hinges on her learning to discern the true nature of a suitor, not simply the appearance he projects. It also often requires that she look beyond her emotional impulses and fall in love with a man’s character and temperament—as in the case of Marianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet, who are initially attracted to handsome, romantic rakes.

Indeed, flashy romantic suitors like Mr. Wickham and John Willoughby often prove to be wicked, scheming, and insincere. By contrast, more subdued men like Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth attempt to restrain their emotions in order to preserve the honor of the women they admire, and wait to betray their feelings until they are certain they are ready to propose. 

Furthermore, Austen’s heroines, although driven by love, do not neglect to consider the practical implications of marrying well. After all, it is only after seeing Pemberley with her own eyes that Lizzie finally relents and accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal, famously thinking as she looks across the valley at his vast estate: “To be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”

In all of these respects, Austen was, and still is, a fresh voice on the topic of marriage. Our own era is still firmly in the grip of the Romantic frenzy—emotional love songs, extravagant courtships and proposals, an emphasis on being swept away in one’s feelings, and fairy tales with happy endings dominate popular culture. 

For Austen, a classical reverence for balance—equal parts reason and emotion—reigned supreme, especially on the part of the woman, who had far more to lose in marriage than her male counterpart. Too much reason, and you have Elinor Dashwood, a woman who is initially a little too selfless and withdrawn. Too much emotion, and you have her sister Marianne, a woman who follows her feelings straight into the arms of a charlatan. To grow, each sister must learn a little bit from the other.

In this way, Austen again challenged the way the world viewed both marriage and a woman’s journey of self-discovery on her path towards finding love.

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Jane Austen often compared herself to a miniature painter. In her work every situation, character name, snippet of dialogue, and location—matters. It is in these mundane details that Austen’s revolutionary ideas are expressed; it is here that we find the clues to the world Austen dreamed that women would one day occupy.

Viewed in this manner, Austen’s novels become much more than a parade of clever stories about romance and balls. They become, instead, a series of novels in which a brilliant, snarky woman unmasks the culture in which she lives—in ways that were, and still are, revolutionary.

In the end, Austen manages to write both about the real world—a world filled with greed, injustice, deceit, and hypocrisy—in which women’s roles are suffocatingly and terrifyingly limited—and a world of her own making—in which right prevails, and the smart, sassy, headstrong woman gets everything she could ever dream of, and more. 

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About Jasmine A. Stirling

Jasmine A. Stirling is the debut author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, a picture book biography of Jane Austen about persistence and creative mastery. Jasmine lives on a cheerful street in San Francisco with her husband, two daughters, and their dog. From a young age, she loved to write poems and stories and worked her way through nearly every children’s book (and quite a few for grownups, too) in her local library. When she’s not writing, Jasmine can be found hiking in the fog, singing songs from old musicals, and fiddling with her camera.

Jasmine first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where she read her favorite of Jane’s six masterful novels, Persuasion. A Most Clever Girl is her dream project, done with her dream team—award-winning illustrator Vesper Stamper and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing. Jasmine also has a YA/New Adult history of the women’s suffrage movement out soon, titled We Demand An Equal Voice.

Visit www.jasmineastirling.com to get a free Jane Austen paper doll kit with the purchase of A Most Clever Girl. While you’re there, enter to win a Regency tea party gift basket!

Follow Jasmine on Instagram and Facebook @jasmine.a.stirling.author where she posts about kidlit and life with two young girls.

BOOK GIVEAWAY:

Enter for a chance to win a glorious Jane Austen-themed picnic basket, including a hardcover copy of A Most Clever Girl autographed by Jasmine A. Stirling!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A picnic basket filled with:
    • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling
    • A vintage teacup
    • 1 oz of tea From Adagio Teas
    • Truffles from Moonstruck Chocolates
    • Gardenia hand cream
    • A set of Jane Austen playing cards
    • A $15 gift certificate to Jasmine A. Stirling’s Austenite Etsy Shop, Box Hill Goods

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling

The giveaway begins March 16, 2021, at 12:01 A.M. MT, and ends April 16, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GIVEAWAY FORM

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Thank you Jasmine for your insightful essay on our “revolutionary” Austen!

You can find the links to each of the daily blog tour posts here: https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/2021/03/a-most-clever-girl-how-jane-austen-discovered-her-voice-awareness-tour

©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour: “A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice” ~ Book Review and Giveaway! Part I

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice,
by Jasmine A. Stirling; illustrated by Vesper Stamper.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021

Dear Readers: Please see below my review information on the Book Giveaway. And join me again tomorrow for Part II with an essay by Jasmine A. Stirling on “How Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women.”

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The recent opinion essay by the New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul “You’re Not Too Old for Picture Books” (Feb. 21, 2021), presents a fine case for the importance, relevance, brilliance, and pure pleasure such books can give us. Paul admonishes us as parents to not confine ourselves to the parameters of the 4-8 age group, to not take such books away from our children too soon, nay, to not put them aside ourselves. How well we remember such books from our own childhoods (think Jessie Willcox Smith or Beatrix Potter or N. C. Wyeth), where words and pictures were made one, the art telling its own story beyond the words of the text.

In a past life as an elementary school librarian (I at the time also had small children), I found such joy in reading and re-reading these pictures books, designated for the younger grades but having the older students engage with them as well. I have never gotten over this love of these “juvenile” works and still try every year to at least purchase the newest Caldecott winner (a REAL book too, no kindle for these!) Biographical picture books have increased of late, and such works on Jane Austen can nearly fill a shelf – but each is unique, each brings a new take on Austen with new ideas, new art, new ways to engage readers of any age with her world.

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, written by Jasmine A. Stirling and illustrated by Vesper Stamper, is a fine addition to this burgeoning shelf, this, as the press release says “an informative, engaging depiction of the life and growth of an exceptional literary talent.” It is funny and sad and profound, taking Austen from a happy childhood reading and writing for her family’s entertainment in the house at Steventon, where “her mother wrote verse…her brothers debated the news…Jane and Cassandra sang songs upstairs…her father taught Shakespeare below.” In this one sentence, with the accompanying illustration of a very busy household, Stirling and Stamper perfectly sum up Austen’s childhood world.

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We see her growing, seeking “a room of her own” to write her stories, observing the quirks and eccentricities of visiting friends and neighbors, and then the sadness and tragedy with the move to Bath and the death of her father, her life now “a quick succession of busy nothings.” Stamper leaves her colorful joyful world of Steventon behind and gives us a Bath that is dark and gray and lonely (Stamper writes that the color palette comes from the textile shades of Austen’s time), color to appear again when settling in Chawton, Jane finding words to write, creating the characters like Elizabeth and Emma and Anne and her many Heroes we have come to love – writing “hearbreak and sadness, happiness and hope” into her novels. Then she is PUBLISHED and we see an appreciative Prince Regent, patrons of circulating libraries choosing HER books, and US, still reading and loving her very original and brilliant voice.

I loved this book – the words and pictures taking us into Austen’s mind and her world – high praise to both writer and illustrator for such a beautifully told and rendered tale, as Stirling herself writes: “I wanted to tell a different kind of story – one centered on Jane’s genius” – and thereby giving hope to anyone out there who might be searching for their own voice, at any age. I found it as insightful and as complete as any of the many lengthy biographies I have read!

Included is a short nicely-written biography, a selection of the more famous Austen sayings sprinkled in the text (“indulge your imagination in every possible flight” – where does Austen say this??), a note from both Stirling and Stamper, and a listing of resources for further reading.

Chawton House – rear endpaper

A final word on the endpapers, one of my favorite parts of any and every book I handle – here Stamper gives us colorful and imaginative drawings of Austen’s beloved Hampshire, Steventon on the front endpaper, Chawton Cottage (now Jane Austen House Museum) and Chawton House on the rear endpapers, places that inspired Jane Austen to become the genius she indeed was, and places we visit (alas, only a pump at Steventon!) to get closer to her mind and art. Perfectly lovely – and quite “clever” itself!

GIVEAWAY!!

Enter for a chance to win a glorious Jane Austen-themed picnic basket, including a hardcover copy of A Most Clever Girl autographed by Jasmine A. Stirling!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A picnic basket filled with:
    • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling
    • A vintage teacup
    • 1 oz of tea From Adagio Teas
    • Truffles from Moonstruck Chocolates
    • Gardenia hand cream
    • A set of Jane Austen playing cards
    • A $15 gift certificate to Jasmine A. Stirling’s Austenite Etsy Shop, Box Hill Goods

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A copy of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, signed by author Jasmine A. Stirling

The giveaway begins March 16, 2021, at 12:01 A.M. MT, and ends April 16, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

Click here for the Giveaway Form

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Found Her Voice

Written by Jasmine A. Stirling; Illustrated by Vesper Stamper

Ages 4-12; 48 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
ISBN-13: 978-1547601103

Publisher’s Synopsis: Witty and mischievous Jane Austen grew up in a house overflowing with words. As a young girl, she delighted in making her family laugh with tales that poked fun at the popular novels of her time, stories that featured fragile ladies and ridiculous plots. Before long, Jane was writing her own stories-uproariously funny ones, using all the details of her life in a country village as inspiration.

In times of joy, Jane’s words burst from her pen. But after facing sorrow and loss, she wondered if she’d ever write again. Jane realized her writing would not be truly her own until she found her unique voice. She didn’t know it then, but that voice would go on to capture readers’ hearts and minds for generations to come.

PURCHASE LINKS: [always check your local bookstore first!]

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/a/2078/9781547601103
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2O2scVx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jasmine A. Stirling is the debut author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, a picture book biography of Jane Austen about persistence and creative mastery. Jasmine lives on a cheerful street in San Francisco with her husband, two daughters, and their dog. From a young age, she loved to write poems and stories and worked her way through nearly every children’s book (and quite a few for grownups, too) in her local library. When she’s not writing, Jasmine can be found hiking in the fog, singing songs from old musicals, and fiddling with her camera.

Jasmine first fell in love with Jane Austen as a student at Oxford, where she read her favorite of Jane’s six masterful novels, Persuasion. A Most Clever Girl is her dream project, done with her dream team—award-winning illustrator Vesper Stamper and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing. Jasmine also has a YA/New Adult history of the women’s suffrage movement out soon, titled We Demand An Equal Voice.

Visit www.jasmineastirling.com to get a free Jane Austen paper doll kit with the purchase of A Most Clever Girl. While you’re there, enter to win a Regency tea party gift basket!

Follow Jasmine on Instagram and Facebook @jasmine.a.stirling.author where she posts about kidlit and life with two young girls.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Vesper Stamper website

Vesper Stamper is an award-winning author-illustrator of picture books and historical fiction for young adults, including What the Night Sings, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for the National Book Award, and A Cloud of Courageous Blue. She lives with her husband, filmmaker Ben Stamper, and her two teenagers, in the northeastern United States, but England is her happy place. Her favorite Jane Austen in Emma. You can visit her at vesperillustration.com.

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: links to each day’s post can be found here: https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/2021/03/a-most-clever-girl-how-jane-austen-discovered-her-voice-awareness-tour

Please join me again tomorrow for Part II with an essay by Jasmine A. Stirling onHow Jane Austen revolutionized the way the world viewed women.”


©2021 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
  • Issue
  • Points
  • Boards
  • Spine head, spine tail
  • Backstrip
  • Text block
  • Hinge
  • Joint
  • Endpapers
  • Half-title page
  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Frontispiece
  • Publisher’s cloth
  • Catchword: “heard” at the bottom of the page is the catchword = the first word on the next page

-Vignette
-Foxing:

Example of foxing: Dent 1908 reprint, illus. HM Brock

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:
  1. 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
  2. American Book Prices Current: auction sales, so actual value
  3. Bookseller catalogues: what titles are selling for
  4. Author and subject bibliographies
  5. 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

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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.” [3]

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!

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

Oxford edition of The Novels of Jane Austen, ed. R. W. Chapman, 3rd ed.

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

P&P, Gresham, 1900, illus. by Chris Hammond, Talwin Morris binding
  • 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…(!)
Royal Mail, Jane Austen Stamps 1975, by Barbara Brown

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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

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

In honor of Jane Austen’s Birthday today, JASNA offers up its annual online journal, filled with the usual goodies of all things Jane:

Persuasions Online, Volume 41, No 1 (Winter 2020)

Contents

Editor’s Note: Jane Austen in a Plague Year Susan Allen Ford

In Memoriam: Lorraine Hanaway (1927–2020) Susan Allen Ford

In Memoriam: Deirdre Le Faye (1933–2020) Susan Allen Ford

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2020: A VIRTUAL EVENT: JANE AUSTEN’S JUVENILIA: REASON, ROMANTICISM, AND REVOLUTION

Juvenile Songs and Lessons: Music Culture in Jane Austen’s Teenage Years Gillian Dooley

“Fevers, Swoons, and Tears”: What If Jane Austen Were Reading Mary Wollstonecraft in the Analytical Review? Jessica McGivney

Reason, Romanticism, or Revolution? Jane Austen Rewrites Charlotte Smith in Catharine, or the Bower Elaine Bander

Catharine, Catherine, and Young Jane Reading History: Jane Austen and Historical Writing Ryoko Doi

“Abjuring All Future Attachments”: Concluding Lady Susan Theresa Kenney

“Here’s Looking at You, Kid!” The Visual in Jane Austen’s Juvenilia Juliet McMaster

What Did the Austen Children Wear and Why? New Trends in British Children’s Clothing, 1760–1800 Alden O’Brien

“A Staymaker of Edinburgh”: Corsetry in the Age of Austen Mackenzie Sholtz and Kristen Miller Zohn

Filming/Filling in the Gaps: Sanditon on Screen Linda V. Troost and Sayre N. Greenfield

STAYING AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN: READING AND WRITING DURING A PANDEMIC

The Austen Treatment: Turning to Austen in Times of Isolation Misty Krueger

“Pride & Plague”: Ninety Days of Lockdown with Will and Jane Janine Barchas

“Regency Novel or Pandemic Life”? Understanding Jane Austen-Related Pandemic Memes Lisa Tyler

A Room of Everyone’s Own: Sharing Space in Pride and Prejudice Lisa Hopkins

Preparation for Death and Second Chances in Austen’s Novels Brenda S. Cox

MISCELLANY

The Rice Portrait: Truths Not Theories Deirdre Le Faye

The Trial of Jane Austen’s Aunt Jane Leigh Perrot and the Opinion of John Morris, KC David Pugsley

Sororal (Mis)Perception in Sense and Sensibility and Fleabag Talia M. Vestri

“Do You Know Who I Am?” Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Jane Austen’s Proto-Karen Sarah Makowski

Using Sympathetic Imagination to Live Morally: Jane Austen’s Expansion of Adam Smith Michele Larrow

Jane Austen Bibliography, 2019 Carol Grigas, Lise Snyder, and Claire Bellanti

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Steventon Parsonage, where Jane Austen was born, December 16, 1775

2020 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….

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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

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Catharine Macaulay-wikipedia

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

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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].

Evelina. U Michigan Library

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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.

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Hugh Blair – wikipedia

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.”

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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.

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Edward Young. Night Thoughts. 1743. wikipedia

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

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image: wikipedia

William Wordsworth, portrait by Henry Edridge, 1804; in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, England. Britannica.com

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

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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.

William Godwin (portrait by James Northcote) and Mary Wollstonecraft (portrait by John Opie) – from BrainPickings.org

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Machiavelli – is referred to by Mary, so assume she is familiar with his The Prince (1513).

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Image: Guide to the Lakes. ‘View on Winandermere’ [now called Windermere], by Joseph Wilkerson. Romantic Circles

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

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John Milton. Paradise Lost. A mention by Mr. Ryder who is defeated by its length, so we know Mary was familiar with it.

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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…

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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 !

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

Book Review: “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner

Are you a maker of Lists? Do you keep a List of books to read, lists of books read, movies to watch, TV shows not to be missed, lists of gifts, grocery lists, house to-do lists, a master To-Do List? Do you have a List of Lists? Or, as one friend asked me years ago, do you ever add something to your To-Do list already done so you can cross it off? (I said absolutely NO!). But I do love lists – they organize a life, give a sense of control (false though that may be), especially in these troubled times. And so I find that instead of writing a more traditional book review of The Jane Austen Society, that I’d make a List, a very important list of at-least TEN reasons you should read this book – one reason alone is enough; ten means you should buy it immediately and jump right into its world.

1. The Characters: Real and True

The author Natalie Jenner has said she had no outline for this tale, envisioned about eight characters, half male and half female, and essentially let them run amok.* We can only be glad she did! As one of her more Willoughby-like characters says of this rag-tag motley crew of folk all bent on forming a Jane Austen society: they were “a band of misfits with negligible expertise and no head for business: a country doctor, an old maid, a schoolmarm, a bachelor farmer, a fey auctioneer, a conflict-averse solicitor, a scullery maid, and one Hollywood movie star.” [276] – a “band of misfits” indeed. They are all from different backgrounds and histories, all part of the small rural community of Chawton, all with tragedy, pain and grief permeating and controlling their lives. Yet each is fully-drawn – you like, even love, these people.

2. The Plot: So Inventive

This is fiction (more on this below) – and not even historical fiction – it has nothing to do with the Real Jane Austen Society formed in the 1940s, same as our fictional group – so don’t confuse them. Let this story tell itself, as it brilliantly does: how this unlikely cast of characters discover a commonality in Jane Austen of all people, and strive to honor her in some way – they do live in Chawton after all… And in so doing, each finds Hope and Love and Self-Knowledge. And as the tale of each unfolds and their lives become inexorably intertwined, we have mysteries and secrets, stories of war and deaths, disagreements among neighbors, gossipy goings-on, and Love and Romance. What is there not to like? Jane Austen has given them a purpose, a sense of hope and a road map into an understanding of the heart. You find fast friends over Jane Austen, as many of us have found in our own lives.

3. The Setting: Chawton, of course

Chawton House

Not everyone living in this fictional Chawton reads or even likes Jane Austen. Some resent the weird travelers looking for sites associated with her. Even the family heir confesses a preference for the Brontës (especially Villette – pay attention here). But the setting is one we all are very familiar with, if we know a bit about Austen’s life after 1809. Living in Chawton Cottage (now Jane Austen’s House ) and trekking to her brother Edward’s Great House (now Chawton House), Jane Austen walked these walks, sat in these chairs, read in this library, all so beautifully and authentically described by  Jenner. You are in this world in the 1940s, right along with the characters.

Jane Austen’s House

4. The Library [not as “In the Library with Colonel Mustard and the lead pipe”…but a Real Library]

One of my favorite parts of the book (the librarian-bookseller in me). Jenner confesses to a wee mistake about the location of the library at Chawton, but literary license allows just about anything, so she is heartily forgiven. Because she gives us Evie, the aforementioned scullery maid, who at 16 (and without giving too much away) has been secretly cataloguing the entire library in the Great House for the past two years and therefore is more knowledgeable about what’s there, what it’s all worth (and with the added bit of a FOUND letter by Austen, of which I shall say no more…), than anyone else in the family (who have ignored the library for generations) or anyone else in town. Evie is a delightful character – we would like to recruit her for our Reading with Austen / Godmersham Lost Sheep Society project!**

Reading Room at Chawton House

5. Jane Austen in Plain Sight:

One of the pure joys of this book is the light-hearted yet insightful analysis of Austen and her novels: characters actively discussing all the works in their general conversation with each other. Farmer Adam, on first reading Pride and Prejudice considers that “he was becoming quite worried about Mr. Darcy.” [10] The town doctor and the local schoolteacher have a lively chat about Emma: the teacher dislikes Emma, the doctor adores her – they wrangle over Mr. Knightley’s true feelings as Austen drops her clues. [I was delighted to find a new-to-me hint to add to my ever-growing List of Clues that Mr. Knightley is very much in Love.]

Then there are the almost direct correlations between characters – you’ll certainly find a Willoughby or Henry Crawford or a William Elliot in these pages, several of Austen’s couples, maybe even a Mr. Rushworth and a Mrs. Elton – there’s even a Dog! – the fun is finding them and going “aah…” Here’s a standout: one of the characters says “within the pages of Mansfield Park was the playbook for making a good woman fall for a cad.” [151] How true that is – and I never looked at Crawford’s behavior in such a light before…

And then the direct quotes in different contexts, which leads us to…

6. Jane Austen Is Not for “Dull Elves”:

The Austen discussion and character correlations are more straightforward than the many allusions scattered throughout, multiple readings likely needed to flesh them all out. Austen was a master of the allusion herself and again, it’s great fun to find these little crumbs:

“You have borne it as no other woman in England would have…” [295]

“I probably would’ve cut him a lock of my own hair if he’d asked for it.” [188]…

Sense & Sensibility – CE Brock – Molland’s

So many – don’t want to inhibit your “sharp-elves” detective skills, so that’s all I shall share…which leads us to another no-spoilers here item on our list…

7. The Mystery(ies) wherein lies a will and an heir just like an Austen plot

….and shall just say there are secrets and mysteries in abundance. So much under the surface, so much history Jenner gradually allows the reader to see, like the proverbial peeling away of an onion – layers of stories to reveal truths… and again, not unlike Austen, Jenner feeds us more and more of each character and their motivations, and we care largely because of ….

8. The Romance: There’s A Lot of It!

So we have eight major characters, and a house full of minors (some of whom, like in Austen, have a lot to say, and a lot to do to move the plot along). Part of the fun (and mystery) is who will end up with whom? Even one of the characters falls asleep one night musing on and making mental lists of possible couplings. Evie at 16 is perhaps the most perceptive at seeing what the heck is going on. It’s all quite endearing – but no spoilers here (though can I say there is a Wentworth-like letter??)

9. It’s Fiction!

Ok, have to repeat this – this is pure fiction, not even great literature (though it is very well written), not based on the real Jane Austen Society as I’ve said (and that real story is compelling it is own right – you can read about it here.)

But even if you are not an avid reader of fiction, but you like Jane Austen, you will get much out of your few hours of time invested. And even if you don’t know squat about Jane Austen, you’ll love this book (you can also listen to it – spending several hours with Richard Armitage is top on my Must-Do list] – because of the humor, the grace, and the romance, and because…

10. We Need This Right Now:

This is a Feel Good book – and goodness, we need that right now more than anything – pick it up and wander back into a simpler (though in so many ways harder) time, to a place ravaged by war, when loss and grief were the bywords of the day, and live for a bit with this delightful “band of misfits” as they each find their way to a better future, all with thanks to Jane Austen, a lesson for us all, especially now…

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* You can hear Natalie Jenner’s May 15, 2020 talk for the Chawton House Literary Festival on Youtube here:

Also read her interview with Rachel Dodge at the Jane Austen’s Regency World blog here.

** For a real-life cataloguing project concerning Edward Austen Knight’s libraries at his Godmersham and Chawton estates, please visit the Reading with Austen website and the Reading with Austen blog. Under the direction of Professor Peter Sabor, the hope is to locate (and return if possible) as many of the books that were originally in the Knight library during Jane Austen’s time. We need Evie on this project!

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About the author:

Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

  • Twitter handles: @NatalieMJenner, @StMartinsPress @MacmillanAudio
  • Hashtags: #TheJaneAustenSociety #HistoricalFiction, #AudioBooks, #AmReading, #JaneAusten #RichardArmitage

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About the Book:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

Book details: Genre: Historical Fiction, Austenesque Fiction

The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner
St. Martin’s Press (May 26, 2020)
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1250248732
eBook ASIN: B07WQPPXFW
Audiobook ASIN: B082VL7VRR

Blog Tour Dates: May 25 – June 30, 2020 – you can read more about the blog tour and the schedule here and here at Austenprose.

You can buy the book at all the usual suspects – but start with your local bookstore!

Indiebound / Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Book Depository / BookBub / Audible

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour Shout-Out! “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner

Hello there Gentle Readers: I welcome you to join in on the virtual online book tour of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, Natalie Jenner’s highly acclaimed debut novel May 25 through June 30, 2020. Seventy-five popular blogs and websites specializing in historical fiction, historical romance, women’s fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature interviews and reviews of this post-WWII novel set in Chawton, England. All is sponsored and coordinated by Laurel Ann at Austenprose. The pandemic has limited the author from engaging in the usual real-life book talks and marketing tours, so we are going all out to be sure that this book gets a full-court press in our now largely virtual world. Please enjoy all the chat, then get thee to a bookstore and add it to your TBR pile (on top!) – you will not be disappointed…

My review will go live tomorrow but wanted to list here all the blog tour sites that over the next month will be offering reviews and interviews of this delightful tale:

 

About the Book:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

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Book details:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Austenesque Fiction

The Jane Austen Society: A Novel, by Natalie Jenner
St. Martin’s Press (May 26, 2020)
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1250248732
eBook ASIN: B07WQPPXFW
Audiobook ASIN: B082VL7VRR

Blog Tour Dates: May 25 – June 30, 2020 [see below]

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About the author:

Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Accolades:

  • An Amazon Best Book of May 2020
  • One of Goodreads Big Books of Spring & Hot Books of Summer
  • One of Audible’s Top 50 Most Anticipated Spring Audiobooks
  • June 2020 Indie Next Pick
  • May 2020 Library Reads Pick
  • Starred Review – Library Journal
  • Starred Review – Booklist 

Audiobook Narrated By Actor Richard Armitage (!!):

The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).

Link to YouTube audiobook excerpt: https://youtu.be/OJ1ACJluRi8 

Spotify Playlist:

Spotify users can access a playlist for THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY at the following link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5Q1Vl17qyQQIvvPGeIPCkr?si=-iMhVz8uRk2v2mTdolrPdg. The playlist includes music from various film adaptions of Jane Austen’s books, as well as film scores by such incomparable artists as Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Rachel Portman, and Michael Nyman. 

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
[I’ll add live links once the post is active]

  • May 25        Jane Austen’s World
  • May 25        Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog
  • May 26        Frolic Media
  • May 26        A Bookish Affair
  • May 26        Courtney Reads Romance
  • May 26        Margie’s Must Reads
  • May 26        The Reading Frenzy
  • May 27        Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina
  • May 27        Gwendalyn’s Books
  • May 27        Romantically Inclined Reviews
  • May 28        Getting Your Read On
  • May 28        Living Read Girl
  • May 28        The Lit Bitch
  • May 29        History Lizzie
  • May 29        Silver Petticoat Reviews
  • May 30        Cup of Tea with that Book, Please
  • May 30        Historical Fiction Reader
  • May 31        Jane Austen in Vermont
  • June 01        From Pemberley to Milton
  • June 01        My Jane Austen Book Club
  • June 01        AustenBlog
  • June 02        Lu’s Reviews
  • June 02        The Green Mockingbird
  • June 03        The Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
  • June 03        Relz Reviews
  • June 03        Impressions in Ink
  • June 04        The Caffeinated Bibliophile
  • June 04        Life of Literature
  • June 04        Laura’s Reviews
  • June 05        Reading Ladies Book Club
  • June 05        Bookish Rantings
  • June 06        From the TBR Pile
  • June 07        Rachel Dodge
  • June 07        An Historian About Town
  • June 08        Bringing up Books
  • June 08        Austenesque Reviews
  • June 09        Captivated Reading
  • June 09        Savvy Verse and Witt
  • June 10        Lady with a Quill
  • June 10        Drunk Austen
  • June 11        Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
  • June 11        Inkwell Inspirations
  • June 12        Nurse Bookie
  • June 12        A Bookish Way of Life
  • June 13        Calico Critic
  • June 14        Jane Austen’s World
  • June 15        Stuck in a Book
  • June 15        Storybook Reviews
  • June 15        Confessions of a Book Addict
  • June 16        Literary Quicksand
  • June 16        Becky on Books
  • June 17        The Reading Frenzy
  • June 17        Anita Loves Books
  • June 18        Chicks, Rogues, & Scandals
  • June 18        The Write Review
  • June 19        Diary of Eccentric
  • June 20        Cracking the Cover
  • June 21        Short Books & Scribes
  • June 22        Reading the Past
  • June 22        Babblings of a Bookworm
  • June 23        My Vices and Weaknesses
  • June 23        The Book Diva Reads
  • June 24        Books, Teacups & Reviews
  • June 24        Wishful Endings
  • June 25        Robin Loves Reading
  • June 25        Bookfoolery
  • June 26        Lit and Life
  • June 26        Vesper’s Place
  • June 27        Foxes and Fairy Tales
  • June 28        Probably at the Library
  • June 28        Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books
  • June 29        The Anglophile Channel
  • June 29        So Little Time…
  • June 30        BookNAround 

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont 

“Celebrity Jane” Wants YOU! Help Support Chawton House!


Like all museums around the world, Chawton House has had to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic – and like all of those places that so many of us love and visit regularly, Chawton House is dependent upon visitor fees, those now sadly lost. In order to remain on track and continue to offer its grand historic house and gardens to visit, a place to study early women writers, a place for exhibitions and lectures, a place to have tea!, Chawton House needs your support.

Their Emergency Appeal runs from April 20, 2020 through June 20, 2020:

  “Donate today to help make sure Chawton House keeps going through closure, stages a vibrant digital programme to inspire and entertain thousands of people staying at home, and re-open to welcome visitors later in 2020.”

You can read more here, where you will find the list of donation perks: https://chawtonhouse.org/covid-19-appeal/

You can follow the daily updates and what’s on offer:

Missing shopping?  Be sure to visit their new online shop (Bonnets to die for!): https://chawtonhouse.org/shop/

Watch for online exhibitions and talks: already they have launched Man Up! – about women who stepped into a man’s world (think dueling, gambling, soldiering, acting, pirating!) – a podcast is also available – https://chawtonhouse.org/the-library/library-collections/man-up-online-exhibition/introduction/

Coming up is their Lockdown Literary Festival planned for May 15-17, 2020.

And great news is the soon-to-be relaunch of the Chawton House newsletter, The Female Spectator. Stay tuned for that!

AND, you can participate in their online Forums: the Poetry Challenge and their Reading Group.

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For all our North American Friends of Chawton House, we too have a special initiative to spur on support: our very own Celebrity Jane! A must-have limited edition bobble-head of our dear Jane in full Rock & Roll garb, for anyone who donates $250 or more and while supplies last.

You can donate here: https://www.nafch.org/give-join

For your donation of $250 or more, the USPS will happily deliver Celebrity Jane to your door – and we’d like to ask that you send us a picture (or two or more!) of CJ in your house, in your garden, on your bookshelves, playing with your dog (or cat), participating in your latest Zoom gathering, really anything you can think of that shows CJ as part of your daily life (if only she could cook!)

Trooper loves Celebrity Jane (and NO! I am not a PUG!)

[Please email your photos to Kerri Spennicchia, a.k.a. CJ’s publicist on the NAFCH executive Board: spennke [at] gmail.com] – [additional photos on our facebook page and the website].

You can follow us on social media as well, where we are showcasing CJ in all manner of places and situations, with hearty thanks to our generous donors: Be part of the story!

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Start your collection today! If “Celebrity Jane 2020” proves popular, then you may expect another limited edition “Bobble-head Jane” in 2021 and beyond.  Hopefully our special limited-edition Janes will prove such outrageously popular collectibles that this leads to an annual fundraiser/giveaway campaign.

We thank you for your support! Chawton House is a very special place – let’s keep it that way…

(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mellichamp painting of Chawton House, c1740; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

“The Lost Books of Jane Austen” ~ Interview with Author Janine Barchas

Enquiring Minds: I welcome today, Professor Janine Barchas, author of the recently published The Lost Books of Jane Austen, a work of mind-boggling scholarship, wherein “hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow!” And whether your tastes run to book history, the science of bibliography, literary history, or just a love of Jane Austen, you will be delighted with this addition to your Austen collection – an absolute must-have in my mind, to be shelved in a place of honor right alongside your copy of David Gilson. And don’t think it is some pedagogical tome – I laughed, I cried, I learned, I was wowed! – and I think you will be too.

Today, Janine is going to share with us what got her started on this incredible journey, some of her finds, and where it all goes from here.

Deb:  First off, I must say that his book has been universally praised by Austen scholars and readers, book historians, and bibliographers! Did you have any idea the book would be so universally embraced?

JB:  I dared not hope.  Instead, I worried about whether crisscrossing the standard demarcations between audience groups (academics v. fans, readers v. collectors) might prove fatal.  At the start, anonymous readers of the manuscript for Johns Hopkins University Press warned against the intellectual Schizophrenia of my approach (my phrasing).  In view of their worry, much of the final book was rewritten and reframed so that essential bibliographical details would not detract from the larger human narrative—what my editor called “not getting lost in the weeds.” In other words, I had a lot of help and advice while shaping a book to appeal widely—and to different people for different reasons.  Who would have thought that any press could produce such a handsome gift-worthy volume filled with headshots of tatty, cheap, and rejected books?  From the start, there was something not entirely rational about expecting any audience for a book about unwanted books.  I’m immensely gratified that so many people share my affection for these neglected reprints.

Deb: How did your education / scholarship lead you to working on Jane Austen – how, and when? In other words, when did your fascination with Austen begin?

JB: I came to Austen late and reluctantly.  I was not introduced to her until college and graduate school, where I read her as a duty (as a stop along the history of the novel genre) rather than as a pleasure.  I did not return to her novels in earnest until I was asked to teach a single-author course on Austen.  At first, I tried to argue my way out of the task—after all, Samuel Richardson, who has no action figure, needed me more.  Eventually, I gave in to the market demand on campus.  Once I slowed down, reread all her books, and started teaching Austen, I had to bend at the knee along with all her other devotees.

Deb: You have always had an interest in book history – tell us about your first book: Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel, published by Cambridge University Press in 2003.

JB: All my projects seem to take a material turn.  Graphic Design argued that it was silly for serious academics to study and write about eighteenth-century novels while staring at and quoting from modern paperbacks (e.g. the Penguin reprints used in college classrooms).  I showed how these modern reprints had silently altered the text as well as the innovative typographical innovations for which the genre was termed “novel” in the first place (ie. layout, paratexts, illustrations, the advertising language of title pages, font choices).  In Graphic Design I urged serious scholars to return to the original editions of eighteenth-century books when studying literary meaning.  In Lost Books, I finally found a scholarly purpose for all those inauthentic reprintings that I dismissed as unauthoritative in that early project!

Deb:  You go through 200 years of Austen’s publishing history in such an interesting order. When did it become apparent that these divisions were a way of approaching the Lost Books: Paperback Jane, Scholarly Jane, Virtuous Jane, Temperance Jane, Marketing with Jane, Armed Services Jane, Chick-lit Jane, etc…

JB: For years, I periodically rearranged the shelves of the cheap Austen reprints that I acquired, grouping books on the dining room table and elsewhere to see what patterns emerged—patterns of aesthetics, formats, prices, audiences, etc.  I wanted to explore patterns that would allow me to go beyond the usual mere temporal lists of publications (“and then this edition, and then this one”).  While the story of the “pinking” of Jane Austen during the 1950s and 60s showed itself fairly quickly, the most meaningful patterns were impossible to see until after I gained access to the books of other collectors whose plentiful shelves contained many more examples to sort (physically or mentally). All in all, it probably took nine years of looking before the one year of writing to feel that I had a book’s worth of findings to share.

Deb: The seven Vignettes you include in the book tell the stories of book owners of the many Austen novels you have found. These are enlightening, sometimes wrenching – but such a personal tribute to Austen’s many readers through the past 200 years. A name, a date, maybe an address would send you on a deep-dive adventure into census, birth, marriage and death records – thank goodness for the internet and ancestry.com, making such research even possible! What was your favorite connection that you found?

JB: Locating the backstories and former owners behind particular copies was indeed the most rewarding part of researching and writing this book.  However, asking me to pick between these people and their books is like asking a mother which child is her “favorite.” As you say, some of the backstories proved tearjerkers while other copies offered up endearing or surprising anecdotes about the lives of real Austen readers.  The vignette that makes me smile most broadly is probably the one about the young Harvard law student named Heman Burr who, on his very first trip to Paris in 1879, binge read all of Jane Austen’s novels.

Deb: What was the most elusive, that you just couldn’t let go? – and finally found something…

JB: Unlocking the ownership history of one cheap mid-nineteenth-century copy of Mansfield Park depended upon locating the official naval record of the officer whose name matched the ownership signature. Even after I found his record, I needed help from a colleague familiar with naval terminology and a knowledge of specific ships and battles to see that his navel career mapped neatly onto the Austen novel that he had so treasured.

Deb: And the one(s) where you hit a brick-wall and ended at a dead end?

JB: There were dozens and dozens of books whose ownership signatures I could not trace with certainty in the historical record – sometimes because the name was too common or the inscription lacked mention of a location to help triangulate it. The anonymity that an all-too-common name conveys has its own cosmic sadness.  For a provenance researcher there is nothing more deflating than the proud ownership signature of a “Miss Smith.”

Deb: How many more stories do you have, not included in Lost Books, but possibly to be published elsewhere? Can we hope for a Vignettes sequel??

JB: There were handfuls of worthy backstories and many clusters of odd reprints that did not make it into the final book.  While a sequel is not in the cards (sweet of you to ask!), I have published a few of those findings as separate essays for the Los Angeles Review of Books and also for Literary Hub.

Another such essay (about the ignored marginalia of those who disliked Austen) is scheduled to appear in the May/June issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.

‘Sense and Sensibility’ in the Marguerite Series from Miles & Miles (London), no date – Barchas collection (page 112)


Deb: Throughout this past decade of research, you located and purchased as many of these cheaply published works as possible; or you found collectors willing to share their shelves with you; or you found the odd one in a scholarly institution:

– What surprised you the most?

JB: The sheer number of cheap reprints not listed in Jane Austen’s bibliographies. I had assumed that bibliographies were, barring oversight and human error, objective records of publications.  I was taken aback by how subjective the discipline of bibliography is and how biased towards “important” highbrow editions.

Deb: Your most amazing discovery?

JB: A well-thumbed copy of Mansfield Park from the 1890s that served as an attendance prize in a temperance society for coal miners.  Coal miners!

Deb: Most elusive find?

JB: A paperback copy of Elizabeth Bennet published in Philadelphia in 1845 and which originally sold for 25 cents.

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Deb: What is now the most prized book in your collection, and why?

JB: The cheap colorful copy of Northanger Abbey published by Blackie & Sons which was awarded as a school prize in Forfar Scotland in 1911 to one “Annie Munro.”  During my research, I discovered that only six months later Annie tragically died from diphtheria, age 13, and that this volume could be the sole artifact she left behind. It was an honor to be able to tell Annie’s story in the book’s last vignette, and it remains an honor to safeguard her prized book.


Deb:  Tell us about the cover, specially done for you – it is such a combination of the old, the new, the charming – just a perfect introduction to the feast that awaits the reader on the inside!

JB: The incredible artist who created the book sculpture for the cover is Mike Stilkey, who works with discarded library books and lives in Los Angeles.  He is famous for his large wall-sized installations on which he paints unique figures and animals.  In a fan letter, I told him about my own Lost Books project.  He then created his “Jane Austen” sculpture from discarded books for possible use on the cover.  Everyone at the press instantly loved it.  I agree that Stilkey’s work strikes the perfect note and I remain grateful to him for responding with such generosity to this project.

Deb: You end your book with a “call to action”: that this “gobsmackingly incomplete historical record” of the publishing of Jane Austen has much more to be added to – you wish / hope that other collectors, scholars, laypeople, and institutions will share with you any such “low-brow editions” they might have – you envision some sort of digital bibliography – how do you hope to move forward with this idea? How can people help?

JB: Ambitiously, I now hope that collectors of such reprints as I discuss in Lost Books will agree to donate these relatively inexpensive but scarce volumes to institutions with proper special collections, where these books can allow further research into publishing history and Austen’s reception.  The major Austen collector that I worked with has generously agreed to donate her Jane Austen reprints to a special collections library that has, in turn, agreed to house such a gift (cataloguing and storage costs are non-trivial).  I have agreed to add my own books to hers, trusting that, jointly, our donations will help to save information for the future and prompt others to do the same. Books such as this need to be together to maximize the information they contain as historic artifacts.  Interested parties can contact me about inquiring about similar donations.  In addition, a collector in Australia wrote me that he has reacted to my project by starting a blog that shows other collectors how to trace prices and provenance of “cheaper” reprints: https://bookcollectingheaven.com/2020/03/30/price-and-provenance/ .

Deb: And finally, what’s up next?

JB: This year, with the help of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and a stay at the Lewis Walpole Library, I have begun a new project, called Renting in the Age of Austen.  When Jane Austen is born in 1775, the burgeoning consumer culture of late-Georgian England increasingly allowed temporary ownership over some luxury goods for a fee. Books and artworks could now be borrowed, furniture and musical instruments rented, carriages or horses hired, and whole country mansions let. Some Georgian rentals were bizarre (e.g. pineapples), but all complicated identity politics. Rented objects blur traditional social signals of rank.  Whereas old sumptuary laws aimed to fix luxury goods as markers of class, in Austen’s era privilege could be flaunted with kit and carriages not one’s own. My project explores the messy logistics of what was rented (where, to whom, and at what prices?) to reveal the social implications for this early economy of temporary possession.

Deb: Anything else you would like to share?

JB: I would like folks to know of my unexpected lockdown project: “Pride & Plague” on Twitter (@PridePlague). On this channel celebrity couple William Shakespeare and Jane Austen have been posting updates to their fans while in social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. Even those not on Twitter can see it here for a chuckle: https://twitter.com/PridePlague.  I think of this project as my contribution to morale [and a welcome contribution it is! See below for some examples…]

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Thank you Janine for sharing your insights – I do most heartily recommend this book to everyone – and please, look at your shelves and see if perchance you might have your very own “unsung reprints” lying about – you too could add to the knowledge of Jane Austen’s publishing history and be a part of this fascinating story.

 

About the author:

Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and the prize-winning Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel.  She is the creator behind the digital project What Jane Saw wherein we can view two Georgian blockbusters as witnessed by Jane Austen (Joshua Reynolds in 1813 and the Shakespeare Gallery of 1796). She has also written essays for the Washington Post, New York Times, Lit Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her newest work, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, about the many unsung editions of Jane Austen, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past October.

Janine is also the President of NAFCH, the North American Friends of Chawton House, a group that works to raise funds and garner support for the Chawton estate of Jane Austen’s brother Edward and its Library devoted to early women writers.

Further reading:

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The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barchas
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019
284 pages. Color illustrations throughout.

You can purchase it at your local bookseller or here at Amazon.

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As noted above, Janine is currently working through the present sheltering-in-place crisis by finding daily humor in the antics of Jane and Will and posting all about them on her twitter page “Pride & Plague.” You can follow the fun here: https://twitter.com/PridePlague

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

JASNA-Vermont’s Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea!

You Are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea!

 

December approaches and our thoughts turn to…Jane Austen’s Birthday and Tea!

This is just a reminder that the annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea is coming up on December 8 at the Essex Resort and Spa. There will be Food! Dancing! Jane Austen’s Proposals!

Here are the details:

December 8, 2019

1:00-4:30

 

The Essex Resort and Spa

70 Essex Way, Essex Junction, VT

 

$35 for Members / $40 for Non-members / $15 for Students (w/ID)

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The afternoon will include:

  • Full English Tea with finger sandwiches, assortment of sweets, scones, and, of course, tea,
  • English Country Dancing for all who would like to, no experience necessary, taught and led by the illustrious Val Medve,

  • A talk by Deb Barnum and Hope Greenberg on “Proposals in Jane Austen: ‘What did she say?… Just what she ought'” – enlivened with a visual journey through these scenes as played out in the various Austen film adaptations,

  • and, good company—no, the “best company” with “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.”

Regency dress is encouraged but not required!

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Please click here for the reservation form: Dec Tea 2019-Reservation form-final and send it with your payment to the address noted on the form. Registration closes on November 23. 

Hope you can join us! 

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont