Guest Post: “Praying with Jane,” by Rachel Dodge

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

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

 

Exploring Jane Austen’s Prayers in Praying with Jane

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

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

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

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

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

Jane Austen’s Prayers

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

George Austen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Praying with Jane:

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

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


About the author:

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

You can visit Rachel:

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

Stay tuned for an upcoming book giveaway!

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

Touring Jane Austen’s England with Edventures, September 2019

JASNA offers an annual tour of Jane Austen’s England, this past summer one that focused on Persuasion, with trips to Portsmouth, Lyme Regis, and Bath (you can see the itinerary here: http://www.jasna.org/conferences-events/tour/itinerary/] and pine over the fact you missed it! (I still am!) Next year’s tour will again be in July, details not yet announced, but expecting it will have some sort of Gothic theme to celebrate Northanger Abbey. I highly recommend these tours, as they bring JASNA members from all over together, as well as help to support JASNA.

But sometimes you cannot go when these JASNA tours are offered, or it sells out before you register, or your best friend can’t go when you can … We know there are all manner of tours evoking Jane Austen – I have created my own tours on a few occasions to try to see the salient spots; and I’ve developed friendships in England with people happy to tour me around (thank you Tony Grant and Ron Dunning!!); and I’ve recommended to friends where they should go if they are touring on their own. The only drawback of such a plan is that there are places to see, people to meet, that only an organized tour can arrange for you – this is why every year I say “this is the year I will do the JASNA tour” – and every year something gets in the way. So I look to see what other tours are available, and right now I find that friends of mine who run a tour company out of Saratoga Springs, are offering an “English Heritage Tour with Jane Austen” next year, September 3-12, 2019.

I recently traveled with them this past summer to Switzerland – it was a terrific adventure (or “edventure” as they call their company), with a great group of fellow travelers; so I can highly recommend them! This Jane Austen tour was offered a few years ago with a different itinerary – I could not go then and I cannot go on this one either, much to my dismay and disappointment. But I did want to share the details with you in hopes YOU can go… the joy of this trip being not only the sites of Jane Austen’s England, but also that it is being led by David Shapard, the knowledgable and engaging author of the annotated editions of all six of Austen’s novels – David knows his Jane Austen!

Here are the details:

“English Heritage Tour with Jane Austen”

This tour uses the lens of one of England’s greatest writers to explore some of the finest examples of English heritage. These include the gorgeous eighteenth century city of Bath as well as other historic towns and villages, the cathedrals and churches of traditional England, the Royal navy, and the grand houses and gardens of the gentry and aristocracy. She knew all these places and institutions well and made them the principal settings for her novels and we will follow in her footsteps to get to know them ourselves.

Tour highlights:

—Begin with a two-night stay in Bath, the leading spa in England in the 18th century, known for its natural hot springs and Georgian architecture.

—Explore the city of Lacock, a 15th century village that retains its design and look of many centuries ago and served as the setting for a small town in the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice. 


—Travel to Winchester for a five-night stay. On the way, visit Stourhead, whose grounds are perhaps the finest examples of the new style of irregular landscaping that emerged in England in the18th century. A renowned temple on the ground was used for the proposal scene in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice.
 —In Winchester we will visit its cathedral, and from there explore the Austen family cottages and estates in Chawton and Steventon. In what is now the Jane Austen House Museum, Austen composed Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.

 

—Explore the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for harbor tours and a close look at the celebrated warships and seamen of Britain’s naval history.

—Visit Salisbury with its stunning cathedral and Mompesson House, a Queen Anne house used for the film Sense and Sensibility.

Meals: Daily Breakfast, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Tour Leader: In keeping with Edventure’s mission of “Adventure Travel That Educates,” the trip will be led by Dr. Shapard, a historian and scholar.  David is the author of The Annotated Pride and Prejudice as well as annotated versions of Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma.  He has given numerous talks about Jane Austen to Austen societies and other groups and has undertaken several trips to England to study gardens, estates, and other sites on the tour. Travelers will benefit from his vast knowledge of the areas we will visit as well as his enthusiasm and his expertise in English history.

Price: $3260 land only double occupancy
Single supplement: $799

For a complete itinerary contact: goedventures [at] gmail.com

For more info visit their website at: https://www.goedventures.com/tour-english-heritage

Hope some of you can go – please take pictures and I’ll post them here!

C2018 Jane Austen in Vermont; all images courtesy of Edventures, except the Matterhorn which is c2018 DBarnum

Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility” at Lost Nation Theater ~ Guest Review by Margaret Harrington

Gentle Readers: I welcome Margaret Harrington, a JASNA-Vermont member, as she offers a review of the Kate Hamill play Sense & Sensibility, now playing at the Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, VT – it is there through October 22nd – (I unfortunately had to miss this performance – I did see this same adaptation at the Folger last year, and very happy to hear from Margaret that is was just as delightful a production as the one I saw). Vermonters are in luck if you must miss this one by LNT – UVM has it in their theatre line-up for November 8-12, 2017. See below for details on both productions. Get your tickets today!

******************

Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, by Kate Hamill

Review by Margaret Harrington

The play Sense & Sensibility by Kate Hamill, now running at The Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier until October 22, is a delicious feast of a production.

First it is served up by the lively professional direction of Kathleen Keenan who has whipped up a delightful ensemble on a silver platter of wonderful acting, comic timing, emotional intensity and faithfulness to the original story in Jane Austen’s first published novel Sense & Sensibility. Then you have the brilliant scenic design for theater in the round where the designer Kim Bent uses movable tables, chairs, windows and even potted plants to transport you to Regency England in a most inventive way. The costumes by Rebecca Stewart are essentially beautiful in color and texture and with a minimalist stroke – the addition of a hat, a vest, a shawl, or a mask, the actors play multiple characters masterfully. Lighting designer David Shraffenberger illuminates all with chameleon like magic which transports you just where you want to go. The Music Design by Tim Tavcar embraces and holds you there – lost and found in Austen.

The story lives in the marriage plot wherein the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, must find husbands to lift them out of reduced circumstances brought about by the recent death of their father and the acquisition of his estate by their half-brother, John. The eldest sister, Elinor, embodies Sense in dealing with her impulsive mother and two sisters and most of all her erstwhile suitor Edward Ferrars played charmingly by the actor Sam Balzac. Annie Evans plays Elinor as a complicated young woman, totally sympathetic in her role as leveling anchor in her family. Her relationship with Marianne, portrayed with depth and passion personifying Sensibility by Katelyn Manfre, is the lynchpin of the play and the scenes between the sisters are riveting, funny and moving. There are two almost vaudevillian turns that stand out and nearly stop the show. These are Mrs. John Dashwood’s reaction when she learns that her brother is engaged to a woman with no money or status. Laura Michelle Erle in the role vents her frustration hilariously. The other is the Ferrars brother Robert played again by Sam Balzac who goes on about cottages with mindless panache that leaves you shaking with laughter. At times the actors insinuate themselves into the audience by including us in their gossip and this kind of social media chatter is what drives the plot.

This ensemble of actors work together so convincingly that they capture the audience from the beginning and draw us into the world of the story. It is amazing to me that the actors come from different places and meet here as professionals to form this true togetherness in art. I name all the actors here in tribute to their craft. They are: Leon Axt, Sam Balzac, Mariana Considine, Michael Dewar, Laura Michele Erle, Annie Evans, Erin Galligan-Baldwin, Brett Lawlor, Amanda Menard, Katelyn Manfre, Eve Passeltiner and Sebastian Ryder.

As a Janeite and a longtime enthusiast for the writings of Jane Austen (I am a board member with the Vermont Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America ), I believe this play at Lost Nation Theater captures the essence of Jane Austen and reveals the power of society over individual identity with wit and levity.

Relevant to life today? Think social media and bullying, peer pressure, emoji, text messages, limited characters for intimate communication!

Behold! – Jane Austen is alive and well and living in Vermont.

 The cast of Sense & Sensibility, Lost Nation Theater, photo courtesy of Robert Eddy, First Light Studios

*********************

Lost Nation Theater: Sense & Sensibility by Kate Hamill now running in Montpelier until October 22. You can get tickets here: http://lostnationtheater.org/sense/

UVM: Hamill’s S&S will also be playing at UVM’s Royall Tyler Theater November 8-12, 2017 with a different cast and crew. You can get tickets here: https://www.uvm.edu/cas/theatre/current_production_season

Don’t miss this!

Just available: a youtube interview with the director and three of our JASNA-Vermont members, Michelle Singer, Sarah Madru, George Shumar, and Margaret Harrington behind the scenes! You can watch it here:

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Come to A Jane Austen Weekend in Hyde Park, Vermont!

Get out your quills Janietes! The Governor’s House in Hyde Park Vermont, home to five Jane Austen Weekends each year, has a special on offer! All you need to do is write an elegy, poem or short story…and be all about Jane, and you could qualify for a half-price stay at the Inn.

Governor’s House, Hyde Park, Vermont

This is direct from Suzanne (the Innkeeper):

 

I’ve been thinking that I should do something to recognize this important year and month for Jane Austen. But it’s been difficult to come up with an appropriate idea, something serious enough for our thoughts of a short life ( December 16, 1775 to July 18, 1817) not to mention the possibility of more books we could love, and yet celebratory enough for the great pleasure she has given so many readers for over 200 years.

This is what I am offering. Anyone who writes an elegy, poem, or very short story appropriate to be shared a Jane Austen weekend here at The Governor’s House may reserve any of the remaining places at weekends this summer at half price. There are rooms available at the Pride and Prejudice weekends August 4 – 6 and September 8 – 10 and one double or single room left for the in character weekend August 11 -13. I hope lots of you will be encouraged to put quill to paper, if not by my offer, then by her inspiration.

Governor’s House in Hyde Park
100 Main Street, Hyde Park, VT
802-888-6888
info@OneHundredMain.com
http://www.onehundredmain.com/

Start writing! Send in your thoughts via email or by post to the Inn (info above) – with your permission, we will publish some of the entries here, all in celebration of Jane Austen…

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Susannah Fullerton on Jane Austen: “Jane & I: A Tale of Austen Addiction”

Susannah Fullerton, president of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, has just published her memoir about her life-long love affair with Jane Austen, something many of us can understand and appreciate, but mostly marvel at what Susannah has done with this obsession! Here is Susannah’s blurb on her new book – see below on how you can order it. I for one cannot wait for mine to show up in my mailbox…

 

JANE & I

A TALE OF AUSTEN ADDICTION

By Susannah Fullerton 

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love … Jane Austen.

When I was a young girl, l was read Pride and Prejudice by my mother. I listened entranced, but little dreamed how that reading would change my life and would be the start of a life-long addiction. For I fell in love with Elizabeth and Darcy, went on to read the other novels of Jane Austen, studied them, re-read them often, lectured about them and wrote about them. As President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for more than twenty years, I have shared my passion for Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion with thousands of people around the world. As a leader of literary tours, I have taken people to ‘Jane Austen country’. It is thanks to Jane Austen that I developed a career as a popular literary lecturer. Jane Austen, quite simply, altered the course of my life!

My memoir shows how a love of Jane Austen’s novels developed into a passionate addiction, something that I hope all readers of this blog will understand. Jane Austen expert Maggie Lane has called my new book “a vivid and original memoir”, while author Jennifer Kloester has said “More than just a memoir, this delightful account of Susannah Fullerton’s lifelong love of books will enchant, inspire and amuse her readers. A joyful reminder of why books matter.”

                                                                                       *********************

About the author:

Susannah Fullerton has been president of the Jane Austen Society of Australia for 21 years. She is a popular literary tour leader, guiding literary pilgrims in England, Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada, France and Italy. Previous books include A Dance with Jane Austen, Happily Ever After: Celebrating Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen and Crime (one of my favorite books!), Georgette Heyer: Complete to a Shade, and others. You can find out more about her, her books, and her literary tours at the links below. She also writes a newsletter titled “Notes from a Book Addict,” a monthly treat for your inbox – you can sign up for it here: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/newsletter/

You can order the book here: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/store/jane-i-a-tale-of-austen-addiction/ : [$20 AUD = @ $16. USD + shipping – you can pay via PayPal]

Links:

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post ~ “The Jane Austen Project” ~ by Kathleen A. Flynn

Dear Gentle Readers: I welcome today Kathleen A. Flynn, author of the just-released The Jane Austen Project, a time-travel tale wherein we will find ourselves in 1815 Regency England and meet up with Jane Austen. Kathleen includes here an excerpt from the first chapter – you will want to read the rest after this intro!

The Jane Austen Project

This excerpt is from early in the first chapter. Our time travelers, Rachel and Liam, have arrived in 1815, regaining consciousness in a field in Leatherhead, Surrey, a town that is now on the edge of greater London but at that time would have been well out of the city. With only the period-correct clothes on their back and a small fortune in fake banknotes concealed under those clothes, they pull themselves together and start on foot to the nearest coaching inn, the Swan. Their plan is to take rooms for the night to rest and recover from the physical ordeal of time travel before heading to London and their mission objectives. But in a development that will become a theme of their stay in the past, things do not go quite as intended.

The story is told from the perspective of Rachel, an outspoken doctor with a love of adventure and of Jane Austen. Her colleague, Liam, is an actor turned scholar, a more reserved and cautious person. Part of the conflict of the story will come, not only from the difficulty of their mission, but also from this clash of their characters, and with Rachel’s frustration with the limitations of being a woman in 1815.

*************************

As we started down the road, Liam’s stride was longer and I began to fall behind, though I’m normally a fast walker. Until now, indoors was the only place I’d worn my half boots, handmade products of the Costume Team. The soles were so thin I felt the gravel under my feet. And then, the intensity of everything: the smells of grass and soil, a far-off cry of an owl, it had to be an owl. The entire world seemed humming with life, a shimmering web of biomass.

The Swan loomed as a whitewashed brick building outlined by flickering lamps along its facade, with an arched passageway into a courtyard and stables beyond. As we drew closer I heard men’s voices, a horse’s whinny, a dog’s bark. Fear swooped up my spine like vertigo. I stopped walking. I can’t do this. I must do this.

Liam had stopped too. He shook himself and took a few long, audible breaths. Then he seized my elbow with an unexpectedly strong grip and propelled us toward the door under the wooden sign of a swan.

“Remember, let me do the talking,” he said. “Men do, here.”

And we were inside.

It was warmer but dim, timbered ceiling, air thick with smoke, flickering light from not enough candles, and a large fireplace. A knot of men stood by the fire, while others sat at tables with bread and mugs of beer, platters of beef, ham, fowl, and other less identifiable foods.

“Look at all that meat,” I whispered. “Amazing.”

“Shh, don’t stare.”

“Do you see anyone who looks like they work here?”

“Shh!”

And he was upon us: a small man in a boxy suit, a dirty apron, and a scowl, wiping his hands on a dirty rag as he looked us up and down. “Are ye just come, then? Has someone seen to your horses, have they now?”

“Our friends set us down from their barouche a bit hence.” Liam had thrown his shoulders back and loomed over the man. “We are in want of rooms for the night, and a coach to town in the morning.” His inflection had changed, even his voice: a haughty lengthening of vowels, a nasal, higher-pitched tone. We’d done lots of improvisational work in Preparation, yet he’d never given me this eerie sense I had now, of his becoming an entirely different person.

“A barouche?” the man repeated. “I’ve seen no such equipage pass.”

“Had it passed here, they would have set us down at the door.”

This logic seemed sound, but the man surveyed us again, frown deepening. “À pied, is it?” It took me a moment to work out what he meant; nothing could have sounded less like French. “And not so much as a bag between the both of ye? Nay, we’ve no rooms.” A party of the three men nearest—rusty black suits, wigs askew—had stopped eating to observe us. “You could sup before you continue on your way.” He waved a hand at the room behind. “Show us the blunt first, though.”

Was our offense the presumed poverty of showing up without horses, or was something else wrong with our manners, our clothing, us? And if the first person we met saw it, what were our odds of survival here, let alone success? Liam had gone so pale, swaying a bit, that I feared he might faint, a known time-travel side effect.

Fear made me reckless. “William!” I whined, pulling on Liam’s sleeve and bracing myself under his elbow to shore him up. His eyes widened as he looked down at me; I heard his intake of breath. I went on in a stage whisper without a glance at the man, and if my mouth was dry, my accent was perfection: “I told you, Papa said this was a shocking inn. But if it has no rooms, perhaps it has horses. ’Tis moonlight! A chaise and four, or two, and we will be there by dawn. I said I would visit Lady Selden the instant we got to town, and that was to be last week, only you never can say no to Sir Thomas and his tedious gout.”

Liam looked from me to the man and drawled: “My sister’s word is law, sir. Should there be coach and horses, I would be happy to show the blunt, and to see what I hope will be the last of this inn.” He produced a golden coin, one of our authentic late-eighteenth-century guineas, flipping it into the air and catching it.

I held my breath. What if the inn had no horses in shape to go, no spare carriages? It happened, animals and vehicles being in constant transit from one coaching inn to another. And now we were robbery targets, with Liam waving around gold.

The man looked from me to Liam; his eyes returned to me. I raised my gaze to the ceiling with what I hoped was an expression of blasé contempt.

“I’ll have a word in the yard, sir. Would you and the lady take a seat?”

*******

It was colder, the waxing gibbous moon up, before we were in the post chaise, which was tiny and painted yellow, smelling of the damp straw that lined its floor as well as of mildew and horse. We’d drunk musty red wine and picked at a meat pie with a sinister leathery texture as we sat in a corner of the room feeling the weight of eyes upon us and not daring to believe, until a porter came to lead us to it, that there was actually going to be a chaise.

Our postilion swung himself onto one of the horses, and a large man wearing two pistols and a brass horn gave us a nod and climbed into the boot at the back. He had cost extra, nearly doubling the price of the journey—but it was no night to encounter highwaymen.

“You were good back there,” Liam said in his usual voice, so quiet I had to lean in to hear him as we creaked out from the yard. One seat, facing forward, was wide enough for three slender people. Drafty windows gave a view of the lanterns on each side, the road to London ahead of us, and the two horses’ muscular rumps. “Fast thinking. I know I told you not to talk, but—”

“A hopeless request. You know me better than that by now.”

He made a sound between a cough and a laugh and said after a pause, “So you really never acted? I mean, before this?”

I thought of the unscripted workshops we’d done together in Preparation: imagining meeting Henry Austen for the first time, say, or buying a bonnet. “Why would I have?”

We were bumping down the road, moon visible above the black tree shapes, the world beyond the lanterns’ glow spookily monochrome and depthless to the eye, but rich with smells. The Project Team’s guidance had been for us to spend the first night near the portal site, in Leatherhead, recovering from the time shift before braving town. Materializing in London, dense with buildings and life, was risky. Traveling by night was risky too, but here we were. I wondered what else would not go according to plan.

I don’t know how long I was asleep, but I woke up shivering. Liam was slumped with his head against the window, wig slid sideways, snoring. I pulled my shawl tighter around myself, coveting his waistcoat, neckcloth, and cutaway jacket—a light weight, but wool—and Hessian boots, the tall kind with tassels.

I had lots of layers too, but they lacked the heft of menswear: a chemise, then a small fortune in coins, forged banknotes, and letters of credit in a pouch wrapped around my torso, topped by a corset, a petticoat, a frock, and a shawl, synthetic re-creation of a Kashmir paisley. I had a thin lace fichu around my shoulders, over-the-knee knitted cotton stockings, dainty faux-kid gloves, and a straw bonnet, but no underpants; they would not catch on until later in the century.

The darkness was becoming less dark. I stared out; when did countryside turn urban? We had pored over old maps, paintings, and engravings; detailed flyover projections in 3-D had illuminated the wall screens of the institute. Yet no amount of study could have prepared me for this: the smell of coal smoke and vegetation, the creaking carriage, the hoofbeats of the horses like my own heartbeat. And something else, like energy, as if London were an alien planet, its gravitational field pulling me in.

Anything could happen to a person in Regency London: you could be killed by a runaway carriage, get cholera, lose a fortune on a wager or your virtue in an unwise elopement. Less dangerously, we hoped to find a place to live in a fashionable neighborhood and establish ourselves as wealthy newcomers in need of guidance, friends, and lucrative investments—all with the aim of insinuating ourselves into the life of Henry Austen, gregarious London banker and favorite brother of Jane. And through him, and the events we knew were waiting for them both this autumn, to find our way to her.

I eased next to Liam, the only warm object in the cold carriage, my relief at getting away from the Swan curdling to anxiety about everything that lay ahead. Queasy as I was from the bumping carriage, with the stink of horse and mildew in my nose, with the gibbet and the meat pie and the innkeeper’s rudeness still vivid, the Jane Austen Project no longer seemed amazing. What I’d wanted so badly stretched like a prison sentence: wretched hygiene, endless pretending, physical danger. What had I been thinking?

********************************

About the author

Kathleen A. Flynn grew up in tiny Falls Village, Conn. Currently a copy editor at The New York Times and resident of Brooklyn, Flynn has taught English in Hong Kong, washed dishes on Nantucket, and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The Jane Austen Project is her first novel.

About the book 

September, 1815 : Two travelers, Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane, arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but rather colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters—a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team to go back, their mission is by far the most audacious: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common besides the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the continuous convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile the woman she is with the proper lady nineteenth-century society expects her to be. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history intact and exactly as they found it…however heartbreaking that may prove.

The Jane Austen Project, due out on May 2, 2017, is available as an e-book, a paperback, and an audiobook. Here are some buy links:

Regency images:
1. Swan Inn – Know Your London
2. Post Chaise: Regency Reader
3. London street – British Museum

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Museum Musings: “Cut! Costume and the Cinema” ~ with a little bit of Jane Austen

Cut! Costume and the Cinema has been showing at the Columbia Museum of Art since November and closes today February 19, 2017. The exhibit takes us chronologically through the various fashions made for the movies by COSPROP, a London-based designer of authentic period costumes.

img_1247

Step into the exciting world of costume design with CUT! Costume and the Cinema. Through more than 40 period costumes we will expose the art of making costumes for film. The exhibition will reveal how film costumes set the scene and establish authenticity in films. These perfectly crafted costumes uncover clues about a character’s status, age, class and wealth as well as their role in the story.  The films represented in the exhibition depict five centuries of history, drama and comedy with period costumes worn by famous film stars Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, Uma Thurman, Angelica Huston, and many others. In all, more than 30 actors will be represented from 26 films…

World-renowned British costumer Cosprop Ltd. earned its first Academy Award for Costume Design in 1986 in A Room with a View.  Since then, the costumier has been nominated more than a dozen times. In 2007 three of the five Oscar nominees came from the Cosprop shop, only to be topped by winning the following year for The Duchess. Like their period prototypes, these opulent costumes are crafted of sumptuous fabrics and decorated with intricate embroidery and lace.

[From the distributor’s website: http://www.exhibitsdevelopment.com/Cut!.html]

Watch this youtube of the exhibit when it was at the BYU Museum of Art:

This exhibition has been traveling for the past ten years and finally made it to South Carolina. Joyful that I could take pictures (no flash), and as alas! there is no exhibition catalogue, I here offer a good sampling of what was on view. A picture cannot nearly capture the exquisite detail of these fashions – they must be seen up close and personal. And quite amazing to see how tiny some of these actresses (and actors) actually are! It also offers a terrific list of must-see movies, some that had somehow fallen through the cracks and others to be revisited with a new-found appreciation for the costumes.

The costumes are arranged chronologically. And YES, there is a Jane Austen, but alas! only one … we begin in the Renaissance period with this stunning dark green velvet: (you can click on any picture to enlarge it and see more detail)

everafter-huston

Angelica Huston in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)

cassanova-ledger

Heath Ledger in Cassanova (2005)

pirates-depp-2

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

kingcharles-henderson

Shirley Henderson as Catharine of Braganza “The Last King: The Power and the Passion of Charles II” (2003)

***************

 

****************
The Georgians: outlandish (and to-die-for) fashions from The Duchess (2008):

And a close-up of Keira Knightley’s Whig-inspired outfit, and this helpful description from the “Family Guide” to the exhibition:

*************

Finally Jane Austen!  Kate Winslet as Marianne in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

*************

Victorian times with Dickens:

littledorrit-foy

“Little Dorrit” (2008) with Claire Foy

and Bronte:

The wedding dress in the 1996 Jane Eyre (with William Hurt)

And the all important hoop for Victorian ladies:

hoop

***********

Phantom of the Opera (2004) gives us these two stunning outfits, worn by Emmy Rossum and Minnie Driver:

portraitlady

***********

We now head into the later 1880s and beyond with this from Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, here a dress worn by Nicole Kidman (I want this!)

prestige

and this worn by Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige (2006)
– one of my favorite movies…

Renee Zellweger as Miss Potter (2006):misspotter

****************

Finding Neverland (2004) with Kate Winslet yet again and Rahda Mitchell as Mrs. Barrie (look at the detail in this dress!)

We’ll give the men a short nod here with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes (2009):

sherlockholmes

[click on picture for info]
********
A stunning Emma Thompson in Howards End (1992):howardsend-thompson

lovewar-pettigrew

In Love and War (1997) with Sandra Bullock (left) and
Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

And finally, the costume that headlines all the publicity, this from The Land of the Blind, a movie I confess to knowing nothing about other than it starred Ralph Fiennes and had this gorgeous dress!

landblind

Movies included in the exhibition but my pictures were not worth posting (all movies worth seeing!):

  • Hamlet (1996), with Julie Christie, Kenneth Branagh, and Kate Winslet (!)
  • Gosford Park (2001), Maggie Smith pre-Dowager Lady Grantham…
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1997) with Vanessa Redgrave 
  • The New World (2006) with Colin Farrell as Captain Smith and Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas
  • The Golden Bowl (2000), with Kate Beckinsale,,Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam

Join the discussion: What are some of your favorite fashions from period movies or TV?

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont, all photos by the author